LIFE OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
Her Letters and Journals
BY HER SON
CHARLES EDWARD STOWE
[Illustration: Handwritten Preface
It seems but fitting, that I should preface this story of my life, with a few words of introduction.
The desire to leave behind me some reflection of my life, has been cherished by me, for many years past; but failing strength and increasing infirmities have prevented its accomplishment.
At my suggestion and with what assistance I have been able to render my son Revd. Charles Edward Stow, has compiled from my letters and journals, this biography. It is this true story of my own words, and has therefore all the force of an autobiography.
It is perhaps much more accurate as to detail & impression than is possible with any autobiography, written later in life.
If these pages, shall lead those who read them to a firmer trust in God and a deeper sense of this fatherly goodness throughout the days of our Earthly pilgrimage I can stay with Valient for Faith in the Pilgrim's Progress.
I am going to my Father's & this with great difficulty. I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the troubles I have been at, to arrive where I am.
My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage & my courages & skills to him that can get it.
Hartford Sept. 30 1889
(Signed) Harriet Beecher Stowe]
I desire to express my thanks here to Harper & Brothers, of New York, for permission to use letters already published in the "Autobiography and Correspondence of Lyman Beecher." I have availed myself freely of this permission in chapters i. and iii. In chapter xx. I have given letters already published in the "Life of George Eliot," by Mr. Cross; but in every instance I have copied from the original MSS. and not from the published work. In conclusion, I desire to express my indebtedness to Mr. Kirk Munroe, who has been my co-laborer in the work of compilation.
CHARLES E. STOWE.
HARTFORD, September 30, 1889.
DEATH OF HER MOTHER.—FIRST JOURNEY FROM HOME.—LIFE AT NUT PLAINS.— SCHOOL DAYS AND HOURS WITH FAVORITE AUTHORS.—THE NEW MOTHER.— LITCHFIELD ACADEMY AND ITS INFLUENCE.—FIRST LITERARY EFFORTS.—A REMARKABLE COMPOSITION.—GOES TO HARTFORD.
SCHOOL DAYS IN HARTFORD, 1824-1832.
MISS CATHERINE BEECHER.—PROFESSOR FISHER.—THE WRECK OF THE ALBION AND DEATH OF PROFESSOR FISHER.—"THE MINISTER'S WOOING."—MISS CATHERINE BEECHER'S SPIRITUAL HISTORY.—MRS. STOWE'S RECOLLECTIONS OF HER SCHOOL DAYS IN HARTFORD.—HER CONVERSION.—UNITES WITH THE FIRST CHURCH IN HARTFORD.—HER DOUBTS AND SUBSEQUENT RELIGIOUS DEVELOPMENT. —HER FINAL PEACE.
DR. BEECHER CALLED TO CINCINNATI.—THE WESTWARD JOURNEY.—FIRST LETTER FROM HOME.—DESCRIPTION OF WALNUT HILLS.—STARTING A NEW SCHOOL.— INWARD GLIMPSES.—THE SEMI-COLON CLUB.—EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF SLAVERY. —A JOURNEY TO THE EAST.—THOUGHTS AROUSED BY FIRST VISIT TO NIAGARA.— MARRIAGE TO PROFESSOR STOWE.
EARLY MARRIED LIFE, 1836-1840.
PROFESSOR STOWE'S INTEREST IN POPULAR EDUCATION.—HIS DEPARTURE FOR EUROPE.—SLAVERY RIOTS IN CINCINNATI.—BIRTH OF TWIN DAUGHTERS.— PROFESSOR STOWE'S RETURN AND VISIT TO COLUMBUS.—DOMESTIC TRIALS.— AIDING A FUGITIVE SLAVE.—AUTHORSHIP UNDER DIFFICULTIES.—A BEECHER ROUND ROBIN.
POVERTY AND SICKNESS, 1840-1850.
FAMINE IN CINCINNATI.—SUMMER AT THE EAST.—PLANS FOR LITERARY WORK.— EXPERIENCE ON A RAILROAD.—DEATH OF HER BROTHER GEORGE.—SICKNESS AND DESPAIR.—A JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF HEALTH.—GOES TO BRATTLEBORO' WATER- CURE.—TROUBLES AT LANE SEMINARY.—CHOLERA IN CINCINNATI.—DEATH OF YOUNGEST CHILD.—DETERMINED TO LEAVE THE WEST.
REMOVAL TO BRUNSWICK, 1850-1852.
MRS. STOWE'S REMARKS ON WRITING AND UNDERSTANDING BIOGRAPHY.—THEIR APPROPRIATENESS TO HER OWN BIOGRAPHY.—REASONS FOR PROFESSOR STOWE'S LEAVING CINCINNATI.—MRS. STOWE'S JOURNEY TO BROOKLYN.—HER BROTHER'S SUCCESS AS A MINISTER.—LETTERS FROM HARTFORD AND BOSTON.—ARRIVES IN BRUNSWICK.—HISTORY OF THE SLAVERY AGITATION.—PRACTICAL WORKING OF THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW.—MRS. EDWARD BEECHER'S LETTER TO MRS. STOWE AND ITS EFFECT.—DOMESTIC TRIALS.—BEGINS TO WRITE "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN" AS A SERIAL FOR THE "NATIONAL ERA."—LETTER TO FREDERICK DOUGLASS.— "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN" A WORK OF RELIGIOUS EMOTION.
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, 1852.
"UNCLE TOM'S CABIN" AS A SERIAL IN THE "NATIONAL ERA."—AN OFFER FOR ITS PUBLICATION IN BOOK FORM.—WILL IT BE A SUCCESS?—AN UNPRECEDENTED CIRCULATION.—CONGRATULATORY MESSAGES.—KIND WORDS FROM ABROAD.—MRS. STOWE TO THE EARL OF CARLISLE.—LETTERS FROM AND TO LORD SHAFTESBURY. —CORRESPONDENCE WITH ARTHUR HELPS.
FIRST TRIP TO EUROPE, 1853.
THE EDMONDSONS.—BUYING SLAVES TO SET THEM FREE.—JENNY LIND.— PROFESSOR STOWE IS CALLED TO ANDOVER.—FITTING UP THE NEW HOME.—THE "KEY TO UNCLE TOM'S CABIN."—"UNCLE TOM" ABROAD.—HOW IT WAS PUBLISHED IN ENGLAND.—PREFACE TO THE EUROPEAN EDITION.—THE BOOK IN FRANCE.—IN GERMANY.—A GREETING FROM CHARLES KINGSLEY.—PREPARING TO VISIT SCOTLAND.—LETTER TO MRS. FOLLEN
SUNNY MEMORIES, 1853.
CROSSING THE ATLANTIC.—ARRIVAL IN ENGLAND.—RECEPTION IN LIVERPOOL.— WELCOME TO SCOTLAND.—A GLASGOW TEA-PARTY.—EDINBURGH HOSPITALITY.— ABERDEEN.—DUNDEE AND BIRMINGHAM.—JOSEPH STURGE.—ELIHU BURRITT.— LONDON.—THE LORD MAYOR'S DINNER.—CHARLES DICKENS AND HIS WIFE
FROM OVER THE SEA, 1853.
THE EARL OF CARLISLE.—ARTHUR HELPS.—THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF ARGYLL. —MARTIN FARQUHAR TUPPER.—A MEMORABLE MEETING AT STAFFORD HOUSE.— MACAULAY AND DEAN MILMAN.—WINDSOR CASTLE.—PROFESSOR STOWE RETURNS TO AMERICA.—MRS. STOWE ON THE CONTINENT.—IMPRESSIONS OF PARIS.—EN ROUTE TO SWITZERLAND AND GERMANY.—BACK TO ENGLAND.—HOMEWARD BOUND
HOME AGAIN, 1853-1856.
ANTI-SLAVERY WORK.—STIRRING TIMES IN THE UNITED STATES.—ADDRESS TO THE LADIES OF GLASGOW.—APPEAL TO THE WOMEN OF AMERICA.— CORRESPONDENCE WITH WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON.—THE WRITING OF "DRED."— FAREWELL LETTER FROM GEORGIANA MAY.—SECOND VOYAGE TO ENGLAND.
SECOND VISIT TO ENGLAND.—A GLIMPSE AT THE QUEEN.—THE DUKE OF ARGYLL AND INVERARY.—EARLY CORRESPONDENCE WITH LADY BYRON.—DUNROBIN CASTLE AND ITS INMATES.—A VISIT TO STOKE PARK.—LORD DUFFERIN.—HARLES KINGSLEY AT HOME.—PARIS REVISITED.—MADAME MOHL'S RECEPTIONS
OLD SCENES REVISITED, 1856.
EN ROUTE TO ROME.—TRIALS OF TRAVEL.—A MIDNIGHT ARRIVAL AND AN INHOSPITABLE RECEPTION.—GLORIES OF THE ETERNAL CITY.—NAPLES AND VESUVIUS.—VENICE.—HOLY WEEK IN ROME.—RETURN TO ENGLAND.—LETTER FROM HARRIET MARTINEAU ON "DRED."—A WORD FROM MR. PRESCOTT ON "DRED."—FAREWELL TO LADY BYRON.
THE MINISTER'S WOOING, 1857-1859.
DEATH OF MRS. STOWE'S OLDEST SON.—LETTER TO THE DUCHESS OF SUTHERLAND.—LETTER TO HER DAUGHTERS IN PARIS.—LETTER TO HER SISTER CATHERINE.—VISIT TO BRUNSWICK AND ORR'S ISLAND.—WRITES "THE MINISTER'S WOOING" AND "THE PEARL OF ORR'S ISLAND."—MR. WHITTIER'S COMMENTS.—MR. LOWELL ON "THE MINISTER'S WOOING."—LETTER TO MRS. STOWE FROM MR. LOWELL.—JOHN RUSKIN ON "THE MINISTER'S WOOING."—A YEAR OF SADNESS.—LETTER TO LADY BYRON.—LETTER TO HER DAUGHTER.— DEPARTURE FOR EUROPE.
THE THIRD TRIP TO EUROPE, 1859.
THIRD VISIT TO EUROPE.—LADY BYRON ON "THE MINISTER'S WOOING."—SOME FOREIGN PEOPLE AND THINGS AS THEY APPEARED TO PROFESSOR STOWE.—A WINTER IN ITALY.—THINGS UNSEEN AND UNREVEALED.—SPECULATIONS CONCERNING SPIRITUALISM.—JOHN RUSKIN.—MRS. BROWNING.—THE RETURN TO AMERICA.—LETTERS TO DR. HOLMES
THE CIVIL WAR, 1860-1865.
THE OUTBREAK OF CIVIL WAR.—MRS. STOWE'S SON ENLISTS.—THANKSGIVING DAY IN WASHINGTON.—THE PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION.—REJOICINGS IN BOSTON.—FRED STOWE AT GETTYSBURG.—LEAVING ANDOVER AND SETTLING IN HARTFORD.—A REPLY TO THE WOMEN OF ENGLAND.—LETTERS FROM JOHN BRIGHT, ARCHBISHOP WHATELY, AND NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.
LETTER TO DUCHESS OF ARGYLL.—MRS. STOWE DESIRES TO HAVE A HOME AT THE SOUTH.—FLORIDA THE BEST FIELD FOR DOING GOOD.—SHE BUYS A PLACE AT MANDARIN.—A CHARMING WINTER RESIDENCE—"PALMETTO LEAVES."—EASTER SUNDAY AT MANDARIN.—CORRESPONDENCE WITH DR. HOLMES.—"POGANUC PEOPLE."—RECEPTIONS IN NEW ORLEANS AND TALLAHASSEE.—LAST WINTER AT MANDARIN.
OLDTOWN FOLKS, 1869.
PROFESSOR STOWE THE ORIGINAL OF "HARRY" IN "OLDTOWN FOLKS."—PROFESSOR STOWE'S LETTER TO GEORGE ELIOT.—HER REMARKS ON THE SAME.—PROFESSOR STOWE'S NARRATIVE OF HIS YOUTHFUL ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF SPIRITS. —PROFESSOR STOWE'S INFLUENCE ON MRS. STOWE'S LITERARY LIFE.—GEORGE ELIOT ON "OLDTOWN FOLKS."
THE BYRON CONTROVERSY, 1869-1870.
MRS. STOWE'S STATEMENT OF HER OWN CASE.—THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH SHE FIRST MET LADY BYRON.—LETTERS TO LADY BYRON.—LETTER TO DR. HOLMES WHEN ABOUT TO PUBLISH "THE TRUE STORY OF LADY BYRON'S LIFE" IN THE "ATLANTIC."—DR. HOLMES'S REPLY.—THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER.
CORRESPONDENCE WITH GEORGE ELIOT.—GEORGE ELIOT'S FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF MRS. STOWE.—MRS. STOWE'S LETTER TO MRS. FOLLEN.—GEORGE ELIOT'S LETTER TO MRS. STOWE.—MRS. STOWE'S REPLY.—LIFE IN FLORIDA.—ROBERT DALE OWEN AND MODERN SPIRITUALISM.—GEORGE ELIOT'S LETTER ON THE PHENOMENA OF SPIRITUALISM.—MRS. STOWE'S DESCRIPTION OF SCENERY IN FLORIDA.—MRS. STOWE CONCERNING "MIDDLEMARCH."—GEORGE ELIOT TO MRS. STOWE DURING REV. H. W. BEECHER'S TRIAL.—MRS. STOWE CONCERNING HER LIFE EXPERIENCE WITH HER BROTHER, H. W. BEECHER, AND His TRIAL.—MRS. LEWES' LAST LETTER TO MRS. STOWE.—DIVERSE MENTAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE TWO WOMEN.—MRS. STOWE'S FINAL ESTIMATE OF MODERN SPIRITUALISM.
CLOSING SCENES, 1870-1889.
LITERARY LABORS.—COMPLETE LIST OF PUBLISHED BOOKS.—FIRST READING TOUR.—PEEPS BEHIND THE CURTAIN.—SOME NEW ENGLAND CITIES.—A LETTER FROM MAINE.—PLEASANT AND UNPLEASANT READINGS.—SECOND TOUR.—A WESTERN JOURNEY.—VISIT TO OLD SCENES.—CELEBRATION OF SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY.—CONGRATULATORY POEMS FROM MR. WHITTIER AND DR. HOLMES.— LAST WORDS.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
PORTRAIT OF MRS. STOWE. From a crayon by Richmond, made in England in 1853
SILVER INKSTAND PRESENTED TO MRS. STOWE BY HER ENGLISH ADMIRERS IN 1853
PORTRAIT OF MRS. STOWE'S GRANDMOTHER, ROXANNA FOOTE. From a miniature painted on ivory by her daughter, Mrs. Lyman Beecher.
BIRTHPLACE AT LITCHFIELD, CONN.
PORTRAIT OF CATHERINE E. BEECHER. From a photograph taken in 1875
THE HOME AT WALNUT HILLS, CINCINNATI. [Footnote: From recent photographs and from views in the Autobiography of Lyman Beecher, published by Messrs. Harper & Brothers.]
PORTRAIT OF HENRY WARD BEECHER. From a photograph by Rockwood, in 1884
MANUSCRIPT PAGE OF "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN" (facsimile)
THE ANDOVER HOME. From a painting by F. Rondel, in 1860, owned by Mrs. H. F. Allen.
PORTRAIT OF LYMAN BEECHER, AT THE AGE OF EIGHTY-SEVEN. From a painting owned by the Boston Congregational Club.
PORTRAIT OF THE DUCHESS OF SUTHERLAND. From an engraving presented to Mrs. Stowe.
THE OLD HOME AT HARTFORD
THE HOME AT MANDARIN, FLORIDA
PORTRAIT OF CALVIN ELLIS STOWE. From a photograph taken in 1882
PORTRAIT OF MRS. STOWE. From a photograph by Ritz and Hastings, in 1884
THE LATER HARTFORD HOME
DEATH OF HER MOTHER.—FIRST JOURNEY FROM HOME.—LIFE AT NUT PLAINS.— SCHOOL DAYS AND HOURS WITH FAVORITE AUTHORS.—THE NEW MOTHER.— LITCHFIELD ACADEMY AND ITS INFLUENCE.—FIRST LITERARY EFFORTS.—A REMARKABLE COMPOSITION.—GOES TO HARTFORD.
Harriet Beecher (Stowe) was born June 14, 1811, in the characteristic New England town of Litchfield, Conn. Her father was the Rev. Dr. Lyman Beecher, a distinguished Calvinistic divine, her mother Roxanna Foote, his first wife. The little new-comer was ushered into a household of happy, healthy children, and found five brothers and sisters awaiting her. The eldest was Catherine, born September 6, 1800. Following her were two sturdy boys, William and Edward; then came Mary, then George, and at last Harriet. Another little Harriet born three years before had died when only one month old, and the fourth daughter was named, in memory of this sister, Harriet Elizabeth Beecher. Just two years after Harriet was born, in the same month, another brother, Henry Ward, was welcomed to the family circle, and after him came Charles, the last of Roxanna Beecher's children.
The first memorable incident of Harriet's life was the death of her mother, which occurred when she was four years old, and which ever afterwards remained with her as the tenderest, saddest, and most sacred memory of her childhood. Mrs. Stowe's recollections of her mother are found in a letter to her brother Charles, afterwards published in the "Autobiography and Correspondence of Lyman Beecher." She says:—
"I was between three and four years of age when our mother died, and my personal recollections of her are therefore but few. But the deep interest and veneration that she inspired in all who knew her were such that during all my childhood I was constantly hearing her spoken of, and from one friend or another some incident or anecdote of her life was constantly being impressed upon me.
"Mother was one of those strong, restful, yet widely sympathetic natures in whom all around seemed to find comfort and repose. The communion between her and my father was a peculiar one. It was an intimacy throughout the whole range of their being. There was no human mind in whose decisions he had greater confidence. Both intellectually and morally he regarded her as the better and stronger portion of himself, and I remember hearing him say that after her death his first sensation was a sort of terror, like that of a child suddenly shut out alone in the dark.
"In my own childhood only two incidents of my mother twinkle like rays through the darkness. One was of our all running and dancing out before her from the nursery to the sitting-room one Sabbath morning, and her pleasant voice saying after us, 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, children.'
"Another remembrance is this: mother was an enthusiastic horticulturist in all the small ways that limited means allowed. Her brother John in New York had just sent her a small parcel of fine tulip-bulbs. I remember rummaging these out of an obscure corner of the nursery one day when she was gone out, and being strongly seized with the idea that they were good to eat, using all the little English I then possessed to persuade my brothers that these were onions such as grown people ate and would be very nice for us. So we fell to and devoured the whole, and I recollect being somewhat disappointed in the odd sweetish taste, and thinking that onions were not so nice as I had supposed. Then mother's serene face appeared at the nursery door and we all ran towards her, telling with one voice of our discovery and achievement. We had found a bag of onions and had eaten them all up.
"Also I remember that there was not even a momentary expression of impatience, but that she sat down and said, 'My dear children, what you have done makes mamma very sorry. Those were not onions but roots of beautiful flowers, and if you had let them alone we should have next summer in the garden great beautiful red and yellow flowers such as you never saw.' I remember how drooping and dispirited we all grew at this picture, and how sadly we regarded the empty paper bag.
"Then I have a recollection of her reading aloud to the children Miss Edgeworth's 'Frank,' which had just come out, I believe, and was exciting a good deal of attention among the educational circles of Litchfield. After that came a time when every one said she was sick, and I used to be permitted to go once a day into her room, where she sat bolstered up in bed. I have a vision of a very fair face with a bright red spot on each cheek and her quiet smile. I remember dreaming one night that mamma had got well, and of waking with loud transports of joy that were hushed down by some one who came into the room. My dream was indeed a true one. She was forever well.
"Then came the funeral. Henry was too little to go. I can see his golden curls and little black frock as he frolicked in the sun like a kitten, full of ignorant joy.
"I recollect the mourning dresses, the tears of the older children, the walking to the burial-ground, and somebody's speaking at the grave. Then all was closed, and we little ones, to whom it was so confused, asked where she was gone and would she never come back.
"They told us at one time that she had been laid in the ground, and at another that she had gone to heaven. Thereupon Henry, putting the two things together, resolved to dig through the ground and go to heaven to find her; for being discovered under sister Catherine's window one morning digging with great zeal and earnestness, she called to him to know what he was doing. Lifting his curly head, he answered with great simplicity, 'Why, I'm going to heaven to find mamma.'
"Although our mother's bodily presence thus disappeared from our circle, I think her memory and example had more influence in moulding her family, in deterring from evil and exciting to good, than the living presence of many mothers. It was a memory that met us everywhere, for every person in the town, from the highest to the lowest, seemed to have been so impressed by her character and life that they constantly reflected some portion of it back upon us.
"The passage in 'Uncle Tom' where Augustine St. Clare describes his mother's influence is a simple reproduction of my own mother's influence as it has always been felt in her family."
Of his deceased wife Dr. Beecher said: "Few women have attained to more remarkable piety. Her faith was strong and her prayer prevailing. It was her wish that all her sons should devote themselves to the ministry, and to it she consecrated them with fervent prayer. Her prayers have been heard. All her sons have been converted and are now, according to her wish, ministers of Christ."
Such was Roxanna Beecher, whose influence upon her four-year-old daughter was strong enough to mould the whole after-life of the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." After the mother's death the Litchfield home was such a sad, lonely place for the child that her aunt, Harriet Foote, took her away for a long visit at her grandmother's at Nut Plains, near Guilford, Conn., the first journey from home the little one had ever made. Of this visit Mrs. Stowe herself says:—
"Among my earliest recollections are those of a visit to Nut Plains immediately after my mother's death. Aunt Harriet Foote, who was with mother during all her last sickness, took me home to stay with her. At the close of what seemed to me a long day's ride we arrived after dark at a lonely little white farmhouse, and were ushered into a large parlor where a cheerful wood fire was crackling; I was placed in the arms of an old lady, who held me close and wept silently, a thing at which I marveled, for my great loss was already faded from my childish mind.
"I remember being put to bed by my aunt in a large room, on one side of which stood the bed appropriated to her and me, and on the other that of my grandmother. My aunt Harriet was no common character. A more energetic human being never undertook the education of a child. Her ideas of education were those of a vigorous English woman of the old school. She believed in the Church, and had she been born under that regime would have believed in the king stoutly, although being of the generation following the Revolution she was a not less stanch supporter of the Declaration of Independence.
"According to her views little girls were to be taught to move very gently, to speak softly and prettily, to say 'yes ma'am,' and 'no ma'am,' never to tear their clothes, to sew, to knit at regular hours, to go to church on Sunday and make all the responses, and to come home and be catechised.
"During these catechisings she used to place my little cousin Mary and myself bolt upright at her knee, while black Dinah and Harry, the bound boy, were ranged at a respectful distance behind us; for Aunt Harriet always impressed it upon her servants 'to order themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters,' a portion of the Church catechism that always pleased me, particularly when applied to them, as it insured their calling me 'Miss Harriet,' and treating me with a degree of consideration such as I never enjoyed in the more democratic circle at home. I became proficient in the Church catechism, and gave my aunt great satisfaction by the old-fashioned gravity and steadiness with which I learned to repeat it.
"As my father was a Congregational minister, I believe Aunt Harriet, though the highest of High Church women, felt some scruples as to whether it was desirable that my religious education should be entirely out of the sphere of my birth. Therefore when this catechetical exercise was finished she would say, 'Now, niece, you have to learn another catechism, because your father is a Presbyterian minister,'—and then she would endeavor to make me commit to memory the Assembly catechism.
"At this lengthening of exercise I secretly murmured. I was rather pleased at the first question in the Church catechism, which is certainly quite on the level of any child's understanding,—'What is your name?' It was such an easy good start, I could say it so loud and clear, and I was accustomed to compare it with the first question in the Primer, 'What is the chief end of man?' as vastly more difficult for me to answer. In fact, between my aunt's secret unbelief and my own childish impatience of too much catechism, the matter was indefinitely postponed after a few ineffectual attempts, and I was overjoyed to hear her announce privately to grandmother that she thought it would be time enough for Harriet to learn the Presbyterian catechism when she went home."
Mingled with this superabundance of catechism and plentiful needlework the child was treated to copious extracts from Lowth's Isaiah, Buchanan's Researches in Asia, Bishop Heber's Life, and Dr. Johnson's Works, which, after her Bible and Prayer Book, were her grandmother's favorite reading. Harriet does not seem to have fully appreciated these; but she did enjoy her grandmother's comments upon their biblical readings. Among the Evangelists especially was the old lady perfectly at home, and her idea of each of the apostles was so distinct and dramatic that she spoke of them as of familiar acquaintances. She would, for instance, always smile indulgently at Peter's remarks and say, "There he is again, now; that's just like Peter. He's always so ready to put in."
It must have been during this winter spent at Nut Plains, amid such surroundings, that Harriet began committing to memory that wonderful assortment of hymns, poems, and scriptural passages from which in after years she quoted so readily and effectively, for her sister Catherine, in writing of her the following November, says:—
"Harriet is a very good girl. She has been to school all this summer, and has learned to read very fluently. She has committed to memory twenty-seven hymns and two long chapters in the Bible. She has a remarkably retentive memory and will make a very good scholar."
At this time the child was five years old, and a regular attendant at "Ma'am Kilbourne's" school on West Street, to which she walked every day hand in hand with her chubby, rosy-faced, bare-footed, four-year- old brother, Henry Ward. With the ability to read germinated the intense literary longing that was to be hers through life. In those days but few books were specially prepared for children, and at six years of age we find the little girl hungrily searching for mental food amid barrels of old sermons and pamphlets stored in a corner of the garret. Here it seemed to her were some thousands of the most unintelligible things. "An appeal on the unlawfulness of a man marrying his wife's sister" turned up in every barrel she investigated, by twos, or threes, or dozens, till her soul despaired of finding an end. At last her patient search was rewarded, for at the very bottom of a barrel of musty sermons she discovered an ancient volume of "The Arabian Nights." With this her fortune was made, for in these most fascinating of fairy tales the imaginative child discovered a well-spring of joy that was all her own. When things went astray with her, when her brothers started off on long excursions, refusing to take her with them, or in any other childish sorrow, she had only to curl herself up in some snug corner and sail forth on her bit of enchanted carpet into fairyland to forget all her griefs.
In recalling her own child-life Mrs. Stowe, among other things, describes her father's library, and gives a vivid bit of her own experiences within its walls. She says: "High above all the noise of the house, this room had to me the air of a refuge and a sanctuary. Its walls were set round from floor to ceiling with the friendly, quiet faces of books, and there stood my father's great writing-chair, on one arm of which lay open always his Cruden's Concordance and his Bible. Here I loved to retreat and niche myself down in a quiet corner with my favorite books around me. I had a kind of sheltered feeling as I thus sat and watched my father writing, turning to his books, and speaking from time to time to himself in a loud, earnest whisper. I vaguely felt that he was about some holy and mysterious work quite beyond my little comprehension, and I was careful never to disturb him by question or remark.
"The books ranged around filled me too with a solemn awe. On the lower shelves were enormous folios, on whose backs I spelled in black letters, 'Lightfoot Opera,' a title whereat I wondered, considering the bulk of the volumes. Above these, grouped along in friendly, social rows, were books of all sorts, sizes, and bindings, the titles of which I had read so often that I knew them by heart. There were Bell's Sermons, Bonnett's Inquiries, Bogue's Essays, Toplady on Predestination, Boston's Fourfold State, Law's Serious Call, and other works of that kind. These I looked over wistfully, day after day, without even a hope of getting something interesting out of them. The thought that father could read and understand things like these filled me with a vague awe, and I wondered if I would ever be old enough to know what it was all about.
"But there was one of my father's books that proved a mine of wealth to me. It was a happy hour when he brought home and set up in his bookcase Cotton Mather's 'Magnalia,' in a new edition of two volumes. What wonderful stories those! Stories too about my own country. Stories that made me feel the very ground I trod on to be consecrated by some special dealing of God's Providence."
In continuing these reminiscences Mrs. Stowe describes as follows her sensations upon first hearing the Declaration of Independence: "I had never heard it before, and even now had but a vague idea of what was meant by some parts of it. Still I gathered enough from the recital of the abuses and injuries that had driven my nation to this course to feel myself swelling with indignation, and ready with all my little mind and strength to applaud the concluding passage, which Colonel Talmadge rendered with resounding majesty. I was as ready as any of them to pledge my life, fortune, and sacred honor for such a cause. The heroic element was strong in me, having come down by ordinary generation from a long line of Puritan ancestry, and just now it made me long to do something, I knew not what: to fight for my country, or to make some declaration on my own account."
When Harriet was nearly six years old her father married as his second wife Miss Harriet Porter of Portland, Maine, and Mrs. Stowe thus describes her new mother: "I slept in the nursery with my two younger brothers. We knew that father was gone away somewhere on a journey and was expected home, therefore the sound of a bustle in the house the more easily awoke us. As father came into our room our new mother followed him. She was very fair, with bright blue eyes, and soft auburn hair bound round with a black velvet bandeau, and to us she seemed very beautiful.
"Never did stepmother make a prettier or sweeter impression. The morning following her arrival we looked at her with awe. She seemed to us so fair, so delicate, so elegant, that we were almost afraid to go near her. We must have appeared to her as rough, red-faced, country children, honest, obedient, and bashful. She was peculiarly dainty and neat in all her ways and arrangements, and I used to feel breezy, rough, and rude in her presence.
"In her religion she was distinguished for a most unfaltering Christ- worship. She was of a type noble but severe, naturally hard, correct, exact and exacting, with intense natural and moral ideality. Had it not been that Doctor Payson had set up and kept before her a tender, human, loving Christ, she would have been only a conscientious bigot. This image, however, gave softness and warmth to her religious life, and I have since noticed how her Christ-enthusiasm has sprung up in the hearts of all her children."
In writing to her old home of her first impressions of her new one, Mrs. Beecher says: "It is a very lovely family, and with heartfelt gratitude I observed how cheerful and healthy they were. The sentiment is greatly increased, since I perceive them to be of agreeable habits and some of them of uncommon intellect."
This new mother proved to be indeed all that the name implies to her husband's children, and never did they have occasion to call her aught other than blessed.
Another year finds a new baby brother, Frederick by name, added to the family. At this time too we catch a characteristic glimpse of Harriet in one of her sister Catherine's letters. She says: "Last week we interred Tom junior with funeral honors by the side of old Tom of happy memory. Our Harriet is chief mourner always at their funerals. She asked for what she called an epithet for the gravestone of Tom junior, which I gave as follows:—
"Here lies our Kit, Who had a fit, And acted queer, Shot with a gun, Her race is run, And she lies here."
In June, 1820, little Frederick died from scarlet fever, and Harriet was seized with a violent attack of the same dread disease; but, after a severe struggle, recovered.
Following her happy, hearty child-life, we find her tramping through the woods or going on fishing excursions with her brothers, sitting thoughtfully in her father's study, listening eagerly to the animated theological discussions of the day, visiting her grandmother at Nut Plains, and figuring as one of the brightest scholars in the Litchfield Academy, taught by Mr. John Brace and Miss Pierce. When she was eleven years old her brother Edward wrote of her: "Harriet reads everything she can lay hands on, and sews and knits diligently."
At this time she was no longer the youngest girl of the family, for another sister (Isabella) had been born in 1822. This event served greatly to mature her, as she was intrusted with much of the care of the baby out of school hours. It was not, however, allowed to interfere in any way with her studies, and, under the skillful direction of her beloved teachers, she seemed to absorb knowledge with every sense. She herself writes: "Much of the training and inspiration of my early days consisted not in the things that I was supposed to be studying, but in hearing, while seated unnoticed at my desk, the conversation of Mr. Brace with the older classes. There, from hour to hour, I listened with eager ears to historical criticisms and discussions, or to recitations in such works as Paley's Moral Philosophy, Blair's Rhetoric, Allison on Taste, all full of most awakening suggestions to my thoughts.
"Mr. Brace exceeded all teachers I ever knew in the faculty of teaching composition. The constant excitement in which he kept the minds of his pupils, the wide and varied regions of thought into which he led them, formed a preparation for composition, the main requisite for which is to have something which one feels interested to say."
In her tenth year Harriet began what to her was the fascinating work of writing compositions, and so rapidly did she progress that at the school exhibition held when she was twelve years old, hers was one of the two or three essays selected to be read aloud before the august assembly of visitors attracted by the occasion.
Of this event Mrs. Stowe writes: "I remember well the scene at that exhibition, to me so eventful. The hall was crowded with all the literati of Litchfield. Before them all our compositions were read aloud. When mine was read I noticed that father, who was sitting on high by Mr. Brace, brightened and looked interested, and at the close I heard him ask, 'Who wrote that composition?' 'Your daughter, sir,' was the answer. It was the proudest moment of my life. There was no mistaking father's face when he was pleased, and to have interested him was past all juvenile triumphs."
That composition has been carefully preserved, and on the old yellow sheets the cramped childish hand-writing is still distinctly legible. As the first literary production of one who afterwards attained such distinction as a writer, it is deemed of sufficient value and interest to be embodied in this biography exactly as it was written and read sixty-five years ago. The subject was certainly a grave one to be handled by a child of twelve.
CAN THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL BE PROVED BY THE LIGHT OF NATURE?
It has justly been concluded by the philosophers of every age that "The proper study of mankind is man," and his nature and composition, both physical and mental, have been subjects of the most critical examination. In the course of these researches many have been at a loss to account for the change which takes place in the body at the time of death. By some it has been attributed to the flight of its tenant, and by others to its final annihilation.
The questions, "What becomes of the soul at the time of death?" and, if it be not annihilated, "What is its destiny after death?" are those which, from the interest that we all feel in them, will probably engross universal attention.
In pursuing these inquiries it will be necessary to divest ourselves of all that knowledge which we have obtained from the light which revelation has shed over them, and place ourselves in the same position as the philosophers of past ages when considering the same subject.
The first argument which has been advanced to prove the immortality of the soul is drawn from the nature of the mind itself. It has (say the supporters of this theory) no composition of parts, and therefore, as there are no particles, is not susceptible of divisibility and cannot be acted upon by decay, and therefore if it will not decay it will exist forever.
Now because the mind is not susceptible of decay effected in the ordinary way by a gradual separation of particles, affords no proof that that same omnipotent power which created it cannot by another simple exertion of power again reduce it to nothing. The only reason for belief which this argument affords is that the soul cannot be acted upon by decay. But it does not prove that it cannot destroy its existence. Therefore, for the validity of this argument, it must either be proved that the "Creator" has not the power to destroy it, or that he has not the will; but as neither of these can be established, our immortality is left dependent on the pleasure of the Creator. But it is said that it is evident that the Creator designed the soul for immortality, or he would never have created it so essentially different from the body, for had they both been designed for the same end they would both have been created alike, as there would have been no object in forming them otherwise. This only proves that the soul and body had not the same destinations. Now of what these destinations are we know nothing, and after much useless reasoning we return where we began, our argument depending upon the good pleasure of the Creator.
And here it is said that a being of such infinite wisdom and benevolence as that of which the Creator is possessed would not have formed man with such vast capacities and boundless desires, and would have given him no opportunity for exercising them.
In order to establish the validity of this argument it is necessary to prove by the light of Nature that the Creator is benevolent, which, being impracticable, is of itself sufficient to render the argument invalid.
But the argument proceeds upon the supposition that to destroy the soul would be unwise. Now this is arraigning the "All-wise" before the tribunal of his subjects to answer for the mistakes in his government. Can we look into the council of the "Unsearchable" and see what means are made to answer their ends? We do not know but the destruction of the soul may, in the government of God, be made to answer such a purpose that its existence would be contrary to the dictates of wisdom.
The great desire of the soul for immortality, its secret, innate horror of annihilation, has been brought to prove its immortality. But do we always find this horror or this desire? Is it not much more evident that the great majority of mankind have no such dread at all? True that there is a strong feeling of horror excited by the idea of perishing from the earth and being forgotten, of losing all those honors and all that fame awaited them. Many feel this secret horror when they look down upon the vale of futurity and reflect that though now the idols of the world, soon all which will be left them will be the common portion of mankind—oblivion! But this dread does not arise from any idea of their destiny beyond the tomb, and even were this true, it would afford no proof that the mind would exist forever, merely from its strong desires. For it might with as much correctness be argued that the body will exist forever because we have a great dread of dying, and upon this principle nothing which we strongly desire would ever be withheld from us, and no evil that we greatly dread will ever come upon us, a principle evidently false.
Again, it has been said that the constant progression of the powers of the mind affords another proof of its immortality. Concerning this, Addison remarks, "Were a human soul ever thus at a stand in her acquirements, were her faculties to be full blown and incapable of further enlargement, I could imagine that she might fall away insensibly and drop at once into a state of annihilation. But can we believe a thinking being that is in a perpetual progress of improvement, and traveling on from perfection to perfection after having just looked abroad into the works of her Creator and made a few discoveries of his infinite wisdom and goodness, must perish at her first setting out and in the very beginning of her inquiries?"
In answer to this it may be said that the soul is not always progressing in her powers. Is it not rather a subject of general remark that those brilliant talents which in youth expand, in manhood become stationary, and in old age gradually sink to decay? Till when the ancient man descends to the tomb scarce a wreck of that once powerful mind remains.
Who, but upon reading the history of England, does not look with awe upon the effects produced by the talents of her Elizabeth? Who but admires that undaunted firmness in time of peace and that profound depth of policy which she displayed in the cabinet? Yet behold the tragical end of this learned, this politic princess! Behold the triumphs of age and sickness over her once powerful talents, and say not that the faculties of man are always progressing in their powers.
From the activity of the mind at the hour of death has also been deduced its immortality. But it is not true that the mind is always active at the time of death. We find recorded in history numberless instances of those talents, which were once adequate to the government of a nation, being so weakened and palsied by the touch of sickness as scarcely to tell to beholders what they once were. The talents of the statesman, the wisdom of the sage, the courage and might of the warrior, are instantly destroyed by it, and all that remains of them is the waste of idiocy or the madness of insanity.
Some minds there are who at the time of death retain their faculties though much impaired, and if the argument be valid these are the only cases where immortality is conferred. Again, it is urged that the inequality of rewards and punishments in this world demand another in which virtue may be rewarded and vice punished. This argument, in the first place, takes for its foundation that by the light of nature the distinction between virtue and vice can be discovered. By some this is absolutely disbelieved, and by all considered as extremely doubtful. And, secondly, it puts the Creator under an obligation to reward and punish the actions of his creatures. No such obligation exists, and therefore the argument cannot be valid. And this supposes the Creator to be a being of justice, which cannot by the light of nature be proved, and as the whole argument rests upon this foundation it certainly cannot be correct.
This argument also directly impeaches the wisdom of the Creator, for the sense of it is this,—that, forasmuch as he was not able to manage his government in this world, he must have another in which to rectify the mistakes and oversights of this, and what an idea would this give us of our All-wise Creator?
It is also said that all nations have some conceptions of a future state, that the ancient Greeks and Romans believed in it, that no nation has been found but have possessed some idea of a future state of existence. But their belief arose more from the fact that they wished it to be so than from any real ground of belief; for arguments appear much more plausible when the mind wishes to be convinced. But it is said that every nation, however circumstanced, possess some idea of a future state. For this we may account by the fact that it was handed down by tradition from the time of the flood. From all these arguments, which, however plausible at first sight, are found to be futile, may be argued the necessity of a revelation. Without it, the destiny of the noblest of the works of God would have been left in obscurity. Never till the blessed light of the Gospel dawned on the borders of the pit, and the heralds of the Cross proclaimed "Peace on earth and good will to men," was it that bewildered and misled man was enabled to trace his celestial origin and glorious destiny.
The sun of the Gospel has dispelled the darkness that has rested on objects beyond the tomb. In the Gospel man learned that when the dust returned to dust the spirit fled to the God who gave it. He there found that though man has lost the image of his divine Creator, he is still destined, after this earthly house of his tabernacle is dissolved, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, to a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Soon after the writing of this remarkable composition, Harriet's child-life in Litchfield came to an end, for that same year she went to Hartford to pursue her studies in a school which had been recently established by her sister Catherine in that city.
SCHOOL DAYS IN HARTFORD, 1824-1832.
MISS CATHERINE BEECHER.—PROFESSOR FISHER.—THE WRECK OF THE ALBION AND DEATH OF PROFESSOR FISHER.—"THE MINISTER'S WOOING."—MISS CATHERINE BEECHER'S SPIRITUAL HISTORY.—MRS. STOWE'S RECOLLECTIONS OF HER SCHOOL DAYS IN HARTFORD.—HER CONVERSION.—UNITES WITH THE FIRST CHURCH IN HARTFORD.—HER DOUBTS AND SUBSEQUENT RELIGIOUS DEVELOPMENT. —HER FINAL PEACE.
The school days in Hartford began a new era in Harriet's life. It was the formative period, and it is therefore important to say a few words concerning her sister Catherine, under whose immediate supervision she was to continue her education. In fact, no one can comprehend either Mrs. Stowe or her writings without some knowledge of the life and character of this remarkable woman, whose strong, vigorous mind and tremendous personality indelibly stamped themselves on the sensitive, yielding, dreamy, and poetic nature of the younger sister. Mrs. Stowe herself has said that the two persons who most strongly influenced her at this period of her life were her brother Edward and her sister Catherine.
Catherine was the oldest child of Lyman Beecher and Roxanna Foote, his wife. In a little battered journal found among her papers is a short sketch of her life, written when she was seventy-six years of age. In a tremulous hand she begins: "I was born at East Hampton, L. I., September 5, 1800, at 5 P.M., in the large parlor opposite father's study. Don't remember much about it myself." The sparkle of wit in this brief notice of the circumstances of her birth is very characteristic. All through her life little ripples of fun were continually playing on the surface of that current of intense thought and feeling in which her deep, earnest nature flowed.
When she was ten years of age her father removed to Litchfield, Conn., and her happy girlhood was passed in that place. Her bright and versatile mind and ready wit enabled her to pass brilliantly through her school days with but little mental exertion, and those who knew her slightly might have imagined her to be only a bright, thoughtless, light-hearted girl. In Boston, at the age of twenty, she took lessons in music and drawing, and became so proficient in these branches as to secure a position as teacher in a young ladies' school, kept by a Rev. Mr. Judd, an Episcopal clergyman, at New London, Conn. About this time she formed the acquaintance of Professor Alexander Metcalf Fisher, of Yale College, one of the most distinguished young men in New England. In January of the year 1822 they became engaged, and the following spring Professor Fisher sailed for Europe to purchase books and scientific apparatus for the use of his department in the college.
In his last letter to Miss Beecher, dated March 31, 1822, he writes:—
"I set out at 10 precisely to-morrow, in the Albion for Liverpool; the ship has no superior in the whole number of excellent vessels belonging to this port, and Captain Williams is regarded as first on their list of commanders. The accommodations are admirable—fare $140. Unless our ship should speak some one bound to America on the passage, you will probably not hear from me under two months."
Before two months had passed came vague rumors of a terrible shipwreck on the coast of Ireland. Then the tidings that the Albion was lost. Then came a letter from Mr. Pond, at Kinsale, Ireland, dated May 2, 1822:—
"You have doubtless heard of the shipwreck of the Albion packet of New York, bound to Liverpool. It was a melancholy shipwreck. It happened about four o'clock on the morning of the 22d of April. Professor Fisher, of Yale College, was one of the passengers. Out of twenty- three cabin passengers, but one reached the shore. He is a Mr. Everhart, of Chester County, Pennsylvania. He informs me that Professor Fisher was injured by things that fetched away in the cabin at the time the ship was knocked down. This was between 8 and 9 o'clock in the evening of the twenty-first. Mr. Fisher, though badly bruised, was calm and resolute, and assisted Captain Williams by taking the injured compass to his berth and repairing it. About five minutes before the vessel struck Captain Williams informed the passengers of their danger, and all went on deck except Professor Fisher, who remained sitting in his berth. Mr. Everhart was the last person who left the cabin, and the last who ever saw Professor Fisher alive."
I should not have spoken of this incident of family history with such minuteness, except for the fact that it is so much a part of Mrs. Stowe's life as to make it impossible to understand either her character or her most important works without it. Without this incident "The Minister's Wooing" never would have been written, for both Mrs. Marvyn's terrible soul struggles and old Candace's direct and effective solution of all religious difficulties find their origin in this stranded, storm-beaten ship on the coast of Ireland, and the terrible mental conflicts through which her sister afterward passed, for she believed Professor Fisher eternally lost. No mind more directly and powerfully influenced Harriet's than that of her sister Catherine, unless it was her brother Edward's, and that which acted with such overwhelming power on the strong, unyielding mind of the older sister must have, in time, a permanent and abiding influence on the mind of the younger.
After Professor Fisher's death his books came into Miss Beecher's possession, and among them was a complete edition of Scott's works. It was an epoch in the family history when Doctor Beecher came down- stairs one day with a copy of "Ivanhoe" in his hand, and said: "I have always said that my children should not read novels, but they must read these."
The two years following the death of Professor Fisher were passed by Miss Catherine Beecher at Franklin, Mass., at the home of Professor Fisher's parents, where she taught his two sisters, studied mathematics with his brother Willard, and listened to Doctor Emmons' fearless and pitiless preaching. Hers was a mind too strong and buoyant to be crushed and prostrated by that which would have driven a weaker and less resolute nature into insanity. Of her it may well be said:—
"She faced the spectres of the mind And laid them, thus she came at length To find a stronger faith her own."
Gifted naturally with a capacity for close metaphysical analysis and a robust fearlessness in following her premises to a logical conclusion, she arrived at results startling and original, if not always of permanent value.
In 1840 she published in the "Biblical Repository" an article on Free Agency, which has been acknowledged by competent critics as the ablest refutation of Edwards on "The Will" which has appeared. An amusing incident connected with this publication may not be out of place here. A certain eminent theological professor of New England, visiting a distinguished German theologian and speaking of this production, said: "The ablest refutation of Edwards on 'The Will' which was ever written is the work of a woman, the daughter of Dr. Lyman Beecher." The worthy Teuton raised both hands in undisguised astonishment. "You have a woman that can write an able refutation of Edwards on 'The Will'? God forgive Christopher Columbus for discovering America!"
Not finding herself able to love a God whom she thought of in her own language as "a perfectly happy being, unmoved by my sorrows or tears, and looking upon me only with dislike and aversion," she determined "to find happiness in living to do good." "It was right to pray and read the Bible, so I prayed and read. It was right to try to save others, so I labored for their salvation. I never had any fear of punishment or hope of reward all these years." She was tormented with doubts. "What has the Son of God done which the meanest and most selfish creature upon earth would not have done? After making such a wretched race and placing them in such disastrous circumstances, somehow, without any sorrow or trouble, Jesus Christ had a human nature that suffered and died. If something else besides ourselves will do all the suffering, who would not save millions of wretched beings and receive all the honor and gratitude without any of the trouble? Sometimes when such thoughts passed through my mind, I felt that it was all pride, rebellion, and sin."
So she struggles on, sometimes floundering deep in the mire of doubt, and then lifted for the moment above it by her naturally buoyant spirits, and general tendency to look on the bright side of things. In this condition of mind, she came to Hartford in the winter of 1824, and began a school with eight scholars, and it was in the practical experience of teaching that she found a final solution of all her difficulties. She continues:—
"After two or three years I commenced giving instruction in mental philosophy, and at the same time began a regular course of lectures and instructions from the Bible, and was much occupied with plans for governing my school, and in devising means to lead my pupils to become obedient, amiable, and pious. By degrees I finally arrived at the following principles in the government of my school:—
"First. It is indispensable that my scholars should feel that I am sincerely and deeply interested in their best happiness, and the more I can convince them of this, the more ready will be their obedience.
"Second. The preservation of authority and order depends upon the certainty that unpleasant consequences to themselves will inevitably be the result of doing wrong.
"Third. It is equally necessary, to preserve my own influence and their affection, that they should feel that punishment is the natural result of wrong-doing in such a way that they shall regard themselves, instead of me, as the cause of their punishment.
"Fourth. It is indispensable that my scholars should see that my requisitions are reasonable. In the majority of cases this can be shown, and in this way such confidence will be the result that they will trust to my judgment and knowledge, in cases where no explanation can be given.
"Fifth. The more I can make my scholars feel that I am actuated by a spirit of self-denying benevolence, the more confidence they will feel in me, and the more they will be inclined to submit to self-denying duties for the good of others.
"After a while I began to compare my experience with the government of God. I finally got through the whole subject, and drew out the results, and found that all my difficulties were solved and all my darkness dispelled."
Her solution in brief is nothing more than that view of the divine nature which was for so many years preached by her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, and set forth in the writings of her sister Harriet,—the conception of a being of infinite love, patience, and kindness who suffers with man. The sufferings of Christ on the cross were not the sufferings of his human nature merely, but the sufferings of the divine nature in Him. In Christ we see the only revelation of God, and that is the revelation of one that suffers. This is the fundamental idea in "The Minister's Wooing," and it is the idea of God in which the storm-tossed soul of the older sister at last found rest. All this was directly opposed to that fundamental principle of theologians that God, being the infinitely perfect Being, cannot suffer, because suffering indicates imperfection. To Miss Beecher's mind the lack of ability to suffer with his suffering creatures was a more serious imperfection. Let the reader turn to the twenty-fourth chapter of "The Minister's Wooing" for a complete presentation of this subject, especially the passage that begins, "Sorrow is divine: sorrow is reigning on the throne of the universe."
In the fall of the year 1824, while her sister Catherine was passing through the soul crisis which we have been describing, Harriet came to the school that she had recently established.
In a letter to her son written in 1886, speaking of this period of her life, Mrs. Stowe says: "Somewhere between my twelfth and thirteenth year I was placed under the care of my elder sister Catherine, in the school that she had just started in Hartford, Connecticut. When I entered the school there were not more than twenty-five scholars in it, but it afterwards numbered its pupils by the hundreds. The school- room was on Main Street, nearly opposite Christ Church, over Sheldon & Colton's harness store, at the sign of the two white horses. I never shall forget the pleasure and surprise which these two white horses produced in my mind when I first saw them. One of the young men who worked in the rear of the harness store had a most beautiful tenor voice, and it was my delight to hear him singing in school hours :—
'When in cold oblivion's shade Beauty, wealth, and power are laid, When, around the sculptured shrine, Moss shall cling and ivy twine, Where immortal spirits reign, There shall we all meet again.'
"As my father's salary was inadequate to the wants of his large family, the expense of my board in Hartford was provided for by a species of exchange. Mr. Isaac D. Bull sent a daughter to Miss Pierce's seminary in Litchfield, and she boarded in my father's family in exchange for my board in her father's family. If my good, refined, neat, particular stepmother could have chosen, she could not have found a family more exactly suited to her desires. The very soul of neatness and order pervaded the whole establishment. Mr. I. D. Bull was a fine, vigorous, white-haired man on the declining slope of life, but full of energy and of kindness. Mr. Samuel Collins, a neighbor who lived next door, used to frequently come in and make most impressive and solemn calls on Miss Mary Anne Bull, who was a brunette and a celebrated beauty of the day. I well remember her long raven curls falling from the comb that held them up on the top of her head. She had a rich soprano voice, and was the leading singer in the Centre Church choir. The two brothers also had fine, manly voices, and the family circle was often enlivened by quartette singing and flute playing. Mr. Bull kept a very large wholesale drug store on Front Street, in which his two sons, Albert and James, were clerks. The oldest son, Watson Bull, had established a retail drug store at the sign of the 'Good Samaritan.' A large picture of the Good Samaritan relieving the wounded traveler formed a striking part of the sign, and was contemplated by me with reverence.
"The mother of the family gave me at once a child's place in her heart. A neat little hall chamber was allotted to me for my own, and a well made and kept single bed was given me, of which I took daily care with awful satisfaction. If I was sick nothing could exceed the watchful care and tender nursing of Mrs. Bull. In school my two most intimate friends were the leading scholars. They had written to me before I came and I had answered their letters, and on my arrival they gave me the warmest welcome. One was Catherine Ledyard Cogswell, daughter of the leading and best-beloved of Hartford physicians. The other was Georgiana May, daughter of a most lovely Christian woman who was a widow. Georgiana was one of many children, having two younger sisters, Mary and Gertrude, and several brothers. Catherine Cogswell was one of the most amiable, sprightly, sunny-tempered individuals I have ever known. She was, in fact, so much beloved that it was difficult for me to see much of her. Her time was all bespoken by different girls. One might walk with her to school, another had the like promise on the way home. And at recess, of which we had every day a short half hour, there was always a suppliant at Katy's shrine, whom she found it hard to refuse. Yet, among all these claimants, she did keep a little place here and there for me. Georgiana was older and graver, and less fascinating to the other girls, but between her and me there grew up the warmest friendship, which proved lifelong in its constancy.
"Catherine and Georgiana were reading 'Virgil' when I came to the school. I began the study of Latin alone, and at the end of the first year made a translation of 'Ovid' in verse, which was read at the final exhibition of the school, and regarded, I believe, as a very creditable performance. I was very much interested in poetry, and it was my dream to be a poet. I began a drama called 'Cleon.' The scene was laid in the court and time of the emperor Nero, and Cleon was a Greek lord residing at Nero's court, who, after much searching and doubting, at last comes to the knowledge of Christianity. I filled blank book after blank book with this drama. It filled my thoughts sleeping and waking. One day sister Catherine pounced down upon me, and said that I must not waste my time writing poetry, but discipline my mind by the study of Butler's 'Analogy.' So after this I wrote out abstracts from the 'Analogy,' and instructed a class of girls as old as myself, being compelled to master each chapter just ahead of the class I was teaching. About this time I read Baxter's 'Saint's Rest.' I do not think any book affected me more powerfully. As I walked the pavements I used to wish that they might sink beneath me if only I might find myself in heaven. I was at the same time very much interested in Butler's 'Analogy,' for Mr. Brace used to lecture on such themes when I was at Miss Pierce's school at Litchfield. I also began the study of French and Italian with a Miss Degan, who was born in Italy.
"It was about this time that I first believed myself to be a Christian. I was spending my summer vacation at home, in Litchfield. I shall ever remember that dewy, fresh summer morning. I knew that it was a sacramental Sunday, and thought with sadness that when all the good people should take the sacrificial bread and wine I should be left out. I tried hard to feel my sins and count them up; but what with the birds, the daisies, and the brooks that rippled by the way, it was impossible. I came into church quite dissatisfied with myself, and as I looked upon the pure white cloth, the snowy bread and shining cups, of the communion table, thought with a sigh: 'There won't be anything for me to-day; it is all for these grown-up Christians.' Nevertheless, when father began to speak, I was drawn to listen by a certain pathetic earnestness in his voice. Most of father's sermons were as unintelligible to me as if he had spoken in Choctaw. But sometimes he preached what he was accustomed to call a 'frame sermon;' that is, a sermon that sprung out of the deep feeling of the occasion, and which consequently could be neither premeditated nor repeated. His text was taken from the Gospel of John, the declaration of Jesus: 'Behold, I call you no longer servants, but friends.' His theme was Jesus as a soul friend offered to every human being.
"Forgetting all his hair-splitting distinctions and dialectic subtleties, he spoke in direct, simple, and tender language of the great love of Christ and his care for the soul. He pictured Him as patient with our errors, compassionate with our weaknesses, and sympathetic for our sorrows. He went on to say how He was ever near us, enlightening our ignorance, guiding our wanderings, comforting our sorrows with a love unwearied by faults, unchilled by ingratitude, till at last He should present us faultless before the throne of his glory with exceeding joy.
"I sat intent and absorbed. Oh! how much I needed just such a friend, I thought to myself. Then the awful fact came over me that I had never had any conviction of my sins, and consequently could not come to Him. I longed to cry out 'I will,' when father made his passionate appeal, 'Come, then, and trust your soul to this faithful friend.' Like a flash it came over me that if I needed conviction of sin, He was able to give me even this also. I would trust Him for the whole. My whole soul was illumined with joy, and as I left the church to walk home, it seemed to me as if Nature herself were hushing her breath to hear the music of heaven.
"As soon as father came home and was seated in his study, I went up to him and fell in his arms saying, 'Father, I have given myself to Jesus, and He has taken me.' I never shall forget the expression of his face as he looked down into my earnest, childish eyes; it was so sweet, so gentle, and like sunlight breaking out upon a landscape. 'Is it so?' he said, holding me silently to his heart, as I felt the hot tears fall on my head. 'Then has a new flower blossomed in the kingdom this day.'"
If she could have been let alone, and taught "to look up and not down, forward and not back, out and not in," this religious experience might have gone on as sweetly and naturally as the opening of a flower in the gentle rays of the sun. But unfortunately this was not possible at that time, when self-examination was carried to an extreme that was calculated to drive a nervous and sensitive mind well-nigh distracted. First, even her sister Catherine was afraid that there might be something wrong in the case of a lamb that had come into the fold without being first chased all over the lot by the shepherd; great stress being laid, in those days, on what was called "being under conviction." Then also the pastor of the First Church in Hartford, a bosom friend of Dr. Beecher, looked with melancholy and suspicious eyes on this unusual and doubtful path to heaven,—but more of this hereafter. Harriet's conversion took place in the summer of 1825, when she was fourteen, and the following year, April, 1826, Dr. Beecher resigned his pastorate in Litchfield to accept a call to the Hanover Street Church, Boston, Mass. In a letter to her grandmother Foote at Guilford, dated Hartford, March 4, 1826, Harriet writes:—
"You have probably heard that our home in Litchfield is broken up. Papa has received a call to Boston, and concluded to accept, because he could not support his family in Litchfield. He was dismissed last week Tuesday, and will be here (Hartford) next Tuesday with mamma and Isabel. Aunt Esther will take Charles and Thomas to her house for the present. Papa's salary is to be $2,000 and $500 settlement.
"I attend school constantly and am making some progress in my studies. I devote most of my attention to Latin and to arithmetic, and hope soon to prepare myself to assist Catherine in the school."
This breaking up of the Litchfield home led Harriet, under her father's advice, to seek to connect herself with the First Church of Hartford. Accordingly, accompanied by two of her school friends, she went one day to the pastor's study to consult with him concerning the contemplated step. The good man listened attentively to the child's simple and modest statement of Christian experience, and then with an awful, though kindly, solemnity of speech and manner said, "Harriet, do you feel that if the universe should be destroyed (awful pause) you could be happy with God alone?" After struggling in vain, in her mental bewilderment, to fix in her mind some definite conception of the meaning of the sounds which fell on her ear like the measured strokes of a bell, the child of fourteen stammered out, "Yes, sir."
"You realize, I trust," continued the doctor, "in some measure at least, the deceitfulness of your heart, and that in punishment for your sins God might justly leave you to make yourself as miserable as you have made yourself sinful?"
"Yes, sir," again stammered Harriet.
Having thus effectually, and to his own satisfaction, fixed the child's attention on the morbid and over-sensitive workings of her own heart, the good and truly kind-hearted man dismissed her with a fatherly benediction. But where was the joyous ecstasy of that beautiful Sabbath morning of a year ago? Where was that heavenly friend? Yet was not this as it should be, and might not God leave her "to make herself as miserable as she had made herself sinful"?
In a letter addressed to her brother Edward, about this time, she writes: "My whole life is one continued struggle: I do nothing right. I yield to temptation almost as soon as it assails me. My deepest feelings are very evanescent. I am beset behind and before, and my sins take away all my happiness. But that which most constantly besets me is pride—I can trace almost all my sins back to it."
In the mean time, the school is prospering. February 16, 1827, Catherine writes to Dr. Beecher: "My affairs go on well. The stock is all taken up, and next week I hope to have out the prospectus of the 'Hartford Female Seminary.' I hope the building will be done, and all things in order, by June. The English lady is coming with twelve pupils from New York." Speaking of Harriet, who was at this time with her father in Boston, she adds: "I have received some letters from Harriet to-day which make me feel uneasy. She says, 'I don't know as I am fit for anything, and I have thought that I could wish to die young, and let the remembrance of me and my faults perish in the grave, rather than live, as I fear I do, a trouble to every one. You don't know how perfectly wretched I often feel: so useless, so weak, so destitute of all energy. Mamma often tells me that I am a strange, inconsistent being. Sometimes I could not sleep, and have groaned and cried till midnight, while in the day-time I tried to appear cheerful and succeeded so well that papa reproved me for laughing so much. I was so absent sometimes that I made strange mistakes, and then they all laughed at me, and I laughed, too, though I felt as though I should go distracted. I wrote rules; made out a regular system for dividing my time; but my feelings vary so much that it is almost impossible for me to be regular.'"
But let Harriet "take courage in her dark sorrows and melancholies," as Carlyle says: "Samuel Johnson too had hypochondrias; all great souls are apt to have, and to be in thick darkness generally till the eternal ways and the celestial guiding stars disclose themselves, and the vague abyss of life knits itself up into firmaments for them."
At the same time (the winter of 1827), Catherine writes to Edward concerning Harriet: "If she could come here (Hartford) it might be the best thing for her, for she can talk freely to me. I can get her books, and Catherine Cogswell, Georgiana May, and her friends here could do more for her than any one in Boston, for they love her and she loves them very much. Georgiana's difficulties are different from Harriet's: she is speculating about doctrines, etc. Harriet will have young society here all the time, which she cannot have at home, and I think cheerful and amusing friends will do much for her. I can do better in preparing her to teach drawing than any one else, for I best know what is needed."
It was evidently necessary that something should be done to restore Harriet to a more tranquil and healthful frame of mind; consequently in the spring of 1827, accompanied by her friend Georgiana May, she went to visit her grandmother Foote at Nut Plains, Guilford. Miss May refers to this visit in a letter to Mrs. Foote, in January of the following winter.
HARTFORD, January 4, 1828.
DEAR MRS. FOOTE:—. . . I very often think of you and the happy hours I passed at your house last spring. It seems as if it were but yesterday: now, while I am writing, I can see your pleasant house and the familiar objects around you as distinctly as the day I left them. Harriet and I are very much the same girls we were then. I do not believe we have altered very much, though she is improved in some respects.
The August following this visit to Guilford Harriet writes to her brother Edward in a vein which is still streaked with sadness, but shows some indication of returning health of mind.
"Many of my objections you did remove that afternoon we spent together. After that I was not as unhappy as I had been. I felt, nevertheless, that my views were very indistinct and contradictory, and feared that if you left me thus I might return to the same dark, desolate state in which I had been all summer. I felt that my immortal interest, my happiness for both worlds, was depending on the turn my feelings might take. In my disappointment and distress I called upon God, and it seemed as if I was heard. I felt that He could supply the loss of all earthly love. All misery and darkness were over. I felt as if restored, nevermore to fall. Such sober certainty of waking bliss had long been a stranger to me. But even then I had doubts as to whether these feelings were right, because I felt love to God alone without that ardent love for my fellow-creatures which Christians have often felt. . . . I cannot say exactly what it is makes me reluctant to speak of my feelings. It costs me an effort to express feeling of any kind, but more particularly to speak of my private religious feelings. If any one questions me, my first impulse is to conceal all I can. As for expression of affection towards my brothers and sisters, my companions or friends, the stronger the affection the less inclination have I to express it. Yet sometimes I think myself the most frank, open, and communicative of beings, and at other times the most reserved. If you can resolve all these caprices into general principles, you will do more than I can. Your speaking so much philosophically has a tendency to repress confidence. We never wish to have our feelings analyzed down; and very little, nothing, that we say brought to the test of mathematical demonstration.
"It appears to me that if I only could adopt the views of God you presented to my mind, they would exert a strong and beneficial influence over my character. But I am afraid to accept them for several reasons. First, it seems to be taking from the majesty and dignity of the divine character to suppose that his happiness can be at all affected by the conduct of his sinful, erring creatures. Secondly, it seems to me that such views of God would have an effect on our own minds in lessening that reverence and fear which is one of the greatest motives to us for action. For, although to a generous mind the thought of the love of God would be a sufficient incentive to action, there are times of coldness when that love is not felt, and then there remains no sort of stimulus. I find as I adopt these sentiments I feel less fear of God, and, in view of sin, I feel only a sensation of grief which is more easily dispelled and forgotten than that I formerly felt."
A letter dated January 3, 1828, shows us that Harriet had returned to Hartford and was preparing herself to teach drawing and painting, under the direction of her sister Catherine.
MY DEAR GRANDMOTHER,—I should have written before to assure you of my remembrance of you, but I have been constantly employed, from nine in the morning till after dark at night, in taking lessons of a painting and drawing master, with only an intermission long enough to swallow a little dinner which was sent to me in the school-room. You may easily believe that after spending the day in this manner, I did not feel in a very epistolary humor in the evening, and if I had been, I could not have written, for when I did not go immediately to bed I was obliged to get a long French lesson.
The seminary is finished, and the school going on nicely. Miss Clarissa Brown is assisting Catherine in the school. Besides her, Catherine, and myself, there are two other teachers who both board in the family with us: one is Miss Degan, an Italian lady who teaches French and Italian; she rooms with me, and is very interesting and agreeable. Miss Hawks is rooming with Catherine. In some respects she reminds me very much of my mother. She is gentle, affectionate, modest, and retiring, and much beloved by all the scholars. . . . I am still going on with my French, and carrying two young ladies through Virgil, and if I have time, shall commence Italian.
I am very comfortable and happy.
I propose, my dear grandmamma, to send you by the first opportunity a dish of fruit of my own painting. Pray do not now devour it in anticipation, for I cannot promise that you will not find it sadly tasteless in reality. If so, please excuse it, for the sake of the poor young artist. I admire to cultivate a taste for painting, and I wish to improve it; it was what my dear mother admired and loved, and I cherish it for her sake. I have thought more of this dearest of all earthly friends these late years, since I have been old enough to know her character and appreciate her worth. I sometimes think that, had she lived, I might have been both better and happier than I now am, but God is good and wise in all his ways.
A letter written to her brother Edward in Boston, dated March 27, 1828, shows how slowly she adopted the view of God that finally became one of the most characteristic elements in her writings.
"I think that those views of God which you have presented to me have had an influence in restoring my mind to its natural tone. But still, after all, God is a being afar off. He is so far above us that anything but the most distant reverential affection seems almost sacrilegious. It is that affection that can lead us to be familiar that the heart needs. But easy and familiar expressions of attachment and that sort of confidential communication which I should address to papa or you would be improper for a subject to address to a king, much less for us to address to the King of kings. The language of prayer is of necessity stately and formal, and we cannot clothe all the little minutiae of our wants and troubles in it. I wish I could describe to you how I feel when I pray. I feel that I love God,—that is, that I love Christ,—that I find comfort and happiness in it, and yet it is not that kind of comfort which would arise from free communication of my wants and sorrows to a friend. I sometimes wish that the Saviour were visibly present in this world, that I might go to Him for a solution of some of my difficulties. . . . Do you think, my dear brother, that there is such a thing as so realizing the presence and character of God that He can supply the place of earthly friends? I really wish to know what you think of this. . . . Do you suppose that God really loves sinners before they come to Him? Some say that we ought to tell them that God hates them, that He looks on them with utter abhorrence, and that they must love Him before He will look on them otherwise. Is it right to say to those who are in deep distress,' God is interested in you; He feels for and loves you'?"
Appended to this letter is a short note from Miss Catherine Beecher, who evidently read the letter over and answered Harriet's questions herself. She writes: "When the young man came to Jesus, is it not said that Jesus loved him, though he was unrenewed?"
In April, 1828, Harriet again writes to her brother Edward:—-
"I have had more reason to be grateful to that friend than ever before. He has not left me in all my weakness. It seems to me that my love to Him is the love of despair. All my communion with Him, though sorrowful, is soothing. I am painfully sensible of ignorance and deficiency, but still I feel that I am willing that He should know all. He will look on all that is wrong only to purify and reform. He will never be irritated or impatient. He will never show me my faults in such a manner as to irritate without helping me. A friend to whom I would acknowledge all my faults must be perfect. Let any one once be provoked, once speak harshly to me, once sweep all the chords of my soul out of tune, I never could confide there again. It is only to the most perfect Being in the universe that imperfection can look and hope for patience. How strange! . . . You do not know how harsh and forbidding everything seems, compared with his character. All through the day in my intercourse with others, everything has a tendency to destroy the calmness of mind gained by communion with Him. One flatters me, another is angry with me, another is unjust to me.
"You speak of your predilections for literature having been a snare to you. I have found it so myself. I can scarcely think, without tears and indignation, that all that is beautiful and lovely and poetical has been laid on other altars. Oh! will there never be a poet with a heart enlarged and purified by the Holy Spirit, who shall throw all the graces of harmony, all the enchantments of feeling, pathos, and poetry, around sentiments worthy of them? . . . It matters little what service He has for me. . . . I do not mean to live in vain. He has given me talents, and I will lay them at his feet, well satisfied, if He will accept them. All my powers He can enlarge. He made my mind, and He can teach me to cultivate and exert its faculties."
The following November she writes from Groton, Conn., to Miss May:—
"I am in such an uncertain, unsettled state, traveling back and forth, that I have very little time to write. In the first place, on my arrival in Boston I was obliged to spend two days in talking and telling news. Then after that came calling, visiting, etc., and then I came off to Groton to see my poor brother George, who was quite out of spirits and in very trying circumstances. To-morrow I return to Boston and spend four or five days, and then go to Franklin, where I spend the rest of my vacation.
"I found the folks all well on my coming to Boston, and as to my new brother, James, he has nothing to distinguish him from forty other babies, except a very large pair of blue eyes and an uncommonly fair complexion, a thing which is of no sort of use or advantage to a man or boy.
"I am thinking very seriously of remaining in Groton and taking care of the female school, and at the same time being of assistance and company for George. On some accounts it would not be so pleasant as returning to Hartford, for I should be among strangers. Nothing upon this point can be definitely decided till I have returned to Boston, and talked to papa and Catherine."
Evidently papa and Catherine did not approve of the Groton plan, for in February of the following winter Harriet writes from Hartford to Edward, who is at this time with his father in Boston:—-
"My situation this winter (1829) is in many respects pleasant. I room with three other teachers, Miss Fisher, Miss Mary Dutton, and Miss Brigham. Ann Fisher you know. Miss Dutton is about twenty, has a fine mathematical mind, and has gone as far into that science perhaps as most students at college. She is also, as I am told, quite learned in the languages. . . . Miss Brigham is somewhat older: is possessed of a fine mind and most unconquerable energy and perseverance of character. From early childhood she has been determined to obtain an education, and to attain to a certain standard. Where persons are determined to be anything, they will be. I think, for this reason, she will make a first-rate character. Such are my companions. We spend our time in school during the day, and in studying in the evening. My plan of study is to read rhetoric and prepare exercises for my class the first half hour in the evening; after that the rest of the evening is divided between French and Italian. Thus you see the plan of my employment and the character of my immediate companions. Besides these, there are others among the teachers and scholars who must exert an influence over my character. Miss Degan, whose constant occupation it is to make others laugh; Mrs. Gamage, her room-mate, a steady, devoted, sincere Christian. . . . Little things have great power over me, and if I meet with the least thing that crosses my feelings, I am often rendered unhappy for days and weeks. . . . I wish I could bring myself to feel perfectly indifferent to the opinions of others. I believe that there never was a person more dependent on the good and evil opinions of those around than I am. This desire to be loved forms, I fear, the great motive for all my actions. . . . I have been reading carefully the book of Job, and I do not think that it contains the views of God which you presented to me. God seems to have stripped a dependent creature of all that renders life desirable, and then to have answered his complaints from the whirlwind; and instead of showing mercy and pity, to have overwhelmed him by a display of his power and justice. . . . With the view I received from you, I should have expected that a being who sympathizes with his guilty, afflicted creatures would not have spoken thus. Yet, after all, I do believe that God is such a being as you represent Him to be, and in the New Testament I find in the character of Jesus Christ a revelation of God as merciful and compassionate; in fact, just such a God as I need.
"Somehow or another you have such a reasonable sort of way of saying things that when I come to reflect I almost always go over to your side. . . . My mind is often perplexed, and such thoughts arise in it that I cannot pray, and I become bewildered. The wonder to me is, how all ministers and all Christians can feel themselves so inexcusably sinful, when it seems to me we all come into the world in such a way that it would be miraculous if we did not sin. Mr. Hawes always says in prayer, 'We have nothing to offer in extenuation of any of our sins,' and I always think when he says it, that we have everything to offer in extenuation. The case seems to me exactly as if I had been brought into the world with such a thirst for ardent spirits that there was just a possibility, though no hope, that I should resist, and then my eternal happiness made dependent on my being temperate. Sometimes when I try to confess my sins, I feel that after all I am more to be pitied than blamed, for I have never known the time when I have not had a temptation within me so strong that it was certain I should not overcome it. This thought shocks me, but it comes with such force, and so appealingly, to all my consciousness, that it stifles all sense of sin. . . .