PERSONAL SKETCHES AND TRIBUTES
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
PERSONAL SKETCHES AND TRIBUTES.
THE FUNERAL OF TORREY
WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING
DEATH OF PRESIDENT GARFIELD
LYDIA MARIA CHILD
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
EDWIN PERCY WHIPPLE
PERSONAL SKETCHES AND TRIBUTES
THE FUNERAL OF TORREY.
Charles T. Torrey, an able young Congregational clergyman, died May
9, 1846, in the state's prison of Maryland, for the offence of
aiding slaves to escape from bondage. His funeral in Boston,
attended by thousands, was a most impressive occasion. The
following is an extract from an article written for the Essex
Some seven years ago, we saw Charles T. Torrey for the first time. His
wife was leaning on his arm,—young, loving, and beautiful; the heart
that saw them blessed them. Since that time, we have known him as a most
energetic and zealous advocate of the anti-slavery cause. He had fine
talents, improved by learning and observation, a clear, intensely active
intellect, and a heart full of sympathy and genial humanity. It was with
strange and bitter feelings that we bent over his coffin and looked upon
his still face. The pity which we had felt for him in his long
sufferings gave place to indignation against his murderers. Hateful
beyond the power of expression seemed the tyranny which had murdered him
with the slow torture of the dungeon. May God forgive us, if for the
moment we felt like grasping His dread prerogative of vengeance. As we
passed out of the hall, a friend grasped our hand hard, his eye flashing
through its tears, with a stern reflection of our own emotions, while he
whispered through his pressed lips: "It is enough to turn every anti-
slavery heart into steel." Our blood boiled; we longed to see the wicked
apologists of slavery—the blasphemous defenders of it in Church and
State—led up to the coffin of our murdered brother, and there made to
feel that their hands had aided in riveting the chain upon those still
limbs, and in shutting out from those cold lips the free breath of
A long procession followed his remains to their resting-place at Mount
Auburn. A monument to his memory will be raised in that cemetery, in the
midst of the green beauty of the scenery which he loved in life, and side
by side with the honored dead of Massachusetts. Thither let the friends
of humanity go to gather fresh strength from the memory of the martyr.
There let the slaveholder stand, and as he reads the record of the
enduring marble commune with his own heart, and feel that sorrow which
The young, the beautiful, the brave!—he is safe now from the malice of
his enemies. Nothing can harm him more. His work for the poor and
helpless was well and nobly done. In the wild woods of Canada, around
many a happy fireside and holy family altar, his name is on the lips of
God's poor. He put his soul in their souls' stead; he gave his life for
those who had no claim on his love save that of human brotherhood. How
poor, how pitiful and paltry, seem our labors! How small and mean our
trials and sacrifices! May the spirit of the dead be with us, and infuse
into our hearts something of his own deep sympathy, his hatred of
injustice, his strong faith and heroic endurance. May that spirit be
gladdened in its present sphere by the increased zeal and faithfulness of
the friends he has left behind.
A letter to Robert C. Waterston.
Amesbury, 27th 1st Month, 1865.
I acknowledge through thee the invitation of the standing committee of
the Massachusetts Historical Society to be present at a special meeting
of the Society for the purpose of paying a tribute to the memory of our
late illustrious associate, Edward Everett.
It is a matter of deep regret to me that the state of my health will not
permit me to be with you on an occasion of so much interest.
It is most fitting that the members of the Historical Society of
Massachusetts should add their tribute to those which have been already
offered by all sects, parties, and associations to the name and fame of
their late associate. He was himself a maker of history, and part and
parcel of all the noble charities and humanizing influences of his State
When the grave closed over him who added new lustre to the old and
honored name of Quincy, all eyes instinctively turned to Edward Everett
as the last of that venerated class of patriotic civilians who, outliving
all dissent and jealousy and party prejudice, held their reputation by
the secure tenure of the universal appreciation of its worth as a common
treasure of the republic. It is not for me to pronounce his eulogy.
Others, better qualified by their intimate acquaintance with him, have
done and will do justice to his learning, eloquence, varied culture, and
social virtues. My secluded country life has afforded me few
opportunities of personal intercourse with him, while my pronounced
radicalism on the great question which has divided popular feeling
rendered our political paths widely divergent. Both of us early saw the
danger which threatened the country. In the language of the prophet, we
"saw the sword coining upon the land," but while he believed in the
possibility of averting it by concession and compromise, I, on the
contrary, as firmly believed that such a course could only strengthen and
confirm what I regarded as a gigantic conspiracy against the rights and
liberties, the union and the life, of the nation.
Recent events have certainly not tended to change this belief on my part;
but in looking over the past, while I see little or nothing to retract in
the matter of opinion, I am saddened by the reflection that through the
very intensity of my convictions I may have done injustice to the motives
of those with whom I differed. As respects Edward Everett, it seems to
me that only within the last four years I have truly known him.
In that brief period, crowded as it is with a whole life-work of
consecration to the union, freedom, and glory of his country, he not only
commanded respect and reverence, but concentrated upon himself in a most
remarkable degree the love of all loyal and generous hearts. We have
seen, in these years of trial, very great sacrifices offered upon the
altar of patriotism,—wealth, ease, home, love, life itself. But Edward
Everett did more than this: he laid on that altar not only his time,
talents, and culture, but his pride of opinion, his long-cherished views
of policy, his personal and political predilections and prejudices, his
constitutional fastidiousness of conservatism, and the carefully
elaborated symmetry of his public reputation. With a rare and noble
magnanimity, he met, without hesitation, the demand of the great
occasion. Breaking away from all the besetments of custom and
association, he forgot the things that are behind, and, with an eye
single to present duty, pressed forward towards the mark of the high
calling of Divine Providence in the events of our time. All honor to
him! If we mourn that he is now beyond the reach of our poor human
praise, let us reverently trust that he has received that higher plaudit:
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"
When I last met him, as my colleague in the Electoral College of
Massachusetts, his look of health and vigor seemed to promise us many
years of his wisdom and usefulness. On greeting him I felt impelled to
express my admiration and grateful appreciation of his patriotic labors;
and I shall never forget how readily and gracefully he turned attention
from himself to the great cause in which we had a common interest, and
expressed his thankfulness that he had still a country to serve.
To keep green the memory of such a man is at once a privilege and a duty.
That stainless life of seventy years is a priceless legacy. His hands
were pure. The shadow of suspicion never fell on him. If he erred in
his opinions (and that he did so he had the Christian grace and courage
to own), no selfish interest weighed in the scale of his judgment against
As our thoughts follow him to his last resting-place, we are sadly
reminded of his own touching lines, written many years ago at Florence.
The name he has left behind is none the less "pure" that instead of being
"humble," as he then anticipated, it is on the lips of grateful millions,
and written ineffaceable on the record of his country's trial and
"Yet not for me when I shall fall asleep
Shall Santa Croce's lamps their vigils keep.
Beyond the main in Auburn's quiet shade,
With those I loved and love my couch be made;
Spring's pendant branches o'er the hillock wave,
And morning's dewdrops glisten on my grave,
While Heaven's great arch shall rise above my bed,
When Santa Croce's crumbles on her dead,—
Unknown to erring or to suffering fame,
So may I leave a pure though humble name."
Congratulating the Society on the prospect of the speedy consummation of
the great objects of our associate's labors,—the peace and permanent
union of our country,—
I am very truly thy friend.
One after another, those foremost in the antislavery conflict of the last
half century are rapidly passing away. The grave has just closed over
all that was mortal of Salmon P. Chase, the kingliest of men, a statesman
second to no other in our history, too great and pure for the Presidency,
yet leaving behind him a record which any incumbent of that station might
envy,—and now the telegraph brings us the tidings of the death of Lewis
Tappan, of Brooklyn, so long and so honorably identified with the anti-
slavery cause, and with every philanthropic and Christian enterprise. He
was a native of Massachusetts, born at Northampton in 1788, of Puritan
lineage,—one of a family remarkable for integrity, decision of
character, and intellectual ability. At the very outset, in company with
his brother Arthur, he devoted his time, talents, wealth, and social
position to the righteous but unpopular cause of Emancipation, and
became, in consequence, a mark for the persecution which followed such
devotion. His business was crippled, his name cast out as evil, his
dwelling sacked, and his furniture dragged into the street and burned.
Yet he never, in the darkest hour, faltered or hesitated for a moment.
He knew he was right, and that the end would justify him; one of the
cheerfullest of men, he was strong where others were weak, hopeful where
others despaired. He was wise in counsel, and prompt in action; like
Tennyson's Sir Galahad,
"His strength was as the strength of ten,
Because his heart was pure."
I met him for the first time forty years ago, at the convention which
formed the American Anti-Slavery Society, where I chanced to sit by him
as one of the secretaries. Myself young and inexperienced, I remember
how profoundly I was impressed by his cool self-possession, clearness of
perception, and wonderful executive ability. Had he devoted himself to
party politics with half the zeal which he manifested in behalf of those
who had no votes to give and no honors to bestow, he could have reached
the highest offices in the land. He chose his course, knowing all that
he renounced, and he chose it wisely. He never, at least, regretted it.
And now, at the ripe age of eighty-five years, the brave old man has
passed onward to the higher life, having outlived here all hatred, abuse,
and misrepresentation, having seen the great work of Emancipation
completed, and white men and black men equal before the law. I saw him
for the last time three years ago, when he was preparing his valuable
biography of his beloved brother Arthur. Age had begun to tell upon his
constitution, but his intellectual force was not abated. The old,
pleasant laugh and playful humor remained. He looked forward to the
close of life hopefully, even cheerfully, as he called to mind the dear
friends who had passed on before him, to await his coming.
Of the sixty-three signers of the Anti-Slavery Declaration at the
Philadelphia Convention in 1833, probably not more than eight or ten are
"As clouds that rake the mountain summits,
As waves that know no guiding hand,
So swift has brother followed brother
From sunshine to the sunless land."
Yet it is a noteworthy fact that the oldest member of that convention,
David Thurston, D. D., of Maine, lived to see the slaves emancipated, and
to mingle his voice of thanksgiving with the bells that rang in the day
of universal freedom.
Read at the memorial meeting in Tremont Temple, Boston, January 10, 1879.
I am not able to attend the memorial meeting in Tremont Temple on the
10th instant, but my heart responds to any testimonial appreciative of
the intellectual achievements and the noble and manly life of Bayard
Taylor. More than thirty years have intervened between my first meeting
him in the fresh bloom of his youth and hope and honorable ambition, and
my last parting with him under the elms of Boston Common, after our visit
to Richard H. Dana, on the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of that
honored father of American poetry, still living to lament the death of
his younger disciple and friend. How much he has accomplished in these
years! The most industrious of men, slowly, patiently, under many
disadvantages, he built up his splendid reputation. Traveller, editor,
novelist, translator, diplomatist, and through all and above all poet,
what he was he owed wholly to himself. His native honesty was satisfied
with no half tasks. He finished as he went, and always said and did his
It is perhaps too early to assign him his place in American literature.
His picturesque books of travel, his Oriental lyrics, his Pennsylvanian
idyls, his Centennial ode, the pastoral beauty and Christian sweetness of
Lars, and the high argument and rhythmic marvel of Deukalion are sureties
of the permanence of his reputation. But at this moment my thoughts
dwell rather upon the man than the author. The calamity of his death,
felt in both hemispheres, is to me and to all who intimately knew and
loved him a heavy personal loss. Under the shadow of this bereavement,
in the inner circle of mourning, we sorrow most of all that we shall see
his face no more, and long for "the touch of a vanished hand, and the
sound of a voice that is still."
WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING
Read at the dedication of the Channing Memorial Church at Newport, R. I.
DANVERS, MASS., 3d Mo., 13, 1880.
I scarcely need say that I yield to no one in love and reverence for the
great and good man whose memory, outliving all prejudices of creed, sect,
and party, is the common legacy of Christendom. As the years go on, the
value of that legacy will be more and more felt; not so much, perhaps, in
doctrine as in spirit, in those utterances of a devout soul which are
above and beyond the affirmation or negation of dogma.
His ethical severity and Christian tenderness; his hatred of wrong and
oppression, with love and pity for the wrong-doer; his noble pleas for
self-culture, temperance, peace, and purity; and above all, his precept
and example of unquestioning obedience to duty and the voice of God in
his soul, can never become obsolete. It is very fitting that his memory
should be especially cherished with that of Hopkins and Berkeley in the
beautiful island to which the common residence of those worthies has lent
additional charms and interest.
DEATH OF PRESIDENT GARFIELD.
A letter written to W. H. B. Currier, of Amesbury, Mass.
DANVERS, MASS., 9th Mo., 24, 1881.
I regret that it is not in my power to join the citizens of Amesbury and
Salisbury in the memorial services on the occasion of the death of our
lamented President. But in heart and sympathy I am with you. I share
the great sorrow which overshadows the land; I fully appreciate the
irretrievable loss. But it seems to me that the occasion is one for
thankfulness as well as grief.
Through all the stages of the solemn tragedy which has just closed with
the death of our noblest and best, I have felt that the Divine Providence
was overruling the mighty affliction,—that the patient sufferer at
Washington was drawing with cords of sympathy all sections and parties
nearer to each other. And now, when South and North, Democrat and
Republican, Radical and Conservative, lift their voices in one unbroken
accord of lamentation; when I see how, in spite of the greed of gain, the
lust of office, the strifes and narrowness of party politics, the great
heart of the nation proves sound and loyal, I feel a new hope for the
republic, I have a firmer faith in its stability. It is said that no man
liveth and no man dieth to himself; and the pure and noble life of
Garfield, and his slow, long martyrdom, so bravely borne in view of all,
are, I believe, bearing for us as a people "the peaceable fruits of
righteousness." We are stronger, wiser, better, for them.
With him it is well. His mission fulfilled, he goes to his grave by the
Lakeside honored and lamented as man never was before. The whole world
mourns him. There is no speech nor language where the voice of his
praise is not heard. About his grave gather, with heads uncovered, the
vast brotherhood of man.
And with us it is well, also. We are nearer a united people than ever
before. We are at peace with all; our future is full of promise; our
industrial and financial condition is hopeful. God grant that, while our
material interests prosper, the moral and spiritual influence of the
occasion may be permanently felt; that the solemn sacrament of Sorrow,
whereof we have been made partakers, may be blest to the promotion of the
righteousness which exalteth a nation.
LYDIA MARIA CHILD.
In 1882 a collection of the Letters of Lydia Maria Child was
published, for which I wrote the following sketch, as an
In presenting to the public this memorial volume, its compilers deemed
that a brief biographical introduction was necessary; and as a labor of
love I have not been able to refuse their request to prepare it.
Lydia Maria Francis was born in Medford, Massachusetts, February 11,
1802. Her father, Convers Francis, was a worthy and substantial citizen
of that town. Her brother, Convers Francis, afterwards theological
professor in Harvard College, was some years older than herself, and
assisted her in her early home studies, though, with the perversity of an
elder brother, he sometimes mystified her in answering her questions.
Once, when she wished to know what was meant by Milton's "raven down of
darkness," which was made to smile when smoothed, he explained that it
was only the fur of a black cat, which sparkled when stroked! Later in
life this brother wrote of her, "She has been a dear, good sister to me
would that I had been half as good a brother to her." Her earliest
teacher was an aged spinster, known in the village as "Marm Betty,"
painfully shy, and with many oddities of person and manner, the never-
forgotten calamity of whose life was that Governor Brooks once saw her
drinking out of the nose of her tea-kettle. Her school was in her
bedroom, always untidy, and she was a constant chewer of tobacco but the
children were fond of her, and Maria and her father always carried her a
good Sunday dinner. Thomas W. Higginson, in Eminent Women of the Age,
mentions in this connection that, according to an established custom, on
the night before Thanksgiving "all the humble friends of the Francis
household—Marm Betty, the washerwoman, wood-sawyer, and journeymen, some
twenty or thirty in all—were summoned to a preliminary entertainment.
They there partook of an immense chicken pie, pumpkin pie made in milk-
pans, and heaps of doughnuts. They feasted in the large, old-fashioned
kitchen, and went away loaded with crackers and bread and pies, not
forgetting 'turnovers' for the children. Such plain application of the
doctrine that it is more blessed to give than receive may have done more
to mould the character of Lydia Maria Child of maturer years than all the
faithful labors of good Dr. Osgood, to whom she and her brother used to
repeat the Assembly's catechism once a month."
Her education was limited to the public schools, with the exception of
one year at a private seminary in her native town. From a note by her
brother, Dr. Francis, we learn that when twelve years of age she went to
Norridgewock, Maine, where her married sister resided. At Dr. Brown's,
in Skowhegan, she first read Waverley. She was greatly excited, and
exclaimed, as she laid down the book, "Why cannot I write a novel?"
She remained in Norridgewock and vicinity for several years, and on her
return to Massachusetts took up her abode with her brother at Watertown.
He encouraged her literary tastes, and it was in his study that she
commenced her first story, Hobomok, which she published in the twenty-
first year of her age. The success it met with induced her to give to
the public, soon after, The Rebels: a Tale of the Revolution, which was
at once received into popular favor, and ran rapidly through several
editions. Then followed in close succession The Mother's Book, running
through eight American editions, twelve English, and one German, The
Girl's Book, the History of Women, and the Frugal Housewife, of
which thirty-five editions were published. Her Juvenile Miscellany was
commenced in 1826.
It is not too much to say that half a century ago she was the most
popular literary woman in the United States. She had published
historical novels of unquestioned power of description and
characterization, and was widely and favorably known as the editor of the
Juvenile Miscellany, which was probably the first periodical in the
English tongue devoted exclusively to children, and to which she was by
far the largest contributor. Some of the tales and poems from her pen
were extensively copied and greatly admired. It was at this period that
the North American Review, the highest literary authority of the
country, said of her, "We are not sure that any woman of our country
could outrank Mrs. Child. This lady has been long before the public as
an author with much success. And she well deserves it, for in all her
works nothing can be found which does not commend itself, by its tone of
healthy morality and good sense. Few female writers, if any, have done
more or better things for our literature in the lighter or graver
Comparatively young, she had placed herself in the front rank of American
authorship. Her books and her magazine had a large circulation, and were
affording her a comfortable income, at a time when the rewards of
authorship were uncertain and at the best scanty.
In 1828 she married David Lee Child, Esq., a young and able lawyer, and
took up her residence in Boston. In 1831-32 both became deeply
interested in the subject of slavery, through the writings and personal
influence of William Lloyd Garrison. Her husband, a member of the
Massachusetts legislature and editor of the Massachusetts Journal, had,
at an earlier date, denounced the project of the dismemberment of Mexico
for the purpose of strengthening and extending American slavery. He was
one of the earliest members of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and
his outspoken hostility to the peculiar institution greatly and
unfavorably affected his interests as a lawyer. In 1832 he addressed a
series of able letters on slavery and the slave-trade to Edward S. Abdy,
a prominent English philanthropist. In 1836 he published in Philadelphia
ten strongly written articles on the same subject. He visited England
and France in 1837, and while in Paris addressed an elaborate memoir to
the Societe pour l'Abolition d'Esclavage, and a paper on the same subject
to the editor of the Eclectic Review, in London. To his facts and
arguments John Quincy Adams was much indebted in the speeches which he
delivered in Congress on the Texas question.
In 1833 the American Anti-Slavery Society was formed by a convention in
Philadelphia. Its numbers were small, and it was everywhere spoken
against. It was at this time that Lydia Maria Child startled the country
by the publication of her noble Appeal in Behalf of that Class of
Americans called Africans. It is quite impossible for any one of the
present generation to imagine the popular surprise and indignation which
the book called forth, or how entirely its author cut herself off from
the favor and sympathy of a large number of those who had previously
delighted to do her honor. Social and literary circles, which had been
proud of her presence, closed their doors against her. The sale of her
books, the subscriptions to her magazine, fell off to a ruinous extent.
She knew all she was hazarding, and made the great sacrifice, prepared
for all the consequences which followed. In the preface to her book she
says, "I am fully aware of the unpopularity of the task I have
undertaken; but though I expect ridicule and censure, I do not fear them.
A few years hence, the opinion of the world will be a matter in which I
have not even the most transient interest; but this book will be abroad
on its mission of humanity long after the hand that wrote it is mingling
with the dust. Should it be the means of advancing, even one single
hour, the inevitable progress of truth and justice, I would not exchange
the consciousness for all Rothschild's wealth or Sir Walter's fame."
Thenceforth her life was a battle; a constant rowing hard against the
stream of popular prejudice and hatred. And through it all—pecuniary
privation, loss of friends and position, the painfulness of being
suddenly thrust from "the still air of delightful studies" into the
bitterest and sternest controversy of the age—she bore herself with
patience, fortitude, and unshaken reliance upon the justice and ultimate
triumph of the cause she had espoused. Her pen was never idle. Wherever
there was a brave word to be spoken, her voice was heard, and never
without effect. It is not exaggeration to say that no man or woman at
that period rendered more substantial service to the cause of freedom, or
made such a "great renunciation" in doing it.
A practical philanthropist, she had the courage of her convictions, and
from the first was no mere closet moralist or sentimental bewailer of the
woes of humanity. She was the Samaritan stooping over the wounded Jew.
She calmly and unflinchingly took her place by the side, of the despised
slave and free man of color, and in word and act protested against the
cruel prejudice which shut out its victims from the rights and privileges
of American citizens. Her philanthropy had no taint of fanaticism;
throughout the long struggle, in which she was a prominent actor, she
kept her fine sense of humor, good taste, and sensibility to the
beautiful in art and nature.
The opposition she met with from those who had shared her confidence
and friendship was of course keenly felt, but her kindly and genial
disposition remained unsoured. She rarely spoke of her personal
trials, and never posed as a martyr. The nearest approach to
anything like complaint is in the following lines, the date of which
I have not been able to ascertain:—
THE WORLD THAT I AM PASSING THROUGH.
Few in the days of early youth
Trusted like me in love and truth.
I've learned sad lessons from the years,
But slowly, and with many tears;
For God made me to kindly view
The world that I am passing through.
Though kindness and forbearance long
Must meet ingratitude and wrong,
I still would bless my fellow-men,
And trust them though deceived again.
God help me still to kindly view
The world that I am passing through.
From all that fate has brought to me
I strive to learn humility,
And trust in Him who rules above,
Whose universal law is love.
Thus only can I kindly view
The world that I am passing through.
When I approach the setting sun,
And feel my journey well-nigh done,
May Earth be veiled in genial light,
And her last smile to me seem bright.
Help me till then to kindly view
The world that I am passing through.
And all who tempt a trusting heart
From faith and hope to drift apart,
May they themselves be spared the pain
Of losing power to trust again.
God help us all to kindly view
The world that we are passing through.
While faithful to the great duty which she felt was laid upon her in an
especial manner, she was by no means a reformer of one idea, but her
interest was manifested in every question affecting the welfare of
humanity. Peace, temperance, education, prison reform, and equality of
civil rights, irrespective of sex, engaged her attention. Under all the
disadvantages of her estrangement from popular favor, her charming Greek
romance of Philothea and her Lives of Madame Roland and the Baroness
de Stael proved that her literary ability had lost nothing of its
strength, and that the hand which penned such terrible rebukes had still
kept its delicate touch, and gracefully yielded to the inspiration of
fancy and art. While engaged with her husband in the editorial
supervision of the Anti-Slavery Standard, she wrote her admirable
Letters from New York; humorous, eloquent, and picturesque, but still
humanitarian in tone, which extorted the praise of even a pro-slavery
community. Her great work, in three octavo volumes, The Progress of
Religious Ideas, belongs, in part, to that period. It is an attempt to
represent in a candid, unprejudiced manner the rise and progress of the
great religions of the world, and their ethical relations to each other.
She availed herself of, and carefully studied, the authorities at that
time accessible, and the result is creditable to her scholarship,
industry, and conscientiousness. If, in her desire to do justice to the
religions of Buddha and Mohammed, in which she has been followed by
Maurice, Max Muller, and Dean Stanley, she seems at times to dwell upon
the best and overlook the darker features of those systems, her
concluding reflections should vindicate her from the charge of
undervaluing the Christian faith, or of lack of reverent appreciation of
its founder. In the closing chapter of her work, in which the large
charity and broad sympathies of her nature are manifest, she thus turns
with words of love, warm from the heart, to Him whose Sermon on the Mount
includes most that is good and true and vital in the religions and
philosophies of the world:—
"It was reserved for Him to heal the brokenhearted, to preach a gospel to
the poor, to say, 'Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved
much.' Nearly two thousand years have passed away since these words of
love and pity were uttered, yet when I read them my eyes fill with tears.
I thank Thee, O Heavenly Father, for all the messengers thou hast sent to
man; but, above all, I thank Thee for Him, thy beloved Son! Pure lily
blossom of the centuries, taking root in the lowliest depths, and
receiving the light and warmth of heaven in its golden heart! All that
the pious have felt, all that poets have said, all that artists have
done, with their manifold forms of beauty, to represent the ministry of
Jesus, are but feeble expressions of the great debt we owe Him who is
even now curing the lame, restoring sight to the blind, and raising the
dead in that spiritual sense wherein all miracle is true."
During her stay in New York, as editor of the Anti-Slavery Standard,
she found a pleasant home at the residence of the genial philanthropist,
Isaac T. Hopper, whose remarkable life she afterwards wrote. Her
portrayal of this extraordinary man, so brave, so humorous, so tender and
faithful to his convictions of duty, is one of the most readable pieces
of biography in English literature. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, in a
discriminating paper published in 1869, speaks of her eight years'
sojourn in New York as the most interesting and satisfactory period of
her whole life. "She was placed where her sympathetic nature found
abundant outlet and occupation. Dwelling in a house where
disinterestedness and noble labor were as daily breath, she had great
opportunities. There was no mere alms-giving; but sin and sorrow must
be brought home to the fireside and the heart; the fugitive slave, the
drunkard, the outcast woman, must be the chosen guests of the abode,—
must be taken, and held, and loved into reformation or hope."
It would be a very imperfect representation of Maria Child which regarded
her only from a literary point of view. She was wise in counsel; and men
like Charles Sumner, Henry Wilson, Salmon P. Chase, and Governor Andrew
availed themselves of her foresight and sound judgment of men and
measures. Her pen was busy with correspondence, and whenever a true man
or a good cause needed encouragement, she was prompt to give it. Her
donations for benevolent causes and beneficent reforms were constant and
liberal; and only those who knew her intimately could understand the
cheerful and unintermitted self-denial which alone enabled her to make
them. She did her work as far as possible out of sight, without noise or
pretension. Her time, talents, and money were held not as her own, but a
trust from the Eternal Father for the benefit of His suffering children.
Her plain, cheap dress was glorified by the generous motive for which she
wore it. Whether in the crowded city among the sin-sick and starving, or
among the poor and afflicted in the neighborhood of her country home, no
story of suffering and need, capable of alleviation, ever reached her
without immediate sympathy and corresponding action. Lowell, one of her
warmest admirers, in his Fable for Critics has beautifully portrayed
her abounding benevolence:—
"There comes Philothea, her face all aglow:
She has just been dividing some poor creature's woe,
And can't tell which pleases her most, to relieve
His want, or his story to hear and believe.
No doubt against many deep griefs she prevails,
For her ear is the refuge of destitute tales;
She knows well that silence is sorrow's best food,
And that talking draws off from the heart its black blood."
"The pole, science tells us, the magnet controls,
But she is a magnet to emigrant Poles,
And folks with a mission that nobody knows
Throng thickly about her as bees round a rose.
She can fill up the carets in such, make their scope
Converge to some focus of rational hope,
And, with sympathies fresh as the morning, their gall
Can transmute into honey,—but this is not all;
Not only for those she has solace; O, say,
Vice's desperate nursling adrift in Broadway,
Who clingest, with all that is left of thee human,
To the last slender spar from the wreck of the woman,
Hast thou not found one shore where those tired, drooping feet
Could reach firm mother-earth, one full heart on whose beat
The soothed head in silence reposing could hear
The chimes of far childhood throb back on the ear?"
"Ah, there's many a beam from the fountain of day
That, to reach us unclouded, must pass, on its way,
Through the soul of a woman, and hers is wide ope
To the influence of Heaven as the blue eyes of Hope;
Yes, a great heart is hers, one that dares to go in
To the prison, the slave-hut, the alleys of sin,
And to bring into each, or to find there, some line
Of the never completely out-trampled divine;
If her heart at high floods swamps her brain now and then,
'T is but richer for that when the tide ebbs again,
As, after old Nile has subsided, his plain
Overflows with a second broad deluge of grain;
What a wealth would it bring to the narrow and sour,
Could they be as a Child but for one little hour!"
After leaving New York, her husband and herself took up their residence
in the rural town of Wayland, Mass. Their house, plain and
unpretentious, had a wide and pleasant outlook; a flower garden,
carefully tended by her own hands, in front, and on the side a fruit
orchard and vegetable garden, under the special care of her husband. The
house was always neat, with some appearance of unostentatious decoration,
evincing at once the artistic taste of the hostess and the conscientious
economy which forbade its indulgence to any great extent. Her home was
somewhat apart from the lines of rapid travel, and her hospitality was in
a great measure confined to old and intimate friends, while her visits to
the city were brief and infrequent. A friend of hers, who had ample
opportunities for a full knowledge of her home-life, says, "The domestic
happiness of Mr. and Mrs. Child seemed to me perfect. Their sympathies,
their admiration of all things good, and their hearty hatred of all
things mean and evil were in entire unison. Mr. Child shared his wife's
enthusiasms, and was very proud of her. Their affection, never paraded,
was always manifest. After Mr. Child's death, Mrs. Child, in speaking of
the future life, said, 'I believe it would be of small value to me if I
were not united to him.'"
In this connection I cannot forbear to give an extract from some
reminiscences of her husband, which she left among her papers, which,
better than any words of mine, will convey an idea of their simple and
"In 1852 we made a humble home in Wayland, Mass., where we spent twenty-
two pleasant years entirely alone, without any domestic, mutually serving
each other, and dependent upon each other for intellectual companionship.
I always depended on his richly stored mind, which was able and ready to
furnish needed information on any subject. He was my walking dictionary
of many languages, my Universal Encyclopaedia.
"In his old age he was as affectionate and devoted as when the lover of
my youth; nay, he manifested even more tenderness. He was often
"'There's nothing half so sweet in life
As Love's old dream.'
"Very often, when he passed by me, he would lay his hand softly on my
head and murmur, 'Carum caput.' . . . But what I remember with the
most tender gratitude is his uniform patience and forbearance with my
faults. . . . He never would see anything but the bright side of my
character. He always insisted upon thinking that whatever I said was the
wisest and the wittiest, and that whatever I did was the best. The
simplest little jeu d'esprit of mine seemed to him wonderfully witty.
Once, when he said, 'I wish for your sake, dear, I were as rich as
Croesus,' I answered, 'You are Croesus, for you are king of Lydia.' How
often he used to quote that!
"His mind was unclouded to the last. He had a passion for philology, and
only eight hours before he passed away he was searching out the
derivation of a word."
Her well-stored mind and fine conversational gifts made her company
always desirable. No one who listened to her can forget the earnest
eloquence with which she used to dwell upon the evidences, from history,
tradition, and experience, of the superhuman and supernatural; or with
what eager interest she detected in the mysteries of the old religions of
the world the germs of a purer faith and a holier hope. She loved to
listen, as in St. Pierre's symposium of The Coffee-House of Surat,
to the confessions of faith of all sects and schools of philosophy,
Christian and pagan, and gather from them the consoling truth that our
Father has nowhere left his children without some witness of Himself.
She loved the old mystics, and lingered with curious interest and
sympathy over the writings of Bohme, Swedenborg, Molinos, and Woolman.
Yet this marked speculative tendency seemed not in the slightest degree
to affect her practical activities. Her mysticism and realism ran in
close parallel lines without interfering with each other.
With strong rationalistic tendencies from education and conviction, she
found herself in spiritual accord with the pious introversion of Thomas
a Kempis and Madame Guion. She was fond of Christmas Eve stories, of
warnings, signs, and spiritual intimations, her half belief in which
sometimes seemed like credulity to her auditors. James Russell Lowell,
in his tender tribute to her, playfully alludes to this characteristic:—
"She has such a musical taste that she 'll go
Any distance to hear one who draws a long bow.
She will swallow a wonder by mere might and main."
In 1859 the descent of John Brown upon Harper's Ferry, and his capture,
trial, and death, startled the nation. When the news reached her that
the misguided but noble old man lay desperately wounded in prison, alone
and unfriended, she wrote him a letter, under cover of one to Governor
Wise, asking permission to go and nurse and care for him. The expected
arrival of Captain Brown's wife made her generous offer unnecessary. The
prisoner wrote her, thanking her, and asking her to help his family, a
request with which she faithfully complied. With his letter came one
from Governor Wise, in courteous reproval of her sympathy for John Brown.
To this she responded in an able and effective manner. Her reply found
its way from Virginia to the New York Tribune, and soon after Mrs. Mason,
of King George's County, wife of Senator Mason, the author of the
infamous Fugitive Slave Law, wrote her a vehement letter, commencing with
threats of future damnation, and ending with assuring her that "no
Southerner, after reading her letter to Governor Wise, ought to read a
line of her composition, or touch a magazine which bore her name in its
list of contributors." To this she wrote a calm, dignified reply,
declining to dwell on the fierce invectives of her assailant, and wishing
her well here and hereafter. She would not debate the specific merits or
demerits of a man whose body was in charge of the courts, and whose
reputation was sure to be in charge of posterity. "Men," she continues,
"are of small consequence in comparison with principles, and the
principle for which John Brown died is the question at issue between us."
These letters were soon published in pamphlet form, and had the immense
circulation of 300,000 copies.
In 1867 she published A Romance of the Republic, a story of the days of
slavery; powerful in its delineation of some of the saddest as well as
the most dramatic conditions of master and slave in the Southern States.
Her husband, who had been long an invalid, died in 1874. After his death
her home, in winter especially, became a lonely one, and in 1877 she
began to spend the cold months in Boston.
Her last publication was in 1878, when her Aspirations of the World, a
book of selections, on moral and religious subjects, from the literature
of all nations and times, was given to the public. The introduction,
occupying fifty pages, shows, at threescore and ten, her mental vigor
unabated, and is remarkable for its wise, philosophic tone and felicity
of diction. It has the broad liberality of her more elaborate work on
the same subject, and in the mellow light of life's sunset her words seem
touched with a tender pathos and beauty. "All we poor mortals," she
says, "are groping our way through paths that are dim with shadows; and
we are all striving, with steps more or less stumbling, to follow some
guiding star. As we travel on, beloved companions of our pilgrimage
vanish from our sight, we know not whither; and our bereaved hearts utter
cries of supplication for more light. We know not where Hermes
Trismegistus lived, or who he was; but his voice sounds plaintively
human, coming up from the depths of the ages, calling out, 'Thou art God!
and thy man crieth these things unto Thee!' Thus closely allied in our
sorrows and limitations, in our aspirations and hopes, surely we ought
not to be separated in our sympathies. However various the names by
which we call the Heavenly Father, if they are set to music by brotherly
love, they can all be sung together."
Her interest in the welfare of the emancipated class at the South and of
the ill-fated Indians of the West remained unabated, and she watched with
great satisfaction the experiment of the education of both classes in
General Armstrong's institution at Hampton, Va. She omitted no
opportunity of aiding the greatest social reform of the age, which aims
to make the civil and political rights of women equal to those of men.
Her sympathies, to the last, went out instinctively to the wronged and
weak. She used to excuse her vehemence in this respect by laughingly
quoting lines from a poem entitled The Under Dog in the Fight:—
"I know that the world, the great big world,
Will never a moment stop
To see which dog may be in the wrong,
But will shout for the dog on top.
"But for me, I never shall pause to ask
Which dog may be in the right;
For my heart will beat, while it beats at all,
For the under dog in the fight."
I am indebted to a gentleman who was at one time a resident of Wayland,
and who enjoyed her confidence and warm friendship, for the following
impressions of her life in that place:—
"On one of the last beautiful Indian summer afternoons, closing the past
year, I drove through Wayland, and was anew impressed with the charm of
our friend's simple existence there. The tender beauty of the fading
year seemed a reflection of her own gracious spirit; the lovely autumn of
her life, whose golden atmosphere the frosts of sorrow and advancing age
had only clarified and brightened.
"My earliest recollection of Mrs. Child in Wayland is of a gentle face
leaning from the old stage window, smiling kindly down on the childish
figures beneath her; and from that moment her gracious motherly presence
has been closely associated with the charm of rural beauty in that
village, which until very lately has been quite apart from the line of
travel, and unspoiled by the rush and worry of our modern steam-car mode
"Mrs. Child's life in the place made, indeed, an atmosphere of its own, a
benison of peace and good-will, which was a noticeable feature to all who
were acquainted with the social feeling of the little community, refined,
as it was too, by the elevating influence of its distinguished pastor,
Dr. Sears. Many are the acts of loving kindness and maternal care which
could be chronicled of her residence there, were we permitted to do so;
and numberless are the lives that have gathered their onward impulse from
her helping hand. But it was all a confidence which she hardly betrayed
to her inmost self, and I will not recall instances which might be her
grandest eulogy. Her monument is builded in the hearts which knew her
benefactions, and it will abide with 'the power that makes for
"One of the pleasantest elements of her life in Wayland was the high
regard she won from the people of the village, who, proud of her literary
attainment, valued yet more the noble womanhood of the friend who dwelt
so modestly among them. The grandeur of her exalted personal character
had, in part, eclipsed for them the qualities which made her fame with
the world outside.
"The little house on the quiet by-road overlooked broad green meadows.
The pond behind it, where bloom the lilies whose spotless purity may well
symbolize her gentle spirit, is a sacred pool to her townsfolk. But
perhaps the most fitting similitude of her life in Wayland was the quiet
flow of the river, whose gentle curves make green her meadows, but whose
powerful energy, joining the floods from distant mountains, moves, with
resistless might, the busy shuttles of a hundred mills. She was too
truthful to affect to welcome unwarrantable invaders of her peace, but no
weary traveller on life's hard ways ever applied to her in vain. The
little garden plot before her door was a sacred enclosure, not to be
rudely intruded upon; but the flowers she tended with maternal care were
no selfish possession, for her own enjoyment only, and many are the lives
their sweetness has gladdened forever. So she lived among a singularly
peaceful and intelligent community as one of themselves, industrious,
wise, and happy; with a frugality whose motive of wider benevolence was
in itself a homily and a benediction."
In my last interview with her, our conversation, as had often happened
before, turned upon the great theme of the future life. She spoke, as I
remember, calmly and not uncheerfully, but with the intense earnestness
and reverent curiosity of one who felt already the shadow of the unseen
world resting upon her.
Her death was sudden and quite unexpected. For some months she had been
troubled with a rheumatic affection, but it was by no means regarded as
serious. A friend, who visited her a few days before her departure,
found her in a comfortable condition, apart from lameness. She talked of
the coming election with much interest, and of her plans for the winter.
On the morning of her death (October 20, 1880) she spoke of feeling
remarkably well. Before leaving her chamber she complained of severe
pain in the region of the heart. Help was called by her companion, but
only reached her to witness her quiet passing away.
The funeral was, as befitted one like her, plain and simple. Many of her
old friends were present, and Wendell Phillips paid an affecting and
eloquent tribute to his old friend and anti-slavery coadjutor. He
referred to the time when she accepted, with serene self-sacrifice, the
obloquy which her Appeal had brought upon her, and noted, as one of the
many ways in which popular hatred was manifested, the withdrawal from her
of the privileges of the Boston Athenaeum. Her pallbearers were elderly,
plain farmers in the neighborhood; and, led by the old white-haired
undertaker, the procession wound its way to the not distant burial-
ground, over the red and gold of fallen leaves, and tinder the half-
clouded October sky. A lover of all beautiful things, she was, as her
intimate friends knew, always delighted by the sight of rainbows, and
used to so arrange prismatic glasses as to throw the colors on the walls
of her room. Just after her body was consigned to the earth, a
magnificent rainbow spanned with its are of glory the eastern sky.
The incident at her burial is alluded to in a sonnet written by
William P. Andrews:—
"Freedom! she knew thy summons, and obeyed
That clarion voice as yet scarce heard of men;
Gladly she joined thy red-cross service when
Honor and wealth must at thy feet be laid
Onward with faith undaunted, undismayed
By threat or scorn, she toiled with hand and brain
To make thy cause triumphant, till the chain
Lay broken, and for her the freedmen prayed.
Nor yet she faltered; in her tender care
She took us all; and wheresoe'er she went,
Blessings, and Faith, and Beauty followed there,
E'en to the end, where she lay down content;
And with the gold light of a life more fair,
Twin bows of promise o'er her grave were blest."
The letters in this collection constitute but a small part of her large
correspondence. They have been gathered up and arranged by the hands of
dear relatives and friends as a fitting memorial of one who wrote from
the heart as well as the head, and who held her literary reputation
subordinate always to her philanthropic aim to lessen the sum of human
suffering, and to make the world better for her living. If they
sometimes show the heat and impatience of a zealous reformer, they may
well be pardoned in consideration of the circumstances under which they
were written, and of the natural indignation of a generous nature in view
of wrong and oppression. If she touched with no very reverent hand the
garment hem of dogmas, and held to the spirit of Scripture rather than
its letter, it must be remembered that she lived in a time when the Bible
was cited in defence of slavery, as it is now in Utah in support of
polygamy; and she may well be excused for some degree of impatience with
those who, in the tithing of mint and anise and cummin, neglected the
weightier matters of the law of justice and mercy.
Of the men and women directly associated with the beloved subject of this
sketch, but few are now left to recall her single-hearted devotion to
apprehended duty, her unselfish generosity, her love of all beauty and
harmony, and her trustful reverence, free from pretence and cant. It is
not unlikely that the surviving sharers of her love and friendship may
feel the inadequateness of this brief memorial, for I close it with the
consciousness of having failed to fully delineate the picture which my
memory holds of a wise and brave, but tender and loving woman, of whom it
might well have been said, in the words of the old Hebrew text, "Many,
daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all."
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
On the occasion of the seventy-fifth birthday of Dr. Holmes The
Critic of New York collected personal tributes from friends and
admirers of that author. My own contribution was as follows:—
Poet, essayist, novelist, humorist, scientist, ripe scholar, and wise
philosopher, if Dr. Holmes does not, at the present time, hold in popular
estimation the first place in American literature, his rare versatility
is the cause. In view of the inimitable prose writer, we forget the
poet; in our admiration of his melodious verse, we lose sight of Elsie
Venner and The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. We laugh over his wit
and humor, until, to use his own words,
"We suspect the azure blossom that unfolds upon a shoot,
As if Wisdom's old potato could not flourish at its root;"
and perhaps the next page melts us into tears by a pathos only equalled
by that of Sterne's sick Lieutenant. He is Montaigne and Bacon under one
hat. His varied qualities would suffice for the mental furnishing of
half a dozen literary specialists.
To those who have enjoyed the privilege of his intimate acquaintance, the
man himself is more than the author. His genial nature, entire freedom
from jealousy or envy, quick tenderness, large charity, hatred of sham,
pretence, and unreality, and his reverent sense of the eternal and
permanent have secured for him something more and dearer than literary
renown,—the love of all who know him. I might say much more: I could
not say less. May his life be long in the land.
Amesbury, Mass., 8th Month, 18, 1884.
Written to the chairman of the committee of arrangements for
unveiling the bust of Longfellow at Portland, Maine, on the poet's
birthday, February 27, 1885.
I am sorry it is not in my power to accept the invitation of the
committee to be present at the unveiling of the bust of Longfellow on the
27th instant, or to write anything worthy of the occasion in metrical
The gift of the Westminster Abbey committee cannot fail to add another
strong tie of sympathy between two great English-speaking peoples. And
never was gift more fitly bestowed. The city of Portland—the poet's
birthplace, "beautiful for situation," looking from its hills on the
scenery he loved so well, Deering's Oaks, the many-islanded bay and far
inland mountains, delectable in sunset—needed this sculptured
representation of her illustrious son, and may well testify her joy and
gratitude at its reception, and repeat in so doing the words of the
Hebrew prophet: "O man, greatly beloved! thou shalt stand in thy place."
Letter to Samuel J. Spalding, D. D., on the occasion of the
celebration of the 250th anniversary of the settlement of Newbury.
MY DEAR FRIEND,—I am sorry that I cannot hope to be with you on the
250th anniversary of the settlement of old Newbury. Although I can
hardly call myself a son of the ancient town, my grandmother, Sarah
Greenleaf, of blessed memory, was its daughter, and I may therefore claim
to be its grandson. Its genial and learned historian, Joshua Coffin, was
my first school-teacher, and all my life I have lived in sight of its
green hills and in hearing of its Sabbath bells. Its wealth of natural
beauty has not been left unsung by its own poets, Hannah Gould, Mrs.
Hopkins, George Lunt, and Edward A. Washburn, while Harriet Prescott
Spofford's Plum Island Sound is as sweet and musical as Tennyson's Brook.
Its history and legends are familiar to me. I seem to have known all its
old worthies, whose descendants have helped to people a continent, and
who have carried the name and memories of their birthplace to the Mexican
gulf and across the Rocky Mountains to the shores of the Pacific. They
were the best and selectest of Puritanism, brave, honest, God-fearing men
and women; and if their creed in the lapse of time has lost something of
its vigor, the influence of their ethical righteousness still endures.
The prophecy of Samuel Sewall that Christians should be found in Newbury
so long as pigeons shall roost on its oaks and Indian corn grows in
Oldtown fields remains still true, and we trust will always remain so.
Yet, as of old, the evil personage sometimes intrudes himself into
company too good for him. It was said in the witchcraft trials of 1692
that Satan baptized his converts at Newbury Falls, the scene, probably,
of one of Hawthorne's weird Twice Told Tales; and there is a tradition
that, in the midst of a heated controversy between one of Newbury's
painful ministers and his deacon, who (anticipating Garrison by a
century) ventured to doubt the propriety of clerical slaveholding, the
Adversary made his appearance in the shape of a black giant stalking
through Byfield. It was never, I believe, definitely settled whether he
was drawn there by the minister's zeal in defence of slavery or the
deacon's irreverent denial of the minister's right and duty to curse
Canaan in the person of his negro.
Old Newbury has sometimes been spoken of as ultra-conservative and
hostile to new ideas and progress, but this is not warranted by its
history. More than two centuries ago, when Major Pike, just across the
river, stood up and denounced in open town meeting the law against
freedom of conscience and worship, and was in consequence fined and
outlawed, some of Newbury's best citizens stood bravely by him. The town
took no part in the witchcraft horror, and got none of its old women and
town charges hanged for witches, "Goody" Morse had the spirit rappings in
her house two hundred years earlier than the Fox girls did, and somewhat
later a Newbury minister, in wig and knee-buckles, rode, Bible in hand,
over to Hampton to lay a ghost who had materialized himself and was
stamping up and down stairs in his military boots.
Newbury's ingenious citizen, Jacob Perkins, in drawing out diseases with
his metallic tractors, was quite as successful as modern "faith and mind"
doctors. The Quakers, whipped at Hampton on one hand and at Salem on the
other, went back and forth unmolested in Newbury, for they could make no
impression on its iron-clad orthodoxy. Whitefield set the example, since
followed by the Salvation Army, of preaching in its streets, and now lies
buried under one of its churches with almost the honors of sainthood.
William Lloyd Garrison was born in Newbury. The town must be regarded as
the Alpha and Omega of anti-slavery agitation, beginning with its
abolition deacon and ending with Garrison. Puritanism, here as
elsewhere, had a flavor of radicalism; it had its humorous side, and its
ministers did not hesitate to use wit and sarcasm, like Elijah before the
priests of Baal. As, for instance, the wise and learned clergyman,
Puritan of the Puritans, beloved and reverenced by all, who has just laid
down the burden of his nearly one hundred years, startled and shamed his
brother ministers who were zealously for the enforcement of the Fugitive
Slave Law, by preparing for them a form of prayer for use while engaged
in catching runaway slaves.
I have, I fear, dwelt too long upon the story and tradition of the old
town, which will doubtless be better told by the orator of the day. The
theme is to me full of interest. Among the blessings which I would
gratefully own is the fact that my lot has been cast in the beautiful
valley of the Merrimac, within sight of Newbury steeples, Plum Island,
and Crane Neck and Pipe Stave hills.
Let me, in closing, pay something of the debt I have owed from boyhood,
by expressing a sentiment in which I trust every son of the ancient town
will unite: Joshua Coffin, historian of Newbury, teacher, scholar, and
antiquarian, and one of the earliest advocates of slave emancipation. May
his memory be kept green, to use the words of Judge Sewall, "so long as
Plum island keeps its post and a sturgeon leaps in Merrimac River."
Amesbury, 6th Month, 1885.
To Rev. Charles Wingate, Hon. James H. Carleton, Thomas B. Garland,
Esq., Committee of Students of Haverhill Academy:
DEAR FRIENDS,—I was most agreeably surprised last evening by receiving
your carefully prepared and beautiful Haverhill Academy Album, containing
the photographs of a large number of my old friends and schoolmates. I
know of nothing which could have given me more pleasure. If the faces
represented are not so unlined and ruddy as those which greeted each
other at the old academy, on the pleasant summer mornings so long ago,
when life was before us, with its boundless horizon of possibilities,
yet, as I look over them, I see that, on the whole, Time has not been
hard with us, but has touched us gently. The hieroglyphics he has traced
upon us may, indeed, reveal something of the cares, trials, and sorrows
incident to humanity, but they also tell of generous endeavor, beneficent
labor, developed character, and the slow, sure victories of patience and
fortitude. I turn to them with the proud satisfaction of feeling that I
have been highly favored in my early companions, and that I have not been
disappointed in my school friendships. The two years spent at the
academy I have always reckoned among the happiest of my life, though I
have abundant reason for gratitude that, in the long, intervening years,
I have been blessed beyond my deserving.
It has been our privilege to live in an eventful period, and to witness
wonderful changes since we conned our lessons together. How little we
then dreamed of the steam car, electric telegraph, and telephone! We
studied the history and geography of a world only half explored. Our
country was an unsolved mystery. "The Great American Desert" was an
awful blank on our school maps. We have since passed through the
terrible ordeal of civil war, which has liberated enslaved millions, and
made the union of the States an established fact, and no longer a
doubtful theory. If life is to be measured not so much by years as by
thoughts, emotion, knowledge, action, and its opportunity of a free
exercise of all our powers and faculties, we may congratulate ourselves
upon really outliving the venerable patriarchs. For myself, I would not
exchange a decade of my own life for a century of the Middle Ages, or a
"cycle of Cathay."
Let me, gentlemen, return my heartiest thanks to you, and to all who have
interested themselves in the preparation of the Academy Album, and assure
you of my sincere wishes for your health and happiness.
OAK KNOLL, DANVERS, 12th Month, 25, 1885.
EDWIN PERCY WHIPPLE.
I have been pained to learn of the decease of nay friend of many years,
Edwin P. Whipple. Death, however expected, is always something of a
surprise, and in his case I was not prepared for it by knowing of any
serious failure of his health. With the possible exception of Lowell and
Matthew Arnold, he was the ablest critical essayist of his time, and the
place he has left will not be readily filled.
Scarcely inferior to Macaulay in brilliance of diction and graphic
portraiture, he was freer from prejudice and passion, and more loyal to
the truth of fact and history. He was a thoroughly honest man. He wrote
with conscience always at his elbow, and never sacrificed his real
convictions for the sake of epigram and antithesis. He instinctively
took the right side of the questions that came before him for decision,
even when by so doing he ranked himself with the unpopular minority. He
had the manliest hatred of hypocrisy and meanness; but if his language
had at times the severity of justice, it was never merciless. He "set
down naught in malice."
Never blind to faults, he had a quick and sympathetic eye for any real
excellence or evidence of reserved strength in the author under
He was a modest man, sinking his own personality out of sight, and he
always seemed to me more interested in the success of others than in his
own. Many of his literary contemporaries have had reason to thank him
not only for his cordial recognition and generous praise, but for the
firm and yet kindly hand which pointed out deficiencies and errors of
taste and judgment. As one of those who have found pleasure and profit
in his writings in the past, I would gratefully commend them to the
generation which survives him. His Literature of the Age of Elizabeth
is deservedly popular, but there are none of his Essays which will not
repay a careful study. "What works of Mr. Baxter shall I read?" asked
Boswell of Dr. Johnson. "Read any of them," was the answer, "for they
are all good."
He will have an honored place in the history of American literature. But
I cannot now dwell upon his authorship while thinking of him as the
beloved member of a literary circle now, alas sadly broken. I recall the
wise, genial companion and faithful friend of nearly half a century, the
memory of whose words and acts of kindness moistens my eyes as I write.
It is the inevitable sorrow of age that one's companions must drop away
on the right hand and the left with increasing frequency, until we are
compelled to ask with Wordsworth,—
"Who next shall fall and disappear?"
But in the case of him who has just passed from us, we have the
satisfaction of knowing that his life-work has been well and faithfully
done, and that he leaves behind him only friends.
DANVERS, 6th Month, 18, 1886.