"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrances of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought." Shakespeare, Sonnet
14 BEACON STREET, BOSTON
"I have written frankly, garrulously, and at ease; speaking of what it gives me joy to remember, at any length I like -- sometimes very carefully -- of what I think it may be useful fo rothers to konw; and passing in tottal silence, things which I have no pleasure in reviewing, and which the reader would find no help in the account of."
To these words, with which Ruskin introduces the first chapter of Praeteria," it seems to me that there is no need that I should add anything.
If there are any living who remember with what opening my life began, who hav witnessed a sincere effort to make it, in spite of fate, of some use to the world, those persons will know why I have selected this passage.
"It is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples."
-- As You Like It.
IT is impossible for one of Mr. Hale's generation to read the charming transcript of his early experiences without being led afresh through bygone days. Many of the topics which he touches lie parallel with my own memories, and I feel as if some of the Boston women of today would like to know what the girls of that time were about.
Mr. Hale's story opens with the interesting question of the development of human memory-How early can a child remember ? The true answer to this question would be, " From the very moment of its birth the child begins to remember whatever is of use to it, in that stage of its being." If it were not so, it could not develop at all. How soon impressions can be made which will last through life, and can be consciously recalled at any moment, is quite a different affair.
This will depend on the intellectual nature inherited and the circumstances under which impressions are received. Mr. Hale has often called mine an iron memory, but whatever metal it is made of, it holds only the impressions that pain, profound emotion or intense interest have stamped upon it.
In referring to the execution of Andre, Hugh Wynne says:
" I sometimes think it strange, how even in particulars the natural and other scenery of this dark drama remains distinct in my memory, unaffected by the obliterating influence of the years, which have effaced so much else I had been more glad to remember."
Here Weir Mitchell distinctly recognizes the permanence of the impressions deepened by pain, and doubtless these words had been spoken in his hearing by some one who remembered what George Washington suffered on that day.
I could not have been more than fourteen months old when I was very ill. My nurse left me, for a moment, on the bed in what was the front spare room of the house in which I was born, and at that instant I was attacked by very terrible pain. I was also frightened by my loneliness, and that experience printed upon my mind the walls of the room, its doors and mantle, and the pattern of the carpet. On the day on which I was fifty years old, I was anxious to see if I did actually remember these things, and I asked per mission to examine the room. The wall paper and the carpet had gone, of course, but in every other respect the picture corresponded to that in my mind.
When my father was married, he went to live in a house built by Mr. John Lodge for his own use, in Boston, at No. 6 Green Street. When he left it, that Mr. Lodge might return to it, I was only three and a half years old, so that all I distinctly remember of it is what I saw or heard before that time. My first distinct impression is of an earthquake. I was tied into a high chair, by my grandfather's side. Suddenly, the room seemed to float; the Empire clock upon the mantle rang against its glass shade; two or three flower-pots fell from a green stand by the window, and through it all I saw my mother coming from the parlor closet, with a glass of jelly in her hand. I do not know how old I was, but the picture in my mind is so distinct that I feel no hesitation in describing it.
The house was large; it had a long yard running back to a stable. It was one of a pair of brick houses, still standing. Two washrooms were built out behind the houses, the roofs of which were protected by a composition of tar and gravel, and divided by a narrow parapet about eight inches high.
I suppose I must have been about three years old --my mother still keeping her chamber--when I was sent to a dame school in Hancock Street, kept by a Miss Wentworth, who afterward became Mrs. Charles Hunt.
Jane Otis--one of the lovely family living at 34 Chambers Street, whose story those who desire may find in the Library of the Boston Athenaeum--was then going to school on Mt. Vernon Street, and used to call for me every morning and bring me home every noon, when my nurse met me, dressed me afresh, and stood me up on a chair to watch for my father's return to dinner. At this school, the tiny pupils, if they behaved well, were allowed to carry home pink or blue bows on their white sleeves, according to their sex; while a black ribbon told the less happy story.
I remember nothing of this school except my dear teacher's face, and the high stool and fool's cap which often fell to my lot. The fool's cap was made of white cardboard, and had a little bell upon its peaked summit, which betrayed the slightest motion of the baby culprit. I can remember ringing this bell, and laughing merrily at its tinkle. One day I think I must have done this a little too often, for I found myself going home on Saturday noon with a black bow on my shoulder. The West Church Sunday School, said to be the first in the city of Boston, had not then opened, but our dear minister, Dr. Charles Lowell, held a catechising class, every Saturday afternoon, in the belfry of the Lynde Street Church. The small square room where we were seated must still be in existence, I should think, but I recall nothing of it or its inmates, save my minister's dear face. The one thing I felt sure of, as Jane led me home, was this--that I could never wear a black bow into Dr. Lowell's presence! As soon as the door opened, I darted through the parlors, into the parlor pantry, climbed three short inside steps which led to the shed, jumped over the parapet, and climbed into the window of the adjoining house.
I was familiar with the way. The next house was occupied by an English family, named Wilby, whose four accomplished sisters afterwards became distinguished in the annals of school-teaching. Often had I been lifted over the parapet that I might watch one beautiful daughter as she played upon the harp. So far I remember; the rest I have been told. I could not have found any one in the house, not even the big St. Bernard with which I loved to play. I climbed to the upper storey, and, in the extremity of my disappointment and mortification, rolled under a servant's bed and cried myself to sleep.
What distress I left behind me, loving hearts of mothers will divine. Both houses and the whole neighborhood were searched in vain. There was a " Town Crier " in those days, and not even the heavy toll of his big bell reached my shrouded ears. Toward night the absent family came home to what was then very unusual, a late dinner. With them came my St. Bernard. On his way to his water-bowl in the pantry, he detected my presence, and, bounding up stairs, dragged me forth. The family were listening to the story below, when they heard my sharp cry. They did not wait to go to my relief before the news was carried to No. 6. I know nothing more, but I don't think I was ever punished. On the next Saturday I found my way to the Belfry with a blue bow on my shoulder. Suddenly a tender hand lifted my chin, and deep, piercing, but loving eyes looked into mine, and I heard the words, " Caroline, why were you afraid to come to me ? Do you not know that Our Father in Heaven sees us both always ? " This I distinctly remember, and this is the first time I have repeated those sacred words.
When I was dressed for dinner, and lifted to the front parlor window to watch for my father, I looked down into a big wheelbarrow of smoking lobsters, over which a kindly sailor leaned upon a crutch. There were " giants " in those days! I sometimes think no one born since the Civil War has ever seen a lobster! As soon as I appeared, the sailor cut off the largest pair of antennae he could find, and held them up. Then my maid opened the window and put her arm round me, while I joyfully seized them, to cut them into bugles for my doll, as soon as I had had my dinner.
Beyond Staniford Street and Major Melville's house, they were, at that time, building a Universalist church, afterward called Dr. Jenks's. It was while I was grasping my scarlet treasures one day, that I heard a heavy crash, and saw the rising cloud, where the staging about the church had fallen. Many men were wounded, and two or three, I think, were killed. I still see that cloud of dust, hear the terrible cries, and watch something carried by, in a moment, covered with a white sheet, spotted with crimson.
So I remember seeing Lydia Maria Child go by, with long curls hanging over her shoulders, and a tin pail in her hand. This happened often, for three times a day she carried a dainty meal to her husband, at that time imprisoned in Leverett Street jail for debt. I saw, also, a prisoner with a black cap drawn over his face driving by in a cart, on his way to execution.
At the back of the house, the upper windows looked over to Bunker Hill, where there was then no monument ; between my nursery and the river there was a brewery, and I often stood to watch the heavy bags of malt lifted from the carts to the lofts. It was not till many years after that I knew what those bags held.
It has seemed worth while to relate these juvenile experiences because the manner in which they were impressed upon my mind is evident. Bodily pain, bitter mortification, my pastor's ever-watchful love, and the surprise of spectacles--terrible or unusual, and never repeated -- did the work. Nothing else do I recall of those first four years. Up to this hour, I remember little of ordinary occurrences.
I had a very small experience of schoolrooms, but when I was about eight years old I was sent to a school kept on Hancock Street, by Ruth and Martha Twing, to learn to make a linen shirt. These were two maiden ladies, elderly, I think, even then. They both wore caps. Miss Martha was the younger, and her lovely face. full of deep content, rises clear before me now. Miss Ruth's face is quite as distinct, but stamped with integrity as I see it, it was never so tenderly beloved. Not a scholar's name or face can I recall, nor anything about the room. except that we sat on plain deal benches, without footstools or any support for the back,. the benches themselves far too high for my comfort. My mother was an excellent needlewoman, but these ladies were her equals, and I had reason to remember their teaching gratefully when, in 1853, I was again making linen shirts, in order to supply bricks and mortar to the rising walls of Jarvis Street church in Toronto.
How I learned to read I know no more than Mr. Hale. My mother told me that, when I was eighteen months old, I knew all my letters, my father having taught me from the large type of the first page of the " Christian Register," himself making the letters that he could not supply from other papers. My children learned in much the same way; my daughter, by learning her " Mother Goose " by heart, and then picking out the familiar words beneath the pictures. I cannot remember a spelling lesson, though I must have had many. I suppose I studied the same arithmetics that
Mr. Hale did, "Colburn's Mental Arithmetic" and " Colburn's Sequel," and, if the good of the pupil still influenced the School Committees, these admirable books would yet suffice to the Public Schools of every city, to the great relief of the students.
My father taught me many tables of weights and measures. Modern languages I learned when I escaped from my governess, and laid solid foundations under the care of Joseph Hale Abbot, between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. With him, I read Dante and the French classics and Calderon, and took my Latin from his Italian teacher, also employed at Harvard, Pietro Alessandro. With a good knowledge of Spanish and Italian, I found it easy to pick up what I have since needed for scientific purposes of Sicilian and Portuguese. With a grammar, dictionary, and New Testament I have always found it easy to master the construction of any language I wanted, even when I could not pronounce a word of it. German and Greek and Oriental tongues, which I attempted, I never mastered, because my eyes were unable to stand the type. By resigning these studies as soon as they became painful, I have kept the full and steady use of my eyes throughout my life, often for twelve hours a day.
I cannot help thinking that some persons are born linguists--that is, with ready power to comprehend and master all varieties of human speech.
I had always a great desire to master a fine English style. After reading the first volume of the Life of Tennyson, I destroyed five volumes of Journal, filled with rambling verse which assisted me to do this. It amazed me when I looked at them from the distance of more than half a century, to see how I had persevered in my poor work, but it was not fruitless. Of no earthly importance to any one but myself, these volumes were important factors in my own growth.
When Mr. Hale had nothing to do in school, he mastered " Kettell's Specimens of American Poetry." I amused myself by writing novels, which nobody read, but which prove, in their still-existing pages, that I wrote as good English at fifteen as I do now.
When my father moved from Green Street he went to Poplar, where we remained for three years, and where our life must have been uneventful, for I remember very little of it. I was sent to school to Caroline Hastings and her sister Eliza, who lived directly opposite. Their faces I distinctly remember, yet nothing of the house but this: The ladies gave an evening party, to the parents of their pupils. Early hours we kept then, and, either because I was a neighbor or a favorite, I went to the party. A hassock was placed upon the piano, and I was seated on it, and then I had--for the only time in my life -- the great pleasure of seeing my father and my mother dance. My mother had been one of the belles of Concert Hall, the favorite partner of Caleb Cushing -- considered the most graceful dancer of his day.
About that time one of the pupils, named Mary Norwood, died. She had been fond of me, and I was sent for at the last moment. I had never seen a dead or dying person, and I can still see her face, as she lay. The house stood endwise to the street, with a garden up the side, and I have always fancied that it was the house that Uncle Titus afterwards gave to Mrs. Ripwinkley.* [pg ftnte: * See
"Real Folks," by A. D. T. Whitney.] That part of the West End, so near the river, was delightful then. An old servant of my grandmother's was ill at the Massachusetts Hospital, and I used often to play in its corridors, and walk through its pleasant garden, and, delighted with its shining floors, determined that, when I grew up, I would have a house just like that!
Not far from the Massachusetts General Hospital was a pretty house on Alien Street, where I often went. It was occupied by a business associate of my father, who was slowly dying of consumption. His wife was a pretty woman who had had many children none of whom had survived the second month. She was fond of me, and one morning, soon after her last baby had been buried, I was sitting at her feet charmed with some Paris bonbons, rare as jewels then, whose colored crystals glistened in the sun.
Dr. Charles Lowell came in, and as he moved toward a chair, stooped and took me on his knee.
The mother seized his hand, and cried out, " Oh Doctor ! how can God be good ? Why could he not leave me one? Nine lovely babies--beautiful to see, and not one with strength to live ! "
" Dear child ! " said my dear friend, fixing his glowing eyes upon her, " you have not lost them, they will be waiting for you."
" If they had not been born alive! " she moaned, " then I need not have loved them ! But to give them to me, only to snatch them away ! "
Tender as a loving mother's was the Doctor's voice and look, as he replied: " Then indeed you would have lost them! Not until they were born alive could He have given them a soul! Souls are of God, immortal as He is! He has given these to you, you shall surely have them again."
Neither of them thought of me, neither spoke to me during the interview that followed, but the child now grown a woman sees and hears them still, and often wishes the mother could know how many sorrowing hearts have been comforted by these words.
It was while we lived in Poplar Street that I went with my mother's maid to two houses which left also an indelible impression on my mind. Of the lofty house built by the son of the famous Dr. Lloyd, we hear little now, but it still exists. You enter it by a lofty archway, over which hangs the name of " The Somerset House." In spite of new partitions the original lines of the house can still be traced. James Lloyd, who built it, was in the United States Senate from 1808 to 18131 and entertained Lafayette here in 1825. When the house was built, it opened at the back upon the gardens of Dr. Lloyd, which ran in terraces up the hill, till they met those of Gardiner Greene.
All these houses were built upon the farm of the Rev. John Cotton, whose house was afterwards occupied by Sir Harry Vane and stood opposite the North End of the King's Chapel Cemetery. Mr. Drake thinks this house was taken down before I was born, but I seem to myself to have a very distinct recollection of it. When the mother of James Freeman Clarke was married by old Dr. Freeman in the King's Chapel, somewhere about 1805, it was in the parlor of Sir Harry Vane's house that she changed her bridal robes for the riding habit in which she was to travel on horseback from Boston to Portland. Of my own early visit to the Lloyd house, where I went with the maid to carry some dainty to an invalid, I remember but two things -- the immense height of the hall and parlor and the sweet face of a lady lying in a night rail trimmed with rose-colored ribbons upon a pile of snowy pillows. The room was on the first floor, and I think we entered it on the right as we came in from the great archway.
Still more impressive was an early visit to a house which I suppose to have been that occupied in 1782 by Daniel Dennison Rogers. I have never seen a picture of this house. Mr. Rogers must have been a double kinsman of my mother, but I do not know what son or grandson of his was living in this house when I was taken to it. Until we went to Chestnut Street to live, I was not familiar with this part of Boston, and I still feel the first impression made by the terraced gardens and beautiful houses standing opposite to the present site of the Boston Athenaeum.
The house that I am now thinking of was just round the corner of Mount Vernon, upon Beacon Street. It was not only different from any that my young eyes had seen, but it was entirely different from anything I have seen since. Had Bowdoin Street been laid out then? I cannot tell, but the house stood so high and the carriage drive occupied so large a space that I can hardly think that street was cut through to Beacon. The house was probably built of brick, faced with a dark stone. It loomed above me--square, imposing--but not so interesting to me as the one-storeyed offices or vaults with arched doorways that flanked the north side of the driveway. Whether these were part of the original scheme, I have never been able to learn, nor was the most vigilant of antiquarians, my old friend Charles Deane, able to tell me for what use they were intended. Of the interior of the house, I remember only a lofty ceiling, walls covered with portraits and an invalid to whom we carried flowers.
This house had been built by William Molineux, a member of the Committee which demanded of Governor Hutchinson the immediate removal of the British troops, just after the " Boston Massacre." John Adams relates, that when this was secured Molineux had to walk to the wharf by the side of the troops to protect them from the rage of the people.
Alien Street and McLean Street and the whole length of Chambers were full of charming homes, many of them with large gardens, and, at the head of Alien Street, was the great house of Thomas Dennie, with a large terraced garden, that stretched over to Poplar Street, where I was often allowed to play. In this Poplar Street house, I remember my mother reading me to sleep with the fascinating story of the " Pilgrim's Progress," setting her candle behind the movable leaf of one of the small light-stands that everybody used, until gas came in. It stands beside me now. In those days, too, the farmers' carts drove over Cragie's bridge, and brought wild strawberries on long stems, and fresh vegetables. Sitting on the front window-seat of our basement breakfast-room, and watching the farmer fill his measures, I remember that he tossed me, from time to time, a fragrant scarlet-berried spray. No one, in those days, had seen the enormous strawberries of later times, and I often ask myself whether those provided by mother Nature would ever have produced the gout!
It was in 1824 that Professor Johnson, of the Pennsylvania University, first made it possible for anthracite to be burned in private houses, but in 1837 I had never seen any private houses lighted with gas. I do not remember when it came, but I remember well the immense relief it brought, for, when the smallpox invaded our kitchen, it became my duty to look after some half-dozen solar lamps, filled with that whale oil, the odor of which I still recall with a shudder. Our cooking was always done by the open fire, in bakers and tin kitchens and Dutch ovens, but nowhere was it done perfectly after an anthracite grate became the substitute for the wood fire. Who now knows what a scrod is, or a broiled steak, or a mackerel set up on a board before the live coals ?
Mr. Hale mentions, in his pages, a certain Edward Renouf, later an Episcopalian clergyman, who introduced his school-fellows to the delights of Boston wharves. Mr. Renouf's two sisters were schoolmates of mine when I read Dante with Joseph Hale Abbot, and it is not a month since Edward himself, now more than eighty years old, walked into my study. He was attending the General Convention of the Episcopal Church here in Washington. He came because he " knew I was loyal to my old loves," and it was like a breath of fresh air to me, to hear him recall our youthful days. Both of his sisters died young, of inherited consumption. The oldest, Anna, was a very beautiful girl, an imp of mischief and full of wit. She was the only person, I think, who ever read my first novel, written -- a good deal of it -- while she was looking over my shoulder !
Our schoolroom was carpeted with grey booking, and, as those were the days in which every pupil mended her quill pen, each one was provided with a box into which she was expected to trim her quill. If any girl scattered her splinters, she was obliged to stay after school, and painfully pick up her belongings. One morning Anna had mischievously sent her bits of quill flying. She was a favorite, and she expected to escape the ordinary doom, but, with her books under her arm on the way to the dressing-room, she was intercepted by the words, " Miss Anna, you will return and attend to your duty." It is a pity any one should have missed that sight. With bent back, a stunted whisk, and a painful puffing, Miss Anna spent five minutes or so over the grey booking. Then, venturing perilously near to the Master's desk, where he sat busied with French exercises, she drew a long breath, and said, " Oh, how I wish I were Ichabod Crane ! " " How so, Miss Anna ? " said Mr. Abbot, rousing from his task. " Oh, then if my feet were shovels," she replied, " I need not get down on my knees." A cheery laugh and, " You may go, Miss Anna," answered this venture. Are there any schoolgirls now who are acquainted with Ichabod Crane ?
It was while I lived in Poplar Street, and I was about six years old, that I made my first conscious acquaintance with Major Melville. He lived, with several daughters, in an old wooden house on the corner of Staniford Street, near to the house on Green Street where I was born. The Major was one of the disreputable party of Indians who threw the tea overboard. I had often seen him walking the street in a cocked hat, small clothes, black silk stockings and buckled shoes, rapping the sidewalk with a gold-headed cane. I had expected him to live in some state, and I was a good deal disappointed at the long, insignificant front of the low wooden house, built close to the sidewalk. I think there was not even a step, though perhaps a doorstone, before the narrow entrance. Once within, however, the impression changed. The windows of the broad, low parlors looked out on a fair garden, climbing what had once been the rear slope of Beacon Hill, by terrace after terrace of box-bordered beds, between which fruit trees blossomed. I think there must have been a gate on Staniford Street, for a broad carriage drive swept behind the house, paved with big beach pebbles, set in diamonds of slate-color and white. Between the windows of the room in which I sat was a low table and on it a great punch-bowl of India china. In this bowl was a small bottle, carefully sealed. It held the tea which Mrs. Melville shook out of her husband's shoes, when he returned from his frolic at Griffin's Wharf, for, whatever the patriots may have thought or planned, there is little doubt that many of the " Mohawks " were " out on a lark." I did not know that so well in those old days, and I looked at the Major with reverence, and timidly held the little bottle, which Miss Priscilla put into my hand, while she told me, not for the first time, the story of that wonderful night. That little bottle is now, I think, in the possession of the descendants of Chief Justice Shaw of Massachusetts.
I was seven years old when, one pleasant autumn afternoon, I took my father's hand, and went up over the hill where I had never before been, through what we then called Belknap Street to Mt. Vernon, and through Walnut to our new house at 24 Chestnut. All this was new to me. We passed the old Joy house, with its terraced garden meeting another large garden stretching up from Beacon Street. Next came the stately house of Jonathan Mason, opposite to Walnut Street and the Charles Lyman house and garden upon the corner. The protruding tower of Dr. Sharp's church did not hide the river. There was no Brimmer Street then, nor a single house between Mr. Mason's and what we afterwards called the " Gibbs house," occupied later by the sisters of the wife of Dr. William Ellery Channing. The whole space from Mt. Vernon to Pinckney Street was an open, rocky pasture, and two cows were feeding upon it. When later the present block of houses was built, set back in comely lawns, and the Mason house was taken down, an effort was made to set back all the houses on the North side between Walnut and Joy Streets, but Mr. Samuel D. Parker insisted on retaining the privilege of looking down upon his neighbor, and the jog he gave the street still bears witness to him.
We turned into Chestnut Street. On the left, at the top of the street, but on Beacon Street, were still glimpses of gardens and wide spaces left beside the old Winthrop and Homer houses. On the right, lower down, there were the three houses built by old Mr. Swan for his three daughters, Sargent, Sullivan and Howard, and then an open pasture till we came to the " Dick Derby " house, with its ample courtyard, where later I often gazed wondering at a lunch or dinner table, balanced on an "oubliette," and dancing up and down as different courses were served from the basement.
Whenever I think of the streets I have mentioned, I see them as I saw them that day. Number 24 was a pleasant home to me. It was a large house, owned by an old friend of my grandfather, a Mr. Blanchard, who refused to remedy our smoky chimneys, because he said it was my mother's beautiful face that drew the smoke down! Here I had a chamber of my own, a chamber which was also the family library, for three sides of it were shelved for my father's books, and glad I am that it was so, for by the free use of those shelves I had mastered all the English classics and translations of many others before I was twelve years old, beside making the acquaintance of " Dorcasina Sheldon," "Charlotte Temple," and "Eliza Wharton." Very glad I am that I did not have to read " Dryden's Plays " or the " Arabian Nights"' later. We were too large a family to allow a room to literary uses alone. The nursery occupied by the younger children looked through the courtyard of the Harrison Gray Otis house, across Beacon Street to Boston Common, not yet degraded into a wood-lot by over-planting. A little east of this were the beautiful gardens of Mr. Otis and David Sears, and the very first spring Mr. Otis walked through our open gate, and led me into the lovely shadow of his own trees, because, he said, I was his little cousin, since he and my grandfather were cousins. Cousins or not, my grandfather, Samuel Foster, and Mr. Otis were with Thomas Handasyd Perkins the three handsomest and most stately of the Boston men of that day, the first two strongly resembling each other in face and port.
At the bottom of our own garden was a decaying peach tree, perhaps twenty years old, where a large colony of black ants pastured their Aphidian cows, and where I used to watch their annual migration, astonished to see ants with wings. Under the long shed, at the " shoe " of the pump, plump, happy rats fed their little ones, and I watched them unmolested from a flight of a dozen steps, while they led out a blind old grandfather to eat and drink, and boxed the ears of their young ones with quite a human air, if they came too near the choice bits reserved for the veteran. Many of the incredible stories concerning rats were here enacted before my eyes.
There were no mosquitoes in Boston then. On Saturday summer evenings, I used to sit on the front doorsteps watching for my " Juvenile Miscellany," and amusing myself meanwhile with the busy upholsterer bees, lining the caverns between the bricks with soft green tapestry. It was from this house that I went to play in the " Mall," making a baby house of manorial extent in the spreading roots of the elms, and furnishing the apartments with toys and acorns, not far from Mr. Hale's " mail train," which was never fast enough to disturb my babies. The Common had only a rotten wooden fence about it then, which furnished many an interesting insect study. The Beacon Street Mall had two terraces with a narrow footpath between. It was on the lower terrace, beside the footpath, that the great green elms were set, and lifted their arched roots, well thatched with bark, to shelter my little family. It was a sad day for the trees when that footpath was obliterated, and the summer rains which had nurtured their growth swept in one long slope from the fence to the broad gravel below, and filled its gutters instead of the thirsty fibers.
Mr. Hale never saw more than five cows on the Common in his day! I am sure it was his printer that made him say fifty! I can remember no more than two, and none were allowed after the iron fence was put up, and all that mischievous filling in and sodding was done. Along Boylston Street was a superb row of old buttonwoods that perished long ago. Neither does Mr. Hale remember a large willow tree by the frog pond. His fancy has cheated him. At one end of the pond was our dear old elm, full of sacred memories; at the other, the soil sloped gradually down to two magnificent old willows, shading the " Willow Pond," or, as it was sometimes called, the " Girl's Pond." Where the "Soldier's Monument" now stands, there was then, at a much lower level, the old Fort with a ditch around it, and a single solid footway over the ditch. The girls used to start from the outer breastwork and run races down to the " Willows," where the soil was slippery and the mud often deep, and where consequently many disasters befell. For that reason, I suppose, the pond was filled up and the willows cut down long before the old Fort was disturbed. It grieved me when I saw the shovels busily filling in the ditch.
Could the old Fort have spoken, it could have told of many a sorrow hidden, and many a life laid down in its hollow.
Long years ago, before railroads were, our country villages knew little of city men. In those days I knew a brave and most beautiful woman, married to a city merchant, within the shelter of a modest parsonage. She came with her husband to a stylish home in the West End. Filled with doubt, at affluent surroundings for which she was not prepared, her love struggled with anxieties of many kinds, until her first baby was born. Then, satisfied that her own honor was not safe, in the gambling hell which she had discovered her own house to be, she walked out of it one morning, dragging her baby in its willow carriage. She took scarce a change of linen for herself, but under the pillows of the carriage lay a flat carpet-bag, some toilet articles, and the necessaries for her child. The preparations for the new iron fence enabled her to trundle her carriage into the Mall, and, keeping a steady course under the old elm, she sought the safe shelter of the ditch. There she packed her carpet-bag and left her carriage, making her way quickly to the Providence station with her baby in her arms. She left home with hardly money enough to carry her to New York, but so attractive was her bearing that, when leaving the child with a friend, she sought a house and furniture, both were granted her without security, and boarders flocked to her well-kept table. Her son, saved by her heroism, lived to be a distinguished man, whose name you would all know did I dare to write it. I remember, too, some tiny Irish children, who hid themselves in this revolutionary hollow to escape from a drunken father, and stayed there through a cold night.
It was while we lived in this Chestnut Street house that I used, with other West End children, to go on May Day excursions to the old gardens of the town. In a notice recently published of Miss Rebecca Lash, some allusion is made to the picturesque aspect of old North Square, and of Charter, Prince and Salutation Streets. Her father, Robert Lash, was for sixty-two years the teller of the Boston Bank. He lived in Salutation Street, which was an alley leading off North Street, and named for a tavern upon the corner of the two. The tavern took its name from the sign, which represented two ancient fops in small clothes and cocked hats saluting each other.
Rebecca describes the neighborhood as one of isolated houses, many of them having orchards as well as gardens. Her father's house, close to Ann Street, which we now call North, was a good frame house standing endwise to the street, with a handsome gate from which a garden walk led up to the front door. This gate was enclosed by an arch, on the summit of which was a bust of Julius Caesar, crowned with laurel. The garden was surrounded by Lombardy poplars, and contained beside the favorite flowers and plants of those days "London Pride," " Morning Glories," " Job's Tears," and the well-known " Coxcombs " and " Southernwoods." A large lot was devoted to vegetables and herbs.
It was to such houses as these that we children went modestly for our May Day flowers. Many beautiful houses, surrounded by gardens, were hidden in narrow alleys in my childish days. I remember very well one such house, a " Myers' " house, perhaps, on the north side of an alley which led from School Street to Bromfield Lane, by the end of Province House Court.
My dearest companions at that time were Elizabeth, the daughter of Robert G. Shaw, and a relative on my mother's side, and Catharine Wild, a beautiful child and still more beautiful woman, who was the daughter of James C. Wild, the cashier of the Boston Bank. He was, I believe, a cousin of Rebecca Lash. Catharine's brother Hamilton, whom I have often consigned to his pillow in my girlhood, became afterward a celebrated artist.
May Day visitors were so common in those days that flowers were never refused. We found syringa, lilac, and violets in the more sheltered spots. If we exhausted the resources of North Street, we crossed the Common to a lane which we call Boylston Place, and which is now the dreariest nook in Boston, so that it is hard to believe that flowers ever blossomed there. This lane or court was then surrounded by wooden houses with gardens, and in the shelter of the extreme end we always found our lilacs. I think there was only one brick house there in those early days, and that belonged to George Washington Otis, who, because he had translated the Italian history of the United States, was known to every child as " Botta Otis."
I find by my Journal that on May 1, 1839. the rain fell heavily on a Maypole erected on Boston Common. The evergreen wreaths and fresh flowers were dripping, to our great dismay. I suppose this must have been erected by Warren Street Chapel, then under the care of Charles F. Barnard.
When Elizabeth Shaw was my companion, we strolled out over Boston Neck, anxious to get some of the first snow drops from the terraced banks of the old Patten and Hunnewell houses, which stood opposite the ancient burying ground at the corner of Dudley Street. Farther out, near Dr. Putnam's church, but in old Dr. Porter's day, we found the grand mansion of Dr. Peter C. Robbins, the father, by two different wives, of the Reverend Chandler Robbins and the Reverend Samuel, both well beloved in their separate walks, but as far from each other in their theological and spiritual attitude as the tropic from the pole. Dr. Robbins's second wife was a Hooper from Marblehead, and Elizabeth and I remembered long one visit to her beautiful house. We had wandered away--naughty truants that we were--after our early dinner, and took it into our heads that it was time for a bright red apple that grew in the garden to be ripe. We were sure we knew the way, so we strolled along till we came to the well-known spot. In the long parlor which looked over the garden behind the beautiful curving stairway, all the ladies of Dr. Porter's church were assembled.
It was the monthly meeting of the sewing circle, and when we entered, all were enjoying the contents of a mighty cut glass bowl filled with ice cream. We had our share, which we ate with wondering delight, for although frozen custards had been made in Washington as early as 1800, what was properly known as ice cream was confined to a few private houses, and I do not remember hearing of it until I was ten years old. I well remember the sweet face of Miss Caroline Porter, and the mighty turban of blue and silver that crowned Madame Robbins's toilet. The freezing machine of those days was a common tin pail immersed in ice, and turned by hand; no wonder that the cream was a costly luxury!
It was during this time, too, that I used to go down to Central Wharf with my father, who was an India merchant, and, sitting on the wide window-seat of the counting-room, watch the busy scenes on the wharf, without a suspicion of the Doctors of Divinity and Episcopal dignitaries that would one day emerge from that boyish crowd.
It was from this house that I went on the first excursion train to Newton to celebrate the opening of the Boston and Worcester road, the road so dear to the heart of Nathan Hale. So far as I can remember, the things that interested me most were General Hull's house, near our Newton station, and a glass of lemonade which was a bitter disappointment. It was a very hot afternoon, and when I heard my father order it I looked forward to a pleasure. When it came it was so bitter with nutmeg, a spice which I detested, that I found it impossible to drink it. This, which was then considered a safe drink for children, reminds one of the " night cap " given to old gentlemen of that era. A glass of hot milk, well sweetened, with half a nutmeg grated into it, was a perfect remedy for the innocent insomnia of those days!
Before this, I had been carried out to Quincy, and instructed carefully as to all the wonders of the little railway and the quarry, but what I chiefly remember of it is my first introduction to a scarabeus. Long did I watch Mr. and Mrs. Scarab as they carefully rolled and guarded the tiny sphere which contained their earthly treasure. It was curious to see papa Scarab turn the end of his body into a lever, and to watch mamma while she helped to excavate and clear the grave that was to receive the ball, in the sure hope of a resurrection. I was inconsolable because my father would not let me stay to see the process completed.
It was in the Chestnut Street house, too, that the whole family of us had the measles, and a dear Aunt Orne, a collateral relative of Seth Low's father, used to come from Salem to amuse us with Pepper's Gibraltars and wonderful little darkies and devils, cut by her skillful hand from the uppers of the old gum shoe. This shoe was made over a clay model in the wilderness of Brazil, before Vulcan had claimed sovereignty over the tropic treasure. As the measles had affected all our eyes, we were allowed no light save that which came from a dull wood fire. Aunt Orne strung her artistic little figures on a cord, which she tied across the andirons, and the heat of the coals soon took complete possession of them and they danced as if they were alive. Here originated, as I think, the elastic gutta-percha toys of a later day. A little mouse crept up from a corner of the hearth, to be fed with fragments of our supper, and soon became tame enough to be handled.
The readers of " Patty Gray " will remember how early and how kindly I was taught never to look for human approbation, never to square my conduct by anything but my own sense of right. It was at the little parties at Catharine Wild's home on West Cedar Street that I learned, about this time, what was to a loving child a bitter lesson. Kindly I was taught, I said, and I repeat it, for had it not been for this never forgotten experience, what would have become of me when the anti-slavery struggle began, and I had to brace myself to meet the censure of those I loved best in the world ?
In those days, the broad, old-fashioned chaise came every afternoon to take my father and mother to drive. Boston then had suburbs worthy of the name. Long winding lanes, hedged with sweet briar, alder and privet, with the very breath of the White Mountains hidden in their forest glens, stretched from Brookline and Roxbury to Savin Hill, where my father, whose ancestors had lived on the Devonshire coast from the time of the Norman conquest, loved to catch glimpses and odors of the sea. We did not carry a trunk for wild flowers, as the Hales did, but my father often stopped to gather baskets full of the big red clover, which reminded him of the Kensington hills where he was born, and which he emptied into the bottom of the chaise. One delightful drive over Milton Hill I shall always remember.
We did not shut up our houses in summer then. From the age of thirteen I was my father's house- keeper, for my mother's health had failed, and my father, dearly as he loved me, was not one to understand what an unsuitable burden he laid upon me. All children went to church in those days, and at the West Church my father had two pews, which were well filled by his children and their governesses. In those days, the children of one family usually dressed alike, with only such slight variations as different ages required. We shall never again see such pretty sights as we saw when we watched those large families on their way to church. It was no trial to us six in those days, for we dearly loved the sight of Dr. Lowell, who always watched over my studies, and offered a prize for any special achievement he wished me to attempt. His "short sermons" held the attention of the youngest.
We were not given gingerbread for our lunches, as Mr. Hale was, but I remember one occasion on which a barrel of fine apples from the New Hampshire farms lasted us just three days! And boxes of dried ginger, pressed oranges, and cumquots, which came from China in my father's ships, were always open. There was cholera in Boston about this time, and a rope was stretched across Chestnut Street above Spruce to indicate a quarantine. We were sitting comfortably on our front steps, a full dozen of us, munching our apples, when some passer-by paused in horror, and begged us to tell him if our father and mother knew what we were doing! Barrels of rock candy used to come from India, with half a dozen sugar canes thrust down in their midst, and once came Olaf, a young Dane, who had stolen a passage from Cronstadt on the " Steiglitz," one of my father's vessels in the Russia trade, and who not only revealed to us the mysteries of reindeer tongues, but delighted my artistic soul with such colored pictures as could then be bought, and which are still carefully preserved. He had run away from a cruel stepfather, and afterward became distinguished in Jonas Chickering's factory for his skill in toning pianos. He has long been dead, but he is not forgotten. About this time, too, Mrs. Sage, the beautiful sister of Elizabeth Howard Bartol, came home from the West Indies, and astonished us by leading a gazelle by a blue ribbon up and down our quiet street, and Charles Sumner used to come to an adjoining house to listen to the beautiful song of Mrs. Stuart Newton, which I heard at the same time. hidden behind the drawing-room curtains of her mother, Mrs. Sullivan.
We girls were not provided with swimming schools, but there was at the bottom of Chestnut Street, below Brimmer, something called " Braman's Baths." Beside the small single baths, there was connected with them a loaded platform, with steps and swinging ropes above. The water was deep enough here to cover the chest of an adult, and it was clean sea water. These baths were frequented by all the West End people, twenty-five cents paying for both bath and towels. They disappeared after the incoming of Cochituate water and private baths, but they are still needed. The only salt water baths in Boston now are intended for the poorer classes, and if cold salt water baths could still be had, suited to West End habits, I think the doctors would know less of nervous prostration.
In the days of which I am writing, all Beacon Street breakfasted from seven to half past, and dined at two, taking tea at six or half past. There was not at that time the constant succession of late parties, which now ruins the constitution of women, old or young. The little dancing parties which went from house to house began at three in the afternoon, and we were all safely at home by nine. There never was, I think, any entertainment so delightful as the tea parties of those days. We all sat down to a table spread with dainties. The hostess had no anxiety about these parties, for there were no courses and no changes of plates. We waited upon ourselves and upon each other; there were pleasant talks and friendly jests, but this simple festivity died a natural death when late dinners came in, and nothing half as good survived.
My evening parties differed from Mr. Hale's; I never heard any boy or girl " speak a piece." Our refreshments were grapes from Lisbon, figs, dates, raisins and nuts, and occasionally jelly. Shagbarks were common, and now and then a gentleman would heat a pair of tongs in the live coals, and taking up a fat meat would get the children to count the drops of oil he could squeeze out of it. At nine o'clock we were sure to hear the cry of " Oys! Oys! " as men with large tin pails, full of such oysters as had been opened and not sold in markets or shops, patrolled the West End. They did not cry in vain. Company or no company, every front door opened, and a maid appeared, and the big pails were emptied all too soon.
When the oysters were cleansed and prepared, a tin pail was set on the hot coals of the parlor fire, the casters were brought out, and never since have any oysters seemed so good as those I was then allowed to " sit up " to eat. If we had " cockles " with absurd mottoes at any of our parties, it was unusually hard to separate when the curfew rang!
At such formal dinners as I frequented, I never saw the transparent, amber-colored dun fish served, but it was everybody's Saturday dinner, brought to table folded in a damask napkin, with egg sauce, pork scraps and all manner of vegetables, and if the family had started from Essex County, and had any inkling of the habits of the Channel Islands, such as were current in Marblehead, was plentifully flanked by Spanish olives.
The habits of Boston merchants were very simple then. As they left their counting houses, insurance offices or banks in those days, they found at the head of State Street a smoking barrow of lobsters. It was a common thing to see one after another of our " first men " walking down Beacon Street, with a lobster wrapped in fresh paper under his arm, the long, scarlet antennae sticking out behind ! No servants or caterers opened lobsters then, the mother or daughter did that in person, and in those days it was a rare thing to see the most dainty hostess clad in the early morning in anything but a French print, or a fine white wrapper protected by a black silk apron. " A silk morning gown! " exclaimed my grandmother, when Hepsy Coffin, a quaint little dressmaker from Newburyport, first suggested such a thing, "what would I do with a silk gown in the kitchen! " She did not realize that the time would soon come when there would be a large class of housekeepers, not only unwilling, but absolutely unable, to direct the cook or laundry maid.
Mr. Hale thinks he went to Papanti's dancing school in Bulfinch Place, but I am sure he is mistaken. Mr. Papanti took one of two twin houses on the corner of Somerset Place, now called Allston Street, and Bulfinch Street, which was much farther up the hill. It offered on the second floor a very large saloon. It had for us all a very sad association, for just before Mr. Papanti took it a beloved husband and father went quietly forth from it one evening for his usual walk, and was never seen again. We used to hear how his poor wife, who survived him many years, constantly listened for his step upon the stair, or the click of his key in the latch. I was not so fortunate as Mr. Hale; I do not think I was ever a favorite with my dancing master; but I was sincerely attached to Mr. Papanti and the elegant French woman who was then his wife. In those days he had an assembly once a month, when all the old scholars, who had gone out into the great world, were invited to come back and show us younger pupils what a beautiful thing dancing could be. Many of the groups thus gathered are vividly impressed upon my mind. Especially do I recall the eager greeting which Anna Shaw received on those evenings. Especially was she a
"form of life and light,
That seen, became a part of sight."
Does she ever think of those days, I wonder, in her Paris salon, where, although more than eighty years old, she still holds her court ?
It was in 1834. I think, that ice creams were first sold by the glass in Boston, and then it became a fashion to go to the tiny shop of Mrs. Laurence Nichols. This shop was on the north side of Court Street, not far from Sudbury, and there was a very small parlor behind it. Here the most delicious creams and cream cakes could be had. I do not mean frozen custards, nor did we ever hear in those days of the artificial flavors which are now so baneful. These creams were served in glasses of two sizes, of the kind then called jelly glasses, the larger at nine pence ha'penny, or twelve and one-half cents, the smaller at four pence ha'penny, or six and one-quarter cents, for children and light purses. This style of serving and these prices continued until the opening of the Civil War. After that the larger were alone sold, and the price went up with the price of sugar to twenty cents a glass or saucer, where, without reasonable excuse, it has ever since remained.
I was about twelve years old, and already in the habit of annually offering some verses to my father on his birthday, when he was once heard to say, " Possibly the verses might be good if one could only read them! " and this led to a search for a capable writing master. At that time an Englishman named Bristow was teaching in Boston. His services were secured, and from the day that I left his classes until today my handwriting has never changed. Many things that he said to me were useful to me when I myself became a teacher. " The small i is a cannon," he would say, " do not let it explode; the ball must be right opposite the mouth ! " " The small d and t are not grown-up letters, and be sure you put a hat on your t, or he will never be noticed ! " " The small b, f, g, h, j, k, l, p, q, and y have long legs and arms. Keep them out of the way; don't let the other letters stumble over them ! "
I do not know what became of this inspired teacher, but every day of my life I am grateful to him.
A curious thing happened before we left Chestnut Street, when I think I must have been about twelve years old. It would not be worth telling if it did not so readily illustrate the habits of the time. When my father was married every gentleman had upon his sideboard a " Liqueur Case " of more or less elegance.
This held four cut or gilded glass bottles, a biscuit tray of cut glass, and sometimes a mirror and two wineglasses. Whether he used wine or not at his table, these bottles were filled with Medford rum, Holland gin, brandy and old Madeira. I never heard of any whiskey, but whoever called was asked to partake of these, with a biscuit or a slice of cake. One day, before the care of the household had passed to me, there came to call a very old lady, bearing one of Boston's most honored names. She seemed very faint and weary, and I loosened her bonnet strings and gave her a glass of Madeira and a slice of cake, while I went to speak to my mother.
Whether she filled a second glass while I was gone, or received a second at some other house, I never knew, but when my father came home, he made strict inquiries as to what she had been offered. I told my story, the " Liqueur Case " was locked and hidden in an upper storeroom, and I never saw it again.
Something had happened which was noised abroad, but I never blamed the poor old lady, for I think she was very ill. She had afterward a tender feeling for me, but I never had a chance to offer her another glass, and only an occasional glimpse of a gold starred bottle, which came in time to hold innocent drugs like camphor or arnica, ever again reminded me of the accident.
It was in 1836 that my father bought a house in Hancock Avenue. Here to my great delight I had a large room at the top of the house, and from the window where I studied and wrote, I could look down over the bay and see every vessel that entered the harbor. Before that time I used to climb the terraces of Gardener Greene's house on Scollay's Square, and sitting on the steps about his garden pump, watch the distant sea. At that time most of the houses on the north side of Beacon and School Streets as far as Tremont Street still stood in gardens; high up in the air as it seemed, so many terraces were needed to the approach, and these gardens originally fell at the back to the level of Somerset Court, now called Ashburton Place. In my day these gardens had already begun to be dilapidated. On the Somerset side they had gone wild, and the fences had broken away. A few of these large houses had become boarding houses, and a party of schoolgirls organized a fairy band with scepters and crowns of gay tinsel, who made themselves merry with many a prank on holidays in the unused grounds. It was in 1836 that the excavation began which formed Pemberton Square and Tremont Row.
I continued to attend Joseph Hale Abbot's school for a year or more after we moved to the avenue. Here I met a superior class of young women whom I have loved from that time to this. Beside the two Renoufs, there was Caroline Dorcas Smith, a well- known artist, who afterwards became the wife of Colonel Joseph Murdoch, and her younger sister, a distinguished scholar in Latin and mathematics, whose services, when my change of fortune came, I can never forget. Then there was Anna Maria Allen, the devoted wife of the Dantesque poet, Parsons, and her sister, the gracious and winning partner of James M. Barnard. There was that faithful Unitarian, Elizabeth Livermore of Milford, and, dearest of all to me, Mary, the daughter of Theodore Lyman. I had mastered the Italian language before I ever saw Mary, but I never knew how a woman ought to read it until, returning from Italy where it had been her daily study for years, Mary Lyman set the pattern for us all. There was also in the school, supreme in beauty and grace, Anna, the daughter of Joseph Coolidge, who afterward became the wife of Colonel Prince of Newport and died not long ago. She fascinated me by her personal charms. I do not now know, and I never cared to know, whether she was a student or not. I felt that she should have been born in the purple, and followed her with my eyes wherever she moved. Fortunately for me, so much her junior, she had a kindly heart, and often took me home with her to the great garden which reached from Bowdoin to Temple Street, and half way up Beacon Hill from Cambridge. I still have a vivid recollection of the dresses that she wore, and could paint a perfect portrait of her, if my skill were equal to my memory.
About this time I began to go out to Cambridge to exhibitions and Commencements, and had such intimate relations with many students that I felt as if I too were a pupil of Harvard. The aggrieved lads, whose finest sentences Professor Channing cut out without scruple, only replying to their remonstranees by saying, " Nobody will miss the good things you leave out," used to bring their themes to me for the comfort of my sympathy. The modern languages were very imperfectly taught at Harvard in those days, but the students of today would be better off if English spelling and composition received such attention as Professor Channing gave them. I learned many things over the shoulders of my student friends, and I shall always think the training received through the frequent exhibitions of those days very essential to Americans, who are sure to become speakers to some extent if they are faithful to their political duties. There were no Commencement " spreads " then, so far as I knew, but Commencement dinners were served after the exercises on Commencement Day.
In those days the Common at Cambridge used to remind me of a rural fair ground in old England. There was an ancient wooden fence all round it, and close beside this were set the booths and tables of the hucksters who supplied the village loungers with root-beer, ham sandwiches, lemonade and oysters. A frequent decoration of these tables was a tiny pig, never more than fourteen inches long, decorously draped with parsley, and with a lemon in his mouth. The boys and girls from the " Port " used to come up to see the show and the gay lancers with crimson pennons, as these last escorted the Governor to the First Church. There was once a time when there were so many more ladies than skilful barbers, that belles who expected to be in the front row had their heads dressed over night, and prepared themselves for the next day by fitful naps in their old " easy chairs." These days were over before my time. When I was young, ladies of all degrees dressed their own hair, and went with or without their bonnets as they chose to the First Church. The exercises were announced to begin at eleven, but we young people who crowded the galleries were sure to get there at half past nine, when we adjusted our toilets, put our heavy baskets under the seats till the time came for luncheon, and then watched with interest every incoming official. The ladies most nearly interested in the graduates usually found the front, central seats reserved for them on the floor, but their gay dresses had no such charm for me as the noble faces and forms upon the platform belonging to the older men I knew. I was never tired of the Commencement Orations and Essays, and bitterly grieved over the changes created by the necessities of later years.
I do not find, as I look back, that there was any enduring impression left upon my mind by any single graduate, unless he was a personal friend. It was the whole atmosphere of the thing that impressed me. In one year, however, two personalities challenged some attention. I had never seen Charles Dall or Samuel Eliot until that day, and never expected to see either again. I had small idea then that I should marry Charles Dall, or that when Samuel Eliot was the father of a family, he would, with ex-Governor Washburn and myself, become one of the legs of the " Social Science Tripod! "
Charles Dall was a graduate of the Divinity School, and I do not remember his Essay in the least. I do not recall its subject nor even his manner, but I saw a frank, spiritual face, innocent as a child's, and a man who held in his hand a manuscript tied with a broad black ribbon. Samuel Eliot's maternal grandfather, " Alden Bradford," the historian, had been an early friend of mine, and he had talked to me of his daughter's son, but never, I think, had he spoken of his great personal beauty. When, therefore, a young man with the face and figure of a Greek, with a bearing that might have challenged a Phidias, came forward on the platform, this was the first thing I thought of. But it was only the first. When he began to read I wholly forgot this exterior in the winning voice, the polished style, the wholly satisfactory character of his Essay. Never did I know a graduate's first effort greeted with the thundering applause that followed this. It was not because he was a class favorite, for he was, I think, of too reserved a nature for that, and a certain Puritan austerity clung to him all through his life. A beautiful life, full of usefulness to his fellowmen, but not the brilliant worldly success that was probably anticipated by all who listened to him then. I have never forgotten the picture he presented as he stood before that audience. It has never been repeated, and I do not think I was ever again impressed by the personal beauty of a man.
The exercises frequently held us until nearly four in the afternoon, and at the close something occurred which always moved me profoundly. The classes were called to form the procession which was to move across the road to the campus and the dining hall. The graduates of the year came first and, called audibly from the platform in the order of their seniority, all the others followed. There was a pathetic contrast between the joyful alacrity of the young men, who carried diplomas tied with blue ribbons, the staid demeanor of middle-aged men, and the tottering steps that closed the procession! Sometimes two very old men went out together feebly sustaining each other. Another supported his gouty steps upon a cane, and last of all, there might come the sole survivor of the oldest class, leaning upon the arm of a servant. I was never willing to leave the church till this last survivor had passed out, and my tears always started when I saw him.
This pathetic and impressive sight has never been seen since Saunders' Theatre took the place of the First Church. The procession is now formed upon the green, and in a manner which, from the shortness of the space to be traversed, no longer appeals to the spectator.
" Class Day," as I knew it, was a simple rustic festival. If the drunkenness of which Mr. Hale speaks occurred often, it must have been at late suppers after the ladies had left the ground. I never remember to have seen a student excited by drink. There was more intercourse in those days between students and townspeople than is now possible. The village girls, who were quite capable of enjoying a modest glass of root-beer, danced upon the green with the rest and were always welcome guests. " Class Day dresses " were not heard of in my day, and the classes themselves were too small to make seats about the tree, tickets and ropes necessary. The athletic craze had not set in; young men went to college to fit themselves for the serious business of life, not to run up bills at the surgeons for patient fathers to pay, and when they engaged in football, it was for the pleasure of the sport and not to outwit each other. I am glad to say that none of the rowdyism of the English universities has ever been apparent on Commencement or Class Day at Harvard. Are dignity and courtesy an inheritance from its Puritan founders? If so, we have much to thank them for.
It gave me pleasure to read what Mr. Hale says of professor Pierce, who became in later years a dear friend of my own, but his " long step " over " five or six short ones " of a pupil's reminded me of an amusing incident in my own career. I was little more than a child in experience, when my father's unexpected reverses -- the only ones of his long life -- sent me down to the District of Columbia to teach " Mathematics." I should never have had the courage to do it, but for the loving kindness of my schoolmate, Mannie Smith, who patiently went over the work that I did in pen and ink to fit myself for emergencies. I was afraid of my own " long steps "! When I had been teaching two or three months, I was invited to make a visit of a few days at Fort Washington, by some ladies connected with the Engineer Corps of the United States Army. Never shall I forget the charm of my row down the Potomac, which, for that day at least, was as blue and sparkling as the old song would have it. Our boat was rowed by sixteen men in the uniform of the United States Navy, and they sang German boat songs all the way. Delightful was the rest of those few days, but I hurried back on a certain Monday morning in time for my classes. I had chosen as my substitute during this absence a certain Miss Latimer, who was a distinguished student, who had been governess in the family of Mr. Wheaton, well known, I think, as an authority on International Law. I expected my pupils to enjoy her kindly service, and feared they might be sorry to see me back. They were already assembled when I entered my classroom, and rushed toward me in great disorder, half in tears and full of discontent, each trying to speak louder than her neighbor.
" Oh Miss Healey, Miss Healey, we must not have bad marks; what could we do with such a black-board as that ? " were the few words that I at last made out I went up to the black-board, and for a moment or two I was as much puzzled as my pupils, who stood anxiously watching my chalk. I began work with the first equation and plodded steadily on, but I wonder if anybody will believe me if I say that before I reached the second, I had put in seventeen not before on the board, so " long " Was dear Miss Latimer's " step " ?
I find my friend alluding to the absence of all sanitary instruction in college, but if Mr. Muzzey suffered from the want of physical exercise, David Wasson, many years after, suffered even more severely from an excess of it. No one told him when he was first taxing his brain severely, that the exercise which would weary the spinal cord must be light and not prolonged. The result of his ignorance was a physical torture much harder to bear than the mild distress of dyspepsia.
When my father moved into his Hancock Avenue house, I was still a very young girl, but was not counted a child, because in addition to my school studies with masters and Mr. Abbot, I had had, for two years, the care of my father's house, the oversight of seven servants and of my sisters' studies. My brothers were still babies. Only my sister Emily was born there. At that time President Eliot was a frolicsome boy of three or four, playing within sight of our nursery windows.
The first course of lectures that I ever heard of opened soon after we went there. They were held in the Masonic Temple on the corner of Tremont Street and Temple Place, where Stearns's store now is. The tickets were very costly, and my uncles thought my father very foolish to provide me with one. " I shall expect her to write abstracts of them," said my father, and my uncles laughed.
On the first evening I came down with a note-book and pencil. " What are those for ? " said my father, and I told him. " How much do you suppose you will understand, if you busy yourself with writing ? " was his response. " Put those things away, listen carefully, try to keep the thread of the discourse, and tomorrow morning write what you can remember." I still have the notes of that course of lectures. The abstract of the first filled a page, perhaps seven inches by four, but some years after, when Dr. James Walker gave a course of Lowell lectures on the "A priori arguments for the existence of a Deity " and related subjects, he said he could hardly distinguish my notes from his own manuscript, and " would quite as lief print from one as the other! " So well had my father's method served me !
I can never forget my obligations to the Lowell Institute. I was very small for my age. When the first course opened in the old Theatre in Franklin Street, which we then called the " Odeon," no tickets were given out. A crowd stood for more than an hour on the sidewalk, and as I was one of the earliest to arrive, I was next the broad iron gate. Colonel Joe May, the father of Mrs. Alcott and the Reverend Samuel J. May, stood right behind me, and with his gold-headed cane and his stout arms formed an arc of safety about me. We always sat together, for we both knew what we wanted and went straight to our end. I think it was Professor Silliman who gave the first course. The Colonel was deaf and I was very near-sighted. We always sat on the first central seat directly in front of the speaker, to the great amazement of our friends, who could not understand how we could occupy one seat twelve nights in succession! These lectures opened wide fields of knowledge to the young people who listened to them. Of late years they have been more profound, touching social problems or scientific speculations, rather than opening literary and historical themes, but then they introduced, as they continue to do, the most distinguished leaders of the generation to an appreciative audience.
Four things stand out in my recollection connected with our Hancock Avenue home. First, my coming-out party; second, my introduction to Maria Weston Chapman; third, the ball upon the " Unicorn "; and fourth, the death of a dear child at five years of age. In those days, young ladies were introduced into society at the age of sixteen. College education has fortunately put an end to that. Our house had only two good sized parlors, and it was necessary to take the furniture out of the nursery on the next floor, which overlooked the Hancock grounds, and prepare it for a supper-room. My father allowed me to dictate all the details of decoration. Flowers were scarce in Boston then. I do not remember ever to have seen a room decorated with flowers in the modern sense, although I went that winter to many elegant parties. I chose white and green for the table. Silver and glass and white camellias gave it a pure, attractive grace. It was lighted entirely by silver candelabras set with candles. I cannot remember any gas in private houses at that time. I had for the table, in garlands and other adornments, five hundred camellias mixed with myrtle, and the perfect, scentless blossoms cost a dollar apiece. One of these was given to each of my guests as he or she departed.
A few years ago I went to a party here in Washington, where the florist came from Philadelphia, and the flowers for one evening cost four thousand dollars! I did not think it as pretty or effective as my own supper table.
My dress for the evening was a simple white muslin, my neck and arms draped with costly lace. It was not becoming, and I think I never looked worse ! I came to some honour for refusing to open my own ball, honour conferred on very mistaken grounds. The newspapers praised my self-denial, supposing I refrained to leave more space upon the floors. I refused, because I must have opened the ball with a young man whom I did not respect, and with whom I would not take the first step toward intimacy. Having refused him, of course I could take no -other partner. Such a step was so unusual, that my true reason was never suspected. The young man, however, understood, and the experience had much to do with shaping his subsequent creditable life. If he were living, I should not myself allude to it.
Very few, if any, of those who danced that night are now living; I can recall only Cariton Sprague, the celebrated lawyer, President Felton, Professor Lovering, Dr. Thomas Hill of Harvard, Henry Tuke Parker, and some dear schoolmates among those who have passed away. I had at that time one dear companion who was never the friend I believed her, for when it became necessary for me to take my stand against American slavery, the garlands her love seemed to have woven dropped away like frost-bitten leaves.
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