Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)

by Laura E. Richards

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Chapter XIV - "The Sundown Splendid and Serene" - 1906-1907' aet. 87-88


Held in Boston, 1907

Hail! Mount of God, whereon with reverent feet
The messengers of many nations meet;
Diverse in feature, argument, and creed,
One in their errand, brothers in their need.

Not in unwisdom are the limits drawn
That give far lands opposing dusk and dawn;
One sun makes bright the all-pervading air,
One fostering spirit hovers everywhere.

So with one breath may fervent souls aspire,
With one high purpose wait the answering fire.
Be this the prayer that other prayers controls,—
That light divine may visit human souls.

The worm that clothes the monarch spins no flaw,
The coral builder works by heavenly law;
Who would to Conscience rear a temple pure
Must prove each stone and seal it, sound and sure.

Upon one steadfast base of truth we stand,
Love lifts her sheltering walls on either hand;
Arched o'er our head is Hope's transcendent dome,
And in the Father's heart of hearts our home.

J. W. H.

"I pray for many things this year. For myself, I ask continued health of mind and body, work, useful, honorable, remunerative, as it shall please God to send; for my dear family, work of the same description with comfortable wages, faith in God, and love to[343] each other; for my country, that she may keep her high promise to mankind; for Christendom, that it may become more Christ-like; for the struggling nationalities, that they may attain to peace and justice."

"Such a wonderful dream in the early morning. I was in some rural region alone; the clear blue sky was over my head. I looked up and said, 'I am fed from God's table. I am sheltered under His roof.' While I still felt this joy, a lone man, passing by, broke into a complaint on the hardness of things. I wanted in my dream to call him back, but he passed too rapidly. I still see in my 'mind's eye' that blue sky and the lone man passing by, I still recall the thrill of that meditation, literally in Dreamland, as I was quite asleep when it visited me...."

The great event of this winter was a trip to Baltimore for a Woman Suffrage Convention.

"February 4. I had not been able to think of anything to say in Baltimore, but this morning it seemed to come to me. I have just written out my screed, ... taking a point of view which I do not think I have presented before, viz.: that inferior education and restricted activity made women the inferiors of men, as naturally as training, education, and free agency make civilized men the superior of the savage. I think that the dear Lord gave me this screed, which is short and simple enough, but, I think, convincing...."

This Convention came near being her last. Tonsillitis was epidemic in the city; the halls were draughty; at one meeting a woman with a severe cold, a stranger,[344] kissed her effusively. She took the infection, was prostrated for some days, and made the return journey while still too weak to travel. Florence, who was with her, protested in vain. "I would go," she said, "if the hearse was at the door!" A serious illness followed on her return. A month and more passed before she began to regain strength and spirits.[148]

"March 31. Had a happy lighting up when I lay down for afternoon rest. Felt the immensity of God's goodness and took heart for the future."

In April she records "a delightful visit from Robert Collyer, accompanied by Annie Fields. I asked him: 'Robert, what is religion?' He replied, 'To love God with all one's heart, Christ helping us.' He began his prayer last Sunday thus: 'Our Father who art in heaven, on earth, and in hell!'"

On April 13, she was "out for the first time since February 14, when I returned sick from Baltimore...."

Another week and she was at her church, for the first time since January 18.

It had been a long and weary time, yet one remembers not so much the suffering and confinement as the gayety of it. There was a sigh for the Journal, but for the family, and the faithful nurse,—

"Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,
Nods and becks, and wreathéd smiles."

This nurse was known to others as Lucy Voshell, but her patient promptly named her "Wollapuk."[345] She was as merry as she was skillful, and the two made much fun together. Even when the patient could not speak, she could twinkle. As strength gradually returned, the ministrations of Wollapuk became positively scenes of revelry; and the anxious guardian below, warding off would-be interviewers or suppliants, might be embarrassed to hear peals of laughter ringing down the stair.

Early in May she has "young J. W. Hurlburt to dine; a pleasant young playwright, grandson to General Hurlburt of the Civil War...."

"I had lent my play of 'Hippolytus' to young Hurlburt to read. He brought it back yesterday with so much praise of parts of it as to revive the pang which I felt when, Charlotte Cushman and Edwin Booth having promised to fill the principal parts, the manager's wife suddenly refused to fill her part, and the whole fell through. This with much other of my best literary work has remained a dead letter on my own shelves. I am glad as well as sad to feel that it deserved better treatment."

She had a wheel-chair, and on pleasant days it was her delight to be wheeled through the Public Garden, now in full May beauty, to see the flowers and the children. She was able to attend several meetings, and to write several papers.

"May 18. Have read part of the recital of Anna Ticknor's achievement in her society to encourage studies at home. Her work is really heroic. I wish that I had better understood it. Still I did admire it a great deal, but had little idea of the great benevolence and[346] sympathy developed in her work, which was a godsend to thousands of women."

"May 26. My dear son arrived in the evening to celebrate my birthday. He seems well and happy. I was thankful to see him. Flowers kept arriving all day."

"May 27. Attended church and carried some of my birthday flowers for the pulpit.... In the afternoon a beautiful reception which the rain kept from being the over-crowd which I had rather feared. Colonel Higginson came and gave me some lovely verses written for the occasion. William R. Thayer did likewise. Arthur Upson had already sent me some. I enjoyed it all very much; dined downstairs with my dear family, who drank my health standing. H. M. H., being called upon for a word, said, 'The dear old girl!' and could not have said better. I thanked and blessed them all. We passed the evening together. The Greeks of Boston sent splendid red roses and ribbons with motto. The Italians sent flowers."

After this she wrote an essay on "How to Keep Young," in which she says:—

"Try to keep in touch with the best spirits of your time, with those who are raising instead of lowering the tone of the atmosphere in which they live.

"Avoid the companionship of those who deride sacred things and are inclined to ignore the limits of refinement and good taste.

"Remember that ignoble amusements react upon character.

[347]"Never forget that we grow like to that we contemplate.

"Keep it always in mind that it must be through our own efforts that our progress through life shall bring with it the fulfilment of the best promise of our youth."

"July 2. Oak Glen. Nurse Voshell, nicknamed by me Wollapuk, left this morning. I have become so dependent upon her that I shall miss her very much. I have been impatient of having her so long, but now see how very helpful she has been to me.

"I began to write a retrospect of my essay on 'Distinctions between Philosophy and Religion,' but feel that this will be of little value. Oh! that I had taken Dr. Hedge's advice and published these papers soon after they were written. As it is I have lost two of the best of them, viz.: this one just mentioned and 'Moral Triangulation of the Third Party,' in obligations and contrasts."

In these days she met with a grave loss in the death of Michael Anagnos.

"I am deeply grieved at his death, which is a real loss to me and my family, and almost irreparable to the Institution which he has served nobly with entire devotion and disinterest and has enriched by his great and constant efforts. He built three Kindergartens for the blind. God rest his soul!

"I pray that my great pain at the death of my son-in-law may inspire me to help the blind as I never have helped them!"

[348]"My strength has failed so much of late that my strong love of life begins to waver. I should be glad to live to print some of my studies in Philosophy, and to have some of my musical compositions taken down by dictation."

"August 31.... The last day of a summer which brought a serious grief in the death of Michael Anagnos, who, ever since my visit to Greece in 1867, has been an important factor in my life. I am much troubled in the effort to compose a poem to be read at the memorial services to be held for him in late October...."

A photograph taken at this time shows her sitting in her hooded chair on the piazza, her Greek books and her canary beside her, a serene and lovely picture. It was so she used to sit every morning. First she read her Testament, and a prayer of James Martineau, or some other good saint; this she called "taking the altitude"; then she turned to her Æschylus or Aristotle.

Before thus settling down, there would be a walk on the piazza, or along the highway. Sheltered by a broad hat, the friend of many years, wrapped in the "passionate pilgrim," as she named a certain ancient purple cloak, leaning on her ebony stick—who that passed that way has not seen her? Bits of her talk, as we strolled together, come back to us; as when the clouds parted suddenly at the close of a gray day, then shutting in again. "Oh!" she cried, "it is like being engaged to the man you love, for five minutes!"

"September 16.... I had had much hesitation about[349] undertaking to speak at Shiloh Baptist Church [colored] this afternoon; but it came to me as something which I ought to do, and so I gave the promise, and, with some studying, wrote the sermon. The result fully justified the effort. I spoke to a large and very attentive congregation, in which a number of white outsiders were mingled in with the people of the church.... Mrs. Jeter sang my 'Battle Hymn,' the congregation joining in the 'Glory Hallelujah.' I then read my screed, which was heard with profound attention, one and another crying out at intervals, 'Amen!' and 'Glory be to God!'... I was very thankful for the good issue of what had seemed an almost wild undertaking at eighty-seven years of age."

"October 23. Have prayed and worked over the poem for Michael's memorial services—think that I have made it as good as I can, but not good enough. Alas! I am too old."

She went up to Boston for this meeting in Tremont Temple, which was a most impressive one, Greeks and Americans uniting to do honor to a good man.

"October 24.... I read my verse, my voice serving me very well. Bishop Lawrence helped me both to rise and to return to my seat. He made a most touching allusion to my dearest dear Julia's devotion to the blind, and said where a man was engaged in a noble work there usually rose up a noble woman to help him."

"October 26. Had a sudden blessed thought this morning, viz.: that the 'Tabernacle eternal in the heavens' is the eternity of truth and right. I naturally[350] desire life after death, but if it is not granted me, I have yet a part in the eternal glory of this tabernacle."

"October 29. Dear H. M. H. left us this morning, after a short but very pleasant visit. He brought here his decorations of his Russian order to show us; they are quite splendid. He is the same dear old simple music- and mischief-loving fellow, very sensitive for others, very modest for himself, and very dear."

"November 7.... Prayed hard this morning that my strength fail not."

During this summer, an electric elevator had been put into the Boston house, and life was made much easier for her. From this time we became familiar with the vision of her that still abides, flitting up or down in her gilded car. Watching her ascent, clad in white, a smile on her lips, her hand waving farewell, one could only think of "The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof."

Another good gift was a Victor machine. When the after-dinner reading was over, she would say, "Now bring my opera-box!"

The white armchair was wheeled into the passage between the two parlors. Here she sat in state, while the great singers poured out their treasures before her, while violinist and pianist gave her their best. She listened with keen and critical enjoyment, recalling how Malibran gave this note, how Grisi and Mario sang that duet. Then she would go to the piano and play from memory airs from "Tancredi," "Il Pirata," "Richard Cœur de Lion," and other operas known to us only through her. Or she would—always without[351] notes—play the "Barber of Seville" almost from beginning to end, with fingers still deft and nimble.

She loved the older operas best. After an air from "Don Giovanni," she would say, "Mozart must be in heaven: they could never get on without him!" She thought Handel's "Messiah" the most divine point reached by earthly music. Beethoven awed and swayed her deeply, and she often quoted his utterance while composing, "Ich trat in der Nähe Gottes!" She thrilled with tender pleasure over Verdi's "Non ti scordar," or "Ai nostri monti," and over "Martha." She enjoyed Chopin "almost too much." "He is exquisite," she would say, "but somehow—rotten!"

Among the pleasures of this winter was a visit to New York. She writes after it:—

"My last day in my dear son's house. He and Fannie have been devotedly kind to me. They made me occupy their room, much to my bodily comfort, but to the great disquiet of my mind, as I hated much to inconvenience them. My son has now a very eminent position.... God bless the house and all in it."

"December 17. The Old South Chapter of D.A.R.'s met in the real Old South Church; there was much good speaking. I recited my 'Battle Hymn' and boasted my descent from General Marion, the Swamp Fox, saying also, 'When, eluding the vigilance of children and grandchildren, I come to such a meeting as this, without a previous promise not to open my lips, I think that I show some of the dexterity of my illustrious relative.' I also had to spring up and tell them that my grandmother, niece to General Marion, gave[352] her flannel petticoat to make cartridges for the soldiers of the Revolution."

The path of the guardian (or jailer, as she sometimes put it) was not always plain. The wayfaring woman might easily err therein.

After some severe fatigue, convention or banquet, she might say, "This is the last time. Never let me do this again!"

Thereupon a promise would be exacted and made. The fatigue would pass and be forgotten, and the next occasion be joyously prepared for.

"You told me not to let you go!" the poor jailer would say.

"Oh, I didn't mean it!"

"But you promised!"

"That was two weeks ago. Two weeks is a long time for me to keep a promise!"

If the jailer still persisted, she played her last card and took the trick.

"I can't talk about it. You tire my head!"

Now and then Greek met Greek. One snowy afternoon she encountered the resident granddaughter, cloaked and hooded, preparing to brave the storm.

"Dear child," said the grandmother, "I do not often use authority with you young people, but this time I must. I cannot allow you to go out in this blizzard!"

"Dearest grandmother," replied the maiden, "where are you going yourself?"

There was no reply. The two generations dissolved in laughter, and started out together.

[353]She bids farewell to 1906 as "dear Year that hast brought me so many comforts and pleasures!" and thus hails the New Year:—

"I earnestly pray for God's blessing on this year!... I might possibly like one more European journey to see the Gallery at Madrid, and the châteaux of Touraine, but I do not ask it, as I may have more important occupation for my time and money.... Du reste, the dear Father has done so much better for me, in many ways, than I have ingenuity to wish, that I can only say, 'Thy will be done, only desert me not.'"

She determines "at last to be more prompt in response to letters and bills. I am now apt to lose sight of them, to my great inconvenience and that of other people."

It was pain to her to destroy even a scrap of paper that bore writing: the drifts of notes and letters grew higher and higher among the piles of books, new and old. The books were not all her own choice. Many a firstling of verse found its way to her, inscribed with reverent or loving words by the author. Would Mrs. Howe send a few lines of appreciation or criticism? She would; mostly she did. She wrote in the autograph albums, and on the pieces of silk and cotton for "autograph quilts": she signed the photographs: she tried to do everything they asked.

"January 11. Having hammered at some verses for General Lee, when I lay down to rest a perfect flood of rhymes seized me. Nonsense verses for to-morrow's festival; there seemed to be no end to them. I scrawled[354] some of them down as it was late and dark. Sanborn to dine—unexpected, but always welcome."

"January 12. Copied and completed my lines for the evening. Found a large assemblage of members and invited guests [of the Authors' Club]; a dais and chair prepared for me, Colonel Higginson standing on my right. Many presentations—Gilder and Clyde Fitch, Owen Wister, Norman Hapgood. Aldrich [T. B.] took me in to dinner and sat on my right, Hon. John D. Long on my left; next beyond A. sat Homans Womans.[149] I despaired of making my jingle tell in so large and unfamiliar a company. At last I took courage and read it, bad as I thought it. To my surprise, it told, and created the merriment which had been my object so far as I had any. My 'Battle Hymn' was sung finely by a male quartette. Colonel Higginson and I were praised almost out of our senses. A calendar, got up with much labor, was presented to each of us."

"January 13. To church, to take down my vanity after last evening's laudations...."

"January 15. Made a final copy of my lines on Robert E. Lee,—read them to Rosalind—the last line drew a tear from each of us, so I concluded that it would do and sent it.

"To Tuesday Club, where the effort which I made to hear speakers tired my head badly. Themes: 'Whether and how to teach Ethics in Public Schools'; also, 'The English Education Bill.' Socrates having been mentioned as an exemplar, I suddenly cried out that I thought he did wrong to stay and suffer by unjust laws and popular superstition. A first-class American would have got away and would have fought those people to the bitter death. This fiery little episode provoked laughter, and several privately told me they were glad of it."

"January 25.... Read Colonel Higginson's account of me in the 'Outlook.' Wrote him a note of thanks, saying that he has written beautifully, with much tact and kindness. It remains true that he has not much acquaintance with the serious side of my life and character, my studies of philosophy, etc. He has described what he has seen of me and has certainly done it with skill and with a most kind intention."

She said of the Colonel's paper, "He does not realize that my life has been here, the four walls of my room."

"February 5.... Began a sermon on the text, 'I saw Satan like lightning fall from heaven.'..."

"February 6. Wrote a good bit on the sermon begun yesterday—the theme attracts me much. If I give it, I will have Whittier's hymn sung: 'Oh! sometimes gleams upon our sight—'

"Wrote to thank Higginson for sending me word that I am the first woman member of the society of American Authors...."

"February 14. Luncheon at 3 Joy Street.... My seat was between T. W. H. and President Eliot, with whom I had not spoken in many years. He spoke to me at once and we shook hands and conversed very cordially. I had known his father quite well—a lover of music, who had much to do with the early productions of Beethoven's Symphonies in Boston, collecting money in aid of the undertaking. President Eliot made a good speech for Berea; others followed.... When my name was called, I had already a good thought to express."

"February 18. To N.E.W.C., where Colonel Higginson and I spoke of Longfellow; I from long and intimate acquaintance, he from a literary point of view. He said, I thought rightly, that we are too near him to be able to judge his merits as a poet; time must test them."

"February 27.... In evening went with the Jewett sisters to the celebration of Longfellow's Centennial. I had copied my verses written for the first Authors' Reading in re Longfellow, rather hoping that I might be invited to read them. This did not happen. I had had no reason to suppose that it would, not having been thereunto invited. Had a seat on the platform among the poet's friends, myself one of the oldest of them. It seemed as if I could hardly hold my tongue, which, however, I did. I remembered that God has given me many opportunities of speaking my thoughts. If He withheld this one I am bound to suppose it was for the best. I sat on the platform, where Sarah Jewett and I were the only women in the charmed circle.

"Item. The audience rose and greeted me as I ascended to the platform at Sanders Theatre."

She could not bear to be "left out"; indeed, she rarely was. In this one respect she was, perhaps, the "spoiled child" that she sometimes called herself.

March brought a new pleasure, in seeing and meeting Novelli, the great Italian actor.

"March 14. The banquet of the Circolo at Lombardy Inn.... My seat was at the head of the table with Novelli on my right and Tosti, the consul, on my left. Had some pleasant talk with each. Then I had a good inspiration for part of my speech, in which I mentioned the egg used by Columbus, and made to stand, to show that things held to be impossible often proved possible. I said that out of this egg 'was hatched the American Eagle.' Madame Novelli shed tears at this, and Novelli kissed my hand. The Italian servants listened eagerly to all the speaking, and participated in the applause. President Geddes, Secretary Jocelyn, and others spoke well and rather briefly. Dear Padre Roberto was really eloquent."

"March 16.... In the evening to see Novelli in 'Morte Civile'; his personation wonderfully fine, surpassing even Salvini in the part...."

"March 17.... Went to South Boston to say a word at the presentation of dear Michael's portrait to the Perkins Institution by the Howe Memorial Club.... Also had a wonderful fit of verse—wrote two sonnets to Dante and a versification of my conceit about the hatching of the American Eagle from the egg of Columbus."

"March 23. A 'boot-and-saddle' day.... I found that my Authors' Club will meet to-day in Cambridge. Higginson telephoned, asking me to speak of Aldrich; I asked permission to leave the College Club after the speaking. Ordered a carriage at 4.30, sprang into it,[358] and reached the Authors' meeting in good time to say something about Aldrich.... Found a man who has studied the Berber races in Africa. Had a good talk with him. Came home dreadfully tired. To bed by 9.30. At the College Club I said that to give women the vote in this State would not double the illiterate vote—proposed a census of comparative illiteracy of the sexes in Massachusetts at least."

We had long besought her to have her musical compositions written down, and now this was done in part. Once or twice a week Mr. John M. Loud came to the house and took down her melodies, she singing and playing them to him. She always enjoyed the hour with the young composer. A number of the melodies thus preserved were published in a "Song Album" by G. Schirmer some months later.

"April 8. Great trouble of mind about attending the Peace Convention in New York, which I have promised to do. Laura dead against it, reinforced by Wesselhoeft, Sr., who pronounces it dangerous for me. I at last wrote to ask my dear minister about it."

"April 9.... A violent snowstorm keeps me at home. Minister and wife write, 'Don't go to Peace Convention.' I asked God in my prayer this morning to make going possible or impossible for me. I took C. G. A.'s letter as making it impossible, as I had decided to abide by his decision. Wrote a letter of explanation to Anna Garlin Spencer. I am much disappointed, but it is a relief not to cause Laura such painful anxiety as she would have felt if I had decided to[359] go. She wept with joy when I gave it up. We had a very pleasant dinner party for the Barrett Wendells with their friends, Professor Ames, of Berkeley University, California, 'Waddy' Longfellow, Charles Gibson, Laura, Betty, and I."

She sent a letter to the Convention, which was read by Florence. In this, after recalling her Peace Crusade of 1872, she said:—

"Here and there, a sisterly voice responded to my appeal, but the greater number said: 'We have neither time nor money that we can call our own. We cannot travel, we cannot meet together.' And so my intended Peace Congress of Women melted away like a dream, and my final meeting, held in the world's great metropolis, did not promise to lead to any important result.

"What has made the difference between that time and this? New things, so far as women are concerned, viz.: the higher education conceded to them, and the discipline of associated action, with which later years have made them familiar. Who shall say how great an element of progress has existed in this last clause? Who shall say what fretting of personal ambition has become merged in the higher ideal of service to the State and to the world? The noble army of women which I saw as a dream, and to which I made my appeal, has now come into being. On the wide field where the world's great citizens band together to uphold the highest interests of society, women of the same type employ their gifts and graces to the same end. Oh, happy change! Oh, glorious metamorphosis! In less than half a century the conscience of mankind has[360] made its greatest stride toward the control of human affairs. The women's colleges and the women's clubs have had everything to do with the great advance which we see in the moral efficiency of our sex. These two agencies have been derided and decried, but they have done their work.

"If a word of elderly counsel may become me at this moment, let me say to the women here assembled: Do not let us go back from what we have gained. Let us, on the contrary, press ever forward in the light of the new knowledge, of the new experience. If we have rocked the cradle, if we have soothed the slumbers of mankind, let us be on hand at their great awakening to make steadfast the peace of the world!"

She was glad afterward that she had not gone; but a significant corollary to the matter appears on April 25:—

"Providence—a pleasant trip, made possible by dear Laura's departure."

(That is, "dear Laura" knew nothing about it till afterward. How often we recalled the old Quaker's saying to her, "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!")

In the last week of April ("dear Laura" being still absent) she spoke four times in public, on four successive days. These addresses were at the Kindergarten for the Blind ("I missed the snap which Michael's presence was wont to give; I spoke praise of him to the children, as one to be held in dear remembrance; to the visitors, as having left the public a sacred[361] legacy in these schools, which he created with so much labor"), at Faneuil Hall, a meeting about Old Home Week, at the West Newton High School, and at Providence. On the fifth day she was at the Wintergreen Club, answering the question, "What is the Greatest Evil of the Present Day?"—"False estimates of values, vehement striving for what hinders rather than helps our spiritual development."

After this bout she was glad to rest a day or two, but in another week was ready for the Woman Suffrage Festival. "I to open it, evening, Faneuil Hall. A day of rushing. Lady Mary and Professor Gilbert Murray to breakfast 9 A.M., which I much enjoyed. Then my little music man, who took three tunes; then a snatch at preparation for the evening's exercises. Jack and Elizabeth Chapman in the afternoon. At 4.45 got a little rest and sleep. At 5.40 drove to Faneuil Hall, which I found not so full as sometimes. Thought miserably of my speech. Light to read it very dim. I called to order, introduced Mr. White and the ladies' quartette, then read my poor little scribble.... I was thankful to get through my part, and my speech in print wasn't bad at all."

In May she preached at the Church of the Disciples.

"A culmination of anxiety for this day, desired and yet dreaded. My head growled a little at waking, but not badly. My voice seemed all right, but how about the matter of my sermon? Was it all worth while, and on Whitsunday too? I wore my white cashmere dress. Laura went with me to church. C. G. A. was there. As he led me to the pulpit, the congregation[362] rose. The service was very congenial and calming to my anxiety. I read the sermon quite audibly from beginning to end. It was listened to with profound attention, if I may say so."

"May 20.... Marion Crawford arrived soon after three for a little visit. He looks greatly improved in health since I last saw him. He must have passed through some crisis and come out conqueror. He has all his old charm...."

She was lamenting the death of her cousin and childhood playfellow, Dr. Valentine Mott Francis, when "a much greater affliction" fell upon her in the death of her son-in-law, David Prescott Hall. "This hurts me," she writes, "like a physical pain."

To Florence

Oak Glen, July 3, 1907.

My dearest dear Flossy,—
You are quite right in saying that we greatly need the consoling belief in a future life to help us bear the painful separation which death brings. Surely, the dear Christ believed in immortality, and promised it to faithful souls. I have myself derived great comfort from this belief, although I must confess that I know nothing about it. You may remember what [Downer] said to your dear father: "I don't know anything about it, but Jesus Christ certainly believed in immortality, and I pin my faith on him, and run for luck."... Alice and her trio of babes came safe to hand this morning. Frances at once began to spread the gravel from outdoors on the best staircase, but desisted when forbidden[363] to do so.... Farewell, dearest child. You have had a grievous loss, and will feel it more and more. We must trust in God, and take our sorrows believing in the loving fatherhood. Maud writes me that she suffers an irreparable loss in dear David's death....

Your loving

Much work was on hand this summer: a poem for Old Home Week in Boston, another for the Cooperstown Centennial, a paper on the "Elegant Literature of Fifty Years Since," one for the "Delineator" on "The Three Greatest Men I Have Known." These were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Parker, and Dr. Howe. She spent much time and pains on this article. She read Elliot Cabot's "Life of Emerson," which she thought "certainly a good piece of work, but deficient, it seems to me, in the romantic sympathy which is the true interpretation of Emerson and of all his kind."

She "hammered" hard on the two poems, with good results.

"July 14. I can hardly believe it, but my miserable verses, re-read to-day, seemed quite possible, if I can have grace to fill out their sketchiness. Last word ton-ight: I think I have got a poem. Nil desperandum!"

"July 24. Difficult to exaggerate the record of my worry this morning. I feel a painful uncertainty about going to Boston to read my poem for Old Home Week. Worse than this is my trouble about two poems sent me while in Boston, with original music,[364] to be presented to the committee for Home Week, which I have entirely forgotten and neglected. To do this was far from my intention, but my old head fairly gave out in the confusion of the various occasions in which I was obliged to take an active part."

She yielded to entreaty and stayed at home, and was rewarded by "a most gratifying letter from Edward Everett Hale, telling me that Josiah Quincy read my poem with real feeling, and that it was warmly received."

"My prayer is answered. I have lived to see my dear girl again.... I give thanks earnestly and heartily, but seem for a time paralyzed by her presence."

With the early autumn came a great pleasure in a visit to the new "Green Peace," the house which her son had built at Bedford Hills, New York. She was delighted with the house and garden; the Journal tells of all manner of pleasant gayeties.

"September 12. Fannie had a luncheon party even pleasanter than yesterday's. Rev. Mr. Luquer is a grandson of Dominick Lynch, who used to come to my father's house in my childhood and break my heart by singing 'Lord Ullin's Daughter.' I remember creeping under the piano once to hide my tears. He sang all the Moore melodies with great expression.... This, his descendant, looks a good deal like him. Was bred a lawyer. My good Uncle Cutler twice asked him whether he would study for the ministry. He said, 'No.' My uncle said the second time, 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?' This word, he told me, came back to him.[365] ... Worked a good deal on my poem. At least thought and thought much, and altered a little."

This was the poem which prefaces this chapter and which was written for the forthcoming Unitarian Convention in Boston. She had been at work on it for some time, first "trying to try for it," and later "hammering" and polishing with great care. "It came to me like a flash," she says, "but had to be much thought over and corrected." And again, "It was given to me something as was my 'Battle Hymn.'..."

"October 25. Wrote to a very bumptious child, thirteen years old, who proffers me her friendship and correspondence, claiming to have written poems and magazine contributions praised by 'noted authors.' I sent her back her letter, with three or four corrections and a little advice, kindly meant, but which may not be so taken.... She will probably turn and rend me, but I really felt it might do her good."

"November 14. Gardiner. A good meditation. The sense of God in the universe seems to be an attribute of normal humanity. We cannot think of our own personal identity without at the same time imagining a greater self from which we derive. This idea may be crude and barbarous, great minds have done much to make it otherwise; Christ most of all with His doctrine of divine love, providence, and forgiveness. The idea of a life beyond this one seems also to appertain to normal humanity. We had best accept this great endowment which philosophy seeks to analyze much as a boy will take a watch to pieces, but cannot put it together again so that it will work."

"November 15. Another long sitting and meditation. What have individual philosophers done for religion? As I recall what I could learn of the Kantian philosophy, I think that it principally taught the limitations of human knowledge, correcting thereby the assumptions of systems of thought and belief to absolute authority over the thinker and believer. He calls conscience 'the categorical imperative'; but that term in no wise explains either the origin or authority of the moral law. His rule of testing the rectitude of the act by the way in which, if it were made universal, it would affect the well-being of society, is useful, but simply pragmatic, not in William James's sense. The German idealism, the theory by which we evolve or create all that occupies our senses and our mind, appears to me a monstrous expanse of egotism. No doubt, dialectics serve as mental athletics, and speculative thought may be useful as an exercise of the mental powers; but processes which may be useful in this way might be very unfit to be held as permanent possessions of persuasion. It occurs to me that it might be more blessed to help the souls in hell than to luxuriate with saints in heaven."

"November 20. Boston. Began my screed on the 'Joys of Motherhood' for the 'Delineator.' Wrote currente calamo...."

"November 23. Rather an off day. Found T. W. Higginson's little volume of verses, presented to me on my seventieth birthday, and read a good deal in it. When the Colonel gave it to me, he read a little poem, 'Sixty and Six,' very charmingly. Seems to me that I ought to have read this little book through long before this time. One of the sweetest poems in it is about the blue-eyed baby that they lost after some six weeks' happy possession. I sent a pretty little baby wreath for it, feeling very sorry for them both."

"November 28. Much troubled about my Whittier poem."

"December 3. Thanks be to God! I have written my Whittier rhyme. It has cost me much labor, for I have felt that I could not treat a memory so reverend with cheap and easy verses. I have tried to take his measure, and to present a picture of him which shall deserve to live."[150]

Mr. and Mrs. Cobden-Sanderson, the English suffragists, were in Boston this winter. They dined with her, and proved "very agreeable. Mrs. Sanderson's visit ought to help suffrage mightily, she is in such dead earnest for it. After dinner I proposed that each one should name his favorite Browning poem. I named 'Pippa,' Mrs. Sanderson 'Paracelsus,' Mr. S., 'The Grammarian's Funeral,' etc., etc. The talk was so good that we could not stop it to hear the Victor, which I regretted."

Another delightful dinner of this winter was one given in her honor by her niece, Mrs. Richard Aldrich (Margaret Chanler), in New York. Among the guests were Kneisel, the violinist, and Schelling, the pianist. Mrs. Aldrich demanded "Flibbertigibbet," and our mother played and recited it in such a manner that the two musicians were inspired to play, as the people in the story were to dance. Kneisel flew home for his violin, Schelling sat down at the piano, and the two played Bach for her and to her delight.

"The occasion was memorable!" she says.

Returning from New York, she was able to attend the Whittier Centennial at Haverhill.

"December 17. ... Sanborn came to take me.... I have been praying to be well for this occasion, my last public engagement for some weeks. I am thankful to have been able, at my advanced age, to read this poem at the Whittier Celebration and to be assured by one present that I had never been in better voice, and by others that I was generally heard without difficulty by the large audience."

"December 31. Oh, blessed year 1907! It has been granted me to write four poems for public occasions, all of which have proved acceptable; also three fatiguing magazine articles, which have for the time bettered my finances. I have lived in peace and goodwill with all men, and in great contentment with my own family, to which this year added a promising little great-grandson, taking away, alas! my dear son-in-law, David Prescott Hall. I found a very competent and friendly young musician who has taken down nearly all my songs.... A word was given me to speak, namely, 'Thanks for the blessed, wonderful year just past.'


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