'"Sincere has been their striving; great their love,"
'is a sufficient apology for any life,' wrote Margaret; and how preeminently were these words descriptive of herself. Hers was indeed
"The equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will, To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
This indomitable aspiration found utterance in the following verses, on
'SUB ROSA CRUX.
'In times of old, as we are told, When men more childlike at the feet Of Jesus sat than now, A chivalry was known, more bold Than ours, and yet of stricter vow, And worship more complete.
'Knights of the Rosy Cross! they bore Its weight within the breast, but wore Without the sign, in glistening ruby bright. The gall and vinegar they drank alone, But to the world at large would only own The wine of faith, sparkling with rosy light.
'They knew the secret of the sacred oil, Which, poured upon the prophet's head, Could keep him wise and pure for aye, Apart from all that might distract or soil; With this their lamps they fed, Which burn in their sepulchral shrines, Unfading night and day.
'The pass-word now is lost To that initiation full and free; Daily we pay the cost Of our slow schooling for divine degree. We know no means to feed an undying lamp, Our lights go out in every wind and damp.
'We wear the cross of Ebony and Gold, Upon a dark back-ground a form of light, A heavenly hope within a bosom cold, A starry promise in a frequent night; And oft the dying lamp must trim again, For we are conscious, thoughtful, striving men.
'Yet be we faithful to this present trust, Clasp to a heart resigned this faithful Must; Though deepest dark our efforts should enfold, Unwearied mine to find the vein of gold; Forget not oft to waft the prayer on high;— The rosy dawn again shall fill the sky.
'And by that lovely light all truth revealed,— The cherished forms, which sad distrust concealed, Transfigured, yet the same, will round us stand, The kindred angels of a faithful band; Ruby and ebon cross then cast aside, No lamp more needed, for the night has died.
'"Be to the best thou knowest ever true," Is all the creed. Then be thy talisman of rosy hue, Or fenced with thorns, that wearing, thou must bleed, Or, gentle pledge of love's prophetic view, The faithful steps it will securely lead.
'Happy are all who reach that distant shore, And bathe in heavenly day; Happiest are those who high the banner bore, To marshal others on the way, Or waited for them, fainting and way-worn, By burthens overborne.'
[Footnote A: This sentence was written before I was aware that Margaret, as will be seen hereafter, had used the same symbol to describe Madame Sand. The first impulse, of course, when I discovered this coincidence, was to strike out the above passage; yet, on second thought, I have retained it, as indicating an actual resemblance between these two grand women. In Margaret, however, the benediction of their noble-hearted sister, Elizabeth Barrett, had already been fulfilled; for she to "woman's claim" had ever joined
"the angel-grace Of a pure genius sanctified from blame."]
[Footnote B: Novalis.]
JOURNALS, LETTERS, &c.
* * * * *
"How much, preventing God, how much. I owe To the defences thou hast round me set! Example, Custom, Fear, Occasion slow,— These scorned bondsmen were my parapet. I dare not peep over this parapet, To gauge with glance the roaring gulf below, The depths of sin to which I had descended, Had not these me against myself defended."
"Di te, finor, chiesto non hai severa Ragione a te; di sua virtu non cade Sospetto in cor conscio a se stesso."
"He that lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend; Eternity mourns that. 'Tis an ill cure For life's worst ills, to have no time to feel them. Where sorrow's held intrusive, and turned out, There wisdom, will not enter, nor true power, Nor aught that dignifies humanity."
"That time of year thou may'st in me behold, When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou seest the twilight of such day, As after sunset fadeth in the west; Which by and by black night doth take away,— Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou seest the glowing of such fire, That on the ashes of his youth doth lie; As the death-bed whereon it must expire, Consumed with that which it was nourished by."
SHAKSPEARE. [Sonnet lxxiii.]
"Aber zufrieden mit stillerem Ruhme, Brechen die Frauen des Augenblick's Blume, Naehren sie sorgsam mit liebendem Fleiss, Freier in ihrem gebundenen Wirken, Reicher als er in des Wissens Bezirken Und in der Dichtung unendlichem Kreiz."
"Not like to like, but like in difference; Yet in the long years liker must they grow,— The man be more of woman, she of man; He gain in sweetness and in moral height, Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world; She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care; More as the double-natured poet each; Till at the last she set herself to man, Like perfect music unto noble words."
* * * * *
Incessant exertion in teaching and writing, added to pecuniary anxieties and domestic cares, had so exhausted Margaret's energy, in 1844, that she felt a craving for fresh interests, and resolved to seek an entire change of scene amid freer fields of action.
'The tax on my mind is such,' she writes,
'and I am so unwell, that I can scarcely keep up the spring of my spirits, and sometimes fear that I cannot go through with the engagements of the winter. But I have never stopped yet in fulfilling what I have undertaken, and hope I shall not be compelled to now. How farcical seems the preparation needed to gain a few moments' life; yet just so the plant works all the year round for a few days' flower.'
But in brighter mood she says, again:—
'I congratulate myself that I persisted, against every persuasion, in doing all I could last winter; for now I am and shall be free from debt, and I look on the position of debtor with a dread worthy of some respectable Dutch burgomaster. My little plans for others, too, have succeeded; our small household is well arranged, and all goes smoothly as a wheel turns round. Mother, moreover, has learned not to be over-anxious when I suffer, so that I am not obliged to suppress my feelings when it is best to yield to them. Thus, having more calmness, I feel often that a sweet serenity is breathed through every trifling duty. I am truly grateful for being enabled to fulfil obligations which to some might seem humble, but which to me are sacred.'
And in mid-summer comes this pleasant picture:—
'Every day, I rose and attended to the many little calls which are always on me, and which have been more of late. Then, about eleven, I would sit down to write, at my window, close to which is the apple-tree, lately full of blossoms, and now of yellow birds. Opposite me was Del Sarto's Madonna; behind me Silenus, holding in his arms the infant Pan. I felt very content with my pen, my daily bouquet, and my yellow birds. About five I would go out and walk till dark; then would arrive my proofs, like crabbed old guardians, coming to tea every night. So passed each day. The 23d of May, my birth-day, about one o'clock, I wrote the last line of my little book;[A] then I went to Mount Auburn, and walked gently among the graves.'
As the brothers had now left college, and had entered or were entering upon professional and commercial life, while the sister was married, and the mother felt calls to visit in turn her scattered children, it was determined to break up the "Home." 'As a family,' Margaret writes,
'we are henceforth to be parted. But though for months I had been preparing for this separation, the last moments were very sad. Such tears are childish tears, I know, and belie a deeper wisdom. It is foolish in me to be so anxious about my family. As I went along, it seemed as if all I did was for God's sake; but if it had been, could I now thus fear? My relations to them are altogether fair, so far as they go. As to their being no more to me than others of my kind, there is surely a mystic thrill betwixt children of one mother, which can never cease to be felt till the soul is quite born anew. The earthly family is the scaffold whereby we build the spiritual one. The glimpses we here obtain of what such relations should be are to me an earnest that the family is of Divine Order, and not a mere school of preparation. And in the state of perfect being which we call Heaven, I am assured that family ties will attain to that glorified beauty of harmonious adaptation, which stellar groups in the pure blue typify.'
Margaret's admirable fidelity, as daughter and sister,—amidst her incessant literary pursuits, and her far-reaching friendships,—can be justly appreciated by those only who were in her confidence; but from the following slight sketches generous hearts can readily infer what was the quality of her home-affections.
'Mother writes from Canton that my dear old grandmother is dead. I regret that you never saw her. She was a picture of primitive piety, as she sat holding the "Saint's Rest" in her hand, with her bowed, trembling figure, and her emphatic nods, and her sweet blue eyes. They were bright to the last, though she was ninety. It is a great loss to mother, who felt a large place warmed in her heart by the fond and grateful love of this aged parent.'
'We cannot be sufficiently grateful for our mother,—so so fair a blossom of the white amaranth; truly to us a mother in this, that we can venerate her piety. Our relations to her have known no jar. Nothing vulgar has sullied them; and in this respect life has been truly domesticated. Indeed, when I compare my lot with others, it seems to have had a more than usual likeness to home; for relations have been as noble as sincerity could make them, and there has been a frequent breath of refined affection, with its sweet courtesies. Mother thanks God in her prayers for "all the acts of mutual love which have been permitted;" and looking back, I see that these have really been many. I do not recognize this, as the days pass, for to my desires life would be such a flower-chain of symbols, that what is done seems very scanty, and the thread shows too much.
'She has just brought me a little bouquet. Her flowers have suffered greatly by my neglect, when I would be engrossed by other things in her absences. But, not to be disgusted or deterred, whenever she can glean one pretty enough, she brings it to me. Here is the bouquet,—a very delicate rose, with its half-blown bud, heliotrope, geranium, lady-pea, heart's-ease; all sweet-scented flowers! Moved by their beauty, I wrote a short note, to which this is the reply. Just like herself![B]
'"I should not love my flowers if they did not put forth all the strength they have, in gratitude for your preserving care, last winter, and your wasted feelings over the unavoidable effects of the frost, that came so unexpectedly to nip their budding beauties. I appreciate all you have done, knowing at what cost any plant must be nourished by one who sows in fields more precious than those opened, in early life, to my culture. One must have grown up with flowers, and found joy and sweetness in them, amidst disagreeable occupations, to take delight in their whole existence as I do. They have long had power to bring me into harmony with the Creator, and to soothe almost any irritation. Therefore I understand your love for these beautiful things, and it gives me real pleasure to procure them for you.
'"You have done everything that the most affectionate and loving daughter could, under all circumstances. My faith in your generous desire to increase my happiness is founded on the knowledge I have gained of your disposition, through your whole life. I should ask your sympathy and aid, whenever it could be available, knowing that you would give it first to me. Waste no thought on neglected duties. I know of none. Let us pursue our appointed paths, aiding each other in rough places; and if I live to need the being led by the hand, I always feel that you will perform this office wisely and tenderly. We shall ever have perfect peace between us. Yours, in all love."'
'It has been, and still is, hard for me to give up the thought of serenity, and freedom from toil and care, for mother, in the evening of a day which has been all one work of disinterested love. But I am now confident that she will learn from every trial its lesson; and if I cannot be her protector, I can be at least her counsellor and soother.'
From the less private parts of Margaret's correspondence with the younger members of the family, some passages may be selected, as attesting her quick and penetrating sympathy, her strict truth, and influential wisdom. They may be fitly prefaced by these few but emphatic words from a letter of one of her brothers:—
"I was much impressed, during my childhood, at Groton, with an incident that first disclosed to me the tenderness of Margaret's character. I had always viewed her as a being of different nature from myself, to whose altitudes of intellectual life I had no thought of ascending. She had been absent during the winter, and on her return asked me for some account of my experiences. Supposing that she could not enter into such insignificant details, I was not frank or warm in my confidence, though I gave no reason for my reserve; and the matter had passed from my mind, when our mother told me that Margaret had shed tears, because I seemed to heed so little her sisterly sympathy. 'Tears from one so learned,' thought I, 'for the sake of one so inferior!' Afterwards, my heart opened to her, as to no earthly friend.
"The characteristic trait of Margaret, to which all her talents and acquirements were subordinate, was sympathy,—universal sympathy. She had that large intelligence and magnanimity which enabled her to comprehend the struggles and triumphs of every form of character. Loving all about her, whether rich or poor, rude or cultivated, as equally formed after a Divine Original, with an equal birth-right of immortal growth, she regarded rather their aspirations than their accomplishments. And this was the source of her marvellous influence. Those who had never thought of their own destiny, nor put faith in their own faculties, found in her society not so much a display of her gifts, as surprising discoveries of their own. She revealed to them the truth, that all can be noble by fidelity to the highest self. She appreciated, with delicate tenderness, each one's peculiar trials, and, while never attempting to make the unhappy feel that their miseries were unreal, she pointed out the compensations of their lot, and taught them how to live above misfortune. She had consolation and advice for every one in trouble, and wrote long letters to many friends, at the expense not only of precious time, but of physical pain.
"When now, with the experience of a man, I look back upon her wise guardianship over our childhood, her indefatigable labors for our education, her constant supervision in our family affairs, her minute instructions as to the management of multifarious details, her painful conscientiousness in every duty; and then reflect on her native inaptitude and even disgust for practical affairs, on her sacrifice,—in the very flower of her genius,—of her favorite pursuits, on her incessant drudgery and waste of health, on her patient bearing of burdens, and courageous conflict with difficult circumstances, her character stands before me as heroic."
It was to this brother that Margaret wrote as follows:—
'It is a great pleasure to me to give you this book; both that I have a brother whom I think worthy to value it, and that I can give him something worthy to be valued more and more through all his life. Whatever height we may attain in knowledge, whatever facility in the expression of thoughts, will only enable us to do more justice to what is drawn from so deep a source of faith and intellect, and arrayed, oftentimes, in the fairest hues of nature. Yet it may not be well for a young mind to dwell too near one tuned to so high a pitch as this writer, lest, by trying to come into concord with him, the natural tones be overstrained, and the strings weakened by untimely pressure. Do not attempt, therefore, to read this book through, but keep it with you, and when the spirit is fresh and earnest turn to it. It is full of the tide-marks of great thoughts, but these can be understood by one only who has gained, by experience, some knowledge of these tides. The ancient sages knew how to greet a brother who had consecrated his life to thought, and was never disturbed from his purpose by a lower aim. But it is only to those perfected in purity that Pythagoras can show a golden thigh.
'One word as to your late readings. They came in a timely way to admonish you, amidst mere disciplines, as to the future uses of such disciplines. But systems of philosophy are mere pictures to him, who has not yet learned how to systematize. From an inward opening of your nature these knowledges must begin to be evolved, ere you can apprehend aught beyond their beauty, as revealed in the mind of another. Study in a reverent and patient spirit, blessing the day that leads you the least step onward. Do not ride hobbies. Do not hasten to conclusions. Be not coldly sceptical towards any thinker, neither credulous of his views. A man, whose mind is full of error, may give us the genial sense of truth, as a tropical sun, while it rears crocodiles, yet ripens the wine of the palm-tree.
'To turn again to my Ancients: while they believed in self-reliance with a force little known in our day, they dreaded no pains of initiation, but fitted themselves for intelligent recognition of the truths on which our being is based, by slow gradations of travel, study, speech, silence, bravery, and patience. That so it may be with you, dear ——, hopes your sister and friend.'
A few extracts from family letters written at different times, and under various conditions, may be added.
'I read with great interest the papers you left with me. The picture and the emotions suggested are genuine. The youthful figure, no doubt, stands portress at the gate of Infinite Beauty; yet I would say to one I loved as I do you, do not waste these emotions, nor the occasions which excite them. There is danger of prodigality,—of lavishing the best treasures of the breast on objects that cannot be the permanent ones. It is true, that whatever thought is awakened in the mind becomes truly ours; but it is a great happiness to owe these influences to a cause so proportioned to our strength as to grow with it. I say this merely because I fear that the virginity of heart which I believe essential to feeling a real love, in all its force and purity, may be endangered by too careless excursions into the realms of fancy.'
* * * * *
'It is told us, we should pray, "lead us not into temptation;" and I agree. Yet I think it cannot be, that, with a good disposition, and the means you have had to form your mind and discern a higher standard, your conduct or happiness can be so dependent on circumstances, as you seem to think. I never advised your taking a course which would blunt your finer powers and I do not believe that winning the means of pecuniary independence need do so. I have not found that it does, in my own case, placed at much greater disadvantage than you are. I have never considered, either, that there was any misfortune in your lot. Health, good abilities, and a well-placed youth, form a union of advantages possessed by few, and which leaves you little excuse for fault or failure. And so to your better genius and the instruction of the One Wise, I commend you.'
* * * * *
'It gave me great pleasure to get your last letter, for these little impromptu effusions are the genuine letters. I rejoice that man and nature seem harmonious to you, and that the heart beats in unison with the voices of Spring. May all that is manly, sincere, and pure, in your wishes, be realized! Obliged to live myself without the sanctuary of the central relations, yet feeling I must still not despair, nor fail to profit by the precious gifts of life, while "leaning upon our Father's hand," I still rejoice, if any one can, in the true temper, and with well-founded hopes, secure a greater completeness of earthly existence. This fortune is as likely to be yours, as any one's I know. It seems to me dangerous, however, to meddle with the future. I never lay my hand on it to grasp it with impunity.'
* * * * *
'Of late I have often thought of you with strong yearnings of affection and desire to see you. It would seem to me, also, that I had not devoted myself to you enough, if I were not conscious that by any more attention to the absent than I have paid, I should have missed the needed instructions from the present. And I feel that any bond of true value will endure necessary neglect.'
* * * * *
'There is almost too much of bitter mixed in the cup of life. You say religion is a mere sentiment with you, and that if you are disappointed in your first, your very first hopes and plans, you do not know whether you shall be able to act well. I do not myself see how a reflecting soul can endure the passage through life, except by confidence in a Power that must at last order all things right, and the resolution that it shall not be our own fault if we are not happy,—that we will resolutely deserve to be happy. There are many bright glimpses in life, many still hours; much worthy toil, some deep and noble joys; but, then, there are so many, and such long, intervals, when we are kept from all we want, and must perish but for such thoughts.'
* * * * *
'You need not fear, dear ——, my doing anything to chill you. I am only too glad of the pure happiness you so sweetly describe. I well understand what you say of its invigorating you for every enterprise. I was always sure it would be so with me,—that resigned, I could do well, but happy I could do excellently. Happiness must, with the well-born, expand the generous affections towards all men, and invigorate one to deserve what the gods have given.'
Margaret's charities and courtesies were not limited to her kindred. She fell, at once, into agreeable relations with her domestics, became their confidant, teacher, and helper, studied their characters, consulted their convenience, warned them of their dangers or weaknesses, and rejoiced to gratify their worthy tastes; and, in return, no lady could receive, from servants, more punctual or hearty attendance. She knew how to command and how to persuade, and her sympathy was perfect. They felt the power of her mind, her hardy directness, prompt judgment, decision and fertility of resource, and liked to aid one who knew so well her own wants. 'Around my path,' she writes,
'how much humble love continually flows. These every-day and lowly friends never forget my wishes, never censure my whims, make no demands on me, and load me with gifts and uncomplaining service. Though sometimes forgetful of their claims, I try to make it up when we do meet, and I trust give little pain as I pass along this world.'
Even in extreme cases of debasement she found more to admire than to contemn, and won the confidence of the fallen by manifesting her real respect. "There was in my family," writes a friend, "a very handsome young girl, who had been vicious in her habits, and so enamored of one of her lovers, that when he deserted her, she attempted to drown herself. She was rescued, and some good people were eager to reform her life. While she was engaged in housework for us, Margaret saw her, and one day asked —— if she could not help her. —— replied: 'No! for should I begin to talk with her, I should show my consciousness of her history so much as to be painful.' Margaret was very indignant at this weakness. Said she,
'This girl is taken away, you know, from all her objects of interest, and must feel her life vacant and dreary. Her mind should be employed; she should be made to feel her powers.'
It was plain that if Margaret had been near her, she would have devoted herself at once to her education and reestablishment."
About the time of breaking up their home, Margaret thus expressed, to one of her brothers, her hopes and plans.
'You wish, dear ——, that I was not obliged to toil and spin, but could live, for a while, like the lilies. I wish so, too, for life has fatigued me, my strength is little, and the present state of my mind demands repose and refreshment, that it may ripen some fruit worthy of the long and deep experiences through which I have passed. I do not regret that I have shared the labors and cares of the suffering million, and have acquired a feeling sense of the conditions under which the Divine has appointed the development of the human. Yet, if our family affairs could now be so arranged, that I might be tolerably tranquil for the next six or eight years, I should go out of life better satisfied with the page I have turned in it, than I shall if I must still toil on. A noble career is yet before me, if I can be unimpeded by cares. I have given almost all my young energies to personal relations; but, at present, I feel inclined to impel the general stream of thought. Let my nearest friends also wish that I should now take share in more public life.'
[Footnote A: Summer on the Lakes.]
[Footnote B: The editor must offer as excuse for printing, without permission asked, this note, found carefully preserved among Margaret's papers, that he knew no other way of so truly indicating the relation between mother and daughter. This lily is eloquent of the valley where it grew. W.H.C.]
Seeking thus, at once, expansion and rest in new employments, Margaret determined, in the autumn of 1844, to accept a liberal offer of Messrs. Greeley and McElrath, to become a constant contributor to the New York Tribune. But before entering upon her new duties, she found relaxation, for a few weeks, amid the grand scenery of the Hudson. In October, she writes from Fishkill Landing:—
'Can I find words to tell you how I enjoy being here, encircled by the majestic beauty of these mountains? I felt regret, indeed, in bidding farewell to Boston, so many marks of affection were shown me at the last, and so many friendships, true if imperfect, were left behind. But now I am glad to feel enfranchized in the society of Nature. I have a well-ordered, quiet house to dwell in, with nobody's humors to consult but my own. From my windows I see over the tops of variegated trees the river, with its purple heights beyond, and a few moments' walk brings me to the lovely shore, where sails are gliding continually by, and the huge steamers sweep past with echoing tread, and a train of waves, whose rush relieves the monotone of the ripples. In the country behind us are mountain-paths, and lonely glens, with gurgling streams, and many-voiced water-falls. And over all are spread the gorgeous hues of autumn.'
'"From the brain of the purple mountain" flows forth cheer to my somewhat weary mind. I feel refreshed amid these bolder shapes of nature. Mere gentle and winning landscapes are not enough. How I wish my birth had been cast among the sources of the streams, where the voice of hidden torrents is heard by night, and the eagle soars, and the thunder resounds in prolonged peals, and wide blue shadows fall like brooding wings across the valleys! Amid such scenes, I expand and feel at home. All the fine days I spend among the mountain passes, along the mountain brooks, or beside the stately river. I enjoy just the tranquil happiness I need in communion with this fair grandeur.'
'The boldness, sweetness, and variety here, are just what I like. I could pass the autumn in watching the exquisite changes of light and shade on the heights across the river. How idle to pretend that one could live and write as well amid fallow flat fields! This majesty, this calm splendor, could not but exhilarate the mind, and make it nobly free and plastic.'
These few weeks among the Highlands,—spent mostly in the open air, under October's golden sunshine, the slumberous softness of the Indian summer, or the brilliant, breezy skies of November,—were an important era for Margaret. She had—
"lost the dream of Doing And the other dream of Done; The first spring in the pursuing, The first pride in the Begun, First recoil from incompleteness in the face of what is won."
But she was striving, also, to use her own words, 'to be patient to the very depths of the heart, to expect no hasty realizations, not to make her own plan her law of life, but to learn the law and plan of God.' She adds, however:—
'What heaven it must be to have the happy sense of accomplishing something, and to feel the glow of action without exhausted weariness! Surely the race would have worn itself out by corrosion, if men in all ages had suffered, as we now do, from the consciousness of an unattained Ideal.'
Extracts from journals will best reveal her state of mind.
'I have a dim consciousness of what the terrible experiences must be by which the free poetic element is harmonized with the spirit of religion. In their essence and their end these are one, but rarely in actual existence. I would keep what was pure and noble in my old native freedom, with that consciousness of falling below the best convictions which now binds me to the basest of mankind, and find some new truth that shall reconcile and unite them. Once it seemed to me, that my heart was so capable of goodness, my mind of clearness, that all should acknowledge and claim me as a friend. But now I see that these impulses were prophetic of a yet distant period. The "intensity" of passion, which so often unfits me for life, or, rather, for life here, is to be moderated, not into dulness or languor, but a gentler, steadier energy.'
'The stateliest, strongest vessel must sometimes be brought into port to rent. If she will not submit to be fastened to the dock, stripped of her rigging, and scrutinized by unwashed artificers, she may spring a leak when riding most proudly on the subject wave. Norway fir nor English oak can resist forever the insidious assaults of the seemingly conquered ocean. The man who clears the barnacles from the keel is more essential than he who hoists the pennant on the lofty mast.'
* * * * *
'A week of more suffering than I have had for a long time,—from Sunday to Sunday,—headache night and day! And not only there has been no respite, but it has been fixed in one spot—between the eyebrows!—what does that promise?—till it grew real torture. Then it has been depressing to be able to do so little, when there was so much I had at heart to do. It seems that the black and white guardians, depicted on the Etrurian monuments, and in many a legend, are always fighting for my life. Whenever I have any cherished purpose, either outward obstacles swarm around, which the hand that would be drawing beautiful lines must be always busy in brushing away, or comes this great vulture, and fastens his iron talons on the brain.
'But at such times the soul rises up, like some fair child in whom sleep has been mistaken for death, a living flower in the dark tomb. He casts aside his shrouds and bands, rosy and fresh from the long trance, undismayed, not seeing how to get out, yet sure there is a way.
'I think the black jailer laughs now, hoping that while I want to show that Woman can have the free, full action of intellect, he will prove in my own self that she has not physical force to bear it. Indeed, I am too poor an example, and do wish I was bodily strong and fair. Yet, I will not be turned from the deeper convictions.'
'Driven from home to home, as a Renouncer, I gain the poetry of each. Keys of gold, silver, iron, lead, are in my casket. Though no one loves me as I would be loved, I yet love many well enough to see into their eventual beauty. Meanwhile, I have no fetters, and when one perceives how others are bound in false relations, this surely should be regarded as a privilege. And so varied have been my sympathies, that this isolation will not, I trust, make me cold, ignorant, nor partial. My history presents much superficial, temporary tragedy. The Woman in me kneels and weeps in tender rapture; the Man in me rushes forth, but only to be baffled. Yet the time will come, when, from the union of this tragic king and queen, shall be born a radiant sovereign self.'
* * * * *
'I have quite a desire to try my powers in a narrative poem; but my head teems with plans, of which there will be time for very few only to take form. Milton, it is said, made for himself a list of a hundred subjects for dramas, and the recorder of the fact seems to think this many. I think it very few, so filled is life with innumerable themes.'
* * * * *
'Sunday Evening.—I have employed some hours of the day, with great satisfaction, in copying the Poet's Dreams from the Pentameron of Landor. I do not often have time for such slow, pleasing labor. I have thus imprinted the words in my mind, so that they will often recur in their original beauty.
'I have added three sonnets of Petrarca, all written after the death of Laura. They are among his noblest, all pertinent to the subject, and giving three aspects of that one mood. The last lines of the last sonnet are a fit motto for Boccaccio's dream.
'In copying both together, I find the prose of the Englishman worthy of the verse of the Italian. It is a happiness to see such marble beauty in the halls of a contemporary.
'How fine it is to see the terms "onesto," "gentile," used in their original sense and force.
'Soft, solemn day! Where earth and heaven together seem to meet, I have been blest to greet From human thought a kindred sway; In thought these stood So near the simple Good, That what we nobleness and honor call, They viewed as honesty, the common dower of all.'
Margaret was reading, in these weeks, the Four Books of Confucius, the Desatir, some of Taylor's translations from the Greek, a work on Scandinavian Mythology, Moehler's Symbolism, Fourier's Noveau Monde Industriel, and Landor's Pentameron,—but she says, in her journal,
'No book is good enough to read in the open air, among these mountains; even the best seem partial, civic, limiting, instead of being, as man's voice should be, a tone higher than nature's.'
'This morning came ——'s letter, announcing Sterling's death:—
'"Weep for Dedalus all that is fairest."
'The news was very sad: Sterling did so earnestly wish to do a man's work, and had done so small a portion of his own. This made me feel how fast my years are flitting by, and nothing done. Yet these few beautiful days of leisure I cannot resolve to give at all to work. I want absolute rest, to let the mind lie fallow, to keep my whole nature open to the influx of truth.'
At this very time, however, she was longing to write with full freedom and power. 'Formerly,' she says,
'the pen did not seem to me an instrument capable of expressing the spirit of a life like mine. An enchanter's mirror, on which, with a word, could be made to rise all apparitions of the universe, grouped in new relations; a magic ring, that could transport the wearer, himself invisible, into each region of grandeur or beauty; a divining-rod, to tell where lie the secret fountains of refreshment; a wand, to invoke elemental spirits;—only such as these seemed fit to embody one's thought with sufficient swiftness and force. In earlier years I aspired to wield the sceptre or the lyre; for I loved with wise design and irresistible command to mould many to one purpose, and it seemed all that man could desire to breathe in music and speak in words, the harmonies of the universe. But the golden lyre was not given to my hand, and I am but the prophecy of a poet. Let me use, then, the slow pen. I will make no formal vow to the long-scorned Muse; I assume no garland; I dare not even dedicate myself as a novice; I can promise neither patience nor energy:—but I will court excellence, so far as an humble heart and open eye can merit it, and, if I may gradually grow to some degree of worthiness in this mode of expression, I shall be grateful.'
It was on "Woman in the Nineteenth Century" that Margaret was now testing her power as a writer. 'I have finished the pamphlet,' she writes, 'though the last day it kept spinning out beneath my hand. After taking a long walk, early one most exhilarating morning, I sat down to work, and did not give it the last stroke till near nine in the evening. Then I felt a delightful glow, as if I had put a good deal of my true life in it, and as if, should I go away now, the measure of my foot-print would be left on the earth.'
A few extracts from her manuscripts upon this subject may be of interest, as indicating the spirit and aim with which she wrote:—
'To those of us who hate emphasis and exaggeration, who believe that whatever is good of its kind is good, who shrink from love of excitement and love of sway, who, while ready for duties of many kinds, dislike pledges and bonds to any,—this talk about "Woman's Sphere," "Woman's Mission," and all such phrases as mark the present consciousness of an impending transition from old conventions to greater freedom, are most repulsive. And it demands some valor to lift one's head amidst the shower of public squibs, private sneers, anger, scorn, derision, called out by the demand that women should be put on a par with their brethren, legally and politically; that they should hold property not by permission but by right, and that they should take an active part in all great movements. But though, with Mignon, we are prompted to characterize heaven as the place where
"Sie fragen nicht nach Mann nie Weib,"
yet it is plain that we must face this agitation; and beyond the dull clouds overhead hangs in the horizon Venus, as morning-star, no less fair, though of more melting beauty, than the glorious Jupiter, who shares with her the watch.
* * * * *
'The full, free expression of feeling must be rare, for this book of Bettina Brentano's to produce such an effect. Men who have lived in the society of women all their days, seem never before to have dreamed of their nature; they are filled with wonderment and delight at these revelations, and because they see the woman, fancy her a genius. But in truth her inspiration is nowise extraordinary; and I have letters from various friends, lying unnoticed in my portfolio, which are quite as beautiful. For one, I think that these veins of gold should pass in secret through the earth, inaccessible to all who will not take the trouble to mine for them. I do not like Bettina for publishing her heart, and am ready to repeat to her Serlo's reproof to Aurelia.'
* * * * *
'How terrible must be the tragedy of a woman who awakes to find that she has given herself wholly to a person for whom she is not eternally fitted! I cannot look on marriage as on the other experiments of life: it is the one grand type that should be kept forever sacred. There are two kinds of love experienced by high and rich souls. The first seeks, according to Plato's myth, another half, as being not entire in itself, but needing a kindred nature to unlock its secret chambers of emotion, and to act with quickening influence on all its powers, by full harmony of senses, affections, intellect, will; the second is purely ideal, beholding in its object divine perfection, and delighting in it only in degree as it symbolizes the essential good. But why is not this love steadily directed to the Central Spirit, since in no form, however suggestive in beauty, can God be fully revealed? Love's delusion is owing to one of man's most godlike qualities,—the earnestness with which he would concentrate his whole being, and thus experience the Now of the I Am. Yet the noblest are not long deluded; they love really the Infinite Beauty, though they may still keep before them a human form, as the Isis, who promises hereafter a seat at the golden tables. How high is Michel Angelo's love, for instance, compared with Petrarch's! Petrarch longs, languishes; and it is only after the death of Laura that his muse puts on celestial plumage. But Michel always soars; his love is a stairway to the heavens.
* * * * *
'Might not we women do something in regard to this Texas Annexation project? I have never felt that I had any call to take part in public affairs before; but this is a great moral question, and we have an obvious right to express our convictions. I should like to convene meetings of the women everywhere, and take our stand.
* * * * *
'Had Christendom but been true to its standard, while accommodating its modes of operation to the calls of successive times, woman would now have not only equal power with man,—for of that omnipotent nature will never permit her to be defrauded,—but a chartered power, too fully recognized to be abused. Indeed, all that is wanting is, that man should prove his own freedom by making her free. Let him abandon conventional restriction, as a vestige of that Oriental barbarity which confined woman to a seraglio. Let him trust her entirely, and give her every privilege already acquired for himself,—elective franchise, tenure of property, liberty to speak in public assemblies, &c.
'Nature has pointed out her ordinary sphere by the circumstances of her physical existence. She cannot wander far. If here and there the gods send their missives through women, as through men, let them speak without remonstrance. In no age have men been able wholly to hinder them. A Deborah must always be a spiritual mother in Israel; a Corinna may be excluded from the Olympic games, yet all men will hear her song, and a Pindar sit at her feet. It is man's fault that there ever were Aspasias and Ninons. These exquisite forms were intended for the shrines of virtue.
'Neither need men fear to lose their domestic deities. Woman is born for love, and it is impossible to turn her from seeking it. Men should deserve her love as an inheritance, rather than seize and guard it like a prey. Were they noble, they would strive rather not to be loved too much, and to turn her from idolatry to the true, the only Love. Then, children of one Father, they could not err, nor misconceive one another.
'Society is now so complex, that it is no longer possible to educate woman merely as woman; the tasks which come to her hand are so various, and so large a proportion of women are thrown entirely upon their own resources. I admit that this is not their state of perfect development; but it seems as if heaven, having so long issued its edict in poetry and religion, without securing intelligent obedience, now commanded the world in prose, to take a high and rational view. The lesson reads to me thus:—
'Sex, like rank, wealth, beauty, or talent, is but an accident of birth. As you would not educate a soul to be an aristocrat, so do not to be a woman. A general regard to her usual sphere is dictated in the economy of nature. You need never enforce these provisions rigorously. Achilles had long plied the distaff as a princess, yet, at first sight of a sword, he seized it. So with woman, one hour of love would teach her more of her proper relations, than all your formulas and conventions. Express your views, men, of what you seek in woman: thus best do you give them laws. Learn, women, what you should demand of men: thus only can they become themselves. Turn both from the contemplation of what is merely phenomenal in your existence, to your permanent life as souls. Man, do not prescribe how the Divine shall display itself in woman. Woman, do not expect to see all of God in man. Fellow-pilgrims and helpmeets are ye, Apollo and Diana, twins of one heavenly birth, both beneficent, and both armed. Man, fear not to yield to woman's hand both the quiver and the lyre; for if her urn be filled with light, she will use both to the glory of God. There is but one doctrine for ye both, and that is the doctrine of the SOUL.
Thus, in communion with the serene loveliness of mother-earth, and inspired with memories of Isis and Ceres, of Minerva and Freia, and all the commanding forms beneath which earlier ages symbolized their sense of the Divine Spirit in woman, Margaret cherished visions of the future, and responded with full heart to the poet's prophecy:—
"Then comes the statelier Eden back to men; Then reign the world's great bridals, chaste and calm; Then springs the crowning race of human-kind."
It was but after the usual order of our discordant life,—where Purgatory lies so nigh to Paradise,—that she should thence be summoned to pass a Sunday with the prisoners at Sing-Sing. This was the period when, in fulfilment of the sagacious and humane counsels of Judge Edmonds, a system of kind discipline, combined with education, was in practice at that penitentiary, and when the female department was under the matronly charge of Mrs. E.W. Farnum, aided by Mrs. Johnson, Miss Bruce, and other ladies, who all united sisterly sympathy with energetic firmness. Margaret thus describes her impressions:—
'We arrived on Saturday evening, in such resplendent moonlight, that we might have mistaken the prison for a palace, had we not known but too well what those massive walls contained.
'Sunday morning we attended service in the chapel of the male convicts. They listened with earnest attention, and many were moved to tears. I never felt such sympathy with an audience as when, at the words "Men and brethren," that sea of faces, marked with the scars of every ill, were upturned, and the shell of brutality burst apart at the touch of love. I knew that at least heavenly truth would not be kept out by self-complacence and dependence on good appearances.
'After twelve at noon, all are confined in their cells, that the keepers may have rest from their weekly fatigue. But I was allowed to have some of the women out to talk with, and the interview was very pleasant. They showed the natural aptitude of the sex for refinement. These women were among the so-called worst, and all from the lowest haunts of vice. Yet nothing could have been more decorous than their conduct, while it was also frank; and they showed a sensibility and sense of propriety, which would not have disgraced any society. All passed, indeed, much as in one of my Boston classes. I told them I was writing about Woman; and, as my path had been a favored one, I wanted to gain information from those who had been tempted and afflicted. They seemed to reply in the same spirit in which I asked. Several, however, expressed a wish to see me alone, as they could then say all, which they could not bear to before one another. I shall go there again, and take time for this. It is very gratifying to see the influence these few months of gentle and intelligent treatment have had upon these women; indeed, it is wonderful.'
So much were her sympathies awakened by this visit, that she rejoiced in the opportunity, soon after offered, of passing Christmas with these outcasts, and gladly consented to address the women in their chapel. "There was," says one present, "a most touching tenderness, blended with dignity, in her air and tone, as, seated in the desk, she looked round upon her fallen sisters, and begun: 'To me the pleasant office has been given, of 'wishing you a happy Christmas.' A simultaneous movement of obeisance rippled over the audience, with a murmured 'Thank you;' and a smile was spread upon those sad countenances, like sunrise sparkling on a pool." A few words from this discourse,—which was extemporaneous, but of which she afterward made an imperfect record,—will show the temper in which she spoke:—
'I have passed other Christmas days happily, but never felt as now, how fitting it is that this festival should come among the snows and chills of winter; for, to many of you, I trust, it is the birth-day of a higher life, when the sun of good-will is beginning to return, and the evergreen of hope gives promise of the eternal year. * * *
'Some months ago, we were told of the riot, the license, and defying spirit which made this place so wretched, and the conduct of some now here was such that the world said:—"Women once lost are far worse than abandoned men, and cannot be restored." But, no! It is not so! I know my sex better. It is because women have so much feeling, and such a rooted respect for purity, that they seem so shameless and insolent, when they feel that they have erred and that others think ill of them. They know that even the worst of men would like to see women pure as angels, and when they meet man's look of scorn, the desperate passion that rises is a perverted pride, which might have been their guardian angel. Might have been! Rather let me say, which may be; for the great improvement so rapidly wrought here gives us all warm hopes. * * *
'Be not in haste to leave these walls. Yesterday, one of you, who was praised, replied, that "if she did well she hoped that efforts would be made to have her pardoned." I can feel the monotony and dreariness of your confinement, but I entreat you to believe that for many of you it would be the greatest misfortune to be taken from here too soon. You know, better than I can, the temptations that await you in the world; and you must now perceive how dark is the gulf of sin and sorrow, towards which they would hurry you. Here, you have friends indeed; friends to your better selves; able and ready to help you. Born of unfortunate marriages, inheriting dangerous inclinations, neglected in childhood, with bad habits and bad associates, as certainly must be the case with some of you, how terrible will be the struggle when you leave this shelter! O, be sure that you are fitted to triumph over evil, before you again expose yourselves to it! And, instead of wasting your time and strength in vain wishes, use this opportunity to prepare yourselves for a better course of life, when you are set free. * * *
'When I was here before, I was grieved by hearing several of you say, "I will tell you what you wish to know, if I can be alone with you; but not before the other prisoners; for, if they know my past faults, they will taunt me with them." O, never do that! To taunt the fallen is the part of a fiend. And you! you were meant by Heaven to become angels of sympathy and love. It says in the Scripture: "Their angels do always behold in heaven the face of my Father." So was it with you in your childhood; so is it now. Your angels stand forever there to intercede for you; and to you they call to be gentle and good. Nothing can so grieve and discourage those heavenly friends as when you mock the suffering. It was one of the highest praises of Jesus, "The bruised reed he will not break." Remember that, and never insult, where you cannot aid, a companion. * * *
'Let me warn you earnestly against acting insincerely, and appearing to wish to do right for the sake of approbation I know you must prize the good opinion of your friendly protectors; but do not buy it at the cost of truth. Try to be, not to seem. Only so far as you earnestly wish to do right for the sake of right, can you gain a principle that will sustain you hereafter; and that is what we wish, not fair appearances now. A career can never be happy that begins with falsehood. Be inwardly, outwardly true; then you will never be weakened or hardened by the consciousness of playing a part; and if, hereafter, the unfeeling or thoughtless give you pain, or take the dreadful risk of pushing back a soul emerging from darkness, you will feel the strong support of a good conscience. * * *
'And never be discouraged; never despond; never say, "It is too late." Fear not, even if you relapse again and again. Many of you have much to contend with. Some may be so faulty, by temperament or habit, that they can never on this earth lead a wholly fair and harmonious life, however much they strive. Yet do what you can. If in one act,—for one day,—you can do right, let that live like a point of light in your memory; for if you have done well once you can again. If you fall, do not lie grovelling; but rise upon your feet once more, and struggle bravely on. And if aroused conscience makes you suffer keenly, have patience to bear it. God will not let you suffer more than you need to fit you for his grace. At the very moment of your utmost pain, persist to seek his aid, and it will be given abundantly. Cultivate this spirit of prayer. I do not mean agitation and excitement, but a deep desire for truth, purity, and goodness, and you will daily learn how near He is to every one of 'us.''
These fragments, from a hasty report transcribed when the impressions of the hour had grown faint, give but a shadow of the broad good sense, hearty fellow-feeling, and pathetic hopefulness, which made so effective her truly womanly appeal.
This intercourse with the most unfortunate of her sex, and a desire to learn more of the causes of their degradation, and of the means of restoring them, led Margaret, immediately on reaching New York, to visit the various benevolent institutions, and especially the prisons on Blackwell's Island. And it was while walking among the beds of the lazar-house,—mis-called "hospital,"—which then, to the disgrace of the city, was the cess-pool of its social filth, that an incident occurred, as touching as it was surprising to herself. A woman was pointed out who bore a very bad character, as hardened, sulky, and impenetrable. She was in bad health and rapidly failing. Margaret requested to be left alone with her; and to her question, 'Are you 'willing to die?' the woman answered, "Yes;" adding, with her usual bitterness, "not on religious grounds, though." 'That is well,—to understand yourself,' was Margaret's rejoinder. She then began to talk with her about her health, and her few comforts, until the conversation deepened in interest. At length, as Margaret rose to go, she said: 'Is there not anything I can do 'for you?' The woman replied: "I should be glad if you will pray with me."
The condition of these wretched beings was brought the more home to her heart, as the buildings were directly in sight from Mr. Greeley's house, at Turtle Bay, where Margaret, on her arrival, went to reside. 'Seven hundred females,' she writes,
'are now confined in the Penitentiary opposite this point. We can pass over in a boat in a few minutes. I mean to visit, talk, and read with them. I have always felt great interest in those women who are trampled in the mud to gratify the brute appetites of men, and wished that I might be brought naturally into contact with them. Now I am.'
THE TRIBUNE AND HORACE GREELEY.
It was early in December of 1844 that Margaret took up her abode with Mr. and Mrs. Greeley, in a spacious old wooden mansion, somewhat ruinous, but delightfully situated on the East River, which she thus describes:—
'This place is, to me, entirely charming; it is so completely in the country, and all around is so bold and free. It is two miles or more from the thickly settled parts of New York, but omnibuses and cars give me constant access to the city, and, while I can readily see what and whom I will, I can command time and retirement. Stopping on the Haarlem road, you enter a lane nearly a quarter of a mile long, and going by a small brook and pond that locks in the place, and ascending a slightly rising ground, get sight of the house, which, old-fashioned and of mellow tint, fronts on a flower-garden filled with shrubs, large vines, and trim box borders. On both sides of the house are beautiful trees, standing fair, full-grown, and clear. Passing through a wide hall, you come out upon a piazza, stretching the whole length of the house, where one can walk in all weathers; and thence by a step or two, on a lawn, with picturesque masses of rocks, shrubs and trees, overlooking the East River. Gravel paths lead, by several turns, down the steep bank to the water's edge, where round the rocky point a small bay curves, in which boats are lying. And, owing to the currents, and the set of the tide, the sails glide sidelong, seeming to greet the house as they sweep by. The beauty here, seen by moonlight, is truly transporting. I enjoy it greatly, and the genius loci receives me as to a home.'
Here Margaret remained for a year and more, writing regularly for the Tribune. And how high an estimate this prolonged and near acquaintance led her to form for its Editor, will appear from a few passages in her letters:—
'Mr. Greeley is a man of genuine excellence, honorable, benevolent, and of an uncorrupted disposition. He is sagacious, and, in his way, of even great abilities. In modes of life and manner he is a man of the people, and of the American people.' And again:—Mr. Greeley is in many ways very interesting for me to know. He teaches me things, which my own influence on those, who have hitherto approached me, has prevented me from learning. In our business and friendly relations, we are on terms of solid good-will and mutual respect. With the exception of my own mother, I think him the most disinterestedly generous person I have ever known.'
And later she writes:—
'You have heard that the Tribune Office was burned to the ground. For a day I thought it must make a difference, but it has served only to increase my admiration for Mr. Greeley's smiling courage. He has really a strong character.'
On the other side, Mr. Greeley thus records his recollections of his friend:—
"My first acquaintance with Margaret Fuller was made through the pages of 'The Dial.' The lofty range and rare ability of that work, and its un-American richness of culture and ripeness of thought, naturally filled the 'fit audience, though few,' with a high estimate of those who were known as its conductors and principal writers. Yet I do not now remember that any article, which strongly impressed me, was recognized as from the pen of its female editor, prior to the appearance of 'The Great Lawsuit,' afterwards matured into the volume more distinctively, yet not quite accurately, entitled 'Woman in the Nineteenth Century.' I think this can hardly have failed to make a deep impression on the mind of every thoughtful reader, as the production of an original, vigorous, and earnest mind. 'Summer on the Lakes,' which appeared some time after that essay, though before its expansion into a book, struck me as less ambitious in its aim, but more graceful and delicate in its execution; and as one of the clearest and most graphic delineations, ever given, of the Great Lakes, of the Prairies, and of the receding barbarism, and the rapidly advancing, but rude, repulsive semi-civilization, which were contending with most unequal forces for the possession of those rich lands. I still consider 'Summer on the Lakes' unequalled, especially in its pictures of the Prairies and of the sunnier aspects of Pioneer life.
"Yet, it was the suggestion of Mrs. Greeley,—who had spent some weeks of successive seasons in or near Boston, and who had there made the personal acquaintance of Miss Fuller, and formed a very high estimate and warm attachment for her,—that induced me, in the autumn of 1844, to offer her terms, which were accepted, for her assistance in the literary department of the Tribune. A home in my family was included in the stipulation. I was myself barely acquainted with her, when she thus came to reside with us, and I did not fully appreciate her nobler qualities for some months afterward. Though we were members of the same household, we scarcely met save at breakfast; and my time and thoughts were absorbed in duties and cares, which left me little leisure or inclination for the amenities of social intercourse. Fortune seemed to delight in placing us two in relations of friendly antagonism,—or rather, to develop all possible contrasts in our ideas and social habits. She was naturally inclined to luxury and a good appearance before the world. My pride, if I had any, delighted in bare walls and rugged fare. She was addicted to strong tea and coffee, both which I rejected and contemned, even in the most homoeopathic dilutions: while, my general health being sound, and hers sadly impaired, I could not fail to find in her dietetic habits the causes of her almost habitual illness; and once, while we were still barely acquainted, when she came to the breakfast-table with a very severe headache, I was tempted to attribute it to her strong potations of the Chinese leaf the night before. She told me quite frankly that she 'declined being lectured on the food or beverage she saw fit to take;' which was but reasonable in one who had arrived at her maturity of intellect and fixedness of habits. So the subject was thenceforth tacitly avoided between us; but, though words were suppressed, looks and involuntary gestures could not so well be; and an utter divergency of views on this and kindred themes created a perceptible distance between us.
"Her earlier contributions to the Tribune were not her best, and I did not at first prize her aid so highly as I afterwards learned to do. She wrote always freshly, vigorously, but not always clearly; for her full and intimate acquaintance with continental literature, especially German, seemed to have marred her felicity and readiness of expression in her mother tongue. While I never met another woman who conversed more freely or lucidly, the attempt to commit her thoughts to paper seemed to induce a singular embarrassment and hesitation. She could write only when in the vein; and this needed often to be waited for through several days, while the occasion sometimes required an immediate utterance. The new book must be reviewed before other journals had thoroughly dissected and discussed it, else the ablest critique would command no general attention, and perhaps be, by the greater number, unread. That the writer should wait the flow of inspiration, or at least the recurrence of elasticity of spirits and relative health of body, will not seem unreasonable to the general reader; but to the inveterate hack-horse of the daily press, accustomed to write at any time, on any subject, and with a rapidity limited only by the physical ability to form the requisite pen-strokes, the notion of waiting for a brighter day, or a happier frame of mind, appears fantastic and absurd. He would as soon think of waiting for a change in the moon. Hence, while I realized that her contributions evinced rare intellectual wealth and force, I did not value them as I should have done had they been written more fluently and promptly. They often seemed to make their appearance 'a day after the fair.'
"One other point of tacit antagonism between us may as well be noted. Margaret was always a most earnest, devoted champion of the Emancipation of Women, from their past and present condition of inferiority, to an independence on Men. She demanded for them the fullest recognition of Social and Political Equality with the rougher sex; the freest access to all stations, professions, employments, which are open to any. To this demand I heartily acceded. It seemed to me, however, that her clear perceptions of abstract right were often overborne, in practice, by the influence of education and habit; that while she demanded absolute equality for Woman, she exacted a deference and courtesy from men to women, as women, which was entirely inconsistent with that requirement. In my view, the equalizing theory can be enforced only by ignoring the habitual discrimination of men and women, as forming separate classes, and regarding all alike as simply persons,—as human beings. So long as a lady shall deem herself in need of some gentleman's arm to conduct her properly out of a dining or ball-room,—so long as she shall consider it dangerous or unbecoming to walk half a mile alone by night,—I cannot see how the 'Woman's Rights' theory is ever to be anything more than a logically defensible abstraction. In this view Margaret did not at all concur, and the diversity was the incitement to much perfectly good-natured, but nevertheless sharpish sparring between us. Whenever she said or did anything implying the usual demand of Woman on the courtesy and protection of Manhood, I was apt, before complying, to look her in the face and exclaim with marked emphasis,—quoting from her 'Woman in the Nineteenth Century,'—'LET THEM BE SEA-CAPTAINS IF THEY WILL!' Of course, this was given and received as raillery, but it did not tend to ripen our intimacy or quicken my esteem into admiration. Though no unkind word ever passed between us, nor any approach to one, yet we two dwelt for months under the same roof, as scarcely more than acquaintances, meeting once a day at a common board, and having certain business relations with each other. Personally, I regarded her rather as my wife's cherished friend than as my own, possessing many lofty qualities and some prominent weaknesses, and a good deal spoiled by the unmeasured flattery of her little circle of inordinate admirers. For myself, burning no incense on any human shrine, I half-consciously resolved to 'keep my eye beam clear,' and escape the fascination which she seemed to exert over the eminent and cultivated persons, mainly women, who came to our out-of-the-way dwelling to visit her, and who seemed generally to regard her with a strangely Oriental adoration.
"But as time wore on, and I became inevitably better and better acquainted with her, I found myself drawn, almost irresistibly, into the general current. I found that her faults and weaknesses were all superficial and obvious to the most casual, if undazzled, observer. They rather dwindled than expanded upon a fuller knowledge; or rather, took on new and brighter aspects in the light of her radiant and lofty soul. I learned to know her as a most fearless and unselfish champion of Truth and Human Good at all hazards, ready to be their standard-bearer through danger and obloquy, and, if need be, their martyr. I think few have more keenly appreciated the material goods of life,—Rank, Riches, Power, Luxury, Enjoyment; but I know none who would have more cheerfully surrendered them all, if the well-being of our Race could thereby have been promoted. I have never met another in whom the inspiring hope of Immortality was so strengthened into profoundest conviction. She did not believe in our future and unending existence,—she knew it, and lived ever in the broad glare of its morning twilight. With a limited income and liberal wants, she was yet generous beyond the bounds of reason. Had the gold of California been all her own, she would have disbursed nine tenths of it in eager and well-directed efforts to stay, or at least diminish, the flood of human misery. And it is but fair to state, that the liberality she evinced was fully paralleled by the liberality she experienced at the hands of others. Had she needed thousands, and made her wants known, she had friends who would have cheerfully supplied her. I think few persons, in their pecuniary dealings, have experienced and evinced more of the better qualities of human nature than Margaret Fuller. She seemed to inspire those who approached her with that generosity which was a part of her nature.
"Of her writings I do not purpose to speak critically. I think most of her contributions to the Tribune, while she remained with us, were characterized by a directness, terseness, and practicality, which are wanting in some of her earlier productions. Good judges have confirmed my own opinion, that, while her essays in the Dial are more elaborate and ambitious, her reviews in the Tribune are far better adapted to win the favor and sway the judgment of the great majority of readers. But, one characteristic of her writings I feel bound to commend,—their absolute truthfulness. She never asked how this would sound, nor whether that would do, nor what would be the effect of saying anything; but simply, 'Is it the truth? Is it such as the public should know?' And if her judgment answered, 'Yes,' she uttered it; no matter what turmoil it might excite, nor what odium it might draw down on her own head. Perfect conscientiousness was an unfailing characteristic of her literary efforts. Even the severest of her critiques,—that on Longfellow's Poems,—for which an impulse in personal pique has been alleged, I happen with certainty to know had no such origin. When I first handed her the book to review, she excused herself, assigning the wide divergence of her views of Poetry from those of the author and his school, as her reason. She thus induced me to attempt the task of reviewing it myself. But day after day sped by, and I could find no hour that was not absolutely required for the performance of some duty that would not be put off, nor turned over to another. At length I carried the book back to her in utter despair of ever finding an hour in which even to look through it; and, at my renewed and earnest request, she reluctantly undertook its discussion. The statement of these facts is but an act of justice to her memory.
"Profoundly religious,—though her creed was, at once, very broad and very short, with a genuine love for inferiors in social position, whom she was habitually studying, by her counsel and teachings, to elevate and improve,—she won the confidence and affection of those who attracted her, by unbounded sympathy and trust. She probably knew the cherished secrets of more hearts than any one else, because she freely imparted her own. With a full share both of intellectual and of family pride, she preeminently recognized and responded to the essential brotherhood of all human kind, and needed but to know that a fellow-being required her counsel or assistance, to render her, riot merely willing, but eager to impart it. Loving ease, luxury, and the world's good opinion, she stood ready to renounce them all, at the call of pity or of duty. I think no one, not radically averse to the whole system of domestic servitude, would have treated servants, of whatever class, with such uniform and thoughtful consideration,—a regard which wholly merged their factitious condition in their antecedent and permanent humanity. I think few servants ever lived weeks with her, who were not dignified and lastingly benefited by her influence and her counsels. They might be at first repelled, by what seemed her too stately manner and exacting disposition, but they soon learned to esteem and love her.
"I have known few women, and scarcely another maiden, who had the heart and the courage to speak with such frank compassion, in mixed circles, of the most degraded and outcast portion of the sex. The contemplation of their treatment, especially by the guilty authors of their ruin, moved her to a calm and mournful indignation, which she did not attempt to suppress nor control. Others were willing to pity and deplore; Margaret was more inclined to vindicate and to redeem. She did not hesitate to avow that on meeting some of these abused, unhappy sisters, she had been surprised to find them scarcely fallen morally below the ordinary standard of Womanhood,—realizing and loathing their debasement; anxious to escape it; and only repelled by the sad consciousness that for them sympathy and society remained only so long as they should persist in the ways of pollution. Those who have read her 'Woman,' may remember some daring comparisons therein suggested between these Pariahs of society and large classes of their respectable sisters; and that was no fitful expression,—no sudden outbreak,—but impelled by her most deliberate convictions. I think, if she had been born to large fortune, a house of refuge for all female outcasts desiring to return to the ways of Virtue, would have been one of her most cherished and first realized conceptions.
"Her love of children was one of her most prominent characteristics. The pleasure she enjoyed in their society was fully counterpoised by that she imparted. To them she was never lofty, nor reserved, nor mystical; for no one had ever a more perfect faculty for entering into their sports, their feelings, their enjoyments. She could narrate almost any story in language level to their capacities, and in a manner calculated to bring out their hearty and often boisterously expressed delight. She possessed marvellous powers of observation and imitation or mimicry; and, had she been attracted to the stage, would have been the first actress America has produced, whether in tragedy or comedy. Her faculty of mimicking was not needed to commend her to the hearts of children, but it had its effect in increasing the fascinations of her genial nature and heartfelt joy in their society. To amuse and instruct them was an achievement for which she would readily forego any personal object; and her intuitive perception of the toys, games, stories, rhymes, &c., best adapted to arrest and enchain their attention, was unsurpassed. Between her and my only child, then living, who was eight months old when she came to us, and something over two years when she sailed for Europe, tendrils of affection gradually intertwined themselves, which I trust Death has not severed, but rather multiplied and strengthened. She became his teacher, playmate, and monitor; and he requited her with a prodigality of love and admiration.
"I shall not soon forget their meeting in my office, after some weeks' separation, just before she left us forever. His mother had brought him in from the country and left him asleep on my sofa, while she was absent making purchases, and he had rolled off and hurt himself in the fall, waking with the shock in a phrensy of anger, just before Margaret, hearing of his arrival, rushed into the office to find him. I was vainly attempting to soothe him as she entered; but he was running from one end to the other of the office, crying passionately, and refusing to be pacified. She hastened to him, in perfect confidence that her endearments would calm the current of his feelings,—that the sound of her well-remembered voice would banish all thought of his pain,—and that another moment would see him restored to gentleness; but, half-wakened, he did not heed her, and probably did not even realize who it was that caught him repeatedly in her arms and tenderly insisted that he should restrain himself. At last she desisted in despair; and, with the bitter tears streaming down her face, observed:—'Pickie, many friends have treated me unkindly, but no one had ever the power to cut me to the heart, as you have!' Being thus let alone, he soon came to himself, and their mutual delight in the meeting was rather heightened by the momentary estrangement.
"They had one more meeting; their last on earth! 'Aunty Margaret' was to embark for Europe on a certain day, and 'Pickie' was brought into the city to bid her farewell. They met this time also at my office, and together we thence repaired to the ferry-boat, on which she was returning to her residence in Brooklyn to complete her preparations for the voyage. There they took a tender and affecting leave of each other. But soon his mother called at the office, on her way to the departing ship, and we were easily persuaded to accompany her thither, and say farewell once more, to the manifest satisfaction of both Margaret and the youngest of her devoted friends. Thus they parted, never to meet again in time. She sent him messages and presents repeatedly from Europe; and he, when somewhat older, dictated a letter in return, which was joyfully received and acknowledged. When the mother of our great-souled friend spent some days with us nearly two years afterward, 'Pickie' talked to her often and lovingly of 'Aunty Margaret,' proposing that they two should 'take a boat and go over and see her,'—for, to his infantile conception, the low coast of Long Island, visible just across the East River, was that Europe to which she had sailed, and where she was unaccountably detained so long. Alas! a far longer and more adventurous journey was required to reunite those loving souls! The 12th of July, 1849, saw him stricken down, from health to death, by the relentless cholera; and my letter, announcing that calamity, drew from her a burst of passionate sorrow, such as hardly any bereavement but the loss of a very near relative could have impelled. Another year had just ended, when a calamity, equally sudden, bereft a wide circle of her likewise, with her husband and infant son. Little did I fear, when I bade her a confident Good-by, on the deck of her outward-bound ship, that the sea would close over her earthly remains, ere we should meet again; far less that the light of my eyes and the cynosure of my hopes, who then bade her a tenderer and sadder farewell, would precede her on the dim pathway to that 'Father's house,' whence is no returning! Ah, well! God is above all, and gracious alike in what he conceals and what he discloses;—benignant and bounteous, as well when he reclaims as when he bestows. In a few years, at farthest, our loved and lost ones will welcome us to their home."
Favorably as Mr. Greeley speaks of Margaret's articles in the Tribune, it is yet true that she never brought her full power to bear upon them; partly because she was too much exhausted by previous over-work, partly because it hindered her free action to aim at popular effect. Her own estimate of them is thus expressed:—
'I go on very moderately, for my strength is not great, and I am connected with one who is anxious that I should not overtask it. Body and mind, I have long required rest and mere amusement, and now obey Nature as much as I can. If she pleases to restore me to an energetic state, she will by-and-by; if not, I can only hope this world will not turn me out of doors too abruptly. I value my present position very much, as enabling me to speak effectually some right words to a large circle; and, while I can do so, am content.'
Again she says,—
'I am pleased with your sympathy about the Tribune, for I do not find much among my old friends. They think I ought to produce something excellent, while I am satisfied to aid in the great work of popular education. I never regarded literature merely as a collection of exquisite products, but rather as a means of mutual interpretation. Feeling that many are reached and in some degree helped, the thoughts of every day seem worth noting, though in a form that does not inspire me.'
The most valuable of her contributions, according to her own judgment, were the Criticisms on Contemporary Authors in Europe and America. A few of these were revised in the spring of 1846, and, in connection with some of her best articles selected from the Dial, Western Messenger, American Monthly, &c., appeared in two volumes of Wiley and Putnam's Library of American Books, under the title of PAPERS ON ART AND LITERATURE.
Heralded by her reputation, as a scholar, writer, and talker, and brought continually before the public by her articles in the Tribune, Margaret found a circle of acquaintance opening before her, as wide, various, and rich, as time and inclination permitted her to know. Persons sought her in her country retreat, attracted alike by idle curiosity, desire for aid, and respectful sympathy. She visited freely in several interesting families in New York and Brooklyn: occasionally accepted invitations to evening parties, and often met, at the somewhat celebrated soirees of Miss Lynch, the assembled authors, artists, critics, wits, and dilettanti of New York. As was inevitable, also, for one of such powerful magnetic influence, liberal soul and broad judgment, she once again became, as elsewhere she had been, a confidant and counsellor of the tempted and troubled; and her geniality, lively conversation, and ever fresh love, gave her a home in many hearts. But the subdued tone of her spirits at this period led her to prefer seclusion.
Of her own social habits she writes:—
'It is not well to keep entirely apart from the stream of common life; so, though I never go out when busy, nor keep late hours, I find it pleasanter and better to enter somewhat into society. I thus meet with many entertaining acquaintance, and some friends. I can never, indeed, expect, in America, or in this world, to form relations with nobler persons than I have already known; nor can I put my heart into these new ties as into the old ones, though probably it would still respond to commanding excellence. But my present circle satisfies my wants. As to what is called "good society," I am wholly indifferent. I know several women, whom I like very much, and yet more men. I hear good music, which answers my social desires better than any other intercourse can; and I love four or five interesting children, in whom I always find more genuine sympathy than in their elders.'
Of the impression produced by Margaret on those who were but slightly acquainted with her, some notion may be formed from the following sketch:—
"In general society, she commanded respect rather than admiration All persons were curious to see her, and in full rooms her fine head and spiritual expression at once marked her out from the crowd; but the most were repelled by what seemed conceit, pedantry, and a harsh spirit of criticism, while, on her part, she appeared to regard those around her as frivolous, superficial, and conventional. Indeed, I must frankly confess, that we did not meet in pleasant relations, except now and then, when the lifting of a veil, as it were, revealed for a moment the true life of each. Yet I was fond of looking at her from a distance, and defending her when silly people were inclined to cavil at her want of feminine graces. Then I would say, 'I would like to be an artist now, that I might paint, not the care-worn countenance and the uneasy air of one seemingly out of harmony with the scene about her, but the soul that sometimes looks out from under those large lids. Michel Angelo would have made her a Sibyl.' I remember I was surprised to find her height no greater; for her writings had always given me an impression of magnitude. Thus I studied though I avoided her, admitting, the while, proudly and joyously, that she was a woman to reverence. A trifling incident, however, gave me the key to much in her character, of which, before, I had not dreamed. It was one evening, after a Valentine party, where Frances Osgood, Margaret Fuller, and other literary ladies, had attracted some attention, that, as we were in the dressing-room preparing to go home, I heard Margaret sigh deeply. Surprised and moved, I said, 'Why?'—'Alone, as usual,' was her pathetic answer, followed by a few sweet, womanly remarks, touching as they were beautiful. Often, after, I found myself recalling her look and tone, with tears in my eyes; for before I had regarded her as a being cold, and abstracted, if not scornful."
Cold, abstracted, and scornful! About this very time it was that Margaret wrote in her journal:—
'Father, let me not injure my fellows during this period of repression. I feel that when we meet my tones are not so sweet as I would have them. O, let me not wound! I, who know so well how wounds can burn and ache, should not inflict them. Let my touch be light and gentle. Let me keep myself uninvaded, but let me not fail to be kind and tender, when need is. Yet I would not assume an overstrained poetic magnanimity. Help me to do just right, and no more. O, make truth profound and simple in me!'
'The heart bleeds,—faith almost gives way, to see man's seventy years of chrysalis. Is it not too long? Enthusiasm must struggle fiercely to burn clear amid these fogs. In what little, low, dark cells of care and prejudice, without one soaring thought or melodious fancy, do poor mortals—well-intentioned enough, and with religious aspiration too—forever creep. And yet the sun sets to-day as gloriously bright as ever it did on the temples of Athens, and the evening star rises as heavenly pure as it rose on the eye of Dante. O, Father! help me to free my fellows from the conventional bonds whereby their sight is holden. By purity and freedom let me teach them justice.'
And yet again:—
'There comes a consciousness that I have no real hold on life,—no real, permanent connection with any soul. I seem a wandering Intelligence, driven from spot to spot, that I may learn all secrets, and fulfil a circle of knowledge. This thought envelopes me as a cold atmosphere. I 'do not see how I shall go through this destiny. I can, if it is mine; but I do not feel that I can.'
Casual observers mistook Margaret's lofty idealism for personal pride; but thus speaks one who really knew her:—"You come like one of the great powers of nature, harmonizing with all beauty of the soul or of the earth. You cannot be discordant with anything that is true and deep. I thank God for the noble privilege of being recognized by so large, tender, and radiant a soul as thine."
"I go to prove my soul. I see my way, as birds their trackless way. In some time, God's good time, I shall arrive He guides me and the bird. In his good time!"
"One, who, if He be called upon to face Some awful moment, to which Heaven has joined Great issues, good or bad for human kind, Is happy as a lover, and attired With sudden brightness, like a man inspired; And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw."
"Italia! Italia! O tu cui feo la sorte Dono infelice di bellezza, ond' hai Funesta dote d' infiniti guai, Che in fronte scritti per gran doglia porte. Deh, fossi tu men bella, o almen piu forte!"
"Oh, not to guess it at the first. But I did guess it,—that is, I divined, Felt by an instinct how it was;—why else Should I pronounce you free from all that heap Of sins, which had been irredeemable? I felt they were not yours."
"Nests there are many of this very year, Many the nests are, which the winds shall shake, The rains run through and other birds beat down Yours, O Aspasia! rests against the temple Of heavenly love, and, thence inviolate, It shall not fall this winter, nor the next."
"Lift up your heart upon the knees of God, Losing yourself, your smallness and your darkness In His great light, who fills and moves the world, Who hath alone the quiet of perfect motion."
* * * * *
[It has been judged best to let Margaret herself tell the story of her travels. In the spring of 1846, her valued friends, Marcus Spring and lady, of New York, had decided to make a tour in Europe, with their son, and they invited Miss Fuller to accompany them. An arrangement was soon made on such terms as she could accept, and the party sailed from Boston in the "Cambria," on the first of August. The following narrative is made up of letters addressed by her to various correspondents. Some extracts, describing distinguished persons whom she saw, have been borrowed from her letters to the New York Tribune.]
TO MRS. MARGARET FULLER.
Liverpool, Aug. 16, 1846.
My dear Mother:—
The last two days at sea passed well enough, as a number of agreeable persons were introduced to me, and there were several whom I knew before. I enjoyed nothing on the sea; the excessively bracing air so affected me that I could not bear to look at it. The sight of land delighted me. The tall crags, with their breakers and circling sea-birds; then the green fields, how glad! We had a very fine day to come ashore, and made the shortest passage ever known. The stewardess said, "Any one who complained this time tempted the Almighty." I did not complain, but I could hardly have borne another day. I had no appetite; but am now making up for all deficiencies, and feel already a renovation beginning from the voyage; and, still more, from freedom and entire change of scene.
We came here Wednesday, at noon; next day we went to Manchester; the following day to Chester; returning here Saturday evening.
On Sunday we went to hear James Martineau; were introduced to him, and other leading persons. The next day and evening I passed in the society of very pleasant people, who have made every exertion to give me the means of seeing and learning; but they have used up all my strength.
As soon as I reached England, I found how right we were in supposing there was elsewhere a greater range of interesting character among the men, than with us. I do not find, indeed, any so valuable as three or four among the most marked we have known; but many that are strongly individual, and have a fund of hidden life.
In Westmoreland, I knew, and have since been seeing in London, a man, such as would interest you a good deal; Mr. Atkinson. He is sometimes called the "prince of the English mesmerisers;" and he has the fine instinctive nature you may suppose from that. He is a man of about thirty; in the fulness of his powers; tall, and finely formed, with a head for Leonardo to paint; mild and composed, but powerful and sagacious; he does not think, but perceives and acts. He is intimate with artists, having studied architecture himself as a profession; but has some fortune on which he lives. Sometimes stationary and acting in the affairs of other men; sometimes wandering about the world and learning; he seems bound by no tie, yet looks as if he had relatives in every place.
I saw, also, a man,—an artist,—severe and antique in his spirit; he seemed burdened by the sorrows of aspiration; yet very calm, as secure in the justice of fate. What he does is bad, but full of a great desire. His name is David Scott. I saw another,—a pupil of De la Roche,—very handsome, and full of a voluptuous enjoyment of nature: him I liked a little in a different way.
By far the most beauteous person I have seen is Joseph Mazzini. If you ever see Saunders' "People's Journal," you can read articles by him that will give you some notion of his mind, especially one on his friends, headed "Italian Martyrs." He is one in whom holiness has purified, but somewhat dwarfed the man.
* * * * *
Our visit to Mr. Wordsworth was fortunate. He is seventy-six; but his is a florid, fair old age. He walked with us to all his haunts about the house. Its situation is beautiful, and the "Rydalian Laurels" are magnificent. Still, I saw abodes among the hills that I should have preferred for Wordsworth; more wild and still more romantic. The fresh and lovely Rydal Mount seems merely the retirement of a gentleman, rather than the haunt of a poet. He showed his benignity of disposition in several little things, especially in his attentions to a young boy we had with us. This boy had left the circus, exhibiting its feats of horsemanship, in Ambleside, "for that day only," at his own desire to see Wordsworth; and I feared he would be dissatisfied, as I know I should have been at his age, if, when called to see a poet, I had found no Apollo flaming with youthful glory, laurel-crowned, and lyre in hand; but, instead, a reverend old man clothed in black, and walking with cautious step along the level garden-path. However, he was not disappointed; and Wordsworth, in his turn, seemed to feel and prize a congenial nature in this child.
Taking us into the house, he showed us the picture of his sister, repeating with much expression some lines of hers, and those so famous of his about her, beginning "Five years," &c.; also, his own picture, by Inman, of whom he spoke with esteem. I had asked to see a picture in that room, which has been described in one of the finest of his later poems. A hundred times had I wished to see this picture, yet when seen was not disappointed by it. The light was unfavorable, but it had a light of its own,—
"whose mild gleam Of beauty never ceases to enrich The common light."
Mr. Wordsworth is fond of the hollyhock; a partiality scarcely deserved by the flower, but which marks the simplicity of his tastes. He had made a long avenue of them, of all colors, from the crimson brown to rose, straw-color, and white, and pleased himself with having made proselytes to a liking for them, among his neighbors.
I never have seen such magnificent fuchsias as at Ambleside, and there was one to be seen in every cottage-yard. They are no longer here under the shelter of the green-house, as with us, and as they used to be in England. The plant, from its grace and finished elegance, being a great favorite of mine, I should like to see it as frequently and of as luxuriant growth at home, and asked their mode of culture, which I here mark down for the benefit of all who may be interested. Make a bed of bog-earth and sand; put down slips of the fuchsia, and give them a great deal of water; this is all they need. People leave them out here in winter, but perhaps they would not bear the cold of our Januaries.
Mr. Wordsworth spoke with more liberality than we expected of the recent measures about the Corn-laws, saying that "the principle was certainly right, though whether existing interests had been as carefully attended to as was right, he was not prepared to say," &c. His neighbors were pleased to hear of his speaking thus mildly, and hailed it as a sign that he was opening his mind to more light on these subjects. They lament that his habits of seclusion keep him ignorant of the real wants of England and the world. Living in this region, which is cultivated by small proprietors, where there is little poverty, vice, or misery, he hears not the voice which cries so loudly from other parts of England, and will not be stilled by sweet, poetic suasion, or philosophy, for it is the cry of men in the jaws of destruction.