Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)

by Laura E. Richards

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Chapter II - A Roman Winter - 1878-1879; aet. 58-60

JANUARY 9, 1878

A voice of sorrow shakes the solemn pines
Within the borders of the Apennines;
A sombre vision veils the evening red,
A shuddering whisper says: the King is dead.

Low lies he near the throne
That strange desert and fortune made his own;
And at his life's completion, from his birth
In one fair record, men recount his worth.

Chief of the Vatican!
Heir of the Peter who his Lord denied,
Not of the faith which that offence might hide,
Boast not, "I live, while he is coldly laid."
Say rather, in the jostling mortal race
He first doth look on the All-father's face.
Life's triple crown absolved weareth he,
Clear Past, sad Present, fond Futurity.

J. W. H.

The travellers arrived in Rome in good time for the Christmas dinner at Palazzo Odescalchi, where they found the Terrys and Marion Crawford. On December 31 our mother writes:—

"The last day of a year whose beginning found me full of work and fatigue. Beginning for me in a Western railway car, it ends in a Roman palace—a long stretch of travel lying between. Let me here record that this year has brought me much good and pleasure, as well as some regrets. My European tour was undertaken for dear Maud's sake. It took me away from the dear[29] ones at home, and from opportunities of work which I should have prized highly. I was President of the Woman's Congress, and to be absent not only from its meeting, but also from its preparatory work, caused me great regret. On the other hand, I saw delightful people in England, and have seen, besides the old remembered delights, many places which I never visited before.... I am now with my dear sister, around whom the shadows of existence deepen. I am glad to be with her; though I can do so little for her, she is doing very much for me."

This was a season of extraordinary interest to one who had always loved Italy and pleaded for a generous policy toward her. Early in January it became known that King Victor Emanuel was dying. At the Vatican his life-long adversary Pius IX was wasting away with a mortal disease. It was a time of suspense. The two had fought a long and obstinate duel: which of them, people asked, would yield first to the conqueror on the pale horse? There were those among the "Blacks" of Rome who would have denied the last sacrament to the dying King. "No!" said Pio Nono; "he has always been a good Catholic; he shall not die without the sacrament!" On the 9th of January the King died, and "the ransomed land mourned its sovereign as with one heart."[81]

"January 12. Have just been to see the new King [Umberto I] review the troops, and receive the oath[30] of allegiance from the army. The King's horse was a fine light sorrel—he in full uniform, with light blue trousers. In Piazza del Independenza. We at the American Consulate. Much acclamation and waving of handkerchiefs. Went at 5 in the afternoon to see the dead King lying in state. His body was shown set on an inclined plane, the foreshortening disfigured his poor face dreadfully, making his heavy moustache to look as if it were his eyebrows. Behind him a beautiful ermine canopy reached nearly to the ceiling—below him the crown and sceptre on a cushion. Castellani's beautiful gold crown is to be buried with him."

She says of the funeral:—

"The monarch's remains were borne in a crimson coach of state, drawn by six horses. His own favorite war-horse followed, veiled in crape, the stirrups holding the King's boots and spurs, turned backward. Nobles and servants of great houses in brilliant costumes, bareheaded, carrying in their hands lighted torches of wax.... As the cortège swept by, I dropped my tribute of flowers.[82]..."

"January 19. To Parliament, to see the mutual taking of oaths between the new King and the Parliament. Had difficulty in getting in. Sat on carpeted stair near Mrs. Carson. Queen came at two in the afternoon. Sat in a loggia ornamented with red velvet and gold. Her entrance much applauded. With her the little Prince of Naples,[83] her son; the Queen of Portugal, her sister-in-law; and Prince of Portugal,[31] son of the latter. The King entered soon after two—he took the oath standing bareheaded, then signed some record of it. The oath was then administered to Prince Amadeo and Prince de Carignan, then in alphabetical order to the Senate and afterwards to the Deputies."

A month later, Pio Nono laid down the burden of his years. She says of this:—

"Pope Pius IX had reigned too long to be deeply mourned by his spiritual subjects, one of whom remarked in answer to condolence, 'I should think he had lived long enough!'"

The winter passed swift as a dream, though not without anxieties. Roman fever was then the bane of American travellers, and while she herself suffered only from a slight indisposition, Maud was seriously ill. There was no time for her Journal, but some of the impressions of that memorable season are recorded in verse.

Sea, sky, and moon-crowned mountain, one fair world, Past, Present, Future, one Eternity. Divine and human and informing soul, The mystic Trine thought never can resolve. One of the great pleasures of this Roman visit was the presence of her nephew Francis Marion Crawford. He was then twenty-three years old, and extremely handsome; some people thought him like the famous bas-relief of Antinous at the Villa Albano. The most genial and companionable of men, he devoted himself to his aunt and was her guide to the trattoria[32] where Goethe used to dine, to Tasso's Oak, to the innumerable haunts dedicated to the poets of every age, who have left their impress on the Eternal City.

Our mother always loved acting. Her nearest approach to a professional appearance took place this winter. Madame Ristori was in Rome, and had promised to read at an entertainment in aid of some charity. She chose for her selection the scene from "Maria Stuart" where the unhappy Queen of Scots meets Elizabeth and after a fierce altercation triumphs over her. At the last moment the lady who was to impersonate Elizabeth fell ill. What was to be done? Some one suggested, "Mrs. Howe!" The "Reminiscences" tell how she was "pressed into the service," and how the last rehearsal was held while the musical part of the entertainment was going on. "Madame Ristori made me repeat my part several times, insisting that my manner was too reserved and would make hers appear extravagant. I did my best to conform to her wishes, and the reading was duly applauded."[84]

Another performance was arranged in which Madame Ristori gave the sleep-walking scene from "Macbeth." The question arose as to who should take the part of the attendant.

"Why not your sister?" said Ristori to Mrs. Terry. "No one could do it better!"

In the spring, the travellers made a short tour in southern Italy. One memory of it is given in the following verses:—


Hurry, hurry, little town,
With thy labor up and down.
Clang the forge and roll the wheels,
Spring the shuttle, twirl the reels.
Hunger comes.

Every woman with her hand
Shares the labor of the land;
Every child the burthen bears,
And the soil of labor wears.
Hunger comes.

In the shops of wine and oil
For the scanty house of toil;
Give just measure, housewife grave,
Thrifty shouldst thou be, and brave.
Hunger comes.

Only here the blind man lags,
Here the cripple, clothed with rags.
Such a motley Lazarus
Shakes his piteous cap at us.
Hunger comes.

Oh! could Jesus pass this way
Ye should have no need to pray.
He would go on foot to see
All your depths of misery.
Succor comes.

He would smooth your frowzled hair,
He would lay your ulcers bare,
He would heal as only can
Soul of God in heart of man.
Jesus comes.

Ah! my Jesus! still thy breath
Thrills the world untouched of death.
Thy dear doctrine showeth me
Here, God's loved humanity
Whose kingdom comes.

The summer was spent in France; in November they sailed for Egypt.

"November 27, Egypt. Land early this morning—a long flat strip at first visible. Then Arabs in a boat came on board. Then began a scene of unparalleled confusion, in the midst of which Cook's Arabian agent found me and got my baggage—helping us all through quietly, and with great saving of trouble.... A drive to see Pompey's Pillar and obelisk. A walk through the bazaar. Heat very oppressive. Delightful drive in the afternoon to the Antonayades garden and villa.... Mr. Antonayades was most hospitable, gave us great bouquets, and a basket of fruit."

"Cairo. Walked out. A woman swung up and down in a box is brown-washing the wall of the hotel. She was drawn up to the top, quite a height, and gradually let down. Her dress was a dirty blue cotton gown, and under that a breech-cloth of dirty sackcloth. We were to have had an audience from the third Princess[85] this afternoon, and were nearly dressed for the palace when we were informed that the reception would take place to-morrow, when there will be a general reception, it being the first day of Bairam. Visit on donkey-back to the bazaars, and gallop; sunset most beautiful."

"Up early, and all agog for the palace. I wore my black velvet and all my [few] diamonds, also a white bonnet made by Julia McAllister and trimmed with her lace and Miss Irwin's white lilacs. General Stone[35] sent his carriage with sais richly dressed. Reception was at Abdin Palace—row of black eunuchs outside, very grimy in aspect. Only women inside—dresses of bright pink and yellow satin, of orange silk, blue, lilac, white satin. Lady in waiting in blue silk and diamonds. In the hall they made us sit down, and brought us cigarettes in gilt saucers. We took a whiff, then went to the lady in waiting who took us into the room where the three princesses were waiting to receive us. They shook hands with us and made us sit down, seating themselves also. First and second Princesses on a sofa, I at their right in a fauteuil, on my left the third Princess. First in white brocaded satin, pattern very bright, pink flowers with green leaves. Second wore a Worth dress of corn brocade, trimmed with claret velvet; third in blue silk. All in stupendous diamonds. Chibouks brought which reached to the floor. We smoke, I poorly,—mine was badly lighted,—an attendant in satin brought a fresh coal and then the third Princess told me it was all right. Coffee in porcelain cups, the stands all studded with diamonds. Conversation rather awkward. Carried on by myself and the third Princess, who interpreted to the others. Where should we go from Cairo? Up the Nile, in January to Constantinople."

"Achmed took me to see the women dance, in a house where a wedding is soon to take place. Dancing done by a one-eyed woman in purple and gold brocade—house large, but grimy with dirt and neglect. Men all in one room, women in another—several of them one-eyed, the singer blind—only instruments[36] the earthenware drum and castanets worn like rings on the upper joints of the fingers. Arab café—the story-teller, the one-stringed violin...."

"To the ball at the Abdin Palace. The girls looked charmingly. Maud danced all the night. The Khedive[87] made me quite a speech. He is a short, thickset man, looking about fifty, with grizzled hair and beard. He wore a fez, Frank dress, and a star on his breast. Tewfik Pasha, his son and heir, was similarly dressed. Consul Farman presented me to both of them. The suite of rooms is very handsome, but this is not the finest of the Khedive's palaces. Did not get home much before four in the morning. In the afternoon had visited the mosque of Sultan Abdul Hassan...."

After Cairo came a trip up the Nile, with all its glories and discomforts. Between marvel and marvel she read Herodotus and Mariette Bey assiduously.

"Christmas Day. Cool wind. Native reis of the boat has a brown woollen capote over his blue cotton gown, the hood drawn over his turban. A Christmas service. Rev. Mr. Stovin, English, read the lessons for the day and the litany. We sang 'Nearer, my God, to Thee,' and 'Hark, the herald angels sing.' It was a good little time. My thoughts flew back to Theodore Parker, who loved this [first] hymn, and in whose 'meeting' I first heard it. Upper deck dressed with palms—waiters in their best clothes...."

"To-day visited Assiout, where we arrived soon after ten in the morning. Donkey-ride delightful,[37] visit to the bazaar. Two very nice youths found us out, pupils of the American Mission. One of these said, 'I also am Christianity.' Christian pupils more than one hundred. Several Moslem pupils have embraced Christianity.... This morning had a very sober season, lying awake before dawn, and thinking over this extravagant journey, which threatens to cause me serious embarrassment."

And again:—

"The last day of a year in which I have enjoyed many things, wonderful new sights and impressions, new friends. I have not been able to do much useful work, but hope to do better work hereafter for what this year has shown me. Still, I have spoken four times in public, each time with labor and preparation—and have advocated the causes of woman's education, equal rights and equal laws for men and women. My heart greatly regrets that I have not done better, during these twelve months. Must always hope for the new year."

The record of the new year (1879) begins with the usual aspirations:—

"May every minute of this year be improved by me! This is too much to hope, but not too much to pray for. And I determine this year to pass no day without actual prayer, the want of which I have felt during the year just past. Busy all day, writing, washing handkerchiefs, and reading Herodotus."

On January 2, she "visited Blind School with General Stone—Osny Effendi, Principal. Many trades and handicrafts—straw matting, boys—boys and girls weaving at hand loom—girls spinning wool and[38] flax, crochet and knitting—a lesson in geography. Turning lathe—bought a cup of rhinoceros horn."

On January 4 she is "sad to leave Egypt—dear beautiful country!"

"Jerusalem, January 5. I write in view of the Mount of Olives, which glows in the softest sunset light, the pale moon showing high in the sky. Christ has been here—here—has looked with his bodily eyes on this fair prospect. The thought ought to be overpowering—is inconceivable."

"January 9. In the saddle by half past eight in the morning. Rode two hours, to Bethlehem. Convent—Catholic. Children at the school. Boy with a fine head, Abib. In the afternoon mounted again and rode in sight of the Dead Sea. Mountains inexpressibly desolate and grand. Route very rough, and in some places rather dangerous.... Grotto of the Nativity—place of the birth—manger where the little Christ was laid. Tomb of St. Jerome. Tombs of two ladies who were friends of the Saint. Later the plains of Boaz, which also [is] that where the shepherds heard the angels. Encamped at Marsaba. Greek convent near by receives men only. An old monk brought some of the handiwork of the brethren for sale. I bought a stamp for flat cakes, curiously cut in wood. We dined luxuriously, having a saloon tent and an excellent cook.... Good beds, but I lay awake a good deal with visions of death from the morrow's ride."

"January 10. [In camp in the desert near Jericho.] 'Shoo-fly'[88] waked us at half past five banging on a[39] tin pan and singing 'Shoo-fly.' We rose at once and I felt my terrors subside. Felt that only prayer and trust in God could carry me through. We were in the saddle by seven o'clock and began our perilous crossing of the hills which lead to the Dead Sea. Scenery inexpressibly grand and desolate. Some frightful bits of way—narrow bridle paths up and down very steep places, in one place a very narrow ridge to cross, with precipices on either side. I prayed constantly and so felt uplifted from the abjectness of animal fear. After a while we began to have glimpses of the Dead Sea, which is beautifully situated, shut in by high hills, quite blue in color. After much mental suffering and bodily fatigue on my part we arrived at the shores of the sea. Here we rested for half an hour, and I lay stretched on the sands which were very clean and warm! Remounted and rode to Jordan. Here, I had to be assisted by two men [they lifted her bodily out of the saddle and laid her on the ground] and lay on my shawl, eating my luncheon in this attitude. Fell asleep here. Could not stop long enough to touch the water. We rested in the shade of a clump of bushes, near the place where the baptism of Christ is supposed to have taken place. Our cans were filled with water from this sacred stream, and I picked up a little bit of hollow reed, the only souvenir I could find. Remounted and rode to Jericho. Near the banks of the Jordan we met a storm of locusts, four-winged creatures which annoyed our horses and flew in our faces. John the Baptist probably ate such creatures. Afternoon ride much better as to safety, but very fatiguing. Reached[40] Jericho just after sunset, a beautiful camping-ground. After dinner, a Bedouin dance, very strange and fierce. Men and women stood in a semicircle, lighted by a fire of dry thorns. They clapped their hands and sang, or rather murmured, in a rhythm which changed from time to time. A chief danced before them, very gracefully, threatening them with his sword, with which he played very skilfully. They sometimes went on their knees as if imploring him to spare them. He came twice to our tent and waved the sword close to our heads, saying, 'Taih backsheesh.' The dance was like an Indian war-dance—the chief made a noise just like the war-whoop of our Indians. The dance lasted half an hour. The chief got his backsheesh and the whole troop departed. Lay down and rested in peace, knowing that the dangerous part of our journey was over."

"In Camp in the Desert. January 11. In the saddle by half past seven. Rode round the site of ancient Jericho, of which nothing remains but some portions of the king's highway. Ruins of a caravanserai, which is said to be the inn where the good Samaritan lodged his patient. Stopped for rest and luncheon, at Beth—and proceeded to Bethany, where we visited the tomb of Lazarus. I did not go in—then rode round the Mount of Olives and round the walls of Jerusalem, arriving at half past three in the afternoon. I became very stiff in my knees, could hardly be mounted on my horse, and suffered much pain from my knee and abrasions of the skin caused by the saddle. Did not get down at the tomb of Lazarus because I could not have[41] descended the steps which led to it, and could not have got on my horse again. When we reached our hotel, I could not step without help, and my strength was quite exhausted. I say to all tourists, avoid Cook's dreadful hurry, and to all women, avoid Marsaba! This last day, we often met little troops of Bedouins travelling on donkeys—sometimes carrying with them their cattle and household goods. I saw a beautiful white and black lamb carried on a donkey. Met three Bedouin horsemen with long spears. One of these stretched his spear across the way almost touching my face, for a joke."

"Jerusalem. Sunday, January 12. English service. Communion, interesting here where the rite was instituted. I was very thankful for this interesting opportunity."

"January 15. Mission hospital and schools in the morning. Also Saladin's horse. Wailing place of the Jews and some ancient synagogues. In the afternoon walked to Gethsemane and ascended the Mount of Olives. In the first-named place, sang one verse of our hymn, 'Go to dark Gethsemane.' Got some flowers and olive leaves...."

After Jerusalem came Jaffa, where she delivered an address to a "circle" at a private house. She says:—

"In Jaffa of the Crusaders, Joppa of Peter and Paul, I find an American Mission School, kept by a worthy lady from Rhode Island. Prominent among its points of discipline is the clean-washed face, which is so enthroned in the prejudices of Western civilization. One[42] of her scholars, a youth of unusual intelligence, finding himself clean, observes himself to be in strong contrast with his mother's hovel, in which filth is just kept clear of fever point. 'Why this dirt?' quoth he; 'that which has made me clean will cleanse this also.' So without more ado, the process of scrubbing is applied to the floor, without regard to the danger of so great a novelty. This simple fact has its own significance, for if the innovation of soap and water can find its way to a Jaffa hut, where can the ancient, respectable, conservative dirt-devil feel himself secure?"

Apropos of mission work (in which she was a firm believer), she loved to tell how one day in Jerusalem she was surrounded by a mob of beggars, unwashed and unsavory, clamoring for money, till she was well-nigh bewildered. Suddenly there appeared a beautiful youth in spotless white, who scattered the mob, took her horse's bridle, and in good English offered to lead her to her hotel. It was as if an angel had stepped into the narrow street.

"Who are you, dear youth?" she cried.

"I am a Christian!" was the reply.

In parting she says, "Farewell, Holy Land! Thank God that I have seen and felt it! All good come to it!"

From Palestine the way led to Cyprus ("the town very muddy and bare of all interest") and Smyrna, thence to Constantinople. Here she visited Robert College with great delight. Returning, she saw the "Sultan going to Friday's prayers. A melancholy,[43] frightened-looking man, pale, with a large, face-absorbing nose...."

"February 3. Early at Piræus. Kalopothakis[89] met us there, coming on board.... To Athens by carriage. Acropolis as beautiful as ever. It looks small after the Egyptian temples, and of course more modern—still very impressive...."

Athens, with its welcoming faces of friends, seemed almost homelike after the Eastern journeyings. The Journal tells of sight-seeing for the benefit of the younger traveller, and of other things beside.

"Called on the Grande Maîtresse at the Palace in order to have cards for the ball. Saw the Schliemann relics from Mycenæ, and the wonderful marbles gathered in the Museum. Have been writing something about these. To ball at the palace in my usual sober rig, black velvet and so forth. Queen very gracious to us.... Home by three in the morning."

"February 12. At ten in the morning came a committee of Cretan officers of the late insurrection, presenting a letter through Mr. Rainieri, himself a Cretan, expressing the gratitude of the Cretans to dear Papa for his efforts in their behalf.... Mr. Rainieri made a suitable address in French—to which I replied in the same tongue. Coffee and cordial were served. The occasion was of great interest.... In the afternoon spoke at Mrs. Felton's of the Advancement of Women as promoted by association. An American dinner of perhaps forty, nearly all women, Greek, but understanding[44] English. A good occasion. To party at Madame Schliemann's."

"February 15. Miserable with a cold. A confused day in which nothing seemed to go right. Kept losing sight of papers and other things. Felt as if God could not have made so bad a day—my day after all; I made it."

"February 18. To ball at the Palace. King took Maud out in the German."

"February 21. The day for eating the roast lamb with the Cretan chiefs. Went down to the Piræus warmly wrapped up.... Occasion most interesting. Much speech-making and toasting. I mentioned Felton."

"February 22. Dreadful day of departure. Packed steadily but with constant interruptions. The Cretans called upon me to present their photographs and take leave. Tried a poem, failed. Had black coffee—tried another—succeeded...."

"February 23. Sir Henry Layard, late English minister to the Porte, is on board. Talked Greek at dinner—beautiful evening—night as rough as it could well be. Little sleep for any of us. Glad to see that Lord Hartington has spoken in favor of the Greeks, censuring the English Government."

"February 26.... Sir Henry Layard and I tête-à-tête on deck, looking at the prospect—he coveting it, no doubt, for his rapacious country, I coveting it for liberty and true civilization."

The spring was spent in Italy. In May they came to London.

"May 29. Met Mr. William Speare.... He told me of his son's death, and of that of William Lloyd Garrison. Gallant old man, unique and enviable in reputation and character. Who, oh! who can take his place? 'Show us the Father.'"

The last weeks of the London visit were again too full for any adequate account of them to find its way into her letters or journals. She visited London once more in later years, but this was her last long stay. She never forgot the friends she made there, and it was one of the many day-dreams she enjoyed that she should return for another London season. Sometimes after reading the account of the gay doings chronicled in the London "World," which Edmund Yates sent her as long as he lived, she would cry out, "O! for a whiff of London!" or, "My dear, we must have another London season before I die!"


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