And now, sisters of England, in this solemn, expectant hour, let us speak to you of one thing which fills our hearts with pain and solicitude. It is an unaccountable fact, and one which we entreat you seriously to ponder, that the party which has brought the cause of freedom thus far on its way, during the past eventful year, has found little or no support in England. Sadder than this, the party which makes slavery the chief corner-stone of its edifice finds in England its strongest defenders.
The voices that have spoken for us who contend for liberty have been few and scattering. God forbid that we should forget those few noble voices, so sadly exceptional in the general outcry against us! They are, alas! too few to be easily forgotten. False statements have blinded the minds of your community, and turned the most generous sentiments of the British heart against us. The North are fighting for supremacy and the South for independence, has been the voice. Independence? for what? to do what? To prove the doctrine that all men are not equal; to establish the doctrine that the white may enslave the negro!
In the beginning of our struggle, the voices that reached us across the water said: "If we were only sure you were fighting for the abolition of slavery, we should not dare to say whither our sympathies for your cause might not carry us." Such, as we heard, were the words of the honored and religious nobleman who draughted this very letter which you signed and sent us, and to which we are now replying.
When these words reached us we said: "We can wait; our friends in England will soon see whither this conflict is tending." A year and a half have passed; step after step has been taken for liberty; chain after chain has fallen, till the march of our armies is choked and clogged by the glad flocking of emancipated slaves; the day of final emancipation is set; the border States begin to move in voluntary consent; universal freedom for all dawns like the sun in the distant horizon, and still no voice from England. No voice? Yes, we have heard on the high seas the voice of a war-steamer, built for a man-stealing Confederacy, with English gold, in an English dockyard, going out of an English harbor, manned by English sailors, with the full knowledge of English government officers, in defiance of the Queen's proclamation of neutrality! So far has English sympathy overflowed. We have heard of other steamers, iron-clad, designed to furnish to a slavery-defending Confederacy their only lack,—a navy for the high seas. We have heard that the British Evangelical Alliance refuses to express sympathy with the liberating party, when requested to do so by the French Evangelical Alliance. We find in English religious newspapers all those sad degrees in the downward-sliding scale of defending and apologizing for slaveholders and slave-holding, with which we have so many years contended in our own country. We find the President's Proclamation of Emancipation spoken of in those papers only as an incitement to servile insurrection. Nay, more,—we find in your papers, from thoughtful men, the admission of the rapid decline of anti-slavery sentiments in England.
This very day the writer of this has been present at a solemn religious festival in the national capital, given at the home of a portion of those fugitive slaves who have fled to our lines for protection,—who, under the shadow of our flag, find sympathy and succor. The national day of thanksgiving was there kept by over a thousand redeemed slaves, and for whom Christian charity had spread an ample repast. Our sisters, we wish you could have witnessed the scene. We wish you could have heard the prayer of a blind old negro, called among his fellows John the Baptist, when in touching broken English he poured forth his thanksgivings. We wish you could have heard the sound of that strange rhythmical chant which is now forbidden to be sung on Southern plantations,—the psalm of this modern exodus,—which combines the barbaric fire of the Marseillaise with the religious fervor of the old Hebrew prophet:—
"Oh, go down, Moses, Way down into Egypt's land! Tell King Pharaoh To let my people go! Stand away dere, Stand away dere, And let my people go!"
As we were leaving, an aged woman came and lifted up her hands in blessing. "Bressed be de Lord dat brought me to see dis first happy day of my life! Bressed be de Lord!" In all England is there no Amen?
We have been shocked and saddened by the question asked in an association of Congregational ministers in England, the very blood relations of the liberty-loving Puritans,—"Why does not the North let the South go?"
What! give up the point of emancipation for these four million slaves? Turn our backs on them, and leave them to their fate? What! leave our white brothers to run a career of oppression and robbery, that, as sure as there is a God that ruleth in the armies of heaven, will bring down a day of wrath and doom? Remember that wishing success to this slavery-establishing effort is only wishing to the sons and daughters of the South all the curses that God has written against oppression. Mark our words! If we succeed, the children of these very men who are now fighting us will rise up to call us blessed. Just as surely as there is a God who governs in the world, so surely all the laws of national prosperity follow in the train of equity; and if we succeed, we shall have delivered the children's children of our misguided brethren from the wages of sin, which is always and everywhere death.
And now, sisters of England, think it not strange if we bring back the words of your letter, not in bitterness, but in deepest sadness, and lay them down at your door. We say to you, Sisters, you have spoken well; we have heard you; we have heeded; we have striven in the cause, even unto death. We have sealed our devotion by desolate hearth and darkened homestead,—by the blood of sons, husbands, and brothers. In many of our dwellings the very light of our lives has gone out; and yet we accept the life-long darkness as our own part in this great and awful expiation, by which the bonds of wickedness shall be loosed, and abiding peace established, on the foundation of righteousness. Sisters, what have you done, and what do you mean to do?
We appeal to you 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.
In behalf of many thousands of American women.
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE.
WASHINGTON, November 27, 1862.
The publication of this reply elicited the following interesting letter from John Bright:—
ROCHDALE, March 9, 1863.
DEAR MRS. STOWE,—I received your kind note with real pleasure, and felt it very good of you to send me a copy of the "Atlantic Monthly" with your noble letter to the women of England. I read every word of it with an intense interest, and I am quite sure that its effect upon opinion here has been marked and beneficial. It has covered some with shame, and it has compelled many to think, and it has stimulated not a few to act. Before this reaches you, you will have seen what large and earnest meetings have been held in all our towns in favor of abolition and the North. No town has a building large enough to contain those who come to listen, to applaud, and to vote in favor of freedom and the Union. The effect of this is evident on our newspapers and on the tone of Parliament, where now nobody says a word in favor of recognition, or mediation, or any such thing.
The need and duty of England is admitted to be a strict neutrality, but the feeling of the millions of her people is one of friendliness to the United States and its government. It would cause universal rejoicing, among all but a limited circle of aristocracy and commercially rich and corrupt, to hear that the Northern forces had taken Vicksburg on the great river, and Charleston on the Atlantic, and that the neck of the conspiracy was utterly broken.
I hope your people may have strength and virtue to win the great cause intrusted to them, but it is fearful to contemplate the amount of the depravity in the North engendered by the long power of slavery. New England is far ahead of the States as a whole,—too instructed and too moral; but still I will hope that she will bear the nation through this appalling danger.
I well remember the evening at Rome and our conversation. You lamented the election of Buchanan. You judged him with a more unfriendly but a more correct eye than mine. He turned out more incapable and less honest than I hoped for. And I think I was right in saying that your party was not then sufficiently consolidated to enable it to maintain its policy in the execution, even had Frmont been elected. As it is now, six years later, the North but falteringly supports the policy of the government, though impelled by the force of events which then you did not dream of. President Lincoln has lived half his troubled reign. In the coming half I hope he may see land; surely slavery will be so broken up that nothing can restore and renew it; and, slavery once fairly gone, I know not how all your States can long be kept asunder.
Believe me very sincerely yours,
It also called forth from Archbishop Whately the following letter:—
PALACE, DUBLIN, January, 1863.
DEAR MADAM,—In acknowledging your letter and pamphlet, I take the opportunity of laying before you what I collect to be the prevailing sentiments here on American affairs. Of course there is a great variety of opinion, as may be expected in a country like ours. Some few sympathize with the Northerns, and some few with the Southerns, but far the greater portion sympathize with neither completely, but lament that each party should be making so much greater an expenditure of life and property than can be compensated for by any advantage they can dream of obtaining.
Those who are the least favorable to the Northerns are not so from any approbation of slavery, but from not understanding that the war is waged in the cause of abolition. "It was waged," they say, "ostensibly for the restoration of the Union," and in attestation of this, they refer to the proclamation which announced the confiscation of slaves that were the property of secessionists, while those who adhered to the Federal cause should be exempt from such confiscation, which, they say, did not savor much of zeal for abolition. And. if the other object—the restoration of the Union—could be accomplished, which they all regard as hopeless, they do not understand how it will tend to the abolition of slavery. On the contrary, "if," say they, "the separation had been allowed to take place peaceably, the Northerns might, as we do, have proclaimed freedom to every slave who set foot on their territory; which would have been a great check to slavery, and especially to any cruel treatment of slaves." Many who have a great dislike to slavery yet hold that the Southerns had at least as much right to secede as the Americans had originally to revolt from Great Britain. And there are many who think that, considering the dreadful distress we have suffered from the cotton famine, we have shown great forbearance in withstanding the temptation of recognizing the Southern States and to break the blockade.
Then, again, there are some who are provoked at the incessant railing at England, and threats of an invasion of Canada, which are poured forth in some of the American papers.
There are many, also, who consider that the present state of things cannot continue much longer if the Confederates continue to hold their own, as they have done hitherto; and that a people who shall have maintained their independence for two or three years will be recognized by the principal European powers. Such appears to have been the procedure of the European powers in all similar cases, such as the revolt of the Anglo-American and Spanish-American colonies, of the Haytians and the Belgians. In these and other like cases, the rule practically adopted seems to have been to recognize the revolters, not at once, but after a reasonable time had been allowed to see whether they could maintain their independence; and this without being understood to have pronounced any decision either way as to the justice of the cause.
Moreover, there are many who say that the negroes and people of color are far from being kindly or justly treated in the Northern States. An emancipated slave, at any rate, has not received good training for earning his bread by the wages of labor; and if, in addition to this and his being treated as an outcast, he is excluded, as it is said, from many employments, by the refusal of white laborers to work along with him, he will have gained little by taking refuge in the Northern States.
I have now laid before you the views which I conceive to be most prevalent among us, and for which I am not myself responsible.
For the safe and effectual emancipation of slaves, I myself consider there is no plan so good as the gradual one which was long ago suggested by Bishop Hinds. What he recommended was an ad valorem tax upon slaves,—the value to be fixed by the owner, with an option to government to purchase at that price. Thus the slaves would be a burden to the master, and those the most so who should be the most valuable, as being the most intelligent and steady, and therefore the best qualified for freedom; and it would be his interest to train his slaves to be free laborers, and to emancipate them, one by one, as speedily as he could with safety. I fear, however, that the time is gone by for trying this experiment in America.
With best wishes for the new year, believe me
Among the many letters written from this side of the Atlantic regarding the reply, was one from Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which he says:—
I read with great pleasure your article in the last "Atlantic." If anything could make John Bull blush, I should think it might be that; but he is a hardened and villainous hypocrite. I always felt that he cared nothing for or against slavery, except as it gave him a vantage- ground on which to parade his own virtue and sneer at our iniquity.
With best regards from Mrs. Hawthorne and myself to yourself and family, sincerely yours,
LETTER TO DUCHESS OF ARGYLL.—MRS. STOWE DESIRES TO HAVE A HOME AT THE SOUTH.—FLORIDA THE BEST FIELD FOR DOING GOOD.—SHE BUYS A PLACE AT MANDARIN.—A CHARMING WINTER RESIDENCE.—"PALMETTO LEAVES."—EASTER SUNDAY AT MANDARIN.—CORRESPONDENCE WITH DR. HOLMES.—"POGANUC PEOPLE."—RECEPTIONS IN NEW ORLEANS AND TALLAHASSEE.—LAST WINTER AT MANDARIN.
In 1866, the terrible conflict between the North and South having ended, Mrs. Stowe wrote the following letter to the Duchess of Argyll:—
HARTFORD, February 19, 1866.
MY DEAR FRIEND,—Your letter was a real spring of comfort to me, bringing refreshingly the pleasant library at Inverary and the lovely days I spent there.
I am grieved at what you say of your dear mother's health. I showed your letter to Mrs. Perkins, and we both agreed in saying that we should like for a time to fill the place of maid to her, as doubtless you all feel, too. I should so love to be with her, to read to her, and talk to her! and oh, there is so much that would cheer and comfort a noble heart like hers that we could talk about. Oh, my friend, when I think of what has been done these last few years, and of what is now doing, I am lost in amazement. I have just, by way of realizing it to myself, been reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" again, and when I read that book, scarred and seared and burned into with the memories of an anguish and horror that can never be forgotten, and think it is all over now, all past, and that now the questions debated are simply of more or less time before granting legal suffrage to those who so lately were held only as articles of merchandise,—when this comes over me I think no private or individual sorrow can ever make me wholly without comfort. If my faith in God's presence and real, living power in the affairs of men ever grows dim, this makes it impossible to doubt.
I have just had a sweet and lovely Christian letter from Garrison, whose beautiful composure and thankfulness in his hour of victory are as remarkable as his wonderful courage in the day of moral battle. His note ends with the words, "And who but God is to be glorified?" Garrison's attitude is far more exalted than that of Wendell Phillips. He acknowledges the great deed done. He suspends his "Liberator" with words of devout thanksgiving, and devotes himself unobtrusively to the work yet to be accomplished for the freedmen; while Phillips seems resolved to ignore the mighty work that has been done, because of the inevitable shortcomings and imperfections that beset it still. We have a Congress of splendid men,—men of stalwart principle and determination. We have a President [Footnote: Andrew Johnson] honestly seeking to do right; and if he fails in knowing just what right is, it is because he is a man born and reared in a slave State, and acted on by many influences which we cannot rightly estimate unless we were in his place. My brother Henry has talked with him earnestly and confidentially, and has faith in him as an earnest, good man seeking to do right. Henry takes the ground that it is unwise and impolitic to endeavor to force negro suffrage on the South at the point of the bayonet. His policy would be, to hold over the negro the protection of our Freedman's Bureau until the great laws of free labor shall begin to draw the master and servant together; to endeavor to soothe and conciliate, and win to act with us, a party composed of the really good men at the South.
For this reason he has always advocated lenity of measures towards them. He wants to get them into a state in which the moral influence of the North can act upon them beneficially, and to get such a state of things that there will be a party at the South to protect the negro.
Charles Sumner is looking simply at the abstract right of the thing. Henry looks at actual probabilities. We all know that the state of society at the South is such that laws are a very inadequate protection even to white men. Southern elections always have been scenes of mob violence when only white men voted.
Multitudes of lives have been lost at the polls in this way, and if against their will negro suffrage was forced upon them, I do not see how any one in their senses can expect anything less than an immediate war of races.
If negro suffrage were required as a condition of acquiring political position, there is no doubt the slave States would grant it; grant it nominally, because they would know that the grant never could or would become an actual realization. And what would then be gained for the negro?
I am sorry that people cannot differ on such great and perplexing public questions without impugning each other's motives. Henry has been called a backslider because of the lenity of his counsels, but I cannot but think it is the Spirit of Christ that influences him. Garrison has been in the same way spoken of as a deserter, because he says that a work that is done shall be called done, and because he would not keep up an anti-slavery society when slavery is abolished; and I think our President is much injured by the abuse that is heaped on him, and the selfish and unworthy motives that are ascribed to him by those who seem determined to allow to nobody an honest, unselfish difference in judgment from their own.
Henry has often spoken of you and your duke as pleasant memories in a scene of almost superhuman labor and excitement. He often said to me: "When this is all over,—when we have won the victory,—then I will write to the duchess." But when it was over and the flag raised again at Sumter his arm was smitten down with the news of our President's death! We all appreciate your noble and true sympathy through the dark hour of our national trial. You and yours are almost the only friends we now have left in England. You cannot know what it was, unless you could imagine your own country to be in danger of death, extinction of nationality. That, dear friend, is an experience which shows us what we are and what we can feel. I am glad to hear that we may hope to see your son in this country. I fear so many pleasant calls will beset his path that we cannot hope for a moment, but it would give us all the greatest pleasure to see him here. Our dull, prosy, commonplace, though good old Hartford could offer few attractions compared with Boston or New York, and yet I hope he will not leave us out altogether if he comes among us. God bless him! You are very happy indeed in being permitted to keep all your dear ones and see them growing up.
I want to ask a favor. Do you have, as we do, cartes de visite? If you have, and could send me one of yourself and the duke and of Lady Edith and your eldest son, I should be so very glad to see how you are looking now; and the dear mother, too, I should so like to see how she looks. It seems almost like a dream to look back to those pleasant days. I am glad to see you still keep some memories of our goings on. Georgie's marriage is a very happy one to us. They live in Stockbridge, the loveliest part of Massachusetts, and her husband is a most devoted pastor, and gives all his time and property to the great work which he has embraced, purely for the love of it. My other daughters are with me, and my son, Captain Stowe, who has come with weakened health through our struggle, suffering constantly from the effects of a wound in his head received at Gettysburg, which makes his returning to his studies a hard struggle. My husband is in better health since he resigned his professorship, and desires his most sincere regards to yourself and the duke, and his profound veneration to your mother. Sister Mary also desires to be remembered to you, as do also my daughters. Please tell me a little in your next of Lady Edith; she must be very lovely now.
I am, with sincerest affection, ever yours,
H. B. STOWE.
Soon after the close of the war Mrs. Stowe conceived the idea of making for herself and her family a winter home in the South, where she might escape the rigors of Northern winters, and where her afflicted son Frederick might enjoy an out-of-door life throughout the year. She was also most anxious to do her share towards educating and leading to a higher life those colored people whom she had helped so largely to set free, and who were still in the state of profound ignorance imposed by slavery. In writing of her hopes and plans to her brother Charles Beecher, in 1866, she says:—
"My plan of going to Florida, as it lies in my mind, is not in any sense a mere worldly enterprise. I have for many years had a longing to be more immediately doing Christ's work on earth. My heart is with that poor people whose cause in words I have tried to plead, and who now, ignorant and docile, are just in that formative stage in which whoever seizes has them.
"Corrupt politicians are already beginning to speculate on them as possible capital for their schemes, and to fill their poor heads with all sorts of vagaries. Florida is the State into which they have, more than anywhere else, been pouring. Emigration is positively and decidedly setting that way; but as yet it is mere worldly emigration, with the hope of making money, nothing more.
"The Episcopal Church is, however, undertaking, under direction of the future Bishop of Florida, a wide-embracing scheme of Christian activity for the whole State. In this work I desire to be associated, and my plan is to locate at some salient point on the St. John's River, where I can form the nucleus of a Christian neighborhood, whose influence shall be felt far beyond its own limits."
During this year Mrs. Stowe partially carried her plan into execution by hiring an old plantation called "Laurel Grove," on the west side of the St. John's River, near the present village of Orange Park. Here she established her son Frederick as a cotton planter, and here he remained for two years. This location did not, however, prove entirely satisfactory, nor did the raising of cotton prove to be, under the circumstances, a profitable business. After visiting Florida during the winter of 1866-67, at which time her attention was drawn to the beauties and superior advantages of Mandarin on the east side of the river, Mrs. Stowe writes from Hartford, May 29, 1867, to Rev. Charles Beecher:—
My dear Brother,—We are now thinking seriously of a place in Mandarin much more beautiful than any other in the vicinity. It has on it five large date palms, an olive tree in full bearing, besides a fine orange grove which this year will yield about seventy-five thousand oranges. If we get that, then I want you to consider the expediency of buying the one next to it. It contains about two hundred acres of land, on which is a fine orange grove, the fruit from which last year brought in two thousand dollars as sold at the wharf. It is right on the river, and four steamboats pass it each week, on their way to Savannah and Charleston. There is on the place a very comfortable cottage, as houses go out there, where they do not need to be built as substantially as with us.
I am now in correspondence with the Bishop of Florida, with a view to establishing a line of churches along the St. John's River, and if I settle at Mandarin, it will be one of my stations. Will you consent to enter the Episcopal Church and be our clergyman? You are just the man we want. If my tasks and feelings did not incline me toward the Church, I should still choose it as the best system for training immature minds such as those of our negroes. The system was composed with reference to the wants of the laboring class of England, at a time when they were as ignorant as our negroes now are.
I long to be at this work, and cannot think of it without my heart burning within me. Still I leave all with my God, and only hope He will open the way for me to do all that I want to for this poor people.
H. B. STOWE.
Mrs. Stowe had some years before this joined the Episcopal Church, for the sake of attending the same communion as her daughters, who were Episcopalians. Her brother Charles did not, however, see fit to change his creed, and though he went to Florida he settled a hundred and sixty miles west from the St. John's River, at Newport, near St. Marks, on the Gulf coast, and about twenty miles from Tallahassee. Here he lived every winter and several summers for fifteen years, and here he left the impress of his own remarkably sweet and lovely character upon the scattered population of the entire region.
Mrs. Stowe in the mean time purchased the property, with its orange grove and comfortable cottage, that she had recommended to him, and thus Mandarin became her winter home. No one who has ever seen it can forget the peaceful beauty of this Florida home and its surroundings. The house, a story and a half cottage of many gables, stands on a bluff overlooking the broad St. John's, which is five miles wide at this point. It nestles in the shade of a grove of superb, moss-hung live-oaks, around one of which the front piazza is built. Several fine old orange trees also stand near the cottage, scenting the air with the sweet perfume of their blossoms in the early spring, and offering their golden fruit to whoever may choose to pluck it during the winter months. Back of the house stretches the well-tended orange grove in which Mrs. Stowe took such genuine pride and pleasure. Everywhere about the dwelling and within it were flowers and singing birds, while the rose garden in front, at the foot of the bluff, was the admiration of all who saw it.
Here, on the front piazza, beneath the grand oaks, looking out on the calm sunlit river, Professor Stowe enjoyed that absolute peace and restful quiet for which his scholarly nature had always longed, but which had been forbidden to the greater part of his active life. At almost any hour of the day the well-known figure, with snow-white, patriarchal beard and kindly face, might be seen sitting there, with a basket of books, many of them in dead and nearly forgotten languages, close at hand. An amusing incident of family life was as follows: Some Northern visitors seemed to think that the family had no rights which were worthy of a moment's consideration. They would land at the wharf, roam about the place, pick flowers, peer into the house through the windows and doors, and act with that disregard of all the proprieties of life which characterizes ill-bred people when on a journey. The professor had been driven well-nigh distracted by these migratory bipeds. One day, when one of them broke a branch from an orange tree directly before his eyes, and was bearing it off in triumph with all its load of golden fruit, he leaped from his chair, and addressed the astonished individual on those fundamental principles of common honesty, which he deemed outraged by this act. The address was vigorous and truthful, but of a kind which will not bear repeating, "Why," said the horror-stricken culprit, "I thought that this was Mrs. Stowe's place!" "You thought it was Mrs. Stowe's place!" Then, in a voice of thunder, "I would have you understand, sir, that I am the proprietor and protector of Mrs. Stowe and of this place, and if you commit any more such shameful depredations I will have you punished as you deserve!" Thus this predatory Yankee was taught to realize that there is a God in Israel.
In April, 1869, Mrs. Stowe was obliged to hurry North in order to visit Canada in time to protect her English rights in "Oldtown Folks," which she had just finished.
About this time she secured a plot of land, and made arrangements for the erection on it of a building that should be used as a schoolhouse through the week, and as a church on Sunday. For several years Professor Stowe preached during the winter in this little schoolhouse, and Mrs. Stowe conducted Sunday-school, sewing classes, singing classes, and various other gatherings for instruction and amusement, all of which were well attended and highly appreciated by both the white and colored residents of the neighborhood.
Upon one occasion, having just arrived at her Mandarin home, Mrs. Stowe writes:—
"At last, after waiting a day and a half in Charleston, we arrived here about ten o'clock Saturday morning, just a week from the day we sailed. The house looked so pretty, and quiet, and restful, the day was so calm and lovely, it seemed as though I had passed away from all trouble, and was looking back upon you all from a secure resting- place. Mr. Stowe is very happy here, and is constantly saying how pleasant it is, and how glad he is that he is here. He is so much improved in health that already he is able to take a considerable walk every day.
"We are all well, contented, and happy, and we have six birds, two dogs, and a pony. Do write more and oftener. Tell me all the little nothings and nowheres. You can't imagine how they are magnified by the time they have reached into this remote corner."
In 1872 she wrote a series of Florida sketches, which were published in book form, the following year, by J. E. Osgood & Co., under the title of "Palmetto Leaves." May 19, 1873, she writes to her brother Charles at Newport, Fla.:—
"Although you have not answered my last letter, I cannot leave Florida without saying good-by. I send you the 'Palmetto Leaves' and my parting love. If I could either have brought or left my husband, I should have come to see you this winter. The account of your roses fills me with envy.
"We leave on the San Jacinto next Saturday, and I am making the most of the few charming hours yet left; for never did we have so delicious a spring. I never knew such altogether perfect weather. It is enough to make a saint out of the toughest old Calvinist that ever set his face as a flint. How do you think New England theology would have fared if our fathers had been landed here instead of on Plymouth Rock?
"The next you hear of me will be at the North, where our address is Forest Street, Hartford. We have bought a pretty cottage there, near to Belle, and shall spend the summer there."
In a letter written in May of the following year to her son Charles, at Harvard, Mrs. Stowe says: "I can hardly realize that this long, flowery summer, with its procession of blooms and fruit, has been running on at the same time with the snowbanks and sleet storms of the North. But so it is. It is now the first of May. Strawberries and blackberries are over with us; oranges are in a waning condition, few and far between. Now we are going North to begin another summer, and have roses, strawberries, blackberries, and green peas come again.
"I am glad to hear of your reading. The effect produced on you by Jonathan Edwards is very similar to that produced on me when I took the same mental bath. His was a mind whose grasp and intensity you cannot help feeling. He was a poet in the intensity of his conceptions, and some of his sermons are more terrible than Dante's 'Inferno.'"
In November, 1874, upon their return to Mandarin, she writes: "We have had heavenly weather, and we needed it: for our house was a cave of spider-webs, cockroaches, dirt, and all abominations, but less than a week has brought it into beautiful order. It now begins to put on that quaint, lively, pretty air that so fascinates me. Our weather is, as I said, heavenly, neither hot nor cold; cool, calm, bright, serene, and so tranquillizing. There is something indescribable about the best weather we have down here. It does not debilitate me like the soft October air in Hartford."
During the following February, she writes in reply to an invitation to visit a Northern watering place later in the season: "I shall be most happy to come, and know of nothing to prevent. I have, thank goodness, no serial story on hand for this summer, to hang like an Old Man of the Sea about my neck, and hope to enjoy a little season of being like other folks. It is a most lovely day to-day, most unfallen Eden-like."
In a letter written later in the same season, March 28, 1875, Mrs. Stowe gives us a pleasant glimpse at their preparations for the proper observance of Easter Sunday in the little Mandarin schoolhouse. She says:—
"It was the week before Easter, and we had on our minds the dressing of the church. There my two Gothic fireboards were to be turned into a pulpit for the occasion. I went to Jacksonville and got a fiveinch moulding for a base, and then had one fireboard sawed in two, so that there was an arched panel for each end. Then came a rummage for something for a top, and to make a desk of, until it suddenly occurred to me that our old black walnut extension table had a set of leaves. They were exactly the thing. The whole was trimmed with a beading of yellow pine, and rubbed, and pumice-stoned, and oiled, and I got out my tubes of paint and painted the nail-holes with Vandyke brown. By Saturday morning it was a lovely little Gothic pulpit, and Anthony carried it over to the schoolhouse and took away the old desk which I gave him for his meeting-house. That afternoon we drove out into the woods and gathered a quantity of superb Easter lilies, papaw, sparkleberry, great fern-leaves, and cedar. In the evening the girls went over to the Meads to practice Easter hymns; but I sat at home and made a cross, eighteen inches long, of cedar and white lilies. This Southern cedar is the most exquisite thing; it is so feathery and delicate.
"Sunday morning was cool and bright, a most perfect Easter. Our little church was full, and everybody seemed delighted with the decorations. Mr. Stowe preached a sermon to show that Christ is going to put everything right at last, which is comforting. So the day was one of real pleasure, and also I trust of real benefit, to the poor souls who learned from it that Christ is indeed risen for them"
During this winter the following characteristic letters passed between Mrs. Stowe and her valued friend, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, called forth by the sending to the latter of a volume of Mrs. Stowe's latest stories:—
Boston, January 8, 1876.
My dear Mrs. Stowe,—I would not write to thank you for your most welcome "Christmas Box,"
"A box whose sweets compacted lie,"
before I had read it, and every word of it. I have been very much taken up with antics of one kind and another, and have only finished it this afternoon. The last of the papers was of less comparative value to me than to a great fraction of your immense parish of readers, because I am so familiar with every movement of the Pilgrims in their own chronicles.
"Deacon Pitkin's Farm" is full of those thoroughly truthful touches of New England in which, if you are not unrivaled, I do not know who your rival may be. I wiped the tears from one eye in reading "Deacon Pitkin's Farm."
I wiped the tears, and plenty of them, from both eyes, in reading "Betty's Bright Idea." It is a most charming and touching story, and nobody can read who has not a heart like a pebble, without being melted into tenderness.
How much you have done and are doing to make our New England life wholesome and happy! If there is any one who can look back over a literary life which has pictured our old and helped our new civilization, it is yourself. Of course your later books have harder work cut out for them than those of any other writer. They have had "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for a rival. The brightest torch casts a shadow in the blaze of a light, and any transcendent success affords the easiest handle for that class of critics whose method is the one that Dogberry held to be "odious."
I think it grows pleasanter to us to be remembered by the friends we still have, as with each year they grow fewer. We have lost Agassiz and Sumner from our circle, and I found Motley stricken with threatening illness (which I hope is gradually yielding to treatment), in the profoundest grief at the loss of his wife, another old and dear friend of mine. So you may be assured that I feel most sensibly your kind attention, and send you my heartfelt thanks for remembering me.
Always, dear Mrs. Stowe, faithfully yours,
O. W. HOLMES.
To this letter Mrs. Stowe replied as follows:—
MANDARIN, February 23, 1876.
DEAR DOCTOR,—How kind it was of you to write me that very beautiful note! and how I wish you were just where I am, to see the trees laden at the same time with golden oranges and white blossoms! I should so like to cut off a golden cluster, leaves and all, for you. Well, Boston seems very far away and dreamy, like some previous state of existence, as I sit on the veranda and gaze on the receding shores of the St. John's, which at this point is five miles wide.
Dear doctor, how time slips by! I remember when Sumner seemed to me a young man, and now he has gone. And Wilson has gone, and Chase, whom I knew as a young man in society in Cincinnati, has gone, and Stanton has gone, and Seward has gone, and yet how lively the world races on! A few air-bubbles of praise or lamentation, and away sails the great ship of life, no matter over whose grave!
Well, one cannot but feel it! To me, also, a whole generation of friends has gone from the other side of the water since I was there and broke kindly bread with them. The Duchess of Sutherland, the good old duke, Lansdowne, Ellesmere, Lady Byron, Lord and Lady Amberly, Charles Kingsley, the good Quaker, Joseph Sturge, all are with the shadowy train that has moved on. Among them were as dear and true friends as I ever had, and as pure and noble specimens of human beings as God ever made. They are living somewhere in intense vitality, I must believe, and you, dear doctor, must not doubt.
I think about your writings a great deal, and one element in them always attracts me. It is their pitiful and sympathetic vein, the pity for poor, struggling human nature. In this I feel that you must be very near and dear to Him whose name is Love.
You wrote some verses once that have got into the hymn-books, and have often occurred to me in my most sacred hours as descriptive of the feelings with which I bear the sorrows and carry the cares of life. They begin,—
"Love Divine, that stooped to share."
I have not all your books down here, and am haunted by gaps in the verses that memory cannot make good; but it is that "Love Divine" which is my stay and comfort and hope, as one friend after another passes beyond sight and hearing. Please let me have it in your handwriting.
I remember a remark you once made on spiritualism. I cannot recall the words, but you spoke of it as modifying the sharp angles of Calvinistic belief, as a fog does those of a landscape. I would like to talk with you some time on spiritualism, and show you a collection of very curious facts that I have acquired through mediums not professional. Mr. Stowe has just been wading through eight volumes of "La Mystique," by Goerres, professor for forty years past in the University of Munich, first of physiology and latterly of philosophy. He examines the whole cycle of abnormal psychic, spiritual facts, trances, ecstasy, clairvoyance, witchcraft, spiritualism, etc., etc., as shown in the Romish miracles and the history of Europe.
I have long since come to the conclusion that the marvels of spiritualism are natural, and not supernatural, phenomena,—an uncommon working of natural laws. I believe that the door between those in the body and those out has never in any age been entirely closed, and that occasional perceptions within the veil are a part of the course of nature, and therefore not miraculous. Of course such a phase of human experience is very substantial ground for every kind of imposture and superstition, and I have no faith whatever in mediums who practice for money. In their case I think the law of Moses, that forbade consulting those who dealt with "familiar spirits," a very wise one.
Do write some more, dear doctor. You are too well off in your palace down there on the new land. Your Centennial Ballad was a charming little peep; now give us a full-fledged story. Mr. Stowe sends his best regards, and wishes you would read "Goerres." [Footnote: Die Christliche Mystik, by Johann Joseph Gorres, Regensburg, 1836-42.] It is in French also, and he thinks the French translation better than the German.
Yours ever truly,
H. B. STOWE.
Writing in the autumn of 1876 to her son Charles, who was at that time abroad, studying at Bonn, Mrs. Stowe describes a most tempestuous passage between New York and Charleston, during which she and her husband and daughters suffered so much that they were ready to forswear the sea forever. The great waves as they rushed, boiling and seething, past would peer in at the little bull's-eye window of the state-room, as if eager to swallow up ship and passengers. From Charleston, however, they had a most delightful run to their journey's end. She writes:—"We had a triumphal entrance into the St. John's, and a glorious sail up the river. Arriving at Mandarin, at four o'clock, we found all the neighbors, black as well as white, on the wharf to receive us. There was a great waving of handkerchiefs and flags, clapping of hands and cheering, as we drew near. The house was open and all ready for us, and we are delighted to be once more in our beautiful Florida home."
In the following December she writes to her son: "I am again entangled in writing a serial, a thing I never mean to do again, but the story, begun for a mere Christmas brochure, grew so under my hands that I thought I might as well fill it out and make a book of it. It is the last thing of the kind I ever expect to do. In it I condense my recollections of a bygone era, that in which I was brought up, the ways and manners of which are now as nearly obsolete as the Old England of Dickens's stories is.
"I am so hampered by the necessity of writing this story, that I am obliged to give up company and visiting of all kinds and keep my strength for it. I hope I may be able to finish it, as I greatly desire to do so, but I begin to feel that I am not so strong as I used to be. Your mother is an old woman, Charley mine, and it is best she should give up writing before people are tired of reading her.
"I would much rather have written another such a book as 'Footsteps of the Master,' but all, even the religious papers, are gone mad on serials. Serials they demand and will have, and I thought, since this generation will listen to nothing but stories, why not tell them?"
The book thus referred to was "Poganuc People," that series of delightful reminiscences of the New England life of nearly a century ago, that has proved so fascinating to many thousands of readers. It was published in 1878, and, as Mrs. Stowe foresaw, was her last literary undertaking of any length, though for several years afterwards she wrote occasional short stories and articles.
In January, 1879, she wrote from Mandarin to Dr. Holmes:—
DEAR DOCTOR,—I wish I could give to you and Mrs. Holmes the exquisite charm of this morning. My window is wide open; it is a lovely, fresh, sunny day, and a great orange tree hung with golden balls closes the prospect from my window. The tree is about thirty feet high, and its leaves fairly glisten in the sunshine.
I sent "Poganuc People" to you and Mrs. Holmes as being among the few who know those old days. It is an extremely quiet story for these sensational days, when heaven and earth seem to be racked for a thrill; but as I get old I do love to think of those quiet, simple times when there was not a poor person in the parish, and the changing glories of the year were the only spectacle. We, that is the professor and myself, have been reading with much interest Motley's Memoir. That was a man to be proud of, a beauty, too (by your engraving), I never had the pleasure of a personal acquaintance.
I feel with you that we have come into the land of leave-taking. Hardly a paper but records the death of some of Mr. Stowe's associates. But the river is not so black as it seems, and there are clear days when the opposite shore is plainly visible, and now and then we catch a strain of music, perhaps even a gesture of recognition. They are thinking of us, without doubt, on the other side. My daughters and I have been reading "Elsie Venner" again. Elsie is one of my especial friends,—poor, dear child!—and all your theology in that book I subscribe to with both hands.
Does not the Bible plainly tell us of a time when there shall be no more pain? That is to be the end and crown of the Messiah's mission, when God shall wipe all tears away. My face is set that way, and yours, too, I trust and believe.
Mr. Stowe sends hearty and affectionate remembrance both to you and Mrs. Holmes, and I am, as ever, truly yours,
H, B, STOWE.
About this time Mrs. Stowe paid a visit to her brother Charles, at Newport, Fla., and, continuing her journey to New Orleans, was made to feel how little of bitterness towards her was felt by the best class of Southerners, In both New Orleans and Tallahassee she was warmly welcomed, and tendered public receptions that gave equal pleasure to her and to the throngs of cultivated people who attended them. She was also greeted everywhere with intense enthusiasm by the colored people, who, whenever they knew of her coming, thronged the railway stations in order to obtain a glimpse of her whom they venerated above all women.
The return to her Mandarin home each succeeding winter was always a source of intense pleasure to this true lover of nature in its brightest and tenderest moods. Each recurring season was filled with new delights. In December, 1879, she writes to her son, now married and settled as a minister in Saco, Me.:—
DEAR CHILDREN,—Well, we have stepped from December to June, and this morning is sunny and dewy, with a fresh sea-breeze giving life to the air. I have just been out to cut a great bunch of roses and lilies, though the garden is grown into such a jungle that I could hardly get about in it. The cannas, and dwarf bananas, and roses are all tangled together, so that I can hardly thread my way among them. I never in my life saw anything range and run rampant over the ground as cannas do. The ground is littered with fallen oranges, and the place looks shockingly untidy, but so beautiful that I am quite willing to forgive its disorder.
We got here Wednesday evening about nine o'clock, and found all the neighbors waiting to welcome us on the wharf. The Meads, and Cranes, and Webbs, and all the rest were there, while the black population was in a frenzy of joy. Your father is quite well. The sea had its usual exhilarating effect upon him. Before we left New York he was quite meek, and exhibited such signs of grace and submission that I had great hopes of him. He promised to do exactly as I told him, and stated that he had entire confidence in my guidance. What woman couldn't call such a spirit evidence of being prepared for speedy translation? I was almost afraid he could not be long for this world. But on the second day at sea his spirits rose, and his appetite reasserted itself. He declared in loud tones how well he felt, and quite resented my efforts to take care of him. I reminded him of his gracious vows and promises in the days of his low spirits, but to no effect. The fact is, his self-will has not left him yet, and I have now no fear of his immediate translation. He is going to preach for us this morning.
The last winter passed in this well-loved Southern home was that of 1883-84, for the following season Professor Stowe's health was in too precarious a state to permit him to undertake the long journey from Hartford. By this time one of Mrs. Stowe's fondest hopes had been realized; and, largely through her efforts, Mandarin had been provided with a pretty little Episcopal church, to which was attached a comfortable rectory, and over which was installed a regular clergy- man.
In January, 1884, Mrs. Stowe writes:—
"Mandarin looks very gay and airy now with its new villas, and our new church and rectory. Our minister is perfect. I wish you could know him. He wants only physical strength. In everything else he is all one could ask.
"It is a bright, lovely morning, and four orange-pickers are busy gathering our fruit. Our trees on the bluff have done better than any in Florida.
"This winter I study nothing but Christ's life. First I read Farrar's account and went over it carefully. Now I am reading Geikie. It keeps my mind steady, and helps me to bear the languor and pain, of which I have more than usual this winter."
OLDTOWN FOLKS, 1869.
PROFESSOR STOWE THE ORIGINAL OF "HARRY" IN "OLDTOWN FOLKS."—PROFESSOR STOWE'S LETTER TO GEORGE ELIOT.—HER REMARKS ON THE SAME.—PROFESSOR STOWE'S NARRATIVE OF HIS YOUTHFUL ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF SPIRITS. —PROFESSOR STOWE'S INFLUENCE ON MRS. STOWE'S LITERARY LIFE.—GEORGE ELIOT ON "OLDTOWN FOLKS."
This biography would be signally incomplete without some mention of the birth, childhood, early associations, and very peculiar and abnormal psychological experiences of Professor Stowe. Aside from the fact of Dr. Stowe's being Mrs. Stowe's husband, and for this reason entitled to notice in any sketch of her life, however meagre, he is the original of the "visionary boy" in "Oldtown Folks;" and "Oldtown Fireside Stories" embody the experiences of his childhood and youth among the grotesque and original characters of his native town.
March 26, 1882, Professor Stowe wrote the following characteristic letter to Mrs. Lewes:—
MRS. LEWES,—I fully sympathize with you in your disgust with Hume and the professing mediums generally.
Hume spent his boyhood in my father's native town, among my relatives and acquaintances, and he was a disagreeable, nasty boy. But he certainly has qualities which science has not yet explained, and some of his doings are as real as they are strange. My interest in the subject of spiritualism arises from the fact of my own experience, more than sixty years ago, in my early childhood. I then never thought of questioning the objective reality of all I saw, and supposed that everybody else had the same experience. Of what this experience was you may gain some idea from certain passages in "Oldtown Folks."
The same experiences continue yet, but with serious doubts as to the objectivity of the scenes exhibited. I have noticed that people who have remarkable and minute answers to prayer, such as Stilling, Franke, Lavater, are for the most part of this peculiar temperament. Is it absurd to suppose that some peculiarity in the nervous system, in the connecting link between soul and body, may bring some, more than others, into an almost abnormal contact with the spirit-world (for example, Jacob Boehme and Swedenborg), and that, too, without correcting their faults, or making them morally better than others? Allow me to say that I have always admired the working of your mind, there is about it such a perfect uprightness and uncalculating honesty. I think you are a better Christian without church or theology than most people are with both, though I am, and always have been in the main, a Calvinist of the Jonathan Edwards school. God bless you! I have a warm side for Mr. Lewes on account of his Goethe labors.
Goethe has been my admiration for more than forty years. In 1830 I got hold of his "Faust," and for two gloomy, dreary November days, while riding through the woods of New Hampshire in an old-fashioned stagecoach, to enter upon a professorship in Dartmouth College, I was perfectly dissolved by it.
C. E. STOWE.
In a letter to Mrs. Stowe, written June 24, 1872, Mrs. Lewes alludes to Professor Stowe's letter as follows: "Pray give my special thanks to the professor for his letter. His handwriting, which does really look like Arabic,—a very graceful character, surely,—happens to be remarkably legible to me, and I did not hesitate over a single word. Some of the words, as expressions of fellowship, were very precious to me, and I hold it very good of him to write to me that best sort of encouragement. I was much impressed with the fact—which you have told me—that he was the original of the "visionary boy" in "Oldtown Folks;" and it must be deeply interesting to talk with him on his experience. Perhaps I am inclined, under the influence of the facts, physiological and psychological, which have been gathered of late years, to give larger place to the interpretation of vision-seeing as subjective than the professor would approve. It seems difficult to limit—at least to limit with any precision—the possibility of confounding sense by impressions derived from inward conditions with those which are directly dependent on external stimulus. In fact, the division between within and without in this sense seems to become every year a more subtle and bewildering problem."
In 1834, while Mr. Stowe was a professor in Lane Theological Seminary at Cincinnati, Ohio, he wrote out a history of his youthful adventures in the spirit-world, from which the following extracts are taken:—
"I have often thought I would communicate to some scientific physician a particular account of a most singular delusion under which I lived from my earliest infancy till the fifteenth or sixteenth year of my age, and the effects of which remain very distinctly now that I am past thirty.
"The facts are of such a nature as to be indelibly impressed upon my mind they appear to me to be curious, and well worth the attention of the psychologist. I regard the occurrences in question as the more remarkable because I cannot discover that I possess either taste or talent for fiction or poetry. I have barely imagination enough to enjoy, with a high degree of relish, the works of others in this department of literature, but have never felt able or disposed to engage in that sort of writing myself. On the contrary, my style has always been remarkable for its dry, matter-of-fact plainness: my mind has been distinguished for its quickness and adaptedness to historical and literary investigations, for ardor and perseverance in pursuit of the knowledge of facts,—eine verstndige Richtung, as the Germans would say,—rather than for any other quality; and the only talent of a higher kind which I am conscious of possessing is a turn for accurate observation of men and things, and a certain broad humor and drollery.
"From the hour of my birth I have been constitutionally feeble, as were my parents before me, and my nervous system easily excitable. With care, however, I have kept myself in tolerable health, and my life has been an industrious one, for my parents were poor and I have always been obliged to labor for my livelihood.
"With these preliminary remarks, I proceed to the curious details of my psychological history. As early as I can remember anything, I can remember observing a multitude of animated and active objects, which I could see with perfect distinctness, moving about me, and could sometimes, though seldom, hear them make a rustling noise, or other articulate sounds; but I could never touch them. They were in all respects independent of the sense of touch, and incapable of being obstructed in any way by the intervention of material objects; I could see them at any distance, and through any intervening object, with as much ease and distinctness as if they were in the room with me, and directly before my eyes. I could see them passing through the floors, and the ceilings, and the walls of the house, from one apartment to another, in all directions, without a door, or a keyhole, or crevice being open to admit them. I could follow them with my eyes to any distance, or directly through or just beneath the surface, or up and down, in the midst of boards and timbers and bricks, or whatever else would stop the motion or intercept the visibleness of all other objects. These appearances occasioned neither surprise nor alarm, except when they assumed some hideous and frightful form, or exhibited some menacing gesture, for I became acquainted with them, as soon as with any of the objects of sense. As to the reality of their existence and the harmlessness of their character, I knew no difference between them and any other of the objects which met my eye. They were as familiar to me as the forms of my parents and my brother; they made up a part of my daily existence, and were as really the subjects of my consciousness as the little bench on which I sat in the corner by my mother's knee, or the wheels and sticks and strings with which I amused myself upon the floor. I indeed recognized a striking difference between them and the things which I could feel and handle, but to me this difference was no more a matter of surprise than that which I observed between my mother and the black woman who so often came to work for her; or between my infant brother and the little spotted dog Brutus of which I was so fond. There was no time, or place, or circumstance, in which they did not occasionally make their appearance. Solitude and silence, however, were more favorable to their appearance than company and conversation. They were more pleased with candle-light than the daylight. They were most numerous, distinct, and active when I was alone and in the dark, especially when my mother had laid me in bed and returned to her own room with the candle. At such times, I always expected the company of my serial visitors, and counted upon it to amuse me till I dropped asleep. Whenever they failed to make their appearance, as was sometimes the case, I felt lonely and discontented. I kept up a lively conversation with them,—not by language or by signs, for the attempt on my part to speak or move would at once break the charm and drive them away in a fret, but by a peculiar sort of spiritual intercommunion.
"When their attention was directed towards me, I could feel and respond to all their thoughts and feelings, and was conscious that they could in the same manner feel and respond to mine. Sometimes they would take no notice of me, but carry on a brisk conversation among themselves, principally by looks and gestures, with now and then an audible word. In fact, there were but few with whom I was very familiar. These few were much more constant and uniform in their visits than the great multitude, who were frequently changing, and too much absorbed in their own concerns to think much of me. I scarcely know how I can give an idea of their form and general appearance, for there are no objects in the material world with which I can compare them, and no language adapted to an accurate description of their peculiarities. They exhibited all possible combinations of size, shape, proportion, and color, but their most usual appearance was with the human form and proportion, but under a shadowy outline that seemed just ready to melt into the invisible air, and sometimes liable to the most sudden and grotesque changes, and with a uniform darkly bluish color spotted with brown, or brownish white. This was the general appearance of the multitude; but there were many exceptions to this description, particularly among my more welcome and familiar visitors, as will be seen in the sequel."
"Besides these rational and generally harmless beings, there was another set of objects which never varied in their form or qualities, and were always mischievous and terrible. The fact of their appearance depended very much on the state of my health and feelings. If I was well and cheerful they seldom troubled me; but when sick or depressed they were sure to obtrude their hateful presence upon me. These were a sort of heavy clouds floating about overhead, of a black color, spotted with brown, in the shape of a very flaring inverted tunnel without a nozzle, and from ten to thirty or forty feet in diameter. They floated from place to place in great numbers, and in all directions, with a strong and steady progress, but with a tremulous, quivering, internal motion that agitated them in every part.
"Whenever they appproached, the rational phantoms were thrown into great consternation; and well it might be, for if a cloud touched any part of one of the rational phantoms it immediately communicated its own color and tremulous motion to the part it touched.
"In spite of all the efforts and convulsive struggles of the unhappy victim, this color and motion slowly, but steadily and uninteruptedly, proceeded to diffuse itself over every part of the body, and as fast as it did so the body was drawn into the cloud and became a part of its substance. It was indeed a fearful sight to see the contortions, the agonizing efforts, of the poor creatures who had been touched by one of these awful clouds, and were dissolving and melting into it by inches without the possibility of escape or resistance.
"This was the only visible object that had the least power over the phantoms, and this was evidently composed of the same material as themselves. The forms and actions of all these phantoms varied very much with the state of my health and animal spirits, but I never could discover that the surrounding material objects had any influence upon them, except in this one particular, namely, if I saw them in a neat, well furnished room, there was a neatness and polish in their form and motions; and, on the contrary, if I was in an unfinished, rough apartment, there was a corresponding rudeness and roughness in my aerial visitors. A corresponding difference was visible when I saw them in the woods or in the meadows, upon the water or upon the ground, in the air or among the stars."
"Every different apartment which I occupied had a different set of phantoms, and they always had a degree of correspondence to the circumstances in which they were seen. (It should be noted, however, that it was not so much the place where the phantoms themselves appeared to me to be, that affected their forms and movements, as the place in which I myself actually was while observing them. The apparent locality of the phantoms, it is true, had some influence, but my own actual locality had much more.)"
"Thus far I have attempted only a general outline of these curious experiences. I will now proceed to a detailed account of several particular incidents, for the sake of illustrating the general statements already made. I select a few from manifestations without number. I am able to ascertain dates from the following circumstances:—
"I was born in April, 1802, and my father died in July, 1808, after suffering for more than a year from a lingering organic disease. Between two and three years before his death he removed from the house in which I was born to another at a little distance from it. What occurred, therefore, before my father's last sickness, must have taken place during the first five years of my life, and whatever took place before the removal of the family must have taken place during the first three years of my life. Before the removal of the family I slept in a small upper chamber in the front part of the house, where I was generally alone for several hours in the evening and morning. Adjoining this room, and opening into it by a very small door, was a low, dark, narrow, unfinished closet, which was open on the other side into a ruinous, old chaise-house. This closet was a famous place for the gambols of the phantoms, but of their forms and actions I do not now retain any very distinct recollection. I only remember that I was very careful not to do anything that I thought would be likely to offend them; yet otherwise their presence caused me no uneasiness, and was not at all disagreeable to me.
"The first incident of which I have a distinct recollection was the following:—
"One night, as I was lying alone in my chamber with my little dog Brutus snoring beside my bed, there came out of the closet a very large Indian woman and a very small Indian man, with a huge bass-viol between them. The woman was dressed in a large, loose, black gown, secured around her waist by a belt of the same material, and on her head she wore a high, dark gray fur cap, shaped somewhat like a lady's muff, ornamented with a row of covered buttons in front, and open towards the bottom, showing a red lining. The man was dressed in a shabby, black-colored overcoat and a little round, black hat that fitted closely to his head. They took no notice of me, but were rather ill-natured towards each other, and seemed to be disputing for the possession of the bass-viol. The man snatched it away and struck upon it a few harsh, hollow notes, which I distinctly heard, and which seemed to vibrate through my whole body, with a strange, stinging sensation The woman then took it and appeared to play very intently and much to her own satisfaction, but without producing any sound that was perceptible by me. They soon left the chamber, and I saw them go down into the back kitchen, where they sat and played and talked with my mother. It was only when the man took the bow that I could hear the harsh, abrupt, disagreeable sounds of the instrument. At length they arose, went out of the back door, and sprang upon a large heap of straw and unthreshed beans, and disappeared with a strange, rumbling sound. This vision was repeated night after night with scarcely any variation while we lived in that house, and once, and once only, after the family had removed to the other house. The only thing that seemed to me unaccountable and that excited my curiosity was that there should be such a large heap of straw and beans before the door every night, when I could see nothing of it in the daytime. I frequently crept out of bed and stole softly down into the kitchen, and peeped out of the door to see if it was there very early in the morning.
"I attempted to make some inquiries of my mother, but as I was not as yet very skillful in the use of language, I could get no satisfaction out of her answers, and could see that my questions seemed to distress her. At first she took little notice of what I said, regarding it no doubt as the meaningless prattle of a thoughtless child. My persistence, however, seemed to alarm her, and I suppose that she feared for my sanity. I soon desisted from asking anything further, and shut myself more and more within myself. One night, very soon after the removal, when the house was still, and all the family were in bed, these unearthly musicians once made their appearance in the kitchen of the new house, and after looking around peevishly, and sitting with a discontented frown and in silence, they arose and went out of the back door, and sprang on a pile of cornstalks, and I saw them no more.
"Our new dwelling was a low-studded house of only one story, and, instead of an upper chamber, I now occupied a bedroom that opened into the kitchen. Within this bedroom, directly on the left hand of the door as you entered from the kitchen, was the staircase which led to the garret; and, as the room was unfinished, some of the boards which inclosed the staircase were too short, and left a considerable space between them and the ceiling. One of these open spaces was directly in front of my bed, so that when I lay upon my pillow my face was opposite to it. Every night, after I had gone to bed and the candle was removed, a very pleasant-looking human face would peer at me over the top of that board, and gradually press forward his head, neck, shoulders, and finally his whole body as far as the waist, through the opening, and then, smiling upon me with great good-nature, would withdraw in the same manner in which he had entered. He was a great favorite of mine; for though we neither of us spoke, we perfectly understood, and were entirely devoted to, each other. It is a singular fact that the features of this favorite phantom bore a very close resemblance to those of a boy older than myself whom I feared and hated: still the resemblance was so strong that I called him by the same name, Harvey.
"Harvey's visits were always expected and always pleasant; but sometimes there were visitations of another sort, odious and frightful. One of these I will relate as a specimen of the rest."
"One night, after I had retired to bed and was looking for Harvey, I observed an unusual number of the tunnel-shaped tremulous clouds already described, and they seemed intensely black and strongly agitated. This alarmed me exceedingly, and I had a terrible feeling that something awful was going to happen. It was not long before I saw Harvey at his accustomed place, cautiously peeping at me through the aperture, with an expression of pain and terror on his countenance. He seemed to warn me to be on my guard, but was afraid to put his head into the room lest he should be touched by one of the clouds, which were every moment growing thicker and more numerous. Harvey soon withdrew and left me alone. On turning my eyes towards the left-hand wall of the room, I thought I saw at an immense distance below me the regions of the damned, as I had heard them pictured in sermons. From this awful world of horror the tunnel-shaped clouds were ascending, and I perceived that they were the principal instruments of torture in these gloomy abodes. These regions were at such an immense distance below me that I could obtain but a very indistinct view of the inhabitants, who were very numerous and exceedingly active. Near the surface of the earth, and as it seemed to me but a little distance from my bed, I saw four or five sturdy, resolute devils endeavoring to carry off an unprincipled and dissipated man in the neighborhood, by the name of Brown, of whom I had stood in terror for years. These devils I saw were very different from the common representations. They had neither red faces, nor horns, nor hoofs, nor tails. They were in all respects stoutly built and well-dressed gentlemen. The only peculiarity that I noted in their appearance was as to their heads. Their faces and necks were perfectly bare, without hair or flesh, and of a uniform sky-blue color, like the ashes of burnt paper before it falls to pieces, and of a certain glossy smoothness."
"As I looked on, full of eagerness, the devils struggled to force Brown down with them, and Brown struggled with the energy of desperation to save himself from their grip, and it seemed that the human was likely to prove too strong for the infernal. In this emergency one of the devils, panting for breath and covered with perspiration, beckoned to a strong, thick cloud that seemed to understand him perfectly, and, whirling up to Brown, touched his hand. Brown resisted stoutly, and struck out right and left at the cloud most furiously, but the usual effect was produced,—the hand grew black, quivered, and seemed to be melting into the cloud; then the arm, by slow degrees, and then the head and shoulders. At this instant Brown, collecting all his energies for one desperate effort, sprang at once into the centre of the cloud, tore it asunder, and descended to the ground, exclaiming, with a hoarse, furious voice that grated on my ear, 'There, I've got out; dam'me if I haven't!' This was the first word that had been spoken through the whole horrible scene. It was the first time I had ever seen a cloud fail to produce its appropriate result, and it terrified me so that I trembled from head to foot. The devils, however, did not seem to be in the least discouraged. One of them, who seemed to be the leader, went away and quickly returned bringing with him an enormous pair of rollers fixed in an iron frame, such as are used in iron-mills for the purpose of rolling out and slitting bars of iron, except instead of being turned by machinery, each roller was turned by an immense crank. Three of the devils now seized Brown and put his feet to the rollers, while two others stood, one at each crank, and began to roll him in with a steady strain that was entirely irresistible. Not a word was spoken, not a sound was heard; but the fearful struggles and terrified, agonizing looks of Brown were more than I could endure. I sprang from my bed and ran through the kitchen into the room where my parents slept, and entreated that they would permit me to spend the remainder of the night with them. After considerable parleying they assured me that nothing could hurt me, and advised me to go back to bed. I replied that I was not afraid of their hurting me, but I couldn't bear to see them acting so with C. Brown. 'Poh! poh! you foolish boy,' replied my father, sternly. 'You've only been dreaming; go right back to bed, or I shall have to whip you.' Knowing that there was no other alternative, I trudged back through the kitchen with all the courage I could muster, cautiously entered my room, where I found everything quiet, there being neither cloud, nor devil, nor anything of the kind to be seen, and getting into bed I slept quietly till morning. The next day I was rather sad and melancholy, but kept all my troubles to myself, through fear of Brown. This happened before my father's sickness, and consequently between the four and six years of my age."
"During my father's sickness and after his death I lived with my grandmother; and when I had removed to her house I forever lost sight of Harvey. I still continued to sleep alone for the most part, but in a neatly furnished upper chamber. Across the corner of the chamber, opposite to and at a little distance from the head of my bed, there was a closet in the form of an old-fashioned buffet. After going to bed, on looking at the door of this closet, I could see at a great distance from it a pleasant meadow, terminated by a beautiful little grove. Out of this grove, and across this meadow, a charming little female figure would advance, about eight inches high and exquisitely proportioned, dressed in a loose black silk robe, with long, smooth black hair parted up her head and hanging loose over her shoulders. She would come forward with a slow and regular step, becoming more distinctly visible as she approached nearer, till she came even with the surface of the closet door, when she would smile upon me, raise her hands to her head and draw them down on each side of her face, suddenly turn round, and go off at a rapid trot. The moment she turned I could see a good-looking mulatto man, rather smaller than herself, following directly in her wake and trotting off after her. This was generally repeated two or three times before I went to sleep. The features of the mulatto bore some resemblance to those of the Indian man with the bass-viol, but were much more mild and agreeable."
"I awoke one bright, moonlight night, and found a large, full-length human skeleton of an ashy-blue color in bed with me! I screamed out with fright, and soon summoned the family around me. I refused to tell the cause of my alarm, but begged permission to occupy another bed, which was granted.
"For the remainder of the night I slept but little; but I saw upon the window-stools companies of little fairies, about six inches high, in white robes, gamboling and dancing with incessant merriment. Two of them, a male and female, rather taller than the rest, were dignified with a crown and sceptre. They took the kindest notice of me, smiled upon me with great benignity, and seemed to assure me of their protection. I was soothed and cheered by their presence, though after all there was a sort of sinister and selfish expression in their countenances which prevented my placing implicit confidence in them.
"Up to this time I had never doubted the real existence of these phantoms, nor had I ever suspected that other people had not seen them as distinctly as myself. I now, however, began to discover with no little anxiety that my friends had little or no knowledge of the aerial beings among whom I have spent my whole life; that my allusions to them were not understood, and all complaints respecting them were laughed at. I had never been disposed to say much about them, and this discovery confirmed me in my silence. It did not, however, affect my own belief, or lead me to suspect that my imaginations were not realities.
"During the whole of this period I took great pleasure in walking out alone, particularly in the evening. The most lonely fields, the woods, and the banks of the river, and other places most completely secluded, were my favorite resorts, for there I could enjoy the sight of innumerable aerial beings of all sorts, without interruption. Every object, even every shaking leaf, seemed to me to be animated by some living soul, whose nature in some degree corresponded to its habitation. I spent much of my life in these solitary rambles; there were particular places to which I gave names, and visited them at regular intervals. Moonlight was particularly agreeable to me, but most of all I enjoyed a thick, foggy night. At times, during these walks, I would be excessively oppressed by an indefinite and deep feeling of melancholy. Without knowing why, I would be so unhappy as to wish myself annihilated, and suddenly it would occur to me that my friends at home were suffering some dreadful calamity, and so vivid would be the impression, that I would hasten home with all speed to see what had taken place. At such seasons I felt a morbid love for my friends that would almost burn up my soul, and yet, at the least provocation from them, I would fly into an uncontrollable passion and foam like a little fury. I was called a dreadful-tempered boy; but the Lord knows that I never occasioned pain to any animal, whether human or brutal, without suffering untold agonies in consequence of it. I cannot, even now, without feelings of deep sorrow, call to mind the alternate fits of corroding melancholy, irritation, and bitter remorse which I then endured. These fits of melancholy were most constant and oppressive during the autumnal months.
"I very early learned to read, and soon became immoderately attached to books. In the Bible I read the first chapters of Job, and parts of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation, with most intense delight, and with such frequency that I could repeat large portions from memory long before the age at which boys in the country are usually able to read plain sentences. The first large book besides the Bible that I remember reading was Morse's 'History of New England,' which I devoured with insatiable greediness, particularly those parts which relate to Indian wars and witchcraft. I was in the habit of applying to my grandmother for explanations, and she would relate to me, while I listened with breathless attention, long stories from Mather's 'Magnalia' or (Mag-nilly, as she used to call it), a work which I earnestly longed to read, but of which, I never got sight till after my twentieth year. Very early there fell into my hands an old school- book, called 'The Art of Speaking,' containing numerous extracts from Milton and Shakespeare. There was little else in the book that interested me, but these extracts from the two great English poets, though there were many things in them that I did not well understand, I read again and again, with increasing pleasure at every perusal, till I had nearly committed them to memory, and almost thumbed the old book into nonenity. But of all the books that I read at this period, there was none that went to my heart like Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress.' I read it and re-read it night and day; I took it to bed with me and hugged it to my bosom while I slept; every different edition that I could find I seized upon and read with as eager a curiosity as if it had been a new story throughout; and I read with the unspeakable satisfaction of most devoutly believing that everything which 'Honest John' related was a real verity, an actual occurrence. Oh that I could read that most inimitable book once more with the same solemn conviction of its literal truth, that I might once more enjoy the same untold ecstacy!
"One other remark it seems proper to make before I proceed further to details. The appearance, and especially the motions, of my aerial visitors were intimately connected, either as cause or effect, I cannot determine which, with certain sensations of my own. Their countenances generally expressed pleasure or pain, complaisance or anger, according to the mood of my own mind: if they moved from place to place without moving their limbs, with that gliding motion appropriate to spirits, I felt in my stomach that peculiar tickling sensation which accompanies a rapid, progressive movement through the air; and if they went off with an uneasy trot, I felt an unpleasant jarring through my frame. Their appearance was always attended with considerable effort and fatigue on my part: the more distinct and vivid they were, the more would my fatigue be increased; and at such times my face was always pale, and my eyes unusually sparkling and wild. This continued to be the case after I became satisfied that it was all a delusion of the imagination, and it so continues to the present day."
It is not surprising that Mrs. Stowe should have felt herself impelled to give literary form to an experience so exceptional. Still more must this be the case when the early associations of this exceptional character were as amusing and interesting as they are shown forth in "Oldtown Fireside Stories."
None of the incidents or characters embodied in those sketches are ideal. The stories are told as they came from Mr. Stowe's lips, with little or no alteration. Sam Lawson was a real character. In 1874 Mr. Whittier wrote to Mrs. Stowe: "I am not able to write or study much, or read books that require thought, without suffering, but I have Sam Lawson lying at hand, and, as Corporal Trim said of Yorick's sermon, 'I like it hugely.'"
The power and literary value of these stories lie in the fact that they are true to nature. Professor Stowe was himself an inimitable mimic and story-teller. No small proportion of Mrs. Stowe's success as a literary woman is to be attributed to him. Not only was he possessed of a bright, quick mind, but wonderful retentiveness of memory. Mrs. Stowe was never at a loss for reliable information on any subject as long as the professor lived. He belonged, to that extinct species, the "general scholar." His scholarship was not critical in the modern sense of the word, but in the main accurate, in spite of his love for the marvelous.
It is not out of place to give a little idea of his power in character-painting, as it shows how suggestive his conversation and letters must have been to a mind like that of Mrs. Stowe:—
NATICK, July 14, 1839.
I have had a real good time this week writing my oration. I have strolled over my old walking places, and found the same old stone walls, the same old footpaths through the rye-fields, the same bends in the river, the same old bullfrogs with their green spectacles on, the same old terrapins sticking up their heads and bowing as I go by; and nothing was wanting but my wife to talk with to make all complete. . . . I have had some rare talks with old uncle "Jaw" Bacon, and other old characters, which you ought to have heard. The Curtises have been flooding Uncle "Jaw's" meadows, and he is in a great stew about it. He says: "I took and tell'd your Uncle Izic to tell them 'ere Curtises that if the Devil did n't git 'em far flowing my medder arter that sort, I didn't see no use o' havin' any Devil." "Have you talked with the Curtises yourself?" "Yes, hang the sarcy dogs! and they took and tell'd me that they'd take and flow clean up to my front door, and make me go out and in in a boat." "Why don't you go to law?" "Oh, they keep alterin' and er tinkerin'-up the laws so here in Massachusetts that a body can't git no damage fur flowing; they think cold water can't hurt nobody."
Mother and Aunt Nabby each keep separate establishments. First Aunt Nabby gets up in the morning and examines the sink, to see whether it leaks and rots the beam. She then makes a little fire, gets her little teapot of bright shining tin, and puts into it a teaspoonful of black tea, and so prepares her breakfast.
By this time mother comes creeping down-stairs, like an old tabby-cat out of the ash-hole; and she kind o' doubts and reckons whether or no she had better try to git any breakfast, bein' as she 's not much appetite this mornin'; but she goes to the leg of bacon and cuts off a little slice, reckons sh'll broil it; then goes and looks at the coffee-pot and reckons sh'll have a little coffee; don't exactly know whether it's good for her, but she don't drink much. So while Aunt Nabby is sitting sipping her tea and munching her bread and butter with a matter-of-fact certainty and marvelous satisfaction, mother goes doubting and reckoning round, like Mrs. Diffidence in Doubting Castle, till you see rising up another little table in another corner of the room, with a good substantial structure of broiled ham and coffee, and a boiled egg or two, with various et ceteras, which Mrs. Diffidence, after many desponding ejaculations, finally sits down to, and in spite of all presentiments makes them fly as nimbly as Mr. Ready-to-Halt did Miss Much-afraid when he footed it so well with her on his crutches in the dance on the occasion of Giant Despair's overthrow.
I have thus far dined alternately with mother and Aunt Susan, not having yet been admitted to Aunt Nabby's establishment. There are now great talkings, and congresses and consultations of the allied powers, and already rumors are afloat that perhaps all will unite their forces and dine at one table, especially as Harriet and little Hattie are coming, and there is no knowing what might come out in the papers if there should be anything a little odd.
Mother is very well, thin as a hatchet and smart as a steel trap; Aunt Nabby, fat and easy as usual; for since the sink is mended, and no longer leaks and rots the beam, and she has nothing to do but watch it, and Uncle Bill has joined the Washingtonians and no longer drinks rum, she is quite at a loss for topics of worriment.
Uncle Ike has had a little touch of palsy and is rather feeble. He says that his legs and arms have rather gi'n out, but his head and pluck are as good as they ever were. I told him that our sister Kate was very much in the same fix, whereat he was considerably affected, and opened the crack in his great pumpkin of a face, displaying the same two rows of great white ivories which have been my admiration from my youth up. He is sixty-five years of age, and has never lost a tooth, and was never in his life more than fifteen miles from the spot where he was born, except once, in the ever-memorable year 1819, when I was at Bradford Academy.
In a sudden glow of adventurous rashness he undertook to go after me and bring me home for vacation; and he actually performed the whole journey of thirty miles with his horse and wagon, and slept at a tavern a whole night, a feat of bravery on which he has never since ceased to plume himself. I well remember that awful night in the tavern in the remote region of North Andover. We occupied a chamber in which were two beds. In the unsuspecting innocence of youth I undressed myself and got into bed as usual; but my brave and thoughtful uncle, merely divesting himself of his coat, put it under his pillow, and then threw himself on to the bed with his boots on his feet, and his two hands resting on the rim of his hat, which he had prudently placed on the apex of his stomach as he lay on his back. He wouldn't allow me to blow out the candle, but he lay there with his great white eyes fixed on the ceiling, in the cool, determined manner of a bold man who had made up his mind to face danger and meet whatever might befall him. We escaped, however, without injury, the doughty landlord and his relentless sons merely demanding pay for supper, lodging, horse-feed, and breakfast, which my valiant uncle, betraying no signs of fear, resolutely paid.
Mrs. Stowe has woven this incident into chapter thirty-two of "Oldtown Folks," where Uncle Ike figures as Uncle Jacob.
Mrs. Stowe had misgivings as to the reception which "Oldtown Folks" would meet in England, owing to its distinctively New England character. Shortly after the publication of the book she received the following words of encouragement from Mrs. Lewes (George Eliot), July 11, 1869 :—
"I have received and read 'Oldtown Folks.' I think that few of your readers can have felt more interest than I have felt in that picture of an elder generation; for my interest in it has a double root,—one in my own love for our old-fashioned provincial life, which had its affinities with a contemporary life, even all across the Atlantic, and of which I have gathered glimpses in different phases from my father and mother, with their relations; the other is my experimental acquaintance with some shades of Calvinistic orthodoxy. I think your way of presenting the religious convictions which are not your own, except by the way of indirect fellowship, is a triumph of insight and true tolerance. . . . Both Mr. Lewes and I are deeply interested in the indications which the professor gives of his peculiar psychological experience, and we should feel it a great privilege to learn much more of it from his lips. It is a rare thing to have such an opportunity of studying exceptional experience in the testimony of a truthful and in every way distinguished mind."
"Oldtown Folks" is of interest as being undoubtedly the last of Mrs. Stowe's works which will outlive the generation for which it was written. Besides its intrinsic merit as a work of fiction, it has a certain historic value as being a faithful study of "New England life and character in that particular time of its history which may be called the seminal period."
Whether Mrs. Stowe was far enough away from the time and people she attempts to describe to "make (her) mind as still and passive as a looking-glass or a mountain lake, and to give merely the images reflected there," is something that will in great part determine the permanent value of this work. Its interest as a story merely is of course ephemeral.
THE BYRON CONTROVERSY, 1869-1870.
MRS. STOWE'S STATEMENT OF HER OWN CASE.—THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH SHE FIRST MET LADY BYRON.—LETTERS TO LADY BYRON.—LETTER TO DR. HOLMES WHEN ABOUT TO PUBLISH "THE TRUE STORY OF LADY BYRON'S LIFE" IN THE "ATLANTIC."—DR. HOLMES'S REPLY.—THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER.
It seems impossible to avoid the unpleasant episode in Mrs. Stowe's life known as the "Byron Controversy." It will be our effort to deal with the matter as colorlessly as is consistent with an adequate setting forth of the motives which moved Mrs. Stowe to awaken this unsavory discussion. In justification of her action in this matter, Mrs. Stowe says:—
"What interest have you and I, my brother and my sister, in this short life of ours, to utter anything but the truth? Is not truth between man and man, and between man and woman, the foundation on which all things rest? Have you not, every individual of you, who must hereafter give an account yourself alone to God, an interest to know the exact truth in this matter, and a duty to perform as respects that truth? Hear me, then, while I tell you the position in which I stood, and what was my course in relation to it.