HARRIET BEECHER STOWE.
BY ROSE TERRY COOKE.
Mrs. Stowe's Father, Rev. Dr. Lyman Beecher—His Fame and Worth—His Wife, Roxana Foote—Mrs. Stowe's Early Training—Incidents in Her Childhood—A Famous School—Reminiscences of Her Girlhood—Early Passion for Writing—Marriage to Prof. Calvin E. Stowe—Life on the Banks of the Ohio—Where and How She Received Her First Impressions of Slavery—What Led to the Writing of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"—Difficulties Under Which it was Written—How it was Received—Excitement it Created—Mrs. stowe's Visit to England—Her Reception—The True Story of "A Vindication of Lady Byron"—Celebrating Mrs. Stowe's Seventy-first Birthday—Her Two Homes—Looking Toward the Other Side of Jordan.
HARRIET ELIZABETH BEECHER was born at Litchfield, Conn., June 14, 1811.
She was the seventh child of the Rev. Lyman
Beecher and Roxana Foote, his wife. Her
parents were both remarkable people. Mr.
Beecher was a man of keen intellect, great
moral courage and energy, whose mental force
gave him almost directly after he entered the
ministry a high place among his compeers. His
inauguration of the temperance reform; his
struggles for the permanent establishment of the church of Christ in New
England at a time when heresy and infidelity threatened its existence as
an organization; his advocacy of revivals, and his active agency in bringing
them about, will keep his name famous in the ecclesiastical annals of
Connecticut as long as those records last; and his name will be always
revered at Lane Seminary, near Cincinnati, Ohio, as not only the head of
that institution for many years, but its founder in a sense more vital far
than the mere contribution
of funds. Beside his deep piety, his stern courage and devotion, he was a man of infinite humor and playfulness, and made his children thoroughly happy as children.
Roxana Foote, his wife, was a woman of rare virtues: cultivated, highly educated, and accomplished; in the simplicity of her nature and the purity of her warm young heart she married this penniless minister, and took up the work of a minister's wife with unshrinking devotion; she was indeed the intended woman of Paradise, "a helpmeet unto him." In poverty, in sorrow, in struggle of every kind, the heart of her husband trusted in her, and leaned upon her as a strong staff; and when she died he said afterwards that his "first sensation was a sort of terror, like that of a child suddenly shut out alone in the dark." Yet she, with all her clarity of mind, her fulness of lofty thought, and keen enjoyment of literature and art, never cried out for her "rights," or clamored for suffrage. Calm, serene, tender,—
"A perfect woman, nobly planned
she moved on through the crowding duties of an arduous life, became the mother of nine children, one of whom went before her, and died in a peace that was triumph and a strength that was rapture.
Beside these pillars of the home temple, Harriet Beecher was also compassed about with other and similar stimulating companionships. Her aunt, Mary Hubbard, a beautiful and fascinating girl, who married early a West-Indian planter, and after a few years of sinking health and failing heart came home to die, rallied in her native air, and filled the Beecher homestead with sparkling life for a few short years.
Beside these pillars of the home temple, Harriet Beecher was also compassed
about with other and similar stimulating companionships. Her aunt, Mary
Hubbard, a beautiful and fascinating girl, who married early a West-Indian
planter, and after a few years of sinking health and failing heart came
home to die, rallied in her native air, and filled the Beecher homestead
with sparkling life for a few short years.
Although Harriet was but a baby when this aunt died, no doubt what she heard
of her in the family tradition, especially of her horror of slavery, sank
into that receptive mind and was brooded over till an ardent sympathy
there, ready to welcome the fugitive American slave when she lived on the banks of the Ohio in later years, and to appreciate with her great tender heart the sorrows of those men and women whose crime was being born, not of another blood, but with another skin than their masters.
Her mother's mother, with whom the child spent much time, was a serene and kindly lady of the old days; a great reader and thinker; and Harriet Foote, the aunt, whose name Harriet Beecher bore, was a woman of keen and versatile wit; while Esther Beecher, her father's sister, was a practical, unselfish, utterly devoted woman of vigorous intellect and quiet humor, who measured out the things of this life as conscientiously and accurately as if they were the outer court service of the temple in which her inner soul devoutly adored.
Born of such parents, living in such an atmosphere, it is not wonderful that the children grew up so remarkable in their development and individuality, that an old saying was readapted for them, and it became a proverb that "There are three kinds of people in the world: the good, the bad, and the Beechers."
Nor, in the wisdom of her home training, was the
precocious child allowed to sacrifice her health; her home was
on that wide and breezy hill in Litchfield from which can
be seen still a long stretch of characteristic New England
scenery; rolling hills, sad brown stretches of fallow field and
rocky upland, here and there a glimmering pond; then, great
sweeps of forest, far and near; and over all a broad, bright
sky, its vast azure expanse swept with fleecy clouds, darkened
with the black banners of the thunder, or livid with north
eastern rains. She ran wild among these trees and hills,
went putting in the gorgeous haze and blaze of October; or
gathered the wistful delicate blooms of spring; the red
strawberries, fragrant and sweet beyond the giants of to-day,
enticed her into the June-sweet pastures; and the gorgeous
lilies of the hay-field tempted her in summer; there was
nothing, foreign or unknown to her in the kindly fruitage of
the earth about her, and she learned at the very lips of the great mother those ineffable lessons only to be so learned.
As she says herself: "I was educated, first and foremost by nature, wonderful, beautiful, ever-changing as she is in that cloudland, Litchfield."
Yet her home-life went hand in hand with the out-of-door; her heart kept even beat with the cheery, social, mirthful, happy course of her daily living; and her mind was fed with conversation of the sort that is not concerned with the day's gossip, or the hasty and hard judgment of neighbor and friend.
In that crowded parsonage, about the fire at night, books and authors were discussed; the awful realities of religion reverently explored; the moral situation of the church and the world expounded and agitated; and all regarded from but one standpoint, that outlook from the side of God the Creator and Governor, which lifts the human soul above the misty passions of earth and gives to its vision the width and clearness of heaven.
In the light of her after-life it is significant that she heard and remembered an incident which happened one day in her childhood, and is best recorded in her own words:—
"I remember hearing father relate the account of Byron's separation from his wife; and one day hearing him say with a sorrowful countenance, as if announcing the death of some one very interesting to him:
"'My dear, Byron is dead,—gone.'
"After being a while silent, he said:—
"'Oh, I'm sorry Byron is dead. I did hope he would have lived to do something for Christ. What a harp he might have swept!'
"The whole impression made upon me by the conversation was solemn and painful. I remember taking my basket for strawberries that afternoon and going over to a strawberryfield on Chestnut Hill, but I was too dispirited to do anything, so I lay down among the daisies and looked up into the blue sky, and thought of that great eternity into which Byron had entered, and wondered how it might be with his soul."
When Harriet Beecher was but five years old her beautiful, tender mother, after a brief illness, went home to the land which indeed she seemed only to have left for a short time to bless this earth, leaving behind her an undying memory, an unfiding love and sorrow. Eight motherless children were left to mourn her, and not one could recollect an impatient word, an unjust judgment, even when Harriet, like a very little pickle as she was, beguiled her brothers and sisters to eat up a bag of rare tulip-roots under the impression that they were onions and very nice, using thereto all the persuasion her baby language and coaxing eyes could bring to the subject. She herself says that when her mother entered on the scene,—
"There was not even a momentary expression of impatience, but she sat down, and calmly, sweetly, told them what lovely tulips would have risen from those roots had they spared them."
Perhaps only as passionate a lover of flowers as Roxana Beecher was can appreciate this wonderful temper.
A year passed by under dear and good Aunt Esther's household rule, and then a new mother came to govern and guide at the parsonage. She too was a lovely and gifted woman, and, as far as any woman can, filled a mother's place to the children. She liked the home she came to from the first, and relates that Harriet, with her instinctive love of justice ignorantly aflame, said to her: "Because you have come and married my father, when I am big enough I mean to go and marry your father!"
But for all the quaint child's threat, she admired and loved the beautiful young stepmother heartily, who in turn speaks of her as "amiable, lovely, affectionate and bright, as ever I saw."
Catherine, the oldest sister, herself afterward a distinguished and
excellent woman, records how Harriet, not yet seven years old,—"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
chapters in the Bible. She has a very retentive memory, and will make a good scholar. She says she has got a new mother, and loves her very much, and means to be a good child."
Yet this forward scholar was also a hearty, rosy, strong girl; with flying curls of sunny brown, and sweet, keen, blue-gray eyes; ready for fun and play; a happy, childish creature, "quite pretty," rejoicing in this life, yet weighted to some extent with the prospects of the life which is to come,—never ignored or neglected in that hill-top parsonage.
We hear of her a year or two later, begging for an epithet "for the grave of her beloved cat; and discern the germ of that humane spirit that in her womanhood loved and recorded the lives and doings of so many of these "spirits in prison," from "Mr. Black Trip," to "Hum the Son of Buz."
Litchfield was then the very place for a child like Harriet Beecher to develop in. The Wolcotts, Judge Gould, John Allen, Jabez Huntington, Uriel Holmes, Seth P. Beers, Dr. Sheldon, John P. Brace, Judge Tapping Reeve, Mrs. Sarah Pierce, the Tallmadges, and the Champions are all names that in Connecticut were synonymous with learning, intellect, and high character. On this isolated hill clustered a society of the most cultivated kind, and the minister's family, ex officio, took rank with the highest. Lyman Beecher's household did honor to the rank; from no other house in that wide green street did such fame and worth send out representatives into the world.
And here, too, was situated the best school in Connecticut. Nominally under the conduct of Mrs. Sarah Pierce, a well-educated and superior woman, its real head and guide was her nephew, John Pierce Brace, a teacher still held in grateful remembrance, and one to whom the writer of this article owes a debt of deep gratitude for the zeal, the patience, and the affection that not only stimulated, but guided and sweetened her continuous school-life.
No teacher can ever have "educated" his pupils in the true sense of the word
better than Mr. Brace: less of a martinet
and drill-master than the modern schoolmaster, he understood by some subtle intelligence the way to influence every mind brought into contact with his own; he knew what we were and what we needed with infallible instinct, and made study a keen delight when he taught, whatever was the lesson. Under the name of "Jonathan Rossiter" Mrs. Stowe has described him in the latter part of "Oldtown Folks" with a vigor and detail that paint him to the life. And she says in a letter to her brother, "Mr. Brace was one of the most stimulating and inspiring instructors I ever knew. He was himself widely informed, an enthusiast in botany, mineralogy, and the natural sciences generally, beside being well read in English classical literature.
"He exceeded all teachers I ever knew in the faculty of teaching composition. In my twelfth year, by two years of constant practice under his training, I had gained so far as to be appointed one of the writers for the annual exhibition. . . . The subject was 'Can the Immortality of the Soul be Proved by the Light of Nature?' . . . I chose to adopt the negative. I remember 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 beside Mr. Brace, brightened and looked interested, and at the close I heard him say,—
"'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."
No doubt, long years after, when his teaching days were over, and his heart
wrung with loss and disappointment, when the daughter of all his children most
like her father lay in an early grave, and life grew dark before him, John P.
Brace looked back upon this child of genius, and smiled to think of the
wonderful "composition" which she had then
but just sent out for an astonished world to hear. It was to his care that the child of seven was committed, and in this school she says, "I ran loose, a little girl, at the foot of a school of a hundred grown-up girls."
And here her destiny and duty began to be manifest. "From early childhood I had a passion for writing, and printed my meditations and reflections before I learned to write, and scribbled incessantly afterward. Miss Pierce used to hold me up as a dreadful warning, one who, as she phrased it, was always bowing down to the idol 'scribble;' and she predicted all sorts of dreadful results, which never came to pass."
Here she studied history, rhetoric, and wrote compositions every week; taking still her vivid interest in nature all abroad, in the prowess of her father's fishing-rod, in the "wood-spells" of winter, in the little brothers and sisters now, and then added to the fulness of the "minister's blessings," in dogs, cats, cows, in all living things; for, like the dear Aunt Esther, she knew and "sought out" the "works of the Lord," being one who found "pleasure therein."
But a change of base was coming. Catherine, the oldest of the family, engaged to Professor Fisher, of Yale College, a man of great promise and already distinguished performance, was suddenly bereaved by his death. On the way to Europe, where he proposed to study and travel for a year, the vessel in which he sailed was lost. Of all its passengers and crew only one was saved to tell the tale; and the brilliant girl, whose heart, full of love and hope, was wrecked with her lover, fell into a state of rebellious melancholy, which her helpful spirit and practical education fought against nobly. She had already learned, or perhaps instinct taught her, that work is God's remedy for grief of any kind; and a year later she set up a school for girls in Hartford, Conn., which became a success, and in the end famous.
To this sister's care and teaching Harriet, now twelve years old, was confided.
No more scrambles now over hill and dale after huckleberries or honeysuckle
apples; no more
nutting frolics or fishing excursions to Bantam Pond; applecuttings, wood-spells, strawberry-hunts, and expeditions after winter-green were all over; she must "buckle-down" now to serious work without these alleviations; and beside her own studies she taught Latin and translated Virgil into English heroic verse, becoming in due time an assistant pupil in the school then and still known as the Hartford Female Seminary, and flourishing for many years after Miss Beecher left it under the rule of the same John P. Brace who was previously her teacher.
In November, 1825, Harriet Beecher became a member of her father's church in Litchfield, a fact recorded with joy by Mr. Beecher, whose heart's desire it was that all his children should be converted to Christ. It is pathetic to see in the record of this good man's life how faithfully and eagerly he exhorted, watched, and prayed for the souls of all his family; it was the burden of his days and nights, and at last his song of thankfulness, that they were all gathered into the church on earth before be departed for the church in heaven.
In 1826 Mr. Beecher, after a long and anxious self-communing, made up his mind that he had no right to live longer in debt for want of a sufficient salary. It has always been the disgrace of New England that her country ministers have had to starve or accept charity. Many of them have been forced to eke out the pittance allotted to them by farming on week-days instead of studying, or by writing school-books or compiling histories, or in later days taking agencies for popular articles; but none of these things were available to Mr. Beecher; he believed it his duty to devote all his time and strength, just as far as it could be spared from the absolute needs of rest or relaxation, to the work of the ministry; and the father of eleven children could not, in any case, have provided that hearty and hungry flock with food and clothing for eight hundred dollars a year.
He took no counsel of man, but in the silence of his study made up his mind to
leave Litchfield as soon as he could find a more remunerative parish, and
twelve hours after, a letter
reached him inviting him to the Hanover Street church, Boston, Mass.
But here his influence was so powerful, his controversies with Unitarianism and the Finney systems of revivals so trenchant and triumphant, that his fame went abroad in all the land; and he seemed to be the man of all others to help build up a Western school of theology.
He was called to a professorship in Lane Seminary, Cincinnati, in 1832, and his whole family followed him. Here Catherine and Harriet set up another school, and here the latter, at the age of twenty-five, on January 4, 1836, married Calvin E. Stowe, Professor of Biblical Criticism and Oriental Literature in Lane Seminary.
Her life on the banks of the Ohio river, the boundary line between the Western slave and free States, opened to Mrs. Stowe a new field of observation and sympathy.
In the constant occupations and toil of a wife and mother, hampered by narrow means and those necessities of position which make it so much harder to be respectably poor than to• be poor without respectability, she never lost her broad, observant outlook on the aspects of our common humanity, or her ready and abundant sympathy with human loss and woe.
Here she was in the very seethe and foam of slavery's desperation; on the other edge of the broad Ohio men and women were bought, sold, tortured, and murdered, with no help from earth or heaven; on her side the slave was free, but only nominally, for the hunters of men forced the laws to their side of the question, and not till his foot touched the cold soil of Canada was the fugitive free indeed.
Mrs. Stowe's husband and all her own family were ardent Abolitionists. What else could be expected of men who had been trained from birth to look at the right and wrong of all things, instead of their expediency or profit?
Whenever opportunity offered these brave men held out both hands to welcome
and aid the escape of their brethren in bonds; riding by night to conceal
them; planning by day
how to forward them to their final safety, and being brethren indeed to the despised and lowly.
Here Mrs. Stowe saw and heard the agonies of mothers torn from their children, of husbands hopelessly separated from their wives, knowing they were sold into the black depths of involuntary sin and helpless crime. She educated her own children herself, and finding there was no school whatever in Cincinnati for colored children, she admitted as many as she could care for to her own little flock, and shared with them her instructions.
One of these children was claimed as the "asset" of an estate in Kentucky, and the weeping and wailing mother came to tell the beloved teacher that her bright boy was a slave, and was about to be haled back as a chattel into the hell from which she bad recovered him. Mrs. Stowe promptly came to the rescue, and taking up subscriptions in her neighborhood was able to pay the boy's ransom and return him to the arms of his grateful mother.
Here, too, in Cincinnati, during her life there, began a series of agitations on the slavery question which kept it seething in her mind; here Theodore Weld lectured and prayed, and a great proportion of the Lane Seminary students became ardent Abolitionists; mobs raged and raved about the city, and the "fanatics" were threatened with their lives; the very excitement and fury that the vexed subject caused showed how deep was the volcano which so flamed and roared. Dr. Bailey, "a wise, temperate, and just man, a model of courtesy in speech and writing," who proposed to discuss slavery openly and fairly, was driven from the city by a mob of Kentucky slaveholders, and went to Washington, where afterward he printed Mrs. Stowe's greatest work in his paper, the "National Era."
And here, too, the wife and mother began her public literary career, writing
"A New-England Story," in competition for a prize of fifty dollars, which she
gained. This story, afterward published in "The Mayflower," was a faithful,
touching reproduction of those old-time Yankee characters,
full of humor and pathos, whom she has so often chronicled to the life.
Finding herself able to add to her resources in this way, she wrote other slight sketches, but nothing of importance, till with her young family she returned to New England. Professor Stowe removed to Brunswick, Maine, just as the Northern States began to be excited and aroused by the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law.
Hitherto Mrs. Stowe had not thought of slavery except as a dreadful gulf of horror, despair, and guilt; into which no Curtius could leap except to give it cause to boil up and rage anew, like the Icelandic geysers; a wrong and shame that could only be relegated to the shades where hope never enters, and treated after the wisdom of the old Roman proverb,—"Ne moveas Camerina." But the voluntary stupor of Southern self-interest was at last broken by the lashing of a sullen Northern tempest of awakened opinion; and, aroused to the need of aid and furtherance from the free States, the South framed and pushed through this iniquitous law, which meant death and destruction to happy families and peaceful homes. Mrs. Stowe heard constantly from her many friends in Boston heartrending tales of the results of this law among the respectable colored people who had escaped to that city, and were quietly earning their bread there.
A reign of terror had begun, and even in the pulpits of Christian churches no man cared or dared to lift up a voice of demur or warning; "no man cared for their souls;" the church and the world joined hands against the oppressed, and openly or tacitly sided with the oppressor.
It seemed to Mrs. Stowe that slavery as it really was must be unknown to these
people, who would not have tolerated tyranny or oppression anywhere else. Her
heart burned within her, and in those sacred flames arose and flashed scene
after scene, founded on incidents she had seen or known in the dark life of
slavery. Even at the communion-table the pictures filled her soul; she went
home to write down what were to her real inspirations, and her young children
into tears as she read to them the story that was yet to draw like tears from millions of readers. For this wonderful book was indeed "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Behold ye the way of the Lord, make His path straight!" She was like a pen in the hand of a strong angel, and while the woman might well have cried out, "How can I sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" the soul within answered, Speak! Lord, for thy servant heareth."
Worn down with the duties of a mother, to whose little flock a baby had been lately added, the only New-Englandborn of them all; with pupils resident in the family, whom she taught with her older children; harassed by the inefficiency of servants, and the myriad trials of a housekeeper in the country; still the inspiration laid hold of her, and would not be ignored; she had in her soul if not upon her lips the words of her Master: "How am I straitened until it be accomplished!" for in His power and following His footsteps she also brought life and liberty to them that were lost in the shadow of great darkness.
This story of stories was first offered to Dr. Bailey, for the "National Era," and the offer eagerly accepted; though at first it was only proposed to run through a few numbers of the paper, but the tale was too mighty for the teller to say "thus far shalt thou go and no farther." It held her as the ancient mariner held the wedding-guest, and like that listener she "could not choose but hear."
While it was in course of publication in the "Era," a young publisher of Boston proposed to issue it in book-form, and Mrs. Stowe consented; but Mr. Jewett, seeing how the tale progressed, objected; he wrote to the author that it was outgrowing the limits of one volume, and the subject was too unpopular to bear further elaboration, but she replied, as a prophetess might have, that she could not control the length of the story, it "made itself," and she could not stop writing it till it was done.
And when at last it was done, a deep and heavy depression
came over her; the inspiration had fled, the "afflatus" was
gone; and the woman, no longer a prophetess, began to wonder at her folly. Who would read these incendiary volumes? Who would turn aside from the respectabilities of law and order to hear the trumpet tones of the Gospel story? She felt despair enter her soul like an iron spear; but she was not born of the plucky little parson on Litchfield Hill to deny his good blood in her veins when need came; she determined to help on her message in every way her good sense and brave spirit could suggest. She wrote a letter to Prince Albert, whose name was a synonym for goodness and justice, and whose consort was queen of a realm whose boast it is that slaves cannot breathe in its air. She wrote to Macaulay, whose father had once been a prominent anti-slavery man; to Charles Dickens, whose nature was widely sympathetic, as his writings showed; to Charles Kingsley, then an ardent believer in the freedom of man, and to Lord Carlisle, accompanying each letter with an early copy of her volume.
But she needed no help from the great of the earth; her word had been in its measure the word of the Lord; naturally the weak and weary woman trembled under her message and doubted its acceptance; but lie who said of old, "It shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing whereto I sent it," kept his promise therein.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published March 20, 1852. Ten thousand copies were sold in a few days, and over three hundred thousand within a year. Eight presses were run day and night to supply the enormous demand.
No book of human origin was ever so rapidly sold, so widely and universally read; the author had herself felt in the depths of her heart what she wrote out with tears and righteous indignation, and the throbs of millions of other hearts replied to the true beat of hers. Far and wide the light of its burning truth shone and lit up the habitations of cruelty; the latent sympathy of thousands who had sinned in ignorance awoke to action, and the colored race testified
to a direct and surprising change in their treatment by the whites.
Part of its success was owing to its candid justice. Mrs. Stowe painted the limitations, the hard position, the kindly feeling of many slaveholders as truly and pitifully as she drew the woes and disasters of the slave. Letters poured in upon her from all quarters, letters of praise, of sympathy, of congratulation, but also of hate, insult, threats, blasphemy, and all uncleanness. The South as one man reviled and abused her; they could not even appreciate the justice of her portraits,—she had laid the axe at the root of the tree, and all the foul birds in its branches rent the air with their cries of fury; no less a tribute to her wonderful success than the laud and glory of her admirers.
It was not the artistic value of this book that made its success, for its author has since written much more careful and delicate studies of life and character, and painted with tender and more exquisite colors the beauty of humanity and nature; but "Uncle Tom's Cabin" touched the deepest springs of humanity's heart, and bade the imprisoned waters arise and overflow. The hour had come for this good grain to be sown, and a woman's hand had scattered it. Many a tedious day wore on before its harvest waved on hillside and savanna, to be reaped in tears and blood instead of sun and dew, with swords instead of sickles, and gathered in with cries of battle in place of the gleaner's song. But at last that mighty fruitage is garnered, and the slave is free forever! Brief words to write or read, but eternal fact and immortal reality.
Not only in America did this book achieve its wonderful success; England also was moved from its wonted cold contempt for her offshoot; and the sneering question, "Who reads an American book?" received once for all its answer—"Everybody!"
When Mrs. Stowe went abroad a year after "Uncle Tom" was published, she was
received with the highest honors. Addresses were poured in upon her signed by
thousands of women of every class, and from the inhabitants of separate
cities and towns, all expressing their esteem for, and sympathy with, the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Brief sympathy, it is true, for when the war of the rebellion began, the English nation forgot the sorrows of the slave and held out pitiful hands to the slaveholder as the "aristocrat" of America besieged by its commonalty!
One incident of Mrs. Stowe's experience in England was almost prophetic. She was presented with a solid gold bracelet made in shape of a slave's fetters, inscribed with the words, "We trust it is a memorial of a chain that is soon to be broken." On one link was engraved the date of the abolition of the slave-trade, and on another that of the abolition of slavery in all England's territories. To-day this bracelet bears upon its other links the dates of emancipation in the District of Columbia; of the President's proclamation abolishing slavery in rebel States; of freedom proclaimed in Maryland and in Missouri; while the clasp bears the date of the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery forever in the United States. Its record is finished, and its wearer has the sublime and blessed consciousness that she laid the train which has blown the direst work of hell on earth to utter destruction, and left it only an ignominious memory.
But not only where its native language was spoken has this book been read; it has been translated into nineteen different tongues. Twelve French editions by various translators have been issued, and eleven German. In the eloquent verse of Dr. Holmes, read upon Mrs. Stowe's seventieth birthday, at a garden party, given by Messrs. Houghton and Muffin in her honor, he alludes to this peculiar circumstance:—
"If every tongue that speaks her praise
"Briton and Frenchman, Swede and Dane,
In the library of the British Museum there are thirty-five editions of the original English, complete, and eight abridgments or adaptations.
But after such a success the triumphant pen could not be idle; Mrs. Stowe's visit abroad was chronicled in a charming volume called "Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands." She wrote then a small "Geography for my Children," and that was followed by a powerful tale of slavery, called "Dred," afterwards renamed "Nina Gordon." Then came a slighter sketch on the training of children, "Our Charley"; and then, published first as a serial in the "Atlantic Monthly," "The Minister's Wooing," an exquisite story of old New England, full of pathos, delicate humor, subtle character-painting, and high religious thought. Mary Scudder is a picture of a Puritan maiden, almost too saintly for real life, yet true to such a life as in those days did sometimes flower into "a lily of the Lord"; Miss Prissy, the queer, kindly, penetrating old maid; Mrs. Scudder, pious, thrifty, ambitious, and stern; sad Mrs. Marvyn, worn out in soul and body with the awful weight of theologic questions and morbid conscientiousness; gay, capricious, sunny, and stormy Madame de Frontignac; and plausible, courtly, devilish Aaron Burr, set over against the great-hearted and high-souled doctor,—make a portrait-gallery of real personages in the memory of the reader; and show what power and versatility belong to that genius which had already electrified the world.
This was followed by "Agnes of Sorrento," the scene of which is laid in Italy, and does not afford room for the freedom and grace with which the author writes of her own land and people.
Next was "The Pearl of Orr's Island," a touching story of our New England coast; with characteristic touches of description that show how keen and appreciative is the writer's observation of nature; and how vivid her enjoyment of all its manifestations.
After this came "Oldtown Folks," a story of country life in New England; part of which is laid amid the scenes familiar to her in Litchfield, her early home, and which displays a panorama of village life and society, true in every racy detail, sparkling with humor, and solemn with theologic contemplations and controversies.
After this came "Sam Lawson's Fireside Stories," dear to every heart that keeps a youthful throb, and longs to be a boy again at the old story-teller's knee. This was followed by a few papers on family life, called "The Chimney-Corner," and in natural sequence by "House and Home Papers," a volume which vindicates the practical, household, feminine side of Mrs. Stowe's nature; and prove her not only to be a great and unique genius in a literary point of view, but one who deserves the praise of Lemuel's mother in that chronicle of the "virtuous woman" whose "price is far above rubies," whose "children arise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praiseth her"; for truly "strength and honor are her clothing," and her house is the home of peace, cheer, health, and kindly Christian living.
After these came a small volume of "Religious Poems," full of pure aspiration and unfaltering faith. Mrs. Stowe is no bigot; a member of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, whose pastor is her well-known and distinguished brother, Henry Ward Beecher, she fraternizes with the Episcopal church in Mandarin, her winter home, and enters into all their good works; and in her "Religious Poems" sectarianism finds no place; they are simply and earnestly religious.
The poems were followed by a small book called "Little Foxes"—articles on
domestic ethics. Then came "My Wife and I," "We and Our Neighbors," "Pink
and White Tyranny"—all household stories; and after them the second great
tion created by Mrs. Stowe in her literary career—an article published in the "Atlantic Monthly" called "A Vindication of Lady Byron."
While Mrs. Stowe was abroad she became very intimate with that unfortunate lady, who confided to her under the seal of absolute secrecy as long as Lady Byron herself lived the reasons for her separation from her husband. Mrs. Stowe, however, was requested by Lady Byron, if ever a necessity arose after her death, to make her secret known to the public.
When a "Life of Byron," edited by the notorious Countess Guiccioli, was published in England, and aroused new interest in the poems and character of Byron, being written by a woman who had shared his licentious and indecent life, Mrs. Stowe felt that the time had come when Lady Byron's character as a wife needed to be vindicated from the implied or open assertions of Byron's mistress; and, accordingly, she gave to the public the painful and not by any means delicate story of Lady Byron's wrong and suffering.
In doing this, Mrs. Stowe was impelled, as all who knew her thoroughly understood, by a generous and brave affection for the dead woman who had been her lovely, living friend. It was an act of heroic justice, such as such a woman alone could have done.
Whether Lady Byron was deranged at the time her sorrows and her solitude began, or whether by long brooding over her loss in her worse than widowed loneliness, she created out of her suspicions what seemed to her grief an actual fact, or whether her story was indeed true to the letter, is still a matter of conjecture with most people; but it is certain that Mrs. Stowe believed her story implicitly, and was filled with the deepest pity and indignation when she heard it; and made its revelation in a conscientious desire to do good and not evil.
But a tale like this, which in vindicating the character of one woman blasted
in a peculiarly dreadful manner the reputation of another, and involved,
collaterally, persons yet liv-
ing, in the black shame and crime of near and dear relatives, could not fail to arouse a storm of indignation and disgust in England, and give rise to much low scoff and vulgar comment wherever it was read.
It is a melancholy reflection on human nature that it is never safe to trust its nobler instincts in a matter like this,—the story which Mrs. Stowe's best friends must regret that she ever published became a weapon in the hands of her enemies; and instead of vindicating her deceased friend from the attacks of post-mortem slander, she not only aroused them to fresh vigor, but drew upon herself a cloud of misrepresentation and scandalous sarcasm that pained all her myriad admirers, and must, no doubt, have wounded and discomfited her woman's delicate nature.
Still, with the rare, unflinching courage of her birthright, which has ever been one of her prominent characteristics, she says to-day, under her own hand, "I am never sorry for having written it,—spite of the devil and all his angels!"
"Poganuc People," a sketch of old Litchfield and its inhabitants, is the latest volume from her pen, though she still writes brief articles for the public. But her working days are merged at last in the rest which she has so well earned and deserved.
On the occasion of her seventy-first birthday her Boston publishers, Messrs.
Houghton and Mifflin, gave a garden party in her honor, at the house of
Governor Claflin, of Newton, Mass., near Boston. Here were assembled all
those brethren of the literary guild who delighted to honor their queen,
and here too were the veterans of the abolition "Old Guard;" quaint, simple,
"fanatical" as ever, but calm and satisfied as never before, for their
prophetess had ceased to prophesy, fulfilment having come. On a stage,
under the kindly shade of a great tent, sat the sweet, kindly-faced woman
whose clustering curls had whitened to snow-wreaths in the service of
humanity; praise was showered upon her like if cense; poems read in her
honor; and before her gathered a crowd of friends with love and laud in
every eye, on every lip; but it
was not for the praise of man to ruffle her serene countenance or disturb the dreamy peace of her eyes, that seemed bent on some far distance, where the babble of earth is heard no more, but the silent welcome of heaven is ready and waiting.
She received her ovation with the calm simplicity of a child, and in a few words of gracious thanks and counsel dismissed her guests when all their speech had been uttered, and went out with her husband, her son, and her grandchildren into the fresh June air, the young summer verdure, and the crowding flowers, and away to her home and its duties, as a saint to her cell, untouched by the hot breath of flattery, unmoved by the loud plaudits of men, calm in that mild consciousness of devotion and duty that is deeper and dearer than this life's most earnest homage, or its richest gifts.
She says of herself, "I am seventy-two years old, and am more interested in the other side of Jordan than this, though this still has its pleasures."
Mrs. Stowe has two homes: one in Hartford, Connecticut, where she spends her summers; and one in Mandarin, Florida, where her winters are passed. Long may it be, prays every soul that knows her, before she leaves them for the city which is in heaven.
Earth will be bereft indeed when her gracious presence forsakes it to go home forever; and leaves us only a memory, holy and mighty though that memory be, of America's greatest woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe.