"When first she grew up, I knew her to be without comparison. I continued to see her for some years, and thought her looks, words, actions, the sweetest, wisest, fittest, chastest of all.... In a new situation [after her marriage], she sustained any occasional trial of temper with a dignity and firmness and good sense that I shall ever respect, and obtained a greater influence than is common over one of the best of husbands. Since, in the trials of boarders, the most I could say would not be too much."
And in the younger members of the household there was a buoyancy of spirit that seemed, to their stern aunt Mary, excessive; their mirth and frivolity, she feared, "had too much influence even with their mother, and made her too often a party to folly." Their cousin, George Barrell Emerson, who found a home there at a later period, just before their removal from Boston, says:14—
"Among the sons I found William, whom I had long known and loved, the best reader, and with the sweetest voice I ever heard, and a pleasant talker; Ralph Waldo, whom I had known and admired, and whom all the world now knows almost as well as I do; Edward Bliss, the most modest and genial, the most beautiful and the most graceful speaker, a universal favorite; and Charles Chauncy, bright and ready, full of sense, ambitious of distinction and capable of it. There never was a more delightful family."
The passage in Domestic Life referred to above is so clearly a reminiscence of the family circle that I will insert it here:—
"Who has not seen, and who can see unmoved, under a low roof, the eager, blushing boys discharging as they can their household chores, and hastening into the sitting-room to the study of tomorrow's merciless lesson, yet stealing time to read one chapter more of the novel, hardly smuggled into the tolerance of father and mother,—atoning for the same by some passages of Plutarch or Goldsmith; the warm sympathy with which they kindle each other in schoolyard, or barn, or wood-shed, with scraps of poetry or song, with phrases of the last oration or mimicry of the orator; the youthful criticism, on Sunday, of the sermons; the school declamation, faithfully rehearsed at home, sometimes to the fatigue, sometimes to the admiration, of sisters; the first solitary joys of literary vanity, when the translation or the theme has been completed, sitting alone near the top of the house; the cautious comparison of the attractive advertisement of the arrival of Macready, Booth, or Kemble, or of the discourse of a well-known speaker, with the expense of the entertainment; the affectionate delight with which they greet the return of each one after the early separations which school or business requires; the foresight with which, during such absences, they hive the honey which opportunity offers, for the ear and imagination of the others; and the unrestrained glee with which they disburden themselves of their early mental treasures when the holidays bring them again together? What is the hoop that holds them stanch? It is the iron band of poverty, of necessity, of austerity, which, excluding them from sensual enjoyments which made other boys too early old, has directed their activity into safe and right channels, and made them, despite themselves, reverers of the grand, the beautiful, and the good. Ah, short-sighted students of books, of nature, and of man! too happy could they know their advantages, they pine for freedom from that mild parental yoke; they sigh for fine clothes, for rides, for the theatre, and premature freedom and dissipation which others possess. Woe to them if their wishes were crowned! The angels that dwell with them, and are weaving laurels of life for their youthful brows, are Toil and Want and Truth and Mutual Faith."