We went into the sea to bathe twice, once the day we came, and about eight o'clock in the morning before we went back. Besides this we have been to Middle Bay, where Charley, standing where you all stood before him, actually caught a flounder with his own hand, whereat he screamed loud enough to scare all the folks on Eagle Island. We have also been to Maquoit. We have visited the old pond, and, if I mistake not, the relics of your old raft yet float there; at all events, one or two fragments of a raft are there, caught among rushes.
I do not realize that one of the busiest and happiest of the train who once played there shall play there no more. "He shall return to his house no more, neither shall his place know him any more." I think I have felt the healing touch of Jesus of Nazareth on the deep wound in my heart, for I have golden hours of calm when I say: "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." So sure am I that the most generous love has ordered all, that I can now take pleasure to give this little proof of my unquestioning confidence in resigning one of my dearest comforts to Him. I feel very near the spirit land, and the words, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me," are very sweet.
Oh, if God would give to you, my dear children, a view of the infinite beauty of Eternal Love,—if He would unite us in himself, then even on earth all tears might be wiped away.
Papa has preached twice to-day, and is preaching again to-night. He told me to be sure to write and send you his love. I hope his health is getting better. Mrs. Upham sends you her best love, and hopes you will make her a visit some time.
Good-by, my darlings. Come soon to your affectionate mother.
H. B. S.
The winter of 1857 was passed quietly and uneventfully at Andover. In November Mrs. Stowe contributed to the "Atlantic Monthly" a touching little allegory, "The Mourning Veil."
In December, 1858, the first chapter of "The Minister's Wooing" appeared in the same magazine. Simultaneously with this story was written "The Pearl of Orr's Island," published first as a serial in the "Independent."
She dictated a large part of "The Minister's Wooing" under a great pressure of mental excitement, and it was a relief to her to turn to the quiet story of the coast of Maine, which she loved so well.
In February, 1874, Mrs. Stowe received the following words from Mr. Whittier, which are very interesting in this connection: "When I am in the mood for thinking deeply I read 'The Minister's Wooing.' But 'The Pearl of Orr's Island' is my favorite. It is the most charming New England idyl ever written."
"The Minister's Wooing" was received with universal commendation from the first, and called forth the following appreciative words from the pen of Mr. James Russell Lowell:—
"It has always seemed to us that the anti-slavery element in the two former novels by Mrs. Stowe stood in the way of a full appreciation of her remarkable genius, at least in her own country. It was so easy to account for the unexampled popularity of 'Uncle Tom' by attributing it to a cheap sympathy with sentimental philanthropy! As people began to recover from the first enchantment, they began also to resent it and to complain that a dose of that insane Garrison-root which takes the reason prisoner had been palmed upon them without their knowing it, and that their ordinary watergruel of fiction, thinned with sentiment and thickened with moral, had been hocussed with the bewildering hasheesh of Abolition. We had the advantage of reading that truly extraordinary book for the first time in Paris, long after the whirl of excitement produced by its publication had subsided, in the seclusion of distance, and with a judgment unbiased by those political sympathies which it is impossible, perhaps unwise, to avoid at home. We felt then, and we believe now, that the secret of Mrs. Stowe's power lay in that same genius by which the great successes in creative literature have always been achieved,—the genius that instinctively goes right to the organic elements of human nature, whether under a white skin or a black, and which disregards as trivial the conventional and factitious notions which make so large a part both of our thinking and feeling. Works of imagination written with an aim to immediate impression are commonly ephemeral, like Miss Martineau's 'Tales,' and Elliott's 'Corn-law Rhymes;' but the creative faculty of Mrs. Stowe, like that of Cervantes in 'Don Quixote' and of Fielding in 'Joseph Andrews,' overpowered the narrow specialty of her design, and expanded a local and temporary theme with the cosmopolitanism of genius.
"It is a proverb that 'There is a great deal of human nature in men,' but it is equally and sadly true that there is amazingly little of it in books. Fielding is the only English novelist who deals with life in its broadest sense. Thackeray, his disciple and congener, and Dickens, the congener of Smollett, do not so much treat of life as of the strata of society; the one studying nature from the club-room window, the other from the reporters' box in the police court. It may be that the general obliteration of distinctions of rank in this country, which is generally considered a detriment to the novelist, will in the end turn to his advantage by compelling him to depend for his effects on the contrasts and collisions of innate character, rather than on those shallower traits superinduced by particular social arrangements, or by hereditary associations. Shakespeare drew ideal, and Fielding natural men and women; Thackeray draws either gentlemen or snobs, and Dickens either unnatural men or the oddities natural only in the lowest grades of a highly artificial system of society. The first two knew human nature; of the two latter, one knows what is called the world, and the other the streets of London. Is it possible that the very social democracy which here robs the novelist of so much romance, so much costume, so much antithesis of caste, so much in short that is purely external, will give him a set-off in making it easier for him to get at that element of universal humanity which neither of the two extremes of an aristocratic system, nor the salient and picturesque points of contrast between the two, can alone lay open to him?
"We hope to see this problem solved by Mrs. Stowe. That kind of romantic interest which Scott evolved from the relations of lord and vassal, of thief and clansman, from the social more than the moral contrast of Roundhead and Cavalier, of far-descended pauper and nouveau riche which Cooper found in the clash of savagery with civilization, and the shaggy virtue bred on the border-land between the two, Indian by habit, white by tradition, Mrs. Stowe seems in her former novels to have sought in a form of society alien to her sympathies, and too remote for exact study, or for the acquirement of that local truth which is the slow result of unconscious observation. There can be no stronger proof of the greatness of her genius, of her possessing that conceptive faculty which belongs to the higher order of imagination, than the avidity with which 'Uncle Tom' was read at the South. It settled the point that this book was true to human nature, even if not minutely so to plantation life.
"If capable of so great a triumph where success must so largely depend on the sympathetic insight of her mere creative power, have we not a right to expect something far more in keeping with the requirements of art, now that her wonderful eye is to be the mirror of familiar scenes, and of a society in which she was bred, of which she has seen so many varieties, and that, too, in the country, where it is most naive and original? It is a great satisfaction to us that in 'The Minister's Wooing' she has chosen her time and laid her scene amid New England habits and traditions. There is no other writer who is so capable of perpetuating for us, in a work of art, a style of thought and manners which railways and newspapers will soon render as palozoic as the mastodon or the megalosaurians. Thus far the story has fully justified our hopes. The leading characters are all fresh and individual creations. Mrs. Kate Scudder, the notable Yankee housewife; Mary, in whom Cupid is to try conclusions with Calvin; James Marvyn, the adventurous boy of the coast, in whose heart the wild religion of nature swells till the strait swathings of Puritanism are burst; Dr. Hopkins, the conscientious minister come upon a time when the social prestige of the clergy is waning, and whose independence will test the voluntary system of ministerial support; Simeon Brown, the man of theological dialectics, in whom the utmost perfection of creed is shown to be not inconsistent with the most contradictory imperfection of life,—all these are characters new to literature. And the scene is laid just far enough away in point of time to give proper tone and perspective.
"We think we find in the story, so far as it has proceeded, the promise of an interest as unhackneyed as it will be intense. There is room for the play of all the passions and interests that make up the great tragi-comedy of life, while all the scenery and accessories will be those which familiarity has made dear to us. We are a little afraid of Colonel Burr, to be sure, it is so hard to make a historical personage fulfill the conditions demanded by the novel of every-day life. He is almost sure either to fall below our traditional conception of him, or to rise above the natural and easy level of character, into the vague or the melodramatic. Moreover, we do not want a novel of society from Mrs. Stowe; she is quite too good to be wasted in that way, and her tread is much more firm on the turf of the "door-yard" or the pasture, and the sanded floor of the farmhouse, than on the velvet of the saln. We have no notion how she is to develop her plot, but we think we foresee chances for her best power in the struggle which seems foreshadowed between Mary's conscientious admiration of the doctor and her half-conscious passion for James, before she discovers that one of these conflicting feelings means simply moral liking and approval, and the other that she is a woman and that she loves. And is not the value of dogmatic theology as a rule of life to be thoroughly tested for the doctor by his slave- trading parishioners? Is he not to learn the bitter difference between intellectual acceptance of a creed and that true partaking of the sacrament of love and faith and sorrow that makes Christ the very life-blood of our being and doing? And has not James Marvyn also his lesson to be taught? We foresee him drawn gradually back by Mary from his recoil against Puritan formalism to a perception of how every creed is pliant and plastic to a beautiful nature, of how much charm there may be in an hereditary faith, even if it have become almost conventional.
"In the materials of character already present in the story, there is scope for Mrs. Stowe's humor, pathos, clear moral sense, and quick eye for the scenery of life. We do not believe that there is any one who, by birth, breeding, and natural capacity, has had the opportunity to know New England so well as she, or who has the peculiar genius so to profit by the knowledge. Already there have been scenes in 'The Minister's Wooing' that, in their lowness of tone and quiet truth, contrast as charmingly with the humid vagueness of the modern school of novel-writers as 'The Vicar of Wakefield' itself, and we are greatly mistaken if it do not prove to be the most characteristic of Mrs. Stowe's works, and therefore that on which her fame will chiefly rest with posterity."
"The Minister's Wooing" was not completed as a serial till December, 1859. Long before its completion Mrs. Stowe received letters from many interested readers, who were as much concerned for the future of her "spiritual children," as George Eliot would call them, as if they had been flesh and blood.
The following letter from Mr. Lowell is given as the most valuable received by Mrs. Stowe at this time:—
CAMBRIDGE, February 4, 1859.
MY DEAR MRS. STOWE,—I certainly did mean to write you about your story, but only to cry bravissima! with the rest of the world. I intended no kind of criticism; deeming it wholly out of place, and in the nature of a wet-blanket, so long as a story is unfinished. When I got the first number in MS., I said to Mr. Phillips that I thought it would be the best thing you had done, and what followed has only confirmed my first judgment. From long habit, and from the tendency of my studies, I cannot help looking at things purely from an sthetic point of view, and what I valued in "Uncle Tom" was the genius, and not the moral. That is saying a good deal, for I never use the word genius at haphazard, and always (perhaps, too) sparingly. I am going to be as frank as I ought to be with one whom I value so highly. What especially charmed me in the new story was, that you had taken your stand on New England ground. You are one of the few persons lucky enough to be born with eyes in your head,—that is, with something behind the eyes which makes them of value. To most people the seeing apparatus is as useless as the great telescope at the observatory is to me,—something to stare through with no intelligent result. Nothing could be better than the conception of your plot (so far as I divine it), and the painting-in of your figures. As for "theology," it is as much a part of daily life in New England as in Scotland, and all I should have to say about it is this: let it crop out when it naturally comes to the surface, only don't dig down to it. A moral aim is a fine thing, but in making a story an artist is a traitor who does not sacrifice everything to art. Remember the lesson that Christ gave us twice over. First, he preferred the useless Mary to the dish-washing Martha, and next, when that exemplary moralist and friend of humanity, Judas, objected to the sinful waste of the Magdalen's ointment, the great Teacher would rather it should be wasted in an act of simple beauty than utilized for the benefit of the poor. Cleopatra was an artist when she dissolved her biggest pearl to captivate her Antony-public. May I, a critic by profession, say the whole truth to a woman of genius? Yes? And never be forgiven? I shall try, and try to be forgiven, too. In the first place, pay no regard to the advice of anybody. In the second place, pay a great deal to mine! A Kilkenny-cattish style of advice? Not at all. My advice is to follow your own instincts,—to stick to nature, and to avoid what people commonly call the "Ideal;" for that, and beauty, and pathos, and success, all lie in the simply natural. We all preach it, from Wordsworth down, and we all, from Wordsworth down, don't practice it. Don't I feel it every day in this weary editorial mill of mine, that there are ten thousand people who can write "ideal" things for one who can see, and feel, and reproduce nature and character? Ten thousand, did I say? Nay, ten million. What made Shakespeare so great? Nothing but eyes and—faith in them. The same is true of Thackeray. I see nowhere more often than in authors the truth that men love their opposites. Dickens insists on being tragic and makes shipwreck.
I always thought (forgive me) that the Hebrew parts of "Dred" were a mistake. Do not think me impertinent; I am only honestly anxious that what I consider a very remarkable genius should have faith in itself. Let your moral take care of itself, and remember that an author's writing-desk is something infinitely higher than a pulpit. What I call "care of itself" is shown in that noble passage in the February number about the ladder up to heaven. That is grand preaching and in the right way. I am sure that "The Minister's Wooing" is going to be the best of your products hitherto, and I am sure of it because you show so thorough a mastery of your material, so true a perception of realities, without which the ideality is impossible.
As for "orthodoxy," be at ease. Whatever is well done the world finds orthodox at last, in spite of all the Fakir journals, whose only notion of orthodoxy seems to be the power of standing in one position till you lose all the use of your limbs. If, with your heart and brain, you are not orthodox, in Heaven's name who is? If you mean "Calvinistic," no woman could ever be such, for Calvinism is logic, and no woman worth the name could ever live by syllogisms. Woman charms a higher faculty in us than reason, God be praised, and nothing has delighted me more in your new story than the happy instinct with which you develop this incapacity of the lovers' logic in your female characters. Go on just as you have begun, and make it appear in as many ways as you like,—that, whatever creed may be true, it is not true and never will be that man can be saved by machinery. I can speak with some chance of being right, for I confess a strong sympathy with many parts of Calvinistic theology, and, for one thing, believe in hell with all my might, and in the goodness of God for all that.
I have not said anything. What could I say? One might almost as well advise a mother about the child she still bears under her heart, and say, give it these and those qualities, as an author about a work yet in the brain.
Only this I will say, that I am honestly delighted with "The Minister's Wooing;" that reading it has been one of my few editorial pleasures; that no one appreciates your genius more highly than I, or hopes more fervently that you will let yourself go without regard to this, that, or t'other. Don't read any criticisms on your story: believe that you know better than any of us, and be sure that everybody likes it. That I know. There is not, and never was, anybody so competent to write a true New England poem as yourself, and have no doubt that you are doing it. The native sod sends up the best inspiration to the brain, and you are as sure of immortality as we all are of dying,—if you only go on with entire faith in yourself.
Faithfully and admiringly yours,
J. K. LOWELL.
After the book was published in England, Mr. Buskin wrote to Mrs. Stowe:—
"Well, I have read the book now, and I think nothing can be nobler than the noble parts of it (Mary's great speech to Colonel Burr, for instance), nothing wiser than the wise parts of it (the author's parenthetical and under-breath remarks), nothing more delightful than the delightful parts (all that Virginie says and does), nothing more edged than the edged parts (Candace's sayings and doings, to wit); but I do not like the plan of the whole, because the simplicity of the minister seems to diminish the probability of Mary's reverence for him. I cannot fancy even so good a girl who would not have laughed at him. Nor can I fancy a man of real intellect reaching such a period of life without understanding his own feelings better, or penetrating those of another more quickly.
"Then I am provoked at nothing happening to Mrs. Scudder, whom I think as entirely unendurable a creature as ever defied poetical justice at the end of a novel meant to irritate people. And finally, I think you are too disdainful of what ordinary readers seek in a novel, under the name of 'interest,'—that gradually developing wonder, expectation, and curiosity which makes people who have no self-command sit up till three in the morning to get to the crisis, and people who have self- command lay the book down with a resolute sigh, and think of it all the next day through till the time comes for taking it up again. Still, I know well that in many respects it was impossible for you to treat this story merely as a work of literary art. There must have been many facts which you could not dwell upon, and which no one may judge by common rules.
"It is also true, as you say once or twice in the course of the work, that we have not among us here the peculiar religious earnestness you have mainly to describe.
"We have little earnest formalism, and our formalists are for the most part hollow, feeble, uninteresting, mere stumbling-blocks. We have the Simeon Brown species, indeed; and among readers even of his kind the book may do some good, and more among the weaker, truer people, whom it will shake like mattresses,—making the dust fly, and perhaps with it some of the sticks and quill-ends, which often make that kind of person an objectionable mattress. I write too lightly of the book,— far too lightly,—but your letter made me gay, and I have been lighter-hearted ever since; only I kept this after beginning it, because I was ashamed to send it without a line to Mrs. Browning as well. I do not understand why you should apprehend (or rather anticipate without apprehension) any absurd criticism on it. It is sure to be a popular book,—not as 'Uncle Tom' was, for that owed part of its popularity to its dramatic effect (the flight on the ice, etc.), which I did not like; but as a true picture of human life is always popular. Nor, I should think, would any critics venture at all to carp at it.
"The Candace and Virginie bits appear to me, as far as I have yet seen, the best. I am very glad there is this nice French lady in it: the French are the least appreciated in general, of all nations, by other nations. . . . My father says the book is worth its weight in gold, and he knows good work."
When we turn from these criticisms and commendations to the inner history of this period, we find that the work was done in deep sadness of heart, and the undertone of pathos that forms the dark background of the brightest and most humorous parts of "The Minister's Wooing" was the unconscious revelation of one of sorrowful spirit, who, weary of life, would have been glad to lie down with her arms "round the wayside cross, and sleep away into a brighter scene."
Just before beginning the writing of "The Minister's Wooing" she sent the following letter to Lady Byron:—
ANDOVER, June 30, 1858.
MY DEAR FRIEND,—I did long to hear from you at a time when few knew how to speak, because I knew that you did know everything that sorrow can teach,—you whose whole life has been a crucifixion, a long ordeal. But I believe that the "Lamb," who stands forever in the midst of the throne "as it had been slain," has everywhere his followers, those who are sent into the world, as he was, to suffer for the redemption of others, and like him they must look to the joy set before them of redeeming others.
I often think that God called you to this beautiful and terrible ministry when He suffered you to link your destiny with one so strangely gifted, so fearfully tempted, and that the reward which is to meet you, when you enter within the veil, where you must soon pass, will be to see the angel, once chained and defiled within him, set free from sin and glorified, and so know that to you it has been given, by your life of love and faith, to accomplish this glorious change.
I think very much on the subject on which you conversed with me once, —the future state of retribution. It is evident to me that the spirit of Christianity has produced in the human spirit a tenderness of love which wholly revolts from the old doctrine on the subject, and I observe the more Christ-like any one becomes, the more impossible it seems for him to accept it; and yet, on the contrary, it was Christ who said, "Fear Him that is able to destroy soul and body in hell," and the most appalling language on this subject is that of Christ himself. Certain ideas once prevalent certainly must be thrown off. An endless infliction for past sins was once the doctrine that we now generally reject. The doctrine as now taught is that of an eternal persistence in evil necessitating eternal punishment, since evil induces misery by an eternal nature of things, and this, I fear, is inferable from the analogies of nature, and confirmed by the whole implication of the Bible.
Is there any fair way of disposing of the current of assertion, and the still deeper undercurrent of implication, on this subject, without one which loosens all faith in revelation, and throws us on pure naturalism? But of one thing I am sure,—probation does not end with this life, and the number of the redeemed may therefore be infinitely greater than the world's history leads us to suppose.
The views expressed in this letter certainly throw light on many passages in "The Minister's Wooing."
The following letter, written to her daughter Georgiana, is introduced as revealing the spirit in which much of "The Minister's Wooing" was written:—
February 12, 1859.
MY DEAR GEORGIE,—Why haven't I written? Because, dear Georgie, I am like the dry, dead, leafless tree, and have only cold, dead, slumbering buds of hope on the end of stiff, hard, frozen twigs of thought, but no leaves, no blossoms; nothing to send to a little girl who doesn't know what to do with herself any more than a kitten. I am cold, weary, dead; everything is a burden to me.
I let my plants die by inches before my eyes, and do not water them, and I dread everything; I do, and wish it was not to be done, and so when I get a letter from my little girl I smile and say, "Dear little puss, I will answer it;" and I sit hour after hour with folded hands, looking at the inkstand and dreading to begin. The fact is, pussy, mamma is tired. Life to you is gay and joyous, but to mamma it has been a battle in which the spirit is willing but the flesh weak, and she would be glad, like the woman in the St. Bernard, to lie down with her arms around the wayside cross, and sleep away into a brighter scene. Henry's fair, sweet face looks down upon me now and then from out a cloud, and I feel again all the bitterness of the eternal "No" which says I must never, never, in this life, see that face, lean on that arm, hear that voice. Not that my faith in God in the least fails, and that I do not believe that all this is for good. I do, and though not happy, I am blessed. Weak, weary as I am, I rest on Jesus in the innermost depth of my soul, and am quite sure that there is coming an inconceivable hour of beauty and glory when I shall regain Jesus, and he will give me back my beloved one, whom he is educating in a far higher sphere than I proposed. So do not mistake me,—only know that mamma is sitting weary by the wayside, feeling weak and worn, but in no sense discouraged.
Your affectionate mother, H. B. S.
So is it ever: when with bold step we press our way into the holy place where genius hath wrought, we find it to be a place of sorrows. Art has its Gethsemane and its Calvary as well as religion. Our best loved books and sweetest songs are those "that tell of saddest thought."
The summer of 1859 found Mrs. Stowe again on her way to Europe, this time accompanied by all her children except the youngest.
THE THIRD TRIP TO EUROPE, 1859.
THIRD VISIT TO EUROPE.—LADY BYRON ON "THE MINISTER'S WOOING."—SOME FOREIGN PEOPLE AND THINGS AS THEY APPEARED TO PROFESSOR STOWE.—A WINTER IN ITALY.—THINGS UNSEEN AND UNREVEALED.—SPECULATIONS CONCERNING SPIRITUALISM.—JOHN KUSKIN.—MRS. BROWNING.—THE RETURN TO AMERICA.—LETTERS TO DR. HOLMES.
Mrs. Stowe's third and last trip to Europe was undertaken in the summer of 1859. In writing to Lady Byron in May of that year, she says: "I am at present writing something that interests me greatly, and may interest you, as an attempt to portray the heart and life of New England, its religion, theology, and manners. Sampson Low & Son are issuing it in numbers, and I should be glad to know how they strike you. It is to publish this work complete that I intend to visit England this summer."
The story thus referred to was "The Minister's Wooing," and Lady Byron's answer to the above, which is appended, leaves no room for doubt as to her appreciation of it. She writes:—
LONDON, May 31,1859.
DEAR FRIEND,—I have found, particularly as to yourself, that if I did not answer from the first impulse, all had evaporated. Your letter came by the Niagara, which brought Fanny Kemble, to learn the loss of her best friend, that Miss Fitzhugh whom you saw at my house.
I have an intense interest in your new novel. More power in these few numbers than in any of your former writings, relatively, at least to my own mind. More power than in "Adam Bede," which is the book of the season, and well deserves a high place. Whether Mrs. Scudder will rival Mrs. Poyser, we shall see.
It would amuse you to hear my granddaughter and myself attempting to foresee the future of the "love story," being quite persuaded for the moment that James is at sea, and the minister about to ruin himself. We think that she will labor to be in love with the self-devoting man, under her mother's influence, and from that hyper-conscientiousness so common with good girls,—but we don't wish her to succeed. Then what is to become of her older lover? He—Time will show. I have just missed Dale Owen, with whom I wished to have conversed about the "Spiritualism." Harris is lecturing here on religion. I do not hear him praised. People are looking for helps to believe everywhere but in life,—in music, in architecture, in antiquity, in ceremony,—and upon all is written, "Thou shalt not believe." At least, if this be faith, happier the unbeliever. I am willing to see through that materialism, but if I am to rest there, I would rend the veil.
June 1. The day of the packet's sailing. I shall hope to be visited by you here. The best flowers sent me have been placed in your little vases, giving life, as it were, to the remembrance of you, though not to pass away like them.
Ever yours, A. T. NOEL BYRON.
The entire family, with the exception of the youngest son, was abroad at this time. The two eldest daughters were in Paris, having previously sailed for Havre in March, in company with their cousin, Miss Beecher. On their arrival in Paris, they went directly to the house of their old friend, Madame Borione, and soon afterwards entered a Protestant school. The rest of the family, including Mrs. Stowe, her husband and youngest daughter, sailed for Liverpool early in August. At about the same time, Fred Stowe, in company with his friend Samuel Scoville, took passage for the same port in a sailing vessel. A comprehensive outline of the earlier portion of this foreign tour is given in the following letter written by Professor Stowe to the sole member of the family remaining in America:
CASTLE CHILLON, SWITZERLAND, September 1, 1859.
DEAR LITTLE CHARLEY,—We are all here except Fred, and all well. We have had a most interesting journey, of which I must give a brief account.
We sailed from New York in the steamer Asia, on the 3d of August , a very hot day, and for ten days it was the hottest weather I ever knew at sea. We had a splendid ship's company, mostly foreigners, Italians, Spaniards, with a sprinkling of Scotch and Irish. We passed one big iceberg in the night close to, and as the iceberg wouldn't turn out for us we turned out for the iceberg, and were very glad to come off so. This was the night of the 9th of August, and after that we had cooler weather, and on the morning of the 13th the wind blew like all possessed, and so continued till afternoon. Sunday morning, the 14th, we got safe into Liverpool, landed, and went to the Adelphi Hotel. Mamma and Georgie were only a little sick on the way over, and that was the morning of the 13th.
As it was court time, the high sheriff of Lancashire, Sir Robert Gerauld, a fine, stout, old, gray-haired John Bull, came thundering up to the hotel at noon in his grand coach with six beautiful horses with outriders, and two trumpeters, and twelve men with javelins for a guard, all dressed in the gayest manner, and rushing along like Time in the primer, the trumpeters too-ti-toot-tooing like a house a-fire, and how I wished my little Charley had been there to see it!
Monday we wanted to go and see the court, so we went over to St. George's Hall, a most magnificent structure, that beats the Boston State House all hollow, and Sir Robert Gerauld himself met us, and said he would get us a good place. So he took us away round a narrow, crooked passage, and opened a little door, where we saw nothing but a great, crimson curtain, which he told us to put aside and go straight on; and where do you think we all found ourselves?
Right on the platform with the judges in their big wigs and long robes, and facing the whole crowded court! It was enough to frighten a body into fits, but we took it quietly as we could, and your mamma looked as meek as Moses in her little, battered straw hat and gray cloak, seeming to say, "I didn't come here o' purpose."
That same night we arrived in London, and Tuesday (August 16th), riding over the city, we called at Stafford House, and inquired if the Duchess of Sutherland was there. A servant came out and said the duchess was in and would be very glad to see us; so your mamma, Georgie, and I went walking up the magnificent staircase in the entrance hall, and the great, noble, brilliant duchess came sailing down the stairs to meet us, in her white morning dress (for it was only four o'clock in the afternoon, and she was not yet dressed for dinner), took your mamma into her great bosom, and folded her up till the little Yankee woman looked like a small gray kitten half covered in a snowbank, and kissed and kissed her, and then she took up little Georgie and kissed her, and then she took my hand, and didn't kiss me.
Next day we went to the duchess's villa, near Windsor Castle, and had a grand time riding round the park, sailing on the Thames, and eating the very best dinner that was ever set on a table.
We stayed in London till the 25th of August, and then went to Paris and found H. and E. and H. B. all well and happy; and on the 30th of August we all went to Geneva together, and to-day, the 1st of September, we all took a sail up the beautiful Lake Leman here in the midst of the Alps, close by the old castle of Chillon, about which Lord Byron has written a poem. In a day or two we shall go to Chamouni, and then Georgie and I will go back to Paris and London, and so home at the time appointed. Until then I remain as ever, Your loving father, C. E. STOWE.
Mrs. Stowe accompanied her husband and daughter to England, where, after traveling and visiting for two weeks, she bade them good-by and returned to her daughters in Switzerland. From Lausanne she writes under date of October 9th:—
MY DEAR HUSBAND,—Here we are at Lausanne, in the Hotel Gibbon, occupying the very parlor that the Ruskins had when we were here before. The day I left you I progressed prosperously to Paris. Reached there about one o'clock at night; could get no carriage, and finally had to turn in at a little hotel close by the station, where I slept till morning. I could not but think what if anything should happen to me there? Nobody knew me or where I was, but the bed was clean, the room respectable; so I locked my door and slept, then took a carriage in the morning, and found Madame Borione at breakfast. I write to- night, that you may get a letter from me at the earliest possible date after your return.
Instead of coming to Geneva in one day, I stopped over one night at Macon, got to Geneva the next day about four o'clock, and to Lausanne at eight. Coming up-stairs and opening the door, I found the whole party seated with their books and embroidery about a centre-table, and looking as homelike and cosy as possible. You may imagine the greetings, the kissing, laughing, and good times generally.
From Lausanne the merry party traveled toward Florence by easy stages, stopping at Lake Como, Milan, Verona, Venice, Genoa, and Leghorn. At Florence, where they arrived early in November, they met Fred Stowe and his friend, Samuel Scoville, and here they were also joined by their Brooklyn friends, the Howards. Thus it was a large and thoroughly congenial party that settled down in the old Italian city to spend the winter. From here Mrs. Stowe wrote weekly letters to her husband in Andover, and among them are the following, that not only throw light upon their mode of life, but illustrate a marked tendency of her mind:—
FLORENCE, Christmas Day, 1859.
MY DEAR HUSBAND,—I wish you all a Merry Christmas, hoping to spend the next one with you. For us, we are expecting to spend this evening with quite a circle of American friends. With Scoville and Fred came L. Bacon (son of Dr. Bacon); a Mr. Porter, who is to study theology at Andover, and is now making the tour of Europe; Mr. Clarke, formerly minister at Cornwall; Mr. Jenkyns, of Lowell; Mr. and Mrs. Howard, John and Annie Howard, who came in most unexpectedly upon us last night. So we shall have quite a New England party, and shall sing Millais' Christmas hymn in great force. Hope you will all do the same in the old stone cabin.
Our parlor is all trimmed with laurel and myrtle, looking like a great bower, and our mantel and table are redolent with bouquets of orange blossoms and pinks.
January 16, 1860.
MY DEAR HUSBAND,—Your letter received to-day has raised quite a weight from my mind, for it shows that at last you have received all mine, and that thus the chain of communication between us is unbroken. What you said about your spiritual experiences in feeling the presence of dear Henry with you, and, above all, the vibration of that mysterious guitar, was very pleasant to me. Since I have been in Florence, I have been distressed by inexpressible yearnings after him,—such sighings and outreachings, with a sense of utter darkness and separation, not only from him but from all spiritual communion with my God. But I have become acquainted with a friend through whom I receive consoling impressions of these things,—a Mrs. E., of Boston, a very pious, accomplished, and interesting woman, who has had a history much like yours in relation to spiritual manifestations.
Without doubt she is what the spiritualists would regard as a very powerful medium, but being a very earnest Christian, and afraid of getting led astray, she has kept carefully aloof from all circles and things of that nature. She came and opened her mind to me in the first place, to ask my advice as to what she had better do; relating experiences very similar to many of yours.
My advice was substantially to try the spirits whether they were of God,—to keep close to the Bible and prayer, and then accept whatever came. But I have found that when I am with her I receive very strong impressions from the spiritual world, so that I feel often sustained and comforted, as if I had been near to my Henry and other departed friends. This has been at times so strong as greatly to soothe and support me. I told her your experiences, in which she was greatly interested. She said it was so rare to hear of Christian and reliable people with such peculiarities.
I cannot, however, think that Henry strikes the guitar,—that must be Eliza, Her spirit has ever seemed to cling to that mode of manifestation, and if you would keep it in your sleeping-room, no doubt you would hear from it oftener. I have been reading lately a curious work from an old German in Paris who has been making experiments in spirit-writing. He purports to describe a series of meetings held in the presence of fifty witnesses, whose names he gives, in which writing has come on paper, without the apparition of hands or any pen or pencil, from various historical people.
He seems a devout believer in inspiration, and the book is curious for its mixture of all the phenomena, Pagan and Christian, going over Hindoo. Chinese, Greek, and Italian literature for examples, and then bringing similar ones from the Bible.
One thing I am convinced of,—that spiritualism is a reaction from the intense materialism of the present age. Luther, when he recognized a personal devil, was much nearer right. We ought to enter fully, at least, into the spiritualism of the Bible. Circles and spiritual jugglery I regard as the lying signs and wonders, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness; but there is a real scriptural spiritualism which has fallen into disuse, and must be revived, and there are, doubtless, people who, from some constitutional formation, can more readily receive the impressions of the surrounding spiritual world. Such were apostles, prophets, and workers of miracles.
Sunday evening. To-day I went down to sit with Mrs. E. in her quiet parlor. We read in Revelation together, and talked of the saints and spirits of the just made perfect, till it seemed, as it always does when with her, as if Henry were close by me. Then a curious thing happened. She has a little Florentine guitar which hangs in her parlor, quite out of reach. She and I were talking, and her sister, a very matter-of-fact, practical body, who attends to temporals for her, was arranging a little lunch for us, when suddenly the bass string of the guitar was struck loudly and distinctly.
"Who struck that guitar?" said the sister. We both looked up and saw that no body or thing was on that side of the room. After the sister had gone out, Mrs. E. said, "Now, that is strange! I asked last night that if any spirit was present with us after you came to-day, that it would try to touch that guitar." A little while after her husband came in, and as we were talking we were all stopped by a peculiar sound, as if somebody had drawn a hand across all the strings at once. We marveled, and I remembered the guitar at home.
What think you? Have you had any more manifestations, any truths from the spirit world?
About the end of February the pleasant Florentine circle broke up, and Mrs. Stowe and her party journeyed to Rome, where they remained until the middle of April. We next find them in Naples, starting on a six days' trip to Castellamare, Sorrento, Salerno, Paestum, and Amalfi; then up Vesuvius, and to the Blue Grotto of Capri, and afterwards back to Rome by diligence. Leaving Rome on May 9th, they traveled leisurely towards Paris, which they reached on the 27th. From there Mrs. Stowe wrote to her husband on May 28th:—
Since my last letter a great change has taken place in our plans, in consequence of which our passage for America is engaged by the Europa, which sails the 16th of June; so, if all goes well, we are due in Boston four weeks from this date. I long for home, for my husband and children, for my room, my yard and garden, for the beautiful trees of Andover. We will make a very happy home, and our children will help us.
This extended and pleasant tour was ended with an equally pleasant homeward voyage, for on the Europa were found Nathaniel Hawthorne and James T. Fields, who proved most delightful traveling companions.
While Mrs. Stowe fully enjoyed her foreign experiences, she was so thoroughly American in every fibre of her being that she was always thankful to return to her own land and people. She could not, therefore, in any degree reciprocate the views of Mr. Ruskin on this subject, as expressed in the following letter, received soon after her return to Andover:—
GENEVA, June 18, 1860.
DEAR MRS. STOWE,—It takes a great deal, when I am at Geneva, to make me wish myself anywhere else, and, of all places else, in London; nevertheless, I very heartily wish at this moment that I were looking out on the Norwood Hills, and were expecting you and the children to breakfast to-morrow.
I had very serious thoughts, when I received your note, of running home; but I expected that very day an American friend, Mr. S., who I thought would miss me more here than you would in London; so I stayed.
What a dreadful thing it is that people should have to go to America again, after coming to Europe! It seems to me an inversion of the order of nature. I think America is a sort of "United" States of Probation, out of which all wise people, being once delivered, and having obtained entrance into this better world, should never be expected to return (sentence irremediably ungrammatical), particularly when they have been making themselves cruelly pleasant to friends here. My friend Norton, whom I met first on this very blue lake water, had no business to go back to Boston again, any more than you.
I was waiting for S. at the railroad station on Thursday, and thinking of you, naturally enough,—it seemed so short a while since we were there together. I managed to get hold of Georgie as she was crossing the rails, and packed her in opposite my mother and beside me, and was thinking myself so clever, when you sent that rascally courier for her! I never forgave him any of his behavior after his imperativeness on that occasion.
And so she is getting nice and strong? Ask her, please, when you write, with my love, whether, when she stands now behind the great stick, one can see much of her on each side?
So you have been seeing the Pope and all his Easter performances? I congratulate you, for I suppose it is something like "Positively the last appearance on any stage." What was the use of thinking about him? You should have had your own thoughts about what was to come after him. I don't mean that Roman Catholicism will die out so quickly. It will last pretty nearly as long as Protestantism, which keeps it up; but I wonder what is to come next. That is the main question just now for everybody.
So you are coming round to Venice, after all? We shall all have to come to it, depend upon it, some way or another. There never has been anything in any other part of the world like Venetian strength well developed.
I've no heart to write about anything in Europe to you now. When are you coming back again? Please send me a line as soon as you get safe over, to say you are all—wrong, but not lost in the Atlantic.
I don't know if you will ever get this letter, but I hope you will think it worth while to glance again at the Denmark Hill pictures; so I send this to my father, who, I hope, will be able to give it you.
I really am very sorry you are going,—you and yours; and that is absolute fact, and I shall not enjoy my Swiss journey at all so much as I might. It was a shame of you not to give me warning before. I could have stopped at Paris so easily for you! All good be with you! Remember me devotedly to the young ladies, and believe me ever affectionately yours,
In Rome Mrs. Stowe had formed a warm friendship with the Brownings, with whom she afterwards maintained a correspondence. The following letter from Mrs. Browning was written a year after their first meeting.
ROME, 126 VIA FELICE, 14 March, 1861.
MY DEAR, MRS. STOWE,—Let me say one word first. Your letter, which would have given me pleasure if I had been in the midst of pleasures, came to me when little beside could have pleased. Dear friend, let me say it, I had had a great blow and loss in England, and you wrote things in that letter which seemed meant for me, meant to do me good, and which did me good,—the first good any letter or any talk did me; and it struck me as strange, as more than a coincidence, that your first word since we parted in Rome last spring should come to me in Rome, and bear so directly on an experience which you did not know of. I thank you very much.
The earnest stanzas I sent to England for one who wanted them even more than I. I don't know how people can keep up their prejudices against spiritualism with tears in their eyes,—how they are not, at least, thrown on the "wish that it might be true," and the investigation of the phenomena, by that abrupt shutting in their faces of the door of death, which shuts them out from the sight of their beloved. My tendency is to beat up against it like a crying child. Not that this emotional impulse is the best for turning the key and obtaining safe conclusions,—no. I did not write before because I always do shrink from touching my own griefs, one feels at first so sore that nothing but stillness is borne. It is only after, when one is better, that one can express one's self at all. This is so with me, at least, though perhaps it ought not to be so with a poet.
If you saw my "De Profundis" you must understand that it was written nearly twenty years ago, and referred to what went before. Mr. Howard's affliction made me think of the MS. (in reference to a sermon of Dr. Beecher's in the "Independent"), and I pulled it out of a secret place and sent it to America, not thinking that the publication would fall in so nearly with a new grief of mine as to lead to misconceptions. In fact the poem would have been an exaggeration in that case, and unsuitable in other respects.
It refers to the greatest affliction of my life,—the only time when I felt despair,—written a year after or more. Forgive all these reticences. My husband calls me "peculiar" in some things,—peculiarly lche, perhaps. I can't articulate some names, or speak of certain afflictions;—no, not to him,—not after all these years! It's a sort of dumbness of the soul. Blessed are those who can speak, I say. But don't you see from this how I must want "spiritualism" above most persons?
Now let me be ashamed of this egotism, together with the rest of the weakness obtruded on you here, when I should rather have congratulated you, my dear friend, on the great crisis you are passing through in America. If the North is found noble enough to stand fast on the moral question, whatever the loss or diminution of territory, God and just men will see you greater and more glorious as a nation.
I had much anxiety for you after the Seward and Adams speeches, but the danger seems averted by that fine madness of the South which seems judicial. The tariff movement we should regret deeply (and do, some of us), only I am told it was wanted in order to persuade those who were less accessible to moral argument. It's eking out the holy water with ditch water. If the Devil flees before it, even so, let us be content. How you must feel, you who have done so much to set this accursed slavery in the glare of the world, convicting it of hideousness! They should raise a statue to you in America and elsewhere.
Meanwhile I am reading you in the "Independent," sent to me by Mr. Tilton, with the greatest interest. Your new novel opens beautifully. [Footnote: The Pearl of Orr's Island.]
Do write to me and tell me of yourself and the subjects which interest us both. It seems to me that our Roman affairs may linger a little (while the Papacy bleeds slowly to death in its finances) on account of this violent clerical opposition in France. Otherwise we were prepared for the fall of the house any morning. Prince Napoleon's speech represents, with whatever slight discrepancy, the inner mind of the emperor. It occupied seventeen columns of the "Moniteur" and was magnificent. Victor Emmanuel wrote to thank him for it in the name of Italy, and even the English papers praised it as "a masterly exposition of the policy of France." It is settled that we shall wait for Venice. It will not be for long. Hungary is only waiting, and even in the ashes of Poland there are flickering sparks. Is it the beginning of the restitution of all things?
Here in Rome there are fewer English than usual, and more empty houses. There is a new story every morning, and nobody to cut off the head of the Scheherazade. Yesterday the Pope was going to Venice directly, and, the day before, fixed the hour for Victor Emmanuel's coming, and the day before that brought a letter from Cavour to Antonelli about sweeping the streets clean for the feet of the king. The poor Romans live on these stories, while the Holy Father and king of Naples meet holding one another's hands, and cannot speak for sobs. The little queen, however, is a heroine in her way and from her point of view, and when she drives about in a common fiacre, looking very pretty under her only crown left of golden hair, one must feel sorry that she was not born and married nearer to holy ground. My husband prays you to remember him, and I ask your daughters to remember both of us. Our boy rides his pony and studies under his abb, and keeps a pair of red cheeks, thank God.
I ought to send you more about the society in Rome, but I have lived much alone this winter, and have little to tell you. Dr. Manning and Mr. DeVere stay away, not bearing, perhaps, to see the Pope in his agony.
Your ever affectionate friend,
ELIZABETH B. BROWNING.
Soon after her return to America Mrs. Stowe began a correspondence with Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, which opened the way for the warm friendship that has stood the test of years. Of this correspondence the two following letters, written about this time, are worthy of attention.
ANDOVER, September 9, 1860.
DEAR DR. HOLMES,—I have had an impulse upon me for a long time to write you a line of recognition and sympathy, in response to those that reached me monthly in your late story in the "Atlantic" ("Elsie Venner").
I know not what others may think of it, since I have seen nobody since my return; but to me it is of deeper and broader interest than anything you have done yet, and I feel an intense curiosity concerning that underworld of thought from which Like bubbles your incidents and remarks often seem to burst up. The foundations of moral responsibility, the interlacing laws of nature and spirit, and their relations to us here and hereafter, are topics which I ponder more and more, and on which only one medically educated can write well. I think a course of medical study ought to be required of all ministers. How I should like to talk with you upon the strange list of topics suggested in the schoolmaster's letter! They are bound to agitate the public mind more and more, and it is of the chiefest importance to learn, if we can, to think soundly and wisely of them. Nobody can be a sound theologian who has not had his mind drawn to think with reverential fear on these topics.
Allow me to hint that the monthly numbers are not long enough. Get us along a little faster. You must work this well out. Elaborate and give us all the particulars. Old Sophie is a jewel; give us more of her. I have seen her. Could you ever come out and spend a day with us? The professor and I would so like to have a talk on some of these matters with you!
Very truly yours, H. B. STOWE.
ANDOVER, February 18, 1861.
DEAR DOCTOR,—I was quite indignant to hear yesterday of the very unjust and stupid attack upon you in the——. Mr. Stowe has written to them a remonstrance which I hope they will allow to appear as he wrote it, and over his name. He was well acquainted with your father and feels the impropriety of the thing.
But, my dear friend, in being shocked, surprised, or displeased personally with such things, we must consider other people's natures. A man or woman may wound us to the quick without knowing it, or meaning to do so, simply through difference of fibre. As Cowper hath somewhere happily said:—
"Oh, why are farmers made so coarse, Or clergy made so fine? A kick that scarce might move a horse Might kill a sound divine."
When once people get ticketed, and it is known that one is a hammer, another a saw, and so on, if we happen to get a taste of their quality we cannot help being hurt, to be sure, but we shall not take it ill of them. There be pious, well-intending beetles, wedges, hammers, saws, and all other kinds of implements, good—except where they come in the way of our fingers—and from a beetle you can have only a beetle's gospel.
I have suffered in my day from this sort of handling, which is worse for us women, who must never answer, and once when I wrote to Lady Byron, feeling just as you do about some very stupid and unkind things that had invaded my personality, she answered me, "Words do not kill, my dear, or I should have been dead long ago."
There is much true religion and kindness in the world, after all, and as a general thing he who has struck a nerve would be very sorry for it if he only knew what he had done. I would say nothing, if I were you. There is eternal virtue in silence.
I must express my pleasure with the closing chapters of "Elsie." They are nobly and beautifully done, and quite come up to what I wanted to complete my idea of her character. I am quite satisfied with it now. It is an artistic creation, original and beautiful.
Believe me to be your true friend,
H. B. STOWE.
THE CIVIL WAR, 1860-1865.
THE OUTBREAK OF CIVIL WAR.—MRS. STOWE'S SON ENLISTS.—THANKSGIVING DAY IN WASHINGTON.—THE PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION.—REJOICINGS IN BOSTON.—FRED STOWE AT GETTYSBURG.—LEAVING ANDOVER AND SETTLING IN HARTFORD.—A REPLY TO THE WOMEN OF ENGLAND.—LETTERS FROM JOHN BRIGHT, ARCHBISHOP WHATELY, AND NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.
Immediately after Mrs. Stowe's return from Europe, it became only too evident that the nation was rapidly and inevitably drifting into all the horrors of civil war. To use her own words: "It was God's will that this nation—the North as well as the South—should deeply and terribly suffer for the sin of consenting to and encouraging the great oppressions of the South; that the ill-gotten wealth, which had arisen from striking hands with oppression and robbery, should be paid back in the taxes of war; that the blood of the poor slave, that had cried so many years from the ground in vain, should be answered by the blood of the sons from the best hearthstones through all the free States; that the slave mothers, whose tears nobody regarded, should have with them a great company of weepers, North and South,—Rachels weeping for their children and refusing to be comforted; that the free States, who refused to listen when they were told of lingering starvation, cold, privation, and barbarous cruelty, as perpetrated on the slave, should have lingering starvation, cold, hunger, and cruelty doing its work among their own sons, at the hands of these slave-masters, with whose sins our nation had connived."
Mrs. Stowe spoke from personal experience, having seen her own son go forth in the ranks of those who first responded to the President's call for volunteers. He was one of the first to place his name on the muster-roll of Company A of the First Massachusetts Volunteers. While his regiment was still at the camp in Cambridge, Mrs. Stowe was called to Brooklyn on important business, from which place she writes to her husband under the date June 11, 1861:—
"Yesterday noon Henry (Ward Beecher) came in, saying that the Commonwealth, with the First (Massachusetts) Regiment on board, had just sailed by. Immediately I was of course eager to get to Jersey City to see Fred. Sister Eunice said she would go with me, and in a few minutes she, Hatty, Sam Scoville, and I were in a carriage, driving towards the Fulton Ferry. Upon reaching Jersey City we found that the boys were dining in the depot, an immense building with many tracks and platforms. It has a great cast-iron gallery just under the roof, apparently placed there with prophetic instinct of these times. There was a crowd of people pressing against the grated doors, which were locked, but through which we could see the soldiers. It was with great difficulty that we were at last permitted to go inside, and that object seemed to be greatly aided by a bit of printed satin that some man gave Mr. Scoville.
"When we were in, a vast area of gray caps and blue overcoats was presented. The boys were eating, drinking, smoking, talking, singing, and laughing. Company A was reported to be here, there, and everywhere. At last S. spied Fred in the distance, and went leaping across the tracks towards him. Immediately afterwards a blue- overcoated figure bristling with knapsack and haversack, and looking like an assortment of packages, came rushing towards us.
"Fred was overjoyed, you may be sure, and my first impulse was to wipe his face with my handkerchief before I kissed him. He was in high spirits, in spite of the weight of blue overcoat, knapsack, etc., etc., that he would formerly have declared intolerable for half an hour. I gave him my handkerchief and Eunice gave him hers, with a sheer motherly instinct that is so strong within her, and then we filled his haversack with oranges.
"We stayed with Fred about two hours, during which time the gallery was filled with people, cheering and waving their handkerchiefs. Every now and then the band played inspiriting airs, in which the soldiers joined with hearty voices. While some of the companies sang, others were drilled, and all seemed to be having a general jollification. The meal that had been provided was plentiful, and consisted of coffee, lemonade, sandwiches, etc.
"On our way out we were introduced to the Rev. Mr. Cudworth, chaplain of the regiment. He is a fine-looking man, with black eyes and hair, set off by a white havelock. He wore a sword, and Fred, touching it, asked, 'Is this for use or ornament, sir?'
"'Let me see you in danger,' answered the chaplain, 'and you'll find out.'
"I said to him I supposed he had had many an one confided to his kind offices, but I could not forbear adding one more to the number. He answered, 'You may rest assured, Mrs. Stowe, I will do all in my power.'
"We parted from Fred at the door. He said he felt lonesome enough Saturday evening on the Common in Boston, where everybody was taking leave of somebody, and he seemed to be the only one without a friend, but that this interview made up for it all.
"I also saw young Henry. Like Fred he is mysteriously changed, and wears an expression of gravity and care. So our boys come to manhood in a day. Now I am watching anxiously for the evening paper to tell me that the regiment has reached Washington in safety."
In November, 1862, Mrs. Stowe was invited to visit Washington, to be present at a great thanksgiving dinner provided for the thousands of fugitive slaves who had flocked to the city. She accepted the invitation the more gladly because her son's regiment was encamped near the city, and she should once more see him. He was now Lieutenant Stowe, having honestly won his promotion by bravery on more than one hard-fought field. She writes of this visit:
Imagine a quiet little parlor with a bright coal fire, and the gaslight burning above a centre-table, about which Hatty, Fred, and I are seated. Fred is as happy as happy can be to be with mother and sister once more. All day yesterday we spent in getting him. First we had to procure a permit to go to camp, then we went to the fort where the colonel is, and then to another where the brigadier-general is stationed. I was so afraid they would not let him come with us, and was never happier than when at last he sprang into the carriage free to go with us for forty-eight hours. "Oh!" he exclaimed in a sort of rapture, "this pays for a year and a half of fighting and hard work!"
We tried hard to get the five o'clock train out to Laurel, where J.'s regiment is stationed, as we wanted to spend Sunday all together; but could not catch it, and so had to content ourselves with what we could have. I have managed to secure a room for Fred next ours, and feel as though I had my boy at home once more. He is looking very well, has grown in thickness, and is as loving and affectionate as a boy can be.
I have just been writing a pathetic appeal to the brigadier-general to let him stay with us a week. I have also written to General Buckingham in regard to changing him from the infantry, in which there seems to be no prospect of anything but garrison duty, to the cavalry, which is full of constant activity.
General B. called on us last evening. He seemed to think the prospect before us was, at best, of a long war. He was the officer deputed to carry the order to General McClellan relieving him of command of the army. He carried it to him in his tent about twelve o'clock at night. Burnside was there. McClellan said it was very unexpected, but immediately turned over the command. I said I thought he ought to have expected it after having so disregarded the President's order. General B. smiled and said he supposed McClellan had done that so often before that he had no idea any notice would be taken of it this time.
Now, as I am very tired, I must close, and remain as always, lovingly yours,
During the darkest and most bitter period of the Civil War, Mrs. Stowe penned the following letter to the Duchess of Argyll:—
ANDOVER, July 31, 1863.
MY DEAR FRIEND,—Your lovely, generous letter was a real comfort to me, and reminded me that a year—and, alas! a whole year—had passed since I wrote to your dear mother, of whom I think so often as one of God's noblest creatures, and one whom it comforts me to think is still in our world.
So many, good and noble, have passed away whose friendship was such a pride, such a comfort to me! Your noble father, Lady Byron, Mrs. Browning,—their spirits are as perfect as ever passed to the world of light. I grieve about your dear mother's eyes. I have thought about you all, many a sad, long, quiet hour, as I have lain on my bed and looked at the pictures on my wall; one, in particular, of the moment before the Crucifixion, which is the first thing I look at when I wake in the morning. I think how suffering is, and must be, the portion of noble spirits, and no lot so brilliant that must not first or last dip into the shadow of that eclipse. Prince Albert, too, the ideal knight, the Prince Arthur of our times, the good, wise, steady head and heart we—that is, our world, we Anglo-Saxons—need so much. And the Queen! yes, I have thought of and prayed for her, too. But could a woman hope to have always such a heart, and yet ever be weaned from earth "all this and heaven, too"?
Under my picture I have inscribed, "Forasmuch as Christ also hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind."
This year has been one long sigh, one smothering sob, to me. And I thank God that we have as yet one or two generous friends in England who understand and feel for our cause.
The utter failure of Christian, anti-slavery England, in those instincts of a right heart which always can see where the cause of liberty lies, has been as bitter a grief to me as was the similar prostration of all our American religious people in the day of the Fugitive Slave Law. Exeter Hall is a humbug, a pious humbug, like the rest. Lord Shaftesbury. Well, let him go; he is a Tory, and has, after all, the instincts of his class. But I saw your duke's speech to his tenants! That was grand! If he can see these things, they are to be seen, and why cannot Exeter Hall see them? It is simply the want of the honest heart.
Why do the horrible barbarities of Southern soldiers cause no comment? Why is the sympathy of the British Parliament reserved for the poor women of New Orleans, deprived of their elegant amusement of throwing vitriol into soldiers' faces, and practicing indecencies inconceivable in any other state of society? Why is all expression of sympathy on the Southern side? There is a class of women in New Orleans whom Butler protects from horrible barbarities, that up to his day have been practiced on them by these so-called New Orleans ladies, but British sympathy has ceased to notice them. You see I am bitter. I am. You wonder at my brother. He is a man, and feels a thousand times more than I can, and deeper than all he ever has expressed, the spirit of these things. You must not wonder, therefore. Remember it is the moment when every nerve is vital; it is our agony; we tread the winepress alone, and they whose cheap rhetoric has been for years pushing us into it now desert en masse. I thank my God I always loved and trusted most those who now do stand true,—your family, your duke, yourself, your noble mother. I have lost Lady Byron. Her great heart, her eloquent letters, would have been such a joy to me! And Mrs. Browning, oh such a heroic woman! None of her poems can express what she was,—so grand, so comprehending, so strong, with such inspired insight! She stood by Italy through its crisis. Her heart was with all good through the world. Your prophecy that we shall come out better, truer, stronger, will, I am confident, be true, and it was worthy of yourself and your good lineage.
Slavery will be sent out by this agony. We are only in the throes and ravings of the exorcism. The roots of the cancer have gone everywhere, but they must die—will. Already the Confiscation Bill is its natural destruction. Lincoln has been too slow. He should have done it sooner, and with an impulse, but come it must, come it will. Your mother will live to see slavery abolished, unless England forms an alliance to hold it up. England is the great reliance of the slave-power to- day, and next to England the faltering weakness of the North, which palters and dare not fire the great broadside for fear of hitting friends. These things must be done, and sudden, sharp remedies are mercy. Just now we are in a dark hour; but whether God be with us or not, I know He is with the slave, and with his redemption will come the solution of our question. I have long known what and who we had to deal with in this, for when I wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin" I had letters addressed to me showing a state of society perfectly inconceivable. That they violate graves, make drinking-cups of skulls, that ladies wear cameos cut from bones, and treasure scalps, is no surprise to me. If I had written what I knew of the obscenity, brutality, and cruelty of that society down there, society would have cast out the books; and it is for their interest, the interest of the whole race in the South, that we should succeed. I wish them no ill, feel no bitterness; they have had a Dahomian education which makes them savage. We don't expect any more of them, but if slavery is destroyed, one generation of education and liberty will efface these stains. They will come to themselves, these States, and be glad it is over.
I am using up my paper to little purpose. Please give my best love to your dear mother. I am going to write to her. If I only could have written the things I have often thought! I am going to put on her bracelet, with the other dates, that of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Remember me to the duke and to your dear children. My husband desires his best regards, my daughters also.
I am lovingly ever yours,
H. B. STOWE.
Later in the year we hear again from her son in the army, and this time the news comes in a chaplain's letter from the terrible field of Gettysburg. He writes:—
GETTYSBURG, PA., Saturday, July 11, 9.30 P. M.
MRS. H. B. STOWE:
Dear Madam,—Among the thousands of wounded and dying men on this war-scarred field, I have just met with your son, Captain Stowe. If you have not already heard from him, it may cheer your heart to know that he is in the hands of good, kind friends. He was struck by a fragment of a shell, which entered his right ear. He is quiet and cheerful, longs to see some member of his family, and is, above all, anxious that they should hear from him as soon as possible. I assured him I would write at once, and though I am wearied by a week's labor here among scenes of terrible suffering, I know that, to a mother's anxious heart, even a hasty scrawl about her boy will be more than welcome.
May God bless and sustain you in this troubled time!
Yours with sincere sympathy,
J. M. CROWELL.
The wound in the head was not fatal, and after weary months of intense suffering it imperfectly healed; but the cruel iron had too nearly touched the brain of the young officer, and never again was he what he had been. Soon after the war his mother bought a plantation in Florida, largely in the hope that the out-of-door life connected with its management might be beneficial to her afflicted son. He remained on it for several years, and then, being possessed with the idea that a long sea voyage would do him more good than anything else, sailed from New York to San Francisco around the Horn. That he reached the latter city in safety is known; but that is all. No word from him or concerning him has ever reached the loving hearts that have waited so anxiously for it, and of his ultimate fate nothing is known.
Meantime, the year 1863 was proving eventful in many other ways to Mrs. Stowe. In the first place, the long and pleasant Andover connection of Professor Stowe was about to be severed, and the family were to remove to Hartford, Conn. They were to occupy a house that Mrs. Stowe was building on the bank of Park River. It was erected in a grove of oaks that had in her girlhood been one of Mrs. Stowe's favorite resorts. Here, with her friend Georgiana May, she had passed many happy hours, and had often declared that if she were ever able to build a house, it should stand in that very place. Here, then, it was built in 1863, and as the location was at that time beyond the city limits, it formed, with its extensive, beautiful groves, a particularly charming place of residence. Beautiful as it was, however, it was occupied by the family for only a few years. The needs of the growing city caused factories to spring up in the neighborhood, and to escape their encroachments the Stowes in 1873 bought and moved into the house on Forest Street that has ever since been their Northern home. Thus the only house Mrs. Stowe ever planned and built for herself has been appropriated to the use of factory hands, and is now a tenement occupied by several families.
Another important event of 1863 was the publishing of that charming story of Italy, "Agnes of Sorrento," which had been begun nearly four years before. This story suggested itself to Mrs. Stowe while she was abroad during the winter of 1859-60. The origin of the story is as follows: One evening, at a hotel in Florence, it was proposed that the various members of the party should write short stories and read them for the amusement of the company. Mrs. Stowe took part in this literary contest, and the result was the first rough sketch of "Agnes of Sorrento." From this beginning was afterwards elaborated "Agnes of Sorrento," with a dedication to Annie Howard, who was one of the party.
Not the least important event of the year to Mrs. Stowe, and the world at large through her instrumentality, was the publication in the "Atlantic Monthly" of her reply to the address of the women of England. The "reply" is substantially as follows:—
To "The affectionate and Christian Address of many thousands of Women of Great Britain and Ireland to their Sisters, the Women of the United States of America," (signed by)
ANNA MARIA BEDFORD (Duchess of Bedford). OLIVIA CECILIA COWLEY (Countess Cowley). CONSTANCE GROSVENOR (Countess Grosvenor). HARRIET SUTHERLAND (Duchess of Sutherland). ELIZABETH ARGYLL (Duchess of Argyll). ELIZABETH FORTESCUE (Countess Fortescue). EMILY SHAFTESBURY (Countess of Shaftesbury). MARY RUTHVEN (Baroness Ruthven). M. A. MILMAN (wife of Dean of St. Paul). R. BUXTON (daughter of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton). CAROLINE AMELIA OWEN (wife of Professor Owen). MRS. CHARLES WINDHAM. C. A. HATHERTON (Baroness Hatherton). ELIZABETH DUCIE (Countess Dowager of Ducie). CECILIA PARKE (wife of Baron Parke). MARY ANN CHALLIS (wife of the Lord Mayor of London). E. GORDON (Duchess Dowager of Gordon). ANNA M. L. MELVILLE (daughter of Earl of Leven and Melville). GEORGIANA EBRINGTON (Lady Ebrington). A. HILL (Viscountess Hill). MRS. GOBAT (wife of Bishop Gobat of Jerusalem). E. PALMERSTON (Viscountess Palmerston). (And others).
SISTERS,—More than eight years ago you sent to us in America a document with the above heading. It is as follows:—
"A common origin, a common faith, and, we sincerely believe, a common cause, urge us, at the present moment, to address you on the subject of that system of negro slavery which still prevails so extensively, and, even under kindly disposed masters, with such frightful results, in many of the vast regions of the Western world.
"We will not dwell on the ordinary topics,—on the progress of civilization, on the advance of freedom everywhere, on the rights and requirements of the nineteenth century; but we appeal to you very seriously to reflect, and to ask counsel of God, how far such a state of things is in accordance with his Holy Word, the inalienable rights of immortal souls, and the pure and merciful spirit of the Christian religion. We do not shut our eyes to the difficulties, nay, the dangers, that might beset the immediate abolition of that long- established system. We see and admit the necessity of preparation for so great an event; but, in speaking of indispensable preliminaries, we cannot be silent on those laws of your country which, in direct contravention of God's own law, 'instituted in the time of man's innocency, deny in effect to the slave the sanctity of marriage, with all its joys, rights, and obligations; which separate, at the will of the master, the wife from the husband, and the children from the parents. Nor can we be silent on that awful system which, either by statute or by custom, interdicts to any race of men, or any portion of the human family, education in the truths of the gospel and the ordinances of Christianity. A remedy applied to these two evils alone would commence the amelioration of their sad condition. We appeal to you then, as sisters, as wives, and as mothers, to raise your voices to your fellow-citizens, and your prayers to God, for the removal of this affliction and disgrace from the Christian world.
"We do not say these things in a spirit of self-complacency, as though our nation were free from the guilt it perceives in others.
"We acknowledge with grief and shame our heavy share in this great sin. We acknowledge that our fore-fathers introduced, nay compelled the adoption, of slavery in those mighty colonies. We humbly confess it before Almighty God; and it is because we so deeply feel and unfeignedly avow our own complicity, that we now venture to implore your aid to wipe away our common crime and our common dishonor."
This address, splendidly illuminated on vellum, was sent to our shores at the head of twenty-six folio volumes, containing considerably more than half a million of signatures of British women. It was forwarded to me with a letter from a British nobleman, now occupying one of the highest official positions in England, with a request on behalf of these ladies that it should be in any possible way presented to the attention of my countrywomen.
This memorial, as it now stands in its solid oaken case, with its heavy folios, each bearing on its back the imprint of the American eagle, forms a most unique library, a singular monument of an international expression of a moral idea. No right-thinking person can find aught to be objected against the substance or form of this memorial. It is temperate, just, and kindly; and on the high ground of Christian equality, where it places itself, may be regarded as a perfectly proper expression of sentiment, as between blood relations and equals in two different nations. The signatures to this appeal are not the least remarkable part of it; for, beginning at the very steps of the throne, they go down to the names of women in the very humblest conditions in life, and represent all that Great Britain possesses, not only of highest and wisest, but of plain, homely common sense and good feeling. Names of wives of cabinet ministers appear on the same page with the names of wives of humble laborers,—names of duchesses and countesses, of wives of generals, ambassadors, savants, and men of letters, mingled with names traced in trembling characters by hands evidently unused to hold the pen, and stiffened by lowly toil. Nay, so deep and expansive was the feeling, that British subjects in foreign lands had their representation. Among the signatures are those of foreign residents, from Paris to Jerusalem. Autographs so diverse, and collected from sources so various, have seldom been found in juxtaposition. They remain at this day a silent witness of a most singular tide of feeling which at that time swept over the British community and made for itself an expression, even at the risk of offending the sensibilities of an equal and powerful nation.
No reply to that address, in any such tangible and monumental form, has ever been possible. It was impossible to canvass our vast territories with the zealous and indefatigable industry with which England was canvassed for signatures. In America, those possessed of the spirit which led to this efficient action had no leisure for it. All their time and energies were already absorbed in direct efforts to remove the great evil, concerning which the minds of their English sisters had been newly aroused, and their only answer was the silent continuance of these efforts.
From the slaveholding States, however, as was to be expected, came a flood of indignant recrimination and rebuke. No one act, perhaps, ever produced more frantic irritation, or called out more unsparing abuse. It came with the whole united weight of the British aristocracy and commonalty on the most diseased and sensitive part of our national life; and it stimulated that fierce excitement which was working before, and has worked since, till it has broken out into open war.
The time has come, however, when such an astonishing page has been turned, in the anti-slavery history of America, that the women of our country, feeling that the great anti-slavery work to which their English sisters exhorted them is almost done, may properly and naturally feel moved to reply to their appeal, and lay before them the history of what has occurred since the receipt of their affectionate and Christian address.
Your address reached us just as a great moral conflict was coming to its intensest point. The agitation kept up by the anti-slavery portion of America, by England, and by the general sentiment of humanity in Europe, had made the situation of the slaveholding aristocracy intolerable. As one of them at the time expressed it, they felt themselves under the ban of the civilized world. Two courses only were open to them: to abandon slave institutions, the sources of their wealth and political power, or to assert them with such an overwhelming national force as to compel the respect and assent of mankind. They chose the latter.
To this end they determined to seize on and control all the resources of the Federal Government, and to spread their institutions through new States and Territories until the balance of power should fall into their hands and they should be able to force slavery into all the free States.
A leading Southern senator boasted that he would yet call the roll of his slaves on Bunker Hill; and for a while the political successes of the slave-power were such as to suggest to New England that this was no impossible event.
They repealed the Missouri Compromise, which had hitherto stood like the Chinese wall, between our Northwestern Territories and the irruptions of slaveholding barbarians.
Then came the struggle between freedom and slavery in the new territory; the battle for Kansas and Nebraska, fought with fire and sword and blood, where a race of men, of whom John Brown was the immortal type, acted over again the courage, the perseverance, and the military-religious ardor of the old Covenanters of Scotland, and like them redeemed the ark of Liberty at the price of their own blood, and blood dearer than their own.
The time of the Presidential canvass which elected Mr. Lincoln was the crisis of this great battle. The conflict had become narrowed down to the one point of the extension of slave territory. If the slaveholders could get States enough, they could control and rule; if they were outnumbered by free States, their institutions, by the very law of their nature, would die of suffocation. Therefore Fugitive Slave Law, District of Columbia, Inter-State Slave-trade, and what not, were all thrown out of sight for a grand rally on this vital point. A President was elected pledged to opposition to this one thing alone,—a man known to be in favor of the Fugitive Slave Law and other so-called compromises of the Constitution, but honest and faithful in his determination on this one subject. That this was indeed the vital point was shown by the result. The moment Lincoln's election was ascertained, the slaveholders resolved to destroy the Union they could no longer control.
They met and organized a Confederacy which they openly declared to be the first republic founded on the right and determination of the white man to enslave the black man, and, spreading their banners, declared themselves to the Christian world of the nineteenth century as a nation organized with the full purpose and intent of perpetuating slavery.
But in the course of the struggle that followed, it became important for the new confederation to secure the assistance of foreign powers, and infinite pains were then taken to blind and bewilder the mind of England as to the real issues of the conflict in America.
It has been often and earnestly asserted that slavery had nothing to do with this conflict; that it was a mere struggle for power; that the only object was to restore the Union as it was, with all its abuses. It is to be admitted that expressions have proceeded from the national administration which naturally gave rise to misapprehension, and therefore we beg to speak to you on this subject more fully.
And first the declaration of the Confederate States themselves is proof enough, that, whatever may be declared on the other side, the maintenance of slavery is regarded by them as the vital object of their movement.
We ask your attention under this head to the declaration of their Vice-President, Stephens, in that remarkable speech delivered on the 21st of March, 1861, at Savannah, Georgia, wherein he declares the object and purposes of the new Confederacy. It is one of the most extraordinary papers which our century has produced. I quote from the verbatim report in the "Savannah Republican" of the address as it was delivered in the Athenum of that city, on which occasion, says the newspaper from which I copy, "Mr. Stephens took his seat amid a burst of enthusiasm and applause such as the Athenum has never had displayed within its walls within the recollection 'of the oldest inhabitant,'"
Last, not least, the new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution,— African slavery as it exists among us, the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was a conjecture with him is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands may be doubted.
The prevailing ideas entertained by him, and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.
In the mean while, during the past year, the Republican administration, with all the unwonted care of organizing an army and navy, and conducting military operations on an immense scale, have proceeded to demonstrate the feasibility of overthrowing slavery by purely constitutional measures. To this end they have instituted a series of movements which have made this year more fruitful in anti- slavery triumphs than any other since the emancipation of the British West Indies. The District of Columbia, as belonging strictly to the national government and to no separate State, has furnished a fruitful subject of remonstrance from British Christians with America. We have abolished slavery there, and thus wiped out the only blot of territorial responsibility on our escutcheon.
By another act, equally grand in principle, and far more important in its results, slavery is forever excluded from the Territories of the United States.
By another act, America has consummated the long-delayed treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave-trade. In ports whence slave vessels formerly sailed with the connivance of the port officers, the administration has placed men who stand up to their duty, and for the first time in our history the slave-trader is convicted and hung as a pirate. This abominable secret traffic has been wholly demolished by the energy of the Federal Government.
Lastly, and more significant still, the United States government has in its highest official capacity taken distinct anti-slavery ground, and presented to the country a plan of peaceable emancipation with suitable compensation. This noble-spirited and generous offer has been urged on the slaveholding States by the chief executive with earnestness and sincerity. But this is but half the story of the anti- slavery triumphs of this year. We have shown you what has been done for freedom by the simple use of the ordinary constitutional forces of the Union. We are now to show you what has been done to the same end by the constitutional war-power of the nation.
By this power it has been this year decreed that every slave of a rebel who reaches the lines of our army becomes a free man; that all slaves found deserted by their masters become free men; that every slave employed in any service for the United States thereby obtains his liberty; and that every slave employed against the United States in any capacity obtains his liberty; and lest the army should contain officers disposed to remand slaves to their masters, the power of judging and delivering up slaves is denied to army officers, and all such acts are made penal.
By this act the Fugitive Slave Law is for all present purposes practically repealed. With this understanding and provision, wherever our armies march they carry liberty with them. For be it remembered that our army is almost entirely a volunteer one, and that the most zealous and ardent volunteers are those who have been for years fighting, with tongue and pen, the abolition battle. So marked is the character of our soldiers in this respect, that they are now familiarly designated in the official military dispatches of the Confederate States as "the Abolitionists." Conceive the results when an army so empowered by national law marches through a slave territory. One regiment alone has to our certain knowledge liberated two thousand slaves during the past year, and this regiment is but one out of hundreds.
Lastly, the great decisive measure of the war has appeared,—the President's Proclamation of Emancipation.
This also has been much misunderstood and misrepresented in England. It has been said to mean virtually this: Be loyal and you shall keep your slaves; rebel and they shall be free. But let us remember what we have just seen of the purpose and meaning of the Union to which the rebellious States are invited back. It is to a Union which has abolished slavery in the District of Columbia, and interdicted slavery in the Territories; which vigorously represses the slave-trade, and hangs the convicted slaver as a pirate; which necessitates emancipation by denying expansion to slavery, and facilitates it by the offer of compensation. Any slaveholding States which should return to such a Union might fairly be supposed to return with the purpose of peaceable emancipation. The President's Proclamation simply means this: Come in and emancipate peaceably with compensation; stay out and I emancipate, nor will I protect you from the consequences.
Will our sisters in England feel no heartbeat at that event? Is it not one of the predicted voices of the latter day, saying under the whole heavens, "It is done; the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ"?