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Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 2 and Memorials of Harriet Martineau [1855]

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Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography and Memorials of Harriet Martineau, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 2.

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About this Title:

Thinking she was close to death Martineau wrote her autobiography in 1855 but lived for another 20 years. She recounts her activities in various mid-19th century reform movements, her struggle to become a professional writer, and her work in popularizing the ideas of free market political economy. Vol. 2 also contains memorials of HM by Chapman.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

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Harriet Martineau 1850

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“Etiam capillus unus habet umbram suam.”


“And this dear freedom hath begotten me this peace, that I mourn not that end which must be, nor spend one wish to have one minute added to the uncertain date of my years.”

JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY, Late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co.
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Copyright, 1877.


University Press: Welch, Bigelow, & Co., Cambridge

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  • PERIOD VI. (Continued.)
    • Section IV. — Chartism in 1848. Whig notions of popular management. Official whig mind and manners. “Lake District.” Lectures. Building Society. Three invitations. Death of my mother. “History of the Thirty Years’ Peace” . . . Page 1
    • Section V. — Currer Bell. “Household Words.” “Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development.” Convictions as to the source of wisdom. Science of Human Nature. Articles for “Household Words.” For Sartain’s Magazine. “Sketches from Life.” Mr. Jerrold. Mr. Fonblanque. “Letters on Cow Keeping.” Farming experiment . . . . . . . 21
    • Section VI. — Anticipations of the results of the Atkinson Letters. Necessity of avowal of opinions in my case. Preparation of the volume. Its reception . . . . . . . . 36
    • Section VII. — Scheme of translating Comte’s “Positive Philosophy.” Summer journey. Mr. Thackeray. Mr. Dickens. Abortive scheme. Mr. Lombe’s gift. More work. Completion of my version. Method of working. Ignorance of critics of the “Positive Philosophy.” Letter of Mr. Atkinson . . . . 57
    • Section VIII. — Introduction to “Daily News.” Irish journey. Servant’s wedding. “Daily News.” Visit to London. Settlement at home. Troubles and pleasures of the summer. Death of Mr. Frederick Knight Hunt . . . . . . . 82 Edition: current; Page: [vi]
    • Section IX. — Fatal illness. Home and preparation. Mistake of life-long dwelling on prospect of death. Its proximate aspect. Interest of the position. Its pleasures. View of the world from the horizon. Political state of England. Of the civilised world. Prospects of the Human Race . . . . . . . 101
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THE KNOLI, Ambleside. 1856 102
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The same mail which brought back my M. S. from Mr. Murray brought the news of the flight of Louis Philippe. My petty interests seemed unworthy of mention, even to myself, in the same day with that event. Mine were re-arranged in three days, while the affairs of the Continent became more exciting from hour to hour. Towards the end of March, when my book was finished, and nearly ready for publication, letters came in, in increasing numbers, appealing to me for help, in one form or another, for or against popular interests, so far as they were supposed to be represented by Chartism. Of these letters, one was from the wife of a Cabinet Minister, an old acquaintance, who was in a terrible panic about Feargus O’Connor and the threatened Chartist outbreak of the tenth of April, then approaching. She told me that she wrote under her husband’s sanction, to ask me, now that they saw my book was advertised for publication, to use my power over the working-classes, to bring them to reason, &c., &c. The letter was all one tremor in regard to the Chartists, and flattery to myself. I replied that I had no influence, as far as I knew, with the Chartists; and that, as a matter of fact, I agreed with them in some points of doctrine while thinking them sadly mistaken in others, and in their proposed course of action. I told her that I had seen something Edition: current; Page: [2] in the newspapers which had made me think of going to London: and that if I did go, I would endeavour to see as many political leaders (in and out of parliament) as possible, and would, if she pleased, write her an account of what should seem to me the state of things, and the best to be done, by myself and others. It was an advertisement in the newspapers which had made me think of going; — the advertisement of a new periodical to be issued by Mr. Knight, called “The Voice of the People.” It was pointed out to me by several of my friends, as full of promise in such hands at such a time. The day after my letter to Lady — was sent, I heard from Mr. Knight. He desired to see me so earnestly that he said, if I could not go to town, he would come to me, — ill as he could just then spare the time: or, he would come and fetch me, if I wished it. Of course, I went immediately; and I helped to the extent Mr. Knight wished, in his new periodical. But I saw immediately, as he did, that the thing would never do. The Whig touch perished it at once. The Whig officials set it up, and wished to dictate and control its management in a way which no literary man could have endured, if their ideas and feelings had been as good as possible. But the poverty and perverseness of their ideas, and the insolence of their feelings were precisely what might be expected by all who really knew that remarkably vulgar class of men. They proposed to lecture the working-classes, who were by far the wiser party of the two, in a jejune, coaxing, dull, religious-tract sort of tone, and criticised and deprecated every thing like vigour, and a manly and genial tone of address in the new publication, while trying to push in, as contributors, effete and exhausted writers, and friends of their own who knew about as much of the working-classes of England as of those of Turkey. Of course, the scheme was a complete and immediate failure. On the insertion of an article by a Conservative Whig, (which was certainly enough to account for the catastrophe,) the sale fell to almost nothing at all; and Mr. Knight, who had before stood his ground manfully against the patrons of the scheme, threw up the business.

Meantime, the tenth of April arrived (while I was near London) and passed in the way which we all remember. Lady Edition: current; Page: [3] — wrote to me in a strain of exultation, as vulgar, to say the least, as Feargus O’Connor’s behaviour, about the escape of the government. She told of O’Connor’s whimpering because his toes were trodden on; and was as insolent in her triumph about a result which was purely a citizen work as she had been abject when in fear that the Chartists would hold the metropolis. I felt the more obliged to write the promised letter, when I had seen several leading politicians of the liberal party; and I did it when I came home. I did it carefully; and I submitted my letter to two ladies who were judges of manners, as well as of politics; and they gave it their sanction, — one of them copying it, with entire approbation. Lady —’s reply was one of such insolence as precluded my writing to her again. She spoke of the “lower classes” (she herself being a commoner by birth) as comprising all below the peerage; so that she classed together the merchants and manufacturers with “cottagers” and even paupers; and, knowing me to be a manufacturer’s daughter, she wrote of that class as low, and spoke of having been once obliged to pass a week in the house of a manufacturer, where the governess was maltreated with the tyranny which marks low people. My two consultees reddened with indignation at the personal insolence to myself; which I had overlooked in my disgust at the wrong to my “order,” and to the “cottagers” with whom she classed us. By their advice, I wrote a short note to this lady’s husband, to explain that my letter was not a spontaneous address, as his lady now assumed, but written in answer to her request. This little transaction confirmed the impression which I had derived from all my recent intercourse with official Whigs; — that there was nothing to be expected from them now that they were spoiled by the possession of place and power. I had seen that they had learned nothing by their opportunities: that they were hardened in their conceit and their prejudices, and as blind as bats to the new lights which time was introducing into society. I expected what became apparent in the first year of the war, when their incapacity and aristocratic self-complacency disgraced our administration, and lowered our national character in the eyes of the world, and cost their country many thousands of lives and many millions of Edition: current; Page: [4] treasure. I have seen a good deal of life and many varieties of manners; and it now appears to me that the broadest vulgarity I have encountered is in the families of official Whigs, who conceive themselves the cream of society, and the lights and rulers of the world of our empire. The time is not far off, though I shall not live to see it, when that coterie will be found to have brought about a social revolution more disastrous to themselves than any thing that could have been rationally anticipated from poor Feargus O’Connor and his Chartist host of April 10th, 1848.

What Mr. Knight wanted of me at that time was not mainly my assistance in his new periodical, but to carry on an old enterprise which had been dropped. The “History of the Thirty Years’ Peace” had been begun long before; but difficulties had occurred which had brought it to a stand for two years past. That his subscribers should have been thus apparently deserted, and left with the early numbers useless on their hands, was a heavy care to my good friend; and he proposed to me to release him from his uncomfortable position by undertaking to finish the work. I felt tempted; but I did not at all know whether I could write History. Under his encouragement, I promised to try, if he could wait three months. I was writing “Household Education,” and I had promised him an account of the Lake District, for the work he was publishing, called “The Land we live in.” It was on or about the 1st of August that I opened, for study, the books which Mr. Knight had been collecting and forwarding to me for the sources of my material.

This year was the beginning of a new work which has afforded me more vivid and unmixed pleasure than any, except authorship, that I ever undertook;—that of delivering a yearly course of lectures to the mechanics of Ambleside and their families. Nothing could have been further from my thoughts, at the outset, than such an extension of the first effort. On my return from the East, I was talking with a neighbour about the way in which children, and many other untravelled persons, regard the Holy Land. When Dr. Carpenter taught me in my youth, among his other catechumens, the geography of Palestine, with Edition: current; Page: [5] notices from Maundrell’s travels there, it was like finding out that a sort of fairy land was a real and substantial part of our everyday earth; and my eagerness to learn all about it was extreme, and highly improving in a religious sense. I remarked now to my neighbour that it was a pity that the school-children should not learn from me something of what I had learned in my youth from Maundrell. She seized upon the idea, and proposed that I should give familiar lectures to the monitors and best scholars of the national school, — sometimes, when convenient, to escape visitation, called the Squire’s school. I was willing, and we went to the school-mistress, whose reception of the scheme amused us much. She said she knew, and had taught the children, “all about the sources of the Nile;” but that she should be glad to hear any thing more that I had to tell. We could hardly refrain from asking her to teach us “all about the sources of the Nile:” but we satisfied ourselves with fixing the plan for my addressing the children in the school-house. I was more nervous the first time than ever after, — serious as was the extension of the plan. After the first lecture, which was to two or three rows of children and their school-mistress, a difficulty arose. The incumbent’s lady made a speech in School Committee, against our scheme, saying that the incumbent had found so much discontent in the parish from a dissenter having been allowed to set foot in the school-house, that its doors must be closed against me. She added some compliments to me and the lectures, which she expressed a great wish to hear, and so on. My neighbour immediately took all the blame on herself, saying that I had not even known where the school-house was till she introduced me to it; and that what I had done was at her request. She went straight to the authorities of the chapel which stands at the foot of my rock, and in an hour obtained from them in writing an assurance that it would give them “the greatest pleasure” that I should lecture in their school-rooms. Armed with this, and blushing all over, my neighbour came, and was relieved to find that I was not offended but amused at the transaction. I proposed to have the children in my kitchen, which would hold them very well; and that we should invite the incumbent’s lady to be present. My neighbour said “No, Edition: current; Page: [6] no: she does not deserve that,” and produced the Methodists’ gracious letter. I may add here that last year the incumbent’s lady said, in a railway carriage, in the hearing of a friend of mine, that there was great alarm among the clergy when I first came to live at Ambleside: but that it had died away gradually and completely (even after the publication of the Atkinson Letters) from their finding that, while I thought it right to issue through the press whatever I thought, I never meddled with any body’s opinions in private. I may add, too, that I have been treated with courtesy and kindness, whenever occasion brought us together.

It occurs to me also to add an anecdote which diverted me and my friends at the time, and which seems more odd than ever, after the lapse of a few years. There is a Book-club at Ambleside, the members of which are always complaining to outsiders of the dullness of the books, and the burdensomeness of the connexion. I had had hints about the duty of neighbours to subscribe to the Book-club; and when one or two books that I wished to see were circulating, I told a member that I was not anxious to join, at an expense which could hardly be compensated, — judging by what I heard about the choice of books: but that, if I ever joined, it should be then. She mentioned this to another member; and it was agreed that I should be proposed and seconded. But the gentleman she spoke to — always a friendly neighbour to me, — called on her to communicate, with much concern, his apprehension that I might possibly be black-balled. He was entirely uncertain; but he had some notion that it might be so. The lady came, very nervous, to ask whether I would proceed or not. I had half a mind to try the experiment, — it would have been such a rich joke, — so voluminous a writer, and one so familiar in literary society in London, being black-balled in a country book-club! But I thought it more considerate not to thrust myself into any sort of connexion with any body who might be afraid of me. I profited by an invitation to join a few families in a subscription to a London library, by which, for less money, I got a sight of all the books I wished to see, — and no others; for my friends and I are of the same mind in our choice of reading.

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At the second lecture, some of the parents and elder brothers and sisters of the children stole in to listen; and before I had done, there was a petition that I would deliver the lectures to grown people. I saw at once what an opportunity this was, and nerved myself to use it. I expanded the lectures, and made them of a higher cast; and before another year, the Mechanics of Ambleside and their families were eager for other subjects. I have since lectured every winter but two; and with singular satisfaction. The winter was the time chosen, because the apprentices and shop-keepers could not leave their business in time, when the days lengthened. No gentry were admitted, except two or three friends who took tea with me, and went as my staff, — in order to help me, if any difficulty arose, and to let me know if I spoke either too loud or too low; a matter of which, from my deafness, I could not judge. It is rather remarkable that, being so deaf, and having never before spoken in any but a conversational tone, I never got wrong as to loudness. I placed one of my servants at the far end of the room; and relied on her to take out her handkerchief if she failed to hear me; but it always went well. I made notes on half-a-sheet of paper, of dates or other numbers, or of facts which might slip my memory; but I trusted entirely to my power at the time for my matter and words. I never wrote a sentence; and I never once stopped for a word. — The reasons why no gentry were admitted were, first, because there was no room for more than the “workies:” and next, that I wished to keep the thing natural and quiet. If once the affair got into the newspapers, there would be an end of the simplicity of the proceeding. Again, I had, as I told the gentry, nothing new to tell to persons who had books at home, and leisure to read them. — My object was to give rational amusement to men whom all circumstances seemed to conspire to drive to the public-house, and to interest them in matters which might lead them to books, or at least give them something to think about. My lectures were maliciously misrepresented by a quizzer here and there, and especially by a lawyer or two, who came this way on circuit, and professed to have been present: but they were welcome to their amusement, as long as it was an indisputable matter that they had not been present.

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The second course was on Sanitary matters; and it was an effectual preparation for my scheme of instituting a Building Society. In a place like Ambleside, where wages are high, the screw is applied to the working men in regard to their dwellings. The great land-owners, who can always find room to build mansions, have never a corner for a cottage: and not only are rents excessively high, but it is a serious matter for a working man to offend his landlord, by going to chapel instead of church, for instance, when he may be met by the threat — “If you enter that chapel again, I will turn your family out of your cottage; and you know you can’t get another.” When the people are compelled to sleep, ten, twelve, or fourteen in two rooms, there can be little hope for their morals or manners; and one of the causes of the excessive intemperance of the population is well known to be the discomfort of the crowded dwellings. When the young men come home to bad smells and no room to turn, they go off to the public-house. The kind-hearted among the gentry tend the sick, and pray with the disheartened, and reprove the sinner; but I have found it singularly difficult to persuade them that, however good may be wine and broth, and prayers and admonition, it is better to cut off the sources of disease, sin and misery by a purer method of living. My recourse was to the “workies” themselves, in that set of lectures; in which I endeavoured to show them that all the means of healthy and virtuous living were around them, — in a wide space of country, slopes for drainage, floods of gushing water, and the wholesomest air imaginable. I showed them how they were paying away in rent, money enough to provide every head of a household with a cottage of his own in a few years; and I explained to them the principle of such a Building Society as we might have, — free from the dangers which beset such societies in large towns, where the members are unknown to each other, and sharp lawyers may get in to occasion trouble. They saw at once that if twenty men lay by together, instead of separately, a shilling a week each, they need not wait twenty weeks for any one to have the use of a pound; but the twentieth man may have his pound, just the same, while the other nineteen will have had earlier use of theirs, and be paying interest for it. Edition: current; Page: [9] Hence arose our Building Society; the meeting to form it being held in my kitchen. A generous friend of mine advanced the money to buy a field, which I got surveyed, parcelled out, drained, fenced, and prepared for use. The lots were immediately purchased, and paid for without default. Impediments and difficulties arose, as might be expected. Jealousy and ridicule were at work against the scheme. Some who might have helped it were selfish, and others timid. Death (among a population where almost every man drinks) and emigration, and other causes impeded an increase of members; and the property was less held by working men, and more by opulent persons, than I had desired and intended; but the result is, on the whole, satisfactory, inasmuch as thirteen cottages have arisen already; and more are in prospect: and this number is no small relief in a little country town like Ambleside. The eye of visitors is now caught by an upland hamlet, just above the parsonage, where there are two good houses, and some ranges of cottages which will stand, as the builders say, “a thousand years,” — so substantial is the mode of building the gray stone dwellings of the district. I scarcely need add that I made no reference, in the lectures or otherwise, to the form of tyranny exercised by the owners of land and houses. My business was to preclude the tyranny, by showing the people that their own interests were in their own hands, and by no means to excite angry feelings about grievances which I hoped to mitigate, or even extinguish.

The generous friend who enabled me to buy the land declined to receive the money back. She is the proprietress of two of the cottages and their gardens; and she placed the rest of the money at my disposal, for the benefit of the place, as long as it was wanted. Since my illness began, three months ago, I have transferred the trust to other hands; and there is reason to hope that the place will be provided with a good Mechanics’ Institute, and Baths, — which are now the next great want.

In the two last lectures of the Sanitary course, there was an opportunity for dealing with the great curse of the place, — its intemperance. Those two lectures were on the Stomach and Brain. I drew the outline of the stomach on a large expanse of Edition: current; Page: [10] paper, which was fixed in front of the desk; and I sent round the coloured prints, used in Temperance Societies, of the appearances of progressive disease in the drunkard’s stomach, — from the first faint blush of inflammation to the schirrous condition. It was a subject which had long and deeply engaged my attention; and my audience, so closely packed as that the movement of one person swayed the whole, were as much interested as myself; so that my lecture spread out to an hour and twenty minutes, without my being at all aware of the time. The only stir, except when the prints were handed round, was made by a young man who staggered out, and fainted at the door. He was a recent comer to the place, and had lately begun to tipple, like his neighbours. After that night, he joined my Building Society, that he might have no money for the public-house. Many told me afterwards that they were sick with pain of mind during that lecture; and I found, on inquiry, that there was probably hardly a listener there, except the children, who had not family reasons for strong emotion during an exposure of the results of intemperate habits.

The longest course I have given was one of twenty lectures on the History of England, from the earliest days of tradition to the beginning of the present century. Another was on the History of America, from its discovery by Columbus to the death of Washington. This was to have been followed by a course which I shall not live to offer; — the modern History of the United States, — with a special view to recommend the Anti-slavery cause. Last November and December, I addressed my neighbours for the last time, — On Russia and the War. At the close, I told them that if I were alive and well next winter, we would carry on the subject to the close of the campaign of 1855. I should be happy to know that some one would take up my work, and not allow my neighbours to suffer by my departure. I found myself fatigued and faint during the two last lectures; and I spoke seriously when making my conditional promise for another season; but I had no clear notion how ill I was, even then, and that I should never meet that array of honest, earnest faces again.

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There was some fear that the strong political interests of the spring of 1848 would interfere with the literary prosperity of the season. Whether they did or not, I do not know. For my own part I cared more for newspapers than books in that exciting year; but my own book had an excellent sale. The remembrance of the newspaper reading of those revolutionary times recalls a group of circumstances in my own experience which may be worth recording, — to show how important a work it is to give an account of the constitution and politics of a foreign nation. — Ten years before this, — (I think it was the year before my long illness began) a gentleman was brought to a soirée at my mother’s house, and introduced to me by a friend, who intimated that the stranger had a message to deliver to me. The gentleman had been for some time resident in Sweden, where he was intimately acquainted with the late Prime Minister. The Crown Prince Oscar of that day (the present King) was earnestly desirous of introducing constitutional reforms on a large scale, many of which, as we all know, he has since achieved. The retired Prime Minister desired my guest of that evening to procure an introduction to me, and to be the bearer of an invitation to me to spend a Swedish summer at the Minister’s country-house, where his lady and family would make me welcome. His object was, he said, to discuss some political topics of deep interest to Sweden; and he conceived that my books on America showed me to be the person whom he wanted; — to be capable, in fact, of understanding the working of the constitutions of foreign nations. He wanted to talk over the condition and prospects of Sweden in the light of the experiments of other countries. I could not think of going; and I forgot the invitation till it was recalled to memory by an incident which happened in April 1839. I was then going to Switzerland with three friends, and our passage to Rotterdam was taken, when a friend of my family, the English representative of an Irish county, called on me with an earnest request that I would suspend my scheme, for reasons which he would assign in a few days. I explained that I really could not do so, as I was pledged to accompany a sick cousin. In a day or two, Edition: current; Page: [12] my friend called, to insist on my dining at his house the next Wednesday, to meet Mr. O’Connell on business of importance. Mr. O’Connell could not be in town earlier, because the freedom of some place (I forget what) was to be presented to him on Tuesday; and travelling all night would bring him to London only on Wednesday afternoon. I could not meet him, as we were to go on board the packet on Wednesday evening. — My friend, hoping still to dissuade me, told me what Mr. O’Connell wanted. He had private reasons for believing that “Peel and the Tories” would soon come into power: (in fact, the Bedchamber Question occurred within a month after) and he feared more than ever for the liberties of Ireland, and felt that not a day must be lost in providing every assistance to the cause that could be obtained. He had long been convinced that one of the chief misfortunes of Ireland was that her cause was pleaded in print by authors who represented only the violent, and vulgar and factious elements of Irish discontent; by Irish people, in fact, who could not speak in a way which the English were willing to listen to. He considered that my American books established my capacity to understand and represent the political and social condition of another country; and what he had to request was that I would study Irish affairs on the spot, and report of them. He offered introductions to the best-informed Catholic families in any or every part of Ireland, and besought me to devote to the object all the time I thought needful, — either employing twelve months or so in going over the whole of Ireland, or a shorter time in a deeper study of any particular part, — publishing the results of my observations without interference from any body, or the expression of any desire from any quarter that my opinions should be of one colour rather than another.

It was impossible for me to say any thing to this scheme at the time: but my family and friends were deeply impressed by it. It was frequently discussed by my comrades and myself during our continental journey; and one of them, — the same generous friend to whom I have had occasion to refer in connexion with my Ambleside schemes, — offered to accompany Edition: current; Page: [13] me, with a servant, to help and countenance me, and hear for me, and further the object in every possible way: and she was not the only one who so volunteered. It stood before my mind as the next great work to be undertaken: but, in another month, not only were “Peel and the Tories” sent to the right-about for the time, but I was prostrate in the illness which was to lay me aside for nearly six years. On our return from Italy, we fell in with the family of Lord Plunket, to whom, in the course of conversation about Ireland, we related the incident. Miss Plunket seemed as much struck with the rationality of the scheme as we were; and, after some consultation apart, Miss Plunket came to me with an express offer of introductions from Lord Plunket to intelligent Protestants, in any or every part of Ireland where this business might carry me. My illness, however, broke up the scheme.

This incident, again, was recalled to my memory by what happened the next time I was abroad. It occurred in the spring of 1847. Our desert party agreed, at Jerusalem, to make an excursion of three days to the Jordan and the Dead Sea. On the eve of the trip, three European gentlemen sent a petition to Lady Harriet K—, that they might be allowed to ride with our party, on account of the dangerous state of the road to Jericho. They joined our troop in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and rode among us all day. It did not occur to me to ask who they were. In the course of the next morning, when the ladies of the party were going through the wood on the bank of the Jordan, to bathe northwards, while the gentlemen went southwards, we met one of these strangers; and I told him where he might find his companions. I never doubted his being English, — he looked so like a country squire, with his close-cropped, rather light hair, and sunburned complexion. He appeared to be somewhere about five-and-thirty. On leaving the Jordan, we had to traverse an open tract, in excessive heat, to the margin of the Dead Sea. The hard sand looked trustworthy; and I put my horse to a gallop, for the sake of the wind thus obtained. I soon heard other horses coming up; and this gentleman, with two others, appeared: and he rode close by Edition: current; Page: [14] my side till an accident to one of the party obliged him to dismount and give help. I was among those who rode on when we found that no harm was done; and presently after I was asked by Lady Harriet K— whether I would allow Count Porro to be introduced to me, — he being desirous of some conversation with me. For Silvio Pellico’s sake, as well as Count Porro’s father’s and his own, I was happy to make his acquaintance; and I supposed we should meet at our halting place, — at Santa Saba. But Count Porro and his companions were to strike off northwards by the Damascus road; and they were gone before I was aware. — A few weeks afterwards, when we four, of the Nile party, rode up to our hotel at Damascus, Count Porro was awaiting us; and he helped us ladies down from our horses. He had remained some days, in order to see me. He desired some conversation with me at a convenient time; and that convenient time proved to be the next morning, when he joined me on the divan, in the alcove in the quadrangle. He was so agitated that he could scarcely speak. His English, however, was excellent. He told me that in what he was going to say he was the mouth-piece of many of his countrymen, as well as of his own wishes; and especially of several fellow-citizens of Milan. What he said was as nearly as could be a repetition of O’Connell’s plea and request. He said it was the misfortune of his country to be represented abroad by injured and exasperated patriots, who demanded more than the bulk of the people desired, and gave forth views which the citizens in general disclaimed. It was believed by the leading men in Lombardy that the changes which were really most essential might be obtained from Austria, if sought in a temperate and rational manner; and that the best way of obtaining these changes would be by means of a report on the condition of affairs by some traveller of reputation, who had shown, as they considered that I had done by my work on the United States, a capacity to understand and report of a foreign state of society. He was therefore authorised to request that I would reside in Milan for six months or a year, and to say that every facility should be afforded for my obtaining information, and all possible Edition: current; Page: [15] respect shown to my liberty of judgment and representation. All they wanted was that I should study their condition, and report it fully, on my return to England. He told me (in consideration of my deafness, which disabled me for conversation, though not, of course, for reading, in a foreign language) that every educated Milanese speaks English; and that every thing should be done to render my abode as pleasant as possible; and so forth. — I positively declined, being, in truth, heartily homesick, — longing for my green, quiet valley, and the repose of my own abode. My duties there seemed more congenial and natural than investigating the politics of Lombardy; and I did not therefore think it selfish to refuse. With increasing agitation, Count Porro declared that he would take no refusal. He asked how much time these home duties would occupy; said, in spite of all my discouragements, that he should go to England the next spring; and declared, when taking his leave next day, that, on landing at Southampton, his first step would be to put himself into the train for Ambleside, whence he would not depart without my promise to go to Milan.

When that “next spring” arrived, — the anniversary of those conversations of ours at Damascus, — Count Porro was a member of the Provisional Government at Milan, telling Austria by his acts and decrees what it was that Lombardy required. The mention, in my narrative, of the revolutions of 1848 brought up these three stories at once to my recollection; and their strong resemblance to each other seems to show that there must be something in them which makes them worth the telling.

I began my great task of the History under much anxiety of mind. My mother was known to be dying from the spring onwards; and she died in August. She was removed, while yet able, to the house of her eldest surviving son, at Edgbaston; and there, amidst the best possible tendance, she declined and died. Her life hung upon perfect quiet; and therefore, as all her children had seen her not long before, it was considered best to leave her in the good hands of one of the families. I saw her at Liverpool, on my return home from the East. By evil offices, Edition: current; Page: [16] working on her prejudice against mesmerism, she had been prevented from meeting me after my recovery: but such a cause of separation was too absurd to be perpetual. I knew that the sound of my voice, and my mere presence for five minutes, would put to flight all objections to my mode of recovery: and we did meet and part in comfort and satisfaction. I did hope to have had the pleasure of a visit from her that summer, though I proposed it with much doubt. She was now blind; and she could not but be perpetually hearing of the charms of the scenery. She could walk only on smooth and level ground; and walking was essential to her health: and it is not easy to find smooth level ground in our valley. Yet, as one main inducement to my building and settling here was that there might be a paradise for any tired or delicate members of my family to rest in, I did wish that my mother should have tried it, this first practicable summer: but she was too ill to do more than go to Edgbaston, and find her grave there. She was in her seventy-sixth year. — I have never felt otherwise than soundly and substantially happy, during this last term of my life: but certainly those months of July and August 1848 were the most anxious of the whole ten years since I left Tynemouth. The same faithful old friend to whom I have often referred, must come into my history again here. She came to me when I was becoming most anxious, and remained above two months, — saving me from being overwhelmed with visits from strangers, and taking me quiet drives, when my work was done; — a recreation which I have always found the most refreshing of all. Some of my own family came before the event, and some after; and a few old and dear friends looked in upon me, in the course of the season.

When I had laid out my plan for the History, and begun upon the first portion, I sank into a state of dismay. I should hardly say “sank;” for I never thought of giving up or stopping; but I doubt whether, at any point of my career, I ever felt so oppressed by what I had undertaken as during the first two or three weeks after I had begun the History. The idea of publishing a number of my Political Economy series every month was fearful at first: but that was only the quantity of work. The Edition: current; Page: [17] Discontented Pendulum comforted me them, — not only because every month’s work would have its own month to be done in, but because there was a clear, separate topic for each number, which would enable the work to take care of itself, in regard to subject as well as time. In America, I was overwhelmed with the mass of material to be dealt with; but then, I was not engaged to write a book; and by the time I had made up my mind to do so, the mass had become classified. Now, the quantity and variety of details fairly overpowered my spirits, in that hot month of August. I feel my weakness, — more in body than (consciously) in mind — in having to deal with many details. The most fatiguing work I ever have to do is arranging my library; and even packing my trunks for a journey, or distributing the contents when I come home, fatigues me more than it seems to do other people. In this case, I fear I afflicted my friend by my discouragement, — the like of which she had never seen in me. At times, she comforted me with assurances that the chaos would become orderly; but, on the whole, she desired that I should throw up the work, — a thing which I could not even meditate for a moment, under the circumstances in which Mr. Knight found himself. No doubt, the nervous watching of the post at that time had much to do with my anxiety. My habit was to rise at six, and to take a walk, — returning to my solitary breakfast at half-past seven. For several years, while I was strong enough, I found this an excellent preparation for work. My household orders were given for the day, and all affairs settled, out of doors and in, by a quarter or half-past eight, when I went to work, which I continued without interruption, except from the post, till three o’clock, or later, when alone. While my friend was with me, we dined at two; and that was, of course, the limit of my day’s work. The post came in at half-past ten; and my object was to keep close to my work till the letters appeared. When my mother became so ill that this effort was beyond my power, I sent to meet the coach, and got my letters earlier; but the wear and tear of nerve was very great. One strong evidence of the reality of my recovery was that my health stood the struggle very well. In a few Edition: current; Page: [18] weeks, I was in full career, and had got my work well in hand. My first clear relief came when I had written a certain passage about Canning’s eloquence, and found in the course of it that I really was interested in my business. Mr. Knight, happily, was satisfied; and I was indebted to him for every kind of encouragement. By the 1st of February, the last M.S. of the first volume was in the hands of the printer. I mention this because a contemporary review spoke of “two years” as the time it had occupied me, — calling it very rapid work; whereas, from the first opening of the books to study for the History to the depositing of the M.S. of the first volume at press was exactly six months. The second volume took six months to do, with an interval of some weeks of holiday, and other work. I delivered the last sheets into Mr. Knight’s hands in November 1849.

During the year 1849, the dismal cholera year, — I found that I had been overworking; and in the autumn I accepted Mrs. Knight’s invitation to join their family at St. Leonards for a month, and then to stay with them for the remaining weeks which were necessary to finish the History. The Sunday when I put the last batch of M.S. into Mr. Knight’s hands was a memorable day to me. I had grown nervous towards the end; and especially doubtful, without any assignable reason, whether Mr. Knight would like the concluding portion. To put it out of my mind, I went a long walk after breakfast with Mr. Atkinson, to Primrose Hill (where I had never been before) and Regent’s Park. My heart fluttered all the way; and when I came home, to meet a farewell family party at lunch, I could not eat. Mr. Knight looked at me, with an expression of countenance which I could not interpret; and when he beckoned me into the drawing-room, I was ready to drop. I might have spared myself the alarm. His acknowledgments were such as sent me to my room perfectly happy; and I returned to my Knoll with a light heart. I was soon followed by an invitation from Mr. Knight to write the introductory period, from the opening of the century to the Peace, to be followed by the four years to 1850, if we should live to see the close of that year, so as to make a complete Edition: current; Page: [19] “History of the Half Century.” The work would be comparatively light, from the quantity of material supplied by the Memoirs of the statesmen now long dead. I was somewhat disappointed in regard to the pleasure of it from Mr. Knight’s frequent changes of mind as to the form in which it was to be done. I imagine he had become somewhat tired of the scheme; for, not only was I kept waiting weeks, and once three months, for a promised letter which should guide me as to space and other particulars; but he three times changed his mind as to the form in which he should present the whole. He approved, as cordially as ever, what I wrote; but finally decided to print the portion from 1800 to the Peace as an Introductory volume, relinquishing the project of completing the Half Century by a History of the last four years. I state these facts because it was afterwards believed by many people, who quoted his authority, that he broke off the scheme, to his own injury, from terror at the publication of the Atkinson Letters, — as if he had been taken by surprise by that publication. I can only say that it was as far as possible from being my intention to conceal our plan of publishing those Letters. I not only told him of it while at his house in the autumn of 1849, and received certain sarcasms from him on our “infidel” philosophy; but I read to Mrs. Knight two of the boldest of Mr. Atkinson’s letters: and it was after this that Mr. Knight invited me to write the Introductory volume. Moreover, it was after some of his changes of plan that he staid at my house (May 1850) with Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Jerrold, and considerately took Mr. Jerrold for a walk, on the last day of their visit, to leave Mr. Atkinson and me at liberty to read our manuscript. He was certainly panic-stricken when the volume appeared, in January, 1851; but, if he was surprised, it was through no fault of mine, as the dates show. In July, 1851, half-a-year after the “Letters” appeared, when he paid me for my work at his own house, he expressed himself more than satisfied with the Introductory History, and told me that, though the Exhibition had interfered with the publishing season, he had sold two thirds of the edition, and had no doubt of its entire success in the next. Before the next season opened, Edition: current; Page: [20] however, he sold off the whole work. With his reasons for doing so I have no concern, as the preceding facts show. In regard to him, I need only say, — which I do with great pleasure, — that he has continued to show me kindness and affection, worthy of our long friendship. In regard to the History, — it has passed into the hands of Messrs. Chambers of Edinburgh, who invited me, last summer, to bring the History of the Peace down to the War. I agreed to do so; and the scheme was only broken off by my present illness, which, of course, renders the execution of it impossible.

Edition: current; Page: [21]


On the last evening of my stay at Mr. Knight’s a parcel arrived for me, enclosing a book, and a note which was examined as few notes ever are. The book was “Shirley;” and the note was from “Currer Bell.” Here it is.

“Currer Bell offers a copy of “Shirley” to Miss Martineau’s acceptance, in acknowledgment of the pleasure and profit she [sic] he has derived from her works. When C. B. first read “Deerbrook” he tasted a new and keen pleasure, and experienced a genuine benefit. In his mind, “Deerbrook” ranks with the writings that have really done him good, added to his stock of ideas, and rectified his views of life.”

“November 7th, 1849.”

We examined this note to make out whether it was written by a man or a woman. The hand was a cramped and nervous one, which might belong to any body who had written too much, or was in bad health, or who had been badly taught. The erased “she” seemed at first to settle the matter; but somebody suggested that the “she” might refer to me under a form of sentence which might easily have been changed in the penning. I had made up my mind, as I had repeatedly said, that a certain passage in “Jane Eyre,” about sewing on brass rings, could have been written only by a woman or an upholsterer. I now addressed my reply externally to “Currer Bell, Esq.,” and began it “Madam.” — I had more reason for interest than even the deeply-interested public in knowing who wrote “Jane Eyre;” for, when it appeared, I was taxed with the authorship by more than one personal friend, and charged by others, and even by relatives, with knowing the author, and having supplied some of the facts of the first volume from my own childhood. When I read it, I was convinced that it was by some friend of my own, who had Edition: current; Page: [22] portions of my childish experience in his or her mind. “Currer Bell” told me, long after, that she had read with astonishment those parts of “Household Education” which relate my own experience. It was like meeting her own fetch, — so precisely were the fears and miseries there described the same as her own, told or not told in “Jane Eyre.”

A month after my receipt of “Shirley,” I removed, on a certain Saturday, from the house of a friend in Hyde Park Street to that of a cousin in Westbourne Street, in time for a dinner party. Meanwhile, a messenger was running about to find me, and reached my cousin’s when we were at dessert, bringing the following note.

Currer Bell
Bell, Currer
December 8th, 1849
My dear Madam,

I happen to be staying in London for a few days; and having just heard that you are likewise in town, I could not help feeling a very strong wish to see you. If you will permit me to call upon you, have the goodness to tell me when to come. Should you prefer calling on me, my address is ... ... ... ...

“Do not think this request springs from mere curiosity. I hope it has its origin in a better feeling. It would grieve me to lose this chance of seeing one whose works have so often made her the subject of my thoughts.

“I am, my dear Madam,
“Yours sincerely,

My host and hostess desired me to ask the favour of C. B.’s company the next day, or any subsequent one. According to the old dissenting custom of early hours on Sundays, we should have tea at six the next evening: — on any other day, dinner at a somewhat later hour. The servant was sent with this invitation on Sunday morning, and brought back the following reply.

My dear Madam,

I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you at six o’clock today: — and I shall try now to be patient till six o’clock comes.”

“I am, &c., &c.”

“That is a woman’s note,” we agreed. We were in a certain state of excitement all day, and especially towards evening. Edition: current; Page: [23] The footman would certainly announce this mysterious personage by his or her right name; and, as I could not hear the announcement, I charged my cousins to take care that I was duly informed of it. A little before six, there was a thundering rap: — the drawing-room door was thrown open, and in stalked a gentleman six feet high. It was not “Currer,” but a philanthropist, who had an errand about a model lodging-house. Minute by minute I, for one, wished him away; and he did go before any body else came. Precisely as the time-piece struck six, a carriage stopped at the door; and after a minute of suspense, the footman announced “Miss Brogden;” whereupon, my cousin informed me that it was Miss Brontë; for we had heard the name before, among others, in the way of conjecture.—I thought her the smallest creature I had ever seen (except at a fair) and her eyes blazed, as it seemed to me. She glanced quickly round; and my trumpet pointing me out, she held out her hand frankly and pleasantly. I introduced her, of course, to the family; and then came a moment which I had not anticipated. When she was seated by me on the sofa, she cast up at me such a look, — so loving, so appealing, — that, in connexion with her deep mourning dress, and the knowledge that she was the sole survivor of her family, I could with the utmost difficulty return her smile, or keep my composure. I should have been heartily glad to cry. We soon got on very well; and she appeared more at her ease that evening than I ever saw her afterwards, except when we were alone. My hostess was so considerate as to leave us together after tea, in case of C. B. desiring to have private conversation with me. She was glad of the opportunity to consult me about certain strictures of the reviewers which she did not understand, and had every desire to profit by. I did not approve the spirit of those strictures; but I thought them not entirely groundless. She besought me then, and repeatedly afterwards, to tell her, at whatever cost of pain to herself, if I saw her afford any justification of them. I believed her, (and I now believe her to have been) perfectly sincere: but when the time came (on the publication of “Villette,” in regard to which she had expressly claimed my promise a week before the book arrived) Edition: current; Page: [24] she could not bear it. There was never any quarrel, or even misunderstanding between us. She thanked me for my sincere fulfilment of my engagement; but she could not, she said, come “at present” to see me, as she had promised: and the present was alas! all that she had to dispose of. She is dead, before another book of hers could (as I hoped it would) enable her to see what I meant, and me to re-establish a fuller sympathy between us. — Between the appearance of “Shirley” and that of “Villette,” she came to me; — in December, 1850. Our intercourse then confirmed my deep impression of her integrity, her noble conscientiousness about her vocation, and her consequent self-reliance in the moral conduct of her life. I saw at the same time tokens of a morbid condition of mind, in one or two directions; — much less than might have been expected, or than would have been seen in almost any one else under circumstances so unfavourable to health of body and mind as those in which she lived; and the one fault which I pointed out to her in “Villette” was so clearly traceable to these unwholesome influences that I would fain have been spared a task of criticism which could hardly be of much use while the circumstances remained unchanged. But she had exacted first the promise, and then the performance in this particular instance; and I had no choice. “I know,” she wrote (January 21st, 1853) “that you will give me your thoughts upon my book, — as frankly as if you spoke to some near relative whose good you preferred to her gratification. I wince under the pain of condemnation — like any other weak structure of flesh and blood; but I love, I honour, I kneel to Truth. Let her smite me on one cheek — good! the tears may spring to the eyes; but courage! There is the other side — hit again — right sharply!” This was the genuine spirit of the woman. She might be weak for once; but her permanent temper was one of humility, candour, integrity and conscientiousness. She was not only unspoiled by her sudden and prodigious fame, but obviously unspoilable. She was somewhat amused by her fame, but oftener annoyed; — at least, when obliged to come out into the world to meet it, instead of its reaching her in her secluded home, in the wilds of Yorkshire. There was little hope that she, the frail Edition: current; Page: [25] survivor of a whole family cut off in childhood or youth, could live to old age; but, now that she is gone, under the age of forty, the feeling is that society has sustained an unexpected, as well as irreparable loss.

I have often observed that, from the time I wrote the Prize Essays, I have never come to a stand for work; — have never had any anxiety as to whether there would be work for me; — have, in short, only had to choose my work. Holiday I have never had, since before that time, except in as far as my foreign travels, and a few months of illness could be called such: and it had now been a weight on my mind for some years that I had not got on with my autobiography, — which I felt to be a real duty. I find that I wrote this to Mr. Atkinson, when under uneasiness about whether Murray would hold to his engagement to publish “Eastern Life” (February 1848.) “It is a very great and pressing object with me to go on with my own Life; lest it should end before I have recorded what I could trust no one to record of it. I always feel this a weight upon my mind, as a duty yet undone; and my doing it within a moderate time depends on my getting this book out now.” It was got out; but then came the History, which could not be delayed, and which I should have done wrong to refuse. Now that those three great volumes were nearly done, Mr. Dickens sent me an invitation to write for “Household Words.” That kind of work does not, in my own opinion, suit me well; and I have refused to write for Magazines by the score; but the wide circulation of “Household Words” made it a peculiar case; and I agreed to try my hand, — while I was yet a good way from the end of my History. I did this with the more ease because a scheme was now rising to the light which would relieve me of much of the anxiety I felt about recording the later experiences of my life. The Atkinson Letters were by this time in preparation.

The publication of those letters was my doing. Having found, after some years of correspondence with Mr. Atkinson, that my views were becoming broader and clearer, my practice of duty easier and gayer, and my peace of mind something wholly Edition: current; Page: [26] unlike what I had ever had experience of before; and, being able to recognize and point out what fundamental truths they were that I had thus been brought to grasp, I thought that much good might be done by our making known, as master and pupil, what truths lay at the root of our philosophy. If I had known — what I could not know till the reception of our volume revealed it to me, — how small is the proportion of believers to the disbelievers in theology to what I imagined, — I might have proposed a different method; or we might have done our work in a different way. In regard to disbelief in theology, much more had already taken place than I, at least, was aware of. But there is an essential point, — the most essential of all, — in regard to which the secular and the theological worlds seem to need conviction almost equally: viz., the real value of science, and of philosophy as its legitimate offspring. It seems to us, even now, the most impossible, or, speaking cautiously, the rarest thing in the world to find any body who has the remotest conception of the indispensableness of science as the only source of, not only enlightenment, but wisdom, goodness and happiness. It is, of course, useless to speak to theologians or their disciples about this, while they remain addicted to theology, because they avowedly give their preference to theology over the science with which it is incompatible. They, in the face of clear proof that science and theology are incompatible, embrace theology as the foundation of wisdom, goodness and happiness. They incline, all the while, to what they call philosophy; — that is, to theologico-metaphysics, from which they derive, as they say, (and truly) improvement in intellectual power, and confirmation of their religious faith in one direction, nearly equivalent to the damage inflicted on it in another. The result must be, when the study is real and earnest, either that the metaphysics must dwindle away into a mere fanciful adornment of the theology, or the theology must be in time stripped of its dogmatic character, exhausted thereby of its vitality, and reduced to a mere name and semblance. Examples of the first alternative are conspicuous in the argumentative preachers and writers of the Church of England, and other Christian sects; Edition: current; Page: [27] and, we may add, in the same functionaries of the Romish Church, who thus unconsciously yield to the tendencies of their age so far as to undermine the foundations of their own “everlasting” church. Examples of the second alternative are conspicuous, in our own country and in America, in the class of metaphysical deists, — who may be, by courtesy, called a class because they agree in being metaphysical, and, in one way or another, deists; but who cannot be called a sect, or a body, because it is scarcely possible to find any two of them who agree in any thing with any approach to precision. One makes the Necessarian doctrine his chief reliance, while another denounces it as atheistic. One insists on the immortality of the soul, while another considers a future life doubtful, and a matter of no great consequence. Others belong, amid an unbounded variety of minor views, to one or another of the five sorts of pantheism. All these claim to be philosophers, and scientific in the matter of mental philosophy; while observers discover that all are wandering wide of the central point of knowledge and conviction, — each in his own balloon, wafted in complacency by whatever current he may be caught by, and all crossing each other, up and down, right or left, all manner of ways, hopeless of finding a common centre till they begin to conceive of, and seek for, a firm standpoint.

The so-called scientific men, who consider themselves philosophers, are, for the most part, in a scarcely more promising condition. Between their endless subdivision as labourers in the field of research, before they have discovered any incorporating principle; and the absorbing and blinding influence of exclusive attention to detail; and some remaining fear of casting themselves loose from theology, together with their share of the universal tendency to cling to the old notions even in their own department, — the men of science are almost as hopelessly astray, as to the discovery of true wisdom, as the theologians. Well read men, who call themselves impartial and disinterested, as they stand aloof and observe all these others, are no nearer to the blessed discovery or conviction. They extol philosophy, perhaps; but it is merely on the ground that (conceiving metaphysics Edition: current; Page: [28] to be philosophy) it is a fine exercise of the subtle powers of the intellect. As to science, they regard it either as a grave and graceful pastime, or they see no use in it, or they consider it valuable for its utilitarian results. As for the grand conception, — the inestimable recognition, — that science, (or the knowledge of fact, inducing the discovery of laws) is the sole and the eternal basis of wisdom, — and therefore of human morality and peace, — none of all these seem to have obtained any view of it at all. For my part, I must in truth say that Mr. Atkinson is the only person, of the multitude I have known, who has clearly apprehended this central truth. He found me searching after it; and he put me in clear possession of it. He showed me how all moral evil, and much, and possibly all, physical evil arises from intellectual imperfection, — from ignorance and consequent error. He led me to sympathise in Bacon’s philosophy, in a truer way than the multitude of Bacon’s theological and metaphysical professed adorers; and to see how a man may be happier than his fellows who obeys Bacon’s incitements to the pursuit of truth, as the greatest good of man. There is plenty of talk of the honour and blessedness of the unflinching pursuit of truth, wherever it may lead; but I never met any one else who lived for that object, or who seemed to understand the nature of the apostleship. I have already told where I was in (or in pursuit of) this path when Mr. Atkinson found me. Learning what I could from him, and meditating for myself, I soon found myself quite outside of my old world of thought and speculation, — under a new heaven and on a new earth; disembarrassed of a load of selfish cares and troubles; with some of my difficulties fairly solved, and others chased away, like bad dreams; and others, again, deprived of all power to trouble me, because the line was clearly drawn between the feasible and the unknowable. I had got out of the prison of my own self,* wherein I had formerly sat trying to interpret life and the world, — much as a captive Edition: current; Page: [29] might undertake to paint the aspect of Nature from the gleams and shadows and faint colours reflected on his dungeon walls. I had learned that, to form any true notion whatever of any of the affairs of the universe, we must take our stand in the external world, — regarding man as one of the products and subjects of the everlasting laws of the universe, and not as the favourite of its Maker; a favourite to whom it is rendered subservient by divine partiality. I had learned that the death-blow was given to theology when Copernicus made his discovery that our world was not the centre and shrine of the universe, where God had placed man “in his own image,” to be worshipped and served by all the rest of creation. I had learned that men judge from an inverted image of external things within themselves when they insist upon the Design argument, as it is called, — applying the solution from out of their own peculiar faculties to external things which, in fact, suggest that very conception of design to the human faculty. I had learned that whatever conception is transferred by “instinct” or supposition from the human mind to the universe cannot possibly be the true solution, as the action of any product of the general laws of the universe cannot possibly be the original principle of those laws. Hence it followed that the conceptions of a God with any human attributes whatever, of a principle or practice of Design, of an administration of life according to human wishes, or of the affairs of the world by the principles of human morals, must be mere visions, — necessary and useful in their day, but not philosophically and permanently true. I had learned, above all, that only by a study of the external and internal world in conjunction can we gather such wisdom as we are qualified to attain; and that this study must be bonâ fide, — personal and diligent, and at any sacrifice, if we would become such as we hint to ourselves in our highest and truest aspirations. The hollowness of the popular views of philosophy and science, — as good intellectual exercise, as harmless, as valuable in a utilitarian sense, and even Edition: current; Page: [30] as elevating in their mere influence, — was, by this time, to me the clearest thing I ever saw: and the opposite reality, — that philosophy founded upon science is the one thing needful, — the source and the vital principle of all intellectuality, all morality, and all peace to individuals, and good will among men, — had become the crown of my experience, and the joy of my life.

One of the earliest consequent observations was, of course, that the science of Human Nature, in all its departments, is yet in its infancy. The mere principle of Mental Philosophy is, as yet, very partially recognized; and the very conception of it is new. It is so absolutely incompatible with theology that the remaining prevalence of theology, circumscribed as it is, sufficiently testifies to the infant state of the philosophy of Man. I have found Mr. Atkinson’s knowledge of Man, general and particular, physical, intellectual and moral; theoretical and practical, greater than I ever met with elsewhere, in books or conversation; and I immediately discovered that his superior knowledge was due to his higher and truer point of view, whereby he could cast light from every part of the universe upon the organisation and action of Man, and use and test the analogies from without in their application to the world within. I had long desired that the years should not pass over his head without the world being the better, as I felt myself, for his fresh method of thought, and conscientious exercise of it. I wished that some others besides myself should be led by him to the true point of view which they were wandering in search of; and I therefore went as far as I dared in urging him to give the world a piece of his mind. At length he consented to my scheme of publishing a set of “Letters on Man’s Nature and Development.” Certainly I have reason to congratulate myself on my pertinacity in petitioning for this. I do not often trouble my friends with requests or advice as to their doings: and in this case, I was careful not to intrude on my friend’s independence. But I succeeded; and I have rejoiced in my success ever since, — seeing and hearing what that book has done for others, and feeling very sensibly what a blessing it has been to myself.

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Once embarked in the scheme, my friend was naturally anxious to get on; but he was wonderfully patient with the slowness to which the pressure of my other work condemned us. I have mentioned that I read two of his letters to my hostess in the autumn of 1849. The book did not appear till January 1851. My literary practice indicated that I ought to copy out the whole of Mr. Atkinson’s portion in proper order for press; and this was the more necessary because Mr. Atkinson’s hand-writing is only not so bad as Dr. Parr’s and Sydney Smith’s. When I began, I supposed I must alter and amend a little, to fit the expression to the habit and taste of the reading world; but, after the first letter, I did not alter a single sentence. The style seems to me, — as it does to many better judges than myself, — as beautiful as it is remarkable. Eminent writers and readers have said that they could not lay the book down till they had run it through, — led on through the night by the beauty of the style, no less than by the interest of the matter. Such opinions justify my decision not to touch a sentence. (I speak of the volume without scruple, because, as far as its merits are concerned, it is Mr. Atkinson’s. The responsibility was mine, and a fourth or fifth part of its contents; but my letters were a mere instigation to his utterance.)

It appears, by the dates above, that nearly the whole of 1850 elapsed during my copying. I was writing the Introductory Volume of the History, and was in the midst of a series of papers, (the title of which I cannot recal) for an American periodical, whereby I wanted to earn some money for the Abolition cause there. I sent off the last of them in April. By that time, my season guests began to arrive; and my evenings were not at my own disposal. I had engaged myself to “Household Words” for a series of tales on Sanitary subjects; and I wrote this spring the two first, — “Woodruffe the Gardener” and “The People of Bleaburn.”

I spent a fortnight at Armathwaite, a beautiful place between Penrith and Carlisle; (departing, I remember, on the day of Wordsworth’s funeral) and, though I carried my work, and my kind friends allowed me the disposal of my mornings, I could Edition: current; Page: [32] not do any work which would bear postponement. I looked forward hopefully to a ten weeks’ sojourn at a farm-house near Bolton Abbey, where I went to escape the tourist-season; and there I did get on. My house had been full of guests, from April till the end of July, with little intermission: and the greater the pleasure of receiving one’s friends, the worse goes one’s work. Among the guests of that spring were three who came together, and who together made an illustrious week, — Mr. Charles Knight, Mr. Douglas Jerrold, and Mr. Atkinson. Four days were spent in making that circuit of the district which forms the ground-plan of my “Complete Guide:” and memorable days they were. We were amused at the way in which some bystander at Strands recorded his sense of this in a Kendal paper. He told how the tourists were beginning to appear for the season, and how I had been seen touring with a party of the élite of the literary world, &c., &c. He declared that I, with these élite, had crossed the mountains “in a gig” to Strands, and that wit and repartee had genially flowed throughout the evening; — an evening, as it happened, when our conversation was rather grave. I was so amused at this that I cut out the paragraph, and sent it to Mr. Jerrold, who wrote back that, while the people were about it, they might as well have put us into a howdah on an elephant. It would have been as true as the gig, and far grander. — I owed the pleasure of Mr. Jerrold’s acquaintance to Mr. Knight; and I wish I had known him more. My first impression was one of surprise, — not at his remarkable appearance, of which I was aware; — the eyes and the mobile countenance, the stoop, and the small figure, reminding one of Coleridge, without being like him, — but at the gentle and thoughtful kindness which set its mark on all he said and did. Somehow, all his good things were so dropped as to fall into my trumpet, without any trouble or ostentation. This was the dreaded and unpopular man who must have been hated (for he was hated) as “Punch” and not as Jerrold, — through fear, and not through reason or feeling. His wit always appeared to me as gentle as it was honest, — as innocent as it was sound. I could say of him as of Sydney Smith, that I Edition: current; Page: [33] never heard him say, in the way of raillery, any thing of others that I should mind his saying of me. I never feared him in the least, nor saw reason why any but knaves or fools should fear him. — The other witty journalist of my time, Mr. Fonblanque, I knew but little, having met him only at Mr. Macready’s, I think. I once had the luck to have him all to myself, during a long dinner; and I found his conversation as agreeable for other qualities as for its wit. The pale face, the lank hair, the thin hands, and dimmed dark eye, speaking of ill health, made the humour of his conversation the more impressive, as recommended by patience and amiability.

But to return to my summer of 1850. At Bolton I was not by any means lonely; for tourists came there too; and relations and friends gave me many a pleasant day and evening. But, on the whole, the History got on very well in the mornings, and the transcribing of the Letters in the evening; and, but for the relaxing air of the place, which injured my health, that Bolton sojourn would have been a season of singular enjoyment. With the same dear, faithful old friend whom I have so often referred to, I saw Ilkley and Benrhydding, and some of the finest parts of the West of Yorkshire. I found time to write another long story for “Household Words,” (“The Marsh fog and the Sea breeze”) and engaged to make my subscription to the new weekly journal, “the Leader” (which has lagged terribly, instead of leading) in the form of twelve “Sketches from Life,” which I began before the Atkinson Letters were well off my hands. Another small piece of authorship which interposed itself was really no fault of mine. In 1848 (I think it was) I had begun an experiment of very small farming, which I never intended to become an affair of public interest. My field, let to a neighbour, was always in such bad condition as to be an eye-sore from my windows. I found myself badly and expensively served with cream and butter, and vegetables, and eggs. In summer, there was no depending on the one butcher of the place for meat, even though joints had been timely ordered and promised, — so great and increasing was the pressure of the tourist multitude. In winter, when I was alone, and did Edition: current; Page: [34] not care what came to table, I could have what I liked: but in summer, when my house was full, it was frequently an anxiety how to get up a dinner when the butcher was so set fast as to have to divide the promised joint between three houses. All the while, I had to pay an occasional gardener very high, to keep the place in any order at all, — over and above what my maids and I could do. A more serious consideration was the bad method of farming in the Lake District, which seemed to need an example of better management, on however humble a scale. My neighbours insisted on it that cows require three acres of land apiece; whereas I believed that, without emulating Cobbett, I could do better than that. I procured an active, trustworthy married labourer from Norfolk, and enlisted his ambition and sympathy in the experiment. We have since kept about a cow and a-half on my land, with the addition of half an acre which I rent from the adjoining field; and the purchase of a fourth part of the food is worth while, because I am thus kept constantly supplied with milk, while able to sell the surplus; besides that the stable may as well hold a second cow; and that two cows are little more trouble than one. My whole place is kept in the highest order: I have the comfort of a strong man on the premises (his cottage being at the foot of the knoll) for the protection of my household and property; and I have always had the satisfaction of feeling that, come who may, there are at all times hams, bacon and eggs in the house. The regular supply of fresh vegetables, eggs, cream and butter is a substantial comfort to a housekeeper. A much greater blessing than all these together is that a plentiful subsistence for two worthy people has been actually created out of my field; and that the spectacle has certainly not been lost on my neighbours. At first, we were abundantly ridiculed, and severely condemned for our methods; and my good servant’s spirits were sometimes sorely tried: but I told him that if we persevered good-humouredly, people would come round to our views. And so they did. First, I was declared deluded and extravagant: next, I was cruel to my live stock; then, I petted them so that they would die of luxury; and finally, one after another of our neighbours Edition: current; Page: [35] admitted the fine plight of my cows; and a few adopted our methods. At the end of a year’s experience, I wrote a letter, by request, to an Assistant Poor-law Commissioner, who was earnest in his endeavours to get workhouses supplied with milk and vegetables, by the labour of the inmates on the land. To my amazement, I found my letter in the “Times,” one day while I was at Bolton. How it got there, I know not. Other papers quoted portions of it which, separated from the rest, gave rise to wrong impressions; so that I found it necessary to write a second letter, giving the result of the second year’s tillage; and to issue the two as a small pamphlet. I need say nothing here about our method of farming, as the whole story is told in that pamphlet. I may simply add that we go on with it, very comfortably; and that my good farm-servant is a prosperous man. Strangers come every summer to see the place as a curiosity; and I am assured that the invariable remark is that not a foot of ground is lost, and not a sign of neglect appears in any corner. I have added a little boiling-house, a root-house, and a capital manure-pit, since those letters were written; and I have put up a higher order of fences, — to the improvement at once of the appearance and the economy of my little estate. All this, with the growth of the shrubs and little copses, and the spread of roses and evergreen climbers over the house, makes my Knoll dwelling, to say the truth, a charming spectacle to visitors; — though not half so much as to me. Some have called it “a perfect poem:” and it is truly that to me: and so, speaking frankly, is the life that I have passed within it.

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With all the writing that I have particularised on my hands, it is not to be wondered at that November arrived before Mr. Atkinson was wanted, to finish off our work for press: and by that time, my winter course of lectures was due. So much for the “leisure,” and the “dulness” which distant friends have attributed to my life at the Lakes. This winter’s course was the arduous one of twenty lectures on the History of England, — the first of which was delivered on the fifth of November, and the last on the first of April, 1851. Amidst the undeniable overwork of that winter, I had a feeling, which I remember expressing to one friend at least, that this might probably be the last season of work for me. It seemed to me probable that, after the plain-speaking of the Atkinson Letters, I might never be asked, or allowed, to utter myself again. I had, on four previous occasions of my life, supposed the same thing, and found myself mistaken; but the “audacity,” (as a scientific reader called my practice of plain avowal) was so much greater in appearance (though not in reality) in the present case than ever before, that I anticipated excommunication from the world of literature, if not from society. This seems amusing enough, now, when I have enjoyed more prosperity since the publication of that volume, realised more money, earned more fame of a substantial kind, seen more of my books go out of print, and made more friendships and acquaintance with really congenial people than in any preceding four years of my life. But the anticipation was very sincere at the time; and I took care that my comrade in the work knew what my anticipation was. — There was to me, I must observe, no choice about making known, in this form or some other, my views at this period. From the time when, in my youth, I uttered my notions and was listened to, Edition: current; Page: [37] I had no further choice. For a quarter of a century past I had been answerable to an unknown number of persons for a declaration of my opinions as my experience advanced; and I could not stop now. If I had desired it, any concealment would have been most imprudent. A life of hypocrisy was wholly impracticable to me, if it had been endurable in idea; and disclosure by bits, in mere conversation, could never have answered any other purpose than misleading my friends, and subjecting me to misconception. So much for the necessity and the prudence of a full avowal. A far more serious matter was the duty of it, in regard to integrity and humanity. My comrade and I were both pursuers of truth, and were bound to render our homage openly and devoutly. We both care for our kind; and we could not see them suffering as we had suffered without imparting to them our consolation and our joy. Having found, as my friend said, a spring in the desert, should we see the multitude wandering in desolation, and not show them our refreshment? We never had a moment’s doubt or misgiving; though we anticipated (or I did, for I ought only to speak for myself) all manner of consequences which never ensued.

Just as I am writing on this subject, an old letter of mine to Mr. Atkinson is put before my eyes. It was written before the publication of “Eastern Life;” and I will insert a part of it, both because it indicates the kind of difficulty I had to deal with, on these occasions, and because it is an honest comfort to see what I had gained in courage, strength and cheerfulness in the three years which intervened between the publication of the two books.

“I am not afraid of censure,” I wrote in February 1848, “from individuals or from the world. I don’t feel, at present, any fear of the most thorough pulling to pieces that I suppose can ever befal me. The book once out, I am in for it, and must and will bear every thing. ... ... ... The fact is, however, — this book is, I believe, the greatest effort of courage I ever made. I only hope I may not fail in the proof. Some people would think the Population number of my Political Economy, and the Women and Marriage and Property chapters Edition: current; Page: [38] in my American books, and the Mesmerism affair, bolder feats: but I know that they were not. I was younger and more ardent then; and now the forecast and love of ease belonging to age are coming upon me. Then, I believed in a Protector who ordered me to do that work, and would sustain me under it: and, however I may now despise that sort of support, I had it then, and have none of that sort now. I have all that I want, I believe, in the absolute necessity of saying what I really believe, if I speak at all on those Egyptian and Mosaic subjects; and I would not exchange my present views, imperfect and doubtful as they are, — I had better say, I would not exchange my freedom from old superstition, if I were to be burned at the stake next month, for all the peace and quiet of orthodoxy, if I must take the orthodoxy with the peace and quiet. Nor would I, for any exemption, give up the blessing of the power of appeal to thoughtful minds. There was — —, the other day, at the reading of the Sinai part of my book. I should have expected her to be purely shocked at so much of it as to carry away a bad impression of the whole: but she was beyond all measure interested, — beyond any thing ever seen in her. So I would not have any thing otherwise than as it is, as to my fate in consequence of my opinions, or absence of belief. What I dread is being silenced, and the mortification and loss of the manner of it: (from a refusal to publish the book.) Yet, if it happens, I dare say it will become clear to me what I ought to do; and that is the only really important thing. ... ... ... ... Well: I have had plenty of painful enterprises to go through, and found support from the two considerations that I could not help being so circumstanced, and that I believed myself right. ... ... ... ... I will tell you of a terrible pain I have had about this matter of religious opinion. When I was at — in September, I was told about a Town Missionary, Mr. —, who desired particularly to see me. He came to the house, when it appeared, (— no, we knew it before; but, however,) he had formed himself upon my books, — the more serious ones particularly, — and we found, had taken up that notion of me which we know to be idealism, — all but idolatry. In every Edition: current; Page: [39] thing else he seemed a rational, as he certainly was a very interesting young man. Such a face! so full of life and happiness, — all made up of benevolence. He was delicate; and so was his young wife. He was then thinking of undertaking the — City Mission. He did so: and soon sank; — had influenza, and fell into rapid consumption. A friend of his at Birmingham wrote me that he declared himself dying, in his letter to her received that day: and she immediately wrote to suggest to me that a letter from me would gratify him. There was scarcely any thing I would not rather have done: but it was impossible to refuse. I wrote at once; and every word was as true to my own state of mind as what I write to you now: but I feared it would be taken for a Christian letter. There was not a word about the future, or of God, or even Christ. It was a letter of sympathy in his benevolent and happy life, and also, of course, in his present weakness. It reached him on the last day of his life. It was read to him. When a little revived, he asked for it, and read it himself; and then desired his wife to tell all who loved him of ‘this last flush on his darkness.’ This is dreadful pain to me. I feel as if I had told him a lie for my last words to him. I cannot now see how I could have acted otherwise. It would have been hard and unkind not to write: and it was impossible to disturb his life at the last. Yet I feel that that letter did not carry my real mind to him, and does not to the many who are reading it. His poor delicate young widow is strong in heart; but she has two young infants to maintain, and not a shilling in the world. But missionaries’ widows are, I believe, always cared for, — as I am sure they ought to be.”

It is cheering to read this letter now, and feel how much clearer and stronger my mind had become before the time arrived for the far greater enterprise which caused me so much less apprehension, and which was to release me for ever from all danger of misleading missionaries, or any body else, by letters of sympathy under solemn circumstances, which they would interpret by their preconceptions. I can write such letters now to all kinds of sufferers, in full assurance that, whether they satisfy or not, they are not misapprehended.

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On the nineteenth of November, my friend and I revised his last letter, I wrote my preface, and we tied up our M.S. for press; and on the twentieth, he went away. As we were going to the coach he said, “I am glad we have done this work. We shall never repent it.” We next met in London, in the summer, when our book had run the gauntlet of all the reviews, and we found ourselves no worse for the venture we had made, and well satisfied that we had borne our testimony to the truth, — not in vain for many who had sorely needed the support and blessing which our philosophy had long afforded to ourselves.

When Mr. Atkinson was gone, the printing began; and I highly enjoyed the proof-correcting. That is always the time when I begin to relish any book that I have part in. The conception I enjoy, of course, or I should not write the book; but during the work I am doubtful, and the manuscript disgusts me. Then come the proofs, when one sees exactly, and in order, what one has really said; and the work appears to advantage. What my pressure of business was at that time is shown by a sad piece of weakness of mine, which I have sorely repented since; — trusting to the printing-office the proof-correcting of the Appendix. Almost three-fourths of the Appendix being sent in print to the office, and the rest in the remarkably good handwriting of a helpful neighbour, I did hope that errors might be avoided; and I inquired about it, and was assured that I might trust the printer. But never did I see such a shameful mess as those sheets; and never could I have conceived of such an ignorant sort of blunders being allowed to pass. I have never forgiven myself for my laziness in letting any part of the business out of my own hands.

The neighbour who helped me kindly in getting up the Appendix was a sickly retired clerk living close by my gate, — a man of good tastes and fond of reading. I, as I thought, hired him for a succession of evenings to write for me; and, by working together, we soon finished the business. He would not have supper, nor any refreshment whatever; and, to my consternation, (and admiration too) he declined all remuneration in such a way Edition: current; Page: [41] that I could only accept his gift of his time and labour. Since that time he has had the loan, daily, of my newspaper: — his wife buys milk of my dairy; and he sends me many a dish of trout; and I lend books to his good son. Thus we go on; and very pleasant it is.

It was while our evenings were thus filled up, that Mr. Quillinan, Wordsworth’s son-in-law, called one day, full of kindly pleasure, to tell me that I must dine with him next Thursday; and sadly blank he looked when I told him I was engaged every evening that week. Could I not put off my engagement? — No: Miss Brontë was coming on Monday; and I had business which must be finished first. His disappointment was great; for he had a benevolent scheme of bringing me into the favourable acquaintance of certain clergy of the neighbourhood, and of a physician whose further acquaintance I by no means desired. I have before mentioned that, from the first, I avoided visiting among all my neighbours, except a very few intimates; and of course, I had no intention of beginning now, when a book was in the press which would make them gnash their teeth at me in a month or two. Mr. Quillinan had ascertained from the whole party that they should be happy to meet me; and he enjoyed, as he told me, “bringing neighbours together, to like each other.” It had never occurred to him that I might not like to meet them; and sadly disconcerted he was. However, I promised to take Miss Brontë with me, one day, if he would dine early enough to enable my delicate guest to return before nightfall. That was a truly pleasant day, — no one being there, in addition to the family, but Mr. Arnold, from Fox How, and ourselves. And when “Currer” and I came home, there were proof-sheets lying; and I read her Mr. Atkinson’s three letters about the distribution of the brain. She was exceedingly impressed by what she called “the tone of calm power in all he wrote;” moreover, she insisted on having the whole book, when it came out; and no one, so little qualified by training to enter into its substance and method, did it more generous justice. She was very far indeed from sympathising in our doctrine; and she emphatically said so; but this did not prevent her doing justice to us, under our different Edition: current; Page: [42] view. In a preceding letter, she had said “I quite expect that the publication of this book will bring you troublous times. Many who are beginning to draw near to you will start away again affrighted. Your present position is high. Consequently there are many persons, very likely, precisely in the mood to be glad to see it lower. I anticipate a popular outcry which you will stand much as the Duke of Wellington would; — and in due time, it will die round you; but I think not soon.” A month afterwards she wrote, “Having read your book, I cannot now think it will create any outcry. You are tender of others: — you are serious, reverent and gentle. Who can be angry?” This appreciation, from one who declared (as she did to me) that our doctrine was to her “vinegar mingled with gall,” was honourable to her justice and candour. And so was the readiness with which she admitted and accepted my explanation that I was an atheist in the vulgar sense, — that of rejecting the popular theology, — but not in the philosophical sense, of denying a First Cause. She had no sympathy whatever with the shallow and foolish complaint that we were “taking away people’s faith.” She thought that nobody’s faith was worth much which was held, more or less, because I held it too; and of course she saw that truth and Man would never advance if they must wait for the weak, who have themselves no means of progression but by the explorations of the strong, or of those more disposed for speculation than themselves. As I have had occasion to say to some people who seem to have forgotten all they knew of the history of Opinion, and as Luther, and many others greater than I have had to say, “If your faith is worth any thing, it does not depend on me: and if it depends on me, it is not worth any thing.” This reminds me of an incident perhaps worth relating, in connexion with this absurd plea for standing still, which, under the laws of the mind, means retrogression.

When I was publishing “Eastern Life,” I rather dreaded its effects on two intimate friends of mine, widows, both far removed from orthodoxy, and zealous all their lives long for free thought, and an open declaration of it. If I might judge by their profession of principle, I should become more dear to them in Edition: current; Page: [43] proportion to my efforts or sacrifices in the discovery and avowal of truth: but I knew that they could not be so judged, because neither of them had encountered any serious trial of their principle. They bore “Eastern Life” better than I expected, — not fully perceiving, perhaps, the extent of the speculation about belief in a future life. In the “Atkinson Letters,” the full truth burst upon them; and it was too much for them. They had been accustomed to detail to me their visions of that future life, which were curiously particular, — their “heaven” being filled with the atmosphere of their respective homes, and framed to meet the sufferings and desires of their own individual minds. I never pretended to sympathise in all this, of course; but neither had I meddled with it, because I never meddle, except by invitation, with individual minds. After “Eastern Life,” they must have been thoroughly aware that they had not my sympathy; but, while they insisted (against my wish) in reading the “Atkinson Letters,” which was altogether out of their way, they blamed me excessively, — wholly forgetting their professions in favour of free-thought and speech. One partially recovered herself: the other had not power to do so. She went about every where, eloquently bemoaning my act, as a sort of fall, and doing me more mischief (as far as such talk can do damage) than any enemy could have done; and, by the time she began to see how she stood, she had done too much for entire reparation, — earnestly as I believe she desires it. As for the other, an anecdote will show how considerable her self-recovery was. The very woman who had taken on herself to inform me that God would forgive me was not long in reaching the point I will show. — She came to stay with me a year afterwards; and when she departed, I went down to the gate, to put her into the coach, when an old acquaintance greeted me, — an aged lady living some miles off. The two fellow-passengers talked me over, and the aged one related how fierce an opinionated old lady of the neighbourhood was against me, — without having read the book; — the narrator confessing that she herself thought I was “exceedingly wrong to take away people’s faith.” Did not my friend think so? She replied that if I was wrong on that ground, Edition: current; Page: [44] — in seeking truth, and avowing it in opposition to the popular belief, so was every religious reformer, in all times, — mounting up through Luther to St. Paul. “Why, that’s true!” cried the old lady. “I will remember that, and tell it again.” “And as to the moral obligation of the case,” continued my friend, “we must each judge by our own conscience: and perhaps Harriet is as able to judge as Mrs. —.” “Yes, indeed, and a great deal better,” was the reply.

I certainly had no idea how little faith Christians have in their own faith till I saw how ill their courage and temper can stand any attack upon it. And the metaphysical deists who call themselves free-thinkers are, if possible, more alarmed and angry still. There were some of all orders of believers who treated us perfectly well; and perhaps the settled-orthodox had more sympathy with us than any other class of Christians. They were not alarmed, — safely anchored as they are on the rock of authority; and they were therefore at leisure to do justice to our intentions, and even to our reasoning. Having once declared our whole basis to be wrong, — their own being divine, — they could appreciate our view and conduct in a way impossible to persons who had left the anchorage of authority, and not reached that of genuine philosophy. Certainly the heretical, — from reforming churchmen to metaphysical deists, — behaved the worst. The reviews of the time were a great instruction to us. They all, without one exception, as far as we know, shirked the subject-matter of the book, and fastened on the collateral, antitheological portions. In regard to these portions, the reviewers contradicted each other endlessly. We had half a mind to collect their articles, and put them in such juxtaposition as to make them destroy one another, so as to leave us where they found us. It is never worth while, however, to notice reviews in their bearing upon the books they discuss. When we revert to reviews, so-called, it is for their value as essays; for it is, I believe, a thing almost unknown for a review to give a reliable account of the book which forms its text, if the work be of any substance at all. This is not the place for an essay on reviewing. I will merely observe that the causes of this phenomenon are so clear Edition: current; Page: [45] to me, and I think them so nearly unavoidable, that I have declined reviewing, except in a very few instances, since the age of thirty; and, in those few instances, my articles have been avowedly essays, and not, in any strict sense, reviews.

As for the “outcry” which “Currer Bell” and many others anticipated, I really do not know what it amounted to, — outside of the reviewing world. If I knew, I would tell: but I know very little. To the best of my recollection, we were downright insulted only by two people; — by the opinionated old lady (above eighty) above referred to, and by one of my nearest relations; — the former in a letter to me (avowing that she had not seen the book) and the latter in print. Another old lady and her family, with whom I was barely acquainted, passed me in the road thenceforth without speaking, — a marriage into a bishop’s family taking place soon after. Others spoke coldly, for a time; and one family, from whom more wisdom might have been expected, ceased to visit me, while continuing on friendly terms. I think this is all, as regards my own neighbourhood. My genuine friends did not change; and the others, failing under so clear a test, were nothing to me. When, in the evenings of that spring, I went out (as I always do, when in health) to meet the midnight on my terrace, or, in bad weather, in the porch, and saw and felt what I always do see and feel there at that hour, what did it matter whether people who were nothing to me had smiled or frowned as I passed them in the village in the morning? When I experienced the still new joy of feeling myself to be a portion of the universe, resting on the security of its everlasting laws, certain that its Cause was wholly out of the sphere of human attributes, and that the special destination of my race is infinitely nobler than the highest proposed under a scheme of “divine moral government,” how could it matter to me that the adherents of a decaying mythology, — (the Christian following the heathen, as the heathen followed the barbaric-fetish) were fiercely clinging to their Man-God, their scheme of salvation, their reward and punishment, their arrogance, their selfishness, their essential pay-system, as ordered by their mythology? As the astronomer rejoices in new knowledge which Edition: current; Page: [46] compels him to give up the dignity of our globe as the centre, the pride, and even the final cause of the universe, so do those who have escaped from the Christian mythology enjoy their release from the superstition which fails to make happy, fails to make good, fails to make wise, and has become as great an obstacle in the way of progress as the prior mythologies which it took the place of nearly two thousand years ago. For three centuries it has been undermined, and its overthrow completely decided,* as all true interpreters of the Reformation very well know. To the emancipated, it is a small matter that those who remain imprisoned are shocked at the daring which goes forth into the sunshine and under the stars, to study and enjoy, without leave asked, or fear of penalty. As to my neighbours, they came round by degrees to their former methods of greeting. They could do no more, because I was wholly independent of all of them but the few intimates on whom I could rely. As one of these last observed to me, — people leave off gossip and impertinence when they see that one is independent of them. If one has one’s own business and pleasure and near connexions, so that the gossips are visibly of no consequence to one, they soon stop talking. Whether it was so in my case, I never inquired. I am very civilly treated, as far as I see; and that is enough.

As to more distant connexions, I can only say the same thing. I had many scolding letters; but they were chiefly from friends who were sure to think better of it, and who have done so. For a time there was a diminution of letters from mere acquaintances, and persons who wanted autographs, or patronage, or the like: but these have increased again since. I went to London the summer after the publication of the book, and have done so more than once since; and my friends are very kind. I think I may sum up my experience of this sort by saying that this book has been an inestimable blessing to me by dissolving all false relations, and confirming all true ones. No Edition: current; Page: [47] one who would leave me on account of it is qualified to be my friend; and all who, agreeing or disagreeing with my opinions, are faithful to me through a trial too severe for the weak are truly friends for life. I early felt this; and certainly, no ardent friendships of my youthful days have been half so precious to me as those which have borne unchanged the full revelation of my heresies. As to my fortunes, — I have already said that my latest years have been the most prosperous since the publication of my Political Economy series.

When my friends in Egypt and I came down from, and out of, the Great Pyramid, we agreed that no pleasure in the recollection of the adventure, and no forgetfulness of the fatigue and awfulness of it should ever make us represent the feat as easy and altogether agreeable. For the sake of those who might come after us, we were bound to remember the pains and penalties, as well as the gains. In the same way, I am endeavouring now to revive the faded impressions of any painful social consequences which followed the publication of the “Atkinson Letters,” that I may not appear to convey that there is no fine to pay for the privilege of free utterance. I do not remember much about a sort of pain which was over so long ago, and which there has been nothing to revive; but I am aware in a general way, that the nightly mood which yields me such lofty pleasure, under the stars, and within the circuit of the solemn mountains, was not always preserved; and that, if I had not been on my guard in advance, and afterwards supported by Mr. Atkinson’s fine temper, I might have declined into a state of suspicion, and practice of searching into people’s opinion of me. To renew the impressions of the time, I have now been glancing over Mr. Atkinson’s letters of that spring, which I preserved for some such purpose: and I am tempted to insert one or two, as faithful reflexions of his mood at the time, which was the guide and aid of mine. This reminds me that one of our amusements at the time was at the various attempts, — in print, in letters, and in conversation, — to set us at variance. One of our literary magnates, who admires the book, said that this was the first instance in history of an able man joining a woman in authorship; Edition: current; Page: [48] and the novelty was not likely to be acquiesced in without resistance. In print, Mr. Atkinson was reproached, — in the face of my own preface, — with drawing me into the business, and making me his “victim,” and so forth, by persons who knew perfectly well that, so far from wanting any aid in coming forward, he had lectured, and published his lecture, containing the same views, both physiological and anti-theological, before we had any acquaintance whatever: and, on the other hand, I was scolded for dragging forth a good man into persecution which I had shown I did not myself care for. On this sort of charge, which admitted of no public reply, (if he had replied to any thing) Mr. Atkinson wrote these few words, — after reading the one only review which stooped to insult, — insult being, in that instance, safe to the perpetrator by accident of position. “The thing that impressed me, in reading that review was, — how ingenious men are in seeking how to poison their neighbours, and how men themselves do just what they accuse others of doing. Honest scorn I don’t at all mind: but I don’t like a wrong or undue advantage being taken. I don’t like a cabman to charge a shilling extra when one is with ladies, thinking you won’t dispute it. All our principles of honour and justice and benevolence seem to me to be implicated in questions of truth; and in this, I certainly feel firm as a rock, and with the courage of the lion:—that the position is to be maintained, and the thing to be done, and there’s an end of it, — be the consequences what they may.” Then came a letter to him, “candidly advising” him to do himself justice, as speedily as might be, by publishing something alone, to repair the disadvantage of having let a woman speak under the same cover: and on the same day, came a letter to me, gently reproving my good-nature in lending my literary experience to any man’s objects. Sometimes the volume was all mine, and sometimes all his, — each taking the advantage of the other’s name. There was a good deal of talk to the same purpose; and Mr. Atkinson’s comment on this policy was, — “the aim is evident, — to stir up jealousy between us. But it won’t do. They don’t know the man, — nor the woman either.”

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The following morsel may serve to show our view of the large class of censors who, believing nothing themselves, of theology or any thing else, were scandalised at our “shaking the faith” of other people. A lawyer of this class, avowing that he had not read the book, launched “a thunderbolt” at me, — possibly forgetting how many “thunderbolts” I had seen him launch at superstitions, like that of a future life, and at those who teach them. Mr. Atkinson’s remark on this will not take up much space. “Bravo —! A pretty lawyer he, to give judgment before he has read his brief! What a Scribe it is! lawyer to the backbone! I wish he would tell us what truths we may be allowed to utter, and when. Certainly it seems a pity to hurt any one’s feelings: but Christianity was not so tender about that: nor does Nature seem very particular. It is all very fine, talking about people’s religious convictions; but what is to become of those who have no such convictions, — that increasing crowd filling up the spaces between the schisms of the churches? The Church is rotting away daily. Convictions are losing their stability. Men are being scattered in the wilderness. Shall we not hold up a light in the distance, and prepare them a shelter from the storm? The religious people, you will see, will respect us more than the infidels, who have no faith in truth, no light but law, no hope for Man but his fancies, (“convictions.”) — No, I don’t feel any thing at “thunderbolts” of this kind, I assure you. I think it more like the squash of a rotten apple. Let such thunderbolts come as thick as rain; and they will not stir a blade of grass.” On April eleventh, my friend wrote, in reply to some accounts of excursions with two nieces, who were staying with me.

“Here is a nice packet of letters from you. It is delightful to read your account of your doings. You have no time to be miserable and repent, — have you? no time to be thinking of your reputation or your soul. Your cheerful front to the storm and active exertions will make you respected; and remember, the Cause requires it. It would be hard for a Christian to be brave and cheerful in a Mahomedan country, with any amount of pitying and abusing; and so you have not a fair chance of Edition: current; Page: [50] the effect of your faith on your happiness in life, — as it will be for all when the community think as you do, and each supports each, and sympathy abounds. ... ... ... As for Dr. B. and the rest, — when men don’t like the end, of course they find fault with the means. How could it be logical and scientific if it leads to a different conclusion from them: — them — yes, all of them thinking differently! F. in “Fraser” does not think any thing of a future life from instinct, or a God from design: but these points are just what the others insist on. To my mind, F.’s article and the one in the “Westminster” are full of sheer assertion and error and bad taste. I think they want logic, science, or whatever they may term it. If I am wrong and unscientific, why do they not put me right? — taking the “Letters” as a mere sketch, of course, and presenting only a few points of the subject. It is but a slight sketch of the head, leaving the whole figure to be completed. The fact is, these reviewers skip over the science to the theology, and talk nonsense when they feel uncomfortably opposed, — perhaps insulted. I don’t mean in the least to argue that I am not wrong: only, those who think so ought to show how and why. Mr. F. reasons from analogy when my chief argument is in opposition to those analogical reasonings. The analogy with Christ is curious, as showing how minds are impressed with resemblances. Some see a man with the slightest curve of the nose, and say “how like the Duke of Wellington!” or with a club-foot, and say “how like Byron!” I am certainly well contented with F.’s praise; for one reason only: that people won’t think you so foolish in bringing me forward in the way you have. As for the book, it is left by the critics just where it was: nothing disproved, — neither the facts nor the method, nor Bacon: and after all, if mine is “a careless sketch,” (and I dare say it is) the question is the truth of what it contains. If these men are such good artists, they will read the fact out of a rough sketch. F. throws out that idea about Bacon again, and calls it a moral fault in me. I cannot see it, especially as I am supported by others well acquainted with Bacon. The sin was of a piece with the rest of his doings, — in a measure essential at the time for getting a Edition: current; Page: [51] hearing at all for his philosophy: and F. forgets that if Bacon was an atheist, there was no offence against sacred matters, seeing that he did not consider them sacred, but ‘the delirium of phrenetics;’ and thus it was rather a showing of respect and yielding. I do not see that this can spoil him as an authority, any more than Macaulay spoils him: and if it did, he had better be no authority at all than an authority against science. Lord Campbell says Bacon was accustomed in his youth to ridicule religion, thinks the Paradoxes were his, but that in riper years he probably changed his opinion; the only reason given for which is a sentence in the Advancement of Learning, — his earliest great work. The passage there is, ‘A little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, &c;’ which is absurd, if it were insisted on by Campbell. (I suppose Pope’s ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing,’ is taken from this passage.) Of course, people will say I am wrong; but let them show it, with all their logic; and we shall see who has the best of it. — So you think the storm is at its height. It shows how little I know of it, — I thought it was all over. The organ now playing a wretched tune before my windows is more annoyance than all their articles put together. If they generally speak so of it, methinks there must be something in it, and they are not indifferent to it. Your American correspondent is quite a mystic. What curious turns and twists the human mind takes, before it gets into the clear road of true philosophy, walking through the midst of the facts of Nature, the view widening and clearing at every step! Men like — and — don’t like our book because it makes so little of theirs and all their study, by taking a more direct line to the results. I can’t think what — can have to say that has not been said. So he is reading Comte, is he? I hope it will do him good. — Make Dr. — understand that repetition of the general fact was not the thing required or intended. I had other things to say, and to press into a mere notice. It is this very fact of incompleteness, &c., &c., that I believe Bacon would have praised. There is nothing cut and dried. There are facts; and in a certain order; a form for thinking men to work upon, — not to satisfy superficial men Edition: current; Page: [52] with a show of completeness. There are ‘particulars not known before for the use of man,’ which is better than all their logic: the one is mere measure and music, — the other ‘for future ages,’ — the grain of mustard seed only, perhaps, but a germ full of life. The first letters are a sketch expository of my views on mental science and the means of discovery; and the following letters merely an example (like Bacon’s Natural History) of the kind of fact that will throw light on the nature of the mind’s action, out of which, when extended and arranged in order, inductions are to be made of the laws of action. The rest is little more than conversational replies to your questions.”

Another of these letters was written when I was ill under an attack of influenza, which disabled me from duly enjoying a visit I was paying in the north of the district, and from getting on with my next great scheme. After telling me how ill every body was at that time, he says:

“It is sad to be making your visit now. As to our concerns, — there is no saying how the next post may alter every thing. There really is no place for an ill feeling, or a disturbed one, if we could but keep it so in view. It seems to me that life is either too holy, or a matter too indifferent to be moved by every silly thought or angry feeling. With regard to what they say about us, it is only precisely what you anticipated they would say: and it seems to me that after all is said, our facts and position remain untouched. It seems that we ought to have something to bear. I value this more every day. If I can be safe from flatterers and inducements to indulgence, I will be thankful for all the rest, and smile at all their scandal, and their great discovery that I am not allwise. It all presents some new matter for contemplation; and if we cannot absolutely love our enemies, at least we may thank them for showing us our faults, which flattering friends hide from us. It seems all kinds of things must happen to us before we can become at all wise. First, we must become disenchanted of many delusions, that we may discover the pure gold through all the alloy which passes with it in the current coin of life. The Idols of the Market are inveterate; but down they must go, if we would be in the least wise: and Edition: current; Page: [53] the process must be healthful when one does not become soured, but feels one’s heart rather expanding and warming than cooling with years; and more thankful for every kindness, and not exacting as formerly. — I have been staying a few days in the country. We went over to a charming place, one day. Such a common! Perfectly beautiful! Acres of cherry-blossom, and splendid furze, like heaps of living gold; and the dark pine-trees rising from the midst! But one can’t describe such things. I walked about there alone while the others were shooting young rooks, — the parson at the head of them. I had a little volume which pleased me much. It was never published. ... ...

... ... There does not seem to be any chance of my having got at Comte’s ideas through any indirect channel; and I know nothing of him directly. Knight’s volume by Lewes is the whole of my acquaintance with him. What I do think is by labour in the fields or wild commons, and on the bench in the Regent’s Park. — That unqualified condemnation of us in regard to Bacon looks rather like the condemnation by prejudiced and ignorant divines which Bacon grieves over. The whole matter is not worth wasting good feelings upon: but it should rather bring them forth, not injured, but strengthened. If, from being ill, we cannot depend on our forces, we can only make the best of it. I will soon tell you what I think I can best do now, in furtherance of our subject. All before us seems clear and sure, and the prospect even full of gaiety, if only I knew that you were quite well again. We must have our sad moments that we may have our wise ones.”

Here is his Good Friday letter, written amidst the ringing of church bells. It begins with a comment on an unhappy aged person, — of whom we had been speaking.

“Age is a sad affair. If men went out of life in the very fulness of their powers, in a flash of lightning, one might imagine them transferred to heaven: but when the fruit fails, and then the flower and leaf, and branch after branch rots by our side while we yet live, we can hardly wish for a better thing than early death. Yes; it is true; — we do good to those to whom we have done good: we insult those we have insulted. Goodness Edition: current; Page: [54] is twice blessed: but hatred cankers the soul; and there is no relief, no unction, but in hating on. But of all the sad effects of age, the saddest is when as in this case a person reverses the noble principle of his life, — like the insane mother who detests the child she has so tenderly nurtured and loved. Every thing is flimsy, wrong, illogical, which does not confirm such an one in his own opinions: as a lady declared last evening who had been accusing me of not giving a fair consideration to the other side of the question, while I was recommending her to read so and so. ‘Well,’ said she, ‘it does not signify talking: in plain truth, I do not care to know about any body’s views or reasons which will not confirm me in my own faith.’ This was a sudden burst of honest pride, and eagerness, in the midst of the confusion, to hold tight where she had got footing. Notions are worth nothing which are uttered in irritation partly, and in ignorance greatly, and in the spirit of old age, — not of Christ or of Paul. If what I have said is wrong in logic or in fact, it is no use abusing us: the thing is to exhibit the error; and I am sure none will be more thankful for the correction than I. F— is the only one who has tried to do this; and I thank him for it, though I think him wholly wrong on matters of fact. — The book is objected to on religious grounds. Now, what is the use of all the millions spent, of all the learning of the colleges, and of all the parsons, — as thick as crows over the land, — if they cannot correct what is ‘shallow’ and ‘superficial?’ No; they feel otherwise than as they assert. They fear that however arrogant or superficial the book may be, there is substance in the midst of it; there is danger to the existing state of things; and they dare not honestly face the facts, and meet the argument which they declare to be too superficial to deceive any one. They dare not honestly and fairly do it. Shame upon the land! With that skulking phantom of a dressed-up faith that dares not face the light, in broad day: with God upon their lips, and preaching Christ crucified, they fear to encounter God’s truth by the way side! Why does Gavazzi waste his breath upon the Pope? Let him face the wide world, and denounce its false faith, and show them how God walks with them in Edition: current; Page: [55] Nature as he did by Adam in Eden, and they hide away in shame, worship the devil, and feed on the apple of sin every day of their lives. Men are subdued by fear. There is no faith in change, in progress, in truth, in virtue, in holiness. It is a terror-stricken age; and men fly to God to save them, and God gives them truth in his own way; and they receive it not. There is every kind of stupid terror got up about the Great Exhibition. F. is in terror about phreno-mesmerism: he would drown himself, — go out of the world if the thing were true. They like ‘Deerbrook’ — yes, as a picture: but the spirit of ‘Deerbrook’ is not in them, or they would love the spirit of the author of ‘Deerbrook.’ Well! it is not so bad as Basil Montagu used to say. ‘My dear Atkinson, they will tear you to pieces.’ It is something then to say what we have said, and remain in a whole skin. ... ... ... The world is ripe if there were but the towering genius that would speak to it. We are all dead asleep. We want rousing from a lethargy, that we may listen to the God of heaven and of earth who speaks to us in our hearts. The word of God is in every man, if he will listen. God is with us in all Nature, if we will but read the written law; written not on tables of stone, but on the wide expanse of nature. Yes, the savage is more right. God is in the clouds, and we hear him in the wind. Yes; and in the curse of ignorance, and the voice of reprobation, there too is God, — warning us of ignorance, — of unbelief of temper, — putting another law in our way, that we may read and interpret the book of fate. O! that some great teacher would arise, and make himself heard from the mountain top! The man whom they crucified on this day gave a Sermon on a mount. It is in every house, in every head; it is known, passage after passage: but in how few has it touched the heart, and opened the understanding! Men are but slowly led by pure virtue or by pure reason. They require eloquence and powerful persuasion; deep, solemn, unceasing persuasion. The bible is a dead letter. Men worship the air and call it God. God is truth, law, morals, noble deeds of heroism, conscience, self-sacrifice, love, freedom and cheerfulness. Men have no God. It is yet to be given them. They have but a log, and are croaking Edition: current; Page: [56] and unsatisfied; and tomorrow they try King Hudson or the devil.”

The looking over these letters has revived my recollection of the really critical time at which they were written, — the trials of which I had forgotten as completely as the fatigues of the outside, and the gloomy horror of the inside of the Pyramid. — I shall say nothing of the counterpart of the experience; of the vast discoveries of sympathy, the new connexions, the pleasant friendships, and the gratitude of disciples which have accrued to us, from that time to the present hour. The act was what I had to give an account of, and not its consequences. The same reasons which have deterred me from exhibiting the praises awarded to other works are operative here. — I will conclude the whole subject with observing that time shows us more and more the need there is of such testimony as any of us can give to the value of philosophy, and of science as its basis. Those who praised us and our book, in print or in conversation, seem to have no more notion than those who condemned us of the infinite importance of philosophy, — not only to intellectual wisdom, but to goodness and happiness; and, again, that, in my comrade’s words, “the only method of arriving at a true philosophy of Mind is by the contemplation of Man as a whole, — as a creature endowed with definite properties, capable of being observed and classified like other phenomena resulting from any other portion of Nature.” The day when we agreed upon bearing our testimony, (in however imperfect a form) to these great truths was a great day for me, in regard both to my social duty and my private relations. Humble as was my share in the book, it served to bring me into a wide new sphere of duty; and, as to my private connexions, it did what I have said before; — it dissolved all false relations, and confirmed all true ones. Its great importance to me may excuse, as well as account for, the length to which this chapter of my life has extended.

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It appears, from two or three notices above, that Comte’s philosophy was at this time a matter of interest to me. For many months after, his great work was indeed a means of singular enjoyment to me. After hearing Comte’s name for many years, and having a vague notion of the relation of his philosophy to the intellectual and social needs of the time, I obtained something like a clear preparatory view, at second-hand, from a friend, at whose house in Yorkshire I was staying, before going to Bolton, in 1850. What I learned then and there impelled me to study the great book for myself; and in the spring of 1851, when the “Atkinson Letters” were out, and the History was finished, and I intended to make holiday from the pen for awhile, I got the book, and set to work. I had meantime looked at Lewes’s chapter on Comte in Mr. Knight’s Weekly Volume, and at Littré’s epitome; and I could thus, in a manner, see the end from the beginning of the complete and extended work. This must be my excuse for the early date at which I conceived the scheme of translating the Philosophie Positive.

My course of lectures on English History finished on the first of April: and on the eighth, I sent off the last proof-sheet of my history. On the fourteenth, my nieces left me; and there was an interval before my spring visits which I employed in a close study of the first volume of Comte’s work. On the twenty-fourth, the book arrived from London; and I am amazed, and somewhat ashamed to see by my Diary, that on the twenty-sixth, I began to “dream” of translating it; and on the next night (Sunday the twenty-seventh) sat up late, — not dreaming, but planning it. On the second of May, I was in such enthusiasm that I wrote to one of the best-informed men on this matter in the kingdom, (an old friend) to ask his opinion on my scheme. Edition: current; Page: [58] He emphatically approved my design, — of introducing the work to the notice of a wide portion of the English public who could never read it in the original; but he proposed a different method of doing it. He said that no results could compensate to me for the toil of translating six volumes in a style like Comte’s, and in the form of lectures, whereby much recapitulation was inevitable. He proposed that I should give an abstract of Comte’s philosophy, with illustrations of my own devising, in one volume; or, at most, in two of a moderate size. I was fully disposed to do this; and I immediately began an analysis, which would, I thought, be useful in whatever form I might decide to put forth the substance. I know no greater luxury, after months of writing, than reading, and making an analysis as one goes. This work I pursued while making my spring visits. On the eighth of May, I went for a fortnight to stay with some friends, between whom and myself there was cordial affection, though they were Swedenborgians, of no ordinary degree of possession (for I will not call it fanaticism in people so gentle and kind.) Their curiosity about Comte rather distressed me; and certainly it is not in the power of the most elastic mind to entertain at once Swedenborg and Comte. They soon settled the matter, however. My host kept aloof, — going out to his fishing every morning, while I was at work, and having very different matters to talk about in the evenings. It was his lady who took up the matter; and I was amused to see how. She came to my writing-table, to beg the loan of the first volume, when I was going out for a walk. When her daughter and I returned from our walk, we met her in the wood; and the whole affair was settled. She knew “all about it,” and had decided that Comte knew nothing. I inquired in amazement the grounds of this decision. She had glanced over the first chapter, and could venture to say she now “knew all about it.” There was mere human science, (which, for that matter, Swedenborg had also;) and such science bears no relation to the realities which concern men most. This was all very well: and I was rejoiced that the thing had passed over so easily, though marvelling at the presumption of the judgment in one whom I consider nearly the humblest of women where Edition: current; Page: [59] her own qualities are concerned. A year later, however, she sent me a letter of rebuke about my work, which had less of the modesty, and more of the presumption, than I should have expected. I reminded her of what we had often agreed upon, with remarkable satisfaction, — the superiority of the Swedenborgians to all other religious sects in liberality. Not only does their doctrine in a manner necessitate this liberality, but the temper of its professors responds to the doctrine more faithfully than that of religious professors in general. I was sorry, as I told my friend, to see this liberality fail, on a mere change of the ground, — from that of religious controversy to that of the opposition between science and theology. I claimed my liberty to do the work which I thought best for the truth, for the same reason that I rejoiced in seeing her and her excellent family doing what they thought best for what they regarded as truth. I have had no more censure or remonstrance from any of the family, and much kindness, — the eldest daughter even desiring to come and nurse me, when she heard of my present illness: but I have no doubt that all the heresy I have ever spoken and written is tolerable in their eyes, in comparison with the furtherance given to science by the rendering of Comte’s work into a tongue which the multitude can read; and which they will read, while the young men should be seeing visions and the old men dreaming dreams.

During other visits, and a great press of business about cottage-building, and of writing for “Household Words” and elsewhere, I persevered in my study and analysis, — spending the evenings in collateral reading, — the lives and the history of the works of eminent mathematicians, and other scientific men. This went on till the twenty-sixth of June, when tourists began to fill the place and every body’s time, and I must be off to London and into Norfolk, and leave my house to my tenant for three months. My first visit was to some beloved American friends in London, by whom I was introduced to the Great Exhibition. I attended the last of Mr. Thackeray’s lectures of that season, and paid evening visits, and saw many old friends. But I was now convinced that I had lost my former keen relish for London pleasures. The Edition: current; Page: [60] quiet talks late at night with my hostesses were charming; and there was great pleasure in meeting old acquaintances: but the heat, and the glare, and the noise, and the superficial bustle, so unlike my quiet life of grave pursuit and prevailing solitude at home showed me that my Knoll had in truth spoiled me for every other abode.

The mention of Mr. Thackeray’s name here reminds me that it does not occur in my notes of literary London twenty years ago. At that time I saw him, if I remember right, only once. It was at Mr. Buller’s, at dinner; — at a dinner which was partly ludicrous and partly painful. Mrs. Buller did not excel in tact; and her party was singularly arranged at the dinner table. I was placed at the bottom of the table, at its square end, with an empty chair on the one hand, and Mr. Buller on the other, — he being so excessively deaf that no trumpet was of much use to him. There we sat with our trumpets, — an empty chair on the one hand, and on the other, Mr. J. S. Mill, whose singularly feeble voice cut us off from conversation in that direction. As if to make another pair, Mrs. Buller placed on either side of her a gentleman with a flattened nose, — Mr. Thackeray on her right, and her son Charles on the left. — It was on this day only that I met either Mr. Dickens or Mr. Thackeray during my London life. About Mr. Thackeray I had no clear notion in any way, except that he seemed cynical; and my first real interest in him arose from reading M. A. Titmarsh in Ireland, during my Tynemouth illness. I confess to being unable to read “Vanity Fair,” from the moral disgust it occasions; and this was my immediate association with the writer’s name when I next met him, during the visit to London in 1851. I could not follow his lead into the subject of the Bullers, (then all dead) so strong was my doubt of his real feeling. I was, I fear, rather rough and hard when we talked of “Vanity Fair;” but a sudden and most genuine change of tone, — of voice, face and feeling, — that occurred on my alluding to Dobbin’s admirable turning of the tables on Amelia, won my trust and regard more than any thing he had said yet. “Pendennis” much increased my respect and admiration; and “Esmond” appears to me the book of the century, in Edition: current; Page: [61] its department. I have read it three times; and each time with new wonder at its rich ripe wisdom, and at the singular charm of Esmond’s own character. The power that astonishes me the most in Thackeray is his fertility, shown in the way in which he opens glimpses into a multitudinous world as he proceeds. The chief moral charm is in the paternal vigilance and sympathy which constitute the spirit of his narration. The first drawback in his books, as in his manners, is the impression conveyed by both that he never can have known a good and sensible woman. I do not believe he has any idea whatever of such women as abound among the matronage of England, — women of excellent capacity and cultivation applied to the natural business of life. It is perhaps not changing the subject to say next what the other drawback is. Mr. Thackeray has said more, and more effectually, about snobs and snobbism than any other man; and yet his frittered life, and his obedience to the call of the great are the observed of all observers. As it is so, so it must be; but “O! the pity of it! the pity of it!” Great and unusual allowance is to be made in his case, I am aware; but this does not lessen the concern occasioned by the spectacle of one after another of the aristocracy of nature making the ko-tow to the aristocracy of accident. If society does not owe all it would be thankful to owe to Mr. Thackeray, yet it is under deep and large obligations to him; and if he should even yet be seen to be as wise and happy in his life and temper as he might be any day, he may do much that would far transcend all his great and rising achievements thus far; and I who shall not see it would fain persuade myself that I foresee it. He who stands before the world as a sage de jure must surely have impulses to be a sage de facto.

Of Mr. Dickens I have seen but little in face-to-face intercourse; but I am glad to have enjoyed that little. There may be, and I believe there are, many who go beyond me in admiration of his works, — high and strong as is my delight in some of them. Many can more keenly enjoy his peculiar humour, — delightful as it is to me; and few seem to miss as I do the pure plain daylight in the atmosphere of his scenery. So many fine painters have been mannerists as to atmosphere and colour that Edition: current; Page: [62] it may be unreasonable to object to one more: but the very excellence and diversity of Mr. Dickens’s powers makes one long that they should exercise their full force under the broad open sky of nature, instead of in the most brilliant palace of art. While he tells us a world of things that are natural and even true, his personages are generally, as I suppose is undeniable, profoundly unreal. It is a curious speculation what effect his universally read works will have on the foreign conception of English character. Washington Irving came here expecting to find the English life of Queen Anne’s days, as his “Sketch-book” shows: and very unlike his preconception was the England he found. And thus it must be with Germans, Americans and French who take Mr. Dickens’s books to be pictures of our real life. — Another vexation is his vigorous erroneousness about matters of science, as shown in “Oliver Twist” about the new poor-law (which he confounds with the abrogated old one) and in “Hard Times,” about the controversies of employers. Nobody wants to make Mr. Dickens a Political Economist; but there are many who wish that he would abstain from a set of difficult subjects, on which all true sentiment must be underlain by a sort of knowledge which he has not. The more fervent and inexhaustible his kindliness, (and it is fervent and inexhaustible,) the more important it is that it should be well-informed and well-directed, that no errors of his may mislead his readers on the one hand, nor lessen his own genial influence on the other.

The finest thing in Mr. Dickens’s case is that he, from time to time, proves himself capable of progress, — however vast his preceding achievements had been. In humour, he will hardly surpass “Pickwick,” simply because “Pickwick” is scarcely surpassable in humour: but in several crises, as it were, of his fame, when every body was disappointed, and his faults seemed running his graces down, there has appeared something so prodigiously fine as to make us all joyfully exclaim that Dickens can never permanently fail. It was so with “Copperfield:” and I hope it may be so again with the new work which my survivors will soon have in their hands. — Meantime, every Edition: current; Page: [63] indication seems to show that the man himself is rising. He is a virtuous and happy family man, in the first place. His glowing and generous heart is kept steady by the best domestic influences: and we may fairly hope now that he will fulfil the natural purpose of his life, and stand by literature to the last; and again, that he will be an honour to the high vocation by prudence as well as by power: so that the graces of genius and generosity may rest on the finest basis of probity and prudence; and that his old age may be honoured as heartily as his youth and manhood have been admired. — Nothing could exceed the frank kindness and consideration shown by him in the correspondence and personal intercourse we have had; and my cordial regard has grown with my knowledge of him.

When I left London, it was for the singular contrast of spending the next night in a workhouse. Two of my servants (brother and sister) had been sent to me from Norfolk, — the maid by my own family, and the man by the excellent master of the Union Workhouse near Harling. The girl (now married to the master of the Ragged School at Bristol) had a strong inclination to school-keeping, and had pursued it in this workhouse and elsewhere with such assiduity as to lose her health. During the five years that she lived with me (beloved like a daughter by me, and honoured by all who knew her) she in a great measure recovered her health; and when she married from my house, at Christmas 1852, she went to resume her vocation, in which she is now leading the most useful life conceivable. We went to Harling, she and I, in this July 1851, to see her old friends, and the old school, and her old parents, and the success of the agricultural part of the management of this Guiltcross Union. Thus it was that I went from London to sleep in a workhouse. Very comfortable and agreeable I found it.

The next weeks were spent in the neighbourhood of Norwich, and at Cromer, where I was joined by my younger sister and her children. It was at Cromer that a strange impulse on my part, — an impulse of yielding chiefly, — caused me to go into an enterprise which had no result. It put me, for a time, in the difficulty of having too many irons in the fire; but that was Edition: current; Page: [64] not my fault; for I could have no conception of the news which was awaiting me in London, on my return. While at Cromer, I was justified in feeling that I might take as much time as I pleased about Comte. It depended wholly on myself: but before I got home, the case was changed, as I shall presently have to tell. The intervening anecdote has been hitherto a profound secret, by my own desire; — perhaps the only secret of my own that I ever had: and this was part of the amusement. One reason why I tell it now is because it affords a confirmation out of my own experience of what many of my friends have wondered to hear me say; — that one cannot write fiction, after having written (con amore, at least) history and philosophy.

Ever since the “Deerbrook” days, my friends had urged me to write more novels. When “Currer Bell” was staying with me, the winter before the time I have arrived at, she had spoken earnestly to me about it, and, as it appeared to us both, wholly in vain. While at Cromer, however, I read “Pendennis” with such intense enjoyment, and it seemed so much the richer from its contrast with “the Ogilvies,” and some other metaphysical, sentimental novels that had fallen in my way, that the notion of trying my hand once more at a novel seized upon me; and I wrote to Charlotte Brontë, to consult her as to the possibility of doing it secretly, and getting it out anonymously, and quite unsuspected, — as a curious experiment. She wrote joyously about it, and at once engaged her publisher’s* interest in the scheme. She showed the most earnest friendliness throughout. She sent me a packet of envelopes directed by herself to her publisher; and she allowed his letters to me to come through her hands. When I reached home, on the first of October, I was somewhat scared at what I had undertaken, — the case of Comte having so changed, as I will tell; and the matter was not made easier by my inability to tell Mr. Chapman, who was to publish Comte, or Mr. Atkinson, who was in almost daily correspondence with me, what was delaying the progress of the philosophical half of my work. The difficulty was at an end before Christmas by the scheme of the novel being at an end. Edition: current; Page: [65] It was on an odd plan. It was no oddness in the plan, however, which discouraged me; but I doubted from the first whether I could ever again succeed in fiction, after having completely passed out of the state of mind in which I used to write it. In old days, I had caught myself quoting the sayings of my own personages, so strong was the impression of reality on myself; and I let my pen go as it would when the general plan of the story, and the principal scenes, were once laid down. Now I read and pondered, and arranged, and sifted, and satisfied myself, before I entered upon any chapter, or while doing it: — carrying, in fact, the methods and habits of historical composition into tale-telling. I had many misgivings about this; but, on the whole, I thought that the original principle of the work, and some particular scenes, would carry it through. At Christmas, I sent the first volume to Charlotte Brontë, who read it before forwarding it to the publisher. She wrote gloriously about it: and three days after came a pathetic letter from the publisher. He dared not publish it, on account of some favourable representations and auguries on behalf of the Catholics. That was a matter on which C. Brontë and I had perpetual controversy, — her opinion being one in which I could by no means agree; and thus expressed, after I had claimed credit for the Catholics, as for every body else, as far as their good works extended: — “Their good deeds I don’t dispute; but I regard them as the hectic bloom on the cheek of disease. I believe the Catholics, in short, to be always doing evil that good may come, or doing good that evil may come.” Yet did my representation of the Catholics in no way shake her faith in the success of my novel; and her opinion, reaching the publisher the day after he had written his apprehensions to me, aggravated, as he said, his embarrassment and distress. He implored me to lay aside this scheme, and send him a novel “like Deerbrook.” That was no more in my power now than to go back to thirty years of age. C. Brontë entreated me merely to lay aside my novel, if I would not finish it on speculation, saying that some things in it were equal to, or beyond, any thing I had ever written. I did intend at first to finish it: but other works pressed; the stimulus, and Edition: current; Page: [66] even the conception, passed away; and I burned the M.S. and memoranda, a few months since, not wishing to leave to my survivors the trouble of an unfinished M.S. which they could make no use of, and might scruple to burn. I told Mr. Atkinson and my Executor the facts when the scheme was at an end; and I hereby record the only failure of the sort I had experienced since the misleading I underwent about the Life of Howard, at the outset of my career. I may add that the publisher behaved as well as possible, under the circumstances. He showed me civility in various ways, was at all times ready to negotiate for another novel “like Deerbrook,” and purchased the copy-right of “Deerbrook” itself, in order to bring it out in a cheap series, with the novels of Mr. Thackeray and “Currer Bell.”

While I write, I recal, with some wonder, the fact that I had another literary engagement on my hands, at that very time. On recurring to my Diary, I find it was even so; and I wonder how I could justify it to myself. It was at Cromer, as I have said, that this scheme of the novel was framed, after I had consulted Mr. Chapman in London about publishing Comte’s “Positive Philosophy.” We had a clear understanding that it was to be done; but I was then wholly free in regard to time. On my return, I spent a week in London (then “empty,” according to the London use of the word) with a cousin, in a lodging, for the sole object of seeing the Exhibition in our own way, and in peace and quiet. On the last day, Mr. Chapman, who had been trying to track me, overtook me with a wonderful piece of news. Mr. Lombe, a Norfolk country gentleman, and late High Sheriff of the county, had for many years been a disciple of Comte, and had earnestly wished to translate the “Positive Philosophy,” but had been prevented by ill health. He was a perfect stranger to me, and residing in Florence; but, hearing from Mr. Chapman what I was doing, he sent me, by him, a draft on his bankers for £500. His obvious intention was to give me the money, in recompense for the work; but I preferred paying the expenses of paper, print and publication out of it, taking £200 for my own remuneration. To finish now about the money part of the affair, — I took advice how to act, in regard to so important a Edition: current; Page: [67] trust; and, in accordance with that advice, I immediately invested the whole amount in the Three per Cents., and, on the death of Mr. Lombe, in the next winter, I added a codicil to my will, appointing two trustees to the charge and application of the money, in case of my dying before the work was completed and published. Just when Mr. Lombe died, I was proposing to send him a portion of my M.S., to see whether my method and execution satisfied him. When the whole sum was distributed, and the work out, I submitted the accounts and vouchers to two intimate friends of Mr. Lombe, both men of business, and obtained their written assurance of their entire approbation of what I had done, — with the one exception that they thought I ought to have taken more of the money myself. As to the profits of the sale, — it seemed to me fair that M. Comte should have a portion; and also Mr. Chapman, through whom Mr. Lombe had become interested in the scheme. The profits have therefore been, up to this time, and will be henceforward, divided among the three, — M. Comte, Mr. Chapman and myself or my legatees. — My engagement to Mr. Chapman was to deliver the M.S. entire within two years of my return home; that is, in October, 1853; and this was precisely the date at which I delivered the last sheets. The printing had been proceeding during the summer; so that the work appeared at the beginning of November, 1853.

The additional work to which I have referred, as upon my hands at the same time, was this. I returned home, in the autumn of 1851, by Birmingham, where I spent a month at my brother Robert’s house, at Edgbaston. The proprietors of “Household Words” had all this time been urgent with me to write stories for them. I found myself really unable to do this with any satisfaction, — not only because of the absurdity of sending fiction to Mr. Dickens, but because I felt more and more that I had passed out of that stage of mind in which I could write stories well. It struck me that a full, but picturesque account of manufactures and other productive processes might be valuable, both for instruction and entertainment: and I proposed to try my hand on two or three of the Birmingham manufacture, Edition: current; Page: [68] under the advantage of my brother’s introduction, in the first place, and, in the next, of his correction, if I should fall into any technical mistakes. The proposal was eagerly accepted; and I then wrote the papers on Electro-plating, Papier-mâché and the Nail and Screw manufacture, — which stand in “Household Words” under the titles of “Magic Troughs at Birmingham,” “Flower-shows in a Birmingham Hot-house,” and “Wonders of Nails and Screws.” These succeeded so well that I went on at home with such materials as the neighbourhood afforded, — the next papers which appeared being “Kendal Weavers,” and “The Bobbin-mill at Ambleside.” Moreover, it was presently settled that I should spend a month at Birmingham after Christmas, to do another batch. Thereby hangs a pretty little tale: — at least, so it appears to me. My brother and sister having taken for granted that I should go to their house, I begged them not to take it amiss if I preferred going to a lodging, with my maid. My reasons were that I was going for business purposes, which would occupy all the daylight hours at that time of year; that I must therefore dine late; that I should be going about among the manufactories, with my maid to hear for me; and that I really thought my family and I should enjoy most of one another’s society by my lodging near enough to go to tea with them every evening, and spend the Sundays at their house. They appeared to acquiesce at once, — saying, however, that I ought to be very near, on account of the highway robberies, with violence, which were at that time taking place at Edgbaston almost every evening. My sister wrote me an account of the rooms she had secured. I was rather struck by her recommendations about leaving terms and arrangements to my landlady, and by an odd bit of deprecation about not expecting the charms of my beautiful home. The next letter from one of my nephews at first dispersed a nascent doubt whether they were not intending to take me in, — in both senses. He wrote, “your rooms are in one of those houses near Mrs. F—’s, in the Highfield Road; so that you will not have so far to go to our tea-table but that you will be very safe from thieves. Your landlady is a very trustworthy person. She lived with us when we lived in the Bristol road; Edition: current; Page: [69] and she left that place, not for any fault, but for a better situation.” On a second reading, it struck me that this was all true of his mother, and of their house; and I was not therefore wholly surprised when the nephew who met us at the station directed the car to my brother’s house. I was surprised, however, when I saw what preparation they had made for me and my work. They had taken down a bed in one of the prettiest rooms in the house, and had put in a writing-table, a sofa, a lamp, and all possible conveniences. As one of my nephews had to dine late, there was no difficulty about that; and my sister and nieces went every where with me, one at a time, to listen with and for me, make notes, and render all easy. It really was charming. I then wrote ten more papers, as follows:

“The Miller and his Men,” — The Birmingham Flour-mills.

“Account of some treatment of Gold and Gems,” Gold refining, Gold Chains and Jewellery.

“Rainbow-Making,” — Coventry Ribbons.

“Needles,” — the Redditch Manufacture.

“Time and the Hour,” — Coventry Watches.

“Guns and Pistols,” — Birmingham Gun-manufacture.

“Birmingham Glass-works,” — Messrs. Chances and Messrs. Oslers.

“What there is in a Button,” — Birmingham buttons.

“Tubal Cain,” — Brass-founding.

“New School for Wives,” — Evening School for Women.

Invitations were sent me, when the authorship of these papers got abroad, from various seats of manufacture; but the editors and I agreed that our chief textile manufactures were already familiar to every body’s knowledge; and I therefore omitted all of that kind except Kendal carpets, Coventry ribbons, and Paisley shawls. This last was done the next summer, when I was in Scotland, at the same time with Paper-hangings (“Household Scenery”) and “News of an old Place,” — the Lead works at “Leadhills.” From Scotland, my niece and I passed into Ireland, as I shall have to tell; and there I wrote, at the Giant’s Causeway, “the Life of a Salmon;” and afterwards “Peatal aggression,” — the Peat Works near Athy: the “English Passport Edition: current; Page: [70] system,” — Railway ticket manufacture; “Triumphant Carriages,” — Messrs. Hutton’s Coach factory at Dublin: “Hope with a Slate Anchor,” — the slate quarries in Valentia: “Butter,” “the Irish Union,” a workhouse picture; and “Famine-time,” a true picture of one of the worst districts, at the worst time of the visitation. I have done only two more of the same character, — of the productive processes; — Cheshire Cheese,” and “How to get Paper,” — both last year, (1854.) — It will be seen that I need have entertained no apprehension of enforced idleness in consequence of the publication of the “Atkinson Letters.” It appears that, at the close of the same year, I was over-burdened with work; and I will add, for truth’s sake, that I was uneasy, and dissatisfied with myself for having undertaken so much. The last entry in my Diary (a mere note-book) for 1851 is on the thirtieth of December. “As I shall be travelling to Birmingham tomorrow, I here close my journal of this remarkable year; — an improving and happy one, little as the large world would believe it. I have found it full of blessings.”

All this time, my study of Comte was going on; and I continued the analysis for some weeks; but at length I found that I had attained sufficient insight and familiarity to render that work unnecessary. The first day on which I actually embodied my study of it in writing, — the first day on which I wrote what was to stand, — was June 1st, 1852: and a month before that, the greatest literary engagement of my life had been entered upon, of which I shall have to speak presently. After my return from Birmingham, I had had to give my annual course of lectures to the Mechanics; and my subject, the History of the United States, from Columbus to Washington, required some study. Before I left home for the tourist season, I had got into the thick of the mathematical portion of Comte; and there I had to stop till my return in the middle of October. I had then to write an article on Ireland for the “Westminster Review,” and other matters; so that it was the first of December before I opened Comte again, and Christmas day when I finished the first of the six volumes. After that, the work went on swimmingly. All the rest was easy. I finished Astronomy in the Edition: current; Page: [71] middle of January, and Biology on the twenty-third of April; so that I had five months for the three last volumes, which were by far the easiest to do, though half as long again as the first three. I had a perpetual succession of guests, from April till the end of September; but I did not stop work for them; nor did I choose to leave home till I had fulfilled my engagement. It was on the eighth of October that I put the finishing stroke to the version: on the ninth I wrote the Preface; and on the tenth, I had the pleasure of carrying the last packet of M.S. to the post. Some cousins who were staying with me at the time went on an excursion for the day; and when they returned, they sympathised with me on the close of so long and so arduous a task. I was much exhausted, — after a summer of abundant authorship in other ways, as well as of social engagement from the number and variety of guests, and the absence of my usual autumn retirement to the sea, or some other quiet place: but the gain was well worth the toil. I find in my diary some very strong expressions of rapture about my task; and I often said, to myself and others, in the course of it, that I should never enjoy anything so much again. And I believe that if I were now to live and work for twenty years, I could never enjoy any thing more. The vast range of knowledge, through which one is carried so easily, is a prodigious treat; and yet more, the clear enunciation, and incessant application of principles. The weak part of the book, — the sacrifices made to system and order, — happens just to fall in with my weak tendency in that direction; so that it required some warning from others, and more from within, to prevent my being carried away altogether by my author. After all deductions made, on the score of his faults as a teacher, and my weakness as a learner, the relation was a blessed one. I became “strengthened, stablished, settled” on many a great point; I learned much that I should never otherwise have known, and revived a great deal of early knowledge which I might never otherwise have recalled: and the subdued enthusiasm of my author, his philosophical sensibility, and honest earnestness, and evident enjoyment of his own wide range of views and deep human sympathy, kept the mind of his pupil in Edition: current; Page: [72] a perpetual and delightful glow. Many a passage of my version did I write with tears falling into my lap; and many a time did I feel almost stifled for want of the presence of some genial disciple of my instructor, to whom I might speak of his achievement, with some chance of being understood.

As for my method of working at my version, about which I have often been questioned, — it was simple enough. — I studied as I went along, (in the evenings, for the most part) the subjects of my author, reviving all I had ever known about them, and learning much more. Being thus secure of what I was about, I simply set up the volume on a little desk before me, glanced over a page or a paragraph, and set down its meaning in the briefest and simplest way I could. Thus, my work was not mere translation: it involved quite a different kind of intellectual exercise; and, much as I enjoy translating, — pleasant as is the finding of equivalent terms, and arranging them harmoniously, — it is pleasanter still to combine with this the work of condensation. To me, in truth, nothing was ever pleasanter: and I had no sympathy with the friends who hoped, as I proceeded, that I should not again occupy myself with translation. I told them that it was like going to school again while doing the useful work of mature age; and that I should relish nothing better than to go on with it as long as I lived. As for the average amount of my daily work, (four or five days in the week) I was discontented if it was under twenty pages of my author, and satisfied if it was any where from twenty-five to thirty. The largest day’s work, in the whole course of the business, was forty-eight pages: but that was when I had breakfasted before seven, to dismiss a guest; and on a Saturday, when there was no post to London, and I had set my mind on finishing a volume. I worked nearly all day, and finished after midnight. I find fifty pages set down on another occasion; but in that case there was an omission of a recapitulatory portion. In saying what was the daily amount done, I ought to observe that it was really done. I finished as I went along; and I looked at my work no more till it came in the shape of proof-sheets. — I have stated in my Preface to the work that, on my expressing my intention to obtain Edition: current; Page: [73] a revision of the three first Books, (Mathematics, Astronomy and Physics) by a scientific man, Professor Nichol kindly offered his services. His revision of that portion (in which he found, he said, no mistakes) and the few notes and observations which he inserted, made me easy about the correctness of what I was putting forth; and I did not run the risk of spoiling the freshness of what I had done so enjoyably by any retouching. It came out precisely as I wrote it, day by day.

One part of my enjoyment was from the hope that the appearance of a readable English version would put a stop to the mischievous, though ludicrous mistakes about Comte’s doctrine and work put forth by men who assumed, and might be expected, to know better. The mistakes were repeated, it is true; but they were more harmless, after my version had appeared. When I was studying the work, I was really astonished to see a very able review article open with a false statement about Comte, not only altogether gratuitous, but so ignorant that it is a curious thing that it could have passed the press. It alleged that a man called Auguste Comte, who assumed in 1822 to be a social prophet, had declared the belief and interest in theology to be at an end; whereas, here was the whole kingdom, thirty years later, convulsed with theological passion, about Papal aggression and the Gorham controversy. Now, this was a treble blunder. In the first place, Comte has never said that theology and the popular interest in it are over. In the next, he has written largely on the social turmoil which this generation is in, and generations to come will be in, from the collision between the theological passion of one social period, and the metaphysical rage of another, with the advance of the positive philosophy which is to supersede them both. If there is one thing rather than another reiterated to weariness in Comte’s work, it is the state of turmoil, and its causes, of which the Gorham controversy was an admirable exemplification. In the third place, Comte’s doctrine is that theology can be extinguished only by a true Science of Human Nature; that this science is as yet barely initiated; and that therefore theology is very far from being yet popularly superseded.

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At a later time, in October, 1851, when an eminent philosopher from Scotland was my guest for a few days, I invited to meet him at dinner a friend of his, who was in the neighbourhood, and that friend’s lady, and another guest or two. I was before alightly acquainted with this couple, and knew that the gentleman was highly thought of, by himself and others (by the late Dr. Arnold, among the rest) as a scholar and writer. When he was taking me in to dinner, he asked me whether I had heard that M. Comte was insane. I replied that it was not true, — M. Comte being perfectly well the week before; and I told him that I was engaged on his work. My guest replied that he had heard the whole story, — about Mr. Lombe’s gift and all, — from another gentleman, then present. He asked me an insulting question or two about the work, and made objections to my handling it, which I answered shortly, (the servants being present) and put down my trumpet, to help the fish. While I was so engaged, he asked questions which I could not hear, across me, of my philosopher guest; and then, with triumph and glee, reported to me my friend’s replies, as if they were spontaneous remarks, and with gross exaggeration. During the whole of dinner, and in the presence of my servants, he continued his aspersions of Comte, and his insults to me as his translator; so that, as it came to my knowledge long afterwards, my other guest wondered that I put up with it, and did not request him to leave the house. I saw, however, that he knew nothing of what he was talking about; and I then merely asked him if he had read the portion of the work that he was abusing. Being pressed, he reluctantly answered — No; but he knew all about it. When the dessert was on the table, and the servants were gone, he still continuing his criticisms, I looked him full in the face, and again inquired if he had read that portion of the Philosophie Positive: — “N—n—o;” but he knew all about it. I said I doubted it; and asked if he had read the book at all. “N—n—o:” but he knew all about it. “Come,” said I: “tell me, — have you ever seen the book?” — “No; I can’t say I have;” he replied; “but I know all about it.” “Now,” said I, “look at the book-shelves behind you. You see those six volumes in green paper? Edition: current; Page: [75] Now you can say that you have seen the book.” I need not say that this was the last invitation that this gentleman would ever have from me.

Again, — a lady, younger than myself, who shrinks from the uncomfortable notion that there is any subject which she is not qualified to lay down the law upon, folded her hands on her knees, and began in an orderly way to reprehend me for translating a book which had such shocking things in it as Comte’s work. I made the usual inquiry, — whether she had read it. She could not say she had; but she too “knew all about it,” from a very clever man; a very clever man, who was a great admirer of Comte, and on my “side.” She was sorry I could introduce into England the work of a man who said in it that he could have made a better solar system than the real one; — who declared that he would have made it always moonshine at night. I laughed, and told her she was the victim of her clever friend’s moonshine. She ended, however, with a firm faith in her clever friend, in preference to reading the book for herself. She will go on to the end of her days, no doubt, regarding the “Positive Philosophy” as a recipe for making permanent moonshine, in opposition to the nineteenth Psalm.

Once more, (and only once, though I might fill many pages with anecdotes of the blunders about Comte made by critics who assume to understand their subject:) — a professor of Mental Philosophy has, even since the publication of my version, asserted, both in print, and repeatedly in his lectures in London, that Positive philosophers declare that “we can know nothing but phenomena:” and the lecturer fancies that he has confuted the doctrine by saying that the knowledge of phenomena would occupy Man’s observing faculties only, and leave the reasoning and other faculties without exercise. In this case, the lecturer has taken half Comte’s assertion, and dropped the other half, — “and their laws.” This restoration, of course, overthrows the lecturer’s argument, even if it were not otherwise assailable. It is true that Mr. Atkinson and I, and many others, have made the assertion as the lecturer gives it; — that “we can know nothing but phenomena,” — the laws being themselves phenomena: Edition: current; Page: [76] but in that view, as in the case of the restoration of Comte’s text, the lecturer’s argument about the partial use of the human faculties is stultified. Some of his pupils should have asked him what we can know but phenomena. The onus of showing that certainly rests with him. Such are, at present, the opponents of Comte among us, while his work is heartily and profitably studied by wiser men, who choose to read and think and understand before they scoff and upbraid.

A letter of Mr. Atkinson’s in my possession seems to me to give so distinct an account of what Man “can know,” and of the true way of obtaining the knowledge, that I am tempted to insert a part of it here as settling the question with our incompetent critics, as to what we declare that we can and cannot know.

“Man cannot know more than has been observed of the order of Nature, — he himself being a part of that nature, and, like all other bodies in nature, exhibiting clear individual effects according to particular laws. The infinite character and subtlety of Nature are beyond his power of comprehension; for the mind of Man is no more than (as it were) a conscious mirror, possessing a certain extent of interreflexion. In a rude state, as before it has become reduced to a proper focus, and cleansed and purified by knowledge, it is subject to all manner of spectral illusions, presumptuous and vain conceits, which may be well termed a kind of normal or infantine madness; a kind of disease like the small-pox or the measles; conditions to which all children are subject: and it is well if the child can be helped through these strange malignant conditions in early youth, and be then and there cleansed from them for ever.

“If we study the formation of the globe, and the history of nations or of individuals, or glance at the progress of knowledge in the human mind, we shall perceive that difficulties have been overcome, and advances achieved in the early stages through violent means; that that which we call evil has always in effect been working for the general good; and that, in the very nature of things, that good could not have come about by any other means: and thus, whatever is is good, in its place and season. Concluding thus, I think we may henceforth dispense with that Edition: current; Page: [77] very popular gentleman in black, the Devil. Indeed, once for all, we may sign ourselves Naturalists, as having no knowledge, or having no means of knowing any thing, beyond Nature. To advance by the acquiring of knowledge and by reason is the high privilege and prerogative of Man: for, as glorious as it is to possess a just, candid, and truth-loving nature, essential as it is that we know what is true, — yet must we be content that in the first instance, and for some short space, the progress should be slow and devious; for the errors and imperfections of the mind itself prevent men from attaining that knowledge which is almost essential to the cure of those very errors, imperfections, and impediments. Thus, mankind have had to rely upon a genius springing up here and there, — great men who have had the strength to overleap the difficulties, and the sense to see what was before them; and the honesty to declare what they have seen.

“The power of knowledge is in the knowledge of causes; that is, of the material conditions and circumstances under which any given effect takes place. These conditions we have termed Second Causes: but of the primitive matter which is sui generis we know nothing: for knowledge is limited by the senses. The knowledge of a thing includes a sense of its material cause or conditions, — its relative or distinguishing qualities, — the laws of form and quantity implicated in the case, and the laws of action in sequence and duration. — The higher laws are discovered in the analogy of knowledge: but of the primitive or fundamental cause or matter, — that “cause of causes itself without a cause,” — we know and can know absolutely nothing. We judge it to be something positive: to so much the nature of the mind compels assent: but we do not know what this positive something is in itself, in its absolute and real being and presence. We must rest content to take it as we find it, and suppose it inherently capable of performing or flowing into all those effects exhibited throughout nature. We only recognise a primitive matter as a required cause and necessary existence implied in the sensational phenomena which appear to include it in their embraces. But the existence of matter cannot be proved; nor can we form any conception of its real nature, because we can Edition: current; Page: [78] only divine by similitudes; and our similitudes cannot press beyond sensational phenomena and the simple inference. ‘So that all the specious meditations, speculations, and theories of mankind (in regard to the nature of nature) are but a kind of insanity.’ ‘But those who resolve not to conjecture and divine, but to discover and know; not to invent buffooneries and fables about worlds, but to inspect, and, as it were, dissect the nature of this real world, must derive all from things themselves: nor can any substitution or compensation of wit, meditation or argument (were the whole wit of all combined in one) supply the place of this labour, investigation, and personal examination of the world: our method then must necessarily be pursued, or the whole for ever abandoned.’

“The intellect, in a general sense, is simply an observing faculty. The highest efforts of reason and of imagination are but an extension of observation. A law is but the observed form of a fact; and in truth, the entire conscious mind may be termed a faculty of observation. To deny this is only to make a quibble about distinctions not really essential. The most important fact which the experienced mind observes is the fixed order in nature: and the trained philosopher instinctively concludes, and I may say perceives, the necessity of this order, just as he acknowledges the existence of objects in their objective or material appearance: (and this in spite of all that Bishop Berkeley and others have said.) The human mind by the constitution of its nature recognises the necessity of a determinate order in nature, — dependence in causes, and form or law in effects: and on this faith we build all our confidence that similar results will always flow, as a necessary consequence, from similar causes. In this fact we have the reason of reason, and the power of knowledge over nature, applying the principles of nature by art to the wants of Man. The instinct or sense of Man acknowledges a fundamental cause in the primitive matter, and the necessity of a particular form and order in objects and their effects: and that it is absolutely impossible that things should be different from what they are found to be. Now, until a man clears his mind, and abstracts it from all fanciful causes, to rest upon the true Edition: current; Page: [79] and fundamental cause in the primitive matter, perceiving at the same time that this cause must be positive, and capable of producing all the effects and variety of nature, and in a form and order absolutely fixed in ‘an adamantine chain of necessity;’ — until, I say, a man is fully and deeply impressed with this law of laws, this form of forms, evolved from the inherent nature of the ultimate fact and cause (this primitive matter and cause being fundamental, neither depending upon nor requiring any other cause) he is not a philosopher, but a dreamer of dreams, a poor wanderer on a false scent, seeking for a cause out of nature, and in a magnified shadow of himself. ‘If,’ says Bacon,* ‘any man shall think, by view and inquiry into these sensible and material things, to attain to any light for the revealing of the nature or will of God, he shall dangerously abuse himself.’ — ‘And this appeareth sufficiently in that there is no proceeding in invention of knowledge but by similitude; and God is only self-like, having nothing in common with any creature, otherwise than as in shadow and trope.’ These remarks of Bacon in regard to the ‘invention’ of a cause out of nature apply equally to the ‘invention’ of the nature of the cause in nature: for all the knowledge we can have of the primitive matter is by way of negatives and exclusions.

“I hold then with Democritus, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Anaximenes and others that matter is eternal, possessing an active principle, and being the source of all objects and their effects: for you may as well suppose time and space to have a beginning, and to have been created, as that matter should have been brought out of nothing, and have had a beginning. The active principle and the properties of matter are essential to our very conception of matter: and the necessary form of the effects we term Laws: — laws, not to be considered in a political sense, as rules laid down by a ruler, and capable of alteration and change; but the rule of rules; — the essential and necessary form and life and mind, so to speak, of what is in fact not a ruling power at all, but simply the principle or Edition: current; Page: [80] form of the result, — just as grammar exhibits the form of language.

“The belief in the freedom of the will, or that any thing is free in any other way than as being unimpeded and at liberty to move according as it is impelled by that which determines its motion or choice, is absolutely nonsense: and the doctrine of chance is as absurd as would be the belief that Nature arose from a rude mob of lawless atoms, arranging themselves by chance; a notion which is clearly nonsense, — a weak and unmitigated atheism, to escape from which men impose upon themselves a despotism in the shape of a King Log or a King Stork, as the case may be. That which they suppose to be divine and most holy is but a presumptuous, shallow, and ridiculous assumption. It is a folly built upon a shifting sand-bank, which the tide will presently carry away, exhibiting the true stronghold of the understanding built upon the solid granite rock of Nature; — that Nature which is no despotism, but a pure and free republic, and a law unto itself, — an eternal, unalterable law unto itself: for two and two will never become five; nor will the three angles of a triangle ever be less than two right angles; nor will the great law of gravity be changed nor the Atomic rule in chemical effects; nor the material conditions essential to thought and feeling be reversed. The world may come to an end, — become worn out, and dissolve away, or explode; but the nature of the particles of matter cannot change: the principles of truth will hold the same, and a new world will rise out of the dust.

“With regard to the origin of the mind itself, — it is clearly a consequence or result of the body evolved under particular laws: — as much so as a flower is a consequence of the growth of a tree, — instinct of the lower animal body, — light of a tallow candle. The light and heat of a candle may set light to other candles, or react upon its own body, as mental conditions may, when they cause the heart to beat, and the face to flush, and tears to flow, and the whole frame to be convulsed by laughter. So may the bile, or any other secretion, react on the body: but not the less is the mind the effect and consequent of Edition: current; Page: [81] the body, dependent on the condition of the body, and the proper supply of air and food. To suppose otherwise is to give up all hope and all philosophy, and to desert common sense and universal experience. The mind proper is simply the conscious phenomenon which is not a power at all, but the representative or expression of an unconscious power and condition to which it is a concomitant. Strictly speaking, there are but two conditions in nature; matter the physique, and the conscious mind, or the metaphysique, — the positive and the negative. The conscious mind is purely phenomenal: it is not therefore the mind proper which acts upon the body, but that force which underlies the mind, of which the mind is simply the result, expression or exponent. The mind’s unconscious working power or sphere is evident in almost every act of the body, as well as in almost every fact of the mind. It may be studied in the higher phenomena of clairvoyance and prophecy, — higher, only as an extending of experience by another and a clearer sense. We spring up from the earth like a flower. We live, love, and look abroad on the wide expanse of heaven, wondering at the night which lies behind, and at the dim shadows and flickering lights which coming events cast before them: and then we expire, and give place, as others have given place to us. We have but a glance at existence; yet the laws we discover are eternal truths. Knowledge is not infinite. A few simple principles or elements are fundamental to the whole; as a few simple primitive sounds form into glorious music, and all the languages which exist: and therefore knowledge is not infinite, and progress has its limit. ... ... ... ... Still, ‘the mighty ocean of truth lies before us,’ and its advance is irresistible; and it will be well to remember King Canute, and take the hint in time; — to look abroad upon the expanse, and up to the multitude of stars; and to listen to the deep-speaking truths which are now making themselves heard in society; and not to seek to resist what is inevitable. That the new day will be bright and glorious when Man will know his own power and nature, and rise into his new dignity as a rational human being, is enough for us now to prophecy.”

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I have referred, some pages back, to a great opening for work, of a delightful kind, which offered while I was busy about Comte. As I have explained, the whole version, except half of Comte’s first volume (that is, about a sixteenth part) was done between Christmas 1852 and the following October: and it remains to be told what else I had to do while engaged on that version. In April 1852, I received a letter from a literary friend in London, asking me, by desire of the Editor of “Daily News,” whether I would “send him a ‘leader’ occasionally.” I did not know who this editor was; had hardly seen a number of the paper, and had not the remotest idea whether I could write ‘leaders:’ and this was my reply. I saw that this might be an opening to greater usefulness than was likely to be equalled by anything else that I could undertake; so I was not sorry to be urgently invited to try. The editor, my now deeply-mourned friend, Mr. Frederick Knight Hunt, and I wrote frank and copious letters, to see how far our views and principles agreed; and his letters gave me the impression which all my subsequent knowledge of him confirmed; that he was one of the most upright and rational of men, and a thorough gentleman in mind and manners. I sent him two or three articles, the second of which (I think it was) made such a noise that I found that there would be no little amusement in my new work, if I found I could do it. It was attributed to almost every possible writer but the real one. This “hit” set me forward cheerily; and I immediately promised to do a ‘leader’ per week, while engaged on Comte. Mr. Hunt begged for two; and to this I agreed when I found that each required only two or three hours in an evening, and that topics abounded. I had sufficient misgiving and uncertainty to desire very earnestly to have some conversation Edition: current; Page: [83] with Mr. Hunt; and I offered to go to London (on my way to Scotland) for the purpose. He would not hear of this, but said he would come to me, if public affairs would allow of his leaving the office. Then parliament was dissolved; and the elections kept him at home; so that I looked for him in vain by every train for ten days before my niece and I started for Edinburgh. He came to us at Portobello; and for two half days he poured out so rich a stream of conversation that my niece could not stand the excitement. She went out upon the shore, to recover her mind’s breath, and came in to enjoy more. It was indeed an unequalled treat; and when we parted, I felt that a bright new career was indeed opened to me. He had before desired that I should write him letters from Ireland; and he now bespoke three per week during our travels there. This I accomplished; and the letters were afterwards, by his advice and the desire of Mr. Chapman, published in a volume. It was on occasion of that long journey, which extended from the Giant’s Causeway to Bantry Bay, and from the Mullet to Wexford, that I first felt the signs of failure in bodily strength which I now believe to have been a warning of my present fatal malady. My companion was an incomparable help. It was impossible to be more extensively and effectually aided than I was by her. She took upon herself all the fatigue that it was possible to avert from me; and I reposed upon her sense and spirit and watchfulness like a spoiled child. Yet I found, and said at the time, that this must be my last arduous journey. The writing those Letters was a pure pleasure, whether they were penned in a quiet chamber at a friend’s house, or amidst a host of tourists, and to the sound of the harp, in a salon at Killarney; but, in addition to the fatigue of travelling and of introductions to strangers, they were too much for me. I had some domestic griefs on my mind, it is true. During the spring, my neighbours had requested me to deliver two or three lectures on Australia; and one consequence of my doing so was that my dear servant Jane resolved to emigrate (for reasons which I thought sound) and she was to sail in November: and now at Cork, the news met me that the other servant, no less beloved, was going to marry the Master of Edition: current; Page: [84] the Ragged School at Bristol, who had been her coadjutor in the Norfolk Workhouse School before mentioned. I wrote to advise their marriage at Christmas; but it was with the sense of a heavy misfortune having befallen me. I did not believe that my little household could ever again be what it had been since I built my house: and I should have been thankful to have foreseen how well I should settle again, — to change no more. I did not fully recover my strength till our pretty wedding was over, and I was fairly settled down, in winter quiet, to Comte and my weekly work for “Daily News.” — The wedding was truly a charming one. My dear girl had the honour of having Miss Carpenter for her bridesmaid, and the Revd. Philip P. Carpenter to perform the ceremony, — the Bristol Ragged School being, as every body knows, the special care of Miss Carpenter. I told the bride, the week before the bridegroom and guests arrived, that, as I could not think of sending the former to the kitchen table, nor yet of separating them, it would be a convenience and pleasure to me if she would be my guest in the sitting-rooms for the few days before the marriage. She did it with the best possible grace. She had worked hard at her wedding clothes during my absence, that she might be free for my service after my return: and now, after instructing her young successor, she dressed herself well, and dined with us, conversing freely, and, best of all, making a good dinner, while watching that every body was well served. A more graceful lady I never saw. She presented me with a pretty cap of her own making for the wedding morning; and would let nobody else dress me. The evening before, when Mr. Carpenter delivered a Temperance lecture, Miss Carpenter and I sent the entire household to the lecture; and we set out the long table for the morning, dressed the flowers (which came in from neighbouring conservatories) and put on all the cold dishes; covered up the whole, and shut up the cat. The kitchen was the only room large enough for the party; and there, after the ceremony, we had a capital breakfast, with good speaking, and all manner of good feeling. When all were gone, and my new maids had dried their sympathetic tears, and removed the tables, and given away the good things which that Edition: current; Page: [85] year served my usual Christmas day guests for dinner at home instead of here; and when I had put off my finery, and sat down, with a bursting headache, to write the story to the bride’s family, and the Carpenters’ and my own, I felt more thoroughly down-hearted than for many a year. — All went well, however. The good couple are in their right place, honoured and useful; and “our darling,” as Miss Carpenter called my good girl, is beloved by others as by me. There have been no more changes in my household; and, as for me, I soon recovered entirely from my griefs in my delectable work.

When summer was coming on, and Comte was advancing well, I agreed to do three leaders per week for Mr. Hunt. All the early attempts at secrecy were over. Within the first month, I had been taxed with almost every article by somebody or other, who “knew me by my style,” or had heard it in omnibuses, or somehow; and, after some Galway priests had pointed me out by guess, in the Irish papers, as the writer of one of the Irish Letters, and this got copied into the English papers, Mr. Hunt wrote me that all concealment was wholly out of the question, and that I need not trouble myself further about it. In the summer he came to see me; and we settled that I should send him four articles per week when Comte was out of my hands. During that visit of his, we went by the lake, one day, to pay a visit a few miles off, — he rowing me in one of the lake skiffs. A windy rain overtook us on our return. I had no serious idea of danger, or I should not have talked as I did, about drowning being an easy death, and my affairs being always settled, even to the arrangement of my papers &c. We came home to dinner without his giving me (experienced boatman as he was) any idea of our having had a serious adventure. I found afterwards that he had told his friends in London that we had been in extreme danger from the swell on the lake; and that when I was talking of the ease of drowning, in comparison with other deaths, he was thinking of his wife and children. He requested me to write an article, at the opening of the next season, on the criminal carelessness of our boatkeepers in letting those little skiffs to strangers, on a lake subject to gusts and sudden storms: and this I did. Edition: current; Page: [86] How little did he imagine that before the beginning of yet another season, he would have been months in his grave, and I standing on the verge of mine!

Immediately on the publication of my “Positive Philosophy,” I went to London and Birmingham for nearly three months. I visited so many hosts, and saw so much society that I became fully and finally satisfied that my settling myself at Ambleside was, as Wordsworth had said, the wisest step of my life. It is true, I was at work the whole time. Besides the plentiful assistance which I desired to give the “Daily News,” while on the spot, and some papers for “Household Words,” a serious piece of business required my attention. The impending war rendered desirable an earnest and well-studied article on England’s Foreign Policy, for the “Westminster Review;” and I agreed to do it. I went to the Editor’s house, for the purpose, and enjoyed both my visit and my work. — On taking possession of my room there, and finding a capital desk on my table, with a singularly convenient slope, and of an admirable height for writing without fatigue, it struck me that, during my whole course of literary labour, — of nearly five-and-thirty years, it had never once occurred to me to provide myself with a proper, business-like desk. I had always written on blotting paper, on a flat table, except when, in a lazy mood in winter, I had written as short-sighted people do (as Mrs. Somerville and “Currer Bell” always did) on a board, or something stiff, held in the left hand. I wrote a good deal of the “Political Economy” in that way, and with steel pens; and the method had the effect, advantageous or not, of making the writing more upright, and thereby increasing the quantity in a page. But it was radically uncomfortable; and I have ever since written on a table, and with quill pens. Now, on occasion of this visit at my friend’s, Mr. Chapman’s, I was to begin on a new and most luxurious method, — just, as it happens, at the close of my life’s work. Mr. Chapman obtained for me a first-rate regular Chancery-lane desk, with all manner of conveniences, and of a proper sanitary form: and, moreover, some French paper of various sizes, which has spoiled me for all other paper: ink to correspond; and a pen-maker, of French workmanship, Edition: current; Page: [87] suitable to eyes which were now feeling the effects of years and over-work. I had before me the prospect of more moderate work than for a quarter of a century past, with sure and sufficient gain from it; work pleasant in itself, and recommended by all agreeable appliances. Never was I more homesick, even in the wilds of Arabia, than I now was, amidst the high civilisation of literary society in London. — I came home very happy; and well I might.

Mr. Hunt escorted me part of the way to my host’s, on our last meeting for that time, for the sake of some conversation which he, very properly, called serious. He told me that he had something to say which he begged me to consider well. He told me that he had been looking back through my connexion with “Daily News;” and he found that of nearly 300 articles that I had sent him, only eight had not been used; and that (I think) six of those eight had been sent during the first few weeks, before I had got into the ways of the paper. I had now written four or five per week for a considerable time, without one rejection. His advice was that I should henceforth do six per week, — under the liability, of course, of a few more being unused, from the enhanced chances of being intercepted by recent news, when my communications were daily. If I should agree to this, and continue my other literary connexion, he thought I ought to lay out money freely in books, and in frequent visits to London, to keep up with the times. This scheme suited me exactly; for my work, under his guidance, had become thoroughly delightful.

His recourse to me was avowedly on account of the “History of the Peace;” and now that war was beginning, my recent study of the politics of the last half-century was a fair qualification. We were precisely agreed as to the principle of the war, as to the character of the Aberdeen Ministry, as to the fallaciousness and mischievousness of the negotiations for the Austrian alliance, and as to the vicious absurdity of Prussia, and the mode and degree in which Louis Napoleon was to be regarded as the representative of the French nation. For some time past, the historical and geographical articles have been my charge; together with the descriptive and speculative ones, in relation to foreign Edition: current; Page: [88] personages and states. At home, the agricultural and educational articles were usually consigned to me; and I had the fullest liberty about the treatment of special topics, arising any where. With party contests, and the treatment of “hot and hot” news, I never had any concern, — being several hundred miles out of the way of the latest intelligence. Mr. Hunt thought my distance from London no disadvantage; and he was quite plain-spoken about the inferiority of the articles I wrote in London and Birmingham to those I sent him from home. — I followed his suggestions with great satisfaction, — his wife and family having already made a compact with me for an exchange of visits, when I wanted London news, and they needed country refreshment. So I bought books to the amount of above £100, under his guidance, and came home exceedingly happy, — little dreaming that in one year from that time, he would be in his grave, his wife a broken-spirited widow, and I myself under sentence of death, and compelled to tell her that we should never meet again.

That eventful year, 1854, began most cheerily to us all. Mr. Hunt had raised the paper to a condition of high honour and prosperity. He enjoyed his work and his position, and was at ease about his affairs and his beloved family, after years of heroic struggle, and the glorious self-denial of a man of sensitive conscience and thoroughly domestic heart. He had to bear the wear and tear which a man of his order of conscience has to endure in a post of such responsibility as his; and this, we all believe, was a predisposing cause of his inability to resist an attack of disease. But at the opening of the year, he was in his usual health, and had every reason to be very happy. As for me, — my life was now like nothing that I had ever experienced. I had all the benefits of work, and of complete success, without any of the responsibility, the sense of which has always been the great drawback on my literary satisfactions, and especially in historical writing, — in which I could have no comfort but by directing my readers to my authorities, in all matters of any importance. Now, while exercising the same anxious care as to correctness, and always referring Mr. Hunt to my sources of Edition: current; Page: [89] information, I was free from the responsibility of publication altogether. My continued contributions to the “Westminster Review” and elsewhere preserved me from being engrossed in political studies; and I had more leisure for philosophical and literary pursuits than at any time since my youth. Two or three hours, after the arrival of the post (at breakfast time now) usually served me for my work; and when my correspondence was done, there was time for exercise, and the discharge of neighbourly business before dinner. Then, — I have always had some piece of fancy-work on hand, — usually for the benefit of the Abolition fund in America; and I have a thoroughly womanish love of needle-work; — yes, even (“I own the soft impeachment”) of wool-work, many a square yard of which is all invisibly embossed with thoughts of mine wrought in, under the various moods and experiences of a long series of years. It is with singular alacrity that, in winter evenings, I light the lamp, and unroll my wool-work, and meditate or dream till the arrival of the newspaper tells me that the tea has stood long enough. Before Mr. Rowland Hill gave us a second post delivery at Ambleside, Mr. Hunt had made arrangements by which I received the paper of the day at tea time. After tea, if there was news from the seat of war, I called in my maids, who brought down the great atlas, and studied the chances of the campaign with me. Then there was an hour or two for Montaigne, or Bacon, or Shakspere, or Tennyson, or some dear old biography, or last new book from London, — historical, moral or political. Then, when the house and neighbourhood were asleep, there was the half-hour on the terrace, or, if the weather was too bad for that, in the porch, — whence I seldom or never came in without a clear purpose for my next morning’s work. I believe that, but for my country life, much of the benefit and enjoyment of my travels, and also of my studies, would have been lost to me. On my terrace, there were two worlds extended bright before me, even when the midnight darkness hid from my bodily eyes all but the outlines of the solemn mountains that surround our valley on three sides, and the clear opening to the lake on the south. In the one of those worlds, I saw now the magnificent Edition: current; Page: [90] coast of Massachusetts in autumn, or the flowery swamps of Louisiana, or the forests of Georgia in spring, or the Illinois prairie in summer; or the blue Nile, or the brown Sinai, or the gorgeous Petra, or the view of Damascus from the Salahiey; or the Grand Canal under a Venetian sunset, or the Black Forest in twilight, or Malta in the glare of noon, or the broad desert stretching away under the stars, or the Red Sea tossing its superb shells on shore, in the pale dawn. That is one world, all comprehended within my terrace wall, and coming up into the light at my call. — The other and finer scenery is of that world, only beginning to be explored, of Science. The long study of Comte had deeply impressed on me the imagery of the glorious hierarchy of the sciences which he has exhibited. The time was gone by when I could look at objects as mere surface, or separate existences; and since that late labour of love, I had more than ever seen the alliance and concert of the heavenly bodies, and the mutual action and interior composition of the substances which I used to regard as one in themselves, and unconnected in respect to each other. It is truly an exquisite pleasure to dream, after the toil of study, on the sublime abstractions of mathematics; the transcendent scenery unrolled by astronomy; the mysterious, invisible forces dimly hinted to us by Physics; the new conception of the constitution of Matter originated by Chemistry; and then, the inestimable glimpses opened to us, in regard to the nature and destiny of Man, by the researches into vegetable and animal organisation, which are at length perceived to be the right path of inquiry into the highest subjects of thought. All the grandeur and all the beauty of this series of spectacles is deepened by the ever-present sense of the smallness of the amount of discovery achieved. In the scenery of our travels, it is otherwise. The forest, the steppe, the lake, the city, each filled and sufficed the sense of the observer in the old days when, instead of the Western Continents, there were dreams of far Cathay; and we of this day are occupied for the moment with any single scene, without caring whether the whole globe is explored. But it is different in the sphere of science. Wondrous beyond the comprehension of any one mind is the mass of glorious facts, and Edition: current; Page: [91] the series of mighty conceptions laid open; but the shadow of the surrounding darkness rests upon it all. The unknown always engrosses the greater part of the field of vision; and the awe of infinity sanctifies both the study and the dream. Between these worlds, and other interests, literary and political, were my evenings passed, a short year ago. Perhaps no one has had a much more vivid enjoyment than myself of London society of a very high order; and few, I believe, are of a more radically social nature than myself: yet, I may say that there has never been, since I had a home of my own, an evening spent in the most charming intercourse that I would not have exchanged (as far as the mere pleasure was concerned) for one of my ordinary evenings under the lamp within, and the lights of heaven without.

I did not at once, however, sit down in comparative leisure on my return. I had before promised, most unwillingly, and merely for neighbourly reasons, to write a Guide to Windermere and the neighbourhood; and this, and an article on the Census (requiring much care) for the “Westminster Review” for April, were pressing to be done, as soon as I could sit down on my return home. Then there was a series of articles (on Personal Infirmities, — the treatment of Blindness, Deafness, Idiotcy, &c.) promised for “Household Words.”

I must pause a moment here to relate that these papers were the last I sent to “Household Words,” except two or three which filled up previous schemes. I have observed above that Magazine writing is quite out of my way; and that I accepted Mr. Dickens’s invitation to write for his, simply because its wide circulation went far to compensate for the ordinary objections to that mode of authorship. I did not hesitate on the ground on which some of my relations and friends disapproved the connexion; on the ground of its being infra dig: for, in the first place, I have never stopped to consider my own dignity in matters of business; and, in the next, Mr. Dickens himself being a contributor disposed of the objection abundantly. But, some time before the present date, I had become uneasy about the way in which “Household Words” was going on, and more Edition: current; Page: [92] and more doubtful about allowing my name to be in any way connected with it: and I have lately finally declined Mr. Wills’s invitation to send him more papers. As there is no quarrel concerned in the case, I think it is right to explain the grounds of my secession. My disapproval of the principles, or want of principles, on which the Magazine is carried on is a part of my own history; and it may be easily understood that feelings of personal friendliness may remain unaffected by opposition of views, even in a matter so serious as this. I think the proprietors of “Household Words” grievously inadequate to their function, philosophically and morally; and they, no doubt, regard me as extravagant, presumptuous and impertinent. I have offered my objections as a reply to a direct request for a contribution; and Mr. Wills has closed the subject. But, on all other ground, we are friends.

In the autumn of 1849, my misgivings first became serious. Mr. Wills proposed my doing some articles on the Employments of Women, (especially in connexion with the Schools of Design and branches of Fine-Art manufacture;) and was quite unable to see that every contribution of the kind was necessarily excluded by Mr. Dickens’s prior articles on behalf of his view of Woman’s position; articles in which he ignored the fact that nineteen-twentieths of the women of England earn their bread, and in which he prescribes the function of Women; viz., to dress well and look pretty, as an adornment to the homes of men. I was startled by this; and at the same time, and for many weeks after, by Mr. Dickens’s treatment in his Magazine of the Preston Strike, then existing, and of the Factory and Wages controversy, in his tale of “Hard Times.” A more serious incident still occurred in the same autumn. In consequence of a request from Mr. Dickens that I would send him a tale for his Christmas Number, I looked about for material in real life; for, as I had told him, and as I have told every body else, I have a profound contempt of myself as a writer of fiction, and the strongest disinclination to attempt that order of writing. I selected a historical fact, and wrote the story which appears under the title of “The Missionary” in my volume of “Sketches Edition: current; Page: [93] from Life.” I carried it with me to Mr. Wills’s house; and he spoke in the strongest terms of approbation of it to me, but requested to have also “a tale of more domestic interest,” which I wrote on his selection of the ground-work (also fact.) Some weeks afterwards, my friends told me, with renewed praises of the story, that they mourned the impossibility of publishing it, — Mrs. Wills said, because the public would say that Mr. Dickens was turning Catholic; and Mr. Wills and Mr. Dickens, because they never would publish any thing, fact or fiction, which gave a favourable view of any one under the influence of the Catholic faith. This appeared to me so incredible that Mr. Dickens gave me his “ground” three times over, with all possible distinctness, lest there should be any mistake: — he would print nothing which could possibly dispose any mind whatever in favour of Romanism, even by the example of real good men. In vain I asked him whether he really meant to ignore all the good men who had lived from the Christian era to three centuries ago: and in vain I pointed out that Père d’Estélan was a hero as a man, and not as a Jesuit, at a date and in a region where Romanism was the only Christianity. Mr. Dickens would ignore, in any publication of his, all good catholics; and insisted that Père d’Estélan was what he was as a Jesuit and not as a man; — which was, as I told him, the greatest eulogium I had ever heard passed upon Jesuitism. I told him that his way of going to work, — suppressing facts advantageous to the Catholics, — was the very way to rouse all fair minds in their defence; and that I had never before felt so disposed to make popularly known all historical facts in their favour. — I hope I need not add that the editors never for a moment supposed that my remonstrance had any connexion with the story in question being written by me. They knew me too well to suppose that such a trifle as my personal interest in the acceptance or rejection of the story had any thing to do with my final declaration that my confidence and comfort in regard to “Household Words” were gone, and that I could never again write fiction for them, nor any thing in which principle or feeling were concerned. Mr. Dickens hoped I should Edition: current; Page: [94] “think better of it;” and this proof of utter insensibility to the nature of the difficulty, and his and his partner’s hint that the real illiberality lay in not admitting that they were doing their duty in keeping Catholic good deeds out of the sight of the public, showed me that the case was hopeless. To a descendant of Huguenots, such total darkness of conscience on the morality of opinion is difficult to believe in when it is before one’s very eyes.

I need not add that my hopes from the influence of “Household Words” were pretty nearly annihilated from that time (the end of 1853) forwards: but there was worse to come. I had supposed that the editors would of course abstain from publishing any harm of catholic priests and professors, if they would admit no good; but in this I have recently found myself mistaken; and great is my concern. I had just been reading in an American advertisement a short account of the tale called “The Yellow Mask,” with its wicked priest, when I received from the Editor of “Household Words” another request for an article. I had not read “The Yellow Mask;” but a guest then with me related the story so fully as to put me in complete possession of it. I will cite the portion of my letter to Mr. Wills which contains my reply to his request. It is abundantly plain-spoken; but we were plain-spoken, throughout the controversy; and never did occasion more stringently require the utmost plainness of remonstrance on the side of the advocate of religious liberty and social justice, and any clearness of reply that might be possible on the opposite side. — Here is my letter, as far as relates to Mr. Wills’s petition.

“ ... ... ... ... Another paper from me? you ask. No — not if I were to live twenty years, — if the enclosed paragraph from an American paper be no mistake; and except, of course, in case of repentance and amendment.

“The ‘Yellow Mask,’ in Twelve Chapters: Philadelphia.

“This pamphlet is a re-print from Dickens’s ‘Household Words.’ The story is ingenious, and fraught with considerable interest. The despicable course of ‘Father Rocco’ pursued so stealthily for the pecuniary benefit of ‘holy mother church’ shows of what stuff priestcraft is made.”

Edition: current; Page: [95]

“The last thing I am likely to do is to write for an anti-catholic publication; and least of all when it is anti-catholic on the sly. I have had little hope of ‘Household Words’ since the proprietors refused to print a historical fact (otherwise approved of) on the ground that the hero was a Jesuit: and now that they follow up this suppression of an honourable truth by the insertion of a dishonouring fiction (or fact, — no matter which) they can expect no support from advocates of religious liberty or lovers of fair-play: and so fond are English people of fair-play, that if they knew this fact, you would soon find your course in this matter ruinous to your publication. — As for my writing for it, — I might as well write for the ‘Record’ newspaper; and, indeed, so far better, that the ‘Record’ avows its anticatholic course. No one wants ‘Household Words’ to enter into any theological implication whatever: — but you choose to do it, and must accept accordingly the opinions you thereby excite. I do not forget that you plead duty; and I give you credit for it, — precisely as I do to the Grand Inquisitor. He consecrates his treatment of heretics by the plea of the dangers of Protestantism: and you justify your treatment of Catholics by the plea of the dangers of Romanism. The one difference that there is, is in his favour; — that he does not profess Protestant principles while pursuing the practices of Jesuitry. — No, I have no more to say to ‘Household Words;’ and you will prefer my telling you plainly why, and giving you this much light on the views your course has occasioned in one who was a hearty well-wisher to ‘Household Words,’ as long as possible.


Mr. Wills replied that he felt justified in what he had done; that we should never agree on the matter; and that, agreeing to differ, we would drop the subject. — Such are the grounds, and such was the process, of my secession from the corps of Mr. Dickens’s contributors.

When I fancied I was going to do what I pleased till I left home in July 1854, the proprietor of the Windermere Guide made an irresistible appeal to me to do the whole district, under the form of a “Complete Guide to the Lakes.” Still in hope that leisure would come at last, and feeling that I should enjoy it the more for having omitted no duty, I gave up my holiday evenings now. I made the tour of the district once more, with a delightful party of friends, — reviving impressions and noting Edition: current; Page: [96] facts, and then came home, resigned to work “double tides” for the remaining weeks before my summer absence, — dining early, after my morning’s work, and writing topography in the evenings. I received much aid in the collection of materials from the publisher, and from the accomplished artist, Mr. Lindsey Aspland, who illustrated the volume: and I finished my work, and went forth on a series of visits, which were to occupy the tourist season, — my house being let for that time. I little imagined, when I left my own gate, that the ease and light-hearted pleasure of my life, — I might almost say, my life itself, — were left behind me; — that I was going to meet sickness and sorrow, and should return to sorrow, sickness and death.

If I had been duly attentive to my health, I might have become aware already that there was something wrong. Long after, I remembered that, from about March, I had been kept awake for some little time at night by odd sensations at the heart, followed by hurried and difficult breathing: and once, I had been surprised, while reading, to find myself unable to see more than the upper half of the letters, or more of that than the word I was reading. I laid aside my book; and if I thought at all of the matter, it was to suppose it to be a passing fit of indigestion, — though I had no other sign of indigestion. While at Liverpool, I found myself far less strong than I had supposed; and again in Wales and at Shrewsbury; but I attributed this to the heat. Mr. Hunt met me and my maid at the Station in London, and took us over to his house at Sydenham, giving us bad news by the way of the spread of cholera. A poor carpenter had, the week before, died of cholera while at work in Mr. Hunt’s house, — the seizure being too sudden to admit of his removal to his own unhealthy home, — from whence, no doubt, he brought the disease. On our way from the Sydenham station to Mr. Hunt’s house, he pointed out to me an abominable pond, covered with slime and duckweed, which he had tried in vain to draw official attention to. During my short visit, and just after it, almost all of us were ill, — my host and hostess, some of the children, a servant, and myself: and after my removal to an airy lodging at Upper Norwood, opposite the Crystal Palace Edition: current; Page: [97] fence, I had repeated attacks of illness, and was, in fact, never well during the five weeks of my residence there. — It was a time of anxiety and sorrow. My good friend and publisher, Mr. Chapman, had just failed, — in consequence of misfortunes which came thick upon him, from the time of Mr. Lombe’s death, which was a serious blow to the “Westminster Review.” Mr. Chapman never, in all our intercourse, asked me to lend him money; yet the “Westminster Review” was by this time mortgaged to me. It was entirely my own doing; and I am anxious, for Mr. Chapman’s sake, that this should be understood. The truth of the case is that I had long felt, as many others had professed to do, that the cause of free-thought and free-speech was under great obligations to Mr. Chapman; and it naturally occurred to me that it was therefore a duty incumbent on the advocates of free-thought and speech to support and aid one by whom they had been enabled to address society. Thinking, in the preceding winter, that I saw that Mr. Chapman was hampered by certain liabilities that the review was under, I offered to assume the mortgage, — knowing the uncertain nature of that kind of investment, but regarding the danger of loss as my contribution to the cause. At first, after the failure, there was every probability, apparently, that Mr. Chapman’s affairs would be speedily settled, — so satisfied were all his creditors who were present with his conduct under examination, and the accounts he rendered. A few generous friends and creditors made all smooth, as it was hoped; but two absent discontented creditors pursued their debtor with, (as some men of business among the creditors said) “a cruelty unequalled in all their experience.” One of their endeavours was to get the review out of Mr. Chapman’s hands; and one feature of the enterprise was an attempt to upset the mortgage, and to drive Mr. Chapman to bankruptcy, in order to throw the review into the market, at the most disadvantageous season, when London was empty, and cholera prevalent, — that these personages might get it cheap. One of them made no secret of his having raised a subscription for the purpose. It was the will of the great body of the creditors, however, that Mr. Chapman should keep the review, which he had edited thus Edition: current; Page: [98] far with great and rising success; and his two foes were got rid of by the generosity of Mr. Chapman’s guaranteeing supporters. The attempt to upset the mortgage failed, of course. I had an intimation in twenty-four hours that I was “not to be swindled out of the Review:” but the whole anxiety, aggravated by indignation and pain at such conduct on the part of men who had professed a sense of obligation to Mr. Chapman, extended over many weeks. The whole body of the creditors were kept waiting, and the estate was deteriorating for those weeks, during which the two persecutors were canvassing for subscriptions for the review which one of them endeavoured to drive into a bad market, at my expense, and to the ruin of its proprietor. The business extended over my residence at Sydenham. I had long before promised an article, involving no small labour, for the next number of the review (“Rajah Brooke;”) and, when I was reckoning on my return home, two misfortunes occurred which determined me to stay another week, and work. A relative of Mr. Chapman’s, his most valued friend and contributor, was struck down by cholera in the very act of writing an article of first-rate consequence for the forthcoming number: and, while my poor friend was suffering under the first anguish of this loss, another contributor, wrought on by evil influences, disappointed the editor of a promised article at the time it ought to have been at press. I could not but stay and write another; and I did so, — being bound however to be at home on the nineteenth of September, to receive the first of a series of autumn guests. On the night of my arrival at home, after a too arduous journey for one day, I was again taken ill; and next morning, the post brought the news of the death of another of my dear aunts, — one having died during my absence from home. I had left Mr. Hunt in a very poor state of health, — as indeed every body seemed to be during those melancholy months; but we hoped that a shooting excursion would restore him to business in his usual vigour. It appeared to do so; but cholera was making such ravage among the corps of the paper that those who could work were compelled to over-work; and the editor slept at the office during the most critical time. Every circumstance was Edition: current; Page: [99] against him; and we began to be uneasy, without having any serious apprehension of what was about to befal.

There was great enjoyment in that Sydenham sojourn, through all its anxieties. During the first half of the time that I was in lodgings, a dear young niece was with me; and for the other half, a beloved cousin, — my faithful friend for forty years. Some whole days, and many half holidays, I spent with them in the Crystal Palace, with great joy and delight. I dwell upon those days now with as much pleasure as ever, — the fresh beauty of the summer morning, when we were almost the first to enter, and found the floors sprinkled, and the vegetation revived, and the tables covered with cool-looking viands, and the rustics coming in, and venting their first amazement in a very interesting way: — and again, our steady duties in the Courts in the middle of the day; and again, the walk on the terrace, or the lingering in the nave when the last train was gone, and the exhibitors were shutting up for the day. There were also merry parties, and merry plans at Mr. Hunt’s. We went, a carriage-full, to the prorogation of parliament, when I had a ticket to the Peeresses’ gallery, where, however, we were met by the news (which encountered us every where) of a mournful death from cholera, — Lord Jocelyn having died that afternoon. We had a plan for going, a party of fifteen, to Paris, in the next April: — to Paris, for the opening of the Exhibition on May-day. May-day has passed without the opening of the Exhibition: Mr. Hunt has been above five months in his grave; and I have been above three months in daily expectation of death. In November, when Mr. Hunt was ill, but we knew not how ill, I wrote to him that, on consideration, it seemed to me that the party to Paris would be better without me, (for political reasons:) and Mr. Hunt’s message (the last to me) was that it would be time enough to settle that when April came. I suspect that he foresaw his fate. — In November, my correspondence was with the sub-editor, because Mr. Hunt was ill. The cashier told me next of his “alarm” about his beloved friend: but the sub-editor wrote that he was not alarmed like the rest. Then the accounts were worse; there was one almost hopeless: and then, he was dead. I did not Edition: current; Page: [100] think that such capacity for sorrow was left in me. He was so happy in life; and the happiness of so many was bound up in him! He was only forty; and he had fairly entered on a career of unsurpassed usefulness and honour, and was beginning to reap the natural reward of many years of glorious effort! But he was gone; and I had not known such a personal sorrow since the loss of Dr. Follen, in 1840, by the burning of a steamer at sea. I certainly felt very ill; and I told my family so; but I thought I could go to London, and work at the office during the interval till his place could be filled. I offered to do so; but the proprietors assured me that I could help them best by working daily at home. The cousin who had been my companion at Sydenham wrote that she was glad I had not gone; for she believed, after what she had seen in September, that it would have killed me. I believe she was right, though it seemed rather extravagant at the time.

Edition: current; Page: [101]


By December, I felt somewhat better; but I was not able to write my usual New Year’s letters to my family. The odd obliteration of words and half letters when I read returned once or twice when there was certainly no indigestion to account for it; and a symptom which had perplexed me for months grew upon me, — an occasional uncertainty about the spelling of even common words. I had mentioned this, as an odd circumstance, to a Professor of Mental Philosophy, when he was my guest in October; and his reply was, “there is some little screw loose somewhere:” and so indeed it proved. Throughout December and the early part of January, the disturbance on lying down increased, night by night. There was a creaking sensation at the heart (the beating of which was no longer to be felt externally;) and, after the creak, there was an intermission, and then a throb. When this had gone on a few minutes, breathing became perturbed and difficult; and I lay till two, three, or four o’clock, struggling for breath. When this process began to spread back into the evening, and then forward into the morning, I was convinced that there was something seriously wrong; and with the approbation of my family, I wrote to consult Dr. Latham; and soon after, went to London to be examined by him. That honest and excellent physician knew beforehand that I desired, for reasons which concerned others more than myself, to know the exact truth; and he fulfilled my wish. — I felt it so probable that I might die in the night, and any night, that I would not go to the house of any of my nearest friends, or of any aged or delicate hostess; and I therefore declined all invitations, and took rooms at Mr. Chapman’s, where all possible care would be taken of me, without risk to any one. There Dr. Latham visited and examined me, the day after my arrival, and frankly told me Edition: current; Page: [102] his “impression,” — observing that it could not yet be called an opinion. The impression soon became an opinion, as I knew it would, because he would not have told me of such an impression without the strongest ground for it. He requested me to see another physician; and Dr. Watson’s opinion, formed on examination, without prior information from Dr. Latham or me, was the same as Dr. Latham’s. Indeed the case appears to be as plain as can well be. It appears that the substance of the heart is deteriorated, so that “it is too feeble for its work;” there is more or less dilatation; and the organ is very much enlarged. Before I left London, the sinking-fits which are characteristic of the disease began to occur; and it has since been perfectly understood by us all that the alternative lies between death at any hour in one of these sinking-fits, or by dropsy, if I live for the disease to run its course.

Though I expected some such account of the case, I was rather surprised that it caused so little emotion in me. I went out, in a friend’s carriage, to tell her the result of Dr. Latham’s visit; and I also told a cousin who had been my friend since our school-days. When I returned to my lodgings, and was preparing for dinner, a momentary thrill of something like painful emotion passed through me, — not at all because I was going to die, but at the thought that I should never feel health again. It was merely momentary; and I joined the family and Mr. Atkinson, who dined with us, without any indisposition to the merriment which went on during dinner, — no one but my hostess being aware of what had passed since breakfast. In the course of the evening, I told them; and I saw at once what support I might depend on from my friend. I did not sleep at all that night; and many were the things I had to think over; but I never passed a more tranquil and easy night. As soon as my family heard the news, a beloved niece, who had repeatedly requested to be allowed to come to me, joined me in London, and gave me to understand, with her parents’ free consent, that she would not leave me again. I sent for my Executor, made a new will, and put him in possession of my affairs, my designs and wishes, as fully as possible, and accepted his escort home to Ambleside. Edition: current; Page: [a]Edition: current; Page: [b]Edition: current; Page: [103] As there was but one possible mode of treatment, and as that could be pursued in one place as well as another, I was eager to get home to the repose and freshness of my own sweet place. It was not only for the pleasure of it; but for the sake of my servants; and because, while prepared, in regard to my affairs, to go at any time, there were things to be done, if I could do them, to which the quiet of home was almost indispensable. The weather was at that time the worst of a very bad winter; and it was a very doubtful matter whether I could perform the journey. By the kindness of a friend, however, the invalid carriage of the North Western Railway was placed at my disposal; and we four, — my niece, my Executor, my maid and myself, travelled in all possible comfort. The first thing I saw in my own house, — the pale, shrunk countenance of the servant I had left at home, — made me rejoice that I had returned without further delay. I found afterwards that she had cried more than she had slept from the time that she had heard how ill I was, and what was to happen. — That was three months ago: and during those three months, I have been visited by my family, one by one, and by some dear friends, while my niece has been so constantly with me as to have, in my opinion, prolonged my life by her incomparable nursing. The interval has been employed in writing this Memoir, and in closing all my engagements, so that no interest of any kind may suffer by my departure at any moment. The winter, after long lingering, is gone, and I am still here, — sitting in the sun on my terrace, and at night going out, according to old custom, to look abroad in the moon or star-light. We are surrounded by bouquets and flowering plants. Never was a dying person more nobly “friended,” as the Scotch have it. My days are filled with pleasures, and I have no cares; so that the only thing I have to fear is that, after all the discipline of my life, I should be spoiled at the end of it.


When I learned what my state is, it was my wish (as far as I wish any thing, which is indeed very slightly and superficially) that my death might take place before long, and by the quicker process: and such is, in an easy sort of way, my wish still. The Edition: current; Page: [104] last is for the sake of my nurse, and of all about me; and the first is mainly because I do not want to deteriorate and get spoiled in the final stage of my life, by ceasing to hear the truth, and the whole truth: and nobody ventures to utter any unpleasant truth to a person with “a heart-complaint.” I must take my chance for this; and I have a better chance than most, because my nurse and constant companion knows that I do not desire that any body should “make things pleasant” because I am ill. I should wish, as she knows, to live under complete and healthy moral conditions to the last, if these can be accommodated, by courage and mutual trust, with the physical conditions. — As to the spoiling process, — I have been doubting, for some years past, whether I was not undergoing it. I have lived too long to think of making myself anxious about my state and prospects in any way; but it has occurred to me occasionally, of late years, whether I could endure as I formerly did. I had become so accustomed to ease of body and mind, that it seemed to me doubtful how I might bear pain, or any change; for it seemed as if any change must be for the worse, as to enjoyment. I remember being struck with a saying of Mrs. Wordsworth’s, uttered ten years ago, when she was seventy-six, — that the beauty of our valley made us too fond of life, — too little ready to leave it. Her domestic bereavements since that time have doubtless altered this feeling entirely; but, in many an hour of intense enjoyment on the hills, I have recalled that saying; and, in wonder at my freedom from care, have speculated on whether I should think it an evil to die, then and there. I have now had three months’ experience of the fact of constant expectation of death; and the result is, as much regret as a rational person can admit at the absurd waste of time, thought and energy that I have been guilty of in the course of my life in dwelling on the subject of death. It is really melancholy that young people, (and, for that matter, middle-aged and old people) are exhorted and encouraged as they are to such waste of all manner of power. I romanced internally about early death till it was too late to die early; and, even in the midst of work and the busiest engagements of my life, I used to be always thinking about Edition: current; Page: [105] death, — partly from taste, and partly as a duty. And now that I am awaiting it at any hour, the whole thing seems so easy, simple and natural that I cannot but wonder how I could keep my thoughts fixed upon it when it was far off. I cannot do it now. Night after night since I have known that I am mortally ill, I have tried to conceive, with the help of the sensations of my sinking-fits, the act of dying, and its attendant feelings; and, thus far, I have always gone to sleep in the middle of it. And this is after really knowing something about it; for I have been frequently in extreme danger of immediate death within the last five months, and have felt as if I were dying, and should never draw another breath. Under this close experience, I find death in prospect the simplest thing in the world, — a thing not to be feared or regretted, or to get excited about in any way. — I attribute this very much, however, to the nature of my views of death. The case must be much otherwise with Christians, — even independently of the selfish and perturbing emotions connected with an expectation of rewards and punishments in the next world. They can never be quite secure from the danger that their air-built castle shall dissolve at the last moment, and that they may vividly perceive on what imperfect evidence and delusive grounds their expectation of immortality or resurrection reposes. The mere perception of the incompatibility of immortality and resurrection may be, and often is, deferred till that time; and that is no time for such questions. But, if the intellect be ever so accommodating, there is the heart, — steady to its domestic affections. I, for one, should be heavy-hearted if I were now about to go to the antipodes, — to leave all whom I love, and who are bound up with my daily life, — however certain might be the prospect of meeting them again twenty or thirty years hence; and it is no credit to any Christian to be “joyful,” “triumphant” and so forth, in going to “glory,” while leaving any loved ones behind, — whether or not there may be loved ones “gone before.” An unselfish and magnanimous person cannot be solaced, in parting with mortal companions and human sufferers, by personal rewards, glory, bliss, or any thing of the sort. I used to think and feel all this before I became emancipated Edition: current; Page: [106] from the superstition; and I could only submit, and suppose it all right because it was ordained. But now, the release is an inexpressible comfort; and the simplifying of the whole matter has a most tranquillizing effect. I see that the dying (others than the aged) naturally and regularly, unless disturbed, desire and sink into death as into sleep. Where no artificial state is induced, they feel no care about dying, or about living again. The state of their organisation disposes them to rest; and rest is all they think about. We know, by all testimony, that persons who are brought face to face with death by an accident which seems to leave no chance of escape, have no religious ideas or emotions whatever. Where the issue is doubtful, the feeble and helpless cry out to God for mercy, and are in perturbation or calmness according to organisation, training, and other circumstances: but, where escape appears wholly impossible, the most religious men think and feel nothing religious at all, — as those of them who have escaped tell their intimate friends. And again, soldiers rush upon death in battle with utter carelessness, — engrossed in other emotions, in the presence of which death appears as easy and simple a matter as it does to me now. — Conscious as I am of what my anxiety would be if I were exiled to the antipodes, — or to the garden of Eden, if you will, — for twenty or thirty years, I feel no sort of solicitude about a parting which will bring no pain. Sympathy with those who will miss me, I do feel, of course: yet not very painfully, because their sorrow cannot, in the nature of things, long interfere with their daily peace; but to me there is no sacrifice, no sense of loss, nothing to fear, nothing to regret. Under the eternal laws of the universe, I came into being, and, under them, I have lived a life so full that its fulness is equivalent to length. The age in which I have lived is an infant one in the history of our globe and of Man; and the consequence is, a great waste in the years and the powers of the wisest of us; and, in the case of one so limited in powers, and so circumscribed by early unfavorable influences as myself, the waste is something deplorable. But we have only to accept the conditions in which we find ourselves, and to make the best of them; and my last days are Edition: current; Page: [107] cheered by the sense of how much better my later years have been than the earlier; or than, in the earlier, I ever could have anticipated. Some of the terrible faults of my character which religion failed to ameliorate, and others which superstition bred in me, have given way, more or less, since I attained a truer point of view: and the relief from old burdens, the uprising of new satisfactions, and the opening of new clearness, — the fresh air of Nature, in short, after imprisonment in the ghost-peopled cavern of superstition, — has been as favourable to my moral nature as to intellectual progress and general enjoyment. Thus, there has been much in life that I am glad to have enjoyed; and much that generates a mood of contentment at the close. Besides that I never dream of wishing that any thing were otherwise than as it is, I am frankly satisfied to have done with life. I have had a noble share of it, and I desire no more. I neither wish to live longer here, nor to find life again elsewhere. It seems to me simply absurd to expect it, and a mere act of restricted human imagination and morality to conceive of it. It seems to me that there is, not only a total absence of evidence of a renewed life for human beings, but so clear a way of accounting for the conception, in the immaturity of the human mind, that I myself utterly disbelieve in a future life. If I should find myself mistaken, it will certainly not be in discovering any existing faith in that doctrine to be true. If I am mistaken in supposing that I am now vacating my place in the universe, which is to be filled by another, — if I find myself conscious after the lapse of life, — it will be all right, of course; but, as I said, the supposition appears to me absurd. Nor can I understand why any body should expect me to desire any thing else than this yielding up my place. If we may venture to speak, limited as we are, of any thing whatever being important, we may say that the important thing is that the universe should be full of life, as we suppose it to be, under the eternal laws of the universe: and, if the universe be full of life, I cannot see how it can signify whether the one human faculty of consciousness of identity be preserved and carried forward, when all the rest of the organisation is gone to dust, or so changed as to be in no respect properly Edition: current; Page: [108] the same. In brief, I cannot see how it matters whether my successor be called H. M. or A. B. or Y. Z. I am satisfied that there will always be as much conscious life in the universe as its laws provide for; and that certainty is enough, even for my narrow human conception, which, however, can discern that caring about it at all is a mere human view and emotion. The real and justifiable and honourable subject of interest to human beings, living and dying, is the welfare of their fellows, surrounding them, or surviving them. About this, I do care, and supremely; in what way I will tell presently.

Meantime, as to my own position at this moment, I have a word or two more to say. — I had no previous conception of the singular interest of watching human affairs, and one’s own among the rest, and acting in them, when on the verge of leaving them. It is an interest which is full even of amusement. It has been my chief amusement, this spring, to set my house and field in complete order for my beloved successor; — to put up a handsome new garden fence, and paint the farming man’s cottage, and restore the ceilings of the house, and plan the crops which I do not expect to see gathered. The mournful perplexity of my good farm-servant has something in it amusing as well as touching; — the necessity he is under of consulting me about his sowings, and his plans for the cows, — relating to distant autumn months, and even to another spring, — the embarrassing necessity that this is to him, while his mind is full of the expectation that I shall then be in my grave. In the midst of every consultation about this or that crop, he interposes a hope that I may live to see his hay, and to eat his celery and artichokes and vegetable marrow, and to admire the autumn calf; and his zeal for my service, checked by the thought that his services are in fact for others, has something in it as curious as touching. — And so it is, more or less, with all my intercourses, — that a curious new interest is involved in them. Mere acquaintances are shocked that the newspapers should tell that I am “in a hopeless state,” that “recovery is impossible” &c., while my own family and household have no sort of scruple in talking about it as freely as I do. A good many people start at hearing what a cheerful, — Edition: current; Page: [109] even merry — little party we are at home here, and that we sometimes play a rubber in the evenings, and sometimes laugh till I, for one, can laugh no more. To such wonder, we answer — why not? If we feel as usual, why not do as usual? Others, again, cannot conceive how, with my “opinions,” I am not miserable about dying; and declare that they should be so; and this makes me wonder, in my turn, that it does not strike them that perhaps they do not comprehend my views and feelings, and that there may be something in the matter more than they see or understand. There is something very interesting to me in the evidences of different states of mind among friends and strangers in regard to my “good” or “bad spirits,” — a matter which appears to me hardly worth a thought. As it happens, my spirits are good; and I find good spirits a great blessing; but the solicitude about them, and the evident readiness to make much of bad spirits, if I had them, are curious features in my intercourse with acquaintance or strangers who are kind enough to interest themselves in my affairs. One sends me a New Testament (as if I had never seen one before) with the usual hopes of grace &c., though aware that the bible is no authority with me; and, having been assured that I am “happy,” this correspondent has the modesty to intimate that I ought not to be happy, and that people sometimes are so “without grounds.” It is useless to reply that, as I have not pursued happiness as an aim, all this kind of speculation is nothing to me. There is the fact; and that is enough. — Others, again, who ought, by their professions, to know better, are very glad about this “happiness,” and settle it in their own minds that christian consolations are administered to me by God without my knowing it. If so, I can only say it is a bounty not only gratuitous, but undesired. Christian consolations would certainly make me any thing but happy, after my experience of them in contrast with the higher state of freedom, and the wider sympathies opened by my later views.

The lesson taught us by these kindly commentators on my present experience is that dogmatic faith compels the best minds and hearts to narrowness and insolence. Even such as these cannot conceive of my being happy in any way but theirs, or Edition: current; Page: [110] that there may be views whose operation they do not understand. In a letter just received, a dear friend says “I have seen no one since I left you who is ‘sorry’ about you (about my ‘opinions.’) Still I see that the next row, and the next, still more so, are ‘very sorry’ and ‘very very sorry.’ ” The unconscious insolence revealed in this “sorrow” is rebuked by the more rational view of others who are no nearer agreeing with me than the second and third “row.” “Not agreeing,” says my friend, “they still see no more reason for lamentation over you than for you to lament over them. ‘Il y a aussi loin de chez toi chez moi que de chez moi chez toi,’ is the perfectly applicable French proverb.” Another, who professes to venerate martyrs and reformers (if only they are dead) is “sorry” again because this, that, or the other Cause suffers by my loss of influence. The mingled weakness and unconscious insolence of this affords a curious insight. First, there is the dereliction of principle shown in supposing that any “Cause” can be of so much importance as fidelity to truth, or can be important at all otherwise than in its relation to truth which wants vindicating. It reminds me of an incident which happened when I was in America, at the time of the severest trials of the Abolitionists. A pastor from the southern States lamented to a brother clergyman in the North the introduction of the Anti-slavery question, because the views of their sect were “getting on so well before!” “Getting on!” cried the northern minister. “What is the use of getting your vessel on when you have thrown both captain and cargo overboard?” Thus, what signifies the pursuit of any one reform, like those specified, — Anti-slavery and the Woman question, — when the freedom which is the very soul of the controversy, the very principle of the movement, — is mourned over in any other of its many manifestations? The only effectual advocates of such reforms as those are people who follow truth wherever it leads. The assumption that I have lost influence on the whole exposes itself. Nobody can know that I have lost influence on the whole, either in regard to ordinary social intercourse or to subjects of social controversy; and I have reason to believe that I have (without at all intending it) gained influence in proportion Edition: current; Page: [111] to the majority that the free-thinkers of our country constitute to the minority existing in the form of the sect in which I was reared, or any other.

As to the curious assortment of religious books and tracts sent me by post, they are much what I have been accustomed to receive on the publication of each of my books which involved religious or philosophical subjects. They are too bad in matter and spirit to be safe reading for my servants; so, instead of the waste-basket, they go into the fire. I have not so many anonymous letters now as on occasions of publication; but some which are not anonymous are scarcely wiser or purer. After the publication of “Eastern Life,” I had one which was too curious to be forgotten with the rest. It was dated “Cheltenham,” and signed “Charlotte;” and it was so inviting to a reply that, if it had borne any address, I should have been tempted to break through my custom of silence in such cases. “Charlotte” wrote to make the modest demand that I would call in and destroy all my writings, “because they give pain to the pious.” It would have been amusing to see what she would think of a proposal that “the pious” should withdraw all their writings, because they give pain to the philosophical. It might have been of service to suggest the simple expedient, in relief of the pious, that they should not read books which offend them. After the publication of the “Atkinson Letters,” anonymous notes came in elegant clerical hand-writing, informing me that prayers would be offered up throughout the kingdom, for my rescue from my awful condition, “denying the Lord that bought me,” &c. Now, the concern seems to be of a gentler sort, and to relate more to my state of spirits at present than to my destiny hereafter. — But enough of this. I have referred to these things, not because they relate to myself, but because the condition of opinion in English society at present affords material for profitable study; and my own position at this moment supplies a favourable opportunity. In the midst of the meddlesomeness, I do not overlook the humanity thus evidenced. My only feeling of concern arises from seeing how much moral injury and suffering is created by the superstitions of the Christian mythology; and again, from the Edition: current; Page: [112] chaotic state of opinion among Christians themselves, and among those who would fain retain the name, while giving up all the essentials, and unfurnished with a basis of conviction, while striving to make the fabrics of the imagination serve the purpose. — As for me, who unexpectedly find myself on the side of the majority of thoughtful persons on these questions, I am of course abundantly solaced with sympathy which I can accept; and I am more and more sensible, as I recede from the active scenes of life, of the surpassing value of a philosophy which is the natural growth of the experience and study, — perhaps I may be allowed to say, — the progression of a life. While conscious, as I have ever been, of being encompassed by ignorance on every side, I cannot but acknowledge that philosophy has opened my way before me, and given a staff into my hand, and thrown a light upon my path, so as to have long delivered me from doubt and fear. It has moreover been the joy of my life, harmonising and animating all its details, and making existence itself a festival. Day by day do I feel that it is indeed

  • “Not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose;
  • But musical as is Apollo’s lute.”

A state like mine of late has its peculiar privileges, — the first felt of which is its freedom from cares and responsibilities. I have hitherto loved solitude perhaps unduly; partly, no doubt, on account of my deafness, which, from its attendant fatigues, has rendered solitude necessary, to husband my strength, — (always, I now suspect, below the average,) for my work; but partly also from the unusual amount of intellectual labour which it has been my duty to undertake. Now, when my work is done, I am enjoying genuine holiday, for the first time for a quarter of a century. I relish, very keenly, the tending of affection, and the lawful transference of my responsibilities to the young and strong, and those who have a tract of life before them, and who are pausing on their way to give me the help I need. I am now free for intellectual luxury, — to read what charms me most, without the feeling that I am playing truant from the school of technical knowledge, for which I shall have no further occasion. Edition: current; Page: [113] Again, I enjoy the free expenditure of my resources. It is something pleasant not to have to consider money, — the money which I have earned, and laid up to meet such an occasion. But it is more and better not to grudge my time. My hours are now best spent in affectionate intercourses, and in giving a free flow to every passing day. I need not spare my eyes, nor husband my remaining hearing. I may, in short, make a free and lavish holiday before I go.

Such is the selfish aspect of the case; and I am bound, having begun, to tell the whole case. — Far greater are the privileges I enjoy in regard to the world outside my home. I need not say that one’s interests in regard to one’s race, and to human life in the abstract, deepen in proportion to the withdrawal of one’s own personal implication with them. Judging by my own experience, one’s hopes rise, and one’s fears decline as one recedes from the action and personal solicitude which are necessary in the midst of life, but which have a more or less blinding and perturbing influence on one’s perception and judgment. When at the zenith, clouds are apt to come between one’s particular star and the wide world; whereas, on the clear horizon, at the moment of the star’s sinking, nothing intervenes to shroud or distort the glorious scene. I was always hopeful for the world; but never so much so as now, when I am at full leisure to see things as they are, and placed apart where the relation of the past and the future become clear, and the meeting-point of the present is seen in something like its due proportion. It appears to me now that, while I see much more of human difficulty from ignorance, and from the slow working (as we weak and transitory beings consider it) of the law of Progress, I discern the working of that great law with far more clearness, and therefore with a far stronger confidence, than I ever did before.

When I look at my own country, and observe the nature of the changes which have taken place even within my own time, I have far more hope than I once had that the inevitable political reconstitution of our state may take place in a peaceable and prosperous manner. There have been times in my life when, having a far obscurer view than I now entertain of the Edition: current; Page: [114] necessity of a total change in the form of government, I yet apprehended a revolution in the fearful sense in which the word was understood in my childhood, when the great French Revolution was the only pattern of that sort of enterprise. I now strongly hope that, whenever our far-famed British Constitution gives place to a new form of government, it may be through the ripened will of the people, and therefore in all good will and prudence. That the change must be made, sooner or later, was certain from the time when the preponderance of the aristocratic over the regal element in our state became a fact. From the natural alliance between king and people, and the natural antagonism of aristocracy and people, the occurrence of a revolution is always, in such a case, a question merely of time. In our case, the question of time is less obscure than it was in my childhood. The opponents of the Reform Bill were right enough, as every body now sees, in saying that the Constitution was destroyed by that act; though wrong, of course, in supposing that they could have preserved the balance by preventing the act of reform. A constitution of checks and balances, made out of old materials, can never be more than a provisional expedient; and, when the balance is destroyed, — when the power of the Crown is a mere lingering sentiment, and the Commons hold the Lords in the hollow of their hand, while no recent House of Commons has been in any degree worthy of such a trust, the alternative is simply between a speedy revolution with an unworthy House of Commons, or a remoter one, with a better legislature in the mean time. The circumstances of the hour in which I write seem to show that so much social change is near as may be caused by the exposure of administrative incompetence under the stress of the war. It may be this, or it may be something else which will rouse the people to improve the House of Commons: and under an improved House of Commons, the establishment of a new method of government may be long delayed. From the general state of prosperity and contentment at home, the retrieval of Ireland, the rapid advance of many good popular objects, and the raising of the general tone of the popular mind, we may hope that what Edition: current; Page: [115] has to be done will be done well. — Meantime, the thing that causes me most anxiety, in regard to our political condition, is the universal ignorance or carelessness about the true sphere of legislation. Before the people can be in any degree fit for the improved institutions, it is highly necessary that they should understand, and be agreed upon, the true function of legislation and government; and this is precisely what even our best men, in and out of parliament, seem to know nothing about. I regard this as a most painful and perilous symptom of our condition, — though it has been brought to light by beneficent action which is, in another view, altogether encouraging. Our benevolence towards the helpless, and our interest in personal morality, have grown into a sort of public pursuit; and they have taken such a hold on us that we may fairly hope that the wretched and the wronged will never more be thrust out of sight. But, in the pursuit of our new objects, we have fallen back, — far further than 1688, — in the principle of our legislative proposals, — undertaking to provide by law against personal vices, and certain special social contracts, while refusing that legitimate legislative boon, — a system of national education, — which would supersede the vices and abuses complained of by intelligence more effectually than acts of parliament can ever obviate them by penalty. If I were to form one hope rather than another in relation to the political condition of England, it would be that my countrymen should rise to the level of their time, and of their intelligence in other respects, in regard to the true aims of government and legitimate function of legislation.

As to the wider political prospects outside our own empire, I am of much the same opinion now as when I wrote a certain letter to an Anti-slavery friend in America in 1849, which I will subjoin. That letter was published in the newspapers at the time by my correspondent, and it has been republished in England since the outbreak of the war with Russia.

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
October 1st, 1849
My Dear —;

We can think of little else at present than of that which should draw you and us into closer sympathy than Edition: current; Page: [116] even that which has so long existed between us. We, on our side the water, have watched with keen interest the progress of your War of Opinion, — the spread of the great controversy which cannot but revolutionize your social principles and renovate your social morals. For fifteen years past, we have seen that you are ‘in for it,’ and that you must stand firm amidst the subversion of Ideas, Customs and Institutions, till you find yourselves encompassed by ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ of which you have the sure promise and foresight.

We, — the whole population of Europe, — are now evidently entering upon a stage of conflict no less important in its issues, and probably more painful in its course. You remember how soon after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars our great Peace Minister, Canning, intimated the advent, sooner or later, of a War of Opinion in Europe; a war of deeper significance than Napoleon could conceive of, and of a wider spread than the most mischievous of his quarrels. The war of Opinion which Canning foresaw was in fact a war between the further and nearer centuries, — between Asia and Europe, — between despotism and self-government. The preparations were begun long ago. The Barons at Runnymede beat up for recruits when they hailed the signature of Magna Charta; and the princes of York and Lancaster did their best to clear the field for us and those who are to come after us. The Italian Republics wrought well for us, and so did the French Revolutions, one after the other as hints and warnings; and so did the voyage of your Mayflower, — and the Swiss League, and German Zollverein, and in short, every thing that has happened for several hundreds of years. Every thing has tended to bring our continent and its resident nations to the knowledge that the first principles of social liberty have now to be asserted and contended for, and to prepare the assertors for the greatest conflict that the human race has yet witnessed. It is my belief that the war has actually begun, and that, though there may be occasional lulls, no man now living will see the end of it.

Russia is more Asiatic than European. It is obscure to us who live nearest to her where her power resides. We know only that it is not with the Emperor, nor yet with the people. The Emperor is evidently a mere show, — being nothing except while he fulfils the policy or pleasure of the unnamed power which we cannot discern. But, though the ruling power is obscure, the policy is clear enough. The aim is to maintain and extend despotism; and the means chosen are the repression of mind, the corruption of conscience, and the reduction of the whole composite population of Russia to a brute Edition: current; Page: [117] machine. For a great lapse of time, no quarter of a century has passed without some country and nation having fallen in, and become a compartment of the great machine; and, the fact being so, the most peace-loving of us can hardly be sorry that the time has come for deciding whether this is to go on, — whether the Asiatic principle and method of social life are to dominate or succumb. The struggle will be no contemptible one. The great tarantula has its spider-claws out and fixed at inconceivable distances. The people of Russia, wretched at home, are better qualified for foreign aggression than for any thing else. And if, within her own empire, Russia knows all to be loose and precarious, poor and unsound, and with none but a military organisation, she knows that she has for allies, avowed or concealed, all the despotic tempers that exist among men. Not only such Governments as those of Spain, Portugal, Rome and Austria are in reality the allies of Eastern barbarism; but all aristocracies, — all self-seekers, — be they who and where they may. It is a significant sign of the times that territorial alliances are giving way before political affinities, — the mechanical before the essential union: and, if Russia has not for allies the nations that live near her frontier, she has those men of every nation who prefer self-will to freedom.

This corrupted “patriarchal” system of society, (but little superior to that which exists in your slave States) occupies one-half of the great battle-field where the hosts are gathering for the fight. On the other, the forces are ill-assorted, ill-organised, too little prepared; but still, as having the better cause, sure, I trust, of final victory. The conflict must be long, because our constitutions are, like yours, compromises, our governments as yet a mere patch-work, our popular liberties scanty and adulterated, and great masses of our brethren hungry and discontented. We have not a little to struggle for among ourselves, when our whole force is needed against the enemy. In no country of Europe is the representative system of government more than a mere beginning. In no country of Europe is human brotherhood practically asserted. Nowhere are the principles of civilisation of Western Europe determined and declared, and made the ground-work of organised action, as happily your principles are as against those of your slave-holding opponents. But, raw and ill-organised as are our forces, they will be strong, sooner or later, against the serried armies of the Asiatic policy. If, on the one side, the soul comes up to battle with an imperfect and ill-defended body, on the other, the body is wholly without a soul, and must, in the end, fall to pieces. The best part of the mind of Western Europe Edition: current; Page: [118] will make itself a body by dint of action, and the pressure which must bring out its forces; and it may be doubted whether it could become duly embodied in any other way. What forms of society may arise as features of this new growth, neither you nor I can say. We can only ask each other whether, witnessing as we do the spread of Communist ideas in every free nation of Europe, and the admission by some of the most cautious and old-fashioned observers of social movements that we in England cannot now stop short of “a modified communism,” the result is not likely to be a wholly new social state, if not a yet undreamed-of social idea.

“However this may be, — while your slave question is dominant in Congress, and the Dissolution of your Union is becoming a familiar idea, and an avowed aspiration, our crisis is no less evidently approaching. Russia has Austria under her foot, and she is casting a corner of her wide pall over Turkey. England and France are awake and watchful; and so many men of every country are astir, that we may rely upon it that not only are territorial alliances giving way before political affinities, but national ties will give way almost as readily, if the principles of social liberty should demand the disintegration of nations. Let us not say, even to ourselves, whether we regard such an issue with hope or fear. It is a possibility too vast to be regarded but with simple faith and patience. In this spirit let us contemplate what is proceeding, and what is coming, doing the little we can by a constant assertion of the principles of social liberty, and a perpetual watch for opportunities to stimulate human progress.

“Whether your conflict will be merely a moral one, you can form a better idea than I. Ours will consist in a long and bloody warfare — possibly the last, but inevitable now. The empire of brute force can conduct its final struggle only by brute force; and there are but few yet on the other side who have any other notion or desire. While I sympathise wholly with you as to your means as well as your end, you will not withhold your sympathy from us because our heroes still assert their views and wills by exposing themselves to wounds and death in the field, and assenting once more to the old non sequitur about Might and Right. Let them this time obtain the lower sort of Might by the inspiration of their Right, and in another age, they will aim higher. But I need not thus petition you; for I well know that where there is most of Right, there will your sympathies surely rest.

“Believe me your friend,
Edition: current; Page: [119]

I have no doubt whatever of the power of France and England to chastise Russia, without the aid of any other power. I should have no doubt of the power of England alone (if that power were well administered) to humble Russia, provided the case remained a simple one. But that is precisely what appears impossible, under the existing European dynasties. I now expect, as I have anticipated for many years, a war in Europe which may even outlast the century, — with occasional lulls; and I suppose the result must be, after a dreary chaotic interval, a discarding of the existing worn-out methods of government, and probably the establishment of society under a wholly new idea. Of course, none but a prophet could be expected to declare what that new idea will be. It would be rational, but it is not necessary here, to foretell what it would not be or include. But all that I feel called on to say now, when I am not writing a political essay, is that the leading feature of any such radical change must be a deep modification of the institution of Property; — certainly in regard to land, and probably in regard to much else. Before any effectual social renovation can take place, men must efface the abuse which has grown up out of the transition from the feudal to the more modern state; the abuse of land being held as absolute property; whereas in feudal times land was in a manner held in trust, inasmuch as every land-holder was charged with the subsistence of all who lived within his bounds. The old practice of Man holding Man as property is nearly exploded among civilised nations; and the analogous barbarism of Man holding the surface of the globe as property cannot long survive. The idea of this being a barbarism is now fairly formed, admitted, and established among some of the best minds of the time; and the result is, as in all such cases, ultimately secure.

These considerations lead my thoughts to America; and I must say that I regard the prospects of the republic of the United States with more pain and apprehension than those of any other people in the civilised world. It is the only instance, I believe, of a nation being inferior to its institutions; and the result will be, I fear, a mournful spectacle to the world. I am Edition: current; Page: [120] not thinking chiefly, at this moment, of American slavery. I have shown elsewhere what I think and expect about that. Negro slavery in the United States, as regards the existing Union, is near its end, I have no doubt. I regard with a deeper concern the manifest retrogression of the American people, in their political and social character. They seem to be lapsing from national manliness into childhood, — retrograding from the aims and interests of the nineteenth century into those of the fifteenth and sixteenth. Their passion for territorial aggrandisement, for gold, for buccaneering adventure, and for vulgar praise, are seen miserably united with the pious pretensions and fraudulent ingenuity which were, in Europe, old-fashioned three centuries ago, and which are now kept alive only in a few petty or despised States, where dynasty is on its last legs. I know that there are better men, and plenty of them, in America than those who represent the nation in the view of Europe; but those better men are silent and inactive; and the national retrogression is not visibly retarded by them. I fear it cannot be. I fear that when the bulk of a nation is below its institutions, — whether by merely wanting the requisite knowledge, or by being in an immature moral condition, — it is not the intelligence and virtue of a small, despairing, inactive minority that can save it from lapse into barbarism. I fear that the American nation is composed almost entirely of the vast majority who coarsely boast, and the small minority who timidly despair, of the Republic. It appears but too probable that the law of Progression may hold good with regard to the world at large without preventing the retrogression of particular portions of the race. But the American case is not exactly of this kind. I rather take it to be that a few wise men, under solemn and inspiring influences, laid down a loftier political programme than their successors were able to fulfil. If so, there is, whatever disappointment, no retrogression, properly speaking. We supposed the American character and policy to be represented by the chiefs of the revolution, and their Declaration of Independence and republican constitution; and now we find ourselves mistaken in our supposition. It is a disappointment; but we Edition: current; Page: [121] had rather admit a disappointment than have to witness an actual retrogression.

Effacing these national distinctions, in regarding the peoples as the human race, the condition of humanity appears to one who is taking leave of it very hopeful, though as yet exceedingly infantine. It is my deliberate opinion that the one essential requisite of human welfare in all ways is scientific knowledge of human nature. It is my belief that we can in no way but by sound knowledge of Man learn, fully and truly, any thing else; and that it is only when glimpses of that knowledge were opened, — however scantily and obscurely, — that men have effectually learned any thing else. I believe that this science is fairly initiated; and it follows of course that I anticipate for the race amelioration and progression at a perpetually accelerated rate. Attention is fully fixed now on the nature and mode of development of the human being; and the key to his mental and moral organisation is found. The old scoff of divines against philosophers must now soon be dropped, — the reproach that they have made no advance for a thousand years; — that there were philosophers preaching two thousand years ago, who have hardly a disciple at this day. In a little while this can never more be said; nor could it be said now by any one who understood the minds of the people among whom he lives. The glorious aims and spirit of philosophy have wrought for good in every age since those ancient sages lived; and the name and image of each is the morning star of the day in which each lived. In this way were the old philosophers truly our masters; and they may yet claim, in a future age, the discipleship of the whole human race. But to them scientific fact was wanting: by them it was unattainable. Their aim and their spirit have led recent generations to the discovery of the element wanting, — the scientific fact; and, now that is done, the progression of philosophy is secure. The philosophy of human nature is placed on a scientific basis; and it, and all other departments of philosophy, (for all depend mainly on this one) are already springing forward so as to be wholly incomparable with those of a thousand years ago. There is no need to retort the scoff of Edition: current; Page: [122] divines, as facts are against them. There is no need to inquire of them what is the state of Christianity at the end of 1800 years, nor what it has done in regenerating human nature, and establishing peace on earth and goodwill among men, according to its promise. Leaving divines on one side, as professionally disqualified for judging of the function and prospects of philosophy, and looking at the matter in a speculative, and not an antagonistic way, I should say that the time cannot be far off when, throughout the civilised world, theology must go out before the light of philosophy. As to the fact, the civilised world is now nearly divided between gross Latin or Greek catholicism and disbelief of Christianity in any form. Protestantism seems to be going out as fast as possible. In Germany the Christian faith is confessedly extinct; and in France it is not far otherwise. The Lutheranism of Sweden is, in its effects, precisely like the catholicism of Spain or Italy, and will issue in “infidelity” in the one country as surely as in the others. In England, the lamentations of the religious world, and the disclosures of the recent Census, show how even outward adhesion to Christianity is on the decline: and if they did not, the chaotic state of religious opinion would indicate the fact no less reliably. In America we see Protestantism run wild, — each man being his own creed-maker; and the result, — a seeking erelong for something true and stable, — is secure. — Not only is such the state of the civilised world, but it must be so. Precisely in proportion to Man’s ignorance of his own nature, as well as of other things, is the tendency of his imagination to inform the outward world with his own consciousness. The fetish worshipper attributes a consciousness like his own to every thing about him; the imputation becomes more select and rare through every rising grade of theology, till the Christian makes his reflex of himself invisible and intangible, or, as he says, “spiritual.” His God is an invisible idol, fading away into a faint abstraction, exactly according to the enlightenment of the worshipper, till he who does justice to his own faculties gives up the human attributes, and the personality of that First Cause which the form of his intellect requires him to suppose, Edition: current; Page: [123] and is called an atheist by the idolaters he has left behind him. By the verification and spread of the science of human nature, the conflict which has hitherto attended such attainment as this will be spared to our successors. When scientific facts are established, and self-evident truths are brought out of them, there is an end of conflict; — or it passes on to administer discipline to adventurers in fresh fields of knowledge. About this matter, of the extinction of theology by a true science of human nature, I cannot but say that my expectation amounts to absolute assurance; and that I believe that the worst of the conflict is over. I am confident that a bright day is coming for future generations. Our race has been as Adam created at nightfall. The solid earth has been but dark, or dimly visible, while the eye was inevitably drawn to the mysterious heavens above. There, the successive mythologies have arisen in the east, each a constellation of truths, each glorious and fervently worshipped in its course; but the last and noblest, the Christian, is now not only sinking to the horizon, but paling in the dawn of a brighter time. The dawn is unmistakable; and the sun will not be long in coming up. The last of the mythologies is about to vanish before the flood of a brighter light.

With the last of the mythologies will pass away, after some lingering, the immoralities which have attended all mythologies. Now, while the state of our race is such as to need all our mutual devotedness, all our aspiration, all our resources of courage, hope, faith and good cheer, the disciples of the Christian creed and morality are called upon, day by day, to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling,” and so forth. Such exhortations are too low for even the wavering mood and quacked morality of a time of theological suspense and uncertainty. In the extinction of that suspense, and the discrediting of that selfish quackery, I see the prospect, for future generations, of a purer and loftier virtue, and a truer and sweeter heroism than divines who preach such self-seeking can conceive of. When our race is trained in the morality which belongs to ascertained truth, all “fear and trembling” will be left to children; and men will have risen to a capacity for higher work Edition: current; Page: [124] than saving themselves, — to that of “working out” the welfare of their race, not in “fear and trembling,” but with serene hope and joyful assurance.

The world as it is is growing somewhat dim before my eyes; but the world as it is to be looks brighter every day.

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Abolitionists, the, I. 337, 338; meeting of, I. 347-352.

Accession, the Queen’s, I. 417.

Advice, I. 501.

“Ages, The Three,” I. 192.

Aid and kindness, I. 464.

Aikin, Dr., I. 78, 79.

Aikin, Miss, I. 229, 230, 323, 324.

Ailsie, I. 435, 436.

Alarm, an, I. 393, 394.

Alcott, I. 387

Alderson, Dr., I. 226.

Althorp, Lord, I. 196-199.

Ambleside, arrival at, I. 494.

Amende, vicious, I. 359.

“America, Society in,” I. 465.

Anxieties, I. 188.

Appearance in print, first, I. 91.

Arnold, Mr., II. 41.

Arnold, Mrs., I. 499.

Aspland, Lindsey, II. 96.

Athenæum, the, I. 475, 476.

Atkinson Letters, the, II. 36-56.

Atkinson, Mr., friend of Basil Montagu, I. 489, first sight of, I. 489; recovery owing to, I. 489; philosophical method of, I. 491; reviewers overlook it, I. 492; letters on man’s nature and development, I. 492; central truth apprehended by, I. 493; letter of H. M. to, I. 539; reply to H. M’s. letter, I. 542; London lecturer’s mistake of, II. 75; account of what man can know, II. 76-81; receives the result of Dr. Latham’s visit, II. 102.

Attention, request to the reader’s, I. 2.

Austen, Miss, I. 77, 323.

Austin, Colonel, I. 366, 367.

Austin, Mrs., I. 265.

Authoress, an, I. 280, 281.

Authorship, courage in, I. 151.

Autobiography, I. 7.

Babbage, Mr., I. 201, 209, 265, 267.

Back, I. 209.

Bacon, I. 263, 516; II. 28, 53, 79, 89.

Baille, Joanna, I. 266, 270, 271.

Baldwin and Cradock, I. 123, 124.

Barbauld, Mrs., I. 26, 78, 228, 243, 270.

Barnes, Mr., I. 168, 169.

Beachy Head, trip to, I. 183.

Beaufort, Admiral, I. 268.

Beckwith, Mr., I. 41, 42.

Bell, Currer, II. 21-25, 45, 64.

Bell, Sir C., I. 272.

Belles, ancient, I. 279.

Belsham, Mr., I. 29.

Bentley, I. 380, 399, 400.

Berry, Miss, I. 277-279, 330, 399, 400; Appendix A., I. 553.

“Billow and the Rock, The,” I. 531.

Birth of the youngest, I. 39.

Bishop, I. 256.

Bishops, the, I. 255.

Bolton Abbey, II. 33.

Book, scheme of, I. 538, 539.

Boston, reaction in, I. 356.

Bowring, I. 311.

Bremer, Miss, II. 322.

Bright, Mr., I. 521.

Brontë, Miss, I. 324; II. 23, 41, 64, 66.

Brooks, Rev C., I. 361, 362.

Brougham, I. 164, 169, 203, 233-237, 254, 255, 266, 329, 425, 460, 462.

Brown, Dr. Samuel, I. 435.

Browning, Mrs., I. 412.

Brownings, the, I. 266, 314, 315.

Buckland, I. 209.

Boller, C. and A., I. 425, 426.

Buller, Charles, I. 257, 258, 462; II. 60.

Bulwer, I. 180, 264, 266, 267.

Bunsen, Chevalier, I. 537.

Burney, Fanny, I. 4.

Byron, II. 50.

Byron, Lady, I. 463, 464.

Calhoun, I. 343, 372, 378.

Callcott, Sir A., I. 273.

Campbell, I. 265, 267, 400, 467.

Campbell, Lord, I. 255; II. 51.

Canning, I. 61; II. 18, 116.

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Carlisle, Lord, I. 374.

Carlyle, I. 287-289, 326, 407, 468.

Carlyles, the, I. 284.

Carpenter, Dr., I. 26, 73, 79, 80, 466.

Carpenter, Miss, II. 84.

Castlereagh, I. 61.

Chadwick, I. 308.

Chalmers, Dr., I. 308, 327.

Chambers, Lord Advocate’s, I. 242.

Chambers, R., I. 433; II. 20.

Chances, Messrs., II. 69.

Chandos, Lord, I. 425.

Changes, domestic, II. 83.

Channing, Dr., I. 80, 256, 327, 353, 357, 359, 363, 365, 368, 506.

Channing’s, Dr., advice, I. 365.

Chantrey, I. 273, 274.

Chapman, Mr., II. 64, 66, 67, 97, 98, 101.

Chapman, Mrs., I. 390.

Chaucer, I. 218.

Child, Mr. D. L., I. 368.

Chorley, I. 317, 318.

“Cinnamon and Pearls,” I. 185.

Citizens, apathy of, I. 369.

Clarke, Sir Charles, I. 472.

Clay, Mr., I. 343, 344, 372, 378, 379.

Cobbett, I. 61, 93; II. 34.

Cobden, I. 523-526.

Coke, Mr., I. 467.

Colburn, I. 400, 402, 403.

Coleridge, I. 298-300; II. 32.

College, Haileybury, I. 248.

Collins, Mr., I. 172, 173.

Colonization scheme, I. 338.

Coltman, I. 255.

Columbus, II. 10, 70.

Combes, the, I. 313.

Companion, travelling, I. 331.

“Complete Guide,” II. 32.

Composition, methods of, I. 93, 94, 327, 328.

Comte, II. 57-59, 64-67, 70-76, 82, 84.

Comte, rendering, II. 59.

Congleton, Lord, I. 467.

Conroy, Sir John, I. 417.

Conversation, ominous, I. 339.

Conviction, grasp of a, I. 83.

Cooper, Mrs. Lewis, I. 16.

Coronation, the, I. 419-424.

Country, last view of, II. 113-115.

Cousins, clever, I. 70.

Cranworth, I. 255.

Cresson, Elliott, I. 149-151, 338.

Crisis, reform, I. 163.

Critics, Comte’s, II. 73-76.

Croker, Mr., I. 151, 155, 157, 158.

Crompton, I. 255.

Cropper, Mr., I. 149-151.

Crowe, Mrs., I. 435.

Cruger, Mrs. Douglas, I. 356.

Cunningham, Allan, I. 274.

Daily News,” the, II. 87.

Dalton, Dr., I. 269, 467.

D’Arblay, Madame, I. 4.

Darwin, Charles, I. 268.

Davy, I. 298.

Davy, Lady, I. 265.

Deafness, I. 55-58.

Death, first, I. 43.

Death of betrothed, I. 100.

Death of brother and his child, I. 96, 97.

Death of father, I. 99.

Decline, brother’s, I. 96.

“Deerbrook,” I. 413, 414.

Devices, politic, I. 400.

Deville, Mr., I. 297.

Dickens, I. 170, 180, 514; II. 25, 60, 62, 67, 91, 93, 94.

Disappointment, I. 113, 125.

Discipline, I. 35.

Discouragement, I. 127-130.

Dissection Bill, Mr. Warburton’s, I. 295.

Doddridge, I. 4.

Dream, infant, I. 11.

Dreaming, mesmeric, I. 515, 516.

Dreams, vain-glorious, I. 34.

Dresser, Amos, I. 363.

Drummond, Mr., I. 15, 34, 60, 165, 196, 198.

Drummond, Thomas, I. 467.

Dryden, I. 215.

Durham, Lord, I. 193, 236, 237, 257, 258, 260, 425-428, 461, 467.

Eastern Life,I. 551.

Eastlake, Sir C., I. 276, 277.

Edgeworth, Miss, I. 93, 94, 319, 320, 324.

Education, careful, I. 20, 21.

Effort, literary, I. 104-107, 112.

Efforts, fruitless, I. 126.

Embarkation, I. 332.

Emerson, Charles, I. 375.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, I. 375, 382, 549.

Empson, Mr., I. 160, 162, 245, 250.

Encouragement, first, I. 131.

Enfield, Dr., I. 226.

Engagements, spring, II. 91.

Essays, prize, I. 119-121.

Esterhazy, Prince, I. 421.

Evans, Mr., I. 293.

Everett, Mr. Edward, I. 352, 375, 380.

Ewart, Mr., I. 532.

Exercises, Sunday, I. 25.

Experience and progress, I. 466-471.

Fanaticism, I. 73.

Faraday, I. 209, 298.

Farming, small, II. 34, 35.

Father, I. 97.

Fiction, plot in, I. 181.

Field, buying a, I. 499.

Fillmore, I. 380.

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Fisher, Mr. and Mrs., I. 283.

Flattery, I. 387.

Foliage, thirst for, I. 487.

Follen, Dr., II. 100.

Follen, Dr. and Mrs., I. 344, 345, 347, 352, 363, 366, 369, 390, 466.

Fonblanque, II. 33.

Forbes, Dr., I. 519.

“Forest and Game-Law Tales,” I. 521.

Fox, Mr., I. 106, 110-112, 115, 124, 126, 127, 129, 152, 190, 194, 230, 329.

Franklin, Dr., I. 27.

Friends, American, I. 391.

Fry, Mrs., I. 173.

Fuller, Margaret, I. 380-384, 517.

Garrison, I. 338, 346, 365, 369, 372, 373.

Gift, a fairy, I. 503.

Gillies, Miss, I. 293, 294.

Gilman, Mr. and Mrs., I. 298.

Gilman, Mrs., I. 344.

Glasscock, Captain, I. 535.

Godwin, I. 301-305.

Gregory, Professor, I. 515, 517.

Grey, Lord, I. 460, 461, 467.

Grote, Mr., I. 260.

“Guide to Service,” I. 416.

Guizot, M., I. 177.

Gurney, Joseph John, I. 228.

Gurney, Priscilla, I. 228.

Gurneys, the, I. 134.

Hale, Mr., I. 353, 354.

Hall, Mr. Spencer, I. 473, 475.

Hall, Mrs. S. C., I. 412.

Hallam, Mr., I. 230, 231, 239, 245, 250-252, 325, 486, 497.

Hallams, the, I. 250.

Halliday, Mrs., I. 444.

Harness, I. 253.

Harper, Mr., I. 398, 400.

Hartley on Man, I. 80, 81.

Hayne, Governor, I. 343.

Henley, Lord, I. 203, 331, 467.

Herschel, Sir John, I. 209, 431.

Hill, Rowland, I. 309, 310; II. 89.

History, Introductory, II. 19.

Hoax, the Fraser, I. 320.

Holidays, I. 283.

Holland, Dr., I. 250.

Holland, Lady, I. 245.

Holley, Mrs., I. 366.

Holm, Mr., I. 298.

Holman, I. 186.

Home, life at, II. 89.

Home, London, I. 189.

Home, return, II. 103.

Horne, I. 287.

Horner, I. 241.

Host, Philadelphia, I. 360.

Houlstons, the, I. 102-105.

“Hour and the Man, The,” I. 446.

“Household Education,” II. 4.

“Household Words,” II. 31.

“Household Words,” secession from, II. 93, 94.

House-hunting, I. 497.

Howitt, Mr. and Mrs., I. 313.

“How to observe,” I. 416.

Hume, Mr., I. 135, 149.

Hunt, F. K., II. 82, 85, 87-89, 96, 98.

Hunt, Leigh, I. 287.

Hunt, Mr., death of, II. 99.

Hutton, I. 283.

Hutton, Messrs., II. 70.

Illness, I. 193, 443.

Illness, false sentiment about, I. 441.

Illness, last, II. 101.

Impressions, early, I. 9.

Interdicts, foreign, I. 179.

Interference, I. 453-455.

Introduction, I. 1-6.

Invitations, political, II. 11-14.

“Ireland, Letters from,” II. 85.

Jackson, Francis, I. 347, 349, 352.

Jackson, President, I. 378.

Jameson, Mrs., I. 265.

Jane, servant, I. 518-521.

Jeffrey, I. 237-239, 241, 246, 297, 506.

Jeffrey, Mrs., I. 337.

Jerrold, Douglas, I. 180; II. 32.

J., Miss, I. 331, 332.

Jocelyn, Lord, II. 99.

Johnson, Dr., I. 3, 221.

Johnstone, Sir Alexander, I. 185-187.

Journey, a, I. 531.

Journey, autumn, I. 428-430.

Journey, first long, I. 23.

Joux, trip to, I. 437.

Julius, Dr., I. 335, 336, 340, 341, 360.

Keats, I. 508.

Kelty, Miss, I. 321.

Kemble, Fanny, I. 180.

Kembles, the, I. 275, 276.

Kenrick, Mr., I. 79.

Ker, Mrs., I. 283.

Kneeland, Abner, I. 359.

Knight, Mr. Charles, I. 332, 408, 416, 428, 429, 449; II. 2, 4, 18.

Laing, Mr., I. 164, 455.

Lambton, George, I. 428.

Landon, Miss, I. 318.

Landseer, Sir E., I. 265.

Lansdowne, Lord and Lady, I. 251, 296.

Lardner, Dr., I. 430.

Latham, Dr., II. 101, 102.

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Lawyers, the, I. 254.

Lectures, II. 4-10.

Lee, James Martineau, I. 107.

Legacies, anatomical, I. 295.

Leicester, Lord, I. 467.

Lessons, our, I. 41.

Letters, publication of, I. 2-6.

“Letters on Man’s Nature and Development,” II. 30.

Life, leaving, II. 105-112.

Life, single, I. 100-102.

Lindsay, Lady C., I. 425.

Lionism, literary, I. 141, 205-225.

Littré, II. 57.

Lockhart, Mr., I. 151, 154-158, 414, 434.

Lodgings, Birmingham, II. 69.

Lofft, Capel, Jr., I. 313, 314.

Lombe, Mr., II. 66, 67, 74, 97.

Loring, E. G., I. 344, 345, 348-350, 355, 363, 364.

Lovejoy, I. 363.

Luxuries, new, II. 86.

Lyells, the, I. 268, 269, 326.

Lytton, E. L. Bulwer, I. 472.

Macaulay, I. 245, 261-264.

Macgregor, I. 311.

Machinations, I. 480.

Macready, I. 274, 293, 314, 317; II. 33.

Madge, Mr., I. 26, 28, 47.

Madison, I. 380.

Malthus, Mr., I. 54, 151-153, 158-160, 191, 247, 248.

Marcet, Mrs., I. 105, 106, 176, 178, 237.

Marsh, Mrs., I. 111, 283, 284.

Marshall, Chief Justice, I. 380, 395, 396.

Martineau, Philip Meadows, I. 6, 76.

May, Rev. S. J., I. 349, 352.

Mazzini, I. 285, 286.

McIan, I. 488.

Meeting, British Association, I. 430.

Melbourne, Lord, I. 417, 418, 422, 425, 462, 463.

Memorial, Boston (Appendix B.), I. 557, 558.

Mental training, differences of, I. 493.

Men, vain, I. 264, 265.

Mesmerism, trial of, I. 474.

Metternich, Prince, I. 176.

Mill, James, I. 329.

Mill, Mr. J. S., I. 313, 408.

Milman, I. 239, 240.

Milnes, R. M., I. 258-260, 279.

Milton, I. 26, 32, 83, 325.

Minot, I. 359.

Miscellanies, II. 31.

Mitford, Miss, I. 315-317.

Money, love of, I. 19.

Montagu, Basil, I. 305, 306, 473, 489.

Montaigne, II. 89.

Monteagle, Lord, I. 310.

Moore, I. 232, 233.

Morgan, Lady, I. 265, 316.

Morpeth, Lord, I. 374.

Mortification, vicious, I. 357.

Mother, death of, II. 15.

Moxon, I. 414, 458, 476, 552.

Murray, Lord, I. 241, 242, 429, 432-434.

Murray, Mr., I. 414, 415, 467, 551; II. 1.

Mystery, a, I. 392-395.

Mystification, I. 24.

Nantes, Edict of, I. 6, 28.

Necessity, doctrine of, I. 84-86.

Needs, religious, I. 31.

New Orleans, night at, I. 392-395.

Newspapers, Boston, I. 355.

Nightingale, Miss, I. 464.

Normanby, Lord, I. 427.

Novel subject for, I. 411.

O’Connell, II. 12, 14.

O’Conner, II. 1, 3, 4.

Opie, Mrs., I. 226, 280, 324.

Osler, Messrs., II. 69.

Otley, I. 399.

Otter, Bishop, I. 257.

Outbreak, I. 66.

Overwork, question of, I. 142.

Owen, Robert, I. 174-176.

Panic, publisher’s, I. 551.

Parable, I. 389, 390.

Parke, Sir James, I. 333.

Parr, Dr., II. 31.

Peabody, Miss, I. 353, 354.

“Peace, History of,” II. 17.

Pedantry, provincial, I. 225.

Peel, Sir R., I. 461.

Penn, William, I. 263.

Pension, Correspondence about a (Appendix B.), I. 587-594.

Pension, offer of, I. 460-463.

Perplexities, theological, I. 31.

Perry, Rev. Isaac, I. 47, 54, 59, 60, 65, 67, 72.

Phillips, I. 274.

“Philosophie Positive,” II. 57, 58, 71.

Philosophy, desideratum in, II. 29.

Philosophy, rest in, II. 28.

Philosophy, restlessness in, II. 27.

Phrenology, hap-hazard, I. 297, 298.

Pierce, I. 380.

“Playfellow, The,” I. 448.

Plot, political, I. 523-526.

Plunket, Lord, II. 13.

Politics, first, I. 18, 61.

Politics, Mediterranean, I. 535.

Poor-Law, new, I. 167.

Porro, Count, II. 14, 15.

Porter, Mr., I. 310-312.

Portraits, I. 293, 294.

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Position, new social, I. 141.

Potter, Mr. G. R., I. 283.

Practice, mesmeric, I. 513.

Prayer, view of, I. 87.

Prejudice, professional, I. 486, 487.

Preparation, method of, I. 147.

Preston, Colonel, I. 343.

Priestley, Dr., I. 81-83, 191, 388.

Print, rushing into, I. 475.

Prisoners, the Canadian, I. 306, 307.

Productions, papers on British, II. 67.

Project, a, II. 25.

Project, new, I. 115.

Proposal, literary, I. 410.

Prosecution for opinion (Appendix B.), I. 557, 558.

Public, the Secularist, I. 550.

Publishers, competition of, I. 399-403.

Publisher, trouble with, I. 191.

Question, the Texas, I. 367, 368.

Question, the vital, I. 371-373.

Question, the Woman, I. 301-303.

Quillinan, Mr., II. 41.

Quincy De, I. 448.

Rammohun Roy, I. 184, 298.

Rankin, Elizabeth, I. 6.

Reading, capacity of, I. 323.

Reid, Mrs., I. 283.

Relations, domestic, I. 77.

Repository, the Monthly, I. 110, 111.

Resolutions, I. 122.

Revelation, problem of, I. 89.

Review, Westminster, the, II. 97.

Richmond, Mr., I. 293, 294.

Rigby, Dr., I. 149.

Robertson, Mr., I. 318.

Roebuck, I. 260, 261, 306.

Rogers, I. 232, 233, 239, 240, 249, 252, 324, 326, 414.

Rogers, Miss, I. 434.

Romer, Mrs., I. 535.

Romillys, I. 249, 255, 305.

Ross, Sir John, I. 246.

Ruin, pecuniary, I. 108, 109.

Rumours, I. 165.

Russell, Lord John, I. 523.

Saunders, I. 400-402, 404.

Saunders and Otley, I. 284, 399, 403.

Savans, the, I. 272.

Sayers, Dr., I. 226.

Scheme, abortive, II. 65.

School, I. 49.

School, close of, I. 53.

Scott, I. 144, 180, 188, 192, 356, 434.

Scrape, a, I. 51.

Sea, A Month at (Appendix C.), I. 559-586.

Sea-side, I. 45.

Season, tourist, I. 529.

Sedgwick, I. 209.

Sedgwick, Miss, I. 376-378, 408, 411.

Sedgwicks, the, I. 359, 376-378.

Senior, Mr., I. 313.

Sensitiveness, Boston, I. 353.

Shakspere, I. 53-55, 67, 180, 218, 219, 224, 270, 293, 325, 429; II. 89.

Shakspere, topographical notes to, I. 429.

Shallowness, Unitarian, I. 29.

Shelley, I. 508.

Shepherd, Lady Mary, I. 279, 280.

“Shirley,” II. 21, 22, 24.

Shyness, I. 42.

“Sick-room, Life in,” I. 456-460.

Sidmouth, I. 61.

Slave-holders, understanding with, I. 343.

Smith, Sir James, I. 226.

Smith, Sydney, I. 145, 186, 237, 244-246, 297, 325, 407, 464.

Snare, a, I. 153.

“Society in America,” I. 405.

Society, old Norwich, I. 225.

Society, the Diffusion, I. 124, 133-135.

Somerville, Mrs., I. 266, 269, 270, 279, 280, 324, 326.

Southey, I. 4, 144, 227, 327, 467.

Stael, Madame de, I. 205.

Stanley, Bishop, I. 256.

Statesmen, baffled, I. 378-380.

Stepney, Lady, I. 280, 281.

Sterling, John, I. 171, 232, 286.

Story, Judge, I. 184.

Story, the old, I. 478.

Stowe, Mrs., I. 358.

Stratheden, Lady, I. 255.

Studies, I. 53.

Studies, biblical, I. 79.

Studies, classical, I. 78.

Studies, topical, I. 512, 513.

Success, I. 135.

Success, results of, I. 201.

Sullivans, the, I. 356, 357.

Sundial again, a, I. 527.

Sunrise, a, I. 13.

Suspension, last, I. 132.

Sydenham, II. 99.

Sydenham, Lord, I. 426, 467.

Tales, early, I. 103.

Tales, materials of, I. 149.

Tales, scenery of, I. 172.

Talfourd, I. 54, 90, 261, 317.

Tappan, Messrs., I. 336.

Taxes, proceedings on, I. 197-199.

Taylor, Mrs. John, I. 226.

Taylor, Mrs. Meadows, I. 19.

Taylor, William, I. 56, 62, 225-227.

Temper, I. 65.

Temper, jealous, I. 15.

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Tennyson, I. 508; II. 89.

Terrors, childish, I. 8, 9.

Testimonial, I. 464, 465.

Testing time, a, I. 375.

Thackeray, I. 180; II. 60, 61.

Thompson, Colonel, I. 523.

Thompson, Mr. George, I. 335, 337, 351, 362.

Thompson, Mr. Vincent, I. 413.

Time, value of, I. 195.

“Times, The,” and the Poor-Law, I. 168-171.

Toynbee, Mr., I. 295, 296.

Travel, conditions of, I. 537.

Travel, invitation to, I. 531.

Travel, need of, I. 330.

Travel, results of, I. 391, 392.

Travel, Scotch, I. 432, 433.

Travellers, British, I. 374.

Tremenheere, Mr. S., I. 503, 510.

Trollope, Mrs., I. 240, 241.

Troubles, personal, I. 69.

Troubles, school, I. 51.

Tuckerman, Miss, I. 353.

Tufnell, Mr., I. 510.

Turner, Ann, I. 14, 22, 33.

Turner, Mr., I. 83.

Twins, Dutch, I. 182.

Tynemouth, going to, I. 443.

Tynemouth, leaving, I. 481.

Tynemouth, window at, I. 445.

Unhappiness, I. 33.

Unitarian Christianity, I. 28-33.

Unitarians, leaving the, I. 119-121.

Urquhart, I. 311, 312.

Visit, country, I. 37.

Visiting, declining local, I. 495.

Visitors, morning, I. 313.

Voyage, critical, I. 533.

Walker, Dr., I. 352-354.

Ware, Henry, I. 346-348, 352, 467.

Warnings, I. 341.

Washington, II. 10, 70.

Wayland, I. 346.

Ways, Belgravian, II. 3.

Ways, village, II. 6.

Webster, I. 372, 378-380.

Wedgwood, I. 283.

“Western Travel, Retrospect of,” I. 407.

Westmacott, I. 274.

Whately, Archbishop, I. 255.

What man can know, II. 76-81.

Whewell, I. 209, 245, 265.

Whishaw, Mr., I. 249-251.

Whisperings on board, I. 336.

Whittaker, I. 126, 127.

Willis, N. P., I. 384, 386.

Wills, Mr., II. 92-95.

Wills, Mr. and Mrs., I. 433.

Windermere, Guide to, II. 91.

Wollstonecraft, Mary, I. 301, 303.

Wordsworth, I. 292, 499, 500, 503-511, 522.

Wordsworth, Mrs., II. 104.

Work, more, I. 170, 409.

Workhouse, night in a, II. 63.

Working, times of, I. 145.

Work of the year, I. 117.

World, last view of, II. 115-124.

Worship, public, I. 17.

Writing, method of, I. 148, 149.

Yates, Mr. and Mrs. R. V., I. 531-533, 552.

Yates, Misses, I. 531.

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“But do thou, O Muse, and thou, Truth, daughter of Zeus, put forth your hands and keep from me the reproach of having wronged a friend by breaking my pledged word. For from afar hath overtaken me the time that was then yet to come, and hath shamed my deep debt.”


“The sea-sand none hath numbered; and the joys that Theron hath given to others — who shall declare the tale thereof?”




Late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co


Edition: current; Page: [134]

Copyright, 1877.


University Press Welch, Bigelow, & Co., Cambridge.

Edition: current; Page: [135]


  • Introduction . . . . . . . . . . Page 137
  • Infancy . . . . . . . . . . . 141
  • Youth . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
  • Womanhood . . . . . . . . . . 153
  • Fame . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
  • Foreign Life, — Western . . . . . . . 225
  • Consequences of Foreign Life, — Without . . . . 285
  • Consequences of Foreign Life, — Within . . . . 303
  • Consequences, — to Life Passive . . . . . . 343
  • Foreign Life, — Eastern . . . . . . . 369
  • Home . . . . . . . . . . . . 377
  • Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . 409
  • The Life Sorrow . . . . . . . . . 427
  • Work . . . . . . . . . . . 443
  • Fresh Foreign Intercourse . . . . . . . 475
  • Conversations . . . . . . . . . . 499
  • Waiting for Death . . . . . . . . . 527
  • Self Estimate, and other . . . . . . . 561
  • Survivorship . . . . . . . . . . 575
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It was about the New Year’s time of 1855, being then resident in Paris, that I wrote to my most valued friend, Harriet Martineau, expressing the natural feelings of the season, and the hope that she would soon visit me. Knowing that she had been even more than commonly occupied, and not in her usual health, I entreated her to spare herself the fatigue of writing to me, unless she had more leisure at command than I supposed. A few days brought me the following letter: —

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
January 24th
My dear Friend,

You are generous in desiring me not to write to you if too busy. I need not say that keeping up my friendship with you is more important than any business, and dearer than most pleasures. I must tell you now why I have not written before; and I wish I could spare you, by the way of telling, any of the pain which I must give you. The last half-year has been the gravest, perhaps, that I have ever known. I think I told you of the sad cholera season when I was at Sydenham, and some of the best people at work among us died, and others were sick, and I had their work to do while ill myself, and sore at heart for the world’s loss in them. Two months later died my very dear friend, the editor of the “Daily News,”* — cut off by a fever at the age of forty, — a man whose place cannot possibly be filled. Since Dr. Follen’s death, I have not had such a personal sorrow; but in sight of his devoted wife and his four children, and the gap made in our public action by his loss, I could not dwell on my own sorrow. And now it turns out that I Edition: current; Page: [138] need not; for I am going to follow him. My dear friend, you are a brave woman, and you have shown that you can serenely part with comrades and friends, and work on for the cause; and you must do the same again. I will try to work with you for such time as I remain; but I am mortally ill, and there is no saying for how long this may be. For many months past I have had symptoms of what now turns out to be organic disease of the heart; — symptoms occasioning so little trouble (no pain), that I did not attend sufficiently to them. Nothing could have been done if I had. The anxiety and fatigue of the autumn increased the ailment, and for a month past, and from week to week, it has become so much worse that I put myself under the charge of Dr. Latham, the first man for heart-complaints. After a little correspondence, we met yesterday. He made a long examination by auscultation, and did not attempt to conceal the nature and extent of the mischief. He made me observe that he gave me his impression, — reserving a positive opinion till he should have watched the case; but the impression was one which he would not have communicated if he had not been very sure of his ground. From his being unable to feel the pulsation of the heart in any direction, while it is audible over a large surface, he believes that the organ is extremely feeble in structure, — “too weak for its work,” — and very greatly enlarged. The treatment prescribed only shows the desperation of the case. We do not yet know when I may return home, — I wish to be there for the latter period, — which may be a long one for aught I know, but I think not, from the great progress the case has made within a month. If I should be living when you are in England, I am sure you will come and see me: you will meet me if I am alive, and we can manage it. If not, my beloved friend, take my blessing on yourself and your labors, and my assurance that my knowledge of you has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life.

This is not the answer you are looking for to your charming invitation; but such is life, and such a marplot is death! I think you can hardly want much information as to my state of feeling. My life has been a full and vivid one, — so that I consider myself a very old woman indeed, and am abundantly satisfied with my share in the universe (even if that were of any real consequence). I have not the slightest anxiety about dying, — not the slightest reluctance to it. I enjoy looking on, and seeing our world under the operation of a law of progress; and I really do not feel that my dropping out of it, now or a few years hence, is a matter worth drawing attention to at Edition: current; Page: [139] all, — my own or another’s. Your friend’s book arrived safe, — you must have it again, dear friend. Your name is on it, and it shall return to you. I have, as yet, only looked at it. When I go home, I will see whether or not I can read it, and serve it by notice. I hope to work to the last in the “Daily News,” which is easy work, and the most important possible; and now the more so because the present editor is more up to American subjects than any Englishman I have met with. It is really a substantial comfort to find how sound and enlightened and heartily conscientious he is about the vices of Yankeedom and the merits of your true patriots.

And now, dear friend, farewell, at least for the present. If you wish to write, do so. But I do not ask it, because I desire that you should do what is most congenial to your own feelings. If you do write, address to Ambleside, for I cannot at all tell how long I must remain here, and your letters will be constantly forwarded.

My love to your daughters and your sisters, and best wishes to your son-in-law.

I am, while I live,
Your loving friend,

After the reception of this letter our correspondence became very frequent; for we felt that her hold on life was so precarious, that every interchange of thought or feeling became doubly precious. Her letters to me were all charming in their tone of elevated good sense, deep and tender feeling, and natural cheerfulness.

On the 26th of March I received one which did not fail to produce all the effect that from her long knowledge of me she was so well able to foresee.

“I take courage this fine morning to write to you on the subject nearest my heart. It will come very near to yours too; and that is why I feel a sort of shrinking from exciting so much emotion as my proposition will awaken in you. Also I shall rather dread the quenching of a new hope by your reply. The matter is this. You know I am writing my Autobiography. While it was an infant matter, and there seemed reason to suppose I should not live to do much of it, I yearned to ask you to undertake to finish it. But there seemed too much English literary work. Now, the case is altered. Edition: current; Page: [140] I have done so much, and seem so likely to do more, if not even the whole of the interior life, that I may fairly indulge my first wish, and look to you . . . . to render the last services to me.”

She went on to speak of my peculiar qualifications to treat of the whole remarkable American period of her life, which had so largely modified all that remained; and she mentioned three misgivings she felt in making her request.

First, that I should not have time to fulfil it, in the midst of the antislavery labours in which I was always fully engaged; second, that I might decide it to be injurious to the cause for me to issue the biography of “such an infidel as herself:” and third, that I might praise her too much. — “You greatly overrate me.”

In case of my acceptance, she placed at my discretion the whole immense mass of journals, memoranda, letters, papers, and manuscript studies of her whole life.

There is no need to say what I felt of sorrow and of inadequacy for the service demanded. But I could not hesitate; and I replied, while combating her choice with all the arguments I possessed, that, in case it remained unchanged, there was nothing she could ask that I could refuse: I was wholly at her disposition, living or dying. Her mind remained unchanged, even after the part undertaken by herself was completed: and thus it was that it became my duty to take up the parallel thread of her exterior life, — to gather up and co-ordinate from the materials placed in my hands the illustrative facts and fragments by her omitted or forgotten; and to show, as far as I may, what no mind can see for itself, — the effect of its own personality on the world.

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The poor Duckling was hunted about by every one. . . . . And the Cat said to it, ‘Can you bend your back and purr and give out sparks?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then please to have no opinion of your own while sensible folks are speaking.’ And the Duckling sat in a corner, and was melancholy, and the fresh air and the sunshine streamed in, and it was seized with such a longing to swim on the water that it could not help telling the Hen of it. ‘It is so charming to swim, and so refreshing to dive down to the bottom.’ ‘A mighty pleasure,’ said the Hen. ‘I fancy you must have gone crazy. Ask the Cat; ask our mistress the old woman, the cleverest animal I know, and who so clever as she? Do you think they have any desire to swim, and let the water close over their heads?’ ‘You don’t understand me,’ said the Duckling.”

Hans Christian Andersen.

For a thorough comprehension of the eminent personage of whose interior life we have been thus made sharers, it is necessary to cast a single retrospective glance over the land into which she was born.

It was the isolated, Tory-governed England of more than seventy years ago, — the England of agricultural, commercial, colonial, and manufacturing monopoly; the England of religious disabilities, feminine disqualifications, and sharp class distinctions; the England of unquestioned universal taxation; the England of poor-laws, game-laws, corn-laws, tithes, and slavery.

Who could have foreseen, in this delicate, suffering infant the influential opposer of all these great national evils? And yet one cannot help observing, in the current of her early feelings and thoughts as exhibited in the Autobiography, the very character which should mark the great reformer and legislator. What she was as a child she continued essentially to be as a woman. Never was a human being more of one piece through life. The few authentic anecdotes of her childhood that are to be found Edition: current; Page: [142] beyond the limits of the preceding Autobiography show the same groundwork of character as her most recent experience. There is development, improvement, progress, — but not change.

In order to appreciate justly the powers of a human being, we must note the obstacles to be overcome; and the circumstances of Harriet Martineau’s infancy were sadly obstructive. Anxious, nervous, and timid from ill health, plain in feature and awkward for lack of self-esteem, her great powers found neither recognition nor sympathy. Had they been as tenderly hailed and cherished as they were systematically humbled and denied, what a waste of energy had been avoided, and what unnecessary suffering spared! Had she been the eldest child, to have been praised by a vain mother, or the youngest, to have been petted by a fond one, she would not have been so painfully deprived of the natural current of hope and joy that lifts human nature so happily over the entrance of life. But at the period of her birth children had ceased to be a novelty in the household. The sixth of a family of eight, she was neither petted nor praised. It was her lot to be disciplined, and that not wisely. The feeble, humble, grandly endowed child was alternately neglected and tormented, and all her welfare and happiness sacrificed by the high-spirited, clever, conscientious mother, whose sense of duty far outstripped her power of sympathy.

Thus hardly dealt with by her mother, and subjected to the arrogant quizzing of the elder children, the first words of encouragement she ever received came to her in the guise of severity. She was suffering from a fly having got into her eye. “Harriet!” said the mother, firmly grasping her for the operation, “I know that you have resolution, and you must stand still till I get it out.” Thus conjured, the startled, nervous little creature never stirred till the obstruction was removed. — And was she, the trembling little one, “with cheeks pale as clay,” “flat white forehead over which the hair grew low,” “eyes hollow, — eyes light, large, and full, generally red with crying, — a thoroughly scared face,” — was she, then, resolute? She ran to the great gateway near the street, and beckoned to a playmate, to tell her what her mother had said. “Is that all you Edition: current; Page: [143] have made me come to hear?” It was the first encouraging word she had ever heard, and she could find no one with whom to share the new joy. Till now she had never thought herself worth any thing whatever. Her whole infancy confirmed the profound intuition of Madame de Staël, that suffering carries trouble even into the conscience. She had naturally thought, because she was miserable, that she was stupid, wicked, and disagreeable. Henceforward, scoldings always cheered her when they implied a recognition of any value in her character or acquirements. An accusation of carelessness was in this way converted into a sort of moral support. Her tippet slipped awry one Sunday morning before chapel; and, while pinning it straight, her mother sternly bade her remember that superior book-knowledge will never make up for being troublesome. All service-time and long after did she ponder whether she had book-knowledge. To such a child “the taking-down system,” as she has called it, might have been fatal. And it seems to have been England’s fatal mistake, — the mistake of a race as well as that of a family; — in education, in criticism, in legislation. New England, though more lax in educational discipline, has been thought by strangers no less cold and dry of heart than Old England. The distinguished French statesman and author, Gustave de Beaumont, observing upon the extreme rarity of any demonstrations of tenderness in American households, declares that the few families in which he noticed them were called in derision “the kissing families.”

The probability seems to be that an examination of French and English domestic life would prove the happy childhood of Marmontel and the wretched one of Lady Jane Grey to be tolerable representative cases for each nation. The “little hearts palpitating with joy” to the bubbling of the boiling chestnuts, “the best of grandmothers and the most temperate of women making us all gluttons by dividing among us the quince she had so much enjoyed roasting for us beneath the ashes,” — is the French pendant to the English picture of Lady Jane Grey, rigorously held, “with pinches, nips, and bobs,” to do every thing “even so perfectly as God made the world;” — till, for very wretchedness, Edition: current; Page: [144] she wished herself well out of it. In such national pictures, rank makes no difference. The whole is a matter of race; and the advantage is so manifestly with the gentler one, as to demand a reform in the other. The sterner one claims that its hardness and coldness are merely exterior. Be it so. But there are some overt acts that warm and tender hearts should debar themselves: — flogging, fagging, and “taking down.” Harriet Martineau’s opposite nature rose up in after times against it, in all these departments of human life. The sweet, protesting Huguenot blood seems to have been concentrated in so large a measure in Harriet Martineau, and so combined with her other great endowments, as to make her a mystery to her family. This a child could not, of course, suspect or comprehend; and she went on blaming herself at every instance of incompatibility. Well might her affectionate, sympathetic nature cry aloud from that time forward for gentler methods of discipline and a freer effusion of heart; since only twice in all her childhood could she remember to have received any demonstrations of tenderness.

One among many anecdotes which come to me perfectly authenticated shows how impossible it was for Harriet Martineau to conceive of those class distinctions which are so generally uppermost in the thoughts of her countrymen, as to have drawn satirical rebuke from minds utterly unlike her own, in being by no means too grandly made to be instantly classified.

A distant cousin, of a branch of the family which had fallen through poverty into a social position inferior to the rest, became the subject of conversation in Harriet’s hearing. “After all,” observed the mother, “she is the handsomest of the clan.” When her mother and Mrs. Opie were talking over the annoyance of the begging relation, Harriet repeated the remark about the solitary beauty of the family. “Why should she not repeat it?” was her reply to subsequent reproofs. “Indeed, Harriet, if you do not see why, it is of no use to try to explain to you.” Of no use, in truth. Her choice and treatment of subjects in her whole literary career show that she never attained the power of attaching ideas of disgrace or honour to mere social conditions: Edition: current; Page: [145] and she transcended them in every direction, from childhood onward.

Whether all be for the best or no, one thing is certain, — that the best may always be made of it. Heart-breaking as it is to see the noblest germs of human character treated as weeds to be eradicated, and the broad, deep sympathies that knew no limitations of egotism mistakenly repressed, and their necessary reaction strangely stigmatized as arrogance and obstinacy, there is a consolation in the thought that all this weight of suffering inflicted on a being so conscientious and sensitive, however hurtful as personal discipline, wrought a preparation for incalculable public service. The affections so outraged and repressed did but flow the stronger and deeper. Injustice could not pervert a natural rectitude so true, nor oppression harden into selfishness a sympathy so tender. They did but render “metal-strong” the poet heart that gave itself to life’s great organ-music in the after years, so early, so gladly, and with so full a consciousness.

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  • “Looks commercing with the skies.”
  • Milton.
  • “The intellectual power, through words and things
  • Went sounding on.”
  • Wordsworth.
  • “In to-day already walks to-morrow.”
  • Schiller, Wallenstein.

I am indebted to friends of her youth older than herself for a picture of Harriet Martineau as she was in her school-days. “She was,” says one of them, “what is called among us in England an old-fashioned child, — sententious and thick of utterance.” “A little prim thing, with a very grave countenance, — the companion and care-taker of her younger brother, who was an irritable child.” The same sketch gives an outline of her mother. “It was the first time I had ever seen her, and she frightened me. She appeared to me to order every thing and every body right and left, and though by no means an indulgent mother, she was yet a proud one, and had confidence in the results of her own management and system of education. I was so much impressed by her cleverness, and felt that she had such a contempt for myself and the way in which I was brought up, that never, to the day of her death, did I fail to be taken by surprise by any expression on her part of confidence in my judgment, pleasure in my company, or approbation of my household. The apprehension of this formidable visitor on the first occasion made me ill. It was the setting-down way she had, which was so terrible to sensitive young people, and which her own children felt, though I do not know that the two eldest ever experienced it to the same degree. Perhaps her young Edition: current; Page: [148] mother pride and instinct suppressed it. When she was at the age of thirteen I saw much of Harriet. I remember no tenderness towards her, but the same severity and sharpness of manner, cleverness of management, and sarcastic observation of other people’s management. I thought Harriet at that time a clever child, but an odd and wise one. She used then, I remember, to be left much by herself, — put aside, as it were. . . . . At that time she was occasionally a little deaf. After this time I do not remember hearing of her except at school at Bristol, — of her being happy there, and a great favourite. What a good thing, I thought, for Harriet, that she has found friends of her own, and encouragement: for I had a vague and private idea that she was not developed at home. Next I was gratified and surprised to receive a most affectionate letter from her, on an occasion of severe affliction, and I was pleased to think I might find a second friend in that family, — her elder sister and myself having been intimate for years. Then Harriet visited me, and I began to like and understand her.” This same friend saw Harriet Martineau in various circumstances of trial and sorrow, and says thereupon, “I frequently saw her own cheerful simplicity and fortitude construed by others into coldness and indifference. I did not generalize at the time as I have since done, but I then learned that the heart runs the risk of being thought cold which does not overrule and outstep every other faculty and power. Folly, with a display of selfish feeling, is excused; but the tenderest heart obeying a higher command is not appreciated, except by those who know it intimately.”

Amid all the obstructions of this period of her early youth she was in one thing most fortunate. Her strong intellectual powers were committed to the training of a schoolmaster who was a scholar, and in companionship with his boy pupils. Both these circumstances insured her the inestimable advantage of a thorough classical and mathematical groundwork of education, freed from the mistake that there is a female road to knowledge. Her delight in reading found its satisfaction in the best English poetry, history, critical literature, and a political newspaper. Edition: current; Page: [149] Thus deeply and soundly were laid the foundations of her literary life.

Neither does her boarding-school life at Bristol seem to have been weakened down to a supposed inferiority in the needs of woman. One of her schoolmates thus gives me her impressions of that time.

“Harriet was considered among us as especially the good girl, always working diligently and conscientiously, and never seeming to think pleasure possible till duty was performed. Her companions thought her very clever, but I think she then showed no signs of brilliant abilities. She was perhaps more respected by them than loved; but liked by all; for from her they never felt any inconveniences of ill-temper and selfishness. She was not ambitious of shining or pleasing; was sometimes thought conceited because she was not content with a low aim in any thing, nor ever seemed to doubt her power to learn or to do what she proposed to herself. She had much reverence in her character, and I always thought a true humility. Her manner was quiet and reserved, rather than melancholy or timid. She appeared self-possessed, but was very silent and uncommunicative, except in quiet conversation with a friend, when her thoughtful and affectionate nature came out freely. She seldom or never talked of herself on such occasions; rather of her family and her friends, of whom she always spoke in such a way that it became a proverb among us that ‘all the Norwich geese were swans.’ Wordsworth’s line would have more correctly described her, —

  • ‘True to the kindred points of Heaven and home’

“She was graver and laughed more rarely than any young person I ever knew. Her face was plain, and (you will scarcely believe it) she had no light in the countenance, no expression to redeem the features. The low brow and rather large under lip increased the effect of her natural seriousness of look, and did her much injustice. I used to be asked occasionally, ‘What has offended Harriet, that she looks so glum?’ I, who understood her, used to answer, ‘Nothing; she is not offended; it is only her look.’

“She was fond of poetry, Milton and Wordsworth especially. She first made me acquainted with Lycidas. I can now recall her tone and manner in many passages of that poem, as well as in certain parts of the New Testament, which we used to read at night together in our bedroom.

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“I do not suppose that she showed promise at that time of any thing remarkable. Some were greatly surprised when she published, some years afterwards, a volume of meditations and prayers. The late Dr. Carpenter, who knew little of her except as a student in his Sunday class, expressed so much surprise at that time as to astonish me, who saw nothing in it that I did not know to be in her.”

Harriet Martineau speaks in her Autobiography of her infant concealments occasioned by fear; but the declaration of all her early friends whom I have known is uniform as to the beautiful sincerity of her character and the habitual truthfulness of her intercourse in youth. The expression of one of them is, “She seemed, above all, to desire truth in the inward part.”

All her family and friends were, at this time, disagreeably impressed with the first evidences of that integrity of mind and impartiality of judgment which made her in after life the chosen umpire and advocate of all classes and conditions of men who desire to have wrong righted. When, piercing through appearances to the very heart of things, she stood by the royal family against the Martineau family,* she was met by a shout of derision and a reprimand for immorality. Unlike the French statesman who “passed his life in coming to the rescue of the strongest,” her true and heroic instincts always drew her to the side of the most defenceless, wherever that post might chance to be. One of the latest acts of her life was an endeavour to procure the correction, by the editor of the “Nation” (an American newspaper she very highly esteemed), of a misrepresentation that had crept into it about the Prince of Wales and Dean Stanley’s sermon on his departure for India.

Thus passed the thoughtful, dutiful youth of Harriet Martineau, in serious studies, as well as others that were in that day called accomplishments. Her delight in music and in modern languages, so soon to receive a check from her increasing deafness, was still unalloyed. Her resolute spirit bore down by method and industry, even at that early age, all weakness of the flesh. To her classical and belles-lettres studies she joined biblical and metaphysical ones. But the influence of Unitarianism Edition: current; Page: [151] proper seems in her case to have been, in a sense, an obstructive one. It releases from authority without committing to reason, and is therefore obliged to rely upon routine, which fetters the imagination. Its chief excellency in England (cited by Dr. Channing as its great defect) had by this time, too, become obscure: it was no longer the synonyme of political protest; though the reflected light of Priestley’s life still illuminated it to the eye of Harriet Martineau.

All the above-mentioned studies, not customarily permitted to women at that period in England any more than in the United States, were planned for and encouraged by Mrs. Martineau. Her own superior mind bore to her unmistakable inward witness that the education which was good for her sons must be no less beneficial to her daughters; and Harriet profited by that conviction to the utmost, while cultivating to the highest degree every household accomplishment, and fulfilling every domestic duty. All this while she never suspected her own superiority, and continued to suppose herself in the wrong, or at least to be painfully puzzled, as often as she felt the sharp pain of a sphere too contracted for her faculties, and unrelieved by sympathetic appreciation. Still, she was not entirely without support of this kind. Her gentle and loving aunt and her other Bristol friends fathomed somewhat of her nature, and one of her early and elder friends in another quarter, afterwards the wife of her beloved brother Robert, reports to me the impression she made at that time, — the period of her leaving school. “I was an only and indulged child,” says this friend, “and my mother took pleasure in seeing me surround myself with my young friends; so I filled the house with them as often and as much as I liked. She used frequently to say to me on occasion of their visits, ‘Ah, my dear, Harriet Martineau is the one of your friends whose society is really a benefit to you.’ ”

To the world of readers of her Autobiography, which enables them to comprehend her whole compass of character, there remains no such mystery as shrouded it in those early days from her own household, when she seems to have been like the “ugly duckling” of Hans Christian Andersen, and made her very Edition: current; Page: [152] transparency the most incomprehensible mystery of all. They already see how her life at this period, and ever after, must perforce turn on two main points, the causes of all its joys, its sorrows, its conflicts, and its vast and happy influences: her love of truth, — the desire to come into real relations with the world of things; and her power of sympathy, — the need to come into real relations with the world of persons.

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  • “Lady, that in the prime of earliest youth
  • Wisely hast shunned the broad way and the green,
  • And with those few art eminently seen
  • That labour up the hill of heavenly Truth,
  • The better part with Mary and with Ruth
  • Chosen thou hast.”
  • Milton.
  • “Her open eyes desire the Truth.
  • The Wisdom of a thousand years
  • Is in them.”
  • Tennyson.

At the age of nearly seventeen Harriet Martineau’s school life closed. It had been very favorable to the development of her powers. It had strongly ministered to her affections, hitherto so painfully repressed, awakened the faculty of admiration, and stimulated her imagination by glimpses of a beauty in nature and a power in art till then but imperfectly felt.

It is impossible, indeed, to look down on Bristol from Brandon Hill, and watch the creeping gold that catches spire and tower as the mist gives way beneath the morning sun, till St. Stephen’s, St. Mary Redcliffe, and many another precious remnant of antiquity shine out from the belt of trees and bristling masts, without feeling how it was that here the deeper spell of poetry should have been fully opened to a mind already awakened to its marvels and its charm. No wonder that here, about Leigh Woods, King’s-Weston, and the Downs, she should have been transported, as she has told us, “to a rapture that knew no bounds:” for these are the very “beaked promontories” where Milton made Lycidas the genius of the shore; and when she Edition: current; Page: [154] read the promise “of his large recompense,” it was with a passion so deep that her early friend was haunted by the tone after the lapse of wellnigh forty years.

The circumscriptions of the English Unitarianism of that period were thus met by so strong a counteracting force as to make them an unmingled benefit. She was not, indeed, one that could be imprisoned in the ordinary Sunday-school routine of its Scripture commentaries, Gospel harmonies, sacred geographies, or Biblical lessons; but all these were fused by her active mind to a sort of basis on which her devotional feelings and her poetical conceptions alternately wrought; and where by means of scientific investigation and philosophical study she was continually adding, rejecting, and rectifying as years went on. She was always as diligent and persevering as if she had not possessed quick and brilliant faculties; always accepting at all risks whatever she found to be true.

There was little in the old cathedral city of Norwich, with its narrow, ill-paved, winding streets and uninteresting antiquity, to distract her mind or give variety to her life. It had nothing of the bustling character of the business cities of the North of England. Its very manufacturing celebrity dates from times before the Norman Conquest. These woollen manufactures have since received improvements from age to age, as religious persecution drove hither from France and Flanders the men of thought, skill, and energy, who were the leaders of the spirit of their times. Among them came the French Huguenot ancestor of the English Martineau family; and that name is among those which appear most frequently on the records of the little Protestant church founded at Norwich in 1564, at the instance of the Duke of Norfolk. The crest pertaining to the name is a water-marten.

An engraving of Harriet Martineau’s birthplace is given in this volume. The house was in a court in Magdalen Street, and she was born in the upper bay-room. But it was never her dwelling-place after the time of her removal from it at three months old. It was to her home in Magdalen Street itself that she returned from Bristol, — to the household and family duties, the manly studies, the literary pursuits, and lady-like accomplishments, Edition: current; Page: [155] which she so much enjoyed, as one does the things in which one greatly excels.

The prevailing tone of mind in England at the beginning of the present century was far more opposed than in the United States to the education of women. Public opinion on that subject had, in fact, gone backward since the times when the daughters of families assumed to be “the best” studied with their brothers the learned languages in which knowledge was then locked up; while it has been true of New England, as it still continues to be, that, among its inhabitants generally, the women possessed more literary culture than the men. Hence the idea of a professional career for women who desire it meets with so little comparative opposition here. In Miss Martineau’s youth, to say of a lady in England that she was a learned woman, was to convey a disparaging meaning; while to say in New England, in its old-fashioned phrase, “She has good learning,” was to express something greatly to her credit. I well remember the London tone of 1825 on this subject. It was the echo of twenty years before, when Matt Lewis took his mother to task for writing a novel, enjoining on her “whatever might be its merits, even if she had already made a bargain with the publisher, to break it; for he held that a woman had no business to be a public character, and that in proportion as she acquires notoriety she loses delicacy;” he “always considering a female author as a sort of half-man.” It was this feeling in the moral atmosphere that made Mrs. Martineau, naturally ambitious of social success and distinction for her daughter, direct that her serious studies should be carried on out of sight and with reserve, putting the music, fancy-work, and French, German, and Italian literature in the foreground, till the time when the pecuniary misfortunes of the family absolved its daughters from this obligation and left them free to fulfil a better work for society than obedience to its injurious whimseys. Much power now begins to be saved among women on both sides of the Atlantic that seventy years ago was wasted (and worse than wasted) by concealment and the disadvantage of indirect exercise. To no one of the intervening period is this so greatly Edition: current; Page: [156] owing as to Harriet Martineau. Her life tells upon her own and after times with a power quite unexampled, because it was a life not only true and noble, but irreproachable.

Meanwhile, obedience and humility (too much of both, had they not been prompted by filial affection and occasionally abated by good sense) continued to mark her character as in her earliest years. Her tendencies continued as strongly religious, and the intellectual preponderance to be more strikingly marked than ever. She was more favourably situated in her own family than young ladies in general, for the cultivation of her mental powers; for her mother’s fine sense, and strong consciousness of the hidden man in her own heart, were on the right side. So was the feeling of the brothers who encouraged her first literary efforts. “Go on and prosper, dear!” says the beloved eldest brother, Thomas, writing from Madeira, after receiving her first work, “Devotional Exercises;” “you are engaged in pursuits that bring with them true pleasure, and confer real advantage; may you be abundantly rewarded.” This was great encouragement to one so sensitive and self-distrusting, and encouragement was what her nature especially needed. He had already determined her career by the manner in which he received her first article in the “Monthly Repository.” “My dear, leave it to other women to make shirts and darn stockings, and do you give yourself to this.” I do not believe she ever forgot a single one of the rare words of family appreciation she received; and I have heard her relate with much feeling the effect produced on her mind by an encouraging word from her mother, when, at ten years old, she sat trying to learn to sew, under the heart-sinking apprehension that she should never succeed. She stood with her face to the window to hide her tears, as the needle squeaked through the dingy gusset she was stitching, her sister Rachel at play with a visitor, and Harriet longing to join. Her mother entered the room with her eldest sister, both dressed for making visits, and approaching the suffering, stitching, striving child, said cheerfully, as she examined the work, “Why, Harriet! if you go on in this way, you will soon be the best needlewoman of us all.” She always described the revulsion of feeling consequent on this expression Edition: current; Page: [157] of maternal satisfaction as a ray of light and life; and she dated from it her success in all those little feminine handicrafts which then went by the name of “fancy-work,” in which she so greatly delighted and excelled.

I should have related this recollection at an earlier period, but it matters the less, that her childhood was womanly and thoughtful. She herself says, “I had no spring.” I never, indeed, met one like her for wholeness of character through life. She always seemed to me to have been, so to say, of one piece. It was in part the secret of her great educational power. She not only remembered the feelings of her own childhood, but felt them over again, through life. “Why did they dress us so ill?” she once said, in talking over the griefs of childhood. “It has a dreadfully depressing influence, when it is a thing that can as well as not be helped.”

I have never been able to find the essay, “On Female Writers on Practical Divinity,” in which Dr. Thomas Martineau saw the promise of her future greatness, and which her mature judgment treats with so much contempt. The title indicates the turn of her thoughts at that time. With her fervent religious feelings, there was a moment, at this period, such as sends a grifted young Catholic devotee to the cloister to be a lady abbess, and bids a young man of similar genius become a bishop. One of her early and most beloved friends recollects the great regret she expressed at the marriage of a young lady, the friend of both, “because it would deprive her of larger opportunities of usefulness to the world.” This idea seems to have had but a momentary existence. It was one of the visions of eighteen.

In searching for her earlier writings I have no difficulty in finding the little book of Addresses which she valued on account of the pleasure it gave her father,* and for that alone in after years. Very recently friends of hers have expressed to me their astonishment that she should since have entirely forgotten the book of which edition after edition passed the press, not only in England, but in America. The wonder, however, would have been had she remembered it; for the form is wholly traditional, Edition: current; Page: [158] and the devotional sentiment, true and beautiful as it is, would necessarily be lost in the first influx of original thought and deeper feeling that accompany the real life. But many go no further in experience than this book; and to all that thus stop living at the threshold it will supply a want.

The book which preceded this — “Devotional Exercises” — is admirably compiled, in conformity, as she says in the Preface, with “the prayers I have been accustomed to form under the guidance of able teachers for my own use;” and it differs from the customary tone of Unitarian teachings only in a more poetical way of presenting them, and in a certain perfume of orthodoxy inseparable from her greater use of Scripture phraseology. The book is, in fact, a digest of favourite passages from the Bible poets, prophets, and apostles, cemented together by expressions which show that her fervent spirit had found prayer “under guidance” too dry a task. It is the effort of a superior mind to lift its religion out of the region of commonplace. “Being yet young,” she says (the date is 1823), “I have a vivid remembrance of the ideas and feelings which in early youth I found to be most impressive, and to excite the most powerful emotions, and which are by no means the same ideas and feelings which produce these effects at a more advanced age. Possessing these remembrances, I must believe that the young are best fitted to write for the young in most cases where the feelings and affections are concerned; and therefore I have written down the thoughts which used to present themselves in a natural train of reflection.” To the young, forty is old age; and she thought the absence of warmth which Evangelical Christians always complain of in Unitarianism, the consequence of the advanced years of its advocates. She determined, by pouring in her own glow of heart, to make the dry bones live; and not without success, as the call for the book attests. Its feeling is genuine, and the occasional escape from the traditional form is very touching; as, for example, when, after condemning those who are wholly engrossed in the care of their own happiness, she says: “O, surely the spirit of love is the noblest and best that can dwell in the human heart! it is a portion of God’s own spirit! it is Edition: current; Page: [159] the mind which was in Christ Jesus! O noble example of this glorious virtue! let that mind be in me also! May thy labours, thy sufferings, thy strivings to promote the good of all, not be lost upon me! May they animate me to follow in thy steps, to press forward to the goal which thou hast reached, like thee seeking no reward.” There is also a very beautiful and eloquent passage respecting “those lofty and sublime affections which can find no fit object on earth; that adoration of perfection, that aspiring after something nobler and better than is to be found among men.” Thus her heart and mind wrought together on the threshold of life. She was soon to seize the true purpose of these affections and aspirations; and once having clearly perceived it, the strenuous constancy of her endeavours to create among men the goodness and the nobleness she found wanting was something astonishing in its efficacy.

Her remarkable self-control had nothing of that divine hardness the ancients tell of, that makes invulnerable by pain. She was quiet and silent about her own distresses, for the sake of others, not that she might have the credit of appearing happy or unmoved, but that she might avoid giving them annoyance. This exposed her to the misconstructions of superficial observers. They called her unloving and unfeeling at the very moment when greater warmth and depth on their own part would have enabled them to fathom the reality; just as they pronounced her hard whenever her yielding and tender nature, like water suddenly struck, made one effort to maintain itself against the blow. And, although in affliction she was so nearly able to appear unmoved, I never knew her to pass a day without that frequent swell of unshed tears from which the sympathetic observer never failed to learn what she felt. An instance of devotedness or endurance, a tale of suffering or of wrong, a touching verse or song, a trait of the moral sublime, always show us in her eyes no idle tears; all that know her, know what they mean.

These years of her early womanhood, full as they were of grief, anxiety, and laborious preparation, had yet the comfort of an increasing maternal sympathy and appreciation. Her mother’s character was directly opposed to her own, in not being Edition: current; Page: [160] strong enough on the side of the imagination for the exercise of sympathy, except, so to speak, in a straight line on her own level. Her daughter, having now grown up to that line and level, came within the field of her affections.

I regret inexpressibly that Miss Martineau’s long journalizing letters of this period cannot, in consistency with her introductory principle, be made public.* With but few exceptions, such confidential family letters must needs contain too much that is common property to admit of their being printed. But one cannot help wishing this whole collection came within the terms she has laid down. Every letter is full of charm and instruction in various ways, as well as finely illustrative. So far as she is concerned, they might all go to the press as they stand, without a word of omission. They show, not the hidden springs of life, but the severely beautiful life itself. There are all the occupations of each day of absence from her mother, whether at London and vicinity, Newcastle, or Norwich; the failures and successes of each fresh effort for a maintenance, or endeavour after excellence; the little plans for making each member of the family happy in his or her own way; the kindly thought for the servants; the anxious solicitude to please and satisfy all; the passionate devotion to the young sister, to whom she was mother, sister, and teacher in one; the ever-new contrivances by which to increase her income and economize her expenditure; the consultations about the shawl or bonnet, which, by good management, she might continue to wear another year; and the presents by which she hoped to surprise and please the children, — all are charming in their simplicity, and from the absorbing family feeling that dictates the record.

Profoundly affecting is the controlled agony of the letter that tries to tell how her lover died, so as not to awaken anxiety for herself in the heart of her mother. Very touching are the occasional allusions to attentions and commendations of her works received from those whose opinions she respected; “because, my dear mother, it is your right to know, or I could not be so vain as to mention such things.” She never fails to notice with Edition: current; Page: [161] disgust any thing like flattery. She had already become a competent critic by means of the “Monthly Repository” and its editor, Mr. Fox, and uses her newly acquired power on her own productions; saying, “they praise this too much, but not so egregiously as the other,” with a love of justice entirely above personal considerations.

Here, too, are occasional gleams of Unitarian satisfaction or discomfort, as the case might be. She loved Unitarianism as the faith of her own family, without having so closely analyzed it as to have ascertained in it any want of essential stability, and she identified herself with it, without having assimilated it. Its high standard of morality was very dear to her, and stood instead of much that she missed. “Mr. —,” she says, “has been guilty of a forgery. What a disgrace to us!” Such and such writings, she goes on to say, “are a credit to us Unitarians.” Copies of the last poems she had written occasionally help to fill the enormous letters of those days, — the shilling sheet of unlimited size before the discovery of penny postage.

One of these poems, written for music, and afterwards set and admired, may have a place here, because, apart from the music, it has never been printed before.


    • True hearts! true hearts! the time is cheery:
    • Who says the days are chill and dreary
    • The frozen winter through?
    • Come, skim the deep blue ice so free;
    • Or away with me beside the tree
    • Where the robin chirps from day to day,
    • While tinkle the rocks with his song alway
    • The gladsome winter through.
    • True hearts! what though the sun full early
    • Goes down with blink or frown so surly,
    • The hazy winter through!
    • We have the lady moon so fair,
    • That showers through the air her diamonds rare,
    • Edition: current; Page: [162]
    • While the waiting earth is hushed and bright,
    • So delicate in her vestal white,
    • The frozen winter through.
    • True hearts! come change your cares for folly;
    • The bowl is brewed and green the holly
    • The cheery winter through.
    • Now age and childhood share their mirth,
    • And love hath birth beside the hearth.
    • O, no more can our way be waste and dead
    • While the springs of the soul are found and fed
    • The heartsome winter through.

Another of these little poems seems never to have been printed. It was written in 1822.

    • Bright shines the sun upon our spreading sail,
    • And flashes o’er the foaming crested wave:
    • And briskly blows the spirit-rousing gale,
    • And laughing waters our light vessel lave.
    • But now the orb has sunk below the verge
    • Which parts the sea and sky, — is lost to sight.
    • The dying winds no more the vessel urge,
    • But a deep calm succeeds; — a softened light
    • Melts into one vast whole the sky, the deep,
    • And the far-distant shore: how still they sleep!
    • So when the deepening twilight of my day
    • Succeeds my early youth’s more brilliant light,
    • No more careering on my joyous way,
    • But each subsiding wave as still, as bright,
    • May heaven’s calm hues so in my spirit shine
    • As to illume my path; may heaven’s pure breath
    • Still waft me on; and may the fading line
    • Be scarce discerned which parts ’tween Life and Death:
    • While Hope’s soft voice shall every fear control,
    • And her sweet strain shall soothe my listening soul.

Her poetry (all of it at least that I have been able to collect) is very correct and flowing, but, like most early versification, entirely imitative in its form. No one could infer from it what she afterwards became. It is the voice of one who, in Edition: current; Page: [163] the vision of the poets, has drunk of the first pool, and heard the first bidding, “Be holy and cold!” She was to drink, long afterwards, of all, — world’s use, world’s love, world’s cruelty,* — that she might fitly lead, not chant, the world’s great battle-march against wrong.

She thought it singular, on revisiting in after life the large, plain, comfortable house where these and the succeeding years were passed, that it should have been the spot where her imagination wrought most strongly. Yet, notwithstanding the absence of outward stimulants, this does not seem otherwise than natural, in the circumstances of her greatly increasing deafness, and the severity of her sufferings from what one cannot help seeing to have been a most wearing degree of friction in the family life. Less sensibility, less filial piety, or more experience would have neutralized this last source of pain; but experience it is impossible to have at these years; and she preserved her best feelings unimpaired, by taking refuge in the world of dreams when the world of letters and of actual life became too severe a trial to her slender stock of health. It was the natural sanctuary of a mind too large for its circumstances. It was not an aimless, diseased wandering of the fancy, as she seems to have supposed in those days, but a state of renovating aspiration and high resolution which greatly aided in overcoming all obstacles, particularly those her deafness threw in her way.

Her course with regard to this great trial was the same she always pursued in all cases of trial and suffering. Though she often wrote of it, she never made it a subject of conversation. She was silent respecting it with intimate and family friends, to whom talking of it might prove a source of affliction and misunderstanding, — till such a time as she might seek the alleviation of that not too painful sympathy which the world at large never fails to give to them that use their own sufferings as a means of ministering to its relief. During the whole course of our intimate friendship and correspondence she never once mentioned to me what, with her career, duties, and aspirations, could not have been any thing less than a continual pressure of Edition: current; Page: [164] heavy calamity. I have reason to think that the simple and affecting statement in a preceding volume as to the labour of living a life of undiminished usefulness under such a deprivation will be a revelation to most of her friends.*

The peculiar anxieties and responsibilities of womanhood were now at hand. It is not for me to do more than mark this as the heart-wearing period of long uncertainty which preceded her engagement with Mr. W —; of the loss of property that involved a change in all her parents’ hopes and prospects for their daughters; of the death of her dear elder brother and his infant child; the death of her father; the death of her lover, in the moment of happy union of heart; and, heaviest blows of all, coming as they did from a quarter which should have given only sympathy and furtherance, the evil offices which, by creating delay and misunderstanding, contributed to his death. They who had the privilege of being her personal friends during these terrible hours have told me that her demeanour was nobly calm and composed; but she seems, notwithstanding, to have been still, from time to time, beset by the idea that suffering necessarily proves something blameworthy in the sufferer.

  • “I have been so above the common lot
  • Chastened and visited, I needs must think
  • That I was wicked,”

is always the thought of the heart that has been tormented by fault-finding, whether with itself or with human nature. This superstition is one of the most difficult to be eradicated, because it springs out of the deep and real grounds whence come our best intimations for the government of life.

These were times of terrible toil as well as of terrible sorrow. Besides the labours performed for discipline, preparation, and maintenance, what she wrote in one year, 1826 - 7, under the influence of thoughts and feelings that would be expressed, an imagination too active to keep silence, a high sense of duty, and some stirrings of ambition, would amount to volumes. I will hereafter give a list of their subjects; and now need mention Edition: current; Page: [165] but one, — a little tale called “The Rioters,” which was the true precursor of the coming fame. Of her other stories of this period none strikes me so much as the one called, I think, “Mary and her Grandmother.” I found it in the Mansarde of a Paris friend, and stood reading on the spot where I took it up, without the least idea of its authorship. It seemed a Sunday-school book, but how different from its class in general! It was crude and strange in a sense, and impressed one, as so many of her after works have done, as a plant that has outgrown its bed; but the sacred fire was there. She did not, however, remember it, and thought it could not have been written by herself; still I was assured of the authorship by those whom I might suppose to know. It was beginning to be a work of experience. “Five Years of Youth,” written some time afterwards, leaves the same impression. But “The Rioters” leaves no impression of inequality or discrepancy on the mind. It came home to the business and bosoms of the lace-makers of Derby and Nottingham with so much power that they instantly put themselves in communication with Miss Martineau, requesting a second story on Wages. These tales are remarkable, not only for their deep political insight and even-handed humanity; not only as coming from one of her youth and sex, on subjects hitherto thought the special province of elderly members of Parliament; not merely as able illustrations of political economy. They are the first examples of a new application of the modern novel. To the biographical and the philosophical novel, the descriptive and the historical novel, the romantic and the domestic novel, the fashionable and the religious novel, and the novel of society, was now to be added the humanitarian or novel of social reform. These tales are the pioneers, not only of the thirty-four monthly volumes of her illustrations of political economy, but of the multitudes of social-reform novels that have since followed, up to the time of Mrs. Gaskell and Mrs. Stowe.

Among the papers of the time immediately succeeding I find many that more perfectly illustrate Harriet Martineau’s nature and character than could possibly be done by any recollections of hers or any statements of mine. Written without any thought Edition: current; Page: [166] that they could possibly meet the public eye, we have in them the actual reflection of what she then was; and they differ from autobiography and from narrative, as the object from the picture, as life itself from the story of a life.

First in the order of time is the following paper, written at Norwich, and dated June, 1829: —


For some years past my attention has been more and more directed towards literary pursuits; and, if I mistake not, my capacity for their successful prosecution has increased, so that I have now fair encouragement to devote myself to them more diligently than ever. After long and mature deliberation, I have determined that my chief subordinate object in life shall henceforth be the cultivation of my intellectual powers, with a view to the instruction of others by my writings. On this determination I pray for the blessing of God.

I wish to hold myself prepared to relinquish this purpose, should any decided call of duty interfere; but I pray that no indolence or caprice in myself, no discouragement or ill-grounded opposition from others, may prevail on me to relinquish a resolution which I now believe to be rational, and compatible with the highest desire of a Christian.

I am now just twenty-seven years of age. It is my wish to ascertain (should life and health be spared) how much may be accomplished by diligent but temperate exertion in pursuit of this object for ten years.

I believe myself possessed of no uncommon talents, and of not an atom of genius; but as various circumstances have led me to think more accurately and read more extensively than some women, I believe that I may so write on subjects of universal concern as to inform some minds and stir up others. My aim is to become a forcible and elegant writer on religious and moral subjects, so as to be useful to refined as well as unenlightened minds. But, as I see how much remains to be done before this aim can be attained, I wish to be content with a much lower degree of usefulness, should the Father of my spirit see fit to set narrow bounds to my exertions. Of posthumous fame I have not the slightest expectation or desire. To be useful in my day and generation is enough for me. To this I henceforth devote myself, and desire to keep in mind the following rules. (A frequent reference to them is necessary.)

Edition: current; Page: [167]

I. To improve my moral constitution by every means; to cultivate my moral sense; to keep ever in view the subordination of intellectual to moral objects; by the practice of piety and benevolence, by entertaining the freedom and cheerfulness of spirit which results from dependence on God, to promote the perfection of the intellectual powers.

II. To seek the assistance of God in my intellectual exertions, and his blessing on their results.

III. To impart full confidence to my family respecting my pursuits, but to be careful not to weary them with too frequent a reference to myself; and to be as nearly as possible silent on the subject to all the world besides.

IV. To study diligently, 1. The Scriptures, good commentators, works of religious philosophy and practice, — for moral improvement; 2. Mental philosophy, — for intellectual improvement; 3. Natural philosophy and natural history, languages and history, — for improvement in knowledge; 4. Criticism, belles-lettres, and poetry, — for improvement in style. Each in turn, and something every day.

V. While I have my intellectual improvement ever in view, to dismiss from my thoughts the particular subject on which I have written in the morning for the rest of the day, i. e. to be temperate in my attention to an object.

VI. By early rising, and all due economy of time, and especially by a careful government of the thoughts, to employ my life to better purpose than heretofore.

VII. To exalt, enlarge, and refresh my mind by social intercourse, observation of external nature, of the fine arts, and of the varieties of human life.

VIII. To bear in mind that as my determination is deliberately formed and now allowed to be rational, disappointments should not be lightly permitted to relax my exertions. If my object is conscientiously adopted, mortifications of vanity should prove stimulants, rather than discouragements. The same consideration should induce patience under painful labour, delay, and disappointment, and guard me against heat and precipitation.

IX. To consider my own interests as little as possible, and to write with a view to the good of others; therefore to entertain no distaste to the humblest literary task which affords a prospect of usefulness.

X. Should my exertions ultimately prove fruitless, to preserve my cheerfulness, remembering that God only knows how his work may Edition: current; Page: [168] be best performed, and that I have no right to expect the privilege of eminent usefulness, though permitted to seek it. Should success be granted, to take no honour to myself, remembering that I possess no original power or intrinsic merit, and that I can receive and accomplish nothing, except it be given me from Heaven.

Such were the sheet-anchors: no wonder the vessel never drifted in any stress of weather. By comparison of dates it must have been these of which she says, “I promised myself that nothing should ever draw me away from them.” I now recall to mind the seal, — a present from her grandmother. It was one then in fashionable and sentimental use, — an evergreen leaf, with the motto, “Je ne change qu’en mourant.” But her friends were often surprised in this way to find that what with others might be a matter of fancy or of course, was with her a thing of solemn significance. I shall often have occasion to tell of such instances. One sees by such a record as this in the early life of such a person, that stability of character is affected by change of “views” exactly as the dropping of the bark affects the tree.

After reading these ten resolutions, no one would fear to predict admirable results. One of the first was the “Traditions of Palestine.” The title and the treatment of the stories indicated a more than Unitarian severance from authority. This was more felt in America than in England; and in the Boston reprint, the beautiful title was changed to fit the new meridian. The same self-constituted editor had caused the latest edition of the “Devotional Exercises” to be republished, with an apology on his own part for an able additional essay on the study of the Scriptures, “where in one or two instances the writer may be thought to have expressed herself incautiously.” The American Unitarian public knows the “Traditions of Palestine” under the name of “Times of the Saviour.” The “poetical expressions,” as the editor called some of the beauties of the book, are cut out, and the whole structure of one story spoiled; but it matters little, as the “Traditions” still are continually republished in their original form in England.

It was this book which first brought Miss Martineau fairly Edition: current; Page: [169] before her own Unitarian public. Her studies, tastes, and feelings all combined to make it interesting, and it still gives great delight to all, especially to those whose interest in the Scriptures has been impaired by injudicious methods of reading. It is a successful effort to give actuality to the past, — to make her imagination the ally of the unimaginative faith into which she was born.

But whoever desires to watch the progress of her mind and the effect of her literary education should read the fifty-five miscellaneous papers of this year. I will mention one especially, — the review of the Essays of Bailey, of Sheffield, on the Pursuit of Truth, Progress of Knowledge, and Principle of Evidence, — because it was the one which more than any other showed to Mr. Fox, then editor of the “Monthly Repository,” her value as a contributor, and made him predict that she would “be one of the first of the age by and by.” It was the old (and in her latest, mature judgment, unsound) argument against Hume’s treatment of the miracles. At that time, however, it was not only new to her, but mainly original, being wrought out by her own mind; and she gave me an account of the circumstances under which she wrote it. It was in June, before the Municipal Reform Bill, so that the old Norwich Mayor’s feast was still in existence, — the guild feast, — a dinner in St. Andrew’s Hall, to about six hundred gentry of the county and city, with a ball at the assembly-rooms. “I was never,” she said, “at one of those dinners, nor wished to be. I regularly avoided them. On that occasion all the family were absent from Norwich but brother Henry, Rachel, and myself. They went: I stayed at home, to their great amazement, to write my review. It was a convenience, because the servants always expected to go out and see the shows of the day. So I dressed Rachel, and saw them off in their hackney-coach before four o’clock; had the tea-things set out on the sideboard and the kettle filled in the kitchen, sent out the servants, locked the doors, and wrote. When the servants returned at ten, they set cold meat and bread on the sideboard, and I sent them to bed and sat down again. I remember that the time seemed but five minutes, till I was startled by the ring of Edition: current; Page: [170] the door-bell. I opened it, and lo! it was daylight, between three and four. Rachel was weary and out of curl, and I was as fresh as twelve hours before. That review did more for me with Mr. Fox than any one article, and he did not think it so unsound as he doubtless does now. But the thing which makes me so vividly remember this day was the miraculous passage of twelve hours, and especially of the last five. I doubt whether I have ever since experienced such absorption in work, though I have made a similar stretch more than once. The mere work will appear nothing remarkable to you, but the experience was really so to me.”

This “mere work,” which she supposed would appear so little remarkable to me, may be found in the American edition of her Miscellanies, Vol. II. p. 174, through twenty pages onwards, — a train of close, steady, and condensed thought on philosophical necessity, the limitations of human testimony, causation, possibility and probability, and the various abstruse considerations involved in a treatise on the Principle of Evidence. The limitations of her field of thought at this time are plainly indicated, but the vigor of her thinking faculties is very strikingly demonstrated. The exercise of them in this way was her true vocation; and she says, in a letter to her mother, written at this time, “Writing is a more delightful employment to me than ever, and I could sit all day at it.” There were periods, about this time, when, after writing ten hours a day for six weeks, she says, “Never be uneasy, dear mother, about my writing so much. It is impossible to give you an idea of the increasing facility and delight which come with practice. It is the purest delight to me, when there is a fair prospect of usefulness; and it is easier than the mere manual act once was. How I once marvelled at the manufacture of a volume! Now I wonder that those who once write do not always write.”

It is worthy of notice that even in these early writings there is that strong grasp of facts, and correctness in drawing inferences from them, which want of opportunity for study and observation makes uncommon in the works of women. From the beginning, Harriet Martineau’s anonymous writings have Edition: current; Page: [171] always been attributed to a man; her industry, judgment, and insight went so far to supply the want of what men learn in the university and the market-place.

What are the elements of that strange gift of influence that some human beings possess in addition to all their other gifts? I notice about this period the first instance of the great power possessed by Miss Martineau to lead and control human affairs, sometimes without the thought or purpose of doing so, — an article on India, which occasioned a sermon on Indian abuses, and a consequent investment in East India stock, to enable the holder to influence the Company’s doings by his vote. Yet these were the times in England when so many prejudices existed against women’s thinking and acting in conformity to their natural endowments, that on the publication of the “Traditions of Palestine,” Miss Martineau, in writing to Norwich about advertising it there, felt the necessity of breaking it to her mother. It was ever a peculiarity of Harriet Martineau’s writings that their reality operated as a personal introduction to her readers. The first thought was, “She will know exactly how we feel and be able to tell us exactly what we wish to know and what we ought to do.” The second was, “What is she like? how does she look? I must see and know her.”

She is described at this period of her young ladyhood as plain and unattractive in appearance, and many of her own pleasantries in conversation confirm it. She was pale and thin, rather above the ordinary height, with abundant dark brown hair. “I never had but one civil speech about my looks,” she used to say, “and that was a compliment to my hair. As a child, I used to take the matter into consideration. ‘What did I take myself to be?’ Not pretty, certainly. But was it a hopeless matter altogether? The chin was not bad (advancing and retreating before the glass), it had rather a nice point, I fancied. But at fifteen a saucy speech of a satirical cousin — ‘How ugly all my mother’s daughters were, Harriet in particular’ — settled the question for me. I never doubted my ugliness after that. I tried to think I danced well, and my feet did go well enough. But I was too weak to be a good dancer, and all my complacency Edition: current; Page: [172] in dancing was destroyed on being told by my sister (an admirable dancer herself) of a quizzing clergyman who got behind me and imitated me till every body laughed.”

She was herself very serious in these days of humiliation; like the ugly duckling, so superior in nature to those about her, that, judging in the only way possible to them, — by comparison, — their self-love looked down contemptuously upon the future swan. Colonel Radice, an Italian of the emigration of 1822, a favourite with her mother, said of her at the age of twenty, in his foreign English, “James [her brother] lauch [laughs] seldom; Henriette lauch never.” Of this brother Colonel Radice remarked, “Henriette is always his defendart.

By and by the weight of Norwich began to lift. Occasional visits to Newcastle, London, and its neighbourhood showed her what provincial opinion is worth. As appreciation gave her more freedom, and more freedom made her more and more appreciated, the singularly attaching quality of her character was constantly made manifest. Especially did persons possessing any superiority of ability become strongly interested in her. She was, during these years, more than a great general favourite: she was also held in admiring respect by the most remarkable persons in the society she met. Ladies of great musical genius, elderly gentlemen of business, the clerical, the legal, the literary, the learned, all became in their several ways what is called romantically attached to her: they felt, to wit, without analyzing the causes, the comprehensiveness of her intellect and the power of her sympathy. All that they were she could have been in a greater degree.

In estimating her powers at this time, one should think not so much of what is commonly considered literary and critical ability, as the quality and depth of thought that measures human life aright; and one finds the means for making such an estimate in her remarks on biography, written at the age of twenty-seven.

“And yet, in no department of literature, perhaps, is there so much imperfection; in none so much error and deception. The causes of this imperfection are so obvious, and so many curious discoveries Edition: current; Page: [173] have been made here and there, that a pretty general distrust of the fidelity of biographers now exists; and few but children and the wilfully credulous now believe all that is told them of the great and good and wonderful people whom they long to resemble. This distrust, however unavoidable, has a very demoralizing effect; and it is worth a serious inquiry whether there is any probability, or at least whether there is not a possibility, of its being removed. . . . .

“Have we ever met with a representation of character supported by facts at all approaching in fairness to those discussions of the characters of our friends which are held in conversation while they are alive and active? For ourselves we can answer, never. In the longest and most fair-seeming narrative of a life we have always found something deficient, something unsatisfactory, something which we cannot reconcile, or which it is impossible to believe. Much as we grieve, we do not wonder at this, for we see where the difficulties lie; and these difficulties are so various and so nearly insuperable, that we consider the position of a conscientious biographer one of the most perplexing that can be conceived. Did he know intimately the character he is going to describe? If he did, how can he bring himself to notice the weakness, the follies, the peculiarities, which he desires should be forgotten in the grave, and which, to the eye of friendship, have already faded away into shades too slight to be caught ere they vanish? If he did not know him, how is he qualified for the task he has undertaken? Did he love the departed? If he did, can he form an impartial estimate of his virtues? If not, how came he by the knowledge of those finer qualities of soul which can only be revealed to a kindred soul, and which yet must not be omitted in a delineation of the mind? It is obvious that no delineation of the mind can be complete. The obstacles are too many and too great. But true philosophy can argue from things that are known to those which are not known; and here we have a method by which we may surmount many difficulties. For this purpose, the facts with which we are furnished must be true, the details faithful, the materials of unquestionable originality. If we cannot have the whole truth, we ought to be told nothing but the truth; and if this rule be observed (as in common fairness it ought), we will contrive to make out for ourselves whatever it is of material consequence to ascertain. But can we ever feel entirely satisfied of the fidelity of the meagre relations which are afforded us? Alas! in very few cases; but in a few we may. How do we know, how do we distinguish such cases from the many? By Edition: current; Page: [174] the presence of a simplicity which carries conviction with it; by an impress of truth which cannot be counterfeited; by a verisimilitude analogous to that by which we are enabled to pronounce on the resemblance of a portrait without having seen the original. Where are we to look for such? Not in volumes of panegyric which assume the form of narrative. Not in quartos whose chapters contain one fact enveloped in a multitude of observations, where the author forgets his subject while striving to immortalize himself. Not among the equivocations of timid friendship, or the mysterious insinuations of a writer who sports with the interest of his readers, and seems proud of knowing more than he chooses to tell.”

This remained her permanent judgment; as one may learn by reference to the Preface of her “Biographical Sketches” in 1869, forty years later, when expressing her satisfaction at the extensive appreciation which had attended her endeavours to discharge a biographer’s duty, — a satisfaction greater than any literary success can yield; for this appreciation was to her an assurance that the deliberate judgment of society pronounces for an ethical standard of character in the first place, and in the next for fidelity to that standard.

Early and late, she thought men’s characters a more important possession than any thing they could do. More than their deeds is what they were, and how they came to be what they were.

She by no means absolved a biographer from presenting the whole truth because it was unacceptable or painful. “It is high time that some one should set an example of intrepid fidelity.” Later she confirms this; and, remarking the confusion of thought and the unchastened feelings which occasion so many readers to misapprehend altogether the purpose and character of biography, she asks if readers do not feel that there is no right way but to tell, in the spirit of justice, the whole truth about the characters of persons important enough to have their lives publicly treated at all.

And now, after so much toil and conscientious preparation, as laid down in the resolutions; after having written in the course of it the matter of at least half a dozen octavo volumes, with Edition: current; Page: [175] fancy-work, needful needle-work, and German literature crowded deep into the night, the way seemed to be opening to a successful literary career, when the very next month brought the failure of the Norwich manufacturing house of which her father had been formerly the head.

She has told how her hopes were disappointed; but how she bore the disappointment the following letter tells better. She writes thus to her mother, absent at Birmingham:—

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
July 5, 1829
My dearest Mother,

I am glad that our good friend Mr. Hutton goes straight to Birmingham, that we may make him the bearer of some comfort to you. He will tell you that we are well and cheerful, and I am sure we shall be yet more so when we have heard of you. This is our great anxiety at present, and we can scarcely turn our thoughts to the future, till we know how you have borne what is past. It must, indeed, be a very heavy blow to you; and all other considerations, we find, shrink to nothing compared to this. I wish it were possible to transfer to you all the comfort we derive from the circumstances which are happening every hour; but I am afraid there are no means of assuring you, till you come home to witness it, how manifold are the consolations which arise from the respect and kindness of friends. Still, there are better consolations than this, and you possess them; and if it will gratify you to hear it from your children, I have pleasure in expressing what we all feel, that if we should be found able to go through this trial better than some, it is to you chiefly that we owe it. We have by you been trained to habits of industry and economy, which will now prove our best wealth. We may thank God that, instead of wealth, he has given us more durable blessings, various and abundant. Our best comfort, dearest mother, will be to hear from you. I am sure fresh trials inspire fresh love, and in this belief I sign myself more than ever your dutiful and affectionate.


Your letter has just arrived. What a blessing it is to us! Our greatest anxiety is now at an end.

Mrs. Martineau having decided that her daughter’s hopes of a literary career should be crushed, the daughter wrote thus. Talking over with old friends this obedience of hers (this Edition: current; Page: [176] “going back with them and being subjected unto them”), one of them said, “How could she be so foolish?” “Nevertheless,” replied the other, “it was Christlike.”

The following letter is the story of that time, told at that time:—

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
January 22, 1830
Robert Martineau
Martineau, Robert
My dear Mother,

I received your letter yesterday, and the purpose of my answering it already is to prevent —’s having the trouble of writing. He knows how I like hearing from him, but his time is very fully occupied, and I shall be glad to save him trouble. I have read yours to my dear aunt, who has been my confidante in the business, and we agree in seeing that there is not a shadow of doubt as to what I am to do. We chiefly regret that such painful feelings should have been excited, where my sole intention was to offer a confidence which is your due. I could not but let you know how entirely my prospects are declared to depend on certain circumstances; but once knowing your wishes, I have no other desire than to comply with them, reserving to myself, however, the liberty of changing my plans when I find my resources fail, as Mr. Fox says they inevitably will, if I remain at a distance from town. There is no periodical work ever sent into the country, and my choice lies between the little stories for Houlston and Darton, and original works, which I have neither capital nor courage to undertake. Mr. Fox is exceedingly sorry that I am obliged to decline the three offers which have been made me, — the Westminster, the larger engagement for the M. R., and Mr. Hill’s assistance. If Mr. Fox can get his work done under his own eye, I cannot expect him to send it to a distance, and he declines doing so. Mr. Hill has asked the essential question, whether I have continual access to the Museum and other libraries, and literary society here; and finding that I live in the country, can do nothing for me, and “Pemberton”* is coming back to me. I must try if Baldwin or somebody else will take it. Mr. Fox will keep his eye upon my interests, and, if anything offers, I shall be sure to have the benefit of it. A better and kinder friend I cannot have; and he shows his kindness in not puffing me up with false hopes. He says £100 or £150 per year is as much as our most successful writers usually make, with all the advantages of town: and I must not expect any such thing except in particularly lucky years. Edition: current; Page: [177] Neither he nor I dreamed of writing to dispel selfish doubts in you, my dear mother, but only to show that my change of views arose from no fancy of my own. When I came, I believed as firmly as you do that my means of subsistence were in my own power at home. Now I see that they will probably not be so; but I am not anxious, while I have any prospect at all of useful employment. I have given up Derby. We see no use in going to Bristol, as there are no literary people but Sydney Smith, who is but a slight acquaintance of Aunt K.’s and has little literary influence, and there I should not have the leisure for writing which I should enjoy at Derby. So, if you please, I will remain here for a few weeks, and make the most of my time and opportunities. My aunt insists on my remaining here, as being near Mr. Fox. One thing more, — I never entertained so preposterous an idea for a moment as that of going alone into lodgings, and must have expressed myself very ill if I led you to think so. It would be positively disreputable. I thought of boarding in a family. So the conclusion of the whole matter is that you will see me in two or three months, quite inclined to be happier at home than any where else, as long as I can maintain myself there in a useful way; but holding the power of seeking employment elsewhere, should my resources fail. I cannot regret (and here my aunt bears me out) having mentioned to you the proposals I have received; but if the manner has caused you pain, I ask your forgiveness, and beg you to forget the matter as speedily as possible. We know well how far you are from being selfish on such occasions, and this consideration made me the more ready to be perfectly open with you. And here I make an end of the subject entirely.

I have been enjoying myself exceedingly since I last wrote, and some very pleasant things have happened. The thing which was more wanting to my peace than any one circumstance besides has been granted me. Albina W —* called on me at Chiswell Street on Monday; and we had a very long and satisfactory explanation of past mysteries, the particulars of which you shall hear when we meet. There is nothing so delightful as coming to a clear understanding in such cases, and a load has been taken off our minds by it. She is a very sensible girl, and talked in a way that I liked very much. She is not in the slightest degree like her brother in countenance, which disappointed me. I think I never before failed to trace a family resemblance. . . . .

My aunt is so pleased with the basket making that she has given Edition: current; Page: [178] me two dozen pieces of braid and cord, satin, — lilac, blue, and pink, — paper, etc. How very kind! I have seen a most beautiful new sort of bag, which I find I can imitate; and I have several orders already in this family, and shall probably make two or three guineas by them. . . . . As I write much and often to you, I am obliged to hurry, which I hope you will pardon.

Farewell. With dear love to all, believe me, dear mother, your very affectionate


This disappointment was a severe one, but it was not in her nature to stay disappointed. The very next day after her return from London she began to prepare for the competition proposed by the Unitarian Association, as a means of obtaining the best effort of the denomination for the promotion of its views among Catholics, Jews, and Mahometans. Instinctively placing herself, with her own belief and opinions, as far as possible in their point of view, and seeking whatever agreement existed, with a courtesy and sympathy rare in theological writings, she avoided controversy, and strove to make Unitarianism an affirmative faith. These essays placed her at the head of the denomination. They are able and complete in all Unitarian learning, and in the clear order and arrangement of the arguments and the appropriateness of the style give proof that she had thoroughly accomplished herself as a writer. In execution they answer exactly to what the French call des travaux admirables et serieux. They are not works of experience, but beautified traditions, such as youthful piety receives unquestioning from the beloved elders, and delights to worship and adorn. One fruit of her own thoughts, however, as well as the heartfelt respect for the right of opinion, is to be seen in them all, — that doctrine of necessity, predestination, election, or by whatever name men call it, whose inconsistency with other parts of Unitarianism seems to have struck neither herself, her judges, nor the denomination at large. The tone and handling of these three subjects are so excellent as to take attention from the anatomy and the perspective. They were immediately translated into French and Spanish, and the Catholic one was circulated on the Continent. Whether or not Edition: current; Page: [179] it made converts there I cannot learn. She herself seems to suppose not. But it certainly must have struck strangely on the ears of the persecuted English Catholics of that time to be addressed as “our Roman Catholic brethren.” This truly catholic tone subjected her afterwards to insult from one of the Anglican Church who had long lost all notion of the meaning either of brotherhood or protest.

It was ever one of Harriet Martineau’s strongest characteristics that nothing in life came to her void or left her profitless. This seems to have been the compensation of her great misfortune of deafness, which, in conjunction with her actual faculties, compelled so much closer observation and reflection than others exercise. It was at this period that the distinguished Hindoo Rammohun Roy visited England; and I gather from her correspondence of this date that his character, appearance, and, above all, the manner of his reception, afforded a lesson soon to be of essential service to her. She honoured in him the high qualities of the man, set off to advantage by his high position, and was astonished to see persons striving selfishly to use his celebrity for their own illustration; and she was thus prepared to rate at its true value much of the general homage that waits on greatness.

She was now to share with the great Hindoo convert the regards of the English Unitarian world. She writes thus to Norwich on the occasion. The letter begins with a preface from her cousin, certifying to her health, and prudence in exertion.


There, dear mother! will this do? I thank you a thousand times for your friendly and tender warning, but I do assure you that I am in perfect health. I have been resting at Maidstone, and I further assure you that I know too well what it is to want health, to venture to trifle with the very unusual portion now granted to myself. On Nelly’s affairs I will write when I have seen her. In the mean time, this glorious meeting to-day is engrossing all our thoughts. We had such a crowd this morning, and are expecting a greater to-night! The Rajah was there. Little as I had reckoned on the mere sight of him, I shall never forget it. Never did I see any thing so touching. He looks spirit-broken and wasted by illness. I believe Edition: current; Page: [180] his domestic troubles have been very severe. So melting an expression of meek suffering was never seen. I could not have pressed upon him for an introduction, as a hundred ladies did. I had rather wait and see him in peace and quietness. The people actually stood on the benches to catch a glimpse of him. What a moment it was to me, when the most beautiful of the hymn-tunes was being sung, when the Rajah was bending his head on his breast, and my old friend Dr. Carpenter was sitting next him! With these feelings mingled some for myself, for I had just heard that the committee had talked of inserting my name in the report, and had determined that the winning of the prizes was too remarkable and honourable an achievement to be passed over in silence, and that they had jokingly said they should put the Rajah on one side of the chair and me on the other. I was afraid I must stay away to-night, but my friends say it would be a sad pity to lose such a meeting. How little could I have imagined, but lately, that I should be publicly noticed as the benefactor and advocate of a cause which I have always had at heart, but scarcely hoped to aid! The result to-morrow. I begin to be afraid that dear Nelly* will not come. It is scarcely to be expected, but I do especially wish it.

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet

And now to my narrative again, dear mother. I went very early, and as I left the gate gave a sigh to poor Ellen, who, I thought, could not be coming; and it was easy to see that this meeting would be infinitely grander than all former meetings. There was a crowd about the unopened doors when I arrived, and when we got in, Mr. Fox, who stood aloft on the platform, directed me to the corner of a quiet pew. In a very few minutes the whole place, except the platform and the reporter’s seat, was filled to overflowing. The windows, even, were crowded. Then Mr. Mardon came to be introduced and make his obeisance about the essays. His wife sat beside me and pointed people out whom I did not know. Mr. Aspland made a capital chairman. After the money-matters had been discussed, the report was read by Mr. Mardon, who stood on my side, so that I heard every word. My corner was so quiet that I thought nobody saw me; but I was mistaken, for when, after a pause in the midst of the book part, Mr. Mardon cast an instantaneous glance at me from the corner of his eye, I saw them all on the platform turn half round and away again, to see whether I was attending. Edition: current; Page: [181] Then followed this, which Ellen thinks is nearly word for word as delivered.

“It will be remembered that three premiums were offered last year for the best essays whose purpose should be the introduction and promotion of our faith among Catholics, Jews, and Mahometans. The first of these prize essays was printed some months ago under the title of ‘Essential Faith of the Universal Church.’ The other two have been so recently adjudged, that your committee must leave to their successors the work of printing and publishing, and of causing translations of them to be prepared in the various European languages in which it is intended they should be circulated. For the purpose of fulfilling to the utmost the intentions of their predecessors, your committee appointed three distinct committees for this special purpose, three judges being provided in each department. The result is, that after the strictest and most impartial investigation the premiums are all awarded to the same individual. It cannot but be thought most honourable to the successful competitor, Miss Harriet Martineau of Norwich, that her compositions have united all suffrages.”

Then came a round of loud applause. I was glad enough when Mr. Mardon went on to other things. When all the business was discussed, and two or three of the resolutions, a buzz announced that the Rajah was coming. He seemed very feeble, and was quite perplexed to know what the clapping and cheering meant, and very simply asked Mr. Aspland. He does not object to it, however. Then Bowring made a capital speech about him. I wonder he could say so much before his face, but it really was beautiful, particularly the parallel between the Rajah and Peter the Great. There is something about Rammohun Roy that melts one irresistibly, and the more, the more one looks at him. He spoke briefly on account of his chest, and was heard only by a few. Two sentences, however, reached the ears and hearts of all. “I have done nothing to cause all this, — nothing for your Association. What I have studied in the Gospels was for my own salvation. I have done nothing for you.” His upward look at Mr. Aspland, the meek expression of his countenance, his majestic bending figure, and the peculiarities of complexion and costume, made it such a picture as I shall never again behold. The enthusiasm was beautiful; and when the chairman requested assent to the resolution of welcome to the illustrious stranger by rising instead of the usual method, the instantaneous compliance was startling. The Rajah may well “never forget it till his latest breath,” as Edition: current; Page: [182] he says. After the resolution had been unanimously carried, the place suddenly thinned almost to emptiness. It was over by a quarter past ten, and all agree that such a meeting was never before held. The Rajah left (through inability to remain) about an hour and a half after he came in. My party were in the gallery, and when I joined them at the foot of the stairs, I was delighted to see Ellen with them. She had set off in bare time, put herself into an omnibus, and arrived just before the business began. She had leave of absence till breakfast-time, so we talked over all affairs during the late night and early morning.

She writes again about the Rajah:—

He always leads the conversation, and expects others to follow; and he talks to people in their own way or what he thinks such, with exquisite politeness, and a knowledge which appears almost miraculous. With all this cultivation, the most remarkable thing about him, his finest characteristic, is his intensity of feeling. Nothing surprises me more than the notions of some folks at a distance who seem to think the Unitarians must all be on intimate terms with him; or that we may be kind to him as we might to refugees. They forget that he is, by rank, a companion of our Royal Dukes, if they had the minds of a Brougham. . . . . Feeling as I do about him, I was better pleased to hear of his advancing to sweeten Mr. Fox’s coffee on Saturday, than of any of his sayings about us. . . . . He looks as if he had gone the round of human griefs, to perfect in himself the dignity of meekness.

I am sure this letter, in spite of the egotism, will give you great pleasure. I hope to become more steadily and reasonably industrious in proportion to my encouragements; and having been granted the honor of spreading my favourite principles in so many strange lands, to cherish them up into their full perfection in my own spirit. How few women have had so extraordinary a stimulus!

Farewell, dearest mother.

Ever yours most affectionately,

Few women indeed! This was the full, complete measure of sectarian and provincial fame, — won at the first grasp. Here was the door flung wide open to that tempting missionary ground where the youthful imagination loves to revel. The chosen expositor of the faith to foreign lands, the main pillar of its periodical Edition: current; Page: [183] literature at home, the leader of its devotions in song and prayer, — where she began, aged doctors of divinity are content to utter their nunc dimittis. Why could not she have sat down with Carpenter and Chalmers and Rowland Hill and Robert Hall, a crowned ruler in her denominational realm? I find nothing among her papers of this date foreshadowing any higher destiny. She would then have avoided life, and enjoyed an industrious repose; escaped the pain of that growth that bursts the bonds of family traditions and fraternal dictation, the hold of friendship and the habits of thought induced by society. There seems evidence to show that she had very nearly begun her work for the world in the cramped church-fashion that can reduce the strongest powers to its own narrowness. To one sect it would hardly have been possible to confine her; but to all dissenting ones, she might have been an oracle, if not indeed a centre of union. About this time she began to be sought by “highly evangelical” and “very superior” men. Students of Oriental literature, first attracted by the “Traditions of Palestine,” were now more deeply interested by the essays. Her “parables,” “tales,” and “musings” were cited by divines as ministrations of imagination to the cause of religion. These were the days when the artificial method of sermonizing seemed to her the most natural and effectual mode of approach to the minds of educated persons; and when she could utter exclamations of delight at fanciful dogmatism. “O this sermon!” she says of one she was so fortunately placed as to be able to hear. “The text was, ‘He hath made every thing beautiful in its time,’ and after the adaptations in the beautiful objects of nature were pointed out, we had the whole survey of all the principal religions in the world, with suggestions that each was beautiful in its time, and that there is one whose time of ceasing to be beautiful can never arrive.” “I was much struck with J. J. Tayler’s ‘Evidences of the Resurrection.’ ” But Biblical science soon took the lead of Biblical literature, and she now thought of preparing a work on the natural history of the Bible; and meeting the excellent Dr. Stokes, who had given up a professorship for conscience’ sake, he offered to place at her disposal his valuable body of manuscript Edition: current; Page: [184] notes on the subject. Mr. Kenrick, too, “has sent me Jahn’s Biblical Archæology, from the York library, to keep till the close of the vacation. It would cost three guineas; and, necessary and valuable as it is, I could not afford that. Little did I think to make such a use of German already. I am busy now, reading the Bible through in course for my work.”

Singularly enough, with these alternate workings of fancy and matter-of-fact within their ordinary range, comes a single glance into the less frequented region of thought which became long afterwards so delightful to her. “In conversation with Mr. Fox he spoke to me of his illnesses, and their effect on the nerves and on the mind. It is well worth while for philosophers to be ill, that we may have the benefit of their observations.” In a similar spirit was written her review of Major Carmichael’s “Physical Considerations connected with Man’s Ultimate Destination.” It is the forerunner of the philosophical studies of her after years. It is a stretching after proof on subjects where assumption had been deemed sufficient, and will be extremely interesting to all who are curious to see the first workings of a great mind in search of reality below the traditional limits. This paper was afterwards read with great interest in America, and was much sought for at the time in England. A High-Church clergyman immediately ordered the “Monthly Repository,” and employed another, his friend, to find out the author. This latter was so much struck by the article that he thanked Miss Martineau in the church porch, where they first met, for writing it. Such things were the beginnings of the discontent springing up in England with the diseased ghostly element in religion.

The essays, meanwhile, were at work, and she writes thus to her mother in relation to the work they did.

“O my mother, one of the greatest joys I have in success is in your share of my pleasure and gratitude. And now I have something to tell you which far exceeds all I have had to relate. I was not sure of all the facts till this hour, or I should have told you before; and even now I am bound not to tell names at present. A Catholic priest, a Edition: current; Page: [185] young, talented, educated man, has been converted by my tract, and has nobly renounced his office and all his expectations, and avowed himself a Unitarian. He has now but £ 5 in the world, and no prospect. His case is under the consideration of the Unitarian committees in London and here. They will probably send him to York for two years, to qualify him for our ministry; but this is uncertain, and not to be repeated, therefore. He belongs to a large city, where he is well known, and where his conversion, when fully understood, may produce a great effect, and probably emulation of his conscientiousness. I cannot describe what I feel when I read the letter which says that this is all true, and that the essay is the cause of it all.”

One cannot help remarking the main elements of this joy over her convert to Unitarianism. It was the noble conscientiousness, the resistance of authority, the renunciation of office and expectations by one who had not £ 5 in the world. Righteousness was stronger in her soul than sect. But one is obliged to admit that, in ceasing to be a Unitarian, she burst as strong a tie of denominational consideration, sectarian attachment, and theological training as ever held a confessor to the shrine of his faith.

Why, why could she not be content to let her spirit sleep upon her fame, and live on, — half fancifully, half studiously, — an imitation life, such as would have sent her down to her grave crowned with Unitarian blessings, — a mother in the little Israel into which she was born? Why could she not have taken warning from that “look of one who had gone the round of human griefs,” that sunk so deep into her heart from the countenance of Rammohun Roy,—to escape the bitterest grief of all, as well as to distrust the noisiest praise?

It could not be; for real life now opened before her, strenuous and grand. And, happily for the world, she shrunk from none of its high obligations.

Edition: current; Page: [186] Edition: current; Page: [187]


  • “Fame, is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
  • (That last infirmity of noble mind)
  • To scorn delights and live laborious days.
  • . . . . .
  • Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
  • Nor in the glistening foil
  • Set off to the world, nor in broad rumour lies.”
  • Milton.

“The dignity of this end (of endowment of man’s life with new commodities) appeareth by the estimation that antiquity made of such as guided thereunto.”


“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars, for ever and ever.”

Prophecy of Daniel.

And how did life present itself to the young lady of twenty-eight, so quick to see and feel, so clear to think, so sound to judge, so skilled to express, thus suddenly emancipated by acclamation, and freed, so to speak, by imposition of hands, from the family authority to which her strong affections always disposed her too readily to yield? We ought now to call to mind the daily events which she had been reading from childhood up, in the distressed looks of the people in the streets, in her father’s anxious face at home, in the evening sky lighted up by riot and rick-burning, as well as in the parliamentary and police reports and leading articles of the “Globe” newspaper.

Only a hand’s breadth before and after, like the section of a battle-field seen through a mountain rift, is allowed by biographical limitations to the eye that follows through the fight the course of one illustrious life: yet the narrow opening is sufficient Edition: current; Page: [188] for the same vision of a land in agony, knowing neither why nor wherefore, that set her strong, statesman-like mind and feeling heart at work to find the cause and the remedy. The sight was terrible indeed. To French statesmen and historians it then seemed as if England could not much longer hold together as a nation. To the few American observers who better knew the quality of the blood themselves had sprung from, the whole condition-of-England question was a frightful enigma. There were bloodshed and famine in the East Indies, and slavery in the West. There were twenty-five millions of people shut up to starve in the small area of the British Isles, exhausted by war, and taxed up to the war-point after the peace, in ways so distressing and vexatious as to be almost past belief. They were dying for want of bread, while hindered alike from producing and importing grain, as well as from going to live where it grew. The straitened manufacturers were compelled to witness the destruction of their property by the starving workmen, whenever they attempted to economize by means of machinery. Enterprising merit was condemned to the lifelong heart-sickness of hope deferred, by that prestige of rank which enabled the great families to appoint their own members, dependants, and supporters to the posts of profit and honour. Class wrought against class, and every man’s hand was against his brother. Coast-guard and smuggler, parson and parishioner, press-gang and peasant, landlord, tenant, and poacher, rioter, rick-burner, and cabinet minister, soldiery and mob, chill by turns with terror or hot with the sense of wrong, stood ready to clutch each other by the throat. Men in power saw no cure but in killing, and they caused the masses, driven into the streets by ignorance, starvation, and despair, to be fired upon where they stood for sedition, or destroyed individually by legal process for crime. The hangman had a fearful work to do; for men were put to death in rows at Newgate and all over the kingdom for five-shilling crimes committed to sustain life. A half-naked youth might be taken to the gallows for stealing a strip of cloth from the bleaching-ground. The only remedy in use besides the gallows and the bayonet was the old poor-law of Elizabeth’s time, so unequal to Edition: current; Page: [189] the case of the nineteenth century that it operated as a millstone round the necks of the virtuous and industrious, and as a bounty on idleness and crime. England claimed to be a Christian nation, but Catholic, Churchman, and Dissenter each denied the other the name; and Paul’s description of Pagans applied at this time to them all, — “hateful, and hating one another.”

In the midst of all this disorder government itself was coming to be considered a curse by the bulk of the people; for class-legislation had caused the poor — the many — and the rich — the few — to consider each other as natural enemies. What wonder, amid the sharp fermenting of such a state of mutual misapprehension, that Treasury, Council, and Chancellor, Privy Seal, Admiralty, and Exchequer, Boards of Trade and Control, and all the “departments,” should have been at their wits’ end, and all sense of mutual obligation between them and the people have been seen melting away?

In such a crisis it was that Harriet Martineau set herself to consider the cause. She found it in the utter ignorance of the highest and the lowest classes, and the half-informed apathy of the middle one, in combination with the selfishness of all. And why might not all be led to feel for each other as brothers, and to perceive the universal applicability of the principles she had from childhood been studying? She was sure of their power, and felt the wisdom and greatness of the minds that had discovered them. She would assail the general prejudice against political economy and its sages which stigmatized both as partial, hard, and cruel. She would appeal to that appreciation of the noble, the heroic, and the holy, beating so high in her own breast, which she felt sure had not yet died out of the British heart. How safe and happy might the nation become, if it could once be made to know and adopt the course and the principles so exactly fitted to that time and that people! They would secure the welfare of all; and to all she therefore addressed herself, in the thirty-four little volumes of “Illustrations of Political Economy,” which she sent to the press monthly during the ensuing two years and a half. She has told us the circumstances of their issue, and we have seen how her resolute despair Edition: current; Page: [190] conquered every public and private obstacle, as she undertook to bridge the gulf of ignorance and class exclusiveness which kept Englishmen at enmity, and to show them how all things contributing to the support and enjoyment of life might be produced and conveyed to all. “The people want this work, and they shall have it!” she said, at the darkest hour of her undertaking, before the attainment of the means. We know from the Autobiography* what was in her heart at the time. Let us see if there are tears in the tone that reached the public ear, out of such depths of trial and difficulty.

The Preface to the “Illustrations” that tells us is eighteen pages long, and so close-linked in statement and reasoning that it can with difficulty be divided or shortened. It declares the everlasting truth on the chosen subject. A short extract will show the tone and temper of the mind that, in view of the darkness of the past, was determined to brighten the future.

“ ‘Example is better than precept.’ We take this proverb as the motto of our design. We declare frankly that our object is to teach political economy; and that we have chosen this [narrative-pictorial] method, not only because it is new, not only because it is entertaining, but because we think it the most faithful and the most complete; . . . . and when we dedicate our series to all to whom it may be of use, we conceive that we are addressing many of every class. To address it to all whom it may concern would be the same thing as appealing to the total population of the empire.

“Is there any one breathing to whom it is of no concern whether the production of food and clothing and the million articles of human consumption goes on or ceases? whether that production is proportioned to those who live? whether all obtain a fair proportion? Is there any one living to whom it matters not whether the improvement of the temporal condition of the race shall go on, or whether it shall relapse into barbarism? Whether the supports of life, the comforts of home, and the pleasures of society shall become more scanty or more abundant? Whether there shall be increased facilities for the attainment of intellectual good, or whether the old times of slavery and hardship shall return? Is any one indifferent whether famine stalks through the land, laying low the helpless and humbling the Edition: current; Page: [191] proud; or whether, by a wise policy, the nations of the earth benefit one another, and secure peace and abundance at home, by an exchange of advantages abroad? Is there any one living, in short, to whom it matters not whether the aggregate of human life is cheerful and virtuous, or mournful and depraved? The question comes to this: for none will doubt whether a perpetuity of ease or hardship is the more favourable to virtue. If it concerns rulers that their measures should be wise, if it concerns the wealthy that their property should be secure, the middling classes that their industry should be rewarded, the poor that their hardships should be redressed, it concerns all that political economy should be understood. If it concerns all that the advantages of a social state should be preserved and improved, it concerns them likewise that political economy should be understood by all.”

The effect was instantaneous. The wise and benevolent few felt that they were comprehended and appreciated by a master spirit. Political leaders grasped the helm of state with a firmer hand. Leaders of parties struggled to get possession of the new influence. The poor, selfish little publisher felt his bark float, and laughed for joy that from the king to the cobbler every body was buying the Series. The reviewers read up Smith, Malthus, Mill, and Ricardo, and qualified to the best of their ability to help or hinder, as their respective party badges required. The little-great strove to illustrate themselves by the reflected light of the famous author of the “Illustrations.” The really great and good gathered round the new luminary, rejoicing in its radiance and its warmth. Half the world read these books merely as novels (as, indeed, they were, and of the rarest originality and merit); and while statesmen and members of Parliament hoped readers would not lose sight of the political problem in the charm of the characters, the witty and the frivolous boasted to each other that, be she clever as she might, she could not sift in the science so cunningly as they could contrive to skip all but the story. Publishers in other lands and languages sent to demand biographical notices to prefix to their editions, one of which came back to the author in an absolutely unknown tongue. Newspapers at home gave her pedigree, and newspapers Edition: current; Page: [192] abroad her history. Doubts were not unfrequently expressed as to the real authorship of the series; and it was always attributed to some leading statesman of the time, being thought far beyond the political ability, not merely of a woman, but of any except a great legislator. The editorial world fell to advising, in common with the moral world and the religious world; all seeming to feel personally responsible, lest so great a genius should go wrong for lack of counsel. Half the gossiping world gave her in marriage to the other half. Great historians, divines, and church dignitaries made her the homage of their works and sought the honour of her acquaintance. She was thanked in every possible form, publicly and privately, by every body who was the better for her work of justice and mercy. Complimentary letters came from all quarters like a storm of snow. These she uniformly destroyed, except when it was necessary to preserve them on account of their connection with moral business and legislation. Some such remain, showing how deep and decisive was the effect she produced on the minds that led the political and literary life of the time.

The public at large soon knew its favourite by sight, and she could not walk in public places without being followed by a deeply interested crowd. It is, perhaps, the strongest characteristic of her works, — one distinguishing every word she has since written, — that, as it came, full strength, from the depths of a heart filled with “the spirit of love and of power and of a sound mind,” so it went as deeply home to every reader’s bosom. This sort of public homage was painful to one so constitutionally timid and retiring. Sometimes, when it drew the curious and the self-seeking into her train, it gave rise to comic incidents for which she was not responsible. The unavoidable draught on her time and strength became so great that it was necessary, at length, to avoid the mere idlers who sought a selfish gratification by obtaining an introduction. A Mr. Burke begged to be presented to her. “What is your qualification?” asked the quick-witted friend to whom he proposed it. “Sir!” “I mean what purpose have you to answer? Have you any thing to tell her? or do you want to know any thing from her? Only Edition: current; Page: [193] give me your qualification.” “I know no better than that I am the last descendant of Edmund Burke.” “That won’t do. That is not in Miss Martineau’s way. She has to talk to far too many people already, with a better title than that. I cannot introduce you.”

So great a personal popularity is ever a severe trial of the strength and of the character; but hers bore a threefold strain uninjured. She was novelist, political economist, and philanthropist in one, and constantly receiving admiration in each capacity. It was perpetually said of her, not by fools, but by wise men, that she was the first woman of the age. By those who are neither fools nor wise, the people at large, she was equally appreciated. Dean Milman could have told an amusing instance of it; and how he was cheered at a sad moment by the mirthfulness with which she related to him, at a dinner at Mr. Rogers’s, when the conversation drew it from her, — the amusement she had had from a letter received by that day’s post. It was scribbled all over, in the way that lost letters are. It was addressed to “The Queen of Modern Philanthropists”; and the post-office had put in the corner, “Try Miss Martineau.” It reached her in Fludyer Street; and one could set Dean Milman laughing at any time with, “Try Miss Martineau.”

Such is fame in one of its aspects. A look into her letter-bag on any single morning of her London life will tell us something of its toils and temptations, and give us the pungent aroma of the mingled incense, ordinarily so intoxicating to the novice, which was daily offered up to her. Here are five invitations to dinner for the same day, at houses where the splendour of the appointments “always suggests to me, by contrast, the idea of the factory-children. Not that I blame the rich and noble for their enjoyments, but I would have no huge inequalities.” “It is the charming freedom from stiffness and pretension that, after all, delights me; not the blaze of lights, and the double doors, and gold plate, and rare coffee.” Here are patronesses’ tickets to their fancy-balls at Willis’s rooms, — if she can be prevailed on, they add, to give herself the recreation. Almack’s has no Edition: current; Page: [194] restrictions of costume for her. Here are cards of barristers, parliamentary commissioners, and cabinet ministers. Here are all manner of prospectuses and plans for her to “honour with her sanction.” Here are invitations from editors, to favour their reviews and magazines with her contributions. Bulwer has a quick eye for literary power; and hers shall grace “the new monthly” as well as the rest. Little “V.” of the little “Repository” has achieved greatness among the magazines. Then come heaps of concert tickets, museum tickets, library tickets: loads of blue-books, reports of sanitary, factory, and poor-law commissions, — there is no end to the variety. “Here is a curious arrival, come just in time for you, my dear mother; an honourary diploma from the Royal Jennerian Society, ‘who, the Duke of Wellington in the chair, have done themselves the honour of unanimously voting to Miss Harriet Martineau the diploma which constitutes her a member of their body.’ They are right if they think I can help the spread of vaccination, and I think I can.” These recognitions of her character as a labourer for the welfare of society were ever far more valued by her than testimonies of mere literary estimation. And yet in after days she made light of this: “I am afraid such things are sometimes a push for subscriptions to declining funds.”

She now began to feel the embarrassments of greatness in being expected to dispense patronage. Every one-sided character of her acquaintance looked to her to bring his particular insanity into a reputation for soundness. In reviewing the number of opportunities for benefiting others now laid before her, one cannot but think of poor Marmontel, oppressed in like manner by his native village after the success of his first piece; “And all this depends upon me!” But she early became aware of the risk to independence from incurring obligations to patronage, and she never hesitated to utter the unwelcome “no” which her conscience prompted when solicited to obtain advantages to which no claim existed but her request. The claims of benevolent associations with whose objects she warmly sympathized were never resisted. The Polish Association, in particular, owed much to her and to her family for the protection and maintenance Edition: current; Page: [195] of their orphans as well as the promotion of their cause. Her hymn written for their exiles, set to very touching music, made a profound impression: —


    • God! scorched by battle-fires we stand
    • Before thee on thy throne of snows;
    • But, Father! in this silent land,
    • We seek no refuge nor repose:
    • We ask, and shall not ask in vain, —
    • “Give us our heritage again!”
    • Thy winds are ice-bound in the sea;
    • Thine eagle cowers till storms are past;
    • Lord! when those moaning winds are free,
    • When eagles mount upon the blast,
    • O, breathe upon our icy chain,
    • And float our Poland’s flag again!
    • ’T was for thy cause we once were strong;
    • Thou wilt not doom that cause to death!
    • O God! our struggle has been long;
    • Thou wilt not quench our glimmering Faith!
    • Thou hear’st the murmurs of our pain, —
    • “Give us our heritage again!”

The party struggle for her political influence had by this time become so vehement that she was obliged to write a special Preface for the Corn-Law tales, declaring her determination to defend from party what she meant for mankind.

These few emphatic words, it is to be hoped, satisfied the “Examiner,” the “Critic,” “Tait’s,” “Fraser’s,” and all the newspapers: they certainly did the public at large.

It was not merely the actual merit nor the positive utility of these publications that gave them a world-wide celebrity; neither was it their exquisite adaptation to the wants of England at that time; nor their novelty in execution, or originality in design: Edition: current; Page: [196] although the idea of conveying the facts of moral science by this method was so little familiar to the public mind that multitudes supposed all science might be taught in a similar manner, and felt wronged, as by a feminine caprice, that Miss Martineau refused to move their souls a second time by a series of illustrations of natural philosophy; while at the same time, although some of the tales are comic in parts, they remonstrated against the great preponderance of painful interest in what she had written. They needed to have it explained to them that the evil institutions that wring the human heart are the only subjects of a nature to permit a scientific demonstration in the form of fiction; that although an imperfect smelting apparatus may be as fatal to the purity of gold as mistaken methods of government are to national virtue, yet fiction cannot be made the vehicle of metallurgy; nor the miseries of mistaken legislation be gayly set forth in a story of happy conclusion. There had been tales before these, awakening sympathy with suffering; but tales showing the causes of suffering in the neglect of those principles of government which men in given circumstances must adopt in order to be happy were a new thing under the sun. To this especial originality of purpose they owed a part of their unprecedented popular success.

These books were also new in their special literary aspect, as well as the beginnings in England of a science of sociology.

A feeling of resistance had long been gathering in Harriet Martineau’s mind against that law of the kingdoms of poetry and romance, generally observed by all their rulers, from Homer to Scott inclusive, of filling the scene with the great and the powerful, — the occupants of thrones and the leaders of armies; and bidding the intricacies of the plot bear them along through “high feastings of kings with nobles and dancing of knights with ladies;” till a reproach from the majority of middle-aged readers had gone forth against novels and poetry as untrue to any life that came within the observation of whole-minded human beings then living. Going to the root of the matter, she found them untrue, by reason of their one-sided partialities and aristocratic prejudices. Now, as on so many subsequent occasions, Edition: current; Page: [197] she showed the genius that directs public thought and feeling; pointing out in advance the way in which she took the lead, and proving while proclaiming the power of fiction as the agent of morals and philosophy, — the servant of the poor and the lowly.

I need but refer to certain passages from those remarkable productions so much talked of in their time as “the Scott papers;” in which, while giving to Walter Scott, with all the enthusiasm of a grateful heart, his full due, and more than he himself ever dreamed of claiming, she points out his lack of the deeper moral insight, and calls on his successors in the field of romantic literature to make good his deficiencies. Every reader’s memory will bear witness to the effect her criticism and her example have had on novel-writing since that time; but few, except the watchers by the springs of great social changes, can tell upon what multitudes fell the awakening music of her affirmation of all that is great, noble, and heroic in woman. It met a response in the universal heart. America above all felt the grandeur and beauty of the appeal. Ella of Garveloch, Cousin Marshall, Mary Kay, Letitia, little Harriet, with all the troops of the high-minded poor and the high-hearted lowly that rose from every pictured page, became the friends and educators of the young matronage of the United States. As manuals of political economy, the “Illustrations” were not then so much needed there. The Transatlantic world was already in possession of all (save one) of the blessings they demanded. But as illustrations of high character and lofty virtue and heroic endurance and uncompromising integrity, they possessed an incisive power, as welcome as it was timely, to restore the features of the antique virtue of our earlier New England time, fast softening and wearing down beneath unmarked abuses. The observation of English critics was that she understood the springs of the machine of state. American ones said, “she knew how to

‘Ope the sacred source of sympathetic tears.’ ”

As far as criticism can be a benefit, she was to be congratulated; for no writer ever received a larger share of it. From the Edition: current; Page: [198] leading reviews and great London dailies, down to the most obscure provincial and sectarian journals and magazines, all were full of the “Illustrations.” The “Edinburgh Review” was perfectly amiable in the spirit of its criticism, though utterly incompetent, in this instance, to its function, for want of breadth and power to comprehend the mind of the writer. The editor had at first admired Harriet Martineau as a lady, and afterwards esteemed her as a friend; but his attempts to reconcile her action with the feeble, narrow social views of the time were amusing instances of unconscious insult. He hardly knew how to excuse her as a student and a teacher of what he had thought exclusively manly truths. He was obliged to justify her to himself by a syllogism. “Women might, and it was becoming they should, protect and comfort the poor; political economy has an immediate connection with this; therefore a woman may be a political economist without being supposed to have abated any natural and right horror of Amazons in politics.” But he condemned any thing which could be called public life out of her own village, — the circle of a Lady Bountiful among her poor. A certain kind of knowledge is even here necessary, and so political economy might come in. He shuddered a little at Miss Martineau’s sense and spirit, but he “rejoiced to acknowledge that she had more than the fancy and feeling of Miss Edgeworth,” and he thought he had saved his admired author’s credit. How far was he from seeing that the most public of all public life was the one on which she had just entered! The life commonly called public of an ordinary member of Parliament was private in comparison. Her very thoughts were fast becoming of more public importance than all their doings for the public weal. Their doings were of importance as the complement of her feelings and thoughts.

The criticisms were as various as the powers and purposes of the men.

A critic is but a man like another; and when he chances to be the man of some specialty, most likely proves less able than another to pronounce a general judgment. He is so often obliged to “cram” for all but his own special questions, he is so often Edition: current; Page: [199] tempted to cover with a strain of brilliant sarcasm his want of power to appreciate his author, and, above all, he so often permits the actual power of judgment he may possess to be blunted by the retaining-fee of a party, or at best imperceptibly worn away by the continual suggestions of self-interest, that, in the field of real thought and action, he becomes a hindrance rather than a helper to both author and public. In the field of mere literature he may promote public pleasure by the perpetual attrition that polishes and perfects the individual writer, whose works thus formed and finished react in refinement on the public mind; but it is not in the field of literary criticism that the man capable of appreciating the great ethical natures of any time will be found: for the sympathies of such a man will draw him into their field of action. Hence it was that, with all Harriet Martineau’s immense popularity, she found but little competent criticism at this period. The crowd of review and newspaper writers were competent to only one half the case. They were profuse of eulogy because, without embracing the whole, for lack of depth and grasp, they were honestly and enthusiastically pleased with all they could comprehend. They welcomed her exactly as they might a great painter or musical artist who had charmed and won the public mind in taking it by surprise. Here was something at once out of their way and beyond their limitations; but they were pleased, with the rest of the world, and it was safe and agreeable to say so. In conquering the public she had conquered all the critics except the unscrupulously partisan ones. Without comprehending her nature or object in life, these felt, by mere oppugnancy, one quality of her power, — its freedom. It was neither to hold nor to bind nor to buy. They were afraid of it, and they tried to destroy it. Empson and Lockhart — “The Edinburgh” and “The Quarterly” — were fit types of the professionally critical power of that time. To the shallow but highly cultivated mind that could dwell in the tents of the Whigs, Harriet Martineau was a puzzle. How could she work month after month, and year after year, upon the most abstruse problems of civil polity and legislation, growing fresher and fresher as she went on? How could she make these Edition: current; Page: [200] dry bones live and dwell in the scenes and cities of all lands, painting them into pictures in which the beauty of the colouring and the force of the feeling were all used to prove the accuracy of the perspective, and yet remain so rich, so full, so free? Mr. Empson could not even imagine the power gained by living for the truth. She herself was less clear as to cause and effect (perhaps merely less precise in nomenclature) at this time than she afterwards became; while occupied in serving the world in this strenuous manner, she called the great source and stimulus of her life by the names of “principles” and “science” alternately.

Lockhart, as the editor of the Tory Quarterly, was of course hostile; that was only to have been expected. But he disgraced himself and the review by an utter want of decency and honesty. The preceding Autobiography is not very clear as to the precise point of Lockhart’s evil doing. The sensitive and the high-minded shrink from the details of falsehood and abuse which they have endured, till to do so passes into a habit of mind, almost into a principle of duty. Their great thoughts and great objects bear them above and beyond the sphere and feeling of insult. They do not care even to understand the meaning of a vicious animal’s attempt to throw them. The biographer has a different duty.

The worst feature, then, of Lockhart’s servility to his party — the party to which, as a hanger-on, he looked for literary patronage and pecuniary support — was his attempt to crush the rising young advocate of the people, by identifying her by all the weight of the great Tory party’s organ, with the advocacy of vice and crime. Because one political economist was said to have circulated papers encouraging young servant-girls and their seducers of rank to licentiousness, Mr. Lockhart thought to fling his mud and dust so dexterously as to attach to Miss Martineau the same imputation. The reaction of the indignant public mind against this baseness was such that this article of the “Quarterly” greatly promoted the popularity of the series of “Illustrations of Political Economy” it was intended to destroy.

Aside from its falsehoods, there is nothing that strikes one so singularly in Mr. Lockhart’s criticism of Miss Martineau’s “Illustrations,” Edition: current; Page: [201] or in the subsequent criticisms of the “Quarterly,” as their strain of ironical eulogy. His severest attempts now seem simple historical statements. It is curious, too, to remark at the outset the two-edged appeal to bigotry whetted sharper by masculine assumption, — well known as Lockhart was in those days as one of the orthodox who believe in nothing.

“This young lady has the high recommendation of being a Unitarian.” “Her theological works are all published, we believe, at the expense of the Unitarian Association; at least, such is the case with the ‘Essential Principles of Christianity,’ addressed to her ‘dear Roman Catholic brethren.’ ” It shows the coarseness of his nature that in this very article he calls Ella of Garveloch — one of the most nobly and beautifully conceived beings in literature — “a bare-legged Scotch quean!”

However unable to appreciate, even such a man is compelled by mere intellectual conviction and a politic reference to the same in other men to acknowledge “the praiseworthy intentions,” “benevolent spirit,” “varied knowledge,” “acute discrimination of character,” and “power of entering into and describing the feelings of the poorer classes.”

“Demerara,” he admits, is powerfully written, “but the picture is drawn from the imagination, and from the accounts of antislavery missions;” and he scoffs at the “notion” that man is not property, as one who considers the claim of ownership in man founded in the eternal laws of nature, to which those of states cannot but conform. And this very year, helped to the work by this very tale, which popularized the principles of freedom as the only sound political economy, while painting the slaves as outraged human beings, the British Parliament abolished West Indian slavery. And so in like manner the three great questions touching the factories, the poor-laws, and the currency, were successively agitated, and the question of the corn-laws fairly roused. To one so absorbed in successful public service as to be personally important to all the wronged and suffering classes, and proportionately beloved and honoured by them, criticism was what it ought to be, — desired as a thing to learn by; and abuse, when its purpose was once understood, but of the slightest moment.

Edition: current; Page: [202]

By this article of Lockhart’s I seem to see thrown into the mind of Harriet Martineau the first germ of her afterthoughts on the general subject of property. Quoting from the summary of principles in “Demerara,” he says: “Property is held by convention, not natural right. As the agreement to hold property in man never took place between the parties concerned, — i. e. is not conventional, man has no right of property in man.” On this he goes on to comment: “Why, by this rule, what have we a right to hold as property?” “Let Miss Martineau say where the convention sat which agreed to make the Marquis of Westminster a present of his stud or his streets. Miss Martineau is said to be high authority in the law courts. Let the next thief plead at the Old Bailey that he never agreed the prosecutor should hold property in his silk handkerchief, and therefore he has no more right to it than he, Timothy, the thief.”

Miss Martineau was never one to stop thinking because an enemy of truth (so ignorant of it at the same time as to be unable to discriminate between a just inference and a reductio ad absurdum) found it for his interest to come forward to prevent, with a mixture of sophistry and defiance like this; and we shall see hereafter to what conclusions she came on this matter of property in after years. The blank astonishment of conservatives at such plain incontrovertible statements of facts as these, — that, shut up in an island, population going on at geometrical rates, and production in arithmetical ones according to their wont, there will, without prudence, be famine, is in the mean time amusing. Neither could they comprehend any more clearly that their poor-laws were degrading and self-defeating, their lying-in hospitals a bounty on improvidence, and their almshouses a temptation to idleness. They dreaded, apparently, to see the feudal system broken up by the development of a capacity in the people to do without it; and seemed to mourn the lost occupation of Lord Lansdowne and the Duke of Devonshire, when Ireland should become well educated and industrious. The attempt to confound Miss Martineau with the low and criminal distributors of demoralizing publications and the like, Edition: current; Page: [203] was fatal to his gentlemanly character. He concluded by adjuring Miss Martineau to burn her little books; and, after quoting in a scurrilous way a quantity of ridiculous doggerel, winds up thus: “Did Miss Martineau sit for this picture? No. Such a character is nothing to a female Malthusian: a woman who thinks child-bearing a crime against society; an unmarried woman who declaims against marriage: (! ! !) a young woman who deprecates charity and a provision for the poor. (! ! !)”

This was the sort of moral gauntlet to be run in undertaking to illustrate a principle “as undeniable as the multiplication-table;” and this the tenderest and most keenly feeling heart I ever knew did not shrink from; because to teach prudence as one among many means of chasing away pauperism was to do the nation service. What the excellent Malthus had been seen to undergo of calumny and abuse (and it seemed to her so repulsive as to make her ask him how he bore it) would have been sufficient to deter one less high-minded than herself. But now seems to have begun to take ultimate shape that heroic type of character which became in after life so recognized a part of her greatness, that the persecuted for whatever right’s sake felt the glorious reproach of their cross to be a claim she could not set aside. Her infant visions of martyrdom, little as she respected their memory, as mingled with childish vanity and unbalanced by the sound knowledge and vigorous judgment of the after time, were yet the basis of the noble temple of life she was always at work in building. Whether this stepping to the front under fire, publicly to express the reverence and gratitude felt for those who have aroused to noble work or shown the excellent way, be, as church and clergy claim, a special trait of Christianity, or as nobles feel, an evidence of nobility, is of little consequence to decide. That it was the only way that became her to “fulfil all righteousness” was, in brain and blood, a part of Harriet Martineau’s being. As Gibbon says of Bayle, “Nature meant her to think as she pleased, and to speak as she thought.”

All the reviews of this period, hostile as well as friendly, took for granted the fact of her great genius. Unquestioned as it was Edition: current; Page: [204] by the world, by herself it was always steadily denied, not only at this time, but ever afterwards. Her friendly critic of the “Edinburgh Review” was so impressed by her as a woman of genius, that he vigorously contested the point with her in argument. And surely if genius be the faculty called divine, of creating in literature, from what life actually is, the vision of what it may be, — if it be the intellectual force or creative inspiration in life itself, which brings forth, directs, and organizes, whether by “a special instinct or faculty,” by “grace from on high,” or by “superiority of organization” (as different schools might express the same fact), — if it be that inspiration of great thoughts and great things which instantly distinguishes from the crowd and arrays inferiority against itself, — if it be that power in action which, to whatever department of human life it come, seems to change the nature of things, or that power in utterance which drives a keener tide of blood through them that read or hear, — then surely Harriet Martineau was in truth the genius that popular enthusiasm declared her to be. Nor the less so because the popular definition of the word has taught her countrymen on both sides of the ocean (if I may say so) that “genius is that talent or aptitude that men receive from nature to excel in any one thing whatever,” while she excelled in many. Nor is she the less “a genius” because the Sheridans, the Fieldings, the George Sands, have habituated the world to associate genius with selfishness, disorder, and licentiousness, and caused a doubt whether it can exist in even balance with perfect self-control and wise and steady self-devotedness. Thus I have often argued with herself, but, I am bound in truth to state, without effect. She always persisted in the same final reply, “I am pained and ashamed when any body I care for talks of my possessing genius.” I think the difference between her and others on this point arose from her want of general self-esteem, of which deficiency I have seen a thousand instances; she held so tenaciously to the French proverbial opinion, that “le génie doit faire ses preuves,” that she obtained at this time of a reviewer whose article came to her knowledge before publication, that his high estimate of her genius as a writer of fiction should be suppressed. Edition: current; Page: [205] “Not,” she said, “till I have succeeded in making a plot.” Thus much I was willing to concede in the argument; that a character less truly proportioned, faculties less accurately balanced, might, even while weakening its actual effect, have produced a higher general estimate of her genius, — just as we are most struck by the disproportion, the deformity or caricature that lessens the goodness of a face or the real value of a portrait; for I observed this known effect of perfect proportion in reducing the popular estimate of size, in her elder and grander time; and as her faculties were taking a wider and stronger range, I seemed to see them less generally, though more worthily appreciated. But if genius be the perfection of good sense, she possessed it as few others have done. How many have we seen proclaimed geniuses, on the American side of the ocean, by mere dint of deficiency or irregularity, who would never have been named in that category, had they been, like her, subjected to the remorseless English higher-middle-class training which at once grinds down oddity, nor likes to spare even originality, and which only true genius can survive and profit by.

Had Harriet Martineau been only a reviewer or essayist, — only a great religious, political, or philosophical writer, — only a novelist, traveller, or historian, — she would have necessarily seemed greater as an author to the generality of readers. They love to see power pushed in one direction. They can only judge of it so. They measure only length, so to speak, and take little account of breadth and depth. They have been so accustomed to minute subdivision in mental as in other labors, as to have enchained their minds by a proverb, that “the Jack at all trades is good at none;” and this very means of exclusive application which they take to avoid mediocrity is the reason why this century affords so few universally admirable persons like Harriet Martineau. This variety of mental accomplishment, this natural and cultivated capacity to meet each man on his own ground, made her one of the most popular, while her overflowing sympathy of the heart made her one of the most beloved of authors. She pleased and amused the public, though she never made it an object to do so.

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She was thus early the most substantially successful author of her time, without ever having sacrificed to success. She had deliberately chosen her part, — to utter, as fast as she attained it, what seemed to her good and true, let the personal result be what it might. Her works had brought round her the leading men of her time, and she began to judge them as fit or unfit for the times, with continual personal and political effect. Her influence many a time put the right man in the right place, who came to thank her and ask her advice as to how he should best fulfil his duty in it. She could and did sway from time to time the administration, while counselling the leaders of opposition. A less comprehensive mind could have done but one of these things. But both sides felt that she was warmly with them as men, while free from “entangling alliance” with either as parties. Now came the moment when, strong in her knowledge of the general public mind, — its tastes, its habits, its views, its leaders, — the temptation might have come to her that wrecks so many first-rate writers, — the temptation of giving to the public sentimental expressions and agreeable drollery signifying nothing, but all the more enriching, in the pecuniary sense, for its want of reality. Now might well have come the temptation to leave unturned the last uncompromising screw that takes the writer out of the hands of his readers, and lays upon him the responsibility of leading, instead of leaving him in the exercise of the subaltern function of amusing them. But she never seems to have felt it. Literature remained ever to her a sacerdocy; and through its most trying phase, — that of becoming through its means world famous, — her sheet-anchor of secret resolutions* never dragged. She does not need, like Dr. Young’s man of the world, to “resolve or re-resolve.” Without doing either, she will clearly “die the same.”

Before inserting such of the few letters as I rightfully and dutifully may, from the great mass of those of this period which now lie before me, I will gather up a few of the recollections of that time. Some of her old friends (not the most intimate) were astonished at her coolness in these new circumstances; while Edition: current; Page: [207] others, superficial observers, pronounced her, on account of it, the proudest person living. Of these she said, “They little know how utterly I sometimes despise my work, — its execution, I mean. But not the less do I mean to avail myself coolly and amply of all the advantages of society it brings me.” And this work, of whose execution she speaks, was the one thing the world was so delighted with. Mrs. Bellenden Ker tells of a pretty little illustrative scene, which shows how it seized the minds of the least impressible. “My father came in to dine with us just as dinner was served. ‘How do you do, my love?’ says he, and takes up “Demarara.” In vain did we call him, and remind him that dinner was waiting. He was like one under strong possession, and never thought of dinner or laid down the book till he had read it through.”

I must not forget to say that the “Series of Illustrations of Political Economy” was printed at a cheaper rate than it would have otherwise been, on account of the clearness of the writing; a thing worthy to be put on record in vindication of the rights of printers.

All the compliments and admiration of the early period of these years of fame, — phrenologists declaring her head incomparably the best female head they had a cast of, both for size and harmony; admission for the first time, in her person, of a lady to the distribution of prizes at the London University (this year by Lord John Russell), the head professor’s family declaring “her presence gave it a consequence which they wished to secure for it;” huntings-up of her early writings, — “the Chancellor wants the ‘Traditions’ sent after him to Bath;” Coleridge watching anxiously for the numbers; family consultations in so many distinguished households about who was sufficiently distinguished to make one with herself at the same dinner-party, and what great previous celebrity should be spared such a wound to his self-complacency as witnessing the homage paid to the new one, and the like sweet social flatteries ad infinitum, — all this had no ill effect on her appearance or character. At the end of her first London year Sydney Smith said, “She has gone through such a season as no girl before ever knew, and she has Edition: current; Page: [208] kept her own mind, her own manners, and her own voice. She’s safe.”

And so the last year of the first London life left her; though the trial, from being merely superficial, as at first, and such as literary ladies and gentlemen were all in their lesser measure subjected to, had become the deeper one that statesmen only, in conscious possession of the nature that is a power in the land, can feel. Now there was mush buzzing and flinging the sounding-line about a pension. Lord Brougham evidently did not like the result. He clearly saw the inconvenience to the government of having one standing in the relation of pensioner on whom it could never reckon with any greater security than its own adherence to the people’s interests might claim. The language of friends whose characters had been moulded by personal aspirations and political expediency was not likely to bring her own mind into a state to be pensioned. “Provided,” said one of them, “that you do nothing in the mean time to upset your dish with the government, you are sure of one.” Without coming to any decision on the general subject of literary pensions, the thoughts such experiences suggested made her only the more solicitous to preserve her own independence as the advocate of the people’s interests, and naturally pointed out her course in after years as often as the time for decision came.

Appreciation in the highest quarter was not wanting to her. “Lord and Lady Durham told me,” she said, “how delighted the Princess Victoria was with my series, and this took place. I told Lord Durham that that particular young lady’s reading was of some consequence, and that it was worth something for her to know what the inside of a workhouse, for instance, was like; but that I did hope she did not read for the story only. In her position it really would be a very good thing that she should understand the summaries and trace them in the stories. He agreed, and in a few days he sent me a note to say that my hint had been well taken and was attended to. Lady Durham told me how, one evening, the little girl (then eleven years old) came with hop, skip, and jump from the inner drawing-room to show her mother the next paper, with the advertisement of the Edition: current; Page: [209] ‘Illustrations of Taxation,’ whereby her pleasure was extended, when she thought the series was just done. The Queen has always said that ‘Ella of Garveloch’ was her favourite.”

Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography gives the impression the world made upon her: a memoir ought to give the impression she made on the world. Of this there would be no end of books: — a few traits must suffice in the space afforded by one. She was, Mr. Carlyle used to say, an instance, and the only one he knew, of clear activity being compatible with happiness. He could not talk before her, he added, about every effort being painful and all labour sorrow. “You are,” he said to herself, “like a Lapland witch on her broomstick, going up and down as you will. Other people, without broomsticks, drop down, and cannot come up when they would; and that’s the difference between them and you. Hartley Coleridge declared her to be “a monomaniac about every thing.” Sydney Smith was of a similar opinion. “A true heroic nature,” he said. But it was not remarkable men alone who were stirred to admiration. She made a profound impression on every body she met. The busy mother of a family of a dozen children, cumbered with much serving, with whom she was one evening taking tea, forgot every thing else in the charm of her conversation, and said, while following her to the door as she took leave, “I am so sorry, — so sorry you came, for I cannot bear to have you go!”

It was after the completion of “the series” that Monsieur Guizot, then Minister of Public Instruction in France, was establishing a new periodical for its promotion. He directed that the numbers should each open with a biographical sketch, as always sure to interest the readers, and he ordered the first to be a memoir of Harriet Martineau; she, he said, affording the only instance on record of a woman having substantially affected legislation otherwise than through some clever man.

The public action of this period directly to be traced to Harriet Martineau’s political influence may be seen in the reform song, sung with uncovered heads by what were called the “monster meetings,” — the immense assemblages of the people that in 1831 shook the kingdom into a speedy but pacific and constitutional reform in 1832.

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“Demerara” told upon slavery; “Cousin Marshall,” upon strikes, in conjunction with the author’s constant testimony against them to the people. The “Charmed Sea” was influential upon the Polish cause. The Corn-Law and other tales told upon monopolies. For the influence of “The Tenth Haycock” upon tithes, and for the effect upon the house and other taxes, the new postage and Canada, reference being had to the Autobiography and to the “History of the Peace,” there need be no further mention of them here. An amusing dialogue between Lord Althorp and “an adviser” may be found in the “History of the Peace,” — the adviser being Harriet Martineau herself.

Some of her letters to her mother here subjoined were written during the publication of the “Illustrations.”

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
June 11, 1833

I thought I should have nothing to tell you, dear mother, for some time, so quiet a life as this fortnight is to be; but some little matters usually turn up which it strikes me you would like to hear, and you see I always fill a letter somehow.

Yesterday I read diligently for the Corn-Laws. Mr. Malthus, passing the door at nine o’clock, inquired when I was to return from Paris, where he saw by the papers I now am; and to-day he came and stayed an hour. Mrs. Coltman sent for me to dinner, and Mrs. Malthus and I had much pleasant talk, and at dinner I sat between father and son. This morning I corrected proof, made summary of Corn-Laws, and drew out some of my story. It is to be in the picturesque part of Yorkshire, near Sheffield, where there are hills for my miller, foundries for my artisans, meadows for my farmers, sheep-walks and farms for my land-owners, black moors and grouse for their sons, and so on. I do believe that as an illustration it will be perfect, whatever it may turn out in other respects. I will give free course to my feelings and opinions on this tremendous subject, and it shall go hard with me but I will make others think and feel too. I wonder whether you ever heard the story Mr. Potter tells of a college companion of his, who blundered dreadfully under his examination for ordination. As a last resource, he was asked if he could repeat any one text from the Old or New Testament. He readily quoted “And Moses said, when he was in the whale’s belly, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” It is long since I heard a jumble that tickled me so much. And now good night.

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Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet

It is late, dear mother, and I have had a hard day’s work; but I cannot let my birthday pass without a line to you. I was reminded of it by a sweet letter from —, thought of and written with her accustomed grace of sisterly love. I never passed so quiet a birthday, and never, assuredly, so happy a one. I had set it apart for work, and much work I have done with pen and needle, and much more with thoughts. These are the days when I can scarcely believe my own destiny, and when I feel that I can never work too diligently or disinterestedly for my own great responsibilities. Good Janetta writes her congratulations and wonder at my not being altered. If she was here she would see that there is that in my office which forbids levity as much as it commands cheerfulness, and that I have more need than ever of old friends and their supporting love, as gazers and admirers of my efforts crowd round me. When my efforts relax, these last will retreat; and then what would become of me if I was “altered,” or had lost my old friends? What a year this has been! “Ella” was published this day twelve months, but how little way had I made compared to what I have now! I trust this Corn-Law story will carry me on further; and if it helps to open eyes and soften hearts on the tremendous question which involves millions of lives and centuries of happiness or misery, my birthday will have been well spent in working upon it. To make quite sure, I have for the half-dozenth time compared the summary and the plan, and I am certain that the summary contains the whole question, and that the story illustrates every bit of the summary. I am also sure that the characters are characters, if I can but keep them up. I mean to get it all into one number if possible, and shall therefore condense the emotion into great depth and retrench the description as much as possible. Every page shall tell. How singular is the faculty of conception! That Yorkshire vale with its people is become as perfect a real existence to me since yesterday morning as if I had lived there. May it soon be so to you! And may I be permitted for yet another year thus to handle God’s works for the good of those who so unhappily and unconsciously abuse them! To-morrow is to be quiet too, the only engagement being to take William Stoker* to see the model of the copper-mine in the Strand. This we can do between dinner and tea. Cresson called to-day; so did Mr. —, bringing me a pretty coffee apparatus for making my own breakfast Edition: current; Page: [212] without a fire, in first-rate style. He also offers an order for the opera for Monday or Tuesday next, which I accept. Mr. Evans called to fix on to-morrow for a final sitting.* I have done a chapter to-day of “Sowers not Reapers.” Now for tea, and then filling up my frank, and to bed. One of the funniest things is the number of tradesmen’s cards that pour in, beautifully sealed and directed, puffing a hundred things I shall never want, — lamps and stays, china, shoes, and soaps, harps, divine oils, and celestial essences.

Mr. — says I should suit his purpose as a critic much better if I was more vain. If he could find a sore place he would rub and rub, as he declares he delights to do. But I see all the faults of my books, he says, as plainly as he does. I tell this only to you, as I know it will please you. I do believe more has been done for me and my books by my being glad of enlightened criticism, than by any one part of me besides.

Pardon this, dear mother, and take it not as vanity, but the communicativeness which you ever command from your most affectionate


P. S. I find the newspapers report me as in Paris; and Mr. Fisher has just sent to know when I am expected to return from Paris! The Jeffreys have just called, and are kind and pleasant. The Lord Advocate is in a thorough panic about the country. The Queen and royal family are behaving abominably. The King will not make peers, and the House of Lords can and will throw out the Ministry. Will they get back as quietly as before? Every body is full of this to-day. Lady Mary Shepherd was surprised to hear yesterday that I am not in Paris. Had told Lord Henley I was. Now I am to meet him there next week.

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet

O, but do you know Coleridge told me yesterday that he watches “anxiously,” for my numbers from month to month? Can it be that I am paying him in any measure for what he has done for me? He now never stirs from his Highgate abode. He is not sixty, and looks eighty, — and such a picture of an old poet! He is most neatly dressed in black; has perfectly white hair; the under lip quivering with the touching expression of weakness which is sometimes Edition: current; Page: [213] seen in old age; the face neither pale nor thin; and the eyes — I never saw such! — glittering and shining so that one can scarcely meet them. He read me (most exquisitely) some scraps of antique English; and, talking about metres, quoted some poetry so as to make my eyes water. He talked some of his transcendentalism, which I wanted to hear. He talks on and on, with his eyes fixed full on you, and distinctly as possible. He told me wherein he differed and wherein he agreed with me; but this is too transcendental for a letter. . . . . He begged me to see him again. I must go.

Mr. Hallam has just been giving me a comfortable, long call. I like him much, with all his contradictiousness. Did I tell you how popular the whole story of Vanderput is? — i. e. Mrs. B. Wood, Mr. William Smith, Mr. Hallam, and many others love “Christian” to my heart’s content. Mr. Hallam says the whole story is one of my best, — the idea new, the picture faithful, and Christian exceeding almost any thing preceding. I hope he is right. But Whately and the poor-law commissioners pronounce “The Parish”* the best thing I have done.

I am delighted at the number of people who now ask me about Mr. Fox and Finsbury Chapel, and go to hear him. Nothing could exceed him yesterday, and there were plenty to hear him. It was on the different ways of loving the world, — the duty and delight of loving it in its upward tendency, and the guilt and despicableness of seeking it in its defilements and sinking into them. Paul and Demas were the examples. This is a good thought to sleep upon; so good night, dearest mother.

You see more notices of me than I do, I believe. I have not seen the “Spectator” for months; and the “Englishman’s” dedication has not met my eye.

And now my candle is just burnt out, and it is bedtime; so good night, dearest mother. Fancy me always, in the midst of clamour and applause, merrily at work by “my ain fireside.” When I first lose five minutes’ sleep by night or tranquillity by day from any thing the world says, I shall think myself in a bad way. I sleep “like an infant,” to use your own expression, and am as happy as the day is long. This once for all.

Dear love to your home party, and love abroad where due, from your most affectionate

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What between the scoffing of the “Quarterly” and the scepticism of the “Edinburgh,” the hungry people are ill fed. I hope a third quarterly will some day arise, wherein the people may be grounded in the grand truth that faith in God — in his PRINCIPLES — is inseparably connected with faith in man. This will soon happen, now that circumstances are teaching us the utter helplessness of a system of expediency. Meantime I have chosen my lot. It is to teach principles, let what will come of it. Nothing but good can eventually come of it, and I have and shall have many helpers. . . . . Dearest mother, never mind the “Quarterly.”

— — called, and requested me to mark out the line of inquiry I wish him to pursue. I have promised to ponder the matter. The idea was not only my own. — and others suggested — — to me as the man; but my having written on factory-children gives me a sort of claim to suggest.

I breakfasted with — — this morning, and have since had a letter from that precious little lady. She sends her kind regards to your party. Old Niemcewicz called yesterday, which he is fond of doing. Fine old man! As a poet he is pleased, he says, with “the rare union of imagination and logic” in my tales, and would fain translate them into Polish, if there were any book-market in that unhappy land. They are actually translated into German, which you will be glad to hear. A large party to-morrow.

It was a sort of compromise. The Chancellor was there, but went away early. I was placed between the Chief Justice and Malthus, both of whom were very talkative to me. What a fine face Denman’s is! We were eleven. Mr. Wishaw was going to Holland House, and offered to bring me home, calling by the way on Mrs. Marcet at the Edward Romilly’s. They are just home from Ludlow, of which place Mr. E. R. is member. Mrs. Marcet is sorry to find that Mr. E. R. and I are of the same opinion about the Factory Bill, and I am very glad. She ought to hold the same, namely, that legislation cannot interfere effectually between parents and children in the present state of the labour-market. Our operations must be directed towards proportioning the labour and capital, and not upon restricting the exchange of the one for the other, — an exchange which must be voluntary, Edition: current; Page: [215] whatever the law may say about it. We cannot make parents give their children a half-holiday every day in the year, unless we also give compensation for the loss of the children’s labour. The case of those wretched factory-children seems desperate; the only hope seems to be that the race will die out in two or three generations, by which time machinery may be found to do their work better than their miserable selves. Every one’s countenance falls at the very mention of the evidence which has lately appeared in the papers.

A note from Lady Mary Shepherd this morning, to say she would send the carriage for me between three and four o’clock, which was done. I have had a long, pleasant confab with Lord Henley, whom I like very much. We had lunch, coffee, and much talk, — we two, Lady Mary, and her daughter. The real object of the interview evidently was to urge me to America instead of on the Continent, when the series is done. Lord Henley says that however inferior the Americans are in some respects, in others they have got down to principles of justice and mercy in their institutions better than we have. . . . . He thinks our Church, in its present state, the dead-weight on our improvement, and instances our cathedral towns as being worse than others. He told me that till he read “Cousin Marshall” he never thought of any thing more in the way of charity than easing sorrow when it was before him, and had at first much difficulty in reconciling me with his Christianity.

Now the plot of my extraordinary life thickens, dearest mother! I can give you no idea of the scramble which is going on for me among parties. . . . The poor-law information on which I proceed is ten times what is published, and the publication was not contemplated when I undertook the work. The Chancellor tried in vain to persuade Lord Melbourne to delay it till mine was out. I am glad it was published, as it corroborates me, and leaves me plenty of material which cannot be published except in my tales. . . . . However it may take away my breath to see my early guides and friends taking away my supports from under me, and leaving me to stand or fall by my principles alone, I will not allow my weakness to overcome me, while I see clearly what those principles are, and feel that they are trustworthy. . . . . But what strength they must suppose in me while they bring these conflicting principles to bear upon me! It would not be politic in the Radicals thus to prove me if they did not believe I Edition: current; Page: [216] could stand it; and they shall end in respecting me for my independence, as the Tories do under all their sarcasms, and as the Whigs do amidst all their regret for my “exaltation of sentiment” and what not. Mr. Fox’s mission is to lead a party, and nobly he discharges it. Mine is to keep aloof from party, to take my stand upon science and declare its truths, leaving it to others to decide whether these be Tory, Whig, or Radical. One by one I shall surmount hindrances if I live. Ridicule has been tried, has failed, and is done with. I trust to disprove Whig prognostications by completing my work regularly, rationally, and consistently; and the Radicals will presently find I am not under their control. Here I am, placed in an unparalleled position, left to maintain it by myself, and (believe me) able to maintain it; and by God’s grace I will come out as the free servant of his truth. This language is not too high for the occasion. The more my connections enlarge, the more I see the eagerness of speculation as to what I am to turn out; and (for your sake I add) the more affectionate is the respect and the more cordial is the confidence of my reception wherever I have once appeared. There is no misinterpretation of me by any who have seen me. They see and admit that the ground of my confidence is principles and not my own powers; and they therefore trust me, and eagerly acquit me of presumption. . . . .

I send you the Preface to the Corn-Law story. I dare say you will find an opportunity of sending it back before printing-time next month. I think you will all like it.

H. M.

I am confident it is not the partiality of friendship which makes me see in the package of letters from which I have made these random selections material for a most interesting and instructive volume. But the writer meant them only as material for something which I might write, and I do not know enough of the private or public relations of the vast numbers of persons whose lives at this period touched hers, to venture to give this revelation of them to the press, even if I were doubtful as to her intentions. But my instructions left no doubt. “Read them,” she told me, “as throwing light upon my life at that time. How much or how little I cannot tell, for I dare not read them myself; and I dread to think that you may find them full of egotism and vanity.” I do not so find them; what would be so, if said to another, is only dutiful to mother, brother, Edition: current; Page: [217] and sister, husband, child, or next friend. And for the rest, it is a self-confidence as rare as well deserved, when one on the confines of age can thus confide to another’s eye the records of youth. But she knew they were all right when they were written, — true, that is, to her light and judgment of that time: and this committal of them to help my knowledge of her before we met seems to me in fact an illustration of her courageous integrity.

The pride and satisfaction of the mother, so constantly kept informed of the happenings of each day, was too great to remain satisfied at a distance, and the hazardous step was taken by Harriet Martineau of adding to all the public cares and private labours of her London life the care of a household. I find, by reference to these letters, how trying the position became, to which she so tenderly alludes in the Autobiography as a “troubling of the affections.” The more she loved and honoured her mother, the more truly she estimated the many really admirable qualities that made her character, the more she must naturally have suffered from a fretful and domineering temper which claimed continually what it was absurd and wrong in the daughter to yield. She was not a second time guilty of the folly of sacrificing her career of life and duty to her mother’s insufficient judgment, but she suffered profoundly from the pain of resisting it; and in combining her mother’s wishes and her own loving sense of filial duty with the exigencies of her position as one owing a duty to the world, took every proper precaution against the readily foreseen ill consequences of the new step.

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
July 8, 1833
Robert Martineau
Martineau, Robert


Dearest Mother,

I have rather put off writing, feeling that I have much to say, and now I must write after all more briefly than usual. Mrs. Ker has told you that I am well, and so I go on to what you most want to know next. About our future. I know of no risks that you are not at present aware of, and I have no fresh doubts. You are aware that I must travel, after 1834, for a year or little short of it; and we all know that my resources depend on health, and in some degree on popularity. I say “in some degree,” because I am pretty sure that I can now never be without employment unless I Edition: current; Page: [218] choose. I wish to put the pension out of the question because, though it is as fully designed for me as ever, I am just as likely to refuse as to accept it; and besides, it is intended for purposes of improvement, unless sickness should oblige me to live upon it. But I incline more and more to refuse it, though I need not make up my mind till I see how I am circumstanced with respect to the people when it is offered. I have every hope of being able to supply my annual £150, and you are as well aware of the chances against it as myself. I shall be very happy to invest £200 in furniture, in addition to that of my own two rooms, and you can take it out, if that plan will make you easy, at your convenience. If not, we shall not differ about these matters, I am sure. My advice is that we begin modestly, — with a house which we may keep after a time, when our income may be reduced. With prudence I think we may hope to live comfortably on our means, while I may be laying by something against a time of rest, if it should please God to preserve my health. I see no other plan which promises equal comfort for the three parties concerned, and if you are willing to trust to our industry and care, so am I; and I have no doubt we shall make one another happy, if we at once begin with the change of habits which our change of position renders necessary. I fully expect that both you and I shall occasionally feel as if I did not discharge a daughter’s duty, but we shall both remind ourselves that I am now as much a citizen of the world as any professional son of yours could be. You shall be most welcome to my confidence, as ever, and to any comfort that may be derived from living in the same house, and meeting at the same table, and taking frequent walks, and having many mutual friends. My hours of solitary work and of visiting will leave you much to yourself; this you know and do not fear; so now the whole case is before you, and you know exactly under what feelings I say “Come.” I may just mention that I see no sign of disapprobation on any hand, though there are naturally doubts here and there as to how a removal from a place where you have lived so many years may affect you. We, however, know that removal to be necessary, whether you come to London or fix your abode elsewhere; there is another chance, dear mother, and that is, of my marrying. I have no thoughts of it. I see a thousand reasons against it. But I could not positively answer for always continuing in the same mind. It would be presumptuous to do so; and I especially feel this when I find myself touched by the devoted interest with which some few of my friends regard my labours. I did not know till lately any thing of the enthusiasm with which such services as I attempt Edition: current; Page: [219] can be regarded, nor with what tender respect it could be testified. I mean no more than I say, I assure you; but, strong as my convictions are against marrying, I will not positively promise. As for my money prospects, the sale cannot now fall below the point of profit, and large profit; and there is the cheaper edition to look to, which every body says will yield an income for years to come. . . . .

Do not trouble yourselves about the vagabond who took my name at the police-office the other day. Nobody but “The Age” will take her to be me.

Then follows the usual journal of the week. Visitors, dinners, evening parties, work completed. It was at this time that the fine incense of the eighteenth century was made to smoke around her by Mrs. Berry and her friends. It appears to have been delicately done; for, after a long list of distinguished names, — “a charming little party to meet me,” — she acknowledges that it was very pleasant, “though I was made the principal person, quite.” She goes on: —

I have been doing again about the factory business. What a sweet letter from Ellen! I am much obliged by Aunt Rankin’s bag. Dear love to you two from

Yours most affectionately,

The above letter is dated “July 8,” from the house of a lady who tells her mother, on the same sheet, of the merry time they are having together, — “rather noisy, sometimes romping even, but on the whole reasonable,” — “freaks of opera-dancing,” etc., which Mrs. — — wishes might last a month. This lady always saw with the most painful sympathy how sad a thing it was that one like Harriet Martineau, with a head so clear, hands so busy, and a heart so tender, — constantly devoting herself for her family, and feeling as if, in fact, she could never do enough for their interests and pleasure, — should have been subjected to the trial, to her the greatest possible, of a deficiency in tenderness. But “that which is wanting cannot be numbered.” Mrs. Martineau, always a severe mother, had now become an exacting and jealous one, and no precautionary measures could avail. As Edition: current; Page: [220] her daughter’s sphere of duty outgrew her own, she again became as really unable to sympathize with her as when, in childhood, she had so fatally mismanaged her.

A loving, dutiful, and reverential nature never sees at the time where the cause of such a difficulty as this lies, especially when, as in this case, the place of the string wanting is filled with all the vigour and activity of a strong character.

It is wide of the present purpose, the harmonious, mournful verse of the finely endowed Felicia Hemans, that

  • “Bought alone by gifts beyond all price,
  • The trusting heart’s repose, the paradise
  • Of home, with all its loves, doth fate allow
  • The crown of glory unto woman’s brow”;

since the same, as far as it is true, is equally so of illustrious persons of both sexes; as the lives of so many great men show, notwithstanding the public opinion of these centuries; which, favouring the notion that it is man’s exclusive privilege to do great things, has hindered woman in doing them by abundance of morbid statements like the above.

But greatness, in man or woman, must bear its special burdens. They are neither heavier nor widely different from those imposed by littleness. It is a very common thing to see family peace wrecked where there is no greatness to awaken jealousy.

Though all her devotedness failed to satisfy her mother’s unreasonable requisitions, one thing could be and was done by Harriet Martineau at this time. She relieved literature of the reproach of making human character undomestic and irritable, and showed, in her own instance, that public duty does but fit the better for private life. It needed as high a motive, joined to all her filial tenderness, to go on to the very end of possibility with this suffering family life. It was not (as we who look back upon it can now readily see) the best thing to have done for the parties concerned; but it shielded literature and the character of woman from a reproach which, at that period — the birthday of a new public question — it was of the utmost consequence to avoid. Her “unvarying sweetness of temper,” so often mentioned Edition: current; Page: [221] by early friends, enabled her to fulfil to the utmost the domestic duty of this period.

Happily, the heavy trial of the time was divided to Harriet Martineau by her American life. On leaving London she seized the opportunity of visiting her good elder brother Robert and his wife, her early friend, with their numerous young family, at Birmingham. It was an hour of delightful heart’s ease and recreation. Before leaving them for Liverpool, to embark, she begged the beloved little flock to say what they wished her to bring them from America. The same shy, dutiful answer from all, — “whatever Aunt Harriet pleased,” except the little Maria, who said, “Bring me a humming-bird’s nest.” It was this child who, twenty years after, joined her in London, at the time that her recovery was pronounced hopeless, with the devoted determination of never leaving her again; who was unto her as a daughter, and who died by her side.

But I must not anticipate.

Meanwhile, amid present anxieties and future hopes, proofs of the success of her labours for the public welfare were continually reaching her. Not only did the Manchester workmen declare that “her hero was their hero,” and their conviction that “she must have passed her life in a mill,” to have written of their hopes and wrongs, their sorrows and temptations, their rights and their needs, in a manner so experimental and effectual. The most influential among the employers were of the same mind, and co-operated to their utmost in the way she indicated. Her mind was of the high mediatorial character that can seize the truth and the right amid conflicting interests, and make it seen and felt of all. About this time her friend, Lord Durham, wrote to her thus: —

Loard Durham
Durham, Loard
January 18, 1834
Lambton Castle
Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
Dear Miss Martineau,

I have desired a Newcastle paper to be sent you, with an account of some observations of mine on the unions of this district, and of the steps taken to counteract their bad tendency by the institution of an association carrying into effect all the good objects of the old unions, without their accompanying evils. I will send you the rules, etc., when they are printed. Hitherto the attempt Edition: current; Page: [222] has succeeded well. There were 1200 members when I addressed them, and many have joined since, on the mere hearsay report of what I had said. No doubt it is expensive, for it will cost me £200 per annum at least; but so much is at stake that I do not grudge it. I hope to engraft on this association schools and libraries. The funds are flourishing; at the end of this their first year they have a balance of more than £500.

I assure you when I was addressing the men I could not help thinking how much more effective it would have been had I merely read to them an extract from your Manchester strike.

I hope you will, however, enable me soon to circulate amongst them that which will compensate for my deficiency.

Yours very truly,

The members only subscribe 4d. a week. They collected, in 1833, £1,170 13s. 2d., and spent £663 15s. 9d., leaving a balance on hand of £506 17s. 5d. I, as proprietor, name the president, and the members elect the committee and stewards.

Loard Durham
Durham, Loard
January 1st, 1834
Lambton Castle
Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
Dear Miss Martineau,

I have read your excellent paper with great pleasure, and thank you most sincerely for having spared us a portion of your valuable time. I shall see Mr. Morton to-day, and arrange with him as to the best mode of circulating it. Its style and tone is perfectly adapted to win the confidence and convince the understandings of the working classes. No time is to be lost, for on the Tyne the combination is spreading rapidly, and the most violent and bloody measures are openly avowed.

I leave Lambton to-morrow, and expect to be in London on Monday night. . . . . I am endeavouring to unite our three great parishes of Chester, Houghton, and Gateshead under one overseer, with a liberal salary, to carry into effect the Southwell principle of administering the poor-laws, — in fact, that which is illustrated in your works. If I succeed, you might perhaps tell me where I could find the proper person. The salary would be large enough to tempt a first-rate person to undertake the office.

Yours very truly,

The fearful “Condition-of-England Question,” which Harriet Martineau thus confronted in her active time, was not without Edition: current; Page: [223] cause; one of its causes was the ignorance and apathy of the middle class.

Persons of the highest intelligence, literary cultivation, and religiously trained thought, like Sara Coleridge, took such a mistaken and merely literary view of the matter as this: —

“What a pity it is, that, with all her knowledge of child-nature, she should try to persuade herself and others that political economy is a fit and useful study for growing minds and limited capabilities, — a subject of all others requiring matured intellect and general information as its basis! This same political economy which quickens the sale of her works now, will, I think, prove heavy ballast for a vessel that is to sail down the stream of time. . . . . And she might have rivalled Miss Edgeworth! . . . . And then, what practical benefit can such studies have for the mass of the people for whom, it seems, that Miss M— intends her expositions? They are not like religion, which may and must mould the thoughts and acts of every-day life, the true spirit of which, therefore, cannot be too much studied and explained. But how can poor people help the corn-laws, except by sedition?”

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    • “Rough are the steps, slow-hewn in flintiest rock,
    • States climb to power by; slippery those with gold
    • Down which they stumble to eternal mock:
    • No chafferer’s hand shall long the sceptre hold,
    • Who, given a fate to shape, would sell the block.”
    • James Russell Lowell.
    • “Henceforth thou art the genius of the shore.”
    • Milton.

He that would bring back the wealth of the Indies must carry out the wealth of the Indies:” and the knowledge of this was what caused the unusual excitement in the public mind of America when it became known there that Harriet Martineau was about to visit the United States. They had been annoyed by incompetent persons assuming to be their factors and interpreters to Europe, but here was one of a different type; and the single thought was of the return freightage. No English traveller had before visited the country with so brilliant a prestige. She brought out such a reputation for learning as well as genius, for piety as well as power, for trained critical ability as well as natural observing faculty, for thorough knowledge of England as well as kindly dispositions towards America, that the statesman-like acquirements and literary success which had constituted her greatness at home were but few among many of the considerations that made her fame abroad.

She came with a social prestige to the showy dwellers of Atlantic cities. These were the persons whose ambition, or rather lack of genuine self-esteem, was shown by their efforts, in humble imitation of the obnoxious class distinctions which the Edition: current; Page: [226] best Englishmen think the least worth perpetuating, to keep up among themselves dim traditional notions and literary illusions unrecognized by the land at large. Her aristocratic friendships were better known to them than her democratic sympathies; and they desired the reflected light of such glories. She came, too, with an unequalled religious prestige to her own denomination; which, unlike Unitarianism at that time in England, was here an influential one for its wealth, social position, and literary culture. She came with unexampled claims on the minds of leaders in national and state politics; while our “millions,” the reading public, who were to succeed to this leadership in their turn, were longing to express their grateful acknowledgments for the pleasant awakening she had given to their moral sense.

For the thing that had principally marked the few years immediately preceding her arrival was a singular moral apathy or paralysis of the public mind, which made its literature, politics, and religion all seem either formal and unreal, or disproportioned and extravagant, — the smooth, relenting movement of the spent engine, with great noise and bustle among the conductors. Life was fast degenerating into insipid sentimentalism or ridiculous caricature among all who were not actually struggling for a living. There was no advance, for that part of the nation that ought by position and cultivated intelligence to have led had lost the way.

But popularly accepted and borne onward by the admiration of all, Harriet Martineau enjoyed unequalled opportunities for coming to just conclusions about America. She landed in New York in the middle of September, 1834, and travelled first in the states of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, examining their cities, villages, and manufactories, visiting friends and making pilgrimages to every scene of interest, from its sublimity and beauty, or from its moral associations. She remained six weeks in Philadelphia, where there are as many circles of society as at Geneva, each personally unknown to the other, having constant intercourse with most of them; and she stayed three weeks in Baltimore before establishing herself Edition: current; Page: [227] at Washington for the session of Congress. While in the capital of the nation, she was earnestly sought by all the eminent men of all parties among senators, representatives, and judges of the Supreme Court, and was on terms of friendship and intimacy with the leading minds of the whole Union. She enjoyed the advantage of intimate and confidential intercourse with a class of men of whom none now remain, — the founders of the Republic and their immediate successors. She was in Richmond while the Virginia Legislature was in session, and then made a long winter journey through North and South Carolina. Thence she traversed the State of Georgia to Augusta, and from that capital to Montgomery, Alabama, descending the river afterwards to Mobile. Her route led thence to New Orleans and up the Mississippi and Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee, on the Cumberland River, and to Lexington, averaging a fortnight in each place. After visiting the wonderful Mammoth Cave in Kentucky she descended the Ohio to Cincinnati, and after making a visit of ten days there, and again ascending that river, she landed in Virginia, visiting all the natural wonders and beauties of the region. She arrived a second time at New York about the middle of July, 1835. The autumn she spent in the smaller towns of Massachusetts, not neglecting to visit its principal cities, making a long visit in the family of Dr. Channing at Newport, and an excursion to the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. All this time the newspapers were zealous heralds and homagers, so that it might have been a refreshment to her to take up one that did not follow her progress with praise. One winter she passed in Boston, during the session of the Massachusetts Legislature, always in the houses of persons who had become intimate and dear friends; who, though of opposite parties, sects, and aims, had the common feeling of affection for her, and the common wish to put in her possession every means of information, or opportunity for becoming acquainted with New England. Plymouth, the landing-place of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620, she saw at the celebration of “Forefathers’ Day,” December 22, 1835; and the day completed two hundred and fifteen years since the ancestors of the people she had been studying emerged Edition: current; Page: [228] from their little vessel with that independence of mind which made of their posterity

“A church without a bishop, and a state without a king.”

Another two months’ visit in New York, with another month of New England farm-house life, and then came her last American journey into the West by ship across the great inland seas, and along to the prairies beyond the far lake-shore; again, through the State of Ohio, taking the river at Beaver and visiting Rapp’s Communist settlement, thence onward by Pittsburgh and the canal route through Pennsylvania, and by railroad over the Alleghanies, reaching New York in time to sail for England on the 1st of August, 1836.

An amount of life was crowded into these two years which her six volumes on America could by no means fully tell, nor her Autobiography, nor her voluminous private journal, now lying under my hand. She had entered by sympathy and insight into the lives of so many families and the secrets of so many hearts, as to have been to them like a sister, daughter, and next friend and counsellor. The society of a foreign country is to few travellers more than a stage procession, to most an enigma; but to her it was a field of action and a host of friends for life. She had formed no special plans of American travel, not even the common one of not venturing to take a living interest in the land while she remained in it, nor to write a book about it when she should return. She came for rest and the refreshment of change; and in order to learn what were those principles of justice and mercy towards the less fortunate classes which the Americans had been thought by good men in her own country to have more truly ascertained than themselves.

“As to actual knowledge of their country,” she says, “my mind was nearly a blank. I remember the vague idea I had, before this expedition to the United States, that there were thirteen of them, and that was almost the only idea about them I did possess.” Her journal is a full memorandum of facts, events, statistics, experiences, and all those special “happenings” of which some persons have to a proverb more than others; and Edition: current; Page: [229] she was one of those who have most. The best knowledge ever is the knowing how and what to learn: and this she possessed in such an abundant measure, that her two American years were better than the ignorant and careless lifetime of many another. Her letters and journals are filled with sketches of personages, traits of character, and pictures of scenery, — jottings of the salient points of the new life she was living, and its consequent ideas, thoughts, and queries. They are not a record of feelings or opinions, but texts for the long running commentary of conversation with family and friends on return.

Her first care is seen to be the acquirement of a thorough knowledge of American parties and American politics, and the morals of both as shown in all the action and inaction of the country. She studied the theory and the apparatus of the government, she watched the office-seekers and the office-holders, and the state of the citizens’ minds, as shown in speeches and conversation, in silence, and in various public life. She observed to what motives the newspapers appealed or declined to appeal, what were the sectional and caste prejudices shown in the political non-existence of certain classes. In looking into the social economy of the United States she shared the life of the solitary pioneers of civilization, and the life of the fashionable watering places; the various life of the far West; the plantation and city life of the South; the life of the New England farming and manufacturing populations and fishing villages; the life of the leading statesmen, magistrates, and literary men; the family life of its fashion, of its gentry, and of its ministers of religion.

She especially studied the agriculture of the country, and all the land and labour questions it involves, with its markets, means of transport, and internal improvements.

This was a time of masonic and anti-masonic strife; of bank and anti-bank excitement; of tariff and anti-tariff: and she enjoyed every possible facility for life-studies of the commerce, manufactures, and currency of the country. Slavery, as a part of its economy and as interwoven with its morals, a subject too on which she had so recently written and thought, she could not of course overlook.

Edition: current; Page: [230]

But what most deeply interested her was, what new type of civilization is to evolve from these new institutions? Is suffrage to remain subject to its present restrictions? Is woman to remain subordinate? Is property to remain subject to its present laws, or shall there be better mutual arrangements? Does the evident dissatisfaction of all classes with the present prophesy a reorganization of society on a better basis in the future? She looked to see what are the points of honour among the people; what the position of the women; what the standard of elegance and politeness; what the treatment of children; what degree of happiness is the result of marriage as existing among them. She was full of thought about the suffering classes, — whether through crime, or by reason of deficiency or infirmity of organization, or misfortune of position. One of her main objects was to observe the workings of slavery. The religion of America in its science, spirit, and administration was closely observed by her; and the book of which her mind was then full, and which was published after her return, is entitled “How to Observe.” It gives her methods of obtaining facts and coming at the truth by their means. Her powers of observation were enlarged by greater exercise than other persons undergo, for her deafness compelled a persistent course of inquiry, — a more careful inspection and a more thorough examination than they think of exercising. It obliged her also to take the precaution of being always accompanied by a friend. This gave a double strength to her testimony; for although one may be presumed to be sometimes mistaken, in the mouth of two witnesses every word is established. She was thus obliged to know every thing at first hand, and too soon and too certainly learned how little persons in general know of their own country, to feel any temptation to take second-hand information. Previous to coming to the United States she had written that letter to the deaf, which brought her very near the hearts of all afflicted like herself with that exclusion through the failure of the sense of hearing of which none but the sufferers can know all the sadness. One natural reward of the frank, self-regulated course which made her example so powerful a seconder of her precepts was, to be placed on all public occasions so as to Edition: current; Page: [231] hear the speakers. One natural consequence of her inability to hear general conversation was that intimate interchange of thought and feeling which made her the confidential friend of all the eminent persons she met; and their number was very great. There was not an eminent statesman or man of science, not an active politician or leading partisan, not a devoted philanthropist, not a great jurist, nor university professor, nor merchant-prince, nor noted divine, nor distinguished woman in the whole land who did not to the fullest measure of their natures pay homage to the extraordinary compass of hers. At the South she was in every city she visited the honoured guest of its most distinguished families. The Madisons and the Clays, Calhoun and the Porters, were especially devoted to her. Her visit to the Madisons was never to be forgotten by them or by herself. All parties possessed the eminent social gift of talking and letting talk. Of this time the whole of each day was spent in rapid conversation. Mr. Madison, for his share of it, discoursed on the principles and history of the Constitution of the United States; and his insight respecting the condition of foreign nations, and his dispassionate survey of that period, with his abundant household anecdotes of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, were an invaluable privilege. Judge Marshall was the daily guest of Mr. Madison during these profoundly interesting days. Their interest was not confined to the past nor to the present, but stretched far into the future, and Harriet Martineau always spoke of this period with delight: she came at a happy hour, — the last possible one for the enjoyment of these privileges, which brought her into the line of our American traditions, while yet these founders of the state were living to give her the key-note of the American Republic. Of Judge Marshall she never spoke without emotion. He had at once felt in hers a kindred mind; and she had instantly reverenced in him that majestic grace of departing days that attends the close of a grand and virtuous life. There was too much of mutual respect in their first meeting; and it was not until succeeding ones had made them intimate friends that she learned, in addition to her general knowledge of his character and services, how rare were his individual merits: and in after times she was never tired of Edition: current; Page: [232] describing “the tall, majestic, bright-eyed old man.” “Old,” she somewhere says, “by chronology, and by the lines on his composed face, and by his services to the Republic, but so dignified, so fresh, so present to the time, that no feeling of compassionate consideration for age dared to mingle with the contemplation of him.” Of the admiring friendship that she saw existing between himself and Mr. Madison, so strongly tried, yet never touched by their long political opposition, and of his reverence for woman, seldom seen so impressive in kind or in so high a degree, founded on his extensive knowledge and experience as the father and grandfather of women, she never spoke without enthusiasm. “Made clear-sighted by his purity,” she said, “and by the love and pity which their offices command, he had a deep sense of their social injuries, and a steady conviction of their intellectual equality with men.” One cannot find space even to name the multitudes at Washington with whom she became intimately acquainted. She was, among many other such happenings, invited to assist in doing the honours of the British Legation to the seven judges of the Supreme Court and seven great lawyers besides: “The merriest day that could well be. There is no merrier man than Mr. Webster, who fell chiefly to my share, and Judge Story would enliven a dinner-table at Pekin.”

The letter of moral credit, so to call it, which Judge Marshall gave to Harriet Martineau on every inhabitant of the land, expressing in advance his gratitude to any and all who should do her service, was with him no customary form or idle compliment. It was the expression of his sense of the value of her character to the nation through which she was passing.

Without a reference to the map of the United States, and a sketch of their origin, chronology, and modes of life, I could not give to a European an adequate knowledge of the wide sections of country visited by Harriet Martineau during the years of her American life. It is a nation as various as its territory is vast; and such geographical particulars as I have found space for are given merely to show the great opportunities that her genius then opened to her, and which she had the eye to see and the tact to Edition: current; Page: [233] seize. It is impossible to give an adequate idea of the influences she set in motion, both by origination and sympathy. She visited the prisons, the hospitals, the asylums, the educational institutions: the factories, the farms, the plantations, and the courts of law were equally familiar to her. She was in ball-rooms and drawing-rooms in alternation with senates and legislatures. She was the beloved and venerated guest of the richest and the poorest, — dwelling by turns in all America had to show for palaces, and in the log-houses of the pioneer settlements. She saw the two proscribed races — the negroes and the Indian tribes — in all their aspects, and the dominant one in all its forms. She met men in their families, churches, and markets, at their festivals, funerals, and weddings, at their land-sales, political gatherings, and slave-auctions.

There are persons whose gift it is to teach, lead, influence; persons of so loving a nature that, without a thought of popularity, they make themselves generally and passionately beloved: and of these she was chiefest. I could not count the American families who held her dear as one of their own members: and who ever spoke of her as one whose intercourse brightened their whole past. In some instances there was a tone of regret that she had not always remained as they knew her first. Like doting families who dread to see their youth outgrowing youth’s peculiar charm to man and womanhood, they wished her always to remain an inquirer into their institutions. They were ready to weep on seeing her depart from the region of Sabbath rest where she found and left them in this season of refreshment from toil and preparation for battle. But this feeling of course diminished in exact proportion as her influence made them worthier; and at length even slaveholders seemed, in after days, in some instances to have forgotten their anger at the time when her carefully formed judgment was pronounced upon the agitating and in after years successfully solved problem, though the consequences of delaying the solution are still strongly felt in America. They began to fancy her philosophy the only bar to friendship between them and herself.

The subjoined letter from one of the Southern cities in which Edition: current; Page: [234] she passed a delightful period will show how she was esteemed there. It is from Mr. and Mrs. Gilman of South Carolina, to her mother, in England.

Robert Martineau
Martineau, Robert


Dear Madam,

An hour before parting from your daughter I offered, in the fulness of my heart, to write to you. Knowing the feelings of a mother, I send you this letter as I would give a piece of bread to a hungry man, not because it is the most savoury thing in the world, but because a good appetite will make it sweet. — The fortnight Harriet passed with us (you know she loves that appellation) we shall never forget: not from the development of her fine powers in general society, but from the winning manner in which she gave and inspired confidence at home. I love to remember the frank and hearty air in which, when we had fought through a day of varied and sometimes exhausting engagements, she threw aside her cloak and said to my husband and myself, at eleven o’clock at night, “Come, now, let us have a little talk!” How far we looked down into each other’s hearts in those winged midnight hours! and what a treasure of friendship was garnered up, not for this world, — for, alas, we shall probably never meet again, — but for another, where no wide sea shall separate us!

I had written thus far when an unusually rapid scratching of my husband’s pen attracted my attention, and peeping over his shoulder I perceived that he was writing on the same subject as myself to his brother, E. G. Loring of Boston. It saves me a little embarrassment to copy his letter, because I cannot pour out my thoughts as unreservedly to you on your daughter’s merits as I would to another.

Caroline Gilman
Gilman, Caroline
Dear Friend and Brother,

I have been for some days meditating a letter to you on the subject of Miss Martineau. It was a true and happy impulse which caused both Caroline and myself to think of sending her a letter of invitation to stay with us as long as she remained in Charleston. The letter met her in Richmond; and, as she has since repeatedly said, gave her great pleasure. We expected an elegant, talented, good woman. We did not expect, in addition to all this, a lively, playful, childlike, simplicity-breathing, loving creature, whose moral qualities as much outshine her intellect as these last do those of the ordinary run of mankind. But exactly so, Edition: current; Page: [235] and without any exaggeration or enthusiasm in my picture, we found her. On account of the necessary irregularity and dissipation of her present mode of life, I gave her full liberty to keep her own hours, and to be free from the rules of the family. But no; she found out our hours of family prayer, and always came in most punctually with her favourite Bible, the Porteusian edition, which she reads more than any other book. In fact, though intending to be with us only a fortnight, she at once domesticated and ensconced herself among us as quietly and closely as if she had come for ten years. Dining out frequently and passing the evening at one or two parties, as soon as she came home at night, and had read at my request a devotional hymn in her own sweet and primitive manner, she would take Caroline on one side and me on the other, and there, fixed eye to eye and soul to soul, would she enchain and enchant us until long after midnight, when we were obliged to tear ourselves away, only out of tenderness to her. I do not think a woman ever lived who had such power to inspire others with affection. So you will say when you know her; so every body says who has passed two hours in her society. — One peculiar bond of interest between us was that all her early attempts at publication, which laid the foundation of her subsequent fame, were issued in the ‘Monthly Repository,’ just about the time when I used to contribute to that periodical a series of papers called the Critical Synopsis of the ‘Monthly Repository,’ consisting of remarks on every piece inserted in that work. We passed several hours in looking over those volumes. She never knew the author, or his name; but told me she used to figure him as a fat old gentleman in New England, sitting in his easy-chair, with a blue coat and yellow buttons, pronouncing decisions on her youthful compositions. On the second of the two Sundays she passed with us I taught her a part of John’s first chapter in Greek. Her accuracy and determination to pass over not a single principle in grammar or criticism, however minute, was astonishing. — When I asked my Caroline, who was with us at the time, if she was not jealous of my growing too fond of Harriet Martineau, my glorious wife* said, ‘O, no! take all the comfort in her that you can.’ She has a wonderful power of inspiring confidence, and extorting from those in whom she is interested the whole history of their past lives. This power was exercised over several of our leading politicians at Washington and elsewhere, as well as over us. Mr. Calhoun took infinite pains to indoctrinate her into the system of nullification. When we dined with General H. we were invited an hour before the other Edition: current; Page: [236] guests, that he might give her, at her request, his views on slavery. She studiously avoided arguing on these subjects, but quietly and keenly directed her attentions and questions to gentlemen of all parties in such a manner as to bring out the whole scope of detail of their several opinions. She made no secret of her aversion to slavery. She perceives and acknowledges, however, that the movements of the abolitionists have injured and retarded the cause of slaves here. Many little presents were sent her and Miss J. while here, and the mode of attention would probably have been manifested much more frequently had she remained longer. Mrs. W’s. gift (your Louisa will be interested to know) was six linen cambric handkerchiefs, marked with various emblems of Harriet’s character and fame. She threw out many little pleasantries on the six carriages that were offered for her use (one of which stood regularly at our door at eleven o’clock daily), threatening to make a procession of them and sit in the first. We gave her no party on account of our accumulated engagements, but invited friends to breakfast with her. She loves children, and children love her. She has brought ours a Bible play for Sunday evenings, in which adults join with great interest. On the last day of her being in Charleston she resisted several invitations in order to comply with our girls’ desire to have her visit their dancing-school. Caroline and I accompanied her eighteen miles out of town, where we spent the day in rambling in the woods or reading her works. We could not have done any thing else. On our return home at night we found that our Louisa (fourteen years old) had beguiled the time by composing her first piece of music and calling it the ‘Martineau Cotillon.’ I have purchased the Boston edition of her ‘Illustrations’ for my wife, and Miss M. has written, after a little coaxing from her, one or more sentences in every number, giving a precious bit of history or remark respecting the tales. She could hear most of my sermons through her horn, and has, I trust, benefited me by her remarks and encouragements. She is a deep adept in the philosophy of Carlyle, the reviewer of Burns, and the characteristics, in the Edinburgh. She devoted several reading evenings to these articles for us and Colonel C.’s family, our charming neighbours. She will speak of Coleridge and Wordsworth and spiritual growth to your heart’s content. Colonel P., the senator from Columbia, who says to her in a recent letter, ‘How can you make people love you so?’ has purchased her portrait, by Osgood. General H. sent her a set of the ‘Southern Review,’ and we had a delicious evening after she went away marking the author’s names and talking her over with the C.’s. — She contrived Edition: current; Page: [237] to run through several books in one fortnight, besides writing to her numerous correspondents and bringing up her journal; yet she never was in a hurry, never kept people waiting, and seemed only to hanker for long, sweet, private conversations with Caroline and myself. Her friend, Miss J., is an original, keen, frank, intelligent young lady, and secures friends in every quarter; my wife abandoned herself to the pleasure of intercourse with them. Her deportment to them was that of resistless hilarity, while mine was more solemn, under the painful consciousness that our interview must soon be over. My letter is a poor, faint idea of what you will find her. Her laugh is exquisitely amiable, frequent, and joyous. Wife is going to write to Harriet’s mother. She adores her brother James, a young Liverpool minister, more than any body else in the world,* and next to him Mr. Furness; but E. G. Loring will step in between brother James and Mr. Furness.”

My long extract, dear madam, will give you a correct impression of the nature of the intercourse with your daughter on our part. I will only add that her journey through the United States has thus far been one of triumph, — the best kind of triumph too, for she has been borne along on our hearts.

Remember us to “brother James and sister Ellen” and the other members of a family whom “not having seen we love.”

Yours respectfully,

Harriet Martineau was deeply impressed, on arrival in the United States, with a society basking, as she somewhere says, in one bright sunshine of good-will. Such sweet temper, such kindly manners, such hearty hospitality, such conscientious regard for human rights, received from her a warm tribute of admiration. Her journals and letters record it all; and room should be found for a few passages, all in harmony with the preceding letter.

September 22, 1834
New York

. . . . General Mason and family are loading us with attentions. He is one of the most finished gentlemen I ever saw; and, if I am not mistaken, one of the most sensible of men. . . . . He is guiding us as to our route, and insists on our whole party to Niagara taking possession of his country-house on Lake Erie, which he writes to direct his son to prepare for us. His son is governor, and lives at Detroit.

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How shall I ever tell you what we are doing? At the table of honour appropriated to us I am compelled to take the highest place. Half our day is taken up with callers. Such trains of them! The late mayor, to bid me welcome, members of Congress, lawyers and candidates for office, interested in poor-laws and what not, — you must fancy all this. Some of my honours are, having three special orders issued for my things to pass the custom-house untouched; tributes from Bryant and others ingeniously placed under my eyes; a letter from the principal booksellers of the State, asking leave to negotiate for any work I may think of publishing, and begging me to designate from their book-list what works they shall have the pleasure to present me with. And every copy of my books is snapped up. . . . . To-morrow we dine with the Carys. . . . . Mr. Furness preached at Mr. Ware’s chapel on Sunday. It was most delightful. The chapel is large, cool, and well planned and well filled. The pews are beautifully disposed, and the white building with its large green blinds might tempt in wanderers on a hot day. . . . . The quiet, deep tones of Mr. Furness’s fine voice suited my ear so well that I heard every syllable without effort. . . . . Mr. Furness came straight down from the pulpit to me, in much agitation, — begged me to accept the hospitality of his house first when I go to Philadelphia. He was almost in tears, and so were we, it was so like a brotherly meeting. I have had divers invitations to Philadelphia, but Mr. Furness is to entertain us first.

I am told that the violence about the slavery question is all among the Irish and low labourers, who are afraid of the coloured people being raised to an equality with them. If this is true, it alters the state of the case.

There is no bringing away any thing about Jackson, they contradict one another so flatly.

Within five minutes after I had crossed the threshold of my Broadway lodgings I was informed that the institutions of the country will have fallen into ruin before I leave; that “the levelling spirit” is desolating society here; and that America is on the verge of a military despotism! Such were the first politics I heard in America! I need not tell you my informant was not over wise.


New York, September 24. — Mr. Gallatin called. Old man. Began his career in 1787. Has been three times in England. Twice as minister. Found George IV. a cipher. Louis Philippe very different. Edition: current; Page: [239] Will manage all himself, and keep what he has. William IV. silly as Duke of Clarence. Gallatin would have the President a cipher too, if he could, i. e. would have him annual, so that all would be done by the ministry. As this cannot yet be, he prefers four years’ term without renewal, to the present plan, or to six years. The office was made for the man, — Washington, who was wanted (as well as fit) to reconcile all parties. Bad office, but well filled till now. Too much power for one man: therefore it fills all men’s thoughts to the detriment of better things. Jackson “a pugnacious animal.” This the reason (in the absence of interested motives) of his present bad conduct.

New-Englanders the best people, perhaps, in the world. Prejudiced, but able, honest, and homogeneous. Compounds elsewhere. In Pennsylvania the German settlers the most ignorant, but the best political economists. Give any price for the best land, and hold it all. Compound in New York. Emigrants a sad drawback. Slaves and gentry in the South. In Gallatin’s recollection, Ohio, Illinois, (?) and Indiana had not a white except a French station or two: now a million and a half (?) of flourishing whites. Maize the cause of rapid accumulation, and makes a white a capitalist between February and November, while the Indian remains in statu quo, and when accumulation begins, government cannot reserve land. The people are the government, and will have all the lands. [Ponder this.] Drew up a plan for selling lands. Would have sold at $ 2. Was soon brought down to $ 1¼, with credit. Then, as it is bad for subjects to be debtors to a democratic government, reduction supplied the place of credit, and the price was brought down to ¼ dollar.

All great changes have been effected by the democratic party, from the first, up to the universal suffrage which practically exists.

Aristocracy must arise. (?) Traders rise. Some few fail, but most retain, with pains, their elevation. Bad trait here, — fraudulent bankruptcies, though dealing is generally fair. Reason, that enterprise must be encouraged, — must exist to such a degree as to be liable to be carried too far.

Would have no United States Bank. Would have free banking as soon as practicable. It cannot be yet. Thinks Jackson all wrong about the bank, but has changed his opinion as to its powers. It has no political powers, but prodigious commercial. [Is not this political power in this country ?] If the bank be not necessary, better avoid allowing this power. Bank has not overpapered the country.

Gallatin is tall, bald, toothless, speaks with burr, looks venerable Edition: current; Page: [240] and courteous. Opened out and apologized for his full communication. Kissed my hand.

Van Buren is the chief of the tories. Clay is the father of the tariff system. A hearty orator. Is it the Irish and low labourers who riot against abolition?

September 24, 1834. — Rode to the James King’s, at High Wood, two miles beyond Hoboken. Saw bullocks yoked; ridge of rock and wood; splendid sunset, with crimson sky; pretty white wooden cottages, with thatched verandas. View from Mr. King’s garden beautiful; down to the Narrows, and up twelve miles. Glass-factory flaming among woods opposite, and elegant sloops moored in soft red light on river. Pretty and free-and-easy young people. Once made a qualification for office that the candidate should never have fought, and should never hereafter fight, any duel. God rid of by moving that promissory oaths are unlawful. Fight at Hoboken, and escape into New York. Robert Sedgwick thinks Webster equal to Demosthenes, and Clay’s warmth external. Saw Miss Sedgwick’s picture at his house, — fine expression, thoughtful and sweet.

September 25. — Colonel Johnson maimed in war. Likely to be President, General M. says. Saw Cass, Secretary of War. Shrewd, hard-looking man. Once vehement in politics, but tongue stopped by Jackson. Has been Secretary only this term. Irish driving of stage. Civility and freedom of manners. Rail-cars very comfortable. Snake Hill beautifully wooded. Many butterflies. Profusion of other animal life compared with human. Dwellings dotted. Indian corn. Hay left on ground to be carried in frost. Smooth Hackensack and Passaic. Alternate salt plains and wood. Fine weeds and elegant pokeberry, used (and hops too) as asparagus when young. Cattle feeding in enclosure where stumps are gray and like rocks. Paterson stands in a basin; but basin above level of stream. Rough and good people. Most immoral before manufactures were established. Now, drunkenness, but great improvement in other respects. Stand made by Mr. Collet against factory immorality. When currency troubles came, and all but three factories closed, young folks dropped into parents’ farms. When business was gradually resumed, dropped in again, so no want of hands. Difficult to get servants, from girls preferring factory-work. No place to deposit money; so often lost. The maid to-day with no cap. Pretty girl of fourteen nursing baby. Tall, and not awkward. Very simple. All seem to think that repeal of our corn laws would break up aristocracy. Also that they themselves are becoming too democratical. Must educate the people, and not legislate Edition: current; Page: [241] against democracy. All think Brougham mad or drunk. Cooper vain and petulant, Mrs. Griffith says. Lady fell from rocks at Passaic. Husband married again, and proposed bringing his second wife the day after their marriage! Fire-works at the falls; little water to-day; but wooded hills and rocks beautiful. Different levels of water, some turbulent, some still. Stumps in field. Fine fern. View of Paterson, under amphitheatre of ridges. Fine situation. Figures crossing turf, — “plodding homewards.” Young girls earn three or four dollars, and can board for one and a quarter. Talk on female education, &c., with Mr. Collet. Curd and preserves, cheese and fruit, for dessert. Raw beef and cakes and biscuits for tea. Delicious ice at eight.

October 10. — We must remember this day for having seen our first log-hut, and got some idea of forest sights. O, the dark shades of those thronging trees, with their etherealized summits! The autumn woods have hitherto seemed too red and rusty; these were the melting of all harmonious colours. And the forms! drooping, towering, — all sorts: and the tallest bare stems with exquisite crimson creepers. The cleared hollows and slopes, with the forest advancing or receding, but ever bounding all, is as fine to the imagination as any natural language can be. I looked for an Indian or two standing on the forest verge, within a shade as dusky as himself. I have written of utility being transmuted into beauty as time modifies tastes. This country must be the scene; for here, while utility is advancing gigantically, there is no time to impair the wild beauty of nature. The two will be found in new and natural combination. Should there not grow up from this a new order or period in the fine arts? Ought the Americans long to go on imitating? Ponder how much, and speculate on new orders of architecture, &c. . . . .

No beggary, but universal decency. I have seen girls barefoot, but they carried umbrellas! To-day we saw a pig-driver in spectacles! Reached Auburn in the middle of the day, and walked about. New houses on outskirts pretty, as usual, and beautiful bounding forest. 6,000 inhabitants; many of them contractors for prison manufactures, namely, clocks, combs, cabinet and chair work, weaving, tailoring, shoemaking, machinery, making carpeting, stone-cutting, &c. The contractors furnish the materials and superintend the work.

Niagara. You must not expect a description from me. One might as well give an idea of the kingdom of heaven by images of jasper Edition: current; Page: [242] and topazes as of what we have been seeing by writing of hues and dimensions. Except the hurricane at sea, it is the only sight I ever saw that I had utterly failed to imagine. It is not its grandeur that strikes me so much; but its unimaginable beauty. All images of softness fail before it. Think of a double rainbow issuing from a rock one hundred feet below one, and almost completing its circle by nearly lighting on one’s head. The slowness with which the waters roll over is most majestic. There is none of the hurry and tumble of common waterfalls, but the green transparent mass seems to ooze over the edges. The ascent of the spray, seen some miles off, surprised me; it did not hang like a cloud, but curled vigorously up, like smoke from a cannon or a new fire. We have crossed the ferry, and done more than in my present state of intoxication I can well remember or tell you of. On the spot, I felt quite sane, — sure-footed and reasonable; but when I sat down to dinner, I found what the excitement had been. I could not tell boiled from roast beef, and my only resource was to go out again as soon as we could leave the table; and now I am very sleepy. I expected I should be disappointed, and told Miss Sedgwick so. She was right in saying that it was impossible. If one looks merely at a cataract, it would be easy to say, “Dear me! I could fancy a rock twice as high as that, and a river twice as broad,” but I do not think any imagination could conceive of such colouring; and I was wholly unprepared for the beauty of the surrounding scenery. Fragments of rainbow start up and flit and vanish, like phantoms at a signal from the sun. We have watched the growth of this moon, “the Niagara moon;” and there she is, at her very brightest! What pleasure there is in a wholly new idea! It never occurred to me before that there can never be a cloudless sky at Niagara. A light fleecy rack is always in the sky over the falls; and the watcher may here see the process of cloud-making. No more now. Rejoice with me that I have now seen the best that my eyes can behold in this life. . . . .

Yours most affectionately,

Meadville. Hotel, October 29, 1834. — Waiting for breakfast, and then sitting down with labourers, but civil and respectable men. Then most hearty reception by the Huidekopers; father, and fine, handsome son and daughters. Pretty situation of the house, with woody hills opposite. A walk to the college. Mr. Huidekoper anti-Jackson, — strong. Gave a list of things that J. has protested against, Edition: current; Page: [243] and then done. Patronage can’t be done away. 150,000 interested persons, with all their influence to contend against.

Methodist college (purely literary) finely placed; has been opened just a year. Poor students pay by working at increasing the building, which is not new (twenty years old about). The Rev. — — is a pleasant specimen of Methodist minister. Library of 8,000 volumes, presented by Winthrop, and seems choice. Some Oriental specimens. Beginning of museum: Indian axe and arrow-heads. Peep into store in coming home. Drover raised from being a very poor boy, and likely to be wealthy. Now making $4,000 per month, of which half goes to the friends who advanced money to set him up. Meadville is on French Creek; has canal, and about 1,400 population. Good tea; English news in American papers, inundation of ladies, unexpectedly. Beautiful Miss — —. Fire in comfortable room; journal amid much sleepiness, and now to bed.

October 30. — Glorious weather. Talk and callers during morning till noon, when Mr. Huidekoper, Anna, and Mr. Wallace and I went out. A fine rapid walk of five miles, over opposite hill and through wood. Two black squirrels. Sweet, rich fields stretching under shelter of woods down to creek. Drive in afternoon. Long covered bridge, once shattered by a freshet; but children of two years play safely. Accidents don’t happen to little Americans. Walked to the C.’s to tea. Pleasant evening, with few strangers. Bad cold, and so to bed. Gentleman from Philipsburg says it is a forced settlement; poor land.

October 31. — Read Norton’s excellent, but supercilious, truth-telling Preface to work in disproof of Trinitarian doctrines, and some of the chapters. He gives up Revelations as a prophecy. Read some of Palfrey’s sermons. Read Reports of Blind Institution at Philadelphia: of House of Refuge, interesting, (why are not the children kept longer than from a few months to two years?) and of Penitentiary; interesting. Came down and found Mrs. — —, Mrs. H.’s deaf sister, a cheerful, shy woman, very good, I should think. Lent her my spare tube for two days. Sweet drive after dinner. Rich valley, and the softest woods when the red evening sun shone out. Saw good house building for a farmer who lost his by fire last winter. Neighbours bear the loss among them, so that he is better off for a house than before. Much talk on politics and morals in evening, with Messrs. H. and D. Horror here of ministers meddling in politics beyond just voting. Mr. H. a dismal looker-on in politics. Believes that thirty years hence they will be under a despotism: now coming under mob law. Asked him why he did not go elsewhere; answer, where could Edition: current; Page: [244] he be better off? Cannot cut off President’s patronage without altering the Constitution, and, besides, opposition is too strong. Sure that all the intelligence of the community is against Jackson. Attributes the evil to universal suffrage. Would have property represented instead of both property and person. Thinks ill of trial by jury. Here jury are paid a dollar per day, besides mileage. Hence needy men say, “Put my name in the wheel,” — thirty-six names for petty, twenty-four for grand jury. Lenient to criminal so far as to encourage crime. Also, protection wanted for prosecutor. If he fails to convict, culprit brings action for false imprisonment. (Dr. Follen disbelieves this, as a general statement.) Mr. H. upholds tariff system. During the war, America prospered from large markets for her corn. Then, no country would take it, and there was extensive ruin from want of subdivision. Relief brought at once by tariff, and since, New England has bought more corn than all other places, while she has been better employed than in growing it. This is the argument which Mr. H. seems to think will hold good for ever. Mr. Huidekoper says Jackson would give away lands, which are already sold too low. This would afford another premium on agriculture, which is too much pursued (he thinks) already. He says it is impossible to get on without a Central or National Bank, which must necessarily have great commercial power; but Jackson wants that it should be political power, and would have a treasury bank. (If it be true that the nation is verging towards anarchy and despotism, can I do any thing to show them what they have been, what they are, what they might be?)

We are going to visit Miss Sedgwick for two days. I wish Miss Mitford knew that we were going.

After speaking of the American women she had met, “some perfect ladies,” “some pale-faced, indolent folk who make a point of their shoes above all things,” “some pedants,” — she says: —

“It seems right, dear mother, to tell you that they are not at all shy of me. In all the letters we carry from one place to another the sentiment is amusingly uniform, namely: ‘The authoress and instructress of statesmen is forgotten in the,’ &c., &c. This looks as if pedantry was the common consequence of acquirement among the women. Miss J—’s cheerful intelligence makes her friends every where. We have begun a regular plan of Bible-reading and discussion together, and are quite disposed to rest invariably on the Sundays. When I told the General what is thought among us (and especially Edition: current; Page: [245] by Lord Durham) of the American Report on Sunday travelling, he was highly delighted, the author being his most intimate friend. He will introduce him to us at Washington, and thinks he has a good chance for the presidency next time; but every man thinks so of his particular friend.

“We have been exquisitely happy at Stockbridge, with the Sedgwicks. Miss Sedgwick is all I heard of her, which is saying every thing. All these Mr. Sedgwicks, her brothers, with their wives and blooming families, are an ornament to their State. They are among the first people in it, gracing its literature and its legislation, and spreading their accomplishments through the fair country in which they dwell. Such a country, of mountain and lake and towering wood! I was ‘Layfayetted,’ as they say, to great advantage. All business was suspended, and almost the whole population was busy in giving me pleasure and information. I never before was the cause of such a jubilee. If Ellen thought much of my mode of leaving Liverpool, what would she think here? We were carried to Pittsfield, to an annual agricultural assemblage, where I learned much of the people, and was made to drink the first out of a prize cup. O, the bliss of seeing not a single beggar, — not a man, woman, or child otherwise than well dressed! Captain Hall says no women appear at these public meetings, and that they are dreadfully solemn. We saw as many women as men, and few but smiling faces; but Captain Hall went to one meeting, on a wet, cold day, and drew a general conclusion, as is his wont. I am told he was asked if he would take a piece of something at dinner, and answered that he would have a bit, — that was the proper word; piece sounded very improper to English ears! What a traveller!

“I have learned more than I well know how to stow, at Stockbridge, the unrivalled village, where the best refinements of the town are mingled with the wildest pleasures of the country. We are to go again and again if they say true; and this morning at six we departed from amid a throng of tearful friends, feeling that we shall never meet with kinder. I never saw so beautiful a company of children as were always offering me roses, or lying in wait for a smile or an autograph, or to bring me lamp or water, or whatever I might want. Miss Sedgwick is the beloved and gentle queen of the little community. They gave me letters to Van Buren (the Vice-President, and centre of all the political agitation here), expecting that I should meet him at Washington; but on arriving here I found that he has just returned from the Falls, and had been inquiring for me, and after dinner he Edition: current; Page: [246] called with his son. He is simple in his manners, and does not look the wily politician he is said to be, nor as if he had the cares of this great Republic on his shoulders. He hopes to welcome me to Washington.”

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
December 12, 1834


I do not know where to begin, dear ones all, in my pleasant story, but seem to have lived half a lifetime when I think of my intercourse with these friends, and yet it appears but a day since I sealed my last to England. Briefly and from my heart thanking you for your full communications, I proceed to give you a few scraps of my delights. First, we are still here and likely to be. I should have been torn to pieces, or I should have set people by the ears together, if I had gone elsewhere. We are also so ineffably happy together, that we all banish the thought of parting as often as it obtrudes itself. All Philadelphia has called upon me, — people of many ranks and all opinions, religious and political. We have been to dinners and balls among “the high fashionables,” while through our host we have seen, I fancy, more of the enlightened men of the city than we could have met elsewhere. The Biddles and other great men have made much of me for my Political Economy, and the best of the Quakers on account of “Demerara.” So that I do believe I have been in the best circumstances for accomplishing my object, while I cannot imagine that I could any where else have found the deep repose with which I solace myself in this blessed house, after the vanities and toils of the day. [Then follows a charming description of a charming family.] O, those precious children! I must not now write. Our days are, — breakfast at half past eight (after worship), a lingering breakfast, and more talk than eating. Out early, to see sights, return calls, and escape callers, a pack of whose cards daily awaits us when we return to dress for dinner. We dine somewhere, drink tea somewhere else, and then go to an evening party, finishing with a delicious talk, till twelve or one, over the fire. A lady here placed a carriage and black coachman at my command the first day I came.

We stay here over the twenty-third, which is the anniversary of the young, admirable blind school, for which I have, by request of the patriarch Vaughan, written a prologue.

We see no difficulties before or behind, or on either side of us, and are full of happiness. Yet I have seen much sorrow here. If I have been much among the great and the gay, I have been also among the Edition: current; Page: [247] wretched. Not only have I been much in hospitals and such places, but there are daily appeals to me to visit some who are sick, that want to talk to me about the “Traditions;” or some who are deaf, that want to follow up with me the letter in Tait; or the managers of the insane, who want to know more about Hanwell Lunatic Asylum. If I did not know the vanity of all these things, I should think I had been able to do more good here than in any year of my life before. There is such an ordering of tubes from Baltimore, such a zeal to get a copy of our Poor-Law Bill, and such an earnest seeking after my opinion about their public institutions! The best of all is, that after one interview we all forget that I am a foreigner. The inquiries about my “impressions” are dropped, and we get at once to our subject, without any tendency to institute comparisons. The honours of a stranger are offered me without the penalties. The nearest place (that I may hear) is left for me every where; but there is a thorough union of hearts as to what is going on. I have now intimate intercourse with two or three valuable people, who had vowed to keep out of the way of the English, but who, finding others dropping all mention of the book I was to write, have come out of their holes, and laid open themselves and their country to me. I really believe this never happened to Hall or any other of our travellers; and I am truly thankful for it, for more reasons than I can mention now. Patriarch Vaughan and the venerable Bishop White (called here the bishop of all the churches) have done me the honour of seeking me; and when they are gone (as they must soon be), it will be a tender pleasure to think of it. I have presents of books and flowers, and tickets to public institutions, &c.; and this morning I have been touched (in spite of the absurdity) by a letter from an insane gentleman, of Ohio (gone mad on high subjects), appointing me high priestess of God and nature, if I dare undertake the charge.

The most interesting, perhaps, of my employments has been visiting the penitentiary, for the sake of discovering the causes of crime here. I am almost the first who has been admitted alone to the solitary prisoners. The board ordered that I should do as I pleased at all times in the prison, and I have been shut up with murderers, burglars, forgers, and others, listening to their eager and full confidences about their crimes and their miseries. It is all I can do to command my feelings for them when I see them look up in amazement at my unexpected entrance, and struggle with the tears which spring at the first kind word I speak to them. What revelations will I give you, some day, of the lives of these poor creatures! But it is too large a Edition: current; Page: [248] subject for this letter. The worst thing is, that the relations of the prisoners sometimes hear of my visits, and they come and insinuate family tidings to me, which I am bound in honour not to communicate. It is hard upon me to refrain from telling a prisoner how his wife is, and how she is labouring for his release. My rule is to tell all this to the governor, who can do as he thinks proper, and to keep the confessions of the prisoners to myself. It is a noble institution. But what must be the state of society where it is humanity to prepare such an elaborate apparatus of human misery!

Of slavery and public affairs I cannot write to-day. Only take care how you suppose you understand the case of the Bank till you hear from me at full length. I have never given an opinion on their politics since I came, nor is there any need. People bring theirs to me abundantly; but when they question me, it is not of their politics, but something which they rightly suppose I know more about. I have fully ascertained that at Washington one may mix freely with the leading men of all parties and not be liable to the charge of treachery or partisanship.

Farewell, all my precious family! Dearest Helen, kiss you bairns for me, and don’t let them forget me! God bless you, and keep you all as happy as I am!

Yours most tenderly,
H. M.

And now, furnished with half a hundred letters from every body worth having known to every body worth knowing, and anxiously expected by Webster, Calhoun, Clay, and all the rest, Miss Martineau took leave of Philadelphia, where she had been so much beloved. “I am sure I am a more virtuous person for all this happiness,” she said at the time.

I have succeeded in my search for the “prologue” which Miss Martineau wrote, at the request of Mr. Vaughan, for the anniversary of the Philadelphia institution for the blind, because it “would save Mr. Furness the trouble.”

    • The blind man sat beside the way
    • Hopeless and helpless, day by day,
    • While joy and music passed him by,
    • And all the shows of earth and sky.
    • And while he listened, they were gone, —
    • He could not follow, — dark, — alone.
  • Edition: current; Page: [249]
    • And so the wise complain — that they
    • Linger and listen by life’s way,
    • And painfully their tidings glean,
    • And wonder what all things may mean.
    • Almost as weak and blind as we,
    • They long to follow on and see.
    • But He who heard the beggar’s cry,
    • And raised his wondering gaze on high,
    • Calls on us also to arise, —
    • Alike the helpless and the wise, —
    • And, hand in hand, not faint and slow, —
    • Learn whence we come and where we go.
    • ’T is by the love that Jesus taught,
    • And by the wisdom that he brought,
    • That we are shielded here from harm,
    • And roused to life’s and music’s charm;
    • From strength to strength our way can win,
    • And feel our hearts grow glad within,
    • And gather light from day to day,
    • To follow in that living way
    • Where purest pleasures throng and dwell, —
    • How pure, how rich, no tongue can tell.
    • Pleasures too fine for ear or eye,
    • That perish not, though every sense should die.


It seems to me that reporters of the state of society here forget how heterogeneous it is, and what a marvel it is that there is any common mind at all, among so many. If the bigotry that marks the religious world extended to other matters, there would be no living in such a Babel as it would be.

Christmas. — Called on the Fortins. Mr. Fortin dusky, with white hair. Told us his history. By sail-making he has raised himself to competence. His son-in-law, Mr. Purvis, has been to England. Told us of O’Connell’s greeting. Would not shake hands with an American Edition: current; Page: [250] till he knew what part he had taken about slavery, but held out his hand instantly to one of the proscribed race. It is painful to hear them speak of their proscription. Purvis is a fine young man. The number of coloured people in the States in Mr. Fortin’s youth was 350,000; now between two and three millions.

January 1. — Snow piled up every where and the sleighs, with their belled horses, very lively. Mr. Read gave me for a New-Year’s gift an original letter of Washington, and has sent me Washington’s account-book, presented to Congress, containing his account of expenses during the war, when he would have no salary. Very small memorandums, and characteristic from their exactitude and justice. Mr. Latrobe means to inform me fully on colonization, — from this State.

January 2. — Sight-seeing, — infirmary, — medical school. Subjects almost exclusively supplied from the coloured people, because they can’t resist; — taken chiefly from the graves. So these dusky bodies are not contemptible when they are dead. Home. Found Mr. Read and Mrs. Cumberland Williams, who won my heart by her praise or rather love of my Philadelphia friends. She was Pinckney’s daughter. Met Governor Barbour, Dr. and Mrs. Collins, and Mr. Kennedy at the Skinners’. A merry party of little folks at the Shaws’ in the evening. Plenty of the little beauties came and gossiped with me.

January 6. — Sleighed round the outskirts for an hour. Pleasant party, and Mr. Latrobe full of information about colonization. He knows what he is about. It is plain that the North has one set of interests and the South another, and that the Colonization Society loses by trying to reconcile the two. Maryland is interposed, and what she does is most important. Mr. Latrobe wants to establish a cordon sanitaire of colonization States round the worst; and believes they are ready. Individual State action is the way. . . . . If abolition were ordained in any State, the blacks would only be sold into the South; and if every where, they would die of vice. The rule here is that all freed slaves must go away; so the more manumission there is the more opposition from the slave States, unless colonization be provided as an outlet. . . . .

The state of feeling about these poor creatures is monstrous. There seems no rest for the soles of their feet. . . . . O, what a retribution! Very pleasant day if I had been well; but I would have incurred worse illness for the sake of what Mr. Latrobe told me.

Edition: current; Page: [251]

January 14. — Mr. S. C. Phillips took me to the Senate Chamber, where Sir C. Vaughan welcomed me heartily. A beautiful room and forty-eight fine heads. Webster conspicuous. He and Clay spoke. It was the French Question, — against the President’s recommendation of reprisals. Webster’s voice beautiful. More to my ear than Clay’s. My head ached vehemently, and so we went home. Mr. and Mrs. Calhoun and Colonel and Mrs. Preston called, and were most affectionate. Mr. Sprague; — model of an American legislator. Thinks Calhoun not practical, though theoretically complete. Afternoon, calls, — calls, — calls. Evening, Mr. Palfrey, Judge Story, Mr. Everett. The rest went to a great party which we declined, and Mr. Everett remained. We talked on Furness, Dewey, Channing; on the Senate, on English reviewing, on Mr. Gallatin, on Jackson, on prisons. Mr. Phillips tells me that Massachusetts hopes to get Edward Everett to be either governor of Massachusetts or senator with Webster.

Read Carlyle’s article on Burns. Was mightily cheered and lifted up by it. I must read it again when I find myself growing worldly.

So few travellers feel at home in a foreign land, so many make it a principle to suspend actual life till their return, subsisting meanwhile as spectators, and hardly feeling the odd, unaccountable beings by whom they are surrounded to be fellow-creatures, that one cannot help wishing for the publication of all Harriet Martineau’s American letters; for they are all filled with the same live element of personality which shows, as in these few that can with propriety be copied, how differently she took foreign life. She stood in no need of Voltaire’s reminder to his friend on the eve of sailing for Japan: “Never forget, mon enfant, that the whole world are exactly like your father and mother;” and this makes the peculiar charm of those ingenuous outpourings of the worshipper of nature and the lover of humanity, sharing with her kindred what she reserved for them alone, — the innocent satisfaction of her nobly earned success, and the joy of new friendships, scenes, and thoughts in the new half-civilized world.

What the old over-civilized world would think of it all was the natural anxiety on both sides. Harriet Martineau was the representative to all, of the mother country, which stood to them Edition: current; Page: [252] as the representative of civilization. The United States seemed for the moment a mere whispering-gallery for the transmission of her opinions. In addition to her English fame, she had by this time attained an American popularity, and made herself everywhere felt by an especial adaptation or natural fitness in her character to influence that of our people. One gentleman “had heard from her such striking thoughts on prison discipline and criminal legislation as would modify his whole future political life.” Another “had found the Bible a new book since reading it in the light of what she said to him of its depth and power.” “The whole subject of family discipline has taken a new aspect to me,” said a lady to whom she spoke of the power of love and the evil effect of punishment in creating in a child the spirit of fear and bondage. She awakened whole societies to new and important ideas about health. She had sown deep in a thousand hearts new and grand thoughts of the nature, sphere, duties, and rights of woman; and wherever she went, the splendour of truth and the value of religious liberty and the importance of moral independence were talked of and felt as never before. All these things came daily to our ears, — every one telling with a sort of rapturous veneration what an awakening to the spirit her conversation had been. But with all this came from time to time reports of her condemnation of the abolitionists. “She says they have done the cause of the slave great injury.” “She says your language and your measures are unjustifiable.” “She says you do not understand the matter.” All this made no impression on my mind to her discredit, for how should one coming to learn, see these things otherwise than as presented by the authorities on such subjects: — the first people, — the best people, — the leading people. But one of her penetration could not be sent out of the country hoodwinked, however she might be led blindfolded through it; yet it might well take long to understand this “mystery of iniquity.” We had lived all our youth under the benumbing vassalage of slavery, and never dreamed it was so, till Garrison’s voice “broke the deep slumber in our brain.” How should she see at a glance what had been so skilfully wrapped up in darkness for wellnigh half a century? Edition: current; Page: [253] One of the clearest minds connected with the cause took the responsibility of entreating her to delay judgment till she should have examined thoroughly, in the following letter.

Ellis Gray Loring
Loring, Ellis Gray
April 18, 1835
Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet


My brother, the Rev. Mr. Gilman of Charleston, S. C., has encouraged me, in a late letter, to venture the invitation I make to you of being my guest during your expected visit in Boston. He tells me he has spoken to you of his sister, my wife, and of myself, and I therefore take this way of recalling to you our names, and of expressing the hope, which would otherwise have appeared to me only a fruitless wish, that we may know you intimately. We have heard much of you personally from our correspondents, and we are as ready to love you cordially as a friend as we have long been to admire and respect the author of your works.

Your tour through the United States is contemplated with great interest by all who know the weight your opinions of us and our institutions will have both in Europe and America. A continual attempt will be made, and is, I know, now made, to prevent your seeing them in any but their most becoming attitude. I trust you will duly estimate the amount of compensation this circumstance requires. All that hospitality can do to win the heart and to seduce the judgment will of course be done. But your head as well as your heart is to act an important part in marking the destinies of this young empire. You know your responsibilities, and will observe, judge, and act accordingly.

You must see all around you illustrations of my meaning, — but one is so near my heart that I cannot but suggest it. The apologists for slavery in this country are thoroughly alarmed at your journey of observation. The author of “Demerara” is a formidable personage in the Southern States. Your coming was hailed with delight by the friends of the slaves and of the true interests of the country, and was looked to with dismay by those whose interest here is oppression. What is the course taken by these last? You are received with the most marked attention, writer as you are of the best antislavery tale ever written, — while a New England man who should have written that work would have been (pardon the truth) indicted and imprisoned, if nothing worse, had he set his foot for the next twenty Edition: current; Page: [254] years into South Carolina or Georgia. The highest literary rank and worth could not have wholly saved one of us from the consequences of such an unpardonable offence. But Miss Martineau is the world’s property, and as she cannot be crushed, she must, if possible, be blinded. — Forgive my zeal if I say to you, do not judge of slavery as you see it in the drawing-rooms of the men of refinement and perhaps of principle whom you visit, — of course the very élite of the Southern country; but look at it among the field slaves of Carolina, the semi-civilized back settlements of Alabama and Mississippi, or in the New Orleans slave-market. Alas! you cannot see it in these aspects; — your standing with its inevitable associations, but far more your sex, must prevent your catching more than partial glimpses of what it is not meant you should see. I might better ask you to keep in mind the dreadful statistics of our domestic slave-trade: 6,000 (chiefly young persons) annually exported from Virginia alone, away from relations and home, to die in the unwholesome Southwest.

You will have heard, before you return to the North, stories of the fanaticism and indiscretion of the antislavery party, from many sources, — from the ambitious statesmen, who wish to serve and be rewarded by two masters, who would stand well with the North and the South; from the “wise and prudent,” who think the whole truth on any subject inexpedient, and regard it as more dangerous even to talk of remedying an abuse than to wait for it to tumble down destruction on their own heads. You will, of course, be asked to measure the violence and recklessness of our Northern attacks on slavery by the irritation they cause in the slaveholder. Most of these accounts are exaggerations or falsehoods. But this would be comparatively unimportant, except as it may insensibly affect our view of the great controversy of principles which is awakening throughout the land. For the sake of the cause, I ask you to suspend your opinion of the antislavery measures and men till you can look at them for yourself. . . . .

I live in a retired and quiet manner at 671 Washington Street. Your welcome there would be most cordial. It would be a true gratification to my wife and myself to have you come to our house on your arrival in Boston, and to make it your home as long as we could succeed in making you happy there.

I feel that I have taken an unusual liberty in writing you such and so long a letter. I have no apology to offer but the gratitude and regard I feel for one to whom I have owed both delight and improvement, Edition: current; Page: [255] and who has done so much to make society wiser and happier.

With renewed apologies and the truest esteem I am your obedient servant,


Between the time of her receiving Mr. Loring’s letter and the date of this reply her private journal is extremely interesting. It was at this period that she was applied to to make a constitution for Texas, and there one sees all the passion of her enjoyment for natural scenery. The record all along, of each day, ends thus: “Read the New Testament.”

Subjoined is Miss Martineau’s answer.

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
May 27, 1835
Lexington, Kentucky
Ellis Gray Loring
Loring, Ellis Gray
Dear Sir,

Your kind and gratifying letter followed me from New Orleans, and has, at length, met me here, at Mr. Clay’s. Mrs. Gilman led me to hope that I should hereafter have the pleasure of becoming acquainted with yourself and Mrs. Loring; but I did not anticipate so early an intercourse as you have kindly offered me the means of holding with you. I have already engaged myself at Boston to Dr. Tuckerman and to your namesakes, Mr. and Mrs. Charles G. Loring; but I hope to remain there long enough to avail myself also of your offered hospitality, and shall consider myself engaged to spend a little time with you when I have passed a week with each of these friends I have mentioned. I am sure we shall have a great deal to say to each other, and I shall say my share with peculiar ease and pleasure under your own roof. We should no doubt have known each other without the intervention of our dear friends the Gilmans; but that we share their love is a sufficient reason for dispensing with the usual preliminaries of a friendship.

We shall spend many a half-hour in talking over the principal subject of your letter. It is too copious a one to be entered upon now, but I cannot honestly let you suppose that I agree with you in thinking that there has been any attempt or wish to blind me as to the real state of things at the South. I have been freely shown the notoriously bad plantations because they were bad, and have been spontaneously told a great number of dreadful facts which might have just as well been kept from me, if there had been any wish to deceive me. I have seen every variety of the poor creatures, from the cheerful, apt house-servant, to the brutish, forlorn, wretched beings that crawl Edition: current; Page: [256] along the furrows of the fields. The result has been a full confirmation of the horror and loathing with which I have ever regarded the institution, and a great increase of the compassion I have always felt for those who are born to the possession of slaves; a compassion which has something of respect mingled with it, when I see them persecuted by a foreign interference, which is now the grand hindrance to their freeing themselves from their intolerable burden. How Christians can exasperate one another under the pressure of so weary a load of shame and grief I can scarcely understand; and I have been fancying, all through the Southern States, how, if Jesus himself were to rise up amidst them, he would pour out his compassion and love upon those who are afflicted with an inheritance of crime. If his spirit were in us all the curse would be thrown off in a day; and as it is, I am full of hope that the day of liberty is rapidly approaching, notwithstanding the mutual quarrels of colonizationists and abolitionists, and the hard thoughts which the friends and masters of the slaves entertain of each other. The reasons of my hope, — my confidence, I will tell you when we meet. I have had the honour of a slight correspondence with Mrs. Child, and look forward with much pleasure to meeting her. Dr. and Mrs. Follen are well known to me by name, which is the same thing as saying that I want to know more of them. We (my friend Miss J. and myself) have had the pleasure of travelling over many hundred miles with Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Loring. They are now at Cincinnati, and are going to the Virginia Springs, while we turn westward as far as St. Louis at least. We hope to be at Cambridge by Commencement, and then to travel through New England during September and October, previous to our settling down in Boston for a long visit.

I beg to present my respects to Mrs. Loring, and to assure you that I am truly your obliged


Here were reproduced the very sentiments, and for the most part the phraseology of the more decent slaveholding world and its allies, — yet with a difference. None of them had ever said that “if all had the spirit of Jesus the curse would be thrown off in a day.” That they would have rebuked as “immediatism,” — a thing impossible to be so explained as not to be liable to misapprehension, and therefore not proper for the time. As to the spirit of Jesus in itself considered, all their logic went to prove that the slaveholders unquestionably possessed it; while Edition: current; Page: [257] the abolitionists were destitute of it in the precise proportion of their devotedness as such.

For the rest, these ideas were identical with the American ones. Just so the world that hated and despised the abolitionists viewed with mingled compassion and respect the men born to the possession of slaves. Just so it called our antislavery efforts, justified by our own guilty complicity, through the constitutional compact, “foreign interference.” Just so it laid the crime of the longer continuance of slavery at our door. Just so it claimed the peculiar love and compassion of Jesus for a blameless set of men, loaded down with the shame and grief of a burden they could not get rid of; — not sinners, but afflicted with the consequences of anterior transgression.

All this wrought somewhat painfully on the minds of many of the abolitionists, particularly when they found it gave intense delight to every body but themselves. Every body “hated and loathed slavery” too, but that was all. It was the step farther that was to cost, and therefore could never be taken. So men went on talking of the gentleness of Jesus; and of the Sunday schools for slaves, which antislavery violence had put a stop to; and of the revivals of religion at the South, which showed how Christ owned and accepted as his people the persecuted slaveholders: “And so Miss Martineau thought, and she had been through the whole Southern country;” and they never failed to inquire, thereupon, what we thought of the pious John Newton, “who had sweet seasons with God while he was engaged in the slave-trade.” “I think he was an old Antinomian!” was the reply furnished us by the Rev. Dyer Burgess, one of our excellent coadjutors from Ohio, who had been assisting at our five-o’clock morning prayer-meetings for the cause. There might have been seen representatives of every shade of opinion, from rationalism to the most extreme Calvinism, drawn together by the strength of a common desire. Dr. Watts’s description of heaven would in a sense have characterized these assemblies: —

  • “Ten thousand thousand are their tongues,
  • But all their joys are one.”
Edition: current; Page: [258]

The humanitarian said amen to prayers offered in the name of the Holy Trinity, for the triumph of the principles. Evangelical Orthodoxy embraced as brethren in the cause the Unitarians and philosophers who were ready to shed their own blood for its sake. One after another, with but little variation of form, they prayed the same prayer. “Bear with our many repetitions,” — prayed the hater of sentimental religion, faith without works, the antinomianism of a slave-trading piety, — “Thou who didst pray unto thy Father, in thine agony on man’s behalf, three times saying the same words!” We only wished Harriet Martineau could have heard.

Then, too, the “quarrels” of colonizationists and abolitionists! So she understood “that death-grapple in the darkness ’twixt old systems and the Word!”

It was a great breach of conventionalism to thrust in at this stage of the correspondence between herself and Mr. Loring, but I felt sure of the real character of the illustrious personage, and that she would not fail, after having seen all, to discern the unusual stress of the time, and to find in it a reason and an excuse for so unusual a procedure.

I returned again and again in memory to her declaration, “If all had the spirit of Jesus it would be abolished in a day;” for I knew that to her mind “the spirit of Jesus” was the synonyme of all that was authoritative by reason of excellence. I did not build so much as others upon her having written the best antislavery tale. It would not follow because Mrs. Behn and Steele and the Duchess de Duras were equal to the conception of “Orinoko,” “Inkle and Yarico,” and “Ourika,” that they could be true to human nature, under the severest ordeal, — as that certainly was to which slavery in the United States subjected every foreigner of distinction. But the writer of “the Scott papers,” the true painter of woman, the exalter and consoler of poverty, — no, I never could doubt that she must eventually see things as they really were. I wrote to her, but I have no recollection of her reply as differing in tone or spirit from her letter to Mr. Loring, nor do I find it among the collection of her letters to myself. I suppose it was lent at the time, Edition: current; Page: [259] and worn out, as the other letters had wellnigh been. They were not private letters. Whatever it was, it did not shake my faith in her, and I awaited her coming with undiminished interest.

How well I remember the first sight of her so long ago! We had, as it were, a long sitting, for we first saw her at church, — Dr. Channing’s. It was a presence one did not speedily tire of looking on, — most attractive and impressive; yet the features were plain, and only saved from seeming heavily moulded by her thinness. She was rather taller and more strongly made than most American ladies. Her complexion was neither fair nor sallow, nor yet of the pale intellectual tone that is thought to belong to authorship. It was the hue of one severely tasked, but not with literary work. She had rich, brown, abundant hair, folded away in shining waves from the middle of a forehead totally unlike the flat one described by those who knew her as a child. It was now low over the eyes, like the Greek brows; and embossed rather than graven by the workings of thought. The eyes themselves were light and full, of a grayish greenish blue, varying in colour with the time of day or with the eye of the beholder, — les yeux pers of the old French Romance writers. They were steadily and quietly alert, as if constantly seeing something where another would have found nothing to notice. Her habitual expression was one of serene and self-sufficing dignity, — the look of perfect and benevolent repose that comes to them whose long, unselfish struggle to wring its best from life has been crowned with complete victory. You might walk the livelong day in any city streets, and not meet such a face of simple, cheerful strength, with so much light and sweetness in its play of feature. And the longer one knew her the more this charm was felt; for it was the very spirit “of love and of power and of a sound mind.”

In intimate conversation she was free and winning beyond any one we had ever seen. Her one great gift seemed then to be utterance; not rhetoric, not elocution, not eloquence, not wit, — though her talk was full of short corner-touches, — but the faculty of rapidly communicating thought and feeling. Her Edition: current; Page: [260] fulness of sympathy made it natural to her to meet every mind in private society just as she unfailingly did the public mind in her writings, — exactly where it laboured. She could not help saying to every person something not to be forgotten; and seeing how many there were whose after-lives she acted upon by a word, her one great gift seems to have been to influence and to teach. There was something in her which broke down the American caution and reserve. Give her ten minutes, and it all melted away. She was surprised to find the New-Englanders so merry a people; but interchange of thought in a free country, where each is sovereign, was then less safe than under a despotism; and a paid government-spy in every social circle less a check on intercourse than the American dread of public opinion under the rule of slavery; and so we laughed together, because we could do that without risk. We had a jesting spirit in conformity to our institutions, when slavery was one of them. It was neither the English humour nor the French wit, but a droll narrative humourousness of our own, — wit forced out of dangerous channels into safe ones. It was our refuge from the dulness of “non-committal” intercourse. Ladies might not avail themselves of it without so much of limitation that it then made them seem stiff and pedantic. And though at that time we were a friendly hearted, we were not, on the whole, a social people. And all this made Harriet Martineau’s cheerful, free simplicity like a fresh breeze in a stagnant place. Discussion, debate, monologue, and dialogue are all more natural to us than conversation. So little, in fact, was it then in our nature or habits, that we thought conversible Europeans must have been trained to it as an art. Parties not being permanent, no protection existed for the one-sided freedom of intercourse which could exist in England.

Then, in addition to whatever there was of natural inaptitude, increased by whatever might be the effect of institutions, came in the check of incessant strife between our theory and our practice. All this made a comparatively wintry state of heart; which, however it might warm up in the actual conflict of life, could seldom cast off in society the conversational mufflers Edition: current; Page: [261] of health, weather, light literary criticism, fine-art pedantry, and fun.

The passage through our society of one so full and free was a season of refreshing. Harriet Martineau did New England good wherever she went, entering with the liveliest pleasure into all the interests of the hour. At Salem, where she was the guest of Mr. Stephen C. Phillips, then our Massachusetts member of Congress, she became the influencing friend of many. It was for the Sunday school there that she wrote a new “tradition of Palestine,” the little story of “Elec and Rachel;” and the children gathered round to touch her dress unawares, as if she could put them in nearer communication with Christ. And she could not only, on occasion, make the young serious, but their elders gay. The annexed jeu d’esprit pleased her so much on account of its ingenuity, that, much as she herself deprecated flattery, she preserved it for her mother. It was given her after an evening’s conversation, by Dr. Flint, a Unitarian minister and a poet, who had made numberless inquiries about English living authors.

It was of these lines that an amused friend remarked, “They would have been capital for the nonce, if it had not been so difficult to read them effectively.”

Flint Sonnet
Sonnet, Flint
Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet


  • Thrice precious tube! thou faithful voice-conveyer
  • Through thy accomplished mistress’ outward ear
  • To that within, — wont other sounds to hear
  • Than those of earth; — for all the Nine obey her
  • Oft as she wills their promptings to rehearse
  • In tale, or tract, or choice morceaux of verse: —
  • Through thee, quick, clear, and sweet response I win
  • From more than Delphic oracle within.
  • For spirits o’er the vasty deep I call
  • Through thee; and Endor’s witch to royal Saul
  • The prophet’s form not sooner brought than she
  • The gifted minds of her fair isle to me.
  • My heart’s warm thanks to her I fain would speak,
  • But words to tell their warmth are all too poor and weak.
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We gathered, from the surprise she seemed to feel at finding the abolitionists to be persons of good sense and education, — freer than the rest of the world from narrowness, violence, and fanaticism, — through what a course of misrepresentations of them she must have passed. Indeed, it could have been no otherwise. The whole land rung with the abuse of them that preceded and prepared for violence, and not a voice had spoken for the absent.

“Mr. Clay ought to have told me,” she said, “of such a man as Mr. Birney, living within thirty miles of him.” This was Judge Birney of Alabama, in poverty and exile in a free State for having emancipated his slaves, although surrounded by a young family dependent on him for education and support; and, what was far more a trial of faith and principle (as he, alas! afterwards found), he had joined the antislavery movement, to which he owed the happy impulse.

She was told the abolitionists were unsexing woman, so that good men found it necessary to republish in America good little English books on her appropriate moral sphere.

“But what is her appropriate moral sphere?”

“Why, certainly a special and different one from man’s.”

“But if so, she would have had a special and different Christ.”

“But, dear Miss Martineau, is it possible you think women have the same duties and rights as men?”

“I think their powers ought to settle that question.”

Circumstances coeval with the settlement of the country had been preparing it for that question, but it was Harriet Martineau who took the initiative in presenting it for a practical solution in the United States, by her conversation and example, seconding her writings.

Then, the abolitionists were “people of one idea.” “But you Americans,” she replied, “all seem to have a special mission. Is it not natural we should all have one, in accordance with our individual capacities? Some devote themselves respectively to temperance, education, peace, or the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts; why should not Freedom be the mission of others?” This made so wide an impression, that we became at length wearied with the echo of this saying about a “mission” Edition: current; Page: [263] among persons who still refused to let abolitionists have the benefit of it.

Once the conversation falling upon endurance, and what men might be called by a sense of duty to encounter in consequence of doing right, and what prospects the mind could be brought to dwell on with composure, she said, “I have often thought that the worst thing that could befall me would be to die of starvation on a doorstep; and (gleefully) I think I could bear it.”

Talking of the difficulties that beset Necessarianism as compared with the Boston Unitarian ideas, she said, “I find no difficulty so great as a God that did not hinder what happened to-day and does not know what is going to take place to-morrow.” Once when atheism was the subject of conversation, she was told there was but one avowed atheist in the State. “I wish there were a thousand,” she said; “for what depths of concealment and suffering the fact implies!”

This one avowed atheist, Abner Kneeland, was then under prosecution for blasphemy, for having declared in his newspaper, “The Investigator,” that he thought “the God of the Universalists, with all his moral attributes (aside from nature itself), a chimera of their own imagination.”

Harriet Martineau’s conversation with her friend, Mr. Ellis Gray Loring, on the subject of freedom of speech and of the press in connection with this case, resulted, on Mr. Kneeland’s subsequent conviction, in the preparation of a petition, signed by Dr. Channing and a hundred and sixty-seven others, all Christians, and some of them evangelical Christians, for the pardon of the offender.* This petition was rejected by the governor Edition: current; Page: [264] and council, but the end was not yet. Not only was it the last prosecution of a theological opinion in Massachusetts; it set in motion a demand for equal legal rights irrespective of theology; and what is popularly called “the Atheist Witness bill” — agitated from time to time in our Massachusetts Legislature for two-and-twenty years — passed both branches, to the statute-book, and was only prevented from formal record as a law, in accordance with the public conviction of its everlasting need, by the electioneering necessities of the moment.

At this time there was no discordance between herself and our Unitarians generally on the subject of a First Cause other than the approximation to the Orthodox world occasioned by her Necessarianism. Yet I think her mind must have begun to transcend their usual forms of thought. To one who spoke to her of the importance of sympathy with God she replied, “Yes! — for it is the love of truth.” “We must be true to our own consciences,” continued the first. “Yes, — but conviction is not truth.”

She was puzzled about our “harsh language,” as it was called by the tender-hearted country at large, that bore to look on torture and dare not look on truth. “Why don’t they prosecute you for defamation?” she said. “Because we don’t defame.That then was not it; and she finally seemed to settle into the opinion that it was our bad taste that made the difficulty, — an unfortunate defect on our part to be deprecated as lessening the force of the idea. We were not prepared to make our defence on the score of taste. “Tastes differ,” to so proverbial an extent, that Lord Chesterfield forbade so rude a thing in society as finding fault with them. We only stated the fact that ours was the accepted mode of preaching of the vast majority of the clergy of the country, the evangelical custom, — not to say fashion; though to English Episcopacy and Unitarianism, and all who “never mention hell to ears polite,” it Edition: current; Page: [265] of course seemed to be removed from the category of profane swearing only by being couched in Biblical language. And though we loved the Hebrew sound of it, she might be allowed to find fault. But we refused to grant the same immunity to Andover and Princeton, whose mother tongue it was, without a scorching exposure of their hypocrisy.

“Now tell me how much of the ‘Liberator’ you really write?” said she, seeing I had defended it on both principle and expediency, and on the very grounds for which it was generally condemned. “One would think, to hear you, that there was but one duty in life, — rebuke.” “Exactly so,” I was about to say; “these are of the times when rebuke is ‘wisdom, holiness, goodness, justice, and truth.’ ” But something of elevated emotion in her look stopped me; and I only said, “I desire no further special conversation with you on this subject. I am sure of your determination to see and know all things for yourself, and of your determination to act rightly and justly in every emergency.” Again she had used the very words of the enemies of the cause, but with a spirit so foreign to the moral toadyism of Unitarian sentimentality and evangelical hypocrisy, that one could only hail it with satisfaction. The abolitionists had been reviled without exception for their sweeping, unmitigated censures, but always most unjustly. The blessing besought by the old Massachusetts divine had been vouchsafed to them, — “Lord, grant us thy crowning mercy to discriminate between things that differ.” By their fruits we knew men. Their words were merely their disguises at this time; and often plausible enough “to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect.”

I only added that I wished she knew Mr. Garrison, whose journal I had been defending as a means of the highest degree of excellence and adaptation in American affairs and character. I had no long conversation with her after. Previous to her accepting our invitation to attend the antislavery meeting of which she has given an account, she asked if the ground we had taken, of opposition to slavery, had cost us many friends? We said yes. “Remember not to be unjust, and say that they Edition: current; Page: [266] deserted you; for it is you who have deserted them. It is you who are changed. They remain the same.” It was very true; only men do not long remain the same under such circumstances, — they inevitably grow worse; and that she had opportunity to see afterwards, though the time was not yet.

We have seen what England was when she came into it; now let us look back to the condition of America when she entered it. It was during her first sojourn in Massachusetts, at the time such thoughts as these were revolving in her mind, that we made our first attempt to see Harriet Martineau. We too, with the rest, were drawn to meet her, whose way it had never been, as a family, to seek strangers of distinction, and who were now too busy with our antislavery conflict to have taken up an ordinary guest. But in this case our family elders encouraged us. Was she not of their own faith, — the “essential,” “unfolded,” “manifested” faith of the prize essays? Had she not established a claim on them, and so on us, by her letter to the deaf? Had she not created Cousin Marshall, and Letitia, and Ella of Garveloch, and Cassius of Demerara? And while the Tories had been taunting the English abolitionists, up to the very hour when dawn broke into the windows of Parliament upon their victory, with having done nothing all these forty years, was she not one of them? Her they encouraged us to seek, and her we determined to see. Chiefs of all parties and advocates of all schemes were thronging to her for sanction, and what should hinder us? They had enthroned her under the palm-tree (and even under the palmetto), and all our American Israel was trooping up to her for judgment, and why not we among the rest? Nay, I inwardly felt, why not we especially, of all the rest? for, being what her works proclaimed her to be, I knew our lives could not fail to be of one substance, nor our lot of being cast in together.

But the hearts of some misgave them on the way. “We are young,” we said, “and unknown.” “No matter,” we made answer to ourselves, with all the preoccupation of Sisera’s mother, “we understand her! and all these troops of homagers do not.” Here we were doubtless mistaken. We did but feel, in common with the rest, the lift and sway of the powerful nature Edition: current; Page: [267] that was passing by. We went, in the joy of our hearts, to meet it, forecasting the coming interview as we went.

“But the trumpet!” said one of the young girls of the band; “how shall we venture to speak to her through that?” And our ignorance and our imaginations of what we had never seen magnified it into an instrument of dreadful resonance, drawing every eye upon the speaker. But we were not in a state of mind to be daunted by trifles, and quickly gathered up our courage. “No matter how much noise it makes; we shall have altogether the advantage of others, for we have something to say. Only we have hold of the root of all American problems, — ‘we few, we happy few!’ Others will take the trumpet as she presents it, and in their confusion will fail to make themselves understood. (We had previously had minute accounts of the manner of her receptions, and how gray-headed statesmen lost their presence of mind as they took it from her hand.) ‘What did you observe?’ she will inquire. ‘I merely remarked that it was a very fine day.’ It will give no such uncertain sound when we take it in hand! ‘I said they are men-stealers!’ will bear repeating twice!”

Since the Vision of Alnaschar there had not been so clear a foreshadowing of what was not to come to pass. She was not at home: and Mrs. Tuckerman, her hostess for the day, told us that she would be able to see no more visitors till after her return from the South.

It was no freak of calling their elders names that, just before Harriet Martineau’s arrival, had unaccountably seized a set of well-bred young people of much hope and promise; no sudden fit of insanity, destroying their usefulness and blighting their prospects in life. A grander prospect was opening to them, and the most exalted uses. To a nation blindly wandering to no end, after blind guides, or deluded by deceivers, a leader had now arisen, — it was hoped in season to arouse the United States to a sense of their condition. They had been delivered over, bound hand and foot, to the service of slavery, and they neither knew nor felt the ruin and dishonour of submitting to such a tyranny. Under its corrupting influence the country had actually Edition: current; Page: [268] lost the sense of moral distinctions. The terms good and evil, right and wrong, sin and holiness, vice and virtue, no longer represented the original ideas when Garrison, the first to whom this fresh inspiration of freedom came, undertook to awaken in the people a feeling of guilt and danger. Now for the first time was heard, on the soil of the New World, an appeal to the higher and exclusively human instincts, — mightier than penalties and arms: —

“I determined to lift up, at every hazard, the standard of emancipation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birthplace of liberty. That standard is now unfurled — till every chain be broken and every bondman set free! Let Southern oppressors tremble, — let their secret abettors tremble, — let their Northern apologists, — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble!

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not a cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge not me to use moderation in a case like the present. I am in earnest, — I will not equivocate, — I will not excuse, — I will not retreat a single inch — and I will be heard.

“It is pretended that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence, humble as it is, is felt at this moment, to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years, — not perniciously, but beneficially; not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God that he enables me to disregard ‘the fear of man which bringeth a snare,’ and to speak his truth, in its simplicity and power.”

At first not more than a Spartan three hundred heard and heeded, — small force to battle for three millions, against the whole land on the other side, — but they did not shrink abashed in their insignificance from the magnitude of the undertaking, although its ultimate import loomed up brighter and Edition: current; Page: [269] broader every instant before their gaze, till it speedily took the grand proportions of the salvation of a world, — involved in the question of human freedom. All questions, all rights, all futurity, became visible in its radiance. These were strong hours in a land’s destiny, but not a doubt or fear perplexed them that came forward to give it shape. The intimate conviction of each one of them seemed to be,

“For this, amongst the rest, was I ordained!”

and they gave themselves to the work with a joyful disregard of the personal cost, which entirely took from their deed the character of sacrifice. They wrought their righteous will, and took the consequences. “One to a hundred thousand” (they were told), “you are mad to expect success.” “We should be worse than mad to doubt, for that one is in the right.” “Nobody else sees a chance of success for you.” “Nobody else knows what we are willing to pay for it.”

The work they had undertaken was to them not only an enterprise and an association: it was also a principle, a cause, a religion. Every heart and brain was under the charm of all the great thoughts and feelings that have ever stirred humanity. As they battled with the thousand shifty pretences men took to escape the truth and avoid doing justice to the slaves, it was to make an enemy and meet a calumny at every blow; and thus, amid church-craft and state-craft, and over all the crafty special defences of slavery, built up around it by a people it had utterly corrupted and subdued, the fight went on. France is logical, and England is compromising; but free, slaveholding America was both: and hence the keen scholastic strife, the energy of holy warfare, unknown in union in the day of Peter the Hermit, Abeillard and William de Champeaux. But it was no barren subtlety or mad crusade that occupied our minds. Though each was for himself in search of absolute truth and absolute right, yet all were as one in refusing longer to brook that broad gross insult to a Saviour-Christ, that outrage against the moral sense offered by the reigning public opinion of the land, — the justification of slaveholders as good Christians. They pronounced a Edition: current; Page: [270] slaveholder a blot upon Christianity, and condemning the American slave system as the vilest that ever saw the sun, they demanded that it should be immediately abolished. “But the nation is not ready.” “The slaves are ready. Every good man is ready.” “But the obstacles!” “There are none but your selfish injustice.” “But the preparation!” “The demand is the preparation; and the only preparation indispensable:” and they made it; — in every form of argument, appeal, entreaty, reproof, statistics, petition; through such a variety of instruments, all tuned to concert-pitch, as left nothing to be desired for the completeness of the harmony. They claimed for the slaves liberty and equality before the law. “You are amalgamationists.” They demanded the abolition, by the nation, of all slavery within its jurisdiction. “You are disunionists and incendiaries.” They demanded the withdrawal of all religious sanctions from the system. “You are infidels.” And the reverend and approved good masters of the South became furious and lawless, and the hollow hearts and cardinal sins of the North felt rebuked and outraged, and both took counsel together how they might destroy us out of the land, before we should succeed in implanting in it a hatred of slavery.

At this time it was that Harriet Martineau was telling her mother, and noting in her private journal, what she saw of the “theory and practice of society in America.” Among merchants speculating in Alabama lands, or involved by mortgages in the ownership of slaves; among planters, with their capital in cotton-raising and slave-breeding; among tender-spirited clergymen, enjoying the spaniel’s privileges in the midst of such; among politicians, gambling for the high offices which give the means to buy their tools with petty places; among manufacturers and land-owners, possessing wealth enough to make tools of rival sects by paying the heaviest proportion of the preaching-tax, — among these and such as these she was likely to find better theory than practice. The former can be learned in a day: the latter is less obvious. The rending antislavery battle then going on had for its object to show the world how the whole land was sown with invisible sharp instruments to wound whatever feet should press Edition: current; Page: [271] too near the political and religious machinery of despotism in America. It took years of severe conflict to carry these outworks and lay the springs of slavery bare.

Meanwhile, the very best men Harriet Martineau met, — whose natures should have instantly kindled at our call, — seized with misplaced modesty, were breathing a quieting sentimentalism over the country; while others, of hardier spirits, while they trampled down this true revival of religion, were setting in motion the idle machinery of sectarian “revivalism,” with strictest care to put nothing between its millstones to grind. The more compassionate, the more cunning, and the statistically given, were busy with that lie with circumstance, — the Colonization Society. It was difficult, indeed, to rouse such men to the burden and heat of so great a day. The curse of knowing better than they lived came upon them; and the few who laid the cause of liberty to heart were left to stand by it alone, and bide the brunt of every calumny that could be heaped on “ignorant and mischievous fanatics,” — “the vulgar and debased dregs of the land.”

And men who could have undeceived Harriet Martineau at every step, because they personally knew the honour and excellence of the persons thus maligned on account of their best qualities, — men who would themselves have been abolitionists but for the loss and glorious shame of the thing to which they were not equal, — were meanly mute when their silence endangered the lives of their best fellow-citizens: and when at length they spoke, it was to endanger them still more. The model statesman and scholar suggested their indictment at common law, and sold their rights of speech, and of the press, and of association, to his slaveholding dictators for a future senatorship and foreign embassy. The pattern saint authenticated the street calumny that the abolitionists were in favour of cruel vengeance on the part of the slaves. The leading jurist said law was not for the protection of abolitionists, — only for the safe guarding of slave-property. The model gentleman sneered at them as very low in the social scale, — “ancillary,” he thought, for he was too much a gentleman to call the ladies, his neighbours, servant-maids, Edition: current; Page: [272] — and he suffered himself to be driven stupidly with the rest into this disgrace, by infamous editors, hired to do the work of merchants whose Southern land-speculations and carrying-trade might be more or less productive as slavery was more or less firm in the market. And all the wealth, official station, literary prestige, religious authority, in short (to use a New England provincialism), “all the property and standing” of the country, rose up against the abolitionists. They thought of that strange, impressive utterance — satire at once and psalm — of David: “The mighty are gathered against me, — not for my transgression, nor for my sin.

Harriet Martineau used to laugh at us Americans for our habit of beginning at the beginning in our talk. “I ask a question here,” she said, “and you begin at the creation and go on to the day of judgment.” But yet what we did in talk she always did in reality. She was, I think, the most whole-minded, large-minded, right-minded person I ever met in any country; the most capable of discerning the end from the beginning in human affairs; and hence her instinctive power — confiding and free from suspicion as her nature was — to discern halfness, untruth, and insufficiency in human character.

She had, I think, but one personal interview with Mr. Garrison (then unknown, except in an unfavourable manner, as a tenant of the Maryland state-prison, and as the “low criminal” on whose head a price of $5,000 had been set by the State of Georgia), while she was long the favoured guest and beloved friend of Dr. Channing, and the admired and honoured guest or associate of Mr. Clay and Judge Story, Mr. Webster and Mr. Everett and a hundred others, — the representative great men of America. But her mind carefully and surely discriminated between the good great man and the good men who were not great; between the grand, uncompromising spirit, working, giant-like, to turn the current of an evil age, and the bad great men of the hour, whether bold or timid, who did but float upon it to some selfish end.

Dr. Channing, between whom and Harriet Martineau a true friendship subsisted to the day of his death, was a good man, Edition: current; Page: [273] but not in any sense a great one. With benevolent intentions, he could not greatly help the nineteenth century, for he knew very little about it, — or indeed of any other. He had neither insight, courage, nor firmness. In his own church had sprung up a vigorous opposition to slavery, which he innocently, in so far as ignorantly, used the little strength he had to stay. He was touched by Brougham’s eloquent denial of the right of property in man, and he adopted the idea as a theme, but he dreaded any one who claimed, on behalf of the slaves, that their masters should instantly renounce that right of ownership; he was terror-stricken at the idea of calling on the whole American people to take counsel on so difficult and delicate a matter in antislavery associations; and above all he deprecated the admission of the coloured race to our ranks. He had been selected by a set of money-making men as their representative for piety, as Edward Everett was their representative gentleman and scholar, Judge Story their representative gentleman, jurist, and companion in social life, and Daniel Webster their representative statesman and advocate, looking after their business interests in Congress.

And herein lay the secret of these great American reputations. Not one of them was of power to have made his way against public opinion. The public acclamation that sustained them was not hero-worship, but self-adulation. “Surely” (it meant, being interpreted), “the vigorous money-making power is the greatest of all, and we ourselves as good as great preachers, orators, lawyers, and scholars; since they act according to our directions, and never transcend our convictions. These are our proxies; and while we drive them along before us in the sight of the world, we too are famous in their fame.”

Herein, too, lay the secret of the public rage when the fact appeared that the illustrious stranger — however drawn to one by a like conscientious piety, to another by similarity in social, scientific, or legislative powers, and to a third by appreciation of belles-lettres scholarship — had not found these men themselves illustrious; while she bore with the greatest composure to be laughed at for pointing out the despised youth Garrison as the great man of the age.

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It was a pleasure to see her honest, earnest abandonment of her mind to the power of evidence, and how patiently she would settle herself to listen to another side of a question of which she thought she had already seen enough to justify her conclusion; ready to go over again with the whole case as affected by the new element. You saw she had but one desire, — the fact: but one object, — the truth. “Is it so, or is it not so?” was the unmingled expression of her face while listening to the various testimony that came before her.

She possessed a singular mobility of countenance. It was simple, compound, or changeful, with the occasion, keeping exact pace with the movement of her thought. I recollect once reading to her a few verses I had written expressing the feelings of three hundred delegates of antislavery societies in the country towns of New England, for whose reception we could obtain no hall in Boston, their Mecca, their Jerusalem, “the city of their solemnities.” I have forgotten entirely the verses, but I remember the change of her face with each as I repeated them, as something extraordinary for sincerity and strength. But I was speaking of her impartiality. It was from experience that she wrote at that time her essay on Moral Independence — as one of them that “know what it is to rise in the morning with a strong persuasion of something, to be shaken before noon, to perceive a troublesome amount of evidence on the other side before night; . . . . who know what it is to mix alternately with the friends and foes of some institution, and have their sympathies engaged by each, till they begin to wonder if there are any bounds to the conflicting evidence which may be offered, any unity of principles in the case, or any power of judgment in themselves. They know that the only hope of rational and steadfast conviction lies in diligent study, patient thought, and a faithful comparison of new facts with old principles, — a process which few are able and fewer still are willing to carry out with perfect fidelity. . . . . If such be the weakness of the strongest, such the difficulties of the most resolute, what is authority? . . . . It is only by taking our stand on principle, keeping ourselves free to act untrammelled by authority, that we can Edition: current; Page: [275] retain any power of resolving and working as rational and responsible beings.

“Not only does individual peace depend on freedom from authority, but the very existence of society rests on individual rectitude.”*

In this essay she speaks of those who for various reasons forfeit their moral independence; “Those who are so overpowered by an idea of the greatness of man in the abstract that their own individuality shrinks, and they submit to authority under the idea of doing homage to humanity; . . . . those who relinquish it by moral perversion of some kind, whether called selfishness, timidity, or mistake as to the right objects of pursuit; . . . . those who fail for lack of nerve, taking pledges they know they shall forfeit, deny principles they know to be true, hide truths confided to them to be revealed, uphold institutions their Maker’s hand is pulling down, hold their peace when they should speak, and shut their eyes against the light, and all ‘because they cannot meet the questioning eye, or bear the pointing finger, or contemplate the petty instruments of man’s persecution’; . . . . those who uphold with clamor a barbarous institution, if it only keeps up a demand for their merchandise; . . . . the office-seekers who, in reptile degradation, prey upon the honours of society; . . . . those who act for fame, profaning with the breath of men the power that ought to be sanctified to the service of truth, putting their manhood up for sale, and actually begging a place in the great slave-market of society.”

Eloquent, beautiful, and true; capable of making the profoundest impression: but all this and more, covering their whole case, New England men could bear, at any time, of a writer or a preacher, and remain entirely unmoved, — nay, boast meanwhile, in virtue of having listened to it, that they were “as much antislavery as any body.”

Harriet Martineau was soon to learn what it was they would not bear.

Although it seemed to us at that time — what it really was — Edition: current; Page: [276] the greatest possible privilege to serve the antislavery cause, we should have shrunk as from dishonour from dragging any one unwittingly into its service; and in offering to Harriet Martineau every opportunity for observation and information, it never darkened my mind that it would bring her into the same position of danger and difficulty with ourselves, to make use of them. I thought her immense personal popularity would be her protection in obtaining personal knowledge of the crisis, even at an antislavery meeting. I wished her to see, that she might be able to say in England, after her return, that the abolitionists, though few in number, were a fair specimen of all classes and conditions of Americans; and I thought she might do so safely. I was mistaken. My country was even more corrupted by slavery than I had thought. I did not know what the paper contained that was given her to read at the antislavery meeting which she has described, at the house of Mr. Francis Jackson, but I never saw severer pain (with a touch of displeasure too) on any human countenance than was then expressed for a moment by hers; and once more I saw that there are two different hours of righteous witness for the truth: one glad and joyful like our own, and one like His who said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass.”

It was whispered round the room that this was a request on the part of Mr. Loring that Miss Martineau would address the meeting. I remembered words of hers to which I had listened in a previous conversation, — “The martyr’s real trial is the doubt whether he is right,” — and I rejoiced to see that hers was not that trial. It was but a moment, and she was ready, with no trace of pain or displeasure on her face. She spoke with unequalled simplicity and dignity; and the few words she uttered conveyed the grounds of that momentary look of reproach (which, if legitimate, she never afterwards felt or made), and marked the limitations of her testimony to the exact degree of her feeling and knowledge.

“I have been requested by a friend present to say something, if only a word, to express my sympathy in the objects of this meeting. I had supposed that my presence here would be understood as showing Edition: current; Page: [277] my sympathy with you. But, as I am requested to speak, I will say what I have said through the whole South, in every family where I have been, that I consider slavery as inconsistent with the law of God, and as incompatible with the course of his providence. I should certainly say no less at the North than at the South concerning this utter abomination; and I now declare that in your principles I fully agree.”

A sublimer act of self-renunciation for the sake of right it had never been my happiness to witness; for never have I seen, before or since, one who had so much to renounce. I had not thought to afford occasion for it, nor did I suppose my friend Mr. Loring to have acted in foreknowledge of the immediate consequences to herself. But this I know, that one circumstanced as Harriet Martineau then was may well bless the chance and thank the instrument that makes way for dealing so effectual and heroic a blow for a land’s redemption. She took her life in her hand and deliberately cast it from her into coming time, and the nobility of the deed will give light to all in need of the strength of a bright example forever!

The country was again in arms, and against her as an individual. Abuse was exhausted. The organ of the Boston self-styled aristocracy, the “Daily Advertiser,” “the respectable daily,” as it was then for distinction’s sake called, heading the vulgar pack. A harder thing to bear was the grief of the timid good at the immediate consequences of an action whose scope and nature they no more comprehended than the born blind the day; while the obtrusive and officious betrayed, by their anxiety to nullify her testimony, their own opposition to the cause.

Very few beyond the thin ranks of the abolitionists ventured to approve, and efforts were made to persuade her that they too were regretting the step she had taken. Of these few the excellent Stephen Clarendon Phillips, who had hung her portrait, painted for the place, at his home in Salem, when she bade that town farewell, wrote thus to her from Philadelphia, on his way from Washington, where he had left the question of slavery agitating Congress through all its ranks: —

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We shall have an agitating session, but what of that? Do you not already understand enough of our institutions to know that excitement is often salutary, and may always be rendered so? Let there be free discussion; give us the power of truth and moral courage, just as much as is wanted, and the more excitement the better. I have no fears from bringing the slavery question into Congress; my only fears are from its being kept out. The sooner the opposite opinions can meet each other the better. Till then, truth cannot vanquish error. But the question cannot be long kept out. The votes for laying upon the table, and for the previous question, will grow weaker and weaker. The project of rejecting petitions expired in its first attempt to breathe. Petitions will crowd in upon each other, knocking for admission, and presently they will be heard, discussed, and granted. I care not if it be the work of years. I rejoice that I have lived to see the work commenced. . . . .

I meant to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, and to have told you what I thought about your speech. But it is of no consequence. I believe that you are fulfilling your mission. Is that enough? May I not hear from you very shortly? Believe me sincerely yours,


The Rev. Ephraim Peabody, of whom at his death, twenty years after, it was told in the journals of the succeeding day, as his greatest distinction, that he was “the friend of Harriet Martineau,” wrote to her thus from his sick-bed in New Orleans, weighed down by thoughts of the opposition of his fellow-Christians every where: —

Ephraim Peabody
Peabody, Ephraim
February 17, 1834
New Orleans
Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
My dear Miss Martineau,

I received your letter just as I was starting South, and I pray that sickness may never make you know the worth of such a letter, nor of your kind acts and words at Watertown. You warn me not to answer your letter. — It was kindly done; but the truth is, that in the feverish wakefulness of long nights and days too I have written in thought more than a hundred letters to you, and I wish (and shall I not?) to write one, on paper, to say how large a place you fill in my mind and in my heart; how much I would give for the sound of your voice, — and that not so much for the wisdom or beauty of what you might say, but for the same reason that in this city of strangers my wife’s voice or sister’s would be music from heaven, because I love them. I know you will Edition: current; Page: [279] pardon me for saying this, as it is very likely the last time I may speak or write to you. I wish to write also to say that the little and contemptible newspaper persecution you were subjected to for speaking your thoughts of abolition has made me think of the subject till all my sympathies, and to a very great extent my judgment, is with the abolitionists, — entirely so, if Dr. Channing is one. I know you acted from a good conscience, and conscience is “a strong-siding champion,” that needs not the aid of others; but if others have criticised what you did in attending an abolition meeting, I also may say that, though at that time* my opinions were very different from yours, I could not but from the bottom of my soul honour you for what you did. . . . . May God bless you and prosper you; it is the prayer of your friend,


Others there were who expressed, like Nicodemus, by night, the feelings it would have cost too much to proclaim by day.

I would here fain group together the words of glowing charactery from a hundred strong minds and hearts, each of so different a strain that their combination would show better than the best words of the most graphic description the impression this great heart made while it dwelt among them. A few, at least, I may preserve.

Of us, though not among us, he who had years before made himself first known to the world as of all things best judge of bravery and truth, — Emerson, — now approved himself a judge once more. “Joy,” he said, “that you exist. Honour to your spirit, which is so true and brave.”

Mary Ware, the last of that fine race of New England women that was true to New England’s noble old standard of womanly excellence before the proclamation of a nobler, wrote thus: —

“I know not how to be grateful enough that I have known you. That you have given us pleasure you cannot but know; but you cannot know how much good you have also done us.”

Dr. Follen, the patriot hero of Germany, the student, the poet, the philosopher, the victim of the Holy Alliance, the Christian teacher, the American abolitionist, and the victim of Edition: current; Page: [280] American despotism, had undergone an experience which enabled him to appreciate that of Harriet Martineau. He was one of those rare great spirits that find no alternative at the call of a great cause but obedience. He was the only European exile of that vintage who declined to prosper as an American by flattering the nation’s sin, — so rare is the virtue that can pour out its life-blood twice. While suffering proscription from the land of his birth, he identified himself with Garrison among the earliest, and suffered, with the rest, a fresh proscription from the land of his love and his adoption. When the venal journal of Boston corruption was used to persecute and insult Harriet Martineau as the friend of freedom and the friend of the slaves’ only advocates, as the practical defender of the imperilled right of speech and of association, he saw, though without help from the example of his friend, Dr. Channing, that it is no sin against the freedom of the press instantly to cease to support a tool of slavery. His charming American wife, no less devoted to the cause than himself, strove, like him, to turn the tide of malediction, but in vain.

Their friend’s popularity among the outraged ladies and gentlemen was gone.

This is Dr. Follen’s letter to her on that strange occasion, when the most highly bred nation on earth, in its treatment of women, rose up as one man to insult and injure the most distinguished woman of another land for an act that would have saved it from the curse of slavery if any one act could.

C. Follen
Follen, C.
November 30, 1835
Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet


. . . . You are now experiencing what cannot be new to you, though you may not have met with it in this country: how little in times of trial we can rely on those whose affection for us is grounded on other things than our principles; who cannot bear to hear any evil spoken against us; who fear our influence may be impaired by an ill-timed assertion of unpopular truth, &c.! Those principles in which we live and move and have our being, though as old as the creation of man, are still a new doctrine, the elements of a new covenant, Edition: current; Page: [281] even in civilized, republican, Christian America. They are as the bread and wine of the altar, to which all are invited, but of which few partake, because they dread to sign in their own hearts the pledge of truth which may have to be redeemed by martyrdom. For is it not true that those who maintain that all men have an innate divine right to all the means of improvement and happiness within the reach of man, and that all have a corresponding divine obligation to claim that innate right for each human being, are either shunned with silent condemnation as abolitionists, democrats, agrarians, or hailed with the cries of “Crucify! Crucify!” as fanatics and incendiaries? But if the world separate itself from us, it leads us to find a world in ourselves and in each other; not to form a new aristocracy of a somewhat higher stamp, but to unite our strength to break down every wall of our partition that interferes with man and our fellowman.

Our meeting with you, dear Harriet, was a blessed recognition, rather than a new acquaintance; our friendship had a pre-existence in kindred principles. Were it otherwise, I should tenderly regret that your late conscientious “indiscretion” should have brought upon you censure, and acquainted you with the weight and measure of many professions and sentiments. But you have “settled your points and acted thereupon,” and that is sufficient to compensate you for all the world can give and take away. . . . .

Yours very truly,

We were never able to perceive a shadow of dissatisfaction or impatience under all this outcry and clamour; yet she was one who delighted in public sympathy, and desired approbation as much as she disliked flattery and the homage of selfishness. All the more serious inconvenience of the derangement of her travelling plans, by the risk of life incurred if after this she attempted to carry them out, with the continual disquiet of a threatening danger, — all were borne with a perfect composure.

Dr. Follen, her most intimate American friend of that time, who knew her by parity of greatness as none other could, said she was like Joan of Arc; and so indeed she was, by a thousand traits of resemblance. There was the same great public spirit, with the same strong domestic affections and skill in all domestic arts, yet unsustained by family appreciation. There was the Edition: current; Page: [282] same keen political sagacity, with the same infantine candour and simplicity that historians tell of, in every look and gesture. There was the same obedience to her “voices,” the dictates of her combined faculties personified by a reverential imagination, in conformity with the teachings of the time, with the same initiatory anguish in view of the consequences of obedience; and with a final sense of so great a joy in that obedience as in like manner to wish the interior monitor might never cease to speak. She was attended, too, in like manner, by the adoration of the many and the hatred of the few; and the sign she gave of her mission was the same, — always to raise the siege. There was in her nature the same sensitiveness to suffering, and the same inability to avoid it by unfaithfulness. There was the same bravery in conflict, the same avoidance of controversy,* the same tenderness to the vanquished. There was the same rare unconsciousness which can only accompany that genius in action which is an inspiration of the heart; and there was the same power of sacred companionship —

“Holy amid the knighthood of the land” —

with all, of whatever sect or sex or race or nation, to whom the welfare of mankind was dear. And while she was thus unconsciously informing, enlightening, and, so to speak, inspiring those to whom real interchange of thought and communion of heart was a new thing, — unconscious of mere feature, they felt a presence like that of the Maid of Orleans, radiant with joy and fame.

It fell often to my lot in those days to defend the right of woman to do whatever good she could; and I used, in speaking of woman as she should be, the words of Beattie when he characterizes Scotland, —

  • “Zealous yet modest, innocent though free,
  • Patient of toil, serene amidst alarms,
  • Inflexible in faith.”
Edition: current; Page: [283]

The words exactly described Harriet Martineau.

The time of her departure was now at hand, and the whole country awaited anxiously her next words from the other shore. For ourselves, our uncertainties were over. The mission of her life to the United States of America had begun; and with her, words are nothing distinct from life. The symphony predicts the coming strain.

With all the confidence we felt in knowing her so well, we yet knew her with so little personality that we could not, like others, follow her to the last with blessing and adieu. We could but say in our own hearts, as she departed, “Farewell, steadfast-hearted one, — so wise, so tender, so simple, grand, and true!”

And we turned to meet the coming battle with a loftier joy.

Edition: current; Page: [284] Edition: current; Page: [285]


“But when one is attempting noble things, it is surely noble also to suffer whatever may befall us to suffer.”


Warned by her saying about beginning at the creation and going on to the day of judgment, I am not going to anticipate the final consequences of Harriet Martineau’s American life. The ultimate rehabilitation of a race and the redemption of a continent are events in which these after times are tracing distinctly her influence as one important link in the chain of causes still producing happy effects. I have only to relate the consequences to herself, and show the impression she made on her contemporaries.

It seldom happens that men reap precisely what they expect from any carefully planned course. Harriet Martineau’s American harvest was certainly to her an unexpected one. She had merely hoped to gather seed for English sowing, — to scatter in her own land those principles of justice and mercy to the least favoured classes which ours was thought to have discovered; and she found herself obliged, by her allegiance to all that is just and merciful, to put her hand to the breaking of our stubborn clods, for the implanting of the common principles of mercy and justice to a sixth part of our whole population, composing a class utterly overlooked except in the estimate of property, or in the scramble for office, when planters must be propitiated in proportion to the amount of their human stock.

Such an experience as hers in America, besides being incalculably blessed to our people, was influential on all her after life. Edition: current; Page: [286] In the first place, it could not but greatly modify all the opinions she at first formed, when she took our prominent Americans on trust, for what they seemed to be, as travellers always naturally do.

She said, in the frankness of her admiration of the American celebrities as she first saw them, — men of parts, standing tall upon the institutions placed for them, like pedestals, by their great fathers, — “It is such a substantial comfort to find that the American great men are great men.” But the same experience that deprived her of so comforting a persuasion gave her also to know that (to use the Hebrew Scripture, which is as the mother tongue of the American people) “the Lord did not lack a man to stand before him,” although those whom the land called its great ones were so manifestly unequal to the emergency. With the exception of the Rev. S. J. May, and those she has named in a previous volume, she was in like manner disappointed in the Unitarian ministry. The first year, her journal says of such: “They seem superior men.” “They all seem like fathers and brothers.” “They take such broad ground, not preaching against specific sins, but enunciating great principles!” Not the least of the great benefits of her life among us was to show by its contrast with theirs the unmeaning character of the inanities which these fathers and brothers were in the habit of uttering, with a tender, laborious emphasis which they called “earnestness,” at a moment when an earnest man’s conscience would have flown in his face at such a paltering with manly duty. But the observing world, translating these pulpit manœuvres into the language of the corrupt of old time, — “put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may have a piece of bread,” — never failed, while it left their few high-minded brethren to starve, to throw them the morsel they had so richly merited. They compelled Harriet Martineau to recognize in them at last, not the emulators of the mobbed and exiled Priestley, not the peers of the Synod of Ulster, who “loved the light of truth more than the praise of men,” not the Christians of the New Testament stock, whom the truth had made free, but, in the newer testamentary phrase of the Edition: current; Page: [287] South, “the slaves of the church and congregation.” The nobler Unitarians never ceased to feel the direct influences of her spirit of benevolence and activity. A Channing was informed and stirred by it to stay for a short time the enslavement of Texas: — the South mistakenly thought his wealthy townsmen and parishioners — their fellow-gamblers for place and profit — were crowding behind him. A Furness came far in advance of the cowardly ranks of American Unitarianism, into practical fellowship with the American abolitionists; but the vast majority of those she met she was obliged to leave as she found them, and their last state was worse than their first.

Harriet Martineau has been sometimes called dogmatic and opiniated by incompetent acquaintances and opposition politicians, in both countries; but I think it would be difficult to cite an instance where her preconceived opinions, however warmly cherished (as her high ideas of prominent Americans certainly were), did not immediately yield to facts. Pride of opinion she had not: it was clearness of sight and consequent strength of conviction. But till insight and experience came to justify the conclusions of sight, she held them subject to correction, with a readiness to renounce error that I have never seen equalled.

A clear vision of what is fatal to humanity, like a view of the fabled basilisk, is very dangerous to them that obtain it; but it is a sight worth all the risk as a preparation for future service.

Full of mingled hope and anxiety for the country whose interests she had so truly made her own, somewhat worn by all the risks, responsibilities, and fatigues of what she had undergone in this new stage of her progress, distressed by its many revelations and pained by its many partings, and, notwithstanding all, furnished with the humming-bird’s nest for the little Maria, she reached her family in safety before the end of the month of August, 1836.

As the scenes and sayings and doings and personages began to settle into their true perspective in her mind, and while she went over with her home friends the masses of information she had accumulated, separating what stood the two years’ experience from what had fallen, she began to feel herself competent to write the Edition: current; Page: [288] American book she had been so many times questioned about, and so often had doubted whether she should ever feel qualified to give to the world.

“Society in America” is not only by far the best book of travels in that country, in the judgment of the best qualified Americans and Englishmen, but it must needs remain of permanent value as a picture of the United States towards the middle of the nineteenth century. Painted at a moment when the land dared neither to see nor to know itself, and when ordinary travellers — whose knowledge and vision is of course limited by that of their surroundings — walked as blindly with the nation in the road to its destruction as the hosts of Sennacherib against Israel, it is the only existing “portrait of the times” of any sufficient degree of completeness, and must, as such, become more and more valuable with the passage of time. Her own recent valuation of it, in view of its American metaphysical foundation and its essay-like style, does not touch this estimate. Its fairness, its largeness and accuracy, the truth and beauty of its impartial reprehension of all that was bad and its sympathetic admiration of all that was good, are not only universally acknowledged among intellectual Americans at the present time, but they were so at the very period of publication, when moral opposition was at its hottest. Hostile as these critics were, and able as they will be seen, through their madness of the hour, to have been, there is scarcely one of them (except the mouthpieces of Philadelphia fashion and Boston trade and manufactures, collectively called “property and standing”) who did not afterwards, like Balaam rising on Zophim to curse, find himself constrained altogether to bless three times over.

Those old newspapers and reviews, yellow and dusty with years (records of a hot moral battle of which so many of the ranks are dead and so many more buried out of sight and past resurrection by their proslavery course at that time) bring to mind the melting away of the embattled foes of Israel before the invisible powers that stood across their path.

They are all gone, — the Websters, the Everetts, and the Clays; the mayors of cities that presided at such enormous gatherings as Edition: current; Page: [289] that in Faneuil Hall, convoked at the demand of the governors of Southern States by fifteen hundred of the leading gentlemen of Boston, to guarantee slavery against the abolitionists. It was to oblige the South that these outrages and those of the newspapers were perpetrated, which I find in the great folio collection now under my hand.

The following letter gives Harriet Martineau’s state of mind on the reception of her book in England: —

Maria Weston Chapman
Chapman, Maria Weston


“When I was just beginning my book some Quaker acquaintances of ours introduced George Thompson to my married elder sister, with the express design of having him and me brought together, in order that he might keep me up to my resolution on the slavery question. My sister very properly refused to introduce any disturbing influence into my mind on an occasion which she knew was considered by me as one of the most solemn of my life. She knew that my testimony would lose half its value if there was the least colour for supposing that I had given it under dictation or stimulus from without. So I have not seen Mr. Thompson. All alone and in the religious quiet of my study it has been written, and in it you have the reflection of my very soul; as for my expectations from it, I am ashamed of them already. I thought the book would ruin me; and this thought was confirmed by the importunity which has been used to prevail upon me to keep back some things which it was supposed I might say. I kept back nothing which it was in my heart to say. The book has been out only ten days, and its success seems to be quite complete. It has received the warmest welcome from those whom I think the most valuable part of our society, and a generous construction from the timid, second-rate people. All seem to trust me, and do me justice even when they most differ from me. My hopes are therefore strong that I have not been working for you in vain. I do not think I should have had one dark hour if I had failed to help you and had ruined myself; but I own that my heart is very light at this conclusion of the greatest affair I was ever engaged in. Not that it is yet concluded here, and I shall be some time yet in hearing from your side of the water. I know that the stings will come when the honey is all had; but whatever happens, dear friend, do not feel one moment’s concern for Edition: current; Page: [290] me. Let us work on, and trust each other for bearing as well as doing. — Thank you for all the interesting things you have sent me. I do not like to delay writing till I have read them, for I think you will consider the good reception of my book good news.”

Good news indeed! The book reached George Thompson as he was sealing a letter to America of this same date. The letter lay on the table while he read, and it reached the American friends with this exclamation written round the seal, “Well done, Harriet!”

We had none of us doubted that it would be so. In proportion to the satisfaction of the abolitionists was the discomfiture of her slaveholding friends. A storm of disapprobation came from that quarter quite sufficient to nullify any undue self-esteem which their previous enthusiasm of affection for her might well have excited.

It will be easier to learn how America received this true presentment, from the aforesaid heap of reviews and newspapers, than in any other way; and the colour of Philadelphia fashion may be first learned, by giving precedence to the “American Quarterly Review,” — whig in politics, orthodox in religion, — which reflected the opinions of its patrons in an article of some thirty pages. After asserting that Miss Martineau had declared in the most unequivocal terms that she did not mean to write, while a part of her book was actually ready for the publisher before she left the country, (!) the reviewer goes on thus: —

“No stranger since the days of Lafayette was more cordially entertained, — the more fools we for our easiness of access! — and Miss Martineau adds another to the list of her spiteful predecessors. This work of hers makes us quits, as the children say, and we shall therefore imitate her freedom of remark. The book has a ready sale in these dull times, — duller, perhaps, to booksellers than to any other class. They at least should thank her for this diversion in their favour. She will hear from us more than once; for she cuts right and left, sparing none but abolitionists and negroes.”

After several pages of extremely low abuse of Miss Martineau for being deaf, and for having spoken of the food of the country, Edition: current; Page: [291] the reviewer proceeds to speak of “that unwomanly act of hers, — the delivery of a speech at an abolition meeting.”

“The consequences of this made her put gall in her ink, and raised that unjust, imbecile, and untrue statement when speaking of Mr. Everett’s oration to the ‘handful,’ or small flock, in the field. As she could not by any possibility hear what he said, she must have been indebted to some of Mr. Everett’s malignant political opponents for the subject-matter of the discourse, who must have insinuated that ‘Mr. Everett was an anti-abolitionist and anti-amalgamationist, an anti-Malthusian, and an anti-half-and-half-woman-man.’ It was to this that Mr. Everett owes the honourable notice that this Malthusian lady took of him. The abuse has certainly rendered him more conspicuous, but in a way which Miss Martineau never conjectured nor intended; she would have consigned him to silence and oblivion rather than have added to his popularity. We have not many to look up to in cases of extremity, but when we find such a man as Everett expressing his opinions honestly, even to the discomfiture of a woman, — a circumstance which is more distasteful to an American gentleman than anything which could occur, — we know to whom we can resort if the evil theme of sudden emancipation should ever be gravely discussed.”

It is well to note, for the better comprehension of this, that those “opinions” Mr. Everett expressed in those times to the discomfiture of women were the ones which obliged them to send their children from their houses for safety when threatened with mob-violence; which subjected them to showers of stones in the streets of their own city; which filled those streets with a mob of his friends and supporters when women said slavery was a sin, while he declared from the Senate that he was ready to “buckle on his knapsack” to defend it, and suggested from the governor’s chair, to a community ready to lynch the abolitionists, a resort to indictment at common law as sufficient to convict them, while the Southern gentlemen were demanding special legislation by which to crush them, and the Philadelphia gentlemen pledging him their support for any appointment they could influence, as one trustworthy in his allegiance to Southern interests.

After going on to reproach Miss Martineau with her “robust Edition: current; Page: [292] health and tough nerves,” with “being able to race through the country with the frame of a moss-trooper for toughness of muscles and wiriness of frame, with being able to wade through a stream and sit in her wet clothes without fear of disastrous consequences, and overcoming difficulties which the stoutest male travellers considered almost insurmountable, the reviewer proceeds: —

“We do not object to Miss Martineau’s health. We wish every woman on earth could boast of such hardiness. But we do object to such scamperings over strange lands for the purpose of procuring materials for a book which is to vilify the very people who give her the freedom of the country.”

Then follows much reprobation of Miss Martineau’s “cruelty” and “disrespect.”

“She sneers at the metaphysics of the Boston women, and speaks disparagingly of their talent; shows her malignant feelings by saying that there exists a whine and a twang in the voices of American women, — and that in the very district where she happened to be on the most cordial and intimate footing with some of its inhabitants. . . . . How she vents her malignant and bitter feelings against all who have shown her hospitalities, and treated her with such marked respect and kindness! . . . . How could any but a heartless and cold-blooded being finish off her anecdote against duelling by saying of the young man of nineteen, whose family decided that he should accept a challenge, ‘that a lesson of low selfishness and moral cowardice was thus impressed upon him by the guardians of his youth, and the society in which he lives has seen the strongest testimony to false principles borne by two of its most respected members’! . . . . We protest against the hateful practice of duelling. It is not to extenuate that offence that we condemn this woman. It is to show how she vents her bitter and malignant feelings toward all who have shown her courtesies and hospitalities. She well knew that the eminent families of any one State are known to the whole Union. Every person in the United States who reads her book will know to whom she alludes; and to have an affair, now consigned to oblivion, ripped up with a harsh hand, for no earthly purpose but to inflict a sting upon the hearts of the parents, is so great an insult to civilized feelings, that all who read will shrink from the Edition: current; Page: [293] hand that penned it. She might deem herself called upon to reprobate duelling, and describe its horrible consequences; but to point out the parties almost by name, and to give such an offensive personal turn to her remarks, deserves the severest reprobation.”

This last paragraph illustrates the condition of American morals at that period. The reserve on the subject of slavery which mingled shame and good faith had compelled at the North on the adoption of the Constitution, and which a continually strengthening claim of self-interest more and more increased, ended in subverting the religious and political principles under which the country had existed previous to the Revolution; and men with the Bible in one hand and the Declaration of Independence in the other sold slaves to raise money to evangelize the Hindoos and to send standards to the Poles. Common-sense was considered madness when it noticed these inconsistencies which had almost reduced the nation to moral idiocy, and yet men had the instinct left to reckon with the difficulty under any name but the right one. The word slavery, through this whole Review article, is almost as carefully avoided as it was in the Constitution of the United States.

An immense effort was at this time being made to settle the case of slavery on general principles. Dr. Channing was triumphantly dragged into this field of ethical distinctions, and the work to be done in the slaveholders’ behalf was to separate the sinner from his act. Because no man can judge another’s heart or accurately proportion his punishment, it was claimed that, though slaveholding was a sin, the slaveholder was not necessarily a sinner. These were the most advanced moralists; for the bulk of the Northern money-making metaphysicians claimed that slavery was only an evil, while the Southern money-making theologians had already received the hint from statesmen to claim it as an unmingled good. The average of opinion stood thus: that though “slavery in the abstract” (as it was the fashion scrupulously to say) ought not to be justified, yet slavery in the actuality ought not to be condemned. It was a national calamity (to be borne as such with resignation), but not an individual sin, to be repented of and forsaken. This is the principle or Edition: current; Page: [294] problem the American Quarterly was dealing with under the name of duelling, being straitened by the times in its vocabulary.

The sight of moral methods that went straight through all these niceties, as through cobwebs, to the work of removing the evil by awakening to the nature of the wrong, always stimulated the Americans to frenzy.

It goes on to say: —

“Does a woman of circumscribed education and recluse habits feel herself competent to teach a whole nation, — a nation that did not think the wisest and the greatest in her land capable of giving them sound instruction? Did we not separate ourselves from them because we felt in advance of them? Did we not show ourselves superior, in physical strength and moral strength? And up to this moment have we not outstripped them in wholesome laws and in many of the arts? Until their demoralizing Malthusian and agrarian principles infected our land, introduced here by these itinerant lepers, were we not prosperous beyond example? Does this poor flimsy tool of a nest of poisonous radicals suppose we are to look upon the impertinences of her pen as a standard by which we are to regulate ourselves? . . . .

“We must pass to other portions of her precious patchwork, — for patchwork it may be called, — as every one will perceive at once that the arrangement of her work into chapters and sections is a mere sham. The theme she has chosen, to be sure, has a beginning, middle, and end; Aristotle himself could not have objected to it on this score. The beginning is agrarianism, abolition, amalgamation, Malthusianism, and radicalism, with a strong dash of egg-and-milk-ism; the middle, ditto, with a still stronger mixture of humbugism; and the end, ditto, with a compound of conceit and maudlinism which surpasses all that has gone before it.”

After a great deal of personality about her English friend Lord Durham, not only as a “deep, double-dyed radical,” but “to let her know about his temper, — his morose temper, — not so morose as exciting and uncomplying, nay, not so morose, exciting, and uncomplying as harsh and passionate,” and her American friend Dr. Follen, as “eating the bread of this people for seven years,” and yet not having disabused the “poor insolent foolish woman;” the Quarterly proceeds to call her many names on account of her visiting the prisons. “Conceit and impertinence,” “nauseous exposure,” “finding satisfaction in coming Edition: current; Page: [295] in contact with the most foul and detestable of criminals,” are its gentlest words. It goes on thus: —

“We do not believe that another woman could be found, who, out of mere curiosity, — which any man was as capable of exercising if she wanted information, — would choose to come in contact with such ruffians. If prisons were conducted as they used to be in the days of Howard or Mrs. Fry, a woman might be found who would step out of the sphere of her sex and administer relief to that ‘great amount of suffering’ which economists always talk about. But that a woman out of mere Malthusian curiosity should pollute her person and her trumpet by the breathings of the depraved of humanity, and merely for the purpose of asking a foolish question to which she might be sure of getting a lying answer, is one of the most outrageous insults her sex has ever received.”

To her suggestions about the care of the physical, moral, and mental health of the prisoners by instruction and sympathy the Review remarks: —

“It is in vain that we check our indignation at the revelations of such a crude and mischievous mind. It is in vain to say it is but idle dreaming and should pass unnoticed. We cannot do it; we must speak, and in the strongest terms that propriety will admit. We must warn our readers to consider this woman’s advice as mischievous and pernicious in the highest degree.”

She is reproached also with having given “their first lessons of rebellion to wholesome restraint to many a female servant and underling,” and with having stimulated young men who deprecated the tyranny of a moneyed mob by approbation when they “proposed to show a cold front to the insolent and powerful rich men of the country.” This is an allusion to Charles Sumner and others of his young contemporaries, — friends and admirers of Harriet Martineau.

“If there were really such a young man, we should say he would be very much ashamed of such whining cant when he comes to have a few dollars in his pocket. Poor young men, with a slender stock of sense, are very apt to hate the rich; but if it so chance that they ever get rich themselves, they are the first to assist in quieting such busybodies as Thompson and Martineau. It was by a hard struggle, Edition: current; Page: [296] pledging our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour, that we succeeded in binding the States to the close union which now exists, and the pledge remains in full force still; we are not about to sit quietly down and see a few turbulent, needy foreigners, — bad subjects at home and impertinent visitors abroad, — and a few of the discontented feeble-minded of our country, sow the seeds of disunion, without giving them a rough shake or two to bring them to their senses. But we should never have done, if we were to touch at every point on which this Malthusian butterfly, — no, dragon-fly, has alighted.”

This allusion to “rough shakes,” in order to account for past mobocratic violence, was a threat of it for the future.

How such an article as this could obtain publication awakens fresh astonishment after the passing away of the first amazement at the fact that such an article could have been written.

These are not things that a man would utter who had any thing else to say. They reveal the impeccability of Harriet Martineau’s work in its general scope and bearing and execution. They can only be accounted for by stating how near Philadelphia was to the slave States in space, and how identical in spirit. And this was a grave American review of forty years ago, which in its normal state, the year before, had expressed itself on the appearance of her two volumes of Miscellanies as follows: —

“A comprehension of the principle of social responsibility is the great and rare merit of Miss Martineau’s writings, reappearing everywhere in them, and always bringing with it an eloquence of humanity which rejoices the heart. It is this which gives the glowing spirit to the essays on Sir Walter Scott, at the commencement of the first volume. This also gives their beauty to the Sabbath Musings, which in their expression of this principle and feeling stand quite alone and peculiar among devotional papers.

“In no place in these volumes, however, does she do herself more justice than in the noble essay on Moral Independence.

“That the principle of social responsibility is struggling for expression in political events is evident from the revolutions in Europe and America; the reform of the English Parliament; the struggles of Ireland for equality with England; of the Greeks for independence of the Sultan; of the Poles for freedom from Russian tyranny. . . . .

“We do not happen to agree with Miss Martineau in all her principles of political economy: on one of them we would make open war. Edition: current; Page: [297] But we cannot be insensible to the wonderful talent she has shown in her series of Illustrations; to the glow of moral life and beauty she has shed over those sad tales which show the baneful effect of human errors in legislation; and to the strong-voiced and deeply breathing humanity which pervades them all.”

Glancing over the surpassing beauty of the Illustrations as works of art, and confirming Miss Martineau’s idea of the importance of political economy as a branch of moral science, the Review goes on to the importance of literature in awakening new life and purpose in the present age; and quotes Miss Martineau’s thought in the “Scott papers”: —

“ ‘The grandest manifestations of passion remain to be displayed; the finest elements of the poetry of human emotion are yet uncombined; the most various dramatic exhibition of events and characters is yet unwrought, for there has yet been no recorder of the poor.’

“In this new literature of the people Miss Martineau takes a high rank. Inspired with the finest affections of a woman, and taking her stand on all in human nature and the counsels of God which her affections reveal, her clear understanding gives her wide and true views of social relations and duties.”

Two of the essays — one on the agency of feelings in the formation of habits and one on the agency of habits in the regeneration of feelings — are particularly commended as the most valuable in the book for practical wisdom, and the Review commends them especially to young women, because the question between principle and feeling is very practically considered and satisfactorily settled in them.

Then follow the reviewer’s remarks on Miss Martineau as a metaphysician, or psychologist, or philosopher, expressing entire dissent with great comparative courtesy, and pointing out imperfections in the best temper and spirit.

“Thus much for the logic of a materialist who has the feelings of a Christian in her heart and that faith in immortality which she may not let go, even for her system: for she is a true and humane woman.

“We cannot leave these volumes without a tribute of respect to several articles that can come neither under the head of philosophical nor moral essays. We allude to the very interesting letter upon the Edition: current; Page: [298] Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, — the letter to the deaf, which inspires a profound veneration for the writer; to the article on Salem Witchcraft; to much of the articles on prison discipline, ‘Nature and Providence to communities,’ and ‘Romanism and Episcopacy,’ — practical subjects which call out her good sense and truly moral character.

“But we would repeat it, in the department of fiction alone is Miss Martineau great: we would willingly write as much again as we have done in setting forth the claims of her ‘Illustrations’ as works of art.

“It is this conviction of ours that has made us say what we have of her want of philosophic genius [meaning, as is clear from the context, metaphysical]; perhaps we have been vain enough to feel that, should her eye ever fall on these pages, an idea might be deposited in her mind (to use her own phraseology), that she had better devote herself exclusively to that department of writing in which she is unquestionably a genius, and realize the idea of a new class of novels, rivalling Scott’s in beauty and interest, and grounded on a more universal condition of humanity than the feudal system. As she herself says: —

“ ‘Why not now take the magnificent subject, the birth of political principle, whose advent has been heralded so long? What can afford finer moral scenery than the transition state in which society now is? Where are nobler heroes to be found than those who sustain society in the struggle, and what catastrophe so grand as the downfall of bad institutions and the issues of a process of renovation?’ ”

And the article winds up with the whole animated passage respecting the part which the same human passions swaying the same human hearts, and the same virtues working to higher ends, will have to play in the new order of things, in which love will be more than ever before lovely, and heroism more heroic.

Thus it was through all the showy front ranks of American literature, politics, and religion. Slavery had brought them to that degree of moral degradation that their normal condition was hypocrisy, when Harriet Martineau’s sincerity and reality compelled the casting away of the moral disguises, the ancestral habits of expression, so untrue to the lives of the existing generation.

The “North American Review” answered to the Quarterly’s abusive article in spirit, though it was far from being so amusing; for it wanted to see what the rest of the world would say, and the New England world was not in sufficient harmony with the Edition: current; Page: [299] Quarterly to warrant the same expenditure of epithets. In the “North American Review” the excess of caution forbade not only the mention of slavery, but of abolition too.

It was in the columns of the “Daily Advertiser,” hight “respectable,” that Boston answered to Philadelphia. There was the same inability to discriminate between a great public scandal before the world, — legitimate matter of publicity, — and private scandal of no importance to any one; and therefore while the temperance societies, the temperance advocates, and all the temperance physicians, including the most eminent in the country, were making strenuous efforts to stay an acknowledged national vice, which was creeping in among women even of the first classes, Miss Martineau was taken to task by both these publications, as if she had betrayed private confidence, for saying that she had witnessed examples of excess known to all the world about them. She was seeking for the cause, in order to find the cure, in such openings of various careers suited to women’s capacities and education as should furnish them with a truer stimulus than the hours of pernicious excitement which varied the dulness of their lives. She had fathomed the cause: American women were then educated, and had been for half a century, beyond the sphere of action permitted them; and while some of them were strenuously labouring for the temperance cause as a safeguard from the danger of such a life, others were yielding to its temptations. Society in America was then as distinctly though less violently divided on this question as on the question of slavery itself. All that Miss Martineau had said (and there was not the slightest personality in it) was matter of public notoriety. But the men of the wealthiest classes were, notwithstanding, opposers of the temperance cause, — less as bon vivans than as distillers and wholesale importers of wines and brandies, the mere advertisement of which was a revenue to the newspapers. Miss Martineau, meanwhile, was looking deeper than the temperance societies had then done into the necessity in human nature for occupations interesting to the mind and to the heart, if healthy action and development of the powers are to be secured, and intemperance banished from society.

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One cry of indignation rose from all the Whig political organs at Miss Martineau’s disappointment in Mr. Everett as an orator. But it always was shared, during his whole career, by all who were awake to the condition of the country, while hearing him speak on any but the purely classical and literary subjects which he so much loved and adorned. On these his speech was as the voice of a far-off Grecian past; but it never roused to march against the invading Philip of the day, nor was it like the low, soul-cleaving lyric harmony to which

  • “The Spartan from his sheath
  • Drew his devoted sword, and girt himself for death.”

There was no time in his political life when Mr. Everett did not necessarily seem like a mountebank, as he stood to talk of freedom and the great forefathers before a people whose liberties he had betrayed.

In excuse for the impeachment of her exactness as an observer by the editors who took exceptions at what she said about “the little flock of his auditors in a green field at Bloody Brook,” it should be remembered that none of them knew any thing about the size of the monster meetings in England, where her reform-song was sung, on which her ideas of a great crowd were formed.

To allay the pain of these remembrances, needful to the understanding of Harriet Martineau’s character and the impression it made, let the American patriot call to mind how nobly Mr. Everett acknowledged that his propitiatory course towards the South had been a mistaken one when the impending war with the South aroused him to the fact; and how many persecuting Sauls of this period became the self-sacrificing Pauls of a later one.

Harriet Martineau had been scoffed at by some of the baser sort in England. England rebuked and silenced them, and profited by her instructions, and covered her with renown. The press of the United States was wellnigh unanimous in taunting England with her goodness and greatness, which it called by every abusive name, and took the occasion to brand her personally Edition: current; Page: [301] with every ill epithet which she least deserved. She was a “hard,” “cold,” “pitiless,” “Amazonian,” “masculine,” “incendiary,” “radical” “amalgamationist,” and it went back to the defunct abuse of the “Illustrations,” combining the whole for daily use; and insinuating threats of mob-vengeance on future visitors from England, unless they avoided any disapproval of “our institutions,” meaning slavery. Future travellers were thus furnished with a ridiculous vade mecum, which they laughed at, but obeyed during the succeeding half-century.

But the American press was not quite unanimous. It would be doing injustice to the editors of that time in the towns of Plymouth, Lowell, Salem, Lynn, and Haverhill in Massachusetts, and Keene in New Hampshire, besides the antislavery journals, not to remember that they paid sensible and able tributes to Harriet Martineau as having “rightly divided the word of truth.” Her admiration and affection for their country, her appreciation of its sublime and beautiful scenery, her sense of the excellence of its institutions and the amiable and energetic character of its inhabitants, her perception of its advance before the Old World in all but arts, her appreciation of the grandeur of its struggle with wrong, the fervency of her trust in its ultimate success, her fidelity to right, and her love of human beings irrespective of any thing but their deserts, unmindful of any reproach it might subject her to of being the friend of little aristocracies or the friend of criminals or slaves, — all made in the New England towns a profound impression. Her mission to America had begun.

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“Crescit sub pondere Virtus.”

During the time that Harriet Martineau was at work upon her books of American experience, with two nations waiting for what she should say, and while she in her turn was listening for their reply, one cannot help desiring to know with what feelings she worked and waited.

Those six volumes of “Society in America” and “Retrospect of Western Travel” give her previous outward life and her opinions of men and things at that period with a fulness that neither this Memoir nor her Autobiography can find space for; but great effort was made on both sides of the Atlantic to fit those volumes to the spirit of the time.

All the kingdoms of literature and fashion and religious distinction in American cities, and in English complementary ones too, where, as in Liverpool, cotton was a bond of union, were proffered to her on these simple conditions; and “Vade retro” was her persistent reply. It was a costly, though so willing a sacrifice; for the slaveholders were not to her what Dr. Channing used to say they were to him, while he was striving to quiet the abolitionists of his own congregation, — “very much of an abstraction.”

“I was unworthy of our cause at that time,” she used afterwards to say, “but they were no abstractions to me. They were my dear friends; and I thought, as then I said, that they were disciples of Christ burdened with an inheritance of grief and crime; and I believed what I was told, that they were hindered from emancipating by the intermeddling of abolitionists.”

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Her valued friend Macready, whom she so highly esteemed because of his efforts to his own loss to make the British theatre what it ought to be, did not encourage her, as he himself tells us in his journal, to make her forthcoming books the transcript of her feelings and her knowledge: —

London, November 3, 1836. — Called on Miss Martineau, who told me of many friends she had seen in the United States, and of her intended book upon the country. She liked Clay the best of the American statesmen. She is a very zealous abolitionist, but, I think, has got some illusive notions on the actual state of opinion on that perplexing question.

There was a way to have avoided all perplexity, and to have made the American people as much her worshippers after their publication as before. It was the way urged upon her by the timid good and the timid who were not good, as well as by the ignorant and by the thoughtless. She need but have said, as they did, —

“I cannot but shrink from the denunciation of slaveholding as a private immorality. It is the misfortune of the individual, — the crime of the State.

“I am far from being satisfied that emancipation has any tendency to diminish the aggregate of guilt and evil of slavery.

“If I had tidings to-morrow of a bequest to me of an estate with fifty slaves on it, I am not sure that I should not regard it as a criminal evasion of responsibility to manumit them.”

“Channing himself says there are masters who see slavery as it is, who hold the slave chiefly if not wholly from disinterested considerations; and these deserve great praise.”

Happily not so thought John Gorham Palfrey, who gave his inheritance of sixty slaves their freedom, not considering his responsibility discharged till he had placed them all in suitable situations at the North for obtaining their own living; nor Angelina and Sarah Grimké, of South Carolina; nor James H. Thom of Kentucky; nor James G. Birney of Alabama; nor Mattie Griffith.

And, more happily still for after times, not so thought Harriet Edition: current; Page: [305] Martineau, who so steadily and meekly took her stand with Garrison and with them.

But full and unhampered as her American books are, a parallel record exists, to which one may have recourse, that tells of much besides, — not only what she saw and thought, but what she heard, resolved, and felt.

It is a series of small unlettered volumes, thick and closely written, — the diary of the years between 1836 and her retirement to Tynemouth and afterwards; in which the most interesting entries are of things she provides no place for elsewhere, and which was furnished with this motto by those who knew her so well, her intimate friends the Kers.

  • “All my mind was set,
  • Serious to learn and know, and thence to do
  • What might be public good.”

Her own prefatory sentence is as follows: —

“I have long been uneasy at the thought of how many valuable things I suffer to go out of my mind for want of energy to record them. I have dreaded beginning to keep a diary, for fear of increasing my great fault, — bondage to rules and habits. I will try whether I can reconcile journalizing with ease and freedom of mind.”

This journal bears on every page the fullest proof that it was kept for her own use and behoof exclusively; and she would then have been startled at the thought of its being seen by other eyes or after times; and, excepting only as given by the friend to whose judgment she intrusted it, this feeling was paramount as long as she lived.

Such a trust binds to the nicest reserve in selection, and indicates the thoughts and the little self-confidences as the portions rightfully at command, with such other occasional entries as betray the confidence of no one.

The date of the beginning is at a friend’s house in Hertfordshire, August 31, 1839. After many other foreign matters, is the following: —

“A friend [named] tells me that another friend [named] tells him, that I am now too great to notice her. I great! She might have Edition: current; Page: [306] taken the trouble to ascertain. Yet I believe she cares for me; but prejudice, — the prejudice of a coterie, comes in the way. Her coterie entertains the prejudice that people’s convictions alter with their circumstances. The radicals want faith, and will trust nobody from the moment of elevation to title, wealth, or fame. I do not feel myself altered in this way.

“We went to Haileybury, and dined with Mr. Empson. Two arguments: whether Lockhart is justifiable or not, in printing the letters which have lowered Scott’s fame. I say he is right in giving us all if any thing. Mr. — would keep back solitary discreditablenesses. The other argument, — whether or not things should be said before the deaf, or done before the blind, which it would be inconvenient for them to know. The point was afterwards yielded to me, that such things should not be done.

“Macaulay’s article on Bacon, good as to the life, but superficial and low as to the philosophy. But it seems to make a noise. Macaulay has no depth, but much glitter. He won’t come to any thing-Monday evening, to town. Mrs. — found her poor dog dead. A favourite dog is a loss. Brisk old Lady Cork, now ninety-three, complains to Rogers, ‘You never take me any where.’ Rogers replies, ‘O, I will take you every where, — and never bring you back again.’

“Letters from William Ware and the Follens about the reception of my book in America. They like it, but the whole newspaper press and public seem out against me. I do not care for this, — it is temporary, — nor for these friends’ objections to my having mentioned female intemperance, because I do not agree with them. But my having hurt C. Sedgwick is more pain to me than all the rest can compensate. I really thought I was right, and am not sure now but I was; but I will look into it. I must be brave about the consequences of my own mistakes as well as about undeserved blame. I have ordered the note to be cancelled (Vol. III. p. 261).* Dr. Follen says there is a split in the Democratic party between the self-seeking professors and the true lovers of freedom. This will seem to give an advantage to the Federalists; but it is very well. Took a sweet walk on Monday, and felt my spirit revived by the beauty and the exercise. I have been less joyous than usual this summer. It must be from some physical cause, for my lot is wholly bright. The last week, however, has been very cheery. Mr. Basil Montagu defends not only Bacon but Swift in morals, pleading that enlightened Edition: current; Page: [307] men must be judged by other rules in morals than common men. If by any other, surely it should be by higher.

Thursday, 31st. — Finished my first volume of “Retrospect of Western Travel.” Mr. Ker says it would not do to take duelling out of the murder class, in criminal law. A man asks his friend to go out with him, knowing that, if he is tried for murder, he will be acquitted. But no man could ask this if he expected his friend to be actually transported for life. What would be the consequence? Assassination, or a lonely duel (unfair fighting), or manly conduct of the true sort? Colonel Fox came to dinner. He brought me from Lord Holland, his father, a capital motto for my chapter on Mount Vernon.

When Mr. and Mrs. — travelled in Italy, they were attacked by banditti, who meant to carry Mr. — into the mountains for ransom. Mrs. — was bent on going with him; and rather than have her the banditti let him go. Rogers says he did not believe it till he saw her; when he no longer doubted. How like him!

Friday, September 1. Talk at breakfast about schools and governessing. One family has had seventeen governesses. — Lady imperious. Must put a governess into a novel, — a good one; and show how bad it is at best.

Wednesday, 6th. — Invitation to go out into the sun, but I must work first. Can’t enjoy at ease till work is done. I read Gibbon. It makes me dread a single literary life, so selfish, so vain and blind, as this great man grew to be! How like a bully and coward are his letters to Priestley, and how honourable the good man’s answers! . . . . In telling them how I am met and discouraged by ignorance and mistake at every turn, I went off into tears, which I could not stop for long. It is wonderful how much less unhappy one often is in tears than at some times when one is laughing and seeming gay! Since my memorable crying-fit in Chiswell Street, in December, 1831, I have cried only three times heartily, that I remember: at Cheshunt, at something Mr. Ker wrote (which I had quite forgotten till he put me in mind of it to-day); when I bade the Follens good by; and this morning. I wonder when the next will be. Finished “A Month at Sea.” Read Gibbon’s correspondence. Selfish, vain creature! — beyond almost all I ever read of. His intentions of adopting and subjugating Charlotte! Celibacy is very bad, especially for men. Walked out gathering blackberries in the field. I love a real field.

Friday, 8th. — Now going to write an account of the Shakers: had a pleasant walk in the lanes when my work was done. Rather nervous Edition: current; Page: [308] and tired over my work, — so resolved to rest for a day or two. Looked over frescos from the Niebelungen Lied, in penny magazine. Schnorr is painting them splendidly at Munich. Mr. Ker told me an idea which I mean to evolve: Eastlake opened it to him: what is fit for poetry is not for painting; painting must be form and colour, which does not do in poetry: poetry is motion and sound, which of course will not do in painting. Eastlake followed this out from all poetry, leaving only a thing or two in Ariosto which will serve for both, — Camilla’s running over the wavy corn, Eve’s every gesture dignity and love, and so on. This all came out of my mentioning St. Christopher in the Danube, which Mr. Ker says won’t paint. They call Hogarth delightful, but false; but this seems to me arbitrary. If, like the Exhibition artists, he had had to label his pictures, it would be false; but as his pictures tell themselves, surely the probability is that the division is arbitrary. Eastlake’s own pictures are full of action, and tell themselves; you see the very heaving of the chest in the Greek mother. We speculated on the past and future in art. The department of religion is closing, or being completely changed. The Virgin, Christ, and John have by their fixed general character become types, securing the beholder’s recognition and sympathy, and enabling the painter to bestow his care in conveying new and more complicated expressions under the advantage of the recognized form. This is over. There is no more worship of these beings, and the intellect is beginning to contradict and will by and by dissolve the old associations. A republication of Christianity will take place, — is taking place. A new school of poetry — the metaphysical — has begun; and mental acts are taken as illustrations of nature, instead of the reverse. Old poetry will remain, by virtue of its truth; but a new kind is rising up. Will it not be so in painting too? Because painting of the highest old kinds did not represent action, nor even, as Mr. Ker thinks, abstraction, is the art never to do so, though Hogarth has proved that it may? I remember telling Eastlake that he must be a metaphysician to have painted his Sciote picture, and he spurned the idea. Singular! — if he works out the disproof of his own theory. The K—s have always told me that I did not understand art. I see now what they mean. We have different pleasures in pictures. I love them as types of human feelings; they, as idealized outward (what they call real) beauty.

Saturday, 9th. — Talked of the bigotry of strong reasoners; of Johnson’s bigotry and charity, his cruelty and kindness mixed. Mr. — remarks how he elucidated prison discipline, imprisonment for debt, Edition: current; Page: [309] and other things which our reforming wise men and philanthropists have said poor things about since. How he would have stalked over Channing and every body about slavery, if he had been here now!

Two brothers, F. and E., have sat in the same office for three years, and never spoken to each other. What a waste of the fraternal relation! — Not F.’s fault. At a dinner about South American independence some years ago Wilberforce and Mackintosh spoke. Wilberforce carried all away by his impulse, — looking out at the setting sun, and alluding to the extinction of slavery in that part of the West, rejoicing that the freed thought first of freeing others. Mackintosh’s was elegant and complete, with a touch about the chairman, a touch about trade, &c., but a failure, and felt by him to be so. How precious are these glimpses! Mr. — says Brougham is the first great statesman who has brought philosophical questions relating to the general good into the House. Lord Chatham was much of a humbug, after all; Fox despised political economy and other philosophy; Pitt knew nothing of the sort. Brougham was the first who introduced the new, substantial kind of public speaking or action. If so, this will be his title to immortality. I see the Newcastle folks have raised £5,200 for baths in their town; — Bravo, Grainger! What a benefactor that man has been!

Sunday, 10th. — Read Gibbon. Selfish, vain, unhappy man! but then we know nothing of his happiest times, — his times of study. He must have enjoyed these, for no toil in getting facts was too hard for him, while his power of generalizing was at the same time great. He studied law a year, for the sake of writing one chapter. He was a good specimen of the human being as to its alternate power and weakness, — enjoyment from its involuntary excellences and suffering from its lowest tendencies. All Gibbon’s sufferings, almost, came from his selfishness and intense desire to be happy, — or rather fear of not being so. How he plagued Lord Sheffield about his money-matters when he had enough already! And as soon as all was settled to his mind, he died. He seems to have behaved well about his last illness; but then he liked life; and much might be owing to his being willing to persuade himself that little was the matter. — His neglect of writing to his old aunt was very bad. Happily he felt this. . . . . We three ladies talked over the situation of housemaids; and I am to be Mrs. —’s whenever I want bread. I stipulate that if she takes a second it shall be Lady Mary Fox. She talked as earnestly about it, obviating difficulties, &c., as if it were to take place to-morrow. Read to Mrs. — my last chapters of my first volume of “Retrospect.” She says the book will do.

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Thursday, 14th. — We went to town. A very pleasant drive. I told them of Lady Ann Coke’s (Countess of Leicester’s) child, who kept saying in the queen’s (Adelaide’s) presence, “Mamma, what an ugly woman the queen is!” and of Lady Stafford’s, who asked after dinner about a laced officer, “Mamma, can that silver thing talk?” They told me of a child, who, being shown some curiosities at a gentleman’s house, asked, “But where is the long bow papa says you shoot with?” Found my mother well and cheerful.

Letter from Dr. Channing. Dispassionate, — somewhat cold, — partly wise and partly mistaken, — like his letters usually. Very true and wise man, but wanting knowledge of actual life and sympathy with other people’s views.

Evening. — Read my mother all the letters I have had lately. Very pleasant. Quiet days on Friday and Saturday. On these days, when there is nothing to set down, how full is the life of the mind! Mine revolves the character of work done, and anticipates the fate of future doings. The faults of my work rise up and depress me, and my mind dwells far too much on myself. An alternation of work and society is, I think, best for me. When I am with the —’s I feel the most how small a space my labours really fill. I don’t get flattered with them.

Thursday. — I bustled among my books, making room for the Quarterly Review which is coming. It has such exquisite literary articles, I hope to improve by the study of it. We had company in the evening. Carlyle was in fine spirits. He made a great laugh at the scientific people. He calls them quacks and what not. I wish he had more sympathy and less cynicism. He has a terrible deal of the spirit of contempt. — — told of M. saying to Mrs. Austin that the five most ill-natured men in London were made criminal commissioners: of whom she named four, and could not remember the fifth. It was Mr. Austin. We had a charming evening with these friends round our table.

On Friday, Mr. Child* called. He says the Americans in Paris are frantic against me and my book. He agrees in the whole of it, except Dr. Follen being the greatest man I saw in the United States, yet he loves him much. He expects the admission of Texas will be the question on which the South will rise. He fears about the integrity and courage of the North.

Sunday, September 24. — Revelled in Lamb’s letters. What an exquisite specimen is that man of our noble, wonderful, frail humanity! Edition: current; Page: [311] These letters are somewhat unreal, also egotistical, but a harmless egotism; and the genius, the exquisite fancy, the human love, the clinging to the familiar and the dear, are delicious. What a lesson is the series! His disgust at work and regularity; and then his ennui when released. Let us be thankful for necessary toil. With what horror he speaks of a dependence on literature, and of the booksellers! I feel nothing of this, but mine is not a common case, I suppose; and women find it difficult to earn a subsistence in other ways. But it should be a hint to secure an independence as soon as I can. I am vexed at his humility towards Southey about his controversy, and at Southey’s acceptance of it, and at Talfourd’s letting it pass. Lamb was clearly right, and the letter is a rare beauty, — full of truth and gentleness.

Evening. — Read it over again to my mother, and also my Sedgwick article,* which she likes.

Monday, 25th. — These bright autumns, with pleasant work, and not too much company within doors and sunshine without, are delightful seasons. My spirits have come back again; that is, I suppose I am quite well; the influx and variety of work stimulate and do not oppress me.

Received a rousing note about our Woman’s Friend scheme, the success of which is thought to depend wholly on me; and I am asked to give the chief of my time and attention to it. This troubled me: thoughts of sacrificing my novel; of entering into new bondage, &c. But, meditating, I found that my conviction about the object requires me to make this sacrifice of money, ease, and purposes. If Mr. — is to be relied upon for his judgment, and all looks well, I hope not to fail in my part. Went to sleep resolving to do right about it, whatever that right might be.

Tuesday, 26th. — Wrote private note of inquiry about Mr. —’s character for judgment and steadiness. Wrote to Dr. Channing. To the Carlyles. John Sterling there. A young man next door to death, they say, but if he lives a few years sure to be eminent; so wise, so cheerful, so benignant! I wish Carlyle would learn somewhat of him, for his views are deplorably dismal, and very unreasonable in my eyes. He doubts not all being for the best, but believes in a preponderance, — a saturation of misery for the best of the race, and that the stupid and sensual only are happy. He does not pretend to care or presume to inquire whether there is another life to compensate. I asked him what was his idea of good, if he is sure all is well, but Edition: current; Page: [312] the best men miserable. He says he can give no clearer reply than that it is found in the New Testament, “The Worship of Sorrow.”

Received a silly tract against usury, based on the Mosaic law. Author would have my opinion, so I referred him to Calvin (in Dugald Stewart’s dissertation on the origin of political philosophy) for the destruction of the Mosaic part of his argument, and to Bentham for the rest. A Frenchwoman has lately petitioned the Chambers for a participation by women in the rights of citizenship. Women are not excluded, and must therefore be supposed to be included. Mr. Child says her positions are unanswerable, her logic the closest. Accordingly there was much “hilarity on the côte gauche.” They could only laugh, for she left them without a plea. On this quarter-day I find myself at liberty to go on with my book, as, indeed, it is high time. How I love life in my study, — all alone with my books and thoughts! Books are not sufficient companions if one only reads. If one adds writing, one does not want the world, though it is wholesome to have some of it.

September 30. — Mr. Madge came to tea, and brought some expensive American letters from Liverpool, — strips of abuse and vindication from newspapers, in whole blank sheets of paper. R. Sedgwick sends a paper with a vindication of his sister, — straightforward and unencumbered. She did alter, however, leaving out the sailing part, so I was not far mistaken. Discouraging account came in reply to my inquiry into character in the Woman’s Friend business. I am sorry, but when the drawing back is once done, cannot help being glad of having time for my novel. I shall write for it, if the scheme goes on, but not make myself responsible.

October 1. — Find myself utterly unaffected by blame of my book where I feel myself right; deeply wounded when I am suspicious of having been hasty and careless. I made up my mind to suffer retribution cheerfully, as well as insult, and so I will. But I have still much pride and some fear. I felt myself turn pale when I found what those American letters were last night; but I immediately recovered. This morning I read the antislavery documents. The women are doing bravely, and thereby coming at a conviction of their rights. Bless them! I don’t mind the bad taste of their orthodox mode of expression. In Angelina Grimké’s there is an interesting account of the intellectual achievements of the blacks. But are the Egyptians and Moors fair specimens? Sent Mr. Fox the women’s report.

Evening. — Read some of Pascal’s pensées. They show great knowledge Edition: current; Page: [313] of men, — of their weaknesses and faults: they are very gloomy; but I do love these speculative writers. It is strange that Voltaire, in his notes, cheers him up, — actually seems to have more faith and more benevolence. I don’t believe we do half justice to Voltaire. I was struck with the pensée on our hiding our sins, and not being able to bear the benign ordinance of confession, so that the Catholic religion is rejected on account of it. Could he not see that it is unnatural if faithful, and, where natural, sure to be unfaithful? No human virtue can survive the degradation of being perfectly known to another; or rather, laid open; for if your confessor knows of a bad thought of yours, he does not know how it came there, which is the chief thing.

October 2. — Wrote to engage our places at Covent Garden. I walked in the park and found it warm as June, and altogether delicious. A letter from Lissey, with a sweet account of Harry’s first wound from the wickedness of the world. Some boys stole his and Willie’s kites, and told lies. The kites were recovered. But Harry thought he never could be so happy again, from grief for the boys and dislike of them. Could not sleep, but cried in the night; but has recovered. Fine little fellow!

Mrs. — objects to “Maltravers” as immoral: says she cannot give it to her young people. But novels are not to be judged by their fitness for children. I object to no real subjects into which pure moral feelings of any kind can enter. Whether they are, when finished, moral or immoral, depends on the way in which they are treated; whether in a spirit of purity and benignity, with foul gusto, or with a mere view to delineation. Wrote a good day’s portion of my second volume of “Retrospect,” Mississippi voyage, which it is delicious to go over again.

Was surprised to find the mixture of error and truth in the opinions in natural philosophy attributed to Anaxagoras. Penny Cyclopædia. — Now tired. A bit of grave reading, and to bed.

Thursday, 5th. — To-day, while I was writing “Madison,” in came a glorious letter from the Follens, full of heart, of wisdom, and of news. Dr. F.’s criticisms on my book are mostly just; how honest, pure, and wise! It made me more sure of them than ever. The Union is in a great stir. The separation of Bank and State is confirmed by this time, I suppose. Then comes the tug of war. The South is silent, — the North growing more clear-sighted every day. Dr. Channing has put out a capital letter to Mr. Clay, on Texas, — sound and bold. Bravo! The Americans may always be trusted to do right in time.

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Mr. Fox has made a fine leading article of the report of the Women’s Convention: and I shall send it to America to be reprinted there.

Mr. Macready, who called on her about this time, mentions it thus in his journal: —

“Called on Miss Martineau: on the arrival of the carriage drove her home, talking the whole way. With the exception of one walk round the garden, talked away the whole evening. The only subject on which I did not cordially agree with this fine-minded woman, and on which I do not clearly understand her, is her advocacy of the restoration of the rights of women. I do not see what she would have in point of political power, nor for what.

July 22, 1837. — Sent a note to Miss Martineau, informing her of her box for Monday, enclosing her a book of the ‘Bridal,’ and mentioning our purpose of naming our little babe after her.”

Friday, 6th. — Wrote to Robert Sedgwick to make my public atonement to Catherine. Evening to Covent Garden, and saw the “Bridal.” O, the beauty! Macready acted admirably. There was an air of hilarity about him which I like to see. Success to him! Home to supper and Spectator, where there is a shameful article against the abolitionists.

Sunday, 8th. — Woke with the idea of sending a letter to the Spectator. After breakfast did it. After dinner copied it. Showery day, and did not go ont.

Monday, 9th. — Letter from America which cost 3s. 2d.; only a blank sheet with a slip of newspaper, — an insulting copy of verses. Poor malice! A letter from a young man, consulting me whether to go to America. Simple, fervent, and interesting. He is obviously the darling child of parents from whom he will have money, kept at home without sufficient employment, and longs to be doing. A note from Macready, offering me my box at Covent Garden, whenever I like to go. Truly kind and gentlemanlike in the way in which it is done. Miss — made a long call, her place for Paris being taken for the afternoon. She has lived in Paris since she was five years old. She says we should not tolerate Napoleon if we had lived under him; if we had had to open our room door constantly to see that the servants were not listening, — half the servants in Paris being spies; if we had seen the youth of the noble families of Italy brought to France and placed in the military schools, — some too young, so that Edition: current; Page: [315] they pined and died. She says the great fault of the French is their disregard of truth; and that it is difficult to make other nations believe and feel that people have very good qualities with this one great vice. She likes the Germans. Says Guizot understands elevation of soul, though his own worldliness prevents his elevation. I read Felkin’s excellent report on the working-classes of Nottingham, showing clearly that there are resources enough for all necessary comfort if there were good management, but that fathers spend all their resources, almost, on themselves. Wrote fourteen pages with much ease and pleasure, — “Country life in the South.” What a blessing is this authorship! It is pleasanter than my gayest pleasures; and it helps me over indisposition and failure of spirits better than any holiday. The thing is, can I now live without it? This is always my doubt and dread; but I will dread nothing.

Tuesday, 10th. — A good day’s work done. Whately is the author of the “Utopia” edited by Lady Mary Fox. He wishes this to be known, though he could not, as archbishop, publish it himself. Who would be an archbishop? When I came in from my walk I found the first proof of my “Retrospect.” Pleasant, the beginning this sort of fruition again! Read some of Channing’s “Texas.” I wish I could write a review of my book, I see so many faults in it. There is no education like authorship, for ascertaining one’s knowledge and one’s ignorance. What light is thrown into my dark places by every thing I publish, — by the convictions of error that follow! What entirely new ideas are opened to me! It is the case with this last book. I dreaded it beforehand, but I enjoy it already. I do hope to grow wise by mistakes, — one way of being made perfect by sufferings.

Thursday, 12th. — A bustling day, and not a line of my book written. I am too anxious on this score. It is good for work, — this scrupulosity, — but bad for freedom of spirit. I wrote to Mrs. Macready, and to the young man who has made me his confidante. A note from the Review saying that my article is postponed. It is vexatious; but I try not to be troubled when my pride or my wishes are mortified. Yet I do prefer publishing myself to being at other people’s disposal. I wonder what ruling one’s spirit is. I never show mortification. Is this right or wrong? There is pride in these, my only concealments; yet they save my mother pain, and help me over things which would trouble me if dwelt upon in words. I really think I do acquiesce in both great and small troubles; and none sting, but where there is self-blame. Wrote at length to the Follens, which always does me good and makes me happy. Wrote to several friends with the prospectus Edition: current; Page: [316] on the rights of unmarried women. Channing’s “Texas” is very fine; bold, solemn, eloquent; and I fancy wiser in the-matter-of-fact parts than he usually is. It will do the nation great service, by raising them to see the truth. Now, as to Dr. Channing himself. I liked his letter to me about my book very well till I saw this. But he should not have spoken slightingly of my book as a mere book of travels, and urged me to get on to something higher, if he thinks as he does of the Texas question, and if my book roused him to write upon it. For his own sake (never mind mine) he should not. Is this a return to his old habit of being shy of what has moved him, and shrinking from acknowledgment where he has been most stimulated? I hope I am doing him no injustice, yet ought I not to hope that I am? Why is this the only occasion, since I knew him, when he has been wholly silent about what he was doing, and has not sent me his publication? Mr. Turnbull called with three letters of introduction. He was always hospitable to the English in Paris. He has seen but one American there who likes my book. The Spectator has my letter about the abolitionists, with a comment so weak that, though the facts are misstated, I think it best to leave it unanswered. The world may be trusted to judge between them. E. dined with us. Charming children. The change swept away all my trumpery little cares and anxieties, unworthy of one who really lives. Read some of Beaumont’s “Marie.” Sentimental and un-American. Little more like America than like China. Mrs. — praised a single life, so as to surprise me much. I have a very bad opinion of it for other people, though liking it for myself. Yet the chances for happiness are rare and feeble. The only way is not to care for one’s happiness. Mrs. — urged my answering the Spectator’s comments on my letter; or, rather, setting right their false facts. Did not like it, but found it my duty. I must uphold the right at the cost of trouble, time, and unpleasant feeling. May I never shrink!

Thursday, 19th. — Went to town with my mother, and answered the Spectator, avoiding all self-reference, and being as brief as I could. Corrected proof. At night, read some of “Archy Moore.” A terrible story, which stirred me deeply. I was ashamed of having any troubles when others are suffering so tremendously. I looked round upon my luxury, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, and wondered. I felt as if I could throw them all away for one solace to the negro. It is truer than any slave-story I ever read. Mr. H. C. Robinson came to dinner. I like his opinions of people; that is, his and my opinions agree. He never knew but one American gentleman to Edition: current; Page: [317] laugh! — the Americans cannot be known out of their own country, any more than any other people. Joanna Baillie is very unhappy about the revelation of the true Walter Scott in Lockhart’s Life. Scarcely any one seems to see what I think the true principle, — that it is better to have truth than any particular kind of opinion of great people. Truth, or silence. If great men fall below our expectation, let it be remembered that there is another point of view from which the matter should be looked at, — that we gain thus a new sense of the glory and beauty of virtue and incorruptibleness in the humble matter of every-day life. The Spectator has my letter, with comments which require no answer. This is over, for which I am very glad.

Monday, 23d. — Mr. Sheridan Knowles begs me, through Mr. Turnbull, to accept a stage-box to see his new comedy at the Haymarket, — with arrangements about dinner where we meet him at the Turnbull’s, next door to the theatre. Very kind in both, and very pleasant. I read Whately’s review of Miss Austen. Good, but not particularly striking. She was a glorious novelist. I think I could write a novel, though I see a thousand things in Scott and her which I could never do. My way of interesting must be a different one.

Saturday, 4th. — Resolved upon doing the Channing chapter in my book. The English ought not to be deprived of an account of the man they most care about, by any difficulties arising out of my friendship with Dr. Channing. Settled to work, and found it not at all difficult to do Channing.

Monday, 6th. — Finished Channing: hope I have done him and the subject justice; but it is difficult to write of one’s intimate friends.

Tuesday, 7th. — A note from William Ware, in which he says some pleasant and some very kind things, and one which convinces me by its effect how sensitive I am about my friends’ opinions of what I do. He observes that a thorough reading of my book convinces him of what he did not once think, — that I am greatest in the purely inventive; in other words, he does not like the book so well as he expected. It is astonishing how this stung me, and longer than for the moment. I was convinced, from the first, of the absurdity of the feeling, my motives and aims being what they were and are; but I think this kind of pain has no influence on my doings; and that the best way is to let it alone, as if it did not exist. Why should I object to pain? What harm will it do, if it does not affect action? Read Waldo Emerson’s oration. Though fanciful, it has much truth and beauty. Edition: current; Page: [318] It moved, roused, soothed, and consoled me. At all events, he is a free and courageous man, and I wish him God speed!

Friday, 10th. — Corrected proof and wrote notes. H. Crabb Robinson called. He gave me the good news of the American President having declared against the annexation of Texas. How much have Mr. Child and I and Dr. Channing, in succession, had to do with this? Never mind who did it, — it is done, thank God! H. Crabb Robinson wrote Goethe and Schiller in the Gallery of Portraits. Saw the aurora, in going to Carlyle’s. The others did not see it. Every one should look at the sky in the middle of November. It is a shame to miss these sky-sights.

Tuesday, 21st. — Mr. — called. A kind-hearted man, but dreadfully mean. He complains of poverty; which means that he is always increasing his real estate, so that he has not a guinea to spare. . . . . A busy life, and somewhat profitable, I trust, I am now living.

Saturday, 25th. — Was too busy, till to-day, to walk out. I must cure myself of being so busy as this. It is desirable to walk, I always feel in the middle of the night. I don’t want to be selfish about health, but I am selfish the other way, thinking my doings of too much importance. A most beautiful account of herself from —. I must secure time to answer such in the way they deserve. She says truly, that she thinks she never did study. I scarcely ever have. The gift of us all is more imparting than gaining from books. Saw Werner. It made me sick, and struck upon my very heart, and it got worse every moment. After all was over, Macready came to our box door, all glittering under his cloak. I could not sleep well. This morning, very heavy. . . . . The “Leave me,” and “I would not send you forth without protection,” haunted me so that I resolved to go out for a walk. Corrected proof first, and then went. Met Mr. C. Buller, who walked with me. The liberals are wholly taken by surprise by Lord John, who speaks warily, too; no sudden fit. C. Buller calls Macready a very great actor. Does not like his Othello, which certainly moved me least. Complains of literary people, that they give in to aristocratic doings, and are unworthy of their callings. This is too true when I come to think. May it never be so with me! What have I to gain thus? Letter from Mackintosh. Nice note from Talfourd. Letters from co-operatives, thanking me for my book, and account of the Shakers, and giving me books and papers. Very good, true, and hearty letter. Wrote thirteen pages in course of the morning; had an afternoon talk and half an hour’s reading. On Monday Crabb Robinson told me he did not care if he never saw Carlyle Edition: current; Page: [319] again, he talked so against antislavery and philanthropic exertions. Very withering to any young persons who might have heard him. That contempt of all open movement is a diseased part of Carlyle’s mind. Told by Robinson of the complaint in the North American of my insisting on the majority being in the right, which Robinson calls the great spot in my book. The answer fluttered me at first, but foolishly. Palfrey’s is the Federal version of the matter. The saying that the king can do no wrong is drawn from the monarchical function; but the saying that the majority are in the right is necessarily founded on the general truth, literally taken, or the function must be a wrong one.

Evening. — Robert and I went to Covent Garden to Macbeth.

Tuesday. — An immense letter from Margaret Fuller. Sad about herself, and very severe on my book; — righteously so, but with much mistake in it. The spirit is very noble. Do I improve in courage about learning the consequences of what I do? I commit myself boldly, but I suffer a good deal. But I do not think I go back. I suffered a good deal from her letter.

Evening. — A party at home; several Americans. I talked a great deal, — some with every body. I hope it went off well.

Thursday. — The books for the blind arrived, in fine order. I will do my utmost to get these introduced into the daily life of the blind here. It is surely a good work, worth trying for. Why was I so worried about getting my book done? The difficulty is in me, and would be about something else, if not that. I do struggle against it, but the true way is to put myself into the way of being convinced how small our doings are, and how we must have our affections and anxieties out of ourselves. This winter I will read, and see what a vast world it is that I have nothing to do with. Especially let me fill myself full of the gospel. How one thirsts for it, after a busy interval.

Friday. — Finished the composition of my book. Bustled and put away pamphlets, snatched a brief walk in the Park, and really felt my book was done; but did not feel much relief, because of the paper to be done for “The Christian Teacher” so very soon. Lord Durham still gives a high character to Nicholas, saying that he is coerced by his nobles. But what great or good man would not, instead of yielding to the circumstances, overcome them or die? If Nicholas were a good man, he would rather be strangled twenty times over than have signed that order about the six hundred Polish women. Mr. Brewster, one of the seven liberals of the kirk of Scotland, came. He is a Edition: current; Page: [320] delegate to the Exeter Hall meeting against the apprenticeship system. Revised the remainder of my book, and quite finished it. Read some of Brougham’s education speech, but not all; so have no judgment to give. Walked in the Park. Letter about a Paris review of me in contemplation, which makes me think I care less about praise than I did, — probably from satiety. Determined to say nothing about it to any one. Browning came to tea. I like Browning. I care little about this book of mine. I have not done it carelessly; I believe it is true: but it will fill no place in my mind and life; and I am glad it is done. Shall I despise myself hereafter, for my expectations from my novel?

Monday, 4th. — Mended linen with much gusto. It feels like leisure. Mrs. Opie called. A spice of dandyism yet in the demure peculiarity of her dress. She never interests me much, or makes me approve her highly. Richard Martineau called with bank-notes for £1,020 for me. Took the numbers of the notes and locked them up. Hope we shall have no burglars this week. Browning sent me “Robinson Crusoe,” an original copy, very venerable. Although I have read it, I am going to sit down to it and be a child again.

Tuesday, 5th. — Read the newspaper aloud. Mended black stockings. Now write to the Manchester co-operatives. Before I had well begun, came Mr. Saunders, with bad news;* but somehow I did not care about it. How much more fear of wrong-doing affects than any money loss or any provocation!

Wednesday, 6th. — Mr. Brewster brought his two sermons for me. He told me of his standing alone in the synod about church-rates. All were unwilling to give them up, fearing to lose tiends (tithes), next. He showed that church-rates were not property, while tiends were (national property). He declared that sooner than have dissenters burdened unjustly with church-rates, he had rather see the church come down. There was a cry, “Take down his words!” Also, “Give him time to explain.” He declared he had nothing to explain. He meant what he said, and would abide by it. A committee was appointed to confer with him (supposed previous to deposition), but he heard no more of it. Last October the minute was read at the General Assembly; but still no notice taken, though he was present. Sound man. Saunders sent a letter, showing means of getting the sheets of “The Retrospect” off to America by these packets, that I might get terms from a publisher there. But I know no American publisher whom I should like to ask, and I have declared that the book is written Edition: current; Page: [321] for England. So I think it better to forego my gains. It will not matter much if I keep my own counsel, so as not to make my own family vexed. I could not satisfy myself to do this with the present feelings of the Americans towards me, for any money. I think I cannot be deceiving myself. I think I must be right. Read some of Hall in afternoon, till time to dress for ball. — First to —’s, — a gay party, and very large. A New Zealand chief, tattooed, and gentlemanly looking, notwithstanding. Mr. — asserted that every thing in society is wrong. Mr. — showed him that there are degrees of superiority in all societies, from New Zealand to England. Is there any better than England? Are there not many worse? How then can all be wrong? Have we not co-operation in various ways already? Every insurance, turnpike, and social achievement is from so much co-operation: why then begin de novo, when we have so much ready to our hand? The rooms were beautifully dressed with evergreens and flowers. O, how tired I was! But I always think afterwards that I might keep it more to myself. . . . .

Monday, 11th. — How little do we foresee! I finished my last entry supposing the events of the day done with. Thought that nothing more was likely to happen, when a note from Mrs. W. came, telling me that her husband could no longer struggle against his conviction of the unlawfulness of oaths, and that he is going to resign his office. Such a testimony to the supremacy of conscience ought to make one rejoice; yet I cannot help grieving. Such a household broken up! My head was full of them all the evening and in the night.

Evening. — Read aloud Southey’s famous article in the Quarterly on British Monachism. Entertaining, but with a vain attempt to prop up Lady Isabella King’s institution. I should like to see the economy of association made use of by women; to see them living in a sort of club-house, enjoying comfort and luxury, rather than dispersed in poverty among boarding-houses and schools: but there must be no royal patronage, no distinction between rich and poor, no ostentation about schools attached. Simple, living without other restraints than as to hours and one or two other particulars. It strikes me to write on this.

Almost as soon as I had written this, Saunders came, and filled my head with what will continue to fill it for long. I had been darning stockings and brushing gown and cloak tails, not doubting in my easy mind that I was to have holiday for the whole winter, when he came. After some little talk about business, he said, “Did you not once say, Edition: current; Page: [322] ma’am, that you should like to edit a periodical?” Then he opened his scheme of an economical magazine, to strike into Knight’s circulation and that of my series. We talked over the details a good deal; I talked it over with my mother and aunt. It is an awful subject; such facilities for usefulness and activity of knowledge; such certain toil and bondage; such risk of failure and descent from my position! The realities of life press upon me now. If I do this, I must brace myself up to do and suffer like a man. No more waywardness, precipitation, and reliance upon allowance from others. Undertaking a man’s duty, I must brave a man’s fate. I must be prudent, indefatigable, serene, good-natured; earnest with cheerfulness. The possibility is open before me of showing what a periodical with a perfect temper may be: also of setting women forward at once into the rank of men of business. But the hazards are great. I wonder how this will end. Went to the —’s: they are serene, after their conscientious sacrifice about the oaths, as they deserve to be. I trust I diverted them from going to America. It would never suit them. The children are very merry, but Irma was concerned at the weeping of the servants, when warning was given them. She said the maids were crying very much, but she thought it was not naughtiness but sorryness. I found them so little engrossed with their own affairs, that, in the evening, when conversation paused, I told them mine. Two gave no opinion, — two said rather yes than no. Found notes and letters at home. One from Mr. —, with fine metaphors. If I can “get good collegians,” colleagues, I suppose, and “be their queenbee,” he will “enlist under my banners.”

Tuesday, 12th. — I thought I must give up this scheme in the night; but it was brighter in the morning. Went to consult Richard Martineau. He is rather in favour of it than not, but will consider of it and let me know. Wrote to James about it, and begged an answer in the course of the week. Mrs. — called. — This is a bad affair about the London University. Dr. Arnold proposed a sort of religious test: an examination in the Greek Testament. Otter* and Maltby,* as churchmen, thought they must support it. Dr. Roget did not like to be the only one to oppose it; and Empson thought he could not, because Arnold was his intimate friend! Lord John Russell is very angry, and Booth, Strutt, and Romilly are trying to get it rescinded. — The distinctive principle of the University is violated. Shame! Joined the Macreadys at the theatre to hear the Edition: current; Page: [323] new opera. It is indeed exquisite. Some of the airs will soon be in every street in England. “Joan of Arc” followed. Scenery splendid above every thing. I never saw any thing like it before. I had the thought of this periodical heavy at my heart all the evening; but slept pretty well.

Wednesday, 13th. — Wrote a set of queries for Saunders. I find that in the morning I am pro and at night con the scheme. I see such an opening for things I want to say; I seem to be the person to undertake such a thing; I can toil very hard; I am persevering, and in the habit of keeping my troubles to myself. If suffering be the worst on the con side, let it come. It will be a fine discipline of taste, temper, thought, and spirits. But I don’t expect Saunders will accede to my stipulation for money for contributors. If so, there ’s an end. If he does, I think I shall plunge. Walked to Chelsea to dine with the Carlyles. Found her looking pretty, in a black velvet high dress and blond collar. She and I had a nice feminine gossip for two hours before dinner, about divers domestic doings of literary people, which really seem almost to justify the scandal with which literary life is assailed. The Carlyles are true sensible people, who know what domestic life ought to be. — I felt myself compelled to decline meeting the Sterlings.* They have just found out that I am not the sort of person the Times has been making me out to be, and wish to see me. But it would be mean in me to appear to like persons who have offered me a long course of public insults. I have no means of declining insult, but by declining to meet those who sanction it. Leigh Hunt and Horne came to tea.

Thursday, 14th. — Wrote notes, settled business, and am now going to darning and thinking. . . . . Darned, but did not do much sober thinking. I cannot really think without pen or pencil or book in hand. Delicious weather. Met Mrs. — in the Park. She and her husband like Mr. Harness’s tragedy exceedingly, and praise it for its finish. How very narrow these classical people seem to me to be! I do not find in them any sympathy with the high and true, but only regard to style and “finish.” After tea, sat down before my fire with pencil and papers, to make out a list of subjects, contributors, and books for my periodical. Presently came a letter from Saunders, which must much affect my fate in regard to the project. I distinctly felt that it could not hurt me either way, as the pros and cons seem so nearly balanced that I should be rather thankful to have the matter decided for me. Saunders and Otley grant all I have yet asked, and Edition: current; Page: [324] it looks much as if we were to proceed. So I went on with my pondering till past ten o’clock, by which time I had got a sheet full of subjects.

Saturday, 16th. — A busy day. Morning, read one of my own stories, — “Loom and Lugger.” Was quite disappointed in it. It has capital material, but is obscure, and not simple enough. Too much matter for the space, and not well wrought out. Could do better now, I hope. Mr. Finlaison came at one, and we went into the city about my annuity business. He told me by the way about the reports of the ecclesiastical commissioners. Said that the supposed average of souls to a parson is six hundred, and the income under £300, but that in Norfolk the average income is £800 and the souls to each cure seventy. In Norwich the average income is £800. This bears out the worst that has been said against the church. Took up my schedule at the national debt office, and walked to the bank. Never was there before. What a bewildering suite of large rooms, full of busy men! Glad to see a boy carrying pewter pots out. It looked some relief from business. Watched the carefulness of the transaction between Finlaison and the clerk. Finlaison thrust nearly a thousand pounds’ worth of notes into my hand, as if they had been waste-paper. I watched the process of weighing the gold and shovelling into bags, which were carried away by the porter. We then walked to Mr. Nobeare’s (or whatever his name is) to purchase the annuity for a term of twelve years; having already purchased the deferred annuity of £100, to commence at the end of that time. For £906 1s. 3d. I purchase a twelve years’ annuity of £95 7s. 6d., which being paid over yearly to the national debt office, purchases the annuity of £100 to begin in April, 1850. I have also made the first payment to the national debt office, so as to have spent £1001 8s. 9d. If I die before the twelve years are out, my heirs will receive the remains of the temporary annuity. I think this is good, and hope I have done right. Back to the bank, and signed the transfer of stock. Mended my satin gown and dressed to go to the Grotes’. Met a pleasant party, mostly M. P.’s. . . . . James is altogether against the periodical plan, and I think his reasons good. After getting off my things and settling, I wrote to Saunders to decline the enterprise. So this vision of an enterprise is over, and I am once more at liberty to spend my winter as I like. It feels very delicious at present. Rest, reading, thinking, and a new enterprise (a novel) when I like. Read Midsummer Night’s Dream in the evening. Surprised to find how completely I remembered it. How delightful to have time to read what one likes!

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Wednesday, 20th. Afternoon. — Read in the Pictorial Bible, which is to me very interesting.

Evening. — South’s sermon, — Adam in paradise. Very beautiful as a picture of perfect man, but how Adam came to fall if he was such an one South does not explain. Read “Katherme and Petruchio,” with the same effect that that play ever has; with wonder at its fun and cleverness, and much enjoyment thereof, but intolerable pain at the treatment of Katherine. Such a monstrous infringement of all rights, leading to such an abominable submission, makes one’s blood boil as much as if it were not a light comedy, but a piece of history. I have always found myself more sad at that comedy than at any tragedy. Robert Owen called. His delusion about the adoption of his plans is as great as ever. Metternich listened to him, and said he was right as to the present evils, and got his secretary to copy Owen’s documents. Owen takes wonder and sympathy at the moment, and an admission of grievances, for an adoption of his plans. Wrote five long letters. Wrote too much, and had slight sick-headache at night.

Saturday, 23d. — Read the news from Canada. My heart is with the Canadians. Letters from Dr. Channing, Mr. E. G. Loring, and Mrs. Child. Affairs in the United States seem most critical. Love-joy just murdered for abolitionism. Heaven aid the right! Browning called. “Sordello” will soon be done now. Denies himself preface and notes. He must choose between being historian or poet. Cannot split the interest. I advised him to let the poem tell its own tale. Why do long and full letters always make my heart heavy? Is it the dislike to new and grand ideas, that Watts talks of? The amount is oppressive.

Monday, 25th. — The Polish children dined here. They spent the afternoon with me in my study, I showing them the American views, and telling them about Niagara, and my going behind the sheet; and they telling me about their school and the little they remembered of Poland. At Warsaw the back of their house looked into a park, to which they had to go some distance by the street. They remember that when they spent the morning playing in the park their mamma used to let down a bottle by a piece of tape, for them to drink when they were thirsty. I love these traits. After tea I found up some little presents for them, and gave them each a chain of my own making, and some odds and ends for them to make knick-knacks of. They were clever at the pictures, and examined American coins with much interest. They are fine children. Heaven protect them! A Polish gentleman came for them. Reading. . . . . A pleasant, quiet Christmas-day; blest enough, if the children were happy.

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Tuesday, 26th. — Our breakfast gladdened by good accounts from my aunt. Talk of people going through life without being understood. I don’t believe they ever do, except by their own fault. There is always, I think, some fault of temper or some deficiency in frankness and simplicity in such cases, — if, indeed, they are more than imaginary. But the unselfish never seem to fancy themselves misunderstood. It is the jealous who make the complaint.

Wednesday, 27th. — Dined with the Kers; met there Colonel Fox, Captain Beautort, Eastlake, and Mr. Pettit. Colonel Fox told me of poor Mr. Barrington having been in great grief at seven years old, at the loss of a younger brother. His nurse comforted him with saying that his brother was happy in heaven. The boy said, “If he is happy in heaven, God Almighty must have made him forget me.” Mrs. Ker’s little niece asks if Adam is not the man who was in a pigeonhouse and let out a pigeon. Curious exhibition of the “pride of life” in Mr. —’s servants and his next-door neighbours’. They laugh at his odd pair of horses, and his men stand on the steps when there is a party next door, crying out the number of the cabs, — “No. 249, cab!” “Nice party! plenty of cabs.”

Thursday, 28th. — Mr. Ker begs me to write “How to Observe,” but I recoil from it. I don’t think I can or ought. I want rest, and to keep out of the public view till my novel is ready. Urges me to read Smollett for his force; but I cannot, it disgusts me so utterly. Read Defoe’s “Plague.” Was somewhat disappointed. Robinson Crusoe has all the matter-of-fact-ness, with a world of beauty beside. The best part is where he describes the reception of the news of the decrease in the bills of mortality. Settled the accounts of the year. Went to bed very tired.

Evening. — Company. A pleasant evening of talk. The Vicar of Leeds, brother of Theodore Hook, has come out against town missions on account of difference of religious opinion. O, this Church of England! What a stumbling-block it is now! What is there of the gospel in the religious world! The Archbishop of Canterbury’s answer to Dr. Hampden in to-day’s paper is cool, cowardly, and church-like altogether.

Sunday, 31st. — I have just shut out the last daylight of the year. What a last day! With a September breeze and a May sun. In the park, how gay the children looked, and the water-birds splashing in the blue and gleamy waters. How busy the ripple looks, when the wind sweeps over! What a busy year it has been! On many accounts a happy one: but not so much as the last. Every one is kind, Edition: current; Page: [327] and I love my lot. But there is nothing here like the character of some American friends, or the sympathy of others [Follens and Furnesses named]. Surely, if we meet hereafter, we shall not be subject to these impracticable separations. I have had a good deal of discipline this year about opinion, — from the publication of my book; but have not had to suffer nearly so much as I expected. Praise seems to have lost its power of giving me pleasure, which is well. I sadly fear growing selfish, — fond, not of money, nor even of fame, but of ease and my own favourite pursuits. May I keep before me the single desire to do what is right, without longing or repining! I may soon have need of this. People with aged parents have. May I balance my duties without thought of self!

Thus passed the first year after Harriet Martineau’s return from America. Except the omission of what was in its nature unsuited for publication, I have passed over nothing but repetitions of the same incidents of daily recurrence, and the record of domestic occupations which overloaded each day, and thus occasioned a constant difficulty and anxiety in getting through with the daily authorship. This journal, with that of the succeeding year, marks the time while the English public was finding out the real character of its favourite writer. The world had learned already that she was not born for its amusement. It was now learning that she was not born to serve and save it in its own inefficient ways. Take up any small scheme of doing individual good, — carefully following in footsteps that have previously broken the path, and you will receive applause and support, from the throne to the poorest dwelling; but follow the indications of the times, with the large principles of statesmanship which settle all questions and remove all abuses, and men’s ignorance, self-interest, and wounded pride take the alarm. If there has been so much prudence in the course, power in the intellect, and charm in the character of the person whose views run counter to the public ones, as to make fault-finding manifestly absurd, there will nevertheless have been a check given to applause. Harriet Martineau had long entertained the thought that persecution and opposition might be as much the fault of the reformer as of the times. “Why should not a perfect being go through the world to serve and save it honoured Edition: current; Page: [328] and beloved in the exercise of those functions?” “What hinders each one of us from being such an one?”* She was indeed that being, and it could not be hindered. But she formed no exception to the general rule, that the greater the knowledge and goodness that is brought into contact with wrongs and abuses, the greater the momentary misapprehension and misliking. Hence the book that made Americans foam at the mouth only made the corresponding classes of Englishmen shake their heads. Time sets all right, — time for a little change in individual hearts, and a great consequent change in public circumstances, and the person who feels the chill of a public terror is soon warmly visited again by the approbation of those who through the same selfish impulse seek their share in whatever good may result from whatever risk has been taken. This book suggested by America did not make its author less popular in England, but it changed the basis of her popularity, the general view of her character, and the course of her after life. The effort of writing it, with the experience that qualified her for the work, set her above and beyond the world, and necessitated the moulding and directing it, with a single eye to its benefit. Henceforth she instinctively sought its contact where it is most plastic, — at the point of confluence of private with public life, before the materials have hardened into act of parliament. “Society,” technically so called, was neither contemned nor renounced; but being outgrown, her relation to it was changed.

Let us know what men worship, and we may know also what they will become; and the world could foresee in Harriet Martineau the consequences of a worship exceedingly unlike the popular one. We have in the “Miscellanies” (Vol. I. p. 190, American edition) a vision of her ideal. Multitudes of minds felt that she was herself the realization of her own ideal and they sought her guidance, and were influenced by her life. The thinking mind of that time was perhaps more profoundly exercised by her chapters on property and on woman than on the rest of the book, which had so violently agitated the shallower currents: and while her personal popularity was for a time unthought Edition: current; Page: [329] of in the conflict of principles the book excited, and her personal admirers were less conscious of her personal impress, in the very change their minds were undergoing from the workings of her great thoughts, she was writing thus in her journal, on observing that with all the success of her book, the manner of it was very different: “If my book does not succeed, I am not so popular as we thought I was; that is all.”

I find at the end of this year’s journal the following page, which throws light on the domestic economy of the popular political economist: —


£ s. d
Interest from Harriet Martineau 8 0 2
From Fox, for sale of series 21 6 7
From London and Westminster Review 18 0 0
Own funds 224 2 0
£ 271 8s. 9d.
£ s. d
For board 150 0 0
Dress and conveniences 35 2
Postage and coach-hire 18 2 10
Books and stationery 14 3
Travelling 9 15 6
Given away 22 3 8
Sundries 11 13 5
£ 261 1s. 3d.
Balance £ 10 7s. 6d.

Many portions of her journal of the next year, 1838, show the tone and temper to which the sharp changes of English praise and American blame, worldly success and unworldly aspirations, had brought her mind. The reader will not need to have them pointed out.

This diary, which is contained in one of Letts’s volumes of four hundred pages, is accompanied by lists of books read in each month, remarkable events of the year in relation to herself, and, like all her years, with a statement of receipts and expenditures.

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Monday, January 1st, 1838. — A fine bright morning to begin the year with. I had read in bed last night, to watch the year in, and thought of my beloved Follens, to whom I think this hour of the year will be ever consecrated. I am making myself anxious already about my novel. I must learn to trust the laws of suggestion, having had good reason to know how well they serve me. My plot will grow as I proceed. Wrote the rest of my paper on the Catholics in America. Was sorry to leave it for a call, yet enjoyed the call. Heard it said “If Macready’s enterprise* is not a high Christian enterprise, it is something better.” Bravo! Heard of a lady’s marriage with a young Irishman of half her age, and with no practice. What follies women of forty-eight do!

Afternoon. — Finished my paper with great joy. Now going to read for the evening. O, what leisure I am going to have, I hope!

Tuesday, 2d. — Mr. Roebuck called early and gave me facts about Canada, which I wrote down as soon as he was gone. They are very strong in favor of Canada. Finished the tables of last year’s diary, and went out to walk. How summer-like did all look! Count Krazinski called, and dear Miss Mitchell, whom I had not seen for above six years. She is unchanged. Carlyle called; says he has peace of mind now he has no writing to do. Very kind. Looks finely, and it is worth while watching his entrance into a room full of company. So modest, so gentlemanly! The Polish children dined with us. I wrote notes, dressed, coffee, and off to the theatre. A fine row of children in the next box. Our children were well pleased, drumming with their fingers to the music. The pantomime was admirable, and I was surprised to find how I enjoyed it. We all got pretty well tired before it was over, and it was past twelve when we got home. Found a paper, sent me by Robert Sedgwick, with my letter to him about “Home.”

Wednesday, 3d. — I certainly have great sympathy with shy people. Such odd fits of shyness come over me now and then. People can’t see it, I think, except from my face. Mrs. Booth called, Rev. Mr. Hunter, and Browning.

Friday, 5th. — The meeting held yesterday in favor of Canada was very striking, and must awaken the people and the ministers surely. A letter from the Follens, very loving, but conveying news of ridiculous charges against me in America; among the rest, of my being insane. I don’t mind pure calumnies. A mixture of the truth is what infuses the sting. Wrote to Dr. Channing. Mr. Porter called, Edition: current; Page: [331] and we went to his house. Had a very pleasant day. Mr. and Mrs. Ricardo were there, and I liked them very much. Mr. Urquhart, late ambassador or something to Turkey. He is one of the great fearers of Russia. When all were gone we talked till eleven. I like such visits as this. They are the true pleasure of society.

Saturday, 8th. — Talked over low morals in novels. — fully agrees with me about Miss Edgeworth’s. Read, in Blackwood, article on Mademoiselle Gautier, a devotee, — much like other devotees, whose tales are, however, very instructive.

Sunday, 7th. — Carlyle sends me a full list of his writings for Mr. Loring. How much may happen to American minds, from this one sheet which lies beside me! Heaven’s blessing on it! Read Life of Scott, Vol. VI. It is far more interesting than the former ones; and here his pride takes the form of despising money, which is far better than grasping at it. But this pride was a great snare. While his diary tells of sleepless nights, so many that he fears becoming unfitted for work, he writes to Lady Davy that his troubles have not broken and will not break his rest. It amuses me to see how his diary reveals a state of mind and way of working like mine. The pride, too, is like me, and the insouciance about things which cannot be helped.

Monday, 8th. — Lazy, in bed; partly from Scott’s eulogium on thoughts before rising. They are very ingenious and clear then, certainly. Mended and quilted till noon, very much enjoying my quiet over my own fire. Then Mr. and Mrs. Macready called, very full of Drury Lane. The Examiner, I hear, has gone against the Canadians altogether, bidding them be patient, like the Irish. How can Fonblanque? Read Scott till I finished. Very interesting. It seems as if one might trust to a novel growing out as it proceeds, instead of having the whole cut and dry before the beginning. Scott speaks of writing out the plot, and carefully weaving the story, if it should prove necessary to try something new. How he reveres Miss Austen! He never knew what poverty really was. He always had carriage, house, grounds, pictures, butler, &c. Only restriction, never privation. I have all to-day and all to-morrow disengaged, which is exceedingly pleasant. It must be good for me to be idle, and I’m sure it is very pleasant. I do not find just now, as formerly, that all unpleasant thoughts come back to plague my leisure, — thoughts of angry, backbiting Americans, and of all the wrong and awkward things I have ever done.

Tuesday, 9th. — Read “Pride and Prejudice” again last night. I think it as clever as before. Cold night. Read the Follens’ letter Edition: current; Page: [332] and answered it, on account of the calumnies against me. These scarcely trouble me at all; I suppose because they are so wholly false. I think praise and blame at a distance scarcely matter at all. It is a good lesson, though, to see how the same people who so greatly flattered me when there are abusing me now. I bound and mended two pair of shoes, and darned a handkerchief. Finished Judges, in Pictorial Bible, which is a great treat to me. Finished “Pride and Prejudice.” It is wonderfully clever, and Miss Austen seems much afraid of pathos. I long to try. Brushed my hair by the fire, for it is very cold, and slept badly from cold. But how do the poor live through such weather? I cannot forget them in their brick-paved cellars, without fire. I know that the human lot is more equalized than we are apt to think; but yet I fear sometimes lest my faith should give way, — such an abode of various misery, much of which might be obviated, does the world seem.

Wednesday, 10th. — Cold! cold! Walked in the Park. Thick snow drove me home. Put lace in my satin gown. Nobody came, it snowed so. Read “Les précieuses Ridicules,” which did not amuse me very much; though acted I can fancy it capital. Dressed and went down to tea. Put pretty books in the drawing-room. Delightful party, — Milmans, Lyells, Beauforts, Montagues, Procters, and Babbage. Osgood asked Procter to tell him which was Barry Cornwall. Miss Beaufort agrees with me about Miss Sedgwick making opinion too strong a sanction. No hope of her coming here at present. She is active, but not very strong. Lent the Milmans Miss Sedgwick’s “Home.” Several of us had a great bout of praising Mrs. Barbauld.

Thursday, 11th. — While we were sleeping some folks were hot and busy enough. The Royal Exchange was burned down. There is no telling the extent of the damage. My first thoughts were for the Fishers. I shall soon know how it affects them. The fine bells chimed their last while the framework on which they were hung was catching fire. The clock showed twenty-five minutes past one when the dial-plate was red hot. The stock-brokers’ offices are burnt, with their contents, — all the books and papers at Lloyd’s. The kings and queens all tumbled into the court, — all lost. The Gresham committee must rebuild. Mr. Lyell* called. Told me of absent geological gentleman who never knows how the world is going; who stared about him when told of the throwing out of the Reform Bill: “What decision?” “What bill?” “What reform?” So he scarcely Edition: current; Page: [333] seemed to know this morning what the Royal Exchange was. Buckland’s Bridgewater Treatise sold off six thousand immediately, and the second edition of five thousand is far gone now. How much greater sale than novels! There is some great mistake about the public being so fond of fiction. But Buckland united the religious and scientific world, probably. Read “Northanger Abbey.” Capital: found two touches of pathos.

Saturday, 13th. — Bright morning. After mending several things walked in the park. It was a busy scene, with skating and sliding. Never saw cheeks so red as some of the bairns’. My mother’s manner on hearing of an invitation to her set me thinking on the question which occupies her a good deal, — the quality of our acquaintance. She is surely right about some; and why should not I make acquaintance, too, among those of middle rank? Surely I am right in thinking that if I enlarge my acquaintance at all, it shall be among those below rather than those above me. I want insight into the middle classes, and to communicate with the best of them can surely do one nothing but good. If, as my mother says, the high quit me on that account, let them. They will not be worth the keeping. But I don’t believe it. I must keep my mission in view, and not my worldly dignity. Miss Mitchell dined and slept here. She and I had a nice talk over our fire at night. She told me how people insist that I am helped with my books. A bad compliment enough to the sex. — How is it that I do not get into perfect peace about my communicativeness? I ought either not to communicate so much, or not to fear my mother’s opinions and remarks about it.

Sunday, 14th. — Kept up too much talk about the Pictorial Bible and prayer-book with my mother. I should have let her prejudice pass with a simple protest. I often think I ought to do this, yet it would be really paying less respect to do so. How different, in such a case, to reconcile truth, respect, and peace! Read Channing’s “Texas,” and found it nobler than ever before. Was animated and shamed to-day to think I should have spent a thought on what people are thinking of me, however unjustly, in Boston, when my book and my position bear the relation they do to the great subjects Dr. Channing grows warm on. What matters it what is done to me, if I can give the faintest impulse to what is right, true, and permanent? Let me place myself above these things. Read aloud Southey’s article in the Quarterly on cemeteries; much learning, but little interest. How little I guessed what might come of my selecting that particular volume of the Quarterly!

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Monday, 15th. — We little know, indeed, what a day may bring forth! Probably this is the greatest day of my year. While I was reading one article in the twenty-first volume of the Quarterly, on Grecian philosophy, there being an article in the same number on Hayti, it flashed across me that my novel must be on the Haytian revolution, and Toussaint my hero. Was ever any subject more splendid, more fit than this for me and my purposes? One generally knows when the right idea, the true inspiration, comes, and I have a strong persuasion that this will prove my first great work of fiction. It admits of romance, it furnishes me with story, it will do a world of good to the slave question, it is heroic in its character, and it leaves me English domestic life for a change hereafter. I spent the morning busily looking out materials, which abound. Dined out, — evening party. At my mother’s earnest desire, told her my Haytian project. This extreme cold puts one out of all one’s habits; but it is not for us to complain, but rather to consider the poor.

Tuesday, 16th. — Lord Eldon dead, — obliged to leave his honours and his fears and his money! Poor soul! how will the next world look to one so narrow? And yet, when we come to think of narrowness, there is but little difference as regards the whole of truth between the wisest and the foolishest of us. Went to call on Miss Beaufort. Then dear Erasmus came, and was delightful. Wrote notes and letters, then sat down to read Smedley. What a tale of privation and suffering! total deafness first, — then gradual incapacity of every sort, all most meekly and strongly borne. Here lay his strength, — in his piety and constitutional cheerfulness, for his intellect was nothing remarkable. He was a hack writer and small poet. His powers of style were much impaired by his deafness, I think; a consequence which had never occurred to me. But between the open and the shut eye, great difference.

Wednesday, 17th. — Met at dinner Mr. H. C. Robinson. I was silly at dinner in offering some sort of answer to Mr. Robinson’s question about the Seigneurial rights of the French Canadians, when I knew next to nothing about them. I dare say I talked nonsense, but I declared I did not understand. Mr. Booth does not care much about the grievances, but thinks the question whether Canada is capable of self-government or not. If the majority think they are, let them try. Then came the question, what majority? I say the majority of the electors who have chosen so wise a set of legislators as the Assembly.

The Searles came to tea. Mr. Searle says he remembers Dr. Channing, Edition: current; Page: [335] a young man, morose, low-spirited, repulsive. Long may he live, growing more genial every day.

Thursday, 18th. — . . . . Letter from an unknown lady remonstrating against the preference I have given to Christianity over natural religion in my book. It is a clever, frank, moderate, and ladylike epistle, which I must answer. The unbelief must surely be of a reasonable character: read much of “Emma” this evening, and looked out for information about Hayti. I love this leisure, but still feel as if I did not sit down to think enough. Heard of another unwise engagement. Surely women ought to love and marry early; if they do not, how many make fools of themselves after forty! — I suppose as they grow older and friends drop off and they feel the want of protection and companionship, and, above all, of affection. With what an air did Crompton pronounce against the Pictorial Bible, not having seen it! Do we not all do likewise — I, especially? Called on the —s; found a most affectionate welcome, — such a one as makes me think of the importance of human beings to each other. How were these stimulated and moved by me, ignorant and almost utterly weak as I feel myself to be, and as dependent upon the wise whom I meet! But these are meek and affectionate, not ignorant and weak. Read “Emma,” — most admirable. The little complexities of the story are beyond my comprehension, and wonderfully beautiful. Corrected proof of my “Letter to the Deaf.” I would not alter it, even where the expression seems to me poor. It was written in the full flow of feeling, and so let it stand. May it bring some comfort to some who have suffered as I have! But where is all the suffering gone?

Saturday, 20th. — The sun shone. Dressed and set off for Chelsea. Walked it within three quarters of an hour. Mrs. Carlyle looked like a lady abbess; black velvet cap with lappets, white scarf, and rosary. Very elegant creature.

Sunday, 21st. — Dusted my study furniture, and brushed and rubbed for near an hour. Sarah is hard pressed in her work this severe weather, so I bestirred myself to make things nice. Then read Toussaint in the “Biographie Universelle,” making notes as I went. Leigh Hunt tells Carlyle that his troubles will cease at five-and-forty; that men reconcile themselves, and grow quiet at that age. Let me not wait for forty-five, but reconcile myself daily and hourly to all but my own curable faults.

Monday, 22d. — The “Morning Chronicle” says Roebuck will be heard at the bar of the House to-day, but cautions people against Edition: current; Page: [336] believing his statements. Shameful! — to prejudge. I think it likely the matter will end in all his suggestions being adopted, while he is allowed none of the credit. Mr. Ker called and took me to his house, and I had a delicious day there. We talked over every species of novel. Rogers observes that in Scott’s the story stands still during the dialogue, while in Miss Austen’s, as in a play, the story proceeds by means of the dialogue. Mr. Ker says Scott’s characters are not true to nature, — only the vestments of nature. Miss Austen’s, you know every one. Told me of Brougham’s promise to Lady Jersey to let her know just the contents of the Reform Bill. Had a messenger to bring word when Lord John Russell was on his legs, and then sent in a letter to Lady Jersey, next door, with an outline of the bill. She had a large dinner-party, and read it at the head of the table. Every one believed it a joke, except the Duke of Wellington, who pronounced, — “’T is damned true.” We sat over the fire, talking of my novel, till half past twelve — objects wholly to Toussaint. Victor Hugo has a story of St. Domingo. Mrs. — thinks such a story hazardous, to begin with. Talked over Joe Miller at breakfast with much admiration and affection.

Saturday, January 28. — I think the prison chapter will prove the most interesting of my book. I do not think it is waste of time to look over one’s own works thus. It is necessary, to see how they appear.

February 6. — Note from Carlyle, most hearty, about my book, and advising me to keep clear of theory, and cling to giving pictures of facts. What a true heart he has, with an insane horror of moral and political science! I want to find out how near he comes to wishing men to live without any mutual agreement whatever.

Mr. Wedgwood called. Is busy trying to get a law to exempt scrupulous persons from judicial oaths Showed how, after all, you depend on a man’s affirmation that he believes in a God, &c.; as Mr. W. says, like the Hindoo belief that the world rests on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise on nothing. Read and lunched, and read again and dressed till just seven, and then off for Captain Beaufort’s. Met a host of naval officers and travellers. Also C. Darwin, Mr. F. Edgeworth, and Mr. Hamilton, brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington, who had been reading my book up to dinnertime, and took a good gaze at me. Mr. Edgeworth’s belief that diaries are always written to be read, and does not like Scott’s. Surely this is for my own future eye and not for others, for my own future instruction, and for suggestion.

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Sunday, February 18. — Read beautiful speeches at the Lovejoy meeting in Boston, in the “Liberator.” Edmund Quincy’s is fine. His father must have been touched with his hope of speedy departure, if departure might aid cause, rather than living in loss of freedom. What a different aspiration from the ordinary run of young republican citizens, with the world before them? Mr. Loring told of Arnold von Winkelried, at the battle of Sempach, who clasped an armful of Austrian lances, which transfixed him. He cried, “I will make a lane for you! — faithful, dear companions! remember my family.” The Swiss rushed in over his body, and conquered; and his death is commemorated to this day, — nearly five hundred years.

Finished Toussaint with a great relish. How I have enjoyed doing this, and how infinitely do these emotions transcend all pleasures of sense and all gratifications of vanity!

Wednesday, April 11. — Erasmus Darwin and Browning called, who is just departing for Venice to get a view of the localities of Sordello. He is right.

Afternoon. — I dozed for an hour, and then went out into the Park, and saw the yellow sunset, and the troops of shouting children at play on the fresh grass. The policeman seemed sorry to give them notice that the gates were going to be shut. Home to tea. Gave orders for framing Follen and Garrison. Dressed for the Bullers’, and walked there through the Park. Roebuck was there, — long talk with him; the Gaskells, Carlyle, and Lady Harriet Baring, who came to see me again. Buller thinks her superior to —. He can sympathize with all in turn. I told him I could with Voltaire, Fénelon, &c., seeing that the truth is that all of us are right and all are wrong. Does it follow that there is no truth? Surely not.

Thursday, April 12. — Finished my “Maid of all Work.” Walked in the afternoon to library for the Edinburgh review of me. Poor and stupid, except a good passage or two, — such as a clever woman getting at the minds of foreigners better than men.

June 26. — The Duke of Wellington wrote repeatedly to Croker and Lockhart to get the article on Soult suppressed. They would not. He said, “That is the way with these literary people. They are so pig-headed they will have their own way.” A pretty large generalization. When introduced to Soult, he said he was happy to meet him, and had not seen him before except through a telescope.

June 30. — Wrote ten pages of “Lady’s Maid,” though — — Edition: current; Page: [338] and — — called and sat some time. I love them both. Then a long list of others. My cold nearly gone to-day. How much less I think of illness than I used to do! I used to make the most of it, from vanity and want of objects; now I make the least of it, for fear of being hindered in my business. I suffer much less for this. But I am not near so happy as I was. I want inner life. I must take to heart the “Ode to Duty,” and such things, and do without the sympathy I fancy I want. If I am not happy, what matters it? But I am happy, only less so than I have been.

June 30. — Wrote to the antislavery ladies, who have made me one of their sisterhood. Read the Gospel of John in Porteusian Bible. Happy day, on the whole.

The idea of still further serving the antislavery cause in America never left her. It went with her through her Scotch tour, and is filtered through the whole year amid fêtes by the way and mountain scenes and continual attentions from distinguished persons, in a way that shows how it came between her and rest.

“Very happy,” she journalizes on August 26, “in reading American newspapers. Lovejoy’s speech a few days before his murder was sublime; it sets me above every thing, to read of these people. It is the grandest affair now transacting on earth.”

Again, on the 30th of November: —

“Sat down in earnest to finish my article, which I did with a glowing heart an hour after midnight. I am glad I have told this noble story. O, may no mishap befall it!”

“Deerbrook,” a fruit of 1838, was republished in America immediately, and is to this day highly esteemed, and seems likely to live. Mrs. Gaskell in an especial manner was moved by it, and thanked her for it as a personal benefit. John Sterling wrote thus of it to Mrs. Fox: —

“By the way, do you ever read a novel? If you ever mean to do so hereafter, let it be Miss Martineau’s ‘Deerbrook.’ It is really very striking, and parts of it are very true and very beautiful. It is not so true or so thoroughly clear and harmonious among delineations of English middle-class gentility as Miss Austen’s books, especially as ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ which I think exquisite.”

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This remark of Sterling is just. Harriet Martineau’s writings are true to no class. Though so true to humanity they overleap its subdivisions, and, like oaks planted in flower-pots, are sure to outgrow their limitations.

Long afterwards, on the appearance of Mr. Macmillan’s edition, Sir Arthur Helps writes to him thus: —

Yes, my dear Macmillan, I shall have much pleasure and much honour in being the medium of presenting to the queen anything written by Miss Martineau. She is a great writer. I have lately reread “Deerbrook” with exceeding delight. I certainly should care to have a copy of Miss Martineau’s book for myself.

In great haste, yours always,

In the journal of 1839 is this entry: —

Wednesday, June 12, 1839. — My birthday. This day twelve months I began “Deerbrook,” and I shall not forget what I have done to-day. Who would have thought then that I should spend my next in Venice? Am much better, and enjoy it. J. and I out between six and seven walking about St. Mark’s, and over the bridge below the Bridge of Sighs, examining the marbles and looking about us. People do not seem to be very early here, and the Piazza was quiet. The three red pillars are of wood, with cords for raising the ensigns, of Cyprus, Candia, and the Morea. Remember the Lion’s Mouth at the Ducal Palace; and the two red marble pillars amid the white in the little piazza, whence criminal sentences were read. Beautiful canal laving the walls under the Bridge of Sighs. Breakfast, and then off to the Campanile, which we found mighty easy to climb, an ascending path round the four sides. Spent above an hour on the top, most charmingly. Heard the quarters strike four times and the chimes play, so melodious as to make the noise tolerable. How the great green bells swung! Looked down with infinite pleasure into the shady, dim court-yards of many a noble house, — upon the Ducal Palace, upon the royal gardens; upon the myriads of pigeons; upon the bronze horses; upon the domes of St. Mark, with their melon-branches for weather-cocks; upon the folk in the piazza, — the water-carriers, the people walking in the shadow of the Campanile, or sketching in the niches of the church; upon the brilliant mosaics in the porches; and upon the many isles. Saw the Lido, where Byron rode; the Arsenal; traced the Grand Canal, and Edition: current; Page: [340] the Campo di Rialto. The mountains were delicious, afar off. The city from above looks vast, sun-dried, and old. The old man and another live at the top all the year round, and ring the quarters and hours. . . . . To the Ducal Palace again. Sat on the Golden Staircase while the keys and permission were sent for. Remember the well, round and of bronze, — the birds came to it, and the men and women to draw. . . . . Stood on the Bridge of Sighs. Did not go to the common prisons, but back to those of the Inquisition. One floor, contaming eight cells, belonged to the Council of Ten. Horrible dungeons! . . . . Saw the vestibule and council-chamber, — nothing remarkable. Council-chamber empty of furniture; marble floor, all cubes and painted ceiling. Went through many rooms in the palace, — very splendid. Saw the Titian, — liked St. Mark and a boy on guard, but not the woman angel. Stucco figures in ceiling very fine. Paul Veronese’s four pictures exquisite, especially Mercury with the Graces, which J. fell in love with. Ceiling of Collegio very fine, — an artist on a high stage copying one compartment well. Have not seen the senate-chamber yet. Home at twelve. What a morning!

She expressed as follows her gratification on receiving the certificate of membership in the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, in a letter to Abby Kelly,* through whose hands it came.

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
June 20, 1838
Abby Kelly
Kelly, Abby
My dear Madam,

On my return from the country I find the certificate of membership of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, which the members of the Lynn Society have had the kindness to forward to me. I accept the valued gift with feelings of high gratification. The generous interpretation which my American sisters put upon the small efforts of those who have done less than themselves shows that the spirit of disinterestedness is strong among them; and my great pleasure in this mark of kindness arises, not from a consciousness of merit in myself, but from an appreciation of the generosity of my correspondents. I do not wish to enlarge on the subject of myself and my doings; but I must just remind you that, in bearing my testimony in print against slavery, I have incurred no risk and no discredit. Here public sentiment is wholly with me on this subject. The only sacrifice I had to make was of the good opinion of Edition: current; Page: [341] some of my friends in America; and I cannot but trust that the time is not far distant when they will forgive and agree with me.

You and your sisters, my dear madam, have a far harder battle to wage, in which I beg to assure you that you have all my sympathy, and, I believe, the sympathy of this whole nation. Not one of your efforts is lost upon us. You are strengthening us for the conflicts we have to enter upon. We have a population in our manufacturing towns almost as oppressed, and in our secluded rural districts almost as ignorant, as your negroes. These must be redeemed. We have also negroes in our dominions, who, though about to be entirely surrendered as property, will yet, we fear, be long oppressed as citizens, if the vigilance which has freed them be not as active as ever. I regard the work of vindicating the civil standing of negroes as more arduous and dangerous than freeing them from the chain and the whip. Both you and I have a long and hard task before us there, when the first great step is, as in our colonies, safely accomplished. But this is a kind of labour which renews strength instead of causing fatigue; the reason of which is, that a sure and steadfast hope is before us. May this hope sustain you! I think it surely will; for nothing was ever to my mind more sure than that there is no delusion connected with your objects; that they are sanctioned by the calmest reason and the loftiest religion, and that in the highest condition of wisdom in which you may find yourselves in the better world to which you are tending, you will never despise your present action in your great cause.

We have heard with mingled feelings of the outrages at Philadelphia. Upon the whole, we hope for great good from them; but, till I hear more particulars, I shall not cease to wonder at the extent and intensity of the bigotry still existing in that city. I should have supposed that your enemies had seen enough, by this time, of the fruits of persecution. While earnestly desiring that God will advance the cause in his own best way, we cannot but hope that no more struggles of this nature, involving so much guilt, may be in store for you. It is a severe pain to witness so cruel a worship of Mammon, however strong may be our faith in the persecuted. By whatever means, however, the cause is destined to advance, God’s will be done!

It gives me heartfelt pleasure to remember that I am now one of your sisterhood, in outward as well as inward relation. If I should ever be so blessed as to be able to assist you, you may count upon me. At least, you will always have my testimony, my sympathy, and my Edition: current; Page: [342] prayers. I fear there is no prospect of visiting your country again. I have both domestic and public duties here which I cannot decline; but my thoughts and hopes will be with your people, though I must continue to live among my own.

Believe me, dear madam, with high respect for the body in whose name you have addressed me,

Gratefully and affectionately theirs and yours,
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“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose, to a life beyond time.”


Sorrow, suffering, fame, foreign travel, danger, had always, up to the time of her return from America, kept Harriet Martineau’s health below the degree she might otherwise have enjoyed.

Now, added to all these, was the preparation and putting through the press of so many important volumes.

Though she was not then fully aware of the too great exertion, she did afterwards make efforts for rest and refreshment. But a tour among the lakes and a journey with an invalid cousin to Switzerland were so filled up with various work and thoughtful planning for more work, that she returned to London in a state of health that, perforce, put a stop to further exertion until she should have consulted with her brother-in-law, the physician at Newcastle. The result of a month’s visit in his family, and under his care, was to confirm the need of rest and quietness, and she went thence to the lodgings at Tynemouth, which she did not leave till long years afterwards.

It seems on a mere glance at the outward facts a very strange life; — but it is accounted for. There was for her at this period, as ever previously, the heaviest family grief and responsibility, mingled with real family affection and care; a life of thought and industry in the midst of patient suffering; a life of loneliness, yet of much solace from the friendship of many.

These six years of enforced retreat she always called the passive period of her life. And one desirous to follow this passive Edition: current; Page: [344] period in all its suffering and solace, should fill in the preceding Autobiography from such journals and letters as are permitted.

The literary works will be found recorded in the first, but the work that told upon the world will be better shown from the two latter sources.

After the Swiss journey there related, the breaking down of health, the return to Fludyer Street, Westminster, and the visit to Newcastle, the journal begins: —

December 15, 1839. — Strange but pleasant to begin again after five months’ interval. I shall not have much to put down at present, but it may be useful and pleasant hereafter to see how it was with me when thus confined, with a near future wholly dark and uncertain.

For the better understanding of this journal, let it be noted that the “Oberlin,” as Harriet Martineau always called it, is the college founded for the Western States of America, when it was found that “Lane Seminary” would not allow its students to be abolitionists. Eyes of farther reach into futurity than those of any of the presidents of American colleges at that time, saw the pressing need of immediate effort to place education on a better basis; and we sent two of our number to England to raise funds there for the purpose of founding a new institution, which should afford instruction irrespective of colour and of sex. It was to this effort that she gave herself till the object was accomplished; all the while revolving in her mind the practicability of coming to live in America, to share the life of the abolitionists. In her journal at Tynemouth is the following record: —

Am much disposed to live for the great enterprise. I opened it to-day to — —. Must consult. At present it seems much like an inspiration. God grant it, through whatever suffering. . . . .

I wrote the “Dress-Maker” during this and the next month, a little at a time, with slowness and uncertainty. At the time thought it hardly worth the pains, — the doing it so painfully. But when done glad to have undertaken. Great satisfaction in a finished thing. This one much approved. Health much the same. No suffering worth speaking of from being laid by, which my distant friends conclude to Edition: current; Page: [345] be a very hard trial. My future will be provided for somehow, and the present is full of comforts. Bodily suffering not great just now, and kindness of friends most cheering. Out of doors once this month, and do not mean to try again at present. Lord Durham asked me over to Lambton to meet the Duke of Sussex. Could not go, of course. Much enjoyed some talk on politics with Mr. Hawes and Charles Buller, who came over from Lambton. Striking review of Carlyle by Sterling in the London and Westminster. Carlyle writes to me that it is like the Brocken Spectre, — a very large likeness and not very correct.

December 15. — The Mayor, Mr. Carr, called and got interested about the Oberlin.

December 16. — Mr. McAlister spent the evening to hear all about Oberlin and the abolition. I hope a sermon may come out of it.

January 17. — Miss F. came to bring me a contribution of £10, and to tell me of Dr. Winterbottom’s delight at the “Martyr Age.” Madame Goethe is charmed with my America. I rejoice thereat. Letter from Lord Murray about the Oberlin. The article will be reprinted, I trust. Letter from Wicksted. Will do what he can for the Oberlin. Letters from Milnes, Mrs. Reid, and a lump besides. Also letters from Mr. Keep, the American delegate. There was a burst of tearful joy at the Oberlin, when they received the first instalment (£600) of our contributions. Mr. Dawes called, — an Ohio man, good-looking and hearty: says the corporation of London were unanimous, and proposed giving £1,000, first and last, but they were tampered with, he suspects, by the American Minister, Stevenson, and made to believe that helping the Oberlin would be flying in the face of the American government. When Dawes came in I was practising quadrilles for the children’s dance in the evening. It is curious to middle-aged persons to see little boys and girls dancing quadrilles perfectly and gracefully, and out in a country-dance. The gallopade step in a country-dance is a great improvement on the old jigging step. Our frivolity in comparison with the interests of the Oberlin struck me much, yet it is right enough in its way. Merry dance in the evening.

December 27. — Mr. Dawes called, and gave charming view of the Oberlin. The mischief-maker in the London corporation has lost his election in consequence, and they hope for a good vote from the reaction. The American Antislavery Society ask to reprint my article as a cheap tract. I am very glad of this. A dweller in Ohio, eleven miles from Oberlin, took in some seventy of the students and boarded Edition: current; Page: [346] them for a year. Another, many miles off, took in thirty. In like manner a farmer drove a cow a long way to present her to them. Some students are sons and brothers of slaveholders, and lose all their resources in going to Oberlin. So much for slavery being charming on the spot. One of the professors was offered $2,000 to preside at the proposed hall for free inquiry in Boston, but, as Dawes says, they might as well have tried to get one of the great Western oaks up by the roots. He went back to toil and poverty. Bad headache. Mr. Dawes, with capital facts and papers. His simplicity is very moving.

December 30. — Set about the Oberlin business after breakfast, when Mr. Dawes came in. He melted us all presently. It gives me great pleasure to recognize the fine American qualities which I used to admire there, — the glorious faith and piety, together with the shrewdness and business-like character of mind, sublime when applied to philanthropic instead of selfish affairs. Wrote some pages for them. — — came in. Thinks the Misses Grimké go a great deal too far in self-denial. So people thought in the days of the early Christians, no doubt. — — came in. Very solemn about the “Times” having taken up its song with Captain Marryatt against me; is earnest with me to answer. Shall not. Wrote a valentine for the boys.

December 31. — Wrote for the Oberlin as long as duty would allow. That subject warms one’s whole heart. Mr. Frederic Hill called to know if I could point out a person fit to be governor of the new prison at Perth. (He is Inspector of Prisons.)

December 31, 1839. — The year is within an hour of its close, — a year of little work, yet of some value, though I doubt having voluntarily improved. I have neglected some of my best means and encouraged my selfishness. An invalid state will not improve me in this. How long will it last? Who of us will depart this next year? There is a strange list at each year’s end. Now for joining heart with the Follens over the sea. They are thinking of me this midnight, I know.

On the next page, headed “Miscellaneous Observations,” I find this description: —

Château de Joux lies in the Jura, on the French side. Toussaint must have approached through the defile, winding round a rocky hill, and disclosing the tiny valley, — the little basin of fertile fields, with the clear stream winding through it, which was the last bit of green earth he ever saw. He must have walked or gone on horseback up Edition: current; Page: [347] the winding path to the fort. Dreary rock, crested by the fort. Grand rock opposite, and four roads meeting beneath. Perpendicular rock on the back side, part of which he might see from his window. Dark firs above, and a snowy summit behind knolls, with firs sprinkled about, and glimpses into two valleys; patches of enclosure; ditto of pasture in a recess, with a few cows and children. Cow-bells; — boys; — singing; — church-bell. A bird or two. A flock of goats. Small running stream beside the road.

Two drawbridges and portcullis. Great well, court-yard, long staircase, on the right; past the wheel, door to the left: damp and dark by vault and passage, and then Toussaint’s room on left hand. Is vaulted, low, with charcoal drawings on the ceiling, about twenty-eight feet long and thirteen wide, window breast-high, deep and grated, with some view of the court-yard and the perpendicular rock opposite. Floor planked, very much decayed, and quite wet. Dripping of water heard all round, and wet clay in the passages, and flakes of ice from the roof and walls lying about. Door by one corner; window opposite; fireplace in middle of left side; and formerly (they say) a stove opposite. Toussaint was found dead, lying by his fire, — they said on some straw alone; but the woman gave another account. Fire burning when he was found. High up, not under ground (but not the less damp for that. Dim light, but no sunshine ever).

Woman’s account seems to me not to be true. She was clearly opposed to other testimony in most of her story; but here it is. She never saw him; but her first husband was in St. Domingo, and died there. She says Toussaint was caught by being banqueted by Le Clerc, on board a ship (at the farther end of two hundred men), which sailed away while he was at table: that his servant remained with him to the last. (The old man in the village says the porter waited on him.) She says the commandant Rubeau, or Rubaut, had orders from government to treat him well, supplied him with books, and had him daily to his house because he saw that “il avait du chagrin”: that Toussaint went, daily; and the last night excused himself as being unwell. It was proposed to have his servant with him, — he refused it, — was left with fire, flambeaux, book, and fauteuil, and was found dead in the morning: that physicians examined him and declared it to be rupture of a blood-vessel in the heart. He had liberty to walk about within the drawbridge, — need be in his room only at night; was small, had “du génie,” spoke negro language as well as French, and had a ceremonious funeral. She showed us Edition: current; Page: [348] where he is buried. It was in the church, but alterations have lately been made.

This story is much what might be expected to be put forth, in the case of a murdered or neglected prisoner. How came he to be in such a vile dungeon? This is irreconcilable with the rest.

Toussaint lived among “the skeletons of the earth,” — the rocks (as Julia says): contrast with the warm and living scenery of the tropics. What time of year did he arrive? How much snow?

Make him speculate on how Napoleon would like to be fixed on a rock.

January 1, 1840. — Read Examiner and tried to write for the Oberlin, but could not write at all. Made a cap, therefore. C— T— came in to wish me good wishes. How charmingly she looked! My grandmother very ill, but likely to be better. Read Rahel (Varnhagen). Unsatisfactory. Went on with the Oberlin appeal. Writing fatigues me much. But what a cause it is! How it warms one as one proceeds! In Wilberforce I meet with a few facts about Toussaint. Curious, when it seems a dead subject, — one left for me to revive. — — to dinner. She became anxious to read about the Oberlin the moment she heard that Lords Brougham and Morpeth were interested in it. — — called. Odd, sometimes, to see thoroughly vulgar people. It enlarges one’s ideas.

January 3. — Wrote for the Oberlin. Mr. Dawes called, and all were charmed with him. He listened, deeply affected, to my additions, with moist eyes, as if the story were new to him which I had learned from himself. “You have had great assistance,” was his characteristic way of approving what I have done.

Evening. — Read Wilberforce, and looked over Dr. Crowther’s book. All envious of Sir William Ellis. Says I wrote on Hanwell at their dictation: whereas I had never seen them but once, and they knew nothing about it. Read an account of a case like my own. While every body seems to conclude that I shall get well perfectly in time, I feel far from sure of ever being well again, and that this complaint, mild as it is now, will not be my death. If so, it will probably be a few (very few) years of increasing ailment, ending with my sinking. There is nothing agitating in this thought, — much owing to my insensibility to some immense realities, partly to long experience of great events and change, and partly to habitual confidence that all is ordered well.

January 4. — Finished appeal for the Oberlin. Felt raised and joyful, as this subject always makes me. Quiet day, very happy. Edition: current; Page: [349] Charming letter from my mother, and from Lady Coltman telling me of £20 more for the Oberlin.

Read Mr. Thom’s account of the Oxford theology, drawn from their own writings: good. The irrevocable concessions, — concessions they have made for the sake of their plea of authority, which must fail, so the good will remain when the fallacy is overthrown. I feel a strong sympathy with them. Saving their premises, I go with them. Have been reading Wilberforce: grows twaddling in his old age, through want of cultivation of mind. Very noble, however, — his keeping back Brougham’s pledge about the queen, and silently suffering universal censure.

January 5. — C— T— and I had a sweet, long talk. Some chance through her of good to the class of unhappy women. If I live, this too must be my work. If not, some one else will do it, I doubt not.

January 13. — Mr. Dawes came on business about the Oberlin tract, which completely tired me, and made a bad day of it. Mr. Dawes is gloriously business-like.

The following letter shows that the antislavery problem was not the only one she bore in mind.

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
April 24, 1840
Tynemouth, Northumberland
Henry G. Chapman
Chapman, Henry G.


My dear Friend,

I must send you a word of love, thanks, and blessing. You know, I dare say, that I have been very ill for nearly this year past, and that it is very doubtful when I shall be better, or whether ever. Instead of writing to you, I have been writing for the Oberlin, — doing the little I could, — and not in vain. Messrs. Keep and Dawes hope and believe that the institution is safe. But for our national immoralities, which have brought on, as a part of their retribution, visitations of poverty almost amounting to famine, we should have sent you more ample aid. If, however, the Oberlin is safe, we are humbly thankful. Mr. Dawes has endeared himself to us, and I thank you for introducing him to me. I have not yet seen Mr. Keep, but I hear that he is much beloved. . . . .

Living and dying I shall be in spirit with you and your cause. If I can do any thing, however little, for your work, ask me, and while I have breath in my body, I will work for you. I am now about a book which I hope may do some good if I am permitted to finish it. The barest hope of this would cheer my days if they wanted cheering, Edition: current; Page: [350] — which, however, they do not. You need feel no sorrow for me, my dear friend. How often am I full of joy for you, and yet I am sensible of your trials. They are very great, but they bear their own death-warrant, while the strength you oppose to them is immortal.

My kindest regards to Mr. Chapman. I should like to think that Mr. Garrison remembered me with regard.

Farewell, my dear friend. Many prayers rise for you and yours, from this land as well as your own.

Ever your affectionate

How goes your mind about a community of goods, and yet an inviolate personal freedom? . . . . When you see light, give it me.

July, 1840, Harriet Martineau writes to America thus: —

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
Maria Weston Chapman
Chapman, Maria Weston


Dear Friend,

I have seen Garrison; and among all the pleasures of this meeting I seem to have been brought nearer to you. If I were well, and had health, and if my mother’s life were not so fast bound to mine as it is, I think I could not help coming to live beside you. Great ifs, and many of them. But I dream of a life devoted to you and your cause, and the very dream is cheering. I have not been out of these two rooms for months, and now I begin to doubt whether I shall ever again step across their threshold. I may go on just as I am, for years, and it may end any day; yet I am not worse than when I last wrote.

We had a happy day, we four, when Garrison was here. I am sure he was happy. How gay he is! He left us with a new life in us.

Garrison was quite right, I think, to sit in the gallery at Convention. I conclude you think so. It has done much for the woman question, I am persuaded. You will live to see a great enlargement of our scope, I trust; but, what with the vices of some women and the fears of others, it is hard work for us to assert our liberty. I will, however, till I die, and so will you; and so make it easier for some few to follow us than it was for poor Mary Wollstonecraft to begin.

I must not begin upon Convention subjects. I am so tired; and there would be no end. You know what I should say, no doubt. The information brought out will do good, but the obvious deficiencies Edition: current; Page: [351] of the members in the very principles they came to advocate will surely do more.

Garrison brings you £2 from me, which I have earned by my needle for your society, being fond of fancy-work, and fit only for it, in this my invalid state. I feel in my soul the honour of the appointment of delegate. You know that I could not have discharged its duties, even if the others had been admitted. But there is in me no lack of willingness to serve our cause in any capacity.

Believe me ever your faithful and affectionate

Again she writes to America, to the same friend: —

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
Maria Weston Chapman
Chapman, Maria Weston

We are fighting many battles here, — great and important. We are doing away with the punishment of death. Yesterday morning I told a government man that Parliament and people are forwarder than he (who is a commissioner on the question) had any idea of; and last night he got his gradualism assented to in Parliament, by a majority of only one! All the best men, almost, came out against capital punishment altogether.

Well, my dear friend, live long as we may, there is no prospect of a want of work for us. We have a scope and a call such as few women have. What can there be in the world’s gift to tempt either men or women aside from such a destiny?

My kind regards to Mr. Chapman. He is always sure of my love and sympathy.

Ever your affectionate

In a letter to Mr. Empson, dated December, 1840, friendly and familiar, and which he had no idea would ever reach her eyes, Lord Jeffrey writes thus of “The Hour and the Man”: —

“I have read Harriet’s first volume, and give in my adhesion to her Black Prince with all my heart and soul. The book is really not only beautiful and touching, but noble; and I do not recollect when I have been more charmed, whether by very sweet and eloquent writing and glowing description, or by elevated as well as tender sentiments. I do not at all believe that the worthy people (or any of them) ever spoke or acted as she has so gracefully represented them, and must confess that in all the striking scenes I entirely forgot their complexion, and drove the notion of it from me as often as it occurred. But this does Edition: current; Page: [352] not at all diminish, but rather increases the merit of her creations. Toussaint himself, I suppose, really was an extraordinary person; though I cannot believe that he actually was such a combination of Scipio and Cato and Fénelon and Washington as she seems to have made him out. Is the Henri Christophe of her story the royal correspondent of Wilberforce in 1818? His letters, though amiable, are twaddly enough. The book, however, is calculated to make its readers better, and does great honour to the heart as well as the talent and fancy of the author. I would go a long way to kiss the hem of her garment, or the hand that delineated this glowing and lofty representation of purity and noble virtue. And she must not only be rescued from all debasing anxieties about her subsistence, but placed in a station of affluence and honour; though I believe she truly cares for none of these things. It is sad to think that she suffers so much, and may even be verging to dissolution.”

Miss Edgeworth also sent a fervent and enthusiastic assurance of her admiration of “The Hour and the Man.” The title of the book was chosen as the one best calculated to conceal the hero’s colour, as this complexional prejudice was running high in the United States, and she hoped the work might tell in favour of her cause there. It was republished there immediately, and has since been republished at different intervals, in different forms; and our most admired and impressive orator, Wendell Phillips, seizing the subject for lecturing-tours on behalf of the cause, bore it through the whole land, deep into the prejudiced hearts of the people.

The next year Harriet Martineau addressed, from her sickroom at Tynemouth, the subjoined letter to her friend Elizabeth Pease of Darlington,* on the occasion of what were at that time called by careless observers “the divisions among the abolitionists”: —

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
February 27, 1841
Tynemouth, Northumberland
Elizabeth Pease Nichol
Nichol, Elizabeth Pease
My dear Friend,

I have read the statements in “Right and Wrong among the Abolitionists of the United States,” with respect to the differences between the two antislavery societies in America, with a strong and painful interest. I wish I could adequately express Edition: current; Page: [353] my sense of the duty of every one interested in the cause of the negro, — of human freedom at large, — to read and deeply meditate this piece of history. I am not more firmly persuaded of any thing, than that those who, on the present occasion, listen to one side only, or refuse to hear either, are doing the deepest injury in their power to the antislavery cause, and sowing the seeds of a bitter future repentance.

I am aware how distasteful are the details of a strife. I know but too well, from my own experience, how natural it is to turn away, with a faint and sickening heart, from the exposure of the enmities of those whose first friendship sprang up in the field of benevolent labours. I fully understand the feelings of offended delicacy which would close the ears and seal the lips of those who have been fellow-workers with both the parties now alienated. Among all these causes of recoil, I see how it is but too probable that the antislavery parties on the other side of the Atlantic may be left by many of their British brethren to “settle their own affairs,” to “fight their own battles.” But if I had a voice which would penetrate wherever I wished, I would ask in the depths of every heart that feels for the slave whether it should be so; whether such indifference and recoil may not be as criminal in us as dissension in them; whether in declining to do justice to the true friends of the slave (on whichever side they may appear to be), we may not be guilty of treachery as fatal as compromising with his enemies.

Those who devote themselves to the redemption of an oppressed class or race do, by their act of self-devotion, pledge themselves to the discharge of the lowest and most irksome offices of protection, as much as to that of the most cordial and animating. We are bound, not only to fight against foes whom we never saw, and upon whom our sympathies never rested; not only to work for millions of poor creatures, so grateful for our care that they are ready to kiss the hem of our garments, — this kind of service, however lavish it may require us to be of our labour, our time, our money, is easy enough in comparison with one which is equally binding upon us; — it is also our duty to withdraw our sympathy and countenance from our fellow-labourers (however great their former merits and our love), when they compromise the cause. It is our duty to expose their guilt when, by their act of compromise, they oppress and betray those brethren whose nobleness is a rebuke to themselves. This painful duty may every friend of the negro in this country now find himself called upon to discharge, if he gives due attention to the state of antislavery Edition: current; Page: [354] affairs in America. If he does not give this attention, it would be better for him that he never named the negro and his cause; for it is surely better to stand aloof from a philanthropic enterprise than to mix up injustice with it.

The first movers in the antislavery cause in America, those who have stood firm through the fierce persecutions of many years, who have maintained their broad platform of catholic principles, who have guarded their original Constitution from innovation and circumscription, — Garrison, and his corps of devout, devoted, and catholic fellow-labourers, with the Bible in their heart of hearts and its spirit in all their ways, — are now in a condition in which they need our support. They have been oppressed, betrayed, pillaged, and slandered. Not they, but their foes, are the innovators, the bigots, the unscrupulous proselyters, the preachers of a new doctrine, modified to propitiate the proslavery spirit of the country in which they live. No one will call my words too strong, my accusations exaggerated, who will read the evidence relating to the transfer of the “Emancipator” (for one instance), or, casting an eye upon the statement of accounts of the American Antislavery Society, will perceive who voted into their own pockets the money by which the “Emancipator” might have been sustained, under whose commission the assailants of the Old Organization crossed the Atlantic and at whose expense they travelled throughout our country, sowing calumnies against Garrison and his faithful companions through the length and breadth of our land. When the friends of the slave here are told of treachery, pillage, and slander, will they hazard being a party to the guilt, for want of inquiry, even though the London Antislavery Committee, and their organ, the “Reporter,” at present appear to stand in that predicament? If they would avoid such a liability, let them read and consider the statement by which the case is placed fully before them.

No one is more ready than I to make allowance for lapse in the friends of the negro in America. I have seen too much of the suffering (not conceivable here) consequent upon a profession of antislavery principles, to wonder that there are but few who can endure, from year to year, the infliction from without, the probing of the soul within, which visits the apostles of freedom in a land which maintains slavery on its soil. From my heart I pity those who, having gone into the enterprise, find that they have not strength for it, and that they are drawn by their weakness into acts of injustice towards such as are stronger than themselves; for those who are not with the thoroughgoing are necessarily against them. We must regard Edition: current; Page: [355] with even respectful compassion the first misgivings, before they have become lapse. But what then must we feel, — what ought we to do — for those who have strength, for those who can suffer to the end, for those who are, after the pelting of a ten years’ pitiless storm, as firm, as resolved, as full of vital warmth as ever, as prepared still to abide the tempest, till the deluge of universal conviction shall sweep away the iniquity of slavery from the earth? Shall we refuse to hear the tale of their injuries, of their justification, because others have refused, or because the story is painful? May we dare to call ourselves workers in the antislavery cause while thus deserting the chief of its apostles now living in the world?

All believe that the truth will finally prevail; and you and I, dear friend, have a firm faith that therefore the Old Organization, with Garrison at its head, will prevail, at length, over the base enmity of the seceders. But we ought not to be satisfied with their prevailing at length, till we see whether they cannot be enabled to stand their ground now. Not a moment is to be lost. Not for a moment should their noble hearts be left uncheered; not for a moment should the slaveholder be permitted to fan his embers of hope; not for a moment should the American slave be compelled to tremble at the adversity of his earliest and stanchest friends, if we can, by any effort, obtain a hearing for the cause. Let us urge and rouse all who are about us, — not to receive our mere assertions, — not to take our convictions upon trust, — but to read, search out, and weigh the evidence, and judge for themselves.

This is all that is needed; for I believe there is not a friend of the slave, in any part of the world, who, knowing the facts, would not make haste to offer his right hand to Garrison and his company, and his voice and purse to their cause.

I am yours very truly,

In a brief review of the year at the end of this volume of journal is the following: —

Two things occurred at the beginning of December which cheered me greatly. Lady Byron, being pleased with my refusal of a pension, placed £100 at my disposal for the relief of cases of desert and distress. It was done in the most delicate way, and the plenitude of my charity-purse will long be a comfort to me.

R. Monckton Milnes, the poet, I had felt to be on cordial terms with me, though a Puseyite and a Tory M. P. I had no idea, however, Edition: current; Page: [356] of what he could do for me. He heard of me through mutual friends, sent me his “one tract more,” and a beautiful letter, and those most truthful lines, ‘Christian Endurance,’ ” which have since supported me much and often. They will bear pondering, and well have I pondered them. It was a good deed of a young man to sit down to speak to the soul of one like me.

September 24. — Sir C. Clarke came. I could not but admire the frankness with which he told me that my illness is incurable; and I can never again feel health, if his judgment be true.

It is strange that this did not move me in the least, and does not now. I have long disbelieved that I should ever be in health again, and I have no wish that it were otherwise. How my mother will grieve! I never spoke to her of the hope of relief, but others have. That was too low a hope for me, though I am far from saying that I may not some time sink for want of it. At present I fear only the intellectual and moral consequences of a life of confinement. If they cannot be obviated, I must meekly bear them too.

Mr. Macready visited her about this time, and thus records in his journal the impression she left upon his mind: —

March 28, 1841. — Intended to post to South Shields and cross the ferry to Tynemouth, but stopped and turned the postboy, and made him go to Newcastle, from thence to take the railway. Was half an hour before the train started; lunched; wrote a note for Miss Martineau. Went by railway to North Shields. Walked to Tynemouth, and inquiring at the post-office Miss Martineau’s address, called on her, sending up my note; she was very glad to see me. We talked over many things and persons. She is a heroine, or, to speak more truly, her fine sense and her lofty principles, with the sincerest religion, give her a fortitude that is noble to the best height of heroism.”

Writing in 1842 to console her friend under severe bereavement, she says: —

“I know that you will endure, — you are experienced in death. What would it be to you in this hour, that he had gained wealth, and lived in the praises of the vulgar part of society? What comfort is there not now, in the truth that he has sacrificed his wealth and his repose, and put his reputation to hazard, from love to the helpless! We are of one mind, dear friend, about these things. You do not Edition: current; Page: [357] perplex yourself with repining at the loss of your dearest friends, and I am satisfied to be confined to two rooms for a long time or a short, — and there the matter ends. We can smile an understanding to each other, and proceed to our business. When you hear me inquired for, just state the main truth, that I am not likely to die yet, but can never recover if the physicians are right. I am so unfit now for authorship, that I close with the fourth volume of the ‘Playfellow.’ I thank you for what you tell me of the first volume, — The Settlers at Home. It rejoices me always to hear of children being moved by any thing I write. You hear of the awful position of our public affairs. How are our starving multitudes to be fed?”

Writing again a letter of consolation for the loss of Henry Grafton Chapman, who sent his love to her from his death-bed, she says, —

“How kind, how beautiful in him it was to leave me those words.”

Dr. Channing too, who died at the same date, spoke of her frequently to his family with much affectionate admiration during the time previous to his death.

These lines, sent to her on learning her hopeless condition, are by Lord Houghton.


    • Mortal! that standest on a point of time
    • With an eternity on either hand,
    • Thou hast one duty above all sublime;
    • Where thou art placed, serenely there to stand.
    • To stand, undaunted by the threatening death,
    • Or harder circumstance of living doom;
    • Nor less untempted by the odorous breath
    • Of hope, that issues even from the tomb.
    • For hope will never dull the present pain,
    • Nor fear will ever keep thee safe from fall,
    • Unless thou hast in thee a mind, to reign
    • Over thyself, as God is over all.
  • Edition: current; Page: [358]
    • ’T is well in deeds of good, though small, to thrive;
    • ’T is well some part of ill, though small, to cure;
    • ’T is well with onward, upward hope to strive;
    • Yet better and diviner to endure.
    • What but this virtue’s solitary power,
    • Through all the lusts and dreams of Greece and Rome,
    • Bore the selected spirits of the hour
    • Safe to a distant immaterial home?
    • But in that patience was the seed of scorn, —
    • Scorn of the world, and brotherhood of man;
    • Not patience such as, in the manger born,
    • Up to the cross endured its earthly span.
    • Thou must endure, yet loving all the while;
    • Above, yet never separate from thy kind:
    • Meet every frailty with a tender smile,
    • Though to no possible depth of evil blind.
    • This is the riddle thou hast life to solve;
    • And in the task thou shalt not work alone;
    • For while the worlds about the sun revolve,
    • God’s heart and mind are ever with his own.

These are the lines that Dr. Channing so much admired, and after reading which he bade her be glad that she was the inciter of such holy thoughts and generous sympathies. His letters were a solace during her long exile from active life, and their friendship was constant to his latest hour. Their opinions on the doctrine of necessity and other philosophical subjects were unlike. “I am less and less troubled,” he said, “about theories which I disapprove when adopted by the good and true,” and his affection for her was undiminished by opinions which he could not abide. “You can hold them,” he said, “and hold your moral judgment and sensibilities too. You are unharmed by what would be death to me.” Of “Toussaint” he said, “I thank you for ‘The Hour and the Man.’ You have given a magnificent picture, and I know not where the heroic character is more grandly conceived.”

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The annexed letter to Mrs. Chapman, dated March 29, 1842, gives the mind of Harriet Martineau on the American political leaders of that time.

“One way or another I learn all the important features of your enterprise, and keep up with the history of your country. Just now, the best lovers of your country here are covered with shame. Webster’s instructions to Everett about the Creole have arrived, and the ludicrousness of the transaction is as remarkable as the shamefulness. . . . .

“For many years your writers and ours have exhibited Webster as your cheval de bataille, and have thrust him forward as the great American, so that his disgrace covers your whole country in English eyes. I am glad now that I bore my testimony against him in print so long ago. Those who believe in me and my book will want to see whether there is not yet something better than Webster on your continent. I hope he will be stung to the quick by the papers on his instructions. The Spectator, such a sinner generally against us abolitionists, is capital on that head. But I should wish him a more solemn retribution and a more corrective one, than wounded vanity for the tremendous sin of treason against reason; of laying aside such logical faculties as he has, to put false cases, out of the insincerity of his heart. . . . .

“I feel it much to gain time before our inevitable revolution comes. If it could only be put off to another generation, our educational plans expanding, our aristocratic institutions relaxing meanwhile, there might be an immense diminution of the guilt and misery which must more or less attend such a bouleversement as must take place.”

Tynemouth, March 30. — The majestic unchanged posture of the faithful is impressive and cheering, but what an uprooting of the poison-tree there must be which is ramifying under the walls of the Supreme Court, and exhaling its venom into the eyes and brains of the Judiciary!

On the 15th of September, 1843, stands this entry in her journal: —

“A new imperative idea occurred to me, — Essays from a Sick-Room.”

Of this book her friend Henry Crabb Robinson said, that no praise could be too strong for the integrity of the work, as of some earlier ones; that a very few lines or phrases inserted, Edition: current; Page: [360] with a reserved sense of her own, a very trifling amount of concession, would have gained her the praises and the custom of “the religious world,” so that she would have been comforted and made much of, and have made her £ 30,000, like Hannah More. This grated upon her temper, and she almost felt as if she had been praised for honour in not reading an open letter if left alone with it, or with a purse of gold without stealing. She “shuddered at the idea of the religious world laying its paws upon me.”

“The new and imperative idea” came to her on the 15th. The entry in the journal on the 19th is, “Wrote first of the essays on ‘Becoming Inured.’ ”

So it was ever in her life. Thought and action were simultaneous, and the sound followed the flash to the beholders.

“Life in a Sick-Room” was republished in America, and called a blessing to humanity in all English-speaking lands; and it was said that all who read it found their thoughts and their hearts visiting her sick-room with grateful love. Great numbers of persons prefer it to any of her works. Philosophers are less impressed by it.

Again the poet, and by this time the friend, sends consolation.


  • Because the few with signal virtue crowned,
  • The heights and pinnacles of human mind,
  • Sadder and wearier than the rest are found,
  • Wish not thyself less wise nor less refined.
  • True that the small delights that day by day
  • Cheer and distract our being are not theirs;
  • True that when vowed to virtue’s nobler sway,
  • A loftier being brings severer cares:
  • Yet have they special pleasures, — even mirth,
  • By those undreamt of who have only trod
  • Life’s valley smooth; and if the rolling earth
  • To their nice ear have many a painful tone,
  • They know man does not live by joy alone,
  • But by the presence of the power of God.
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But at length endurance reached its bounds; and after her recovery she writes thus: —

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet
March 15, 1845
Henry G. Chapman
Chapman, Henry G.


My dear Friend,

Once again I write to you from the midst of life, — from a house full of busy, gay young people, where there is no check upon occupations, talk, or mirth for my sake. It feels very strange, but very delightful. I am glad you have had some personal knowledge of mesmeric effects. I like that those whom I love should know something of the wonderful influence whereby I have been restored, and by which my present duties are marked out. My case has made a great sensation; and similar cases are being told, and the knowers are comparing notes, and consulting how best to concentrate and use the powers put into our hands by our knowledge. And the sick and their doctors write to me, — a multitude of them; and my business is thus put under my hand very clearly. In addition to this, I have now to write a tale, — a little book for our great League Bazaar, — being too well and busy to do the fancy-work I had intended to send. It is all I can do “to keep my stockings mended.” [An allusion to the popular proslavery charges to American women: “Go spin, you jade, go spin!” and “Better be mending your stockings!”] To finish about myself, I am, as far as all kinds of evidence can show, perfectly well. I now doubt whether I was ever well before. I have a very unusual degree of strength, shown not only in my daily long walks, but in my going through daily business, and much odious persecution from the doctors, with entire ease and composure. It is, however, a clear duty to take care that this good state is confirmed, before entering on the hurry and fatigue of my old life in London; and I have agreed to a charming plan suggested by some friends at the Lakes, that I shall settle among them for some months, and lead an open-air and holiday life (as far as mine can be) for the whole summer and autumn. The Arnolds, Wordsworths, Gregs, and Fletchers will be my neighbours and companions. From the first of June my address will be, “Ambleside, Westmoreland.” Till then, “Robert Martineau, Esq., Birmingham.” To whom shall I give this direction about the “Standard”?* I value it highly, and I should like still to have it come as hitherto. It was a delightful surprise to me last week to see what Edition: current; Page: [362] had been done about my table-cover. No such destination had ever occurred to me, but I will now own I did feel a little sorry on sending it off, as the thought that that which held inwrought so many of my deepest ideas and feelings would probably go into the hands of some entire stranger, who would be wholly unconscious of the real value of the work to a friend. I say this just to indicate to you what must have been my gratification when I saw what had been done. How amusing it is, in face of such facts, to remember the contemptuous charge of ordinary folk against you, that you are “people of one idea!” You seem to have a good many feelings, at all events.

I do long to see what is to happen next among you. While your well-wishers here are mournful, and think your condition low and your prospects dark beyond repair (I mean those of your country), I cannot help recurring to my old ground of hope and cheer for you, — that your people (never beginning to do their best till they are at their worst) do rise up in moral might when the danger is pressing, and discharge their duty better than any other people when once they set about it. I cannot conceive that the North will succumb to the South in such times as all men see you are now entering upon. I have such faith in your countrymen as to expect from them that they will surrender their false pride, and give up their idolatry of the existing form of the Union, — now become a malignant and obscene idol, — in order to apprehend and do homage to the true spirit of which it was once the representative. If you (in or out of the “Standard”) can justify this hope by your testimony, it will make me very happy. I have, myself, no doubt that the whole matter is in the hands of the North. Without calling the South a bully or a coward, or other hard names, I suppose it is an indisputable fact, that the South is actually powerless, if the North do but think so, and act accordingly. Its not acting accordingly is the impediment I find on every hand, when I try to make your case understood here as well as my small knowledge permits. Another difficulty that I meet with is from your (the abolitionists) being, as a matter of course, mixed up with our Antislavery Society here, which is now disgraced almost to the lowest point; your true alliance is with our League, as you all know through George Thompson. And there is now the most absurd and shocking virtual alliance between the antislavery folk and the West India interest. I protest, with all my might, against your being classed with your namesakes here, showing the while how different your work is, even if they were in the way of their duty. But argument and explanation do little with people who do not know your country. The only Edition: current; Page: [363] effectual evidence will be your enforcing a clear demand for a renovated and purified Act of Union. But I am always vexed with myself when I write in this way to you, my ignorance may so easily make it all a waste of your precious time; yet, even so, you may like to see where those who love your cause want enlightening. We are doing well in our public affairs, — morally better, I think, than ever before within my memory. The prosperity is pleasant, but the awakened spirit of society is good. The sugar question is all wrong, but must erelong be better treated. In other matters, fiscal and moral, I do think we are pretty rapidly improving. The Anti-Corn-Law League is, I do think, a noble body, with a glorious function.

And now, my dear friend, for this time farewell. I bless you for all your acts of love towards me. I need not tell you that my heart is with you.

Yours affectionately,

This brother, whose address she gives in the foregoing letter, is he whom Harriet Martineau always spoke of as “my good brother.” He died in 1870, leaving a name so much respected in Birmingham as to need no eulogy, whether as chief magistrate or as a public benefactor.

Besides the immense amount of writing done at Tynemouth, during those years of pain which she called her passive period, she used to fill in the chinks of time with fancy-work. She made pretty baskets of braid and wire-ribbon, which sold for a sum sufficient to found a library for the Barracks. She sent them also to the National Antislavery Bazaar in Boston, United States. But a really remarkable piece of work, both for its great beauty and the amount of time bestowed upon it, was a table-cover, “the four seasons,” of Berlin wool wrought into fruits and flowers, which was bought by subscription by her antislavery friends, and presented to Mrs. Follen. Thus it was the means of raising one hundred dollars for the cause, and gave those friends the occasion for expressing what they felt of affectionate gratitude for all her works and her labours and her patience.

This residence at Tynemouth during her long severe illness she always called her “passive period,” — but with small show Edition: current; Page: [364] of reason, seeing that head, heart, and hands were so full of activity. Much has been told of what she did, but more must remain untold. For example, in her journal this note frequently occurs: “Wrote Grainger paper,” “Grainger came,” “Wonderful man.” From after writings of hers it appears that his great public works in Newcastle bear witness to him. He had Harriet Martineau’s best help in carrying on his enterprises.

With the money placed at her disposition by Lady Byron she caused a drain to be laid the length of Tynemouth Street, and ordered a well to be dug in the garden of her lodgings, that served the whole row of houses and “kept the maids from bad company.”

It was after many years of suffering from illness that Harriet Martineau’s mind was exercised a second time by the proposal of a pension. It was then a period of public distress, and her means of livelihood were failing with her power to write. She however preferred to share their privations with the people to being supported by ministerial patronage.

Her decision was appreciated by the people, and they held a public meeting in London, Colonel Perronet Thompson in the chair, by which it was resolved unanimously, —

1. That this meeting fully appreciates the moral and political honesty which led Miss Martineau to refuse the pension offered by the late Whig administration; though they think there has rarely occurred an instance in which the royal bounty would have been so well bestowed.

2. That it is the opinion of this meeting that the answer of Miss Martineau involves a great principle, since if the people were fully represented, the act of the executive would be the act of the people.

3. That this meeting holds Miss Martineau to have pre-eminently deserved well of her country, and that it respectfully and cordially recommends and urges upon the public at large meetings like the present, to show to her, in an unequivocal form, public appreciation of her conduct and character.

4. That a copy of the foregoing resolution be transmitted by the chairman to Miss Martineau.

Edition: current; Page: [365]

The thanks of the meeting were then given to the chairman for his conduct in the chair, and to the proprietors of the hall for the gratuitous use thereof, for the purposes of the meeting.


I received a long time since from Mrs. Henry Turner of Nottingham, a friend and relative of Harriet Martineau, a letter containing an interesting narrative of the circumstances attending her restoration to health; but as it does not differ from her own in a preceding volume, except in incidentally giving the names of many witnesses, I need not here repeat it.

Now came her removal from Tynemouth to the neighbourhood of Windermere, where she first saw Mr. Atkinson, a gentleman who devoted his fortune and life to philosophical pursuits and studies, and who afterwards became her coadjutor in the publication of the philosophical work called, for brevity’s sake, “The Letters.”

When she afterwards made an inquiry about him of Dr. Samuel Brown, a deep student of philosophy, whose name is always associated with his “Atomic Theory,” his reply was as follows: —

“I think him the noblest man I have known. If his attainments in positive knowledge and his culture in the art of expression were equal to the nobleness and magnitude of his proper genius, he would be the foremost man of the age. His acquirements are not small, — his gift of speech is excellent and even admirable of its kind. But a soul of such capacity and fineness should know as much as Humboldt and Comte, and be able to write itself out with as much strength and delicacy as Carlyle and Tennyson. But I ask wondrous things of him.”

This unexpected acquaintance between Miss Martineau and Mr. Atkinson became a firm and lasting friendship. Being so much younger than herself, — brother at once and son in years and in reverential and sincere devotedness, he received and gave furtherance in their scientific studies; and was induced by her to give the world the benefit of those studies in the work they published in concert, — the “Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development.”

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Harriet Martineau’s works during this “passive period” were, “Deerbrook,” “The Hour and the Man,” “Settlers at Home,” “Peasant and Prince,” “Feats on the Fiord,” “Crofton Boys,” “Guide to Service,” “The Dressmaker,” “The Maid of all Work,” “The Housemaid,” “Life in the Sick-Room,” “Letters on Mesmerism,” or sixteen volumes by English publication estimate.

This was what Dr. Walter Channing presented to the American faculty in a medical publication, in warning against pampered idleness, as a bedridden case.

The opinions of the readers of “Deerbrook” have been as various as possible; one thinking it a proof of the inferiority to themselves to which great writers sometimes sink, and another declaring it to be “one of the eight great novels of the world,” while the reading world delights in it up to the present time.

As one good deed or thought helps another, so her home deeds were strengthened by her foreign aspirations. Witness the following letter to an American friend at this time.

Harriet Martineau
Martineau, Harriet


Our greatest achievement, of late, has been the obtaining of the penny postage. I question whether there be now time left for the working of beneficent measures to save us from violent revolution; but if there be, none will work better than this. It will do more for the circulation of ideas, for the fostering of domestic affections, for the humanizing of the mass generally, than any other single measure that our national wit can devise. Have you read the evidence before the Bankers’ and Merchants’ Committee? Did you see, for one instance, the proof that the morals of a regiment depend mainly on the readiness of the commanding officer in franking the soldiers’ family letters? We are all putting up our letter-boxes on our hall doors with great glee, anticipating the hearing from brothers and sisters, — a line or two almost every day. The slips in the doors are to save the postmen’s time, — the great point being how many letters may be delivered within a given time, the postage being paid in the price of the envelopes or paper. So all who wish well to the plan are having slips in their doors. It is proved that poor people do write, or get letters written, wherever a franking privilege exists. When January comes round, do give your sympathy to all the poor Edition: current; Page: [367] pastors’ and tradesmen’s and artisans’ families, who can at last write to one another as if they were all M. Ps. The stimulus to trade, too, will be prodigious. Rowland Hill is very quiet in the midst of his triumph; but he must be very happy. He has never been known to lose his temper, or be in any way at fault, since he first revealed his scheme.

In consequence of words like these from her in a letter to himself, Mr. Hill, the prime mover and conductor of this great achievement, replied thus: “An expression of approbation from you more than repays me for whatever I have done.”

It was just after the publication of “The Hour and the Man” that Garrison wrote thus of Harriet Martineau in remembrance of all her great devotedness: —


  • England! I grant that thou dost justly boast
  • Of splendid geniuses beyond compare;
  • Men great and gallant, — women good and fair, —
  • Skilled in all arts, and filling every post
  • Of learning, science, fame, — a mighty host!
  • Poets divine, and benefactors rare, —
  • Statesmen, — philosophers, — and they who dare
  • Boldly to explore heaven’s vast and boundless coast.
  • To one alone I dedicate this rhyme,
  • Whose virtues with a starry lustre glow;
  • Whose heart is large, whose spirit is sublime,
  • The friend of liberty, of wrong the foe:
  • Long be inscribed upon the roll of Time
  • The name, the worth, the works of Harriet Martineau!
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“I felt my brow strike against the stairway, and in an instant my feet were on the steps. . . . . I perceived that each successive step, as my foot left it, broke away from beneath me. . . . . And thus did I for a few seconds continue to ascend. . . . . Till, happy as a shipwrecked mariner at the first touch of land, I found my feet on firm ground.”


Harriet Martineau’s health restored, and with it her restoration to what was always so precious to her, — the society of her family and friends, — her mesmeric mission accomplished, her house built and time taken to confirm her cure, the way then opened for the best use of her renovated powers.

She had lived the life of her time, in sympathy with its every variety of human being, and she was now, by sympathy, to enter into the life of all time; passing successively, by means of modern travel, through the fourfold life of Eastern antiquity. The book she subsequently wrote, combining as it does the deepest studies, thoughts, and feelings with the interests and acts of daily life in the lands called “blest” and “cursed” and “holy,” — the lands of the pyramids and of the desert, her thoughts meanwhile sweeping through all time from Menes to Moses, and from Nazareth to Mecca, — fully merits the title of “Eastern Life, Present and Past.”

It harmonizes what is perdurable in the four faiths of Egypt, Sinai, Palestine, and Syria; and shows how the main ideas of moral obligation, strict retribution, the supreme desire of moral good, and the everlasting beauty of holiness are ever passing through all systems from age to age, gathering to themselves all with which they are in agreement, and finally annihilating all besides, and crowning with blessings the whole human race.

As Harriet Martineau’s life was a continual progress, it might Edition: current; Page: [370] be expected that, after such far-reaching thoughts as she has recorded, she should begin to cast back a depreciatory glance upon what was transient in her life in America and her life in a sick-room, — as, for example, upon the metaphysical disquisitions and the traditional forms, — while seizing with an ever-strengthening grasp on what is everlasting. Philosophy was superseding metaphysics.

Besides being a standing benefit to Eastern travellers, the book keeps its place as a way-mark and stands as a philosophical stepping-stone in the public mind. On its first appearance, thirty years ago, it was warmly praised, with a reservation. Now, its reappearance is hailed with unreserved satisfaction. One of her latest acts was to write a preface for the new edition. Of course there are never wanting those who stigmatize this work of a good heart seeking and appropriating its own through the past, as an unpardonable deviation from the present; but the book is generally felt to be one of those things which survive their day, to light the path of those about to enter upon a serious search for truth. It is a preparation of heart, and the mind soon follows the heart’s lead.

To know the impression it made on its first appearance on minds qualified by literary cultivation to appreciate it in part, one should turn back to the “Edinburgh Review” of 1848, where one of the representatives of literature spoke thus warmly of it, selecting for commendation the description of the temples of Philœ.

“A work giving fresh interest to the beaten track of Egyptian travel and researches was put into our hands, — Miss Martineau’s ‘Eastern Life,’ of which the first volume and part of the second relate to ‘Egypt and its Faith.’ Excellent as a book of travels, it is equally excellent as an adjunct to history. Miss Martineau unites the observant with the learned traveller, sees for herself, even after Eothen; and has put spirit into the dry bones of Champollion, Wilkinson, and Lane. The bustle of Cairo and the solitude of Thebes are sketched with equal power and truth; even the desert has its gorgeous hues, and the silence of centuries becomes eloquent in her pages. A single extract is all we can afford at present. Were we looking out for a merely descriptive or a merely reflective passage, or for one startling Edition: current; Page: [371] from its speculative boldness, we should be at a loss where to begin and where to end. But as we must begin and end with a single extract, we have selected the following observations, as not only true in themselves, when properly limited and understood, but of general application to all researches which have for their object the practical moral and intellectual life of antiquity. The tendency of Europe, at the revival of classical learning, was to idolize the past. We now incline to desecrate and depose it. The earlier propensity was that of the bookworm; the latter is that of the sciolist. Surely there is a medium in which scepticism may acquiesce and faith repose; in which research and reverence may be reconciled, and the present illustrate without disfiguring the past. Detur hœc venia antiquitati ut, miscendo humana divinis, primordia augustiora faciat.

In order to possess at first hand the vivid descriptions and penetrative thoughts from which the book on Eastern Life was made, one must search the voluminous Eastern Journal. It is filled not only with wayside adventures and interviews with persons of all nations, but also with citations from past writers in comparison with present conditions, accompanied by pencil-drawings illustrating the temples and architecture, the rocks and various changes of scenery through which the little party passed, amid the bustle of Cairo and the solitude of Thebes, — and so onward. One should travel in imagination in company with these closely written pages in Nile boats and on camels’ backs to the journey’s end; for it is but here and there a glance that can in this place be afforded, whether at things or thoughts. But these are not countries, as she herself says of Egypt, to go to for recreation.

“All is too suggestive and too confounding to be met but in the spirit of study. One’s powers of observation sink under the perpetual exercise of thought; and the light-hearted voyager who sets forth from Cairo eager for new scenes and days of frolic, comes back an antique, a citizen of the world of six thousand years ago.”


. . . . I used to be surprised to find how much less preternatural Shakspere appeared after I became acquainted with some of the elder dramatists; and for a long time I have been becoming aware Edition: current; Page: [372] how much Judaism owes to Egyptian predecession, and Christianity to both; and to heathen wisdom mingled with it, — not by Christianity, but by the recorders of the Gospel. And I see much less advance upon the wisdom of heathendom than I used to suppose; the chief wonder to me now being in the comprehensiveness of mind which existed in a Jew, and in the popular purport of his mission and instructions. And the farther I go in an Eastern country the more natural and accountable seems the whole matter, — the more easily supposable in the ordinary course of human thought and action. And to me it is much more animating and encouraging to see that, in natural course, and by ordinary operation of universal faculties, prophets and saviours arise, and will doubtless continue to arise, than to believe that by a special intervention one Redeemer was once sent, whose influence has certainly, thus far, not been adequate to so singular an occasion and office. What I already see and learn of Oriental life and modes of thought takes as much from the marvellousness of the Bible as it enhances the hopefulness of its purposes and of the destiny of universal man. It does not follow from this that the best prepared and exercised imagination will not on the spot see the deepest and the most clearly, — even as Lord Byron could see more of the beauties of Lake Leman than a dolt, though he found it impossible to write poetry in the actual scene, and had to wait till he got within four walls, as all writers have to do who write any thing worth reading, unless they have power of abstraction enough to enable them to abolish their surroundings. Surely the destiny of man is secure and clear enough under these great conditions, — that he shall be for ever living in the presence of and in general allegiance to great ideas as historical facts, till he can entertain them fitly for their own sake, and that by the natural structure of the human mind such great ideas must for ever be arising in the succession needed; the order being, Need, Appliance, Superstition, Philosophy, Wisdom, — a new Need having meantime arisen to animate, a new Gain through the same process.

Then follows a rapid wayside story of interviews with Selim Pasha; and the description that gives local colour to her book: —

Yellow beaches, shady palms, rugged Libyan Hills, glowing red and orange sunsets with green and lilac shed between upon the waters, the young moon meanwhile so bright behind the branches of trees that any one would have noted it, notwithstanding the surrounding brightness, as a hazy heavenly body. Moored to an island for Edition: current; Page: [373] the night. The country fertile and much tilled; the people in good condition. Many water-draughts. The men work only two hours at a time. A voice along the banks proclaims the resting-time. They are mostly small proprietors. Much tobacco and millet. Mr. Yates gathered what seems to be cotton. The yellow flower beautiful. Castor-oil plant beautiful too. I suppose the dogs of the peasantry are really formidable, from the warnings given to me of them. But I never remember to be afraid of them. The excitement about Thebes now began. We were looking towards the Libyan Hills which contained the tombs of the kings. We got into a wind which carried us nimbly on towards the great point of our voyage. To the east spread a wide, level country, backed by peaked mountains, quite unlike the massive Arabian rocks with which we had become so familiar.

Alee pointed out some of the heavy Karnac ruins behind the wood on the eastern bank. Very large and massive they looked. But the chief interest, as yet, was on the other shore. There we saw through glasses, and pretty clearly with the naked eye, traces every where of mighty works, which seem to show that, if one could blow away the sand, a whole realm of architectural grandeur would appear. Long rows of square apertures indicated the vast burying-places. Straggling remains of buildings wandered down the declivities of sand. And then the Memnonium appeared, and I could see its pillars of colossal statues; and next we saw — and never shall I lose the impression — The Two! — the Memnon and his brother, — sitting alone and serene, the most majestic pair ever, perhaps, conceived of by the imagination of art. No description of this scene can ever avail; it cannot convey the vastness of the surroundings, the expanses of sand, the rear-guard of mountains, the spread and flow of the river, the sparse character of the remains and the extent which they claim for themselves. The lines of the scenery seem to enhance the vastness; the almost uniformity of land-colouring, of the natural and artificial features, with the vivid green of the intermediate shores, where Arabs and camels and buffaloes were busy (the modern world obtruding itself before the ancient), the blue or gray river, reach behind reach where divided by green promontories, — the softness of all this is not to be conveyed to a European conception. I like the old name for this part of Thebes, — “The Libyan Suburb.” I first stepped ashore at Luxor. Alee had to buy a sheep and some bread; so we took a guide who could speak English, and set off for the ruins. First were conspicuous the fourteen pillars which front the river in Edition: current; Page: [374] a double row. But we went first to the great entrance of the temple. No preconception can be formed of these places. It was not the vastness of the buildings which strikes one here, but their being dimly covered with sculptures, so old, so spirited, so multitudinous! The stones are in many places parting, for the cement is gone, and the figures of men and horses extend over the cracks, as full of life as if painted. But the guardian colossi! What mighty creatures they are! The massive shoulders, and bend of the arm, and serene air of fixity, how they make one long to see the whole! A third helmet is visible, and a fourth among the Arab huts elsewhere, — those miserable round patches which destroy all unity of impression about this awful building. I was much struck with the nearly buried columns, with the melon or lotus (or what?) shaped capitals, which are hardly seen from the river. What vast stones rest on them! One of these architrave stones of the other range (the fourteen) has fallen upon the rims of the cup composing the capital without breaking it. Yet the stone is not granite. These last capitals were all painted, and the blossoms, buds, and leaves which adorned the flower-like capitals were very distinct.

The one sensation, after all, was the sight of the Memnon pair on the Gournon side. To conceive of the avenue of sphinxes from the main entrance here at Karnac, and then to look from another face over the river to these sitting statues, and think of them as the outposts of the great temple there, — what a chain of magnificence was this! Certainly no work of human hands ever before impressed me with any sense of the sublime like these statues. There is an air of human vigilance about them, amidst their desert and the vastness of the scene,