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Title: Notes of a Son and Brother
Author: James, Henry, 1843-1916
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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BY HENRY JAMES

A SMALL BOY AND OTHERS

NOTES OF A SON AND BROTHER



NOTES OF A SON AND BROTHER

[Illustration: _Pencil-drawn portrait of William James by himself about
1866_]



NOTES OF A
SON AND BROTHER

BY

HENRY JAMES

ILLUSTRATED

NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1914

COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

Published March, 1914



ILLUSTRATIONS


Pencil-drawn portrait of William James by himself, about
1866        _Frontispiece_

FACING
PAGE

Louis Osborne. Sketch from a letter of William James
(page 18)        18

Portrait in oils of Miss Katherine Temple, 1861        96

A leaf from the letter quoted on page 129        130

Sketch of G. W. James brought home wounded from the assault
on Fort Wagner        244

"The cold water cure at Divonne--excellent for melancholia."--From
a letter of William James (page 447)       448



I


It may again perhaps betray something of that incorrigible vagueness of
current in our educational drift which I have elsewhere[1] so
unreservedly suffered to reflect itself that, though we had come abroad
in 1855 with an eye to the then supposedly supreme benefits of Swiss
schooling, our most resolute attempt to tap that supply, after twenty
distractions, waited over to the autumn of the fourth year later on,
when we in renewed good faith retraced our steps to Geneva. Our parents
began at that season a long sojourn at the old Hôtel de l'Écu, which now
erects a somewhat diminished head on the edge of the rushing Rhone--its
only rival then was the Hôtel des Bergues opposite, considerably larger
and commanding more or less the view of that profiled crest of
Mont-Blanc which used to be so oddly likened to the head and face of a
singularly supine Napoleon. But on that side the shooting blue flood was
less directly and familiarly under the windows; in our position we
lived with it and hung over it, and its beauty, just where we mainly
congregated, was, I fear, my own sole happy impression during several of
those months. It was of a Sunday that we congregated most; my two
younger brothers had, in general, on that day their _sortie_ from the
Pensionnat Maquelin, a couple of miles out of town, where they were then
established, and W. J., following courses at the Academy, in its present
enriched and amplified form the University, mingled, failing livelier
recreation, in the family circle at the hotel. Livelier recreation,
during the hours of completest ease, consisted mostly, as the period
drew itself out, of those _courses_, along the lake and along the hills,
which offer to student-life in whatever phase, throughout that blest
country, the most romantic of all forms of "a little change"; enjoyed
too in some degree, but much more restrictedly, by myself--this an
effect, as I remember feeling it, of my considerably greater servitude.
I had been placed, separately, at still another Institution, that of M.
Rochette, who carried on an École Préparatoire aux Écoles Spéciales, by
which was meant in particular the Polytechnic School at Zurich, with
whatever other like curricula, always "scientific," might elsewhere be
aimed at; and I had been so disposed of under a flattering misconception
of my aptitudes that leaves me to-day even more wonderstruck than at
that immediate season of my distress.

I so feared and abhorred mathematics that the simplest arithmetical
operation had always found and kept me helpless and blank--the dire
discipline of the years bringing no relief whatever to my state; and
mathematics unmitigated were at the Institution Rochette the air we
breathed, building us up as they most officiously did for those other
grim ordeals and pursuits, those of the mining and the civil engineer,
those of the architectural aspirant and the technician in still other
fields, to which we were supposed to be addressed. Nothing of the sort
was indeed supposed of me--which is in particular my present
mystification; so that my assault of the preliminaries disclosed, feeble
as it strikingly remained, was mere darkness, waste and anguish. I found
myself able to bite, as the phrase was, into no subject there deemed
savoury; it was hard and bitter fruit all and turned to ashes in my
mouth. More extraordinary however than my good parents'
belief--eccentric on their part too, in the light of their usual
practice and disposition, their habit, for the most part, of liking for
us after a gasp or two whatever we seemed to like--was my own failure to
protest with a frankness proportioned to my horror. The stiffer
intellectual discipline, the discipline of physics and of algebra,
invoked for the benefit of an understanding undisputedly weak and shy,
had been accepted on my side as a blessing perhaps in disguise. It had
come to me by I know not what perversity that if I couldn't tackle the
smallest problem in mechanics or face without dismay at the blackboard
the simplest geometric challenge I ought somehow in decency to make
myself over, oughtn't really to be so inferior to almost everyone else.
That was the pang, as it was also the marvel--that the meanest minds and
the vulgarest types approached these matters without a sign of
trepidation even when they approached them, at the worst, without
positive appetite. My attempt not therefore to remain abnormal wholly
broke down, however, and when I at last withdrew from the scene it was
not even as a conspicuous, it was only as an obscure, a deeply hushed
failure. I joined William, after what had seemed to me an eternity of
woe, at the Academy, where I followed, for too short a time but with a
comparative recovery of confidence, such literary _cours_ as I might.

I puzzle it out to-day that my parents had simply said to themselves, in
serious concern, that I read too many novels, or at least read them too
attentively--_that_ was the vice; as also that they had by the contagion
of their good faith got me in a manner to agree with them; since I
could almost always enter, to the gain of "horizon" but too often to
the perversion of experience, into any view of my real interests,
so-called, that was presented to me with a dazzling assurance. I didn't
consider certainly that I was so forming my mind, and was doubtless
curious to see whether it mightn't, by a process flourishing in other
applications, get to some extent formed. It wasn't, I think, till I felt
the rapture of that method's arrest that I knew how grotesquely little
it had done for me. And yet I bore it afterwards no malice--resorting
again to that early fatalistic philosophy of which the general sense was
that almost anything, however disagreeable, had been worth while; so
unable was I to claim that it hadn't involved impressions. I positively
felt the impressional harvest rather rich, little as any item of it
might have passed at the time for the sort of thing one exhibits as a
trophy of learning. My small exhibition was all for myself and consisted
on the whole but of a dusty, spotty, ugly picture--I took it for ugly
well-nigh to the pitch of the sinister. Its being a picture at all--and
I clung to that--came from the personal and material facts of the place,
where I was the only scholar of English speech, since my companions,
with a Genevese predominance, were variously polyglot. They wondered, I
couldn't doubt, what I was doing among them, and what lost lamb, almost
audibly bleating, I had been charged to figure. Yet I remember no crude
chaff, no very free relation of any one with any one, no high pitch,
still less any low descent, of young pleasantry or irony; our manners
must have been remarkably formed, and our general tone was that of a
man-of-the-world discretion, or at the worst of a certain small
bourgeois circumspection. The dread in the Genevese of having definitely
to "know" strangers and thereby be at costs for any sort of hospitality
to them comes back to me as written clear; not less than their being of
two sorts or societies, sons of the townspeople pure and simple and sons
of the local aristocracy perched in certain of the fine old houses of
the Cité and enjoying a background of sturdily-seated lakeside villas
and deeply umbrageous campagnes. I remember thinking the difference of
type, complexion and general _allure_ between these groups more marked,
to all the senses, than any "social distinction" I had yet encountered.
But the great thing was that I could so simplify our enclosing scene
itself, round it in and make it compose--the dark, the dreary
Institution, squeezed into a tall, dim, stony-faced and stony-hearted
house at the very top of the Cité and directly in the rear of the
Cathedral, portions of the apse of which seem to me to have straggled
above or protruded toward it, with other odd extraneous masses than
itself pressing still nearer. This simplification, quite luxuriously for
my young mind, was to mere mean blackness of an old-world sordid order.
I recognised _rich_ blackness in other connections, but this was somehow
of a harsh tradition and a tragic economy; sordid and strong was what I
had from the first felt the place, though urging myself always to rub
off history from its stones, and suffering thus, after a fashion, by the
fact that with history it ought to be interesting and that I ought to
know just how and why it was. For that, I think, was ever both the
burden and the joy--the complication, I mean, of interest, and the
sense, in the midst of the ugly and the melancholy, that queer crooked
silent corners behind cathedrals wrought in their way for one, did
something, while one haunted them, to the imagination and the taste; and
that so, once more, since the generalisation had become a habit with me,
I couldn't, seeing and feeling these things, really believe I had picked
up nothing.

When I sat in a dusky upper chamber and read "French literature" with
blighted M. Toeppfer, son of a happier sire, as I was sure the charming
writer and caricaturist, in spite of cumbrous cares, must have been; or
when, a couple of times a week and in the same eternal twilight (we
groped almost lampless through the winter days, and our glimmering
tapers, when they sparsely appeared, smelt of a past age), I worried out
Virgil and Tite-Live with M. Verchère, or Schiller and Lessing with the
ruddy noisy little professor of German, who sat always, the lesson long,
in a light brown talma, the sides of which he caused violently to flap
for emphasis like agitated wings, I was almost conscious of the breath
of culture as I modestly aspired to culture, and was at any rate safe
for the time from a summons to the blackboard at the hands of awful
little M. Galopin, that dispenser of the paralysing chalk who most
affected me. Extremely diminutive and wearing for the most part a thin
inscrutable smile, the ghost of a tribute to awkwardness happily carried
off, he found in our barren interviews, I believed, a charm to
curiosity, bending afresh each time as over the handful of specimen
dust, unprecedented product at its finest, extracted from the scratched
soil of my intelligence. With M. Toeppfer I was almost happy; with each
of these instructors my hour was unshared, my exploits unwitnessed, by
others; but M. Toeppfer became a friend, shewed himself a _causeur_,
brightened our lesson with memories of his time in Paris, where, if I am
not mistaken, he had made, with great animation, his baccalauréat, and
whence it was my possibly presumptuous impression he had brought back a
state of health, apparently much impaired, which represented contrition
for youthful spirits. He had haunted the parterre of the Théâtre
Français, and when we read Racine his vision of Rachel, whom he had seen
there as often as possible, revived; he was able to say at moments how
she had spoken and moved, and I recall in particular his telling me that
on her entrance as Phèdre, borne down, in her languorous passion, by the
weight of her royal robes--"Que ces vains ornemens, que ces voiles me
pèsent!"--the long lapse of time before she spoke and while she sank
upon a seat filled itself extraordinarily with her visible woe. But
where he most gave me comfort was in bringing home to me that the house
commemorated, immortalised, as we call it, in the first of his father's
Nouvelles Genevoises, La Bibliothèque de mon Oncle, was none other than
the structure facing us where we sat and which so impinged and leaned on
the cathedral walls that he had but to indicate to me certain points
from the window of our room to reconstitute thrillingly the scenery, the
drollery, the whimsical action of the tale. _There_ was a demonstration
I could feel important, votary and victim of the "scene," the scene and
the "atmosphere" only, that I had been formed to be. That I called
interesting lore--called it so at least to myself, though feeling it at
the same time of course so little _directly_ producible that I could
perhaps even then have fronted this actually remote circumstance of my
never having produced it till this moment. There abode in me, I may add,
a sense that on any subject that did appeal and that so found me
ready--such subjects being indeed as yet vague, but immensely suggestive
of number--I should have grasped the confident chalk, welcomed the very
biggest piece, not in the least have feared the blackboard. They were
inscribed, alas for me, in no recognised course. I put my hand straight
on another of them, none the less, if not on a whole group of others, in
my ascent, each morning of the spring or the early summer sémestre, of
the admirable old Rue de la Tour de Boël, pronounced Boisl, which,
dusky, steep and tortuous, formed a short cut to that part of the Grand'
Rue in which the Academy was then seated.

It was a foul and malodorous way--I sniff again, during the tepid weeks,
its warm close air and that near presence of rank cheese which was in
those days almost everywhere, for the nostril, the note of urban
Switzerland; these things blessed me as I passed, for I passed straight
to freedom and away from M. Galopin; they mixed with the benediction of
the exquisite spring and the rapture, constantly renewed, though for too
short a period, of my now substituting literary, or in other words
romantic, studies for the pursuits of the Institution Rochette. I viewed
them as literary, these new branches of research, though in truth they
were loose enough and followed on loose terms. My dear parents, as if to
make up to me, characteristically, for my recent absurd strain to no
purpose, allowed me now the happiest freedom, left me to attend such
lectures as I preferred, only desiring that I should attend several a
week, and content--cherished memory that it makes of their forms with
me--that these should involve neither examinations nor reports. The
Academic authorities, good-natured in the extreme and accustomed to the
alien amateur, appear to have been equally content, and I was but too
delighted, on such lines, to attend anything or everything. My whole
impression now, with my self-respect re-established, was of something
exquisite: I was put to the proof about nothing; I deeply enjoyed the
confidence shown in my taste, not to say in my honour, and I sat out
lecture after lecture as I might have sat out drama, alternate tragedy
and comedy, beautifully performed--the professor in each case figuring
the hero, and the undergraduates, much more numerous, though not in
general maturer than those of the Institution, where I had been, to my
perception, every one's junior, partaking in an odd fashion of the
nature at once of troupe and spectators. The scientific subjects, in a
large suggestive way, figured tragedy, I seemed to feel, and I pushed
this form to the point of my following, for conscience' sake, though not
with the last regularity, lurid demonstrations, as they affected me, on
anatomy and physiology; these in turn leading to my earnest view, at the
Medical School, of the dissection of a _magnifique gendarme_--which
ordeal brought me to a stand. It was by the literary and even by the
philosophic _leçons_ that the office of bright comedy was discharged, on
the same liberal lines; at the same time that I blush to remember with
how base a blankness I must have several times listened to H. F. Amiel,
admirable writer, analyst, moralist. His name and the fact of his having
been then a mild grave oracle of the shrine are all that remain with me
(I was fit to be coupled with my cousin Anne King, named in another
place, who, on the same Genevese scene, had had early lessons from the
young Victor Cherbuliez, then with all his music in him, and was to live
to mention to me that he had been for her "like any one else"); the
shrine, not to say the temple itself, shining for me truly, all that
season, with a mere confounding blur of light. Was it an effect of my
intensity of reaction from what I had hated? was it to a great extent
the beguiling beauty of a wonderful Swiss spring, into which all things
else soothingly melted, becoming together a harmony without
parts?--whatever the cause, I owed it to some accident only to be
described, I think, as happy, that I moved, those three months, in an
acutely enjoying and yet, as would at present appear, a but scantly
comparing or distinguishing maze of the senses and the fancy. So at
least, to cover this so thin report of my intelligence and my sum of
acquisition and retention, I am reduced to supposing.

What essentially most operated, I make out, however, was that force of a
renewed sense of William's major activity which always made the
presumption of any degree of importance or success fall, with a sort of
ecstasy of resignation, from my own so minor. Whatever he might happen
to be doing made him so interesting about it, and indeed, with the
quickest concomitance, about everything else, that what I probably most
did, all the while, was but to pick up, and to the effect not a bit of
starving but quite of filling myself, the crumbs of his feast and the
echoes of his life. His life, all this Geneva period, had been more of a
feast than mine, and I recall the sense of this that I had got on the
occasion of my accompanying him, by his invitation, toward the end of
our stay, to a students' celebration or carouse, which was held at such
a distance from the town, at a village or small bourg, up in the Vaud
back-country, that we had, after a considerable journey by boat and in
heterogeneous and primitive conveyances, tightly packed, to spend two
nights there. The Genevese section of the Société de Zoffingue, the
great Swiss students' organisation for brotherhood and beer, as it might
summarily be defined, of which my brother had become a member, was to
meet there certain other sections, now vague to me, but predominantly
from the German-speaking Cantons, and, holding a Commerce, to toast
their reunion in brimming bowls. It had been thought the impression
might amuse, might even interest me--for it was not denied that there
were directions, after all, in which I _could_ perhaps take notice; and
this was doubtless what after a fashion happened, though I felt out in
the cold (and all the more that the cold at the moment happened to be
cruel), as the only participant in view not crowned with the charming
white cap of the society, becoming to most young heads, and still less
girt with the parti-coloured ribbon or complementary scarf, which set
off even the shabby--for shabbiness considerably figured. I participated
vaguely but not too excludedly; I suffered from cold, from hunger and
from scant sleeping-space; I found the Bernese and the Bâlois strange
representatives of the joy of life, some of them the finest gothic
grotesques--but the time none the less very long; all of which,
however, was in the day's work if I might live, by the imagination, in
William's so adaptive skin. To see that he was adaptive, was initiated,
and to what a happy and fruitful effect, that, I recollect, was my
measure of content; which was filled again to overflowing, as I have
hinted, on my finding him so launched at the Academy after our stretch
of virtual separation, and just fancying, with a freedom of fancy, even
if with a great reserve of expression, how much he might be living and
learning, enjoying and feeling, amid work that was the right work for
him and comrades, consecrated comrades, that at the worst weren't the
wrong. What was not indeed, I always asked myself, the right work for
him, or the right thing of any kind, that he took up or looked at or
played with?--failing, as I did more than ever at the time I speak of,
of the least glimpse of his being below an occasion. Whatever he played
with or worked at entered at once into his intelligence, his talk, his
humour, as with the action of colouring-matter dropped into water or
that of the turning-on of a light within a window. Occasions waited on
him, had always done so, to my view; and there he was, that springtime,
on a level with them all: the effect of which recognition had much, had
more than aught else, to say to the charming silver haze just then
wrapped about everything of which I was conscious. He had formed two or
three young friendships that were to continue and to which even the
correspondence of his later years testifies; with which it may have had
something to do that the Swiss _jeunesse_ of the day was, thanks to the
political temperature then prevailing, in a highly inflamed and exalted
state, and particularly sensitive to foreign sympathy, however platonic,
with the national fever. It was the hour at which the French Emperor was
to be paid by Victor Emmanuel the price of the liberation of Lombardy;
the cession of Nice and Savoie were in the air--with the consequence, in
the Genevese breast, of the new immediate neighbourhood thus constituted
for its territory. Small Savoie was to be replaced, close against it, by
enormous and triumphant France, whose power to absorb great mouthfuls
was being so strikingly exhibited. Hence came much hurrying to and fro,
much springing to arms, in the way of exercise, and much flocking to the
standard--"demonstrations," in other words, of the liveliest; one of
which I recall as a huge tented banquet, largely of the white caps,
where I was present under my brother's wing, and, out of a sea of
agitated and vociferous young heads, sprang passionate protests and
toasts and vows and declaimed verses, a storm of local patriotism,
though a flurry happily short-lived.

All this was thrilling, but the term of it, by our consecrated custom,
already in view; we were transferred at a bound, for the rest of that
summer of 1860, to the care, respectively, of a pair of kindly
pedagogues at Bonn-am-Rhein; as to which rapid phase I find remembrance
again lively, with a letter or two of William's to reinforce it. Yet I
first pick up as I pass several young lines from Geneva, and would fain
pick up too the drawing that accompanied them--this by reason of the
interest of everything of the sort, without exception, that remains to
us from his hand. He at a given moment, which came quite early, as
completely ceased to ply his pencil as he had in his younger time
earnestly and curiously exercised it; and this constitutes exactly the
interest of his case. No stroke of it that I have recovered but
illustrates his aptitude for drawing, his possible real mastery of the
art that was yet, in the light of other interests, so utterly to drop
from him; and the example is rare of being so finely capable only to
become so indifferent. It was thanks to his later indifference that he
made no point of preserving what he had done--a neglect that, still more
lucklessly, communicated itself to his circle; so that we also let
things go, let them again and again stray into the desert, and that what
might be reproducible is but the handful of scraps that have happened
not to perish. "Mother," he writes to his father in absence, "does
nothing but sit and cry for you. She refuses to associate with us and
has one side of the room to herself. She and the Aunt are now in the
Aunt's room. Wilky and Bobby, at home for the day, are at church. It is
a hard grey day. H. is telling a story to Louis Osborne, and I will try
to make a sketch of them. There has been a terrible bise; the two
Cornhill Magazines have come; Mrs. Thomas has been too sick to be at
dinner, and we have seen something of some most extraordinary English
people." Mrs. Thomas, of New York, was a handsome American widow with
handsome children, all from the Avenue Gabriel in Paris, and with the
boys enjoying life, among many little compatriots, at the admired
establishment of M. Haccius, even as our small brothers were doing at
that of M. Maquelin; yet with their destiny of ultimate Europeanisation,
of finally complete absorption into the French system, already rather
written for them--as a like history, for like foredoomed young subjects,
was in those years beginning to be prefigured, through marriages of
daughters and other such beguilements, almost wherever one looked. The
extraordinary English people were perhaps an amiable family of whom I
retain an image as conversing with our parents at the season when the
latter were in their prompt flush of admiration for George Eliot's
first novel, Adam Bede, then just given to the world and their copy of
which they had rejoicingly lent to their fellow Anglo-Saxons. I catch
again the echo of their consternation on receiving it back with the
remark that all attempt at an interest in such people, village
carpenters and Methodists, had proved vain--for that style of
Anglo-Saxon; together with that of my own excited wonder about such
other people, those of the style in question, those somehow prodigiously
presented by so rare a delicacy, so proud a taste, and made thus to
irradiate a strange historic light. It _referred_ them, and to a social
order, making life more interesting and more various; even while our
clear democratic air, that of our little family circle, quivered as with
the monstrosity. It might, this note that made us, in the parlance of
to-day, sit up, fairly have opened to me that great and up to then
unsuspected door of the world from which the general collection of
monstrosities, its existence suddenly brought home to us, would
doubtless stretch grandly away. The story I told Louis Osborne has quite
passed from me, but not little Louis himself, an American child of the
most charming and appealing intelligence, marked by some malady that was
more or less permanently to cripple, or was even cruelly to destroy him,
and whom it was a constant joy to aspire to amuse. His mother was
schooling her elder son in the company of our own brothers, his father
having established them all at Geneva that he might go for a tour in the
East. Vivid to me still is the glimpse I happened to get one Sunday
betimes of the good Maquelin couple, husband and wife, in deep
mourning--a touch of the highest decency--who had come, with faces a
yard long, to announce to Mrs. Osborne the death of her husband in the
Holy Land, communicated to them, by slow letter, in the first instance.
With little Louis on one's knee one didn't at all envy M. and Madame
Maquelin; and than this small faint phantom of sociable helpless little
listening Louis none more exquisite hovers before me.

[Illustration: Most eternal love from every one, & from Louis Osborne.

Louis Osborne. Sketch from a letter of William James (page 18).]

With which mild memories thus stands out for me too the lively
importance, that winter, of the arrival, from the first number, of the
orange-covered earlier Cornhill--the thrill of each composing item of
that first number especially recoverable in its intensity. Is anything
like that thrill possible to-day--for a submerged and blinded and
deafened generation, a generation so smothered in quantity and number
that discrimination, under the gasp, has neither air to breathe nor room
to turn round? Has any like circumstance now conceivably the value, to
the charmed attention, so far as anything worth naming attention, or any
charm for it, is anywhere left, of the fact that Trollope's Framley
Parsonage there began?--let alone the still other fact that the
Roundabout Papers did and that Thackeray thus appeared to us to
guarantee personally, intimately, with a present audibility that was as
the accent of good company, the new relation with him and with others of
company not much worse, as they then seemed, that such a medium could
establish. To speak of these things, in truth, however, is to feel the
advantage of being able to live back into the time of the more sovereign
periodical appearances much of a compensation for any reduced prospect
of living forward. For these appearances, these strong time-marks in
such stretches of production as that of Dickens, that of Thackeray, that
of George Eliot, had in the first place simply a genial weight and
force, a direct importance, and in the second a command of the permeable
air and the collective sensibility, with which nothing since has begun
to deserve comparison. They were enrichments of life, they were _large_
arrivals, these particular renewals of supply--to which, frankly, I am
moved to add, the early Cornhill giving me a pretext, even the frequent
examples of Anthony Trollope's fine middle period, looked at in the
light of old affection and that of his great heavy shovelfuls of
testimony to constituted English matters; a testimony of course looser
and thinner than Balzac's to _his_ range of facts, but charged with
something of the big Balzac authority. These various, let alone
numerous, deeper-toned strokes of the great Victorian clock were so many
steps in the march of our age, besides being so many notes, full and
far-reverberating, of our having high company to keep--high, I mean, to
cover all the ground, in the sense of the genial pitch of it. So it was,
I remember too, that our parents spoke of their memory of the successive
surpassing attestations of the contemporary presence of Scott; to which
we might have replied, and doubtless after no great space began to
reply, that our state, and even their later one, allowing for a certain
gap, had nothing to envy any other. I witnessed, for that matter, with
all my senses, young as I was, the never-to-be-equalled degree of
difference made, for what may really be called the world-consciousness
happily exposed to it, by the prolonged "coming-out" of The Newcomes,
yellow number by number, and could take the general civilised
participation in the process for a sort of basking in the light of
distinction. The process repeated itself for some years under other
forms and stimuli, but the merciless change was to come--so that through
whatever bristling mazes we may now pick our way it is not to find them
open into any such vales of Arcady. My claim for our old privilege is
that we did then, with our pace of dignity, proceed from vale to vale.



II


My point at any rate, such as it is, would be that even at the age I had
reached in 1860 something of the happier time still lingered--the time
in which a given product of the press might have a situation and an
aspect, a considerability, so to speak, a circumscription and an _aura_;
room to breathe and to show in, margin for the casting of its nets. The
occasion at large was doubtless shrinking, one could note--shrinking
like the unlet "house" on a night of grandest opera, but "standing room
only" was not yet everywhere the sign, and the fine deliberate thing
could here and there find its seat. I really indeed might have held it
the golden age of letters still, and of their fond sister leisure, with
that quiet swim into our ken on its appointed day, during our Bonn
summer, of the charming Once a Week of the prime, the prime of George
Meredith and Charles Reade and J. E. Millais and George du Maurier;
which our father, to bridge our separation from him, sent us, from Paris
and elsewhere, in prompt and characteristic relief of our plotted, our
determined strict servitude to German, and to the embrace of the sweet
slim essence of which the strain of one's muscles round a circular ton
of advertisement was not a condition attached. I should like to say that
I rioted, all that season, on the supreme German classics _and_ on Evan
Harrington, with Charles Reade's A Good Fight, the assured little
prelude to The Cloister and the Hearth, thrown in; and I should indeed
be ready to say it, were not the expression gross for the really hushed
piety of my attitude during those weeks. It was perhaps not quite till
then that I fully emerged from the black shadow of the École
Préparatoire aux Écoles Spéciales, not quite till we had got off beyond
the blest Rhine at Basle that I ceased to hear and feel all but just
behind me, portentous perhaps of another spring, the cold breath of the
monster. The guttery Bonn-Gasse was during those weeks of the year close
and stale, and the house of our good Herr Doctor Humpert, professor at
the Bonn Gymnasium, in which I shared a room with my brother Wilky,
contracted and dim, as well as fragrant through a range of assaults that
differed only in kind and not at all in number from those of the street
itself; and yet I held the period and the whole situation idyllic--the
slightly odd sense of which was one's being to that extent attuned to
the life of letters and of (oh the great thing!) impressions "gone in
for." To feel a unity, a character and a tone in one's impressions, to
feel them related and all harmoniously coloured, that _was_ positively
to face the æsthetic, the creative, even, quite wondrously, the critical
life and almost on the spot to commence author. They had begun, the
impressions--that was what was the matter with them--to scratch quite
audibly at the door of liberation, of extension, of projection; what
they were _of_ one more or less knew, but what they were _for_ was the
question that began to stir, though one was still to be a long time at a
loss directly to answer it.

There, for the present, was the rub, the dark difficulty at which one
could but secretly stare--secretly because one was somehow ashamed of
its being there and would have quickly removed one's eyes, or tried to
clear them, if caught in the act of watching. Impressions were not
merely all right but were the dearest things in the world; only one
would have gone to the stake rather than in the first place confessed to
some of them, or in the second announced that one really lived by them
and built on them. This failure then to take one's stand in the
connection could but come from the troubled view that they were naught
without a backing, a stout stiff hard-grained underside that would hold
them together and of which the terrible name was simply science,
otherwise learning, and learning exclusively by books, which were at
once the most beautiful and the most dreadful things in the world, some
of them right, strikingly, showily right, some of them disgracefully and
almost unmentionably wrong, that is grossly irrelevant, as for instance
a bound volume of Once a Week would be, but remarkable above all for
overwhelming number and in general for defiance of comprehension. It was
true that one had from time to time the rare adventure of one's surprise
at understanding parts of them none the less--understanding more than a
very little, more than much too little; but there was no practical
support to speak of in that, even the most one could ever hope to
understand being a mere drop in the bucket. Never did I quite strike it
off, I think, that impressions might themselves _be_ science--and this
probably because I didn't then know them, when it came to the point, as
anything but life. I knew them but by that collective and
unpractical--many persons would have said that frivolous--name; which
saw me little further. I was under the impression--this in fact the very
liveliest of what might have been called the lot--that life and
knowledge were simply mutual opposites, one inconsistent with the other;
though hovered about, together, at the same time, by the anomaly that
when knowledge impinged upon life, pushed against her, as it were, and
drove her to the wall, it was all right, and such was knowledge's way
and title; whereas when life played the like tricks with knowledge
nothing but shame for the ruder, even if lighter, party could accrue.
There was to come to me of course in time the due perception that
neither was of the least use--use to myself--without the other; but
meanwhile, and even for much after, the extreme embarrassment continued:
to whichever of the opposites one gave one's self it was with a sense of
all but basely sacrificing the other. However, the conflict and the
drama involved in the question at large was doubtless what was to make
consciousness--under whichever of the two names one preferred to
entertain it--supremely intense and interesting.

This then is by way of saying that the idyll, as I have called it, of
the happy juncture I glanced at a moment back came from the fact that I
didn't at all know how much I was living, and meanwhile quite supposed I
was considerably learning. When, rising at some extraordinary hour of
the morning, I went forth through the unawakened town (and the Germans,
at that time, heaven knows, were early afoot too), and made for the open
country and the hill, in particular, of the neighbouring Venusberg,
long, low and bosky, where the dews were still fresh and ancient mummies
of an old cloister, as I remember it, somewhere perched and exposed, I
was doing, to my sense, an attuned thing; attuned, that is, to my
coming home to bend double over Schiller's Thirty Years' War in the
strenuous spirit that would keep me at it, or that would vary it with
Goethe's Wahlverwandtschaften, till late in the warm afternoon. I found
German prose much tougher than the verse, and thereby more opposed to
"life," as to which I of course couldn't really shake off the sense that
it might be worked as infinitely comprehensive, comprehensive even of
the finest discriminations against it. The felicity, present but
naturally unanalysed, was that the whole thing, our current episode,
_was_ exactly comprehensive of life, presenting it in particular as
characteristically German, and therein freshly vivid--with the great
vividness that, by our parents' vague wish, we were all three after or
out for; in spite of our comparatively restricted use, in those days, of
these verbal graces. Such therefore was the bright unity of our
experience, or at least of my own share in it--this luck that, through
the intensity of my wanting it to, all consciousness, all my own
immediate, _tasted_ German, to the great and delightful quickening of my
imagination. The quickening was of course no such matter as I was to
know nearly ten years later on plunging for the first time over the Alps
into Italy; but, letting alone that I was then so much older, I had
wondered about Italy, to put it embracingly, far more than I was
constitutionally capable of wondering about Germany. It was enough for
me at Bonn that I felt no lack of appetite--had for the time all the
illusion of being on the way to something; to something, I mean, with
which the taste of German might somehow _directly_ mix itself. Every
aspect and object round about was a part, at all events, of the actual
mixture; and when on drowsy afternoons, not a little interspaced indeed,
I attempted the articulate perusal of Hermann und Dorothea with our good
Professor, it was like dreaming, to the hum of bees, if not to the
aftertaste of "good old Rhenish," in some homely fruity
eighteenth-century garden.

The good old Rhenish is no such false note in this reconstitution; I
seem to see the Frau Doctorin and her ancient mildly-scowling sister
Fräulein Stamm, who reminded me of Hepzibah Pyncheon in The House of the
Seven Gables, perpetually wiping green hock-glasses and holding them up
to our meagre light, as well as setting out long-necked bottles, with
rather chalky cakes, in that forward section of our general
eating-and-living-room which formed our precinct of reception and
conversation. The unbroken space was lighted at either end, from street
and court, and its various effects of tempered shade or, frankly
speaking, of rather greasy gloom, amid which the light touch of
elegance gleamed but from the polish of the glasses and the sloping
shoulders of their bottle, comes back to me as the view of an intensely
internal interior. I recall how oppressively in that apartment, how
congestedly, as in some cage of which the wires had been papered over, I
felt housed and disconnected; I scarce then, I think, knew what the
matter was, but it could only have been that in all those summer weeks,
to the best of my belief, no window was ever once opened. Still, there
was the scene, the thick, the much-mixed chiaroscuro through which the
two ladies of the family emerged from an exiguous retreat just off the
back end of the place with ample platters of food; the almost
impenetrable dusk of the middle zone, where the four or five of us,
seated with our nutcracker-faced pastor, conveyed the food to our mouths
with a confidence mainly borrowed from the play of his own deep-plunging
knife; and then the forward, the festal extension, the privilege of
occasionally lingering in which, or of returning to it for renewed
refreshment, was a recognition both of our general minding of our
business upstairs--left as we were to thumb our Flügel's Dictionary by
the hour so long as we invoked no other oracle. Our drowsy Doctor
invited no such approach; he smiled upon us as if unseen forefingers of
great force had been inserted for the widening of his mouth at the
corners, and I had the sense of his not quite knowing what to make of
our being so very gently barbaric, or rather so informally civilised; he
safely housed and quite rankly fed us, guided us to country walks and to
the swimming-baths by the Rhine-side, introduced us to fruit-gardens
where, on payment of the scantest tribute, we were suffered to consume
off-hand bushels of cherries, plums and pears; suffered us to ascend the
Drachenfels and to partake of coffee at Rolandseck and in other friendly
open-air situations; but flung his gothic shadow as little as possible
over my so passive page at least, and took our rate of acquisition
savingly for granted.

This, in the optimism of the hour, I have no memory of resenting; the
page, though slow, managed at the same time to be stirring, and I asked
no more of any one or anything but that they should be with all due
gothicism whatever they most easily might. The long vistas of the
beeches and poplars on the other side of the Rhine, after we had crossed
by the funicular ferry, gothically rustled and murmured: I fancied their
saying perpetually "We are German woods, we are German woods--which
makes us very wonderful, do you know? and unlike any others: don't you
feel the spell of the very sound of us and of the beautiful words, 'Old
German woods, old German woods,' even if you can't tell why?" I
couldn't altogether tell why, but took everything on trust as mystically
and valuably gothic--valuably because ministering with peculiar
directness, as I gathered, to culture. I was in, or again I was "out,"
in my small way, for culture; which seemed quite to come, come from
everywhere at once, with the most absurd conciliatory rush, pitifully
small as would have been any list of the sources I tapped. The beauty
was in truth that everything was a source, giving me, by the charmingest
breach of logic, more than it at all appeared to hold; which was exactly
what had not been the case at the Institution Rochette, where things had
appeared, or at least had pretended, to hold so much more than they
gave. The oddity was that about us now everything--everything but the
murmur of the German woods and the great flow and magic name of the
Rhine--was more ugly than beautiful, tended in fact to say at every
turn: "You shall suffer, yes, indeed you _are_ doing so (stick up for
your right to!) in your sense of form; which however is quite compatible
with culture, is really one of the finest parts of it, and may decidedly
prove to you that you're getting it." I hadn't, in rubbing, with
whatever weakness, against French and, so far as might be, against
France, and in sinking, very sensibly, more and more into them,
particularly felt that I was getting it _as_ such; what I was getting
as such was decidedly rather my famous "life," and without so much as
thinking of the degree, with it all, of the valuable and the helpful.

Life meanwhile I had a good deal of at my side in the person of my
brother Wilky, who, as I have had occasion elsewhere to say, contrived
in those years to live, or to have every appearance of so doing, with an
immediacy that left me far in the lurch. I was always still wondering
how, while he had solved the question simply _ambulando_, which was for
him but by the merest sociable stroll. This represented to me
success--success of a kind, but such an assured kind--in a degree that
was my despair; and I have never forgotten how, that summer, when the
Herr Doctor did look in, did settle down a little to have the bristling
page out with us, Wilky's share of the hour took on the spot the form of
his turning at once upon our visitor the tables of earnest inquiry. He
delighted, after this tribute of eagerness, to meet the Doctor's
interrogative advance; but the communication so made was of anything and
everything except the fruit of his reading (the act of reading was
inhuman and repugnant to him), and I amazedly noted while I nursed my
small hoard that anything he offered did in the event quite as well: he
could talk with such charm, such drollery of candour, such
unexpectedness of figure, about what he had done and what he hadn't--or
talk at least before it, behind it and beside it. We had three or four
house-companions, youths from other places attending the Gymnasium and
committed to our Professor's care, as to whom I could somehow but infer
that they were, each in his personal way, inordinately gothic--which
they had to be to supply to my mind a relation, or a substitute for a
relation, with them; whereas my younger brother, without a scrap of a
view of them, a grain of theory or formula, tumbled straight into their
confidence all round. Our air for _him_ was by just so much life as it
couldn't have dreamed of being culture, and he was so far right that
when the son of the house and its only child, the slim and ardent
Theodor, who figured to me but as a case of such classic sensibility, of
the Lieder or the Werther sort, as might have made, with the toss of a
yellow lock or the gleam of a green blouse, the image for an Uhland or a
Heine stanza, had imparted to him an intention of instant suicide under
some resentment of parental misconception, he had been able to use
dissuasion, or otherwise the instinct of then most freely fraternising,
with a success to which my relish for so romantic a stroke as charmingly
in Theodor's character and setting mightn't at all have attained. There
is a small something of each of us in a passage of an ingenuous letter
addressed by him from the midst of these conditions to his parents. I
fondly catch, I confess, at any of these recoverable lights; finding
them at the best too scant for my commemorative purpose.

     Willy got his photograph this morning after three hours' hard work.
     From the post-office he was sent to the custom-house, and there was
     obliged to sign his name and to go to some neighbouring bookstore
     to buy a seal. On returning to the custom-house he was sent back to
     the post-office to get some document or other. After obtaining this
     article he turned his steps once more to the custom-house, where an
     insolent officer told him he must wait an hour. W. informed him
     that he would return at the end of the hour, and accordingly for
     the third time went to the C.H., and was conducted by the clerk to
     a cellar where the packages were kept, and there told to take off
     his hat. He obeyed, raging, and then was a fourth time sent to the
     P.O.--this time to pay money. Happily he is now in possession of
     his property. H. and he took a walk this afternoon to a
     fruit-garden, where plums, cherries, gooseberries and currants were
     abundant. After half an hour's good work H. left W. finishing
     merely the plums--the cherry and gooseberry course to come later.
     He was so enchanted that he thought H. a great fool to leave so
     soon. How does Paris now strike you? It can't be as nice as Bonn.
     You had better write to Bob.

Bob, our youngest brother, had been left at Geneva with excellent M.
Maquelin and was at that time _en course_, over the Alps, with this
gentleman and their young companions; a most desirable, delicious
excursion, which I remember following in envious fancy, as it included a
descent to the Italian Lakes and a push on as far as Genoa. In reference
to which excursion I cull a line or two from a faded scrap of a letter
addressed a little later by this youngest of us to his "Beloved Brother"
William. "This is about our Grande Course. We started at 5 o'clock in
the morning with our faces and hands all nicely washed and our nails
clean. The morning was superb, and as we waited in the court the soft
balmy air of the mountains came in bringing with it the melodious sound
of the rappel for breakfast. This finished we bade adieu, and I could
see the emotions of the kind and ever-watchful Madame Maquelin as a few
silent drops trickled down her fair cheeks. We at last arrived at the
boat, where we met Mr. Peters, a portly gentleman from the city of
Philadelphia, with his two sweet sons, one twelve, the other seven years
old, the eldest coming from Mr. E.'s school with no very good opinion of
the principal--saying he had seen him in a state of tightness several
times during his stay there." Mr. Peters appears to have been something
of a pessimist, for, when at a later stage "it began to rain hard, and
half the road was a foot deep in water, and the cocher had stopped
somewhere to get lanterns and had at the same time indulged in certain
potations which didn't make him drive any the straighter," this
gentleman "insinuated that we had all better have been with our
mothers." The letter records at some length the early phases of the
affair, but under the weight of the vision of Italy it rather breaks
down and artlessly simplifies. "Genoa is a most lively town, and there
is a continual swarm of sailors in the street. We visited several
palaces, among others that of Victor Emanuel, which is very fine, and
the fruit is very cheap. We stayed there several days, but at last
started for Turin, where we spent a Sunday--a place I didn't much like,
I suppose because of that reason. We left Turin the next day on foot,
but lost our road and had to come back." I recover even in presence of
these light accents my shade of wonder at this odd chance that made the
least developed of us the subject of what seemed to me even then a
privilege of the highest intensity; and there again keeps it company my
sense, through all the after years, that this early glimpse of the blest
old Italy, almost too early though it appears to have but just missed
being, might have done something towards preparing or enriching for Bob
the one little plot of consciousness in which his deeply troubled life
was to find rest. He was in the event also fondly to aim at painting,
like two of his brothers; but whereas they were to fumble with the
lock, in their very differing degree, only in those young years, he was
to keep at it most as he grew older, though always with a perfect
intelligence of the inevitable limits of the relation, the same
intelligence that was so sharp and sad, so extraordinarily free and fine
and detached in fact, as play of mind, play of independent talk and of
pen, for the limits of his relation to many other matters. Singularly
intelligent all round, yet with faculties that had early declined any
consummation of acquaintance with such training as under a different
sort of pressure he might have enjoyed, he had an admirable hand and
eye, and I have known no other such capacity for absorbing or storing up
the minutest truths and shades of landscape fact and giving them out
afterward, in separation from the scene, with full assurance and
felicity. He could do this still better even than he cared to do; I for
my part cared much more that he should than he ever did himself, and
then it was, I dare say, that I made the reflection: "He took in the
picture of Italy, with his firm hard gift, having the chance while
William and I were still, comparatively, small untouched and gaping
barbarians; and it should always be in him to do at some odd fine moment
a certain honour to that." I held to it that that sensibility had played
in him more than by any outward measure at the time; which was perhaps
indeed one of the signs within me of the wasteful habit or trick of a
greater feeling for people's potential propriety or felicity or full
expression than they seemed able to have themselves. At all events I was
absolutely never to cease to remember for Bob, through everything--and
there was much and of the most agitated and agitating--that he had been
dipped as a boy into the sacred stream; to some effect which, thanks to
two or three of his most saving and often so amusing sensibilities, the
turbid sea of his life might never quite wash away.

William had meanwhile come to Bonn with us, but was domiciled with
another tutor, younger and fairer and more of the world, above all more
ventilated and ventilating, Herr Stromberg, whose defect might in fact
have seemed that, with his constant exhibition of the stamp received by
him from the writings of Lord Macaulay, passages of which he could
recite by heart, and the circumstance that his other pupil, William's
comrade for a time, was of unmitigatedly English, that is of
quasi-Byronic association, he didn't quite rise to the full gothic
standard. Otherwise indeed our brother moved on the higher plane of
light and air and ease, and above all of enjoyed society, that we felt
he naturally must. Present to me yet is the thrill of learning from him
that his English fellow-pupil was the grandson, if I remember rightly
the degree of descent, of Mary Chaworth, Byron's "first love," and my
sense afterwards, in gaping at young Mr. Musters himself, that this
independently romantic contact would have been more to my own private
purpose at least than the most emphasised gothicism. None the less do I
regain it as a part of my current vision that Frau Stromberg, who was
young and fair, wrote tragedies as well as made pancakes--which were
served to each consumer double, a thick confiture within being the
reason of this luxuriance, and being also a note beyond our experience
in the Bonn-Gasse; and that with the printed five acts of a certain
"Cleopatra" before me, read aloud in the first instance to her young
inmates and by my brother passed on to me, I lost myself in the view of
I scarce knew what old-world Germanic grace, positively, or little
court-city practice of the theatre: these things so lived in the small
thick pamphlet, "grey paper with blunt type" and bristling, to my
discomfiture, with descriptive stage directions, vast dense bracketed
tracts, gothic enough in all conscience, as to which I could already
begin to wonder whether such reinforcements of presentation proved more
for or against the true expressional essence of the matter; for or
against, that is, there being nothing at all so dramatic, so chargeable
with meaning and picture, as speech, of whatever sort, made perfect.
Such speculations, I may parenthesise, might well have been fostered,
and doubtless were, by an impression that I find commemorated in a few
lines of a letter of my father's to a friend in America--he having
brought us on to Bonn, introduced us to our respective caretakers and
remained long enough to have had an evening at the theatre, to which we
accompanied him. "We had Ristori to play Mary Stuart for us last
night--which was the vulture counterfeiting Jenny Wren. Every little
while the hoarse exulting voice, the sanguinary beak, the lurid leer of
menace, and the relentless talons looked forth from the feathery mass
and sickened you with disgust. She would do Elizabeth better." I recall
the performance in every feature, as well as my absence of such
reserves, though quite also the point to which I was impressed by the
utterance of them; not that it didn't leave me at the same time free to
feel that the heroine of history represented could scarce have been at
all a dove-like, much less a wren-like person. She had indeed on Madame
Ristori's showing prodigious resources of militant mobility--of what in
fact would be called to-day mobilisation. Several years later on I was
to see the actress play the same part in America; and then, if I am not
mistaken, was to note scarce more than one point; the awful effect on
_any_ histrionic case, even on one so guardedly artful as hers, of
having been dragged round the globe and forced home, so far as might be,
to imperfect comprehensions. The big brush had come fairly to daub the
canvas. Let the above, however, serve in particular to lead in as many
examples of my father's singularly striking and personal habit of
expression and weight of thought as these pages may find room for.

The one difficulty is that to open that general door into the limbo of
old letters, charged with their exquisite ghostly appeal, is almost to
sink into depths of concession. I yield here for instance to the claim
of a page or two from William, just contemporary and addressed to our
parents in Paris--and yield perhaps but for no better reason than that
of the small historic value or recoverable charm that I am moved to find
in its illustrative items. The reference of its later lines is to a
contemporary cousin, young and blooming, by whom I have already ever so
lightly brushed[2] and who figured quite with the grand air on our young
horizon; the only daughter of the brightest of the Albany uncles (by
that time lost and mourned) now on the tour of Europe with a pair of
protective elders for her entrance upon life and at that hour
surrounding our parents, her uncle and aunt, with a notably voluminous
rustle of fresh Paris clothes, the far-spreading drapery of the more and
more draped and flounced and "sloped" second Empire. This friendly
frou-frou almost reached our ears, so sociable for us was every sound of
her, in our far-off Rhineland. She was with her stature and shape the
finest possible person to carry clothes, and I thought of her, with a
revival of the old yearning envy, as now quite transcendently orphaned
and bereft, dowered, directed and equipped.

     Your hearts, I know, would have been melted if you had had a view
     of us this Sunday morning. I went directly after breakfast for the
     boys, and though H. had an "iron stomach-ache," as he called it, we
     went off together to that low wooded hill which the Aunt could see
     from her window when you were here, and walked about till
     dinner-time, H. being all the while in great pain. In one part we
     found a platform with a stone bench commanding a view of the whole
     valley, and, as we were rather tired, sat down on it, H. and Wilky
     each with a Once a Week, while I tried to draw the view in my
     pocket-book. We wondered what our beloved parents were doing at
     that moment, 11.30, and thought you must all have been in your
     salon, Alice at the window with her eyes fixed on her novel, but
     eating some rich fruit that Father has just brought in for her from
     the Palais Royal, and the lovely Mother and Aunt in armchairs,
     their hands crossed in front of them, listening to Father, who
     walks up and down talking of the superiority of America to these
     countries after all, and how much better it is we should have done
     with them. We wished, oh we wished we could have been with you to
     join in the conversation and partake of the fruit. We got up from
     the seat and went on with a heavy sigh, but in a way so fraternal,
     presenting such a sweet picture of brotherly unitedness and
     affection, that it would have done you good to see us.

     And so it is every day that we meet for our shorter walks and
     talks. The German gets on slowly, but I notice a very marked
     improvement in talking. I have not kept at it so hard this last
     week as before, and I prevent H. from working his eyes out, which
     he seems on the whole rather less inclined to do. I am going to
     read as much as I can the rest of the time we are here. It seems a
     mere process of soaking, requiring no mental effort, but only time
     and steady patience. My room is very comfortable now I've got used
     to it, and I have a pair of slippers of green plush heavy and
     strong enough to last all my life and then be worn by my children.
     The photograph of our Zoffingen group has come, which gives me a
     moustache big enough for three lifeguardsmen. Tell us something
     more about Mary Helen. How long does she expect to stay in Europe,
     and who is this Dr. Adams--the man she is engaged to? She directs
     me to write to her in his care--so that I wish you would ask her,
     as she says she hopes to meet me, whether I shall still address her
     as Miss James? Of course it would be painful, but I think I could
     do it if Adams weren't there. Let the delicious little grey-eyed
     Alice be locked up alone on the day after the receipt of this with
     paper and envelopes to write a letter unassisted, uncorrected and
     unpunctuated to her loving brothers, who would send her novels and
     peaches if they could. What a blessing it is to have such parents,
     such a perfect Mother and magnificent Father and dear good Aunt and
     splendid little Sister!

I may mention that Mary Helen was not "engaged" to the gentleman
above-mentioned, and was eventually to marry the late Alfred Grymes,
originally of Louisiana. Also that a letter subsequent to this,
apparently of the first days in September, sounds to his father the
first note of my brother's definite personal preference, as he seemed
lately and increasingly, though not in conditions markedly propitious,
to have become aware of it, for an adoption of the "artistic career." It
was an odd enough circumstance, in respect to the attested blood in our
veins, that no less than three of our father's children, with two of his
grandsons to add to these, and with a collateral addendum representing
seven, in all, of our grandfather's, William James's, descendants in
three generations, should have found the artistic career in general and
the painter's trade in particular irresistibly solicit them.

     I wish you would as you promised set down as clearly as you can on
     paper what your idea of the nature of Art _is_, because I do not,
     probably, understand it fully, and should like to have it presented
     in a form that I might think over at my leisure. I wish you would
     do so as fully as you conveniently can, so that I may ruminate
     it--and I won't say more about it till I have heard from you again.
     As for what your last letter did contain, what can I do but thank
     you for every word of it and assure you that they went to the right
     spot. Having such a Father with us, how can we be other than in
     some measure worthy of him?--if not perhaps as eminently so as the
     distance leads his fond heart to imagine. I never value him so much
     as when I am away from him. At home I see only his striking
     defects, but here he seems all perfection, and I wonder as I write
     why I didn't cherish him more when he was beside me. I beg darling
     old Mother's forgiveness too for the rude and dastardly way in
     which I snub her, and the Aunt for the impatience and violence I
     have always shown her. I shall be a perfect sherry-cobbler to both
     of them, and to the small Alice too, young as she may be for such
     treats.

     I have just got home from dining with the boys and their Humperts;
     where I found the Doctor as genial as ever and the two old ladies
     perfect characters for Dickens. They have been so shut out from the
     world and melting together so long by the kitchen fire that the
     minds of both have become fused into one, and then seem to
     constitute a sort of two-bodied individual. I never saw anything
     more curious than the way they sit mumbling together at the end of
     the table, each using simultaneously the same comment if anything
     said at our end strikes their ear. H. pegs away pretty stoutly, but
     I don't think you need worry about him. He and Wilky appear to get
     on in great harmony and enliven themselves occasionally by
     brotherly trials of strength, quite good-natured, in their room,
     when excess of labour has made them sleepy or heavy. In these
     sometimes one, sometimes the other is victorious. They often pay me
     a visit here while I am dressing, which of course is highly
     convenient--and I have more than once been with _them_ early enough
     to be present at Wilky's tumble out of bed and consequent
     awakening, with the call on the already-at-work H.: "Why the
     mischief didn't you stop me?" Wilky and I walked to Rolandseck
     yesterday afternoon, and after a furious race back to the station
     found ourselves too late for the train by a second. So we took a
     boat and rowed down here, which was delightful. We are going to put
     H. through a splashing good walk daily. A thousand thanks to the
     cherry-lipped, apricot-nosed, double-chinned little Sister for her
     strongly dashed-off letter, which inflamed the hearts of her lonely
     brothers with an intense longing to smack her celestial cheeks.



III


I have before me another communication of about the same moment, a
letter addressed to his father in Paris within that month; from which,
in spite of its lively interest as I hold, I cull nothing--and precisely
because of that interest, which prescribes for it a later appearance in
conditions in which it may be given entire. William is from this season
on, to my sense, so livingly and admirably reflected in his letters,
which were happily through much of his career both numerous and highly
characteristic, that I feel them particularly plead, in those cases in
which they most testify to his personal history, for the separate
gathered presentation that happily awaits them. _There_ best may figure
the serious and reasoned reply drawn from him by some assuredly
characteristic enough communication of our parent's own in respect to
his declared preference for a painter's life over any other. Lost is
this original and, in the light of later matters, sufficiently quaint
declaration, and lost the paternal protest answered by my brother from
Bonn and anything _but_ infelicitous, on its side, so far as the truer
apprehension went, under the showing of the time to come. The only
thing was that our father had a wonderful way of being essentially right
without being practically or, as it were, vulgarly, determinant, and
that this relegation of his grounds of contention to the sphere of the
non-immediate, the but indirectly urgent, from the point of view of the
thing really to _do_, couldn't but often cause impatience in young
breasts conscious of gifts or desires or ideals of which the very sign
and warrant, the truth they were known by, was that they were
susceptible of application. It was in no world of close application that
our wondrous parent moved, and his indifference at the first blush to
the manifestation of special and marketable talents and faculties,
restlessly outward purposes of whatever would-be "successful" sort, was
apt to be surpassable only by his delight subsequently taken in our
attested and visible results, the very fruits of application; as to
which the possibility, perhaps even the virtual guarantee, hadn't so
much left him cold in advance as made him adversely and "spiritually"
hot. The sense of that word was the most living thing in the world for
him--to the point that the spiritual simply meant to him the practical
and the successful, so far as he could get into touch with such
denominations, or so far, that is, as he could face them or care for
them _a priori_. Fortunately, as he had observational powers of the
happiest, perceptions--perceptions of character and value, perceptions
of relation and effect, perceptions in short of the whole--turned to the
ground sensibly beneath our feet, as well as a splendid, an
extraordinarily animated and, so far as he himself at least was
concerned, guiding and governing soul, justice and generosity always
eventually played up, the case worked itself happily out, and before we
knew it he had found it quite the rightest of all cases, while we on our
side had had the liveliest, and certainly the most amusing and
civilising, moral or, as he would have insisted, spiritual recreation by
the way.

My brother challenges him, with a beautiful deference, on the imputed
damage to what might be best in a man by the professional pursuit of
"art"--which he appears to have set forth with characteristic emphasis;
and I take the example for probably one of the rarest in all the so
copious annals of parental opposition to the æsthetic as distinguished
from some other more respectable course. What was marked in our father's
prime uneasiness in presence of any particular form of success we might,
according to our lights as then glimmering, propose to invoke was that
it bravely, or with such inward assurance, dispensed with any suggestion
of an alternative. What we were to do instead was just to _be_
something, something unconnected with specific doing, something free
and uncommitted, something finer in short than being _that_, whatever it
was, might consist of. The "career of art" has again and again been
deprecated and denounced, on the lips of anxiety or authority, as a
departure from the career of business, of industry and respectability,
the so-called regular life, but it was perhaps never elsewhere to know
dissuasion on the very ground of its failing to uplift the spirit in the
ways it most pretends to. I must in fairness add, however, that if the
uneasiness I here refer to continued, and quite by exception as compared
with the development of other like episodes, during the whole of my
brother's fortunately but little prolonged studio season, it was really
because more alternatives swarmed before our parent's eyes, in the
cause, than he could bring himself to simplify it by naming. He
apprehended ever so deeply and tenderly his eldest son's other
genius--as to which he was to be so justified; though this indeed was
not to alter the fact that when afterwards that subject went in, by a
wondrous reaction, for the pursuit of science, first of chemistry and
then of anatomy and physiology and medicine, with psychology and
philosophy at last piling up the record, the rich _malaise_ at every
turn characteristically betrayed itself, each of these surrenders being,
by the measure of them in the parental imagination, so comparatively
narrowing. That was the nearest approach to any plea for some other
application of the spirit--that they _were_ narrowing. When I myself,
later on, began to "write" it was breathed upon me with the finest
bewildering eloquence, with a power of suggestion in truth which I
fairly now count it a gain to have felt play over me, that this too was
narrowing. On the subsequent history of which high paradox no better
comment could occur to me than my find of a passage in a letter long
subsequently addressed to Mr. James T. Fields, then proprietor and
editor of the Atlantic Monthly magazine--a letter under date of May 1868
and referring clearly to some published remarks on a certain young
writer which did violence to the blessedly quick paternal prejudice.

     I had no sooner left your sanctum yesterday than I was afflicted to
     remember how I had profaned it by my unmeasured talk about poor H.
     Please forget it utterly. I don't know how it is with better men,
     but the parental sentiment is so fiendish a thing with me that if
     anyone attempt to slay my young, especially in a clandestine way,
     or out of a pious regard (_e.g_.) to the welfare of the souls
     comprised in the diocese of the Atlantic, I can't help devoting him
     bag and baggage to the infernal gods. I am not aware of my animus
     until I catch, as yesterday, a courteous ear; then the unholy fire
     flames forth at such a rate as to leave me no doubt on reflection
     where it was originally lighted.

Almost all my dear father is there, making the faded page to-day
inexpressibly touching to me; his passionate tenderness, his infinite
capacity for reaction on reaction, a force in him fruitful in so many
more directions than any high smoothness of _parti-pris_ could be, and
his beautiful fresh individual utterance, always so stamped with the
very whole of him. The few lines make for me, after all the years, a
sort of silver key, so exquisitely fitting, to the treasure of living
intercourse, of a domestic air quickened and infinitely coloured,
comprised in all our younger time. The renewed sense of which, however,
has carried me for the moment too far from the straighter line of my
narrative.

The author of the young letter of which I have deferred presentation met
in Paris, shortly after that date, the other party to the discussion;
and the impression of the endless day of our journey, my elder and my
younger brothers' and mine, from Bonn to that city, has scarcely faded
from me. The railway service was so little then what it has become that
I even marvel at our having made our connections between our early rise
in the Bonn-Gasse and our midnight tumble into bed at the Hôtel des
Trois Empereurs in the Place du Palais Royal; a still-felt rapture, a
revelation of the Parisian idea of bed after the rude German conception,
our sore discipline for so many weeks. I remember Cologne and its
cathedral almost in the bland dawn, and our fresh start thence for
Strasbourg, now clearly recognised, alas, as a start back to America, to
which it had been of a sudden settled that we were, still with a fine
inconsequence, to return. We had seen Cologne cathedral by excursion
from Bonn, but we saw Strasbourg, to my sorrow until a far later
occasion soothed it, only as a mild monster behind bars, that is above
chimneys, housetops and fortifications; a loss not made up to me by
other impressions or particulars, vivid and significant as I found
myself none the less supposing several of these. Those were the
September days in which French society, so far as it was of the Empire
at least, moved more or less in its mass upon Homburg and Baden-Baden;
and we met it in expressive samples, and in advance and retreat, during
our incessant stops, those long-time old stops, unknown to the modern
age, when everyone appeared to alight and walk about with the animation
of prisoners suddenly pardoned, and ask for conveniences, and clamour
for food, and get mixed with the always apparently still dustier people
of opposite trains drawn up for the same purposes. We appeared to be
concerned with none but first-class carriages, as an effect of which our
own was partly occupied, the livelong day, by the _gens_ of a noble
French house as to which we thus had frequent revelations--a pair of
footmen and a lady's maid, types of servile impudence taking its ease,
who chattered by the hour for our wonderstruck ears, treating them to
their first echo of the strange underworld, the sustaining vulgarity, of
existences classified as "great." They opened vistas, and I remember how
when, much later, I came to consider the designed picture, first in
Edmond About and then in Alphonse Daudet, of fifty features symptomatic
of the social pace at which the glittering régime hurried to its end,
there came back to me the breath of this sidewind of the frenzied dance
that we had caught during those numerous and so far from edifying hours
in our fine old deep-seated compartment. The impression, I now at any
rate perfectly recover, was one that could feed full enough any optimism
of the appointedly modest condition. It was true that Madame la
Marquise, who was young and good-natured and pretty without beauty, and
unmistakably "great," exhaling from afar, as I encouraged myself to
imagine, the scented air of the Tuileries, came on occasion and looked
in on us and smiled, and even pouted, through her elegant patience; so
that she at least, I recollect, caused to swim before me somehow such a
view of happy privilege at the highest pitch as made me sigh the more
sharply, even if the less professedly, for our turning our backs on the
complex order, the European, fresh to me still, in which contrasts
flared and flourished and through which discrimination could
unexhaustedly riot--pointing so many more morals, withal, if that was
the benefit it was supposed to be, than we should find pretexts for "on
the other side." We were to fall as soon as we were at home again to
reading the Revue des Deux Mondes--though doubtless again I should speak
here, with any emphasis, but for myself; my chin, in Europe, had scarce
risen to the level of that publication; but at Newport in Rhode Island,
our next following place of sojourn, I speedily shot up so as quite to
bend down to it: it took its place therewith as the very headspring of
culture, a mainstay in exile, and as opening wide in especial the doors
of that fictive portrayal of a society which put a price, for the
brooding young reader, on cases, on _cadres_, in the Revue parlance,
already constituted and propitiously lighted. Then it was that the
special tension of the dragged-out day from Cologne to Paris proved, on
the absurdest scale, a preparation, justified itself as a vivid point of
reference: I was to know what the high periodical meant when I
encountered in its _études de moeurs_ the blue-chinned corruptible,
not to say corrupt, _larbin_ and the smart soubrette; it was above all
a blessing to feel myself, in the perusal of M. Octave Feuillet, an
education, as I supposed, of the taste, not at a marked disadvantage;
since who but the Petite Comtesse herself had swung her crinoline in and
out of my prospect, or, to put it better, of my preserved past, on one
of my occasions of acutest receptivity?

The truth was that acute, that quite desperate receptivity set in for
me, under a law of its own--may really be described as having quite
raged for me--from the moment our general face, by the restless parental
decree (born not a little of parental homesickness and reinforced by a
theory of that complaint on our own part, we having somehow in Europe
"no companions," none but mere parents themselves), had been turned
again to the quarter in which there would assuredly be welcomes and
freedoms and unchecked appropriations, not to say also cousins, of both
sexes and of a more and more engaging time of life, cousins kept and
tended and adorned for us in our absence, together with the solicitation
for our favour of possible, though oh so just barely possible, habitats
before which the range of Europe paled; but which, nevertheless, to my
aching fancy, meant premature abdication, sacrifice and, in one dreadful
word, failure. I had had cousins, naturally, in the countries we were
quitting, but to a limited degree; yet I think I already knew I had had
companions in as full a measure as any I was still to know--inasmuch as
my imagination made out one, in the complex order and the coloured air,
almost wherever I turned; and, inasmuch as, further, to live by the
imagination was to live almost only in that way, so to foresee the
comparative, not to say the absolute, absence of tonic accent in the
appearances complacently awaiting me, as well as to forecast in these
appearances, at the best, a greater paucity, was really to enjoy a sharp
prevision of dearth. Certain it is that those supreme moments of Paris,
those after-days at the Trois Empereurs, were to flush for me, as they
ebbed, with images and visions; judged by any achieved act of possession
I hadn't assuredly much to give up, but intensity of sentiment, resting
on a good disposition, makes for its own sake the most of opportunity,
and I buried my associations, which had been in a manner till lately my
hopes as well, with all decent dignity and tenderness. These more or
less secret obsequies lent to our further brief delay a quality of
suppressed excitement; the "old-world" hours were numbered too
dreadfully--had shrunk but to a handful: I had waked up to that, as with
a passionate even if private need for gathering in and saving, on the
morrow of our reaching our final sticking-place: I had slipped from my
so cushioned sleep, my canopied couch, to hang, from the balcony of our
quatrième, my brothers' and mine, over that Place du Palais Royal and up
against that sculptured and storied façade of the new Louvre which
seemed to me then to represent, in its strength, the capacity and
chiselled rim of some such potent vivifying cup as it might have been
given us, under a happier arrangement, to taste now in its fulness and
with a braver sense for it. Over against us on the great palace wall, as
I make out--if not for that occasion then for some other--were statues
of heroes, Napoleon's young generals, Hoche, Marceau, Desaix or whoever,
such a galaxy as never was or should ever be again for splendid
monumental reference; and what it somehow came to was that here massed
itself the shining second Empire, over which they stood straight aloft
and on guard, like archangels of the sword, and that the whole thing was
a high-pitched wonder and splendour, which we had already, in our small
gaping way, got into a sort of relation with and which would have ever
so much more ever so thrillingly to give us. What it would give us
loomed but vaguely enough out of the great hum and the great toned
perspective, and withal the great noble expense, of which we had
constant reminder; but that we were present at something it would be
always after accounted a privilege to have been concerned with, and that
we were perversely and inconsiderately dropping out of it, and for a
reason, so far as there might be a reason, that was scarcely less than
strange--all this loomed large to me as our interval shrank, and I even
ask myself before the memory of it whether I was ever again in the later
and more encompassing and accommodating years to have in those places so
rich a weight of consciousness to carry or so grand a presumption of
joy. The presumption so boldly entertained was, if you please, of what
the whole thing meant. It meant, immensely, the glittering régime, and
that meant in turn, prodigiously, something that would probably never be
meant quite to any such tune again: so much one positively and however
absurdly said to one's self as one stood up on the high balcony to the
great insolence of the Louvre and to all the history, all the glory
again and all the imposed applause, not to say worship, and not to speak
of the implied inferiority, on the part of everything else, that it
represented. And the sense was of course not less while one haunted at
odd hours the arcades and glass galleries of the Palais Royal close at
hand--as if to store up, for all the world, treasures of impression that
might be gnawed, in seasons or places of want, like winter pears or a
squirrel's hoard of nuts, and so perhaps keep one alive, as to one's
most vital faculty above-mentioned, till one should somehow or other be
able to scramble back.

The particular ground for our defection, which I obscurely pronounced
mistaken, was that since William was to embrace the artistic career--and
freedom for this experiment had been after all, as I repeat that it was
always in like cases to be, not in the least grudgingly granted him--our
return to America would place him in prompt and happy relation to
William Hunt, then the most distinguished of our painters as well as one
of the most original and delightful of men, and who had cordially
assured us that he would welcome such a pupil. This was judged among us
at large, other considerations aiding, a sound basis for action; but
never surely had so odd a motive operated for a break with the spell of
Paris. We named the motive generally, I think, and to the credit of our
earnest good faith, with confidence--and I am of course not sure how
often our dear father may not explicatively have mentioned the shy fact
that he himself in any case had gradually ceased to "like" Europe. This
affects me at present as in the highest degree natural: it was to be his
fortune for the rest of his life to find himself, as a worker in his own
field and as to what he held most dear, scantly enough heeded, reported
or assimilated even in his own air, no brisk conductor at any time of
his remarkable voice; but in Europe his isolation had been utter--he had
there had the sense of playing his mature and ardent thought over great
dense constituted presences and opaque surfaces that could by their very
nature scarce give back so much as a shudder. No more admirable case of
apostolic energy combined with philosophic patience, of constancy of
conviction and solitary singleness of production unperturbed, can I well
conceive; and I certainly came later on to rejoice in his having had
after a certain date to walk, if there was a preference, rather in the
thin wilderness than in the thick. I dare say that when we returned to
America toward the end of 1860, some five years and a half after our
departure, it may have been with illusions not a few for him about the
nature of the desert, or in other words about the degree of sensibility
of the public, there awaiting him; but the pretext given him by his so
prized and admired eldest son was at the worst, and however eccentric
our action, inspiring: I alone of the family perhaps made bold not to
say quite directly or literally that we went home to learn to paint.
People stared or laughed when we said it, and I disliked their thinking
us so simple--though dreaming too a little perhaps that they might have
been struck with our patriotism. This however conveyed but a chill the
more--since we didn't in the least go to our friend, who had been
Couture's and Frère's pupil, who had spent years in France and of whom
it was the common belief that you couldn't for the life of you tell him
from a French painter, because he was patriotic; but because he was
distinguished and accomplished, charming and kind, and above all known
to us and thereby in a manner guaranteed. He looked, as people get to
look under such enjoyed or even suffered exposures, extremely like a
Frenchman, and, what was noteworthy, still more like a sculptor of the
race than a painter; which doubtless had to do with my personally,
though I hope, in present cultivated anxiety, not too officiously,
sighing at all the explanation the whole thing took. I am bound to add
none the less that later on, repatriated and, as to my few contacts,
reassured, I found this amount, the apprehension of which had haunted
me, no great charge; and seem even to make out that for the first six
months of our Newport phase at least we might have passed for strikingly
wise. For here was, beyond doubt, a genial, an admirable master; and
here also--at such a rate did sparse individuals, scattered notches in
the long plain stick, count--was John La Farge. Here moreover--here and
everywhere about me, before we could quite turn round--was the War,
with its infinite, its truly quite humiliating correction of my (as I
now can but so far call it) fatuous little confidence that
"appearances," on the native scene, would run short. They were in the
event, taking one thing with another, never to hold out for me as they
held during those four years. Wondrous this force in them as I at
present look back--wondrous I mean in view of that indirectness of its
play which my conditions confined me, with such private, though I must
add, alas, such helplessly unapplied resentment, to knowing it by. If
the force was great the attenuation of its reach was none the less
preappointed and constant; so that the case must have come back again
but to the degree--call it too, frankly, the force--of one's
sensibility, or in other words the blest resource, the supremely
breatheable and thereby nourishing and favouring air of one's
imaginative life. There were of a truth during that time probably more
appearances at one's command in the way of felt aspects, images,
apprehended living relations and impressions of the stress of life, than
during any other season one was to know; only doubtless with more of the
work of their figuring to their utmost, their giving all they could, to
do by one's self and, in the last resort, deep within one's breast. The
point to be made just here, in any case, is that if we had not recrossed
the sea, by way, rather, of such an anticlimax, to William Hunt, we
should certainly with brief delay have found ourselves doing it, on the
first alarm of War, for the experience I thus too summarily glance at
and which I don't pretend to speak of as all my own.



IV


Newport, with repatriation accepted, would have been on many grounds
inevitable, I think--as it was to remain inevitable for several years,
and this quite apart from William's having to paint; since if I spoke
just now of the sweep of our view, from over the water, of a continent,
or well-nigh, waiting to receive us, the eligibility of its innumerable
sites was a matter much more of our simplified, our almost distressfully
uninvolved and unconnected state than of the inherent virtue of this,
that or the other particular group of local conditions. Our parents had
for us no definite project but to be liberally "good"--in other words so
good that the presumption of our being so would literally operate
anywhere and anyhow, would really amount in itself to a sort of situated
state, a sufficient prime position, and leave other circumstances
comparatively irrelevant. What would infallibly have occurred at the
best, however, was what did punctually happen--its having to be
definitely gathered that, though we might apparently be good, as I say,
almost on any ground, there was but one place in which we should even
at a restricted pitch be well: Newport imposed itself at that period to
so remarkable a degree as the one right residence, in all our great
country, for those tainted, under whatever attenuations, with the
quality and the effect of detachment. The effect of detachment was the
fact of the experience of Europe. Detachment might of course have come
from many causes, but it truly came in most cases but from one, though
that a fairly merciless: it came from the experience of Europe, and I
think was on the whole regarded as--what it could only have been in the
sphere of intimacy and secrecy felt to be--without an absolute remedy.
As comparatively remedial Newport none the less figured, and this for
sundry reasons into the detail of which I needn't go. Its rare
distinction and precious attribute was that, being a watering-place, a
refuge from summer heats, it had also, were the measure considerably
stretched, possibilities of hibernation. We could, under stress, brave
there the period from November to June; and it was to be under stress
not to know what else to do. That was the pinch to which Europe reduced
you; insidiously, fatally disconnected, you could but make the best, as
a penalty, of the one marked point of reattachment. The philosophy of
all of which was that to confess to disconnection was to confess by the
same stroke to leisure--which involved also an admission, however
rueful at once and deprecatory, of what might still at that time pass in
our unregenerate country for something in the nature of "means." You had
had the means, that is, to _become_, so awkwardly, detached--for you
might then do that cheaply; but the whole basis of the winter life
there, of that spare semblance of the Brighton life, the Folkestone
life, the Bath or the Cheltenham or the Leamington life, was that your
occupation or avocation should be vague enough; or that you shouldn't in
other words be, like everyone you might know save a dozen or so at the
most, in business. I remember well how when we were all young together
we had, under pressure of the American ideal in that matter, then so
rigid, felt it tasteless and even humiliating that the head of our
little family was _not_ in business, and that even among our relatives
on each side we couldn't so much as name proudly anyone who was--with
the sole exception of our maternal uncle Robertson Walsh, who looked,
ever so benevolently, after our father's "affairs," happily for us. Such
had never been the case with the father of any boy of our acquaintance;
the business in which the boy's father gloriously _was_ stood forth
inveterately as the very first note of our comrade's impressiveness.
_We_ had no note of that sort to produce, and I perfectly recover the
effect of my own repeated appeal to our parent for some presentable
account of him that would prove us respectable. Business alone was
respectable--if one meant by it, that is, the calling of a lawyer, a
doctor or a minister (we never spoke of clergymen) as well; I think that
if we had had the Pope among us we should have supposed the Pope in
business, just as I remember my friend Simpson's telling me crushingly,
at one of our New York schools, on my hanging back with the fatal truth
about our credentials, that the author of _his_ being (we spoke no more
of "governors" than we did of "parsons") was in the business of a
stevedore. That struck me as a great card to play--the word was fine and
mysterious; so that "What shall we tell them you _are_, don't you see?"
could but become on our lips at home a more constant appeal. It seemed
wantonly to be prompted for our father, and indeed greatly to amuse him,
that he should put us off with strange unheard-of attributions, such as
would have made us ridiculous in our special circles; his "Say I'm a
philosopher, say I'm a seeker for truth, say I'm a lover of my kind, say
I'm an author of books if you like; or, best of all, just say I'm a
Student," saw us so very little further. Abject it certainly appeared to
be reduced to the "student" plea; and I must have lacked even the
confidence of my brother Bob, who, challenged, in my hearing and the
usual way, was ready not only with the fact that our parent "wrote," but
with the further fact that he had written _Lectures and Miscellanies
James_. I think that when we settled awhile at Newport there was no one
there who had written but Mr. Henry T. Tuckerman, a genial and graceful
poet of the Artless Age, as it might still be called in spite of Poe and
Hawthorne and Longfellow and Lowell, the most characteristic works of
the first and the two last of whom had already appeared; especially as
those most characteristic of Mr. Tuckerman referred themselves to a past
sufficiently ample to have left that gentleman with a certain deafness
and a glossy wig and a portly presence and the reputation, positively,
of the most practised and desired of diners-out. He was to be recognised
at once as a social value on a scene not under that rubric densely
peopled; he constituted indeed such a note as would help to keep others
of the vague definability in countenance. Clearly indeed it might happen
that an association of vaguenesses would arrive in time, by fondly
cleaving together, at the semblance of a common identity; the nature of
the case then demanding, however, that they should be methodically
vague, take their stand on it and work it for all it was worth. That in
truth was made easy by the fact that what I have called our common
disconnectedness positively projected and proclaimed a void;
disconnected from business we could only be connected with the negation
of it, which had as yet no affirmative, no figurative side. This
probably would come; figures, in the void, would one by one spring up;
but what would be thus required for them was that the void should be
ample and, as it were, established. Not to be afraid of it they would
have to feel it clear of everything and everyone they knew in the air
actually peopled.

William Hunt, for that matter, was already a figure unmmistakable,
superficially speaking unsurpassable, just as John La Farge, already
mentioned, was so soon to prove to be. They were only two indeed, but
they argued the possibility; and so the great thing, as I say, was that,
to stand out, they should have margin and light. We couldn't all be
figures--on a mere margin, the margin of business, and in the light of
the general wonder of our being anything, anything _there_; but we could
at least understand the situation and cultivate the possibilities, watch
and protect the germs. This consciousness, this aim or ideal, had after
all its own intensity--it burned with a pure flame: there is a special
joy, clearly, in the hopeful conversion of the desert into the garden,
of thinness into thickness, a joy to which the conversion of the thick
into the mere dense, of the free into the rank or the close, perhaps
gives no clue. The great need that Newport met was that of a basis of
reconciliation to "America" when the habit, the taking for granted, of
America had been broken or intermitted: it would be hard to say of what
subtle secret or magic the place was possessed toward this end, and by a
common instinct, I think, we didn't attempt to formulate it--we let it
alone, only looking at each other hard, only moving gently, on the brave
hypothesis, only in fine deprecating too rude and impatient, too
precipitate a doubt of the spell that perhaps might work if we waited
and prayed. We did wait and pray, accordingly, scantly-served though the
board we might often have felt we had sat down to, and there was a fair
company of us to do so, friendliest among whom to our particular effort
was my father's excellent friend of many years Edmund Tweedy, already
named in pages preparatory to these and who, with his admirable wife,
presented himself as our main introducer and initiator. He had married,
while we were all young in New York together, a manner of Albany cousin,
Mary Temple the elder, aunt of the younger,[3] and had by this time
"been through" more than anything, more than everything, of which there
could be question for ourselves. The pair had on their marriage gone at
once to Europe to live, had put in several years of Italy and yet had at
last, particular reasons operating, returned to their native, that is to
sterner, realities; those as to which it was our general theory, of so
touching a candour as I look back to it, that they offered themselves at
Newport in a muffling mitigating air. The air, material, moral, social,
was in fact clear and clean to a degree that might well have left us but
dazed at the circumjacent blankness; yet as to that I hasten to add too
that the blowing out of our bubble, the planting of our garden, the
correction of our thinness, the discovery, under stress, of such scraps
of colour and conversation, such saving echoes and redeeming references
as might lurk for us in each other, all formed in themselves an active,
and might at last even grow to suggest an absolutely bustling, process.

I come back with a real tenderness of memory for instance to that
felicity of the personal, the social, the "literary and artistic,"
almost really the romantic, identity responding, after a fashion quite
to bring tears to the eyes, in proportion as it might have seemed to
feel by some divine insufflation what it practically could stand for.
What should one call this but the brave triumph of values conscious of
having to be almost missionary? There were many such that in "Europe"
hadn't had to be missionary at all; in Europe, as it were, one
hadn't--comparatively--seen, if not the forest for the trees, then the
trees for the forest; whereas on this other great vacuous level every
single stem seemed to enjoy for its distinction quite the totality of
the daylight and to rise into the air with a gladness that was itself a
grace. Of some of the personal importances that acted in that way I
should with easier occasion have more to say--I shall as it is have
something; but there could perhaps be no better sample of the effect of
sharpness with which the forces of culture might emerge than, say, the
fairly golden glow of romance investing the mere act of perusal of the
Revue des Deux Mondes. There was the charm--though I grant of course
that I speak here all for myself, constitutionally and, face to face
_with_ myself, quite shamelessly an inquirer, a hunter, for charm--that
whereas the spell cast had more or less inevitable limits in the world
to which such a quality as the best things of the Revue, such a
performance of the intellectual and expressional engagement as these
suggested, was native and was thereby relative to other generally like
phenomena, so it represented among _us_, where it had to take upon
itself what I have already alluded to as all the work, far more than its
face value. Few of the forces about us reached as yet the level of
representation (even if here and there some might have been felt as
trying for it); and this made all the difference. Anything suggestive or
significant, anything promising or interesting, anything in the least
finely charming above all, immensely counted, claimed tendance and
protection, almost claimed, or at any rate enjoyed, worship; as for that
matter anything finely charming does, quite rightly, anywhere. But our
care, our privilege, on occasion our felt felicity, was to foster every
symptom and breathe encouragement to every success; to hang over the
tenderest shoots that betrayed the principle of growth--or in other
words to read devoutly into everything, and as straight as possible, the
very fullest meaning we might hope it would learn to have. So at least
quite at first--and so again very considerably after the large interval
and grim intermission represented by the War; during which interest and
quality, to say nothing of quantity, at the highest pitch, ceased in any
degree to fail us, and what might be "read into" almost any aspect
without exception paled in the light of what was inevitably read out
from it. It must be added at the same time that with its long duration
the War fell into its place as part of life at large, and that when it
was over various other things still than the love of peace were found to
have grown.

Immediately, at any rate, the Albany cousins, or a particular group of
them, began again to be intensely in question for us; coloured in due
course with reflections of the War as their lives, not less than our
own, were to become--and coloured as well too, for all sorts of notation
and appreciation, from irrepressible private founts. Mrs. Edmund Tweedy,
bereft of her own young children, had at the time I speak of opened her
existence, with the amplest hospitality, to her four orphaned nieces,
who were also our father's and among whom the second in age, Mary Temple
the younger, about in her seventeenth year when she thus renewed her
appearance to our view, shone with vividest lustre, an essence that
preserves her still, more than half a century from the date of her
death, in a memory or two where many a relic once sacred has
comparatively yielded to time. Most of those who knew and loved, I was
going to say adored, her have also yielded--which is a reason the more
why thus much of her, faint echo from too far off though it prove,
should be tenderly saved. If I have spoken of the elements and presences
round about us that "counted," Mary Temple was to count, and in more
lives than can now be named, to an extraordinary degree; count as a
young and shining apparition, a creature who owed to the charm of her
every aspect (her aspects were so many!) and the originality, vivacity,
audacity, generosity, of her spirit, an indescribable grace and
weight--if one might impute weight to a being so imponderable in common
scales. Whatever other values on our scene might, as I have hinted,
appear to fail, she was one of the first order, in the sense of the
immediacy of the impression she produced, and produced altogether as by
the play of her own light spontaneity and curiosity--not, that is, as
through a sense of such a pressure and such a motive, or through a care
for them, in others. "Natural" to an effect of perfect felicity that we
were never to see surpassed is what I have already praised all the
Albany _cousinage_ of those years for being; but in none of the company
was the note so clear as in this rarest, though at the same tune
symptomatically or ominously palest, flower of the stem; who was natural
at more points and about more things, with a greater range of freedom
and ease and reach of horizon than any of the others dreamed of. They
had that way, delightfully, with the small, after all, and the common
matters--while she had it with those too, but with the great and rare
ones over and above; so that she was to remain for us the very figure
and image of a felt interest in life, an interest as magnanimously
far-spread, or as familiarly and exquisitely fixed, as her splendid
shifting sensibility, moral, personal, nervous, and having at once such
noble flights and such touchingly discouraged drops, such graces of
indifference and inconsequence, might at any moment determine. She was
really to remain, for our appreciation, the supreme case of a taste for
life as life, as personal living; of an endlessly active and yet somehow
a careless, an illusionless, a sublimely forewarned curiosity about it:
something that made her, slim and fair and quick, all straightness and
charming tossed head, with long light and yet almost sliding steps and a
large light postponing, renouncing laugh, the very muse or amateur
priestess of rash speculation. To express her in the mere terms of her
restless young mind, one felt from the first, was to place her, by a
perversion of the truth, under the shadow of female "earnestness"--for
which she was much too unliteral and too ironic; so that, superlatively
personal and yet as independent, as "off" into higher spaces, at a
touch, as all the breadth of her sympathy and her courage could send
her, she made it impossible to say whether she was just the most moving
of maidens or a disengaged and dancing flame of thought. No one to come
after her could easily seem to show either a quick inward life or a
brave, or even a bright, outward, either a consistent contempt for
social squalors or a very marked genius for moral reactions. She had in
her brief passage the enthusiasm of humanity--more, assuredly, than any
charming girl who ever circled, and would fain have continued to circle,
round a ballroom. This kept her indeed for a time more interested in the
individual, the immediate human, than in the race or the social order at
large; but that, on the other hand, made her ever so restlessly, or
quite inappeasably, "psychologic." The psychology of others, in her
shadow--I mean their general resort to it--could only for a long time
seem weak and flat and dim, above all not at all amusing. She burned
herself out; she died at twenty-four.

At the risk perhaps of appearing to make my own scant adventure the
pivot of that early Newport phase I find my reference to William Hunt
and his truly fertilising action on our common life much conditioned by
the fact that, since W. J., for the first six months or so after our
return, daily and devotedly haunted his studio, I myself did no less,
for a shorter stretch, under the irresistible contagion. The clearness
of the whole passage for me, the clearest impression, above all, of the
vivid and whimsical master, an inspirer, during a period that began a
little later on, of numberless devotions and loyalties, is what this
fond memory of my permitted contact and endeavour still has to give me.
Pupils at that time didn't flock to his gates--though they were to do
so in Boston, during years, later on; an earnest lady or two, Boston
precursors, hovered and flitted, but I remember for the rest (and I
speak of a short period) no thorough-going élèves save John La Farge and
my brother. I remember, for that matter, sitting quite in solitude in
one of the grey cool rooms of the studio, which thus comes back to me as
having several, and thinking that I really might get to copy casts
rather well, and might in particular see myself congratulated on my
sympathetic rendering of the sublime uplifted face of Michael Angelo's
"Captive" in the Louvre. I sat over this effort and a few others for
long quiet hours, and seem to feel myself again aware, just to that
tune, of how happy I ought to be. No one disturbed me; the earnest
workers were elsewhere; I had a chamber of the temple all to myself,
with immortal forms and curves, with shadows beautiful and right,
waiting there on blank-eyed faces for me to prove myself not helpless;
and with two or three of Hunt's own fine things, examples of his work in
France, transporting me at once and defying. I believed them great
productions--thought in especial endless good of the large canvas of the
girl with her back presented while she fills her bucket at the spout in
the wall, against which she leans with a tension of young muscle, a
general expression of back, beneath her dress, and with the pressure of
her raised and extended bare arm and flattened hand: this, to my
imagination, could only become the prize of some famous collection, the
light of some museum, for all the odd circumstance that it was company
just then for muddled me and for the queer figures projected by my
crayon. Frankly, intensely--that was the great thing--these were hours
of Art, art definitely named, looking me full in the face and accepting
my stare in return--no longer a tacit implication or a shy subterfuge,
but a flagrant unattenuated aim. I had somehow come into the temple by
the back door, the _porte d'honneur_ opened on another side, and I could
never have believed much at best in the length of my stay; but I was
there, day by day, as much as any one had ever been, and with a sense of
what it "meant" to be there that the most accredited of pupils couldn't
have surpassed; so that the situation to this extent really hummed with
promise. I fail, I confess, to reconstitute the relation borne by my
privilege to that of tuition "in the higher branches," to which it was
quite time I should have mounted, enjoyed at the hands of the Reverend
William C. Leverett, curate to the then "rector," Doctor Mercer, of that
fine old high-spired Trinity Church in which had throbbed, from long
before the Revolution as they used to say, the proud episcopal heart of
Newport; and feel indeed that I must pretty well have shaken off, as a
proved absurd predicament, all submission to my dilemma: all submission
of the mind, that is, for if my share of Mr. Leverett's attention was
less stinted than my share of William Hunt's (and neither had much
duration) it failed to give me the impression that anything worth naming
had opened out to me, whereas in the studio I was at the threshold of a
world.

It became itself indeed on the spot a rounded satisfying world, the
place did; enclosed within the grounds, as we then regarded them, of the
master's house, circled about with numerous trees, as we then counted
them, and representing a more direct exclusion of vulgar sounds, false
notes and harsh reminders than I had ever known. I fail in the least to
make out where the real work of the studio went forward; it took
somewhere else its earnest course, and our separation--mine from the
real workers, my indulged yet ignored state--kept me somehow the safer,
as if I had taken some mild and quite harmless drug through which
external rubs would reach me from a distance, but which left my own
rubbing power, not to say my own smearing or smutching, quite free. Into
the world so beautifully valid the master would occasionally walk,
inquiring as to what I had done or would do, but bearing on the
question with an easy lightness, a friendliness of tact, a neglect of
conclusion, which it touches me still to remember. It was impossible to
me at that time not so to admire him that his just being to such an
extent, as from top to toe and in every accent and motion, the living
and communicating Artist, made the issue, with his presence, quite cease
to be of how one got on or fell short, and become instead a mere
self-sacrificing vision of the picturesque itself, the constituted
picturesque or treated "subject," in efficient figure, personal form,
vivid human style. I then felt the man the great mystery could mark with
its stamp, when wishing the mark unmistakable, teach me just in himself
the most and best about any art that I should come to find benignantly
concerned with me, for moments however smilingly scant. William Hunt,
all muscular spareness and brownness and absence of waste, all flagrant
physiognomy, brave bony arch of handsome nose, upwardness of strong
eyebrow and glare, almost, of eyes that both recognised and wondered,
strained eyes that played over questions as if they were objects and
objects as if they were questions, might have stood, to the life, for
Don Quixote, if we could associate with that hero a far-spreading beard
already a little grizzled, a manner and range of gesture and broken form
of discourse that was like a restless reference to a palette and that
seemed to take for granted, all about, canvases and models and charming,
amusing things, the "tremendously interesting" in the seen bit or caught
moment, and the general unsayability, in comparison, of anything else.
He never would have perched, it must be added, on Rosinante--he was
fonder of horses even than of the method of Couture, and though with a
shade of resemblance, as all simple and imaginative men have, to the
knight of La Mancha, he least suggested that analogy as he passed in a
spinning buggy, his beard flying, behind a favourite trotter. But what
he perhaps most puts before me to-day is the grim truth of the merciless
manner in which a living and hurrying public educates itself, making and
devouring in a day reputations and values which represent something of
the belief in it that it has had in _them_, but at the memory of which
we wince, almost to horror, as at the legend of victims who have been
buried alive. Oh the cold grey luminaries hung about in odd corners and
back passages, and that we have known shining and warm! They serve at
the most now as beacons warning any step not to come _that_ way,
whatever it does; the various attested ways it may not with felicity
come growing thus all the while in number.

John La Farge became at once, in breaking on our view, quite the most
interesting person we knew, and for a time remained so; he became a
great many other things beside--a character, above all, if there ever
was one; but he opened up to us, though perhaps to me in particular, who
could absorb all that was given me on those suggestive lines, prospects
and possibilities that made the future flush and swarm. His foreignness,
which seemed great at that time, had gained a sharper accent from a long
stay made in France, where both on his father's and his mother's side he
had relations, and had found, to our hovering envy, all sorts of
charming occasions. He had spent much time in Brittany, among kindred
the most romantically interesting, people and places whose very names,
the De Nanteuils of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, I seem to remember for instance,
cast a spell across comparatively blank Newport sands; he had brought
home with him innumerable water-colour sketches, Breton peasants,
costumes, interiors, bits of villages and landscape; and I supposed him
to have had on such ground the most delightful adventure in the world.
How was one not to suppose it at a time when the best of one's
education, such as that was, had begun to proceed almost altogether by
the aid of the Revue des Deux Mondes, a periodical that supplied to us
then and for several years after (or again I can but speak for myself)
all that was finest in the furniture and the fittings of romance? Those
beginnings of Newport were our first contact with New England--a New
England already comparatively subdued and sophisticated, a Samson shorn
of his strength by the shears of the Southern, and more particularly of
the New York, Delilah; the result of which, still speaking for myself,
was a prompt yearning and reaching out, on the part of the spirit, for
some corrective or antidote to whatever it was that might be going, in
the season to come, least charmingly or informingly or inspiringly to
press upon us. I well recall my small anxious foresight as to a
required, an indispensable provision against either assault or dearth,
as if the question might be of standing an indefinite siege; and how a
certain particular capacious closet in a house we were presently to
occupy took on to my fond fancy the likeness at once of a store of
edibles, both substantial and succulent, and of a hoard of ammunition
for the defence of any breach--the Revue accumulating on its shelves at
last in serried rows and really building up beneath us with its slender
firm salmon-coloured blocks an alternative sphere of habitation. There
will be more to say of this, bristling or rather flowering with precious
particulars, if I stray so far; but the point for the moment was that
one would have pushed into that world of the closet, one would have
wandered or stumbled about in it quite alone if it hadn't been that La
Farge was somehow always in it with us. That was in those years his
admirable function and touch--that he affected me as knowing his way
there as absolutely no one else did, and even as having risen of a
sudden before us to bear us this quickening company. Nobody else, not
another creature, was free of it to that tune; the whole mid-century New
England--as a rough expression of what the general consciousness most
signified--was utterly out of it; which made, you see, a most unequal
division of our little working, or our totally cogitative, universe into
the wondrous esoteric quarter peopled just by us and our friend and our
common references, and the vast remainder of the public at large, the
public of the innumerably uninitiated even when apparently of the most
associated.

All of which is but a manner of expressing the intensity, as I felt it,
of our Franco-American, our most completely accomplished friend's
presence among us. Out of the safe rich home of the Revue, which opened
away into the vastness of visions, he practically stepped, and into it,
with all his ease, he mysteriously returned again: he came nearer to
being what might have been meant concretely throughout it all--though
meant most of course in its full-charged stream of fiction--than any
other visiting figure. The stream of fiction was so constant an appeal
to the charmed, by which I mean of course the predisposed, mind that it
fairly seemed at moments to overflow its banks and take to its bosom any
recognised, any congruous creature or thing that might happen to be
within reach. La Farge was of the type--the "European," and this gave
him an authority for me that it verily took the length of years to
undermine; so that as the sense of those first of them in especial comes
back to me I find it difficult, even under the appeal to me of the
attempt, to tell how he was to count in my earliest culture. If culture,
as I hold, is a matter of attitude quite as much as of opportunity, and
of the form and substance of the vessel carried to the fountain no less
than of the water-supply itself, there couldn't have been better
conditions for its operating drop by drop. It operates ever much more, I
think, by one's getting whatever there may happen to be out for one's
use than by its conforming to any abstract standard of quantity or
lustre. It may work, as between dispenser and subject, in so
incalculably personal a manner that no chemical analysis shall recover
it, no common estimate of forces or amounts find itself in the least
apply. The case was that La Farge swam into our ingenuous ken as the
figure of figures, and that such an agent, on a stage so unpeopled and
before a scene so unpainted, became salient and vivid almost in spite of
itself. The figure was at a premium, and fit for any glass case that its
vivacity should allow to enclose it--wherein it might be surrounded by
wondering, admiring and often quite inevitably misconceiving observers.
It was not that these too weren't agents in their way, agents in some
especial good cause without the furtherance of which we never should
have done at all; but they were by that very fact specialised and
stiffened, committed to their one attitude, the immediately profitable,
and incapable of that play of gesture in which we recognise
representation. A representative, a rounded figure, however, is as to
none of its relations definable or announceable beforehand; we only know
it, for good or for ill, but with something of the throb of elation
always, when we see it, and then it in general sufficiently accounts for
itself. We often for that matter insist on its being a figure, we
positively make it one, in proportion as we seem to need it--or as in
other words we too acutely miss the active virtue of representation. It
takes some extraordinary set of circumstances or time of life, I think,
either to beguile or to hustle us into indifference to some larger felt
extension roundabout us of "the world"--a sphere the confines of which
move on even as we ourselves move and which is always there, just
beyond us, to twit us with the more it should have to show if we were a
little more "of" it. Sufficiency shuts us in but till the man of the
world--never prefigured, as I say, only welcomed on the spot--appears;
when we see at once how much we have wanted him. When we fail of that
acknowledgment, that sense as of a tension, an anxiety or an indigence
relieved, it is of course but that the extraordinary set of
circumstances, or above all the extraordinary time of life I speak of,
has indeed intervened.

It was as a man of the world that, for all his youth, La Farge rose or,
still better, bowed, before us, his inclinations of obeisance, his
considerations of address being such as we had never seen and now almost
publicly celebrated. This was what most immediately and most
iridescently showed, the truth being all the while that the character
took on in him particular values without which it often enough, though
then much more grossly, flourishes. It was by these enrichments of
curiosity, of taste and genius, that he became the personality, as we
nowadays say, that I have noted--the full freshness of all of which was
to play but through his younger time, or at least through our younger
apprehension. He was so "intellectual"--that was the flower; it crowned
his being personally so finished and launched. The wealth of his
cultivation, the variety of his initiations, the inveteracy of his
forms, the degree of his _empressement_ (this in itself, I repeat, a
revelation) made him, with those elements of the dandy and the cavalier
to which he struck us as so picturesquely sacrificing, a cluster of
bright promises, a rare original and, though not at all a direct model
for simpler folk, as we then could but feel ourselves, an embodiment of
the gospel of esthetics. Those more resounding forms that our age was to
see this gospel take on were then still to come, but I was to owe them
in the later time not half the thrill that the La Farge of the prime
could set in motion. He was really an artistic, an esthetic nature of
wondrous homogeneity; one was to have known in the future many an
unfolding that went with a larger ease and a shrewder economy, but never
to have seen a subtler mind or a more generously wasteful passion, in
other words a sincerer one, addressed to the problems of the designer
and painter. Of his long later history, full of flights and drops,
advances and retreats, experiment and performance, of the endless
complications of curiosity and perversity, I say nothing here save that
if it was to contradict none of our first impressions it was to qualify
them all by others still more lively; these things belonging quite to
some other record. Yet I may just note that they were to represent in
some degree an eclipse of the so essentially harmonious person round
whom a positive grace of legend had originally formed itself. I see him
at this hour again as that bright apparition; see him, jacketed in black
velvet or clad from top to toe in old-time elegances of cool white and
leaning much forward with his protuberant and over-glazed, his doubting
yet all-seizing vision, dandle along the shining Newport sands in
far-away summer sunsets on a charming chestnut mare whose light legs and
fine head and great sweep of tail showed the Arab strain--quite as if
(what would have been characteristic of him) he had borrowed his mount
from the adorable Fromentin, whom we already knew as a painter, but
whose acquaintance as a writer we were of course so promptly to owe him
that when "Dominique" broke upon us out of the Revue as one of the most
exquisite literary events of our time it found us doubly responsive.

So, at any rate, he was there, and there to stay--intensely among us but
somehow not withal of us; his being a Catholic, and apparently a "real"
one in spite of so many other omnisciences, making perhaps by itself the
greatest difference. He had been through a Catholic college in Maryland,
the name of which, though I am not assured of it now, exhaled a sort of
educational elegance; but where and when he had so miraculously laid up
his stores of reading and achieved his universal saturation was what we
longest kept asking ourselves. Many of these depths I couldn't pretend
to sound, but it was immediate and appreciable that he revealed to us
Browning for instance; and this, oddly enough, long after Men and Women
had begun (from our Paris time on, if I remember) to lie upon our
parents' book-table. _They_ had not divined in us as yet an aptitude for
that author; whose appeal indeed John reinforced to our eyes by the
reproduction of a beautiful series of illustrative drawings, two or
three of which he was never to surpass--any more than he was to complete
his highly distinguished plan for the full set, not the least faded of
his hundred dreams. Most of all he revealed to us Balzac; having so much
to tell me of what was within that formidably-plated door, in which he
all expertly and insidiously played the key, that to re-read even after
long years the introductory pages of Eugénie Grandet, breathlessly
seized and earnestly absorbed under his instruction, is to see my
initiator's youthful face, so irregular but so refined, look out at me
between the lines as through blurred prison bars. In Mérimée, after the
same fashion, I meet his expository ghost--hovering to remind me of how
he started me on La Vénus d'Ille; so that nothing would do but that I
should translate it, try to render it as lovingly as if it were a
classic and old (both of which things it now indeed is) and send it off
to the New York weekly periodical of that age of crudest categories
which was to do me the honour neither of acknowledging nor printing nor,
clearly, since translations did savingly appear there, in the least
understanding it. These again are mild memories--though not differing in
that respect from most of their associates; yet I cherish them as
ineffaceable dates, sudden milestones, the first distinctly noted, on
the road of so much inward or apprehensive life. Our guest--I call him
our guest because he was so lingeringly, so abidingly and supersedingly
present--began meanwhile to paint, under our eyes, with devotion, with
exquisite perception, and above all as with the implication, a hundred
times beneficent and fertilising, that if one didn't in these
connections consistently take one's stand on supersubtlety of taste one
was a helpless outsider and at the best the basest of vulgarians or
flattest of frauds--a doctrine more salutary at that time in our world
at large than any other that might be sounded. Of all of which ingenuous
intensity and activity I should have been a much scanter witness than
his then close condisciple, my brother, had not his personal kindness,
that of the good-natured and amused elder youth to the enslaved, the
yearningly gullible younger, charmed me often into a degree of
participation. Occasions and accidents come back to me under their wash
of that distilled old Newport light as to which we more and more agreed
that it made altogether exceptionally, on our side of the world, for
possibility of the _nuance_, or in other words for picture and story;
such for example as my felt sense of how unutterably it was the real
thing, the gage of a great future, when I one morning found my
companions of the larger, the serious studio inspired to splendid
performance by the beautiful young manly form of our cousin Gus Barker,
then on a vivid little dash of a visit to us and who, perched on a
pedestal and divested of every garment, was the gayest as well as the
neatest of models. This was my first personal vision of the "life," on a
pedestal and in a pose, that had half gleamed and half gloomed through
the chiaroscuro of our old friend Haydon; and I well recall the crash,
at the sight, of all my inward emulation--so forced was I to recognise
on the spot that I might niggle for months over plaster casts and not
come within miles of any such point of attack. The bravery of my
brother's own in especial dazzled me out of every presumption; since
nothing less than that meant drawing (they were not using colour) and
since our genial kinsman's perfect gymnastic figure meant living truth,
I should certainly best testify to the whole mystery by pocketing my
pencil.

I secured and preserved for long William's finished rendering of the
happy figure--which was to speak for the original, after his gallant
death, in sharper and finer accents perhaps than aught else that
remained of him; and it wanted but another occasion somewhat later on,
that of the sitting to the pair of pupils under Hunt's direction of a
subject presented as a still larger challenge, to feel that I had
irrecoverably renounced. Very handsome were the head and shoulders of
Katherine Temple, the eldest of those Albany cousins then gathered at
Newport under their, and derivatively our, Aunt Mary's wing, who
afterwards was to become Mrs. Richard Emmet--the Temples and the Emmets
being so much addicted to alliances that a still later generation was to
bristle for us with a delightful Emmetry, each member of it a different
blessing; she sat with endless patience, the serenest of models, and W.
J.'s portrait of her in oils survives (as well as La Farge's, dealing
with her in another view) as a really mature, an almost masterly, piece
of painting, having, as has been happily suggested to me, much the air
of a characteristic Manet. Such demonstrations would throw one back
on regret, so far as my brother was concerned, if subsequent
counter-demonstrations hadn't had it in them so much to check the train.
For myself at the hour, in any case, the beautiful success with Kitty
Temple did nothing but hurry on the future, just as the sight of the
charming thing to-day, not less than that of La Farge's _profil perdu_,
or presented ear and neck and gathered braids of hair, quite as charming
and quite as painted, touchingly reanimates the past. I say touchingly
because of the remembered pang of my acceptance of an admonition so
sharply conveyed. Therefore if somewhat later on I could still so fondly
hang about in that air of production--so far at least as it enveloped
our friend, and particularly after his marriage and his setting up of
his house at Newport, vivid proofs alike, as seemed to us all, of his
consummate, his _raffiné_ taste, even if we hadn't yet, I think, that
epithet for this--it was altogether in the form of mere helpless admirer
and inhaler, led captive in part by the dawning perception that the arts
were after all essentially one and that even with canvas and brush
whisked out of my grasp I still needn't feel disinherited. That was the
luxury of the friend and senior with a literary side--that if there were
futilities that he didn't bring home to me he nevertheless opened more
windows than he closed; since he couldn't have meant nothing by causing
my eyes to plunge so straight into the square and dense little formal
garden of Mérimée. I might occasionally serve for an abundantly idle
young out-of-doors model--as in fact I frequently did, the best perhaps
of his early exhibitions of a rare colour-sense even now attesting it;
but mightn't it become possible that Mérimée would meanwhile serve for
me? Didn't I already see, as I fumbled with a pen, of what the small
dense formal garden might be inspiringly symbolic? It was above all
wonderful in the La Farge of those years that even as he painted and
painted, very slowly and intently and belatedly--his habit of putting
back the clock and ignoring every time-scheme but his own was matched
only by his view of the constant timeliness of talk, talk as talk, for
which no moment, no suspended step, was too odd or too fleeting--he
remained as referentially and unexhaustedly bookish, he turned his back
by the act as little on our theory of his omniscience as he ceased to
disown his job, whatever it might be, while endlessly burying his
salient and reinforced eyes and his visibly active organ of scent in
some minutest rarity of print, some precious ancientry of binding,
mechanically plucked, by the hazard of a touch, from one of the shelves
of a stored collection that easily passed with us for unapproached.

[Illustration: Portrait in oils of Miss Katherine Temple, 1861.]

He lost himself on these occasions both by a natural ease and by his
early adoption and application of the principle of the imperturbable,
which promised even from those days to govern his conduct well-nigh to
the exclusion of every other. We were to know surely as time went on no
comparable case of consistency of attitude--no other such prompt grasp
by a nature essentially entire, a settled sovereign self, of the truth
of what would work for it most favourably should it but succeed in never
yielding the first inch of any ground. Immense every ground thus became
by its covering itself from edge to edge with the defence of his
serenity, which, whatever his fathomless private dealings with it, was
never consentingly, I mean publicly, to suffer a grain of abatement. The
artist's serenity, by this conception, was an intellectual and spiritual
capital that must never brook defeat--which it so easily might incur by
a single act of abdication. That was at any rate the case for the
particular artist and the particular nature he felt himself,
armour-proof as they became against the appeal of sacrifice. Sacrifice
was fallibility, and one could only of course be consistent if one
inveterately had hold of the truth. There was no safety or, otherwise,
no inward serenity or even outward--though the outward came
secondly--unless there was no deflection; none into the question, that
is, of what might make for the serenity of others, which was their own
affair and which above all seemed not urgent in comparison with the
supreme artistic. It wasn't that the artist hadn't to pay, to pay for
the general stupidity, perversity and perfidy, from the moment he might
have to deal with these things; that was the inevitable suffering, and
it was always there; but it could be more or less borne if one was
systematically, or rather if one was naturally, or even, better still,
preternaturally, in the right; since this meant the larger, the largest
serenity. That account of so fine a case of inward confidence would
indeed during those very first years have sinned somewhat by
anticipation; yet something of the beauty--that is of the unmatched
virtuosity--of the attitude finally achieved did even at the early time
colour the air of intercourse with him for those who had either few
enough or many enough of their own reserves. The second of these
conditions sprang from a due anxiety for one's own interests, more or
less defined in advance and therefore, as might be, more or less
menaced; the other proviso easily went with vagueness--vagueness as to
what things were one's interests, seeing that the exhibited working of
an esthetic and a moral confidence conjoined on that scale and at play
together unhampered would perhaps prove for the time an attraction
beyond any other. This reflection must verily, in our relation, have
brought about my own quietus--so far as that mild ecstasy could be
divorced from agitation. I recall at all events less of the agitation
than of the ecstasy; the primary months, certain aspects even of the few
following years, look out at me as from fine accommodations,
acceptances, submissions, emotions, all melted together, that one must
have taken for joys of the mind and gains of the imagination so clear as
to cost one practically nothing. They are what I see, and are all I want
to see, as I look back; there hangs about them a charm of thrilled good
faith, the flush and throb of crowding apprehensions, that has scarce
faded and of which I can only wish to give the whole picture the
benefit. I bottle this imponderable extract of the loitering summers of
youth, when every occasion really seemed to stay to be gathered and
tasted, just for the sake of its faint sweetness.

Some time since, in Boston, I spent an hour before a commemorative
cluster of La Farge's earlier productions, gathered in on the occasion
of his death, with the effect as of a plummet suddenly dropped into
obscure depths long unstirred, that of a remembered participation, it
didn't seem too much to say, in the far-away difficult business of their
getting themselves born. These things, almost all finished studies of
landscape, small and fond celebrations of the modest little Newport
harmonies, the spare felicities and delicacies of a range of aspects
that have ceased to appeal or to "count," called back into life a
hundred memories, laid bare the very footsteps of time, light and
uncertain though so often the imprint. I seemed so to have been there by
the projection of curiosity and sympathy, if not by having literally
looked in, when the greater number of such effects worked themselves
out, that they spoke to me of my own history--through the felt intensity
of my commission, as it were, to speak for my old friend. The terms on
which he was ever ready to draw out for us the interesting hours, terms
of patience as they essentially were for the edified party, lived again
in this record, but with the old supposition of profit, or in other
words the old sense of pleasure, of precious acquisition and intenser
experience, more vivid than anything else. There recurs to me for
instance one of the smallest of adventures, as tiny a thing as could
incur the name and which was of the early stage of our acquaintance,
when he proposed to me that we should drive out to the Glen, some six
miles off, to breakfast, and should afterwards paint--we paint!--in the
bosky open air. It looks at this distance a mythic time, that of felt
inducements to travel so far at such an hour and in a backless buggy on
the supposition of rustic fare. But different ages have different
measures, and I quite remember how ours, that morning, at the neat
hostel in the umbrageous valley, overflowed with coffee and
griddle-cakes that were not as other earthly refreshment, and how a
spell of romance rested for several hours on our invocation of the
genius of the scene: of such material, with the help of the attuned
spirit, may great events consent to be composed. My companion, his easel
and canvas, his palette and stool and other accessories happily placed,
settled to his subject, while I, at a respectful distance, settled to
mine and to the preparation of this strange fruit of time, my having
kept the impression as if it really mattered. It did indeed matter, it
was to continue to have done so, and when I ask myself the reason I find
this in something as rare and deep and beautiful as a passage of old
poetry, a scrap of old legend, in the vagueness of rustling murmuring
green and plashing water and woodland voices and images, flitting
hovering possibilities; the most retained of these last of course being
the chance that one's small daub (for I too had my easel and panel and
palette) might incur appreciation by the eye of friendship. This indeed
was the true source of the spell, that it was in the eye of friendship,
friendship full of character and colour, and full of amusement of its
own, that I lived on any such occasion, and that I had come forth in the
morning cool and had found our breakfast at the inn a thing of ineffable
savour, and that I now sat and flurriedly and fearfully aspired. Yes,
the interesting ineffectual and exquisite array of the Boston "show"
smote for me most the chord of the prime questions, the admirations and
expectations at first so confident, even that of those refinements of
loyalty out of which the last and highest tribute was to spring; the
consideration, I mean, of whether our extraordinary associate, neither
promptly understood nor inveterately accepted, might not eventually be
judged such a colourist and such a poet that owners of his first
felicities, those very ones over which he was actually bending, and with
a touch so inscrutable, such "tonalities" of his own, would find
themselves envied and rich. I remember positively liking to see most
people stupid about him, and to make them out, I dare say, more
numerously stupid than they really were: this perhaps in some degree as
a bright communication of his own spirit--which discerned from so far
off that of the bitterest-sweet cup it was abundantly to taste; and
partly because the case would after that fashion only have its highest
interest. The highest interest, the very highest, it certainly couldn't
fail to have; and the beauty of a final poetic justice, with exquisite
delays, the whole romance of conscious delicacy and heroic patience
intervening, was just what we seemed to see meanwhile stow itself
expectantly away.

This view of the inevitable fate of distinguished work was thus, on my
part, as it comes before me again, of early development, and I admit
that I should appear to antedate it hadn't I in renewed presence of each
of the particular predestined objects of sacrifice I have glanced at
caught myself in the very act of that invidious apprehension, that
fondest contemporaneity. There were the charming individual things round
the production of which I had so at once elatedly and resignedly
circled; and nothing remained at the end of time but to test the
historic question. _Was_ the quiet chamber of the Boston museum a
constitution of poetic justice long awaited and at last fully
cognisant?--or did the event perhaps fail to give out, after all, the
essence of our far-away forecast? I think that what showed clearest, or
what I, at any rate, most sharply felt, was the very difficulty of
saying; which fact meant of course, I recognise, that the story fell a
little short, alas, of rounding itself off. Poetic justice, when it
comes, I gather, comes ever with a great shining; so that if there is
any doubt about it the source of the doubt is in the very depths of the
case and has been from the first at work there. It literally seems to
me, besides, that there was more history and thereby more interest
recoverable as the matter stood than if every answer to every question
about it hadn't had a fine ambiguity. I like ambiguities and detest
great glares; preferring thus for my critical no less than for my
pedestrian progress the cool and the shade to the sun and dust of the
way. There was an exquisite effort of which I had been peculiarly sure;
the large canvas of the view of the Paradise Rocks over against Newport,
but within the island and beyond the "second beach"--such were our thin
designations! On the high style and the grand manner of this thing, even
though a little uneasy before the absence from it of a certain crânerie
of touch, I would have staked every grain of my grounded sensibility--in
spite of which, on second thoughts, I shall let that faded fact, and no
other contention at all, be my last word about it. For the prevailing
force, within the Boston walls, the supreme magic anything was to
distil, just melted into another connection which flung a soft mantle as
over the whole show. It became, from the question of how even a man of
perceptive genius had painted what we then locally regarded as our
scenery, a question of how we ourselves had felt and cherished that
scenery; which latter of these two memories swept for me everything
before it. The scenery we cherished--by which I really mean, I fear, but
four or five of us--has now been grossly and utterly sacrificed; in the
sense that its range was all for the pedestrian measure, that to
overwalk it was to love it and to love it to overwalk it, and that no
such relation with it as either of these appears possible or thinkable
to-day. We had, the four or five of us, the instinct--the very finest
this must have been--of its scale and constitution, the adorable wise
economy with which nature had handled it and in the light of which the
whole seaward and insular extension of the comparatively futile town,
untrodden, unsuspected, practically all inviolate, offered a course for
the long afternoon ramble more in harmony with the invocations, or for
that matter the evocations, of youth than we most of us, with
appreciation so rooted, were perhaps ever to know. We knew already, we
knew then, that no such range of airs would ever again be played for us
on but two or three silver strings. They were but two or three--the sea
so often as of the isles of Greece, the mildly but perpetually embayed
promontories of mossy rock and wasted thankless pasture, bathed in a
refinement of radiance and a sweetness of solitude which amounted in
themselves to the highest "finish"; and little more than the feeling,
with all this, or rather with no more than this, that possession,
discrimination, far frequentation, were ours alone, and that a grassy
rocky tide-washed, just a bare, though ever so fine-grained, toned and
tinted breast of nature and field of fancy stretched for us to the low
horizon's furthest rim. The vast region--it struck us then as vast--was
practically roadless, but this, far from making it a desert, made it a
kind of boundless empty carpeted saloon. It comes back to me that nobody
in those days walked, nobody but the three or four of us--or indeed I
should say, if pushed, the single pair in particular of whom I was one
and the other Thomas Sargeant Perry, superexcellent and all-reading,
all-engulfing friend of those days and still, sole survivor, of these, I
thus found deeply consecrated that love of the long, again and again of
the very longest possible, walk which was to see me, year after year,
through so many of the twists and past so many of the threatened blocks
of life's road, and which, during the early and American period, was to
make me lone and perverse even in my own sight: so little was it ever
given me then, wherever I scanned the view, to descry a
fellow-pedestrian. The pedestrians came to succumb altogether, at
Newport, to this virtual challenge of their strange agitation--by the
circumstance, that is, of their being offered at last, to importunity,
the vulgar road, under the invasion of which the old rich alternative
miserably dwindled.



V


Nothing meanwhile could have been less logical, yet at the same time
more natural, than that William's interest in the practice of painting
should have suddenly and abruptly ceased; a turn of our affair attended,
however, with no shade of commotion, no repining at proved waste; with
as little of any confessed ruefulness of mistake on one side as of any
elation of wisdom, any resonance of the ready "I told you so" on the
other. The one side would have been, with a different tone about the
matter and a different domestic habit than ours, that of my brother's
awkwardness, accompanying whatever intelligence, of disavowal, and the
other been our father's not unemphatic return to the point that his
doubts, those originally and confidently intimated, had been justified
by the fact. Tempting doubtless in a heavier household air the
opportunity on the latter's part to recall that if he had perfectly
recognised his son's probable progress to a pitch of excellence he had
exactly not granted that an attainment of this pitch was likely in the
least, however uncontested, to satisfy the nature concerned; the
foregone conclusion having all the while been that such a spirit was
competent to something larger and less superficially calculable,
something more expressive of its true inwardness. This was not the way
in which things happened among us, for I really think the committed
mistake was ever discriminated against--certainly by the head of the
family--only to the extent of its acquiring, even if but speedily again
to fade, an interest greater than was obtainable by the too obvious
success. I am not sure indeed that the kind of personal history most
appealing to my father would not have been some kind that should fairly
proceed by mistakes, mistakes more human, more associational, less
angular, less hard for others, that is less exemplary for them (since
righteousness, as mostly understood, was in our parent's view, I think,
the cruellest thing in the world) than straight and smug and declared
felicities. The qualification here, I allow, would be in his scant
measure of the difference, after all, for the life of the soul, between
the marked achievement and the marked shortcoming. He had a manner of
his own of appreciating failure, or of not at least piously rejoicing in
displayed moral, intellectual, or even material, economies, which, had
it not been that his humanity, his generosity and, for the most part,
his gaiety, were always, at the worst, consistent, might sometimes have
left us with our small savings, our little exhibitions and
complacencies, rather on our hands. As the case stood I find myself
thinking of our life in those years as profiting greatly for animation
and curiosity by the interest he shed for us on the whole side of the
human scene usually held least interesting--the element, the appearance,
of waste which plays there such a part and into which he could read
under provocation so much character and colour and charm, so many
implications of the fine and the worthy, that, since the art of missing
or of failing, or of otherwise going astray, did after all in his hands
escape becoming either a matter of real example or of absolute precept,
enlarged not a little our field and our categories of appreciation and
perception. I recover as I look back on all this the sense as of an
extraordinary young confidence, our common support, in our coming round
together, through the immense lubrication of his expressed thought,
often perhaps extravagantly working and playing, to plenty of
unbewildered rightness, a state of comfort that would always
serve--whether after strange openings into a sphere where nothing
practical mattered, or after even still quainter closings in upon us of
unexpected importances and values. Which means, to my memory, that we
breathed somehow an air in which waste, for us at least, couldn't and
didn't live, so certain were aberrations and discussions, adventures,
excursions and alarms of whatever sort, to wind up in a "transformation
scene" or, if the term be not profane, happy harlequinade; a figuration
of each involved issue and item before the footlights of a familiar
idealism, the most socialised and ironised, the most amusedly
generalised, that possibly could be.

Such an atmosphere was, taking one of its elements with another,
doubtless delightful; yet if it was friendly to the suggested or
imagined thing it promoted among us much less directly, as I have
already hinted, the act of choice--choice as to the "career" for
example, with a view of the usual proceedings thereupon consequent. I
marvel at the manner in which the door appears to have been held or at
least left open to us for experiment, though with a tendency to close,
the oddest yet most inveterately perceptible movement in that sense,
before any very earnest proposition in particular. I have no remembrance
at all of marked prejudices on our father's part, but I recall repeated
cases, in his attitude to our young affairs, of a disparagement
suggested as by stirred memories of his own; the instance most present
to me being his extreme tepidity in the matter of William's, or in fact
of my, going, on our then American basis, to college. I make out in him,
and at the time made out, a great revulsion of spirit from that incurred
experience in his own history, a revulsion I think moreover quite
independent of any particular or instrinsic attributes of the seat of
learning involved in it. Union College, Schenectady, New York, the scene
of his personal experiment and the natural resort, in his youth, of
comparatively adjacent Albanians, might easily have offered at that time
no very rare opportunities--few were the American country colleges that
then had such to offer; but when, after years, the question arose for
his sons he saw it in I scarce know what light of associational or
"subjective" dislike. He had the disadvantage--unless indeed it was much
more we who had it--of his having, after many changes and detachments,
ceased to believe in the Schenectady resource, or to revert to it
sentimentally, without his forming on the other hand, with his boys to
place, any fonder presumption or preference. There comes out to me, much
bedimmed but recognisable, the image of a day of extreme youth on which,
during a stay with our grandmother at Albany, we achieved, William and
I, with some confused and heated railway effort, a pious pilgrimage to
the small scholastic city--pious by reason, I clearly remember, of a
lively persuasion on my brother's part that to Union College, at some
indefinite future time, we should both most naturally and delightedly
repair. We invoked, I gather, among its scattered shades, fairly vague
to me now, the loyalty that our parent appeared to have dropped by the
way--even though our attitude about it can scarce have been prematurely
contentious; the whole vision is at any rate to-day bathed and blurred
for me in the air of some charmed and beguiled dream, that of the
flushed good faith of an hour of crude castle-building. We were helped
to build, on the spot, by an older friend, much older, as I remember
him, even than my brother, already a member of the college and, as it
seemed, greatly enjoying his life and those "society" badges and
trinkets with which he reappears to me as bristling and twinkling quite
to the extinction of his particular identity. This is lost, like
everything else, in the mere golden haze of the little old-time autumn
adventure. Wondrous to our sensibility may well have been the October
glamour--if October it was, and if it was not it ought to have been!--of
that big brave region of the great State over which the shade of
Fenimore Cooper's Mohawks and Mohicans (if this be not a pleonasm) might
still have been felt to hang. The castle we had built, however,
crumbled--there were plenty of others awaiting erection; these too
successively had their hour, but I needn't at this time stoop to pick up
their pieces. I see moreover vividly enough how it might have been that,
at this stage, our parents were left cold by the various appeal, in our
interest, of Columbia, Harvard and Yale. Hard by, at Providence, in the
Newport time, was also "Brown"; but I recover no connection in which
that mystic syllable swept our sky as a name to conjure with. Our
largest licence somehow didn't stray toward Brown. It was to the same
tune not conceivable that we should have been restored for educational
purposes to the swollen city, the New York of our childhood, where we
had then so tumbled in and out of school as to exhaust the measure, or
as at least greatly to deflower the image, of our teachability on that
ground. Yale, off our beat from every point of view, was as little to be
thought of, and there was moreover in our father's imagination no grain
of susceptibility to what might have been, on the general ground,
"socially expected." Even Harvard, clearly--and it was perhaps a trifle
odd--moved him in our interest as little as Schenectady could do; so
that, for authority, the voice of social expectation would have had to
sound with an art or an accent of which it had by no means up to that
time learned roundabout us the trick. This indeed (it comes to saying)
is something that, so far as our parents were concerned, it would never
have learned. They were, from other preoccupations, unaware of any such
pressure; and to become aware would, I think, primarily have been for
them to find it out of all proportion to the general pitch of
prescription. We were not at that time, when it came to such claims, in
presence of persuasive, much less of impressive, social forms and
precedents--at least those of us of the liberated mind and the really
more curious culture were not; the more curious culture, only to be
known by the positive taste of it, was nowhere in the air, nowhere
seated or embodied.

Which reflections, as I perhaps too loosely gather them in, refresh at
any rate my sense of how we in particular of our father's house actually
profited more than we lost, if the more curious culture was in question,
by the degree to which we were afloat and disconnected; since there were
at least luxuries of the spirit in this quite as much as
drawbacks--given a social order (so far as it _was_ an order) that found
its main ideal in a "strict attention to business," that is to buying
and selling over a counter or a desk, and in such an intensity of the
traffic as made, on the part of all involved, for close localisation. To
attend strictly to business was to be invariably _there_, on a certain
spot in a certain place; just as to be nowhere in particular, to _have_
to be nowhere, told the queer tale of a lack or of a forfeiture, or
possibly even of a state of intrinsic unworthiness. I have already
expressed how few of these elements of the background we ourselves had
ever had either to add to or to subtract from, and how this of itself
did after a fashion "place" us in the small Newport colony of the
despoiled and disillusioned, the mildly, the reminiscentially desperate.
As easy as might be, for the time, I have also noted, was our footing
there; but I have not, for myself, forgotten, or even now outlived, the
particular shade of satisfaction to be taken in one's thus being in New
England without being of it. To have originally been of it, or still to
have had to be, affected me, I recall, as a case I should have
regretted--unless it be more exact to say that I thought of the
condition as a danger after all escaped. Long would it take to tell why
it figured as a danger, and why that impression was during the several
following years much more to gain than to lose intensity. The question
was to fall into the rear indeed, with ever so many such secondary
others, during the War, and for reasons effective enough; but it was
afterwards to know a luxury of emergence--this, I mean, while one still
"cared," in general, as one was sooner or later to stop caring.
Infinitely interesting to recover, in the history of a mind, for those
concerned, these movements of the spirit, these tides and currents of
growth--though under the inconvenience for the historian of such
ramifications of research that here at any rate I feel myself warned
off. There appeared to us at Newport the most interesting, much, of the
Albany male cousins, William James Temple--coming, oddly enough, first
from Yale and then from Harvard; so that by contact and example the
practicability of a like experience might have been, and doubtless was,
put well before us. "Will" Temple, as we were in his short life too
scantly to know him, had made so luckless, even if so lively a start
under one alma mater that the appeal to a fresh parentship altogether
appears to have been judged the best remedy for his case: he entered
Harvard jumping, if I mistake not, a couple of years of the
undergraduate curriculum, and my personal memory of these reappearances
is a mere recapture of admiration, of prostration, before him. The
dazzled state, under his striking good looks and his manly charm, was
the common state; so that I disengage from it no presumption of a
particular plea playing in our own domestic air for his temporary
Cambridge setting; he was so much too radiant and gallant and personal,
too much a character and a figure, a splendid importance in himself, to
owe the least glamour to settings; an advantage that might have seemed
rather to be shed on whatever scene by himself in consenting to light it
up. He made all life for the hour a foreground, and one that we none of
us would have quitted for a moment while he was there.

In that form at least I see him, and no revival of those years so puts
to me the interesting question, so often aimlessly returned upon in
later life, of the amount of truth in this or that case of young
confidence in a glory to come--for another than one's self; of the
likelihood of the wonders so flatteringly forecast. Many of our
estimates were monstrous magnifications--though doing us even at that
more good than harm; so that one isn't even sure that the happiest
histories were to have been those of the least liberal mistakes. I like
at any rate to think of our easy overstrainings--the possible flaw in
many of which was not indeed to be put to the proof. That was the case
for the general, and for every particular, impression of Will Temple,
thanks to his early death in battle--at Chancellorsville, 1863; he
having, among the quickened forces of the time, and his father's record
helping him, leaped to a captaincy in the regular Army; but I cling to
the idea that the siftings and sortings of life, had he remained subject
to them, would still have left him the lustre that blinds and subdues. I
even do more, at this hour; I ask myself, while his appearance and my
personal feeling about it live for me again, what possible aftertime
could have kept up the pitch of my sentiment--aftertime either of his
or of mine. Blest beyond others, I think as we look back, the
admirations, even the fondest (and which indeed were not of their nature
fond?) that were not to know to their cost the inevitable test or
strain; they are almost the only ones, of the true high pitch, that,
without broken edges or other tatters to show, fold themselves away
entire and secure, even as rare lengths of precious old stuff, in the
scented chest of our savings. So great misadventure have too often known
at all events certain of those that were to come to trial. The others
are the _residual_, those we must keep when we can, so to be sure at
least of a few, sacrificing as many possible mistakes and misproportions
as need be to pay but for two or three of them. There could be no
mistake about Gus Barker, who threw himself into the fray, that is into
the cavalry saddle, as he might into a match at baseball (football being
then undreamt of), and my last reminiscence of whom is the sight of him,
on a brief leave for a farewell to his Harvard classmates after he had
got his commission, crossing with two or three companions the expanse of
Harvard Square that faced the old Law School, of which I found myself
for that year (1862-63) a singularly alien member. I was afterwards
sharply to regret the accident by which I on that occasion missed speech
of him; but my present vision of his charming latent agility, which any
motion showed, of his bright-coloured wagging head and of the large
gaiety of the young smile that made his handsome teeth shine out, is
after all the years but the more happily uneffaced. The point of all
which connections, however, is that they somehow managed to make in the
parental view no straight links for us with the matter-of-course of
college. There were accidents too by the aid of which they failed of
this the more easily. It comes to me that, for my own part, I thought of
William at the time as having, or rather as so much more than having,
already graduated; the effect of contact with his mind and talk, with
the free play of his spirit and the irrepressible brush of his humour,
couldn't have been greater had he carried off fifty honours. I felt in
him such authority, so perpetually quickened a state of intellect and
character, that the detail or the literal side of the question never so
much as came up for me: I must have made out that to plenty of
graduates, or of the graduating, nothing in the nature of such
appearances attached. I think of our father moreover as no less affected
by a like impression; so extremely, so immensely disposed do I see him
to generalise his eldest son's gifts as by the largest, fondest
synthesis, and not so much proceed upon them in any one direction as
proceed _from_ them, as it were, in all.

Little as such a view might have lent itself to application, my
brother's searching discovery during the summer of 1861 that his
vocation was not "after all" in the least satisfyingly for Art, took on
as a prompt sequel the recognition that it was quite positively and
before everything for Science, physical Science, strenuous Science in
all its exactitude; with the opportunity again forthcoming to put his
freshness of faith to the test. I had presumed to rejoice before at his
adoption of the studio life, that offering as well possible contacts for
myself; and yet I recall no pang for his tergiversation, there being
nothing he mightn't have done at this or at any other moment that I
shouldn't have felt as inevitable and found in my sense of his previous
age some happy and striking symptom or pledge of. As certain as that he
had been all the while "artistic" did it thus appear that he had been at
the same time quite otherwise inquiring too--addicted to "experiments"
and the consumption of chemicals, the transfusion of mysterious liquids
from glass to glass under exposure to lambent flame, the cultivation of
stained fingers, the establishment and the transport, in our wanderings,
of galvanic batteries, the administration to all he could persuade of
electric shocks, the maintenance of marine animals in splashy aquaria,
the practice of photography in the room I for a while shared with him
at Boulogne, with every stern reality of big cumbrous camera, prolonged
exposure, exposure mostly of myself, darkened development, also
interminable, and ubiquitous brown blot. Then there had been also the
constant, as I fearfully felt it, the finely speculative and boldly
disinterested absorption of curious drugs. No livelier remembrance have
I of our early years together than this inveteracy, often appalling to a
nature so incurious as mine in _that_ direction, of his interest in the
"queer" or the incalculable effects of things. There was apparently for
him no possible effect whatever that mightn't be more or less rejoiced
in as such--all exclusive of its relation to other things than merely
knowing. There recurs to me withal the shamelessness of my own
indifference--at which I also, none the less, I think, wondered a
little; as if by so much as it hadn't been given me to care for visibly
provoked or engineered phenomena, by that same amount was I open to
those of the mysteriously or insidiously aggressive, the ambushed or
suffered sort. Vivid to me in any case is still the sense of how quite
shiningly light, as an activity and an appeal, he had seemed to make
everything he gave himself to; so that at first, until the freshness of
it failed, he flung this iridescent mantle of interest over the then so
grey and scant little scene of the Harvard (the Lawrence) Scientific
School, where in the course of the months I had had a glimpse or two of
him at work. Early in the autumn of 1861 he went up from Newport to
Cambridge to enter that institution; in which thin current rather than
in the ostensibly more ample began to flow his long connection with
Harvard, gathering in time so many affluents. His letters from Cambridge
during the next couple of years, many of them before me now, breathe, I
think, all the experience the conditions could have begotten at the
best; they mark the beginning of those vivacities and varieties of
intellectual and moral reaction which were for the rest of his life to
be the more immeasurably candid and vivid, the more numerous above all,
and the more interesting and amusing, the closer view one had of him.
That of a certainty; yet these familiar pages of youth testify most of
all for me perhaps to the forces of amenity and spontaneity, the happy
working of all relations, in our family life. In such parts of them as I
may cite this will shine sufficiently through--and I shall take for
granted thus the interest of small matters that have perhaps but that
reflected light to show. It is in a letter to myself, of that September,
dated "Drear and Chill Abode," that he appears to have celebrated the
first steps of his initiation.

Sweet was your letter and grateful to my eyes. I had gone in a
mechanical way to the P.O. not hoping for anything (though "on espère
alors qu'on désespère toujours,") and, finding nothing, was turning
heavily away when a youth modestly tapped me and, holding out an
envelope inscribed in your well-known character, said, "Mr. J., this was
in our box!" 'Twas the young Pascoe, the joy of his mother--but the
graphic account I read in the letter he gave me of the sorrow of my
mother almost made me shed tears on the floor of the P.O. Not that on
reflection I should dream----! for reflection shows me a future in which
she shall regard my vacation visits as "on the whole" rather troublesome
than otherwise; or at least when she shall feel herself as blest in the
trouble I spare her when absent as in the glow of pride and happiness
she feels at the sight of me when present. But she needn't fear I can
ever think of _her_ when absent with such equanimity. I oughtn't to
"joke on such a serious subject," as Bobby would say though; for I have
had several pangs since being here at the thought of all I have left
behind at Newport--especially gushes of feeling about the _place_. I
haven't for one minute had the feeling of being at home here. Something
in my quarters precludes the possibility of it, though what this is I
don't suppose I can describe to you.

As I write now even, writing itself being a cosy cheerful-looking
amusement, and an argand gas-burner with a neat green shade merrily
singing beside me, I still feel unsettled. I write on a round table in
the middle of the room, with a fearful red and black cloth. Before me I
see another such-covered table of oblong shape against the wall, capped
by a cheap looking-glass and flanked by two windows, curtainless and
bleak, whose shades of linen flout the air as the sportive wind impels
them. To the left are two other such windows, with a horse-hair sofa
between them, and at my back a fifth window and a vast wooden
mantel-piece with nothing to relieve its nakedness but a large cast,
much plumbago'd, of a bust of Franklin. On my right the Bookcase,
imposing and respectable with its empty drawers and with my little array
of printed wisdom covering nearly _one_ of the shelves. I hear the
people breathe as they go past in the street, and the roll and jar of
the horse-cars is terrific. I have accordingly engaged the other room
from Mrs. Pascoe, with the little sleeping-room upstairs. It looks
infinitely more cheerful than this, and if I don't find the grate
sufficient I can easily have a Franklin stove put up. But she says the
grate will make an oven of it.... John Ropes I met the other day at
Harry Quincy's room, and was very much pleased with him. Don't fail to
send on Will Temple's letters to him and to Herbert Mason, which I left
in one of the library's mantelpiece jars, to use the Portuguese idiom.
Storrow Higginson has been very kind to me, making enquiries about
tables etc. We went together this morning to the house of the Curator of
the Gray collection of Engravings, which is solemnly to unfold its
glories to me to-morrow. He is a most serious stately German gentleman,
Mr. Thies by name, fully sensible of the deep vital importance of his
treasures and evidently thinking a visit to them a great affair--to
_me_. Had I known how great, how tremendous and formal, I hardly think I
should have ventured to call. Tom Ward pays me a visit almost every
evening. Poor Tom seems a-cold too. His deafness keeps him from making
acquaintances. Professor Eliot, at the School, is a fine fellow, I
suspect; a man who if he resolves to do a thing won't be prevented. I
find analysis very interesting _so far_! The Library has a
reading-room, where they take all the magazines; so I shan't want for
the Rev. des 2 M. I remain with unalterable sentiments of devotion ever,
my dear H., your Big Brother Bill.

This record of further impressions closely and copiously followed.

     Your letter this morning was such a godsend that I hasten to
     respond a line or two, though I have no business to--for I have a
     fearful lesson to-morrow and am going to Boston to-night to hear
     Agassiz lecture (12 lectures on "Methods in Nat. Hist."), so that I
     will only tell you that I am very well and my spirits just getting
     good. Miss Upham's table is much pleasanter than the other.
     Professor F. J. Child is a great joker--he's a little flaxen-headed
     boy of about 40. There is a nice old lady boarder, another man of
     about 50, of aristocratic bearing, who interests me much, and 3
     intelligent students. At the other table was no conversation at
     all; the fellows had that American solemnity, called each other
     Sir, etc. I cannot tell you, dearest Mother, how your account of
     your Sunday dinner and of your feelings thereat brought tears to my
     eyes. Give Father my ardent love and cover with kisses the round
     fair face of the most kiss-worthy Alice. Then kiss the Aunt till
     you get tired, and get all the rest of them to kiss _you_ till you
     cry hold enough!

     This morning as I was busy over the 10th page of a letter to Wilky
     in he popped and made my labour of no account. I had intended to go
     and see him yesterday, but found Edward Emerson and Tom Ward were
     going, and so thought he would have too much of a good thing. But
     he walked over this morning with, or rather without them, for he
     went astray and arrived very hot and dusty. I gave him a bath and
     took him to dinner, and he is now gone to see Andrew Robeson and E.
     E. His plump corpusculus looks as always. I write in my new parlour
     whither I moved yesterday. You have no idea what an improvement it
     is on the old affair--worth double the cost, and the little bedroom
     under the roof is perfectly delicious, with a charming outlook on
     little back yards with trees and pretty old brick walls. The sun is
     upon _this_ room from earliest dawn till late in the afternoon--a
     capital thing in winter. I like Miss Upham's very much. Dark
     "aristocratic" dining-room, with royal cheer. "Fish, roast beef,
     veal cutlets, pigeons!" says the splendid, tall, noble-looking,
     white-armed, black-eyed Juno of a handmaid as you sit down. And for
     dessert a choice of three, _three_, darling Mother, of the most
     succulent, unctuous (no, not unctuous, unless you imagine a
     celestial unction without the oil) pie-like confections, always 2
     platesful--my eye! She has an admirable chemical, not mechanical,
     combination of cake and jam and cream which I recommend to Mother
     if she is ever at a loss; though there is no well-stored pantry
     like that of good old Kay Street, or if there is it exists not for
     miserable me.

     This chemical analysis is so bewildering at first that I am
     "muddled and bet" and have to employ almost all my time reading up.
     Agassiz is evidently a great favourite with his Boston audience and
     feels it himself. But he's an admirable earnest lecturer, clear as
     day, and his accent is most fascinating. Jeffries Wyman's lectures
     on Comp. Anatomy of Verts. promise to be very good; prosy perhaps a
     little and monotonous, but plain and well-arranged and nourris.
     Eliot I have not seen much more of; I don't believe he is a _very_
     accomplished chemist, but can't tell yet. We are only about 12 in
     the Laboratory, so that we have a very cosy time. I expect to have
     a winter of "crowded life." I can be as independent as I please,
     and want to live regardless of the good or bad opinion of every
     one. I shall have a splendid chance to try, I know, and I know too
     that the native hue of resolution has never been of very great
     shade in me hitherto. I am sure that that feeling is a right one,
     and I mean to live according to it if I can. If I do so I think I
     shall turn out all right.

     I stopped this letter before tea, when Wilky the rosy-gilled and
     Frank Higginson came in. I now resume it by the light of a taper
     and that of the moon. Wilky read H.'s letter and amused me "metch"
     by his naive interpretation of Mother's most rational request that
     I should "keep a memorandum of all moneys I receive from Father."
     He thought it was that she might know exactly what sums her
     prodigal philosopher really gives out, and that mistrust of his
     generosity caused it. The phrase has a little sound that way, as H.
     subtly framed it, I confess!

     The first few days, the first week here, I really didn't know what
     to do with myself or how to fill my time. I felt as if turned out
     of doors. I then received H.'s and Mother's letters. Never before
     did I know what mystic depths of rapture lay concealed within that
     familiar word. Never did the same being look so like two different
     ones as I going in and out of the P.O. if I bring a letter with me.
     Gloomily, with despair written on my leaden brow I stalk the street
     along towards the P.O., women, children and students involuntarily
     shrinking against the wall as I pass--thus,[4] as if the curse of
     Cain were stamped upon my front. But when I come out with a letter
     an immense concourse of people generally attends me to my lodging,
     attracted by my excited wild gestures and look.

Christmas being sparely kept in the New England of those days, William
passed that of 1861, as a Cambridge letter of the afternoon indicates,
without opportunity for a seasonable dash to Newport, but with such
compensations, nearer at hand as are here exhibited. Our brother Wilky,
I should premise, had been placed with the youngest of us, Bob, for
companion, at the "co-educational" school then but a short time
previously established by Mr. F. B. Sanborn at Concord,
Massachusetts--and of which there will be more to say. "Tom" Ward,
already mentioned and who, having left the Concord school shortly
before, had just entered Harvard, was quickly to become William's
intimate, approved and trusted friend; the diversion of whose patient
originality, whose intellectual independence, ability and curiosity from
science and free inquiry to hereditary banking--consequent on the
position of the paternal Samuel Gray Ward as the representative for many
years in the United States of the house of Baring Brothers--he from the
first much regretted: the more pertinently doubtless that this companion
was of a family "connected" with ours through an intermarriage, Gus
Barker, as Mrs. S. G. Ward's nephew, being Tom's first cousin as well as
ours, and such links still counting, in that age of comparatively
less developed ramifications, when sympathy and intercourse kept pace as
it was kept between our pairs of parents.

[Illustration: A leaf from the letter quoted on page 129.]

     I have been in Boston the whole blest morning, toted round by the
     Wards, who had as usual asked me to dine with them. I had happily
     provided myself with an engagement here for all such emergencies,
     but, as is my sportive wont, I befooled Tom with divers answers,
     and finally let him believe I would come (having refused several
     dazzling chances for the purpose) supposing of course I should see
     him here yesterday at Miss Upham's board and disabuse him. But the
     young viper went home right after breakfast--so I had to go into
     Boston this morning and explain. Wilky had come up from Concord to
     dine in said Commonwealth Avenue, and I, as it turned out, found
     myself in for following the innocent lamb Lily up and down the town
     for two hours, to hold bundles and ring bells for her; Wilky and
     Tom having vanished from the scene. Clear sharp cold morning,
     thermometer 5 degrees at sunrise, and the streets covered with one
     glare of ice. I had thick smooth shoes and went sliding off like an
     avalanche every three steps, while she, having india-rubbers and
     being a Bostonian, went ahead like a swan. I had among other things
     to keep her bundles from harm, to wipe away every three minutes the
     trembling jewel with which the cold _would_ with persistent
     kindness ornament my coral nose; to keep a hypocritic watchful eye
     on her movements lest she fall; to raise my hat gracefully to more
     and more of her acquaintances every block; to skate round and round
     embracing lamp-posts and door-scrapers by the score to keep from
     falling, as well as to avoid serving old lady-promenaders in the
     same way; to cut capers 4 feet high at the rate of 20 a second,
     every now and then, for the same purpose; to keep from scooting
     off down hills and round corners as fast as my able-bodied
     companion; often to do all these at once and then fall lickety-bang
     like a chandelier, but _when_ so to preserve an expression of
     placid beatitude or easy nonchalance despite the raging fiend
     within: oh it beggars description! When finally it was over and I
     stood alone I shook my companion's dust from my feet and, biting my
     beard with rage, sware a mighty oath unto high heaven that I would
     never, while reason held her throne in this distracted orb, _never_
     NEVER, by word, look or gesture and this without mental
     reservation, acknowledge a "young lady" as a human being. The false
     and rotten spawn might die before I would wink to save it. No more
     Parties now!--at last I am a Man, etc., etc.!

     My enthusiasm ran very high for a few minutes, but I suddenly saw
     that I was a great ass and became sobered instantly, so that on the
     whole I am better for the circumstance, being a sadder and a wiser
     man. I also went to the Tappans' and gave the children slight
     presents; then, coming home to my venal board, behaved very
     considerately and paternally to a young lady who sat next to me,
     but with a shade of subdued melancholy in my manner which could not
     have been noticed at the breakfast-table. Many times and bitterly
     to-day have I thought of home and lamented that I should have to be
     away at this merry Christmastide from my rare family; wondering,
     with Wilky, if they were missing us as we miss them. And now as I
     sit in the light of my kerosene, with the fire quietly consuming in
     the grate and the twilight on the snow outside and the melancholy
     old-fashioned strains of the piano dimly rising from below, I see
     in vision those at home just going in to dinner; my aged, silvered
     Mother leaning on the arm of her stalwart yet flexible H., merry
     and garrulous as ever, my blushing Aunt with her old wild beauty
     still hanging about her, my modest Father with his rippling raven
     locks, the genial auld Rob and the mysterious Alice, all rise
     before me, a glorified throng; but two other forms, one tall,
     intellectual, swarthy, with curved nose and eagle eye, the other
     having breadth rather than depth, but a goodly morsel too, are
     wanting to complete the harmonious whole. Eftsoons they vanish and
     I am again alone, _alone_--what pathos in the word! I have two
     companions though, most all the time--remorse and despair! T. S.
     Perry took their place for a little, and to-day they have not come
     back. T. S. seemed to enjoy his visit very much. It was very
     pleasant for me to have him; his rustic wonder at the commonest
     sights was most ludicrous, and his conversation most amusing and
     instructive.

     The place here improves to me as I go on living in it, and if I
     study with Agassiz 4 or 5 years there is nothing I should like
     better than to have you all with me, regular and comfortable. I
     enclose another advertisement of a house--but which would be too
     small for us, I believe, though it might be looked at. I had a long
     talk with one of A.'s students the other night, and saw for the
     first time how a naturalist may feel about his trade exactly as an
     artist does about his. For instance Agassiz would rather take
     wholly uninstructed people--"for he has to unteach them all they
     have learnt." He doesn't let them so much as look into a book for a
     long while; what they learn they must learn for themselves and be
     _masters_ of it all. The consequence is he makes Naturalists of
     them--doesn't merely cram them; and this student (he had been there
     2 years) said he felt ready to go anywhere in the world now with
     nothing but his notebook and study out anything quite alone. A.
     must be a great teacher. Chemistry comes on tolerably, but not so
     fast as I expected. I am pretty slow with my substances, having
     done but 12 since Thanksgiving and having 38 more to do before the
     end of the term.

Comment on the abundance, the gaiety and drollery, the generous play of
vision and fancy in all this, would seem so needless as to be almost
officious, were not the commentator constantly, were he not infinitely,
arrested and reminded and solicited; which is at once his advantage and
his embarrassment. Such a letter, at all events, read over with the
general key, touches its contemporary scene and hour into an intensity
of life for him; making indeed the great sign of that life my brother's
signal vivacity and cordiality, his endless spontaneity of mind. Every
thing in it is characteristic of the genius and expressive of the mood,
and not least, of course, the pleasantry of paradox, the evocation of
each familiar image by its vivid opposite. Our mother, _e.g._, was not
at that time, nor for a good while yet, so venerably "silvered"; our
handsome-headed father had lost, occipitally, long before, all pretence
to raven locks, certainly to the effect of their "rippling"; the beauty
of our admirable aunt was as happily alien either to wildness or to the
"hanging" air as it could very well be; the "mystery" of our young
sister consisted all in the candour of her natural bloom, even if at the
same time of her lively intelligence; and H.'s mirth and garrulity
appear to have represented for the writer the veriest ironic translation
of something in that youth, I judge, not a little mildly--though oh _so_
mildly!--morose or anxiously mute. To the same tune the aquiline in his
own nose heroically derides the slightly relaxed line of that feature;
and our brother Wilky's want of physical "depth" is a glance at a
different proportion. Of a like tinge of pleasantry, I may add, is the
imputation of the provincial gape to our friend T. S. Perry, of Newport
birth and unintermitted breeding, with whom we were to live so much in
the years to come, and who was then on the eve of entering Harvard--his
face already uninterruptedly turned to that love of letters, that
practice of them by dauntless and inordinate, though never at all
vulgarly resonant, absorption which was to constitute in itself the most
disinterested of careers. I had myself felt him from the first an
exemplary, at once, and a discouraging friend; he had let himself loose
in the world of books, pressed and roamed through the most various
literatures and the most voluminous authors, with a stride that, as it
carried him beyond all view, left me dismayed and helpless at the edge
of the forest, where I listened wistfully but unemulously to the far-off
crash from within of his felled timber, the clearing of whole spaces or
periods shelf by shelf or great tree by tree. The brother-in-law of
John La Farge, he had for us further, with that reviving consciousness
of American annals which the War was at once so rudely and so
insidiously to quicken in us, the glamour of his straight descent from
the Commodores Perry of the Lake Erie in the war of 1812, respectively,
and of the portentous penetration of Japan just after the mid-century,
and his longer-drawn but equally direct and so clean and comfortable
affiliation to the great Benjamin Franklin: as these things at least
seemed to me under my habit (too musing and brooding certainly to have
made for light loquacity) of pressing every wind-borne particle of
personal history--once the persons were only other enough from
myself--into the service of what I would fain have called picture or,
less explicitly, less formulatedly, romance.

These, however, are but too fond insistences, and what mainly bears
pointing out is my brother's already restless reach forth to some new
subject of study. He had but lately addressed himself, not without
confidence, to such an investigation of Chemistry as he might become
conscious of a warrant for, yet the appeal of Agassiz's great authority,
so much in the air of the Cambridge of that time, found him at once
responsive; it opened up a world, the world of sentient life, in the
light of which Chemistry faded. He had not, however, for the moment
done with it; and what I at any rate find most to the point in the pages
before me is the charm of their so witnessing to the geniality and
harmony of our family life, exquisite as I look back on it and reflected
almost as much in any one passage taken at hazard as in any other. He
had apparently, at the date of the following, changed his lodging.

     President Felton's death has been the great event of the week--two
     funerals and I don't know how many prayers and sermons. To-day I
     thought I would go to University chapel for the sake of variety and
     hear Dr. Peabody's final word on him--and a very long and
     lugubrious one it was. The prayer was a prolonged moan in which the
     death (not in its consequences, but in itself) was treated as a
     great calamity, and the whole eulogy was almost ridiculously
     overcharged. What was most disagreeable throughout was the wailing
     tones, not a bit that of simple pagan grief at the _loss_--which
     would have been honest; but a whine consciously put on as from a
     sense of duty, and a whine at nothing definite either, only a
     purposeless clothing of all his words in tears. The whole style of
     the performance was such that I have concluded to have nothing more
     to do with funerals till they improve.

     The walking here has been terrible with ice or slush these many
     weeks, but over head celestial. No new developments in this house.
     The maniac sometimes chills my very marrow by hoarsely whispering
     outside the door, "Gulielmo, Gulielmo!" Old Sweetser sits in his
     dressing-gown smoking his pipe all day in a little uncomfortable
     old _bathroom_ next door to me. He may with truth be called a
     queer cuss. The young ladies have that very nasty immodest habit of
     hustling themselves out of sight precipitately whenever I appear. I
     dined with Mrs. ---- yesterday all alone. She was quite sick, very
     hoarse, and _he_ was in the country, so that on the whole it was a
     great bore. She is very clumsy in her way of doing things, and her
     invitation to me was for the wife of an artist--not artistic!

     I am now studying organic Chemistry. It will probably shock Mother
     to hear that I yesterday destroyed a pockethandkerchief--but it was
     an old one and I converted it into some sugar which though rather
     brown is very good. I believe I forgot to tell you that I am shorn
     of my brightest ornament. That solitary hirsute jewel which lent
     such a manly and martial aspect to my visage is gone, and the place
     thereof is naked. I don't think anyone will know the difference,
     and moreover it is not dead, it only sleeps and will some day rise
     phoenix-like from its ashes with tenfold its former beauty. When
     Father comes will he please bring Ganot's Physique _if H. doesn't
     want it_?

In none of these earlier communications from Cambridge is the element of
affectionate pleasantry more at play than in those addressed to his
sister.

     Charmante jeune fille, I find the Tappans _really_ expected me to
     bring you to them and were much disappointed at my failure. Ellen
     has grown very fat and big. Mary calls everybody "horrid." Lyly
     Barker is with the Wards. I haven't seen her yet, but shall do so
     on Saturday, when I am also to dine with the Hunts. I hope your
     neuralgia, or whatever you may believe the thing was, has gone and
     that you are back at school instead of languishing and lolling
     about the house. I send you herewith a portrait of Prof. Eliot, a
     very fair likeness, to grace your book withal. Write me whenever
     you have the slightest or most fleeting inclination to do so. If
     you have only one sentence to say, don't grudge paper and stamps
     for it. You don't know how much good you may do me at an
     appropriate time by a little easy scratching of your graceful
     nimble pen.

In another apostrophe to the same correspondent, at the same season, his
high spirits throw off the bonds of the vernacular.

     Est-ce que tu songes jamais à moi comme moi je songe à toi?--oh je
     crois bien que non! Maintes fois dans la journée l'image d'une
     espèce d'ange vêtue de blanc avec de longs boucles noirs qui
     encadrent une figure telle que la plupart des mortels ne font que
     l'entrevoir dans leur rêves, s'impose à mes sens ravis; créature
     longue et fluette qui se dispose à se coucher dans une petite
     chambrette verte où le gaz fait un grand jour. Eh, oua, oua, oua!
     c'est à faire mourir de douleur. Mais je parie que tout de même pas
     une étincelle ne vibre pour moi dans les fibres de ton coeur
     endurci. Hélas, oublié de mes parents et de mes semblables, je ne
     vois, où que je regarde, qu'un abîme de désespoir, un gouffre noir
     et peuplé de démons, qui tôt ou tard va m'engloutir. Tu ne m'écris
     jamais sauf pour me soutirer des objets de luxe. La vaste mère me
     déteste, il n'y a que le frère qui me reste attaché, et lui par
     esprit d'opposition plus que par autre chose. Eh mon Dieu, que
     vais-je devenir? En tout cas je vais clore cette lettre, qui s'est
     allongée malgré moi. Ton frère, James William.

Of the same bright complexion is this report, addressed to his parents,
of the change of lodging already noted.

     The presence of the Tweedys has been most agreeable and has
     contributed in no small degree to break the shock of removal to
     these new rooms, which are not near so cosy as the old; especially
     with the smoking of my stove, which went on all the first two days.
     That has been stopped, however, and the only trouble is now to get
     the fire alight at all. I have generally to start it 3 or 4 times,
     and the removal of the material of each failure from the grate is a
     fearful business. I have also to descend to the cellar myself to
     get my coal, and my "hod," as Ma Sweetser, my land-lady, calls it,
     not being very much bigger than a milk-pitcher, doesn't add to the
     charm. The coal is apt to drop on the stairs, and I have to pick it
     all up. At present the stove fills the room with a nephitic and
     pestilential gas, so that I have to keep the window open. I went
     last night with the Tweedys to the concert for which they came up,
     and with them this morning to hear Wendell Phillips. This Sweetser
     family is worthy of Dickens. It consists of a Mr. and Miss S., Mr.
     S.'s three gushing girls, a parrot and a maniac. The maniac is very
     obstreperous. Her husband left her boarding here 3 months ago and
     went to Cuba. When she got mad he was written to, but has sent no
     reply, and they are keeping her. For the Aunt's sake I keep my
     drawer locked against her at night. Old Sweetser is a riddle I hope
     to do justice to at some future time, but can't begin on now. His
     sister shakes like an aspen whenever she is spoken to. Oh I forgot
     the most important character of all, the black wench who "does" the
     room. She is about 20 years old and wears short frocks, but talks
     like Alice Robeson and has an antediluvian face about as large as
     the top of a flour-barrel.

I can really keep my hand from nothing, of whatever connection, that
causes his intensity of animation and spontaneity of expression to
revive. On a Sunday evening early in 1862 he had

     just returned from Milton, and, after removing from my person a
     beetle, sit down to write you immediately. Ever since 10.30 this
     A.M. the beetle s'est promené à l'envi sur ma peau. The first
     feeling I had of his becoming attached to it made me jump so as to
     scare an old lady opposite me in the car into fits. Finding him too
     hard to crush I let him run, and at last got used to him though at
     times he tickled me to excruciation. I ache in every limb and every
     cranny of my mind from my visit.... They had the usual number of
     stories, wonderful and not wonderful, to tell of their friends and
     relatives (of Stephen somebody, _e.g._, who had a waggon weighing
     several tons run over his chest without even bruising him, and so
     on). They are very nice girls indeed all the same. I then went,
     near by, to the Forbes's in a state of profuse perspiration, and
     saw handsome Mrs. F. and her daughters, and a substitute for
     Governor Andrew in the person of his wife; after which I returned
     here, being driven back in the car, as I perceived on the front
     platform, by our old familiar--familiar indeed!--friend William (I
     mean our Irish ex-coachman) whom age doesn't seem to render more
     veracious, as he told me several very big stories about himself:
     how he smashed a car to pieces the other night, how he first gave
     the alarm of the great fire, etc.

     I went to the theatre the other night, and, asking a gentleman to
     make room for me, found him to be Bob Temple, who had arrived in
     Boston that day. He looks very well and talks in the most
     extraordinary way you ever heard about Slavery and the wickedness
     of human society, and is apparently very sincere. He sailed for
     Europe on Wednesday. I exhorted him to stop over at Newport, but he
     wouldn't. There was something quite peculiar about him--he seemed
     greatly changed. I can tell you more at home, but wish I might have
     seen more of him. I have been the last three nights running to hear
     John Wilkes Booth, the "young American Roscius." Rant, rant, rant
     of the most fearful kind. The worst parts most applauded, but with
     any amount of fire and energy in the passionate parts, in some of
     which he really becomes natural.... You don't know what a regular
     Sévigné you have in Alice. I blush for my delinquencies toward her,
     but bow my head with meek humility, contented to be her debtor all
     my life and despairing of ever repaying her the value of her
     letters. Mother and Aunt I pine to see, and the honest Jack Tar of
     the family, the rough Bob, with his rude untutored ways!

Traps for remembrance I find set at every turn here, so that I have
either to dodge them or patiently to suffer catching. I try in vain for
instance merely to brush past the image of our kinsman Robert Temple the
younger, who made with his brother Will the eldest pair in that house of
cousins: he waylays, he persuades me too much, and to fail of the few
right words for him would be to leave a deep debt unrepaid--his fitful
hovering presence, repeatedly vivid and repeatedly obscured, so
considerably "counted" for us, pointing the sharpest moral, pointing
fifty morals, and adorning a perpetual tale. He was for years, first on
the nearer and then little by little on the further, the furthest,
horizon, quite the most emphasised of all our wastrels, the figure
bristling most with every irregular accent that we were to find
ourselves in any closeness of relation with. I held him for myself at
least, from far back, a pure gift of free-handed chance to the grateful
imagination, the utmost limit of whose complaint of it could be but for
the difficulty of rendering him the really proper tribute. I regarded
him truly, for a long time, as a possession of the mind, the human image
swung before us with most of the effect of strong and thick and
inimitable colour. If to be orphaned and free of range had affected my
young fancy as the happy, that is the romantic, lot, no member of the
whole cousinship, favoured in that sense as so many of them were,
enjoyed so, by my making out, the highest privilege of the case.
Nothing, I could afterwards easily see, had been less inevitable and of
a greater awkwardness of accident than his being, soon after the death
of his parents, shipped off from Albany, in pursuit of an education, to
an unheard-of school in a remote corner of Scotland; which fact it was,
however, that played for me exactly the bright part of preparing to show
with particular intensity what Europe again, with the opportunity so
given, was going to proceed to. It thus shone out when after the lapse
of several years he recurred to our more competent view that, quite
richly erratic creature as he might appear, and to whatever degree of
wonder and suspense, of amusement and amazement, he might wind us up,
the rich alien influence, full of special queernesses and mysteries in
this special connection, had complacently turned him out for us and had
ever so irretrievably and ineffaceably stamped him. He rose before us,
tall and goodlooking and easy, as a figure of an oddly _civilised_
perversity; his irreverent challenging humour, playing at once, without
mercy, over American aspects, seemed somehow not less cultivated than
profane--just which note in itself caused the plot beautifully to
thicken; for this was to distinguish and almost embellish him throughout
a long career in which he was to neglect no occasion, however frankly
forbidding, for graceless adventure, that he had the pure derisive, the
loose and mocking mind, yet initiated, educated, almost elegantly
impudent, in other words successfully impertinent, and which expressed
itself, in particular by the pen, with a literary lightness that we used
to find inimitable. He had dangled there, further off and nearer, as a
character, to my attention, in the sense in which "people in books" were
characters, and other people, roundabout us, were somehow not; so that I
fairly thought of him (though this more, doubtless, with the lapse of
time) very much as if we had owed him to Thackeray or Dickens, the
creators of superior life to whom we were at that time always owing
most, rather than to any set of circumstances by which we had in our own
persons felt served; that he was inimitable, inimitably droll,
inimitably wasted, wanton, impossible, or whatever else it might be,
making him thus one with the rounded and represented creature, shining
in the light of art, as distinguished from the vague handful of more or
less susceptible material that had in the common air to pass for a true
concretion. The promise of this had been, to my original vision, in
every wind-borne echo of him, however light; I doubtless put people
"into books" by very much the same turn of the hand with which I took
them out, but it had tinged itself with the finely free that, proceeding
in due course from his school at Fochabers to the University of Aberdeen
(each sound and syllable of this general far cry from Albany had in
itself an incoherence!) he had encountered while there the oddest of all
occasions to embrace the Romish faith. In the same way it ministered to
the vivid, even if baffled, view of him that he appeared then to have
retreated upon the impenetrable stronghold of Nairn, described by him as
a bleak little Scotch watering-place which yet sufficed to his cluster
of predicaments: whence he began to address to his bewildered pair of
Albany guardians and trustees the earlier of that series of incomparably
amusing letters, as we judged them, the arrival of almost any one of
which among us, out of the midst of indocilities at once more and more
horrific and more and more reported with a desperate drollery, was to
constitute an event so supremely beguiling that distressful meanings and
expensive remedies found themselves alike salved to consciousness by the
fact that such compositions could only be, for people of taste,
enjoyable. I think of this hapless kinsman throughout as blest with a
"form" that appealed to the finer fibres of appreciation; so that,
variously misadventurous as he was ever to continue, his genius for
expression again and again just saved him--saved him for bare life, left
in his hand a broken piece of the effective magic wand, never perhaps
waved with anything like that easy grace in an equally compromised
interest.

It was at any rate as if I had from the first collected and saved up the
echoes--or so at least it seems to me now: echoes of him as all
sarcastically and incorrigibly mutinous, somewhat later on, while in
nominal charge of a despairing _pasteur_ at Neuchâtel--followed by the
intensified sense of him, after I scarce remember quite what interval,
on his appearing at Newport, where his sisters, as I have mentioned, had
been protectively gathered in, during the year, more or less, that
followed our own installation there. Then it was that we had the value
of his being interesting with less trouble taken to that end--in
proportion to the effect achieved--than perhaps ever served such a
cause; it would perhaps scarce even be too much to say that, as the only
trouble he seemed capable of was the trouble of quite positively
declining to interest on any terms, his essential Dickensism, as I have
called it, or his Thackerayan tint if preferred, his comedy-virtue in
fine, which he could neither disown nor, practically speaking, misapply,
was stronger even than his particular sardonic cynicism, strongly as
that was at last to flower. I won't in the least say he dazzled--that
was reserved for his so quite otherwise brilliant, his temporarily
triumphant, younger brother, at whom I have already glanced, who was on
no possible terms with him, and never could have been, so that the
difficulty of their relation glimmers upon me as probably half the good
reason for the original queer despatch of the elder to about the
remotest, the most separating, point in space at which "educational
advantages" could be conceived as awaiting him. I must have had no need
by that time to be dazzled, or even to be charmed, in order more or less
fondly, often indeed doubtless fearfully, to apprehend; what I
apprehended being that here was a creature quite amusedly and
perceptively, quite attentively and, after a fashion, profitably, living
without a single one of the elements of life (of the inward, I mean,
those one would most have missed if deprived of them) that I knew as
most conducive to animation. What could have roused more curiosity than
this, for the time at least, even if there hadn't been associated with
it such a fine redolence, as I then supposed it, of the rich and strange
places and things, as I supposed _them_, that had contributed to making
him over? He had come back made--unless one was already, and too
conveniently or complacently, to call it unmade: _that_ was the point
(and it certainly wasn't Albany that ever would have made him); he had
come back charged, to my vision, with prodigious "English" impressions
and awarenesses, each so thoroughly and easily assimilated that they
might have played their part as convictions and standards had he
pretended to anything that would in that degree have satisfied us. He
never spoke of his "faith," as that might have been the thing we could
have held him to; and he knew what not too gracelessly to speak of when
the sense of the American grotesque in general and the largely-viewed
"family" reducibility to the absurd in particular offered him such free
light pasture. He had the sign of grace that he ever perfectly
considered my father--so far as attitude, distinct from behaviour, went;
but most members of our kinship on that side still clung to this habit
of consideration even when, as was in certain cases but too visible,
they had parted with all sense of any other. I have preserved no happier
truth about my father than that the graceless whom, according to their
own fond term, he, and he alone of all of us, "understood," returned to
him as often and appealed to him as freely as those happier, though
indeed scarce less importunate, in their connection, who found
attraction and reason enough in their understanding _him_. My brother's
impression of this vessel of intimations that evening at the Boston
theatre, and of his "sincerity" and his seeming "greatly changed,"
doesn't at all events, I feel, fail in the least to fit into one of
those amplifications upon which my incurable trick of unwillingness
wholly to sacrifice any good value compromised by time tends to
precipitate me with a force that my reader can scarce fear for me more
than I fear it for myself. There was no "extraordinary way" in which our
incalculable kinsman _mightn't_ talk, and that William should have had
for the hour the benefit of his general truth is but a happy note in my
record. It was not always the case that one wished one "might have seen
more of him," but this was only because one had had on any contact the
sense of seeing so much. That produced consequences among which the
desire for more might even be uncannily numbered. John Wilkes Booth, of
the same evening, was of course President Lincoln's assassin-to-be, of
whose crudely extravagant performance of the hero of Schiller's Robbers
I recall my brother's imitative description--I never myself saw him; and
it simplifies his case, I think, for distracted history, that he must
have been quite an abominable actor. I appear meanwhile to have paid
William at Cambridge a visit of which I have quite oddly lost
remembrance--by reason doubtless of its but losing itself in like,
though more prolonged, occasions that were to follow at no great
distance and that await my further reference. The manner of his own
allusion to it more than suffices.

     The radiance of H.'s visit has not faded yet, and I come upon
     gleams of it three or four times a day in my farings to and fro,
     but it has never a bit diminished the lustre of far-off shining
     Newport, all silver and blue, and of this heavenly group
     below[5]--all being more or less failures, especially the two
     outside ones. The more so as the above-mentioned H. could in no
     wise satisfy my craving for knowledge of family and friends--he
     didn't seem to have been on speaking terms with anyone for some
     time past, and could tell me nothing of what they did, said or
     thought, about any given subject. Never did I see a so-much
     uninterested creature in the affairs of those about him. He is a
     good soul, though, in his way, too; and less fatal than the light
     fantastic and ever-sociable Wilky, who has wrought little but
     disaster during his stay with me; breaking down my good resolutions
     about food, keeping me from all intellectual exercise, working
     havoc on my best hat by wearing it while dressing, while in his
     nightgown, while washing his face, and all but going to bed with
     it. He occupied my comfortable arm-chair all the morning in the
     position represented in the fine plate that accompanies this
     letter--but one more night though, and he will have gone, and no
     thorn shall pierce the side of the serene and hallowed felicity of
     expectation in which I shall revel till the time comes for
     returning home, home to the hearth of my infancy and budding youth.
     As Wilky has submitted to you a résumé of his future history for
     the next few years, so will I of mine, hoping it will meet your
     approval. Thus: one year Chemistry, then one term at home. Then one
     year with Wyman, followed by a medical education. Then five or six
     years with Agassiz; after which probably death, death, death from
     inflation and plethora of knowledge. This you had better seriously
     consider. So farewell till 8.45 some Sunday evening soon. Your
     bold, your beautiful, your blossom!

"I lead, as ever," he meanwhile elsewhere records, "the monotonous life
of the scholar, with few variations."

     We have very general talk at our table, Miss Upham declaiming
     against the vulgarity of President Lincoln and complacently telling
     of her own ignorance as to the way the wind blows or as to the
     political events going on, and saying she thinks it a great waste
     of time and of "no practical account" to study natural history. F.
     J. Child impresses one as very witty and funny, but leaves it
     impossible to remember what he says. I took a walk with the
     Divinity student this splendid afternoon. He told me he had been
     walking yesterday with one of the Jerseymen and they had discussed
     the doctrine of a future state. The Jerseyman thought that if the
     easy Unitarian doctrines were to become popular the morals of the
     community would be most terribly relaxed. "Why," said the other,
     "here you are in the very thick of Unitarianism; look about
     you--people are about as good as anywhere." "Yes," replied the
     Jerseyman, "I confess to you that that is what has _staggered_ me,
     and I don't understand it yet!"

I stretch over to the next year, 1863, for the sake of the following to
his sister.

     Chérie charmante, I am established in a cosy little room, with a
     large recess with a window in it containing bed and washstand, and
     separated from the main apartment by a rich green silk curtain and
     a large gilt cornice. This gives the whole establishment a splendid
     look. I found when I got back here that Miss Upham had raised her
     price; so great efforts were made by two of us to form a club. But
     too little enthusiasm was shown by any one else, and it fell
     through. I then with that fine economical instinct which
     distinguishes me resolved to take breakfast and tea, of my own
     finding and making, in my room, and only pay Miss Upham for
     dinners. Miss U. is now holding forth at Swampscott, so I asked to
     see her sister Mrs. Wood and learn the cost of the 7 dinners a
     week. She with true motherly instinct said that I should only make
     a slop with my self-made meals in my room, and that she would
     rather let me keep on for 4.50, seeing it was me. I said she must
     first consult Miss Upham. She returned from Swampscott saying that
     Miss U. had sworn she would rather pay _me_ a dollar a week than
     have me go away. Ablaze with economic passion I cried
     "Done!"--trying to make it appear that she had made me a formal
     offer to that effect. But she then wouldn't admit it, and after
     much recrimination we separated, it being agreed that I should come
     for 4.50, _but tell no one_. So mind _you_ don't either. I now lay
     my hand on my heart and confidently look to my Mother for that
     glance of approbation which she must bestow. Have I not redeemed
     any weaknesses of the past? Though part of my conception fails, yet
     it was boldly planned and would have been a noble stroke.

     I have been pretty busy this week. I have a filial feeling toward
     Wyman already. I work in a vast museum at a table all alone,
     surrounded by skeletons of mastodons, crocodiles and the like, with
     the walls hung about with monsters and horrors enough to freeze the
     blood. But I have no fear, as most of them are tightly bottled up.
     Occasionally solemn men and women come in to see the museum, and
     sometimes timid little girls (reminding me of thee, my love, only
     they are less fashionably dressed), who whisper "Is folks allowed
     here?" It pains me to remark, however, that not all the little
     girls are of this pleasing type, many being bold-faced jades.
     Salter is back here, but morose. One or two new students and Prof.
     Goodwin, who is very agreeable. Also William Everett, son of the
     great Edward, very intelligent and a capital scholar, studying law.
     He took honours at the English Cambridge. I send a photograph of
     General Sickles for your and Wilky's amusement. It is a part of a
     great anthropomorphological collection which I am going to make. So
     take care of it, as well as of all the photographs you will find in
     the table-drawer in my room. But isn't he a bully boy? Desecrate
     the room as little as possible. If Wilky wants me as an extra nurse
     send for me without hesitation.



VI


These returns to that first year or two at Newport contribute meanwhile
to filling out as nothing in the present pages has yet done for me that
vision of our father's unsurpassable patience and independence, in the
interest of the convictions he cherished and the expression of them, as
richly emphatic as it was scantly heeded, to which he daily gave
himself. We took his "writing" infinitely for granted--we had always so
taken it, and the sense of him, each long morning, at his study table
either with bent considering brow or with a half-spent and checked
intensity, a lapse backward in his chair and a musing lift of perhaps
troubled and baffled eyes, seems to me the most constant fact, the most
closely interwoven and underlying, among all our breaks and variations.
He applied himself there with a regularity and a piety as little subject
to sighing abatements or betrayed fears as if he had been working under
pressure for his bread and ours and the question were too urgent for his
daring to doubt. This play of his remarkable genius brought him in fact
throughout the long years no ghost of a reward in the form of pence, and
could proceed to publicity, as it repeatedly did, not only by the
copious and resigned sacrifice of such calculations, but by his meeting
in every single case all the expenses of the process. The untired
impulse to this devotion figured for us, comprehensively and familiarly,
as "Father's Ideas," of the force and truth of which in his own view we
were always so respectfully, even though at times so bewilderedly and
confoundedly persuaded, that we felt there was nothing in his exhibition
of life that they didn't or couldn't account for. They pervaded and
supported his existence, and very considerably our own; but what comes
back to me, to the production of a tenderness and an admiration scarce
to be expressed, is the fact that though we thus easily and naturally
lived with them and indeed, as to their more general effects, the colour
and savour they gave to his talk, breathed them in and enjoyed both
their quickening and their embarrassing presence, to say nothing of
their almost never less than amusing, we were left as free and
unattacked by them as if they had been so many droppings of gold and
silver coin on tables and chimney-pieces, to be "taken" or not according
to our sense and delicacy, that is our felt need and felt honour. The
combination in him of his different vivacities, his living interest in
his philosophy, his living interest in us and his living superiority to
all greed of authority, all overreaching or overemphasising "success",
at least in the heated short run, gave his character a magnanimity by
which it was impossible to us not to profit in all sorts of responsive
and in fact quite luxurious ways. It was a luxury, I to-day see, to have
all the benefit of his intellectual and spiritual, his religious, his
philosophic and his social passion, without ever feeling the pressure of
it to our direct irritation or discomfort. It would perhaps more truly
figure the relation in which he left us to these things to have likened
our opportunities rather to so many scattered glasses of the liquor of
faith, poured-out cups stood about for our either sipping or draining
down or leaving alone, in the measure of our thirst, our curiosity or
our strength of head and heart. If there was much leaving alone in
us--and I freely confess that, so far as the taking any of it all
"straight" went, my lips rarely adventured--this was doubtless because
we drank so largely at the source itself, the personally overflowing and
irrigating. What it then comes to, for my present vision, was that he
treated us most of all on the whole, as he in fact treated everything,
by his saving imagination--which set us, and the more as we were
naturally so inclined, the example of living as much as we might in some
such light of our own. If we had been asked in our younger time for
instance what _were_ our father's ideas, or to give an example of one
of them, I think we should promptly have answered (I should myself have
hastened to do so) that the principal was a devoted attachment to the
writings of Swedenborg; as to whom we were to remember betimes, with
intimate appreciation, that in reply to somebody's plea of not finding
him credible our parent had pronounced him, on the contrary, fairly
"insipid with veracity." We liked that partly, I think, because it
disposed in a manner, that is in favour of our detachment, of the great
Emanuel, but when I remember the part played, so close beside us, by
this latter's copious revelation, I feel almost ashamed for my own
incurious conduct. The part played consisted to a large extent in the
vast, even though incomplete, array of Swedenborg's works, the old faded
covers of which, anciently red, actually apt to be loose, and backed
with labels of impressive, though to my sense somewhat sinister London
imprint, Arcana Coelestia, Heaven and Hell and other such matters--they
all had, as from other days, a sort of black emphasis of dignity--ranged
themselves before us wherever, and however briefly, we disposed
ourselves, forming even for short journeys the base of our father's
travelling library and perhaps at some seasons therewith the accepted
strain on our mother's patience. I recall them as inveterately part of
our very luggage, requiring proportionate receptacles; I recall them as,
in a number considerable even when reduced, part of their proprietor's
own most particular dependence on his leaving home, during our more
agitated years, for those speculative visits to possible better places
(than whatever place of the moment) from which, as I have elsewhere
mentioned, he was apt to return under premature, under passionate
nostalgic, reaction. The Swedenborgs were promptly out again on their
customary shelves or sometimes more improvised perches, and it was
somehow not till we had assured ourselves of this that we felt _that_
incident closed.

Nothing could have exceeded at the same time our general sense--unless I
all discreetly again confine myself to the spare record of my own--for
our good fortune in never having been, even when most helpless, dragged
by any approach to a faint jerk over the threshold of the inhabited
temple. It stood there in the centre of our family life, into which its
doors of fine austere bronze opened straight; we passed and repassed
them when we didn't more consciously go round and behind; we took for
granted vague grand things within, but we never paused to peer or
penetrate, and none the less never had the so natural and wistful,
perhaps even the so properly resentful, "Oh I say, do look in a moment
for manners if for nothing else!" called after us as we went. Our
admirable mother sat on the steps at least and caught reverberations of
the inward mystic choir; but there were positive contemporary moments
when I well-nigh became aware, I think, of something graceless,
something not to the credit of my aspiring "intellectual life," or of
whatever small pretensions to seriousness I might have begun to nourish,
in the anything but heroic impunity of my inattention. William, later
on, made up for this not a little, redeeming so, to a large extent, as
he grew older, our filial honour in the matter of a decent sympathy, if
not of a noble curiosity: distinct to me even are certain echoes of
passages between our father and his eldest son that I assisted at, more
or less indirectly and wonderingly, as at intellectual "scenes,"
gathering from them portents of my brother's independent range of
speculation, agitations of thought and announcements of difference,
which could but have represented, far beyond anything I should ever have
to show, a gained and to a considerable degree an enjoyed, confessedly
an interested, acquaintance with the paternal philosophic _penetralia_.
That particular impression refers indeed to hours which at the point I
have reached had not yet struck; but I am touched even now, after all
the years, with something exquisite in my half-grasped premonitory
vision of their belonging, these belated discussions that were but the
flowering of the first germs of such _other_, doubtless already such
opposed, perceptions and conclusions, to that order of thin consolations
and broken rewards which long figured as the most and the best of what
was to have been waited for on our companion's part without the escape
of a plaint. Yet I feel I may claim that our awareness of all that was
so serenely dispensed with--to call it missed would have been quite to
falsify the story and reflect meanly on the spirit--never in the least
brutally lapsed from admiration, however unuttered the sentiment itself,
after the fashion of raw youth; it is in fact quite distinct to me that,
had there been danger of this, there came to us from our mother's lips
at intervals long enough to emphasise the final sincerity and beauty a
fairly sacred reminder of that strain of almost solely self-nourished
equanimity, or in other words insuperable gaiety, in her life's comrade,
which she had never seen give way. This was the very gaiety that kept
through the years coming out for us--to the point of inviting free jokes
and other light familiarities from us at its expense. The happiest
household pleasantry invested our legend of our mother's fond habit of
address, "Your father's _ideas_, you know--!" which was always the
signal for our embracing her with the last responsive finality (and, for
the full pleasure of it, in his presence). Nothing indeed so much as his
presence encouraged the licence, as I may truly call it, of the
legend--that is of our treatment _en famille_ of any reference to the
attested public weight of his labours; which, I hasten to add, was much
too esoteric a ground of geniality, a dear old family joke, not to be
kept, for its value, to ourselves. But there comes back to me the
impression of his appearing on occasion quite moved to the exuberance of
cheer--as a form of refreshment he could draw on for a stronger and
brighter spurt, I mean--by such an apology for resonance of reputation
as our harmless, our of course utterly edgeless, profanity represented.
It might have been for him, by a happy stretch, a sign that the world
_did_ know--taking us for the moment, in our selfish young babble, as a
part of the noise of the world. Nothing, at the same time, could alter
the truth of his case, or can at least alter it to me now: he had,
intellectually, convictionally, passionally speaking, a selfless
detachment, a lack of what is called the eye for effect--always I mean
of the elated and interested order--which I can but marvel at in the
light of the rare aptitude of his means to his end, and in that of the
beauty of both, though the stamp was doubtless most vivid, for so
differing, so gropingly "esthetic" a mind as my own, in his unfailingly
personal and admirable style. We knew he had thoroughly his own
"unconventional" form, which, by the unspeakable law of youth, we
managed to feel the distinction of as not platitudinous even while we a
bit sneakingly felt it as quotable, on possible occasions, against our
presence of mind; the great thing was at all events that we couldn't
live with him without the sense that if his books resembled his talk and
his character--as we moreover felt they couldn't help almost violently
doing--they might want for this, that or the other which kept the
conventional true to its type, but could as little fail to flush with
the strong colour, colour so remarkably given and not taken, projected
and not reflected, colour of thought and faith and moral and
expressional atmosphere, as they could leave us without that felt
side-wind of their strong composition which made after all so much of
the air we breathed and was in the last resort the gage of something
perpetually fine going on.

It is not too much to say, I think, that our religious education, so far
as we had any, consisted wholly in that loose yet enlightening
impression: I say so far as we had any in spite of my very definitely
holding that it would absolutely not have been possible to us, in the
measure of our sensibility, to breathe more the air of that reference to
an order of goodness and power greater than any this world by itself can
show which we understand as the religious spirit. Wondrous to me, as I
consider again, that my father's possession of this spirit, in a degree
that made it more deeply one with his life than I can conceive another
or a different case of its being, should have been unaccompanied with a
single one of the outward or formal, the theological, devotional,
ritual, or even implicitly pietistic signs by which we usually know it.
The fact of course was that his religion was nothing if not a
philosophy, extraordinarily complex and worked out and original,
intensely personal as an exposition, yet not only susceptible of
application, but clamorous for it, to the whole field of consciousness,
nature and society, history, knowledge, all human relations and
questions, every pulse of the process of our destiny. Of this vast and
interesting conception, as striking an expression of the religious
spirit surely as ever was put forth, his eldest son has given an
account[6]--so far as this was possible at once with brevity and with
full comprehension--that I should have been unable even to dream of
aspiring to, and in the masterly clearness and justice of which the
opportunity of the son blends with that of the critic, each character
acting in perfect felicity, after a fashion of which I know elsewhere no
such fine example. It conveys the whole sense of our father's
philosophic passion, which was theologic, by my direct impression of it,
to a degree fairly outdistancing all theologies; representing its
weight, reproducing its utterance, placing it in the eye of the world,
and making for it the strong and single claim it suggests, in a manner
that leaves nothing to be added to the subject. I am not concerned with
the intrinsic meaning of these things here, and should not be even had
they touched me more directly, or more converted me from what I can best
call, to my doubtless scant honour, a total otherness of contemplation,
during the years when my privilege was greatest and my situation for
inquiry and response amplest; but the active, not to say the obvious,
moral of them, in all our younger time, was that a life of the most
richly consequent flowed straight out of them, that in this life, the
most abundantly, and above all naturally, communicated _as_ life that it
was possible to imagine, we had an absolutely equal share, and that in
fine I was to live to go back with wonder and admiration to the quantity
of secreted thought in our daily medium, the quality of intellectual
passion, the force of cogitation and aspiration, as to the explanation
both of a thousand surface incoherences and a thousand felt felicities.
A religion that was so systematically a philosophy, a philosophy that
was so sweepingly a religion, being together, by their necessity, as I
have said, an intensity of relation to the actual, the consciousness so
determined was furnished forth in a way that met by itself the whole
question of the attitude of "worship" for instance; as I have attempted
a little to show that it met, with a beautiful good faith and the
easiest sufficiency, every other when such came up: those of education,
acquisition, material vindication, what is called success generally. In
the beauty of the whole thing, again, I lose myself--by which I mean in
the fact that we were all the while partaking, to our most intimate
benefit, of an influence of direction and enlargement attended with
scarce a single consecrated form and which would have made many of
these, had we been exposed to intrusion from them, absurdly irrelevant.
My father liked in our quite younger period to read us chapters from the
New Testament and the Old, and I hope we liked to listen to them--though
I recall their seeming dreary from their association with school
practice; but that was the sole approach to a challenge of our complete
freedom of inward, not less than our natural ingenuity of outward,
experience. No other explicit address to us in the name of the Divine
could, I see, have been made with any congruity--in face of the fact
that invitations issued in all the vividest social terms, terms of
living appreciation, of spiritual perception, of "human fellowship," to
use the expression that was perhaps oftenest on his lips and his pen
alike, were the very substance of the food supplied in the parental
nest.

The freedom from pressure that we enjoyed in every direction, all those
immunities and exemptions that had been, in protracted childhood,
positively embarrassing to us, as I have already noted, before the
framework, ecclesiastical and mercantile, squared at us as with
reprobation from other households, where it seemed so to conduce to
their range of resource--these things consorted with our yet being
yearned over or prescribed for, by every implication, after a fashion
that was to make the social organisation of such invidious homes, under
my subsequent observation of life, affect me as so much bleak penury or
domestic desert where these things of the spirit, these genialities of
faith were concerned. Well do I remember, none the less, how I was
troubled all along just by this particular crookedness of our being so
extremely religious without having, as it were, anything in the least
classified or striking to show for it; so that the measure of
other-worldliness pervading our premises was rather a waste, though at
the same time oddly enough a congestion--projecting outwardly as it did
no single one of those usual symptoms of propriety any of which,
gathered at a venture from the general prospect, might by my sense have
served: I shouldn't have been particular, I thought, as to the
selection. Religion was a matter, by this imagination, to be worked off
much more than to be worked in, and I fear my real vague sentiment to
have been but that life would under the common equipment be somehow more
amusing; and this even though, as I don't forget, there was not an item
of the detail of devotional practice that we had been so much as allowed
to divine. I scarce know why I should have wanted anything more amusing,
as most of our coevals would have regarded it, than that we had from as
far back as I could remember indulged in no shade of an approach to
"keeping Sunday"; which is one of the reasons why to speak as if piety
could have borne for us any sense but the tender human, or to speak at
all of devotion, unction, initiation, even of the vaguest, into the
exercises or professions, as among our attributes, would falsify
altogether our mere fortune of a general liberty of living, of making
ourselves as brightly at home as might be, in that "spiritual world"
which we were in the habit of hearing as freely alluded to as we heard
the prospect of dinner or the call of the postman. The oddity of my own
case, as I make it out so far as it involved a confused criticism, was
that my small uneasy mind, bulging and tightening in the wrong, or at
least in unnatural and unexpected, places, like a little jacket ill cut
or ill sewn, attached its gaping view, as I have already more than
enough noted, to things and persons, objects and aspects, frivolities
all, I dare say I was willing to grant, compared with whatever
manifestations of the serious, these being by need, apparently, the
abstract; and that in fine I should have been thankful for a state of
faith, a conviction of the Divine, an interpretation of the
universe--anything one might have made bold to call it--which would have
supplied more features or appearances. Feeling myself "after" persons so
much more than after anything else--to recur to that side of my earliest
and most constant consciousness which might have been judged most
deplorable--I take it that I found the sphere of our more nobly
supposititious habitation too imperceptibly peopled; whereas the
religious life of every other family that could boast of any such (and
what family didn't boast?) affected my fancy as with a social and
material crowdedness. That faculty alone was affected--this I hasten to
add; no directness of experience ever stirred for me; it being the case
in the first place that I scarce remember, as to all our young time, the
crossing of our threshold by any faint shade of an ecclesiastical
presence, or the lightest encounter with any such elsewhere, and equally
of the essence, over and above, that the clerical race, the
pre-eminently restrictive tribe, as I apprehended them, couldn't very
well have agreed less with the general colour of my fondest vision: if
it be not indeed more correct to say that I was reduced to _supposing_
they couldn't. We knew in truth nothing whatever about them, a fact
that, as I recover it, also flushes for me with its fine
awkwardness--the social scene in general handsomely bristling with them
to the rueful view I sketch, and they yet remaining for us, or at any
rate for myself, such creatures of pure hearsay that when late in my
teens, and in particular after my twentieth year, I began to see them
portrayed by George Eliot and Anthony Trollope the effect was a
disclosure of a new and romantic species. Strange beyond my present
power to account for it this anomaly that amid a civilisation replete
with "ministers"--for we at least knew the word--actively,
competitively, indeed as would often appear quite violently,
ministering, so little sense of a brush against approved examples was
ever to attend me that I had finally to draw my nearest sufficiency of
a true image from pictures of a social order largely alien to our own.
All of which, at the same time, I allow myself to add, didn't mitigate
the simple fact of my felt--my indeed so luxuriously permitted--detachment
of sensibility from everything, everything, that is, in the way of great
relations, as to which our father's emphasis was richest. _There_ was
the dim dissociation, there my comparative poverty, or call it even
frivolity, of instinct: I gaped imaginatively, as it were, to such a
different set of relations. I couldn't have framed stories that would
have succeeded in involving the least of the relations that seemed most
present to _him_; while those most present to myself, that is more
complementary to whatever it was I thought of as humanly most
interesting, attaching, inviting, were the ones his schemes of
importances seemed virtually to do without. Didn't I discern in this
from the first a kind of implied snub to the significance of mine?--so
that, in the blest absence of "pressure" which I just sought here
passingly to celebrate, I could brood to my heart's content on the so
conceivable alternative of a field of exposure crammed with those
objective appearances that my faculty seemed alone fitted to grasp. In
which there was ever the small torment of the fact--though I don't quite
see to-day why it should not have been of a purely pleasant
irritation--that what our parent most overflowed with was just the brave
contradiction or opposition between all his parts, a thing which made
for perfect variety, which he carried ever so easily and brightly, and
which would have put one no less in the wrong had one accused him of
knowing only the abstract (as I was so complacently and invidiously
disposed to name it) than if one had foolishly remarked on his living
and concluding without it. But I have already made clear his great mixed
range--which of course couldn't _not_ have been the sign of a mind
conceiving our very own breathing humanity in its every fibre the
absolute expression of a resident Divinity. No element of character, no
spontaneity of life, but instantly seized his attention and incurred his
greeting and his comment; which things could never possibly have been so
genially alert and expert--as I have, again, before this,
superabundantly recorded--if it had not fairly fed on active observation
and contact. He could answer one with the radiant when one challenged
him with the obscure, just as he could respond with the general when one
pulled at the particular; and I needn't repeat that this made for us,
during all our time, anything but a starved actuality.

None the less, however, I remember it as savouring of loss to me--which
is my present point--that our so thoroughly informal scene of
susceptibility seemed to result from a positive excess of familiarity,
in his earlier past, with such types of the shepherd and the flock, to
say nothing of such forms of the pasture, as might have met in some
degree my appetite for the illustrational. This was one of the things
that made me often wish, as I remember, that I might have caught him
sooner or younger, less developed, as who should say; the matters that
appeared, however confusedly, to have started his development being by
this measure stranger and livelier than most of those that finally
crowned it, marked with their own colour as many of these doubtless
were. Three or four strongest pages in the fragment of autobiography
gathered by his eldest son into the sheaf of his Literary Remains
describe the state of soul undergone by him in England, in '44, just
previous to the hour at which Mrs. Chichester, a gentle lady of his
acquaintance there, brought to his knowledge, by a wondrous chance, the
possibility that the great Swedenborg, from whom she had drawn much
light, might have something to say to his case; so that under the
impression of his talk with her he posted at once up to London from the
neighbourhood of Windsor, where he was staying, possessed himself of
certain volumes of the writings of the eminent mystic (so-called I
mean, for to my father this description of him was grotesque), and
passed rapidly into that grateful infinitude of recognition and
application which he was to inhabit for the rest of his days. I saw him
move about there after the fashion of the oldest and easiest native, and
this had on some sides its own considerable effect, tinged even on
occasion with romance; yet I felt how the _real_ right thing for me
would have been the hurrying drama of the original rush, the interview
with the admirable Mrs. Chichester, the sweet legend of his and my
mother's charmed impression of whom had lingered with us--I admired her
very name, there seeming none other among us at all like it; and then
the return with the tokens of light, the splendid agitation as the light
deepened, and the laying in of that majestic array of volumes which were
to form afterward the purplest rim of his library's horizon and which I
was thus capable, for my poor part, of finding valuable, in default of
other values, as coloured properties in a fine fifth act. It was all a
play I hadn't "been to," consciously at least--that was the trouble; the
curtain had fallen while I was still tucked in my crib, and I assisted
but on a comparatively flat home scene at the echo of a great success. I
could still have done, for the worst, with a consciousness of Swedenborg
that should have been graced at least with Swedenborgians--aware as I
was of the existence of such enrolled disciples, ornaments of a church
of their own, yet known to us only as persons rather acidly mystified by
the inconvenience, as we even fancied them to feel it, of our father's
frankly independent and disturbingly irregular (all the more for its
being so expressive) connection with their inspirer. In the light or the
dusk of all this it was surely impossible to make out that he professed
any faint shade of that clerical character as to his having incurred
which we were, "in the world," to our bewilderment, not infrequently
questioned. Those of the enrolled order, in the matter of his and their
subject of study, might in their way too have raised to my regard a
fretted vault or opened a long-drawn aisle, but they were never at all,
in the language of a later day, to materialise to me; we neither on a
single occasion sat in their circle, nor did one of them, to the best of
my belief, ever stray, remonstrantly or invitingly, into ours; where
Swedenborg was read not in the least as the Bible scarce more than just
escaped being, but even as Shakespeare or Dickens or Macaulay was
content to be--which was without our arranging or subscribing for it. I
seem to distinguish that if a fugitive or a shy straggler from the
pitched camp did turn up it was under cover of night or of curiosity and
with much panting and putting off of the mantle, much nervous laughter
above all--this safe, however, to become on the shortest order amusement
easy and intimate. That _figured_ something in a slight way--as at least
I suppose I may infer from the faint adumbration I retain; but nothing
none the less much attenuated what I suppose I should have denounced as
the falsity of our position (meaning thereby of mine) had I been
constitutionally at all voluble for such flights. Constructionally we
had all the fun of licence, while the truth seemed really to be that fun
in the religious connection closely depended on bondage. The fun was of
course that I wanted in this line of diversion something of the coarser
strain; which came home to me in especial, to cut the matter short, when
I was present, as I yielded first and last to many an occasion for
being, at my father's reading out to my mother with an appreciation of
that modest grasp of somebody's attention, the brief illusion of
publicity, which has now for me the exquisite grace of the touching,
some series of pages from among his "papers" that were to show her how
he had this time at last done it. No touch of the beautiful or the
sacred in the disinterested life can have been absent from such
scenes--I find every such ideally there; and my memory rejoices above
all in their presentation of our mother at her very perfectest of
soundless and yet absolutely all-saving service and trust. To have
attempted any projection of our father's aspect without an immediate
reference to her sovereign care for him and for all of us as the so
widely open, yet so softly enclosing, lap of all his liberties and all
our securities, all our variety and withal our harmony, the harmony that
was for nine-tenths of it our sense of her gathered life in us, and of
her having no other--to have so proceeded has been but to defer by
instinct and by scruple to the kind of truth and of beauty before which
the direct report breaks down. I may well have stopped short with what
there would be to say, and yet what account of us all can pretend to
have gone the least bit deep without coming to our mother at every
penetration? We simply lived by her, in proportion as we lived
spontaneously, with an equanimity of confidence, an independence of
something that I should now find myself think of as decent compunction
if I didn't try to call it instead morbid delicacy, which left us free
for detachments of thought and flights of mind, experiments, so to
speak, on the assumption of our genius and our intrinsic interest, that
I look back upon as to a luxury of the unworried that is scarce of this
world. This was a support on which my father rested with the absolute
whole of his weight, and it was when I felt her listen with the whole of
her usefulness, which needed no other force, being as it was the whole
of her tenderness and amply sufficing by itself, that I understood most
what it was so to rest and so to act. When in the fulness of the years
she was to die, and he then to give us time, a few months, as with a
beatific depth of design, to marvel at the manner of his acceptance of
the stroke, a shown triumph of his philosophy, he simply one day
consciously ceased, quietly declined to continue, as an offered measure
of his loss of interest. Nothing--he had enabled himself to make
perfectly sure--was in the least worth while without her; this attested,
he passed away or went out, with entire simplicity, promptness and ease,
for the definite reason that his support had failed. His philosophy had
been not his support but his suspension, and he had never, I am sure,
felt so lifted as at that hour, which splendidly crowned his faith. It
showed us more intimately still what, in this world of cleft components,
one human being can yet be for another, and how a form of vital aid may
have operated for years with such perfection as fairly to have made
recognition seem at the time a sort of excess of reaction, an
interference or a pedantry. All which is imaged for me while I see our
mother listen, at her work, to the full music of the "papers." She could
do that by the mere force of her complete availability, and could do it
with a smoothness of surrender that was like an array of all the
perceptions. The only thing that I might well have questioned on these
occasions was the possibility on the part of a selflessness so
consistently and unabatedly active of its having anything ever left
_acutely_ to offer; to abide so unbrokenly in such inaptness for the
personal claim might have seemed to render difficult such a special show
of it as any particular pointedness of hospitality would propose to
represent. I dare say it was our sense of this that so often made us
all, when the explicit or the categoric, the impulse of acclamation,
flowered out in her, find our happiest play of filial humour in just
embracing her for the sound of it; than which I can imagine no more
expressive tribute to our constant depths of indebtedness. She lived in
ourselves so exclusively, with such a want of use for anything in her
consciousness that was not about us and for us, that I think we almost
contested her being separate enough to be proud of us--it was too like
our being proud of ourselves. We were delightedly derisive with her even
about pride in our father--it was the most domestic of our pastimes; for
what really could exceed the tenderness of our fastening on her that she
_was_ he, _was_ each of us, was our pride and our humility, our
possibility of _any_ relation, and the very canvas itself on which we
were floridly embroidered? How can I better express what she seemed to
do for her second son in especial than by saying that even with her
deepest delicacy of attention present I could still feel, while my
father read, why it was that I most of all seemed to wish we might have
been either much less religious or much more so? Was not the reason at
bottom that I so suffered, I might almost have put it, under the
impression of his style, which affected me as somehow too philosophic
for life, and at the same time too living, as I made out, for
thought?--since I must weirdly have opined that by so much as you were
individual, which meant personal, which meant monotonous, which meant
limitedly allusive and verbally repetitive, by so much you were not
literary or, so to speak, _largely_ figurative. My father had terms,
evidently strong, but in which I presumed to feel, with a shade of
irritation, a certain narrowness of exclusion as to images
otherwise--and oh, since it was a question of the pen, so
multitudinously!--entertainable. Variety, variety--_that_ sweet ideal,
_that_ straight contradiction of any dialectic, hummed for me all the
while as a direct, if perverse and most unedified, effect of the
parental concentration, with some of its consequent, though heedless,
dissociations. I heard it, felt it, saw it, both shamefully enjoyed and
shamefully denied it as form, though as form only; and I owed thus
supremely to my mother that I could, in whatever obscure levity, muddle
out some sense of my own preoccupation under the singular softness of
the connection that she kept for me, by the outward graces, with that
other and truly much intenser which I was so little framed to share.

If meanwhile my father's tone, so far as that went, was to remain the
same, save for a natural growth of assurance, and thereby of amplitude,
all his life, I find it already, and his very voice as we were to know
them, in a letter to R. W. Emerson of 1842, without more specific date,
after the loose fashion of those days, but from 2 Washington Place, New
York, the second house in the row between the University building and
Broadway, as he was next to note to his correspondent in expressing the
hope of a visit from him. (It was the house in which, the following
year, his second son was born.)

     I came home to-night from my lecture a little disposed to think,
     from the smart reduction of my audience, that I had about as well
     not have prepared my course, especially as I get no tidings of
     having interested one of the sort (the religious) for whom they are
     wholly designed. When I next see you I want a half-hour's support
     from you under this discouragement, and the purpose of this letter
     is to secure it. When I am _with_ you I get no help from you--of
     the sort you can give me, I feel sure; though you must know what I
     want before I listen to you next. Usually the temper you show, of
     perfect repose and candour, free from all sickening partisanship
     and full of magnanimous tenderness for every creature, makes me
     forget my wants in your lavish plenty. But I know you have the same
     as I have, deep down in your breast, and it is by these I would
     fain know you. I am led, quite without any conscious wilfulness
     either, to seek the _laws_ of these appearances that swim round us
     in God's great museum, to get hold of some central facts which may
     make all other facts properly circumferential and orderly; and you
     continually dishearten me by your apparent indifference to such law
     and such facts, by the dishonour you seem to cast on our
     intelligence as if it were what stands in our way. Now my
     conviction is that my intelligence is the necessary digestive
     apparatus for my life; that there is nihil in vita--worth anything,
     that is--quod non prius in intellectu. Now is it not so in truth
     with you? Can you not report your life to me by some intellectual
     symbol which my intellect appreciates? Do you not know your
     activity? But fudge--I cannot say what I want to say, what aches to
     say itself in me, and so I'll hold up till I see you, and try once
     more to get some better furtherance by my own effort. Here I am
     these thirty-one years in life, ignorant in all outward science,
     but having patient habits of meditation which never know disgust or
     weariness, and feeling a force of impulsive love toward all
     humanity which will not let me rest wholly mute, a force which
     grows against all resistance that I can muster against it. What
     shall I do? Shall I get me a little nook in the country and
     communicate with my _living_ kind--not my talking kind--by life
     only; a word perhaps of _that_ communication, a fit word once a
     year? Or shall I follow some commoner method--learn science and
     bring myself first into man's respect, that I may thus the better
     speak to him? I confess this last theory seems rank with
     earthliness--to belong to days forever past.

His appeal to Emerson at this hour was, as he elsewhere then puts it, to
the "invisible" man in the matter, who affected him as somewhere behind
the more or less immediately visible, the beautifully but mystifyingly
audible, the Emerson of honeyed lectures and addresses, suggestive and
inspiring as that one might be, and who might, as we say to-day, have
something, something more at least, for him. "I will tell him that I do
not value his substantive discoveries, whatever they may be, perhaps
half so largely as he values them, but that I chiefly cherish that erect
attitude of mind in him which in God's universe undauntedly seeks the
worthiest tidings of God, and calmly defies every mumbling phantom which
would challenge its freedom. Should his zeal for realities and contempt
of vulgar shows abide the ordeal I have thus contrived for them I shall
gladly await his visit to me. So much at least is what I have been
saying to myself. Now that I have told it to you also you have become a
sort of confidant between me and myself, and so bound to promote harmony
there." The correspondence expands, however, beyond my space for
reporting of it; I but pick out a few passages.

     I am cheered by the coming of Carlyle's new book, which Greeley
     announces, and shall hasten off for it as soon as I have
     leisure.[7] The title is provokingly enigmatical, but thought
     enough there will be in it no doubt, whatever the name; thought
     heaped up to topheaviness and inevitable lopsidedness, but more
     interesting to me than comes from any other quarter of
     Europe--interesting for the man's sake whom it shows. According to
     my notion he is the very best interpreter of a spiritual philosophy
     that could be devised for _this age_, the age of transition and
     conflict; and what renders him so is his natural
     birth-and-education-place. Just to think of a Scotchman with a
     heart widened to German spiritualities! To have overcome his
     educational bigotries far enough to listen to the new ideas, this
     by itself was wonderful; and then to give all his native shrewdness
     and humour to the service of making them _tell_ to the minds of his
     people--what more fortunate thing for the time could there be? You
     don't look upon Calvinism as a fact at all; wherein you are to my
     mind philosophically infirm--impaired in your universality. I can
     see in Carlyle the advantage his familiarity with it gives him over
     you with a general audience. What is highest in him is built upon
     that lowest. At least so I read; I believe Jonathan Edwards
     redivivus in true blue would, after an honest study of the
     philosophy that has grown up since his day, make the best possible
     reconciler and critic of this philosophy--far better than Schelling
     redivivus.

In the autumn of 1843 the "nook in the country" above alluded to had
become a question renounced, so far at least as the American country
was concerned, and never again afterwards flushed into life. "I think it
probable I shall winter in some mild English climate, Devonshire
perhaps, and go on with my studies as at home. I shall miss the stimulus
of your candid and generous society, and I confess we don't like the
aspect of the journey; but one's destiny puts on many garments as it
goes shaping itself in secret--so let us not cling to any particular
fashion." Very marked, and above all very characteristic of my father,
in this interesting relation, which I may but so imperfectly illustrate,
his constant appeal to his so inspired, yet so uninflamed, so
irreducible and, as it were, inapplicable, friend for intellectual and,
as he would have said, spiritual help of the immediate and adjustable,
the more concretely vital, kind, the kind translatable into terms of the
real, the particular human terms of action and passion. "Oh you man
without a _handle_! Shall one never be able to help himself out of you,
according to his needs, and be dependent only upon your fitful
tippings-up?"--a remarkably felicitous expression, as it strikes me, of
that difficulty often felt by the passionately-living of the earlier
time, as they may be called, to draw down their noble philosopher's
great overhanging heaven of universal and ethereal answers to the plane
of their comparatively terrestrial and personal questions; the note of
the answers and their great anticipatory spirit being somehow that they
seemed to anticipate everything but the unaccommodating individual case.
My father, on his side, bristled with "handles"--there could scarce be a
better general account of him--and tipped himself up for you almost
before you could take hold of one; of which truth, for that matter, this
same letter happens to give, even if just trivially, the hint. "Can I do
anything for you in the way of taking parcels, no matter how large or
expensive?--or for any of your friends? If you see Margaret Fuller ask
her to give me some service to render her abroad, the dear noble woman:
it seems a real hardship to be leaving the country now that I have just
come to talk with her." Emerson, I should add, did offer personally so
solid a handle that my father appears to have taken from him two
introductions to be made use of in London, one to Carlyle and the other
to John Sterling, the result of which shortly afterwards was as vivid
and as deeply appropriated an impression of each eminent character as it
was probably to be given either of them ever to have made. The
impression of Carlyle was recorded but long subsequently, I note, and is
included in William's gathering-in of our father's Literary Remains
(1885); and of the acquaintance with Sterling no reflection remains but
a passage in a letter, under date of Ventnor and of the winter of 1843,
from the latter to his biographer to be; Carlyle having already
mentioned in the Life that "Two American gentlemen, acquaintances also
of mine, had been recommended to him, by Emerson most likely"; and that
"one morning Sterling appeared here with a strenuous proposal that we
should come to Knightsbridge and dine with him and them.... And
accordingly we went," it goes on. "I remember it as one of the saddest
dinners; though Sterling talked copiously, and our friends, Theodore
Parker one of them, were pleasant and distinguished men." My father,
with Theodore Parker his friend and the date fitting, would quite seem
to have been one of the pair were it not that "our conversation was
waste and logical, I forget quite on what, not joyful and harmoniously
effusive." It is _that_ that doesn't fit with any real participation of
his--nothing could well do less so; unless the occasion had but too
closely conformed to the biographer's darkly and richly prophetic view
of it as tragic and ominous, "sad as if one had been dining in a ruin,
in the crypt of a mausoleum"--all this "painfully apparent through the
bright mask (Sterling) had bound himself to wear." The end of his life
was then, to Carlyle's view, in sight; but his own note, in the Isle of
Wight, on "Mr. James, your New-England friend," was genial enough--"I
saw him several times and liked him. They went on the 24th of last month
back to London--or so purposed," he adds, "because there is no pavement
here for him to walk on. I want to know where he is, and thought I
should be able to learn from you. I gave him a note for Mill, who may
perhaps have seen him."

My main interest in which is, I confess, for the far-off germ of the odd
legend, destined much to grow later on, that--already the nucleus of a
household--we were New England products; which I think my parents could
then have even so much as seemed only to eyes naturally unaware of our
American "sectional" differences. My father, when considerably past his
thirtieth year, if I am not mistaken, had travelled "East," within our
borders, but once in his life--on the occasion of his spending two or
three months in Boston as a very young man; there connecting itself with
this for me a reminiscence so bedimmed at once and so suggestive as now
almost to torment me. It must have been in '67 or '68 that, giving him
my arm, of a slippery Boston day, up or down one of the steep streets
that used to mount, from behind, and as slightly sullen with the effort,
to Beacon Hill, and between which my now relaxed memory rather fails to
discriminate, I was arrested by his pointing out to me opposite us a
house in which he had for a while had rooms, long before and quite in
his early time. I but recall that we were more or less skirting the base
of an ancient town-reservoir, the seat of the water-supply as then
constituted, a monument rugged and dark, massively granitic, perched all
perversely, as it seemed to look, on the precipitous slope, and
which--at least as I see it through the years--struck quite handsomely
the Babylonian note. I at any rate mix up with this frowning object--it
had somehow a sinister presence and suggestion--my companion's mention
there in front of it that he had anciently taken refuge under its shadow
from certain effects of a misunderstanding, if indeed not of a sharp
rupture, for the time, with a highly generous but also on occasion
strongly protesting parent at Albany, a parent displeased with some
course he had taken or had declined to take (there was a tradition among
us that he had been for a period quite definitely "wild"), and relief
from further discussion with whom he had sought, and had more or less
found, on that spot. It was an age in which a flight from Albany to
Boston--there being then no Boston and Albany Railroad--counted as a far
flight; though it wasn't to occur to me either then or afterwards that
the ground of this manoeuvre had been any plotted wildness in the
Puritan air. What was clear at the moment, and what he remarked upon,
was that the street-scene about us showed for all the lapse of time no
scrap of change, and I remember well for myself how my first impression
of Boston gave it to me under certain aspects as more expressive than I
had supposed an American city could be of a seated and rooted social
order, an order not complex but sensibly fixed--gathered in or folded
back to intensity upon itself; and this, again and again, when the
compass of the posture, its narrow field, might almost have made the
fold excruciating. It had given however no sign of excruciation--that
itself had been part of the Puritan stoicism; which perhaps was exactly
why the local look, recognised to the point I speak of by the visitor,
was so contained and yet comparatively so full: full, very nearly, I
originally fancied, after the appraisable fashion of some composed
town-face in one of Balzac's _villes de province_. All of which, I
grant, is much to say for the occasion of that dropped confidence, on
the sloshy hillside, to which I allude--and part of the action of which
was that it had never been dropped before; this circumstance somehow a
peculiar source of interest, an interest I the more regret to have lost
my grasp of as it must have been sharp, or in other words founded, to
account for the long reverberation here noted. I had still--as I was
indeed to keep having through life--the good fortune that elements of
interest easily sprang, to my incurable sense, from any ghost of a drama
at all _presented_; though I of course can't in the least pretend to
generalise on what may or may not have constituted living presentation.
This felicity occurred, I make out, quite incalculably, just as it could
or would; the effect depended on some particular touch of the spring,
which was set in motion the instant the touch happened to be right. My
father's was always right, to my receptive mind; as receptive, that is,
of any scrap of enacted story or evoked picture as it was closed to the
dry or the abstract proposition; so that I blush the deeper at not being
able, in honour of his reference, to make the latter more vividly
flower--I still so feel that I quite thrilled with it and with the
standing background at the moment lighted by it. There were things in
it, and other persons, old actualities, old meanings and furnishings of
the other old Boston, as I by that time couldn't but appraise it; and
the really archaic, the overhung and sombre and secret-keeping street,
"socially" disconnected, socially mysterious--as I like at any rate to
remember it--was there to testify (testify to the ancient time of
tension, expansion, sore meditation or whatever) by its positively
conscious gloom.

The moral of this, I fear, amounts to little more than that, putting
aside the substance of his anecdote, my father had not set foot in New
England till toward his thirty-fifth year, and my mother was not to do
so till later still; circumstances not in the least preventing the birth
of what I have called the falsifying legend. The allusion to the walking
at Ventnor touches his inability to deal with rural roads and paths,
then rougher things than now; by reason of an accident received in early
youth and which had so lamed him for life that he could circulate to any
convenience but on even surfaces and was indeed mainly reduced to
driving--it had made him for all his earlier time an excellent whip. His
constitution had been happily of the strongest, but as I look back I see
his grave disability, which it took a strong constitution to carry,
mainly in the light of a consistency of patience that we were never to
have heard broken. The two acceptances melt together for me--that of the
limits of his material action, his doing and enjoying, set so narrowly,
and that of his scant allowance of "public recognition," or of the
support and encouragement that spring, and spring so naturally and
rightly, when the relation of effect to cause is close and straight,
from any at all attested and glad understanding of a formula, as we say
nowadays a message, richly and sincerely urged. Too many such
reflections, however, beset me here by the way. My letters jump
meanwhile to the summer of 1849, when I find in another of them,
addressed to Emerson, a passage as characteristic as possible of one of
the writer's liveliest and, as I confess it was ever to seem to me, most
genially perverse idiosyncrasies, his distinctly low opinion of "mere"
literary men. This note his letters in general again and again
strike--not a little to the diversion of those who were to have observed
and remembered his constant charmed subjection, in the matter of
practice, to the masters, even quite the lighter, in the depreciated
group. His sensibility to their spell was in fact so marked that it
became from an early time a household game with us to detect him in
evasive tears over their pages, when these were either real or romantic
enough, and to publish without mercy that he had so been caught. There
was a period in particular during which this pastime enjoyed, indeed
quite revelled in, the form of our dragging to the light, with every
circumstance of derision, the fact of his clandestine and deeply moved
perusal of G. P. R. James, our nominal congener, at that time ceasing to
be prescribed. It was his plea, in the "'fifties," that this romancer
had been his idol in the 'forties and the 'thirties, and that under
renewed, even if but experimental, surrender the associations of youth
flocked back to life--so that _we_, profane about the unduly displaced
master, were deplorably the poorer. He loved the novel in fine, he
followed its constant course in the Revue with a beautiful
inconsequence, and the more it was literature loved it the better, which
was just how he loved, as well, criticism and journalism; the particular
instance, with him, once he was in relation with it, quite sufficiently
taking care of the invidiously-viewed type--as this was indeed viewed
but a _priori_ and at its most general--and making him ever so
cheerfully forget to be consistent. Work was verily cut out for the
particular instance, as against the type, in an air and at a time
favouring so, again and again, and up and down the "literary world," a
dire mediocrity. It was the distillers of _that_ thinness, the "mere"
ones, that must have been present to him when he wrote to Emerson in
1849: "There is nothing I dread so much as literary men, especially
_our_ literary men; catch them out of the range of mere personal gossip
about authors and books and ask them for honest sympathy in your
sentiment, or for an honest repugnancy of it, and you will find the
company of stage-drivers sweeter and more comforting to your soul. In
truth the questions which are beginning to fill the best books, and will
fill the best for a long time to come, are not related to what we have
called literature, and are as well judged--I think better--by those
whom books have at all events not belittled. When a man _lives_, that is
lives enough, he can scarcely write. He cannot read, I apprehend, at
all. All his writing will be algebraicised, put into the form of sonnets
and proverbs, and the community will feel itself insulted to be offered
a big bunch of pages, as though it were stupid and wanted tedious
drilling like a child." When I begin to quote my father, however, I hang
over him perhaps even too historically; for his expression leads me on
and on so by its force and felicity that I scarce know where to stop.
"The fact is that I am afraid I am in a very bad way, for I cannot
heartily engage in any topic in which I shall appear to advantage"--the
question having been, _de part et d'autre_, of possible courses of
lectures for which the appetite of New York and Boston already announced
itself as of the largest. And it still more beguiles me that "my wife
and I are obliged--so numerous has waxed our family--to enlarge our
house in town and get a country house for the summer." Here came in that
earnest dream of the solutional "Europe" with which I have elsewhere
noted that my very youngest sensibility was fed. "These things look
expensive and temporary to us, besides being an additional care; and so,
considering with much pity our four stout boys, who have no play-room
within doors and import shocking bad manners from the street, we gravely
ponder whether it wouldn't be better to go abroad for a few years with
them, allowing them to absorb French and German and get such a sensuous
education as they can't get here."

In 1850, however, we had still not departed for Europe--as we were not
to do for several years yet; one advantage of which was that my father
remained for the time in intercourse by letter with his English friend
Dr. J. J. Garth Wilkinson, first known during my parents' considerable
stay in London of several years before, 1843-44; and whose admirable
style of expression, in its way as personal and as vivid as Henry
James's own, with an added and doubtless more perceptibly full-blooded
massiveness, is so attested by his earlier writings,[8] to say nothing
of the rich collection of his letters (1845-55) lately before
me--notably by The Human Body and its Connection with Man, dedicated in
1851 to my father--that I wonder at the absence of such a master, in
more than one happy specimen, from the common educational exhibitions of
English prose. Dr. Wilkinson was a friend of Emerson's as well, which
leads the latter's New York correspondent to cite to him in February
1850 a highly characteristic passage from one of the London
communications.

     Carlyle came up here (presumably to Hampstead) on Monday to see
     Neuberg, and spoke much of you with very kind recollections. He
     remembered your metaphysics also and asked with terrible solicitude
     whether they yet persevered. I couldn't absolutely say that they
     did not, though I did my best to stammer out something about the
     great social movement. He was suffering dreadfully from _malaise_
     and indigestion and gave with his usual force his usual putrid
     theory of the universe. All great men were most miserable; the day
     on which any man could say he was not miserable, that day he was a
     scoundrel; God was a Divine Sorrow; to no moment could he, Carlyle,
     ever say Linger, but only Goodbye and never let me see your face
     again. And all this interpolated with convulsive laughter, showing
     that joy would come into him were it even by the path of hysteria
     and disease. To me he is an unprofitable man, and though he gave me
     the most kind invitation I have too much respect for my stomach to
     go much into his company. Where hope is feeble genius and the human
     voice are on the way to die. By the next boat I will endeavour to
     send you over my thoughts on his recent pamphlet, the first of a
     series of Latter-Day-Tracts. He is very rapidly falling out with
     all his present admirers, for which I like them all the better; and
     indeed is driving fast toward social views--only his is to be a
     compulsory, not an attractive, socialism.

After quoting which my father comments: "Never was anything more false
than this worship of sorrow by Carlyle; he has picked it up out of past
history and spouts it for mere display, as a virtuoso delights in the
style of his grandfather. It is the merest babble in him, as everyone
who has ever talked an hour with him will acquit him of the least grain
of humility. A man who has once uttered a cry of despair should ever
after clothe himself in sackcloth and ashes."

The writer was to have meanwhile, before our migration of 1855, a
considerable lecturing activity. A confused, yet perfectly recoverable
recollection, on my own part, of these years, connects itself with our
knowledge that our father engaged in that practice and that he went
forth for the purpose, with my mother always in earnest and confident
even though slightly fluttered attendance, at about the hour of our
upward procession to bed; which fact lent to the proceeding--that is to
_his_--a strange air of unnatural riot, quite as of torch-lighted and
wind-blown dissipation. We went to plays and to ballets, and they had
comparatively speaking no mystery; but at no lecture had we ever been
present, and these put on for my fancy at least a richer light and
shade, very much as if we ourselves had been on the performing side of
the curtain, or the wonder of admiring (in our mother's person) and of
being admired (in our father's) had been rolled for us into a single
glory. This glory moreover was not menaced, but only made more of a
thrill by the prime admirer's anxiety, always displayed at the last, as
to whether they were not starting without the feature of features, the
_corpus delicti_ or manuscript itself; which it was legendary with us
that the admired had been known to drive back for in an abashed flurry
at the moment we were launched in dreams of him as in full, though
mysterious, operation. I can see him now, from the parlour window, at
the door of the carriage and under the gusty street-lamp, produce it
from a coat-tail pocket and shake it, for her ideal comfort, in the
face of his companion. The following, to Emerson, I surmise, is of some
early date in the autumn of '52.

     I give three lectures in Boston at the Masonic Temple; the first
     and second on Nov. 5th and 8th respectively. I should be greatly
     appalled in some respects, but still charmed, to have you for an
     auditor, seeing thus a hundred empty seats obliterated; but, I beg
     of you, don't let any engagement suffer by such kindness to me.
     Looking over the lectures again they horrify me with their
     loud-mouthed imbecility!--but I hope they may fall upon less
     hardened ears in some cases. I am sure that the thought which is in
     them, or rather seems to me to struggle to be in them, is worthy of
     all men's rapturous homage, and I will trust that a glimpse of it
     may somehow befall my patient auditory. The fact is that a vital
     truth can never be transferred from one mind to another, because
     life alone appreciates it. The most one can do for another is to
     plant some rude formula of such truths in his memory, leaving his
     own spiritual chemistry to set free the germ whenever the demands
     of his life exact it. The reason why the gods seem so powerless to
     the sensuous understanding, and suffer themselves to be so long
     defamed by our crazy theologies, is that they are life, and can
     consequently be revealed only to life. But life is simply the
     passage of idea into action; and our crazy theologies forbid ideas
     to come into action any further than our existing institutions
     warrant. Hence man leads a mere limping life, and the poor gods who
     are dependent upon his manliness for their true revelation and for
     their real knowledge, are doomed to remain forever unknown, and
     even denied by such solemn pedants as Mr. Atkinson and Miss
     Martineau. However, I shall try to convert _myself_ at least into
     an army of Goths and Huns, to overcome and destroy our existing
     sanctities, that the supernal splendours may at length become
     credible and even visible. Good-bye till we meet in Boston, and
     cultivate your goodnature according to my extensive needs.

I bridge the interval before our migration of 1855 exactly for the sake
of certain further passages addressed to the same correspondent, from
London, in the following year. The letter is a long one and highly
significant of the writer's familiar frankness, but I must keep down my
examples--the first of which glances at his general sense of the men he
mainly met.

     They are all of them depressed or embittered by the public
     embarrassments that beset them; deflected, distorted, somehow
     despoiled of their rich individual manliness by the necessity of
     providing for these imbecile old inheritances of church and state.
     Carlyle is the same old sausage, fizzing and sputtering in his own
     grease, only infinitely _more_ unreconciled to the blest Providence
     which guides human affairs. He names God frequently and alludes to
     the highest things as if they were realities, but all only as for a
     picturesque effect, so completely does he seem to regard them as
     habitually circumvented and set at naught by the politicians. I
     took our friend M. to see him, and he came away greatly distressed
     and désillusionné, Carlyle having taken the utmost pains to deny
     and descry and deride the idea of his having done the least good to
     anybody, and to profess indeed the utmost contempt for everybody
     who thought he had, and poor M. being intent on giving him a
     plenary assurance of this fact in his own case.... Arthur Helps
     seems an amiable kindly little man with friendly offers, but I told
     him I had no intention to bore him, and would at most apply to him
     when I might want a good hatter or bootmaker. He fancied a
     little--at least I thought this was the case--that I was going to
     make a book, and might be indiscreet enough to put him in!.... ----
     disappoints me, he is so eaten up with the "spirits" and all that.
     His imagination is so vast as to dwarf all the higher faculties,
     and his sympathy as narrow as Dr. Cheever's or Brownson's. No
     reasonable man, it is true, likes the clergy or the philosophers,
     but ----'s dislike of them seems as envenomed as that between rival
     tradesmen or rival beauties. One can't endure the nonsense they
     talk, to be sure, but when one considers the dear human meaning and
     effort struggling at the bottom of it all one can feel still less
     any personal separation from the men themselves. ----'s sarcasm is
     of the fiercest, and on the whole he is only now at last sowing his
     intellectual wild oats--he will grow more genial in good time. This
     is it: I think he is but now finding his youth! That which we on
     our side of the water find so early and exhaust so prodigally he
     has found thus much later--I mean an emancipation from the shackles
     of custom; and the kicking up of his heels consequently is
     proportionate to his greater maturity of muscle. Mrs. ---- is a
     dear little goose of a thing, who fancies the divine providence in
     closer league with herself than with others, giving her intimations
     of events about to happen and endowing her with peculiar
     perspicacity in the intuition of remedies for disease; and ----,
     the great brawny fellow, sits by and says never a word in abatement
     of this enormous domestic inflation, though the visitor feels
     himself crowded by it into the most inconsiderable of corners. A
     sweet, loving, innocent woman like Mrs. ---- oughtn't to grow
     egotistical in the company of a truly wise man, and this
     accordingly is another quarrel I have with ----. In short I am
     getting to the time of life when one values one's friends for what
     they are more than for what they do. I am just as much impressed as
     ever by his enormous power, but the goodness out of which it is
     born and the wisdom by which it is nurtured and bred are things I
     don't so much see.

The correspondence grew more interspaced, and with the year 1861 and the
following, when we were at home again, became a matter of the occasional
note. I have before me a series of beautiful examples of Emerson's share
in it--during the earlier time copious enough; but these belong
essentially to another case. I am all but limited, for any further show
of the interesting relation than I have already given, to reproducing a
few lines from Emerson's Diary, passages unpublished at the moment I
write, and the first of them of April 1850. "I have made no note of
these long weary absences at New York and Philadelphia. I am a bad
traveller, and the hotels are mortifications to all sense of well-being
in me. The people who fill them oppress me with their excessive
virility, and would soon become intolerable if it were not for a few
friends who, like women, tempered the acrid mass. Henry James was true
comfort--wise, gentle, polished, with heroic manners and a serenity like
the sun." The hotels of those days may well have been an
ordeal--distinct to me still, from no few childish glimpses of their
bareness of ease and rudeness of _acceuil_; yet that our justly
fastidious friend was not wholly left to their mercy seems signified by
my not less vivid remembrance of his staying with us on occasion in New
York; some occasion, or occasions, I infer, of his coming on to lecture
there. Do I roll several occasions into one, or amplify one beyond
reason?--this last being ever, I allow, the waiting pitfall of a
chronicler too memory-ridden. I "visualise" at any rate the winter
firelight of our back-parlour at dusk and the great Emerson--I knew he
was great, greater than any of our friends--sitting in it between my
parents, before the lamps had been lighted, as a visitor consentingly
housed only could have done, and affecting me the more as an apparition
sinuously and, I held, elegantly slim, benevolently aquiline, and
commanding a tone alien, beautifully alien, to any we heard roundabout,
that he bent this benignity upon me by an invitation to draw nearer to
him, off the hearth-rug, and know myself as never yet, as I was not
indeed to know myself again for years, in touch with the wonder of
Boston. The wonder of Boston was above all just then and there for me
in the sweetness of the voice and the finish of the speech--this latter
through a sort of attenuated emphasis which at the same time made sounds
more important, more interesting in themselves, than by any revelation
yet vouchsafed us. Was not this my first glimmer of a sense that the
human tone _could_, in that independent and original way, be
interesting? and didn't it for a long time keep me going, however
unwittingly, in that faith, carrying me in fact more or less on to my
day of recognising that it took much more than simply not being of New
York to produce the music I had listened to. The point was that, however
that might be, I had had given me there in the firelight an absolutely
abiding measure. If I didn't know from that hour forth quite all it was
to _not_ utter sounds worth mentioning, I make out that I had at least
the opposite knowledge. And all by the operation of those signal
moments--the truth of which I find somehow reflected in the fact of my
afterwards knowing one of our household rooms for the time--it must have
been our only guest-chamber--as "Mr. Emerson's room." The evening
firelight played so long for me upon the door--that is to the length
probably of three days, the length of a child's impression. But I must
not let this carry me beyond the second note of the Diary, this time of
May 1852. "'I do not wish this or that thing my fortune will procure, I
wish the great fortune,' said Henry James, and said it in the noblest
sense." The report has a beauty to me without my quite understanding it;
the union of the two voices in it signifies quite enough. The last very
relevant echo of my father's by itself, in the connection, I hasten now
to find in a communication that must have been of the summer of 1869,
when Dr. Wilkinson paid his only visit to America--this apparently of
the briefest. The letter to Emerson from Cambridge notes that his
appearance there had been delayed.

     He may come to-morrow possibly: if in the morning I will telegraph
     you; if in the evening I shall try to keep him over Monday that you
     may meet him here at dinner on that day. But I fear this bothersome
     Sabbath and its motionless cars may play us a trick. I shall hope
     for a generous Monday all the same, and if that hope is baulked
     shall owe Sunday a black-eye--and will pay my debt on the first
     suitable occasion, I warrant you. What an awkward story (the letter
     continues) The Nation to-day tells of Charles Sumner! Charles's
     burly voice has always had for me a dreadfully hollow sound, as if
     it came from a great copper vat, and I have loved him but with fear
     and trembling accordingly. Is he _really_, like all American
     politicians, tricky, or is The Nation--so careful about facts
     ordinarily--only slanderous?... Carlyle nowadays is a palpable
     nuisance. If he holds to his present mouthing ways to the end he
     will find no showman là-bas to match him, for I hold Barnum a much
     more innocent personage. I shouldn't wonder if Barnum grew
     regenerate in some far off day by mere force of his democracy. But
     Carlyle's intellectual pride is so stupid that one can hardly
     imagine anything able to cope with it.

The following, in so different a key, is of some seven years earlier
date--apparently '62; but I have let it stand over, for reasons, that it
may figure here as the last of the communications addressed to Emerson
that I shall cite. Written at an hotel, the Tremont House, in Boston, it
marks his having come up from Newport for attendance at some meeting of
a dining-club, highly distinguished in composition, as it still happily
remains, of which he was a member--though but so occasionally present
that this circumstance perhaps explains a little the even more than
usual vivacity of his impression. Not indeed, I may add, that mustered
reasons or apologies were ever much called for in any case of the play
of that really prime note of his spontaneity.

     I go to Concord in the morning, but shall have barely time to see
     you there, even if I do as much as that; so that I can't forbear to
     say to you now the word I wanted as to my impression of yesterday
     about Hawthorne and Ellery Channing. Hawthorne isn't to me a
     prepossessing figure, nor apparently at all an _enjoying_ person in
     any way: he has all the while the look--or would have to the
     unknowing--of a rogue who suddenly finds himself in a company of
     detectives. But in spite of his rusticity I felt a sympathy for
     him fairly amounting to anguish, and couldn't take my eyes off him
     all dinner, nor my rapt attention: as that indecisive little Dr.
     Hedge[9] found, I am afraid, to his cost, for I hardly heard a word
     of what he kept on saying to me, and resented his maliciously
     putting his artificial person between me and the profitable object
     of study. (It isn't however that I now feel any ill-will to him--I
     could recommend anyone but myself to go and hear him preach. The
     thing was that Hawthorne seemed to me to possess human substance
     and not to have dissipated it all away like that culturally
     debauched ----, or even like good inoffensive comforting
     Longfellow.) John Forbes and you kept up the human balance at the
     other end of the table, but my region was a desert with H. for its
     only oasis. It was so pathetic to see him, contented sprawling
     Concord owl that he was and always has been, brought blindfold into
     that brilliant daylight and expected to wink and be lively, like
     some dapper Tommy Titmouse. I felt him bury his eyes in his plate
     and eat with such voracity that no one should dare to speak to him.
     My heart broke for him as his attenuated left-hand neighbour kept
     putting forth _his_ long antennae to stroke his face and try
     whether his eyes were open. It was heavenly to see him persist in
     ignoring the spectral smiles--in eating his dinner and doing
     nothing but that, and then go home to his Concord den to fall upon
     his knees and ask his heavenly Father why it was that an owl
     couldn't remain an owl and not be forced into the diversions of a
     canary. I have no doubt that all the tenderest angels saw to his
     case that night and poured oil into his wounds more soothing than
     gentlemen ever know. W. Ellery Channing too seemed so human and
     good--sweet as summer and fragrant as pinewoods. He is more
     sophisticated than Hawthorne of course, but still he was kin; and I
     felt the world richer by two _men_, who had not yet lost themselves
     in mere members of society. This is what I suspect--that we are
     fast getting so fearful one to another, we "members of society"
     that we shall ere long begin to kill one another in self-defence
     and give place in that way at last to a more veracious state of
     things. The old world is breaking up on all hands: the glimpse of
     the everlasting granite I caught in H. and W. E. shows me that
     there is stock enough left for fifty better. Let the old impostors
     go, bag and baggage, for a very real and substantial one is aching
     to come in, in which the churl shall not be exalted to a place of
     dignity, in which innocence shall never be tarnished nor trafficked
     in, in which every man's freedom shall be respected down to its
     feeblest filament as the radiant altar of God. To the angels, says
     Swedenborg, death means resurrection to life; by that necessary
     rule of inversion which keeps them separate from us and us from
     them, and so prevents our being mutual nuisances. Let us then
     accept political and all other distraction that chooses to come;
     because what is disorder and wrath and contention on the surface is
     sure to be the greatest peace at the centre, working its way thus
     to a surface that shall never be disorderly.

But it is in the postscript that the mixture and the transition strike
me as most inevitable.

     Weren't you shocked at ----'s engagement? To think of that prim old
     snuffers imposing himself on that pure young flame! What a world,
     what a world! But once we get rid of Slavery the new heavens and
     new earth will swim into reality.

No better example could there be, I think, of my father's remarkable and
constant belief, proof against all confusion, in the imminence of a
transformation-scene in human affairs--"spiritually" speaking of course
always--which was to be enacted somehow without gross or vulgar
visibility, or at least violence, as I have said, but was none the less
straining to the front, and all by reason of the world's being, deep
within and at heart, as he conceived, so achingly anxious for it. He had
the happiness--though not so untroubled, all the while, doubtless, as
some of his declarations would appear to represent--of being able to see
his own period and environment as the field of the sensible change, and
thereby as a great historic hour; that is, I at once subjoin, I more or
less _suppose_ he had. His measure of the imminent and immediate, of the
socially and historically visible and sensible was not a thing easy to
answer for, and when treated to any one of the loud vaticinations or
particular revolutionary messages and promises our age was to have so
much abounded in, all his sense of proportion and of the whole, of the
real and the ridiculous, asserted itself with the last emphasis. In that
mixture in him of faith and humour, criticism and conviction, that mark
of a love of his kind which fed on discriminations and was never so
moved to a certain extravagance as by an exhibited, above all by a
cultivated or in the least sententious vagueness in respect to these,
dwelt largely the original charm, the peculiarly social and living
challenge (in that it was so straight and bright a reflection of life)
of his talk and temper. Almost all of my father shines for me at any
rate in the above passages, and in another that follows, with their so
easy glide from discrimination, as I have called it, that is from
analytic play, in the outward sphere, to serenity of synthesis and
confidence and high joy in the inward. It was as if he might have liked
so to see his fellow-humans, fellow-diners, fellow-celebrities or
whatever, in that acuity of individual salience, in order to proceed
thence to some enormous final doubt or dry renouncement--instead of
concluding, on the contrary, and on the same free and familiar note, to
the eminently "worth while" character of life, or its susceptibility to
vast and happy conversions. With which too, more than I can say, have I
the sense here of his so finely contentious or genially perverse impulse
to carry his wares of observation to the market in which they would on
the whole bring least rather than most--where his offering them at all
would produce rather a flurry (there might have been markets in which it
had been known to produce almost a scandal), and where he would in fact
give them away for nothing if thereby he might show that such produce
grew. Never was there more of a case of the direct friendliness to
startling growths--if so they might be held--of the very soil that lies
under our windows. I don't think he liked to scandalise--certainly he
didn't in the least for scandal's sake; but nothing inspired him more to
the act and the pleasure of appreciation for appropriation, as it might
be termed, than the deprecating attitude of others on such ground--that
degree of shyness of appropriation on their part which practically left
appreciation vague. It was true that the appreciation for a human use,
as it might be called--that is for the high optimistic transition--could
here carry the writer far.



VII


I find markedly relevant at this point a letter from Newport in the
autumn of '61 to another correspondent, one of a series several other
examples of which no less successfully appeal to me, even though it
involve my going back a little to place three or four of these latter,
written at Geneva in 1860. Mrs. William Tappan, primarily Caroline
Sturgis of Boston, was for long years and to the end of her life our
very great friend and one of my father's most constant and most
considered interlocutors, both on the ground of his gravity and on that
of his pleasantry. She had spent in Europe with her husband and her two
small daughters very much the same years, from early in the summer of
'55 till late in the autumn of '60, that we had been spending; and like
ourselves, though with less continuity for the time, she had come to
live at Newport, where, with no shadow of contention, but with an
admirable intelligence, of the incurably ironic or mocking order, she
was such a light, free, somewhat intellectually perverse but socially
impulsive presence (always for instance insatiably hospitable) as our
mustered circle could ill have spared. If play of mind, which she
carried to any point of quietly-smiling audacity that might be, had not
already become a noted, in fact I think the very most noted, value among
us, it would have seated itself there in her person with a nervous
animation, a refinement of what might have been called soundable
sincerity, that left mere plump assurance in such directions far in the
lurch. And she was interesting, she became fairly historic, with the
drawing-out of the years, as almost the only survivor of that young band
of the ardent and uplifted who had rallied in the other time to the
"transcendental" standard, the movement for organised candour of
conversation on almost all conceivable or inconceivable things which
appeared, with whatever looseness, to find its prime inspirer in Emerson
and become more familiarly, if a shade less authentically, vocal in
Margaret Fuller. Hungry, ever so cheerfully and confidently hungry, had
been much of the New England, and peculiarly the Boston, of those days;
but with no such outreaching of the well-scoured empty platter, it
probably would have struck one, as by the occasional and quite
individual agitation of it from some ruefully-observed doorstep of the
best society. It was from such a doorstep that Caroline Sturgis had
originally taken her restless flight, just as it was on such another
that, after a course of infinite freedom of inquiry and irony, she in
the later time, with a fortune inherited, an hospitality extended and a
genial gravity of expression confirmed, alighted again, to the no small
re-enrichment of a company of friends who had had meanwhile scarce any
such intellectual adventures as she was to retain, in a delicate and
casual irreverence, the just slightly sharp fragrance or fine asperity
of, but who might cultivate with complacency and in support of the
general claim to comprehensive culture and awareness unafraid the legend
of her vicarious exposure.

Mr. Frank Sanborn's school, which I have already mentioned and to which
the following alludes, was during the years immediately preceding the
War, as during those of the War itself, the last word of what was then
accounted the undauntedly modern, flourishing as it did under the
patronage of the most "advanced" thought. The "coeducational" idea had
up to that time, if I mistake not, taken on no such confident and
consistent, certainly no such graceful or plausible form; small boys and
big boys, boys from near and boys from far, consorted there and
cohabited, so far as community of board and lodging and of study and
sport went, with little girls and great girls, mainly under the earnest
tutoring and elder-sistering of young women accomplished as scholarly
accomplishment in such cases was then understood, but with Mr. Sanborn
himself of course predominantly active and instructional, and above all
with the further felicity of the participation of the generous Emerson
family by sympathy and interest and the protective spread of the rich
mantle of their presence. The case had been from the first a frank and
high-toned experiment, a step down from the tonic air, as was so
considerably felt, of radical conviction to the firm ground of radical
application, that is of happy demonstration--an admittedly new and
trustful thing, but all the brighter and wiser, all the more nobly and
beautifully workable for that. With but the scantest direct observation
of the attempted demonstration--demonstration, that is, of the excellent
fruit such a grafting might produce--I yet imagine the enacted and
considerably prolonged scene (it lasted a whole decade) to have heaped
perfectly full the measure of what it proposed. The interesting, the
curious, the characteristic thing was just, however, I seem to make
out--I seemed to have made out even at the time--in the almost complete
absence of difficulty. It might almost then be said of the affair that
it hadn't been difficult enough for interest even should one insist on
treating it as sufficiently complicated or composed for picture. The
great War was to leave so many things changed, the country over, so many
elements added, to say nothing of others subtracted, in the American
consciousness at large, that even though the coeducational idea, taking
to itself strength, has during these later years pushed its conquests to
the very verge of demonstration of its inevitable limits, my memory
speaks to me of the Concord school rather as of a supreme artless word
on the part of the old social order than as a charged intimation or
announcement on the part of the new. The later arrangements, more or
less in its likeness and when on a considerable scale, have appeared, to
attentive observation, I think, mere endlessly multiplied notes of the
range of high spirits in the light heart of communities more aware on
the whole of the size and number of their opportunity, of the boundless
spaces, the possible undertakings, the uncritical minds and the absent
standards about them, than of matters to be closely and preparedly
reckoned with. They have been, comparatively speaking, experiments in
the void--the great void that may spread so smilingly between wide
natural borders before complications have begun to grow. The name of the
complication before the fact is very apt to be the discovery--which
latter term was so promptly to figure for the faith that living and
working more intimately together than had up to then been conceived
possible would infinitely improve both the condition and the
performance of the brother and sister sexes. It takes long in new
communities for discoveries to become complications--though
complications become discoveries doubtless often in advance of this; the
large vague area, with its vast marginal ease, over which confidence
could run riot and new kinds of human relation, elatedly proposed,
flourish in the sun, was to shift to different ground the question the
Concord school had played with, during its term of life, on its smaller
stage, under the great New England elms and maples and in the
preoccupied New England air.

The preoccupation had been in a large measure, it is true, exactly with
such possibilities, such bright fresh answers to old stale riddles, as
Mr. Sanborn and his friends clubbed together to supply; but I can only,
for my argument, recover the sense of my single visit to the scene,
which must have been in the winter of '62-'63, I think, and which put
before me, as I seem now to make out, some suggested fit of
perversity--not desperate, quite harmless rather, and almost frivolously
futile, on the part of a particular little world that had been thrown
back upon itself for very boredom and, after a spell of much admired
talking and other beating of the air, wanted for a change to "do"
something. The question it "played" with I just advisedly said--for what
could my impression have been, personally if indirectly gathered, and
with my admirably communicative younger brother to testify, but that if
as a school, in strict parlance, the thing was scarce more than naught,
as a prolonged pastime it was scarce less than charming and quite filled
up in that direction its ample and original measure? I have to reckon, I
here allow, with the trick of what I used irrepressibly to read into
things in front of which I found myself, for gaping purposes, planted by
some unquestioned outer force: it seemed so prescribed to me, so imposed
on me, to read more, as through some ever-felt claim for roundness of
aspect and intensity of effect in presented matters, whatever they might
be, than the conscience of the particular affair itself was perhaps
developed enough to ask of it. The experience of many of the Concord
pupils during the freshness of the experiment must have represented for
them a free and yet ever so conveniently conditioned taste of the
idyllic--such possibilities of perfect good comradeship between
unsuspected and unalarmed youths and maidens (on a comprehensive ground
that really exposed the business to a light and put it to a test) as
they were never again to see so favoured in every way by circumstance
and, one may quite emphatically say, by atmosphere. It is the atmosphere
that comes back to me as most of all the making of the story, even when
inhaled but by an occasional whiff and from afar--the manner of my own
inhaling. In that air of charmed and cultivated good faith nothing for
which the beautiful might be so presumingly claimed--if only claimed
with a sufficiently brave clean emphasis--wouldn't have _worked_, which
was the great thing; every one must have felt that what was aspired to
did work, and as I catch the many-voiced report of it again (many-voiced
but pretty well suffused with one clear tone, this of inflections
irreproducible now) I seem to listen in convinced admiration, though not
by any means in stirred envy, to the cheerful clatter of its working. My
failure of envy has, however, no mite of historic importance, proving as
it does nothing at all but that if we had, in the family sense, so
distinctly turned our back on Europe, the distinctness was at no point
so marked as in our facing so straight to such a picture, by which I
mean to such an exhibition, as my father's letter throws off. Without
knowledge of the letter at the time I yet measured the situation much as
he did and enjoyed it as he did, because it would have been stupid not
to; but from that to any wishful vision of being in it or of it would
have been a long jump, of which I was unabashedly incapable. To have
broken so personally, so all but catastrophically, with Europe as we
had done affected me as the jump sufficient; we had landed somewhere in
quite another world or at least on the sharp edge of one; and in the
single particular sense could I, as time then went on, feel myself at
all moved, with the helpless, the baffled visionary way of it, to push
further in. What straight solicitation _that_ phase of the American
scene could exert--more coercive to the imagination than any we were
ever again, as Americans, to know--I shall presently try to explain; but
this was an intensely different matter.

     I buried two of my children yesterday--at Concord, Mass., and feel
     so heartbroken this morning that I shall need to adopt two more
     instantly to supply their place; and lo and behold you and William
     present yourselves, or if you decline the honour Ellen and Baby.
     Mary and I trotted forth last Wednesday, bearing Wilky and Bob in
     our arms to surrender them to the famous Mr. Sanborn. The yellowest
     sunshine and an atmosphere of balm were all over the goodly land,
     while the maple, the oak and the dogwood showered such splendours
     upon the eye as made the Champs Elysées and the Bois appear
     parvenus and comical. Mrs. Clark is a graceless enough woman
     outwardly, but so tenderly feathered inwardly, so unaffectedly kind
     and motherly toward the urchins under her roof, that one was glad
     to leave them in that provident nest. She has three or four other
     school-boarders, one of them a daughter of John Brown--tall, erect,
     long-haired and freckled, as John Brown's daughter has a right to
     be. I kissed her (inwardly) between the eyes, and inwardly heard
     the martyred Johannes chuckle over the fat inheritance of love and
     tenderness he had after all bequeathed to his children in all good
     men's minds. An arch little Miss Plumley also lives there, with
     eyes full of laughter and a mouth like a bed of lilies bordered
     with roses. How it is going to be possible for my two boys to
     pursue their studies in the midst of that bewilderment I don't
     clearly see. I am only sure of one thing, which is that if I had
     had such educational advantages as that in my youth I should
     probably have been now far more nearly ripe for this world's
     business. We asked to see Miss Waterman, one of the teachers
     quartered in the house, in order to say to her how much we should
     thank her if she would occasionally put out any too lively spark
     she might see fall on the expectant tinder of my poor boys' bosoms;
     but Miss W. herself proved of so siliceous a quality on
     inspection--with round tender eyes, young, fair and womanly--that I
     saw in her only new danger and no promise of safety. My present
     conviction is that a general conflagration is inevitable, ending in
     the total combustion of all that I hold dear on that spot. Yet I
     can't but felicitate our native land that such magnificent
     experiments in education go on among us.

     Then we drove to Emerson's and waded up to our knees through a
     harvest of apples and pears, which, tired of their mere outward or
     carnal growth, had descended to the loving bosom of the lawn, there
     or elsewhere to grow inwardly meet for their heavenly rest in the
     veins of Ellen the saintly and others; until at last we found the
     cordial Pan himself in the midst of his household, breezy with
     hospitality and blowing exhilarating trumpets of welcome. Age has
     just the least in the world dimmed the lustre we once knew, but an
     unmistakable breath of the morning still encircles him, and the
     odour of primaeval woods. Pitchpine is not more pagan than he
     continues to be, and acorns as little confess the gardener's skill.
     Still I insist that he is a voluntary Pan, that it is a condition
     of mere wilfulness and insurrection on his part, contingent upon a
     mercilessly sound digestion and an uncommon imaginative influx, and
     I have no doubt that even he, as the years ripen, will at last
     admit Nature to be tributary and not supreme. However this be, we
     consumed juicy pears to the diligent music of Pan's pipe, while
     Ellen and Edith softly gathered themselves upon two low stools in
     the chimney-corner, saying never a word nor looking a look, but
     apparently hemming their handkerchiefs; and good Mrs. Stearns, who
     sat by the window and seemed to be the village dressmaker, ever and
     anon glanced at us over her spectacles as if to say that never
     before has she seen this wondrous Pan so glistening with dewdrops.
     Then and upon the waves of that friendly music we were duly wafted
     to our educational Zion and carefully made over our good and
     promising and affectionate boys to the school-master's keeping. Out
     into the field beside his house Sanborn incontinently took us to
     show how his girls and boys perform together their worship of
     Hygeia. It was a glimpse into that new world wherein dwelleth
     righteousness and which is full surely fast coming upon our
     children and our children's children; and I could hardly keep
     myself, as I saw my children's eyes drink in the mingled work and
     play of the inspiring scene, from shouting out a joyful Nunc
     Dimittis. The short of the story is that we left them and rode home
     robbed of our plumage, feeling sore and ugly and only hoping that
     they wouldn't die, any of these cold winter days, before the
     parental breast could get there to warm them back to life or cheer
     them on to a better.

     Mrs. William Hunt has just come in to tell the good news of your
     near advent and that she has found the exact house for you;
     instigated to that activity by one of your angels, of the Hooper
     band, with whom she has been in correspondence. I don't thank angel
     Hooper for putting angel Hunt upon that errand, since I should like
     to have had the merit of it myself. I suspect the rent is what it
     ought to be: if it's not I will lay by something every week for you
     toward it, and have no doubt we shall stagger through the cold
     weather.

I gather from the above the very flower of my father's irrepressible
utterance of his constitutional optimism, that optimism fed so little by
any sense of things as they were or are, but rich in its vision of the
facility with which they might become almost at any moment or from one
day to the other totally and splendidly different. A less vague or vain
idealist couldn't, I think, have been encountered; it was given him to
catch in the fact at almost any turn right or left some flagrant
assurance or promise of the state of man transfigured. The Concord
school could be to him for the hour--there were hours and hours!--such a
promise; could even figure in that light, to his amplifying sympathy, in
a degree disproportionate to its genial, but after all limited, after
all not so intensely "inflated," as he would have said, sense of itself.
In which light it is that I recognise, and even to elation, how little,
practically, of the idea of the Revolution in the vulgar or violent
sense was involved in his seeing so many things, in the whole social
order about him, and in the interest of their being more or less
immediately altered, as lamentably, and yet at the same time and under
such a coloured light, as amusingly and illustratively, wrong--wrong,
that is, with a blundering helpless human salience that kept criticism
humorous, kept it, so to speak, sociable and almost "sympathetic" even
when readiest. The case was really of his rather feeling so vast a
rightness close at hand or lurking immediately behind actual
arrangements that a single turn of the inward wheel, one real response
to pressure of the spiritual spring, would bridge the chasms, straighten
the distortions, rectify the relations and, in a word, redeem and vivify
the whole mass--after a far sounder, yet, one seemed to see, also far
subtler, fashion than any that our spasmodic annals had yet shown us. It
was of course the old story that we had only to _be_ with more
intelligence and faith--an immense deal more, certainly--in order to
work off, in the happiest manner, the many-sided ugliness of life; which
was a process that might go on, blessedly, in the quietest of all quiet
ways. _That_ wouldn't be blood and fire and tears, or would be none of
these things stupidly precipitated; it would simply have taken place by
_enjoyed_ communication and contact, enjoyed concussion or convulsion
even--since pangs and agitations, the very agitations of perception
itself, are of the highest privilege of the soul and there is always,
thank goodness, a saving sharpness of play or complexity of consequence
in the intelligence completely alive. The meaning of which remarks for
myself, I must be content to add, is that the optimists of the world,
the constructive idealists, as one has mainly known them, have too often
struck one as overlooking more of the aspects of the real than they
recognise; whereas our indefeasible impression, William's and mine, of
our parent was that he by his very constitution and intimate heritage
recognised many more of those than he overlooked. What was the finest
part of our intercourse with him--that is the most nutritive--but a
positive record of that? Such a matter as that the factitious had
absolutely no hold on him was the truest thing about him, and it was all
the while present to us, I think, as backing up his moral authority and
play of vision that never, for instance, had there been a more numerous
and candid exhibition of all the human susceptibilities than in the nest
of his original nurture. I have spoken of the fashion in which I still
see him, after the years, attentively bent over those much re-written
"papers," that we had, even at our stupidest, this warrant for going in
vague admiration of that they caught the eye, even the most filially
detached, with a final face of wrought clarity, and thereby of beauty,
that there _could_ be no thinking unimportant--and see him also fall
back from the patient posture, again and again, in long fits of remoter
consideration, wondering, pondering sessions into which I think I was
more often than not moved to read, for the fine interest and colour of
it, some story of acute inward difficulty amounting for the time to
discouragement. If one wanted drama _there_ was drama, and of the most
concrete and most immediately offered to one's view and one's suspense;
to the point verily, as might often occur, of making one go roundabout
it on troubled tiptoe even as one would have held one's breath at the
play.

These opposed glimpses, I say, hang before me as I look back, but really
fuse together in the vivid picture of the fond scribe separated but by a
pane of glass--his particular preference was always directly to face the
window--from the general human condition he was so devoutly concerned
with. He _saw_ it, through the near glass, saw it in such detail and
with a feeling for it that broke down nowhere--that was the great thing;
which truth it confirmed that his very fallings back and long waits and
stays and almost stricken musings witnessed exactly to his intensity,
the intensity that would "come out," after all, and make his passionate
philosophy and the fullest array of the appearances that couldn't be
blinked fit together and harmonise. Detached as I could during all those
years perhaps queerly enough believe myself, it would still have done my
young mind the very greatest violence to have to suppose that any plane
of conclusion for him, however rich and harmonious he might tend to make
conclusion, could be in the nature of a fool's paradise. Small vague
outsider as I was, I couldn't have borne _that_ possibility; and I see,
as I return to the case, how little I really could ever have feared it.
This would have amounted to fearing it on account of his geniality--a
shocking supposition; as if his geniality had been thin and _bête_,
patched up and poor, and not by the straightest connections, nominal and
other, of the very stuff of his genius. No, I feel myself complacently
look back to _my_ never having, even at my small poorest, been so
_bête_, either, as to conceive he might be "wrong," wrong as a
thinker-out, in his own way, of the great mysteries, because of the
interest and amusement and vividness his attesting spirit could fling
over the immediate ground. What he saw _there_ at least could be so
enlightening, so evocatory, could fall in so--which was to the most
inspiring effect within the range of perception of a scant son who was
doubtless, as to the essential, already more than anything else a
novelist _en herbe_. If it didn't sound in a manner patronising I should
say that I saw that my father saw; and that I couldn't but have given my
own case away by not believing, however obscurely, in the virtue of his
consequent and ultimate synthesis. Of course I never dreamed of any such
name for it--I only thought of it as something very great and fine
founded on those forces in him that came home to us and that touched us
all the while. As these were extraordinary forces of sympathy and
generosity, and that yet knew how to be such without falsifying any
minutest measure, the structure raised upon them might well, it would
seem, and even to the uppermost sublime reaches, be as valid as it was
beautiful. If he so endeared himself wasn't it, one asked as time went
on, through his never having sentimentalised or merely meditated away,
so to call it, the least embarrassment of the actual about him, and
having with a passion peculiarly his own kept together his stream of
thought, however transcendent and the stream of life, however humanised?
There was a kind of experiential authority in his basis, as he felt his
basis--there being no human predicament he couldn't by a sympathy more
_like_ direct experience than any I have known enter into; and this
authority, which concluded so to a widening and brightening of the
philosophic--for him the spiritual--sky, made his character, as
intercourse disclosed it, in a high degree fascinating. These things, I
think, however, are so happily illustrated in his letters that they look
out from almost any continuous passage in such a series for instance as
those addressed in the earlier time to Mrs. Tappan. His _tone_, that is,
always so effectually looks out, and the living parts of him so
singularly hung together, that one may fairly say his philosophy _was_
his tone. To cite a few passages here is at the same time to go back to
a previous year or two--which my examples, I hold, make worth while. He
had been on a visit to Paris toward the winter's end of '60, and had
returned to Geneva, whence he writes early in April.

     So sleepy have I been ever since my return from Paris that I am
     utterly unfit to write letters. I was thoroughly poisoned by
     tobacco in those horrid railway carriages, and this with want of
     sleep knocked me down. I am only half awake still, and will not
     engage consequently in any of those profound inquiries which your
     remembrance always suggests.

     I am very sorry for you that you live in an excommunicated country,
     or next door to it; and I don't wonder at your wanting to get away.
     But it is provoking to think that but for your other plan
     Switzerland might possess you all for the summer. It is doubtless
     in part this disappointment that will unsettle us in our present
     moorings and take us probably soon to Germany. What after that I
     have no idea, and am always so little wilful about our movements
     that I am ready the young ones should settle them. So we may be in
     Europe a good while yet, always providing that war keep smooth his
     wrinkled front and allow us quiet newspapers. They must fight in
     Italy for some time to come, but between England and France is the
     main point. If _they_ can hold aloof from tearing each other we
     shall manage; otherwise we go home at once, to escape the universal
     spatter that must then ensue.

     What is the meaning of all these wars and rumours of wars? No
     respectable person ever seems to occupy himself with the question,
     but I can't help feeling it more interesting than anything in Homer
     or Plato or the gallery of the Vatican. I long daily with
     unappeasable longing for a righteous life, such a life as I am sure
     is implied in every human possibility, and myriads are bearing me
     company. What does this show but that the issue is near out of all
     our existing chaos? All our evil is fossil and comes from the mere
     persistence of diseased institutions in pretending to rule us when
     we ought to be left free to be living spirits of God. There is no
     _fresh_ evil in the world. No one now steals or commits murder or
     any other offence with the least relish for it, but only to revenge
     his poor starved opportunities. The superiority of America in
     respect to freedom of thought over Europe comes from this fact that
     she has so nearly achieved her deliverance from such tyrannies. All
     she now needs to make her right is simply an intelligent
     recognition of her spiritual whereabouts. If she had this she would
     put her hand to the work splendidly. You and I when we get home
     will try to quicken her intelligence in that respect, will do at
     any rate _our_ best to put away this pestilent munching of the tree
     of knowledge of good and evil, and persuade to the belief of man's
     unmixed innocence.

Which, it will easily be seen, was optimism with a vengeance, and marked
especially in the immediacy, the state of being at hand for him, of a
social redemption. What made this the more signal was its being so
unattended with visions the least Apocalyptic or convulsional; the
better order slipping in amid the worse, and superseding it, so
insidiously, so quietly and, by a fair measure, so easily. It was a
faith and an accompanying philosophy that couldn't be said not to be
together simplifying; and yet nothing was more unmistakable when we saw
them at close range, I repeat, than that they weren't unnourished,
weren't what he himself would, as I hear him, have called the
"flatulent" fruit of sentimentality.

His correspondent had in a high degree, by her vivacity of expression,
the art of challenging his--as is markedly apparent from a letter the
date of which fails beyond its being of the same stay at Geneva and of
the winter's end.

     If I had really imagined that I had bored you and your husband so
     very little while I was in Paris in December I should long since
     have repeated the experiment; the more surely that I want so much
     to see again my darling nieces and delight myself in the abundance
     of their large-eyed belief.... Our Alice is still under
     discipline--preparing to fulfil some high destiny or other in the
     future by reducing decimal fractions to their lowest possible rate
     of subsistence, where they often grow so attenuated under her rapid
     little fingers that my poor old eyes can no longer see them at all.
     I shall go before long to England, and then perhaps--! But I shan't
     promise anything on _her_ behalf.

     You ask me "why I do not brandish my tomahawk and, like Walt
     Whitman, raise my barbaric yawp over the roofs of all the houses."
     It is because I am not yet a "cosmos" as that gentleman avowedly
     is, but only a very dim nebula, doing its modest best, no doubt, to
     solidify into cosmical dimensions, but still requiring an "awful
     sight" of time and pains and patience on the part of its friends.
     You evidently fancy that cosmoses are born to all the faculty they
     shall ever have, like ducks: no such thing. There is no respectable
     cosmos but what is born to such a vapoury and even gaseous
     inheritance as requires long centuries of conflict on its part to
     overcome the same and become pronounced or educated in its proper
     mineral, vegatable or animal order. Ducks are born perfect; that is
     to say they utter the same unmodified unimproved quack on their
     dying pillow that they uttered on their natal day; whereas cosmoses
     are destined to a life of such surprising change that you may say
     their career is an incessant disavowal of their birth, or that
     their highest maturation consists in their utter renunciation of
     their natural father and mother. You transcendentalists make the
     fatal mistake of denying education, of sundering present from past
     and future from present. These things are indissolubly one, the
     present deriving its consciousness only from the past, and the
     future drawing all its distinctive wisdom from our present
     experience. The law is the same with the individual as it is with
     the race: none of us can dodge the necessity of regeneration, of
     disavowing our natural ancestry in order to come forth in our own
     divinely-given proportions. The secret of this necessity ought to
     reconcile us to it, however onerous the obligation it imposes; for
     that secret is nothing more nor less than this, that we cosmoses
     have a plenary divine origin and are bound eventually to see that
     divinity reproduced in our most familiar and trivial experience,
     even down to the length of our shoe-ties. If the Deity were an
     immense Duck capable only of emitting an eternal quack we of course
     should all have been born webfooted, each as infallible in his way
     as the Pope, nor ever have been at the expense and bother of
     swimming-schools. But He is a perfect man, incapable of the
     slightest quackery, capable only of every honest and modest and
     helpful purpose, and these are perfections to which manifestly no
     one is born, but only _re_-born. We come to such states not by
     learning, only by _unlearning_. No natural edification issues in
     spiritual architecture of this splendour, but only a natural
     demolition or undoing. I dimly recognise this great truth, and
     hence hold more to a present imbecility than to a too eager
     efficiency. I feel myself more fit to be knocked about for some
     time yet and vastated of my natural vigour than to commence cosmos
     and raise the barbaric yawp. Time enough for that when I am fairly
     finished. Say what we will, you and I are all the while at school
     just now. The genial pedagogue may give you so little of the ferule
     as to leave you to doubt whether you really are there; but this
     only proves what a wonderful pedagogue it is, and how capable of
     adapting himself to everyone.

His friend in Paris found herself at that time, like many other persons,
much interested in the exercise of automatic writing, of which we have
since so abundantly heard and as to which she had communicated some
striking observations.

     ...Your letter is full of details that interest but don't
     fascinate. I haven't a doubt of a single experience you allege, and
     do not agree with your friend Count S. (your writing of this name
     is obscure) that the world of spirits is not an element in your
     writing. I am persuaded now for a long time of the truth of these
     phenomena and feel no inclination to dispute or disparage them; but
     at the same time I feel to such a degree my own remoteness from
     them that I am sure I could never get any personal contact with
     them. The state of mind exposing one to influences of this nature,
     and which makes them beneficial to it, is a sceptical state; and
     this I have never known for a moment. Spiritual existence has
     always been more real to me (I was going to say) than natural; and
     when accordingly I am asked to believe in the spiritual world
     because my senses are getting to reveal it I feel as if the ground
     of my conviction were going to be weakened rather than
     strengthened. Of course I should have very little respect for
     spiritual things which didn't ultimately report themselves to
     sense, which didn't indeed subside into things of sense as
     logically as a house into its foundations. But what I deny is that
     spiritual existence can be directly known on earth--known otherwise
     than by correspondence or inversely. The letter of every revelation
     must be directly hostile to its spirit, and only inversely
     accordant, because the very pretension of revelation is that it's a
     descent, an absolute coming down, of truth, a humiliation of it
     from its own elevated and habitual plane to a lower one.

     Admit therefore that the facts of "spiritualism" are all true;
     admit that persons really deceased have been communicating with you
     about the state of Europe, the approaching crisis and the persons
     known to us whom you name; in that case I should insist that, to
     possess the slightest spiritual interest, their revelation should
     be re-translated into the spiritual tongue by correspondences;
     because as to any spirit knowing or caring to know those persons,
     or being bothered about any crisis of ours, that is to me simply
     incredible. Such matters have in each case doubtless some spiritual
     or substantial counterpart answering in every particular to its
     superficial features; and Wilkinson and Emerson, for instance, with
     the others, are of course shadows of some greater or less spiritual
     quantities. But I'll be hanged if there's the slightest _sensible_
     accord between the substance and the semblance on either hand. Your
     spirits, no doubt, give you the very communications you report to
     me; only Wilkinson spiritually interpreted and Emerson spiritually
     interpreted mean things so very different from our two friends of
     those denominations that if our spiritual eye were for a moment
     open to discern the difference I think it highly probable--I'm sure
     it is infinitely possible--we should renounce their acquaintance.

     But I have harped on this string long enough; let me change the
     tune. Your spirits tell you to repose in what they are doing for
     you and, with a pathos to which I am not insensible, say "Rest now,
     poor child; your struggles have been great; clasp peace to your
     bosom at last." And as a general thing our ears are saluted by
     assurances that these communications are all urged by philanthropy
     and that everyone so addressing us wants in some way to help and
     elevate us. But just this is to my mind the unpleasant side of the
     business. I have been so long accustomed to see the most arrant
     deviltry transact itself in the name of benevolence that the moment
     I hear a profession of good-will from almost any quarter I
     instinctively look about for a constable or place my hand within
     reach of the bell-rope. My ideal of human intercourse would be a
     state of things in which no man will ever stand in need of any
     other man's help, but will derive all his satisfaction from the
     great social tides which own no individual names. I am sure no man
     can be put in a position of dependence upon another without that
     other's very soon becoming--if he accepts the duties of the
     relation--utterly degraded out of his just human proportions. No
     man can play the Deity to his fellow man with impunity--I mean
     spiritual impunity of course. For see: if I am at all satisfied
     with that relation, if it contents me to be in a position of
     generosity toward others, I must be remarkably indifferent at
     bottom to the gross social inequality which permits that position,
     and instead of resenting the enforced humiliation of my fellow man
     to myself, in the interests of humanity, I acquiesce in it for the
     sake of the profit it yields to my own self-complacency. I do hope
     the reign of benevolence is over; until that event occurs I am sure
     the reign of God will be impossible. But I have a shocking bad cold
     that racks my head to bursting almost; I can't think to any
     purpose. Let me hear soon from you that I have not been
     misunderstood. I wouldn't for the world seem wilfully to depreciate
     what you set a high value on. No, I really can't help my judgments.
     And I always soften them to within an inch of their life as it is.

The following, no longer from the Hotel de l'Ecu, but from 5 Quai du
Mont Blanc, would indicate that his "Dear Queen Caroline," as he
addresses her, was at no loss to defend her own view of the matters in
discussion between them: in which warm light indeed it is that I was
myself in the after years ever most amusedly to see her.

     Don't scold a fellow so! Exert your royal gifts in exalting only
     the lowly and humbling only the proud. Precisely what I like, to
     get extricated from metaphysics, is encouragement from a few
     persons like yourself, such encouragement as would lie in your
     intelligent apprehension and acknowledgment of the great _result_
     of metaphysics, which is a godly and spotless life on earth. If I
     could find anyone apt to that doctrine I should not work so hard
     metaphysically to convince the world of its truth. And as for being
     a metaphysical Jack Horner, the thing is contradictory, as no
     metaphysician whose studies are sincere ever felt tempted to
     self-complacency or disposed to reckon himself a good boy. Such
     exaltations are not for him, but only for the artists and poets,
     who dazzle the eyes of mankind and _don't_ recoil from the darkness
     they themselves produce--as Dryden says, or Collins.

Mrs. Tappan, spending the month of June in London, continued to impute
for the time, I infer (I seem to remember a later complete detachment),
a livelier importance to the supernatural authors of her "writing" than
her correspondent was disposed to admit; but almost anything was a
quickener of the correspondent's own rich, that is always so animated,
earnestness. He had to feel an interlocutor's general sympathy, or
recognise a moral relation, even if a disturbed one, for the deep tide
of his conviction to rise outwardly higher; but when that happened the
tide overflowed indeed.

     MY DEAR CAROLINA--Neither North nor South, but an eminently free
     State, with no exulting shout of master and no groan of captive to
     be heard in all its borders, but only the cheerful hum of happy
     husband and children--how do you find London? Here in Geneva we are
     so saturate with sunshine that we would fain dive to the depths of
     the lake to learn coolness of the little fishes. Still, we don't
     envy your two weeks of unbroken rain in dear dismal London. What a
     preparation for doing justice to Lenox! You see I know--through
     Mary Tweedy, who has a hearty appreciation of her London
     privileges. How are A. D. and all the rest of them? _Familiar_
     spirits, are they not, on a short acquaintance?--and how pleasant
     an aspect it gives to the middle kingdom to think you shall be sure
     to find there such lovers and friends! Only let us keep them at a
     proper distance. It doesn't do for us ever to accept another only
     at that other's own estimate of himself. If we do we may as well
     plunge into Tartarus at once. No human being can afford to commit
     his happiness to another's keeping, or, what is the same thing,
     forego his own individuality with all that it imports. The first
     requisite of our true relationship to each other (spiritually
     speaking) is that we be wholly independent of each other: then we
     may give ourselves away as much as we please, we shall do neither
     them nor ourselves any harm. But until that blessed day comes, by
     the advance of a scientific society among men, we shall be utterly
     unworthy to love each other or be loved in return. We shall do
     nothing but prey upon each other and turn each other's life to
     perfect weariness.

     The more of it then just now the better! The more we bite and
     devour each other, the more horribly the newspapers abound in all
     the evidences of our disgusting disorganisation, the
     disorganisation of the old world, the readier will our dull ears be
     to listen to the tidings of the new world which is aching to
     appear, the world wherein dwelleth righteousness. Don't abuse the
     newspapers therefore publicly, but tell everybody of the use they
     are destined to promote, and set others upon the look-out. A. D. is
     a very good woman, I haven't a doubt, but will fast grow a better
     one if she would let herself alone, and me also, and all other mere
     persons, while she diligently inquires about the Lord; that is
     about that lustrous universal life which God's providence is now
     forcing upon men's attention and which will obliterate for ever all
     this exaggeration of our personalities. It is very well for lovers
     to abase themselves in this way to each other; because love is a
     _passion_ of one's nature--that is to say the lover is not
     self-possessed, but is lifted for a passing moment to the level of
     the Lord's life in the race, and so attuned to higher issues ever
     after in his own proper sphere. But these experiences are purely
     disciplinary and not final. All passion is a mere inducement to
     action, and when at last activity really dawns in us we drop this
     faculty of hallucination that we have been under about persons and
     see and adore the abounding divinity which is in all persons alike.
     Who will then ever be caught in that foolish snare again? I did
     nothing but tumble into it from my boyhood up to my marriage; since
     which great disillusioning--yes!--I feel that the only lovable
     person is one who will never permit himself to be loved. But I have
     written on without any intention and have now no time to say what
     alone I intended, how charming and kind and long to be remembered
     you were all those Paris days. Give my love to honest William and
     tell my small nieces that I pine to pluck again the polished
     cherries of their cheeks. My wife admires and loves you.

From which I jump considerably forward, for its (privately) historic
value, to a communication from Newport of the middle of August '63. My
father's two younger sons had, one the previous and one at the beginning
of the current, year obtained commissions in the Volunteer Army; as a
sequel to which my next younger brother, as Adjutant of the Fifty-fourth
Massachusetts, Colonel Robert Shaw's regiment, the first body of
coloured soldiers raised in the North, had received two grave wounds in
that unsuccessful attack on Fort Wagner from which the gallant young
leader of the movement was not to return.

     Wilky had a bad day yesterday and kept me busy or I shouldn't have
     delayed answering your inquiries till to-day. He is very severely
     wounded both in the ankle and in the side--where he doesn't heal so
     fast as the doctor wishes in consequence of the shell having made a
     pouch which collects matter and retards nature. They cut it open
     yesterday, and to-day he is better, or will be. The wound in the
     ankle was made by a cannister ball an inch and a half in diameter,
     which lodged eight days in the foot and was finally dislodged by
     cutting down through (the foot) and taking it out at the sole. He
     is excessively weak, unable to do anything but lie passive, even
     to turn himself on his pillow. He will probably have a slow and
     tedious recovery--the doctors say of a year at least; but he knows
     nothing of this himself and speaks, so far as he does talk, but of
     going back in the Fall. If you write please say nothing of this; he
     is so distressed at the thought of a long sickness. He is vastly
     attached to the negro-soldier cause; believes (I think) that the
     world has existed for it; and is sure that enormous results to
     civilisation are coming out of it. We heard from Bob this morning
     at Morris Island; with his regiment, building earthworks and
     mounting guns. Hot, he says, but breezy; also that the shells make
     for them every few minutes--while he and his men betake themselves
     to the trenches and holes in the earth "like so many land-crabs in
     distress." He writes in the highest spirits. Cabot Russell, Wilky's
     dearest friend, is, we fear, a prisoner and wounded. We hear
     nothing decisive, but the indications point that way. Poor Wilky
     cries aloud for his friends gone and missing, and I could hardly
     have supposed he might be educated so suddenly up to serious
     manhood altogether as he appears to have been. I hear from Frank
     Shaw this morning, and they are all well--and admirable.

This goes beyond the moment I had lately, and doubtless too lingeringly,
reached, as I say; just as I shall here find convenience in borrowing a
few passages from my small handful of letters of the time to follow--to
the extent of its not following by a very long stretch. Such a course
keeps these fragments of record together, as scattering them would
perhaps conduce to some leakage in their characteristic tone, for which
I desire all the fulness it can keep. Impossible moreover not in some
degree to yield on the spot to _any_ brush of the huge procession of
those particular months and years, even though I shall presently take
occasion to speak as I may of my own so inevitably contracted
consciousness of what the brush, with its tremendous possibilities of
violence, could consist of in the given case. I had, under stress, to
content myself with knowing it in a more indirect and muffled fashion
than might easily have been--even should one speak of it but as a matter
of mere vision of the eyes or quickened wonder of the mind or heaviness
of the heart, as a matter in fine of the closer and more inquiring, to
say nothing of the more agitated, approach. All of which, none the less,
was not to prevent the whole quite indescribably intensified
time--intensified through all lapses of occasion and frustrations of
contact--from remaining with me as a more constituted and sustained act
of living, in proportion to my powers and opportunities, than any other
homogeneous stretch of experience that my memory now recovers. The case
had to be in a peculiar degree, alas, that of living inwardly--like so
many of my other cases; in a peculiar degree compared, that is, to the
immense and prolonged outwardness, outwardness naturally at the very
highest pitch, that was the general sign of the situation. To which I
may add that my "alas" just uttered is in the key altogether of my then
current consciousness, and not in the least in that of my present
appreciation of the same--so that I leave it, even while I thus put my
mark against it, as I should restore tenderly to the shelf any odd
rococo object that might have slipped from a reliquary. My appreciation
of what I presume at the risk of any apparent fatuity to call my
"relation to" the War is at present a thing exquisite to me, a thing of
the last refinement of romance, whereas it had to be at the time a sore
and troubled, a mixed and oppressive thing--though I promptly see, on
reflection, how it must frequently have flushed with emotions, with
small scraps of direct perception even, with particular sharpnesses in
the generalised pang of participation, that were all but touched in
themselves as with the full experience. Clear as some object presented
in high relief against the evening sky of the west, at all events, is
the presence for me beside the stretcher on which my young brother was
to lie for so many days before he could be moved, and on which he had
lain during his boat-journey from the South to New York and thence again
to Newport, of lost Cabot Russell's stricken father, who, failing, up
and down the searched field, in respect of his own irrecoverable
boy--then dying, or dead, as afterwards appeared, well within the
enemy's works--had with an admirable charity brought Wilky back to a
waiting home instead, and merged the parental ache in the next nearest
devotion he could find. Vivid to me still is one's almost ashamed sense
of this at the hurried disordered time, and of how it was impossible not
to impute to his grave steady gentleness and judgment a full awareness
of the difference it would have made for him, all the same, to be doing
such things with a still more intimate pity. Unobliterated for me, in
spite of vaguenesses, this quasi-twilight vision of the good bereft man,
bereft, if I rightly recall, of his only son, as he sat erect and
dry-eyed at the guarded feast of our relief; and so much doubtless
partly because of the image that hovers to me across the years of Cabot
Russell himself, my brother's so close comrade--dark-eyed, youthfully
brown, heartily bright, actively handsome, and with the arrested
expression, the indefinable shining stigma, worn, to the regard that
travels back to them, by those of the young figures of the fallen that
memory and fancy, wanting, never ceasing to want, to "do" something for
them, set as upright and clear-faced as may be, each in his sacred
niche. They have each to such a degree, so ranged, the strange property
or privilege--one scarce knows what to call it--of exquisitely, for all
our time, facing us out, quite blandly ignoring us, looking through us
or straight over us at something they partake of together but that we
mayn't pretend to know. We walk thus, I think, rather ruefully before
them--those of us at least who didn't at the time share more happily
their risk. William, during those first critical days, while the
stretcher itself, set down with its load just within the entrance to our
house, mightn't be moved further, preserved our poor lacerated brother's
aspect in a drawing of great and tender truth which I permit myself to
reproduce. It tells for me the double story--I mean both of Wilky's then
condition and of the draughtsman's admirable hand.

[Illustration: Sketch of G. W. James brought home wounded from the
assault on Fort Wagner]

But I find waiting my father's last letter of the small group to Mrs.
Tappan. We were by that time, the autumn of 1865, settled in Boston for
a couple of years.

     MY DEAR CARRY--Are you a carry_atid_ that you consider yourself
     bound to uphold that Lenox edifice through the cold winter as well
     as the hot summer? Why don't you come to town? I can't _write_ what
     I want to say. My brain is tired, and I gladly forego all writing
     that costs thought or attention. But I have no day forgotten your
     question, and am eager always to make a conquest of you; you are so
     full both of the upper and the nether might as always greatly to
     excite my interest and make me feel how little is accomplished
     while you are left not so. I make no prayer to you; I would have no
     assistance from your own vows; or the pleasure of my intercourse
     with you would be slain. I would rather outrage than conciliate
     your sympathies, that I might have all the joy of winning you over
     at last. Hate me on my ideal side, the side that menaces you, as
     much as you please meanwhile, but keep a warm corner in your regard
     for me personally, as I always do for you, until we meet again.
     It's a delight to know a person of your sense and depth; even the
     _gaudia certaminis_ are more cheering with you than ordinary
     agreements with other people.

On which note I may leave the exchange in question, feeling how equal an
honour it does to the parties.



VIII


I judge best to place together here several passages from my father's
letters belonging to this general period, even though they again carry
me to points beyond my story proper. It is not for the story's sake that
I am moved to gather them, but for their happy illustration, once more,
of something quite else, the human beauty of the writer's spirit and the
fine breadth of his expression. This latter virtue is most striking,
doubtless, when he addresses his women correspondents, of whom there
were many, yet it so pervades for instance various notes, longer and
shorter, to Mrs. James T. Fields, wife of the eminent Boston publisher
and editor, much commended to us as founder and, for a time, chief
conductor of the Atlantic Monthly, our most adopted and enjoyed native
_recueil_ of that series of years. The Atlantic seemed somehow, while
the good season lasted, to live with us, whereas our relation to the two
or three other like organs, homegrown or foreign, of which there could
be any question, and most of all, naturally, to the great French Revue,
was that we lived with _them_. The light of literature, as we then
invoked or at any rate received it, seemed to beat into the delightful
Fields salon from a nearer heaven than upon any other scene, and played
there over a museum of relics and treasures and apparitions (these last
whether reflected and by that time legendary, or directly protrusive and
presented, wearers of the bay) with an intensity, I feel again as I look
back, every resting ray of which was a challenge to dreaming ambition. I
am bound to note, none the less, oddly enough, that my father's
communications with the charming mistress of the scene are more often
than not a bright profession of sad reasons for inability to mingle in
it. He mingled with reluctance in scenes designed and preappointed, and
was, I think, mostly content to feel almost anything near at hand become
a scene for him from the moment he had happened to cast into the arena
(which he preferred without flags or festoons) the golden apple of the
unexpected--in humorous talk, that is, in reaction without preparation,
in sincerity which was itself sociability. It was not nevertheless that
he didn't now and then "accept"--with attenuations.

     ...If therefore you will let Alice and me come to you on Wednesday
     evening I shall still rejoice in the benignant fate that befalls my
     house--even though my wife, indisposed, "feels reluctantly
     constrained to count herself out of the sphere of your
     hospitality;" and I will bind myself moreover by solemn vows not
     to perplex the happy atmosphere which almost reigns in yours by
     risking a syllable of the incongruous polemic your husband wots of.
     I will listen devotedly to you and him all the evening if thereby I
     may early go home repaired in my own esteem, and not dilapidated,
     as has been hitherto too often the case.

He could resist persuasion even in the insidious form of an expressed
desire that he should read something, "something he was writing," to a
chosen company.

     Your charming note is irresistible at first sight, and I had almost
     uttered a profligate Yes!--that is a promise irrespective of a
     power to perform; when my good angel arrested me by the stern
     inquiry: What have you got to give them? And I could only say in
     reply to this intermeddling but blest spirit: Nothing, my dear
     friend, absolutely nothing! Whereupon the veracious one said again:
     Sit you down immediately therefore and, confessing your literary
     indigence to this lovely lady, pray her to postpone the fulfilment
     of her desire to some future flood-tide in the little stream of
     your inspiration, when you will be ready to serve her.

The following refers to the question of his attending with my mother at
some session of a Social Club, at which a prepared performance of some
sort was always offered, but of which they had lately found it
convenient to cease to be members.

     I snatch the pen from my wife's hand to enjoy, myself, the
     satisfaction of saying to you how good and kind and charming you
     always are, and how we never grow tired of recounting the fact
     among ourselves here, and yet how we still shall be unable to
     accept your hospitality. Why? Simply because we have a due sense of
     what becomes us after our late secession, and would not willingly
     be seen at two successive meetings, lest the carnal observer should
     argue that we had left the Club by the front door of obligation
     only to be readmitted at the back door of indulgence: I put it as
     Fields would phrase it. To speak of him always reminds me of
     various things, so richly endowed is the creature in all good
     gifts; but the dominant consideration evoked in my mind by his name
     is just his beautiful home and that atmosphere of faultless womanly
     worth and dignity which fills it with light and warmth, and makes
     it a blessing to one's heart whenever one enters its precincts.
     Please felicitate the wretch for me--!

However earnest these deprecations he could embroider them with a rare
grace.

     My wife--who has just received your kind note in rapid route for
     the Dedham Profane Asylum, or something of that sort--begs leave to
     say, through me as a willing and sensitive medium, that you are one
     of those _arva beata_, renowned in poetry, which, visit them never
     so often, one is always glad to _re_visit, which are attractive in
     all seasons by their own absolute light and without any Emersonian
     pansies and buttercups to make them so. This enthusiastic Dedhamite
     says further in effect that while she is duly grateful for your
     courteous offer of a seat upon your sofa to hear the conquered
     sage, she yet prefers the material banquet you summon us to in your
     dining-room, since there we should be out of the mist and able to
     discern between nature and cookery, between what eats and what is
     eaten, at all events, and feel a thankful mind that we were in
     solid comfortable Charles Street, instead of in the vague and wide
     weltering galaxy, and should be sure to deem A. and J. (_I_ am sure
     of A., and I think my wife feels equally sure of J.), finer
     fireflies than ever sparkled in the old empyrean. But alas who
     shall control his destiny? Not my wife, whom multitudinous cares
     enthrall; nor yet myself, whom a couple of months' enforced
     idleness now constrains to a preternatural activity, lest the world
     fail of salvation. Please accept then our united apologies and
     regrets....

     _P.S._ Who contrived the comical title for E.'s
     lectures?--"Philosophy of the People!" May it not have been a joke
     of J. T. F.'s? It would be no less absurd for Emerson himself to
     think of philosophising than for the rose to think of botanising.
     He is the divinely pompous rose of the philosophic garden, gorgeous
     with colour and fragrance; so what a sad look-out for tulip and
     violet and lily, and the humbler grasses, if the rose should turn
     out philosophic gardener as well.

There connects itself with a passage in another letter to the same
correspondent a memory of my own that I have always superlatively
cherished and that remains in consequence vivid enough for some light
reflection here. But I first give the passage, which is of date of
November '67. "What a charming impression of Dickens the other night at
the Nortons' dinner! How innocent and honest and sweet he is maugre his
fame! Fields was merely superb on the occasion, but Dickens was
saintly." As a young person of twenty-four I took part, restrictedly yet
exaltedly, in that occasion--and an immense privilege I held it to slip
in at all--from after dinner on; at which stage of the evening I
presented myself, in the company of my excellent friend Arthur Sedgwick,
brother to our hostess and who still lives to testify, for the honour of
introduction to the tremendous guest. How tremendously it had been laid
upon young persons of our generation to feel Dickens, down to the soles
of our shoes, no more modern instance that I might try to muster would
give, I think, the least measure of; I can imagine no actual young
person of my then age, and however like myself, so ineffably agitated,
so mystically moved, in the presence of any exhibited idol of the mind
who should be in that character at all conceivably "like" the author of
Pickwick and of Copperfield. There has been since his extinction no
corresponding case--as to the relation between benefactor and
beneficiary, or debtor and creditor; no other debt in our time has been
piled so high, for those carrying it, as the long, the purely
"Victorian" pressure of that obligation. It was the pressure, the
feeling, that made it--as it made the feeling, and no operation of
feeling on any such ground has within my observation so much as
attempted to emulate it. So that on the evening I speak of at Shady
Hill it was as a slim and shaken vessel of the feeling that one stood
there--of the feeling in the first place diffused, public and universal,
and in the second place all unfathomably, undemonstrably, unassistedly
and, as it were, unrewardedly, proper to one's self as an already
groping and fumbling, already dreaming and yearning dabbler in the
mystery, the creative, that of comedy, tragedy, evocation,
representation, erect and concrete before us there as in a sublimity of
mastership. I saw the master--nothing could be more evident--in the
light of an intense emotion, and I trembled, I remember, in every limb,
while at the same time, by a blest fortune, emotion produced no luminous
blur, but left him shining indeed, only shining with august particulars.
It was to be remarked that those of his dress, which managed to be
splendid even while remaining the general spare uniform of the
diner-out, had the effect of higher refinements, of accents stronger and
better placed, than we had ever in such a connection seen so much as
hinted. But the offered inscrutable mask was the great thing, the
extremely handsome face, the face of symmetry yet of formidable
character, as I at once recognised, and which met my dumb homage with a
straight inscrutability, a merciless _military_ eye, I might have
pronounced it, an automatic hardness, in fine, which at once indicated
to me, and in the most interesting way in the world, a kind of economy
of apprehension. Wonderful was it thus to see, and thrilling inwardly to
note, that since the question was of personal values so great no
faintest fraction of the whole could succeed in _not_ counting for
interest. The confrontation was but of a moment; our introduction, my
companion's and mine, once effected, by an arrest in a doorway, nothing
followed, as it were, or happened (what _might_ have happened it
remained in fact impossible to conceive); but intense though the
positive perception there was an immensity more left to understand--for
the long aftersense, I mean; and one, or the chief, of these later
things was that if our hero neither shook hands nor spoke, only meeting
us by the barest act, so to say, of the trained eye, the penetration of
which, to my sense, revealed again a world, there was a grim beauty, to
one's subsequently panting imagination, in that very truth of his then
so knowing himself (committed to his monstrous "readings" and with the
force required for them ominously ebbing) on the outer edge of his once
magnificent margin. So at any rate I was to like for long to consider of
it; I was to like to let the essential radiance which had nevertheless
reached me measure itself by this accompaniment of the pitying vision.
He couldn't loosely spend for grace what he had to keep for life--which
was the awful nightly, or all but nightly, exhibition: such the economy,
as I have called it, in which I was afterwards to feel sure he had been
locked up--in spite of the appearance, in the passage from my father's
letter, of the opened gates of the hour or two before. These were but a
reason the more, really, for the so exquisitely complicated image which
was to remain with me to this day and which couldn't on any other terms
have made itself nearly so important. For that was the whole sense of
the matter. It hadn't been in the least important that we should have
shaken hands or exchanged platitudes--it had only been supremely so that
one should have had the essence of the hour, the knowledge enriched by
proof that whatever the multifold or absolute reason, no accession to
sensibility from any other at all "similar" source could have compared,
for penetration, to the intimacy of this particular and prodigious
glimpse. It was as if I had carried off my strange treasure just exactly
from under the merciless military eye--placed there on guard of the
secret. All of which I recount for illustration of the force of action,
unless I call it passion, that may reside in a single pulse of time.

I allow myself not to hang back in gathering several passages from
another series for fear of their crossing in a manner the line of
privacy and giving a distinctness to old intimate things. The
distinctness is in the first place all to the honour of the persons and
the interests thus glimmering through; and I hold, in the second, that
the light touch under which they revive positively adds, by the magic of
memory, a composite fineness. The only thing is that to speak of my
father's correspondent here is to be more or less involved at once in
the vision of her frame and situation, and that to get at all into
relation with "the Nortons," as they were known to us at that period, to
say nothing of all the years to follow, is to find on my hands a much
heavier weight of reference than my scale at this point can carry. The
relation had ripened for us with the settlement of my parents at
Cambridge in the autumn of '66, and might I attempt even a sketch of the
happy fashion in which the University circle consciously accepted, for
its better satisfaction, or in other words just from a sense of what
was, within its range, in the highest degree interesting, the social
predominance of Shady Hill and the master there, and the ladies of the
master's family, I should find myself rich in material. That institution
and its administrators, however, became at once, under whatever recall
of them, a picture of great inclusions and implications; so true is it
of any community, and so true above all of one of the American
communities best to be studied fifty years ago in their homogeneous form
and native essence and identity, that a strong character reinforced by a
great culture, a culture great in the given conditions, obeys an
inevitable law in simply standing out. Charles Eliot Norton stood out,
in the air of the place and time--which for that matter, I think,
changed much as he changed, and couldn't change much beyond his own
range of experiment--with a greater salience, granting his background, I
should say, than I have ever known a human figure stand out with from
any: an effect involved of course in the nature of the background as
well as in that of the figure. He profited at any rate, to a degree that
was a lesson in all the civilities, by the fact that he represented an
ampler and easier, above all a more curious, play of the civil relation
than was to be detected anywhere about, and a play by which that
relation had the charming art of becoming extraordinarily multifold and
various without appearing to lose the note of rarity. It is not of
course through any exhibition of mere multiplicity that the instinct for
relations becomes a great example and bears its best fruit; the weight
of the example and the nature of the benefit depending so much as they
do on the achieved and preserved terms of intercourse. Here it was that
the curiosity, as I have called it, of Shady Hill was justified--so did
its action prove largely humanising. This was all the witchcraft it had
used--that of manners understood with all the extensions at once and all
the particularisations to which it is the privilege of the highest
conception of manners to lend itself. What it all came back to,
naturally, was the fact that, on so happy a ground, the application of
such an ideal and such a genius _could_ find agents expressive and
proportionate, and the least that could be said of the ladies of the
house was that they had in perfection the imagination of their
opportunity. History still at comparatively close range lays to its
lips, I admit, a warning finger--yet how can I help looking it bravely
in the face as I name in common courtesy Jane Norton? She distilled
civility and sympathy and charm, she exhaled humanity and invitation to
friendship, which latter she went through the world leaving at mortal
doors as in effect the revelation of a new amenity altogether--something
to wait, most other matters being meanwhile suspended, for her to come
back on a turn of the genial tide and take up again, according to the
stirred desire, with each beneficiary. All this to the extent, moreover,
I confess, that it takes the whole of one's measure of her rendered
service and her admirable life, cut so much too short--it takes the
full list of her fond acclaimers, the shyest with the clearest, those
who most waited or most followed, not to think almost more of the way
her blest influence went to waste as by its mere uneconomised and
selfless spread than of what would have been called (what was by the
simply-seeing freely enough called) her achieved success. It was given
her at once to shine for the simply-seeing and to abide forever with the
subtly; which latter, so far as they survive, are left again to
recognise how there plays inveterately within the beautiful, if it but
go far enough, the fine strain of the tragic. The household at Shady
Hill was leaving that residence early in the summer of '68 for a long
stay in Europe, and the following is of that moment.

     When I heard the other day that you had been at our house to say
     farewell I was glad and also sorry, glad because I couldn't say
     before all the world so easily what I wanted to say to you in
     parting, and sorry because I longed for another sight of your
     beautiful countenance. And then I consoled myself with thinking
     that I should write you the next morning and be able to do my
     feelings better justice. But when the morning came I saw how you
     would, with all your wealth of friends, scarcely value a puny
     chirrup from one of my like, and by no means probably expect it,
     and so I desisted. And now comes your heavenly letter this moment
     to renew my happiness in showing me once more your undimmed
     friendly face. How delightful that face has ever been to me since
     first I beheld it; how your frank and gracious and healing manners
     have shed on my soul a celestial dew whenever I have encountered
     you: I despair to tell you in fitting words. You are the largest
     and more generous nature I know, and one that remains always, at
     the same time, so womanly; and while you leave behind you such a
     memory you needn't fear that our affectionate wishes will ever fail
     you for a moment. I for my part shall rest in my affection for you
     till we meet where to love is to live.

Shady Hill was meanwhile occupied by other friends, out of the group of
which, especially as reflected in another of my father's letters to Miss
Norton, there rise for me beckoning ghosts; against whose deep appeal to
me to let them lead me on I have absolutely to steel myself--so far, for
the interest of it, I feel that they might take me.

     We dined the other night at Shady Hill, where the Gurneys were
     charming and the company excellent; but there was a perpetual
     suggestion of the Elysian Fields about the banquet to me, and we
     seemed met together to celebrate a memory rather than applaud a
     hope. Godkin and his wife were there, and they heartily lent
     themselves to discourse of you all. Ever and anon his friendship
     gave itself such an emphatic _jerk_ to your address that you might
     have heard it on your window-panes if you had not been asleep. As
     for her--what a great clot she is of womanly health, beauty and
     benignity! That is a most unwonted word to use in such a
     connection, but it came of itself, and I won't refuse it, as it
     means to express a wealth that seems chaotic--seems so because
     apparently not enough exercised or put to specific use. The
     Ashburners and Sedgwicks continue your tradition and even ornament
     or variegate it with their own original force. I go there of a
     Sunday afternoon, whenever possible, to read anew the gospel of
     their beautiful life and manners and bring away a text for the good
     of my own household. No one disputes the authenticity of that
     gospel, and I have no difficulty in spreading its knowledge.

On which follows, as if inevitably, the tragic note re-echoed; news
having come from Dresden, in March '72, of the death of Mrs. Charles
Norton, still young, delightful, inestimable.

     What a blow we have all had in the deeper blow that has prostrated
     you! I despair to tell you how keen and how real a grief is felt
     here by all who have heard the desolating news. With my own family
     the brooding presence of the calamity is almost as obvious as it is
     in the Kirkland Street home, and I have to make a perpetual effort
     to reason it down. Reflectively, I confess, I am somewhat surprised
     that I could have been so _much_ surprised by an event of this
     order. I know very well that death is the secret of life
     spiritually, and that this outward image of death which has just
     obtruded itself upon our gaze is _only_ an image--is wholly unreal
     from a spiritual point of view. I know in short that your lovely
     sister lives at present more livingly than she has ever lived
     before. And yet my life is so low, habitually, that when I am
     called upon to put my knowledge into practice I am as superstitious
     as anybody else and grovel instead of soaring. Keep me in your own
     sweet and fragrant memory, for nowhere else could I feel myself
     more embalmed to my own self-respect. Indeed if anything could
     relieve a personal sorrow to me it would be the sense that it was
     shared by a being so infinitely tender and true as yourself.

Of the mass of letters by the same hand that I further turn over too
many are of a domestic strain inconsistent with other application; but a
page here and there emerges clear, with elements of interest and notes
of the characteristic that rather invite than deprecate an emphasis.
From these I briefly glean, not minding that later dates are
involved--no particular hour at that time being far out of touch with
any other, and the value of everything gaining here, as I feel, by my
keeping my examples together. The following, addressed to me in England
early in '69, beautifully illustrates, to my sense, our father's close
participation in any once quite positive case that either one or the
other of his still somewhat undetermined, but none the less interesting
sons--interesting to themselves, to each other and to _him_--might
appear for the time to insist on constituting. William had in '68 been
appointed to an instructorship in Psychology at Harvard.

     He gets on greatly with his teaching; his students--fifty-seven of
     them--are elated with their luck in having him, and I feel sure he
     will have next year a still larger number attracted by his fame. He
     came in the other afternoon while I was sitting alone, and, after
     walking the floor in an animated way for a moment, broke out:
     "Bless my soul, what a difference between me as I am now and as I
     was last spring at this time! Then so hypochondriachal"--he used
     that word, though perhaps less in substance than form--"and now
     with my mind so cleared up and restored to sanity. It's the
     difference between death and life." He had a great effusion. I was
     afraid of interfering with it, or possibly checking it, but I
     ventured to ask what especially in his opinion had produced the
     change. He said several things: the reading of Renouvier
     (particularly his vindication of the freedom of the will) and of
     Wordsworth, whom he has been feeding on now for a good while; but
     more than anything else his having given up the notion that all
     mental disorder requires to have a physical basis. This had become
     perfectly untrue to him. He saw that the mind does act
     irrespectively of material coercion, and could be dealt with
     therefore at first hand, and this was health to his bones. It was a
     splendid declaration, and though I had known from unerring signs of
     the _fact_ of the change I never had been more delighted than by
     hearing of it so unreservedly from his own lips. He has been
     shaking off his respect for men of mere science as such, and is
     even more universal and impartial in his mental judgments than I
     have known him before.

Nothing in such a report could affect me more, at a distance, as indeed
nothing shines for me more sacredly now, than the writer's perfect
perception of what it would richly say to me, even if a little to my
comparative confusion and bewilderment; engaged as I must rightly have
appeared in working out, not to say in tentatively playing with, much
thinner things. I like to remember, as I do, ineffaceably, that my
attention attached itself, intensely and on the spot, to the very
picture, with whatever else, conveyed, which for that matter hangs
before me still: the vision of my brother, agitated by the growth of his
genius, moving in his burst of confidence, his bright earnestness, about
the room I knew, which must have been our admirable parent's study--with
that admirable parent himself almost holding his breath for the charm
and the accepted peace of it, after earlier discussions and reserves; to
say nothing too, if charm was in question, of the fact of rarity and
beauty I must have felt, or in any case at present feel, in the resource
for such an intellectually living and fermenting son of such a
spiritually perceiving and responding sire. What was the whole passage
but a vision of the fine private luxury of each?--with the fine private
luxury of my own almost blurred image of it superadded. Of that same
spring of '69 is another page addressed to myself in Europe. My memory
must at the very time have connected itself with what had remained to me
of our common or certainly of my own inveterate, childish appeal to him,
in early New York days, for repetition, in the winter afternoon
firelight, of his most personal, most remembering and picture-recovering
"story"; that of a visit paid by him about in his nineteenth year, as I
make it out, to his Irish relatives, his father's nephews, nieces and
cousins, with a younger brother or two perhaps, as I set the scene
forth--which it conduced to our liveliest interest to see "Billy
Taylor," the negro servant accompanying him from Albany, altogether rule
from the point of view of effect. The dignity of this apparition indeed,
I must parenthesise, would have yielded in general to the source of a
glamour still more marked--the very air in which the young emissary
would have moved as the son of his father and the representative of an
American connection prodigious surely in its power to dazzle. William
James of Albany was at that time approaching the term of his remarkably
fruitful career, and as I see the fruits of it stated on the morrow of
his death--in the New York Evening Post of December 20th 1832, for
instance, I find myself envying the friendly youth who could bring his
modest Irish kin such a fairytale from over the sea. I attach as I hang
upon the passage a melancholy gaze to the cloud of images of what might
have been for us all that it distractingly throws off. Our grandfather's
energy, exercised in Albany from the great year 1789, appears promptly
to have begun with his arrival there. "Everywhere we see his footsteps,
turn where we may, and these are the results of his informing mind and
his vast wealth. His plans of improvement embraced the entire city, and
there is scarcely a street or a square which does not exhibit some mark
of his hand or some proof of his opulence. With the exception of Mr.
Astor," this delightful report goes on to declare, "no other business
man has acquired so great a fortune in this State. To his enormous
estate of three millions of dollars there are nine surviving heirs. His
enterprises have for the last ten years furnished constant employment
for hundreds of our mechanics and labourers." The enterprises appear,
alas, to have definitely ceased, or to have fallen into less able hands,
with his death--and to the mass of property so handsomely computed the
heirs were, more exactly, not nine but a good dozen. Which fact,
however, reduces but by a little the rich ambiguity of the question that
was to flit before my father's children, as they grew up, with an air of
impenetrability that I remember no attempt on his own part to mitigate.
I doubt, for that matter, whether he could in the least have appeased
our all but haunting wonder as to what had become even in the hands of
twelve heirs, he himself naturally being one, of the admirable three
millions. The various happy and rapid courses of most of the
participants accounted for much, but did they account for the full
beautiful value, and would even the furthest stretch of the charming
legend of his own early taste for the amusements of the town really tell
us what had been the disposition, by such a measure, of _his_ share? Our
dear parent, we were later quite to feel, could have told us very
little, in all probability, under whatever pressure, what had become of
anything. There had been, by our inference, a general history--not on
the whole exhilarating, and pressure for information could never, I
think, have been applied; wherefore the question arrests me only through
the brightly associated presumption that the Irish visit was made, to
its extreme enlivening, in the character of a gilded youth, a youth
gilded an inch thick and shining to effulgence on the scene not
otherwise brilliant. Which image appeals to my filial fidelity--even
though I hasten not to sacrifice the circle evoked, that for which I a
trifle unassuredly figure a small town in county Cavan as forming an
horizon, and which consisted, we used to delight to hear with every
contributive circumstance, of the local lawyer, the doctor and the (let
us hope--for we _did_ hope) principal "merchant," whose conjoined
hospitality appeared, as it was again agreeable to know, to have more
than graced the occasion: the main definite pictorial touches that have
lingered with me being that all the doors always stood open, with the
vistas mostly raking the provision of whiskey on every table, and that
these opportunities were much less tempting (to our narrator) than that
of the quest of gooseberries in the garden with a certain beautiful
Barbara, otherwise anonymous, who was not of the kin but on a visit from
a distance at one of the genial houses. We liked to hear about Barbara,
liked the sound of her still richer rarer surname; which in spite of the
fine Irish harmony it even then struck me as making I have frivolously
forgotten. She had been matchlessly fair and she ate gooseberries with a
charm that was in itself of the nature of a brogue--so that, as I say,
we couldn't have too much of her; yet even her measure dwindled, for our
appetite, beside the almost epic shape of black Billy Taylor carrying
off at every juncture alike the laurel and the bay. He singularly
appealed, it was clear, to the Irish imagination, performing in a manner
never to disappoint it; his young master--in those days, even in the
North, young mastership hadn't too long since lapsed to have lost every
grace of its tradition--had been all cordially acclaimed, but not least,
it appeared, because so histrionically attended: he had been the
ringmaster, as it were, of the American circus, the small circus of
two, but the other had been the inimitable clown. My point is that we
repaired retrospectively to the circus as insatiably as our Irish
cousins had of old attended it in person--even for the interest of which
fact, however, my father's words have led me too far. What here follows,
I must nevertheless add, would carry me on again, for development of
reference, should I weakly allow it. The allusion to my brother Wilky's
vividly independent verbal collocations and commentative flights
re-echoes afresh, for instance, as one of the fond by-words that spoke
most of our whole humorous harmony. Just so might the glance at the next
visitor prompt a further raising of the curtain, save that this is a
portrait to which, for lack of acquaintance with the original, I have
nothing to contribute--beyond repeating again that it was ever the sign
of my father's portraits to supply almost more than anything else
material for a vision of himself.

     Your enjoyment of England reminds me of my feelings on my first
     visit there forty years ago nearly, when I landed in Devonshire in
     the month of May or June and was so intoxicated with the roads and
     lanes and hedges and fields and cottages and castles and inns that
     I thought I should fairly expire with delight. You can't expatiate
     too much for our entertainment on your impressions, though you make
     us want consumedly to go over and follow in your footsteps. Wilky
     has been at home now for 2 or 3 days and is very philosophic and
     enthusiastic over your letters. I hoped to remember some of his
     turns of speech for you, but one chases another out of my memory
     and it is now all a blank. I will consult Alice's livelier one
     before I close.

     My friend ---- is a tropical phenomenon, a favourite of nature
     whatever his fellow man may say of him. His face and person are
     handsome rather than otherwise, and it's obvious that he is a very
     unsoiled and pure piece of humanity in all _personal_ regards. And
     with such a gift of oratory--such a boundless wealth of diction set
     off by copious and not ungraceful gesticulation! Here is where he
     belongs to the tropics, where nature claims him for her own and
     flings him like a cascade in the face of conventional
     good-breeding. I can't begin to describe him, he is what I have
     never before met. I see that he can't help turning out excessively
     tiresome, but he is not at all vulgar. He has a genius for
     elocution, that is all; but a real genius and no mistake. In
     comparison with Mr. F. L. or Mr. Longfellow or the restrained
     Boston style of address generally, he is what the sunflower is to
     the snowdrop; but on the whole, if I could kick his shins whenever
     I should like to and so reduce him to silence, I prefer him to the
     others.

What mainly commends to me certain other passages of other dates (these
still reaching on a little) is doubtless the fact that I myself show in
them as the object of attention and even in a manner as a claimant for
esthetic aid. This latter active sympathy overflows in a letter of the
spring of '70, which would be open to more elucidation than I have,
alas, space for. Let the sentence with which it begins merely remind me
that Forrest, the American actor, of high renown in his time, and of
several of whose appearances toward the close of his career I keep a
memory uneffaced--the impression as of a deep-toned thunderous organ, a
prodigious instrument pounded by a rank barbarian--had been literally,
from what we gathered, an early comrade of our parent: literally, I say,
because the association could seem to me, at my hours of ease, so
bravely incongruous. By my hours of ease I mean those doubtless too
devoted to that habit of wanton dispersed embroidery for which any scrap
of the human canvas would serve. From one particular peg, I at the same
time allow, the strongest sense of the incongruity depended--my
remembrance, long entertained, of my father's relating how, on an
occasion, which must have been betimes in the morning, of his calling on
the great tragedian, a man of enormous build and strength, the latter,
fresh and dripping from the bath, had entered the room absolutely upside
down, or by the rare gymnastic feat of throwing his heels into the air
and walking, as with strides, on his hands; an extraordinary performance
if kept up for more than a second or two, and the result at any rate of
mere exuberance of muscle and pride and robustious joie de vivre. It had
affected me, the picture, as one of those notes of high colour that the
experience of a young Albany viveur, the like of which I felt I was
never to come in for, alone could strike off; but what was of the finer
profit in it was less the direct illustration of the mighty mountebank
than of its being delightful on the part of a domestic character we so
respected to have had, with everything else a Bohemian past too--since I
couldn't have borne at such moments to hear it argued as not Bohemian.
What did his having dropped in after such a fashion and at a late
breakfast-hour on the glory of the footlights and the idol of the town,
what did it fall in with but the kind of thing one had caught glimpses
and echoes of from the diaries and memoirs, so far as these had been
subject to the passing peep, of the giftedly idle and the fashionably
great, the Byrons, the Bulwers, the Pelhams, the Coningsbys, or even,
for a nearer vividness perhaps, the N. P. Willises?--of all of whom it
was somehow more characteristic than anything else, to the imagination,
that they always began their day in some such fashion. Even if I cite
this as a fair example of one's instinct for making much of a
little--once this little, a chance handful of sand, could show the
twinkle of the objective, or even the reflective, grain of gold--I still
claim value for that instanced felicity, as I felt it, of being able to
yearn, thanks to whatever chance support, over Bohemia, and yet to have
proof in the paternal presence close at hand of how well even the real
frequentation of it, when achieved in romantic youth, might enable a
person at last to turn out. The lesson may now indeed seem to have been
one of those that rather more strictly adorn a tale than point a moral;
but with me, at that period, I think, the moral ever came first and the
tale more brilliantly followed. As for the recital, in such detail, of
the theme of a possible literary effort which the rest of my letter
represents, how could I feel this, when it had reached me, as anything
but a sign of the admirable anxiety with which thought could be taken,
even though "amateurishly," in my professional interest?--since
professional I by that time appeared able to pass for being. And how
above all can it not serve as an exhibition again of the manner in which
all my benevolent backer's inveterate original _malaise_ in face of
betrayed symptoms of the impulse to "narrow down" on the part of his
young found its solution always, or its almost droll simplification, as
soon as the case might reach for him a _personal_ enough, or "social"
enough, as he would have said, relation to its fruits? Then the malaise
might promptly be felt as changed, by a wave of that wand, to the
extremity of active and expatiative confidence.

     Horatio Alger is writing a Life of Edwin Forrest, and I am afraid
     will give him a Bowery appreciation. He reports his hero as a very
     "fine" talker--in which light I myself don't so much recall him,
     though he had a native breadth--as when telling Alger for example
     of old Gilbert Stuart's having when in a state of dilapidation
     asked him to let him paint his portrait. "I consented," said
     Forrest, "and went to his studio. He was an old white lion, so
     blind that he had to ask me the colour of my eyes and my hair; but
     he threw his brush at the canvas, and every stroke was life." Alger
     talks freely about his own late insanity--which he in fact appears
     to enjoy as a subject of conversation and in which I believe he has
     somewhat interested William, who has talked with him a good deal of
     his experience at the Somerville Asylum. Charles Grinnell--though
     not à propos of the crazy--has become a great reader and apparently
     a considerable understander of my productions; Alger aforesaid
     aussi. Everyone hopes that J. G. hasn't caught a Rosamund Vincy in
     Miss M. I don't know whether this hope means affection to J. or
     disaffection to the young lady.

     I have written to Gail Hamilton to send me your story; but she does
     it not as yet. I will renew my invitation to her in a day or two if
     necessary. I went to see Osgood lately about his publishing a
     selection from your tales. He repeated what he had told you--that
     he would give you 15 per cent and do all the advertising, etc., you
     paying for the plates; or he would pay everything and give you 10
     per cent on every copy sold after the first thousand. I shall be
     glad (in case you would like to publish, and I think it time for
     you to do so) to meet the expense of your stereotyping, and if you
     will pick out what you would like to be included we shall set to
     work at once and have the book ready by next autumn. I have
     meanwhile the materials of a story for you which I was telling
     William of the other day as a regular Tourgéneff subject, and he
     urged me to send it off to you at once--he was so struck with it.

     Matthew Henry W. was a very cultivated and accomplished young man
     in Albany at the time I was growing up. He belonged to a highly
     respectable family of booksellers and publishers and was himself
     bred to the law; but had such a love of literature, and more
     especially of the natural sciences, that he never devoted himself
     strictly to his profession. He was the intimate friend of my dear
     old tutor, Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian, and of other
     distinguished men of science; he corresponded with foreign
     scientific bodies, and his contributions to science generally were
     of so original a cast as to suggest great hopes of his future
     eminence. He was a thorough gentleman, of perfect address and
     perfect courage--utterly unegotistic, and one's wonder was how he
     had ever grown up in Albany or resigned himself to living there.
     One day he invested his money, of which he had a certain quantity,
     in a scheme much favoured by the president of the bank in which he
     deposited, and this adventure proved a fortune. There lived near us
     as well a family of the name of K----, your cousin Mary Minturn
     Post's stepmother being of its members; and this family reckoned
     upon a great social sensation in bringing out their youngest
     daughter, Lydia Sibyl, who had never been seen by mortal eye
     outside her own immediate circle, save that of a physician who
     reported that she was fabulously beautiful. She _was_ the most
     beautiful girl I think I ever saw, at a little distance. Well, she
     made her sensation and brought Matthew Henry promptly to her feet.
     Her family wanted wealth above all things for her; but here was
     wealth and something more, very much more, and they smiled upon
     his suit. Everything went merrily for a while--M. H. was deeply
     intoxicated with his prize. Never was man so enamoured, and never
     was beauty better fitted to receive adoration. She was of an
     exquisite Grecian outline as to face, with a countenance like the
     tender dawn and form and manners ravishingly graceful. But W. was
     not content with his adventure--he embarked again and lost almost
     all he owned. The girl's father--or her mother rather, being the
     ruler of the family and as hard as the nether world at heart--gave
     the cue to her daughter and my friend was dismissed. He couldn't
     believe his senses, he raved and cursed his fate, but it was
     inexorable. What was to be done? With a bitterness of heart
     inconceivable he plucked his revenge by marrying at once a stout
     and blooming jade who was to Lydia Sibyl as a peony to a violet,
     absolutely nothing but flesh and blood. Her he bore upon his arm at
     fashionable hours through the streets; her he took to church,
     preserving his admirable ease and courtesy to everyone, as if
     absolutely nothing had occurred; and her he pretended to take to
     his bosom in private, with what a shudder one can imagine.
     Everybody stood aghast. He went daily about his affairs, as serene
     and unconscious apparently as the moon in the heavens. Soon his
     poverty showed itself in certain economies of his attire, which had
     always been most recherché. Soon again he broke his leg and went
     about on crutches, but neither poverty nor accident had the least
     power to ruffle his air of equanimity. He was always superior to
     his circumstances, met you exactly as he had always done, impressed
     you always as the best-bred man you knew, and left you wondering
     what a heart and what a brain lay behind such a fortune. One
     morning we all read in the newspaper at breakfast that Mr. M. H. W.
     had appealed the day before to the protection of the police
     against his wife, who had taken to beating him and whom as a woman
     he couldn't deal with by striking back; and the police responded
     properly to his appeal. He went about his affairs as usual that day
     and every day, never saying a word to any one of his trouble nor
     even indirectly asking sympathy, but making you feel that here if
     anywhere was a rare kind of manhood, a self-respect so eminent as
     to look down with scorn on the refuges open to ordinary human
     weakness. This lasted five or six years. He never drank or took to
     other vices, and lived a life of such decorum, so far as his own
     action was concerned, a life of such interest and science and
     literature, as to be the most delightful and unconscious of
     companions even when his coat was at the last shabbiness and you
     didn't dare to look at him for fear of betraying your own vulgar
     misintelligence. Finally Lydia Sibyl died smitten with smallpox and
     all her beauty gone to hideousness. He lingered awhile, his
     charming manners undismayed still, his eye as undaunted as at the
     beginning, and then he suddenly died. I never knew his equal for a
     manly force competent to itself in every emergency and seeking none
     of the ordinary subterfuges that men so often seek to hide their
     imbecility. I think it a good basis....

Returning from Europe in June '70, after a stay there of some fifteen
months, I had crossed the sea eastward again two years later, with my
sister and our admirable aunt as companions--leaving them, I may
mention, to return home at the end of six months while I betook myself
to Italy, where I chiefly remained till the autumn of '74. The following
expresses our father's liberality of recognition and constant
tenderness of tone in a manner that no comment need emphasise, but at
one or two of his references I allow myself to glance. I happen to
remember perfectly for instance the appearance of the novel of Madame
Sand's that he so invidiously alludes to in one of the first numbers of
the cherished Revue that reached us after the siege of Paris had been
raised--such a pathetically scant starved pale number, I quite recall,
as expressed the share even of the proud periodical in the late general
and so tragic dearth; with which it comes back to me that I had myself a
bit critically mused on the characteristic queerness, the oddity of the
light thrown on the stricken French consciousness by the prompt
sprouting of _such_ a flower of the native imagination in the chill air
of discipline accepted and after the administration to that
consciousness of a supposedly clarifying dose. But I hadn't gone the
length of my father, who must have taken up the tale in its republished
form, a so slim salmon-coloured volume this time: oh the repeated
arrival, during those years, of the salmon-coloured volumes in their
habit as they lived, a habit reserved, to my extreme appreciation, for
this particular series, and that, enclosing the extraordinarily fresh
fruit of their author's benign maturity, left Tamaris and Valvèdre and
Mademoiselle La Quintinie in no degree ever "discounted" for us as
devotees of the Revue, I make out, by their being but renewals of
acquaintance. The sense of the salmon-coloured distinctive of Madame
Sand was even to come back to me long years after on my hearing Edmond
de Goncourt speak reminiscentially and, I permit myself to note, not at
all reverently, of the _robe de satin fleur-de-pêcher_ that the
illustrious and infatuated lady, whose more peculiar or native tint, as
Blanche Amory used to say, didn't contribute to a harmony, _s'était fait
faire_ in order to fix as much as possible the attention of Gustave
Flaubert at the Dîner Magny; of Gustave Flaubert, who, according to this
most invidious of reporters, disembroiled from each other with too scant
ease his tangle of possibly incurred ridicule from the declared
sentiment of so old a woman, even in a peach-blossom dress, and the
glory reflected on him by his admirer's immense distinction. Which
vision of a complicated past, recovered even as I write--and of a past
indeed contemporary with the early complacencies I attribute to
ourselves--doesn't at all blur its also coming back to me that I was to
have found my parent "hard on" poor Francia in spite of my own
comparative reserves; these being questions and shades that I rejoice to
think of our having had so discussionally, and well at home for the most
part, the social education of. I see that general period as quite
flushed and toned by the salmon-coloured covers; so that a kind of
domestic loyalty would ever operate, as we must have all felt, to make
us take the thick with the thin and not _y regarder_ for a Francia the
more or the less. When I say all indeed I doubtless have in mind
especially my parents and myself, with my sister and our admirable aunt
(in her times of presence) thrown in--to the extent of our subjection to
the charm of such matters in particular as La Famille de Germandre, La
Ville Noire, Nanon and L'Homme de Neige, round which last above all we
sat ranged in united ecstasy; so that I was to wonder through the after
years, and I think perhaps to this day, how it could come that a case of
the "story" strain at its finest and purest, a gush of imaginative force
so free and yet so artfully directed, shouldn't have somehow "stood out"
more in literary history. Perhaps indeed L'Homme de Neige does
essentially stand out in the unwritten parts of that record--which are
content to be mere tacit tender tradition; for all the world as if,
since there are more or less dreadful perpetuated books, by the hundred,
dreadful from whatever baseness or whatever scantness, that for shame,
as it were, we never mention, so one may figure others as closeted in
dimness (than which there is nothing safer) by the very scruple of
respect at its richest. I hover for instance about the closet of L'Homme
de Neige, I stand outside a moment as if listening for a breath from
within; but I don't open the door, you see--which must mean, in all
probability, that I wouldn't for the world inconsiderately finger again
one of the three volumes; _that_ meaning, in its turn, doubtless, that I
have heard the breath I had listened for and that it can only have been
what my argument wants, the breath of life unquenched. Isn't it relevant
to this that when she was not reading Trollope our dear mother was
reading "over" La Famille de Germandre, which, with several of its
companions of the same bland period, confirmed her in the sense that
there was no one like their author for a "love-story"?--a conviction,
however, that when made articulate exposed her to the imputation of a
larger tolerance than she doubtless intended to project; till the matter
was cleared up by our generally embracing her for so sweetly not knowing
about Valentine and Jacques and suchlike, and having only begun at La
Mare au Diable and even thereafter been occasionally obliged to skip.

So far do I let myself go while, to recur to my letter, Chauncey Wright
sits for me in his customary corner of the deep library sofa and his
strange conflictingly conscious light blue eyes, appealing across the
years from under the splendid arch of his fair head, one of the
handsomest for representation of amplitude of thought that it was
possible to see, seems to say to me with a softness more aimed at the
heart than any alarm or any challenge: "But what then are you going to
do for me?" I find myself simply ache, I fear, as almost the only answer
to this--beyond his figuring for me as the most wasted and doomed, the
biggest at once and the gentlest, of the great intending and unproducing
(in anything like the just degree) bachelors of philosophy, bachelors of
attitude and of life. And as he so sits, loved and befriended and
welcomed, valued and invoked and vainly guarded and infinitely pitied,
till the end couldn't but come, he renews that appeal to the old
kindness left over, as I may say, and which must be more or less known
to all of us, for the good society that was helplessly to miss a right
chronicler, and the names of which, so full at the time of their fine
sense, were yet to be writ in water. Chauncey Wright, of the great
imperfectly-attested mind; Jane Norton, of the train, so markedly, of
the distinguished, the sacrificial, devoted; exquisite Mrs. Gurney, of
the infallible taste, the beautiful hands and the tragic fate; Gurney
himself, for so long Dean of the Faculty at Harvard and trusted judge of
all judgments (this latter pair the subject of my father's glance at
the tenantship of Shady Hill in the Nortons' absence:) they would
delightfully adorn a page and appease a piety that is still athirst if I
hadn't to let them pass. Harshly condemned to let them pass, and looking
wistfully after them as they go, how can I yet not have inconsequently
asked them to turn a moment more before disappearing?

     My heart turns to you this morning, so radiant in the paternal
     panoply you wear toward Alice and your aunt, and I would give a
     great deal to see you. The enclosed scrap of a letter from William
     is sent to show you how vastly improved are his eyes, especially
     when you shall have learned that he has written us within the last
     four or five days twenty pages of like density to these. He would
     fain persuade us to go to Mount Desert; perhaps later we may go to
     Quebec, but we are so comfortable together reading Trollope and
     talking philosophy that we cheerfully drop the future from our
     regard. Mamma is free and active and bracing. She is a domestic
     nor'wester, carrying balm and bloom into every nook and corner of
     her empire.... She hangs over The Eustace Diamonds while I try
     vainly to read George Sand's Francia. I have come across nothing of
     that lady's that reflects a baser light on her personal history.
     What must a woman have been through to want to grovel at this time
     of day in such uncleanness? Don't buy it--I wish I hadn't! The new
     North American is out, with a not too interesting article of
     Chauncey Wright's on Mivart, a scandalous (in point of taste) essay
     of Mr. Stirling on Buckle, full of Scotch conceit, insolence and
     "wut;" a very very laboured article by James Lowell on Dante, in
     which he determines to exhaust all knowledge; and these are all I
     have read. Mr. Stirling of course makes Buckle ridiculous, but he
     stamps himself a shabby creature.

I find the following, addressed to his daughter in August '72, so
beautifully characteristic of our parents' always explicit admonition to
us, in our dependent years, against too abject an impulse to be frugal
in their interests, that I may fairly let it stand as a monument to this
particular aspect of their affection.

     Your and H.'s last letters bring tears of joy to our eyes. It's a
     delight above all delights to feel one's children turn out all that
     the heart covets in children. Your conviction is not up to the
     truth. Our "tender thoughts" of you are so constant that I have
     hardly been able to settle to anything since you have been gone. I
     can do little else than recount to myself "the tender mercies of
     the Lord" to me and my household. Still I am not wholly useless; I
     try to write every day, and though I haven't my daughter at hand to
     look after my style and occasionally after my ideas, I manage to do
     a little. Your conscientious economy is excessively touching, but
     it's a little overstrained. You needn't be afraid of putting us to
     any embarrassment so long as your expenses don't exceed their
     present rate; and you can buy all you want in Paris without
     stretching your tether a particle. This is Mamma's message as well
     as mine. Charles Atkinson wishes me to say that Monte Genneroso
     above Lugano Lake--the P.O. Mendrisio--offers a wondrous climate;
     and Mamma thinks--so fearful is she that you will descend into
     Italy before the warm weather is over and so compromise your
     strength--that you had either better go there awhile first or else
     be ready to retreat on it in case you find the summer heat in
     Venice impossible.

Nor does this scrap from a letter to myself at the same season breathe a
spirit less liberal--so far as the sympathy with whatever might pass for
my fondest preoccupations was concerned. These were now quite frankly
recognised as the arduous attempt to learn somehow or other to write.

     I send you The Nation, though there seems nothing in it of your
     own, and I think I never fail to recognise you. A notice of Gustave
     Droz's Babolain (by T. S. P., I suppose) there is; which book I
     read the other day. This fumbling in the cadaver of the old world,
     however, only disgusts me when so unrelieved as in this case by any
     contrast or any souffle of inspiration such as you get in
     Tourguéneff. It's curious to observe how uncertain the author's
     step is in this story--how he seems always on the look-out for some
     chance to break away. But it has mastered him, he can't lay the
     ghost he has conjured.

To which I should limit myself for the commemoration of that group of
years by the gentle aid of the always vivid excerpt, were it not that I
have before me a considerable cluster of letters addressed by the writer
of the foregoing to Mr. J. Eliot Cabot, most accomplished of Bostonians,
most "cultivated" even among the cultivated, as we used to say, and of
a philosophic acuteness to which my father highly testified, with which
indeed he earnestly contended. The correspondence in question covered,
during the years I include, philosophic ground and none other; but
though no further exhibition of it than this reference may convey is to
my purpose I lay it under contribution to the extent of a passage or two
just for the pleasure of inviting recognition, as I invite it wherever
we meet an instance, of the fashion after which the intensely animated
soul can scarce fail of a harmony and a consistency of expression that
are nothing less than interesting, that in fact become at once
beautiful, in themselves. By which remark I nevertheless do not mean to
limit the significance of the writer's side of his long argument with
Mr. Eliot Cabot, into which I may not pretend to enter, nor the part
that in any such case a rare gift for style must inveterately play.

     I grant then that I am often tempted to conceive, as I read your
     letters, that we differ only in your terms being more abstract,
     mine more concrete; and yet I really don't think this difference is
     exhaustive. If I thought Philosophy capable ever of being reduced
     to logical compass or realising itself as science, I should give in
     at once. But this is just what I cannot think. Philosophy is the
     doctrine exclusively of the infinite in the finite, and deals with
     the latter therefore only as a mask, only as _harbouring_ the
     former. But if you formulate it scientifically your terms are
     necessarily all finite, as furnished by experience, and the
     infinite is excluded or at most creeps in as the
     indefinite--Hegel's _becoming_ for example. Thus Hegel's dialectic
     modulates only in the sphere of his distance. His _being_ is
     universal existence, and, as universals have only a logical truth,
     being in se is equivalent to Nothing. But Nothing hasn't even a
     logical basis. Lithe as human thought is it can't compass the
     conception. It is a mere brutum fulmen devised to disguise the
     absence of thought or its inanition; and Hegel, if he had been
     wise, would have said no-thought instead of no-thing. For no-thing
     doesn't express the complete absence of existence. Existence is of
     two sorts, real and personal, sensible and conscious, quantitative
     and qualitative. The most you are entitled to say therefore when
     existence disappears in quantitative, real or sensible, form is
     that it has been taken up into purely qualitative, personal or
     conscious form; no-thing being the logical equivalent of
     all-person. Thus I, who in Hegel's formula presumably extract
     existence from being, survive the operation as person, and though I
     am most clearly no-thing I am yet not _being_. Indeed I am not even
     existence any longer, since by knocking thing out of being I have
     forfeited my own reality, and consent henceforth to be pure
     personality, _i.e._ phenomenality. And personal or phenomenal
     existence is constituted by referring itself to a foreign source,
     or, what is the same thing, confessing itself created: so that the
     fundamental word of Philosophy, by Hegel's own formula, is
     creation; which, however, as I understand him, he denies in any
     objective sense of the word. This then is what I complain of in
     him--with deference of course to your better knowledge, which,
     however, you do not urge as yet in what seems to me a silencing
     way--that he makes existence _essential_ to being, so that take
     existence away and being becomes nothing. It would not be a whit
     less preposterous in me to say that thought is essential to thing,
     subject to object, marble to statue, canvas to picture, woman to
     wife, mother to child. It is literally putting the cart before the
     horse and converting Philosophy to a practical quagmire. Being
     implies existence of course just as picture implies canvas, or as
     personality implies reality, or as chick implies egg; but it
     implies it only to a lower intelligence than itself, an unspiritual
     intelligence to wit, which has no direct or inward intuition of
     being, and requires to be agitated to discerning it. When I
     recognise the spiritual life of Art I never think of marble or
     canvas as entering even conditionally into its manifestations.

But I hold my case for a rare command of manner thus proved, and need go
no further; the more that I have dropped too many of those threads of my
rather niggled tapestry that belong but to the experience of my own
weaving hand and the interplay of which represents thereby a certain
gained authority. I disentangle these again, if the term be not
portentous, though reflecting too, and again with complacency, that
though I thus prize them as involved most in my own consciousness, this
is just because of their attachment somewhere else to other matters and
other lives.



IX


I went up from Newport to Cambridge early in the autumn of '62, and on
one of the oddest errands, I think, that, given the several
circumstances, I could possibly have undertaken. I was nineteen years
old, and it had seemed to me for some time past that some such step as
my entering for instance the Harvard Law School more or less urgently
concerned what I could but try to help myself out by still putting
forward as my indispensable education--I am not sure indeed that the
claim didn't explicitly figure, or at least successfully dangle, as that
of my possibly graceful mere "culture." I had somehow--by which I mean
for reasons quite sufficient--to fall back on the merciful "mere" for
any statement of my pretensions even to myself: so little they seemed to
fit into any scheme of the conventional maximum as compared with those I
saw so variously and strongly asserted about me, especially since the
outbreak of the War. I am not sure whether I yet made bold to say it,
but I should surely be good for nothing, all my days, if not for
projecting into the concrete, by hook or by crook--that is my
imagination shamelessly aiding--some show of (again) mere life. This
impression was not in the least the flag I publicly brandished; in fact
I must have come as near as possible to brandishing none whatever, a
sound instinct always hinting to me, I gather, that the tune for such a
performance was much more after than before--before the perfect place
had been found for the real planting of the standard and the giving of
its folds to the air. No such happy spot had been marked, decidedly, at
that period, to my inquiring eye; in consequence of which the emblazoned
morsel (hoisted sooner or later by all of us, I think, somehow and
somewhere), might have passed for the hour as a light extravagant
bandanna rolled into the tight ball that fits it for hiding in the
pocket. There it considerably stayed, so far as I was concerned; and all
the more easily as I can but have felt how little any particular thing I
might meanwhile "do" would matter--save for some specious appearance in
it. This last, I recognise, had for me a virtue--principally that of
somehow gaining time; though I hasten to add that my approach to the Law
School can scarcely, as a means to this end, in the air of it that comes
back to me, have been in the least deceptive. By which I mean that my
appearance of intentions, qualifications, possibilities, or whatever
else, in the connection, hadn't surely so much as the grace of the
specious. I spoke above of the assumed "indispensability" of some show
of my being further subject to the "education" theory, but this was for
the moment only under failure to ask to whom, or for what, such a
tribute _was_ indispensable. The interest to myself would seem to have
been, as I recover the sense of the time, that of all the
impossibilities of action my proceeding to Cambridge on the very vaguest
grounds that probably ever determined a residence there might pass for
the least flagrant; as I breathe over again at any rate the comparative
confidence in which I so moved I feel it as a confidence in the positive
saving virtue of vagueness. Could I but work that force as an ideal I
felt it must see me through, for the beauty of it in that form was that
it should absolutely superabound. I wouldn't have allowed, either, that
it was vaguer to do nothing; for in the first place just staying at home
when everyone was on the move couldn't in any degree show the right
mark: to be properly and perfectly vague one had to be vague _about_
something; mere inaction quite lacked the note--it was nothing but
definite and dull. I thought of the Law School experiment, I remember,
in all sorts of conceivable connections, but in the connection of
dulness surely never for an hour. I thought of it under the head of
"life"--by which term at the same time, I blush to confess, I didn't in
the least mean free evening access to Boston in a jangling horse-car,
with whatever extension this might give to the joy of the liberated
senses. I simply meant--well, what was monstrously to happen; which I
shall be better inspired here to deal with as a demonstration made in
its course than as a premonition relatively crude and at the time still
to be verified. Marked in the whole matter, however these things might
be, was that irony of fate under the ugly grin of which I found my
father reply in the most offhand and liberal manner to my remark that
the step in question--my joining, in a sense, my brother at
Cambridge--wouldn't be wholly impracticable. It might have been, from
his large assent to it, a masterstroke of high policy. A certain
inconsequence in this left me wondering why then if the matter was now
so natural it hadn't been to his mind a year before equally simple that
I should go to college, and to _that_ College, after a more showy, even
though I see it would have been at the same time a less presumptuous,
fashion. To have deprecated the "college course" with such emphasis only
so soon afterwards to forswear all emphasis and practically smile, in
mild oblivion, on _any_ Harvard connection I might find it in me to take
up, was to bring it home, I well recall, that the case might originally
have been much better managed.

All of which would seem to kick up more dust than need quite have hung
about so simple a matter as my setting forth to the Cambridge scene with
no design that I could honourably exhibit. A superficial account of the
matter would have been that my father had a year or two earlier appeared
to think so ill of it as to reduce me, given the "delicacy," the inward,
not then the outward, which I have glanced at, to mild renunciation--mild
I say because I remember in fact, rather to my mystification now, no
great pang of disappointment, no soreness of submission. I didn't want
anything so much as I wanted a certain good (or wanted thus supremely
_to_ want it, if I may say so), with which a conventional going to
college wouldn't have so tremendously much to do as for the giving it up
to break my heart--or an unconventional not-going so tremendously much
either. What I "wanted to want" to be was, all intimately, just
_literary_; a decent respect for the standard hadn't yet made my
approach so straight that there weren't still difficulties that might
seem to meet it, questions it would have to depend on. Passing the
Harvard portal positively failed in fact to strike me as the shorter cut
to literature; the sounds that rose from the scene as I caught them
appeared on the contrary the most detached from any such interest that
had ever reached my ear. Merely to open the door of the big square
closet, the ample American closet, to the like of which Europe had never
treated us, on the shelves and round the walls of which the pink Revues
sat with the air, row upon row, of a choir of breathing angels, was to
take up that particular, that sacred, connection in a way that put the
coarser process to shame. The drop of the Harvard question had of a
truth really meant, as I recover it, a renewed consecration of the rites
of that chapel where the taper always twinkled--which circumstance I
mention as not only qualifying my sense of loss, but as symbolising,
after a queer fashion, the independence, blest vision (to the extent,
that is, of its being a closer compact with the life of the
imagination), that I should thus both luckily come in for and
designingly cultivate: cultivate in other words under the rich cover of
obscurity. I have already noted how the independence was, ever so few
months later, by so quaint a turn, another mere shake of the tree, to
drop into my lap in the form of a great golden apple--a value not a
simple windfall only through the fact that my father's hand had after
all just lightly loosened it. This accession pointed the moral that
there was no difficulty about anything, no intrinsic difficulty; so
that, to re-emphasise the sweet bewilderment, I was to "go" where I
liked in the Harvard direction and do what I liked in the Harvard
relation. Such was the situation as offered me; though as I had to take
it and use it I found in it no little difference. Two things and more
had come up--the biggest of which, and very wondrous as bearing on any
circumstance of mine, as having a grain of weight to spare for it, was
the breaking out of the War. The other, the infinitely small affair in
comparison, was a passage of personal history the most entirely
personal, but between which, as a private catastrophe or difficulty,
bristling with embarrassments, and the great public convulsion that
announced itself in bigger terms each day, I felt from the very first an
association of the closest, yet withal, I fear, almost of the least
clearly expressible. Scarce at all to be stated, to begin with, the
queer fusion or confusion established in my consciousness during the
soft spring of '61 by the firing on Fort Sumter, Mr. Lincoln's instant
first call for volunteers and a physical mishap, already referred to as
having overtaken me at the same dark hour, and the effects of which were
to draw themselves out incalculably and intolerably. Beyond all present
notation the interlaced, undivided way in which what had happened to me,
by a turn of fortune's hand, in twenty odious minutes, kept company of
the most unnatural--I can call it nothing less--with my view of what was
happening, with the question of what might still happen, to everyone
about me, to the country at large: it so made of these marked
disparities a single vast visitation. One had the sense, I mean, of a
huge comprehensive ache, and there were hours at which one could scarce
have told whether it came most from one's own poor organism, still so
young and so meant for better things, but which had suffered particular
wrong, or from the enclosing social body, a body rent with a thousand
wounds and that thus treated one to the honour of a sort of tragic
fellowship. The twenty minutes had sufficed, at all events, to establish
a relation--a relation to everything occurring round me not only for the
next four years but for long afterward--that was at once extraordinarily
intimate and quite awkwardly irrelevant. I must have felt in some
befooled way in presence of a crisis--the smoke of Charleston Bay still
so acrid in the air--at which the likely young should be up and doing
or, as familiarly put, lend a hand much wanted; the willing youths, all
round, were mostly starting to their feet, and to have trumped up a
lameness at such a juncture could be made to pass in no light for
graceful. Jammed into the acute angle between two high fences, where the
rhythmic play of my arms, in tune with that of several other pairs, but
at a dire disadvantage of position, induced a rural, a rusty, a
quasi-extemporised old engine to work and a saving stream to flow, I had
done myself, in face of a shabby conflagration, a horrid even if an
obscure hurt; and what was interesting from the first was my not
doubting in the least its duration--though what seemed equally clear was
that I needn't as a matter of course adopt and appropriate it, so to
speak, or place it for increase of interest on exhibition. The interest
of it, I very presently knew, would certainly be of the greatest, would
even in conditions kept as simple as I might make them become little
less than absorbing. The shortest account of what was to follow for a
long time after is therefore to plead that the interest never did fail.
It was naturally what is called a painful one, but it consistently
declined, as an influence at play, to drop for a single instant.
Circumstances, by a wonderful chance, overwhelmingly favoured it--as an
interest, an inexhaustible, I mean; since I also felt in the whole
enveloping tonic atmosphere a force promoting its growth. Interest, the
interest of life and of death, of our national existence, of the fate of
those, the vastly numerous, whom it closely concerned, the interest of
the extending War, in fine, the hurrying troops, the transfigured scene,
formed a cover for every sort of intensity, made tension itself in fact
contagious--so that almost any tension would do, would serve for one's
share.

I have here, I allow, not a little to foreshorten--have to skip sundry
particulars, certain of the steps by which I came to think of my
relation to my injury as a _modus vivendi_ workable for the time. These
steps had after the first flush of reaction inevitably _had_ to be
communications of my state, recognitions and admissions; which had the
effect, I hasten to add, of producing sympathies, supports and
reassurances. I gladly took these things, I perfectly remember, at that
value; distinct to me as it still is nevertheless that the indulgence
they conveyed lost part of its balm by involving a degree of
publication. Direfully distinct have remained to me the conditions of a
pilgrimage to Boston made that summer under my father's care for
consultation of a great surgeon, the head of his profession there; whose
opinion and advice--the more that he was a guaranteed friend of my
father's--had seemed the best light to invoke on the less and less
bearable affliction with which I had been for three or four months
seeking to strike some sort of bargain: mainly, up to that time, under
protection of a theory of temporary supine "rest" against which
everything inward and outward tended equally to conspire. Agitated
scraps of rest, snatched, to my consciousness, by the liveliest
violence, were to show for futile almost to the degree in which the
effort of our interview with the high expert was afterwards so to show;
the truth being that this interview settled my sad business, settled it
just in that saddest sense, for ever so long to come. This was so much
the case that, as the mere scene of our main appeal, the house from
which we had after its making dejectedly emerged put forth to me as I
passed it in many a subsequent season an ironic smug symbolism of its
action on my fate. That action had come from the complete failure of our
approached oracle either to warn, to comfort or to command--to do
anything but make quite unassistingly light of the bewilderment exposed
to him. In default of other attention or suggestion he might by a mere
warning as to gravities only too possible, and already well advanced,
have made such a difference; but I have little forgotten how I felt
myself, the warning absent, treated but to a comparative pooh-pooh--an
impression I long looked back to as a sharp parting of the ways, with an
adoption of the wrong one distinctly determined. It was not simply small
comfort, it was only a mystification the more, that the inconvenience of
my state had to reckon with the strange fact of there being nothing to
speak of the matter with me. The graceful course, on the whole ground
again (and where moreover was delicacy, the proposed, the intended,
without grace?) was to behave accordingly, in good set terms, as if the
assurance were true; since the time left no margin at all for one's
gainsaying with the right confidence so high an authority. There were a
hundred ways to behave--in the general sense so freely suggested, I
mean; and I think of the second half of that summer of '62 as my attempt
at selection of the best. The best still remained, under closer
comparisons, very much what it had at first seemed, and there was in
fact this charm in it that to prepare for an ordeal essentially
intellectual, as I surmised, might justly involve, in the public eye, a
season of some retirement. The beauty was--I can fairly see it now,
through the haze of time, even as beauty!--that studious retirement and
preparatory hours did after all supply the supine attitude, did invest
the ruefulness, did deck out the cynicism of lying down book in hand
with a certain fine plausibility. This was at least a negative of
combat, an organised, not a loose and empty one, something definitely
and firmly parallel to action in the tented field; and I well recall,
for that matter, how, when early in the autumn I had in fact become the
queerest of forensic recruits, the bristling horde of my Law School
comrades fairly produced the illusion of a mustered army. The Cambridge
campus was tented field enough for a conscript starting so compromised;
and I can scarce say moreover how easily it let me down that when it
came to the point one had still fine fierce young men, in great numbers,
for company, there being at the worst so many such who hadn't flown to
arms. I was to find my fancy of the merely relative right in any way to
figure, or even on such terms just to exist, I was to find it in due
course quite drop from me as the Cambridge year played itself out,
leaving me all aware that, full though the air might be of stiffer
realities, one had yet a rare handful of one's own to face and deal
with.

At Cambridge of course, when I got there, I was further to find my
brother on the scene and already at a stage of possession of its
contents that I was resigned in advance never to reach; so thoroughly I
seemed to feel a sort of quickening savoury meal in any cold scrap of
his own experience that he might pass on to my palate. This figure has
definite truth, that is, but for association at the board literally
yielding us nourishment--the happiest as to social composition and
freedom of supply of all the _tables d'hôte_ of those days, a veritable
haunt of conversation ruled by that gently fatuous Miss Upham something
of whose angular grace and antique attitude has lived again for us in
William's letters. I place him, if not at the moment of my to that
extent joining him then at least from a short time afterwards, in
quarters that he occupied for the next two or three years--quiet
cloistered rooms, as they almost appeared to me, in the comparatively
sequestered Divinity Hall of that still virtually rustic age; which,
though mainly affected to the use of post-graduates and others, of a
Unitarian colour, enrolled under Harvard's theological Faculty, offered
chance accommodation, much appreciated for a certain supposedly separate
charm, not to say a finer dignity, by the more maturely studious in
other branches as well. The superstition or aftertaste of Europe had
then neither left me nor hinted that it ever might; yet I recall as a
distinct source of interest, to be desperately dealt with, and dealt
with somehow to my inward advantage, the special force of the
circumstance that I was now for the first time in presence of matters
normally, entirely, consistently American, and that more particularly I
found myself sniff up straight from the sources, such as they
unmistakably were, the sense of that New England which had been to me
till then but a name. This from the first instant was what I most took
in, and quite apart from the question of what one was going to make of
it, of whether one was going, in the simple formula, to like it, and of
what would come, could the impression so triumph, of such monstrous
assimilations. Clear to me in the light thus kindled that my American
consciousness had hitherto been after all and at the best singularly
starved, and that Newport for instance, during the couple of years, had
fed it but with sips of an adulterated strain. Newport, with its
opera-glass turned for ever across the sea--for Newport, or at least
_our_ Newport, even during the War, lived mainly, and quite visibly, by
the opera-glass--was comparatively, and in its degree incurably,
cosmopolite; and though on our first alighting there I had more or less
successfully, as I fancied, invited the local historic sense to vibrate,
it was at present left me to feel myself a poor uninitiated creature.
However, an initiation, at least by the intelligence, into some given
thing--almost anything really given would do--was essentially what I
was, as we nowadays say, after; the fault with my previous data in the
American kind had been that they weren't sufficiently given; so that
here would be Boston and Cambridge giving as with absolute authority.
The War had by itself of course, on the ground I speak of, communicated
something of the quality, or rather of the quantity, otherwise
deficient; only this was for my case, of which alone I speak, an
apprehension without a language or a channel--a revelation as sublime
as one would like to feel it, but spreading abroad as a whole and not,
alas, by any practice of mine, reducible to parts. What I promptly made
out at Cambridge was that "America" would be given, as I have called it,
to a tune altogether fresh, so that to hear this tune wholly played out
might well become on the spot an inspiring privilege. If I indeed, I
should add, said to myself "wholly," this was of course not a little
straining a point; since, putting my initiation, my grasp of the
exhibition, at its conceivable liveliest, far more of the supposed total
was I inevitably to miss than to gather to my use. But I might gather
what I could, and therein was exactly the adventure. To rinse my mouth
of the European aftertaste _in order_ to do justice to whatever of the
native bitter-sweet might offer itself in congruous vessels--such a
brave dash for discovery, and such only, would give a sense to my
posture. With which it was unmistakable that I shouldn't in the least
have painfully to strive; of such a force of impact was each impression
clearly capable that I had much rather to steady myself, at any moment,
where I stood, and quite to a sense of the luxury of the occasion, than
to cultivate inquiry at the aggressive pitch. There was no need for
curiosity--it was met by every object, I seemed to see, so much more
than half way; unless indeed I put it better by saying that as _all_ my
vision partook of that principle the impulse and the object perpetually
melted together. It wasn't for instance by the faintest process of
inquiry that the _maison_ Upham, where I three times daily sat at meat,
had scarce to wait an hour to become as vivid a translation into
American terms of Balzac's Maison Vauquer, in Le Père Goriot, as I could
have desired to deal with.

It would have been at once uplifting to see in the American terms a vast
improvement on the prime version, had I not been here a bit baffled by
the sense that the correspondence was not quite, after all, of like with
like, and that the main scene of Balzac's action was confessedly and
curiously sordid and even sinister, whereas its equivalent under the
Harvard elms would rank decidedly as what we had _de mieux_, or in other
words of most refined, in the "boarding" line, to show. I must have been
further conscious that what we had de mieux in the social line appeared
quite liable, on occasion, to board wherever it might--the situation in
Balzac's world being on this head as different as possible. No one not
deeply distressed or dismally involved or all but fatally compromised
could have taken the chances of such an establishment at all; so that
any comparison to our own particular advantage had to be, on
reflection, nipped in the bud. There was a generic sameness, none the
less, I might still reason; enough of that at least to show the two
pictures as each in its way interesting--which was all that was
required. The Maison Vauquer, its musty air thick with heavier social
elements, might have been more so, for the Harvard elms overhung no
strange Vautrin, no old Goriot, no young Rastignac; yet the interest of
the Kirkland Street company couldn't, so to speak, help itself either,
any more than I could help taking advantage of it. In one respect
certainly, in the matter of talk as talk, we shone incomparably
brighter; and if it took what we had de mieux to make our so regular
resort a scene essentially of conversation, the point was none the less
that our materials were there. I found the effect of this, very easily,
as American as I liked--liked, that is, to think of it and to make all I
might of it for being; about which in truth all difficulty vanished from
the moment the local colour of the War broke in. So of course this
element did at that season come back to us through every outward
opening, and mean enough by contrast had been the questions amid which
the Vauquer boarders grubbed. Anything even indirectly touched by our
public story, stretching now into volume after volume of the very
biggest print, took on that reflected light of dignity, of importance,
or of mere gross salience, which passion charged with criticism, and
criticism charged with the thousand menaced affections and connections,
the whole of the reaction--charged in short with immediate intimate
life--have a power, in such conditions, to fling as from a waving torch.
The torch flared sufficiently about Miss Upham's board--save that she
herself, ancient spinster, pushed it in dismay from her top of the
table, blew upon it with vain scared sighs, and would have nothing to do
with a matter so disturbing to the right temperature of her _plats_. We
others passed it from hand to hand, so that it couldn't go quite
out--since I must in fairness add that the element of the casual and the
more _generally_ ironic, the play of the studious or the irrepressibly
social intelligence at large, couldn't fail to insist pretty constantly
on its rights. There were quarters as well, I should note, in which the
sense of local colour proceeding at all straight from the source I have
named--reflected, that is, from camp and field--could but very soon run
short; sharply enough do I recall for instance the felt, even if all so
privately felt, limits of _my_ poor stream of contributive remark
(despite my habit, so fondly practised in the connection, of expatiating
_in petto_). My poor stream would have trickled, truly, had it been able
to trickle at all, from the most effective of my few occasions of
"realising," up to that time, as to field and camp; literally as to camp
in fact, since the occasion had consisted of a visit paid, or a
pilgrimage, rather, ever so piously, so tenderly made, one August
afternoon of the summer just ended, to a vast gathering of invalid and
convalescent troops, under canvas and in roughly improvised shanties, at
some point of the Rhode Island shore that figures to my memory, though
with a certain vagueness, as Portsmouth Grove. (American local names
lend themselves strangely little to retention, I find, if one has
happened to deal for long years with almost any group of European
designations--these latter springing, as it has almost always come to
seem, straight from the soil where natural causes were anciently to root
them, each with its rare identity. The bite into interest of the
borrowed, the imposed, the "faked" label, growing but as by a dab of
glue on an article of trade, is inevitably much less sharp.) Vagueness
at best attends, however, the queer experience I glance at; what lives
of it, in the ineffaceable way, being again, by my incurable perversity,
my ambiguous economy, much less a matter of the "facts of the case," as
they should, even though so dead and buried now, revive to help me
through an anecdote, than the prodigiously subjective side of the
experience, thanks to which it still presumes to flush with the grand
air of an adventure. If I had not already so often brazened out my
confession of the far from "showy" in the terms on which impressions
could become indelibly momentous to me I might blush indeed for the thin
tatter dragged in thus as an affair of record. It consisted at the time
simply of an emotion--though the emotion, I should add, appeared to
consist of everything in the whole world that my consciousness could
hold. By _that_ intensity did it hang as bravely as possible together,
and by the title so made good has it handed itself endlessly down.

Owing to which it is that I don't at all know what troops were in
question, a "mere" couple of Rhode Island regiments (nothing in those
days could be too big to escape the application of the "mere,") or a
congeries of the temporarily incapacitated, the more or less broken,
picked from the veterans--so far as there already were such--of the East
at large and directed upon the Grove as upon a place of stowage and
sanitation. Discriminations of the prosaic order had little to do with
my first and all but sole vision of the American soldier in his
multitude, and above all--for that was markedly the colour of the whole
thing--in his depression, his wasted melancholy almost; an effect that
somehow corresponds for memory, I bethink myself, with the tender
elegiac tone in which Walt Whitman was later on so admirably to
commemorate him. The restrictions I confess to are abject, but both my
sense and my aftersense of the exhibition I here allude to had, thanks
to my situation, to do all the work they could in the way of
representation to me of what was most publicly, most heroically, most
wastefully, tragically, terribly going on. It had so to serve for my
particular nearest approach to a "contact" with the active drama--I mean
of course the collectively and scenically active, since the brush of
interest against the soldier single and salient was an affair of every
day--that were it not for just one other strange spasm of awareness,
scarce relaxed to this hour, I should have been left all but pitifully
void of any scrap of a substitute for the concrete experience. The long
hot July 1st of '63, on which the huge battle of Gettysburg had begun,
could really be--or rather couldn't possibly not be--a scrap of concrete
experience for any group of united persons, New York cousins and all,
who, in a Newport garden, restlessly strolling, sitting, neither daring
quite to move nor quite to rest, quite to go in nor quite to stay out,
actually _listened_ together, in their almost ignobly safe stillness, as
to the boom of far-away guns. This _was_, as it were, the War--the War
palpably in Pennsylvania; not less than my hour of a felt rage of
repining at my doomed absence from the sight of that march of the 54th
Massachusetts out of Boston, "Bob" Shaw at its head and our exalted
Wilky among its officers, of which a great sculptor was, on the spot of
their vividest passing, to set the image aloft forever. Poor other
visitations, comparatively, had had to suffice for me; I could take in
fact for amusing, most of all (since that, thank goodness, was high
gaiety), a couple of impressions of the brief preliminary camp life at
Readville during which we admired the charming composition of the 44th
of the same State, under Colonel Frank Lee, and which fairly made
romantic for me Wilky's quick spring out of mere juvenility and into
such brightly-bristling ranks. He had begun by volunteering in a company
that gave him half the ingenuous youth of the circle within our social
ken for brothers-in-arms, and it was to that pair of Readville
afternoons I must have owed my all so emphasised vision of handsome
young Cabot Russell, who, again to be his closest brother-in-arms in the
54th, irrecoverably lost himself, as we have seen, at Fort Wagner. A dry
desert, one must suppose, the life in which, for memory and appreciation
made one, certain single hours or compressed groups of hours have found
their reason for standing out through everything, for insistently
living on, in the cabinet of intimate reference, the museum, as it were,
of the soul's curiosities--where doubtless at the same time an
exhibition of them to mere other eyes or ears or questioning logical
minds may effect itself in no plain terms. We recognise such occasions
more and more as we go on, and are surely, as a general thing, glad
when, for the interest of memory--which it's such a business to _keep_
interesting--they constitute something of a cluster. In my queer
cluster, at any rate, that flower of the connection which answers to the
name of Portsmouth Grove still overtops other members of its class, so
that to finger it again for a moment is to make it perceptibly exhale
its very principle of life. This was, for me, at the time, neither more
nor less than that the American soldier in his multitude was the most
attaching and affecting and withal the most amusing figure of romance
conceivable; the great sense of my vision being thus that, as the
afternoon light of the place and time lingered upon him, both to the
seeming enhancement of his quality and of its own, romance of a more
confused kind than I shall now attempt words for attended his every
movement. It was the charmingest, touchingest, dreadfullest thing in the
world that my impression of him should have to be somehow of his
abandonment to a rueful humour, to a stoic reserve which could yet
melt, a relation with him once established, into a rich communicative
confidence; and, in particular, all over the place, of his own scanted
and more or less baffled, though constantly and, as I couldn't not have
it, pathetically, "knowing" devices.

The great point remained for me at all events that I could afterwards
appear to myself to have done nothing but establish with him a relation,
that I established it, to my imagination, in several cases--and all in
the three or four hours--even to the pitch of the last tenderness of
friendship. I recover that, strolling about with honest and so superior
fellow-citizens, or sitting with them by the improvised couches of their
languid rest, I drew from each his troubled tale, listened to his plaint
on his special hard case--taking form, this, in what seemed to me the
very poetry of the esoteric vernacular--and sealed the beautiful tie,
the responsive sympathy, by an earnest offer, in no instance waved away,
of such pecuniary solace as I might at brief notice draw on my poor
pocket for. Yet again, as I indulge this memory, do I feel that I might
if pushed a little rejoice in having to such an extent coincided with,
not to say perhaps positively anticipated, dear old Walt--even if I
hadn't come armed like him with oranges and peppermints. I ministered
much more summarily, though possibly in proportion to the time and
thanks to my better luck more pecuniarily; but I like to treat myself to
making out that I can scarce have brought to the occasion (in proportion
to the time again and to other elements of the case) less of the
consecrating sentiment than he. I like further to put it in a light
that, ever so curiously, if the good Walt was most inwardly stirred to
his later commemorative accents by his participating in the common
Americanism of his hospital friends, the familiar note and shared sound
of which formed its ground of appeal, I found myself victim to a like
moving force through quite another logic. It was literally, I fear,
because our common Americanism carried with it, to my imagination, such
a disclosed freshness and strangeness, working, as I might say, over
such gulfs of dissociation, that I reached across to _their_, these
hospital friends', side of the matter, even at the risk of an imperilled
consistency. It had for me, the state in question, colour and form,
accent and quality, with scarce less "authority" than if instead of the
rough tracks or worn paths of my casual labyrinth I had trod the glazed
halls of some school of natural history. What holds me now indeed is
that such an institution might have exemplified then almost nothing but
the aspects strictly native to our social and seasonal air; so simply
and easily conceivable to the kindly mind were at that time these
reciprocities, so great the freedom and pleasure of them compared with
the restrictions imposed on directness of sympathy by the awful
admixtures of to-day, those which offer to the would-be participant
among us, on returns from sojourns wherever homogeneity and its entailed
fraternity, its easy contacts, still may be seen to work, the strange
shock of such amenities declined on any terms. Really not possible then,
I think, the perception now accompanying, on American ground, this
shock--the recognition, by any sensibility at all reflective, of the
point where our national theory of absorption, assimilation and
conversion appallingly breaks down; appallingly, that is, for those to
whom the _consecrated_ association, of the sort still at play where
community has not been blighted, strongly speaks. Which remarks may
reinforce the note of my unconsciousness of any difficulty for knowing
in the old, the comparatively brothering, conditions what an American at
least _was_. Absurd thus, no doubt, that the scant experience over which
I perversely linger insists on figuring to me as quite a revel of the
right confidence.

The revel, though I didn't for the moment yet know it, was to be renewed
for me at Cambridge with less of a romantic intensity perhaps, but more
usefully, so to put it, and more informingly; surrounded as I presently
found myself at the Law School with young types, or rather with young
members of a single type, not one of whom but would have enriched my
imagined hall of congruous specimens. _That_, with the many months of
it, was to be the real disclosure, the larger revelation; that was to be
the fresh picture for a young person reaching the age of twenty in
wellnigh grotesque unawareness of the properties of the atmosphere in
which he but wanted to claim that he had been nourished. Of what I mean
by this I shall in a moment have more to say--after pointing a trifle
more, for our patience, the sense of my dilatation upon Portsmouth
Grove. Perfectly distinct has remained the sail back to Newport by that
evening's steamboat; the mere memory of which indeed--and I recall that
I felt it inordinately long--must have been for me, just above, the
spring of the whole reference. The sail was long, measured by my acute
consciousness of paying physically for my excursion--which hadn't
answered the least little bit for my impaired state. This last
disobliging fact became one, at the same time, with an intensity, indeed
a strange rapture, of reflection, which I may not in the least pretend
to offer as a clear or coherent or logical thing, and of which I can
only say, leaving myself there through the summer twilight, in too scant
rest on a deck stool and against the bulwark, that it somehow crowned
my little adventure of sympathy and wonder with a shining round of
resignation--a realisation, as we nowadays put it, that, measuring
wounds against wounds, or the compromised, the particular taxed
condition, at the least, against all the rest of the debt then so
generally and enormously due, one was no less exaltedly than wastefully
engaged in the common fact of endurance. There are memories in truth too
fine or too peculiar for notation, too intensely individual and
supersubtle--call them what one will; yet which one may thus no more
give up confusedly than one may insist on them vainly. Their kind is
nothing ever to a present purpose unless they are in a manner statable,
but is at the same time ruefully aware of threatened ridicule if they
are overstated. Not that I in the least mind such a menace, however, in
just adding that, soothed as I have called the admirable ache of my
afternoon with that inward interpretation of it, I felt the latter--or
rather doubtless simply the entire affair--absolutely overarched by the
majestic manner in which the distress of our return drew out into the
lucid charm of the night. To which I must further add that the hour
seemed, by some wondrous secret, to know itself marked and charged and
unforgettable--hinting so in its very own terms of cool beauty at
something portentous in it, an exquisite claim then and there for
lasting value and high authority.



X


All of which foregoing makes, I grant, a long parenthesis in my recovery
of the more immediate Cambridge impressions. I have left them awaiting
me, yet I am happy to say not sensibly the worse for it, in their
cluster roundabout Miss Upham and her board of beneficiary images; which
latter start up afresh and with the softest submission to any convenient
neglect--that ineffably touching and confessed dependence of such
apparitions on one's "pleasure," save the mark! for the flicker of
restorative light. The image most vividly restored is doubtless that of
Professor F. J. Child, head of the "English Department" at Harvard and
master of that great modern science of folk-lore to his accomplishment
in which his vast and slowly-published collection of the Ballad
literature of our language is a recognised monument; delightful man,
rounded character, passionate patriot, admirable talker, above all
thorough humanist and humorist. He was the genial autocrat of that
breakfast-table not only, but of our symposia otherwise timed, and as he
comes back to me with the fresh and quite circular countenance of the
time before the personal cares and complications of life had gravely
thickened for him, his aspect _all_ finely circular, with its close
rings of the fairest hair, its golden rims of the largest glasses, its
finished rotundity of figure and attitude, I see that _there_ was the
American spirit--since I was "after" it--of a quality deeply inbred,
beautifully adjusted to all extensions of knowledge and taste and, as
seemed to me, quite sublimely quickened by everything that was at the
time so tremendously in question. That vision of him was never
afterwards to yield to other lights--though these, even had occasion for
them been more frequent with me, couldn't much have interfered with it;
so that what I still most retain of him is the very flush and mobility,
the living expansion and contraction, the bright comedy and almost lunar
eclipse, of his cherubic face according as things appeared to be going
for the country. I was always just across from him, as my brother,
beside whom I took my place, had been, and I remember well how vivid a
clock-face it became to me; I found still, as in my younger time, matter
enough everywhere for gaping, but greatest of all, I think, while that
tense season lasted, was my wonder for the signs and portents, the quips
and cranks, the wreathèd smiles, or otherwise the candid obscurations,
of our prime talker's presented visage. I set, as it were, the small
tick of my own poor watch by it--which private register would thump or
intermit in agreement with these indications. I recover it that, thanks
to the perpetual play of his sympathy and irony, confidence and scorn,
as well as to that of my own less certainly directed sensibility, he
struck me on the bad days, which were then so many, as fairly august,
cherubism and all, for sincerity of association with every light and
shade, every ebb and flow, of our Cause. Where he most shone out,
indeed, so that depression then wasn't a gloom in him but a darting
flame, was in the icy air of the attitude of the nations to us, that of
the couple, the most potent, across the sea, with which we were
especially concerned and which, as during the whole earlier half of the
War and still longer it more and more defined itself, drew from him at
once all the drolleries and all the asperities of his sarcasm. Nothing
more particularly touched me in him, I make out--for it lingers in a
light of its own--than the fashion after which he struck me as a fond
grave guardian, not so much of the memory and the ashes yet awhile, as
of the promise, in all its flower, of the sacrificial young men whom the
University connection had passed through his hands and whom he looked
out for with a tenderness of interest, a nursing pride, that was as
contagious as I could possibly have wished it. I didn't myself know the
young men, save three or four, and could only, at our distance, hold my
tongue and do them homage; never afterwards (as I even then foreknew
would be the case) missing, when I could help it, or failing to pick up,
a single brush, a scattered leaf, of their growing or their riper
legend. Certain of them whom I had neither seen nor, as they fell in
battle, was destined ever to see, have lived for me since just as
communicated images, figures created by his tone about them--which, I
admit, mightn't or needn't have mattered to me for all the years, yet
which couldn't help so doing from the moment the right touch had handed
them over to my restless claim.

It was not meanwhile for want of other figures that these were gathered
in, for I have again to grant that in those days figures became such for
me on easy terms, and that in particular William had only to let the
light of _his_ attention, his interest, his curiosity, his aversion even
(could he indeed have passingly lived in the helplessness of mere
aversion) visibly rest on them for me entirely to feel that they must
count for as much as might be--so far at least as my perception was
concerned, contact being truly another affair. That was the truth at
that season, if it wasn't always to remain the truth; I felt his
interpretations, his personal allowances, so largely and inveterately
liberal, always impose themselves: it was not till ever so much later,
and then only little by little, that I came to accept the strange
circumstance of my not invariably "liking," in homely parlance, his
people, and his not invariably liking mine. The process represented by
that word was for each of us, I think, a process so involved with other
operations of the spirit, so beautifully complicated and deformed by
them, that our results in this sort doubtless eventually lost themselves
in the labyrinth of our reasons; which latter, eventually--the
labyrinth, I mean--could be a frequent and not other than animated
meeting-place in spite of the play of divergence. The true case, I all
the while plentifully felt, and still more feel now, was that _I_
diverged and my brother almost never; in the sense, that is, that no man
can well have cared less for the question, or made less of the
consciousness, of dislike--have valued less their developments and
comforts. Even the opposite of that complacency scarce seemed a
recognised, or at least in any degree a cultivated, state with him; his
passion, and that a passion of the intelligence, was justice
unafraid--and this, as it were, almost unformulatedly, altogether
unpedantically: it simply made him utterly not "mind" numberless things
that with most people serve as dim lights, warnings or attractions, in
the grope of appreciation or the adventure of instinct. His luminous
indifference kept his course thus, as I was later to recognise,
extraordinarily straight--to the increase, as I have noted, of my own
poor sense of weakly straggling, unaccompanied as this at the same time
was by the least envy of such a deficiency in what is roughly called
prejudice, and what I, to save my face, in my ups and downs of
sociability or curiosity, could perhaps have found no better term for
than the play of taste as taste. Wonderful, and to me in the last resort
admirable, was William's fine heritage and awareness of that principle
without its yet affecting him on the human, the more largely social,
just the conversable and workable ground--in presence of some other
principle that might do so, whether this validly or but speciously
interfered. The triumph over _dis_taste, in one's relations, one's
exposures, one's judgments, _that_ I could understand as high virtue,
strained heroism, the ideal groaningly applied; but what left me always
impressed, to put it mildly, was the fact that in my brother's case the
incorruptibility of his candour would have had to be explained to him,
and with scant presumption too of his taking it in or having patience
while one spoke. Such an enterprise, I was well aware, would at any rate
have left _me_ a sorry enough figure afterwards. What one would have had
to be, what one could in the least decently be, _except_ candid without
alternative--this, with other like matters, I should have had to be
prepared to set forth; and, more and more addressed as I eventually
found myself to a cultivation of the absolute in taste as taste, to
repeat my expression, I was far from the wish to contend for it as
against any appearance whatever of a better way. Such was part of the
experience, or call it even the discipline, of association with a genius
so marked for the process known as giving the benefit of the doubt--and
giving it (for that was the irritating charm), not in smug charity or
for a pointed moral, but through the very nature of a mind incapable of
the shut door in any direction and of a habit of hospitality so free
that it might again and again have been observed, in contact and
intercourse, to supply weaker and less graced vessels with the very
means of bringing in response, often absolutely in retort. This last of
course was not so much the benefit of the doubt as the displayed
unconsciousness of any doubt, a perpetual aid rendered the doubtful,
especially when incarnate in persons, to be more right or more true,
more clever or more charming or whatever, than mere grudging love of
"form," standing by, could at all see it entitled to become. Anything
like William's unawareness of exertion after having helped the lame dog
of converse over stile after stile I have in no other case met.
Together with which, however, I may not forbear to add, the very
occasional and comparatively small flare in him of some blest perversity
of prejudice that one might enjoy on one's own side the vulgar luxury of
naming as such was a thing which, conformably to that elation, one
reached out for as one might for the white glint of the rare edelweiss
on some high Alpine ledge.

If these remarks illustrate in their number the inevitable bent of the
remark to multiply within me as an effect of fraternal evocation I
thereby but stick the more to my subject, or in other words to the
much-peopled scene, as I found it; which I should scarce have found
without him. Peopled as it was with _his_ people, which they at first
struck me as markedly being, it led me then to take the company, apart
from F. J. Child, for whatever he all vividly and possessively
pronounced it; I having for a long time but the scantest company of my
own, even at the Law School, where my fellow-disciples could bear the
name for me only as a troop of actors might have done on that further
side of footlights to which I never went round. This last at least with
few exceptions, while there were none to the exquisite rule, as I
positively to-day feel it, of my apprehension of William's cluster as a
concern of his--interesting exactly because of that reference. Any
concern of his was thus a thing already charged with life, _his_ life
over and above its own, if it happened by grace to have any comparable;
which, as I pick out the elements again from the savoury Upham shades,
could indeed be claimed for several of these. I pick out the ardent and
delicate and firm John May, son, as he comes back to me, of a
distinguished Abolitionist of New York State--rare bird; and seen by
that fact in a sort of glamour of picturesque justification, an air
deriving colour from the pre-established gallantry, yet the quiet and
gentlemanly triumph, of his attitude. So at least do I read back into
blurred visions the richest meanings they could have. I pick out for a
not less baffled tribute a particular friend of my brother's and a
comrade of May's, whom I identify on the superficial side but by his
name of Salter and the fact of his studentship in theology; which
pursuit, it comes over me as I write, he must have shared, of homely,
almost of sickly, New England type as he was, with May of the fine
features, the handsome smile, by my resolute recollection, the developed
moustache and short dark pointed beard, the property of vaguely
recalling in fine some old portrait supposedly Spanish (supposedly, and
perhaps to a fantastic tune, by _me_--for I dare say it was by no one
else). Salter had no such references--it even appalled me to have a bit
intelligently to imagine to what origins starved of amenity or colour
his aspect and air, the slope of his shoulders, the mode of growth of
his hair, the relation of his clothes to his person and the relation of
his person to the inevitable needs of intercourse, might refer him; but
there played about him a bright force in the highest and extraordinarily
quick flares of which one felt nothing, while the exhibition lasted, but
his intellectual elegance. He had the distinction of wit--so rare, we
ever feel it to be, when we see it beautifully act; and I remember well
how, as that was indeed for me almost the whole of intellectual
elegance, I fell back on the idea that such an odd assortment of marks
in him was at least picturesque, or much in the Maison Vauquer line:
pinched as I must have been by the question of whether a person of that
type and cut had the "right" to be witty. On what else but the power the
right rested I couldn't doubtless have said; I but recall my sense that
wit was somehow the finest of all social matters and that it seemed
impossible to be less connected with such than this product of New
England at its sparest and dryest; which fact was a sort of bad mark for
the higher civilisation. I was prepared to recognise that you might be
witty and ugly, ugly with the highest finish of ugliness--hadn't the
celebrated Voltaire been one of the scrappiest of men as well as of the
most immortally quoted?--but it cost a wrench to have to take it that
you could shine to admiration out of such a platitude of the mere
"plain." It was William in especial who guaranteed to me Salter's
superior gift, of which in the free commerce of Divinity Hall he had
frequent illustration--so that what I really most apprehended, I think,
was the circumstance of _his_ apprehending: this too with a much finer
intellectual need and competence than mine, after all, and in the course
of debates and discussions, ardent young symposia of the spirit, which
struck me as falling in with all I had ever curiously conceived of those
hours that foster the generous youth of minds preappointed to greatness.
_There_ was the note of the effective quaint on which I could put my
finger: catch a poor student only dreary enough and then light in him
the flame of irony at its intensest, the range of question and the
command of figure at their bravest, and one might, with one's appetite
for character, feed on the bold antithesis. I had only to like for my
brother, and verily almost with pride, his assured experience of any
queer concretion--his experience of abstractions I was to rise to much
more feebly and belatedly, scarce more indeed ever than most
imperfectly--to find the very scene of action, or at least of passion,
enjoyed by these my elders and betters, enriched and toned and
consecrated after the fashion of places referred to in literature and
legend.

I thus live back of a sudden--for I insist on just yielding to it--into
the odd hours when the poor little old Divinity Hall of the overgrown
present faced me as through the haze of all the past Indian summers it
had opened its brooding study-windows to; when the "avenue" of approach
to it from the outer world was a thing of dignity, a positive vista in a
composition; when the Norton woods, near by, massed themselves in
scarlet and orange, and when to penetrate and mount a stair and knock at
a door and, enjoying response, then sink into a window-bench and inhale
at once the vague golden November and the thick suggestion of the room
where nascent "thought" had again and again piped or wailed, was to
taste as I had never done before the poetry of the prime initiation and
of associated growth. With cards of such pale pasteboard could the
trick, to my vision, play itself--by which I mean that I admire under
this memory the constant "dodges" of an imagination reduced to such
straits for picking up a living. It was as if one's sense of "Europe,"
sufficiently sure of itself to risk the strategic retreat, had backed
away on tiptoe just to see how the sense of what was there facing one
would manage without it--manage for luxury, that is, with the mere
indispensable doubtless otherwise provided for. That the sense in
question did manage beautifully, when at last so hard pressed, and that
the plasticity and variety of my vision draw from me now this murmur of
elation, are truths constituting together for me the perhaps even
overloaded moral of my tale. With which I scarce need note that so
elastic a fancy, so perverse a little passion for finding good in
everything--good for what I thought of as history, which was the
consideration of life, while the given thing, whatever it was, had only
to be before me--was inevitably to work a storage of other material for
memory close-packed enough to make such disengagement as I thus attempt
at the end of time almost an act of violence. I couldn't do without the
_scene_, as I have elsewhere had occasion to hint, whether actually or
but possibly peopled (the people always calling for the background and
the background insisting on the people); and thanks to this harmless
extravagance, or thanks in other words to the visionary liberties I
constantly took (so that the plate of sense was at the time I speak of
more overscored and figured for me than sense was in the least
practically required to have it), my path is even now beset to
inconvenience with the personal image unextinct. It presents itself, I
feel, beyond reason, and yet if I turn from it the ease is less, and I
am divided when I further press the spring between compunction at not
pausing before some shade that seems individually and even hopefully to
wait, and the fear of its feeling after all scanted of service should I
name it only to leave it. I name for instance, just to hover a little,
silent Vanderpool, the mutest presence at the Upham board, and quite
with no sense of the invidious in so doing. He was save for myself, by
my remembrance, the only member of the Law School there present; I see
him moreover altogether remarkably, just incorruptibly and exquisitely
dumb, though with a "gentlemanly" presence, a quasi-conservative New
Jersey finish (so delicate those dim discriminations!) that would have
seemed naturally to go with a certain forensic assurance. He looked so
as if he came from "good people"--which was no very common appearance on
the Harvard scene of those days, as indeed it is to a positive degree no
so very common appearance on any scene at any time: it was a note of
aspect which one in any case found one's self, to whatever vague tune,
apt quite to treasure or save up. So it was impossible not to recognise
in our soundless _commensal_ the very finest flower of shyness, the very
richest shade of the deprecating blush, that one had perhaps ever
encountered; one ended in fact by fairly hanging on the question of
whether the perfection of his modesty--for it was all a true welter of
modesty, not a grain of it anything stiffer--would beautifully hold out
or would give way to comparatively brute pressure from some point of our
circle. I longed to bet on him, to see him through without a lapse; and
this in fact was so thoroughly reserved to me that my eventual relief
and homage doubtless account for the blest roundness of my impression.
He had so much "for" him, was tall and fine, equipped and appointed,
born, quite to an effect of ultimately basking, in the light of the Law,
acquainted, one couldn't fail of seeing, with a tradition of manners,
not to mention that of the forensic as aforesaid, and not to name either
the use of "means," equally imputable: how rare accordingly would be the
_quality_, letting even the quantity alone, of his inhibitions, and how
interesting in the event the fact that he was absolutely never to have
deviated! He disappeared without having spoken, and yet why should I now
be noting it if he hadn't nevertheless admirably expressed himself? What
this consisted of was that there was scarce anything he wouldn't have
done for us had it been possible, and I think, in view of the
distinctness with which he still faces me, the tenderness with which he
inspires my muse and the assurance with which I have "gone into" him,
that I can never in all my life since have seen so precious a message
delivered under such difficulties. Admirable, ineffaceable, because so
essentially all _decipherable_, Vanderpool!

It wasn't either that John Bancroft tossed the ball of talk--which but
for the presence of the supremely retentive agent just commemorated
would have appeared on occasion to remain in his keeping by a
preference, on its own part, not to be outwitted; this more or less at
all times too, but especially during the first weeks of his dawning on
us straight out of Germany and France, flushed with the alarm, as one
might have read it, of having to justify rare opportunities and account
for the time he had inordinately, obscurely, or at least not a little
mysteriously, spent--the implication of every inch of him being that he
had spent it seriously. Odd enough it certainly was that we should have
been appointed to unveil, so far as we might, a _pair_ of such marked
monuments to modesty, marble statues, as they might have been, on either
side of the portal of talk; what I at any rate preserve of my immediate
vision of Bancroft--whose very promptest identity indeed had been his
sonship to the eminent historian of our country and earlier and later
diplomatist--was an opposition, trying to me rather than engaging as its
like had been in the composition of Vanderpool, between what we somehow
wanted from him (or what I at least did) and what we too scantly
gathered. This excellent friend, as he was later on to become, with his
handsome high head, large colourable brow and eyes widely divided--brave
contribution ever to a fine countenance--sat there in a sort of glory of
experience which, had he been capable of anything so akin to a
demonstration, he would have appeared all unsociably to repudiate. It
was bruited of him that, like John La Farge, whose friend he was
admiringly to become--for he too had a Newport connection--he "painted,"
that is persisted (which was the wondrous thing!) in painting; and that
this practice had grown upon him in France, where, _en province_, his
brother had entirely taken root and where the whole art-life, as well as
the rural life, of the country had been opened to him; besides its a
little later coming to light that he had romantically practised at
Dusseldorf, where too he had personally known and tremendously liked
George du Maurier, whose first so distinguished appearances as an
illustrator had already engaged our fondest attention--were they most
dawningly in the early Cornhill, or in Punch, or in Once a Week? They
glimmer upon me, darkly and richly, as from the pages of the last named.
Not to be rendered, I may again parenthesise, our little thrilled
awareness, William's and mine, though mine indeed but panting after his,
of such peeping phenomena of the European day as the outbreak of a "new
man" upon our yearning view of the field of letters and of the arts. I
am moved to wonder at how we came by it, shifting all for ourselves, and
with the parental _flair_, so far as the sensibility of home was
concerned, turned but to directions of its own and much less restless on
the whole than ours. More touching to me now than I can say, at all
events, this recapture of the hour at which Du Maurier, consecrated to
much later, to then still far-off intimate affection, became the new man
so significantly as to make a great importance of John Bancroft's news
of him, which already bore, among many marvels, upon the supreme wonder
of his working, as he was all his life bravely to work, under impaired
and gravely menaced eyesight. When I speak, as just above, of what,
through so many veils, "came to light," I should further add, I use a
figure representing a considerable lapse of time and shading off, for
full evocation, into more associations than I can here make place for.
Nothing in this connection came _soon_ to light at least but that
endless amazement might lie in the strange facts of difference between
our companion and his distinguished sire--the latter so supremely, so
quaintly yet so brilliantly, social a figure, I apprehended, when gaped
at, a still more angular, but more polished and pacific Don Quixote, on
the sleekest of Rosinantes, with white-tipped chin protrusive, with high
sharp elbows raised and long straight legs beautifully pointed, all
after the gallantest fashion, against the clear sunset sky of old
Newport cavalcades. Mr. Bancroft the elder, the "great," was a comfort,
that is a fine high identity, a cluster of strong accents, the sort of
thing one's vision followed, in the light of history, if not of mere
misguided fancy, for illustration of conceived type--type, say in this
case, of superior person of the ancient and the more or less alien
public order, the world of affairs transacted at courts and
_chancelleries_, in which renown, one had gathered from the perusal of
memoirs, allowed for much development of detail and much incision of
outline, when not even directly resting on them. As it had been a
positive bliss to me that words and names might prove in extremity
sources of support, so it comes back to me that I had drawn mystic
strength from just obscurely sighing "Metternich!" or "Talleyrand!" as
Mr. Bancroft bounced by me--so far as a pair of widely-opened compasses
might bounce--in the August gloaming. The value of which, for
reflection, moreover, was not in the least in its being that if his son
remained so long pleadingly inscrutable any derived Metternich
suggestion had contributed to keep him so--for quite _there_ was the
curiosity of the case, that among the imputations John appeared most to
repudiate was that of having at any moment breathed the air either of
records or of protocols. If he persisted in painting for years after his
return to America without, as the legend grew, the smallest disclosure
of his work or confession of his progress to human eye or ear, he drew
the rigour of this course wholly from his singleness of nature, in the
aftertime to be so much approved to us. However, I pause before the
aftertime, into the lap of which more than one sort of stored soundness
and sweetness was to fall from him drop by drop.

I scarce know whether my impulse to lead forth these most shrinking of
my apparitions be more perverse or more natural--mainly feeling, I
confess, however it appear, that the rest of my impression of the
animated Cambridge scene, so far as I could take it in, was anything but
a vision of unasserted forces. It was only I, as now appears to me, who,
ready as yet to assert nothing, hung back, and for reasons even more
appreciable to me to-day than then; wondering, almost regretting as I
do, that I didn't with a still sharper promptness throw up the sponge
for stoppage of the absurd little boxing-match within me between the
ostensible and the real--this I mean because I might afterwards thereby
have winced a couple of times the less in haunting remembrance of
exhibited inaptitude. My condition of having nothing to exhibit was
blessedly one that there was nobody to quarrel with--and I couldn't have
sufficiently let it alone. I didn't in truth, under a misleading light,
reconsider it much; yet I have kept to this hour a black little memory
of my having attempted to argue one afternoon, by way of exercise and
under what seemed to me a perfect glare of publicity, the fierce light
of a "moot-court," some case proposed to me by a fellow-student--who can
only have been one of the most benign of men unless he was darkly the
designingest, and to whom I was at any rate to owe it that I figured my
shame for years much in the image of my having stood forth before an
audience with a fiddle and bow and trusted myself to rub them together
desperately enough (after the fashion of Rousseau in a passage of the
Confessions,) to make some appearance of music. My music, I recall,
before the look on the faces around me, quavered away into mere collapse
and cessation, a void now engulfing memory itself, so that I liken it
all to a merciful fall of the curtain on some actor stricken and
stammering. The sense of the brief glare, as I have called the luckless
exposure, revives even on this hither side of the wide gulf of time;
but I must have outlived every witness--I was so obviously there the
very youngest of all aspirants--and, in truth, save for one or two minor
and merely comparative miscarriages of the sacrificial act before my
false gods, my connection with the temple was to remain as consistently
superficial as could be possible to a relation still restlessly
perceptive through all its profaneness. Perceiving, even with its
accompaniments of noting, wondering, fantasticating, kicked up no glare,
but went on much rather under richest shades or in many-coloured
lights--a _tone_ of opportunity that I look back on as somehow at once
deliciously soothing to myself and favourable to the clearness of each
item of the picture even as the cool grey sky of a landscape is
equalising. That was of course especially when I had let everything
slide--everything but the mere act of rather difficultly living (by
reason of my scant physical ease,) and fallen back again on the hard
sofa of certain ancient rooms in the Winthrop Square, contracted nook,
of a local order now quite abolished, and held to my nose for long and
sustaining sniffs the scented flower of independence. I took my
independence for romantic, or at least for a happy form of yawning
vessel into which romance, even should it perforce consist but of mere
loose observational play, might drop in the shape of ripe fruit from a
shaken tree. Winthrop Square, as I had occasion to note a couple of
years since, is a forgotten name, and the disappearance of my lodging
spares me doubtless a reminder, possibly ironic, of the debility of
those few constructional and pictorial elements that, mustering a
wondrous good-will, I had invited myself to rejoice in as "colonial."
The house was indeed very old, as antiquity in Cambridge went, with
everything in it slanting and gaping and creaking, but with humble
antique "points" and a dignity in its decay; above all with the deep
recess or alcove, a sweet "irregularity" (so could irregularities of
architectural conception then and there count,) thrust forth from its
sitting-room toward what I supposed to be the Brighton hills and
forming, by the aid of a large window and that commanding view, not to
mention the grace of an ancient expansive bureau or secretary-desk (this
such a piece, I now venture to figure, as would to-day be pounced on at
any cunning dealer's,) a veritable bower toward which even so shy a
dreamer as I still then had to take myself for might perhaps hope to woo
the muse. The muse was of course the muse of prose fiction--never for
the briefest hour in my case the presumable, not to say the presuming,
the much-taking-for-granted muse of rhyme, with whom I had never had,
even in thought, the faintest flirtation; and she did, in the event, I
note, yield to the seduction of so appointed a nook--as to which
romantic passage, however, I may not here anticipate. I but lose myself
in the recovered sense of what it richly "meant" to me just to _have_ a
place where I could so handsomely receive her, where I could remark with
complacency that the distant horizon, an horizon long since rudely
obliterated, was not, after all, too humble to be blue, purple, tawny,
changeable in short, everything an horizon should be, and that over the
intervening marshes of the Charles (if I don't go astray in so much
geography) there was all the fine complicated cloud-scenery I could
wish--so extravagantly did I then conceive more or less associational
cloud-scenery, after the fashion, I mean, of that feature of remembered
English and Boulognese water-colours, to promote the atmosphere of
literary composition as the act had begun to glimmer for me.

Everything, however, meant, as I say, more quite other things than I can
pretend now to treat of. The mere fact of a sudden rupture, as by the
happiest thought, with the "form" of bringing home from the Law-library
sheepskin volumes that might give my table, if not, for sufficiency of
emphasis, my afflicted self, a temporary countenance, heaped up the
measure of my general intention--from the moment I embraced instead of
it the practice of resorting to Gore Hall exclusively for my
reading-matter; a practice in the light of which my general intention
took on the air of absolutely basking. To get somehow, and in spite of
everything, in spite especially of being so much disabled, at life,
_that_ was my brooding purpose, straight out of which the College
library, with its sparse bristle of aspiring granite, stood open to far
more enchanted distances than any represented by the leathery walls,
with never a breach amid their labelled and numbered blocks, that I
might pretend to beat against in the other quarter. Yet, happily enough,
on this basis of general rather than of special culture, I still loosely
rejoiced in being where I was, and by way of proof that it was all right
the swim into my ken of Sainte-Beuve, for whose presence on my table, in
still other literary company, Gore Hall aiding, I succeeded in not at
all blushing, became in the highest degree congruous with regular
attendance at lectures. The forenoon lectures at Dane Hall I never in
all my time missed, that I can recollect, and I look back on it now as
quite prodigious that I should have been so systematically faithful to
them without my understanding the first word of what they were about.
They contrived--or at least my attendance at them did, inimitably--to
be "life;" and as my wondering dips into the vast deep well of the
French critic to whom all my roused response went out brought up that
mystery to me in cupfuls of extraordinary savour, where was the
incongruity of the two rites? That the Causeries du Lundi, wholly fresh
then to my grateful lips, should so have overflowed for me was certainly
no marvel--that prime acquaintance absolutely _having_, by my measure,
to form a really sacred date in the development of any historic or
aesthetic consciousness worth mentioning; but that I could be to the
very end more or less thrilled by simply sitting, all stupid and
sentient, in the thick company of my merely nominal associates and under
the strange ministrations of Dr. Theophilus Parsons, "Governor" Washburn
and Professor Joel Parker, would have appeared to defy explanation only
for those by whom the phenomena of certain kinds of living and working
sensibility are unsuspected. For myself at any rate there was no
anomaly--the anomaly would have been much rather in any prompter
consciousness of a sated perception; I knew why I liked to "go," I knew
even why I could unabashedly keep going in face of the fact that if I
had learned my reason I had learned, and was still to learn, absolutely
nothing else; and that sufficiently supported me through a stretch of
bodily overstrain that I only afterwards allowed myself dejectedly to
measure. The mere sitting at attention for two or three hours--such
attention as I achieved--was paid for by sorry pain; yet it was but
later on that I wondered how I could have found what I "got" an
equivalent for the condition produced. The condition was one of many,
and the others for the most part declared themselves with much of an
equal, though a different, sharpness. It was acute, that is, that one
was so incommoded, but it had broken upon me with force from the first
of my taking my seat--which had the advantage, I acknowledge, of the rim
of the circle, symbolising thereby all the detachment I had been
foredoomed to--that the whole scene was going to be, and again and
again, as "American," and above all as suffused with New England colour,
however one might finally estimate that, as I could possibly have
wished. Such was the effect of one's offering such a plate for
impressions to play on at their will; as well as of one's so failing to
ask in advance what they would matter, so taking for granted that they
would all matter somehow. It would matter somehow for instance that just
a queer dusky half smothered light, as from windows placed too low, or
too many interposing heads, should hang upon our old auditorium--long
since voided of its then use and, with all its accessory chambers,
seated elsewhere afresh and in much greater state; which glimpse of a
scheme of values might well have given the measure of the sort of profit
I was, or rather wasn't, to derive. It doubtless quite ought to have
confounded me that I had come up to _faire mon droit_ by appreciations
predominantly of the local chiaroscuro and other like quantities; but I
remember no alarm--I only remember with what complacency my range of
perception on those general lines was able to spread.

It mattered, by the same law, no end that Dr. Theophilus Parsons, whose
rich, if slightly quavering, old accents were the first to fall upon my
ear from the chair of instruction beneath a huge hot portrait of Daniel
Webster should at once approve himself a vivid and curiously-composed
person, an _illustrative_ figure, as who should say--exactly with all
the marks one might have wished him, marks of a social order, a general
air, a whole history of things, or in other words of people; since there
was nothing one mightn't, by my sentiment, do with such a subject from
the moment it gave out character. Character thus was all over the place,
as it could scarce fail to be when the general subject, the one gone in
for, had become identical with the persons of all its votaries. Such was
the interest of the source of edification just named, not one ray of
whose merely professed value so much as entered my mind. Governor
Washburn was of a different, but of a no less complete consistency--queer,
ingenuous, more candidly confiding, especially as to his own pleasant
fallibility, than I had ever before known a chaired dispenser of
knowledge, and all after a fashion that endeared him to his young
hearers, whose resounding relish of the frequent tangle of his
apologetic returns upon himself, quite, almost always, to
inextricability, was really affectionate in its freedom. I could
understand and admire that--it seemed to have for me legendary
precedents; whereas of the third of our instructors I mainly recall that
he represented dryness and hardness, prose unrelieved, at their
deadliest--partly perhaps because he was most master of his subject. He
was none the less placeable for these things withal, and what mainly
comes back to me of him is the full sufficiency with which he made me
ask myself how I _could_ for a moment have seen myself really browse in
any field where the marks of the shepherd were such an oblong dome of a
bare cranium, such a fringe of dropping little ringlets toward its base,
and a mouth so meanly retentive, so ignorant of style, as I made out,
above a chin so indifferent to the duty, or at least to the opportunity,
of chins. If I had put it to myself that there was no excuse for the
presence of a young person so affected by the idea of how people looked
on a scene where the issue was altogether what they usefully taught, as
well as intelligently learned and wanted to learn, I feel I should,
after my first flush of confusion, have replied assuredly enough that
just the beauty of the former of these questions was in its being of
equal application everywhere; which was far from the case with the
latter. The question of how people looked, and of how their look counted
for a thousand relations, had risen before me too early and kept me
company too long for me not to have made a fight over it, from the very
shame of appearing at all likely to give it up, had some fleeting
delusion led me to cast a slur upon it. It would do, I was already sure,
half the work of carrying me through life, and where was better proof of
all it would have to give than just in the fact of what it was then and
there doing? It worked for appreciation--not one of the uses of which as
an act of intelligence had, all round, finer connections; and on the
day, in short, when one should cease to live in large measure by one's
eyes (with the imagination of course all the while waiting on this) one
would have taken the longest step towards not living at all. My
companions--however scantly indeed they were to become such--were
subject to my so practising in a degree which represented well-nigh the
whole of my relation with them, small reciprocity for them as there may
have been in it; since vision, and nothing but vision, was from
beginning to end the fruit of my situation among them. There was not one
of them as to whom it didn't matter that he "looked," by my fancy of
him, thus or so; the key to this disposition of the accents being for me
to such an extent that, as I have said, I was with all intensity taking
in New England and that I knew no better _immediate_ way than to take it
in by my senses. What that name really comprehended had been a mystery,
daily growing less, to which everything that fell upon those senses
referred itself, making the innumerable appearances hang together ever
so densely. Theophilus Parsons, with his tone, his unction, his homage
still to some ancient superstition, some standard of manners, reached
back as to a state of provincialism rounded and compact, quite
self-supporting, which gave it serenity and quality, something
comparatively rich and urban; the good ex-Governor, on the other hand,
of whom I think with singular tenderness, opened through every note of
aspect and expression straight into those depths of rusticity which more
and more unmistakably underlay the social order at large and out of
which one felt it to have emerged in any degree but at scattered points.
Where it did emerge, I seemed to see, it held itself as high as
possible, conscious, panting a little, elate with the fact of having
cleared its skirts, saved its life, consolidated its Boston, yet as with
wastes unredeemed, roundabout it, propping up and pushing in--all so
insistently that the light in which one for the most part considered the
scene was strongly coloured by their action. This was one's clue to the
labyrinth, if labyrinth it was to be called--a generalisation into which
everything fitted, first to surprise and then indubitably to relief,
from the moment one had begun to make it. Under its law the Puritan
capital, however visibly disposed to spread and take on new disguises,
affected me as a rural centre even to a point at which I had never known
anything as rural; there being involved with this too much further food
for curiosity and wonder. Boston was in a manner of its own stoutly and
vividly urban, not only a town, but a town of history--so that how did
it manage to be such different things at the same time? That was
doubtless its secret--more and more interesting to study in proportion
as, on closer acquaintance, yet an acquaintance before which the sense
of one's preferred view from outside never gave way, one felt the
equilibrium attained as on the whole an odd fusion and intermixture, of
the chemical sort as it were, and not a matter of elements or aspects
sharply alternating. There was in the exhibition at its best distinctly
a savour--an excellent thing for a community to have, and part of the
savour was, as who should say, the breath of the fields and woods and
waters, though at their domesticated and familiarised stage, or the echo
of a tone which had somehow become that of the most educated of our
societies without ceasing to be that of the village.

Of so much from the first I felt sure, and this all the more that by my
recollection of New York, even indeed by my recollection of Albany, we
had been aware in those places of no such strain. New York at least had
been whatever disagreeable, not to say whatever agreeable, other thing
one might have declared it--it might even have been vulgar, though that
cheap substitute for an account of anything didn't, I think, in the
connection, then exist for me; but the last reference to its nature
likely to crop up in its social soil was beyond question the flower of
the homely. New England had, by one's impression, cropped up there, but
had done so just _as_ New England, New England unabsorbed and
unreconciled; which was exactly a note in the striated, the piebald or,
more gracefully, cosmopolite local character. I am not sure that the
comparatively--I say comparatively--market-town suggestion of the city
by the Charles came out for me as a positive richness, but it did
essentially contribute to what had become so highly desirable, the
reinforcement of my vision of American life by the idea of variety. I
apparently required of anything I should take to my heart that it should
be, approached at different angles, "like" as many other things as
possible--in accordance with which it made for a various "America" that
Boston should seem really strong, really in not having, for better or
worse, the same irrepressible likenesses as New York. I invoked, I
called down the revelation of, new likenesses by the simple act of
threading the Boston streets, whether by garish day (the afterglow of
the great snowfalls of winter was to turn in particular to a blinding
glare, an unequalled hardness of light,) or under that mantle of night
which draped as with the garb of adventure our long-drawn townward
little rumbles in the interest of the theatre or of Parker's--oh the
sordid, yet never in the least deterrent conditions of transit in that
age of the unabbreviated, the dividing desert and the primitive
horse-car! (The desert is indeed, despite other local developments and
the general theory of the rate at which civilisation spreads and
ugliness wanes, still very much what it was in the last mid-century, but
the act of passage through it has been made to some extent easier.)
Parker's played in the intercourse of Cambridge with Boston a part of a
preponderance that I look back upon, I confess, as the very condition
of the purest felicity we knew--I knew at any rate myself none, whether
of a finer or a grosser strain, that competed with this precious
relation. Competition has thickened since and proportions have
altered--to no small darkening of the air, but the time was surely
happier; a single such _point de repère_ not only sufficed but richly
heaped up the measure. Parker's, on the whole side of the joy of life,
_was_ Boston--speaking as under the thrill of early occasions
recaptured; Boston could be therefore, in the acutest connections, those
of young comradeship and young esthetic experience, heaven save the
mark, fondly prepared or properly crowned, but the enjoyed and shared
repast, literally the American feast, as I then appraised such values; a
basis of native abundance on which everything else rested. The theatre,
resorted to whenever possible, rested indeed doubtless most, though with
its heaviest weight thrown perhaps at a somewhat later time; the theatre
my uncanny appetite for which strikes me as almost abnormal in the light
of what I braved to reach it from the studious suburb, or more
particularly braved to return from it. I touch alas no spring that
doesn't make a hum of memories, and pick them over as I will three or
four of that scenic strain linger on my sense. The extraordinary fact
about these--which plays into my generalisation a little way back--was
that, for all the connection of such occasions with the great interest
of the theatre at large, there was scarce an impression of the stage
wrung from current opportunity that didn't somehow underscore itself
with the special Boston emphasis; and this in spite of the fact that
plays and performers in those days were but a shade less raggedly
itinerant over the land than they are now. The implication of the
provincial in the theatric air, and of the rustic in the provincial, may
have been a matter of the "house" itself, with its twenty kinds of
redolence of barbarism--with the kind determined by the very audience
perhaps indeed plainest; vivid to me at all events is it how I felt even
at the time, in repairing to the Howard Atheneum to admire Miss Maggie
Mitchell and Miss Kate Bateman, that one would have had only to scratch
a little below the surface of the affair to come upon the but
half-buried Puritan curse not so very long before devoted to such
perversities. Wasn't the curse still in the air, and could anything less
than a curse, weighing from far back on the general conscience, have
accounted for one could scarce say what want of self-respect in the
total exhibition?--for that intimation more than anything else perhaps
of the underhand snicker with which one sat so oddly associated. By the
blest law of youth and fancy withal one did admire the actress--the
young need to admire as flatly as one could broke through all crowding
apprehensions. I like to put it down that nothing in the world qualified
my wonder at the rendering by the first of the performers I have named
of the figure of "Fanchon the Cricket" in a piece so entitled, an
artless translation from a German original, if I rightly remember, which
original had been an arrangement for the stage of La Petite Fadette,
George Sand's charming rustic idyll. I like to put it down that Miss
Maggie Mitchell's having for years, as I gathered, twanged that one
string and none other; every night of her theatric life, over the huge
country, before she was revealed to us--just as Mr. Joe Jefferson, with
no word of audible reprehension ever once addressed to him, was to have
twanged his--did nothing to bedim the brightness of our vision or the
apparent freshness of her art, and that above all it seemed a privilege
critically to disengage the delicacy of this art and the rare effect of
the natural in it from the baseness in which it was framed: so golden a
glimmer is shed, as one looks back, from any shaky little torch lighted,
by whatever fond stretch, at the high esthetic flame. Upon these faint
sparks in the night of time would I gently breathe, just to see them
again distinguishably glow, rather than leave their momentary function
uncommemorated. Strange doubtless were some of the things that
represented these momentary functions--strange I mean in proportion to
the fires they lighted. The small bower of the muse in Winthrop Square
was first to know the fluttered descent of the goddess to my appeal for
her aid in the composition of a letter from which the admired Miss
Maggie should gather the full force of my impression. Particularly do I
incline even now to mention that she testified to her having gratefully
gathered it by the despatch to me in return of a little printed copy of
the play, a scant pamphlet of "acting edition" humility, addressed in a
hand which assumed a romantic cast as soon as I had bethought myself of
finding for it a happy precedent in that of Pendennis's Miss
Fotheringay.

It had been perhaps to the person of this heroine that Pendennis
especially rendered homage, while I, without illusions, or at least
without confusions, was fain to discriminate in favour of the magic of
method, that is of genius, itself; which exactly, more than anything
else could have done (success, as I considered, crowning my
demonstration,) contributed to consecrate to an exquisite use, _the_
exquisite, my auspicious _réduit_ aforesaid. For an esthetic vibration
to whatever touch had but to be intense enough to tremble on into other
reactions under other blest contacts and commotions. It was by the
operation again of the impulse shaking me up to an expression of what
the elder star of the Howard Atheneum had artistically "meant" to me
that I first sat down beside my view of the Brighton hills to enrol
myself in the bright band of the fondly hoping and fearfully doubting
who count the days after the despatch of manuscripts. I formally
addressed myself under the protection, not to say the inspiration, of
Winthrop Square to the profession of literature, though nothing would
induce me now to name the periodical on whose protracted silence I had
thus begun to hang with my own treasures of reserve to match it. The
bearing of which shy ecstasies--shy of exhibition then, that is, save as
achievements recognised--is on their having thus begun, at any rate, to
supply all the undertone one needed to whatever positive perfunctory
show; the show proceeding as it could, all the while, thanks to much
help from the undertone, which felt called upon at times to be copious.
It is not, I allow, that memory may pretend for me to keep the two
elements of the under and the over always quite distinct--it would have
been a pity all round, in truth, should they have altogether escaped
mixing and fraternising. The positive perfunctory show, at all events,
to repeat my term, hitched itself along from point to point, and could
have no lack of outside support to complain of, I reflect, from the
moment I could make my own every image and incitement--those, as I have
noted, of the supply breaking upon me with my first glimpse of the
Cambridge scene. If I seem to make too much of these it is because I at
the time made still more, more even than my pious record has presumed to
set down. The air of truth doubtless hangs uneasy, as the matter stands,
over so queer a case as my having, by my intimation above, found
appreciability in life at the Law School even under the failure for me
of everything generally drawn upon for it, whether the glee of study,
the ardour of battle or the joy of associated adventure. Not to have
felt earlier sated with the mere mechanic amusement or vain form of
regularity at lectures would strike me to-day as a fact too "rum" for
belief if certain gathered flowers by the way, flowers of perverse
appreciation though they might but be, didn't give out again as I turn
them over their unspeakable freshness. They were perforce gathered (what
makes it still more wondrous) all too languidly; yet they massed
themselves for my sense, through the lapsing months, to the final
semblance of an intimate secret garden. Such was the odd, the almost
overwhelming consequence--or one of these, for they are many--of an
imagination to which literally everything obligingly signified. One of
the actual penalties of this is that so few of such ancient importances
remain definable or presentable. It may in the fulness of time simply
sound _bête_ that, with the crash of greater questions about one, I
should have been positively occupied with such an affair as the degree
and the exact shade to which the blest figures in the School array, each
quite for himself, might settle and fix the weight, the interest, the
function, as it were, of his Americanism. I could scarce have cleared up
even for myself, I dare say, the profit, or more pertinently the charm,
of that extravagance--and the fact was of course that I didn't feel it
as extravagance, but quite as homely thrift, moral, social, esthetic, or
indeed, as I might have been quite ready to say, practical and
professional. It was practical at least in the sense that it probably
more helped to pass the time than all other pursuits together. The real
proof of which would be of course my being able now to string together
for exhibition some of these pearls of differentiation--since it was to
differentiation exactly that I was then, in my innocence, most prompted;
not dreaming of the stiff law by which, on the whole American ground,
division of _type_, in the light of opposition and contrast, was more
and more to break down for me and fail: so that verily the recital of
my mere concomitant efforts to pick it up again and piece its parts
together and make them somehow show and serve would be a record of
clinging courage. I may note at once, however, as a light on the
anomaly, that there hung about _all_ young appearances at that period
something ever so finely derivative and which at this day rather defies
re-expression--the common character or shared function of the precious
clay so largely making up the holocausts of battle; an advantage working
for them circuitously or perhaps ambiguously enough, I grant, but still
placing them more or less under the play of its wing even when the arts
of peace happened for the hour to engage them. They potentially, they
conceivably, they indirectly paid, and nothing was for the most part
more ascertainable of them individually than that, with brothers or
other near relatives in the ranks or in commands, they came, to their
credit, of paying families. All of which again may represent the high
pitch of one's associated sensibility--there having been occasions of
crisis, were they worth recovering, when under its action places,
persons, objects animate or not, glimmered alike but through the grand
idealising, the generalising, blur. At moments of less fine a strain, it
may be added, the sources of interest presented themselves in looser
formation. The young appearances, as I like to continue to call them,
could be pleasingly, or at least robustly homogeneous, and yet, for
livelier appeal to fancy, flower here and there into special cases of
elegant deviation--"sports," of exotic complexion, one enjoyed
denominating these (or would have enjoyed had the happy figure then
flourished) thrown off from the thick stem that was rooted under our
feet. Even these rare exceptions, the few apparitions referring
themselves to other producing conditions than the New England, wrought
by contrast no havoc in the various quantities for which that section
was responsible; it was certainly refreshing--always to the fond
imagination--that there were, for a change, imprints in the stuff of
youth that didn't square with the imprint, virtually _one_ throughout,
imposed by Springfield or Worcester, by Providence or Portland, or
whatever rural wastes might lie between; yet the variations, I none the
less gather as I strive to recall them, beguiled the spirit (talking
always of my own) rather than coerced it, and this even though fitting
into life as one had already more or less known it, fitting in, that is,
with more points of contact and more reciprocation of understanding than
the New England relation seemed able to produce. It could in fact fairly
blind me to the implication of an inferior immediate _portée_ that such
and such a shape of the New York heterogeneity, however simplified by
silliness, or at least by special stupidity (though who was I to note
_that_?) pressed a certain spring of association, waiting as I always
was for such echoes, rather than left it either just soundless or
bunglingly touched.

It was for example a link with the larger life, as I am afraid I must
have privately called it, that a certain young New Yorker, an outsider
of still more unmistakable hue than I could suppose even myself, came
and went before us with an effect of cultivated detachment that I
admired at the time for its perfect consistency, and that caused him, it
was positively thrilling to note, not in the least to forfeit sympathy,
but to shine in the high light of public favour. The richest reflections
sprang for me from this, some of them inspiring even beyond the promptly
grasped truth, a comparative commonplace, that the variation or
opposition sufficiently embodied, the line of divergence sharply enough
drawn, always achieves some triumph by the fact of its emphasis, by its
putting itself through at any cost, any cost in particular of ridicule.
So much one had often observed; but what really enriched the dear
induction and made our friend's instance thus remain with me was the
part played by the utter blandness itself of his protest, such an
exhibition of the sweet in the imperturbable. This it was that
enshrined him, by my vision, in a popularity than which nothing could
have seemed in advance less indicated, and that makes me wonder to-day
whether he was simply the luckiest of gamblers or just a conscious and
consummate artist. He reappears to me as a finished fop, finished to
possibilities we hadn't then dreamt of, and as taking his stand, or
rather taking all his walks, on _that_, the magician's wand of his
ideally tight umbrella under his arm and the magician's familiar of his
bristling toy-terrier at his heels. He became thus an apparition
entrancing to the mind. His clothes were of a perfection never known nor
divined in that sphere, a revelation, straight and blindingly authentic,
of Savile Row in its prime; his single eyeglass alone, and his inspired,
his infinite use of it as at once a defensive crystal wall and a lucid
window of hospitality, one couldn't say most which, might well have
foredoomed him, by all likelihood, to execration and destruction. He
became none the less, as I recover him, our general pride and joy; his
entrances and exits were acclaimed beyond all others, and it was his
rare privilege to cause the note of derision and the note of affection
to melt together, beyond separation, in vague but virtual homage to the
refreshment of felt type. To see it dawn upon rude breasts (for rude,
comparatively, were the breasts of the typeless, or at the best of the
typed but in one character, throughout the same,) that defiant and
confident difference carried far enough might avert the impulse to slay,
was to muse ever so agreeably on the queer means by which great morals,
picking up a life as they may, can still get themselves pointed. The
"connotation" of the trivial, it was thus attaching to remark, could
perfectly serve when that of the important, roughly speaking, failed for
a grateful _connection_--from the moment some such was massed invitingly
in view. The difficulty with the type about me was that, in its
monotony, beginning and ending with itself, it _had_ no connections and
suggested none; whereas the grace of the salient apparition I have
perhaps too earnestly presented lay in its bridging over our separation
from worlds, from great far-off reservoirs, of a different mixture
altogether, another civility and complexity. Young as I was, I myself
clearly recognised that ground of reference, saw it even to some extent
in the light of experience--so could I stretch any scrap of contact;
kept hold of it by fifty clues, recalls and reminders that dangled for
me mainly out of books and magazines and heard talk, things of picture
and story, things of prose and verse and anecdotal vividness in fine,
and, as I have elsewhere allowed, for the most part hoardedly English
and French. Our "character man" of the priceless monocle and the
trotting terrier was "like" some type in a collection of types--that was
the word for it; and, there being no collection, nor the ghost of one,
roundabout us, was a lone courageous creature in the desert of our bald
reiterations. The charm of which conclusion was exactly, as I have said,
that the common voice did, by every show, bless him for rendered
service, his dropped hint of an ideal containing the germ of other
ideals--and confessed by that fact to more appetites and inward
yearnings than it the least bit consciously counted up.

Not quite the same service was rendered by G. A. J., who had no ridicule
to brave, and I can speak with confidence but of the connections, rather
confused if they were, opened up to me by his splendid aspect and which
had absolutely nothing in common with the others that hung near. It was
brilliant to a degree that none other had by so much as a single shade
the secret of, and it carried the mooning fancy to a further reach even,
on the whole, than the figure of surprise I have just commemorated; this
last comparatively scant in itself and rich only by what it made us read
into it, and G. A. J. on the other hand intrinsically and actively ample
and making us read wonders, as it were, into whatever it might be that
was, as we used to say, "back of" him. He had such a flush of life and
presence as to make that reference mysteriously and inscrutably
loom--and the fascinating thing about this, as we again would have said,
was that it could strike me as so beguilingly American. That too was
part of the glamour, that its being so could kick up a mystery which one
might have pushed on to explore, whereas our New York friend only kicked
up a certainty (for those properly prepared) and left not exploration,
but mere assured satisfaction, the mark of the case. G. A. J. reached
westward, westward even of New York, and southward at least as far as
Virginia; teeming facts that I discovered, so to speak, by my own
unaided intelligence--so little were they responsibly communicated.
Little was communicated that I recover--it would have had to drop from
too great a personal height; so that the fun, as I may call it, was the
greater for my opening all by myself to perceptions. I was getting
furiously American, in the big sense I invoked, through this felt growth
of an ability to reach out westward, southward, anywhere, everywhere, on
that apprehension of finding myself but patriotically charmed. Thus
there dawned upon me the grand possibility that, charm for charm, the
American, the assumed, the postulated, would, in the particular case of
its really acting, count double; whereas the European paid for being
less precarious by being also less miraculous. It counted single, as one
might say, and only made up for that by counting almost always. It
mightn't be anything like almost always, even at the best, no doubt,
that an American-grown value of aspect would so entirely emerge as G. A.
J.'s seemed to do; but what did this exactly point to unless that the
rarity so implied would be in the nature of the splendid? That at least
was the way the cultivation of patriotism as a resource was the
cultivation of workable aids to the same, however ingenious these. (Just
to glow belligerently with one's country was no resource, but a
primitive instinct breaking through; and besides this resources were
cooling, not heating.) It might have seemed that I might after all
perfectly dispense with friends when simple acquaintances, and rather
feared ones at that, though feared but for excess of lustre, could
kindle in the mind such bonfires of thought, feeding the flame with
gestures and sounds and light accidents of passage so beyond their own
supposing. In spite of all which, however, G. A. J. was marked for a
friend and taken for a kinsman from the day when his blaze of colour
should have sufficiently cleared itself up for me to distinguish the
component shades.



XI


I am fully aware while I go, I should mention, of all that flows from
the principle governing, by my measure, these recoveries and
reflections--even to the effect, hoped for at least, of stringing their
apparently dispersed and disordered parts upon a fine silver thread;
none other than the principle of response to a long-sought occasion, now
gratefully recognised, for making trial of the recording and figuring
act on behalf of some case of the imaginative faculty under cultivation.
The personal history, as it were, of an imagination, a lively one of
course, in a given and favourable case, had always struck me as a task
that a teller of tales might rejoice in, his advance through it
conceivably causing at every step some rich precipitation--unless it be
rather that the play of strong imaginative passion, passion strong
enough to _be_, for its subject or victim, the very interest of life,
constitutes in itself an endless crisis. Fed by every contact and every
apprehension, and feeding in turn every motion and every act, wouldn't
the light in which it might so cause the whole scene of life to unroll
inevitably become as fine a thing as possible to represent? The idea of
some pretext for such an attempt had again and again, naturally, haunted
me; the man of imagination, and of an "awfully good" one, showed, as the
creature of that force or the sport of that fate or the wielder of that
arm, for the hero of a hundred possible fields--if one could but first
"catch" him, after the fashion of the hare in the famous receipt. Who
and what might he prove, when caught, in respect to _other_ signs and
conditions? He might take, it would seem, some finding and launching,
let alone much handling--which itself, however, would be exactly part of
the pleasure. Meanwhile, it no less appeared, there were other subjects
to go on with, and even if one had to wait for him he would still
perhaps come. It happened for me that he _was_ belatedly to come, but
that he was to turn up then in a shape almost too familiar at first for
recognition, the shape of one of those residual substitutes that engage
doubting eyes the day after the fair. He had been with me all the while,
and only too obscurely and intimately--I had not found him in the market
as an exhibited or _offered_ value. I had in a word to draw him forth
from within rather than meet him in the world before me, the more
convenient sphere of the objective, and to make him objective, in short,
had to turn nothing less than myself inside out. What was _I_ thus,
within and essentially, what had I ever been and could I ever be but a
man of imagination at the active pitch?--so that if it was a question of
treating _some_ happy case, any that would give me what, artistically
speaking, I wanted, here on the very spot was one at hand in default of
a better. It wasn't what I should have preferred, yet it was after all
the example I knew best and should feel most at home with--granting
always that objectivity, the prize to be won, shouldn't just be
frightened away by the odd terms of the affair. It is of course for my
reader to say whether or no what I have done _has_ meant defeat; yet
even if this should be his judgment I fall back on the interest, at the
worst, of certain sorts of failure. I shall have brought up from the
deep many things probably not to have been arrived at for the benefit of
these pages without my particular attempt. Sundry of such I seem still
to recognise, and not least just now those involved in that visionary
"assistance" at the drama of the War, from however far off, which had
become a habit for us without ceasing to be a strain. I am sure I
thought more things under that head, with the fine visionary ache, than
I thought in all other connections together; for the simple reason that
one had to _ask_ leave--of one's own spirit--for these last
intermissions, whereas one but took it, with both hands free, for one's
sense of the bigger cause. There was not in that the least complication
of consciousness. I have sufficiently noted how my apprehension of the
bigger cause was at the same time, and this all through, at once
quickened and kept low; to the point that positively my whole
acquaintance of the personal sort even with such a matter as my brother
Wilky's enrolment in the 44th Massachusetts was to reduce itself to but
a single visit to him in camp.

I recall an afternoon at Readville, near Boston, and the fashion in
which his state of juniority gave way, for me, on the spot, to
immensities of superior difference, immensities that were at the same
time intensities, varieties, supremacies, of the enviable in the
all-difficult and the delightful in the impossible: such a fairy-tale
seemed it, and withal such a flat revolution, that this soft companion
of my childhood should have such romantic chances and should have
mastered, by the mere aid of his native gaiety and sociability, such
mysteries, such engines, such arts. To become first a happy soldier and
then an easy officer was in particular for G. W. J. an exercise of
sociability--and that above all was my extract of the Readville scene,
which most came home to me as a picture, an interplay of bright breezy
air and high shanty-covered levels with blue horizons, and laughing,
welcoming, sunburnt young men, who seemed mainly to bristle, through
their welcome, with Boston genealogies, and who had all alike turned
handsome, only less handsome than their tawny-bearded Colonel, under I
couldn't have said what common grace of clear blue toggery imperfectly
and hitchingly donned in the midst of the camp labours that I gaped at
(by the blessing of heaven I could in default of other adventures still
gape) as at shining revels. I couldn't "do things," I couldn't
indefinitely hang about, though on occasion I did so, as it comes back
to me, verily to desperation; which had to be my dim explanation--dim as
to my ever insisting on it--of so rare a snatch at opportunity for
gapings the liveliest, or in better terms admirations the crudest, that
I could have presumed to encumber the scene with. Scarce credible to me
now, even under recall of my frustrations, that I was able in all this
stretch of time to respond but to a single other summons to admire at
any cost, which I think must have come again from Readville, and the
occasion of which, that of my brother's assumed adjutancy of the so
dramatically, so much more radically recruited 54th involved a view
superficially less harmonious. The whole situation was more wound up and
girded then, the formation of negro regiments affected us as a
tremendous War measure, and I have glanced in another place at the
consequence of it that was at the end of a few months most pointedly to
touch ourselves. That second aspect of the weeks of preparation before
the departure of the regiment can not at all have suggested a frolic,
though at the time I don't remember it as grim, and can only gather
that, as the other impression had been of something quite luminous and
beautiful, so this was vaguely sinister and sad--perhaps simply through
the fact that, though our sympathies, our own as a family's, were, in
the current phrase, all enlisted on behalf of the race that had sat in
bondage, it was impossible for the mustered presence of more specimens
of it, and of stranger, than I had ever seen together, not to make the
young men who were about to lead them appear sacrificed to the general
tragic need in a degree beyond that of their more orthodox appearances.
The air of sacrifice was, however, so to brighten as to confound itself
with that of splendid privilege on the day (May 28th, '63) of the march
of the 54th out of Boston, its fairest of young commanders at its head,
to great reverberations of music, of fluttering banners, launched
benedictions and every public sound; only from that scene, when it took
place, I had to be helplessly absent--just as I see myself in a like
dismal manner deprived of any nearness of view of my still younger
brother's military metamorphosis and contemporary initiation. I vainly
question memory for some such picture of _him_, at this stage of his
adventure, as would have been certain to hang itself, for reasons of
wonder and envy again, in my innermost cabinet. Our differently
compacted and more variously endowed Bob, who had strained much at every
tether, was so eager and ardent that it made for him a positive
authority; but what most recurs to me of his start in the 45th, or of my
baffled vision of it, is the marvel of our not having all just wept,
more than anything else, either for his being so absurdly young or his
being so absurdly strenuous--we might have had our choice of pretexts
and protests. It seemed so short a time since he had been l'ingénieux
petit Robertson of the domestic schoolroom, pairing with our small
sister as I paired with Wilky. We didn't in the least weep, however--we
smiled as over the interest of childhood at its highest bloom, and that
my parents, with their consistent tenderness, should have found their
surrender of their latest born so workable is doubtless a proof that we
were all lifted together as on a wave that might bear us where it would.
Our ingenious Robertson was but seventeen years old, but I suspect his
ingenuity of having, in so good a cause, anticipated his next birthday
by a few months. The 45th was a nine-months regiment, but he got
himself passed out of it, in advance of its discharge, to a lieutenancy
in the 55th U.S.C.T., Colonel A. P. Hallowell (transferred from
lieutenant-colonelcy of the 54th) commanding; though not before he had
been involved in the siege of Charleston, whence the visionary, the
quite Edgar Poeish look, for my entertainment, of the camp-covered
"Folly Island" of his letters. While his regiment was engaged in
Seymour's raid on Florida he suffered a serious sunstroke, with such
consequences that he was recommended for discharge; of which he declined
to avail himself, obtaining instead a position on General Ames's staff
and enjoying thus for six months the relief of being mounted. But he
returned to his regiment in front of Charleston (after service with the
Tenth Army Corps, part of the Army of the James, before Petersburg and
Richmond); and though I have too scant an echo of his letters from that
scene one of the passages that I do recover is of the happiest. "It was
when the line wavered and I saw Gen'l Hartwell's horse on my right rear
up with a shell exploding under him that I rammed my spurs into my own
beast, who, maddened with pain, carried me on through the line, throwing
men down, and over the Rebel works some distance ahead of our troops."
For this action he was breveted captain; and the 55th, later on, was
the first body of troops to enter Charleston and march through its
streets--which term of his experience, as it unfolded, presents him to
my memory as again on staff duty; with Brigadier-Generals Potter, Rufus
Hatch and his old superior and, at my present writing, gallant and vivid
survivor, Alfred Hartwell, who had been his captain and his
lieut.-colonel in the 45th and the 55th respectively.[10]

I can at all events speak perfectly of my own sense of the uplifting
wave just alluded to during the couple of years that the "boys'" letters
from the field came in to us--with the one abatement of glamour for them
the fact that so much of their substance was in the whole air of life
and their young reports of sharp experience but a minor pipe in the huge
mixed concert always in our ears. Faded and touching pages, these
letters are in some abundance before me now, breathing confidence and
extraordinary cheer--though surviving principally but in Wilky's
admirable hand, of all those I knew at that time the most humiliating
to a feebler yet elder fist; and with their liveliest present action to
recompose for me not by any means so much the scenes and circumstances,
the passages of history concerned, as to make me know again and
reinhabit the places, the hours, the stilled or stirred conditions
through which I took them in. These conditions seem indeed mostly to
have settled for me into the single sense of what I missed, compared to
what the authors of our bulletins gained, in wondrous opportunity of
vision, that is _appreciation of the thing seen_--there being clearly
such a lot of this, and all of it, by my conviction, portentous and
prodigious. The key to which assurance was that I longed to live by my
eyes, in the midst of such far-spreading chances, in greater measure
than I then had help to, and that the measure in which _they_ had it
gloriously overflowed. This capacity in them to deal with such an
affluence of life stood out from every line, and images sprung up about
them at every turn of the story. The story, the general one, of the
great surge of action on which they were so early carried, was to take
still other turns during the years I now speak of, some of these not of
the happiest; but with the same relation to it on my own part too
depressingly prolonged--that of seeing, sharing, envying, applauding,
pitying, all from too far-off, and with the queer sense that, whether or
no they would prove to have had the time of their lives, it seemed that
the only time I should have had would stand or fall by theirs. This was
to be yet more deplorably the case later on--I like to give a twitch to
the curtain of a future reduced to the humility of a past: when, the War
being over and we confronted with all the personal questions it had
showily muffled up only to make them step forth with their sharper
angles well upon us, our father, easily beguiled, acquired by purchase
and for the benefit of his younger sons divers cottonlands in Florida;
which scene of blighted hopes it perhaps was that cast upon me, at its
defiant distance, the most provoking spell. There was provocation, at
those subsequent seasons, in the very place-name of Serenola, beautiful
to ear and eye; unforgettable were to remain the times, while the vain
experiment dragged on for our anxiety and curiosity, and finally to our
great discomfiture, when my still ingenuous young brothers, occupied in
raising and selling crops that refused alike, it seemed, to come and to
go, wafted northward their fluctuating faith, their constant hospitality
and above all, for one of the number at home, their large unconscious
evocations. The mere borrowed, and so brokenly borrowed, impression of
southern fields basking in a light we didn't know, of scented
sub-tropic nights, of a situation suffused with economic and social
drama of the strangest and sharpest, worked in me, I dare say most
deceptively, as a sign of material wasted, my material not being in the
least the crops unproduced or unsold, but the precious store of images
ungathered. However, the vicarious sensation had, as I say, been intense
enough, from point to point, before that; a series of Wilky's letters of
the autumn of '62 and the following winter during operations in North
Carolina intended apparently to clear an approach to Charleston overflow
with the vivacity of his interest in whatever befell, and still more in
whatever promised, and reflect, in this freshness of young assurances
and young delusions, the general public fatuity. The thread of interest
for me here would certainly be much more in an exhibition of some such
artless notes of the period, with their faded marks upon them, than in
that of the spirit of my own poor perusal of them--were it not that
those things shrink after years to the common measure when not
testifying to some rarity of experience and expression. All experience
in the field struck me indeed as then rare, and I wondered at both my
brothers' military mastery of statement, through which played, on the
part of the elder, a whimsicality of "turn," an oddity of verbal
collocation, that we had ever cherished, in the family circle, as the
sign of his address. "The next fight we have, I expect," he writes from
Newberne, N. C., on New Year's Day '63, "will be a pretty big one, but I
am confident that under Foster and our gunboats we will rid the State of
these miserable wretches whom the Divine Providence has created in its
wisdom to make men wish----! Send on then, open yourselves a recruiting
establishment if necessary--all we want is numbers! _They_ are the
greatest help to the individual soldier on the battle-field. If he feels
he has 30,000 men behind him pushing on steadily to back him he is in
much more fighting trim than when away in the rear with 10,000 ahead of
him fighting like madmen. It seems that Halleck told Foster when F. was
in Washington that he scarcely slept for a week after learning that we
were near Goldsboro', having heard previously that a reinforcement of
40,000 Rebels were coming down there to whip us. Long live Foster!"

"It was so cold this morning," he writes at another and earlier date,
"that Divine service was held in our barracks instead of out-of-doors,
as it generally is, and it was the most impressive that I have ever
heard. The sermon was on profanity, and the chaplain, after making all
the observations and doing by mouth and action as much as he could to
rid the regiment of the curse, sat down, credulous being, thinking he
had settled the question for ever. Colonel Lee then rose and said that
the chaplain the other day accused him--most properly--of profanity and
of its setting a very bad example to the regiment; also that when he
took the command he had felt how very bad the thing would be in its
influence on all around him. He felt that it would be the great conflict
of his life. At this point his head drooped and he lifted his
handkerchief to his face; but he went on in conclusion: 'Now boys, let
us try one and all to vindicate the sublime principles our chaplain has
just so eloquently expressed, and I will do _my_ best. I hope to God I
have wounded no man's feelings by an oath; if I have I humbly beg his
pardon.' Here he finished." How this passage impressed me at the time
signifies little; but I find myself now feel in its illustration of what
could then happen among soldiers of the old Puritan Commonwealth a rich
recall of some story from Cromwellian ranks. Striking the continuity,
and not unworthy of it my brother's further comment. "I leave you to
imagine which of these appeals did most good, the conventional address
of the pastor or the honest manly heart-touching acknowledgment of our
Colonel. That is the man through and through, and I heard myself say
afterwards: 'Let him swear to all eternity if he _is_ that sort of man,
and if profanity makes such, for goodness' sake let us all swear.' This
may be a bad doctrine, but is one that might after all undergo
discussion." From which letter I cull further: "I really begin to think
you've been hard in your judgments of McClellan. You don't know what an
enemy we have to conquer. Every secesh I've seen, and all the rebel
prisoners here, talk of the War with such callous earnestness." A letter
from Newberne of December 2nd contains a "pathetic" record of momentary
faith, the sort so abundant at the time in what was not at all to be
able to happen. Moreover a name rings out of it which it is a kind of
privilege to give again to the air--when one can do so with some
approach to an association signified; so much did Charles Lowell's
virtue and value and death represent at the season soon to come for
those who stood within sight of them, and with such still unextinct
emotion may the few of these who now survive turn to his admirably
inspired kinsman's Harvard Commemoration Ode and find it infinitely and
tenderly suffused with pride. Two gallantest nephews, particularly
radiant to memory, had James Russell Lowell to commemorate.

    I sweep for them a pæan, but they wane
        Again and yet again
    Into a dirge and die away in pain.

    In these brave ranks I only see the gaps,
    Thinking of dear ones whom the dumb turf wraps,
    Dark to the triumph which they died to gain.

     Cabot has had news that Mr. Amos Lawrence of Boston is getting up a
     cavalry regiment (Wilky writes), and he has sent home to try for a
     commission as 2nd lieutenant. Now if we could only _both_ get such
     a commission in that regiment you can judge yourself how desirable
     it would be. Perkins will probably have one in the Massachusetts
     2nd and our orderly stands a pretty good chance of one in the 44th.
     This cavalry colonelcy will probably be for Cabot's cousin, Charles
     Lowell.

     There is a report that we start this week for Kinston, and if so we
     shall doubtless have a good little fight. We have just received 2
     new Mass. Regiments, the 8th and the 51st. We have absolutely no
     time to ourselves; and what time we do have we want much more to
     give to lying down than to anything else. But try your best for me
     now, and I promise you to do _my_ best wherever I am.

A homelier truth is in a few lines three weeks later.

     The men as a general thing think war a mean piece of business as
     it's carried on in this State; we march 20 or 30 miles and find the
     enemy entrenched in rifle-pits or hidden away in some
     out-of-the-way place; we send our artillery forward, and after a
     brisk skirmish ahead the foe is driven back into the woods, and we
     march on for 20 miles more to find the same luck. We were all on
     the last march praying for a fight, so that we might halt and throw
     off our knapsacks. I don't pretend I am eager to make friends with
     bullets, but at Whitehall, after marching some 20 miles, I was on
     this account really glad when I heard cannonading ahead and the
     column was halted and the fight began.

The details of this engagement are missing from the letter, but we found
matter of interest in two or three other passages--one in particular
recording a December day's march with 15,000 men, "not including
artillerymen," 70 pieces of artillery and 1100 cavalry; which, "on
account of obstructions on the roads," had achieved by night but
seventeen miles and resulted in a bivouac "in 3 immense cotton-fields,
one about as large as Easton's Pond at Newport."

     We began to see the camp fires of the advance brigade about 4 miles
     ahead of us, and I assure you those miles were soon got over. I
     think Willy's artistic eye would have enjoyed the sight--it seemed
     so as if the world were on fire. When we arrived on the field the
     stacks were made, the ranks broken and the men sent after rail
     fences, which fortunately abound in this region and are the only
     comfort we have at night. A long fire is made, the length of the
     stacks, and one rank is placed on one side of it and the other
     opposite. I try to make a picture you see, but scratch it out in
     despair. The fires made, we sit down and make our coffee in our tin
     dippers, and often is one of these pushed over by some careless
     wretch who hasn't noticed it on the coals or has been too tired to
     look. The coffee and the hard tack consumed we spread our rubber
     blankets and sleep as sound as any house in Christendom. At about 5
     the fearful réveillé calls us to our feet, we make more coffee,
     drink it in a hurry, sling our knapsacks and spank down the road in
     one of Foster's regular old quicksteps.

Thrilling at our fireside of course were the particulars of the Kinston
engagement, and still more, doubtless, the happy freshness of the
writer.

     At 8 A.M. we were on the road, and had hardly marched 3 miles when
     we knew by sounds ahead that the ball had opened. We were ordered
     up and deployed in an open field on the right of the road, where we
     remained some half an hour. Then we were moved some hundred yards
     further, but resumed our former position in another field. Here
     Foster came up to the Major, who was directly in the rear of our
     company and told him to advance our left wing to support Morrison's
     battery, which was about half a mile ahead. He also said he was
     pressing the Rebs hard and that they were retiring at every shell
     from our side. On we went, the left flank company taking the lead,
     and many a bullet and shell whizzed over our heads in that longest
     half-mile of my life. We seemed to be nearing the fun, for wounded
     men were being carried to the rear and dead ones lay on each side
     of us in the woods. We were taken into another field on the left of
     the road, and before us were deployed the 23rd Mass., who were
     firing in great style. First we were ordered to lie down, and then
     in 5 or 10 minutes ordered up again, when we charged down that
     field in a manner creditable to any Waterloo legion. I felt as if
     this moment was the greatest of my life and as if all the devils of
     the Inferno were my benighted system. We halted after having
     charged some 60 yards, when what should we see on our left, just
     out of the woods and stuck up on a rail, but a flag of truce,
     placing under its protecting wing some 50 or 60 poor cowering
     wretches who, in their zeal for recognition, not only pulled out
     all their pocket handkerchiefs, but in the case of one man spread
     out his white shirt-flaps and offered them pacifically to the
     winds. The most demonic shouts and yells were raised by the 23rd
     ahead of us at this sight, in which the 44th joined; while the
     regiments on our right, and that of the road, greeted in the same
     frightful manner 200 prisoners they had cut off from retreat by the
     bridge. So far I was alive and the thing had lasted perhaps 3
     hours; all the enemy but the 200 just named had got away over the
     bridge to Kinston and our cavalry were in hot pursuit. I don't
     think Sergeant G. W. has ever known greater glee in all his born
     days. At about 3 P.M. we crossed the bridge and got into the town.
     All along the road from bridge to town Rebel equipments, guns and
     cartridge-boxes lay thick, and within the place dead men and horses
     thickened too. We were taken ahead through the town to support the
     New York 3rd Artillery beyond, where it was shelling the woods
     around and ridding the place for the night of any troublesome
     wanderers. The Union pickets posted out ahead that night said the
     shrieks of women and children further on in the wood could be heard
     perfectly all night long, these unfortunates having taken refuge
     there from the threatened town. That night we lived like
     fighting-cocks--molasses, pork, butter, cheese and all sorts of
     different delicacies being foraged for and houses entered
     regardless of the commonest dues of life, and others set on fire to
     show Kinston was our own. She belonged to our army, and almost
     every man claimed a house. If I had only had your orders beforehand
     for trophies I could have satisfied you with anything named, from a
     gold watch to an old brickbat. This is the ugly part of war. A too
     victorious army soon goes down; but we luckily didn't have time
     for big demoralisation, as the next day in the afternoon we found
     ourselves some 17 miles away and bivouacking in a single prodigious
     cornfield.

To which I don't resist subjoining another characteristic passage from
the same general scene as a wind-up to that small chapter of history.

     The report has gained ground to-day that we leave to-morrow, and if
     so I suppose the next three months will be important ones in the
     history of the War. Four ironclads and a great many gunboats are in
     Beaufort Harbour; we have at present a force of 50,000 infantry, an
     immense artillery and upwards of 800 cavalry. Transports
     innumerable are filling up every spare inch of our harbour, and
     every man's pity and charity are exercised upon Charleston, Mobile
     or Wilmington. We are the only nine-months regiment going, a fact
     which to the sensitive is highly gratifying, showing Foster's
     evident high opinion of us. The expedition, I imagine, will be
     pretty interesting, for we shall have excitement enough without the
     fearful marches. To-day is Sunday, and I've been reading Hugo's
     account of Waterloo in Les Misérables and preparing my mind for
     something of the same sort at Wilmington. God grant the battle may
     do as much harm to the Rebels as Waterloo did to the French. If it
     does the fight will be worth the dreadful carnage it may involve,
     and the experience for the survivors an immense treasure. Men will
     fight forever if they are well treated. Give them little marching
     and keep the wounded away from them, and they'll do anything. I am
     very well and in capital spirits, though now and then rather blue
     about home. But only 5 months more and then heaven! General Foster
     has just issued an order permitting us to inscribe Goldsboro,
     Kinston and Whitehall on our banner.

On the discharge of the 44th after the term of nine months for which it
had engaged and my brother's return home, he at once sought service
again in the Massachusetts 54th, his connection with which I have
already recorded, as well as his injuries in the assault on Fort Wagner
fruitlessly made by that regiment in the summer of '63. He recovered
with difficulty, but at last sufficiently, from his wounds (with one
effect of which he had for the rest of his short life grievously to
reckon), and made haste to rejoin his regiment in the field--to the
promotion of my gathering a few more notes. From "off Graham's point,
Tillapenny River, Headquarters 2nd Brigade," he writes in December '64.

     We started last night from the riflepits in the front of Deveaux
     Neck to cross the Tillapenny and make a reconnaissance on this side
     and try and get round the enemy's works. It is now half-past 10
     A.M., and I have been trying to wash some of my mud off. We are all
     a sorry crowd of beggars--I don't look as I did the night we left
     home. I am much of the time mud from head to foot, and my spirit is
     getting muddled also. But I am in excellent condition as regards my
     wounds and astonish myself by my powers. I rode some 26 miles
     yesterday and walked some 3 in thick mud, but don't feel a bit the
     worse for it. We're only waiting here an hour or two to get a
     relief of horses, when we shall start again. We shan't have a fight
     of any kind to-day, but to-morrow expect to give them a little
     trouble at Pocotaligo. Colonel Hallowell commands this
     reconnaissance. We have only 4 regiments and a section of artillery
     from the 2nd Brigade with us. We heard some fine music from the
     Rebel lines yesterday. They have got a stunning band over there.
     Prisoners tell us it's a militia band from Georgia. Most all the
     troops in our front are militia composed of old men and boys, the
     flower of the chivalry being just now engaged with Sherman at
     Savannah. We hear very heavy firing in that direction this morning,
     and I guess the chivalry is getting the worst of it. The taking of
     Fort McAllister the other day was a splendid thing--we got 280
     prisoners and made them go out and pick up the torpedoes round the
     fort. Sherman was up at Oguchee and Ossahaw yesterday on another
     consultation with Foster. We had called our whole army out the
     night before in front of our works to give him three cheers. This
     had a marvellous effect upon the Rebs. About 20 men came in the
     night into our lines, thinking we had got reinforcements and were
     going to advance. Later. A scout has just come in and tells us the
     enemy are intrenched about 4 miles off, so that we _shall_ have
     to-day a shindy of some kind. Our headquarters are now in a large
     house once owned by Judge Graham. The coloured troops are in high
     spirits and have done splendidly this campaign.

The high spirits of the coloured troops appear naturally to have been
shared by their officers--"in the field, Tillapenny River," late at
night on December 23rd, '64.

     We have just received such bully news to comfort us that I can't
     help rising from my slumbers to drop you a line. A despatch just
     received tells us that Sherman has captured 150 guns, 250,000 dols.
     worth of cotton at Savannah, that Forrest is killed and routed by
     Rousseau, and that Thomas has walked into Hood and given him the
     worst kind of fits. I imagine the poor Rebel outposts in our front
     feel pretty blue to-night, for what with that and the thermometer
     at about zero I guess the night won't pass without robbing their
     army of some of its best and bravest. We suffer a good deal from
     the cold, but are now sitting round our camp fire in as good
     spirits as men could possibly be. A despatch received early this
     evening tells us to look out sharp for Hardee, but this latest news
     knocks that to a cocked hat, and we are only just remembering that
     that gentleman is round. My foot is bully.

As regards that impaired member, on which he was ever afterwards
considerably to limp, he opines three days later, on Christmas evening,
that "even in the palmy days of old it never _felt_ better than now."
And he goes on:

     Though Savannah is taken I fear we shan't get much credit for
     having helped to take it. Yet night and day we have been at it
     hammer and tongs, and as we are away from the main army and
     somewhat isolated and cut off our work has been pretty hard. We
     have had only 1,200 effective men in our brigade, and out of that
     number have had regularly 400 on picket night and day, and the
     fatigue and extra guard duty have nearly used them up. Twice we
     have been attacked and both times held our own. Twice we attacked
     and once have been driven. The only prisoners we have captured on
     the whole expedition have been taken by this part of the column,
     and on the whole though we didn't march into Savannah I know you
     will give us a little credit for having hastened its downfall.
     Three prisoners that we took the other night slept at our Hdqrs,
     and we had a good long talk with them. We could get out of them
     nothing at all that helps from a military point of view, but their
     stories about the Confederacy were most hopeless. They were 3
     officers and gentlemen of a crack S.C. cavalry company which has
     been used during the War simply to guard this coast, and their
     language and state of mind were those of the true Southern
     chevalier. They confessed to a great scare on finding themselves
     hemmed in by coloured troops, and all agree that the niggers are
     the worst enemies they have had to face. On Thursday we turned them
     over to the Provost-Marshal at Deveaux Neck, who took them to Gen'l
     Hatch. The General had got our despatch announcing we could get
     nothing at all out of them, and he came down on them most
     ruthlessly and told them to draw lots, as one would have to swing
     before night. He told them he had got the affidavit of an escaped
     Union prisoner, a man captured at Honey Hill and who had come into
     our lines the day previous, to the effect that he had witnessed the
     hanging of a negro soldier belonging to the 26th U.S.C.T., and that
     he had determined one of them should answer for it. Two seemed very
     much moved, but the third, Lee by name (cousin of Gen'l Stephen Lee
     of the cavalry), said he knew nothing about it, but if it was so,
     so it might be. The other two were taken from each other and Gen'l
     Hatch managed to draw a good deal of information from them about
     our position, that is the force and nature of the enemy and works
     in our front. Lee refused to the last to answer any question
     whatever, and they all 3 now await at Hilton Head the issue of the
     law. The hanging of the negro seems a perfectly ascertained
     fact--he was hung by the 48th Georgia Infty, and the story has
     naturally much stirred up our coloured troops. If Hardee should
     decide to come down on us I believe he would get the worst of it,
     and only hope now that our men won't take a prisoner alive. They
     certainly make a great mistake at Washington in not attending to
     these little matters, and I am sure the moral effect of an order
     from the President announcing that such things have happened, and
     that the coloured troops have taken them thoroughly to heart, would
     be greater on the Rebels than any physical blow we can deal them.

When I read again, "in the field before Pocotaligo," toward the middle
of January '65, that "Sherman leaves to-night from Beaufort with Logan's
Corps to cross Beaufort Ferry and come up on our right flank and push on
to Pocotaligo bridge," the stir as from great things rises again for me,
wraps about Sherman's name as with the huge hum that then surrounded it,
and in short makes me give the passage such honour as I may. "We are
waiting anxiously for the sound of his musketry announcing him." I was
never in my life to wait for any such sound, but how at that juncture I
hung about with privileged Wilky! "We all propose at Hdqrs to take our
stores out and ride up to the bank of the river and watch the fight on
the other side. We are praying to be relieved here--our men are dying
for want of clothing; and when we see Morris Island again we shall
utterly rejoice." He writes three days later from headquarters
established in a plantation the name of which, as well as that of the
stream, of whatever magnitude, that they had crossed to reach it,
happens to be marked by an illegibility quite unprecedented in his
splendid script--to the effect of a still intenser evocation (as was
then to be felt at any rate) of all the bignesses involved. "Sherman's
whole army is in our front, and they expect to move on Charleston at any
moment." Sherman's whole army!--it affected me from afar off as a vast
epic vision. The old vibration lives again, but with it also that of the
smaller and nearer, the more intimate notes--such for instance as: "I
shall go up to the 20th Corps to-morrow and try for a sight of Billy
Perkins and Sam Storrow in the 2nd Mass." Into which I somehow read,
under the touch of a ghostly hand no more "weirdly" laid than _that_,
more volumes than I can the least account for or than I have doubtless
any business to.

My visionary yearning must however, I think, have drawn most to feed on
from the first of a series of missives dated from Headquarters,
Department of the South, Hilton Head S.C., this particular one of the
middle of February. "I write in a great hurry to tell you I have been
placed on General Gillmore's staff as A.D.C. It is just the very thing
for my foot under present circumstances, and I consider myself most
fortunate. I greatly like the General, who is most kind and genial and
very considerate. My duties will be principally the carrying of orders
to Savannah, Morris Island, Fortress Monroe, Combalee(?) Florida, and
the General's correspondence. Charleston is ours," he goes on two days
later: "it surrendered to a negro regiment yesterday at 9 A.M. We have
just come up from Sumter, where we have hoisted the American flag. We
were lying off Bull's Bay yesterday noon waiting for this when the
General saw through his glass the stars and stripes suddenly flown from
the town hall. We immediately steamed up to Sumter and ran up the
colours there. Old Gillmore was in fine feather and I am in consummate
joy." The joy nevertheless, I may add, doesn't prevent the remark after
a couple of days more that "Charleston isn't on the whole such a very
great material victory; in fact the capture of the place is of value
only in that its moral effect tends to strengthen the Union cause."
After which he proceeds:

     Governor Aiken of S.C. came up to Hdqrs to-day to call on the
     Gen'l, and they had a long talk. He is a "gradual Emancipationist"
     and says the worst of the President's acts was his sweeping
     Proclamation. Before that every one in this State was ready to come
     back on the gradual system, and would have done so if Lincoln's act
     hadn't driven them to madness. This is all fine talk, but there is
     nothing in it. They had at least 5 months' warning and could have
     in that time perfectly returned within the fold; in fact the strong
     Abolitionists of the North were afraid the President had made the
     thing but too easy for them and that they would get ahead of us and
     themselves emancipate. This poor gentleman is simple crazy and
     weakminded. Between Davis and us he _is_ puzzled beyond measure,
     and doesn't know what line to take. One thing though troubled him
     most, namely the ingratitude of the negro. He can't conceive how
     the creatures he has treated with such extraordinary kindness and
     taken such care of should all be willing to leave him. He says he
     was the first man in the South to introduce religion among the
     blacks and that his plantation of 600 of them was a model of
     civilisation and peace. Just think of this immense slaveholder
     telling me as I drove him home that the coat he had on had been
     turned three times and his pantaloons the only ones he possessed.
     He stated this so simply and touchingly that I couldn't help
     offering him a pair of mine--which he refused, however. There are
     some 10,000 people in the town, mostly women and negroes, and it's
     tremendously ravaged by our shell, about which they have naturally
     lied from beginning to end.

"Bob has just come down from Charleston," he writes in March--"he has
been commissioned captain in the 103rd U.S.C.T. I am sorry he has left
his regiment, still he seemed bent on doing so and offers all kinds of
reasons for it. He may judge rightly, but I fear he's hasty;" and
indeed this might appear from a glimpse of our younger brother at his
ease given by him in a letter of some days before, written at two
o'clock in the morning and recording a day spent in a somewhat arduously
performed visit to Charleston. "I drove out to the entrenchments to-day
to see B., and found him with Hartwell (R. J.'s colonel) smoking their
long pipes on the verandah of a neat country cottage with a beautiful
garden in front of them and the birds chirping and rambling around. Bob
looks remarkably well and seemed very nice indeed. He speaks very highly
of Hartwell, and the latter the same of him. They seemed settled in
remarkable comfort at Charleston and to be taking life easy after their
180 miles march through South Carolina." He mentions further that his
visit to the captured city, begun the previous day, had been made in
interesting conditions; there is in fact matter for quotation throughout
the letter, the last of the small group from which I shall borrow. He
had, with his general, accompanied a "large Senatorial delegation from
Washington and shown them round the place." He records the delegation's
"delight" in what they saw; how "a large crowd of young ladies" were of
the party, so that the Senatorial presences were "somewhat relieved and
lightened to the members of the staff;" and also that they all went
over to Forts Sumter and Moultrie and the adjacent works. The pleasure
of the whole company in the scene of desolation thus presented is one of
those ingenuous historic strokes that the time-spirit, after a
sufficient interval, permits itself to smile at--and is not the only
such, it may be noted, in the sincere young statement.

     To-morrow they go to Savannah, returning here in the evening, when
     there is to be a grand reception for them at Hdqrs. We expect Gen'l
     Robert Anderson (the loyalist commandant at Sumter when originally
     fired upon) by the next steamer, with Gideon Welles (secretary of
     the Navy) and a number of other notables from Washington. Anderson
     is going to raise the old flag on Sumter, and of course there will
     be a great shindy here--I only wish you were with us to join in it.
     I never go to Sumter without the deepest exhilaration--so many
     scenes come to my mind. It's the centre of the nest, and for one to
     _be_ there is to feel that the whole game is up. These people have
     always insisted that there the last gun should be fired. But the
     suffering and desolation of this land is the worst feature of the
     whole thing. If you could see what they are reduced to you couldn't
     help being touched. The best people are in utter penury; they look
     like the poorest of the poor and they talk like them also. They are
     deeply demoralised, in fact degraded. Charleston is more forsaken
     and stricken than I can describe; it reminds me when I go through
     the streets of some old doomed city on which the wrath of God has
     rested from far back, and if it ever revives will do so simply
     through the infinite mercy and charity of the North. But for this
     generation at least the inhabitants are done for. Can't H. come
     down and pay us a visit of 2 or 3 weeks? I can get him a War Dept.
     pass approved by General Gillmore.

H. knew and well remembers the pang of his inability to accept this
invitation, to the value of which for emphasis of tragic life on the
scene of the great drama the next passage adds a touch. Mrs. William
Young, the lady alluded to, was a friend we had known almost only on the
European stage and amid the bright associations of Paris in particular.
Whom did we suppose he had met on the arrival of a steamer from the
North but this more or less distracted acquaintance of other days?--who
had come down "to try and get her stepmother into our lines and take her
home. She is accompanied by a friend from New York, and expects to
succeed in her undertaking. I hardly think she will, however, as her
mother is 90 miles out of our lines and a very old woman. We have sent a
negro out to give her Mrs. Young's news, but how can this poor old thing
travel such a distance on foot and sleep in the swamp besides? It's an
absurd idea, but I shall do everything in my power to facilitate it." Of
what further befell I gather no account; but I remember how a later time
was to cause me to remark on the manner in which even dire tragedy may
lapse, in the individual life, and leave no trace on the ground it has
ravaged--none at least apparent unless pushingly searched for. The last
thing to infer from appearances, on much subsequent renewal of contact
with Mrs. Young in Paris again, was that this tension of a reach forth
across great war-wasted and swamp-smothered spaces for recovery of an
aged and half-starved pedestrian female relative counted for her as a
chapter of experience: the experience of Paris dressmakers and other
like matters had so revived and supervened. But let me add that I speak
here of mere appearances, and have ever inclined to the more ironic and
more complicating vision of them. It would doubtless have been too
simple for wonder that our elegant friend should have lived, as it were,
under the cloud of reminiscence--and wonder had always somewhere to come
in.



XII


It had been, however, neither at Newport nor at Cambridge--the Cambridge
at least of that single year--that the plot began most to thicken for
me: I figure it as a sudden stride into conditions of a sort to minister
and inspire much more, all round, that we early in 1864 migrated, as a
family, to Boston, and that I now seem to see the scene of our existence
there for a couple of years packed with drama of a finer consistency
than any I had yet tasted. We settled for the interesting time in
Ashburton Place--the "sympathetic" old house we occupied, one of a pair
of tallish brick fronts based, as to its ground floor, upon the dignity
of time-darkened granite, was lately swept away in the interest of I
know not what grander cause; and when I wish to think of such
intercourse as I have enjoyed with the good city at its closest and, as
who should say its kindest, though this comes doubtless but to saying at
its freshest, I live over again the story of that sojourn, a period
bristling, while I recover my sense of it, with an unprecedented number
of simultaneous particulars. To stick, as I can only do, to the point
from which my own young outlook worked, the things going on for me so
tremendously all at once were in the first place the last impressions of
the War, a whole social relation to it crowding upon us there as for
many reasons, all of the best, it couldn't have done elsewhere; and
then, more personally speaking, the prodigious little assurance I found
myself gathering as from one day to another that fortune had in store
some response to my deeply reserved but quite unabashed design of
becoming as "literary" as might be. It was as if, our whole new medium
of existence aiding, I had begun to see much further into the question
of how that end was gained. The vision, quickened by a wealth, a great
mixture, of new appearances, became such a throbbing affair that my
memory of the time from the spring of '64 to the autumn of '66 moves as
through an apartment hung with garlands and lights--where I have but to
breathe for an instant on the flowers again to see them flush with
colour, and but tenderly to snuff the candles to see them twinkle
afresh. Things happened, and happened repeatedly, the mere brush or
side-wind of which was the stir of life; and the fact that I see, when I
consider, how it was mostly the mere side-wind I got, doesn't draw from
the picture a shade of its virtue. I literally, and under whatever felt
restriction of my power to knock about, formed independent
relations--several; and two or three of them, as I then thought, of the
very most momentous. I may not attempt just here to go far into these,
save for the exception of the easiest to treat, which I also, by good
fortune, win back as by no means the least absorbing--the beautiful, the
entrancing presumption that I should have but to write with sufficient
difficulty and sufficient felicity to get once for all (that was the
point) into the incredibility of print. I see before me, in the rich,
the many-hued light of my room that overhung dear Ashburton Place from
our third floor, the very greenbacks, to the total value of twelve
dollars, into which I had changed the cheque representing my first
earned wage. I had earned it, I couldn't but feel, with fabulous
felicity: a circumstance so strangely mixed with the fact that literary
composition of a high order had, at that very table where the greenbacks
were spread out, quite viciously declined, and with the air of its being
also once for all, to "come" on any save its own essential terms, which
it seemed to distinguish in the most invidious manner conceivable from
mine. It was to insist through all my course on this distinction, and
sordid gain thereby never again to seem so easy as in that prime
handling of my fee. Other guerdons, of the same queer, the same often
rather greasy, complexion followed; for what had I done, to the
accompaniment of a thrill the most ineffable, an agitation that, as I
recapture it, affects me as never exceeded in all my life for fineness,
but go one beautiful morning out to Shady Hill at Cambridge and there
drink to the lees the offered cup of editorial sweetness?--none ever
again to be more delicately mixed. I had addressed in trembling hope my
first fond attempt at literary criticism to Charles Eliot Norton, who
had lately, and with the highest, brightest competence, come to the
rescue of the North American Review, submerged in a stale tradition and
gasping for life, and he had not only published it in his very next
number--the interval for me of breathless brevity--but had expressed the
liveliest further hospitality, the gage of which was thus at once his
welcome to me at home. I was to grow fond of regarding as a positive
consecration to letters that half-hour in the long library at Shady
Hill, where the winter sunshine touched serene book-shelves and arrayed
pictures, the whole embrowned composition of objects in my view, with I
knew not what golden light of promise, what assurance of things to come:
there was to be nothing exactly like it later on--the conditions of
perfect rightness for a certain fresh felicity, certain decisive
pressures of the spring, _can_ occur, it would seem, but once. This was
on the other hand the beginning of so many intentions that it mattered
little if the particular occasion was not repeated; for what did I do
again and again, through all the years, but handle in plenty what I
might have called the small change of it?

I despair, however, as I look back, of rendering the _fusions_ in that
much-mixed little time, every feature of which had something of the
quality and interest of every other, and the more salient, the more
"epoch-making"--I apply with complacency the portentous term--to drape
themselves romantically in the purple folds of the whole. I think it
must have been the sense of the various climaxes, the enjoyed, because
so long postponed, revenges of the War, that lifted the moment in the
largest embrace: the general consciousness was of such big things at
last in sight, the huge national emergence, the widening assurance,
however overdarkened, it is true, by the vast black cost of what General
Grant (no light-handed artist he!) was doing for us. He was at all
events working to an end, and something strange and immense, even like
the light of a new day rising above a definite rim, shot its rays
through the chinks of the immediate, the high-piled screen of sacrifice
behind which he wrought. I fail to seize again, to my wonder, the
particular scene of our acclamation of Lee's surrender, but I feel in
the air the exhalation of our relief, which mingled, near and far, with
the breath of the springtime itself and positively seemed to become
over the land, over the world at large in fact, an element of reviving
Nature. Sensible again are certain other sharpest vibrations then
communicated from the public consciousness: Ashburton Place resounds for
me with a wild cry, rocks as from a convulsed breast, on that early
morning of our news of Lincoln's death by murder; and, in a different
order, but also darkening the early day, there associates itself with my
cherished chamber of application the fact that of a sudden, and while we
were always and as much as ever awaiting him, Hawthorne was dead. What I
have called the fusion strikes me as indeed beyond any rendering when I
think of the peculiar assault on my private consciousness of _that_
news: I sit once more, half-dressed, late of a summer morning and in a
bedimmed light which is somehow at once that of dear old green American
shutters drawn to against openest windows and that of a moral shadow
projected as with violence--I sit on my belated bed, I say, and yield to
the pang that made me positively and loyally cry. I didn't rise early in
those days of scant ease--I now even ask myself how sometimes I rose at
all; which ungrudged license withal, I thus make out, was not less
blessedly effective in the harmony I glance at than several showier
facts. To tell at all adequately why the pang was fine would
nevertheless too closely involve my going back, as we have learned to
say, on the whole rich interpenetration. I fondly felt it in those days
invaluable that I had during certain last and otherwise rather blank
months at Newport taken in for the first time and at one straight
draught the full sweet sense of our one fine romancer's work--for sweet
it then above all seemed to me; and I remember well how, while the
process day after day drew itself admirably out, I found the actual
exquisite taste of it, the strain of the revelation, justify up to the
notch whatever had been weak in my delay. This prolonged hanging off
from true knowledge had been the more odd, so that I couldn't have
explained it, I felt, through the fact that The Wonder-Book and
Twice-Told Tales had helped to enchant our childhood; the consequence at
any rate seemed happy, since without it, very measurably, the sudden
sense of recognition would have been less uplifting a wave. The joy of
the recognition was to know at the time no lapse--was in fact through
the years never to know one, and this by some rare action of a principle
or a sentiment, I scarce know whether to call it a clinging consistency
or a singular silliness, that placed the Seven Gables, the Blithedale
Romance and the story of Donatello and Miriam (the accepted title of
which I dislike to use, not the "marble" but very particularly the human
Faun being throughout in question) somewhere on a shelf unvisited by
harsh inquiry. The feeling had perhaps at the time been marked by
presumption, by a touch of the fatuity of patronage; yet wasn't
well-nigh the best charm of a relation with the works just named in the
impulse, known from the first, somehow to stand in _between_ them and
harsh inquiry? If I had asked myself what I meant by that term, at which
freedom of appreciation, in fact of intelligence, might have looked
askance, I hope I should have found a sufficient answer in the mere plea
of a sort of _bêtise_ of tenderness. I recall how once, in the air of
Rome at a time ever so long subsequent, a friend and countryman now no
more, who had spent most of his life in Italy and who remains for me,
with his accomplishment, his distinction, his extraordinary play of mind
and his too early and too tragic death, the clearest case of
"cosmopolitan culture" I was to have known, exclaimed with surprise on
my happening to speak as from an ancient fondness for Hawthorne's
treatment of the Roman scene: "Why, can you read _that_ thing, and
_here_?--to me it means nothing at all!" I remember well that under the
breath of this disallowance of any possibility of association, and quite
most of such a one as I had from far back positively cultivated, the
gentle perforated book tumbled before me from its shelf very much as old
Polonius, at the thrust of Hamlet's sword, must have collapsed behind
the pictured arras. Of course I might have picked it up and brushed it
off, but I seem to feel again that I didn't so much as want to, lost as
I could only have been in the sense that the note of harsh inquiry, or
in other words of the very stroke I had anciently wished to avert,
_there_ fell straight upon my ear. It represented everything I had so
early known we must have none of; though there was interest galore at
the same time (as there almost always is in lively oppositions of
sensibility, with the sharpness of each, its special exclusions, well
exhibited), in an "American" measure that could so reject our beautiful
genius and in a Roman, as it were, that could so little see he had done
anything for Rome. H. B. Brewster in truth, literary master of three
tongues at least, was scarce American at all; homely superstitions had
no hold on him; he was French, Italian, above all perhaps German; and
there would have been small use, even had there been any importance, in
my trying to tell him for instance why it had particularly been, in the
gentle time, that I had settled once for all to take our author's case
as simply exquisite and not budge from that taking. Which indeed scarce
bears telling now, with matters of relative (if _but_ of relative!)
urgence on hand--consisting as it mainly did in the fact that his work
was all charged with a _tone_, a full and rare tone of prose, and that
this made for it an extraordinary value in an air in which absolutely
nobody's else was or has shown since any aptitude for being. And the
tone had been, in its beauty--for me at least--ever so appreciably
American; which proved to what a use American matter could be put by an
American hand: a consummation involving, it appeared, the happiest
moral. For the moral was that an American could be an artist, one of the
finest, without "going outside" about it, as I liked to say; quite in
fact as if Hawthorne had become one just by being American _enough_, by
the felicity of how the artist in him missed nothing, suspected nothing,
that the ambient air didn't affect him as containing. Thus he was at
once so clear and so entire--clear without thinness, for he might have
seemed underfed, it was his danger; and entire without heterogeneity,
which might, with less luck and to the discredit of our sufficing
manners, have had to be his help. These remarks, as I say, were those I
couldn't, or at any rate didn't, make to my Roman critic; if only
because I was so held by the other case he offered me--that of a culture
for which, in the dense medium around us, Miriam and Donatello and
their friends hadn't the virtue that shines or pushes through. I tried
to feel that this _constatation_ left me musing--and perhaps in truth it
did; though doubtless if my attachment to the arranger of those images
had involved, to repeat, my not budging, my meditation, whatever it was,
respected that condition.

It has renewed itself, however, but too much on this spot, and the scene
viewed from Ashburton Place claims at the best more filling in than I
can give it. Any illustration of anything worth illustrating has beauty,
to my vision, largely by its developments; and developments, alas, are
the whole flowering of the plant, while what really meets such attention
as one may hope to beguile is at the best but a plucked and tossed sprig
or two. That my elder brother was during these months away with
Professor Agassiz, a member of the party recruited by that great
naturalist for a prolonged exploration of Brazil, is one of the few
blooms, I see, that I must content myself with detaching--the main sense
of it being for myself, no doubt, that his absence (and he had never
been at anything like such a distance from us,) left me the more
exposed, and thereby the more responsive, to contact with impressions
that had to learn to suffice for me in their uncorrected, when not still
more in their inspiringly emphasised, state. The main sense for William
himself is recorded in a series of letters from him addressed to us at
home and for which, against my hope, these pages succeed in affording no
space--they are to have ampler presentation; but the arrival of which at
irregular intervals for the greater part of a year comes back to me as
perhaps a fuller enrichment of my consciousness than it owed for the
time to any other single source. We all still hung so together that this
replete organ could yet go on helping itself, with whatever awkwardness,
from the conception or projection of others of a like _general_ strain,
such as those of one's brothers might appear; thanks to which constant
hum of borrowed experience, in addition to the quicker play of whatever
could pass as more honestly earned, my stage of life knew no drop of the
curtain. I literally came and went, I had never practised such coming
and going; I went in particular, during summer weeks, and even if
carrying my general difficulty with me, to the White Mountains of New
Hampshire, with some repetition, and again and again back to Newport, on
visits to John La Farge and to the Edmund Tweedys (_their_ house almost
a second summer home to us;) to say nothing of winter attempts, a little
weak, but still more or less achieved, upon New York--which city was
rapidly taking on the capital quality, the large worldly sense that
dear old London and dear old Paris, with other matters in hand for them
as time went on, the time they were "biding" for me, indulgently didn't
grudge it. The matters they had in hand wandered indeed as stray vague
airs across to us--this I think I have noted; but Boston itself could
easily rule, in default even of New York, when to "go," in particular,
was an act of such easy virtue. To go from Ashburton Place was to go
verily round the corner not less than further afield; to go to the
Athenæum, to the Museum, to a certain door of importances, in fact of
immensities, defiant of vulgar notation, in Charles Street, at the
opposite end from Beacon. The fruit of these mixed proceedings I found
abundant at the time, and I think quite inveterately sweet, but to
gather it in again now--by which I mean set it forth as a banquet for
imaginations already provided--would be to presume too far; not least
indeed even on my own cultivated art of exhibition. The fruit of golden
youth is all and always golden--it touches to gold what it gathers; this
was so the essence of the case that in the first place everything was in
some degree an adventure, and in the second any differences of degree
guiding my selection would be imperceptible at this end of time to the
cold eye of criticism. Not least moreover in the third place the very
terms would fail, under whatever ingenuity, for my really justifying so
bland an account of the period at large. Do I speak of it as a thumping
sum but to show it in the small change, the handful of separate copper
and silver coin, the scattered occasions reduced to their individual
cash value, that, spread upon the table as a treasure of reminiscence,
might only excite derision? _Why_ was "staying at Newport" so absurdly,
insistently romantic, romantic out of all proportion, as we say--why
unless I can truly tell in proportion to what it became so? It consisted
often in my "sitting" to John La Farge, within his own precincts and in
the open air of attenuated summer days, and lounging thereby just
passive to the surge of culture that broke upon me in waves the most
desultory and disjointed, it was true, but to an absolute effect of
unceasingly scented spray. Particular hours and old (that is young!)
ineffable reactions come back to me; it's like putting one's ear,
doctor-fashion, to the breast of time--or say as the subtle savage puts
his to the ground--and catching at its start some vibratory hum that has
been going on more or less for the fifty years since. Newport, the
barren isle of our return from Europe, had thus become--and at no such
great expense if the shock of public affairs, everywhere making
interests start to their feet, be counted out of the process--a source
of fifty suggestions to me; which it would have been much less,
however, I hasten to add, if the call of La Farge hadn't worked in with
our other most standing attraction, and this in turn hadn't practically
been part of the positive affluence of certain elements of spectacle.
Why again I should have been able to see the pictorial so freely
suggested, that pictorial which was ever for me the dramatic, the
social, the effectively human aspect, would be doubtless a baffling
inquiry in presence of the queer and dear old phenomena themselves;
those that, taken together, may be described at the best, I suppose,
rather as a much-mixed grope or halting struggle, call it even a
competitive scramble, toward the larger, the ideal elegance, the
traditional forms of good society in possession, than as a presentation
of great noble assurances.

Spectacle in any case broke out, spectacle accumulated, by our then
measure, many thicknesses deep, flushing in the sovereign light, as one
felt it, of the waning Rhode Island afternoons of August and September
with the most "evolved" material civilisation our American world could
then show; the vividest note of this in those years, unconscious, even
to an artless innocence, of the wider wings still to spread, being the
long daily _corso_ or processional drive (with cavaliers and amazons not
otherwise than conveniently intermixed,) which, with a different
direction for different days, offered doubtless as good an example of
that gregarious exercise at any cost distinguishing "fashionable life"
as was anywhere on the globe to be observed. The price paid for the
sticking together was what emphasised, I mean, the wondrous resolve to
stick, however scant and narrow and unadjusted for processional effect
the various fields of evolution. The variety moreover was short, just as
the incongruities of composition in the yearning array were marked; but
the tender grace of old sunset hours, the happier breadth of old shining
sands under favour of friendly tides, the glitter _quand même_ of
"caparisoned" animals, appointed vehicles and approved charioteers, to
say nothing of the other and more freely exchanged and interrelated
brightnesses then at play (in the softer ease of women, the more
moustachio'd swagger of men, the braver bonhomie of the social aspect at
large), melted together for fond fancy into a tone, a rhythm, a
representational virtue charged, as to the amenities, with authority.
The amenities thus sought their occasion to multiply even to the sound
of far cannonades, and I well remember at once reflecting, in such
maturity as I could muster, that the luckier half of a nation able to
carry a huge war-burden without sacrifice of amusement might well
overcome the fraction that had to feed but on shrinkage and privation;
at the same time that the so sad and handsome face of the most frequent
of our hostesses, Mary Temple the elder as she had been, now the apt
image of a stern priestess of the public altar, was to leave with me for
the years to come the grand expression and tragic irony of its revulsion
from those who, offering us some high entertainment during days of
particular tension, could fiddle, as she scathingly said, while Rome was
burning. Blest again the state of youth which could appreciate that
admirable look and preserve it for illustration of one of the forms of
ancient piety lost to us, and yet at the same time stow away as part of
the poetry of the general drama just the luxury and pride, overhanging
summer seas and projecting into summer nights great shafts of light and
sound, that prompted the noble scorn. The "round of pleasure" all this
with a grand good conscience of course--for it always in the like case
has that, had it at least when arranging performances, dramatic and
musical, at ever so much a ticket, under the advantage of rare amateur
talent, in aid of the great Sanitary Commission that walked in the
footsteps and renewed in various forms the example of Florence
Nightingale; these exhibitions taking place indeed more particularly in
the tributary cities, New York, Philadelphia, Boston (we were then shut
up to those,) but with the shining stars marked for triumphant
appearance announced in advance on the Newport scene and glittering
there as beauties, as élégantes, as vocalists, as heroines of European
legend. Hadn't there broken upon us, under public stress, a refluent
wave from Paris, the mid-Empire Paris of the highest pitch, which was to
raise our social water-mark to a point unprecedented and there
strikingly leave it? We were learning new lessons in every branch--that
was the sense of the so immensely quickened general pace; and though my
examples may seem rather spectral I like to believe this bigger
breathing of the freshness of the future to have been what the
collective rumble and shimmer of the whole business most meant. It
exhaled an artless confidence which yet momently increased; it had no
great sense of a direction, but gratefully took any of which the least
hint was given, gathering up by the way and after the fact whatever
account of itself a vague voice might strike off. There were times when
the account of itself as flooding Lawton's Valley for afternoon tea was
doubtless what it would most comfortably have welcomed--Lawton's Valley,
at a good drive's length from the seaward quarter, being the scene of
villeggiatura of the Boston muse, as it were, and the Boston muse
having in those after all battle-haunted seasons an authority and a
finish of accent beyond any other Tyrtaean strain. The New York and
perhaps still more the Philadelphia of the time fumbled more helplessly,
even if aspiringly, with the Boston evidences in general, I think, than
they were to be reduced to doing later on; and by the happy pretext,
certainly, that these superior signs had then a bravery they were not
perhaps on their own side indefinitely to keep up.

They rustled, with the other leafage of the umbrageous grove, in the
summer airs that hung over the long tea-tables; afternoon tea was itself
but a new and romantic possibility, with the lesson of it gratefully
learnt at hands that dispensed, with the tea and sugar and in the
charmingest voice perhaps then to be heard among us, a tone of talk that
New York took for exotic and inimitable, yet all the more felt "good,"
much better than it might if left _all_ to itself, for thus flocking in
every sort of conveyance to listen to. The Valley was deep, winding and
pastoral--or at least looks so now to my attached vision; the infancy of
a finer self-consciousness seemed cradled there; the inconsequent
vehicles fraternised, the dim, the more dejected, with the burnished and
upstanding; so that I may really perhaps take most for the note of the
hour the first tremor of the sense on the part of fashion that, if it
could, as it already more or less suspected, get its thinking and
reading and writing, almost everything in fact but its arithmetic, a bit
dingily, but just by that sign cleverly, done for it, so occasion seemed
easy, after all, for a nearer view, without responsibility, of the odd
performers of the service. When these last were not literally all
Bostonians they were New Yorkers who might have been mistaken for
such--never indeed by Bostonians themselves, but only by other New
Yorkers, the rich and guileless; so the effect as of a vague tribute to
culture the most authentic (if I speak not too portentously) was left
over for the aftertaste of simple and subtle alike. Those were
comparatively thin seasons, I recognise, in the so ample career of Mrs.
Howe, mistress of the Valley and wife of the eminent, the militant
Phil-Hellene, Dr. S. G. of the honoured name, who reached back to the
Byronic time and had dedicated his own later to still more distinguished
liberating work on behalf of deaf mutes; for if she was thus the most
attuned of interlocutors, most urbane of disputants, most insidious of
wits, even before her gathered fame as Julia Ward and the established
fortune of her elegant Battle-Hymn, she was perhaps to have served the
State scarce better through final organised activities and shining
optimisms and great lucky lyric hits than by having in her vale of
heterogeneous hospitality undermined the blank assurance of her thicker
contingent--after all too but to an _amusing_ vague unrest--and thereby
scattered the first rare seed of new assimilations. I am moved to add
that, by the old terminology, the Avenue might have been figured, in the
connection, as descending into the glen to meet the Point--which, save
for a very small number of the rarest representatives of the latter, it
could meet nowhere else. The difficulty was that of an encounter of
birds and fishes; the two tribes were native to elements as opposed as
air and water, the Avenue essentially nothing if not exalted on wheels
or otherwise expertly mounted, and the Point hopelessly pedestrian and
unequipped with stables, so that the very levels at which they
materially moved were but upper and lower, dreadfully lower, parallels.
And indeed the way to see the Point--which, without playing on the word,
naturally became our highest law--was at the Point, where it appeared to
much higher advantage than in its trudge through the purple haze or
golden dust of supercilious parades. Of the advantage to which it did so
appear, off in its own more languorous climate and on its own ground, we
fairly cultivated a conviction, rejoicing by that aid very much as in
certain old French towns it was possible to distinguish invidiously the
Ville from the Cité. The Point was our _cité_, the primal aboriginal
Newport--which, striking us on a first acquaintance as not other than
dilapidated, might well have been "restored" quite as M. Viollet-le-Duc
was even then restoring Carcassonne; and this all the more because our
elder Newport, the only seat of history, had a dismantled grassy fort or
archaic citadel that dozed over the waterside and that might (though I
do take the vision, at close quarters, for horrible) be smartly waked
up. The waterside, which was that of the inner bay, the ample reach
toward Providence, so much more susceptible of quality than the
extravagant open sea, the "old houses," the old elms, the old Quaker
faces at the small-paned old windows, the appointedness of the scene for
the literary and artistic people, who, by our fond constructive theory,
lodged and boarded with the Quakers, always thrifty these, for the sake
of all the sweetness and quaintness, for the sake above all somehow of
_our_ hungry felicity of view, by which I mean mine and that of a trusty
friend or two, T. S. Perry in especial--those attributes, meeting a
want, as the phrase is, of the decent imagination, made us perhaps
overdramatise the sphere of the clever people, but made them at least
also, when they unmistakably hovered, affect us as truly the finest
touches in the picture. For they were in their way ironic about the
rest, and that was a tremendous lift in face of an Avenue that not only,
as one could see at a glance, had no irony, but hadn't yet risen, the
magazines and the Point aiding, to so much as a suspicion of the effect,
familiar to later generations, with which the word can conversationally
come in. Oh the old clever people, with their difference of shade from
that of the clever old ones--some few of these to have been discerned,
no doubt, as of Avenue position: I read back into their various
presences I know not what queer little functional value the exercise and
privilege of which, uncontested, uncontrasted (save with the absence of
everything but stables) represents a felicity for the individual that is
lost to our age. It could count as functional then, it could count as
felicitous, to have been reabsorbed into Boston, or to propose to absorb
even, for the first time, New York, under cover of the mantle, the old
artistic draped cloak, that had almost in each case trailed round in
Florence, in Rome, in Venice, in conversations with Landor, in pencilled
commemoration, a little niggling possibly but withal so sincere, of the
"haunts" of Dante, in a general claim of having known the Brownings (ah
"the Brownings" of those days!) in a disposition to arrange readings of
these and the most oddly associated other poets about the great bleak
parlours of the hotels. I despair, however, of any really right register
of the art with which the cité ingratiated itself with me in this
character of a vivid missionary Bohemia; I met it of course more than
half way, as I met everything in the faintest degree ingratiating, even
suggesting to it with an art of my own that it should become so--though
in this matter I rather missed, I fear, a happy conversion, as if the
authenticity were there but my sort of personal dash too absent.

I appear to myself none the less to have had dash for approaches to a
confidence more largely seated; since I recall how, having commenced
critic under Charles Norton's weighty protection, I was to find myself,
on all but the very morrow, invited to the high glory, as I felt it, of
aiding to launch, though on the obscurer side of the enterprise, a
weekly journal which, putting forth its first leaves in the summer of
'65 and under the highest auspices, was soon to enjoy a fortune and
achieve an authority and a dignity of which neither newspaper nor
critical review among us had hitherto so much as hinted the possibility.
The New York Nation had from the first, to the enlivening of several
persons consciously and ruefully astray in our desert, made no secret of
a literary leaning; and indeed its few foremost months shine most for
me in the light of their bestowal of one of the longest and happiest
friendships of my life, a relation with Edwin Lawrence Godkin, the
Nation incarnate as he was to become, which bore fruit of affection for
years after it had ceased to involve the comparatively poorer exercise.
Godkin's paper, Godkin's occasional presence and interesting history and
vivid ability and, above all, admirably aggressive and ironic editorial
humour, of a quality and authority new in the air of a journalism that
had meant for the most part the heavy hand alone, these things, with the
sudden sweet discovery that I might for my own part acceptedly stammer a
style, are so many shades and shifting tints in the positive historic
iridescence that flings itself for my memory, as I have noted, over the
"period" of Ashburton Place. Wherever I dip, again, I pull out a plum
from under the tooth of time--this at least so to my own rapt sense that
had I more space I might pull both freely and at a venture. The
strongest savour of the feast--with the fumes of a feast it comes
back--was, I need scarce once more insist, the very taste of the War as
ending and ended; through which blessing, more and more, the quantity of
military life or at least the images of military experience seemed all
about us, quite paradoxically, to grow greater. This I take to have been
a result, first of the impending, and then of the effective, break-up
of the vast veteran Army, swamping much of the scene as with the flow of
a monster tide and bringing literally home to us, in bronzed, matured
faces and even more in bronzed, matured characters, above all in the
absolutely acquired and stored resource of overwhelming reference,
reference usually of most substance the less it was immediately
explicit, the more in fact it was faded and jaded to indifference, what
was meant by having patiently served. The very smell of having so served
was somehow, at least to my super-sensitive nostril, in the larger and
cooler air, where it might have been an emanation, the most masculine,
the most communicative as to associated far-off things (according to the
nature, ever, of elements vaguely exhaled), from the operation of the
general huge gesture of relief--from worn toggery put off, from old
army-cloth and other fittings at a discount, from swordbelts and
buckles, from a myriad saturated articles now not even lying about but
brushed away with an effect upon the passing breeze and all relegated to
the dim state of some mere theoretic commemorative panoply that was
never in the event to be objectively disposed. The generalisation grew
richly or, as it were, quite adorably familiar, that life was ever so
handsomely reinforced, and manners, not to say manner at large,
refreshed, and personal aspects and types accented, and categories
multiplied (no category, for the dreaming painter of things, could our
scene afford not to grab at on the chance), just by the fact of the
discharge upon society of such an amount of out-of-the-way experience,
as it might roughly be termed--such a quantity and variety of possession
and assimilation of unprecedented history. It had been unprecedented at
least among ourselves, we had had it in our own highly original
conditions--or "they," to be more exact, had had it admirably in theirs;
and I think I was never to know a case in which his having been directly
touched by it, or, in a word, having consistently "soldiered," learnt
all about it and exhausted it, wasn't to count all the while on behalf
of the happy man for one's own individual impression or attention; call
it again, as everything came back to that, one's own need to interpret.
The discharge upon "society" is moreover what I especially mean; it
being the sense of how society in _our_ image of the word was taking it
all in that I was most concerned with; plenty of other images figured of
course for other entertainers of such. The world immediately roundabout
us at any rate bristled with more of the young, or the younger, cases I
speak of, cases of "things seen" and felt, and a delectable difference
in the man thereby made imputable, than I could begin here to name even
had I kept the record. I think I fairly cultivated the perceiving of it
all, so that nothing of it, under some face or other, shouldn't brush my
sense and add to my impression; yet my point is more particularly that
the body social itself was for the time so permeated, in the light I
glance at, that it became to its own consciousness more interesting. As
so many existent parts of it, however unstoried yet, to their minor
credit, various thrilled persons could inhale the interest to their
fullest capacity and feel that they too had been pushed forward--and
were even to find themselves by so much the more pushable yet.

I resort thus to the lift and the push as the most expressive figures
for that immensely _remonté_ state which coincided for us all with the
great disconcerting irony of the hour, the unforgettable death of
Lincoln. I think of the springtime of '65 as it breathed through Boston
streets--my remembrance of all those days is a matter, strangely enough,
of the out-of-door vision, of one's constantly dropping down from Beacon
Hill, to the brave edge of which we clung, for appreciation of those
premonitory gusts of April that one felt most perhaps where Park Street
Church stood dominant, where the mouth of the Common itself uttered
promises, more signs and portents than one could count, more prodigies
than one could keep apart, and where further strange matters seemed to
charge up out of the lower districts and of the "business world,"
generative as never before of news. The streets were restless, the
meeting of the seasons couldn't but be inordinately so, and one's own
poor pulses matched--at the supreme pitch of that fusion, for instance,
which condensed itself to blackness roundabout the dawn of April 15th: I
was fairly to go in shame of its being my birthday. These would have
been the hours of the streets if none others had been--when the huge
general gasp filled them like a great earth-shudder and people's eyes
met people's eyes without the vulgarity of speech. Even this was, all so
strangely, part of the lift and the swell, as tragedy has but to be of a
pure enough strain and a high enough connection to sow with its dark
hand the seed of greater life. The collective sense of what had occurred
was of a sadness too noble not somehow to inspire, and it was truly in
the air that, whatever we had as a nation produced or failed to produce,
we could at least gather round this perfection of a classic woe. True
enough, as we were to see, the immediate harvest of our loss was almost
too ugly to be borne--for nothing more sharply comes back to me than the
tune to which the "esthetic sense," if one glanced but from _that_ high
window (which was after all one of many too), recoiled in dismay from
the sight of Mr. Andrew Johnson perched on the stricken scene. We had
given ourselves a figure-head, and the figure-head sat there in its
habit as it lived, and we were to have it in our eyes for three or four
years and to ask ourselves in horror what monstrous thing we had done. I
speak but of aspects, those aspects which, under a certain turn of them,
may be all but everything; gathered together they become a symbol of
what is behind, and it was open to us to waver at shop-windows exposing
the new photograph, exposing, that is, _the_ photograph, and ask
ourselves what we had been guilty of as a people, when all was said, to
deserve the infliction of that form. It was vain to say that we had
deliberately invoked the "common" in authority and must drink the wine
we had drawn. No countenance, no salience of aspect nor composed symbol,
could superficially have referred itself less than Lincoln's
mould-smashing mask to any mere matter-of-course type of propriety; but
his admirable unrelated head had itself revealed a type--as if by the
very fact that what made in it for roughness of kind looked out only
less than what made in it for splendid final stamp, in other words for
commanding Style. The result thus determined had been precious for
representation, and above all for fine suggestional function, in a
degree that left behind every medal we had ever played at striking;
whereas before the image now substituted representation veiled her head
in silence and the element of the suggested was exactly the direst.
What, however, on the further view, was to be more refreshing than to
find that there were excesses of native habit which truly we couldn't
bear? so that it was for the next two or three years fairly sustaining
to consider that, let the reasons publicly given for the impeachment of
the official in question be any that would serve, the grand inward logic
or mystic law had been that we really couldn't go on offering each other
before the nations the consciousness of such a presence. That was at any
rate the style of reflection to which the humiliating case reduced me;
just this withal now especially working, I feel, into that image of our
generally quickened activity of spirit, our having by the turn of events
more ideas to apply and even to play with, that I have tried to throw
off. Everything I recover, I again risk repeating, fits into the vast
miscellany--the detail of which I may well seem, however, too poorly to
have handled.

Let it serve then for a scrap of detail that the appearance of William's
further fortune enjoyed thereabouts a grasp of my attention scarce
menaced even by the call on that faculty of such appearances of my own
as I had naturally in some degree also to take for graces of the
banquet. I associate the sense of his being, in a great cause, far away
on the billow with that clearance of the air through the tremendous
draught, from sea to sea, of the Northern triumph, which seemed to make
a good-natured infinitude of room for all the individual interests and
personal lives that might help the pot to bubble--if the expression be
not too mean for the size of our confidence; that the cause on which the
Agassiz expedition to South America embarked _was_ of the greatest being
happily a presumption altogether within my scope. It reawoke the mild
divinatory rage with which I had followed, with so little to show for
it, the military fortune of my younger brothers--feeding the gentle
passion indeed, it must be added, thanks to the letter-writing grace of
which the case had now the benefit, with report and picture of a
vividness greater than any ever to be shed from a like source upon our
waiting circle. Everything of the kind, for me, was company; but I
dwelt, for that matter and as I put it all together, in company so
constant and so enchanting that this amounted to moving, in whatever
direction, with the mass--more and more aware as I was of the "fun" (to
express it grossly) of living by my imagination and thereby finding that
company, in countless different forms, could only swarm about me.
Seeing further into the figurable world _made_ company of persons and
places, objects and subjects alike: it gave them all without exception
chances to be somehow or other interesting, and the imaginative ply of
finding interest once taken (I think I had by that time got much beyond
looking for it), the whole conspiracy of aspects danced round me in a
ring. It formed, by my present vision of it, a shining escort to one's
possibly often hampered or mystified, but never long stayed and
absolutely never wasted, steps; it hung about, after the fashion of
winter evening adumbrations just outside the reach of the lamplight,
while one sat writing, reading, listening, watching--perhaps even again,
incurably, but dawdling and gaping; and most of all doubtless, if it
supplied with colour people and things often by themselves, I dare say,
neutral enough, how it painted thick, how it fairly smothered, any
surface that did it the turn of showing positive and intrinsic life! Ah
the things and the people, the hours and scenes and circumstances, the
_inénarrables_ occasions and relations, that I might still present in
its light if I would, and with the enormous advantage now (for this I
should unblushingly claim), of being able to mark for present irony or
pity or wonder, or just for a better intelligence, or again for the high
humour or extreme strangeness of the thing, the rare indebtedness,
calculated by the long run, in which it could leave particular cases!
This necessity I was under that everything should be interesting--for
fear of the collapse otherwise of one's sustaining intention--would have
confessed doubtless to a closest connection, of all the connections,
with the small inkpot in which I seemed at last definitely destined to
dip to the exclusion of any stream more Pactolean: a modest manner of
saying that difficulty and slowness of composition were clearly by this
time not in the least appointed to blight me, however inveterate they
were likely to prove; that production, such as it was, floundered on in
spite of them; and that, to put it frankly, if I enjoyed as much company
as I have said no small part of it was of my very own earning. The
freshness of first creations--since we are exalted, in art, to these
arrogant expressions--never fails, I take it, to beguile the creator, in
default of any other victim, even to the last extravagance; so that what
happened was that one found all the swarm of one's intentions, one's
projected images, quite "good enough" to mix with the rest of one's
society, setting up with it terms of interpenetration, an admirable
commerce of borrowing and lending, taking and giving, not to say
stealing and keeping. Did it verily _all_, this freshness of felt
contact, of curiosity and wonder, come back perhaps to certain small and
relatively ridiculous achievements of "production" as aforesaid?--ridiculous
causes, I mean, of such prodigious effects. I am divided between the
shame on the one hand of claiming for them, these concocted "short
stories," that they played so great a part, and a downright admiring
tenderness on the other for their holding up their stiff little heads in
such a bustle of life and traffic of affairs. I of course really and
truly cared for them, as we say, more than for aught else
whatever--cared for them with that kind of care, infatuated though it
may seem, that makes it bliss for the fond votary never to so much as
speak of the loved object, makes it a refinement of piety to perform his
rites under cover of a perfect freedom of mind as to everything _but_
them. These secrets of the imaginative life were in fact more various
than I may dream of trying to tell; they referred to actual concretions
of existence as well as to the supposititious; the joy of life indeed,
drawbacks and all, was just in the constant quick flit of association,
to and fro, and through a hundred open doors, between the two great
chambers (if it be not absurd, or even base, to separate them) of direct
and indirect experience. If it is of the great comprehensive _fusion_
that I speak as the richest note of all those hours, what could truly
have been more in the sense of it than exactly such a perfect muddle of
pleasure for instance as my having (and, as I seem to remember, at his
positive invitation) addressed the most presuming as yet of my fictional
bids to my distinguished friend of a virtual lifetime, as he was to
become, William Dean Howells, whom I rejoice to name here and who had
shortly before returned from a considerable term of exile in Venice and
was in the act of taking all but complete charge of the Boston
"Atlantic"? The confusion was, to be plain, of more things than can hope
to go into my picture with any effect of keeping distinct there--the
felt felicity, literally, in my performance, the felt ecstasy, the still
greater, in my receipt of Howells's message; and then, naturally, most
of all, the at once to be recorded blest violence in the break upon my
consciousness of his glittering response after perusal.

There was still more in it all than that, however--which is the point of
my mild demonstration; I associate the passage, to press closer, with a
long summer, from May to November, spent at the then rural retreat of
Swampscott, forty minutes by train northward from Boston, and that scene
of fermentation, in its turn, I invest with unspeakable memories. It was
the summer of '66 and of the campaign of Sadowa across the sea--we had
by that time got sufficiently away from our own campaigns to take some
notice of those of other combatants, on which we bestowed in fact, I
think, the highest competence of attention then anywhere at play; a
sympathetic sense that bore us even over to the Franco-German war four
years later and helped us to know what we meant when we "felt strongly"
about it. No strength of feeling indeed of which the vibration had
remained to us from the other time could have been greater than our
woe-stricken vision of the plight of France under the portent of Sedan;
I had been back to that country and some of its neighbourhoods for some
fifteen months during the previous interval, and I recover again no
share in a great collective pang more vividly than our particular
appalled state, that of a whole company of us, while we gaped out at the
cry of reiterated bulletins from the shade of an August verandah, and
then again from amid boskages of more immediate consolation, during the
Saratoga and the Newport seasons of 1870. I had happened to repair to
Saratoga, of all inconsequent places, on my return from the Paris and
the London of the weeks immediately preceding the war, and though it was
not there that the worst sound of the first crash reached us, I feel
around me still all the air of our dismay--which was, in the queerest
way in the world, that of something so alien mixed, to the increase of
horror, with something so cherished: the great hot glare of vulgarity of
the aligned hotels of the place and period drenching with its crude
light the apparent collapse of everything we had supposed most massive.
Which forward stretch on the part of this chronicle represents, I
recognise, the practice of the discursive well-nigh overmastering its
principle--or would do so, rather, weren't it that the fitful and the
flickering, the extravagant advance and the corrective retreat from it,
the law and the lovely art of foreshortening, have had here throughout
most to serve me. It is under countenance of that law that I still grasp
my capricious clue, making a jump for the moment over two or three years
and brushing aside by the way quite numberless appeals, claims upon
tenderness of memory not less than pleas for charm of interest, against
which I must steel myself, even though I account this rank disloyalty to
each. There is no quarter to which I have inclined in my brief recovery
of the high tide of impression flooding the "period" of Ashburton Place
that might not have drawn me on and on; so that I confess I feel myself
here drag my mantle, right and left, from the clutch of suppliant
hands--voluminous as it may doubtless yet appear in spite of my sense of
its raggedness. Wrapped in tatters it is therefore that, with three or
four of William's letters of '67 and '68 kept before me, I make my
stride, not only for the sake of what I still regard as their admirable
interest, but for the way they bring back again to me everything they
figured at the time, every flame of faith they rekindled, every gage
they held out for the future. Present for me are still others than these
in particular, which I keep over for another introducing, but even the
pages I here preserve overflow with connections--so many that,
extravagant as it may sound, I have to make an effort to breast them.
These are with a hundred matters of our then actual life--little as that
virtue may perhaps show on their face; but above all just with the huge
small fact that the writer was by the blest description "in Europe," and
that this had verily still its way of meaning for me more than aught
else beside. For what sprang in especial from his situation was the
proof, with its positive air, that a like, when all was said, might
become again one's own; that such luck wasn't going to be for evermore
perversely out of the question with us, and that in fine I too was
already in a manner transported by the intimacy with which I partook of
his having been. I shouldn't have overstated it, I think, in saying that
I really preferred such a form of experience (of this particular one) to
the simpler--given most of our current conditions; there was somehow a
greater richness, a larger accession of knowledge, vision, life,
whatever one might have called it, in "having him there," as we said,
and in my individually getting the good of this with the peculiar degree
of ease that reinforced the general quest of a special sufficiency of
that boon to which I was during those years rigidly, and yet on the
whole by no means abjectly, reduced.

Our parents had in the autumn of '66 settled, virtually for the rest of
their days, at Cambridge, and William had concomitantly with this, that
is from soon after his return from Brazil, entered upon a season of
study at the Harvard Medical School, then keeping its terms in Boston
and under the wide wing of--as one supposed it, or as I at any rate
did--the Massachusetts General Hospital. I have to disengage my mantle
here with a force in which I invite my reader to believe--for I push
through a thicket of memories in which the thousand-fingered branches
arrestingly catch; otherwise I should surrender, and with a passionate
sense of the logic in it, to that long and crowded Swampscott summer at
which its graceless name has already failed to keep me from having
glanced. The place, smothered in a dense prose of prosperity now, may
have been even in those days, by any high measure, a weak enough apology
for an offered breast of Nature: nevertheless it ministered to me as
the only "American country" save the silky Newport fringes with which my
growing imagination, not to mention my specious energy, had met at all
continuous occasion to play--so that I should have but to let myself go
a little, as I say, to sit up to my neck again in the warm depth of its
deposit. Out of this I should lift great handfuls of variety of vision;
it was to have been in its way too a season of coming and going, and
with its main mark, I make out, that it somehow absurdly flowered, first
and last, into some intenser example of every sort of intimation up to
then vouchsafed me, whether by the inward or the outward life. I think
of it thus as a big bouquet of blooms the most mixed--yet from which it
is to the point just here to detach the sole reminiscence, coloured to a
shade I may not reproduce, of a day's excursion to see my brother up at
the Hospital. Had I not now been warned off too many of the prime images
brought, for their confusion, to the final proof, I should almost risk
ever so briefly "evoking" the impression this mere snatch was to leave
with me, the picture as of sublime activities and prodigious
possibilities, of genial communities of consideration and acquisition,
all in a great bright porticoed and gardened setting, that was to hang
itself in my crazy cabinet for as long as the light of the hour might
allow. I put my hand on the piece still--in its now so deeply obscured
corner; though the true point of my reference would seem to be in the
fact that if William studied medicine long enough to qualify and to take
his degree (so as to have become as roundedly "scientific" as possible)
he was yet immediately afterwards, by one of those quick shifts of the
scene with which we were familiar, beginning philosophic study in
Germany and again writing home letters of an interest that could be but
re-emphasised by our having him planted out as a reflector of
impressions where impressions were both strong and as different as
possible from those that more directly beat upon us. I myself could do
well enough with these last, I may parenthesise, so long as none others
were in question; but that complacency shrank just in proportion as we
were reached by the report of difference and of the foreign note, the
report particularly favourable--which was indeed what any and every
report perforce appeared to me. William's, from anywhere, had ever an
authority for me that attended none others; even if this be not the
place for more than a word of light on the apparent disconnection of his
actual course. It comes back to me that the purpose of practising
medicine had at no season been flagrant in him, and he was in fact, his
hospital connection once over, never to practise for a day. He was on
the other hand to remain grateful for his intimate experience of the
laboratory and the clinic, and I was as constantly to feel that the
varieties of his application had been as little wasted for him as those
of my vagueness had really been for me. His months at Dresden and his
winter in Berlin were of a new variety--this last even with that tinge
of the old in it which came from his sharing quarters with T. S. Perry,
who, his four years at Harvard ended and his ensuing grand tour of
Europe, as then comprehensively carried out, performed, was giving the
Universities of Berlin and Paris a highly competent attention. To
whatever else of method may have underlain the apparently lawless strain
of our sequences I should add the action of a sharp lapse of health on
my brother's part which the tension of a year at the dissecting table
seemed to have done much to determine; as well as the fond fact that
Europe was again from that crisis forth to take its place for us as a
standing remedy, a regular mitigation of all suffered, or at least of
all wrong, stress. Of which remarks but a couple of letters addressed to
myself, I have to recognise, form here the occasion; these only, in that
order, have survived the accidents of time, as I the more regret that I
have in my mind's eye still much of the matter of certain others;
notably of one from Paris (on his way further) recounting a pair of
evenings at the theatre, first for the younger Dumas and Les Idées de
Madame Aubray, with Pasca and Delaporte, this latter of an exquisite
truth to him, and then for something of the Palais Royal with _four_
comedians, as he emphatically noted, who were each, wonderful to say,
"de la force of Warren of the Boston Museum." He spent the summer of '67
partly in Dresden and partly at Bad-Teplitz in Bohemia, where he had
been recommended the waters; he was to return for these again after a
few months and was also to seek treatment by hydropathy at the
establishment of Divonne, in the French back-country of Lake Leman,
where a drawing sent home in a letter, and which I do my best to
reproduce, very comically represents him as surrounded by the listening
fair. I remember supposing even his Dresden of the empty weeks to
bristle with precious images and every form of local character--this a
little perhaps because of his treating us first of all to a pair of
whimsical crayoned views of certain animated housetops seen from his
window. It is the old names in the old letters, however, that now always
most rewrite themselves to my eyes in colour--shades alas that defy
plain notation, and if the two with which the following begins, and
especially the first of them, only asked me to tell their story I but
turn my back on the whole company of which they are part.

     ...I got last week an excellent letter from Frank Washburn who
     writes in such a manly way. But the greatest delight I've had was
     the loan of 5 Weekly Transcripts from Dick Derby. It's strange how
     quickly one grows away from one's old surroundings. I never should
     have believed that in so few months the tone of a Boston paper
     would seem so outlandish to me. As it was, I was in one squeal of
     amusement, surprise and satisfaction until deep in the night, when
     I went to bed tired out with patriotism. The boisterous animal
     good-humour, familiarity, reckless energy and self-confidence,
     unprincipled optimism, esthetic saplessness and intellectual
     imbecility, made a mixture hard to characterise, but totally
     different from the tone of things here and, as the Germans would
     say, whose "Existenz so völlig dasteht," that there was nothing to
     do but to let yourself feel it. The Americans themselves here too
     amuse me much; they have such a hungry, restless look and seem so
     unhooked somehow from the general framework. The other afternoon as
     I was sitting on the Terrace, a gentleman and two young ladies came
     and sat down quite near me. I knew them for Americans at a glance,
     and the man interested me by his exceedingly American expression: a
     reddish moustache and tuft on chin, a powerful nose, a small light
     eye, half insolent and _all_ sagacious, and a sort of rowdy air of
     superiority that made me proud to claim him as a brother. In a few
     minutes I recognised him as General M'Clellan, rather different
     from his photographs of the War-time, but still not to be mistaken
     (and I afterwards learned he is here). Whatever his faults may be
     that of not being "one of us" is not among them.

This next is the note of a slightly earlier impression.

     The Germans are certainly a most gemüthlich people. The way all the
     old women told me how "freundlich" their rooms were--"so freundlich
     mobilirt" and so forth--melted my heart. Whenever you tell an
     inferior here to do anything (_e.g._ a cabman) he or she replies
     "Schön!" or rather "Schehn!" with an accent not quick like a
     Frenchman's "Bien!" but so protracted, soothing and reassuring to
     you that you feel as if he were adopting you into his family. You
     say I've said nothing of the people of this house, but there is
     nothing to tell about them. The Doctor is an open-hearted excellent
     man as ever was, and wrapped up in his children; Frau Semler is a
     sickly, miserly, petty-spirited nonentity. The children are quite
     uninteresting, though the younger, Anna or Aennchen, aged five, is
     very handsome and fat. The following short colloquy, which I
     overheard one day after breakfast a few days since, may serve you
     as a piece of local colour. Aennchen drops a book she is carrying
     across the room and exclaims "Herr Jesus!"

     Mother: "Ach, das sagen _Kinder_ nicht, Anna!"

     Aennchen (reflectively to herself, sotto voce): "Nicht fur Kinder!"
     ...

What here follows from Divonne--of fourteen months later--is too full
and too various to need contribution or comment.

     You must have envied within the last few weeks my revisiting of the
     sacred scenes of our youth, the shores of Leman, the Ecu de Genève,
     the sloping Corraterie, etc. My only pang in it all has been caused
     by your absence, or rather by the fact of my presence instead of
     yours; for I think your abstemious and poetic soul would have got
     much more good of the things I've seen than my hardening and
     definite-growing nature. I wrote a few words about Nürnberg to
     Alice from Montreux. I found that about as pleasant an impression
     as any I have had since being abroad--and this because I didn't
     expect it. The Americans at Dresden had told me it was quite
     uninteresting. I enclose you a few stereographs I got there--I
     don't know why, for they are totally irrelevant to the real effect
     of the place. This it would take Théophile Gautier to describe, so
     I renounce. It was strange to find how little I remembered at
     Geneva--I couldn't find the way I used to take up to the Academy,
     and the shops and houses of the Rue du Rhône visible from our old
     windows left me uncertain whether they were the same or new ones.
     Kohler has set up a new hotel on the Quai du Mont-Blanc--you
     remember he's the brother of our old Madame Buscarlet there; but I
     went for association's sake to the Écu. The dining-room was
     differently hung, and the only thing in my whole 24 hours in the
     place that stung me, so to speak, with memory, was that kind of
     chinese-patterned dessert-service we used to have. So runs the
     world away. I didn't try to look up Ritter, Chantre or any of ces
     messieurs, but started off here the next morning, where I have now
     been a week.

     [Illustration: "The cold water cure at Divonne--excellent for
     melancholia."--From a letter of William James (page 447)]

     My impression on gradually coming from a German into a French
     atmosphere of things was rather unexpected and not in all respects
     happy. I have been in Germany half amused and half impatient with
     the slowness of proceeding and the uncouthness of taste and
     expression that prevail there so largely in all things, but on
     exchanging it for the brightness and shipshapeness of these
     quasi-French arrangements of life and for the tart
     fire-cracker-like speech of those who make them I found myself
     inclined to retreat again on what I had left, and had for a few
     days quite a homesickness for the easy, ugly, substantial German
     ways. The "'tarnal" smartness in which the railway refreshment
     counters, for example, are dressed up, the tight waists and
     "tasteful" white caps of the female servants, the everlasting
     monsieur and madame, and especially the quickness and snappishness
     of enunciation, suggesting such an inward impatience, quite
     absurdly gave on my nerves. But I am getting used to it all, and
     the French people who sit near me here at table and who repelled me
     at first by the apparently cold-blooded artificiality of their
     address to each other, now seem less heartless and inhuman. I am
     struck more than ever I was with the hopelessness of us English,
     and a _fortiori_ the Germans, ever competing with the French in
     matters of form or finite taste of any sort. They are sensitive to
     things that simply don't exist for us. I notice it here in manners
     and speech: how can a people who speak with no tonic accents in
     their words _help_ being cleaner and neater in expressing
     themselves? On the other hand the limitations of _reach_ in the
     French mind strike me more and more; their delight in rallying
     round an official standard in all matters, in counting and dating
     everything from certain great names, their use and love of
     catchwords and current phrases, their sacrifice of independence of
     mind for the mere sake of meeting their hearer or reader on common
     ground, their metaphysical incapacity not only to deal with
     questions but to know what the questions are, stand out plainer and
     plainer the more headway I make in German. One wonders where the
     "Versöhnung" or conciliation of all these rival national qualities
     is going to take place. I imagine we English stand rather between
     the French and the Germans both in taste and in spiritual
     intuition. In Germany, while unable to avoid respecting that
     solidity of the national mind which causes such a mass of permanent
     work to be produced there annually, I couldn't help consoling
     myself by the thought that whatever, after all, they might _do_,
     the Germans were a plebeian crowd and could never _be_ such
     gentlemen as we were. I now find myself getting over the French
     superiority by an exactly inverse process of thought. The Frenchman
     must sneer at us even more than we sneer at the Germans--and which
     sneer is final, his at us two, or ours at him, or the Germans' at
     us? It seems an insoluble question, which I fortunately haven't got
     to settle.

     I've read several novels lately, some of the irrepressible
     George's: La Daniella and the Beaux Messieurs de Bois-Doré. (Was it
     thee, by the bye that wrotest the Nation notices on her, on W.
     Morris's new poem and on The Spanish Gypsy? They came to me
     unmarked, but the thoughts seemed such as you would entertain, and
     the style in some places like yours--in others not.) George Sand
     babbles her improvisations on so that I never begin to believe a
     word of what she says. I've also read The Woman in White, a couple
     of Balzac's, etc., and a volume of tales by Mérimée which I will
     send you if I can by Frank Washburn. He is a big man; but the
     things which have given me most pleasure have been some sketches of
     travel by Th. Gautier. What an absolute thing genius is! That this
     creature, with no more soul than a healthy poodle-dog, no
     philosophy, no morality, no information (for I doubt exceedingly if
     his knowledge of architectural terms and suchlike is accurate)
     should give one a finer enjoyment than his betters in all these
     respects by mere force of good-nature, clear eyesight and felicity
     of phrase! His style seems to me perfect, and I should think it
     would pay you to study it with love--principally in the most
     trivial of these collections of notes of travel. T. S. P. has a
     couple of them for you, and another, which I've read here and is
     called Caprices et Zigzags, is worth buying. It contains wonderful
     French (in the classic sense, I mean, with all those associations)
     descriptions of London. I'm not sure if you know Gautier at all
     save by the delicious Capitaine Fracasse. But these republished
     feuilletons are all of as charming a quality and I should think
     would last as long as the language.

     There are 70 or 80 people in this etablissement, no one of whom I
     have as yet particularly cottoned up to. It's incredible how even
     so slight a barrier as the difference of language with most of
     them, and still more as the absence of local and personal
     associations, range of gibes and other common ground to stand on,
     counts against one's scraping acquaintance. It's disgusting and
     humiliating. There is a lovely maiden of _etwa_ 19 sits in sight of
     me at the table with whom I am falling deeply in love. She has
     never looked at me yet, and I really believe I should be quite
     incapable of conversing with her even were I "introduced," from a
     sense of the above difficulties and because one doesn't know what
     subjects or allusions may be possible with a jeune fille. I suppose
     my life for the past year would have furnished you, as the great
     American nouvelliste, a good many "motives" and subjects of
     observation--especially so in this place. I wish I could pass them
     over to you--such as they are you'd profit by them more than I and
     gather in a great many more. I should like full well an hour's, or
     even longer, interview with you, and with the Parents and the
     Sister and the Aunt and all; just so as to start afresh on a clean
     basis. Give my love to Wendell Holmes. I've seen ---- ---- several
     times; but what a cold-blooded cuss he is! Write me your impression
     of T. S. P., who will probably reach you before this letter. If
     Frank Washburn ever gets home be friendly to him. He is much aged
     by travel and experience, and is a most charming character and
     generous mind.



XIII


If I add to the foregoing a few lines more from my brother's hand, these
are of a day separated by long years from that time of our youth of
which I have treated. Addressed after the immense interval to an
admirable friend whom I shall not name here, they yet so vividly
refer--and with something I can only feel as the first authority--to one
of the most prized interests of our youth that, under the need of still
failing to rescue so many of these values from the dark gulf, I find
myself insist the more on a place here, before I close, for that
presence in our early lives as to which my brother's few words say so
much. To have so promptly and earnestly spoken of Mary Temple the
younger in this volume is indeed I think to have offered a gage for my
not simply leaving her there. The opportunity not so to leave her comes
at any rate very preciously into my hands, and I can not better round
off this record than by making the most of it. The letter to which
William alludes is one that my reader will presently recognise. It had
come back to him thus clearly at the far end of time.

     I am deeply thankful to you for sending me this letter, which
     revives all sorts of poignant memories and makes her live again in
     all her lightness and freedom. Few spirits have been more free than
     hers. I find myself wishing so that she could know me as I am now.
     As for knowing her as _she_ is now--??!! I find that she means as
     much in the way of human character for me now as she ever did,
     being unique and with no analogue in all my subsequent experience
     of people. Thank you once more for what you have done.

The testimony so acknowledged was a letter in a copious succession, the
product of little more than one year, January '69 to February '70,
sacredly preserved by the recipient; who was not long after the day of
my brother's acknowledgment to do me the honour of communicating to me
the whole series. He could have done nothing to accord more with the
spirit in which I have tried to gather up something of the sense of our
far-off past, his own as well as that of the rest of us; and no loose
clue that I have been able to recover unaided touches into life anything
like such a tract of the time-smothered consciousness. More charming and
interesting things emerge for me than I can point to in their order--but
they will make, I think, their own appeal. It need only further be
premised that our delightful young cousin had had from some months back
to begin to reckon with the progressive pulmonary weakness of which the
letters tell the sad story. Also, I can scarce help saying, the whole
world of the old New York, that of the earlier dancing years, shimmers
out for me from the least of her allusions.

     I will write you as nice a letter as I can, but would much rather
     have a good talk with you. As I can't have the best thing I am
     putting up with the second-best, contrary to my pet theory. I feel
     as if I were in heaven to-day--all because the day is splendid and
     I have been driving about all the morning in a small sleigh in the
     fresh air and sunshine, until I found that I had in spite of
     myself, for the time being, stopped asking the usual inward
     question of why I was born. I am not going to Canada--I know no
     better reason for this than because I said I _was_ going. My
     brother-in-law makes such a clamour when I propose departure that I
     am easily overcome by his kindness and my own want of energy.
     Besides, it is great fun to live here; the weather just now is
     grand, and I knock about all day in a sleigh, and do nothing but
     enjoy it and meditate. Then we are so near town that we often go in
     for the day to shop and lunch with some of our numerous friends,
     returning with a double relish for the country. We all went in on a
     spree the other night and stayed at the Everett House; from which,
     as a starting-point we poured ourselves in strong force upon Mrs.
     Gracie King's ball--a very grand affair, given for a very pretty
     Miss King, at Delmonico's. Our raid consisted of thirteen Emmets
     and a moderate supply of Temples, and the ball was a great success.
     It was two years since I had been to one and I enjoyed it so much
     that I mean very soon to repeat the experiment--at the next
     Assembly if possible. The men in society, in New York, this winter,
     are principally a lot of feeble-minded boys; but I was fortunate
     enough to escape them, as my partner for the German was a man of
     thirty-five, the solitary _man_, I believe, in the room. Curiously
     enough, I had danced my last German, two years before, in that very
     place and with the same person. He is a Mr. Lee, who has spent
     nearly all his life abroad; two of his sisters have married German
     princes, and from knocking about so much he has become a thorough
     cosmopolite. As he is intelligent, with nothing to do but amuse
     himself, he is a very agreeable partner, and I mean to dance with
     him again as soon as possible. I don't know why I have tried your
     patience by writing so about a person you have never seen; unless
     it's to show you that I haven't irrevocably given up the world, the
     flesh and the devil, but am conscious of a faint charm about them
     still when taken in small doses. I agree with you perfectly about
     Uncle Henry--I should think he would be very irritating to the
     legal mind; he is not at all satisfactory even to mine. Have you
     seen much of Willy James lately? That is a rare creature, and one
     in whom my intellect, if you will pardon the misapplication of the
     word, takes more solid satisfaction than in almost anybody. I
     haven't read Browning's new book--I mean to wait till you are by to
     explain it to me--which reminds me, along with what you say about
     wishing for the spring, that we shall go to North Conway next
     summer, and that in that case you may as well make up your mind to
     come and see us there. I can't wait longer than that for the
     Browning readings. (Which would have been of The Ring and the
     Book.) Arthur Sedgwick has sent me Matthew Arnold's photograph,
     which Harry had pronounced so disappointing. I don't myself, on the
     whole, find it so; on the contrary, after having looked at it much,
     I like it--it quite harmonises with my notion of him, and I have
     always had an affection for him. You must tell me something that
     you are _sure_ is true--I don't care much what it may be, I will
     take your word for it. Things get into a muddle with me--how can I
     give you "a start on the way of righteousness"? You know that way
     better than I do, and the only advice I can give you is not to stop
     saying your prayers. I hope God may bless you, and beyond those
     things I hardly know what is right, and therefore what to wish you.
     Good-bye.

"North Conway" in the foregoing has almost the force for me of a
wizard's wand; the figures spring up again and move in a harmony that is
not of the fierce present; the sense in particular of the August of '65
shuts me in to its blest unawarenesses not less than to all that was
then exquisite in its current certainties and felicities; the
fraternising, endlessly conversing group of us gather under the rustling
pines--and I admire, precisely, the arrival, the bright revelation as I
recover it, of the so handsome young man, marked with military
distinction but already, with our light American promptitude, addressed
to that high art of peace in which a greater eminence awaited him, of
whom this most attaching member of the circle was to make four years
later so wise and steady a confidant. Our circle I fondly call it, and
doubtless then called it, because in the light of that description I
could most rejoice in it, and I think of it now as having formed a
little world of easy and happy interchange, of unrestricted and yet all
so instinctively sane and secure association and conversation, with all
its liberties and delicacies, all its mirth and its earnestness
protected and directed so much more from within than from without, that
I ask myself, perhaps too fatuously, whether any such right conditions
for the play of young intelligence and young friendship, the reading of
Matthew Arnold and Browning, the discussion of a hundred human and
personal things, the sense of the splendid American summer drawn out to
its last generosity, survives to this more complicated age. I doubt if
there be circles to-day, and seem rather to distinguish confusedly gangs
and crowds and camps, more propitious, I dare say, to material affluence
and physical riot than anything we knew, but not nearly so appointed for
ingenious and ingenuous talk. I think of our interplay of relation as
attuned to that fruitful freedom of what we took for speculation, what
we didn't recoil from as boundless curiosity--as the consideration of
life, that is, the personal, the moral inquiry and adventure at large,
so far as matter for them had up to then met our view--I think of this
fine quality in our scene with no small confidence in its having been
rare, or to be more exact perhaps, in its having been possible to the
general American felicity and immunity as it couldn't otherwise or
elsewhere have begun to be. Merely to say, as an assurance, that such
relations shone with the light of "innocence" is of itself to breathe on
them wrongly or rudely, is uncouthly to "defend" them--as if the very
air that consciously conceived and produced them didn't all tenderly and
amusedly take care of them. I at any rate figure again, to my customary
positive piety, all the aspects now; that in especial of my young
orphaned cousins as mainly composing the maiden train and seeming as if
they still had but yesterday brushed the morning dew of the dear old
Albany naturalness; that of the venerable, genial, erect great-aunt,
their more immediately active guardian, a model of antique spinsterhood
appointed to cares such as even renewals of wedlock could scarce more
have multiplied for her, and thus, among her many ancient and curious
national references--one was tempted to call them--most impressive by
her striking resemblance to the portraits, the most benignant, of
General Washington. She might have represented the mother, no less
adequately than he represented the father, of their country. I can only
feel, however, that what particularly drew the desired circle sharpest
for me was the contribution to it that I had been able to effect by
introducing the companion of my own pilgrimage, who was in turn to
introduce a little later the great friend of _his_ then expanding
situation, restored with the close of the War to civil pursuits and
already deep in them; the interesting pair possessed after this fashion
of a quantity of common fine experience that glittered as so much
acquired and enjoyed luxury--all of a sort that I had no acquisition
whatever to match. I remember being happy in that I might repeatedly
point our moral, under permission (for we were always pointing morals),
with this brilliant advantage of theirs even if I might with none of my
own; and I of course knew--what was half the beauty--that if we were
just the most delightful loose band conceivable, and immersed in a
regular revel of all the harmonies, it was largely by grace of the three
quite exceptional young men who, thanks in part to the final sublime
coach-drive of other days, had travelled up from Boston with their
preparation to admire inevitably quickened. I was quite willing to offer
myself as exceptional through being able to promote such exceptions and
see them justified to waiting apprehension. There was a dangling fringe,
there were graceful accessories and hovering shades, but, essentially,
we of the true connection made up the drama, or in other words, for the
benefit of my imagination, reduced the fond figment of the Circle to
terms of daily experience. If drama we could indeed feel this as being,
I hasten to add, we owed it most of all to our just having such a
heroine that everything else inevitably came. Mary Temple was
beautifully and indescribably _that_--in the technical or logical as
distinguished from the pompous or romantic sense of the word; wholly
without effort or desire on her part--for never was a girl less
consciously or consentingly or vulgarly dominant--everything that took
place around her took place as if primarily in relation to her and in
her interest: that is in the interest of drawing her out and displaying
her the more. This too without her in the least caring, as I say--in the
deep, the morally nostalgic indifferences that were the most finally
characteristic thing about her--whether such an effect took place or
not; she liked nothing in the world so much as to see others fairly
exhibited; not as they might best please her by being, but as they might
most fully reveal themselves, their stuff and their truth: which was the
only thing that, after any first flutter for the superficial air or
grace in an acquaintance, could in the least fix her attention. She had
beyond any equally young creature I have known a sense for verity of
character and play of life in others, for their acting out of their
force or their weakness, whatever either might be, at no matter what
cost to herself; and it was this instinct that made her care so for
life in general, just as it was her being thereby so engaged in that
tangle that made her, as I have expressed it, ever the heroine of the
scene. Life claimed her and used her and beset her--made her range in
her groping, her naturally immature and unlighted way from end to end of
the scale. No one felt more the charm of the actual--only the actual
comprised for her kinds of reality (those to which her letters perhaps
most of all testify), that she saw treated round her for the most part
either as irrelevant or as unpleasant. She was absolutely afraid of
nothing she might come to by living with enough sincerity and enough
wonder; and I think it is because one was to see her launched on that
adventure in such bedimmed, such almost tragically compromised
conditions that one is caught by her title to the heroic and pathetic
mark. It is always difficult for us after the fact not to see young
things who were soon to be lost to us as already distinguished by their
fate; this particular victim of it at all events might well have made
the near witness ask within himself how her restlessness of spirit, the
finest reckless impatience, was to be assuaged or "met" by the common
lot. One somehow saw it nowhere about us as up to her terrible young
standard of the interesting--even if to say this suggests an air of
tension, a sharpness of importunity, than which nothing could have been
less like her. The charming, irresistible fact was that one had never
seen a creature with such lightness of forms, a lightness all her own,
so inconsequently grave at the core, or an asker of endless questions
with such apparent lapses of care. It is true that as an effect of the
state of health which during the year '69 grew steadily worse the
anxious note and serious mind sound in her less intermittently than by
her former wont.

     This might be headed with that line of a hymn, "Hark, from the
     tombs etc.!"--but perhaps it won't prove as bad as that. It looks
     pretty doubtful still, but I have a sort of feeling that I shall
     come round this one time more; by which I don't mean to brag! The
     "it" of which I speak is of course my old enemy hemorrhage, of
     which I have had within the last week seven pretty big ones and
     several smaller, hardly worth mentioning. I don't know what has
     come over me--I can't stop them; but, as I said, I mean to try and
     beat them yet. Of course I am in bed, where I shall be
     indefinitely--not allowed to speak one word, literally, even in a
     whisper. The reason I write this is because I don't think it will
     hurt me at all--if I take it easy and stop when I feel tired. It is
     a pleasant break in the monotony of gruel and of thinking of the
     grave--and then too a few words from somebody who is strong and
     active in the good old world (as it seems to me now) would be very
     refreshing. But don't tell anyone I have written, because it will
     be sure to reach the ears of my dear relatives and will cause them
     to sniff the air and flounce! You see I am a good deal of a
     baby--in the sense of not wanting the reproaches of my relatives
     on this or any other subject.... All the Emmets are so good and
     kind that I found, when it came to the point, that there was a good
     deal to make life attractive, and that if the choice were given me
     I would much rather stay up here on the solid earth, in the air and
     sunshine, with an occasional sympathetic glimpse of another
     person's soul, than to be put down underground and say good-bye for
     ever to humanity, with all its laughter and its sadness. Yet you
     mustn't think me now in any _special_ danger of dying, or even in
     low spirits, for it isn't so--the doctor tells me I am _not_ in
     danger, even if the hemorrhages should keep on. However, "you can't
     fool a regular boarder," as Mr. Holmes would say, and I can't see
     why there is any reason to think they will heal a week hence, when
     I shall be still weaker, if they can't heal now. Still, they _may_
     be going to stop--I haven't had one since yesterday at 4, and now
     it's 3; nearly twenty-four hours. I am of a hopeful temperament and
     not easily scared, which is in my favour. If this _should_ prove to
     be the last letter you get from me, why take it for a good-bye;
     I'll keep on the lookout for you in the spirit world, and shall be
     glad to see you when you come there, provided it's a better place
     than this. Elly is in New York, enjoying herself immensely, and I
     haven't let her know how ill I have been, as there were to be
     several parties this last week and I was afraid it might spoil her
     fun. I didn't mean you to infer from my particularising Willy
     James's intellect that the rest of him isn't to my liking--he is
     one of the very few people in this world that I love. He has the
     largest heart as well as the largest head, and is thoroughly
     interesting to me. He is generous and affectionate and full of
     sympathy and humanity--though you mustn't tell him I say so, lest
     he should think I have been telling you a lie to serve my own
     purposes. Good-bye.

I should have little heart, I confess, for what is essentially the
record of a rapid illness if it were not at the same time the image of
an admirable soul. Surrounded as she was with affection she had yet
greatly to help herself, and nothing is thus more penetrating than the
sense, as one reads, that a method of care would have been followed for
her to-day, and perhaps followed with signal success, that was not in
the healing or nursing range of forty years ago.

     It is a week ago to-day, I think, since I last wrote to you, and I
     have only had one more hemorrhage--the day after. I feel pretty
     sure they have stopped for the present, and I am sitting up in my
     room, as bright as possible. Yesterday when I walked across it I
     thought I should never be strong again, but now it's quite
     different, and so nice to be out of bed that my spirits go up
     absurdly. As soon as I am able I am to be taken to town for another
     examination, and then when I know my fate I will do the best I can.
     This climate is trying, to be sure, but such as it is I've got to
     take my chance in it, as there is no one I care enough for, or who
     cares enough for me, to take charge of me to Italy, or to the south
     anywhere. I don't believe any climate, however good, would be of
     the least use to me with people I don't care for. You may let your
     moustache grow down to your toes if you like, and I shall but smile
     scornfully at your futile precautions.

Of the following, in spite of its length, I can bring myself to abate
nothing.

     ....Well, "to make a long story short," as Hannah (her old nurse)
     says, I caught a cold, and it went to the weak spot, and I had
     another slight attack of hemorrhage; but I took the necessary steps
     at once, stayed in bed and didn't speak for six days, and then it
     stopped and I felt better than I had at all since I was first taken
     ill. But I began to tire so of such constant confinement to my room
     that they promised to take me to town as soon as I was well enough,
     and perhaps to the Opera. This of course would have been a wild
     excitement for me, and I had charming little plans of music by day
     and by night, for a week, which I meant to spend with Mrs.
     Griswold. Accordingly a cavalcade set out from here on Monday,
     consisting of myself escorted by sisters and friends, who were to
     see me safely installed in my new quarters and leave me. I arrived,
     bundled up, at Mrs. Griswold's, and had begun to consider myself
     already quite emancipated from bondage--so that I was discussing
     with my brother-in-law the propriety of my going that evening to
     hear Faust, this but the beginning of a mad career on which I
     proposed to rush headlong--when Dr. Bassett arrived, who is the
     medical man that I had meant to consult during my stay
     _incidentally_ and between the pauses in the music. The first thing
     he said was: "What are you doing here? Go directly back to the
     place you came from and don't come up again till the warm weather.
     As for music, you mustn't hear of it or even think of it for two
     months." This was pleasant, but there was nothing to be done but
     obey; which I did a few hours later, with my trunk still unpacked
     and my immediate plan of life somewhat limited.

     I say my immediate plan because my permanent found itself by no
     means curtailed, but on the contrary expanded and varied in a
     manner I had not even dared to hope. This came from what Dr. B.
     said subsequently, when he had examined my lungs; that is to say
     after he had laid his head affectionately first under one of my
     shoulders and then the other, and there kept it solemnly for about
     ten minutes, in a way that was irresistibly ludicrous, especially
     with Kitty as spectator. His verdict was that my lungs were
     _sound_, that he couldn't detect the least evidence of disease, and
     that hemorrhage couldn't have come from the lung itself, but from
     their membraneous lining, and that of the throat, whatever this may
     be. So he gave me to understand that I have as sound a pair of
     lungs at present as the next person; in fact from what he said one
     would have thought them a pair that a prize-fighter might covet. At
     the same time he sent me flying back to the country, with orders
     not to get excited, nor to listen to music, nor to speak with
     anybody I care for, nor to do anything in short that the
     unregenerate nature longs for. This struck my untutored mind as
     somewhat inconsistent, and I ventured a gentle remonstrance, which
     however was not even listened to, and I was ignominiously thrust
     into a car and borne back to Pelham. The problem still bothers me:
     either sound lungs are a very dangerous thing to have, or there is
     a foul conspiracy on foot to oppress me. Still, I cling to the
     consoling thought of my matchless lungs, and this obliterates my
     present sufferings.

     Harry came to see me before he sailed for Europe; I'm very glad he
     has gone, though I don't expect to see him again for a good many
     years. I don't think he will come back for a long time, and I hope
     it will do him good and that he will enjoy himself--which he hasn't
     done for several years. I haven't read all of Faust, but I think I
     know the scenes you call divine--at least I know some that are
     exquisite. But why do you speak so disparagingly of King David,
     whom I always had a weakness for? Think how charming and lovable a
     person he must have been, poet, musician and so much else
     combined--with however their attendant imperfections. I don't think
     I should have cared to be _Queen_ David exactly. I am possessed
     with an overpowering admiration and affection for George Eliot. I
     don't know why this has so suddenly come over me, but everything I
     look at of hers nowadays makes me take a deeper interest in her. I
     should love to see her, and I hope Harry will; I asked him to give
     my love to her. But I don't remember ever to have heard _you_ speak
     of her. Good-bye. I wish conventionality would invent some other
     way of ending a letter than "yours truly"; I am so tired of it, and
     as one says it to one's shoemaker it would be rather more
     complimentary to one's friends to dispense with it altogether and
     just sign one's name without anything, after the manner of Miss
     Emerson and other free Boston citizens. But I am a slave to
     conventionality, and after all _am_ yours truly....

Singularly present has remained to "Harry," as may be imagined, the
rapid visit he paid her at Pelham that February; he was spending a
couple of days in New York, on a quick decision, before taking ship for
England. I was then to make in Europe no such stay as she had
forecast--I was away but for fifteen months; though I can well believe
my appetite must have struck her as open to the boundless, and can
easily be touched again by her generous thought of this as the right
compensatory thing for me. That indeed is what I mainly recall of the
hour I spent with her--so unforgettable none the less in its general
value; our so beautifully agreeing that quite the same course would be
the right thing for _her_ and that it was wholly detestable I should be
voyaging off without her. But the precious question and the bright
aspect of her own still waiting chance made our talk for the time all
gaiety; it was, strangely enough, a laughing hour altogether, coloured
with the vision of the next winter in Rome, where we should romantically
meet: the appearance then being of particular protective friends with
Roman designs, under whose wing she might happily travel. She had at
that moment been for many weeks as ill as will here have been shown; but
such is the priceless good faith of youth that we perfectly kept at bay
together the significance of this. I recall no mortal note--nothing but
the bright extravagance of her envy; and see her again, in the old-time
Pelham parlours, ever so erectly slight and so more than needfully, so
transparently, fair (I fatuously took this for "becoming"), glide as
swiftly, toss her head as characteristically, laugh to as free a
disclosure of the handsome largeish teeth that made her mouth almost the
main fact of her face, as if no corner of the veil of the future had
been lifted. The house was quiet and spacious for the day, after the
manner of all American houses of that age at those hours, and yet spoke
of such a possible muster at need of generous, gregarious, neighbouring,
sympathising Emmets; in spite of which, withal, the impression was to
come back to me as of a child struggling with her ignorance in a sort of
pathless desert of the genial and the casual. Three months before I
returned to America the struggle had ended. I _was_, as happened, soon
to see in London her admiration, and my own, the great George Eliot--a
brief glimpse then, but a very impressive, and wellnigh my main
satisfaction in which was that I should have my cousin to tell of it. I
found the Charles Nortons settled for the time in London, with social
contacts and penetrations, a give and take of hospitality, that I felt
as wondrous and of some elements of which they offered me, in their
great kindness, the benefit; so that I was long to value having owed
them in the springtime of '69 five separate impressions of distinguished
persons, then in the full flush of activity and authority, that affected
my young provincialism as a positive fairytale of privilege. I had a
Sunday afternoon hour with Mrs. Lewes at North Bank, no second visitor
but my gentle introducer, the younger Miss Norton, sharing the
revelation, which had some odd and for myself peculiarly thrilling
accompaniments; and then the opportunity of dining with Mr. Ruskin at
Denmark Hill, an impression of uneffaced intensity and followed by a
like--and yet so unlike--evening of hospitality from William Morris in
the medieval mise-en-scène of Queen Square. This had been preceded by a
luncheon with Charles Darwin, beautifully benignant, sublimely simple,
at Down; a memory to which I find attached our incidental wondrous
walk--Mrs. Charles Norton, the too near term of her earthly span then
smoothly out of sight, being my guide for the happy excursion--across a
private park of great oaks, which I conceive to have been the admirable
Holwood and where I knew my first sense of a matter afterwards, through
fortunate years, to be more fully disclosed: the springtime in such
places, the adored footpath, the first primroses, the stir and scent of
renascence in the watered sunshine and under spreading boughs that were
somehow before aught else the still reach of remembered lines of
Tennyson, ached over in nostalgic years. The rarest hour of all perhaps,
or at least the strangest, strange verily to the pitch of the sinister,
was a vision, provided by the same care, of D. G. Rossetti in the vernal
dusk of Queen's House Chelsea--among his pictures, amid his poetry
itself, his whole haunting "esthetic," and yet above all bristling with
his personality, with his perversity, with anything, as it rather
awfully seemed to me, but his sympathy, though it at the same time left
one oddly desirous of more of him. These impressions heaped up the
measure, goodness knew, of what would serve for Minnie's curiosity--she
was familiarly Minnie to us; the point remaining all along, however,
that, impatient at having overmuch to wait, I rejoiced in possession of
the exact vivid terms in which I should image George Eliot to her. I was
much later on to renew acquaintance with that great lady, but I think I
scarce exceed in saying that with my so interested cousin's death half
the savour of my appreciation had lost itself. Just in those days, that
month of April, the latter had made a weak ineffectual move to
Philadelphia in quest of physical relief--which expressed at the same
time even more one of those reachings out for appeasement of the soul
which were never too publicly indulged in, but by which her power to
interest the true subjects of her attraction was infinitely quickened.
It represented wonderments, I might well indeed have said to myself,
even beyond any inspired by the high muse of North Bank.

     I suppose I ought to have something special to say after having
     been suddenly transplanted to a new place and among new people, yet
     there isn't much to tell. I came because they all thought at home
     that the climate might do me good; I don't feel, however, any
     difference in my sensations between this and New York--if I do it's
     in favour of New York. I wish it might turn out that an inland
     climate isn't after all necessary for me, as I like the other sort
     much better and really think I feel stronger in it too. My doctor
     told me that Boston would kill me in six months--though he is
     possibly mistaken. I am going to try it a little longer here, and
     then go back to Pelham, where I'm pretty sure I shall find myself
     better again. It may be that the mental atmosphere is more to me
     than any other, for I feel homesick here all the while, or at least
     what I call so, being away from what is most _like_ home to me, and
     what if I were there I should call tired. The chief object I had in
     coming was to listen to Phillips Brooks; I have heard him several
     times and am not, I think, disappointed. To be sure he didn't say
     anything new or startling, but I certainly oughtn't to have
     expected that, though I believe I did have a secret hope that he
     was going to expound to me the old beliefs with a clearness that
     would convince me for ever and banish doubt. I had placed all my
     hopes in him as the one man I had heard of who, progressive in all
     other ways, had yet been able to keep his faith firm in the things
     that most earnest men have left far behind them. Yet in preaching
     to his congregation he doesn't, or didn't, touch the real
     difficulties at all. He was leading them forward instead of trying
     to make it clear to _me_ that I have any good reason for my
     feelings. Still, it was something to feel that he has them too, and
     isn't afraid to trust them and live for them. I wonder what he
     really does believe or think about it all, and whether he knows the
     reaction that comes to me about Thursday, after the enthusiasm and
     confidence made by his eloquence and earnestness on Sunday.
     To-morrow will be Saturday, and I shall be glad when Sunday comes
     to wind me up again. I feel sadly run down to-night and as if I
     should like to see some honest old pagan and shake him by the hand.
     It will seem all right and easy again soon, I know, but is it
     always thus? Is there no more of that undoubting faith in the
     world that there used to be? But I won't talk any more about it
     now, or I shan't sleep; it is getting late and all themes but the
     least interesting must be put away.

"Quaint," as we now say, it at this end of time seems to me that
Phillips Brooks, the great Episcopal light of the period, first in
Philadelphia and then in Boston, and superior character, excellent, even
ardent, thoughtful, genial, practical man, should have appeared to play
before her a light possibly of the clear strain, the rich abundance, the
straight incidence, that she so desired to think attainable. A large, in
fact an enormous, softly massive and sociably active presence, of
capacious attention and comforting suggestion, he was a brave worker
among those who didn't too passionately press their questions and
claims--half the office of such a minister being, no doubt, to abate the
high pitch, and the high pitch being by the same token too much Minnie's
tendency. She was left with it in the smug Philadelphia visibly on her
hands; she had found there after all but a closed door, to which she was
blandly directed, rather than an open, and the sigh of her falling back
with her disappointment seems still to reach one's ears. She found them
too much all round, the stiff blank barriers that, for whatever
thumping, didn't "give;" and in fine I like not too faintly to colour
this image of her as failing, in her avid young sincerity, to draw from
the honest pastor of more satisfied souls any assurance that she could
herself honestly apply. I confess that her particular recorded case,
slender enough in its lonely unrest, suggests to me a force, or at least
a play, of effective criticism more vivid to-day than either of the
several rich monuments, honourably as these survive, to Phillips
Brooks's positive "success." She had no occasion or no chance to find
the delightful harmonising friend in him--which was part of the success
for so many others. But her letter goes on after a couple of days--she
had apparently not sent the previous part, and it brings her back, we
can rejoicingly note, to George Eliot, whose poem, alluded to, must have
been The Spanish Gipsy. This work may indeed much less have counted for
her than the all-engulfing Mill on the Floss, incomparably privileged
production, which shone for young persons of that contemporaneity with a
nobleness that nothing under our actual star begins in like case to
match. These are great recognitions, but how can I slight for them a
mention that has again and again all but broken through in my
pages?--that of Francis Boott and his daughter (she to become later on
Mrs. Frank Duveneck and to yield to the same dismal decree of death
before her time that rested on so many of the friends of our youth).
When I turn in thought to the happiness that our kinswoman was still to
have known in her short life, for all her disaster, Elizabeth Boott,
delightful, devoted and infinitely under the charm, at once hovers for
me; this all the more, I hasten to add, that we too on our side, and not
least Mary Temple herself, were under the charm, and that _that_ charm,
if less immediately pointed, affected all our young collective
sensibility as a wondrous composite thing. There was the charm for
us--if I must not again speak in assurance but for myself--that
"Europe," the irrepressible even as the _ewig Weibliche_ of literary
allusion was irrepressible, had more than anything else to do with; and
then there was the other that, strange to say (strange as I, once more,
found myself feeling it) owed nothing of its authority to anything so
markedly out of the picture. The spell to which I in any case most
piously sacrificed, most cultivated the sense of, was ever of this
second cast--and for the simple reason that the other, serene in its
virtue, fairly insolent in its pride, needed no rites and no care. It
must be allowed that there was nothing composite in any spell
proceeding, whether directly or indirectly, from the great Albany
connection: this form of the agreeable, through whatever appeals, could
certainly not have been more of a piece, as we say--more of a single
superfused complexion, an element or principle that we could in the
usual case ever so easily and pleasantly account for. The case of that
one in the large number of my cousins whom we have seen to be so
incomparably the most interesting was of course anything but the usual;
yet the Albany origin, the woodnote wild, sounded out even amid her
various voices and kept her true, in her way, to something we could only
have called local, or perhaps family, type. Essentially, however, she
had been a free incalculable product, a vivid exception to rules and
precedents; so far as she had at all the value of the "composite" it was
on her own lines altogether--the composition was of things that had lain
nearest to hand. It mattered enormously for such a pair as the Bootts,
intimately associated father and daughter, that what had lain nearest
_their_ hand, or at least that of conspiring nature and fortune in
preparing them for our consumption, had been the things of old Italy, of
the inconceivable Tuscany, that of the but lately expropriated Grand
Dukes in particular, and that when originally alighting among us _en
plein_ Newport they had seemed fairly to reek with a saturation,
esthetic, historic, romantic, that everything roundabout made precious.
I was to apprehend in due course, and not without dismay, that what they
really most reeked with was the delight of finding us ourselves exactly
as we were; they fell so into the wondrous class of inverted romantics,
several other odd flowers of which I was later on to have anxiously to
deal with: we and our large crude scene of barbaric plenty, as it might
have been called, beguiled them to appreciations such as made our
tribute to themselves excite at moments their impatience and strike them
as almost silly. It was _our_ conditions that were picturesque, and I
had to make the best of a time when they themselves appeared to consent
to remain so but by the beautiful gaiety of their preference. This, I
remember well, I found disconcerting, so that my main affectionate
business with them became, under amusement by the way, that of keeping
them true to type. What above all contributed was that they really
couldn't help their case, try as they would to shake off the old
infection; they were of "old world" production through steps it was too
late to retrace; and they were in the practical way and in the course of
the very next years to plead as guilty to this as the highest proper
standard for them could have prescribed. They "went back," and again and
again, with a charming, smiling, pleading inconsequence--any pretext but
the real one, the fact that the prime poison was in their veins, serving
them at need; so that, as the case turned, all my own earlier sense, on
the spot, of Florence and Rome was to mix itself with their delightfully
rueful presence there. I could then perfectly put up with that flame of
passion for Boston and Newport in them which still left so perfect their
adaptability to Italian installations that would have been impossible
save for subtle Italian reasons.

I speak of course but of the whole original view: time brings strange
revenges and contradictions, and all the later history was to be a
chapter by itself and of the fullest. We had been all alike accessible
in the first instance to the call of those references which played
through their walk and conversation with an effect that their qualifying
ironies and amusing reactions, where such memories were concerned,
couldn't in the least abate; for nothing in fact lent them a happier
colour than just this ability to afford so carelessly to cheapen the
certain treasure of their past. They had enough of that treasure to give
it perpetually away--in our subsequently to be more determined, our
present, sense; in short we had the fondest use for their leavings even
when they themselves hadn't. Mary Temple, with her own fine quality so
far from composite, rejoiced in the perception, however unassisted by
any sort of experience, of what their background had "meant"; she would
have liked to be able to know just that for herself, as I have already
hinted, and I actually find her image most touching perhaps by its so
speaking of what she with a peculiar naturalness dreamed of and missed.
Of clear old English stock on her father's side, her sense for what was
English in life--so we used to simplify--was an intimate part of her,
little chance as it enjoyed for happy verifications. In the Bootts,
despite their still ampler and more recently attested share in that
racial strain, the foreign tradition had exceedingly damped the English,
which didn't however in the least prevent her being caught up by it as
it had stamped itself upon the admirable, the infinitely civilised and
sympathetic, the markedly _produced_ Lizzie. This delightful girl,
educated, cultivated, accomplished, toned above all, as from steeping in
a rich old medium, to a degree of the rarest among her coevals "on our
side," had the further, the supreme grace that she melted into American
opportunities of friendship--and small blame to her, given such as she
then met--with the glee of a sudden scarce believing discoverer. Tuscany
could only swoon away under comparison of its starved sociabilities and
complacent puerilities, the stress of which her previous years had so
known, with the multiplied welcomes and freedoms, the exquisite and easy
fellowships that glorified to her the home scene. Into not the least of
these quick affinities had her prompt acquaintance with Mary Temple
confidently ripened; and with no one in the aftertime, so long as that
too escaped the waiting shears, was I to find it more a blest and
sacred rite, guarded by no stiff approaches, to celebrate my cousin's
memory. That really is my apology for this evocation--which might under
straighter connections have let me in still deeper; since if I have
glanced on another page of the present miscellany at the traps too often
successfully set for my wandering feet my reader will doubtless here
recognise a perfect illustration of our danger and will accuse me of
treating an inch of canvas to an acre of embroidery. Let the poor canvas
figure time and the embroidery figure consciousness--the proportion will
perhaps then not strike us as so wrong. Consciousness accordingly still
grips me to the point of a felt pressure of interest in such a matter as
the recoverable history--history in the esthetic connection at least--of
its insistent dealings with a given case. How in the course of time for
instance was it not insistently to deal, for a purpose of application,
with the fine prime image deposited all unwittingly by the "picturesque"
(as I absolutely required to feel it) Boott situation or Boott _data_?
The direct or vital value of these last, in so many ways, was
experiential, a stored and assimilated thing; but the seed of suggestion
proved after long years to have kept itself apart in order that it
should develop under a particular breath. A not other than lonely and
bereft American, addicted to the arts and endowed for them, housed to
an effect of long expatriation in a massive old Florentine villa with a
treasured and tended little daughter by his side, _that_ was the germ
which for reasons beyond my sounding the case of Frank Boott had been
appointed to plant deep down in my vision of things. So lodged it
waited, but the special instance, as I say, had lodged it, and it lost
no vitality--on the contrary it acquired every patience--by the fact
that little by little each of its connections above ground, so to speak,
was successively cut. Then at last after years it raised its own head
into the air and found its full use for the imagination. An Italianate
bereft American with a little moulded daughter in the setting of a
massive old Tuscan residence was at the end of years exactly what was
required by a situation of my own--conceived in the light of the Novel;
and I _had_ it there, in the authenticated way, with its essential fund
of truth, at once all the more because my admirable old friend had given
it to me and none the less because he had no single note of character or
temper, not a grain of the non-essential, in common with my Gilbert
Osmond. This combination of facts has its shy interest, I think, in the
general imaginative or reproductive connection--testifying as it so
happens to do on that whole question of the "putting of people into
books" as to which any ineptitude of judgment appears always in order.
I probably shouldn't have had the Gilbert Osmonds at all without the
early "form" of the Frank Bootts, but I still more certainly shouldn't
have had them with the _sense_ of my old inspirers. The form had to be
disembarrassed of that sense and to take in a thoroughly other; thanks
to which account of the matter I am left feeling that I scarce know
whether most to admire, for support of one's beautiful business of the
picture of life, the relation of "people" to art or the relation of art
to people. Adorable each time the mystery of which of these factors, as
we say, has the more prevailingly conduced to a given effect--and too
much adored, at any rate, I allow, when carrying me so very far away. I
retrace my steps with this next.

     I have made several attempts lately to write you a letter, but I
     have given it up after two or three pages, because I have always
     been in a blue state of mind at the time, and have each time
     charitably decided before it was too late to spare you. But if I
     were to wait until things change to rose-colour I might perhaps
     wait till I die, or longer even, in which case your next
     communication from me would be a spiritual one. I am going to
     Newport in the early part of May to meet the Bootts--Henrietta has
     just come back from there delighted with her visit; why, heaven
     knows, I suppose, but I don't--except that she is in that blissful
     state of babyhood peculiar to herself where everything seems
     delightful.... I like George Eliot not through her poem so much,
     not nearly so much, as through her prose. The creature interests me
     personally, and I feel a desire to know something of her life; how
     far her lofty moral sentiments have served her practically--for
     instance in her dealings with Lewes. I see that she understands the
     character of a _generous_ woman, that is of a woman who believes in
     generosity and who must be that or nothing, and who feels keenly,
     notwithstanding, how hard it is practically to follow this out, and
     how (looking at it from the point of view of comfort as far as this
     world goes) it "pays" not at all. We are having weather quite like
     summer and rather depressing; I don't feel very well and am always
     catching cold--that is I suppose I am, as I have a cough nearly all
     the time. As for Phillips Brooks, what you say of him is, no doubt,
     all true--he didn't touch the main point when I heard him, at all
     events, and that satisfaction you so kindly wish me is, I am
     afraid, not to be got from any man. The mystery of this world grows
     and grows, and sticks out of every apparently trivial thing,
     instead of lessening. I hope this feeling may not be the incipient
     stage of insanity. Paul told the truth when he said that now we see
     through a glass, _very_ darkly. I hope and trust that the rest may
     be equally true, and that some day we shall see face to face. You
     say it is easy to drown thought by well-doing, and is it not also
     the soundest philosophy (so long of course as one doesn't humbug
     oneself); since by simply thinking out a religion who has ever
     arrived at anything that did not leave one's heart empty? Do you
     ever see Willy James? Good-bye.

Needless enough surely to declare that such pages were essentially not
love-letters: that they could scarce have been less so seems exactly
part of their noble inevitability, as well as a proof singularly
interesting and charming that confident friendship may obey its force
and insist on its say quite as much as the sentiment we are apt to take,
as to many of its occasions, for the supremely vocal. We have so often
seen this latter beat distressfully about the bush for something still
deficient, something in the line of positive esteem or constructive
respect, whether offered or enjoyed, that an esteem and a respect such
as we here apprehend, explicit enough on either side to dispense with
those superlatives in which graceless reaction has been known
insidiously to lurk, peculiarly refresh and instruct us. The fine
special quietude of the relation thus promoted in a general
consciousness of unrest--and even if it could breed questions too, since
a relation that breeds none at all is not a living one--was of the
highest value to the author of my letters, who had already sufficiently
"lived," in her generous way, to know well enough in how different a
quarter to look for the grand inconclusive. The directness, the ease,
the extent of the high consideration, the felt need of it as a support,
indeed one may almost say as an inspiration, in trouble, and the free
gift of it as a delightful act of intelligence and justice, render the
whole exhibition, to my sense, admirable in its kind. Questions luckily
_could_ haunt it, as I say and as we shall presently see, but only to
illustrate the more all the equilibrium preserved. I confess I can
imagine no tribute to a manly nature from a feminine more final even
than the confidence in "mere" consideration here embodied--the comfort
of the consideration being in the fact that the character with which the
feminine nature was dealing lent it, could it but come, such weight. We
seem to see play through the whole appeal of the younger person to the
somewhat older an invocation of the weight suspended, weight of
judgment, weight of experience and authority, and which may ever so
quietly drop. How kindly in another relation it had been in fact capable
of dropping comes back to me in the mention of my brother Wilky, as to
whom this aspect of his admiring friendship for our young relative's
correspondent, the fruit of their common military service roundabout
Charleston, again comprehensively testifies. That comradeship was a
privilege that Wilky strongly cherished, as well as what one
particularly liked to think for him of his having known--he was to have
known nothing more fortunate. In no less a degree was our elder brother
to come to prize _his_ like share in the association--this being
sufficiently indicated, for that matter, in the note I have quoted from
him. That I have prized my own share in it let my use of this benefit
derived strongly represent. But again for Minnie herself the sadder
admonition is sharp, and I find I know not what lonely pluck in her
relapses shaken off as with the jangle of silver bells, her expert
little efforts to live them down, Newport and other matters aiding and
the general preoccupied good will all vainly at her service. Pitiful in
particular her carrying her trouble experimentally back to the Newport
of the first gladness of her girlhood and of the old bright spectacle.

     I know quite well I don't owe you a letter, and that the custom for
     maidens is to mete out strictly letter for letter; but if you don't
     mind it I don't, and if you _do_ mind that kind of thing you had
     better learn not to at once--if you propose to be a friend of mine;
     or else have your feelings from time to time severely shocked.
     After which preamble I will say that there is a special reason in
     this case, though there might not be in another.

She mentions having seen a common friend, in great bereavement and
trouble, who has charged her with a message to her correspondent "if you
know of anything to comfort a person when the one they love best dies,
for heaven's sake say it to her--_I_ hadn't a word to say." And she goes
on:

     I wrote to you that I was going to Newport, and I meant to go next
     Tuesday, but I had another hemorrhage last night, and it is
     impossible to say when I shall be able to leave here. I think I was
     feeling ill when I last wrote to you, and ever since have been
     coughing and feeling wretchedly, until finally the hemorrhage has
     come. If that goes over well I think I shall be better. I am in bed
     now, on the old plan of gruel and silence, and I may get off
     without any worse attack this time. It is a perfect day, like
     summer--my windows are up and the birds sing. It seems quite out of
     keeping that I should be in bed. I should be all right if I could
     only get rid of coughing. The warm weather will set me up again. I
     wonder what you are doing to-day. Probably taking a solitary walk
     and meditating--on what? Good-bye.

But she went to Newport after a few days apparently; whence comes this.

     I believe I was in bed when I last wrote to you, but that attack
     didn't prove nearly so bad a one as the previous; I rather bullied
     it, and after the fourth hemorrhage it ceased; moreover my cough is
     better since I came here. But I am, to tell the truth, a little
     homesick--and am afraid I am becoming too much of a baby. Whether
     it's from illness or from the natural bent I know not, but there is
     no comfort in life away from people who care for you--not an heroic
     statement, I am fully aware. I hear that Wilky is at home, and dare
     say he will have the kindness to run down and see me while I am
     here; at least I hope so. But I am not in the mood for writing
     to-day--I am tired and can only bore you if I kept on. It is just a
     year since we began to write, and aren't you by this time a little
     tired of it? If you are, say so like a man--don't be afraid of me.
     Now I am going to lie down before dressing for dinner. Good-bye.

This passage more than a month later makes me ask myself of which of the
correspondents it strikes me as most characteristic. The gay clearness
of the one looks out--as it always looked out on the least chance
given--at the several apparent screens of the other; each of which is
indeed disconnectedly, independently clear, but tells too small a part
(at least for her pitch of lucidity) of what they together enclose, and
what was _quand même_ of so fine an implication. Delightful at the same
time any page from her that is not one of the huddled milestones of her
rate of decline.

     How can I write to you when I have forgotten all about you?--if one
     _can_ forget what one has never known. However, I am not quite sure
     whether it isn't knowing you too much rather than too little that
     seems to prevent. Do you comprehend the difficulty? Of course you
     don't, so I will explain. The trouble is, I think, that to me you
     have no distinct personality. I don't feel sure to whom I am
     writing when I say to myself that I will write to you. I see
     mentally three men, all answering to your name, each liable to read
     my letters and yet differing so much from each other that if it is
     proper for one of them it's quite unsuitable to the others. Do you
     see? If you can once settle for me the question of which gets my
     letters I shall know better what to say in them. Is it the man I
     used to see (I can't say know) at Conway, who had a beard, I think,
     and might have been middle-aged, and who discussed Trollope's
     novels with Kitty and Elly? This was doubtless one of the best of
     men, but he didn't _interest_ me, I never felt disposed to speak to
     him, and used to get so sleepy in his society at about eight
     o'clock that I wondered how the other girls could stay awake till
     eleven. Is it _that_ person who reads my letters? Or is it the
     young man I recently saw at Newport, with a priestly countenance,
     calm and critical, with whom I had certainly no fault to find as a
     chance companion for three or four days, but whom I should never
     have dreamt of writing to or bothering with my affairs one way or
     the other, happiness or no happiness, as he would doubtless at once
     despise me for my nonsense and wonder at me for my gravity? Does
     _he_ get my letters?--or is it finally the being who has from time
     to time himself written to me, signing by the same name that the
     other gentlemen appropriate? If my correspondent is this last I
     know where I stand--and, please heaven, shall stand there some time
     longer. Him I won't describe, but he's the only one of the three I
     care anything about. My only doubt is because I always address him
     at Pemberton Square, and I think him the least likely of the three
     to go there much. But good-bye, whichever you are!

It was not at any rate to be said of her that she didn't live
surrounded, even though she had to go so far afield--very far it may at
moments have appeared to her--for the freedom of talk that was her
greatest need of all. How happily and hilariously surrounded this next,
of the end of the following August, and still more its sequel of the
mid-September, abundantly bring back to me; so in the habit were the
numerous Emmets, it might almost be said, of marrying the numerous young
women of our own then kinship: they at all events formed mainly by
themselves at that time the figures and the action of her immediate
scene. The marriage of her younger sister was as yet but an
engagement--to the brother-in-law of the eldest, already united to
Richard Emmet and with Temple kinship, into the bargain, playing between
the pairs. All of which animation of prospective and past wedding-bells,
with whatever consolidation of pleasant ties, couldn't quench her
ceaseless instinct for the obscurer connections of things or keep
passionate reflections from awaiting her at every turn. This disposition
in her, and the way in which, at the least push, the gate of thought
opened for her to its widest, which was to the prospect of the soul and
the question of interests on _its_ part that wouldn't be ignored, by no
means fails to put to me that she might well have found the
mystifications of life, had she been appointed to enjoy more of them,
much in excess of its contentments. It easily comes up for us over the
relics of those we have seen beaten, this sense that it was not for
nothing they missed the ampler experience, but in no case that I have
known has it come up for me so much. In none other have I so felt the
naturalness of our asking ourselves what such spirits would have done
with their extension and what would have satisfied them; since dire as
their defeat may have been we don't see them, in the ambiguous light of
some of their possibilities, at peace with victory. This may be perhaps
an illusion of our interest in them, a mere part of its ingenuity; and
I allow that if our doubt is excessive it does them a great wrong--which
is another way in which they were not to have been righted. We soothe a
little with it at any rate our sense of the tragic.

     ...The irretrievableness of the step (her sister E.'s marriage)
     comes over my mind from time to time in such an overwhelming way
     that it's most depressing, and I have to be constantly on my guard
     not to let Temple and Elly see it, as it would naturally not please
     them. After all, since they are not appalled at what they've done,
     and are quite sure of each other, as they evidently are, why should
     I worry myself? I am well aware that if all other women felt the
     seriousness of the matter to the extent I do, hardly any would
     _ever_ marry, and the human race would stop short. So I ought
     perhaps to be glad so many people can find and take that "little
     ease" that Clough talks about, without consciously giving up the
     "highest thing." And may not this majority of people be the truly
     wise and my own notions of the subject simply fanatical and
     impracticable? I clearly see in how small a minority I am, and that
     the other side has, with Bishop Blougram, the best of it from one
     point of view; but I can't help that, can I? We must be true to
     _ourselves_, mustn't we? though all the rest of humanity be of a
     contrary opinion, or else throw discredit upon the wisdom of God,
     who made us as we are and not like the next person. Do you remember
     my old hobby of the "remote possibility of the best thing" being
     better than a clear certainty of the second best? Well, I believe
     it more than ever, every day I live. Indeed I don't believe
     anything else--but is not that everything? And isn't it exactly
     what Christianity means? Wasn't Christ the only man who ever lived
     and died _entirely_ for his faith, without a shadow of selfishness?
     And isn't that reason enough why we should all turn to Him after
     having tried everything else and found it wanting?--turn to Him as
     the only pure and _unmixed_ manifestation of God in humanity? And
     if I believe this, which I think I do, how utterly inconsistent and
     detestable is the life I lead, which, so far from being a loving
     and cheerful surrender of itself once for all to God's service, is
     at best but a base compromise--a few moments or acts or thoughts
     consciously and with difficulty divested of actual selfishness.
     Must this always be so? Is it owing to the indissoluble mixture of
     the divine and the diabolical in us all, or is it because I myself
     am hopelessly frivolous and trifling? Or is it finally that I
     really don't _believe_, that I have still a doubt in my mind
     whether religion _is_ the one exclusive thing to live for, as
     Christ taught us, or whether it will prove to be only _one_ of the
     influences, though a great one, which educate the human race and
     help it along in that culture which Matthew Arnold thinks the most
     desirable thing in the world? In fine is it the meaning and end of
     our lives, or only a moral principle bearing a certain part in our
     development----?

     Since I wrote this I have been having my tea and sitting on the
     piazza looking at the stars and thinking it most unfaithful and
     disloyal of me even to speak as I did just now, admitting the
     possibility of that faith not being everything which yet at moments
     is so divinely true as to light up the whole of life suddenly and
     make everything clear. I know the trouble is with _me_ when doubt
     and despondency come, but on the other hand I can't altogether
     believe it wrong of me to have written as I have, for then what
     becomes of my principle of saying what one really thinks and
     leaving it to God to take care of his own glory? The truth will
     vindicate itself in spite of my voice to the contrary. If you think
     I am letting myself go this way without sufficient excuse I won't
     do it again; but I can't help it this time, I have nobody else to
     speak to about serious things. If by chance I say anything or ask a
     question that lies at all near my heart my sisters all tell me I am
     "queer" and that they "wouldn't be me for anything"--which is, no
     doubt, sensible on their part, but which puts an end to anything
     but conversation of the most superficial kind on mine. You know one
     gets lonely after a while on such a plan of living, so in sheer
     desperation I break out where I perhaps more safely can.

Such is the magic of old letters on its subtlest occasions that I
reconstitute in every detail, to a vivid probability--even if I may not
again proportionately project the bristling image--our scene of next
mention; drawing for this upon my uneffaced impression of a like one, my
cousin Katharine Temple's bright nuptials, in the same general setting,
very much before, and in addition seeming to see the very muse of
history take a fresh scroll in order to prepare to cover it, in her very
handsomest hand, well before my eyes. Covered is it now for me with that
abounding and interesting life of the generations then to come at the
pair of preliminary flourishes ushering in the record of which I thus
feel myself still assist.

     But a line to-day to tell you that Elly was safely married on
     Wednesday. She looked simply beautiful in her wedding garment, and
     behaved herself throughout with a composure that was as delightful
     as it was surprising. I send you a photograph of myself that I had
     taken a few weeks ago. It looks perhaps a trifle melancholy, but I
     can't help that--I did the best I could. But I won't write more--it
     wouldn't be enlivening. Everything looks grey and blue in the world
     nowadays. It will all be bright again in time, I have no doubt;
     there is no special reason for it; I think I am simply tired with
     knocking about. Yet my week in Newport might have been pleasant
     enough if the dentist hadn't taken that occasion to break my bones
     for me in a barbarous manner. You are very kind and friendly to
     me--you don't know how much happiness your letters give me. You
     will be surprised, I dare say, but I shall not, at the last day,
     when the accounts are all settled, to find how much this counts in
     your favour. Good-bye.

I find my story so attaching that I prize every step of its course, each
note of which hangs together with all the others. The writer is
expressed to my vision in every word, and the resulting image so worth
preserving. Much of one's service to it is thus a gathering-in of the
ever so faded ashes of the happiness that did come to her after all in
snatches. Everything could well, on occasion, look "grey and blue," as
she says; yet there were stretches, even if of the briefest, when other
things still were present than the active symptoms of her state. The
photograph that she speaks of above is before me as I write and
blessedly helpful to memory--so that I am moved to reproduce it only
till I feel again how the fondness of memory must strike the light for
apprehension. The plan of the journey to California for the advantage of
the climate there was, with other plans taken up and helplessly dropped,
but beguiling for the day, to accompany her almost to the end.

     The Temple-Emmet caravan have advanced as far as Newport and now
     propose to retreat again to Pelham without stopping at Boston or
     anywhere else. My brother-in-law has business in New York and can't
     be away any longer. I haven't been well of late, or I should have
     run up to Boston for a day or two to take a sad farewell of all I
     love in that city and thereabouts before I cross the Rocky
     Mountains. This little trip has been made out for me by my friends;
     I have determined to go, and shall probably start with Elly and
     Temple in about ten days, possibly not for a fortnight, to spend
     the winter in San Francisco. I can't be enthusiastic about it, but
     suppose I might as well take all the means I can to get better: a
     winter in a warm climate _may_ be good for me. In short I am going,
     and now what I want _you_ to do about it is simply to come and see
     us before that. Kitty is going to send you a line to add her
     voice--perhaps that may bring you. You may never see me again, you
     know, and if I were to die so far away you'd be sorry you hadn't
     taken leave of me, wouldn't you?

The idea of California held, and with other pleasant matters really
occupied the scene; out of which moreover insist on shining to me
accessory connections, or connections that then were to be: intensely
distinct for example the figure of Miss Crawford, afterwards Madame von
Rabe, sister of my eminent friend F. Marion of the name and, in her
essence, I think, but by a few shades less entire a figure than
he--which is saying much. The most endowed and accomplished of men Frank
Crawford, so that I have scarcely known another who had more aboundingly
lived and wrought, about whom moreover there was singularly more to be
said, it struck me, than at all found voice at the time he might have
been commemorated. Therefore if the young lady alluded to in my cousin's
anecdote was at all of the same personal style and proportion--well, I
should draw the moral if it didn't represent here too speciously the
mouth of a trap, one of those I have already done penance for; the
effect of my yielding to which would be a shaft sunk so straight down
into matters interesting and admirable and sad and strange that, with
everything that was futurity to the occasion noted in our letter and is
an infinitely mixed and a heavily closed past now, I hurry on without so
much as a glance.

     The present plan is to send me to California in about three weeks
     by water, under the care of one of the Emmet boys and Temple's
     valet--for nurse; and by the time I get there, early in December,
     they will be settled in San Francisco for the winter. The idea of a
     twenty-one days' sea-voyage is rather appalling--what do you think
     of it? This day is but too heavenly here. I haven't been to
     church, but walking by myself, as happy as possible. When one
     sleeps well and the sun shines, what happiness to live! I wish you
     were here--wouldn't I show you Pelham at high tide, on a day that
     is simply intoxicating, with a fresh breeze blown through the red
     and yellow leaves and sunshine "on field and hill, in heart and
     brain," as Mr. Lowell says. I suppose you remember the pony I
     drove, and Punch, the little Scotch terrier that tried so to
     insinuate himself into your affections, on the piazza, the morning
     you left. The former has been "cutting up," the latter _cut_ up,
     since then. You wouldn't believe me when I told you the pony was a
     highly nervous creature--but she behaved as one the other day when
     I took the Roman Miss Crawford, who has been staying near here, a
     ride. She shied at a dog that frightened her, and dragged the cart
     into a ditch, and tried to get over a stone wall, waggon and all. I
     of course had to hang on to the reins, but I suggested to Miss
     Crawford that she should get out, as the cart was pretty steady
     while the horse's forefeet were on top of the wall; which she did,
     into a mud-puddle, and soiled her pretty striped stockings and
     shoes in a horrible way. It ended by the dear little beast's
     consenting to get back upon all fours, but I found it very amusing
     and have liked her better ever since.... How does Mr. Holmes
     persevere about smoking? I pity him if he can't sleep, and wish _I_
     had a vicious habit so that I might give it up. But I must finish
     my tale of the quadruped Punch, who was called upon in the dead of
     night by five dogs of the neighbourhood and torn to pieces by them.
     The coachman heard him crying in the night, and in the morning we
     found him--that is to say we gathered him together, his dear little
     tail from one place and his head from another etc! So went out a
     very sweet little spirit--I wonder where it is now. Don't tell me
     he hadn't more of a soul than that Kaufmann, the fat oysterman.

I find bribes to recognition and recovery quite mercilessly multiply,
and with the effort to brush past them more and more difficult; with the
sense for me at any rate (whatever that may be worth for wisdom or
comfort) of sitting rather queerly safe and alone, though as with a
dangle of legs over the edge of a precipice, on the hither side of great
gulfs of history. But these things, dated toward the end of that
November, speak now in a manner for themselves.

     My passage for California is taken for the 4th of December; Elly
     and Temple have written to me to come at once--they are settled in
     San Francisco for the winter. My brother-in-law here has been
     promised that I shall be made so comfortable I shan't want to tear
     myself from the ship when I arrive. The captain is a friend of
     Temple's, and also of my uncle Captain Temple, and both of them are
     going to arrange so for me that I fully expect the ship to be hung
     with banners and flowers when I step on board.... I enjoyed my time
     in Boston far more than I had expected--in fact immensely, and
     wouldn't have missed it for anything; I feel now as if it had
     _necessarily_ had to happen. I don't know how I should have done
     the winter, and especially started off for an indefinitely long
     absence in the west without the impetus that it gave me in certain
     directions--the settling down and shaking up, the dissipating of
     certain impressions that I had thought fixed and the strengthening
     of others that I hadn't been so sure of: an epoch in short. I dare
     say you have had such--in which a good deal of living was done in a
     short time, to be turned over and made fruitful in days to come. I
     saw Mr. Holmes once, and was very glad of that glimpse, short as it
     was. I went home by way of Newport, where I stayed two days--and
     where I was surprised to hear of Fred Jones's engagement to Miss
     Rawle of Philadelphia. Do you know her? When I got to New York I
     went to the Hones' to ask something about Fred and his affairs and
     found that Miss Rawle was staying next door with Mrs. Willy Duncan;
     so I went in to see her on the spur of the moment, very much as I
     had come from the boat, not particularly presentable for a first
     call: however, I thought if she had a soul she wouldn't mind
     it--and such I found the case.... Lizzie Boott was as sweet and
     good to me as ever; I think she is at once the most unselfish and
     most unegotistical girl I know--they don't always go together.

What follows here has, in its order, I think, that it still so testifies
to life--if one doesn't see in it indeed rather perhaps the instinct on
the writer's part, though a scarce conscious one, to wind up the affairs
of her spirit, as it were, and be able to turn over with a sigh of
supreme relief for an end intimately felt as at hand. The moral
fermentation breaking through the bustle of outward questions even at a
time when she might have thrown herself, as one feels, on the great soft
breast of equalising Nature, or taken her chance of not being too wrong,
is a great stroke of truth. No one really could be less "morbid"; yet
she would take no chance--it wasn't in her--of not being right with the
right persons; among whom she so ranked her correspondent.

     My address at San Francisco will be simply Care of C. Temple Emmet,
     Esq.; and I am surely off this time unless heaven interposes in a
     miraculous way between now and Saturday. I've no great courage
     about it, but after all it's much the same to me where I am; life
     is always full of interest and mystery and happiness to me, and as
     for the voyage, the idea of three weeks of comparative solitude
     between sea and sky isn't unattractive.... I know that by my
     question [as to why he had written, apparently, that she was, of
     her nature, "far off" from him] I am putting an end to that
     delightful immunity I have enjoyed so much with you from sickening
     introspection, analysis of myself and yourself, that exhausting and
     nauseating subjectivity, with which most of my other friends see
     fit to deluge me, thereby taking much that is refreshing out of
     life. Don't be afraid of "hurting my feelings" by anything you can
     say. Our friendship has always been to my mind a one-sided thing,
     and if you should tell me you find me in any way unsympathetic or
     unsatisfactory it won't disappoint me, and I won't even allow
     myself to think I'm sorry. I feel so clearly that God knows best,
     and that we ought neither of us surely to wish to distort his
     creatures from the uses he made them for, just to serve our own
     purposes--that is to get a little more sympathy and comfort. We
     must each of us, after all, live out our own lives apart from
     everyone else; and yet, this being once understood as a fundamental
     truth, there is nobody's sympathy and approval that would encourage
     me so much as yours. I mean that if one's heart and motives could
     be known by another as God knows them, without disguise or
     extenuation, and if it should _then_ prove that on the _whole_ you
     didn't think well of me, it would, more than anything else could,
     shake my confidence in my own instincts, which must after all
     forever be my guide. And yet, as I said before, I am quite prepared
     for the worst, and shall listen to it, if necessary, quite humbly.
     I am very much inclined to trust your opinion before my own.

     An hour later. _Sold_ again, by all that's wonderful--I had almost
     said by all that's damnable, though it isn't exactly that. My
     brother Dick has just walked in with a telegram from Temple: "I
     shall be back in December--don't send M." A tremendous revulsion of
     feeling and a general sigh of relief have taken place on this
     announcement, and it's all right, I'm sure, though when I wrote you
     an hour ago I thought the same of the other prospect.

One catches one's breath a little, frankly, at what was to follow the
above within a few days--implying as it does that she had drawn upon
herself some fairly direct statement of her correspondent's reserves of
view as to her human or "intellectual" composition. To have _had_ such
reserves at such an hour, and to have responded to the invitation to
express them--for invitation there had been--is something that our
actual larger light quite helps us to flatter ourselves _we_ shouldn't
have been capable of. But what was of the essence between these
admirable persons was exactly the tone of truth; the larger light was
all to wait for, and the real bearings of the hour were as unapparent as
the interlocutors themselves were at home in clearness, so far as they
might bring that ideal about. And whatever turn their conversation took
is to the honour always of the generous girl's passion for truth. As
this long letter admirably illustrates that, I withdraw from it almost
nothing. The record of the rare commerce would be incomplete without it;
all the more perhaps for the wonder and pain of our seeing the noble and
pathetic young creature have, of all things, in her predicament, to
plead for extenuations, to excuse and justify herself.

     I understood your letter perfectly well--it was better than I
     feared it might be, but bad enough. Better because I knew already
     all it told me, and had been afraid there might be some new and
     horrible development in store for me which I hadn't myself felt;
     but bad enough because I find it in itself, new or old, such a
     disgusting fact that I am intellectually so unsympathetic. It is a
     fault I feel profoundly conscious of, but one that, strange to say,
     I have only of late been conscious of _as_ a fault. I dare say I
     have always known, in a general way, that I am very unobservant
     about things and take very little interest in subjects upon which
     my mind doesn't naturally dwell; but it had never occurred to me
     before that it is a fault that ought to be corrected. Whether
     because I have never been given to studying myself much, but have
     just let myself go the way my mind was most inclined to, more
     interested in the subject itself than in the fact that it
     interested me; or whether because one is averse to set oneself down
     as indolent and egotistic I don't know; at all events I have of
     late seen the thing in all its unattractiveness, and I wish I could
     get over it. Do you think that, now I am fully roused to the fact,
     my case is hopeless? Or that if I should try hard for the next
     twenty-five years I might succeed in modifying it? I am speaking
     now of a want of interest in _all_ the rest of the world; of not
     having the desire to investigate subjects, naturally uninteresting
     to me, just because they are interesting to some other human being
     whom I don't particularly owe anything to except that he _is_ a
     human being, and so his thoughts and feelings ought to be respected
     by me and sympathised with. Not to do this is, I know,
     unphilosophic and selfish, conceited and altogether inhuman. To be
     unselfish, to live for other people, to mould our lives as much as
     possible on the model of Christ's all-embracing humanity, seems
     most clearly to my mind the one thing worth living for; and yet it
     is still the hardest thing for me to do, and I think I do it less
     than anybody else who feels the necessity of it strongly at all.

     I am glad you still go to an occasional ball--I should rather like
     to meet you at one myself; it's a phase of life we have seen so
     little of together. I have been feeling so well lately that I don't
     know what to make of it. I don't remember ever in my life being in
     such good spirits. Not that they are not in general pretty natural
     to me when there is the slightest excuse for them, but now
     everything seems bright and happy, my life so full of interest, my
     time so thoroughly filled and such a delicious calm to have settled
     down on my usually restless spirit. Such an enjoyment of the
     _present_, such a grateful contentment, is in each new day as I see
     it dawn in the east, that I can only be thankful and say to myself:
     "Make a note of this--you are happy; don't forget it, nor to be
     thankful for this beautiful gift of life." This is Sunday morning,
     and I wonder whether you are listening to Phillips Brooks. I
     understand how you feel about his preaching--that it is all feeling
     and no reason; I found it so myself last winter in Philadelphia: he
     was good for those within the pale, but not good to convince
     outsiders that they should come in. I am glad, however, that he
     preaches in this way--I think his power lies in it; for it seems to
     me, after all, that what comfort we get from religion, and what
     light we have upon it, come to us through feeling, that is through
     trusting our instinct as the voice of God, the Holy Ghost, though
     it may at the same time appear to us directly against what our
     intellect teaches us. I don't mean by this that we should deny the
     conclusions arrived at by our intellect--which on the contrary I
     believe we should trust and stand by to the bitter end, whenever
     this may be. But let us fearlessly trust our _whole_ nature,
     showing our faith in God by being true to ourselves all through,
     and not dishonouring Him by ignoring what our heart says because it
     is not carried out by our intellect, or by wilfully blunting our
     intellectual perception because it happens to run against some
     cherished wish of our heart.

     "But," you will say, "how can a man live torn to pieces this way by
     these contrary currents?" Well, I know it is hard to keep our faith
     _sure_ of a standpoint where these apparent inconsistencies are all
     reconciled and the jangle and discord sound the sweetest harmony;
     but I do believe there _is_ one, in God, and that we must only try
     to have that faith and never mind how great the inconsistency may
     seem, nor how perplexing the maze it leads us through. Let us never
     give up one element of the problem for the sake of coming to a
     comfortable solution of it in this world. I don't blame those eager
     minds that are always worrying, studying, investigating, to _find_
     the solution here below; it is a noble work, and let them follow it
     out (and without a bit of compromise) to whom God has given the
     work. But whether we find it or not I would have them and all of us
     feel that it is to _be_ found, if God wills--and through no other
     means surely than by our being _true_. Blessed are they who have
     not seen and who have yet believed. But I am going out now for a
     walk! We have had the most delightful weather this whole week, and
     capital sleighing, and I have spent most of my time driving myself
     about with that same dear little pony. I went to town yesterday to
     a matinée of William Tell; it was delightful and I slept all night
     after it too. I am reading German a little every day, and it's
     beginning to go pretty well. Good-bye. Don't tire yourself out
     between work and dissipation.

I find myself quite sit up to her, as we have it to-day, while she sits
there without inconvenience, after all that has happened, under the dead
weight of William Tell; the relief of seeing her sublimely capable of
which, with the reprieve from her formidable flight to the Pacific
doubtless not a little contributing, helps to draw down again the
vision, or more exactly the sound, of the old New York and Boston Opera
as our young generation knew and artlessly admired it; admired it, by my
quite broken memories of the early time, in Brignoli the sweet and
vague, in Susini the deep and rich, in Miss Kellogg the native and
charming, in Adelaide Phillipps the universal, to say nothing of other
acclaimed warblers (they appear to me to have warbled then so much more
than since) whom I am afraid of not placing in the right perspective.
They warbled Faust a dozen times, it comes back to me, for once of
anything else; Miss Kellogg and Brignoli heaped up the measure of that
success, and I well remember the great yearning with which I heard my
cousin describe her first enchanted sense of it. The next in date of the
letters before me, of the last day but one of December '69, is mainly an
interesting expression of the part that music plays in her mental
economy--though but tentatively offered to her correspondent, who, she
fears, may not be musical enough to understand her, understand how much
"spiritual truth has been 'borne in' upon me by means of harmony: the
relation of the part to the whole, the absolute value of the individual,
the absolute necessity of uncompromising and unfaltering truth, the
different ways in which we like our likes and our unlikes," things all
that have been so made clearer to her. Of a singular grace in movement
and attitude, a grace of free mobility and activity, as original and
"unconventional" as it was carelessly natural, she never looked more
possessed of her best resources than at the piano in which she
delighted, at which she had ardently worked, and where, slim and
straight, her shoulders and head constantly, sympathetically swaying,
she discoursed with an admirable touch and a long surrender that was
like a profession of the safest relation she could know. Comparatively
safe though it might have been, however, in the better time, she was
allowed now, I gather, but little playing, and she is deep again toward
the end of January '70 in a quite other exposure, the old familiar
exposure to the "demon," as she calls it, "of the Why, Whence, Whither?"
Long as the letter is I feel it a case again for presentation whole; the
last thoughts of her life, as they appear, breathe in it with such
elevation. They seem to give us her last words and impulses, and, with
what follows of the middle of February, constitute the moving climax of
her rich short story.

     There have been times (and they will come again no doubt) when I
     could write to you about ordinary things in a way at least not
     depressing; but for a good while now I have felt so tired out,
     bodily and mentally, that I couldn't conscientiously ask you to
     share my mood. The life I live here in the country, and so very
     much alone, is capable of being the happiest or the unhappiest of
     existences, as it all depends so on oneself and is so very little
     interfered with by outside influences. Perhaps I am more than
     usually subject to extremes of happiness and of depression, yet I
     suppose everyone must have moments, even in the most varied and
     distracting life, when the old questioning spirit, the demon of the
     Why, Whence, Whither? stalks in like the skeleton at the feast and
     takes a seat beside him. I say everyone, but I must except those
     rare and happy souls who really believe in Christianity, who no
     longer strive after even goodness as it comes from one's own
     effort, but take refuge in the mysterious sacrifice of Christ, his
     merit sufficing, and in short throw themselves in the orthodox way
     on the consoling truth of the Atonement--to me hitherto neither
     comprehensible nor desirable. These people, having completely
     surrendered self, having lost their lives, as it were in Christ,
     must truly have found them, must know the rest that comes from
     literally casting their care of doubt and strife and thought upon
     the Lord.

     I say hitherto the doctrine of the vicarious suffering of Christ
     has been to me not only incomprehensible but also unconsoling; I
     didn't want it and didn't understand even intellectually the
     feeling of people who do. I don't mean to say that the life and
     death of Christ and the example they set for us have not been to me
     always the brightest spot in history--for they have; but they have
     stood rather as an example that we must try to follow, that we must
     by constant and ceaseless effort bring our lives nearer to--but
     always, to some extent at least, through ourselves, that is through
     ourselves with God's help, got by asking Him for it and by His
     giving it to us straight and with no mediation. When I have seen as
     time went by my own shortcomings all the more instead of the less
     frequent, I have thought: "Well, you don't try hard enough; you are
     not really in earnest in thinking that you believe in the Christian
     life as the only true one." The more I tried, nevertheless, the
     less it seemed like the model life; the best things I did continued
     to be the more spontaneous ones; the greatest efforts had the least
     success; until finally I couldn't but see that if this was
     Christianity it was not the "rest" that Christ had promised his
     disciples--it was nothing more than a pagan life with a high ideal,
     only an ideal so high that nothing but failure and unhappiness came
     from trying to follow it. And one night when I was awake through
     all the hours it occurred to me: What if this were the need that
     Christianity came to fill up in our hearts? What if, after all,
     that old meaningless form of words that had been sounded in my
     unheeding ears all my days were suddenly to become invested with
     spirit and truth? What if this were the good tidings that have made
     so many hearts secure and happy in the most trying situations? For
     if morality and virtue were the test of a Christian, certainly
     Christ would never have likened the kingdom of heaven to a little
     child, in whose heart is no struggle, no conscious battle between
     right and wrong, but only unthinking love and trust.

     However it may turn out, whether it shall seem true or untrue to me
     finally, I am at least glad to be able to put myself intellectually
     into the place of the long line of Christians who have felt the
     need and the comfort of this belief. It throws a light upon Uncle
     Henry's talk, which has seemed to me hitherto neither reasonable
     nor consoling. When I was with him it so far disgusted me that I
     fear I showed him plainly that I found it not only highly
     unpractical, but ignoble and shirking. I knew all the while that he
     disliked what he called my pride and conceit, but felt all the same
     that his views didn't touch my case a bit, didn't give me the least
     comfort or practical help, and seemed to me wanting in earnestness
     and strength. _Now_ I say to myself: What if the good gentleman had
     all along really got hold of the higher truth, the purer
     spirituality? Verily there are two sides to everything in this
     world, and one becomes more charitable the older one grows.
     However, if I write at this length it is because I am feeling
     to-day too seedy for anything else. I had a hemorrhage a week ago,
     which rather took the life out of me; but as it was the only one I
     feel I should by this time be coming round again--and probably
     might if I hadn't got into a sleepless state which completely
     knocks me up. The old consolatory remark, "Patience, neighbour, and
     shuffle the cards," ought to impart a little hope to me, I suppose;
     but it's a long time since I've had any trumps in my hand, and you
     know that with the best luck the game always tired me. Willy James
     sometimes tells me to behave like a man and a gentleman if I wish
     to outwit fate. What a _real_ person he is! He is to me in nearly
     all respects a head and shoulders above other people. How is
     Wendell Holmes? Elly is having the gayest winter in Washington and
     wants me to go to them there, which I had meant to do before the
     return of my last winter's illness. But it's not for me now.

     Later.--I have kept my letter a day or two, thinking I might feel
     in tune for writing you a better one and not sending this at all.
     But alas I shall have to wait some time before I am like my old
     self again, so I may as well let this go. You see I'm not in a
     condition, mentally or physically, to take bright and healthy views
     of life. But if you really care you may as well see this mood as
     another, for heaven only knows when I shall get out of it. Can you
     understand the utter weariness of thinking about one thing all the
     time, so that when you wake up in the morning consciousness comes
     back with a sigh of "Oh yes, here it is again; another day of
     doubting and worrying, hoping and fearing has begun." If I don't
     get any sleep at all, which is too frequently the case, the strain
     is a "leetle" bit too hard, and I am sometimes tempted to take a
     drop of "pison" to put me to sleep in earnest. That momentary
     vision of redemption from thinking and striving, of a happy rest
     this side of eternity, has vanished away again. I can't help it;
     peaceful, desirable as it may be, the truth is that practically I
     don't believe it. It was such a sudden thing, such an entire change
     from anything that had ever come to me before, that it seemed
     almost like an inspiration, and I waited, almost expecting it to
     continue, to be permanent. But it doesn't stay, and so back swings
     the universe to the old place--paganism, naturalism, or whatever
     you call the belief whose watchword is "God and our own soul." And
     who shall say there is not comfort in it? One at least feels that
     here one breathes one's native air, welcoming back the old _human_
     feeling, with its beautiful pride and its striving, its despair,
     its mystery and its faith. Write to me and tell me whether, as one
     goes on, one must still be tossed about more and more by these
     conflicting feelings, or whether they finally settle themselves
     quietly one way or the other and take only their proper share at
     least of one's life. This day is like summer, but I should enjoy it
     more if last night hadn't been quite the most unpleasant I ever
     spent. I got so thoroughly tired about two in the morning that I
     made up my mind in despair to give the morphine another trial, and
     as one dose had no effect took two; the consequence of which is
     that I feel as ill to-day as one could desire. I can tell you, sir,
     you had better prize the gift of sleep as it deserves while you
     have it. If I don't never write to you no more you'll know it's
     because I really wish to treat you kindly. But one of these days
     you'll get another kind of letter, brim-full perhaps with health
     and happiness and thoroughly ashamed of my present self. I had a
     long letter yesterday from Harry James at Florence--enjoying Italy
     but homesick. Did you see those verses in the North American
     translated from the Persian? Good-bye.

The last of all is full both of realities and illusions, the latter
insistently living through all the distress of the former. And I should
like to say, or to believe, that they remained with her to the end,
which was near.

     Don't be alarmed at my pencil--I am not in bed but only bundled-up
     on the piazza by order of the doctor.... I started for New York
     feeling a good deal knocked up, but hoping to get better from the
     change; I was to stay there over Sunday and see Dr. Metcalfe, who
     has a high reputation and was a friend of my father's. I left a
     request at his office that he would come to me on Sunday P.M.; but
     in the meantime my cousin Mrs. Minturn Post, with whom I was
     staying, urged upon me her physician, Dr. Taylor, who came on
     Saturday night, just as I was going to bed, and, after sounding my
     lungs, told me very dreadful things about them. As his verdict was
     worse than Metcalfe's proved I will tell you what he said first. He
     began very solemnly: "My dear young lady, your right lung is
     diseased; all your hemorrhages have come from there. It must have
     been bad for at least a year before they began. You must go to
     Europe as soon as possible." This was not cheerful, as I had been
     idiot enough to believe some time ago such a different explanation.
     But of course I wanted to learn what he absolutely thought, and
     told him I wasn't a bit afraid. If there weren't tubercles was I
     curable and if there _were_• was I hopeless? I asked him for the
     very worst view he had conscientiously to take, but didn't mean
     definitely to ask how long I should live, and so was rather
     unprepared for his reply of "Two or three years." I didn't however
     wish to make him regret his frankness, so I said, "Well, Doctor,
     even if my right lung were all gone I should make a stand with my
     left," and then, by way of showing how valiant the stand would be,
     fainted away. This, I should say, was owing a good deal to my
     previous used-up condition from want of sleep. It made him at any
     rate hasten to assure me that there was every possibility of my
     case being not after all so bad--with which he took his departure;
     to my great relief as I didn't think him at all nice. His grammar
     was bad, and he made himself generally objectionable.

     The next night dear Dr. Metcalfe came, whom I love for the gentlest
     and kindest soul I have ever seen. To start with he's a gentleman,
     as well as an excellent physician, and to end with he and my father
     were fond of each other at West Point, and he takes a sort of
     paternal interest in me. He told me that my right lung is decidedly
     weaker than my left, which is quite sound, and that the hemorrhage
     has been a good thing for it and kept it from actual disease; and
     also that if I can keep up my general health I may get all right
     again. He has known a ten times worse case get entirely well. He
     urged me not to go to Washington, but decidedly to go to Europe; so
     this last is what I am to do with my cousin Mrs. Post if I am not
     dead before June. In a fortnight I'm to go back to New York to be
     for some time under Metcalfe's care. I feel tired out and hardly
     able to stir, but my courage is good, and I don't propose to lose
     it if I can help, for I know it all depends on myself whether I get
     through or not. That is if I begin to be indifferent to what
     happens I shall go down the hill fast. I have fortunately, through
     my mother's father, enough Irish blood in me rather to enjoy a good
     fight. I feel the greatest longing for summer or spring; I should
     like it to be always spring for the rest of my life and to have all
     the people I care for always with me! But who _wouldn't_ like it
     so? Good-bye.

To the gallantry and beauty of which there is little surely to add. But
there came a moment, almost immediately after, when all illusion failed;
which it is not good to think of or linger on, and yet not pitiful not
to note. One may have wondered rather doubtingly--and I have expressed
that--what life would have had for her and how her exquisite faculty of
challenge could have "worked in" with what she was likely otherwise to
have encountered or been confined to. None the less did she in fact
cling to consciousness; death, at the last, was dreadful to her; she
would have given anything to live--and the image of this, which was long
to remain with me, appeared so of the essence of tragedy that I was in
the far-off aftertime to seek to lay the ghost by wrapping it, a
particular occasion aiding, in the beauty and dignity of art. The figure
that was to hover as the ghost has at any rate been of an extreme
pertinence, I feel, to my doubtless too loose and confused general
picture, vitiated perhaps by the effort to comprehend more than it
contains. Much as this cherished companion's presence among us had
represented for William and myself--and it is on _his_ behalf I
especially speak--her death made a mark that must stand here for a too
waiting conclusion. We felt it together as the end of our youth.


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

The following typographical errors have been corrected by the etext
transcriber:

which I left in one of the of the library's mantelpiece=>which I left in
one of the library's mantelpiece

qui s'est allongée malgré moi. Ton frere, James William.=>qui s'est
allongée malgré moi. Ton frère, James William.

At about 5 the fearful revéillé calls us>=At about 5 the fearful
réveillé calls us

quand meme>=quand même

my own that it should beeome so=>my own that it should become so

I dont care much what it may be=>I don't care much what it may be

       *       *       *       *       *



FOOTNOTES:

[1] _A Small Boy and Others._ New York, 1913.

[2] _A Small Boy and Others_, 1913.

[3] A Small Boy and Others, 1913.

[4] Expressive drawing alas irreproducible.

[5] A drawing of figures in evening lamplight.

[6] Literary Remains of Henry James, Boston, 1885. The portrait
accompanying the volume gave us, alas, but the scantest satisfaction.

[7] _Past and Present_, 1843.

[8] "But, Sir, we have yet one more scene to visit together, connected
with all we have previously witnessed: a home scene, Sir Benjamin; and
we must now ascend a mountain of pity high enough to command the dewy
extense of three kingdoms. From thence we have to look down from every
point of our warm hearts with a sight as multifold as the cherubic eyes.
We are to see with equal penetration through the diverse thickness of
castles, mansions, and cottages, through London and through hamlet, at
young wives and at aged mothers, little children, brothers and
sisters--all groups and ties that are; and at affianced maidens, ties
that were to be. There are rents and tears to-day in the general life:
the bulletin of the dead has come, and the groups of sorrow are
constituted. Splendid Paris bends as a Niobe or as a Rachel while the
corse of her much-enduring Hero is borne to the marble Invalides; other
corses go earthward with a shorter procession, helped away by the spades
of ruder but more instant sculptors; the rucked sod of the Alma is their
urn and monument in one; yet every warrior among them is also buried
to-day with swelling greatness of obsequies, if we could see them, in
the everlasting ruby vaults of some human heart. You are touched, Sir
Benjamin, and are justly religious on this summit. Struck down for a
moment from worldliness, we both discourse without an afterthought on
the immortal state; we hope that the brave are already welcomed in the
land of peace; that our laurels they could not stop to take, and our
earned promotion they seem to have missed are clad upon them now by the
God of battles in front of the shining armies of the just. We hope also
that if their voices could now speak to the mourners, the oil of their
sure gladness would heal our faithless sorrow. It is a true strain no
doubt, and yet but of momentary power." War, Cholera, and the Ministry
of Health. An Appeal to Sir Benjamin Hall and the British People.
London, 1854.

[9] An eminent Unitarian pastor.

[10] My youngest brother's ingenuity was to know as little rest during
much of his life as his strong faculty of agitation--to the employment
of which it was indeed not least remarkably applied. Many illustrations
of it would be to give, had I more margin; and not one of them anything
less than striking, thanks to the vivacity of his intelligence, the
variety of his gifts and the native ability in which he was himself so
much less interested than was the case with everyone he met, however
casually, that he became, many years before his death in 1910, our one
gentleman of leisure: so far as this condition might consort with the
easiest aptitude for admirable talk, charged with natural life,
perception, humour and colour, that I have perhaps ever known. There
were times when Bob's spoken overflow struck me as the equivalent, for
fine animation, of William's epistolary. The note of the ingenious in
him spent itself as he went, but I find an echo of one of its many
incidents in the passage of verse that I am here moved to rescue from
undue obscurity. It is too "amateurish" and has too many irregular
lines, but images admirably the play of spirit in him which after
ranging through much misadventure could at last drop to an almost
effective grasp of the happiest relation.

    Although I lie so low and still
    Here came I by the Master's will;
    He smote at last to make me free,
    As He was smitten on the tree
    And nailèd there. He knew of old
    The human heart, and mine is cold;
    And I know now that all we gain
    Until we come to Him is vain.
    Thy hands have never wrought a deed,
    Thy heart has never known a need,
    That went astray in His great plan
    Since far-off days when youth began.
    For in that vast and perfect plan
    Where time is but an empty span
    Our Master waits. He knows our want,
    We know not his--till pale and gaunt
    With weariness of life we come
    And say to Him, What shall I be?
    Oh Master, smite, but make me free
    Perchance in these far worlds to know
    The better thing we sought to be.

    And then upon thy couch lie down
    And fold the hands which have not sown;
    And as thou liest there alone
    Perhaps some breath from seraph blown
    As soft as dew upon the rose
    Will fall upon thee at life's close.
    So thou wilt say, At last, at last!
    All pain is love when pain is past!
    And to the Master once again:
    Oh keep my heart too weak to pray;
    I ask no longer questions vain
    Of life and love, of loss and gain--
    These for the living are and strong;
    I go to Thee, to Thee belong.
    Once was I wakened by Thy light,
    But years have passed, and now the night
    Takes me to Thee. I am content;
    So be it in Thy perfect plan
    A mansion is where I am sent
    To dwell among the innocent.





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