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Title: The Autobiography of a Journalist, Volume I
Author: Stillman, William James, 1828-1901
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: W.J. Stillman]



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A JOURNALIST


WILLIAM JAMES STILLMAN


IN TWO VOLUMES


VOLUME I


1901



PREFACE


That a man should assume that his life is worth the venture of
a record in the form of an autobiography suggests a degree of
self-conceit of which I am not guilty. From my own initiative this
would never have been written, and the first suggestion that I should
write it, coming from a man of such experience in books and judgment
of men as the late Mr. Houghton, then head of the firm of Houghton,
Mifflin & Co., was as much a surprise to me as the publication will
be to any one. The impression it made on me was so vivid that I have
never forgotten the details of the occasion which called it out. I had
gone with Mr. Houghton and his daughters to the ruins of the Villa of
Hadrian, at Tivoli, and, wandering idly amongst them on a beautiful
autumn morning, not in the spirit of crude sightseeing, I was led to
talk of my experiences more than is my wont to do. "You should write
your life," he said to me with a manner of authority which at once
convinced me, and I decided that if there should come in my life a
pause in which the past could be considered rather than the needs of
the present and the cares of the future, I would set about it. Had
I at some earlier date entertained such a project, I should have
preserved many documents and data now lost, and have been able to
write more precisely of some things of greater interest than my
personal adventures. But in that part of my life which may be
considered relatively of a public character, or in which events of a
public interest occurred, I have ample record made at the time. In
what is peculiar to myself, and so of relatively trivial moment, dates
and the order of events are of little importance. It occurred to me in
the connection, that to give a human document of Puritan family life,
and the development of a mind from the archaic severity of New England
Puritanism to a complete freedom of thought, by a purely evolutionary
process, without revolt or revulsion, might be worth doing. For what
it is worth I have done it without much consideration of my own
dignity, and, candidly, not as to my blunders and peccadilloes, which
are of no importance to the story, but as to the earlier mental
conditions which were a part of the process. So much for the
personality.

Orthodox journalists may object to my assumption of their title. In my
multifarious occupation and random life I have, as I see when I look
back found my highest activity, and rendered my most serious services
to others, in my occupation as a journalist--all the rest was fringe
or failure. If I have been good for anything it was in connection
with, or through my position on, the press. And it would be ungrateful
and dishonest if I should omit to bear my testimony to the noble
character and large sincerity of the great journal to which the most
of my strength for more than twenty years has been given. If ever
I had a noble impulse, aroused by wrongs that came to my knowledge
during those years, a good cause to defend, or a public abuse to
attack, "The Times" has never refused to give me room to tell my
story, nor have I ever been expected to conform my views to those of
the office, or shape my correspondence to any ulterior purpose; nor
have I ever done so. And I consider it the greatest honor that has
ever come to me to have been so many years in its service, and to have
maintained the confidence of its direction.

To my critics much that I have told may seem trivial. I cannot judge
of what may interest others. I should hardly have believed that my
life as a whole could interest a public that does not know me, and I
am equally unable to judge of the value which its details may have to
others. In default of any criterion beyond my own judgment, I have
selected the items which had to me most importance, or had a marked
influence on my life or an interest beyond myself. I have told things
that will seem trite to Americans, and others that will be commonplace
to Englishmen, but I have two publics to think of, differing in slight
matters in their knowledge of things.

In affixing to the book the portraits of myself, I have yielded my own
opinion, which was opposed to it, to that of the publishers and my
friends, who urged it. To me it seemed a vanity for one almost unknown
to assume that a public would care what manner of man he might be, and
that such an assumption should follow an expressed general desire; but
the views of the publishers are imperative, and those of my friends
weightier than my own.

The drawing by Rowse was done about 1856, so that the interval between
its doing and that by my daughter in 1900 included all the active
period of my life, unless I except the Hungarian expedition. When the
Rowse drawing was executed, Lowell said of it, "You have nothing to do
for the rest of your life but to try to look like it." Since that time
every friend I then had, except Rowse and Norton, is gone where I must
soon follow.

DEEPDENE, FRIMLEY GREEN, Surrey, England.



CONTENTS


CHAP.

I. A NEW ENGLAND MOTHER AND HER FAMILY.

II. NATURE WORSHIP--EARLY RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES.

III. AN AMERICAN EDUCATION.

IV. COLLEGE LIFE.

V. ART STUDY IN AMERICA.

VI. ART STUDY IN ENGLAND.

VII. ON A MISSION FOR KOSSUTH.

VIII. AN ART STUDENT IN PARIS.

IX. SPIRITISM.

X. LIFE IN THE WILDERNESS.

XI. JOURNALISM.

XII. CAMBRIDGE.

XIII. THE ADIRONDACK CLUB--EMERSON AND AGASSIZ.

XIV. LOWELL.

XV. THE ADIRONDACKS AND FLORIDA.

XVI. ENGLAND AGAIN.

XVII. SWITZERLAND.

XVIII. PARIS AGAIN--THE CIVIL WAR IN AMERICA.

XIX. MY ROMAN CONSULATE.



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A JOURNALIST



CHAPTER I

A NEW ENGLAND MOTHER AND HER FAMILY


A theory is advanced by some students of character that in what
concerns the formation of the individual nature, the shaping and
determination of it in the plastic stage, and especially in respect to
the moral elements on which the stability and purpose of a man's life
depend, a man is indebted to his mother, for good or for ill.
The question is too abstruse for argument, but, so far as my own
observation goes, it tends to a confirmation of the theory. I have
often noticed in children of friends that in childhood the likeness
to the mother was so vivid that one found no trace of the father, but
that in maturity this likeness disappeared to give place to that of
the father. In my own case, taking it for what it is worth, I can only
wish that the mother's part had been more enduring, not that I regret
the effect of my father's influence, but because I think my mother had
some qualities from which my best are derived, and which I should like
to see completely carried out in the life of a man, while I recognize
in a certain vagarious tendency in my father the probable hereditary
basis of the inconstancy of purpose and pursuit, which may not
have deprived my life of interest to others, but which has made
it comparatively barren of practical result. As a study of a
characteristic phase of New England life which has now entirely
disappeared, I believe that a picture of her and her family will be of
interest to some readers.

In my oldest brother, Thomas B. Stillman, known in the last generation
as the chief of the steam engineering of his day in the United States,
the mentor of that profession, I can see more of my mother than in any
other of the six brothers. He inherited, like all of us, his father's
mechanical tendency and inventiveness, and added to it a persistency
and constancy of purpose peculiarly hers, which none of the other
children inherited to the same extent; and he had in its fullness the
devotional sentiment, the absorption in religious duties, as the chief
motive in life, which was her ruling passion,--for passion it was in
her,--the hanging on the Cross of everything she most valued in life.

My mother, Eliza Ward Maxson, was born in Newport, Rhode Island,
on September 11, 1783, my father being seven years her senior.
The childhood of both was, therefore, surrounded by the facts and
associations of the war of American independence. He, in fact, as I
have heard him say, was born under the rule of the King of England,
and his father considered the Revolution so little justified that to
the day of his death he refused to recognize the government of the
United States; but, living a quiet life on his farm, he was never
disturbed by the pressure which exiled the noted and active Tories.

My mother's earliest recorded ancestor was a John Maxson, one of the
band of Roger Williams, driven by the Puritans out of Massachusetts
into the wilder parts of "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,"
where--in the absence of all established law, as well as
government--they might worship God in the way their consciences
dictated, free from the restrictions on the liberty of conscience
imposed by the Pilgrim Fathers. There, at last, complete freedom of
dissent was found, and one of the consequences was that the colony
became a sort of field for Christian dialectics, where the most
extreme doctrines on all points of Christian belief were discussed
without other or more serious results of the _odium theologicum_ than
the building of many meeting-houses and the multiplication of sects.
Among these sects was one which played an important part in the local
theology of that day and for many years afterward, that known as the
"Seventh-Day Baptist," to which, it seems, John Maxson belonged. It
was not a new invention of the colonists, but had existed in England
since the days of early dissent, and it is possible that John Maxson
had brought the doctrine with him from England. Adhering to the
practice of baptism by immersion, the sect also maintained the
immutable obligation of the Seventh-Day Sabbath of the Ten
Commandments, the Jewish day of rest.

The grave disabilities imposed on them in Massachusetts by the
obligatory abstention from labor on two days, on one day by conscience
and the other by the rigorous laws of the Puritans, made Roger
Williams's little state the paradise of the Sabbatarians, and the sect
flourished greatly in it, while the social isolation consequent on
the practice of contracting marriages only in their church
membership--made imperative if family dissensions were to be avoided
on a question of primary importance to that community, which had
sacrificed all worldly advantages to what it believed to be obedience
to the Word of God--at once knit together their church in closer
relations, and drew to it others from the outside, attracted by the
magnetism of a more ascetic faith.

Amongst the emigrants from England on the Restoration were a family by
the name of Stillman, who, having had relations with the regicides,
went into what was then the most obscure and remote part of New
England and settled at Wethersfield, in Connecticut. One of the
brothers,--George,--hearing of this strange doctrine denying the
sanctity of the "Lord's Day," came to Newport to convert the erring
brothers; but, convinced by them, remained in the colony, where
he became a shining light. Thus it happened that both lines of my
ancestry became involved in the mystic bonds of a faith which was
shut off in a peculiar manner from all around them. The consequent
isolation, I fear, made much for self-righteousness. In their eyes it
was this observance which maintained continuity between the Christian
church and the institutions imposed in Paradise, and therefore made
them peculiarly the people of God. This amiable fanaticism, fervent
without being uncharitable, interfered in no wise with the widest
exercise of Christian sympathy with other sects, the observance of the
Seventh-Day Sabbath not being held as an essential to godliness or to
Christian fellowship, the non-observance being possibly only due to
ignorance, so that the relations of the historic First Seventh-Day
Baptist Church at Newport with the churches observing the "Lord's-Day
Sabbath" were always most kindly. The meeting-house occupied by
the Sabbatarians on the seventh day was occupied by one of the
Sunday-observing sects on the first, and the preachers of one often
officiated for the other. But the worldly advantage enjoyed by the
Sunday keeper was so considerable that all who did not hold to the
finest scruple of conscience in their conduct passed over to the
majority, and were excluded from the communion as a precaution against
the Sunday keepers becoming a majority in the church and taking it
away from the Sabbath keepers, as did actually occur with one of their
congregations in Vermont. In our community generally there was a most
scrupulous avoidance of any occupation on Sunday which might annoy
those who held it as Sabbath, and though in the State of New York the
laws were extremely liberal in this respect, my father in my boyhood
always made it a point not to allow in his workshop any work which
would be heard by the neighbors.

The absolute freedom of religious belief and practice, for the first
time found in this colony, had, as its first effect, the banishment
of all forms of sectarian persecution, so that the maxim of the
Broad Church--"Freedom in non-essentials"--was here put in practical
activity to an extent probably never before known in the Christian
world.

It can be readily understood that this continual selection of the most
scrupulous consciences, the closest thinkers, and the least worldly
characters in the church of my ancestors must have developed a
singularly fine and cutting-edge temper in its adherents, and the
succession of generations of men and women who had graduated in the
school of Scripture dialectics, and knew every text and its various
interpretations, made a community of Bible disputants such as even
Massachusetts could not show.

Amongst the refugees for religious liberty who found their billet
at Newport were many Jews, between whom and the Sabbatarians the
community of the Sabbath was a strong tie, and amongst the formulas of
prayer in use even down to my own boyhood I remember a common petition
for the restoration of Israel; and the Sabbatarian eye of prophecy
looked forward to the day when, in the peace of the millennium,
the Jews in Jerusalem should be the witnesses of the faith of the
Seventh-Day Baptist Church in the keeping alive the observance of the
Eden repose initiated by the Creator. Amongst my own earliest personal
recollections concerning Newport is that of a visit of some Jewish
friends of my mother's girlhood, who lived there, to my father's house
in Schenectady.

My mother's grandfather, on her mother's side, was a clergyman, Elder
Bliss, who, though a non-combatant, was a fiery patriot, two of whose
sons were in the Revolutionary army. His house was in a valley under
the fort held by the British force in occupation, between whose guns
and those of a battery held by the rebels there was occasional firing,
during which the balls sometimes went through the house, so that when
the first shot was heard he used to order all the family down into the
cellar, which afforded a valid protection. The girls of the household
were patriots, in whom zeal often overran discretion, and the pranks
they played on the British officers must sometimes have tasked the
gentlemen in the latter to a point on the limits of endurance. I
remember one incident recounted by my grandmother to my mother, and
by her to me, in which two of the girls stole past the sentry in the
British fort, or battery, for I could never learn exactly what was the
nature of these two outposts of authority and rebellion, and, running
the flag down, tore it into thirteen stripes and ran it up again and
escaped unseen. This insult brought the whole force about their ears,
and the commandant came, with his staff, to question the household if
any clue to it could be found. Fortunately, when the girls had come
back from their expedition and went giggling in their glee to their
mother, she suspected some dangerous venture and peremptorily ordered
them to hold their tongues and not come to her with any of their
mischief. She was thus able to reply to the officer charged with the
inquisition that she knew nothing of the matter, and such was the
rigid obligation of the truth in that Puritan community that even
the danger of a court-martial would not have induced her to tell
a falsehood, however the truth might compromise the family. The
officers, who well knew their sometime hosts, were so well assured
of this that the seniors were at once acquitted, and, regarding the
girls, they were too gentlemanly to push an inquiry which might have
punished a childish freak with the gravest military consequences, for,
as the officer on the quest said, "Even it's being a woman would not
protect the author of such a grave insult to the flag." Irrepressible
as they were, in spite of the danger they had so narrowly escaped,
they, not much later, stole the sword of one of the officers when they
were all temporarily quartered on the preacher, and, when the island
was evacuated by the British forces, brought it out and gave it to the
brother, an officer in the American army.

A feat of practical housewifery, which my mother used to tell
of, shows another side of the Rhode-Islander, which is not less
illustrative of the stock. One of the boys of the pastor's family
volunteered, or was drawn, in the militia for active service; but, as
he had no clothes fit for the camp, the sisters had a black and white
sheep brought from the pasture and clipped, and within twenty-four
hours had spun, woven, and made up a suit of mixed gray clothes for
the brother to go to the war in. No doubt such things have been done
in many another home, even in later times, but this is the home I have
to deal with, and in this my mother grew up. She was the eldest of a
family of five, left motherless when she was sixteen. Her father was
the director of the smallpox hospital in Newport, then an institution
of grave importance to the community, as the practice of obligatory
inoculation prevailed, and all the young people of the colony had to
go up in classes to the hospital and pass the ordeal. Her mother's
death left her the matron of the hospital and caretaker of her sister
and brothers, and the stories of her life at that time, which she
told me now and then, showed that, with the position, she assumed the
effective authority, and ruled her brothers with a severity which my
own experience of her maturer years enables me to understand. "Spare
the rod and spoil the child" was the maxim which flamed in the air
before every father and mother of that New England, and my mother's
physical vigor at sixty, when her conception of authority began to
relax,--I being then a lad six feet high and indisposed to physical
persuasion,--satisfied me that when her duty had required her to
assume the responsibility bequeathed her by her mother, she was fully
competent to meet it.

Accustomed to the hardest life, the most rigid economy in the
household, and without servants, for, except rare and lately
emancipated negro slaves, there was then no servile class in that
colony, the children had to perform all the duties pertaining to the
daily life, official or private, and my mother was able to pull an oar
or manage the sail-boat with her brothers, and catch the horses and
ride them bareback from pasture, when necessary for the daily work,
which was not insignificant, for Newport was really the seaport of
that section of the State, and as it was on an island of importance,
the intercourse with the mainland called for sea and land service. The
boys were all fishermen, for a large part of the subsistence of the
family came from the fishing-grounds outside the harbor, and, as the
oldest brother took early to the sailor's life, my mother had to
assume a larger share of all the harder services. The hospital was
also the quarantine station, and received all the cases of smallpox
which came to the port, and they must have been many and fatal, for I
have heard her say that she had to go the rounds of the hospital at
night, and that there would sometimes be five or six dead in the
dead-room at once.

The first acquaintance of my parents with each other was made in the
inoculating class, my father being resident in Westerly, a town of
Rhode Island on the borders of Connecticut. The marriage must have
taken place about two years later, on the second marriage of my
grandfather Maxson to the daughter of Samuel Ward, one of the leading
delegates from Rhode Island to the convention which drew up and
promulgated the Declaration of Independence[1]. Their early days of
married life must have been passed in an extreme frugality, for my
father was one of a large number of children, and, brought up on a
farm, learned the trade of ship-carpenter, which he alternated, as was
generally the habit of the young men of the New England coast, with
fishing on the banks of Newfoundland in the cod-fishing season.
Having, in addition, a share of the Yankee inventiveness, he became
interested in the perfecting of a fulling-machine, to introduce which
into what was then the West, he made a temporary residence in New York
State, at the old Dutch town of Schenectady, at that time the
entrepôt of commerce between the Eastern cities and New York, and the
Northwest. Utica was then a frontier settlement, Buffalo an outpost in
the wilderness, and, the country having barely recovered from the
war of 1812-15 between the United States and England, enterprise
and exploration had just begun to push through the thin lines of
settlements along the valleys of the Mohawk and upper Hudson, westward
by Buffalo and the great lakes to Ohio (then the Far West), and
northward to the valley of the St. Lawrence. Schenectady was the
distributing point of this wagon-borne commerce and movement until
the completion of the Erie Canal, which, down to my own period of
recollection, was the quickest channel of communication westward, with
its horse "packets," traveling at the creditable speed of four miles
an hour, the traffic barges making scarcely more than two.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Ward died just before the signing of the Declaration,
so that his name does not figure in the list of signers.]

Hardly established in what was intended for a temporary visit, the
residence of the family became fixed at Schenectady, owing to the
partner of my father, left to manage the business at Westerly,
becoming involved in personal embarrassments which brought on the
bankruptcy of the firm and the seizure of all my father's little
property, and, what was worse, the certainty of imprisonment for debt
in the case of his returning home. Owing to the judgments hanging
over him, which a succession of misfortunes prevented him from ever
satisfying, it was late in my own remembrance, I think about 1848 or
1850, before he was enabled to visit his early home. Hard times came
on the whole people of that section, and the practical destruction of
his business by the loss of all his capital drove him into seeking any
employment which would give a momentary relief.

Of this period of their existence my mother rarely spoke, and it must
have been one of severe privations. She has told me that she often
went to bed hungry, that the children might have enough to eat.
She had no assistance in her household duties, except that of her
daughter, a girl of tender years, and, having her husband's five
journeymen as members of the household, with five children, of whom my
sister was the second, she not only did the daily household duties,
including washing and baking, but spun and wove the cloth for the
clothes of her husband and children, cut and made them up. Her
cheerful faith in an overruling Providence must have been, in those
days, a supreme consolation, for, even in recalling them in the days
of my boyhood, the light of it still illumined her, and she never
questioned that He who had led them into the wilderness would maintain
them in it. She seemed to have but one care in her life while I knew
her--to know and do her duty. She found a special providence in
every instance of relief from their pressing wants, and I recall the
religious serenity with which she told me of the greatest strait of
the hardest winter of that period, when resources seemed to have been
exhausted to the last crumb, and they unexpectedly received from one
of her half brothers, who had gone farther west, and lived in what was
practically the wilderness, a barrel of salted pigeons' breasts.
There had been one of those almost fabulous flights of the now nearly
extinct passenger pigeons, which used to come north to breed in such
numbers that the forests where they colonized were so filled with
their nests that the settlers went into them and beat the young down
with poles, and the branches became so overloaded with the broods in
their nests that their weight often broke them down and threw the
young on the ground. They had that year chosen the forests in my
uncle's neighborhood for their nesting ground, and had been killed by
thousands and salted down for winter provision, only the breast being
used, owing to the superabundance of the birds. The gift came like the
answer to a prayer, for there was hunger in the house and the snow was
heavy on the ground, all the community being more or less in the same
straits.

Being the youngest of nine children, I can remember my mother only in
the days of comparative freedom from anxiety, when, the day's work
over and the house quiet, she used, as she sat by the fire with her
knitting, which occupied all the moments when her hands were not
required for other duties,--she knit all the stockings required for
the family,--to tell me incidents of her past life, mostly to show how
kind God had been to her and hers, and how faith in his providence
was justified in the event. Of herself she spoke only incidentally.
Dominating every act and thought of her existence was the profoundest
religious veneration I have ever met with, an openness of her mind
upward, as if she felt that the eternal eye was on her and reading her
thoughts. The sense of her responsibility was so serious that I think
that only the absorbing activity of her daily life, and the way in
which every moment was occupied with positive duties, prevented her
from falling into religious insanity. Her life was a constant prayer,
a wrestling with God for the salvation of her children. No image of
her remains in my mind so clear as that in which I see her sitting
by the fireside in the dim light of our single home-made candle, her
knitting-needles flying and her lips moving in prayer, while the tears
stole down her cheeks in the fervency of her devotion, until she felt
that she was being noticed, when the windows of her soul were suddenly
shut, and she turned to some subject of common interest, as if ashamed
to be discovered praying, for she permitted herself no ostentation of
devotion, but reserved it for her nights and solitary moments. Of her
own salvation she had only a faltering hope, harassed always by a fear
that she had at some time in her life committed the unpardonable sin,
as to the nature of which she knew nothing, and which was, therefore,
all the more feared, as the nature of it was to her the terrible
mystery of life and death.

What I inherit from her, and doubtless the indelible impression of her
fervent faith overshadowing my young life, produced a moulding of my
character which has never changed. I lived in an atmosphere of prayer
and trust in God which impressed me so that to this day the habit of
thought and conduct so formed is invincible, and in all the subsequent
modifications of the primitive and Hebraic conception of the spiritual
life which she inoculated me with, an unconscious aspiration in prayer
and an absolute and organic trust in the protection of the divine
Providence persist in my character, though reason has long assured me
that this is but a crude and personal conception of the divine law.
Truly from the environment of our early religious education we can
never escape. This the Jesuits know and profit by.

My mother was also haunted by the dread of God's wrath at her loving
her children more than she did Him, for, with all the fervency of her
gentle devotion, she never escaped the ghastly Hebrew conception of
God, always in wrath at every omission or transgression of the Law,
who, at the last great day, would demand of her an account of every
neglect of duty, every idle word and thought, and especially of the
manner in which she had taught her children to obey his commandments.
She seemed to scan her life continually to find some sin in the past,
for which she had not specifically repented, and, at times, as I knew
by the confidences of my later years, when she would appeal to me
for my opinion, the problem of the unpardonable sin became one of
absorbing study, which she finally laid aside in the supreme trust in
his goodness, who alone knew her intentions and desire to be obedient
to the Law.

Every one of her sons, as they were born, she dedicated to the service
of the Lord, in the ardent hope that one of them would become a
minister, and over me, the last, she let her hopes linger longest,
for, as I was considered a delicate child, unable to support the life
of hard work to which my older brothers had taken, she hoped that I
might be spared for study. Only the eldest son ever responded to her
desire by the wish to enter the service of the church, and he was far
too important to my father's little workshop to be spared for the
necessary schooling. He struggled through night schools, and in the
intervals of day leisure, to qualify himself to enter the college in
our city. Before doing so he fell under the notice of old Dr. Nott,
president of the college, who was, beside being a teacher of wonderful
ability, a clever inventor, and, perceiving my brother's mechanical
capacity, persuaded him to abandon the plan of entering the ministry,
and made him foreman of his establishment, the "Novelty Iron Works,"
at New York, for many years known as the leading establishment of its
kind in America. The next two brothers, having more or less the
same gifts, followed the eldest to New York; the next, an incurable
stammerer, was disqualified for the pulpit, and studied medicine,
being moreover of a fragile constitution; and the next, having the
least possible sympathy for the calling, also took to medicine.

With the migration of the three older brothers to New York, the
diminution of the family, and the aid the brothers in New York were
able to give the younger children at home, my mother's life took on
a new activity, in her resolute determination that the younger boys
should have such an education as the college (Union) afforded them.
This determination was opposed by my father, whose idea of the
education needed by boys did not go beyond the elements, and who
wanted them in the workshop. But it had become to my mother a
conception of her duty, that, as the relations between my eldest
brother and the president of the college led to an offer of what was
practically a free education, the younger boys should be permitted to
profit by the offer, and when duty entered her head there was no force
capable of driving it out. Charles, the first of us to graduate,
became the college bell-ringer, to pay his fees, but Jacob and myself
were in turn excused, even from this service. My father's practical
opposition, the refusal to pay the incidental expenses for what he
always persisted in regarding as a useless education, was met, in
Charles's case, by my mother's taking in the students' washing, to
provide them. In the cases of Jacob and myself, this drudgery was
exchanged for that of a students' boarding-house.

In all the housework involved in this complication of her duties, she
never had a servant until shortly before my birth, when she took into
the house a liberated African slave, the only other assistance in the
house, in my childhood, being a sister six years older than myself and
the daughter of one of our neighbors, who came as a "help" at the time
of my birth, and subsequently married my second brother. My mother was
also the family doctor, for, except in very grave cases, we never
had any other physician. She pulled our teeth and prescribed all our
medicines. I was well grown before I wore a suit which was not of her
cutting and making, though sometimes she was obliged to have in a
sewing-woman for the light work. She made all the bread we ate, cured
the hams, and made great batches of sausages and mincemeat for pies,
sufficient for the winter's consumption, as well as huge pig's-head
cheeses. How she accomplished all she did I never understood.

But with all her passionate desire to see one of her boys in what she
considered the service of God, there was never, on my mother's
part, the least pressure in that direction, no suggestion that the
sacrifices she was making demanded any measure of deviation from our
views as to the future. It was her hope that one of us would feel as
she did, but she cheerfully resigned the hope, as son after son turned
the other way. A boy who was born three years before me, and whose
death occurred before my birth, was, perhaps, in her mind, the
fulfillment of her dedication, for he was, according to the accounts
of friends of the family, a child of extraordinary intelligence, and
she felt that God had taken him from her. In one of those moments
of confidence, in the years when I had become a counselor to her, I
remember her telling me of this boy (known in the family as "_little_
William," to distinguish him from me), and the sufferings she endured
through her doubts, lest he should have lived long enough to sin, and
had not repented, for, though her dreary creed taught that the rigors
of eternal damnation rested on every one who had not repented of each
individual sin, and that adult baptism was the only assurance of
redemption, it did not teach, nor did she believe, that the innocence
of childhood required the certificate of the church. All the rest of
her children had professed religion and received baptism according
to the rites of the Baptist Church, but little William left in the
mother's heart the sting of uncertainty. Had he lived long enough
to transgress the Law and not repented? was to her an ever-present
question of terrible import. Years rolled by without weakening this
torture of apprehension that this little lamb of all her flock might
be expiating the sin of Adam in the flames of Eternity, a perpetual
babyhood of woe. The depth of the misery this haunting fear inflicted
on her can only be imagined by one who knew the passionate intensity
of her love for her children,--a love which she feared to be sinful,
but could not abate. Finally, one night, as she lay perplexing her
soul with this and other problems of sin and righteousness, she saw,
standing near her bed, her lost child, not as she supposed him to be,
a baby for eternity, but apparently a youth of sixteen, regarding her
silently, but with an expression of such radiant happiness in his face
that the shadow passed from her soul forever. She needed no longer to
be told that he was amongst the blessed. She told me this one day,
timidly, as something she had never dared tell the older children,
lest they should think her superstitious, or, perhaps, dissipate her
consolation by the assurance that she had dreamed. Dream she was
convinced it was not; but only to me, in her old age, had she ever
dared to confide this assurance, which had been so precious to her.

In charity, comfort for the afflicted, help,--not in money, for of
that there was little to spare,--but in food; in watching with the
sick and consoling the bereaved in her own loving, sympathetic
mother's way, she abounded. There was always something for the really
needy, and I remember that one of her most painful experiences came
from having refused food to a begging woman, to whose deathbed she was
called the next day, a deathbed of literal starvation. She recognized
the woman, who had come to our house with a story of a family of
starving children, but as my mother's experienced eye assured her she
had never been a mother, she refused her as a deceiver what the poor
always got. "Why did you tell me you had children," mother asked her,
"when you came to me yesterday?" "It was not true," said the dying
woman, "but I was starving, and I thought you would be more willing to
help me if you thought I had children." But from that day no beggar
was turned from our door without food. Silently and in secret she did
what good works came to her to be done, letting not her right hand
know what her left hand was doing, but all the poor knew her and her
works.

Silent too and undemonstrative in all her domestic relations she
always was, and I question if to any other of her family than myself
she ever confided her secret hopes or fears. And to me even she was so
undemonstrative that I never remember her kissing me from a passing
warmth; only when I went away on a journey or returned from one did
she offer to kiss me, and this was the manner of the family. And her
maintenance of family discipline was on the same rigorous level,
dispassionate as the law. If I transgressed the commands of herself or
of my father the punishment was inevitable, never in wrath, generally
on the day after the offense, but inexorable; she never meant to spoil
the child by sparing the rod, but flogged with tears in her eyes and
an aching heart, often giving the punishment herself, to prevent my
father from giving it, as he always flogged mercilessly and in anger,
though if I could keep out of his sight till the next day he forgot
all about it; she never forgot, and though the flogging might not come
for a week, it was never omitted when promised. And her worst severity
never raised a feeling of resentment in me, for I recognized it as
deserved, while my father's floggings, inflicted in the unreasoning
severity of anger, always made me rebellious. I remember only one
occasion on which I was punished unjustly by my mother.

A neighboring farmer had asked me to go to his field and shake down
the fruit from two apple-trees. It was in the hour before dinner, and
the regulations of the family were very severe about being at meals,
and unfortunately I had, in my glee at having a job of paying work to
do, infringed on the dinnertime. In payment for my services I received
from the farmer two huge pumpkins, charged with which I hastened home,
looking forward to my mother's praise and pleasure, but was met by
her in the hall, strap in hand, with which she administered a solid
flogging, explaining that my father was so angry at my being out at
dinner that she gave me the punishment to forestall his, which would
be, as I well knew, much severer. It is more than sixty years since
that punishment fell on my shoulders, but the astonishment with which
I received the flogging instead of the thanks I anticipated for the
wages I was bringing her, the haste with which my mother administered
it lest my father should anticipate her and beat me after his fashion,
are as vivid in my recollection as if it had taken place last year.
This was a sample of the family discipline. I was forbidden to walk
with other boys when I drove the cow to pasture; forbidden to bathe
in the mill-pond near by except at stated times, to play with certain
children, to amuse myself on the Sabbath, and other similar doings,
all to my childish apprehension harmless in themselves, and the
punishment never failed to follow the discovery of the transgression.
Naturally I learned to lie, a thing contrary to my inclination and
nature, and a torture to my conscience, but I had not the courage
to meet the flogging, or the firmness to resist temptation and the
persuasion of my young companions who rejoiced in a domestic freedom
of which I knew nothing. My father's severity finally brought
emancipation by its excess. He used to follow me to see if I obeyed
his orders, and one day when I had been persuaded by some boys of our
neighborhood to go and bathe in the forbidden hours, he found me in
the pond, led me home, and, cutting two tough peartree switches about
the thickness, at the butt, of his forefinger, he took me down into
the cellar, and making me strip off my jacket, broke them up to the
stumps over my back, protected only by a cotton shirt. This was the
deciding event which determined me to run away from home, which I did
the next week, and though my escapade did not last beyond ten days, on
my return the rod was buried.



CHAPTER II

NATURE WORSHIP--EARLY RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES


Looking back at my mother, after a lapse of nearly forty years since I
saw her last, I am surprised at the largeness of character developed
in the narrow and illiberal mould of the exclusive Puritanism of the
church of her inheritance, her freedom from bigotry, and the breadth
of her knowledge of human nature, as well as at the justice of her
instincts of religious essentials, which always kept her cheerful
and hopeful in spite of the gloomy doctrine imposed on her by her
education and surroundings. Believing firmly in the eternity of
hell-fire, with the logical and terrible day of judgment casting its
gloomy shadow over her life, she maintained an unbounded charity for
all humanity except herself, admitting the extenuation of ignorance
for all others, keeping for herself even to the tithes of mint and
cummin, but condoning, in her judgment of those who differed from her,
the offenses which for herself she would have thought mortal sins. In
her own household all latitude in religious observance was resisted
with all her strength.

In my paternal grandfather's house the Seventh Day was a day of
feasting, and after the church services all the connection went to the
ancestral home to eat the most sumptuous dinner of the week. Against
this infraction of the law which forbade on the Sabbath all work not
of mercy or necessity, my mother set her face, and when this was done
there was no long resistance possible and my father had to give way,
so that on that day we had a cold dinner, cooked on Friday. At sunset
on Friday, all work and all secular reading or amusements ceased,
and only a Sabbath day's journey was permitted so far as she could
control. But my father was a rover from his youth, and Saturday being
his only leisure day he used to take me with him on long walks in the
woods and fields, according to the season; and the weather and the
length of the day were his only limitations. In the house she ruled,
but out of it he made his own conscience, and so it happened that the
only pleasures that I owe him, except the bringing me a few books when
he came back from his business trips to New York to sell his machines,
were those long walks in the face of nature. He was, in his family,
apparently a cold, hard man, but out of it, kindly and benevolent,
melting always to distress which came in his way; with a passionate
love of animals and of nature. He was a poor business man, for he
could never press for the payment of debts due to him, but his honesty
was so rigid that it became a proverb in our town that a man should be
"as honest as old Joe Stillman," and that good name was all he gave or
left his children.

My father died in one of my occasional absences in Europe, and when I
saw my old mother in the black she never again laid off, she told me,
tranquilly and with a firm voice, but with the tears running down her
cheeks, how he died, and said, "He was so handsome that I wanted to
keep him another day." The warmth of expression struck me strangely,
for in all my home experience I had never heard before a word
which could be taken as a token of conjugal tenderness, but when I
reflected, I could see that it was and always had been the same with
the children. Of the nine children she bore, five died before she did,
including her second and, during my life, her only daughter, but in
all the bereavements she retained her calm, self-contained manner,
weeping silently, and tranquilly going about the house, comforting
those who shared the bereavement, uncomplaining, reconciled in
advance; she had consigned her beloved to the God who gave them to
her, and would have thought it rebellion to repine at any dispensation
which He sent her. In the most sudden and crushing grief I remember
her to have experienced, that which came with the news that my brother
Alfred had been killed by the explosion of a steamboat boiler at New
Orleans, there was one brief break-down of her fortitude, an hour's
yielding, and then all her thought was for the widow and the children.
No detail of the household duties was neglected, and nothing was
forgotten that concerned the comfort of others. She avoided all
external signs of grief, and, until my father died, she never wore
mourning. Her bereavements and her prayers were matters that concerned
only God and herself.

What I have said might give her the character of an ascetic, but
nothing could be further from her. She was always optimistic as to
earthly troubles, always cheerful and fond of mild festivities. At
times no one was more merry than she, and I have seen her laughing at
a good joke or story till the tears ran down her cheeks. Cheerfulness
was to her a duty which was never violated except when she was laying
her case before God.

Her ardent desire that her children should have a liberal education
came to a climax on me, the last, born at the end of the period of
child-bearing. She taught me my letters before I could articulate
them, when I was two I could read, and at three I was put on a high
stool to read the Bible for visitors, so that I cannot remember when I
could not read, and when not more than five or six I used to be at the
head of the spelling classes and spelling matches, in which all
the boys and girls were divided into equal companies, and the
school-teacher gave out the hardest words in the spelling-book to each
side in turn, all who failed to spell their word sitting down, until
the solitary survivor on one side or the other decided the victory,
and even before I was seven I was generally that survivor. I read
insatiably all the good story-books they would let me have, and I
cannot recall the time at which there was anything even in the Bible
new to me. With an incipient passion for nature and animal life, I
read with delight all the books of natural history I could get, and I
have heard in later years that in all the community of Sabbatarianism
I was known as a prodigy. Fortunately I was saved from a probable
idiocy in my later life by a severe attack of typhoid fever at seven,
out of which attack I came a model of stupidity, and so remained until
I was fourteen, my thinking powers being so completely suspended that
at the dame's school to which I was sent I was repeatedly flogged for
not comprehending the simplest things. I got through simple arithmetic
as far as "Long Division," and there had to turn back to the beginning
three times before I could be made to understand the principle of
division by more than one figure.

In the humiliation of this period of my life, in which I came to
consider myself as little better than a fool, my only consolation was
the large liberty I enjoyed in the woods and fields with my father
on Saturdays, or with my brothers Charles and Jacob on their long
botanizing excursions, or in the moments of leisure when I was not
wanted to turn the grindstone or blow the bellows in the workshop.
Those long walks, in which I was indefatigable, and the days or nights
when I went fishing with my brother Jacob, who was ten years older
than myself, and who inherited the wandering and adventurous longings
of my father, are the only things I can remember of this period which
gave me any pleasure. I can see vividly the banks of the Mohawk, where
we used to fish for perch, bream, and pike-perch; recall where, with
my brother Charles, we found the rarer flowers of the valley, the
cypripediums, the most rare wild-ginger, only to be found in one
locality, the walking fern, equally rare, and the long walks in the
pine forests, whose murmuring branches in the west wind fascinated me
more than any other thing in nature.

Perhaps I mingle in recollection the nature-worship of the two
septennates, for of the former was my first rapturous vision of the
open sea, which comes back to me with the memory of the pines. I had
gone with my father and mother to New York on a visit to my eldest
brother, who had just then finished the engines of the steamer
Diamond, which was the first that by her build was enabled to run
through from New York to Albany, past the "overslough" or bar formed
in the Hudson, which prevented the steamers of greater draught from
getting up to the wharf at Albany; and he had profited by her first
trip to visit home again and take us back with him. My brother pointed
out to me the Clermont, Fulton's trial steamer, then disused and
lying at Hoboken, but a cockboat to the Diamond, which was one of the
greatest successes of the day. Machinery fascinated me, being of the
mechanical breed, and I can recall the engines of the boat, which were
of a new type, working horizontally, and so permitting larger engines
in proportion to the draught of the steamer than had been before used.
We all went one day to Coney Island, on the southern shore of Long
Island, since a fashionable bathing place for New York, but then a
solitary stretch of seashore, with a temporary structure where bathers
might get refreshments, and a few bathing boxes. We drove out in my
brother's buggy, and as, at a turn in the road, I caught a glimpse of
the distant sea horizon, I rose in the buggy, shouting, "The sea!
the sea!" and, in an uncontrollable frenzy, caught the whip from my
brother's hand and slashed the horse in wild delirium, unconscious of
what I was doing. The emotion remains uneffaceable after more than
threescore years, one of the most vivid of my life. It was a rapture
and an interesting case of heredity, for I had not before been within
a hundred and fifty miles of the sea.

And how ecstatic was the sensation of the plunge into the breakers,
holding fast to my mother's hand, and then the race up the beach
before the next comber, trembling lest it should catch me, as if it
were a living thing ready to devour me. They never come back, these
first emotions of childhood; and though I have loved the sea all my
life, I have never again felt the sight of it as then.

Of this first period, I remember very well the grand occasion of the
opening of the Hudson and Mohawk Railroad, the first link in that line
which is now the New York Central, and see vividly the curious old
coaches,--three coach bodies together on one truck. This was in
1832, when I was four years old. The road was, I believe, the first
successful passenger railway in America, and was sixteen miles long,
with two inclined planes up which the trains were drawn, and down
which they were lowered by cables. There was an opposition line of
stagecoaches between Albany and Schenectady, running at the same price
and making the same time.

Of the second period, that of nature worship, was my first trout,
another delirium. My mother had taken me to visit one of her brothers,
a farmer in the western section of New York, soon after made famous
by the anti-rent war, in which my uncle was one of the "Indian
Chiefs[1]," and there I went fishing in the brook that ran through his
farm. I caught a small trout and did not know what fish it might be,
till I saw the crimson spots on his side and remembered that the trout
in books bore them, and then I threw him on the grass and danced
a wild dance around him, a powwow as furious as a red Indian's
scalp-dance, while he, poor little fingerling, jumped in the unkindly
herb. Then I caught him up and raced to the house nearly half a mile,
to show him, and put him in the trough under the pump, where he
arrived still gasping but alive, and where he remained for all my
recollection of his fate thereafter. But I remember that the beauty of
the little creature gave me more pleasure than the capture.

[Footnote 1: The bands which carried on what became an actual
insurrection against the civic authorities were led by men disguised
as red Indians and called chiefs.]

About this time I began to try to draw, and especially birds and
beautiful forms, though years before I had begun to color the
wood-cuts in my books. And my mother, who had an utterly uncultivated
but most tender love of art, gave up finally the oft-renewed ambition
to see one of her boys in the pulpit, and made every opportunity for
me to learn drawing,--I never quite understood why, for my abilities
in that line were little more than nine boys out of ten show.

It was a fortunate thing for my after-life that I lived so near the
forests that all my odd time was spent in them and in the surrounding
fields, and I knew every apple-tree of early fruiting for miles, and
every hickory-tree whose nuts were choice; and one of the joyous
experiences of the time was running down a young gray squirrel in the
woods, and catching him with my bare hands, and badly bitten they
were. I took him home and tamed him perfectly, and was very happy with
him, my first pet. He used to come and sleep in my pocket, and was
never kept in a cage. My father one morning left the window of our
room open, and "Bob" went out to explore, but, when he tried to find
his way back again, a dog of the neighborhood, as a neighbor told us,
chased him away, and to my intense grief he was shot by a hunter a
few days after in the adjoining forest. I cannot to this day see a
squirrel without emotion and affectionate remembrance of "Bob." The
love of animals, which I inherited from my father, was one of the
passions of my childhood, and I had an insatiate longing for pets.

Naturally my religious education during these early years was of the
severest orthodox character, and my mother's sincere, fervent, and
practical piety brought home to me, with the conviction of certainty,
the persuasion of its divine authority. Hell and its terrors were
always present to me, and she taught me that the wandering suggestions
of childish imagination, the recurrence of profane expressions heard
from others, and all forms of irreverent fantasies were the very
whisperings of the devil, to her, as to me, consequently, an
ever-present spirit, perpetually tempting me to repeat, and so make
myself responsible for the wickedness in them. I remember with great
vividness a caricature of Mrs. Trollope in a satirical illustrated
edition of her travels in America, representing her sitting in a
large armchair surrounded by negroes on their knees, one of whom was
represented as saying, "De Lord lub Missee Trollope," an expression
which my mother stigmatized as impious and not to be repeated, but
which perhaps for that very reason would recur to me in thought, and
which I set myself to pray against as the very whisper of the devil in
my ears. And naturally, the more I tried to put it out of my head, the
more it got fixed there, and it was long a source of great misery to
me that I could not keep the devil away from my ears. I was never
allowed a candle to go to bed with, and as I slept in the huge garret,
covering the whole house, I used to shut my eyes when I left the
kitchen, where we all sat in the evening, and groped my way to bed
without ever again opening my eyes until the next morning, for fear
of seeing the devil on my way. Awful spiritual presences haunted
me always in the dark, when I passed a churchyard or an empty and
solitary house. Such a house stood in the pasture where I used to
drive the cow, and when it happened that she had not come home at
nightfall, and I had to go to find her, the panic I endured from the
necessity of searching around this old house no one can imagine but a
boy naturally timid and accustomed to see ghosts and evil spirits
in the dusk. But I kept my fears to myself and always made a
conscientious search.

The peculiar ideas concerning conversion and regeneration, held in
common by all the branches of the adult-Baptist churches, were in my
mother's mind an obsession. Conviction of sin, repentance, the public
confession, profession of faith, and baptism were the necessary
degrees to regeneration, and, looking back on the tortures to which
my mother was subjected by those theological problems and the daily
anxiety she endured until each of us had passed through the gates of
salvation into the narrow way, I must wonder at that divine maternal
instinct which made her rejoice at my birth, as I know she did.

The whole community in which we lived, with the exception of a small
Episcopal church, had the same ideas of conversion and regeneration,
and a prominent feature in our social existence was the frequent
recurrence of the great revival meetings in which all the rude
eloquence of celebrated and powerful preachers, Baptist, Methodist,
and of other sects, was poured out on excited congregations. There
were "protracted meetings," or campaigns of prayer and exhortation,
lasting often a fortnight, at which all the resources of popular
theology were employed to awaken and maintain their audiences in a
state of frenzy and religious delirium, during which conviction of sin
was supposed to enter the heart more effectually. The tortures of hell
alternated with the delights of heaven, in imagery calculated to
drive the timid and conscientious young folks to insanity, at these
meetings, to which, once awakened, the subject of conviction went
three times a day, until the hysteria, the prolonged excitement so
produced, came as a sign of acceptance. As each new convert rose on
the "anxious seat[1]," where he or she went when the first feeling
of conviction came, and afterwards made the declaration of salvation
found, the shouts and cries of "Glory to God," the sobbing and groans
of the congregation were redoubled, and the exhortations of the
preacher renewed, to the still unconvicted to come forward to the
anxious seat where they would become subject to the concentrated
and personal prayers of the whole assembly. These meetings were the
substitutes for all other social diversions or emotions. There was a
revival preacher by the name of Knapp, whose lurid eloquence in this
vein made him famous, and whose imagery was equal in ghastliness to
anything that the Catholic Church could produce. I remember one of his
most dramatic bits, borrowed from a much earlier preacher, a passage
in his description of hell. In hell, he said, there was a clock,
which, instead of "tick," "tick," said, "Eternity," "Eternity," and
when the damned, weary of their tortures down in the depths, came up
to see what time it was, they heard the sentence of the clock, and
turned in despair to go down into the depths again as far as they
could.

[Footnote 1: The front line of seats next the pulpit, set apart for
those who had "found conviction."]

To these meetings my mother used to send me, giving me a holiday from
school for all the time the protracted meeting lasted. But conviction
never came. I was honest with myself, and though the frenzied and
ghastly exhortations harried my soul with dread, and I longed for the
coming of the ecstasy which was the recognizable sign of the grace
of God, I could not rise to the participation in it which the most
material and hysterical of the congregation enjoyed, and day after day
I went home saddened by the conviction that I was still one of the
unregenerate. The sign never came, but several years later I went
to make a visit to my brother Charles, who had then removed to
Plainfield, N.J., where he practiced medicine, and was one of the main
supports of the church in a community where the sect was large enough
to have a constant worship, which it never had in Schenectady. Here I
came under the influence of a beloved brother of my mother, one of the
most earnest and humble Christians I have ever known, and here were
gathered others of the denomination at a protracted meeting, at which
some of my friends of my own age became seriously inclined, and we
drifted together into the profession of Christian faith. But here
there was nothing of the ghastly terrors of the great revival
agitations. My uncle was a man of the world, had been all his early
life a sailor, and had taken late to what, in his experiences of men
and the vicissitudes of life, he considered the only reality, the duty
of making known to his fellows the importance of the spiritual life.
To fit himself for the ministry, he taught himself Hebrew and Greek
as well as Latin, and many years later was chosen as one of the New
Testament revisers for the American revision committee. But to him
the profession of religion was an act of the reason, not of revival
excitement, and in his ministrations he shunned carefully all the
frenzied exhortation of the revivalists. Associated with him in the
ministry and leading the meetings was another of the Sabbatarian
pastors, Elder Estee, a grave and earnest man like my uncle, who
inspired me with great confidence.

As I look back from the standpoint of one who reposes in the
evolutionary philosophy, in which the accidental and ecstatic
disappear, upon this phase of psychology, in which hysteria becomes
an element of moral reform, it seems to me worth while to record the
experience of one subjected to the forces which were counted as such
powerful aids to the spread of Christianity,--of one either under the
influences of the pomp of ceremony, the stimulus of music, the purely
sensuous stimulants to devotion,--or in the crude form of that
ecstatic exaltation in which the individual is carried into
a supersensuous state, in which perception, reason, and even
responsibility to a great extent are, if not suspended, so far made
abnormal that analysis becomes impossible. The term for this latter
condition amongst revivalists was "the power," and it was distinctly
a phenomenon sought for as the evidence of divine grace. The uncle of
whom I have spoken had once during his prior religious experience felt
the "power," and described it as an emotion which for the time
lifted him above the consideration of his surroundings, and left him
subsequently indifferent to that very curious shame which generally
accompanies the early yielding to the revivalist urgency of
acknowledging the necessity of change of heart,--a sense of having
made one's self ridiculous, which was, in my own and many other cases
in my knowledge, a powerful influence adverse to the "going forward"
at the meetings, or being understood to be "religious," as those were
considered who became serious in their attention at the meetings. This
was recognized by the preachers as the "fear of the world," and was
the object of attack of the most eloquent adjurations. Once carried
away by this hysteria, one had no longer any of this shame or fear of
the taunts of his irreligious companions, which was very heavy with a
nervous and sensitive boy like myself. But though I had all through my
attendance on the revival meetings earnestly desired to attain to that
exaltation, and considered it an indication of my graceless state,
that I was so insensible to the "spirit," which was another term for
the frenzy, I found it impossible to provoke it. It is a curious
subject, this usurpation of the reasoning faculties by the irrational,
which is permitted when religion becomes emotional, either in the
revolutionary condition of the revivalist or that of the conservative
and decorous ecclesiastical forms.

The movement at Plainfield, finding me in different surroundings from
those in my native place, and under the influence of deliberate and
sober-minded people, put the religious question under another light,
but, still under the persuasion, the natural result of my life's
training, that some special emotion or spiritual change, recognizable
as such, was an indispensable sign of the "change of heart" which was
desired, I was unhappy that no such sign appeared. I can distinctly
remember that the desire to satisfy my mother's passionate longing for
what she considered my regeneration was a large part of my desire to
meet the change, and, if I might, provoke it. I did not in spite of
my efforts really understand the view which my mother, in common with
most evangelical Christians, took of the work of regeneration. The
calm, rational conviction that all men are sinners, was clear enough
to me even in my youth, and the necessity of turning from what we
call "the world," to the cultivation of the higher and spiritual
development of character was equally clear, though not so in all
points was the distinction between the things condemned as worldly and
those approved as religious, the theatre, games of chance, dancing,
and frivolous amusements in general being all in the index of those
severe theologians.

As I remember my extreme youth I was, in spite of occasional
falsehoods,--mainly the consequence of the severity of the parental
discipline and the desire to escape the punishments I had to endure
when transgressing the sometimes whimsical injunctions laid on
me,--morbidly conscientious. I was absent-minded and often forgot
my duties, feeling, however, always the sting of remorse for any
omission, but, beyond taking apples or nuts for my own eating, I do
not think that I ever transgressed a commandment deliberately or
knowingly; I was, in fact, regarded by the boys of the neighborhood as
hopelessly "goody." I could not understand why the desire to go to a
dancing-school and dance should be a moral transgression, though
when I asked permission of my father to accept the offer of an
ex-dancing-master for whom I had been able to do some work in the
workshop, to give me preparatory lessons so that I might appear less
clumsy on entering the class, I was sternly brought to a sense of the
enormity of the matter by my father's replying, "William! I would
rather see you in your grave than in a dancing-school." I could only
understand that I had not been lifted by the divine grace from the
condition of total depravity in which I had been born, and I knew
that the preternatural indication of my redemption, which would be
recognized in the descent of the spirit in the form of the revival
frenzy, was wanting. I longed for it, prayed for it, and considered
myself forsaken of God because it would not come, but come it never
did, and it seemed to me that I was attempting to deceive both my
mother and the church when I finally yielded to the current which
carried along my young friends, and took the grace for granted, since,
as I thought, having asked the special prayers of the elders, men of
God, and powerful in influence with Him, I had a right to assume the
desired descent of the redeeming light on me, though I had never had
that peculiar manifestation of it which my companions seemed to have
experienced. I felt not a little twinge of conscience in assuming so
much, but I could not consent to prolong my mother's suspense and
grave concern at the exclusion of one of her children from the fold of
grace. I put down the doubts, accepted the conversion as logical
and real, and went forward with the others. I remember that at
the relation of our "experience" which followed as a rite on the
presentation of the convert for membership of the church, I was
the only one who told it calmly and audibly, all the others being
inaudible from their excitement and timidity, so that the presiding
elder was obliged to repeat to the audience what they said in his ear,
trembling, weeping with the emotion of the event. I felt as if I were
a hypocrite, and only the thought of my mother's satisfaction gave
me the courage to go through the ceremony. We were baptized, my
companions and I, in the little river in midwinter, after a partial
thaw, the blocks of ice floating by us in the water.

I must have been about ten or eleven when I went through this
experience, and I never got rid of the feeling of a certain unreality
in the whole transaction, but on the other hand I had the same feeling
of unreality in the system of theology which led to it. I tried to do
my best to carry out the line of spiritual duties imposed upon me. I
made no question that I was a bad boy, but the conception of total
depravity in the theological sense never gained a hold on me, and once
inside the church there seemed to be a certain safeguard thrown over
me. The sense of _ecstasy_ (which my Uncle William had experienced in
his religious relation, the "power" of the revivalists) I have since
known in conditions of extraordinary mental exaltation, and understand
it as a mental phenomenon, as the momentary extension of the
consciousness of the individual beyond the limitations of the bodily
sense--a being snatched away from the body and made to see and feel
things not describable in terms of ordinary experience, but in my
religious evolution it had no place, then or since.

The intellectual slowness of which I have spoken continued through
all these years. I had left the dame's school, where the rule of long
division proved my _pons asinorum_, and went to a man's school, where
I earned my schooling by making the fires and sweeping the schoolroom,
and here I learned some Latin and the higher rules in arithmetic by
rote, always with the reputation of a stupid boy, good in the snowball
fights of the intermission, when we had two snow forts to capture
and defend; in running foot-races, the speediest, and in backhand
wrestling, the strongest, but mentally hopeless. All this period of
my life seems dreary and void, except when I got to nature, and the
delight of my hours in the fields and woods is all that remains to
me of a childhood tormented by burdens of conscience laid on me
prematurely, and by a domestic discipline the severity of which,
with all the reverence and gratitude I bear my parents, I can hardly
consider otherwise than gravely mistaken and disastrous to me, though
my mother's discipline has never made me an enemy of the rod for
children. My own experience as child and parent convinces me that an
inexorable, though mild, physical punishment is the only remedy for
the obstinacy of certain fractious child natures, in the years before
reason operates, and for the assurance of necessary discipline in
families.

The incessant Bible lessons, filling my mind with indigestible
conceptions of life present and to come, mysteries for the
contemplation of a philosopher, not for a boy of ten; the recognition
of my total depravity, as manifested in the trivial transgressions of
a thoughtless child, to whom life had hardly yet offered a duty to
fulfill or transgress; the terrible gloom of this Puritan horizon, on
which no light showed me promise of better things, only to be hoped
for through a process of repentance and atonement for the sins of
Adam, the fitness and method of which process were far beyond my
capacity to comprehend, as beyond that of any child,--all these things
made my intellectual life so sombre that I can but regard the long
interval of intellectual apathy as a fortunate provision against some
form of mental malady consequent on the morbid development of my early
childhood.

Our winters were long and hard, and I remember the snow falling on
Thanksgiving Day (the last Thursday in November) and not thawing again
until the beginning of March, and that, in the house where I was born,
we had the fall of snow so heavy that we could tunnel the path to the
barn, the drift covering the door of the house. The coming of spring
was my constant preoccupation through the winter, and my joy was
intense at the first swelling of the buds, the coming color in the
willow twigs, which ushered in the changes of spring; then the
catkins, the willow leaves, and the long rains which carried off
the snow, all welcome as daylight after a weary night, because they
restored me to the forests and the wildflowers, the fields and the
streams; and for miles around I knew every sunny spot where came the
first anemones, hepaticas, and, above all, the trailing arbutus, joy
of my childhood, the little white violets, their yellow sisters, then
the "dog-tooth violet," and a long list of flowers whose names I have
forgotten long ago.

The perennial delight of this return of springtime was the great
feature of my life, and then began the excursions into the forests
around us, and the succession of sights and sounds, the order of the
unfolding of the leaves, from the willow to the oak, the singing of
the frogs in the marshes, and the birds in the copses and fields (for
in the great woods there are few singing birds). I knew them all, and
when and where to hear them. The bluebird, or blue robin, as it was
called in our neighborhood, was the first, and he assured us that
spring had really come with a plaintive song, the sweetest to memory
of all nature's voices; then the American robin (the migratory
thrush), a bold, cheery note, full of summer life; and after those the
chief was the bobolink, singing up into the sky like the skylark, and
with which we connected the ripening of the strawberry, the merriest
and most rollicking of all bird songs, as that of the bluebird was the
tenderest. Then came the hermit thrush, heard only in the depth of
the forest, shy and remote in his life and nesting, and the
whip-poor-will, in the evening. Each was a new leaf turned over in my
book of life, the reading of which was my only happiness. What else,
or more, could be expected of an existence hedged in by the terrors of
eternity, the hauntings of an inevitable condemnation, unless I could
obtain some mysterious renovation, only attainable through an act of
divine grace which no human merit could entitle me to, and which I
tried in vain to win the benediction of? And how dreary seemed the
heaven I was set to win--no birds, no flowers, no fields or forests,
only the eternal continuation of the hymn-singing and protracted
meetings, in which, in our system, consisted the glorification of
God, which was the end and aim of our existences! I wonder how many
religious parents remember the misery of child life under such
influences.

The struggles of conscience through which I went in those days can be
imagined by no one, and I can hardly realize them myself, except by
recalling little incidents which show what the pressure must have
been. I have mentioned an escapade of this period, connected with
the last flogging my father gave me, but of which that was only the
secondary cause, determining the moment but not the movement. It was
a matter of conscience at bottom. My mother had, when I was about six
years old, taken a little octoroon girl of three, the illegitimate
daughter of a quadroon in our neighborhood, with the intention
of bringing her up as a servant. The child was quick-witted and
irrepressible, and disputes began between us as soon as she felt at
home. I suppose she must have been inclined to impertinence, for she
had to be whipped, and as at her age no difference of condition was
evident to her, she became a severe trial to my equanimity. Every
outbreak of temper induced by her conduct toward me became occasion
of a period of penitence, for I was taught that such outbreaks were
sinful, and as neither had I the amount of self-control that I needed
to overlook the provocations she gave, nor had she the power of
understanding the position, the transgressions that my conscience had
to bear up under became an intolerable load.

At this juncture came the brutal and as I felt most unmerited flogging
of which I have told the story earlier: this precipitated a decision
which had been slowly forming from my conscientious worries. I
determined to go away from home, and seek a state of life in which I
could maintain my spiritual tranquillity. I discussed the subject with
a playmate of my age, the son of a gardener living near us, and, as
his father had even a stronger propensity to the rod than mine,
we sympathized on that ground and agreed to run away and work our
passages on some ship to a land where we could live in a modified
Robinson Crusoe manner,--not an uninhabited land, but one where we
could earn, by fishing and similar devices, enough to live. I had been
employed for a few months before in carrying to and fro the students'
clothes for a washerwoman, one of the neighbors, and had earned three
or four dollars which my mother had, as usual with any trifle I
earned, put into the fund for the daily expenses. I do not know how it
was with the older boys, but for me the rule was rigid--what I could
earn was a part of the household income. I inwardly rebelled against
this, but to no effect, so I never had any pocket-money. I submitted,
as any son of my mother would have done at my age or have given
a solid reason why not; but on this occasion, when money was
indispensable to that expedition on which so much depended, I quietly
reasserted my right to my earnings, and took the wages I had received,
from the drawer where they were kept. My companion had no money
at all, and thus my trifle had to pay for both as far as it would
go,--fortunately, perhaps, as it shortened the duration of the
expedition.

We went by train to Albany, where we took deck passage on a towing
steamer for New York. The run was longer than that of a passenger
steamer, so that the New York police who were warned to look out
for us by the post, had given us up when we arrived and search was
diverted in another direction. We arrived at New York with my funds
already nearly exhausted by the food expenses _en route_, and my
companion's courage had already given out--he was homesick and
discouraged, and announced his determination to return home. My own
courage, I can honestly say, had not failed me,--I was ready for
hardship, but to go alone into a strange world damped my ascetic ardor
and confounded all the plans I had made. I yielded, and with the last
few "York shillings"[1] in my pocket bargained for a deck passage
without board on a barge back to Albany. It was midsummer, and the
sleeping on some bags of wool which formed the better part of the
deck-load gave me no inconvenience, and the want of provisions of any
sort was remedied as well as might be by a pile of salt codfish which
was the other part of the deck-load, and which was the only food we
had until our arrival at Albany, which we reached at night after a
voyage of twenty-four hours. We slept under a boat overturned by the
shore that night until the rising tide drove us out, when we decided
to take the road back to Schenectady on foot, through a wide pine
forest which occupied the intervening country, a distance of about
sixteen miles. Passing on the way a stable in which there was nobody,
not even a beast, we turned in to sleep away the darkness, and I
remember very well what a yielding bed a manger filled with salt gave
me. With the dawn we resumed the journey, and by the way ate our fill
of whortleberries, with which the forest abounded.

[Footnote 1: 12½ cents each.]

The joy of my mother at our unhoped-for arrival--for she had received
no news of us since our departure--is easily imagined, but for me the
failure of all my plans for an ascetic and more spiritual life was
made more bitter by the fact that the little octoroon, who had heard
read the letter which I left for my mother, giving the motives for my
self-exile, had repeated it to all the neighborhood, so that I not
only had failed, but became the butt of the jokes of the boys of the
neighborhood, who already held a pique against me for my serious ways
and my habit of rebuking certain vices amongst them. I was jeered at
as the boy "who left his mother to seek religion," and this made life
for a time almost intolerable. But it was in part compensated for by
the change in the situation in the household. It was clear that I
had ceased to be the boy I used to be, and that I was to be taken
seriously, and reasoned with rather than flogged. I had escaped from
the pupa state of existence. But what I still look back to with
surprise was my unflinching confidence in the future to which I
committed myself in this escapade. I thought I was right, and that the
aspiration for spiritual freedom, which was the chief motive of my
leaving home, was certain to be supported by Providence, to whom I
looked with serene complacence. If my companion had not deserted me I
should not have turned back, but his defection destroyed all my plans.
In several of my maturer ventures, I can recognize the same mental
condition of serene indifference to danger while doing what I thought
my duty, owing, perhaps, in a great measure to ignorance or incapacity
to realize the danger, but also largely to ingrained confidence in an
overruling Providence which took account of my steps and would carry
me through.



CHAPTER III

AN AMERICAN EDUCATION


Whether on account of the escapade related in the preceding chapter
or from influences of which I knew, and still know, nothing, it was
decided not long after that I should go to New York to attend a public
school there and live with my eldest brother, who, being twenty-five
years older than myself, and childless, had always treated me with an
indulgence which was perhaps due in part to the rigor of my father's
rule, and in part to his fondness for me, of which I retain some early
recollections in his annual visits home. My brother's wife, a fellow
townswoman of ours, and a marriage-convert to the Seventh Day Baptist
Church, was one of the most disagreeable persons I have ever had to
deal with, and hysterical to a degree of occasional insanity. She had
adopted the severities of our Puritanic system with aggravations. The
Sabbath under her rule became a day of preatonement for the sins I was
foreordained to commit. Dinner, as was the general custom in those
days, was at noon, but on Saturday I had none till I had committed to
heart and recited a portion of Scripture, and as the mental apathy
of the period still weighed on me, the task of the Seventh Day was a
sarcastic comment on the divine rest, in commemoration of which it was
supposed to be instituted, and it made me grateful for the Sunday,
which I generally passed in mechanical occupations in the workshop of
my third brother, Paul, the foreman of the department in which the
minor articles of the works were made, steam-gauges, models of
inventions, etc., and as I had my share of the family manual
dexterity, I found interest enough in the workshop. As my brothers
always observed the Sabbath rigidly, they attracted around them a few
of the New England mechanics who were "Sabbath-keepers" and mostly
related to us, and so we had a small congregation and a church of our
way of thinking.

The school to which I was sent was one of those founded by the Public
School Society, a voluntary association of well-to-do citizens, who,
in the absence of any municipal initiative, had organized themselves
for the encouragement and support of primary education. As they
were originally excluded from the management of the schools, the
politicians, finding this a new field of operations and partisan
activity, presently established the rival system of the municipal
schools called "ward schools." At that time the political intrigues of
the Catholic Church for the control of the public school system had
just begun. The Public School Society had been organized for the free
and non-sectarian education of all children unable to meet the expense
of education in the private schools, and received subsidies from the
municipality. Not only were all children under sixteen admitted to
these schools without any fees, but the books, stationery, and all
other material necessary were furnished gratuitously, and those who
were shoeless were even provided with shoes, the only requisites
being cleanliness and regular attendance. The direction was rigidly
non-sectarian. The trustees were unpaid, and they comprised many of
the leading citizens interested in popular education. They had built
for their service sixteen schoolhouses in New York, and in each of
these there were on an average a thousand children. The schoolhouses,
of three stories, had a primary department for such children as were
too young to be taught their letters or were not yet able to read and
write, and to them the basement was given, the second story to the
older girls, and the upper to the boys. The teaching for the boys'
department was limited to the elements of arithmetic, elementary
algebra, astronomy, and geometry, but within these limits the
education was thorough, and all who went through it were qualified for
places in offices or counting-rooms. The day was always opened by
the reading of Scripture and prayer by the principal or one of the
assistants, and this practice was made the ground of attack by the
Catholic politicians, who objected to the Protestant Bible, all the
school-books being already expurgated of every passage to which the
bishops objected.

As our assistant principal was a Catholic, and often had to read the
chapter, there could have been little harm done even to a Catholic
pupil, but the political pressure was sufficient to induce the
corporation of the city to adopt the political or "ward school"
system, controlled by the politicians, and the new schools, one of
which was or was to be established in each ward of the city, began to
run an active opposition to the society schools, which they eventually
drove out of existence.

At the time I was in the school, the interference of politics had just
begun to make itself felt in the schools, but the corporation had not
the courage to introduce its system on a large scale by supplanting
_en bloc_ the society schools, which might have made a political
revolt; the Irish Catholic influence was still a feeble one, and the
population at large was hardly aware of its tendency, but as the
ward schools were gradually brought into active competition with the
society schools the children were drawn off from the latter by various
inducements and pressure on the parents. Each of our schools had four
paid teachers--the principal, an assistant, and a junior and a senior
monitor; and the elder pupils were employed in the instruction of the
younger and in the preservation of order in school and in the school
yard during the intermissions in which the gymnastics were enforced.
My mental apathy must have been still very profound, for I remember
that it often happened that when a question which had passed other
pupils came to me in the class, the senior monitor used to address me,
"Well, stupid, what do you say?" I evidently was the most stupid boy
in the class--nothing seemed to penetrate my mental dullness, but,
having grown tall and strong for my age, I was often made "yard
monitor," to keep order during the physical training.

There was a gang of young ruffians, street boys, who used to hang
around the school gates and maltreat the stragglers and even the boys
in the yard, if the gate was left open, and I remember one day three
or four of them invading the school-yard after I had dismissed the
boys to go upstairs at the end of the intermission, thinking that they
would have a fine game with the monitor. One made a pretext to quarrel
with me, and, gripping me round the body, called to his companions to
go and get some stones to pound me on the head with, this being the
approved manner of the young roughs of New York. Finding that I could
not extricate myself from his grip, I dragged him to the wall, and,
catching him by the ears, beat his head against the rough stones until
he dropped insensible, when, to the astonishment of his comrades,
instead of stamping on him and finishing him at once, I ran upstairs
as fast as my legs could carry me, so that when they came with their
stones they had only their champion to carry out.

On the holidays there were generally stone-fights between the boys of
our quarter and one of the adjoining quarters, and I shall carry to
my grave the scars on my head of cuts received in one of these field
combats, in which I refused to follow my party in flight, and took the
onslaught of the whole vanguard of the enemy, armed with stones,
and had my head pounded yellow, being only saved from worse by the
intervention of the men of the vicinity. This fight gave me the
unmerited reputation of courage and fighting power, and I was
thereafter unmolested by the young roughs, though, in fact, I was
timid to a degree and only stood my ground from nervous obstinacy; I
never provoked a quarrel, and only revolted against a bully when
the position became intolerable. I can remember the amazement of a
companion older than myself, who had been in the habit of bullying me
freely, until one day he went too far and I took him by the collar and
shook and swung him till he was dizzy and begged for mercy, for of
downright pugilistics I knew nothing, and a deliberate blow in the
face with my fist in cold blood was a measure too brutal to enter into
my mind.

The dreariness of this portion of my life was beyond description. The
oppression of my sister-in-law at home, the severities of the teachers
at school, and the exclusion from the influences of nature, in which
I had so long lived without restraint, resulted in an attack of
nostalgia which, when the coming of the first wildflowers brought it
to a crisis, induced my brother to send me home.

My brother was attached to me, but the jealousy of his wife towards
anybody who seemed to have any influence over him made it impossible
for him to show any feeling even to me, for it brought on furious
attacks of hysteria, to appease which he had sometimes to resort to
humiliating devices. One day she became so excited that she fell into
an extreme prostration and declared that she was dying. She had every
indication, indeed, of approaching dissolution, and made her last
dispositions, when my brother Charles, who was the family physician,
seeing that the danger was real, assured her husband that unless some
diversion of her humor was effected she would die. He advised
exciting her jealousy, and her husband, accordingly, as if taking
her dispositions for his conduct after her death, asked her what she
thought of his marrying, in that contingency, a certain lady, whose
name he mentioned, whereupon she rose in her bed in such a rage at the
suggestion (the woman being her especial detestation) that she threw
off all the symptoms of illness, and the next day went about the house
as usual. This cure proved a grave misfortune to the whole family.

In spite of my aversion I was sent back to New York the next autumn
for another winter's schooling. I landed from the steamer at the foot
of Cortlandt Street two or three days after a great fire in New York,
and I saw the ruins still smoking and the firemen playing on them.
My baggage--a biscuit box, with my scanty wardrobe and a bag of
hickory-nuts for my city cousins--I carried on my shoulders and walked
the length of the city, my brother living in what was then farther New
York, in Seventh Street, near the East River. At that time Fourteenth
Street was the extreme limit of the city's growth, except for a few
scattering residences. Beyond, and, on the East River side, even most
of what lay beyond Seventh Street, was unreclaimed land. I sailed my
toy boats on the salt marshes where Tompkins Square now is, and I used
to shoot, botanize, and hunt for crystals all over the island beyond
Thirty-Second Street, the land being sparsely inhabited. I discovered
a little wild cactus growing freely amongst the rocks, and carried
a handkerchief full of it home, getting myself well pricked by the
spines, but to my botanical enthusiasm this was nothing in view of the
discovery. Only here and there patches of arable land maintained small
farmhouses, but the greater part of the surface of Manhattan Island
was composed of a poor grazing land, interspersed with rolling ledges
of bare granite, on which were visible what were then known as
"diluvial scratches," which my brother Charles, who was an ardent
naturalist, explained to me as the grooves made by the irruption of
the deluge, which carried masses of stone across the broad ledges and
left these scratches, then held widely as testimony to the actuality
of the great deluge of Genesis. I think that we had to wait for
Agassiz to show us that the "diluvial scratches" were really glacial
abrasions, caused by the great glacier which came down the valley of
the Hudson and went to sea off Sandy Hook. At this time my brother was
making conchology his special study, and many holidays we spent on the
harbor, dredging for shells, and great was our joy when he discovered
a new species, which was named after him by the Lyceum of Natural
History of New York.

The following year my fifth brother, Jacob, on leaving college, took
charge of a school in the centre of New York State, built by the
Sabbatarian community at large, in De Ruyter, a village of which many
of the inhabitants were Sabbatarians, and it was decided that I should
go there to follow my studies in preparation for college. I was to
"board out" a debt which an uncle owed to my eldest brother, and
which was uncollectible in any other way, and there I made my first
acquaintance with semi-independent life, exchanging a home for a
dormitory and a boarding-house. My uncle was to supply also my
bedding, the academy being provided with bedsteads; but he was a
heedless man, and I remember that I had to sleep six weeks on the
bed-cords, with my wearing apparel as my only covering, before he
awoke to the fact that I had a prepaid claim on him for mattress and
bedding. But we were on the edge of a great forest, and in the almost
primeval woodland I found compensation for many discomforts, and what
time my tasks spared me was spent wandering there. The persistent
apathy which had oppressed me for so many years still refused to lift,
and my stupidity in learning was such that my brother threatened to
send me home as a disgrace to the family. I had taken up Latin again,
algebra, and geometry, and, though I was up by candlelight in the
morning, and rarely put my books away till after ten at night except
for meals, it was impossible for me to construe half of the lesson
in Virgil, and the geometry was learned by rote. I at length gave up
exercise to gain time for study, and my despairing struggles were
misery. I was then fourteen, and in the seventh year of this darkness,
and it seemed to me hopeless.

What happened I know not, but about the middle of the first term the
mental fog broke away suddenly, and before the term ended I could
construe the Latin in less time than it took to recite it, and the
demonstrations of Euclid were as plain and clear as a fairy story. My
memory came back so completely that I could recite long poems after
a single reading, and no member of the class passed a more brilliant
examination at the end of the term than I. At the end of the second
term I could recite the whole of Legendre's geometry, plane and
spherical, from beginning to end, without a question, and the class
examination was recorded as the most remarkable which the academy
had witnessed for many years. I have never been able to conceive an
explanation of this curious phenomenon, which I record only as of
possible interest to some one interested in psychology. Unfortunately,
the academy failed to meet the expenses, and at the end of my second
term the students dispersed to their homes, I going with great regret,
for I enjoyed intensely this life on the edge of a large natural
forest, through which ran a trout brook, and in which such wild
woodland creatures as still survived our civilization were tolerably
abundant. Amongst my fellow-students at De Ruyter was Charles Dudley
Warner, with whom I contracted a friendship which survives in
activity, though our paths in life have been since widely separated.
I recall him as a sensitive, poetical boy,--almost girlish in his
delicacy of temperament,--and showing the fine _esprit_ which has
made him one of the first of our humorists. His "Being a Boy" is a
delightful and faithful record of the existence of a genuine
New England boy, which will remain to future generations as a
paleontological record when the race of them is extinct, if indeed it
be not so already.

Returning to Schenectady, I found that the family had begun to
discuss the future of my career, which had arrived at the point of
divergences. My father, who had no opinion of the utility of advanced
education for boys in our station, was tenacious in his intention to
have me in his workshop, where he needed more apprentices, but my
mother was still more obstinate in hers that I should have the
education; and in the decision the voices of my brothers were too
potent not to hold the casting vote. In the stern, Puritanical manner
of the family, I had been more or less the _enfant gâté_ of all its
members, except my brother Paul, the third of my brothers, who, coming
into the knowledge of domestic affairs at the time when the family was
at its greatest straits, had expressed himself bitterly at my birth,
over the imprudence of our parents' increasing their obligations when
they were unable to provide for the education of the children they had
already, and had always retained for me a little of the bitterness of
those days. On the whole, the vote of the family council was for the
education. My own wishes were hardly consulted, for I differed from
both opinions, having an intense enthusiasm for art, to which I wished
to devote myself.

The collective decision, in which my father and myself were alike
overruled, was that I should go to Union College, in Schenectady,
as the collegiate education was supposed to be a facilitation for
whatever occupation I might afterwards decide on. This was, so far as
I was concerned, a fatal error, and one of a kind far too common in
New England communities, where education is estimated by the extent
of the ground it covers, without relation to the superstructure to
be raised on it. I had always been a greedy reader of books, and
especially of histories and the natural sciences,--everything in the
vegetable or animal world fascinated me,--and I had no ambition for
academic honors, nor did I ever acquire any, but I passionately
desired a technical education in the arts, and the decision of the
family deferred the first steps in that direction for years, and
precisely those years when facility of hand is most completely
acquired and enthusiasm against difficulties is strongest--the years
when, if ever, the artist is made.

That one of the gravest difficulties in our modern civilized life
is the excessive number of liberally educated young men whose
professional ambitions are, and can be, given no outlet, is now well
recognized, and of these, many no doubt, like myself, are diverted
from a natural bent to follow one which has no natural leading or
sequence. It was very possible for a clever man three hundred years
ago to learn all that science could show him without interference with
the acquisition of the special knowledge required to fit him for the
attainment of eminence in a technical study, or the technical mastery
in the working it out, but now the range of a liberal education is
so great that those who are required to take respectable rank in a
specialty must devote themselves exclusively to it, during the years
in which alone technical mastery is possible of acquirement. There
will always be many to whom the devotion to study for study's sake is
invincible, but the ranks of the brain-workers are so overcrowded that
it is a great pity to force into them a man or woman who would be
content to be a worker in another and humbler line, especially in
those of the manual occupations which bring their happiness in the
following of them. In my case the result of the imposed career was a
disaster; I was diverted from the only occupation to which I ever had
a recognizable calling, and ultimately I drifted into journalism,
as the consequence of a certain literary facility developed by the
exercises of the college course. The consequences were the graver that
I was naturally too much disposed to a vagrant life; and the want of
a dominant interest in my occupation led to indulgence, on every
occasion that offered in later life, of the tendency to wander. I came
out of the experience with a divided allegiance, enough devotion to
letters to make it a satisfaction to occupy myself with them, but
too much interest in art to be able to abandon it entirely. Before
entering college, art was a passion, but when, at the age of twenty,
the release gave me the liberty to throw myself into painting, the
finer roots of enthusiasm were dead, and I became only a dilettante,
for the years when one acquires the mastery of hand and will which
make the successful artist were past.

It was decided that I should continue my preparation for college in
the Lyceum of my native town, a quaint octagonal building in which the
students were seated in two tiers of stalls, the partitions between
which were on radii drawn from a centre on the master's desk, so that
nothing the pupil did escaped his supervision. The larger boys, some
of whom were over sixteen, were in a basement similarly arranged with
a single tier of desks, and I earned my instruction by supervising
this room. I had here full authority so far as the maintenance of
order was concerned and kept it, though some of the pupils were
older than myself. I remember that one of them, about my own age and
presumed strength, but himself convinced of his superiority, repeated
some act which I had reprimanded him for, and as I knew that to allow
it to pass unpunished was to put an end to my authority and position,
yet did not feel competent or authorized to give him a regular
flogging, I caught him by the collar and jerked him into the middle of
the room, setting him down on the floor with force enough to bewilder
him a little, and ordered him to sit there till I released him, and
his surprise was such that he actually did not move till I told him
to. I met no attempt to put my authority at defiance after that. A
schoolfellow here and classmate in college was Chester A. Arthur,
afterward President of the United States, a brilliant Hellenist, and
one of the best scholars and thinkers in the class.

There were two associate principals at the head of the school, one for
the classics, and the other for mathematics. Of the former I became
a favorite on account of the facility with which I got on in his
branches, and when the year was up I passed easily the examinations
for entrance into college, and by his advice entered in the freshman
year, though fairly well prepared to enter the sophomore with slight
conditions. He was anxious that I should do him credit in college. But
long before the term was out I found that the routine gave me hardly
an occupation. I had already done all the mathematics of the year at
De Ruyter, and the Latin and Greek came so easy that I found myself
idle most of my time. I decided to try a fresh examination in order to
gain a year by reëntering as a sophomore. The faculty declared such a
thing unprecedented and inadmissible, to which I replied that I would
then go to another college and enter, quite oblivious of the fact that
I had neither the means nor the consent of my family to leave its
protection and go to another city. The classical principal of the
Lyceum, who was also a tutor in the college, did what he could to
dissuade me, but I persisted and offered myself for examination, and
found him on the examining committee. He was really fond of me, and in
my own interest wanted me to go through college with honors, but this
was to me of trivial importance, compared with the abbreviation by a
year of the captivity of college life. He punished me by putting me to
read for examination a passage of Juvenal, which I had never opened,
as it did not come in the course even of the sophomores, but I passed
fairly well on it, and he, with a little irritation, gave me the
certificate, saying that it was not for what I did, but for what
he knew me to be capable of. So, conditioned by some trivial
supplementary examinations on subjects which I do not remember, I went
up a class.

The constitution of Union College, like most of the American schools
of the highest grade at that time, differed from that of the English
model in some respects very widely. The "University" of Union was
completed by collegated schools for medicine, divinity, law, and
technical education. The medical and law schools of Union were at
Albany, the capital of New York State. Our college buildings were
three--one, West College, in the town, for the freshman and sophomore
classes, and two on the hill above the town, North and South colleges,
for the juniors and seniors. As a large proportion of the students
were young men to whom the expenses of the education were a serious
matter, many prepared themselves at home to enter the junior class, so
that a class which only numbered a score as freshmen, often graduated
a hundred. Others, again, used to spend the winter term and vacations
in teaching in the rural or "district" schools to pay the expenses
of the other terms, and the majority of the graduates were of these
classes of men, often adults on entering, so that the class gathered
seriousness as it went on.

The freshmen and sophomores, delegated to the care of the junior
professors and tutors, indulged in many of the escapades of juvenility
for which university life in most countries is distinguished, and were
continually brought under the inflictions of college discipline, and
now and then some one was expelled. The favorite tricks of getting a
horse or cow into the recitation rooms, fastening the tutors in their
rooms just before the class hours, tying up, or stealing, the
bell which used to wake the students and call them to prayers or
recitations, with rare and perilous excursions into the civic domain,
or a fire alarm caused by setting fire to the outhouses, which always
brought down on us the wrath of the firemen, varied the monotony of
the student life, as everywhere else; but as I roomed at home for the
first year I never had part in these escapades, and in my sophomore
winter I took a district school in one of the valleys tributary to
that of the Mohawk, in which the town lies.

The community in which the school was situated was almost exclusively
composed of Scotch Cameronians, of whom several families were the
descendants of a then still vigorous patriarch of the sternest type of
that creed. It was necessary to pass a special examination to get the
State certificate necessary to teach a district school, and this I had
passed, but had still to undergo the questioning of the trustees of
the district, canny and cautious beyond the common. The wages for such
a school were twelve dollars a month and "board around," i.e. staying
at the houses of the parents a week for each pupil in turn, beginning
with those in best estate, so that, as the school had never less than
twenty or thirty pupils, the poorer families were never called on. One
of the boys intended to go to college, and his father was willing to
pay a special contribution to secure a teacher of Latin, and this
brought my wages up to sixteen dollars a month. But the cautious Scots
urged a conditional engagement,--a trial of one month,--a condition
which, as I might have anticipated, would end the engagement with
the month, considering the composition of the district and the usual
difference of views among the people. The two most advanced and oldest
of the pupils belonged to families bound together by the most cordial
jealousy which a petty community could inspire, and one of these was
my Latin pupil. His rival was a lazy student and a turbulent scholar,
with whom I had difficulties from insubordination from the beginning.
As, however, I had adopted the rule of depending entirely on moral
suasion in the government of the school and refused to flog, but
instead offered prizes for good behavior and studiousness at my own
expense for each week, my confidence in the better qualities of human
nature betrayed me from the beginning. The prizes went to stimulate
the jealousies between the two leaders, and the only punishment I
would inflict, that of sending the pupil home for disobedience, made
domestic difficulties.

The first week of the month I was boarded in the family of our
patriarch, whose grandsons furnished a number of the pupils, and the
life they led me was not one to make me regret the termination of the
engagement. I was awaked while it was still night to join in family
prayers, which were of a severity of which I had never dreamed. First
a long selection of Psalms was read, then another long one sung, and
then a prayer which, as I noticed by the clock, varied from ten to
twelve minutes, through which, being still drowsy, I slept, being
awakened by the family rising from their knees. This was the
invariable routine gone through twice a day. As in our own family,
with the exception of the Saturday morning family service, the
devotions were always those of the closet, this tedium of godliness
was a serious infliction. I was waked out of sound sleep, and bored
through, before breakfast, by vain repetitions lasting on an average
half an hour, after having endured the same for another half-hour
before being allowed to go to bed. No escape was permitted even to the
ill-willing, and it may easily be imagined that this addendum to
the annoyances of my school hours made the position of the
district schoolmaster one for which sixteen dollars a month was no
compensation.

The conflicts in the school, if they gave me less tedium, were all
the more acute. My Latin scholar was a lad who meant to profit by his
opportunities and devoted himself to his studies, and, naturally, had
a most cordial collaboration on my part, while the son of the rival
citizen was both lazy and refractory, so that, with my system of
inflicting no corporal punishments, he got none of the weekly prizes,
and got such milder punishments as could be inflicted. To tell the
truth, the pupils who were refractory to my system were few in
proportion, and the school was a pleasanter place than if the rod had
been always in hand, as in the days of my boyhood. But the month of
trial did not elapse without signs of a storm brewing in the valley.
My novel system of sparing the rod and spoiling the children could not
fail to provoke the disapproval of the orthodox, and the head of the
conspiracy was the father of my lazy schoolboy.

I left the valley for a visit home, on the last week of the month on
Friday night, and started back on foot, a walk of fifteen or twenty
miles, on Sunday afternoon, too late for convenience as I discovered
in the event. That portion of the valley of the Mohawk, a broad and
level plain, is bounded on the west by a range or ranges of hills
divided by deep valleys running north and south, perpendicular to the
course of the river, and in one of these valleys lay the township of
Princeton, in the middle of which was the schoolhouse, the farms of
the community being scattered over the hills around, and some of them
at distances of a mile or two. It was the head of the glen, and the
lay of the land was almost that of an amphitheatre, cannily chosen by
the father of the colony, the old Cameronian whose prayers and long
services grated so on my New England Puritanism. Before I turned out
of the Mohawk valley into that of Princeton, the sun had set, with all
the signs of a coming snowstorm, which broke on me suddenly in the
glen with a furious north wind tearing down the gorge and drifting the
snow as it fell, so that before I had gone a mile with the snow in my
face, it was almost impossible to force my way against snow and wind.
I wore a long Spanish cloak, such as was much in vogue then and there;
wrapping my face in it so that only my eyes were free, I fought on,
sometimes only able to walk backward from the cutting cold against my
face and eyes, making very slow progress; but it was Sunday night, and
the school must be opened at 9 A.M. on Monday. The snow gathered in
drifts often up to my middle, with bare, wind-swept spaces between,
and these drifts at times were crusted with wind-packed snow too hard
to be waded through, and I was obliged to break the snow crust by
throwing myself at full length on it. In this way I struggled on till
ten at night, when I came to a solitary house by the roadside, at
which I stopped to ask a night's lodging, for I could fight the
weather no longer. The house was dark and the family asleep, but I was
admitted. The bed given me was as cold as the snow outside, but it was
luxury compared to some of the quarters I had in my school district.
At one of the houses at which I had to take my turn, I remember that
there had been, as an afterthought of the house architect, a door
cut between the room I slept in and the farmyard, but, whether from
indifference or inability, the door had never been put in, and a
curtain which supplied its place and was intended to keep the snow
out, did it so incompletely that I found in the morning--after a snowy
night--that a heavy drift had formed between the opening and the bed.
In this room, too, I shared the bed of the hired man, who was paid the
same wages as mine, and in the eyes of the community was therefore in
every way my equal.

On reaching the schoolhouse the next morning, I found gathered there
not only a part of the scholars, but some of their parents,--including
the trustees of the school,--and was not long in learning that my
absence had been made use of by the disaffected of the district to
depose me. We had a brief debate, not on the question whether I should
go or not, but on the grounds of disaffection. The father of my lazy
boy was, of course, the spokesman, and it seemed as if he resented his
son's not being flogged, for want of discipline and partiality were
the burden of his complaint. This gave me ample opportunity for a
statement of my principles in instruction, and to say that his son was
the laziest and most stupid boy in the school, and that instruction
was wasted on him, and to contrast his progress and qualities
with those of my Latin boy. It was malicious, I admit, but it was
successful in infuriating the debate, and as I saw by the gathering
that the majority had decided to avail themselves of the month's
conditional engagement to dismiss me, I was quite indifferent to the
discord I left behind me.

"It's all very fine for you," said my antagonist, whose Scotch I will
not attempt to reproduce, "to sit up there on your desk and get your
sixteen dollars a month, as if you were a hard-working man,"--to which
I replied, "Perhaps you think you can come up here and earn it." As I
was quite indifferent to the dismissal, and only did not avail myself
of the privilege of going because I always had an obstinate way of
sticking to a thing I had begun till it was finished, I made no
attempt to conciliate, and it was with neither surprise nor serious
annoyance that I received my notice of dismissal. The only things I
had enjoyed, indeed, during the month, had been the walks through
the dense forest from the farmhouses to the schoolhouse in the quiet
sunshine of the winter mornings. The woods were more natural and older
than those around my home, and there was a freshness in the early
day which I never had realized so fully as in these morning walks to
school, and I shall always remember the snowy silence of that forest,
the first, on that scale, I had become familiar with.

But the poverty of the lives of these prosperous farmers was a
revelation even to me, accustomed as I was to a domestic simplicity
which would surprise modern Americans of any degree. New books were
a luxury none of them indulged in; beyond the Bible and two or three
volumes of general information, there was no reading except a weekly
newspaper, and the diet was such as I had never been used to, even at
De Ruyter. But for the vegetables of the farm, sailors at sea would
fare better than these landsmen. In later years I boarded with one of
the farmers in an adjoining valley, where I was engaged in painting a
cascade of great beauty, and for the six weeks I lived in the family I
saw only two articles of animal food--salt mackerel for breakfast and
salt pork for dinner. The narrowness of intellectual range and the
bigotry--political and religious--prevailing amongst them was such as
I had in no experience ever encountered, even in the "straitest sect
of the Pharisees," the Seventh Day Baptist Church of my youth. In the
community in which I had grown, there was always the early influence
of the sea to widen the range of thought and sympathy, but here, in
the narrow valley to which the farmer was confined, neither nature nor
religion seemed to have any liberating or liberalizing power. A
sturdy independence was the dominant trait of character, but this
independence was converted into a self-enslavement by the narrow range
of thought which everywhere prevailed. The old Cameronian patriarch,
in his sectarian exaltation, seemed almost a luminary in the
intellectual twilight of that secluded community, and it was possible
there to understand how even a narrow religious fanaticism could
become an ennobling element in the character of a community living in
such a restricted and materializing atmosphere. A few weeks in such
a state of society enables one to understand better the irresistible
attraction of cities and the life in the midst of multitudes to the
rustic, born and raised in the back-water stagnation of a rural life
like that of the farmers of my school district.

The remaining two months of the broken term of the college course and
the better part of the vacation were spent in my father's workshop,
where the work was rather pressing and the shop short-handed. My
father's business was mainly the manufacture of certain mechanical
implements for which he and his brother held the patents, and in the
spring and autumn he was accustomed to carry the consignments of them
to his customers in New York. His workshop was resorted to by several
ingenious fellow New Englanders who had inventions to work out, and in
the execution of these I was found useful. Among these was one Daniel
Ball, whose specialty was locks, of which he invented, patented,
and sold the patents of a new one every year, all worked out in my
father's shop. Ball was a man of remarkable mechanical ingenuity and
extraordinary profanity--of a savage temper, and very exclusive in his
human sympathies; but he had a profound reverence for my father, of
whom he used to say that "Old Joe Stillman was the only honest man God
ever made," and I am inclined to think, looking back on a long life
and wide experience in men of all classes and many nations, that Ball
was justified in the esteem he held my father in, though admissibly
wrong in his exclusiveness,--for I cannot recall, in all my memories
of the old man, a single instance of his hesitating over the most
trivial transaction in which a question of honesty was involved, and I
have known him to relinquish his clear rights rather than to provoke
a disagreement with a neighbor. He had a profound aversion to any
ostentation of religious fervor, as had my mother. If he had lived
to-day he would certainly have been an advanced evolutionist; even
then his liberality in matters of doctrine and his unbounded charity
towards all differences of opinion in religious questions used to
cause my mother great anxiety as to his orthodoxy. He thought
the fields and woods better places to pass the Sabbath in than a
meeting-house, and this was a subject of great pain to her, the more
that he developed the same feeling in me; but he never deferred in
these matters to anybody, and never held a shade of that reverence for
the clergy which was almost a passion in my mother's nature. While of
an extreme tenderness of heart to all suffering or hardship outside
the family, even towards animals, his domestic discipline was brutal
and narrow. In the latter respect he was a survival of the old New
England system; in the former, himself.

I had a parrot given me by one of my brothers returning from the
Southern States, and the bird took an extravagant fondness for my
father rather than for me. He was allowed to go free about the house
and garden, and would go and sit on the fence when my father should be
coming back from the workshop to dinner and supper, and run to meet
his footstep long before he was in sight, chuckling and chattering
with delight. Early one morning the parrot got shut, by chance, in the
cupboard, and, attempting to gnaw his way out, was mistaken for a rat,
and father took the shovel to kill him, while mother carefully opened
the door so that the rat might squeeze his way out to be killed, but
poor Poll got the blow instead, and had his neck broken. All that day
my father stayed at home weeping for Polly, and no business misfortune
in my recollection ever affected him as the death of the parrot did.
He could flog me without mercy, but he could not see the suffering of
a domestic or wild animal without tears, nor would he tolerate in us
children the slightest tendency to cruelty to the least living thing.

I have alluded to the differences between him and my mother on the
subject of education, the inutility of which, beyond a common-school
standard, he made an article of faith, and the return to the workshop
for the balance of the vacation, after my school-teaching failure, was
the occasion of the final battle. As the vacation drew to an end, and
the time which was still available for studying up the subjects of
the last term, for the examination on reëntering, approached its
imperative limit, I notified him that I must stop work. He said
nothing until I had actually given it up and gone back to my study,
about two weeks before the examination day. Coming home from the shop
that day to dinner, in a very bad humor, he asked me why I had
not been at work. I replied that I had barely the time absolutely
necessary to make up my arrears of study to enter college for the next
term. Then he broke out on me with a torrent of abuse as an idle,
shirking boy, who only cared to avoid work, ending with the accusation
that all I wanted was to "eat the bread of idleness," a phrase he was
very fond of. I suppose I inherited some of his inequality of temper,
and I replied by leaving the table, throwing my chair across the room
as I did so; and, assuring him that when I ate another morsel of bread
in his house he would know the reason why, I left the house in a
towering rage. Having forewarned him days before that I must go,
without his making the least objection, and having postponed the step
to the latest possible moment, out of consideration for the work in
hand, I considered this treatment as ungenerous, and was indignant.

I do not think that, weighing all the circumstances of the case, one
could say that my father was entitled to impose his authority in
a purely arbitrary interference with a matter in which the family
council had decided on my course, and which involved all my future, or
that my refusal to obey an irrational command implies any disrespect
to him. At all events, I decided at once that I would not yield in
this matter, and I made my preparations to seek another home, even
with a modification in my career. If I must abandon the liberal
education, I would not waste my life in a little workshop with three
workmen, and no opportunity to widen the sphere of activity, or
opening into a larger occupation. If I should be obliged to leave the
college, it should be for something in the direction of art, and in
this light I did not much regret the change. I had not, however,
calculated on my mother's tenacity, or the imperceptible domination
she exercised over my father.

When I returned to the house to get my clothes and make my
preparations for leaving home for good, I had a most painful scene
with my mother, and it was the only serious misunderstanding I ever
had with her. She went through, in a rapid résumé, the history of my
life, from the day when I was given her in consolation for the little
brother before me, who died, with a word for each of the crises
through which her care had carried me,--accidents, grave maladies, for
I was apparently not a strong child, and at several conjunctures my
life had been despaired of; all the story being told as she walked
up and down rapidly in the chamber, with the tears running down her
cheeks, and with a passionate vehemence I had never suspected her to
be capable of, since she had the most complete self-restraint I ever
knew in a woman. But it was an _impasse_--I neither could nor would
go back from the career decided upon, nor would the family have
consented, and to return to the workshop at my father's insistence was
to lose everything. It seemed brutal to refuse mother's entreaties
to ignore the collision of wills, and to go on as if nothing had
happened, but to do this and remain in the house with my father, in
the perpetual danger of another conflict, was impossible. The question
had to be settled, and all I could do was to insist on father's making
a distinct disavowal of any right or intention to demand my services
in the shop at any future time, and leaving me free to follow the
programme agreed on in the family council. It was in effect a frank
apology that I wanted, but I knew him too well to suppose he would
ever consent to make an apology in words, or to admit to me that he
had made a mistake; and I left the solution in my mother's hands, with
the understanding that the definite promise should be made to her,
and I knew too that this would hold him as completely as if made to a
public authority. Nothing could bring her to contradict him openly,
and in all my life I never saw her make a sign of disrespect for his
mastery in domestic things, but I knew that once this promise was made
to her I could count on his being held to it sternly.

That evening the matter was settled, but of what had passed, or what
was said, I never knew anything, for my mother never wasted words;
and, while no apology was made, or any retraction expressed, neither
my father nor myself ever alluded to the subject of my working in
the shop again, nor did I ever, as before, go into it during the
vacations, or offer to assist when affairs were hurried. The habit of
asserting the paternal authority and the sense of it, in my father,
were so strong that I never risked again reviving it.



CHAPTER IV

COLLEGE LIFE


I passed my examination and resumed my place in the class, but I never
tried district school-teaching again. Entering upon my junior year I
had a room in the north college. Each of the upper buildings--which
properly should have been called halls--was divided into five
sections, in effect separate residences, each being under the custody
of one of the professors or tutors, who was responsible for order
in the same, the two end sections of each of the colleges being an
official residence for one of the senior professors with families. The
rule required the students to be in their rooms after supper, but it
was almost as much honored in the breach as in the observance, and,
though the skylarking which resulted from the former often brought
the section officer up, those who had any tact avoided too close
an insistence on the regulations, so that the students in the same
sections commonly visited each other in the evenings, and not
infrequently those from the other sections came in.

Our quarters were of the simplest,--one room for two students, with
one wide bed,--and there we lived and studied. At half-past five the
bell rang to wake us, and half an hour later for prayers, the
sleepy ones returning to sleep after the waking bell, and thrusting
themselves into their clothes as they ran when the prayer-bell rang,
to get to prayers before the roll-call was over. From prayers again
we dispersed to the recitation rooms for the morning recitations, and
then to breakfast, mostly in town. There were two boarding-houses, one
at each end of the college walk, known as "North" and "South" halls
and forming part of the architectural scheme of the institution, and
here board was provided at somewhat lower terms than at the private
boarding-houses in town, and of very much inferior quality. The price
at the halls was, if I remember correctly, $1.25 a week for three
meals a day, that in the town ranging from $1.50 to $1.75. Furnished
rooms in the town cost 75 cents per week more, and a few favored or
wealthier students had permission to room in them, but as a rule the
undergraduates of Union were men of very limited means, on which
account the president and founder of the college, Dr. Nott, had
planned its regulations to facilitate the attendance of that class of
students, and the rules were such as closely to restrict the students
from any participation in the social life of the towns-people. The
visits of the section officers to the rooms of the students were
irregular, and the inquisition into the causes of absence so thorough,
that few, not of the most reckless, cared to risk a visit to the town,
half a mile from the upper buildings; and the old doctor's police was
too good for men to escape detection in any serious indulgence in
irregular hours.

Union was, at this epoch, and during the active life of the doctor,
the third university of the United States, coming, in the general
estimation and the number of its graduates, immediately after Yale,
Harvard being then, as always, the first; and it owed its character
and peculiar reputation to the strong and singular personality of its
first president. I have, in the course of my life, become more or less
acquainted with many able men, and Dr. Nott was the most remarkable of
all the teachers I have ever known, considering the limitation of his
position and profession,--that of a Presbyterian clergyman in a time
when sectarian differences ran high, and his sect had no lead in
public opinion. He had attained his position by the force of his
character assisted by his extraordinary tact and eloquence, but
unaided by patronage, and this at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, a time when institutions were forming and nothing was settled
in the character of society. The manual of public speakers which we
used to draw on for the speeches in class recitations included, as one
of the most brilliant examples, the doctor's oration on the death
of Alexander Hamilton, killed in a duel with Aaron Burr, one of the
earliest and the most prominent of the demagogues of America. I have
not read the oration for fifty years; but, as I remember it, it
was, in the fashion of the day, one of the most eloquent of all our
readings.

As I was a favorite of the doctor in the last year of my course and
for years after, and as no one has ever in my estimation done him
justice, it is to me a debt of gratitude, as well as a matter of
justice, to repair as best I may this neglect. No one but a pupil
could ever have fairly estimated his force of character, and no pupil
whose intercourse with him was not carried into the post-graduate
years could measure the ability with which he advised, especially in
political matters, with his old pupils. In the days of his activity,
no institution in the country furnished so large an element to the
practical statesmanship of the United States as did Union. Seward
was one of his favorite pupils, and it is well known that, up to the
period of the American Civil War, he never took a step in politics
without the advice of the doctor. Having had a struggle with poverty
in his own early life, Dr. Nott sympathized heartily with the poorer
students, and a practical education was more easily gained at Union
than was then possible at Yale or Harvard. Men were allowed to defer
payment of the fees till later life when their means had increased;
and, though there were no scholarships, there were many students whose
burdens were so far alleviated by the regulations that an earnest man
who was determined to take his degree and work his way if he must,
needed never leave college unsatisfied.

The doctor's reading of character and detective powers were barely
short of the miraculous, and his management of refractory students
became so well known that many who had been expelled from the other
universities were sent to Union and graduated with credit, so that the
college acquired the nickname of "Botany Bay." There came to him once
for admission a student expelled from Yale for persistent violation
of the regulations, and naturally without the letter which by general
usage was required from the president of one university to another,
certifying the good standing of the student. The president of Yale
wrote to the doctor to ask "if he meant to take that scoundrel into
his college." The doctor, who had made a rapid examination of the man,
replied, "Yes, and make a man of him." In one of my post-graduate
years, when I was staying with the doctor, he told me the story of
this man. He had estimated his character at a glance correctly, and
saw in him a mismanaged student. He was admitted unconditionally,
as if he had come with the best of characters, and for a time he
justified the confidence reposed in him. But the uneasy nature one
day broke out, and he committed a gross violation of the rules. The
discipline of the doctor began always with a friendly conversation,
and with some men ended with it, for he knew so well how to paint the
consequences of expulsion that it sufficed; but on the entry of this
student into his library, he saw on looking at him that he "had the
devil in his eye." He had, in fact, said to his roommate on getting
the summons to the interview, "If the doctor thinks he is going to
break me in he'll find himself mistaken." The doctor had a curious
kind of vision which made it impossible to say which of the persons in
the room he was looking at, and when, while seeming to be engaged on
his book, he had looked into the eyes of the student, and saw that the
light of battle was kindled in them, he waited for a little, and then,
as if preoccupied, said to him in his most kindly tone, "I am very
much occupied at this moment, my son; won't you come in to-morrow
evening?" The young man went back to his room already half conquered
by the affectionate manner, but the important point gained in the
doctor's tactics was that the psychological moment of combat in the
student had been reached and could not be kept up for a day, and when
on the next evening the interview took place, his combativeness had
given place to perplexity and complete demoralization. In this state
the doctor gave him a paternal lesson on the consequences to his
future life of the rebellion against necessary discipline and of
persistent disorderly conduct, but without any actual reproof or
mention of his offense, and all in his invariably kindly tone as if it
were a talk on generalities, and then dismissed him to think it over.
He had established cordial relations with the rebel, and from that day
had no trouble with him, and he graduated at the head of his class.

And the doctor understood men so well that he never wasted his trouble
on those who had nothing in them, but let them drift through the
course unnoted. Expulsions were very rare, and the secret police of
the university was so competent that the almost absolute certainty of
detection generally deterred the men from serious infractions of the
rules. The government seemed to be based on the policy of giving an
earnest man all the advantages to be got out of the institution, and
getting the indifferent through the course with the least discredit.
In a state of society in which the collegiate standing was of
importance to a man's career, this condition of things would have been
a grave objection to the college, but in our western world the degree
had very little importance, and the honors no effect on the future
position. Most of the prominent men of our past had not even been
through any university, and in politics it was often rather an
obstacle than a recommendation that a man was a "college man." What
the doctor tried to do, then, was to make a man when he found the
material for one, and to ignore the futile intellects. This was the
scheme of the education at Union when I was there, and it rarely
failed to find the best men in the class and bring them forward.

Our college life may have been to the men of sufficient means more
largely supplied with the elements of excitement, but for the poorer
students there was little romance in it. Now and then a demonstration
against an unpopular professor, a "bolt," i.e. abstention _en masse_
from a recitation; or a rarer invasion of the town and hostile
demonstration gave us a fillip, but the doctor had so well policed the
college and so completely brought under his moral influence the town,
that no serious row ever took place in my time. Later he told me how
he managed one of the worst early conflicts, in which the students on
one side of the college road, and the town boys on the other, were
arrayed in battle order, determined to fight out the question who were
the better men. The doctor had early notice of the imminent row, and,
fetching a circuit behind the "town," encouraged the boys on that side
with assurances of his impartiality and even his satisfaction with a
little punishment of the students, if they were aggressive. "But,"
said he, "don't begin the fight and put yourselves in the wrong. If my
boys come over, thrash them well, but let them strike the first blow."
Having put them in the strongest defensive attitude, believing that
they had the doctor with them, he went round to the students and
applied the same inducements to the defensive, leaving them under the
persuasion that he entirely approved their fighting, and then he went
home and left them to their conclusions. As time passed and neither
took the offensive, they all cooled off and went home.

The tact with which he dealt with the occasional outbreaks in the
college was very interesting. If it was a case of wanton defiance of
the habitual order, there was a very slight probability of its being
overlooked. A favorite prank of the stealing of the college bell was
invariably punished, first by having a hand-bell rung a little earlier
than regulation hours all through the sections; and, when his secret
police had discovered the offenders, they were punished according to
custom, never very severely, but sufficiently so to make them feel
humiliated. But the mystery of his police was never explained, and
we were always at a loss to conjecture how he discovered the most
elaborately concealed combinations, so that suddenly, even weeks
after, when the culprits thought they had finally escaped detection,
he would announce at prayers that they were to come to his study to
explain. If the outbreak, however, had been in any way justified by
an arbitrary or unwise act of discipline by any of the professors, he
used to ignore it altogether.

The professor of mensuration, a fussy and consequential little fellow,
a volunteer on the staff, and a man of singularly slight knowledge
of young men, very fond of showing his authority, especially at the
public examinations at the end of the term, had incurred the wrath
of the class and become the butt of all its practical jokes. Having
boasted one evening in society of the town that the students dared
not rebel against him, and the boast coming to their knowledge, not a
single student presented himself at the recitation next morning. The
next day he was greeted with such disorder that it was necessary to
suspend the exercises, and one of the most violent demonstrators
finished by throwing a huge wooden spoon at him, which, hitting him on
the head, ended the row. His public examinations were the most severe
we had to go through, and often quite needlessly so, in order to
impress the visitors with his own knowledge rather than with ours,
and as the end of a term drew near, I think in my last junior term,
a conspiracy was got up to put him _hors de combat_ for that
examination. It was decided to take him out of his room in the section
(he was section officer in my own section) and bring him into the
pine woods in the rear of the college, and there, unless he solemnly
promised to stay away from his class examination, to cut off his hair
and tar his head first, then crop his beard, and, if he was still
refractory, to strip him (it was midsummer) and tie him to a tree
and leave him all night, under the conviction that he would not show
himself at examination after that experience.

In the small hours, the conspirators, provided with a duplicate key to
the professor's door, made a stealthy attempt to open it, but found
his key on the inside and were unable to open the door, but woke the
victim, who, however, dared not raise an alarm. One of the smaller
students tried to climb in through the ventilator, but this was nailed
down, and then as a last resort the "smoking machine" was brought into
action. This was an "infernal machine," employed in hazing students
who had in any way offended the opinion of the class, especially by
indecorous subservience to the authorities or informing against their
fellow students. The latter was a rare offense and never pardoned.
The smoking machine consisted of a short length of stove-pipe with a
nozzle at each end, into one of which was introduced a bellows, and
the other was put through the keyhole of the door of the offender. In
the body of the pipe was a bed of lighted charcoal, and on this was
sprinkled tobacco and assafoetida, and the smoke was driven into the
room in such quantities that no human being could resist it more than
a few minutes. The smoking was continued for ten minutes, when, as the
professor did not surrender, it began to be feared that the joke had
gone too far, and two of the conspirators went out to see if there
were any external signs of vitality, and found that the victim had
opened his window and was lying with his head below the window-sill so
as to be out of the smoke which poured out over him. I suppose that
the delegates were drunk, for one of them threw a block of wood at
the professor's head which, missing him, drove in the window pane and
finished the experiment.

It was the gravest outrage of my time, and had there not been so large
a part of the senior class implicated in the conspiracy, directly or
indirectly, there is no doubt that the doctor would have taken the
most severe measures for the punishment of those concerned. No partial
punishment would have been possible, and the general irritation
against that particular professor was so great in the class, and
his course had been so little in conformity with the usages of the
college, that the doctor thought best to ignore the affair completely.
The professor was completely cowed, and we had no more browbeating
from him. But the practical jokes played on him were never attempted
with any other member of the faculty, all of them having been trained
in the doctor's own school. Except possibly the oldest of them,
all were graduates at Union under him; and his system of elastic,
unceasing pressure, constant and unobtrusive surveillance, and simple
appeals to the students' higher interests and manly feeling were so
generally potent in the government of the college that the petty
tyranny of the mensuration professor, nicknamed "Geodesy," found no
support in the faculty, though the same elastic system which threw the
responsibility of final results on the individual left him the same
freedom of action which it gave us, and he had to learn his lesson
while he taught us ours.

The students mostly joined one or other of a large number of secret
societies, mainly social and never scholastic, which had, almost
without exception, originated at Union, spreading to other
universities by migration or initiation of their members. The
distinction most sought for by ambitious students, the marshalship
of the "commencement" ceremonies,--i.e. the conferring of degrees,
speech-making, etc., of the graduating class,--was an elective office
and voted for by all the members of the class, so that, for this
position of a day, scholarship was only of secondary importance, the
personal popularity of the candidates determining the election. The
societies grouped themselves in two parties, the most popular man in
each party was its candidate, and the canvassing ran more or less
actively through the senior year, occupying largely the attention of
the students. These societies were in general boyish imitations of the
Freemasons, though the most eminent, the Phi Beta Kappa, was an old
and dignified institution, having been founded in 1776, at William and
Mary College, whence it soon spread to Harvard and Yale, eventually
establishing itself in most of the principal colleges of the country;
at Union, under the control of the faculty, it became the high
literary distinction of the class, only the third of the class with
the highest collective record being admitted at graduation. Each of
the societies had its secrets, its secret meetings, its grip and
passwords, and it always seemed to me, though I was early initiated
into one which had a distinguished record and literary reputation,
that it was a folly and a waste of the energies of the students.
Opposed to them all was an anti-secret society, and this, like the
others, was known by the initials of the secret name, which was
supposed to be Greek and to indicate, mysteriously, the character of
the society. Students at the earliest date, generally in the first
weeks of attendance, were thoroughly canvassed by the members of these
societies, and invited, in accordance with their characters, to enter
one or the other, those of a studious tendency finding most favor with
that to which I was invited, and which consisted mostly of poor and
studious men, others according to their social standing or wealth, or
even their tendency to a wild life.

Besides this we had a house of representatives for the juniors and
a senate for the seniors, over which two of the senior professors
presided, knowing the rules of the respective branches of Congress,
and requiring their observance in the debates, which echoed the grave
political questions of the day. There was no lecturing system, and
there was no such thing known as coaching; and the recitations
consisted, like those in the juvenile schools, in answering questions
taken from the lesson in standard textbooks, and called out no special
abilities in the students which could distinguish the men of mark from
the merest bookworms. There were men who never read the lesson and
depended on being prompted by a friend. One of these derelicts, the
son of a famous brewer, gave us a laugh which no member of the class
can have forgotten. He was known for drinking enormous quantities of
his father's beer and sleeping even in class; and when the question
put him was, "Who was the reputed inventor of poetry amongst the
Greeks?" he had no answer till the man behind him whispered,
"Orpheus." He caught it badly, and roared, "Morpheus." The laugh that
followed stopped recitation for ten minutes. A laugh in a large class
had a curious way of going on indefinitely.

Until we reached the senior year, and came under the direct care of
the old doctor, there was nothing in the course to awaken special
ambitions. The honors, determined chiefly by the marks given at the
end of the term, being mainly the reward of a diligence rather stupid
than otherwise, as a rule were regarded with great indifference, and,
for the most part, fell to the men who "poled" most assiduously, and
got the best marks for attention, diligence, and correct recitation of
the set tasks. As I look back on the life and work of that period, it
seems to me that it was most unintelligently spent, and when I reached
my senior year, and came under the direct stimulus of Dr. Nott, I
recognized that, so far as the true education was concerned, I had
wasted two years, and had I been master of my future I should have
been inclined to go back to the beginning and repeat the three years'
course of study under the new light, and with a recognition of the
purpose of higher study, for I saw that all that I had gained was
little more than parrot learning. The doctor indeed tried to make us
think, and he used to say that the textbook was a matter of entire
indifference, and that he would as soon have a book of riddles as
Kames's "Elements of Criticism," so long as he could make us think out
our conclusions. With him our recitations were a perpetual contest
of our wits against his; he showed us the shallowness of our
acquisitions, and dissected mercilessly both textbook and the
responses to the questions which he had drawn from it, admitting
nothing and pushing the pupil perpetually into the deeper water as
soon as he began to think his foot had touched firm land. The first
term under the doctor brought up every intellectual faculty I
possessed, and I suppose it was to this intense appreciation of his
leading that I owed his friendship and partiality in the following
years. So far as the influence of school can go, I owe to him the best
of my education, and especially the perception of the meaning of the
word itself. In the senior year I turned back in my life and sought
not to hasten, but to linger in the precincts of study, and the
imperious necessity of getting to the only occupation which would give
me the independence I desired, alone deterred me from a post-graduate
course of study to compensate for the inadequacy of the past years.

In entering the church, Dr. Nott had deprived the world of a statesman
of no ordinary calibre, but in the eyes of the Protestant, as of the
Catholic Church, in the country which had its precedents to make, as
in that which had precedents a thousand years old, the maxim, "once a
priest always a priest," kept him in the pulpit, to which he had no
irresistible call, and to which the accident of his career only had
led him. Had the church to which he belonged been organized with an
episcopal government, he had certainly been its primate; but in the
vague and incoherent condition of the Congregational churches, to one
of which he belonged, there was no career beyond that of the isolated
pastorate of a single congregation. In this insufficiency of interest
for an active and influential life there was only the educational
calling left to satisfy his enormous mental activity, and in this
he found his place. The future, which may look for his record in
libraries, or in the results of research, scientific or literary, will
not find him to occupy a position. He had, however, great mechanical
inventive powers, as well as a marvelous knowledge of human nature;
the former solved the problem, amongst others, of anthracite coal
combustion for American steamers. In the latter lay his qualifications
as the greatest teacher of young men of his generation.

Nobody could know him except the pupils to whom he disclosed himself,
and to whom his kindly and magnanimous nature was unreservedly open,
and they were few, and the list is fast being canceled; when we are
gone, no one will ever comprehend how he could have been what he
was. But the power he always exercised over his favorite boys was
extraordinary; any of us would have done anything permitted to human
nature to satisfy his wish. An instance of his influence, occurring
later in my life, will illustrate his power over his old pupils. When,
several years subsequent to my graduation, and on the election of
Lincoln as President, I had used what influence I could enlist with
the government (my brother being a prominent Republican) to get the
appointment as consul to Venice, which was generally given to an
artist, the principal petition in my favor went from Cambridge. It
was written by Judge Gray (now on the Supreme Court bench), headed by
Agassiz and signed by nearly every eminent literary or scientific man
in Cambridge, but it lay at the Department of State more than six
months, unnoticed. In the interim the war broke out and I had gone
home from Paris, where I was then living, to volunteer in the army;
but, being excluded by the medical requirements, and the ranks being
full,--800,000 volunteers being then enrolled,--I turned to my project
for Venice, and wrote a word to Dr. Nott, recalling his promise of
years before to use his influence in my favor, if ever it were needed.
He inclosed my letter, with one containing an indorsement of it, and
sent it to Seward, the Secretary of State, and the appointment--not
to Venice, which had just been given to Howells, but to Rome--came by
return of post.

Union was then the only university of importance not under some form
of denominational control, and for this reason had, perhaps, more than
the usual share of extreme liberalism, or atheism, as it was at that
time considered amongst the students; and one of my classmates, a man
a couple of years older than myself, and of far more than the average
intellectual power, made an active propaganda of the most advanced
opinions. He also introduced Philip James Bailey's "Festus" to our
attention, and for a time I was carried away by both. The great
revulsion from my previous straitened theological convictions was the
cause of infinite perplexity and distress. Up to that time nothing
had ever shaken me in my orthodox persuasions, and the necessity of
concealing from my mother and family my doubts and halting faith in
the old ideas made it all the more perplexing. I had to fight out
the question all alone. It was impossible to follow my classmate so
completely as to accept his conclusions and become the materialist
that he was, and so find a relative repose; and the conflict became
very grave. The entire scheme of Christianity disappeared from my
firmament; but, in the immediately previous years, I had been a reader
of Swedenborg, and I held immovably an intuition of immortality,--or,
if the term intuition be denied me, the conviction that immortality
was the foundation of human existence, grounded in my earliest
thoughts, and as clear as the sense of light,--and this never failed
me. In this respect Swedenborg helped my reason in its struggle,
though I could never see my way to the entire acceptance of his
doctrine.

My dogmatic theological education had been entirely incidental, for my
mother never discussed dogmas or doctrines, but the simple duties and
promises of religion, and my intelligence had never been, therefore,
so kept captive as to make release grateful. Christianity had never
been a doctrinal burden to me, or any form of belief inconsistent in
my mind with true Christianity. In my mother's thought there was only
one thing utterly profane, and that was self-righteousness. And there
happened to me in this conjuncture, what has in my later life been
often seen, that the modification of religious views imposed on us by
the superior force of another mind--a persuasion of what seems to be
truth as it is only seen by others' vision--could not hold its own
against the early convictions, and that a revulsion to the old faith
was sooner or later inevitable and generally healthy. The epidemic
passed, and, though it gave me great distress for the time, it made my
essential religious convictions stronger in the end. It is, I think,
Max Müller who says that no man can escape from the environment of his
early religious education. I have seen, in my experience of life and
men, many curious proofs of that law, men who have lived for many
years in the most absolute rejection of all religions, returning in
their old age to the simple faith of childhood, ending as they began.
The change of religious convictions which holds its own against all
influences is that which comes from the healthy evolution of our own
thought. At any rate, in my own case, the rationalistic revolution
completed its circle and brought me back to that simple faith to
remain in which is a reproach to no man, and the departure from which,
to be healthy, must be made on lines conformed to our better natures.
I felt the better for my excursion into new regions, and the freedom
of movement I acquired I never lost.

As I am telling the story of a phase of human life in which the study
of the religious character will be to some readers, perhaps, one of
the chief subjects of interest, and as to me the whole subject is now
purely objective, as a mental phenomenon in the life of another man
would be, I am tempted to tell a romantic incident of this period of
my evolution, because it illustrates clearly the state of mind and
sentiment developed by the peculiar education and surroundings of my
youth. In one of the winter vacations of my course, my brother Paul,
who was an ardent and sanguine proselyter in the Seventh-Day doctrine,
charged me with an expedition up the Mohawk valley as a colporteur,
to distribute Sabbath tracts, and, occasion arising, to discuss, with
those who offered, the doctrine involved. The snow was deep, and,
wading in it from house to house in all the towns as far as Utica, I
finished with a visit to the home at Whitestown, near by, of my old
friend the former preceptress of the De Ruyter Academy, with whom I
had always been a favorite, and who had taught me French (very little)
and drawing (very little more), but who was a charming and poetical
creature. I had not heard of her for years, and the latest news
was that she had become insane through a cruel disappointment in
love,--her lover having wantonly, and without offering a pretext,
broken off the engagement just before the wedding day,--and had been
sent to a lunatic asylum. I found her at home, a wretched shadow of
her old self, listless, and in a settled melancholy, which the doctors
said was incurable. She had in fact been discharged from the asylum
as a hopeless lunatic, though the violent phase of the insanity had
passed. It occurred to me that a diversion to old times would awaken
her again to a sense of the present, and I tried to draw her back to
the academy life by talking of it as if nothing had happened. That
something unwonted was passing in her mind soon became evident, and
finally she burst out with, "Why, Willie" (she had always so called me
in the old times), "didn't you know I had been crazy?" The manner, the
suddenness of the conflict between old associations and her present
state, the mingling of our old affection, for I had in my boyhood held
her very dear, as she had me, so overpowered me that I burst into
tears, and she threw her arms around me and kissed me again and again.
What the feeling which sprang up on her part was I could never quite
understand,--doubtless it was partly the delight of a sudden relief
from the old, monotonous pain, the unexpected unbending of a tense
and overborne mind and momentary obliteration of the dreary immediate
past, and partly the outburst of a passionate temperament which I had
never suspected; but on my part there arose an attachment as chivalric
as ever a knight of Arthur's time felt, yet perfectly platonic. That
she was nearly old enough to have been my mother did not in the least
matter--it was no question of love as young folks feel it; but in my
heart I offered myself a bearer of her sorrows. I had only recently
recovered from my wandering into the wilderness of doubt, and my
religious faith was as vivid as when I had been at my mother's
knee--Providence ruled, and God answered prayer. This phase of my
life, juvenile as I now perceive it to be, I respect as the most
honest in it. I honor the weakness as I cannot always what seems the
later strength. Those who read my life may put the estimate on it
which suits their creed; I only speak of it as a phenomenon of my
Puritan youth. I prayed earnestly that I might take on myself her
afflictions, if so she might be healed and come back to her right
mind. That was Friday night, for her family were "Seventh-Day
keepers," and I had gone to pass the Sabbath with them, so I stayed
two days, continuing my devotions earnestly. On Monday I went back
to my colportage, but that night I was taken with a sharp attack of
bronchitis, with high fever, and obliged to keep my room at the hotel.
The next day, finding the matter serious, I sallied out and returned
to the house of her parents, and remained there while the attack
lasted. A naturally strong constitution was my safety, and made light
of what was really a sharp attack of acute trouble, which kept me in
the house a considerable time, the care and happy charge of my friend.

What any physician of minds would have foreseen took place. She found
in the attention to her patient the diversion from all the train of
past preoccupations, and forgot in this absolutely novel situation
the old trouble. To the delight of the family she began to take an
interest in the affairs of the house, and, though for years she had
utterly neglected the most trivial attention to her dress and personal
appearance, and had shown such a determinedly suicidal disposition
that her mother had been obliged to sleep in the same bed with her to
be able to watch her effectively, she now became bright and cheerful
and seemed her old self again. From that time forward she rapidly
recovered, and when I went back to college we began a close
correspondence which was the beginning of my real literary education,
for her taste in literature was excellent, if a little sentimental,
and her criticisms were so sound that in some respects they have never
lost their effect on my way of thinking and expressing thought. She
was persuaded to come to Schenectady and pass the period of my next
vacation in our family. Her insanity absolutely disappeared, she
returned to healthy activity in her old vocation as teacher, and the
year after, to my great annoyance, married her former fiancé. I was
angry with her, not for marrying, but for marrying him after his
shameful treatment of her. She seemed to me, and to her family also,
to have thrown herself away on a man who had proved himself utterly
unworthy any woman's devotion. All my chivalry, too, seemed wasted,
and the only result of the experiment was the dissipation of an ideal,
the naïve expectation of the vicarious penalty to which I had in my
sincerity offered myself having passed away. Convinced, that I had
cured her, I was indignant at having cured her for him, but I suffered
no visitation of contempt for women, and my indignation was the
deepest feeling that remained from the experience, except the
literary impulse born of the persistent effort to interest her in my
correspondence and the consequent search for material for letters in
the details of college life and the nature around us; and the habit
of noticing and memorizing what might be of interest to others in the
most trivial incidents of life never quite left me. I became a profuse
letter-writer from inclination, and, though all the letters of
that part of my life and for years after were recalled and burnt
scrupulously, I am convinced that what literary ability I possess is
in a great degree owing to the impulse I received in that romantic
attachment.

What was, perhaps, more important, was that the vicarious offering of
myself, made in my morbid enthusiasm, and the commonplace result of
it, hastened the end of that phase of my religious experience. It was
only because my boyhood had been frozen up in those seven years of
apathy and began to thaw out in later years, when manhood should
have been taking the reins, that all that passage of childhood and
unsophisticated devotion intruded in the wrong place, to fill up the
void in the formation. My religious status, as well as my conception
of life, were only advanced to where they should have been at an
earlier period.

Atheism was at that time beginning to work strongly among the
students, and in opposition to it there began an antagonistic
evangelical movement, with prayer-meetings amongst those religiously
inclined. In my class, at this time, were several who became in after
life eminent in clerical activity, and amongst them were the brothers
Nevius, distinguished in the missionary service in the far East. I had
no liking for the prayer-meetings of the students, but I joined the
movement for holding religious services in the city almshouse, a
primitive institution which had no chaplain, and where were sent not
only the incurably poor and the incurably sick, but the idiots and
half-witted, as well as the temporarily incapacitated poor, who would
have been, in a better and more complete social organization, sent to
a hospital, which did not exist in Schenectady. With several other
students and two or three young ladies of the city we held services at
the "poorhouse" every Sunday. Short exhortations with prayers and the
singing of hymns composed the service, and I remember that one day, in
giving out a hymn in long metre, I started it to a short metre tune,
and had to go through it alone, the ladies whose business was the
musical part of the service not being able to accommodate their
measure to my leading. I made my solo as short as possible, and
finished with the ill-suppressed giggling of the girls, but my
audience of poor cripples and weak-minded were equally impressed.

No doubt the struggles with Festus and my atheistic friend, and the
partial influence of the ambient, the sincere piety of the old doctor,
which dominated the life of the college, helped to strengthen the
reaffirmation of my orthodox Christianity, and, for several years
after, I had no more question of the divine authority of the tenets of
our church, including the Seventh Day Sabbath, than I had of the laws
of nature; but the truly spiritual character of my mother's religion
saved me from becoming a bigot. If I had been trained in the dogmas of
Christianity, I have no doubt I should have then become an atheist.
Nor was I a prig. I must confess that I enjoyed the occasional larks
in which my classmates sometimes led and sometimes followed me, as
well as any of them. Our Greek professor, Doctor R., was a bit of a
snob, and the plebeians of the class, much the largest part, always
held him in ill will; and as his garden bordered on our section, and
his fowls roosted in the trees overhanging the green, we one day
decided to mulct him in a supper. That night a party of the students
of the section scaled the fence (I well remember tearing my trousers
in climbing it) and wrung the necks of four of his fowls, which we
sent into town next morning to be roasted, and which, accompanied
by sundry mince-pies and a huge bowl of eggnog, made us a luxurious
supper next midnight, the fragments being carefully--bones and bits of
pie-crusts included--deposited at the professor's front door before
daylight of next day, which happened to be Sunday. The package,
carefully made up and directed like an express parcel, was addressed
to him in all the fullness of formality, but it had rained in the
interval, and when in the morning the servant took it up, on opening
the door, the wet paper broke and the remnants of the feast bestrewed
the doorway. The boy afterwards told me that the profanity of the
professor was terrible to hear, and as he cut me two in my report of
the Greek that term, I always suspected that he comprised me in the
execration. As it happened the cut was undeserved, for there were few
men in the class who did their Greek better than I, and the cut cost
me the Phi Beta Kappa, which went to all the class whose aggregate
marks made an average per term of 98½, mine being 98¼. But as he
always held me in disrespect on account of my father's occupation, and
as assiduously paid court and gave good reports to the sons of wealthy
men, there was a mutual aversion. He gave _max_. that term to the son
of a famous quack doctor, who always came to me to be crammed for the
recitation, while I got 98. Naturally we had little respect for the
marking.

Of my college course, I retained only what held my sympathies. I never
went in for honors, or occupied myself beyond the required measure
with studies which did not _per se_ interest me. Greek and Latin, but
especially physics, the humanities, and literature enlisted all my
ambitions, and the little weekly paper which was read at the meetings
of our secret society occupied me more than was in due measure
perhaps. I took my degree of course, but not with distinction. The
majority of the family having, prior to my graduation, gathered at or
near New York city, my father and mother, having attained their
object in remaining in Schenectady, moved to New York, and I, finally
liberated for the study of art, gave myself seriously to that end.



CHAPTER V

ART STUDY IN AMERICA


During the time of my preparation for entry to college, a wandering
artist had happened to find his way to Schenectady, one of the
restless victims of his temperament, to whose unrest fate had given
other motives for change than his occupation. He was an Englishman by
the name of John Wilson, a pupil of the brothers Alfred and Edward
Chalons, fashionable London miniature painters of the early part of
the century. In years long gone by he had established himself at
St. Petersburg as a portrait painter, but, losing his wife and two
children by a flood of the Neva, which occurred during his momentary
absence in England, he abandoned Russia and went to one of the Western
States of America and gave himself up to agriculture. Here fate found
him again, and, after losing another wife and other children, he
became a wanderer, interested in everything new and strange. He had
been taken by Pitman's then new phonography, and his chief occupation
at that time was teaching it wherever at any school he could form a
class. He came to Union College, to this end, and had been recommended
to my mother for board and lodging, and she gladly availed herself of
the opportunity to get for me lessons in drawing in return for his
board. He was a constitutional reformer, a radical as radicalism was
then possible, had become an atheist with Robert Dale Owen, indignant
at the treatment accorded him by destiny, and was _au fond_ an honest
and philanthropic man. He taught me the simplest rudiments of portrait
and landscape in water-color, and of perspective, of which he was
master, and, as he failed to find a field for his phonographic
mission, I got up a small class in drawing for him, and after our
dozen lessons he went his way to new regions and I never heard from
him again. What he taught me I soon lost, except the perspective.

A little later, and while at work in my father's shop, there came in
for a piece of ironwork our local artist, a man of curious artistic
faculties, a shoemaker by trade, who had taught himself painting and
had made himself a certain position as the portrait painter of the
region. He desired to make for himself a lay-figure, and for the
articulations had conceived a new form of universal joint, which he
desired my father to put into shape. My father refused the job, as out
of the line of his work, and I volunteered to take it, stipulating for
some instruction in painting in return. The joint did not answer
when worked out, but the friendship between Sexton and myself lasted
through his life, and a truer example of the artistic nature never
came under my study. All that he knew of painting he got from books,
save for an annual visit to the exhibition of the American Academy at
New York, but his conception of the nature of art was very lofty and
correct, and had his education been in keeping with his natural gifts,
he would have taken a high position as a painter. His was one of the
most pathetic lives I can recall--a fine sensitive nature, full of the
enthusiasms of the outer world, with rare gifts in the embryonic state
and mental powers far above the average, limited in every direction,
in facilities, in education in art and in letters, and having his lot
cast in a community where, except the wife of President Nott, there
was not a single person who was capable of giving him sympathy or
artistic appreciation. Not least in the pathos of his situation was
the simplicity and humility with which he accepted himself, with
his whole nature yearning towards an ideal which he knew to be as
unattainable as the stars, without impatience or bitterness towards
men or fate. If he was not content with what was given him, no one
could see it, and he was so filled with the happiness that nature and
his limited art gave him that he had no room for discontent at the
limitations.

Happy days were those in which my leisure gave me the opportunity to
share this man's walks and make my crude sketches of his favorite
nooks and bends of our beautiful river Mohawk, and listen to his
experiences while he worked. I can see now that it was more nature
than art that evoked my enthusiasms, and that in art I felt mainly the
expression of the love of the beauty of nature. Sexton gave me some
idea of the use of oils, and from that time most of my leisure hours
and my vacant days were given to painting in an otherwise untaught
manner, copying such pictures as I could borrow, or translating
engravings into color--wretched things most certainly, but to me then,
with my crude enthusiasm, productive of greater pleasure than the
better productions of later years.

The three years of my college course had left me little room or
leisure for such studies, and at the end of them I realized that so
far as the object I had set before me was concerned, I had wasted the
years and blunted the edge of my enthusiasms. In preparation for
the career which I proposed to myself I had, however, been in
correspondence with Thomas Cole, then the leading painter of landscape
in America, and an artist to this day unrivaled in certain poetic and
imaginative gifts by any American painter. He was a curious result
of the influence of the old masters on a strongly individual English
mind, inclined to nature worship, born in England in the epoch of the
poetic English school to which Girtin, Turner, and their colleagues
belonged, and migrating to America in boyhood, early enough to become
impressed by the influence of primitive nature as a subject of art.
Self-taught in technique and isolated in his development, he became
inevitably devoted to the element of subject rather than to technical
attainment, and in the purely literary quality of art he has perhaps
been surpassed by no landscape painter of any time. His indifference
to technical qualities has left him in neglect at present, but in the
influence he had on American art, and for his part in the history of
it, he remains an important individuality now much underrated. It was
settled that I should become his pupil in the winter following my
graduation, but a few months before that he died.

At that moment there was not in the United States a single school of
art, and except Cole, who had one or two pupils when he died, there
was no competent landscape painter who accepted pupils, nor perhaps
one who was capable of teaching. Drawing masters there were here and
there, mostly in the conventional style adapted to the seminaries for
young ladies. Inman, the leading portrait painter of the day, had
taken pupils, but his powers did not extend to the treatment of
landscape, and my sympathies did not go beyond it. I applied to A.B.
Durand, then the president of our Academy, the only rival of Cole,
though in a purely naturalistic vein, and a painter of real power in
a manner quite his own, which borrowed, however, more from the Dutch
than from the Italian feeling, to which Cole inclined. Durand was
originally an engraver of the first order, and afterwards a portrait
painter, but his careful painting from nature and a sunny serenity in
his rendering of her marked him, even in the absence of imaginative
feeling, as a specialist in landscape, to which he later gave himself
entirely. His was a serene and beautiful nature, perfectly reflected
in his art, and he first showed American artists what could be done
by faithful and unaffected direct study of nature in large studies
carefully finished on the spot, though never carried to the
elaboration of later and younger painters. But he was so restrained by
an excess of humility as to his own work, and so justly diffident of
his knowledge of technique, that he could not bring himself to accept
a pupil, and I finally applied to F.E. Church, a young painter, pupil
of Cole, and for many years after the leading landscape painter of the
country. He was then in his first success, and I was his first pupil.

Church in many respects was the most remarkable painter of the
phenomena of nature I have ever known, and had he been trained in a
school of wider scope, he might have taken a place amongst the great
individualities of his art. But he had little imagination, and his
technical training had not emancipated him from an exaggerated
insistence on detail, which so completely controlled his treatment of
his subject that breadth and repose were entirely lost sight of. A
graceful composition, and most happy command of all the actual effects
of the landscape which he had seen, were his highest qualities;
his retention of the minutest details of the generic or specific
characteristics of tree, rock, or cloud was unsurpassed by the work
of any landscape painter whose work I know, and everything he knew he
rendered with a rapidity and precision which were simply inconceivable
by one who had not seen him at work. I think that his vision and
retention of even the most transitory facts of nature passing before
him must have been at the maximum of which the human mind is capable,
but he had no comprehension of the higher and broader qualities of
art. His mind seemed a camera obscura in which everything that passed
before it was recorded permanently, but he added in the rendering of
its record nothing which sprang from human emotion, or which involved
that remoulding of the perception that makes it conception, and
individual. The primrose on the river's brim he saw with a vision
as clear as that of a photographic lens, but it remained to him a
primrose and nothing more to the end. All that he did or could do was
the recording, form and color, of what had flitted past his eyes,
with unsurpassed fidelity of memory; but it left one as cold as the
painting of an iceberg. His recognition of art as distinguished from
nature was far too rudimentary to fit him for a teacher, for his love
of facts and detail blinded him to every other aspect of our relations
with nature, in the recognition of which consist the highest gifts of
the artist.

My study with Church lasted one winter, and showed me that nothing
was to be hoped for from him, and that the most intimate superficial
acquaintance with nature did not involve the perception of her more
intimate relation with art. I learned from him nothing that was worth
remembering, but I made acquaintance with a young portrait painter,
who had a studio in the same building, an Irishman named Boyle, a
pupil of Inman, whose ideas of art were of a far higher order, and to
my intercourse with him during that winter and the following summer,
which we spent together sketching in the valley of the Mohawk, I
owe the first clear ideas of what lay before me in artist life. At
Church's studio I met Edgar A. Poe, a slender, nervous, vivacious,
and extremely refined personage. But at that juncture I came across
"Modern Painters," and, like many others, wiser or otherwise, I
received from it a stimulus to nature worship, to which I was already
too much inclined, which made ineffaceable the confusion in my mind
between nature and art. Another acquaintance I made that winter was
of great importance in developing my technical abilities--that of a
well-known amateur of New York, afterwards a professional artist, Dr.
Edward Ruggles, a physician whose love of painting finally drove him
out of medicine. He had the most catholic and correct taste I had
then met, and he introduced me to William Page, the most remarkable
portrait painter in many respects America has ever produced, whose
talks on art used to make me sleepless with enthusiasm. Page was the
most brilliant talker I ever met, and a dear friend of Lowell.

Returning to Schenectady the following summer, I made my first direct
and thorough studies from nature, and amongst these was one, a view
from my window across gardens and a churchyard with the church spire
in the distance; a small study which incidentally had a most potent
effect on all my later life. It was bought in the autumn by the Art
Union of New York, and on the proceeds, thirty dollars, the first
considerable sum of money I had ever earned, I decided to go to Europe
and see what the English painters were doing. Of English art I
then knew only directly the pictures of Doughty, an early artistic
immigrant from England, and, as afterwards appeared to me, a fair
example of the school which had its lead from Constable, to whom he
had, however, no resemblance except in choice of motive. He had a
comprehension of technique possessed by none of our home painters--a
rapid and masterly execution with a scale of color limited to cool
grays, but, within this gamut, of exquisite refinement. Constant
repetitions of the same motive wore out his welcome on the part of the
American public, but his pictures had a charm which was long in losing
its power over me, and had an influence in determining me to go to
England at the first opportunity. But to see Turner's pictures was
always the chief motive, and was the one which decided me to go.

I was, in knowledge of worldly life, scarcely less a child then than
I had been when, at the age of ten, I determined to go out into the
world and make my own career, free from the obstacles I imagined to
be preventing me from following my ideals. The ever-present feeling
developed in me by the religious training of my mother, that an
overruling Providence had my life in keeping, made me quite oblivious
of or indifferent to the chances of disaster, for the assurance of
protection and leading to the best end left no place for anxieties. It
was a mental phenomenon which I now look back on with a wonder which
I think most sane people will share, that, at the age when most boys
have become men, for I graduated at twenty, I should have been capable
of going out into a strange world like one of the children of the
Children's Crusade, with an unfaltering faith that I should be led
and cared for by Providence as I had been by my parents. I had no
apprehension, from the moment that one of the ship-owners who was in
business relations with my elder brother offered me a free passage
on one of his sailing ships to Liverpool, that I should not find a
similar bridge back again; and with my thirty dollars changed into six
sovereigns, and a little valise with only a change of clothes, I went
on board the Garrick, a packet of the Black Ball line, sailing in the
last days of December, 1849. There had been a thaw and the Hudson
River was full of floating ice, which in the ebbing of the tide
endangered the shipping lying out in the stream, and the captain made
such haste to get out of the danger (the extent of which was shown by
the topmasts of an Austrian brig, showing above water where she had
been sunk by the floating ice) that the ship had her anchor apeak
before the boat which carried my brother and myself out could reach
it. We barely arrived in time for me to get aboard, the difficulty
of threading our way amongst the masses of ice making our boating
difficult. That my childish faith in Providence was a family trait
might be deduced from the fact that my brother, who had from boyhood
stood to me _in loco parentis_, had not asked me, until I was on the
point of going aboard, what my means of subsistence were, and, when
he found that I had only my six sovereigns, he told me to wait at
Liverpool for a letter of credit he would send me by the steamer which
followed.

That voyage is one of the most delightful memories of my life. I loved
the sea; and every phase of it, storm or calm, was a new joy. I had
one fellow-passenger, a German doctor of philosophy, Dr. Seemann, who
had been an ardent radical in Germany, and had been studying in
the United States the development of political intelligence under
democratic conditions, returning to his native land with the profound
conviction that democratic government was destined to be a failure.
We had hot debates on the subject, in which the doctor adduced his
conversations with the intelligent farmers of New England, whom he had
especially studied, to show that their political education was such
as to endanger the best interests of the community from its extreme
superficiality; I, with an unfaltering faith in the processes of
universal suffrage, disputed his conclusions, so hotly in fact that we
quarreled and he took one side of the quarter-deck for his promenades
and I the other. But the conditions of sea life, with a companionship
limited to two persons, are such that no quarrel that was not mortal,
or from rivalry in the affections of a woman, could endure many days,
and after a few such days we drew to the same side of the deck and
were better friends than before, but we dropped politics.

This was in January of 1850, and I am driven to curiosity as to the
subsequent career of the young German savant, who in that state of
American political evolution was capable of drawing the horoscope of a
nation, as it has been in recent times fulfilled; who saw in the crude
notions of political economy of that prosperous yesterday the germs of
the political blunders and errors of to-day. I drew his portrait, I
made a few studies of sea and sky, but for the most part the sensation
of simple existence under the conditions of illimitable freedom in
space, with no reminder of anything beyond, was sufficient for me. I
used to lie on my back on the roof of the wheel-house and look into
the sky, and try to make friends with the sea-gulls which sailed
around over me, curiously peering down with their dove-like eyes as if
to see what this thing might be. Then the nights, so luminous with the
"breeming" of the sea as we got into the Gulf Stream, and the flitting
and sudden population of the ocean, always bringing us surprises; the
more exciting and delightful storms which came on us in the region in
which they were always to be expected, and which, though we had some
that made lying in one's berth difficult, were never enough to satisfy
my desire for rough weather,--all these things filled my life so full
of the pure delight in nature that when, at the end of nearly three
weeks at sea, we came in sight of the Irish coast, I hated the land.
Life was enough under the sea conditions, and the prospect of the
return to the limitations of living amongst men was absolute pain.

We made Liverpool in twenty-one days from New York, and the steamer
which had left that port the next week did not arrive till three or
four days after, so that my waiting for the letter of credit involved
a hotel bill which nearly exhausted my money in hand. The kindly
captain, knowing my circumstances, made the hotel keeper throw off
fifty per cent. of his bill (for I went to the "captain's hotel"), and
thus I succeeded in getting to London with the money which was to have
paid my expenses for six weeks (according to the careful calculations
I had made, at the rate of a pound a week) reduced to provision for
three, after which Providence was expected to provide me with a
passage home. In these weeks I had planned to see Turner's pictures,
Copley Fielding's, with Creswick's, and all the others Ruskin had
mentioned. But the railways and hotels had never come into my
arithmetic, and that was always, and remains, my weak point. However,
the letter of credit was for fifty pounds, and so I felt justified in
my faith in Providence, my brother going to the general credit of that
account.



CHAPTER VI

ART STUDY IN ENGLAND


Arrived at Euston Station in the small hours of the morning, I bought
a penny loaf and walked the streets eating it and carrying my valise
until the day was sufficiently advanced for me to go to present a
letter of introduction given me by G.P. Putnam, the publisher, to his
agent in England, Mr. Delf, who at once took me to a lodging-house
in Bouverie Street, in which I got a room for six shillings a week,
service included, and an honest, kindly landlady to whom I still feel
indebted for the affectionate interest she took in me. I had letters
to Mr. S.C. Hall, editor of the "Art Journal," and the Rev. William
Black, pastor of the little Seventh Day Baptist Church at Millyard
in Goodmansfields, Leman Street, a very ancient and well-endowed
foundation, made by some Sabbatarian of centuries ago, with a
parsonage and provision for two sermons every Saturday; and under Mr.
Black's preaching I sat all the time I was in London. He was a man of
archaeological tastes whose researches had led him to the conviction
that the Seventh Day was the true Christian Sabbath, and to fellowship
with the congregation of Millyard. I was admitted to honorary
membership in the church, and the listening to the two dry-as-dust
sermons was compensated for by the cordial friendship of the pastor,
an invitation to dinner every Saturday, and the motherly interest of
his wife and daughters. My childhood's faith and my mother's creed
still hung so closely to me that the observances of our ancient church
were to me sacred, and the Sabbath day at Millyard still held me to
the simple ways of home. In that secluded nook, out of all the rush
and noise of London, we lived as we might have lived in an English
village; it was an _impasse_, and one who entered from the narrow and
squalid alleys which led to it was surprised to find the little square
of the old and disused graveyard, with its huge hawthorn trees and its
inclosure of the parsonage appendages, as peaceful and as far from the
world as if it had been in distant Devon.

My letter to Mr. Hall led to introductions to Leslie, Harding,
Creswick, and several minor painters, all of whom found me attentive
to the lessons they gave me on their own excellences and led me no
farther, but it also brought me into contact with a painter of a
higher and more serious order, J.B. Pyne, one of the few thinkers and
impartial critics I found amongst the English painters. Every Sunday I
went out to Pyne's house in Fulham, walking the six or seven miles
in the morning and spending the day there. Kitchen-gardens and green
fields then lay between Kensington and Fulham where are now the
museums, and there the larks sang and the hawthorn bloomed. After an
early dinner we passed the afternoon in talk on art and artists. Pyne
was one of the best talkers on art I ever knew, and a critic of very
great lucidity; his art had great qualities and as great defects, but
in comparison with some of the favorites of the public of that day he
was a giant, and in certain technical qualities he had no equal in
his generation except Turner. He had the dangerous tendency, for
an artist, of putting everything he did under the protection and
direction of a theory--a course which invariably checks the fertility
of technical resource, and which in his case had the unfortunate
effect of causing him to be regarded as a mere theorist, whose work
was done by line and rule. But I had good reason to know that Turner
thought more highly of him than the English public, and I am convinced
that as time goes on and his pictures acquire the mellowness of
tone for which he carefully calculated in his method and choice of
material, he will be more highly esteemed than in his own time, and
that the careful and systematic technique which characterized his
work, and which is so opposed to the random and hypothetically
inspired methods that are the admiration of a half-educated public,
will find its true appreciation in the future.

Of all the English artists of that day with whom I became acquainted,
Pyne impressed me as by a considerable measure the broadest thinker,
and, except Turner in his water-color, the ablest landscape painter;
old John Linnell in this respect standing nearest him in technical
power, with a more complete devotion to nature and her sentiment. In
Harding's work I took no interest; his conventions and tricks of
the brush repelled me, and generally his work left me cold and
discouraged, for this is the effect of wasted cleverness, that it
disheartens a man who, knowing that his abilities are less, finds the
achievement of cleverer men so poor in what satisfies the artist
of feeling. In it I saw an exaggeration of Pyne's defects and the
caricature of his good qualities. Creswick had a better feeling for
nature, but convention in his methods gave place to trick, and I
remember his showing me the way in which he produced detail in a
pebbly brookside, by making the surface of his canvas tacky and then
dragging over it a brush loaded with pigment which caught only on
the prominences, and did in a moment the work of an hour of faithful
painting.

A painter who taught me more than any other at that time was Edward
Wehnert, mainly known then as an illustrator, and hardly remembered
now even in that capacity. Attracted by one of his water-colors, I
went to him for lessons, which he declined to give, while really
giving me instructions informally and in the most kindly and generous
way, during the entire stay I made in London. Among all the artists I
have known, Wehnert's life was, with the exception of Sexton's, the
most pathetic. His native abilities were of a very high order, and
his education far above that which the British artist of that day
possessed. He was a pupil of Paul Delaroche, and the German blood
he had from his father gave him an imaginative element which the
Englishman in him liberated entirely from the German prescriptive
limitations, while there was just enough of the German poet in him to
give his design a sentiment which was entirely lacking in the English
figure painting of that day. He painted in both oil and water-color,
with a facility of design I have never known surpassed, making at a
single sitting, and without a model, a drawing with many figures. He
was at the moment I knew him engaged in illustrating Grimm's stories,
for a paltry compensation, but, as it seemed to me, in a spirit the
most completely concordant with the stories of all the illustrations I
have ever seen of that folk-lore.

Wehnert had several sisters, who had been accustomed to a certain ease
in life, and to maintain this all his efforts and those of a bachelor
brother were devoted, to the sacrifice of his legitimate ambitions;
he was overworked with the veriest hack-work of his profession, and
I never knew him but as a jaded man. He was a graduate of Göttingen,
widely read and well taught in all that related to his art as well as
in literature, and I used to sit much with him while he worked, and
most of my evenings were passed in the family. The sisters were women
who had been of the world, clever, accomplished, and with a restricted
and most interesting circle of friends; but over the whole family
there rested an air of tragic gravity, as if of some past which could
never be spoken of and into which I never felt inclined to inquire.
Among the memories of my first stay in London the Wehnerts awaken the
tenderest, for through many years they proved the dearest and kindest
of friends. And the hospitality of London, wherever I found access to
it, was unmeasured--the kindly feeling which showed itself to a young
and unknown student without recommendation or achievement made on me
an indelible impression. I now and then found people who asked me
where I had learned to speak English, or if all the people in the
section from which I came were as white as I was; but except in a
single case, that of a lady who proposed to make me responsible for
slavery in the United States, I never found anything but friendship
and courtesy, and generally the friendliness took the form of active
interest.

Most of my time was passed in hunting up pictures by Turner, and
of course I made the early acquaintance of Griffiths, a dealer in
pictures, who was Turner's special agent, and at whose gallery were to
be seen such of his pictures as he wished to sell,--for no inducement
could be offered which would make him dispose of some of them.
Griffiths told me that in his presence an American collector, James
Lenox, of New York, after offering Turner £5000, which was refused,
for the Old "Téméraire," offered him a blank check, which was also
rejected. Griffiths's place became one of my most common resorts,
for Griffiths was less a picture dealer than a passionate admirer of
Turner, and seemed to have drifted into his business through his love
for the artist's pictures; and to share in his admiration for Turner
was to gain his cordial friendship.

Here I first saw Ruskin and was introduced to him. I was looking at
some little early drawings of Turner, when a gentleman entered the
gallery, and, after a conversation between them, Griffiths came to
me and asked if I should not like to be presented to the author of
"Modern Painters," to which I naturally replied in the affirmative. I
could hardly believe my eyes, expecting to find in him something of
the fire, enthusiasm, and dogmatism of his book, and seeing only a
gentleman of the most gentle type, blonde, refined, and with as little
self-assertion or dogmatic tone as was possible consistently with the
holding of his own opinions; suggesting views rather than asserting
them, and as if he had not himself come to a conclusion on the subject
of conversation. A delightful and to me instructive conversation ended
in an invitation to visit his father's collection of drawings and
pictures at Denmark Hill, and later to spend the evening at his own
house in Grosvenor Street. After the lapse of forty-eight years, it
is difficult to distinguish between the incidents which took place in
this first visit to England in 1850 and those belonging to another a
little later, but my impression is very strong that it was during the
former that I spent the evening at the Grosvenor Street residence, at
which I met several artists of Ruskin's intimacy, and amongst them
G.F. Watts. I then saw Mrs. Ruskin, and I have a very vivid impression
of her personal beauty. I remember saying to a friend, to whom I spoke
of the visit just after, that she was the most beautiful woman I
had seen in England. As I approached the house there was a bagpiper
playing near it, and the pipes entered into the conversation in the
drawing-room. On my making some very disparaging opinion of their
music, which I heard for the first time, Mrs. Ruskin flamed up with
indignation, but, after an annihilating look, she said mildly, "I
suppose no Southerner can understand the pipes," and we discussed them
calmly, she telling some stories to illustrate their power and the
special range of their effect.

At that time Ruskin held very strong Calvinistic notions, and as I
kept my Puritanism unshaken we had as many conversations on religion
as on art, the two being then to me almost identical and to him
closely related. I remember his saying once, in speaking of the
doctrine of foreordination (to me a dreadful bugbear), as I was
drinking a glass of sherry, that he "believed that it had been
ordained from all eternity whether I should set that glass down empty
or without finishing the wine." This was to me the most perplexing
problem of all that Ruskin put before me, for it was the first time
that the doctrine of Calvin had come before me in a concrete form.
Another incident gave me a serious perplexity as to the accuracy of
Ruskin's perceptions of nature. Leslie had given me a card to see Mr.
Holford's collection of pictures, in which was one of Turner's, the
balcony scene in Venice, called, I think, "Juliet and her Nurse." It
was a moonlight, with the most wonderful rendering of a certain effect
seen with the moon at the spectator's back, and I noted in speaking to
Ruskin, later on, that no other picture I had ever seen of moonlight
had succeeded so fully in realizing it, to which he replied that he
had never noticed that it was a moonlight picture; but when I called
his attention to the display of fireworks on the Grand Canal, he
admitted that it was not customary to let off fireworks by day, and
that it must be a night scene.

My acquaintance with Ruskin lasted with varying degrees of intimacy,
and some interruptions due to his sympathy with the South during the
civil war and bitterness against our government, till 1870, when it
was terminated by a trivial personal incident to which his morbid
state of mind at that time gave a false color. We separated more and
more widely in our opinions on art in later years, and the differences
came to me reluctantly, for my reverence for the man was never to be
shaken, while my study of art showed me finally that, however correct
his views of the ethics of art might be, from the point of view of
pure art he was entirely mistaken, and all that his influence had done
for me had to be undone before any true progress could be made. What
little I had learned from the artists I knew had been in the main
correct, and had aided to show me the true road, but the teaching of
"Modern Painters," and of Ruskin himself later, was in the end fatal
to the career to which I was then devoted, for I was unable to get
back to the dividing of the ways.

But the first mistake was my own. What I needed was practical study,
the training of the hand, for my head had already gone so far beyond
my technical attainment that I had entered into the fatal condition of
having theories beyond my practice. My execution was so far in arrear
of my perceptions of what should be in the result, that instead of
the delight with which I had, untaught, and in my stolen hours, given
myself to painting, I felt the weight of my technical shortcomings so
heavily as to make my work full of distress instead of that content
with which the artist should always work. Everything became conscious
effort and the going was too much uphill. I had always been groping my
own way, scarcely as much assisted by the fragmentary good advice I
received as laid under heavier disabilities by the better knowledge of
what should be done. In art education the training of the hand should,
I am persuaded, always be kept in advance of the thinking powers, so
that the young student should feel that his ideal is just before him
if not at his finger's end. That this is so rarely the case with
art students in our day is, I am convinced, the chief reason of the
technical inferiority of our modern painters and the root of the
inferiority of modern art. The artist does not begin early enough.
I was already belated, and every advance I made in the study of the
theory of art put me farther behind, practically.

The hope of getting much technical instruction from competent masters
in England was speedily dispelled. Lessons in water-color I could get
at a guinea an hour, and to enter as a pupil with one of the better
painters was impossible. Pyne received from his pupils £100 a month. I
had calculated how far I could mate my fifty pounds go and put it at
six months. By the advice of Wehnert, I applied to Charles Davidson, a
member of the New Water-Color Society, for instruction, and went down
into Surrey, where he lived, to be able to follow him in his work
from nature. He lived at Red Hill, and in the immediate vicinity John
Linnell had built his then new home. In the few weeks I lived there I
saw a great deal of the old man, one of the most remarkable examples
of the old English type I have ever known, and to me as interesting a
problem from the religious point of view as from the artistic. Barring
differences of the creed, of which I knew and cared nothing (for my
own religious horizon had always included all "good-willing men," and
I had no conception of the distinctions of creed which would send on
one side of the line of safety an Established Churchman and on the
other a Nonconformist), we agreed very well, and in the general
impression I set Linnell down as a devout Christian of the Cromwellian
type, and he certainly was a man of remarkable intellectual powers,
both in art and in theology. His Christianity might have taken a form
of less domestic sternness, but I remembered my own father too well
to find it inconsistent with genuine piety, though not even my mother
ever inspired the awe Linnell and his religious severity excited in
me.

Linnell's landscape seemed to me the full expression of a healthy
love of nature, possible only to a moral sanity in the man--a cheery
Wordsworthian enjoyment of her, which as a rule I have never found
in perfection out of the English school and its derivatives; the
outpouring of a robust nature which prefers to see the outer world
with the spectacles of no school, and through the memory of no other
man; not self-taught in the sense of owing nothing to another mind,
but in the sense that what he had learned he had digested and
forgotten except as a chance word in the universal gospel of art;
technically weak, slovenly in style, but eminently successful in
telling the story he had to tell. Even then, with my limited knowledge
of painting, he seemed to me to furnish the antithesis to Pyne,--one
too careful of style and running to excessive precision, the other too
negligent and running into indecision; and this judgment still holds.
Of Davidson, my immediate teacher, there was only to be got certain
ways of doing certain things, limited to the elements of landscape;
how to wash in the sky, to treat foliage in masses, and those tricks
of the brush in which the English water-color school abounds; but no
larger views, or more individual, of art itself. What he taught was,
perhaps, what I most needed to learn, but I was already too far on the
way to learn it easily.

I made a visit of ten days to Paris and saw with great profit the work
of the landscape painters and of Delacroix, the other figure painters
in general not interesting me much. I carried a letter of introduction
from the Wehnerts to Mademoiselle Didot, the daughter of Firmin Didot,
the famous publisher, then an old blind man, but one of the most
interesting Frenchmen I ever knew, as Mademoiselle Didot was the most
brilliant Frenchwoman. The old man was much interested in what I had
to say of America, and he paid us the national compliment of saying
that we spoke English more intelligibly than Englishmen in general. As
I spoke no French, our conversation was in English, and he understood
me perfectly, though he said he rarely could follow without difficulty
the conversation of an Englishman, while Americans in general he
understood readily. To accomplish all that I did with my fifty pounds
it may be easily understood that I had to cut my corners close, and
in fact they were so closely cut in my Continental excursion that I
landed at Newhaven on my return with one shilling in my pocket,
and when, at the end of my stay in England, I took the train for
Liverpool, I had only sixpence (my passage being provided for), and my
good friend Delf, who saw me off, on finding the state of my purse,
insisted at the railway station on my taking a sovereign for
contingencies.

This habit of making no provision for accidents had been a part of my
moral training, the faith in the overruling Providence never forsaking
me for an instant, so that, whatever I set about to do, I made no
provision for accidents. To go ahead and do what I thought I ought to
do, and let the consequences take care of themselves, has been the
habit of mind in which I have always worked and probably still work.
If the thing to be done was right, I never thought of what might come
after, or even whether I had the means to carry a resolution into
effect, taking it for granted that the means would be provided because
the thing was to be done. I retain the distinct recollection of an
expression of my mother while I was making preparations for this first
voyage to Europe, and she was packing my clothes for the voyage and
her lips were silently moving and the slow tears running down her
cheeks. She said in her low and murmuring voice as if in comment on
her prayer, "Oh! no, he is too pure-hearted," and I knew that the
prayer was for my protection from the temptations of that world of
which she only knew the terrors and dangers from her Bible, and
that she was so wrapt in her spiritual yearnings that she had quite
forgotten my presence. Poor mother! I never deserved the great trust
she had in me, but the memory of that moment has served me in many
devious moments to keep me in the path. But if I had no such virtues
as those which she attributed to me, I had what was perhaps more
potent, the intuitions which I inherited from her, and such as often
take a man out of temptation before he is aware of its strength,
and before it becomes a real danger; nor can any man remember such
confidence on the part of his mother without, from very shame, if no
sterner motive should exist, maintaining a higher tone of life.

I did not leave London without a sight of Turner himself, due to the
friendly forethought of Griffiths, who so appreciated my enthusiasm
for the old man that he lost no opportunity to satisfy it. Turner was
taken ill while I was on this visit, with an attack of the malady
which later killed him, and I had begged Griffiths to ask him to let
me come and nurse him. He declined the offer, but was not, Griffiths
told me, quite unmoved by it. One day, after his recovery, I received
a message from Griffiths to say that Turner was coming to the gallery
at a certain hour on a business appointment, and if I would happen in
just before the time fixed for it I might see him.

At the appointed hour Turner came and found me in an earnest study
of the pictures in the farther end of the gallery, where I remained,
unnoticing and unnoticed, until a sign from Griffiths called me up.
He then introduced me as a young American artist who had a great
admiration for his work, and who, being about to return home, would
be glad to take him by the hand. It was difficult to reconcile my
conception of the great artist with this little, and, to casual
observation, insignificant old man with a nose like an eagle's beak,
though a second sight showed that his eye, too, was like an eagle's,
bright, restless, and penetrating. Half awed and half surprised, I
held out my hand. He put his behind him, regarding me with a humorous,
malicious look, saying nothing. Confused, and not a little mortified,
I turned away, and, walking down the gallery, went to studying the
pictures again. When I looked his way again, a few minutes later, he
held out his hand to me, and we entered into a conversation which
lasted until Griffiths gave me a hint that Turner had business to
transact which I must leave him to. He gave me a hearty handshake,
and in his oracular way said, "Hmph--(nod) if you come to England
again--hmph (nod)--hmph (nod)," and another hand-shake with more
cordiality and a nod for good-by. I never saw a keener eye than his,
and the way that he held himself up, so straight that he seemed almost
to lean backwards, with his forehead thrown forward, and the piercing
eyes looking out from under their heavy brows, and his diminutive
stature coupled with the imposing bearing, combined to make a very
peculiar and vivid impression on me. Griffiths afterwards translated
his laconism for me as an invitation to come to see him if I ever came
back to England, and added that though he was in the worst of tempers
when he came in, and made him expect that I should be insulted, he
was in fact unusually cordial, and he had never seen him receive a
stranger with such friendliness except in the case of Cattermole, for
whom he had a strong liking. In the conversation we had during the
interview, I alluded to our good fortune in having already in America
one of the pictures of his best period, a seacoast sunset in the
possession of Mr. Lenox, and Turner exclaimed, "I wish they were all
put in a blunderbuss and shot off!" but he looked pleased at the
simultaneous outburst of protest on the part of Griffiths and myself.
When I went back to England for another visit he was dead.

I may frankly say as to Turner's art, that I enjoyed most the
water-colors of the middle period, though the latest gave me another
kind of delight,--that of the reading of a fairy-story, of the
building of glorious castles in the air in my younger days, that of
something to desire and despair of. The drawings of the England and
Wales series in the possession of Ruskin seemed to my critical
faculty the _ne plus ultra_ of water-color painting,--especially the
"Llanthony Abbey," of which I recall those early impressions with the
greatest distinctness[1]. I saw in the Academy Exhibition the last
pictures he ever exhibited, some whaling subjects, fresh from his
retouching of two days before, gorgeous dreams of color art, but only
dreams--the actuality had all gone out. I saw them years after when
they had become mere wrecks, hardly recognizable.

[Footnote 1: I saw it again in the Guildhall Exhibition of 1899.]

I saw also that year a picture by Rossetti and one by Millais, and the
latter impressed me very strongly; in fact it determined me in the
manner in which I should follow art on my return home. I did not and
could not put it on the same plane as the "Llanthony Abbey," but the
straight thrust for the truth was evidently the shortest way to
a certain excellence, and this of the kind most akin to my own
faculties, and I said to Delf, who was with me at the exhibition
of the Academy, that if ever English figure painting rose out of
mediocrity it would be through the work of the P.R.B. My impression is
that the picture was the "Christ in the Carpenter's Shop," but of this
I cannot be sure, though I am certain that it was in the exhibition of
1850. The Rossetti was in the old "National Society," and was either
the "Childhood of the Virgin Mary" or the "White Lady." Beautiful as
it was, it did not impress me as did the temper of Millais's work,
the scrupulous conscientiousness of which chimed with my Puritan
education. I left England with a fermentation of art ideas in my
brain, in which the influence of Turner and Pyne, the teachings
of Wehnert, and the work of the Pre-Raphaelites mingled with the
influence of Ruskin, and especially the preconception of art work
derived from the descriptions, often strangely misleading, of the
"Modern Painters."

I received from my brother, as I had anticipated, the order for a
passage on the Atlantic, one of the Collins line of steamers, and one
of my fellow-passengers was Jenny Lind, on her way for her first visit
to America under the guidance of Barnum. She gave a concert on board
for the benefit of the firemen and sailors, and to this the half of
Delf's sovereign contributed, the other half going for a bottle of
Rhine wine, to return the compliment of my next neighbor at the table,
who had invited me to take a glass of wine one day. Thus, as usual, I
landed penniless from my venture, but fortunately found my brother on
the wharf expecting the arrival of the steamer, her trips having
been made with such precision that the hour of arrival was generally
anticipated correctly. In those days the steamers were rarely driven,
and a voyage of fourteen days was not considered a bad one. A day's
run of 336 knots was a triumph of steaming and rarely attained. But
we were at the beginning of the contest between the Collins and the
Cunard steamers, and up to that time the American line had generally a
little the better of it.

The rest of that year and the year following were given to hard and
monotonous painting from nature while the weather permitted, and in
the winter to working out clumsily the mysteries of picture-making, a
work which, as I was without direction or any correct appreciation of
what I had it in me to do, became a drudgery which I went through as
an indispensable duty, but with no satisfaction. My larger studies
from nature (25x30 inches) had attracted attention and had been hung
on the line, getting for me the election to the Associateship of
Design, and the appellation of the "American Pre-Raphaelite,"--all
which for a man so lately embarked in the profession was considered a
high honor, as it really was. But the success only confirmed me in my
incorrect views of art and carried me farther from the true path. As
studies from nature, the fidelity and completeness of them, even
in comparison with Durand's, was something which the conventional
landscape known then and there had never approached, and to the
respectable amateurs of that day they were puzzles. In one of them,
a study of a wood scene with a spring of water overshadowed by a
beech-tree, all painted at close quarters, I had transplanted a violet
which I wanted in the near foreground, so as to be sure that it was in
correct light and proportion. This was in the spirit of the Ruskinian
doctrine, of which I made myself the apostle. On that study I spent
such hours of the day as the light served, for three months, and then
the coming of autumn stopped me. Any difficulty in literal rendering
of a subject was incomprehensible to me, and in fact in that kind of
work there is little difference, for it is but copying, and requires
only a correct eye and infinite patience, both of which I had; and it
was a puzzle to me rather than a compliment when the veteran Durand
said to me of one of my studies, that it was a subject he would not
have dared attack on account of the difficulty of the effect of light,
for to me it was simply a question of time and sticking to it. It was
not art, but the public did not know it any more than I did, and I was
admitted to a place which I believe was one of the highest amongst
my contemporaries at home in a way that led to little even in its
complete success. I influenced some of my contemporaries and gave a
jog to the landscape painting of the day, and there it ended, through
a diversion of my ambition to another sphere, but there it must have
ended; even if I had never been so diverted.



CHAPTER VII

ON A MISSION FOR KOSSUTH


The arrival, in December, 1851, of Kossuth, the Hungarian patriot, on
his mission for the redemption of Hungary, set all America in a flame
of shallow enthusiasm, and I went to hear his appeals. What he asked
for was money to arm his country, to renew the struggle with the
House of Hapsburg. His eloquence carried away all deliberation in the
Northern States, and even shook the government at Washington; but, in
the end, the only practical result was his gain of the dollars which
the hearers paid to hear him speak, and which no one regretted who
heard him, for such oratory no one in the country ever had heard, even
from men to whom the English language was native. Before making his
discourse in any town, he took the pains to find out something of the
local history, and thus touched the patriotism of his audience in the
parish bounds, and the past glories of America were revived in terms
of a new and strange flattery. We were like the Athenians after
hearing the Philippics of Demosthenes,--all ready to march against
the Austrian. Before he left New York I had volunteered to fight or
conspire, or take any part in the struggle which might fall to me. I
kept my counsel from my family, and when Kossuth went on his westward
tour it was settled that, on or after his return to Europe, I was to
follow.

His tour of the Northern States was a triumph that caused him to
entertain hopes which a man of more sobriety and common-sense would
not have conceived. Against the indifference to liberty and the
selfishness of the slave States, his flood of eloquence broke in vain.
He knew that the North contained most of the capital and energy of
America, and he supposed that they ruled, and was late in learning
that the South ruled us. At Washington he came into contact with the
statesmanship and the demagogy of the republic, and, while the
former gave him a magnificent reception, the latter quietly and
undemonstratively quenched his hopes. The South had no sympathy with
Hungarian or any other liberty, and we felt the chill fall on Kossuth
and his eloquence. But, for the politicians, there was something to
be made out of him and the naturalized voters, mainly republicans and
refugees from the various revolutions which had failed in Europe; so
he was not denied the expectation of some private assistance, though
the hope that the United States should openly declare Hungary a
belligerent, and thus give its moral weight to Kossuth, the recognized
governor, was soon seen to be an idle and fallacious one. "Something
might be done," said the politicians. So Kossuth waited.

A presidential election was near, and negotiations were initiated
between Kossuth and the party leaders for his influence on the foreign
vote, and, pending these, he could decide nothing as to his future
movements. I was in the habit of going to see him at night, and
sometimes waited for the departure of the committees of the
politicians who were in discussion with him. One night, when I went
in, I found him in a state of nauseated irritation, and he broke out,
saying, "Mr. Stillman, if your country does not get rid of these
politicians it will be ruined in fifty years." He had just received a
Democratic committee, which had formally promised him, in return for
the influence he might exert in favor of their candidate, two ships of
war ready for service, and a sum of money, the exact amount of which
I cannot now remember, but I think it was half a million dollars.
Naturally he did not tell me if he had closed with the proposition,
but the making of it by the committee was a revelation as to the
purity of American politics which he fully understood. This committee
had presented itself with the authority of Franklin Pierce, Democratic
candidate for the presidency.

The scheme in which he at first proposed to utilize my services was
the formation of a deposit of arms and materials of war at a point in
the Mediterranean from which he could descend promptly on the coast of
Croatia, and this indicated that the two men-of-war of the committee
entered into his plans. The desired point he found in the little
island of Galita, south of Sardinia, unoccupied and apparently
unclaimed by any power, but on which, he told me, the flag of the
United States had been hoisted some years before by one of our
cruisers; evidently as a joke on the part of some of our sailors.
I was to visit it and report on its fitness for his purpose; but
negotiations dragged, or there was some hitch, nothing was concluded
until Kossuth's departure for Europe became necessary, and Pulzsky,
his _alter ego_, was given full instructions concerning me. I was to
follow when affairs were in a certain state of readiness; and, in
fact, after a few weeks, I was summoned to London. I received from
Pulzsky the clue to Kossuth's quarters, in a quiet street, Bayswater
way, if I remember rightly, to which I was to go only late at night,
and by some roundabout road, as the Austrian spies were always
watching him.

I had a letter to a Madam Schmidt, a German refugee, and an advanced
republican, at whose house I used to meet a little assembly of
refugees,--German, French, Russian, etc. Every Sunday night we used to
meet and discuss the politics of Europe. Of my friends of this circle
I remember only one,--a Mr. Norich, a young Russian, with whom I
contracted a close friendship, never since renewed. Nothing more was
said of the Galita plan, which seems to have depended on the success
of the political negotiations with the Americans, and it was finally
decided that I should go to Milan and carry the proclamations which
Kossuth was to issue to the Hungarian soldiers of the Italian garrison
there, ordering them, in case of any revolt, not to fire on insurgent
Italians. This was in prevision of the insurrection which Mazzini had
determined for the spring of 1853, and with regard to which there were
grave dissensions between the two chiefs. Kossuth was not ready
for the Hungarian rising, and refused to order it till there was
a prospect of success, while Mazzini believed that, even if
unsuccessful, the rising was necessary to keep his influence on the
Italian population, which was already shaken. Kossuth said to me that
he disapproved Mazzini's plans, for he refused "to play with the blood
of the nations;" but, if Mazzini persisted, he would give the order to
the Hungarian troops not to fire on the people if any rising should
take place; more than that he could not do.

Pending the ripening of Mazzini's scheme I waited in London, at the
orders of Kossuth, but before the moment came for my undertaking this
mission a new one became urgent. When the Hungarian insurrection of
1848-49 had become evidently a failure, and Kossuth was about to
escape into Turkey, he decided to conceal, in some place secure from
Austrian discovery, the crown jewels, including the crown of St.
Stephen, which was considered by the Hungarian people as necessary to
the lawful coronation of their king, and with which Francis Joseph
had not been crowned; and he and Bartholomew Szemere, one of his
colleagues in the ministry--employing for their operations a
detachment of prisoners, who were shot after the concealment was
complete--buried the jewels at some point down the Danube. Having
received information that Szemere, who was then opposed to Kossuth,
was about to disclose their hiding-place to the Austrian government,
Kossuth determined to remove them, and organized an expedition to this
end, of which I was to become the apparent head. The description of
the hiding-place was written in a most complicated cipher dispatch,
the key to which was contained in a stanza of a song known to
Kossuth's correspondent in Pesth. Each letter in the dispatch was
represented by a fraction, of which the numerator was the number of
the letter in one of the lines of the song, and the denominator the
number of the line. This dispatch was then written in four parts; the
first, fifth, ninth, etc., letters being put in the first part;
the second, sixth, tenth, etc., in the second; the third, seventh,
eleventh, etc., in the third; the fourth, eighth, twelfth, etc., in
the fourth, and so on to the end. Of these parts of the dispatch,
written on the finest paper, I had charge of two; one for myself, and
one for a person indicated at Pesth, and the other two were to go by
way of Constantinople, one for the confederate who carried it and one
for the correspondent who had the song-key. We were to meet and spell
out the directions and go to the hiding-place, and, when the jewels
were recovered, they were to be hidden in a box of a conserve for
which that vicinity was noted, and then carried to Constantinople,
from which point I was to take charge of them and deliver them in
Boston to Dr. S.G. Howe, the well-known Philhellene.

I folded my portion of these dispatches small, wrapped them in thin
gutta-percha, and, going to the most obscure shoemaker in the part of
London which I knew, had the heel of one of my boots excavated and
the packet deposited in the hole and covered over again by a stout
heel-tap. My orders were to take at least six weeks for the journey,
to go by a roundabout route, and travel as if for pleasure. From
the Austrian territory I was to write to Kossuth all the political
information I could collect, the messages being conveyed in a
cryptograph in which the form of the letter was to be that of a
correspondence between lovers. The words composing the message were to
be written on spaces left in a mask of which each had a copy, and the
spaces between the words then filled up so that the letter would carry
some meaning when read as a whole. Love-letters were supposed to give
most room for nonsense. Knowing very little French, I bought a pocket
dictionary and a copy of Racine, and, during a ten days' stay in
Paris, by diligent use of the former in all my transactions, I picked
up enough for the needs of travel, and, spending all my leisure over
the latter, I was, before my mission was over, able to converse with
considerable fluency and knew my Racine thoroughly.

From Paris I made the journey to Brussels in the company of an
American gentleman, Mr. Coxe, of Alabama, traveling with his wife and
daughter. At Brussels I made, through the Coxes, the acquaintance
of M. Le Hardy de Beaulieu, the leader of a section of the Belgian
Liberals, whose father had held a command in the Belgian contingent at
Waterloo. My acquaintance with M. Le Hardy lasted many years, he being
much interested in America, and having, with his brother, founded
a Belgian colony in Alabama. The ancestral estate of the Le Hardys
included part of the field of Waterloo, and we visited it in company
with M. Le Hardy, who pointed out the trenches made by the heavy
artillery of Napoleon still distinguishable on the surface of the
fields in spite of the subsequent ploughings. I suppose that his
familiarity with the fields from his boyhood gives authority to his
assurance that the depressions we saw were the effect of the ploughing
of the guns in the wet, soft earth, and did not exist in the natural
lay of the land, and the incident brought one very near to the great
struggle which fixed for long the position of England in European
politics. M. Le Hardy had been, like his father before him, urged to
resume the title of nobility which the father had renounced in the
warmth of the republican movement prior to the Empire, having burned
the patent in the square at Brussels; but, like the father, he had
always refused. He was a consistent and, as he would now be classed, a
moderate republican.

Visiting Dusseldorf for the sake of the school of art there, I seemed
to go into the Middle Ages. We landed from the Rhine steamer in the
night, finding the streets deserted even by the police, and dimly
lighted by oil lamps hung across them at wide intervals, and I
wandered a long time at random with my valise in hand, searching for a
hotel, and not meeting a living person to ask guidance of. I blundered
at length on a little inn in whose drinking-room still burned a light,
and in which I found a night's lodging. Such a primitive state of
civilization was to me, fresh from Paris and Brussels, romantic. At
Berlin I made the acquaintance of Varnhagen von Ense, through a letter
of introduction from Frau Schmidt, my republican refugee friend of
London. He treated me with great consideration, and promised me a
winter of brilliant social life if I would stay at Berlin. The chief
inducement offered was the acquaintance of Humboldt, then absent from
the city. Of Varnhagen von Ense I retain the most delightful memory.
I found him courteous, genial, and hospitable, with a large-minded
outlook on politics and a great interest in America. I saw also the
new museum, with Kaulbach at work on his frescoes, and, going by
Dresden, reached Prague, where I began my political reports to
Kossuth.

Arriving at Vienna, I was beforehand with the famous police, which I
found not to merit its reputation for sharpness, and went at once,
after establishing myself at the hotel, and before my name was
reported to the authorities and a spy put on me, to the address of a
republican, known to Kossuth, and to whom I was directed to apply for
the identification of some Hungarian resident in the city on whom
Kossuth could depend to reëstablish communication with the Viennese
malcontents, broken by a misadventure of his former agent. This
adventure Kossuth recounted to me, I suppose to keep up my courage in
the perilous business he was sending me on. One of his agents had
been sent on a round tour with instructions for certain officers or
soldiers, and, having been detected in communication with the barracks
and arrested, a memorandum book was found on him in which, amongst
many addresses of persons to whom he had no mission, those to which
he was directed were interspersed. All were arrested, among them the
Vienna agent, who, ignorant of the reason of his arrest, suspecting
treachery, and fearing the disclosures that might be extorted from him
by torture, rolled himself in his bedclothes and set fire to them with
his candle, the only means of suicide left him. When he felt that the
burning was fatal he made an alarm and bade the attendant call the
council of war, which immediately met in his cell. He then avowed his
complicity in treasonable plans, and, assuring them that nothing more
could be extorted from him by any torture they might inflict, that his
chief would soon come and make all things right, and that there were
thousands more as ready to die as he, he refused to say any more and
died in silence.

My business was to find a man to take this agent's place. The
individual to whom I was sent was a ribbon manufacturer on one of the
main streets, and, pretending a desire to visit his weaving rooms, we
went to the manufactory in the upper stories, and then I disclosed,
with no preamble, my mission. The good man was in ecstasies, and to
show his joy invited me down into his living apartments and introduced
me to his wife, daughters, and the lover of one of his daughters, as a
messenger from Kossuth! If my hair did not rise on end, I am certain
that at no crisis of my life could it ever have done so. During my ten
days' stay in Vienna and the four weeks I afterward passed in Pesth, I
never lost a nervous apprehension of the consequences of this singular
imprudence, for I was in the enemy's country, on business the
slightest suspicion of which meant an obscure prison and complete
disappearance from any friend. With cipher dispatches on my person in
the handwriting of Kossuth, well known to all the authorities, and
with my secret in the possession of five women and two men, the
uneasiness I felt for the first two or three days can better be
imagined than expressed. I did nothing all day long but walk the
streets, drink coffee, and smoke cigars with constant apprehension of
an arrest.

But I did not neglect my business. I found a Hungarian whose name
Kossuth had given me as the alternative probable medium of the renewed
relations with Vienna, but he not only refused to have any relations
with the late dictator, but strongly warned me of the possible
consequences to myself of the mission I was on, and made me see very
clearly that Kossuth overrated his influence on the Hungarians after
the _débâcle_, for which he was largely responsible. But it never
occurred to me that it was possible to withdraw or do less than obey
my instructions. I reported to Kossuth that the only person I could
find who was willing to assume the responsibility of entering into
relations with him was the ribbon-maker, and then, having acquired
the confidence of the American consul, who was a zealous agent of the
imperial government, and got his visé for Hungary, I made my way to
Pesth.

Once on the scene of my real labors, I discovered how incompetent a
conspirator Kossuth was. He had given me the name of his correspondent
in Pesth and his residence, in the Karolyisches Haus, as if that were
his ordinary residence, without warning me, though he knew it, that he
was really in hiding from the police, and probably only to be reached
with precaution and indirectly. Adopting the same tactics as in
Vienna, and not to attract attention by inquiries, I went at once in
a cab to the house. The porter, of course, in reply to my inquiries,
being in hearing of the cab-driver, who was probably a spy, denied any
knowledge of such a person. I drove back to the hotel, and then went
on foot alone and asked again for the individual, but got the same
reply, this time angrily delivered. Utterly at a loss what to do, I
wrote at once to Kossuth that the person wanted was not at the address
indicated. Instead of writing to him to find me and giving him
my address, Kossuth only reiterated through the post the former
instructions. I repeated the denial, and then waited. In conversation
with the hotel people I inquired as fully as was possible without
exciting suspicion, about persons of liberal tendencies and such as I
conceived that I might make use of, and studied the position as best I
could. Pending this study I was summoned to the police headquarters to
give an account of myself. This I did in a manner which must have been
satisfactory, as they found that I knew little German and was a very
stupid and unpractical individual, which I must have really been, to
find myself there. I accounted for myself as a landscape painter on
his travels, and as I knew nobody and made no acquaintances they
dismissed all suspicion of me, our consul's assurance no doubt
covering all doubts, and I waited still. But after a few days more
a convenient attack of illness gave me a pretext for calling a
physician, and I chose Dr. Orzovensky, who I had learned had been
chief of the medical staff under the revolutionary authorities.
Through him I made such inquiries as were possible about the people to
whom I was sent, and then for the first time discovered that they were
all under accusation as conspirators and searched for by the police,
and of this I had no warning from Kossuth.

But in all this wandering my boot-heel was wearing away, and it was a
question of wearing into the packet of dispatches, or putting them in
a place of security. I accordingly dug them out, and, hiding them in
a convenient corner of the cupboard in my room, where they must
soon have been discovered in case of a domiciliary visit, took the
excavated boots out to throw them into the river, choosing the
earliest darkness of the rainy evening of the same day. I knew that
if the bootblack saw the excavated heel he would in all probability
report the fact, and my arrest would follow. In my ignorance of the
fact that the city was under martial law, and that without a pass no
one could be in the streets after 8 P.M., I had waited till 9 to be
screened by the darkness, and then, walking down the river on the
dike, I slipped down to the water's edge by the path, and gently
tossed the boots into the rapid current. Seeing the dangerous articles
float away into the dark, I turned to go up the dike to the road
running along the top of it, when, to my dismay, I heard a sentinel
directly across the road challenge, saw the officer of the guard
coming on his rounds, and heard his reply to the challenge. I hurried
down the bank, hoping that I had not attracted attention, but feeling
that in the contrary case I was in most imminent danger of arrest, and
the thought of the dispatches left where they must be found in case of
suspicion gave me a moment's anxiety. I hurried back along the water's
edge till I judged that I was out of sight from the post, and then
walked up on the dike and towards the hotel.

It was very dark and raining slightly, but as I came within the circle
of light of one of the street lamps the vigilant eye of the officer of
the guard caught me, and he hailed, "Who goes there?" I did not reply,
but, acting as if I did not hear, hurried to get directly under the
lamp which was near, with a feeling that if the officer saw me there
he would see that I was what I pretended to be, a stranger, and also
with a feeling that I was safer at a distance if the challenge were
followed by a bullet. Under the lamp I stopped for the officer to come
up. I was not really frightened, but I cannot deny that I felt very
nervous, as he came up, and, in an inquisitorial tone, asked, "What
are you doing here?" I replied in German which was certainly comical
and not a little shaky, for it was a fragmentary remembrance of the
German read in my early college course, and never since revived, that
"I was doing nothing--that I was a strangers" (ich bin ein Fremden),
and had come out to see the effects on the river, pointing to the
glimmering lights; but, fortunately, my German was so funny that he
burst out laughing, and after a "sehr schön, sehr schön," as I had
said "strangers" in the plural, he replied, "When you are a strangers
you must stay in the house," and gave me friendly directions as to
how to get back to my hotel without falling in with the police, "who
wouldn't let you off as I have." I was fortunate enough to arrive
without any further notice. The officers of the army hated to do
police service, and my inquisitor was no doubt glad not to pass me
into the custody of the police. I have always wished to know the name
of my protector, for such he was.

I remained in Pesth over a month, exciting an increasing attention and
being unable to account for a further delay, as I was doing nothing,
not even sketching, which, in the vicinity of a fortress, would have
been the surest way of inviting arrest. I profited by the acquaintance
of Dr. Orzovensky's family to pass the time agreeably, and, finally,
being unable to extort by post further instructions from Kossuth, or
explanations in reply to two urgent letters describing the position I
was in, and being unable to give any reason for a longer stay, or to
find the people I was sent to, I determined to go back to London and
start again with fuller oral instructions and a better understanding
of the difficulties. I went to Orzovensky and frankly told him my
errand, and asked him if I might leave the dispatches in some place
known to him, so that he could indicate to some other person, should
my mission be taken up by another, where they were to be found. He
burst out on me with violence, accusing me of endangering his family
as well as himself, and assuring me that if the slightest suspicion of
my mission should transpire they would all be thrown into prison,
and he be ruined, refusing to have anything to do or say about the
dispatches, and breaking off all communications with me on the spot.

I had not, up to that moment, felt any _real_ fright, though, when I
stood under the scrutiny of the officer on the dike, I must confess I
felt extremely nervous; but Orzovensky's violence, and his own panic
at the thought of having harbored treason so long, making me fear that
his anxiety to escape all suspicion might compel him to denounce me,
gave me a _mauvais quart d'heure_. I was instantaneously in an awful
funk, and I had a practical demonstration of the "_vox haesit in
faucibus_," for I was unable to reply to the good doctor in anything
but the faintest whisper, and my tongue clattered in my mouth, as dry
as a stick, in an instant. I threw the dispatches in the sink and took
the next train for Vienna, undisturbed by the train running off the
track in the night, in the greater anxiety of my position, and, after
making at the station of Vienna only a hasty lunch on a boiled sausage
and a roll, continued my journey by express until I was out of the
Austrian dominions, and stopped to sleep at Frankfort. My panic was
as unreasonable as my security had been, for there was no reason to
believe that Dr. Orzovensky would warn the authorities, or that I
could not have carried the dispatches back to Kossuth in safety. My
habitual courage was not the courage of one who realizes his danger
and faces it coolly, but that of constitutional inability to realize
what the danger is, however clearly it may be shown to him. As a habit
the realization of my danger only came to me when the danger itself
had gone by, and then I was frightened.

Arrived at London, I went to report to Kossuth, expecting a scene and
reproaches, when I was prepared to show him that the failure of the
mission was due to his having neglected to inform me that I was going
to a man wanted by the police, and in close hiding, so that my failure
to find him was probably due to the openness with which I made my
approaches, and to his not having then informed his correspondent that
I was on the ground expecting to see him, and that he must look out
for me. But he only exclaimed, with a tone of regret, "Three months
lost!" yet there was, probably, a reciprocal disapproval of our
methods of carrying on a conspiracy; for, while he was most gravely
disappointed at getting no result from his work and expenditure, no
doubt owing largely to my incompetence for that kind of service, I was
equally dissatisfied at being sent on an expedition which put my
life in imminent danger, with the minor perils of torture and long
imprisonment, provided with information utterly insufficient and
needlessly incomplete for the mission confided to me.

If Kossuth had cautioned me that his correspondent was in hiding and
wanted by the police, I should not have committed the grave error of
going openly to find him, and under the eye of a cabman, who would
probably report to the police my act. Had he even after that informed
his correspondent where I could be found and who I was (which was
perfectly practicable, for he told me himself that he had received
letters from the correspondent during my stay at Pesth), there could
have been communication at once. Kossuth said that I ought to have
sought out the friends at the Tiger café, where they were in the habit
of meeting publicly, though he knew that the city was swarming with
spies, and that the state of siege existed (and of this, even, he did
not warn me), and that my chief difficulty was to avoid being brought
into contact with suspected Hungarians; nor did he recollect that he
had given precise instructions to avoid anything which might lead any
one to suppose that I was more than an objectless traveler. I was most
reasonably disgusted with having my life exposed in this careless way,
and he, perhaps, as reasonably so with my want of resource, and the
result was that he decided not to employ me again in such work, and I
decided to wait for active insurrectionary movements, in which I could
take my place. As it happened, however, the Austrian government had
recovered the crown jewels; some one in the secret--Kossuth said
Szemere--having learned that Kossuth was sending an expedition to
recover them, and, from jealousy of him, disclosed the hiding-place.

Kossuth's practical incapacity for the minutiae of conspiracy in this
case was, I judged from what I afterward learned of his compatriots,
characteristic of him. He continually neglected the details of
important affairs, working by magnificent inspirations, which left out
of consideration the defects of human nature. His self-exaltation had
offended many patriots who did not fall under his personal magnetism,
and his assumption of authority in military matters where he had no
knowledge to justify it, alienated the competent officers. The treason
of Görgey, as it was popularly considered, was probably due to the
perception that Kossuth was an impracticable head for an active
revolution, under whose dictature there was no hope of final success
while he at the same time refused to abandon his impracticable
ideals; and I heard from actual participants that there was great
dissatisfaction amongst the officers with his assumption of dignity,
out of place, and of command, for which he was incompetent. The fact
was that he could not distinguish between the practicable and the
impracticable, and though not so visionary as Mazzini, he believed
that his power of arousing the wild enthusiasm of the Honveds and
masses of Hungarians, due to his marvelous eloquence, was enough to
carry on war with, and he would not see that, from the moment that
Russia intervened, it was only a question of time when and how the
insurrection should end. Then his treatment of the Slavonic element of
the population was fatal to the movement. The Serbs only asked to be
admitted on an equal footing with the Magyars to the struggle against
the centralizing tendency of the German element at Vienna, and
Kossuth contemptuously exclaimed, in response to their demand, "These
Rascians, who consider themselves a nation and are only a band of
robbers," etc.,--a reply hardly calculated to conciliate--one which in
fact threw the Slavonic population against the movement and made the
Russian intervention inevitable. Kossuth, like Mazzini, was simply an
insurrectionary force--the administrative power existed only in great
and imposing schemes which lacked adaptation to ordinary human nature
and existing circumstances. The personal fascination of the man was
beyond anything I have ever known, but his failure as the chief of a
state was, I believe, inevitable.

I took my congé as secret agent, but it was understood that when the
renewal of the revolt from Austria, to which he looked forward at no
distant time, was at hand, I should take the place to which I had
looked forward in the beginning. I saw one of Kossuth's associates
subsequently, after the failure of Mazzini's Milan movement in the
spring of 1853; and he then told me of the failure, and how the
Hungarian soldiers, as had been ordered, refused to fire on the
insurgents and had been decimated and sent to Croatia. More than
thirty years after, I went to see Kossuth at Turin, and introduced
myself as the young man who went to Hungary for him to carry off the
crown jewels. He burst out with an impetuous denial of the existence
of the expedition. "But," said I, "I have your letters written to
me in Pesth." "I should like to see those letters," he replied. I
promised to send them, conditionally on his promise to return them;
but thinking it over, I sent him only one, inclosed in a stamped
envelope directed to myself, with a letter recalling the promise to
send it back. I never heard from him again, however, and saw that he
only wanted to get the letters to suppress their evidence.



CHAPTER VIII

AN ART STUDENT IN PARIS


I went to Paris to wait for the impending rising in Milan, and
meanwhile entered the atelier of Yvon, not to lose my time. My only
English-speaking companion in the atelier was a younger brother of
Edward Armitage, the Royal Academician; the popular atelier at that
time for the English and American students being that of Couture.
Yvon had about thirty pupils, to whom his attentions were given
gratuitously and conscientiously, three times a week, with rare
exceptions of the Saturday visit, by the pupils regarded as the least
important. Of the thirty there were not more than a half dozen who
showed any degree of special aptitude for their work, and only two
were regarded by their colleagues as likely to be an honor to the
atelier in the future, and of these, unless they have changed their
names, no renown has come in later times. There was a marquis whose
income was one hundred francs a month, and a count whose father gave
him five sous and a piece of bread for his breakfast when he left
home, but the rest were plebeians, with neither past nor future, whose
enthusiasm in the face of their weekly failures, and patience in
following an arid path, were most interesting as a social phenomenon.
I have always found more to wonder at in the failures than in the
great successes of artist life--seeing the content and even happiness
which some of the hopelessly enthusiastic found in their futile and
endless labor. We used to go to work at six in the morning, draw two
hours and then go to a little _laiterie_ and take our bowl of _café au
lait_ and a small loaf of bread, and then draw till noon, when we went
home for the second breakfast. Armitage and myself used to breakfast
at the Palais Royal, or some other quarter where the bill of fare was
by the rest of the men considered luxurious, and we were dubbed the
"aristocrats" of the atelier, my breakfast costing me one franc and a
half and my dinner two francs. I had fixed my expenses, as in London,
at the limit of twenty-five francs a week, which had to pay all the
expenses of atelier, food, and lodging, and it was surprising how much
comfort could then be got for that sum.

I had found a tiny room in the _maison meublée_ in the Cité d'Antin
where Mrs. Coxe lived, and Mr. Coxe in returning to America had given
me charge of his women folk, so that I had a social resource and a
relief from tedium which gave me no expense. On Sunday the daughter
came home from school, and we all went out to dine at one or another
of the Palais Royal restaurants, or made, in the fine weather, an
excursion into the environs. Now and then, Mrs. Coxe invited me to
take them to the theatre, and thus I saw some of the famous actors,
Rachel and Frédéric Lemaître being still vividly impressed on my
memory. The afternoons of the week days were given to the galleries
and visiting the studios of the painters whose work attracted me, and
who admitted visitors. I thus made the acquaintance of Delacroix,
Gérôme, Théodore Rousseau, and by a chance met Delaroche and Ingres;
but Delacroix most interested me, and I made an application to him to
be received as a pupil, which he in a most amiable manner refused, but
he seemed interested in putting me on the right way and gave me such
advice as was in the range of casual conversation. I asked him what,
in his mind, was the principal defect of modern art, as compared with
ancient, and he replied "the execution." He had endeavored to remedy
this in his own case by extensive copying of the old masters, and he
showed me many of the copies--passages of different works, apparently
made with the object of catching the quality of execution.

In fact, if we consider the differences between the system of
education in painting and that in music or any other art or occupation
in which the highest executive ability is required, we shall see that
we give insufficient opportunity for the painter's hand to acquire the
subtle skill we find in the successful violinist or pianist, and which
is due to the early and incessant practice in the manual operations
of his art. The fact is recognized, that the education of a violinist
must begin in the early years, when the will and hand are flexible,
and not merely the training, but the occupation, is almost exclusive,
for the specialist is made only by a special and relatively exclusive
devotion to the particular faculties which are desired to be trained.
It is useless to attempt to develop the finest qualities of the
draughtsman without the same attention to the condition of training
which we insist on in the musician. The theory may come later, the
intellectual element may develop under many influences, and healthily,
later in life, but the hand is too fine and subtly constituted an
implement to be brought into its best condition and efficiency unless
trained from the beginning to the definite use imposed on it.

Admitting, therefore, as I do, that the criticism of Delacroix was
just, it is evident that, until we give to the modern student of
painting a similar training to that which the early one had, we cannot
expect him to attain the executive powers of the Italian renaissance,
nor can we be sure that he appreciates the subtlety of the work of the
masters, any more than the member of a village choir can understand
the finesse of the highest order of musical execution, or its first
violinist appreciate the touch of a Joachim or a Sarasate. For it is
just in the last refinement of touch of a Raphael drawing or the rapid
and expressive outline of a Mantegna that we find the analogy between
the two arts, in a refinement of touch which is lost on the public,
and appreciated only by the practiced student either of music or
painting. This final attainment of the hand is only possible to a man
who has been trained as a boy to his work. We find it in a water-color
drawing of Turner, as in a pencil drawing of Raphael, and in the
outlines of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but in modern figure
painting never, even in France, where the youth generally takes up the
training at fourteen to sixteen. I believe that the reason why this
supreme manual excellence is so completely lacking, even in French
art, that, so far as I know, only Meissonier amongst them has attained
a measure of it, is that the seriousness of life and purpose necessary
for any consummate achievement is so rarely found there in conjunction
with that early and sound training.

Another acquaintance made in these days, which has always remained a
delight to me, was that of Théodore Rousseau, to my mind the greatest
of the French landscape painters. Though living and working mostly
at Barbison, he had a studio in Paris, and there I used to see
him, always received in the friendly and helpful way which was
characteristic of most of the French artists of the higher order.
Later I went to Barbison, where, besides Rousseau, I knew J.F. Millet,
and a minor, but in his way a very remarkable, painter, Charles
Jacque. Rousseau was a most instructive talker on art, beyond the
sphere of which he hardly seemed to care to go in his thinking. He had
never been out of France, had never seen the Alps, and did not care
for mountain scenery, but concentrated all his feelings and labor on
what he used to call "_sujets intimes_," the picturesque nooks of
landscape one can always find in a highly cultivated country, where
nature is tamed to an intimacy with the domestic spirit, or where she
vainly struggles against the invasion of culture, as in the borders
of the forest of Fontainebleau. In such material, nature withdraws
farther and makes a wider margin for art, and the wedding and welding
of the two become more subtle and playful.

It has always seemed to me that with all the differences inherent
in the antagonism of the characters of the two men, the essential
features of the art of Rousseau and Turner were the same; pure
impressionism based on the most intimate and largest knowledge of the
facts of nature, but without direct copying of them--rather working
from memoranda or memories, for neither ever painted directly from
nature; the same conception of the subject as a whole, its rhythmic
and harmonic unity as opposed to the fragmentary manner of treatment
of most of their contemporaries; the lyric passion in line and tint;
the same originality which often became waywardness in the conception
of subject in itself; the same revolt from all precedent; and the same
passion for subtle gradation and infinite space, air, and light--and
some of Rousseau's skies were the most vaporous I have ever seen.
These are the fundamental agreements of the art of the two great
masters, and in those qualities no other man of their countries and
epoch has equaled them, but outside of these the contrasts are of the
most pronounced. Pyne told me that Turner said he wished he could do
without trees; Rousseau worshiped them. Turner loved the mountains;
Rousseau never cared to see them and never painted one. Turner, a
colorist, reveled in color like a Bacchanal; Rousseau, a tonalist,
felt it like a vestal; but both had the sense of color in the subtlest
refinement.

Rousseau used to say that if you had not your picture in the first
five lines you would never have it, and he laid down as a rule that
whenever you worked on it you should go over the whole and keep it
together, growing in all parts _pari passu_. Wishing to give me a
lesson in values one day as he was painting, he turned his palette
over and painted a complete little scheme of a picture on the back of
it, suggested by the subject before us as we looked out of the studio
window. He showed me his studies from nature, mere notes of form and
of local color and pastel. It was to me always a puzzle that, even in
the educated art circles of Paris, Corot should have found so great
a popularity as compared to that of Rousseau. Without in the least
disparaging the greatness of Corot's best work, such for instance as
the St. Sebastian and some other classical subjects, the names of
which I cannot recall, the range of conception and treatment is
limited as compared with that of Rousseau. This alone would give Corot
a lower rank, in the absence of a marked superiority in some special
high quality--superiority which does not exist, for the picked work of
Rousseau possesses technical excellences all its own, as consummate as
anything in the world's landscape art, while the range of treatment
and subject, so much greater in Rousseau than in Corot, puts the
limited and mannered art of the latter as a whole in a distinct
inferiority.

Of Millet I saw much less, but enough to know the man and his art,
simple and human, the one as the other. His love for manhood in its
most primitive attainable types, those furnished by the peasant, was
the outcome of his conception of art, such as the Greek of the early
schools conceived it, the expression of humanity in a simple and
therefore noble state, and of the honest, open, healthy nature of the
man himself, averse to all sophistication of society, reverent of
an ideal in art, and intolerant of affectations. He conceived and
executed his pictures in the pure Greek spirit, working out his ideal
as his imagination presented it to him, not as the model served him.
The form is of his own day, the spirit of his art that of all time
and of all good art, the elaboration of a type and not merely the
reproduction of a picturesque model. It is the custom now to class all
peasant subjects, emulating the forms of Millet, as belonging to his
art. Nothing is more absurd, for the art of Millet was subjective, not
realistic; it was in the feeling of the art of Phidias and the Italian
renaissance, not in the modern _pose plastique_. The peasant in it was
merely incidental to his sympathy with ideal life. Millet was himself
a peasant, he used to say, and his moral purpose, if he had any, was
the glorification, so far as art can effect it, of his class, the
class which above all others in his eyes dignified humanity and held
his sympathy. This feeling was with him no affectation, but the
deliberate, final conclusion of his life--he reverenced the _sabot_
and the _blouse_, the implements of tillage and work, as the Greek did
his gods and the implements of war and glory; he saw humanity reduced
to its simplest and most noble physical functions and possibilities,
as the Greek did the perfection of the physical form, but he lacked
the perception of the types of pure beauty of the Greek.

The personal relations between Rousseau and Millet were in the best
sense of the word fraternal, and from neither did I ever hear a word
to the disparagement of a brother artist, while Rousseau used to talk
in the subtlest vein of critical appreciation of his rivals among the
landscape painters, the Duprés, Ziem, Troyon, and others, so that I
regret that in those days I thought only of my own instruction, and
not of the putting on record the opinions of a man whose ideas of art
were amongst the most exalted I have known.

A charming nature was that of Troyon, a simple, robust worker, and,
like all the larger characters in the French art world with whom I
became acquainted, full of sympathy and guidance for those who wanted
light and leading. But the lives of these three great painters, like
that of Corot (whom I never knew personally), show how completely the
French public, so proud of its intelligence of art, ignored the best
qualities of it till outsiders pointed to them. Troyon told me that
for the first ten years of his career he had never sold a picture, but
lived by painting for Sèvres; the prosperity of Millet came from
the patronage of American collectors, led by the appreciation of
a Bostonian painter, William Hunt, and I well remember his famous
"Sowers" on the highest line in the Salon, so completely skied that
only one who looked for a Millet was likely to see it; while Rousseau,
at the time I speak of, was glad to accept the smallest commission,
and sold mostly to American collectors. Nor is it otherwise with the
Rousseaus, Millets, and Troyons of to-day--the public taste, and the
banal criticism of a journalism at its best the tardy echo of the
opinions of the rare wise man, find genius only when it has ceased to
have the quality of the new and unforeseen.

Yvon, in whose atelier I worked, was essentially a teacher, and his
more recent assignment to the directorship of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts
put him in his true place, that of a master of style in drawing and
the elements of art instruction. He was engaged, when I knew him, on
the battle-pieces of the Crimean war, the chief of which were already
at Versailles. His was an earnest, indefatigable nature. He was as
kindly and zealous a teacher as if he were receiving, like his
English confrères, a guinea a lesson. Nothing so strongly marked the
difference between the French and the English feeling for art as this
characteristic feature of the disinterestedness of the French artist
in giving instruction without compensation, while his English
colleague of equal distinction gave instruction only at a price
impracticable for a poor artist, if indeed he would give it at any
price. And even thus, the English drawing-master did not teach art,
but facile tricks of the brush. Need one seek any other reason for the
curious fact that, with a marked superiority in the occasional highest
attainment of rare and original abilities which English art shows,
France has become the school of Europe, than that in England the
master will teach only on terms which are prohibitive of the formation
of a school, while in France, with few exceptions, the most eminent
painters regard it as a duty to open their ateliers to pupils often
gratuitously, but in any case freely and on terms which are adaptable
to the modest means of the poorest class of workers? In how different
a position in relation to the art of the world would English art now
be in, had Sir Joshua, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Turner, and two or three
others who could be named, thrown open their studios to the young
enthusiasts who followed them, and the sterling talents which have
never been wanting in England been enabled to profit by the experience
and art of their elders, instead of groping their way alone to
efficiency, or, still worse, going to South Kensington, generally
"arriving" too late to succeed fully!

Waiting the word from Kossuth which should call me to join the
ever-impending and ever-postponed insurrection, I passed the winter
thus, profiting as I could by all opportunities for the study of art
and making acquaintance with the artists. My money was running to an
end, but this was a matter in which my faith in Providence did not
allow me to borrow trouble, and I made it a rule never to run into
debt. That I never borrowed I cannot say, but I never did so except in
cases where I was in such personal relations with the lender that if I
died without paying the debt, it would neither weigh on him nor on my
conscience. I kept up my regular round of economy and work, and
one Saturday, when I had paid for my dinner at the Palais Royal
restaurant, I found myself with fifty centimes in my pocket, and went
on a long walk in the streets of Paris, to meditate on my immediate
future. Mrs. Coxe, one of the kindest of friends, would, I knew,
gladly lend me what I needed, but I did not allow her to know that I
needed, and how to pay for my next day's dinner I did not see. Still,
confident that something would turn up, I walked towards my lodgings
through the Rue Royale and its arcades, feeling the ten-sou piece in
my pocket, when I saw a young girl dart out from one of the recesses
of the arcade, dragging after her a boy of two or three years, and
then, as if her courage failed, turn and hide herself and him again in
the doorway from which she had come. I saw her case at once,--want and
shame at begging,--went to her and gave her the ten-sou piece, and
went to bed feeling better.

The next day being Sunday and no atelier, I slept late, and was awaked
by a knock at my door, when to the spoken "Entrez" came in no other
than my friend Dr. Ruggles, between whom and myself there were various
communities of feeling which made us like brothers. He sat down by my
bedside, and, salutations passed, broke out, "Do you want any money?"
His grandfather, just dead, had left him a legacy, and he had come
to Paris, artist-like, to spend it. I took from him, as I would have
given him the half of my last dollar, a hundred francs, and on this I
lived my normal life until, some weeks later, a friend of my brother
arriving from New York with instructions to find me out and provide
for my wants if I had any, supplied me for any probable emergency,
including an order for a free passage home on a steamer of which my
brother was part owner. I waited till the spring homesickness made
it too irksome to live quietly in Paris, and then finding that the
revolution so long waited for had gone by, I went home and to my
painting.


In American landscape the element of the picturesque is in a serious
deficiency. What is old is the wild and savage, the backwoods and the
wild mountain, with no trace of human presence or association to give
it sentiment; what is new is still in the crude and angular state in
which the utilities are served, and the comfort of the man and his
belongings most considered. Nothing is less paintable than a New
England village; nothing is more monotonous than the woodland mountain
of any of the ranges of eastern North America. The valley of the
Mohawk is one of the earliest settled and least unpicturesque sections
of the Eastern States, with its old Dutch farmhouses and the winding
of the beautiful river; but I had explored it on foot and in every
direction for miles around my birthplace, and found nothing that
seemed to "make up" save trees and water. I spent one summer after my
return amongst these familiar scenes, but found the few subjects which
repaid study too remote from any habitable centre to repay the labor
needed to get at them. I made long foot excursions through the valleys
of the Connecticut and Housatonic; but, after my experience in rural
England, it was very discouraging to ransack that still unhumanized
landscape for pictures. Everything was too neat and trim, and I
remember that one day, when I was on my search for a "bit," I found
a dilapidated barn which tempted me to sit down before it, when the
farmwife, guessing my intentions, ran out to beg me "not to take the
barn yet; they were going to do it up the next week as good as new,
and wouldn't I wait?"

An accident drove me to pass one of these summers in as complete
seclusion from society as I could find, and where I should be able to
do nothing but paint. I had been, two years before, hit in the face by
a snow missile, during one of the snowballing saturnalia the New York
roughs indulged in after every fall of snow; in this case the missile
was a huge block of frozen snow-crust, which flattened my nose on my
face and broke the upper maxillary inclosing all the front teeth. I
modeled the nose up on the spot, for it was as plastic as clay, but
the broken bone became carious, and, after enduring for two years the
fear of having my head eaten off by caries, and having resigned the
chance of having it shot off in the revolution, I decided to let my
brother operate. The bone inclosing the front teeth was taken out with
the six teeth, and I was sent into retirement for three months at
least, while the jaw was getting ready for the work of the dentist.

I had seen, when last in England, the picture by Millais, "The
Proscribed Royalist," which gave me a suggestion of the treatment of
a landscape which should be mainly foreground, such as I particularly
delighted in. Hoping to find a woodland subject which admitted of
this treatment, I went to pass the summer on the farm of an old uncle
(where I had caught my first trout), knowing it to be heavily wooded.
Of course when one goes out to look for a particular thing he never
finds it, nor did I then find the tree subject I wanted, but I found
a little spring under a branching beech and surrounded by mossy
boulders, and, taking a canvas of my usual size,--25x30 inches,--I
gave three months to painting it and carried it home still somewhat
unfinished. It was an attractive subject, though not what I had
wanted, and was hung in one of the best places in the Academy
exhibition, making its mark and mine. It was absolutely
unconventional, and the old stagers did not know what to say of a
picture which was all foreground. There was much discussion, and,
amongst the younger painters, much subsequent emulation; but it
did not find a purchaser at my price--$250. Anything so thoroughly
realistic that, as President Durand said, "The stones seemed to be,
not painting, but the real thing," puzzled the ordinary picture buyer;
and the American Art Union, which was the principal buyer of the
day, and the _dernier ressort_ of the young artist, was managed by a
committee of ordinary picture buyers. The picture gave rise to a hot
discussion when exhibited, the old school of painters denouncing such
slavish imitation of nature. As the negative photographic process had
just then been introduced in America, I had the picture photographed,
and a friend took a print of it to the head of the old school, without
any explanation. My antagonist and critic looked at it carefully and
exclaimed, "What is the use of Stillman making his pre-Raphaelite
studies when we can get such photographs from nature as this!" As I
had my brother's generosity to fall back on, I was not obliged to
sell, and the picture remained in my studio for two or three years.
Later Agassiz saw it and was so delighted with its botany that I
decided to give it to him; but when a fellow painter offered--when I
was leaving again for Europe--to "raffle it off," I allowed him to do
so, and he appropriated the proceeds. I had made a rule of giving the
pictures which were not sold in the exhibition to the person who
had shown the finest appreciation of them,--a habit which did not
contribute to pecuniary success, but which helped my _amour propre_,
and I have always regretted not having sent that picture to Agassiz,
who, in later years, became one of my best friends.



CHAPTER IX

SPIRITISM


During the subsequent winter the subject of spiritism occupied the
world of the curious and the thoughtful a good deal; and, with my
brother Paul, who was a disciple of Swedenborg, I took every occasion
that offered to investigate it. Many of my friends were interested in
it, and I soon became convinced that it was not the foolish delusion
which the scientific world and most religious people pronounced it. In
fact, if there be any basis of reality in the phenomena, it is hard to
conceive a subject of such vital importance as the determination of
the actuality of an individual existence after the physical death. It
had always been evident to me that the immense majority of men had no
real belief in human immortality, all their pursuits and acquisitions
being of a purely material character. My own convictions were
ingrained and immovable, but a physical demonstration of their verity
seemed to me an eminently desirable result, if attainable, and I
entered into the investigation with earnestness and all my patience.
Society was largely occupied by the table-tippings and the "rappings."
"Circles" were forming amongst all classes, and the mediums became an
important element in the world of New York. I very soon came to the
conclusion that the professional, paid mediums were, in many cases,
the worst kind of impostors, and, in all cases, so far as any
intellectual evidence was concerned, of an absurd triviality. Even in
the private circles, where no trace of fraud could be suspected, the
good faith of all entering them being assured, I found sometimes such
extraordinary credulity that the subject would have been offensive to
any dispassionate investigator who was not, like myself, determined to
get to the bottom of it. The majority of the persons who entered into
a circle were ready to believe any extraordinary thing that came to
them, and the inanity of the general proceedings, even when fraud was
excluded, was sufficient to indispose serious people to take part
in them. To me the question had such vital importance that I was
determined that neither fraud nor the inconsequent nature of the
pretended communications should dissuade me from the most thorough
investigation possible.

This investigation lasted several years, and included, to greater or
less extent, every form of psychological and physical phenomenon which
was offered by spiritism. My experience with the professional mediums
was such that I soon ceased to pay any attention to them, finding
that, what with the frivolity of their utterances and the evident
imposture which, in the case of some of them, invariably marked the
display of their powers, the sittings were simply farcical; nor did I
ever find, in the doings of the mediums, or in the revelations of the
regular spiritistic circles (and I sat in the most important one of
them, that over which Judge Edmonds presided, during the two winters)
in which no paid medium took part, anything which was not, or could
not have been, imposture.

The reason is simple. The professional medium, paid to display certain
powers, which are in any case extremely uncertain in their response to
the call for them, invariably begins to imitate them when they fail.
The mediums are invariably persons of an inferior order of intellect,
avid of notoriety, and mostly mercenary, so that the results of the
consultations with them were almost sufficient to deter serious-minded
people from dealing with them a second time, while the people who
formed the regular circles and had made a sect with a devotional
character in it, rapidly degenerated into a credulity and materialism
which were more discouraging than the most arid skepticism. Physical
phenomena which met every demand for absolute guarantee of their
genuineness, were very rare, and to meet with them required great
patience and persistence, while the scientific student, in the habit
of dealing with experiments that had definite results, obeying known
or conjectured laws, if entering into an investigation which met at
the threshold a frivolous, and possibly fraudulent, "manifestation,"
threw up the subject, the more readily that in general the student of
physical science has no sympathy with psychical research.

Recognizing the correctness of this attitude and the unreliability
as well as the utter want of essential importance in the physical
manifestations and the invariable inconsequence and silliness of
the intellectual results, I withdrew entirely from circles in which
mediums took part or in which physical phenomena were sought for, and
limited my investigations to the cases in which the good faith of all
the company was unquestionable, and the investigation conducted
in privacy and sincerity. Here, of course, there was still great
uncertainty, and often the most curious triviality and low
intelligence, but we were able to check the possible tendency to the
simulation of the supra-normal activity. And even so the character
of the "manifestation" was generally so trivial and opposed to all
preconceived ideas of spiritual intelligence as to justify the
conclusion that the departed had left their wits behind them, so that
even in those "circles" which included only personal friends and
individuals of unquestionable sincerity the results rarely had any
intellectual importance. And I came to the conclusion that that form
of the phenomena which alone gave any intellectual result, i.e. which
manifested ideas in any way transcending the commonplace capacities
of commonplace minds, had nothing in common with the physical
manifestations, but seemed rather to consist in an exaltation of
the intellectual powers of the subject, so that the evidence of any
supra-normal power was rather moral than scientific, and had value
only according to the relation between the subject and the hearer, and
therefore no determinable value to physical science.

The most remarkable of the subjects of this character with whom I
became acquainted, which was during the later years of this study, was
Mrs. H.K. Brown, the wife of our ablest sculptor of that day. Mrs.
Brown was, apart from the peculiar powers she possessed, one of
the most remarkable women I have ever known, both morally and
intellectually, and the peculiar mental powers she manifested were
well known to all the large and thoughtful circle of friends which
gathered round her. No physical "manifestation" took place in her
presence, and we never "sat" as a "circle," but her telepathic and
thought-reading powers in ordinary social intercourse were most
surprising. She answered readily any questions proposed in the minds
of her interlocutors, often even before they were completely formed,
and she possessed the power attributed to Zschokke, of reading, or
seeing, past events in the lives of those who were placed _en rapport_
with her. Bryant, the poet, assured me that she had recounted to him
events in his past life not known to any living person except himself,
and I had, myself, the evidence that in her presence there was nothing
in my past life beyond her perception. On simple contact with a letter
from an unknown person she gave me the most remarkable analysis of the
character of the writer, and though this evidence is always open to
criticism, the disclosures she made were sometimes surprising. I gave
her one day a letter of Ruskin without disclosing the authorship, and
in the course of a long analysis she said that the writer was not
married, to which I replied that in this she was mistaken, and she
rejoined, "Then he ought _not_ to be." At that time Mr. and Mrs.
Ruskin were, so far as I knew, living together, and no rumor of their
incompatibility had come about.

Mrs. Brown explained the possession of her occult powers by a voice in
the manner of Socrates's demon, which, she said, was always present
with her, and which she recognized as entirely foreign to her. She
repeated what she heard, word for word as the words came, hesitating
and sometimes leaving a sentence incomplete, not hearing the sequence.
When she asked who was speaking to her, she received only the reply,
"We are spirit," and no indication of personality was ever offered. On
one occasion, when Mr. and Mrs. Brown were on a fishing trip into the
wild parts of New York State, and, returning, were on their way to the
railway station, the wheel of their wagon broke and they had to go to
a blacksmith on the road to have it repaired. She said to her husband
that they would lose the train, to which the voice replied that they
would be in time, for the train was late and they would arrive with a
minute to spare. And in fact as they drew up at the station the train
came in sight and they had a minute to spare. There were many
such instances in which Mrs. Brown showed to the circle of her
acquaintances, which was large and included many of the most
intellectual minds of the artistic and literary world whose centre was
New York, the possession of powers "not dreamed of in our philosophy,"
but, as she carefully avoided notoriety, they never came under public
notice. Her husband implicitly and always followed the directions
given her through her demon.

In one of the social gatherings which grew out of the study of
spiritism was a lady who, like myself, was a convinced believer in the
reality of the phenomena, but skeptical as to the value and personal
origin of the communications made in the "circles." Her daughter,
a child of seven, was in fact a hypnotic clairvoyant of singular
lucidity, and my brother, Dr. Jacob Stillman, obtained from the mother
permission to have a private séance, only the mother and child, the
doctor, and myself being present. I hypnotized the girl Fanny, and
when she opened her eyes in the hypnotic state the doctor made the
usual tests for coma, exposing the eyes to the sudden glare of a
brilliant light, sticking pins into her flesh, and so forth, and
pronounced the coma absolute when, as he stuck a pin in her arm, she
spoke, saying, "I wouldn't do that, it might hurt Fanny!" I asked if
she felt it, and she replied, "She does not feel it now, but she might
when she wakes." "But who are you?" I asked. She replied, "Oh, don't
you know? I am Dora." The mother informed us that a young playmate
of Fanny's, whose name was Dora Greenleaf, had died some months
previously, and that the impersonation through Fanny was always in
that name.

The physical test being declared conclusive by the doctor, I asked
"Dora" to tell me if there was any spirit friend of ours present, to
which she replied that there was a lady there who gave her name as
"Kate," and whom she described in terms sufficiently correct to
indicate a deceased cousin whose name was Catherine, familiarly called
Kate in the family, and this was followed by the names and
description of other relatives, all correct as far as names and such
identification could go; but to this kind of demonstration I could
never attach any importance as to personality, which is indeed a
point as to which I have found that reliance can rarely be placed on
affirmation, and as to which absolute proof can scarcely be given. As
in the case of Mrs. Brown, she replied with lucidity and promptness to
every interrogation, and I then began a series of mental questions,
being sure at least that the child could not draw from the question
matter for an indicated reply. She replied promptly to my questions,
and from time to time I explained to my brother what had been asked,
that he might follow the conversation. After several relatives had
been named, I asked if our brother Alfred was there, to which she
instantly replied, "There is a gentleman sitting on the corner of
the table by you who says his name is Alfred." The opportunity then
occurred to me of asking a "test question," which was, "If Alfred is
here, will he tell me when he last saw Harvey?" The relevance of this
question will appear from the fact that they were together on the
steamer whose boiler burst on the Mississippi, killing my brother and
causing injury to the cousin such that he committed suicide a month
later. The reply was, "He says he does not remember." At this I
remarked guardedly to the doctor, "I asked Alfred when he last saw
Harvey, and he replies that he doesn't remember, but he must have
seen him on board the boat." To this she instantly replied, with an
explosive laugh, "He says that if he did it was all blown out of him!"
I will only comment on this reply, that it was quite in accordance
with the character of my brother to joke on the most serious
subjects--he was an inveterate joker.

At this juncture, and while we discussed the strange reply, Fanny
exclaimed, "There is a young gentleman coming through the window; he
says his name is Harry--no," she added, holding her ear forward in the
direction she indicated as if to hear better, "not Harry, _Harvey_." I
then asked, "If Harvey is here, will he tell me if he was with me in
Paris, last winter?" She replied, "Yes, he says he was with you in
Paris, and that he saw you in the house where you lived with Mrs.
Fox--no, not Fox, Coxe--Mrs. Coxe--and he asks if you remember
magnetizing Mrs. Coxe at the restaurant?" Mrs. Coxe, as I have said
previously, was the lady from Alabama whose acquaintance, as well
as that of her husband and their young daughter, I had made when
traveling with them through Belgium, on my way to Hungary, and whom
Mr. Coxe, when he returned on business to America, left under my
protection for the winter. Mrs. Coxe was subject to violent and sudden
headaches, which came without warning, and for which during our trip
on the Meuse I had once hypnotized her successfully. This led to my
being called on subsequently so often that she became an easy subject,
and the headaches became less and less frequent and violent. I have
before said that it was our custom on Sunday to dine together at some
one of the restaurants, and on one of these occasions the headache
came on as we sat at the table and I hypnotized her across the table,
by simple exertion of my will without passes, and it passed off. The
incident was not in my mind, and had, not to cause gossip, never been
mentioned by me to any one; my mind was acting at the moment in quite
a different direction, and if my thought gave any clue to the answers
of Fanny, it would have been in another direction that she would have
looked. What was singular and accounted for by no evident circumstance
was the manner of the child in listening for the names which she had
clearly heard incorrectly--Harry for Harvey, and Fox for Coxe, and
after holding her ear forward as would one who heard imperfectly
something said to him. No forethought or attempt at deception on the
part of a child of seven under the eye of her mother, who was a woman
of singular sincerity of character, can be admitted to account for
these details in the dialogue, conducted on my part, be it remembered,
entirely by mental inquiries.

The evident fatigue of the child put an end to the séance. Neither
the mother nor Fanny knew at that time anything of my relatives, our
acquaintance being then of recent date, but our intimacy with the
family in after years enables me to say that any attempt at deception
is out of the question. Fanny died not long after of consumption, as
did the mother and two other children, one of whom, an elder sister,
had been influenced in the same manner as Miss A., who will be
mentioned later, but had never consented to take part in the
manifestations, which she regarded with great repugnance. While
sitting with us _en petit comité_, she used sometimes to be seized
with a convulsive and involuntary effort of her hand to write, but she
always refused to submit to the influence. Fanny in her normal state
showed no indications of mediumistic powers, nor did the mother.

During the investigation, we heard of a remarkable case in the circle
of our own acquaintance which had been kept from public knowledge as
far as possible by the aversion to publicity of the father of the
subject, my brother's chief foreman. She was a girl of fourteen, of a
timid and nervous organization, who had suffered great annoyance by
the persistence of the rappings about her wherever she might be;
at first in her bedroom, but finally to her great dismay in the
class-rooms of the primary public school of New York, in which she
held the position of assistant teacher and where she conducted the
recitations. The rappings caused such fright amongst the school
children that she was menaced with dismissal if they did not cease.
She implored the agency which was responsible for the sounds to leave
her alone at school and do what seemed best to it at home, and the
rappings did actually cease at school. As her father was a man
well-to-do in circumstances and annoyed by the occurrence, he
silenced the gossip about the matter as well as he could, and gave an
inflexible denial to the request for a séance which came from friends
who by chance heard of it. My brother Paul, who was a fellow-foreman
in the iron works, got permission, however, for a séance at which he
and I only were to be present with the girl. The phenomena were so
strange that I got permission for a repetition at which only my
brother Jacob and myself were present, and we preserved the notes of
what passed.

Miss A., as I shall call her, told us in detail the development of the
case. After having been for some time troubled by the rappings she
began to feel involuntary motions in her right hand which increased to
constantly recurring violent exercise of the muscles, when it occurred
to her from the character of the motions that the hand wanted a pencil
to write and she laid paper and a pencil on the table. Her hand then
took possession of the pencil and began to scrawl aimlessly over the
paper until, after the interval of many days, the agency seemed to
have sufficient control over the muscles to form legible letters. This
was a source of amusement to her, and, at the time we made our entry
into the investigation, the hand wrote legibly and neatly in reply to
mental, i.e. unspoken, questions, she having no control of the muscles
so long as the "influence," which was the name she applied to whatever
it might be, chose to use it. She knew what was written only when the
writing was finished and she read it, as we did; and the writing was,
as we found by experiment, quite as regular and well formed when her
eyes were bandaged as when she was looking at her work. As a further
test of the involuntary character of this we not only tried her with
her eyes bandaged, but by my brother talking with her from one side of
the table, while she was writing in reply to my mental questions on
the other; she talked with him on one subject at the same moment in
which she wrote to me on another.

In what was given under these circumstances she wrote for us the
replies in conversations with what purported to be the spirits of
three deceased relatives, the wife of my brother, my brother Alfred,
and cousin Harvey, who had for several years been my most intimate
and beloved friend; and the handwriting of the three series of
communication was a better imitation of their writing than I, knowing
it, could have produced. That of my sister-in-law I was not so
familiar with, though my brother recognized it as that of his wife,
but that of our brother was a perfect reproduction down to the
smallest accidents, and that which was given as the responses of
my cousin equally so, and executed with a rapidity of which I was
incapable--a large scrawling hand, that of our brother being of a
character entirely opposed, slowly and laboriously formed, with
occasional omissions of the last line of a final _n_, quite common in
his writing. The girl had never known either of these relatives. One
of the questions I asked when conversing with Harvey was, "Will you
tell me how you died?" to which the only reply was a fixed stare on
the part of Miss A., though every other question was answered, by
pantomime, affirmative or negative signs, or writing, and always in
writing when it was insisted on. Miss A.'s pantomimic powers in this
state exceeded anything I have ever seen in professional pantomime,
and she employed them largely.

At the conclusion of the questions and replies with Harvey, I asked if
he had seen old Turner, the landscape painter, since his death, which
had taken place not very long before. The reply was "Yes," and I then
asked what he was doing, the reply being a pantomime of painting. I
then asked if Harvey could bring Turner there, to which the reply was,
"I do not know; I will go and see," upon which Miss A. said, "This
influence is going away--it is gone;" and after a short pause added,
"There is another influence coming, in that direction," pointing over
her left shoulder. "I don't like it," and she shuddered slightly, but
presently sat up in her chair with a most extraordinary personation of
the old painter in manner, in the look out from under the brow and the
pose of the head. It was as if the ghost of Turner, as I had seen him
at Griffiths's, sat in the chair, and it made my flesh creep to
the very tips of my fingers, as if a spirit sat before me. Miss A.
exclaimed, "This influence has taken complete possession of me, as
none of the others did. I am obliged to do what it wants me to." I
asked if Turner would write his name for me, to which she replied by
a sharp, decided negative sign. I then asked if he would give me some
advice about my painting, remembering Turner's kindly invitation and
manner when I saw him. This proposition was met by the same decided
negative, accompanied by the fixed and sardonic stare which the girl
had put on at the coming of the new influence. This disconcerted me,
and I then explained to my brother what had been going on, as, the
questions being mental, he had no clue to the pantomime. I said that
as an influence which purported to be Turner was present, and refused
to answer any questions, I supposed there was nothing more to be done.

But Miss A. still sat unmoved and helpless, so we waited. Presently
she remarked that the influence wanted her to do something, she knew
not what, only that she had to get up and go across the room, which
she did with the feeble step of an old man. She crossed the room and
took down from the wall a colored French lithograph, and, coming to
me, laid it on the table before me, and by gesture called my attention
to it. She then went through the pantomime of stretching a sheet of
paper on a drawing-board, then that of sharpening a lead pencil,
following it up by tracing the outlines of the subject in the
lithograph. Then followed in similar pantomime the choosing of a
water-color pencil, noting carefully the necessary fineness of the
point, and then the washing-in of a drawing, broadly. Miss A. seemed
much amused by all this, but as she knew nothing of drawing she
understood nothing of it. Then with the pencil and her pocket
handkerchief she began taking out the lights, "rubbing-out," as the
technical term is. This seemed to me so contrary to what I conceived
to be the execution of Turner that I interrupted with the question,
"Do you mean to say that Turner rubbed out his lights?" to which she
gave the affirmative sign. I asked further if in a drawing which I
then had in my mind, the well-known "Llanthony Abbey," the central
passage of sunlight and shadow through rain was done in that way, and
she again gave the affirmative reply, emphatically. I was so firmly
convinced to the contrary that I was now persuaded that there was a
simulation of personality, such as was generally the case with the
public mediums, and I said to my brother, who had not heard any of my
questions, that this was another humbug, and then repeated what had
passed, saying that Turner could not have worked in that way. After
this I did not care to follow the conversation further.

My object in maintaining the mental questioning was, of course, to
prevent Miss A. from getting any clue to the meaning of the questions,
and I carried the precaution so far as not to look at her while
forming the questions in my mind. I also ascertained that she knew
nothing of drawing, or of Turner; but while I could not resist the
evidence of a mental activity absolutely independent of that of Miss
A., I was convinced that there was no question of actual identity.
Both the doctor and I were, however, satisfied that on the part of
Miss A. there was no attempt at deception, and that the phenomenon,
whatever might be the case as to identity, was a genuine manifestation
of an intelligence independent of that of the girl. Six weeks later I
sailed for England, and, on arriving in London, I went at once to see
Ruskin, and told him the whole story. He declared the contrariness
manifested by the medium to be entirely characteristic of Turner, and
had the drawing in question down for examination. We scrutinized it
closely, and both recognized beyond dispute that the drawing had been
executed in the way that Miss A. indicated. Ruskin advised me to send
an account of the affair to the "Cornhill," which I did; but it was
rejected, as might have been expected in the state of public opinion
at that time, and I can easily imagine Thackeray putting it into the
basket in a rage.

I offer no interpretation of the facts which I have here recorded,
but I have no hesitation in saying that they completed and fixed my
conviction of the existence of invisible and independent intelligences
to which the phenomena were due. The question of the identity of these
intelligences--which we may, without prejudging their nature,
leaving that to be determined by more complete experiences, consider
_disembodied_--with the persons in the flesh whose names they use, is
one on which I have great difficulty in forming a conclusion, though,
as a rule, my experience in "circles" has been that the imposture was
too gross to deceive a person of ordinary intellectual power. The two
cases which I have related in the foregoing pages are the only ones in
which I have ever been able to find the color of an identification,
and of the probability of this I leave the reader to judge. More on
the internal than on the external evidence, I consider the probability
in the two cases narrated to be in favor of the identity; beyond that
I am unwilling to go.

Of the actuality of a disembodied and individual being which, for want
of more intelligence of its nature, we call a "spirit," I have no more
doubt than I have of my own embodied and individual existence. If,
to my philosophic and skeptical critics, this is an indication of
intellectual weakness, and excites contempt of my faculties, I cannot
help it. I will be honest with myself and the world, have the courage
of my convictions, and take the consequences; and I am of the opinion
that, if all the cultivated minds which, having studied the subject,
agree with me in my conclusions were to be as frank as I am, there
would be a large body of witnesses in accord with me. If the inference
of a disembodied intelligence, as the source of such phenomena, is
difficult of acceptation, that of fraud and collusion is inadmissible,
and that of hallucination more difficult than that of the spiritual
origin. Of the different hypotheses, then, I take that which seems the
most satisfactory one in view of the ascertained facts. But "seeing is
believing," and I can fully appreciate the incredulity of reasonable
minds as to phenomena which are not in line with our ordinary
experience of life, and which, at the same time, are of extreme
rarity, and require, for their investigation and actual observation,
great patience and the sacrifice of much time and the exercise of much
tolerance, surrounded, as the subject is, by gross charlatanry and
fraud. But if the beginnings of physical life are worth the years of
patient study which science has accorded them, I must believe that the
final issue of it is worth the time and study needed to arrive at such
results as would, I am convinced, finally crown them. If it were worth
while, I could, I am persuaded, define, _a priori_, the lines of
investigation along which we should move, but each investigator will
choose his own route, and better so.

Two conclusions I draw from my investigations as immovably
established, so far as I am concerned. The first is that there are
about us, and with certain facilities for making themselves understood
by us, spiritual individualities; and, second, that the human being
possesses spiritual senses, parallel with the physical, by which it
sees what the physical sense cannot see, and hears what is inaudible
to the physical ear. And my general and, I think, logical conclusion
is that the spiritual senses appertain to a spiritual body which
survives the death of the physical.



CHAPTER X

LIFE IN THE WILDERNESS


Under the stimulus, in part, of the desire for something out of the
ordinary line of subject for pictures, and in part from the hope that
going into the "desert" might quicken the spiritual faculties so
tantalized by the experience of the circles, I decided to pass the
next summer in the great primeval forest in the northern part of New
York State, known as the Adirondack wilderness. It was then little
known or visited; a few sportsmen and anglers had penetrated it, but
for the most part it was known only to the lumberers. Here and there,
at intervals of ten to twenty miles, there were log houses, some of
which gave hospitality in the summer to the sportsmen, and in the
winter to the "loggers" who worked for the great lumber companies. It
was a tract of a hundred miles, more or less, across, mainly unbroken
wildwood, cut up by rapid rivers, impossible of navigation, otherwise
than by canoes and light skiffs which could be carried from one sheet
of water to another on the backs of the woodsmen, around the cascades,
and over tracts of intervening land through virgin forests, without
roads, and, to a large extent, without paths. I hoped here to find new
subjects for art, spiritual freedom, and a closer contact with the
spiritual world--something beyond the material existence. I was
ignorant of the fact that art does not depend on a subject, nor
spiritual life on isolation from the rest of humanity, and I found,
what a correct philosophy would have before told me, nature with no
suggestion of art, and the dullest form of intellectual or spiritual
existence.

One of my artist friends--S.R. Gifford, landscape painter, like myself
on the search for new subjects--had been, the year before, to the
Saranac Lakes, and gave me the clue to the labyrinth, and I found on
Upper Saranac Lake a log cabin, inhabited by a farmer whose family
consisted of a wife, a son, and a daughter. There I enjoyed a
backwoods hospitality at the cost of two dollars a week for board
and lodging, and passed the whole summer, finding a subject near the
cabin, at which I painted assiduously for nearly three months. I
passed the whole day in the open air, wore no hat, and only cloth
shoes, hoping that thus the spiritual life would have easier access to
me. I carried no gun, and held the lives of beast and bird sacred,
but I drew the line at fishing, and my rod and fly-book provided in a
large degree the food of the household; for trout swarmed. I caught in
an hour, during that summer, in a stream where there has not been a
trout for years, as large a string as I could carry a mile. All
the time that I was not painting I was in the boat on the lake, or
wandering in the forest.

My quest was an illusion. The humanity of the backwoods was on a
lower level than that of a New England village--more material if less
worldly; the men got intoxicated, and some of the women--nothing less
like an apostle could I have found in the streets of New York. I saw
one day a hunter who had come into the woods with a motive in some
degree like mine--impatience of the restraints and burdens of
civilization, and pure love of solitude. He had become, not
bestialized, like most of the men I saw, but animalized--he had
drifted back into the condition of his dog, with his higher intellect
inert. He had built himself a cabin in the depth of the woods, and
there he lived in the most complete isolation from human society he
could attain. He interested me greatly, and as he stopped for
the night at the cabin where I was living, we had considerable
conversation. He cared nothing for books, but enjoyed nature, and only
hunted in order to live, respecting the lives of his fellow-creatures
within that limit. He only went to the "settlements" when he needed
supplies, abstained from alcoholic drinks, the great enemy of the
backwoodsman, and was happy in his solitude. As he was the first man
I had ever met who had attempted the solution of the problem which so
interested me,--the effect of solitude on the healthy intellect,--I
encouraged him to talk, which he was inclined to do when he found that
there was a real sympathy between us on this question.

He seemed to have no desire for companionship, but there was nothing
morose or misanthropic in his love of seclusion, and I soon saw that,
though he had no care for intellectual growth and no longing for
books, he thought a good deal in his own way, and that, mingled with
his limited thinking and tranquil emotion before nature, there was a
large element of spiritual activity, and this had kept him mentally
alive. He had heard of spiritism, and his own experience led him to
acceptance of its reality. In his solitary life, in the unbroken
silence which reigned around him, he heard mysterious voices, and only
the year before he had heard one say that he was wanted at home. He
paid no attention to it, thinking it only an illusion, but, after an
interval, it was repeated so distinctly that he packed his knapsack,
took his dog, and went out with the intention of going home. On the
way he met a messenger sent after him, who told him that his brother
had met with an accident which disabled him from all work, and begged
him to come to his assistance. The voice had come to him at the time
of the accident. As a rule, however, the voices seemed vagarious,
and he attached no importance to them, except as phenomena which
interested him slightly. There was nothing flighty about him, no
indication of monomania--he reasoned well, but from the point of view
of a man who has had only an elementary education, knowing nothing
of philosophy; he had no religious crotchets, and apparently thought
little or not at all on religious matters--was, in fine, a natural and
healthy man, a despiser of alcohol, satisfied with the moment he lived
in, and giving no consideration to that which would come after. He
had a great contempt for his fellow woodsmen and avoided contact with
them.

The backwoods life, as a rule, I found led to hard drinking, and even
the old settler with whom I had taken quarters, though an excellent
and affectionate head of his family, and in his ordinary life
temperate and hard-working, used at long intervals to break bounds,
and, taking his savings down to the settlement, drink till he could
neither pay for more nor "get it on trust," and then come home
penitent and humiliated. About two weeks after I entered the family,
the old man took me aside and informed me, mysteriously, that he was
going to the settlement for a few days, and begged me to take one of
the boats and come down for him on a fixed day, and he would row the
boat back. I rowed down accordingly, sixteen miles, and found Johnson
at the landing in a state of fading intoxication, money and credit
exhausted as usual, and begging some one to give him a half pint of
rum "to ease up on." He was "all on fire inside of him," and begged
so piteously that I got him a half pint and we started out, he at
the oars and I steering. A copious draught of rum, neat, brought his
saturated brain to overflow, and before we had gone a mile he was so
drunk that I had to guide the oars from behind to insure their taking
the water. Then he broke out into singing, beating time on the gunwale
of the boat with such violence that it menaced capsizing every minute,
and to all my remonstrances he replied by jeering and more uproarious
jollity.

It was no joke, for not to talk of him, too drunk even to hold on to
the boat, I was a poor swimmer, and in the deep and cold lake water
should never have reached the shore swimming, and I found myself
obliged to menace violence. I raised the steering paddle over his head
and assured him with a savageness that reached even his drunken brain,
that I should knock him on the head and pitch him overboard if he did
not keep perfectly quiet. There was imminent danger, for the slight
boat of that region requires to be treated with the care of a bark
canoe, and the menace cowed him so that he quieted down, and watched
me like a whipped dog. I tried to get the bottle away from him, but
his drunken cunning anticipated me and he put it far behind him, now
and then taking a mouthful of rum to keep down the burning. Thus, he
pulling and I guiding the oars, we ran through the lower lake, seven
miles, to a "carry," where the boat had to be lifted out and carried
over into the river above, around a waterfall. Here I fortunately
caught the bottle and sent it down the lake, and we labored on through
another lake, three miles, and up a crooked river to another carry
into the third lake, on which we lived. He was too drunk still to be
trusted any further, and, leaving the boat at the landing with him
beside it, I carried the load over and waited for him to get sober.
After an interval, long enough I thought for him to grow sober
enough to carry the boat, I went back and to my amazement he met me,
apparently in his right mind, intensely indignant with some one who,
having found him in the state of intoxication in which I left him, had
given him a drink of what he called "high wines," i.e. common alcohol,
the singular effect of which was to bring him immediately to his
senses, and we reached home without further incident.

That night, somewhere near midnight, poor Mrs. Johnson awoke me,
begging piteously that I would help her and her daughter to search for
her husband, who had disappeared from the house. Then she told me
that he had the habit of falling into desperate melancholy after his
drunken fits, and had even attempted suicide, and they had on one
occasion cut the rope by which he had hanged himself, barely in time,
and she always expected to find him dead somewhere. We ransacked the
house, the loft, the barn, the stable, in all their corners, every
shed and nook about the premises and were returning hopeless, to
wait for daylight to look for him in the lake, when, as I passed the
wood-yard (where the fire-wood was stored and chopped), I heard a
groan, and, guided by it, found him lying amongst the chips in the
torpor of drunken sleep. The poor wife, with my assistance, dragged
him home and put him to bed, and when I saw him the next morning
I heard over and over again his vows and resolutions, his sermons
against drink, his repentance and pledges never to touch liquor again.
When I showed incredulity, he offered to bet with me his best yoke of
oxen against one hundred dollars that he never would drink another
drop as long as he lived. I thought the bet a safe one for me, at all
events, and took it and made him write it down, and it probably kept
him from another spree as long as I remained there, but when I saw him
again the next summer he was as drunk as ever. I asked him about my
oxen, and he leered and jeered and joked with drunken cunning, but
said nothing more.

I passed a very happy summer, enjoying my work and wandering in the
forest or exploring the streams which flowed into the lake, for
subjects. The pure air and the tranquillity of the life, as well as
its simplicity, and a certain amount of boating exercise which I went
through every day in going to my subject, brought me to the highest
point of physical health I had ever known.

The great danger to the uninitiated in the forest life is that of
getting lost in this wild maze of trees, with no kind of landmark to
serve as a clue. Not a few rash beginners have become bewildered, lost
all conception of their whereabouts, and perished of starvation within
a short walk of a place of refuge. The houses there were invariably
built by the waterways, and the lines of communication were by water,
so that there was no necessity for roads. One finds the "runways" or
paths made by the deer traversing the woods in every direction,--a
perfect labyrinth of byways, ending nowhere and often bringing the
incautious wanderer, who supposes them to be paths, back to his
starting-place, with the result that he is at once bewildered beyond
recovery.

Years before, during one of my college vacations, I had made a fishing
excursion to the northern edge of the great woods, in company with
a classmate to the manner born, and had learned the need in my
excursions of precautions against the bewilderment which follows
the loss of one's sense of direction. He told me of one of the
inexperienced assistants of a surveying party of which he was a
member, engaged in running a township line in the trackless forest,
who ventured to leave the line a few minutes, and, before he could
recover it, though only a short distance from his party, had become
quite insane, and could only be compelled to return with his
companions by force. An artist friend who had sketched on the southern
border of the Wilderness told me of a similar experience of an English
shoemaker who came to settle in a village on the southern edge of the
woods, and who, after a short residence, went out to fish in a stream
not far from home. He did not return, and, though protracted search
was made for him, no trace of him, nor even of his clothing, was ever
discovered, except that a resident in a neighboring village said that,
a day or two after the stranger had disappeared, a man answering to
the description came to his door, his clothes in tatters, and, in a
wild and incoherent manner, asked the way to the village from which he
had gone, but, before any reply could be made, started off running and
disappeared in the woods again. He had contracted the woods madness
and so perished.

Of this danger I was well informed, and, beside, I was more or less
a child of the woodlands, and had no apprehension of it, having,
moreover, an implicit faith in what I considered a kind of spiritual
guidance in all I did,--a delusion which at least served to keep me in
absolute self-control under all circumstances. It was probably this
which kept me during my wanderings from falling into the panic which
constituted the real danger, depriving the victim temporarily of the
use of his reasoning powers. I had, however, an interesting experience
which gave me a clearer comprehension of the phenomenon, which is a
very curious one.

One of the woodsmen had told me of a waterfall on a trout stream of
considerable size which emptied into a lake near by us, and, in the
hope of finding a subject in it, I took the boat one afternoon and
began to follow the course of the stream up from the mouth. After
a half mile of clear and navigable water it became so clogged with
fallen trees that more lifting than paddling was required, and, as its
course was extremely tortuous, I occasionally got out and examined the
vicinity of the stream bed and the course above, if, perchance,
there might be better navigation beyond. On one of the digressions I
suddenly came on the stream running back on its previous course and
parallel to it. Instantly, in the twinkling of an eye, the entire
landscape seemed to have changed its bearings,--the sun, which was
clear in the sky, it being about three o'clock, shone to me out of
the north, and it was impossible to convince myself that my senses
deceived me, or accept the fact that the sun must be in the southwest,
the general direction from which the stream was flowing, and that, to
get home again, I must turn my back to it, if I had lost my boat, as
seemed certain. Then began to come over me, like an evil spell, the
bewilderment and the panic which accompanied it. Fortunately, I
recognized this panic from the experiences I knew of, and was aware
that if I gave way to it I was a lost man, beyond any finding by the
woodsmen, even if they attempted to track me.

Fresh wolf tracks were plenty all along the bank of the stream;
panthers and bears abounded in that section, and the wilderness
beyond me was never explored, and hardly penetrable, so dense was the
undergrowth of dwarf firs and swamp cedars. I had one terrible moment
of clear consciousness that if I went astray at that juncture no human
being would ever know where I was, and the absolute necessity of
recovering my sense of the points of compass was clear to me. By a
strong effort of the will, I repressed the growing panic, sat down on
a log and covered my face with my hands, and waited, I had no idea
how long, but until I felt quite calm; and when I looked out on the
landscape again I found the sun in his proper place and the landscape
as I had known it. I walked back to my boat without difficulty and
went home, and I never lost my head again while I frequented the
wilderness. I grew in time to know the points of the compass, even
when the sky was covered, and often came home from my excursions after
sunset without confusion, but I know that I then owed my escape from
the most terrible of deaths entirely to my presence of mind, and this
I probably owed then, and always, to that supreme confidence in the
protection of a superior power which never deserted me.

My studies in spiritism had developed in me another feeling which was
kin to this--a belief in a spiritual insight, the possession of which
would always, if entire confidence were placed in it, tell one at the
moment what should be done; an intuition which would guide him, but
only on the condition that it was trusted absolutely. And at that
period of my life I followed it with unfaltering trust. A curious
illustration of this state of mind and its effect had already occurred
to me in the spring, and, as it relates to this topic and involves a
very curious psychological phenomenon, I describe it in connection
with the so similar experience of the backwoods. I had made an
engagement with Mr. Brown, the sculptor, to meet him on the trout
brook that ran through my uncle's farm in Rensselaer County, New York,
a hundred and fifty miles from New York city, but I lost the last
train by which I should have met him at the appointed time,--daybreak
of the following day. Determined to keep the engagement, I took a
parallel railway, which ran through western Massachusetts and a
section of country which was entirely strange to me. From the station
at which I left the railway, that of Pittsfield, there was a distance
of several miles to the place of rendezvous, which was in the town
of Hancock, close to the boundary line between New York and
Massachusetts. On leaving the station I inquired the way to Hancock,
and was told that as the crow flies, i.e. across an intervening
mountain, it was twelve miles without even a footpath; but, by
the road around the mountain, twenty, and that, unless I knew the
mountain, I could not possibly find my way over it. It was just
sunset as I left Pittsfield, and I decided to risk the mountain, and,
following a wood road, I climbed the steep declivity, and, going in
what seemed to me a nearly direct course, after an hour's walk I
recognized a gap in the hill-crest and a distant view with two little
lakes reflecting the sky which I had seen the hour before. I had been
following a charcoal-burner's road in a circle; daylight had gone, and
the mists were coming on heavy as rain, making it impossible to see
ten yards before me. There was no recourse, if I was to keep the
rendezvous, but to follow the guidance of the inner sense. I
determined to obey the monitor, and plunged into the forest, in
unhesitating obedience to it. I did not guess, nor did I try to make
any kind of calculation. I felt that I must go in a certain direction,
and, as the darkness deepened, I had, literally, to grope my way, walk
with my hands out before me, not to run against the trees, for, with
little exception, the way lay through dense woodland, amidst which
were scattered boulders and fallen tree trunks. I could not--and
I speak without the least exaggeration--see the trees at my arm's
length. The fog was so dense and the trees so wet that every leaf or
twig dripped on me till I was soon drenched as completely as if I had
been plunged into a lake. I passed the crest of the mountain and began
to descend. I felt with my foot before me, and when the foot could
find nothing to rest on I drew it back and moved sidewise till I found
a step down, hanging on all the time to the branches of the trees. I
descended in this way a long distance, then came to a marsh which I
recognized only by the croaking of the frogs in it; and, skirting
the sound, made my way past it, always keeping the general direction
through the divergences made necessary by the nature of the land.

At length I got through the fog and came to an open field, beyond
which I saw the outlines of trees against the clouded sky, and,
keeping on, came to a road. A few yards further on a light was visible
in a roadside cottage, and other houses were near, but all dark, as it
was late and all in them were asleep. I knocked at the door where I
saw the light and asked the way to Hancock. "Why, you are in Hancock,"
the man of the house replied; and, on my inquiry as to an inn, he
informed me that a hundred yards further on there was an inn, to which
I went. The rain had ceased, but I was soaking, and I asked for a fire
by which to dry my clothes, and a bed, both of which were quickly
prepared; and then the landlord asked me where I came from and by what
road. When I told him that I came from Pittsfield by the mountain, he
exclaimed in amazement, "Why, there is no place by which a white
man could come over in broad daylight;" an exaggeration, as I could
testify, but it proved that the passage was held to be dangerous to
the ordinary foot traveler. The incident in itself has no importance,
but the singular feeling under which I made the passage of a trackless
mountain, in complete darkness for the most difficult part of the way,
in perfect confidence in a mysterious guidance which justified that
confidence, was a mental phenomenon worthy of note, the more that it
was in keeping with the invariable feeling which had grown up in me
from the cogitations of years. As I am telling the story of my life,
and the spiritual influences of my early years are an essential part
of that life, it cannot be irrelevant to the general result that I
should show how the springs of it acted. While I was on the wood road
in the earlier portion of the walk, I followed unhesitatingly the
visible path and made no question of guidance; but, when thrown on
the occult influence in which I confided, I walked unerringly to my
destination with the precision of an animal which nature had never
deserted. In the subsequent years, of which a great part was always
spent in the wilderness, the fascination of which became absorbing,
this occult faculty strengthened, so that I was never at a loss, when
in the trackless forest, for my path homeward. I then thought it a
newly acquired faculty. I now regard it as simply a recovered one,
inherent in all healthy minds, but lost, as many others have been, in
civilization.

And in this connection I will deal, once for all, with the gifts to me
from this wild nature to which I abandoned myself with all the ardor
of a quest. The tendency of the imagination, even healthy, acting in
a vacancy, is to create illusions, or, if there be a certain occult
mental activity, such as that I have alluded to in my Pittsfield
experience, to intensify its action to such a degree that it finally
usurps the function of the senses. In the solitude of the great
Wilderness, where I have passed months at a time, generally alone, or
with only my dog to keep me company, airy nothings became sensible;
and, in the silence of those nights in the forest, the whisperings of
the night wind through the trees forced meanings on the expecting ear.
I came to hear voices in the air, words so clearly spoken that even an
incredulous mind could not ignore them. I sat in my boat one evening,
out on the lake, watching the effects of the sky between the gaunt
pines which, under the prevalence of the west winds, grew up with an
easterly inclination of their tops, like that of a man walking, and
thus seemed to be marching eastward into the gathering darkness. They
gave a sudden impression of a procession, and I heard as distinctly
as I ever heard human speech, a voice in the air which said "the
procession of the Anakim." Over and over again, as I sat alone by my
camp-fire at night, dreaming awake, I have heard a voice from across
the lake calling me to come over and fetch it, and one night I rowed
my boat in the darkness more than a mile, to find no one. Watching for
deer from a treetop one day, in broad sunlight, and looking over a
mountain range, along the crest of which were pointed firs and long
level ridges of rock in irregular alternation, the eerie feeling
suddenly came over me, and the mountain-top seemed a city with spires
and walls, and I heard bands of music, and then hunting-horns coming
down with the wind, and there was a perfect illusion of the sound of a
hunting party hurrying down into the valley, which gave me a positive
panic, as if I were being pursued and must run. I remember also on
another occasion a transformation--transfiguration rather--of the
entire landscape in colors, such as neither Titian nor Turner ever
has shown me. It was a glorification of nature such as I had never
conceived and cannot now comprehend.

The fascination of indulgence in this illusory life became such that
I lingered every summer longer, and finally until November, when, in
that high and northerly locality, the snow had fallen and the lake
began to freeze, living only under a bark roof, open to the air and to
the snow, which fell on my bed during the night. I can easily imagine
the life leading to insanity. Probably my interest in nature and
my painting kept me measurably free from this danger, but not from
illusions as unaccountable as spiritism, and sometimes more real than
the physical facts. I had one evening, when I was lying awake in a
troubled state of mind, a vision of a woman's face, utterly unlike
anybody I had ever seen, and so beautiful that with the sheer delight
of its beauty I remained for several days in a state of ecstasy, as if
it were constantly before me, and I remember it still, after more than
forty years, as more beautiful than any face I ever saw in the flesh.
It was as real while it lasted as any material object could have
been, though it was a head without a body, like one of the vignetted
portraits which used to be so fashionable in my early days.

In all these years, whether in the wilderness or in the city, I lived
a life more or less visionary, and absorbed in mental problems, in
the solution of which I passed days of intense thought, and, when
no solution appeared to my unaided reason, I used to fast until the
solution appeared clear, which was often not until after days
of entire abstinence from food of any kind,--the fast lasting
occasionally three days,--by which time the diminishing mental energy
brought with it a diminution of the perplexity, and I came out of the
morbid state in which I had been, and probably found that there was
generally an intellectual delusion in the problem. I do not remember
the particular character of these perplexities, save that they were
generally questions of right and wrong in motive or conduct; but, from
the fact that they did not leave a permanent impression, I suppose
they were of the _quisquilioe_ which seem at times to perplex the
theological world, the stuff that dreams are made of. Up to this time
all the doctrines of my early creed held me in bondage: the observance
of the Seventh-Day Sabbath, and the exigencies of the letter of the
law, which entirely hid the worth of its spirit, were imperative on
me, and out of the complication I derived little happiness and much
distress. This kind of Christianity seems to me now of the nature of
those burdens which the Pharisees of old laid on the consciences of
their day, and it was only years later than the time I am here writing
of, when I finally moved to Cambridge and came under the influence of
the broadest form of Christianity, that they were removed. I owe it to
one of the truest friends of my early manhood,--Charles Eliot Norton,
the friend as well of Emerson, Lowell, and Longfellow,--that the real
nature of these questions of formal morality was finally made clear to
me, and life made a relatively simple matter.

This is an anticipation of the sequence of my development, and given
here not to leave occasion to recur to the subject again. On my return
from the first summer in the Wilderness, I took a studio again in New
York, and entered more formally into the fellowship of the painters of
landscape. Being under no necessity of making the occupation pay, I
probably profited less than I ought by the regime, and followed
my mission of art reformer as much by a literary propaganda as by
example. This, as all know who have ventured it, was more or less the
effectual obstacle to practical attainment in art.



CHAPTER XI

JOURNALISM


Given a disposition to enter into controversies on art questions,
provoked by the general incompetence of the newspaper critics of
that day, and the fact that there was at that time no publication in
America devoted to the interests of art, it happened naturally that I
was drawn into correspondence with the journals on art questions, and
easily made for myself a certain reputation in this field. I obtained
the position of fine-art editor of the "Evening Post," then edited by
W.C. Bryant, a position which did not interfere with my work in the
studio. My duties on the paper were light and pecuniarily of no
importance, though the "Post" was the journal which, of all the
New York dailies, paid most attention to art, and had the highest
authority in questions of culture. My relations with Bryant were
intellectually profitable to me. He was a man who enjoyed the highest
consideration amongst our contemporary journalists,--of inflexible
integrity in politics as well as in business affairs. The managing
editor was John Bigelow, a worthy second to such a chief. Bryant was
held to be a cold man, not only in his poetry, but in his personal
relations; but I think that, so far as his personality was concerned,
this was a mistake. He impressed me as a man of strong feelings, who
had at some time been led by a too explosive expression of them
to dread his own passions, and who had, therefore, cultivated a
repression which became the habit of his life. The character of his
poetry, little sympathetic with human passion, and given to the
worship of nature, confirmed the general impression of coldness which
his manner suggested. I never saw him in anger, but I felt that the
barrier which prevented it was too slight to make it safe for any
one to venture to touch it. A supreme sense of justice went with a
somewhat narrow personal horizon, a combination which, while it made
him hold the balance of judgment level, so far as the large world of
politics was concerned, made him often too bitter in his controversies
touching political questions; but the American political daily paper
has never had a nobler type than the "Evening Post" under Bryant.
Demonstrative he never was, even with his intimates, but to the
constancy and firmness of his friendship all who knew him well could
testify, and, as long as he lived, our relations were unchanged,
though my wandering ways brought me seldom near him in later years.

It was about this time that I had become acquainted with the Browns.
Of Mrs. Brown I have, in anticipation of events, spoken in connection
with spiritism, apart from which she had a remarkable individuality
in many ways. She had those instantaneous perceptions of truth in the
higher regions of thought, the spiritual and moral, which seem to be
either instinct or inspiration. Their house was the meeting place of
a school of transcendental thinkers (and I use the word in its full
sense) of a very remarkable character. As the Browns lived on the
Brooklyn side of the East River, we used to call it the "Brooklyn
School," though there were residents of Philadelphia and Boston among
the friends who met there. Now and then we had formal _conversazioni_,
and at these I soon took a prominent part, though the inquiring spirit
strongly predominated over the oracular, which is likely to monopolize
such assemblies. I was in that eagerness of early and incomplete
knowledge which is more ready in expression than that of riper years,
and it is probable that I distinguished myself by fluency of verbiage.
It became customary to look to me for the most hazardous reaches of
conjecture or inquiry, though certainly Mrs. Brown was worth far more
than I was. I had already solved several problems which to-day are not
clear to me, and I had always a ready answer to most mysteries. Talk I
certainly could, and Mrs. Brown, who had the most sincere friendship
for me, and believed in my possibilities if not in my attainment,
delighted to put me forward.

One day there was a _conversazione_ at which Alcott, the "Oracle of
Concord," was to be the chief personage, and, as he had the habit of
monopolizing the talk when he took any part, it was suggested that
I should try my strength against his. Although Emerson had a high
opinion of Alcott, he seemed to me a shallow and illogical thinker,
and I have always felt that the good opinion of Emerson was due rather
to the fact that Alcott presented him with his own ideas served up
in forms in which he no longer recognized them, and so appeared to
Emerson as original. Such originality as he had was rather in oracular
and often incomprehensible verbiage than in profundity of thought,
but, as no one attempted to bring him to book, bewildered as his
audience generally was by the novelty of the propositions he made or
by their absurdity, he used to go on until suggestion, or breath,
failed him. I have forgotten, long ago, the subject of debate, but
Alcott started out with one of his characteristic mysticisms, and,
after allowing him to commit himself fully, I interrupted him with a
question. He was a little irritated at being stopped in the flow of
his discourse, and showed it, but this did not disturb me, and I
insisted on an explanation of what he had said. He was not in the
habit of explaining himself, and replied very much at random, but the
training of old Dr. Nott stood me in good stead, and I followed him up
with question and objection until he assumed a position diametrically
opposed to that from which he started, when I called his attention
to the fact that what he then said contradicted what he had at first
said. He got angry, and replied that "a man was not bound to be
consistent with himself, and that it did not matter." But he lost
his thread as well as his temper, and the _conversazione_ came to a
premature end, to the great satisfaction of the conspirators, most of
whom had at one time or another been silenced in their attempts to
bring him to logical conclusions, by his autocratic way of carrying on
the debate without regard to objections, which they had not had the
courage to urge.

He seemed to me a shallow philosopher, but I must confess that my
treatment of him did not become a man so much younger than he. I felt,
however, a certain amount of honest indignation at what seemed to
me his charlatanic manner of putting off on people his random and
improvised suggestions regarding questions which seemed to me then of
vital importance to society. It is easy now to see that I was in the
stage of mental evolution at which detail is of supreme importance
because large views of life and philosophy have not yet come above the
horizon. Alcott was a drawing-room philosopher, the justice of whose
lucubrations had no importance whatever, while his manner and his
individuality gave to wiser people than I the pleasure which belongs
to the study of such a specimen of human nature. He amused and
superficially interested, and he no doubt enjoyed his distorted
reflections of the wisdom of wiser men as much as if he had been an
original seeker. I did not then understand that all knowledge is
relative, and that, _au fond_, his offense was the same as mine, that
of thinking he had arrived at finality in the discovery of truth.

It was, perhaps, a natural consequence of all this talking and writing
about art that, in the absence of a periodical devoted to it, my
friends came to the conclusion that it would be a good and useful
thing that I should start an art journal. I had read with enthusiasm
"Modern Painters," and absorbed the views of Ruskin in large draughts,
and enjoyed large intercourse with European masters, and with
Americans like William Page, H.K. Brown, S.W. Rowse, and H.P. Gray,
all thinkers and artists of distinct eminence. In this school I
had acquired certain views of the nature of art which I burned to
disseminate. They were crude rather than incorrect, but they were
largely responded to by our public; they were destructive of the old
rather than informing of the new, and leaned on nature rather than
art. The art-loving public was full of Ruskinian enthusiasm, and what
strength I had shown was in that vein. The overweening self-confidence
that always carried me into dangers and difficulties which a little
wisdom would have taught me to avoid, made me too ready to enter into
a scheme which required far more ability and knowledge of business
than I possessed. All my artist friends promised me their assistance,
and I found in John Durand, the son of the president of the National
Academy of Design, a partner with a seconding enthusiasm and the
necessary assistance in raising the capital. This amounted to $5000,
for the half of which my brother Thomas became security. We doubted
not that the undertaking would be a lucrative one, and one of the
principal motives which was urged on me by my artistic friends and
promising supporters was that it would furnish me with a sufficient
income to enable me to follow my painting without any anxiety as to my
means of living. We started a weekly called "The Crayon," and at
the outset I was able to promise the assistance of most of our best
writers residing in New York.

In order to secure the support of the Bostonians I went to Boston and
Cambridge, where I was met by a cordial response to my enthusiasm,
Lowell becoming my sponsor to the circle of which he was then and for
many years the most brilliant ornament. To him and his friendship in
after years I owe to a very large degree the shaping of my later life,
as well as the better part of the success of "The Crayon." He was then
in a condition of profound melancholy, from the recent death of his
wife. He lived in retirement, seeing only his most intimate friends,
and why he should have made an exception in my case I do not quite
understand. It may be that I had a card of introduction from his great
friend William Page or from C.F. Briggs (in the literary world, "Harry
Franco"), but if so it would have been merely a formal introduction,
as my acquaintance with either of those gentlemen was very slight,
and I do not remember an introduction at all. My impression is that I
introduced myself. But I was an enthusiast, fired with the idea of an
apostolate of art, largely vicarious and due to Ruskin, who was then
my prophet, and whose religion, as mine, was nature. In fact, I was
still so much under the influence of the "Modern Painters" that, like
Ruskin, I accepted art as something in the peculiar vision of the
artist, not yet recognizing that it is the brain that sees and not the
eye. But there is this which makes the nature-worshiper's creed a more
exalting one than that of the art-lover, that it is impersonal and
compels the forgetting of one's self, which for an apostolate is
essential.

It was probably this characteristic of my condition which enlisted the
sympathy of Lowell, who, even in his desolation, had a heart for any
form of devotion, and who, with the love of nature which was one of
his own most marked traits, had a side to which my enthusiasm appealed
directly. The mere artist is, unless his nature is a radically
religious one, an egotist, and his art necessarily centres on him,
nature only furnishing him with material. I was dreaming of other
things than myself or that which was personal in my enterprise, and
Lowell felt the glow of my enthusiasm. He introduced me to Longfellow,
Charles Eliot Norton, R.H. Dana, and other of his friends at
Cambridge, and at a later visit to Agassiz, Emerson, Thomas G.
Appleton (Longfellow's brother-in-law), Whittier, E.P. Whipple,
Charles Sumner, and Samuel G. Ward, banker and a lover of art of high
intelligence, the friend of poets and painters, and to me, in later
years, one of the kindest and wisest of advisers and friends.

Lowell invited me to the dinner of the Saturday Club,--a monthly
gathering of whatever in the sphere of New England thought was most
eminent and brilliant,--and here I came, for the first time, into
contact with the true New England. It may be supposed that I returned
to New York a more enthusiastic devotee of that Yankeeland to which
I owed everything that was best in me. In my immediate mission,--the
quest of support for "The Crayon,"--I had abundant response in
contributions, and Lowell himself, Norton, and "Tom" Appleton, as he
was called familiarly by all the world, continued to be amongst my
most faithful and generous contributors as long as I remained the
editor. Longfellow alone of all that literary world, though promising
to contribute, never did send me a word for my columns, not, I am
persuaded, from indifference or want of generosity, but because he was
diffident of himself, and, in the scrutiny of his work, for which, of
course, the demand from the publishers was always urgent, he did not
find anything which seemed to him particularly fit for an art journal.
Nor would any of those contributors ever accept the slightest
compensation for the poems or articles they sent, though "The Crayon"
paid the market price for everything it printed to those who would
accept. The first number of "The Crayon" made a good impression in all
the quarters from which praise was most weighty and most desired by
its proprietors. Bryant and Lowell had sent poems for it, but I had to
economize my wealth, and could print only one important poem in each
number, and to this I gave a page, so that I had to choose between the
two. Bryant had sent me a poem without a title, and when I asked him
to give it one he replied, "I give you a poem, give me a name;" and I
called it "A Rain Dream," which name it bears still in the collected
edition of his works. Lowell sent me the first part of "Pictures from
Appledore," one of a series of fragments of a projected poem,--like
so many of his projects, never carried to completion. The poem was
intended to consist of a series of stories told in "The Nooning," in
which a party of young men, gathered in the noon spell in the bowl
formed by the branches of a pollard willow,--one of those which stood,
and of which some still stand, by the river Charles,--were to tell
their personal experiences or legends drawn from the sections of New
England from which they came. Bryant's greater reputation at that time
made his contribution more valuable from a publishing point of view,
especially in New York, where Lowell had as yet little reputation,
while Bryant was, by many, regarded as the first of living American
poets. But my personal feeling insisted on giving Lowell the place at
the launch, and to reconcile the claim of seniority of Bryant with
my preference of Lowell puzzled me a little, the more that Lowell
insisted strongly on my putting Bryant in the forefront as a matter of
business. I determined to leave it to Bryant, whose business tact was
very fine, and who had as little personal vanity as is possible to a
man of the world, which, in the best sense, he was. But I prepared the
ground by writing a series of articles on "The Landscape Element in
American Poetry," the first of which was naturally devoted to Bryant,
and then, taking him the poem of Lowell and the article on himself, I
asked his advice as to the decision, saying that I could only print
his poem or Lowell's, but that I desired to take in as wide a range
of interest as possible. He decided at once in favor of the poem of
Lowell and the Bryant article in the landscape series.

The success of "The Crayon" was immediate, though, from a large
journalistic point of view, it was, no doubt, somewhat crude
and puerile. It had a considerable public, sympathetic with its
sentimental vein, readers of Ruskin and lovers of pure nature,--a
circle the larger, perhaps, for the incomplete state of art education
in our community. That two young men, without any experience in
journalism, and with little in literature, should have secured the
success for their enterprise which "The Crayon" indisputably did enjoy
was a surprise to the public, and, looking at it now, with my
eyes cooled by the distance of more than forty years, I am myself
surprised. That "The Crayon" had a real vitality, in spite of its
relative juvenility, was shown by the warm commendation it received
from Lowell, Bryant, and other American literati, and from Ruskin, who
wrote us occasional notes in reply to questions put by the readers,
and warmly applauded its tone. Mantz was our French correspondent,
and William Rossetti our English, and a few of the artists sent us
communications which had the value of the personal artistic tone. But
I learned the meaning of the fable of "The Lark and her Young," for
the general assistance in the matter of contributions, promised me by
the friends who had originally urged me to the undertaking, was very
slow in coming, and, for the first numbers, I wrote nearly the whole
of the original matter, and for some time more than half of it. I
wrote not only the editorial articles and the criticisms, but essays,
correspondence, poetry, book notices (really reading every book I
noticed), and a page or two of "Sketchings," in which were notes from
nature, extracts from letters, and replies to queries of the readers.

I remained in the city all the burning summer, taking a ten days' run
in the Adirondacks in September. I kept office all day, received
all who came to talk art or business, and did most of my writing at
night,--not a régime to keep up one's working powers. Durand did some
excellent translations from the French, and the late Justin Winsor
sent us many translations, both of verse and prose, from the German,
as well as original poetry. Aldrich was a generous contributor.
Whittier, Bayard Taylor, and others of the lyric race sent occasional
contributions, and amongst the women, who were, as a rule, our most
enthusiastic supporters, were Mrs. Sigourney, and, not the least by
far, Lucy Larcom, the truest poetess of that day in America, who gave
us some of her most charming poems. She was teacher in a girls'
school somewhere in Massachusetts, and I went to see her in one of my
editorial trips. We went out for a walk in the fields, she and her
class and myself, and they looked up to me as if I were Apollo and
they the Muses; and we went afield in many things. Henry James, the
father of the novelist, was also a not infrequent contributor; and,
amongst the artists, Huntington, President Durand (the father of my
associate), Horatio Greenough, and William Page appeared in our pages,
with many more, whose names a file of "The Crayon" would recall.

During the year, Lowell received the appointment of Professor of
Modern Languages at Harvard, and on the eve of his sailing from New
York we gave him a dinner, to which, besides some of his old friends,
such as E.P. Whipple and Senator Charles Sumner, I invited Bryant and
Bayard Taylor. I knew that Bryant held a little bitterness against
Lowell for the passage in the "Fable for Critics," in which he said:--

  "If he stir you at all, it is just, on my soul,
  Like being stirred up with the very North Pole;"

and I told Lowell how the dear old poet felt, and then put them
together at the table. Lowell laid himself out to captivate Bryant,
and did so completely, for his tact was such that in society no one
whom he desired to interest could resist him; and our dinner was a
splendid success. Of all present at it only Durand and myself are now
living.

The subscription list of our paper had risen in the first month to
above 1200, and the promise for the future seemed brilliant. But,
unfortunately, neither of us understood the business part of
journalism, or that a paper does not live by its circulation, but by
advertisements; and that our advertisements, being a specialty, must
be canvassed for vigorously. We did not canvass. Cunning publishers
persuaded us that it would be a good thing to take their
advertisements for nothing, so as to persuade the others that we had a
good advertising list. But the bait never took, and we never got the
paying list, and the printer, being interested in our expenditure,
never helped us to economize, but played the "Wicked Uncle" to our
"Babes in the Wood," and so we wasted our substance. It was, perhaps,
fortunate that the funds ran short as they did, for our five thousand
dollars could not go far when the subscriptions were all paid in
and spent, and the overwork began to tell on me fatally. With the
conclusion of the third volume I broke down and had to give up work
entirely.

When I got out of harness, and had no longer the stimulus of the daily
demand and habit of work, the collapse was such that I thought I was
dying. I gave my share of the paper to Durand, to do as he pleased
with, and went off to North Conway, in the mountains of New Hampshire,
to paint one more picture before I died. I chose a brook scene,
and Huntington and Hubbard--two of our leading painters--and a
Düsseldorf-educated painter, by name Post, sat down with me to paint
it. I gave six weeks of hard work to a canvas twelve by eighteen
inches, and my competitors cordially admitted my victory. Autumn fell
on my work with still something to do to it, and it was never finished
to my entire satisfaction, but it was one of the successes of the year
at the Academy Exhibition. I stayed late amongst the mountains, only
thinking of dying, but nature brought me round. There came, towards
the end of the season, a newly married couple from Boston, destined
in later years to become a large part of my life,--Dr. and Mrs.
Amos Binney. Mrs. Binney was one of the earliest women graduates in
medicine in America,--an earnest, true woman, whose ministrations to
me in body and mind, in those months of dying hopes, flying leaves,
and early snowfalls, were full of healing. I had had a skirmish with
Cupid that summer, my first real passion, reciprocated by the subject
of it, one of the ardent readers of "The Crayon," an enthusiast in
art, and like me in Ruskin--an affair which ended in our double defeat
under the merciless veto of the mother of my flame. In that affair
Mrs. Binney's tact and knowledge of human nature befriended me
profoundly, and were the origin of a cordial intimacy which
incidentally had on my subsequent life a great influence. Dr. Binney
gave me a commission for two pictures, and invited me to come to his
home near Boston to paint them.



CHAPTER XII

CAMBRIDGE


I gave up my studio in New York and went to Boston, and, my
commissions executed, moved from there to Cambridge, where I made my
home, returning thenceforward to the Adirondacks in the late summer
and autumn of every year while I remained in America. The following
springtime I spent making studies in that classic neighborhood,
especially in a favorite haunt of Lowell's,--the "Waverley Oaks,"--a
curious group of large white oaks, which had taken root some hundreds
of years ago on the foot of a moraine of one of the offsets of the
great glacier which, countless thousands of years ago, had covered New
England. They were beautiful trees and greatly beloved by Lowell, for
whom I painted the principal group, with Beaver Brook, another of his
favorite studies, and he lying by its bank in the foreground, a little
full-length portrait, not the length of my finger. I painted also a
similar portrait of Longfellow, under the most beautiful of the oaks,
on an eight-by-ten-inch canvas. It was a good portrait, but Lowell
deterred me from finishing it as I wished, saying that if I touched it
again I should destroy the likeness. I am half inclined to think that
his insistence was mainly intended to abbreviate the martyrdom
of Longfellow, whom I conducted every day to the Oaks, to insure
pre-Raphaelite fidelity, making him sit on a huge boulder under the
tree and even forgetting to carry a cushion for him, so that he sat on
the bare stone until at last the discomfort was evident to me, when
I folded my coat to cushion his stone seat. So kindly was his nature
that he had submitted to the inconvenience with the docility and
delicacy of a child, without a sign of impatience.

This absolute unselfishness and extreme consideration for others was
characteristic of the man. I saw much of him in the years following,
and found in him the most exquisitely refined and gentle nature I have
ever known,--one to which a brutal or inconsiderate act was positive
pain, and any aggression on the least creature, cause of intense
indignation. My recollection of his condescension to my demands on
his time and physical comfort remain in my memory as the highest
expression of his social beneficence. Longfellow was not expansive,
nor do I remember his ever becoming enthusiastic over anything or
anybody. One who knew nothing of his domestic life might have fancied
that he was cold, and certainly he did not possess that social
magnetism which made Lowell the loadstone of so many hearts, and made
the exercise of that attraction necessary to his own enjoyment of
existence. Longfellow adored his wife and children; but beyond that
circle, it seemed to me, he had no imperious longing to know or be
known. He had likes and dislikes; but so far as I understood him, no
strong antipathies or ardent friendships. He had warm friendships for
Lowell, the Nortons, and Agassiz, for example, but I think he had but
a mild regard for Emerson, and I remember his saying one day that
Emerson used his friends like lemons,--squeezing them till they were
dry, and then throwing them away. This showed that he misunderstood
Emerson, but perhaps intelligibly, for Longfellow had few of those
qualities which interested Emerson, and there could not have been
much in common to both. Emerson liked men who gave him problems to
solve,--something to learn,--while Longfellow was transparent, limpid
as a clear spring reflecting the sky and showing all that was in its
depths; and to Emerson he offered no problem. I never saw him angry
but once, and that was at his next-door neighbor shooting at a robin
in a cherry-tree that stood near the boundary between the two gardens.
The small shot carried over and rattled about us where we sat on the
verandah of the old Washington house, but showed the avicidal intent,
and Longfellow went off at once to protest against the barbarity, not
at all indignant at the personal danger, if he thought of any.

His adoration of his wife was fully justified, for rarely have I seen
a woman in whom a Juno-like dignity and serenity were so wedded to
personal beauty and to the fine culture of brain and heart, which
commanded reverence from the most ordinary acquaintance, as in her. No
one who had seen her at home could ever forget the splendid vision,
and the last time I ever saw her, so far as I remember, was in summer
time, when she and her two daughters, all in white muslin, like
creatures of another world, evanescent, translucent, stood in the
doorway to say good-by to me. In the same costume, a little later, she
met death. She was making impressions in sealing-wax, to amuse her
daughters, when a flaming drop fell on the inflammable stuff, and in
an instant she was in flames, burned to death before help could come.
It was then that they found that Longfellow was not the cold man they
had generally believed him. He never recovered from the bereavement,
and shortly after he became a Spiritualist, and, until he in his glad
turn passed the gates of death, he lived in what he knew to be the
light of her presence. And certainly if such a thing as communion
across that grim threshold can be, this was the occasion which made it
possible. There was something angelic about them both, even in this
life,--a natural innocence and large beneficence and equanimity which,
in the chance and contradiction of life, could rarely be found in
wedded state.

One of the most notable personages of that little world, whom I knew
in connection with Longfellow, was his brother-in-law,--Thomas G.
Appleton,--a most distinguished amateur of art; a subtle, if sometimes
vagarious, critic, poet, and thinker: the wit to whom most of the
clever things said in Boston came naturally in time to be attributed.
The famous saying that "Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris,"
is generally supposed to be his, though Oliver Wendell Holmes told me
one day that he himself was really the author of it; but, if a keen
witticism was floating about fatherless in the Boston circles it
drifted to Tom Appleton as putative parent. His, too, was a kindly
nature, and many a rising artist found his way to a larger recognition
by Appleton's unobtrusive aid. He, like Longfellow, was a sincere
Spiritualist. One of the most remarkable of this group of men was
Professor Peirce, mathematician, of whose flights into the higher
regions of the science of numbers and quantities many interesting
things were told. He had written a book to show, if I remember right
after so many years, that the square root of minus one was a right
angle

     __
  (\/-1=90°),

which was said to have been read only by a mathematician who presided
over an observatory in the Ural Mountains. He had an extraordinary
power of making his abstruse results clear to the ordinary intellect,
and was in various directions a brilliant conversationalist. One day,
going into Boston in the omnibus with him, I questioned him as to the
famous problem. To my astonishment he went through a demonstration
adapted to my intelligence which made me understand the nature of
the substitution and the solution before our half hour's transit was
ended. I did not understand the mathematical statement, but he put it
in common-sense terms, which I apprehended perfectly, though I never
could repeat them.

My Adirondack experiences and studies having excited the desire on the
part of several Cambridge friends to visit the Wilderness, I made up
a party which comprised Lowell and his two nephews, Charles and James
Lowell (two splendid young New Englanders afterwards killed during the
Civil War), Dr. Estes Howe, Lowell's brother-in-law, and John Holmes,
the brother of Oliver Wendell, considered by many of the Cambridge set
the wittier and wiser of the two, but who, being extremely averse to
publicity, was never known in literature. We made a flying journey of
inspection through the Saranac Lakes and down the Raquette River
to Tupper's Lake, and then across a wild and at that day a little
explored section to the head of Raquette Lake, and down the Raquette
River back to the Saranacs; the party returning home and I back to the
headwaters of the Raquette to spend the summer painting. I built a
camp on a secluded bay, which still bears my name amongst the men of
the section, and there I worked in a solitude sometimes complete and
sometimes shared by my guide, who passed his time between the camp and
the settlement at Saranac, whence I drew all my supplies beyond those
which the lake and the forest furnished us with. The solitude of the
Wilderness at that time can be no longer found anywhere in the vast
woodland which, much mutilated and scarred by fires and clearings,
still covers the district between the springs of the Mohawk and the
rivers which empty into the St. Lawrence. There was one settler on the
lake, from whom I could, when necessary, get a loaf of bread, but
the solitude for nine days out of ten was not broken by a strange
footfall. My camp was a shelter of bark, raised on poles, open in
front to the morning sun, just sufficing to shed the rain, while my
bed was a layer of the branches of the fir-trees that grew around.
Trout from the lake, broiled on the coals of the camp-fire, with a
piece of bread, was the usual and sufficient fare, though we now and
then killed a deer when Steve, my guide, was with me; at other times
the dog was my only company, and in this monotonous life I found the
most complete content that my experience has given me. Here wolves
abounded, but only on one occasion did they attempt to disturb me,
which was when I had left by the lake shore a deer we had killed in
the morning, and they came at night to steal the meat. Bears were
abundant, but even shyer than the wolves; and though we heard, now and
then, the cry of a panther (puma), we never saw one.

Here the morbid passion of solitude grew on me. The serene silence was
seldom broken save by the cry of an eagle or an osprey, high overhead,
the chirping of the chickadee flitting about the camp to find a crumb,
or the complaining note of the Canada jay, most friendly of all wild
birds, seeking for the scraps of venison we used to throw out for him.
No other birds came to us, and one of the most striking features
in the Wilderness was the paucity of bird life and voice. As I
sat painting, I would see the gray eagle come down, with his long
cycloidal swoop, skimming along the surface of the water, and catch,
as he passed, the trout that sunned itself on the surface; or the
osprey seizing it with his direct plunge into the lake, from which,
after a struggle that lasted sometimes a minute, the only sign of his
presence being the agitated water, he would emerge with the fish in
his claws and sail aloft, hurrying to escape to the forest with his
prey lest the eagle, always watching from the upper air, should rob
him of his hard-earned booty. Once I saw the eagle make the mighty
plunge from far above, the frightened osprey dropping the fish to
escape the shock, and the eagle catching it in midair as it fell.
The little incidents of woodland life took the place of all other
diversions and left no hour void of interest. I broke up the camp only
when the autumn was so far advanced that it was uncomfortable to
live in the open air. It is difficult for one who has not had the
experience to understand the fascination of this absolute solitude, or
the impressiveness of the silence, unbroken sometimes through whole
days. I had absolutely no desire for human society, and I broke camp
with reluctance, to return to my studio at Cambridge.

The next summer the party was formed which led to the foundation of
the Adirondack Club, and the excursion it made is commemorated by
Emerson in his poem "The Adirondacs." The company included Emerson,
Agassiz, Dr. Howe, Professor Jeffries Wyman, John Holmes,--who
became as fond as I was of this wild life,--Judge Hoar (later
Attorney-General in the cabinet of President Grant), Horatio Woodman,
Dr. Binney, and myself. Of this company, as I write, I am the only
survivor. I did my best to enroll Longfellow in the party, but, though
he was for a moment hesitating, I think the fact that Emerson was
going with a gun settled him in the determination to decline. "Is it
true that Emerson is going to take a gun?" he asked me; and when
I said that he had finally decided to do so, he ejaculated, "Then
somebody will be shot!" and would talk no more of going.

Perhaps the final reason, or that which would in any case have
indisposed him to join the company, was his want of sympathy with
Emerson. Emerson and he were in fact of antagonistic intellectuality,
both in the quality of the exquisite courtesy which distinguished them
equally, and in the fibre of intellectual working and the quality of
mental activity. Longfellow was of the most refined social culture,
disciplined to self-control under all circumstances and difficulties;
sensitive in the highest degree to the forms of courtesy, and
incapable by nature as by training of an act or word which could
offend the sensibilities of even a discourteous interlocutor,--capable
at worst of an indignant silence, but incapable of invading the
personality of another; not serene, but of an invincible tranquillity;
with no sympathy for mystery or obscurity; supremely above the general
and commonplace by the exquisite refinement to which he carried the
expression of what the general and commonplace world felt and thought;
remote from roughness in the form or the substance of his thought; in
short, the _ne plus ultra_ of refinement as man and poet. Emerson was
too serene ever to be discourteous, and was capable of the hottest
antagonism without rudeness, and the most intense indignation without
quickening his speech or raising his tone; grasping and exhausting
with imaginative activity whatever object furnished him with
matter for thought, and throwing to the rubbish heap whatever was
superficial; indifferent to form or polish if only he could find a
diamond; reveling in mystery, and with eyes that penetrated like the
X-ray through all obscurities, and found at the bottom of them what
there was to find; arrested by no surfaces, inflexible in his
devotion to truth, and indifferent to all personalities or artificial
conditions of men or things. Nothing but the roots of things, their
inmost anatomy, attracted him; he brushed away contemptuously the
beauties on which Longfellow spent the tenderness of his character,
and threw aside like an empty nutshell the form to which an artist
might have given the devotion of his best art, for the art's sake.
In his temper there was no patience with shams, little toleration
of forms. It would, I should think, be clear to one who was well
acquainted with both men, that there was little in common between them
beyond culture, but I never heard Emerson speak of Longfellow, and can
only judge by induction that he never occupied himself much with him.

We tried also to get Dr. Holmes to join us; but the Doctor was devoted
to Boston, and could not have lived long out of its atmosphere, and
with the woods and savagery he had no sympathy. He loved his Cambridge
friends serenely, Lowell, Agassiz, and Wyman, I think, above others;
but he enjoyed himself most of all, and Boston more than any other
thing on earth. He was lifted above ennui and discontent by a most
happy satisfaction with the rounded world of his own individuality and
belongings. Of the three men whom I have personally known in the
world who seemed most satisfied with what fate and fortune had made
them,--viz., Gladstone, Professor Freeman, and Holmes,--I think Holmes
enjoyed himself the most. There was a tinge of dandyism in the Doctor;
not enough to be considered a weakness, but enough to show that he
enjoyed his personal appearance and was content with what he had
become, and this in so delightful a way that one accepted him at once
at his own terms. The Doctor stood for Boston as Lowell for Cambridge,
the archetype of the Hub. Nobody represented it as he did. Tom
Appleton was nearest him, but Tom loved Paris better, and was a
"globe-trotter," as often in Europe as in Massachusetts, while the
Doctor hardly left the Hub even for a vacation; there was nothing
beyond it that was of great import to him. He was the sublimation of
Yankee wit as Lowell was of Yankee humor and human nature, and he
made of witticism a study; polished, refined, and prepared his "_bons
mots_", and, at the best moment, led the conversation round to the
point at which it was opportune to fire them off. He had a large
medical knowledge of human nature and intellectual pathology, but I
could never realize that he was a physician; I should not have trusted
myself to his doctoring. As with Longfellow, his family affections
were absorbing, and his love for his son, the present Mr. Justice
Holmes, and his pride in him, were very pleasant to see, and they ran
on the surface of his nature like his love for Boston; but I could
never feel that his feeling for his outside friends was more than a
mild, sunny glow of kindliness and vivid intellectual sympathy. Of
course I judge him from a difficult standard, that of the Cambridge
circle, in which the personal relations were very warm, and especially
comparing him with Lowell and the Nortons, with whom friendship was a
religion.

Holmes and Lowell were the antitheses of the New England intellect,
and this more in their personality than in their writing. If Lowell
could have acquired Holmes's respect for his work, he would have left
a larger image in the American Walhalla; but he never gave care to the
perfection of what he wrote, for his mind so teemed with material that
the time to polish and review never came. Holmes, like a true artist,
loved the _limae labor_. He was satisfied, it seemed to me, to do the
work of one lifetime and then rest, while Lowell looked forward to a
succession of lifetimes all full of work, and one can hardly conceive
him as ever resting or caring to stop work. Lowell's was a generous,
widely sympathizing nature, from which radiated love for humanity, and
the broadest and most catholic helpfulness for every one who asked
for his help, with a special fund for his friends. Holmes drew a line
around him, within which he shone like a winter sun, and outside of
which his care did not extend. The one was best in what he did, the
other in what he was. Holmes always seemed to me cynical to the
general world; Lowell to have embodied the antique sentiment, "I am a
man, and hold nothing human as indifferent to me." Both were adored
by those around them, and the adoration kindled Holmes to a warmer
reflection to the adorers; Lowell felt it as the earth feels sunshine,
which sinks into the fertile soil and bears its fruit in a richer
harvest.

Excepting Holmes, Norton, and Longfellow, our company included most of
what was most distinct in the world in which we lived, with some who
were eminent only in their social relations, and who neither cared
to be nor ever became of interest to the general world. The care of
arranging the details of the excursion was left to me, and I had,
therefore, to precede the company to the Wilderness, and so missed
what must have been to the others a very amusing experience. The rumor
of the advent of the party spread through the country around Saranac,
and at the frontier town where they would begin the journey into the
woods the whole community was on the _qui vive_ to see, not Emerson or
Lowell, of whom they knew nothing, but Agassiz, who had become famous
in the commonplace world through having refused, not long before, an
offer from the Emperor of the French of the keepership of the Jardin
des Plantes and a senatorship, if he would come to Paris and live.
Such an incredible and disinterested love for America and science in
our hemisphere had lifted Agassiz into an elevation of popularity
which was beyond all scientific or political dignity, and the
selectmen of the town appointed a deputation to welcome Agassiz and
his friends to the region. A reception was accorded, and they came,
having taken care to provide themselves with an engraved portrait
of the scientist, to guard against a personation and waste of their
respects. The head of the deputation, after having carefully compared
Agassiz to the engraving, turned gravely to his followers and said,
"Yes, it's him;" and they proceeded with the same gravity to shake
hands in their order, ignoring all the other luminaries.

I had in the mean time been into the Wilderness and selected a site
for the camp on one of the most secluded lakes, out of the line of
travel of the hunters and fisherfolk,--a deep _cul de sac_ of lake on
a stream that led nowhere, known as Follansbee Pond. There, with
my guide, I built a bark camp, prepared a landing-place, and then
returned to Saranac in time to meet the arriving guests. I was
unfortunately prevented from accompanying them up the lakes the next
morning, because a boat I had been building for the occasion was not
ready for the water, and so I missed what was to me of the greatest
interest,--the first impressions of Emerson of the Wilderness,
absolute nature. I joined them at night of the first day's journey, in
a rainstorm such as our summer rarely gives in the mountains, and
we made the unique and fascinating journey down the Raquette River
together; Agassiz taking his place in my boat, each other member of
the party having his own guide and boat.

The scene, like the company, exists no longer. There is a river which
still flows where the other flowed; but, like the water that has
passed its rapids, and the guests that have gone the way of all
those who have lived, it is something different. Then it was a deep,
mysterious stream, meandering through unbroken forests, walled up on
either side in green shade, the trees of centuries leaning over to
welcome and shelter the voyager, flowing silently in great sweeps of
dark water, with, at long intervals, a lagoon setting back into the
wider forest around, enameled with pond lilies and sagittaria, and the
refuge of undisturbed waterfowl and browsing deer. Our lake lay at the
head of such a lagoon, a devious outlet of the basin of which the
lake occupied the principal expanse, reached through three miles of
no-man's route, framed in green hills forest-clad up to their summits.
The camp was a shelter of spruce bark, open wide in front and closed
at the ends, drawn on three faces of an octohedron facing the
fireplace. The beds were made of layers of spruce and other fir
branches spread on the ground and covered with the fragrant twigs of
the arbor vitae. Two huge maples overhung the camp, and at a distance
of twenty feet from our lodge we entered the trackless, primeval
forest. The hills around furnished us with venison, and the lake with
trout, and there we passed the weeks of the summer heats. We were ten,
with eight guides, and while we were camping there we received the
news that the first Atlantic cable was laid, and the first message
sent under the sea from one hemisphere to the other,--an event which
Emerson did not forget to record in noble lines.



CHAPTER XIII

THE ADIRONDACK CLUB--EMERSON AND AGASSIZ


In the main, our occupations were those of a vacation, to kill time
and escape from the daily groove. Some took their guides and made
exploration, by land or water; after breakfast there was firing at a
mark, a few rounds each, for those who were riflemen; then, if venison
was needed, we put the dog out on the hills; one boat went to overhaul
the set lines baited the evening before for the lake trout. When the
hunt was over we generally went out to paddle on the lake, Agassiz and
Wyman to dredge or botanize or dissect the animals caught or killed;
those of us who had interest in natural history watching the
naturalists, the others searching the nooks and corners of the pretty
sheet of water with its inlet brooks and its bays and recesses, or
bathing from the rocks. Lunch was at midday, and then long talks,
discussions _de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis_; and it was
surprising to find how many subjects we found germane to our
situation.

Emerson has told the daily life in verse in "The Adirondacs," adding
his own impressions of the place and time. It is not generally
considered among the most interesting of his poems, being a narrative
with reflections, and such a subject could hardly rise above the
interest of the subject of the narration, which was only a vacation
study; but there are in it some passages which show the character of
Emerson's intellect better than anything else he has written. His
insight into nature, like that of the primitive mind as we find it in
the Greek poetry, the instinctive investment of the great mother with
the presence and attribute of personality, the re-creation from his
own resources of Pan and the nature-powers, the groping about in that
darkness of the primeval forest for the spiritual causes of the
things he felt,--all this is to me evident in the poem; and it is
the sufficient demonstration of the antique mould of his intellect,
serene, open-eyed to natural phenomena, seeing beyond the veil
they are, to the something beyond, but always questioning, hardly
concluding, and with no theories to limit his thought or bend it to
preconceived solutions. Knowing that all he saw in this undefiled
natural world, this virgin mother of all life (for around Follansbee
Pond, at the time we went, there was the primeval woodland, where
the lumberer had not yet penetrated, and the grove kept still the
immaculacy of the most ancient days), that all this was the mask of
things, he was ever on the watch if perchance he might catch some hint
of the secret,--secret never to be discovered, and therefore more
passionately sought. This seems to me contained in "The Adirondacs" as
in no other work of the philosopher. And to me the study of the great
student was the dominant interest of the occasion. I was Agassiz's
boatman on demand, for while all the others had their personal guides
and attendants, I was his; but often when Emerson wanted a boat I
managed to provide for Agassiz with one of the unoccupied guides, and
take the place of Emerson's own guide. Thus Emerson and I had many
hours alone on the lake and in the wood. He seemed to be a living
question, perpetually interrogating his impressions of all that
there was to be seen. The rest of us were always at the surface of
things,--even the naturalists were only engaged with their anatomy;
but Emerson in the forest, or looking at the sunset from the lake,
seemed to be looking through the phenomena, studying them by their
reflections on an inner speculum.

In such a great solitude, stripped of the social conventions and
seeing men as they are, mind seems open to mind as it is quite
impossible for it to be in society, even the most informal. Agassiz
remarked, one day, when a little personal question had shown the
limitations of character of one of the company, that he had always
found in his Alpine experiences, when the company were living on terms
of compulsory intimacy, that men found each other out quickly. And so
we found it in the Adirondacks: disguises were soon dropped, and one
saw the real characters of his comrades as it was impossible to see
them in society. Conventions faded out, masks became transparent,
and for good or for ill the man stood naked before the questioning
eye,--pure personality. I think I gathered more insight into the
character of my companions in our greener Arden, in the two or three
weeks' meetings of the club, than all our lives in the city could have
given me.

And Emerson was such a study as can but rarely be given any one. The
crystalline limpidity of his character, free from all conventions,
prejudices, or personal color, gave a facility for study of the man,
limited only by the range of vision of the student. How far my vision
was competent for this study is not for me to decide; so far as it
went I profited, and so far as my experience of men goes he is unique,
not so much from intellectual power, for I should be indisposed to
accept his as the mind of the greatest calibre among those I have
known, but as one of absolute transparency of intellect, perfect
receptivity, and devotion to the truth. In the days of persecution and
martyrdom Emerson would have gone to the stake smiling and undismayed,
but questioning all the time, even as to the nature of his own
emotions. It was this serene impassibility in his study of human
nature which gave the common impression of his coldness,--an
impression which is shown, by the anecdote I have elsewhere recorded
of Longfellow, to have been shared by one who might have been supposed
to know him well for years. But Emerson was not cold or disposed to
make mere subjects of analysis of his friends, as Longfellow thought;
he was an eager student of men as of nature, but superficial men he
tired of and dropped, nothing being to be learned from them, though
where he found what he looked for in a character he never tired of it.
His friendships were of the most constant because of this temper, and
it was only their serenity and almost impersonality that made them
seem frigid to those whose temperament was widely different. Wrong,
injustice to man or beast, roused his warmth in indignation,--he could
be hot enough on occasion; though the quiet warmth of his affection
for his friends was like the sun of May. But undoubtedly his greater
passion was for the truth in whatever form he could find it.

Of all the mental experiences of my past life nothing else survives
with the vividness of my summers in the Adirondacks with Emerson. The
last sight I had of him was when, on his voyage to Egypt, he came to
see me at my home in London, aged and showing the decay of age, but
as alert and interrogative as ever with his insatiate intellectual
activity. And as I look back from the distance of years to the days
when we questioned together, he rises above all his contemporaries as
Mont Blanc does above the intervening peaks when seen from afar, not
the largest in mass, but loftiest in climb, soaring higher if not
occupying the space of some of his companions, even in our little
assemblies. Emerson was the best listener I ever knew, and at the
other meeting-place where I saw him occasionally, the Saturday Club,
his attention to what others were saying was far more notable than his
disposition to enter into the discussions. Now and then he flashed out
with a comment which lit up the subject as an electric spark might,
but in general he shone unconsciously. I remember that one day when,
at the club, we were discussing the nature of genius, some one turned
to Emerson and asked him for a definition of the thing, and he
instantly replied, "The faculty of generalizing from a single
example;" and nobody at the table could give so good and concise a
definition. There is a portrait of him by Rowse, who knew and loved
him well, which renders this side of Emerson in a way that makes
it the most remarkable piece of portraiture I know, the listening
Emerson.

His insatiability in the study of human nature was shown curiously in
our first summer's camp. He had the utmost tenderness of animal life
and had no sympathy with sport in any form,--he "named the birds
without a gun,"--and when we were making up the outfit for the outing
he at first refused to take a rifle; but, as the discussion of make,
calibre, and quality went on, and everybody else was provided, he at
length decided, though no shot, to conform, and purchased a rifle.
And when the routine of camp life brought the day of the hunt, the
eagerness of the hunters and the passion of the chase, the strong
return to our heredity of human primeval occupation gradually involved
him, and made him desire to enter into this experience as well as the
rest of the forest emotions. He must understand this passion to kill.
One Sunday morning, when all the others went out for the drive of
the deer,--necessary for the larder, as the drive the day before had
failed,--Emerson asked me to take him out on the lake to some quiet
place for meditation. We landed in a deep bay, where the seclusion was
most complete, and he went into the woods to meditate. Presently we
heard the baying of the hound as he circled round the lake, on the
hillsides, for the deer at that season were reluctant to take to the
water, and gave a long chase; and, as he listened, he began to take in
the excitement of the hunters, and finally broke out abruptly, "Let us
go after the deer;" and down the lake we went, flying at our best, but
we arrived too late,--Lowell had killed the deer.

He said to me later, and emphatically, "I must kill a deer;" and
one night we went out "jack-hunting" to enable him to realize that
ambition. This kind of hunting, as most people know, is a species
of pot-hunting, much employed by the hunters for the market, and so
destructive to the deer that it is now forbidden by the law in all the
Adirondack country. The deer are stalked by night along the shores,
where they come in to feed, the hunter carrying in his boat a light
so shaded that it illuminates only the space directly in front of the
boat, the glare blinding the animal so that he does not see the boat
or the boatman. In this way the deer may be approached within a few
yards if the paddler is skillful; but as he stands perfectly still,
and is difficult to see in the dim light, the tyro generally misses
him. We paddled up to within twenty yards of a buck, and the guide
gave the signal to shoot; but Emerson could see nothing resembling a
deer, and finally the creature took fright and ran, and all we got
of him was the sound of galloping hoofs as he sped away, stopping a
moment, when at a safe distance, to snort at the intruders, and then
off again. We kept on, and presently came upon another, toward which
we drifted even nearer than to the first one, and still Emerson could
see nothing to distinguish the deer from the boulders among which he
stood; and we were scarcely the boat's length from him, when, Emerson
being still unable to see him, and not caring to run the risk of
losing him, for we had no venison in camp and the luck of the morning
drive was always uncertain, I shot him. We had no other opportunity
for the "jack-hunt," and so Emerson went home unsatisfied in this
ambition,--glad, no doubt, when he recalled the incident, that he had
failed.

The guides--rude men of the woods, rough and illiterate, but with all
their physical faculties at a maximum acuteness, senses on the alert
and keen as no townsman could comprehend them--were Emerson's avid
study. This he had never seen,--the man at his simplest terms,
unsophisticated, and, to him, the nearest approach to the primitive
savage he would ever be able to examine; and he studied every action.
When the dinner was over, and the twilight coming on, he sometimes
asked me to row him out on the lake to see the nightfall and watch the
"procession of the pines," that weird and ghostly phenomenon I have
before alluded to.

More than a generation has passed since then. Twenty-five years
afterward I went back to the scene of the meeting. Except myself, the
whole company are dead, and the very scene of our acting and thinking
has disappeared down to its geological basis, pillaged, burnt, and
become a horror to see; but, among the memories which are the only
realities left to it, this image of Emerson claiming kinship with the
forest stands out alone, and I feel as if I had stood for a moment on
a mount of transfiguration, and seen, as if in a vision, the typical
American, the noblest in the idealization of the American, of all the
race. Lowell was of a more cosmopolitan type, of a wider range of
sympathies and affections, accepted and bestowed, and to me a
friend, loved as Jonathan loved David; but, as a unique, idealized
individuality, Emerson looms up in that Arcadian dream more and
more the dominant personality. It is as character, and not as
accomplishment or education, that he holds his own in all comparisons
with his contemporaries, the fine, crystallized mind, the keen,
clear-faceted thinker and seer. I loved more Agassiz and Lowell, but
we shall have many a Lowell and Agassiz before we see Emerson's like
again. Attainments will be greater, and discovery and accomplishments
will surpass themselves as we go on, but to _be_, as Emerson was, is
absolute and complete existence.

Agassiz was, of all our company, the acknowledged master; loved by
all, even to the unlettered woodsmen, who ran to meet his service as
to no other of the company; by all the members of it reverenced as not
even Emerson was; the largest in personality and in universality of
knowledge of all the men I have ever known. No one who did not know
him personally can conceive the hold he had on everybody who came into
relations with him. His vast command of scientific facts, and his
ready command of them for all educational purposes, his enthusiasm for
science and the diffusion of it, even his fascinating way of imparting
it to others, had even less to do with his popularity than the
magnetism of his presence and the sympathetic faculty which enabled
him to find at once the plane on which he should meet whomever he had
to deal with. Of his scientific position I cannot speak, though I can
see that his was the most powerful of the scientific influences of
that epoch in America. When we were traveling it was always in my
boat, and we moved as his investigations prompted, wherever there
seemed to be a promise of some addition to his collections. We dredged
and netted water and air wherever we went, and of course there arose a
certain kind of intimacy, which was partly that of a _camaraderie_
in which we were approximately equals, that of the backwoods life in
which I was, if a comparison were to be made, the superior, and partly
that of teacher and pupil; for, with trifling attainments, I had the
passion of scientific acquisition, and all that Agassiz needed to open
the store of his knowledge was the willingness of another to learn.

The _odium scientificum_, which I notice is no less bitter than the
variety _theologicum_, has, in these years, poured on Agassiz the
floods of its opprobrium, and even the little dogs of physical science
bark at his name; but his greater contemporaries knew and esteemed him
better. The revival of the evolutionary hypothesis by Darwin, and the
controversies growing out of it, then filled the air, and Agassiz paid
the penalty of his eminence and constancy to the system in which he
had been grounded by his master, Cuvier. He was attacked and insulted
by men who had never made an observation, and, what was more curious,
as a panderer to the theological prejudices of the past. But in
my mind was still the memory of a former outcry and theological
persecution of him, because he had himself laid down what might
be considered the forerunner of the doctrine of evolution,--the
declaration that the human race could not have been the offspring of
one Adam, but must have had a multiple beginning. The result of this
was to bring on his head the execrations of the theological world in a
storm which no one who had witnessed it was likely to forget or take
for other than what it was, the proof of his absolute scientific
honesty,--a proof needed by no one who knew him personally, but which,
in view of the later animosity shown him, requires reaffirmation.

As I was much with him at this time, and perhaps, out of his family,
the one to whom he talked with the greatest freedom and fullness on
the subject, owing to my own intense interest in it, it cannot be
amiss that I state his exact position as far as he let me see it. It
must be remembered that the doctrine of evolution, as he knew it, and
in the only form in which it was then stated, was simply and purely
that of development by natural selection acting on chance variation,
and differing mainly by this from the doctrine of Lamarck, which had
long been rejected by the scientific world at large. We have seen
since then that this primitive doctrine has been largely supplemented
by other theories, and that it no longer stands before the scientific
world in the bare simplicity of Darwin's original statement, though
even he, at a later date, claimed natural selection not as the
only but as the most influential agency of variation of species in
creation; repudiating, however, a plan in the universe, and not
demanding the influence of the conscious mind on creation. Agassiz's
primary objection to the doctrine was that it left the creator out of
creation, for it distinctly repudiated the element of design in it;
and, though he did not recognize the Creator of Genesis, he could not
dispense with the supreme mind.

Myself a convert to the doctrine of evolution, in as absolute a form
as it is held even by the materialists, though differently, I am
persuaded that if Agassiz had lived long enough to see the latest
development of it he would have accepted it, as did Professor Owen,
who was, like Agassiz, and possibly even more literally, a believer
in the designer of the universe. The fundamental ground for Agassiz's
rejection of it is stated by himself in one of the lectures delivered
at Cambridge, as follows: "I believe that all these correspondences
between the different aspects of animal life are the manifestations
of mind acting consciously with intention towards one object from
beginning to end. This view is in accordance with the working of our
minds; it is an instinctive recognition of a mental power with which
our own is akin, manifesting itself in nature. For this reason, more
than any other, perhaps, do I hold that this world of ours was not the
result of the action of unconscious organic forces, but the work of an
intelligent, conscious power." Whatever might have been the process
by which the orderly creation was produced (into which he did not
inquire), it was the result of a definite plan and the work of design.
The immutability of species, _as he defined species_, was the
logical consequence of this theory, and that, it seems to me, is the
substantial difference between him and Darwin.

But Agassiz was no sectarian, and held no other creed than a belief
in the Creator. In the fibre of the man was the consciousness of
the immanent deity, rooted, perhaps, in that influence of his early
theological environage from which no man can ever escape, though
he may rebel against it; and the almost universal deduction by the
scientific world from Darwin's theory then was that there could be no
divine design in creation. It was this negation of the direction of
the great artist in the process of creation against which Agassiz
rebelled; and although, at a later phase of the conflict, Darwin
himself protested against the implication sometimes drawn from his
theory, there can be no question that at that moment the general
evolutionary opinion was that the hypothesis of a divine authorship
of creation was superfluous. Agassiz maintained the presence of
"Conscious Mind in Creation;" Darwin did not deny it explicitly, nor
did he admit it.

As a matter of observation, no case of a development of one species
from another has ever been noted, and the evidence for it is precisely
analogous to that adduced by Agassiz, "that it is in accordance
with the working of our minds," still further illuminated by the
side-lights which science has thrown on it since Agassiz died. The
ultimate decision in the individual mind will be according to the bias
for or against the "conscious mind" or automatic creation; and it must
not be forgotten that one of the most powerful arguments for a large
evolution was the discovery by Agassiz that the embryo of the highest
organizations passes through an evolution similar to that of the
animal creation. Professor Martins--a leading French scientist and an
evolutionist--says of Agassiz: "Another of these precursors of modern
science is Louis Agassiz. The oldest fossil forms have a simpler
organization than the later ones, and represent some stage of the
embryonic development of the latter. This truth, established by
Agassiz, has, more than any other, enlightened the history of
creation, and prepared for the generalization by which the whole may
be comprehended. The oldest fishes known are all more or less related
to the sharks and skates; their teeth and scales only, with small
portions of the skeleton, have been preserved. Their form, widely
different from that of the living species, recalls that of the embryo
of our living fishes. This is a truth which Louis Agassiz was the
first to proclaim to the scientific world."[1]

[Footnote 1: _De l'Origine du Monde organique_.]

But, beyond this question as to the evidence of mutability of species
which Agassiz did not find, he took the position "that the hypothesis
of the method of creation by evolution exceeded physical science and
became theology, which belonged to the province of theology, into
which he had no intention of venturing." That was his statement to me
during the interval between the two attacks of brain trouble from
the latter of which he died. Science, to his understanding, was
observation and classification, arrangement, and it had no function
in investigating the causes or _modus operandi_ through which things
became what they were.

Amongst the evolutionists whom I have known there have been several
who did not accept without modification the theory of natural
selection, and supplemented it by design, amongst whom I may mention
the great American botanist, Asa Gray,--one of the most distinguished
of Darwinians,--who accepted the method of evolution as the _modus
operandi_ of the Supreme Intelligence. Professor Jeffries Wyman, the
associate of Agassiz in the University, who was one of the doctors of
our Adirondack company, accepted in a qualified manner the theory of
evolution, but his premature and lamented death set the seal to his
conclusions before they were complete, though I have always had the
impression that his position was similar to that of Gray. To my
question one day as to his conclusions, he replied, with a caution
characteristic of the man and very unlike the resolute attitude of
Agassiz before the question which the Sphinx proposes still, "An
evolution of some sort there certainly was," but nothing more would he
say. The loss to American science in his death can never be estimated,
for his mind was of that subtle and inductive nature which is needed
for such a study, fine to poetic delicacy, penetrating with all the
acumen of a true scientific imagination, but modest to excess, and
personally so attached to Agassiz that he would with reluctance give
expression to a difference from him, though that he did differ was no
occasion for abatement of their mutual regard. Wyman's was the poetry
of scientific research, Agassiz's its prose, and they offered a
remarkable example of mental antithesis, from which, had Wyman lived,
much might have been expected through their association in study.
Wyman had all the delicacy of a fine feminine organization, wedded
unfortunately to a fragile constitution, but the friendship he held
for the robust and dominating character of the great Switzer was to
the utmost reciprocated.

And Agassiz's disposition was as generous as large. He had absolutely
no scientific jealousy or sectarian feeling. The rancor which was
shown him by some of the Darwinians never disturbed his serenity an
instant; for of the world's opinion of him and his ideas, even when
the "world" was scientific, he never took account other than to regret
that science was the loser, by running off on what he considered side
issues. We had much conversation on the question of evolution and
allied topics, in which my part was naturally that of listener and
only occasional questioner, and I remember the warm appreciation he
always expressed for Darwin and his researches, for his fineness
of observation and scientific honesty. He regarded the widespread
acceptance of the theory of natural selection as one of the epidemics
which have swept the scientific world from time to time, and looked
with absolute serenity to the return of science one day to the
conception of creation by design.

I am neither qualified nor disposed to pass judgment on Agassiz as
a scientist, or institute any kind of comparison of his relative
authority, and probably the time is far away at which his comparative
eminence can be estimated impartially. I have only to do with his
personality as it appeared to me in our relations, and, as the latest
survivor of those who enjoyed that greenwood intimacy, to put on
record my impression of the great, lovable, magnanimous man. Of his
unbounded generosity and indifference to personal advantage, his
freedom from scientific jealousy, everybody who came in contact with
him was witness. He refused all offers of emolument from any quarter,
and spent all his surplus earnings for the aggrandizement of the great
natural-history museum he founded at Cambridge. The propositions of
the Emperor Napoleon III. he had declined with thanks as soon as
made, and without a thought. He had come to America to study natural
history, and did not propose to be diverted from this purpose. To a
lecturing agent who offered him a very large sum for delivering a
course of lectures in the principal cities of the Union, he replied
that he had no time to make money; and he died of overwork, insatiate
in the pursuit of the completion of his museum and the classification
of his observations. I have heard him speak with pain of the animosity
shown him by a Swiss associate in his glacial investigations, who
had once been his warm advocate, but there was no bitterness in his
manner. I am convinced that there was no bitterness in him, and that
all personal feeling was overshadowed and minimized by his absolute
devotion to scientific truth, with his loyalty to which nothing ever
interfered.

His influence even on the business men of the city of Boston and the
legislature of the State of Massachusetts was the most remarkable
phenomenon of the kind ever witnessed in that frugal and
matter-of-fact community, for he had only to announce that he wanted
for his museum or department in the University a donation or an
appropriation, to obtain either, so absolutely recognized was his
unselfish devotion to science by all classes. There are few of us left
who can remember the sudden shadow that fell on our community at his
unexpected death, and the universal grief that told of the hold he had
on the entire nation; and the mourning extended far beyond the circle
of personal acquaintance with Agassiz. Even men who had no interest in
physical science took it into consideration on account of him, carried
away by his enthusiastic advocacy of its advancement. The religious
world forgot the indignation at his repudiation of Adam in the refuge
it found from absolute atheism in his affirmation of a Supreme
Intelligence, as Creator of all things, though to theological
contentions he never gave the slightest consideration.

It is needless to say that this was the effect, not of scientific
education or of the capacity in the great majority of those who
accepted his position to judge of a theory or a scientific line of
demonstration, but of the dominance of personal character in the man,
his inflexible honesty and disinterestedness. The last time I saw
him was when he came to make me a brief visit in a glen of the White
Mountains, where I was encamped near a subject which I was painting,
and which was in part composed of huge boulders, dropped in the
gorge by a primeval glacier, and brought, perhaps, from beyond Lake
Superior. He had then had the first attack of the brain trouble, from
which he was recovering, and was making a mountain trip where he
could, if possible, study and rest at once. But his want of common
prudence in regard to overwork prevented his recovery, and he died
just as he was beginning to elaborate his conclusions on the doctrine
of evolution, for which he had a colossal plan, cut short in its
opening. He was always too hurried in his work, as if he knew that his
life would not suffice for its completion, if indeed completion were
possible in such work, and he persisted in accumulation of material
without pause either to coordinate his ideas or to rest and reflect. I
one day said to him that I was intending to write a little book, and
he exclaimed: "Oh, I wish I had time to write a little book! All my
books come large, and I have not the time to condense them."



CHAPTER XIV

LOWELL


The third magnate of our Club was Lowell, with whose personality the
world at large is already well acquainted. In his own day and presence
it was impossible to form a satisfactory personal judgment of him, and
even now, through the perspective of the years since he died, it is
out of the question for me to pronounce a dispassionate judgment. Of
all that New England world, so hospitable, so brotherly to me that
if I had been born in Cambridge it could hardly have been more kind,
Lowell and Norton were those who most made my welcome free from any
embarrassment to myself. Norton, almost exactly my contemporary, is
still living, and which of us two shall say the last word for the
other is in the lap of the gods, but in the Adirondack Club life he
does not appear. No kinder or wiser friend have I ever had. Himself
the son of one of the most distinguished of the great Unitarian
leaders of liberal New England, his broad, common-sense views of
sectarian questions first widened my religious horizon, emancipated me
from the tithes of mint and cummin, and helped me to see the value
of observances, and his hand was always held out to me in those
straitened moments in which my impulsive and ill-regulated manner of
life continually landed me. I shall not disturb the serenity of his
old age by the indiscreet garrulity of mine. But the brotherhood
between him and Lowell brought our lives together, and Lowell was the
pole to which both our needles swung. Norton's delicate health made it
impossible for him to take part in the excursions made by the Club,
though he was enrolled as a member.

Of Lowell much has been said by many people, some of whom were less,
and others, perhaps, better acquainted with him than I was, but of him
I can speak at least without restraint, other than that which love and
gratitude impose. And to-day, more than forty years since I found his
friendship what it ever remained, the judgment I formed of him at
first acquaintance comes up again in one point dominant. He seemed to
me a man whom good fortune, and especially the favor of society, had
prevented from filling the rôle that fate had intended for him. There
was in not a few of his poems the promise of reaching a height which
was attainable only to a man who climbs light. There was in him the
possible making of a great reformer, an evangelist, which possibility
never became actuality, owing to the weight which social success laid
on him.

All through his early poems runs the thread of a fine morality, the
perception of the highest obligations of religion and philanthropy,
the subtle distinction of the purest Christianity, the defense of the
weak and oppressed, the succor of the poor; in fine, the creed of a
practical religion which required its adherent to go into the slums
and out on the highways to carry out his convictions in acts. In the
warfare he waged on slavery when the anti-slavery cause was very
unpopular, and, in the case of Garrison and others, brought on its
advocates continual danger and occasional violence, Lowell was
unsparing in the denunciation of the national sin; but whether because
the anti-abolition public which ruled Boston thought denunciation
in form of verse had no practical value, or because the personal
fascination the man always exercised on all around him was such as to
disarm hostility, it happened that he was never made the object of
aggression.

  "Men called him but a shiftless youth,
    In whom no good they saw;
  And yet, unwittingly, in truth,
    They made his careless word their law.

  "Men granted that his speech was wise,
    But, when a glance they caught
  Of his slim grace and woman's eyes,
    They laughed and called him good-for-naught."

There was a gracious indolence in him, an imperturbable serenity,
which made proclamation in advance of a truce to all forms of brute
collision. No doubt if they had hunted him out for a victim of the
political animosity which led to so many tragedies in the early days
of our anti-slavery agitation, he would have stood up to the stake as
gayly as one of the martyrs of old; but the man's nature was repugnant
to discords, and shrank from combats ruder than those of the
printing-press.

All through his career, the religion of humanity is put forward with
point and persistence, and the finest of distinctions in morality are
maintained,--the so constantly ignored vital difference between the
deed and its motive, as in "Sir Launfal:"--

  "The Holy Supper is kept, indeed,
  In whatso we share with another's need;
  Not what we give, but what we share,--
  For the gift without the giver is bare;
  Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,--
  Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me;"

so that one might have expected from him the life of a social
reformer, so keenly did he feel the outrages of civilization. But,
possibly from the fact that in those days human slavery in our country
summed up all villainies and crimes, and in the war against that he
threw all his surplus energy, he never took part in the crusade then
beginning against the more familiar iniquities nearer home. But in his
constitution there was, I think, another reason why the author of "Sir
Launfal," "Hunger and Cold," "The Landlord," and "The Search" should
not have emulated Howard or Miss Fry, and have gone into the realms of
destitution to relieve its wrongs. He was extremely fastidious, and
anything that offended his taste by vulgarity or crudeness repelled
him with such force that the work of practical philanthropy would have
been impossible to his temperament. The indolence I have above spoken
of--which must not be confounded with slothfulness, but is, as the
true meaning of the word indicates, the following of the dictates of
the temperament, whether in activity or rest--led him to contemplation
rather than action.

The refined idealism of his nature, made more subtle by the indulgence
of an idolizing circle of relatives and friends, who saw in him the
promise of more even than he ever attained, or than was possible to
the smooth prosperity of his life, made it impossible for him to
thrust himself into the social conflicts, whether of poverty or of
politics, though the finest and most exalted passages of his work
were not so fine and exalted as his personality; he was better than
anything he ever wrote, and this is understood by all who knew him,
and that what he wrote was only the overflow of a mind which never
needed a stimulus to divine cogitation. The fascination, the subtle
personal glamour he unconsciously threw over those who came in true
contact with him, made them always expect more than he accomplished,
for in that there was not even the stimulus of ambition. What he did
was done with the spontaneousness of the wind or the sunshine. If he
had a vanity, it was to be in all points accoutred for his place in
society; but even this was so lightly held that few knew him well
enough to see it, and it was never a motive power in him.

Knowing all his earlier work before I knew him, I thought I detected a
want of that profounder sympathy with humanity and the pathos of life
which comes from actual suffering, and I remember saying to one of his
admirers, before I saw him, that what he wanted to make him a great
poet was suffering. This he had gained somewhat of when I made his
acquaintance. His wife had died not long before I went to Cambridge to
see him and to enlist his assistance in "The Crayon," and he was in
the earliest phase of the reaction from a sorrow which had made him
insist on solitude. All his surroundings had kept up the impressions
of his bereavement, and all his associates sympathized with and
respected it, and I came in with a new life just as he came to need
relief from the depression which had become morbid. He has told it in
one of his first letters to me:--

    "I am glad you had a pleasant time here. I had, and you made me
    fifteen years younger while you stayed. When a man gets to my age,
    enthusiasms don't often knock at the door of his garret. I am all
    the more charmed with them when they come. A youth full of such
    pure intensity of hope and faith and purpose, what is he but the
    breath of a resurrection trumpet to us stiffened old fellows,
    bidding us up out of our clay and earth if we would not be too
    late?

    "Your inspiration is still to you a living mistress; make her
    immortal in her promptings and her consolations by imaging her
    truly in art. Mine looks at me with eyes of paler flame, and
    beckons across a gulf. You came into my loneliness like an
    incarnate inspiration. And it is dreary enough sometimes; for a
    mountain peak on whose snow your foot makes the first mortal print
    is not so lonely as a room full of happy faces from which one is
    missing forever."

The tone of his life at that period is given in the few poems of the
time, published later: the "Ode to Happiness," which he read to me
unfinished during that first visit; "The Wind-Harp," in which

  "There murmured, as if one strove to speak,
    And tears came instead; then the sad tones wandered
  And faltered among the uncertain chords
  In a troubled doubt between sorrow and words;
    At last with themselves they questioned and pondered,
  'Hereafter?--who knoweth?' and so they sighed
  Down the long steps that lead to silence and died;"

"The Dead House," "Auf Wiedersehen (Summer)" and the "Palinode
(Autumn)," in which the first grief had deepened while losing its
acuteness, and the feeling of loneliness had taken largely the place
of the first desolation, the wrenching apart of soul and body:--

  "It is pagan; but wait till you feel it,--
  That jar of our earth, that dull shock
  When the ploughshare of deeper passion
  Tears down to our primitive rock;"

and some of his friends had tried the folly of condolence, to whom he
replies, in the same poem ("After the Burial"):--

  "Console if you will, I can bear it;
  'Tis a well-meant alms of breath;
  But not all the preaching since Adam
  Has made Death other than Death."

But the man was too robust in body and mind to linger long in the
shadows of melancholy, and though the effects of bereavement--which,
in the few years before I knew him, had taken his only boy, who died
in Rome, his elder daughter, of whose death "The First Snow-Fall"
keeps a touching record, and finally his wife--deepened his character
as expressed in his subsequent writing, the buoyancy and elasticity
which he found in his enjoyment of nature, and his severe application
to the studies of the new position to which the retirement of
Longfellow from the professorship of modern languages at Harvard
promoted him, restored his old tone of life, while his very happy
marriage with his second wife made him, as may now be said without
indiscretion, happier than he had ever been.

The second Mrs. Lowell was a woman of the rarest mental, moral, and
personal qualities, and her influence on Lowell was of the happiest
and sunniest. She was one of three daughters of a merchant of Maine,
who had left them without other resources than what their own
excellent education gave them, and with the charge of a younger
brother, for whose education they provided after the New England way.
The other sisters I never knew; but Fannie, Mrs. Lowell, was one of
the most remarkable women I ever knew for the combination of resolute
and persistent courage and serene religious temperament. She was a
Swedenborgian, and probably owed to that form of faith her serenity
and imperturbable faith in a Divine Providence; but her unflinching
courage in adversity and her extreme sweetness of character were of
her New England birth and education. After her father's death she
became a governess, and came to Lowell's house in that capacity after
the death of his wife; but she had, before that, gone through many
vicissitudes of fortune. She told me one day an incident of travel
which is worth recording as indicating her character. She had been
in a situation in Charleston, S.C., and had accepted another in the
valley of the Ohio, to reach which, there being then no railway that
traversed the distance, she had to make a long journey by stagecoach,
traveling day and night across the Alleghanies. One night she found
herself in the coach with a single fellow-passenger, apparently a
gentleman, who took his place with her on the back seat, and who,
after a time, pretending to be asleep, fell over towards her, so that
his head lay on her shoulder, but, correcting himself, sat upright
again, to repeat the feint again and again, each time with more
abandon, until his arm dropped behind Fannie's waist, with an
unmistakable attempt to embrace her. She quietly drew out her
shawl-pin and drove it into his arm, without any remark or other
attention to him. He sat up instantly, at the next stopping-place took
an outside seat, and discontinued his journey at the first town they
came to.

Mrs. Lowell fitted her husband as sunshine fits calm, and the gravest
sorrow he ever felt with her was her having no children. When, two or
three years after the time I am now writing of, I had decided to go
to Europe again, and he tried to dissuade me from going, and I, for
reasons I could not tell him, persisted, he brought me one day, just
before I sailed, six hundred dollars, insisting on my accepting it as
a gift, saying: "I shall never want it. I know now that I shall never
have another child, and I can well spare it." Lowell had never been
wealthy, but he had an income sufficient for all needs in the state of
life which he preferred, and his generosity towards his friends who
were poorer than he took all the surplus. He rejoiced in the addition
to his income in the salary of his professorship, but it added nothing
to his own expenditure. And yet I have always felt that if he had
been a poor man, compelled to work for his daily bread, he would have
occupied a larger place in the world of letters. He was not one of the
"intellectual giants buried under mountains of gold," but he was
a greater man than he ever showed him self, always cushioned by a
sufficiency of fortune for all his needs, and by his tastes inclined
to a simple and tranquil life; for, though he became later a political
personage, he cared little, _au fond_, for the political world.
Perhaps the little was too much for his attainment as a poet, and some
of his best friends have always held that his diplomatic life was a
disaster for his intellectual completion.

I have elsewhere alluded to his going to Europe to complete the
preparations to enter into his professorship, and when he came back
from this voyage he said to me, "I must study yet a good deal before I
attempt to produce anything more." He finally felt the carelessness of
form in his work, and in the succeeding years he worked very hard
in his professorial work, which was, perhaps, not the best for his
advancement as an author, but it certainly gave more solidity to the
production of those years which intervened between his simpler life
and his diplomatic career. His lectures before the students and the
public (the popularity of Lowell as a lecturer was immense) solidified
an education which, as he himself humorously avowed, was often broken
by freaks of irrepressible youthful spirit; and the saddening and
indelible effects of the war, which came between and sharply divided
those phases of his career, had so modified his character for the
graver and more profound that I agree with those of his friends who
consider his entry into the diplomatic career as a misfortune for
American letters, and that his mind flowed to waste in those later
years. Nor was he at home in diplomacy. It was a reversal of all the
conditions of his habitual existence; but it flattered his _amour
propre_ that the country should recognize the part he had taken in the
cultivation of the anti-slavery sentiment of the nation, and the trace
of worldly feeling which I have noted grew under the stimulus to a
motive in life. His social gifts were very great, and his patriotic
pride intensified the pleasure of his successes in a line of life
which was really secondary in his nature.

In those years of his diplomatic life we saw little of each other. Our
intimate intercourse was suspended by my going to Europe in 1859. We
were nearest each other in our Adirondack life, in which he had all
the zest of a boy. He was the soul of the merriment of the company,
fullest of witticisms, keenest in appreciation of the liberty of
the occasion, and the _genius loci_. One sees through all his
nature-poetry the traces of the heredity of the early settler, the
keen enjoyment of the fresh and unhackneyed in nature, even of the
angularity of the New England farmhouse and the brightness and newness
of the villages, so crude to the tastes founded in the picturesqueness
of the Old World. Not even Emerson, with all his indifference to the
mere form of things, took to unimproved and uncivilized nature as
Lowell did, and his free delight in the Wilderness was a thing to
remember, and perhaps by none so keenly appreciated as by me, to whom
the joy of forest life was a satisfactory motive for living.



CHAPTER XV

THE ADIRONDACK AND FLORIDA


Of the rest of our company in that famous old camp by "Follansbee
Water" there is little more to be said which will interest others or
recall names known to the world. I painted a study of the camp and its
inhabitants, with the intention of making from it, at a future time, a
picture which should commemorate the meeting; but, owing to changes in
my plans, it remained a study, and was purchased by Judge Hoar, the
most eminent of my companions still to be described. He had been a
justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts,--a man as well known
for his intellectual fibre and sympathy with letters as for his
judicial abilities. He was one of the most brilliant members of the
old Saturday Club, of which ours might be considered the offspring and
succursal; of wit the most spontaneous and electric, whose sallies
burst in the merriment of our _al fresco_ camp dinners with the flash
and surprise of rockets, and left behind them the perfume of erudition
as did no others of the company, not even Lowell's. In my study the
party is divided in the habit of the morning occupations: Lowell,
Hoar, Binney, Woodman, and myself engaged in firing at the target;
Agassiz and Wyman dissecting a trout on a tree-stump, while Holmes
and Dr. Howe watch the operation; but Emerson, recognizing himself as
neither a marksman nor a scientist, choosing a position between the
two groups, pilgrim-staff in hand, watches the marksmen, with a slight
preference as between the two groups. My own figure I painted from a
photograph, the company insisting on my putting myself in; but it was
ill done, for I could never paint from a photograph.

When the company left me I returned to my painting, and remained in
camp as long as the weather permitted. On my return to Cambridge I
became affianced to Miss Mack, the eldest daughter of Dr. David Mack,
with whom I had been boarding while I was occupied in painting the
various pictures of the Oaks at Waverley.

The excursion had been so satisfactory that when the whole company
had come together again, in the autumn, at Cambridge, the formal
organization of the Club was called for, and to the number of those
who had been at Camp Maple there was a large accession of the most
prominent members of the intellectual society of Boston and Cambridge.
It was decided to purchase a tract in the Adirondack Wilderness, the
less accessible the better, and there to build a permanent club-house,
and I was appointed to select the site and lay it out. The meeting was
late in the autumn, and the winter had set in with heavy snow before I
had my orders. I caught a severe cold at New York,--a trivial
matter to notice, but one which very narrowly escaped the gravest
consequences to me; for the cold became aggravated to a bronchial
attack, disregarding which I pushed on into the Wilderness, and
drove from the settlements in to the Saranac in a storm, facing
a northwesterly wind which, filling the air with a cold fog as
penetrating as the wind, crystallized on every tree and twig, and made
the entire forest, as far as the eye could reach, like a forest of
frosted silver. It was a spectacle for a lifetime, and has never been
offered to me again; but I reached Martin's, where we had to put up,
dangerously chilled.

Next day, however, I had all the guides of the neighborhood in for
consultation as to a certain tract which I had fixed on from report
and general knowledge of the region, and we planned a survey in the
snow. It was fourteen miles from any house to the lake I had fixed
on,--that known as the Ampersand Pond; but, fortunately, there were,
amongst the guides called in, some who had been assistants in the
official survey, and, with their practical knowledge and memory of the
lines, I was enabled, without leaving the inn, to draw a map of the
section of a township which included the lake, and determine its exact
position, with the fact that it had been forfeited to the State at
the last tax sale, and was for sale at the land office in Albany. We
bought the entire section, less 500 acres, taxes on which had been
paid, for the sum of $600,--thus securing for the Club a tract
of 22,500 acres. My cough was increasing alarmingly, and, when I
consulted a physician at New York, he advised me to get home and to
bed as quickly as I might; so, returning to Boston, I called together
the executive committee of the Club to dinner, made my report, drank a
glass of champagne to the future lodge, and went to bed in the early
stages of pneumonia, which kept me prostrate six weeks.

I owed it to the fortunate and intelligent woodcraft of my guides that
I was not caught in the depth of the forest by the increasing lung
trouble, probably never to return to civilization. It was the closest
shave to death that I have ever had, and the actual survey of the
tract, buried four feet deep in snow, without a shelter or other bed
than the ground, would in all probability have finished me, for I
barely escaped as it was; but I was determined to finish my work,
animated by the same incomprehension of, rather than indifference to,
the danger before me which had obtained in my Hungarian expedition
and in many other circumstances of my life. Something of the splendid
physical health I brought back with me from the Wilderness helped me,
no doubt, through the attack of pneumonia and pleurisy, which
released me in the early spring, when I was ordered off to Florida to
recuperate. Being advised not to occupy myself with painting while
there, I bought a photographic apparatus, and learned photography
as it was practiced in 1857,--a rude, inefficient, and cumbersome
apparatus and process for field work, of which few amateurs nowadays
can conceive the inconveniences.

This trip--for the means to make which I was indebted to Norton, my
illness having exhausted my resources, and the great crisis which had
broken over New York the year before having swept off the fortune of
my brother--gave me a sight of the South before the war, with slavery
and the patriarchal system at its perfection. I went up the St. John's
River, and took board at a plantation called Hibernia, one of numerous
similar establishments on the river, hotels proper not existing there.
The owner of the plantation, old Colonel Fleming, was one of the
traditional patriarchal planters, and the experience I gained there
certainly agreed with the views of the institution of slavery
entertained by the great majority of Southern people I have known. I
never heard of the punishment of a slave, or saw a discontented negro;
the black children were the jolliest little creatures I ever saw in
clothes, and the adults seemed to do as much or as little work as they
pleased.

I had carried my rifle with me, and young Fleming and I used to go
hunting for alligators, still abundant in the river. The thickets
of palmetto and the groves of magnolia filling the air with new and
cloying fragrance, alternating with other unaccustomed odors which
made the grove resemble an orchestra of perfumes, were to me a new and
delightful experience. There was a mythical wild turkey in the woods
around, and the hope of a shot at him carried me many a mile, though
he proved only a myth; but of rattlesnakes and copperheads there was
no lack. As I was collecting specimens for the natural-history museum
of Cambridge, I canned the largest snakes that I came across, and I
secured one rattlesnake which measured nine feet; but the fear of his
kind never damped my enthusiasm for the luxuriant forest. Into the
great cypress swamps, with their centennial trees, swarming with
reptiles of infinite variety, there run devious inlets which they call
"creeks," and up these I used to paddle my skiff, and lie and watch
the teeming life, wishing I were a naturalist. I spent a week at
the ancient (for America) town of St. Augustine, on the Atlantic
coast,--then the sleepy watering-place of a few Southern
invalids,--and enjoyed greatly its local color, so different from that
of all other American towns, its picturesque fortress of the days
of Spanish rule, and its Spanish fishermen, in their undiluted
nationality and costume. I here poisoned myself dreadfully, rubbing
with my legs some poison plant as I shinned up the trees for epiphytal
orchids, new to me and an irresistible attraction.

To naturalists, this part of Florida must have been a most interesting
field before the bird-slaughterers had invaded it to the extermination
of its myriad population of feathered winterers from the Northern
regions. The geological formation is a concrete of shells of enormous
thickness, which has hardened to the only semblance of rock which the
coast affords, and the low dunes have shut off from the Atlantic long
lagoons which swarm with life, marine and aquatic creatures occurring
in numberless species and orders; alligators lie in wait for their
prey, and schools of porpoises come in by the inlets in pursuit of
other schools of fat mullet which swarm in the water. Such teeming
life I had never before any conception of. In the surf the sharks
lurked and coasted up and down, watching us as we waded in fishing for
bass, if by chance we should give them an opportunity for a bite; the
sharp, warning fin showing in the hollow green of the combing breaker
ever and anon as we stood thigh-deep in the foam. It made one shudder
to see that silent terror patrolling up and down the margin of the
deep water, waiting for an incautious venture of the bather beyond the
shallows, into which the shark dared not come.

I went with a fishing party down the coast to Matanzas, an abandoned
fort of the early Spanish days, and passed there the most impressive
open-air night in my recollection. We camped on the beach, and my
shelter was a gauze mosquito netting stretched over four poles, about
three feet high, driven in the sand, and as wide as high, and my bed
was the sea sand, no covering being required. Through the gauze the
sea breeze blew gently; on one side of the long, narrow beach the
great Atlantic breakers roared a monotonous bass, and on the other
there came from the lagoon the many-toned murmur of a thousand bird
voices, some familiar and some strange, whooping of cranes and
chattering of coots, ducks, and divers, cries of pelicans, and now
and then the sound of flapping wings, as if some great bird had been
routed out and had changed his feeding-ground. Around me on the sand
ran and crawled the host of crabs, some pulling curiously at the gauze
of my shelter; and now and then a huge spider crab climbed up the
netting like a squirrel and danced an infernal jig over my head,
skipping about on the very tips of his claws, until I tired of his
frivolity and hit him from underneath, when he scuttled away, and
after half an hour, more or less, was succeeded by another, as if they
found an intoxication in dancing over my head. The gnats sang their
monody, and the midges put in their treble, but the meshes of my
gauze were too fine to let them pass; and after hours of this strange
pandemonium I fell asleep, to be waked in the morning by the sun
streaming over me from the broad Atlantic.

It is worthy to note here, in justice to the old days of the Floridian
society, a society now utterly extinct, and a subject of history, that
the kindliness to the slaves was universal on the St. John's River. At
nightfall they used to gather in their quarters and sing; and they had
a peculiar yodel, which, starting from one plantation, was caught up
by the others, and ran round and off along the river into the
distance and back, going and coming again and again with a peculiar
fascination, like the voice of a happy and careless common life. It
was a kindly and indulgent community, and that it was a slave-holding
society never forced itself on the attention. The lazy social virtues
had, no doubt, their lazy vices, but we never saw them on the surface.
The negro quarters were as merry as the day was long, and the negro
was a more important and better appreciated element of social life
than in the North. The whole valley joined in unreserved malediction
of a planter, one of our neighbors, who had profited by the accidental
burning of the free papers of a black family which had been bought out
of slavery by the father, with money earned as pilot to the steamers
of the United States Army during the Seminole War, to compel him to
purchase himself and his wife and children again, and the thief was
spoken of as the meanest of white men, out of the social pale of
self-respecting folk; cheating a slave being far worse than cheating
one of his own class. The old scoundrel was the reproach of the whole
community; but no more formal indictment of the system of slavery, as
established in the United States, is required than the fact that a
former master could recall to slavery an emancipated slave family, the
head of which had paid in hard cash for himself, his wife, and all his
children, because his free papers had been burned, in a fire of
which, moreover, the neighbors accused the former owner of being the
incendiary. While those papers were in existence the negro could
legally sue and be sued; but without them he had no more legal rights
than a dog. The life which honest people lived in that primitive
community was Arcadian, and it is probable that even in Arcadia they
had slaves. Certainly, in my experience of living in many countries
and under various systems, I have not found that the most primitive
system secures the largest personal liberty; rather the contrary.

I returned to my painting with the early summer, and, when the season
came, to the organization of the Club and the inauguration of its
club-house and grounds. It was certainly the most beautiful site I
have ever seen in the Adirondack country,--virgin forest, save where
the trappers or hunters had cut wood for their camp-fires, the tall
pines standing in their long ranks along the shores of a little lake
that lay in the middle of the estate, encircled by mountains, except
on one side, where the lake found its outlet; and the mountains were
cloaked to their summits in primeval woods. In a little valley where
a crystal spring sent its water down to the lake, and a grove of
deciduous trees gave high and airy shelter, I pitched the camp,--a
repetition slightly enlarged of that on Follansbee Pond. As usual I
preceded the Club party, accompanied by S.G. Ward and his son, and
also the son of Emerson, to prepare the ground. The solitude of the
locality may be judged from the first hunt. We had arrived late in the
day, and had no food except the bread we took with us, and the next
morning we had to kill our breakfast before we could eat it. I took
Mr. Ward and the boys in my boat and paddled down to the foot of the
lake, where was a wide beach, on which we found a two-year-old buck
grazing. I paddled to within fifty yards of him, and, though I found
that my rifle would not go off and had to change it for another, with
considerable movement, the deer took no notice of us, and I dropped
him in his tracks with a feeling of compunction only overcome by the
fact that we had no breakfast if he went away. So peaceful was our
realm! I have often paddled within easy shot of a deer on other
waters, but only by remaining motionless when he was looking round,
for the movement of a hand would send him flying in panic; but this
poor deer might have been reared in Eden.

The meeting of the Club that year was a most successful one; and when
it was over, and I was left alone to my painting, I selected a subject
in which, for the first time, I introduced a dramatic element. I
supposed that a hunter and a buck had had a hand-to-horn fight, and,
during it, had fallen together over a ledge of rocks, at the bottom of
which both lay dead. A perpendicular ledge of granite, about twenty
feet high, mosses and ferns clinging in its crevices, overhanging a
level space covered with a heavy growth of luxuriant fern, furnished
the background. There I laid the first large buck I killed, and
painted him with extreme care, and then painted my guide with his arms
locked in the antlers of the deer. The hour was the late afternoon,
when the red sunlight slanted through the trees and fell in broken
masses on the face of the cliff, catching the leaves here and there in
its path. All this was painted carefully from the scene, with as
much of the details of the forest as the time permitted, on a canvas
twenty-five by thirty inches, on which I worked about two months, till
the lake began to freeze and the snow fell. The thermometer was about
zero Fahrenheit before I broke off, early in November.

I never enjoyed so entirely the forest life as that autumn. I had laid
a line of sable traps for miles through the woods, and caught several
"prime" sable which I intended as a present to my fiancée, and the
long walks over the line in the absolute silence of the great forest,
the snowfall, and the gorgeous autumn were more fascinating than ever
before. The bears left their tracks around me, and several pumas made
themselves heard, but of wolves, which I had heard in other parts of
the woods, I heard none. Returning in the gloaming from my traps,
one day, I heard at a distance a wailing cry like that of a woman in
distress, to which I replied by hallooing at the top of my voice.
After a few minutes I heard the cry again, approaching me, and again
responded. The cry continued, still nearer and nearer, but slow in its
approach; and, wondering why so slow, I finally fired my rifle three
times rapidly, which is the conventional signal for help, and at the
same time a reply to the call for help; and it was only when this
evoked no further call that I remembered that the cry was that of a
puma.

As usual I lived alone, save for the weekly visit of my guide bringing
me bread and my post. It was with the greatest reluctance that I
obeyed the necessity to return to the state of civilization, and
took leave of that most charming retreat of the natural man from the
artificial life. That was my last serious experience of woodland
life. The uneasy and thriftless spirit which drove me out, like the
possessed of the Scripture, to wander in strange places at times,
again drove me that winter to England, putting, as it happened,
against my intention or prevision, an end to the American period of my
life.



CHAPTER XVI

ENGLAND AGAIN


I have generally been happy at sea; and when not so, it has been from
reasons apart from the sea itself,--preoccupations which kept me
insensible to the old charm, or mental troubles which made me
insensible to everything beside them. On this voyage I had the
company of an old friend of the days of "The Crayon," one of our most
thoughtful and successful portrait painters, George Fuller, and a
young friend of his, a Mr. Ames. We sailed just before Christmas, in
an old sailing ship of about eight hundred tons burthen; for, unless
time is of importance, I prefer a sailing ship to a steamer, and one
pleasant companion is worth a shipload of commonplace fellow-voyagers.
A stiff westerly blow caught us off Sandy Hook, and never left us till
we were halfway across the Atlantic, increasing in violence every day,
until it gave me, what I had always longed for, but never seen, a
first-class gale on the open ocean.

I had said to the captain (one of the old sort of Cape Cod sailors,
still a young man, however) that I wanted to see a real gale; and one
day, after we had been out nearly a week, he called me up on deck,
saying, "You wanted to see a gale, and now you may see it; for unless
you get into a tornado you will never see anything worse than this." I
went on deck, obliged to hold firmly to the rails or some part of the
rigging, for the wind was such as to have carried me overboard if I
had attempted to stand alone on the quarter-deck. We were running with
the wind dead abaft, under a reefed fore-topsail and a storm
jib, everything else having been taken in the night before. The
studding-sail boom of the foreyard, which had been carelessly left
out, had been broken off short in the earing, from the pressure of the
wind on the bare spar. The roaring of the wind through the rigging was
such as only one who has heard it can conceive.

I gripped close the quarter-deck railing, and drew myself aft to the
shelter of the wheelhouse, where, securing myself from being blown
away like a piece of paper, I watched the sea. It rose behind us in
huge mountains, the summits of which were always combing over and
sliding down the weltering flanks of the wave,--not like the surf on a
shore, but pushed over like snow; and as a wave overtook us lying in
the bottom of the valley, it so overhung that it seemed impossible
that when it broke it should not bury us; but the stern was always
caught by the forefoot of it, and the old ship began to rise, and went
up, up, up, until I was dizzy. Then we hovered on the summit a moment,
looking out on such an expanse of gigantic waves as I had never
pictured to myself, the distance lost in the driving spray; and, while
I looked, the wave passed from under us, and we went down and down
with a rapidity of descent which was almost like falling from a
balloon. Then, after another moment's rest in the valley, came the
shuddering half apprehension of the next wave as it rose above us,
threatening again, and then, after again soaring aloft, down again
into the driving of the spray; the old ship rolling, plunging, and now
and then quivering, as some side wave struck her, with a complication
of motions, sidelong and headlong, the huge waves flying before us and
yet carrying us on,--wild motions, rolling, pitching, sinking down the
long green slope into the valley, to be flung up into the tumult of
wind and wave again. In all this complexity of forces we were as
helpless as feathers in the wind, cut off from mother earth as much
as if we were carried away on the clouds; the feeling of absolute
insignificance growing on one as the ship drove on, the creaking of
the ship and the hissing rush of the waters hardly audible for the
shrieking of the gale through the rigging. In all my life I have never
so understood the utter impotence and triviality of humanity as I felt
it then.

The ship, though not in measure with the colossi of later times, was
yet a huge mass as measured by the man, and she was no more than
a cork on the tide. Up and down she went, like a child's
swing,--wallowing and rolling, with the sea breaking over the side
till the channels were full, and pouring over the bows in green
torrents, and then in blinding deluges of spray and water over the
stern; tearing along ten knots an hour, and yet always seeming to
be left behind by the waves that tore by us,--the great waves, that
obeyed the wind only to be crushed down again by it, spurting up here
and there fitfully in pinnacles which were instantly driven off in
foam and froth; no combing waves, such as the land dweller sees,
for no wave could rise enough to comb,--only great hills of water,
crystalline with wavelets, streaked with spun foam, heaving as if from
a blind impulse, and leaving us, in a contemptuous toleration, to keep
afloat if we could. And now and then two great waves raced each other,
as they will at long intervals, till they ran close to each other and
united, and we were thrown aloft a little higher, to see nothing more
than a wild waste of foam, spray, and watery chaos which defies human
language to express it.

This was the sea as I had wanted to see it, and as no painter has ever
painted, or probably ever will paint it, and as very few could ever
have seen it; for in seventy thousand miles of sea travel I have seen
it only once. For three days and nights our captain never left the
bridge to rest. Of two other ships that left New York the same day
that we did, one was dismasted to the south of us, and the other had
her quarters stove in and barely escaped foundering just to the north
of us. The gale blew out and left us in a dead calm, which lasted
a couple of days, when another gale of three days drove us in the
direction we wanted to go, and dropped us off Torquay in the morning
of what seemed a delicious spring day, all sunshine and south wind. We
hailed a fishing boat and went ashore. We had left a land buried in
snow and ice, and we reached one in early spring, though it was still
January, the gorse in odorous blossoming, and in the hedgerows the
early wild flowers in profusion. But we learned, on landing, that the
recent gales had strewn the shores of England with wrecks, with great
loss of life. It had been one of those terrible winters which have
helped make the British sailor the sea dog he is.

I took lodgings in Charles Street, Middlesex Hospital, near Wehnert,
and worked hard. I had brought my "Bed of Ferns," a large study from
nature on Saranac Lake, and one or two smaller studies. I had visits
from Dante Rossetti, Leighton (then in all the glory of his Cimabue
picture, and in the promise of even a greater career than he finally
attained), Millais, Val Prinsep, and Boyce. I had brought letters from
Lowell to Tom Hughes, from Norton to Arthur Hugh Clough, from Agassiz
to Professor Owen. Hughes introduced me to the Cosmopolitan Club,
where I made the acquaintance, amongst others whom I do not remember,
of Millais and Monckton Milnes.

The artists who came seemed to be interested in my work, especially
in the "Bed of Ferns," of which Rossetti--whose opinion I valued more
than any other, for he was very honest and blunt in his criticisms,
and not at all inclined to flattery--expressed himself in strong terms
of praise. As it was the first thing in which I had attempted to
introduce a human interest in the landscape, I was naturally inclined
to consider it my most important work, and I was dismayed when Ruskin
came to see me, and, in a tone of extreme disgust, said, pointing to
the dead deer and man: "What do you put that stuff in for? Take it
out; it stinks!" My reverence for Ruskin's opinion was such that I
made no hesitation in painting out the central motive of the picture,
for which both subject and effect of light had been selected.
Unfortunately, I habitually used copal varnish as a medium. When
Rossetti called again, he asked me, with a look of dismay, what I had
done to my picture. I explained to him that on Ruskin's advice I
had painted out the figures, and exclaiming, "You have spoiled your
picture!" he walked out of the room in a rage. However, I sent it to
the Academy as it was, and had it back, "Not hung, for want of room,"
or something equivalent. I then tried to remove the pigment which hid
my figures; but the varnish was refractory, and, after a vain attempt,
I finally cut the picture up and stuck it in the fire.

The incident, though it cost me the work of three months, and was
in fact the only important outcome of the summer's study, did not
diminish my confidence in Ruskin's judgment and correct feeling for
art. It required a still more severe experience. As all the world
knows, that knows anything of Ruskin's ways with artists, he was blunt
and outspoken in his criticisms, and not in the least tender of their
feelings, unless indeed they happened to be women. Knowing this, I
took his praise for certain studies and drawings I had brought with
me as a patent of ability; and though I was never extravagant in my
opinion of my own capacities for art, his approbation of some things
that I had done, and his assurance of a respectable attainment if
I followed the best methods of study, encouraged me, and I took it
without question that the methods were his, and it was a costly
experience which undeceived me.

Of the people with whom I made acquaintance in London at this visit,
those who most interested me were Clough and Owen. Of the artists I
saw little, as they and myself had other things to do than to frequent
one another's studios; but by the Rossetti family I profited largely,
as I had been more or less in intimate relations with William since he
undertook the correspondence of "The Crayon" from England. Of Dante,
indeed, I saw little at that time, as he lived by himself; but with
William my relations were constant and cordial, and he was for many
years my most valued English friend. Through his extreme honesty and
liberality, and his extensive knowledge of and wide feeling for
art, there was great community of appreciation between us, and our
friendship lasted long beyond the direct interest I had in English art
matters.

Of Christina I saw a good deal, for the hospitality of the Rossetti
family was informal and cordial. She was then in excellent health,
and, though she was never what would be, by the generality of tastes,
considered a beautiful woman, there was a noble serenity and dignity
of expression in her face which was, as is often said of women of the
higher type of character, "better than beauty," and in which one
saw the spiritual exaltation that, without the least trace of the
_dévote_, dominated in her and made her, before all other women of
whom I know anything, the poetess of the divine life. The faith in
the divine flamed out in her with a mild radiance which had in it no
earthly warmth. She attracted me very strongly, but I should as soon
have thought of falling in love with the Madonna del Gran Duca as
with her. Being myself in the regions of dogmatic faith, I was in
a position to judge sympathetically her religion, and, though we
differed in tenets as far as two sincere believers in Christianity
could, I found in our discussions of the dogmas a broad and
affectionate charity in her towards all differences from the ideal of
credence she had formed for herself. I do not remember ever meeting
any one who held such exalted and unquestioning faith in the true
spiritual life as was hers. From my mother, who was in most respects
the most purely spiritual woman I have ever known, Christina differed
by this serenity, which in my mother was often disturbed by the doubts
that had their seeds in the old and superstitious Calvinism mingled
with the ground of her creed, and from which she never could liberate
herself.

Christina believed in God, in heaven, in the eternal life, with an
unfaltering constancy and fullness which left no questionings except,
it might be, concerning her fulfillment of her religious obligations.
And while I thought her belief in certain dogmas, such as
transubstantiation, and in the fasting and ritual of her High Church
observances, to be too trivial for such a really exalted intellect, so
near the perception of the essential truth, she held them with such a
childlike and tranquil faith that I would sooner have worshiped
with her than have disturbed her tranquillity in it. She gave me a
demonstration of doctrinal charity which was to me a novelty, and
showed me that tenets which are to me, and those trained like me, idle
formalities were in reality the steps of a ladder by which she must
climb to the realization of the abstract good. Dogmas and observances
apart, I felt that her religion was so much loftier than my own that,
though it would have been impossible for me to profess acceptance of
it, it was equally impossible to argue with her about it,--that it was
so woven into the fibre of her existence that to move it in the least
would be impossible, or, if possible, only at the cost of mental and
spiritual dislocation. But, with all this, there was not in her a
trace of the assumption of a religious superiority which I have so
often found in the driest non-conformist, or the putting me apart with
the creatures that perish and are doomed which I have oftener found in
Catholic friends, with whom I have felt that they regarded me with a
sort of pitiful friendship, as one certain to be damned, and so only
worth a limited regard, lest love should be wasted. In after years I
saw her not infrequently, and when illness and grief had touched her,
and I saw always the same serenity and the same wide personal charity.

Much of Christina's character one could see in her mother, a noble
and worshipful woman, in whom the domestic virtues mingled with the
spiritual in a way that set off the singleness of life of Christina
singularly, as if it were the same light in an earthen vessel. Mrs.
Rossetti was what one often hears spoken of as "a dear, good woman,"
whose motherly life had absorbed her existence,--one of the witnesses
(martyrs) of the practical Christianity, who go, unseen and unknown,
to build the universal church of humanity, and whom we reverence
without naming them. Of Maria, the elder sister of Christina, I saw
less, but enough to know that the same ardent, beautiful religious
spirit burned in her, mute. In the years when I, later, saw most of
the family, Maria lived in a sisterhood. She had none of the genius or
the personal charm of her sister, but possessed the same elevation and
serene religious sentiment.

Of Clough I saw a good deal, though his occupation in a government
office left him not much leisure; and it seemed to me that, of all
public officials I ever knew, he was the most misplaced at an office
desk. Of fragile health and with the temperament of a poet, gentle as
a woman can be, he often reminded me of Pegasus in harness. I had a
commission from Norton to paint a small full-length portrait of him,
and had several sittings; but it did not get on to suit me, and his
being compelled to go to Italy for his health before I had finished
with it, for well or ill, put an end to it. He left me in occupation
of his house while they were away. Of all the people of the poet's
temper I ever knew, Clough was the least inclined to talk of poetry,
and but for the sensitive mouth and the dreamy eye, with a reflective
way he had when talking, as if an undercurrent of thought were going
on while he spoke, one might have taken him for a well-educated man
of business, a poet-banker, or publisher. Perhaps it is in the memory
more than it was in the life, but as I recall him there seemed to
be in him an arcanum of thought, something beyond what came into
every-day existence,--a life beyond the actual life, into which he
withdrew, and out of which he came to speak. I should have liked to
live beside him and know him always, for in that phase of him was
infinite study. What I did see, however, left on me the impression of
a man who was able only to sketch out the life he would have lived,--a
life of far greater capabilities than anything accomplished could
indicate.

In giving me the letter to Tom Hughes, Lowell had remarked that,
though he had never seen him, yet, as Hughes had edited his "Biglow
Papers," he thought he might assume an acquaintance sufficient to
warrant a letter of introduction. He was not mistaken, for Hughes did
the fullest honor to his letter; and as long as I was in London, and
indeed for many years after, our relations were of the most cordial,
and not long before his death he made me a visit at Rome. Very much of
the enjoyment of that winter in London was due to the hospitable and
companionable welcome of the author of "Tom Brown," and one of
the most enjoyable items was the introduction to the evenings at
Macmillan's, where the contributors to the magazine used to meet
on Thursday evenings, if I remember rightly, and where I saw the
Kingsleys,--Charles only once, but Henry often enough to contract with
him a pleasant friendship. Hughes was one of the largest and most
genial English natures I knew,--robust, all alive to all his human
obligations; and in those troublesome days when the American question
was coming to the crisis of our Civil War he was a consistent friend
of the North, when the dominant feeling in English society was hostile
to it, and this was a strong bond between us.

Owen I saw frequently, and, though my scientific education was, and
is, superficial, he interested me greatly; for he had, like Agassiz,
the gift of making his knowledge accessible to those who only
understood the philosophy and not the facts of science, and I knew
enough of the former to profit by his knowledge. Then he was a warm
friend of Agassiz, and we used to talk of his theories and studies, of
which I knew more than of any other scientific subject. Like Agassiz,
he had at first resisted the theory of natural selection, but had,
unlike Agassiz, come to recognize the necessity of admitting the idea
of evolution in some form, like Asa Gray and Jeffries Wyman. How far
he finally went in recognizing the agency of natural selection as the
sufficient element in this I do not know, for at that time the battle
waged over that phase of the question; but that he did not accept the
solution proposed by Darwin as final I have reason to believe, from
the fact that, the last time I saw him, he assured me that he was
confident that if he could have seen Agassiz again before he died
he could have persuaded him that evolution was the solution of the
problem of creation, though knowing that Agassiz could never have
accepted the doctrine of natural selection in its bareness, absolutely
convinced as he was of the agency of Conscious Mind in creation. And
I had the further declaration of Owen himself in his expressed
conviction that the process of evolution was directed by the Divine
Intelligence. One statement he made struck me forcibly in this
connection, viz.: that he believed that the evolution of the horse
reached its culmination synchronously with the evolution of man, and
that the agreement was a part of the divine plan, while Darwin refuses
to admit a plan in creation. I have heard amongst evolutionists much
bitterness expressed concerning Owen for what they considered his
yielding to the pressure of public opinion, and adopting the theory of
evolution in contradiction to his real convictions; but I saw enough
of him to be certain that he really believed in evolution subject
to the dominance of the Divine Intelligence, nor did any of the
accusations I heard against him persuade me of the least insincerity
in his acceptance of the theory with that qualification,--a position,
I am convinced, held by many, even then, who did not openly support
it, not caring to go counter to the very general advocacy of natural
selection.

The teaching of Owen completed my conversion to the theory of
evolution as a general law, not on grounds of physical science, the
demonstration by which is and must remain forever incomplete, but on
the philosophical ground, which I was more capable of measuring; and
with the acceptance of evolution disappeared, logically and, in the
subsequent years, completely, the influence of the old anthropomorphic
religion, with its terrible dogmas of the inheritance of Adam's
transgression and an angry God with His vicarious punishment of His
only son, with all the puzzles of miraculous intervention and the
perplexities of an infallible revealed word which continually
contradicts itself. The conception of Deity thus liberated from the
fetters of a materialistic faith rose to a dignity I had never before
comprehended, and brought me the new perception of a spiritual
religion and life, which was more consoling and vivifying by far than
the old belief.

It is possible that the impressions of that time have been modified by
my subsequent intercourse with scientific men in England; but they are
that the very wide and rapid acceptance of the theory of evolution by
natural selection was largely due to the relief it offered from the
incubus of the old theological conception of the Deity as a personal
agency, always interfering with the course of events,--an infinite,
omnipotent, and omniscient stage manager,--a conception under which
the Christian world at large lay when Darwin announced his solution of
the problem. The religious world had been, up to that time, chained to
the anthropomorphic conception of Deity, and it was even less due to
the purely scientific faculty than to the philosophic that Darwin came
as a liberator from a depressing superstition,--the belief in the
terrible Hebrew God, ingrained in the conscience of every reverently
educated boy, and become in his growth inseparable from the maturer
beliefs. The evolution of the human mind itself had finally reached
the point at which this anthropomorphism became a thing impossible
to maintain reasonably any longer, and the magic word was spoken
by Darwin which broke the spell and set us free--who wished to be
free--from a mental servitude grown dangerously dear to our deepest
faculties, those of reverence and devotion. That evolution took hold
slowly with some who finally adopted it was owing to the fact that,
with them, that servitude had never been slavish, but always held less
sway than pure reason. And contemporaneously with this evolution of
the human mind had come the liberation from religious persecution,
either inquisitorial, legal, or social; and, perhaps for the first
time in the history of the religious dogma, a man might openly dispute
the fundamental ideas of a dominant religion and suffer no penalty for
his skepticism.



CHAPTER XVII

SWITZERLAND


Though my "Bed of Ferns" was sent back from the Academy, one of my
large studies was exhibited at the British Society, and the result of
the year's work was, on the whole, satisfactory. Ruskin invited me
to go to Switzerland with him for the summer, finding in some of my
studies and drawings the possibility of getting from me some of the
Alpine work he wanted done. Unfortunately for both of us I could not
draw well in traces, and he did not quite well know how to drive, and
the summer ended in disappointment, and finally in disaster. I was
too undisciplined to work except when the mood suited, and our moods
rarely agreed: he wanted things which were to me of no interest, and
I could not interest myself vicariously enough to do them to his
satisfaction. He preceded me some weeks, and it was arranged that I
should come to meet him at Geneva early in June. Certainly I owe
to him my earliest and most delightful memories of the Alps and of
Switzerland. More princely hospitality than his no man ever received,
or more kindly companionship; but, as might have been expected, we
agreed neither in temperament nor in method, if indeed the mainly
self-taught way in which I worked and thought could be called method.

He met me with a carriage at Culoz, to give and enjoy my first
impressions of the distant Alps, and for the ten days we stopped at
Geneva I stayed with him at the Hotel des Bergues. We climbed the
Saleve, and I saw what gave me more pleasure, I confess, than the
distant view of Mont Blanc, which he expected me to be enthusiastic
over,--the soldanella and gentians. The great accidents of
nature,--Niagara and the high Alps,--though they awe me, have always
left me cold; and all that summer I should have been more fruitfully
employed in some nook of English scenery, where nature went
undisturbed by catastrophes and cataclysms.

Our first sketching excursion was to the Perte du Rhone, and, while
Ruskin was drawing some mountain forms beyond the river, he asked me
to draw some huts near by,--not picturesque cottages, thatched roofs
and lichen-stained walls, but shanties, such as the Irish laborers on
our railways build by the roadside, of deal boards on end, irregular
and careless without being picturesque, and too closely associated
with pigsty construction, in my mind, to be worth drawing. When Ruskin
came back I had made a careless and slipshod five minutes' sketch, not
worth the paper it was on, as to me were not the originals. Ruskin was
angry, and he had a right to be; for at least I should have found it
enough that he wanted it done, to make me do my best on it, but I
did not think of it in that light. We drove back towards Geneva in
silence,--he moody and I sullen,--and halfway there he broke out,
saying that the fact that he wanted the drawing done ought to have
been enough to make me do it. I replied that I could see no interest
in the subject, which to me only suggested fever and discomfort, and
wretched habitations for human beings. We relapsed into silence, and
for another mile nothing was said, when Ruskin broke out with, "You
were right, Stillman, about those cottages; your way of looking at
them was nobler than mine, and now, for the first time in my life, I
understand how anybody can live in America."

We went to Bonneville to hunt out the point of view of a Turner
drawing which Ruskin liked, but, needless to say, though we ransacked
the neighborhood for views, we never found Turner's; and then we went
on to St. Martin, the little village opposite Sallanches, on the Arve.
For a subalpine landscape with Mont Blanc in the distance, this is the
most attractive bit of the Alpine country I know, with picturesque
detail and pleasant climbing up to 7000 feet. The view of Mont Blanc,
too, is certainly the finest from below which can be found. In fine
weather the mountain is hidden to the summit by clouds which clear
away at sunset, and from the little and picturesque bridge over the
Arve we saw the huge dome come out, and glow in the sunlight, when we
were all in shadow. It was to me new and startling, this huge rosy
orb, which at its first appearance suggests a huger moon rising
above the clouds, until, slowly, the clouds below melt away, and the
mountain stands disclosed to its base. If anything in the Alps can be
called truly picturesque, it is the view of the Aiguille de Varens
which overhangs the village of St. Martin, with the quaint and
lichenous church and cemetery in the foreground, and I made a large
drawing of it from the bridge, intending to return and work it up
after Ruskin had left me. The little inn of the village was the most
comfortable _auberge_ I was ever in, and its landlord the kindest
and most hospitable of hosts. Twenty years later I went back to the
locality, hoping to find something of the old time; but there was
only a deserted hostel, the weeds growing over the courtyard, and the
sealed and mouldy doors and windows witnessing ancient desertion.

Hardly had I become interested in my drawing when Ruskin decided to
move on to Chamounix, where we might hope to get really to work. When
the first sublime and overpowering impression of Chamounix and the
majesty and gloom of its narrow valley wore off, it began to oppress
me, and long before we got away I felt as if I were in a huge grave.
The geological interest was great, and the sublimity overpowering.
But to my mind sublimity does not suffice for art; the beautiful must
predominate, and of the beautiful there is little in the valley. The
sublime rendered on a small scale is not satisfactory; the beautiful
loses nothing by reduction.

I was disappointed in the High Alps,--they left me cold; and after
visiting the points of view Turner had taken drawings from, we went up
to the Montanvert, where Ruskin wished me to paint for him a wreath
of Alpine rose. We found the rose growing luxuriantly against a huge
granite boulder, a pretty natural composition, and I set to work on it
with great satisfaction, for botanical painting always interested
me. Ruskin sat and watched me work, and expressed his surprise at my
facility of execution of details and texture, saying that, of the
painters he knew, only Millais had so great facility of execution.
We were living at the little hotel of the Montanvert, and he was
impatient to get back to the better accommodation of the valley
hotels; so that when the roses and the rocks were done we went back,
the completion of the picture being left for later study. From Paris,
in the ensuing winter, I sent it to Ruskin, the distance being made of
the actual view down the valley of Chamounix; and he wrote me a bitter
condemnation of it, as a disappointment; for he said that he "had
expected to see the Alpine roses overhanging an awful chasm," etc. (an
expectation he should have given expression to earlier), and found it
very commonplace and uninteresting. So it was, and I burnt it after
the fashion of the "Bed of Ferns." As Rowse said of him later, "he
wanted me to hold the brush while he painted." But our ideas clashed
continually, and what he wanted was impossible,--to make me see with
his eyes; and so we came to great disappointment in the end.

I was very much interested in his old guide, Coutet, with whom I had
many climbs. He liked to go with me, he said, because I was
very sure-footed and could go wherever he did. He was a famous
crystal-hunter, and many of the rarest specimens in the museum of
Geneva were of his finding. There was one locality of which only he
knew, where the rock was pitted with small turquoises like a plum
pudding, and I begged him to tell me where it was. There is a
superstition amongst the crystal-hunters that to tell where the
crystals are found brings bad luck, and he would never tell me in so
many words; but one day, after my importunity, I saw him leveling his
alpenstock on the ground in a very curious way, sighting along it and
correcting the direction, and when he had finished he said, as he
walked past me, "Look where it points," and went away. It was pointing
to a stratum halfway up to the summit of one of the aiguilles to the
west of the Mer de Glace, a chamois climb. He told me later that he
found the crystals in the couloir that brought them down from that
stratum. A dear old man was Coutet, and fully deserving the affection
and confidence of Ruskin. Connected with him was a story which Ruskin
told me there of a locality in the valley of Chamounix, of which the
guides had told him, haunted by a ghost which could be seen only by
children. It was a figure of a woman who raked the dead leaves, and
when she looked up at them the children said they saw only a skull in
place of a face. Ruskin sent to a neighboring valley for a child who
could know nothing of the legend, and went with him to the locality
which the ghost haunted. Arrived there he said to the boy, "What a
lonely place! There is nobody here but ourselves." "No," said the
child, "there is a woman there raking the leaves," pointing in a
certain direction. "Let us go nearer to her," said Ruskin; and they
walked that way, when the boy stopped, saying that he did not want to
go nearer, for the woman looked up, and he said that she had no eyes
in her head,--"only holes."

The valley of Chamounix finally became to me the most gloomy and
depressing place I was ever in. We made excursions and a few sketches;
but I had little sympathy with it, though I tried to do what Ruskin
wanted, and to get a faithful study of some characteristic subject in
the valley. Every fine day we climbed some secondary peak, five or six
thousand feet, and in the evenings we discussed art or played chess,
mainly in rehearsing problems, until midnight. Sundays no work was
done, but we used to climb some easy hilltop; and there he spent the
afternoon in writing a sermon for a girls' school in which he was much
interested, but not a hue of drawing would he do. To me, brought up in
the severity of Sabbatarianism, the sanctity of the first day of the
week had always been a theological fiction, and the result of the
contact with the larger world of thinkers and the widening of my range
of thought by the study of philosophy had also made me see that the
observances of "new moons and fast-days" had nothing to do with true
religion, and that the Eden repose of the Creator was too large
a matter to be fenced into a day of the week. This slavery to a
formality in which Ruskin was held by his terrible conscience provoked
me, therefore, to the discussion of the subject.

I showed him that there was no authority for the transference of the
Christian weekly rest from the seventh to the first day of the week,
and we went over the texts together, in which study my Sabbatarian
education gave me an advantage in argument; for he had never given the
matter a thought. Of course he took refuge in the celebration of the
weekly return of the day of Christ's resurrection; but I showed him
that the text does not support the claim that Christ rose on the first
day of the week, and that the early fathers, who arranged that portion
of the ritual, did not understand the tradition of the resurrection.
"Three days and three nights," according to the gospel, Christ was to
lie in the tomb,--not parts of three times twenty-four hours. But the
women went to the tomb "in the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn
toward the first day of the week," and they found that he had already
risen and was gone. Now, as by the Jewish ritual the day began at
sunset, the first day of the week began with the going down of the sun
on Saturday, and, therefore, as Christ had already risen, he must have
risen on the seventh day. And the reason of this twilight visit was in
the prohibition to touch a dead body on the Sabbath, and the zeal of
the disciples sent them to the sepulchre at the earliest possible
moment. And I showed him how careless or ignorant of the record the
redisposition of the sacred time had been, in the fact of the total
disregard of the words of Christ, that he should lie in the earth
three days and three nights; for they assumed him to have been
crucified on Friday, while he must have lain buried Thursday, Friday,
and Saturday, and was therefore buried on Wednesday, just before
sunset. And this is confirmed by the text which says that the
disciples hastened to bury Christ on the day of crucifixion, because
the next day was the day of preparation for one of the high Sabbaths,
which the early church, which instituted the observance of the first
day, confounded with the weekly Sabbath, not knowing that a high
Sabbath could not fall on the weekly Sabbath.

To this demonstration Ruskin, always deferent to the literal
interpretation of the gospel, could not make a defense; the creed had
so bound him to the letter that the least enlargement of the stricture
broke it, and he rejected the whole tradition,--not only the Sunday
Sabbath, but the authority of the ecclesiastical interpretation of the
texts. He said, "If they have deceived me in this, they have probably
deceived me in all," and he came to the conclusion of rejecting all.
This I had not conceived as a possible consequence of the criticism of
his creed, and it gave me great pain; for I was not a skeptic, as he,
I have since learned, for a time became. It was useless to argue
with him for the spirit of the gospel; he had always held to its
infallibility and the exactitude of doctrine, and his indignation was
too strong to be pacified. He returned somewhat, I have heard, to his
old beliefs in later years, as old men will to the beliefs of their
youth, and his Christianity was too sincere and profound for a matter
of mistaken credence in mere formalities ever to affect its substance,
and the years which followed showed that in no essential trait had the
religious foundations of his character been moved. For myself, I was
still a sincere believer in the substantial accuracy of the body of
Christian doctrine, and the revolt of Ruskin from it gave me great
pain. My own entire liberation from the burdens of futile beliefs had
yet to come, and at that time he went further than I could go with
him. But we never discussed theological matters any more.

I finally found a subject which interested me in a view of the foot of
the Mer de Glace from the opposite side of the river, looking up the
glacier, with the bridge under the Brevent, and a cottage in the
foreground, and set to work on it energetically. Ruskin used to sit
behind me and comment on my work. My methods of painting were my own,
for I had never painted under any one except the few months with
Church, whose method had taught me nothing; and I had a way of
painting scud clouds, such as always hang around the Alpine peaks, by
brushing the sky in thinly with the sky-blue, and then working into
that, with the brush, the melting clouds, producing the grays I wanted
on the canvas. It imitated the effect of nature logically, as the
pigment imitated the mingling of the vapor with the blue sky; but
Ruskin said this was incorrect, and that the colors must be laid like
mosaic, side by side, in the true tint. Another discouragement! I
used to lay in the whole subject, beginning with the sky, rapidly
and broadly, and, when it was dry, returning to the foreground and
finishing towards the distance; and Buskin was delighted with the
foreground painting, insisting on my doing nothing further to it. In
the distance was the Montanvert and the Aiguille du Dru; but where the
lines of the glacier and the slopes of the mountain at the right met,
five nearly straight lines converged at a point far from the centre,
and I did not see how to get rid of them without violating the
topography. I pointed it out to Ruskin, and he immediately exclaimed:
"Oh, nothing can he done with a subject like that, with five lines
radiating from an unimportant point! I will not stay here to see you
finish that study." And the next day we packed up and left for Geneva.

At Lausanne I made some careful architectural drawings, which he
praised,--some pencil sketches on the lake; and then we drove across
country to Freiburg, and finally to Neuchâtel, where I found a
magnificent subject in the view from the hill behind the city, looking
over the lake towards the Alps, with Mont Blanc and the Bernese Alps
in the extreme distance. In the near distance rise the castle and
its old church, which Ruskin drew for me in pencil with exquisite
refinement of detail, for in this kind of drawing he was most
admirable. As we should stay only a few days, I could not paint
anything, and spent all my time, working nine hours a day, hard, on
the one subject in pencil. We still spent our evenings till late in
discussions and arguments, with a little chess, rarely going to bed
before midnight; and the steady strain, with my anxiety to lose none
of my time and opportunities, finally told on my eyes. One day, while
working hard on the view of Neuchâtel, I felt something snap behind
my eyes, and in a few minutes I could no longer see my drawing;
the slightest attempt to fix my vision on anything caused such
indistinctness that I could see neither my work nor the landscape, and
I was obliged to suspend work altogether. In a few days we went to
Basle, and, after a rest, my vision came back partially, and we went
to Laufenburg, where Turner had found the subject for one of his
Liber Studiorum engravings. Here the subjects were entirely after my
feeling, and, as my eyes had ceased to trouble me, I set to work on a
large drawing of the town and fall from below. In the midst of it the
snapping behind my eyes came back, worse than ever, and that time not
to leave me for a long time. It was followed by an incessant headache,
which made life a burden, with obstinate indigestion. Here Ruskin
suddenly found that he must go back to England, and I returned with
him as far as Geneva, and thence went to St. Martin, where I spent the
rest of the autumn, as helpless for all work as a blind man.

My summer with Ruskin, to which I had looked for so much profit to my
art, had ended in a catastrophe of which I did not then even measure
the extent. It was nearly two years before I recovered from the attack
at Neuchâtel enough to work regularly, and these circumstances threw
me still further from my chosen career. More exciting and absorbing
occupation called me, and I obeyed, whether for better or worse it now
matters not. When I was free to return with undivided attention to my
painting my enthusiasm had cooled, and human interests claimed and
kept me. Ruskin had dragged me from my old methods, and given me none
to replace them. I lost my faith in myself, and in him as a guide to
art, and we separated definitely, years later, on a personal question
in which he utterly misunderstood me; but, apart from questions of
art, he always remains to me one of the largest and noblest of all the
men I have known, liberal and generous beyond limit, with a fineness
of sympathy in certain directions and delicacy of organization quite
womanly. Nothing could shake my admiration for his moral character or
abate my reverence for him as a humanist. That art should have been
anything more than a side interest with him, and that he should
have thrown the whole energy of his most energetic nature into the
reforming of it, was a misfortune to him and to the world, but
especially to me.

At St. Martin I waited the return of my vision. I climbed, and tried
chamois-hunting with no success so far as game was concerned, though I
saw the beautiful creatures in their homes, and now rejoice that I did
not kill any, though I fear I wounded one mortally, where we could not
retrieve him. One of my excursions was to the summit of the Aiguille
de Varens, by a path, in one place cut in the face of a precipice,
only wide enough for one's feet, with sheer cliff above and below, and
nothing to hold by. I have a good head, but to follow my guide on that
path was something which only _mauvaise honte_ brought me to. I was
ashamed to hesitate where he walked along so cheerily. We arranged to
spend the night at a chalet where a milkmaid with the figure of the
Venus of Milo tended a remnant of the herd, most of which had already
descended to the valleys below. As the sun was setting I walked out to
the brow of the aiguille, which from below seemed a point, but was in
reality only the perpendicular face of a mass of mountain which in the
other direction sloped away towards Switzerland for miles. The view of
Mont Blanc, directly opposite, then bare of clouds from the base to
the summit, with the red sunset light falling full on the great fields
of snow, of which I had never realized the extent from any other
point, was by far the most imposing view of the great mountain I have
ever found. I stood at an elevation of about 7000 feet, halfway to
the summit of Mont Blanc, with the whole broad expanse of glacier and
snowfield glowing in the rosy twilight; and, while I watched the
sun set, at my feet lay the valley of the Arve, with the town of
Sallanches and its attendant villages in the blue distance of
gathering night, thousands of feet below me. As I looked, enchanted,
the chimes of the convent below rang out a Gregorian air, which came
up to my heights like a solemn monition from the world of dreams, for
nothing could be distinguished of its source. We started a chamois,
and saw him race across the broad field of snow like the wind, while
I could only follow, laboring knee-deep in the snow, like a tortoise
after a hare. We slept that night buried in the hay. I am glad to
say that the hunt in the morning was without other result than a
delightful walk, for my guide was a better climber than huntsman.

A few days later, I made, with another guide, an excursion to the
Col des Fours, on the other side of the valley. The guide was an old
professional hunter, and knew the habits of the chamois well. We
climbed up leisurely in the afternoon, and slept in the hay of a
deserted chalet; for from there the cattle had already been all driven
down. While the guide prepared the supper, I walked out to the edge of
the cliffs to get the view. The landscape had become a sea of mist,--a
river, rather; for the whole valley was filled with a moving, billowy
flood of fog flowing from Mont Blanc, and enveloping mountain and
valley alike in a veil of changing vapor, melting, forming, and
flowing beneath my feet, hiding every object in the landscape below
the cliffs I stood on. It made me dizzy, for I seemed to be in the
clouds. And while I waited there came a transfiguration of the
scene,--the mist began to grow rosy, and deeper and deeper, till it
was almost like a sea of blood. No source of light was visible from
my point of view, but, of course, the phenomenon, though seemingly
mysterious, was evident. The sun, in setting, illuminated the fields
of snow at the summit of the mountain beyond, which reverberated its
flaming light into the vapor below, penetrating it down to my feet,
but the mountain itself was, from my elevation, invisible. It passed
like all glories, and quicker than most.

The next morning we went to take our posts for a chamois drive. A
friend of the guide, whom he had picked up to profit by my coming,
took one side of the valley, and I the other, while a boy with an
umbrella went down the valley to drive the chamois up to us. Having
posted me, the stupid guide crossed the line of the drive between me
and the meadow where the chamois would come to feed, and took his
post, hiding nearer the peaks where they had passed the night. Soon
after sunrise they made their appearance on a field of snow which
sloped down into the Val,--nine, young and old. I shall never see
anything prettier than the play of those young chamois on the snow.
They butted and chased each other over the snow, frolicked like
kittens, standing on their hind legs and pushing each other, until,
probably, they grew hungry, and then came down to the grass to feed.
This was the moment for the driver to come in, and he came up the
valley waving his arms and umbrella and shouting. The chamois came in
my direction till they crossed the track of the old hunter, scenting
which they halted, sniffed the air, and then broke in panic, the
majority running back past the driver and within a few yards of him,
so that if he had had a gun he could easily have killed one, and went
down the valley out of sight; three came up the valley, taking the
flank of the almost perpendicular rocks, within shot of me, but at
full gallop, and I fired at the middle one of the group. They passed
behind a mass of rock as I fired, and two came out on the other side.
If I hit one I could not know, for the place was inaccessible, but I
hope that I missed. I have often thought of the possibility that I
might have hit the poor beast, and sent him mortally wounded amongst
the rocks to die, and I never recur to the incident without pain. It
becomes incomprehensible to me, as my own life wanes, how I could ever
have found pleasure in taking the lives of other creatures filling
their stations in the world better than I ever did. The late educated
soul pays the penalty of earlier ignorance, but there is no atonement
to the victims.

I stayed at St. Martin while the plebiscite and annexation to France
took place. It was a hollow affair, the voting being a mockery, but
the Sardinian government had never made itself seriously felt in
Savoy, for either good or ill; the people were a quiet and law-abiding
race, and while I was in the country I never heard of a crime or a
prosecution. The regiments of Savoyard troops went into the French
army with ill will, and there was a bloody fight between them and the
French soldiers at Lyons when the former went into the barracks there.

I was at St. Martin when the Emperor and Empress made their tour
through the new possession. The state carriages had to be left at
Sallanches when the sovereigns went up to the great ball offered them
at Chamounix, and, when they returned, the little mountain carriages
which brought them down halted under the windows of the _auberge_ of
St. Martin, in which I lived, to wait for the state carriages to come
across the river. They had to wait about half an hour, and as they
walked up and down in the road under my window, beside which stood
my loaded rifle, I thought how easily I could change the course of
European politics, for I could have hit any button on the Emperor's
clothes, and I hated him enough to have killed him cheerfully, as
an enemy of mankind; but regicide has always seemed to me a great
mistake, as it would have been in that case, for it would only have
placed the young Prince Imperial on the throne, under the regency of
the Empress. I was then a radical republican, with all the sympathies
of a Parisian Red, for I had not learned that it is less the form of
the government than the character of the governed which makes the
difference between governments. I did not spare the life of the
Emperor from any apprehension of consequences to me, for I had none.
I knew the paths up the mountain at the back of the hotel, and before
the confusion should have been overcome, and a pursuit organized, I
could have been beyond danger, on my way to the Swiss frontier, for
the pine woods came to the back door of the hotel; and beyond that, I
never had the habit of thinking of the consequences of what I proposed
to do. When I returned to Paris, after the autumn had passed, I told
the story to an artist friend, an ultraradical, how I stood at my
window with a loaded rifle by my side, and the Emperor twenty feet
below, and he shouted with fury, "And you didn't kill him?" Time and
fate have punished him more fitly than I should have done, and wise
men leave these things to time and fate.



CHAPTER XVIII

PARIS AGAIN THE CIVIL WAR IN AMERICA


I remained in Paris all that winter, and took a studio with an
American friend,--Mr. Yewell,--but I could do no work; the headache
never left me, and, though I could draw a little, my vision failed
when it was strained, and I seemed to have lost my color sense. I was
desperate, and, when Garibaldi set out on the Marsala expedition, I
was just on the point of sailing to join him when I received a letter
from the father of my fiancée, telling me that her perplexities and
distress of mind over our marriage had so increased that they feared
for her reason if she were not set at rest. I took the next steamer,
and ended the vacillation by insisting on being married at once.
Nothing but a morbid self-depreciation had prevented her from coming
to a decision in the matter long before, and there was no other
solution than to assume command and impose my will. We were married
two days after my landing, and returned to Paris a few days after.
When the spring opened we went down into Normandy, and there,
returning to the study of nature and living in quiet and freedom from
anxiety, I slowly and partially recovered my vision, and began to
regain in a measure the power of drawing. The landscape of the quiet
French country suited me perfectly, and I made two or three good
studies, but without getting into a really efficient condition for
painting, which I only did a year or two later at Rome.

Our winter in Paris had been greatly brightened by the acquaintance of
the Brownings, the father and sister of the poet. We lived in the same
section of Paris, near the Hotel des Invalides, and much of our time
was passed with them. "Old Mr. Browning" we have always called him,
though the qualification of "old," by which we distinguished him from
his son Robert, seemed a misnomer, for he had the perpetual juvenility
of a blessed child. If to live in the world as if not of it indicates
a saintly nature, then Robert Browning the elder was a saint: a
serene, untroubled soul, conscious of no moral or theological problem
to disturb his serenity, and as gentle as a gentle woman,--a man in
whom, it seemed to me, no moral conflict could ever have arisen to
cloud his frank acceptance of life as he found it come to him. He had,
many years before we knew him, inherited an estate in Jamaica, but on
learning that to work it to profit he must become a slave owner he
renounced the heritage. And, knowing him as we knew him, it is easy to
see that he would renounce it cheerfully and without any hesitation.
A man of a rougher and more energetic type might have tried the
experiment, or questioned the judgment, at least have regretted his
own integrity, but Browning could have done neither. The way was
clear, and the decision must have been as quick as that of a child
to reject a thing it abhorred. His unworldliness had not a flaw. So
beautiful a life can never have become distinguished in the struggles
and antagonisms which make the career of the man of the world, or even
the man of letters, as letters are now written; for he was a man, and
the only one I ever knew, of whom one would say that he applied in the
divine sense the maxim of Christ, "Resist not evil,"--he simply, and
by the necessity of his own nature, ignored it.

He had a curious facility in drawing heads of quaint and always varied
character, which character he could not foresee when he began the
drawing. They were always in profile, and he began at one extremity
and ran his pencil round to the other, always bringing out an
individuality, but without any intention as to what that should be;
and he named it, when it was done, according to the type it offered,
generally in character, with a trace of caricature, and, for the most
part, subjects from the courts of law,--a judge or a puzzled juror, a
disappointed or a triumphant client, etc., etc. He would draw a dozen
or twenty in an evening, all different and all unforeseen, as much to
him as to us, and he was as much amused as we were when it turned out
more than usually funny. His chief amusement was hunting through the
bookstalls along the quays, and I have, amongst my old books, an early
life of Raphael, which he gave me, with his name on the fly leaf.

Of Miss Browning, who still lives, I will not speak; but what she told
me of the poet's mother may, I think, be told without indiscretion.
She had the extraordinary power over animals of which we hear
sometimes, but of which I have never known a case so perfect as hers.
She would lure the butterflies in the garden to her, and the domestic
animals obeyed her as if they reasoned. Robert had been given a
pure-blooded bulldog of a rare breed, which tolerated no interference
from any person except him or his mother, and which would allow no
familiarity with her on the part of strangers; so that when a neighbor
came in he was not permitted to shake hands with her, for the dog at
once showed his teeth. Not even her husband was allowed to take the
slightest liberty with her in the dog's presence, and when Robert was
more familiar with her than the dog thought proper he showed his teeth
to him. They one day put him to a severe test, Robert putting his arm
around his mother's neck as they sat side by side at the table. The
dog went round behind them, and, putting his feet upon the chair,
lifted Robert's arm off her shoulder with his nose, giving an
intimation that he would not permit any liberty of that kind even from
him. They had a favorite cat, to which the dog had the usual antipathy
of dogs, and one day he chased her under a cupboard, and, unable to
reach her, kept her there besieged and unable to escape, till Mrs.
Browning intervened and gave the dog a lecture, in which she told him
of their attachment for the cat, and charged him never to molest her
more. If the creature had understood speech he could not have obeyed
better; for from that time he was never known to molest the cat, and
she, taking her revenge for past tyranny, bore herself most insolently
with him, and when she scratched him over the head he only whimpered
and turned away, as if to avoid temptation. An injury to one of his
feet made an operation necessary, and the family surgeon was called
in to perform it, but found him so savage that he could not touch the
foot or approach him. Mrs. Browning came and talked to him in her
way, and the dog submitted at once, without a whimper, to the painful
operation. She had been long dead when I knew the family.

We had planned to go together--the elder Browning, Robert and Mrs.
Browning, Miss Browning, my wife, and myself--to pass the summer at
Fontainebleau, and we were awaiting the arrival of Robert and his wife
from Florence when the news came of Mrs. Browning's illness, followed
not much later by that of her death. The intrusion even of a friend
was too much for this catastrophe, and we saw little more of the
Brownings until years after, when other and many changes of fortune
had come over us, and we met again in Italy.

Out of a quiet and happy life in Normandy I was aroused by the
complications of our Civil War. An intimate friend living in Paris,
the late Colonel W.B. Greene, a graduate of West Point, had applied
for the command of a regiment of Massachusetts troops, and offered me
a position on his staff if he got it and I would come. We agreed to go
together, but his impatience carried him away, and he sailed without
giving me notice. I followed by the next steamer, and, leaving my wife
with my parents, I went on to Washington and to Greene's headquarters.
I was too late for Greene, and I could not pass the medical
examination, which was then very rigid, for all the North was
volunteering. "Go home," said Greene; "we have already buried all the
men like you. We have not seen the enemy yet, and we have buried six
per cent. of the regiment. It is no place for you." But I had no
choice; there were 800,000 men enlisted, and further enlistments were
countermanded. I tried to get some position with Burnside,--who was
fitting out an expedition to North Carolina,--even as cook; for I
could not pass for the rank and file, and Burnside, as a friend of my
friends in Rhode Island, might, I thought, help me. He replied that
he had already nine applications for every post at his disposal. As a
last resource, I went up into the Adirondacks to raise a company of
sharpshooters. My backwoodsmen were all ready to go, but they wanted
special rifles and special organization, for they meant to go to
"shoot secesh," not to be regular infantry. Their ambition was not
reconcilable with the plans of the military authorities, so that
the company was never raised, and I then turned to my plan for the
consulate.

I suppose that there are few now living who knew by personal
investigation and remember clearly the condition of the country at
that epoch. We had suffered the defeat of Bull Run, and the country at
large was in a state of flaming patriotism; but sober people had many
doubts whether the government was strong enough to carry through the
plans of the President, and he also had, I was told by some one who
knew him, been very uncertain whether the population at large would
respond, even when he made the first call for 75,000 volunteers.
Persons in positions of great influence were of the opinion that
the North had no right to coerce the South. General Scott, the
commander-in-chief, urged separation peacefully, and Horace Greeley,
the most influential member of the press in the country, opposed
coercion, while the mass of the Democratic party were either on the
fence or openly in favor of the South, and this opposition of
the Democrats was probably what gave Lincoln the most serious
consideration. Some of the most earnest and patriotic people I knew
had grave doubts if the Northern people had any conception of the work
they had undertaken, and if they would be constant when they came to
realize it.

While I was in Washington I saw Lincoln and some of those around him,
and my opinion is that, but for his faith in the Supreme Providence
and in the destiny of our Republic, his courage, and with it the whole
scheme of defense, would have broken down. Future generations will not
understand the difficulties before him,--perhaps he himself did not.
The administration of Buchanan had prepared for the secession, and
Buchanan as minister to England had already established the opinion
of the governing class in that country in the certainty of impending
separation,--a fact which should be remembered when we judge the
attitude of England; the fleet had been dispersed to the ends of the
earth, and the officers of the army were mainly Southerners. The
support of New York and Massachusetts was of the gravest importance.
The former was largely under the influence of Seward, and he was
inclined by nature to conciliation; in the latter State, General
Butler, a Democrat, and of seriously questioned loyalty, had an
influence which might easily become the dominant one and carry the
State over to the Democratic opposition, which was in the country at
large distinctly opposed to coercion. The government and the ruling
class in England were clearly hostile to the North, and the position
on that side was menacing.

Had the South then been content with separation on the lines of "Mason
and Dixon's line," I am convinced that it would have taken place
without a struggle, if the position could have been defined without
bloodshed. But this was what the most sagacious of the Southern
leaders did not desire. It became evident that the majority in the
South did not desire separation, and the leaders knew that a peaceful
separation would be followed by reconstruction on something like the
old lines, for the South could not stand alone industrially; so that
they had not concealed their determination to invade the Middle and
Western States, and carry them forcibly over to the new Confederacy,
"leaving out New England." It was generally known that Pennsylvania
and New Jersey were Democratic and lukewarm for the old Union, and
that Ohio and the West would not resist if there were a successful
beginning of a movement and a military invasion. So far as the
sentiments of the politicians were concerned, the South had a very
correct idea of the probabilities of the situation; what they were
utterly ignorant of was the spirit of the masses in the North, which
they thought to coerce easily. There they were mistaken, and there
Lincoln saw his strength, and that saved the country; for, with the
firing on Fort Sumter and the open insult to the flag, the Northern
masses took fire, and the conflagration burned out the roots of
sympathy for the South. Butler was given a command in the field;
others of the same class were given commands, and the dangerous
demagogue class was enlisted for the war.

When I landed, the entire able-bodied population of the North was
seeking to enlist, and the troops were pouring by thousands into
Washington, and only the most uncertain and prudent of the Northern
leaders doubted of victory, though no one dreamed what it would cost.
And, looking at the corruption of American politics to-day, the
venality and the indifference to the true interests of the nation of
most of the men who control the political life at its most important
centres, and the general tendency of our politics, it needs a serene
and far-reaching faith in human progress to enable a citizen of the
United States, who believes in a political ideal, to regard the
sacrifices then made as having been profitable. I see things
dispassionately and as an old man removed from the chance of personal
gains or losses, and, but for a faith in human progress being the
result of an eternal and inevitable law, I should say that the blood
of that war had been wasted. It is a painful conviction to die
with,--but I expect to die with it,--that generations and unparalleled
disasters must pass before my country reaches the goal its founders
believed to be its destiny.

Having exhausted every appliance to open a way into the army, I made
my appeal to Dr. Nott, and received by return of the Washington post
my commission as consul at Rome, as I have told in a previous chapter.
I went on to Cambridge to get information and advice, and, at
Lowell's, met Howells for the first time. We could, each of us, offer
condolence for the other's disappointment; for Howells had asked for
Dresden and was appointed to Venice, while I had asked for Venice,
intending to write the history of Venetian art. But Rome had always
been given to an artist; and, though there was no salary, but fees
only, it seemed to have been a much-sought-for position, and I
accepted.

Leaving my wife at home, for her confinement, I sailed for England,
_en route_ for Italy, just when the capture of Mason and Slidell had
thrown the country into a new agitation; for it was foreseen that
England would not submit to this disrespect to her flag, though the
step was in strict accordance with her own precedents. Seward and
the more prudent part of the public were in favor of releasing the
prisoners at once, and before any demand could be made by the English
government; but it was said that Lincoln and the West were in favor of
holding them, and letting England do her worst. It is possible that he
thought that a foreign enemy would decide all the wavering minds, and
possibly open the way to a pacification between the North and South.
I left New York before we had heard of the reception of the news
in England, and found the agitation there intense. The consul at
Liverpool told me that he could not go into the Exchange for the
insults offered him there, and American merchants were insulted on the
street. In London, at the restaurants where I dined, the conversation
turned altogether on the incident, and the language was most violent.

As I was in the service of the government I waited on Mr. Adams, the
minister, and remained in London until the question was settled, in
daily communication with him. He thought the danger of war still
great, as Lincoln had not decided to accept the ultimatum, and the
English ministry was, in Adams's opinion, desirous of having a _casus
belli_, or at least a justification for recognizing the Southern
Confederacy. That war had not already become inevitable he considered
due entirely to the attitude of the Queen, who resisted any measure
calculated to precipitate a hostile solution, and had refused her
assent to a dispatch demanding the release of the envoys, and worded
in such peremptory terms that Lincoln could not have hesitated to
repel it at any cost,--an outcome which, in the opinion of Mr. Adams,
was what Palmerston, Gladstone, and Lord John Russell wanted. But, on
the insistence of the Queen, the offensive passage was struck out, and
peace was preserved, though at that moment the reply of our government
had not been received, and Adams did not consider that, even in
its modified form, the demand of the English ministry might not be
rejected. As the crisis was still undecided, I waited until the
solution was definite. The favorable reply came by the next steamer.
To the peace-loving heart of the Queen mainly, and next to the tact
and diplomatic ability of Mr. Adams, the world owes that the war most
disastrous possible for the civilization of the west was avoided. Put
at rest with regard to this danger, I continued my journey and entered
upon my functions as representative of my government at Rome.

I have since heard various versions of this crisis and its solution,
but the above is, I believe, substantially the truth. I have heard
that the English dispatch was referred to the French Minister
of Foreign Affairs, and that he advised against it; but this is
impossible. The Emperor of France was more determined even than
Palmerston to destroy the United States, if possible, as his Mexican
enterprise showed, and we knew from other sources that he was pressing
the English government to recognize the belligerency of the South.
Day by day I heard from Mr. Adams of the position, and he said to
me emphatically that he did not consider the declaration of war
impossible until he received the reply of Lincoln to the English
ultimatum; and it is impossible that such a transaction as that of
the consultation with the French government should have taken place
without Adams knowing of it, for his information from the surroundings
of the Queen was minute and incessant. He said to me, without the
slightest qualification, that the preservation of peace was due solely
to the insistence of the Queen, strengthened by the advice of Prince
Albert, on the demand for the release of the envoys being made in
terms which should not offend the _amour propre_ of the North.



CHAPTER XIX

MY ROMAN CONSULATE


The convenient road from London to Rome, when I went there as consul,
was via Paris to Marseilles, and thence by sea to Civita Vecchia.
It was December when I left London, and the journey from Paris to
Marseilles, in a third-class carriage, took twenty-six hours. The Mont
Cenis tunnel had not been opened yet, and the voyage by diligence was
tedious, costly, and at that season uncomfortable on account of the
cold. I arrived at Rome shortly before Christmas, when the city was
astir with the preparations for the great ceremonies which were then
the principal attraction for foreigners there, but the number of
visitors was very small compared with that which now gathers to their
diminished religious and spectacular interest. The foreign quarter was
limited to that immediately about the Piazza di Spagna, and only the
artist folk lived in the remoter quarters, where they found cheap and
commodious apartments in the palaces of fallen nobility, glad to let
their upper stories; and there were few or no new houses.

Rome was given up to art and religion; it was still decaying,
picturesque, pathetic, and majestic. Where now we find the prosperous
and hideous new quarters,--the Via Nazionale, and the expanse of
structures to the east of it, the region between the Coliseum and the
Lateran, the 20 Settembre, Via Veneto, and the vicinity where were the
Ludovisi gardens, and now are long streets of ugly houses, with the
entirely new quarter of the Prati, were then expanses of vineyards and
gardens, and we used to cross the Tiber by a ferry to visit the farm
of Cincinnatus, now buried under twenty feet of rubbish, on which are
built the palaces of the Prati, huge, ugly barracks; and even the
Campagna has lost much of its desolate beauty. Down the Tiber, where
the ghastly embankment walls in the yellow stream, there was then a
picturesque riverbank, with a delightful foreground in every rood of
it. Where now is the Piazza delle Terme and the great railway station,
we used to go to get studies of the ruins of the baths of Diocletian,
one of the most picturesque objects of the region.

Political or social life there was none, and the foreign element,
whether the regular or the transitory, was divided by its
nationalities, and cut off absolutely from the Roman. Only the English
and American mingled to any extent, the foreign Catholics finding
their way, with such Protestants as gave hope of conversion, into the
clerical world, which, from all that I could see of it, offered little
attraction to the fugitive visitors. Wide-eyed, hurried Americans
came, saw, and bought a picture, and went away again; English
sightseers came for Christmas or Easter, and bought a few old masters;
but the mass of those who stayed for long were invalids, who settled
down and tried to keep as much in the sun as possible, for the
universal belief then was that to live out of the sunshine was to
contract mortal malaria. It was the most unreal world I have ever
lived in, whether we use the word unreal in the sense of shadowy or
poetical.

Rome was in fact at that time a spectacle never before or since
seen in the world. Ruled by an absolute government, theocratic and
therefore considering its authority beyond all human attack, but
besieged on all sides by an invading liberalism, which had already
captured all its outposts and undermined its position at the centre,
it, still defiant, refused to make a single concession to the spirit
of the epoch, and bade defiance to diplomacy and insurrection alike.
All its former allies from north and south were in refuge within the
walls of the city, the King of Naples and all his court offering the
daily spectacle of a parade of their downfall as they drove through
the streets. Rome itself was a huge cloister in which the only
animation was in the processions of priests and students of the
theological seminaries, or the more melancholy funerals in which the
hooded and gowned friars added gloom to the mystery of our common
lot,--no industry except those of jewelry and art and that of
ecclesiastical apparatus. The principal revenues were the charity of
the outside world,--St. Peter's pence. Government was not by law,
but by the arbitrary decisions of the most incompetent of officials,
enforced by the bayonets of a foreign army, the soldiers of which
despised the population, and lived in the most complete separation
from it. The Pope himself had little affection for his French
protectorate, which urged, and sometimes effected, certain
improvements which he regarded as innovations and invasions.

I had, soon after my arrival, a case before the lower tribunal which
showed how the administration of justice was regarded. Having a
relapse into the malady that had followed my breakdown in Switzerland,
which was exaggerated by the heat of Rome, I was ordered by my
physician to Ariccia to recruit, and I left my apartment, which was
also the consulate, and took quarters at the little Ariccian inn which
was the resort of the artists at that date.

As I could not absent myself from the office longer than ten days at
a time without permission of the government at Washington, I had to
return _pro forma_ at that term, when, to my surprise, I found my
apartment in possession of a stranger. I intimated his dislodging, to
which he replied that he had taken the rooms and paid his rent and
would not go. At that time there was a temporary occupation--merely
nominal, however--of the legation by ex-Governor Randall of Wisconsin.
The minister had taken an apartment where he could mount the arms of
the Republic, and had then gone off on his European tour, leaving me
in occupation of the post as chargé d'affaires and in care of his
rooms. As I had thus another place to sleep in, I evacuated the
consular quarters not unwillingly, removing all my effects except a
set of silver spoons which my mother had given me on my leaving home,
and which were heirlooms. The spoons were being cleaned, the landlady
said, and would be ready the next day. I called for them again, and
was again deferred, when I went at once to the tribunal and made a
claim for my spoons. On statement of the case, the judge gave an order
for the immediate and unconditional delivery of the plate; but when I
went to get them at the tribunal, he said it was lucky for me that I
came when I did, as the landlady had come in the afternoon and applied
for an order against me to pay another month's rent (always paid in
advance), and that if she had come first he should have been obliged
to give it to her. I explained that I had been driven out of the
apartment by another occupant; but that, he said, made no difference,
the first applicant for justice would alone have been heard.

Not long after, a similar case called for my more or less official
recognition. My colleague the consul at Florence had come for a visit
to Rome, and had taken a cab to make the rounds of the sights, and,
making his visit to the church of Ara Coeli, he of course left the cab
at the foot of the stairs. He found little which interested him in the
church, and, returning sooner than the cabman expected, he found no
cab there. In the course of the day he went to the police court and
asked for a punishment for the cabman for having deserted him on
his round. The cabman was summoned and fined accordingly; but the
magistrate remarked to my friend when he came to give evidence that
it was fortunate for him that he complained first, for the cabman had
come later in the day and asked for his fare for the night which he
had passed at the foot of the stairs waiting for the return of the
_forestiero_; and he added that if the cabman had come first, my
friend would have been obliged to pay the claim. It was simple and
expeditious, first come being first served, but hardly good civil
administration.

At the time of the expedition of Garibaldi which ended at Aspromonte,
the excitement in the city was intense, and the panic on the part of
the ecclesiastical population so great that they mainly took refuge in
the convents and villages of the mountain country. I had occasion to
see the Pope at that time, and found him in profound despondency,
evidently persuaded that Garibaldi would come to Rome. He said to me
that he was convinced that the great day of tribulation prophesied for
the church had come, and it would have its fifty years of oppression,
after which it would arise again more glorious than ever; but there
was no question that in his mind the French garrison was not for the
moment an efficient protection. The Italian party in the city was very
small, but active, and in those days especially so. The priests were
insulted and menaced whenever it was possible to reach them covertly,
and finally one was stabbed in a crowd. Many arrests were made, and
amongst those arrested was an exile who had ventured into the city to
visit his friends. He was put on trial for the stabbing, and, though
he proved an alibi, he was condemned to death, for "some example must
be made," they said. There was not the slightest evidence against him
except that he was an exile who had no right to be in the city, and
he was executed. Every day the police had to obliterate rebellious
inscriptions from the walls, and a constant correspondence was kept up
with the patriots in Florence. To belong to the order of Freemasons
was punishable by death, but a lodge was in full activity, and when
Lincoln was assassinated it sent me, for his widow, a letter of
condolence. It was given me by Castellani, who, not being initiated,
had received it from a brother known to him. About the same time, the
revolutionary committee decided to contribute a stone from the _agger_
of Servius Tullius to the Washington monument at Washington, and got
out one of the largest, had it dressed and appropriately inscribed,
and forwarded it to Leghorn for shipment to America, the bill of
lading being sent to me for transmission.

The police regulations were extremely severe against heresy, but
brigandage was common, and the darker streets were unsafe at night to
strangers. People were not infrequently robbed in their own doorways,
and there was a recognized system of violent robbery known as "doorway
robbing." The streets were very badly lighted, and the entrance halls
on the ground floor were scarcely ever lighted, so that we always
carried wax tapers to light ourselves up to our rooms, or to visit our
friends. Incautious foreigners, ignorant of this need for precaution,
entering the dark passages, were sometimes seized by robbers hidden
behind the door, gagged, and stripped of all valuables without a
possibility of assistance unless a friend happened to enter the house
at the moment, for the police were never seen about the streets at
night. I had, in the second year of my residence, a very narrow escape
from capture by brigands, which might have been a serious matter.
I was making, with my wife and son, our _villeggiatura_ at Porto
d'Anzio, then a miserable fishing village, but, except Civita Vecchia,
the only convenient seaside locality in the States of the Church where
one could find lodgings. With an American lady friend staying with us,
we planned to make an excursion by boat to the Punta d'Astura, where
are the ruins of a villa of Cicero; but when half way there we were
driven back by a passing shower. On the same day a party of Roman
sportsmen, out quail shooting, were "held up" in the ruins and obliged
to pay a ransom of five thousand scudi. The brigands of the kingdom
of Naples were constantly given refuge and sustenance on our side
the frontier, and on a visit to Olevano, in the Sabine hills, I was
witness of a band of over two hundred taking refuge from the Italian
troops in the Papal territory, and being furnished with provisions and
refreshments as at a festa. Artists out sketching were never molested,
not because the Papal influence protected us, but because the brigands
knew their poverty, and had a tinge of sympathy with the arts.

The ecclesiastical authorities were so severe on heresy that a friend
of mine, who had married an English lady who remained a Protestant,
was brought before the Inquisition (the "Holy Office") and put under
the severest pressure to compel his wife to abstain from attending
the English church outside the Porta del Popolo. He escaped ulterior
consequences only by appealing to the French authorities, he being a
surgeon in the service of the French garrison. For common morality
there was little care. The sexual relations were flagrantly loose,
and the scandal even of some of the great dignitaries was widespread.
Antonelli's amours were the subject of common gossip, and most of
the parish priests were in undisguised marital relations with their
housekeepers; nor was this considered as at all to their discredit by
the population at large. One of the leading Liberals, permitted to
remain in the city on account of the importance of his industry,
one of the great goldsmiths' works, told me that the Liberals never
permitted the priests to frequent their houses, as they invariably
conspired to corrupt the newly married women, unmarried girls being
unmolested. In the lower circles of the bourgeoisie it was a matter of
common knowledge that the husbands openly made a traffic of the virtue
of their wives; and in my personal acquaintance amongst the artists,
I knew of a number of cases in which the artist had the wife as a
mistress for a fixed compensation to the husband.

For this kind of immorality the police had no eyes, and, admitting
enormous exaggeration in the common report of the conduct of the
younger priesthood and the students of the theological schools (and
there is no smoke without some fire), the conditions of morality
amongst the younger Italian clergy was a gross scandal. Houses of
ill-fame were notorious, and it used to be said that when Pius IX. was
urged by the French authorities to put them under control and license
he replied that "every house was a brothel, and it was useless to
license any." There was another saying which I heard often, that "if
you wanted to go to a brothel you must go in the daytime, for at night
they were full of priests." How far this was justified I do not know,
but I remember that two American acquaintances went one night to one
of the best recognized houses of the kind, a place of the most common
notoriety on the Corso, and they were told at the door that there was
no room,--"every place was occupied."

Let me not be charged with making of this state of things an
accusation against the Catholic religion. The English, Irish, and
American students, who were those with whom I principally came in
contact, were ardent and enthusiastic devotees, as earnest in their
religious observances as any of the most devoted members of any other
church I have known. Indeed, it is my personal experience that so far
as regards the younger men, I have never found so many animated by the
true apostolical spirit as amongst the students of theology of British
and American birth whom I then knew at Rome. At the head of all the
Catholics of all nations whom I have ever known are the English, in
respect of sincere and ardent devotion to their church, with the
minimum of animosity towards other creeds, and the most healthy
morality. With the great majority of Italian ecclesiastics, on the
contrary, religion is a mere formality, and its influence on the life
is inconsiderable and unconsidered. It was, therefore, not because it
was a Catholic city that the morality of Rome was so low, but because
the energies of the hierarchy were so occupied with the difficulties
of the position of a government of priests unused to civil
administration and by their own education disqualified for it, that
the ordinary functions of government were impossible to it. The
situation was made still worse by the Italian constitutional
indifference to questions of common morality. As the government of the
church lies in the hands of the Italian clergy, it will be forever
impossible for a government organized on the principles of the Papal
temporal power to be other than that which has been suppressed by
Italy. To the majority of the higher Italian ecclesiastics, the church
has become merely a political instrument, into the management of which
the spiritual interests of the people do not enter, and the efforts of
the Catholics of other countries to bring about a reform will never
succeed while the power is in the hands of the Italian clergy, which
it will be as long as the Papacy is an Italian institution; and as the
Pope is Pope merely because he is the Bishop of Rome, it is difficult
to see how the situation can be made different.

Pius IX. was personally a most sincere and devout, though worldly,
man, and it is difficult to believe that any other than a devotee
could now be elected to the Holy See, for even the most corrupt civil
or ecclesiastical intellect must see the importance of a reputation
for sanctity in the Pontiff, while, as the influence of the Papacy is
no longer of vital importance to the government of any country in the
world (though doubtless of considerable utility to several), there is
little political importance in the personality of the Pontiff, and
slight motive for foreign governments to exercise influence on the
election. If removed from Italy and established in a seat surrounded
by a population like that of the masses in France (out of Paris and
the large cities), amenable to purely spiritual influences, the church
would revert to its normal functions and abandon politics,--a result
never to be hoped for while it remains Italian. I have no sympathy
with its creed, or any other of the creeds, for I conceive no
healthy conformity of belief possible to men and women differing in
intellectual and spiritual capacities; but I have seen good work done
by the Catholic church in many quarters, and I have many and admirable
Catholic friends, and, to be frank, I do not believe that the creed
makes much difference in the religion.

As to Pius IX., I am convinced that he was not only a devout man, but
an excellent and admirable man, as men go, a genuine believer in the
divine direction of his pontificate, and incapacitated for civil
government simply because no one could carry on a civil government on
ecclesiastical principles. He loved his people, and, personally and
generally, was beloved by them; but the progress of liberalism and
democracy had driven out of the Papal States, or into a mute and
inflexible opposition, all the most active and potent intellects
amongst them, and the clergy without them could not administer the
government; so that, wishing to do good to his subjects, he could not
improve their political condition without inviting those elements of
liberalism which he considered the inexorable enemies of the church,
which was to him the highest interest of humanity, He reposed his
faith on the abilities of clerics who knew nothing of human nature
or practical politics, but comprehended only a paternal control,
absolute, and to be enforced by the rod, actual or figurative; or on
those of civilian devotees and fanatics less intelligent even than the
clerical functionaries.

As I was, for the greater part of my term, in charge of the legation
interests and duties, I saw Pius IX. often and liked him much. One day
when I was having an audience in his little room, the windows of
which looked west, there came up a great thunder storm, with frequent
flashes of lightning, at each of which he crossed himself and devoutly
said a prayer. His conversation convinced me that he felt profoundly
convinced of his divinely appointed function as the vicegerent of God
on earth, and his sincerity inspired me with great respect for the
man; but, naturally, with little for his intellect. His _bonhomie_ was
remarkable, and he had a keen sense of humor, which led him to make
sarcastic, and often telling remarks, on men and things, in which he
was sometimes the reverse of diplomatic. He had, for my advantage,
many jibes at our past ministers, of some of whom he had diverting
memories, and especially of Major Cass,--of whom he always spoke as
"quel Cass," who had curious habits of night wandering and adventure
seeking, or, as Pius put it, "could not be quiet of nights." Either he
or his predecessor, I forget which, had insisted on putting his horse
through a ride round the parapet of the Pincian balustrade, where a
slip or a yielding stone meant death to the rider, which might have
been of no importance, but to the horse also, which would have been a
pity. And the old man liked a sly thrust at any of us who had made a
blunder.

While thus in charge of the diplomatic relations of my government
without its recognition, the Department sent out a chaplain, an
ex-chaplain of the House of Representatives, who, having served his
time in that capacity, was entitled to a vacation in Europe, and came
with recommendations to me. Protestant worship was forbidden within
the walls of Rome, but to induce the English Protestants to come to
Rome and spend their money there, they were allowed to worship in a
sort of warehouse outside the Porta del Popolo. This was repugnant
to our democratic ways, and the new chaplain insisted on having his
chapel inside the walls. So I "put on cheek" and hired in the name
of the legation an apartment with a huge reception room close to the
Piazza di Spagna, put up the arms of the United States of America,
and opened the reception room for public worship as the chapel of the
legation,--the first instance in recorded time of Protestant worship
in the Papal city. The sequel was amusing, for as Sunday was my only
holiday, and I always spent it on the Campagna, the chaplain cut me
dead for not attending his services and keeping Sunday.

I expected some admonitory allusion to this achievement when next
I saw the Pope, but no notice was ever taken of it either by the
superior or the lower authorities, and so far as I know the church of
my planting flourished as long as the city remained under the Papal
rule, but with no more of my watering. The Pope was, I am persuaded,
quite indifferent to it, for, devout and unquestioning believer in
his own divine authority as he was, he was not a bigot, and not of
a persecuting disposition, but he was only a part of an immense and
intricate machine, over the movements of which neither he nor any
other Pope could have much control. He had every possible disposition
to be that ideal ruler, a benevolent despot, but even in that little
realm the details of government were impossible of control by the most
competent head of a government; they were necessarily left to the
incompetent, bigoted, and zealous administrators chosen by the
secondary chiefs of the departments, all the most conservative of men,
with a reverence for the abuses and usages of the old régime. It was
personal government down to the lowest grade of responsibility. The
Pope presided and bore the responsibility of the proceedings, but
Antonelli was the real ruler of the States of the Church.

And Antonelli was the very impersonation of unscrupulous and malignant
intellect, subtle with all the Italian subtlety, and unscrupulous as
any of the brigands from the community in which he had his origin. He
was in those days a cardinal of the order of deacons, and only in his
later career a priest, which fact is sometimes made the excuse for his
frank and notorious disregard of the rule of chastity, nor did he seem
to be concerned that his amours were the common gossip of Rome. I was
one day in his anteroom waiting for an audience when a lady came to
visit him, and when she was announced he flew to receive her with the
ardor of a boy in love, and with such open and passionate expressions
of affection as could be seen only in a southern nature. But he
had none of the slowness of action or decision which we attribute
sometimes to the languor of tropical natures. In business, as in love,
he lost no time, and never was at a loss for his expedient, but came
at once to a decision, and gave it on the spot. When the cruise of the
Alabama gave rise to diplomatic correspondence, and our government
protested against her receiving such treatment from neutrals as would
facilitate her career, I was, amongst my colleagues under similar
obligations, charged to protest against her being admitted to the
privileges of a national man-of-war in the port of Civita Vecchia.
Antonelli replied to my communication of the protest that she would be
admitted to the port with the same privileges as a man-of-war of any
other nation, and the reply was given with almost explosive promptness
and vivacity. But until a request for relaxation of the passport
regulations in favor of Southerners was made by some one professing to
speak on behalf of our own government, which was in my second year,
he never permitted the least bending of them, and only in important
cases, where strong personal influence was brought to bear, issued
passports of the Foreign Office for Southern Americans to leave the
city.

Antonelli had a face which gave one an idea of the expression "beauté
du Diable," for a more perfect type of Satanic intelligence and
malignity than it showed at times I cannot conceive. If I had been a
figure painter, I should certainly have painted him as Mephistopheles,
as he appeared in the audience room in his close-fitting purple
costume with scarlet trimmings, his long coat-tails flying behind him
when he moved like the fringe of a flame. He was the most curious
contrast to the Pope, with his humorous and kindly manner, that it is
possible to conceive, for the Cardinal was nothing if not sardonic and
serious. The very slightest trace of humor would have transformed him
completely.

Unique as was the government, so was the position of a consul. It had
something of the exterritoriality of the same position in the Turkish
empire. The arms of my government over my door were a protection
against legal process, and I imagine that my predecessor had so
employed it, for when I had my first clothes made the tailor refused
to send them to the consulate till they were paid for. I had a right
to carry arms and shoot anywhere in the territory of the Pope, and I
had an absolute control over the passports, i.e. over the movements of
my fellow citizens, for no one who had come to Rome with the passport
of the United States of America could leave it without my visa, and I
could sequestrate the passport whenever I saw fit. But on the part of
my own government the consideration afforded was the minimum of its
kind. I had no salary, and my compensation was in fees, viz. those on
passports and the few invoices of goods sent to America, with such
notarial business as might arise. The late consul had resigned, and
gone home to fight for the Confederate cause, leaving the consulate
in the hands of a French secretary, an old and needy teacher of his
native language whenever he could find a pupil. He was satisfied with
the pittance my own means allowed me to give him, and he wrote, in a
much better French than mine would have been, the dispatches to the
Vatican. I could talk French fluently if not correctly, and that
sufficed. Before leaving Washington, I had received a hint from a
friend in the Department of State that the fewer dispatches I troubled
them with the higher would be my favor in the department, so that,
with the exception of my quarterly accounts, I had little official
writing to do; but when I came to Rome again in 1882, I was told by my
successor of that date that my file of dispatches to the department
was the only one which existed in the consular archives of the Papal
occupation of Rome.

Rome was in those days the Lotophagitis of our century, whose
population lived in an artificial peace, a sort of dreamland--artists
who, whether German, French, English, Americans, or Russians, were
more or less imbued with the feeling of the old art, and who found
their _clientéle_ in people who believed, as I have heard some say,
that _any_ picture painted in Rome was better than any picture painted
elsewhere! There was, therefore, a continual exportation of copies,
good and bad, of the old masters and a few landscapes for the
remembering of localities, but the quality of the art was of trifling
importance to the buyers--it was "done in Rome," and that sufficed as
merit. The Café Greco, haunt of the race of artists since Salvator
Rosa, was in its original and charming, if rude, simplicity, and there
came all the artists to take their after-dinner cup. Old John
Gibson, though not the oldest of the habitués, was the chief of our
Anglo-American community; Randolph Rogers, Mosier, Reinhart, Story,
and two or three other sculptors, whose names I have forgotten, and
two or three American landscape painters, of whom Tilton was chief at
the time of my arrival, had the monopoly of American patronage, and
every wealthy American who came conceived it his duty to patronize
American art, while our government had the tradition of always sending
an artist to Rome as consul.

Charlotte Cushman, a famous actress of her day, was the nucleus of a
little clique of women sculptors, Miss Stebbins, Harriet Hosmer,
and one or two others of lesser fame. Accordingly, she made war on
sculptors of the other sex in all the curious ways of womanly malice,
in order to the exclusive reaping by her protégées of the golden
harvest. I had known her years before, when she was still on the stage
and I the dramatic and art critic of the New York "Evening Post," and,
as our relations had then been cordial, it was natural that she should
"take me up" on my arrival. Her hospitality was large--dinners,
musical evenings, etc., and she had a "salon," to all which I was a
welcome guest, and the cordiality lasted until she thought it time to
make use of me. She then proposed to me to undertake the demolition
of the fictitious reputations of the leading American sculptors,
especially Story, Mosier, and Rogers, and, when I replied that I had
then the intention of returning to the occupation of a landscape
painter, and that in that position, as well as in that of consul
and in a manner the protector of all my countrymen, it would be
inconsistent with the position to publish criticisms on my fellow
artists, the thermometer of her regard fell at once, and I had instant
evidence that I was out of her list of friends.

Her coolness was changed to active hostility by another case of
conflicting interests. The recognition of passports issued before
the rebellion having been interdicted by the government, the consuls
received an order to cancel all such as had been issued prior to the
order, and to issue new ones only on the oath of allegiance being
taken by the recipient. There was also a charge of five dollars for
the passport, which was to be renewed after a year. Charlotte was,
amongst her other qualities, avaricious, and though wealthy and
ostentatious she rebelled at expenditure which did not show, and when
it came time for her to leave Rome for the summer, and her passport
came for visa, I stopped it and notified her to take out a new one.
She refused, and confiding in the friendly personal relations which
had existed between her and Seward, she wrote to the department
protesting against my action and making formal complaint of my
discourtesy. Seward replied that I was obeying my orders and that the
passport must be taken and paid for. From that day war was open and
malignant. Of course I was interdicted from responding in any way to
her attacks, but I found them of no great importance; though when I
was sent to Crete, four years later, she had influence enough to get
her nephew appointed consul in succession.

In the years when Miss Cushman was on the stage I had understood her
pretty well, and, though she had done what was possible to give me a
good impression of her, I do not think I was ever much persuaded of
her goodness or surprised at the enmity she showed when I came into
collision with her interests. I think she possessed an utterly selfish
nature, was not at all scrupulous in the attainment of her purposes,
and was, in effect, that most dangerous member of society, a
strong-willed and large-brained woman without a vestige of principle.
She had a diabolical magnetism which in her best part, Meg Merrilies,
had a sensuous attraction I have never known so powerful in another
woman. Her Queen Katherine was a failure, and she could not play the
part of a refined woman, but into that of Meg Merrilies, an adaptation
of her own of Sir Walter Scott's novel, she put her whole nature--it
was her very self as far as she would let herself be seen.

When I had a studio in New York I had as next-door neighbor an artist
who was scene painter to the company in which Charlotte used to play
at the old Park Theatre, and the stories he told me of her in that
connection were terrible. My friend had never dared to speak of her
openly, and only did so to me with a caution that if what he told me
got to Miss Cushman's ears she was quite capable of silencing him
in the most effective manner. I am of opinion that he judged her
correctly, for she must have been a tiger when her passions were
aroused, capable of anything, and I was careful never to give her more
serious cause of offense than the doing of my official duty. Over
those whom she chose to fascinate, she had an extraordinary power, and
I have known young women who were so completely under her control as
to be unable to escape from it when they found out her real nature
except by flight.

If she had been beautiful she might have set the social world
topsy-turvy. I think she was the cleverest woman I ever knew. Her tact
was extraordinary, and she never failed to impress the visitors to
Rome with her sincerity and benevolence, though she really possessed
neither of those qualities. She was an immense illustration of a maxim
of Dante Rossetti to the effect that artists had nothing to do with
morality. She was always on the stage--in the most familiar act and in
the presence of strangers she never lost sight of the footlights,
and the best acting I ever saw her in was in private and in the
representation of some comedy or tragedy of her own interests. She
played with a marvelous power one part, and all others were but
variations of that or failures--it was not art which dominated her,
but the simulation of nature, and that her own, which is not the same
thing as art, as we all ought to know.

Between herself and the sculptor Rogers, who was, in his way, as
clever as she, there was an implacable war, veiled by the ordinary
forms of civility, which both were careful never to break over. Miss
Cushman had begun her career as a singer, but, her voice failing,
she had to be content to remain on the stage of the theatre; but she
always retained a certain dramatic quality of voice, and, within a
very limited register, she sang with great power and pathos. Two of
her favorite songs were Kingsley's "The Sands of Dee" and the "Three
Fishermen," which, as she sang them, rarely failed to affect those who
heard them for the first time to tears. Rogers was an admirable mimic
and sang those songs with such a close rendering of the voice and
manner (for Miss Cushman's voice was rather that of a man than one
belonging to her own sex), with just a touch of burlesque, that he
brought out roars of laughter; and when the two cordial enemies met in
society somebody was sure to ask Rogers to sing "The Sands of Dee,"
which he did with good will, and Miss Cushman was obliged, to her
intense anger, to applaud the caricature of her best performance. It
was cruel, but he was merciless, and spared no exaggeration of her
voice, her dramatic manner, and a way she had of sprawling over the
piano, producing an ensemble which made it impossible to hear her
again in the same songs without a disposition to laugh.

An incident occurred at this time which made Miss Cushman's position
in regard to the quarrel with the consulate still more difficult. It
was not long after the advent of the famous horse-tamer John S. Rarey,
of whom she had been a pupil in America when he first came out. A
person professing to be Rarey was touring Europe and teaching his
manner of breaking horses, beginning at Copenhagen and following the
seashore to Naples, whence he came to Rome and was received with great
enthusiasm by Miss Cushman, for at that time, and while the war was
in its critical stage, American lions were very rare in Rome. The
horse-tamer was, on her authority, made the guest of the American
community, breakfasted, dined, and fêted, and a large subscription
was made for a class in horse-breaking. At this juncture I heard of
a performance of the _soi-disant_ Rarey at Naples, in which he had
nearly killed a beautiful young mare, and, knowing that the system of
Rarey did not include cruelty, I began to doubt the identity of the
tamer. I called for the passport with which he had come, and which
was, as usual, deposited at the police office, and discovered that it
was issued by a "vice-consul _pro tempore_" at Dresden, an officer not
recognized by our regulations, bad and loose as they were, and a
man whose name, moreover, was not on the consular list, though the
passport was on a regular form. I at once wrote to the police,
requesting them to cause the said John S. Rarey to prove his identity.

The summons to the police office brought him to the consulate the next
morning before I was out of bed (the office and my bedroom constituted
the headquarters of the government of the United States of America
at Rome), with a petition to me to request the police to delay the
examination until the next day, as he had two friends who would
identify him, but who were that day (it was Sunday) at Tivoli for the
day. As an escape was impossible, and he was in a nervous trepidation
which, it was clear to see, was awful funk, I wrote the note desired;
and, before the day was out, he had gone to my English colleague, the
amiable Severn, and confessed that he was an impostor, a Canadian, and
asked for English protection. Severn replied that without my consent
he could do nothing for him; he had come with an American passport
and must abide by it, unless I gave him up. He was wilted, in such
a fright as I never saw a man in before or since, and he had good
reason, for the penalty of coming to Rome with a false passport was
imprisonment in St. Angelo. Meanwhile Miss Cushman had gone into
heroics over the insult I was offering so distinguished a man as to
suspect his identity, and all her clique were united in abusing me;
but on Monday the impostor slipped out of Rome by the connivance of
Severn, the police, and myself, after I had attached the amount of the
subscriptions for his class, which were still lying at the bankers',
and pledged him to abstain in future from any similar impersonation.
As Miss Cushman had stood sponsor for him, she having been a pupil of
the real Rarey, his confession was a mortification which she
visited on my head, but as it disarmed her I was tranquil over the
consequences.

I was continually at war with the Confederate Americans, galled to
extreme bitterness by the right I had of compelling them to take the
oath of allegiance before renewing their passports. Amongst them was a
very beautiful woman, a Virginian, and the wife of a commodore in the
navy of the United States of America, then on service in the Potomac.
She refused to take the oath, and insulted me in the grossest manner
and in public, as an insulter of ladies, _etc., etc_. But all the
influence she could bring to bear could not get her passport from the
police without my visa; and at last, despairing of escape from Rome,
she came to make her peace, meeting me at the bank, but unwilling to
accept the degradation of coming to the consulate. "You are not going
to make me come to your dirty little consulate, are you?" she said; to
which I replied, "Oh, no; my secretary shall administer the oath to
you in your bedroom, if you choose;" but, in the end, she had to take
the oath and sign it, as did many of her compatriots. Amongst the
Southerners who came under my administration was the wife of General
Winfield Scott, commander-in-chief of our army, who actually died
under my care, without a friend or relative near her.

This social warfare, the consequence of my official position, had the
effect of giving me occupation and excitement, and I was sustained
cordially by the loyal Americans in Rome, so that the position, though
unremunerative, was rather pleasant than otherwise. In the course of
the summer after my arrival, ex-Governor Randall of Wisconsin came as
minister, his appointment being intended to "keep the place warm" for
General Rufus King, a personal friend of Seward, to whom the place
was promised whenever he should be tired of fighting, or qualified by
glory for future political contests. Randall was a mere party hack;
he knew nothing of diplomacy or good manners, or of any language but
Western American. I took for him the house on the Pincian now known as
the House of the Four Winds, a magnificent situation for the summer.
He saw the sights, generally in a carriage, with a paper of fruit
on the front seat and me as cicerone; was presented at the Vatican,
presented me as chargé d'affaires, and, having his leave of absence in
his pocket, departed for a tour of Europe, bequeathing to me the honor
of paying his bills, rent, etc., down to the washing bill, to be
settled on his return, and never appeared again. I was left to pay out
of my empty pocket; and I never heard from him, though, a long time
after, I succeeded in recovering from the Treasury the amount of those
bills I had paid for Randall for which I could show vouchers; those
for which I had none I had to put to account of profit and loss, which
was, as long as I was in Rome, largely to the loss account, drafts on
my brother making up the deficiency. I was also, until it suspended
publication, Roman correspondent of John Bright's paper, which I think
was called the "Star."

After an interregnum of some months came another bed-warmer for
General King, this one a New York politician, also a friend of
Seward's, an ancient politician, who had recently married a young wife
desirous of a stay in some European capital, and, if possible, at the
expense of the government. These at least were gentlefolk, and paid
their bills without doing anything to scandalize the Romans. They
spent the winter and went home, and finally came General King.

Finding that my fees and sales of pictures (for I had taken up my
painting again and had sold a few small pictures) amounted to about
six hundred dollars a year, and were slowly increasing, I decided to
go home and bring my wife and child out. I had been absent more than a
year, and several months after being in Rome had the news of the birth
of a son. It was near being my death, for, on the evening of receiving
the news, I had gone to make a call on an English lady who lived in
the Villa Negroni, where the railway station now is, and close by the
prison where all the political offenders were kept, and which was
guarded by French soldiers. I was in a vein of profound meditation on
the news I had just received, and absorbed to that extent that I
kept on my course along the sidewalk in front of the prison, walking
towards the sentry, and did not hear his challenge till it had been
repeated three times, when I heard his rifle rattle as it came down to
the take aim, and suddenly became conscious that I had heard a sound,
the meaning of which must be "_Qui vive_?" I sung out lustily, "_Ami_"
and was told that if I was a friend the other side of the road was my
place.

I had discovered that the consular agent left by my predecessor at
Civita Vecchia was engaged in a system of espionage on behalf of the
Papal authorities, and had been issuing American passports to spies
whom they were employing in Italian territory, and I at once dismissed
him and informed the Italian government through Mr. Marsh, our
minister to Italy, and received a letter of thanks from that
government. From Washington a new consular agent was sent, and,
putting him in charge of the consulate, I started for home, going by
way of Turin, to see Mr. Marsh, and by diligence over Mont Cenis.
Subsequent events brought me much in contact with that admirable
diplomat and scholar, at that time the one bright feature of our
diplomatic service on the Continent. Our government received great
credit for sending such a man abroad to represent us, but the chance
of it was in the fact that he was closely related to Senator Edmunds
of Vermont, whose influence with the administration was sufficient to
secure any single nomination he insisted on, and who did insist on
the maintenance of Marsh in the diplomatic service. As Marsh had been
conspicuous in the advocacy of the Italian cause during the unitary
movement, he was designated by the circumstances for the American
legation to Italy, in which he honored his appointment as few of our
representatives at that epoch had done.

In fact, with the exception of Adams, at London, and Marsh, at Turin,
we had hardly a representative abroad, either consular or diplomatic,
who was a credit to the country. As the war continued, the importance
of being respected in Europe became more evident, and a change took
place; but the few men of respectable standing who were in foreign
countries representing the United States of America were appointed on
account of political pressure, and not on their merits. My colleague
at Venice, Howells, one of Mr. Lincoln's most fortunate appointments,
owed his position, not to his literary abilities, which were then
unknown to the country at large, but to his having written a campaign
life of Lincoln, a service which was always considered by the
successful candidate as entitling the biographer to some appointment.
A term of consular service was and is still considered the reward for
campaign services, personal or vicarious, and at the next change of
administration the consul was superseded by another, equally crude,
and with all to learn in his business.

What the character of the Americans as well as of the government,
as such, has suffered of derogation abroad from this political
huckstering with public offices, no one can know who was not much
abroad in the years preceding our war. Marsh was honored and beloved
at Rome by both King and people, as was Adams by the Court of St.
James, but the dead weight which the standing disrepute of our
diplomacy imposed on both those distinguished men can hardly now be
estimated. My predecessors at Rome, and the ministers before my time,
had left a bad odor behind them. One of them was notorious for his
devotion to a form of dissipation much and scandalously known at
Naples during the reign of the Bourbons as a springtime sport, and
which has since been the occasion of a noted crusade in England led by
Mr. Stead. Of a minister of the United States of America found drunk
in the streets of Berlin by the police, and a chargé d'affaires who,
in an outbreak at Constantinople, hoisted the flag over a brothel he
frequented, the memory is perhaps too old to have reached men born
much later than I, but for the twenty years of my first knowledge of
European matters our representation abroad was a disgrace to America.

I landed in New York the day after the battle of Gettysburg, and for
the first time in the history of our trouble I felt assured as to the
end, for I perceived that the attempt at invasion by the Confederacy
showed that the government of it felt its affairs to be in a desperate
condition, and the determination on the part of the North was
evidently unshaken. From that time I never felt any anxiety as to
the final result. I found my brother at the head of the construction
department of the revenue service, his friend Salmon P. Chase being
Secretary of the Treasury. He was desirous to keep me at home to
assist him, with which desire I was ready to conform, but the
opposition of his wife was so bitter that he had to decide against my
staying, and, taking my wife and boy, I returned to Rome. My brother
was already attacked by the malady of which, two years later, he died.

Arriving in Rome, and resuming the direction of the consulate, I found
to my dismay that General King had appointed as secretary of legation
a local American banker, a "Copperhead," who had in the name of the
government, but without authority, requested the Roman Ministry of
Foreign Affairs to dispense with the visa on the passports of all
American visitors, and Antonelli was, of course, too glad to be
relieved of the embarrassment which had been often caused him by the
regulation, which all the Southerners had asked to be relieved from.
Thus I found that the principal resource of the consulate was gone. As
the home government had given the strongest orders to protest against
any such exception being made of American passports, I, of course,
protested, but was informed that the rule had been taken at the
request of my own government; and, though Antonelli knew perfectly
that Hooker had no authority to enter into any negotiations with him
on any subject, and that he had no official position, it suited him
to accept the contrary, and my remonstrances to the minister, General
King, had no effect. I then laid the matter before the Department
of State at Washington, but, as General King was the close personal
friend of Seward, who was quite indifferent to diplomatic scandals
away from England, no attention was paid to my complaints, and I gave
up the consulate to Brown, the consular agent at Civita Vecchia, to
get what he could from it, and devoted myself entirely to painting,
by which, with a little writing, I made enough to live in the simple
manner which I was accustomed to.

Released from all obligations to remain at the consulate, I spent the
most of my time in sketching on the Campagna. Of all the landscape I
have ever seen, in the Alps, Sicily, Greece, the American forests and
lakes, or semi-tropical Florida, nothing has impressed me as did the
Roman Campagna in its then condition of decay and neglect. The beauty
of line of its mountain framework is still there, and passages here
and there are untouched, but the improvements of progress have
intruded in so many points that, as a whole, the solemn and poetic
aspect of those days is irretrievably lost. I used to sit out in the
most lonely passages painting into the twilight until I could no
longer distinguish my colors, and then tramp back to Rome at my
fastest, to get in before the gates closed for the night. If it was
not the rapture of art, it was the passion of poetic nature.

As fortune would have it, there was in Rome that winter Mr. George
G. Fogg, the minister of the United States of America at Berne, a
personal friend of Lincoln, and chairman of the Young Men's National
Committee, which arranged the convention that nominated him. On
Lincoln's election Fogg was offered his choice of the diplomatic
appointments, and selected Berne, the most modest position he could
take. He came to pass the Christmas holidays at Rome, and of course I
laid my case before him. He in turn put it before his late colleagues
in the House, and the committee on foreign affairs made a strong
representation at the Department of State; and, when Seward refused to
recall King, or take any measures to correct the injustice done me,
they struck out from the consular and diplomatic appropriation bill
the appropriation for the legation at Rome, which meant the abolition
of the legation, and I was a little later transferred to Crete, a
salaried post, where there was supposed to be nothing to do but make
my quarterly report.

My commission must have been one of the very last Lincoln signed, for
he was assassinated before it reached me. I was spending the evening
at the quarters of one of my best Roman friends, Mr. John A. King (a
cousin of, but not a sympathizer with, the general), when the news
came of the murder of Lincoln and the attempt on Seward, and very
vivid still is the recollection of the horror and grief we all felt.
But we also felt that the President's work was done, and that his
fame was set securely in history, beyond the chance of any political
blunder to damage it. Could he ever have devised a better death
in view of his future influence and honor? I learned from one of
Lincoln's Illinois friends, whom I later saw in Rome, that the
appointment in Crete was intended by the President as the recognition
of the injustice with which Seward had treated my case. My experience
of Seward's way of looking at public appointments and public
interests, when crossed by his personal relations, certainly went to
confirm the apprehensions of Mr. Fogg and his friends that Seward's
personal following would stand between him and the best interests of
the state. As Fogg used to put it, "He won't steal, himself, but he
don't care how much his friends steal." But my misfortune brought
about the abolition of what had always been a scandal and a job--the
legation of the United States of America to the Pope.





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