THE years of mourning for my father and beloved brother being at an end, and the sister next to me being now of an age to make her début in society, I began with her a season of visiting, dancing, and so on. My sister was very handsome, and we were both welcome guests at fashionable entertainments. I was passionately fond of music, and scarcely less so of dancing, and the history of the next two winters, if written, would chronicle a series of balls, concerts, and dinners.
I did not abandon either my studies or my hope of contributing to the literature of my generation. Hours were not then unreasonably late. Dancing-parties usually broke up soon after one o’clock, and left me fresh enough to enjoy the next day’s study.
We saw many literary people, and some of the scientists with whom my brother had become acquainted while in Europe. Among the former was John L. O’Sullivan, the accomplished editor of The Democraic Review. When the poet Dana visited our city he always called upon us, and we sometimes had the pleasure of seeing with him his intimate friend William Cullen Bryant, who very rarely appeared in general society.
Among our scientific guests, I especially remember an English gentleman who was in those days a distinguished mathematician, and who has since become very eminent. He was of the Hebrew race, and had fallen violently in love with a beautiful Jewish heiress, well known in New York. His wooing was not fortunate, and the extravagance of his indignation at its result was both pathetic and laughable. He once contided to me his intention of paying his addresses to the lady’s young niece. “ And Miss 舒 shall become our aunt Hannah ! ” he said, with extreme bitterness. I exhorted him to calm himself by devotion to his scientific pursuits ; but he replied, “ Something better than mathematics has waked up here ! ” pointing to his heart. He wrote many verses, which he read aloud to our sympathizing circle. I recall from these a distich of some merit. Speaking of his fancied wrongs, and warning his fair antagonist to beware of the revenge which he might take, he wrote: —
Iron branded into steel.”
In the end, he returned to the science which had been his first love, and which rewarded his devotion with wide reputation.
These years glided by with fairylike swiftness. They were passed by my sisters and myself under my brother’s roof, where the beloved uncle also made his home with us so long as we were together. I have dwelt a good deal on the circumstances and surroundings of my early life in my native city. If the state of things here described had continued, I should probably have remained a frequenter of fashionable society, a musical amateur, and a dilettante in literature.
Quite other experiences were in store for me. I became engaged to Dr. Howe during a visit to Boston, in the winter of 1842-43, and was married to him on the 23d of April of the latter year. A week later we sailed for Europe, in one of the small Cunard steamers of that time, taking with us my youngest sister, Annie Ward, whose state of health gave us some uneasiness. My husband’s intimate friend, Horace Mann, and his bride, Mary Peabody, sailed with us. During the first two days-of the voyage I was stupefied by seasickness, and even forgot that my sister was on board the steamer. We went on shore, however, for a walk at Halifax, and from that time forth were quite able-bodied sea-goers.
On the day before that of our landing an unusually good dinner was served, and, according to the custom that then prevailed, champagne was furnished gratis, in order that all who dined together might drink the Queen’s health. This favorite toast was proposed, and was responded to by a number of rather flat speeches. The health of the captain of our steamer was also given, and some others which I cannot now recall. This proceeding amused me so much that I busied myself the next day with preparing for a mock celebration in the ladies’ cabin. The meeting was well attended. I opened with a song in honor of Mrs. Bean, our kind and efficient stewardess :
Best woman ever seen,
God save Mrs. Bean !
God bless her gown and cap,
Pour guineas in her lap,
Keep her from all mishap,
God save Mrs. Bean !
The company were invited to join in singing these lines, which were, of course, a take-off on “ God save our gracious Queen.” I can still see in my mind’s eye dear old Madam Sedgwick, — mother of the well-known jurist, Theodore Sedgwick,— lifting her quavering, high voice to aid in the singing.
Mrs. Bean was rather taken aback by the unexpected homage rendered her. We all called out, “ Speech! speech!” Whereupon she curtsied and said, “Good ladies makes good stewardesses, —that’s all I can say,” — which was very well in its way.
Rev. Jacob Abbott was one of our fellow passengers, and had been much in our cabin, where he busied himself in compounding various “soft drinks” for convalescent lady friends. His health was accordingly proposed, with the following stanza : —
Mixing of a soda powder,
How he ground it,
How did pound it,
While the tempest threatened louder!
I next gave the cow’s health; whereupon a lady passenger, with a Scotch accent, protested. “ I don’t want to drink her health at a’. I think she’s the poorest coo I ever heard of.”
Liverpool did not long detain our party, though we remained there long enough to receive a visit from the head of the Rathburn family, a man prominent in business and in philanthropy. Arriving in London, we found comfortable lodgings in Upper Baker Street, and busied ourselves with the delivery of our many letters of introduction.
The Rev. Sydney Smith was one of the first to honor our introduction with a call. His reputation as a wit was already world-wide, and he was certainly one of the idols of London society. In appearance he was hardly prepossessing. He was short and squat of figure, with a rubicund countenance redeemed by a pair of twinkling eyes. When we first saw him, my husband was suffering from the result of a trifling accident. Mr. Smith said, “ Dr. Howe, I must send you my gouty crutches.” My husband demurred at this, and begged Mr. Smith not to give himself that trouble. He insisted, however, and the crutches were sent. Dr. Howe had really no need of them, and I laughed with him at their disproportion to his height, which would in any case have made it impossible for him to use them. The loan was presently returned with thanks, but scarcely soon enough ; for Sydney Smith, who had lost heavily by American investments, published in one of the London papers a letter reflecting severely upon the failure of some of our Western States to pay their debts. The letter concluded with these words : “ And now, an American, present at this time in London, has deprived me of my last means of support.” We questioned a little whether the loan had not been made for the sake of the pleasantry.
In the course of the visit already referred to, Mr. Smith promised that we should receive cards for an entertainment which his daughter, Mrs. Holland, was about to give. The cards were received, and we presented ourselves at the party. Among the persons there introduced to us was Madame Van der Wyer, wife of the Belgian minister, and daughter of Joshua Bates, formerly of Massachusetts, and in after years the founder of the Public Library of Boston, in which one hall bears his name. Mr. Van der Wyer, we were told, was on very friendly terms with the Prince Consort, and his wife was often invited by the Queen.
The historian Grote and his wife also made our acquaintance. I remember her appearance rather particularly, because it was, and was allowed to be, somewhat grotesque. She was very tall, and stout in proportion, and was dressed on this occasion in a dark green or blue silk, with a necklace of pearls about her throat. I gathered from what I heard that hers was one of the marked personalities of that time in London society.
At this party, Sydney Smith was constantly the centre of a group of admiring friends. When we first entered the rooms he said to us, “ I am so busy tonight that I can do nothing for you.” Later in the evening he found time to seek me out. 舠 Mrs. Howe,” said he, 舠 this is a rout. I like routs. Do you have routs in America ? ”
“ We have parties like this in America,” I replied, “ but we do not call them routs.”
“ We call them receptions.”
This seemed to amuse him, and he remarked to some one who stood near us, 舠 Mrs. Howe says that in America they call routs re-cep-tions.”
He asked what I had seen in London, so far. I answered that I had recently visited the House of Lords. Whereupon he remarked, “ Mrs. Howe, your English is excellent. I have only heard you make one mispronunciation. You have just said ' House of Lords.’ We say ' House of Lards.’ ” Some one near by said, “ Oh yes, the House is always addressed as ‘ My Luds and Gentlemen.’ ”
When I repeated this to Horace Mann, it so vexed his gentle spirit as to cause him to exclaim, 舠 House of Lords ! You ought to have said House of Devils ! ”
I have made several visits in London since that time, one quite recently, and I have observed that people now speak of receptions, and not of routs. I believe, also, that the pronunciation insisted upon by Sydney Smith has become a thing of the past.
I think that Mrs. Sydney Smith must have called or have left a card at our lodgings, for I distinctly remember a morning call which I made at her house. The great wit was at home, as was also his only surviving son. Mrs. Smith received me very pleasantly. She seemed a grave and silent woman, presenting in this respect a striking contrast to her husband. I knew but little of the political opinions of the latter, and innocently inquired whether he and Mrs. Smith went sometimes to court. The question amused him. He said to his wife, “ My dear, Mrs. Howe wishes to know whether you and I go to court.” To me he said, “ No, madam. That is a luxury which I deny myself.”
I last saw Sydney Smith at an evening party, at which, as usual, he was surrounded by friends. An amiable young American was present, apropos of whom I heard Mr. Smith say, “ I think I shall go over to America, and settle in Boston. Perkins here says that he ’ll patronize me.”
Thomas Carlyle was also one of our earliest visitors. Some time before leaving home, Dr. Howe had received from him a letter expressing his great interest in the story of Laura Bridgman as narrated by Charles Dickens. In this letter he mentioned Laura’s childlike question, “Do horses sit up late?” In the course of his conversation he referred to the question again, laughing heartily. He invited us to take tea with him on the following Sunday. When the day arrived, my husband was kept at home by a severe headache, but Mr. and Mrs. Mann, my sister, and I drove out to Chelsea, where Mr. Carlyle resided at that time. In receiving us he apologized for his wife, who was also suffering from headache and could not appear. In her absence, I was requested to pour tea. Our host partook of it copiously, in all the strength of the teapot. As I filled and refilled his cup, I thought that his chronic dyspepsia was not to be wondered at. The repast was a simple one. It consisted of a plate of toast and two small dishes of stewed fruit, which he offered us with the words, “ Perhaps ye can eat some of this. I never eat these things myself.”
The conversation was mostly a monologue. Mr. Carlyle spoke with a strong Scotch accent, and his talk sounded to me like pages of his writings. He had recently been annoyed by some movement tending to the disestablishment of the Scottish Church. Apropos of this he said, “ That auld Kirk of Scotland ! To think that a man like Johnny Graham should be able to wipe it out with a flirt of his pen ! ” Charles Sumner was spoken of, and Mr. Carlyle said, “ Oh yes ; Mr. Sumner was a vera dull man, but he did not offend people, and he got on in society here.”
Carlyle’s hair was dark, shaggy, and rather unkempt; his complexion was sallow, with a slight glow of red on the cheek ; his eye was full of fire. As we drove back to town, Mr. Mann expressed great disappointment. He did not feel, he said, that we had seen the real Carlyle at all. I insisted that we had.
Soon after our arrival in London a gentleman called upon us whom the servant announced as Mr. Mills. It happened that I did not examine the card which was brought in at the same time. Dr. Howe was not within, and in his absence I entertained the unknown guest to the best of my ability. He spoke of Longfellow’s volume of poems on slavery, then a recent publication, saying that he admired them. Our talk turning upon poetry in general, I remarked that Wordsworth appeared to be the only poet of eminence left in England. Before taking leave of me, the visitor named a certain day on which he requested that we would come to breakfast at his house. Forgetful of the card, I asked, “ Where ? ” He said. “ You will find my address on my card. I am Mr. Milnes.” On looking at the card I found that this was Richard Monckton Milnes, afterward known as Lord Houghton. I was somewhat chagrined at remembering the remark I had made in connection with Wordsworth. He probably supposed that I was ignorant of his literary rank, but I was not, as his poems, though never very popular, were already well known in America.
The breakfast to which Mr. Milnes had invited us proved most pleasant. Our host had recently traveled in the East, and had brought home a prayer carpet, which we admired. His sister, Lady Galway, presided at table with much grace.
We also breakfasted one day at the house of Sir Robert Harry Inglis, long a leading conservative member of the House of Commons. Punch once said of him : —
And always wears a rose.”
And this flower, which always adorned his buttonhole, seemed to match well with his benevolent and somewhat rubicund countenance. At the breakfast of which I speak, he cut the loaf with his own hands, saying to each guest, 舠 Will you have a slice or a hunch ? ” and cutting a slice from one end or a hunch from the other, according to the preference expressed.
These breakfasts were not luncheons in disguise. They were given at ten, or even at half past nine o’clock. The meal usually consisted of fish, cutlets, eggs, cold bread and toast, with tea and coffee. I remember that at Samuel Rogers’s plover’s eggs were served. We also dined one evening with Mr. Rogers, and met among the guests Mr. Dickens and Lady B., one of the beautiful Sheridan sisters. A gentleman sat next me at table, whose name I did not catch. I had heard much of the works of art to be seen in Mr. Rogers’s house, and so took occasion to ask him whether he knew anything about pictures. He smiled, and answered, “ Well, yes.” I then begged him to explain to me some of those which hung upon the walls, which he did with much good nature. Presently some one at the table addressed him as ” Mr. Landseer,”and I became aware that I was sitting next to the celebrated painter of animals. His fine face had already attracted me. I apologized for the question which I had asked, and which had somewhat amused him.
Mr. Rogers, indeed, possessed some paintings of great value, one a genuine Raphael, if I mistake not. He had also many objects of virtu. On one occasion he showed us some autograph letters of Lord Byron, with whom he had been well acquainted. He read a passage from one of these, in which Lord Byron, after speaking of the ancient custom of the Doge taking the Adriatic to wife, wrote, “ I wish the Adriatic would take my wife.”
In after years I was sometimes questioned as to what had most impressed me during my first visit in London. I replied unhesitatingly, “The clever people collected there.” The moment, indeed, was fortunate. We had come well provided with letters of introduction. Besides this, my husband was at the time a first-class lion, and this merit avails more in England than any other, and more there than elsewhere. Mr. Sumner had given us a letter to the Marquis of Lansdowne, which the latter honored by a call, and further by sending us cards for a musical evening at Lansdowne House. Lord Lansdowne was a gracious host ; his lady was more formal in manner. Their music-room was oblong in shape, and the guests were seated along the wall on either side. Before the performance began I noticed a movement among those present, the cause of which became evident when the Duchess of Gloucester appeared, leaning on the arm of the master of the house. She was attired, or, as newspapers put it, “gowned,” in black, wearing white plumes in her headdress, and with bare neck and arms, according to the imperative fashion of the time. She was well advanced in years, and had probably never been remarked for good looks, but was said to be beloved by the Queen and by many friends.
The programme of the entertainment was one which, to-day would seem rather commonplace, though the performers were not so. At the conclusion of it we adjourned to the supper-room, which afforded us a better opportunity of observing the distinguished company. My husband was soon engaged in conversation with the Hon. Mrs. Norton, who was then very handsome. Her eyes were dark, and full of expression. Her dress was unusually décolleté, but by Americans most of the ladies present would have been considered extreme in this respect. Court mourning had recently been ordered for the Duke of Sussex, uncle to the Queen, and many black dresses were worn. My memory, nevertheless, tells me that the great Duchess of Sutherland wore a dress of pink moire. Her brother, Lord Morpeth, was also among the guests.
Somewhat later in the season we were invited to dine at Lansdowne House. Of those whom we met, I remember only Lord Morpeth. I had some conversation with the daughter of the house, Lady Louisa Fitzmaurice, who was pleasing, but not pretty. I was asked at this dinner whether I should object to sitting next to a colored person in a box at the opera. Were I asked this question to-day, I should reply that this would depend upon the character and cleanliness of the colored person, much as one would say in the case of a white man or woman.
Among the well-remembered glories of that summer the new delight of the drama holds an important place. I had been denied this pleasure in my girlhood, and my enjoyment of it at this time was fresh and intense. Among the attentions lavished upon us during that London season were frequent offers of a box at Covent Garden or “ Her Majesty’s.” These were never declined. I recall first a performance by Macready as Claude Melnotte in Bulwer’s Lady of Lyons. I saw Grisi in the great role of Semiramide, and with her Brambilla, a famous contralto, and Fornasari, a basso whom I had longed to hear in the operas given in New York. I also saw Mademoiselle Persiani in Linda di Chamounix and Lucia di Lammermoor. All of these artists gave me unmitigated delight, but the crowning ecstasy I found in the ballet. Fanny Elssler and Cerito were both upon the stage. The former had lost a little of her prestige, but Cerito, an Italian, was then in her first bloom, and wonderfully graceful. Of her performance my sister said to me, “It seems to make us better to see anything so beautiful.” This remark recalls the oftquoted dialogue between Margaret Fuller and Emerson apropos of Fanny Elssler’s dancing: —
“ Margaret, this is poetry.”
“ Waldo, this is religion.”
I remember, years after this time, a talk with Theodore Parker, in which I suggested that the best stage dancing gives us the classic in a fluent form, with the illumination of life and personality. I cannot recall, in the dances which I saw during that season, anything which appeared to me sensual or even sensuous. It was rather the very ecstasy and embodiment of grace.
A ball at Almack’s certainly deserves mention in these pages, the place itself belonging to the history of the London world of fashion. The one of which I now speak was given in aid of the Polish refugees who were then in London. The price of admission to this sacred precinct would have been extravagant for us, but cards for it were sent us by some hospitable friend. The same attention was shown to Mr. and Mrs. Mann, who, with us, presented themselves at the rooms on the appointed evening.
We found them spacious enough, but with no splendor or beauty of decoration. A space at the upper end of the ballroom was marked off by rail or ribbon, — I cannot remember which. While we were wondering what this should mean, a brilliant procession made its appearance, led by the Duchess of Sutherland in historic costume. She was followed by a number of persons of high rank, among whom I recognized her lovely daughters, Lady Elizabeth LevesonGower and Lady Evelyn. These young ladies and several others were attired in Polish costume, to wit, polonaises of light blue silk, and short white skirts which showed the prettiest little red boots imaginable. This high and mighty company took possession of the space mentioned above, where they proceeded to dance a quadrille in rather solemn state. The company outside this limit stood and looked on. Among the groups taking part in this state quadrille was one characterized by the dress worn at court presentations : the ladies in pink and blue brocades, with plumes and lappets ; the gentlemen in breeches and silk stockings, with swords, — and all with powdered hair.
I first met the Duchess of Sutherland at a dinner given in our honor by Lord Morpeth’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Carlisle. The Great Duchess, as the Duchess of Sutherland was often called, was still very handsome, though already the mother of grown-up children. At one time she was Mistress of the Robes, but I am not sure whether she held this office at the time of which I speak. Her relations with the palace were said to be very intimate and friendly. In the picture of the Queen’s Coronation, so well known to us by engravings, she is one of the most striking figures.
I remember a pleasantry about this family which was current in London society in the season of which I write. Sydney Smith pretended to have dreamed that Lord Morpeth had brought back a black wife from America, and that his mother, on seeing her, had said, “ She is not so very black.” Lady Carlisle was proverbial for her kindliness and good temper, and it was upon this point that the humor of the story turned.
The scenes just described still remain quite vivid in my memory, but it would be difficult for me to recount the visits made in those days by my husband and Horace Mann to public institutions of all kinds. I did indeed accompany the two philanthropists in some of their excursions, which included schools, workhouses, prisons, and asylums for the insane. I recall a day when we went, in company with Charles Dickens and his wife, to visit the old prison of Bridewell. We found the treadmill in operation. Every now and then a man would give out, and would be allowed to leave the ungrateful work. The midday meal of bread and soup was served to the prisoners. To one or two, as a punishment for some misdemeanor, bread alone was given. Charles Dickens looked on, and presently said to Dr. Howe. 舠 My God ! if a woman thinks her son may come to this, I don’t blame her if she strangles him in infancy.”
At Newgate prison we were shown the fetters of Jack Sheppard and those of Dick Turpin. While we were on the premises the van arrived with fresh prisoners, and one of the officials appeared to jest with a young woman who had just been brought in, and who, it seemed, was already well known to the officers of justice. Dr. Howe did not fail to notice this with disapprobation.
At one of the charity schools which we visited, Mr. Mann asked whether corporal punishment was used. “ Commonly, only this,” said the master, calling up a little girl, and snapping a bit of india rubber upon her neck in a manner which caused her to cry out. I need not say that the two gentlemen were indignant at this unprovoked infliction.
In strong contrast to old-time Bridewell appeared the model prison of Pentonville, which we visited one day in company with Lord Morpeth and the Duke of Richmond. The system there was one of solitary confinement, much approved, if I remember rightly, by “ my lord duke,” who interested himself in showing us how perfectly it was carried out. Neither at meals nor at prayers could any prisoner see or be seen by a fellow prisoner. The open yard was divided by brick walls into compartments, in each of which a single felon, hooded, took his melancholy exercise. The prison was extremely neat. Dr. Howe at the time approved of the solitary discipline. I am not sure whether he ever came to think differently about it.
At a dinner at Charles Dickens’s we met his intimate friend John Forster, a lawyer of some note, later known as the author of a biography of Dickens. When we arrived, Mr. Forster was amusing himself with a small spaniel which had been sent to Mr. Dickens by an admiring friend, who desired that the dog might bear the name of Boz. Somewhat impatient of such tributes, Mr. Dickens had named it Snittel Timbury. Of the dinner, I remember only that it was of the best so far as concerns food, and that later in the evening we listened to some comic songs.
Mr. Forster invited us to dine at his chambers in the Inns of Court. Mr. and Mrs. Dickens were of the party, and also the painter Maclise, whose work was then highly spoken of. After dinner, while we were taking coffee in the sitting-room, I had occasion to speak to my husband, and addressed him as “ darling.” Thereupon Dickens slid down to the floor, and, lying on his back, held up one of his small feet, quivering with pretended emotion. “ Did she call him ‘ darling ’ ? ” he cried.
I was sorry indeed when the time came for us to leave London, and the more as one of the pleasures there promised us had been that of a breakfast with Charles Buller. Mr. Buller was the only person who at that time spoke to me of Thomas Carlyle, already so great a celebrity in America. He expressed great regard for Carlyle, who, he said, had formerly been his tutor. I was sorry to find in papers of Carlyle’s recently published a rather ungracious mention of this brilliant young man, whose early death was much regretted in English society.
From England we passed on to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Of my visit to Scotland, never repeated, I recall with interest Holyrood Palace, where the blood stain of Rizzio’s murder was still pointed out on the floor, the grave of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford, and Stirling Castle, where, if I mistake not, the regalia of Robert Bruce was shown us. We passed a Sunday at Melrose, and attended an open-air service in the ruins of the ancient abbey. We saw little of Edinburgh besides its buildings, the society people of the place being mostly in villeggiatura.
Of greater interest was our tour in Ireland. Lord Morpeth had given us some introductions to friends in Dublin. At the same time, he had written Mr. Sumner that he hoped that Dr. Howe would not in any way become conspicuous as a friend to the Repeal measures which were then much in the public mind. This Repeal portended nothing less than the disruption of the existing political union between Ireland and England. The Dublin Corn Exchange was the place in which Repeal meetings were usually held. We attended one of these. O’Connell was the principal speaker of the occasion. I remember his appearance well, but can recall nothing of his address. He was tall, blond, and florid, with remarkable vivacity of speech and of expression. His popularity was certainly very great. While he was speaking, a gentleman entered and approached him. " How d’ ye do, Tom Steele ? ” said O’Connell, shaking hands with the newcomer. The audience applauded loudly, Steele being an intimate friend and ally of O Connell, and, like him, an earnest partisan of Repeal.
Mr. George Ticknor, of Boston, had given us a letter to Miss Edgeworth, who resided at some distance from the city of Dublin. From her we soon received an invitation to luncheon, of which we gladly availed ourselves. Our hostess met us with a warm welcome. She had had some correspondence with Dr. Howe, and seemed much pleased to make his acquaintance. I remember her as a little old lady, with an old-fashioned cap and curls. She was very vivacious, and had much to say to Dr. Howe about Laura Bridgman. He in turn asked what she thought of the Repeal movement. She said in reply, “ I don’t understand what O’Connell really means.” We met on this occasion a half-brother and a half - sister of Miss Edgeworth, much younger than herself. I thought that they must be twins, so closely did they resemble each other in appearance. At parting, Miss Edgeworth gave each of us an etching of Irish peasants, the work of a friend of hers. On the one which she gave to my husband she wrote, 舠 From a lover of truth to a lover of truth.”
After leaving Dublin, we traveled north as far as the Giant’s Causeway. The state of the country was very forlorn. The peasantry lived in wretched hovels of one or two rooms, the floor of mud, the pig taking his ease within doors, and the chickens roosting above the fireplace. Beggars were seen everywhere, and of the most persistent sort. In places where we stopped for the night accommodations were usually far from satisfactory. The safest dishes to order were stirabout and potatoes.
My husband had received an urgent invitation from an Irish nobleman, Lord Walcourt, to visit him at his estate, which was in the south of Ireland. We found Lord Walcourt living very simply, with two young daughters and a baby son. Dr. Howe and our host had much talk together concerning socialistic and other reforms. My sister and I found his housekeeping rather meagre. He was evidently a whole-souled man, but we learned later on that he was considered very eccentric.
A visit to the poet Wordsworth was one of the brilliant visions that floated before my eyes at this time. Mr. Ticknor had kindly furnished us with an introduction to the great man, who was then at the height of his popularity. To criticise Wordsworth or to praise Byron was equally unpardonable in the London of that time, when London was, what it. has ceased to be, the heart and centre of the literary world. Of our journey to the lake country I can now recall little, save that its last stage, a drive of ten or more miles from the railway station to the poet’s village, was rendered comfort less by constant showers, and by an illbroken horse which more than once threatened mischief. Arrived at the inn, my husband called at the Wordsworth residence, and left there his card and the letter of introduction. In return a note was soon sent, inviting us to take tea that evening with Mr. and Mrs. Wordsworth.
Out visit was a disappointing one. The widowed daughter of our host had lost heavily by the failure of certain American securities. These losses formed the sole topic of conversation not only between Wordsworth and Dr. Howe, but also between the ladies of the family, my sister, and myself. The tea to which we had been bidden was simply a cup of tea, served without a table. We bore the harassing conversation as long as we could. The only remark of Wordsworth’s which I brought away was this : “ The misfortune of Ireland is that it was only a partially conquered country.” When we took leave, the poet expressed his willingness to serve us during our stay in his neighborhood. We left it, however, on the following morning, without seeing him or his again.
A little akin to this experience was that of a visit to the Bank of England, made at the invitation of one of its officers whom I had known and entertained in America. Another of the functionaries of the bank volunteered his services as a cicerone. We paid for this by listening to many uncivil pleasantries regarding the financial condition of our own country. I still remember the insolent sneer with which this gentleman said, “ By the bye, have you sold the Bank of the United States yet?” He was presumably ignorant of the real history of the bank, which had long ceased to be a government institution, President Jackson having annulled its charter and removed the government deposits.
I mention these incidents because they were the only exceptions to the uniform kindness with which we were generally received, and to the homage paid to my husband as one of the most illustrious of modern philanthropists.
Berlin would have been the next important stop in our journey but for an impediment which we had hardly anticipated In the days of the French revolution of 1830, the Poles had made one of their oft-repeated struggles to regain national independence. General Lafayette was much interested in this movement, and at his request Dr. Howe undertook to convey to some of the Polish chiefs funds sent for their aid by parties in the United States. He succeeded in accomplishing this errand, but was arrested on the very night of his arrival in Berlin. He now applied for permission to revisit the kingdom of Prussia, but this was refused him. We managed, nevertheless, to see something of the Rhine, and journeyed through Switzerland and the Austrian Tyrol to Vienna, where we remained for some weeks. We here made the acquaintance of Madame von Walther and her daughter Theresa, afterward known as Madame Pulszky, the wife of one of Louis Kossuth’s most valued friends.
Arriving in Milan, we presented a letter of introduction from Miss Catharine Sedgwick to Count Gonfalonieri, after Silvio Pellico the most distinguished of the Italian patriots who underwent imprisonment in the Austrian fortress of Spielberg. His life had been spared only through the passionate pleading of his wife, who traveled day and night to throw herself at the feet of the Empress, imploring the commutation of the death sentence pronounced against her husband. This heroic woman did not long survive the granting of her prayer. She died while her husband was still in prison ; but the men who had been his companions in misfortune so revered her memory as always to lift their hats -when they passed near her grave. Years had elapsed since the events of which I speak, and the count had married a second wife, a lively and attractive person, from whom, as from the count, we received many kind attentions.
Dr. Howe was at this time called to Paris by some special business, and I remained a month in Milan with my sister. We greatly enjoyed the beauty of the cathedral and the hospitality of our new friends. Among these were the Marchese Arconati and his wife, a lady of much distinction, and in after years a friend of Margaret Fuller.
Some delightful entertainments were given us by these and other friends, and I remember with pleasure an expedition to Monza, where the iron crown of the Lombard kingdom is shown. Napoleon is said to have placed it on his head while he was still First Consul. Apropos of this, we saw in one of the Milanese mansions a seat on which Napoleon had once sat, and which, in commemoration of this, bore the inscription, “ Egli ci ha dato l’ unione.” (He gave us unity.) Alas! this precious boon was only secured to Italy many years later, and after much shedding of blood.
Several of the former captives of Spielberg were living in Milan at this time. Of these I may mention Castiglia and the advocate Borsieri. Two others, Foresti and Albinola, I had often seen in New York, where they lived for many years, beloved and respected. In all of them, a perfectly childish delight in living seemed to make amends for the long and dreary years spent in prison. Every pulse beat of freedom was a joy to them. Yet the iron had entered deeply into their souls. Natural leaders and men of promise, they had been taken out of the world of active life in the very flower of their youth and strength. The fortress in which they were confined was gloomy and desolate. For many months no books were allowed them, and in the end only books of religion, so called. They had begged for employment, and were given wool to knit stockings, and dirty linen rags to scrape for lint, with the sarcastic remark that to people of their benevolent disposition such work as this last should be most congenial. The time, they said, appeared endless in passing, but little when past, no events having diversified its dull blankness.
When I listened to the conversation of these men, and saw Italy so bound hand and foot by Austrian and other tyrants, I felt only the hopeless chaos of the political outlook. Where should freedom come from ? The logical bond of imprisonment seemed complete. It was sealed with four impregnable fortresses, and the great spiritual tyranny sat enthroned in the centre, and had its response in every other despotic centre of the globe. I almost ask to-day. “ By what miracle was the great structure overthrown ? But the remembrance of this miracle forbids me to despair of any great deliverance, however desired and delayed. He who maketh the wrath of man to serve him can make liberty blossom out of the very rod that the tyrant wields.
The emotions with which people in general approach the historic sites of the world have been so often described as to make it needless for me to dwell upon my own. But I will mention the thrill of wonder which overcame me as we drove over the Campagna and caught the first glimpse of St. Peter’s dome. Was it possible ? Had I lived to come within sight of the great city, Mistress of the World ? Like much else in my journeying, this appeared to me like something seen in a dream, scarcely to be apprehended by the bodily senses.
The Rome that I then saw was mediæval in its aspect. A great gloom and silence hung over it. Coining to establish ourselves for the winter, we felt the pressure of many discomforts, especially that of the imperfect heating of houses. Our first quarters were in Torlonia’s palace on the Piazza di Spagna. My husband found these gloomy and sunless, and was soon attracted by a small but comfortable apartment in Via San Nicolà da Tolentino, where we remained during a part of the winter.
Dr. Howe went out early one morning, and did not return until late in the evening. Had I known at the time the reason of his absence, I should have felt great anxiety. He had gone to the post office, but in doing so had passed some spot at which a sentry was stationed. He happened to be absorbed in his own thoughts, and did not notice the warning given. The sentry seized him, and Dr. Howe began to beat him over the head. A crowd soon gathered, and my husband was arrested and taken to the guardhouse. The situation was a grave one, but the doctor immediately sent for the American consul, George Washington Greene. With the aid of this friendly official the necessary formalities were gone through with, and the prisoner was liberated.
The consul just mentioned was a cousin of my father, and a grandson of the famous General Nathanael Greene of the Revolution. He was much at home in Roman society, and through him we had access to the principal houses in which were given the great entertainments of the season.
The first of these that I attended appeared to me a melancholy failure, judging by our American ideas of a pleasant evening party. The great ladies sat very quietly in the salon of reception, and the gentlemen spoke to them in an undertone. There was none of the joyous effusion with which even a “ few friends ” meet on similar occasions in Boston or New York. Exceeding stiffness was obviously the “ good form ” of the occasion.
A ball given by the banker prince. Torlonia, presented a more animated scene. The beautiful princess of the house, then in the bloom of her youth, was conspicuous among the dancers. Her fair head was encircled by a fine tiara of diamonds. I thought her quite as beautiful on another occasion, when she wore a simple gown of écru silk, with a necklace of carved coral beads. This was at a reception given at the charity school of San Michele, where a play was performed by the pupils of the institution. The theme of the drama was the worship of the golden calf by the Israelites, and the overthrow of the idol by Moses.
The industrial school of San Michele, like every other institution in the Rome of that time, was entirely under ecclesiastical control. If I remember rightly, Monsignore Morecchini had to do with its management.
This interesting man stood, at the time, at the head of the administration of public charities. He called one day at our lodgings, and I had the pleasure of listening to a long conversation between him and my husband, regarding chiefly the theme in which both gentlemen were most deeply interested, the education of the working classes. I was present, some time later, at a meeting of the Academy of St. Luke, at which the same monsignore made an address of some length, and with his own hands distributed the medals awarded to successful artists. One of these was given to an Italian lady, who appeared in the black costume and lace veil which are still de rigueur at all functions of the papal court. I remember that the monsignore delivered his address with a sort of rhythmic intoning, not unlike the singsong of the Quaker preaching of fifty years ago.
To another monsignore, Baggs by name, and Bishop of Pella, we owed our presentation to Pope Gregory XVI., the immediate predecessor of Pope Pius IX. Our cousin and consul. George W. Greene, went with us to the reception accorded us. Papal etiquette was not rigorous in those days. It only required that we should make three genuflections as we approached the spot where the Pope stood, and three more in retiring, as from a royal presence, without turning our backs. Monsignore Baggs, after presenting my husband, said to him, “ Dr. Howe, you should tell his Holiness about the little blind girl [Laura Bridgman] whom you educated.” The Pope remarked that he had been assured that the blind were able to distinguish colors by the touch. Dr. Howe said that he did not believe this. His opinion was that if a blind person could distinguish a stuff of any particular color, it must be through some effect of the dye upon the texture of the cloth. The audience concluded, the Pope obligingly turned his back upon us, as if to examine something lying on the table which stood behind him, and thus spared us the inconvenience of curtsying and retiring backward.
The experience of our winter in Rome could not be repeated at this stage of the world. The Rome of fifty-five years ago was altogether mediæval in its aspect. The great inclosure within its walls was but sparsely inhabited. Convent gardens, and even villas of the nobility, occupied much space.
The city attracted mostly art students and lovers of art. The studios of painters and sculptors were much visited, and wealthy amateurs gave orders for many costly works of art. Such glimpses as were afforded of Roman society had no great attraction other than that of novelty for persons accustomed to reasonable society elsewhere. The strangeness of titles, the glitter of jewels, amused for a time the traveler, who was nevertheless glad to return to a world in which ceremony was less dominant and absolute.
Among the frequent visitors at our rooms were the sculptor Crawford, and Luther Terry and James E. Freeman, well known then and since as painters of merit. Between the first named of these and the elder of my two sisters an attachment sprang up, which culminated in marriage.
The months slipped away very rapidly, and the early spring brought the dear gift of another life to gladden and enlarge our own. My dearest, eldest child was born at Palazzetto Torlonia, on the 12th of March, 1844. At my request, the name of Julia Romana was given to her. As an infant she possessed remarkable beauty, and her radiant little face appeared to me to reflect the lovely forms and faces which I had so earnestly contemplated before her birth. The galleries were indeed to me at once a dream and a revelation. My mind had been able to anticipate something of the achievements of human thought, but of the patient work of the artist I had not had the smallest conception.
One day we visited the catacombs of St. Calixtus with a party of friends, among whom was the then celebrated Padre Machi, an ecclesiastic who was considered a supreme authority in this department of historic research.
Among the wonderful sights of that winter, I recall an evening visit to the sculpture gallery of the Vatican, when the statues were shown us by torchlight. I had not as yet made acquaintance with those marble shapes, which were rendered so lifelike by the artful illumination that when I saw them afterward in the daylight it seemed to me that they had died.
My husband had desired to visit the Castle of St. Angelo, which was then not only a fortress, but also a prison for political offenders. As he passed through one of the corridors, a young man from an inner room or cell rushed out and addressed him, apparently in great distress of mind. He cried, “For the love of God, sir, try to help me ! I was taken from my home a fortnight since, I know not why, and was brought here, where I am detained, utterly ignorant of the grounds of my arrest and imprisonment.” This incident disturbed my husband very much. Of course, he could do nothing to aid the unfortunate man.
We were invited, one evening, to attend what the Romans still call an accademia, a sort of literary club or association. It was held in what appeared to be a public hall, with a platform on which were seated those about to take part in the exercises of the evening. Among these were two cardinals, one of whom read aloud some Greek verses, the other a Latin discourse, both of which were applauded. After or before these, I cannot remember which, came a recitation from a once famous improvisatrice, Rosa Taddei. She is mentioned by Sismondi in one of his works as a young person of wonderful genius. She was now a woman of middle age, wearing a sober gown and cap. The poem which she read was on the happiness to be derived from a family of adopted children. I remember its conclusion. He who should give himself to the care of other people’s children would be entitled to say: —
舠 I built myself this family wholly by mv own merit.”
The performances concluded with a satirical poem given by a layman, and describing the indignation roused in an elegant ecclesiastic by the visit of a man in poor and shabby clothes. His complaint is answered by a friend, who remarks : —
舠 Your Excellency would have every poor fellow rich.”
The presence of the celebrated phrenologist George Combe in Rome at this time added much to Dr. Howe’s enjoyment of the winter, and to mine. His wife was a daughter of the great actress Mrs. Siddons, and was a person of excellent mind and manners. I remember that Fanny Kemble, who was a cousin of Mrs. Combe, once related the following anecdote to Dr. Howe and me: —
“ Cecilia [Mrs. Combe] had grown up in her mother’s shadow, for Mrs. Siddons was to the last such a social idol as to absorb the notice of people wherever she went, leaving little attention to be bestowed upon her daughter. This was rather calculated to sour the daughter’s disposition, and naturally had that effect.舡 Mrs. Kemble then spoke of a visit which she had made at her cousin’s house after her marriage to Mr. Combe. In taking leave, she could not refrain from exclaiming, 舠 Oh, Cecilia, how you have improved! ” to which Mrs. Combe replied, “ Who could help improving when living with perfection ? ”
Dr. Howe and Mr. Combe sometimes visited the galleries in company, viewing the works therein contained in the light of their favorite theory. I remember having gone with them through the great sculpture hall of the Vatican, listening with edification to their instructive conversation. They stood for some time before the well-known head of Zeus, the contour and features of which appeared to them quite orthodox, according to the standard of phrenology.
When, in the spring of 1844, I left Rome, in company with my husband, my sisters, and my baby, it seemed like returning to the living world after a long Separation from it. In spite of all the attractions of the ancient city, I was glad to stand once more face to face with the belongings of my own time.
We journeyed first to Naples, which I saw with delight, thence by steamer to Marseilles, and by river boat and diligence to Paris.
My husband’s love of the unusual must, I think, have prompted him to secure passage for our party on board the little steamer which carried us well on our way to Paris. Its small cabin was without sleeping accommodations of any kind. As the boat always remained in some port overnight, Dr. Howe found it possible to hire mattresses for us, which, alas, were taken away at daybreak, when our journey was resumed.
We made some stay in Paris, of which city I have chronicled elsewhere my first impressions. Among these was the pain of hearing a lecture by Philarète Chasles, in which he spoke most disparagingly of American literature, and of our country in general. He said that we had contributed nothing of value to the world of letters. Yet we had already given it some of the writings of Irving, Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, Bryant, and Poe. It is true that these authors were little, if at all, known in France at that time, but the speaker, proposing to instruct the public, ought to have informed himself concerning that whereof he assumed to speak with knowledge.
Dr. Howe attended one of the official receptions of M. Guizot, who was Prime Minister at this time. I tried to persuade him to wear his Greek decorations, but he refused to do so.
Our second visit to England, in the autumn of the year 1844, on the way back to our own country, was less brilliant and novel than our first, but scarcely less in interest. We had received several invitations from friends at their country residences, and these opened to us the most delightful aspect of English hospitality. The English are nowhere so much at home as in the country, and they willingly make their visitors at home also.
Our first visit was at Atherstone, then the residence of Charles Holt Bracebridge, one of the best specimens of an English country gentleman of the old school. His wife was a very accomplished gentlewoman, skillful alike with pencil and with needle, and possessed of much literary culture. Mrs. Bracebridge told us a good deal about Florence Nightingale, then twenty-four years old, and already considered a person of remarkable character. Our hosts had been in Athens, and sympathized with my husband in his views regarding the Greeks. They were also familiar with the further East, and had brought cedars from Mount Lebanon, and Arab horses from I know not where.
Atherstone was not far from Coventry. Mr. Bracebridge claimed descent from Lady Godiva, and informed me that a descendant of Peeping Tom of Coventry was still to be found in that place. He himself was lord of the manor, but had neither son nor daughter to succeed him. He told me some rather weird stories, one of which was that he had once waked in the night to see a female figure seated by his fireside. I believe the ghost was that of an old retainer of the family, or possibly an ancestress. An old prophecy also had been fulfilled with regard to his property. This was that when a certain piece of land should pass from the possession of the family, a small island on the estate would cease to exist. The property was sold, and the island somehow became attached to the mainland, and as an island ceased to exist.
Mrs. Bracebridge had spoken to me of Florence Nightingale as a young person likely to make an exceptional record in the course of her life. Her mother, she said, rather feared this, and would have preferred the usual conventional life for her daughter. The father was a pronounced Liberal, and a Unitarian. While we were still at Atherstone, we received an invitation to pass a few days with the Nightingale family at Emblee, and betook ourselves thither. We found a fine mansion of Elizabethan architecture, and a cordial reception. The family consisted of father and mother and two daughters, both born during their parents’ residence in Italy, and respectively christened Parthenope and Florence. Parthenope was the elder ; she was not handsome, but was piquant and entertaining. Florence was rather elegant than beautiful; she was tall and graceful of figure, her countenance mobile and expressive, her conversation most interesting. Having heard much of Dr. Howe as a philanthropist, she resolved to consult him upon a matter which she already had at heart. She accordingly requested him one day to meet her on the following morning, before the hour for the family breakfast. He did so, and she opened the way to the desired conference by saying, “ Dr. Howe, if I should determine to study nursing, and to devote my life to that profession, do you think that it would be a dreadful thing ? ”
“ By no means,” replied my husband. 舠 think that it would be a very good thing.”
So much and no more of the conversation Dr. Howe repeated to me. We soon heard that Miss Florence was devoting herself to the study of her predilection ; and when, years after this time, the war of the Crimea broke out, we were among the few who were not astonished at the undertaking which made her name world famous.
Just before our final embarkation for America, we passed a few days with the same friends at Lea Hurst, a pretty country seat near Malvern. There we met the well-known historian Henry Hallam, doubly celebrated as the father of Tennyson’s lamented Arthur. Martin Cluzzlewit had recently appeared, and I remember that Mr. Hallam read aloud with much amusement the famous transcendental episode beginning, “ To be introduced to a Pogram by a Hominy.” Mr. Hallam asked me whether talk of this sort was ever heard in transcendental circles in the United States, and I was obliged to confess that the caricature was not altogether without foundation.
Soon after reaching London for the second time, we were invited to visit Dr. and Mrs. Fowler at Salisbury. The doctor was much interested in anthropology and kindred topics, and my husband found in him a congenial friend. The house was a modest one, but the housekeeping was generous and tasteful. As Salisbury was a cathedral town, the prominent people of the place naturally belonged to the Anglican Church. At the Fowlers’ hospitable board we met the bishop, the dean, the rector, and the curate.
Bishop Denison, at the time of our visit, was still saddened by the loss of a beloved wife. He invited us to a dinner, at which his sister, Miss Denison, presided. The dean and his wife were present, the Fowlers, and one or two other guests. To my surprise, the bishop gave me his arm and conducted me to the table, where he seated me oil his right.
We left Salisbury with regret, Dr. Fowler giving Dr. Howe a parting injunction to visit Rotherhithe workhouse, where he himself had seen an old woman who was blind, deaf, and crippled. My husband made this visit, and wrote to Dr. Fowler an account of it which lie read to me before sending it. In the mischief of which I was then full to overflowing, I wrote a humorous travesty of Dr. Howe’s letter in rhyme, but when I showed it to him, I was grieved to see how much he seemed pained at my frivolity.
As far as Portsmouth,
And found a most charming old woman,
Of all that’s enjoyed
By the animal vaguely called human.
Has teeth like a saw,
Her ears and her eyes I delight in :
The one could not hear
Tho’ a cannon were near,
The others are holes with no sight in.
Just over her eyes,
Not far from the bone parietal;
The crown of her head,
Be it vulgarly said,
Is shaped like the back of a beetle.
Combines with conceit
In the form of this wonderful noddle,
But benev’lence, you know,
And a large pliilopro
Give a great inclination to coddle.
And so on.
During our visit to Atherstone we became acquainted with Mr. Arthur Mills, a young lawyer, nephew to Mrs. Bracebridge. He was one of those persons who conceal a quick sense of humor beneath an exterior of imperturbable gravity. He did smile, however, on one occasion when, as we were all seated in the Bracebridge library, my beautiful sister suddenly appeared, arrayed in his gown and wig, which she had persuaded one of the company to borrow surreptitiously. Mr. Mills had long had it in mind to visit the United States, and he now took the opportunity of accompanying us on our homeward voyage. He was at once adopted into the intimacy of the family, and I gave expression to the common good will in a mock heroic poem, the Millsiad, with the composition of which I beguiled some of the tedious hours passed at sea. The stanzas were written in pencil on the blank leaves of our new friend’s diary. The original copy is still preserved among his family archives. The poem began with the following invocation : —
At the bare thought of the illustrious Mills,
That man of eyes and nose,
Of legs and arms, of fingers and of toes !
To lands devoid of tax ?
Trees shall he cut down,
And forests own ?
Tame cataracts with a frown ?
Grin all the fish from Mississippi River ?
O Mills ! unfold thy valorous breast ;
Let thine eye hover,
O mirthful rover,
O’er haystacks gigantesqne, and fields of clover.
From the impassioned Past,
Let thy small heart dilate
In the vast portents of a nation’s fate !
Julia Ward Howe.