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Texts Related to the Works of Sarah Orne Jewett
from The Condition of Woman in the United States
by Madame Marie Therese de Solms Blanc (Th. Bentzon).
Translated by Abby Langdon Alger.
Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1895.
Reprinted by New York: Arno Press, 1972.
Chapter 2: BOSTON.
I SPENT more time in Boston than in any other city of the Union; and the longer I lived there, the fonder I became of it. But this required no great effort, -- the first impression was enough; and even now, when I try to recall my memories, the thought of Boston is all predominant! Before it dawned upon me as the most polished city in America, Boston dazzled me as a dream of beauty. This may perhaps be due to the circumstances of my arrival. It was evening; and next morning, when I woke, I saw from my window, the blinds being open, a panorama which I can never forget. Beneath a cloudless sky, deeply tinged with rose, -- one of those American skies which seem so much loftier than those of France, -- stretched the wonderful Charles River, sparkling as if sprinkled with diamonds, broad as an arm of the sea. No passing steamer disturbed its solitude at that early hour; it was not the season when it is covered with pleasure boats; not a sloop, or a schooner on the horizon, -- only a dredging-machine cast its black shadow on that sun-flecked sheet. The water, which is subject to the influence of the tide, flowed up to the wall of the garden beneath my window, washing on one side the semicircular quay bordered by straight, red, lofty roofs and on the other, one of the Cambridge bridges. Opposite, beyond the long bridge, flung boldly between the two sister cities which are in constant communication, wooded hills were outlined in the atmosphere of crystalline purity. The factories and warehouses built on piles, to my right, looked like great monuments with their square towers, their massive silhouettes. The telegraph poles, whose quivering shadows were reflected in the water, -- sea, stream, great canal or lagoon, -- seemed waiting for some one to moor up a fleet of gondolas to them. I could almost fancy myself in Venice; and the peaceful aspect of the scene completed the illusion. But Charles River sunrises are as nothing compared to the sunsets. I remember, in winter, certain opaline thaws, -- the sky becoming a vivid red towards four o'clock, then gradually brightening and passing through every shade of orange and greenish yellow, into the clearest blue, the calm and almost somnolent water serving as a mirror for this magic show. Still frozen along the shore, its cakes of ice glimmered in the light of the earliest street lamps. I remember too, in seasons of remorseless cold, the aurora-borealis-like tones of sky and water, -- houses, boats and naked trees standing out against that crimson in black relief whose slightest details were most clearly marked; then the conflagration, growing smoky, died out by degrees, leaving ashes only, after the disappearance of a large red rayless ball, the strange Northern sun. The wavy line of the hills faded into that expiring gray. And twilight once fallen, the Charles River looked like a lake of quivering steel, in which the lines of fire lighted along the wharves and on the long bridge were extended into infinity; as each car passed, invisible in the darkness, showers of sparks lit up all the windows in the great buildings on the Cambridge shore, which in this intermittent illumination more than ever assumed the aspect of fairy palaces, commonplace though they might actually be.
The very variable climate, with its sudden changes from one extreme to another, explains the infinite variety of the sky, so different from that of France, still more from the English sky. I gazed from that window by day and by night upon a spectacle ever changing, ever splendid, save when one of those endless tempests of snow, of which those living in Europe can form no idea, was raging. How can I describe the moonlight which suddenly followed those storms flecking the half-frozen river in which pillars of fire were bathed? I was only separated from it by the narrow garden covered with a white sheet. Every idea of earth vanished; I seemed to soar above that silver flood as freely as the gulls who appeared in flocks with the first rays of dawn.
These effects produced by the changing season and the varying atmosphere are inseparable in my memory from the delicious hospitality which lent them a festal character; and when people tell me that after all Boston is only a city of five hundred thousand inhabitants, merely the capital of Massachusetts, I find it hard to believe them, in view of the royal phastasmagoria of the Charles River. Those who love contrasts cannot do better than to visit Boston after Chicago, without a break. They will abruptly breathe the atmosphere of the past.
If we walk through the old part of the town, crooked and irregular as it is, we might imagine ourselves in some old English city; the tangled iron wires of telegraph and telephone visible above the street, alone lend it an individual aspect. Such districts as Commonwealth Avenue or Beacon Street are broad avenues lined with dwellings whose impressive architectural regularity is unimpaired by any showy ornamentation. These houses are entered from a porch preceded by a flight of steps; over most of the granite or sandstone fronts spreads the delicate tapestry of a Japanese vine known as Boston ivy; its reddish foliage, which in autumn becomes of the color of coral, is a delight to the eye. Behind the window-panes is a wealth of flowers, which shows the elegance of those drawing-rooms where people certainly talk better and in lower tones than anywhere else in America. Having once been the chief city in the Union, -- and with Philadelphia, the one which played the most illustrious part in the Revolution, -- Boston now affects a somewhat provincial character; but this provincialism, with which it is reproached by those outside its fashionable and literary circles, is in itself an attraction. Bostonians have made their city, as it were, the casket for the noble memories of a land whose history is as yet but brief. They live with their eyes fixed on the gilded dome of the State House, which contains so many honorable trophies; on the ancient graveyard where citizens like Samuel Adams and John Hancock sleep; on Bunker Hill Monument, which marks the spot where the British troops were held in check by 'prentice hands, who knew nothing of the art of war but that they must stand firm and shoot close. They pride themselves on Faneuil Hall, that cradle of American liberty. The word "old " is constantly on their lips when they speak of their possessions. To be sure, their antiquity goes no farther back than the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and has left behind but few monuments worthy of the name; but, lacking these, Boston sets on foot ingenious plans for preserving and renewing patriotic pride in the hearts of her children. This very year, on the night of April 19, a moving celebration took place in commemoration of Paul Revere's glorious ride, -- the event which preceded the Lexington fight, where Massachusetts militia-men and farmers got the better of English regulars. Signals were lighted this spring night at the north end of the town, in the little belfry of Christ Church, the same which in 1775 warned the country of the march of the British troops on Concord; and a rider, in the dress of the Colonial period, galloped over the six miles traversed by Paul Revere, calling to arms the sleeping farmers, who answered as of yore. The only difference was that now their cheers were mingled with fireworks; and when the long silent bells of the little North Church began to ring, every bell round about answered them in chorus. Such scenes are calculated to affect the most ignorant and insensible, and to develop in others a generous ardor.
We understand, if we live in Boston, and imbue our mind with its spirit, the sort of ill will which England still feels for the colony which escaped from her rule, -- an ill will betrayed by a systematic blackening of everything American. Here, for instance, is a city where the English find the traces of their defeats preserved as precious relics, and where no less evident traces of their moral, intellectual, and literary influence endure, -- a city both hostile and of close kin, whose every stone recalls one of those family quarrels which are the most violent of all. Plainly, it is far less easy to do it justice than to praise with contemptuous indulgence Chicago and her progress as of a newborn giant, to say nothing of the fact that Great Britain would be glad to claim a thinker like Emerson, a novelist like Hawthorne, both of whom are purely Bostonian, while at the same time they have added masterpieces to English literature. When we think of the long list of select spirits produced by Boston, it is impossible not to forgive her for becoming, from a very excess of her good qualities of enthusiasm and veneration, something like a great mutual admiration society. As for me, I can no more wonder at the anecdotes told of Longfellow, Lowell, Whittier, Bancroft, Prescott, Channing, and Theodore Parker, than at the pious care which marks by a bust or an inscription those spots in the city where Franklin, Daniel Webster, and Charles Sumner were born. The presence of the illustrious dead, to whom secret and constant worship is paid, adds to the somewhat solemn nature of Boston. The great dead seem to be even more alive than the living themselves; the living summon them up, quote them, talk of them on every occasion. Indeed, we are religiously shown the place occupied until 1876, among the ancient elms on the Common, by the oldest of them all, the Old Elm, before the foundation of the city; its shadow still rests upon it.
If Massachusetts, and especially Boston, be justly proud of the men to whom they have given birth, they are none the less honored as the parents of a group of women whose equals it would be hard to find elsewhere. As far back as the earliest Colonial days, we find names which must ever be surrounded by an aureole of courage, virtue, devotion to the new home. Anne Hutchinson was one of the first to break with established authorities, albeit it was only in the field of religious argument. The wives of Adams, Knox, and Hancock helped by their energy and their personal sacrifices to establish independence; and it seems to me that one of the most heroic dames is that Mrs. Cushing who at the time of the declaration of rights was willing, with her friends, to go dressed in the skins of wild beasts rather than to buy English goods. Deborah Sampson, who served in the ranks of the Revolutionary army, was also a native of Massachusetts. Never was the protest against slavery more eloquent than in the mouths of Boston women. Lydia Maria Child strove side by side with those champions of liberty, Garrison and Wendell Phillips; Maria W. Chapman lent the lustre of her beauty and her spiritual power to the good cause. During the war between North and South, women everywhere outdid each other in devotion; but the New England Woman's Auxiliary Association furnished more than $314,000 in money and supplies for Northern soldiers. Mrs. Livermore -- whose name is well known as the president of the first congress for the advancement of women held by the Association -- at that time organized the first of those Sanitary Fairs which produced such fruitful results. Her double gift of pen and tongue, her tremendous activity were at the service of the Union throughout the war. Clara Barton, head of the Red Cross movement; Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone, leaders of the Woman's Suffrage cause; the generous abolitionist, Lucretia Coffin Mott, -- were all born in Massachusetts, although their influence spread far beyond her borders.
As for the Boston women who have worked to advance the science of education, how can I name them all? I shall try to show, when I describe my visits to various colleges, the impulse given to the Woman's Annex of Harvard University by Mrs. Agassiz, widow of the great naturalist. A daughter of Agassiz, Mrs. Shaw, also devotes her time to pedagogy with equal wisdom and generosity. About the year 1860, Miss Elizabeth Peabody imported Froebel's method. Shaw established and for fifteen years supported sixteen free kindergartens, which now belong to the city. Under her direction, and thanks to her inexhaustible liberality, experiments of all sorts have been tried, -- manual work in public schools, industrial schools, vacation schools, and day nurseries. Her preparatory school for boys and girls has long held a unique position. Here we see a truly national spirit of independence and enterprise. A desire to educate her own children in her own way, outside the existing methods, determined Mrs. Shaw to establish this school.
Mrs. Mary Hemenway deserves the utmost praise for perceiving that feminine arts stood in great need of encouragement in America, where cooking and sewing are generally neglected for love of Greek. She established practise lessons in the public schools for the purpose of training housewives; she devoted herself to re-establishing a good condition of the wretched body, too often despised by youthful scholars, adding gymnastics to their other lessons. She fanned the flames of patriotism by paying the cost of free lectures on American history, to be given in the Old South Church, filled with relics connected with that history; she established the ground-work of the first museum of American archaeology.
In the field of Science, Massachusetts has produced an astronomer held in high esteem by Herschel, Humboldt, and Le Verrier, -- Maria Mitchell; in art, a sculptor, -- Anne Whitney, who has two of her statues in Boston public squares; several painters (I visited the studios of Miss Greene and Miss Bartol, Mrs. Sears and Mrs. Whitman); and a famous actress, Charlotte Cushman. The first volume of American poetry was by a woman, -- Anne Bradstreet, in 1650. Margaret Fuller -- who wrote Latin verse at the age of eight, who lectured in German, French, and Italian, and bore a part in the best days of transcendentalism, in the Fourieristic experiments at Brook Farm -- opened that celebrated conversation class whose influence still lives in Boston. Her object was to pass in review all departments of knowledge, striving to mark the relations existing between them, to systematize thought, and to diffuse those qualities of precision and clearness which are but too rare among women.
MRS. JULIA WARD HOWE. -- THE NEW ENGLAND WOMAN'S CLUB.
Mrs. Julia Ward Howe ranks first, and that not only by seniority. I knew a number of her works on social and other questions. I knew that for forty years her name had been a part of every movement of the woman's cause in America, -- and yet I did not suspect the importance of the part which she played until a very simple incident revealed it to me.
An early morning sleigh-ride led me to a fine country mansion near Milton. After luncheon, I was chatting with Americans of the best society, most well-informed as to all European matters, although they do not pass the greater part of their life abroad as so many do, knowing too well how many necessary things yet remain to be done in their own country, in which it is their duty to assist. A most agreeable old man told anecdotes of his youthful experiences in Paris, and of the impression, still vivid, made on him by Rachel's singing, or rather declaiming, of the Marseillaise. All at once soft music was heard in a corner of the room, -- a sort of military march, played by a young woman seated at the piano. I asked what it was, and found that it was the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the battle hymn of the Northern troops during the Civil War. At first, I was told, it was set to savage and sanguinary words, lines of vengeance inspired by the death of John Brown, -- the old abolitionist farmer who undertook to rouse the blacks to revolt before the declaration of war, who took possession of a town with the aid of twenty-two men, defended the arsenal so long as a man of his little troop was left, and, covered with wounds, was at last sentenced to be hanged, his execution giving a tremendous impetus to the question then pressing upon the people."Old John Brown" was in every mouth; Mrs. Howe, changing the words, turned it into the Battle Hymn. And when I asked to have it sung two voices chanted it, soon accompanied by other voices, -- all present, young and old, joining in the chorus with deep feeling; for there were some present who took part in the war, others who recalled losses dating back to the four years echo which rang with this warlike hymn mingled with trumpet blasts and the noise of cannon. Before the last verse died away, -- that verse which charges men to die for freedom, as Christ died for them, I saw that America had a Marseillaise suited to her temper and written by a woman, a rival of Mrs. Beecher Stowe. Mrs. Stowe, hidden in a country parsonage, dealt slavery a mortal blow when she wrote the famous book whose fame spread around the world. Mrs. Howe, in her turn, flung into the heart of the conflict which ensued, a solemn, sacred song which has ever since been to the victorious North a national anthem.
My surprise was great when I afterwards met the author of the Battle Hymn. I expected to see an old woman, -- the date of her birth, 1819, being set down in all her biographies, -- I know not why I had also attributed to her the somewhat masculine air of authority common to many strong minded women. I saw a smile, a skin, a look, which were all extraordinarily youthful. She dresses without the least eccentricity, she has simple and perfect manners, her gentle voice is one of the best modulated that I ever heard. If by chance Mrs. Howe had chosen to preach subversive doctrines, she would have been very dangerous, so potent are the tact and charm which make it possible for her to dare anything. I greeted her in her kingdom, the New England Woman's Club, over which she presides. The club was founded twenty-five years ago to afford a meeting place for the many ladies who live in the suburbs of Boston and who were called to Boston on business of any kind; this led to the institution of a weekly meeting at which various subjects are discussed: art, literature, education, etc. These exercises assumed a growing importance as the number of the members grew; often speakers from outside joined in the discussions.
On the Monday in November when I entered the spacious and comfortable quarters in Park Street, I saw nothing to suggest the idea of pedantry or pretence. I might have imagined myself at a reception in a private house; there was no platform, but an amply furnished tea-table. Not nearly all of the two hundred and thirty members were present, but still there was a numerous company, among whom was one man, the sole survivor of the group of great masculine minds who at the outset were allied with the club as honorary members. The most distinguished women of the city entered, one after another, and Mrs. Howe presented them to the foreign visitors, -- Miss Spence and myself. Miss Spence is an Australian celebrity; she had just arrived from her native land, very lively and very spirited, with an air both rustic and intelligent, and lectured on the right of minorities. We heard her talk on the way voting is arranged in Australia. But Mrs. Howe chiefly drew my attention. When the meeting opened, the woman of the world showed herself as president. It would be impossible for me to describe the quiet assurance or the polite authority of the three little blows struck on the table with a mallet to request silence. Her attitude might be envied by more than one president of the French Chamber of Deputies. She answered Miss Spence with the most brilliant of improvisations; then, business despatched, she returned to her cups of tea and her introductions with the exquisite grace of any mistress of a mansion.
In fact, there is no city where the feminine element is better represented than in Boston. I satisfied myself of that at all the agreeable luncheons which followed, now at Mrs. Howe's house, and now at the houses of other members of the Woman's Club. No gathering of women in France could have the same animation or would take such pains to be agreeable. The absence of men would make French women feel as a young Washington girl expressed it, -- as if they were eating bread without butter. In Boston, on the contrary, a select set take pleasure in what they call -- treating each other in sisterly fashion -- their "magic circle." It is a great honor and a very great pleasure for a stranger to find temporary admission; but I must repeat, nothing could be more foreign to French habits. Imagine a dozen women forcing themselves, on a certain day, to talk another language than their own throughout luncheon, lest they should forget that language, or in order that they might perfect themselves in it! Some heresies, indeed, slip into their opinions of French matters. One of them, for instance, told me that Frémiet's Joan of Arc was the finest statue in Paris; another considers Maeterlinck, all whose works she has read, to be an untutored genius. Did not the great Margaret Fuller rank Eugene Sue very close to Balzac? A passionate admirer of George Sand, she thought the "Lettres d'un Voyageur " tolerably dull; she thought the " Sept Cordes de la Lyre " far superior; and one of her illustrious friends called Alfred De Vigny a boudoir author, judging him no doubt by the first pages of the "Histoire d'une Puce Enragée." Assuredly, we too often commit absurd blunders in our criticisms of foreign authors, but it is always comforting to learn that strangers make as many and as grave errors in regard to ours.
Mrs. Howe, indeed, does not differ from us in her point of view as much as do many of her fellow-countrywomen. She shows the effects of a prolonged sojourn in France, of her relations with eminent Frenchmen; and she recalls all this in the French language, with which she is marvellously familiar. Study and reflection have left her a wholly youthful spontaneity, seasoned with sprightliness. It would be hard to find her match for wit. I tried to lead her to talk of herself, but I was not very successful. It was from others that I learned the opposition which her early literary tastes encountered. Her father -- a father of the old school -- did not allow his daughters to make themselves singular; in fact it was not for some years after her marriage that she began the work of writing and speaking, which she still carries on. Julia Ward married Dr. Howe, the man who did most to promote the education of deaf mutes, and who developed such extraordinary powers in the famous Laura Bridgman, who was deaf, dumb, and blind. Laura Bridgman has now a rival, Helen Keller, taught by the same methods. Dr. Howe devoted himself with equal ardor to making the most of the feeblest ray of comprehension in idiots. I was told that for lack of time by day he formed an evening class for them, declaring that their poor brains had no knowledge of time: he never thought of his own fatigue. To the last day of his life, by dint of scientific and humanitarian zeal, he wrought true miracles. Mrs. Howe, meantime, followed in Margaret Fuller's footsteps, working in the cause of woman with the same ardor and discretion. We might say of her what was said of her predecessor and friend, that she never lent herself to any exaggeration; that she never considered woman as the rival or the antagonist of man, but as his complement, assuming that the advance of the one is inseparable from the advance of the other.
I heard Mrs. Howe speak one morning, as a strong but independent Christian, in a Unitarian Church. It is not unusual in America for women to preach; there are hundreds of women clergy. It is in the West particularly that they exercise their ministry; and it seems that the parishes of these ladies are by no means the least well governed. Even in Boston, where the official care of souls is wholly in the hands of men, women are admitted to a certain collaboration in some churches, or at least in their vestries. The vestry where Mrs. Howe, with her silvery and penetrating voice, spoke eloquently of things both divine and practical, was that of the Church of the Disciples. She spoke of personal religion, showing the utility of family worship, the good sides of certain observances whose necessity had long seemed to her doubtful, but to which she now does full justice. Never was absolute loyalty expressed in a more touching way. Mrs. Howe strove to prove that even those of us who thought ourselves stripped of the good things of this world have endless cause for gratitude to God, were it only for His Son, for the free gift of certain affections, and first of all for that of intelligence.
After Mrs. Howe, the wife of the Rev. C. G. Ames, pastor of the church where we were gathered, spoke with singular ease and power. She took up in detail the subject of the gratitude which we owe not only to God but to our neighbor. Do we think enough of what we should be if those whom we call the lowly, the humble, and the ignorant did not help us to bear the burden of the physical tasks which fall to our daily lot? And the speaker numbered our obligations to servants and tradesmen, the living wheels in the machinery of existence, with whom we think, very unjustly, that we are quits when we have paid their wages. I already knew Mrs. Ames through the excellent statistics showing the state of every sort of female labor in Massachusetts. She is the chairman of a committee devoted exclusively to these questions.
Young mothers then rose, and asked and answered questions in regard to the religious education of their children, to their devotional habits at home, to books of familiar morals classed under the head of " little helps." There was an exchange of profitable experiences. It seemed to me that this must have been the fashion of the meetings of the first Christians, the more so that after the speeches and the hymns there were love-feasts, -- love-feasts of American style. Tea was served in one of the aisles of the vestry, and Mrs. Ames laughingly asked me if I was not shocked to see that the church was connected with a kitchen. I at once replied that I had seen more than that in the West, where the church, which is still the meeting-house, is often chosen as the scene of meetings which are of no religious nature. I added that a lady in that part of the country, observing my surprise, said, like a good Puritan, "Nothing can be out of place in a church but dissipation; and dissipation is out of place everywhere."
The last time that I met Mrs. Howe was shortly before the success of the Municipal Woman Suffrage Bill which had passed to its third reading in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a majority of 11. She regarded this as prophetic of its adoption by the State legislature, and she was that day to demand, at some public meeting, the unrestricted right for the women of her country to vote, basing her demand on the excellent reason that they have long been prepared for it.
Mrs. Howe shows the same serene calm in making claims of this kind that she does when she sets forth in church her theories of practical and individual Christianity. Whatever theme she takes up, she is always temperate, showing no excitement, although a flame burns in her blue eyes which are still so youthful. Since Lucy Stone's death, her importance as a leader seems to be still greater. We know that Lucy Stone was chairman of the executive committee of the "Association for the Suffrage of American Women," an association founded by her in 1869, with the aid of W. L. Garrison, G. W. Curtis, Colonel Higginson, Mrs. Livermore, and Mrs. Howe herself.
The curious history of this feminine pioneer is well worth writing. As a mere child, she resolved to go to college to learn Greek and Hebrew, that she might study the Bible in the original, and find out whether the words which shocked her "Thy desire shall be for thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," were really in the text. She paid her way by manual labor, doing her own cooking, and paying but fifty cents a week for her room. On leaving Oberlin college, she devoted herself to teaching slaves escaped from their masters, and in 1847 she began her famous lectures on woman's rights, putting up her posters with her own hands, braving mockery and danger of every sort, stirring crowds by her eloquence and the strange magnetism which seemed to proceed from her. Although married to Henry Blackwell, himself a partisan of woman's rights and the abolition of slavery, she never bore her husband's name. Blackwell approved her course; he joined his protest to hers against the iniquity of the law which grants the husband supreme authority over the person, property and children of his wife. Moreover, they were for forty years the model of happy couples.
The bust of Lucy Stone, by Anne Whitney, at the Chicago Exhibition, gives the idea of perfect and sympathetic simplicity. When she died in Boston, last October, her funeral, which took place at the Unitarian Church of the Disciples, seemed like a triumph. More than eleven hundred people assembled, and the services were accompanied by striking manifestations. The Suffrage colors -- yellow and white -- were represented by mounds of roses and chrysanthemums. Another woman who played an active part in the crusade against slavery, Mrs. Edna Dean Cheney, whom I had the honor to meet at Mrs. Howe's house, spoke of Lucy Stone better than any one else, contrasting her with two or three persons whose names always come up in Europe whenever American Suffragists are mentioned. Mrs. Cheney, too, has been an ardent apostle of the emancipation of women; but her energy now seems to be centred in the admirable New England Hospital for women and children, where all the doctors are women. Mrs. Cheney is at the head of the board of council, and is one of the directors.
We know that the first Medical School for women was opened in Boston in 1848. At that time there was no other in the world; now it is incorporated with the medical faculty of the Boston University. The city of Boston now has thirty-nine allopathic and forty-one homeopathic women doctors, besides eighty-nine practising without a diploma; for Massachusetts has no law in regard to the practice of medicine. We shall meet with these irregular practitioners elsewhere.
MISS ANNA TICKNOR. -- SOCIETY FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF STUDY AT HOME. -- PUBLIC LIBRARIES.
Miss Ticknor represents a very original work, which she was the first to undertake, and which has quietly achieved almost incalculable results. I mean the society for the Encouragement of Study at Home. She took the first idea of this society from England, where clever minds had hit upon a great truth; namely, that work is the most essential element of happiness, and that those who do not have to work for a living, and are incapable of finding some absorbing occupation, are quite as much to be pitied as if they were poor. At first, she only intended to guide by correspondence young girls who had just left school, and so to help them to continue their intellectual life, which is too often quickly abandoned. Then her idea broadened. "It seemed to me," she says, "that we might succeed in adding to the fundamental value of home for all women, even the humblest, by giving them an opportunity to think; by familiarizing them with the conceptions of great minds which should keep them company while their hands are busy with their daily tasks. It seemed to me that it would be well for such women to open their eyes to the wonders of Nature in the most remote and desert country regions, and to appreciate art, if by chance they should encounter it."
In 1873, six ladies pledged themselves to correspond with forty-five persons who were then entered as students. Now one hundred and ninety lady teachers are in friendly relations with four hundred and twenty-three students; to say nothing of forty-six clubs, represented by a single name, behind which is a numerous group who have combined for reasons of economy, to which is added the pleasure of working in company. Each pupil is treated according to her special requirements, although a uniform rule is followed, -- her correspondent belonging to one section or another of one of the six departments which make up the round of studies, each of which has a head. The work consists of reading and making notes; the result is shown by a monthly correspondence including frequent examinations. A small annual fee, to pay office expenses and postage, provides for the circulation of some two thousand volumes. Usually but one subject, two at the utmost, are taken up, the intelligent directors of the work having a peculiar dread of that superficial and indiscriminate culture which is a common defect in America. Each student chooses one of six departments. History is divided into five sections; the section of ancient history includes classic literature, and even Greek and Latin authors, the necessary aid being given, if desired, for the study of those languages. Political economy does not exclude the theory and history of philanthropy. Science includes all its branches, embracing hygiene, which explains why so many American women are so learned in regard to questions of drainage, heating, lighting, and ventilation. In the natural sciences, the methods of Professor Agassiz are used: the pupils study specimens, not books. Herbals, collections of all sorts, are sent from one to another; as are portfolios of photographs and engravings, for those students who choose the third course, -- that of the fine arts. In connection with the course in art, there is a section for imaginary travels in Europe, which in that land of preeminent activity is a delight to all women too poor or too ill to travel in reality. The fourth department is devoted to German; the fifth to the study in French, of French history and literature; the sixth to English literature, the section of rhetoric having a long list of pupils, whose compositions are carefully read and corrected.
May I be permitted, while admiring the rest, to express the wish that the French library may be enlarged? Our great writers are scarcely represented save by fragments and through the criticisms of English authors. Sainte-Beuve is the only one who is complete; still, I found to my great pleasure a few volumes of Bossuet, Racine, and La Bruyère. In America our seventeenth century is despised. It would be a patriotic work, it seems to me, to send a good collection of unexpurgated French classics to the Library of the Studies at Home. An intellectual fellowship which would redound to our glory would thus add to the good already accomplished by this Society, which achieves such manifold results.
The developement of taste extends to every detail of life. Mothers are prepared to play the part of teachers; and for the many daughters who do not marry, what a precious resource it must be! I remember the happy face of a certain elderly spinster whom I met in a cold village of that New England whose long winters must bring unspeakable boredom to those who have no absorbing occupations. She lived for that correspondence which connected her with the world, with the best that the world can offer. Without leaving her fireside, she travelled; she kept herself well informed; she satisfied that intellectual hunger which is as urgent with some as physical hunger. And I could not help wishing that some of the idle, discontented women in French provincial towns could have the same resource. All social conditions are represented among the students; one of them wrote from afar these touching words: "At night, when I have copied my lesson and hung it on my kitchen wall, I find it no longer tires me to wash up the dishes."
Many of these correspondences go on for ten, twelve, and even eighteen years. Friendship often follows between the women thus brought together. Some scholars rise to the rank of teachers; they are mutually helpful. Thus a poor deaf mute, destitute of almost everything, proved herself a skilful botanist, and found a lucrative position suited to her bent. Other societies have been formed in various parts of America in imitation of this one, of which Miss Anna Ticknor is the active manager. The most extraordinary manifestation of the kind is the popular movement at Chautauqua; but that is one of the vast and rough-hewn schemes of the West, and the eminently Bostonian drawing-room in Marlboro' Street is no place to discuss it. The chief ornament of the parlor is a portrait of Sir Walter Scott by Leslie, who painted it expressly for Miss Ticknor's father, the well-known author of an excellent History of Spanish Literature. Having visited Europe, he greatly pleased Walter Scott, who at his request sat for this admirable work, of which England possesses merely a miniature copy.
I had instructive talks with Miss Ticknor. It is not in vain that one is the heiress of a race of scholars, the daughter of that Professor Ticknor who, the owner of a fine collection of books, by lending them freely, practised the rarest sort of charity for a book-lover. She was thus able to procure for me many details in regard to an interesting subject, that of free public libraries. There are three hundred and fifty-two cities in the State of Massachusetts, and three hundred have a free library, -- that is, one permitting books to be taken out by citizens of the town; and there are almost two hundred women librarians, and many more women assistants. Almost all these libraries were established by private efforts, although now the government grants a certain sum of money to small towns in arrears. Special gifts of money, not to mention books, exceed five million dollars. And these free libraries not only help to diffuse learning, they annually collect all documents relating to the city, -- genealogies, family annals, publications of every description appertaining to the social, moral, political, or economic growth of the population.
Of course the great Boston Public Library is the crown and capstone of the system, and a model for the whole United States. Strange to say, it has grown up about some books sent from Paris in 1840, and given by a Frenchman named Vattemare. A decided impulse to its growth was imparted by George Ticknor. It is now the most important free public library in the world; it has almost two million volumes in circulation, and is soon to be transferred to the worthy monument now almost finished in Boston's principal square, -- Copley Square, -- close beside the Museum of Fine Arts, and opposite Trinity Church, that masterpiece by Richardson, adorned with superb windows by La Farge, Burne Jones, and William Morris.
MRS. J. T. FIELDS. -- DRAWING-ROOMS AND INTERIORS.
After what I have said of the resources of Boston society, to which the University town of Cambridge lends efficient aid, my readers must have reasoned correctly that in that city of old European traditions there must be interesting drawing-rooms. I would fain describe the one which, from many points of view, most resembles the drawing-rooms of France at its best, -- the drawing-room of Mrs. J. T. Fields. To speak of Mrs. Howe, Mrs. Agassiz, Miss Ticknor, and Mrs. Fields is to speak of the social movement, -- of culture, pedagogy, poetry, and philanthropy in Boston. They are the representatives of these things, and as such they must accept the publicity which clings to their personality. I therefore hope that I may not be reproached with indiscretion if I introduce the French public to a registry office for wits of the most refined originality, -- a house unique in its way. Everything in it seems to be dedicated to literature. This is not surprising, Mrs. Annie Fields being the widow of the well-known publisher, James T. Fields, who was the friend of the most famous writers of his time in France and England, and who left behind him precious proofs of his intimacy with them all, -- biographical notes, sketches, letters, conversations. (1) Their portraits cover the walls of this little temple of memory, where a woman of the utmost distinction carefully preserves all which represents to her a past of pure intellectual happiness. The riches of the library, which invade two floors of her small but delightful home, may be numbered, with an almost endless collection of autographs, among the treasures of which she is justly proud. As for her own works, she often shows excessive modesty in concealing them. These occasional works, which are like a rare embroidery on the woof of the charitable tasks to which she is particularly devoted, lead Mrs. Fields by preference towards Greek antiquity. Indeed, we might note some curious analogies between the bent of her talent and the character of her beauty, which years have merely spiritualized without destroying. This Athenian of Boston lives in the company of Sophocles and Eschylus, translates the Pandora of Goethe, that other Greek of Northern climes; and the "Centaur" by Maurice de Guérin, who also partook in France of Attic honey; and she will figure on her own account in future anthologies, were it only for her poem of "Theocritus," (2) to say nothing of the recollections of her dead friends which she writes. Thus, last year, she published an animated and charming biography of Whittier, the Quaker poet. Prose and verse seem to be carelessly flung off by Annie Fields, when the inspiration seizes her, upon loose leaves covering the desk in the tiny study, which is wholly unpretending, and is only divided by a curtain from the parlor where so many illustrious writers have been seated, and where such brilliant converse has been held with friends like Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, and Holmes.
The latter, old in years, but not in spirit, till very recently survived the elect group to which he belonged. His visits were always considered a genuine treat. He brought with him the lively sallies, the amusing digressions, which abound in those essays so ingeniously brought together in the Autocrat, the Professor, and the Poet at the Breakfast Table. Paris was ever present to him through the charm of his youthful years; he talked of it with as much gayety as if he were still a medical student in the Latin Quarter. It was a pleasure to find in the vivid and brilliant little person of that amazing old man a combination of the perfect gentleman of Old England with those qualities of animation, sympathy, wholly cosmopolitan comprehension of things, and a wealth of amiability which, we must admit, belong far more to New England. The existence of Dr. Holmes must have been both enviable and fatiguing. He was at the same time venerated like a grandfather, and treated like a spoiled child. Hospitable dames contended for his presence. Passing strangers requested permission to call on him, owners of autograph albums, whose name is legion, begged for a sentiment or a sonnet in his beautiful, distinct handwriting. At every public ceremony a speech was expected from him; at every banquet he was requested to offer a toast; and ladies combined to send him exquisite symbolic gifts, to which he could only reply by invoking at any cost the Muse of his best days to answer in a fashion no less exquisite. This was putting the powers of an octogenarian to a rude test; but he did not seem to suffer from it, and gallantly quaffed the nectar of adulation poured into the loving cup, in the bottom of which are engraved the names of his fair and learned friends.
Miss Sarah Jewett, whose life is divided between the Maine village which she has made immortal, in tales which emanate from the very soil itself, and Boston which claims her as its own, is almost always present at Mrs. Fields's Saturday afternoon receptions.
There too I met T. B. Aldrich, best known in France as a novelist, through the translations which have appeared in the "Revue des Deux Mondes," but whose poetic work -- which has won him a place apart in the loftiest regions of the American Parnassus -- is as inaccessible to translation as Gautier's "Émaux et Camées " could possibly be. And he excels not only in carving on hard stone, with singular technical skill, some tiny poem, perfect in all its parts, like his "Intaglio of a Head of Minerva," which the most experienced artists of the Old World might envy him. No one has so strong a feeling for Nature as he, that American Nature which is so unlike any other. Dr. Holmes was quite right to say, "You may search elsewhere in vain for a Boston sunset." American skies have nothing in common with those of Europe; birds, rocks, earth, trees, grass, all are different. Well, though he has travelled so far, it is yet to the New England spring, to the rivers decked with Indian names, to the snows, the rains, the twilights of Boston that Thomas Bailey Aldrich owes his truest and best inspirations. Perhaps his flights are somewhat short: we should not complain of this; the brevity of his pieces is a warrant of perfection. Neither should we regret that the elegance and ease of his existence have limited the possibility of his effort; if fruitful poverty had borne him company, he might never have written that enchanting and humorously melancholy piece, "The Flight of The Goddess."
Cambridge sends to Mrs. Fields's parlors, with young and brilliant professors, one of the notabilities of the academic town, whose name has crossed the seas, -- he who was first the Reverend, then Colonel, Wentworth Higginson. Madame de Gasparin once translated his "Military Life in a Black Regiment," and his "History of the United States for Young People" is popular in France. Possibly the nations of conventional old Europe are less able to understand some of the ideas which he expresses under the title "Common Sense about Women;" and Colonel Higginson would be the last to wonder at this, fully aware as he is of the lamentable situation of woman in countries where the Salic law flourishes, where the masculine sex is still called the "noble sex." His advice in regard to progress in the condition of woman is this "Let us first remove all artificial restrictions; it will then be easy, for men as well as women, to acquiesce in the natural limits imposed."
In the drawing-room to which I have introduced you, -- a green drawing-room, long and narrow, with windows at either end, and a matchless view over the Charles River, -- a wood fire, such as we have in France, burns on the hearth, but does not prevent the gentle warmth of a furnace, which permits of the absence of doors, for which drawn curtains are substituted, so that visitors pass in quietly and unceremoniously from the staircase, which is in full sight, taking their place at once in the conversation. Busts and portraits of famous friends seem to form a part of the circle, -- Wordsworth, the Brownings; Miss Mitford, with her fresh bright face, the face of an elderly English spinster; Charles Dickens, painted by Alexander in his youth with long hair and a coat of feminine cut, which make him look like George Sand. Mr. Fields and his wife visited Europe more than once. Thackeray as well as Dickens was their guest in Boston: here is his friendly face, with its flat features and his broad shoulders. Often an autograph letter is framed with the picture; this is the case with Mrs. Cameron's marvellous photograph of Carlyle, with its intense, pathetic expression. Emerson thoroughly realizes in his appearance the idea of immateriality which I had formed of him. Mrs. Fields tells me a pretty story of him. In his later life, he was seized with a violent fit of curiosity; he wanted to know for once what rum was, and he went to the tavern to ask for it. "Would you like a glass of water, Mr. Emerson?" said the barkeeper, without giving him time to express his guilty desire; and the philosopher drank his glass of water -- and died without knowing the taste of rum.
Hawthorne, on the contrary, is superbly handsome, a substantial beauty, moustachioed and long-haired, which somewhat disconcerts us on the part of that sharp analyst of spiritually morbid and almost intangible things. Longfellow has the head of a mild Jupiter; Lowell has the face of an English aristocrat. Portraits of Dickens at various ages, and as utterly unlike as possible, hang in all directions. Mrs. Fields gives us most curious accounts of his readings in America, where he was immensely successful. The description of a huge gold chain which he fastened to his watch to hypnotize the attention of his hearers, went further than anything else to show me a certain vein of quackery which was combined with the novelist's undeniable talent; but I kept my opinion to myself, for it would not be well to meddle with the idols in the sanctuary which is sacred to them.
Having spoken of Mrs. Fields's drawing-room, it is hard to mention any other, although there are many houses in Boston where good talkers may be found, and hospitality (that common virtue in America) is nowhere more gracefully practised. I will merely allude to the effect of intellectual culture, carried to its utmost, upon the insides of houses, their furnishing and decoration. A sober elegance is the distinctive feature of that society which desires to show refinement in everything. The splendors of luxury are certainly not foreign to it; but their lustre is tempered, subdued as it were by good taste, as is not always the case elsewhere. For instance, I might mention one specially wealthy home which might easily have resembled some gorgeous curiosity shop or some showy museum of decorative art. It was the height of tact to avoid this rock, so to arrange that there is not too much of anything. From the altar screens taken from Italian churches to the French eighteenth-century trinkets and toys, from the masterpieces of French and German painting to the portrait of the mistress of the house (the finest ever painted by Sargent), everything is in its place, -- everything, even a flag which belonged to the grenadiers of Napoleon's guard, which seems to recount the glories of the French army to the corner of a renaissance mantelpiece. There is no crowding, no confusion, no show; a masterly harmony pervades the whole; it is simply the exquisite setting for a charming woman. Other houses, -- for instance, the one containing a fine collection of paintings by the great colorist William Hunt, -- would appear to advantage in the Faubourg St. Germain and are the homes of stately dowagers, who would be by no means out of place there.
This irreproachable taste seems to extend to diet in a way which justifies the theories of Brillat-Savarin. In America there is plenty of poor cooking even in very rich houses, where the principal desire seems to have been to match the color of the ices and the sauces to the color of the china and the be-ribboned flowers which cover the table; but in Boston the pursuit of outward elegance in no way impairs the excellence of the substantial part. There are, of course, certain things which astonish a foreigner, -- the early breakfast of solid meats; the grape-fruit, that huge, juicy Florida orange, served as a first course; the abuse of ice-water; heresies in the matter of wines. Still, we may say that the bill of fare on Boston tables shows that the mistresses of the houses have travelled much, and have brought back the best receipts from every country in Europe, grafting them upon native dishes which have their merits, like baked beans, -- to mention only that very simple dish, which is as difficult of imitation as is the no less simple Creole way of cooking rice.
THE ISLAND. -- ALMSHOUSES. -- TENEMENT-HOUSES. -- BOYS' BRIGADES.
-- ASSOCIATED CHARITIES.
The charitable organizations of Boston are almost numberless; and during the first weeks of my stay in that city I attributed the seeming suppression of pauperism to their wonderful activity. "And yet," I said to one of the women who devote their lives most eagerly to benevolent works, "you only help those who deserve it by helping themselves. What becomes of the others, -- those who refuse to work, the waifs and strays of all degrees in the social scale, who evade the observance of any rule? There are beggars in every great city. What do you do with that class of people?" she replied: "They are sent to the Island." And she quoted the words of an eminent professor who has established ethical precepts for social progress: "A certain part of the population can never be called free, in the sense that the education of poor children should be, in spite of the parents if need be, directed by society in a progressive fashion, and that that same society has the right to enslave all those who wilfully choose a vagabond life. The time has passed when kindly souls gave the tramp food and shelter. Every tramp in a civilized country should be arrested and compelled to work under public guidance."
Thus then is purchased, to the detriment of personal independence and caprice, what the best and most intelligent citizens of a republic call universal liberty. It is instructive to consider this. May we, however, in spite of social progress, never attain to this degree of severity; may we always permit beggars to find refuge on our church steps, in memory of the beautiful Christian legends of poverty. A church which does not freely admit the ragged poor to pray side by side with the rich, could never in our eyes be wholly the house of the Lord. In America, Protestants and Catholics alike told me that the decent and respectable poor could readily obtain proper clothes to wear to church; but are those who are not "respectable" forbidden to pray, or even to warm their shivering limbs while they listen to organ tones and almost unconsciously absorb some crumbs of goodness? The old Middle Ages knew a sort of liberty foreign to purely modern lands, and we hope that we may always retain vestiges thereof amid our democratic acquisitions.
Correctional institutions are not the only ones to be found on the islands in Boston harbor; the poor-houses are also relegated to Long Island. I shall never forget the impression produced upon me one morning last spring by the bright sunny aspect of the harbor. Beyond the many ships at anchor, the islands lay scattered picturesquely, all close together; they seemed to have no other purpose than to add to the beauty of the panorama, while the winding, indented coast-line, stretched in promontories and peninsulas far down Massachusetts Bay and faded away in the blue distance. But I knew that each of those dots was the repository of those moral off-scourings of which the city is so carefully cleared; that mendacity and vice are driven there. I knew too that a scandal had lately broken out in Boston revealing dreadful abuses in the administration of those sad refuges. And if justice were done, it was, here again, due to a cry of warning and alarm uttered by a woman. To Mrs. Lincoln belongs the honor of denouncing what went on in the hospital for the poor of Long Island, and investigation revealed plenty of odious details.
Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, wealthy people always active in great Boston charities, dare on occasion to lift the thick veil cast in America over ugly and unmentionable things. The work to which these two philanthropists are especially devoted is that of tenement-houses, -- an important problem. The tenement-house, swarming with tenants, is to the Anglo-Saxon a genuine hell. He requires -- and foreigners can hardly understand the want, being of a more sociable temperament -- a dwelling apart, small as it may be, where he need not dread contact with his neighbors; he needs what we cannot translate into French, -- the privacy of the home, private life surrounded by walls within which he is master. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln thought that for want of something better, the tenement-house itself might be improved, made compatible with family life. They have therefore bravely pledged themselves to the management of a number of houses, which they put in good condition, and where they exercise a watchful care greatly to the advantage of honest tenants who are thus rid of bad neighbors.
I was invited to an interesting meeting at their house. A Mr. Riis, a writer and lecturer of Dutch origin, read a short tale of his own, entitled "Skippy," -- the pathetic story of a street boy who ended on the gallows, although he was born with all the qualities which go to make up a good American. The secret of his shipwreck lay in the fact that he had no home, no playground where children eager for play have full leave to throw a ball. Skippy sees beneath the black cap, at the final moment, not the crimes for which he is scarcely responsible; no, he sees the wretched tenement-house, the first cause of all his ills. The comments accompanying this story are all the more weighty because Mr. Riis, if I am not mistaken, has long filled an important place among the police. When he had ended, various persons spoke of miserable and forsaken children, -- among others a young woman from Buffalo, who has given her life to moral work in the suburbs of that manufacturing town, which is most corrupt, according to the details which she unhesitatingly gives us in regard to the prostitution of six-year-old children. This is even worse than Chicago, where the Woman's Club had some difficulty in having the legal age of consent for girls changed from ten to sixteen.
One of the ladies present said to me: "I will take you to see my Skippys. You shall see what we make of them." And truly she did take me on the following Saturday, between seven and eight in the evening, to the big dance-hall, or something of the sort, which she has hired in the heart of a crowded district for the work of her brigade. This brigade is made up of street urchins, of whom she hopes to make men by following the receipt of Professor Drummond, who has covered England, and subsequently America, with well-disciplined companies. Little scamps who have never been to Sunday-school, who have not the faintest idea of obedience or respect, are invited in. They are attracted by the bait of a mock uniform, which they are not allowed to wear until they have learned the drill. All boys, from one end of the world to the other, have a natural taste for playing soldier. By degrees, while they learn to drill according to the manual, they also learn that a soldier should never have dirty hands, unkempt hair, or torn clothes; they learn punctuality and submission to rule. But what patience is needed on the part of the officers! Two Harvard students, familiar with military drill, undertook to form the stubborn brigade whose acquaintance I made that night. We saw before us a herd of small vagabonds, most of whom wore shoes trodden down at the heels and far too big for them, with the help of which they dealt each other fearful kicks. They were all beginners, and made the drill an excuse for endless tricks; it would be impossible to silence them. A row at last broke out, obliging the officers to clear the hall in order to divide the ringleaders from those who showed a desire to learn. In vain the generous manager of the brigade tries to address them; in vain she shows them the interesting pictures illustrating an article on Professor Drummond's method, in McClure's magazine. They shout " toy soldiers! " when they see the models held up to them; and they laugh aloud, and hurl every weapon which comes to hand, including the spittoons, at each other's heads! It is always so in the beginning. Gavroche in America is terrible indeed, and he does not disguise it. Craft seems as foreign to him as deference. He impudently mocks at the wise men and fair women who tire themselves in trying to help him; but at least he never dreams of deceiving them by hypocritical and interested shams. There must be several weeks of conflict with the deviltries of these untaught savages; their fear of being expelled conquers them; they become worthy to wear the glorious insignia. After that, it is as easy to lead them as a single man. We see brigades going to the bath keeping step. We see them start for one of those country encampments which are a part of American customs, the poorest dweller in cities being thus enabled to obtain a few days of rest and fresh air, to have a profitable vacation which costs little or nothing. I have read that the growth of these brigades was nowhere so remarkable as in San Francisco, and that four hundred boys, without supervision, formed a summer camp on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, one hundred and twenty-eight miles away from the city. These boys had reached the degree of Christian manliness which is held up to them as an objective point, and which implies, above all, self-respect; they were recognized as capable of self-guidance. The paternal influence of a good officer may do much to bring about this end, but feminine influence also plays its part.
It is a pleasure to every active and resolute young American woman to help in the formation of this army of duty. I remember my surprise the first time that the mother of a family said to me in the most natural way: "One of my daughters has a taste for kindergartening; she gives all her mornings to the care of children. Another manages a boys' brigade." I had another opportunity to see how common this kind of charity is. The kind-hearted daughter of a rich publisher took me to the club, where the members enlisted under her command, have books, games, a gymnasium, and a small theatre. Escorting me afterwards through one of the finest printing-houses in the world, -- the Riverside Press at Cambridge, -- she introduced me with pride to one of her boys for whom she had found work with her father, a zealous assistant in the good mission which wholly absorbs her. Perhaps it is really to women that it belongs to shape men; the maternal instinct with which almost all of them are born prepares them for that task.
I admire more and more the public spirit shown on every occasion by Boston women; no affair of city or state is foreign to them; they labor untiringly at the wheel of progress. One of them, explaining to me how little she, for her own part, cared to have her sex allowed to vote, alleged this reason: " I should no longer feel free to apply to all our politicians for whatever I want." And what she wants, what they all want, is the general welfare; never giving way, even in matters of charity, to the blind impulse of a kind heart; having ever before them the great social problems, especially two great dangers which should be contended against in every country, -- the collection of incapable people in great cities, and the confusion too often occurring between the unfortunates who should be helped and those made miserable through their own fault, who should be reformed. Europeans would be amazed to see how easily this reform undertaken by American philanthropy is applied to the character of people for the better comprehension of their situation. Drunkenness is the social evil; well, a drunkard may be confined in the Inebriate Hospital and receive medical treatment until he has made up his mind to work for his family. I met at the fiveo'clock tea-table, at an elegant reception, a delicate young woman who gives most of her time to the hospital for drunkards. I had several talks with a lady belonging to the best circles of Boston society, whose especial mission is to visit the men's prison. She enters their cells by special permission, talks with the prisoners, and acquires extraordinary influence over them. She courageously spent some time locked up with a murderer whom no one could manage, and who was as unable as the rest to resist her words and her vigorous compassion. It is enough to look at her to understand the power which she wields. Still beautiful with her white hair, her eagle eyes full of fire, a sort of kindly bluntness, an expression of force, of passion, of enthusiasm throughout her whole being, she is the personification of fearlessness. She dreads nothing, and has no cause to dread anything. Her tone is not always that of gentle and commonplace exhortation; she talks to these outcasts of the temptations and fatalities which are not spared those whom they consider as the privileged of the world; she shows them that all men are alike after all, that all should strive, that victory is alike difficult for all. I have heard her, and I think I can vouch for the efficacy of the means which she uses to move the hardened souls who listen to her words. One of them, having left prison after ten years' stay there, and reformed far from his home, came to her in his new guise of an honest man, to tell her that she alone had saved him from suicide and despair, and that whatever he had become he owed to her. "That," she said, when she told me this incident, "is one of those rewards which atone for everything."
I was present at a meeting of the "Boston Associated Charities," whose object is to insure the harmonious action of the various benevolent societies to prevent begging, to study in wholly scientific fashion the best methods of preventing want. "Not alms, but a friend," -- such is the motto of this Association. It finds work, removes poor debtors from the clutches of usurious moneylenders, -- the usurer being, with whiskey, the worst enemy of the American people.
This year (1894) being a year of exceptional suffering for the poor, in consequence of financial panics, the stoppage of production and the closing of many manufactories, the Association was also forced to work with exceptional zeal. In the discussion of the cases of poverty which took place during my visit, the part played by one of the ladies present particularly impressed me. The kind of charity which she exercises proves how much the study of languages does to enlarge the heart and mind, multiplying, as it were, the souls. If she did not understand all the tongues of Europe, Miss Alger might have been a Boston Puritan, weighing good and evil in the scales with strict justice; but she has become the interpreter in ordinary of wretched foreigners. She has made herself the advocate of their wants, of their feelings, which they cannot change from one day to another under the influence of the new atmosphere which they breathe. The Italians in particular are her children; she gives them back what she can of their absent home; she listens to them; she submits herself to be blamed for them, by excusing the worst points in those poor wrecks who in Boston streets remind us all too vividly of Naples or Palermo. I said that every one was concerned about the worthy poor. Miss Alger is possibly the only one interested in the unworthy poor; she loves them for their very weaknesses and their sins. Belonging myself to the corrupt Old World whence these emigrants come, I am as grateful to her as if I were one of them.
COLLEGE SETTLEMENTS. -- REST CURE. -- CHRISTIAN SCIENCE. -- BOSTON FADS.
Of course this public spirit which is so common in America is particularly apparent in elderly people more or less free from the cares of housekeeping, unmarried or widowed persons, and mothers who are at liberty during school hours (American children being universally sent out of the house to school); still, it is not wholly lacking in young girls. I wish that French girls could see all that occupies the life of their American sisters besides the famous flirtation, and very often to its exclusion. In the first place, as a matter of course, they almost all belong to several clubs, -- they would amount to nothing otherwise, -- and the duties of a club are always absorbing. They are at once of an intellectual and a charitable order. Did not the members of the Young Ladies Saturday Morning Club once perform a tragedy by Sophocles? They found their model at Harvard, where the students, towards the close of my stay in Boston, played Terence in Latin, with all the details of learned archaism. The young women modestly confined themselves (and I am surprised at that) to a translation from the Greek. Undeniably the loveliest of the actresses, she whose statuesque attitude, with uplifted arms and eyes Mrs. Whitman's brush has caught, -- a young Diana, who might have contented herself to play the part of a divinity, -- by her own desire, solely from a wish to make herself useful, spends the better part of her days as an unpaid teacher in a school, and that quietly, never even alluding to it. Another, who might also feel proud of her beauty since the famous sculptor, St. Gaudens, begged her to pose for the figure of an angel, is utterly devoted to hospitals for children, and has written treatises on the proper care of babies. Still others and many of them, are interested in college settlements. They appreciate the words of an English philanthropist: "How strange, almost unreal, our faint impalpable sorrows, our keen, painful, pet emotions seem in comparison with the great mass of abject misery which defiles our great cities!"
Through the mouth of Mr. Robert Woods, an eloquent protest was sent from Andover House, that centre of Boston charity, against selfish, heartless learning. We would fain breathe it in the ears of all the vainglorious who imagine that intellectual labor exempts them from loving their fellow-men and from sacrificing themselves for them. The gist of it was as follows: Modern society has great resources thus far ill applied to manifold wants; we must balance resources and wants, and set in motion the forces of civilization: this is the best of all politics. But society cannot be saved by methods; it may be by individuals. It requires individual influence, continued intimacy, the interest taken in human affairs by those who have drunk at the fountain-head of knowledge, who have acquired the requisite philosophic and historic breadth to love their neighbor well. The knowledge acquired, far from deterring from the exercise of philanthropy, will merely add a further stimulus to natural pity. Each of us, without exception, should be an apostle.
I wish I could quote all the excellent things which Mr. Woods has written about the idea of the University Settlement; we should find many points in common with the social settlement as conceived by Miss Addams at Hull House. The object always is to make the labor of the poor attractive, the life of the poor agreeable. It is important that man should everywhere begin to visit other men, his brothers; that each visitor should be an angel of strength, showing his weaker brother the ignominy of a vicious life, and affording him, by his own example, a vision of a better life. Mr. Woods would like to see two establishments of this sort in every crowded district, -- one for men and one for women. In Boston there are several. The first which I visited was small as to the size of the house, but as great as any other if we consider the ardor brought by the residents to their work; for, of course, mere visitors are not enough. The house must be occupied by persons giving all their time to it, ready to communicate with their neighbors of various conditions at any moment, day or night. Certain residents, who have resources of their own, are unpaid; others are supported by members of universities and by charitable citizens.
I reached the settlement, which to me will always be that of " the little blind girl," just between daylight and dark. The little blind girl, a child of six or seven, was seated in the lap of a young woman who was telling her a story while she rocked to and fro in her chair. At our approach she sprang up, with the freedom of a merry child, ran to us, stretching forth her poor hands like the antenna of an insect to ward off possible obstacles. In an instant she had counted us, had made up her mind in regard to each, begging us to take off our gloves that she might feel our hands, and chattering of all sorts of things as if she had seen them. "She is the delight of the house," said one of the residents. "Her parents gave her to us, as they have a number of boys who made a perfect little martyr of their sister." Other children come and go from the street where snow is falling, into the little warm sitting-room. Some bring a penny for the bank, where their savings are growing by degrees. This may be the beginning of a virtue which was long unknown in America, that land of careless waste. Visitors also come one after another, -- young women of the middle class, who, though pale and tired, still desire to help others after a hard day's work: one gives lessons; another is employed in an office, but living in the neighborhood, she stops to hear the news of this big family on her way home; a university graduate may also prove that four years of the higher studies have not set her apart from the common lot.
The second settlement to which I was introduced contained several pretty rooms, each of which was furnished by one of the colleges for women in Massachusetts. The lady in charge of the establishment tells us that she allows her assistants the utmost possible freedom; that no strict rule is needed, but merely to oppose the organized forces of good to the organized forces of evil, without fear of soiling one's hands by attacking the moral miseries which are but too often the almost inevitable results of extreme poverty. She and her comrades devoted themselves to a thorough study of the social conditions of their district; then, once familiar with the habits and the tasks of their neighbors, all was easy: they had only to enter into communication with the charitable works already existing in the vicinity, -- with the trades-unions, the workingmen's clubs, the temperance societies, -- to visit the sick, to talk, to lend books, to suggest healthy amusements.
In the next room we hear a confused chatter. That room is full of little children; they spend their afternoon in apparently childish fashion, but after all it has its serious side. One of the ladies shows them how to make a flag, -- to cut the staff, to sew the stuff and arrange the colors properly; the one who does the best work will carry off the flag. While making it, they hear its history, -- that is to say, the principal facts in American history. The door is constantly opening and closing; mothers come to beg directions for cooking, information and advice of every kind. Some evenings there is music, -- very simple little parties no doubt, but they are made as pleasant as possible. There are plenty of flowers and attempts at decoration; and none of it can make the invited guests unhappy, since they share it all. In the settlements for men, the capitalist, the student, and the laborer meet as if by chance, on neutral ground, on equal terms; and the results of this union may be of great value in the future.
We must not suppose that young American girls confine themselves to scientific and intellectual charity. They practise fashionable charity just as French girls do. I attended sales for various charitable purposes, quite as brilliant as those which take place in Paris, -- one of them in particular, where all the articles on sale were Japanese, and were sold by the most charming Boston damsels arrayed like Japanese, the decoration of the stalls and the general arrangement being strictly correct and very picturesque. Neither good works nor a passionate love of study deter from any opportunity for pleasure. It is wonderful to see how fashionable society crowds the theatre when the great comedian Joe Jefferson appears, or to applaud the famous actors sent over by France! The vast hall where weekly concerts are given by an excellent orchestra, is always full. The general air of absorption forbids a doubt as to the sincerity of the interest taken by the audience in these concerts, which last only about an hour and a half, -- a limit which might well be adopted everywhere. Many young girls are good musicians; they are eager, as soon as may be, to set off for Munich and Bayreuth. Those who draw, study painting in France or Italy, -- a pretext for travelling. On their return they work without intermission, rivalling professional painters in their ardor and their perseverance. "Nothing by halves" seems to be the motto of all these tenacious, intelligent, and ambitious young persons.
The question which I read on the lips of my readers is, " How can the strength of women, herculean though it be, endure such an outlay of activity; how can they bear these double, triple, quadruple lives, led abreast and with full steam on?" Remember the exciting, exhilarating influence of a dry climate, which puts quicksilver into one's veins! Still, sometimes -- nay, very often indeed -- the nervous strength thus put forth gives way suddenly; the wings which bore them up drop, and they fall exhausted. How common are the symptoms of consumption, -- the hectic red spot on the cheek-bones, wan faces, pale lips, and dark-circled eyes! Nervous disease is universal, and this is the reason why the "lessons in relaxation" given by Miss Annie Payson Call are so fashionable. America is probably the only country in the world where the art of quiescence has been subjected to principles of hygiene.
I have before me Miss Call's singular book, " Power Through Repose." In it she states which I can readily believe -- that a German doctor who established himself in America was absolutely dumfounded by the number and variety of nervous disorders brought to him for treatment. At last he announced the discovery of a new malady, which he adorned with the name of "Americanitis." The faculty strive against Americanitis in vain, special private asylums increase constantly; rest-cures are ordered, as cold-water cures might be elsewhere. Miss Call very judiciously invites attention to the fact that the troubles produced by prolonged disobedience to Nature's laws can be cured only by a return to those despised laws. We must therefore learn -- and her teachings hinge on this point -- to relax thoroughly in sleep; to avoid all nervous contraction in driving or riding; to think calmly without the aid of any superfluous forces; to look and listen without unnecessary tension; to talk without excessive chatter; to manage the voice according to the principles of sound physiology; not to sew with the nape of the neck; not to bring on cramp in writing, etc. The chapter which will give to French readers the most insight into the degree of excitement to which an American woman may attain, is that treating of diseased emotions, -- the passion of pupils for their schoolmistress; morbid attachments between young girls; artificial loves, which are merely love of emotion, not that of an individual; in short, to translate it all by one expressive word which sums up the height of nervous over-excitement and entire loss of self-control, -- "dry drunkenness." As we read these pages, we feel with pleasure that France is the land of naturalness; and we begin to appreciate that creature made up of good common-sense, "Henriette," who always seemed to us exaggeratedly commonplace before we crossed the Atlantic. To exaggerate duty into pedantry and self-consciousness into obsession, these are faults of which Moliere never dreamed. We have no expression in French equivalent to self-consciousness, which depicts a soul-state springing from Puritanism. Incessant examination of conscience is foreign to us. The Catholic religion accustoms those who practise it to yield to guidance; the result is, morality apart, a certain timid grace and an amiable distrust of self.
Miss Call treats both soul and body, for she tells us that a lady came to consult her in regard to the cure of an excessive susceptibility; she advised her, whenever she felt wounded, to imagine that her legs were heavy, which would produce a muscular relaxation, a nervous liberation, and relieve the tension caused by her excessive sensibility. It seems that the prescription worked wonders, this wholly outward process helping the patient's mind to rise to a higher plane of philosophy. We understand the following advice much better: "Never resist a trouble; it is increased by the effort which you make to overcome it. The body should be trained to obey the mind; the mind should be trained to give to the body orders worthy of obedience. Avoid too great preoccupation with self, insanity being possibly merely egotism gone to seed. The oftener you use the word I, the greater your nervous trouble becomes. Let us quietly accept all that Nature is constantly ready to give us, and let us use it for the object that she suggests to us, which is always the truest and best; we shall thus live as the little child lives, with the addition of wisdom."
The "serenity of a little child " is the ideal held up by Miss Call to her pupils. One of them told me that by teaching her repose, perfect relaxation of all her limbs, her teacher had put her into such condition that she could roll from top to bottom of the stairs without doing herself any harm. She invited me to assist at her lesson, and I gladly accepted. I went with her to Miss Call. I found her to be a young woman of calm and distinguished appearance, who in a few words and without the least charlatanry stated to me what she called her method, -- not claiming that there was any new idea in it, but that it was merely a return to Nature. The restoration of the physical and moral equilibrium induced by the art of inaction may save the lives of many overwrought American women. It will also be introduced into France before long. Even the most coquettish of Parisians might be tempted by the costume which Miss Call wore, -- silk tights, covered by a light silk tunic, leaving the arms and legs free. This Greek costume is not strictly necessary, -- any ordinary gymnastic dress will do; but we were urged to pay careful heed to the play of the muscles which would be hidden in a different dress. Miss Call, stretched at full length on the floor, or standing in attitudes of perfect grace, did indeed produce the restful effect of the abandonment of all effort and all volition. With closed eyes, she imagines herself as heavy as lead, then slowly performs movements enacted by each limb as if it were a part, as she expresses it, of a bag of bones united by very loose links. Great flexibility results. She has adopted and enlarged the Delsarte system, which is very widely known in America. But Delsarte only practised the letter; she flatters herself that she has discovered the spirit. Certainly art should benefit by her experiences; she believes that a school of sincerity, in opposition to the dramatic hysteria now too common, will be the result for the theatre. Freedom, rhythm, equilibrium, such are the qualities which she offers to teach by a normal drill which, at the same time that it strengthens the body, stimulates the brain. I could only judge of the plastic part; and I must confess that it was irreproachable. There may be a closer connection than is at first apparent between Miss Call's rest teaching and the precepts of the new Christian Science, which also implies a sort of quietism, a necessary reaction against the untiring Puritan will.
Christian Science, which Mrs. J. T. Coolidge, jr., (3) one of its adepts, offers us as the modern expression of the oldest philosophy, severely criticised though it be by some, bids fair to rival medicine in certain circles of New York and Boston. It is held in especial favor in Boston, so deeply imbued with transcendentalism, and ever mindful of Emerson's teaching, "Hitch your wagon to a star." It was to Boston, too, that the great preacher, the adored bishop, Phillips Brooks, addressed these noble words: "There is but one life, the life eternal." All this is perfectly in accord with the new or renascent science that there is not one principle for spiritual things and another for natural things, -- the same principle acts throughout the universe. Matter is animated by divine life as is the spirit itself; products of the creative thought, we partake of its limitless vitality; our health, both moral and physical, depends upon this established current. The cure of physical evils is secondary; bodily health will follow when the soul is healed. So too Solomon refused to believe that God had ordered death, which entered into this world by the envious desire of the devil, and which threatens only those who are allied to him.
I sought out one of the distributers of Christian Science in her office: "Is it true, madam, that here in Boston and elsewhere more than one woman refuses to call in a physician when a child is born, because we should live without thought for the morrow, like the lily of the field?"
" It is a fact. Women who follow the teachings of Christian Science forget, at such times, as at all others, that they have a body. They discard all customary precautions; people are surprised to see them get up, walk out, and run what the vulgar call all sorts of risks, and yet suffer no bad results."
"But, after all, a broken leg requires setting. What should I do if I broke my leg?"
"You should say that it is not broken; that the pain is an illusion; and your leg will get well. A severe accident is far easier to cure than those chronic troubles which have become a bad mental habit. I hurt my arm not long since. I continued to use it, refusing to believe in any injury, and telling myself that with God's help all was well. Two days later I was entirely cured. Years ago I recovered my health, which the doctors declared irretrievably impaired, in this same way. I recovered it for my child, for many others."
"Can I be one of those privileged persons?"
"It all depends on the state of your soul. I am about to begin a course of lessons: you can join the class."
"Then you first advise those who suffer to persuade themselves that their suffering has no existence, and you fill them with your own conviction until relief occurs? You magnetize them?"
"There is no magnetism about it; or at least it is an involuntary magnetism, such as each of us exerts on his brothers, and which represents the increasing power to receive and give life. We use neither hypnotism nor suggestion. We treat the body through the soul."
"Religion commands us to submit to trials; that is the way to suffer least, I grant you, for we are thus spared the agony of impatience and revolt. It seems to me that religion is all sufficient; but I fancy that I should add a surgical operation to the strength which it affords, if I had the misfortune to require one."
This doctress of a new order smiled with indulgent pity at my blindness: "We cannot argue until you have attended my lessons, and have passed a slight examination."
"Of my conscience? Do you propose to feel my spiritual pulse?"
"In a summary fashion and with discretion, merely for the purpose of learning whether you are in a fit state to be treated, and to help you to attain to it."
She has a most honest aspect, mediumistic eyes, vague and dark-circled, with a sickly complexion, although she professes to be perfectly well since she has found the truth. I place the price of my consultation on the mantelpiece and withdraw, thinking of a friend who, having been converted to this kind of spiritual cure, allowed the growth of an internal disease, of which she might have died had she not reluctantly called in earthly aid.
"Because her faith was weak!" some may say. Others merely smile an obstinate smile, as did that handsome young woman who, only a few days after the birth of her child, followed me out, with nothing over her bare head and neck, to her door, and stood there on a freezing March day, defying the cold.
These instances will help to show the other side of the picture in Boston, -- a picture moreover most interesting, painted at the same time with delicacy and vigor. Infatuation is prevalent there; that is proverbial. All America will tell you of Boston fads. I witnessed two or three during my stay there; and if I did not collect more, it was probably for want of attention. The most singular seemed to me that of which Mozoomdar, the Hindoo reformer, was the object. Certainly, the Chicago Congress of Religions was a great thing.
That voluntary meeting of the ministers of all existing creeds, and the friendly exchange of ideas between them, bore a superb testimony to the tolerance of the age, and to the spirit of sincerity which prevails more and more as time goes on. Perhaps it may mark the era of a sort of spiritual unity; but it seems more difficult to admit that a unity of such recent date authorizes the utterance of Buddhist sermons from a Christian pulpit. However, I am less shocked by the comparisons made in Unity Church (Chicago) by Dharmapala, of Ceylon, between Christ and Buddha, -- I am less shocked by this, I repeat, than by the pious heed paid by Boston ladies to the revelation of a new Christianity, an Oriental Christianity contrasting its glittering glory with the antiquated forms of our own.
The infatuation for Mozoomdar is an instance of the fad for persons; the infatuation for the "Intruder " and "Blind," (4) an example of a literary fad. The misuse of clubs is also a Boston fad. I think I have shown their good points; but the increase of clubs also increases coteries and sets. Are there not, as statistics show, two clubs for women lawyers, the Portia and the Pentagon? This is assuredly out of all proportion to the very small number of women lawyers or law students. Persons of one and the same profession risk becoming studied and artificial when they thus form a special class by themselves. It is well sometimes to forget what we know and what we are. Spontaneity, perfect simplicity are gifts too precious for a woman to risk their loss by excess of method and exclusiveness. When we Frenchwomen wish to enjoy a book, we read it beside the fire, with no other end in view than our own pleasure, feeling no desire to repeat to each new-comer the famous question, "Have you read Baruch?" by way of winning converts. In Boston, women who read combine together to criticise and discuss a book: at once a new club is formed, and given the name of some author or another. The result is that in spite of all the praise I have bestowed on the conversation, it borrows from familiarity with clubs almost as many defects as good qualities; it somewhat lacks lightness and spontaneity. That rapid transit from one subject to another from which an unexpected witticism flashes, is rather avoided than sought. Fluent speech is an art carried to a great height by some, both men and women, but rather in the form of a monologue. Besides, the extreme politeness which is current, forbids anything even remotely resembling an interruption in conversation, even of the most intimate; rather than break in upon a neighbor's remarks, a return thrust is often left unmade; and the formulas "I beg your pardon!" "Excuse me!" recur oftener than seems necessary. A little formality and artificiality result. So, too, happy hits uttered anywhere are gathered up, repeated, "put under glass," especially when they emanate from those officially recognized as wits. The latter could not be more petted at the Hôtel de Rambouillet than they are by the précieuses of Boston. We entreat those American ladies who have no knowledge of this word, save with the accompaniment of an injurious epithet, kindly to forget their great favorite Coquelin in Mascarille, and to remember that before they were made ridiculous by Moliere, the "précieuse" were illustrious according to Corneille. The prudery, affectation, and pedantry attributed to the degenerate imitators of that first circle of which virtue was the soul, were but the middle-class exaggeration of very praiseworthy refinements and delicacies opposed by great ladies, who were also honest women, to the common irregularities of manners and speech. Like Boston, the Hôtel de Rambouillet represented a centre of intellectual culture; and on looking back, we shall find in the one almost all that is now current in the other, respect for virtuous restraint; cultivation of friendship; contempt for things which are gross and material; a voluntary forgetfulness of bodily wants and the conditions of old age; the subtleties of a conventional language bestowing pretty nicknames upon the initiated, etc. Just as the court and town were jealous of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, so great rival cities launch the arrows of envy at the Athens of America; which does not prevent the fact that it was from Boston in particular, and from New England in general, that the generous and noble impulse sprang which in France, about the beginning of the seventeenth century, spreading from the palace of Arthénice to all France, produced a general good breeding, politeness, and tact, whose very names were until then unknown.
(1) Biographical Notes and Personal Sketches. Yesterdays with authors.
(2) Under The Olive.
(3) "The Modern Expression of the Oldest Philosophy," by Katharine Coolidge.
From Chapter 4 on various topics, the final section
INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS. -- AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTE AT HAMPTON.
Following in the train of the rich citizens who have lavished largess upon colleges, there already arise other benefactors whose no less splendid legacies and gifts flow into quite a different channel, -- that of industrial education. It is but a few years since its advantages were recognized, but the public mind is already beginning to be pretty generally occupied with it. Possibly the mediocrity of many so called universities which have sprung up at random among genuine ones, possibly also their disadvantages, which consist in lending, as some one has very aptly said, large names to little things, have done much to bring about this reaction. In Philadelphia I visited Drexel Institute, named for its founder, -- one hundred and fifty thousand dollars just sufficed to pay for the building and splendid fitting up of the edifice. It was opened to both sexes in 1891, and already has fifteen hundred pupils. All aptitudes for the various professional studies are developed by excellent classes, where applied mathematics, designing, natural science, and mechanics find a place. Drexel Institute, moreover, contains very rich collections of all sorts, which make it a school of aesthetics very precious in a land where public taste is not yet fully formed. No doubt recent exhibitions have led to very happy results in this particular. They have brought France into the foreground: educators invariably allude to France when they wish to praise the meaning of form and grace. Nevertheless, it is a great disadvantage for a people not to have constantly before them the monuments and masterpieces of every sort, daily contact with which teaches even the most ignorant of the French to understand beauty without comment or explanation. Until now it was a privileged class alone who profited by the raids made upon Europe for the purpose of filling up the museums and galleries of great cities. Thanks to professional schools, art studies will be universally spread abroad, gradually modifying too purely practical and utilitarian traits. The vast gymnasium, one of the striking features of Drexel Institute, is, in accordance with the founder's idea, used to promote this advance. I observed a singular detail, -- photographs of students, a young man and woman, in a state of complete nudity, representing the average of their fellow students. This is an application of the discoveries of modern science to Greek art, which America claims to have inspired. The Greeks elevated a feeling for beauty into a form of worship; they saw beauty not only in images carved from marble or stone, but in the perfect forms of youth developed by the national games. This is the reason for this exhibition, which some might think indecent. It has also a useful purpose, -- the physical progress gained by the use of the trapeze, the dumb-bells and the latest Swedish apparatus can thus be compared from year to year. But how far we are from the old Puritan spirit!
It is in the South that schools of arts and trades have grown most rapidly during the last twenty-five years. It was found necessary, after the war, to furnish some means of subsistence to the thousands of negroes suddenly set free by a single stroke of the pen, and at the same time to raise them by a certain amount of intellectual culture to the level of their new rank as American citizens, which nothing had prepared them to hold.
One of the men who from the first devoted himself most zealously to the work of reconstruction was General Armstrong, the founder of Hampton Institute (Normal and Agricultural). He had in his veins the blood of the missionary and the pedagogue: his father, one of the first Americans who went forth to preach the Gospel to the Sandwich Islands, was made minister of public instruction by the king of Hawaii. Even before he returned to the United States to finish his education, young Armstrong saw that the advance of piety among people almost innocently licentious is as nothing if it does not serve as the basis for the formation of character. He also noted that the Mission School, a purely elementary and professional school, did far more good in Hawaii than the government schools, whose aims were much more ambitious. These memories helped him, when he undertook to elevate the negroes, who by certain impulsive and childish traits reminded him of the natives among whom his childhood was passed.
During the war of secession, Samuel Armstrong commanded colored troops; he was struck by their obedience to discipline, by their devotion to officers who treated them well, and by their eagerness and dash in battle. He saw black soldiers studying the alphabet beside the camp-fire, and concluded that they must be given every possible chance to become like other men. Amid the changing fortunes of along and bloody struggle, he seemed to have a vision of the duty which awaited him; and circumstances served him strangely well. Being given charge of ten counties in Virginia, to settle negro affairs and regulate the relations between the two races, he made his headquarters at Hampton, close by Old Point Comfort, where the first pioneers landed in 1608, where the first cargo of slaves was disembarked, where the first Indian was baptized. In sight of these shores the decisive battle between the " Merrimac " and the " Monitor" was fought; at this point General Grant settled the plan for his final campaign. General Armstrong judged that a place filled with historic and strategic memories, easily accessible, both from the North and the South, both by water and by rail, destined to great commercial and maritime growth, situated in the best conditions for health, might well be chosen as the home of the school of his dreams.*
Already, directly after the war, a noble colored woman, Mrs. Mary Peake, had gathered about her, on the site of Camp Hamilton, where six thousand dead now rest in a national cemetery, hundreds of black children, the first school for free negroes, established with the help of the Missionary Association. This same Association largely aided General Armstrong in the purchase of a vast estate on Hampton River, and then requested him to become the head of the Institute. He had never dreamed, in his great modesty, of doing more than suggesting and helping, not of directing; but he was ready for the work, which began on a very small scale, in 1868, with two teachers and fifteen scholars. The number only too quickly increased. Old ambulance barracks which had been abandoned were perforce turned into dormitories and workshops, while they waited for the funds, which were not long in coming, -- the government having, in the mean time, appropriated three millions and a half for the education of a million colored children. The chief institutions, now prospering, had already been thrown open. Hampton received fifty thousand dollars, as her share, and the necessary buildings were put up. In 1870, a special act of the General Assembly of Virginia secured the incorporation of the new school, declaring it independent of any association and of any sect, as well as of the government. "Self-help" was its motto; it desired no control.
General Armstrong's ideas at first found but few partisans; but little faith was felt in manual labor, the plea being that it would not bring in enough. It brought in a great deal from a moral standpoint, by rehabilitating labor, which had been degraded by slavery. "Like all men," said Armstrong, " the negro is what his past has made him." The general's purpose was, to exorcise that past, to remedy the influences of heredity and surroundings, to test character, for the promotion of which he cared ten thousand times more than he did for remunerative and intelligent work; then to send out a select number to preach by word and by example. To this end he devoted his noble life; and he died last year content, asking that he might have the simple funeral of a soldier, a place in the school cemetery with his students, without distinction of any kind, with no eulogy over his grave. Some of his last words were: " I do not care for a biography; . . . they never tell the whole truth. The truth of a life is hidden deep within us; . . . we scarce know it ourselves, but God knows it. I have faith in His mercy . . . . Hampton has been a blessing to me; it has given me for friends and helpers the best of my fellow citizens; and it was a happy fortune to be able to do some good to that whole race set free by the war; to be able also indirectly to serve the vanquished . . . . Few men have been so happy as I. I have never been called to make any sacrifice. It seems as if I had been guided in everything. Prayer is the great power in this world; it keeps us close to God. My prayers were weak and inconstant; but they were the best that I had. And now I am eager to see another world. No doubt everything there will be perfectly natural. How can any one fear death? It is a friend. God and country first, ourselves last."
This outline of General Armstrong's sentiments may be of use as showing what his influence was upon some one hundred and fifty thousand students of both sexes, -- counting those of all the schools founded by Hampton graduates after the pattern of the mother school, in Alabama, Virginia, and North Carolina. Other pupils of the Institute, both men and women, are doing missionary work in Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Texas. At Hampton itself there are now six hundred and fifty pupils between the ages of eighteen and twenty-eight, under the care of eighty officers and instructors, half of whom are divided among the various industrial departments. Does it not seem marvellous that among boys and girls of that age and race, living in separate buildings no doubt, but meeting constantly at meals, in class-rooms, at various meetings, no scandal has ever occurred? Are we to believe that the presence of so just a man as Samuel Armstrong acted upon them as the very shadow of the divine presence?
The task of the Rev. H. B. Frissell, who has succeeded the founder, will be most difficult, although a decided impulse has already been given to the work. The progress made is extraordinary, even from a physical point of view; the ravages of consumption are greatly lessened, nervous affections, once very common, are now relatively rare and there is seldom a case of hysteria since the scholars have learned that a certain want of balance is considered the characteristic feature of their race. A very distinguished woman doctor lives at the Institute.
The annual cost of Hampton is one hundred thousand dollars, the work of the students being deducted. This sum is covered by the subsidies granted by Congress and by private gifts. America has ceased to count the sacrifices required to educate the negro: the thousands of free schools opened in the South for their benefit, require of the old Slave States an annual tax of very nearly four million dollars. The North supports twenty colleges, most of which are under the charge of churches, and at which five thousand adults are prepared for liberal careers; the women make their mark as teachers.
At New Orleans I saw a black damsel teaching Latin with great authority to a class of gentlemen of the same color: her short woolly hair carefully twisted into a correct knot, a little embroidered handkerchief thrust into her belt, a flower in her button-hole, she affected Boston ways. , I also saw a class of little negro girls with faces like monkeys, studying Greek, and the disgust expressed by their former masters seemed to me quite justified. Free though I am from any prejudice against color, I consider the classes in sewing, cooking and laundry work established by good General Armstrong far more useful. He also encouraged floriculture and trained women gardeners. Nurses, of great renown in the neighborhood, are sent out from the little hospital in the Institute grounds. This practical knowledge does not prevent, quite the contrary, the Hampton students from being in great request as primary and religious teachers of children. Almost all of them teach, no matter what their real profession may be. In time we shall probably find women in the majority among teachers of colored schools as is the case with white schools. The men will make a specialty of various trades, having a turn for mechanics and singular skill with their fingers. All trades are taught them at Hampton, although General Armstrong particularly favored agriculture and although preparing timber is the chief business.
Perhaps the excellent spirit of this model Institute may exorcise some of the perils caused by the presence in America of eight millions of individuals who never asked to go there, but who cannot be driven forth. Negroes properly trained will find fresh outlets, and above all they will benefit by the best of moral gymnastics, that which consists in earning all that they spend, in working with their hands all day in order to enjoy the privilege of studying at night, even if it take years and years to gain a laborious victory over the longed for knowledge. Some students, after following a trade abroad, return, and that more than once, to the school-room benches. These young men, it seems to me, assert the growth of the black race better than they could do by great talents. Such perseverance and energy are worth more than the higher education gained at the universities of Howard and Lincoln, Fisk and Atlanta, an education, by the way, which, if it give him other rights, does not insure to the grandson of a slave possessing it either the privilege of entering a drawing-room or that of a seat in a box at a theatre. He is assigned a place fitting his social rank, even on railroads, where we are told that there are no first or second classes, but where you will invariably see this insolent distinction, -- "waiting room for colored people."
"Only in the South! " some one may say.
Allow me to give an idea of the feeling in the North on this point, to repeat an anecdote told with much spirit by Mr. Marshall, one of the managers of Hampton. Boston having proved by gifts the interest which she took in the success of the Agricultural Institute, it was decided that a meeting should be held in that city on January 27, 1870: General Armstrong was to go there in company with a negro orator, named Langston. The latter arrived first, at night, at the Parker House. When the hotel-keeper found out next day, to his disgust, that he had a colored man in the house, he made up his mind, without the least hesitation, to turn him out: unfortunately the chief notabilities of the city came to visit the pariah, just at that very moment; the order could not be carried out until they had taken their departure; but others came and so many of them that the opportunity to turn the negro out of doors was lost, but Mr. Langston is the first colored man who ever entered the Parker House as a guest. The same state of things exists in the restaurants, and the waiters came near taking by the collar "the negro" who afterwards became United States minister to Hayti.
Even now, in the liberal town of Boston, see whether the lightest colored mulatto, unless he be some celebrity or lion, will dare take advantage of the rights theoretically granted to him. Imagine a negro, even if he were a great man, aspiring to the hand of a white woman, in the East! He would be dismissed with scorn to the Southern ladies, whose reply, gracious and attractive though they may be, would have all the ferocity of an application of lynch law; now we know with what refinements of cruelty that savage law punishes a negro guilty of pursuing a white woman to the last extreme. We have only to refer to the recent, shocking examples of which the West was the scene.
From North to South and from East to West, the negro is only tolerated in the United States on condition that he keeps his place, and it will become very difficult to determine the place where a man is to remain who in education and career is equal to the most distinguished. A solid primary education, then an industrial education therefore seems to be what is most to be desired for the colored population, in their own interest; General Armstrong saw this, although he opened the way for exceptions resolved on rising to greater heights, at any cost, even that of suffering. Carefully kept records show the work accomplished by his scholars scattered through the world, from mere laborers to ministers of the Gospel, lawyers, government clerks, and artists (there are quite a number of musicians).
If I have omitted to say that out of the six hundred and fifty pupils at Hampton, one hundred and thirty-two are Indians, it is because I intend to speak later of the admirable school at Carlisle, where they are to be found in crowds, with no mixture of negro fellow-pupils. "The friend of the Indians," Miss Alice Fletcher, shall introduce my readers to them, as she really did me. Without the explanations kindly given me by this charitable and learned woman, upon the subject to which she devotes her life, I should but feebly have understood the beauty of the work of Capt. R. H. Pratt, the rival of General Armstrong, we may say his associate in the work of elevating the "despised races."
* Twenty-two Years' Work. Hampton Normal School Press, 1893.
Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College
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