Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)

by Laura E. Richards

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Chapter XIII - Looking Toward Sunset - 1903-1905; aet. 84-86


Looking down upon the white heads of my contemporaries

Beneath what mound of snow
Are hid my springtime roses?
How shall Remembrance know
Where buried Hope reposes?

In what forgetful heart
As in a cañon darkling,
Slumbers the blissful art
That set my heaven sparkling?

What sense shall never know,
Soul shall remember;
Roses beneath the snow,
June in November.

J. W. H.

The year 1903 began with the celebration at Faneuil Hall of the fortieth anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. She was one of the speakers. "I felt much the spirit of the occasion, and spoke, I thought, better than usual, going back to the heroic times before and during the war, and to the first celebration forty years ago, at which I was present."

Work of all kinds poured in, the usual steady stream.

"January 6. Wrote a new circular for Countess."

Who the Countess was, or what the circular was about, is not known. By this time it had become the custom (or so it seemed to exasperated daughters and granddaughters) for any one who wanted anything in[309] the literary line, from a proverb to a pamphlet, to ask her for it.

It is remembered how on a certain evening, when she was resting after a weary day, a "special delivery" note was received from a person whom she scarcely knew, asking for "her thoughts on the personality of God, by return mail." This was one of the few requests she ever denied. People asked her to give them material for their club papers (sometimes to write them!), to put them through college, to read their manuscripts, to pay the funeral expenses of their relatives. A volume of the letters conveying these requests would be curious reading.

The petition for a "little verse" was rarely refused. Her notebooks are full of occasional poems, only a small proportion of which ever appeared in print. Many of them are "autographs." She always meant to honor every request of this kind; the country must be full of volumes inscribed by her. Here are a few of them.

For Francis C. Stokes, Westtown School, Pennsylvania

Auspicious be the rule
Of love at Westtown School,
And happy, mid his youthful folks
The daily task of Master Stokes!
[When this gentleman's note came, she was "tired to death." The granddaughter said, "You can't do it. Let me write a friendly note, and you shall sign it!"

"You're right," she said, "I can't: I am too tired to think!" But when she saw the note taken away, "No, no!" she cried, "I can! He is probably a most hard-working man, and a little word may cheer him. Here, I have a line already!"]

Wealth is good, health is better, character is best.

Citizens of the new world,
Children of the promise,
So let us live!

Love to learn, and learn to love.

Remember to forget your troubles, but don't forget to remember your blessings.

For Mr. Charles Gallup, who had written to her several times without receiving a reply, she wrote—

If one by name Gallup
Desires to wallop
A friend who too slowly responds,
She will plead that her age
Has attained such a stage
She is held hand and foot in its bonds.
Here, again, are a few sentences, gathered from various calendars.

The little girls on the school bench, using or misusing their weekly allowance, are learning to build their future house, or pluck it down.

No gift can make rich those who are poor in wisdom.

In whatever you may undertake, never sacrifice quality for quantity, even when quantity pays and quality does not.

For so long, the body can perform its functions and hold together, but what term is set for the soul? Nothing in its make-up foretokens a limited existence. Its sentence would seem to be, "Once and always."

The verses in the notebooks are by no means all "by request." The rhyming fit might seize her anywhere, at any time. She wrote the rough draft on whatever was at hand, often on the back of note, circular, or newspaper wrapper. She could never forget the war-time days when paper cost half a dollar a pound.

Nor were people content with writing: they came singly, in pairs, in groups, to proffer requests, to pay respects, to ask counsel. The only people she met unwillingly were those who came to bewail their lot and demand her sympathy.

No one will ever know the number of her benefactions. They were mostly, of necessity, small, yet we must think they went a long way. At the New England Woman's Club, whenever a good new cause came up, she would say, "I will start the subscription with a dollar!" Many noble and enduring things began with the "President's dollar." If she had had a hundred dollars to give, it would have been joyfully given: if she had had but ten cents, it would not have been withheld. She had none of the false pride which shrinks from giving a small sum.

Beggars and tramps were tenderly dealt with. A discharged criminal in particular must never be refused help. Work must be found for him if possible; if not, it is to be feared that he got a dollar, "to help him find work"!

"January 10. At 11.30 received message from 'New York World' that it would pay for an article sent at once on 'Gambling among Society People.' Wrote this in a little more than an hour."

"January 20.... Some little agitation about my appearance at the Artists' Festival to-night, as one of the patronesses. I had already a white woollen dress quite suitable for the prescribed costume. Some benevolent person or persons ordered for me and sent a cloak of fine white cloth, beautiful to look at but heavy to wear. A headdress was improvised out of one of my Breton caps, with a long veil of lawn. Jack Elliott made me a lovely coronet out of a bit of gold braid with one jewel of dear Maud's. Arriving, to my surprise, I found the Queen's chair waiting for me. I sat thereon very still, the other patronesses being most kind and cordial, and saw the motley throng and the curious pageants. Costumes most beautiful, but the hall too small for much individual effect. Adèle Thayer wore the famous Thayer diamonds."

"January 27. Woke early and began to worry about the hearing.... Dressed with more care than usual and went betimes to State House. Had a good deliverance of my paper. The opposition harped upon our bill as an effort to obtain class legislation, saying also that they knew it to be an entering wedge to obtain suffrage for all women; the two positions being evidently irreconcilable. When our turn for rebuttal came, I said: 'Many years ago John Quincy Adams presented in Congress a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, but none of the Southerners imagined that this petition was intended to keep the other negroes of the South in slavery! Are we, who, for thirty years past, and more, have been coming here to ask for full suffrage for all women, to be accused of coming here now with a view to the exclusion of our former clients from suffrage? How can we be said to contemplate this and at the same time to be putting in an entering wedge for universal suffrage?'

"I thank God for what I did say at the hearing and for what I did not say. Two of the opposing speakers were rude in their remarks; all were absurd, hunting an issue which they knew to be false, namely, our seeking for class legislation."

"January 28. Although very tired after yesterday's meeting, I went in the evening to see 'Julius Cæsar' in Richard Mansfield's interpretation. The play was beautifully staged; Mansfield very good in the tent scene; parts generally well filled...."

"March 3. My dear Maud returned this evening from New York. She has been asked to speak at to-morrow's suffrage hearing. I advised her to reflect before embarking upon this new voyage.... When she told me what she had in mind to say, I felt that a real word had been given her. I said: 'Go and say that!'..."

"April 1.... A telegram announced the birth of my first great-grandchild, Harry Hall's infant daughter.[144]..."

"April 11. To Mrs. Bigelow Lawrence's, Parker House, to hear music. Mrs. [Henry] Whitman called for me.

"Delightful music; two quartettes of Beethoven's, a quintette of Mozart's, which I heard at Joseph Coolidge's some thirty or more years ago. I recognized it by the first movement, which Bellini borrowed in a sextette which I studied in my youth from 'La Straniera,' an opera never given in these days...."

"April 17. Winchendon lecture.... A day of anguish[314] for me. I was about to start for Winchendon when my dearest Maud so earnestly besought me not to go, the weather being very threatening, that I could not deny her. Words can hardly say how I suffered in giving up the trip and disappointing so many people.... As I lay taking my afternoon rest, my heart said to God, 'You cannot help me in this'; but He did help me, for I was able soon after this to interest myself in things at hand. I heard Mabilleau's lecture on French art in its recent departure. It was brilliant and forcibly stated, but disappointing. He quoted with admiration Baudelaire's hideous poem, 'Un Carogne.'..."

"April 21. In the afternoon attended anniversary of the Blind Kindergarten, where I made, as usual, a brief address, beginning with 'God said, Let there be light,' a sentence which makes itself felt throughout the human domain, where great-hearted men are stirred by it to combat the spirits of darkness. Spoke also of the culture of the blind as vindicating the dignity of the human mind, which can become a value and a power despite the loss of outward sense. Alluded to dear Chev's sense of this and his resolve that the blind, from being simply a burden, should become of value to the community. The care of them draws forth tender sympathy in those whose office it is to cherish and instruct them. Spoke of the nursery as one of the dearest of human institutions. Commended the little blind nursery to the affectionate regard of seeing people. The children did exceedingly well, especially the orchestra. The little blind 'cellist was remarkable."

"May 2. Dreamed last night that I was dead and[315] kept saying, 'I found it out immediately,' to those around me...."

"May 28. My prayer for the new year of my life beginning to-day is, that in some work that I shall undertake I may help to make clear the goodness of God to some who need to know more of it than they do...."

"June 22. Mabel Loomis Todd wrote asking me for a word to enclose in the corner-stone of the new observatory building at Amherst [Massachusetts]. I have just sent her the following:—

"The stars against the tyrant fought
In famous days of old;
The stars in freedom's banner wrought
Shall the wide earth enfold."

"June 23. Kept within doors by the damp weather. Read in William James's book, 'Varieties of Religious Experience.'... Had a strange fatigue—a restlessness in my brain."

"June 25.... The James book which I finished yesterday left in my mind a painful impression of doubt; a God who should be only my better self, or an impersonal pervading influence. These were suggestions which left me very lonely and forlorn. To-day, as I thought it all over, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob seemed to come back to me; the God of Christ, and his saints and martyrs. I said to myself: 'Let me be steeped in the devotion of the Psalms, and of Paul's Epistles!' I took up Coquerel's sermons on the Lord's Prayer, simple, beautiful, positive...."

"July 30. Oak Glen. Rose at 6.15 A.M. and had good[316] luck in dressing quickly. With dear Flossy took 9 A.M. train for Boston. At Middletown station found the teachers from the West [Denver and Iowa], who started the 'Battle Hymn' when they saw me approaching. This seemed to me charming. My man Michael, recognizing the tune, said: 'Mrs. Howe, this is a send-off for you!'..."

She was going to keep a lecture engagement in Concord, Massachusetts; her theme, "A Century from the Birth of Emerson." She was anxious about this paper, and told Mr. Sanborn (the inevitable reporter calling to borrow her manuscript) that she thought the less said about the address the better. "I have tried very hard to say the right thing, but doubt whether I have succeeded." Spite of these doubts, the lecture was received with enthusiasm.

"September 6. I was very dull at waking and dreaded the drive to church and the stay to Communion. The drive partly dissipated my 'megrims'; every bright object seemed to me to praise God.... The Communion service was very comforting. Especially did Christ's words come to me, 'Abide in me,' etc. I felt that if I would abide in Him, old as I am, I could still do some good work. 'Yes! my strong friend,' my heart said, 'I will abide in thee,' and a bit of the old Easter anthem came back to me, 'He sitteth at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.' No, it is a verse of the Te Deum."

In October a lecture in South Berwick gave her the opportunity, always greatly enjoyed, of a visit to Sarah Orne Jewett and her sister Mary.

[317]"November 1. South Berwick. A delightful drive. Mary Jewett, Annie Fields, and I to visit Mrs. Tyson in the Hamilton House described by Sarah in her 'Tory Lover.'... Most interesting. Mrs. Tyson very cordial and delightful.... She came over later to dinner and we had such a pleasant time! In afternoon copied most of my screed for the 'Boston Globe.'"

It surely was not on this occasion that she described dinner as "a thing of courses and remorses!"

"November 2. Took reluctant leave of the Jewett house and the trio, Sarah, Mary, and Annie Fields. We had a wonderful dish of pigeons for lunch...."

It was delightful to see our mother and Miss Jewett together. They were the best of playmates, having a lovely intimacy of understanding. Their talk rippled with light and laughter. Such stories as they told! such songs as they sang! who that heard will ever forget our mother's story of Edward Everett in his youth? He was to take three young ladies to drive, and had but the one horse; he wished to please them all equally. To the first he said, "The horse is perfectly fresh now; you have him in his best condition." To the second he said, "The horse was a little antic at first, so you will have the safer drive." To the third he said, "Now that the other two have had their turn, we need not hasten back. You can have the longest drive."

It is recalled that during this visit, when Laura felt bound to remonstrate in the matter of fruitcake, "Sarah" took sides with ardor. "You shall have all you want, Mrs. Howe, and a good big piece to take[318] home besides! Put it somewhere where the girls can't find it!"

She nodded. "There is a corner in my closet, which even Maud dare not explore!"

The fruitcake was duly packed, transported, and eaten—we are bound to say without ill effect.

This recalls the day when, leaving Gardiner, she was presented with a packet of sandwiches, and charged to have the Pullman porter bring her a cup of bouillon. The next day Laura received a postal card.

"Lunched at Portland on mince pie, which agreed with me excellently, thank you!"

Her postal cards were better than most people's letters. You could almost see them sparkle. The signature would be "Town Pump" or something equally luminous. In fact, she so rarely signed her own name in writing to us that when asked for autographs we were posed. "Town Pump" was no autograph for the author of the "Battle Hymn"!

There was another mince pie, a little, pretty one, which she saw at a Papéterie meeting, the last summer of her life; saw, coveted, secreted, with her hostess's aid, and smuggled home. Always a moderate eater, she never could be made to see that age demanded a careful diet. "I have eaten sausages all my life," she would say. "They have always agreed with me perfectly!" Indeed, till the very latest years, her digestion had never failed her. It was in the eighties that she said to one of us, "I have a singular sensation that I have never felt before. Do you think it might possibly be indigestion?" She described it, and it was indigestion.[319] We are reminded of a contemporary of hers who, being gently rebuked for giving rich food to a delicate grandchild, replied with lofty scorn, "Stuff and nonsense! Teach his stomach!"

"November 8.... In late afternoon some visioning, i.e., lying down to rest and asking and answering questions in my mind:—

"Question: Can anything exceed the delight of the first mutual understanding of two lovers?

"Answer: This has its sacredness and its place, but even better is the large affection which embraces things human and divine, God and man.

"Question: Are Saviour and Saints alive now?

"Answer: If you believe that God is just, they must be. They gave all for His truth: He owes them immortality."

"November 16. Dear Auntie Francis's wedding day. I think it was in 1828. My sisters and I were bridesmaids, my brothers groomsmen. Dear father, very lame, walked up with a cane to give her away. Grandma Cutler looked much discontented with the match. Father sent the pair off in his own carriage, with four horses, their manes and tails braided with white ribbons. They drove part of the way to Philadelphia."

"November 28.... To Wellesley College.... William Butler Yeats lectured on the revival of letters in Ireland. We dined with him afterwards at Miss Hazard's house. He is a man of fiery temperament, with a slight, boyish figure: has deep-set blue eyes and dark hair; reminds me of John O'Sullivan[145] in his temperament;[320] is certainly, as Grandpa Ward said of the Red Revolutionists, with whom he dined in the days of the French Revolution, 'very warm.'"

"November 29.... This came into my mind, apropos of reformers generally: 'Dost thou so carry thy light as to throw it upon thyself, or upon thy theme?' This appears to me a legitimate question...."

"December 21. Put the last touches to my verses for Colonel Higginson's eightieth birthday. Maud went with me to the celebration held by the Boston Authors' Club at the Colonial Club, Cambridge. T. W. H. seemed in excellent condition; I presided as usual. Bliss Perry, first speaker, came rather late, but made a very good address. Crothers and Dean Hodges followed, also Clement. Judge Grant read a simple, strong poem, very good, I thought. Then came my jingle, intended to relieve the strain of the occasion, which I think it did. Maud says that I hit the bull's eye; perhaps I did. Then came a pretty invasion of mummers, bearing the gifts of the Club, a fine gold watch and a handsome bronze lamp. I presented these without much talk, having said my say in the verses, to which, by the bye, Colonel H. responded with some comic personal couplets, addressed to myself."

Here is the "jingle."

Friends! I would not ask to mingle
This, my very foolish jingle,
With the tributes more decorous of the feast we hold to-day;
But the rhymes came, thick and swarming
Just like bees when honey's forming,
And I could not find a countersign to order them away.

[321]For around this sixteenth lustre
Of our friend's, such memories cluster
Of the days that lie behind it, full of glories and regrets,
Days that brought their toils and troubles,
Lit by some irradiant bubbles
Which became prismatic opals in the sun that never sets.

Picnics have we held together
Sailing in the summer weather,
Sitting low to taste the chowder on the sands of Newport Bay,
And that wonderful charade, sir,
You know well, sir, that you made, sir,
When so many years of earnest did invite an hour of play.

*        *        *        *        *        * 

He shall rank now with the sages
Who survive in classic pages,
English, German, French and Latin, Greek, so weary to construe;
Did he con his Epictetus
Ere he came to-night to greet us?
He, àoristos in reverence, among the learned few.

He may climb no more the mountain,
But he still employs the fountain
Pen from whose incisive point pure Helicon may flow,
And his "Yesterdays" so cheerful
Charm the world so wild and tearful,
And the Devil calls for copy, and he never answers "No."

Do I speak for everybody,
When I utter this rhapsòdy,
To induce our friend to keep his pace in following Life's incline;
Never slacken, but come on, sir,
Eighty-four years I have won, sir;
Still the olive branch shall bless you, still the laurel wreath entwine!

So, you scribbling youths and lasses,
Elders, too, fill high your glasses!
Let the toast be Wentworth Higginson, of fourscore years possest;
If the Man was good at twenty,
He is four times that now, ain't he?
We declare him four times excellent, and better than his best.

The early days of 1904 brought "a very severe blizzard. Sent tea to the hackmen on Dartmouth Street corner."

She never forgot the hackmen in severe weather.

"They must have something hot!" and tea or coffee would be despatched to the shivering men. They were all her friends; the Journal has many allusions to "Mr. Dan" Herlihy, the owner of the cab stand, her faithful helper through many a season.

"January 27, 1904. I was so anxious to attend to-day's [suffrage] meeting, and so afraid of Maud's opposition to my going, that my one prayer this morning was, 'Help me.' To my utter surprise she did not oppose, but went with me and remained until our part of the hearing was finished, when she carried me off. I read my little screed, written yesterday. When I said, 'Intelligence has no sex, no, gentlemen, nor folly either!' laughter resounded, as I meant it should...."

"March 6. In the evening to hear 'Elijah' finely given. Some of the music brought back to me the desolate scenery of Palestine. It is a very beautiful composition.... The alto was frightened at first, coming out stronger in 'Woe unto them,' and better still in 'Oh, rest in the Lord.' The audience seemed to me sleepy and cold. I really led the applause for the alto."

"March 13.... Wrote to John A. Beal, of Beal's Island, offering to send instructive literature to that benighted region, where three mountebanks, pretending to teach religion, robbed the simple people and excited them to acts of frenzy."

"March 17. Mrs. Allen's funeral.... I had a momentary[323] mental vision of myself in the Valley of the Shadow, with a splendid champion in full armor walking beside me, a champion sent by God to make the dread passage easy and safe...."

"April 2.... Learned the deaths of X. and Abby Morton Diaz. Poor X., her conduct made her impossible, but I always thought she would send flowers to my funeral. Mrs. Diaz is a loss—a high-strung, public-spirited woman with an heroic history."

"April 4. To the carriage-drivers' ball. They sent a carriage for me and I took Mary, the maid.... Mr. Dan was waiting outside for me, as was another of the committee who troubled me much, pulling and hauling me by one arm, very superfluous. My entrance was greeted with applause, and I was led to the high seats, where were two aides of the Governor, Dewey and White, the latter of whom remembers Governor Andrew. The opening march was very good. I was taken in to supper, as were the two officers just mentioned. We had a cozy little talk. I came away at about 10.30."

"April 14. Mr. Butcher came to breakfast at nine o'clock. He told me about the man Toynbee, whom he had known well. He talked also about Greeks and Hebrews, the animosity of race which kept them apart until the flourishing of the Alexandrian school, when the Jews greedily absorbed the philosophy of the Greeks."

This was Mr. S. H. Butcher, the well-known Greek scholar. She enjoyed his visit greatly, and they talked "high and disposedly" of things classical and modern.

"May 28. My meeting of Women Ministers. They[324] gathered very slowly and I feared that it would prove a failure, but soon we had a good number. Mary Graves helped me very much.... Afterwards I felt a malignant fatigue and depression, not caring to do anything."

In June she received the first of her collegiate honors, the degree of Doctor of Laws, conferred by Tufts College. This gratified her deeply, and she describes the occasion at length, noting that she was "favored with the Tufts yell twice."

"Lawrence Evans came, and Harry Hall.... I read the part of my speech about which I had hesitated, about our trying to put an end to the Turkish horrors. It was the best of the speech. Seeking divine aid before I made my remarks, I suddenly said to myself, 'Christ, my brother!' I never felt it before."

"June 16. Maud would not allow me to attend Quincy Mansion School Commencement, to my sincere regret. The fatigue of yesterday was excessive, and my dear child knew that another such occasion would be likely to make me ill. Charles G. Ames came, from whom I first learned the death of Mrs. Cheney's sister, Mary Frank Littlehale; the funeral set for to-day.... Dear E. D. C. seemed gratified at seeing me and asked me to say a few words.... She thanked me very earnestly for what I had said, and I at last understood why I had not been allowed to go to Quincy. It was more important that I should comfort for a moment the bruised heart of my dear friend than that I should be a guest at the Quincy Commencement."

"June 29. Heard to my sorrow of the death of delightful Sarah Whitman. Wrote a little screed for 'Woman's Journal' which I sent...."

In early July, she went to Concord for a memorial meeting in honor of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"July 11.... Alice Blackwell, some days ago, wrote beseeching me to write to President Roosevelt, begging him to do something for the Armenians. I said to myself, 'No, I won't; I am too tired and have done enough.' Yesterday's sermon gave me a spur, and this morning I have writ the President a long letter, to the effect desired. God grant that it may have some result!"

"July 17. I despaired of being able to write a poem as requested for the Kansas semi-centennial celebration in October, but one line came to me: 'Sing us a song of the grand old time!' and the rest followed...."

This poem is printed in "At Sunset."

"July 21. Writ ... to Mrs. Martha J. Hosmer, of Rock Point, Oregon, who wrote me a kindly meant letter, exhorting me to 'seek the truth and live,' and to write to a Mrs. Helen Wilman, eighty-five years old and the possessor of some wonderful knowledge which will help me to renew my youth...."

"September 25. I could not go to church to-day, fearing to increase my cold, and not wishing to leave my dear family, so rarely united now. Have been reading Abbé Loisy's 'Autour d'un petit Livre,' which is an apologetic vindication of his work 'L'Évangile et l'Église,' which has been put upon the Index [Expurgatorius]. I feel sensibly all differences between[326] his apologetic wobbly vindication of the Church of Rome, and the sound and firm faith of Thomas Hill."

"October 2. Mr. Fitzhugh Whitehouse, having left here a copy of my 'From Sunset Ridge' for me to furnish with a 'sentiment,' I indited the following:—

From Sunset Ridge we view the evening sky, Blood red and gold, defeat and victory; If in the contest we have failed or won, 'Twas ours to live, to strive and so pass on." "October 5.... To Peace Congress, where Albert Smiley was presiding. A wonderful feature came in the person of a Hindu religionist, who came to plead the cause of the Thibetan Llama. He said that the Thibetans are not fighting people: are devoted to religious contemplation, prayer, and spiritual life. He spoke valorously of the religions in the East as by far the most ancient. 'You call us heathen, but we don't call you heathen'; a good point. He concluded by giving to the assemblage a benediction in the fashion of his own religion. It was chanted in a sweet, slightly musical strain, ending with the repetition of a word which he said meant 'peace.' So much was said about peace that I had to ask leave for a word, and spoke of justice as that without which peace cannot be had.... I said:—

'Mr. President and dear friends, assembled in the blessed cause of Peace, let me remind you that there is one word even more holy than peace, namely, justice. It is anterior in our intellectual perceptions. The impulse which causes men to contend against injustice is a divine one, deeply implanted in the human[327] breast. It would be wrong to attempt to thwart it. I hope that The Hague Tribunal will bear in mind that it is sacredly pledged to maintain justice. The brightest intellects, the most profound study, should be devoted to the promotion of this end.' The Greek bishop met me in the ante-room and said, 'We always pray for you.'..."

"October 9. I have felt more strongly than ever of late that God is the only comforter.... These great serious things were always present to work for in days in which I exerted myself to amuse others and myself too. It is quite true that I have never given up serious thought and study, but I have not made the serious use of my powers which I ought to have made. The Peace Congress has left upon my mind a strong impression of what the lovers of humanity could accomplish if they were all and always in earnest. I seem to hope for a fresh consecration, for opportunities truly to serve, and for the continuance of that gift of the word which is sometimes granted me."

"November 12. I to attend meeting of Council of Jewish Women; say something regarding education....

"I was warmly received and welcomed, and recited my 'Battle Hymn' by special request. This last gave me an unexpected thrill of satisfaction. The president said: 'Dear Mrs. Howe, there is nothing in it to wound us.' I had feared that the last verse might trouble them, but it did not."

"November 19. Was busy trying to arrange bills and papers so as to go to Gardiner to-morrow with my[328] Richards son-in-law, when in the late afternoon Rosalind told me that dear noble Ednah Cheney had died. This caused me much distress. My first word was: 'The house of God is closed! Such a friend is indeed a sanctuary to which one might retire for refuge from all mean and unworthy things.'

"A luminous intellect, unusual powers of judgment and of sympathy as well. She has been a tower of strength to me. I sent word by telephone to Charles G. Ames, begging that her hymn might be sung at church to-morrow...."

"November 21. Dear E. D. C.'s funeral.... I spoke of her faith in immortality, which I remember as unwavering. I said: 'No, that lustrous soul is not gone down into darkness. It has ascended to a higher light, to which our best affections and inspirations may aspire.'"

"December 25.... Got out my dearest little Sammy's picture and placed it on my mantelshelf. [He was a Christmas child.] Maud and I went to the Oratorio, which we enjoyed.... I wondered whether the heavenly ones could not enjoy the beautiful music."

"December 31. A little festivity.... At supper I was called upon for a toast, and after a moment's thought, responded thus:—

"God grant us all to thrive, And for a twelvemonth to be alive, And every bachelor to wive; And many blessings on the head Of our dear Presidential Ted. "We saw the year out; a year of grace to me, if ever I had one."

The new year (1905) found her in full health and activity. On its first day she writes:—

"I begin this book by thanking God most deeply that He has permitted me to see the dawn of this New Year, and by praying that I may not wilfully waste one of its precious days. I am now about half through my eighty-sixth year and must feel no surprise if the mandate to remove should come suddenly or at any time. But while I live, dear Lord, let me truly live in energetic thought and rational action. Bless, I pray Thee, my own dear family, my blessed country, Christendom, and all mankind. This is my daily prayer and I record it here. Is it amiss that in this prayer my own people come first? No! for family affection is the foundation of all normal human relations. We begin with the Heavenly Father and open out to the whole human brotherhood."

"January 2. Had an anxious time hunting after my Hawthorne screed to read this afternoon before the New England Woman's Club. In my perplexity I said: 'Lord, I do not deserve to have You help me find it'; but the answer seemed to come thus: 'My help is of grace and not according to desert'; and I found it at once where I ought to have looked for it at first...."

"January 20.... You can't do good with a bad action." [Apropos of the shot fired at the Czar.]

"The reason why a little knowledge is dangerous is that your conceit of it may make you refuse to learn more."

She was writing a paper on Mrs. Stowe and "Uncle[330] Tom's Cabin," and worked hard over it. The pace began to tell.

She spoke for the friends of Russian freedom, "a warm speech, almost without preparation. I knew that I should find my inspiration in the occasion itself. I had almost a spasm of thankfulness to Almighty God for the opportunity to speak for such a cause at such a time."

At the suffrage hearing soon after, she "spoke of the force of inertia as divinely ordained and necessary, but ordained, too, to be overcome by the onward impulse which creates worlds, life, and civilization. Said it was this inertia which opposed suffrage, the dread of change inherent in masses, material or moral, etc., etc."

Among her winter delights were the "Longy" concerts of instrumental music. She writes of one:—

"Was carried away by the delight of the music—all wind instruments. A trio of Handel for bassoon and two oboes was most solid and beautiful.... I could think of nothing but Shakespeare's 'Tempest' and 'Midsummer Night's Dream.' The thought that God had set all human life and work to music overpowered me, and coming home I had a rhapsody of thanksgiving for the wonderful gift...."

The next day came an entertainment in aid of Atlanta University and Calhoun School; she "enjoyed this exceedingly, especially the plantation songs, which are of profoundest pathos, mixed with overpowering humor. It was pleasant, too, to see the audience in which descendants of the old anti-slavery folk formed quite a feature. I had worked hard at the screed which[331] was, I think, good. Heard interesting reports of mission work in our entire South."

At the Authors' Club she met Israel Zangwill, who was "rather indifferent" when introduced to her. She thought he probably knew nothing about her, and adds,—

"It is good perhaps to be taken down, now and then."

In March she attended a hearing in connection with the School Board. "The chair most courteously invited me to speak, saying, 'There is here a venerable lady who will hardly be likely to come here again for the present discussion, so I shall give her the remaining time.' Whereupon I leaped into the arena and said my say."

She had been for some time toiling over a paper on the "Noble Women of the Civil War," finding it hard and fatiguing work. On April 5 she writes:—

"At 12 M. I had finished my screed on the 'Noble Women of the Civil War' which has been my nightmare ever since March 24, when I began it, almost despairing of getting it done.... I have written very carefully and have had some things to say which may, I hope, do good. I can now take up many small tasks which have had to give way to this one...."

"April 9. The Greek celebration. The Greek Papa, in full costume, intoned the Doxology and the assembly all sang solemn anthems. Michael introduced me first. My speech was short, but had been carefully prepared. At the request of the Papa I said at the end: 'Zeto ton Ellenikon ethnos.' My speech and Greek sentence were much applauded. A young Greek lady[332] presented me with a fine bouquet of white carnations with blue and white ribbons, the colors of Greece. Sanborn read from dear Chev's letters of 1825. Michael spoke at great length, with great vehemence and gesticulation. I understood many words, but could only guess at the general drift. I imagine that it was very eloquent, as he was much applauded."

"April 30. Lorin Deland called to talk about the verses which I am to write and read at his theatre. The thought of Cassandra seized me. She, coming to the house of the Atridæ, had a vision of its horrors; I, coming to this good theatre, have a vision of the good things which have been enjoyed there and which shall still be enjoyed. Wrote down some five or six lines, 'lest I forget.'"

Mr. and Mrs. Deland were among her best friends of the second generation. Indeed, there was such a sympathy and comprehension between her and "Margaret" that the latter playfully declared herself a daughter abandoned in infancy, and was wont to sign herself, "Your doorstep Brat"!

"May 5.... 'Without religion you will never know the real beauty and glory of life; you will perceive the discords, but miss the harmony; will see the defects, but miss the good in all things.'"

In these years an added burden was laid upon her, in the general and affectionate desire for her presence on all manner of occasions. The firemen must have her at their ball, the Shoe and Leather Trade at their banquet, the Paint and Oils Association at their dinner. Their festivities would not be complete without her; she loved them, went to their parties, had the right word to say, and came home happy, her arms full of flowers.

It was all beautiful and heart-warming, but it had to be paid for. May 10 brought the punishment for this season.

"Annual Woman Suffrage supper. I was to have spoken at this occasion and to have recited the poem which I wrote for Castle Square Theatre, but it was otherwise ordained. I rose as usual, my head a little misty. A mighty blow of vertigo seized me.... The elder Wesselhoeft pronounced it a 'brain fag,' not likely to have serious results, but emphatically a warning not to abuse further my nervous strength. Got up in afternoon and finished 'Villa Claudia'; was bitterly sad at disappointing the suffragists and Deland."

Dr. Wesselhoeft was asked on this occasion why, at her age, so severe an attack as this had not resulted in paralysis. "Because," he replied, "she brought to receive it the strength of forty years of age!"

Sure enough, the next day she felt as if her "nervous balance was very well restored," and in a week she was at work again.

"May 18.... In the evening had word of a Decoration Day poem needed. At once tried some lines."

"May 19. Doubted much of my poem, but wrote it, spending most of the working hours over it; wrote and rewrote, corrected again and again. Julia Richards mailed it at about 4 P.M.... Just as I went to bed I remembered that in the third verse of my poem I had[334] used the words 'tasks' and 'erect' as if they rhymed. This troubled me a good deal. My prayer was, 'God help the fool.'"

"May 20. My trouble of mind about the deficient verse woke me at 6.30 A.M. I tossed about and wondered how I could lie still until 7.30, my usual time for rising. The time passed somehow. I could not think of any correction to make in my verse. Hoped that I should find that I had not written it as I feared. When I came to look at it, there it was. Instantly a line with a proper rhyme presented itself to my mind. To add to my trouble I had lost the address to which I had sent the poem. My granddaughter, Julia Richards, undertook to interview the Syndicate by long-distance telephone, and, failing this, to telegraph the new line for me. So I left all in her hands. When I returned, she met me with a smile and said, 'It is all right, Grandmother.' She had gone out, found a New York directory, guessed at the Syndicate, got the correspondent, and put her in possession of the new line. I was greatly relieved. I have been living lately with work running after me all the time. Must now have a breathing spell. Have still my 'Simplicity' screed to complete."

The Authors' Club celebrated her eighty-sixth birthday by a charming festival, modelled on the Welsh Eistedfodd, "at which every bard of that nation brought four lines of verse—a sort of four-leaved clover—to his chief."[146] Sixty quatrains made what[335] she calls "an astonishing testimonial of regard." Colonel Higginson, who presided most charmingly, read many of these tributes aloud, and the Birthday Queen responded in a rhyme scribbled hastily the day before. Here are a few of the tributes, together with her "reply":—


Each bard of Wales, who roams the kingdom o'er
Each year salutes his chief with stanzas four;
Behold us here, each bearing verse in hand
To greet the four-leaved clover of our band.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson.


The Sisters Three who spin our fate
Greet Julia Ward, who comes quite late;
How Greek wit flies! They scream with glee,
Drop thread and shears, and make the tea.
E. H. Clement. 

If man could change the universe
By force of epigrams in verse,
He'd smash some idols, I allow,
But who would alter Mrs. Howe?
Robert Grant. 

Dot oldt Fader Time must be cutting some dricks,
Vhen he calls our goot Bresident's age eighty-six.
An octogeranium! Who would suppose?
My dear Mrs. Julia Ward Howe der time goes!
Yawcob Strauss (Charles Follen Adams). 

You, who are of the spring,
To whom Youth's joys must cling.
May all that Love can give
Beguile you long to live—
Our Queen of Hearts.
Louise Chandler Moulton.


Why, bless you, I ain't nothing, nor nobody, nor much,
If you look in your Directory, you'll find a thousand such;
I walk upon the level ground, I breathe upon the air,
I study at a table, and reflect upon a chair.

I know a casual mixture of the Latin and the Greek,
I know the Frenchman's parlez-vous, and how the Germans speak;
Well can I add, and well subtract, and say twice two is four,
But of those direful sums and proofs remember nothing more.

I wrote a pretty book one time, and then I wrote a play,
And a friend who went to see it said she fainted right away.
Then I got up high to speculate upon the Universe,
And folks who heard me found themselves no better and no worse.

Yes, I've had a lot of birthdays and I'm growing very old,
That's why they make so much of me, if once the truth were told.
And I love the shade in summer, and in winter love the sun,
And I'm just learning how to live, my wisdom's just begun.

Don't trouble more to celebrate this natal day of mine,
But keep the grasp of fellowship which warms us more than wine.
Let us thank the lavish hand that gives world beauty to our eyes,
And bless the days that saw us young, and years that make us wise.

"May 27. My eighty-sixth birthday. I slept rather late, yesterday having been eminently a 'boot-and-saddle' day.... The Greeks, mostly working-people, sent me a superb leash of roses with a satin ribbon bearing a Greek inscription. My visitors were numerous, many of them the best friends that time has left me. T. W. H. was very dear. My dear ones of the household bestirred themselves to send flowers, according to my wishes, to the Children's Hospital and to Charles Street Jail."

"May 28.... A great box of my birthday flowers ornamented the pulpit of the church. They were to be[337] distributed afterwards to the Sunday-School children, some to the Primary Teachers' Association; a bunch of lilies of the valley to Reverend Hayward's funeral to-morrow. I suddenly bethought me of Padre Roberto, and with dear Laura's help sent him a box of flowers for his afternoon service, with a few lines of explanation, to which I added the motto: 'Unus deus, una fides, unum baptisma.' This filled full the cup of my satisfaction regarding the disposal of the flowers. They seemed to me such sacred gifts that I could not bear merely to enjoy them and see them fade. Now they will not fade for me."

Among the many "screeds" written this season was one on "The Value of Simplicity," which gave her much trouble. She takes it to pieces and rewrites it, and afterwards is "much depressed; no color in anything." From Gardiner she "writes to Sanborn" for the Horatian lines she wishes to quote. ("Whenever," she said once to Colonel Higginson, "I want to find out about anything difficult, I always write to Sanborn!" "Of course!" replied Higginson. "We all do!" At this writing the same course is pursued, there is reason to believe, by many persons in many countries.)

It is remembered that in these days when she was leaving Gardiner at the last moment she handed Laura a note. It read, "Be sure to rub the knee thoroughly night and morning!"

"Why," she was asked, "did I not have this a week ago?"

"I hate to be rubbed!" she said.

"July 1. Oak Glen.... Found a typed copy of my 'Rest' sermon, delivered in our own church, twelve years ago. Surely preaching has been my greatest privilege and in it I have done some of my best work."

"July 2. Unusually depressed at waking. Feared that I might be visited by 'senile melancholia' against which I shall pray with all my might.... Began Plato's 'Laws.'"

Plato seems to have acted as a tonic, for on the same day she writes to her daughter-in-law, expressing her joy in "Harry's" latest honor, the degree of Doctor of Laws conferred by Harvard College:—

To Mrs. Henry Marion Howe

Oak Glen, July 2, 1905.

Thanks very much for your good letter, giving me such a gratifying account of the doings at Harvard on Commencement Day. I feel quite moved at the thought of my dear son's receiving this well-merited honor from his alma mater. It shows, among other things, how amply he has retrieved his days of boyish mischief. This is just what his dear father did. I think you must both have had a delightful time. How did our H. M. H. look sitting up in such grave company? I hope he has not lost his old twinkle. I am very proud and glad....

She was indeed proud of all her son's honors; of any success of child or grandchild; yet she would pretend to furious jealousy. "I see your book is praised, Sir!" (or, "Madam!") "It probably does not deserve it.[339] H'm! nobody praises my books!" etc., etc. And all the time her face so shining with pleasure and tenderness under the sternly bended brows that the happy child needed no other praise from any one.

"July 23.... I feel to-day the isolation consequent upon my long survival of the threescore and ten apportioned as the term of human life. Brothers and sisters, friends and fellow-workers, many are now in the silent land. I am praying for some good work, paying work, so that I may efficiently help relatives who need help, and good causes whose demand for aid is constant...."

"July 24. To-day Harry and Alice Hall have left me with their two dear children. I have had much delight with baby Frances, four months old.... I pray that I may be able to help these children. I looked forward to their visit as a kindness to them and their parents, but it has been a great kindness to me...."

"September 5. Some bright moments to-day. At my prayer a thought of the divine hand reaching down over the abyss of evil to rescue despairing souls!..."

"September 19. Dear Flossy and Harry left. I shall miss them dreadfully. She has taken care of me these many weeks and has been most companionable and affectionate. My dear boy was as ever very sweet and kind...."

"September 22. Have puzzled much about my promised screed for the 'Cosmopolitan' on 'What would be the Best Gift to the People of the Country?' As I got out of bed it suddenly occurred to me as 'the glory of having promoted recognition of human brotherhood.'[340] This must include 'Justice to Women.' I meant to tackle the theme at once, but after breakfast a poem came to me in the almost vulgar question, 'Does your Mother know you're out?' I had to write this, also a verse or two in commemoration of Frederic L. Knowles, a member of our Authors' Club, who has just passed away."

"September 25.... I must have got badly chilled this morning, for my right hand almost refuses to guide the pen. I tried several times to begin a short note to David Hall, but could not make distinct letters. Then I forced myself to pen some rough draft and now the pen goes better, but not yet quite right. I had the same experience last winter once. I suppose that I have overtired my brain; it is a warning...."

"October 5.... I had a moment of visioning, in which I seemed to see Christ on the cross refusing to drink the vinegar and gall, and myself to reach up a golden cup containing 'the love pledge of humanity.' Coming home I scrawled the verses before lying down to rest."

"October 9. After a week of painful anxiety I learn to-day that my screed for the 'Cosmopolitan' is accepted. I felt so persuaded to the contrary that I delayed to open the envelope until I had read all my other letters...."

"October 25. Meeting of Boston Authors' Club.... Worked all the morning at sorting my letters and papers.... Laura, Maud, and I drove out to Cambridge.[341] I had worked hard all the morning, but had managed to put together a scrap of rhyme in welcome of Mark Twain. A candle was lit for me to read by, and afterwards M. T. jumped upon a chair and made fun, some good, some middling, for some three quarters of an hour. The effect of my one candle lighting up his curly hair was good and my rhyme was well received.

"Mark the gracious, welcome guest,
Master of heroic jest;
He who cheers man's dull abodes
With the laughter of the gods;
To the joyless ones of earth
Sounds the reveille of mirth.

"Well we meet, to part with pain, But ne'er shall he and we be Twain."

"December 5. Gardiner, Maine. On coming to breakfast found a note from dearest Maud, saying that she would sail this day for Spain. Was much overcome by this intelligence, yet felt that it was on the whole best. The day passed rather heavily, the relish seemed gone from everything."

"December 6. Boston.... Reaching home I lay down to rest, but the feeling of Maud's departure so overpowered me that I got up and went about, crying out: 'I can't stand it!' I soon quieted down, being comforted by my dear Laura, Julia, and Betty, but could not sleep until bedtime, when I slept soundly."


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