'In daily life I could never hope to be an unfailing fountain of energy and bounteous love. My health is frail; my earthly life is shrunk to a scanty rill; I am little better than an aspiration, which the ages will reward, by empowering me to incessant acts of vigorous beauty. But now it is well with me to be with those who do not suffer overmuch to have me suffer. It is best for me to serve where I can better bear to fall short. I could visit —— more nobly than in daily life, through the soul of our souls. When she named me her Priestess, that name made me perfectly happy. Long has been my consecration; may I not meet those I hold dear at the altar? How would I pile up the votive offerings, and crowd the fires with incense? Life might be full and fair; for, in my own way, I could live for my friends.' * *
* * * * *
'Dec. 8th, 1840.—My book of amusement has been the Evenings of St. Petersburg. I do not find the praises bestowed on it at all exaggerated. Yet De Maistre is too logical for me. I only catch a thought here and there along the page. There is a grandeur even in the subtlety of his mind. He walks with a step so still, that, but for his dignity, it would be stealthy, yet with brow erect and wide, eye grave and deep. He is a man such as I have never known before.' * *
'I went to see Mrs. Wood in the Somnambula. Nothing could spoil this opera, which expresses an ecstasy, a trance of feeling, better than anything I ever heard. I have loved every melody in it for years, and it was happiness to listen to the exquisite modulations as they flowed out of one another, endless ripples on a river deep, wide and strewed with blossoms. I never have known any one more to be loved than Bellini. No wonder the Italians make pilgrimages to his grave. In him thought and feeling flow always in one tide; he never divides himself. He is as melancholy as he is sweet; yet his melancholy is not impassioned, but purely tender.'
* * * * *
'Dec. 15, 1840.—I have not time to write out as I should this sweet story of Melissa, but here is the outline:—
'More than four years ago she received an injury, which caused her great pain in the spine, and went to the next country town to get medical advice. She stopped at the house of a poor blacksmith, an acquaintance only, and has never since been able to be moved. Her mother and sister come by turns to take care of her. She cannot help herself in any way, but is as completely dependent as an infant. The blacksmith and his wife gave her the best room in their house, have ever since ministered to her as to a child of their own, and, when people pity them for having to bear such a burthen, they say, "It is none, but a blessing."
'Melissa suffers all the time, and great pain. She cannot amuse or employ herself in any way, and all these years has been as dependent on others for new thoughts, as for daily cares. Yet her mind has deepened, and her character refined, under those stern teachers, Pain and Gratitude, till she has become the patron saint of the village, and the muse of the village school-mistress. She has a peculiar aversion to egotism, and could not bear to have her mother enlarge upon her sufferings.
'"Perhaps it will pain the lady to hear that," said the mild, religious sufferer, who had borne all without a complaint.
"Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." The poor are the generous: the injured, the patient and loving.
All that —— said of this girl was in perfect harmony with what De Maistre says of the saint of St. Petersburg, who, almost devoured by cancer, when, asked, "Quelle est la premiere grace que vous demanderez a Dieu, ma chere enfant, lorsque vous serez devant lui?" she replied, "Je lui demanderai pour mes bienfaiteurs la grace de Paimer autant que je l'aime."
'When they were lamenting for her, "Je ne suis pas, dit elle, aussi malheureuse que vous le croyez; Dieu me fait la grace de ne peuser, qu'a lui."' * *
'Next of Edith. Tall, gaunt, hard-favored was this candidate for the American calendar; but Bonilacia might be her name. From her earliest years she had valued all she knew, only as she was to teach it again. Her highest ambition was to be the school-mistress; her recreation to dress the little ragged things, and take care of them out of school hours. She had some taste for nursing the grown-up, but this was quite subordinate to her care of the buds of the forest. Pure, perfectly beneficent, lived Edith, and never thought of any thing or person, but for its own sake. When she had attained midway the hill of life, she happened to be boarding in the house with a young farmer, who was lost in admiration of her lore. How he wished he, too, could read! "What, can't you read? O, let me teach you!"—"You never can; I was too thick-skulled to learn even at school. I am sure I never could now." But Edith was not to be daunted by any fancies of incapacity, and set to work with utmost zeal to teach this great grown man the primer. She succeeded, and won his heart thereby. He wished to requite the raising him from the night of ignorance, as Howard and Nicholas Poussin did the kind ones who raised them from the night of the tomb, by the gift of his hand. Edith consented, on condition that she might still keep school. So he had his sister come to "keep things straight." Edith and he go out in the morning,—he to his field, she to her school, and meet again at eventide, to talk, and plan and, I hope, to read also.
'The first use Edith made of her accession of property through her wedded estate, was to give away all she thought superfluous to a poor family she had long pitied, and to invite a poor sick woman to her "spare chamber." Notwithstanding a course like this, her husband has grown rich, and proves that the pattern of the widow's cruse was not lost in Jewry.
'Edith has become the Natalia of the village, as is Melissa its "Schoene Seele."'
* * * * *
'Dec., 22, 1840.—"Community" seems dwindling to a point, and I fancy the best use of the plan, as projected thus far, will prove the good talks it has caused here, upon principles. I feel and find great want of wisdom in myself and the others. We are not ripe to reconstruct society yet. O Christopher Columbus! how art thou to be admired, when we see how other men go to work with their lesser enterprises! —— knows deepest what he wants, but not well how to get it. —— has a better perception of means, and less insight as to principles; but this movement has done him a world of good. All should say, however, that they consider this plan as a mere experiment, and are willing to fail. I tell them that they are not ready till they can say that. —— says he can bear to be treated unjustly by all concerned,—which is much. He is too sanguine, as it appears to me, but his aim is worthy, and, with his courage and clear intellect, his experiment will not, at least to him, be a failure.'
* * * * *
'Feb. 19, 1841.—Have I never yet seen so much as one of my spiritual family? The other night they sat round me, so many who have thought they loved, or who begin to love me. I felt myself kindling the same fire in all their souls. I looked on each, and no eye repelled me. Yet there was no warmth for me on all those altars. Their natures seemed deep, yet there was 'not one from which I could draw the living fountain. I could only cheat the hour with them, prize, admire, and pity. It was sad; yet who would have seen sadness in me? * *
'Once I was almost all intellect; now I am almost all feeling. Nature vindicates her rights, and I feel all Italy glowing beneath the Saxon crust. This cannot last long; I shall burn to ashes if all this smoulders here much longer. I must die if I do not burst forth in genius or heroism.
'I meant to have translated the best passages of "Die Gunderode,"—which I prefer to Bettine's correspondence with Goethe. The two girls are equal natures, and both in earnest. Goethe made a puppet-show, for his private entertainment, of Bettine's life, and we wonder she did not feel he was not worthy of her homage. Gunderode is to me dear and admirable, Bettine only interesting. Gunderode is of religious grace, Bettine the fulness of instinctive impulse; Gunderode is the ideal, Bettine nature; Gunderode throws herself into the river because the world is all too narrow, Bettine lives and follows out every freakish fancy, till the enchanting child degenerates into an eccentric and undignified old woman. There is a medium somewhere. Philip Sidney found it; others had it found for them by fate.'
* * * * *
'March 29. 1841.—* * Others have looked at society with far deeper consideration than I. I have felt so unrelated to this sphere, that it has not been hard for me to be true. Also, I do not believe in Society. I feel that every man must struggle with these enormous ills, in some way, in every age; in that of Moses, or Plato, or Angelo, as in our own. So it has not moved me much to see my time so corrupt, but it would if I were in a false position.
'—— went out to his farm yesterday, full of cheer, as one who doeth a deed with sincere good will. He has shown a steadfastness and earnestness of purpose most grateful to behold. I do not know what their scheme will ripen to; at present it does not deeply engage my hopes. It is thus far only a little better way than others. I doubt if they will get free from all they deprecate in society.'
* * * * *
'Paradise Farm, Newport, July, 1841.—Here are no deep forests, no stern mountains, nor narrow, sacred valleys; but the little white farm-house looks down from its gentle slope on the boundless sea, and beneath the moon, beyond the glistening corn-fields, is heard the endless surge. All around the house is most gentle and friendly, with many common flowers, that seem to have planted themselves, and the domestic honey-suckle carefully trained over the little window. Around are all the common farm-house sounds,—the poultry making a pleasant recitative between the carols of singing birds; even geese and turkeys are not inharmonious when modulated by the diapasons of the beach. The orchard of very old apple-trees, whose twisted forms tell of the glorious winds that have here held revelry, protects a little homely garden, such as gives to me an indescribable refreshment, where the undivided vegetable plots and flourishing young fruit-trees, mingling carelessly, seem as if man had dropt the seeds just where he wanted the plants, and they had sprung up at once. The family, too, look, at first glance, well-suited to the place,—homely, kindly, unoppressed, of honest pride and mutual love, not unworthy to look out upon the far-shining sea.
'Many, many sweet little things would I tell you, only they are so very little. I feel just now as if I could live and die here. I am out in the open air all the time, except about two hours in the early morning. And now the moon is fairly gone late in the evening. While she was here, we staid out, too. Everything seems sweet here, so homely, so kindly; the old people chatting so contentedly, the young men and girls laughing together in the fields,—not vulgarly, but in the true kinsfolk way,—little children singing in the house and beneath the berry-bushes. The never-ceasing break of the surf is a continual symphony, calming the spirits which this delicious air might else exalt too much. Everything on the beach becomes a picture; the casting the seine, the ploughing the deep for seaweed. This, when they do it with horses, is prettiest of all; but when you see the oxen in the surf, you lose all faith in the story of Europa, as the gay waves tumble in on their lazy sides. The bull would be a fine object on the shore, but not, not in the water. Nothing short of a dolphin will do! Late to-night, from the highest Paradise rocks, seeing —— wandering, and the horsemen careering on the beach, so spectrally passing into nature, amid the pale, brooding twilight, I almost thought myself in the land of souls!
'But in the morning it is life, all cordial and common. This half-fisherman, half-farmer life seems very favorable to manliness. I like to talk with the fishermen; they are not boorish, not limited, but keen-eyed, and of a certain rude gentleness. Two or three days ago I saw the sweetest picture. There is a very tall rock, one of the natural pulpits, at one end of the beach. As I approached, I beheld a young fisherman with his little girl; he had nestled her into a hollow of the rock, and was standing before her, with his arms round her, and looking up in her face. Never was anything so pretty. I stood and stared, country fashion; and presently he scrambled up to the very top with her in his arms. She screamed a little as they went, but when they were fairly up on the crest of the rock, she chuckled, and stretched her tiny hand over his neck, to go still further. Yet, when she found he did not wish it, she leaned against his shoulder, and he sat, feeling himself in the child like that exquisite Madonna, and looking out over the great sea. Surely, the "kindred points of heaven and home" were known in his breast, whatever guise they might assume.
'The sea is not always lovely and bounteous, though generally, since we have been here, she has beamed her bluest. The night of the full moon we staid out on the far rocks. The afternoon was fair: the sun set nobly, wrapped in a violet mantle, which he left to the moon, in parting. She not only rose red, lowering, and of impatient attitude, but kept hiding her head all the evening with an angry, struggling movement. —— said, "This is not Dian;" and I replied, "No; now we see the Hecate." But the damp, cold wind came sobbing, and the waves began wailing, too, till I was seized with a feeling of terror, such as I never had before, even in the darkest, and most treacherous, rustling wood. The moon seemed sternly to give me up to the daemons of the rock, and the waves to mourn a tragic chorus, till I felt their cold grasp. I suffered so much, that I feared we should never get home without some fatal catastrophe. Never was I more relieved than when, as we came up the hill, the moon suddenly shone forth. It was ten o'clock, and here every human sound is hushed, and lamp put out at that hour. How tenderly the grapes and tall corn-ears glistened and nodded! and the trees stretched out their friendly arms, and the scent of every humblest herb was like a word of love. The waves, also, at that moment put on a silvery gleam, and looked most soft and regretful. That was a real voice from nature.'
* * * * *
'February, 1842.—I am deeply sad at the loss of little Waldo, from whom I hoped more than from almost any living being. I cannot yet reconcile myself to the thought that the sun shines upon the grave of the beautiful blue-eyed boy, and I shall see him no more.
'Five years he was an angel to us, and I know not that any person was ever more the theme of thought to me. As I walk the streets they swarm with apparently worthless lives, and the question will rise, why he, why just he, who "bore within himself the golden future," must be torn away? His father will meet him again; but to me he seems lost, and yet that is weakness. I must meet that which he represented, since I so truly loved it. He was the only child I ever saw, that I sometimes wished I could have called mine.
'I loved him more than any child I ever knew, as he was of nature more fair and noble. You would be surprised to know how dear he was to my imagination. I saw him but little, and it was well; for it is unwise to bind the heart where there is no claim. But it is all gone, and is another of the lessons brought by each year, that we are to expect suggestions only, and not fulfilments, from each form of beauty, and to regard them merely as Angels of The Beauty.'
* * * * *
'June, 1842.—Why must children be with perfect people, any more than people wait to be perfect to be friends? The secret is,—is it not?—for parents to feel and be willing their children should know that they are but little older than themselves: only a class above, and able to give them some help in learning their lesson. Then parent and child keep growing together, in the same house. Let them blunder as we blundered. God is patient for us; why should not we be for them? Aspiration teaches always, and God leads, by inches. A perfect being would hurt a child no less than an imperfect.'
* * * * *
'It always makes my annoyances seem light, to be riding about to visit these fine houses. Not that I am intolerant towards the rich, but I cannot help feeling at such times how much characters require the discipline of difficult circumstances. To say nothing of the need the soul has of a peace and courage that cannot be disturbed, even as to the intellect, how can one be sure of not sitting down in the midst of indulgence to pamper tastes alone, and how easy to cheat one's self with the fancy that a little easy reading or writing is quite work. I am safer; I do not sleep on roses. I smile to myself, when with these friends, at their care of me. I let them do as they will, for I know it will not last long enough to spoil me.'
* * * * *
'I take great pleasure in talking with Aunt Mary.[B] Her strong and simple nature checks not, falters not. Her experience is entirely unlike mine, as, indeed, is that of most others whom I know. No rapture, no subtle process, no slow fermentation in the unknown depths, but a rill struck out from the rock, clear and cool in all its course, the still, small voice. She says the guide of her life has shown itself rather as a restraining, than an impelling principle. I like her life, too, as far as I see it; it is dignified and true.'
* * * * *
'Cambridge, July, 1842.—A letter at Providence would have been like manna in the wilderness. I came into the very midst of the fuss,[C] and, tedious as it was at the time, I am glad to have seen it. I shall in future be able to believe real, what I have read with a dim disbelief of such times and tendencies. There is, indeed, little good, little cheer, in what I have seen: a city full of grown-up people as wild, as mischief-seeking, as full of prejudice, careless slander, and exaggeration, as a herd of boys in the play-ground of the worst boarding-school. Women whom I have seen, as the domestic cat, gentle, graceful, cajoling, suddenly showing the disposition, if not the force, of the tigress. I thought I appreciated the monstrous growths of rumor before, but I never did. The Latin poet, though used to a court, has faintly described what I saw and heard often, in going the length of a street. It is astonishing what force, purity and wisdom it requires for a human being to keep clear of falsehoods. These absurdities, of course, are linked with good qualities, with energy of feeling, and with a love of morality, though narrowed and vulgarized by the absence of the intelligence which should enlighten. I had the good discipline of trying to make allowance for those making none, to be charitable to their want of charity, and cool without being cold. But I don't know when I have felt such an aversion to my environment, and prayed so earnestly day by day,—"O, Eternal! purge from my inmost heart this hot haste about ephemeral trifles," and "keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me."
'What a change from the almost vestal quiet of "Aunt Mary's" life, to all this open-windowed, open-eyed screaming of "poltroon," "nefarious plan," "entire depravity," &c. &c.'
* * * * *
'July, 1842. Boston.—I have been entertaining the girls here with my old experiences at Groton. They have been very fresh in my mind this week. Had I but been as wise in such matters then as now, how easy and fair I might have made the whole! Too late, too late to live, but not too late to think! And as that maxim of the wise Oriental teaches, "the Acts of this life shall be the Fate of the next."'
* * * 'I would have my friends tender of me, not because I am frail, but because I am capable of strength;—patient, because they see in me a principle that must, at last, harmonize all the exuberance of my character. I did not well understand what you felt, but I am willing to admit that what you said of my "over-great impetuosity" is just. You will, perhaps, feel it more and more. It may at times hide my better self. When it does, speak, I entreat, as harshly as you feel. Let me be always sure I know the worst I believe you will be thus just, thus true, for we are both servants of Truth.'
* * * * *
'August, 1842. Cambridge.—Few have eyes for the pretty little features of a scene. In this, men are not so good as boys. Artists are always thus young; poets are; but the pilgrim does not lay aside his belt of steel, nor the merchant his pack, to worship the flowers on the fountain's brink. I feel, like Herbert, the weight of "business to be done," but the bird-like particle would skim and sing at these sweet places. It seems strange to leave them; and that we do so, while so fitted to live deeply in them, shows that beauty is the end but not the means.
'I have just been reading the new poems of Tennyson. Much has he thought, much suffered, since the first ecstasy of so fine an organization clothed all the world with rosy light. He has not suffered himself to become a mere intellectual voluptuary, nor the songster of fancy and passion, but has earnestly revolved the problems of life, and his conclusions are calmly noble. In these later verses is a still, deep sweetness; how different from the intoxicating, sensuous melody of his earlier cadence! I have loved him much this time, and taken him to heart as a brother. One of his themes has long been my favorite,—the last expedition of Ulysses,—and his, like mine, is the Ulysses of the Odyssey, with his deep romance of wisdom, and not the worldling of the Iliad. How finely marked his slight description of himself and of Telemachus. In Dora, Locksley Hall, the Two Voices, Morte D'Arthur, I find my own life, much of it, written truly out.'
* * * * *
Concord, August 25. 1842.—Beneath this roof of peace, beneficence, and intellectual activity, I find just the alternation of repose and satisfying pleasure that I need. * * *
'Do not find fault with the hermits and scholars. The true text is:—
"Mine own Telemachus He does his work—I mine."
'All do the work, whether they will or no; but he is "mine own Telemachus" who does it in the spirit of religion, never believing that the last results can be arrested in any one measure or set of measures, listening always to the voice of the Spirit,—and who does this more than ——?
'After the first excitement of intimacy with him,—when I was made so happy by his high tendency, absolute purity, the freedom and infinite graces of an intellect cultivated much beyond any I had known,—came with me the questioning season. I was greatly disappointed in my relation to him. I was, indeed, always called on to be worthy,—this benefit was sure in our friendship. But I found no intelligence of my best self; far less was it revealed to me in new modes; for not only did he seem to want the living faith which enables one to discharge this holiest office of a friend, but he absolutely distrusted me in every region of my life with which he was unacquainted. The same trait I detected in his relations with others. He had faith in the Universal, but not in the Individual Man: he met men, not as a brother, but as a critic. Philosophy appeared to chill instead of exalting the poet.
'But now I am better acquainted with him. His "accept" is true; the "I shall learn," with which he answers every accusation, is no less true. No one can feel his limitations, in fact, more than he, though he always speaks confidently from his present knowledge as all he has yet, and never qualifies or explains. He feels himself "shut up in a crystal cell," from which only "a great love or a great task could release me," and hardly expects either from what remains in this life. But I already see so well how these limitations have fitted him for his peculiar work, that I can no longer quarrel with them; while from his eyes looks out the angel that must sooner or later break every chain. Leave him in his cell affirming absolute truth; protesting against humanity, if so he appears to do; the calm observer of the courses of things. Surely, "he keeps true to his thought, which is the great matter." He has already paid his debt to his time; how much more he will give we cannot know; but already I feel how invaluable is a cool mind, like his, amid the warring elements around us. As I look at him more by his own law, I understand him better; and as I understand him better, differences melt away. My inmost heart blesses the fate that gave me birth in the same clime and time, and that has drawn me into such a close bond with him as, it is my hopeful faith, will never be broken, but from sphere to sphere ever more hallowed. * * *
'What did you mean by saying I had imbibed much of his way of thought? I do indeed feel his life stealing gradually into mine; and I sometimes think that my work would have been more simple, and my unfolding to a temporal activity more rapid and easy, if we had never met. But when I look forward to eternal growth, I am always aware that I am far larger and deeper for him. His influence has been to me that of lofty assurance and sweet serenity. He says, I come to him as the European to the Hindoo, or the gay Trouvere to the Puritan in his steeple hat. Of course this implies that our meeting is partial. I present to him the many forms of nature and solicit with music; he melts them all into spirit and reproves performance with prayer. When I am with God alone, I adore in silence. With nature I am filled and grow only. With most men I bring words of now past life, and do actions suggested by the wants of their natures rather than my own. But he stops me from doing anything, and makes me think.'
* * * * *
October, 1842 * * To me, individually, Dr. Channing's kindness was great; his trust and esteem were steady, though limited, and I owe him a large debt of gratitude.
'His private character was gentle, simple, and perfectly harmonious, though somewhat rigid and restricted in its operations. It was easy to love, and a happiness to know him, though never, I think, a source of the highest social pleasure to be with him. His department was ethics; and as a literary companion, he did not throw himself heartily into the works of creative genius, but looked, wherever he read, for a moral. In criticism he was deficient in "individuality," if by that the phrenologists mean the power of seizing on the peculiar meanings of special forms. I have heard it said, that, under changed conditions, he might have been a poet. He had, indeed, the poetic sense of a creative spirit working everywhere. Man and nature were living to him; and though he did not yield to sentiment in particulars he did in universals. But his mind was not recreative, or even representative.
'He was deeply interesting to me as having so true a respect for woman. This feeling in him was not chivalrous; it was not the sentiment of an artist; it was not the affectionateness of the common son of Adam, who knows that only her presence can mitigate his loneliness; but it was a religious reverence. To him she was a soul with an immortal destiny. Nor was there at the bottom of his heart one grain of masculine assumption. He did not wish that Man should protect her, but that God should protect her and teach her the meaning of her lot.
'In his public relations he is to be regarded not only as a check upon the evil tendencies of his era, but yet more as a prophet of a better age already dawning as he leaves us. In his later days he filled yet another office of taking the middle ground between parties. Here he was a fairer figure than ever before. His morning prayer was, "Give me more light; keep my soul open to the light;" and it was answered. He steered his middle course with sails spotless and untorn. He was preserved in a wonderful degree from the prejudices of his own past, the passions of the present, and the exaggerations of those who look forward to the future. In the writings where, after long and patient survey, he sums up the evidence on both sides, and stands umpire, with the judicial authority of a pure intent, a steadfast patience, and a long experience, the mild wisdom of age is beautifully tempered by the ingenuous sweetness of youth. These pieces resemble charges to a jury; they have always been heard with affectionate deference, if not with assent, and have, exerted a purifying influence.' * *
* * * * *
'November, 1842.—When souls meet direct and all secret thoughts are laid open, we shall need no forbearance, no prevention, no care-taking of any kind. Love will be pure light, and each action simple,—too simple to be noble. But there will not be always so much to pardon in ourselves and others. Yesterday we had at my class a conversation on Faith. Deeply true things were said and felt. But to-day the virtue has gone out of me; I have accepted all, and yet there will come these hours of weariness,—weariness of human nature in myself and others. "Could ye not watch one hour?" Not one faithfully through! * * To speak with open heart and "tongue affectionate and true,"—to enjoy real repose and the consciousness of a thorough mutual understanding in the presence of friends when we do meet, is what is needed. That being granted, I do believe I should not wish any surrender of time or thought from a human being. But I have always a sense that I cannot meet or be met in haste; as —— said he could not look at the works of art in a chance half-hour, so cannot I thus rudely and hastily turn over the leaves of any mind. In peace, in stillness that permits the soul to flow, beneath the open sky, I would see those I love.'
[Footnote A: This was some years before their reprint in this country, it should be noticed.]
[Footnote B: Miss Rotch, of New Bedford.]
[Footnote C: The Dorr rebellion.]
* * * * *
In the preceding extracts will have been noticed frequent reference to the Association Movement, which, during the winter of 1840-41, was beginning to appear simultaneously at several points in New England. In Boston and its vicinity several friends, for whose characters Margaret felt the highest honor, and with many of whose views, theoretic and practical, she accorded, were earnestly considering the possibility of making such industrial, social, and educational arrangements, as would simplify economies, combine leisure for study with healthful and honest toil, avert unjust collisions of caste, equalize refinements, awaken generous affections, diffuse courtesy, and sweeten and sanctify life as a whole. Chief among these was the Rev. George Ripley, who, convinced by his experience in a faithful ministry, that the need was urgent for a thorough application of the professed principles of Fraternity to actual relations, was about staking his all of fortune, reputation, position, and influence, in an attempt to organize a joint-stock community at Brook Farm. How Margaret was inclined to regard this movement has been already indicated. While at heart sympathizing with the heroism that prompted it, in judgment she considered it premature. But true to her noble self, though regretting the seemingly gratuitous sacrifice of her friends, she gave them without stint the cheer of her encouragement and the light of her counsel. She visited them often; entering genially into their trials and pleasures, and missing no chance to drop good seed in every furrow upturned by the ploughshare or softened by the rain. In the secluded yet intensely animated circle of these co-workers I frequently met her during several succeeding years, and rejoice to bear testimony to the justice, magnanimity, wisdom, patience, and many-sided good-will, that governed her every thought and deed. The feelings with which she watched the progress of this experiment are thus exhibited in her journals:—
'My hopes might lead to Association, too,—an association, if not of efforts, yet of destinies. In such an one I live with several already, feeling that each one, by acting out his own, casts light upon a mutual destiny, and illustrates the thought of a mastermind. It is a constellation, not a phalanx, to which I would belong.'
* * * * *
'Why bind oneself to a central or any doctrine? How much nobler stands a man entirely unpledged, unbound! Association may be the great experiment of the age, still it is only an experiment. It is not worth while to lay such stress on it; let us try it, induce others to try it,—that is enough.'
* * * * *
'It is amusing to see how the solitary characters tend to outwardness,—to association,—while the social and sympathetic ones emphasize the value of solitude,—of concentration,—so that we hear from each the word which, from his structure, we least expect.'
* * * * *
'On Friday I came to Brook Farm. The first day or two here is desolate. You seem to belong to nobody—to have a right to speak to nobody; but very soon you learn to take care of yourself, and then the freedom of the place is delightful.
'It is fine to see how thoroughly Mr. and Mrs. R. act out, in their own persons, what they intend.
'All Saturday I was off in the woods. In the evening we had a general conversation, opened by me, upon Education, in its largest sense, and on what we can do for ourselves and others. I took my usual ground: The aim is perfection; patience the road. The present object is to give ourselves and others a tolerable chance. Let us not be too ambitious in our hopes as to immediate results. Our lives should be considered as a tendency, an approximation only. Parents and teachers expect to do too much. They are not legislators, but only interpreters to the next generation. Soon, very soon, does the parent become merely the elder brother of his child;—a little wiser, it is to be hoped. —— differed from me as to some things I said about the gradations of experience,—that "to be brought prematurely near perfect beings would chill and discourage." He thought it would cheer and console. He spoke well,—with a youthful nobleness. —— said "that the most perfect person would be the most impersonal"—philosophical bull that, I trow—"and, consequently, would impede us least from God." Mr. R. spoke admirably on the nature of loyalty. The people showed a good deal of the sans-culotte tendency in their manners,—throwing themselves on the floor, yawning, and going out when they had heard enough. Yet, as the majority differ from me, to begin with,—that being the reason this subject was chosen,—they showed, on the whole, more respect and interest than I had expected. As I am accustomed to deference, however, and need it for the boldness and animation which my part requires, I did not speak with as much force as usual. Still, I should like to have to face all this; it would have the same good effects that the Athenian assemblies had on the minds obliged to encounter them.
'Sunday. A glorious day;—the woods full of perfume. I was out all the morning. In the afternoon, Mrs. R. and I had a talk. I said my position would be too uncertain here, as I could not work. —— said:—"They would all like to work for a person of genius. They would not like to have this service claimed from them, but would like to render it of their own accord." "Yes," I told her; "but where would be my repose, when they were always to be judging whether I was worth it or not. It would be the same position the clergyman is in, or the wandering beggar with his harp. Each day you must prove yourself anew. You are not in immediate relations with material things."
'We talked of the principles of the community. I said I had not a right to come, because all the confidence in it I had was as an experiment worth trying, and that it was a part of the great wave of inspired thought. —— declared they none of them had confidence beyond this; but they seem to me to have. Then I said, "that though I entirely agreed about the dignity of labor, and had always wished for the present change, yet I did not agree with the principle of paying for services by time;[A] neither did I believe in the hope of excluding evil, for that was a growth of nature, and one condition of the development of good." We had valuable discussion on these points.
'All Monday morning in the woods again. Afternoon, out with the drawing party; I felt the evils of want of conventional refinement, in the impudence with which one of the girls treated me. She has since thought of it with regret, I notice; and, by every day's observation of me, will see that she ought not to have done it.'
* * * * *
'In the evening, a husking in the barn. Men, women, and children, all engaged. It was a most picturesque scene, only not quite light enough to bring it out fully. I staid and helped about half an hour, then took a long walk beneath the stars.'
* * * * *
'Wednesday. I have been too much absorbed to-day by others, and it has made me almost sick. Mrs. —— came to see me, and we had an excellent talk, which occupied nearly all the morning. Then Mrs. —— wanted to see me, but after a few minutes I found I could not bear it, and lay down to rest. Then —— came. Poor man;—his feelings and work are wearing on him. He looks really ill now. Then —— and I went to walk in the woods. I was deeply interested in all she told me. If I were to write down all she and four other married women have confided to me, these three days past, it would make a cento, on one subject, in five parts. Certainly there should be some great design in my life; its attractions are so invariable.'
* * * * *
'In the evening, a conversation on Impulse. The reason for choosing this subject is the great tendency here to advocate spontaneousness, at the expense of reflection. It was a much better conversation than the one before. None yawned, for none came, this time, from mere curiosity. There were about thirty-five present, which is a large enough circle. Many engaged in the talk. I defended nature, as I always do;—the spirit ascending through, not superseding, nature. But in the scale of Sense, Intellect, Spirit, I advocated to-night the claims of Intellect, because those present were rather disposed to postpone them. On the nature of Beauty we had good talk. —— spoke well. She seemed in a much more reverent humor than the other night, and enjoyed the large plans of the universe which were unrolled. ——, seated on the floor, with the light falling from behind on his long gold locks, made, with sweet, serene aspect, and composed tones, a good expose of his way of viewing things.'
* * * * *
'Saturday. Well, good-by, Brook Farm. I know more about this place than I did when I came; but the only way to be qualified for a judge of such an experiment would be to become an active, though unimpassioned, associate in trying it. Some good things are proven, and as for individuals, they are gainers. Has not —— vied, in her deeds of love, with "my Cid," and the holy Ottilia? That girl who was so rude to me stood waiting, with a timid air, to bid me good-by. Truly, the soft answer turneth away wrath.
'I have found myself here in the amusing position of a conservative. Even so is it with Mr. R. There are too many young people in proportion to the others. I heard myself saying, with a grave air, "Play out the play, gentles." Thus, from generation to generation, rises and falls the wave.'
Again, a year afterward, she writes:—
'Here I have passed a very pleasant week. The tone of the society is much sweeter than when I was here a year ago. There is a pervading spirit of mutual tolerance and gentleness, with great sincerity. There is no longer a passion for grotesque freaks of liberty, but a disposition, rather, to study and enjoy the liberty of law. The great development of mind and character observable in several instances, persuades me that this state of things affords a fine studio for the soul-sculptor. To a casual observer it may seem as if there was not enough of character here to interest, because there are no figures sufficiently distinguished to be worth painting for the crowd; but there is enough of individuality in free play to yield instruction; and one might have, from a few months' residence here, enough of the human drama to feed thought for a long time.'
Thus much for Margaret's impressions of Brook Farm and its inmates. What influence she in turn exerted on those she met there, may be seen from the following affectionate tribute, offered by one of the young girls alluded to in the journal:—
"Would that I might aid even slightly, in doing justice to the noble-hearted woman whose departure we must all mourn. But I feel myself wholly powerless to do so; and after I explain what my relation to her was, you will understand how this can be, without holding me indolent or unsympathetic.
"When I first met Miss Fuller, I had already cut from my moorings, and was sailing on the broad sea of experience, conscious that I possessed unusual powers of endurance, and that I should meet with sufficient to test their strength. She made no offer of guidance, and once or twice, in the succeeding year, alluded to the fact that she 'had never helped me.' This was in a particular sense, of course, for she helped all who knew her. She was interested in my rough history, but could not be intimate, in any just sense, with a soul so unbalanced, so inharmonious as mine then was. For my part, I reverenced her. She was to me the embodiment of wisdom and tenderness. I heard her converse, and, in the rich and varied intonations of her voice, I recognized a being to whom every shade of sentiment was familiar. She knew, if not by experience then by no questionable intuition, how to interpret the inner life of every man and woman; and, by interpreting, she could soothe and strengthen. To her, psychology was an open book. When she came to Brook Farm, it was my delight to wait on one so worthy of all service,—to arrange her late breakfast in some remnants of ancient China, and to save her, if it might be, some little fatigue or annoyance, during each day. After a while she seemed to lose sight of my more prominent and disagreeable peculiarities, and treated me with affectionate regard."
Being a confirmed Socialist, I often had occasion to discuss with Margaret the problems involved in the "Combined Order" of life; and though unmoved by her scepticism, I could not but admire the sagacity, foresight, comprehensiveness, and catholic sympathy with which she surveyed this complicated subject. Her objections, to be sure, were of the usual kind, and turned mainly upon two points,—the difficulty of so allying labor and capital as to secure the hoped-for cooeperation, and the danger of merging the individual in the mass to such degree as to paralyze energy, heroism, and genius; but these objections were urged in a way that brought out her originality and generous hopes. There was nothing abject, timid, or conventional in her doubts. The end sought she prized; but the means she questioned. Though pleased in listening to sanguine visions of the future, she was slow to credit that an organization by "Groups and Series" would yield due incentive for personal development, while ensuring equilibrium through exact and universal justice. She felt, too, that Society was not a machine to be put together and set in motion, but a living body, whose breath must be Divine inspiration, and whose healthful growth is only hindered by forcing. Finally, while longing as earnestly as any Socialist for "Liberty and Law made one in living union," and assured in faith that an era was coming of "Attractive Industry" and "Harmony," she was still for herself inclined to seek sovereign independence in comparative isolation. Indeed, at this period, Margaret was in spirit and in thought preeminently a Transcendentalist.
[Footnote A: This was a transitional arrangement only.]
* * * * *
In regard to Transcendentalism again, there was reason to rejoice in having found a friend, so firm to keep her own ground, while so liberal to comprehend another's stand-point, as was Margaret. She knew, not only theoretically, but practically, how endless are the diversities of human character and of Divine discipline, and she reverenced fellow-spirits too sincerely ever to wish to warp them to her will, or to repress their normal development. She was stern but in one claim, that each should be faithful to apparent leadings of the Truth; and could avow widest differences of conviction without feeling that love was thereby chilled, or the hand withheld from cordial aid. Especially did she render service by enabling one,—through her blended insight, candor, and clearness of understanding,—to see in bright reflection his own mental state.
It would be doing injustice to a person like Margaret, always more enthusiastic than philosophical, to attribute to her anything like a system of theology; for, hopeful, reverent, aspiring, and free from scepticism, she felt too profoundly the vastness of the universe and of destiny ever to presume that with her span rule she could measure the Infinite. Yet the tendency of her thoughts can readily be traced in the following passages from note-books and letters:—
'When others say to me, and not without apparent ground, that "the Outward Church is a folly which keeps men from enjoying the communion of the Church Invisible, and that in the desire to be helped by, and to help others, men lose sight of the only sufficient help, which they might find by faithful solitary intentness of spirit," I answer it is true, and the present deadness and emptiness summon us to turn our thoughts in that direction. Being now without any positive form of religion, any unattractive symbols, or mysterious rites, we are in the less danger of stopping at surfaces, of accepting a mediator instead of the Father, a sacrament instead of the Holy Ghost. And when I see how little there is to impede and bewilder us, I cannot but accept,—should it be for many years,—the forlornness, the want of fit expression, the darkness as to what is to be expressed, even that characterize our time.
'But I do not, therefore, as some of our friends do, believe that it will always be so, and that the church is tottering to its grave, never to rise again. The church was the growth of human nature, and it is so still. It is but one result of the impulse which makes two friends clasp one another's hands, look into one another's eyes at sight of beauty, or the utterance of a feeling of piety. So soon as the Spirit has mourned and sought, and waited long enough to open new depths, and has found something to express, there will again be a Cultus, a Church. The very people, who say that none is needed, make one at once. They talk with, they write to one another. They listen to music, they sustain themselves with the poets; they like that one voice should tell the thoughts of several minds, one gesture proclaim that the same life is at the same moment in many breasts.
'I am myself most happy in my lonely Sundays, and do not feel the need of any social worship, as I have not for several years, which I have passed in the same way. Sunday is to me priceless as a day of peace and solitary reflection. To all who will, it may be true, that, as Herbert says:—
"Sundays the pillars are On which Heaven's palace arched lies; The other days fill up the space And hollow room with vanities;"
and yet in no wise "vanities," when filtered by the Sunday crucible. After much troubling of the waters of my life, a radiant thought of the meaning and beauty of earthly existence will descend like a healing angel. The stillness permits me to hear a pure tone from the One in All. But often I am not alone. The many now, whose hearts, panting for truth and love, have been made known to me, whose lives flow in the same direction as mine, and are enlightened by the same star, are with me. I am in church, the church invisible, undefiled by inadequate expression. Our communion is perfect; it is that of a common aspiration; and where two or three are gathered together in one region, whether in the flesh or the spirit, He will grant their request. Other communion would be a happiness,—to break together the bread of mutual thought, to drink the wine of loving life,—but it is not necessary.
'Yet I cannot but feel that the crowd of men whose pursuits are not intellectual, who are not brought by their daily walk into converse with sages and poets, who win their bread from an earth whose mysteries are not open to them, whose worldly intercourse is more likely to stifle than to encourage the sparks of love and faith in their breasts, need on that day quickening more than repose. The church is now rather a lecture-room than a place of worship; it should be a school for mutual instruction. I must rejoice when any one, who lays spiritual things to heart, feels the call rather to mingle with men, than to retire and seek by himself.
'You speak of men going up to worship by "households," &c. Were the actual family the intellectual family, this might be; but as social life now is, how can it? Do we not constantly see the child, born in the flesh to one father, choose in the spirit another? No doubt this is wrong, since the sign does not stand for the thing signified, but it is one feature of the time. How will it end? Can families worship together till it does end?
* * * * *
'I have let myself be cheated out of my Sunday, by going to hear Mr. ——. As he began by reading the first chapter of Isaiah, and the fourth of John's Epistle, I made mental comments with pure delight. "Bring no more vain oblations." "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." "We know that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because he hath given us of the Spirit." Then pealed the organ, full of solemn assurance. But straightway uprose the preacher to deny mysteries, to deny the second birth, to deny influx, and to renounce the sovereign gift of insight, for the sake of what he deemed a "rational" exercise of will. As he spoke I could not choose but deny him all through, and could scarce refrain from rising to expound, in the light of my own faith, the words of those wiser Jews which had been read. Was it not a sin to exchange friendly greeting as we parted, and yet tell him no word of what was in my mind?
'Still I saw why he looked at things as he did. The old religionists did talk about "grace, conversion," and the like, technically, without striving to enter into the idea, till they quite lost sight of it. Undervaluing the intellect, they became slaves of a sect, instead of organs of the Spirit. This Unitarianism has had its place. There was a time for asserting "the dignity of human nature," and for explaining total depravity into temporary inadequacy,—a time to say that the truths of essence, if simplified at all in statement from their infinite variety of existence, should be spoken of as One, rather than Three, though that number, if they would only let it reproduce itself simply, is of highest significance. Yet the time seems now to have come for reinterpreting the old dogmas. For one I would now preach the Holy Ghost as zealously as they have been preaching Man, and faith instead of the understanding, and mysticism instead &c. But why go on? It certainly is by no means useless to preach. In my experience of the divine gifts of solitude, I had forgotten what might be done in this other way. That crowd of upturned faces, with their look of unintelligent complacency! Give tears and groans, rather, if there be a mixture of physical excitement and bigotry. Mr. —— is heard because, though he has not entered into the secret of piety, he wishes to be heard, and with a good purpose,—can make a forcible statement, and kindle himself with his own thoughts. How many persons must there be who cannot worship alone, since they are content with so little! Can none wake the spark that will melt them, till they take beautiful forms? Were one to come now, who could purge us with fire, how would these masses glow and be clarified!
'Mr. —— made a good suggestion:—"Such things could not be said in the open air." Let men preach for the open air, and speak now thunder and lightning, now dew and rustling leaves. Yet must the preacher have the thought of his day before he can be its voice. None have it yet; but some of our friends, perhaps, are nearer than the religious world at large, because neither ready to dogmatize, as if they had got it, nor content to stop short with mere impressions and presumptuous hopes. I feel that a great truth is coming. Sometimes it seems as if we should have it among us in a day. Many steps of the Temple have been ascended, steps of purest alabaster, and of shining jasper, also of rough-brick, and slippery moss-grown stone. We shall reach what we long for, since we trust and do not fear, for our God knows not fear, only reverence, and his plan is All in All.'
* * * * *
'Who can expect to utter an absolutely pure and clear tone on these high subjects? Our earthly atmosphere is too gross to permit it. Yet, a severe statement has rather an undue charm for me, as I have a nature of great emotion, which loves free abandonment. I am ready to welcome a descending Moses, come to turn all men from idolatries. For my priests have been very generally of the Pagan greatness, revering nature and seeking excellence, but in the path of progress, not of renunciation. The lyric inspirations of the poet come very differently on the ear from the "still, small voice." They are, in fact, all one revelation; but one must be at the centre to interpret it. To that centre I have again and again been drawn, but my large natural life has been, as yet, but partially transfused with spiritual consciousness. I shun a premature narrowness, and bide my time. But I am drawn to look at natures who take a different way, because they seem to complete my being for me. They, too, tolerate me in my many phases for the same reason, probably. It pleased me to see, in one of the figures by which the Gnostics illustrated the progress of man, that Severity corresponded to Magnificence.'
* * * * *
'In my quiet retreat, I read Xenophon, and became more acquainted with his Socrates. I had before known only the Socrates of Plato, one much more to my mind. Socrates conformed to the Greek Church, and it is evident with a sincere reverence, because it was the growth of the national mind. He thought best to stand on its platform, and to illustrate, though with keen truth, by received forms. This was his right way, as his influence was naturally private, for individuals who could in some degree respond to the teachings of his daemon; he knew the multitude would not understand him. But it was the other way that Jesus took, preaching in the fields, and plucking ears of corn on the Sabbath.'
* * * * *
'Is it my defect of spiritual experience, that while that weight of sagacity, which is the iron to the dart of genius, is needful to satisfy me, the undertone of another and a deeper knowledge does not please, does not command me? Even in Handel's Messiah, I am half incredulous, half impatient, when the sadness of the second part comes to check, before it interprets, the promise of the first; and the strain, "Was ever sorrow like to his sorrow," is not for me, as I have been, as I am. Yet Handel was worthy to speak of Christ. The great chorus, "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead; for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive," if understood in the large sense of every man his own Saviour, and Jesus only representative of the way all must walk to accomplish our destiny, is indeed a worthy gospel.'
* * * * *
'Ever since —— told me how his feelings had changed towards Jesus, I have wished much to write some sort of a Credo, out of my present state, but have had no time till last night. I have not satisfied myself in the least, and have written very hastily, yet, though not full enough to be true, this statement is nowhere false to me.
* * * 'Whatever has been permitted by the law of being, must be for good, and only in time not good. We trust, and are led forward by experience. Light gives experience of outward life, faith of inward life, and then we discern, however faintly, the necessary harmony of the two. The moment we have broken through an obstruction, not accidentally, but by the aid of faith, we begin to interpret the Universe, and to apprehend why evil is permitted. Evil is obstruction; Good is accomplishment.
'It would seem that the Divine Being designs through man to express distinctly what the other forms of nature only intimate, and that wherever man remains imbedded in nature, whether from sensuality, or because he is not yet awakened to consciousness, the purpose of the whole remains unfulfilled. Hence our displeasure when Man is not in a sense above Nature. Yet, when he is not so closely bound with all other manifestations, as duly to express their Spirit, we are also displeased. He must be at once the highest form of Nature, and conscious of the meaning she has been striving successively to unfold through those below him. Centuries pass; whole races of men are expended in the effort to produce one that shall realize this Ideal, and publish Spirit in the human form. Here and there is a degree of success. Life enough is lived through a man, to justify the great difficulties attendant on the existence of mankind. And then throughout all realms of thought vibrates the affirmation, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
'I do not mean to lay an undue stress upon the position and office of man merely because I am of his race, and understand best the scope of his destiny. The history of the earth, the motions of the heavenly bodies, suggest already modes of being higher than ours, and which fulfil more deeply the office of interpretation. But I do suppose man's life to be the rivet in one series of the great chain, and that all higher existences are analogous to his. Music suggests their mode of being, and, when carried up on its strong wings, we foresee how the next step in the soul's ascension shall interpret man to the universe, as he now interprets those forms beneath himself. * *
'The law of Spirit is identical, whether displaying itself as genius, or as piety, but its modes of expression are distinct dialects. All souls desire to become the fathers of souls, as citizens, legislators, poets, artists, sages, saints; and, so far as they are true to the law of their incorruptible essence, they are all Anointed, all Emanuel, all Messiah; but they are all brutes and devils so far as subjected to the law of corruptible existence.
'As wherever there is a tendency a form is gradually evolved, as its Type,—so is it the law of each class and order of human thoughts to produce a form which shall be the visible representation of its aim and strivings, and stand before it as its King. This effort to produce a kingly type it was, that clothed itself with power as Brahma or Osiris, that gave laws as Confucius or Moses, that embodied music and eloquence in the Apollo. This it was that incarnated itself, at one time as Plato, at another as Michel Angelo, at another as Luther, &c. Ever seeking, it has produced Ideal after Ideal of the beauty, into which mankind is capable of being developed; and one of the highest, in some respects the very highest, of these kingly types, was the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
'Few believe more in his history than myself, and it is very dear to me. I believe, in my own way, in the long preparation of ages for his coming, and the truth of prophecy that announced him. I see a necessity, in the character of Jesus, why Abraham should have been the founder of his nation, Moses its lawgiver, and David its king and poet. I believe in the genesis of the patriarchs, as given in the Old Testament. I believe in the prophets,—that they foreknew not only what their nation longed for, but what the development of universal Man requires,—a Redeemer, an Atoner, a Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world. I believe that Jesus came when the time was ripe, and that he was peculiarly a messenger and Son of God. I have nothing to say in denial of the story of his birth; whatever the actual circumstances were, he was born of a Virgin, and the tale expresses a truth of the soul. I have no objection to the miracles, except where they do not happen to please one's feelings. Why should not a spirit, so consecrate and intent, develop new laws, and make matter plastic? I can imagine him walking the waves, without any violation of my usual habits of thought. He could not remain in the tomb, they say; certainly not,—death is impossible to such a being. He remained upon earth; most true, and all who have met him since on the way, have felt their hearts burn within them. He ascended to heaven; surely, how could it be otherwise?
'Would I could express with some depth what I feel as to religion in my very soul; it would be a clear note of calm assurance. But for the present this must suffice with regard to Christ. I am grateful here, as everywhere, when Spirit bears fruit in fulness; it attests the justice of aspiration, it kindles faith, it rebukes sloth, it enlightens resolve. But so does a beautiful infant. Christ's life is only one modification of the universal harmony. I will not loathe sects, persuasions, systems, though I cannot abide in them one moment, for I see that by most men they are still needed. To them their banners, their tents; let them be Fire-worshippers, Platonists, Christians; let them live in the shadow of past revelations. But, oh, Father of our souls, the One, let me seek Thee! I would seek Thee in these forms, and in proportion as they reveal Thee, they teach me to go beyond themselves. I would learn from them all, looking only to Thee! But let me set no limits from the past, to my own soul, or to any soul.
'Ages may not produce one worthy to loose the shoes of the Prophet of Nazareth; yet there will surely be another manifestation of that Word which was in the beginning. And all future manifestations will come, like Christianity, "not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil." The very greatness of this manifestation demands a greater. As an Abraham called for a Moses, and a Moses for a David, so does Christ for another Ideal. We want a life more complete and various than that of Christ. We have had a Messiah to teach and reconcile; let us now have a Man to live out all the symbolical forms of human life, with the calm beauty of a Greek God, with the deep consciousness of a Moses, with the holy love and purity of Jesus.'
* * * * *
To one studying the signs of the times, it was quite instructive to watch the moods of a mind so sensitive as Margaret's; for her delicate meter indicated in advance each coming change in the air-currents of thought. But I was chiefly interested in the processes whereby she was gaining harmony and unity. The more one studied her, the more plainly he saw that her peculiar power was the result of fresh, fervent, exhaustless, and indomitable affections. The emotive force in her, indeed, was immense in volume, and most various in tendency; and it was wonderful to observe the outward equability of one inwardly so impassioned.
This was, in fact, the first problem to be solved in gaining real knowledge of her commanding character: "How did a person, by constitution so impetuous, become so habitually serene?" In temperament Margaret seemed a Bacchante,[A] prompt for wild excitement, and fearless to tread by night the mountain forest, with song and dance of delirious mirth; yet constantly she wore the laurel in token of purification, and, with water from fresh fountains, cleansed the statue of Minerva. Stagnancy and torpor were intolerable to her free and elastic impulses; a brilliant fancy threw over each place and incident Arcadian splendor; and eager desire, with energetic purposes, filled her with the consciousness of large latent life: and yet the lower instincts were duly subordinated to the higher, and dignified self-control ordered her deportment. Somehow, according to the doctrine of the wise Jacob Boehme, the fierce, hungry fire had met in embrace the meek, cool water, and was bringing to birth the pleasant light-flame of love. The transformation, though not perfected, was fairly begun.
Partly I could see how this change had been wrought. Ill health, pain, disappointment, care, had tamed her spirits. A wide range through the romantic literature of ancient and modern times had exalted while expending her passions. In the world of imagination, she had discharged the stormful energy which would have been destructive in actual life. And in thought she had bound herself to the mast while sailing past the Sirens. Through sympathy, also, from childhood, with the tragi-comedy of many lives around her, she had gained experience of the laws and limitations of providential order. Gradually, too, she had risen to higher planes of hope, whence opened wider prospects of destiny and duty. More than all, by that attraction of opposites which a strong will is most apt to feel, she had sought, as chosen companions, persons of scrupulous reserve, of modest coolness, and severe elevation of view. Finally, she had been taught, by a discipline specially fitted to her dispositions, to trust the leadings of the Divine Spirit. The result was, that at this period Margaret had become a Mystic. Her prisoned emotions found the freedom they pined for in contemplation of nature's exquisite harmonies,—in poetic regards of the glory that enspheres human existence, when seen as a whole from beyond the clouds,—and above all in exultant consciousness of life ever influent from the All-Living.
A few passages from, her papers will best illustrate this proneness to rapture.
'My tendency is, I presume, rather to a great natural than to a deep religious life. But though others may be more conscientious and delicate, few have so steady a faith in Divine Love. I may be arrogant and impetuous, but I am never harsh and morbid. May there not be a mediation, rather than a conflict, between piety and genius? Greek and Jew, Italian and Saxon, are surely but leaves on one stern, at last.'
* * * * *
'I am in danger of giving myself up to experiences till they so steep me in ideal passion that the desired goal is forgotten in the rich present. Yet I think I am learning how to use life more wisely.'
* * * * *
'Forgive me, beautiful ones, who earlier learned the harmony of your beings,—with whom eye, voice, and hand are already true to the soul! Forgive me still some "lispings and stammerings of the passionate age." Teach me,—me, also,—to utter my paean in its full sweetness. These long lines are radii from one centre; aid me to fill the circumference. Then each moment, each act, shall be true. The pupil has found the carbuncle,[B] but knows not yet how to use it day by day. But "though his companions wondered at the pupil, the master loved him." He loves me, my friends. Do ye trust me. Wash the tears and black stains from the records of my life by the benignity of a true glance; make each discord harmony, by striking again the key-note; forget the imperfect interviews, burn the imperfect letters, till at last the full song bursts forth, the key-stone is given from heaven to the arch, the past is all pardoned and atoned for, and we live forever in the Now.' * *
* * * * *
'Henceforth I hope I shall not write letters thus full of childish feeling; for in feeling I am indeed a child, and the least of children. Soon I must return into the Intellect, for there in sight, at least, I am a man, and could write the words very calmly and in steadfast flow. But, lately, the intellect has been so subordinated to the soul, that I am not free to enter the Basilikon, and plead and hear till I am called. But let me not stay too long in this Sicilian valley, gathering my flowers, for "night cometh."'
* * * * *
'The other evening, while hearing the Creation, in the music of "There shoots the healing plant," I felt what I would ever feel for suffering souls. Somewhere in nature is the Moly, the Nepenthe, desired from the earliest ages of mankind. No wonder the music dwelt so exultingly on the passage:—
"In native worth and honor clad."
Yes; even so would I ever see man. I will wait, and never despair, through all the dull years.'
* * * * *
'I am "too fiery." Even so. Ceres put her foster child in the fire because she loved him. If they thought so before, will they not far more now? Yet I wish to be seen as I am, and would lose all rather than soften away anything. Let my friends be patient and gentle, and teach me to be so. I never promised any one patience or gentleness, for those beautiful traits are not natural to me; but I would learn them. Can I not?'
* * * * *
'Of all the books, and men, and women, that have touched me these weeks past, what has most entered my soul is the music I have heard,—the masterly expression from that violin; the triumph of the orchestra, after the exploits on the piano; Braham, in his best efforts, when he kept true to the dignity of art; the Messiah, which has been given on two successive Sundays, and the last time in a way that deeply expressed its divine life; but above all, Beethoven's seventh symphony. What majesty! what depth! what tearful sweetness! what victory! This was truly a fire upon an altar. There are a succession of soaring passages, near the end of the third movement, which touch me most deeply. Though soaring, they hold on with a stress which almost breaks the chains of matter to the hearer. O, how refreshing, after polemics and philosophy, to soar thus on strong wings! Yes, Father, I will wander in dark ways with the crowd, since thou seest best for me to be tied down. But only in thy free ether do I know myself. When I read Beethoven's life, I said, "I will never repine." When I heard this symphony, I said, "I will triumph."
* * * * *
'To-day I have finished the life of Raphael, by Quatremere de Quincy, which has so long engaged me. It scarce goes deeper than a catalogue raisonnee, but is very complete in its way. I could make all that splendid era alive to me, and inhale the full flower of the Sanzio. Easily one soars to worship these angels of Genius. To venerate the Saints you must well nigh be one.
'I went out upon the lonely rock which commands so delicious a panoramic view. A very mild breeze had sprung up after the extreme heat. A sunset of the melting kind was succeeded by a perfectly clear moon-rise. Here I sat, and thought of Raphael. I was drawn high up in the heaven of beauty, and the mists were dried from the white plumes of contemplation.'#/
'Only by emotion do we know thee, Nature. To lean upon thy heart, and feel its pulses vibrate to our own;—that is knowledge, for that is love, the love of infinite beauty, of infinite love. Thought will never make us be born again.
'My fault is that I think I feel too much. O that my friends would teach me that "simple art of not too much!" How can I expect them to bear the ceaseless eloquence of my nature?'
* * * * *
'Often it has seemed that I have come near enough to the limits to see what they are. But suddenly arises afar the Fata Morgana, and tells of new Sicilies, of their flowery valleys and fields of golden grain. Then, as I would draw near, my little bark is shattered on the rock, and I am left on the cold wave. Yet with my island in sight I do not sink.'
* * * * *
'I look not fairly to myself, at the present moment. If noble growths are always slow, others may ripen far worthier fruit than is permitted to my tropical heats and tornadoes. Let me clasp the cross on my breast, as I have done a thousand times before.'
'Let me but gather from the earth one full-grown fragrant flower; Within my bosom let it bloom through, its one blooming hour; Within my bosom let it die, and to its latest breath My own shall answer, "Having lived, I shrink not now from death." It is this niggard halfness that turns my heart to stone; 'T is the cup seen, not tasted, that makes the infant moan. For once let me press firm my lips upon the moment's brow, For once let me distinctly feel I am all happy now, And bliss shall seal a blessing upon that moment's brow.'
'I was in a state of celestial happiness, which lasted a great while. For months I was all radiant with faith, and love, and life. I began to be myself. Night and day were equally beautiful, and the lowest and highest equally holy. Before, it had seemed as if the Divine only gleamed upon me; but then it poured into and through me a tide of light. I have passed down from the rosy mountain, now; but I do not forget its pure air, nor how the storms looked as they rolled beneath my feet. I have received my assurance, and if the shadows should lie upon me for a century, they could never make me forgetful of the true hour. Patiently I bide my time.'
The last passage describes a peculiar illumination, to which Margaret often referred as the period when her earthly being culminated, and when, in the noon-tide of loving enthusiasm, she felt wholly at one with God, with Man, and the Universe. It was ever after, to her, an earnest that she was of the Elect. In a letter to one of her confidential female friends, she thus fondly looks back to this experience on the mount of transfiguration:—
'You know how, when the leadings of my life found their interpretation, I longed to share my joy with those I prized most; for I felt that if they could but understand the past we should meet entirely. They received me, some more, some less, according to the degree of intimacy between our natures. But now I have done with the past, and again move forward. The path looks more difficult, but I am better able to bear its trials. We shall have much communion, even if not in the deepest places. I feel no need of isolation, but only of temperance in thought and speech, that the essence may not evaporate in words, but grow plenteous within. The Life will give me to my own. I am not yet so worthy to love as some others are, because my manifold nature is not yet harmonized enough to be faithful, and I begin, to see how much it was the want of a pure music in me that has made the good doubt me. Yet have I been true to the best light I had, and if I am so now much will be given.
'During my last weeks of solitude I was very happy, and all that had troubled me became clearer. The angel was not weary of waiting for Gunhilde, till she had unravelled her mesh of thought, and seeds of mercy, of purification, were planted in the breast. Whatever the past has been, I feel that I have always been reading on and on, and that the Soul of all souls has been patient in love to mine. New assurances were given me, that if I would be faithful and humble, there was no experience that would not tell its heavenly errand. If shadows have fallen, already they give way to a fairer if more tempered light; and for the present I am so happy that the spirit kneels.
'Life, is richly worth living, with its continual revelations of mighty woe, yet infinite hope: and I take it to my breast. Amid these scenes of beauty, all that is little, foreign, unworthy, vanishes like a dream. So shall it be some time amidst the Everlasting Beauty, when true joy shall begin and never cease.'
Filled thus as Margaret was with ecstasy, she was yet more than willing,—even glad,—to bear her share in the universal sorrow. Well she knew that pain must be proportioned to the fineness and fervor of her organization; that the very keenness of her sensibility exposed her to constant disappointment or disgust; that no friend, however faithful, could meet the demands of desires so eager, of sympathies so absorbing. Contrasted with her radiant visions, how dreary looked actual existence; how galling was the friction of petty hindrances; how heavy the yoke of drudging care! Even success seemed failure, when measured by her conscious aim; and experience had brought out to consciousness excesses and defects, which humbled pride while shaming self-confidence. But suffering as she did with all the intensity of so passionate a nature, Margaret still welcomed the searching discipline. 'It is only when Persephone returns from lower earth that she weds Dyonysos, and passes from central sadness into glowing joy,' she writes. And again: 'I have no belief in beautiful lives; we are born to be mutilated; and the blood must flow till in every vein its place is supplied by the Divine ichor.' And she reiterates: 'The method of Providence with me is evidently that of "cross-biassing," as Herbert hath it. In a word, to her own conscience and to intimate friends she avowed, without reserve, that there was in her 'much rude matter that needed to be spiritualized.' Comment would but weaken the pathos of the following passages, in which so plainly appears a once wilful temper striving, with child-like faith, to obey:—
'I have been a chosen one; the lesson of renunciation was early, fully taught, and the heart of stone quite broken through. The Great Spirit wished to leave me no refuge but itself. Convictions have been given, enough to guide me many years if I am steadfast. How deeply, how gratefully I feel this blessing, as the fabric of others' hopes are shivering round me. Peace will not always flow thus softly in my life; but, O, our Father! how many hours has He consecrated to Himself. How often has the Spirit chosen the time, when no ray came from without, to descend upon the orphan life!'
* * * * *
'A humbler, tenderer spirit! Yes, I long for it. But how to gain it? I see no way but prayerfully to bend myself to meet the hour. Let friends be patient with me, and pardon some faint-heartedness. The buds will shiver in the cold air when the sheaths drop. It will not be so long. The word "Patience" has been spoken; it shall be my talisman. A nobler courage will be given, with gentleness and humility. My conviction is clear that all my troubles are needed, and that one who has had so much light thrown upon the path, has no excuse for faltering steps.'
* * * * *
'Could we command enthusiasm; had we an interest with the gods which would light up those sacred fires at will, we should be even seraphic in our influences. But life, if not a complete waste of wearisome hours, must be checkered with them; and I find that just those very times, when I feel all glowing and radiant in the happiness of receiving and giving out again the divine fluid, are preludes to hours of languor, weariness, and paltry doubt, born of—-
"The secret soul's mistrust To find her fair ethereal wings Weighed down by vile, degraded dust."
'To this, all who have chosen or been chosen to a life of thought must submit. Yet I rejoice in my heritage. Should I venture to complain? Perhaps, if I were to reckon up the hours of bodily pain, those passed in society with which I could not coalesce, those of ineffectual endeavor to penetrate the secrets of nature and of art, or, worse still, to reproduce the beautiful in some way for myself, I should find they far outnumbered those of delightful sensation, of full and soothing thought, of gratified tastes and affections, and of proud hope. Yet these last, if few, how lovely, how rich in presage! None, who have known them, can in their worst estate fail to hope that they may be again upborne to higher, purer blue.'
* * * * *
'As I was steeped in the divine tenth book of the Republic, came ——'s letter, in which he so insultingly retracts his engagements. I finished the book obstinately, but could get little good of it; then went to ask comfort of the descending sun in the woods and fields. What a comment it was on the disparity between my pursuits and my situation to receive such a letter while reading that book! However, I will not let life's mean perplexities blur from my eye the page of Plato; nor, if natural tears must be dropt, murmur at a lot, which, with all its bitterness, has given time and opportunity to cherish an even passionate love for Truth and Beauty.'
* * * * *
'Black Friday it has been, and my heart is well nigh wearied out. Shall I never be able to act and live with persons of views high as my own? or, at least, with some steadiness of feeling for me to calculate upon? Ah, me! what woes within and without; what assaults of folly; what mean distresses; and, oh, what wounds from cherished hands! Were ye the persons who should stab thus? Had I, too, the Roman right to fold my robe about me decently, and breathe the last sigh! The last! Horrible, indeed, should sobs, deep as these, be drawn to all eternity. But no; life could not hold out for more than one lease of sorrow. This anguish, however, will be wearied out, as I know by experience, alas! of how many such hours.'
* * * * *
'I am reminded to-day of the autumn hours at Jamaica Plain, where, after arranging everything for others that they wanted of me, I found myself, at last, alone in my still home, where everything, for once, reflected my feelings. It was so still, the air seemed full of spirits. How happy I was! with what sweet and solemn happiness! All things had tended to a crisis in me, and I was in a higher state, mentally and spiritually, than I ever was before or shall be again, till death shall introduce me to a new sphere. I purposed to spend the winter in study and self-collection, and to write constantly. I thought I should thus be induced to embody in beautiful forms all that lay in my mind, and that life would ripen into genius. But a very little while these fair hopes bloomed; and, since I was checked then, I do never expect to blossom forth on earth, and all postponements come naturally. At that time it seemed as if angels left me. Yet, now, I think they still are near. Renunciation appears to be entire, and I quite content; yet, probably, 't is no such thing, and that work is to be done over and over again.'
* * * * *
'Do you believe our prayers avail for one another? and that happiness is good for the soul? Pray, then, for me, that I may have a little peace,—some green and flowery spot, 'mid which my thoughts may rest; yet not upon fallacy, but only upon something genuine. I am deeply homesick, yet where is that home? If not on earth, why should we look to heaven? I would fain truly live wherever I must abide, and bear with full energy on my lot, whatever it is. He, who alone knoweth, will affirm that. I have tried to work whole-hearted from an earnest faith. Yet my hand is often languid, and my heart is slow. I would be gone; but whither? I know not; if I cannot make this spot of ground yield the corn and roses, famine must be my lot forever and ever, surely.'
* * * * *
'I remember how at a similar time of perplexity, when there were none to counsel, hardly one to sympathize, and when the conflicting wishes of so many whom I loved pressed the aching heart on every side, after months of groping and fruitless thought, the merest trifle precipitated the whole mass; all became clear as crystal, and I saw of what use the tedious preparation had been, by the deep content I felt in the result.'
* * * * *
'Beethoven! Tasso! It is well to think of you! What sufferings from baseness, from coldness! How rare and momentary were the flashes of joy, of confidence and tenderness, in these noblest lives! Yet could not their genius be repressed. The Eternal Justice lives. O, Father, teach the spirit the meaning of sorrow, and light up the generous fires of love and hope and faith, without which I cannot live!'
* * * * *
'What signifies it that Thou dost always give me to drink more deeply of the inner fountains? And why do I seek a reason for these repulsions and strange arrangements of my mortal lot, when I always gain from them a deeper love for all men, and a deeper trust in Thee? Wonderful are thy ways! But lead me the darkest and the coldest as Thou wilt.'
* * * * *
'Please, good Genius of my life, to make me very patient, resolute, gentle, while no less ardent; and after having tried me well, please present, at the end of some thousand years or so, a sphere of congenial and consecutive labors; of heart-felt, heart-filling wishes carried out into life on the instant; of aims obviously, inevitably proportioned to my highest nature. Sometime, in God's good time, let me live as swift and earnest as a flash of the eye. Meanwhile, let me gather force slowly, and drift along lazily, like yonder cloud, and be content to end in a few tears at last.'
* * * * *
'To-night I lay on the sofa, and saw how the flame shot up from beneath, through the mass of coal that had been piled above. It shot up in wild beautiful jets, and then unexpectedly sank again, and all was black, unsightly and forlorn. And thus, I thought, is it with my life at present. Yet if the fire beneath persists and conquers, that black dead mass will become all radiant, life-giving, fit for the altar or the domestic hearth. Yes, and it shall be so.'
* * * * *
'My tendency at present is to the deepest privacy. Where can I hide till I am given to myself? Yet I love the others more and more. When they are with me I must give them the best from my scrip. I see their infirmities, and would fain heal them, forgetful of my own! But am I left one moment alone, then, a poor wandering pilgrim, but no saint, I would seek the shrine, and would therein die to the world. Then if from the poor relics some miracles might be wrought, that should be for my fellows. Yet some of the saints were able to work in their generation, for they had renounced all!'
* * * * *
'Forget, if you can, all of petulant or overstrained that may have displeased you in me, and commend me in your prayers to my best self. When, in the solitude of the spirit, comes upon you some air from the distance, a breath of aspiration, of faith, of pure tenderness, then believe that the Power which has guided me so faithfully, emboldens my thoughts to frame a prayer for you.'
* * * * *
'Beneath all pain inflicted by Nature, be not only serene, but more; let it avail thee in prayer. Put up, at the moment of greatest suffering, a prayer; not for thy own escape, but for the enfranchisement of some being dear to thee, and the Sovereign Spirit will accept thy ransom.'
* * * * *
'Strive, strive, my soul, to be innocent; yes! beneficent. Does any man wound thee? not only forgive, but Work into thy thought intelligence of the kind of pain, that thou mayest never inflict it on another spirit. Then its work is done; it will never search thy whole nature again. O, love much, and be forgiven!'
* * * * *
'No! we cannot leave society while one clod remains unpervaded by divine life. We cannot live and grow in consecrated earth, alone. Let us rather learn to stand up like the Holy Father, and with extended arms bless the whole world.'
* * * * *
'It will be happiness indeed, if, on passing this first stage, we are permitted, in some degree, to alleviate the ills of those we love,—to lead them on a little way; to aid them when they call. Often it seems to me, it would be sweet to feel that I had certainly conferred one benefit. All my poor little schemes for others are apparently blighted, and now, as ever, I am referred to the Secular year for the interpretation of my moments.'
In one of Margaret's manuscripts is found this beautiful symbol:—'There is a species of Cactus, from whose outer bark, if torn by an ignorant person, there exudes a poisonous liquid; but the natives, who know the plant, strike to the core, and there find a sweet, refreshing juice, that renews their strength.' Surely the preceding extracts prove that she was learning how to draw life-giving virtue from the very heart of evil. No superficial experience of sorrow embittered her with angry despair; but through profound acceptance, she sought to imbibe, from every ill, peace, purity and gentleness.
* * * * *
The two fiery trials through which she had been made to pass, and through which she was yet to pass again and again,—obstruction to the development of her genius, and loneliness of heart,—were the very furnace needed to burn the dross from her gold, till it could fitly image the Heavenly Refiner. By inherited traits, and indiscreet treatment, self-love had early become so excessive that only severest discipline could transmute it to disinterestedness. Pity for her own misfortunes had, indeed, taught her to curb her youthful scorn for mediocrity, and filled her with considerateness and delicate sensibility. Constant experience, too, of the wonderful modes whereby her fate was shaped by overruling mercy, had chastened her love of personal sway, and her passion for a commanding career; and Margaret could humble herself,—did often humble herself,—with an all-resigning contrition, that was most touching to witness in one naturally so haughty. Of this the following letter to a valued friend gives illustration:—
'I ought, I know, to have laid aside my own cares and griefs, been on the alert for intelligence that would gratify you, and written letters such as would have been of use and given pleasure to my wise, tender, ever faithful friend. But no; I first intruded on your happiness with my sorrowful epistles, and then, because you did not seem to understand my position, with sullen petulance I resolved to write no more. Nay, worse; I tried to harden my heart against you, and felt, "If you cannot be all, you shall be nothing."
'It was a bad omen that I lost the locket you gave me, which I had constantly worn. Had that been daily before my eyes, to remind me of all your worth,—of the generosity with which you, a ripe and wise character, received me to the privileges of equal friendship; of the sincerity with which you reproved and the love with which you pardoned my faults; of how much you taught me, and bore with from me,—it would have softened the flint of my heart, and I should have relaxed from my isolation.
'How shall I apologize for feelings which I now recognize as having been so cold, so bitter and unjust? I can only say I have suffered greatly, till the tone of my spirits seems destroyed. Since I have been at leisure to realize how very ill I have been, under what constant pain and many annoyances I have kept myself upright, and how, if I have not done my work, I have learned my lesson to the end, I should be inclined to excuse myself for every fault, except this neglect and ingratitude against friends. Yet, if you can forgive, I will try to forgive myself, and I do think I shall never so deeply sin again.'
Yet, though thus frank to own to herself and to her peers her errors, Margaret cherished a trust in her powers, a confidence in her destiny, and an ideal of her being, place and influence, so lofty as to be extravagant. In the morning-hour and mountain-air of aspiration, her shadow moved before her, of gigantic size, upon the snow-white vapor.
In accordance with her earnest charge, 'Be true as Truth to me,' I could not but expose this propensity to self-delusion; and her answer is her best explanation and defence:—
'I protest against your applying to me, even in your most transient thought, such an epithet as "determined exaggeration." Exaggeration, if you will; but not determined. No; I would have all open to the light, and would let my boughs be pruned, when they grow rank and unfruitful, even if I felt the knife to the quick of my being. Very fain would I have a rational modesty, without self-distrust; and may the knowledge of my failures leaven my soul, and check its intemperance. If you saw me wholly, you would not, I think, feel as you do; for you would recognize the force, that regulates my life and tempers the ardor with an eventual calmness. You would see, too, that the more I take my flight in poetical enthusiasm, the stronger materials I bring back for my nest. Certainly I am nowise yet an angel; but neither am I an utterly weak woman, and far less a cold intellect. God is rarely afar off. Exquisite nature is all around. Life affords vicissitudes enough to try the energies of the human will. I can pray, I can act, I can learn, I can constantly immerse myself in the Divine Beauty. But I also need to love my fellow-men, and to meet the responsive glance of my spiritual kindred.'
Again, she says:—
'I like to hear you express your sense of my defects. The word "arrogance" does not, indeed, appear to me to be just; probably because I do not understand what you mean. But in due time I doubtless shall; for so repeatedly have you used it, that it must stand for something real in my large and rich, yet irregular and unclarified nature. But though I like to hear you, as I say, and think somehow your reproof does me good, by myself, I return to my native bias, and feel as if there was plenty of room in the universe for my faults, and as if I could not spend time in thinking of them, when so many things interest me more. I have no defiance or coldness, however, as to these spiritual facts which I do not know; but I must follow my own law, and bide my time, even if, like Oedipus, I should return a criminal, blind and outcast, to ask aid from the gods. Such possibilities, I confess, give me great awe; for I have more sense than most, of the tragic depths that may open suddenly in the life. Yet, believing in God, anguish cannot be despair, nor guilt perdition. I feel sure that I have never wilfully chosen, and that my life has been docile to such truth as was shown it. In an environment like mine, what may have seemed too lofty or ambitious in my character was absolutely needed to keep the heart from breaking and enthusiasm from extinction.'
Such Egoism as this, though lacking the angel grace of unconsciousness, has a stoical grandeur that commands respect. Indeed, in all that Margaret spoke, wrote, or did, no cynic could detect the taint of meanness. Her elation came not from opium fumes of vanity, inhaled in close chambers of conceit, but from the stimulus of sunshine, fresh breezes, and swift movement upon the winged steed of poesy. Her existence was bright with romantic interest to herself. There was an amplitude and elevation in her aim, which were worthy, as she felt, of human honor and of heavenly aid; and she was buoyed up by a courageous good-will, amidst all evils, that she knew would have been recognized as heroic in the chivalric times, when "every morning brought a noble chance." Neither was her self-regard of an engrossing temper. On the contrary, the sense of personal dignity taught her the worth of the lowliest human being, and her intense desire for harmonious conditions quickened a boundless compassion for the squalid, downcast, and drudging multitude. She aspired to live in majestic fulness of benignant and joyful activity, leaving a track of light with every footstep; and, like the radiant Iduna, bearing to man the golden apples of immortality, she would have made each meeting with her fellows rich with some boon that should never fade, but brighten in bloom forever.
This characteristic self-esteem determined the quality of Margaret's influence, which was singularly penetrating, and most beneficent where most deeply and continuously felt. Chance acquaintance with her, like a breath from the tropics, might have prematurely burst the buds of feeling in sensitive hearts, leaving after blight and barrenness. Natures, small in compass and of fragile substance, might have been distorted and shattered by attempts to mould themselves on her grand model. And in her seeming unchartered impulses,—whose latent law was honorable integrity,—eccentric spirits might have found encouragement for capricious license. Her morbid subjectivity, too, might, by contagion, have affected others with undue self-consciousness. And, finally, even intimate friends might have been tempted, by her flattering love, to exaggerate their own importance, until they recognized that her regard for them was but one niche in a Pantheon at whose every shrine she offered incense. But these ill effects were superficial accidents. The peculiarity of her power was to make all who were in concert with her feel the miracle of existence. She lived herself with such concentrated force in the moments, that she was always effulgent with thought and affection,—with conscience, courage, resource, decision, a penetrating and forecasting wisdom. Hence, to associates, her presence seemed to touch even common scenes and drudging cares with splendor, as when, through the scud of a rain-storm, sunbeams break from serene blue openings, crowning familiar things with sudden glory. By manifold sympathies, yet central unity, she seemed in herself to be a goodly company, and her words and deeds imparted the virtue of a collective life. So tender was her affection, that, like a guardian genius, she made her friends' souls her own, and identified herself with their fortunes; and yet, so pure and high withal was her justice, that, in her recognition of their past success and present claims, there came a summons for fresh endeavor after the perfect. The very thought of her roused manliness to emulate the vigorous freedom, with which one was assured, that wherever placed she was that instant acting; and the mere mention of her name was an inspiration of magnanimity, and faithfulness, and truth.