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Title: James Russell Lowell and his Friends
Author: Hale, Edward Everett
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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  _From the crayon by S.W. Rowse in the possession of Professor Charles
    Eliot Norton_]




With Portraits, Facsimiles, and Other Illustrations


Boston and New York
Houghton Mifflin Company
The Riverside Press Cambridge

Copyright, 1898 and 1899, by the Outlook Company
All Rights Reserved



When my friend Mr. Howland, of the “Outlook” magazine, asked me if I
could write for that magazine a Life of James Russell Lowell, I said at
once that I could not. While there were certain periods of our lives
when we met almost daily, for other periods we were parted, so that for
many years I never saw him. I said that the materials for any Life of
him were in the hands of others, who would probably use them at the
proper time.

Then Mr. Howland suggested that, without attempting anything which
should be called a Life of Mr. Lowell, I might write for the “Outlook”
a review, as it were, of the last sixty years among literary and
scientific people in Boston and its neighborhood. I do not think he
wanted my autobiography, nor had I any thought of preparing it for him;
but he suggested the book which is in the reader’s hands. This was in
April, 1897. I began my preparation for the book with great pleasure. I
was cordially helped by friends of Lowell, who opened to me their
stores of memories and papers and pictures; and on the 1st of January,
1898, the first number of a series of twelve was published in the
“Outlook.” This series is now collected, with such additions as seemed
desirable, and such corrections as were suggested by kind and courteous

I should like to acknowledge here personally the courtesy and kindness
of the different friends of Mr. Lowell who have rendered such cordial
assistance; but really there are too many of them. In trying to prepare
a list, I found that I was running up far into the hundreds, and I will
not therefore name any one here. On another page the reader will see
how largely we are indebted to friends of Mr. Lowell who have furnished
us with pictures. To the friends who have loaned us letters or
memoranda from diaries or other recollections of him, I must express in
general my cordial thanks.

                                                         EDWARD E. HALE.

ROXBURY, _April, 1899_.



              CHAP.                                  PAGE

                 I. HIS BOYHOOD AND EARLY LIFE          1

                II. HARVARD COLLEGE                    15

               III. LITERARY WORK IN COLLEGE           25

                IV. CONCORD                            43

                 V. BOSTON IN THE FORTIES              55

                VI. THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS           70

               VII. A MAN OF LETTERS                   78

              VIII. LOWELL AS A PUBLIC SPEAKER        102

                IX. HARVARD REVISITED                 125

                 X. LOWELL’S EXPERIENCE AS AN EDITOR  147

                XI. POLITICS AND THE WAR              170

               XII. TWENTY YEARS OF HARVARD           192

              XIII. MR. LOWELL IN SPAIN               215

               XIV. MINISTER TO ENGLAND               237

                XV. HOME AGAIN                        262

                    INDEX                             287



 JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL                                     _Frontispiece_

    From the crayon by S.W. Rowse in the possession                 Page
 of Professor Charles Eliot Norton.

 ENTRANCE TO ELMWOOD                                          _facing_ 4

    From a photograph by Pach Brothers.

 REV. CHARLES LOWELL                                                   8

    From a painting in the possession of Charles
 Lowell, Boston.

 THE PASTURE, ELMWOOD                                        _facing_ 12

    From a photograph by Pach Brothers.

 EDWARD TYRREL CHANNING                                      _facing_ 18

    From the painting by Healy in Memorial Hall,
 Harvard University.

 NATHAN HALE                                                 _facing_ 36

    From a photograph by Black.

 LOWELL’S POEM TO HIS COLLEGE CLASS                          _facing_ 50

    From a printed copy lent by Mrs. Elizabeth
 Scates Beck, Germantown, Pa.


 Lent by Mrs. Elizabeth Scates Beck, Germantown,

 JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL                                        _facing_ 74

    From the crayon by William Page in the
 possession of Mrs. Charles F. Briggs, Brooklyn,

 MARIA LOWELL                                                _facing_ 78

    From the crayon by S. W. Rowse in the
 possession of Miss Georgina Lowell Putnam, Boston.

 CHARLES F. BRIGGS                                           _facing_ 84

    From an ambrotype by Brady lent by Mrs. Charles
 F. Briggs, Brooklyn, N.Y.

 (The Authors’ names are in the handwriting of
 Nathan Hale)

 FACSIMILE OF LOWELL’S LIST OF FRIENDS to whom he            _facing_ 92
 presented copies of Conversations on the Old
 Poets. “The Don” was Robert Carter

    From the original MS. owned by General James
 Lowell Carter, Boston.

 JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL                                        _facing_ 96

    From a daguerreotype, taken in Philadelphia in
 1844, owned by E.A. Pennock, Boston.

 JOHN LOWELL, JR.                                           _facing_ 112

    From a painting by Chester Harding in the
 possession of Augustus Lowell, Boston.


    From a photograph by Black owned by General
 James Lowell Carter, Boston.

 CORNELIUS CONWAY FELTON                                    _facing_ 134

          From a photograph lent by Miss Mary Sargent, Worcester,

 ELMWOOD                                                    _facing_ 138

     From a photograph.

 JAMES T. FIELDS                                            _facing_ 150

    From the photograph by Mrs. Cameron.

 MOSES DRESSER PHILLIPS                                     _facing_ 154

    From a daguerreotype kindly lent by his
 daughter, Miss Sarah F. Phillips, West Medford,

 OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES                                      _facing_ 158

    From a photograph taken in 1862.


    Kindly lent by Mrs. Charles F. Briggs,
 Brooklyn, N.Y.

 WILLIAM WETMORE STORY                                      _facing_ 164

    From a photograph by Waldo Story lent by Miss
 Ellen Eldredge, Boston.

 JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL                                       _facing_ 168

         From a photograph taken by Dr. Holmes in 1864. The
 print is signed by both Holmes and Lowell, and is
 kindly lent by Charles Akers, New York, N.Y.

 SYDNEY HOWARD GAY                                          _facing_ 178

    From a photograph lent by Francis J. Garrison,

 ELMWOOD                                                    _facing_ 182

    From a photograph by Miss C.E. Peabody,
 Cambridge, Mass.

 ROBERT GOULD SHAW                                          _facing_ 184

    From a photograph lent by Francis J. Garrison,

 WILLIAM LOWELL PUTNAM                                      _facing_ 184

    From the crayon by S.W. Rowse in the possession
 of Miss Georgina Lowell Putnam, Boston.

 CHARLES RUSSELL LOWELL                                     _facing_ 184

    From the crayon by S.W. Rowse in the possession
 of Miss Georgina Lowell Putnam, Boston.

 JAMES JACKSON LOWELL                                       _facing_ 184

    From a photograph kindly lent by Miss Georgina
 Lowell Putnam, Boston.

 FRANCIS JAMES CHILD                                        _facing_ 186

    From a photograph lent by Mrs. Child.

 HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW                                 _facing_ 188

    From a photograph, taken in 1860, lent by Miss

 ASA GRAY                                                   _facing_ 196

    From the bronze tablet by Augustus St. Gaudens
 in Harvard University.

 LOUIS AGASSIZ                                              _facing_ 198

    From a photograph lent by Francis J. Garrison,

 CHARLES ELIOT NORTON                                       _facing_ 202

    From a photograph taken in 1870.

 THE HALL AT ELMWOOD                                        _facing_ 210

    From a photograph by Mrs. J.H. Thurston,

 WHITBY                                                     _facing_ 240

    From a photograph kindly lent by The Outlook

 THOMAS HUGHES                                              _facing_ 258

    From a photograph.

 WILLIAM PAGE                                               _facing_ 266

    From a photograph kindly lent by Mrs. Charles
 F. Briggs, Brooklyn, N.Y.


    From a copyrighted photograph taken in the
 spring of 1891 by Mrs. J.H. Thurston, Cambridge.
 This is probably the last picture of Mr. Lowell.

 ROOM ADJOINING THE LIBRARY AT ELMWOOD                      _facing_ 270

    From a photograph by Mrs. J.H. Thurston,

 November 11, 1890

 FIRST TWO AND LAST TWO STANZAS OF MR. LOWELL’S             _facing_ 284

    From the original MS. in the possession of the
 Rev. Minot J. Savage, New York, N.Y.


                          JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL
                            AND HIS FRIENDS


                               CHAPTER I
                       HIS BOYHOOD AND EARLY LIFE

One cannot conceive more fortunate or charming conditions than those of
the boyhood and early education of James Russell Lowell. You may study
the babyhood and boyhood of a hundred poets and not find one home like
his. His father, the Rev. Charles Lowell, was the minister of a large
parish in Boston for more than fifty years. Before James was born, Dr.
Lowell had moved his residence from Boston to Cambridge, to the home
which his children afterwards called Elmwood. So much of Mr. Lowell’s
poetry refers to this beautiful place, as beautiful now as it was then,
that even far-away readers will feel a personal interest in it.

The house, not much changed in the last century, was one of the
Cambridge houses deserted by the Tory refugees at the time of the
Revolution. On the steps of this house Thomas Oliver, who lived there
in 1774, stood and heard the demand of the freeholders of Middlesex
County when they came to bid him resign George the Third’s commission.
The king had appointed him lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts and
president of the council. But by the charter of the province councilors
were to be elected. Thomas Oliver became, therefore, an object of
public resentment. A committee of gentlemen of the county waited on him
on the morning of September 2, 1774, at this house, not then called
Elmwood. At their request he waited at once on General Gage in Boston,
to prevent the coming of any troops out from town to meet the Middlesex
yeomanry. And he was able to report to them in the afternoon that no
troops had been ordered, “and, from the account I had given his
Excellency, none would be ordered.” The same afternoon, however, four
or five thousand men appeared, not from the town but from the
country—“a quarter part in arms.” For in truth this was a rehearsal for
the minute-men’s gathering of the next spring, on the morning of the
battle of Lexington. They insisted on Oliver’s resignation of his
commission from the crown, and he at last signed the resignation they
had prepared, with this addition: “My house at Cambridge being
surrounded by five thousand people, in compliance with their command, I
sign my name.”

But for Thomas Oliver’s intercession with General Gage and the Admiral
of the English fleet, the English troops would have marched to
Cambridge that day, and Elmwood would have been the battleground of the
First Encounter.

The state confiscated his house after Governor Oliver left for England.
Elbridge Gerry, one of the signers of the Declaration, occupied it

Readers must remember that in Cambridge were Washington’s headquarters,
and that the centre of the American army lay in Cambridge. During this
time the large, airy rooms of Elmwood were used for the hospital
service of the centre. Three or four acres of land belonged to the
estate. Since those early days a shorter road than the old road from
Watertown to Cambridge has been cut through on the south of the house,
which stands, therefore, in the midst of a triangle of garden and
meadow. But it was and is well screened from observation by high lilac
hedges and by trees, mostly elms and pines. It is better worth while to
say all this than it might be were we speaking of some other life, for,
as the reader will see, the method of education which was followed out
with James Russell Lowell and his brothers and sisters made a little
world for them within the confines, not too narrow, of the garden and
meadow of Elmwood.

In this home James Russell Lowell was born, on the 22d of February,
1819. There is more than one reference in his letters to his being born
on Washington’s birthday. His father, as has been said, was the Rev.
Charles Lowell. His mother before her marriage was Harriet Spence,
daughter of Mary Traill, who was the daughter of Robert Traill, of
Orkney. They were of the same family to which Minna Troil, of Scott’s
novel of “The Pirate,” belongs. Some of us like to think that the
second-sight and the weird fancies without which a poet’s life is not
fully rounded came to the child of Elmwood direct by the blood and
traditions of Norna and the Fitful Head. Anyway, Mrs. Lowell was a
person of remarkable nature and accomplishments. In the very close of
her life her health failed, from difficulties brought on by the bad
food and other exposure of desert travel in the East with her husband.
Those were the prehistoric days when travelers in Elijah’s deserts did
not carry with them a cook from the Palais Royal. But such delicate
health was not a condition of the early days of the poet’s life.

His mother had the sense, the courage, and exquisite foresight which
placed the little boy, almost from his birth, under the personal charge
of a sister eight years older. Mrs. Putnam died on the 1st of June,
1898, loving and beloved, after showing the world in a thousand ways
how well she was fitted for the privileges and duties of the nurse,
playmate, companion, philosopher, and friend of a poet. She entered
into this charge, I do not know how early—I suppose from his birth. I
hope that we shall hear that she left in such form that they may be
printed her notes on James’s childhood and her care of it.


Certain general instructions were given by father and mother, and under
these the young Mentor was largely left to her own genius and
inspiration. A daily element in the business was the little boy’s nap.
He was to lie in his cradle for three hours every morning. His little
nurse, eleven or twelve years old, might sing to him if she chose, but
she generally preferred to read to him from the poets who interested
her. The cadences of verse were soothing, and so the little boy fell
asleep every day quieted by the rhythm of Shakespeare or Spenser. By
the time a boy is three years old he does not feel much like sleeping
three hours in the forenoon. Also, by that time this little James began
to be interested in the stories in Spenser, and Mrs. Putnam once gave
me a most amusing account of the struggle of this little blue-eyed
fellow to resist the coming of sleep and to preserve his consciousness
so that he might not lose any of the poem.

Of course the older sister had to determine, in doubtful cases, whether
this or that pastime or occupation conflicted with the general rules
which had been laid down for them. In all the years of this tender
intimacy they never had but one misunderstanding. He was quite clear
that he had a right to do this; she was equally sure that he must do
that. For a minute it seemed as if there were a parting of the ways.
There was no assertion of authority on her part; there could be none.
But he saw the dejection of sorrow on her face. And this was enough. He
rushed back to her, yielded the whole point, and their one dispute was
at an end. The story is worth telling, if only as an early and
exquisite exhibition of the profound affection for others which is at
the basis of Lowell’s life. If to this loving-kindness you add an
extraordinary self-control, you have the leading characteristics of his
nature as it appears to those who knew him earliest and best, and who
have such right to know where the motives of his life are to be found.

I am eager to go on in some reminiscences of the little Arcadia of
Elmwood. But I must not do this till I have said something of the noble
characteristics of the boy’s father. Indeed, I must speak of the blood
which was in the veins of father and son, that readers at a distance
from Boston may be reminded of a certain responsibility which attaches
in Massachusetts to any one who bears the Lowell name.

I will go back only four generations, when the Rev. John Lowell was the
Congregational minister of Newburyport, and so became a leader of
opinion in Essex County. This man’s son, James Lowell’s grandfather,
the second John Lowell, is the Lowell who as early as 1772 satisfied
himself that, at the common law, slavery could not stand in
Massachusetts. It is believed that he offered to a negro, while
Massachusetts was still a province of the Crown, to try if the courts
could not be made to liberate him as entitled to the rights of
Englishmen. This motion of his may have been suggested by Lord
Mansfield’s decision in 1772, in the Somerset case, which determined,
from that day to this day, that—

           “Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
           Receive our air, that moment they are free!
           They touch our country, and their shackles fall!”

But in that year John Lowell lost his chance. In 1779, however, he
introduced the clause in our Massachusetts Bill of Rights under which
the Supreme Court of Massachusetts freed every slave in the state who
sought his freedom. Let me say in passing that some verses of his,
written when he was quite a young man, are preserved in the “Pietas et
Gratulatio.” This was an elegant volume which Harvard College prepared
and sent to George III. in 1760 on his accession to the crown. They are
written with the exaggeration of a young man’s verse; but they show,
not only that he had the ear for rhythm and something of what I call
the “lyric swing,” but also that he had the rare art of putting things.
There is snap and epigram in the lines. Here they differ by the whole
sky from the verses of James Russell, who was also a great-grandfather
of our poet Lowell. This gentleman, a resident of Charlestown, printed
a volume of poems, which is now very rare. I am, very probably, the
only person in the world who has ever read it, and I can testify that
there is not one line in the book which is worth remembering, if,
indeed, any one could remember a line of it.

John Lowell, the emancipator, became a judge. He had three sons,—John
Lowell, who, without office, for many years led Massachusetts in her
political trials; Francis Cabot Lowell, the founder of the city of
Lowell; and Charles Lowell, the father of the poet. It is Francis
Lowell’s son who founded the Lowell Institute, the great popular
university of Boston. It is Judge John Lowell’s grandson who directs
that institution with wonderful wisdom; and it is his son who gives us
from day to day the last intelligence about the crops in Mars, or
reverses the opinions of centuries as to the daily duties of Mercury
and Venus. I say all this by way of illustration as to what we have a
right to expect of a Lowell, and, if you please, of what James Russell
Lowell demanded of himself as soon as he knew what blood ran in his

In this connection one thing must be said with a certain emphasis; for
the impression has been given that James Russell Lowell took up his
anti-slavery sentiment from lessons which he learned from the outside
after he left college.

The truth is that Wilberforce’s portrait hung opposite his father’s
face in the dining-room. And it was not likely that in that house
people had forgotten who wrote the anti-slavery clauses in the
Massachusetts Bill of Rights only forty years before Lowell was born.

Before he was a year old the Missouri Compromise passed Congress. The
only outburst of rage remembered in that household was when Charles
Lowell, the father, lost his self-control, on the morning when he read
his newspaper announcing that capitulation of the North to its Southern
masters. It took more than forty years before that same household had
to send its noblest offering to the war which should undo that
capitulation. It was forty-five years before Lowell delivered the
Harvard Commemoration Ode under the college elms.



  _From a painting in the possession of Charles Lowell, Boston_]

We are permitted to publish for the first time a beautiful portrait of
the Rev. Charles Lowell when he was at his prime. The picture does more
than I can do to give an impression of what manner of man he was, and
to account for the regard, which amounts to reverence, with which
people who knew him speak of him to this hour. The reader at a distance
must try to imagine what we mean when we speak of a Congregational
minister in New England at the end of the last century and at the
beginning of this. We mean a man who had been chosen by a congregation
of men to be their spiritual teacher for his life through, and, at the
same time, the director of sundry important functions in the
administration of public affairs. When one speaks of the choice of
Charles Lowell to be a minister in Boston, it is meant that the
selection was made by men who were his seniors, perhaps twice his age,
among whom were statesmen, men of science, leaders at the bar, and
merchants whose sails whitened all the ocean. Such men made the
selection of their minister from the young men best educated, from the
most distinguished families of the State.

In 1805 Charles Lowell returned from professional study in Edinburgh.
He had been traveling that summer with Mr. John Lowell, his oldest
brother. In London he had seen Wilberforce, who introduced him into the
House of Commons, where he heard Fox and Sheridan. Soon after he
arrived in Boston he was invited to preach at the West Church.

This church was the church of Mayhew, who was the Theodore Parker of
his time. Mayhew was in the advance in the Revolutionary sentiment of
his day, and Samuel Adams gave to him the credit of having first
suggested the federation of the Colonies: “Adams, we have a communion
of churches; why do we not make a communion of states?” This he said
after leaving the communion table. In such a parish young Charles
Lowell preached in 1805, from the text, “Rejoice in the Lord alway.”
Soon after, he was unanimously invited to settle as its minister, and
in that important charge he remained until he died, on the 20th of
January, 1861.

Mr. Lowell was always one of those who interpreted most broadly and
liberally the history and principles of the Christian religion. But he
was never willing to join in the unfortunate schism which divided the
Congregational churches between Orthodox and Unitarian. He and Dr. John
Pierce, of Brookline, to their very death, succeeded in maintaining a
certain nominal connection with the Evangelical part of the
Congregational body.

The following note, written thirty-six years after James Lowell was
born, describes his position in the disputes of “denominationalists”:—

  MY DEAR SIR: You must allow me to say that, whilst I am most happy to
  have my name announced as a contributor toward any fund that may aid
  in securing freedom and religious instruction to Kansas, I do not
  consent to its being announced as the minister of a Unitarian or
  Trinitarian church, in the common acceptation of those terms. If
  there is anything which I have uniformly, distinctly, and
  emphatically declared, it is that I have adopted no other religious
  creed than the Bible, and no other name than Christian as denoting my
  religious faith.

     Very affectionately your friend and brother,

                                                            CHA. LOWELL.

         December 19, 1855.

It may be said that he was more known as a minister than as a preacher.
There was no branch of ministerial duty in which he did not practically
engage. His relations with his people, from the beginning to the end,
were those of entire confidence. But it must be understood, while this
is said, that he was a highly popular preacher everywhere, and every
congregation, as well as that of the West Church, was glad if by any
accident of courtesy or of duty he appeared in the pulpit.

The interesting and amusing life by which the children of the family
made a world of the gardens of Elmwood was in itself an education. The
garden and grounds, as measured by a surveyor, were only a few acres.
But for a circle of imaginative children, as well led as the Lowell
children were, this is a little world. One is reminded of that fine
passage in Miss Trimmers’s “Robins,” where, when the four little birds
have made their first flight from the nest into the orchard, Pecksy
says: “Mamma, what a large place the world is!” Practically, I think,
for the earlier years of James Lowell’s life, Elmwood furnished as
large a world as he wanted. Within its hedges and fences the young
people might do much what they chose. They were Mary, who was the
guardian; then came William; afterwards Robert, whose name is well
known in our literature; and then James. The four children were much
together; they found nothing difficult, for work or for pastime.
Another daughter, Rebecca, was the songstress of the home; with a sweet
flexible voice she sang, in her childhood, hymns, and afterwards the
Scotch melodies and the other popular music of the day.

The different parts of the grounds of Elmwood became to these children
different cities of the world, and they made journeys from one to
another. Their elder brother Charles, until he went to Exeter to
school, joined in this geographical play.

The father and mother differed from each other, but were allied in
essentials; they enjoyed the same tastes and followed the same pursuits
in literature and art. Dr. Lowell was intimate with Allston, the
artist, whose studio was not far away, and the progress of his work was
a matter of home conversation.

Mrs. Putnam told me that in “The First Snowfall” would be found a
reference to Lowell’s elder brother William, who died when the poet
himself was but five years old; another trace of this early memory
appears again in the poem “Music,” in “A Year’s Life.”

To such open-air life we may refer the pleasure he always took in the
study of birds, their seasons and habits, and the accuracy of his
knowledge with regard to trees and wild flowers.

[Illustration: THE PASTURE, ELMWOOD]

In the simple customs of those days, when one clergyman exchanged
pulpits with another, Dr. Lowell would drive in his own “chaise” to the
parsonage of his friend, would spend the day there, and return probably
on Monday morning. He soon found that James was a good companion in
such rides, and the little fellow had many reminiscences of these early
travels. It would be easy to quote hundreds of references in his poems
and essays to the simple Cambridge life of these days before college.
Thus here are some lines from the poem hardly known, on “The Power of

           “When, with feuds like Ghibelline and Guelf,
           Each parish did its music for itself,
           A parson’s son, through tree-arched country ways,
           I rode exchanges oft in dear old days,
           Ere yet the boys forgot, with reverent eye,
           To doff their hats as the black coat went by,
           Ere skirts expanding in their apogee
           Turned girls to bells without the second e;
           Still in my teens, I felt the varied woes
           Of volunteers, each singing as he chose,
           Till much experience left me no desire
           To learn new species of the village choir.”

So soon as the boy was old enough he was sent to the school of Mr.
William Wells, an English gentleman who kept a classical school in
Cambridge, not far from Dr. Lowell’s house. Of this school Dr. Holmes
and Mr. Higginson have printed some of their memories. All the
Cambridge boys who were going to college were sent there. Mr. Wells was
a good Latin scholar, and on the shelves of old-fashioned men will
still be found his edition of Tacitus, printed under his own eye in
Cambridge, and one of the tokens of that “Renaissance” in which
Cambridge and Boston meant to show that they could push such things
with as much vigor and success as they showed in the fur trade or in
privateering. A very good piece of scholarly work it is. Mr. Wells was
a well-trained Latinist from the English schools, and his boys learned
their Latin well. And it is worth the while of young people to observe
that in the group of men of letters at Cambridge and Boston, before and
after James Lowell’s time, Samuel Eliot, William Orne White, James
Freeman Clarke, Charles and James Lowell, John and Wendell Holmes,
Charles Sumner, Wentworth Higginson, and other such men never speak
with contempt of the niceties of classical scholarship. You would not
catch one of them in a bad quantity, as you sometimes do catch to-day
even a college president, if you are away from Cambridge, in the
mechanical Latin of his Commencement duty.

But though the boys might become good Latinists and good Grecians, the
school has not a savory memory as to the personal relations between
master and pupils. James Lowell, however, knew but little of its
hardships, as he was but a day scholar. Dr. Samuel Eliot, who attended
the school as a little boy, tells me that Lowell delighted to tell the
boys imaginative tales, and the little fellows, or many of them, took
pleasure in listening to the more stirring stories. “I remember nothing
of them except one, which rejoiced in the central interest of a trap in
the playground, which opened to subterranean marvels of various kinds.”


                               CHAPTER II
                            HARVARD COLLEGE

From such life, quite familiar with Cambridge and its interests, Lowell
presented himself for entrance at Harvard College in the summer of
1834, and readily passed the somewhat strict examination which was

Remember, if you please, or learn now, if you never knew, that “Harvard
College” was a college by itself, or “seminary,” as President Quincy
used to call it, and had no vital connection with the law school, the
school of medicine, or the divinity school,—though they were governed
by the same Board of Fellows, and, with the college, made up Harvard
University. Harvard College was made of four classes,—numbering, all
told, some two hundred and fifty young men, of all ages from fourteen
to thirty-five. Most of them were between sixteen and twenty-two. In
this college they studied Latin, Greek, and mathematics chiefly. But on
“modern language days,” which were Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, there
appeared teachers of French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Portuguese;
and everybody not a freshman must take his choice in these studies.
They were called “voluntaries,” not because you could shirk if you
wanted to, for you could not, but because you chose German or Italian
or Spanish or French or Portuguese. When you had once chosen, you had
to keep on for four terms. But as to college “marks” and the rank which
followed, a modern language was “worth” only half a classical language.

Beside these studies, as you advanced you read more or less in
rhetoric, logic, moral philosophy, political economy, chemistry, and
natural history,—less rather than more. There was no study whatever of
English literature, but the best possible drill in the writing of the
English language. There was a well selected library of about fifty
thousand volumes, into which you might go on any week-day at any time
before four o’clock and read anything you wanted. You took down the
book with your own red right hand, and you put it back when you were

Then there were three or four society libraries. To these you
contributed an entrance fee, when you were chosen a member, and an
annual fee of perhaps two dollars. With this money the society bought
almost all the current novels of the time. Novels were then published
in America in two volumes, and they cost more than any individual
student liked to pay. One great object in joining a college society was
to have a steady supply of novels. For my part, I undoubtedly averaged
eighty novels a year in my college course. They were much better
novels, in my judgment, than the average novels of to-day are, and I
know I received great advantage from the time I devoted to reading
them. I think Lowell would have said the same thing. But I do not mean
to imply that such reading was his principal reading. He very soon
began delving in the stores which the college library afforded him of
the older literature of England.

You had to attend morning chapel and evening chapel. Half the year
these offices were at six in the morning and six at night. But as the
days shortened, morning prayers came later and later,—even as late as
half past seven in the morning,—while afternoon prayers came as early
as quarter past four, so that the chapel need not be artificially
lighted. On this it followed that breakfast, which was an hour and
twenty minutes after prayers, might be long after eight in the morning,
and supper at half past four in the afternoon. This left enormously
long evenings for winter reading.

Lowell found in the government some interesting and remarkable men.

Josiah Quincy, the president, had been the mayor of Boston who had to
do with ordering the system and precedents of its government under the
new city charter. From a New England town, governed by the fierce
democracy of town meetings, he changed it into a “city,” as America
calls it, ruled by an intricate system of mayor, aldermen, council,
school committee, and overseers of the poor. Of a distinguished patriot
family, Mr. Quincy had been, for years of gallant battle, a leader in
Congress of the defeated and disconcerted wrecks of the Federal party.
His white plume never went down, and he fought the Southern oligarchy
as cheerfully as Amadis ever fought with his uncounted enemies. He was
old enough to have been an aide to Governor Hancock when Washington
visited Boston in 1792. In Congress he had defied John Randolph, who
was an antagonist worthy of him; and he hated Jefferson, and despised
him, I think, with a happy union of scorn and hatred, till he died.
When he was more than ninety, after the civil war began, I had my last
interview with him. He was rejoiced that the boil had at last
suppurated and was ready to be lanced, and that the thing was to be
settled in the right way. He said: “Gouverneur Morris once said to me
that we made our mistake when we began, when we united eight republics
with five oligarchies.”

It is interesting now to know, what I did not know till after his
death, that this gallant leader of men believed that he was directed,
in important crises, by his own “Daimon,” quite as Socrates believed.
In the choice of his wife, which proved indeed to have been made in
heaven, he knew he was so led. And, in after life, he ascribed some
measures of importance and success to his prompt obedience to the wise
Daimon’s directions.

His wife was most amiable in her kind interest in the students’ lives.
The daughters who resided with him were favorites in the social circles
of Cambridge.


Most of the work of the college was then done in rather dreary
recitations, such as you might expect in a somewhat mechanical school
for boys to-day. But Edward Tyrrel Channing, brother of the great
divine, met his pupils face to face and hand to hand. He deserves the
credit of the English of Emerson, Holmes, Sumner, Clarke, Bellows,
Lowell, Higginson, and other men whom he trained. Their English did
more credit to Harvard College, I think, than any other of its
achievements for those thirty-two years. You sat, physically, at his
side. He read your theme aloud with you,—so loud, if he pleased, that
all of the class who were present could hear his remarks of praise or
ridicule,—“Yes, we used to have white paper and black ink; now we have
blue paper, blue ink.” I wonder if Mr. Emerson did not get from him the
oracle, “Leave out the adjectives, and let the nouns do the fighting.”
I think that is Emerson’s. Or whose is it?

In 1836, when Lowell was a sophomore, Mr. Longfellow came to Cambridge,
a young man, to begin his long and valuable life in the college. His
presence there proved a benediction, and, I might say, marks an epoch
in the history of Harvard. In the first place, he was fresh from
Europe, and he gave the best possible stimulus to the budding interest
in German literature. In the second place, he came from Bowdoin
College, and in those days it was a very good thing for a Harvard
undergraduate to know that there were people not bred in Cambridge
quite as well read, as intelligent, as elegant and accomplished as any
Harvard graduate. In the third place, Longfellow, though he was so
young, ranked already distinctly as a man of letters. This was no
broken-winded minister who had been made professor. He was not a lawyer
without clients, or a doctor without patients, for whom “a place” had
to be found. He was already known as a poet by all educated people in
America. The boys had read in their “First Class Book” his “Summer
Shower” verses. By literature, pure and simple, and the work of
literature, he had won his way to the chair of the Smith professorship
of modern literature, to which Mr. George Ticknor had already given
distinction. Every undergraduate knew all this, and felt that young
Longfellow’s presence was a new feather in our cap, as one did not feel
when one of our own seniors was made a tutor, or one of our own tutors
was made a professor.

But, better than this for the college, Longfellow succeeded, as no
other man did, in breaking that line of belt ice which parted the
students from their teachers. Partly, perhaps, because he was so young;
partly because he was agreeable and charming; partly because he had the
manners of a man of the world, because he had spoken French in Paris
and Italian in Florence; but chief of all because he chose, he was
companion and friend of the undergraduates. He would talk with them and
walk with them; would sit with them and smoke with them. You played
whist with him if you met him of an evening. You never spoke
contemptuously of him, and he never patronized you.

Lowell intimates, however, in some of his letters, that he had no close
companionship with Longfellow in those boyish days. He shared, of
course, as every one could, in the little Renaissance, if one may call
it so, of interest in modern Continental literature, on Longfellow’s
arrival in Cambridge.

I cannot remember—I wish I could—whether it were Longfellow or Emerson
who introduced Tennyson in college. That first little, thin volume of
Tennyson’s poems, with “Airy, fairy Lillian” and the rest, was printed
in London in 1830. It was not at once reprinted in America. It was
Emerson’s copy which somebody borrowed in Cambridge and which we passed
reverently from hand to hand.[1] Everybody who had any sense knew that
a great poet had been born as well as we know it now. And it is always
pleasant to me to remember that those first poems of his were handed
about in manuscript as a new ode of Horace might have been handed round
among the young gentlemen of Rome.

Carlyle’s books were reprinted in America, thanks to Emerson, as fast
as they were written. Lowell read them attentively, and the traces of
Carlyle study are to be found in all Lowell’s life, as in the life of
all well educated Americans of his time.

I have written what I have of Channing and Longfellow with the feeling
that Lowell would himself have said much more of the good which they
did to all of us. I do not know how much his clear, simple, unaffected
English style owes to Channing, but I am quite sure that he would have
spoken most gratefully of his teacher.

Now as to the atmosphere of the college itself. I write these words in
the same weeks in which I am reading the life of Jowett at Oxford. It
is curious, it is pathetic, to compare Balliol College in 1836-7 with
Harvard College at the same time. So clear is it that the impulse and
direction were given in Oxford by the teachers, while with us the
impulse and direction were given by the boys. The boys invariably
called themselves “men,” even when they were, as Lowell was when he
entered, but fifteen years old.

Let it be remembered, then, that the whole drift of fashion,
occupation, and habit among the undergraduates ran in lines suggested
by literature. Athletics and sociology are, I suppose, now the fashion
at Cambridge. But literature was the fashion then. In November, when
the state election came round, there would be the least possible spasm
of political interest, but you might really say that nobody cared for
politics. Not five “men” in college saw a daily newspaper. My
classmate, William Francis Channing, would have been spoken of, I
think, as the only Abolitionist in college in 1838, the year when
Lowell graduated. I remember that Dr. Walter Channing, the brother of
our professor, came out to lecture one day on temperance. There was a
decent attendance of the undergraduates, but it was an attendance of
pure condescension on their part.

Literature was, as I said, the fashion. The books which the fellows
took out of the library, the books which they bought for their own
subscription libraries, were not books of science, nor history, nor
sociology, nor politics; they were books of literature. Some
Philadelphia publisher had printed in one volume Coleridge’s poems,
Shelley’s, and Keats’s—a queer enough combination, but for its
chronological fitness. And you saw this book pretty much everywhere. At
this hour you will find men of seventy who can quote their Shelley as
the youngsters of to-day cannot quote, shall I say, their Swinburne,
their Watson, or their Walt Whitman. In the way of what is now called
science (we then spoke of the moral sciences also) Daniel Treadwell
read once a year some interesting technological lectures. The Natural
History Society founded itself while Lowell was in college; but there
was no general interest in science, except so far as it came in by way
of the pure mathematics.

In the year 1840 I was at West Point for the first time, with William
Story, Lowell’s classmate and friend, and with Story’s sister and mine.
We enjoyed to the full the matchless hospitality of West Point, seeing
its lions under the special care of two young officers of our own age.
They had just finished their course, as we had recently finished ours
at Harvard. One day when Story and I were by ourselves, after we had
been talking of our studies with these gentlemen, Story said to me:
“Ned, it is all very well to keep a stiff upper lip with these fellows,
but how did you dare tell them that we studied about projectiles at

“Because we did,” said I.

“Did I ever study projectiles?” asked Story, puzzled.

“Certainly you did,” said I. “You used to go up to Peirce Tuesday and
Thursday afternoons in the summer when you were a junior, with a blue
book which had a white back.”

“I know I did,” said Story; “and was I studying projectiles then? This
is the first time I ever heard of it.”

And I tell that story because it illustrates well enough the divorce
between theory and fact which is possible in education. I do not tell
it by way of blaming Professor Peirce or Harvard College. Story was not
to be an artilleryman, nor were any of the rest of us, so far as we
knew. Anyway, the choice of our specialty in life was to be kept as far
distant as was possible.


                              CHAPTER III
                        LITERARY WORK IN COLLEGE

“Harvardiana,” a college magazine which ran for four years, belongs
exactly to the period of Lowell’s college life. Looking over it now, it
seems to me like all the rest of them. That is, it is as good as the
best and as bad as the worst.

There is not any great range for such magazines. The articles have to
be short. And the writers know very little of life. All the same, a
college magazine gives excellent training. Lowell was one editor of the
fourth volume of “Harvardiana.” I suppose he then read proof for the
first time, and in a small way it introduced him into the life of an
editor,—a life in which he afterwards did a great deal of hard work,
which he did extremely well, as we shall presently see.

The editorial board of the year before, from whose hands the five
editors of the class of ’38 took “Harvardiana,” was a very interesting
circle of young men. They were, by the way, classmates and friends of
Thoreau, who lived to be better known than they; but I think he was not
of the editorial committee. The magazine was really edited in that year
entirely by Charles Hayward, Samuel Tenney Hildreth, and Charles
Stearns Wheeler. Horatio Hale, the philologist, was in the same class
and belonged to the same set. He was named as one of the editors. But
he was appointed to Wilkes’s exploring expedition a year before he
graduated,—a remarkable testimony, this, to his early ability in the
lines of study in which he won such distinction afterwards. It is
interesting and amusing to observe that his first printed work was a
vocabulary of the language of some Micmac Indians, who camped upon the
college grounds in the summer of 1834. Hale learned the language from
them, made a vocabulary, and then set up the type and printed the book
with his own hand. Hayward, Hildreth, and Wheeler, who carried on the
magazine for its third volume, all died young, before the age of
thirty. Hayward had written one or more of the lives in Sparks’s
“American Biography,” Wheeler had distinguished himself as a Greek
scholar here and in Europe, and Hildreth, as a young poet, had given
promise for what we all supposed was to be a remarkable future.

To this little circle somebody addressed himself who wanted to
establish a chapter of Alpha Delta Phi in Cambridge in 1836. Who this
somebody was, I do not know. I wish I did. But he came to Cambridge and
met these leaders of the literary work of the classes of ’37 and ’38,
and among them they agreed on the charter members for the formation of
the Alpha Delta Phi chapter at Harvard. The list of the members from
the Harvard classes of 1837 and 1838 shows that these youngsters knew
already who their men of letters were. It consists of fourteen names:
John Bacon, John Fenwick Eustis, Horatio Hale, Charles Hayward, Samuel
Tenney Hildreth, Charles Stearns Wheeler, Henry Williams, James Ivers
Trecothick Coolidge, Henry Lawrence Eustis, Nathan Hale, Rufus King,
George Warren Lippitt, James Russell Lowell, and Charles Woodman Scates.

This is no place for a history of Alpha Delta Phi. At the moment when
the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity, the oldest of the confederated college
societies, gave up its secrets, Alpha Delta Phi was formed in Hamilton
College of New York. I shall violate none of her secrets if I say, what
the history of literature in America shows, that, in the earlier days
at least, interest in literature was considered by those who directed
the society as a very important condition in the selection of its

At Cambridge, when Lowell became one of its first members, there was a
special charm in membership. Such societies were absolutely forbidden
by a hard and fast rule. They must not be in Harvard College. The
existence of the Alpha Delta chapter, therefore, was not to be known,
even to the great body of the undergraduates. It had no public
exercises. There was no public intimation of meetings. In truth, if its
existence had been known, everybody connected with it would have been
severely punished, under the college code of that day.

This element of secrecy gave, of course, a special charm to membership.
I ought to say that, after sixty years, it makes it more difficult to
write of its history. I was myself a member in ’37, ’38, and ’39. Yet,
in a somewhat full private diary which I kept in those days, I do not
find one reference to my attendance at any meeting; so great was the
peril, to my boyish imagination, lest the myrmidons of the “Faculty”
should seize upon my papers and examine them, and should learn from
them any fact regarding the history of this secret society.

But now, after sixty years, I will risk the vengeance of the
authorities of the university. Perhaps they will take away all our
degrees, honorary and otherwise; but we will venture. This very secret
society, after it was well at work, may have counted at once twenty
members,—seniors, juniors, and sophomores. They clubbed their scanty
means and hired a small student’s room in what is now Holyoke Street,
put in a table and stove and some chairs, and subscribed for the
English quarterlies and Blackwood. This room was very near the elegant
and convenient club-house owned by the society to-day, if indeed this
do not occupy the same ground, as I think it does. Everybody had a
pass-key. It was thus a place where you could loaf and be quiet and
read, and where once a week we held our literary meetings. Of other
meetings, the obligations of secrecy do not permit me to speak. One of
my friends, the other day, said that his earliest recollection of
Lowell was finding him alone in this modest club-room reading some
article in an English review. What happened was that we all took much
more interest in the work which the Alpha Delta provided for us than we
did in most of the work required of us by the college.

At that time the conventional division of classes at Cambridge made
very hard and fast distinctions between students of different classes.
Alpha Delta broke up all this and brought us together as gentlemen;
and, naturally, the younger fellows did their very best when they were
to read in the presence of their seniors. I think, though I am not
certain, that I heard Lowell read there the first draft of his papers
on Old English Dramatists, which he published afterwards in my
brother’s magazine, the “Boston Miscellany,” and which were the subject
of the last course of lectures which he delivered. –– From this little
group of Alpha Delta men were selected the editors of “Harvardiana” for
1837–38. I suppose, indeed, that in some informal way Alpha Delta chose
them. They were Rufus King, afterwards a leader of the bar in Ohio;
George Warren Lippitt, so long our secretary of legation at Vienna;
Charles Woodman Scates, who went into the practice of law in Carolina;
James Russell Lowell; and my brother, Nathan Hale, Jr. All of them
stood, when chosen, in what we call the first half of the class. This
meant that they were within the number of twenty-four students who had
had honors at the several exhibitions up to that time. In point of
fact, twenty-four was not half the class. But that phrase long existed;
I do not know how long. Practically, to say of a graduate that he was
in “the first half of his class” meant that at these exhibitions, or at
Commencement, he had received some college honor.

I rather think that the average senior of that year approved this
selection of editors, and he would have said in a general way that King
and Lippitt were expected to do that heavy work of long eight-page
articles which is supposed by boys to make such magazines respected
among the graduates; that Scates was relied upon for critical work;
that my brother was supposed to have inherited a faculty for editing,
and that on him and Lowell, in the general verdict of the class, was
imposed the privilege of furnishing the poetry for the magazine and
making it entertaining. Of course it was expected that their year’s
“Harvardiana” would be better than those of any before.

The five editors had the further privilege of assuming the whole
pecuniary responsibility for the undertaking. How this came out I do
not know; perhaps I never did. I do not think they ever printed three
hundred copies. I do not think they ever had two hundred and fifty
subscribers. The volume contains the earliest of Lowell’s printed
poems, some of which have never been reprinted, and a copy is regarded
by collectors as one of the exceptionally rare nuggets in our literary

When this choice of editors was made, I lived with my brother in
Stoughton 22. In September, at the time when the first number was
published, we had moved to Massachusetts 27, where I lived for two
years. Lowell had always been intimate in our room, and from this time
until the next March he was there once or twice a day. Indeed, it was a
good editor’s room,—we called it the best room in college; and all of
them made it their headquarters.

Unfortunately for my readers, the daguerreotype and photograph had not
even begun in their benevolent and beneficent career. It was in the
next year that Daguerre, in Paris, first exhibited his pictures. The
French government rewarded him for his great discovery and published
his process to the world. His announcements compelled Mr. Talbot, in
England, to make public his processes on paper, which were the
beginning of what we now call photography. I think my classmate, Samuel
Longfellow, and I took from the window of this same room, Massachusetts
27, the first photograph which was taken in New England. It was made by
a little camera intended for draughtsmen. The picture was of Harvard
Hall, opposite. And the first portrait taken in Massachusetts was the
copy in this picture of a bust of Apollo standing in the window of the
college library, in Harvard Hall.

The daguerreotype was announced by Daguerre in January, 1839. He thus
forced W.H. Fox Talbot’s hand, and he read his paper on photographic
drawings on January 31 of that year. This paper was at once published,
and Longfellow and I worked from its suggestions.

Rufus King afterwards won for himself distinction and respect as a
lawyer of eminence in Cincinnati. He was the grandson of the great
Rufus King, the natural leader of the Federalists and of the North in
the dark period of the reign of the House of Virginia. Our Rufus King’s
mother was the daughter of Governor Worthington, of Ohio. King had
begun his early education at Kenyon College, but came to Cambridge to
complete his undergraduate course, and remained there in the law school
under Story and Greenleaf. He then returned to Cincinnati, where he
lived in distinguished practice in his profession until his death in
1891. “His junior partners were many of them men in the first rank of
political, judicial, and professional eminence. But he himself steadily
declined all political or even judicial trusts until, in 1874, he
became a member of the Constitutional Convention of Ohio. Over this
body he presided. He did not shrink from any work in education. He was
active in the public schools. He was the chief workman in creating the
Cincinnati Public Library, and, as one of the trustees of the McMicken
bequest, he nursed it into the foundation of the University of
Cincinnati. In 1875 he became Dean of the Faculty of the Law School,
and served in that office for five years. Until his death he continued
his lectures on Constitutional Law and the Law of Real Property. No
citizen of Cincinnati was more useful or more honored.”

Lowell was with Mr. King in the Cambridge law school.

Of the five editors, four became lawyers—so far, at least, as to take
the degree of Bachelor of Laws at Cambridge. The fifth, George Warren
Lippitt, from Rhode Island, remained in Cambridge after he graduated
and studied at the divinity school.

There were other clergymen in his class, who attained, as they
deserved, distinction afterwards. Lowell frequently refers in his
correspondence to Coolidge, Ellis, Renouf, and Washburn. Lippitt’s
articles in “Harvardiana” show more maturity, perhaps, than those of
any of the others. He had entered the class as a sophomore, and was the
oldest, I believe, of the five. For ten years, from 1842 to 1852, he
was a valuable preacher in the Unitarian church, quite unconventional,
courageous, candid, and outspoken. He was without a trace of that
ecclesiasticism, which the New Testament writers would call accursed,
which is the greatest enemy of Christianity to-day, and does more to
hinder it than any other device of Satan. In 1852 Lippitt sought and
accepted an appointment as secretary of legation to Vienna. He married
an Austrian lady, and represented the United States at the imperial
court there in one and another capacity for the greater part of the
rest of his life. He died there in 1891.

Charles Woodman Scates, also, like King and Lippitt, entered the class
after the freshman year. There was a tender regard between him and
Lowell. When they graduated, Scates went to South Carolina to study
law. But for his delicate health, I think his name would be as widely
known in the Southern states as Rufus King’s is in the valley of the
Ohio. I count it as a great misfortune that almost all of Lowell’s
letters to him, in an intimate and serious correspondence which covered
many years, were lost when the house in Germantown was burned where he
spent the last part of his life. Fortunately, however, Mr. Norton had
made considerable extracts from them in the volume of Lowell’s
published letters. From one of these letters which has been preserved,
I copy a little poem, which I believe has never been printed. Lowell

“I will copy you a midnight improvisation, which must be judged kindly
accordingly. It is a mere direct transcript of _actual_ feelings, and
_so far_ good:—

              “What is there in the midnight breeze
                 That tells of things gone by?
               Why does the murmur of the trees
                 Bring tears into my eye?
               O Night! my heart doth pant for thee,
               Thy stars are lights of memory!

              “What is there in the setting moon
                 Behind yon gloomy pine,
               That bringeth back the broad high noon
                 Of hopes that once were mine?
               Seemeth my heart like that pale flower
               That opes not till the midnight hour.

              “The day may make the eyes run o’er
                 From hearts that laden be,
               The sunset doth a music pour
                 Round rock and hill and tree;
               But in the night wind’s mournful blast
               There cometh somewhat of the Past.

              “In garish day I often feel
                 The Present’s full excess,
               And o’er my outer soul doth steal
                 A deep life-weariness.
               But the great thoughts that midnight brings
               Look calmly down on earthly things.

              “Oh, who may know the spell that lies
                 In a few bygone years!
               These lines may one day fill my eyes
                 With Memory’s doubtful tears—
               Tears which we know not if they be
               Of happiness or agony.

              “Open thy melancholy eyes,
                 O Night! and gaze on me!
               That I may feel the charm that lies
                 In their dim mystery.
               Unveil thine eyes so gloomy bright
               And look upon my soul, O Night!”

“Have you ever felt this? I have, many and many a time.”

Of my dear brother, Nathan Hale, Jr., I will not permit myself to speak
at any length. We shall meet him once and again as our sketch of
Lowell’s life goes on. It is enough for our purpose now that, though he
prepared himself carefully for the bar, and, as a young man, opened a
lawyer’s office, the most of his life, until he died in 1872, was spent
in the work of an editor. Our father had been an editor from 1809, and
of all his children, boys and girls, it might be said that they were
cradled in the sheets of a newspaper.

My brother was the editor of the “Boston Miscellany” in 1841, when
Lowell and Story of their class were his chief coöperators. From that
time forward he served the Boston “Advertiser,” frequently as its
chief; and when he died, he was one of the editors of “Old and New,”
his admirable literary taste and his delicate judgment presiding over
that discrimination, so terrible to magazine editors, in the accepting
or rejecting of the work of contributors.

All of these five boys, or young men, were favorite pupils of Professor
Edward Tyrrell Channing. When, in September, 1837, they undertook the
publication of “Harvardiana,” Lowell was eighteen, Hale was eighteen,
Scates, King, and Lippitt but little older.

With such recourse the fourth volume started. It cost each subscriber
two dollars a year. I suppose the whole volume contained about as much
“reading matter,” as a cold world calls it, as one number of “Harper’s
Magazine.” These young fellows’ reputations were not then made. But as
times have gone by, the people who “do the magazines” in newspaper
offices would have felt a certain wave of languid interest if a single
number of “Harper” should bring them a story and a poem and a criticism
by Lowell; something like this from William Story; a political paper by
Rufus King; with General Loring, Dr. Washburn, Dr. Coolidge, and Dr.
Ellis to make up the number.

Lowell’s intimate relations with George Bailey Loring began, I think,
even earlier than their meeting in college. They continued long after
his college life, and I may refer to them better in another chapter.

The year worked along. They had the dignity of seniors now, and the
wider range of seniors. This means that they no longer had to construe
Latin and Greek, and that the college studies were of rather a broader
scope than before. It meant with these young fellows that they took
more liberty in long excursions from Cambridge, which would sacrifice
two or three recitations for a sea-beach in the afternoon, or perhaps
for an evening party twenty miles away.

[Illustration: NATHAN HALE]

Young editors always think that they have a great deal of unpublished
writing in their desks or portfolios, which is of the very best type,
and which, “with a little dressing over,” will bring great credit to
the magazine. Alas! the first and second numbers always exhaust these
reserves. Yet in the case of “Harvardiana” no eager body of
contributors appeared, and the table of contents shows that the five
editors contributed much more than half the volume.

Lowell’s connection with this volume ought to rescue it from oblivion.
It has a curiously old-fashioned engraving on the meagre title-page. It
represents University Hall as it then was—before the convenient shelter
of the corridor in front was removed. “Blackwood,” and perhaps other
magazines, had given popularity to the plan, which all young editors
like, of an imagined conference between readers and editors, in which
the editors tell what is passing in the month. Christopher North had
given an appetite among youngsters for this sort of thing, and the new
editors fancied that “Skillygoliana,” such an imagined dialogue, would
be very bright, funny, and attractive. But the fun has long since
evaporated; the brightness has long since tarnished. I think they
themselves found that the papers became a bore to them, and did not
attract the readers.

The choice of the title “Skillygoliana” was, without doubt, Lowell’s
own. “Skillygolee” is defined in the Century Dictionary in words which
give the point to his use of it: “A poor, thin, watery kind of broth or
soup ... served out to prisoners in the hulks, paupers in workhouses,
and the like; a drink made of oatmeal, sugar, and water, formerly
served out to sailors in the British navy.”

Here is a scrap which must serve as a bit of mosaic carried off from
this half-built temple:—


           Since Friday morning, on each busy tongue,
           “Shameful!” “Outrageous!” has incessant rung.
           But what’s the matter? Why should words like these
           Of dreadful omen hang on every breeze?
           Has our Bank failed, and shown, to cash her notes,
           Not cents enough to buy three Irish votes?
           Or, worse than that, and worst of human ills,
           Will not the lordly Suffolk take her bills?
           Sooner expect, than see her credit die,
           Proud Bunker’s pile to creep an inch more high.
           Has want of patronage, or payments lean,
           Put out the rushlight of our Magazine?
           No, though Penumbra swears “the thing is flat,”
           Thank Heaven, taste has not sunk so low as that!
           ... Has Texas, freed by Samuel the great,
           Entered the Union as another State?
           No, still she trades in slaves as free as air,
           And Sam still fills the presidential chair,
           Rules o’er the realm, the freeman’s proudest hope,
           In dread of naught but bailiffs and a rope.
           ... What is the matter, then? Why, Thursday night
           Some chap or other strove to vent his spite
           By blowing up the chapel with a shell,
           But unsuccessfully—he might as well
           With popgun threat the noble bird of Jove,
           Or warm his fingers at a patent stove,
           As try to shake old Harvard’s deep foundations
           With such poor, despicable machinations....
           Long may she live, and Harvard’s morning star
           Light learning’s wearied pilgrims from afar!
           Long may the chapel echo to the sound
           Of sermon lengthy or of part profound,
           And long may Dana’s gowns survive to grace
           Each future runner in the learned race!

I believe Lowell afterwards printed among his collected poems one or
two which first appeared in “Harvardiana.” Here is a specimen which I
believe has never been reprinted until now:—

           “Perchance improvement, in some future time,
           May soften down the rugged path of rhyme,
           Build a nice railroad to the sacred mount,
           And run a steamboat to the muses’ fount!

            *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

           Fain would I more—but could my muse aspire
           To praise in fitting strains our College choir?
           Ah, happy band! securely hid from sight,
           Ye pour your melting strains with all your might;
           And as the prince, on Prosper’s magic isle,
           Stood spellbound, listening with a raptured smile
           To Ariel’s witching notes, as through the trees
           They stole like angel voices on the breeze,
           So when some strange divine the hymn gives out,
           Pleased with the strains he casts his eyes about,
           All round the chapel gives an earnest stare,
           And wonders where the deuce the singers are,
           Nor dreams that o’er his own bewildered pate
           There hangs suspended such a tuneful weight!”

                              _From “A Hasty Pudding Poem.”_

In the winter of the senior year the class made its selection of its
permanent committees and of the orator, poet, and other officers for
“Class Day,” already the greatest, or one of the greatest, of the
Cambridge festivals. I do not remember that there was any controversy
as to the selection of either orator or poet. It seemed quite of course
that James Ivers Trecothick Coolidge, now the Rev. Dr. Coolidge, should
be the orator; and no opposition was possible to the choice of Lowell
as poet.

Some thirty years later, in Lowell’s absence from Cambridge, I had to
take his place as president of a Phi Beta Kappa dinner at Cambridge.
One of those young friends to whom I always give the privilege of
advising me begged me with some feeling, before the dinner, not to be
satisfied with “trotting out the old war-horses,” but to be sure to
call out enough of the younger men to speak or to read verses. I said,
in reply, that the old war-horses were not a bad set after all, that I
had Longfellow and Holmes and Joe Choate and James Carter and President
Eliot and Professor Thayer and Dr. Everett on my string, of whom I was
sure. But I added, “The year Lowell graduated we were as sure as we are
now that in him was firstrate poetical genius and that here was to be
one of the leaders of the literature of the time.” And I said, “You
know this year’s senior class better than I do, and if you will name to
me the man who is going to fill that bill twenty years hence, you may
be sure that I will call upon him to-morrow.”

I like to recall this conversation here, because it describes precisely
the confidence which we who then knew Lowell had in his future. I think
that the government of the college, that “Faculty” of which
undergraduates always talk so absurdly, was to be counted among those
who knew him. I think they thought of his power as highly as we did. I
think they did all that they could in decency to bring Lowell through
his undergraduate course without public disapprobation. President
Quincy would send for him to give him what we called “privates,” by
which we meant private admonitions. But Lowell somehow hardened himself
to these, the more so because he found them in themselves easy to bear.

The Faculty had in it such men as Quincy, Sparks and Felton, who were
Quincy’s successors; Peirce and Longfellow and Channing, all of them
men of genius and foresight; and I think they meant to pull Lowell
through. In Lowell’s case it was simply indifference to college
regulations which they were compelled to notice. He would not go to
morning prayers. We used to think he meant to go. The fellows said he
would screw himself up to go on Monday morning, as if his presence
there might propitiate the Faculty, who met always on Monday night. How
could they be hard on him, if he had been at chapel that very morning!
But, of course, if they meant to have any discipline, if there were to
be any rule for attendance at chapel, the absence of a senior six days
in seven must be noticed.

And so, to the horror of all of us, of his nearest friends most of all,
Lowell was “rusticated,” as the old phrase was. That meant that he was
told that he must reside in Concord until Commencement, which would
come in the last week in August. It meant no class poet, no good-by
suppers, no vacation rambles in the six weeks preceding Commencement.
It meant regular study in the house of the Rev. Barzillai Frost, of
Concord, until Commencement Day! And it meant that he was not even to
come to Cambridge in the interval.

I have gone into this detail because I have once or twice stumbled upon
perfectly absurd stories about Lowell’s suspension. And it is as well
to put your thumb upon them at once. Thus, I have heard it said that
there was some mysterious offense which he had committed. And, again, I
have heard it said that he had become grossly intemperate; all of which
is the sheerest nonsense. I think I saw him every day of his life for
the first six months of his senior year, frequently half a dozen times
a day, excepting in the winter vacation. He lived out of college; our
room was in college, and it was a convenient loafing place. Now, let me
say that from his birth to his death I never saw him in the least under
any influence of liquor which could be detected in any way. I never,
till within five years, heard any suggestion of the gossip which I have
referred to above. There is in the letters boyish joking about
cocktails and glasses of beer. But here there is nothing more than
might ordinarily come into the foolery of anybody in college familiarly
addressing a classmate.

It is as well to say here that a careful examination of the private
records of the Faculty of the time entirely confirms the statement I
have made above.


                               CHAPTER IV

Concord was then and is now one of the most charming places in the
world. But to poor Lowell it was exile. He must leave all the gayeties
of the life of a college senior, just ready to graduate, and he must
give up what he valued more—the freedom of that life as he had chosen
to conduct it. He was but just nineteen years old. And even to the
gravest critic or biographer, though writing after half a century,
there seems something droll in the idea of directing such a boy as
that, with his head full of Tennyson and Wordsworth, provoked that he
had to leave Beaumont and Fletcher and Massinger behind him—to set him
to reciting every day ten pages of “Locke on the Human Understanding”
in the quiet study of the Rev. Barzillai Frost. So is it,—as one has to
say that Lowell hated Concord when he went there, and when he came away
he was quite satisfied that he had had a very agreeable visit among
very agreeable people.

Concord is now a place of curious interest to travelers, and the stream
of intelligent visitors from all parts of the English-speaking world
passes through it daily. It has been the home, first of all, of Emerson
and then of the poet Channing, of Alcott, of Thoreau, of Hawthorne,
known by their writings to almost every one who dabbles in literature.
It has been the home of the Hoars, father and sons, honored and valued
in government and in law. Two railways carry the stream of pilgrims
there daily, and at each station you find two or three carriages ready
to take you to the different shrines, with friendly, well-read
“drivers” quite as intelligent as you are yourself, and well informed
as to the interests which bring you there.

But this page belongs to the last half-century. Lowell went to a quiet
country village, the home of charming people, and a type of the best
social order in the world; but to him it was simply the place of his
exile. Dear Charles Brooks of Newport, who loved every grain of its
sand and every drop of its spray, used to say that St. John hated
Patmos only because it was his prison. He used to say that John wrote
of heaven, “There shall be no more sea,” only that he might say, There
shall be no chains there; all men shall be free. Lowell looked on
Concord as St. John looked on the loveliness of Patmos. His boyish
letters of the time steadily called it his prison or the place of his

He was consigned, as has been said, to the oversight and tuition of the
Rev. Barzillai Frost, in whose house he was to make his home. Mr. Frost
was a scholar unusually well read, who had been an instructor in
history in Harvard College, where he graduated in the year 1830. In our
own time people are apt to say that Parson Wilbur, of the “Biglow
Papers,” represents Mr. Frost. I do not recollect that this was said
when they were published. But I dare say that the little details of
Parson Wilbur’s life, the constant reference to the College Triennial
Catalogue and other such machinery, may have come from the simple
arrangements of the Concord parsonage. Mr. Frost had no sense of
congruity. He would connect in the same sentence some very lofty
thoughts with some as absurd. He would say in a Thanksgiving sermon,
“We have been free from the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and
the destruction that wasteth at noonday; it is true that we have had
some chicken-pox and some measles.”

Imagine the boy Lowell, with his fine sense of humor, listening to Mr.
Frost’s sermon describing Niagara after he had made the unusual journey
thither. He could rise at times into lofty eloquence, but his sense of
truth was such that he would not go a hair’s breadth beyond what he was
sure of, for any effect of rhetoric. So in this sermon, which is still
remembered, he described the cataract with real feeling and great
eloquence. You had the mighty flood discharging the waters of the vast
lake in a torrent so broad and grand—and then, forgetting the precise
statistics, he ended the majestic sentence with the words “and several
feet deep.”

Lowell could not help entering into conflict with his tutor, but they
were both gentlemen, and the conflicts were never quarrels. In one of
the earliest letters he says: “I get along very well with Barzillai
(your orthography is correct), or, rather, he gets along very well with
me. He has just gone off to Boston to exchange, and left me in charge
of the ‘family.’ The man’s cardinal fault is that he delights to hear
the sound of his own voice. When I recite Locke, he generally spends
three quarters of the time in endeavoring to row up that delectable
writer.” To _row up_, in the slang of that time, meant to row an
adversary up the Salt River. The phrase was Western. “Sometimes I think
that silence is the best plan. So I hold my tongue till he brings up
such a flimsy argument that I can stand it, or sit it, no longer. So
out I burst, with greater fury for having been pent up so long, like a
simmering volcano. However, both he and his wife try to make me as
comfortable and as much at home as they can.... I think it was Herder
who called Hoffman’s life a prolonged shriek of thirty volumes. Carlyle
borrowed the idea, and calls Rousseau’s life a soliloquy of—so long.
Now I should call Barzillai’s life one stretched syllogism. He is one
of those men who walk through this world with a cursed ragged undersuit
of natural capacity entirely concealed in a handsome borrowed surtout
of other men’s ideas, buttoned up to the chin.”

This bitterness came in early in the exile. In after times Lowell could
speak of Mr. Frost more fairly. In speaking at Concord, on the
celebration of the 250th anniversary of the incorporation of the town,
he said:—

“In rising to-day I could not help being reminded of one of my
adventures with my excellent tutor when I was here in Concord. I was
obliged to read with him ‘Locke on the Human Understanding.’ My tutor
was a great admirer of Locke, and thought that he was the greatest
Englishman that ever lived, and nothing pleased him more, consequently,
than now and then to cross swords with Locke in argument. I was not
slow, you may imagine, to encourage him in this laudable enterprise.
Whenever a question arose between my tutor and Locke, I always took
Locke’s side. I remember on one occasion, although I cannot now recall
the exact passage in Locke,—it was something about continuity of
ideas,—my excellent tutor told me that in that case Locke was quite
mistaken in his views. My tutor said: ‘For instance, Locke says that
the mind is never without an idea; now I am conscious frequently that
my mind is without any idea at all.’ And I must confess that that
anecdote came vividly to my mind when I got up on what Judge Hoar has
justly characterized as the most important part of an orator’s person.”

Of Mrs. Frost, then a young mother with a baby two months old, he says:
“Mrs. Frost is simply the best woman I ever set my eyes on. Always
pleasant, always striving to make me happy and comfortable, and always
with a sweet smile, a very sweet smile! She is a jewel! Then, too, I
love her all the better for that she loves that husband of hers, and
she does love him and cherish him. If she were not married and old
enough to be my mother—no! my eldest sister—I’d marry her myself as a
reward for so much virtue. That woman has really reconciled me to
Concord. Nay! made me even almost like it, could such things be.”

By this time, the 15th of August, the poor boy, though robbed of his
vacation, was coming round to see that there were few places in the
world where one would more gladly spend the summer than the Concord of
his time.

But we must not look in the boy’s letters for any full appreciation of
Mr. Emerson. While he was at Concord Mr. Emerson delivered an address
before the Cambridge divinity school which challenged the fury of
conservative divines and was only shyly defended even by people who
soon found out that Emerson is the prophet of our century. In one of
Lowell’s letters of that summer written before that address was
printed, and before Lowell had heard a word of it, he says: “I think of
writing a snub for it, having it all cut and dried, and then inserting
the necessary extracts.”

I need not say that this was mere banter. But it shows the mood of the
day. Privately, and to this reader only, I will venture the statement
that if the most orthodox preacher who reads the “Observer” should
accidentally “convey” any passage from this forgotten address into next
Sunday’s sermon in the First Church of Slabville, his hearers will be
greatly obliged to him and will never dream that what he says is
radical. For time advances in sermons, and has its revenges.

Lowell speaks of Mr. Emerson as very kind to him. He describes a visit
to him in which Lowell seems to have introduced some fellow-students.
These were among the earliest of that endless train of bores who in
forty years never irritated our Plato. But, alas! Lowell’s letter
preserves no drop of the honey which fell from Plato’s lips. It is only
a most amusing burlesque of the homage rendered by the four or five
visitors. I may say in passing that the characteristics of the five men
could hardly have been seized upon more vividly after they had lived
forty years than they appear in the hundred words then written by this
bright boy.

In the address at Concord, delivered forty-seven years afterward, he

“I am not an adopted son of Concord. I cannot call myself that. But I
can say, perhaps, that under the old fashion which still existed when I
was young, I was ‘bound out’ to Concord for a period of time; and I
must say that she treated me very kindly.... I then for the first time
made the acquaintance of Mr. Emerson; and I still recall, with a kind
of pathos, as Dante did that of his old teacher, Brunetto Latini, ‘La
cara e buona imagine paterna,’ ‘The dear and good paternal image,’
which he showed me here; and I can also finish the quotation and say,
‘And shows me how man makes himself eternal.’ I remember he was so kind
to me—I, rather a flighty and exceedingly youthful boy—as to take me
with him on some of his walks, particularly a walk to the cliffs, which
I shall never forget. And perhaps this feeling of gratitude which I
have to Concord gives me some sort of claim to appear here to-day.”

Under Barzillai’s tuition he settled down to his college work. He had
the class poem to write. As he was not to be permitted to deliver it,
it may be imagined that he did not write it with much enthusiasm. He
put it off, and he put it off. That was the way, it must be confessed,
he sometimes met such exigencies afterward.

July 8 he wrote: “Nor have I said anything about the poem. I have not
written a line since my ostracism, and, in fact, doubt very much
whether I can write even the half of one.” It had been proposed that it
should be read by some one else on Class Day; but to this Lowell
objected, and the faculty of the college objected also. On the 23d he
writes: “As for the poem, you will see the whole of it when it is
printed, as it will be as soon as Scates gets back to superintend it.
Do you know, I am more than half a mind to dedicate it to Bowen.” Then
on the 15th of August: “I have such a headache that I will not write
any more to-night, though after I go to bed I am in hopes to finish my
poem. Thinking does not interfere so much with a headache as writing.”
Then, on the next line: “August 18. The ‘poem’ is in the hands of the
printer. I received a proof-sheet to-day from the ‘Harvardiana’ press,
containing the first eight pages.” But in the same letter afterwards:
“How under the sun, or, more appropriately, perhaps, the moon, which
is, or appears to be, the muse of so many of the tuneful, I shall
finish the poem I don’t know. Stearns came up here last Saturday, a
week ago to-day, and stirred me up about the printing of it, whereupon
I began Sunday to finish it in earnest, and straightway scratched off
about two hundred and fifty lines. But now I have come to a dead stand
and am as badly off as ever, without so much hope. ‘Nothing so
difficult, etc., etc., except the end,’ you know. And here I am, as it
were, at the tail end of nothing, and not a pillow of consolation
whereon to lay the aching head of despair.”



These words are perhaps a fair enough description of the poem. It has
in it a good deal of very crude satire, particularly a bitter invective
against abolitionists who talked and did nothing. But the ode of the
Cherokee warrior, bewailing the savage transfer of his nation which had
been consummated under Andrew Jackson’s rule, seems to be worth
preserving. At the time, be it remembered, the poem was most cordially
received by the Lilliput circle of Boston and Cambridge:—

      “Oh abolitionists, both men and maids,
       Who leave your desks, your parlors, and your trades,
       To wander restless through the land and shout—
       But few of you could tell us what about!
       Can ye not hear where on the Southern breeze
       Swells the last wailing of the Cherokees?
       Hark! the sad Indian sighs a last adieu
       To scenes which memory gilds with brighter hue,
       The giant trees whose hoary branches keep
       Their quiet vigil where his fathers sleep,
       ’Neath the green sod upon whose peaceful breast
       He too had hoped to lay him down to rest—
       The woods through whose dark shades, unknown to fear,
       He roamed as freely as the bounding deer,
       The streams so well his boyish footsteps knew,
       Pleased with the tossings of the mock canoe,
       And the vast mountains, round whose foreheads proud
       Curled the dark grandeur of the roaming cloud,
       From whose unfathomed breast he oft has heard
       In thunder-tones the good Great Spirit’s word.
       Lo, where he stands upon yon towering peak
       That echoes with the startled eagle’s shriek,
       His scalp-tuft floating wildly to the gale
       Which howls an answer to his mournful wail,
       Leaning his arm upon an unbent bow,
       He thus begins in accents sad and low:

      “‘We must go! for already more near and more near
       The tramp of the paleface falls thick on the ear—
       Like the roar of the blast when the storm-spirit comes
       In the clang of the trumps and the death-rolling drums.
       Farewell to the spot where the pine-trees are sighing
       O’er the flowery turf where our fathers are lying!
       Farewell to the forests our young hunters love,
       We shall soon chase the deer with our fathers above!

      “‘We must go! and no more shall our council-fires glance
       On the senate of chiefs or the warriors’ dance,
       No more in its light shall youth’s eagle eye gleam,
       Or the glazed eye of age become young in its beam.
       Wail! wail! for our nation; its glory is o’er,
       These hills with our war-songs shall echo no more,
       And the eyes of our bravest no more shall look bright
       As they hear of the deeds of their fathers in fight!

      “‘In the home of our sires we have lingered our last,
       Our death-song is swelling the moan of the blast,
       Yet to each hallowed spot clings fond memory still,
       Like the mist that makes lovely yon far distant hill.
       The eyes of our maidens are heavy with weeping,
       The fire ’neath the brow of our young men is sleeping,
       And the half-broken hearts of the aged are swelling,
       As the smoke curls its last round their desolate dwelling!

      “‘We must go! but the wailings ye wring from us here
       Shall crowd your foul prayers from the Great Spirit’s ear,
       And when ye pray for mercy, remember that Heaven
       Will forgive (so ye taught us) as ye have forgiven!
       Ay, slay! and our souls on the pinions of prayer
       Shall mount freely to Heaven and seek justice there,
       For the flame of our wigwams points sadly on high
       To the sole path of mercy ye’ve left us—to die!

      “‘God’s glad sun shone as warm on our once peaceful homes
       As when gilding the pomp of your proud swelling domes,
       And His wind sang a pleasanter song to the trees
       Than when rustling the silk in your temples of ease;
       For He judges not souls by their flesh-garment’s hue,
       And His heart is as open for us as for you;
       Though He fashioned the Redman of duskier skin,
       Yet the Paleface’s breast is far darker within!

      “‘We are gone! the proud Redman hath melted like snow
       From the soil that is tracked by the foot of his foe;
       Like a summer cloud spreading its sails to the wind,
       We shall vanish and leave not a shadow behind.
       The blue old Pacific roars loud for his prey,
       As he taunts the tall cliffs with his glittering spray,
       And the sun of our glory sinks fast to his rest,
       All darkly and dim in the clouds of the west!’

      “The cadence ends, and where the Indian stood
       The rock looks calmly down on lake and wood,
       Meet emblem of that lone and haughty race
       Whose strength hath passed in sorrow from its place.”

The exile ended with the last week in August. “I shall be coming down
next week, Thursday or Friday at farthest.”



Commencement fell that year on the 29th of August, and Lowell received
his degree of Bachelor of Arts with the rest of his class.

I believe it is fair to tell an anecdote here of that summer, because
the one person who could be offended by it is himself the only
authority for it, and he used to tell the story with great personal

This cynic was in Rome that spring, where Dr. Lowell and Mrs. Lowell
had been spending the winter. Indeed, I suppose if Dr. Lowell had been
in Cambridge, the episode of rustication in Concord would never have
come into his son’s life. The cynic was one of those men who seem to
like to say disagreeable things whenever they can, and he thus
described, I think in print, a visit he made to Dr. Lowell:—

“Dr. Lowell had not received his letters from Boston, and I had mine;
so I thought I would go and tell him the Boston news. I told him that
the parts for Commencement were assigned, and that Rufus Ellis was the
first scholar and was to have the oration. But I told him that his son,
James Lowell, had been rusticated and would not return to Cambridge
until Commencement week! And I told him that the class had chosen James
their class poet. ‘Oh dear!’ said Dr. Lowell, ‘James promised me that
he would quit writing poetry and would go to work.’”

I am afraid that most fathers, even at the end of this century, would
be glad to receive such a promise from a son. In this case, James
Lowell certainly went to work, but, fortunately for the rest of us, he
did not “quit writing poetry.”


                               CHAPTER V
                         BOSTON IN THE FORTIES

I despair of making any person appreciate the ferment in which any
young person moved who came into the daily life of Boston in the days
when Lowell left college. I have tried more than once, and without the
slightest success. But this reader must believe me that nobody was
“indifferent” then, even if he do not understand why.

Here was a little community, even quaint in some of its customs, sure
of itself, and confident in its future. Generally speaking, the men and
women who lived in it were of the old Puritan stock. This means that
they lived to the glory of God, with the definite public spirit which
belongs to such life. They had, therefore, absolute confidence that
God’s kingdom was to come, and they saw no reason why it should not
come soon. There were still some people, and one or two teachers in the
pulpit and in what is technically called the religious press, who
believed, or said they believed, that all men are born in sin and are
incapable of good. But practically, and in general, the people of
Boston believed in the infinite capacity of human nature, and they knew
“salvation’s free,” and “free for you and me.”

As a direct result of this belief, and of the cos mopolitan habit which
comes to people who send their ships all over the world, the leaders of
this little community attempted everything on a generous scale. If they
made a school for the blind, they made it for all the blind people in
Massachusetts. They expected to succeed. They always had succeeded. Why
should they not succeed? If, then, they opened a “House of
Reformation,” they really supposed that they should reform the boys and
girls who were sent to it. Observe that here was a man who had bought
skins in Nootka Sound and sold them in China, and brought home silks
and teas where he carried away tin pans and jackknives. There was a man
who had fastened his schooner to an iceberg off Labrador, and had sold
the ice he cut in Calcutta or Havana. Now, that sort of men look at
life in its possibilities with a different habit from that of the man
who reads in the newspaper that stocks have fallen, who buys them
promptly, and sells them the next week because the newspaper tells him
that they have risen.

With this sense that all things are possible to him who believes, the
little town became the headquarters for New England, and in a measure
for the country, of every sort of enthusiasm, not to say of every sort
of fanaticism. Thus, Boston, as Boston, hated abolitionism. The
stevedores and longshoremen on the wharves hated a “nigger” as much as
their ancestors in 1770 hated a “lobster.” But, all the same, Garrison
came to Boston to publish the “Liberator.” There was not an “ism” but
had its shrine, nor a cause but had its prophet. And, as in the rest of
the world at that time, the madness was at its height which forms a
“society” to do the work of an individual. People really supposed that
if you could make a hundred men give each the hundredth part of his
life to do something, the loose combination would do more work than one
stalwart man would do who was ready to give one whole life in devotion
to the “cause.”

The town was so small that practically everybody knew everybody. “A
town,” as a bright man used to say, “where you could go anywhere in ten

Cambridge was within forty-five minutes’ walk of this little
self-poised metropolis, and was really a part of it, in all “its busy
life, its fluctuations, and its vast concerns”—and in its pettiest
concerns as well.

Lowell could talk with Wendell Phillips, or applaud him when he spoke.
He could go into Garrison’s printing-office with a communication. He
could discuss metaphysics or ethics with Brownson. He could hear a
Latter-Day Church preacher on Sunday. He could listen while Miller, the
prophet of the day, explained from Rollin’s history and the Book of
Daniel that the world would come to an end on the twenty-first of
March, 1842. He could lounge into the “Corner Bookstore,” where James
T. Fields would show him the new Tennyson, or where the Mutual
Admiration Society would leave an epigram or two behind. Or he could
hear Everett or Holmes or Parsons or Webster or Silliman or Walker read
poem or lecture at the “Odeon.” He could discuss with a partner in a
dance the moral significance of the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven in
comparison with the lessons of the Second or the Seventh. Another
partner in the next quadrille would reconcile for him the conflict of
free will and foreknowledge. In saying such things, I am not inventing
the instances. I could almost tell where the conversations were held.
At Miss Peabody’s foreign bookstore he could take out for a week
Strauss’s “Leben Jesu,” if he had not the shekels for its purchase, as
probably he had not. Or, under the same hospitable roof, he could in
the evening hear Hawthorne tell the story of Parson Moody’s veil, or
discuss the origin of the Myth of Ceres with Margaret Fuller.[2] Or,
when he danced “the pastorale” at Judge Jackson’s, was he renewing the
memories of an Aryan tradition, or did the figure suggest, more likely,
the social arrangements of the followers of Hermann? Mr. Emerson
lectured for him; Allston’s pictures were hung in galleries for him;
Mr. Tudor imported ice for him; Fanny Elssler danced for him, and
Braham sang for him. The world worked for him—or labored for him. And
he entered into the labors of all sorts and conditions of men.

In one of his letters to his friend Loring, written in October, 1838,
he expresses a doubt whether he would continue his studies of law. “I
have been thinking seriously of the ministry,” he writes; “I have also
thought of medicine—but there—still worse!” But on the 9th of November
“I went into town to look out for a place”—this means to see some of
his friends “in business,” and to try mercantile life—“and was induced
_en passant_ to step into the United States District Court, where there
was a case pending, in which Webster was one of the counsel retained. I
had not been there an hour before I determined to continue in my
profession and study as well as I could.” Observe that he is now
nineteen years old, going on to twenty.

I will not include Mr. Webster among the company of Mr. Lowell’s early
friends, though the hour spent in the United States Court seems to have
been a very important hour in his life. Who shall say what would have
come had he “found a place,” and begun on life by rising early,
“sweeping out the store,” filling and trimming the oil lamps, and then
running the errands for some treasurer of a woolen factory or dealer in
teas or spices? Such was the precise experience of many of his young
companions in college, who “elected,” on graduation, to “go into

Of the literary circles into which he was naturally introduced I will
say something. First, of some of the men who, in practice, wrote the
“North American Review” in those days—say for the ten years after he
left college. Dr. John Gorham Palfrey was the editor, and Lowell would
have called the men themselves the “Mutual Admiration Society.” Most of
them, I think, have recognized this name in their own correspondence.
It was a club of five men, who liked to call themselves “The Five of
Clubs.” But they very soon earned this name of the Mutual Admiration
Society, which I think was invented for them.

Dr. Palfrey was living at Cambridge all through the period of Lowell’s
college and law-school life. He had been a member of the divinity
Faculty until 1839, and he assumed the charge of the “Review” in 1835.
He had written for it as early as the fifth volume. A gentleman through
and through, of very wide information, hospitable and courteous, he and
the ladies of his family made his house in Divinity Avenue one of the
few places where students of whatever school of the college liked to
visit. I remember that one of my own classmates said, after making a
Sunday evening call there, “Palfrey makes you think that you are the
best fellow in the world—and, by Jove, he makes you think that he is
the next best!” He resigned his professorship about the time when he
made the romantic voyage by which he emancipated more than forty slaves
whom he had “inherited.” Like most men with whom he lived, he had
opposed the “abolitionists” with all his might, with pen and with
voice. But he knew how to do the duty next his hand better than some
men who had talked more about theirs.

He was most kind to me, boy and man, and gave me instance on instance
which showed that his unflinching firmness in duty was accompanied with
entire readiness to recognize the truth wherever he found it. All of us
youngsters were enthusiastic about Carlyle. All of the “oldsters”
turned up their noses—“such affectation of style,” “Germanisms picked
up cheaply,” and so on. But he said he knew that the editor of the
“North American” must read the “French Revolution,” and he said that if
you had to read a book, a good way was to take it as your only reading
when you had a long journey. Mark that you could not then write books
on the way, as I am writing this.

So he took his two volumes with him on this voyage of emancipation.
And, before he came to Cincinnati, he had forgotten the eccentricities
and was as eager as the youngest of us to praise the historian. I
remember as well how, as he explained to my father his plans for the
“North American Review,” he said he had secured Emerson to write, and
that Emerson would let him have some of his lectures. He had taken care
to provide, however, that these were to be from the historical lectures
and not the speculative ones. If he had been pressed, I am afraid he
would have been found to be of the large circle of those who in those
days thought Emerson “a little crazy.”

Under this chief worked the Mutual Admiration Society—all older than
Lowell. But with all of them, sooner or later, he became intimate. All
of them are still remembered: Charles Sumner; George Stillman Hillard,
Sumner’s law partner and, in earlier days, intimate friend; H.W.
Longfellow; Cornelius Conway Felton, Greek professor at Cambridge, and
afterwards president of the college; and Henry Russell Cleveland.
Longfellow knew that there were worlds outside of London and Edinburgh,
Boston and Cambridge, and their environs. We youngsters, from the proud
advantage of the age of twenty or less, would have said that the rest
of the Mutual Admiration Society, in the year 1840, did not suspect

The “North American” had been founded after the “Monthly Anthology” had
led the way, twelve years before. It was confessedly in imitation of
the Edinburgh and London quarterlies, as the London Quarterly had
confessedly imitated the Edinburgh. The original plan was a good one,
and any youngsters of to-day who will revive the old quarterly may find
that it meets a “felt want” again. Look at an old “Edinburgh” of
Brougham’s time and you will find an intelligent account of some forty
books, which you will never read yourself, but which you want to know
about. To tell the whole abject and bottom truth, you do not find
exactly this thing in any English or American “Review” published in

The “North American” had been under the charge of both Everetts—Edward
and Alexander. Alexander Everett assumed the editorial direction on his
return from Europe in 1830, and from him it passed into Dr. Palfrey’s
hands. I may say in passing that if I had at my bank the money which
the Everetts and their family connections paid for establishing this
national journal, with compound interest on the same, I could be living
to-day in my palace at Newport, and entertaining the Duke of Edinburgh,
the Bishop of London, and the Vicar-General of North America. Probably
I am better off as I write in the somewhat dingy Albany station of the
Delaware and Hudson Railroad. This is a parenthesis, with the
indulgence of my readers.

We all read the “North American” regularly. As I have implied, we who
were ten years younger than the Mutual Admiration Society made fun of
it. We said that they could not review a book of poems without a
prefatory essay on poetry. We said that Horace Walpole made their
fortune; that they would not publish a number without an article on
Walpole. But I cannot now find more than three or four articles on
Walpole or even his times in those years.

The truth was that literature was not yet a profession. The men who
wrote for the “North American” were earning their bread and butter,
their sheets, blankets, fuel, broadcloth, shingles, and slates, in
other enterprises. Emerson was an exception; and perhaps the impression
as to his being crazy was helped by the observation that these “things
which perish in the using” came to him in the uncanny and unusual
channel of literary workmanship. Even Emerson printed in the “North
American Review” lectures which had been delivered elsewhere. He told
me in 1849, after he had returned from England, that he had then never
received a dollar from the sale of any of his own published works. He
said he owned a great many copies of his own books, but that these were
all the returns which he had received from his publishers. And Mr.
Phillips told me that when, after “English Traits,” published by him,
had in the first six months’ sales paid for its plates and earned a
balance besides in Emerson’s favor, Emerson could not believe this. He
came to the office to explain to Mr. Phillips that he wanted and meant
to hold the property in his own stereotype plates. And Mr. Phillips had
difficulty in persuading him that he had already paid for them and did
own them. Emerson was then so unused to the methods of business that
Mr. Phillips had also to explain to him how to indorse this virgin
check, so that he could place it to his own bank account.

Mr. Phillips, then of the firm of Phillips & Sampson, was Emerson’s
near connection by marriage; Mrs. Phillips, a charming and accomplished
lady, being Emerson’s cousin on the Haskins side.

To return to the “North American Review.” The five young gentlemen whom
I have named were all favorites in the best circles of the charming
social life of that little Boston. I cannot see that their fondness for
each other can have much affected their work for the “North American,”
for whatever they published appeared long after they had won their name.

They were in the habit of looking in at what began to be called the
“Old Corner Bookstore,” which is still, as it was then, an excellent
shop, where you find all the last books, the foreign magazines, and are
sure of intelligent attention. The memory of modern man does not run
back to the time when there was not a “bookstore” in this old building,
which bears on its rough-cast wall the date of 1713. The antiquarians
would tell us that on the same spot as early as 1634 there was the
first “ordinary” in Boston. And it was just above here, under the sign
of Cromwell’s Head, that Colonel George Washington and his elegant
little troop made their home when that young Virginian visited Governor
Shirley in 1756.

The Corner Bookstore in that generation was the shop of Allen &
Ticknor, and not long before there had appeared in the shop, as the
youngest boy, James T. Fields, from Portsmouth, who was destined to be
the friend of so many men of letters, and who has left behind him such
charming memorials of his own literary life. It must be to Fields, I
think, that we owe the preservation of the epigram which the Club made
upon “In Memoriam.” I will not say that the story did not improve as it
grew older, but here it is in the last edition:—

The firm, then Ticknor & Fields, were Tennyson’s American publishers.
They had just brought out “In Memoriam.” One of the five gentlemen
looked in as he went down town, took up the book, and said, “Tennyson
has done for friendship what Petrarch did for love, Mr. Fields,” to
which Mr. Fields assented; and his friend—say Mr. Hillard—went his way.
Not displeased with his own remark, when he came to his office—if it
were Hillard—he repeated it to Sumner, who in turn repeated it to
Cleveland, perhaps, when he looked in. Going home to lunch, Sumner goes
in at the shop, takes up the new book, and says, “Your Tennyson is out,
Mr. Fields. What Petrarch did for love, Tennyson has done for
friendship.” Mr. Fields again assents, and it is half an hour before
Mr. Cleveland enters. He also is led to say that Tennyson has done for
friendship what Petrarch has done for love; and before the sun sets Mr.
Fields receives the same suggestion from Longfellow, and then from
Felton, who have fallen in with their accustomed friends, and look in
to see the new books, on their way out to Cambridge.

This story belongs, of course, to the year 1850. In 1841, when Lowell
begins to be counted as a Bostonian, the Corner Bookstore was already
the centre of a younger group of men who were earning for themselves an
honorable place in American letters. I believe they were first brought
together in the government of the Mercantile Library Association. This
association started in a modest way to provide books and a reading-room
for merchants’ clerks. To a beginning so simple this group of young
fellows, when hardly of age, gave dignity and importance. Under their
lead the association established a large and valuable lending library,
set on foot what were the most popular lectures in Boston, and kept up
a well-arranged reading-room. It was virtually a large literary club,
which occupied a building, the whole of which was devoted to books or
to education. With the passage of two generations much of the work
which the association thus took in hand has devolved upon the Public
Library and its branches and upon the Lowell Institute. The Mercantile
Library has been transferred to the city and is administered as its
South End Branch. The winter courses under the Lowell foundation take
the place of the Mercantile courses, so that this association now shows
its existence in a comfortable club-house in Tremont Street.

In the ten years between 1840 and 1850 it was an important factor in
Boston life. The initiative in its work was given by James T. Fields,
Edwin Percy Whipple, Daniel N. Haskell, Warren Sawyer, Thomas J. Allen,
George O. Carpenter, Edward Stearns, and George Warren, who had at
command the ready service of younger fellows among their companions,
loyal to the interests of the club, and keeping up the best interests
of society better than they knew. The club engaged Webster, Everett,
Choate, Sumner, Channing, Emerson, Holmes, and Winthrop to lecture to
them, arranging for “honorariums” such as had never been heard of

The group of officers whom I have named was in itself a little coterie
of young fellows who were reading and talking with one another on the
best lines of English literature. Fields and Whipple soon became known
to the public by their own printed work. All the group were well read
in the best English books of the time, and I think I am right in saying
that the existence of such a group around him strengthened Fields’s
hands, as he compelled the firm to which he belonged to introduce in
America some of the lesser known English authors. In 1845 Thomas Starr
King removed to Boston. His rare genius, insight, and marvelous power
of expression gave him a welcome everywhere. In this little circle of
the Mercantile Library managers he was the intimate friend of all.

Older than either of these groups of men, there was a set of careful
scholars in Boston whom I may distinguish as the historians. Dr.
Palfrey once said to me that it was a sort of accident, as he thought,
which turned the young literary men of Boston so much in the direction
of history. The accident was that the two principal public libraries
before 1850 were the Library of the Historical Society, and that of the
Boston Athenæum, which was much larger. It so happened that in its
earlier years the Athenæum collection was much strongest on the side of
history. It also happened that in 1818 Mr. Israel Thorndike bought for
Harvard College in one purchase the collection of early American
authorities which had been made by Ebeling, a German collector in the
first quarter of the century. This collection is still unrivaled. There
was thus, so Dr. Palfrey said, a sort of temptation to young Bostonians
to read and study American history. And it is almost fair to speak of
the Boston “school of history” which was thus formed.

I was a boy of eleven, reading to my mother on a summer afternoon, when
my father brought into the room a black-haired, olive-complexioned,
handsome young man, and said: “Here is Mr. Bancroft, my dear! The first
volume of the History is finished, and he has come in to talk about
printing and publishers.” This was the beginning of my acquaintance, I
believe I may say friendship, with Mr. Bancroft, which lasted until he
died in 1891.[3]

It is convenient to remember that he was as old as the century. In
1833, the time of which I speak, Prescott was already at work on
“Ferdinand and Isabella.” Sparks had edited the “Diplomatic
Correspondence,” and was collecting the materials for his “Washington.”
Richard Hildreth, who edited the Boston “Atlas,” was preparing for his
history of the United States. Palfrey in 1839 gave up his professorship
at Cambridge that he might devote himself to the history of New
England. Lothrop Motley is younger, but he published “Merrymount” as
early as 1848. I may add that the patriotic anniversary orations of
both the Everetts are historical studies. Edward Everett, in
particular, had the historic sense and tact very delicately developed.
Mr. Emerson once said of him that “for a man who threw out so many
facts he was seldom convicted of a blunder.” To which remark I will add
that Mr. Emerson also is always accurate in his frequent references to
American history.

It seems best to attempt this sketch of the literary surroundings of
the life on which the young law student is now to enter. With every
person who has been named, and, indeed, with almost everybody who had
anything to do with letters in Boston, Lowell was personally
acquainted; with many of them he was intimately acquainted.


                               CHAPTER VI
                        THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS

There was an inner circle of companionship, in which Lowell enjoyed the
entire love of all the others, some record of which is necessary if we
would begin to understand even the outside of his life at that time. I
find it hard to determine how far I shall put on paper the memories of
this circle. I know very well that it is easy to say too little and
easy to say too much.

In college life, especially in their senior year, five of the young men
in this company had lived at Cambridge in the closest intimacy. These
were Lowell, William Wetmore Story, John Gallison King, William Abijah
White, and my brother Nathan. There is no need of saying how this
intimacy grew up. White and King were cousins. Story and Lowell were
both Cambridge boys, and had been at Wells’s school together. Lowell
and Hale were together in Alpha Delta and in “Harvardiana.” So far I
need not try to distinguish this company from companies of college
seniors such as many of my readers have known.

But there was a distinction, unique so far as I have seen, in the fact
that four of these young men had sisters of nearly their own age, all
charming young women, whose tastes, interests, and studies were
precisely the same as their brothers’, and whose complete intimacy and
tender, personal, self-sacrificing love for each other was absolute. I
am asked by a friend whom I consult with regard to this narrative to
say, what I had not said at first but what is true, that they were of
remarkable personal beauty. No girls ever lived with one heart and one
soul in more complete union and harmony than these five. They were Anna
Maria White, who married Lowell; Mary Story, who married George Ticknor
Curtis; Augusta Gilman King and Caroline Howard King, and Sarah Everett
Hale. In their personal talk, in their constant letters, they spoke of
themselves as “The Band.” But I need not say that where there was such
an intimacy as theirs, or where there was such an intimacy as their
brothers’, the brothers and the sisters were equally intimate. The home
of each was the home of all. These homes were in Boston, Watertown,
Cambridge, and Salem. Lowell was made as intimate in each of these
homes as he was in his own father’s house. Among all these ten there
was the simplest and most absolute personal friendship.

While the girls called this association “The Band,” the boys were more
apt to call it “The Club.” Not that it ever had any place of meeting,
any rules, any duties, or any other conditions of any club that was
ever heard of; but that, generally speaking, where one of them was,
there was another. If one had money, all had it. If one had a book, all
had it. If one went to Salem to a dance, the probability was that all
five went; what was certain was that two or three went. If, at the
party, one of the young men was bored by a German _savant_ or by a
partner he could not leave, he made a secret signal, and one of the
others came to the rescue. And so of their sisters.

I am able to speak of the ladies of this group with the more freedom
because four of them died in early life. Maria White married Lowell.
Mary Story, afterwards Mary Curtis, died in May, 1848. Augusta King and
my sister died unmarried.

Whenever they met at Salem, they were sure to meet also Dr. John
Francis Tuckerman, and his sister, Jane Frances Tuckerman. I suppose
any full catalogue of the Band, if one attempted such a thing, would
include these two names. But Tuckerman was not a classmate of Lowell’s;
he was studying medicine while the others were studying law, and Lowell
was not thrown into such personal intimacy with him as with the others.

I am favored, by the person best competent to write, with a few

  DEAR E——: You have asked me to write for you what I can remember of
  James Lowell’s connection with the Band of Brothers and Sisters. I
  will gladly try to do so, though it would be as impossible to produce
  on paper the charm of that brilliant circle as to catch a falling
  star and imprison it for future examination!

  But perhaps I can make a picture for you of one of the Band meetings
  at my father’s house, at which James Lowell was present, which may
  give some faint idea of that gay group of friends.

  It is in April, 1842, and for weeks sounds of preparation have been
  echoing through the old house. Two beds are placed in each of the
  spacious bedrooms, the larder is supplied with dainties, a feeling of
  expectation pervades the air, and a sense of general festivity is
  diffused through the house, which has put on its holiday dress to
  greet the coming guests. As they were all friends of James Lowell’s
  at that time, perhaps a slight sketch of some of them may interest
  your readers.

  First, James himself, slight and small, with rosy cheeks and starry
  eyes and waving hair parted in the middle, very like Page’s picture.
  He was very reserved in manner, much absorbed in his lady-love, and
  although his wit was always brilliant, it had not then ripened into
  the delightful humor of after days. He and his friend William Page,
  the artist, were at this time possessed with a divine fury for
  Shakespeare’s Sonnets. The little book was forever in their hands,
  and happy were they when they could catch a stray brother or sister
  to listen to “just this one beauty,” which usually was followed by
  twenty more; and happy, too, was the brother or sister, for although
  James did not then read well, his voice being thin and without
  resonance, his youthful, loving enthusiasm cast a spell over his
  crooning, the charm of which nobody could resist.[4]

  N.H., tall and graceful, perhaps the most highly gifted of that
  bright circle, dropping the diamonds of his polished wit in a
  languid, nonchalant manner, but capable of a rare awakening when the
  right moment came.

  W.W.S., versatile and vivacious, a capital mimic, an adept at bright
  nonsense and gay repartee.

  W.A.W. A good head and kind heart, always ready to cap a good story
  with a better, which invariably began with, “I knew a man in
  Watertown,” so that the man in Watertown came to be counted a regular
  member of the Band.

  J.G.K., the leader in the revels, lighting up every meeting with his
  peculiar racy vein of humor, and J.F.T., the beauty of the Band and
  the sweetest singer of his time.

  And now, with the charming group of sisters, they have all arrived at
  “The King’s Arms” (as they liked to call the cheerful old house) for
  a week’s visit, and I will try to bring back one evening of that
  happy time.


  _From the crayon by William Page in the possession of Mrs. Charles F.
    Briggs, Brooklyn, N.Y._]

  We were all in a peculiarly gay frame of mind, for a little plan,
  devised by the sisters to surprise and please James, had proved
  entirely successful. The “Year’s Life” was just published, but had
  not been as warmly received by the public as we, with our _esprit de
  corps_, thought it deserved; so it was arranged that when, on this
  evening, James, as usual, asked for music, one of the number (our
  prima donna) should sing one of his own songs, “From the closed
  window gleams no spark,”[5] adapted to a lovely old air. The song was
  a great favorite with both James and Maria, for whom it was written,
  and as the well-known words rang through the room, it was delightful
  to watch James’s face. Surprise, pleasure, tremulous feeling, and
  finally a look of delight as he turned to Maria, flashed over it. He
  had been a member of the Band for only a short time (through his
  engagement to M.W.), and this friendly appreciation was doubly valued
  by both of them.

  In those days we always had a fourth meal at about ten o’clock, and
  after an evening of music and dancing, and a good time generally, we
  adjourned to the dining-room, where, seated at the large round table,
  the great festivity began, and an unfailing flow of wit, sentiment,
  fun, and scintillation was kept up into the small hours of the night.
  Sometimes James Lowell would be called upon for one of his two songs,
  “The Battle of the Nile,” or “Baxter’s Boys They Built a Mill.” If
  “The Battle of the Nile” were chosen, we prepared for fun. The words
  were only,

                      “The battle of the Nile,
                      I was there all the while,”[6]

  in endless repetition, sung to a slow, droning tune. James had no
  voice and little ear, though he loved music. He would begin in a
  lifeless, indifferent manner, hardly raising his head, while we all
  sat quietly round him. Presently W.S. would join with his deep bass,
  then a clear soprano or a tenor would be heard, and so on, one after
  another dropping in, until in the end the whole circle would be on
  their feet, singing at the top of their voices, James leading them
  with all the airs and graces of a finished conductor. Then James
  would call upon my father for his favorite song,—

                     “In a mouldering cave where
                     The wretched retreat,
                     Britannia sat wasted with care.
                     She wept for her Wolfe”—

  and at this point the whole party were expected to break out into
  dolorous weeping. Then came songs and glees, in the choruses of which
  we all heartily joined. Or M.W. would repeat “Binnorie, oh Binnorie,”
  or W.S. sing “A Life on the Ocean Wave,” or some of the party sing
  and act for us the oratorio of the “Skeptic,” with one awful chorus,
  “Tremble Whipstick,” in which we were all expected to show violent
  signs of trembling fear. It was all nonsense, but delightful
  nonsense, the bubbling over of these gay young spirits.

  But this is only a sketch of the lighter hours of the Band. We had
  our serious times, when everything in heaven or on earth was
  discussed with the airy audacity that belongs to youth, when all the
  questions of the day—art, politics, poetry, ethics, religion,
  philosophy—were bowled down by our light balls, with easy certainty
  that we were quite able to settle the affairs of the world. There was
  great variety of character and opinion among us, so that our
  discussions did not lack spice and vigor; but for the short time he
  was with us, when wit met wit in the bright mêlée, there was no
  keener lance in rest among the “Knights of the Round Table” than
  James Lowell’s.


                              CHAPTER VII
                            A MAN OF LETTERS

Lowell first saw Maria White on the first of December, 1839. At the
moment, I suppose, he did not know that it was preordained that they
two should be one. Mr. Norton has hunted out an early letter of his
which he wrote the day after that meeting: “I went up to Watertown on
Saturday with W.A. White, and spent the Sabbath with him.... His sister
is a very pleasant and pleasing young lady, and knows more poetry than
any one I am acquainted with. I mean, she is able to repeat more. She
is more familiar, however, with modern poets than with the pure
wellsprings of English poesy.” The truth is that their union was made
in heaven, that it was a perfect marriage, that they belonged together
and lived one life. She was exquisitely beautiful; her tastes and
habits were perfectly simple; her education, as I look back on what I
know of it, seems to me as perfect as any education can be. Among other
experiences which did her no harm, she was one of the frightened girls
who fled from the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown before it was
destroyed by a mob, in 1834. Her mother was one of the most charming
women who ever lived. A cluster of sisters, of all ages down to romping
little girls, young women of exquisite sensitiveness and character, and
with such a training as such a mother would be sure to give, made the
great Watertown house the most homelike of homes. In such a home Lowell
found his beautiful wife, and they loved each other from the beginning.


  _From the crayon by S.W. Rowse, in the possession of Miss Georgina
    Lowell Putnam, Boston_]

I remember, while I am writing these lines, that all the five young men
spoken of in the last chapter entered their names, on graduating, on
the books of the Law School. They spent more or less of the next
eighteen months at Cambridge. Their intimacy, however, did not spring
from this. It might be said, indeed, that they all went to the Law
School because they were intimate, rather than that they were intimate
because they went to the Law School. Of the five, King only was a
professional lawyer through his life. His honored father before him,
John Glen King, of the Harvard class of 1807, a learned and scholarly
man, had been a distinguished leader at the Essex bar. Story gave most
of his life to letters and to art, but his earliest publication is a
series of Law Reports, and he afterwards published—in 1844—a book on
Contracts. My brother, after he opened his law office, was early turned
away from his profession to the management of the “Daily Advertiser;”
and White, who died at the age of thirty-six, before any of the rest of
them, gave so much of his time to the temperance and anti-slavery
reforms, and to political work, that he cannot be spoken of as a
practicing lawyer. None of them are now living.

With another classmate Lowell was on the most intimate terms—Dr. George
Bailey Loring, since distinguished as the head of the Department of
Agriculture in Washington. Loring studied medicine at the same time
when Lowell went to the Law School; but Lowell frequently visited
Loring’s beautiful home in Andover, and from schooldays forward the
similarity of their tastes brought them into almost constant
correspondence in matters of literature. Dr. Loring was the son of the
minister of Andover, and that gentleman and Lowell’s father had been
friends. For us now, this has proved singularly fortunate; for Loring
carefully preserved all his letters from Lowell, and Mr. Norton has
selected from them many for publication, which throw valuable light
upon these early days, in which Lowell really revealed everything to
this friend. He was always frank to the utmost with his correspondents,
and relied upon their discretion. He was never more annoyed than when a
correspondent or an interviewer presumed upon this frankness in
repeating, or half repeating, anything, where Lowell had relied on the
discretion of a gentleman. Dr. Loring sympathized entirely with
Lowell’s growing determination to devote himself to literary work, and
this sympathy naturally encouraged him, as he broke off, sooner than he
perhaps expected, from the practice of law.

Lowell once wrote a funny story which he called “My First Client.” I
guess that at the bottom it was true. I think that when the painter who
had painted his sign came in with his bill, Lowell thought for a moment
that he had a client. Out of this he spun an amusing “short story.”

This little sketch of his has, in itself, given the impression,
perhaps, that he cared nothing about the law, and that his LL. B. on
the college catalogue and his admission to the Suffolk bar were purely
perfunctory. It is true that he never practiced, and that before long
he stopped paying office rent, and that his sign was taken down. But it
is not true that he threw away the three years when he pretended to be
studying for his profession. In those days the Massachusetts custom was
that a young lawyer who sought the best studied for a year and a half
at Cambridge under Story and Greenleaf, then spent as much time in a
lawyer’s office, and then entered at the bar after a formal
examination. In this way Lowell spent three or four terms at Cambridge,
and then he spent as much time in regular attendance in the office of
his father’s friend and parishioner, the Hon. Charles Greeley Loring,
for many years a leader at the Boston bar. It is not difficult to trace
the results of Lowell’s faithful work in these three years in his after
writing. Any person makes a great mistake who infers from the _abandon_
of some of his literary fun that he did not know how to work, steadily
and faithfully, better than the worst Philistine who was ever born.

But the stars in their courses did not propose that he should be a
chief justice, or a celebrated writer on torts, or that he should make
brilliant pleas before a jury. They had other benefits in store for the

It is pathetic now to see how little welcome there was then for a young
poet, or how little temptation for a literary career. It was thought a
marvel that the first “New England Magazine” and the “North American
Review” should pay a dollar a page to their writers. In Longfellow’s
Life, as in Mr. Lowell’s early letters, you find notes of the
“Knickerbocker,” “Godey,” and “Graham,” at Philadelphia, and the
“Southern Literary,” as willing to print what was good, but there is
evidence enough that the writers wrote for fame in the intervals spared
them from earning their bread and butter. Holmes speaks as if he should
have lost caste in his profession in those early days had he been known
as a literary man. He even implies that Lowell himself dragged him back
to his literary career.

But better times for American letters or for the independent profession
of literary men were at hand. “Graham’s Magazine” and “Godey’s Lady’s
Book” had achieved what was called a large circulation. Stimulated by
their success, two young publishers in Boston, named Bradbury and
Soden, determined to try a magazine in New England which should appeal
for its support to the supposed literary class of the country, as
Blackwood did, and, in America, the “Portfolio,” the “Knickerbocker,”
and the “Literary Messenger.” But it was also to print fashion-plates,
and so appeal to the women of the country, even if they did not care
for literature. So it was to be called “The Boston Miscellany of
Literature and Fashion.” There were to be forty-six pages of
literature, with a good steel engraving, in every number, and two pages
of fashion, with a fashion-plate.

My brother was to be responsible for the literature, and somebody, I
think in New York, for the fashion, with which the former had nothing
to do. I remember he had to explain this to Mrs. Stowe, whom he had
asked to contribute. She had declined because she had been shocked by a
décolletée figure on one of these plates. Dear Mrs. Stowe, in her
English progress ten years afterwards, had an opportunity to reconcile
herself with dresses much more pronounced.

The “Atlantic” to-day calls itself a journal of literature, art,
science, and politics. It does not undertake to reconcile fashion with
literature. If Messrs. Bradbury and Soden had been questioned, they
would have said, what was true, that there was no class of readers who
could sustain creditably a purely literary magazine. The rate at which
the poor “Knickerbocker” was expiring was evidence of this. But they
would have said that there were a great many factory-girls in the
country for whom there was no journal of fashion. They would have said
that these girls could be relied upon to float the literary magazine,
if in each number there was a love-story which they would be glad to
read. And I remember that there was great glee in the counting-room
when it was announced that a thousand copies of the new magazine had
been sold in Lowell.

My brother was very stiff about concessions to the fashionable side.
Two pages might be fashion, and as bad fashion as the publishers
wanted, but his forty-six pages were to be the best which he could
command. After a few numbers had been issued, he made a negotiation
with Duyckinck, the editor of the “Arcturus,” by which the short-lived
magazine was transferred to him. This gave him the help of some of the
bright New Yorkers. They sent to him their accumulated manuscripts, and
I then saw the handwriting of Elizabeth Barrett—Mrs. Browning—for the
first time. Soon after this these young men in Boston made the personal
acquaintance of their New York correspondents, and from that time began
Lowell’s close friendship with Mr. Charles F. Briggs.

Of other writers rising to fame, who were secured for the “Miscellany,”
was Hawthorne, who, to the great pleasure of all of us, contributed the
article “A Virtuoso’s Collection.” Lowell probably met him for the
first time at Elizabeth Peabody’s. Hawthorne soon after married her
charming sister. As a _nom de plume_ for a great deal of his work,
Hawthorne assumed the French translation of his name. His stories in
the “Democratic Review” of this time were attributed to “Monsieur
d’Aubépine.” Lowell says of him in his Concord address: “You would
think me extravagant, I fear, if I said how highly I rate the genius of
Hawthorne in the history of literature. At any rate, Hawthorne taught
us one great and needful lesson; and that is, that our own past was an
ample storehouse for the brightest works of imagination or fancy.”

[Illustration: CHARLES F. BRIGGS]

It is interesting now to see that Walt Whitman, who then called himself
Walter, had begun as early as this his literary career.

The page of the “Miscellany” was an imitation as precise as possible of
the page which Edward Moxon in London had adopted for several of his
popular series. All these young men had read and enjoyed the first part
of Browning’s “Bells and Pomegranates,” which had appeared with Moxon’s
imprint in this form in 1842.

I speak at this length of the “Miscellany,” of which we print a
facsimile of one page, because in that year Lowell really made his
determination to lead a literary life. It was not the life of a poet
simply, but a life of letters, to which from this time he looked
forward. To the volume of the “Miscellany” published in 1842 he
contributed the following: three articles on “Old English Dramatists,”
the two sketches “My First Client” and “Getting Up,” and, in verse, the
sonnet to Keats, “The Two,” “To Perdita Singing,” “Fantasy,” “The
Shepherd of King Admetus,” and two unnamed sonnets.

In the second number of the “Miscellany,” under the date of December,
1841, appeared also the “Ode” which he afterwards thought worth
reprinting in the collected edition of his works. One cannot but see in
it a careful statement of his own hopes and resolves for his future. It
was originally printed in stanzas of four lines; as he recast it
subsequently, the breaks between the stanzas disappear. The following
characteristic verses show what was central in his thought and feeling
at this time:—

           “This, this is he for whom the world is waiting
              To sing the beatings of its mighty heart.
            Too long hath it been patient with the grating
              Of scrannel-pipes, and heard it misnamed Art.

           “To him the smiling soul of man shall listen,
              Laying awhile its crown of thorns aside,
            And once again in every eye shall glisten
              The glory of a nature satisfied.

           “His verse shall have a great commanding motion,
              Heaving and swelling with a melody
            Learnt of the sky, the river, and the ocean,
              And all the pure, majestic things that be.

           “Awake, then, thou! we pine for thy great presence
              To make us feel the soul once more sublime.
            We are of far too infinite an Essence
              To rest contented with the lies of Time.

           “Speak out! and lo, a hush of deepest wonder
              Shall sink o’er all this many voicèd scene,
            As when a sudden burst of rattling thunder
              Shatters the blueness of a sky serene.”

In a private note on the 8th of July he says of this Ode: “I esteem it
the best I ever wrote.” And he adds, “I find that my pen follows my
soul more easily the older I grow. I know that I have a mission to
accomplish, and if I live I will do the work my Father giveth me to do.”

At the end of the year, when my brother resigned the management of the
“Miscellany,” Lowell and his friend Robert Carter ventured on the
“Pioneer,” which was to be a magazine of “literature and art.” Fashion
was thrown out of the window; and for illustrations, they began with
some good pictures from Flaxman.



  _The Authors’ names are in the handwriting of Nathan Hale_]

Lowell was already engaged to be married to Miss White. Their lives
were wholly bound up in each other. He was writing to her charming
letters in poetry and in prose, and she to him in letters as charming.
They read together, they dreamed together, they forecast the future
together. In such a daily atmosphere it was natural that he should
choose that future rightly.

                   “Perhaps then first he understood
                    Himself how wondrously endued.”

He knew what was in him. By this time he knew he could work steadily,
and when he wrote in triumph,

                       “I am a maker and a poet,
                        I feel it and I know it,”

he wrote in that frank confidence in his future which his future wholly

In the fifth volume of the present series of the “New England Magazine”
Mr. Mead has given us a charming article on the three numbers of the
“Pioneer.” These numbers are now among the rarities most prized by
American book collectors. And there is hardly a page of the “Pioneer”
which one does not read with a certain interest, in view of what has
followed. At the end of three numbers the journal died, because it had
not subscribers enough to pay for it. It may be observed in this
history of our early magazines that all these publishers lived on what
we may call placer gold-washings, for nobody here had yet discovered
the quartz rock of an advertising patronage. In the “Miscellany” and
the “Pioneer” no enterprising advertiser assisted in the payment of the
bills. There was not one advertisement in either. The English magazines
printed advertisements long before.

In Lowell’s Introductory, written, as will be observed, when he was not
yet twenty-four years old, he gives what Mr. Mead well calls a
characteristic expression of those views of American literature which
always controlled him afterward: “Everything that tends to encourage
the sentiment of caste should be steadily resisted by all good men. But
we do long for a natural literature. One green leaf, though of the
veriest weed, is worth all the crape and wire flowers of the daintiest
Paris milliners.” The whole article is well worth study by the young
critics now.

It is rather funny to see, in these days, that Nathaniel Parker Willis,
who then considered himself as the leader of the young literature of
America, gave this opinion of Lowell in reviewing the first number of
the “Pioneer:”—

“J.R. Lowell, a man of original and decided genius, has started a
monthly magazine in Boston. The first number lies before us, and it
justifies our expectation,—namely, that a man of genius, who is merely
a man of genius, is a very unfit editor for a periodical.”

This remark of Willis is interesting now, since Lowell has proved
himself perhaps the best literary editor whom the history of American
journalism has yet discovered. It is just possible, as the reader will
see, that Willis did not write this himself.

Lowell’s connection with the “Pioneer” occupied him for the closing
months of 1842 and the beginning of 1843. This was at a period when his
eyes troubled him badly. Writing from New York, he says: “Every morning
I go to Dr. Elliott’s (who, by the way, is very kind) and wait for my
turn to be operated upon. This sometimes consumes a great deal of time,
the Doctor being overrun with patients. After being made stone blind
for the space of fifteen minutes, I have the rest of the day to myself.”

On the 17th of January he writes, “My eyes, having been operated on
yesterday _with the knife_, must be used charily;” and again on the 22d
he writes that he had had a second operation performed on the 20th.

“Handbills of the ‘Pioneer’ in red and black, with a spread eagle at
the head of them, face me everywhere. I could not but laugh to see a
drayman standing with his hands in his pockets diligently spelling it
out, being attracted thereto doubtless by the bird of America, which
probably led him to think it the Proclamation of the President, a
delusion from which he probably did not awake after perusing the

And on the 24th he says: “I can scarcely get through with one letter
without pain, and everything that I write retards my cure, and so keeps
me the longer here. But I love Keats so much that I think I can write
something good about him.... If you knew how I am placed, you would not
write me so. I am forbidden to write under pain of staying here forever
or _losing my eyes_.” And in the same letter, “I must not write any

“Have you got any copy for the third number? Do not ask any
conservatives to write, for it will mar the unity of the magazine. We
shall be surer of success if we maintain a uniform course and have a
decided tendency either one way or the other. We shall at least gain
more influence in that way.”

In New York he often met Willis personally, and the more he saw of him
the better he liked him. I think this was what happened with most
people who met Willis. It certainly was so with me. In personal
intimacy the studied affectation of his printed work disappeared. It
was studied, as almost any one could guess without seeing him. Willis
also was at this time under Dr. Elliott’s care for treatment of his
eyes. He told Dr. Elliott that Lowell had written the most remarkable
poetry that had been written in this country, and that he was destined
to be the brightest star that had yet risen in American literature. He
told Lowell himself that he was more popular and more talked about than
any other poet in the land, and promised him that he would help the
“Pioneer” in every way. At this time Willis was as highly regarded by
young people, especially by the sort of people who read magazines, as
any literary man in America.

Elizabeth Barrett, not yet married, had written for the Boston
“Miscellany,” and on the 20th of January Lowell acknowledges four poems
from her.[7] There were but three numbers of the “Pioneer” published.
It has been the fashion to speak of it in a pitying tone, as if it were
a mere foolish enterprise of two callow boys. But if between the
numbers or between the articles one reads, as I have done, the
correspondence between Lowell and his “true friend and brother,” Robert
Carter, one feels that the “Pioneer” failed of success only from a
series of misfortunes. Looking back upon it now, it is easy to say that
it needed capital for a beginning. Most things do in our modern world.
It is clear enough in this case that the strongest reason for
undertaking it was that Lowell lived and was at the beginning of his
successful career. Without him there would have been no “Pioneer.”
Knowing this, when you find that through January and February he was
prohibited from writing, that week after week he was submitting to
operations on his eyes, and that he was in actual danger of permanent
blindness, you cease to ask why the “Pioneer” died at the end of its
third number, and you wonder, on the other hand, that it lived at all.

When one remembers the currency which Lowell’s volumes of essays have
had from the very beginning, he reads with special interest more than
amusement the following note from Miss White, who had seen the
publisher, which is pathetic. It describes the persuasion necessary to
induce anybody to attempt the bold venture of issuing the first in that
remarkable series:—

“I went to see Mr. Owen this afternoon, to talk to him about publishing
James’s prose volume. He expressed himself greatly pleased with the
articles, but said he wished to _wait_ until James’s prose was better
known to the public before he ventured upon it. Then I told him of the
flattering notices of his ‘Old Dramatists’ that appeared at the time
they came out, and of the lavish praise his prose style received. He
said that changed the face of affairs wholly; that if he were as sure
of the public as himself he should not hesitate. He said he wished to
see you and talk about it with you also.”

Let all young writers remember this, that the public knows what it
wants, whether publishers are doubtful or no. I may add the remark,
which I believe to be wholly true, of one of the most successful
publishers of our day, “No one on earth knows, when a book is
published, whether it will sell five thousand copies or not. But if
five thousand copies are sold, nothing is more certain than that
twenty-five thousand can be.”


  _“The Don” was Robert Carter_]

Mr. Lowell and Miss White were married in the end of December, 1844,
with the good wishes, I might say, of everybody. Among her other
exquisite faculties she had a sense of humor as keen as his, and both
of them would run on, in the funniest way, about their plans for
economical housekeeping. Sheet-iron air-tight stoves had just come into
being. I believe I never see one to this day without recollecting in
what an amusing vein of absurd exaggeration she once showed, in her
lively talk, how much they were going to save in the detail of domestic
life by the use of that most unromantic bit of household machinery.

“A Year’s Life,” his maiden volume of poems, had been published in
1841, about the time of their engagement. We used to pretend that weeks
in advance of the publication multitudes of young girls who took a
tender interest in this most romantic of marriages walked daily from
one to another of the half-dozen book-shops in little Boston to inquire
if “A Year’s Life” were ready, and thus to stimulate the interest and
curiosity of booksellers and their clerks. I think that the larger
publishers of to-day even would say that the sale was more than is to
be expected from any new volume of short poems. This was, of course,
only a retail sale in Boston and the neighboring towns. There was as
yet no demand for “Lowell’s Poems” in New York, Philadelphia, or London.

Seeing the future of the author’s poetical reputation, I think that
young authors may be interested in reading the letter in which he first
proposes modestly to print this book:—

“I think, nay I am sure, that I have written some worthy things, and
though I feel well enough pleased with myself, yet it is a great joy to
us all to be known and understood by others. I do long for somebody to
like what I have written, and me for what I have written, who does not
know me. You and I were cured of the mere _cacoethes imprimendi_
(Rufus) by our connection with ‘Harvardiana:’ I think that so far we
should be thankful to it, as it taught us that print was no proof of
worthiness, and that we need not look for a movement of the world when
our pieces were made known in print.

“Now, if you will find out how much it would cost to print 400 copies
(if you think I could sell so many; if not, 300) in decent style (150
pages—less if printed closely), like Jones Very’s book, for instance, I
could find out if I could get an indorser. I should not charge less
than $1 per vol.—should you? I don’t care so much for the style of
printing as to get it printed in any way.

“Jones Very’s style would be good, too, because it might be printed by
our old printers, and that would be convenient about the proofs.”

In the subsequent collections of his poems he omitted many of those
which are in this pioneer volume. And for this reason, among others,
the volume is in great demand among collectors. But it is easy to see
that he had even then—two years only after the class poem—outgrown the
crudities of younger days which we find in turning over “Harvardiana.”
There is serious purpose now, though it be expressed only in two or
three words together. Some of these are the poems of a lover. Yes! but
they are also the poems of a serious young man who knows that there is
duty next his hand, and who is determined, with God’s help and with the
help of her he loves best, to carry that duty through.

The spirit of the book reflects thus the same sense of a mission to
mankind which appears in the letters which have been preserved from a
full correspondence which he maintained with Heath, a young Virginian.
Frank Heath, as his friends called him, graduated at Cambridge while
Lowell was in the Law School, and a close intimacy had grown up between
them. When Heath left college in August, 1840, he returned to Virginia.
There is a careful letter from Lowell to him which has a curious
interest now, in the light of the history which followed. Lowell begs
him to lead the way and to make himself the typical man in the new
history of Virginia by emancipating his own slaves and leading in the
establishment of a new civilization there. In fact, Heath soon went to
Europe, and was lost to his friends here for nearly twenty years in one
or another German university. He returned to his own country in time to
take a prominent post in the Confederate army, and I think he lost an
arm in one of the battles of the rebellion.

The publication of “A Year’s Life” showed that Lowell was a poet. This
was now beyond discussion. The papers in the “Miscellany” and the
“Pioneer” now showed, what people in the little literary circles of
America knew, that he wrote prose well and that he had more than an
amateur’s knowledge of the older English literature. He could work
steadily and faithfully.

In the autumn of 1843 and the winter of 1843–44, however, as has been
said, he had trouble with his eyes, and he lived for some time in New
York for their better treatment. Mrs. Lowell also, always of delicate
health, required a more genial climate than Elmwood or Watertown would
give her. Her lungs were delicate, and after their marriage, to escape
the harsh climate of Boston, they spent the winter of 1844-45 in
Philadelphia. It need not be said that in each city they made very near
personal friends who felt and treasured the personal attraction of each
of them,—an attraction which it is impossible to describe.

In the same winter the Southern party in Congress and the speculators
who had bought Texan bonds for next to nothing were engaged in driving
through the last Congress of President Tyler’s administration the
“joint resolutions” by which Texas was annexed to the United States.
There were no precedents for such annexation. What would seem the
natural course in an agreement between two republics would have been a
formal treaty between them. But it was known that no treaty for such a
purpose could pass the United States Senate. It was determined,
therefore, by the friends of annexation, who had such support as Mr.
Tyler and his Cabinet could give, that they would drive these “joint
resolutions” through Congress. And this was done. The resolutions
passed the Senate by a majority of one only. They passed the day before
Mr. Tyler went out of office. Here was the first pitched battle in
Congress on a definite national issue between the North and South since
that defeat of the North in the Missouri Compromise which had so
excited Charles Lowell the year after his son was born. The whole
country, North and South, was wild with excitement, as well it might be.


  _From a daguerreotype taken at Philadelphia in 1844_]

Lowell was ready to give himself to the side of freedom with his pen or
with his voice. At this time he engaged in the service first of the
“Liberty Bell,” an anti-slavery annual published in Boston, and
afterwards of the “National Anti-Slavery Standard.” Mrs. Lowell also
wrote for both journals.

The “Standard” was a weekly journal of great originality and ability,
published in New York under the auspices of one of the national
anti-slavery societies. The editor was Sydney Howard Gay, afterwards so
distinguished as a historian, and holding all his life the most
important trusts as a journalist in New York. He worked with Bryant in
the “Evening Post.” He worked with Greeley in the “Tribune.” It is not
too late to hope that his memoirs will be collected and published. They
will throw a flood of light on points not yet fully revealed in the
history of the twenty years which led up to the fall of Richmond and
the emancipation of America.

Most organs, so called, of a special philanthropy are narrow and
bigoted, and so, by the divine law which rules narrowness and bigotry,
are preëminently dull. Witness most missionary journals and all
temperance journals, so far as this writer has observed. We owed it to
Gay, I suppose, that the “Anti-Slavery Standard,” while pitiless in its
denunciation of slavery, was neither narrow, bigoted, nor dull. Lydia
Maria Child’s letters from New York, which were published in it once a
week, are still remembered among editors. They give an ideal type for
writing in that line, in a series of papers which may well be studied
by young journalists, for, though often imitated, they have never been
equaled. They are the despair of “leading editors” who try to get such
work done for them and never succeed.

Lowell engaged himself to write regularly for the “Standard,” and did
so for some years. His prose papers in that journal have never been
collected, but they would be well worth collection. And the poems he
wrote at this time, sometimes political, but not always so, generally
appeared in the “Standard.” The headquarters of the young people were
now at Elmwood in Cambridge. Here their oldest children were born, and
here their oldest child died. It was then that Maria Lowell wrote that
charming poem which has been read with sympathetic tears in so many
homes from which “the Good Shepherd” has called away one of his lambs.

I have often heard it said that the “Biglow Papers,” which followed
soon after, introduced Lowell in England, and I suppose it was so. You
never can tell what they will like in England, or what they will not
like. But this is clear, that, having little or no humor of their own,
they are curiously alive for humor in others. And the dialect of the
“Biglow Papers,” which is no burlesque or exaggeration, but simply
perfect New England talk, is in itself curious enough and suggestive
enough to have introduced letters on any theme.

Literary people in England still fancied that they were opposed to the
principle of slavery, as, in truth, a considerable number of them were.
And between the outspoken abolitionists of America and those of England
there was then a freemasonry tender and charming, though sometimes
absurd and amusing. I suppose this first introduced the Biglow letters,
with their rollicking fun, their absolute good sense and vigorous
suggestions, into England. Once introduced, they took care of
themselves, and went wherever there were readers of sense or even
intelligence. They began in a spurt of fun about a little local passage
in Massachusetts politics.

                        “Fer John P.
                        Robinson he
                    Sez he wunt vote fer Guvnor B.”

The success of the first numbers naturally led Lowell to carry them
further, and they became in the end an important factor in the
anti-slavery politics of New England.

Meanwhile, as our next chapter will show, what we now look back upon as
the “lecture system” was developing itself in the Northern States. With
the ordinary stupidity of ecclesiasticism, most of the organized
churches had succeeded in shutting out from their services the ultra
speakers on whatever question. They confined their sermons on Sunday to
the decorous wish-wash in which average men treated in a harmless way
subjects to which the people were indifferent. Speaking of the English
pulpit at the same period, under conditions not far different, Jowett
says: “Really, I never hear a sermon of which it is possible to
conceive that the writer has a serious belief about things. If you
could but cross-examine him, he would perjure himself every other
sentence.” The indifference with which wide-awake Americans,
particularly of the younger generation, regarded such preaching,
resulted in the development of the “lyceum system” of the North. Of
this I will speak in some detail in the next chapter. It is enough to
say here that the organized churches might thank themselves if they
found, introduced into every community on weekdays, the most radical
views, and frequently by speakers who would not have pretended to
address them on Sundays. I am trying not to travel outside the line
which I have marked for myself in these papers; but I do not pass that
line when I say that a sort of indignation was aroused through the
whole Northern community because the established church, in its various
communions, was unwilling to devote itself to what was clearly its
business, the fair discussion of the most important subject bearing on
right and wrong which could possibly come before any people. The reader
will find some valuable notes by Mr. Higginson, interesting of course,
in “Cheerful Yesterdays.” “All of which he saw, and much of which he

I refer to this now not because Lowell was often engaged in lecturing
as one of the anti-slavery speakers. It must be remembered that this
book is not so much a history of his life, as an effort to show the
circumstances which surrounded his life and which account for the
course of it. In his weekly contributions to the press, whether in
prose or in verse, he kept in touch with the men and women who were
quite in advance in forming the Northern or national sentiment of the

The “Liberty Bell” and the “Standard,” with his bright and suggestive
articles, went into the circles which summoned Parker and Phillips and
Garrison to give them instruction or inspiration which they would have
sought in vain from the more decorous pulpits of that day. So it
happened that, although he did not “enter the lecture field” as early
as some of his companions and friends in the anti-slavery cause, he
was, in those years of the awakening, perfectly well known among those
interested in that cause.

In this connection it interests me to remember that the last time I saw
his father, Dr. Lowell, was at the house in Elmwood in 1855. I went to
him to ask for his assent and signature in a memorial relating to the
freedom of Kansas, which was addressed to what we then called “The
Three Thousand New England Clergymen.” I went to him because he was one
of the oldest Congregational ministers in New England, and because he
had always deprecated the separation between the evangelical and
liberal branches of that body. He sympathized heartily in what we were
doing, signed his name at the head of our circular-letter, and then put
his hand on my head, and in the most cordial and pathetic way gave me
and our cause an old man’s benediction. This, the reader should note,
took place in the spring of 1855.


                              CHAPTER VIII
                       LOWELL AS A PUBLIC SPEAKER

It will be as well to bring into one chapter such references to
Lowell’s work as a public speaker as may give some idea of the interest
with which he was always heard, and, indeed, of his own evident
enjoyment of the position of an orator.

He spoke with absolute simplicity, with entire ease, and he really
enjoyed public speaking.

It was near the close of the first quarter of the century that what was
called the “lyceum system” came into being in New England. It worked
wonderfully well under the original plans. The institution, as it may
be called, or the habit, if you please, of lecturing and listening to
lectures, was formed again, probably never to be abandoned in our
communities. The method by which this was done in the New England towns
worked well for a generation. And Lowell, as a youngster starting on
life, made some of his first addresses “under the auspices” of the
old-fashioned lyceum committees.

I am rather fond of saying, what nobody seems to care for excepting
myself, that high among the causes which sent Winthrop’s colony to
Massachusetts was the passion of such men as he to hear lectures on
week-days. Now this was important. It means that the contest between
the “left wing” and the “right wing” in the English Church turned
largely on the wish of the more advanced clergy to speak in other
pulpits than their own, and the greater wish of the Puritan people to
hear them. Of course, if a bishop could shut up a man in his own
pulpit, the influence of one of the Garrisons, or Phillipses, or
Parkers, or Pillsburys of the day would be very much restricted. But so
long as John Cotton could travel over half England, he was much more
formidable to Bishop Laud and the other people who directed the
Establishment than he would have been if he had remained in his own
pulpit in the Lincolnshire Boston.

So there grew up for that generation the habit of a week-day lecture in
the New England meeting-houses; a habit preserved with more or less
interest to the present day. But as time went by, these week-day
lectures, so far as I recollect them, were little more than the
repetition of sermons which had been preached on Sunday. Now, if there
is anything dangerous anywhere for a lecturer’s usefulness, it is a
habit of repeating the average sermon. A sermon is one thing and a
lyceum lecture is another. A lyceum lecture has one purpose, and a
sermon ought to have another purpose. However this may be, the people
of the generations of this century who did not much like to go to the
“Thursday lecture” in Boston, or similar lectures in other towns, were
very glad to hear the best speakers of the time. And they generally
gave them more latitude than was to be found in the creed-bound
churches of the time.

I do not think I stray too far from our central subject if I take a few
lines to speak of the value to the whole Northern community of this
very curious system. To introduce such men as have been named above,
and a hundred other men, some of them of equal prominence in our
history, and all of them of a certain ability as public speakers,—to
introduce such men to the average community of the North, so that it
knew them personally, was in itself a great achievement. To go back to
the comparison which I have made already, these Peter the Hermits,
passing from place to place, preached a crusade. They were in very much
the position of John Cotton and those other Puritan lecturers whom
Bishop Laud and the Star Chamber disliked in England. And the history
of the twenty years before our Civil War is not rightly written unless
it refers to the effect which was wrought by such speakers. Phillips,
Parker, Ward Beecher, and even Garrison, would have been little known
outside a small circle around their respective homes but for this
lecturing practice.

There will be found in Lowell’s letters and in other memoranda of the
time an occasional joke about the external hardships of the thing. He
speaks somewhere of three “committeemen,” with three cold hands like
raw beefsteak, welcoming him and bidding him good-by. But such little
jokes as this must not give a false idea of the reception which was
given to the pioneers of larger thought than that which the hidebound
churches of the time were willing to interpret. For one such story of
the beefsteak hands there could be told a thousand stories of warm
welcomes into charming families, and of immediate mutual recognition of
people of kindred thought who would never have seen each other’s faces
but for the happy appointment which brought one as a lecturer to the
other as “committeeman.” Anything that taught the separated people of
this country that it was a country, that they were citizens of the same
nation, and that they had each other’s burdens to bear, was of great
value in those days. The reader of to-day forgets that in the same
years in which South Carolina was defying the North, Massachusetts gave
directions that the national flag should not float over her State
House. That is to say, in those days there was an intense sensitiveness
which kept men of different sections of the country apart from each
other. Anything which overcame such sensitiveness, and brought real
lovers of their country and lovers of God face to face, was an
advantage. In this case the advantage can hardly be overestimated.

To this hour the popular lecture in America differs from the lecture,
so called, which the Useful Knowledge Society of England, and what they
used to call Mechanics’ Institutes, established there in the earlier
part of the century. Mr. Emerson told me that when he delivered his
lectures in London, intelligent people went back to Coleridge’s morning
lectures, of a dozen or more years before, as a precedent. And you see
in the accounts of Carlyle’s London lectures that it was regarded as a
novelty that anything should be said at a lecture which decently
intelligent people needed to hear. But in October, 1843, Emerson wrote
to his friend John Sterling, “There is now a ‘lyceum,’ so called, in
almost every town in New England, and if I would accept an invitation I
might read a lecture every night.” Sterling had written to him not long
before, “I doubt whether there are anywhere in Britain, except in
London, a hundred persons to be found capable of at all appreciating
what seems to find, as spoken by you, such ready acceptance from
various bodies of learners in America.” Such people meet, in their
moribund feudal fashion, “to encourage the others,” as Sir Walter
Vivian looked on the experiments in his own park, or as Murat charged
at Borodino. The amusing condescension, so often observable in the
English pulpit, is even more marked in the English “popular lecture.”

But, in the beginning, it was not so here. As early as 1814 Jacob
Bigelow had lectured on botany in Boston, and, not long after, Edward
Everett on Greek art and antiquities, and Henry Ware on the Holy Land,
in courses of lectures, which were attended by the very best and most
intelligent people. And when Waldo Emerson, and Theodore Parker, and
Wendell Phillips, and James Lowell lectured in the same region, they
gave the best they could give, and no one thought he condescended in
going to hear.

I do not forget a bright saying of Starr King, one of those best worth
hearing of the brilliant group of traveling lecturers of whom Lowell
was one. King said that a popular lyceum lecture was made of five parts
of sense and five of nonsense. “There are only five men in America,”
said he, “who know how to mix them—and I think I am one of the five.”
Other people thought so too, and did not detect the nonsense. His
carefully wrought lectures are worth anybody’s study to-day.

He is the author of another lyceum chestnut. Some one asked him what
his honorarium was for each lecture. “F.A. M.E.,” said he—“Fifty And My

Lowell’s hearers got no nonsense. His subjects were generally literary
or critical—I think always so. On one or more expeditions he went to
what was then the Far West—speaking in Wisconsin, I observe, within
twenty years after Black Hawk and Keokuk addressed Americans on the
same fields.

(Ah me! Why did I not accept forty acres of land between the lakes in
Madison, Wisconsin, when they were offered me in 1842? The reader will
perhaps pardon this digression!)

Of such a system of Wanderjähre in the education of a country, not the
least benefit is that which is gained by the speaker. No man knows
America who has not traveled much in her different regions. A wise
United States Senator proposed lately that each newly elected member of
Congress should be compelled to travel up and down his own country for
those mysterious months after his election before he takes his seat.
The men who have had such a privilege do not make the mistakes of
book-trained men.

A good enough illustration of some of the deeper consequences of what
may be called the lyceum movement may be found in the story often told
of the divided committee who met Wendell Phillips in a place where he
was quite a stranger. On his arrival he asked what was the subject he
was to speak on. Should he read his lecture on the Lost Arts, or should
he deliver an address on Anti-Slavery? It proved, alas! that the
committee was equally divided, perhaps bitterly divided, and neither
side would yield to the other. Phillips at once made the determination
with his own prompt wit. He said he would deliver the lecture on the
Lost Arts first, and then the Anti-Slavery address afterwards for any
who wanted to stay and hear. Of course, after they had heard him,
everybody stayed, and so he had the whole town to hear his radical
appeal, where otherwise he would have had only that half the town which
was convinced already.

Under a law which may be called divine, the students, in all colleges
where they had the choice of anniversary orators, always elected the
speakers who, as they thought, would be most disagreeable to the
college government. So Emerson, Parker, and Phillips came to be
favorite college speakers in colleges where the faculties would gladly
have suppressed all knowledge of the men. Mr. Emerson’s address at
Dartmouth in 1838 would never have been delivered but for the action of
this law. This address, when printed, lying on the counter of a
book-shop in Oxford, gave to Gladstone his first knowledge of the New
England Plato.

It is amusing now, and in a way it is pathetic, to see how this
youngster Lowell, even before he was of age, caught at the floating
straw of a Lyceum engagement whenever he could, in the hope of earning
a little money. This was simply that he felt the mortification which
every bright boy feels when, after being told that he is a man by some
college authority, he finds that he is still living in his father’s
house, eating at his father’s table, wearing clothes which his father
pays for, and even asking his father for spending-money. There is a
note from him to Loring to ask if the “Andover Lyceum” will pay as much
as five dollars for a lecture.

The reader must understand that in the “Lyceum system,” so called, it
was considered as a sort of duty for educated men to have on hand a
lecture or two which they were willing to read to any audience which
was willing to ask them. This was, by the way, in precise fulfillment
of that somewhat vague commission which constitutes the degree of a
Master of Arts. The person who is fortunate enough to receive this
diploma is told that he has the privilege of “speaking in public as
often as any one asks him to do so.” This is my free translation of
“publice profitendi.” Those words never really meant “public
profession.” In our modern days we are a little apt to take this
privilege without the permission of the university.

Educated men accepted such appointments as their contribution to public
education. It was just as the same men served on the school committee
or board of selectmen, and would have been insulted if anybody had
proposed to pay them anything for doing it. In many cases, perhaps in
most cases, no tickets were bought or sold. The selectmen gave the Town
Hall for a lyceum, or the First Parish gave the use of its
meeting-house for a lyceum, as they would have done for a temperance
meeting or a missionary meeting. But, of course, it soon appeared that
if the audiences were to have continuous courses of lectures, somebody
must be paid for them, and somebody must pay. College professors were
engaged to give elementary courses on scientific or historical
subjects. As early as 1832 Mr. Emerson delivered a course of
biographical lectures at the request of the Massachusetts Society for
Diffusing Useful Knowledge. And in the years of the 30’s in Boston
there were maintained through the winter public courses almost every
evening in the week, by at least five different organizations—the
Society for Diffusing Useful Knowledge, the Boston Lyceum, the
Mercantile Library Association, the Mechanics’ Association, and
sometimes the Historical Society. For all these courses tickets were
sold at low rates, but for enough to enable the societies to pay the
lecturers a small honorarium. From such arrangements as these the
custom spread of recompensing the lecturer for his work; and at this
moment, in an average New England town, people will not go to a lecture
if they think the lecturer has “given” his service. The public thinks
that if not worth pay, it is not worth hearing.

In this arrangement of the lyceum, Lowell found his place before he was
of age. He was always an easy and a ready speaker, and, as I have said,
he enjoyed public speaking. Before long, his interest in the temperance
reform and the anti-slavery reform brought him occasionally on the
platform. He spoke with perfect ease. On such occasions he spoke
without notes, never speaking without knowing what he had to say, and
always saying it. But I think he never delivered a lecture, as he would
have called it, without a manuscript written out in full.

The first account he gives of his public speaking is that of the
celebration of the Cambridgeport Women’s Total Abstinence Society on
the Fourth of July, 1842. “There were more than three thousand in all,
it was said. I was called out, and made a speech of about ten minutes,
from the top of a bench, to an audience of two thousand, as silent as
could be. I spoke of the beauty of having women present, and of their
influence and interest in reforms. I ended with the following
sentiment: ‘The proper place of woman—at the head of the pilgrims back
to purity and truth.’ In the midst of my speech I heard many
demonstrations of satisfaction and approval—one voice saying, ‘Good!’
in quite an audible tone. I was told that my remarks were ‘just the
thing.’ When I got up and saw the crowd, it inspired me. I felt as calm
as I do now, and could have spoken an hour with ease. I did not
hesitate for a word or expression even once.“

Alas! the Boston papers of the day had Mr. Tyler’s “third veto” to
print, and the news from England by a late arrival; and no word could
be spared for poor James’s first essay. What saith the Vulgate? “Nullum
prophetam in actis diurnis honorari.”

As it proved, he was brought face to face with large numbers of persons
who would otherwise never have seen him, by delivering lectures in
various courses through the Northern and Northwestern States; but this
did not begin until a period as late as 1855. What I have said of his
easy speaking is the remark of a person who heard him, as I have often
heard him. I never spoke with any one who had heard him who did not say
the same thing. But he himself did not always feel the sort of
confidence in his power in this way which would have seemed natural. I
am told by many persons who had to introduce him upon such occasions,
that he would be doubtful and anxious about his power with an audience
before he began. And he was excessively sensitive about any accident by
which he forgot a word or in any way seemed to himself to have tripped
in his discourse.

In 1853 he was invited to deliver a course of lectures before the
Lowell Institute. These lectures were eventually delivered in January
and February of 1855.


  _From a painting by Chester Harding, in the possession of Augustus
    Lowell, Boston_]

Because the great system of public instruction which is carried on by
this Institute bears the name of his family, I will give some little
account of it here. Stimulated by the success of what we have been
speaking of, the lyceum system of the Northern States, John Lowell,
Jr., a cousin of James Russell Lowell, had founded this Institute. His
wife and all his children had died. His own health was delicate, and he
undertook a long journey abroad. While in Egypt he made his will, in
which he left $250,000 for the beginning of a fund for carrying on
public instruction by means of lectures. It is said that it was
executed literally under the shadow of the ruins of Luxor.

By this instrument he left to trustees the sum which has been named,
the interest of which should be expended for maintaining free public
lectures for the instruction of any who should choose to attend. The
will provided that nine tenths of the income should be thus expended
for the immediate purposes of every year. The remaining tenth is every
year added to the principal fund. The investments have been carefully
and successfully made, and as the will went into effect in the year
1839, the fund is now very much larger than it was when he died.

It has been admirably administered from the beginning. The first
Americans in the walks of science or of literature have been proud to
be enrolled on the list of its lecturers, and in many instances the
most distinguished savants from Europe have been called over with the
special purpose of lecturing to its audiences.

Before 1855 Lowell was, I may say, universally known and universally
admired. The announcement that he was to deliver a course of twelve
lectures on English poetry was gladly received in Boston. It proved at
once that it would be necessary to repeat the lectures in the
afternoons for a new audience of those who could not enter the hall in
the evening. But in both afternoon and evening courses multitudes were
turned away for whom there was no room in the hall. A much larger
“audience” was made up by the people who read the lectures from day to
day in the newspaper. My father and brother, who then conducted the
“Daily Advertiser,” arranged with Mr. Lowell that his old friend Mr.
Robert Carter should prepare the manuscript for that paper, and thus
the “Advertiser” printed each lecture on the day after its second
delivery, with the omission only of some of the extracts from the poets
of whom he was speaking.

These reports were carefully preserved by some scrap-book makers, and
from one of the scrap-books thus made the Rowfant Club of Cleveland
printed an elegant limited edition in 1897.

I borrow from another the description of Mr. Lowell’s manner as a
speaker in delivering these and similar addresses. This writer, who is
not known to me, says, first, that Mr. Lowell never imitates the stump
speaker and never falls into the drollery of the comedian. “His
pronunciation is clear and precise; the modulations of his voice are
unstudied and agreeable, but he seldom if ever raised a hand for
gesticulation, and his voice was kept in its natural compass. He read
like one who had something of importance to utter, and the just
emphasis was felt in the penetrating tone. There were no oratorical
climaxes, and no pitfalls set for applause.”


  _From a photograph owned by General James Lowell Carter_]

The subjects of the twelve lectures are these: 1. Definitions. 2. Piers
Ploughman’s Vision. 3. The Metrical Romances. 4. The Ballads. 5.
Chaucer. 6. Spenser. 7. Milton. 8. Butler. 9. Pope. 10. Poetic Diction.
11. Wordsworth. 12. The Function of the Poet.

It is no wonder that the lectures were so popular. They are of the best
reading to this day, full of fun, full of the most serious thought as
well. And you find in them at every page, I may say, seeds which he has
planted elsewhere for other blossoms and fruit. For instance, here is
his description of a New England spring:—

  “In our New England especially, where May-day is a mere superstition
  and the May-pole a poor, half-hardy exotic which shivers in an east
  wind almost as sharp as Endicott’s axe—where frozen children, in
  unseasonable muslin, celebrate the floral games with nosegays from
  the milliners, and winter reels back, like shattered Lear, bringing
  the dead spring in his arms, her budding breast and wan, dilustered
  cheeks all overblown with the drifts and frosty streaks of his white
  beard—where even Chanticleer, whose sap mounts earliest in that dawn
  of the year, stands dumb beneath the dripping eaves of his harem,
  with his melancholy tail at half-mast—one has only to take down a
  volume of Chaucer, and forthwith he can scarce step without crushing
  a daisy, and the sunshine flickers on small new leaves that throb
  thick with song of merle and mavis.”

We find much of this again in the “Biglow Papers;” perhaps the prose is
better than the verse. Indeed, you have only to turn over the pages to
find epigrams of which you might make proverbs. “Fortunately for the
ballad-makers, they were not encumbered with any useless information.”
“The ballads are pathetic because the poet did not try to make them so;
and they are models of nervous and simple diction, because the business
of the poet was to tell his story and not to adorn it.” “The only art
of expression is to have something to express. We feel as wide a
difference between what is manufactured and what is spontaneous as
between the sparkles of an electrical machine and the wildfire of God
which writes ‘_Mene, Mene_,’ on the crumbling palace walls of midnight
cloud.” “Even Shakespeare, who comes after everybody has done his best,
and seems to say, ‘Here, let me take hold a minute and show you how to
do it,’ could not mend that.”

Let no one suppose, because these lectures are thus delivered to what
is called a popular audience, that there is anything slight in the work
or superficial in the handling. Lowell was not the man to slight his
work because he had an audience of the people, or to treat the rank and
file with more superficial consideration than the men with epaulets or
sashes. Even if he had been, when he delivered one of these courses of
lectures he had before him his full share of the leaders of that
community, men and women to whom even a Philistine would not dare bring
the work of a slop-shop.

A good deal of the thought of these lectures appears, as I have said,
in other forms in some of his later publications. But, for whatever
reason, he never made a separate book of them. I think he says
somewhere in a private letter that he wanted to do it, and indeed had
meant to do it, but that he could not make the time; and that this was
a fair excuse any one will say who knows how steadily he worked and how
much work he had to do in study, in teaching, in writing and
proof-reading, and, in after life, in his diplomatic duties.

In 1874 Mr. Lowell was chosen the President of the Harvard Society of
Alumni, and from 1863 to 1871 he was President of the Phi Beta Kappa of
Cambridge. It is worth observing that no other President of the Phi
Beta has ever held that position so long. His immediate predecessor was
Judge Hoar, and his successor Richard Henry Dana. These two societies
exist chiefly to provide for the annual dinners of Cambridge graduates
at the College on Commencement Day and the day following. The fine
charm of the Phi Beta dinner is that it is not expected or permitted
that anything that is said shall be reported. You may look for the most
bubbling fun of some of the most serious men in the world, without any
terror of seeing it bewitched and reflected the next morning from the
cracked mirror of some ignorant boy who, when he reads his notes, can
see no difference between Voltaire and Valkyrie. But the Commencement
dinners, the day before the Phi Beta dinners, are open to the reports
of all men, angels, and devils, so that some of the sparks of Lowell’s
infinite fun may, with proper grinding, be thrown upon the kodak still.

He officiated as President of the Alumni in 1875 and 1876. Those years,
as the centennial years of the early Revolutionary events, kept every
one on the alert as to New England history. Here is a short extract
from each of these addresses:—

“But, gentlemen, I will not detain you with the inevitable suggestions
of the occasion. These sentimentalities are apt to slip from under him
who would embark on them, like a birch canoe under the clumsy foot of a
cockney, and leave him floundering in retributive commonplace. I had a
kind of hope, indeed, from what I had heard, that I should be unable to
fill this voice-devouring hall. I had hoped to sit serenely here, with
a tablet in the wall before me inscribed: ‘Guilielmo Roberto Ware,
Henrico Van Brunt, optime de Academia meritis, eo quod facundiam
postprandialem irritam fecerunt.’ [The reader must recognize here the
distinguished architects of Memorial Hall, which was then newly built.]
I hope you understood my Latin, and I hope you will forgive me the
antiquity of the pronunciation, but it is simply because I cannot help
it. Then, on a blackboard behind me, I could have written in large
letters the names of our guests, who should make some brave dumb show
of acknowledgment. You, at least, with your united applause, could make
yourselves heard. If brevity ever needed an excuse, I might claim one
in the fact that I have consented, at short notice, to be one of the
performers in our domestic centennial next Saturday, and poetry is not
a thing to be delivered on demand without an exhausting wear upon the
nerves. When I wrote to Dr. Holmes and begged him for a little poem, I
got the following answer, which I shall take the liberty of reading. I
do not see the Doctor himself in the hall, which encourages me to go

  “‘My dear James,—Somebody has written a note in your name, requesting
  me to furnish a few verses for some occasion which he professes to be
  interested in. I am satisfied, of course, that it is a forgery. I
  know you would not do such a thing as ask a brother writer, utterly
  exhausted by his centennial efforts, to endanger his health and
  compromise his reputation by any damnable iteration of spasmodic
  squeezing. So I give you fair warning that some dangerous person is
  using your name, and taking advantage of the great love I bear you,
  to play upon my feelings. Do not think for a moment that I hold you
  in any way responsible for this note, looking so nearly like your own
  handwriting as for a single instant to deceive me, and suggesting the
  idea that I would take a passage for Europe in season to avoid
  college anniversaries.’

  “I readily excused him, and I am sure you will be kind enough to be
  charitable to me, gentlemen. I know that one of the things which the
  graduates of the College look forward to with the most confident
  expectation and pleasure is the report of the President of the
  University. I remember that when I was in the habit of attending the
  meetings of the faculty, some fourteen or fifteen years ago, I was
  very much struck by the fact that almost every field of business that
  required particular ability was sure to gravitate into the hands of a
  young professor of chemistry. The fact made so deep an impression
  upon me that I remember that I used to feel, when our war broke out,
  that this young professor might have to take the care of one of our
  regiments,—and I know he would have led it to victory. And when I
  heard that the same professor was nominated for President, I had no
  doubt of the result which we have all seen to follow. I give you,
  gentlemen, the health of President Eliot, of Harvard College!”

Holding the same honorable though honorary office the next year, before
introducing the speakers, he said:—

  “The common consent of civilized mankind seems to have settled on the
  centennial commemoration of great events as leaving an interval
  spacious enough to be impressive and having a roundness of completion
  in its period. We are the youngest of nations, and the centuries to
  us are not yet grown so cheap and so commonplace as Napoleon’s, when
  he saw forty of them looking down in undisguised admiration upon his
  armies bronzed from their triumphs in Italy. For my own part, I think
  the scrutiny of one age is quite enough to bear, without calling in
  thirty-nine others to its assistance. It is quite true that a hundred
  years are but as a day in the life of a nation, are but as a tick of
  the clock to the long train of æons in which this planet hardened
  itself for the habitation of man and man accommodated himself to his
  habitation; but they are all we have, and we must make the best of
  them. Perhaps, after all, it is no such great misfortune to be young,
  especially if we are conscious at that time that youth means
  opportunity and not accomplishment. I think that, after all, when we
  look back upon the hundred years through which the country has
  passed, the vista is not so disheartening as to the indigestive fancy
  it might at first appear. If we have lost something of that Arcadian
  simplicity which the French travelers of a hundred years ago found
  here,—perhaps because they looked for it, perhaps because of their
  impenetrability by the English tongue,—we have lost something also of
  that self-sufficiency which is the mark as well of provincials as of
  barbarians, and which is the great hindrance to all true advancement.
  It is a wholesome symptom, I think, if we are beginning to show some
  of the talent for grumbling which is the undoubted heirloom of the
  race to which most of us belong. Even the Fourth of July oration is
  changing round into a lecture on our national shortcomings, and the
  proud eagle himself is beginning to have no little misgiving as to
  the amplitude between the tips of his wings. But while it may be
  admitted that our government was more decorously administered one
  hundred years ago, if our national housekeeping to-day is further
  removed from honest business principles, and therefore is more
  costly, morally and financially, than that of any other Christian
  nation, it is not less true that the hundredth year of our existence
  finds us, in the mass, very greatly advanced in the refinement and
  culture and comfort that are most operative in making a country
  civilized and keeping it so.”

On three occasions, at least, Lowell substituted for a prose lecture a
poem to which he gave the name of “The Power of Sound.” It is
constructed on the simple system which runs back as far as “The
Pleasures of Imagination,” giving us, for instance, the “Pleasures of
Hope” and the “Pleasures of Memory.” In these prehistoric days of which
I write, it was what you rather expected in a college poem: a
convenient thread on which to string the beads which might else have
been lying unused in box or basket.

Lowell gave the original copy of this poem to Mr. Norton, who edited it
carefully with interesting notes for an elegant edition of a few copies
printed by Mr. Holden. Some of the lines and several of the
illustrations in other forms were used by him elsewhere, and may be
found in his published poems:—

         “Steps have their various meanings—who can hear
         The long, slow tread, deliberate and clear,
         The boot that creaks and gloats on every stair,
         And the firm knock which says, ‘I know you’re there,’
         Nor quake at portents which so oft before
         Have been the heralds of the ten-inch bore?

         “He enters, and he sits, as crowners sit,
         On the dead bodies of our time and wit;
         Hopes that no plan of yours he comes to balk,
         And grinds the hurdy-gurdy of his talk
         In steady circles, meaningless and flat
         As the broad brim that rounds a bishop’s hat.
         Nature, didst thou endow him with a voice,
         As mothers give great drums to little boys,
         To teach us sadly how much outward din
         Is based on bland vacuity within?

                     “Who, untouched, could leave
         Those Hebrew songs that triumph, trust, or grieve?
         Verses that smite the soul as with a sword,
         And open all the abysses with a word?
         How many a soul have David’s tears washed white,
         His wings borne upward to the Source of light!
         How many his triumph nerved with martyr-will,
         His faith from turmoil led to waters still!
         They were his songs that rose to heaven before
         The surge of steel broke wild o’er Marston Moor,
         When rough-shod workmen in their sober gear
         Rode down in dust the long-haired cavalier;
         With these once more the Mayflower’s cabin rang,
         From men who trusted in the God they sang,
         And Plymouth heard them, poured on bended knees,
         From wild cathedrals arched with centuried trees.
         They were grim men, unlovely—yes, but great—
         Who prayed around the cradle of our State.
         Small room for light and sentimental strains
         In those lean men with empires in their brains,
         Who their young Israel saw in vision clasp
         The mane of either sea with taming grasp;
         Who pitched a state as other men pitch tents,
         And led the march of time to great events.

         “O strange new world, that yet wast never young,
         Whose youth from thee by tyrannous need was wrung,
         Brown foundling of the forests, with gaunt eyes,
         Orphan and heir of all the centuries,
         Who on thy baby leaf-bed in the wood
         Grew’st frugal plotting for to-morrow’s food;
         And thou, dear Bay State, mother of us all,
         Forget not in new cares thine ancient call!

         “Though all things else should perish in the sod,
         Hold with firm clutch thy Pilgrim faith in God,
         And the calm courage that deemed all things light
         Whene’er the inward voice said, ‘_This is right!_’
         If for the children there should come a time
         Like that which tried the fathers’ faith sublime
         (Which God avert!), if Tyranny should strive
         On limbs New-England-made to lock her gyve,
         Let Kansas answer from her reddened fields,
         ‘’Tis bastard, and not Pilgrim blood, that yields!’”

Until his death, his well-earned reputation as a public speaker made
constant calls on him for service in such directions. But no lover of
Lowell will suppose that lecturing to large audiences or to small was
much more than an “avocation” with him. The “Fable for Critics,” the
“Biglow Papers,” and other books belong to years when he was hard at
work as a college professor. His contributions to the journals which
were influential in reform still continued, though not so frequent as


                               CHAPTER IX
                           HARVARD REVISITED

The happiness of Lowell’s happy home was shattered by the death of his
wife, October 27, 1853. He spent the summer of the next year at
Beverly, on the seashore of Massachusetts, in the summer of 1855 went
again to Europe, and returned in 1856. He at once resumed his residence
at Cambridge, and, with the opening term of the autumn, entered
heartily and energetically on his duty as “Smith Professor.”

For there was once a gentleman named Abiel Smith. He is wholly unknown
to fame. But I wish at this late moment to express the gratitude,
hitherto never fitly spoken, of thousands upon thousands of those whom
he has blessed. He left to Harvard College, as early as 1815, the
foundation for the Smith Professorship of the Modern Languages.

He was himself a graduate of Harvard College in the year 1764, “went
into business,” as our New England phrase has it, and became rich, as
that word was used in those early days. He is spoken of by Mr. Quincy
as a man “of strong sense and steady purpose, guiding his life by his
own convictions of duty, with little esteem for popular opinion or
posthumous fame; scrupulously just and honest; practicing habits of
frugality less from regard to wealth than out of respect to the

It is the fashion to laugh at the name of Smith; but it must be
confessed that a good many people who have had to go through life under
that banner have done the world good service.

                “Jones teach him modesty and Greek,
                Smith how to think, Burke how to speak.”

This is the Smith couplet in the fine account of the Beefsteak Club. If
Abiel Smith never did as much thinking as Adam, he must, all the same,
be remembered as a benefactor. He certainly never did so much harm as
Adam Smith has done, if he has not done more good.

I am apt to think that this modest man was the first person in the
English-speaking world to recognize the value of the systematic study
of the modern languages in any university of England or America. A
smattering of French was taught at our Cambridge as early as 1780, and
Jefferson studied some French at William and Mary’s at about the same
time. Charles Bellini was made Professor of the Modern Languages there
in 1781. This recognition of the foreign languages of civilization was
due probably to the Philistine fact that we were the allies of a
Bourbon king.

The first professor under this Smith foundation was George Ticknor, a
graduate of Dartmouth College of the year 1807, now known everywhere in
the world of letters by his history of Spanish literature. I found this
book the working book of reference in the Royal Library at
Madrid—which, by the way, is the most elegant working public library I
ever saw. Ticknor was professor from 1820 to 1835. Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow was his immediate successor, and, when Longfellow resigned
in 1854, Lowell was appointed to succeed him. This is a brilliant
series, the honors of which have been well sustained since Lowell died.

I have seen it somewhere said that Lowell disliked the work of a
college professor. In a way, I suppose this statement may be literally
true. That is to say, like other men who know how to work hard, it was
not agreeable to him to be called off at a particular hour to do a
particular thing for a particular length of time, and so far to
interrupt the regular line of his study or thought for the day. But he
was not a fool, and he accepted the universe frankly. So that, if it
were his duty to walk down from Elmwood to the college and see how a
particular class was getting on in Spanish, or how the particular
teacher handled the beginners in French, he could do that as well as
another. He would scold, in his funny way, about such interruption of
his more interesting work,—so do the rest of us,—but if the thing were
to be done, he did it. I say this at the beginning of what I want to
say about his position at Cambridge as a teacher.

In describing the four years between 1834 and 1838, the years of his
undergraduate life, I tried to give some idea of what an American
college was in those prehistoric times. Simply, it was a somewhat
enlarged country “academy.” The wonder was that the boys did not study
in the rooms in which they recited, as they would have done in such an
academy. That would have completed the resemblance to such a school.
The distinction that you studied your lesson in your own room and
recited it in another building was the principal distinction between
your work at the Boston Latin School, or Leicester Academy, and the
work which you did in college. Thus, you were told that your lesson was
to be eighty lines of Euripides’s “Hecuba.” You sat down at your task
in the evening, looked out the words and found out how to read it, you
went down the next day and recited it, and went back again. That was
all which Hecuba was to you, or you to Hecuba. I can conceive of
nothing more dull.

Governor Everett once said very well that a school was a place where
you recited a lesson which somebody outside had taught you. This was
quite true in those days. For one, as I ought to have said in an
earlier chapter, I had but four teachers in college,—Channing,
Longfellow, Peirce, and Bachi. The rest heard me recite but taught me

In the twenty years between 1834 and 1855, the change had begun at
Cambridge which has made of the college of to-day an entirely different
place, with entirely different customs and traditions. It was in a
great address delivered by Dr. Hedge at the Phi Beta Kappa in 1840 that
the first visible token of this change appeared before the somewhat
startled gaze of corporation, overseers, and graduates. Dr. Hedge said
squarely then that this sort of schoolboy work could not long continue
in a civilized country like ours, and that everybody must go to work to
lift the college to a higher grade.

I think he thought that the age of undergraduates was to be greater
than it was before. I think we all thought so. I am told, however, now,
that the experience of the years since that time has not justified this
supposition. I believe that the average of the age of the boys in the
college classes is but a few months older than it proved to be then.
But I am disposed to think that in the prehistoric days there came in
more grown men—rather sporadic instances, indeed, but still a good many
of them—and that the presence of these grown men in the classes raised
the statistics of average of those periods. If two or three queer
antediluvian fellows of thirty-five came into the midst of a class of
fifty boys of sixteen, why, they screwed up the average age by several
months. I do not understand that such sporadic cases occur very often
now. Anyway, the doctrine of Dr. Hedge’s address is that the college
shall open its doors to teach what it can teach; that there shall be a
chance for the teachers themselves to be learning something in the
lines of original research, and that every encouragement shall be given
to the learner to follow the “bent of his genius,” as Mr. Emerson says
somewhere, and that he shall not be made to do certain things because
somebody else has done them.

The line of Presidents of short periods, which followed, was a line of
men not disinclined to these larger views. Neither Dr. Sparks, nor Dr.
Felton, nor Dr. Hill had a long enough term of office to do much in the
direction in which President Eliot has so boldly stepped forward. But
they were not averse to enlarging the life of the University. Certainly
Lowell was in sympathy with any such endeavor.

The Smith professorship, as I have intimated, gave opportunity for a
pretty wide range of duty on the part of the professor. He had, indeed,
a wider range than any other professor had in any other department. He
was virtually responsible, as a superintendent, for the verbal
instruction about nominative cases and verbs and _der_ and _die_ and
_das_, which had to be given, if young men were to know anything about
the literature of the languages taught. These languages were French,
German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. But the real detail of the
instruction in these languages was given by people who were called
assistant professors or instructors; and the professor himself, so far
as he had a function of his own, was a lecturer on important themes
bearing on the literary life of the last two or three centuries. As
early as Longfellow’s day, he delivered in college a series of lectures
on Dante, which embodied much of what one finds in the notes to his
translation of the poet. Lowell began his course by reading to the
students the lectures which he had delivered in Boston. In the twenty
years of his active professorship he delivered to them several courses
of similar lectures.

If you talk with any of the men now on the stage who were with him in
college, you find that they associate him especially with these
brilliant lectures which students liked to attend. But you find much
more than this. Those who knew him at all, and who took any interest in
the line of study to which he was committed, remember him from their
personal intimacies with him. I was myself much interested, in the
years between 1866 and 1870, in the college fortunes of Frederick
Wadsworth Loring, a young fellow who died, too soon as it seemed, only
a year after he graduated. He has left behind quite enough to justify
those of us who remember him in what we say of his remarkable promise.
I saw that boy when he was seven years old, sitting on a footstool at
his mother’s feet, reading Shakespeare eagerly. I said to her, “Take
care! Pray take care!” And she said to me, with an expression which I
have never forgotten, “Oh, we know the danger, and I think we are
careful!” And they were. She died, alas! in the year 1859. He was, so
to speak, pitchforked into college, and found himself there, with his
passionate enthusiasm for literature and poetry, after very hard and
uncomfortable discipline at a poor country academy. And at Cambridge,
as in Lowell’s time, there was chapel which must be attended, there was
this and that which must be learned, and so-and-so which must be done.
And here was Loring, wild about the majestic achievements of the great
poets. He was utterly indifferent as to the systems of Ptolemy or of
Newton; and the world might have rolled backward for five years without
his caring. Yet must is must, and he had to pretend to study
mathematics. What would have happened to the dear boy but for the
existence of two men, I do not know; but, fortunately for him and for
those who loved him, here was Lowell at the head of the department of
modern languages, and Elbridge Jefferson Cutler at the head of the
English subdivision. And, after four years of Loring’s college life,
which was of value to him that no man can pretend to describe, he
graduated. I think, indeed, that they gave him a poem at Commencement.
I have never forgotten that when I was at the “spread” in Holworthy,
where Loring modestly entertained his friends on Class Day, I met
Cutler, and I said to him, “Well, Cutler, you have got Fred through.”
“Yes,” he said, “we have dragged him through by the hair of his head.”

“We” meant Lowell and himself. They were perfectly determined that this
brilliant young poet should get what could be got out of the
university. They were perfectly determined that no waywardness of his
own should break up the regular course of life which offered such
promise. And if I told some of the stories of the affectionate way in
which those two distinguished men cared for the life of this
distinguished boy, it would be a story out of which some one who knew
how to hold a pen could make a fascinating romance or drama. It would,
perhaps, do something to remove the preposterous and ridiculous
impression of the more foolish undergraduate that “the faculty” hates

On the catalogue Mr. Lowell’s position as Smith Professor covers thirty
years. In 1886 he resigned to be appointed “Professor Emeritus,” and so
his name remains on the college catalogue until his death. In 1865 he
had the welcome relief of the appointment of Mr. Cutler as an
assistant. The department was gradually enlarged with the enlargement
of the college, but for thirty years it was under Mr. Lowell’s general
administration, excepting during his journeys in Europe and his
diplomatic residence in Madrid and in London.

This boy of 1838 left college to try the experiments of life, not
really knowing what life had for him. In the seventeen years between
1838 and 1855 he had been in Europe two or three times, and, as the
reader knows, he had spent a part of one winter in Philadelphia. But
Cambridge had been his home most of the time, and he had seen step by
step the changes which made this “academy” or “seminary” into a
university. Some of the officers still remained to whom he had recited
when in college.

Josiah Quincy had been succeeded as President by Edward Everett, and
Jared Sparks, and James Walker, the last of whom was now the President.

Dr. Walker’s name may not be universally known among students in all
parts of this country, especially by men of those religious schools who
made it a duty to brand him and the men of his communion as infidels.
But it is safe to say that no man was in college during the twenty-two
years in which he was professor and president who does not remember him
with gratitude and speak of him with enthusiasm. From 1838 to 1853 he
was the Professor of Natural Religion and Moral Philosophy. He lectured
on these subjects in the Lowell Institute. He often preached in the
college pulpit, and to this day, when you meet any of his old hearers,
you will find that they hark back to him and what he said to them with
distinct memory of the lessons, practical and profound, which he

Not long before the close of his life he supplied for one winter the
pulpit of a church a little away from the centre of Boston. Every
Sunday saw a procession of his old pupils, twenty years older, perhaps,
than they were as undergraduates, who gladly seized this occasion to
profit by the wisdom of their old counselor.

Cornelius Conway Felton, to whom I have already referred in speaking of
the Mutual Admiration Society, succeeded Dr. Walker. He had been Greek
Professor when Lowell was an undergraduate. His successor, Dr. Thomas
Hill, graduated five years after Lowell.

Of his old professors Lowell found in office Lovering and Benjamin
Peirce. There were one or two instructors in the modern languages who
had survived the interval, but for the rest his coadjutors had been
appointed since his graduation.


The college had been taking on her larger methods in those seventeen
years, and during what was left of his life he saw and assisted in
other changes larger yet. From the beginning he cut red tape or threw
it away. He cultivated close acquaintance with the young men whom he
met in his classes, and he and the men of his type have done much to
bring about interest and sympathy between teacher and taught, such as
was hardly dreamed of in Cambridge in the first half of the century.
The two volumes of his published letters give a charming view of his
relations with Longfellow, Norton, Cutler, and other professors of his
time, and, indeed, of the cordial social life of Cambridge. Of these
gentlemen I have something I should like to say in another paper of
this series. But this is the better place to allude to the young poet,
Hugh Clough, who is alluded to in Lowell’s correspondence with his
associates in Cambridge. Clough came to Cambridge, as I have always
supposed, in the real hope of adapting himself to American life, or
life in a republic, where “I am as good as the other fellow, and the
other fellow is as good as I.” Alas and alas! how many of us have seen
Englishmen who tried this great experiment, who made the great
emigration, and then were obliged to go back to the leeks of Egypt! I
do not know that it was so with Clough, but I think it was.

People who remember his “Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich” (and they are not
so many as there should be) will recollect that that charming poem
closes as white handkerchiefs are waved in an adieu when the English
steamer leaves her dock and sails with the hero and heroine for
Australia—“a brave new land,” without fuss and without feathers,
without feudalism and the follies of feudalism; a land of freedom.

 “Five hundred pounds in pocket, with books, and two or three pictures,
 Tool-box, plow, and the rest, they rounded the sphere to New Zealand...

 “There hath he farmstead and land, and fields of corn and flax fields,
 And the Antipodes too have a Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich.”

And other readers will remember that, for nearly a generation, more
than half the English novels which turned out well, ended thus, in a
flourish of trumpets in which anybody who was good for anything went
away from England. Even Carlyle’s Chartism had nothing better to
propose than that England should send away the people she did not know
how to take care of at home. Among them Clough came, but apparently he
was too old. He went back to England, and, I think, accepted a
government office—not, perhaps, inspector of slate-pencils, but
something not more edifying. He died in 1862, in Florence.

He was a charming poet, and I cannot but think a charming companion. I
always think of him as a bishop “in partibus,” a bishop without a mitre
or a see. For Mr. Emerson told me an interesting story of Clough. He
was one of a cluster of young men who had taken great delight in
Emerson, on his visit in 1848 in England. When that visit was over, and
Mr. Emerson sailed for America on his return, Clough accompanied him to
Liverpool and bade him good-by on the deck of the steamer. As they
walked up and down the deck together, Clough said sadly, “What shall we
do without you? Think where we are. Carlyle has led us all out into the
desert, and he has left us there”—a remark which was exactly true.
Emerson said in reply that very many of the fine young men in England
had said this to him as he went up and down in his journeyings there.
“And I put my hand upon his head as we walked, and I said, ‘Clough, I
consecrate you Bishop of all England. It shall be your part to go up
and down through the desert to find out these wanderers and to lead
them into the promised land.’”

I do not know, but I am afraid that Clough never thought himself in the
promised land, nor scarcely upon any Pisgah looking down upon it. But I
tell the story, as showing how highly Emerson thought of Clough as far
back as 1849.

As I have said, Lowell succeeded Longfellow, who had come to Cambridge
when Lowell was a sophomore; and Lowell, like every one else who worked
under Longfellow, was always grateful to him. Longfellow began, all too
early, the habit of speaking of himself as an old man. But the
published volumes of his own life show how diligent and active he was,
and that he considered his relief from the daily work of his
professorship as simply an opportunity for wider work in literature.

By his boundless liberality to every child of sorrow he had made
Cambridge the Mecca of a polyglot pilgrimage in which any European
exiles who could read or write came of course to the Craigie House to
ask for his patronage and assistance. With Mr. Lowell’s arrival there
were, I think, no fewer of such visitors at the Craigie House; but by
the law of the instrument they found their way by the pleasant shady
walk which leads from Longfellow’s home to Elmwood and Mount Auburn.

I remember among these an accomplished gentleman, who worked in America
in the anti-slavery cause, in ante-bellum days. He always was grateful
to Longfellow for his assistance to him, which came at a time when it
was most needed. Heinrich von Hutten was a lineal descendant, I think,
of Ulrich von Hutten, the poet of the Reformation. He came to this
country in the suite of Kossuth, who ought, perhaps, to have been
spoken of elsewhere in this series. Von Hutten gave his life and
strength, and perhaps his blood, to the Hungarian cause. After his
arrival here he was employed by a publishing firm to translate Mrs.
Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” into the German language. After he had
begun, there was a terror lest a rival translation should be finished
before his, and the good Von Hutten worked day and night—too much,
alas! by night—in completing the work assigned to him. The story always
reminds me of Milton’s sonnet,

          “What sustains me, dost thou ask?
          The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied
          In Liberty’s defense, my noble task,”

for he really lost his eyes in the cause of freedom.

Longfellow was kind to him, Lowell was kind to him, and, indeed, he was
a man who deserved to have friends everywhere. When I was in Europe in
1873, I was glad to hear that the good Von Hutten was living again in
the castle of his ancestors upon the Danube River. It was one of the
minor misfortunes of my life that I was not able to accept his
invitation to visit him there.

[Illustration: ELMWOOD]

As I have said, it has been intimated that Lowell chafed under the
regular requisitions of the duties of a professor. And, as I have said,
most men do chafe a little when they find that on a given day they are
expected to do a given thing where they want to do something else. It
must be discouraging to have a class of boys around you to whom a
lesson is simply a bore, and to know that you will hear, at
twenty-seven minutes after eleven, the same stupid mistake which you
heard made at twenty-six minutes after eleven, three hundred and
sixty-five days ago. In his private letters there is occasionally an
expression, sometimes serious and sometimes gay, of the dislike of the
necessary slavery which follows on such work. But he had accepted it,
for better for worse, and went through with it loyally. He liked the
intercourse which his work gave him with young men of promise, and
availed himself gladly of every opportunity to make the intercourse of
advantage to them. In a charming and suggestive paper by Professor
Barrett Wendell, which was published in “Scribner’s” immediately after
Lowell’s death, there is such detail as only a college professor could
write of some of the methods and habits in which Lowell grew into a
friendly intimacy with his pupils. He assigned one evening in a week
when they might call to see him, and he was so cordial then that they
took the impression that he liked to see them, and would go up on any
evening when they chose. I am favored with the private journal of one
of these pupils, in which are many anecdotes, some even pathetic, of
the cordial intercourse he had with them. Professor Wendell gives a
valuable account of his own experience with Lowell. He had never
studied any Italian, and yet he boldly resolved that he would ask
Lowell’s permission to attend his lectures on Dante, though he had no
knowledge of the Italian language. Lowell was pleased, perhaps was
interested in seeing what so bright a boy would do under such
circumstances; and the result of this was, as Mr. Wendell says, “at the
end of a month I could read Dante better than I ever learned to read
Greek or Latin or German.” Remember this, gentlemen who are taking nine
years to teach a boy to read Latin; and reflect that Mr. Wendell reads
his Latin as well as the best of you.

I think the reader may indulge me in a little excursus when I say a few
words seriously to the undergraduates of to-day with regard to this
form of cordial intercourse between them and their professors. We used
to say, when I was in college, that we wished the professors would
treat us as gentlemen. The wish is a very natural one. I have had many
classes myself in the fifty or sixty years which have followed, and I
have always tried to live up to that undergraduate theory. I have
treated my pupils as if they wanted to learn and were gentlemen, and
their honor could be relied upon. Looking back on it, I think I should
say that about half of them have met me more than halfway. But—and here
lies the warning which I wish to give to undergraduates—the other half
have taken an ell where I gave an inch. Because I did not crowd them
they did nothing; they considered me a “soft” person, and my course a
“soft” course. In other words, they shirked, simply because I did not
treat them with the methods of a low-grade grammar-school.

Young gentlemen, then, ought to consider how far they are themselves
responsible for any supposed harshness or mechanical habit on the part
of the gentlemen who really know more than they do, and who are willing
to trust them in their work. I had the honor last spring of being
appointed as one of the judges of some prose exercises in one of our
older colleges. I was proud and glad to give the time which the
examination of these exercises required. What did I find? I found, of
three different papers submitted to me in competition on the same
subject, that all the writers had stolen, from reviews which they
supposed would not be known, long passages, and copied them as their
own. In this particular case, it happened that the three writers were
so ignorant of the literature of the last half-century that they copied
the same passage, hoping that the judges of their exercises would be
ignorant enough to be deceived. Is it not rather hard to be told that
you are to “treat as gentlemen” blackguards like these, who are willing
to tell lies for so petty a purpose as was involved in this endeavor? I
should say that the Greek-letter societies have it in their power to do
a good deal to tone up the undergraduate conscience in such affairs.

To return to Lowell: He was quite beyond and above confining himself to
the requisitions of his profession. As an instance of his generosity in
this way, in the winter of 1865 he offered to the divinity students to
come round to them and lecture familiarly to them on the mediæval idea
of hell as it may be gathered from Dante. This was no part of the
business of his chair. He volunteered for it as the reader of these
lines might offer to take a class in a Sunday-school. I remember that
some of the students took a notion that he pinched himself by his
generous help to those whom he thought in need. One of his pupils told
me that Lowell offered him a Christmas present of valuable books, under
the pretext that he was thinning out his book-shelves. “I declined
them,” said my friend, “simply from the feeling that he could not
afford to give them. I need not say,” he says, “that I am sorry for
this now.”

I am favored by Mr. Robert Lincoln, who was fortunate enough to be one
of his pupils, with the following memoranda of the impression which he
made upon them:—

  DEAR DOCTOR HALE,—My only association with Mr. Lowell in college was
  as a member of a small class who “went through” Dante under his
  supervision. Our duty was to prepare ourselves to translate the text,
  and Mr. Lowell heard our blunderings with a wonderful patience, and
  rewarded us with delightful talks on matters suggested in the poem;
  but we had no set lecture. My experience (that is, at Harvard),
  therefore, only permits me to speak of him as a professor in the
  recitation-room. In that relation his erudition, humor, and kindness
  made me, and I am sure all my associates, enjoy the hour with him as
  we did no other college exercise. I can sincerely say that it is one
  of my most highly cherished experiences. With us he was always
  conversational, and flattered us and gained us by an assumption that
  what interested him interested us. When now I take up my Dante, Mr.
  Lowell seems to be with me....

       Always sincerely yours,

                                                      ROBERT T. LINCOLN.

It will be seen that the impression made on Mr. Lincoln, and his
memories of Lowell, are similar to those of Mr. Wendell.

From the journal to which I have referred I copy the following

  “June 12, 1865, I went to look at the scenery from Mount Auburn
  tower. Returning, I found the serene possessor of Elmwood in good
  spirits, ate a Graham biscuit and drank some delicious milk with him
  and his wife, then enjoyed a very pleasant conversation. He read some
  of Shakespeare’s sonnets, to make me think better of them, and
  succeeded. His noble old dog Argus had been poisoned, and in Argus’s
  place he had a young Newfoundland pup which he called Bessie, as
  black Aggy Green, on Port Royal Island, named her pet sow! He gave me
  a very welcome copy of Macaulay’s essays and poems, and the little
  visit was another oasis in school life’s dearth of home sociability.
  Mabel, his only child, was not there at supper, but came home some
  time after: ‘Salute your progenitor!’ and the answer was a daughter’s

  “In September, 1865, he offered to conduct the divinity students into
  Dante’s conception of hell, and as far out as time would allow. He
  read the first canto through for introduction, and gave me the second
  for our first trial. I went, because I wanted to become inured, lest
  I might have to conduct somebody else. He had too many other duties,
  was somewhat unwell, cut the Dante for both days of a week three or
  four times, some of the readers were not Italian enough to read
  easily, and on December 13 he gave us up as a lost tribe of the race
  of Adam. January 19, 1866, I was his guest again, clear even of the
  central frozen bolgia. After dinner he gave me a card to Longfellow,
  whom I found about four o’clock at his dinner.”

The same accurate critic writes:—

  “In Lowell’s college work the weakest part was his class teaching.
  While no teacher in the university was more willing to help his boys,
  his habit of doing most of the reading, when a boy labored, with
  friction, breaking right into his reading, was not agreeable to the
  boy. But even in that he at least had the courage of mastery, and
  never shirked the hard passages. His corrections and remarks were
  often lost from the want of clearness and open-mouthed carefulness of
  articulation. When he spoke in public he always made himself heard;
  but to a small, almost private class, speaking without effort, his
  modest stillness and his smothering mustache would make us wish that
  men’s hair had been forbidden to grow forward of the corner of their

I must postpone other references to Mr. Lowell’s life with his students
to the next chapter, which will speak of him in his relations to the
civil war, which followed so soon after his appointment at Cambridge.
His home at Cambridge for much of the first two years of his
professorship had been with Dr. and Mrs. Howe, in Kirkland Street. In
September, 1857, he was able to return to Elmwood and reëstablish
family life, after his fortunate and happy marriage to Miss Frances

Every person who has had any experience in teaching knows that the
great danger to a schoolmaster or a professor is that he shall know but
little of what passes outside his own cocoon. There is an old satirical
fling which says that a schoolmaster is a man who does not take the
voyage of life himself, but stands on the gangway of the steamer to
pass those along who are going to take it. This is not true, but it has
just foundation enough to give point to the satire, and to give
suggestion to those who are in danger.

The danger is that a man shall think that half the world is contained
in the ring-fence which incloses the territory where they hear his
academy bell. Can you conceive of a better antidote for his sweet
poison, or a better rescue from his dangers, than the occupation of an
editor? Mr. Lowell, in handling the “North American” and the
“Atlantic,” had to see that there were people quite as much interested
in life as he, who lived in Texas and in Washington Territory and in
the Sandwich Islands and in New Zealand. He did not open a morning’s
mail but it taught him that the world, while it is a very small place,
is a small place which has some very large conditions. He was that sort
of a man that his nature could never have been petty or provincial; but
the avocations which editorial life brought him would of themselves
have made him cosmopolitan.


                               CHAPTER X

Lowell’s whole life was a literary life, from the days of the “Boston
Miscellany” and of the “Pioneer.” And I am well aware that these notes
will be read with a certain special interest by young people who are
asking themselves whether literature, as such, offers “a career” to
those who are entering upon life.

It required much more resolution to determine on such a career in
America in 1841 than it does now. I will attempt, therefore, in this
paper, to bring together such illustrations of Lowell’s life as a man
of letters as we may have room for, which do not specially connect
themselves with the political history of the times, or with his special
work as a professor in Harvard College.

In an earlier chapter I have already printed some of the pathetic
memoranda which show how modestly his career began. Knowing as we do
that, before he was fifty years old, this man was to rank as one of the
first poets of his time, is it not pathetic to find him writing to his
nearest friend to ask whether it is probable that three hundred copies
of his poems can be sold?

It happened, as also has appeared in that chapter, that it was the
periodical press which gave the means of physical support to the young
man who was attempting this venture. In the same chapter I cited what
is the really funny criticism of Willis, if he made it,—when he says
that a man of genius may not be a good editor. As it happened, Lowell
devoted much of his after life to the steady business of editing
periodicals. I mean by this, not simply the general oversight of the
plan of the journal for which he was responsible, but that diligent and
tedious daily work, whether of reading manuscripts, of correcting and
improving them, of correspondence with writers, and of hourly intimacy
with publishers, which makes at once the drudgery and the pleasure of
real editorial life. I observe that most young men and women who think
they want to be “connected with the press” suppose that such a
connection will simply compel them to go to the theatre every night,
and to read agreeable novels and magazines all day. I have had a good
deal to do with editorial life myself, and I have not found that this
general impression regarding it is correct. Certainly Lowell never “got
round to it.” He worked with steadfast diligence. He says in one place
that he worked more than fifteen hours, on an average, every day. This
means that he really read the manuscripts which he had in hand, that he
really looked over the range of the world’s business to see what he
wanted, and that he tried to engage such authors as were best fitted
for special work in the journal for which he was engaged. His
acquaintance with men and women became larger and larger as he did
this, and there is many a pretty story of the encouragement which he
gave to young writers at the very beginning of their career.

Thus, there was a joke afterwards between him and Mr. Aldrich. When
Aldrich, somewhat timidly, sent his first poem to the “Atlantic,”
Lowell at once recognized its worth, and sent to him the most cordial
thanks. Many years after, Aldrich found himself, in turn, editor of the
“Atlantic.” Lowell, then at the height of his reputation, sent a poem
to the magazine. Aldrich had the fun to copy, in acknowledging the
manuscript, the very note which Lowell wrote to him, most kindly,
twenty years before, in which he recognized the value of his first
contribution. Lowell came round to the office at once, and told Aldrich
that he had almost determined him “to adopt a literary career.”

As the reader knows, Lowell edited the “Pioneer” for its short
existence of three months.

In the summer of 1846 he agreed to write once a week, in prose or in
poetry, for the “Anti-Slavery Standard,” the best of the anti-slavery
journals. He was called a corresponding editor. The paper was edited by
the masterly hand of Mr. Sidney Gay, afterwards the editor of the
“Popular History.”

Mr. Lawrence Lowell, in his interesting memoir of the poet’s life,
calls the few years from 1846 to 1850 the most active and the most
happy of his life. “His happiness was, indeed, broken by the death of
little Blanche, in March, 1847; but a new joy came to him in the birth
of another daughter, Rose, toward the close of the year. Both grief and
joy, however, seem to have stimulated his poetic feeling, and poems
such as ‘The First Snowfall’ and ‘The Changeling’ show the ecstasy to
which they brought his nature. During all this period he wrote
incessantly, sometimes about public affairs, sometimes from a purely
poetic impulse, with no direct relation to the great struggle in which
he was engaged, but almost always with a stern sense of his mission as
a prophet and a seer. His character no less than his poetic feeling had
deepened and strengthened, and poems like ‘The Present Crisis’ attest
the full maturity of his powers.”

When Phillips & Sampson established the “Atlantic Monthly,” in the
autumn of 1857, he was its first regular editor; and there are some
very nice letters of his in which he speaks of the somewhat sudden
change in the methods of his daily life which come in as he walks along
the river-bank from Elmwood and takes the street-car to the office in
Boston. If there were room, I could hardly print anything more
interesting than specimens of the notes which he wrote to authors. They
give a very pretty picture of the watchful interest which he took in
each individual number of the “Atlantic.” It is as the mother of a
large family might not let her children go to a Christmas party without
seeing that the hands of each one were perfectly clean, and that the
collar of each one was prettier and neater than the others’. I think I
may say that, in a somewhat varied experience in such matters, I have
known no editor who had so close a watchful eye on the detail of the
work of his journal.

[Illustration: JAMES T. FIELDS]

This connection with the “Atlantic” lasted for four years, when James
T. Fields, the prince among editors, took his place. In the year 1863,
in company with his very dear friend Mr. Charles Eliot Norton, he
became the editor of the “North American Review.” What this meant
appears from the fact that between the years 1863 and 1877 he wrote
thirty-four “articles” for the “North American,” besides as many more
of what, in the language of that day, were called “critical notices.”
In the “Atlantic Monthly,” between the years 1857 and 1877, he wrote
one hundred and sixteen articles, prose or poetry.

There are, as I have intimated, a great many men now prominent among
our men of letters who recollect Lowell gratefully as being the
Beatrice who first welcomed them into this Paradise. Without attempting
to name half of them, I will say that Mr. Howells, whom he welcomes so
cordially in a letter which is to be found in Mr. Norton’s collection,
and Mr. Aldrich, to whom I referred just now, both afterwards became
editors of the “Atlantic” themselves. In their time they have passed on
the welcome which the prince of American poets gave to both of them.
And each of them inherited in turn the traditions of the office, as he
established them.

The establishment of the “Atlantic Monthly” in the autumn of 1857
proved so fortunate an era in the history of the native literature of
America that I may safely give to it a few sentences in these
memorials. Lowell’s connection with that magazine enlarged very widely
the circle of his friends and the range of his life.

It was, then, two or three years since the little Eden of Boston
bookselling had been disturbed in its somnolence to a sudden “new
departure,” if we may borrow an admirable phrase from the forgotten
times when we had a mercantile marine. This “new departure” was the
movement, as of a stork among a world of frogs, instituted by Phillips
& Sampson, a new-born firm among booksellers.

The publishing business in Boston felt the wave of their impetuosity.
It can hardly be said that the old houses waked from the decorous sleep
of many years. But this new publishing house, with manners and customs
wholly unknown before, suddenly appeared, to the dumb amazement of the
old standbys, and to the delight and amusement of all young America, in
the East.

Boston had never earned for itself its distinct position as one of the
publishing centres of America. It had inherited that position without
earning it. Harvard College, the Boston Athenæum, the American Academy,
the Massachusetts Historical Society, the New England system of
lectures, and the great free school system, which gave a liberal
education to any boy who would take it,—these, all together, created a
circle of authors. They created the “Monthly Anthology,” the “North
American Review,” and the “Christian Examiner.” Such men as Bancroft,
Prescott, Hildreth, Sparks, the Everetts, Hawthorne, Emerson, and now
Lowell, came forward with books which had to be published. The loyalty
of the Boston lawyers to their business, of the doctors to theirs, and
of the ministers to theirs, had made it necessary that there should be
printers and shops where books could be bought and sold. So the
importers of English books had become, in a languid way, the publishers
of books.

But they did not want to publish them. They did not expect to make
money by publishing them. They did not know anything about them.
Alexander Everett used to say that a bookseller was the only tradesman
who knew nothing about the wares he sold. Of the Boston trade in those
prehistoric days this was substantially true. But, in truth, there was
not much publishing, excepting the issue of some law books and a few
medical books. Hilliard & Gray, and Crocker & Brewster, attended to
these affairs and cared little for any others.

Any one of the old firms regarded an author with a manuscript much as a
dealer in Russian sail-cloth might regard a lady who should come into
his counting-room and ask him to make her a linen handkerchief.

All of a sudden, as a wave of water might sweep over a thick, rotten
ice-floe in one of Nansen’s summers, a marvelous inundation swept over
this decorous imbecility. That is to say, two young men formed a
“publishing firm.” They did not want to import books. They wanted to
make them and to sell them.

More simply speaking, “Phillips & Sampson” appeared about the year
1843. Charles Sampson (a young man when he died in 1858) used to say
that he had peddled molasses candy from a tin waiter on holidays, when
he was a boy. Moses Dresser Phillips had been brought up to the retail
book trade in Worcester, in the shop of Clarendon Harris, who succeeded
Isaiah Thomas, the publisher of the first American Bible. I do not know
how these young fellows first met each other. But it was they who
taught the drowsy chiefs of the little Boston book-shops the great
lesson that in a nation which had taught thirty million people how to
read, there were more than five hundred people who wanted to read
Emerson’s essays or Macaulay’s history.

Emerson, as has been said, had never received one cent from the
publication of his essays, when Phillips & Sampson, about 1850,
published “English Traits” for him. Mr. Phillips was by marriage
connected with Emerson’s family, and had persuaded him to leave James
Monroe and give the new book to the younger firm, now well established
in business.


But this new firm meant to make books which everybody must buy, and to
sell them where anybody could read. They did not pretend to retail
books, any more than the Pacific Mills pretend to sell to a good
housewife the material for a shirt or a sheet. They did mean to make
them and to sell them to the retailers. So far as the nation at large
went, or a wholesale trade with dealers anywhere, they had hardly any
rivals in Boston. Opposite them was the shop of Ticknor & Fields. The
young, wide-awake James T. Fields, now so well known by his charming
reminiscences and other essays, had entered that shop, as “youngest
boy,” in the later thirties. His broad and intelligent foresight was
beginning to bear fruit. But Allen & Ticknor can hardly be numbered
among publishers, and Ticknor & Fields did not exist as a firm until
Cummings & Hilliard had become Hilliard & Gray. This firm published law
books and medical books. Crocker & Brewster, successors to Governor
Armstrong, imported and sold theological books. I bought my Hebrew
Bible and my Gesenius’s Lexicon from them in 1839. But, if a man wanted
one of these firms to publish a book for him, why, they would have told
him that he must pay for his plates and his printing. Thus Mr.
Bancroft, fortunately for himself, owned the plates and the printed
copies of his own History from 1833 until he died.

Charles Sampson and Moses Dresser Phillips made an admirable
combination, and the early death of both of them made a break in the
book business of Boston which it did not easily recover from. These
young men were not satisfied with the gilt-edged retail “trade” of
Boston and Cambridge. They went far afield with their wares. Mr.
Phillips used to tell with glee the story of their first orders from
San Francisco in the ’49 days. “So many hundred packs of ‘Highland’
cards, so many of the ‘True Thomas’ cards, and so on till the box was
nearly full, and then ‘one dozen Bibles.’”

This was seed-corn, he said. And then, in 1852 or 1853, he would read
you their last invoices, as they answered immense orders from
California. “Four hundred Byron’s Poems, four hundred Scott’s Poems,
one hundred Cowper’s Poems,” and so on, in large shipments. And he
would say, “That is the crop that comes from the twelve Bibles. Such
editions of the poets,” he would say, “as you would not have seen in
your house,—but, after all, Cowper is Cowper, and Scott is Scott.”

Both these men were resolute to meet the people halfway. Both of them
were Democrats in partisan connection, not because they believed in the
heresies of such men as Polk and Dallas, but because they believed in
the People. There was nothing of the white-kid glove, gilt-edged paper,
“u in honour” nonsense about them. Naturally, such believers as they
were regarded as unorthodox in the trade of that day.

Their great onslaught on decorous publishing was made when they printed
and sold Macaulay’s History for fifty cents a volume at retail.

Such a firm as this won its way up from selling books at auction, at
retail, on winter evenings, to publishing large editions and placing
them everywhere in America. And when the fullness of time for such an
enterprise came, they determined to publish “The Atlantic Monthly.” The
plan was matured in the autumn of 1857. Through the kindness of a
friend, I am able to reprint here Mr. Phillips’s own description, at
the time, of a famous dinner in which the enterprise was first
announced—I ought not to say in public, for this was a private dinner.
But I may say that that dinner-party was the first of a series which
the Saturday Club of Boston has held from that day to this day. Mr.
Phillips wrote, “I must tell you about a little dinner-party I gave
about two weeks ago. It would be proper, perhaps, to state that the
origin of it was a desire to confer with my literary friends on a
somewhat extensive literary project, the particulars of which I shall
reserve till you come. But to the party: My invitations included only
R.W. Emerson, H.W. Longfellow, J.K. Lowell, Mr. Motley (the ‘Dutch
Republic’ man), O.W. Holmes, Mr. Cabot, and Mr. Underwood, our literary
man. Imagine your uncle as the head of such a table, with such guests.
The above named were the only ones invited, and they were all present.
We sat down at three P.M., and rose at eight. The time occupied was
longer by about four hours and thirty minutes than I am in the habit of
consuming in that kind of occupation, but it was the richest time
intellectually by all odds that I have ever had. Leaving myself and
‘literary man’ out of the group, I think you will agree with me that it
would be difficult to duplicate that number of such conceded
scholarship in the whole country beside.

“Mr. Emerson took the first post of honor at my right, and Mr.
Longfellow the second at my left. The exact arrangement of the table
was as follows:

                               Mr. Underwood.
                          Cabot.      Lowell.
                          Motley.     Holmes.
                          Longfellow. Emerson.

“They seemed so well pleased that they adjourned, and invited me _to
meet them_ again to-morrow, when I shall again meet the same persons,
with one other (Whipple, the essayist) added to that brilliant
constellation of philosophical, poetical, and historical talent. Each
one is known alike on both sides of the Atlantic, and is read beyond
the limits of the English language. Though all this is known to you,
you will pardon me for intruding it upon you. But still I have the
vanity to believe that you will think them the most natural thoughts in
the world to me. Though I say it that should not, it was the proudest
day of my life.”

In this letter he does not tell of his own little speech, made at the
launch. But at the time we all knew of it. He announced the plan of the
magazine by saying, “Mr. Cabot is much wiser than I am. Dr. Holmes can
write funnier verses than I can. Mr. Motley can write history better
than I. Mr. Emerson is a philosopher and I am not. Mr. Lowell knows
more of the old poets than I.” But after this confession he said, “But
none of you knows the American people as well as I do.”

This was the truth, and they knew it was the truth. The “Atlantic,” at
that moment, asserted its true place. It was not “The _Boston_
Miscellany;” it was the journal for the nation, which at that time had
no Pacific slope which needed to be named.

[Illustration: OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES (1862)]

Yet I have guessed that, in the fact that “the Atlantic States” were
then contributing the capital and the men who were forming the Pacific
States, we find the origin of the very fortunate name of the magazine.
The civilization of the smaller Atlantic basin was beginning to assert
itself in that great Pacific basin which implies, when we speak of it,
half the surface of the world. And of such an assertion the “Atlantic”
was to be the mouthpiece. But this is my guess only. I never talked
with him about the name, and I do not know who suggested it. No man
then thought of the Philippines.

I always thought that, at the beginning, Mr. Phillips meant to edit the
magazine himself. I do not believe that it occurred to him, before he
began, that a magazine office is a place to which every prophet, every
poet, and every fool in the land thinks he may send what he chooses to
write, and supposes that he is “entitled” to have it read, not to say
printed and circulated. I think he thought he was to ask John, James,
and the others, for whom he was publishing books, to send articles fit
for the magazine, as Mr. Prescott, for instance, sent a chapter of his
“Charles the Fifth.” He did not think that Tom, Dick, or Harry had any
“rights” in the business. Perhaps Mr. Underwood or some one in the
office was to read the proofs.

But very soon this simple Arcadian notion vanished. And very soon
Lowell was the working editor of the magazine.

Let me say a word about any presumption that Lowell was a mere
figurehead, and that some one else did the work. Trust me, for I know.
I have worked under many editors, good and bad. Not one of them
understood his business better than Lowell, or worked at its details
more faithfully. I think he hated to read manuscripts as much as any
man of sense does. In those days there was practically no typewriting.
I think that, like any man of sense, he would prefer to write an
article than to read the average “contribution.” But he had said he
would do it, and he did it—up to time, so far as I have seen, careful
in detail even to the least detail, and he had no reason to be ashamed
of his work when he was done.

In those days people of literary aspirations, especially young people,
read the English magazines almost religiously. Indeed, “Blackwood” and
“Frazer” and sometimes the “Dublin University Magazine” were worth
reading. I am afraid that, for all I have said or implied about the
American or Atlantic basis of the new magazine, the original cover was,
in a way, an imitation of “Blackwood.” The color was, as it is, a sort
of tawny brown. It was more tawny then than it is now. Did it just
suggest the “tawny lion pawing to be free”? I do not think Phillips
thought of this. Perhaps Holmes and Lowell did. Where “Blackwood’s
Magazine” had and has a medallion head of somebody, we put on the cover
of our “maga” the head of John Winthrop, from the old portrait said to
be by Vandyke,—I do not know why.

Now this was as bad a mistake as the New Yorkers made in calling their
magazine the “Knickerbocker.” That is, it gave a local emblem to a
national magazine. John Winthrop was a great man. But his greatness
belonged to Massachusetts, and not to the nation. West of the Hudson
River there were not a thousand men in the country who knew anything
about him.

But this mistake was not held to. After two years the “Atlantic” had
full reason to show that it stood, not for Massachusetts, but for “We,
the People of the United States.” And the national flag was substituted
for the head of a Massachusetts governor. Why it was taken off, I never
knew; I doubt if any one else does. One is pleased to see, as this
sheet passes the press, that it has appeared again.[8]

In the war the magazine was loyal from hub to tire. Some capital
contributions to history are embalmed in it. I remember the late Caleb
William Loring’s excellent paper on Antietam, a good companion to Dr.
Holmes’s “Hunt after the Captain.”

It may be amusing to preserve one or two reminiscences of the delay
with which magazines then appeared, at which writers meekly complained.

The admirable Theodore Winthrop was killed in a miserable outpost
skirmish above Hampton. Then, and, alas! not till then, the “Atlantic
people” remembered that they had some excellent manuscripts of his,
which had been seasoning in the safe, doubtless paid for when they were
accepted, but “crowded out” till then. Then they were pushed into type
as soon as might be. But death came before the “Atlantic” took the
credit, which it deserved, of discovering the author.

I tell this, with some venom, because I myself suffered a little from
what Hamlet should have called the pangs of delay of magazine men. I
had written for the Ohio canvass of September, 1863, a story called
“The Man without a Country.” It was “rushed through,” that it might be
in time to defeat Vallandigham in the election of October. And by such
swiftness of proofs and revises, unexampled before, it got itself
printed in the December number of the same year, when poor Vallandigham
had been well beaten and forgotten!

Ah, youngsters of 1898, how little do you know of what you enjoy in
these days of “quick proofs, no revises, fast coaches.” The true rule
for an editor is to send back to each author every manuscript which he
has by him, and to trust to February to fill the appetite of March. One
does not care to have his eggs too old.

It is to go back a little from the birthday of the “Atlantic” to speak
of the first of the “Biglow Papers” ten years before. The series ran
for nearly four years.

It was in June, 1846, in face of the almost unanimous hatred of the
Mexican War among Massachusetts people, that a regiment was raised in
Boston and the neighborhood for that war. Lowell saw a recruiting
officer in the street, and was roused to much the sort of wrath which
fired the average Boston gentleman in 1773 when he saw a “lobsterback”
loafing in the same street with as little reason. Lowell wrote for the
“Courier” what he calls “a squib,” which was the first of the “Biglow
Papers.” Mr. Lawrence Lowell reminds us that he did not follow up its
success at once. The third paper was published a year and a half after
the first. After this the poems of the first series appeared in rapid


  _From the original, kindly lent by Mrs. Charles F. Briggs, Brooklyn,

In the period between the middle of 1847 and the end of 1849 he wrote
most of the “Biglow Papers” of that series, he continued his regular
work for the “Standard,” and wrote the “Fable for Critics” and the
“Vision of Sir Launfal.” Mr. Lawrence Lowell says that the last was
written in forty-eight hours, during which he scarcely slept or ate;
and he considers it the most generally popular of the poet’s longer

Success gave him new stimulus, and in a happy home he worked with all
the help which love and true sympathy could give him. To enter into the
spirit of that life, one must make real what Mr. Lawrence Lowell has so
well expressed. “He was, no doubt, to some extent a martyr for his
political opinions, but no martyr was ever so high-spirited, so jovial,
and so charming. As he said himself, he was curiously compounded of two
utterly distinct characters. One half was clear mystic and enthusiast,
the other humorist; and the humor, which is the best balance-wheel
vouchsafed to man, prevented his remaining narrow or fanatical.”

“On July 1, 1851, he embarked on a sailing vessel for Genoa, and passed
most of the following year in Italy. A great part of the year was spent
in Rome, with his lifelong friend, William Wetmore Story.” But the
charm of the earlier years was broken. His little Rose died in 1850;
Walter, his only son, died two years later; Mrs. Lowell’s health,
always delicate, gave way, and she died in 1853, on the 27th of
October, after they had returned to America.

His duty as professor at Cambridge began in September, 1856. Of some
details in his discharge of this I have spoken in another chapter. He
would refer, sometimes, to a certain “numbness” in literary effort
which came from the monotony of a teacher’s duties. But, as Mr.
Lawrence Lowell says, when we remember that most of his prose books
were written in the twenty years of his professorship, that in the same
time he wrote “The Cathedral,” the second series of the “Biglow
Papers,” the great “Commemoration Ode,” and several of his best shorter
poems, we feel that we must not take too seriously what he said of the
numbing effect of the class-room.

Of “The Cathedral,” after nearly thirty years, I may perhaps mention a
contemporary criticism. When it was published, I was the editor of “Old
and New.” My theory was, and is, that generally a book should be
reviewed by some one in sympathy with the author. So I sent “The
Cathedral” to Mr. Waldo Emerson, hoping that he would write a review of
it for our magazine. He returned the book the next day, saying that he
could not write the article. When I met him next, I expressed my
regret; and the philosopher said simply, “But, I _like_ Lowell, I like
Lowell.” To which I replied, “Yes, and you like the poem, do you not?”
“I like it—yes; but I think he had to pump.” The figure is best
understood by those of us who know the difference between “striking
oil” and digging an artesian well for it and putting in valves and
pistons with a steam-engine. Probably Lowell would have enjoyed the
criticism as much as any one.


Lowell’s own inside view of editing, and of the “Atlantic,” the early
career of which he directed, peeps out again and again in his letters.
If it were well to print here some of his private notes to
contributors, they would, as I have intimated, show an almost motherly
care of the new-born magazine. The first number is dated December,
1857, and in that month he writes, “Even the Magazine has its
compensations.” Let the reader remember that the new duty he has
undertaken, the “avocation,” is superimposed on his “vocation,”—the
regular work of a full college professor. “First, it has almost got me
out of debt, and, next, it compels me into morning walks to the
printing-office. [This was the Riverside Press, not far from the
college.] There is a little foot-path which leads along the river-bank,
and it is lovely, whether in clear, cold mornings, when the fine
filaments of the bare trees on the horizon seem floating up like
sea-mosses in the ether sea, or when (as yesterday) a gray mist fills
our Cambridge cup, and gives a doubtful loom to its snowy brim of
hills, while the silent gulls wheel over the nestling cakes of ice
which the Charles is whirling seaward.”

If other editors had a morning walk like this, and had the eyes to see
and the ears to hear, it might be well for other readers.

When one remembers that the Autocrat’s papers were going on in the
“Atlantic” at this time, that Motley and Prescott were publishing bits
of their histories in it, that Longfellow wrote almost regularly in
these numbers, and that younger writers, now well known, were winning
their spurs in these first two volumes, it is easy to see that the work
of the editor, who was easily chief among them, was interesting and
inspiring to him. People were not then used to such papers as his on
Choate and Cushing. He writes this scrap in October, 1858:—

“Phillips was so persuaded of the stand given to the Magazine by the
Choate article that he has been at me ever since for another. So I have
been writing a still longer one on Cushing. I think you will like
it,—though on looking over the Choate article I am inclined to think
that, on the whole, the better of the two.

“The worst [of editing] is that it leads me to bore my friends when I
do get at them. To be an editor is almost as bad as being President.”

To Mr. Higginson, then forty years younger than he is now, he says, “As
for your own contributions, I may say to you, as I always have to Mr.
Underwood, that they are just to my liking,—scholarly, picturesque,
and, above all, earnest,—I think the most _telling_ essays we have

And when he resigns the charge to his friend Fields—his warm friend
till death—in May, 1861: “I was going to say I was glad to be rid of my
old man of the sea. But I don’t believe I am. A bore that is periodical
gets a friendly face at last, and we miss it on the whole....

“Well, good-by—delusive royalty! I abdicate with what grace I may. I
lay aside my paper crown and feather sceptre.”

And in the same note he says he shall always gladly do what he can for
the “Atlantic,” a promise which he well fulfilled. The second series of
the “Biglow Papers” was published there.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In a way, perhaps, he had a right to feel that he, earlier than any one
else, had the credit for the first fortunes of the “Atlantic,” and to
be proud of them. To become the editor of the aged “North American,”
hand in hand with his near friend Mr. Norton, was a wholly different

I am sure that there is somewhere, among his by-letters, an outburst as
to what he will do “if he shall ever edit the ‘North American.’” I
think most youngsters of his time—who were born with a pen in
hand—indulged in the same dream, if they were bred within sound of the
college bell at Cambridge.

In those prehistoric days the “North American,” to the notions of the
few hundred people who had ever heard of it, was wholly different from
what any journal is now to any reader. Four times a year
only—quarterly!—think of that, young contributors to to-day’s
“Atlantic” who can hardly live three weeks, to know if that horrid man
has refused your poem, or if that charming and sensible editor has
printed it! Read Mrs. Lyman’s Life, or any other good sketch of New
England life in the twenties of this century, and see how people wrote
or spoke of the arrival of the new “North American,” with the interest
with which the inhabitants of Saturn might speak of the regular
decennial fall of some well-timed aerolite!

The “North American” is now so different from what it was in 1864, when
Lowell took charge of it with Mr. Norton, that its accomplished editor
will pardon me if I say ten words more about its infant issues, to the
young writers of this generation. It was founded—modestly, yes, but
with determination—among a little confident circle of the well-trained
young men of Boston, at a moment when Boston counted, perhaps, fifty
thousand people. These were people who had time to read, and time to
write, and thought themselves, strange to say, the rivals and equals of
anybody in the world. The quarterly was the then regnant fashion. The
Edinburgh “Quarterly,” the London “Quarterly,” were the arrogant
dictators of English literature. “Go to, now! We will dictate also! We
will have a ‘Quarterly’ of our own!” For one, I like what the
vernacular calls the “dander” of that determination.

And some plucky and loyal bits of good American sentiment and statement
got themselves into the juvenile “North American.” But it was awfully
proper. Its editors were more anxious about making their “Quarterly”
respectable in the eyes of their ten English readers than of the
thousand American readers, more or less, who paid them five dollars a
year for their editing.

[Illustration: J.R. Lowell.   Elmwood.]

Now the remainder of the people of England and of the people of America
did not know that any such “Quarterly” existed. There had never risen
for it any publisher who “knew the American people.”

In one of the changes of literary “property,” the dwindling “list” of
the now venerable Review fell into the hands of people who had courage
to give Norton and Lowell the charge of it. Soon after, Fields, Osgood
& Co. bought the Review.

“Norton and I have undertaken to edit the ‘North American,’” Lowell
writes. “A rather Sisyphean job, you will say. It wanted three chief
elements to be successful. It wasn’t thoroughly, that is, thick and
thinly, loyal; it wasn’t lively; and it had no particular opinions on
any particular subject. It was an eminently safe periodical, and
accordingly was in great danger of running aground.”

To this “eminently safe” journal Mr. Norton and Lowell undertook to
give loyalty and life. To the little circle which followed in the
steps, now faltering, of the Mutual Admiration Club, they added
contributors from all latitudes and longitudes. Thus the new departure
is marked by letters asking for articles,—to Motley in Vienna, Howells
in Venice, Stedman, who was a new writer for them; and, as the reader
has seen, Lowell’s own work was in amount what one would hardly have
wished for had the Review furnished his only occupation.


                               CHAPTER XI
                          POLITICS AND THE WAR

In 1856, the year when Lowell’s name first appears as a professor in
the Harvard catalogue, he is one of eleven professors. In 1891, the
year of his death, there were fifty-seven professors and assistant
professors. The number of “tutors” and “instructors,” to follow the
college titles, increases in the same proportion. Lowell’s name does
not appear on the list of the “Faculty” in 1855, I suppose because he
was in Europe. The Faculty consisted of thirteen gentlemen, of whom
President Eliot, then one of the junior members, and Professor James
Mills Peirce are now the only survivors. Of his associates in the
Faculty, Dr. Walker and Professors Felton, Peirce, Bowen, and Lovering
had been his teachers when he was himself an undergraduate twenty years
before. Of the others, Professor Sophocles, older than he, had been
Greek professor in Amherst before Lowell was at Cambridge. Professors
Child, Lane, Jennison, Cooke, Chase, Eliot, and James Peirce were his
juniors. In the cordial and simple courtesies of Cambridge life, all
these gentlemen are to be spoken of in any calendar of his friends.
After his college work begins, his name appears on the list of the
Faculty. And it remains on the catalogue during the eight years when he
was in Spain and England as American minister. He went to Europe in
1855, after his appointment as professor, and remained there more than
a year; he made another visit in August, 1872, and remained abroad
until July, 1874. His proper duties at Cambridge, therefore, were
between September, 1856, and the summer of 1872, and from October,
1874, to his appointment as minister to Spain in the spring of 1877,
covering in both periods nearly nineteen years.

The earlier of these periods—that from 1856 to 1872—includes the whole
civil war and the most acute of the struggles which preceded it. He
watched with great interest the Kansas trials, and had at one time the
idea of taking Hosea Biglow out to Kansas to send his prophecies from
what was really the seat of war. He was himself learning, and the world
was learning, that Minerva was not unwilling when he wrote prose;
although it was as late as 1846 that he expressed himself so doubtfully
in that matter. It is a pity that the best of his political essays, in
the “Standard,” in the “Atlantic,” and in the “North American,” cannot
be published together in a volume for popular circulation. In one
volume of the Riverside edition of his collected works are four of the
best. If these were in a separate volume, and a few more of the same
sort were printed with them, it would be good reading for the New
Stuarts, for Philistines, Pharisees, and Lynch-men. It will be many
years, I fear, before we are done with them.

His cousin, Mr. Lawrence Lowell, thus characterizes these essays:—

  “During the period of war and reconstruction Lowell wrote a number of
  political essays, but these are not as remarkable as his poetry or
  his criticism. Although very influential in forming public opinion,
  and although containing many wise sayings and many striking aphorisms
  on government, they are, in the main, a forcible exposition of the
  opinions held by intelligent Republicans. Beginning with a distrust
  of Lincoln’s tentative policy, they finally express unbounded
  admiration for the statesmanship that could wait until the times were
  ripe, and give the lead when the people were ready to follow. The
  essays show how thoroughly the writer had become estranged from the
  abolitionists. He regards the conflict at the outset, not as a
  crusade against slavery, but as a struggle to restore order and
  maintain the unity of the nation as a question of national existence,
  in which the peculiar institution of the South is not at issue; and,
  although before the war was over he saw that no lasting peace was
  possible unless slavery was forever destroyed, he held that opinion
  in common with men who had never harbored a thought of abolition
  before the secession of South Carolina. In short, he no longer writes
  as the prophet of 1848, but as a citizen and a statesman.”

In an earlier chapter I have already referred to the “Anti-Slavery
Standard,” so long a brilliant exception to the dullness, almost
proverbial, of what are called the “organs” of causes or of societies.
Lowell’s connection with the “Standard” for many years brought him into
close connection with a man after his own heart, Sydney Howard Gay,
well known among all journalists, historians, and men of letters in
America. He will be remembered for the untold services which he
rendered to the country in and after the civil war, and to good
letters, good history, and good journalism before the war, in the war,
after the war, and, indeed, as long as he lived.

In 1840 it would have been difficult, even for a person inside the
sacred circle of the abolitionists, to explain, in a manner
satisfactory to every one, the difference between “old organization,”
“new organization,” and the shades of feeling and thought in either, or
among “come-outers” or “come-outer” societies, which were neither of
the new nor old. For an outsider it would have been impossible to make
such explanations then. And, fortunately, any such discrimination is
now as unnecessary as it is impossible. They were all free lances, who
obeyed any leader when they chose, and, if they did not like his
direction, told him so and refused to follow. A sufficient section of
anti-slavery people, however, to carry out their purposes, established
the “Anti-Slavery Standard.”

At a meeting quite celebrated in those times, in which the original
Anti-Slavery Society divided itself between what was called the “old
organization” and the “new organization,” the old organization,
sometimes called the “Garrisonians,” determined to establish this
paper. This was in the year 1840, and the first editor was a gentleman
named Nathaniel P. Rogers, a brilliant and vigorous writer from New
Hampshire. He died in 1846. His essays have been published, with a Life
by John Pierpont.

The motto of the new journal was “Without concealment and without
compromise.” It was under the general superintendence of what is spoken
of afterwards as the “executive committee;” and, if I understand it
rightly, this executive committee was chosen annually at the meetings
of the “old organization.” An outsider, perhaps, would have said that
Garrison’s “Liberator” would answer the purpose of an organ; and, so
far as devotion to the main cause went, of course it would. But
Garrison, on his part, would never have ground the crank of anybody’s
organ. And, on the other side, the Anti-Slavery Society did not want,
as such, to accompany him on such side-crusades as he might wish to
undertake in the course of the great enterprise. For an instance, most,
if not all, of the people who united to establish the “Standard” would
choose to vote, if they wanted to do so, and frequently did vote. But
he whom in those days men called an abolitionist pure and simple, whom
one could underwrite as A 1, would have abominated any vote at any

This was the explanation given me by the person best qualified to
answer my question when I asked, “Why the ’National Anti-Slavery
Standard’ _and_ the ‘Liberator’?”

In 1844 Mr. Gay became the editor of the “Standard.” He was an
abolitionist through and through. He even gave up the study of law,
because he felt that he could not swear to sustain the Constitution of
the United States, and so could not enter at the bar. He had very rare
gifts of editorial promptness and sagacity; and, as the “Standard”
itself shows, had the unselfishness and the knowledge of men which
enabled him to engage as fellow-workmen men and women of remarkable
ability. Henry Wilson speaks of him as the man who deserved well of his
country because he kept the “Tribune” a war paper in spite of Greeley.

Lowell had written before 1846 for the anti-slavery papers, as the
reader knows. Mrs. Chapman, a lady distinguished among the
abolitionists, had suggested to Gay that Lowell would give strength to
the “Standard.” How droll it seems now that anybody should be advising
anybody to engage his services! All the same, Mrs. Chapman did, and he
was retained to write once a week for the “Standard.” In an early
letter of his to Gay, as early as June of 1846, he says that he is
“totally unfitted” for the position of an “editorial contributor.” He
was sure that Garrison and Mrs. Chapman overrated his popularity. “In
the next place,”—this is edifying now,—“if I have any vocation, it is
the making of verse. When I take my pen for that, the world opens
itself ungrudgingly before me, everything seems clear and easy, as it
seems sinking to the bottom would be as one leans over the edge of his
boat in one of those dear coves at Fresh Pond. But when I do prose, it
is _invitâ Minervâ_. My true place is to serve the cause as a poet.”

In the same letter he suggests what we now call a “funny column.” He
calls it a “Weekly Pasquil.” “I am sure I come across enough comical
thoughts in a week to make up a good share of such a corner, and Briggs
and yourself [Gay] and Quincy could help.”

Edmund Quincy began in the “Standard” that series of letters signed
“Byles,” which with infinite fun and spirit revealed Boston to the
decorous senses of those people who had supposed that they were the
“upper four hundred.” The letters were afterward carried on in the
“Tribune” for many years. In this instance, as in the transfer of Mr.
Gay’s services to the “Tribune,” the “Standard” led the way for some of
the signal achievements in the interesting history of that paper.

Lowell’s correspondence with Gay is excellent reading for young men who
have fallen in love with their own picture of journalism, and are
fascinated by the charm of that picture. To us, reading after fifty
years, it is edifying, not to say amusing, to find that, after rather
more than a year, the “Executive Committee” of the “Standard” feared
that they were flinging their money away in paying this young poet four
dollars and eighty cents a week for his contributions. Think of that,
gentlemen who manage the treasuries of weekly or monthly journals now!
James Lowell, in the very prime of his life, is writing for you. He is
just beginning on the “Biglow Papers.” And you find that the work is
not worth five dollars a week, and notify your working editor that he
must be dropped!

Lowell’s letter in reply is manly and courteous. He even says that he
has felt somewhat cramped by the knowledge that a corresponding editor
ought to recognize the views of an “Executive Committee.” “I have felt
that I ought to work in my own way, and yet I have also felt that I
ought to try to work in their way, so that I have failed of working in

Young authors may read with interest these words,—not too proud: “I
think the Executive Committee would have found it hard to get some two
or three of the poems I have furnished from any other quarter.” “Beaver
Brook,” for instance, “To Lamartine,” or several of the early Biglow
papers! No! It would be hard to get them furnished “from any other
quarter.” And the anonymous Executive Committee flinched at the four
dollars and eighty cents which had to be paid for each of these! With
one and another such jar, however, the connection between Lowell and
the “Standard” lasted, in one or another form, for four or five years.

I hope it is not too late for us still to expect a full memoir of Mr.
Gay’s life and work. As a permanent contribution to literature, “The
Popular History of America” will preserve his memory. It is the first
of the composite histories wrought by the hands of many experts; but it
all went under his careful supervision, and ought to be called by his
name. At Chicago, at New York, in the “Tribune,” and as coadjutor with
Mr. Bryant in the “Evening Post” office, he showed what his great
capacity as an editor was.

I have never seen in print his story of that fearful night when Lincoln
was killed. But one hears it freely repeated in conversation, and I see
no reason why it should not be printed now.

With the news of the murder of Lincoln, there came to New York every
other terrible message. The office of the “Tribune,” of course,
received echoes from all the dispatches which showed the alarm at
Washington. There were orders for the arrest of this man, there were
suspicions of the loyalty of that man. No one knew what the morrow
might bring.

In the midst of the anxieties of such hours, to Mr. Gay, the
acting-editor of that paper, there entered the foreman of the
typesetting-room. He brought with him the proof of Mr. Greeley’s
leading article, as he had left it before leaving the city for the day.
It was a brutal, bitter, sarcastic, personal attack on President
Lincoln,—the man who, when Gay read the article, was dying in

Gay read the article, and asked the foreman if he had any private place
where he could lock up the type, to which no one but himself had
access. The foreman said he had. Gay bade him tie up the type, lock the
galley with this article in his cupboard, and tell no one what he had
told him. Of course no such article appeared in the “Tribune” the next

[Illustration: SYDNEY HOWARD GAY]

But when Gay arrived on the next day at the office, he was met with the
news that “the old man” wanted him, and the intimation that “the old
man” was very angry. Gay waited upon Greeley.

“Are you there, Mr. Gay? I have been looking for you. They tell me that
you ordered my leader out of this morning’s paper. Is it your paper or
mine? I should like to know if I cannot print what I choose in my own
newspaper!” This in great rage.

“The paper is yours, Mr. Greeley. The article is in type upstairs, and
you can use it when you choose. Only this, Mr. Greeley: I know New
York, and I hope and believe, before God, that there is so much virtue
in New York that, if I had let that article go into this morning’s
paper, there would not be one brick upon another in the ‘Tribune’
office now. Certainly I should be sorry if there were.”

Mr. Greeley was cowed. He said not a word, nor ever alluded to the
subject again. I suppose the type is locked up in the cupboard of the
“Tribune” office at this hour.

It was by this sort of service that Mr. Gay earned Mr. Wilson’s praise
that “he kept Mr. Greeley up to the war.”

Mr. Lowell’s correspondence with Mr. Gay makes one wish that we had Mr.
Gay’s side as well. The letters which are printed in Lowell’s
correspondence are well worthy the study of young journalists.

It will be readily seen that here was a college professor well in touch
with the responsibilities of the time. Writing occasionally for such a
paper as the “Standard,” responsible for the tone and politics of the
“Atlantic,” and afterwards of the “North American,” he could tell the
world what he thought in those times of storm and earthquake; and he
did not fail to use his opportunity. Meanwhile the war was drawing
nearer and nearer. Strictly speaking, the war began when Franklin
Pierce, on the part of the government of the United States, acting by
the United States marshal, took possession of the Hotel of the Emigrant
Aid Company, in Lawrence, Kansas, in May, 1856, and destroyed it.

The class of youngsters who entered Harvard College in 1856, when
Lowell began his work there, graduated in 1860, and were eager to go
into the army. Of that class sixty-four enlisted, of whom thirteen were
killed. Thirty-six of the next class enlisted in the army or navy;
thirty of the next class; and thirty-two of the class of 1863. Lowell
was in personal relations with most of these young men. He had five
young relatives who died in the service,—General Charles Russell Lowell
and his brother James Jackson Lowell, William Lowell Putnam, Warren
Dutton Russell, and Francis Lowell Dutton Russell, who was only twenty
when he died. William Putnam was the son of the sister whose account of
the childhood of Lowell has been already referred to.

Mr. Leslie Stephen has referred pathetically to Lowell’s white-heat
patriotism as the war went on,—he watching it with such associations.
“The language of the most widely known English newspapers at the time
could hardly have been more skillfully framed for the purpose of
irritating Lowell, if it had been consciously designed to that end....
He showed me the photograph of a young man in the uniform of the United
States army, and asked me whether I thought that that lad looked like
‘a blackguard.’ On my giving the obvious reply, he told me that the
portrait represented one of the nephews he had lost in the war. Not
long afterward I read his verses in the second series of the ‘Biglow
Papers,’ the most pathetic, I think, that he ever wrote, in which he
speaks of the ‘three likely lads,’

              ‘Whose comin’ step there’s ears thet won’t,
              No, not lifelong, leave off awaitin’.’”

These “three likely lads” were General Charles Russell Lowell, his
brother James Jackson Lowell, and William Lowell Putnam, their cousin
and the poet’s nephew.

In the autumn of 1860 Charles Lowell took charge of the Mount Savage
Iron Works at Cumberland, Maryland. On the 20th of April, 1861, hearing
of the attack made the preceding day in Baltimore on the Sixth
Massachusetts Regiment, Lowell instantly abandoned his position and set
out for Washington. He put himself at once at the disposal of the
government, and about the middle of June received his commission as
captain in the Third Regiment of United States Cavalry. For
distinguished services at Williamsburg and Slatersville he was
nominated for the brevet of Major. At South Mountain, in bearing orders
to General Reno, he showed a bravery which excited universal
admiration. In recognition of his gallantry in this battle, General
McClellan assigned to Lowell the duty of presenting to the President
the trophies of the campaign. In November, 1862, he was ordered to
report to Governor Andrew for the purpose of organizing the Second
Massachusetts Cavalry, of which he was appointed Colonel. In the May
following he left Boston with his regiment, and was soon placed in
command of the cavalry of the Department of Washington. For many months
he was occupied in resisting the incursions of Mosby. “I have often
said,” writes Colonel Mosby, “that of all the Federal commanders
opposed to me, I had the highest respect for Colonel Lowell, both as an
officer and as a gentleman.” It was at Cedar Creek, while leading his
command, that he received his mortal wound. His commission as
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, “determined on days before,” was
signed on the 19th of October, too late for him to wear the honor he
had earned so well. “We all shed tears,” said Custer, “when we knew we
had lost him.”

General Lowell’s brother, James Jackson Lowell, was but twenty-three
years old when the war began. He was born in the very Elmwood where, as
this writer hopes, this reader feels at home. His early youth was spent
in Boston, where he was a student in the public Latin School. Before he
entered college, the family had removed to Cambridge again.


  _From a photograph by Miss C.E. Peabody, Cambridge, Mass._]

He spent the four years from 1854 as an undergraduate in Cambridge,
taking his bachelor’s degree in 1858, at the second Commencement after
his uncle entered on his duties there. He took the highest place in his
class when he graduated; a favorite with his class, “liked as much as
he was admired.” “While he would walk a dozen miles for wild flowers,
skate all day, and dance as long as the music would play, he found no
study too dry, and would have liked to embrace all science and all

He showed the interest in public affairs which such a young man ought
to show, and such as was suggested to him by his ancestry on his
father’s side and his mother’s alike. He was at the Dane Law
School,—the school connected with the University at Cambridge,—when the
war broke out. James Lowell and his cousin, William Putnam, also at the
Law School, undertook to raise recruits for a Massachusetts regiment.
After some delay they and their recruits were assigned to the Twentieth
Regiment, Lowell taking a commission as First Lieutenant, and Putnam
that of Second. They received their commissions on the 10th of July.
They were sent to the front in September.

After a few days in Washington they were ordered to Poolesville in
Maryland, and they were encamped there until October 20. On the 21st of
October they were led across the Potomac by General Lane, who atoned
for this mistake by his life. The wretched and useless battle of Ball’s
Bluff was fought, Putnam was so severely wounded that he died in a few
days, Schmitt, their captain, was wounded, and Lowell shot in his
thigh. He returned home until his wound was healed, and joined his
regiment on the Potomac as the movement of McClellan against Richmond
went forward. He saw rather than joined in the fighting at Fair Oaks,
and on the 26th of June writes, in good spirits, that he has hopes of
seeing Richmond before the month is over. But, alas! on the 29th the
regiment was ordered to join McClellan’s retreat to the Potomac, and on
the 30th he received a mortal wound at Glendale.

His cousin, William Lowell Putnam, was an only son. The friend and
teacher of the two, Professor Child, says: “A nobler pair never took
the field. Putnam, with his fair hair, deep eyes, and uncontaminated
countenance, was the impersonation of knightly youth. He was our
Euryalus, _quo pulchrior alter non fuit Æneadum_. The cousins were
beautifully matched in person, mental accomplishments, and pure heroism
of character.”

I copy Professor Child’s words with a certain special tenderness for a
personal remembrance of “Willie Putnam,” as most of his friends called
him. I was in Salignac’s drill corps, before the war began, at a time
when the drill was carried on in a large hall, at the corner of Summer
Street and Washington Street in Boston. The hall was not long enough
for the battalion to form in line, and two right angles were necessary,
so that we stood at parade with our backs to three sides of the wall.
Day by day, for I know not how many weeks, in presenting arms at
parade, I “presented arms,” not so much to the commanding officer, as
to this beautiful boy, who at the distance of thirty or forty yards
presented arms to me. Among three or four hundred young men, most of
them younger than I, I did not know his name. In June he was enlisting
men, and Salignac and the drill corps, and I among the rest, saw him no
longer. In October he was killed; and then for the first time, when I
saw his picture, did I know that the noble, cheerful face I had so
often saluted was that of this fine young man, in whose career, for
many reasons, I was interested so deeply.


                 ROBERT GOULD SHAW
                  JAMES JACKSON LOWELL]

Such were three of five relatives who went to the war, almost from
Elmwood itself. One sees how Lowell’s personal interest in them
affected all he wrote in poetry or prose in the great crisis.

Professor Child, whom I cited in the passage above, took the most eager
interest in the war, as, indeed, in one way or another, all the
professors at Cambridge did. He was one of the Faculty who had joined
it since they dragged Lowell through college “by the hair of his head,”
as he and Cutler dragged Loring through. Eager in everything in the way
of public spirit, Professor Child made it his special duty to prepare a
“Song-book” for the soldiers who were going to the field. Who is doing
it now for the liberators of to-day? He made everybody who could, write
a war-song, and he printed a little book of these songs, with the
music, which he used to send to the front with every marching regiment.
I had the pleasure of telling him once that I had heard one of his
songs sung by some privates of our Twenty-fourth in the camp before
Bermuda Hundred. This curious collection is already rare. It was called
“War Songs for Freemen,” and was dedicated to the army of the United
States. Professor Child enlisted Charles T. Brooks, the Newport poet,
Dr. Hedge, Dr. Holmes, and Mrs. Howe, both the Lelands, Mrs. T.
Sedgwick, and some anonymous writers, to join in furnishing songs. He
included some good translations from the German. He wrote two or three
himself, which show his fun and audacity. Here is the last verse of
“The Lass of the Pamunky:”—

               “Fair hands! but not too nice or coy
                 To soothe my pangs with service tender.
               Soft eyes! that watched a wasted boy,
                 All loving, as your land’s defender!—
               Oh! I was then a wretched shade,
                 But now I ’m strong and growing chunky—
               So Forward! and God bless the maid
                 That saved my life on the Pamunky!”

Here is a new verse of “Lilliburlero:”—

     “‘Well, Uncle Sam,’ says Jefferson D.,
     Lilliburlero, Old Uncle Sam,
     ‘You ’ll have to join my Confed’racy,’
     Lilliburlero, Old Uncle Sam.
 ‘Lero, lero, that don’t appear, O! That don’t appear,’ says Old Uncle Sam.
 ‘Lero, lero, filibustero! That don’t appear,’ says Old Uncle Sam.”

Mr. Child was appointed professor in rhetoric in 1851, and by a new
appointment in 1876 professor of the English language and literature.
It is interesting to see that, although the use of the English language
had been admirably taught at Harvard long before, there was no
professor of English literature for two centuries and a half after the
college was founded. Is there one at Oxford or at the English Cambridge


How well fitted Mr. Child was for these positions his published series
of ballads and other works show. His recent death gives me a right to
speak here of the tender love with which he was regarded by all the
Cambridge circle, and of the unselfish interest with which he gave time
and work to the help of all around him. One is glad to see this
interest surviving in the lives of his children.

I am not sure that this story of those days is quite decorous enough
for print. But I will risk it. Professor Calvin Ellis Stowe, who was a
classmate of Longfellow’s, told me that in the early days of ’61 he met
Longfellow in the streets of Boston. Both of them were in haste, but
Longfellow had time enough to ask if the Andover gentlemen were all
alive to their duty to the nation. Stowe said he thought they were, and
Longfellow said, “If the New Testament won’t do, you must give them the
Old.” Professor Stowe told me this in August of 1861, after the
anniversary exercises of the class at Andover. The division between
Rehoboam and Jeroboam had naturally played a very important part in the
chapel exercises, with the obvious distinction that in our time it was
the North which was in the right and the South which was in the wrong.

I am permitted to copy the following scraps from the journal of one of
Lowell’s pupils at that time:—

  “In ’64, when I had come back from a service mostly civil, but under
  direction of General Saxton, on Port Royal Islands, I had to give the
  college steward a bond to secure whatever dues I might incur. Lowell
  volunteered to sign the bond, and to say that he had perfect
  confidence in me. December 22 he called at Divinity Hall, to invite
  me to a five o’clock Christmas dinner; again on Christmas to turn the
  hour into four o’clock. The other guests were John Holmes and
  Caroline Norton, a young man and a niece of the host. Each man was
  impressed into escort duty to a woman, and I was Mabel’s escort to
  the table.

  “The dinner and the chat were delightful. Holmes and Lowell sharpened
  their wits upon each other, while the rest of us ate and laughed. I
  was the only obdurate that would not take a smile of wine. After
  dinner we were entertained with some of Blake’s curious pictures,
  with snowflake shapes, and with books. Lowell had been ’weeding his
  back garden,’ and he offered me the little stock of duplicates and
  obsoletes: a Webster’s quarto dictionary was one of the books, and
  the evening was Christmas; but the boys had a notion that his income
  was almost pinchingly small for a man in his place; so, in the hope
  that he might second-hand them off for five or ten dollars, I
  declined them, and have been sorry ever since. I should have known
  that if he wanted to sell them he would not even have shown them to
  me, and that he did want to put them where they would be helpful and
  well used.”


I might almost say that such daily associations with the war account
for the form and spirit alike of the “Commemoration Ode.” No one who
was present when that ode was delivered can forget the occasion. It was
in every regard historical. Peace was concluded, and the country drew a
long breath with joy for the first time. An immense assembly of the
graduates came together. As many of them as could filed into the church
for religious services. Under the lead of Mr. Paine, the professor of
music, a college chorus sang “Salvam fac rempublicam.” I think this was
the first time that the music now well known was used for those words.
On such occasions at Cambridge the graduates entered the church in the
order of their seniority. I remember that on that occasion the
attendance was so large that my own class, which was twenty-six years
out of college, were among the last persons who could enter the
building. We stood in the aisles, because there were no seats for us.

After these services the whole body of the alumni sat at a Spartan
college feast in that part of “the yard,” as we say at Cambridge, which
is between Harvard and Holden Halls. And there Lowell delivered his
“Commemoration Ode.” His own intense interest was evident enough, but
it was reflected in what I might call the passionate interest with
which people heard. It was said afterwards, and I think this appears in
his letters, that the final business of writing this wonderful poem had
all been done in forty-eight hours before he delivered it. But then, as
the reader sees, it had been more than four years in the writing. The
inspiration had come from day to day, and he poured out here the
expression of what he had been thinking and feeling, in joy and sorrow,
in hope and fear, in learning and forgetting, for all that period of
crisis and strain.

I believe I may tell—and it shall close these broken reminiscences of
the war—a story which was familiarly told at the time, and which is
true. I have heard it in one or two forms, and to secure accuracy now I
have asked the gentleman whom I may call the hero of the story for his
own account of it. He was one of Lowell’s pupils, in the “battle class”
of 1862. He has sent it to me in the following words:—

  “I spent the night before Commemoration Day on a lounge in Hollis 21,
  the room of my classmate Hudson, who was a tutor. I could not
  afterwards remember dreaming of anything in particular; but as I woke
  I _heard_,

            ‘And what they dare to dream of, dare to die for.’

  “‘Rather a good sentiment,’ I said to myself; ‘and it seems to be
  appropriate to the day,’—then just dawning. And so I dropped off

  “The dinner was spread, as you remember, in the green bounded by
  Harvard, Hollis, and Holden. My seat was just about in the middle.
  Mr. Lowell was a few rods nearer Holden and a good deal nearer
  Hollis,—about under the more southerly window of Hollis 21. When he
  rose, there was a prolonged closing of the ranks,—I remember the
  rustle of many feet on the grass,—and Mr. Lowell waited till all was
  quiet before he began reading. As he read, when he came to the words,

                         ‘Their higher instinct knew
                     Those love her best,’—

  I began to feel, not that I had heard this before, but that
  _something familiar was coming_.

                      ‘Who to themselves are true,’

  went on the reader. ‘Hullo!’ said I to myself, ‘I ought to know the
  next line.’

                          ‘And what they dare’—

  “‘Yes, but it isn’t going to rhyme,’ and this without distinctly
  repeating the rest of the line.”

  When my friend had observed that “die for” would not rhyme with
  “true,” Lowell came to his relief by saying,

              “And what they dare to dream of, dare to do.”

So well authenticated a story of sympathy and telepathy seems worth


                              CHAPTER XII

                        TWENTY YEARS OF HARVARD

Mr. Lowell’s real connection with the daily work of the college ceased
in 1876, when he accepted the offer of the mission to Spain. It covered
the period when he wrote most, and when, as his cousin has said so
well, in the passage I have cited, his work in prose and poetry proved
to be most satisfactory to himself. His duty afterwards as a
diplomatist, in Spain and in England, was of value to the country and
of credit to himself. And his life as a man of letters had prepared him
for such work. But, all the same, it is as a man of letters that he
will be most generally remembered.

During the twenty-one years from 1855 to 1876 the college was going
through the change which has made it the university which it is. It had
not only enlarged in the number of pupils, but the purposes and range
of all persons connected with it widened with every year. This change
from the “seminary,” as President Quincy used to call it, to the
university of to-day has not been wrought by any spasmodic revolution
planned by either of the governing bodies at any given time. It has
come about, healthy and strong, in the growth of the country—let us
even say in the improvement of the world.

Presidents Quincy, Everett, Sparks, and Walker were all engaged in
promoting the evolution of the university. After the close of that
series come Thomas Hill and Charles William Eliot, the present
incumbent, to whose energy, foresight, and courage so much of what may
be called this revolution is due. I have already made some notes here
of Mr. Quincy and Dr. Walker. It was in Walker’s administration that
Lowell returned to the college as Smith professor.

Cornelius Conway Felton, who succeeded Dr. Walker, had been the Greek
professor, and had distinguished himself in his place as an editor of
Homer and in papers on subjects of Greek literature. Perhaps he soon
wore out his hopes for classes of schoolboys. Certainly in my time and
Lowell’s, when we were undergraduates, he made little or no effort as a
teacher to open out the work of the Greek poets whom we read. Alkestis
or the Iliad were literally mere text-books. All the same, the boys
believed in Felton. I remember one scene of great excitement when he
was a professor, when we thought we were very badly used by the
government, as perhaps we were. There was a great crowd of us in front
of Holworthy, and Felton appeared on the steps of Stoughton or at a
window. Somebody shouted, “Hear Felton! hear Felton! he tells us the
truth,” and the noisy mob was still to listen. A man might be glad to
have these words carved on his tombstone.

When with other men of letters, Dr. Felton was charming. And his
kindness to his old pupils till they died was something marvelous. The
published Sumner letters, the Longfellow letters, and other
correspondence of the men of that time, with many of his careful
reviews, and an occasional pamphlet, perhaps on some subject of
controversy now forgotten, show how highly he was prized in his day and
how well he deserved such esteem. For many years he was one of the most
acceptable writers for the “North American Review.” He died, suddenly,
after less than two years of service as President.

President Felton’s successor, Thomas Hill, was a graduate of Harvard,
as all her presidents have been since Chauncy died in 1672. Dr. Hill
was of a noble family,—if we count nobility on the true standards,—who
were driven out of England by the Birmingham riots of 1791, and settled
near Philadelphia. Dr. Hill was appointed president of Antioch College,
Ohio, in 1859, and, after a very successful administration there, he
was inaugurated at Cambridge in 1862. At Antioch he had succeeded
Horace Mann in the presidency.

Dr. Hill’s health failed, and he resigned in 1868, leaving behind him
charming memories of his devotion to duty and of the simplicity of his
character. I called upon him once, with Dr. Newman Hall, when he was in
this country. It was delightful to see the enthusiasm with which Dr.
Hill spoke of the pleasure he expected in the evenings of the
approaching winter, from studying, with his charming wife, the new text
of the Syriac version of the New Testament, which had then just been
edited by Cureton. He was one of the most distinguished mathematicians
of his time. Here is an amusing note to him from Lowell about the
arboriculture of the college yard.

  MY DEAR DR. HILL,—I have been meaning to speak to you for some time
  about something which I believe you are interested in as well as
  myself, and, not having spoken, I make occasion to write this note.
  Something ought to be done about the trees in the college yard. That
  is my thesis, and my corollary is that you are the man to do it. They
  remind me always of a young author’s first volume of poems. There are
  too many of ’em, and too many of one kind. If they were not planted
  in such formal rows, they would typify very well John Bull’s notion
  of “our democracy,” where every tree is its neighbor’s enemy, and all
  turn out scrubs in the end, because none can develop fairly. Then
  there is scarce anything but American elms. I have nothing to say
  against the tree in itself. I have some myself whose trunks I look on
  as the most precious baggage I am responsible for in the journey of
  life; but planted as they are in the yard, there ’s no chance for one
  in ten. If our buildings so nobly dispute architectural preëminence
  with cotton mills, perhaps it is all right that the trees should
  become spindles; but I think Hesiod (who knew something of country
  matters) was clearly right in his half being better than the whole,
  and nowhere more so than in the matter of trees. There are two
  English beeches in the yard which would become noble trees if the
  elms would let ’em alone. As it is, they are in danger of starving.
  Now, as you are our Kubernetes, I want you to take the ’elm in hand.
  We want more variety, more grouping. We want to learn that one fine
  tree is worth more than any mob of second-rate ones. We want to take
  a leaf out of Chaucer’s book, and understand that in a stately grove
  every tree must “stand well from his fellow apart.” A doom hangs over
  us in the matter of architecture, but if we will only let a tree
  alone, it will build itself with a nobleness of proportion and grace
  of detail that Giotto himself might have envied. Nor should the
  pruning as now be trusted to men who get all they cut off, and whose
  whole notion of pruning, accordingly, is “ax and it shall be given
  unto you.” Do, pray, take this matter into your own hands—for you
  know how to love a tree—and give us a modern instance of a wise saw.
  Be remembered among your other good things as the president that
  planted the groups of evergreens for the wind to dream of the sea in
  all summer, and for the snowflakes to roost on all winter, and
  believe me (at the end of my sheet, though not of my sermon) always
  cordially yours,

                                                            J.R. LOWELL.

  ELMWOOD, December 8, 1863.

                  *       *       *       *       *

After President Hill’s resignation, Dr. Andrew Preston Peabody acted as
president until the appointment in 1869 of Mr. Eliot.


I have already spoken, in one connection or another, of the professors
to whom Lowell was most closely drawn,—with one or two exceptions. Dr.
Asa Gray, the distinguished chief of botany in America, made his home a
centre of all that was charming and interesting in the delightful
circle of Cambridge society. Nothing could be more interesting than the
simplicity of the spirited conversation of this most learned man, and
the ease with which, while he really knew almost everything that was
worth knowing, he spoke, with utter absence of effect or visible
erudition. Where a working gardener would tell you with delight that
this or that plant was the “_Tomfoolaria eruditissima_,” Gray would
say, “Oh! that’s one of those Australian sandworts.” When he was still
as fresh and cheerful as a boy, I heard him say, “It is great fun to be
seventy years old. You do not have to know everything.”

Another of his colleagues who gave distinction to the college, in
America and in Europe, was the late Josiah Parsons Cooke, whose
position as a teacher and in the ranks of original students in
chemistry is so well known.

Lowell’s own charming poem to Agassiz will be recalled by every one who
cares for his life at Harvard. Not long after Agassiz had been invited
from Switzerland to lecture before the Lowell Institute, he was
appointed to a professorship in Cambridge, and he accepted the
appointment. He lived in Cambridge from that time until he died, loving
and beloved, in 1873. Mr. John Amory Lowell, the cousin of our Lowell,
in his plans for the Lowell Institute, engaged Louis Agassiz to deliver
one of their courses in 1847. His arrival in America may be spoken of
as marking an era in education. Indeed, if the Lowell Institute had
never done anything else for America than it did when it “imported
Agassiz,” it would have a perpetual claim for our gratitude. With his
arrival there was ended, once and forever, the poor habit of studying
Nature through the eyes of other observers. Men learned again the
lesson which makes them see where they look. For it may be fairly said
that Agassiz created here the school of original study which has for a
generation past directed the progress of natural science in America. I
believe I ought to say that the phrase “imported Agassiz,” which I have
ventured to quote, is Lowell’s own. In his address at the
Quarter-Millennial of the college he had the hardihood to say that
Harvard had not yet developed any first-rate educator, “for we imported

[Illustration: LOUIS AGASSIZ]

I have never forgotten the enthusiasm of Agassiz’s audience the first
time I ever heard him. His subject was the First Ascent of the
Jungfrau, the maiden mountain which had never been scaled by man until
Agassiz led the way. He told us, with eager memory, of all the
preparations made for what men thought the hopeless invasion of those
untrodden snows, of the personnel of the party, of their last night and
early morning start at some encampment halfway up; and then, almost
step by step, of the sheer ascent at the last, until, man by man, one
after another, each man stood alone, where two cannot stand together,
on that little triangle of rock which is the summit. “And I looked down
into Swisserland.” As I heard him utter these simple words of triumph,
I said that Mr. Lowell might take credit to himself for bringing before
our audience the noblest and best specimen, so far discovered, of that
greatest species of mammalia—long studied, but as yet little known—of
the very finest type, from the widely scattered genus of the race of

The simplicity of Agassiz’s mode of address captivated all hearers. He
put himself at once in touch with the common-school teachers. He had
none of that absurd conceit which has sometimes parted college
professors from sympathetic work with their brothers and sisters who
have the first duty, in the district and town schools, in the infinite
work of instruction and education.

Agassiz’s Cambridge life brought into Cambridge a good many of his
European friends, and broke up the strictness of a village coterie by
the accent, not to say the customs, of cosmopolitan life. To say true,
the denizens of the forest sometimes intermixed closely with the
well-trained European scholars. There used to be a fine story of a
dinner-party at Dr. Arnold Guyot’s when he lived at Cambridge. An
admiring friend had sent Guyot as a present a black bear, which was
confined in the cellar of his house. Another friend had sent him a
little barrel of cider, which was also in the cellar. As the dinner
went on upstairs, ominous rumblings were heard below, and suddenly an
attendant rushed in on the feast, announcing that the bear had got
loose, had been drinking the cider, had got drunk, and was now coming
upstairs. The guests fled through windows and doors. I am not sure that
Lowell was one of them, but the anecdote belongs in notices of his

I should not dare speak of a “village coterie,” nor intimate that at
Cambridge there were men who had never heard of Fujiyama, or of places,
indeed, not twenty miles away, but that these anecdotes belong a
generation and more ago.

One of Lowell’s fellow professors told me this curious story, which
will illustrate the narrowness of New England observation at that time.
There appeared at Cambridge in the year 1859 a young gentleman named
Robert Todd Lincoln, who has been already quoted, and is quite well
known in this country and in England. This young man wished to enter
Harvard College, and his father, one Abraham Lincoln, who has since
been known in the larger world, had fortified him with a letter of
introduction to Dr. Walker, the president of the college. This letter
of introduction was given by one Stephen A. Douglas, who was a person
also then quite well known in political life, and he presented the
young man to Dr. Walker as being the son of his friend Abraham Lincoln,
“with whom I have lately been canvassing the State of Illinois.” When
this letter, now so curious in history, was read, Lowell said to my
friend who tells me the story, “I suppose I am the only man in this
room who has ever heard of this Abraham Lincoln; but he is the person
with whom Douglas has been traveling up and down in Illinois,
canvassing the State in their new Western fashion, as representatives
of the two parties, each of them being the candidate for the vacant
seat in the Senate.” What is more, my friend says it is probably true
that at the moment when this letter was presented by young Robert
Lincoln, none of the faculty of Harvard College, excepting Lowell, had
ever heard of Abraham Lincoln. The story is a good one, as showing how
far it was in those days possible for a circle of intelligent men to
know little or nothing of what was happening in the world beyond the
sound of their college bell.[9]

It would be almost of course that, in a series of reminiscences which
are not simply about Lowell but about his friends, I should include
some careful history of the Saturday Club, which has held its regular
meetings up to this time from the date of the dinner-party given by Mr.
Phillips, as already described in the history of the “Atlantic.” But
that story has been so well told by Mr. Morse in his memoir of Dr.
Holmes, and by Mr. Cooke in the “New England Magazine,” that I need
hardly do more than repeat what has been said before. In Morse’s “Life
of Dr. Holmes” there are two pages of admirably well-selected pictures
of some of the members best known. When the reader sees the names of
gentlemen who have attended the club more or less regularly in forty
years, he will readily understand why Emerson and Holmes and Lowell and
others of their contemporaries have spoken of the talk there as being
as good talk as they had ever heard anywhere. Holmes’s list, besides
himself, was Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Lowell, Motley, Whipple,
Whittier, Professors Agassiz and Peirce; John Sullivan Dwight, Governor
Andrew, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and Charles Sumner, Presidents Felton
and Eliot, Professors Norton and Goodwin, William Hickling Prescott,
Thomas Gold Appleton, John Murray Forbes, John Elliot Cabot, Henry
James, William Dean Howells, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, William Morris
Hunt, Charles Francis Adams, Francis Parkman, James Freeman Clarke,
Judge Lowell, Judge Hoar, George Frisbie Hoar, and Bishop Brooks.


One of the last times when I saw Lowell and Emerson together was on the
18th of July, 1867, when Emerson delivered his second Phi Beta Kappa
address. It had never happened before, I think, that the same orator
should have spoken twice before Phi Beta Kappa with an interval of
thirty years between the orations; nor is it probable that such a thing
will ever happen again. In 1837 the word Transcendentalist was new, and
it was considered “good form” to ridicule the Transcendentalists, and
especially to ridicule Emerson. Yet he had his admirers then,
especially his admirers in college, where the recollections of his
poetry and philosophy, as shown when he was an undergraduate, had not
died out. A few years ago I printed his two Bowdoin prize
dissertations, written when he was seventeen and eighteen years of age,
and they are enough to show that the boy, at that age, was father of
the man. When he spoke in 1837, the oration was received in a certain
patronizing way by his seniors. Mr. Cabot says, “He was regarded as a
promising young beginner, from whom a fair poetical speech might be
expected,” and the address was spoken of with a gay badinage such as
could not be called criticism. I remember, at the frugal dinner-party
of Phi Beta Kappa after the oration of 1837, Mr. Edward Everett, who
was an enthusiastic Cambridge man and college man and Phi Beta man,
said with perfect good nature of the Transcendentalists, that their
utterances seemed to him to be compounded like the bolts of Jupiter,—

           “Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosæ
           Addiderant, rutili tres ignis, et alitis Austri,”

and made this extempore translation:—

     “Three parts were raging fire, and three were whelming water,
     But three were thirsty cloud, and three were empty wind!”

Emerson was too young and too modest, and had too much real regard and
respect for Everett, to make the reply which one thinks of now:
“Whatever the bolts were made of, they were thunderbolts; and from
Vulcan’s time to this time, people had better stand out from under when
a thunderbolt is falling.” I can see Emerson now, as he smiled and was

After thirty years people did not say much about “thirsty cloud” or
“empty wind.” Emerson was in the zenith of his fame. He was “the Buddha
of the West,”—that is Doctor Holmes’s phrase. He was “the Yankee
Plato,”—I believe that is Lowell’s. And Phi Beta made amends for any
vague questioning in the past by the enthusiasm with which it received
him for the second time.

A queer thing happened on that morning. Emerson had a passion to the
last for changing the order of his utterances. He would put the tenth
sheet in place of the fifth, and the fifth in place of the fifteenth,
up to the issue of the last “extra” of an oration. It was Miss Ellen
Emerson, I think, who took upon herself the duty of putting these
sheets in order on this occasion, and sewing them so stiffly together
that they could not be twitched apart by any sudden movement at the
desk. But the fact that they were sewed together was an embarrassment
to him. What was worse was that he met his brother, William Emerson,
that morning. I think they looked over the address together, and in
doing so it happened that Waldo Emerson took William Emerson’s glasses
and William took Waldo’s. Waldo did not discover his error till he
stood in the pulpit before the assembly. Worse than either, perhaps,
some too careful janitor had carried away the high desk from the pulpit
of the church, and had left Emerson, tall and with the wrong
spectacles, to read the address far below his eyes. It was not till the
first passage of the address was finished that this difficulty of the
desk could be rectified; but the whole audience was in sympathy with
him, and the little hitch, if one may call it so, which this made
seemed only to bring them closer together.

The address will be found in the eighth volume of his works, and will
be remembered by every one who heard it; but, on the whole, what
impresses me the most in memory is the hearty thoroughness and
cordiality of Lowell’s congratulations when Emerson turned round after
finishing the oration. “_Par nobile fratrum_,” as one said; and one
felt glad to have seen two such men together on such a day. Lowell
himself said of it, a few days later:—

  “Emerson’s oration was more disjointed than usual even with him. It
  began nowhere and ended everywhere; and yet, as always with that
  divine man, it left you feeling that something beautiful had passed
  that way, something more beautiful than anything else, like the
  rising and setting of stars. Every possible criticism might have been
  made on it, except that it was not noble. There was a tone in it that
  awakened all elevating associations. He boggled, he lost his place,
  he had to put on his glasses; but it was as if a creature from some
  fairer world had lost his way in our fogs, and it was our fault and
  not his. It was chaotic, but it was all such stuff as stars are made
  of, and you could not help feeling that if you waited awhile all that
  was nebulous would be hurled into planets, and would assume the
  mathematical gravity of system. All through it I felt something in me
  that cried, ‘Ha, ha! to the sound of trumpets!’”

On the 9th of July, 1872, Lowell and Mrs. Lowell sailed for Europe,
without any plans, as he himself says. They remained abroad two years.
They landed in England, but early in the winter he established himself,
for six months as it proved, in Paris. They were in a nice little hotel
there, where he is still remembered cordially,—the Hotel de France et
Lorraine. Here they lived quietly from November to the next summer.

He was in Paris in the last years of M. Thiers. The interests of
politics centred on the relations between President Thiers and the
Commission of Thirty,—long since, I am afraid, forgotten by this
reader. Lowell writes of Thiers’s resignation, which closed his long
career of public life, “I think it was the egotism of Thiers that
overset him rather than any policy he was supposed to have.”

Of this sojourn in Paris a near friend of his gives me the following
pleasant note:—

  “In the little office of the Hotel France et Lorraine, Rue de Beaune,
  Paris, hangs a fairly good likeness of James Russell Lowell, a large
  photograph, I think, taken some years before his death. It is, and
  has been for twenty years and more, the presiding presence of the
  little sanctum where Madame and Monsieur sit and make out their (very
  reasonable) bills and count their gains. The hotel is still a most
  attractive retreat for a certain class of us, who like quiet and
  comfort without display. Rue de Beaune is a narrow little street
  leading off the Quai Voltaire, which runs parallel to the Seine. On
  the opposite shore of the river are the fine buildings of the
  Tuileries and the Louvre; between flows the steady stream, covered
  with little steamers, pleasure-boats, bateaux-mouches, tugs. The
  great Pont-Royal crosses the river, very near Rue de Beaune, to the
  Rue des Pyramides through the gardens of the Tuileries. It is one of
  the prettiest though not the gayest parts of Paris. The bridge and
  adjoining streets are crowded with life on foot and on omnibus; but
  take one step into Rue de Beaune, and you find silence, peace, and

  “In the winter of 1872-73 Mr. and Mrs. Lowell were living at this
  modest but well-known hotel, in its grandest apartments _au premier_.
  Somewhat dark and dingy even then, more so now, but neat and
  comfortable. The house must be very old. It is built round a little
  _cour_, or rather two little courts; and a winding staircase leads up
  through the principal part to the landings of the several stories.
  There were two parlors, if I remember, communicating. The walls were
  lined with bookcases, filled with Mr. Lowell’s books, and other
  furniture of the cosy, comfortable order, when they established
  themselves in these congenial quarters.

  “Here they lived, read, wrote, talked, enjoyed themselves. Mr. Lowell
  was probably writing something of importance, but he had at that time
  no public or official business, no pressing engagements. He was, in
  fact, doing just what he pleased all the time. Of course his
  acquaintance was large in the American colony and among the best
  French society of Paris, but I do not think he troubled himself about
  it much. He delighted in prowling about the book-stalls which abound
  in the Quai Voltaire, where old rubbish in print is displayed along
  the parapet of the river in tempting openness, and where a real
  book-worm may rummage and find something really valuable among
  apparently hopeless stuff. He loved a quiet little dinner (in their
  rooms) _à quatre_, or, still better, _à trois_, where the food was
  good enough, and the talk excellent; his cigar came afterwards. Mrs.
  Lowell, his sympathetic and congenial companion, sat smiling and
  interested at such times, like the proper wife of a good talker, not
  talking much herself, but showing in her pleasant, refined face that
  she appreciated and enjoyed the fun. Although her health, even then,
  was delicate, she was strong enough to share his life and interests.
  What they both liked the most was the quiet of their own fireside,
  and the unmolested pursuit of literary pleasures, stimulated by all
  the resources of the great city, without any parade, or the burden of
  a crowd of engagements. They might have been any humdrum couple of
  small means, passing the winter in the most delightful city in the
  world, with all the resources in themselves of wit, intelligence, and
  mutual affection.”

While Lowell was in Europe, King Amadeo, the Italian sovereign of
Spain, abdicated, and the republic of Castelar was born. Lowell was in
Venice in November, 1873, at the time of the Virginius massacre. But he
does not seem to have known, better than any others of his countrymen
in Europe, how near we were to war with the Spanish republic. Yet in
that month Mr. Fish had instructed Mr. Sickles to break off relations
with the Spanish government unless they could reform their Cuban
administration. “If Spain cannot redress these outrages, the United
States will.” Such were the words in his telegram to Madrid of November
15, 1873.

Lowell had once and again visited his old friend William Story in his
residence in Italy. The Storys had visited America in 1865. With Mrs.
Lowell he now had an opportunity to visit them in Rome.

Since Mr. Story went to Rome with his wife in 1847 he had been devoting
himself to sculpture, but he had never forgotten his American friends;
and his light pen kept him in the memory of many of those who did not
see his statues. His Cleopatra had won general approval. When the
Lowells visited Rome in 1873 Story’s Alkestis was new, and Lowell
writes of it with genuine pleasure. “It was so pleasant to be able to
say frankly, ‘You have done something really fine, and which everybody
will like.’ I wonder whether I shall ever give that pleasure to
anybody.” This, observe, dear reader, as late as 1874.

Lowell returned to America in the summer of that year, arriving in
Elmwood on the Fourth of July.

I myself do not believe that a long residence in Europe is of great
help to an American gentleman or lady so far as an estimate of one’s
own country goes. They are apt to read the London “Times’s” view of
America, or that contained in Galignani’s newspaper, or possibly the
Paris edition of the New York “Herald.” These utterances from day to
day are not encouraging; but if they were true and adequate, one need
not complain of discouragement. The truth is, however, that they are
not adequate, and therefore they are not true. For one month when I was
in Europe in 1873 the daily American dispatch in the “Times” was
confined to the fortunes of some wretched Modoc Indians in California,
who were hiding among their rocks and were being killed one by one by
sharpshooters. For the rest there was practically nothing,—nothing
which showed me that brave boys were growing into brave men, that good
girls were growing into pure women, that universities and libraries and
Chautauquas and summer schools were giving a liberal education to half
my country, that merchants were telling the truth and acting the truth,
and inventors were renewing the world.

I go a little out of the way to say this, because I observe that Mr. A.
Lawrence Lowell, in his admirable notice of his cousin’s life, suggests
that his stay in Europe in 1872-73 to a certain extent modified his
notion with regard to America and American politics. Mr. A. Lawrence
Lowell uses the following words:—

  “During his stay in Europe Lowell had been distressed at the
  condition of politics in this country, and annoyed at the expressions
  of contempt for America it had called forth on the other side of the
  Atlantic. On his return he was horrified by the lack of indignation
  at corruption in public life, for the intense party feeling
  engendered by the war was still too strong to permit independent
  judgment in politics. He expressed his disgust in a couple of poems
  in ‘The Nation,’ called ‘The World’s Fair’ and ‘Tempora Mutantur.’
  The verses were not of a high order of poetry, and at first one
  regrets that Hosea Biglow did not come out once more to do battle
  with the spoils system, as he had with the slave power long ago; but
  the subject was not one that made it possible. Among the archaic
  sculptures buried on the Acropolis after the sack of Athens by
  Xerxes, and recently unearthed, is a fragment of a pediment
  representing Hercules and the Hydra. The hero is on all fours
  alongside the monster in a cave, a fitting type of the way political
  corruption must be fought at the present day. The war with slavery,
  like that of Perseus with the dragon, could be waged on wings with a
  flashing sword; but the modern reformer must go down on his hands and
  knees and struggle with reptiles in the dark.”

[Illustration: THE HALL, ELMWOOD]

Whether Lowell were right or wrong in thinking that a new wave of
Philistinism had overwhelmed the administration of America is of no
great importance to us here. I think he was wrong. I think that the
American people govern America, and that the intrigues or devices of
the men who “run with the machine” are of much less importance than
very young people suppose, who read very poor though very conceited
weekly newspapers. However that may be, this country has received great
advantage from Lowell’s determined interference and interaction in our
politics in the years which followed his return in 1874. So vigorous
were his writings that he was at once recognized as a pure public
leader. I have always found that the “machine” is eager to join hands
with any man of literary, inventive, or business ability who is
willing, as the phrase is, to “go into politics.” Certainly this was so
in Lowell’s case, and in the autumn of 1876 he was asked to take a seat
in Congress which we call in Massachusetts the South Middlesex seat. It
was the seat which Edward Everett had captured years before, in the
face of the machine of his time. It was the seat which William Everett
afterwards captured, by fine audacity, although he was not even a
resident in the district. Lowell might have gone to the Congress of
1877 if he had chosen. He declined the position, estimating correctly
his abilities and inabilities as a member of a legislative body, “as it
seems to me.” But, with the same desire to show that men of character
and ability were interested in the Republican party, the nominating
convention made him an elector for the presidency.

It was in the famous election after which Hayes was declared to be
President by the electoral commission. I will say in passing that, as
acting president of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, it had been
my business to see to the transfer of two or three thousand voters from
the North into Florida in the years after the rebellion, and that it
was no matter of surprise to me, therefore, that the electoral
commission pronounced that Florida had given a Republican vote. I
believe Florida would give such a vote to-day, if there were any chance
of its being counted.

When it was clear that the election of Mr. Hayes would depend on a
single ballot in the electoral college, there were intriguers so mean
as to suggest that possibly Mr. Lowell might be persuaded—I suppose by
considerations which such men understand better than I do—to give a
vote for Mr. Tilden. Any such hopes as these Mr. Lowell very promptly
suppressed, as such a man can. That little correspondence, however,
called attention to his name, even in the somewhat dark council
chambers of the people who distrust “them littery fellers.”

Fortunately for America also, in all turns of our politics there has
been the same sense of the value of literature and of the sphere of men
of letters which has given the world about all the good diplomacy which
the world has ever had. Somewhat as Franklin was sent to France because
the French had heard of him before, quite as Motley was sent to Vienna
because he knew something about history and could speak the language of
Germany, exactly as Mr. Irving had been sent to Spain as our minister,
the new administration made advances to Mr. Lowell to ask him if he
would not represent us at one of the European courts.

The following notes may be published now, for the study of annalists,
as most of the people who are referred to are dead:—

  (April 13, 1876.) “What I meant to say was that if, when the Russian
  embassy was offered me, it had been the English instead, I should
  have hesitated before saying no. But with the salary cut down as it
  is now, I couldn’t afford to take it, for I could not support it

  (April 19, 1876.) “I return Mr. Fish’s letter. There is no more
  chance of their sending me to St. James’s than to the moon, though I
  might not be unwilling to go. On the old salary I might manage, and
  it might do my health good. I have little doubt that it was offered
  to L. with the understanding that he would decline. I have not seen
  him for a few days. But it is too large a plum for anybody not
  ‘inside politics.’ It is the only mission where the vernacular
  sufficeth. Meanwhile, you will be amused to hear that I am getting
  inside politics after a fashion. I shall probably head the delegation
  from our ward to the state convention.”

Four foreign missions were offered him. He declined all, but in
declining said, perhaps without much thought, that if they had offered
him the mission to Spain, he would have gone. Mr. Evarts was Secretary
of State, and it may readily be imagined that he was able “to manage
it.” And so it was that this professor in Harvard College, who had kept
his eyes so far open that he knew of the existence of Abraham Lincoln
in 1860, was appointed to represent the United States in Spain.


                              CHAPTER XIII
                          MR. LOWELL IN SPAIN

The reader ought to understand that while the Spanish mission has
always been spoken of by uninformed people as a somewhat lazy corner in
that somewhat old-fashioned salon which takes the name of “Diplomacy,”
the United States minister in Spain has always been walking amidst hot
coals, or explosive friction matches. Some drowsy people, whose
principal business in life has been to cut off the coupons from
securities which other people had earned for them, waked up with
surprise when they learned that this country had at last taken up the
gauntlet of war. The United States meant to finish the job which Drake
and Burleigh and Howard and Elizabeth left unfinished three centuries
ago. But other people were not surprised. If they have cared about the
history of the hundred years which have made the United States a
nation,—and which have seen ten or twelve changes either of
constitution or of dynasty in Spain,—men have known that open
questions, some of them of great seriousness, have all the time
entangled the diplomatic web which was woven between the two nations.

Into the heritage of these complications Lowell came when—in a pacific
time—he presented his credentials at Madrid. The sovereign then on the
throne was Alfonso XII., and one of Lowell’s earliest dispatches
describes the ceremonies attending his marriage with Mercedes, the
young princess. The minister of foreign affairs was Don Fernando
Calderon Collantes. The short-lived republic which began in 1873, on
the abdication of Amadeo of Savoy, had, in its time, given way, and the
old Bourbon family had returned in the person of Alfonso XII.

In the short period of the republic I happened to be editing the
magazine called “Old and New,” in Boston. Like most intelligent
Americans, I hoped to see republican government extend itself in Europe.

I wanted, at all events, that our readers should know the truth about
it. I struck high, as an editor always should do. So I waited on
Charles Francis Adams, the same who had carried through our
negotiations with England in the civil war with such masterly success.
If there ever were a Republican and Democrat, it was he; if there ever
were a person confident in the strength of America, it was he; and I
certainly expected his sympathy in the cause of the new-born Spanish

I asked him to write our article on Spain and the new republic. He
listened to me with all his perfect courtesy; and then he advised me—I
might say he bade me—take no stock in the enterprise. I pressed him; I
said, “Surely, we want to extend republican institutions in Europe?”
And he smiled, sadly enough, and said, “Do not expect anything of
Spain, Mr. Hale. _The truth is not in them._”

In this old Bible axiom of Covenanters and of Puritans is the secret of
all the difficulties between England and Spain in Drake’s time, between
this country and Spain in Jefferson’s day, and in each of the crises of
negotiation since. Spain and her statesmen really think that a lie well
stuck to is as good as the truth. Our representatives do not think so.
The difference makes a jar when the neophyte in diplomacy discovers it.

In the unpublished “Pickering correspondence” are some curious
memoranda which show what Jefferson thought and planned. Jefferson had
seen the real Philip Nolan killed, and nine American companions of his
kept in lifelong imprisonment in Mexico because the Spanish government
violated its own passports. This all began as early as 1801. In 1825
Mr. Alexander Everett, our minister in Spain, offered the Spanish
government one hundred millions for Cuba. Under Mr. Polk’s government,
twenty years after, the offer was renewed. Mr. Soulé, our minister in
Madrid between 1853 and 1855, complicated matters by his personal
quarrels. He fought a duel with Turgot, the French minister, and
incurred the dislike, naturally enough, of the French government. At a
conference of three American foreign ministers at Ostend in 1854,
Buchanan, Mason, and himself, Soulé pressed the importance of the
annexation of Cuba to the United States, and carried with him both of
his coadjutors.

But it is not at all necessary that we should enter into the details of
these complications. The history of all this diplomacy has been
admirably written by Professor Hart, and is published in “Harper’s
Magazine” of June, 1898. We should probably have gone to war with Spain
at Mr. Soulé’s suggestion, but that at that moment, in 1854 and 1855,
the weak government of that weakest of men, Franklin Pierce, was in
very hot water at home. The administration had offended the whole North
by its operations in Kansas, and it was no time to ask for a war which
seemed likely to end in the annexation of another slave State to the
Union. Mr. Soulé was recalled, and some sort of _modus vivendi_ was
patched up which carried us through the civil war. Mr. Lincoln
appointed Mr. Koerner as our minister in Spain, who was succeeded by
Mr. John Parker Hale.

One is glad to say that at this time the drift of the somewhat wayward
movements of Spanish administration was in our favor. A curious little
anecdote, which I think has never been printed, illustrates this; and
as it has an indirect bearing on after diplomacy, I will repeat it
here. After our civil war had ground along for nearly three years,
Louis Napoleon, as will be remembered, took a hand in it. He formed the
ingenious plan of uniting other nations in a change of the
international law governing blockades. The admiralty law of the world
at present extends the jurisdiction of any nation for one marine league
from its shores. If, therefore, a blockade-runner could get within
three miles of Jamaica, Cuba, or Porto Rico, he was safe from any
interference from our blockading fleet. Napoleon ingeniously proposed
that, instead of one league, this limit of local sovereignty should be
extended to three leagues from shore. He knew well enough that England
would never consent to this change; but he had that audacity which
enabled him to persuade the Spanish minister to come into his plan.

Maps of the West Indies are now plenty, and any reader who will look at
the position of Cuba, Porto Rico, and the little French islands in the
West Indies will see how seriously such an extension of a neutral limit
would have hindered the operations of our blockading fleets. All this
negotiation was conducted with great secrecy, and orders were sent from
Spain to the West Indies, instructing the local authorities there to
extend threefold the range of their dominion over the sea. These orders
had already gone when Mr. Horatio Perry, our secretary of legation at
that time, got wind of this treachery of our ally.

What Mr. Perry did in this issue was wise. He told his wife. She went
immediately and told the Duchess of Montpensier, who had none too great
love of Louis Napoleon, “the nephew of his uncle,” and the occupant of
Louis Philippe’s throne. She told her sister, the queen. The queen sent
at once for Mr. Perry.

He told her what the emperor had done, and what her own ministers had
done. I suppose he said, “You are injuring your best friends,—at the
solicitation of this intriguer, whom you hate, and who is your worst
enemy.” The queen said this was the first she had heard of the matter,
and she would send for her prime minister.

So she did. And he came. And she asked him if this thing had been done.
And he confessed that it had; Her Majesty had signed the order on such
or such a day.

“But no one told me what it meant,” said poor Isabella. “No one told me
that this was a heavy blow to my American allies.”

No. No one had told her. The minister explained that as well as he
could. If Her Majesty disliked it, he was sorry, but he was too late to
help it. Why too late? the queen asked. Because a steamer had gone to
the West Indian fleet with the orders which changed one league to three

Then Queen Isabella spoke the words which, as I count it, were the best
words of her life:—

“It is not too late for me to accept your resignations.”

And when it came to that, it proved that the Señor Don did not want to
resign, and the other Señores Dons did not want to resign, and they
found a fast steamer to take out orders rescinding the other orders.
And so the Emperor Napoleon got a slap in his face, and so the blockade
was maintained for the next year.

And so Spain scored one on her private account with the Washington
government, and Isabella II. found one decent thing on the credit side
when she stood at the bar of St. Peter or history.

Whoever will refer to the published state papers will find no reference
to this interesting incident. It is the sort of thing they leave out in
printing. But you can see that it must have taken place in the autumn
of 1863, if you will read between the lines.

As I have said, the intelligent reader of these lines has read
Professor Hart’s admirable review of the diplomacy of the United States
and Spain regarding Cuba for a hundred years; or, if he has not read
it, he had better read it as soon as he can find the “Harper’s” for
June, 1898. He will learn that in that century there were but two cases
of direct interference with the destinies of Cuba, one by President
John Quincy Adams in 1826, and one by President Grant in 1875. At the
same time he will find that there were filibusters in 1849, 1851, again
in the years 1868–78, again in 1884–85, when the American
administration gave these filibusters neither aid nor comfort. In 1854
and 1873 there came reasons for war, and they were not regarded.
Simply, these references to events of the utmost importance will show
the reader what were the traditions of our legation in Madrid when Mr.
Lowell arrived there, in August of 1877.

I must have talked with him about the Spanish politics of his time, for
I saw him often in London, just before I visited Spain in 1882, and I
traveled there with the benefit of his instructions. But I kept no
notes of what he said, and I dare not refer any of my own impressions
directly to him. For myself in Spain I had only the poor chance which a
traveler of forty days has to learn from the daily newspapers, from
table-d’hôte talk, and from interviews, too short, with intelligent men
of all parties and professions.

I conceived a very high respect for the rank and file of the Spanish
people. Ignorant? Yes, if reading and writing are the tests of
ignorance, for only one fifth of the population can read their own
language. But the people themselves, the average people, as I saw them,
seemed to me a very civil, friendly, self-respecting, thoughtful, and
industrious people. They were ready to oblige a stranger, and they did
not expect a penny or a shilling, as an Englishman or an Irishman does
when he has obliged a stranger.

I see that careful students of the position now say that the class of
people in administration in Spain, the people who make and unmake
ministries and dynasties, are more absolutely separate from what I call
the rank and file than anywhere else in the world. I had a suspicion of
this when I was in Spain.

At the same time I observed that the circulation of the daily
newspapers in Madrid was as great as is that of the papers in Boston,
the two cities being near the same size. They were bitter and violent
in their satire and in their attacks on each other. I think there were
three bright and well-illustrated comic dailies, each with a large
colored cartoon. Here, I think, was the tribute to the people who could
not read. I suppose that the proportion of people who can read is much
larger in Madrid than in the whole nation.

Sagasta was at the helm in 1882, as he is in 1898. I find that I wrote
of him then, “If you trusted the newspapers, you would say that there
is only one man in Spain, or possibly two, who wanted Sagasta to stay
in,—that this one was Sagasta himself,—that the other was possibly his
confidential private secretary. You would say that everybody else was
wild to have such an absurd pretender pushed from his throne, and every
morning you would be sure that he would fall before the next day, and
would be at once forgotten.”

But at the same time I wrote, “As it seems to me, Sagasta is one of the
ablest men in Europe, and I think the king has as high an opinion of
Sagasta as any of us can form.... And I think the king is a remarkable
young man, and that if he can hold on for five years longer, as he has
for the last eight, he will be counted not only as one of the wisest
sovereigns in Europe, but as one of the wisest of the nineteenth

This, so far as the young king goes, is very strong; it now seems
absurd. But one hopes so much from young kings! and this fine fellow—he
was that at least—died when he was not thirty-one. The first story any
one told you of him, when I was in Spain, was this: that when he was
asked to take the crown, after the republic of Castelar had broken
down, he said, “Yes, I will come if you wish. Only, when you want me to
go, tell me so, and I will go. Remember, all along, that I am the first
republican in Europe.”

Of the young king, Lowell himself gives his opinion in this anecdote:—

  “On Saturday, the 26th [of October, 1878], the king received the
  felicitations of the diplomatic body. Among other things, he said to
  me, ‘I almost wish he had hit me, I am so tired.’ Indeed, his
  position is a trying one, and I feel sure that if he were allowed
  more freely to follow his own impulses and to break through the hedge
  of etiquette which the conservative wing of the restoration have
  planted between him and his people, his natural qualities of
  character and temperament would make him popular.”

To us in America it is interesting to remember that in the court of
this young king, who made so favorable an impression in his short reign
of eleven years, was one whom we may call an American lady. That is to
say, Madam Calderon, to whom the important charge of the education of
his sisters was intrusted, was the wife and afterward the widow of
Calderon de la Barca, a distinguished Spanish diplomatist. She was Miss
Fanny Inglis, born in Scotland, the granddaughter of Colonel Gardner,
of Preston Pans. In her youth she removed to Boston with her sister,
Mrs. McLeod, and there was a teacher in her sister’s school. She was a
very brilliant, conscientious, and agreeable person, and as the wife of
Calderon de la Barca when he was Spanish minister to the United States,
and afterwards in Mexico, made, as she deserved, a wide circle of
friends. She had the charge of this prince as soon as he needed a
governess, and of his sisters. The Spanish government showed its
appreciation of her services by presenting to her a beautiful home,
above the Alhambra, in Granada, where many of her old American friends
subsequently visited her. She died in the royal palace at Madrid, in
the winter of 1881–82.

Of our legation in Madrid Lowell himself says, in a private note, that
the secretary of legation whom he found there says that it is the
hardest-worked legation in Europe.

I myself have known personally five or six gentlemen who have held the
position, and all of them have given me the same impression. I remember
one of these gentlemen told me that he was still at work on a claim
which one of our captains had against the Spanish government for
interference with his vessel ten years before. The _mañana_ policy had
dragged the thing along so far. So that in that legation one had to
keep in mind the history of half a dozen Spanish dynasties.

At this moment, writing when we are in war with Spain and the plaza of
Santiago de Cuba is again historical, it is impossible not to go back a
quarter of a century. At that time the governor of Santiago shot,
without trial, in that plaza, fifty-four men, most of them American
citizens. They had been captured in the Virginius, a filibustering
steamer; but according to any law of any nation which pretended to any
civilization, they deserved and should have received trial. It was then
that Mr. Fish sent to Mr. Sickles, our minister in Spain, the dispatch
to which I have referred, “If Spain cannot redress these outrages, the
United States will.”

Why was Spain let off then? It seems such a pity now. A short shrift
then would have saved two or three hundred thousand lives which have
been lost in the barbarism of Spanish administration since. Whoever
will read the complicated correspondence of that year will see that
General Grant exercised the utmost forbearance. Spain was at that
moment a republic: what American wanted to crush a poor little European
republic which could hardly hold its head above water? The gentlemen in
authority in Madrid descended to the most pathetic petitions that they
might be excused,—if only this time we would let them off from what
they deserved, no such barbarism should ever be tolerated again. The
minister of foreign affairs would come over himself to the American
legation to plead a postponement of justice. At the end Spain promised
to pension the families of the people her viceroy had murdered. So
General Grant gave way, and when, four years after, Mr. Lowell arrived,
it was his duty to show that we had forgiven, and were trying to forget.

Of the foreign dispatches from our ministers, our government means to
print only that which is wholly harmless in future diplomacy. There is,
therefore, but little of Lowell’s in print which bears upon the
questions most interesting now. But once and again he says that, when
the Spanish government had paid something which it owed, the foreign
minister would beg that notice might be taken of it, as showing their
friendly wish to do their duty when they could.

Here is a little scrap, unimportant enough in itself, but fairly
pathetic now in its open confession by a Spanish minister of the power
for reserve or deception which such a minister has—or thinks he has.

In inclosing it Lowell says:—

  (April 2, 1878.) “The interpellation of General Salamanca may either
  indicate that there is some doubt in the mind of the party to which
  he belongs as to the complete pacification of Cuba, or that he
  thought it a good topic about which to ask a question that might be
  embarrassing to the ministry. The answer of Señor Canovas admits, as
  you will see, that armed resistance still exists, and seems to imply
  even more than it admits. I am not sure that it would be safe to draw
  any inference from this, as Señor Canovas has, from the first, shown
  great discretion and reserve with regard to the recent events and

  (Inclosure.) “Señor Canovas.... For the rest, the government, in
  fact, knows concerning the internal condition of Cuba, concerning the
  preliminaries of capitulation, and concerning other points, more than
  it has hitherto had occasion to lay before the members of this body.
  But this is not what I said before; I did not say that the government
  had not more information on this than it had communicated to
  Congress, for if that were the case, I should not have had occasion
  to suggest what I have suggested.... Concerning what preceded the
  capitulation, concerning the capitulation itself, concerning what the
  government expects after the capitulation, concerning what it
  believes will result from the capitulation, concerning the possible
  length of the war, concerning the reasons the government has for
  hoping what it may hope and fearing what it may fear,—the government
  has its own knowledge, and thinks it inopportune, at present, to
  enter into discussion. But concerning the fact of the forces which
  have submitted, concerning what remains to be done in the way of
  pacification, the government has no kind of secret.”

Señor Canovas was the minister who was murdered last year.

With such cares, and in such difficult surroundings, Lowell spent the
close of 1877 and the years 1879 and 1880. He was then summoned, very
unexpectedly, to transfer his residence to London as United States
minister to England.

In the mean time, with his astonishing power of work, he not only
attended curiously well to the work of the legation, but had devoted
himself sedulously to the study of the Spanish language and literature.
His private letters have the most amusing and interesting references to
such studies. When he was presented to the king, he made his speech in
English, the king answered him in Spanish, then came forward and
exchanged a few compliments in French. But very soon it appears that he
was determined not to be dependent on any interpreter, or on the
accomplishment of any of the foreign officers with whom he had to do.
“I am turned schoolboy again, and have a master over me once more,—a
most agreeable man, Don Herminegildo Giner de los Bios, who comes to me
every morning at nine o’clock for an hour. We talk Spanish together (he
doesn’t understand a word of English), and I work hard at translation
and the like.” And again: “This morning I wrote a note to one of the
papers here, in which my teacher found only a single word to change.
Wasn’t that pretty well for a boy of my standing?”

This he writes to his daughter and to Miss Norton: “I like the
Spaniards, and find much that is only too congenial in their genius for
to-morrow. I am working now at Spanish as I used to work at Old
French,—that is, all the time, and with all my might. I mean to know it
better than they do themselves, which is not saying much.... This is
the course of my day: get up at eight; from nine, sometimes till
eleven, my Spanish professor; at eleven breakfast, at twelve to the
legation, at three home again and a cup of chocolate, then read the
paper and write Spanish till a quarter to seven, at seven dinner, and
at eight drive in an open carriage in the Prado till ten, to bed twelve
to one.”

He writes to a friend in 1878 that he found that the minister of state
for foreign affairs sometimes smoked a pipe in the secrecy of home. “I
was sure he must be blistering his tongue with Spanish mundungus, and
sent him a package of mine. He writes to say, ‘It is the best I ever
smoked in my life; I had no idea there was anything so good.’ So I sent
him yesterday ten more packages, and have promised to keep his pipe
full for so long as I am here.”

Of his own work in his vocation as diplomatist he says: “I am beginning
to feel handier in my new trade, but I had a hard row to hoe at first.
All alone, without a human being I had ever seen before in my life, and
with unaccustomed duties, feeling as if I were beset with snares on
every hand, obliged to carry on the greater part of my business in a
strange tongue, it was rather trying for a man with so sympathetic and
sensitive a temperament as mine, and I don’t much wonder the gout came
upon me like an armed man. Three attacks in five months! But now I
begin to take things more easily. Still, I don’t like the business
much, and feel that I am wasting my time. Nearly all I have to do
neither enlists my sympathies much nor makes any call on my better
faculties. I feel, however, as if I were learning something, and I dare
say I shall find I have when I get back to my own chimney-corner again.
I like the Spaniards, with whom I find many natural sympathies in my
own nature, and who have had a vast deal of injustice done them by this
commercial generation. They are still Orientals to a degree one has to
live among them to believe. But I think they are getting on. The
difficulty is that they don’t care about many things that we are fools
enough to care about, and the balance in the ledger is not so entirely
satisfactory to them as a standard of morality as to some more advanced
nations. They employ inferior races (as the Romans did) to do their
intellectual drudgery for them, their political economy, scholarship,
history, and the like. But they are advancing even on these lines, and
one of these days—But I won’t prophesy. Suffice it that they have
plenty of brains, if ever they should condescend so far from their
_hidalguia_ as to turn them to advantage. They get a good deal out of
life at a cheap rate, and are not far from wisdom, if the old Greek
philosophers who used to be held up to us as an example knew anything
about the matter.”

It must have been a joy to Mr. Evarts, in the Department of State at
home, to read Lowell’s dispatches when they came. It is reserved for
those who have the inner keys to the inner bureau of the department to
read them all; but here are some passages which have been printed in
the government reports,—because harmless,—which make one understand why
he was sent to England when there was a vacancy there:—

  (February 6, 1878.) “In these days of newspaper enterprise, when
  everything that happens ought to happen, or might have happened is
  reported by telegraph to all quarters of the world, the slow-going
  dispatch-bag can hardly be expected to bring anything very fresh or
  interesting in regard to a public ceremonial which, though intended
  for political effect, had little political significance. The next
  morning frames of fireworks are not inspiring, unless to the
  moralist; and Madrid is already quarreling over the cost and
  mismanagement of a show for the tickets to which it was quarreling a
  week ago.”

  ...“Whoever has seen the breasts of the peasantry fringed with charms
  older than Carthage and relics as old as Rome, and those of the upper
  classes plastered with decorations, will not expect Spain to become
  conscious of the nineteenth century and ready to welcome it in a day.”

  ...“A nation which has had too much glory and too little good

Here is the pathetic account of the young queen’s death. She was the
first wife of Alfonso XII. The present queen regent (the Austrian) is
the second:—

  (July 3, 1878.) “Groups gathered and talked in undertone. About the
  palace there was a silent crowd day and night, and there could be no
  question that the sorrow was universal and profound. On the last day
  I was at the palace just when the poor girl was dying. As I crossed
  the great interior courtyard, which was perfectly empty, I was
  startled by a dull roar not unlike that of vehicles in a great city.
  It was reverberated and multiplied by the huge cavern of the palace
  court. At first I could see nothing that accounted for it, but
  presently found that the arched corridors all around the square were
  filled, both on the ground floor and the first story, with an anxious
  crowd, whose eager questions and answers, though subdued to the
  utmost, produced the strange thunder I had heard. It almost seemed
  for a moment as if the palace itself had become vocal.

  ...“The match was certainly not popular, nor did the bride call forth
  any marks of public sympathy. The position of the young queen was
  difficult and delicate, demanding more than common tact and
  discretion to make it even tenable, much more influential. On the day
  of her death the difference was immense. Sorrow and sympathy were in
  every heart and on every face. By her good temper, good sense, and
  womanly virtues, the girl of seventeen had not only endeared herself
  to those immediately about her, but had become an important factor in
  the destiny of Spain. I know very well what divinity doth hedge royal
  personages, and how truly legendary they become even during their
  lives, but it is no exaggeration to say that she had made herself an
  element of the public welfare, and that her death is a national
  calamity. Had she lived, she would have given stability to the throne
  of her husband, over whom her influence was wholly for good. She was
  not beautiful, but the cordial simplicity of her manner, the grace of
  her bearing, her fine eyes, and the youth and purity of her face gave
  her a charm that mere beauty never attains.”

We may call this dispatch the first version of his sonnet:—

                        DEATH OF QUEEN MERCEDES.

          Hers all that Earth could promise or bestow,
          Youth, Beauty, Love, a crown, the beckoning years,
          Lids never wet, unless with joyous tears,
          A life remote from every sordid woe,
          And by a nation’s swelled to lordlier flow.
          What lurking-place, thought we, for doubts or fears
          When, the day’s swan, she swam along the cheers
          Of the Alcalá, five happy months ago?
          The guns were shouting Io Hymen then
          That, on her birthday, now denounce her doom;
          The same white steeds that tossed their scorn of men
          To-day as proudly drag her to the tomb.
          Grim jest of fate! Yet who dare call it blind,
          Knowing what life is, what our humankind?

Early in 1880 Lowell received unexpectedly a request from the
Department of State that he would represent the nation in England. He
writes to his daughter the following interesting account of his

  “Day before yesterday I was startled with a cipher telegram. My first
  thought was, ‘Row in Cuba! I shall have no end of bother!’ It turned
  out to be this: ‘President has nominated you to England [this
  President was Hayes]. He regards it as essential to the public
  service that you should accept and make your personal arrangements to
  repair to London as early as may be. Your friends whom I have
  conferred with concur in this view.’”

Then Mr. Lowell says that he was afraid of its effect on Mrs. Lowell,
who was recovering from a long and desperate illness; but she was
pleased, and began to contrive how he might accept. He goes on, “I
answered, ‘Feel highly honored by President’s confidence. Could accept
if allowed two months’ delay. Impossible to move or leave my wife

When I was in Madrid I heard this story. The two months’ delay did not
prove necessary. Just at this juncture poor Mrs. Lowell was confined to
her bed, and had been for some time. It happened that a candle set fire
to the bed-curtains. The attendants fell on their knees to implore the
assistance of the Holy Mother, but Mrs. Lowell sprang up and herself
took the direction of the best methods for extinguishing the flames. So
soon as nurses and others could be brought into shape, it proved that
the adventure had not been an injury to their mistress, but rather an
advantage. The doctor was summoned at once, and within a very short
time was able to say that Mrs. Lowell could be removed with care and
sent by steamer to England. Mr. Lowell was said to have telegraphed at
once to Washington that he could transfer his residence immediately, as
he was asked to do. Accordingly, by a well-contrived and convenient
arrangement, the invalid was taken by rail to the sea, thence by
steamer to England, and arrived there, with her husband, with no
unfavorable results to her health.

In this sketch of Mr. Lowell’s life in Madrid I have not attempted, and
indeed have not been able, to introduce even the names of the friends
in whose society Mr. Lowell took pleasure while in Spain. But American
scholars, and indeed the scholars of the world, have been so much
indebted to Señor Don Pascual de Gayangos, whose recent death has been
so widely regretted, that I ought not to close this chapter without
referring to him.

This gentleman is another of the distinguished men born in 1809. In
early life he studied in France. He visited England and married an
English lady. When he was but twenty-two years of age he held a
subordinate place in the administration at Madrid. He returned to
England while yet a young man, and resided there. Articles of his will
be found in the “Edinburgh Review” at that time. After the Oriental
Society published a translation by him of “Almakkari’s History,” he was
appointed professor of Arabic in Madrid. He had studied Arabic under De

Every American student in Spain for the last half-century has been
indebted to his courtesy, and, I may say, to his authority in Spain. As
one of the humblest of those students I am glad to express their
obligation to him.

His only daughter, a charming lady, married Don Juan Riano, a
distinguished archæologist, who is, I think, now in the diplomatic
service of the Spanish government. Her son, Don Pascual’s grandson, is
secretary to the queen, or has been so lately. All of them were near
friends of Lowell.


                              CHAPTER XIV
                          MINISTER TO ENGLAND

Mr. Lowell had declined the suggestion that he should go to England
when Mr. Hayes’s administration came in. But one need not say that when
he now determined to go to England, he went there with the pleasure
with which every one of our race visits what we still call the “mother
country.” His ancestry, his education, and the studies in which he had
taken the very broadest interest, all made him love England.

He was an American through and through, and, as his own celebrated
address, which I shall speak of again, showed to the world, he
comprehended democracy in its possibilities, in its future, and in its
present better than almost any man of his time. He was better able to
show it to the leaders of the feudal communities in which he lived,
better than any other American who could have been chosen. For all
this,—it would be better to say because of this,—he went and came in
England with that sort of delight which Mr. Edward Everett fifty years
before described so well:—

  “An American looks at Westminster Abbey and Stratford-on-Avon with an
  enthusiasm which the Englishman laughs at as a sort of provincial

This enthusiasm of the American in England is so genuine that one may
not speak with adequate contempt of the sneers with which banished
Irishmen ridiculed it, when they had occasion to speak of Mr. Lowell
while he stayed in the home of his ancestors.

As minister to England Mr. Lowell rendered essential service to his
country. His firmness, serenity, courtesy, and diligence enabled him to
keep on the best terms with the members of the English cabinet with
whom he had to do. He was to a remarkable degree, as we shall see, a
favorite with all classes of the English people. He satisfied the
administration of President Hayes, who sent him. He did not satisfy the
more talkative leaders of the Irish-Americans, who, to use a happy
phrase of his, were like an actor who “takes alternately the characters
of a pair of twins who are never seen on the stage simultaneously.”

But nobody could have satisfied them. They were in a false position,—so
false that even diplomacy of the old fashion could not have satisfied
it. No man can serve two masters, and no man can be a citizen of two
nations at the same time. So those gentlemen found out who, while, as
Irishmen, they pressed the Irish people to revolt, fell back under the
ægis of America when they got into trouble. For the others, for those
who had really made themselves Americans, and meant to remain such, Mr.
Lowell was more than the advocate. He was their fearless guardian. And
in such guardianship he was always successful. Here, let it be said,
first and last, he knew nothing of the morals of that diplomacy of the
older fashion. He might have directed a dispatch wrong, so that Lord
Granville should read what was meant for Mr. Evarts, and Mr. Evarts
what was meant for Lord Granville, and no harm would have been done.
That was his way,—as, be it said, it is the way of gentlemen, and, in
general, of our national negotiations.

At the same time Lowell made friends in England among all classes of
people. For a generation the line of American ministers had generally
been good. From time to time we sent one or two fools there, usually to
get them out of the way of home aspirations and ambitions. But Mr.
Everett, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Bancroft, Mr. Adams, Mr. Welsh, and Mr.
Motley were all conscientious, intelligent gentlemen, who really were
as much interested in English history and English literature as
Englishmen were, and “really, you know, they spoke English very well,
with almost no accent, you know.”

Diplomacy, and the whole business of ambassadory, is, in fact, about as
much out of place in our time as chain mail is, or as orders of
precedence are. But people of sense try to make a new diplomacy in
which each nation can approach, not the government of the other, but
the people. Mr. Lowell, who could think on his feet, who could speak
well in public, who had always something to say, and who, indeed, liked
to say it, had a real “calling” in this line. In his English stay he
made several public speeches which did more good than any “state
paper,” so called, could have done. In private society he was a
favorite, as he was everywhere. In 1882 somebody told me in London the
story of an invitation which Lord Granville, the foreign minister, had
sent him. Lord Granville, in a friendly note, asked him to dinner,
saying at the same time that he knew how foolish it was to give such
short notice “to the most engaged man in London.” Lowell replied that
“the most engaged man is glad to dine with the most engaging.”

Also, London is an excellent place in which to study, and to learn
without studying. And, from the first, Lowell enjoyed London and
England. Mrs. Lowell was able sometimes to receive her friends, and
even to bear the fatigue of a reception at court, and of presenting to
the queen American ladies who visited London. She made herself most
welcome in the circle, not large, whom she was able to meet in that
way. The delicacy of her health, however, prevented her husband from
attempting the more public social functions of hospitality, of that
kind that consists mostly in calling people together to dinners or
evening parties. But he was, all the same, cordial to all comers from
his own nation, ready and successful in promoting their object, while,
as has been said, he was at ease among all classes in England. His
holidays, if we may call them so, were spent privately in visits with
friends, and for six or seven summers in Whitby,—the Whitby of
“Marmion,” in the north of England,—a place of which he was very fond.

[Illustration: WHITBY]

He was presented and began on his formal duties in the winter of
1881–82. His stay in England lasted until June 10, 1885. Mrs. Lowell
had died in February of that year.

The first important matter in his negotiations was connected with the
Irish disaffection. Most general readers to-day will have forgotten
that an insurrection, or plan of insurrection, attributed to the Fenian
organization, had disturbed Ireland and frightened England not long
before. The name Fenian was taken from Fein McCoil, the _Fin_-gal of
Ossian. Lowell, who could never resist a pun which had any sense in it,
called the Fenians _Fai-néants_, which, as it proved, was fair enough,
except that they and theirs kept their English masters in alarm. I was
talking with a Liberal in England in May, 1873, and he said, “Why, if
you had landed in Ireland, you would have been in jail by this time.” I
asked what was the matter with me. He said that my crush hat and my
broad-toed shoes would have convicted me. Now the shoes had been bought
in Bristol, only three days before, and I said so. “Bristol? were they?
Well, they knew you were a Yankee.” That is to say, any one who looked
like an outsider had to run his chances with the Irish constables of
the time.

Among others who were less fortunate than I, Henry George was arrested.
He was as innocent as I, and was at once released, with proper

The view which Lowell took, and the dilemma in which his Irish clients
acted, and even went to prison, are well explained in a dispatch from
which I will make a few short extracts. The whole collection of
dispatches shows the extreme unwillingness of Lord Granville to give
offense in America:—


                                    March 14, 1882. (Received March 27.)

  In concluding this dispatch I may be permitted to add that I have had
  repeated assurances from the highest authority that there would be
  great reluctance in arresting a naturalized citizen of the United
  States, were he known to be such. But it is seldom known, and those
  already arrested have acted in all respects as if they were Irishmen,
  sometimes engaged in trade, sometimes in farming, and sometimes
  filling positions in the local government. This, I think, is
  illustrated by a phrase in one of Mr. Hart’s letters, to the effect
  that he never called himself an American. He endeavors, it is true,
  in a subsequent letter, to explain this away as meaning American
  born; but it is obviously absurd that a man living in his native
  village should need to make any such explanation. Naturalized
  Irishmen seem entirely to misconceive the process through which they
  have passed in assuming American citizenship, looking upon themselves
  as Irishmen who have acquired a right to American protection, rather
  than as Americans who have renounced a claim to Irish nationality.

Simply, the view he sustained is that which he laid down in two letters
written to Mr. Barrows, to be read to one of these prisoners, from
which here are a few extracts. They embody briefly the established
policy of our government:—

  “The principles upon which I have based my action in all cases of
  applications to me from naturalized citizens now imprisoned in
  Ireland under the ‘Coercion’ Act are those upon which our government
  has acted, and in case of need would act again. I think it important
  that all such persons should be made to understand distinctly that
  they cannot be Irishmen and Americans at the same time, as they now
  seem to suppose, and that they are subject to the operation of the
  laws of the country in which they choose to live.”

In another letter he says:—

  “If British subjects are being arrested for no more illegal acts than
  those which the prisoner is charged with having committed, or of the
  intention to commit which he is justly suspected, it seems that,
  however arbitrary and despotic we may consider the ‘Coercion’ Act to
  be, we are, nevertheless, bound to submit in silence to the action
  taken under it by the authorities even against our own fellow

  “It should be observed that this act is a law of the British
  Parliament, the legitimate source and final arbiter of all law in
  these realms, and that, as it would be manifestly futile to ask the
  government here to make an exception on behalf of an American who had
  brought himself within the provisions of any law thus sanctioned, so
  it would be manifestly unbecoming in a diplomatic representative,
  unless by express direction of his superiors, to enter upon an
  argument with the government to which he is accredited as to the
  policy of such a law or the necessarily arbitrary nature of its

That neither he nor the American government was hard on the “suspects”
appears from several letters, of which this illustrates the tenor:—

                       TO OUR CONSUL AT LIMERICK.

  You will please see without delay John McInerny and Patrick Slattery,
  suspects claiming to be American citizens and confined in Limerick
  jail, and say to each of them that “in case he should be liberated
  you have authority to pay him forty pounds sterling for his passage
  to the United States,” for which sum you may draw upon me at sight.

This sort of correspondence ended in May, 1882. The following letter
was practically the end of it.

                         TO MR. FRELINGHUYSEN.

  Meanwhile it is nearly certain that all the suspects, except those
  charged with crimes of violence, will be very shortly set at liberty,
  thus rendering nugatory the most effective argument in favor of
  disorder and resistance to the law.

To turn from such correspondence to his frank relations with the people
of England, it is interesting to see how readily he accepted the modern
theory of American diplomacy. This makes the foreign minister the
representative not only of the administration, but of every individual
among the people. It recognizes the people as indeed the sovereign. In
this view, for instance, the American minister has to place rightly the
inquiries of every person in the United States who thinks that there is
a fortune waiting for him in the custody of the Court of Chancery. In
such cases the American citizen addresses “his minister” directly. On a
large scale the foreign minister has the same sort of correspondence as
the “domestic minister” at home, of whose daily mail half is made up of
the inquiries of people who have not an encyclopædia, a directory, or a
dictionary, or, having them, find it more easy to address the clergyman
whose name they first see in the newspaper. They turn to him to ask
what was the origin of the Aryan race, or what is meant by the fourth

The reader who has not delved into the diplomatic correspondence does
not readily conceive of the range of subjects which thus come under the
attention of an American minister abroad, in the present habit, which
unites the old diplomacy and the formality of old centuries with the
hustling end-of-the-century practice, in which every citizen enjoys the
attention of the minister. In Lowell’s case subjects as various as the
burial of John Howard Payne’s body, the foot-and-mouth disease in
cattle, the theological instruction in the schools of Bulgaria, the
assisted emigration to America of paupers from Ireland, and the
nationality of Patrick O’Donnell occupy one year’s correspondence.
Those of us who think that the old diplomacy is as much outside modern
life as chain mail is, or the quintessences of old chemistry, might
well take the body of John Howard Payne as an object-lesson.

(1) John Howard Payne wrote “Home Sweet Home.”

(2) 1852. He died and was buried in Tunis, where he represented the
United States.

(3) 1882. Mr. W.W. Corcoran thought he should like to bury his body in
America, with a proper monument.

(4) October. Mr. Corcoran asks the coöperation of Mr. Frelinghuysen,
our Secretary of State.

(5) October. Mr. Frelinghuysen writes to Mr. Lowell to ask for the
intervention of the British government, because we have no
representative in Tunis.

(6) November. Mr. Lowell writes to Lord Granville, the English foreign

(7) November. Lord Granville bids Mr. Lister attend to it.

(8) November. Mr. Lister writes to Mr. Reade and to Mr. Lowell to say
he has done so.

(9) January, 1883. Mr. Lowell writes to Mr. Frelinghuysen to say how
far they have all got.

(10) January. Mr. Frelinghuysen writes to Mr. Lowell to ask that the
body may be sent to Marseilles.

(11) January. Mr. Lowell writes this to Lord Granville.

(12) January. Lord Granville telegraphs to Mr. Reade at Tunis, and
writes to Mr. Lowell that he has done so.

Meanwhile they become impatient at Washington, and the Assistant
Secretary telegraphs:—

January 2. “Have you received news from Tunis relative to Payne’s

Mr. Lowell telegraphs back, much as if it were the answer in the “Forty

January 3. “Not yet, but presently.”

On the same day, apparently, or

January 1. Lord Granville receives a telegram from Tunis, to say that
all has been done, and that the remains would be shipped to Marseilles.

January 6. Mr. Reade explains all to Lord Granville, and also to Mr.
Taylor. Every one was present at the disinterment who should have been.

January 12. Mr. Lowell thanks Lord Granville and Mr. Currie and Mr.
Reade and all the other officials.

February 9. Mr. Frelinghuysen asks Mr. Lowell to thank everybody; and
it is to be presumed he does so.

Very well. This required a good deal of red tape. But it was very nice
of Mr. Corcoran to put a monument to the poet of “Home,” and somebody
must do something.

It is interesting to see how wide are the consequences of such
courtesies, and how important they may be.

Lowell really wanted to serve the American people, and any intelligent
question addressed to him found a courteous and intelligent reply. It
would not be difficult to give a hundred instances, and if any of the
diplomats of to-day sometimes groan under the burden of such
correspondence, let me encourage them by copying an autograph letter of
his which a friend has sent to me this morning. A public-spirited
gentleman in Minnesota had determined that there should be a school of
forestry in that State. He knew there was such a school in India at
Dehradun. He wanted the report of that school, and so he sent to the
United States legation in London to ask for it. Here is Mr. Lowell’s
reply, and it is interesting to know from Mr. Andrews that it was of
real service in the establishment of the first school of forestry of

                                          LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
                                             LONDON, March 10, 1882.

  DEAR SIR,—On receiving your letter of the 17th of February I at once
  wrote to Lord Hartington, who the next day sent me the report, which
  I now have the pleasure of forwarding to you, and especially if it
  helps you in awakening public opinion to the conservation of our
  forests ere it be too late. I foresee a time when our game and forest
  laws will be Draconian in proportion to their present culpable laxity.

                                           Faithfully yours,
                                                      J.R. LOWELL.

  Hon. C.C. ANDREWS.

A foreign minister of America once said to me that Diplomacy meant
Society, and Society Diplomacy. He meant that the important things are
done in personal conversation between man and man, as they sip their
coffee after a dinner-party, perhaps. The conclusions thus arrived at
get themselves put into form afterwards in dispatches. In this view of
diplomacy it was fortunate for all parties that Mr. Lowell and Lord
Granville were the correspondents who had American affairs in hand,
from such “emblems” as the American flag on Lord Mayor’s Day round to
the nationality of Mr. O’Connor. Fortunate, because the two liked each

Lord Granville’s term of office as foreign secretary was almost the
same as Lowell’s as American minister. Granville came in with the
Gladstone ministry in April, 1882, and he went out of office with them
in 1885. Lowell’s personal relations with him were those of great
intimacy. He not only regarded Lord Granville with cordial respect, but
knew him as an intimate friend. In 1886 he visited Lord Granville at
Holmbury, at a time when Mr. Gladstone was also visiting there. “I saw
Gladstone the other day, and he was as buoyant (_boy_ant) as when I
stayed with him at Holmbury, just before he started for Scotland. I
think the Fates are with him, and that the Tories will have to take up
Home Rule where he left it.”

Lord Granville was very young when he entered Parliament, as Mr.
Levison Gower, member for Morpeth. He is said to have regretted the
change of work in the House of Lords when he became Lord Granville. In
1859, when he was not forty-five years old, the queen asked him to form
a cabinet, and in 1880 she consulted him with the same view again; but
he did not become chief of the ministry at either time. He served under
Lord Palmerston and under Mr. Gladstone, as he had done under Lord John
Russell. He was, while he lived, the leader of the Liberals in the
House of Lords, always in the minority, whatever the policy of the
hour, but always cordial, amiable, and conciliatory. On Gladstone’s
retirement in 1878 he was spoken of as the real leader of the Liberal
party. It is said of him that he always kept a friend who was once a
friend,—that he was willing to yield small points in controversy rather
than to keep a quarrel in existence, and always “sacrificed his
personal interests to those of his party.”

Such a man is a friend whom one likes to have; and such a character
gives point to Lowell’s joke, which I have cited, which calls him the
most engaging man in London. I remember with pleasure the first time I
saw him. He was acting as chancellor of the University of London—as
long ago as 1873. He was presenting the diplomas to those who had
passed the examinations for degrees of that university. This means that
two or three hundred young men, from all parts of Great Britain, were
presented to him, by the heads of perhaps twenty different colleges, to
receive this distinction. Now, such a formality may be merely a
function, as stupid to see as stupid to go through. In this case there
was genuine personal contact between the chancellor and the neophyte.
As each one of those youths, proud or timid, came up, and as Lord
Granville gave the diploma to each, he detained him, for the moment, by
some personal word or inquiry,—such as you could guess the man who was
entering life would always remember. With such a man Lowell would be
sure to be on sympathetic terms. And I suppose they met each other, or
were in close correspondence, almost every day in the “season.”

But Lowell was not only the minister from the people; he was a
messenger to the people. And he had sense enough and historical
knowledge enough to know that since there has been an America on the
western side of the Atlantic, the people of England—the rank and
file—have been in sympathy with the thought and feeling and purposes of
that American people. When my brother Charles was in London in 1863,
and the English government was acting, on the whole, as badly as it
dared toward the United States, a member of the cabinet said to him one
day, “The clubs are against you, Mr. Hale, but the people of England
are with you.” This was true then; it was true in the American
Revolution; it was true in Cromwell’s time,—he has no title which is
more sure than that of the “Friend of New England.” The same thing is
true to-day.

Now, Lowell never said to himself, “Go to, I will address myself to the
people of Great Britain,” or, “The people of Great Britain is one
thing, and the clubs of London another.” But because he was the man he
was, he was always glad to meet the people and the men of the people,
and let them really know what America is. It is not the America of
interviewers, of excursionists, of _nouveaux riches_ millionaires, or
of namby-pamby philanthropists attendant on international conventions.
These are the individuals whom the people of England are most apt to
see. But the people of America, at home, have wider interests than
theirs, and affairs more important than they have. Lowell felt this in
every fibre of his life, and if the Workingmen’s College in London, or
some public meeting at Birmingham, or a Coleridge monument, gave him a
chance to give to the people of England his notion of what the people
of America are, and have in hand, why, he was most glad to do so.

This is no place in which to describe or discuss his successes as a
public speaker in England. It was a matter of course that, as soon as
he spoke once, whoever heard him would be glad to hear him again; and
he must have had proposals without number for his assistance in public
dinners, at the unveiling of monuments, and in addresses of wider range
and of more permanent importance.

In the two volumes of admirable memoirs of English life which Mr.
Smalley has published, one chapter is given quite in detail to the
description of Lowell’s remarkable welcome among Englishmen of every
degree. In that chapter, which I suppose is made from one or two
letters published at the time, Mr. Smalley quotes “The Spectator,” as
saying that Englishmen, whether they knew Mr. Lowell or not, looked on
him as a personal friend.

Of all the various addresses which contributed, each in its place, to
his reputation as a public speaker, that which I have alluded to, which
was delivered at Birmingham, on “Democracy,” is the most remarkable. It
has, indeed, become a classic. It deserves its reputation; and it
undoubtedly states with careful accuracy Lowell’s foundation feeling as
to the institutions of this country, and what may be expected if
democracy is fairly understood and fairly applied. No one who was
familiar with him or with his letters, or had really studied his more
serious poems, will regard any of the utterances in this great address
as being new. They were the words of a careful scholar who was born
under favorable circumstances in the midst of democracy admirably well
applied. His training was all the better because the original people of
Massachusetts are, so to speak, democratic in their origin and in the
habit of their thought, without having formed many abstract theories on
the subject, and being always, indeed, quite indifferent as to what the
speculative theory might be.

An American minister abroad must not be often or long absent from his
post. But there are methods by which four fortnights of permitted
absence may be added together, and your outing taken at once. In some
way Lowell was thus free for a tour through the Continent to Italy in
the autumn of 1881. In Italy he and Story and Mr. Richard Dana met.
Dana was at the Wells School with him when they were little boys, and
in Italy they had that most agreeable of companions, Mr. John W. Field.
Dana died the next winter, and Lowell writes to Field, “The lesson for
us is to close up”—“if a year or two older than I, he belonged more
immediately to my own set, and I had known him life long.”

In the summer of 1882, returning from Spain to America, I spent a
month in London. I told Lowell one day that I was one of the
“round-the-world” correspondents of the Murray Dictionary, and that I
wanted to call on Dr. Murray. He said he had been trying to do the
same thing, and proposed to take me,—an invitation which, of course,
I accepted.

The reader ought to know that the Oxford Dictionary, now nearly half
finished, was undertaken forty-one years ago,—as early as 1857. The
first suggestion was made by Dean Trench, and, at the vote of the
Philological Society, several hundred readers agreed to contribute
notes made in their reading of English books, for the materials of such
a dictionary. After twenty-one years some specimen pages were prepared
from the notes collected by such readers, and submitted by Dr. Murray
to the Clarendon Press in Oxford. Dr. Murray is now known through the
English-speaking world for his charge of this magnificent work, which,
I think, men will always call “Murray’s Dictionary.”

The directors of the Clarendon Press agreed to assume the immense cost
and charge of publication, and in 1888 the first volume of the great
series, now as far forward as H and I, appeared. The contributors’
names make a very valuable list of people interested in good English.
And the volumes thus far published are the treasury to which all other
dictionary-makers rush as their great storehouse of materials.

For the purpose of systematic coöperation, each reader was prepared
with formal printed blanks. Each of these was to have, as far as his
special reading showed, the history of one word. That word in large
letters was the head of the completed blank. The reader is not
necessarily an authority in language. He is a scout or truffle-dog who
brings the result of his explorations to the authorities for comparison
with other results.

Mill Hill, where the dictionary was then—shall I say manufactured?—is
about ten miles, more or less, from the house which Lowell lived in. As
we entered the cab which was to take us, he said that he should bid the
cabby carry us through the back of the Park, a region which I had never
seen. I have been amused since to see how many traveling Americans can
say the same thing. Lowell evidently knew its turns and corners and
bosks and deserts well. Ragged, barefoot boys were playing cricket in
their improvised way with the most primitive of tools, such as they had
constructed from the spoils of the streets. No policeman bade them
leave the place, no sign intimated that they were to keep off the
grass; an admirable loafers’ paradise for the real children of the
public, such as there is not in our tidy Common in Boston, and such as
I never saw in the Central Park of New York. It was pleasant to see how
thoroughly at home Lowell was there. To such retreats in London he
alludes again and again in his letters: “I have only to walk a hundred
yards from my door to be in Hyde Park, where, and in Kensington
Gardens, I can tread on green turf and hear the thrushes sing all
winter.... As for the climate, it suits me better than any I have ever
lived in.”

Spare a moment, dear reader, to find what greeted us at the Dictionary
House. I doubt if they have yet invented any such name as Apotheka, or
Powerhouse, or Granary. As why should they, seeing this is the only
such house in the world? A circular house of corrugated iron,
originally built for a church, I believe, perhaps fifty feet in
diameter, perhaps twenty-five feet high, lighted from the top. It
reminded me, at the instant, of the great reading-room of the British
Museum, though not so large. Here was Dr. Murray, the distinguished
director, at work with his staff of gentlemen and ladies. Of course he
was delighted to see Lowell on the spot, and in the simplest and
kindest way he showed us the method of the work.

Every day’s mail brought to this curious temple of language its new
tribute to the history of the English tongue. The slips which I have
tried to describe come from Cranberry Centre and Big Lick, from
Edinburgh and from Hongkong. Once a month each of the thousand or more
readers mails his budgets, so there would be every day a new parcel to
be assorted; and we were ready for them at Mill Hill. Here were twenty
or thirty thousand pamphlet-boxes into which these slips were at once
sorted. The boxes were arranged in alphabetical order, beginning with
that which held the slips of the title word A, and only ending, say,
with box 33,333, with the box of ZYX—if there be so convenient a word
in the English language.

All which I describe in this detail, because I should be glad if the
reader will imagine the gay, bright, wise, and instructive talk which
followed—oh, for an hour, perhaps hours—between Dr. Murray, the first
authority as to English words, and Lowell, the authority most to be
relied on as to the language of New England. It was not far from the
time when Lowell told the Oxford gentlemen at a public dinner that they
spoke English almost as well as their cousins in America. No, I do not
remember what were the words these gentlemen discussed. But each was as
eager as the other. Was it “doddered” or “daddock”? I do not know.
“Miss Mary, will you have the goodness to bring us ‘dodder’?” And Miss
Mary puts up a light ladder to her D O shelf and returns with the
pasteboard box which has five and twenty uses of “dodder” between the
days of Wiclif and Besant, and the two scholars dissect and discuss.
You would think that Lowell had never thought of anything else. And yet
it is the same Lowell who in a quiet corner of Mrs. Leo Hunter’s
to-night will be discussing with Lord Granville the amount and quality
of the theology which the Great Powers shall permit in the secondary
schools of Bulgaria!

I must not try to give any account in detail of the company of literary
men and women whom Lowell found in London. Two careful and interesting
papers by Mr. Bowker, published in “Harper’s” in 1888 and 1889, are
well worth the reader’s attention. From these papers I have made some
lists of people, almost any one of whom you would be glad to have met,
who worked their pens in London, or printed their books there, in those
years. Mr. Bowker himself, as the English representative of “Harper’s,”
was living there, and his personal notes of these people are valuable
as they are entertaining. Of novelists alone he gives a list in which
are these names:—

Wilkie Collins, Richard Doddridge Blackmore, Miss Braddon (Mrs.
Maxwell), Dinah M. Craik, Thomas Hardy, Walter Besant, James Payn,
David Christie Murray, Henry Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson,
Clark Russell.

Take those ten names only, and you say, as a lady once said to me, “Any
one of them would make the fortune of a reception.” But Mr. Bowker’s
next ten do not pale in comparison:—

F.W. Robinson, George Macdonald, George Meredith, W.E. Norris, Mrs.
Ritchie (Anne Thackeray), Mrs. Oliphant, Amelia Blandford Edwards, Mrs.
Elizabeth Lynn Linton, Miss Yonge, and Mrs. Macquoid. Observe, these
twenty are only some of the novelists.

Among other men and women of letters, there are Tennyson, Browning,
Hughes, Bailey, both Morrises, Domett, Taylor, Mallock, Kinglake, our
dear old Martin Tupper, Stephen, Walter H. Pater, Addington Symonds,
Swinburne, Buchanan, the Rossettis, Jean Ingelow, Owen Meredith,
Matthew Arnold, Austin Dobson, Alfred Austin, Coventry Patmore, Gerald
Massey, Max Müller, Spencer, Tyndall and Huxley, Lubbock, and the two
Cardinals, Manning and Newman. Other clergyman are Farrar, Haweis, and
Spurgeon. Besides these, among men who have done more than write books,
there are, in Mr. Bowker’s lists, Froude, McCarthy, and Lecky to
represent history, and Dr. Smith, king of dictionaries. Smiles, the
self-help man, Colvin, and Hamilton are others.

[Illustration: THOMAS HUGHES]

I think I may say that Lowell knew personally all the more
distinguished of the persons in these very interesting groups before he
left London. He formed some very tender friendships among them, and in
the collection of his letters none are more affectionate, none are more
entertaining, than are those to his English friends. Besides those
named in the lists above there are ladies,—Mrs. Stephen, the Misses
Lawrence, Mrs. Clifford; and Gordon, Du Maurier, Lord Dufferin, are
mentioned as people with whom he was in pleasant relations. Lady
Lyttelton was a most intimate friend of Mr. and Mrs. Lowell.

Among other intimate friends, Judge Hughes and Mrs. Hughes. Dr. Hughes,
as every one knows, had been a guest at Elmwood, and Mr. Lowell during
his residence as our minister in England, and in his visits there
afterwards, would have thought a summer wasted indeed if he had not
received the welcome of these dear friends.

With the election of Mr. Cleveland in the autumn of 1884 Lowell knew
that his stay in England would come to a close. For ten or fifteen
years, indeed, he had been in public antagonism to Mr. Blaine, and he
would never have served under him as President in the English legation.
More than this, however, Mrs. Lowell died in the spring of 1885,
unexpectedly, of course, for death is always unexpected. “We had taken
it for granted together that she would outlive me, and that would have
been best.” How many a man and woman have had to say something like

She had been an invalid, with critical ups and downs. But her unfailing
sympathy for him and his work had never yielded, and those who remember
him in the closest intimacies of London life always speak of her with
tenderness. She was almost always shut up at home, and he was
everywhere, among people of all sorts and conditions. But the very
difference of their lives when they were parted seemed to make their
companionship more tender when they were at home.

Of his departure from England, his cousin, Mr. Abbott Lawrence Lowell,
says, with truth:—

  “But his usefulness as a minister far transcended the import of any
  specific questions that arose. It was his personal presence there,
  winning the respect and admiration of the English for all that is
  best in America, that was most valuable. Among the many surprises in
  Mr. Lowell’s life none is perhaps greater than that, after writing so
  bitterly about Mason and Slidell, he should have been instrumental in
  soothing the irritation between England and America that arose out of
  the civil war; but such is the case, and it is not too much to say
  that he did more than any one else towards removing the prejudice
  which the upper classes in England had for the United States.”

And Mr. Smalley at the time wrote from London:—

  “The announcement of Mr. Lowell’s recall gives rise to many
  expressions of regret and good will besides those which appear in the
  newspapers. Nor is the expression of good will a new thing. His
  writings, his speeches, and his public services had brought him so
  close to all English-speaking people that their feeling toward him
  was one of affection; in short, there were ninety millions who would
  rejoice in any good fortune that befell him, and sympathize with him
  in trouble. The solicitude to know whether he was to remain minister
  has been general. ‘Will President Cleveland keep Mr. Lowell in
  London?’ is the question which every American in London has been
  asked over and over again since last November; perhaps twice a day on
  an average. And when the inquiring Briton was told that Mr. Lowell
  would have to go, the next question generally was, ‘What, then, did
  the President mean by Civil Service Reform?’”

What indeed?


                               CHAPTER XV
                               HOME AGAIN

Lowell landed in America again in June, 1885. It was nearly seven years
since he left us on his way to Spain. And these were seven years which
had changed, in a thousand regards, the conditions of his old American

In August, 1891, he died, seventy-two years old,—six years after this
return. Of these years we have in his letters a record of pathetic
interest, and every one who knew him and who loved him will say that of
the seven decades of life—to which more than once he alludes—he never
seemed more cheerful and companionable and cordial and wise than in the
seventh. “And young,” he would often have said himself. He discusses
old age and its coming in his letters to near friends,—yet perhaps more
than is wise, certainly more than is necessary. But once and again he
tells his correspondent that he is as young as a boy. He signs himself,
in writing to Gilder, “Giacopo il Rigiovinato.” And he writes out:—

                   _From the Universal Eavesdropper_:

  Passing along the Edgeware Road with a friend two years ago, their
  eyes were attracted by a sign with this inscription, “Hospital for
  Incurable Children.” Turning to his companion, with that genial smile
  for which he is remarkable, Lowell said quietly, “There’s where
  they’ll send _me_ one of these days.”

But, all the same, seven years of Europe had changed Elmwood and
Cambridge and Harvard College and New England and America and the
world. In a way, of course, Lowell knew this as well as any man. He
knew it better than most men knew it. And there were a good many sad
things in his arrival, as there must be after seven years. So many
deaths of old friends! So many changes in the daily life of the people
around him! And he, almost without a vocation; obliged to establish his
new avocations!

Some years before this, Mr. Lothrop Motley, in all the triumph of his
well-earned success after the publication of his first volumes of
history, came back to his old home—shall I say for a holiday? I do not
know but that he meant to reside here. Not many months after he
arrived, however, he told me, to my surprise, that he was going back to
Europe. He was going to work in Holland on the archives again; to
continue his great historical enterprise. I need not say that I
expressed my regret that he was to leave us so soon. But he replied,
almost sadly, that there was no place here in Boston for a man who was
not at work: “You ought to hang out a long pendant from one of the
forts in the harbor to the other, and write on it, ‘No admittance
except on business.’” This was fatally true then of Boston; it is near
the truth now.

And Lowell was no longer a diplomatist; nor had he any special abuses
to reform; he had no regular lectures to deliver; he had no wife with
whom to talk and read and make dinner linger long, and breakfast and
lunch. He was in a changed world, and for that world had to prepare

Perhaps it is as well to say that Boston also was changed; the Boston
of 1885 was not the Boston of 1838. The late Mr. Amos Adams Lawrence
said to me, not long before his death, that his father used to say that
in the beginning of the century Boston was governed by the great
national merchants: such men as “Billy Gray,” one of whose ships
discovered the Columbia River; or as Colonel Perkins, who handled the
trade of the East in the spirit in which a great artist composes a
great picture; or as William Tudor, who supplied ice to the tropics,
and when a winter failed him in New England, sent his schooners up into
Baffin’s Bay to cut ice from the icebergs.

Mr. Lawrence said that when this sort of men gave up the government of
Boston, it fell into the hands of the great mechanics: such men as
developed the quarries at Quincy; as built Bunker Hill Monument, and in
later days have built the Mechanics’ Hall, have united Boston with San
Francisco and all the Pacific coast by rail. And then, he said, the
government of Boston passed into the hands which hold it now,—into the
hands of the distillers and brewers and retailers of liquor.

So far as the incident or accident of administration goes, this bitter
satire is true; and it expresses one detail of the change between the
Boston of the middle of this century and the Boston to which Lowell
returned in June of 1885. Now, such a change affects social order; it
affects conversation; in spite of you, it affects literature. Thus it
affects philanthropy. The Boston of 1840 really believed that a visible
City of God could be established here by the forces which it had at
command. It was very hard in 1885 to make the Boston of that year
believe any such thing.

But Lowell was no pessimist. He was proud of his home, and I think you
would not have caught him in expressing in public any such contrast as
I have ventured upon in these lines. On the other hand, the letters
which Mr. Norton has published in his charming volumes confirm entirely
the impression which Lowell’s old friends received from him: that he
was glad, so glad, to be at home; that he had much to do in picking up
his dropped stitches; and that he liked nothing better than to renew
the old associations. It was, so to speak, unfortunate that he could
not at once return to Elmwood. In fact, he did not establish himself
there for three years. But, on the other hand, at Southborough,
five-and-twenty miles from Boston, where he lived at the home of Mrs.
Burnett, his daughter, he had a beautiful country around him, and, what
was always a pleasure to him, the exploration of new scenery.

I asked a near friend of his if Lowell were the least bit wilted after
his return. “Wilted? I should say not a bit. Bored? yes; worried, a
little. But,” he added, as I should do myself, “the last talk I had
with him, or rather listened to, I shall never forget.”

He spent the winter of 1889 in Boston with his dear sister, Mrs.
Putnam, from whose recollections I was able to give the charming
account which he furnished to us of his childhood for the first pages
of this series. We have lost her from this world since those pages were
first printed. And he was, of course, near his old friends and kindred:
Dr. Holmes, John Holmes, all the Saturday Club, Dr. Howe, Charles
Norton,—his intimate and tender friendship with whom was one of the
great blessings of his life. These were all around him. But there was
no Longfellow, no Appleton, no Emerson, no Agassiz, no Dana, no Page;
Story was in Europe.

For occupation, he had just as many opportunities for public speaking
as he chose to use. He had to prepare for the press the uniform edition
of his works, both in prose and in poetry. It seems to me that he was
too fastidious and rigid in this work. I think he left out a good deal
which ought to have been preserved there. And this makes it certain
that the little side-scraps which the newspapers preserved, or such as
linger in some else forgotten magazine, will be regarded as among the
treasures of collectors. More than that, many a boy and many a girl
will owe to some such scraps inspirations which will last them through
life. He occasionally published a poem, and occasionally delivered an
address or lecture. But he took better care of himself than in the old
days. There was no such crisis before the country as had engaged him
then; and, in a way, it may be said that he enjoyed the literary
leisure which he deserved.

[Illustration: WILLIAM PAGE]

He was, alas! at many periods during these six years a very sad
sufferer from sickness. There is something very pathetic in the manly
way in which he alludes to such suffering. From no indulgence of his
own, he was a victim of hereditary gout; and you find in the letters
allusions to attacks which kept him in agony, which sometimes lasted
for six weeks in succession. Then the attack would end instantly; and
Lowell would write in the strain which has been referred to, as if he
were a boy again, skating on Fresh Pond or tracing up Beaver Brook to
its sources.

Simply, he would not annoy his friends by talking about his pains. If
he could cheer them up by writing of his recovery, he would do so.

I remember that on the first visit I made him after he was
reëstablished at Elmwood, when I congratulated him because he was at
home again, he said, with a smile still, “Yes, it is very nice to be
here; but the old house is full of ghosts.” Of course it was. His
father and mother were no longer living; Mrs. Burnett, who was with him
there, was the only one of his children who had survived; and the
circle of his brothers and sisters had been sadly diminished. He and
his brother, Robert Lowell, died in the same year. Still, he was here
with his own books; he had the old college library under his lee, and
he had old friends close at hand. Once or twice in his letters of those
days he goes into some review of his own literary endeavor. Certainly
he had reason to be proud of it. Certainly he was not too proud; and I
think he did have a feeling of satisfaction that his neighbors and his
country appreciated the motive with which he had worked and the real
success which he had attained.

As the great address at Birmingham sums up conveniently the political
principles which governed his life, whether in literature or in
diplomacy, so the address at the quarter-millennium celebration of
Harvard College at Cambridge may be said to present a summary of such
theories as he had formed on education, and of his hopes and his fears
for the future of education. There are two or three aphorisms there
which I think will be apt to be quoted fifty years hence, perhaps, as
they are not quoted to-day. In the midst of a hundred or more of
gentlemen who had served with him in the college he had the courage to
say, “Harvard has as yet developed no great educator; for we imported

On the 30th of April, 1889, there was a magnificent festival in the
city of New York, at which he spoke. It is already forgotten by the
people of that city and of the country, but at the moment it engaged
universal attention. It was the celebration of the centennial of the
establishment of the United States as a nation; the centennial of the
birth of the Constitution; of the inauguration of Washington. It was,
of course, the fit occasion for the expression of the people’s
gratitude for the blessings which have followed on the establishment of
the federal Constitution.


  Copyrighted by Mrs. J.H. Thurston.
  _Taken in the spring of 1891_]

For this celebration the most admirable arrangements were made in New
York by the committee which had taken the matter in hand. In the
evening a banquet was served at the Metropolitan Opera-House, and many
of the most distinguished speakers in the country had gladly accepted
the invitation to be present. Among them Lowell naturally was one. But
to those who listened, it seemed as if all these great men were in a
sort awed by the greatness of the occasion. His address, perhaps
because so carefully prepared, was for the purpose no better than any
of the others. They could not help it. Every man who spoke was asking
himself how his speech would read in the year 1989. There was no
spontaneity; instead of it there was decorum and consideration, the
determination to think wisely, and none of the eloquence which “belongs
to the man and the occasion.” For hour after hour the patient stream of
considerate commonplace flowed on, till at two in the morning the new
President of the United States made the closing speech. The expectation
of this address, and that alone, had held the great audience together.
He was probably the only man who had not had a chance “to make any
preparation.” He had gone through the day alive with the feeling of the
day, drinking in its inspirations; and with such preparation as six
hours at the dinner-table would give him, he rose to say what the day
had taught him. He made one of the most magnificent addresses to which
I have ever listened. He led with him from height to height an audience
jaded and tired by the dignity of lawyers, the dexterity of
politicians, and the commonplace of scholars. In fifteen minutes he had
established his own reputation as a great public orator among the
thousand men who were fortunate enough to hear him.

And yet, such is the satire of what we call history that, because the
other speeches had been written out and could be sent to the
journals,—because even a New York morning newspaper has to go to press
at some time,—this absolutely extemporaneous speech of the one man who
proved himself equal to the occasion did not get itself reported in any
adequate form, and will never go down into history. There is, however,
no danger that any of the other addresses of that great ceremonial will
be read at the end of the hundred years.

His cousin says that Mr. Lowell was chiefly occupied by his addresses
and other prose essays in the first years after his return, but that he
wrote a few poems. Most of these will be found in the “Atlantic.” For
the Lowell Institute he prepared a course of lectures on the old
English dramatists, which have been published since his death. Of his
addresses he printed but few, but the address on “The Independent in
Politics,” which he delivered in 1888 before the New York Reform Club,
was printed by that club.


Of his Cambridge life after his return to Elmwood his cousin writes:
“The house was haunted by sad memories, but at least he was once more
among his books. The library, which filled the two rooms on the ground
floor to the left of the front door, had been constantly growing, and
during his stay in Europe he had bought rare works with the intention
of leaving them to Harvard College. Here he would sit when sad or
unwell and read Calderon, the ’Nightingale in the Study,’ in whom he
always found a solace. Except for occasional attacks of the gout, his
life had been singularly free from sickness, but he had been at home
only a few months when he was taken ill, and, after the struggle of a
strong man to keep up as long as possible, he was forced to go to bed.
In a few days his condition became so serious that the physicians
feared he would not live; but he rallied, and, although too weak to go
to England, as he had planned, he appeared to be comparatively well.
When taken sick, he had been preparing a new edition of his works, the
only full collection that had ever been made, and he had the
satisfaction of publishing it soon after his recovery. This was the
last literary work he was destined to do, and it rounded off fitly his
career as a man of letters.”

Of these six years perhaps his friends remember his conversation most.
Like other great men and good men, he did not insist on choosing the
subject for conversation himself, but adapted himself to the wishes and
notions of the people around him. His memory was so absolute, his fancy
was so free, and his experience so wide that he seemed as much at home
in one subject as in another. But when he had quite his own way among a
circle of people more or less interested in books or literature, the
talk was quite sure to drift round into some discussion of etymologies,
of dialect, or of the change of habit which comes in as one or two
centuries go by. And when his curiosity was once excited about a
word—as I said when I was speaking of his talk with Mr. Murray—he would
hold on to that word as a genealogist holds on to the biography of a
great-grandmother of whom he only knows half the name. Here are one or
two passages from notes which illustrate what I mean: “I used to know
some about Pennsylvania Dutch, but forget their names.” “I wish I could
have studied the Western lingo more, for it has colored our national
speech most.” “I think perhaps W.P. Garrison might put you on the track
of something about the Southern _patois_.”

“Pitch into the abuse of ‘will’ and ‘shall,’ ‘would’ and ‘should;’ when
we were boys, no New Englander was capable of confounding them. I am
expecting a statute saying that a murderer ‘_will_ be hanged by the
neck till he _is_ dead.’ Alas the day!” And again, “_Daddock_ I knew,
but never met it alive; _dodder_, for a tree whose wood is beginning to
grow pulpy with decay, I have heard, and the two words may be cousins.
The latter, however, I believe to be a modern importation.” Murray and
the dictionaries confirm his quick guess between the relation of one of
these words to the other.

We have a fine American proverb, “Get the best.” In later years I have
tried to make some Western State adopt it for its state seal. I have
never seen it in any earlier use than in one of Lowell’s pleasant
letters describing a canoe voyage in Maine; and I wrote to him rather
late in his life to ask him if he were the inventor of the phrase. It
has been adopted, as the reader may be apt to remember, by the authors
of Webster’s Dictionary, and is a sort of trade-mark to their useful
volumes. I am sorry to say that Lowell himself did not remember whether
he had picked it up in conversation, or whether he coined it in its
present form. For myself, I like to associate it with him.

I find, as I said, I am always reading with pleasure his estimate of
his own work in the close of his life. It seems to me to be free from
mock modesty on the one hand, as it is from vanity on the other. He
seems to me to be as indifferent about style as I think a man ought to
be. If a man knows he is well dressed, he had better not recall his
last conversation with his tailor; he had better go and come and do his
duty. Other people may say about the dress what they choose. In
Lowell’s self-criticism, if one may call it so, you see the same
frankness and unconsciousness, the same freedom from conceit of any
kind, which you see in those early expressions which have been cited as
illustrations of his boyhood and his youth. If he had said what he
wanted to, he knew he had. If he had failed, he knew that. But it
seemed to him almost of course that if a man knew what he wanted to say
he should be able to say it.

One wishes that this unconsciousness of method could work itself into
the minds of literary men more often and more thoroughly. Let a man eat
his dinner and let him enjoy it, but do not let the guests discuss the
difference between the taste of red pepper and of black pepper. It is
as true in literature as everywhere else that the life is more than
meat, and the body than raiment. There will probably be sophists and
critics and fencing-masters and dancing-masters in all phases of
society. They will certainly give much pleasure to each other, and
perhaps they will give pleasure to the world; but it may be doubted
whether they will be of much use to anybody. I suppose Grant enjoyed a
dress parade when he saw it well done, but when they asked Grant how
long it took to make a light infantryman, he said, “About half an
hour.” Let us remember this as we listen, a little bored, to what
people have to tell us about style.

There are some curious discussions as to the places and the duties of
prose and of poetry; what you had better say in prose, what you had
better say in verse. But I am disposed to think that such discussions
with him were merely matters of amusement or possible speculation.
Everybody who is really familiar with Lowell’s writing will remember
many passages where the prose may be said to be the translation of his
own poetry, or the poetry to be the translation of his own prose. And
with such training as his, with such absolute command of language, with
his accurate ear and perfect sense of rhythm, it would be of course
that he should “lisp in numbers, for the numbers came.”

[Illustration: MR. LOWELL TO DR. HALE]

To the very end of his life, his conversation, and his daily walk
indeed, were swayed by the extreme tenderness for the feelings of
others which his sister noticed when he was a little boy. He would not
give pain if he could help it. He would go so much more than halfway in
trying to help the person who was next him that he would permit himself
to be bored, really without knowing that he was bored. He would
overestimate, as good men and great men will, the abilities of those
with whom he had to do. So his geese were sometimes swans, as Mr.
Emerson’s were, and those of other lovers of mankind.

His letters are never more interesting than in these closing years;
and, as I have suggested, the fun of his conversation sparkled as
brightly and happily as it ever did. Mr. Smalley, in an amusing
passage, has described his ultra-Americanism in England. A pretty
Englishwoman said, “Mr. Hawthorne has insulted us all by saying that
all English women are fat; but while Mr. Lowell is in the room I do not
dare say that all American women are lean.” When Lowell came home he
would take pleasure in snubbing the Anglomaniacs who are sometimes
found in New England, who want to show by their pronunciation or the
choice of their words that they have crossed the ocean. I think that
every one who is still living, of the little dinner-party where he
tortured one of these younger men, will remember the fun of his
attacks. This was one of the men whom you run against every now and
then, who thought he must say “Brummagem” because Englishmen said so a
hundred years ago; and on this occasion he was taking pains to
pronounce the word “clerk” as if it rhymed with “lark,”—“as she is
spoken in England, you know!” Lowell just pounced upon him as an eagle
might pounce on a lark, to ask why he did so, why, if it were our
fashion to pronounce the word “as she is spelled,” we might not do so,
whether on the whole this were not the old pronunciation, and so on,
and so on.

Never was anything more absurd than the idea which the Irish
sympathizers took up, that a residence in London had spoiled his
fondness for the old idioms and the other old home ways. Indeed, I
think his stay in Southborough was specially pleasant to him because he
learned in another part of Middlesex County how to renew some of those
studies of “Early America” which he had begun before he knew in

As one turns over the volume of his letters, he finds traces of the
fancies which shot themselves in a wayward fashion into his
conversation. One of the fads of his later life was the taking up of
the notion which we generally refer to Lord Beaconsfield, that almost
everything remarkable in modern life may be traced back, later or
earlier, to a Hebrew origin. He would discourse at length on the Hebrew
traits in Browning, and he affected to have discovered the line of
genealogy where, a century or two ago, a streak of the blood of Abraham
came into the lines of the Brownings. He was quite sure—I am sorry to
say I have forgotten how—that he had a line of Jewish blood himself, a
line which he could trace out somewhere this side of the times of
Ivanhoe. Then there was the hereditary descent of his mother’s family
from the Hebrides, which has been referred to. The Spences were of
Traill origin,—his brother Robert carried the Traill name. And Lowell
liked to think that he had in his make-up something of the element
which in a Lochiel you would call second-sight. Sometimes he alludes to
that in his letters; he has only to shut his eyes, he says, and he can
see all the people whom he has known, whom he wants to see, and carry
on his conversation with them. I have already said that when I
painfully worked through the poems of James Russell, our James
Russell’s great-grandfather, rendering that homage to the shade of that
poet which no one else has rendered for a hundred years, I had to
remind myself that he, alas! had no second-sight, and that he differed
from his great-grandson precisely in this, that he was not of Norna’s
blood and could not work Norna’s miracles.

One of the men of letters whose impressions of such a life every one is
glad to read writes to me of Lowell’s work: “Mr. Lowell excelled at
once in original and critical work, thus giving the lie to the sneer
that a critic is a person who has failed as a creator. Both as a poet
and an essayist he revealed himself as a genuine cosmopolitan. He had
the wisdom of the scholar and the horse sense of the man of the world.
He was equally at home in the splendid realm of the imagination and in
the prosaic domain of hard facts; and it may be said of him, as
Macaulay said of Bunyan, that he gave to the abstract the interest of
the concrete. As a satirist and humorist he produced in the ‘Biglow
Papers’ a work which is unique in our literature. He was not given to
moralizing; his was as far as possible from being a dull didactic
brain; but all to which he put his pen was wholesome and in the best
sense stimulating, free from morbidness and that pessimism of

                             ‘John P.
                             Robinson, he’

who declared that

             ‘They didn’t know everythin’ down in Judee.’”

In one of Lowell’s letters written to England after his return he says
that in America they had invented a new torture while he was away, in
the shape of calling upon authors to read their own works aloud for the
benefit of charities. I am always grateful to this form of torture when
it brings as agreeable compensation as I remember on an occasion when
we were both reading, I think, for the pleasure of an audience which
had contributed to the purchase of the Longfellow Park at Cambridge.
For this gave me the pleasure of talking to Lowell for the two hours
while the “entertainment” lasted, as we sat upon the stage in the
Boston Museum. It is rather a curious thing, to a person as little used
to a stage as I am, to find how wholly the footlights separate you, not
simply from the personal touch of the people in the audience, but from
them, until it comes to be your turn to address them. Even at a public
dinner, when you sit by some agreeable person, you have not exactly the
chance for conversation with him which you have when both of you are in
mediæval chairs dug out from the property-room, and reading is going on
quite in front of you which you may attend to or not, as you both
choose. Of course the fortune of a charity was made, if Lowell were
willing to read poetry or prose which he had written.

As the reader remembers, he lectured again in Boston in one or two full
courses to large audiences at the Lowell Institute. He did not
absolutely refuse calls from distant cities, but I think traveling
became somewhat a burden to him, and after he was once in Elmwood, the
associations of the old books and the old life were so pleasant that it
was more difficult to draw him away from home.

For his summer holiday, however, he could run across the ocean and
visit his English friends in the country, or go back to his pleasant
Whitby surroundings. Whitby had for him a particular charm, and one
really wishes that he had been in the mood at some time to make a
monograph on Whitby, so interesting are some of the references which he
makes to it in his letters.

“I am really at Whitby, whither I have been every summer but 1885 for
the last six years. This will tell you how much I like it. A very
primitive place it is, and the manners and ways of its people much like
those of New England. The people with whom I lodge, but for accent,
might be of Ashfield. It is a wonderfully picturesque place, with the
bleaching bones of its Abbey standing aloof on the bluff and dominating
the country for leagues. Once, they say, the monks were lords as far as
they could see. The skeleton of the Abbey still lords it over the
landscape, which was certainly one of the richest possessions they had,
for there never was finer. Sea and moor, hill and dale; sea dotted with
purple sails and white (fancy mixes a little in the purple, perhaps);
moors flushed with heather in blossom, and fields yellow with corn, and
the dark heaps of trees in every valley blabbing the secret of the
stream that fain would hide to escape being the drudge of man.”

We shall find this “hiding of the stream” again. “I know not why wind
has replaced water for grinding; and the huge water-wheels green with
moss and motionless give one a sense of repose after toil that to a
lazy man like me is full of comfort.” “I wish you could see the
‘yards,’ steep flights of stone steps hurrying down from the west cliff
and the east, between which the river whose name I can never remember
crawls into the sea.” The river is the Esk River, but not that which
Lochinvar swam where “ford there was none.”

A year afterwards Lowell writes from Whitby: “I am rather lame to-day,
because I walked too much and over very rough paths yesterday. But how
could I help it? For I will not give in to old age. The clouds were
hanging ominously in the northwest, and soon it began to rain in a
haphazard kind of way, as a musician who lodges over one lets his
fingers idle among the keys before he settles down to the serious
business of torture. So it went on drowsily, but with telling effects
of damp, till we reached Falling Foss, which we saw as a sketch in
water-colors, and which was very pretty.

“Thunderstorms loitered about over the valley like ’Arries on a Bank
Holiday, at a loss what to do with their leisure, but ducking us now
and then by way of showing their good humor. However, there were
parentheses of sunshine, and on the whole it was very beautiful.”

Again, the next year, in 1889, he says: “I was received with enthusiasm
by the Misses Galilee, the landladies; they vow they will never let my
rooms so long as there is any chance of my coming. I like it as much as
ever. I never weary of the view from my window; the Abbey says to me,
‘The best of us get a little shaky at last, and there get to be gaps in
our walls.’ And then the churchyard adds, ‘But you have no notion what
good beds there are at my inn—.’ The mill runs no longer, but the
stream does, down through a leafy gorge in little cascades and swirls
and quiet pools with skyscapes in them, and seems happy in its
holiday.” We shall come to this “happy holiday” again. Will the reader
observe that it is of a series of summers spent in this charming
retirement at Whitby, that we hear people speak who talk of his summers
in England as if the grand society he had met there had spoiled him for

One cannot read Lowell for five minutes without seeing how large his
life was, and how little he was fettered by the commonplace gyves of
space or time or flesh or sense. He never preaches as Dr. Young would
do, or Mr. Tupper, or Satan Montgomery. But, all the same, he is living
in the larger life, and so are you if he calls you into his company.
Writing to Miss Norton, he says:—

  “I don’t care where the notion of immortality came from.... It is
  there, and I mean to hold it fast. Suppose we don’t know. How much
  _do_ we know, after all?... The last time I was ill, I lost all
  consciousness of my flesh. I was dispersed through space in some
  inconceivable fashion and mixed with the Milky Way.... Yet the very
  fact that I had a confused consciousness all the while of the Milky
  Way as something to be mingled with, proved that I was there as much
  an individual as ever.

  “There is something in the flesh that is superior to the flesh,
  something that can in finer moments abolish matter and pain. And it
  is to this we must cling....

  “... I think the evolutionists will have to make a fetich of their
  protoplasm before long. Such a mush seems to me a poor substitute for
  the rock of ages, by which I understand a certain set of higher
  instincts which mankind have found solid under all weathers.”

If I am writing for those who have read Lowell carefully and loyally,
they know that he knew that “the human race is the individual of which
different men and women are separate cells or organs.” They know that
he knew that “honor, truth, and justice are not provincialisms of this
little world,” but belong to the life and language of the universe.
They know that he knew that he belonged to the universe and was the
infinite child of the infinite God. He says sometimes in joke that he
hates to go to church. I am afraid that most men who could preach as
well as he would say the same thing with the chances of the ordinary
religious service. But he also says, “If Dr. Donne or Jeremy Taylor, or
even Dr. South, were the preacher, perhaps”—

As it happens, I recollect no expressions of his more enthusiastic than
those in which he described public services of religion. His mother had
belonged to the Church of England, and his love for the Prayer Book was
associated with his earliest recollections of her.

For the rest, I am sure I should be most sorry to have any one think
that a man of his large, religious nature, who lived in the eternities,
could be satisfied with the average ecclesiastical function of to-day.

It was a disappointment to him that his health forbade one more visit
to his dear Whitby, which he had proposed for the summer of 1890. On
the last day of his last visit there, as I suppose, he wrote the
beautiful poem, not so well known as it should be, with which I will
close this series of reminiscences. He wrote it happily, and he liked

It begins with a gay description of the flow and joyous dash of young
life. As time passes on, the lively brook is held back by dams
sometimes; it is set to work to feed mankind, or to help men somehow;
it is pent in and almost prisoned. But not for always. Why should not
his brook burst its bonds and leap and plash and sparkle as happily as
when it was born?

I print this poem because the circumstances of its composition and
publication prevented its insertion in what are generally spoken of as
the complete editions edited by himself. He says to his daughter, in
speaking of it, “A poem got itself written at Whitby which seems to be
not altogether bad; and this intense activity of the brain has the same
effect as exercise on my body, and somehow braces up the whole
machine.” It is a pleasure to feel that he read this beautiful poem
himself with something of the satisfaction which every one will find in
it. And it is impossible that it should not suggest the conditions of
his own closing life. “My Brook,” he calls it. And one need not run
back to the memories of “Beaver Brook” to fancy the walk or the ride in
which some mountain brook in the North Riding renewed the old Cambridge
experiences. The charming brook of his youth, gay and joyous, had
passed through one and another channel of hard work and of close
discipline; but, as he says, there was no reason why, as he and his
brook came nearer to the ocean, there should not be the same joy and
freedom that there was when he and his brook began on life.

Just after he had written this charming poem—better than that, just
when he liked it—it happened that he received an earnest request from
that excellent friend of literature, Mr. Robert Bonner, asking him to
send something which he might print. On the impulse of the moment
Lowell sent this poem. Mr. Bonner kept it for illustration. He
illustrated it beautifully, and it appeared before the world fifteen
months after, at Christmas of the year 1890, in the New York “Ledger.”
By the courtesy of Mr. Bonner’s sons, I am able to print it all—as the
fit close of these papers. I could not otherwise have given so charming
a review by the poet of his own life and his eternal hopes.


  _From the original manuscript_]

                             MY BROOK.[10]

          It was far up the valley we first plighted troth,
            When the hours were so many, the duties so few;
          Earth’s burthen weighs wearily now on us both—
            But I’ve not forgotten those dear days; have you?

          Each was first-born of Eden, a morn without mate,
            And the bees and the birds and the butterflies thought
          ’Twas the one perfect day ever fashioned by fate,
            Nor dreamed the sweet wonder for us two was wrought.

          I loitered beside you the whole summer long,
            I gave you a life from the waste-flow of mine;
          And whether you babbled or crooned me a song,
            I listened and looked till my pulses ran wine.

          ’Twas but shutting my eyes; I could see, I could hear,
            How you danced there, my nautch-girl, ’mid flag-root and
          While the flashing tomauns tinkled joyous and clear
            On the slim wrists and ankles that flashed in their turn.


          Ah, that was so long ago! Ages it seems,
            And, now I return sad with life and its lore,
          Will they flee my gray presence, the light-footed dreams,
            And Will-o’-Wisp light me his lantern no more?

          Where the bee’s hum seemed noisy once, all was so still,
            And the hermit-thrush nested secure of her lease,
          Now whirr the world’s millstones and clacks the world’s mill—
            No fairy-gold passes, the oracles cease!

          The life that I dreamed of was never to be,
            For I with my tribe into bondage was sold;
          And the sungleams and moongleams, your elf-gifts to me,
            The miller transmutes into work-a-day gold.


          What you mint for the miller will soon melt away;
            It is earthy, and earthy good only it buys,
          But the shekels you tost me are safe from decay;
            They were coined of the sun and the moment that flies.

          Break loose from your thralldom! ’Tis only a leap;
            Your eyes ’tis but shutting, just holding your breath;
          Escape to the old days, the days that will keep.
            If there’s peace in the mill-pond, so is there in death.

          Leap down to me, down to me! Be, as you were,
            My nautch-girl, my singer; again let them glance,
          Your tomauns, the sun’s largess, that wink and are there,
            And gone again, still keeping time as you dance.

          Make haste, or it may be I wander again;
            It is I, dear, that call you; Youth beckons with me;
          Come back to us both, for, in breaking your chain,
            You set the old summers and fantasies free.

          You are mine and no other’s; with life of my life
            I made you a Naiad, that were but a stream;
          In the moon are brave dreams yet, and chances are rife
            For the passion that ventures its all on a dream.


          Leapt bravely! Now down through the meadows we’ll go
            To the Land of Lost Days, whither all the birds wing,
          Where the dials move backward and asphodels blow;
            Come flash your tomauns again, dance again, sing!

          Yes, flash them and clash them on ankle and wrist,
            For we’re pilgrims to Dreamland, O Daughter of Dream!
          There we find again all that we wasted or misst,
            And Fancy—poor fool!—with her bauble’s supreme.

          As the Moors in their exile the keys treasured still
            Of their castles in Spain, so have I; and no fear
          But the doors will fly open, whenever we will,
            To the prime of the Past and the sweet of the year.

And so “my brook” passes into the ocean.





  Abolitionism, 51, 56, 60.

  Adams, Charles Francis, his opinion of Spain, 216, 217;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202;
    minister to Spain, 239.

  Adams, President John Quincy, his action regarding Cuba, 221.

  Adams, Samuel, credits Mayhew with idea of colonial federation, 9.

  Address at the quarter-millennial celebration of Harvard, by
            J.R. L., 268.

  Admiralty law, 218.

  Advertiser. _See_ Boston Advertiser.

  Agassiz, Louis, lecturer before Lowell Institute, 197–199;
    professor at Harvard, 197, 198, 268;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Alcott, A. Bronson, 43.

  Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, 149, 151;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Alfonso XII., of Spain, 216, 223, 224.

  Allen, Thomas J., 67.

  Allen & Ticknor, booksellers, 65, 155.

  Allston, Washington, friend of Dr. Charles Lowell, 12;
    his pictures in Boston, 58.

  Almakkari’s History, translated by Gayangos, 235.

  Alpha Delta Phi, at Harvard, 26–29;
    society formed at Hamilton College, N.Y., 27.

  Amadeo, king of Spain, abdication of, 208, 216.

  Amadis, 18.

  American Academy, 152.

  American ministers to England, 239.

  Andrew, Governor, 182, 202.

  Andrews, C.C., 248.

  Anglomaniacs, snubbed by J.R. L., 275.

  Anti-Slavery Society, 173, 174.

  Anti-Slavery Standard. _See_ National Anti-Slavery Standard.

  Appleton, Thomas Gold, 202, 266.

  “Arcturus, The,” 84.

  Armstrong, Governor, 155.

  Atlantic Monthly, The, 83, 145, 150–152, 156–162, 165–167, 171,
            179, 270.

  Atlas, The Boston, edited by Richard Hildreth, 69.

  Aubépine, Monsieur d’, _nom de plume_ of Hawthorne, 84.

  Bachi, Pietro, professor at Harvard, 128.

  Bacon, John, 26.

  Balliol College, Oxford, compared with Harvard, 22.

  Ball’s Bluff, battle of, 183.

  Bancroft, George, 68, 152, 155, 239.

  “Band of Brothers and Sisters, The,” 71, 72.

  Barrett, Elizabeth. _See_ Browning, Elizabeth Barrett.

  Barrows, Mr., extracts from J.R. L.’s letters to, 242.

  Battle of the Nile, The (song), 75.

  “Baxter’s Boys They Built a Mill,” 75.

  Beaver Brook, 177, 267, 284.

  Beecher, Henry Ward, 104.

  Beefsteak Club, 126.

  Bellini, Charles, professor of modern languages at Harvard, 126.

  Bellows, Henry Whitney, trained in English by E.T. Channing, 19.

  Bells and Pomegranates, 85.

  Bible, first American, 154.

  Bigelow, Jacob, lectures in Boston, 106.

  Biglow, Hosea, 210, 211.

  Biglow Papers, 44, 115, 124, 163, 176, 177;
    first series, popular in England, 98, 99;
    occasion of, 162;
    second series, 164, 167, 181;
    criticism of, 277, 278.

  Birmingham address. _See_ Democracy.

  Blackwood (magazine), 37, 82, 160.

  Blaine, James G., relations with J.R. L., 259.

  Blockade-running during the Civil War, 218–220.

  Board of Fellows of Harvard University, 15.

  Bonner, Robert, publishes Lowell’s poem, My Brook, in New York
            Ledger, 284.

  Boston Advertiser, edited by Nathan Hale, 35, 79, 114;
    publishes J.R. L.’s lectures, 114.

  Boston as a publishing centre, 152, 153.

  Boston Athenæum, 68, 152.

  Boston, in the forties, 55–58;
    changes in, 264, 265.

  Boston Miscellany of Literature and Fashion, The, 29, 35, 82, 84–87,
            95, 147.

  Boston Latin School, 128, 182.

  Boston Lyceum, 110.

  Boston Public Library, 66.

  Boston “school of history,” 68.

  Bowen, Francis, professor at Harvard, 50, 170.

  Bowker, R.R., 257, 258.

  Bradbury & Soden, publishers, 82, 83.

  Braham, John, the singer, 58.

  Briggs, Charles F., 84, 176.

  Brooks, Charles T., 44, 185.

  Brooks, Phillips, 202.

  Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 84, 90.

  Browning, Robert, 85, 258.

  Browning’s Hebrew traits, 276.

  Brownson, Orestes A., 57.

  Bryant, William Cullen, 97.

  Brunetti Latini, teacher of Dante, 49.

  Buchanan, James, member of the Ostend conference, 217.

  “Buddha of the West,” 203.

  Bunyan, remark of Macaulay concerning, 277.

  Burnett, Mabel Lowell, daughter of J.R. L., 143, 144, 188, 265, 267.

  “Byles,” pseudonym of Edmund Quincy, 176.

  Cabot, J. Elliot, member of the Saturday Club, 157, 158, 202;
    remark quoted, 203.

  Calderon, Serafin Estebanez (the poet), J.R. L.’s love for, 271.

  Calderon Collantes, Fernando, 216.

  Calderon de la Barca, Madam, governess in the Spanish royal family,
            224, 225.

  Calderon de la Barca, Pedro, 224.

  Cambridgeport Women’s Total Abstinence Society, 111.

  Canovas, Señor, 227, 228.

  Carlyle, his books reprinted in America; their influence on Lowell,
    remark on Rousseau, 46;
    his popularity in Cambridge, 60, 61;
    London lectures, 105, 106;
    his Chartism, 136.

  Carpenter, George O., 67.

  Carter, James, 40.

  Carter, Robert, friend of J.R. L., 86, 91, 114.

  Cathedral, The, Emerson’s criticism of, 164.

  Changeling, The, 150.

  Channing, Edward Tyrrel, professor at Harvard, 18, 19, 21, 35,
            41, 128;
    lectures in Boston, 67.

  Channing, Walter, 22.

  Channing, William Ellery (the younger), 43.

  Channing, William Francis, abolitionist, 22.

  Chase, Thomas, professor at Harvard, 170.

  Chapman, Mrs., abolitionist, 175.

  Chauncy, Charles, president of Harvard, 194.

  Cheerful Yesterdays, 100.

  Cherokee warrior of Lowell’s class poem, 51.

  Child, Francis J., professor at Harvard, 170, 184–187;
    his War Songs for Freemen, 185, 186.

  Child, Lydia Maria, contributor to the National Anti-Slavery Standard,
            97, 98.

  Choate, Joseph H., 40.

  Choate, Rufus, lectures in Boston, 67;
    J.R. L.’s article on, 166.

  Christian Examiner, 152.

  Church, the, position of, on the issues between North and South, 100.

  Cincinnati Public Library, Rufus King a founder of, 32.

  Civil Service Reform, 261.

  Civil War, beginning of, 180.

  Clarke, James Freeman, his classical scholarship, 14;
    trained in English by E.T. Channing, 19;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Clarendon Press, Oxford, 254.

  Class Day at Harvard, 39.

  Class poem, Lowell’s, 51–53.

  Cleveland, Grover, elected president, 259;
    does not retain J.R. L. as minister to England, 261.

  Cleveland, Henry Russell, contributor to the North American
            Review, 61.

  Clough, Arthur Hugh, in Cambridge, 135, 136;
    acquaintance with Emerson, 136, 137.

  “Club, The,” 71.

  “Coercion Act,” 243.

  Coleridge’s poems published in Philadelphia, 23.

  College life in America in J.R. L.’s time, 127–131.

  College societies at Harvard, 16.

  Commemoration Ode, 8, 164;
    delivery of, 188–191.

  Commencement dinners at Harvard, 117.

  Commission of Thirty, 206.

  Concord, Mass., scene of Lowell’s “rustication,” 43–54.

  Congregational church, schism in, 10.

  Constitution of the United States, celebration of the adoption of,
            268, 270;
    J.R. L.’s address, 269.

  Cooke, George Willis, 201.

  Cooke, Josiah Parsons, professor at Harvard, 170, 197.

  Coolidge, James Ivers Trecothick, classmate of J.R. L., 27, 32;
    contributor to Harvardiana, 36;
    class orator, 39.

  Corner Bookstore. _See_ Old Corner Bookstore.

  Cotton, John, 103, 104.

  Courier, The, 162.

  Craigie House, 137.

  Crocker & Brewster, publishers, 153, 155.

  Cromwell’s Head, sign of, 65.

  Cuba, negotiations in regard to, between United States and Spain, 208,
            217, 221, 227, 228.

  Cummings & Hilliard, publishers, 155.

  Curtis, George Ticknor, 71.

  Cushing, Caleb, J.R. L.’s article on, 166.

  Custer, Gen. George A., 182.

  Cutler, Elbridge Jefferson, instructor at Harvard, 132, 133, 135, 185.

  Daguerreotype, announced by Daguerre, in 1839, 31.

  Daily Advertiser. _See_ Boston Advertiser.

  Dallas, George M., 156.

  Dana, Richard Henry, president of Phi Beta Kappa, 117;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202, 266;
    friend of J.R. L., 253.

  Dana Law School, 183.

  Dante, J.R. L.’s lectures on, 130, 140, 142, 144.

  Dante, quotation from, 49.

  Death of Queen Mercedes (sonnet), 233.

  Democracy, Lowell’s address at Birmingham, 237, 252, 253, 268.

  Democratic Review, Hawthorne’s stories in, 84.

  Dictionary House, 255.

  Diplomatic Correspondence, edited by Sparks, 69.

  Diplomatic correspondence of J.R. L., 242–244.

  Donne, Dr., 282.

  Douglas, Stephen A., 200.

  Dublin University Magazine, 160.

  Dunlap, Frances. _See_ Lowell, Frances Dunlap.

  Duyckinck, E.A., editor of The Arcturus, 84.

  Dwight, John Sullivan, 202.

  Ebeling collection of early American authorities, 68.

  Edinburgh Review, The, 62, 168, 235.

  Election in November, The, 171.

  Eliot, Charles William, president of Harvard, 40, 120, 129, 130, 170,
            193, 196, 202.

  Eliot, Samuel, his classical scholarship, 14;
    pupil of William Wells, 14.

  Elliott, Dr., oculist, 89, 90.

  Ellis, Rev. Dr. Rufus, classmate of J.R. L., 32;
    contributor to Harvardiana, 36;
    commencement orator, 54.

  Ellsler, Fanny, 58.

  Elmwood, home of James Russell Lowell’s family, 1;
    occupied by Thomas Oliver in 1774, 1;
    confiscated by the state after Oliver’s departure, 2;
    lived in by Elbridge Gerry, 3;
    used as a hospital during the Revolution, 3;
    description, 3, 6, 11, 12;
    occupied by J.R. L. after his marriage, 98, 126, 143, 145, 150,
    return to, after residence abroad, 263–265, 267, 270;
    Dr. Hale’s last visit to Dr. Charles Lowell there, 101;
    birthplace of James Jackson Lowell, 182.

  Emerson, Ellen, 202.

  Emerson, Ralph Waldo, trained in English by E.T. Channing, 19;
    his copy of Tennyson’s first volume of poems, 21;
    Lowell’s first acquaintance with, 48, 49;
    address before Cambridge divinity school, 48;
    contributes to the North American Review, 61, 63;
    literary work as a profession, 63, 64;
    English Traits, sale of, 63, 64;
    connection with Mr. Phillips, 64;
    remarks quoted, 69, 129;
    lectures in London, 105;
    at Dartmouth College, 108;
    in Boston, 59, 67, 110;
    friendship with Arthur Hugh Clough, 136, 137;
    publication of books, 152;
    member of the Saturday Club, 157, 158;
    English Traits, 63, 64, 154;
    criticism of Lowell’s The Cathedral, 164;
    Phi Beta Kappa addresses, 202–205;
    member of the Saturday Club, 157, 201;
    Bowdoin prize dissertations, 202;
    not infallible in judging character, 275.

  Emerson, William, 202.

  Emigrant Aid Company, destruction of hotel of the, 180.

  English Traits, sale of, 63, 64.

  English attitude towards America in 1863, 251.

  English friends and acquaintances of J.R. L., 257–259.

  Esk River, 280.

  Euripides, 128.

  Eustis, Henry Lawrence, 27.

  Eustis, John Fenwick, 26.

  Evarts, William M., 214, 231, 239.

  Evening Post, edited by Bryant and Gay, 177.

  Everett, Alexander, 69, 152;
    as minister to Spain, offers $100,000,000 for Cuba, 217;
    remark quoted, 153.

  Everett, Edward, lectures in Boston, 57, 67, 106;
    author, 69, 152;
    remark quoted, 128;
    president of Harvard, 133, 143;
    his opinion of the Transcendentalists, 203;
    congressman, 212;
    opinion of American enthusiasm for things English, 237;
    minister to England, 239.

  Everett, William, 40, 212.

  Fable for Critics, 58, 124, 163.

  Fair Oaks, battle of, 183.

  Fantasy, 85.

  Federal party, 17.

  Federation of colonies suggested by Mayhew, 9.

  Felton, Cornelius Conway, president of Harvard, 41, 129, 130, 134,
            170, 193, 194;
    contributor to the North American Review, 61, 194;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Fenians, 241.

  Field, John W., friend of J.R. L., 253.

  Fields, James T., 57, 65–67;
    editor of The Atlantic Monthly, 151, 166;
    bookseller and publisher, 154, 155.

  Fields, Osgood & Co., publishers, 169.

  Fingal, relation to Fenians, 241.

  First Class Book, 20.

  First Snowfall, The, 12, 150.

  Fish, Hamilton, instructions to Mr. Sickles regarding Spanish
            affairs, 208, 225.

  Fitful Head, The, 4.

  Five of Clubs, The, 60.

  Flaxman’s pictures, 86.

  Forbes, John Murray, 202.

  Foreign press on America, 209, 210.

  Fox, Charles James, 9.

  Franklin, Benjamin, minister to France, 213.

  Frazer’s Magazine, 160.

  Frelinghuysen, F.T., letter of J.R. L. to, 244.

  French travelers in America, reference to, 121.

  Frost, Rev. Barzillai, Lowell’s tutor during his “rustication,”
            41, 43–47;
    instructor at Harvard, 44.

  Frost, Mrs. Barzillai, 47.

  Fuller, Margaret, 58.

  Gage, General, in Boston, 2.

  Galilee, the Misses, Whitby landladies, 281.

  Galignani’s newspaper, 209.

  Gardiner, Colonel, of Preston Pans, 224.

  Garrison, Wendell Phillips, 272.

  Garrison, William Lloyd, establishes the Liberator, 56, 57, 174;
    influence as a lecturer, 101, 103, 104;
    reference to, by J.R. L., 175.

  Garrisonians, 173.

  Gay, Sydney Howard, journalist and historian, 97, 149, 173–179.

  Gayangos, Pascual de, 235, 236.

  George, Henry, arrested in Ireland, 241.

  German literature at Harvard, 19.

  Gerry, Elbridge, lived at Elmwood, 3.

  Getting Up, 85.

  “Giacopo il Rigiovinato,” 262.

  Gilder, R.W., 262.

  Gladstone, William Ewart, his first knowledge of Emerson, 108;
    prime minister, 249;
    his retirement, 250.

  Godey’s Lady’s Book, 82.

  Gower, Levison. _See_ Granville, Lord.

  Graham’s Magazine, 82.

  Grant, U.S., his action regarding Cuba, 221, 226;
    anecdote of, 274.

  Granville, Lord, association with Lowell, 240, 241, 246–250.

  Gray, Asa, professor at Harvard, 196, 197.

  “Gray, Billy,” 264.

  Greeley, Horace, editor of the Tribune, 97, 175;
    attitude towards Lincoln, 178, 179.

  Greenleaf, Simon, professor of law at Harvard, 32, 81.

  Guyot, Arnold, story of his dinner-party, 199.

  Hale, Charles, 251.

  Hale, Horatio, member of Wilkes’s exploring expedition, 25, 26;
    prints vocabulary of Micmac Indian language, 26, 27.

  Hale, John Parker, minister to Spain, 218.

  Hale, Nathan, Jr., at Harvard, 27, 29, 30;
    editor, 35, 36, 83–86, 114;
    member of the “Band,” 70, 73, 74.

  Hale, Sarah Everett, 71, 72.

  Hall, Newman, 194.

  Hancock, Governor, 18.

  Hartington, Lord, 248.

  Harris, Clarendon, 154.

  Harrison, President, speech at New York, at the centennial of the
            adoption of the Constitution, 269, 270.

  Hart, ——, referred to in J.R. L.’s correspondence, 242.

  Hart, Albert B., review of diplomatic relations between United
            States and Spain, in Harper’s Monthly, 218, 221.

  Harvard College, sends Pietas et Gratulatio to George III., 7;
    life at, 15–26, 36;
    library, 16, 68, 271;
    Phi Beta Kappa and Commencement dinners, 117;
    modern language work, 126, 127, 130;
    growth of the college, 128–130, 133, 134, 192;
    professors contemporary with Lowell, 170;
    quarter-millennial celebration, 198.

  Harvard men in the Civil War, 180.

  Harvard Society of Alumni, J.R. L. president of, 117.

  Harvardiana, 25, 29, 30, 35–39, 93, 94;
    Lowell one of the editors of, 25, 35–39.

  Haskell, Daniel N., 67.

  Hawthorne, Nathaniel, in Concord, 43, 44;
    in Boston, 58;
    a contributor to the Boston Miscellany of Literature and
            Fashion, 84;
    publishes books, 152;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202;
    remark on English women, 275.

  Hayes, Rutherford B., elected President, 212, 213;
    appoints J.R. L. minister to England, 234, 238.

  Hayward, Charles, one of the editors of Harvardiana, 25–27.

  Heath, Frank, college friend of J.R. L., prominent in Confederate
            army, 95.

  Hebrew origins studied by J.R. L., 276.

  Hecuba, 128.

  Hedge, Dr. F.H., his Phi Beta Kappa address, 128, 129;
    contributor to War Songs for Freemen, 185.

  Hercules and the Hydra, 211.

  Herder, Johann Gottfried von, 46.

  Hermann, Friedrich B.W. von, 58.

  Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, pupil of William Wells, 13;
  classical scholarship, 14;
    trained in English by E.T. Channing, 19;
    Cheerful Yesterdays, 100;
    a contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, 166.

  Hildreth, Richard, historian, 69, 152.

  Hildreth, Samuel Tenney, one of the editors of Harvardiana, 25–27.

  Hill, Thomas, president of Harvard, 129, 130, 134, 193, 194–196.

  Hillard, George Stillman, contributor to North American Review, 61.

  Hilliard & Gray, publishers, 153, 155.

  Historical Society, library of, 68.

  Hoar, George Frisbie, 202.

  Hoar, Judge, president of Phi Beta Kappa, 117;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Hoar family, in Concord, 44.

  Hoffman, August Heinrich, 46.

  Holden, Mr., 122.

  Holmes, John, his classical scholarship, 14, 188, 266.

  Holmes, Oliver Wendell, pupil of William Wells, 13;
    classical scholarship, 14;
    trained in English by E.T. Channing, 19;
    after-dinner speaker, 40;
    heard in public in Boston in the 40’s, 57, 67;
    note to J.R. L. quoted, 118, 119;
    member of the Saturday Club, 157, 158, 201;
    referred to in speaking of the Atlantic, 160;
    My Hunt after the Captain, 161;
    the Autocrat, 165;
    contributor to War Songs for Freemen, 185;
    calls Emerson the Buddha of the West, 203;
    later companionship with J.R. L., 266.

  “Hospital for Incurable Children” (anecdote), 263.

  Hotel France et Lorraine, Lowell’s home in Paris, 206, 207.

  House of Commons, visited by Charles Lowell, 19.

  Howe, Dr. and Mrs. Estes, 145, 266.

  Howe, Mrs. Julia Ward, 185, 186.

  Howells, William Dean, contributor to and editor of The Atlantic
             Monthly, 151;
    contributor to the North American, 169;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Hughes, Thomas, friend of J.R. L. and guest at Elmwood, 258, 259.

  Hughes, Mrs. Thomas, 259.

  Hunt, William Morris, 202.

  Hunter, Mrs. Leo, 257.

  Hutten, Heinrich von, member of Kossuth’s suite, 138;
    translates Uncle Tom’s Cabin into German, 138.

  Hutten, Ulrich von, 138.

  Immortality, Lowell’s belief in, 281, 282.

  In Memoriam, published by Ticknor & Fields, 65;
    anecdote concerning, 65, 66.

  Independent in Politics, The, address before New York Reform Club,

  Inglis, Fanny. _See_ Calderon de la Barca, Madam.

  Irish-Americans not satisfied with J.R. L. as minister to England,

  Irish sympathizers’ criticism of J.R. L., 276.

  Irving, Washington, minister to Spain, 213.

  Isabella II., of Spain, 220.

  Jackson, Judge, 58.

  James, Henry, 202.

  Jefferson, Thomas, hated by Josiah Quincy, 18;
    at William and Mary’s College, 126.

  Jennison, James, professor at Harvard, 170.

  Jewish strain in Lowell family, 276.

  Jowett, Life of, 22;
    his opinion of sermons, 99.

  July reviewed by September, 171.

  Jungfrau, first ascent of, by Agassiz, 198.

  Kansas, struggle for freedom of, 101, 171, 218.

  Keats, John, his poems, published in Philadelphia, 23;
     J.R. L.’s admiration of, 89.

  King, Augusta Gilman, 71, 72.

  King, Caroline Howard, 71.

  King, John Gallison, friend of J.R. L., 70, 74, 79.

  King, John Glen, distinguished lawyer, 79.

  King, Rufus, at Harvard, 27, 29–33, 35, 36;
    lawyer and citizen of eminence in Cincinnati, 31, 32;
    member of the Constitutional Convention of Ohio, 32;
    Dean of the Faculty of the Cincinnati Law School, 32;
    contributor to Harvardiana, 36.

  King, Rufus (the elder), leader of Federalist party, 31.

  King, Thomas Starr, settles in Boston, 67;
    bright sayings, 106, 107.

  “King’s Arms, The,” 74.

  Knickerbocker Magazine, 82, 83, 160.

  Koerner, Gustav, minister to Spain, 218.

  Lane, General, 183.

  Lane, George M., professor at Harvard, 170.

  Lass of the Pamunky, The, 186.

  Laud, Bishop, 103, 104.

  Lawrence, Abbott, minister to England, 239.

  Lawrence, Amos Adams, anecdote of, 264.

  Lecture system. _See_ Lyceum system.

  Ledger. _See_ New York Ledger, 284.

  Leland, Charles Godfrey, 186.

  Leland, Henry Perry, 186.

  Lexington, battle of, 2.

  Liberator, The, 56, 174.

  Liberty Bell, The, 97–101.

  Libraries in Boston before 1850, 66, 68.

  Lilliburlero, 186.

  Lilliput circle of Boston and Cambridge, 51.

  Lincoln, Abraham, 172, 178, 200, 201, 218.

  Lincoln, Robert, reminiscence of Lowell, 142, 143;
    anecdote of his entrance to Harvard, 200, 201.

  Lippitt, George Warren, at Harvard, 27, 29, 30, 35, 36;
    secretary of legation at Vienna, 29;
    Unitarian preacher, 32, 33.

  Literary Messenger, The, 82.

  Lochinvar, 280.

  London Quarterly Review, The, 62, 168.

  Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, “Smith professor” at Harvard, 19–21, 40,
            41, 128, 130;
    contributor to the North American Review, 61, 62;
    succeeded in his professorship by J.R. L., 127;
    friendship with J.R. L., 135, 137;
    kindness to Heinrich von Hutten, 138, 144;
    member of the Saturday Club, 157, 202;
    contributor to the Atlantic, 165, 166;
    anecdote of, 187;
    dies during J.R. L.’s residence in England, 266.

  Longfellow, Samuel, 31.

  Longfellow Park, 278.

  Loring, Caleb Williams, 161.

  Loring, Charles Greeley, Boston lawyer, 81.

  Loring, Frederick Wadsworth, 131, 132, 185.

  Loring, George Bailey, intimate friend of J.R. L., 36, 58, 80;
    contributor to Harvardiana, 36, 109, 132.

  Louis Napoleon. _See_ Napoleon III.

  Lovering, Joseph, professor at Harvard, 134, 170.

  Lowell, A. Lawrence, extracts from, and references to, his memoir
            of J.R. L., 149, 162–164, 172, 210, 260, 270.

  Lowell, Blanche, daughter of J.R. L., 149.

  Lowell, Charles, brother of J.R. L., 12.

  Lowell, Charles, father of J.R. L., minister of West Church, Boston,
            1, 6–12, 53, 54, 96, 101.

  Lowell, Charles Russell, nephew of J.R. L., killed during the Civil
            War, 180–182.

  Lowell, Frances Dunlap, wife of J.R. L., 145, 205, 207, 208, 234,
            235, 240, 241, 259, 260.

  Lowell, Francis Cabot, founder of the city of Lowell, 7.

  Lowell, Harriet Spence, mother of J.R. L., 3, 4, 276, 283.

  Lowell, James Jackson, nephew of J.R. L., killed during the Civil
            War, 180–184.

  Lowell, James Russell, parentage, 1, 3;
    boyhood, 1, 3–5, 11–14;
    early views on slavery, 8;
    college days, 15–21;
    one of the editors of Harvardiana, 25, 35;
    member of Alpha Delta Phi, 27;
    early poems, 30, 34, 39;
    appointed class poet, 39;
    “rusticated” in consequence of indifference to college rules, 40,
    stay at Concord, 43–54;
    class poem, 50–53;
    choice of a profession, 58, 59, 69;
    intimate friends 70–77;
    abandons law for literature, 81, 82, 85;
    a contributor to The Boston Miscellany of Literature and Fashion,
            35, 82–86;
    with Robert Carter establishes The Pioneer, which dies after three
            months, 86–91;
    goes to New York for treatment of his eyes, 88–90;
    marries Maria White, 1844, 92;
    publishes A Year’s Life, 1841, 93, 94;
    spends winter of 1844–45 in Philadelphia, 96;
    writes for The Liberty Bell and the National Anti-Slavery Standard,
            97, 98, 173, 175;
    publishes The Biglow Papers, first series, 98;
    lectures in behalf of the anti-slavery and temperance reforms, and
            on literary subjects, 100, 101, 109–117;
    gives Lowell Institute course, 112–117;
    president of the Harvard Society of Alumni, 117–121;
    president of the Phi Beta Kappa of Cambridge, 117–121;
    death of Mrs. Lowell, 125;
    goes to Europe, 125;
    “Smith professor” at Harvard, 125, 127, 130, 132–135, 137–139,
            141–144, 164, 170, 171, 193–201;
    marries Miss Frances Dunlap, 145;
    editorial work, 145–169, 179, 180;
    member of the Saturday Club, 157, 158, 201;
    goes abroad, 163;
    political essays, 171, 175;
    contributor to the National Anti-Slavery Standard, 175–177;
    losses of relatives in the Civil War, 180;
    visits Paris, 205–208;
    Rome, 209;
    returns to Elmwood, 209;
    his stand in political matters, 211;
    presidential elector, 212, 213;
    offered several foreign missions, appointed to Spain, 192, 213, 214;
    difficulties of the position, 215–221, 225;
    life in Madrid, 228–234;
    transferred to England, 234;
    life in London, 238–261;
    death of the second Mrs. Lowell, 241, 259;
    tour on the Continent, 253;
    returns to America, 261, 262;
    last years, 262–284;
    public addresses and readings, 266, 269, 278, 279;
    Lowell Institute lectures, 270, 279;
    later literary work, 270, 271;
    etymological study, 271, 272;
    death, 262.

  Lowell, John, minister at Newburyport, 6.

  Lowell, John [2d], judge, 6, 7;
    his opposition to slavery, 6;
    a verse-writer, 7.

  Lowell, John [3d], founder of the Lowell Institute, 7, 9, 112, 113.

  Lowell, John, judge, great grandson of John Lowell [2d] above, 202.

  Lowell, John Amory, 197.

  Lowell, Mabel. _See_ Burnett, Mabel Lowell.

  Lowell, Maria White, wife of J.R. L., 71, 72, 75, 76, 78, 86, 87,
    writes for The Liberty Bell and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 97;
    death of, 125, 163.

  Lowell, Mary. _See_ Putnam, Mary Lowell.

  Lowell, Percival, 7.

  Lowell, Rebecca, sister of J.R. L., 11.

  Lowell, Robert Traill Spence, brother of J.R. L., 11, 267, 276.

  Lowell, Rose, daughter of J.R. L., 149, 163.

  Lowell, Walter, son of J.R. L., 163.

  Lowell, William, brother of J.R. L., 11, 12.

  Lowell factory girls, 83.

  Lowell Institute, the, 7, 66, 67, 112, 113;
    lectures before, by J.R. L., 112, 113, 270, 279.

  “Lyceum system,” 99, 100, 102–110, 112, 152;
    influence of, in developing anti-slavery sentiment, 104.

  Lyman, Mrs., Life of, 167.

  Lyttelton, Lady, friend of J.R. L. and Mrs. L., 259.

  Macaulay, T.B., remark on Bunyan, 277.

  Macaulay’s History, published in Boston, 156.

  Man without a Country, The, published in The Atlantic Monthly,
            161, 162.

  Mann, Horace, 194.

  Mansfield, Lord, decision of, in regard to slavery in England
            (Somerset case), 6.

  Mason, John Y., member of the Ostend conference, 217.

  Mason and Slidell, J.R. L.’s writing concerning, 260.

  Massachusetts Bay Colony, 102, 103.

  Massachusetts Bill of Rights, anti-slavery clauses, 6, 8.

  Massachusetts Historical Society, 68, 110, 152.

  Massachusetts Society for Diffusing Useful Knowledge, 110.

  Mayhew, Thomas, pastor of West Church, first suggested federation of
            American colonies, 9.

  McClellan, Gen. George B., 181.

  McCoil, Fein, 241.

  McInerny, John, Irish suspect, 244.

  McLeod, Mrs., teacher in Boston, 224.

  McMicken bequest, 32.

  Mead, Edwin D., article on the Pioneer, 87, 88.

  Mechanics’ Association, 110.

  Mechanics’ Institutes, 105.

  Memorial Hall, Cambridge, 118.

  Mercantile Library Association, 66, 67, 110.

  Mercedes, queen of Alphonso XII., 232, 233.

  Mexican War, 162.

  Miller, William, Second Adventist, 57.

  Minister’s position in New England in the 18th century, 9.

  Miscellany, The Boston. _See_ #Boston Miscellany of Literature
            and Fashion.

  Missouri Compromise, 8, 96.

  Modern language instruction at Harvard, 15, 126, 130;
    at William and Mary’s, 126.

  Modoc Indians, 210.

  Monroe, James, publisher, 154.

  Montgomery, Robert, 281.

  Monthly Anthology, The, 62, 152.

  Montpensier, Duchess of, 219.

  Morris, Gouverneur, opinion of, on the Union, 18.

  Morse, John T., jr., his Life of Dr. Holmes, 11, 201.

  Mosby, Colonel, 182.

  Motley, John Lothrop, publishes Merrymount, 69;
    member of the Saturday Club, 157, 158, 202;
    contributor to the Atlantic, 165, 166;
    the North American, 169;
    minister to Austria, 213;
             to England, 239;
    anecdote of, 263.

  Moxon, Edward, 85.

  Murray’s Dictionary, 253–257, 272.

  Music (poem), 12.

  “Mutual Admiration Society,” 57, 59–66, 134, 169.

  My Brook, 284–286.

  My First Client, 80, 85.

  Napoleon III. (Louis Charles Napoleon Bonaparte), his action during
            the American Civil War, 218–220.

  Nation, The, occasion of its composition, 210.

  National Anti-Slavery Standard, 97, 101, 149, 163, 171–179.

  Natural History Society at Harvard, foundation of, 23.

  New England Emigrant Aid Company, 212.

  New England Magazine, first, 82;
    present series, 87, 201.

  New Tariff Bill, The, 171.

  New York Ledger, 284.

  New York Reform Club, 270.

  New York Tribune, The, during the Civil War, 175–179.

  Niagara, described by Rev. Barzillai Frost, 45.

  “Nightingale in the Study, The,” 271.

  Nolan, Philip, 217.

  Norna, 4, 277.

  North American Review, early character and influence of, 59–64, 82,
            152, 167, 168;
    edited by Palfrey, 59–61;
           by Edward and Alexander Everett, 62, 63;
           by Lowell and Norton, 145, 167–169, 171, 179.

  North, Christopher, 37.

  Norton, Caroline, 188.

  Norton, Grace, letters to, 229, 281.

  Norton, Charles Eliot, friend of J.R. L. and editor of his letters,
            33, 78, 80, 122, 135, 265, 266;
    editor, with J.R. L., of the North American Review, 151, 168, 169;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Ode, 85, 86.

  Odeon, 57.

  Old and New, edited by Nathan Hale, 35;
    by E.E. Hale, 164, 216.

  Old Corner Bookstore, 57, 64, 66.

  Old English Dramatists, first draft of, 29;
    published in Boston Miscellany, 85;
    reception by the press, 92;
    later series, 270, 279.

  Oliver, Thomas, lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts, lives at
            Elmwood in 1774, 1;
    resigns his commission, 2.

  Oriental Society, 235.

  Ostend, conference at, 217.

  Oxford Dictionary. _See_ Murray’s Dictionary.

  Page, William, 73, 266.

  Paine, John Knowles, 189.

  Palfrey, John Gorham, member of Harvard divinity faculty, editor of
            the North American Review, 59–61;
    reads Carlyle’s French Revolution, 61;
    remark quoted, 68;
    devotes himself to historical work, 69.

  Palmerston, Lord, 249.

  Parker, Theodore, lectures in Boston
  and elsewhere, 101, 103, 104, 106.

  Parkman, Francis, 202.

  Parsons, T.W., 57.

  Payne, John Howard, diplomatic correspondence concerning final
            disposition of his remains, 245–247.

  Peabody, Andrew Preston, acting president of Harvard, 196.

  Peabody, Elizabeth, 58, 84.

  Peirce, Benjamin, professor at Harvard, 24, 41, 128, 134.

  Peirce, James Mills, professor at Harvard, 170, 202.

  Perkins, Colonel, 264.

  Perry, Horatio, secretary of American Legation at Madrid, 219.

  Perseus and the dragon, 211.

  Phi Beta Kappa dinners at Harvard, 40, 117, 203.

  Phi Beta Kappa fraternity, 27;
    J.R. L., president of Cambridge chapter, 117;
    Dr. Hedge’s address, 128.

  Philippines, the, 159.

  Philistinism, 211.

  Phillips, Moses Dresser, publisher. _See_ Phillips & Sampson.

  Phillips, Wendell, 57;
    as a lecturer, 101, 103, 104, 106, 108.

  Phillips & Sampson, publishers, 64, 150–159.

  Philological Society undertakes a dictionary, 254.

  Photography, invention of, 31;
    first photograph taken in New England, 31.

  Pickens-and-Stealin’s Rebellion, The, 171.

  Pickering correspondence, 217.

  Pierce, Franklin, administration of, 180, 218.

  Pierce, John, of Brookline, 10.

  Pierpont, John, 174.

  Pietas et Gratulatio, 7.

  Pillsbury, Parker, 103.

  Pioneer, The, established by Lowell and Robert Carter, 86–91, 95,
            147, 149.

  Polk, James K., 156, 217.

  Portfolio, The, 82.

  Power of Music, The, 13.

  Power of Sound, The, 121–123.

  Prescott, William Hickling, 69, 152, 159;
    contributor to the Atlantic, 165, 166;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Present Crisis, The, 150.

  President’s Policy, The, 171.

  Prose and poetry, Lowell’s use of, 274.

  Publishing houses in Boston, 152–157.

  Putnam, Mary Lowell, sister of J.R. L., 4, 5, 11, 12, 266.

  Putnam, William Lowell, nephew of J.R. L., killed during the Civil
            War, 180, 181, 184, 185.

  Quarter-Millennial celebration at Harvard, 198, 268.

  Question of the Hour, The, 171.

  Quincy, Edmund, 176.

  Quincy, Josiah, president of Harvard, 15, 17, 18, 40, 41, 125, 133,
            192, 193;
    mayor of Boston, 17, 18;
    belief in guidance of a “Daimon,” 18.

  Randolph, John, defied by Josiah Quincy, 18.

  Rebellion, The, its Causes and Consequences, 171.

  Reconstruction, 171.

  Reno, General, 181.

  Renouf, Edward Augustus, classmate of J.R. L., 32.

  Riano, Don Juan, archæologist, 236.

  Riverside Press, 165.

  Rogers, Nathaniel P., editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard,
            173, 174.

  Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 46.

  “Row up,” 47.

  Rowfant Club, Cleveland, issues limited edition of Lowell’s first
            course of Lowell Institute lectures, 114.

  Royal Library at Madrid, 127.

  Russell, Francis Lowell Dutton, 180.

  Russell, James, great-grandfather of J.R. L., 7, 277.

  Russell, Lord John, 249.

  Russell, Warren Dutton, 180.

  Sagasta, Spanish premier, 222, 223.

  St. John in Patmos, 44.

  Salamanca, General, 227.

  Salignac’s drill corps, 184.

  Sampson, Charles, publisher, 153, 154.

  Santiago de Cuba, 225.

  Saturday Club; first dinner-party, 156, 157;
    history and membership, 201, 202, 266.

  Sawyer, Warren, 67.

  Saxton, General, 187.

  Scates, Charles Woodman, at Harvard, 27, 29, 30, 35, 36;
    lawyer in Carolina, 29;
    friend of J.R. L., 33, 50.

  Schmitt, Captain, 183.

  Scotch the Snake or Kill it?, 171.

  Second-sight possessed by J.R. L., 3, 4, 277.

  Sedgwick, Mrs. T., 186.

  Serenade, The, 74, 75.

  Shelley’s poems published in Philadelphia, 23.

  Shepherd of King Admetus, The, 85.

  Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 9.

  Sickles, D.E., 208, 225.

  Silliman, Benjamin, 57.

  Sixth Massachusetts Regiment in Baltimore, 181.

  Skillygolee, 37.

  Skillygoliana, 37, 38.

  Slattery, John, Irish suspect, 244.

  Slaves freed in Massachusetts, 6.

  Smalley, George W., on J.R. L. as minister to England, 252, 260,
            261, 275.

  Smith, Abiel, benefactor of Harvard, 125, 126.

  Smith, Adam, 126.

  Smith professorship at Harvard, 19, 20, 126, 127, 130.

  Societies at Harvard, 16, 26–29.

  Somerset case. _See_ Mansfield, Lord, 6.

  Sonnet to Keats, 85.

  Sophocles, Professor, 170.

  Soulé, Pierre, minister to Spain, 217, 218.

  South, Dr., 282.

  Southborough, J.R. L.’s residence in, 265, 276.

  Southern Literary Magazine, 82.

  Spain, American relations with, 208, 215–221, 225–228.

  Spanish people, 222, 230, 231.

  Sparks, Jared, president of Harvard, 41, 69, 129, 130, 133, 152, 193.

  Spectator, The, quoted, 260.

  Spence family, J.R. L.’s maternal ancestors, 3, 276.

  Star Chamber, 104.

  Stearns, Elijah Wyman, 50.

  Stearns, Edward, 67.

  Stedman, Edmund C., 169.

  Stephen, Leslie, 180, 181.

  Sterling, John, 106.

  Story, Judge Joseph, professor of law at Harvard, 32, 81.

  Story, Mary, 71, 72.

  Story, William Wetmore, classmate of Lowell and Dr. Hale, 23;
    visits West Point, 23;
    assists Nathan Hale in the Boston Miscellany, 35;
    contributes to Harvardiana, 36;
    member of “The Band,” 70, 74, 76;
    legal work, 79;
    with Lowell in Rome, 163, 209;
    work as a sculptor, 209;
    later meeting with Lowell, 253;
    separation, 266.

  Stowe, Calvin Ellis, anecdote of, 187.

  Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 83.

  Strauss’s Leben Jesu, 59.

  Summer Shower, poem by Longfellow, 20.

  Sumner, Charles, his classical scholarship. 14;
    trained in English by E.T. Channing, 19;
    contributor to North American Review, 61;
    lectures in Boston, 67;
    member of the Saturday Club, 202.

  Supreme Court of Mass, frees slaves, 6.

  Taylor, Jeremy, 282.

  Tacitus, Wells’s edition of, printed in Cambridge, 13.

  Talbot, William H. Fox, inventor of photography, 31.

  Tempora Mutantur, occasion of its composition, 210.

  Tennyson’s poems at Harvard, 21.

  Texas, annexation of, 96.

  Thayer, J.B., 40.

  Thiers, President, Lowell’s judgment of, 206.

  Thomas, Isaiah, publisher of the first American Bible, 154.

  Thoreau, Henry D., at Harvard, 25;
   in Concord, 43, 44.

  Thorndike, Israel, benefactor of Harvard, 68.

  “Three Thousand New England Clergymen,” memorial addressed to, 101.

  Thursday lecture, 103.

  Ticknor, George, first “Smith professor” at Harvard, 20, 126, 127.

  Ticknor & Fields, booksellers, 65, 154, 155.

  Tilden, Samuel J., 212, 213.

  Times, The London, 209, 210.

  To Lamartine, 177.

  To Perdita Singing, 85.

  Tory refugees, 1.

  Traill, Mary, grandmother of J.R. L., 3.

  Traill, Robert, of Orkney, great-grandfather of J.R. L., 3.

  Traill family, ancestors of J.R. L., 3, 276.

  Transcendentalists, 202, 203.

  Treadwell, Daniel, instructor in science at Harvard, 23.

  Trench, Dean, 254.

  Tribune. _See_ New York Tribune.

  Trimmers, Miss, 11.

  Troil, Minna, 3.

  Tuckerman. Jane Frances, 72.

  Tuckerman. John Francis, 72, 74.

  Tudor, William, 58, 264.

  Tupper, Martin, 281.

  Turgot, Soulé’s duel with, 217.

  Two, The, 85.

  Tyler, John, President of the U.S., his position on the annexation
            of Texas, 96;
    his third veto, 111.

  Ultra-Americanism of Lowell, 275.

  Uncle Tom’s Cabin translated into German, 138.

  Undergraduates’ attitude toward instructors, 140, 141.

  Underwood, F.H., 157, 159.

  University Hall, Harvard College, on title-page of Harvardiana, 37.

  University of Cincinnati, foundation of, 32.

  Ursuline Convent, Charlestown, 78.

  Useful Knowledge Society, 105.

  Vallandigham, Clement Laird, 162.

  Virginius massacre, 208, 225.

  Virtuoso’s Collection, A., 84.

  Vision of Sir Launfal, The, 163.

  “Voluntaries” at Harvard, 15.

  Walker, James, president of Harvard, 57, 133, 134, 170, 193, 200.

  Walpole, Horace, 63.

  Ware, Henry, lectures in Boston, 106.

  War Songs for Freemen, 185.

  Warren, George, 67.

  Washburn, Edward A., classmate of J.R. L., 32;
    contributor to Harvardiana, 36.

  Washington in Cambridge, 3;
    visits Boston in 1792, 18;
    visits Governor Shirley in Boston in 1756, 65.

  Webster, Daniel, 57, 59, 67.

  Webster’s Dictionary, motto of, 272, 273.

  Weekly Pasquil, 176.

  Wells, William, teacher of J.R. L., 13.

  Welsh, John, minister to England, 239.

  Wendell, Barrett, his paper on Lowell, 139, 140.

  West Church, Boston, 9, 11.

  West Indies in the Civil War, 218–220.

  West Point, visit to, 23.

  What is there in the Midnight Breeze? hitherto unpublished poem
            by J.R. L., 34, 35.

  Wheeler, Charles Stearns, one of the editors of Harvardiana, 25–27.

  Whipple, Edwin P., 67, 158, 202.

  Whitby, a favorite resort of J.R. L., 240, 279–281, 283.

  White, Maria. _See_ Lowell, Maria White.

  White, William Abijah, brother of Maria White Lowell, 70, 74, 78, 79.

  White, William Orne, his classical scholarship, 14.

  Whitman, Walt, 84.

  Whittier, John G., 202.

  Wilberforce, William, 9.

  Wilbur, Parson, 44, 45.

  Williams, Henry, 27.

  Willis, N.P., his criticism of Lowell as an editor, 88, 148;
    as a poet, 90.

  Wilson, Henry, 175, 179.

  Winthrop, John, 160.

  Winthrop, Robert C., 67.

  Winthrop, Theodore, killed near Hampton, 161;
    a contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, 161.

  World’s Fair, The (poem), 210.

  Worthington, Governor, of Ohio, 31.

  “Yankee Plato,” 203.

  Year’s Life, A, 12, 74, 93–95.

  Young, Edward, 281.

                          The Riverside Press
                       CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS
                               U . S . A


Footnote 1:

  That copy is still preserved,—among the treasures of Mr. Emerson’s
  library in Concord,—beautifully bound, for such was his habit with
  books which he specially loved.

Footnote 2:

  Margaret Fuller was nine years older than Lowell. A good deal of her
  early life was spent in Cambridge; and his banter in the _Fable for
  Critics_, which was really too sharp, belongs, not to his manhood’s
  serious views, but to a boy’s humor.

Footnote 3:

  In the preface Bancroft says that he has formed the design of writing
  our history “to the present time.” “The work will extend to four,
  perhaps five, volumes.” In fact, four volumes carried him to 1776.
  When he died he had published twelve, which brought him to 1789. One
  volume of this series, which advances the history only one year,
  followed its predecessor after two years.

Footnote 4:

  I have that little volume now, enriched with James’s marks and
  annotations, and full of pleasant memories.

Footnote 5:

  _The Serenade._

Footnote 6:

  The oldest form of this song is—

                       “The siege of Belle Isle,
                       I was there all the while.”

  This carries it back as far as 1761.

Footnote 7:

  Seeing that Miss Barrett herself recognized the fact that these
  American magazine publishers were among the first people who ever
  paid her any money, it is sufficiently English that in the same
  volume of her correspondence which contains her acknowledgment there
  is talk about “American piracy.” One would like to know whether Mrs.
  Browning did not receive in the long run more money from American
  than from English publishers.

Footnote 8:

  Alas, to be eclipsed again!

Footnote 9:

  This anecdote arrested attention when it was first published, and I
  received more than one note explaining to me that it could not be

  All the same it is true. And I took care to verify the dates of the
  several steps of the story.

Footnote 10:

  Copyright, 1890, by Robert Bonner’s Sons.


Transcriber’s note:

Illustrations and photographs were not included in pagination. The
captions are retained, but have been re-positioned to avoid falling

Minor errors in punctuation and formatting have been silently

Minor inconsistencies and errors which are obviously due to the printer
have been corrected, as noted in the table below.

Several page references in the Index were missing, and have been added.
The reference to Lady Lyttelton appeared on p. 259. Likewise, the
reference to ‘A Virtuoso’s Collection’ appeared on p. 84.

On p. 260, the sentence beginning ‘And Mr. Smalley at the time
wrote...’ seems to call for a new paragraph.

In the final poem, ‘My Brook’, the line ‘And Will-o’-Wisp light me his
lantern no more?’ was not indented, though the regular form of the poem
would indicate that it should have been.

     p. 115 dilustered                    _sic._ delustered?
     p. 217 show what Jef[f]erson thought Added. Line-break error.
     p. 258 Amelia [Blandford] Edwards    _sic._ Blanford

                  *       *       *       *       *

The following are transcriptions of the several reproduced documents
given in the text. Those which are hand-written are sometimes
illegible, and are annotated as such.

                  *       *       *       *       *

              Transcription of document between p. 50-51.

                          TO THE CLASS OF ’38,


                                J.R. L.


            Classmates, farewell! our journey’s done,
              Our mimic life is ended,
            The last long year of study’s run,
              Our prayers their last have blended!


                    Then fill the cup! fill high! fill high!
                      Nor spare the rosy wine!
                    If Death be in the cup, we’ll die!
                      _Such_ death would be divine!


            Now forward! onward! let the past
              In private claim its tear,
            For while _one_ drop of wine shall last,
              We’ll have no sadness here!


                    Then fill the cup! fill high! fill high!
                      Although the hour be late,
                    We’ll hob and nob with Destiny,
                      And drink the health of Fate!


            What though ill-luck may shake his fist,
              We heed not him or his,
            We’ve booked our names on Fortune’s list,
              So d—n his grouty phiz!


                    Then fill the cup! fill high! fill high!
                      Let joy our goblets crown,
                    We’ll bung Misfortune’s scowling eye,
                      And knock Foreboding down!


            Fling out youth’s broad and snowy sail,
              Life’s sea is bright before us!
            Alike to us the breeze or gale,
              So hope shine cheerly o’er us!


                    Then fill the cup! fill high! fill high!
                      And drink to future joy,
                    Let thought of sorrow cloud no eye,
                      Here’s to our eldest boy!


            Hurrah! Hurrah! we’re launched at last,
              To tempt the billows’ strife!
            We’ll nail our pennon to the mast,
              And DARE the storms of life!


                    Then fill the cup! fill high once more!
                      There’s joy on time’s dark wave;
                    Welcome the tempest’s angry roar!
                      ’T is music to the brave.

                  *       *       *       *       *

              Transcription of document between p. 52-53.


                          HARVARD UNIVERSITY.



                         TUESDAY JULY 17, 1838.

                       1. VOLUNTARY. BY THE BAND.

                  2. PRAYER. BY THE REV. DR. WARE JR.

             3. ORATION. BY JAMES I.T. COOLIDGE. _Boston._

               4. POEM. By JAMES R. LOWELL.^* _Boston._

                5. ODE. BY JOHN F.W. WARE. _Cambridge._

                       TUNE. “_Auld Lang Syne._”

            THE voice of joy is hushed around,
              Still is each heart and tongue;
            We part for aye,—at duty’s call
              We break the pleasing spell.

                  We meet to part,—no more to meet
                    Within these sacred walls,—
                  No longer Wisdom to her shrine
                    Her wayward children calls.

            We met as strangers at the fount
              Whence Learning’s waters flow,—
            And now we part, the prayers of friends
              Attend the path we go.


                  And on the clouds that shade our way,
                    If Friendship’s star shine clear,
                  No grief shall dim a brother’s eye,
                    No sorrow tempt a tear.

                  Yet often when the soul is sad,
                    And worldly ills combine,
                  Our hearts shall hither turn, and breathe
                    One sigh for “Auld Lang Syne.”

            Then, brothers, blessed be your lot,
              May Peace forever dwell
            Around the hearths of those we’ve known
              And loved so long,—farewell.


                  Farewell,—our latest voice sends up
                    A heartfelt wish of love,—
                  That we may meet again, and form
                    One brotherhood above.

                            6. BENEDICTION.

* On account of the absence of the Poet the Poem will be omitted.

                  *       *       *       *       *

          Transcription of handwritten note between p. 92-93.

List of Copies of the “Conversation” to be given away
        by “the Don”

1    W.L. Garrison with author’s  respects.

2    C. F. Briggs by Wily & Putnam N.Y.

3    Mrs Chapman with author’s affectionate regards.

4    T. W. Parson, copy of poems & Conversations with author’s love.
                   (a note to go with these).

5    John S. Dwight (left at Munroe's bookstore Boston) with
                     author’s love.

6    W. Page with author’s love.

7    R. C.        "      "       "

8    Rev^d D^r Lowell  Dedication Copy. ask Owen to send it up.

9    Charles R. Lowell j^r  with uncle’s love (No 1, Winter Place)

10   Rev^d Chandler Robbins with authors sincere regard (Munroe's

13   J.R.L.  3 through Antislavery office Care J. M. M^cKim

14   Mr Nichols (printing office) with author’s sincere regards.

15 { R.W. Emerson with author’s affectionate respects.
16 { N. Hawthorne, with author’s love.

        Both then in one package directed to Hawthorne & left at Miss

17   Frank Shaw with author’s love.

18   C.W. Storey jr with happy New Year.

                I suppose Mr Owen will allow me 20 copies as he
     did of the poems.

                 If the “Don” thinks of any more which I [illegible]
            forgotten let him send them with judicious inscriptions.

19   “To Miss S.C. Lowell with the best newyear’s wishes of her
            affectionate nephew the author.”

                                (Mr Owen will send this up.)

20    Joseph T. Buckingham Esq with author’s regards & thanks.

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