An Englishwoman in the New England Hill Country

A TRAVELER for a short period is much more apt than a foreign resident to write a book about his experiences in the United States. There is scarcely an Englishman outside of the commercial classes who does not write a book upon America as soon after his return as he can collect his notes together, and get a publisher in London to undertake the task. Such books are generally apt to be superficial, although every incident recorded in them may be true. On the other hand, a tourist or inquirer has this advantage over a resident: that comparisons between England and America are easier to him, from the fact of his recent contact with the former country, and his watchful observation of every unaccus-

tomed word, thing, and person in the latter. To one who has lived years in the United States, and not seen many parts of the country, things that strike a newcomer have become so familiar as to be unnoted. I have about any spot in America but one impression that corresponds to those of new arrivals, and that is concerning New York, which I first saw on a hot August day, and thought like a huge Naples. The ailantus-trees, the men in white-linen suits and broadbrimmed Panama hats, the fruit - stalls full of cheap bananas, grapes, melons, pine-apples, etc., the bright blue sky and intense heat, made Broadway seem like a giant Strada di Toledo. I never left New York for three years, and I never grew to like it, though the picture of its harbor in summer, the tropical-looking Staten Island, and the maze of churchsteeples really furnishes a pleasant recollection. The few people I knew there were old-fashioned, hearty friends and kind hosts, and several of the elders were the models one would like most to resemble in old age ; but to me they seemed, in comparison with the unpleasant city, like the ten righteous men whom Abraham could not find in the cities of the plain. Years later, I passed twice through Boston, — literally passed, — and once in the gray dawn of a December day, and the contrast between the two cities appeared in favor of Boston. A residence in the city would no doubt make me less lenient; that is, would give me time to note the disagreeables inseparable from life in any city or large town, and which I think outweigh the best library and the most intellectual society that ever existed. The years that I have spent in a corner of New England have been the happiest and most congenial, yet the experience they have given me is too local to be held up as representative of any but “ back-country ” neighborhoods. As far as remoteness and roughness are concerned, this corner (it is scarcely even in a historical part of the State) is not up to the ideal of my childhood, although twenty miles from us places can be discovered still almost as wild as when the Indians left them. We have still too many stores, too many hotels, too much railroad clatter, too much outer-world communication. There are dwellings primitive enough, though not log-huts, but there are also pretentious, half-suburban cottages, with fantastic, Frenchy wood-work.

When I was a child, I used to devour any American book, or book about America, that I could get hold of, and my notion of the country, especially of New England, has turned out not so unlike the reality as might have been expected. At fifteen I was a red-hot abo-

litionist, in spite of the pro-Southern sympathies of every one around me. (Uncle Tom’s Cabin had nothing to do with it; I had not read it then, but I knew the Minister’s Wooing, Old-Town Folks, Sam Slick, Norwood, nearly by heart, and my favorite ideal of an American was a “ Yankee.”) I knew very little about America except what I picked up in this way; for English girls are taught — or were in my time — by a kind of system which tends to multiply “ accomplishments ” rather than useful knowledge. A certain routine of teach ing is gone through, and you come out of the school-room with a society varnish intended to do duty until marriage, at which period custom allows you to dispense with surface accomplishments, and devote yourself to the realities of life, mitigated as they are for the well-to-do. On the other hand, the moral atmosphere of the English home education is superior to that of American education in general. Girls are less forward and more respectful; they grow into women more slowly and ripen better ; they are physically stronger, and therefore have simpler tastes ; and as to society, they do not know what it means before at least the age of seventeen or eighteen. American girls have certain advantages, however, which custom denies young Englishwomen of good position : they are not forced by an unwritten law to go into society and play their part in it, while the English girl has no choice. The “ upper ten thousand” must marry or become “ blue-stockings ” before the world agrees to let them alone. A young married woman may, if she choose, plead home duties as an excuse for a quiet, useful, pleasant, and studious life, uninterrupted by any but the necessary “ county ” civilities, which are not very burdensome ; but young girls are not supposed to have such duties. Parents, even when sick themselves, are loath to let the chances of the London season pass by their daughters, and depute any safe chaperon, the nearest female relation if possible, to take their girls to all the balls and parties. The rudimentary education furnished to women of the higher classes has perhaps something to do with the prevalence of “ fastness ” among a part of them, while to others it becomes the base of a real, later self-education, the growth of reading, observation, and thought. When I came to read De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, a new phase suggested itself, and Dr. Holmes’s books, Elsie Venner and The Guardian Angel, opened yet further views about the United States. Châteaubriand’s vague, sentimental romances never had much attraction for me ; they seemed so thoroughly un-American in treatment, so different from the vigorous books of Cooper on much the same sort of subjects. Mayne Reid’s books of half natural history and half adventure were also favorites, and, later on, American poetry and fiction treating of subjects not national; but it was at all times chiefly the description of the country and its rural inhabitants which drew my sympathy and attention. I watched the civil war with as close an attention as a New Englander, and rejoiced in each of the later victories, though I had many a tough argument to go through with those to whom the first disasters furnished only too much capital. At that time I did not even know that there was a party in England sympathizing loudly with the Union. About the religion prevalent in America I knew absolutely nothing, and was much puzzled about the doctrines and church customs I read of, supposing that the church to which they belonged was “ established ” in America. Of the details of the Revolution I knew nothing ; Bunker Hill was a familiar fact, of course, as also the dramatic waste of tea in Boston harbor; the existence of Washington, the Declaration of Independence, and Chatham’s protest in the House of Lords made up the rest of the facts known to me. About the private life of the country and the scenery I was not so ignorant, having taught myself out of books which governesses looked upon disdainfully, as only fit for play-hours. When I came to the United States, those studies were the only ones I found useful. I did not meet with the true American type, which I knew through those books, for over two years, because circumstances in that most un-American of cities, New York, combined to keep me from any personal knowledge of it. Had I taken for representative Americans the first individuals calling themselves Such, whom I met, or whom my associates said they had met, I should have formed an estimate which, when I came to know the “ real article,” would have been very much in my way. For instance, a friend, certainly a very prejudiced person, but who had lived in New York long enough to know better, insisted upon telling me that American women would not work, and cared only for dress and flirtation; that they despised kitchen details, and could not do a bit of embroidery or even useful sewing. It turned out afterwards that the few women on whose foolish behavior she thus imprudently generalized were Irish-Americans, wives and daughters of small business men and professional men, and had been brought up by parents whose home recollections of class differences were bitter enough to make them foolishly indulgent to their children by educating them in an exaggerated idleness, the “note,” as they thought it, of social equality.

When I came to live in New England, I found myself at home among the people I knew beforehand by description. On the whole, the reality was much like the picture, and constituted a very natural state of society; but I met less “ smartness ” than the books describe, less liveliness and less education. Here and there were individuals completely answering to the types I knew by reading, but they were exceptional. The majority of the people — I can speak for no other neighborhood but the remote and mountainous one which I know by heart — were hard-working, dull, saving, honest, undemonstrative, and matter of fact. Their life had too little amusement or relaxation, and there was an acquiescence in the fitness of this which made change almost impossible. Again I find my English experience fails me in the matter of comparison, for I know hardly anything of the class corresponding in the mother country to the farmers of my section of New England. Here we have neither wealth nor enterprise; ready money is very scarce, farms (that is, the cultivated portion) small and rather “ run out ” than otherwise, and the seasons especially discouraging to a spirit of experiment and progress. The tenacity of old fashions, the intellectual imperviousness of both men and women, in a word, the exaggerated conservatism of our neighbors, would be a shock to the preconceived notion of an English visitor, about Yankees. We have scarcely the shrewd, talkative, anecdotetelling, humor-loving Yankee amongst us; indeed, he is seldom of the farmer class, and is usually met with in the “ store,” although I remember meeting but one answering to the type, and he was the master of a New York grocery. The question-asking Yankee is a commoner type, though inquisitiveness is not confined to Yankees, but flourishes all over the country in rural districts, and I think more especially in the South. But curiosity is indulged in a leisurely, business-like, matter-of-course manner in our part of the country ; questions are not eager or made for pastime, but deliberate, to be reflected upon and made common property. It is a very serious business, and quite as legitimate a part of conversation as remarks about the weather. It has nothing to do with discourtesy (the artificial standard of which never goes very far down in any social stratum, European or American), but it

becomes a necessity to people who, with naturally quick minds, have the most provokingly barren field on which to exercise their faculties. One must think about something, and since there is neither money, time, nor opportunity to study things worthy of notice, the readiest thing to think about is one’s neighbor. There is more waste of mental energy in America than in most countries, for on the whole there is more capacity, and there are more means for acquiring knowledge than elsewhere; but two thirds of both are misdirected and misused. Almost every one in New England reads a newspaper, and it is precisely through the press that the most mischief is done. The journalism of the United States, a branch of civilization usually held to have attained its maximum growth on this side of the Atlantic, seems to me to be almost the worst product of the country. I know hardly a city paper, and certainly no country paper, which is not conducted on the lowest intellectual principles. American newspapers, with very few exceptions, are contemptible, and if you find one page free from triviality, vulgarity, sensationalism, the omission is fully made up elsewhere. Country newspapers in England are very different, though some of the larger cities can show as discreditable representatives of the press as New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, and London alone has a fungus-growth of Saturday-night printing as objectionable as the cheap illustrated weeklies which delight and pervert our lower classes here. No doubt English country papers are dull, respectable, printed for the information rather than the amusement of their readers, and altogether old fashioned, but, considering how very antiquated the local mind of my corner of New England is in some important respects, it is a pity that it cannot be content with old-fashioned and decent newspapers. About education, for instance, we are marvelously conservative. I have mentioned English ignorance of America; it is almost matched by New England ignorance of the next State or even town. The real and practical knowledge of life is picked up from newspapers and persons one meets occasionally, — a peddler who has traveled in many parts of the world, a soldier who has been through some Indian war or the civil war, a relation who has “ gone West,” etc. School sometimes furnishes a basis on which to found intelligent education. There is scarcely a thing with which America is, in the popular estimation of Europe, so thoroughly identified as universal education. Even universal suffrage is not more “ American ; ” but the practical outcome of this supposed perfection is very different from the image of it in an Englishman’s mind. It is of no use pointing to statistics as proving how many million children attend school and learn the three “ R’s ” and all the natural sciences; the practical state of the rural population in three fourths of the inhabited country is the test which alone deserves the attention of any one familiar with country neighborhoods. Besides this, there are still places in New England, as well as West and South, where not even an apology for a school exists, and where the grown people cannot read or write. It is the case some twenty or thirty miles from the place where I write.

The conservatism of rural neighborhoods is in no instance so prominent as in the degree of willingness exhibited by the people to learn new ways or teach their own to new-comers. A man of the world, who has lived all sorts of lives and been used to all sorts of surroundings, will readily fall into any way, however narrow, uncouth, or backward; but the traveler in the narrow way has no such versatility, and lays down the law

as a matter of course, considering your discipleship and docility equally a matter of course. No one is so ready to teach and dogmatize as a man who has never left his native village; and this applies equally to both sides of the Atlantic, as well as of the British Channel. The self-sufficiency of a man narrowly brought up is prodigious, and his argument that “ his fathers did so before him ” is to his own mind unanswerable. But if this doggedness of moral toryism is a trait of human nature, equally distributed in every remote rural neighborhood, whether Roumanian, Navarrese, Finlandish, or Zulu, it is none the less exhibited in perfection in the typical land of frantic progress and abnormal “ smartness,” the New England States. The manners of Boston are as mysterious and as little worth respect in my corner as the manners of Constantinople. San Francisco and New Orleans are as foreign as Cabul and Pekin : the centre of the world lies within our own circle. Slowness and diffuseuess of speech are a local characteristic, not excluding, however, startling and forcible terms of expression, as when a very religious and earnest old woman said, “ My God is not a confined being,” alluding to her own inability to go to meeting and her substituted habit of prayer at home. The one item in which the speech of country and city is shamefully alike is profanity : no one would dream, to hear the representative average man in these parts, that there was any Puritan past behind him. It is true that swearing is mostly a habit,1 but a habit so ingrained as to be second nature. I once went to a barn-raising, and noted as a matter for surprise that during two hours’ work, and among fifteen men, hardly one of them beyond middle age, there was no swearing save by one individual. As a rule, every tenth word is an oath, in any average ten or five minutes’ conversation, especially in the “ store.” Slowness of manner in general is a characteristic of what is often called “ brisk ” New England: shopping, especially, is an exercise of patience. There is but one man in our town who ever seems in a hurry, or aware of the value of time. Any one would think that I was describing some back part of Yorkshire or Cornwall, or, better still, of fat and contented Lincolnshire; yet every one who has lived in the country will recognize such portraits, and realize how entirely the reputation of quickness and smartness belongs to the city Yankee. I know how forward are some towns, suburban villages, and even less peopled neighborhoods ; how there are “ readings ” and libraries, improvement societies with intellectual and material objects, lectures, etc., in many such places, especially in Massachusetts, and perhaps some parts of Vermont; but the more improved, the less genuinely “country,” are these ambitious, newspaper-supporting, topsyturvy places. They are aping city life; they think farming a worse trade than a lawyer’s, and they furnish the thousand failures in city ventures which form the basis of each of those rare exceptions, that is, the success of the country-bred youth in a city avocation. Besides the gossiping which is the food of country life, and, by the way, is even more indulged in by men than women, there is another un-Puritan trait in my corner, — drinking. It is nearly as common as in New York city. We are not many miles from the Maine frontier, and the only difference between the two sides of the line is that it is a trifle easier to get liquor on the Maine side than on ours. Neal Dow is less a prophet in his own State than on further removed platforms of temperance meetings. Again, dancing is the only amusement heartily enjoyed here, and the only thing for which purse-strings will open, or with regard to which interest will grow into practical shape. It is true that there is a stratum of society to which the fun cannot penetrate, because if there is one thing more conspicuous and general here than anything else it is poverty. Such communities need absolutely free amusements, and in providing them, I should not consider the giver a visionary and an enthusiast, but a particularly practical man. What our neighbors need here is a place of free public and popular evening resort, especially in winter, — a room combining comfort and ease ; a place with plenty of illustrated periodicals and cheap books of a respectable, but above all of an interesting and secular nature; appliances for smoking; opportunity for meeting and conversation ; a social atmosphere entirely comprehensive and tolerant; no religious test or cant; and, if possible, plenty of good coffee. With such a weapon, I would undertake in two years to raise, and in ten to change, the character of the rowdiest or most Rip-Van-Winkle-like rural population. It is useless to preach about gratuitous pleasures deteriorating one’s self-respect. When the lack of money is so great that not one third of the population can clothe itself, and one can count on one’s fingers the number of unmortgaged farms within the town, it is time to throw theories away, and seize the easiest means of doing good.

Utilitarianism is one of the Juggernauts of rural New England. There is no love of life in itself, and very little enjoyment but what can be snatched between two wheels of work slowly grinding the life of the laborer. Everything is subordinate to “ the work,” especially the human machines who do it. One would think that man was made for the land, not the land for man. Health as well as pleasure is sacrificed, chiefly the health of women. The food is generally of a nature to disagree with any constitution even if bred to its use through the inherited tendencies of several generations ; but the men have the antidote of fresh air, while the women have not. It is no rare thing for a woman not to put her foot out of the house for three or four months at a time. The long winters are somewhat to blame, but the incessant march of work far more. She may go out to feed the chickens, or hang out the clothes, sometimes even to do a hasty job in a starveling flower-bed,2 but of out-door exercise she knows nothing, and to save time a farmer’s wife seldom walks. On Sundays she may go on foot to meeting, but it is only because the old tradition still lingers that baking and churning, and all that is not absolutely necessary, should not be done on Sunday ; and therefore, rather than sit and do nothing, she would as soon pass the time taking the fresh air. City women do much more walking than country women ; and when one sees some of them out on their yearly holiday, in short dresses, and with leather straps round their waists and alpenstocks in their hands, climbing and camping, the English notion that American women do not walk is somewhat shaken.3 Amusements being few and costly, excitements have to do duty for them, and so it comes about that church meetings and funerals, being free, absorb a good deal of interest, and sewing-circles, being cheap (and free to the men), are turned into mild shadows of make-believe dissipation. The sewing-circle is a good deal the representative amusement of the purely religious circles. The greatest intolerance is of course found among church-members,

and they are too often the greatest stumbling-blocks to repentant black sheep. Conversion is a sensational process, each detail being eagerly canvassed by the local public, and the hero occupies a position suspiciously like that of a prize “ walkist ” during an international match. The last time a conspicuous conversion took place here, the contest was finally made more interesting by the sudden choice of the reformed sinner, who, having been preached into repentance by, say, a zealous Methodist, joined the Orthodox church, instead of adorning that of his converter. There is a greater parallel between English and American forms of religious sensibility than between any other thing shared by the two nations. The spirit of dissent wears almost the same forms in both countries, but Unitarianism is socially stronger in New than in Old England. The Methodist church I have heard called a political power ; but it has less power here than West and South, though it is still surprising to an English observer to note how much the sway of the Orthodox or Congregational church has lessened in agricultural neighborhoods. The Episcopal church is still an exotic in my corner, and the A B C of its ritual still a mystery ; but, unlike English country people, who are rather awed by anything they do not understand, New England country people treat everything beyond their own knowledge as being of questionable utility and scarcely worth study. A new idea is unwelcome ; indeed, though doctrinal orthodoxy is slack, a social temper, the exact counterpart of heresy-hating, pervades the whole community.

No doubt this love of letting things alone, and walking in the grooves of old but not necessarily intelligent custom, accounts for the curious carelessness about building. Shelter rather than protection seems the motive which urges our neighbors to build barns, houses, and schools, and this in a climate where five months of the year are piercingly cold, and the thermometer is often twenty degrees below zero. There are not more than a dozen houses or barns within our town which are properly fortified against the cold, while in England, with a climate ordinarily so temperate as to suggest nothing worse than a New England October or April, buildings are tight, dry, and warm. No wonder we are obliged to use such exaggerated stove heat as English travelers complain of, when the walls and roof are like basketwork for the play of the wind. I fear this item of discomfort is not so wholly the result of poverty as one would be glad to believe; on the other hand, it reveals a certain indifference to weather and power of resistance to its effects which to some extent do away with the reproach Englishmen often throw at Americans, — that of a womanish sensitiveness to the discomforts of the atmosphere.

The love of home is less developed in new than in old lands; nature appears rather in the disguise of an enemy to be subdued than a mother to be loved, and her obstacles to the outward signs of civilization make men impatient of her beauties. Forests and precipices have no attraction for the man whose chief thought is how he can grow corn and pasture cattle to feed his family; and it is no wonder that where life is so hard no time should be left for the enjoyment of beauty. The love of the mountaineer for his mountains, said to be common in

Europe, is not the rule among New England mountaineers. They have hardly any pride in their scenery, and often long for a smooth, fertile plain, where agriculture would be easier and the conditions of life softer. Forests are “ well enough in their way; ” an indefinite but forcible expression of depreciation. The struggle for bare existence, added to the naturally silent, reserved nature of an almost purely Anglo-Saxon (and largely east coast of England) race, has developed a type similar in all but religion to the traditional Puritan. Here and there gleams of a more genial life cross the path of one’s observation, and by and by, when one has lived years in the midst of this undemonstrative people, an insight into their real selves, sympathy with the necessities which have saddened them and the work which has repressed them, comes to change one’s first estimate, and brings before one another example of the freemasonry of human nature. Deep below this crust of unattractiveness, there are sterling qualities, — honesty, justice, immense perseverance, patience and endurance, evenness of temper and faithfulness of friendship, almost invariably a high standard of domestic virtue, and a serious acceptance of life’s responsibilities. If there is no elasticity of spirits, there is a wonderful steadfastness of purpose, and a tendency to make the best of everything. Home love does not include surroundings, even of the loveliest scenery, but it is intense within a narrow circle of persons; though even here, in death almost as much as in life, it is singularly undemonstrative. The present conditions are of course far removed from the picturesque roughness of a hundred years ago, when the first settlers, not long before the Revolution, came in the dead of winter, some walking eighty miles on snow - shoes, the women riding on horseback, and salt, at that time the most precious and unattainable article, conveyed on men’s backs, or in large kettles drawn on sleds ; but a good deal of the rawness of frontier life clings to our towns, whose fag-ends run up mountains where bears are still not infrequent, while their central parts are dotted over with summer hotels and railroad depots. Personally, it is only with the latter ingredients that I find fault. The life of the natives is more natural, and therefore, even if rough or dull, more dignified, than that of the tourists and such as minister to the tourists’ artificial wants. The majority of the travelers in these parts are of the nondescript kind, so aggressive in all countries, — the class which, because it is largely urban, thinks itself necessarily superior, and because it can afford a yearly holiday (taken meanly enough, with a maximum of show at a minimum of expense; for some of our visitors spend five cents on peanuts with the air of a Stewart handling government bonds) looks down on the stay-at-home farmer who can hardly make both ends meet. With all his drawbacks, the latter is a nobler man than the half-educated, “ smart ” inhabitant of large villages and cities. His life is truer and more genuine, his character more stable, his insight into right and wrong straighter, and his worth to the country infinitely greater. Behind all the unloveliness of outward life, there is the almost unconscious respect for duty, the instinctive uprightness of purpose, and the love for work as the test of human worth and fitness, which constitute the chief virtues of a manly race. There are strength and stubbornness, plainness of speech and hatred of roundabout ways, which, if they could be infused into political life, would make the government as sound as the nation.

The influence of New England character on the history of the country is not to be explained by theological reasons only, apart from the individuality of the body popularly known as Puritans, and the elements which went in the

first instance to found the colony, and subsequently to mold the State, are to a great extent still represented throughout New England. The minute-men of 1776 are exceptional only in our imagination ; our next-door neighbor is their strict counterpart. Exactly the kind of men, slow, sure, and dogged, who pass us on the road, who log and harvest and plow, and gossip and lounge in the store, the rough but kindly, primitive, natural men that meet us at every turn of country life, arose a hundred years ago to fight for independence, and the same sort was ready to do the same work nineteen years ago. Heroes are not always romantic, nor fit for the pages of a novel, and the instruments of almost every important national change are not the exceptional beings one’s fancy sometimes betrays one into sketching, but common men, with the husk of common life temporarily shed. Much the same human raw material was first planted here by the Pilgrim Fathers, poetic as the appellation is, and dramatic as the circumstances of the exodus and landing now appear to us. Except for the more formal recognition of religion, the descendants of the first immigrants are true chips of the old block. That the Puritans founded the republic may be historically disputed, but intellectually and morally, I see no doubt about it. In the highest sense they were the founders of the present commonwealth. It is easy to say that their doctrines were illiberal and their views narrow, but there was a leaven at work in their system of which they were themselves unconscious. Above all doctrinal and ethical narrowness of spirit, there was the old, sturdy English spirit which never bowed to anything which it did not understand. This independence of mind gradually burst the bonds of Puritan belief when it discovered, under another name, the tyranny of a theocracy trying to fetter its intellectual choice. The value, however, of the stern Puritan’s training, — or rather of the English habit of mind turned to good account by Puritanism, — remained. It was fit for soldiers, pioneers, and patriots. It was physically the healthiest training that could have been invented, for if the fathers of New England had aimed at making a temporal instead of a spiritual army, they could have done no better. It was mentally the healthiest, for the condition of the mind depends at least three fourths on that of the body. Such men could not fail to win. Endurance, however, was not all they had; they knew also what discipline meant. An intelligent submission, for the sake of the general good, to a leader perhaps individually your inferior is much above the mere military and mechanical obedience generally known by the name of discipline. This is what the men of New England possessed, over and above their patriotism, and in this they excelled the well-trained English troops. Each man had at heart the rearing of a commonwealth, in which he knew that it only depended on himself to make a name and carve out a future. Conscious of his power, he knew that neither space nor opportunity would be wanting as soon as he had conquered the right to enjoy them. The first step won, the rest would follow. The history of the Union has proved the speed of this development. The impulse of New England has been the most prominent of the forces that have molded the growing nation, and it has always been a forward one, whether in commerce or in intellect. The men who are preëminently, in European eyes, representative Americans are almost invariably New Englanders. Some, it is true, came of a scholarly stock, but many, and the original of each stock, came from the farm. Roughly speaking, if you go back to the ancestry of any man of note, you find a farmer at the head of it. Farmers are the majority of New England population, and the real backbone of the country. Such as they are now, with all their shortcomings and disadvantages, they are collectively, and always have been, the state. Their influence is ostensibly less than in the days of the Revolution, but I cannot help thinking that they have yet a silent weight in the community.

By comparison with the average West and South, the most primitive New England life is one of luxury and refinement ; by comparison with the average European agriculturist, the most antiquated New Englander is a learned and progressive man. There is among farmers a wide-spread love for advancement, chiefly through education, which, often misdirected or stifled, none the less has given us some of the best public men the century can boast of. The inborn love of work, which is almost pushed to a mania or an idolatry, is nevertheless the only basis on which to found lasting and honorable success; and domestic virtue as practiced in the vast majority of homes, even though devoid of the graces of affection, is a schooling in itself. The naturalness of this country life, as in its common specimens it comes under the observation of a stranger, has a fascination irresistible to the moral philosopher equally with the experienced man of the world. There is a relief from ceremony, a sense of manly freedom, which to some Europeans at least is an overwhelming attraction. That this simplicity should not always appeal to the imagination of the young farmer, to whom it is rather a matter of necessity than of choice, is excusable ; but that which sometimes seems an irksome prospect to a boy of twenty, eager but untaught, yet probably not so capable as he is eager, and therefore not likely to succeed should he leave the substance for the shadow, becomes to the man of thirty-five a serious and beloved task. It is not custom alone which makes the farmer contented, nor even the force of contrast, which seldom comes in any shape save that of rough experience and defeat, but the consciousness of independence and the power of supporting his family. He acquiesces with stoical composure in the certainty of inevitable hardship and small profit which accompanies his business, and distinguishes it from others more showy, but less useful and dignified; for after all he knows that husbandry lies at the basis of civilization, and may be truly called the standard profession. If he cannot put this consciousness into glib words, it none the less pervades his life and comforts his old age. His dearest associations are bound up with remembrances of his calling; his hopes for his children’s welfare are practically identified with the possibilities of its increase and success. Of all this there is, it is true, hardly an outward sign, but beneath the shell (which in this case is fully as rough and deep as that of a Lowland Scotchman) the human sympathies are as intensely active as a poet could wish for. Explosive natures are a lusus naturæ in New England, but pathetic constancy and a sustained selfdenial which totally ignores its own heroism are common. Poems have been written with less material than the story of many an ordinary New Englander contains, and men whose outward manner suggests nothing but coarseness and folly could startle you with tales as touching as that of the far-famed lovers of Verona. I know of such cases personally, and though I was once ignorantly surprised at the notion, it has grown so familiar to me by repeated instances and my own closer observation that I can only wonder at the intolerant blindness that is bred of prejudice.

  1. A man whom a clergyman reproved for swearing excused himself thus from any profane intention in the use of his very frequent and forcible oaths: “Well, now, sir, you see, it is much the same with both of us. I swear a good deal and you pray a good deal, but we don’t either of us mean much by it.”
  2. One of the signs of a latent love of beauty for its own sake which, is very prominent here is the cultivation, under the most discouraging circumstances, of pot-plants and green-house flowers. Women will get up in the coldest winter nights to keep up the fire for the sake of the plants, and take great pride in the result of their care. I have seen as beautiful plants here as in cities, and often in the poorest of houses, where artificial appliances are the scantiest, and where household work presses the hardest.
  3. It would be a real blessing if, from their love of flowers, one could rouse the energies of our people, and teach them a love of competition and of knowledge, such as would be stimulated by a yearly flower-show, strictly local, and a distribution of prizes.
  4. Americans are always shocked when they see, in Europe, women working in the fields. I think there is some exaggeration in this notion, as there is doubtless exaggeration of another sort in the amount of such work done in some countries by women. It is a question if field-work, within certain bounds, is not more healthy than house-work, continued as it is generally without intermission. The climate of the United States is less favorable to it than that of Europe, but I know by experience that there are branches of work at which, morning and evening, women could work with advantage and convenience.