Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)

by Laura E. Richards

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Chapter VII - "Passion Flowers" - 1852-1858; aet. 33-39


The wheel is turned, the cards are laid;
The circle's drawn, the bets are made:
I stake my gold upon the red.

The rubies of the bosom mine,
The river of life, so swift divine,
In red all radiantly shine.

Upon the cards, like gouts of blood,
Lie dinted hearts, and diamonds good,
The red for faith and hardihood.

In red the sacred blushes start
On errand from a virgin heart,
To win its glorious counterpart.

The rose that makes the summer fair,
The velvet robe that sovereigns wear,
The red revealment could not spare.

And men who conquer deadly odds
By fields of ice, and raging floods,
Take the red passion from the gods.

Now, Love is red, and Wisdom pale,
But human hearts are faint and frail
Till Love meets Love, and bids it hail.

I see the chasm, yawning dread;
I see the flaming arch o'erhead:
I stake my life upon the red. 

J. W. H.

We have seen that from her earliest childhood Julia Ward's need of expressing herself in verse was imperative. Every emotion, deep or trivial, must take metrical shape; she laughed, wept, prayed—even stormed, in verse.

Walking with her one day, her sister Annie, always half angel, half sprite, pointed to an object in the road. "Dudie dear," she said; "squashed frog! little verse, dear?"

We may laugh with the two sisters, but under the laughter lies a deep sense of the poet's nature.

As in her dreamy girlhood she prayed—

"Oh! give me back my golden lyre!"—
so in later life she was to pray—

"On the Matron's time-worn mantle
Let the Poet's wreath be laid."

The tide of song had been checked for a time; after the second visit to Rome, it flowed more freely than ever. By the winter of 1853-54, a volume was ready (the poems chosen and arranged with the help of James T. Fields), and was published by Ticknor and Fields under the title of "Passion Flowers."

No name appeared on the title-page; she had thought to keep her incognito, but she was recognized at once as the author, and the book became the literary sensation of the hour. It passed rapidly through three editions; was, she says, "much praised, much blamed, and much called in question."

She writes to her sister Annie:—

"The history of all these days, beloved, is comprised in one phrase, the miseries of proof-reading. Oh, the endless, endless plague of looking over these proof-sheets—the doubts about phrases, rhymes, and expressions,[138] the perplexity of names, especially, in which I have not been fortunate. To-morrow I get my last proof. Then a fortnight must be allowed for drying and binding. Then I shall be out, fairly out, do you hear? So far my secret has been pretty well kept. My book is to bear a simple title without my name, according to Longfellow's advice. Longfellow has been reading a part of the volume in sheets. He says it will make a sensation.... I feel much excited, quite unsettled, sometimes a little frantic. If I succeed, I feel that I shall be humbled by my happiness, devoutly thankful to God. Now, I will not write any more about it."

The warmest praise came from the poets,—the "high, impassioned few" of her "Salutatory." Whittier wrote:—

Amesbury, 29th, 12 mo. 53.

My dear Fr'd,—
A thousand thanks for thy volume! I rec'd it some days ago, but was too ill to read it. I glanced at "Rome," "Newport and Rome," and they excited me like a war-trumpet. To-day, with the wild storm drifting without, my sister and I have been busy with thy book, and basking in the warm atmosphere of its flowers of passion. It is a great book—it has placed thee at the head of us all. I like its noble aims, its scorn and hate of priestcraft and Slavery. It speaks out bravely, beautifully all I have felt, but could not express, when contemplating the condition of Europe. God bless thee for it!

I owe an apology to Dr. Howe, if not to thyself,[139] for putting into verse[34] an incident of his early life which a friend related to me. When I saw his name connected with it, in some of the papers that copied it, I felt fearful that I had wounded, perhaps, the feelings of one I love and honor beyond almost any other man, by the liberty I have taken. I can only say I could not well help it—a sort of necessity was before me, to say what I did.

I wish I could tell thee how glad thy volume has made me. I have marked it all over with notes of admiration. I dare say it has faults enough, but thee need not fear on that account. It has beauty enough to save thy "slender neck" from the axe of the critical headsman. The veriest "de'il"—as Burns says—"wad look into thy face and swear he could na wrang thee."

With love to the Doctor and thy lovely little folk,

I am

Very sincerely thy friend,
John G. Whittier. Emerson wrote:—

Concord, Mass., 30 Dec., 1853.

Dear Mrs. Howe,—
I am just leaving home with much ado of happy preparation for an absence of five weeks, but must take a few moments to thank you for the happiness your gift brings me. It was very kind in you to send it to me, who have forfeited all apparent claims to such favor, by breaking all the laws of good neighborhood in these years. But you were entirely right in[140] sending it, because, I fancy, that among all your friends, few had so earnest a desire to know your thoughts, and, I may say, so much regret at never seeing you, as I. And the book, as I read in it, meets this curiosity of mine, by its poems of character and confidence, private lyrics, whose air and words [are] all your own. I have not gone so far in them as to have any criticism to offer you, and like better the pure pleasure I find in a new book of poetry so warm with life. Perhaps, when I have finished the book, I shall ask the privilege of saying something further. At present I content myself with thanking you.

With great regard,
R. W. Emerson.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, always generous in his welcome to younger writers, sent the following poem, never before printed:—

If I were one, O Minstrel wild.
That held "the golden cup"
Not unto thee, Art's stolen child,
My hand should yield it up;

Why should I waste its gold on one
That holds a guerdon bright—
A chalice, flashing in the sun
Of perfect chrysolite.

And shaped on such a swelling sphere
As if some God had pressed
Its flowing crystal, soft and clear
On Hebe's virgin breast?

What though the bitter grapes of earth
Have mingled in its wine?
The stolen fruits of heavenly birth
Have made its hue divine.

Oh, Lady, there are charms that win
Their way to magic bowers,
And they that weave them enter in
In spite of mortal powers;

And hearts that seek the chapel's floor
Will throb the long aisle through,
Though none are waiting at the door
To sprinkle holy dew!

I, sitting in the portal gray
Of Art's cathedral dim,
Can see thee, passing in to pray
And sing thy first-born hymn;—

Hold out thy hand! these scanty drops
Come from a hallowed stream,
Its sands, a poet's crumbling hopes,
Its mists, his fading dream.

Pass on. Around the inmost shrine
A few faint tapers burn;
This altar, Priestess, shall be thine
To light and watch in turn;

Above it smiles the Mother Maid,
It leans on Love and Art,
And in its glowing depth is laid
The first true woman's heart!

O. W. H.
Boston, Jan. 1, 1854.

This tribute from the beloved Autocrat touched her deeply, the more so that in the "Commonwealth"[35] she had recently reviewed some of his own work rather severely. She made her acknowledgment in a poem entitled "A Vision of Montgomery Place,"[36] in which she pictures herself as a sheeted penitent knocking at Dr. Holmes's door.

I was the saucy Commonwealth:
Oh! help me to repent.

Behind my embrasure well-braced,
With every chance to hit,
I made your banner, waving wide,
A mark for wayward wit.

'Twas now my turn to walk the street,
In dangerous singleness,
And run, as bravely as I might,
The gauntlet of the press.

And when I passed your balcony
Expecting only blows,
From height or vantage-ground, you stooped
To whelm me with a rose.

A rose, intense with crimson life
And hidden perfume sweet—
Call out your friends, and see me do
My penance in the street.

She writes her sister Annie:—

"My book came out, darling, on Friday last. You have it, I hope, ere this time. The simple title, 'Passion Flowers,' was invented by Scherb[37] and approved by Longfellow. Its success became certain at once. Hundreds of copies have already been sold, and every one likes it. Fields foretells a second edition—it is sure to pay for itself. It has done more for me, in point of consideration here, than a fortune of a hundred thousand dollars. Parker quoted some of my verses in his Christmas sermon, and this I considered as the greatest of honors. I sat there and heard them, glowing all over. The authorship is, of course, no secret now...."

Speaking of the volume long after, she says, "It was a timid performance upon a slender reed."

Three years later a second volume of verse was published by Ticknor and Fields under the title of "Words for the Hour." Of this, George William Curtis wrote, "It is a better book than its predecessor, but will probably not meet with the same success."

She had written plays ever since she was nine years old. In 1857, the same year which saw the publication of "Words for the Hour," she produced her first serious dramatic work, a five-act drama entitled "The World's Own." It was performed in New York at Wallack's Theatre, and in Boston with Matilda Heron and the elder Sothern in the leading parts. She notes that one critic pronounced the play "full of literary merits and of dramatic defects"; and she adds, "It did not, as they say, 'keep the stage.'"

Yet her brother Sam writes to her from New York: "Lenore still draws the best houses; there was hardly standing room on Friday night"; and again: "Mr. Russell went last night, a second time, bought the libretto, which I send you by this mail—declares that there is not a grander play in our language. He says that it is full of dramatic vigor, that the interest[144] never flags—but that unhappily Miss H., with the soul and self-abandonment of a great actress, lacks those graces of elocution, which should set forth the beauties of your verses."

Some of the critics blamed the author severely for her choice of a subject—the betrayal and abandonment of an innocent girl by a villain; they thought it unfeminine, not to say indelicate, for a woman to write of such matters.

At that time nothing could be farther from her thoughts than to be classed with the advocates of Women's Rights as they then appeared; yet in "The World's Own" are passages which show that already her heart cherished the high ideal of her sex, for which her later voice was to be uplifted:—

I think we call them Women, who uphold
Faint hearts and strong, with angel countenance;
Who stand for all that's high in Faith's resolve,
Or great in Hope's first promise.

*        *        *        *        *        *

Ev'n the frail creature with a moment's bloom,
That pays your pleasure with her sacrifice,
And, having first a marketable price,
Grows thenceforth valueless,—ev'n such an one,
Lifted a little from the mire, and purged
By hands severely kind, will give to view
The germ of all we honor, in the form
Of all that we abhor. You fling a jewel
Where wild feet tramp, and crushing wheels go by;
You cannot tread the splendor from its dust;
So, in the shattered relics, shimmers yet
Through tears and grime, the pride of womanhood.

We must not forget the Comic Muse. Comparatively[145] little of her humorous verse is preserved; she seldom thought it important enough to make two copies, and the first draft was often lost or given away. The following was written in the fifties, when Wulf Fries was a young and much-admired musician in Boston. Miss Mary Bigelow had invited her to her house "at nine o'clock" to hear him play, meaning nine in the morning. She took this for nine in the evening; the rest explains itself:—

Miss Mary Big'low, you who seem
So debonair and kind,
Pray, what the devil do you mean
(If I may speak my mind)

By asking me to come and hear
That Wulf of yours a-Friesing,
Then leaving me to cool my heels
In manner so unpleasing?

>With Mrs. Dr. Susan you
That eve, forsooth, were tea-ing:
Confess you knew that I should come,
And from my wrath were fleeing!

To Mrs. Dr. Susan's I
Had not invited been:
So when the maid said, "Best go there!"
I answered, "Not so green!"

Within the darksome carriage hid
I bottled up my beauty,
And, rather foolish, hurried home
To fireside and duty.

It's very pleasant, you may think,
On winter nights to roam;
But when you next invite abroad,
This wolf will freeze at home!

While she was pouring out her heart in poem and play, and the Doctor was riding the errands of the hour and binding up the wounds of Humanity, what, it may be asked,—it was asked by anxious friends,—was becoming of the little Howes? Why, the little Howes (there were now five, Maud having been born in November, 1854) were having perhaps the most wonderful childhood that ever children had. Spite of the occasional winters spent in town, our memories centre round Green Peace;—there Paradise blossomed for us. Climbing the cherry trees, picnicking on the terrace behind the house, playing in the bowling-alley, tumbling into the fishpond,—we see ourselves here and there, always merry, always vigorous and robust. We were also studying, sometimes at school, sometimes with our mother, who gave us the earliest lessons in French and music; more often, in those years, under various masters and governesses. The former were apt to be political exiles, the Doctor always having many such on hand, some learned, all impecunious, all seeking employment. We recall a Pole, a Dane, two Germans, one Frenchman. The last, poor man, was married to a Smyrniote woman with a bad temper; neither spoke the other's language, and when they quarrelled they came to the Doctor, demanding his services as interpreter.

Through successive additions, the house had grown to a goodly size; the new part, with large, high-studded rooms, towering above the ancient farmhouse, which nevertheless seemed always the heart of the place. Between the two was a conservatory, a posy of all sweet flowers: the large greenhouse was down in the garden, under the same roof as the bowling-alley.

The pears and peaches and strawberries of Green Peace were like no others that ever ripened; we see ourselves tagging at our father's heels, watching his pruning and grafting with an absorption equalling his own, learning from him that there must be honor in gardens as elsewhere, and that fruit taken from his hand was sweet, while stolen fruit would be bitter.

We see ourselves gathered in the great dining-room, where the grand piano was, and the Gobelin carpet with the strange beasts and fishes, bought at the sale of the ex-King Joseph Bonaparte's furniture at Bordentown, and the Snyders' Boar Hunt, which one of us could never pass without a shiver; see ourselves dancing to our mother's playing,—wonderful dances, invented by Flossy, who was always première danseuse, and whose "Lady Macbeth" dagger dance was a thing to remember.

Then perhaps the door would open, and in would come "Papa" as a bear, in his fur overcoat, growling horribly, and chase the dancers into corners, they shrieking terrified delight.

Again, we see ourselves clustered round the piano while our mother sang to us; songs of all nations, from the Polish drinking-songs that Uncle Sam had learned in his student days in Germany, down to the Negro melodies which were very near our hearts.

Best of all, however, we loved her own songs: cradle-songs and nursery nonsense made for our very selves—

"(Sleep, my little child.
So gentle, sweet and mild!
The little lamb has gone to rest,
The little bird is in its nest,—"

["Put in the donkey!" cries Laura. 
The golden voice goes on without a pause]

"The little donkey in the stable
Sleeps as sound as he is able;
All things now their rest pursue,
You are sleepy too!)"

Again, she would sing passionate songs of love or battle, or hymns of lofty faith and aspiration. One and all, we listened eagerly; one and all, we too began to see visions and dream dreams.

Now and then, the Muse and Humanity had to stand aside and wait while the children had a party; such a party as no other children ever had. What wonder, when both parents turned the full current of their power into this channel?

Our mother writes of one such festival:—

"My guests arrived in omnibus loads at four o'clock. My notes to parents concluded with the following P.S.: 'Return-omnibus provided, with insurance against plum-cake and other accidents.' A donkey carriage afforded great amusement out of doors, together with swing, bowling-alley, and the Great Junk. While all this was going on, the H.'s, J. S., and I prepared a theatrical exhibition, of which I had made a hasty outline. It was the story of 'Blue Beard.' We had curtains which drew back and forth, and regular footlights. You can't think how good it was! There were four scenes. My antique cabinet was the 'Blue Beard'[149] cabinet; we yelled in delightful chorus when the door was opened, and the children stretched their necks to the last degree to see the horrible sight. The curtain closed upon a fainting-fit done by four women. In the third scene we were scrubbing the fatal key, when I cried out, 'Try the "Mustang Liniment"! It's the liniment for us, for you know we must hang if we don't succeed!' This, which was made on the spur of the moment, overcame the whole audience with laughter, and I myself shook so that I had to go down into the tub in which we were scrubbing the key. Well, to make a long story short, our play was very successful, and immediately afterward came supper. There were four long tables for the children; twenty sat at each. Ice-cream, cake, blanc-mange, and delicious sugar-plums, oranges, etc., were served up 'in style.' We had our supper a little later. Three omnibus loads went from my door; the last—the grown people—at nine o'clock."

And again:—

"I have written a play for our doll-theatre, and performed it yesterday afternoon with great success. It occupied nearly an hour. I had alternately to grunt and squeak the parts, while Chev played the puppets. The effect was really extremely good. The spectators were in a dark room, and the little theatre, lighted by a lamp from the top, looked very pretty."

It was one of these parties of which the Doctor wrote to Charles Sumner: "Altogether it was a good affair, a religious affair; I say religious, for there is nothing which so calls forth my love and gratitude to God as[150] the sight of the happiness for which He has given the capacity and furnished the means; and this happiness is nowhere more striking than in the frolics of the young."

Among the plays given at Green Peace were the "Three Bears," the Doctor appearing as the Great Big Huge Bear; and the "Rose and the Ring," in which he played Kutasoff Hedzoff and our mother Countess Gruffanuff, while John A. Andrew, not yet Governor, made an unforgettable Prince Bulbo.

It was a matter of course to us children, that "Papa and Mamma" should play with us, sing to us, tell us stories, bathe our bumps, and accompany us to the dentist; these were things that papas and mammas did! Looking back now, with some realization of all the other things they did, we wonder how they managed it. For one thing, both were rapid workers; for another, both had the power of leading and inspiring others to work; for a third, so far as we can see, neither ever wasted a moment; for a fourth, neither ever reached the point where there was not some other task ahead, to be begun as soon as might be.

Life with a Comet-Apostle was not always easy. Some one once expressed to "Auntie Francis" wonder at the patience with which she endured all the troublesome traits of her much-loved husband. "My dear," she replied, "I shipped as Captain's mate, for the voyage!"

Our mother, quoting this, says, "I cannot imagine a more useful motto for married life."

During the thirty-four years of her own married[151] life the Doctor was captain, beyond dispute; yet sometimes the mate felt that she must take her own way, and took it quietly. She was fond of quoting the words of Thomas Garrett,[38] whose house was for years a station of the Underground Railway, and who helped many slaves to freedom.

"How did you manage it?" she asked him.

His reply sank deep into her mind.

"It was borne in upon me at an early period, that if I told no one what I intended to do, I should be enabled to do it."

The bond between our mother and father was not to be entirely broken even by death. She survived him by thirty-four years; but she never discussed with any one of us a question of deep import, or national consideration, without saying, "Your father would think thus, say thus!" It has been told elsewhere[39] how she once, being in Newport and waked from sleep by some noise, called to him; and how he, in Boston, heard her, and asked, when next they met, "Why did you call me?" To the end of her life, if startled or alarmed, she never failed to cry aloud, "Chev!"

Children were not the only guests at Green Peace. Some of us remember Kossuth's visit; our mother often told of the day when John Brown knocked at the door, and she opened it herself. To all of us, Charles Sumner and his brothers, Albert and George, Hillard, Agassiz, Andrew, Parker were familiar figures, and fit naturally into the background of Green Peace.

Of these Charles Sumner, always the Doctor's closest and best-beloved friend, is most familiarly remembered. We called him "the harmless giant"; and one of us was in the habit of using his stately figure as a rule of measurement. Knowing that he was just six feet tall, she would say that a thing was so much higher or lower than Mr. Sumner. His deep musical voice, his rare but kindly smile, are not to be forgotten.

We do not remember Nathaniel Hawthorne's coming to the house, but his shy disposition is illustrated by the record of a visit made by our parents to his house at Concord. While they were in the parlor, talking with Mrs. Hawthorne, they saw a tall, slim man come down the stairs, and Mrs. Hawthorne called out, "Husband! Husband! Dr. Howe and Mrs. Howe are here!" Hawthorne bolted across the hall and out through the door without even looking into the parlor.

Of Whittier our mother says:—

"I shall always be glad that I saw the poet Whittier in his youth and mine. I was staying in Boston during the winter of 1847, a young mother with two dear girl babies, when Sumner, I think, brought Whittier to our rooms and introduced him to me. His appearance then was most striking. His eyes glowed like black diamonds—his hair was of the same hue, brushed back from his forehead. Several were present on this occasion who knew him familiarly, and one of these persons bantered him a little on his bachelor state. Mr. Whittier said in reply: 'The world's people have[153] taken so many of our Quaker girls that there is none left for me.' A year or two later, my husband invited him to dine, but was detained so late that I had a tête-à-tête of half an hour with Mr. Whittier. We sat near the fire, rather shy and silent, both of us. Whenever I spoke to Whittier, he hitched his chair nearer to the fire. At last Dr. Howe came in. I said to him afterwards, 'My dear, if you had been a little later, Mr. Whittier would have gone up the chimney.'"

The most welcome visitor of all was Uncle Sam Ward. He came into the house like light: we warmed our hands at his fire and were glad. It was not because he brought us peaches and gold bracelets, Virginia hams (to be boiled after his own recipe, with a bottle of champagne, a wisp of new-mown hay and—we forget what else!), and fine editions of Horace: it was because he brought himself.

"I disagree with Sam Ward," said Charles Sumner, "on almost every known topic: but when I have talked with him five minutes I forget everything save that he is the most delightful companion in the world!"

A volume might be filled with Uncle Sam's mots and jests; but print would do him cold justice, lacking the kindling of his eyes and smile, the mellow music of his laugh. Memory pictures rise up, showing him and our mother together in every variety of scene. We see them coming out of church together after a long and dull sermon, and hear him whisper to her, "Ce pauvre Dieu!"

Again, we see them driving together after some function at which the address of one Potts had roused[154] Uncle Sam to anger; hear him pouring out a torrent of eloquent vituperation, forgetting all else in the joy of freeing his mind. Pausing to draw breath, he glanced round, and, seeing an unfamiliar landscape, exclaimed, "Where are we?" "At Potsdam, I think!" said our mother quietly.

Hardly less dear to us than Green Peace, and far dearer to her, was the summer home at Lawton's Valley, in Portsmouth,[40] Rhode Island. Here, as at South Boston, the Doctor's genius for "construction and repairs" wrought a lovely miracle. He found a tiny farmhouse, sheltered from the seawinds by a rugged hillock; near at hand, a rocky gorge, through which tumbled a wild little stream, checked here and there by a rude dam; in one place turning the wheel of a mill, where the neighboring farmers brought corn to grind. His quick eye caught the possibilities of the situation. He bought the place and proceeded to make of it a second earthly paradise. The house was enlarged, trees were felled here, planted there; a garden appeared as if by magic; in the Valley itself the turbulent stream was curbed by stone embankments; the open space became an emerald lawn, set at intervals with Norway spruces; under the great ash tree that towered in the centre rustic seats and tables were placed. Here, through many years, the "Mistress of the Valley" was to pass her happiest hours; to the Valley and its healing balm of quiet she owed the inspiration of much of her best work.

The following letters fill in the picture of a time to[155] which in her later years she looked back as one of the happiest of her life.

Yet she was often unhappy, sometimes suffering. Humanity, her husband's faithful taskmistress, had not yet set her to work, and the long hours of his service left her lonely, and—the babies once in bed—at a loss.

Her eyes, injured in Rome, in 1843, by the throwing of confetti (made, in those days, of lime), gave her much trouble, often exquisite pain. She rarely, in our memory, used them in the evening. Yet, in later life, all the miseries, little and big, were dismissed with a smile and a sigh and a shake of the head. "I was very naughty in those days!" she would say.

To her sister Louisa

Green Peace, Feb. 18, 1853.

My dearest Louisa,—
I have kept a long silence with you, but I suppose that it is too evident before this time that letter-writing is not my forte, to need any further explanation of such a fact. Let me say, however, once for all, that I do not stand upon my reputation as a letter-writer. About my poetry and my music, I may be touchy and exacting—about my talents for drawing, correspondence, and housekeeping, I can only say that my pretensions are as small as my merits. With such humility, Justice herself must be satisfied. It is Modesty with her pink lining (commonly mistaken for blushes) turned outside. Are you surprised, my love, at the new style of my writing, and do you think[156] I must have been taking lessons of Mr. Bristow? Learn that my eyes do not allow me to look attentively at my writing, and that I give a glance and a scribble, in a truly frantic and indiscriminate manner. Having ruined my own eyes, you see, I am doing my utmost to ruin the eyes of my friends. This is human nature—all evil seeks thus to propagate itself, while good is satisfied with itself, and stays where it is. When I think of this, I ask myself, does not the devil, then, send missionaries? You will agree with me that he at least sends ambassadors. I have passed, so far, a very studious winter. Never, since my youth, have I lived so much in reading and writing—hence these eyes! Of course, you exclaim, what madness! but, indeed, I should have a worse madness if I did not cram myself with books. The bareness and emptiness of life were then insupportable....

Of the nearly eighteen months since my return to America, I have passed fourteen at South Boston. Last winter I was fresh from my travels, and had still strength enough to keep up my relation with society, and to invite people a good deal to my house. But this year I am more worn down, my health quite impaired, and the exertion of going out or receiving at home is too much for me....

I have made acquaintance with the Russell Lowells, but we are too far apart to profit much by it. I cannot swim about in this frozen ocean of Boston life in search of friends. I feel as if I had struggled enough with it, as if I could now fold my arms and go down....

[157]To the same

S. Boston, Dec. 20, 1853.

My dear Sister Wevie,—
I have been of late a shamefully bad correspondent, and am as much ashamed of it as I ought to be. But, indeed, it hurts my eyes so dreadfully to write, and that you may find it difficult to believe, for perhaps you find writing less trying to the eyes than reading. Most people do, but with me the contrary is the case. I can read with tolerable comfort, but cannot write a single page, without positive pain. Well, that is enough about my eyes; now for other things. You say that you tremble to know the result of the Lace purchase. Well you may, wretched woman. Don't be satisfied with trembling; shake! shiver! shrink into nothing at all! Do you know, Madam, that my cursed bill from Hooker amounted to over $130? The rascal charged me ten per cent, which you and he probably divided together, or had a miscellaneous spree upon. You sent no specification of items. Madam, to this day, I do not know whether the earrings or the lace cost the most. People ask me the price of bertha, flounces and earrings, I can only reply that Mrs. Crawford drew upon me for an enormous sum of money, but that I have no idea how she spent it. Moreover, my poor little means (a favorite expression of Annie Mailliard's) have been entirely exhausted by you and Hooker. My purse is in a dangerous state of collapse—my credit all gone long ago. I want a coat, a bonnet, stockings, and pkthdkfs, but when for want of these things I am cold and snuffly, I go and take out the[158] flounces, look at them, turn them over, and say: "Well, they are very warming for the price, aren't they?" Besides, you send me a bill, and don't send Aunt Lou McAllister any. Who paid for her Malachites? I have a great mind to say that I did, and pocket the money, which she is anxious to pay, if she could only get her account settled, which please to attend to at once, you lymphatic, agreeable monster! About the mosaics, straw for Bonnets, and worsted work, you were right in supposing that I would not be very angry. It was undoubtedly a liberty, your sending them, but it is one which I can make up my mind to overlook, especially as you will not be likely to do it again for some time.

Now, if you really want to know about the lace, I will tell you that I found it perfectly magnificent, and that every one who sees it admires it prodigiously. If this is the case now, before I have worn it, how much more will it be so when it shall show itself abroad heightened by the charms of my person! Admiration will then know no bounds. Newspaper paragraphs will begin thus: "The lovely wearer of the lace is about thirty-four years of age, but looks much older—in fact, nearly as antique as her own flounces," etc., etc. The ornaments are not less beautiful, in their kind. I wear them on distinguished occasions, and at sight of them, people who have closely adhered to the Decalogue all their lives incontinently violate the Tenth Commandment, and then excuse it by saying that Mrs. Howe does not happen to be their neighbor, living as she does beyond the reach of everything but Omnibuses[159] and Charity. So you see that I consider the investment a most successful one, and may in future honor you with more commissions. I even justify it to myself on the ground that the Brooch and earrings will make charming pins for my three girls, while the lace, Mrs. Cary says, is as good as Real Estate. So set your kind heart completely at rest, you could not have done better for me, or if you could, I don't know it. As to my being without pocket handkerchiefs, you will be the first to reply that that is nothing new. Now for your charming presents; I was greatly delighted at them. The Mosaics are perfectly exquisite, the most beautiful I ever saw. The straw is very handsome, and will make me the envy of Newport, next summer. The worsted work appears to me rich and quaint, and shall be made up as soon as circumstances shall allow. For each and all accept my hearty thanks....

(No year. Probably from Portsmouth, Rhode Island, to her sister Annie)

Sunday, August 5.
... I went in town [Newport] the other day, and dined with Fanny Longfellow. The L.'s, Curtis,[41] Tommo,[42] and Kensett are all living together, but seem to make out tolerably. After dinner Fanny took me to drive on the Beach in her Barouche. I looked fine, wore my grey grapery with my drapery, and spread myself out as much as possible. Curtis took Julia in his one-horse affair on the Beach. Julia wore a pink silk dress, a white drawn bonnet with pink ribbons, and a little[160] white shawl. Oh, she did look lovely. Mamma was not at all proud, oh, no! Well, thereafter, I dined elsewhere and did not want to tell Dudie where. So when she asked, "Where did you dine yesterday?" I replied: "I dined, dear, with Mrs. Jimfarlan, and her pig was at table. Now, before we sat down, Mrs. J. said to me, 'Mrs. Howe, if you do not love my pig, you cannot dine with me,' and I replied, 'Mrs. Jimfarlan, I adore your pig,' so down we sat." "Oh, yes, Mamma," says Julia, "and I know the rest. When you had got through dinner, and had had all you wanted, you rose, and told the lady that you had something to tell her in the greatest confidence. Then she went into the entry with you, and you whispered in her ear, 'Mrs. Jimfarlan, I hate your pig!' and then rushed out of the house."... I have had one grand tea-party—the Longos, Curtis, etc., etc. We had tea out of doors and read Tennyson in the valley. It was very pleasant.... The children spent Tuesday with the Hazards. I went over to tea. You remember the old beautiful place.[43] We have now a donkey tandem, which is the joy of the Island. The children go out with it, and every one who meets them is seized with cramps in the region of the diaphragm, they double up and are relieved by a hearty laugh.

To her sister Annie

October, 1854.
I will tell you how I have been living since my return from Newport. I get up at seven or a little before,[161] and am always down at half-past for breakfast. After breakfast I despatch the chicks to school and clear off the table; then walk in the garden or around the house; then consult with the cook and order dinner, and see as far as I can to all sewing and other work. I get to my own room between ten and eleven, where I study and write until two P.M. Dinner is at half-past two. After that I take all the children in my room. I read to them and fix worsted work for them. I get half an hour's reading for myself sometimes, but not often, the days being so short. Then I walk with dear Julia, the dearest little friend in the world. The others often join us, and sometimes we have the donkey for a ride. I then go in and sing for the children, or play for them to dance, until tea-time. At a quarter past eight I go to put Dudie and Flossy to bed. I prolong this last pleasure and occupation of the day. When I come down I sit with idle fingers, unable, as you know, to do the least thing. Chev reads the papers to me. At ten I am thankful to retire. I do not suppose that this life is more monotonous than yours in Bordentown, is it?...

Oct. 19th. I was not able to finish this at one sitting, my best darling. I cannot write long without great pain. I had to go in town on Monday and Tuesday, and yesterday, for a wonder, Baby [Laura] was ill. She had severe rheumatic pains in both knees, and could not be moved all day. We sent for a physician, who prescribed various doses, and told us we should have a siege of it. To-day she is almost well, though we gave her no medicine. She is the funniest little soul in the[162] world. You should hear her admonishing her father not to "worry so about everything." He is obliged to laugh in spite of himself.... I am very poor just now. I furnished my Newport house with the money for my book ["Passion Flowers"]. It was very little—about $200.

Spite of the troublesome eyes, and the various "pribbles and prabbles," she was in those days editor-in-chief of "The Listener," a "Weekly Publication." Julia Romana was sub-editor, and furnished most of the material, stories, plays, and poems pouring with astonishing ease from her ten-year-old pen; but there was an Editor's Table, sometimes dictated by the chief editor, often written in her own hand.

The first number of "The Listener" appeared in October, 1854. The sub-editor avows frankly that "The first number of our little paper will not be very interesting, as we have not had time to give notice to those who we expect to write for it."

This is followed by "Select Poetry, Mrs. Howe"; "The Lost Suitor" (to be continued), and "Seaside Thoughts." The "Editor's Table" reads:—

"It is often said that Listeners hear no good of themselves, and it often proves to be true. But we shall hope to hear, at least, no harm of our modest little paper. We intend to listen only to good things, and not to have ears for any unkind words about ourselves or others. Little people of our age are expected to listen to those who are older, having so many things to learn. We will promise, too, to listen as much as we[163] can to all the entertaining news about town, and to give accounts of the newest fashions, the parties in high life (nurseries are generally three stories high) and many other particulars. So, we venture to hope that 'The Listener' will find favour with our friends and Miss Stephenson's select public."

This was Miss Hannah Stephenson's school for girls, which Julia and Florence were attending. "The Listener" gives pleasant glimpses of life at Green Peace, the Nursery Fair, the dancing-school, the new baby, and so forth.

Sometimes the "Table" is a rhyming one:—

What shall we do for an Editor's table?
To make one really we are not able.
Our Editorial head is aching,
Our lily white hand is rather shaking.
Our baby cries both day and night,
And puts our "intelligence" all to flight.
Yet, for the gentle Julia's sake,
Some little effort we must make.
We didn't go vote for the know-nothing Mayor,
A know-nothing's what we cannot bear,
We know our lessons, that's well for us,
Or the school would be in a terrible fuss.

That's all for the present, we make our best bow,
And are your affectionate
Editor Howe.

On January 14, 1855, we read:—

"Last evening began the opera season. Now, as all the Somebodies were there, we would not like to have you suppose, dear reader, that we were not, although perhaps you did not see us, with our little squeezed-up hat slipping off of our head, and we screwing up our eyebrows to keep it on. There was a moment when we thought we felt it going down the back of our neck, but a dexterous twitch of the left ear restored the natural order of things. Well, to show you that we were there, we'll tell you of what the Opera was composed. There was love of course, and misery, and plenty of both. The slim man married the lady in white, and then ran away with another woman. She tore her hair, and went mad. One of the stout gentlemen doubled his fists, the other spread out his hands and looked pitiful. The mad lady sang occasionally, and retained wonderful command of her voice. They all felt dreadfully, and went thro' a great deal, singing all the time. The thing came right at last, but we have no room to explain how."

In May, 1855, the paper died a natural death.

To her sister Annie

South Boston, Jan. 19, 1855.

My sweet meatest,—

... First of all you wish to know about the Bonnet, of course. I am happy to say that it is entirely successful, cheap, handsome, and becoming. Boston can show nothing like it. As to the green and lilac, I all but sleep in it. I never wear it, glory on my soul, without attracting notice. Those who don't know me, at lectures and sich, seem to say: "Good heavens, who is that lovely creature?" Those who do know me seem to be whispering to each other, "I never saw Julia Howe look so well!" So much for the green bonnet. As for the white one, since I took out the pinch behind, it fits[165] and flatters—to the Opera, I will incontinently wear it. I have been there and still would go. Every woman seen in front, seems to have a cap with a great frill, like that of an old-fashioned night-cap; it is only when she turns sideways that you can see the little hat behind....

Did I write you that I have been to the Assembly? Chev went to the first without me, with his niece, the pretty one, of course, much to my vexation, so I spunked up, and determined to go to the second. A white silk dress was a necessary tho' unprofitable investment. Turnbull had, fortunately for me, made a failure, and was selling very cheap. I got a pretty silk for $17, and had it made by a Boston fashionable dressmaker, with three pinked flounces—it looked unkimmon. Next I caused my hair to be dressed by Pauline, the wife of Canegally. "Will you have it in the newest fashion?" asked she; "the very newest," answered I. She put in front two horrid hair cushions and, combing the hair over them, made a sort of turban of hair, in which I was, may I say? captivating. I was proud of my hair, and frequented rooms with looking-glasses in them, the rest of the afternoon. At the Ass-embly, Chev and I entered somewhat timidly, but soon took courage, and parted company. Little B—— (your neighbor of Bond St.) was there, wiggy and smiley, but oh! so youthful!! Life is short, they say, but I don't think so when I see little B—— trying to look down upon me from beneath, and doing the patronizing. There was something very nice about her, however, that is, her pearl necklace with a diamond[166] clasp two inches long, and one and a half broad.... Oculist said weakness was the disease, and rest the remedy—oculist recommended veratrine ointment, frequent refreshing of eyes with wet cloth, cleared his throat every minute, and was an old humbug.

They are playing at the Boston Museum a piece, probably a farce, called "A Blighted Being." When I see the handbills posted up in the streets it is like reading one's own name. I must now bid you farewell and am ever with dearest love,

Your affectionate sister and
A Blighted Being!!!!
To the same

South Boston, June 1, 1855.
... Well, my darling, it is a very uninteresting time with me. I am alive, and so are my five children. I made a vow, when dear Laura was so ill, to complain never more of dulness or ennui. So I won't, but you understand if I hadn't made such a vow, I could under present circumstances indulge in the howling in which my soul delighteth. I don't know how I keep alive. The five children seem always waiting, morally, to pick my bones, and are always quarrelling over their savage feast.... The stairs as aforesaid kill me. The Baby keeps me awake, and keeps me down in strength. Were it not for beer, I were little better than a dead woman, but, blessed be the infusion of hops, I can still wink my left eye and look knowing with my right, which is more, God be praised, than could have been[167] expected after eight months of Institution. I have seen Opera of "Trovatore"—in bonnet trimmed with grapes I went, bonnet baptized with "oh d-Cologne," but Alexander McDonald was my escort, Chev feeling very ill just at Opera time, but making himself strangely comfortable after my departure with easy-chair, foot-stool, and unlimited pile of papers. Well, dear, you know they would be better if they could, but somehow they can't—it isn't in them....

To the same

South Boston, Nov. 27, 1855.
I have been having a wow-wow time of late, or you should have heard from me. As it is, I shall scribble a hasty sheet of Hieroglyphics, and put in it as much of myself as I can. Mme. Kossuth (Kossuth's sister divorced from former husband) has been here for ten days past; as she is much worn and depressed I have had a good deal of comforting up to do—very little time and much trouble. She is a lady, and has many interesting qualities, but you can imagine how I long for the sanctity of home. Still, my heart aches that this woman, as well bred as any one of ourselves, should go back to live in two miserable rooms, with three of her four children, cooking, and washing everything with her own hands, and sitting up half the night to earn a pittance by sewing or fancy work. Her eldest son has been employed as engineer on the Saratoga and Sacketts Harbor railroad for two years, but has not been paid a cent—the R.R. being nearly or quite bankrupt. He is earning $5 a week in a Bank, and[168] this is all they have to depend upon. She wants to hire a small farm somewhere in New Jersey and live upon it with her children....

To her sisters

Thursday, 29, 1856.
... We have been in the most painful state of excitement relative to Kansas matters and dear Charles Sumner, whose condition gives great anxiety.[44] Chev is as you might expect under such circumstances; he has had much to do with meetings here, etc., etc. New England spunk seems to be pretty well up, but what will be done is uncertain as yet. One thing we have got: the Massachusetts Legislature has passed the "personal liberty bill," which will effectually prevent the rendition of any more fugitive slaves from Massachusetts. Another thing, the Tract Society here (orthodox) has put out old Dr. Adams, who published a book in favor of slavery; a third thing, the Connecticut legislature has withdrawn its invitation to Mr. Everett to deliver his oration before them, in consequence of his having declined to speak at the Sumner meeting in Faneuil Hall....

To her sister Annie

Cincinnati, May 26, 1857.
Casa Greenis.

Dearest Annie, Fiancée de marbre et Femme de glace,—
Heaven knows what I have not been through with since I saw you—dust, dirt, dyspepsia, hotels, railroads,[169] prairies, Western steamboats, Western people, more prairies, tobacco juice, captains of boats, pilots of ditto, long days of jolting in the cars, with stoppages of ten minutes for dinner, and the devil take the hindmost. There ought to be no chickens this year, so many eggs have we eaten. Flossy was quite ill for two days at St. Louis. Chev is too rapid and restless a traveller for pleasure. Still, I think I shall be glad to have made the journey when it is all over—I must be stronger than I was, for I bear fatigue very well now and at first I could not bear it at all. We went from Philadelphia to Baltimore, thence to Wheeling, thence to see the Manns at Antioch—they almost ate us up, so glad were they to see us. Thence to Cincinnati, where two days with Kitty Rölker, a party at Larz Anderson's—Longworth's wine-cellar, pleasant attentions from a gentleman by the name of King, who took me about in a carriage and proposed everything but marriage. After passing the morning with me, he asked if I was English. I told him no. When we met in the evening, he had thought matters over, and exclaimed, "You must be Miss Ward!" "And you," I cried, "must be the nephew of my father's old partner. Do you happen to have a strawberry mark or anything of that kind about you?" "No." "Then you are my long-lost Rufus!" And so we rushed into each other's confidence and swore, like troopers, eternal friendship. Thence to Louisville, dear, a beastly place, where I saw the Negro jail, and the criminal court in session, trying a man for the harmless pleasantry of murdering his wife. Thence[170] to St. Louis, where Chev left us and went to Kansas, and Fwotty and I boated it back here and went to a hotel, and the William Greenes they came and took us, and that's all for the present....

To the same

Garret Platform,

Lawton's Valley, July 13, 1857.
... Charlotte Brontë is deeply interesting, but I think she and I would not have liked each other, while still I see points of resemblance—many indeed—between us. Her life, on the whole, a very serious and instructive page in literary history. God rest her! she was as faithful and earnest as she was clever—she suffered much.

... Theodore Parker and wife came here last night, to stay a week if they like it (have just had a fight with a bumble-bee, in avoiding which I banged my head considerably against a door, in the narrow limits of my garret platform); so you see I am still a few squashes ("some pumpkins" is vulgar, and I isn't)....

To her sisters

P.S. Boston, April 4, 1858.
... I am perfectly worn out in mind, body and estate. The Fair[45] lasted five days and five evenings. I was there every day, and nearly all day, and at the end of it I dropped like a dead person. Never did I experience such fatigue—the crowd of faces, the bad air, the responsibility of selling and the difficulty of suiting everybody, was almost too much for me. On the other hand, it was an entirely new experience, and a very amusing one. My table was one of the prettiest, and, as I took care to have some young and pretty assistants, it proved one of the most attractive. I cleared $426.00, which was doing pretty well, as I had very little given me.... For a week after the Fair I could do nothing but lie on a sofa or in an easy-chair, ... but by the end of the week I revived, and it pleased the Devil to suggest to me that this was the moment to give a long promised party to the Governor and his wife. All hands set to work, therefore, writing notes. With the assistance of three Amanuenses I scoured the whole surface of Boston society.... Unluckily I had fixed upon an evening when there were to be two other parties, and of course the cream of the cream was already engaged. I believe in my soul that I invited 300 people—every day everybody sent word they could not come. I was full of anxiety, got the house well arranged though, engaged a colored man, and got a splendid supper. Miss Hunt, who is writing for me, smacks her lips at the remembrance of the same, I mean the supper, not the black man. Well! the evening came, and with it all the odds and ends of half a dozen sets of people, including some of the most primitive and some of the most fashionable. I had the greatest pleasure in introducing a dowdy high neck, got up for the occasion, with short sleeves and a bow behind, to the most elaborate of French ball-dresses with head-dress to match, and leaving them to[172] take care of each other the best way they could. As for the Governor [Nathaniel P. Banks], I introduced him right and left to people who had never voted for him and never will. The pious were permitted to enjoy Theodore Parker, and Julia's schoolmaster sat on a sofa and talked about Carlyle. I did not care—the colored man made it all right. Imagine my astonishment at hearing the party then and after pronounced one of the most brilliant and successful ever given in Boston. The people all said, "It is such a relief to see new faces—we always meet the same people at city parties." Well, darlings, the pickings of the supper was very good for near a week afterwards, and, having got through with my party, I have nearly killed myself with going to hear Mr. Booth, whose playing is beautiful exceedingly. Having for once in my life had play enough and a great deal too much, I am going to work to-morrow like an old Trojan building a new city. I am too poor to come to New York this spring; still it is not impossible. Farewell, Beloveds, it is church time, and this edifying critter is uncommon punctual in her devotions. So farewell, love much, and so far as human weakness allows imitate the noble example of

Your sister,


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