A LITTLE BOOK OF FRIENDS
by Harriet Prescott Spofford
Boston: Little, Brown, 1916.
What are friends for, but to divine
Fairest and finest that we are,
And think in all our glances shine
The morning and the evening star!
I ANNIE FIELDS
II SARAH ORNE JEWETT
III ANNE WHITNEY
IV CELIA THAXTER
V L HAMILTON
VI MARY LOUISE BOOTH
VII JANE ANDREWS and LOUISA STONE HOPKINS
VIII ROSE TERRY COOKE
IX LOUISE CHANDLER MOULTON
WHEN I first saw Annie Fields, she had come with Mr. Fields to take me on a long drive, and she was a vision of youth and beauty, -- with the peach bloom on her lovely cheek, the gleam in her brown eyes, with a luxuriance of jacinth-colored hair whose innumerable dark waves broke full of glancing golden lights, -- of exceeding feminine grace withal, a tall, regnant young being, as she stood at the end of our drive, in her blue gown against the blue sea. When I last saw her, she had again come to take me to drive, no longer in the high estate of the young queen, but with a countenance as beautiful in its pallor, the eyes as brown and soft, the outlines as firm, the hair still carrying its glints of gold under its slight powdering, the teeth still pearly white and transparent, the smile as irradiating, the grace of movement as perfect, but all silvered with the frost of age.
Annie Fields was born in Boston, in one of those houses with deep gardens long since lost in the business centers. Her father was Doctor Adams, an eminent physician. She was married, when very young, to Mr. James T. Fields, a remarkable publisher and man of letters, a person of great wit and graciousness. After a little they went abroad, and at the time they came for me, they had just returned from a long European stay, where Mrs. Fields's advantages were those which few young girls have ever received. Her husband had taken her among the friends he had already made; she had visited at Tennyson's, in the Isle of Wight, had been intimate with the Brownings, in Florence, had walked in Landor's garden there by the old poet's side, had had the rapture and regret of Rome, with Charlotte Cushman and William Story -- where even the people of the street called her La Bella Donna -- had had the best of London, and much of the finest and the richest that Europe had to give.
Returning to Boston, her beautiful home on Charles Street, -- with its garden running down to the river, with its wide view over miles of water to the distant hills, with its vast and lovely library, lined with books and pictures and busts of unique attraction, -- became the haunt of our chief poets, wits, and writers, players and workers, -- Lowell and Longfellow and Holmes and Emerson and Agassiz and Felton and Whipple, to number no more, being its familiars. There also came every one of significance from abroad, to be received with the delightful bonhomie and boundless hospitality of the host, with the bright and fine bearing of the hostess, to rest in the soft green shadows by the low fire and among the abundant flowers. The power of such association on a young, tender, and sensitive spirit, overflowing with poetry and the love of beauty, could not but be enriching and stimulating, and she was every day and all the time in the company of the clear intellect and sweet nature of a man to whom such as Wordsworth and Christopher North and De Quincey and Rogers and Barry Cornwall and Leigh Hunt and Tennyson and Thackeray and Dickens and Charles Reade and Keats's Severn and Doctor John Brown and others, a shining host, indeed, overseas as well as in our own land, had given their friendship.
In her memoir of her husband, written when she could command her powers after he had gone and taken half of her life with him into the unseen, she portrayed the strength and fineness, the rare quality, the rich experiences, of Mr. Fields, to live with whom was itself an enlightening and ennobling fortune. He cared tenderly for her genius, which he early discovered, and together they made their home a place of delight. Your eye never failed to be met there by some new treasure of a separate fascination, now a bust of Charlotte Cushman by Emma Stebbins, her other self; now a charcoal sketch of William Hunt's, now a Zamacois, flaming with barbaric color and fantastic thought, now an old portrait of Pope, painted by the master of Sir Joshua Reynolds, now a volume of Pope, owned once by Mr. Lincoln, now a priceless edition of Blake, now a boyish and beautiful portrait of Dickens, with prints and photographs and autographs and letters and literary curiosities without number, to be found nowhere else in the world but in that house. What its bookshelves held, Mrs. Fields herself made partly apparent in her interesting papers about them.
And never did one home receive such guests. Perhaps the room you occupied Ole Bull had slept in the night before you came, and Hawthorne would sleep in the night after you went; and both of them had watched the stars and twinkling lights in the purple waters of the bay, as you had done. Perhaps Whittier or Bayard Taylor was across the hall. You went out of the door as Mr. Curtis or William Hunt or Colonel Higginson came in, as Sothern or Fechter or Artemus Ward went out before you. It was Clara Kellogg or Christine Nillson or Celia Thaxter or Rebecca Harding or Mrs. Stowe, that you found your vis-a-vis at breakfast or at dinner. Everything in the house moved in such responsive harmony under the hand of its young mistress and her exquisite and sensitive refinement, that it was always the house beautiful. Here you heard the latest word from the world of books and book-men, and caught the first glimmer of the phantoms of new individualities, and indeed the last from those great shadows sinking below our horizon. Some shadows seemed to come very near, as when Mr. Fields recounted Kenyon's tale that, while stopping at a mountain inn, he saw the diligence drive up, and a pale young man spring down from it, and another pale young man run out from the inn to meet the first one, throwing his arms about him and kissing him on both cheeks; and one pale young man was Byron, and the other pale young man was Shelley. You felt that you had almost touched them with your hand, and remembered Browning and the eagle's feather.
Annie Fields gave the first public evidence of her literary power in the Ode that she wrote to be read by Charlotte Cushman on the occasion of the unveiling of the great organ in the Music Hall of Boston, which was quite a splendid ceremonial. The Ode was a fine, fresh piece of work, spontaneous and full, with pleasant pictures, and little rills of music and widening effects of noble, rolling lines. It was some years before she printed privately -- for her work has been marked by a shrinking modesty -- the "Return of Persephone", a touching and beautiful version of the old myth, marked here by clarity and pure delightfulness, and there by grandeur of thought and expression, its atmosphere and phrase reminding one constantly of Shelley's, although borrowing nothing from him. Its third act rises to sublimity, with passages of the prescience which belongs only to genius. There is many a burst of music in it. How tender and dainty is this little cradle song:
"Coo, coo, coo, chanteth the mother of doves!
Rocked in the arms of the trees the drowsy birds are asleep,
Rocked in the arms of thy mother, who ever a watch doth keep,
Coo, coo, my baby, sweetest of all the loves!"
But neither poetry nor the duties and delights of her home could absorb all the thought and time of this full-hearted creature. Early in her life the woes of the outer world took possession of her, in the midst of her own shelter from every wind that blew, basking in the receipt of love and worship. She was always sending comfort to those sitting in darkness; and the words that Demeter spoke to her Persephone were the keynote of her life:
"But as thou goest pluck blossoms from thy path
And strew them in the places without bloom."
Her work in the charities of Boston extended through more than a quarter of a century of devotion to those in need, and a valuable little book which she wrote upon the best ways of affording help to the poor has become a manual upon the subject.
In 1881 she published a volume of verses, "Under the Olive", that might fitly be called poems for poets, to be read with the poetic insight and confidence. All the poems in the book were built upon lofty lines. The Greek legend had attracted her strongly; often she treated it in the severe Greek spirit, and then again with wealth of modern feeling and color. Every myth and story is interpenetrated with new meaning; sometimes one feels an elusive charm, as if a thought of ethereal loveliness were just escaping; and every page has a calmness of expression where is never any struggle for effect, and which seems in such sympathy with the ordered ways of beauty that startling line or figure would break the spell. Meanwhile, the felicities of description are many, as when she speaks of the "Briny perfumes of the Eastern gale". or notes the waning moon,
"Hanging, a fragment of mist, faint on the forehead of day,"
or tells how the old Æschylus
"Gathered up life's embers, laid thereto the fires of slow experience."
or how one
"Beheld like a blossom
Dawn lying rosy and soft rocked on the breast of the sea."
or gives some such rare description as Hero gives of the life in her tower:
"Music is none for me if no voice of the sea-bird be calling,
Dance there is none but the dance led by the waves on the strand,
High is my chamber and silent, the pathway unknown unto any,
Save to the jewels of air borne on the pinions of flame,
Flitting and stirring with kisses the jars of alyssum and lilies
Bowering my casement and breathing of valleys and rills."
One is aware, all through the book, of the delicacy and fineness of womanly touch and intuition, of a feminine expression which is as full of strength as of sweetness, and one cannot read "Antinous", or "Achilles", or "Helena", without recognizing genius. After their publication, she printed, in the leading magazines, a sufficient number to make a second volume, but in her carelessness of what is called fame, they remained uncollected till 1895, when she published "The Singing Shepherd." The initial poem in this volume is one of exquisite beauty and tender feeling, and very many of the others have a personal application, reflecting her moods, her joys, her sorrows. What is there lovelier than these stanzas from "A Green Nook."
"The light slips down from other skies
And mingles with the blue of this,
I hear another music through
The sparrow's bliss.
"The light of an unfading love
Paints the gay grass and frames the sky,
And hides the moon in mornings seas
And cannot die."
It is as if with all her subtle melody and great intention and swift penetration to the inmost meaning of words, she sang for the sweet sake of singing. Yet her work was the work of an artist; and the scope of her effort was wide -- she infused humanity and to-day into the thoughts and fancies of a dead world, and made old legends live with new life in an atmosphere as high as joy, as deep as sorrow. The sweet seriousness, the gracious earnestness of her verse, were never felt so well as when in some seldom moment she read to you, in a voice like the voice of the dove her Demeter sang about, or like the double flute, you think, that one of her own Greek girls might be breathing through. Her imaginative sympathy is delightfully seen in such verses as "On a Wharf", when she pictures various great sailings, her strong religious spirit in "The Comforter", and perhaps her personality is best seen in the verses, "On Waking from a Dreamless Sleep":
"I waked; the sun was in the sky.
The face of heaven was fair;
The silence all about me lay
Of morning in the air.
"I said, Where hast thou been, my soul,
Since the moon set in the west?
I know not where thy feet have trod,
Nor what has been they quest.
"Where wast thou when Orion passed
Below the dark-blue sea?
His glittering, silent stars are gone, --
Didst follow them for me?
"Where wast thou in that awful hour
When first the night-wind heard
The faint breath of the coming dawn
And fled before the word?
"Where hast thou been, my spirit,
since the long wave on the shore
Tenderly rocked my soul to sleep
And I heard thee no more?
"My limbs like breathing marble
Have lain in the warm down;
No heavenly chant, no earthly care,
Have stirred a smile or frown.
"I wake; thy kiss is on my lips;
Thou art my day, my sun!
But where, O spirit, where wast thou
While the sands of night have run?"
In the year 1900 Mrs. Fields published "Orpheus, A Masque", a new interpretation of the old myth. It is a great and wonderful dramatic poem. Her own life work among the poor and suffering suggested of course the motive of the Masque, but it is so surrounded by beauty and music and grace that it reaches the ideal, and the reader feels as in certain of its lines,
"I, a listener, hang
Like a suspended sense 'twixt earth and heaven."
Mention of her work would be incomplete if it did not include reference to her notes on the life and friendships of Whittier, in which she makes the old poet, who so admired and loved her, stand before us in his own person, together with her memoirs of Mrs. Stowe, of Charles Dudley Warner, her "Authors and Friends" and her "Shelf of Books."
After her husband's death, Mrs. Fields continued to live in the house that they bought, out of hand, when strolling one Sunday afternoon in search of a suitable home. They climbed over heaps of building material and saw what the place afforded; and they made it something rarely individual. I remember now the impression I received when I first went there -- how many, many years ago. Entering the house you came into a reception room with dark blue velvet furnishings and gray rug, filled with flowers, every part of the walls hung with choice paintings; beyond you caught a glimpse of the dining room, whose windows, latticed with ivy, looked on a long, shady garden running down to the river. Upstairs the room of rooms, the library, ran the whole length of the house, with side alcoves at either end. It held unusual pictures and busts, but the greater part of the walls were covered with books to the ceiling. The moss-green carpet and draperies gave a subdued coloring, and the windows looked over wide water to distant hills. It was characteristic of Annie Fields that instead of complaining when a block of houses was put up near by, shutting off a part of this superb view, she had pleasure in the thought of the new homes and happiness to be there. It was not that a note of simple and incomparable elegance was struck here; it was the natural tone and harmony of the place dominated by the exquisite spirit of a pure and lofty nature, clear-seeing, here all grace and tact and gentle yielding, here inflexible for the right, and always solicitous for others. I felt myself, in that first visit, in a new world, as if I had stepped inside a home in some enchanted wood and among a rarer race of beings; and although frequently sharing its beautiful hospitality since then, I never quite lost the sensation. Doubtless there were other homes as interesting, as enviable; but with a difference. The difference was Annie Fields.
Before his death, Mr. Fields suggested Sarah Orne Jewett as a possible friend and companion for his wife in the future; and she gave Mrs. Fields great happiness, spending with her as much time as she could spare from her own delightful home in South Berwick, and adding her own peculiar charm to the house. Because she had lost the best of life, Mrs. Fields did not give up life itself. After a time the days passed with her as before, except for the great vacancy. The choicest of those at home, the choicest of those that cross the water, poet, painter, and player, came to find welcome, encouragement to budding power, greeting to acknowledged achievement; and the house was one of the pleasantest spots on earth. Now and then Mrs. Fields and Miss Jewett went abroad for a summer's stay, as when they explored the woods of Barbizon, and visited Tennyson. At another time they saw the "glory that was Greece." But more usually in the summer they were to be found in the seaside house, built by Mr. Fields, on thunderbolt hill at Manchester-by-the-Sea, -- which he used to be pleased to say was built with the proceeds of his lectures, -- where the steep avenue leads up to a wonderful outlook of beauty set in the midst of flaming flowers, three sides overlooking the wide shield of the sea, but the fourth side so precipitous that the broad piazza there is only a turret chamber above the tops of the deep woods and orchards below, with the birds flying under it, and looking far over winding river, ripening meadow, and stretching sea again.
There at night one by one the lights of the great Bay twinkle out in the pearly twilight, fluttering, yet fixed, as if strange, bright-winged things were impaled on the stone pillars. The summer sea, the soft dark, the cool and salty breath, were all a part of the peace that surrounded her, in that ideal home of an ideal woman. Although a great grief came into it in the death of Sarah Jewett, yet seldom has there been a sweeter or serener old age than hers. Sufficiently affluent, in the receipt of honor, with friends going and coming, every morning the motor-car of her generous sister Louisa at her disposal, every evening music or books, with the encouraging example of her brilliant sister Sarah's ninety years, the days were full of cheer, and still of good works. And when the last great friend arrived, it was to find her simply fading away as a star fades in morning light.
[ Contents ]
SARAH ORNE JEWETT
THE secret of Sarah Orne Jewett's great success in her work, outside of its artistic perfection, is the spirit of loving kindness and tender mercy that pervades it. And that is because the same spirit also pervaded herself. She loved her kind, and had the warmest interest in the actions and thoughts and feelings of those about her.
The circumstances of her life fostered this love. The child of a country doctor (than whom no one stands in closer relation to the countryside), she early went about with him on his long drives, and was admitted to an intimacy with the lives of people hardly otherwise attainable, an intimacy revealed on every page of her stories. Something of the character of this wise and kind father, who never lost a chance of teaching her how to observe, and whose name, -- Theodore Herman Jewett, -- has a descriptive charm, she has painted in her story of "The Country Doctor." But elsewhere she says: "My father had inherited from his father an amazing knowledge of human nature, and from his mother's French ancestry that peculiarly French trait called gaieté de coeur. Through all the heavy responsibilities and anxieties of his busy professional life, this kept him young at heart and cheerful. His visits to his patients were often made delightful and refreshing to them by his kind heart and the charm of his personality. I knew many of the patients whom he used to visit on lonely inland farms or on the sea-coast in York and Wells. I used to follow him about silently, like an undemanding little dog, content to follow at his heels. I had no consciousness of watching or listening, or indeed of any special interest in the country interiors. In fact, when the time came that my own world of imagination was more real to me than any other, I was sometimes perplexed at my father's directing my attention to certain points of interest in the character or surroundings of our acquaintances. I cannot help believing that he recognized, long before I did myself, in what direction the current of purpose in my life was setting. Now, as I write my sketches of country life, I remember again and again the wise things he said, and the sights he made me see. He was impatient only with affectation and insincerity."
He could never have been impatient with Sarah, then; for absolute simplicity and sincerity were among her chief characteristics.
Her delicate health, as a child, obliged her to be much outdoors; and in the old town at the head of tidewater, in the Agamenticus region, she had every facility for acquiring a knowledge of nature and of people; here she attended the academy, and found it easy to write verse and hard to write prose; and here she heard the graphic dialect of the country store and of the wharf, ran with the other children to mount the logging team from the woods and ride into town over the creaking snow, and met at her grandfather's the weather-bronzed ship-masters, who brought, to the children's great satisfaction, store of oranges and pineapples and filberts, and big jars of olives and tamarinds, and brought something better yet for hungry imaginations in their stories of the islands of the sea, of the "great storms on the Atlantic and winds that blew them north-about." The place was full of tradition; here she listened to many a strange recital regarding the privateers of the War of 1812, whose crews were shipped all alongshore; regarding the Revolution, in which her mother's people, the Gilmans of Exeter, took the rebels' part, though her father's ancestors could not forsake allegiance to the dear mother country; and regarding the yet older and sadder days of the French and Indian wars. And here, hardly more than a child, she was a writer for the Young Folks and The Riverside; and at nineteen sent her first sketch to the Atlantic Monthly, where her genius was at once recognized and encouraged. She published many volumes after that, and her work was translated into a foreign tongue, but nowhere is it loved so much as at home, where we have the same somewhat tender feeling for its faithfulness and finish, its humor and pathos, that we have for our family portraits.
Surely no one ever had a finer training for work than she had in this ancient town of South Berwick, called by its old people Barvick, after the Norse fashion, where she was born in a colonial house built a hundred and fifty years before and untouched by modern hands. The old hip-roofed mansion, whose paneled hall with its wide arch and ample staircase and huge door opening into greenery of lofty trees beyond, gives one the very picture of hospitable welcome, was always her home, and she had the heartiest affection for it. "I was born here," she said once, "and I hope to die here, leaving the lilac bushes still green and growing, and all the chairs in their places."
There hangs in the old house a little black and white silhouette of one of these French grandmothers of Sarah's, of which a silhouette of Sarah herself, made by Mrs. Whitman, with the lovely, innocent forehead, the delicately arched eyebrow, the finely chiseled nose, the curl of the upper lip, the exquisite corners of the mouth, the oval of the cheek, is a perfect replica even to the turning of an eyelash.
Although she spent a good part of her time here, she was very often the favored sharer of Annie Fields's home, in the historic house on Charles Street in Boston, or where the eagle's eyrie of Thunderbolt Hill has been transformed into a place of flowers in Manchester-by-the-Sea. She traveled much in America, and made several visits abroad; but she always said she had taken no greater delight in these journeyings than in the rides and tramps within the borders of old Berwick. I like to think of her the guest of Tennyson, as he takes in his hands the crystal sphere she wears on her watch-chain, and surveys the stately grace and dark beauty of the American girl -- as if we had sent her to the poet as our best and finest. I like even better to think of her in the old forest of Barbizon, the haunt of Millet, between whose work and her own a subtle resemblance lies, and where the French blood in her veins gave her a certain right of place. Perhaps it is this foreign strain which lent such an attraction to her manner, a manner that combined a height of delicate refinement and cordial artlessness which both fired your fancy and warmed your heart. When you saw her lofty carriage, her dark eyes, her high-bred and beautiful features, you remembered the royal significance of her name in Scripture, and you were half inclined to wonder how it was that a princess of the old régime was writing stories that were the accurate transcript of the lives of farming and sea-faring folk. But when, if by rare fortune, you heard her read from her own pages, with a voice like a soft south wind, and with a quaint and lovely air that was all her own, then you knew that these stories of hers were written from the heart that beat for humbler, homelier people as if with the same blood.
She was always frankly pleased with the praise her work received, and with every success she had. When one of her books had been translated into another language, she writes to the Aldriches, "She sent me a volume of S. O. J. all in French, which caused such pride of heart that no further remarks are ventured on the subject." She was always ready to give praise to others. I remember once having sent to my agent what I considered a very poor story, to be sold into obscurity, how woefully ashamed I was when I saw it one morning spread out and illustrated in the Sunday paper, where every one might read it, feeling that it was ignoble to have written it at all. And then there came by messenger a note from Sarah giving the story the most magical interpretation. She was full of a sweet and surprising magnanimity and gratefulness.
In writing of the day on which she received the gratifying degree from Bowdoin College, she said of her sister, "Mary was dear and lovely; and the great day was hers as much as mine." And one day, writing to Mrs. Fields, through whom many of her friendships and enjoyments were formed, she said, "None of the great gifts I have received out of loving and being with you seems to me as great as having seen Tennyson." Her characterization of Tennyson, by the way, was almost as fine and wonderful as the man himself.
She was immensely interested in people, and people loved her for it. Wherever she went she made friends, -- some of them her own age, with delightful contemporaneous intimacy, and others much older but made to feel young in her companionship. "It has been one of the best things in life," she wrote once, "to take up some of the old friendships that my mother had to let fall; there is a double sweetness in doing this; one feels so much of the pleasure of those who seem to see something of their lost companionship return." People in the humble ways of life, artists and poets, great novelists, and those of lesser note were her friends and lovers: abroad, Mrs. Humphry Ward, Mrs. Meynell, Freeman, the historian, Madame Blanc-Bentzon, Vernon Lee, Mr. Bryce, the Arnolds, Henry James, and many others; and at home the list included Mr. Lowell, Mr. Longfellow, Mrs. Bell, Anne Whitney, Mr. Aldrich, Mrs. Whitman, Doctor Holmes, Celia Thaxter, Mr. Norton, Katharine Wormeley, Mr. S. S. McClure, Miss Cather, Mr. Bliss Perry, and many others of especial interest. There must have been an inherent excellence in this young girl from a country town to have made her so choice a person in such eyes.
Dearly as she loved people, she also loved and knew all the ways of wood and fell and stream. Once, after a rather sleepless night, she writes to her friend, "I had one most beautiful time which was after your own heart. It began to be light, and after spending some time half out of the window hearing one bird tune up after another, I half dressed myself and went out and stayed until it was bright daylight. I went up the street and out into the garden, where I had a beautiful time, and was neighborly with the hop-toads and with a joyful robin who was sitting on a corner of the barn, and I became very intimate with a big poppy which had made every arrangement to bloom as soon as the sun came up. There was a bright little waning moon over the hill, where I had a great mind to go, but there seemed to be difficulties, as I might be missed, or somebody might break into the house where I had broken out."
No one ever enjoyed the loveliness of things in France more than she did. "The air was about as sweet as it could be, with that dry, strange, sweet old scent that tries to make you remember things that happened long before you were born. And we went walking on, and presently we came to great gates, and still walked on with innocent hearts and a love of pleasure, and we crossed a moat full of flowers and green bushes, and the other side of the old bridge, beyond two slender marble columns with exquisite capitals, was another gateway and a courtyard and an old château asleep in the sun. All the great windows and the hall door at the top of the steps were open, and round the three sides and up to the top of the tower green vines had grown, with room enough to keep themselves separate, and one of them near by was full of bees, and you could hear no other sound. It was La Belle au Bois dormante. You just kept as still as you could, and looked a little while and came away again. And the stone of the chateau was reddish, and the green was green, and the sunshine was of that afternoon softness that made the whole sight of the old house flicker and smile back at you as if you were trying hard to look at something in a dream." Isn't that exquisite?
Her love of the beautiful was fully satisfied in Greece.
"When I think what you would say, and feel, at the sight of this spring landscape and the wintry sky, of such astonishing blue, with its blinding light, like one of our winter mornings after a snowstorm, and the colors of the mountain ranges and the sea, dazzling, and rimmed by far-off islands and mountains to the south; as one looks from the Acropolis and all the spring fields below, and the old columns and the little, near-by flowers, poppies and daisies -- oh, when I see all this and think that you can't see it, too! And then, when I remember what my feelings have been toward the Orpheus and Eurydice and the Bacchic Dance, and then see these wonderful marbles here, row upon row, it is quite too much for a plain heart to bear."
But then again she saw as much beauty at home, even although of a different sort. Of a Watteau fête she writes: "At the close, when shepherd and nymph strayed away down the field to the sea, and Eros strayed after, and the sheep and lamb after him, it made a live little procession that came right from a page of Theocritus!" Writing of some pine-trees, she says, "Oh, do go next summer to see the most superb creatures that ever grew…standing so tall that their great green tops seem to belong to the next world." To-day she discovers a delightful glen, of which she says, "I never have seen a more exquisite spot," and at a later season, "I shall remember as long as I remember anything a small seedling apple-tree that stood by a wall in a high wild pasture at the White Hills, -- standing proudly over its first small crop of yellow apples all fallen into a little almost hollow of the soft turf below."
And then, with eye and heart for another sort of beauty, she writes, "I need not tell you what a joyful homecoming it was. Mother's look as she came running out to meet Mary was something that I never shall forget. It was like some old painter's picture of a Bible scene! With her arms out, and her aging face and figure."
And with all this Sarah Jewett loved books as well; she was an untiring reader of both serious books, and of lighter ones, -- fiction, essays, biographies, poetry. Of Miss Thackeray she says, "One flies to Miss Thackeray's stories at certain turns of Fate, for a world full of shadows, and written out of deep and touching experience, but with beauty and consolation never forgotten or curtained away. Don't you remember Fitzgerald's saying somewhere that he thirsts for the delightful?" And of Thackeray himself she writes, "Thackeray is so great, a great Christian. He does not affect, he humbly learns and reverently tries to teach out of his own experiences."
Sarah's intimacy with the deeper things of life, and her understanding of small troubles, was something wonderful. She had a real sympathy with Miss Austen. "Dear me," she explains, "how like her people are to the people we knew years ago! It is just as much New England before the war -- that is, in provincial towns -- as it ever was Old England. I am going to read another, 'Persuasion' tasted so good."
She was so in earnest in her own work and ultimate purposes that she never hesitated to talk about her stories. "A story which has been lagging a good while is beginning to write itself. Its name is 'A Player Queen', and it hopes to be liked," she says in one of her letters. Of "The Tory Lover" she says, "I grow very melancholy if I fall to thinking of the distance between my poor story and the first dreams of it." She recognized a certain sympathy between herself and what Stepniak said of Turgenieff: "There was in him such a love of light, sunshine, and living human poetry, such an organic aversion to all that is ugly or coarse, or discordant, that he made himself almost exclusively the poet of the gentler side of human nature"; which is certainly very descriptive of Sarah, herself.
It is of stories in general, as well as of her own, that she said what many a writer has thought before: "Good heavens! what a wonderful kind of chemistry it is that evolves all the details of a story and writes them presently in one flash of time! For two weeks I have been noticing a certain string of things, and having hints of character, etc., and day before yesterday the plan of the story comes into my mind, and in half an hour I have put all the little words and ways into their places and can read it off to myself like print. Who does it? for I grow more and more sure that I don't!"
The letters, which Mrs. Fields so tenderly arranged, are really an autobiography, and are written in a way as natural as the way she talked. They are full of lovely passages, full of gentle humor and witty turns, as when she says, "I have so much to tell that my pen splutters," or when the two boys went to the Fair "with smiles on their faces that seemed to tie behind and be quite visible as they walked away."
Any one is mistaken who thinks Sarah Orne Jewett's stories are merely narratives told as she happened to think. They are works where the composition is like that of a fine painting, full of balance of light and shade, of consummate art. Although their truthfulness is similar to that of Jane Austen's work, yet they are of finer, sweeter fiber, and will be read as long as our language lasts. What writer would not rejoice in the authorship of that great story, "The Town Poor", of the beautiful, the wholesome, strong, and altogether noble "Country of the Pointed Firs", and of the incomparable delicacy, the charm, the tender pathos of that lovely and inimitable "A Dunnet Shepherdess"!
Death came to our friend far too soon. She was thrown from a carriage, and a long illness resulted from the injury she received. She made a brave effort, but it was in vain.
Although she had the usual griefs that come to all of us in the loss of beloved relatives and friends, yet in other respects, and except for occasional slight illnesses, Sarah Jewett had a delightful life, and made it delightful to all about her. And a great factor in that life was her own nature, her genuineness, her innocence, her friendliness, her intimate sweetness, her common sense, her nobility, her sympathy. An old friend once said to her, "I want you to thank your mother for bringing you into the world." And I think all who knew her, all who read her writing, feel the same way.
A part of Sarah's work, known to but few of her closer friends, is her verse. She apparently thought it of too little dignity to be mentioned. She was greatly mistaken. It is difficult to speak of it to those unacquainted with it without seeming to say too much.
THE GLOUCESTER MOTHER
When Autumn winds are high
They wake and trouble me,
With thoughts of people lost
A-coming on the coast,
And all the ships at sea.
How dark, how dark and cold,
And fearful in the waves,
Are tired folk who lie not still
And quiet in their graves; --
In moving waters deep,
That will not let men sleep
As they may sleep on any hill;
May sleep ashore till time is old,
And all the earth is frosty cold. -
Under the flowers a thousand springs
They sleep and dream of many things.
God bless them all who die at sea!
If they must sleep in restless waves,
God make them dream they are ashore,
With grass above their graves.
SARAH ORNE JEWETT
Whether it takes shape because when walking in Copp's Hill Burying Ground she sees a little stone to "Miss Polly Townsend, aged nine", or when thinking of the restless graves of the drowned fishermen, or of any other simple human theme, her heart goes out in these verses, and they are not only beautiful and tuneful, but infinitely touching with sweet and tender pitifulness. It is to be hoped that they will yet be collected in a most welcome volume to be treasured by her lovers.
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A TINY woman, wonderfully radiant -- with perfect features, with a delicately lovely skin, illumined by flashing dark eye and loose curling silver hair -- as you looked at her, you wondered how those little hands modeled and disposed the great masses of sculpture, you wondered at the immensity of the work they have given to the world, or you would have done so if it were not for the royal bearing and the glance glowing with fire from heaven.
Born of wise and strong parents, who lived to great age, one of them rounding a century, Anne Whitney always had perfect health, and she never knew failure or any other discouragement than the artistic dissatisfaction which genius is apt to feel regarding work that has not reached the standard which is so high that genius alone sees it.
Her gaze was trained high from the first. She was the disciple and darling of those who conjure with great names in her early youth, at the time when Frederika Bremer mentions her charm; the friend of Emerson and Parker and Phillips and Sumner and the rest, and she lived on the plane of such altitudes ever after. Her moral sense went hand in hand with her other powers, dominating them and leading her always, early and late, into the espousal of the large reforms.
She was still quite young when her poems were handed about from one to another as things of wonder, before there was any center of distribution like the magazines of to-day; then they emblazoned the pages of the Atlantic Monthly with beauty, and when she at last published a small book of them, those who loved great verse felt that here was a poet of the antique mold, one whose verse was strong-winged, and eagle-eyed, glorious with height and depth of flight, with luster and interchanging music. I know of few verses more great or beautiful in the language than the "Sonnets to Beauty", and those again to "Night", than "Camille", the "Hymn to the Sea", the "Last Dream." They are the sublimation of song, and you feel when you read them that it is impossible for poetry to go farther. The first edition, published during the stress of the Civil War, when the hearts and souls of people were torn and anguished, never, through the force of circumstances, received the attention it deserved. The edition, however, was early exhausted, and although those who had report of them tried to obtain them, copies were not to be had.
Many years later, a second edition was published, with some additions, some omissions and emendations.
There is no more unfailing test of poetry than is given by reading it again after a lapse of years; since what filled the cup with precious ichor at one time may, when another age and time rule, seem destitute of sparkle or flavor. But this verse met that test successfully, for the very wine of life is poured on every page. Those who loved the book in the beginning, keeping it beside them, did not, of course, have to use the test; for they took it up frequently, turning the leaves as they do those of Milton and Wordsworth, of Shelley and Keats and Byron, of Emerson, Tennyson, and Browning. For the verse there is a part of that wide wave which swept over the world with the work of those poets. It meets comparison with theirs, is of the great moods and moments, of lofty flight and far reach, full of perennial freshness, and saturated with beauty. At the same time the poems are various, these of a severe simplicity, those of an intimate reserve, and others of dramatic force and fire, and the more recent ones showed surprisingly the strength of the original impulse. The great poems of the book are imperishable creations, with immortal strains in every one, satisfying with their loveliness and completeness, and with their great music. One meets on every page of the book phrases, single lines, stanzas, that startle with their sonorous strength, their sweetness, their penetration and suggestion, their truth and beauty.
Neither Byron's "Apostrophe to the Ocean", nor Swinburne's "I will go down to the great Sea Mother", exceed, if they equal, the "Hymn to the Sea", with its lofty lines, its rippling song, its deeps of thought. Few men have written such poetry as this, nor has any woman except Anne Whitney. Women have indeed written great and beautiful poetry; but it seems to me that this is greater and more beautiful than all. There is no affectation in it, no forced note; it is spontaneous as it is strong. Where shall we find more large expression, more subtle sense of beauty, more well-ordered art, than in this:
"When morning, loosing from its crimson drifts,
Some panting skylark overtakes, most tender
Of such weak rivalships, and prone to render
Homage unto great-heartedness, it lifts
The breaking strain, and all along its lines
Of thrilling light, its currents of pure air
And rosy mists, winds it at will,
Unites and separates, and still
Wreathes it and builds anew beyond despair,
Till light is song, song light -- through all
heaven's steadfast signs."
Or, again, take this picture of tranquil midnight:
"There curved the mountain line away;
And there, the murmuring lapse of blue
Let in between green silences,
To ripple the level smoothness through:
And 'mid soft light and dew
Temur's hushed palace rose into the skies.
"What life in every peaceful thing!
What trance of living, joyful might!
The heavens may breathe it unto men,
And bulbuls by the charmed light
Sing it to sacred night,
But who may utter it again?"
Of a different quality is the proud assurance in the lines:
"Dear then to her and to the silent Powers,
And borne on their strong wings above defeat
And fear of mockery, all they who build
In stern emprise a shrine for the Unseen;
Making life poor to show how rich it is.
Round them heaven's flaming currents stoop and play,
And lap the stifling vapors of the world,
Till the space freshens into festal depths;
And Soul, before a royal mendicant,
Pensioned of flesh along the dusky way,
Goes forth with bounty to exultant crowds,
With pulse of music ordering the winds,
And trumpets blowing the eternal morn."
Something of the same sort is expressed in another poem:
Half-way the coming fate and fling
Their hoarded treasures at her feet,
Shall feel through all her clamoring
Her hard eye quail; she knows 'twere vain
To empty what heaven brims again."
Nothing that one can say is adequate to do justice to the scope and dignity and splendor, to the quick sensibility and melting charm of her verse:
"Darkness surrounds me with its phantom hosts,
Till silence is enchanted speech. I feel
Those half-spent airs that through the laurel reel,
And night's loud heart-beats in the tropic coasts --
And soaring amid everlasting frosts
To super-sensual rest, as it might outweigh
A whole worlds strife, o'er me gaunt Himaleh
Droops his broad wing of calm. Those peaks, like ghosts
Outstaring Time, through darkness glimmering!
No rush of pinion there, nor bubbling low --
But death, and silence past imagining; --
Only, day in and out, with endless swing,
Their aged shadows move, and picture slow
One on another's unrelenting snow."
It was thought at first that of course poetry was to be Anne's natural expression. But she had always had facility with her pencil, and one day in a conservatory, falling in with an overturned pot of clay, she stooped to trace out a fancy, beginning carelessly, to end seriously, coming back to it next day full of ardor. "I have done it, Sarah," she called to her sister, "and I always knew I could!"
From that time she gave herself up to sculpture, obliged to work without aid or instruction, for there was nothing of the sort then in this country, and there were but one or two sculptors. Except for some extended anatomical studies with Dr. Rimmer and the friendly comment of the only sculptor she knew, genius was her only teacher.
A statue of Godiva, unclasping the "wedded eagles of her belt", full of purity and purpose, was her first considerable work; and it was followed by one called "Africa", a recumbent figure of the African type, just awaking from sleep, wondering, bewildered, and throwing off the wild beast's skin that has enwrapped her. The colossal size of the subject has a tropical and continental significance; the sleeper wakes to the measured step, the swelling music of the march of the ages; she shades her eyes from the blinding light of the new revelation -- when you saw it you could think only of Michelangelo. "And Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God", was the legend around the plinth. She had it broken up after a while, however.
In full contrast with this was her "Lotus Eater", a youth's figure, beautiful in excess of languor, and bearing all the blissful burden of Tennyson's poem and of the Homeric legend.
Then there was a beautiful bas-relief of Chaucer, a group of spirited horses' heads, and various portrait busts.
These were followed by a statue of Toussaint L'Ouverture, black but mighty, nude in his chill dungeon. Betrayed, forsaken, destroyed, but unshaken, heroic to his last fiber, he has written on the floor, Dieu se charge, and while he looks at you with sadness not to be spoken in his eyes, his whole mien declares his knowledge of the eternal justice which shall right the wrong at last.
Shortly after this Miss Whitney went abroad, with Adeline Manning, -- herself an artist of high ideals, the friend whose life was a part of her own, -- spending five years in profound study of ancient sculpture, most of the time in Rome, but some of it in Paris, Florence, and Munich.
One of the results of her work abroad was the statue of the "Chaldean Astronomer", reverent, intent, searching the great mystery of the stars, with the shining of their eternal secret in his countenance.
But a still finer work was the superb "Roma", a magnificent old woman, clad in the tattered robes of her greatness, sitting on the capital of an overturned Corinthian column, the mother of many nations, the maker of laws, the exacter of tribute from the ends of the earth, wearing now the badge of the licensed beggar, holding a penny between her fingers, old patrician fingers, and dreaming what dreams of past conquest, of dulled song, of lost splendor and power! The face is as strong, as mystic as the Sibyl's, the whole proud wretchedness is heartrending, and the beauty is absolute. The statue had such an effect that various of her American friends thought it not safe to have certain Italians aware of it.
When the sculptor returned to America, it was with the technique of her art complete, and fired and inspired by the great masterpieces that had been the companions of her last five years. She executed then several fine portrait-busts of the presidents of Harvard and Amherst colleges, of Mr. Garrison, of the poet Keats. A replica of the latter was later made by her to be set up in the Parish Church of Hampstead, England, as a memorial to him whose name was writ in water.
Going to Europe a second time, she completed for the State of Massachusetts the statue of Sam Adams, a marble copy of which is in the pantheon of our national gods in Washington, while the original, in bronze, in one of the busiest of the Boston squares, arrests the eye by its strength and simplicity, and by its controlled energy and fire.
Anne Whitney did not make her great triumphs without arousing envy and jealousy, and becoming the victim of intrigue. When the designs for a sitting statue of Charles Sumner were sent in, it was a matter of public report that the award was given to hers till it was discovered that it was by a woman. She had never competed before, and she never did so again. The statue was, a long time afterward, erected in the grounds of Harvard University.
A statue of Harriet Martineau, in marble, larger than life, an impressive image of intellectual calm, given to Wellesley College, was singularly beautiful, and might have sat for a type of womanhood itself; it was uncovered in the Old South Church, with speeches by Wendell Phillips and others, and seemed to mark an epoch in the work of women in this country. It was destroyed when the building that contained it was burned.
Her next work was the statue of Leif Ericsson, in bronze, whose erection was the occasion of a celebration by the Scandinavians in New England, and an address in Fanueil Hall. The voyager is a sailor of rough waves; he stands firmly on the prow of his ship, and shielding his eyes from the sun, looks out over the mighty land he has found. Beardless and bold, he is the very incarnation of the spirit of youth and adventure and boundless hope. All this is great and splendid work, but it is not the half. There was a charming fountain full of light airiness and grace, a child frolicking among huge calla lily leaves, sent to the Columbian Exposition, together with "Roma", enlarged to the heroic, a copy of Leif Ericsson, and portrait-busts of Frances Willard, Mrs. Stowe, and Lucy Stone, accurate in likeness and wonderful in art, each of them the living woman, but so transfigured that her soul shone through the stone.
Some of this great artist's loveliest work is in depicting children and groups of children. During her second stay in Europe she did some delightful things of the sort, as well as the head of an old woman of ideal ugliness, a model once of the French artists, whom she drove to despair by always falling asleep while they worked. Miss Whitney seized the moment like an inspiration and modeled her asleep in a triumph of realism.
At about the same time she did the "Faun of Fontainebleu," the head of a little peasant child, the most woodsy, tricksy, humorsome, laughing thing alive, it seems. The modeling is exquisite, full of lines of antique grace; the broad mouth and flat nose are molded into beauty, the flesh is real, the glance is of infinite mirth, and there is just the one little trace of melancholy in the midst of the mirth, regret that she is not human. When the French artists saw these things, they laughed at the idea of her wishing to learn of them. A copy of this little treasure I own as her gift, as well as the beautiful bust of Adeline Manning.
After the death of her mother, who lived for over a hundred years, Miss Whitney, with her sister and her friend, left the house in Watertown, although often having occasion to visit the studio that her brother built for her there, -- her brother who believed in her genius and aided its development by all the means in his power, -- and took a spacious house on Mt. Vernon Street in Boston. This overflowed with books and music and flowers and rare and beautiful objects of art, a house of generous hospitality and unbounded benignity, in which the guest found every room the Chamber of Peace. In her large studio, on the top floor, overlooking old Boston, she was often good enough to admit her friends, and they could watch her work, or wander round among the masques and reliefs, the model of Garrison in his chair, of the young hero Shaw riding into death, of Shakespeare dreaming against the garden-wall in the sun, the last a thing beautiful beyond belief. The wall has various symbols and figures scrawled upon it from the "Midsummer Night's Dream", visible expressions of the poet's thought, and the smile on Shakespeare's face as the antics of his forest crew occur to him, is ineffable. She was never quite satisfied with this, and it remained unfinished. She gave it as it was to Olive Dargan, who in the last years of her life was her comfort and joy.
But Anne Whitney loved great space and light, and one day the altar-gods were moved to the Charlesgate, and a double apartment on the top floor, with a studio over it, gave them shelter. There she overlooked all the shine and glory of the river Charles, a great sky and a landscape reaching to distant hills. The large rooms were filled with rare and beautiful things, and they held such an atmosphere of peace and delight that it was like receiving a benediction to enter them. She entertained generously there, and one was always sure of meeting delightful people; genius was not more welcome than goodness. Not the least of the delightful ones was her sister Sarah, a little lady, crippled with rheumatism, who lived in a sort of holy peace, and was not any lower than the angels. Her death was simply going home.
Indeed, the various phases of what we call goodness, among which is concern in public welfare, interested Anne in her later life as warmly as art did, perhaps more. She was an active abolitionist from her youth, a suffragist from the beginning, a worker in the cause of womankind; and in the last ten years of her life, although not accepting socialism altogether, she was yet largely prejudiced in its favor. Adeline Manning, her other self and second conscience, gentle as a moonbeam, yet firm as a rock, upheld her in all this. It was pleasanter to them to spend their money in printing and distributing pamphlets concerning the causes they wished to advance for the healing of the nations, than to have opera tickets for a season. When once I had persuaded them to hear the Götterdämmerung, they looked at me with reproachful eyes as if I had urged them to commit a sin. None the less they heard a great deal of the best music, and saw all the great players, and heard the best speakers; but it was on occasion, and often the singers and artists came to them. But there was nothing of the ascetic about them; they enjoyed life, lived comfortably, and dressed richly, yet somewhat after a fashion of their own. Miss Whitney's distinction showed through every movement. When she lay asleep in her last illness, she looked like the recumbent statue of some goddess. In fact, nobility was the type of her beauty and of her being. She was of a large and open-handed generosity. When, after her brother's death, she lost a good part of her income through the misbehavior of his agent, her regret was much more because she could not give the large sums she had been in the habit of giving than for any loss of her own. One never came into her presence without feeling a certain sense of exaltation. There was no air of superiority, no assumption of genius; it was as if one breathed with her in a finer, purer atmosphere.
The unexpected death of Adeline after a brief illness was a terrible shock and sorrow to Anne, and she was long in recovering her poise. For a few summers she did not go to her farm in Shelburne, where she managed many acres of rich intervale land beside the swift Androscoggin, so remote and hushed that when the train throbbed up at night through the echoing hills it seemed like a messenger from some outer world. It was the spot that Starr King declared the very choicest of the White Mountains, where the long, outlying ranges suddenly open, and Madison, Washington, and Adams rise in purple majesty and make day royal and night mystical with their vast altars smoking to heaven, and where she seemed to be in her own region. There she raised her crops, had her cows, her garden, her hill-climbing, her hermit thrush, and made such happy excursions as that of one day up the side of Mt. Randolph, where as we sat on the turf, lunching and looking across the deep valley into the dark caves and dells of the forests of Mt. Adams, as if to lift the spell of solemnity and lighten the moment, she repeated the "Brides of Quair."
Instead of renewing the heart-piercing memories of the past in Shelburne, she accepted the hospitality of a cottage on the estate of her cousin, Mr. Charles A. Stone, in Plymouth, where for several seasons she had the great solace of the sea. Before her death, Mr. Stone bought from her the Shelburne estate, and is now planning to make of the house on the Knoll, where with her choicest friends she passed the long summer days, a memorial to her, a beautiful thing to do, and a beneficence to those that will travel to it as to a shrine.
It was an unspeakable blessing that when she was left alone, Olive Dargan, herself a poet whose work has the Shakespearean phrase, came with her grace and strength and sympathy, her sweet and helpful nature, her high-minded habit, interested in the same questions, trying to solve the same problems, finally abiding with her altogether, and making her as happy as anyone can be who has reached ninety years. Not that Anne Whitney ever manifested her age either physically or mentally; at ninety she walked for miles, and she kept abreast of the age; she was young in feeling and in thought, with a sort of immortal youth. "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety."
Yet all the time, while one feels blest in verse or marble, one is aware that Anne Whitney herself was still finer than her work, or than any work. There was grandeur in the directness of her character, in the utter absence of self-assertion, in her love of her kind, in her boundless benevolence of word and deed and interpretation, her belief in good, her constant action in accord with the forces that work for righteousness, in her fearless truth, that was so intense a lie would shrivel before it, in her rapt single-mindedness, in the glow of her genius that penetrated to the inner beauty of all things and transmuted it to the possibilities of common eyes. With all this, a great artist, a great poet, a great woman, and always a beautiful one, something for the whole race to rejoice in, she was as sweet and simple as a child, as lovable, as willful withal, and as imperious.
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APPLEDORE and Haley's, Cedar and Malagar, White and Seavey's, Star and Duck, Shag and Mingo Rocks and Londoners, the Devil's Rock, Anderson's, Square Rock, and the Old Harry, a few acres of trap and granite and a handful of soil, hurling the spray from one to another and breasting the whole force of the Atlantic surge, make up the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of Maine, where Celia Thaxter passed the greater part of her life, a life fed with the wild wonder of sea and sky and transfigured rock, the multitudinous phases of color, and the equally multitudinous phases of emotion.
In all our literature she is the most picturesque figure. A singular charm surrounded her and was a part of her, the charm of shoreless, sea-dewed mornings fresh from God, of winds and weltering waters, of boundless horizons, and a free, wide, lonely sphere that seems to swing in space apart from other spheres, a region where, when one wakes in a summer morning, one fancies the morning made for the first time, she says, the world like a rose new-blown, "with only the caressing music of the water to break the utter silence, unless, perhaps, a song-sparrow pours out its blissful warble like an unbodied joy. The sea is song, and the sky; the line of land is radiant; the scattered sails glow with the delicious color that touches so tenderly the bare, black rocks." Here, in her early childhood, she came, -- with her brothers, her mother, and that mighty man, her father, who, disaffected with men, was to be the keeper of the White Island light. Later they moved to Appledore, where first one and then another came, drawn by rumor of its solitude and charm, -- Levi Thaxter to practice his voice in the great open spaces and to marry the young girl out of hand, then James Russell Lowell, Wentworth Higginson, and others, until at last a great hotel was opened there. On this island Celia spent every summer and many a winter of her life, as much a thing of delight herself as any other that the islands have.
What scenes to fire a poet's fancy did the place afford her! The storms, the calms, filled her with great emotions, the pathetic life of the fishing-people, their loneliness, their dangers, their sorrows, their splendid strength and brown and ruddy tints of weather, their daring youth, their dreary age; the terror of the wrecks, breathless suspenses of the gales; the wistful watching for a sail; the pensive beauty of the fog "clinging in silver strips to the dark, wet sails of vessels lying becalmed, when all the air about was clear and free from mist"; the ghastly horror of such visions as that of the vessel of the castaways, in the glare of the winter sunshine, "still with all sail set, standing upright upon the ledge -- a white column looming far away"; the herring-net drawn in by moonlight, where, as she mentions, every fish hangs like a long silver drop from the close-set meshes, knowing more of it, perhaps, than Allingham did when he half wished
"To hand a pilot's oar and sail,
Or haul the dripping moonlight mesh spangled with herring scale."
Then there were too, day after day, year after year, the common sights of the sea over the boatside, -- strange, beautiful fishes, such as the baby sculpin, "a fairy creature, the color of a blush-rose, striped and freaked and pied with silver and gleaming green, hangingin the almost invisible water as a bird in air, with broad, transparent fins, suffused with a faint pink, stretched inside like wings to upbear the supple form"; or the wondrous phosphorescence where, with her finger, she writes her thought in fire along the dark wet rocks. "There had been much talk and song and laughter," she mentions once, "much playing with the warm waves, (or rather smooth undulation of the sea, for there was not a breath of wind to make a ripple), which broke at a touch into pale-green phosphorescent fire. Beautiful arms, made bare to the shoulder, thrust down into the liquid darkness, shone flaming silver and gold, from the fingers playing beneath fire seemed to stream; emerald sparks clung to the damp draperies, and a splashing oar-blade half revealed sweet faces and bright young eyes. Suddenly a pause came in talk and song and laughter; and in the unaccustomed silence we seemed to be waiting for something. At once out of the darkness came a slow, tremendous sigh that made us shiver in the soft air, as if all the woe and terror of the sea were condensed in that immense and awful breath, and we took our oars and pulled homeward with the weird fires flashing from our bows and oar-blades. 'Only a porpoise blowing,' said the initiated, when we told our tale."
Here too, to the outdoor child, came the spectacle of northern lights casting their films across the stars and flaring out of the winter darkness as nowhere else short of the great arctic circle, "the sky at midnight crimson and emerald and orange and blue in palpitating sheets along the whole northern half of the heavens, or rosy to the zenith, or belted with a bar of solid yellow light from east to west, as if the world were a basket and it the golden handle." All this beauty she has immortalized in her little book "The Isles of Shoals", which has become a classic.
What experiences were hers, moreover, in the appalling gales that have blown the sea in a breach across Appledore, Old Harry tossing the far-off breakers sky-high, and the near waves plunging in a maddened troop of giants, white as milk, sweeping all before them, the spray bursting in flying clouds overhead, and for many days after the sun shone and the sky was blue again the spray still leaping in far-reaching shafts of snow. It was wonderful to wake, she tells us, "on some midsummer morning and find the sea gray-green like translucent chrysoprase, and the somewhat stormy sunrise painting the sails bright flame-color as they flew before the warm wild wind." Lovely hours were hers high in a crevice of the rock on sunny afternoons after storm with a sunlit clash of breakers far below, the vast rainbow shifting and vanishing, the fine salt breath of the brine streaming about her, the great gulls soaring and flashing in fathomless blue.
With these sights and sounds and thoughts by day and night, what should come but song? "Infinite variety of beauty always awaited me," she said, "and filled me with an absorbing, increasing joy, such as makes the song-sparrow sing, -- a sense of perfect bliss…. Ever I longed to speak these things that made life so sweet." And speak she did, -- how sweetly, how magically, with what strength and music!
And if she saw pictures, what pictures she herself made, -- a little child coming to White Island, awed by all the splendor of the sea, delighted by all its unspeakable variety, launching her fleets of mussel shells in the still pools among the rocks, running along the beach under the banner of the broken bough that had drifted ashore, woven in and out with the long, shining ribbon-grass that streamed trembling on the wind, calling the loons about her as she imitated their cries, then laughing to see them come, and chilled to the marrow by their unearthly, answering laugh, or at their long, shuddering cries before a storm. Here she danced after the sandpiper at the edge of the foam, the sandpiper of whom later she sang:
"I watch him as he skims along
Uttering his sweet and mournful cry,
He starts not at my fitful song
Or flash of fluttering drapery.
He has no thought of any wrong,
He scans me with a fearless eye,
Staunch friends are we, well-tried and strong,
The little sandpiper and I.
"Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night
When the loosed storm breaks furiously?
My driftwood fire will burn so bright!
To what warm shelter canst thou fly?
I do not fear for thee, though wroth
The tempest rushes through the sky,
For are not we God's children both,
Thou, little sandpiper, and I?"
Sarah Orne Jewett's pet name for her was Sandpiper.
Here she watched the lighting of the lamps that swing their rays out ruby and gold over the water, or she kindled them herself, "so little a creature as I might do that much for the great world!" she cried. And one windless night in June, when the iron door of the great lantern was open, she was penetrated with the sense of beauty in least things as a Luna moth glided in on its long, swallow-like wings and sailed round the lamps, a greater marvel than Titania. Here she sat with her signal light on moonless nights, in the slip that marked the only landing for her father's boat, feeling "so much a part of the Lord's universe" that she was no more afraid of the dark than the winds and waves are. Now her heart was wrung with pity over the sea-birds dashing themselves to death against the light; now she paled, listening to the awesome legends of the islands, -- the old negress seeking for buried treasure in the lonely moonlight, a weird figure with her dark, eager face, her fluttering gown and her swaying divining-rod, -- or trembled to hear of the drowning Spanish sailors in the winter night, who, tossed ashore by the sea, threw themselves upon a protecting wall, but had not strength left to climb across, and perished in sight of fires and lights and cheer, coated and crusted with the frozen spray of the pursuing waves. What pleasure a lyric of Sarah Orne Jewett's gave Celia as she thought of her childhood on Star Island, and how deeply it touched her heart!
High on the lichened ledges, like
A lonely sea-fowl on its perch,
Blown by the cold sea wind, it stands,
The quaint forsaken Gosport church!
No sign is left of all the town,
Except a few forgotten graves,
But to and fro the white sails go
Slowly across the glittering waves.
And summer idlers stray about,
With curious questions of the lost
And vanished village, and its men
Whose boats by those same waves were tossed.
I wonder if the old church dreams
About its parish, and the days
The fisher-people came to hear
The preaching and the songs of praise.
Rough-handed, bronzed by sun and wind,
Heedless of fashion, or of creed,
They listened to the parson's words --
Their pilot heavenward indeed.
Their eyes on week-days sought the church,
Their surest land mark, and the guide
That led them home from far at sea
Until they anchored safe beside
The harbor-bar that braved the storm
With its resistless strength of stone --
These busy fishers all are gone,
The church is standing here alone.
But still I hear their voices strange,
And still I see the people go
Over the ledges to their homes;
The bent old women's footsteps slow;
The faithful parson stop to give
Some timely word to one astray;
The little children hurrying on
Together chattering of their play.
I know the blue sea covers some,
And others in the rocky ground
Found narrow lodgings for their bones, --
God grant their rest is sweet and sound!
I saw the worn rope idle hang
Beside me in the belfry brown,
I gave the bell a solemn toll
I rang the knell for Gosport town!
Even in those first days she found delight past words in growing things, such as the pimpernel, the primrose, the iris. "I remember in the spring kneeling on the ground to seek the first blades of grass that pricked through the soil, and bringing them into the house to study and wonder over," she says. "Whence came their color? How did they draw their sweet, refreshing tint from the brown earth, or the limpid air, or the white light?" And even then she had a scrap of garden where only marigolds grew, over whose unfolding, a little, half-savage being -- gentle and lovely little savage -- she says she knelt like a fire-worshiper. It was the beginning of a garden, the story of whose glory should be immortal, and of which she told but the truth when writing, "The little spot of earth at the Island is like a mass of jewels. Who shall describe the pansies streaked with burning gold; the dark velvet coreopsis and the nasturtium; the larkspurs, blue and brilliant as lapis lazuli, the ardent marigolds that flame like mimic suns? The sweet peas are of a deep, bright rose-color, and their odor is like rich wine, too sweet almost to be borne except when the pure fragrance of mignonette is added, -- such mignonette as never grows on shore. Why should the poppies blaze in such imperial scarlet? What quality is hidden in this thin soil which so transfigures all the familiar flowers with fresh beauty?" At four o'clock in the morning with her maid she was gathering and arranging the blossoms that should cover table and shelf and desk and make her room a bower. It is the flowers of this garden, as well as the wild flowers of the island, of which she said:
"The barren island dreams in flowers, while blow
The south-winds, drawing haze o'er sea and land,
Yet the great heart of ocean throbbing slow
Makes the frail blossoms vibrate where they stand."
These she perpetuated not only in song, but on panel and vase and plaque, dipping her pencil in the boundless reservoir of color about her, with the grace of the breaking wave in her line; and one feels in reading her prose or her poetry, in looking at her work, that she was but the human expression of the beauty environing her.
Perhaps it is because her life and situation were so picturesque that whenever I think of Celia Thaxter I see her as if in a series of pictures. Now it is a box of sweet peas from her garden that she sends to her friend on shore, the flowers so arranged that as they lie in the box they make one long beam of color, from deep crimson to pale pink and snow white, as if she had in mind some idealization of the long lighthouse ray. Now it is her painting of an olive branch with leaves and berries, that Harry Fenn brings back from the Shoals with satisfaction. Now it is when she gives the long strings of the exquisite and many-colored tiny shells found on Londoners, and pierced and strung by herself, tall and lithe in her blue flannel boating-dress, straight as the oar she holds. Now it is in a scene of her maturer life, when, owing to her mother's illness, she stayed all winter at Appledore, and the household transformed the immense hotel dining room into a living room, facing south and east, and barricaded themselves against the northwest blasts, which had broken windows, rocked chimneys, and blown the fires out into the room.
At the lower end were assembled the range, the milk-pans, the kitchen furnishings, the three Norwegian maids with their long yellow braids; one side of the room held the secretary and desk and books of one of the two sympathetic brothers, and the windows, and most of the other side, were filled with more than a hundred green and flowering plants cared for by the brother whose songs she sometimes published with her own.
There were sofas, tables, screens, and various stoves; and in the upper corner were placed her easel and desk and piano and rugs. The whole life was like that of some medieval great lady in castle-hall; and there, through any of the four glass doors and ten windows, Celia watched moonrise and sunset, storms sweep up, and snows fall, and for a month at a time, hemmed in by ice floes, knew nothing of the outside world, while the family lived sufficient unto themselves.
Again I see her in her garden, a majestic woman clothed in white, telling me that she has forgotten all her many troubles and sorrows in the study of theosophy, and had become a member of the parent society in India. The last time I saw her, it was another picture. We were in a statuary gallery. The long room was thronged with plaster casts and busts, cold white statues and reliefs; and at the farther end of the place, clad all in purple, a flush on her sea-tanned face, she stood with her golden-haired, ruddy-faced son, the very impersonation of life in contrast with those still, dead, white things.
Celia Thaxter was an altogether unique personality. No one else in the world of letters had her strange environment, her wonderful experience. She was a poet in the very depths of her being; she loved beauty intensely, and was satisfied with its abundance about her; she knew the secrets of seas and skies and winds; she was at one with nature, and nature made her a confidante. She was very attractive in appearance, with radiant countenance and brilliant smile; every one was drawn to her by her sympathy, her frankness and freshness. At the front in books and affairs, her intelligence was surpassed only by her kindliness. For many seasons she held court at the Shoals with authors and artists, musicians and friends. She had many troubles, but she also had great joys.
Out of all this rare life, a life impossible otherwhere, what should come but one in youth sea-burned, sun-kissed, as supple, as graceful, as wild and sweet as a sea-nymph should have been, in her maturer life as fine, as free, as broad as a force of nature! Married when hardly more than a child, and taken into the life of the extremest culture there is among us, but always returning to her island, her sea, her flowers, finding the deep new happiness that sang,
"Dear little head that lies in calm content
Within the gracious hollow that God made
In every human shoulder, where he meant
Some tired head for comfort should be laid,"
a wife, a mother, a widow, she knew every side of life, its happiness, its suffering; and she was serene with a strength that belongs only to great natures, rock-rooted although thrilled with every vibration of the world around, and warmed and flushed with the radiance of divine love.
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WHAT a joyous time was that in which I first knew Gail Hamilton! We always called her Gail, for having first known of her by that name, it became difficult to use any other, and she forgave it to us. We were young and very happy, writing with delight in our effort. She had come to see me with Mr. Derby, a publisher, and we had passed a gay afternoon. She came several times afterward; and I saw her again one evening when Jane Andrews and I had been invited to meet her and Mr. Curtis, the author of the "Potiphar Papers"; but, despite that, I did not feel that I had much intimacy with her. There was another time, several years later, when she came to see me and my little son, whose beautiful black eyes were pleased with her bright face.
One day, at about that time, having heard that I was engaged on a work requiring money, a work she would have liked to do herself, had she had the chance, she sent me a note saying so, and out of it fell a hundred-dollar bill. Of course I at once returned the bill with affectionate gratitude, but I think it was a wonderfully kind thing for one young writer to do for another -- and she had not too many hundred-dollar bills at the time. But Gail Hamilton was always doing such things. When she began to receive good payment for her writings, she kept a fund on hand from which she lent money, without interest, to people to whom a little help meant a great deal; but if at the specified time the loan were not returned, she asked for it, quite compellingly, that she might lend it to someone else in need. I remember once that an old parish functionary became so bothered and confused and alarmed about the parish money that should have been in his hands and was not, that she privately gave him the money to make the deficit good, sure that he was only the victim of circumstances. She was generosity itself; she gave not only her money, but her time, her work, herself.
There never was a more complex personality than hers. Her people, pure English stock, had been in Essex County two hundred and sixty years when she was born, and all their diverse characteristics seemed to come to blossom in her. As a child she was overflowing with vitality, full of the joy of life, and of an astonishing intellectual energy. At two years she not only recited verses, but she knew the obligation of a promise. Woods and fields and skies were her companions, and all her life long they gave her the same happiness they did when she first looked up and realized the infinity of the depth of the blue above her.
In those days the Congregational church had much the same authority that it had in the time of the Puritan. It was the center of life and thought and conversation. Whatever the books in her father's house were, none held her attention as did the Bible, with its high inspiration to her faith, its tender promises to her heart, and the appeal of its poetical splendor to her imagination. Its language was her language, and she could neither speak nor write without using it; a rare scholar on many lines, she valued her biblical knowledge more than any other. She was a member of the church at an early age, and she continued in its communion till her death, although she grew widely liberal in her interpretation of its creed. So strong was this biblical influence that even the little garden of her childhood felt it, this corner being Jericho, and that Capernaum, this bank the Mount of Olives, and another Sinai.
She was educated at the school of the great-hearted Mrs. Cowles of Ipswich, where she led her classes, greatly interesting Mr. Cowles, whose physical blindness seemed to enlarge his spiritual sight, and who impressed and influenced the young student to a high degree. She became then a teacher herself, first in Ipswich and afterwards at Hartford, a marvelous teacher, awakening in her pupils powers they did not dream of and new conceptions of life, striking a vital spark from the driest facts of study. She began, while still teaching, to write and publish verses and short, crisp, epigrammatic sketches. The verses were not of much account, but the sketches took the public fancy at once. She had an irresistible desire to write, and signed everything with a pseudonym composed of one syllable of her own name, and the name of her native town, every sod of which she loved.
She left Hartford to teach in the family of Doctor Bailey in Washington. The doctor said they had never had anyone in the house equal to her. There she had her first introduction to the anti-slavery celebrities, with whom she was in full sympathy, and to others of repute, and found herself mingling in affairs. She suffered agonies of shyness at first; she never in all her life could bear to be looked at; this was partly because she felt that her appearance was made unlovely by an accident that had happened to one of her eyes. But the appearance was not unlovely; she had an exquisite complexion, her mouth was red and sweet, her nose was piquant and well-cut, her teeth were fine, her forehead white, and her golden-brown hair was abundant and curled naturally. She was very attractive; and if you had not thought her so at first, you were sure of it when you left her presence and ever afterwards. She had many lovers and various and persistent offers of marriage.
She was an ardent clanswoman; every one in Hamilton had her interest or her fostering care, and a relative of any degree, was dear to her. She loved her immediate family with an intensity that sought in every way to promote their happiness, and in return they adored her. "Greatest woman in America" one of her brothers used to say. When, at the age of twelve, she was sent away to school in Cambridge, she wrote constantly to those at home, knowing how they would miss the light of the house, and she did the same when at Ipswich, in spite of the labor of her studies. Indeed, all her life she wrote long and delightful letters to the various members of her family, never letting her work, her political and social life -- all of which she lived at high pressure -- interfere with the bulletins that made them sharers of her activities, her acquaintances, her pleasures, her triumphs. She reported to them the praises she received, not with any vanity or conceit, for she had neither, but because she knew it would give them more pleasure than it gave her. And perhaps no woman ever received more praise than she did. Very likely she naturally enjoyed it, but it never turned her head in the very least; she regarded herself, if not exactly in the light of a messenger, yet as having been given a certain thing to do; and she did it, whether it was to make happiness for others, to reprove the sinner and afterwards to help and bless him, or to essay the reform of the church.
If she were fearlessly frank, she was also tenderly kind; her spirit was not to be daunted, and her clemency was equal to her courage. Yet I have always felt that in spite of the praise and flattery she did receive, her recognition was insufficient, for her flashing humor so over-lay her genius that except by a few her genius was not fully appreciated.
On Doctor Bailey's death, Gail returned home, -- although visiting Mrs. Bailey at times, -- and there she took up her work with energy, no longer hindered by teaching. She wrote sparkling articles for the Atlantic, the Congregationalist, and other publications, maintaining her pseudonym through what she felt to be a principle, and answering no letters concerning her work addressed to her own name, Mary Abigail Dodge. Mr. Whittier once told her it was better her real name should be known, as it might keep her within the bounds of good behavior. "Thee has great audacity," he said.
She loved people and penetrated their intimate character, as witness her description of Hawthorne, when she met him in Boston, before visiting in his house:
"He is a glorious man, a very ideal man in his personal appearance, with an infinite forehead, his gray, dry, long hair thrown back from it in all directions, deep lamps of eyes glowing from under their heavy arches, black eyebrows and moustache, a florid healthy face, -- a pure, sensitive, reticent, individual man whom it is enough to have seen, to have been in the same house with. He talks little, but he talks extremely well."
Of Doctor Holmes she said: "He is as crisp and clear and incisive in his talk as in his books. He is a man who has an admirable command of all his resources. His sword is two-edged and keen."
Between herself and Mr. Whittier a very tender and beautiful friendship existed. They visited each other, and corresponded, sometimes seriously, but oftener with amusing banter. "I like thee scolding and I like thee smiling, and I hurl defiance at thee. Thee says thee cannot look into Annie Field's face and blame her for anything, but thee makes up for it the moment thee looks in my face," she writes to him; and he writes to her: "I was a little blue this morning, but thy letter was just the tonic I needed. If anybody is out of sorts and hypped, I shall prescribe for him a course of thy letters."
"The trouble with me," she once said, "is that I like everybody." Perhaps that is the reason why she liked flies. "As for flies, I like them. I think a fly is real good company. I spent a good part of one rainy Sunday afternoon watching them. How do you suppose life presents itself to a fly? When they get too numerous for comfort, we just buy a little poison paper, and death comes to them with no dread or fright, only as a fragrant and luring feast -- a sweet intoxication. Oh, I wouldn't give up the flies for anything!" Possibly many of us have had the same feeling at sight of the first little companionable fly on the pane in spring.
But interested as she was in people, -- and flies, -- she cared for inanimate nature and the landscape even more, cared for nature in every form, as much in the great, white, whirling snowstorm as in the spring that she saw underlying the snows. "Spring always seems to open heaven to me," she wrote. "It hints all manner of hidden depths and half-revealed possibilities, and new creations. It is vague and dreamy and eternal. Nothing in the fullness of summer, though I love summer, so speaks of immortality and the highest happiness as the tenderness of the early spring, -- beauty budding from grayness and roughness, just as delicate as the sky."
But then she loved October better still. "How crisp and pungent and aromatic and warm this October is! Its sweetness is as if all the birds and flowers of all the generations of the summers had been distilled into it. The Junes and Julys are of the earth earthy. They have form and color -- they riot and fade, but this October is the spiritual substance of the whole year. It is not form, nor fragrance, nor color, but essence. Past and future meet in one rapturous now, -- a now that fulfills more than hope ever promised, and prophesies more than thought ever dreamed."
She returned to Washington several times for short and long stays, with the Baileys and with the Blaines, and had joyous seasons there; great men and charming women clustered about her, senators, cabinet officers, diplomats, the titled Englishmen of the High Commission, the President himself, all attended on her court, at first entertained and delighted with her brilliancy and pleasantness, and then discovering her as a woman of affairs, having her part in statecraft, and of great value with her advice and her work. Much of this work was in the form of editorials, that had an extraordinary effect. It would be strange to think of this young girl from a secluded hamlet developed into a past master of affairs, not only in politics but in statesmanship, fully informed, deferred to, listened to, sought after for assistance, if it were not that almost every New England girl has an innate instinct for public affairs.
In these days she dressed royally, in white silk and lace, peach-bloom satin, or brocaded cloth of silver, and from her old shyness she had grown to perfect poise and aplomb. She was an ornament to the house of her cousin, Mrs. Blaine, -- a woman of great intellect and wit, who devotedly upheld her husband's hands in every way, not only with complete understanding, but with counsel, with care, and with the entire forgetfulness of self in which she lived the life of her affections.
Gail had another happy period with the Blaine family, all of whom loved her and were as much at her feet as every one else was, when in Augusta, helping Mr. Blaine collect and collate the facts for his book, "Twenty Years in Congress." But before this she had been the editor of Wood's Magazine, together with Mary Pike who wrote at one time under the signature of "Sydney Hyde", and who, as a young girl, had a most interesting career at The Hague, where her father was the American Minister.
With all this crowded life, her tremendous interest in religion still exceeded every other interest. She seemed to feel it her mission to arouse the church, and a part of the church turned and rent her. But she wrote on just as eagerly. She declared herself quite useless in other directions.
"I never made a pie in my life," she writes to a friend, "nor a shirt, nor a loaf of cake. Nor a pudding, to the best of my knowledge and belief. In fact, the list of things that I never did and never want to, is sublime in its infinity."
Even after the first bloom of youth had gone she still had the charm of freshness. Although her curly lair silvered, yet she never seemed to be growing old. It is difficult to comprehend, in view of her buoyancy and gay temperament, how she could have said, "I can't tell you with what infinite pity I look back upon the unspeakable loneliness and bewilderment of my youth." Nor can one trace it exactly to any fixed period. She certainly in later life never knew what loneliness or dissatisfaction was, but after all the excitements and flatteries of Washington, found herself entirely happy in Hamilton with her adoring sister Augusta, who, in spite of a keen intelligence and dry humor, never showed for what she was worth, because, as a friend said, "she always stood round admiring Gail." When asked if she were not lonely in Hamilton, Gail wrote in reply:
"We do have the best of company. Swinburne has been down here for three weeks or so, charming me with his choruses, and Mill is always here at call, which is about once a year. He is a great rest and solace and hope to me. I have a call every evening from Louis Napoleon, but I cannot say I find him very entertaining, but he brings a very charming companion, -- one About. In fact, it would take me a long while just to name the people who come to see me, and who talk their very best in my society."
To Miss Palfrey, who wrote her that she found it a lonely thing to live to seventy years, she replied:
"Not lonely if you could only see and feel the great crowd of witnesses who I believe can see and feel you, -- the best beloved grown more loving, the clear-sighted seeing now though all the mists and fogs of earth into the very penetralia of your love and gratitude, knowing you infinitely better than they ever knew you before, and longing to comfort you with their recognition, let alone all new joys and new purposes, which are to make your life go from glory to glory."
Elsewhere Gail wrote: "This life is beautiful only so far as it is transparent and lets the other upper ether through." It certainly was transparent with her.
She had remodeled and refurnished the house in Hamilton, and made it exceedingly pleasant, and there she had many little companies of delightful and distinguished people, all enlivened by Gail's drollery and caprice and gayety.
Once, when I was in great trouble, she came to me, with her sister, for many weeks, and if she did not turn mourning into joy she brought sunshine into gloom. She often came afterwards, and filled the house with the "inextinguishable laughter of the gods." Whenever she came, the wind and the sun seemed to come in with her, so bright and breezy was her presence.
She was past fifty, and had just recovered from a four months' siege of bronchitis, when what had been the dream of her girlhood was realized, and she went abroad to join Mr. and Mrs. Blaine and some members of their family. "We had two days of fog," she wrote. "You may be sure I relegated the command of this vessel to no one during those two days. I took charge myself." The party traversed France, Italy, and regions of Germany, Switzerland, England, and Scotland.
Nothing escaped her. She climbed Vesuvius in a divine curiosity looking down the crater, with its boiling and heaving commotion. "It is like seeing a world in the making," she said. All the beauty of cathedral and palace she made her own, -- the home of Galileo, the paintings of the Uffizi, the marbles of the Vatican, the charm of Naples, of Sorrento, the ineffable delight of Venice, the wonder and awe of the Alps, the long landscapes of France, the shops of Paris, the greenness of England and the loveliness of her homes, the mists of Scotland. But she looked on everything from the point of view of her entirely original personality. She enjoyed every moment, and especially Mr. Carnegie's coaching trip through England, and the life at Cluny Castle.
One morning there it was raining in sheets and torrents, as if it had never rained before, and as it was impossible to fish or shoot or walk, it was resolved to remain housed, and that each individual should do something for the entertainment of all. Mr. Carnegie told an incident of his career unknown before; Mr. Blaine a Congressional incident that once had been a secret; Walter Damrosch played the Fire-music; and then Gail's turn came. "I will show you," she said, "one of the most satisfactory and charming things of its sort you ever saw in your lives, provided you guess what it is!" They were fresh from manuscripts and missals and marvels of book-binding, from old jewel-work, and ivory triptyches, and Venetian glass, -- of course they could guess. They remembered the old game. To what kingdom did it belong? To all. Pshaw! But does it, for instance, belong to the animal kingdom? Of course. But if it belongs to all, it must belong to the vegetable, too. Partly! Oh, it was an orchid, then. Nothing of the sort. But partly? Can a thing belong to more than one kingdom? This thing does. Is it in the mineral, then? Certainly. - All three kingdoms! It would not be surprising if the spiritual were added. By all means the spiritual. Has it any color, possibly only white? White in a degree. Or pink? In some degree. It is a chameleon! Nonsense! Is it large? Not too large. Tall? It reaches to the heart. Is it the little Fra Angelico -- the Sèvres cup? One may be brazen, but one is notmade of gold! How did I come by it? That is irrelevant; but I stood in great awe of the people who put it in my hands. It is a rosary blessed by the Pope. No? Then it must be that wonderful illuminated Bible. No, my own Bible is full of illumination. And so the guessing went on. A great financier, a great statesman, a great musician, to say nothing of others, and all such poor guessers!
Out of sight Gail hurried and came back with her new Paris bonnet in hand. "Confess," she said, "you never saw anything more satisfactory in its way. Here are all the kingdoms of the earth, as I said. The silk, the plumes for one, the wires, the pins for another, the lace, the straw, for a third, and as for the spiritual, I trust the frame in which I shall wear that bonnet up the broad aisle of the meeting-house in Hamilton will answer for it."
When the gayety had subsided, a footman took the bonnet away. And then the rain ceased, the sun came out, and all dispersed on their various errands. When at night dinner was announced, and the party went out, preceded by the gillies blowing the Scottish tunes on their pipes as they puffed and swayed down the gallery and to the castle dining hall, there on the top of the epergne on the dinner table, above the blaze of gold and silver and crystal, above the flowers, the fruit, the 'frolic wine', like a bouquet of flowers, perched Gail's lovely Paris bonnet, the chief ornament of the lairds' dinner table.
After her return from Europe and a happy season at home, she was again in Washington, and on this visit she had her celebrated Bible Class. Mr. Blaine was then Secretary of State, adding luster to the high office, and Mrs. Blaine, nearly heartbroken through the death of her oldest son and daughter, yet still seeking for the truth, gave her drawing-room for the class. The wife of the President, the wife of the Vice-president, "both houses of Congress, the circles of science, of literature, of education, of diplomacy, sent their delegates. Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, Unitarianism, Episcopacy, were ably and amiably represented, and never more agreeably than when, in Horatian phrase, beautiful daughters came with their more beautiful mothers. The English church and the Greek church bent to each other with stately courtesy. The Quaker faith was there, robed according to the last dainty imported touch of the children of this world, but with all the gentle aspect and saintly bearing of George Fox and the Whittiers, brother and sister. Ignatius Loyola and Jonathan Edwards sat side by side in French costume of faultless cut and wonderful combination; and one had danced no more lightly or deeply into Saturday night than the other. Young Radicalism found the texts for old Orthodoxy; and both smiled approval whenever the sword of the Spirit slipped in between the loosened joints of Error's gaping armor. All came together, not to advocate any theory or repel any doctrine whatever, but to learn for themselves what the Bible teaches." The rest of Gail's account of this marvelous gathering is one of the wittiest and pleasantest recitals that I know.
And then, in the middle of his splendid work of uniting all the Americas, Mr. Blaine's great career was ended. Gail's affection for him had been deep and her faith in him was unbounded. She wrote to him once, "Blessed are you whom men reviled and persecuted and said all manner of evil against falsely for His name's sake -- because you stood alone upright when the others bent before the blast, because in the Credit Mobilier you not only had not taken, but testified that you attached no blame to Oakes Ames in the proffer -- when others would have made a scapegoat you claimed that he was as innocent as any other member of the flock -- because in the Little Rock and Fort Smith matter you denied nothing, never struck to the storm, but stoutly, and defiantly, and splendidly, and heaven-wide, asserted your absolute right to do exactly what you did, -- because when the whole North went after President Hayes, you alone in Congress stood by your faith as firmly as before you stood by moderation and justice when the extremists wanted the Force Bill! Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for of such is the Kingdom of heaven, if I have the least glimpse of what the prophets and apostles mean." Since she so intimately knew his goodness and sweetness and courage, the real grandeur of his nature, she was asked by his family to write his biography.
She went then, with her sister, to the place of his birth, tracing his footsteps, gathering material and working assiduously, and with her heart in her work, for two years. She had completed all but the last chapter, and was in Washington again, when early one morning she felt it had become dark, and that she was slowly sinking to the floor. It was a stroke of paralysis. She failed to rally, and it was thought she could not recover, every breath seeming destined to be her last. As the publisher was in the house clamoring for the book, I was urged by her sister Augusta and by Mrs. Blame to go to Washington and finish the chapter, which rather unwillingly I did, although it was necessary to do hardly more than put her notes together. It was a great disappointment to Gail, after her recovery, not to have completed the work herself, -- although virtually she did so, -- but she generously expressed her pleasure and satisfaction in what I had done.
I have always thought that the paralysis was largely occasioned by the intensity of her effort in behalf of Mrs. Maybrick, -- a woman who was found guilty on slight evidence, and by a judge who became insane shortly after, if indeed, as it has been thought, he was not already so, of administering arsenic to her husband, who had been for years a confirmed arsenic-eater. Gail moved heaven and earth in behalf of the unfortunate lady, with petitions signed by the leading women of this country, by interviews with Supreme Court Justices, by addresses to the Queen, and by incessant correspondence with people of authority, and it is more than probable that the feverish interest and work wrought her great injury.
After many weeks she was able to be moved to Hamilton, and there, to the surprise of all, she regained health and strength enough to write and herself publish the small book entitled "X Rays", in which she recounted her spiritual experience during the time she lay unconscious and, as it were, between two worlds. She had a year and a half of much happiness, surrounded by friends, with her mind clear and strong. Then suddenly one morning the summons came, and, after a few hours of complete unconsciousness again, the great white soul passed to discover the truth she had so eagerly sought here.
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MARY LOUISE BOOTH
THERE was nothing in Mary Booth's childhood and youth to give promise of the brilliant woman of the world and of business that she became; and there was everything in her studious, absent-minded, and shy behavior to foretell the delicate beauty of the poetic nature that made her later companionship precious to people of scholarship, of sentiment, and of genius. Wrapped in her books and the thoughts and fancies they suggested, she seemed utterly unable to cope with the matter-of-fact affairs of common life; and even after she had attained her high journalistic position and national fame, and by her individual effort had accumulated a fortune, her father could never quite believe her able to take care of herself, but frequently made her presents of money, lest she should find herself needing it.
It was fortunate for her that her father was a student and scholar himself, being for the greater part of his life a teacher, and was thus capable of overseeing her education, which was of a very complete character. She was not only conversant with several of the exact sciences, but was well acquainted with Latin, and was mistress of the French, German, and Italian languages, all of which she spoke and wrote with ease. She may have inherited her business talent from her father, who had so well managed his resources as to make himself a man of comfortable property before her birth, and there was never any time in her early life when her purse was not well supplied by him. He had an immense pride in her; and after she began to publish, he kept all her books and every scrap of her writing as so many treasures. There was always a delightful comradeship between herself and her father. "He is a good and true man," she once said of him to me, "a real gentleman of the old school, of the Sir Charles Grandison type, full of high honor and stately courtesy, with a heart open to all who need his sympathy." His death in 1876 was more than at first she knew how to bear. "I need him every moment, and feel that life has lost its sweetness now that he is no longer here to be pleased with what I do," she said.
But if she inherited directly from her father the qualities that make for success, her more poetical qualities perhaps came from the same source as that which fed the ancestor who was the companion of a royal Stuart in his wanderings, although she always claimed a heritage of French esprit upon her mother's side. Indeed, the fortunes of her family before they came to this country, the first owners of Shelter Island, were always a matter of deep interest to her, and she often used for her seal their arms, whose motto, Quod ero spero, was very characteristic of herself.
At the time when Mary left school, it was the habit to think that it was ignoble for a girl to do nothing for her own support, and that she must have some occupation or profession that should make her independent. Sharing the sentiment of the period, she decided, that as teaching would be unpleasant to her, she would take care of herself by means of her needle. Nothing could have been more absurd, as she never sewed very well, and was so nearsighted that she scratched her nose every time she drew out her thread.
But in her goings and comings it happened that she became familiar with facts concerning the story of the City of New York, never yet published, which made her think it worth while to write a history of the place. She did so, and in a manner to win the applause of the leading historians of the country. Another writer saw fit to amplify the work later, and appropriated the whole of the first page of this history without either acknowledgment or quotation point. This, Miss Booth's first book, had a great success, and brought in handsome returns, and she found herself in these very early years the owner of a substantial provision, which it delighted her to display to her father, and which she invested with sound judgment.
She now received flattering offers from publishers, and one very tempting one to go abroad and write the histories of certain of the great European cities; but the breaking out of the Civil War directed her attention elsewhere. An accident, meanwhile, had caused her to do some translating, and finding the work both agreeable and profitable, she continued it, and became the leading translator of the day, publishing many volumes for Laboulaye, Henri Martin, Edmond About, and others, and reaping the harvest of a choice acquaintance with several of the most desirable French writers. She received letters from Lamennais, George Sand, the Count and Countess Gasparin, with cordial expressions of gratitude and warm invitations to France. This led to her great work during the War, at a time when every external help was needed, and when she brought the whole force of French sympathy to bear upon the public mind at home. She prepared one valuable work for the press in a single week, allowing herself hardly three hours' sleep in the twenty-four; and both Mr. Sumner and Mr. Lincoln wrote her in praise and thanks.
By this time one of the leading publishing firms of the country had been made so well acquainted with her character and capacity that, wishing to establish a new journal, they invited her to take charge of it, which she did, after much hesitation, her modesty as real as her power. As the editor of Harper's Bazar she gathered about herself very soon a corps of contributors of unrivaled talent, and made the journal not only valuable in the domestic arts and useful in the fashions, but a repository of belles-lettres that carried delightful reading to every hearth. George William Curtis and Colonel Higginson were weekly contributors, and Mary Wilkins' first stories were published there. Many of the great English writers of serials also constantly appeared in the Bazar. She kept the paper at high standard for many years, and only resigned its charge with her life.
Miss Booth held herself upon very strict lines in her business relations. She appeared at her desk with perfect punctuality, and remained there as late as the latest. In the office she was entirely the business woman, firm and masterly, courageous, faithful, patient, sagacious. But once at home, business was laid aside with the business dress, a fresh toilette was made, and she put on lovely gowns and laces, and rings of price on her small, white, beautiful hands. She valued jewels, India shawls, laces, and velvets, like any other woman, and enjoyed the pleasantness of her home and the affection of her pets -- various canaries, Fluff and Allegretto, red-birds, and mocking-birds, Muff, the famous Maltese who sometimes contributed a mouse to the entertainment at her receptions, and who, when one of the birds fell dead, picked it up gently, carried it off, and laid it down by the side of a person who had cared for it, and Vashti, a little spirit of frolic and fury in the shape of a Persian cat, whose "long plush coat with silvery-gray lights, blazing golden eyes, and feathery tail," were a delight to her mistress.
Her home was made possible to her by the companionship of Mrs. Annie Wright, a friend from childhood, who loved Mary perfectly and was beloved in return. Mrs. Wright was exceedingly graceful and gracious in bearing, but of forceful character as may be known from the fact that being at sea with her husband who was captain of the vessel and ill with typhoid fever, she quelled an incipient mutiny, took command of the vessel, having studied navigation, and brought it safely to port. She lifted every care from Mary, and all Mary's friends were hers.
Every Saturday evening during the winter Miss Booth's parlors were thronged with her friends, and every person of interesting prominence and every stranger of note was to be seen there. Tall and with much majesty of demeanor, she moved among them like a queen; her gray hair, rolled back over a cushion, becoming her as a crown would have done, her dark-brown eyes, the rose tint on her dimpled cheek, and her beaming smile, all made her beautiful; and the ready bon mot, the witty and good-natured turn upon her tongue, made her charming.
She had a great deal of quiet humor, both in conversation and correspondence. Some one had given to a friend of hers, as a curious coincidence, the wedding cards of a lady bearing the same name, the cards chancing to be of the sort where the individual cards of the bride and groom are inclosed, with another whose inscription runs "Married", with the place and date. Her friend abstracted the card of the groom, and sent to Miss Booth those bearing the bride's name and the announcement of the marriage, together with a slice of wedding cake, purchased for the occasion. In return, Miss booth sent a tiny box of perfume and a couple of toy chairs about an inch high, made of crewels wound round pins secured in a bit of cork, accompanied by the following letter:
"We beg to congratulate you on having struck out an entirely new path for yourself in the way of marriage. R.'s vaunted plan of going off on his wedding trip all alone by himself is nothing in comparison to it. You deserve credit for the wholly original idea of ignoring the tyrant man altogether in your nuptials, and setting up as a free and independent unit. Surely Miss Anthony, et al., to say nothing of Abby Smith and her cows, will rise up and call you blessed. By your side, Tennyson's Princess seems meek and commonplace, for even she took a partner in the end, while you have managed to dispense with such an appendage as entirely superfluous. You have set a shining example, which we trust all the maidens of New England will make haste to follow; certainly, like Traddles' skeletons, the manner thereof has the advantage of being easy.
"We enjoyed the wedding-cake immensely. There was a fine flavor about it that could have belonged to no wedding-cake of the old school.
"And now we hasten to lay at your feet our wedding gifts. Unconsidered trifles though they be, we beg you will not despise them in view of their significance. With a thought of their utility, and to aid in your plenishing, I send a couple of chairs which, humble as they seem, were made by the gray nuns in the Montreal Convent, who being wedded, like you, without a husband, -- or at least a material one, -- ought to know what kind of furniture is required in such a household as yours must needs be. I also send you a box of perfume, straight from Constantinople, of the kind that is used by the Oriental ladies who, if married at all, are so in such a homœopathic manner that it must be considered as the highest possible trituration, and nothing to speak of.
M. L. B."
All her letters were charming with such playful humor as this, or with expressions of affection, recital of entertaining facts, criticisms of books and plays and music -- she was familiar with the best music, passionately fond of opera, knowing most of the Italian operas by heart -- or with description of her various journeys with Mrs. Wright, to the West, to Quebec, to Virginia, through the Tennessee mountains, to New Orleans, to Europe. She particularly enjoyed her visit to New Orleans, where she was royally entertained by the old Creole noblesse of the place.
Europe opened a new world to her, where she had the delight of a child. In Venice she became engaged to a lover whom she had several times refused, but when away from the spell of the dream-city, the other spell was broken, too.
While in London intelligence of the death of her mother came with a great shock to Mary, and saddened the rest of her stay, so that she was thankful to return home and plunge into work again. She remained, however, the same delightful, powerful spirit, -- sometimes cast down, sometimes brightening, full of stories of adventure, and entering into all the joys and sorrows of her friends. She did a great deal to advance the interest of her family, and indeed of every one for whom she cared. She had an immense capacity for love and sympathy.
In the winter of the next year, she began to be troubled with a cough that proved obstinate, and just as she was preparing to sail for the Bermudas, hoping cure from the change of temperature, the heart-trouble announced itself, which, after an illness of six weeks, closed her useful and lovely life, and left a place in the affections of those that loved her which can never be filled. And in a very short time Annie Wright followed her, faithful unto death.
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LOUISA STONE HOPKINS
WHEN I entered the Putnam Free School, at Newburyport, -- a stranger in the place, -- two girls in especial attracted my attention. One was rather tall, very erect, a complexion of peaches and roses, regular features and a quantity of golden brown hair, a notable scholar, if not the most notable in the school. But, alas, Jane Andrews was in the class before mine, and sat with the gods. Moreover, she was reported to be engaged. In those years we did not say engaged to be married; we never thought of marriage; it was enough to be loved; so romance surrounded her.
The other girl was Louisa Stone, very fair, with a delicate bloom, with light and lustrous hair and a great deal of it, and with the features of the face on a Greek coin. I did not know Jane Andrews, other than as a pleasant acquaintance, till after she had left school; but, because of certain tastes and sympathies, Louisa Stone and I became friends at once, although she was in the class above me. We walked the halls together at recess, reading Tennyson and Shelley and Milton from the same book; and we went on botanizing trips; in vacation we tramped three miles to Plum Island to spend the day at the seaside, seasoning our pilot-bread in the surf. Louisa was a successful student; and I can see her now, while others amused themselves, sitting at the door of the hall, in another recess, calculating her eclipses. With her love of poetry, and a deeply devout nature and training, she had some strange and interesting spiritual qualities, a certain clairvoyant power. I remember that one day after sunset, she had gone up-stairs with the younger children, and was feeling drowsy herself, when suddenly she started and ran down, meeting Mr. Wells, our teacher, at the door, and crying, "Oh, Mr. Wells, I never can, I never can play it before all the school; I don't play well enough!" Mr. Wells was amazed. A melodeon was to be given to the school, but it had been kept an absolute secret, to all but the giver and Mr. Wells, and Mr. Wells had come down to ask her to play on it at morning devotions.
After graduation, Louisa went with Jane Andrews to the State Normal School in West Newton, half a dozen miles from Boston, where their great friend was Mary Mitchell, the sister of John Mitchell, the Irish patriot, -- "And we rose to read our lessons in the violet bloom of day." Jane's sister Caroline, afterwards the author of "Intimations of Immortality" and of "Life in Puget Sound" was with them, although attending Mrs. Lowell's school. Mr. Higginson once said that Caroline Andrews seemed to be made fresh every morning. Jenny Lind was then at the height of her glory, and the girls were so eager to hear her that they cut off their beautiful hair and walked into town to sell it for enough to buy tickets to one of the concerts; but on their arrival at the place of sale, they discovered that the one who had charge of the parcel of golden locks had lost it on the way.
After finishing the course at the State Normal School, and after a period of teaching at the Putnam Free School, Louisa went away to teach, in Keene, in Albany, in New Bedford. Some years later she married Mr. Hopkins of New Bedford. A more beautiful thing than she when, like Helen, she "shadowed her beauty in white veils" on her wedding morning, these old eyes have yet to see. I wore a pale green silk that morning, and every tear that fell made a blue spot on its silvery sheen. But what has that to do with her?
Every year she came back with her children, -- one of them named for Jane and me, -- who were musical and artistic. One is the brilliant author of "The Clammer" and other very original work.
In the meantime the engagement of Jane Andrews had come to naught, and she went out to Antioch College, arriving at the place in black midnight and not a soul or a house in sight. But obstacles were made only for her to overcome.
After a while her health broke down, and for some years she was a dweller in sanitariums, and lived in a jacket of spiral wires. On regaining health and strength, she had such sympathy for those suffering from sick nerves that, with the indulgence of her generous father and mother, she several times brought invalided people home and herself nursed them to recovery or till death took them. One of these patients was David Wasson, a man of great genius. When one especially lovely and loved young charge died, Jane would not have a window darkened or door closed, but kept the house in good cheer, as her grandfather, the old Unitarian minister, would have liked, and the bier of the young girl in her sky-blue gown was carried down the street without coffin or hearse.
After a few years, Jane opened a school for children, conducted on such original and delightful lines that the children cried if by any chance they were kept away. "It's too bad," one little mite, now a University professor, cried at table. "You've given father a right-angle of pie and me only an acute angle." The same little boy couldn't lay his wet slate in his lap because it would take all the fade out of his gown.
Jane's sister Caroline used to lament that she was born before she could go to Jane's school. Alice Stone Blackwell was under her care for a year or so, and Jane foresaw the greatness of the woman in the unusual child.
It was while keeping this school that Jane developed the idea of writing books for children that should be unlike any other books since the dear days of Peter Parley. One evening, Louisa being at home, a number of us assembled in the Andrews' parlor, which always seemed to all of us a room in the House Beautiful, and she read to us "The Story of the Seven Little Sisters that live on the Round Ball that floats in the Air." I gave a copy of it, with an inscription, to a lad who said he was "glad there were no gols in this family," to his conversion. We all thought it was a pretty story enough, rather wondering why she wrote it. But now, while most of our work lies forgotten, Jane's "Little Sisters" and her "Ten Boys who lived from Long Ago till Now" and the rest, are thumbed and rethumbed by their readers, and bring in a good income to their owners; indeed the "Ten Boys", one young girl recently has assured me, is the most fascinating book she ever read.
After her school was given up, and an old aunt came to end her days with Jane and her sister Emily, -- who was a quite wonderful painter and got the very soul of the flower she painted, her exquisite work having acclaim overseas as well as at home, -- Jane spent the rest of her life simply in doing good deeds. Of the finest and gentlest instincts, absolutely unselfish, full of resource, always looking earnestly for the way to help the helpless, adored by the children she had taught and the myriad children who were her readers, she died far too young, -- at fifty, -- and left the world poorer.
Meanwhile Mrs. Hopkins had resumed her teaching, opening a school for her own children to which in course of time other children were admitted. Eventually she was made one of the Supervisors of the Boston Public Schools, and introduced and espoused many new measures, such as manual training, and the abolition of corporal punishment. She wrote several books on the subjects of teaching and school-work and kindred matters, and published two volumes of poems, "Motherhood", and "Breath of the Field and Shore."
"Motherhood" was a poem to be read in a sympathetic and worshipful spirit. In the preface she appealed to readers "to respect the incognito of a poem which was written as an expression not of individual but of universal experience, and from a desire to portray in its purity and holiness the most beautiful instinct of humanity." The book met instant acceptance, and notices all over the land were plaudits. One critic said of one of the poems that it was of almost Miltonic strength and dignity, so pure, so sublimely heroic, and so infinitely touching that he shrank from quoting; and all extolled its delicacy and beauty. The book has been a joy and help to many mothers, exalting them in their office.
In the second volume such poems as "Nonquit", "The Tender Love of God", "The Secret of the Night", "The Salt Marshes", "The Building of the Tabernacle", and "Persephone", the song of the everlasting spring, are poems that deserve immortality, because they strike a chord that must sound as long as the heart of humanity beats.
On Newburyport's two hundred and fiftieth anniversary, Mrs. Hopkins was invited to write the Ode for a part of the exercises, and she did so, reading it herself, and adding beauty to the beautiful lines. It was a great poem and was welcomed by Newburyport people far and near; for the old town is so cosmopolitan that from one end of the earth to the other you will fall in with some one from Newburyport.
In her later years, she endured much suffering; but she always held her spirit above it. All her life she was not only deeply but ecstatically religious and seemed to have a unique spiritual insight. To my great happiness she became my neighbor, having bought a place on the banks of the Merrimack, commanding charming views. She spent several summers there with her husband and children, devoting the evenings to music of the rarest, with fun and pleasantry and intellectual enjoyment. And here, in the late spring of 1895, after a brief illness, the culmination of long disturbance, she died. "Don't keep me back," she said, with her last breath, to those about her. "The gates of Heaven are wide open."
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ROSE TERRY COOKE
WITH what pleasure the circle of girls of which I was one read Rose Terry's stories in the first Atlantic magazines! We went across the river to a place of woods and rejoiced in the Autocrat and in Rose Terry. That we could ever know Rose Terry and call her Rose never entered our heads. She was far away in upper skies.
Hers were the first of the dialect stories (although Mrs. Stowe's were nearly of the same period) since the old days of Judge Haliburton and of Seba Smith; and they were of a very different order from those earlier ones, not of that type of buffoonery, but transcripts of genuine life, the interest interwoven with pure wit and humor, sweetness and tenderness. And the purpose was always high. The use of words was often novel and striking. "The grasshoppers chittered as if they was fryin'," says a girl in one of those stories.
In another early Atlantic there was a story of hers in a quite different line, -- the account of a girl one night in a conservatory in doubt if she should accept a lover, and who summons before her all the dead and gone women of history with their loves; an exquisite thing, full of power and the very spirit of poesy. It had a wonderful effect upon us. But the greater part of Rose Terry's work was in the study of New England life. One of these studies, "The Deacon's Week", was reprinted in a little paperbound book by an admiring friend for wider distribution, and was warmly welcomed. No greater story of its character has ever been written than "Freedom Wheeler's Controversy with God."
In person Rose was tall and well-made; she was distinguished-looking, and would have been beautiful, with her fine features, and great black eyes, but for too high a forehead. She had an irresistible smile. When she was talking, with high spirit and ebullient gayety, you never thought how she looked; you only knew she was altogether delightful. She was very graceful, dressed modestly and in good taste, and was very fond of old lace; indeed, she loved all beautiful things.
I met her first at Mary Booth's, in New York; afterwards she came to me and by and by wrote a little memoir of me, among others, for a subscription book, for which one of my fond aunts gave her incidents of my childhood that I did not know myself.
She had been described to me as living with her stately old father in a stately old brick house in Hartford, rather stately herself and of caustic wit. I myself never saw anything of this stateliness. She was of a rare friendliness and kindness, and if dignified always sweet-natured and tempering her steel with common sense. Later on she had left the old brick house and was boarding. She was extremely affectionate, loving her little nieces devotedly. "They have been up here for a few days," she said. "It was a glint of brightness that did me good." Said little Faith, "If your name is Wose, I fink you is a wivvered wose." Little Faith grew up to be a fair and lovely white-rose-looking girl, studying art in Boston, at the time just before Rose was dying.
In the house where Rose boarded, Mr. Rollin Cooke was also a resident, and his circumstances so excited her pity, that pity which is akin to love, that finally she yielded to his persuasion and became his wife, although she was very much older than he. His business brought him frequently to Amesbury, and she usually came with him and stayed with us. Those were gala days. "We love you all so much that it is ridiculous," she wrote. Mr. Cooke was devotedly attached to her, and thought nothing that she did could be bettered. He was a very attractive and lovable man, witty himself and the cause of wit in others, always interesting and always good-natured, and their relation was quite perfect. "The praises he is receiving," she wrote, "are quite turning his dear old bald head."
After her marriage, Rose lived in Winsted, Connecticut, going occasionally to her friends, of whom Mrs. Annie Trumbull Slosson, who survives her, was one. Mrs. Slosson is famous as an entomologist -- many a winged and creeping thing being named for her -- and famous also as a writer of wonderfully original stories where an inspired imagination and spirituality combine with a quaint humor. Rose was a superior housekeeper and entertained simply but delightfully. In Winsted her house, her work, and her gardening, filled her time, the last giving her great pleasure. She was a botanist; and a flower was to her like a person, having individuality, a life of its own, and, as you might say, a soul. I treasured for many, many years a white Mabel Morrison rosebush that she gave me, of ineffable sweetness, one of the old-fashioned kind that climb to upper windows, and look as if trained by your great-grandfather, whose mere possession, as it has been said, is like a patent of nobility. Alas, it blooms no more.
Rose's hospitality kept open house; the place was full of welcome. To a friend in distress she once wrote: "If you want to run away from every place that is haunted for you by memory or association, come here. Come any time, with or without warning, and feel as if you were coming home. There will at least be love and welcome for you here as long as I have a home."
When Rose was not attending to her house, was not entertaining, writing, or gardening, she was reading, and her reading was very varied and extensive, -- biographies, histories, poems, polemics, novels. How pleased I was when in one of her letters she spoke of her delight in the pages of Elizabeth Shepard; she was joyful that I also liked "Counterparts", and said, as for her, she fairly loved it. "I almost put it beside Charles Auchester, not quite, for it is more human. The other is crystallized and supernatural music; it is heavenly and entrancing and makes one fall to passionate longing for power to bring out that torturing minor music that is like a thirst for which there is no water, no expression. But 'Counterparts' is so wise, so tremendously human and lovable." Poetry and romance were at the very root of her being.
In quite another vein she wrote concerning Mrs. Carlyle's letters. "I am so sorry Carlyle is dead. I want so mightily to give him a piece, a large and strong piece of my mind. Wretch! I could do him a mischief with intense satisfaction. Poor dreary, sweet, brave, unhappy woman! The book is dreadful. It makes me ache to the heart."
When she was familiar, and with accustomed friends, Rose was a marvel in the way of jest and anecdote. "Laughter, holding both his sides," was her constant companion. It was to her that a delinquent milkman said, on her reproval of his neglect: "Well, to tell you the truth, my wife died last week; and I don't know when a little thing has put me so about!"
Her wit was sometimes so pungent (she renamed a person who wrote under the initials 'M. E. W. S.' the Tenth Muse) that on first hearing her you wandered if there were not a gentler side to her nature. But there was, and it was by far the most of her. She was painfully tender-hearted; every one's woes were her woes. A kindness made her your friend forever; but she was never maudlin or sentimental.
Another side to this many-faceted nature was her love of nature and her interpretation and impersonation of it. She loved her gardens, but she loved wild nature more. From Glen Ellis, where she was visiting Mrs. Slosson, she wrote: "There is a waterfall here which 'bates Banagher,' especially when it is mad with an all-night's pour of summer rain, and comes roaring, laughing, rushing and sparkling down the great tilted granite steps of its bed into the cool green hollow below." Her love of nature was often accompanied by a sense of spiritual analogies, as one springtime when "a green mist was in the willows," she writes, "Oh, why can we not renew our youth once a year? But when we do, it will be forever and ever. Never to be old and sick and tired, the negatives of heaven! What must its great affirmations be!"
She was a member of the Orthodox church from her early girlhood. Her religion, however, was of the quiet kind, something as natural as the air she breathed. She had no doubts; she took things as they had been given to her at first. To a person happily married, yet who had been questioning the goodness of God, she said; "Do you know what a gift you have had in your one life-long perfect fulfilled love? And can you disbelieve in God's goodness when He has given you such a crown?" The time came when this habit of faith became an unfailing support to her.
Rose published only one volume of poems, republished with a few additions nearly thirty years later. She must have written many more for she wrote with great facility; but she was always indifferent to fame. Many of the verses were first published in the New York Tribune, signed, not with her own name, but with the initials A. W. H. which were her mother's, because her mother was so dear to her that she wished to associate her with all she did. The verses were illustrative of her manner of thought; but they were not as fine and great as she was. Some of these verses were powerful, -- the border ballads; others were of gentle tenderness and beauty, betraying the inner sweetness of her nature, but they were not her strongest expression. The "Trailing Arbutus" was an immediate favorite and was widely copied. The book was a success, and gave her rank among the poets, but I always felt she was finer and greater in her best prose, and I enjoyed her prose more. I never told her so, for I would far rather have let truth go by than have hurt her feelings. In her outlook on life she used a singular combination of the Greek penetration to the secret of beauty and the matter-of-fact Puritan realism. In herself she was a thoroughly satisfying and dear person, sympathetic, confiding, and loving, of brilliant intelligence, of pure genius, and of a superb moral uprightness that was inherent.
She had some melancholy crises in her life, not to be rehearsed. And she had many amusing episodes. One of these latter affairs was when a young woman, occupying half of her seat in a railway car, introduced herself to her as Rose Terry, and talked quite freely of her stories and of her state of mind in writing this or that, and of the praise and money she received. Rose suffered her to go on without let or hindrance.
When Rose married, she had a comfortable competence; but it gradually became involved in the business of her father-in-law and her husband until she lost the whole of it, and faced the necessity of going to work again with her health ruined. Her husband was very unhappy about it, for her sake, and was thoroughly discouraged. "I hear him sigh in his sleep," she wrote. It was really tragical.
One of the strongest feelings Rose had was her love of her mother. She could never accustom herself to the fact that her mother had died. On waking in the morning her mother always seemed to be in the next room, and she missed her bitterly every day. Once when I asked her where she found her tropic streak, she answered, "My mother was nursed by a gypsy, and in her were the oddest streaks. Severer in her Puritanism than ever I was, there was a favorable wildness about her, a passion for getting out of doors, and in just as little covering as possible. I have known her to go out in her garden, of a summer day, with only a scant skirt over her under-garment, and a hat on her head, and weed, risking interruption. The blood told. She struggled to be rugged and free and out of doors, though her habit was to be proper and shy and meek. It made her interesting, though alarming, especially when young men used to be about of a summer's afternoon and Alice and I spied her, stealing out among the young trees to the carnation bed. Poor little mother! 'without were fightings, within were fears,' for her always. I dreamed, Sunday night, that she came for me to go home. I saw her as plainly as if I had been awake. But when I was awake, she did not come. "Perhaps the beloved little mother did come. For Rose died that year.
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LOUISE CHANDLER MOULTON
A TENDER and sensitive little child, born under the rigors of the old faith, who drew her breath in trembling, and pattered out of bed in the dark night, and sought the warm comfort of her mother's arms, because if she were not among the elect it was no use trying to be good, yet later, in girlhood, in womanhood, in age, all her life long, Louise Chandler Moulton, even when freed from the bonds and restraints of doctrine, lived under the shadow they cast upon her days. With her strong imagination, she dreamed out to the full all the darkness involved in the creed of her parents. Of course there were great escapes into sunshine, and the natural gayety of youth and health, and all her excitements and successes helped her, but the gloom was always ready to fall.
If it was not in a way a sad childhood, it was a pitiful one, without games, dances, toys, or story-books; cards were unknown; a pantomime would have been something unheard of. But for all that, it was a fond father and mother who did their best to make their child happy and good. In the meantime she created a new world for herself, began to write verses at seven, and had the people of her little unwritten Spanish drama for companions. In the main she was happy; she loved beauty, and had it everywhere about her.
I often wonder whence came that spark of genius that grew to such a steady flame. Her father and mother were gentlefolk, and there was a distinguished ancestry behind them, far and away. But by what law of nature was it, and from what material, that out of their gentle and quiet lives sprang this child of poesy and of brilliant career? Louise loved her father and mother devotedly and thought they as good as held up the sky. But when she went away to boarding-school, she had emancipation from their beliefs, although not from themselves. When her mother came to see her, wearing pink roses in her bonnet, she was delighted, and also extremely pleased to think no other girl in school had such a pretty mother as she.
She was a faithful student, and her "compositions" were so remarkable that at first a teacher thought she had appropriated them from some successful writer, but she was so absolutely truthful and frank that her word was taken. Her distant cousin, Edmund Clarence Stedman, was one of her classmates, and so also was Whistler, and they both cherished the recollection of it.
She had already published her first book when she entered Mrs. Emma Willard's Academy. Her publisher, Mr. Phillips, of Phillips and Sampson, said she was more fit to be President of the United States than any man he knew. Of course it was a preposterous statement; but it shows how early she threw her spell over every one. The book sold to the extent of twenty thousand copies, an immense sale in those days.
She was exceedingly pretty then, in all the loveliness and freshness of girlhood, with golden-brown hair, hazel eyes, and black brows and lashes, with exquisite coloring, and fine features. She was not tall, but she carried herself so well that she seemed tall. It was no wonder that with this personality and sweetness and sparkle Mr. William Upham Moulton, the editor of the paper in which many of her sketches had been published, should have fallen in love with her and have married her before she was twenty.
He was a man of authority, of culture and breeding and courteous manners, very fine-looking, with black hair on a low Greek forehead, and eyes as blue as jewels and blazing with light, -- a man of great generosity and great sense of justice. A cousin of Louise, the mother of Mr. John Corbin, described her as lingering a moment on the church porch in the sunset light, a radiant being in her bridal veil, blushing, blooming, full of life and joy and love. Always the confiding, fearless glance, the antique line of cheek and chin, the delightful smile, made a face that no portrait has successfully recorded, and which tender consideration and grace of manner accented to wonderful charm.
Established in Boston, every one gave her glad welcome. Lowell, Emerson, Doctor Holmes, Whittier, -- who spoke of the benediction of her face, -- all were her guests. Longfellow brought her his poems to read before printing; Mrs. Whitman, Edgar Poe's betrothed (she of "the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome"), was her constant correspondent. It was as if there were a conspiracy to make her happy.
In this first year of her marriage, her novel "Juno Clifford" was published, at first anonymously, and then her stories and poems began to appear in the magazines of the day. The next year her daughter Florence was born; an incomparably beautiful child, with spun-gold hair; and some years later came a son, whose death, after five days of life, was a great disappointment and grief.
It was in the first year of her marriage that Thackeray came to Boston with his lectures on the Four Georges. Mrs. Moulton attended all the lectures, sitting very near the platform (she was nearsighted), full of longing and adoration. At the close of the last, as he left the platform, he bent toward her and said: "I shall miss the kind, encouraging face that has been beneath me for so many hours." She had longed with a full heart to speak to him, but perhaps for the first and last time in her life, she was so surprised that she could not say a word.
We had become pleasantly acquainted before, but in the winter of 1866, we saw a great deal more of each other. She had been married eleven years then, was a very beautiful woman, and her house was a center of hospitality. She was as much interested in me and in my work as she was in herself and her own work. She was always magnanimously generous. In her printed criticisms she seldom found fault; where she could not praise, she was silent, except when trying to help in private. She was the literary correspondent of the New York Tribune for some years, at an interesting period of Boston life; at the time the Radical Club met at Mrs. Sargent's, and Alcott, John Weiss, Colonel Higginson, John Dwight of the Musical Journal, David Wasson, Mrs. Howe, Mary Thatcher, afterward Mrs. Higginson, Frank Sanborn, Doctor Bartol, Samuel Longfellow, and almost all others of note were companions. Her letters were copied everywhere and extended her reputation far and wide.
In 1876, Louise went to Europe. A few days in London allowed her to see the Queen open Parliament for the first time after the Prince Consort's death, and the scene was to her as pathetic as it was splendid. She went then for a short stay in Paris, and to Rome.
Rome was the revelation to her of her dreams of romance. It overpowered her as if with the hypnotic influence of all the dead and gone past. She not only experienced the ancient delight, but entered into the artistic and social modern life. No one ever felt the spell or enjoyed the beauty and melancholy more than this sensitive, sympathetic spirit. Protestant though she was, she was touched to tears by the benignant old Pope's blessing, and abandoned herself to the Carnival like any child of Italy. She returned to Rome later; but in the next year she was in London, having a wonderful season. At that time, she had taken but one letter of introduction; it was from Joaquin Miller to Lord Houghton. As it proved, she could not have had a more fortunate introduction. All London, or you might say all England, had been excited and stirred over Joaquin Miller not long before. He was the wild west, a new sensation in the hackneyed life. He had meant nothing of the sort. He had come to London, with his little paper-bound book of poems, simply to obtain recognition as a poet. Having to cross London one wet night, he had tucked his trousers into his boots, and when at the house to which he was invited, -- his long golden curls falling on his shoulders, -- he forgot to take the trousers out of hiding and no footman ventured to instruct him. He was as astonished as anyone when he discovered the fact, and then he brazened it out. He was taken to drink tea with the Queen by Dean and Lady Augusta Stanley, who was a descendant of Robert Bruce; he visited Mr. Gladstone, at Hawarden; he was asked to visit King Humbert in Italy, and invited everywhere by people of importance.
When Lord Houghton opened that letter of his, it is not impossible that he thought he was to have the woman of the wild and woolly west in hand. One can judge of his surprise, then, when he met this beautiful young woman, of exquisitely gracious manner, perfectly at ease, a thing of loveliness and charm. He made a breakfast for her and invited to it the leaders of letters and of art, Browning, Doré, Swinburne, Jean Ingelow, George Eliot, and many others. Lord Houghton had introduced a gentleman wearing gray clothes, but in so low a voice that she failed to hear his name. After returning to the drawing-room, the gentleman in gray came and sat beside her, and she said to him, "I understand Mr. Browning is here. Will you kindly tell me which he is?" A little puzzled and amused, he called to some one near, "Mrs. Moulton wants to know which of us is Browning." And then with a gay motion he added, "C'est moi!" They became warm friends, and he often came to her for advice and friendliness. Mrs. Bloomfield Moore once invited her for a whole day with Browning to herself, and she always wore a ring Mrs. Moore gave her in memory of the day.
After this there was almost no one of any interest in England that she did not meet and meet frequently, the Rossettis, Watts-Dunton, William Sharp of the dual personality with Fiona McLeod, Mrs. Clifford, Madame Darmesteter, Aubrey de Vere, Doctor Marston, the dramatist, and his son, Philip Bourke Marston, in fact, every one except Tennyson. With him Lord Houghton had arranged a meeting, and Tennyson had waited a half hour, when she was not to be found, being away on some trivial errand. Later she often visited Lady Ashburton, of whose rumored engagement to Robert Browning she heard two titled ladies talking. One said, "It is impossible! My dear, she would be déclassée."
Perhaps Rose Terry Cooke's sympathy with Mrs. Carlyle would have been less had Lady Ashburton told her, as she told Louise, of an occasion when Carlyle was reading some pages of his work to a number of people in her drawing-room, descanting afterwards so marvelously that every one came to him with congratulations except his wife. Lady Ashburton said to her, "Why don't you go up and congratulate him to? A word from you would mean so much more to him. See, all these others have done so."
"They don't have to live with him," said Mrs. Carlyle.
Every year Louise made a long visit at Durham House, the home of Sir Bruce and Lady Seton. When one day she took me there to see a collection of modern paintings, and I told Sir Bruce that I was going to Clovelly, "Oh, yes," said he, "my cousin owns it." To think of any one owning Clovelly, with that wood overhanging the sea, beautiful as the forest of Broceliande! But his words reminded me of Miss Porter, who when asked, in England, if she had ever seen Niagara, nonchalantly replied, "We own it."
While in London that first season, Louise published her volume called "Swallow-Flights", which had a success that surprised her and exceeded her most radiant hope. "'One Dread,'" said Professor Meiklejohn, "might have been written by Sir Philip Sidney." The critical Atheneum said the poems exhibited delicate and rare beauty, marked originality and perfection of style, subtle and vivid imagination, and the spontaneous feeling which is the crown of lyrical poetry.
She had flattering notes from Browning, from Swinburne, from all the world, and what was especially pleasing to her was that most of the notices were written by those who had never seen her. Professor Meiklejohn, somewhat later, wrote her of lines of "imperishable beauty" in the book, of a line that Shelley might have been proud of, of the sonnet "In Time to Come", as one of astonishing crescendo. "You must look for your poetic brethren among the noblest lyrists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Your insight, your subtlety, your delicacy, your music, are hardly matched and certainly not surpassed by Herrick, or Campion, or Carew, or Herbert, or Vaughan." And Philip Bourke Marston wrote, "the divine simplicity, strength, and subtlety, the intense, fragrant, genuine individuality of her poems make them imperishable." All this adulation was marvelous to her, but it never excited or aroused vanity. She hardly believed it.
Louise's friendship with the Marstons, father, son, and daughters, gave her great happiness. They were very fond of her. In the case of Philip, who lost his eyesight when three years old, she became eyes to the blind. "Can you fancy what it is," he said to her, "to be just walled in with books which you are dying to read, and to have them as much beyond your reach as if they were at the other side of the world?" On becoming his literary executor, after his early death, she brought out a volume of his verse called "A Last Harvest", and put together all his flower-poems, as he had meant to do himself, with the title "Garden Secrets." Then she published a collected edition, besides a book of the poems of Arthur O'Shaughnessy, who married one of Philip's sisters, and had died early. Another sister, Cecily, while calling on Louise one day, died suddenly, almost in her arms. "It must be a comfort to thee," wrote Mr. Whittier, "to know that thy love and sympathy made his sad lot easier to be borne. He was one who needed love, and I think he was one to inspire it also." Edmond Gosse wrote her that she had been Philip's better genius.
She went with the Marstons to Étretat, and a passage in her diary, recording the magnificence of a wild moonlit night, shows how susceptible she was to the great influences of nature. "Nothing can ever take from me the fitful splendor, the wild rhythm, the divine mystery of this happy night. I can always close my eyes and see again sea and sky and dear faces; hear again the waves break on this wild coast of Normandy with the passion of their immortal pain and longing."
Louise often went back to Europe, and her spacious rooms in London were filled with a delightful company. One met there Mr. and Mrs. Meynell, Thomas Hardy, Mrs. Cashel-Hoey, Burne-Jones, Watts-Dunton, and other most interesting folk. At home in the winter her Friday afternoons became a feature of Boston society; her drawing-room and library were filled with painting and sculpture given by the painters and sculptors, of old china, autographs, and books. The doors of her house were open to all, and she was a gracious and perfect hostess.
In another European visit she was in Italy, visiting Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi, Pæstum; and then in Rome again. She went to the various Baths from time to time, published her little book of "Random Rambles." She traveled through Spain with friends, and her "Lazy Tours" is a record of all she felt in that land "whose gayety is the foam on an ocean of sad history," as Colonel Higginson has said.
In the late eighties, she sent a literary letter every week to the Boston Herald, and the letters were as successful as those she sent years before to the Tribune; in 1889 she published her "Garden of Dreams", exquisitely illustrated. This carried her reputation still higher, going through several editions. One of the sonnets, the profoundly touching "Help Thou my Unbelief", gained a wide recognition, and all the verses received warm praise. George Meredith wrote her that her lyrics were exquisite. Miss Cooper -- of the Michael Field partnership -- said "your verses are like music," and Whittier wrote her that "the sonnet was never set to such music and never weighted with more deep and tender thought."
After Mr. Moulton's death in 1898, Louise remained at home and in seclusion for more than two years, in the home that sadly missed his presence. He was a very noble man, of perfect integrity, generous and sympathetic, of fine intelligence; he had always made her travel and social life possible, and had been gratified by her successes. He was in his usual health when she was to read "A Toccata of Galuppi's", at a meeting of the Browning Society, and she writes in her diary, "Mr. Moulton seemed interested about the reading, and I read him the 'Toccata' and other poems. A beautiful evening." It was the last evening of Mr. Moulton's good health. He was ill the next day, and died very shortly afterward.
The spring of 1900 she passed in Italy, where all was soothing and helpful, and again the enchantment overcame her; then she was in London with old friends; by September she was in Paris for the Exposition, and then to Aix-le-Bains, her health having become uncertain.
For some time her yearly seasons in London, and sojourns on the Continent were a series of triumphal progresses. She had innumerable invitations, and went out a great deal, -- to Edward Clifford's to see pictures, to lunch with Sir Richard and Lady Burton at Hampstead Heath, to Mrs. Meynell's, Archdeacon Wilberforce's, the Baroness Burdet-Coutts's, sought after indeed by all. It was the more pleasant because she never was willing to seek social distinction, and declined to be presented at court when friends urged it. She had one disastrous experience at this time, which always gave her regret; she had accepted an invitation to a luncheon as the guest of honor, but had failed to make a note of it, and on looking for the invitation to see the address found she had mislaid it. After long search, the maid was summoned; but she had emptied the waste-basket, and the contents had been taken away. It was impossible for Mrs. Moulton to remember the name, the place, or the hour; and she felt bitterly that her failing memory would cast a blight upon the character of the manners of American women.
In 1900 her last book, "At the Wind's Will", was published. Almost all of it was poetry at high-water mark and exceeded all she had done before. Her health had failed her so treacherously, and her friends and her letters so absorbed her attention, that she wrote very little more.
It has been said that she had a genius for friendship. She never had a friend that she did not try to share that friend with some one she loved. As Mrs. Annie Eichberg King wrote of her, "It was a part of her to be happy in another's happiness." She had great enjoyment in the friendship of Mrs. Coulson Kernihan -- of whose book "God and the Ant" a million copies were sold -- and who, when she was in London, surrounded her with every care and attention. She also had great pleasure in the friendship of Mr. Arlo Bates, of Edmund Stedman, of William Winter, of Doctor Ames, of Lilian Whiting, Julia Ward Howe, Mr. and Mrs. Royal Cortizzos, the Pearmains, Imogen Guiney, Alice Brown, and too many others to enumerate. "My best reward," she said once, "has been the friendships that my slight work has won for me." Letters of friendship came to her from all over the world, and until the very last she answered them. She was always careful of the feelings of others; and her generosity in other ways was boundless. No one ever asked her for help of any sort, that she did not give it, -- revision of manuscript, letters of introduction, money in large sums. She was equally generous in her appreciations and in extending the reputation of another. With two exceptions she was the most absolutely generous person I have ever known.
For many years she read frequently in public for charities and institutions. She was a wonderful reader; her exquisite voice, full of silver vibrations, -- that "voice in which all sweetnesses abide" as Philip Bourke Marston said, -- seemed to give meanings that perhaps were in the writer's sub-consciousness but not in the verse, and when she read her own poetry, the lutes and flutes of Fra Angelico's angels could not have given sweeter accord. Once when in some company Mr. Whittier was asked to read one of his poems, a thing impossible to him, he said he would like to hear her read one; and she read "The Swan Song of Parson Avery." The poet went over to her and said, "Why, thee has made me think I've written a beautiful poem!" It was only two days before she died that she repeated to me one of her own verses,
"Roses that briefly live,
Joy be your dower,
Blest be the fates that give
One perfect hour.
For though too soon you die,
In your dust glows
Something the passer-by
Knows was a rose!"
and all the old richness and fullness and undertone of melancholy were in her soft murmur.
She had a year of suffering, tenderly cared for by her faithful Katy. Her daughter Florence, with her husband, Mr. Schaefer, abandoned other plans and came to Boston, passing many months with her, and being a great comfort and delight. Her memory failed in some directions, that is, as to the affairs of to-day and yesterday, but on literary matters it was as good as ever. I was with her a great deal at that time, and two days before she died I read to her in the morning various poems new and old, and she spoke here critically, there admiringly, with all her former keen appreciation.
She passed into the future life as one goes to sleep. And she was as beautiful in death as in life, as she lay almost buried in flowers. The great, wide-winged golden butterfly that flew before, as she was carried out of the house, was only a symbol of her spirit. Lilian Whiting noted this occurrence, in her full and fine biography of Louise, wherein she has shown how well all love and admiration were justified.
There was found in Louise's desk a memorandum on which was written a list of various things which she would like to have her daughter do for certain charities and friends. The paper was undated and unsigned; but her daughter understood that it was her mother's wish and observed it in every particular. One of the wishes was that a handsome annuity should be given me, which has always been kindly done, and has been doubly valued.
It was an unusual thing that Louise herself never wrote any account of her flattering experiences abroad, except in the brief notes of her diary. She never in any instance violated the sacredness of the homes that received her, or introduced in her public letters, incidents, allusions, descriptions, that would have been interesting reading, but which she felt it would be indelicate to relate. But in the privacy of friendly meetings she sometimes spoke freely. I remember once at a luncheon that Mrs. Fields gave her, how delightful she was, illumining the whole occasion with account of those of whom we were glad to hear. But even then she told only what was good and best. She could have righteous indignation with wrongdoing; but I never heard her speak unkindly or derisively of any individual.
Although many of her lyrics, such as "The House of Death" and "Arcady" are, I think, immortal, yet it must be by her sonnets that she will be most truly known. "Though we were Dust", with its passionate outcry, the heart-breaking "Rose of Dawn", the large and splendid yet tenderly touching "Were but My Spirit loosed upon the Air", the intense humanity of "Vain Freedom", the tremendous yearning and prayer of "Help Thou my Unbelief", the sympathetic touch of "A Poet's Second Love", the magnificence of "When we confront the Vastness of the Night", the lofty insight of "Aspiration", place all these sonnets among the greatest that have enriched our literature. She sometimes regretted what she called her narrow range, since most of her poems treated only of love and death. But is there anything greater and broader in all the world! And yet her genius was less than the loveliness of nature, the kindness, the sweetness, the capability for affection, the forgivingness, the single-mindedness, the magnanimity and nobility that made her true lover and matchless friend.
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Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College