Letters for Stowe Garden Party
The Atlantic Monthly
Boston: August 1882


  Many letters of regret were received, but only four of them were read at the Garden Party. All of them were placed in Mrs. Stowe's hands, and some are printed below:—

FREMONT, OHIO, May 31, 1882.

  I think I told you of our fondness for the books of Mrs. Stowe, and especially for Oldtown Folks. Since it first appeared, Mrs. Hayes has been in the habit of reading parts of it aloud in the family circle. Our children know the characters as old familiar acquaintances from childhood. Gloomy days have been made cheerful and sunny by reading it. We have often thought of writing Mrs. Stowe, and thanking her for the happiness she has given us. Her seventieth birthday! Surely the author of Oldtown Folks can never grow old. Present to her our warm good wishes and congratulations and thanks. Your invitation is very welcome, and we regret that it cannot be accepted. Sincerely,



  Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to join in any manifestation of esteem for my old friend Mrs. Stowe, but it will be impossible for me to join the Garden Party, and almost as much so for me to write any thing for the occasion, occupied as I continually am with matters so alien from poetry and sentiment. I hope your Garden Party may have the success it deserves, and that Mrs. Stowe may survive many years to enjoy the honors she has so fully won. Faithfully yours,



  I am sincerely obliged by your kind invitation, and I regret exceedingly that it is impossible for me to accept it. It is the great happiness of Mrs. Stowe not only to have written many delightful books, but to have written one book which will be always famous, not only as the most vivid picture of an extinct evil system, but as one of the most powerful influences in overthrowing it. The light of her genius flashed Urn monster into hideous distinctness, and the country arose to destroy him. No book was ever more a historical event than Uncle Tom's Cabin. In all times and countries women have nobly served justice and liberty, but it is doubtful if any single service to the good cause in this country is greater than that of Mrs. Stowe. You could have no guest more worthy of honor, and none to whom honor would be more gladly and universally paid. If all whom she has charmed and quickened should unite to sing her praises, the birds of summer would be outdone. Very truly yours,


ELMIRA, N. Y., June 10, 1882.

  I regret that distance and occupation (in search of health) will not permit me to attend the Garden Party which you give in honor of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. With due respect to other able and charming writers, I put Mrs. Stowe at the head of all living American novelists, especially in the characteristics of power and sincerity, both of feeling and style. No intelligent contemporary can ignore, and the centuries to come will not soon forget, the immense influence which she has exercised over the history of our country. She has had, and will keep, a fortune of fame, and, by her talents and the nobility of her motives, has deserved it. I beg that you will present her an expression of the profound respect which I owe her as an author, as an American citizen, and as a man. Very respectfully yours,



  No lady has done more by her pen to make a distinctively American literature than Mrs. Stowe, and every true American is proud to know that among women there is no name in letters more widely known to fame than hers. With many thanks for your invitation, I am very truly yours,


BOSTON, June 7, 1882.

  Thanks for your invitation to the gathering in honor of Mrs. H. B. Stowe.

  No tribute could be too great to her. I wish I could join in it, but the state of my family prevents. Yours respectfully,


NEW HAVEN, CONN., June 7, 1882.

  No one has a higher admiration than myself of what this noble lady has done by her pen for humanity. It is a great deprivation not to be present. Most truly yours,


BOSTON, June 6, 1882.

  I much regret that a previous engagement on the 14th instant must prevent my acceptance of your kind invitation for that day; the more that it would give me special pleasure to honor the birthday of one for whom I have so high and long-standing a regard as for Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Faithfully yours,


NEWPORT, R. I., June 7, 1882.

  I exceedingly regret that I cannot join the "troops of friends" who will, by your kind invitation, unite in celebrating the birthday of one whom I have never had the pleasure of seeing, but shall always have the pleasure of reading, remembering, and admiring. With sincere regard,


NEW YORK, June 8, 1882.

  I thank you for the invitation to the Garden Party to be given in honor of the most renowned of our country women, and I regret that I can find no way of escaping from arrangements already made, so as to give myself the pleasure of being present on that occasion. Mrs. Stowe's well-deserved literary fame has had but one dangerous rival, namely, the world-wide celebrity of her brilliant and never-to-be-forgotten services opportunely rendered to humanity. It seems a trifle to add, but it marks a nature generous in small things as well as great that the author of Uncle Tom and of the Minister's Wooing has always known how to show the most graceful and grateful kindness to younger and less famous writers.

  Thanking you again for your kind invitation, I am, gentlemen, yours very sincerely,


LEXINGTON, VA., June 8, 1882.

  It would give me very great pleasure to attend the Garden Party given in honor of the birthday of Harriet Beecher Stowe, did my college engagements permit. Mrs. Stowe's brilliant genius deserves all possible recognition, not only from the North, but from the South, now "the institution" has passed away, and I should be one of the first to acknowledge its far-reaching power. I have the honor to be very truly yours,


797 GREENE AVENUE, BROOKLYN, June 9, 1882.

  The loss of two children recently has unfitted me for participation in any social pleasure, else I should eagerly embrace the opportunity to do honor to a gentlewoman who has done more, perhaps, than any other one person to influence the character and destinies of our land.

  May she continue for many years to enjoy the serene consciousness of work well done, and of the abiding respect and affection of her countrymen. Sincerely yours,


NEW ORLEANS, June 9, 1882.

  I thank you most gratefully for the kindness that remembers me at such a distance, and regret extremely my inability to respond in person. To be in New England would be enough for me. I was there once,—a year ago,—and it seemed as though I never had been home till then. To be there again, to join friends in rejoicing over the continuance on earth of one who has earned the gratitude of two races of humanity, is greater than the measure of my cup. I can only send you, Blessings on the day when Harriet Beecher Stowe was born. Yours truly,



  Mr. Davis being absent from home, it is left to me to say how sorry we are that we cannot be with you on Wednesday, to offer our friendliest greeting to your guest at this pleasant halting-place on her journey. She reminds me of that noble lady in the Arabian Nights, who sent before her to the king seventy slaves, each bearing a golden casket full of jewels. As at seventy, however, you men and women of New England only begin to understand your full vigor, there will be many birthdays yet to come, on which we may hope to take her by the hand, and tell her how thoroughly we honor her and her work. Yours sincerely,


WASHINGTON, D. C., June 5, 1882.

  I am very much obliged by your kind and thoughtful invitation to be present at a party in honor of the birthday of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. I should be delighted to be present on such an occasion, for to no one person has it been given to move so many minds and hearts in behalf of the lately enslaved as to Mrs. Stowe. Hers was the word for the hour, and it was given with skill, force, and effect. Let us honor her birthday, and hold up her example of great talents devoted to a great cause to the appreciation and edification of present and future generations. Respectfully,


ATLANTA, GA., June 20, 1882.

  I owe a great deal, in one way and another, to the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. In 1862, when quite a youngster, I chanced to get hold of a copy of the book, and it made a more vivid impression upon my mind than anything I have ever read since. It may interest you to know that I read it on the plantation where Uncle Remus held forth, and within a stone's throw of where ex-Secretary Seward taught school when he was a young man. Yours truly,


MADISON, WIS., June 9, 1882.

  It would afford me the greatest pleasure to accept your kind invitation to be present at the Garden Party in honor of the birthday of Harriet Beecher Stowe. I am a great admirer of Mrs. Stowe, and am proud of her reputation for her own sake, and not less for the sake of our country. Yours faithfully,


STAR OFFICE, NEW YORK, June 9, 1882.

  Please accept my hearty thanks for your invitation to the Garden Party in honor of Mrs. Stowe. The press of previous engagements renders it quite impossible for me to join you and her other friends in celebrating the "threescore and ten" of the woman whose one work did more to educate the North and make emancipation possible than anything else which was done. It is fitting that she should be greeted anew by the generation that read her story and recognized it as a battle, as well as the generation that has grown up since it became a classic. Mrs. Stowe has the good fortune of combining the genius of a remarkably gifted family with the strength and tenderness of New England womanhood. She has antedated immortality by all the years since her worth was recognized and her fame was assured. It is her happiness to live in the atmosphere of friendship and admiration she herself has made, as the sun moves in the splendor his own shining creates. Sincerely yours,


104 MADISON AVENUE, NEW YORK, June 9, 1882.

  Alike as a woman, an author, and a philanthropist, Mrs. Stowe has honored the country of her birth, and Americans will honor themselves in recognizing her exalted worth and the great value of her labors. As an abolitionist I am deeply grateful to her. It was in 1852, just after the last desperate effort of the slave power, by the aid of its Northern supporters, to overwhelm and crush the antislavery movement, when humanity was shuddering in view of the atrocities of the fugitive slave law, and the fires of persecution were racing furiously around the champions of freedom, that Uncle Tom's Cabin came from the press to kindle fresh sympathy for the bondman throughout the civilized world, and fill the hearts of his enemies with despair. For twenty years the abolitionists had struggled against all the prejudices of caste, the hostility of political parties, and the combined opposition of the great ecclesiastical bodies of the land to create a public sentiment that would destroy slavery; and at the very moment when the prospect of success was eclipsed, and the hearts of multitudes were filled with fear and dread, Mrs. Stowe's great work turned the tide of battle; and from that day forth the hosts of freedom, with constantly augmenting strength, marched with unfaltering step toward their great victory. All honor, then, I say, to Mrs. Stowe, and may her old age be crowned with light and peace. Yours respectfully,


BROOKLINE, MASS., June 10, 1882.

  Mrs. Stowe commands my most affectionate admiration and reverence. I suppose she will be instantly recognized as the greatest of all American humorists, not only that she, like Cervantes and Moliere, has elicited and delineated the fine lights and shades of character, but used her humor for the purpose of putting great social wrongs and vices out of countenance. Her tender and pathetic pictures of old New England life and character will, I believe, give to her in future years a place in your literature; historical, like our English Fielding and Smollett, but with a purity and piety to which they have no claim. It would have been a great pleasure to me to tell Mrs. Stowe how often I have announced in my church in England some of her sweet verses, and heard them sung with hearty enjoyment by great congregations.

  If your meeting of next Wednesday were in England, I think I could not forbear from calling, in our old English fashion, for three cheers for Old Tiff and Topsy. Please accept my grateful acknowledgments and regrets, and believe me, in hearty sincerity,


BROOKLYN, June 9, 1882.

  It would afford me treat pleasure to be present on that occasion, as I hold Mrs. Stowe's contributions to the world of letters in high estimation. Who has not suffered with that hero, Uncle Tom? Who has not wished to take part in the Minister's Wooing? Who would not learn the genesis of that delicate creation, the "Quaker settlement," and buy a corner lot there? Who has not felt that the pen which outlined the life and death of little Eva was guided by an angel hand? Respectfully yours,


ELMIRA, N. Y., June 9, 1882.

  The original Uncle Tom (the only one known as such by the children of her who has given the name a world-wide reputation) regrets his inability to share in the festivities of the 14th instant, to which you invite him.

  He will not be, however, unmindful of his sister's birthday when it shall come, and is grateful to you and to other distinguished friends for the honors with which you are planning its decoration, and he remains, gentlemen, with sincere regard, Yours truly,


CINCINNATI, June 9, 1882.

  Nothing could afford me greater pleasure than an opportunity to unite in honoring a woman who has done so much for the cause of humanity. Mrs. Stowe's pen did more to strike the chains from four million slaves than the sword. She is justly appreciated in her own day, and her name will occupy in history one of its brightest pages. Do me the favor to convey to Mrs. Stowe my regards, and the wish that her useful life may be long continued and enjoyed. Truly yours,


BROOKLYN, N. Y., June 12, 1882.

  It gives us great pleasure to learn that you propose to celebrate, by appropriate honors, the birthday of one of the most gifted of American authors. The writings of Mrs. Stowe have been our familiar reading, from her earliest sketches in the Mayflower. We have followed her brilliant career as an author through all the varied productions of her pen, which have won for her a world-wide reputation, wherever English literature is known. She ranks, by universal consent, among the foremost of female writers; surpassed by none, and approached by few. What is still higher and nobler than mere literary merit, the tendency of her writings is uniformly healthful, and their moral and religious influences are always elevating and inspiring. We have long enjoyed the personal friendship of Mrs. Stowe and her honored husband, and we would gladly share in the festivities in honor of her birthday, were it in our power to leave our home at this time. Very respectfully,

T. J. and E. C. CONANT.


  In common with the many thousands who have been delighted and thrilled by the words her pen has written, — thousands in this, and thousands in many another land, — I wish for her yet long and faithful years on earth, and the joy that may come as she understands how her name will be cherished in the years still beyond.

  Thanking you for the honor of your remembrance, I am, with great respect, Yours sincerely,



  I know of no one whom it would delight me more to honor than Mrs. Stowe. She has indelibly impressed the most important era of our country, and made us a grander and nobler people. Hundreds of thousands of young people like myself were brought to a higher appreciation of humanity through Uncle Tom's Cabin than they ever could have had without that wonderful book. Please give to your honored guest the congratulations of one who from his boyhood has been an ardent admirer. Yours truly,



  My remembrance of Mrs. Stowe is always associated with delightful June days at the old Stowe Cottage in Andover. I am glad that her birthday is to be celebrated by a Garden Party, and not by a great dinner. She always, I remember, preferred a picnic to an evening party. She loved nature, and, for her there was a charm in the natural and characteristic expression of men and women (of even the lowliest) that she could not feel in the elaborate utterances of the most brilliant orator. She almost demanded of poetry that it should be an improvisation, and this love of the natural is the key to the understanding of her own work, and has been the secret of her power, which has not been a literary power only; it has been illustrated by events within her own lifetime.

  It was my good fortune to receive through Mrs. Stowe my first introduction to the world of letters,—that is, as a writer,—and I cordially unite with her friends in their tribute to her genius, and in that which is more precious to her, the tribute of affectionate remembrance.

  Regretting that I cannot be one of your Garden Party, and thanking you for your courteous invitation, I am sincerely yours,


NEW YORK, June 13, 1882.

  It would be a great pleasure to me if I could unite with you and your guests, on the 14th, in doing honor to Mrs. Stowe. But as I am unable to be present at the Garden Party, I must content myself with being one of the vast body of absent friends and well-wishers who rejoice in everything that adds to Mrs. Stowe's honor and happiness. Yours very truly,


OTTAWA, ILL., June 12, 1882.

  Did circumstances permit, nothing could give me more pleasure than to join you in doing honor to one who has so largely contributed to American literature, and done so much to elevate its tone and extend its fame. May she live to witness many returns of that happy day which gave to the world a light whose radiance has illuminated all lands where letters are cultivated and refinement is appreciated. But circumstances forbid my personal attendance, though in thought I shall be with you. Most respectfully yours,


SUBTREASURY, U. S., BOSTON, MASS., June 15, 1882.

  I beg to congratulate you upon your privilege of thus honoring this so much esteemed and distinguished lady, and upon the remarkable success and historical character of the occasion. It was an event of which your house may well be proud. Thanking you for the compliment, which the Fates seem to have miscarried, believe me yours very truly,



  Mrs. Stowe's noble work in the cause of the freedom of man makes her birthday one of the anniversaries of humanity, and I should be glad to testify my deep respect by my presence. Very kindly yours,



  It would be to me a special privilege and pleasure to participate, if it were possible, in the event that is intended to be a tribute of respect to the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which ushered in the dawn of the new and glorious day that gave liberty to the slave, and made human freedom in America an actual verity, rather than an empty boast.

  I bow with profoundest respect and veneration to the noble woman who has done so much for our country and for humanity. Respectfully yours,


GENEVA, OHIO, June 7, 1882.

  Your kind invitation, which makes me guest-elect at the Garden Party of June 14th, gives me very great pleasure, exceeded only by the regret I feel at my inability to attend. To meet the lady whose birthday is honored has been a long-cherished wish, and I scarcely permit myself—for aggravation of disappointment—to think of the many others among the dii majores of our literature who will doubtless be present, and whom I must forego seeing. Believe me, with grateful appreciation of your courtesy, very sincerely yours,