Saturday night we passed Holyhead, Sunday coasted Ireland, and passed the Asia steamer with all her sails set. This day week we are to be in port, spite of head wind.
We have on board a Dragoon officer and a young Engineer officer, bound for Bermuda; two American medical students; a young half-English New York candidate for orders; a Manchester youth, on his first trip to New Orleans; a Cambridge travelling bachelor, with his brother, an Oxford man,, knocked up with work in the University crew, going to Montreal; a Comptroller of the Customs in Halifax, and perhaps a well-to-do Halifax merchant, both well-bred Englishmen; a south-country merchant, also English, with an American wife; a Boston chronometer maker; a Virginian, with wife, son, and little niece. Sundry American brokers, &c. &c. make up our party.
I have walked one lady about the deck for an hour, and talked half-an-hour to another, and another half-hour with Thackeray, who was laid up in his berth. I was called on deck to see the Niagara steaming away eastward from Halifax, some eight miles to the south of us. I am perhaps a little sick of the amount of intimacy which enforces itself upon one under the circumstances of fellow-passengership. It is to be ended, however, to-morrow.
There was speechifying and toasting at dinner yesterday in the usual approved style. All our healths were drunk at the lunch-dinner. Thackeray, of course, was drunk; then Mr. Degen proposed Lowell, the American poet; and Lowell, in returning thanks, proposed the English poet—me!—and all the people stared at this extraordinary piece of information, and I made my very modest speech, &c. &c.
I have been interrupted by a discourse on the Fugitive Slave Law by a citizen of Hartford, Connecticut, who takes, not the anti-slavery view, and affirms that the North is quite satisfied. The Lowells meantime are fervent abolitionists.
Saturday.—Lady Lyell takes me to the Ticknors; go to Dr. Howe’s office, close by here, and see him; presently in comes young Mr. Norton, and afterwards Mrs. Howe. Leave letters on the Appletons and Abbott Lawrences. In returning meet Norton, with whom I swear eternal friendship; he takes me and introduces me at the Athenæum, and at a Club, and we walk and talk till 2.30.
Then I dine at the hotel, at the ‘Ladies’ Ordinary,’ with Thackeray and the Lyells; then lionize with Thackeray and his friend Crowe through the streets, till it is time to go off to the railway, which at 6.45 carries me off to Concord, to Emerson. Mrs. Emerson is out, with her eldest girl. Old Mrs. Emerson, called ‘Madam,’ is sitting in the room—a small, benevolent-looking, large-eyed old lady, the original of Ralph Waldo.
Sunday.—Loads of talk with Emerson all morning. Breakfast at 8 displays two girls and a boy, the family. Dinner at 2.30. Walk with Emerson to a wood with a prettyish pool. Concord is very bare (so is the country in general); it is a small sort of village, almost entirely of wood houses, painted white, with Venetian blinds, green outside, with two white wooden churches—one with a stone façade of Doric columns, however. Emerson’s ancestor brought his congregation here from Gloucestershire (I think) in the year 1635.
There are some American elms, of a weeping kind, and sycamores, i.e. planes; but the wood is mostly pine—white pine and yellow pine—somewhat scrubby, occupying the tops of the low banks, and marshy hay land between, very brown now. A little brook runs through to the Concord river.
At 6.30, tea and Mr. Thoreau; and presently Mrs. Ellery Channing, Miss Channing, and others.
This morning I came away at a quarter to nine: a hard frost. To-day I have seen Norton, and called on Charles Sumner. To-morrow I am to dine with Norton, to meet Felton, the Greek Professor, at the Club; and the next day at his father’s, and to call on Longfellow, who called on me.
I like Boston. There is a sort of park, ‘the Common,’ with iron railings, and houses something like the Piccadilly row above the Green Park, only all residences without shops—one built by Governor Hancock, whose name is first in the Declaration of Independence, quite an old-fashioned George II. house; the others later, of red brick, with balustrading and carving, many of them. It is really very tolerably English in the town. The harbour is very pretty. It is like a very good sort of English country town in some respects.
People dine here at 2.30 regularly, and ask you to dine then. Fashionable dinners at 5. At evening parties you are supposed to have had tea, and to want supper.
Alas! I have not seen a garden yet in Massachusetts. Emerson’s little girl, however, brought in some small ‘pensées,’ which she called ‘lady’s delights,’ and some other little things that did for flowers. Edith is a very nice, child, and will be eleven next Monday. ‘When I was going to be nine years old, I didn’t know how I should feel.’ ‘Well, and how did you feel?’ ’Oh, I didn’t feel anyhow.’
I had Abolition pretty well out with Emerson, with whom one can talk with pleasure on the subject. His view is in the direction of purchasing emancipation. I send a bit of bark from a birch in Emerson’s wood lot, the white or papyra birch, from which the Indians make canoes. I remember long years ago seeing these birches on a hill near Lebanon Springs, up which we children were taken to look out over a tract of country which we were told was Massachusetts.
Here, in Boston, I am ‘the celebrated author of “The Bothie,”’ a whole edition of which was printed and sold, they say, here!
Houses are sadly dear, one is told, both in Cambridge and Boston; and things in general are said to be expensive, meat and drink excepted. Drink, however, in the shape of wine and spirits, is actually forbidden. Temperance is established by law. Only those who have stocks on hand of their own can drink; a few sellers, whose licenses have not expired, can sell. But after that there will be no selling at all. This is called Maine Law, and is said to be of great benefit in the country places, crime being greatly reduced. Dr. Howe gives no wine; at Mr. Dwight’s there was sherry and Madeira, but hardly any was drunk: three very small glasses apiece by the gentlemen—by the ladies none. Wine and spirits are certainly not required where there is so much stimulant in the air; even tea and coffee may be well dispensed with. The best drink for the climate, I think, is cocoa.
To-morrow, which is Thanksgiving Day, the old Puritan substitute for Christmas Day, I have promised to go to church with the Nortons. The Congregationalists, Baptists, and Unitarians all unite for the day, in the Unitarian building.
A young lady, the other night, after I was introduced, told me she had had the pleasure of looking at me (the celebrated author!) at a party a few nights before. The force of compliment could no further go. I very much doubt, however, whether the fact of my authorship has reached the serene nostrils of the Boston magnates, though Longfellow fully recognises the high merit of the Pastoral.
it on their drawing-room tables, and think it innocent enough, which indeed, believe me, it really is: a little boyish, of course, but really childishly innocent. I read it nearly through the other morning, which I had not done since the time of its first appearance; but I had heard it alluded to so much, I thought it my duty to see what it was like.
Longfellow is a very good fellow; he gave us quite an English dinner yesterday. He had just received a present of grouse, pheasants, and milk-punch from some one he had been civil to, and issued immediately his invitations: Norton, Felton, Lowell, and me.
Last night I went to tea at Mrs. ——’s. I like herself very much; not equally so some of her friends; they do the satirical and the sarcastic, and the ill-natured and the fastidious, and the intellectual and all that, for which one had better go back to London.
Yesterday I walked, from 3 to 6, towards the river Mystic; to-day across the river Charles (which is close here, running under the low bank of Cambridge), towards Brookline and Roxbury, which was rather pretty; but everything is sadly bare—no hedges, and not many trees. The only green trees now, of course, are the firs, which are much like the spruce firs in England. There is a sort of juniper, which. grows high like a cypress, or even higher, and is pretty.
Yesterday I had a walk with James Lowell to a very pretty spot, Beaver Brook. Then I dined with him, his wife, and his father, a fine old minister, who is stone deaf, but talks to you. He began by saying that he was born an Englishman, i.e. before the end of the Revolution. Then he went on to say, ‘I have stood as near to George III. as to you now;’ ‘I saw Napoleon crowned Emperor;’ then, ‘Old men are apt to be garrulous, especially about themselves;’ ‘ I saw the present Sultan ride through Constantinople on assuming the throne;’ and so on—all in a strong clear voice, and in perfect sentences, which you saw him making beforehand. And all one could do was to bow and look expressive, for he could only just hear when his son got up and shouted in his ear.
Look here at this little incident in illustration of manners and customs. I find, in the middle of my small breakfast, that there is no sugar, so I ring; no one comes, and I do without. About a quarter of an hour after comes the Irishwoman, and says, ‘Did ye want anything when ye rang? I was sorry I couldn’t come just then. I thought it was to take away, and I wasn’t through my breakfast.’ ‘I wasn’t through’ is the universal Yankee for ‘I hadn’t done.’ ‘Are you through?’ for ‘Have you done?’ continually occurs.
A school for boys or girls is what all the good advisers give as their best advice—Felton, Longfellow, G. Emerson. I am content to do this till I am forty, at any rate. I think often of the plan of joining somebody who is in the trade already. But this seems not after Yankee fashion; everybody is for himself. Mr. George Emerson’s school for girls is conducted entirely by himself, with lady-teachers under him.
Last night I met Miss Sedgwick, a vigorous-looking lady of fifty, perhaps. James Lowell, who has written the poems, is cousin to John Lowell, whose father founded the Lowell Institution for lectures. One of the family was the first setter up of manufactures here, and, as it were, founded the town of Lowell. There is a town Lawrence, called after Abbott Lawrence, in like manner.
I felt to-day as if I could be content to settle down here in America for good and all, very fairly indeed; there is less that is wrong here, on the whole, though less that is great. I was just reflecting that it is better to be out here, and be away from London; and yet sometimes when I was there, I thought it was dreadful to be torn away from what I was learning and feeling and seeing. Now it seems as if all my time there had been wrongly employed, and that it is an excellent thing to have got away. However, it is more perhaps what one escapes than what one gets.
Shall I tell you what an Old Hunker is?—a high-and-dry Tory; and Democrats are the Radicals, the party now victotorious over the Whigs, who are the same as our Tories. Ticknor, Prescott, and Co., are Old Hunkers; Hawthorne is a Democrat. Emerson is a Free Soiler. If I were to be anything (on the Slavery question) I should be a Free Soiler, which only means that you won’t have any new Slave States. I wouldn’t interfere with existing Slave States, except to intimate that the central Government is ready to assist in any measure any Slave State will propose for getting rid of slavery; i.e. to give compensation. I believe the Fugitive Slave Law was a piece of truckling to the South—quite an unnecessary concession.
I am not at all a distinguished literary man in some eyes here, remember; and as for poets, ‘there are four poets in Cambridge,’ said some one to me the other day—‘Mr. Longfellow, and you, and Mr. Batcheldor, and Mr. something else.’ I had, however, to send an autograph to Cincinnati; two hexameter verses, observe.
Written by A. H. Clough, for a reader at Cincinnati.|
Witness his hand and seal this 26th of December.
Ladies here usually carve and bring you things, even at great suppers; no man seems expected to carve for a lady, and they don’t get up when the ladies leave the dining-room, nor open the door, except casually. Only in omnibuses, and the cars—as they call railway trains—they expect you to give your place up; some, I believe, will even ask. The worst thing is the service. Servants are very indifferent,—dirty, uninstructed Irish, who are very slow in learning to be clean, and very quick in learning to be independent and ‘I’m as good as you’ in their manners.
Some people here do manage very nicely, but mostly there is the feeling that there is nobody to do things for you. A meal is rather a matter of business than of enjoyment. It is transacted. They don’t sit over it like rational beings; they do it like washing their hands, or as people dress who have got an engagement to be down to.
Last night I read my lecture, and it seems to have done very well. Afterwards I went to supper to James Lowell, and stayed there from 8.30 to 1 A.M. Thackeray came at 10; Longfellow, Dana, Quincy, Estes Howe, Felton, Fields, and another. Puns chiefly, but Dana is really amusing. Thackeray doesn’t sneer; he is really very sentimental; but he sees the silliness sentiment runs into, and so always tempers it by a little banter or ridicule. He is much farther into actual life than I am; I always feel that, but one can’t be two things at once, you know.
Here’s a story—Mr. Dana of himself. Mr. Dana lectures in a country town; walks home to sleep, after it, with the ‘President of the —— Lyceum,’ a country farmer. Dead silence. Farmer: ‘Mr. Dana, I b’lieve you wrote a book once?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Waal, I never read it myself; my foaks have, though.’ Dead silence again: arrival home. The wife, an invalid (accented thus in America), as farmers’ wives mostly are, hasn’t been at lecture, and states her sorrow, &c. Farmer: ‘My dear! b’lieve you’ve read Mr. Dana’s book.’ Wife looks deadly blank, says at last ‘she b’lieves she’s heard speak of it.’ They sit down, and the apples are brought in. A little blackeyed, sharp-looking, school-frequenting daughter comes in. Farmer: ‘Susan ’Liza! you’ve read Mr. Dana’s “Two Years before the Mast.”’ Susan ’Liza (quickly): ‘No, sir.’ Dead silence till bed-time.
Here are some stories which Webster told of his youth. His father was a small farmer in New Hampshire, and had helped one of his neighbours, who afterwards removed and went into the woods. Daniel was going in that direction to College, and his father told him to enquire after these people. He went, found them in a log hut, and said he would stop Sunday with them, to which they were agreeable. At supper-time the father of the family said to him that for the present they were living upon grass. And grass fried with lard did actually constitute supper, breakfast, dinner, and every meal; and, said Webster, ‘it wasn’t so bad either.’ At parting, the man said to him, ‘Well, Daniel, what are you going to be? A minister? they’re all hypocrites. A doctor? they’re all impostors; and lawyers, all cheats. No honest young man would be any of these trades. But there is a trade I can tell you of, by which you can make your fortune. There used to be one or two in it, but I don’t know of any in these parts now: you’d have it all to yourself. I don’t know how it’s done, but it’s by laming, someways. You’d best be a conjuror. When a man loses his cow, the conjuror tells him where it is; don’t know how; by laming tho’.’ ‘Which advice,’ said Webster, ‘might have materially changed my after life.’
Another story. Webster’s father had a neighbour, who was an honest, well-behaved man, only given to drink. Once when drunk he took his rifle and shot two friendly Indians. The Indians demanded to have him given up, and the people put him in jail. But his friends thought it hard he should be hung for killing Indians, and they broke open the prison and sent him off to Canada. The Indians vowed they would be revenged on him all the same. He lived in Canada with his wife and children some time; but whether it was terror or conscience, at last he made up his mind and left them, and went to the Indians and said: ‘It was I killed your two chiefs; here am I, do what you please with me.’ So the Indians were astonished, and considered the matter, and said, ‘No, you shall be our chief.’ And there he remained with them the rest of his days.
For me, I was taken yesterday to the College chapel, where an eminent Unitarian preached on the parable of the prodigal son, or rather, against the said parable. To be sure there was joy, because it was so very uncommon and surprising a thing when a sinner repented. It was a thing that very rarely indeed came to pass.
I sometimes think that my course is one that must be walked alone, and that it is altogether too unpleasant and poverty-stricken for married happiness. I sometimes, when I have heard people here talk, for example, of Theodore Parker, as if he were the scum of the earth, think that it will not do to keep silence. I have no particular love for Theodore Parker; but he is so manifestly more right than the people who despise him, I cannot, I think, in right altogether remain silent and acquiesce. It looked to me as if orthodoxy (of the Unitarian kind) was as bad for me as any realler orthodoxy elsewhere.
Anecdotes of the old clergy here are very rife: they were quite an aristocracy, and could do as they pleased more than anyone else, which now nobody can at all. They were appointed for life, with fixed incomes; this is not the case so generally now. Religious opinions contrary to the orthodox Unitarianism are represented as much disliked here.
Mrs. —— says Boston ladies suffer in their health through the endless trouble of keeping servants doing things properly and nicely; that the only way to live is to live rudely and simply. I think she is right. Ornament in America is a failure. As England stands to France, so America to England for ornamental things.
My fancy at present is, if possible, to live here in a humble way, take a few pupils, and do booksellers’ work or lecture, and so make up an income. I think it will be less fatiguing and less hazardous than setting up a school, which any rumour of heterodoxy might upset. And I do think that I can teach Greek better than most Yankee Grecians.
There is living here in Cambridge a Greek named Evangelinus Sophocles, who was bred up in a monastery, I think, on Mount Athos, and afterwards in a branch of it at Alexandria. What strange recollections he must have!
I don’t think I shall ever do much work alone, not from laziness, but really from having no proper rest to go to after it. I feel as if I had a good deal of work in me, but it takes time to bring it out; and the mere drudgery of the Plutarch, though not disagreeable, takes a deal of time.
I am, I know, sometimes carried away into a world of abstraction when I write or study, or so forth. I believe my ambition also, such as I have (it is only lately that I have begun to believe that it exists in my composition at all), tends in that direction. Yet I am always so glad to come away from it. It is odd how much better I like this Plutarch than I do anything which requires distinct statement of opinion. Yet it bothers me a good deal, for mending up an old translation seems often like putting new wine into old bottles. They would hardly allow time, or else I could almost believe it would be best even for my own sake to spend time in translating it myself.
I, I am sure, have always been inclined to believe in the good of the world, and have always acted on that belief, except for a brief interval (just when I was in London), and even then it was partly that I was afraid lest I should be trusting my own vague hopefulness too unreasonably. Turn the thing over as we will, we can’t make sure; but doubt as we will about things in particular, we can, for the whole, feel sure.
Fires of wood are the pleasantest one sees here: there is anthracite coal and another coal, which I burn mixed. In many houses the rooms are heated only by the furnace, which is found in almost all houses—a great stove down below in the cellar, with pipes sent through the various rooms, and what are called registers. What impairs the beauty and youthfulness of the American women is, I believe, their hot fires and furnaces, and the dryness of the heat given by the anthracite coal. But Mrs. Longfellow looks as youthful as possible.
I think I must have been getting into a little mysticism lately. It won’t do: twice two are four, all the world over, and there’s no harm in its being so; ’tisn’t the devil’s doing that it is; it faut s’y soumettre, and all right. Some of my companions are too much in the religiose vein to be always quite wholesome company. This climate also is, I think, mystical.
Drive deep the furrow in the sluggish soil,|
E’en to the rock force in the labouring share;
Earth, that with starveling ears mocks niggard toil,
To pain and strife will golden harvests bear.
This Plutarch is not a religious subject, fortunately. I have rather the feeling that one day or other it will have to be done, whatever I do now, and however undesirous I may be. The only thing to keep one quiet is the perfect readiness to be unquiet at any moment that may call for it or occasion it.
Will you think it wrong if I do what I think best in itself, even if it don’t seem the quickest way to get on? Apropos of this Plutarch, I feel sometimes as if I must not trifle away time in anything which is not really a work to some purpose. and that any attempt to be happy except in doing that would be mere failure, even if apparently successful. It sometimes seems to be said to me that I must do this, or else ‘from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have.’ There is nothing very terrible in this, but I cannot get myself to look at things as mere means to money-making; and yet, if I do not, I seem in some sense guilty. It may be the sanguine atmosphere of a new country has filled me with a vain confidence of there being really something in me to be done beyond mere subsistence. In London I felt myself pretty well helpless to effect anything.
‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ Is there any application for that, I wonder, now-a-days?
Cambridge is a town, or a city, or both, if you like. It is a huge district, a parish (which here they call a town) of several square miles, with roads stretching away here and there and everywhere, and houses all along them and off them. It is called a city because it has a Mayor and Corporation; but it is more like a big suburban district, a. sort of Clapham or Highgate. There is scarcely anything that is a street properly speaking; but there are acres of roads with houses along them, and cross lanes with houses too.
The College at Cambridge consists of a collection of old red-brick buildings, with a library of modern granite. There are students’ rooms, much in our style, only humbler. The boys at college live partly in lodgings, partly in halls, under some little superintendence, much like college rooms; only they don’t dine together, but all about, in families, &c. They learn French, and history, and German, and a great many more things than in England, but only imperfectly.
I have done my article for the ‘North American;’ not very well; but that can’t be helped; it is not in a wrong style of speaking, which is the main thing I care for. I have put a pretty good tail to a poor body, like a squirrel. It is very cold to-night, and the wind bloweth where it listeth in this room of mine.
Are you aware that life is very like a railway? One gets into deep cuttings and long dark tunnels, where one sees nothing and hears twice as much noise as usual, and one can’t read, and one shuts up the window, and waits, and then it all comes clear again. Only in life it sometimes feels as if one had to dig the tunnel as one goes along, all new for oneself. Go straight on, however, and one’s sure to come out into a new country, on the other side the hills, sunny and bright. There’s an apologue for you!
Here is a little story about Napoleon told to me by S. C., and told to him by some old soldier in Switzerland or France, probably a courier. This man was one of the cuirassiers, and was in the Russian campaign, and at his first battle was riding on to the charge, when suddenly he found his kettle (they all carry their kettles behind them) had dropped. So he jumped off, and was picking it up, when somebody called out, ‘Hé! cuirassier, que fais-tu là?’ He looked up and saw the Emperor. Touching his hat (which he did also in repeating it), ‘Ah, votre Majesté, j’avais perdu ma chaudière.’ ‘En avant,’ replied the Emperor, ‘les Russes en ont.’
I am almost persuaded to be an Abolitionist, which, however, is not true; but I am a decided Free-soiler for the present, and entirely give up the cause of the Fugitive Slave Law.
Emerson is the only profound man in this country. There are some other nice people at Concord; but for society generally the advantage is greatly on the side of Cambridge. Concord would be but dull, but the walks are far prettier than here. It is nearly an hour’s journey from Boston. People don’t the least despise one for being poor in Cambridge, and indeed I recommend them not! There are two Miss —— and their mother living here; their father, now dead, was American minister for many years at —— and ——; and now one Miss —— teaches French, and the other music. My opinion is that the true position in this country is that of comparative poverty. No sort of real superiority of breeding or anything attaches as it does in England to the rich. The poor man can get his children educated at the public schools, to which the rich children go also, for nothing, prepared for college even. And very few people indeed are so rich by patrimony as not to be in business.
What I mean by mysticism, is letting feelings run on without thinking of the reality of their object, letting them out merely like water. The plain rule in all matters is, not to think what you are thinking about the question, but to look straight out at the things and let them affect you; otherwise how can you judge at all? look at them at any rate, and judge while looking. I was just now looking into a book of verse which I brought with me, at what is called there υμνος αυμνος it wants a good deal of mending as it stands, but it is on the whole in sense very satisfactory to me still. However, we shall learn more together, I do not doubt. The only way to become really religious is to enter into those relations and those actualities of life which demand and create religion.
In the years 1844 and 1845 I was in very great force, and used to be taken for an undergraduate just come up to college. I am wiser perhaps now, but I have lost a good deal to become so.
The extremely-respectables of Boston attend ‘the Stone Chapel,’ an Episcopalian church of old time, whose minister, some thirty years ago perhaps, told his congregation that he had become a Unitarian, and therewith resigned. So they considered and consulted, and said, Well, they liked him very much, and they thought they would turn Unitarians too; what was good enough for him, was likely to be as much as would do very well for them. So they took the English liturgy (for moreover certain endowments depended on the use of the Church liturgy) and cut off the tails of the prayers, and pruned things here and there, and lo! they have a very handsome Common Prayer Book, quite as good as any genuine one. And to this Stone Chapel go all the fashionable Unitarian people of Boston, in their best dresses, just as if they were Church of England people, and are deeply attached to their liturgy, just as if it was the real thing. Is not that curious?
Did I tell you of the aged Calvinist woman, who being asked about the Universalists, said, ‘Yes, they expect that everybody will be saved, but we “look for better things?”’
Before the end of this month the Nortons depart, which will reduce my stock of sociabilities materially. They go in summer to Newport.
I have already established two decent walks, not to mention a sort of half-hour stroll, at the end of which there is a little spot where one can pause and be solaced. On southern slopes there is positively a slight tinge of green. The common, however, which is level, seems to me as brown as ever it was. Mind you tell me as soon as ever the little ferns begin to curl up out of the ground over with you.
I am going to send a bit of the Mayflower which grows chiefly about Plymouth, where the Pilgrim Fathers landed, and it is called after their ship, ‘The Mayflower.’ They are rare. The spring is beautiful here also, though so slow. The American weeping elms are extremely graceful, with their long pendent branches hung thick with buds. There are sharpish frosts, however, at times, so that there is no appearance of leaf as yet, except upon these Mayflowers, which, I think, must have been specially sheltered or forced. I saw, by-the-bye, a great bittern at Concord; it rose from a pond, and makes an odd noise, on account of which they call it the stake-driver. There were some Andromedas, just budding, covering all the banks of the pond.
General Pierce’s speech is not really at all aggressive; I believe he was forced to say something for his party, but he kept within the lines pretty well. They say that when he read the passage about territories that must become theirs, there was a general cheer; and when he went on to say that under his government no movement not perfectly fair and just should be made, there was a dead silence. Everett’s speech is made a good deal of; but I don’t think he’s up to the mark, and I believe the old Whigs are quite stranded. Circumstances may split the Democrats (Pierce’s people), and they may form into parties, one aggressive and the other conservative. Free soil, perhaps. For they say Mexico must be dropping in soon, and then there’ll be all the old question of Extension of Slave Area over again.
I am going to write an article in the ‘North American Review,’ on recent English poetry. I have been interrupted in my regular quiet Plutarch work, which suits me much better than reviewing Alexander Smith & Co. M. Arnold’s ‘Tristram’ has been giving me pleasure.
I have been reading Mrs. Gaskell’s ‘Ruth;’ it is really very good, but it is a little too timid, I think. Ruth did well, but there is also another way, and a more hopeful way. Such at least is my feeling. I do not think she has got the whole truth. I do not think that such overpowering humiliation should be the result in the soul of the not really guilty, though misguided girl, any more than it should be, justly, in the judgment of the world.
I really am very comfortably settled, on very easy terms with the American world in general, and have nothing to complain of, except perhaps the fact which appears to be true everywhere, that to get a livelihood one must do work according to other people’s fancies, instead of one’s own, which of course are the best, but under the circumstances must give way.
Do you know the Nortons have been so good as to offer me house-room during their absence at Newport? so in three weeks’ time you must conceive of me as embowered among the pines of Shady Hill, about two-thirds of a mile from this present Mrs. Howe’s. It will be cooler too. July, August, and the beginning of September are the hot months.
The most agreeable part of the proceeding was the leavetaking of the young people, who were her friends, which began towards the end of the evening.
On the whole, I do think that pupilising and writing is my proper vocation, and that if I could afford to stick to it, and do whatever work is offered me really well, I should in time be well paid for it. People talk in their sanguine way, but they don’t know how hard it is for the unfortunate solitary schoolmaster to get through his work from day to day: they don’t know how, with no real affection to recur to when he is overworked, he is obliged to run no chances of overworking himself; how he must, as it were, use only his left hand to work with, because he has to hold on with his right for fear of falling altogether. This is not indolence, and so forth.
|Eile mit Weile, das war selbst Kaiser Augustus Devise.|
I send some lily of the valley, which does not grow wild, however, and is not native to America.
East winds and rain; such is our present not at all pleasant dispensation. September, October, November are said to be the most agreeable months here, and April and May the worst. People fly from Boston in the spring, if they are at all consumptive.
On Sunday I walked across a bit of wood and got into a bog, which was all covered with the blue Iris. I picked also some Andromeda and Kalmia.
This climate certainly is to my somewhat rheumatic constitution extremely trying. Think of passing without notice from 85° in the shade to a cold, icy-damp east wind of 50°. At three o’clock the thermometer was 89° or 90° in the shade.
I went to Longfellow’s and had a very pleasant dinner; Emerson, Hawthorne, and C. E. Norton. Hawthorne goes July 7. I am going to Emerson’s next Saturday. I more and more recognise his superiority to everybody I have seen.
Energy is a very ordinary thing; reasonableness is much less common, and does ten times the good. Spurring and lashing is not good; one loses quite as much in sense and sober discernment as one gains in anything else.
Concord is pretty in summer, and a good deal cooler than Cambridge. I saw also Margaret Fuller’s mother at Emerson’s, and liked her. There were visitors from New York, a young Englishman, and a young German that has married a daughter of Concord, both in the artist line, and living in New York; and there was quite a little crowd of people in the evening.