Works of Annie Fields
LIFE AND LETTERS OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
by Annie Fields
PORTRAITURE: CORRESPONDENCE: SECOND VISIT TO EUROPE
MRS. STOWE said at the moment of her first triumphal tour through England: "The general topic of remark on meeting me seems to be, that I am not so bad-looking as they were afraid I was; and I do assure you when I have seen the things that are put up in the shop-windows here with my name under them, I have been lost in wondering admiration at the boundless loving-kindness of my English and Scottish friends in keeping up such a warm heart for such a Gorgon. I should think that the Sphinx in the London Museum might have sat for most of them. I am going to make a collection of these portraits to bring home to you. There is a great variety of them, and they will be useful, like the Irishman's guide-board, which showed where the road did not go."
I remember once accompanying Mrs. Stowe to a reception at a well-known house in Boston where before the evening was over the hostess drew me aside saying: "Why did you never tell me that Mrs. Stowe was beautiful?” and indeed when I observed her, in the full ardor of conversation, with her heightened color, her eyes shining and awake but filled with great softness, her abundant curling hair rippling naturally about her head and falling a little at the sides (as in the portrait by Richmond), I quite agreed with my hostess. Nor was that the first time her beauty had been revealed to me; but she was seldom seen to be beautiful by the great world, and the pleasure of this recognition was very great to those who loved her.
In personal appearance there was a strange similarity of character, not of likeness, between the three women of genius of that era, George Sand, George Eliot, and Mrs. Stowe. All three have been agreeably portrayed, while one of the pictures of Mrs. Stowe and one bust convey some idea of the beauty in her face. The similarity appeared when their minds were absorbed, or their spirits elsewhere; when they were sharing the daily round of life of which that other current of existence hardly took heed, although they wrought, and talked, and were present in the body, apparently, like those who surrounded them.
At such times a strange heaviness, a lack-lustre visage, was common to the three, and the portraits taken in such moments (the photographs seem especially possessed by this demon of absence) are painful, untrue, plain sometimes beyond words. Their faces become almost like stone masks, not etherealized as in death, but weighted with the heavier tasks of life.
The wonderful contrast produced by the reawakening in society when animated by conversation made them appear like different persons, and when true artists took these subjects in hand they presented them, of course, with the light of life in their faces. Nothing can be more striking than the contrast between certain photographs of George Sand and her portrait by Couture. The same may be said also of the photographs of George Eliot and a charming drawing once made of her face in colored chalk. Mrs. Stowe's portrait by Richmond is not quite so close a likeness, but it resembles her much more nearly than those who have only known her photographs are willing to believe. The bust also, done by Miss Durant in the studio of Baron de Triqueti, has preserved this sweet living expression of her countenance. Of this work Mrs. Stowe's daughter wrote: "I well remember going with my mother for her sittings at the studio. The dim light, the marble dust and chippings covering the floor, the clink, clink of the chisels, and Miss Durant, tall, handsome, and animated before the mound of clay which day by day grew into a resemblance to my mother, and the Baron de Triqueti coming and going with kindly smiling face and friendly words, and my gentle little mother smiling, happy, and unconscious as a child. It all comes back to me like a dream -- those far away, pleasant, happy days . . . . The bust, after it was finished, was taken to London, where I saw it, and thought it very beautiful and an excellent likeness of my mother at forty-six, -- her age when it was taken." This bust was finally placed in the New York University, the gift of Dr. Wallace Wood.
Upon this subject of her personal appearance one of her old friends says: "Mrs. Stowe's face, like that of all her mother's children, showed the delicate refinement of the Foote mask overlaid by the stronger and more sanguine Beecher integument. Her curling, crispy hair, more or less freeing itself from the velvet bands with which she was accustomed to confine it, gave an informal grace to her head. Her eyes, whether twinkling with merriment or subdued to thoughtfulness, were always kind and pleasant. Her slender frame, with something of the `Scholar's stoop' of the shoulders, although so faithful a mother and housekeeper might claim other reasons besides study for that, was neatly but not stylishly dressed. Her manner was ever self-possessed, gentle, considerate; without the graces of one habituated to society, she was evidently a gentlewoman born and bred."
Mrs. Stowe's first duty upon her return from this eventful journey to Europe was to write to the friends she had left behind. She sent an open letter to Scotland, fearing, as she said, that her delicate health had made her a very unsatisfactory guest. She begins with an introduction referring to her state of physical exhaustion after finishing the "Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin" and continues: --
The question will probably arise in your minds, Have the recent demonstrations in Great Britain done good to the Anti-slavery cause in America?
The first result of those demonstrations, as might have been expected, was an intense reaction. Every kind of false, evil, and malignant report has been circulated by malicious and partisan papers; and if there is any blessing in having all manner of evil said against us falsely, we have seemed to be in a fair way to come in possession of it.
The sanction which was given in this matter to the voice of the people, by the nobility of England and Scotland, has been regarded and treated with special rancor; and yet, in its place, it has been particularly important. Without it great advantages would have been taken to depreciate the value of the national testimony. The value of this testimony in particular will appear from the fact that the anti-slavery cause has been treated with especial contempt by the leaders of society in this country, and every attempt made to brand it with ridicule.
The effect of making a cause generally unfashionable is much greater in this world than it ought to be. It operates very powerfully with the young and impressible portion of the community; therefore Cassius M. Clay very well said with regard to the demonstration at Stafford House: "It will help our cause by rendering it fashionable."
With regard to the present state of the anti-slavery cause in America, I think, for many reasons, that it has never been more encouraging. It is encouraging in this respect, that the subject is now fairly up for inquiry before the public mind, and that systematic effort which has been made for years to prevent its being discussed is proving wholly ineffectual.
The "Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin" has sold extensively at the South, following in the wake of "Uncle Tom." Not one fact or statement in it has been disproved as yet. I have yet to learn of even an attempt to disprove.
The "North American Review," a periodical which has never been favorable to the discussion of the slavery question, has come out with a review of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," in which, while rating the book very low as a work of art, they account for its great circulation and success by the fact of its being a true picture of slavery. They go on to say that the system is one so inherently abominable that, unless slaveholders shall rouse themselves and abolish the principle of chattel ownership, they can no longer sustain themselves under the contempt and indignation of the whole civilized world. What are the slaveholders to do when this is the best their friends and supporters can say for them?
I regret to say that the movements of Christian denominations on this subject are yet greatly behind what they should be. Some movements have been made by religious bodies, of which I will not now speak; but as a general thing the professed Christian church is pushed up to its duty by the world, rather than the world urged on by the church.
The colored people in this country are rapidly rising in every respect. I shall request Frederick Douglass to send you the printed account of the recent colored convention. It would do credit to any set of men whatever, and I hope you will get some notice taken of it in the papers of the United Kingdom. It is time that the slanders against this unhappy race should be refuted, and it should be seen how, in spite of every social and political oppression, they are rising in the scale of humanity. In my opinion they advance quite as fast as any of the foreign races which have found an asylum among us.
Yours in all sympathy,
H. B. STOWE.
Almost simultaneously she sent broadcast an appeal to the women of America. The Kansas and Nebraska agitation was going on and she was in constant correspondence with Charles Sumner and others who could keep her informed as to the condition of the struggle.
"I cannot believe," she wrote in her appeal, "that there is a woman so unchristian as to think it right to inflict upon her neighbor's child what she would consider worse than death were it inflicted upon her own. I do not believe there is a wife who would think it right that her husband should be sold to a trader to be worked all his life without wages or a recognition of rights. I do not believe there is a husband who would consider it right that his wife should be regarded by law the property of another man. I do not believe there is a father or mother who would consider it right were they forbidden by law to teach their children to read. I do not believe there is a brother who would think it right to have his sister held as property, with no legal defense for her personal honor, by any man living.
"The question is not now, Shall the wrongs of slavery exist as they have within their own territories, but Shall we permit them to be extended all over the free territories of the United States? Shall the woes and the miseries of slavery be extended over a region of fair, free, unoccupied territory nearly equal in extent to the whole of the free States?
"Women of the free States! the question is not Shall we remonstrate with slavery on its own soil, but Are we willing to receive slavery into the free States and Territories of this Union? Shall the whole power of these United States go into the hands of slavery? Shall every State in the Union be thrown open to slavery? This is the possible result and issue of the question now pending. This is the fearful crisis at which we stand.
"And now you ask, What can the women of a country do?
"O women of the free States! what did your brave mothers do in the days of our Revolution? Did not liberty in those days feel the strong impulse of woman's heart?
- - - - -
"The first duty of every American woman at this time is to thoroughly understand the subject for herself and to feel that she is bound to use her influence for the right. Then they can obtain signatures to petitions to our national legislature. They can spread information upon this vital topic throughout their neighborhoods. They can employ lecturers to lay the subject before the people. They can circulate the speeches of their members of Congress that bear upon the subject, and in many other ways they can secure to all a full understanding of the present position of our country.
"Above all, it seems to be necessary and desirable that we should make this subject a matter of earnest prayer. A conflict is now begun between the forces of liberty and despotism throughout the whole world. We who are Christians, and believe in the sure word of prophecy, know that fearful convulsions and overturnings are predicted before the coming of Him who is to rule the earth in righteousness. How important, then, in this crisis, that all who believe in prayer should retreat beneath the shadow of the Almighty!
"It is a melancholy but unavoidable result of such great encounters of principle that they tend to degenerate into sectional and personal bitterness. It is this liability that forms one of the most solemn and affecting features of the crisis now presented. We are on the eve of a conflict which will try men's souls, and strain to the utmost the bonds of brotherly union that bind this nation together.
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"For the sake, then, of our dear children, for the sake of our common country, for the sake of outraged and struggling liberty throughout the world, let every woman of America now do her duty."
Beside these public letters she dispatched, of course, many private ones. To a lady in Scotland, Mrs. Wigham, she writes in October: "I hear that the pro-slavery papers have been busy in fabricating every strange, odd, improbable combination of evil against me. When 'Uncle Tom' came out first there was such a universal praising of it that I began to think 'Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.' I have been quite relieved of my fears on that score; if there is any blessing in all manner of evil said falsely against one I am likely to have it. But these things I never read; they cannot change my friends; they cannot change the truth, and above all, they cannot change God . . . . Meanwhile let me say that every anti-slavery person and paper speaks in one way, that of hope. They say that they are greatly encouraged."
A new series of difficulties for the anti-slavery cause now developed themselves. Mr. Garrison, being a friend of Theodore Parker and on the radical side of religious thought, gave Mrs. Stowe much uneasiness. "What I fear," she wrote him, "is that 'The Liberator' [of which Mr. Garrison was the brave editor] will take from poor Uncle Tom his Bible and give him nothing in its place."
"Surely," replied Mr. Garrison, "you would not have me disloyal to my conscience. How do you prove that you are not trammeled by educational or traditional notions as to the entire sanctity of the Bible?"
Mrs. Stowe replied: "I would not attack the faith of a heathen without being sure that I had a better one to put in its place, because such as it is, it is better than nothing." The church took up the argument, Dr. Bacon and Dr. Kirk writing bravely on one side and Theodore Parker and Mr. Garrison on the other; Mrs. Stowe and her brothers adding their weight on the side of the old church. Happily the great struggle against slavery united even those who differed upon the methods to be employed for the education of the negro, and they still stood side by side in brotherly love.
In his "History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850" Mr. James F. Rhodes gives a hint of the critical and dissenting spirit of this stormy period: --
"The graphic pen of Harriet Beecher Stowe has given a description of Douglas as he appeared this winter, and she has vividly characterized his manner of argument . . . . The author of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' and the society in which she moved, scorned Douglas. Her soul was bound up in the anti-slavery cause, and one might have expected from her a diatribe, only differing in force from those that other New England writers were publishing on every opportunity. But she was almost as much artist as abolitionist; and from the Senate gallery she looked upon the scene with the eye of an observer and student of character. In her description there is much of penetration. Serene as it is, one detects the striking impression made on the sensitive woman of genius by the man who was an intellectual giant."
Mr. Rhodes has reference to the Illinois senator, Stephen A. Douglas, whose course on the slavery question deserved all the reprobation it received. Of another and better Douglass -- Frederick, the eminent fugitive from slavery -- we have a glimpse in the following letter to Mr. Garrison, touching the latter's criticism of Douglass's course in allying himself with the political abolitionists: --
CABIN, December 19, 1853.
Dear Sir, -- After seeing you, I enjoyed the pleasure of a personal interview with Mr. Douglass, and I feel bound in justice to say that the impression was far more satisfactory than I had anticipated.
There did not appear to be any deep underlying stratum of bitterness; he did not seem to me malignant or revengeful. I think it was only a temporary excitement and one which he will outgrow.
I was much gratified with the growth and development both of his mind and heart. I am satisfied that his change of sentiment was not a mere political one but a genuine growth of his own conviction. A vigorous reflective mind like his cast among those who nourish these new sentiments is naturally led to modified views.
At all events, he holds no opinion which he cannot defend, with a variety of richness of thought and expression and an aptness of illustration which shows it to be a growth from the soil of his own mind with a living root, and not a twig broken off other men's thoughts and stuck down to subserve a temporary purpose.
His plans for the elevation of his own race are manly, sensible, comprehensive; he has evidently observed closely and thought deeply and will, I trust, act efficiently.
You speak of him as an apostate. I cannot but regard this language as unjustly severe. Why is he any more to be called an apostate for having spoken ill-tempered things of former friends than they for having spoken severely and cruelly as they have of him? Where is this work of excommunication to end? Is there but one true anti-slavery church and all others infidels? Who shall declare which it is? I feel bound to remonstrate with this -- for the same reason that I do with slavery -- because I think it an injustice. I must say still farther, that if the first allusion to his family concerns was unfortunate this last one is more unjustifiable still. I am utterly surprised at it. As a friend to you and to him, I view it with the deepest concern and regret.
What Douglass is really, time will show. I trust that he will make no farther additions to the already unfortunate controversial literature of the cause. Silence in this case will be eminently -- golden.
I must indulge the hope you will see reason at some future time to alter your opinion and that what you now cast aside as worthless shall yet appear to be a treasure. There is abundant room in the anti-slavery field for him to perform a work without crossing the track or impeding the movements of his old friends, and perhaps in some future time, meeting each other from opposite quarters of a victorious field, you may yet shake hands together.
I write this note, because in the conversation I had with you, and also with Miss Weston, I admitted so much that was unfavorable to Mr. Douglass that I felt bound in justice to state the more favorable views which had arisen to my mind.
Very sincerely your friend,
H. B. STOWE.
Again Mrs. Stowe set herself to the writing of a new book. In preparing the "Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin" she had collected much fresh material which she proceeded to use for a story to be called "Dred." She was anxious to show the general effect of slavery on society; the demoralization of all classes, and the corruption of Christianity which follows in its trail.
All the summer and winter were absorbed in her labors for this book, which is one of her finest pieces of work. Harriet Martineau said of it, that in her opinion it was a greater story than "Uncle Tom;" and other tributes to the same effect were paid to her in England.
With the completion of her story, Mrs. Stowe again decided to find rest if possible, and certainly pleasure and diversion, in a second journey to Europe.
She set sail about the first of August, accompanied by her husband, her two eldest daughters, her son Henry, and her sister, Mrs. Perkins. The secondary object of her journey (only secondary to her own health) was that of securing a copyright to her new book. She had failed in getting one on "Uncle Tom." Sampson Low & Company were her publishers, who looked after her interests with personal good will.
Professor Stowe being obliged to return to his work in Andover after a brief absence, his wife wrote to him: "If 'Dred' has as good a sale in America as it is likely to have in England, we shall do well. There is such a demand that they had to placard the shop windows in Glasgow with,
'To prevent disappointment,
Not to be had till,' etc.
"Everybody is after it, and the prospect is of an enormous sale.
"God, to whom I prayed night and day while I was writing the book, has heard me, and given us of worldly goods more than I asked. I feel, therefore, a desire to 'walk softly,' and inquire, For what has He so trusted us?
"Every day I am more charmed with the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland; they are simple-hearted, frank, natural, full of feeling, of piety, and good sense. They certainly are, apart from any considerations of rank or position, most interesting and noble people. The duke laughed heartily at many things I told him of our Andover theological tactics, of your preaching, etc.; but I think he is a sincere, earnest Christian.
"Our American politics form the daily topic of interest. The late movements in Congress are discussed with great warmth, and every morning the papers are watched for new details.
"I must stop now, as it is late and we are to leave here early to-morrow morning. We are going to Staffa, Iona, the Pass of Glencoe, and finally through the Caledonian Canal up to Dunrobin Castle, where a large party of all sorts of interesting people are gathered around the Duchess of Sutherland. Affectionately yours,
At Dunrobin, Mrs. Stowe found awaiting her the following note from her friend, Lady Byron:--
LONDON, September 10, 1856.
Your book, dear Mrs. Stowe, is of the "little leaven" kind, and must prove a great moral force, -- perhaps not manifestly so much as secretly, and yet I can hardly conceive so much power without immediate and sensible effects; only there will be a strong disposition to resist on the part of all the hollow-hearted professors of religion, whose heathenisms you so unsparingly expose. They have a class feeling like others. To the young, and to those who do not reflect much on what is offered to their belief, you will do great good by showing how spiritual food is adulterated. The Bread from Heaven is in the same case as baker's bread. I feel that one perusal is not enough. It is a "mine," to use your own simile. If there is truth in what I heard Lord Byron say, that works of fiction lived only by the amount of truth which they contained, your story is sure of long life . . . .
I know now, more than before, how to value communion with you.
With kind regards to your family,
Yours affectionately, A. T. NOEL BYRON.
From this pleasant abiding-place Mrs. Stowe writes to her husband: --
DUNROBIN CASTLE, September 15.
MY DEAR HUSBAND, -- Everything here is like a fairy story. The place is beautiful. It is the most perfect combination of architectural and poetic romance with home comfort. The people, too, are charming. We have here Mr. Labouchere, a cabinet minister, and Lady Mary his wife, -- I like him very much, and her, too, -- Kingsley's brother, a very entertaining man, and to-morrow Lord Ellsmere is expected. I wish you could be here, for I am sure you would like it. Life is so quiet and sincere and friendly, that you would feel more as if you had come at the hearts of these people than in London.
The Sutherland estate looks like a garden. We stopped at the town of Frain, four miles before we reached Sutherlandshire, where a crowd of well-to-do, nice-looking people gathered around the carriage, and as we drove off gave three cheers. This was better than I expected, and looks well for their opinion of my views.
"Dred" is selling over here wonderfully. Low says, with all the means at his command, he has not been able to meet the demand. He sold fifty thousand in two weeks, and probably will sell as many more.
I am showered with letters, private and printed, in which the only difficulty is to know what the writers would be at. I see evidently happiness and prosperity all through the line of this estate. I see the duke giving his thought and time, and spending the whole income of this estate in improvements upon it. I see the duke and duchess evidently beloved wherever they move. I see them most amiable, most Christian, most considerate to everybody. The writers of the letters admit the goodness of the duke, but denounce the system, and beg me to observe its effects for myself. I do observe that, compared with any other part of the Highlands, Sutherland is a garden. I observe well-clothed people, thriving lands, healthy children, fine school-houses, and all that.
Henry was invited to the tenants' dinner, where he excited much amusement by pledging every toast in fair water, as he has done invariably on all occasions since he has been here.
The duchess, last night, showed me her copy of "Dred," in which she has marked what most struck or pleased her. I begged it, and am going to send it to you. She said to me this morning at breakfast, "The queen says that she began 'Dred' the very minute she got it, and is deeply interested in it."
She bought a copy of Lowell's poems, and begged me to mark the best ones for her; so if you see him, tell him that we have been reading him together. She is, taking her all in all, one of the noblest-appointed women I ever saw; real old genuine English, such as one reads of in history; full of nobility, courage, tenderness, and zeal. It does me good to hear her read prayers daily, as she does, in the midst of her servants and guests, with a manner full of grand and noble feeling.
Mrs. Stowe wrote to her friend, Mrs. Howard, at twelve o'clock at night: --
"DEAR SUSY, -- . . . The people here are such as Henry" [Mr. Beecher] "would be delighted to know, and how glad they would be to see him. The duchess since I saw her has passed through a great sorrow in the loss of her son, and it seems to have only widened her heart and filled it with a deeper feeling for all suffering humanity. The news from America is eagerly watched by them, and the Duchess said: 'I only wish Fremont could be elected while you are here. I would have the castle illuminated.' You have no idea of the feelings of good people here about America. They say it is a ship freighted with the world's future; and they watch its struggle in the breakers with the deepest emotion. The old duke has been perfectly delighted with the hymns quoted in 'Dred,' and asked me where he could find such hymns. I have promised him a Plymouth hymn-book as soon as I can get one from America. He is unfortunately quite deaf, and being thus precluded from society spends all his time doing good. His estate has been changed from a desert to a garden. He has been to-day showing me his improvements. . . . When one sees money and station employed in this way, in raising up and educating a country, it seems something worth having. Susy dear, my paper and brain give out; but not my heart, which loves you all just as ever."
She continues in her journal to her husband: "Thursday Morning, September 25. We were obliged to get up at half past five the morning we left Dunrobin, an effort when one doesn't go to bed till one o'clock. We found breakfast laid for us in the library, and before we had quite finished the duchess came in. Our starting off was quite an imposing sight. First came the duke's landau, in which were Mary, the duke, and myself; then a carriage in which were Eliza and Hatty, and finally the carriage which we had hired, with Henry, our baggage, and Mr. Jackson (the duke's secretary). The gardener sent a fresh bouquet for each of us, and there was such a leave-taking, as if we were old and dear friends. We did really love them, and had no doubt of their love for us.
"The duke rode with us as far as Dornach, where he showed us the cathedral beneath which his ancestors are buried, and where is a statue of his father, similar to one the tenants have erected on top of the highest hill in the neighborhood.
"We also saw the prison, which had but two inmates, and the old castle. Here the duke took leave of us, and taking our own carriage, we crossed the ferry and continued on our way. After a very bad night's rest at Inverness, in consequence of the town's being so full of people attending some Highland games that we could have no places at the hotel, and after a weary ride in the rain, we came into Aberdeen Friday night.
"To-morrow we go on to Edinburgh, where I hope to meet a letter from you. The last I heard from Low, he had sold sixty thousand of 'Dred,' and it was still selling well. I have not yet heard from America how it goes. The critics scold, and whiffle, and dispute about it, but on the whole it is a success, so the 'Times' says, with much coughing, hemming, and standing first on one foot and then on the other. If the 'Times' were sure we should beat in the next election, 'Dred' would go up in the scale; but as long as there is that uncertainty, it has first one line of praise, and then one of blame."
Henry Stowe returned to America in October, says the Rev. C. E. Stowe, to whom I am indebted for this sequence, to enter Dartmouth College, while the rest of the party pursued their way southward, as will be seen by the following letters: --
CITY OF YORK, October 10.
DEAR HUSBAND, -- Henry will tell you all about our journey, and at present I have but little time for details.
I received your first letter with great joy, relief, and gratitude, first to God for restoring your health and strength, and then to you, for so good, long, and refreshing a letter.
Henry, I hope, comes home with a serious determination to do well and be a comfort. Seldom has a young man seen what he has in this journey, or made more valuable friends.
Since we left Aberdeen, from which place my last was mailed, we have visited in Edinburgh with abounding delight; thence yesterday to Newcastle. Last night attended service in Durham Cathedral, and after that came to York, whence we send Henry to Liverpool.
I send you letters, etc., by him. One hundred thousand copies of "Dred" sold in four weeks! After that who cares what critics say? Its success in England has been complete, so far as sale is concerned. It is very bitterly attacked, both from a literary and a religious point of view. The "Record" is down upon it with a cartload of solemnity; the "Athenæum" with waspish spite; the "Edinburgh" goes out of its way to say that the author knows nothing of the society she describes; but yet it goes everywhere, is read everywhere, and Mr. Low says that he puts the hundred and twenty-fifth thousand to press confidently. The fact that so many good judges like it better than "Uncle Tom" is success enough.
In my journal to Henry, which you may look for next week, you will learn how I have been very near the Queen, and formed acquaintance with divers of her lords and ladies, and heard all she has said about "Dred;" how she prefers it to "Uncle Tom," how she inquired for you, and other matters.
Till then, I am, as ever, your affectionate wife,
H. B. STOWE.
Upon Mrs. Stowe's return to London she found a letter from Lady Byron, who wrote: --
OXFORD HOUSE, October 15.
DEAR MRS.STOWE, -- The newspapers represent you as returning to London, but I cannot wait for the chance, slender I fear, of seeing you there, for I wish to consult you on a point admitting but of little delay. Feeling that the sufferers in Kansas have a claim not only to sympathy, but to the expression of it, I wish to send them a donation. It is, however, necessary to know what is the best application of money and what the safest channel. Presuming that you will approve the object, I ask you to tell me. Perhaps you would undertake the transmission of my £50. My present residence, two miles beyond Richmond, is opposite. I have watched for instructions of your course with warm interest. The sale of your book will go on increasing. It is beginning to be understood.
Believe me, with kind regards to your daughters,
Your faithful and affectionate
A. T. NOEL BYRON.
To this note the following answer was promptly returned: --
GROVE TERRACE, KENTISH TOWN, October 16.
DEAR LADY BYRON, -- How glad I was to see your handwriting once more! how more than glad I should be to see you! I do long to see you. I have so much to say, -- so much to ask, and need to be refreshed with a sense of a congenial and sympathetic soul.
Thank you, my dear friend, for your sympathy with our poor sufferers in Kansas. May God bless you for it! By doing this you will step to my side; perhaps you may share something of that abuse which they who "know not what they do " heap upon all who so feel for the right. I assure you, dear friend, I am not insensible to the fiery darts which thus fly around me.
One of the very pleasant experiences during this second journey to England was a visit to Lady Mary and Mr. Labouchere at Stoke Park. At the last moment the family luggage was detained, and all the party were prevented from going except Mrs. Stowe herself, who by chance had left certain dresses in London.
"I arrived alone," she wrote, "at the Slough Station, and found Lady Mary's carriage waiting. Away we drove through a beautiful park full of deer, who were so tame as to stand and look at us as we passed. The house is in the Italian style, with a dome on top, and wide terraces with stone balustrades around it.
"Lady Mary met me at the door, and seemed quite concerned to learn of our ill-fortune. We went through a splendid suite of rooms to a drawing-room, where a little tea-table was standing.
"After tea Lady Mary showed me my room. It had that delightful, homelike air of repose and comfort they succeed so well in giving to rooms here. There was a cheerful fire burning, an arm-chair drawn up beside it, a sofa on the other side with a neatly arranged sofa-table on which were writing materials. One of the little girls had put a pot of pretty greenhouse moss in a silver basket on this table, and my toilet cushion was made with a place in the centre to hold a little vase of flowers. Here Lady Mary left me to rest before dressing for dinner. I sat down in an easy-chair before the fire, and formed hospitable resolutions as to how I would try to make rooms always look homelike and pleasant to tired guests. Then came the maid to know if I wanted hot water, -- if I wanted anything, -- and by and by it was time for dinner. Going down into the parlor I met Mr. Labouchere, and we all went in to dinner. It was not quite as large a party as at Dunrobin, but much in the same way. No company, but several ladies who were all family connections.
"The following morning Lord Dufferin and Lord Alfred Paget, two gentlemen of the Queen's household, rode over from Windsor to lunch with us. They brought news of the goings-on there. Do you remember one night the Duchess of S. read us a letter from Lady Dufferin, describing the exploits of her son, who went yachting with Prince Napoleon up by Spitzbergen, and when Prince Napoleon and all the rest gave up and went back, still persevered and discovered a new island? Well, this was the same man. A thin, slender person, not at all the man you would fancy as a Mr. Great Heart, -- lively, cheery, and conversational.
"Lord Alfred is also very pleasant.
"Lady Mary prevailed on Lord Dufferin to stay and drive with us after lunch, and we went over to Clifden, the duchess's villa, of which we saw the photograph at Dunrobin. For grace and beauty some of the rooms in this place exceed any I have yet seen in England.
"When we came back my first thought was whether Aunt Mary and the girls had come. Just as we were all going up to dress for dinner they appeared. Meanwhile, the Queen had sent over from Windsor for Lady Mary and her husband to dine with her that evening, and such invitations are understood as commands.
"So, although they themselves had invited four or five people to dinner, they had to go and leave us to entertain ourselves. Lady Mary was dressed very prettily in a flounced white silk dress with a pattern of roses woven round the bottom of each flounce, and looked very elegant. Mr. Labouchere wore breeches, with knee and shoe buckles sparkling with diamonds.
"They got home soon after we had left the drawing-room, as the Queen always retires at eleven. No late hours for her.
"The next day Lady Mary told me that the Queen had talked to her all about 'Dred,' and how she preferred it to 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' how interested she was in Nina, how provoked when she died, and how she was angry that something dreadful did not happen to Tom Gordon. She inquired for papa, and the rest of the family, all of whom she seemed to be well informed about.
"The next morning we had Lord Dufferin again to breakfast. He is one of the most entertaining young men I have seen in England, full of real thought and noble feeling, and has a wide range of reading. He had read all our American literature, and was very flattering in his remarks on Hawthorne, Poe, and Longfellow. I find J. R. Lowell less known, however, than he deserves to be.
"Lord Dufferin says that his mother wrote him some verses on his coming of age, and that he built a tower for them and inscribed them on a brass plate. I recommend the example to you, Henry; make yourself the tower and your memory the brass plate.
"This morning came also, to call, Lady Augusta Bruce, Lord Elgin's daughter, one of the Duchess of Kent's ladies-in-waiting; a very excellent, sensible girl, who is a strong anti-slavery body.
"After lunch we drove over to Eton, and went in to see the provost's house. After this, as we were passing by Windsor the coachman suddenly stopped and said, 'The Queen is coming, my lady.' We stood still and the royal cortége passed. I only saw the Queen, who bowed graciously.
"Lady Mary stayed at our car door till it left the station, and handed in a beautiful bouquet as we parted. This is one of the loveliest visits I have made."
After filling a number of other pleasant engagements in England, among which was a visit to Charles Kingsley and his family, Mrs. Stowe and her party crossed the Channel. She settled down for some months in Paris for the express purpose of studying French. From the French capital she writes to her husband in Andover as follows: --
PARIS November 7.
MY DEAR HUSBAND, -- On the 28th, when your last was written, I was at Charles Kingsley's. It seemed odd enough to Mary and me to find ourselves, long after dark, alone in a hack, driving towards the house of a man whom we never had seen (nor his wife either).
My heart fluttered as, after rumbling a long way through the dark, we turned into a yard. We knocked at a door and were met in the hall by a man who stammers a little in his speech, and whose inquiry, "Is this Mrs. Stowe?" was our first positive introduction. Ushered into a large, pleasant parlor lighted by a coal fire, which flickered on comfortable chairs, lounges, pictures, statuettes, and bookcases, we took a good view of him. He is tall, slender, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a hale, well-browned face, and somewhat loose-jointed withal. His wife is a real Spanish beauty.
How we did talk and go on for three days! I guess he is tired. I'm sure we were. He is a nervous, excitable being, and talks with head, shoulders, arms, and hands, while his hesitance makes it the harder. Of his theology I will say more some other time. He, also, has been through the great distress, the "Conflict of Ages," but has come out at a different end from Edward, and stands with John Foster, though with more positiveness than he.
He laughed a good deal at many stories I told him of father, and seemed delighted to hear about him. But he is, what I did not expect, a zealous Churchman; insists that the Church of England is the finest and broadest platform a man can stand on, and that the thirty-nine articles are the only ones he could subscribe to. I told him you thought them the best summary (of doctrine) you knew, which pleased him greatly.
In writing from Paris, Mrs. Stowe tells her husband: -- "As usual, my horrid pictures do me a service, and people seem relieved when they see me; think me even handsome 'in a manner.' Kingsley, in his relief, expressed as much to his wife, and as beauty has never been one of my strong points I am open to flattery upon it.
"We had a most agreeable call from Arthur Helps before we left London. He, Kingsley, and all the good people are full of the deepest anxiety for our American affairs. They really do feel very deeply, seeing the peril so much plainer than we do in America.
"November 30. This is Sunday evening, and a Sunday in Paris always puts me in mind of your story about somebody who said, 'Bless you! they make such a noise that the Devil couldn't meditate.' All the extra work and odd jobs of life are put into Sunday. Your washerwoman comes Sunday, with her innocent, good-humored face, and would be infinitely at a loss to know why she shouldn't. Your bonnet, cloak, shoes, and everything are sent home Sunday morning, and all the way to church there is such whirligiging and pirouetting along the boulevards as almost takes one's breath away. To-day we went to the Oratoire to hear M. Grand Pierre. I could not understand much; my French ear is not quick enough to follow. I could only perceive that the subject was 'La Charité,' and that the speaker was fluent, graceful, and earnest, the audience serious and attentive.
"Last night we were at Baron de Triqueti's again, with a party invited to celebrate the birthday of their eldest daughter, Blanche, a lovely girl of nineteen. There were some good ladies there who had come eighty leagues to meet me, and who were so delighted with my miserable French that it was quite encouraging. I believe I am getting over the sandbar at last, and conversation is beginning to come easy to me.
"There were three French gentlemen who had just been reading 'Dred' in English, and who were as excited and full of it as could be, and I talked with them to a degree that astonished myself. There is a review of 'Dred' in the 'Revue des Deux Mondes' which has long extracts from the book, and is written in a very appreciative and favorable spirit. Generally speaking, French critics seem to have a finer appreciation of my subtle shades of meaning than English. I am curious to hear what Professor Park has to say about it. There has been another review in 'La Presse' equally favorable. All seem to see the truth about American slavery much plainer than people can who are in it. If American ministers and Christians could see through their sophistical spider-webs, with what wonder, pity, and contempt they would regard their own vacillating condition!
"We visit once a week at Madame Mohl's, where we meet all sorts of agreeable people. Lady Elgin doesn't go into society now, having been struck with paralysis, but sits at home and receives her friends as usual. This notion of sitting always in the open air is one of her peculiarities.
"I must say, life in Paris is arranged more sensibly than with us. Visiting involves no trouble in the feeding line. People don't go to eat. A cup of tea and plate of biscuit is all, -- just enough to break up the stiffness.
"It is wonderful that the people here do not seem to have got over 'Uncle Tom' a bit. The impression seems fresh as if just published. How often have they said, That book has revived the Gospel among the poor of France; it has done more than all the books we have published put together. It has gone among les ouvriers, among the poor of Faubourg St. Antoine, and nobody knows how many have been led to Christ by it. Is not this blessed, my dear husband? Is it not worth all the suffering of writing it?
"January 25, Paris. Here is a story for Charley. The boys in the Faubourg St. Antoine are the children of ouvriers, and every day their mothers give them two sous to buy a luncheon. When they heard I was coming to the school, of their own accord they subscribed half their luncheon money to give to me for the poor slaves. This five-franc piece I have now; I have bought it of the cause for five dollars, and am going to make a hole in it and hang it round Charley's neck as a medal.
"I have just completed arrangements for leaving the girls at a Protestant boarding-school, while I go to Rome.
"We expect to start the 1st of February."
The party did not reach Rome without accident. The steamer ran ashore and broke a paddle wheel, and the miserable carriage which came to convey them from Civita Vecchia broke down also, but after every possible misadventure of travel, which she and her sister, Mrs. Perkins, bore with cheerfulness, they found a spot to rest their weary heads in the Eternal City.
It seemed at first as if they must pass the night in the streets, every hotel being too crowded to receive them. The next day they learned that a friend had been watching the "diligence" office for over a week and that delightful apartments were waiting for them into which they moved the following day with all possible expedition.
"One sees everybody here at Rome," she wrote presently, -- "John Bright, Mrs. Hemans' son, Mrs. Gaskell, etc., etc. Over five thousand English travelers are said to be here. Jacob Abbot and wife are coming. Rome is a world! Rome is an astonishment! Papal Rome is an enchantress!"
From Naples she wrote to Professor Stowe: --
"The whole place recalled to my mind so vividly Milton's description of the infernal regions, that I could not but believe that he had drawn the imagery from this source. Milton, as we all know, was some time in Italy, and, although I do not recollect any account of his visiting Vesuvius, I cannot think how he should have shaped his language so coincidently to the phenomena if he had not.
"On the way down the mountain our ladies astonished the natives by making an express stipulation that our donkeys were not to be beaten, -- why, they could not conjecture. The idea of any feeling of compassion for an animal is so foreign to a Neapolitan's thoughts that they supposed it must be some want of courage on our part. When, once in a while, the old habit so prevailed that the boy felt that he must strike the donkey, and when I forbade him, he would say, 'Courage, signora, courage.'
Of Venice she says: --
"The great trouble of traveling in Europe, or indeed of traveling anywhere, is that you can never catch romance. No sooner are you in any place than being there seems the most natural, matter-of-fact occurrence in the world. Nothing looks foreign or strange to you. You take your tea and your dinner, eat, drink, and sleep as aforetime, and scarcely realize where you are or what you are seeing. But Venice is an exception to this state of things; it is all romance from beginning to end, and never ceases to seem strange and picturesque."
Mrs. Stowe returned to Rome for Holy Week. The ceremonies filled her heart with awe.
"Whatever dispute there may be about the other commemorative feasts of Christendom, the time of this epoch is fixed unerringly by the Jews' Passover. That great and solemn feast, therefore, stands as an historical monument to mark the date of the most important and thrilling events which this world ever witnessed."
As the spring approached Mrs. Stowe turned her face homeward. In Paris, she made up her mind to leave her daughters a few months longer at the excellent school where they had made good progress. She writes to her husband: --
"I have some business affairs to settle in England, and shall sail from Liverpool in the Europa on the sixth of June. I am so homesick to-day, and long with a great longing to be with you once more. I am impatient to go, and yet dread the voyage. Still, to reach you I must commit myself once more to the ocean, of which at times I have a nervous horror, as to the arms of my Father. 'The sea is his, and He made it.' It is a rude, noisy old servant, but it is always obedient to his will, and cannot carry me beyond his power and love, wherever or to whatever it bears me."
Upon her arrival in London she received a characteristic letter from Harriet Martineau, who says: --
AMBLESIDE, June 1.
DEAR MRS. STOWE, -- I have been at my wits' end to learn how to reach you, as your note bore no direction but "London." Arnolds, Croppers, and others could give no light, and the newspapers tell only where you had been. So I commit this to your publishers, trusting that it will find you somewhere, and in time, perhaps, bring you here. Can't you come? You are aware that we shall never meet if you don't come soon. I see no strangers at all, but I hope to have breath and strength enough for a little talk with you, if you could come. You could have perfect freedom at the times when I am laid up, and we could seize my "capability seasons" for our talk.
The weather and scenery are usually splendid just now.
Did I see you (in white frock and black silk apron) when I was in Ohio in 1835? Your sister I knew well, and I have a clear recollection of your father. I believe and hope you were the young lady in the black silk apron.
Do you know I rather dreaded reading your book! Sick people are weak: and one of my chief weaknesses is dislike of novels (except some old ones which I almost know by heart). I knew that with you I should be safe from the cobweb-spinning of our modern subjective novelists and the jaunty vulgarity of our "funny philosophers" -- the Dickens sort, who have tired us out. But I dreaded the alternative, -- the too strong interest. But oh! the delight I have had in "Dred"! The genius carries all before it, and drowns everything in glorious pleasure. So marked a work of genius claims exemption from every sort of comparison; but, as you ask for my opinion of the book, you may like to know that I think it far superior to "Uncle Tom." I have no doubt that a multitude of people will say it is a falling off, because they made up their minds that any new book of yours must be inferior to that, and because it is so rare a thing for a prodigious fame to be sustained by a second book; but in my own mind I am entirely convinced that the second book is by far the best. Such faults as you have are in the artistic department, and there is less defect in "Dred" than in "Uncle Tom," and the whole material and treatment seem to me richer and more substantial. I have had critiques of "Dred" from the two very wisest people I know, -- perfectly unlike each other (the critics, I mean), and they delight me by thinking exactly like each other and like me. They distinctly prefer it to "Uncle Tom." To say the plain truth, it seems to me so splendid a work of genius that nothing that I can say can give you an idea of the intensity of admiration with which I read it. It seemed to me, as I told my nieces, that our English fiction writers had better shut up altogether and have done with it, for one will have no patience with any but didactic writing after yours. My nieces (and you may have heard that Maria, my nurse, is very, very clever) are thoroughly possessed with the book, and Maria says she feels as if a fresh department of human life had been opened to her since this day week. I feel the freshness no less, while, from my travels, I can be even more assured of the truthfulness of your wonderful representation. I see no limit to the good it may do by suddenly splitting open Southern life, for everybody to look into. It is precisely the thing that is most wanted, -- just as "Uncle Tom” was wanted, three years since, to show what negro slavery in your republic was like. It is plantation-life, particularly in the present case, that I mean. As for your exposure of the weakness and helplessness of the churches, I deeply honor you for the courage with which you have made the exposure; but I don't suppose that any amendment is to be looked for in that direction. You have unburdened your own soul in that matter, and if they had been corrigible, you would have helped a good many more. But I don't expect that result. The Southern railing at you will be something unequaled, I suppose. I hear that three of us have the honor of being abused from day to day already, as most portentous and shocking women you, Mrs. Chapman, and myself (as the traveler of twenty years ago). Not only newspapers, but pamphlets of such denunciation are circulated, I'm told. I'm afraid now I, and even Mrs. Chapman, must lose our fame, and all the railing will be engrossed by you. My little function is to keep English people tolerably right, by means of a London daily paper, while the danger of misinformation and misreading from the "Times" continues. I can't conceive how such a paper as the "Times" can fail to be better informed than it is. At times it seems as if its New York correspondent was making game of it. The able and excellent editor of the "Daily News" gives me complete liberty on American subjects, and Mrs. Chapman's and other friends' constant supply of information enables me to use this liberty for making the cause better understood. I hope I shall hear that you are coming. It is like a great impertinence -- my having written so freely about your book; but you asked my opinion, -- that is all I can say. Thank you much for sending the book to me. If you come you will write our names in it, and this will make it a valuable legacy to a nephew or niece.
Believe me gratefully and affectionately yours,
At Liverpool, on the eve of her departure for home, Mrs. Stowe dispatched a note to her daughters in Paris, telling them of her latest experiences.
"I spent the day before leaving London with Lady Byron. She is lovelier than ever, and inquired kindly about you both. I left London to go to Manchester, and reaching there found the Rev. Mr. Gaskell waiting to welcome me in the station. Mrs. Gaskell seems lovely at home, where besides being a writer she proves herself to be a first-class housekeeper, and performs all the duties of a minister's wife. After spending a delightful day with her I came here to the beautiful 'Dingle,' which is more enchanting than ever. I am staying with Mrs. Edward Cropper, Lord Denman's daughter.
"I want you to tell Aunt Mary that Mr. Ruskin lives with his father at a place called Denmark Hill, Camberwell. He has told me that the gallery of Turner pictures there is open to me or my friends at any time of the day or night. Both young and old Mr. Ruskin are fine fellows, sociable and hearty, and will cordially welcome any of my friends who desire to look at their pictures.
"I write in haste, as I must be aboard the ship to-morrow at eight o'clock. So good-by, my dear girls, from your ever affectionate mother."
Her last letter written before sailing was to Lady Byron, and serves to show how warm an intimacy had sprung up between them. It was as follows:--
DEAR FRIEND, -- I left you with a strange sort of yearning, throbbing feeling; you make me feel quite as I did years ago, a sort of girlishness quite odd for me. I have felt a strange longing to send you something. Don't smile when you see what it turns out to be. I have a weakness for your pretty Parian things; it is one of my own home peculiarities to have strong passions for pretty tea-cups and other little matters for my own quiet meals, when, as often happens, I am too unwell to join the family. So I send you a cup made of primroses, a funny little pitcher, quite large enough for cream, and a little vase for violets and primroses, -- which will be lovely together; and when you use it think of me and that I love you more than I can say.
I often think how strange it is that I should know you -- you who were a sort of legend of my early days; that I should love you is only a natural result. You seem to me to stand on the confines of that land where the poor formalities which separate hearts here pass like mist before the sun, and therefore it is that I feel the language of love must not startle you as strange or unfamiliar. You are so nearly there in spirit that I fear with every adieu that it may be the last; yet did you pass within the veil I should not feel you lost.
I have got past the time when I feel that my heavenly friends are lost by going there. I feel them nearer, rather than farther off.
So good-by, dear, dear friend, and if you see morning in our Father's house before I do, carry my love to those that wait for me, and if I pass first, you will find me there, and we shall love each other forever.
H. B. STOWE.
1Of this portrait Gustave Flaubert says in a letter to George Sand "Celui que j'aime le mieux, c'est le dessin de Couture . . . moi, qui suis un vieux romantique, je retrouve là `la tête de I'auteur' qui m'a fait tant rêver dans ma jeunesse." [ Back ]
2A reproduction from the bust forms the frontispiece of this book [not currently available]. [ Back ]
BEREAVEMENT: THIRD AND LAST VISIT TO EUROPE
MRS. STOWE left England full of renewed health, of joy in her larger love and larger faith, of comfort in knowing that those nearest to her were able to enjoy life by the rich reward, as she considered it, obtained through her books, and above all, that she was evidently a means by which freedom to the slaves would finally be secured.
But in the Divine sight there was chastening still in store for her. On the ninth of July, her eldest boy, Henry, was drowned while bathing in the Connecticut River at Hanover, where he was pursuing his studies as Freshman in Dartmouth College. In order to understand Mrs. Stowe's character more fully, we must hear of this sorrow from her own lips. She wrote to the Duchess of Sutherland, August 3d: --
DEAR FRIEND, -- Before this reaches you you will have perhaps learned from other sources of the sad blow which has fallen upon us, -- our darling, our good, beautiful boy, snatched away in the moment of health and happiness. Alas! could I know that when I parted from my Henry on English shores that I should never see him more? I returned to my home, and, amid the jubilee of meeting the rest, was fain to be satisfied with only a letter from him, saying that his college examinations were coming on, and he must defer seeing me a week or two till they were over. I thought then of taking his younger brother and going up to visit him; but the health of the latter seeming unfavorably affected by the seacoast air, I turned back with him to a water-cure establishment. Before I had been two weeks absent, a fatal telegram hurried me home, and when I arrived there, it was to find the house filled with his weeping classmates, who had just come, bringing his remains. There he lay so calm, so placid, so peaceful, that I could not believe that he would not smile upon me, and that my voice, which always had such power over him, could not recall him. There had always been such a peculiar union, such a tenderness between us. I had had such power always to call up answering feelings to my own, that it seemed impossible that he could be silent and unmoved at my grief. But yet, dear friend, I am sensible that in this last sad scene I had an alleviation that was not granted to you. I recollect, in the mournful letter you wrote me about that time, you said that you mourned that you had never told your own dear one how much you loved him. That sentence touched me at the time. I laid it to heart, and from that time lost no occasion of expressing to my children those feelings that we too often defer to express to our dearest friends till it is forever too late.
He did fully know how I loved him, and some of the last loving words he spoke were of me. The very day that he was taken from us, and when he was just rising from the table of his boarding-house to go whence he never returned, some one noticed the seal ring which you may remember to have seen on his finger, and said, "How beautiful that ring is!" "Yes," he said, "and best of all, it was my mother's gift to me." That ring, taken from the lifeless hand a few hours later, was sent to me. Singularly enough, it is broken right across the name from a fall a little time previous….
It is a great comfort to me, dear friend, that I took Henry with me to Dunrobin. I hesitated about keeping him so long from his studies, but still I thought a mind so observing and appreciative might learn from such a tour more than through books, and so it was. He returned from England full of high resolves and manly purposes. "I may not be what the world calls a Christian," he wrote, "but I will live such a life as a Christian ought to live, such a life as every true man ought to live." Henceforth he became remarkable for a strict order and energy, and a vigilant temperance and care of his bodily health, docility and deference to his parents and teachers, and perseverance in every duty . . . . Well, from the hard battle of this life he is excused, and the will is taken for the deed, and whatever comes his heart will not be pierced as mine is. But I am glad that I can connect him with all my choicest remembrances of the Old World.
Dunrobin will always be dearer to me now, and I have felt towards you and the duke a turning of spirit, because I remember how kindly you always looked on and spoke to him. I knew then it was the angel of your lost one that stirred your hearts with tenderness when you looked on another so near his age. The plaid that the duke gave him, and which he valued as one of the chief of his boyish treasures, will hang in his room, -- for still we have a room that we call his.
You will understand, you will feel, this sorrow with us as few can. My poor husband is much prostrated. I need not say more: you know what this must be to a father's heart. But still I repeat what I said when I saw you last. Our dead are ministering angels; they teach us to love, they fill us with tenderness for all that can suffer. These weary hours when sorrow makes us for the time blind and deaf and dumb, have their promise. These hours come in answer to our prayers for nearness to God. It is always our treasure that the lightning strikes . . . . I have poured out my heart to you because you can understand. While I was visiting in Hanover, where Henry died, a poor, deaf old slave woman, who has still five children in bondage, came to comfort me. "Bear up, dear soul," she said; "you must bear it, for the Lord loves ye." She said further, "Sunday is a heavy day to me, 'cause I can't work, and can't hear preaching, and can't read, so I can't keep my mind off my poor children. Some on 'em the blessed Master 's got, and they's safe; but, oh, there are five that I don't know where they are."
What are our mother-sorrows to this! I shall try to search out and redeem these children, though, from the ill success of efforts already made, I fear it will be hopeless. Every sorrow I have, every lesson on the sacredness of family love, makes me the more determined to resist to the last this dreadful evil that makes so many mothers so much deeper mourners than I ever can be.
H. B. STOWE.
About this same time she writes to her daughters in Paris: "Can anybody tell what sorrows are locked up with our best affections, or what pain may be associated with every pleasure? As I walk the house, the pictures he used to love, the presents I brought him, and the photographs I meant to show him, all pierce my heart. I have had a dreadful faintness of sorrow come over me at times. I have felt so crushed, so bleeding, so helpless, that I could only call on my Saviour with groanings that could not be uttered. Your papa justly said, 'Every child that dies is for the time being an only one; yes -- his individuality no time, no change, can ever replace.'
"Two days after the funeral your father and I went to Hanover. We saw Henry's friends, and his room, which was just as it was the day he left it.
"'There is not another such room in the college as his,' said one of his classmates with tears. I could not help loving the dear boys as they would come and look sadly in, and tell us one thing and another that they remembered of him. 'He was always talking of his home and his sisters,' said one. The very day he died he was so happy because I had returned, and he was expecting soon to go home and meet me. He died with that dear thought in his heart.
"There was a beautiful lane leading down through a charming glen to the river. It had been for years the bathing-place of the students, and into the pure, clear water he plunged, little dreaming that he was never to come out alive.
"In the evening we went down to see the boating club, of which he was a member. He was so happy in this boating club. They had a beautiful boat called the Una, and a uniform, and he enjoyed it so much.
"This evening all the different crews were out; but Henry's had their flag furled, and tied with black crape. I felt such love to the dear boys, all of them, because they loved Henry, that it did not pain me as it otherwise would. They were glad to see us there, and I was glad that we could be there. Yet right above where their boats were gliding in the evening light lay the bend in the river, clear, still, beautiful, fringed with overhanging pines, from whence our boy went upward to heaven. To heaven -- if earnest, manly purpose, if sincere, deliberate strife with besetting sin is accepted of God, as I firmly believe it is. Our dear boy was but a beginner in the right way. Had he lived, we had hoped to see all wrong gradually fall from his soul as the worn-out calyx drops from the perfected flower. But Christ has taken him into his own teaching.
"'And one view of Jesus as He is
Will strike all sin forever dead.'
"Since I wrote to you last we have had anniversary meetings, and with all the usual bustle and care, our house full of company. Tuesday we received a beautiful portrait of our dear Henry, life-size, and as perfect almost as life. It has just that half-roguish, half-loving expression with which he would look at me sometimes, when I would come and brush back his hair and look into his eyes. Every time I go in or out of the room, it seems to give so bright a smile that I almost think that a spirit dwells within it.
"When I am so heavy, so weary, and go about as if I were wearing an arrow that had pierced my heart, I sometimes look up, and this smile seems to say, 'Mother, patience, I am happy. In our Father's house are many mansions.' Sometimes I think I am like a gardener who has planted the seed of some rare exotic. He watches as the two little points of green leaf first spring above the soil. He shifts it from soil to soil, from pot to pot. He watches it, waters it, saves it through thousands of mischiefs and accidents. He counts every leaf, and marks the strengthening of the stem, till at last the blossom bud was fully formed. What curiosity, what eagerness, what expectation, -- what longing now to see the mystery unfold in the new flower.
"Just as the calyx begins to divide, and a faint streak of color becomes visible, -- lo! in one night the owner of the greenhouse sends and takes it away. He does not consult me, he gives me no warning; he silently takes it, and I look, but it is no more. What, then? Do I suppose he has destroyed the flower? Far from it; I know that he has taken it to his own garden. What Henry might have been I could guess better than any one. What Henry is, is known to Jesus only."
Shortly after this time, Mrs. Stowe wrote to her sister Catherine: --
"If ever I was conscious of an attack of the Devil trying to separate me from the love of Christ, it was for some days after the terrible news came. I was in a state of great physical weakness, most agonizing, and unable to control my thoughts. Distressing doubts as to Henry's spiritual state were rudely thrust upon my soul. It was as if a voice had said to me: 'You trusted in God, did you? You believed that He loved you! You had perfect confidence that He would never take your child till the work of grace was mature! Now He has hurried him into eternity without a moment's warning, without preparation, and where is he?'
"I saw at last that these thoughts were irrational, and contradicted the calm, settled belief of my better moments, and that they were dishonorable to God, and that it was my duty to resist them, and to assume and steadily maintain that Jesus in love had taken my dear one to his bosom. Since then the Enemy has left me in peace . . . .
"God who made me capable of such an absorbing, unselfish devotion for my children, so that I would sacrifice my eternal salvation for them, -- He certainly did not make me capable of more love, more disinterestedness than He has himself. He invented mothers' hearts, and He certainly has the pattern in his own, and my poor, weak rush-light of love is enough to show me that some things can and some things cannot be done. Mr. Stowe said in his sermon last Sunday that the mysteries of God's ways with us must be swallowed up by the greater mystery of the love of Christ, even as Aaron's rod swallowed up the rods of the magicians."
ANDOVER, September 1.
MY DARLING CHILDREN, -- I must not allow a week to pass without sending a line to you . . . . Our home never looked lovelier. I never saw Andover look so beautiful; the trees so green, the foliage so rich. Papa and I are just starting to spend a week in Brunswick, for I am so miserable -- so weak -- the least exertion fatigues me, and much of my time I feel a heavy languor, indifferent to everything. I know nothing is so likely to bring me up as the air of the seaside . . . . I have set many flowers around Henry's grave, which are blossoming; pansies, white immortelle, white petunia, and verbenas. Papa walks there every day, often twice or three times. The lot has been rolled and planted with fine grass, which is already up and looks green and soft as velvet, and the little birds gather about it. To-night as I sat there the sky was so beautiful, all rosy, with the silver moon looking out of it. Papa said with a deep sigh, "I am submissive, but not reconciled."
BRUNSWICK, September 6.
MY DEAR GIRLS, -- Papa and I have been here for four or five days past. We both of us felt so unwell that we thought we would try the sea air and the dear old scenes of Brunswick. Everything here is just as we left it. We are staying with Mrs. Upham, whose house is as wide, cool, and hospitable as ever. The trees in the yard have grown finely, and Mrs. Upham has cultivated flowers so successfully that the house is all surrounded by them. Everything about the town is the same, even to Miss Gidding's old shop, which is as disorderly as ever, presenting the same medley of tracts, sewing-silk, darning-cotton, and unimaginable old bonnets, which existed there of yore. She has been heard to complain that she can't find things as easily as once. Day before yesterday papa, Charley, and I went down to Harpswell about seven o'clock in the morning. The old spruces and firs look lovely as ever, and I was delighted, as I always used to be, with every step of the way. Old Getchell's mill stands as forlorn as ever in its sandy wastes, and Mere Brook creeps on glassy and clear beyond. Arriving at Harpswell a glorious hot day, with scarce a breeze to ruffle the water, papa and Charley went to fish for cunners, who soon proved too cunning for them, for they ate every morsel of bait off the hooks, so that out of twenty bites they only secured two or three. What they did get were fried for our dinner, reinforced by a fine clam-chowder. The evening was one of the most glorious I ever saw, -- a calm sea and round, full moon; Mrs. Upham and I sat out on the rocks between the mainland and the island until ten o'clock. I never did see a more perfect and glorious scene, and to add to it there was a splendid northern light dancing like spirits in the sky. Had it not been for a terrible attack of mosquitoes in our sleeping-rooms, that kept us up and fighting all night, we should have called it a perfect success.
We went into the sea to bathe twice, once the day we came, and about eight o'clock in the morning before we went back. Besides this we have been to Middle Bay, where Charley, standing where you all stood before him, actually caught a flounder with his own hand, whereat he screamed loud enough to scare all the folks on Eagle Island. We have also been to Maquoit. We have visited the old pond, and, if I mistake not, the relics of your old raft yet float there; at all events, one or two fragments of a raft are there, caught among rushes.
I do not realize that one of the busiest and happiest of the train who once played there shall play there no more. "He shall return to his house no more, neither shall his place know him any more." I think I have felt the healing touch of Jesus of Nazareth on the deep wound in my heart, for I have golden hours of calm when I say: "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." So sure am I that the most generous love has ordered all, that I can now take pleasure to give this little proof of my unquestioning confidence in resigning one of my dearest comforts to Him. I feel very near the spirit land, and the words, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me," are very sweet.
Oh, if God would give to you, my dear children, a view of the infinite beauty of Eternal Love, -- if He would unite us in Himself, then even on earth all tears might be wiped away.
H. B. S.
She wrote to Lady Byron out of her open heart: --
ANDOVER, June 30.
MY DEAR FRIEND, -- I did long to hear from you at a time when few knew how to speak, because I knew that you did know everything that sorrow can teach: you whose whole life has been a crucifixion, a long ordeal. But I believe that the "Lamb," who stands forever in the midst of the throne "as it had been slain," has everywhere his followers, those who are sent into the world, as He was, to suffer for the redemption of others, and like Him they must look to the joy set before them of redeeming others.
I often think that God called you to this beautiful and terrible ministry when He suffered you to link your destiny with one so strangely gifted, so fearfully tempted, and that the reward which is to meet you, when you enter within the veil, where you must soon pass, will be to see the angel, once chained and defiled within him, set free from sin and glorified, and so know that to you it has been given, by your life of love and faith, to accomplish this glorious change.
And again from her chamber of sorrows she writes to her youngest daughter, Georgiana: --
MY DEAR GEORGIE, -- Why haven't I written? Because, dear Georgie, I am like the dry, dead, leafless tree, and have only cold, dead, slumbering buds of hope on the end of stiff, hard, frozen twigs of thought, but no leaves, no blossoms; nothing to send to a little girl who doesn't know what to do with herself any more than a kitten. I am cold, weary, dead; everything is a burden to me.
I let my plants die by inches before my eyes, and do not water them, and I dread everything I do, and wish it was not to be done, and so when I get a letter from my little girl I smile and say, "Dear little puss, I will answer it;" and I sit hour after hour with folded hands, looking at the inkstand and dreading to begin. The fact is, pussy, mamma is tired. Life to you is gay and joyous, but to mamma it has been a battle in which the spirit is willing but the flesh weak; and she would be glad, like the woman in the St. Bernard, to lie down with her arms around the wayside cross, and sleep away into a brighter scene. Henry's fair, sweet face looks down upon me now and then from out a cloud, and I feel again all the bitterness of the eternal "No" which says I must never, never, in this life, see that face, lean on that arm, hear that voice. Not that my faith in God in the least fails, and that I do not believe that all this is for good. I do, and though not happy, I am blessed. Weak, weary as I am, I rest on Jesus in the innermost depth of my soul, and am quite sure that there is coming an inconceivable hour of beauty and glory when I shall regain Jesus, and He will give me back my beloved one, whom He is educating in a far higher sphere than I proposed. So do not mistake me, -- only know that mamma is sitting weary by the wayside, feeling weak and worn, but in no sense discouraged.
Your affectionate mother,
H. B. S.
Mrs. Stowe's literary labors did not cease. In November she published in the "Atlantic Monthly" a brief allegory called "The Mourning Veil," and in the following year, in December, the first chapters of "The Minister's Wooing."
She was kept in good heart and spirit by the very strong commendation of this story, from the moment of its appearance. James Russell Lowell wrote of it: --
“It has always seemed to us that the anti-slavery element in the two former novels by Mrs. Stowe stood in the way of a full appreciation of her remarkable genius, at least in her own country. It was so easy to account for the unexampled popularity of 'Uncle Tom' by attributing it to a cheap sympathy with sentimental philanthropy! As people began to recover from the first enchantment, they began also to resent it and to complain that a dose of that insane Garrison-root which takes the reason prisoner had been palmed upon them without their knowing it, and that their ordinary water-gruel of fiction, thinned with sentiment and thickened with moral, had been hocused with the bewildering hasheesh of Abolition. We had the advantage of reading that truly extraordinary book for the first time in Paris, long after the whirl of excitement produced by its publication had subsided, in the seclusion of distance, and with a judgment unbiased by those political sympathies which it is impossible, perhaps unwise, to avoid at home. We felt then, and we believe now, that the secret of Mrs. Stowe's power lay in that same genius by which the great successes in creative literature have always been achieved, -- the genius that instinctively goes right to the organic elements of human nature, whether under a white skin or a black, and which disregards as trivial the conventional and factitious notions which make so large a part both of our thinking and feeling. Works of imagination written with an aim to immediate impression are commonly ephemeral, like Miss Martineau's 'Tales,' and Elliott's 'Corn-law Rhymes;' but the creative faculty of Mrs. Stowe, like that of Cervantes in 'Don Quixote' and of Fielding in 'Joseph Andrews,' overpowered the narrow specialty of her design, and expanded a local and temporary theme with the cosmopolitanism of genius."
In a private letter to Mrs. Stowe full of wit and wisdom on the same topic, Lowell says: --
Let your moral take care of itself, and remember that an author's writing-desk is something infinitely higher than a pulpit. What I call "care of itself" is shown in that noble passage in the February number about the ladder up to heaven. That is grand preaching and in the right way. I am sure that "The Minister's Wooing" is going to be the best of your products hitherto, and I am sure of it because you show so thorough a mastery of your material, so true a perception of realities, without which the ideality is impossible.
- - - - -
Woman charms a higher faculty in us than reason, God be praised, and nothing has delighted me more in your new story than the happy instinct with which you develop this incapacity of the lovers' logic in your female characters. Go on just as you have begun, and make it appear in as many ways as you like that, whatever creed may be true, it is not true and never will be that man can be saved by machinery. I can speak with some chance of being right, for I confess a strong sympathy with many parts of Calvinistic theology, and, . . . for one thing, believe in hell with all my might, and in the goodness of God for all that.
I have not said anything. What could I say? One might almost as well advise a mother about the child she still bears under her heart, and say, Give it these and those qualities, as an author about a work yet in the brain.
Only this I will say, that I am honestly delighted with "The Minister's Wooing;" that reading it has been one of my few editorial pleasures; that no one appreciates your genius more highly than I, or hopes more fervently that you will let yourself go without regard to this, that, or t'other. Don't read any criticisms on your story; believe that you know better than any of us, and be sure that everybody likes it. That I know. There is not, and never was, anybody so competent to write a true New England poem as yourself, and have no doubt that you are doing it. The native sod sends up the best inspiration to the brain, and you are as sure of immortality as we all are of dying, -- if you only go on with entire faith in yourself.
Faithfully and admiringly yours,
J. R. LOWELL.
Mrs. Stowe's genius was essentially dramatic. She was her own theatre; herself among the actors; the scenery woven of her own brain. In her early days and in the places where she lived the theatre was unknown, and music, save the homely singing of church and fireside, absolutely non-existent.
Not only "Uncle Tom" but the slighter sketches of her earlier years, and "Dred," have the power which only genius possesses of sweeping you out of your own world into the world of her imagination; a world too, so lighted by the flame of truth that you feel your heart burn within you, as the hearts of all true men burned when she first laid the spell of her strong spirit upon them to breathe a new life into her fellow-men.
We who knew Mrs. Stowe later saw her wrapped about as it were with a kind of sacred awe; but her work then bore the stamp of fatigue; the long agony of spirit for those who were in bondage, the sympathy with the sorrows of humanity everywhere about her, the inexpressible woe which she endured in the trials and losses of her children, made writing a task for her. She was more than ever wonderful then in her conversation and personal communion with others. She literally poured her spirit out. She became one with the joy and the grief of others; she drew near to the heart of every one with whom she really came in close contact. Every human being was to her a spirit walking the brief road to the eternal life, and the shows of things were the divine setting in which the Lord's jewels shone. She loved beautiful things and the luxuries of the world when she chanced to come across them, but they bound her no more than if they were the cobweb lines of the Lilliputians.
In the summer of 1859, Mrs. Stowe again went to Europe for the last time, accompanied by her husband and her youngest daughter. They traveled two months in England, visiting their friends and reviewing the scenes which had become dear to her. In the autumn her two companions returned to America, to rejoin the youngest son, the only member of the family who had been left behind. Mrs. Stowe went on her way to Italy, and wrote to Professor Stowe from Lausanne, whither she had gone to meet her two eldest daughters, who had been left at school in Paris : --
"Coming upstairs and opening the door, I found the whole party seated with their books and embroidery about a centre-table and looking as homelike and cosy as possible. You may imagine the greetings, the kissing, laughing, and good times generally."
From Lausanne the party voyaged comfortably towards Italy. They were joined on the way by her Brooklyn friends, Mr. and Mrs. Howard and their children, her son Frederick and a friend of his. Before Christmas they were established in Florence, whence Mrs. Stowe wrote to Andover on Christmas Day: "We shall have quite a New England party to-night, and shall sing Milton's Christmas hymn in great force. Hope you will all do the same in the old stone cabin.
"Our parlor is all trimmed with laurel and myrtle, looking like a great bower, and our mantel and table are redolent with bouquets of orange blossoms and pinks."
MY DEAR HUSBAND, -- Your letter received to-day has raised quite a weight from my mind, for it shows that at last you have received all mine, and that thus the chain of communication between us is unbroken. What you said about your spiritual experiences in feeling the presence of dear Henry with you, and, above all, the vibration of that mysterious guitar, was very pleasant to me. Since I have been in Florence, I have been distressed by inexpressible yearnings after him, -- such sighings and outreachings, with a sense of utter darkness and separation, not only from him but from all spiritual communion with my God. But I have become acquainted with a friend through whom I receive consoling impressions of these things, -- a Mrs. E., of Boston, a very pious, accomplished, and interesting woman, who has had a history much like yours in relation to spiritual manifestations.
Without doubt she is what the spiritualists would regard as a very powerful medium, but being a very earnest Christian, and afraid of getting led astray, she has kept carefully aloof from all circles and things of that nature. She came and opened her mind to me in the first place, to ask my advice as to what she had better do, relating experiences very similar to many of yours.
My advice was substantially to try the spirits whether they were of God, -- to keep close to the Bible and prayer, and then accept whatever came. But I have found that when I am with her I receive very strong impressions from the spiritual world, so that I feel often sustained and comforted, as if I had been near to my Henry and other departed friends. This has been at times so strong as greatly to soothe and support me. I told her your experiences, in which she was greatly interested. She said it was so rare to hear of Christian and reliable people with such peculiarities . . . .
One thing I am convinced of, -- that spiritualism is a reaction from the intense materialism of the present age. Luther, when he recognized a personal devil, was much nearer right. We ought to enter fully, at least, into the spiritualism of the Bible. Circles and spiritual jugglery I regard as the lying signs and wonders, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness; but there is a real scriptural spiritualism which has fallen into disuse, and must be revived, and there are, doubtless, people who, from some constitutional formation, can more readily receive the impressions of the surrounding spiritual world. Such were apostles, prophets, and workers of miracles.
It was at this period that the editor of the present book first met Mrs. Stowe. We had both been invited to a large reception, one evening, in an old palace on the Arno. There were music and dancing, and there were lively groups of ladies and gentlemen strolling from room to room, contrasting somewhat strangely in their gayety with the solemn pictures hanging on the walls, and a sense of shadowy presence which seems to haunt those dusky interiors. A certain discrepancy between the modern company and the surroundings, a weird mingling of the past and the present, made any apparition appear possible, and left room only for a faint thrill of surprise when a voice by my side said, "There is Mrs. Stowe." In a moment she approached and I was presented to her, and after a brief pause she passed on. All this was natural enough, but a wave of intense disappointment swept over me. Why had I found no words to express or even indicate the feeling that had choked me? Was the fault mine? Oh, yes, I said to myself, for I could not conceive it to be otherwise, and I looked upon my opportunity, the gift of the gods, as utterly and forever wasted. I was depressed and sorrowing over the vanishing of a presence I might perhaps never meet again, and no glamour of light or music or pictures or friendly voices could recall any pleasure to my heart. Meanwhile, the unconscious object of all this disturbance was strolling quietly along, leaning on the arm of a friend, hardly ever speaking, followed by a group of traveling companions, and entirely absorbed in the gay scene around her.
She was a small woman; and her pretty curling hair and far-away dreaming eyes, and her way of becoming occupied in what interested her until she forgot everything else for the time, all this I first began to see and understand as I gazed after her retreating figure.
In those days of our early acquaintance in Italy we had ample opportunity to discover the affectionate qualities of her character. If my first interview was a disappointment, her second greeting a few days later had the warmth of old acquaintance. From that moment we (my husband and I) were continually meeting her, in galleries and out of them, at Bellosguardo, which Hawthorne had just quitted, but where Isa Blagden and Frances Power Cobbe still lingered, or in Florence itself with Francesca Alexander and her family, the Trollopes, or elsewhere. Our evenings were commonly spent in each other's apartments.
Towards the end of February, the pleasant Florentine residence was given up for a long visit in Rome. There, one day, we went together to the rooms of the brothers Castellani, the world-famous workers in gold. The collection of antique gems and the beautiful reproductions of them were new to us. Mrs. Stowe was full of enthusiasm, and we lingered long over the wonderful things which the brothers brought forward to show. Among them was the head of an Egyptian slave carved in black onyx. It was an admirable work of art, and while we were enjoying it one of them said to Mrs. Stowe, "Madam, we know what you have been to the poor slave. We are ourselves but poor slaves still in Italy; you feel for us; will you keep this gem as a slight recognition of what you have done?" She took the jewel in silence; but when we looked for some response, her eyes were filled with tears, and it was impossible for her to speak.
Great human tenderness was one of her chief characteristics. Although she was a reformer by nature there was no sternness in her composition. Forgetfulness of others there was certainly sometimes, arising from her hopeless absent-mindedness and the preoccupation consequent upon her work; but her whole life was swayed and ruled by her affections.
Her love was a sheet anchor which held in the stormiest seas. Of her household devotion it is impossible to speak fitly; but there are few natures that can be said to have been more dependent upon human love. Her tender ways were inexpressibly touching.
In spite of Mrs. Stowe's love of society, she did not become a woman of society, properly so called. She was greatly sought after and appreciated, but the habit of her mind and, I am tempted to say, the sincerity of her heart forbade it. A worldly-minded woman of great taste, elegance, and appreciation, a friend of Mrs. Stowe, once said to me, "Why is it that for some reason Mrs. Stowe does not seem to go into the best society?" I could not help remembering how all society was at her command if she had chosen to give herself to it, nor how her absorption of mind and her devotion to a small circle made any large currency impossible. The lady's question was one not to be answered. Eyes cannot always be given to the blind; but we recall what Goethe says of this class of person in his wonderful correspondence with Schiller, -- wonderful because in those letters we see two men really speaking to each other without reserve: --
"It is amusing to see what it is has offended this kind of person; what they believe offends others; how hollow, empty, and common they esteem an existence different from their own, how they direct their shafts against the outworks of appearances, how little they even dream in what an inaccessible castle that man lives who is always in earnest in regard to himself and everything around him."
Such a nature as Mrs. Stowe's was quite unlikely to help her in playing the part of a famous woman of the world with any success, and she did not attempt it. She was always reaching out to the friends of her adoption and drawing them closer to her side.
When the hours of our European play-days drew near the end, she began to lay plans for returning home in the steamer with those who had grown dear to her, and in one of her notes of that period she wrote to me: --
"On the strength of having heard that you were going home in the Europa June 16th, we also have engaged passage therein for that time, and hope that we shall not be disappointed . . . . It must be true, we can't have it otherwise . . . . Our Southern Italy trip was a glory; it was a rose -- a nightingale -- all, in short, that one ever dreams, but alas! it is over."
She wrote to Professor Stowe: --
Since my last letter a great change has taken place in our plans, in consequence of which our passage for America is engaged by the Europa, which sails the 16th of June; so, if all goes well, we are due in Boston four weeks from this date. I long for home, for my husband and children, for my room, my yard and garden, for the beautiful trees of Andover. We will make a very happy home, and our children will help us.
Works of Annie Fields