Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)

by Laura E. Richards

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Chapter III - Newport - 1879-1882; aet. 60-63


The clothes-line is a Rosary
Of household help and care;
Each little saint the Mother loves
Is represented there.

And when across her garden plot
She walks, with thoughtful heed,
I should not wonder if she told
Each garment for a bead.

*        *        *        *        *        * 
A stranger passing, I salute
The Household in its wear,
And smile to think how near of kin
Are love and toil and prayer.

J. W. H.

July, 1879, found our mother at home at Oak Glen, unpacking trunks and reading a book on the Talmud. She had met the three married daughters in Boston ("We talked incessantly for seven hours," says the Journal), and Florence and Maud accompanied her to Newport, where Florence had established her summer nursery. There were three Hall grandchildren now, and they became an important factor in the life at Oak Glen. All through the records of these summer days runs the patter of children's feet.

She kept only one corner of the house for her private use; a room with the north light which she then thought essential. This was at once bedroom and workroom: she never had a separate study or library.[47] Here, as in Green Peace days, she worked quietly and steadily. Children and grandchildren might fill the house, might have everything it contained: she asked only for her "precious time." When she could not have an hour she took half an hour, a quarter, ten minutes. No fragment of time was too small for her to save, to invest in study or in work; and as her mind concentrated instantly on the subject in hand, no such fragment was wasted. The rule of mind over body was relentless: sick or well, she must finish her stint before the day closed.

This summer of 1879 was a happy one. After the feverish months of travel and pleasure, her delight in the soft Newport climate was deeper than ever. She always felt the change from the air of the mainland to that of the island, and never crossed the bridge from Tiverton to Bristol Ferry without an exclamation of pleasure. She used to say that the soft, cool air of Newport smoothed out the tired, tangled nerves "like a silver comb"!

"July 29. To my Club, where, better than any ovation, an affectionate greeting awaited me.... Thucydides is very difficult."

This was the Town and Country Club, for some years a great interest to her. In her "Reminiscences" she tells how in a summer of the late sixties or early seventies, when Bret Harte and Dr. J. G. Holland, Professors Lane and Goodwin of Harvard were spending the season at Newport: "A little band of us combined to improve the beautiful summer season by[48] picnics, sailing parties, and household soirées, in all of which these brilliant literary lights took part. Helen Hunt and Kate Field were often of our company, and Colonel Higginson was always with us."

Among the frolics of that summer was the mock Commencement, arranged by her and Professor Lane.

"I acted as President, Colonel Higginson as my aide; we both marched up the aisle in Oxford caps and gowns. I opened the proceedings by an address in Latin, Greek, and English; and when I turned to Colonel Higginson and called him 'fili mihi dilectissime,' he wickedly replied with three bows of such comic gravity that I almost gave way to unbecoming laughter. Not long before this he had published a paper on the Greek goddesses. I therefore assigned as his theme the problem, 'How to sacrifice an Irish bull to a Greek goddess.' Colonel George Waring, the well-known engineer, being at that time in charge of a valuable farm in the neighborhood, was invited to discuss 'Social small potatoes: how to enlarge their eyes.' An essay on rhinoscopy was given by Fanny Fern, the which I, chalk in hand, illustrated on the blackboard by the following equation:—

"Nose + nose + nose = proboscis. Nose - nose - nose = snub. "A class was called upon for recitations from Mother Goose in seven different languages. At the head of this Professor Goodwin honored us with a Greek version of the 'Man in the Moon.' A recent Harvard graduate,[49] Dr. Gorham Bacon, recited the following, also of her composition:—

"'Heu iterum didulum,
Felis cum fidulum,
Vacca transiluit lunam,
Caniculus ridet,
Quum tale videt,
Et dish ambulavit cum spoonam.'

"The question being asked whether this last line was in strict accordance with grammar, the scholar gave the following rule: 'The conditions of grammar should always give way to the exigencies of rhyme.'

"The delicious fooling of that unique summer was never repeated. Out of it came, however, the more serious and permanent association known as the Town and Country Club of Newport. I felt the need of upholding the higher social ideals and of not leaving true culture unrepresented, even in a summer watering-place."

With the help and advice of Professor and Mrs. William B. Rogers, Colonel Higginson and Mr. Samuel Powell, a number of friends were called together in the early summer of 1874 and she laid before them the plan of the proposed club. After speaking of the growing predominance of the gay and fashionable element in Newport society, she said:—

"But some things can be done as well as others. Newport ... has also treasures which are still unexplored....

"The milliner and the mantua-maker bring here their costly goods and tempt the eye with forms and colors. But the great artist, Nature, has here merchandise[50] far more precious, whose value and beauty are understood by few of us. I remember once meeting a philosopher in a jeweller's shop. The master of the establishment exhibited to us his choicest wares, among others a costly diamond ornament. The philosopher [we think it was Emerson] said, 'A violet is more beautiful.' I cannot forget the disgust expressed in the jeweller's face at this remark."

She then outlined the course laid out by the "Friends in Council," lectures on astronomy, botany, natural history, all by eminent persons. They would not expect the Club to meet them on their own ground. They would come to that of their hearers, and would unfold to them what they were able to understand.

Accordingly, Weir Mitchell discoursed to them on the Poison of Serpents, John La Farge on the South Sea Islands, Alexander Agassiz on Deep-Sea Dredging and the Panama Canal; while Mark Twain and "Hans Breitmann" made merry, each in his own inimitable fashion.

The Town and Country Club had a long and happy career. No matter what heavy work she might have on hand for the summer, no sooner arrived at Newport than our mother called together her Governing Committee and planned out the season's meetings.

It may have been for this Club that she wrote her "Parlor Macbeth," an extravaganza in which she appeared as "the impersonation of the whole Macbeth family."

In the prologue she says:—

"As it is often said and supposed that a woman is at[51] the bottom of all the mischief that is done under the sun, I appear and say that I am she, that woman, the female fate of the Macbeth family."

In the monologue that follows, Lady Macbeth fairly lives before the audience, and in amazing travesty relates the course of the drama.

She thus describes the visit of the weird sisters (the three Misses Macbeth) who have been asked to contribute some of "their excellent hell-broth and devilled articles" for her party.

"At 12 m., a rushing and bustling was heard, and down the kitchen chimney tumbled the three weird sisters, finding everything ready for their midnight operations.... 'That hussy of a Macbeth's wife leaves us nothing to work with,' cried one. 'She makes double trouble for us.' 'Double trouble, double trouble,' they all cried and groaned in chorus, and presently fell into a sort of trilogy of mingled prose and verse which was enough to drive one mad.

'Where hast thou been?
Sticking pigs.
And where hast thou?
Why, curling wigs
Fit for a shake in German jigs
And hoo! carew! carew!'

"'We must have Hecate now, can't do without her. Throw the beans over the broomstick and say boo!' And lo, Hecate comes, much like the others, only rather more so....

"Now they began to work in good earnest. And they had brought with them whole bottles of sunophon,[52] and sozodont, and rypophagon, and hyperbolism and consternaculum, and a few others. And in the whole went. And one stirred the great pot over the fire, while the others danced around and sang—

"'Black pepper and red,
White pepper and grey,
Tingle, tingle, tingle, tingle,
Till it smarts all day.'

"'Here's dyspepsia! Here's your racking headache of a morning. Here's podagra, and jaundice, and a few fits. And now it's done to a turn, and the weird sisters have done what they could for the family.'

"A rumbling and tumbling and foaming was now heard in the chimney—the bricks opened, and He-cat and She-cat and all the rest of them went up. And I knew that my supper would be first-rate."

The time came when some of the other officers of the Town and Country Club felt unable to keep the pace set by her. She would still press forward, but they hung back, feeling the burden of the advancing years which sat so lightly on her shoulders. The Club was disbanded; its fund of one thousand dollars, so honorably earned, was given to the Redwood Library, one of the old institutions of Newport.

The Town and Country Club was succeeded by the Papéterie, a smaller club of ladies only, more intimate in its character. The exchange of "paper novels" furnished its name and its raison d'être. The members were expected to describe the books taken home from the previous meeting. "What have you to tell us of[53] the novel you have been reading?" the president would demand. Then followed a report, serious or comic, as the character of the volume or the mood of the meeting suggested. A series of abbreviated criticisms was made and a glossary prepared: for example,—

"B. P.—By the pound.
M. A. S.—May amuse somebody.
P. B.—Pot-boiler.
F. W. B.—For waste-basket.
U. I.—Uplifting influence.
W. D.—Wholly delightful.
U. T.—Utter trash."

The officers consisted of the Glossarian, the Penologist, whose duty it was to invent penalties for delinquents, the Cor. Sec. and the Rec. Sec. (corresponding and recording secretaries) and the Archivist, who had charge of the archives. During its early years a novel was written by the Club, each member writing one chapter. It still exists, and part of the initiation of a new member consists in reading the manuscript. The "delicious fooling" that marked the first year of the Town and Country Club's existence was the animating spirit of the Papéterie. A friend christened it "Mrs. Howe's Vaudeville." Merrymaking was her safety-valve. Brain fag and nervous prostration were practically unknown to her. When she had worked to the point of exhaustion, she turned to play. Fun and frolic went along with labor and prayer; the power of combining these kept her steadily at her task till the end of her life. The last time she left her house, six days before her death, it was to preside at the Papéterie, where she was as usual the life of the meeting! The[54] Club still lives, and, like the New England Woman's Club, seems still pervaded by her spirit.

The Clubs did not have all the fun. The Newport "Evening Express" of September 2, 1881, says: "Mrs. Julia Ward Howe has astonished Newport by her acting in 'False Colors.' But she always was a surprising woman."

Another newspaper says: "The interest of the Newport world has been divided this week between the amateur theatricals at the Casino and the lawn tennis tournament. Two representations of the comedy of 'False Colors' were given on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.... The stars were undoubtedly Mrs. Julia Ward Howe and Mr. Peter Marié, who brought down the house by their brightness and originality.... Mr. Peter Marié gave a supper on the last night of the performance, during which he proposed the health of Mrs. Julia Ward Howe and the thanks of the company for her valuable assistance. Mrs. Howe's reply was very bright and apt, and her playful warnings of the dangers of sailing under false colors were fully appreciated."

It is remembered that of all the gay company she was the only one who was letter-perfect in her part.

To return to 1879. She preached many times this summer in and around Newport.

"Sunday, September 28. Hard at work. Could not look at my sermon until this day. Corrected my reply to Parkman.[90] Had a very large audience for the place—all seats full and benches put in."

"My sermon at the Unitarian Church in Newport. A most unexpected crowd to hear me."

"September 29. Busy with preparing the dialogue in 'Alice in Wonderland' for the Town and Country Club occasion...."

Many entries begin with "hard at work," or "very busy all day."

This summer was made delightful by a visit from her sister Louisa, with her husband[91] and daughter. Music formed a large part of the summer's pleasure. The Journal tells of a visit from Timothée Adamowski which was greatly enjoyed.

"October 11. Much delightful music. Adamowski has made a pleasant impression upon all of us."

"October 12, Sunday. Sorry to say we made music all day. Looked hard for Uncle Sam, who came not."

"October 13. Our delightful matinée. Adamowski and Daisy played finely, he making a great sensation. I had the pleasure of accompanying Adamowski in a Nocturne of Chopin's for violin and piano. All went well. Our pleasure and fatigue were both great. The house looked charming."

In the autumn came a lecture tour, designed to recoup the heavy expenses of the Eastern trip. Never skilful in matters of money-making, this tour was undertaken with less preparation than the modern lecturer could well imagine. She corresponded with[56] one and another Unitarian clergyman and arranged her lectures largely through them. Though she did not bring back so much money as many less popular speakers, she was, after all, her own mistress, and was not rushed through the country like a letter by ambitious managers.

The Journal gives some glimpses of this trip.

"Twenty minutes to dress, sup, and get to the hall. Swallowed a cup of tea and nibbled a biscuit as I dressed myself."

"Found the miserablest railroad hotel, where I waited all day for trunk, in distress!... Had to lecture without either dress or manuscript. Mrs. Blank hastily arrayed me in her black silk, and I had fortunately a few notes."

She never forgot this lesson, and in all the thirty-odd years of speaking and lecturing that remained, made it an invariable rule to travel with her lecture and her cap and laces in her handbag. As she grew older, the satchel grew lighter. She disliked all personal service, and always wanted to carry her hand-luggage herself. The light palm-leaf knapsack she brought from Santo Domingo was at the end replaced by a net, the lightest thing she could find.

The Unitarian Church in Newport was second in her heart only to the Church of the Disciples. The Reverend Charles T. Brooks, the pastor, was her dear friend. In the spring of 1880 a Channing memorial celebration was held in Newport, for which she wrote a poem. She sat on the platform near Mr. Emerson,[57] heard Dr. Bellows's discourse on Channing, "which was exhaustive, and as it lasted two hours, exhausting." The exercises, W. H. Channing's eulogium, etc., etc., lasted through the day and evening, and in the intervals between addresses she was "still retouching" her poem, which came last of all. "A great day!" says the Journal.

"July 23. Very busy all day. Rainy weather. In the evening I had a mock meeting, with burlesque papers, etc. I lectured on Ism-Is-not-m, on Asm-spasm-plasm."

"July 24. Working hard, as usual. Marionettes at home in the evening. Laura had written the text. Maud was Julius Cæsar; Flossy, Cassius; Daisy, Brutus."

"July 28. Read my lecture on 'Modern Society' in the Hillside Chapel at Concord.... The comments of Messrs. Alcott and W. H. Channing were quite enough to turn a sober head."

"To the poorhouse and to Jacob Chase's with Joseph Coggeshall. Old Elsteth, whom I remember these many years, died a few weeks ago. One of the pauper women who has been there a long time told me that Elsteth cried out that she was going to Heaven, and that she gave her, as a last gift, a red handkerchief. Mrs. Anna Brown, whom I saw last year, died recently. Her relatives are people in good position and ought to have provided for her in her declining years. They came, in force, to her funeral and had a very nice coffin for her. Took her body away for burial. Such meanness needs no comment.

"Jacob was glad to see me. Asked after Maud and[58] doubted whether she was as handsome as I was when he first saw me (thirty or more years ago). His wife said to me in those days: 'Jacob thinks thee's the only good-looking woman in these parts.' She was herself a handsome woman and a very sweet one. I wish I had known I was so good-looking."

Of the writing of letters there was no end. Correspondence was rather a burden than a delight to her; yet, when all the "duty letters" were written, she loved to take a fresh sheet and frolic with some one of her absent children. Laura, being the furthest removed, received perhaps more than her share of these letters; yet, as will appear from them, she never had enough.

To Laura

Oak Glen, October 10, 1880. Dearest, Dearest L. E. R.,— How I wonder how you R! Cause of silence not hardness of heart, but the given necessity of scribbling for dear life, to finish a promised paper for the Woman's Congress, sedebit next week. I in Boston Wed., Thurs., and Fri.—day being understood. Mowski [Adamowski] left us yesterday morning.... We had him here a fortnight, and enjoyed his visit extremely. At table, between the courses, he played on every instrument of the orchestra. I asked once for the bass drum, which he imitated, adding thereunto the cymbals. We had a lunch party last week, for the bride, Maud Appleton, and "invited quite fashionable," and after[59] all she didn't come. "Sick in bed with diphtheria." May by some be considered an excuse, but then, it's very rude to be sick, and it's very troublesome to other people. (This to make you feel badly about your own shortcomings.) We had a little dance, too, on Friday evening. An omnibus party came out and a few others. I pounded the Lancers and some ancient waltzes and polkas, ending with the Virginia reel, in which last I thought my floor would give way, the young men stamped so. I have no paper left except some newspaper wrappers, so can't write any more. Got up and found this scrap, then hunted for my pen, which, after some search, I found in my mouth. This is what it is to be lit'ry. Oh, my! I sometimes wish I wasn't!...

In October, while visiting Julia at the Institution, she missed her footing and fell down the two steps leading to the dining-room, breaking the ligaments of her knee. A letter to Laura makes the first mention of this serious accident, whose effects she felt all her life.

Oak Glen, November 9, 1880. Dearest Laura Child,— Behold the mum-jacket, sitting clothed and in her chair, confronting you after long silence, with comforting words of recovery. I am now in the fourth week of my infirmity, and I really think that the offending, or rather offended, muscles have almost recovered their natural power of contraction. My exercise is still restricted to a daily walk from my bed in the small[60] parlor to my chair in the large parlor, and back again. But this walk, which at first was an impotent limp, with bones clicking loosely, is now a very respectable performance, not on the tight rope, indeed, but, let us say, on the tight garter.... The only break in the general uniformity of my life was dear Uncle Sam's arrival on Sunday last. He remained with us a couple of hours, and was as delightful as ever. Oh! more news. With his kind help, I have taken Mrs. Lodge's small house for the winter and this opens to me a comfortable prospect, though, even with his help, the two ends will have to be pulled a little in order to meet....

The furnished house in lower Mount Vernon Street proved a pleasant habitat. It was nine years since she had had a house in Boston; in spite of her lameness, perhaps partly because of it, she enjoyed entertaining her family and friends. Mrs. Terry and her daughter spent part of the winter with them.

The year 1880 was marked by the publication of her first book since "Later Lyrics": a tiny volume entitled "Modern Society," containing, beside the title essay, a kindred one on "Changes in American Society." The Journal makes little or no mention of this booklet, but Thomas Wentworth Higginson says of it: "It would be hard to find a book in American literature better worth reprinting and distributing.... In wit, in wisdom, in anecdote, I know few books so racy."

"January 1, 1881. I have now been lame for twelve weeks, in consequence of a bad fall which I had on[61] October 17. I am still on crutches with my left knee in a splint. Have had much valuable leisure in consequence of this, but have suffered much inconvenience and privation of preaching, social intercourse, etc. Very little pain since the first ten days. Farewell, Old Year! Thank the Heavenly Father for many joys, comforts and opportunities."

Her physician insisted upon her keeping quiet, but she could not obey him, and continued to travel about on crutches to keep her many engagements. Her faithful coachman, Frank McCarthy, was her companion on these journeys.

"January 26. Busy most of the day with my lecture. Had a visit from H. P. B.,[92] who advised me to keep still and go nowhere until my lameness shall be much better. Took 4.30 train for Concord, Massachusetts. Maud would go with me, which grieved me, as she thereby lost a brilliant ball.... We went to Mr. Cheney's, where we found Frank Barlow, a little older, but quite unchanged as to character, etc. He has the endearing coquetry of a woman. Dear Mr. Emerson and Mrs. came to my lecture. Mr. E. said that he liked it. The audience was very attentive throughout. Stepped only once on my lame foot in getting into the sleigh...."

"January 28. Busy all day with my address for woman's suffrage meeting in the evening.... When I entered with my crutches the audience applauded quite generally.... Wendell Phillips made the concluding speech of the evening. He was less brilliant[62] than usual, and kept referring to what I had said. I thanked him for this afterwards, and he said that my speech had spoiled his own; that I had taken up the very points upon which he had intended to dwell."

"February 11. Lecture at Groton, Massachusetts. As I went down the steps to the carriage, one of my crutches slipped and the careless hackman on my right let me fall, Frank catching me, but not until I had given my knee a severe wrench which gave me great pain. I suffered much in my travel, but got through, Frank helping me.... My knee seemed much inflamed and kept me awake much of the night. My lecture on 'Polite Society' was well received. The good people of the house brought me their new ledger, that my name might be the first recorded in it."

"February 12. Dinner of Merchants' Club. Edward Atkinson invites me. Got back by early train, 7.50 A.M., feeling poorly. Did not let Maud know of my hurt. Went to the dinner mentioned above, which was at the Vendôme.... Was taken in to dinner by the President, Mr. Fitz. Robert Collyer had the place on my right. He was delightful as ever. Edward Everett Hale sat near me and talked with me from time to time. Of course my speech afflicted me. I got through it, however, but had to lose the other speeches, the hour being so late and the night so inclement, very rainy."

"February 20. Very lame this morning. No courage to try to go out. Have been busy with Kant and Miss Cobbe's new book, 'Duties of Women,' which I am reviewing for the 'Christian Register.'..."

To Laura

129 Mount Vernon Street,

February 27, 1881.

My dearest Laura,— >br>... Mr. Longfellow came to see us yesterday, and told us his curious dreams. In one of them, he went to London and found James Russell Lowell keeping a grocery. In another, people were vituperating the bad weather, and dear Papa said: "Remember, gentlemen, who makes it!" This impressed us as very characteristic of our dear one. My lameness is decreasing very slowly, and I have now been a week without the splint. The knee, however, still swells if I attempt to use it, and my life is still much restricted as to movement....

"February 28.... A cloud seems to lift itself from that part of my mind which concerns, or should concern, itself with spiritual things. Sometimes a strong unwillen seizes me in this direction. I feel in myself no capacity to comprehend any features of the unseen world. My belief in it does not change, but my imagination refuses to act upon the basis of the 'things not seen.'"

"March 5. Longfellow to dine."

"March 30. In the evening to the ever-pleasing Hasty-Pudding Theatrical Play, a burlesque of Victor Hugo's 'Notre Dame de Paris,' with many saucy interjections. The fun and spirits of the young men were very contagious, and must have cheered all present who needed cheering...."

To Laura

129 Mount Vernon Street,

March 24, 1881.

My darling Laura,—
The March wind blows, and gives me the spleen. I don't care about anything, don't want my books, nor my friends, nor nothing. But you, poor child, may not be in this wicked, not caring condition, and so I will write you, having oughted to for a considerable time. Nothing stays put, not even put-ty. Letters don't stay answered, faces don't stay washed, clothes don't stay either clean or new. Children won't stay the youngest. The world won't stay anywhere, anyhow. Forty years ago was good enough for me. Why couldn't it stay? Now, I see you undertaking to comfort me in good earnest, and know just how you would begin by saying: "Well, it should!"... Nunc Richard[93] here yesterday. Remarked nothing in particular, I replying in like manner. Kept his arm very dark, under a sort of cloak. We condoled [with] each other upon our mental stupidity, and parted with no particular views or sentiments. I have been to-day at a worldly fashionable lunch. Nobody cared for anything but what they had on and had to eat. "He! he!" said one: "ho! ho! ho!" the other. "Is your uncle dead yet?" "No, but my aunt is." "Grandfather Wobblestick used to say"—"Why, of course he did!" Which is all that I remember of the conversation. Now, darling, this is perfectly hateful of me to turn and snarl at the hand which has just been putting good morsels into my[65] mouth. But you see, this is a March wind in Boston, and I can't help it. And I hobbled greatly up the big staircase, also down. That's all. Auntie and Daisy and Maud lunched, too, munchingly. D. made a new capote for Maud. Nobody made nothing new for me. I had no lace bow under my chin, and looked so neglected! Maud and Daisy always on the wing, concerts, theatres, lunches, etc., etc. Auntie and I have some good evenings at home, in which we refresh the venerable intelligence with the modern publication, we do, to wit, "Early Life of Charles James Fox." We also play Russian backgammon. Big Frank Crawford has enlargement of 's liver. This P.M. late Mrs. C. C. Perkins has recep. for Miss Carl Schurz. Girls going, but going first to X.'s weekly weak tea and weaker talk. Here again, you spleeny devil, get thee behind me! I love my fellow-creatures, but, bless you, not in this month.... Julia Nagnos takes tea round generally, and finds that it agrees with her.... I regard you, on the whole, with feeling. Farewell, Laura, I am your poor old mad March hare Mamma. Love to Skip and the little ones.

"April 7. Finished Carlyle's 'Reminiscences' to-day. Perhaps nothing that he has left shows more clearly what he was, and was not. A loyal, fervent, witty, keen man.... His characterizations of individuals are keenly hit off with graphic humor. But he could make sad mistakes, and could not find them out, as in the case of what he calls our 'beautiful Nigger Agony'!!"

"I went out to the Cambridge Club, having had chills and fever all the night before. Read my lecture on Paris, which was well received, and followed by a good discussion with plenty of differences of opinion. Evening at home; another chill and fever."

To Laura

129 Mount Vernon Street,
April 24, 1881.

Bad old party, is and was. Badness mostly of heart, though head has a decided crack in it. Unfeeling old Beast! Left Laura so long without a word. Guess 't isn't worth while for her to write anything more.

My poor dear little Laura, how miserably you must have been feeling, I know well by your long silence. Oh! posterity! posterity! how much you cost, and how little you come to! Did I not cost as much as another? And what do I come to? By Jingo!

Darling, I have got some little miserable mean excuses. Want 'em? Have had much writing to do, many words for little money. For "Critic" (N.Y.) and for "Youth's Companion" and other things. Then, have kept up great correspondence with Uncle Sam, who has given me a house in Beacon Street! oh gonniac![94]

We had lit'ry party last week. Dr. Holmes and William Dean Howells read original things. James Freeman Clarke recited and we had ices and punch. Maud thought it frumpy, but others liked it very much. Have been to church to-day, heard J. F. C. 'Most off crutches now and hobble about the house with a cane. Use crutches to go up and down stairs and to walk in the street.... Have heard much music and have seen Salvini once, in the "Gladiator," and hope to see him on Thursday, in "Macbeth." How are the dear children? I do want to see them, 'specially July Ward....

"May 27. Soon after 7 A.M. arrived Uncle Sam with my dear sister Annie Mailliard from California; the whole intended as a birthday surprise. My sister is very little changed; always a most tender, sensitive woman. Sister Louisa didn't know of this and came at 11 A.M. to bring my greetings and gifts, with Mr. Terry, Daisy, and Uncle Sam. When Sister Annie appeared, Sister Louisa almost fainted with delight and astonishment."

"June 20, Oak Glen, Dear Flossy suffering at 6 A.M.—about all day. Her child, a fine boy, born at 3 P.M. We are all very happy and thankful. It was touching to see the surprise and joy of the little children when they were admitted to a sight of their new relative. There was something reverent in the aspect of the little creatures, as if they partly felt the mystery of this new life which they could not understand. Some one told them that it came from Heaven. Harry, four years old, said: 'No, it didn't come from Heaven, for it hasn't any wings.'"

To Laura (who, as usual, wanted a letter)

Oak Glen, July 10, 1881. Yes, she was a little injured, but not so bad as she pretends. Feelings hurt dreadful? Self-esteem bruised and swollen? Spleen a little touched? Well, she has had the doctor, and the doctor said: "Her mother is a public character, what can we do about it?"

Could my ink forever flow,
Could my pen no respite know.

Well, my darling, it was too bad, so we'll make up, and kiss and be friends. But now you look here. Besides all my lit'ry work, which seems to be heaviest in summer time, I had an awful deal to do in taking care of Flossy's children and the new baby. The babe is of the crying sort! When anything is to be done for his Ma, the nurse expects some one to hold him.... I returned last night from a journey to Vermont, where I read a paper before the American Institute of Education, and also spoke at a suffrage meeting and also at an outdoor mass meeting, and also at a suffrage meeting in Montpelier, and came back, after four days' absence, very tired. (Chorus, Don't tell Maud.)...

"August 30. My first performance at the Casino Theatre. It went off very successfully, and I was much applauded, as were most of the others. Supper afterwards at Mrs. Richard Hunt's, where I had to appear in 'plain clothes,' having been unable to accomplish evening dress after the play. Dear Flossy went with me."

[69]Another "performance" of that summer is not noted in the Journal; an impromptu rendering of "Horatius at the Bridge," in the "green parlor" at Oak Glen, with the following cast:—

Horatius F. Marion Crawford.
Spurius Lartius J. W. H.
Herminius Maud Howe.

The green parlor was an oval grass plot, thickly screened by tall cedars. Laura recited the ballad, keeping her voice as she could while the heroes waged desperate combat, but breaking down entirely when Horatius "plunged headlong in the tide," and swam with magnificent action across—the greensward!

"September 18. Preached in Tiverton to-day. Text: 'The fashion of this world passeth away.' Subject: Fashion, an intense but transient power; in contradistinction, the eternal things of God."

"September 25. Spent much of this day in composing a poem in commemoration of President Garfield's death. Spared no pains with this and succeeded better than I had expected."

"September 26. The President's funeral. Services held in most cities of the United States, I should judge. Solemn services also in London and Liverpool."

To Samuel Ward

241 Beacon Street,
December 22, 1881.

Dearest Brother,—
... Your house, darling, was bright and lovely, yesterday. I had my old pet, Edwin Booth, to lunch—we[70] were nine at table, the poet Aldrich disappointing us. From three to four we had a reception for Mr. Booth, quite the crême de la crême, I assure you. Among others, Dr. Holmes came. The rooms and furniture were much admired. We gave only tea at the levee, but had some of your good wine at the luncheon.

P.S. Mr. Booth in "Lear" last night was sublime!

To the same

Edwin Booth had sent us his box for the evening. The play was "Hamlet," the performance masterly. People's tastes about plays differ, but I am sure that no one on the boards can begin to do what Booth does. I saw him for a moment after the play, and he told me that he had done his best for me. Somehow, I thought that he was doing his very best, but did not suppose that he was thinking of me particularly....

"January 29, 1882. Frank [Marion Crawford] had met Oscar Wilde the evening before at Dr. Chadwick's; said that he expressed a desire to make my acquaintance. Wrote before I went to church to invite him to lunch. He accepted and Maud and Frank, or rather Marion, flew about to get together friends and viands. Returning from a lifting and delightful sermon of J. F. C.'s, I met Maud at the door. She cried: 'Oscar is coming.' Mrs. Jack Gardner, Madame Braggiotti, and Julia completed our lunch party. Perhaps ten or twelve friends came after lunch. We had what I might call a 'lovely toss-up,' i.e., a social dish quickly compounded and tossed up like an omelet."

During this year and the next, Crawford made his home at 241 Beacon Street. Here he wrote his first three books, "Mr. Isaacs," "Dr. Claudius," and "A Roman Singer." He was a delightful inmate, and the months he spent under our mother's roof were happy ones. A tender camaraderie existed between aunt and nephew. During his first winter in Boston he thought of going on the stage as a singer, and studied singing with Georg Henschel. He had a fine voice, a dramatic manner, full of fire, but an imperfect ear. This fault Henschel at first thought could be remedied: for months they labored together, trying to overcome it. Crawford delighted in singing, and "Auntie" in playing his accompaniments. At dusk the two would repair to the old Chickering grand to make music—Schubert, Brahms, and arias from the oratorios they both loved. In the evening the three guitars would be brought out, and aunt and nephew, with Maud or Brother Harry, would sing and play German students' songs, or the folk-songs of Italy, Ireland, and Scotland. Our mother was sure to be asked for Matthias Claudius's "Als Noah aus dem Kasten war": Crawford would respond with "Im schwarzen Wallfisch zu Ascalon."

This was the first of thirty happy years passed at 241 Beacon Street, the house Uncle Sam bought for her. The day she moved in, a friend asked her the number of her new house.

"241," she answered. "You can remember it because I'm the two-forty one."

Oscar Wilde was at this time making a lecture tour through the United States. This was the heyday of[72] his popularity; he had been heralded as the apostle of the æsthetic movement. At his first lecture, given at the old Boston Music Hall, he appeared in a black velvet court suit with ruffles, and black silk stockings, his hair long and curling on his shoulders. A few moments after he had taken his place on the platform, a string of Harvard students filed into the hall, dressed in caricature of the lecturer's costume, each with a sunflower in his coat and a peacock feather in his hand. Our mother, who was in the audience, recognized near the head of the procession her favorite grand-nephew, Winthrop Chanler. Wilde took this interruption in good part, welcoming the lads and turning the laugh against them. "Imitation is the sincerest flattery," he said, "though this is a case where I might say, 'Save me from my friends.'"

Wilde came several times to the house in Boston; later Uncle Sam brought him to spend a day or two at Oak Glen, where the household was thrown into a flutter by the advent of his valet. It was one thing to entertain the æsthete, another to put up the gentleman's gentleman. In spite of all the affectation of the æsthetic pose, Wilde proved a rarely entertaining guest. He talked amazingly well; in that company all that was best in the man came to the surface. He recited his noble poem, "The Ode to Albion," under the trees of Oak Glen, and told endless stories of Swinburne, Whistler, and other celebrities of the day. The dreadful tragedy came later; at this time he was one of the most brilliant figures in the literary world.

"March 4. To Saturday Morning Club with Mrs. [John] Sherwood; very busy; then with her to Blind Asylum in a carriage. Drove up to front entrance and alighted, when the gale took me off my feet and threw me down, spraining my left knee so badly as to render me quite helpless. I managed to hobble into the Institution and to get through Julia's lunch, after which I was driven home. Sent for Dr. Beach and was convicted of a bad sprain, and sentenced to six weeks of (solitary) confinement."

"March 5. In bed all day."

"March 6. On the lounge; able to work."

"March 8. Day of mid-year conference of A.A.W. Business meeting at the N.E.W.C., where I, of course, could not be present. Afternoon meeting was in my room. On the whole satisfactory."

To Laura

241 Beacon Street,
March 18, 1882.

Whereupon, my dearest, let there be no further pribbles and prabbles, which I conjugate thus: I pribble, thou prabblest, he, she, or it pribble prabbles. Maud leaveth on a Tuesday, come thou on that same Tuesday, taking care to keep thy nose in front of thy countenance, and not otherwisely, which were neither wisely nor too well. I hope thou wilt not fail to come on Tuesday. And pray don't forget the baby, as the nurse might find it lonesome to be here without her. During the period of thy visit, I will change my name to Jinkins, we will have such high Jinks!... Beacon[74] Street looks as though it wanted something. I think thou beest it....

Am ever thy lame game Mother.

"March 24. Longfellow died at about 3.30 P.M. to-day. He will be much and deservedly lamented. The last of dear Chev's old set, the Five of Clubs, nicknamed by Mary Dwight the 'Mutual Admiration Society.' On hearing of this event, I put off my reception for the Zuñi chiefs, which should have been on Monday, when the funeral will probably take place."

"March 26. Dear Brother Sam came on very unexpectedly to attend the funeral service held at the Longfellow [house] for relatives and intimates. I also was bidden to this, but thought it impossible for me to go, lame as I am. Sent word out to Julia Anagnos, who came in, and went in my place with Uncle Sam. The dear old fellow dined with us. I got downstairs with great difficulty and fatigue. We had a delightful evening with him, but he would go back to New York by the night train."

"March 30. To-day the Zuñi chiefs and Mr. Cushing, their interpreter and adopted son, came to luncheon at 1.45. There were twelve Indian chiefs in full Indian dress. Reception afterwards."

The Zuñi Indians live in Arizona. Once in the year they make a pilgrimage to the seashore, and wading into the ocean at sunrise, offer prayer to the Great Spirit, and fill their vessels of woven grass with water to be used through the year in their religious exercises.[75] This pilgrimage had always been made to the Pacific; but in the hearts of the tribe lingered a tradition that once in a hundred years the "Water of Sunrise" should be visited, and they dreamed of the Eastern ocean. The tradition was now confirmed, the dream fulfilled, through the friendly offices of Mr. Cushing.

The ceremony was one of touching interest; hundreds of people gathered at City Point to watch it. Most of the spectators felt the beauty and solemnity of the service (for such it was), but a few were inclined to jeer, till they were sternly rebuked by Phillips Brooks.

As our mother could not go to see the Zuñis, they must come to see her, and Mr. Cushing gladly brought them. They were grave, stalwart men, with a beautiful dignity of carriage and demeanor. A picture not to be forgotten is that of her in her white dress, bending eagerly forward to listen while the chiefs, sitting in a circle on the floor, told stories, Mr. Cushing interpreting for her benefit. At parting, each man took her hand, and raised it to his forehead with a gesture of perfect grace. The eldest chief, before this salute, held her hand a moment, and blew across the palm, east and west. "Daughter," he said, "our paths have crossed here. May yours be bright hereafter!"

"April 1. To-day Edward [Everett] Hale brought me a parting memento of the Zuñis—the basket with which they had dipped up the water from the 'ocean of sunrise.' Mr. Cushing sent this. E. E. H. also spoke about five hymns which should be written corresponding[76] to the five great hymns of the Catholic mass. He asked me to write one of these and I promised to try."

"April 16. Splint off to-day. Waited for Dr. Beach, so could not go to church. Had an interesting talk with the Doctor on the Immortality of the Soul, in which he is a believer."

"April 27. Made to-day a good start in writing about Margaret Fuller. This night at 8.50 P.M. died Ralph Waldo Emerson, i.e., all of him that could die. I think of him as a father gone—father of so much beauty, of so much modern thought."

"May 7. To church, going out for the first time without a crutch, using only my cane.

"J. F. C.'s sermon was about Emerson, and was very interesting and delicately appreciative. I think that he exaggerated Emerson's solid and practical effect in the promotion of modern liberalism. The change was in the air and was to come. It was in many minds quite independently of Mr. Emerson. He was the foremost literary man of his day in America, philosopher, poet, reformer, all in one. But he did not make his age, which was an age of great men and of great things."

"May 14. Had a sudden thought in church of a minister preaching in a pulpit and a fiend waiting to carry him off to hell. Made some verses out of this.

"This is Whitsunday.... I do hope and pray for a fresh outpouring this year. While I listened to Dr. Furness, two points grew clear to me: one was, that I would hold my Peace Meeting, if I should hold it alone, as a priest sometimes serves his mass. The second was, that I could preach from the text: 'As ye have borne the image of the earthy, so shall ye bear the image of the heavenly,' and this sermon I think I could preach to the prisoners, as I once tried to do years ago when dear Chev found the idea so intolerable that I had to give it up. I am twenty years older now, and the Woman Ministry is a recognized fact.

"Still Sunday afternoon. I am now full of courage for this week's heavy work."

"May 30. Alas! alas! dear Professor Rogers dropped dead to-day after some exercise at the Institute of Technology. How he had helped me in the Town and Country Club! Without his aid and that of his wife, I doubt whether I could have started it at all: he was always vice-president as I was president. I cannot think how I can do without him."

"July 22. Commemoration of Mr. Emerson at Concord Town Hall. Several portraits of him and very effective floral decorations; no music. Prayer by Rev. Dr. Holland; introductory remarks by F. B. Sanborn in which he quoted a good part of a poem by W. E. Channing, R. W. E. its theme. Then came an unmercifully long paper by Dr. X., much of which was interesting and some of which was irrelevant. He insisted upon Mr. Emerson's having been an evolutionist, and unfolded a good deal of his own tablecloth along with the mortuary napkin."

"July 29. Had a studious and quiet day. Was in good time for the performance [at the Casino]...."

[78]In a letter to "Uncle Sam" she speaks of "the labor and fatigue of preparing for the theatricals, which are happily over. We had rehearsals every day last week. My part was a short one, but I took great pains to make it as good as I could. Some points which I thought of on the spur of the moment added greatly to the fun of the impersonation. We had a fine house, and an enthusiastic reception. I had a floral tribute—only think of it!—a basket of beautiful roses...."

"September 18. Left Newport to attend Saratoga Convention, being appointed a delegate from the Channing Memorial Church, with its pastor, Reverend C. W. Wendte."

"November 8. Cousin Nancy Greene, my father's cousin, enters to-day upon her ninety-ninth year. I called to see her, going first to town to buy her some little gift.... Had a very interesting talk with her. She was nicely dressed in black, with a fresh cap and lilac ribbon, and a little silk handkerchief. For her this was quite an unusual toilette. I wished her a good year to come, but she said: 'Why should I want to live another year? I can do nothing.' I suggested that she should dictate her reminiscences to the girl who waits upon her and who writes, she says, a good hand."

"November 11. I went to see the old Seventh Day Baptist Church, now occupied by the Newport Historical Society, in which my great-grandfather, Governor Samuel Ward, used to attend service...."

"December 24, Boston. Spoke at the Home for Intemperate Women at 6 P.M. I did my best. Text: [79]'Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth are named.' Subject: The Christian family; God, its father, all mankind brothers and sisters.... Afterwards went to the Christmas 'Messiah.' Felt more sure than ever that no music so beautiful as this has ever been written."


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