"Sometimes when I read the Bible, it seems to be wholly grounded on the idea that the sin of man is astonishing, inexcusable, and without palliation or cause, and the atonement is spoken of as such a wonderful and undeserved mercy that I am filled with amazement. Yet if I give up the Bible I gain nothing, for the providence of God in nature is just as full of mystery, and of the two I think that the Bible, with all its difficulties, is preferable to being without it; for the Bible holds out the hope that in a future world all shall be made plain. . . . So you see I am, as Mr. Hawes says, 'on the waves,' and all I can do is to take the word of God that He does do right and there I rest."
The following summer, in July, she writes to Edward: "I have never been so happy as this summer. I began it in more suffering than I ever before have felt, but there is One whom I daily thank for all that suffering, since I hope that it has brought me at last to rest entirely in Him. I do hope that my long, long course of wandering and darkness and unhappiness is over, and that I have found in Him who died for me all, and more than all, I could desire. Oh, Edward, you can feel as I do; you can speak of Him! There are few, very few, who can. Christians in general do not seem to look to Him as their best friend, or realize anything of his unutterable love. They speak with a cold, vague, reverential awe, but do not speak as if in the habit of close and near communion; as if they confided to Him every joy and sorrow and constantly looked to Him for direction and guidance. I cannot express to you, my brother, I cannot tell you, how that Saviour appears to me. To bear with one so imperfect, so weak, so inconsistent, as myself, implied long suffering and patience more than words can express. I love most to look on Christ as my teacher, as one who, knowing the utmost of my sinfulness, my waywardness, my folly, can still have patience; can reform, purify, and daily make me more like himself."
So, after four years of struggling and suffering, she returns to the place where she started from as a child of thirteen. It has been like watching a ship with straining masts and storm-beaten sails, buffeted by the waves, making for the harbor, and coming at last to quiet anchorage. There have been, of course, times of darkness and depression, but never any permanent loss of the religious trustfulness and peace of mind indicated by this letter.
The next three years were passed partly in Boston, and partly in Guilford and Hartford. Writing of this period of her life to the Rev. Charles Beecher, she says:—-
My Dear Brother:—-The looking over of father's letters in the period of his Boston life brings forcibly to my mind many recollections. At this time I was more with him, and associated in companionship of thought and feeling for a longer period than any other of my experience.
In the summer of 1832 she writes to Miss May, revealing her spiritual and intellectual life in a degree unusual, even for her.
"After the disquisition on myself above cited, you will be prepared to understand the changes through which this wonderful ego et me ipse has passed.
"The amount of the matter has been, as this inner world of mine has become worn out and untenable, I have at last concluded to come out of it and live in the external one, and, as F——— S——— once advised me, to give up the pernicious habit of meditation to the first Methodist minister that would take it, and try to mix in society somewhat as another person would.
"'Horas non numero nisi serenas.' Uncle Samuel, who sits by me, has just been reading the above motto, the inscription on a sun-dial in Venice. It strikes me as having a distant relationship to what I was going to say. I have come to a firm resolution to count no hours but unclouded ones, and to let all others slip out of my memory and reckoning as quickly as possible. . . .
"I am trying to cultivate a general spirit of kindliness towards everybody. Instead of shrinking into a corner to notice how other people behave, I am holding out my hand to the right and to the left, and forming casual or incidental acquaintances with all who will be acquainted with me. In this way I find society full of interest and pleasure—a pleasure which pleaseth me more because it is not old and worn out. From these friendships I expect little; therefore generally receive more than I expect. From past friendships I have expected everything, and must of necessity have been disappointed. The kind words and looks and smiles I call forth by looking and smiling are not much by themselves, but they form a very pretty flower border to the way of life. They embellish the day or the hour as it passes, and when they fade they only do just as you expected they would. This kind of pleasure in acquaintanceship is new to me. I never tried it before. When I used to meet persons, the first inquiry was, 'Have they such and such a character, or have they anything that might possibly be of use or harm to me?'"
It is striking, the degree of interest a letter had for her.
"Your long letter came this morning. It revived much in my heart. Just think how glad I must have been this morning to hear from you. I was glad. . . . I thought of it through all the vexations of school this morning. . . . I have a letter at home; and when I came home from school, I went leisurely over it.
"This evening I have spent in a little social party,—a dozen or so,— and I have been zealously talking all the evening. When I came to my cold, lonely room, there was your letter lying on the dressing-table. It touched me with a sort of painful pleasure, for it seems to me uncertain, improbable, that I shall ever return and find you as I have found your letter. Oh, my dear G——-, it is scarcely well to love friends thus. The greater part that I see cannot move me deeply. They are present, and I enjoy them; they pass and I forget them. But those that I love differently; those that I LOVE; and oh, how much that word means! I feel sadly about them. They may change; they must die; they are separated from me, and I ask myself why should I wish to love with all the pains and penalties of such conditions? I check myself when expressing feelings like this, so much has been said of it by the sentimental, who talk what they could not have felt. But it is so deeply, sincerely so in me, that sometimes it will overflow. Well, there is a heaven,—a heaven,—a world of love, and love after all is the life-blood, the existence, the all in all of mind."
This is the key to her whole life. She was impelled by love, and did what she did, and wrote what she did, under the impulse of love. Never could "Uncle Tom's Cabin" or "The Minister's Wooing" have been written, unless by one to whom love was the "life-blood of existence, the all in all of mind." Years afterwards Mrs. Browning was to express this same thought in the language of poetry.
"But when a soul by choice and conscience doth Throw out her full force on another soul, The conscience and the concentration both Make mere life love. For life in perfect whole And aim consummated is love in sooth, As nature's magnet heat rounds pole with pole."
DR. BEECHER CALLED TO CINCINNATI.—THE WESTWARD JOURNEY.—FIRST LETTER FROM HOME.—DESCRIPTION OF WALNUT HILLS.—STARTING A NEW SCHOOL.— INWARD GLIMPSES.—THE SEMI-COLON CLUB.—EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF SLAVERY. —A JOURNEY TO THE EAST.—THOUGHTS AROUSED BY FIRST VISIT TO NIAGARA.— MARRIAGE TO PROFESSOR STOWE.
IN 1832, after having been settled for six years over the Hanover Street Church in Boston, Dr. Beecher received and finally accepted a most urgent call to become President of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. This institution had been chartered in 1829, and in 1831 funds to the amount of nearly $70,000 had been promised to it provided that Dr. Beecher accepted the presidency. It was hard for this New England family to sever the ties of a lifetime and enter on so long a journey to the far distant West of those days; but being fully persuaded that their duty lay in this direction, they undertook to perform it cheerfully and willingly. With Dr. Beecher and his wife were to go Miss Catherine Beecher, who had conceived the scheme of founding in Cincinnati, then considered the capital of the West, a female college, and Harriet, who was to act as her principal assistant. In the party were also George, who was to enter Lane as a student, Isabella, James, the youngest son, and Miss Esther Beecher, the "Aunt Esther" of the children.
Before making his final decision, Dr. Beecher, accompanied by his daughter Catherine, visited Cincinnati to take a general survey of their proposed battlefield, and their impressions of the city are given in the following letter written by the latter to Harriet in Boston:—
"Here we are at last at our journey's end, alive and well. We are staying with Uncle Samuel (Foote), whose establishment I will try and sketch for you. It is on a height in the upper part of the city, and commands a fine view of the whole of the lower town. The city does not impress me as being so very new. It is true everything looks neat and clean, but it is compact, and many of the houses are of brick and very handsomely built. The streets run at right angles to each other, and are wide and well paved. We reached here in three days from Wheeling, and soon felt ourselves at home. The next day father and I, with three gentlemen, walked out to Walnut Hills. The country around the city consists of a constant succession and variety of hills of all shapes and sizes, forming an extensive amphitheatre. The site of the seminary is very beautiful and picturesque, though I was disappointed to find that both river and city are hidden by intervening hills. I never saw a place so capable of being rendered a paradise by the improvements of taste as the environs of this city. Walnut Hills are so elevated and cool that people have to leave there to be sick, it is said. The seminary is located on a farm of one hundred and twenty-five acres of fine land, with groves of superb trees around it, about two miles from the city. We have finally decided on the spot where our house shall stand in case we decide to come, and you cannot (where running water or the seashore is wanting) find another more delightful spot for a residence. It is on an eminence, with a grove running up from the back to the very doors, another grove across the street in front, and fine openings through which distant hills and the richest landscapes appear.
"I have become somewhat acquainted with those ladies we shall have the most to do with, and find them intelligent, New England sort of folks. Indeed, this is a New England city in all its habits, and its inhabitants are more than half from New England. The Second Church, which is the best in the city, will give father a unanimous call to be their minister, with the understanding that he will give them what time he can spare from the seminary.
"I know of no place in the world where there is so fair a prospect of finding everything that makes social and domestic life pleasant. Uncle John and Uncle Samuel are just the intelligent, sociable, free, and hospitable sort of folk that everybody likes and everybody feels at home with.
"The folks are very anxious to have a school on our plan set on foot here. We can have fine rooms in the city college building, which is now unoccupied, and everybody is ready to lend a helping hand. As to father, I never saw such a field of usefulness and influence as is offered to him here."
This, then, was the field of labor in which the next eighteen years of the life of Mrs. Stowe were to be passed. At this time her sister Mary was married and living in Hartford, her brothers Henry Ward and Charles were in college, while William and Edward, already licensed to preach, were preparing to follow their father to the West.
Mr. Beecher's preliminary journey to Cincinnati was undertaken in the early spring of 1832, but he was not ready to remove his family until October of that year. An interesting account of this westward journey is given by Mrs. Stowe in a letter sent back to Hartford from Cincinnati, as follows:—
"Well, my dear, the great sheet is out and the letter is begun. All our family are here (in New York), and in good health.
"Father is to perform to-night in the Chatham Theatre! 'positively for the last time this season!' I don't know, I'm sure, as we shall ever get to Pittsburgh. Father is staying here begging money for the Biblical Literature professorship; the incumbent is to be C. Stowe. Last night we had a call from Arthur Tappan and Mr. Eastman. Father begged $2,000 yesterday, and now the good people are praying him to abide certain days, as he succeeds so well. They are talking of sending us off and keeping him here. I really dare not go and see Aunt Esther and mother now; they were in the depths of tribulation before at staying so long, and now,
'In the lowest depths, another deep!'
Father is in high spirits. He is all in his own element,—dipping into books; consulting authorities for his oration; going round here, there, everywhere; begging, borrowing, and spoiling the Egyptians; delighted with past success and confident for the future.
"Wednesday. Still in New York. I believe it would kill me dead to live long in the way I have been doing since I have been here. It is a sort of agreeable delirium. There's only one thing about it, it is too scattering. I begin to be athirst for the waters of quietness."
Writing from Philadelphia, she adds:—
"Well, we did get away from New York at last, but it was through much tribulation. The truckman carried all the family baggage to the wrong wharf, and, after waiting and waiting on board the boat, we were obliged to start without it, George remaining to look it up. Arrived here late Saturday evening,—dull, drizzling weather; poor Aunt Esther in dismay,—not a clean cap to put on,—mother in like state; all of us destitute. We went, half to Dr. Skinner's and half to Mrs. Elmes's: mother, Aunt Esther, father, and James to the former; Kate, Bella, and myself to Mr. Elmes's. They are rich, hospitable folks, and act the part of Gaius in apostolic times. . . . Our trunks came this morning. Father stood and saw them all brought into Dr. Skinner's entry, and then he swung his hat and gave a 'hurrah,' as any man would whose wife had not had a clean cap or ruffle for a week. Father does not succeed very well in opening purses here. Mr. Eastman says, however, that this is not of much consequence. I saw to-day a notice in the 'Philadelphian' about father, setting forth how 'this distinguished brother, with his large family, having torn themselves from the endearing scenes of their home,' etc., etc., 'were going, like Jacob,' etc.,—a very scriptural and appropriate flourish. It is too much after the manner of men, or, as Paul says, speaking 'as a fool.' A number of the pious people of this city are coming here this evening to hold a prayer-meeting with reference to the journey and its object. For this I thank them."
From Downington she writes:—
"Here we all are,—Noah and his wife and his sons and his daughters, with the cattle and creeping things, all dropped down in the front parlor of this tavern, about thirty miles from Philadelphia. If to-day is a fair specimen of our journey, it will be a very pleasant, obliging driver, good roads, good spirits, good dinner, fine scenery, and now and then some 'psalms and hymns and spiritual songs;' for with George on board you may be sure of music of some kind. Moreover, George has provided himself with a quantity of tracts, and he and the children have kept up a regular discharge at all the wayfaring people we encountered. I tell him he is peppering the land with moral influence.
"We are all well; all in good spirits. Just let me give you a peep into our traveling household. Behold us, then, in the front parlor of this country inn, all as much at home as if we were in Boston. Father is sitting opposite to me at this table, reading; Kate is writing a billet-doux to Mary on a sheet like this; Thomas is opposite, writing in a little journal that he keeps; Sister Bell, too, has her little record; George is waiting for a seat that he may produce his paper and write. As for me, among the multitude of my present friends, my heart still makes occasional visits to absent ones,—visits full of pleasure, and full of cause of gratitude to Him who gives us friends. I have thought of you often to-day, my G. We stopped this noon at a substantial Pennsylvania tavern, and among the flowers in the garden was a late monthly honeysuckle like the one at North Guilford. I made a spring for it, but George secured the finest bunch, which he wore in his buttonhole the rest of the noon.
"This afternoon, as we were traveling, we struck up and sang 'Jubilee.' It put me in mind of the time when we used to ride along the rough North Guilford roads and make the air vocal as we went along. Pleasant times those. Those were blue skies, and that was a beautiful lake and noble pine-trees and rocks they were that hung over it. But those we shall look upon 'na mair.'
"Well, my dear, there is a land where we shall not love and leave. Those skies shall never cease to shine, the waters of life we shall never be called upon to leave. We have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come. In such thoughts as these I desire ever to rest, and with such words as these let us 'comfort one another and edify one another.'
"Harrisburg, Sunday evening. Mother, Aunt Esther, George, and the little folks have just gathered into Kate's room, and we have just been singing. Father has gone to preach for Mr. De Witt. To-morrow we expect to travel sixty-two miles, and in two more days shall reach Wheeling; there we shall take the steamboat to Cincinnati."
On the same journey George Beecher writes:—
"We had poor horses in crossing the mountains. Our average rate for the last four days to Wheeling was forty-four miles. The journey, which takes the mail-stage forty-eight hours, took us eight days. At Wheeling we deliberated long whether to go on board a boat for Cincinnati, but the prevalence of the cholera there at last decided us to remain. While at Wheeling father preached eleven times,—nearly every evening,—and gave them the Taylorite heresy on sin and decrees to the highest notch; and what amused me most was to hear him establish it from the Confession of Faith. It went high and dry, however, above all objections, and they were delighted with it, even the old school men, since it had not been christened 'heresy' in their hearing. After remaining in Wheeling eight days, we chartered a stage for Cincinnati, and started next morning.
"At Granville, Ohio, we were invited to stop and attend a protracted meeting. Being in no great hurry to enter Cincinnati till the cholera had left, we consented. We spent the remainder of the week there, and I preached five times and father four. The interest was increasingly deep and solemn each day, and when we left there were forty-five cases of conversion in the town, besides those from the surrounding towns. The people were astonished at the doctrine; said they never saw the truth so plain in their lives."
Although the new-comers were cordially welcomed in Cincinnati, and everything possible was done for their comfort and to make them feel at home, they felt themselves to be strangers in a strange land. Their homesickness and yearnings for New England are set forth by the following extracts from Mrs. Stowe's answer to the first letter they received from Hartford after leaving there:—
My dear Sister (Mary),—The Hartford letter from all and sundry has just arrived, and after cutting all manner of capers expressive of thankfulness, I have skipped three stairs at a time up to the study to begin an answer. My notions of answering letters are according to the literal sense of the word; not waiting six months and then scrawling a lazy reply, but sitting down the moment you have read a letter, and telling, as Dr. Woods says, "How the subject strikes you." I wish I could be clear that the path of duty lay in talking to you this afternoon, but as I find a loud call to consider the heels of George's stockings, I must only write a word or two, and then resume my darning-needle. You don't know how anxiously we all have watched for some intelligence from Hartford. Not a day has passed when I have not been the efficient agent in getting somebody to the post-office, and every day my heart has sunk at the sound of "no letters." I felt a tremor quite sufficient for a lover when I saw your handwriting once more, so you see that in your old age you can excite quite as much emotion as did the admirable Miss Byron in her adoring Sir Charles. I hope the consideration and digestion of this fact will have its due weight in encouraging you to proceed.
The fact of our having received said letter is as yet a state secret, not to be made known till all our family circle "in full assembly meet" at the tea-table. Then what an illumination! "How we shall be edified and fructified," as that old Methodist said. It seems too bad to keep it from mother and Aunt Esther a whole afternoon, but then I have the comfort of thinking that we are consulting for their greatest happiness "on the whole," which is metaphysical benevolence.
So kind Mrs. Parsons stopped in the very midst of her pumpkin pies to think of us? Seems to me I can see her bright, cheerful face now! And then those well known handwritings! We do love our Hartford friends dearly; there can be, I think, no controverting that fact. Kate says that the word love is used in six senses, and I am sure in some one of them they will all come in. Well, good-by for the present.
Evening. Having finished the last hole on George's black vest, I stick in my needle and sit down to be sociable. You don't know how coming away from New England has sentimentalized us all! Never was there such an abundance of meditation on our native land, on the joys of friendship, the pains of separation. Catherine had an alarming paroxysm in Philadelphia which expended itself in "The Emigrant's Farewell." After this was sent off she felt considerably relieved. My symptoms have been of a less acute kind, but, I fear, more enduring. There! the tea-bell rings. Too bad! I was just going to say something bright. Now to take your letter and run! How they will stare when I produce it!
After tea. Well, we have had a fine time. When supper was about half over, Catherine began: "We have a dessert that we have been saving all the afternoon," and then I held up my letter. "See here, this is from Hartford!" I wish you could have seen Aunt Esther's eyes brighten, and mother's pale face all in a smile, and father, as I unfolded the letter and began. Mrs. Parsons's notice of her Thanksgiving predicament caused just a laugh, and then one or two sighs (I told you we were growing sentimental!). We did talk some of keeping it (Thanksgiving), but perhaps we should all have felt something of the text, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" Your praises of Aunt Esther I read twice in an audible voice, as the children made some noise the first time. I think I detected a visible blush, though she found at that time a great deal to do in spreading bread and butter for James, and shuffling his plate; and, indeed, it was rather a vehement attack on her humility, since it gave her at least "angelic perfection," if not "Adamic" (to use Methodist technics). Jamie began his Sunday-school career yesterday. The superintendent asked him how old he was. "I'm four years old now, and when it snows very hard I shall be five," he answered. I have just been trying to make him interpret his meaning; but he says, "Oh, I said so because I could not think of anything else to say." By the by, Mary, speaking of the temptations of cities, I have much solicitude on Jamie's account lest he should form improper intimacies, for yesterday or day before we saw him parading by the house with his arm over the neck of a great hog, apparently on the most amicable terms possible; and the other day he actually got upon the back of one, and rode some distance. So much for allowing these animals to promenade the streets, a particular in which Mrs. Cincinnati has imitated the domestic arrangements of some of her elder sisters, and a very disgusting one it is.
Our family physician is one Dr. Drake, a man of a good deal of science, theory, and reputed skill, but a sort of general mark for the opposition of all the medical cloth of the city. He is a tall, rectangular, perpendicular sort of a body, as stiff as a poker, and enunciates his prescriptions very much as though he were delivering a discourse on the doctrine of election. The other evening he was detained from visiting Kate, and he sent a very polite, ceremonious note containing a prescription, with Dr. D.'s compliments to Miss Beecher, requesting that she would take the inclosed in a little molasses at nine o'clock precisely.
The house we are at present inhabiting is the most inconvenient, ill- arranged, good-for-nothing, and altogether to be execrated affair that ever was put together. It was evidently built without a thought of a winter season. The kitchen is so disposed that it cannot be reached from any part of the house without going out into the air. Mother is actually obliged to put on a bonnet and cloak every time she goes into it. In the house are two parlors with folding doors between them. The back parlor has but one window, which opens on a veranda and has its lower half painted to keep out what little light there is. I need scarcely add that our landlord is an old bachelor and of course acted up to the light he had, though he left little enough of it for his tenants.
During this early Cincinnati life Harriet suffered much from ill- health accompanied by great mental depression; but in spite of both she labored diligently with her sister Catherine in establishing their school. They called it the Western Female Institute, and proposed to conduct it upon the college plan, with a faculty of instructors. As all these things are treated at length in letters written by Mrs. Stowe to her friend, Miss Georgiana May, we cannot do better than turn to them. In May, 1833, she writes:—
"Bishop Purcell visited our school to-day and expressed himself as greatly pleased that we had opened such an one here. He spoke of my poor little geography, [Footnote: This geography was begun by Mrs. Stowe during the summer of 1832, while visiting her brother William at Newport, R. I. It was completed during the winter of 1833, and published by the firm of Corey, Fairbank & Webster, of Cincinnati.] and thanked me for the unprejudiced manner in which I had handled the Catholic question in it. I was of course flattered that he should have known anything of the book.
"How I wish you could see Walnut Hills. It is about two miles from the city, and the road to it is as picturesque as you can imagine a road to be without 'springs that run among the hills.' Every possible variety of hill and vale of beautiful slope, and undulations of land set off by velvet richness of turf and broken up by groves and forests of every outline of foliage, make the scene Arcadian. You might ride over the same road a dozen times a day untired, for the constant variation of view caused by ascending and descending hills relieves you from all tedium. Much of the wooding is beech of a noble growth. The straight, beautiful shafts of these trees as one looks up the cool green recesses of the woods seems as though they might form very proper columns for a Dryad temple. There! Catherine is growling at me for sitting up so late; so 'adieu to music, moonlight, and you.' I meant to tell you an abundance of classical things that I have been thinking to-night, but 'woe's me.'
"Since writing the above my whole time has been taken up in the labor of our new school, or wasted in the fatigue and lassitude following such labor. To-day is Sunday, and I am staying at home because I think it is time to take some efficient means to dissipate the illness and bad feelings of divers kinds that have for some time been growing upon me. At present there is and can be very little system or regularity about me. About half of my time I am scarcely alive, and a great part of the rest the slave and sport of morbid feeling and unreasonable prejudice. I have everything but good health.
"I still rejoice that this letter will find you in good old Connecticut—thrice blessed—'oh, had I the wings of a dove' I would be there too. Give my love to Mary H. I remember well how gently she used to speak to and smile on that forlorn old daddy that boarded at your house one summer. It was associating with her that first put into my head the idea of saying something to people who were not agreeable, and of saying something when I had nothing to say, as is generally the case on such occasions."
Again she writes to the same friend: "Your letter, my dear G., I have just received, and read through three times. Now for my meditations upon it. What a woman of the world you are grown. How good it would be for me to be put into a place which so breaks up and precludes thought. Thought, intense emotional thought, has been my disease. How much good it might do me to be where I could not but be thoughtless. . . .
"Now, Georgiana, let me copy for your delectation a list of matters that I have jotted down for consideration at a teachers' meeting to be held to-morrow night. It runneth as follows. Just hear! 'About quills and paper on the floor; forming classes; drinking in the entry (cold water, mind you); giving leave to speak; recess-bell, etc., etc.' 'You are tired, I see,' says Gilpin, 'so am I,' and I spare you.
"I have just been hearing a class of little girls recite, and telling them a fairy story which I had to spin out as it went along, beginning with 'once upon a time there was,' etc., in the good old-fashioned way of stories.
"Recently I have been reading the life of Madame de Stael and 'Corinne.' I have felt an intense sympathy with many parts of that book, with many parts of her character. But in America feelings vehement and absorbing like hers become still more deep, morbid, and impassioned by the constant habits of self-government which the rigid forms of our society demand. They are repressed, and they burn inwardly till they burn the very soul, leaving only dust and ashes. It seems to me the intensity with which my mind has thought and felt on every subject presented to it has had this effect. It has withered and exhausted it, and though young I have no sympathy with the feelings of youth. All that is enthusiastic, all that is impassioned in admiration of nature, of writing, of character, in devotional thought and emotion, or in the emotions of affection, I have felt with vehement and absorbing intensity,—felt till my mind is exhausted, and seems to be sinking into deadness. Half of my time I am glad to remain in a listless vacancy, to busy myself with trifles, since thought is pain, and emotion is pain."
During the winter of 1833-34 the young school-teacher became so distressed at her own mental listlessness that she made a vigorous effort to throw it off. She forced herself to mingle in society, and, stimulated by the offer of a prize of fifty dollars by Mr. James Hall, editor of the "Western Monthly," a newly established magazine, for the best short story, she entered into the competition. Her story, which was entitled "Uncle Lot," afterwards republished in the "May-flower," was by far the best submitted, and was awarded the prize without hesitation. This success gave a new direction to her thoughts, gave her an insight into her own ability, and so encouraged her that from that time on she devoted most of her leisure moments to writing.
Her literary efforts were further stimulated at this time by the congenial society of the Semi-Colon Club, a little social circle that met on alternate weeks at Mr. Samuel Foote's and Dr. Drake's. The name of the club originated with a roundabout and rather weak bit of logic set forth by one of its promoters. He said: "You know that in Spanish Columbus is called 'Colon.' Now he who discovers a new pleasure is certainly half as great as he who discovers a new continent. Therefore if Colon discovered a continent, we who have discovered in this club a new pleasure should at least be entitled to the name of 'Semi- Colons.'" So Semi-Colons they became and remained for some years.
At some meetings compositions were read, and at others nothing was read, but the time was passed in a general discussion of some interesting topic previously announced. Among the members of the club were Professor Stowe, unsurpassed in Biblical learning; Judge James Hall, editor of the "Western Monthly;" General Edward King; Mrs. Peters, afterwards founder of the Philadelphia School of Design; Miss Catherine Beecher; Mrs. Caroline Lee Hentz; E. P. Cranch; Dr. Drake; S. P. Chase, and many others who afterwards became prominent in their several walks of life.
In one of her letters to Miss May, Mrs. Stowe describes one of her methods for entertaining the members of the Semi-Colon as follows:—
"I am wondering as to what I shall do next. I have been writing a piece to be read next Monday evening at Uncle Sam's soiree (the Semi- Colon). It is a letter purporting to be from Dr. Johnson. I have been stilting about in his style so long that it is a relief to me to come down to the jog of common english. Now I think of it I will just give you a history of my campaign in this circle.
"My first piece was a letter from Bishop Butler, written in his outrageous style of parentheses and foggification. My second a satirical essay on the modern uses of languages. This I shall send to you, as some of the gentlemen, it seems, took a fancy to it and requested leave to put it in the 'Western Magazine,' and so it is in print. It is ascribed to Catherine, or I don't know that I should have let it go. I have no notion of appearing in propria personce.
"The next piece was a satire on certain members who were getting very much into the way of joking on the worn-out subjects of matrimony and old maid and old bachelorism. I therefore wrote a set of legislative enactments purporting to be from the ladies of the society, forbidding all such allusions in future. It made some sport at the time. I try not to be personal, and to be courteous, even in satire.
"But I have written a piece this week that is making me some disquiet. I did not like it that there was so little that was serious and rational about the reading. So I conceived the design of writing a set of letters, and throwing them in, as being the letters of a friend. I wrote a letter this week for the first of the set,—easy, not very sprightly,—describing an imaginary situation, a house in the country, a gentleman and lady, Mr. and Mrs. Howard, as being pious, literary, and agreeable. I threw into the letter a number of little particulars and incidental allusions to give it the air of having been really a letter. I meant thus to give myself an opportunity for the introduction of different subjects and the discussion of different characters in future letters.
"I meant to write on a great number of subjects in future. Cousin Elisabeth, only, was in the secret; Uncle Samuel and Sarah Elliot were not to know.
"Yesterday morning I finished my letter, smoked it to make it look yellow, tore it to make it look old, directed it and scratched out the direction, postmarked it with red ink, sealed it and broke the seal, all this to give credibility to the fact of its being a real letter. Then I inclosed it in an envelope, stating that it was a part of a set which had incidentally fallen into my hands. This envelope was written in a scrawny, scrawly, gentleman's hand.
"I put it into the office in the morning, directed to 'Mrs. Samuel E. Foote,' and then sent word to Sis that it was coming, so that she might be ready to enact the part.
"Well, the deception took. Uncle Sam examined it and pronounced, ex cathedra, that it must have been a real letter. Mr. Greene (the gentleman who reads) declared that it must have come from Mrs. Hall, and elucidated the theory by spelling out the names and dates which I had erased, which, of course, he accommodated to his own tastes. But then, what makes me feel uneasy is that Elisabeth, after reading it, did not seem to be exactly satisfied. She thought it had too much sentiment, too much particularity of incident,—she did not exactly know what. She was afraid that it would be criticised unmercifully. Now Elisabeth has a tact and quickness of perception that I trust to, and her remarks have made me uneasy enough. I am unused to being criticised, and don't know how I shall bear it."
In 1833 Mrs. Stowe first had the subject of slavery brought to her personal notice by taking a trip across the river from Cincinnati into Kentucky in company with Miss Dutton, one of the associate teachers in the Western Institute. They visited an estate that afterwards figured as that of Colonel Shelby in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and here the young authoress first came into personal contact with the negro slaves of the South. In speaking, many years afterwards, of this visit, Miss Dutton said: "Harriet did not seem to notice anything in particular that happened, but sat much of the time as though abstracted in thought. When the negroes did funny things and cut up capers, she did not seem to pay the slightest attention to them. Afterwards, however, in reading 'Uncle Tom,' I recognized scene after scene of that visit portrayed with the most minute fidelity, and knew at once where the material for that portion of the story had been gathered."
At this time, however, Mrs. Stowe was more deeply interested in the subject of education than in that of slavery, as is shown by the following extract from one of her letters to Miss May, who was herself a teacher. She says:—
"We mean to turn over the West by means of model schools in this, its capital. We mean to have a young lady's school of about fifty or sixty, a primary school of little girls to the same amount, and then a primary school for boys. We have come to the conclusion that the work of teaching will never be rightly done till it passes into female hands. This is especially true with regard to boys. To govern boys by moral influences requires tact and talent and versatility; it requires also the same division of labor that female education does. But men of tact, versatility, talent, and piety will not devote their lives to teaching. They must be ministers and missionaries, and all that, and while there is such a thrilling call for action in this way, every man who is merely teaching feels as if he were a Hercules with a distaff, ready to spring to the first trumpet that calls him away. As for division of labor, men must have salaries that can support wife and family, and, of course, a revenue would be required to support a requisite number of teachers if they could be found.
"Then, if men have more knowledge they have less talent at communicating it, nor have they the patience, the long-suffering, and gentleness necessary to superintend the formation of character. We intend to make these principles understood, and ourselves to set the example of what females can do in this way. You see that first-rate talent is necessary for all that we mean to do, especially for the last, because here we must face down the prejudices of society and we must have exemplary success to be believed. We want original, planning minds, and you do not know how few there are among females, and how few we can command of those that exist."
During the summer of 1834 the young teacher and writer made her first visit East since leaving New England two years before. Its object was mainly to be present at the graduation of her favorite brother, Henry Ward, from Amherst College. The earlier part of this journey was performed by means of stage to Toledo, and thence by steamer to Buffalo. A pleasant bit of personal description, and also of impressions of Niagara, seen for the first time on this journey, are given in a letter sent back to Cincinnati during its progress. In it she says of her fellow-travelers:—
"Then there was a portly, rosy, clever Mr. Smith, or Jones, or something the like; and a New Orleans girl looking like distraction, as far as dress is concerned, but with the prettiest language and softest intonations in the world, and one of those faces which, while you say it isn't handsome, keeps you looking all the time to see what it can be that is so pretty about it. Then there was Miss B., an independent, good-natured, do-as-I-please sort of a body, who seemed of perpetual motion from morning till night. Poor Miss D. said, when we stopped at night, 'Oh, dear! I suppose Lydia will be fiddling about our room till morning, and we shall not one of us sleep.' Then, by way of contrast, there was a Mr. Mitchell, the most gentlemanly, obliging man that ever changed his seat forty times a day to please a lady. Oh, yes, he could ride outside,—-or, oh, certainly, he could ride inside,—he had no objection to this, or that, or the other. Indeed, it was difficult to say what could come amiss to him. He speaks in a soft, quiet manner, with something of a drawl, using very correct, well-chosen language, and pronouncing all his words with carefulness; has everything in his dress and traveling appointments comme il faut_; and seems to think there is abundant time for everything that is to be done in this world, without, as he says, 'any unnecessary excitement.' Before the party had fully discovered his name he was usually designated as 'the obliging gentleman,' or 'that gentleman who is so accommodating.' Yet our friend, withal, is of Irish extraction, and I have seen him roused to talk with both hands and a dozen words in a breath. He fell into a little talk about abolition and slavery with our good Mr. Jones, a man whose mode of reasoning consists in repeating the same sentence at regular intervals as long as you choose to answer it. This man, who was finally convinced that negroes were black, used it as an irrefragible argument to all that could be said, and at last began to deduce from it that they might just as well be slaves as anything else, and so he proceeded till all the philanthropy of our friend was roused, and he sprung up all lively and oratorical and gesticulatory and indignant to my heart's content. I like to see a quiet man that can be roused."
In the same letter she gives her impressions of Niagara, as follows :—
"I have seen it (Niagara) and yet live. Oh, where is your soul? Never mind, though. Let me tell, if I can, what is unutterable. Elisabeth, it is not like anything; it did not look like anything I expected; it did not look like a waterfall. I did not once think whether it was high or low; whether it roared or didn't roar; whether it equaled my expectations or not. My mind whirled off, it seemed to me, in a new, strange world. It seemed unearthly, like the strange, dim images in the Revelation. I thought of the great white throne; the rainbow around it; the throne in sight like unto an emerald; and oh that beautiful water rising like moonlight, falling as the soul sinks when it dies, to rise refined, spiritualized, and pure. That rainbow, breaking out, trembling, fading, and again coming like a beautiful spirit walking the waters. Oh, it is lovelier than it is great; it is like the Mind that made it: great, but so veiled in beauty that we gaze without terror. I felt as if I could have gone over with the waters; it would be so beautiful a death; there would be no fear in it. I felt the rock tremble under me with a sort of joy. I was so maddened that I could have gone too, if it had gone."
While at the East she was greatly affected by hearing of the death of her dear friend, Eliza Tyler, the wife of Professor Stowe. This lady was the daughter of Dr. Bennett Tyler, president of the Theological Institute of Connecticut, at East Windsor; but twenty-five years of age at the time of her death, a very beautiful woman gifted with a wonderful voice. She was also possessed of a well-stored mind and a personal magnetism that made her one of the most popular members of the Semi-Colon Club, in the proceedings of which she took an active interest.
Her death left Professor Stowe a childless widower, and his forlorn condition greatly excited the sympathy of her who had been his wife's most intimate friend. It was easy for sympathy to ripen into love, and after a short engagement Harriet E. Beecher became the wife of Professor Calvin E. Stowe.
Her last act before the wedding was to write the following note to the friend of her girlhood, Miss Georgiana May:—
January 6, 1836.
Well, my dear G., about half an hour more and your old friend, companion, schoolmate, sister, etc., will cease to be Hatty Beecher and change to nobody knows who. My dear, you are engaged, and pledged in a year or two to encounter a similar fate, and do you wish to know how you shall feel? Well, my dear, I have been dreading and dreading the time, and lying awake all last week wondering how I should live through this overwhelming crisis, and lo! it has come and I feel nothing at all.
The wedding is to be altogether domestic; nobody present but my own brothers and sisters, and my old colleague, Mary Dutton; and as there is a sufficiency of the ministry in our family we have not even to call in the foreign aid of a minister. Sister Katy is not here, so she will not witness my departure from her care and guidance to that of another. None of my numerous friends and acquaintances who have taken such a deep interest in making the connection for me even know the day, and it will be all done and over before they know anything about it.
Well, it is really a mercy to have this entire stupidity come over one at such a time. I should be crazy to feel as I did yesterday, or indeed to feel anything at all. But I inwardly vowed that my last feelings and reflections on this subject should be yours, and as I have not got any, it is just as well to tell you that. Well, here comes Mr. S., so farewell, and for the last time I subscribe,
Your own H. E. B.
EARLY MARRIED LIFE, 1836-1840.
PROFESSOR STOWE'S INTEREST IN POPULAR EDUCATION.—HIS DEPARTURE FOR EUROPE.—SLAVERY RIOTS IN CINCINNATI.—BIRTH OF TWIN DAUGHTERS.— PROFESSOR STOWE'S RETURN AND VISIT TO COLUMBUS.—DOMESTIC TRIALS.— AIDING A FUGITIVE SLAVE.—AUTHORSHIP UNDER DIFFICULTIES.—A BEECHER ROUND ROBIN.
The letter to her friend Georgiana May, begun half an hour before her wedding, was not completed until nearly two months after that event. Taking it from her portfolio, she adds:—
"Three weeks have passed since writing the above, and my husband and self are now quietly seated by our own fireside, as domestic as any pair of tame fowl you ever saw; he writing to his mother, and I to you. Two days after our marriage we took a wedding excursion, so called, though we would most gladly have been excused this conformity to ordinary custom had not necessity required Mr. Stowe to visit Columbus, and I had too much adhesiveness not to go too. Ohio roads at this season are no joke, I can tell you, though we were, on the whole, wonderfully taken care of, and our expedition included as many pleasures as an expedition at this time of the year ever could.
"And now, my dear, perhaps the wonder to you, as to me, is how this momentous crisis in the life of such a wisp of nerve as myself has been transacted so quietly. My dear, it is a wonder to myself. I am tranquil, quiet, and happy. I look only on the present, and leave the future with Him who has hitherto been so kind to me. 'Take no thought for the morrow' is my motto, and my comfort is to rest on Him in whose house there are many mansions provided when these fleeting earthly ones pass away.
"Dear Georgy, naughty girl that I am, it is a month that I have let the above lie by, because I got into a strain of emotion in it that I dreaded to return to. Well, so it shall be no longer. In about five weeks Mr. Stowe and myself start for New England. He sails the first of May. I am going with him to Boston, New York, and other places, and shall stop finally at Hartford, whence, as soon as he is gone, it is my intention to return westward."
This reference to her husband as about to leave her relates to his sailing for Europe to purchase books for Lane Seminary, and also as a commissioner appointed by the State of Ohio to investigate the public school systems of the old world. He had long been convinced that higher education was impossible in the West without a higher grade of public schools, and had in 1833 been one of the founders in Cincinnati of "The College of Teachers," an institution that existed for ten years, and exerted a widespread influence. Its objects were to popularize the common schools, raise the standard of teachers, and create a demand for education among the people. Professor Stowe was associated in this movement with many of the leading intellects of Ohio at that time, and among them were Albert Pickett, Dr. Drake, Smith Grimke, Archbishop Purcell, President A. H. McGuffey, Dr. Beecher, Lydia Sigourney, Caroline Lee Hentz, and others. Their influence finally extended to the state legislature, and it was concluded to authorize Professor Stowe, when abroad, to investigate and report upon the common school systems of Europe, especially Prussia.
He sailed from New York for London in the ship Montreal, Captain Champlin, on June 8, 1836, and carried with him, to be opened only after he was at sea, a letter from his wife, from which the following extract is made:—
"Now, my dear, that you are gone where you are out of the reach of my care, advice, and good management, it is fitting that you should have something under my hand and seal for your comfort and furtherance in the new world you are going to. Firstly, I must caution you to set your face as a flint against the 'cultivation of indigo,' as Elisabeth calls it, in any way or shape. Keep yourself from it most scrupulously, and though you are unprovided with that precious and savory treatise entitled 'Kemper's Consolations,' [Footnote: A ridiculous book from which Mr. Stowe derived endless amusement.] yet you can exercise yourself to recall and set in order such parts thereof as would more particularly suit your case, particularly those portions wherewith you so much consoled Kate, Aunt Esther, and your unworthy handmaid, while you yet tarried at Walnut Hills. But seriously, dear one, you must give more way to hope than to memory. You are going to a new scene now, and one that I hope will be full of enjoyment to you. I want you to take the good of it.
"Only think of all you expect to see: the great libraries and beautiful paintings, fine churches, and, above all, think of seeing Tholuck, your great Apollo. My dear, I wish I were a man in your place; if I wouldn't have a grand time!"
During her husband's absence abroad Mrs. Stowe lived quietly in Cincinnati with her father and brothers. She wrote occasionally short stories, articles, and essays for publication in the "Western Monthly Magazine" or the "New York Evangelist," and maintained a constant correspondence with her husband by means of a daily journal, which was forwarded to him once a month. She also assisted her brother, Henry Ward, who had accepted a temporary position as editor of the "Journal," a small daily paper published in the city.
At this time the question of slavery was an exciting one in Cincinnati, and Lane Seminary had become a hotbed of abolition. The anti-slavery movement among the students was headed by Theodore D. Weld, one of their number, who had procured funds to complete his education by lecturing through the South. While thus engaged he had been so impressed with the evils and horrors of slavery that he had become a radical abolitionist, and had succeeded in converting several Southerners to his views of the subject. Among them was Mr. J. G. Birney of Huntsville, Alabama, who not only liberated his slaves, but in connection with Dr. Gamaliel Bailey of Cincinnati founded in that city an anti-slavery paper called "The Philanthropist." This paper was finally suppressed, and its office wrecked by a mob instigated by Kentucky slaveholders, and it is of this event that Mrs. Stowe writes to her husband as follows:—
"Yesterday evening I spent scribbling for Henry's newspaper (the 'Journal') in this wise: 'Birney's printing-press has been mobbed, and many of the respectable citizens are disposed to wink at the outrage in consideration of its moving in the line of their prejudices.'
"I wrote a conversational sketch, in which I rather satirized this inconsistent spirit, and brought out the effects of patronizing any violation of private rights. It was in a light, sketchy style, designed to draw attention to a long editorial of Henry's in which he considers the subject fully and seriously. His piece is, I think, a powerful one; indeed, he does write very strongly. I am quite proud of his editorials; they are well studied, earnest, and dignified. I think he will make a first-rate writer. Both our pieces have gone to press to-day, with Charles's article on music, and we have had not a little diversion about our family newspaper.
"I thought, when I was writing last night, that I was, like a good wife, defending one of your principles in your absence, and wanted you to see how manfully I talked about it. Henry has also taken up and examined the question of the Seminole Indians, and done it very nobly."
"The excitement about Birney continues to increase. The keeper of the Franklin Hotel was assailed by a document subscribed to by many of his boarders demanding that Birney should be turned out of doors. He chose to negative the demand, and twelve of his boarders immediately left, Dr. F. among the number. A meeting has been convoked by means of a handbill, in which some of the most respectable men of the city are invited by name to come together and consider the question whether they will allow Mr. Birney to continue his paper in the city. Mr. Greene says that, to his utter surprise, many of the most respectable and influential citizens gave out that they should go.
"He was one of the number they invited, but he told those who came to him that he would have nothing to do with disorderly public meetings or mobs in any shape, and that he was entirely opposed to the whole thing.
"I presume they will have a hot meeting, if they have any at all.
"I wish father were at home to preach a sermon to his church, for many of its members do not frown on these things as they ought."
"Later: The meeting was held, and was headed by Morgan, Neville, Judge Burke, and I know not who else. Judge Burnet was present and consented to their acts. The mob madness is certainly upon this city when men of sense and standing will pass resolutions approving in so many words of things done contrary to law, as one of the resolutions of this meeting did. It quoted the demolition of the tea in Boston harbor as being authority and precedent.
"A large body, perhaps the majority of citizens, disapprove, but I fear there will not be public disavowal. Even N. Wright but faintly opposes, and Dr. Fore has been exceedingly violent. Mr. Hammond (editor of the 'Gazette') in a very dignified and judicious manner has condemned the whole thing, and Henry has opposed, but otherwise the papers have either been silent or in favor of mobs. We shall see what the result will be in a few days.
"For my part, I can easily see how such proceedings may make converts to abolitionism, for already my sympathies are strongly enlisted for Mr. Birney, and I hope that he will stand his ground and assert his rights. The office is fire-proof, and inclosed by high walls. I wish he would man it with armed men and see what can be done. If I were a man I would go, for one, and take good care of at least one window. Henry sits opposite me writing a most valiant editorial, and tells me to tell you he is waxing mighty in battle."
In another letter she writes:—
"I told you in my last that the mob broke into Birney's press, where, however, the mischief done was but slight. The object appeared to be principally to terrify. Immediately there followed a general excitement in which even good men in their panic and prejudice about abolitionism forgot that mobs were worse evils than these, talked against Birney, and winked at the outrage; N. Wright and Judge Burnet, for example. Meanwhile the turbulent spirits went beyond this and talked of revolution and of righting things without law that could not be righted by it. At the head of these were Morgan, Neville, Longworth, Joseph Graham, and Judge Burke. A meeting was convoked at Lower Market Street to decide whether they would permit the publishing of an abolition paper, and to this meeting able citizens were by name summoned.
"There were four classes in the city then: Those who meant to go as revolutionists and support the mob; those who meant to put down Birney, but rather hoped to do it without a mob; those who felt ashamed to go, foreseeing the probable consequence, and yet did not decidedly frown upon it; and those who sternly and decidedly reprehended it.
"The first class was headed by Neville, Longworth, Graham, etc.; the second class, though of some numbers, was less conspicuous; of the third, Judge Burnet, Dr. Fore, and N. Wright were specimens; and in the last such men as Hammond, Mansfield, S. P. Chase, [Footnote: Salmon P. Chase.] and Chester were prominent. The meeting in so many words voted a mob, nevertheless a committee was appointed to wait on Mr. Birney and ascertain what he proposed to do; and, strange to tell, men as sensible as Uncle John and Judge Burnet were so short-sighted as to act on that committee.
"All the newspapers in the city, except Hammond's ('Gazette') and Henry's (the 'Journal'), were either silent or openly 'mobocratic.' As might have been expected, Birney refused to leave, and that night the mob tore down his press, scattered the types, dragged the whole to the river, threw it in, and then came back to demolish the office.
"They then went to the houses of Dr. Bailey, Mr. Donaldson, and Mr. Birney; but the persons they sought were not at home, having been aware of what was intended. The mayor was a silent spectator of these proceedings, and was heard to say, 'Well, lads, you have done well, so far; go home now before you disgrace yourselves;' but the 'lads' spent the rest of the night and a greater part of the next day (Sunday) in pulling down the houses of inoffensive and respectable blacks. The 'Gazette' office was threatened, the 'Journal' office was to go next; Lane Seminary and the water-works also were mentioned as probable points to be attacked by the mob.
"By Tuesday morning the city was pretty well alarmed. A regular corps of volunteers was organized, who for three nights patrolled the streets with firearms and with legal warrant from the mayor, who by this time was glad to give it, to put down the mob even by bloodshed.
"For a day or two we did not know but there would actually be war to the knife, as was threatened by the mob, and we really saw Henry depart with his pistols with daily alarm, only we were all too full of patriotism not to have sent every brother we had rather than not have had the principles of freedom and order defended.
"But here the tide turned. The mob, unsupported by a now frightened community, slunk into their dens and were still; and then Hammond, who, during the few days of its prevalence, had made no comments, but published simply the Sermon on the Mount, the Constitution of Ohio, and the Declaration of Independence, without any comment, now came out and gave a simple, concise history of the mob, tracing it to the market-house meeting, telling the whole history of the meeting, with the names of those who got it up, throwing on them and on those who had acted on the committee the whole responsibility of the following mob. It makes a terrible sensation, but it 'cuts its way,' and all who took other stand than that of steady opposition from the first are beginning to feel the reaction of public sentiment, while newspapers from abroad are pouring in their reprehensions of the disgraceful conduct of Cincinnati. Another time, I suspect, such men as Judge Burnet, Mr. Greene, and Uncle John will keep their fingers out of such a trap, and people will all learn better than to wink at a mob that happens to please them at the outset, or in any way to give it their countenance. Mr. Greene and Uncle John were full of wrath against mobs, and would not go to the meeting, and yet were cajoled into acting on that committee in the vain hope of getting Birney to go away and thus preventing the outrage.
"They are justly punished, I think, for what was very irresolute and foolish conduct, to say the least."
The general tone of her letters at this tune would seem to show that, while Mrs. Stowe was anti-slavery in her sympathies, she was not a declared abolitionist. This is still further borne out in a letter written in 1837 from Putnam, Ohio, whither she had gone for a short visit to her brother William. In it she says:—
"The good people here, you know, are about half abolitionists. A lady who takes a leading part in the female society in this place yesterday called and brought Catherine the proceedings of the Female Anti- Slavery Convention.
"I should think them about as ultra as to measures as anything that has been attempted, though I am glad to see a better spirit than marks such proceedings generally.
"To-day I read some in Mr. Birney's 'Philanthropist.' Abolitionism being the fashion here, it is natural to look at its papers.
"It does seem to me that there needs to be an intermediate society. If not, as light increases, all the excesses of the abolition party will not prevent humane and conscientious men from joining it.
"Pray what is there in Cincinnati to satisfy one whose mind is awakened on this subject? No one can have the system of slavery brought before him without an irrepressible desire to do something, and what is there to be done?"
On September 29, 1836, while Professor Stowe was still absent in Europe, his wife gave birth to twin daughters, Eliza and Isabella, as she named them; but Eliza Tyler and Harriet Beecher, as her husband insisted they should be called, when, upon reaching New York, he was greeted by the joyful news. His trip from London in the ship Gladiator had been unusually long, even for those days of sailing vessels, and extended from November 19, 1836, to January 20, 1837.
During the summer of 1837 Mrs. Stowe suffered much from ill health, on which account, and to relieve her from domestic cares, she was sent to make a long visit at Putnam with her brother, Rev. William Beecher. While here she received a letter from her husband, in which he says:—
"We all of course feel proper indignation at the doings of last General Assembly, and shall treat them with merited contempt. This alliance between the old school (Presbyterians) and slaveholders will make more abolitionists than anything that has been done yet."
In December Professor Stowe went to Columbus with the extended educational report that he had devoted the summer to preparing; and in writing from there to his wife he says:—
"To-day I have been visiting the governor and legislators. They received me with the utmost kindness, and are evidently anticipating much from my report. The governor communicated it to the legislature to-day, and it is concluded that I read it in Dr. Hodges' church on two evenings, to-morrow and the day after, before both houses of the legislature and the citizens. The governor (Vance) will preside at both meetings. I like him (the governor) much. He is just such a plain, simple-hearted, sturdy body as old Fritz (Kaiser Frederick), with more of natural talent than his predecessor in the gubernatorial chair. For my year's work in this matter I am to receive $500."
On January 14, 1838, Mrs. Stowe's third child, Henry Ellis, was born.
It was about this time that the famous reunion of the Beecher family described in Lyman Beecher's "Autobiography" occurred. Edward made a visit to the East, and when he returned he brought Mary (Mrs. Thomas Perkins) from Hartford with him. William came down from Putnam, Ohio, and George from Batavia, New York, while Catherine, Harriet, Henry, Charles, Isabella, Thomas, and James were already at home. It was the first time they had ever all met together. Mary had never seen James, and had seen Thomas but once. The old doctor was almost transported with joy as they all gathered about him, and his eup of happiness was filled to overflowing when, the next day, which was Sunday, his pulpit was filled by Edward in the morning, William in the after-noon, and George in the evening.
Side by side with this charming picture we have another of domestic life outlined by Mrs. Stowe's own hand. It is contained in the following letter, written June 21, 1838, to Miss May, at New Haven, Conn.:—
MY DEAR, DEAR GEORGIANA,—Only think how long it is since I have written to you, and how changed I am since then—the mother of three children! Well, if I have not kept the reckoning of old times, let this last circumstance prove my apology, for I have been hand, heart, and head full since I saw you.
"Now, to-day, for example, I'll tell you what I had on my mind from dawn to dewy eve. In the first place I waked about half after four and thought, 'Bless me, how light it is! I must get out of bed and rap to wake up Mina, for breakfast must be had at six o'clock this morning.' So out of bed I jump and seize the tongs and pound, pound, pound over poor Mina's sleepy head, charitably allowing her about half an hour to get waked up in,—that being the quantum of time that it takes me,—or used to. Well, then baby wakes—qu, qu, qu, so I give him his breakfast, dozing meanwhile and soliloquizing as follows: "Now I must not forget to tell Mr. Stowe about the starch and dried apples"—doze— "ah, um, dear me! why doesn't Mina get up? I don't hear her," —doze—"a, um,—I wonder if Mina has soap enough! I think there were two bars left on Saturday"—doze again—I wake again. "Dear me, broad daylight! I must get up and go down and see if Mina is getting breakfast." Up I jump and up wakes baby. "Now, little boy, be good and let mother dress, because she is in a hurry." I get my frock half on and baby by that time has kicked himself down off his pillow, and is crying and fisting the bed-clothes in great order. I stop with one sleeve off and one on to settle matters with him. Having planted him bolt upright and gone all up and down the chamber barefoot to get pillows and blankets, to prop him up, I finish putting my frock on and hurry down to satisfy myself by actual observation that the breakfast is in progress. Then back I come into the nursery, where, remembering that it is washing day and that there is a great deal of work to be done, I apply myself vigorously to sweeping, dusting, and the setting to rights so necessary where there are three little mischiefs always pulling down as fast as one can put up.
"Then there are Miss H—— and Miss E——, concerning whom Mary will furnish you with all suitable particulars, who are chattering, hallooing, or singing at the tops of their voices, as may suit their various states of mind, while the nurse is getting their breakfast ready. This meal being cleared away, Mr. Stowe dispatched to market with various memoranda of provisions, etc., and the baby being washed and dressed, I begin to think what next must be done. I start to cut out some little dresses, have just calculated the length and got one breadth torn off when Master Henry makes a doleful lip and falls to crying with might and main. I catch him up and turning round see one of his sisters flourishing the things out of my workbox in fine style. Moving it away and looking the other side I see the second little mischief seated by the hearth chewing coals and scraping up ashes with great apparent relish. Grandmother lays hold upon her and charitably offers to endeavor to quiet baby while I go on with my work. I set at it again, pick up a dozen pieces, measure them once more to see which is the right one, and proceed to cut out some others, when I see the twins on the point of quarreling with each other. Number one pushes number two over. Number two screams: that frightens the baby and he joins in. I call number one a naughty girl, take the persecuted one in my arms, and endeavor to comfort her by trotting to the old lyric:—
"So ride the gentlefolk, And so do we, so do we."
Meanwhile number one makes her way to the slop jar and forthwith proceeds to wash her apron in it. Grandmother catches her by one shoulder, drags her away, and sets the jar up out of her reach. By and by the nurse comes up from her sweeping. I commit the children to her, and finish cutting out the frocks.
But let this suffice, for of such details as these are all my days made up. Indeed, my dear, I am but a mere drudge with few ideas beyond babies and housekeeping. As for thoughts, reflections, and sentiments, good lack! good lack!
I suppose I am a dolefully uninteresting person at present, but I hope I shall grow young again one of these days, for it seems to me that matters cannot always stand exactly as they do now.
Well, Georgy, this marriage is—yes, I will speak well of it, after all; for when I can stop and think long enough to discriminate my head from my heels, I must say that I think myself a fortunate woman both in husband and children. My children I would not change for all the ease, leisure, and pleasure that I could have without them. They are money on interest whose value will be constantly increasing.
In 1839 Mrs. Stowe received into her family as a servant a colored girl from Kentucky. By the laws of Ohio she was free, having been brought into the State and left there by her mistress. In spite of this, Professor Stowe received word, after she had lived with them some months, that the girl's master was in the city looking for her, and that if she were not careful she would be seized and conveyed back into slavery. Finding that this could be accomplished by boldness, perjury, and the connivance of some unscrupulous justice, Professor Stowe determined to remove the girl to some place of security where she might remain until the search for her should be given up. Accordingly he and his brother-in-law, Henry Ward Beecher, both armed, drove the fugitive, in a covered wagon, at night, by unfrequented roads, twelve miles back into the country, and left her in safety with the family of old John Van Zandt, the fugitive's friend.
It is from this incident of real life and personal experience that Mrs. Stowe conceived the thrilling episode of the fugitives' escape from Tom Loker and Marks in "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
An amusing and at the same time most interesting account of her struggles to accomplish literary work amid her distracting domestic duties at this time is furnished by the letter of one of her intimate friends, who writes:—
"It was my good fortune to number Mrs. Stowe among my friends, and during a visit to her I had an opportunity one day of witnessing the combined exercise of her literary and domestic genius in a style that to me was quite amusing.
"'Come Harriet,' said I, as I found her tending one baby and watching two others just able to walk, 'where is that piece for the "Souvenir" which I promised the editor I would get from you and send on next week? You have only this one day left to finish it, and have it I must.'
"'And how will you get it, friend of mine?' said Harriet. 'You will at least have to wait till I get house-cleaning over and baby's teeth through.'
"'As to house-cleaning, you can defer it one day longer; and as to baby's teeth, there is to be no end to them, as I can see. No, no; to- day that story must be ended. There Frederick has been sitting by Ellen and saying all those pretty things for more than a month now, and she has been turning and blushing till I am sure it is time to go to her relief. Come, it would not take you three hours at the rate you can write to finish the courtship, marriage, catastrophe, claircissement, and all; and this three hours' labor of your brains will earn enough to pay for all the sewing your fingers could do for a year to come. Two dollars a page, my dear, and you can write a page in fifteen minutes! Come, then, my lady housekeeper, economy is a cardinal virtue; consider the economy of the thing.'
"'But, my dear, here is a baby in my arms and two little pussies by my side, and there is a great baking down in the kitchen, and there is a "new girl" for "help," besides preparations to be made for house-cleaning next week. It is really out of the question, you see.'
"'I see no such thing. I do not know what genius is given for, if it is not to help a woman out of a scrape. Come, set your wits to work, let me have my way, and you shall have all the work done and finish the story too.'
"'Well, but kitchen affairs?'
"'We can manage them too. You know you can write anywhere and anyhow. Just take your seat at the kitchen table with your writing weapons, and while you superintend Mina fill up the odd snatches of time with the labors of your pen.'
"I carried my point. In ten minutes she was seated; a table with flour, rolling-pin, ginger, and lard on one side, a dresser with eggs, pork, and beans and various cooking utensils on the other, near her an oven heating, and beside her a dark-skinned nymph, waiting orders.
"'Here, Harriet,' said I, 'you can write on this atlas in your lap; no matter how the writing looks, I will copy it.'
"'Well, well,' said she, with a resigned sort of amused look. 'Mina, you may do what I told you, while I write a few minutes, till it is time to mould up the bread. Where is the inkstand?'
"'Here it is, close by, on the top of the tea-kettle,' said I.
"At this Mina giggled, and we both laughed to see her merriment at our literary proceedings.
"I began to overhaul the portfolio to find the right sheet.
"'Here it is,' said I. 'Here is Frederick sitting by Ellen, glancing at her brilliant face, and saying something about "guardian angel," and all that—you remember?'
"'Yes, yes,' said she, falling into a muse, as she attempted to recover the thread of her story.
"'Ma'am, shall I put the pork on the top of the beans?' asked Mina.
"'Come, come,' said Harriet, laughing. 'You see how it is. Mina is a new hand and cannot do anything without me to direct her. We must give up the writing for to-day.'
"'No, no; let us have another trial. You can dictate as easily as you can write. Come, I can set the baby in this clothes-basket and give him some mischief or other to keep him quiet; you shall dictate and I will write. Now, this is the place where you left off: you were describing the scene between Ellen and her lover; the last sentence was, "Borne down by the tide of agony, she leaned her head on her hands, the tears streamed through her fingers, and her whole frame shook with convulsive sobs." What shall I write next?'
"'Mina, pour a little milk into this pearlash,' said Harriet.
"'Come,' said I. '"The tears streamed through her fingers and her whole frame shook with convulsive sobs." What next?'
"Harriet paused and looked musingly out of the window, as she turned her mind to her story. 'You may write now,' said she, and she dictated as follows:
"'"Her lover wept with her, nor dared he again to touch the point so sacredly guarded"—Mina, roll that crust a little thinner. "He spoke in soothing tones"—Mina, poke the coals in the oven.'
"'Here,' said I, 'let me direct Mina about these matters, and write a while yourself.'
"Harriet took the pen and patiently set herself to the work. For a while my culinary knowledge and skill were proof to all Mina's investigating inquiries, and they did not fail till I saw two pages completed.
"'You have done bravely,' said I, as I read over the manuscript; 'now you must direct Mina a while. Meanwhile dictate and I will write.'
"Never was there a more docile literary lady than my friend. Without a word of objection she followed my request.
"'I am ready to write,' said I. 'The last sentence was: "What is this life to one who has suffered as I have?" What next?'
"'Shall I put in the brown or the white bread first?' said Mina.
"'The brown first,' said Harriet.
"'"What is this life to one who has suffered as I have?"' said I.
"Harriet brushed the flour off her apron and sat down for a moment in a muse. Then she dictated as follows:—
"'"Under the breaking of my heart I have borne up. I have borne up under all that tries a woman,—but this thought,—oh, Henry!"'
"'Ma'am, shall I put ginger into this pumpkin?' queried Mina.
"'No, you may let that alone just now,' replied Harriet. She then proceeded:—
"'"I know my duty to my children. I see the hour must come. You must take them, Henry; they are my last earthly comfort."'
"'Ma'am, what shall I do with these egg-shells and all this truck here?' interrupted Mina.
"'Put them in the pail by you,' answered Harriet. "'"They are my last earthly comfort,"' said I. 'What next?'
"She continued to dictate,—
"'"You must take them away. It may be—-perhaps it must be—- that I shall soon follow, but the breaking heart of a wife still pleads, 'a little longer, a little longer.'"'
"'How much longer must the gingerbread stay in?' inquired Mina.
"'Five minutes,' said Harriet.
"'"A little longer, a little longer,"' I repeated in a dolorous tone, and we burst into a laugh.
"Thus we went on, cooking, writing, nursing, and laughing, till I finally accomplished my object. The piece was finished, copied, and the next day sent to the editor."
The widely scattered members of the Beecher family had a fashion of communicating with each other by means of circular letters. These, begun on great sheets of paper, at either end of the line, were passed along from one to another, each one adding his or her budget of news to the general stock. When the filled sheet reached the last person for whom it was intended, it was finally remailed to its point of departure. Except in the cases of Mrs. Stowe and Mrs. Perkins, the simple address "Rev. Mr. Beecher" was sufficient to insure its safe delivery in any town to which it was sent.
One of these great, closely-written sheets, bearing in faded ink the names of all the Beechers, lies outspread before us as we write. It is postmarked Hartford, Conn., Batavia, N. Y., Chillicothe, Ohio, Zanesville, Ohio, Walnut Hills, Ohio, Indianapolis, Ind., Jacksonville, Ill., and New Orleans, La. In it Mrs. Stowe occupies her allotted space with—
WALNUT HILLS, 27,1839.
DEAR FRIENDS,—-I am going to Hartford myself, and therefore shall not write, but hurry along the preparations for my forward journey. Belle, father says you may go to the White Mountains with Mr. Stowe and me this summer. George, we may look in on you coming back. Good-by. Affectionately to all, H. E. STOWE.
POVERTY AND SICKNESS, 1840-1850.
FAMINE IN CINCINNATI.—SUMMER AT THE EAST.—PLANS FOR LITERARY WORK.— EXPERIENCE ON A RAILROAD.—DEATH OF HER BROTHER GEORGE.—SICKNESS AND DESPAIR.—A JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF HEALTH.—GOES TO BRATTLEBORO' WATERCURE.—TROUBLES AT LANE SEMINARY.—-CHOLERA IN CINCINNATI.—DEATH OF YOUNGEST CHILD.—-DETERMINED TO LEAVE THE WEST.
On January 7, 1839, Professor Stowe wrote to his mother in Natick, Mass.: "You left here, I believe, in the right time, for as there has been no navigation on the Ohio River for a year, we are almost in a state of famine as to many of the necessities of life. For example, salt (coarse) has sold in Cincinnati this winter for three dollars a bushel; rice eighteen cents a pound; coffee fifty cents a pound; white sugar the same; brown sugar twenty cents; molasses a dollar a gallon; potatoes a dollar a bushel. We do without such things mostly; as there is yet plenty of bread and bacon (flour six and seven dollars a barrel, and good pork from six to eight cents a pound) we get along very comfortably.
"Our new house is pretty much as it was, but they say it will be finished in July. I expect to visit you next summer, as I shall deliver the Phi Beta Kappa oration at Dartmouth College; but whether wife and children come with me or not is not yet decided."
Mrs. Stowe came on to the East with her husband and children during the following summer, and before her return made a trip through the White Mountains.
In May, 1840, her second son was born and named Frederick William, after the sturdy Prussian king, for whom her husband cherished an unbounded admiration.
Mrs. Stowe has said somewhere: "So we go, dear reader, so long as we have a body and a soul. For worlds must mingle,—the great and the little, the solemn and the trivial, wreathing in and out like the grotesque carvings on a gothic shrine; only did we know it rightly, nothing is trivial, since the human soul, with its awful shadow, makes all things sacred." So in writing a biography it is impossible for us to tell what did and what did not powerfully influence the character. It is safer simply to tell the unvarnished truth. The lily builds up its texture of delicate beauty from mould and decay. So how do we know from what humble material a soul grows in strength and beauty!
In December, 1840, writing to Miss May, Mrs. Stowe says:—
"For a year I have held the pen only to write an occasional business letter such as could not be neglected. This was primarily owing to a severe neuralgic complaint that settled in my eyes, and for two months not only made it impossible for me to use them in writing, but to fix them with attention on anything. I could not even bear the least light of day in my room. Then my dear little Frederick was born, and for two months more I was confined to my bed. Besides all this, we have had an unusual amount of sickness in our family. . . .
"For all that my history of the past year records so many troubles, I cannot on the whole regard it as a very troublous one. I have had so many counterbalancing mercies that I must regard myself as a person greatly blessed. It is true that about six months out of the twelve I have been laid up with sickness, but then I have had every comfort and the kindest of nurses in my faithful Anna. My children have thriven, and on the whole 'come to more,' as the Yankees say, than the care of them. Thus you see my troubles have been but enough to keep me from loving earth too well."
In the spring of 1842 Mrs. Stowe again visited Hartford, taking her six-year-old daughter Hatty with her. In writing from there to her husband she confides some of her literary plans and aspirations to him, and he answers:—
"My dear, you must be a literary woman. It is so written in the book of fate. Make all your calculations accordingly. Get a good stock of health and brush up your mind. Drop the E. out of your name. It only incumbers it and interferes with the flow and euphony. Write yourself fully and always Harriet Beecher Stowe, which is a name euphonious, flowing, and full of meaning. Then my word for it, your husband will lift up his head in the gate, and your children will rise up and call you blessed.
"Our humble dwelling has to-day received a distinguished honor of which I must give you an account. It was a visit from his excellency the Baron de Roenne, ambassador of his majesty the King of Prussia to the United States. He was pleased to assure me of the great satisfaction my report on Prussian schools had afforded the king and members of his court, with much more to the same effect. Of course having a real live lord to exhibit, I was anxious for some one to exhibit him to; but neither Aunt Esther nor Anna dared venture near the study, though they both contrived to get a peep at his lordship from the little chamber window as he was leaving.