Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, Vol. I by Margaret Fuller Ossoli

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

into perfect life, Fate would, at fitting season, furnish an
atmosphere and orbit meet for his breathing and exercise. I
wished he might adore, not fever for, the bright phantoms
of his mind's creation, and believe them but the shadows of
external things to be met with hereafter. After this steady
intellectual growth had brought his powers to manhood, so far
as the ideal can do it, I wished this being might be launched
into the world of realities, his heart glowing with the
ardor of an immortal toward perfection, his eyes searching
everywhere to behold it; I wished he might collect into one
burning point those withering, palsying convictions, which, in
the ordinary routine of things, so gradually pervade the
soul; that he might suffer, in brief space, agonies of
disappointment commensurate with his unpreparedness
and confidence. And I thought, thus thrown back on the
representing pictorial resources I supposed him originally
to possess, with such material, and the need he must feel
of using it, such a man would suddenly dilate into a form
of Pride, Power, and Glory,--a centre, round which asking,
aimless hearts might rally,--a man fitted to act as
interpreter to the one tale of many-languaged eyes!

'What words are these! Perhaps you will feel as if I sought
but for the longest and strongest. Yet to my ear they do but
faintly describe the imagined powers of such a being.'

Margaret's home at this time was in the mansion-house formerly
belonging to Judge Dana,--a large, old-fashioned building, since taken
down, standing about a quarter of a mile from the Cambridge Colleges,
on the main road to Boston. The house stood back from the road, on
rising ground, which overlooked an extensive landscape. It was always
a pleasure to Margaret to look at the outlines of the distant hills
beyond the river, and to have before her this extent of horizon and
sky. In the last year of her residence in Cambridge, her father moved
to the old Brattle place,--a still more ancient edifice, with large,
old-fashioned garden, and stately rows of Linden trees. Here Margaret
enjoyed the garden walks, which took the place of the extensive view.

During these five years her life was not diversified by events,
but was marked by an inward history. Study, conversation, society,
friendship, and reflection on the aim and law of life, made up her
biography. Accordingly, these topics will constitute the substance
of this chapter, though sometimes, in order to give completeness to
a subject, we may anticipate a little, and insert passages from the
letters and journals of her Groton life.

[Footnote A: I had once before seen Margaret, when we were both
children about five years of age. She made an impression on my mind
which was never effaced, and I distinctly recollect the joyful child,
with light flowing locks and bright face, who led me by the hand down
the back-steps of her house into the garden. This was when her father
lived in Cambridgeport, in a house on Cherry street, in front of
which still stand some handsome trees, planted by him in the year of
Margaret's birth.]

[Footnote B: "The Rivals" was a novel I had lent her,--if I remember
right, by the author of "The Collegians;" a writer who in those days
interested us not a little.]

[Footnote C: These words of Goethe, which I have placed among the
mottoes at the beginning of this chapter, were written by Margaret on
the first page of a richly gilt and bound blank book, which she gave
to me, in 1832, for a private journal. The words of Koerner are also
translated by herself, and were given to me about the same time.]

[Footnote D: The hero of a novel she was reading.]



"Friendly love perfecteth mankind."


"To have found favor in thy sight
Will still remain
A river of thought, that full of light
Divides the plain."


"Cui potest vita esse vitalis, (ut ait Ennius,) quae non in
amici mutata benevolentia requiescat?"--CICERO.

* * * * *

It was while living at Cambridge that Margaret commenced several of
those friendships which lasted through her life, and which were the
channels for so large a part of her spiritual activity. In giving some
account of her in these relations, there is only the alternative of a
prudent reserve which omits whatever is liable to be misunderstood, or
a frank utterance which confides in the good sense and right feeling
of the reader. By the last course, we run the risk of allowing our
friend to be misunderstood; but by the first we make it certain that
the most important part of her character shall not be understood at
all. I have, therefore, thought it best to follow, as far as I can,
her own ideas on this subject, which I find in two of her letters to
myself. The first is dated, Groton, Jan. 8th, 1839. I was at that time
editing a theological and literary magazine, in the West, and this
letter was occasioned by my asking her to allow me to publish therein
certain poems, and articles of hers, which she had given me to read.

'And I wish now, as far as I can, to give my reasons for what
you consider absurd squeamishness in me. You may not acquiesce
in my view, but I think you will respect it _as_ mine and be
willing to act upon it so far as I am concerned.

'Genius seems to me excusable in taking the public for a
confidant. Genius is universal, and can appeal to the common
heart of man. But even here I would not have it too direct.
I prefer to see the thought or feeling made universal. How
different the confidence of Goethe, for instance, from that of

'But for us lesser people, who write verses merely as vents
for the overflowings of a personal experience, which in every
life of any value craves occasionally the accompaniment of the
lyre, it seems to me that all the value of this utterance is
destroyed by a hasty or indiscriminate publicity. The moment
I lay open my heart, and tell the fresh feeling to any one who
chooses to hear, I feel profaned.

'When it has passed into experience, when the flower has gone
to seed, I don't care who knows it, or whither they wander. I
am no longer it,--I stand on it. I do not know whether this
is peculiar to me, or not, but I am sure the moment I cease
to have any reserve or delicacy about a feeling, it is on the

'About putting beautiful verses in your Magazine, I have no
feeling except what I should have about furnishing a room. I
should not put a dressing-case into a parlor, or a book-case
into a dressing-room, because, however good things in
their place, they were not in place there. And this, not in
consideration of the public, but of my own sense of fitness
and harmony.'

The next extract is from a letter written to me in 1842, after a
journey which we had taken to the White Mountains, in the company of
my sister, and Mr. and Mrs. Farrar. During this journey Margaret had
conversed with me concerning some passages of her private history and
experience, and in this letter she asks me to be prudent in speaking
of it, giving her reasons as follows:--

'_Cambridge, July 31, 1842._--... I said I was happy in having
no secret. It is my nature, and has been the tendency of my
life, to wish that all my thoughts and deeds might lie, as
the "open secrets" of Nature, free to all who are able to
understand them. I have no reserves, except intellectual
reserves; for to speak of things to those who cannot receive
them is stupidity, rather than frankness. But in this case,
I alone am not concerned. Therefore, dear James, give heed
to the subject. You have received a key to what was before
unknown of your friend; you have made use of it, now let it
be buried with the past, over whose passages profound and
sad, yet touched with heaven-born beauty, "let silence stand

I shall endeavor to keep true to the spirit of these sentences in
speaking of Margaret's friendships. Yet not to speak of them in
her biography would be omitting the most striking feature of her
character. It would be worse than the play of Hamlet with Hamlet
omitted. Henry the Fourth without Sully, Gustavus Adolphus without
Oxenstiern, Napoleon without his marshals, Socrates without his
scholars, would be more complete than Margaret without her friends.
So that, in touching on these private relations, we must be
everywhere "bold," yet not "too bold." The extracts will be taken
indiscriminately from letters written to many friends.

The insight which Margaret displayed in finding her friends, the
magnetism by which she drew them toward herself, the catholic range
of her intimacies, the influence which she exercised to develop the
latent germ of every character, the constancy with which she clung
to each when she had once given and received confidence, the delicate
justice which kept every intimacy separate, and the process of
transfiguration which took place when she met any one on this mountain
of Friendship, giving a dazzling lustre to the details of common
life,--all these should be at least touched upon and illustrated, to
give any adequate view of her in these relations.

Such a prejudice against her had been created by her faults of manner,
that the persons she might most wish to know often retired from her
and avoided her. But she was "sagacious of her quarry," and never
suffered herself to be repelled by this. She saw when any one
belonged to her, and never rested till she came into possession of her
property. I recollect a lady who thus fled from her for several years,
yet, at last, became most nearly attached to her. This "wise sweet"
friend, as Margaret characterized her in two words, a flower hidden
in the solitude of deep woods, Margaret saw and appreciated from the

See how, in the following passage, she describes to one of her friends
her perception of character, and her power of attracting it, when only
fifteen years old.

'_Jamaica Plains, July, 1840_.--Do you remember my telling
you, at Cohasset, of a Mr. ---- staying with us, when I was
fifteen, and all that passed? Well, I have not seen him since,
till, yesterday, he came here. I was pleased to find, that,
even at so early an age, I did not overrate those I valued.
He was the same as in memory; the powerful eye dignifying an
otherwise ugly face; the calm wisdom, and refined observation,
the imposing _maniere d'etre_, which anywhere would give him
an influence among men, without his taking any trouble, or
making any sacrifice, and the great waves of feeling that
seemed to rise as an attractive influence, and overspread his
being. He said, nothing since his childhood had been so marked
as his visit to our house; that it had dwelt in his thoughts
unchanged amid all changes. I could have wished he had never
returned to change the picture. He looked at me continually,
and said, again and again, he should have known me anywhere;
but O how changed I must be since that epoch of pride and
fulness! He had with him his son, a wild boy of five years
old, all brilliant with health and energy, and with the same
powerful eye. He said,--You know I am not one to confound
acuteness and rapidity of intellect with real genius; but he
is for those an extraordinary child. He would astonish you,
but I look deep enough into the prodigy to see the work of an
extremely nervous temperament, and I shall make him as dull
as I can. "_Margaret_," (pronouncing the name in the same
deliberate searching way he used to do,) "I love him so well,
I will try to teach him moderation. If I can help it, he shall
not feed on bitter ashes, nor try these paths of avarice and
ambition." It made me feel very strangely to hear him talk so
to my old self. What a gulf between! There is scarce a fibre
left of the haughty, passionate, ambitious child he remembered
and loved. I felt affection for him still; for his character
was formed then, and had not altered, except by ripening and
expanding! But thus, in other worlds, we shall remember our
present selves.'

Margaret's constancy to any genuine relation, once established, was
surprising. If her friends' _aim_ changed, so as to take them out of
her sphere, she was saddened by it, and did not let them go without a
struggle. But wherever they continued "true to the original standard,"
(as she loved to phrase it) her affectionate interest would follow
them unimpaired through all the changes of life. The principle of this
constancy she thus expresses in a letter to one of her brothers:--

'Great and even _fatal_ errors (so far as this life is
concerned) could not destroy my friendship for one in whom I
am sure of the kernel of nobleness.'

She never formed a friendship until she had seen and known this germ
of good; and afterwards judged conduct by this. To this germ of good,
to this highest law of each individual, she held them true. But never
did she act like those who so often judge of their friend from some
report of his conduct, as if they had never known him, and allow
the inference from a single act to alter the opinion formed by an
induction from years of intercourse. From all such weakness Margaret
stood wholly free.

I have referred to the wide range of Margaret's friendships. Even at
this period this variety was very apparent. She was the centre of
a group very different from each other, and whose only affinity
consisted in their all being polarized by the strong attraction of her
mind,--all drawn toward herself. Some of her friends were young, gay
and beautiful; some old, sick or studious. Some were children of the
world, others pale scholars. Some were witty, others slightly dull.
But all, in order to be Margaret's friends, must be capable of seeking
something,--capable of some aspiration for the better. And how did she
glorify life to all! all that was tame and common vanishing away in
the picturesque light thrown over the most familiar things by her
rapid fancy, her brilliant wit, her sharp insight, her creative
imagination, by the inexhaustible resources of her knowledge, and the
copious rhetoric which found words and images always apt and always
ready. Even then she displayed almost the same marvellous gift of
conversation which afterwards dazzled all who knew her,--with more
perhaps of freedom, since she floated on the flood of our warm
sympathies. Those who know Margaret only by her published writings
know her least; her notes and letters contain more of her mind; but it
was only in conversation that she was perfectly free and at home.

Margaret's constancy in friendship caused her to demand it in others,
and thus she was sometimes exacting. But the pure Truth of her
character caused her to express all such feelings with that freedom
and simplicity that they became only as slight clouds on a serene sky,
giving it a tenderer beauty, and casting picturesque shades over the
landscape below. From her letters to different friends I select a few
examples of these feelings.

'The world turns round and round, and you too must needs be
negligent and capricious. You have not answered my note; you
have not given me what I asked. You do not come here. Do not
you act so,--it is the drop too much. The world seems not only
turning but tottering, when my kind friend plays such a part.'

* * * * *

'You need not have delayed your answer so long; why not at
once answer the question I asked? Faith is not natural to
me; for the love I feel to others is not in the idleness of
poverty, nor can I persist in believing the best; merely to
save myself pain, or keep a leaning place for the weary
heart. But I should believe you, because I have seen that your
feelings are strong and constant; they have never disappointed
me, when closely scanned.'

* * * * *

'_July 6, 1832._--I believe I behaved very badly the other
evening. I did not think so yesterday. I had been too
surprised and vexed to recover very easily, but to-day my
sophistries have all taken wing, and I feel that nothing
good could have made me act with such childish petulance and
bluntness towards one who spoke from friendly emotions. Be
at peace; I will astonish you by my repose, mildness, and
self-possession. No, that is silly; but I believe it cannot
be right to be on such terms with any one, that, on the least
vexation, I indulge my feelings at his or her expense. We will
talk less, but we shall be very good friends still, I hope.
Shall not we?'

In the last extract, we have an example of that genuine humility,
which, being a love of truth, underlaid her whole character,
notwithstanding its seeming pride. She could not have been great as
she was, without it.[A]

'_December 19th, 1829._--I shall always be glad to have you
come to me when saddened. The melancholic does not misbecome
you. The lights of your character are _wintry_. They are
generally inspiriting, life-giving, but, if perpetual, would
glare too much on the tired sense; one likes sometimes a
cloudy day, with its damp and warmer breath,--its gentle,
down-looking shades. Sadness in some is intolerably ungraceful
and oppressive; it affects one like a cold rainy day in
June or September, when all pleasure departs with the sun;
everything seems out of place and irrelative to the time; the
clouds are fog, the atmosphere leaden,--but 'tis not so with

Of her own truthfulness to her friends, which led her frankly to speak
to them of their faults or dangers, her correspondence gives constant

The first is from a letter of later date than properly belongs to this
chapter, but is so wholly in her spirit of candor that I insert it
here. It is from a letter written in 1843.

'I have been happy in the sight of your pure design, of the
sweetness and serenity of your mind. In the inner sanctuary we
met. But I shall say a few blunt words, such as were frequent
in the days of intimacy, and, if they are needless, you
will let them fall to the ground. Youth is past, with its
passionate joys and griefs, its restlessness, its vague
desires. You have chosen your path, you have rounded out your
lot, your duties are before you. _Now_ beware the mediocrity
that threatens middle age, its limitation of thought and
interest, its dulness of fancy, its too external life, and
mental thinness. Remember the limitations that threaten
every professional man, only to be guarded against by great
earnestness and watchfulness. So take care of yourself, and
let not the intellect more than the spirit be quenched.

* * * * *

'It is such a relief to me to be able to speak to you upon a
subject which I thought would never lie open between us. Now
there will be no place which does not lie open to the light. I
can always say what I feel. And the way in which you took it,
so like yourself, so manly and noble, gives me the assurance
that I shall have the happiness of seeing in you that
symmetry, that conformity in the details of life with the
highest aims, of which I have sometimes despaired. How much
higher, dear friend, is "the mind, the music breathing from
the" _life_, than anything we can say! Character is higher
than intellect; this I have long felt to be true; may we both
live as if we knew it.

* * 'I hope and believe we may be yet very much to each other.
Imperfect as I am, I feel myself not unworthy to be a true
friend. Neither of us is unworthy. In few natures does such
love for the good and beautiful survive the ruin of all
youthful hopes, the wreck of all illusions.'

* * * * *

'I supposed our intimacy would terminate when I left
Cambridge. Its continuing to subsist is a matter of surprise
to me. And I expected, ere this, you would have found some
Hersilia, or such-like, to console you for losing your
Natalia. See, my friend, I am three and twenty. I believe
in love and friendship, but I cannot but notice that
circumstances have appalling power, and that those links which
are not riveted by situation, by _interest_, (I mean, not mere
worldly interest, but the instinct of self-preservation,)
may be lightly broken by a chance touch. I speak not in
misanthropy, I believe

"Die Zeit ist schlecht, doch giebts noch grosse Herzen."

'Surely I maybe pardoned for aiming at the same results with
the chivalrous "gift of the Gods." I cannot endure to be one
of those shallow beings who can never get beyond the primer of
experience,--who are ever saying,--

"Ich habe geglaubt, _nun glaube ich erst recht_,
Und geht es auch wunderlich, geht es auch schlecht,
Ich bleibe in glaubigen Orden."

Yet, when you write, write freely, and if I don't like what
you say, let me say so. I have ever been frank, as if I
expected to be intimate with you good three-score years and
ten. I am sure we shall always esteem each other. I have that
much faith.'

* * * * *

'_Jan_. 1832.--All that relates to--must be interesting to
me, though I never voluntarily think of him now. The apparent
caprice of his conduct has shaken my faith, but not destroyed
my hope. That hope, if I, who have so mistaken others, may
dare to think I know myself, was never selfish. It is painful
to lose a friend whose knowledge and converse mingled so
intimately with the growth of my mind,--an early friend to
whom I was all truth and frankness, seeking nothing but equal
truth and frankness in return. But this evil may be borne; the
hard, the lasting evil was to learn to distrust my own heart,
and lose all faith in my power of knowing others. In this
letter I see again that peculiar pride, that contempt of the
forms and shows of goodness, that fixed resolve to be anything
but "like unto the Pharisees," which were to my eye such happy
omens. Yet how strangely distorted are all his views! The
daily influence of his intercourse with me was like the breath
he drew; it has become a part of him. Can he escape from
himself? Would he be unlike all other mortals? His feelings
are as false as those of Alcibiades. He influenced me, and
helped form me to what I am. Others shall succeed him. Shall
I be ashamed to owe anything to friendship? But why do I
talk?--a child might confute him by defining the term _human
being_. He will gradually work his way into light; if too late
for our friendship, not, I trust, too late for his own peace
and honorable well-being. I never insisted on being the
instrument of good to him. I practised no little arts, no!
not to effect the good of the friend I loved. I have prayed to
Heaven, (surely we are sincere when doing that,) to guide him
in the best path for him, however far from me that path might
lead. The lesson I have learned may make me a more useful
friend, a more efficient aid to others than I could be to him;
yet I hope I shall not be denied the consolation of knowing
surely, one day, that all which appeared evil in the companion
of happy years was but error.'

* * * * *

'I think, since you have seen so much of my character, that
you must be sensible that any reserves with those whom I call
my friends, do not arise from duplicity, but an instinctive
feeling that I could not be understood. I can truly say that I
wish no one to overrate me; undeserved regard could give me no
pleasure; nor will I consent to practise charlatanism, either
in friendship or anything else.'

* * * * *

'You ought not to think I show a want of generous confidence,
if I sometimes try the ground on which I tread, to see if
perchance it may return the echoes of hollowness.'

* * * * *

'Do not cease to respect me as formerly. It seems to me that I
have reached the "parting of the ways" in my life, and all the
knowledge which I have toiled to gain only serves to show me
the disadvantages of each. None of those who think themselves
my friends can aid me; each, careless, takes the path to which
present convenience impels; and all would smile or stare,
could they know the aching and measureless wishes, the sad
apprehensiveness, which make me pause and strain my almost
hopeless gaze to the distance. What wonder if my present
conduct should be mottled by selfishness and incertitude?
Perhaps you, who _can_ make your views certain, cannot
comprehend me; though you showed me last night a penetration
which did not flow from sympathy. But this I may say--though
the glad light of hope and ambitious confidence, which has
vitalized my mind, should be extinguished forever, I will not
in life act a mean, ungenerous, or useless part. Therefore,
let not a slight thing lessen your respect for me. If you feel
as much pain as I do, when obliged to diminish my respect for
any person, you will be glad of this assurance. I hope you
will not think this note in the style of a French novel.'

[Footnote A: According to Dryden's beautiful statement--

'For as high turrets, in their airy sweep
Require foundations, in proportion deep
And lofty cedars as far upward shoot
As to the nether heavens they drive the root;
So low did her secure foundation lie,
She was not humble, but humility.']


'Do you remember a conversation we had in the garden, one
starlight evening, last summer, about the incalculable power
which outward circumstances have over the character? You would
not sympathize with the regrets I expressed, that mine had not
been formed amid scenes and persons of nobleness and beauty,
eager passions and dignified events, instead of those secret
trials and petty conflicts which make my transition state so
hateful to my memory and my tastes. You then professed the
faith which I resigned with such anguish,--the faith which
a Schiller could never attain,--a faith in the power of the
human will. Yet now, in every letter, you talk to me of the
power of circumstances. You tell me how changed you are. Every
one of your letters is different from the one preceding, and
all so altered from your former self. For are you not leaving
all our old ground, and do you not apologize to me for all
your letters? Why do you apologize? I think I know you very,
very well; considering that we are both human, and have the
gift of concealing our thoughts with words. Nay, further--I do
not believe you will be able to become anything which I cannot
understand. I know I can sympathize with all who feel and
think, from a Dryfesdale up to a Max Piccolomini. You say,
you have become a machine. If so, I shall expect to find you a
grand, high-pressure, wave-compelling one--requiring plenty
of fuel. You must be a steam-engine, and move some majestic
fabric at the rate of thirty miles an hour along the broad
waters of the nineteenth century. None of your pendulum
machines for me! I should, to be sure, turn away my head if I
should hear you tick, and mark the quarters of hours; but the
buzz and whiz of a good large life-endangerer would be
music to mine ears. Oh, no! sure there is no danger of your
requiring to be set down quite on a level, kept in a still
place, and wound up every eight days. Oh no, no! you are not
one of that numerous company, who

--"live and die,
Eat, drink, wake, sleep between,
Walk, talk like clock-work too,
So pass in order due,
Over the scene,
To where the past--_is_ past,
The future--nothing yet," &c. &c.

But we must all be machines: you shall be a
steam-engine;--shall be a mill, with extensive
water-privileges,--and I will be a spinning jenny. No!
upon second thoughts, I will not be a machine. I will be an
instrument, not to be confided to vulgar hands,--for instance,
a chisel to polish marble, or a whetstone to sharpen steel!'

In an unfinished tale, Margaret has given the following studies of
character. She is describing two of the friends of the hero of her
story. Unquestionably the traits here given were taken from life,
though it might not be easy to recognize the portrait of any
individual in either sketch. Yet we insert it here to show her own
idea of this relation, and her fine feeling of the action and reaction
of these subtle intimacies.

'Now, however, I found companions, in thought, at least One,
who had great effect on my mind, I may call Lytton. He was
as premature as myself; at thirteen a man in the range of his
thoughts, analyzing motives, and explaining principles, when
he ought to have been playing cricket, or hunting in the
woods. The young Arab, or Indian, may dispense with mere play,
and enter betimes into the histories and practices of manhood,
for all these are, in their modes of life, closely connected
with simple nature, and educate the body no less than the
mind; but the same good cannot be said of lounging lazily
under a tree, while mentally accompanying Gil Blas through his
course of intrigue and adventure, and visiting with him the
impure atmosphere of courtiers, picaroons, and actresses.
This was Lytton's favorite reading; his mind, by nature subtle
rather than daring, would in any case have found its food in
the now hidden workings of character and passion, the by-play
of life, the unexpected and seemingly incongruous relations
to be found there. He loved the natural history of man, not
religiously, but for entertainment. What he sought, he found,
but paid the heaviest price. All his later days were poisoned
by his subtlety, which made it impossible for him to look at
any action with a single and satisfied eye. He tore the buds
open to see if there were no worm sheathed in the blushful
heart, and was so afraid of overlooking some mean possibility,
that he lost sight of virtue. Grubbing like a mole beneath
the surface of earth, rather than reading its living language
above, he had not faith enough to believe in the flower,
neither faith enough to mine for the gem, and remains at
penance in the limbo of halfnesses, I trust not forever.
Then all his characteristics wore brilliant hues. He was very
witty, and I owe to him the great obligation of being the
first and only person who has excited me to frequent and
boundless gayety. The sparks of his wit were frequent, slight
surprises; his was a slender dart, and rebounded easily to
the hand. I like the scintillating, arrowy wit far better than
broad, genial humor. The light metallic touch pleases me.
When wit appears as fun and jollity, she wears a little of the
Silenus air;--the Mercurial is what I like.

'In later days,--for my intimacy with him lasted many
years,--he became the feeder of my intellect. He delighted to
ransack the history of a nation, of an art or a science, and
bring to me all the particulars. Telling them fixed them in
his own memory, which was the most tenacious and ready I
have ever known; he enjoyed my clear perception as to their
relative value, and I classified them in my own way. As he was
omnivorous, and of great mental activity, while my mind was
intense, though rapid in its movements, and could only give
itself to a few things of its own accord, I traversed on the
wings of his effort large demesnes that would otherwise have
remained quite unknown to me. They were not, indeed, seen to
the same profit as my own province, whose tillage I knew, and
whose fruits were the answer to my desire; but the fact of
seeing them at all gave a largeness to my view, and a candor
to my judgment. I could not be ignorant how much there was I
did not know, nor leave out of sight the many sides to every
question, while, by the law of affinity, I chose my own.

'Lytton was not loved by any one. He was not positively hated,
or disliked; for there was nothing which the general mind
could take firm hold of enough for such feelings. Cold,
intangible, he was to play across the life of others. A
momentary resentment was sometimes felt at a presence which
would not mingle with theirs; his scrutiny, though not
hostile, was recognized as unfeeling and impertinent, and his
mirth unsettled all objects from their foundations. But he
was soon forgiven and forgotten. Hearts went not forth to
war against or to seek one who was a mere experimentalist and
observer in existence. For myself, I did not love, perhaps,
but was attached to him, and the attachment grew steadily, for
it was founded, not on what I wanted of him, but on his truth
to himself. His existence was a real one; he was not without a
pathetic feeling of his wants, but was never tempted to supply
them by imitating the properties of any other character. He
accepted the law of his being, and never violated it. This
is next best to the nobleness which transcends it. I did not
disapprove, even when I disliked, his acts.

'Amadin, my other companion, was as slow and deep of feeling,
as Lytton was brilliant, versatile, and cold. His temperament
was generally grave, even to apparent dulness; his eye gave
little light, but a slow fire burned in its depths. His was a
character not to be revealed to himself, or others, except by
the important occasions of life. Though every day, no doubt,
deepened and enriched him, it brought little that he could
show or recall. But when his soul, capable of religion,
capable of love, was moved, all his senses were united in the
word or action that followed, and the impression made on you
was entire. I have scarcely known any capable of such true
manliness as he. His poetry, written, or unwritten, was the
experience of life. It lies in few lines, as yet, but not one
of them will ever need to be effaced.

'Early that serious eye inspired in me a trust that has never
been deceived. There was no magnetism in him, no lights
and shades that could stir the imagination; no bright ideal
suggested by him stood between the friend and his self. As the
years matured that self, I loved him more, and knew him as
he knew himself, always in the present moment; he could never
occupy my mind in absence.'

Another of her early friends, Rev. F.H. Hedge, has sketched his
acquaintance with her in the following paper, communicated by him for
these memoirs. Somewhat older than Margaret, and having enjoyed
an education at a German university, his conversation was full of
interest and excitement to her. He opened to her a whole world
of thoughts and speculations which gave movement to her mind in a
congenial direction.

* * * * *

"My acquaintance with Margaret commenced in the year 1823, at
Cambridge, my native place and hers. I was then a member of Harvard
College, in which my father held one of the offices of instruction,
and I used frequently to meet her in the social circles of which the
families connected with the college formed the nucleus. Her father, at
this time, represented the county of Middlesex in the Congress of the
United States.

"Margaret was then about thirteen,--a child in years, but so
precocious in her mental and physical developments, that she passed
for eighteen or twenty. Agreeably to this estimate, she had her place
in society, as a lady full-grown.

"When I recall her personal appearance, as it was then and for ten or
twelve years subsequent to this, I have the idea of a blooming girl
of a florid complexion and vigorous health, with a tendency to
robustness, of which she was painfully conscious, and which, with
little regard to hygienic principles, she endeavored to suppress or
conceal, thereby preparing for herself much future suffering. With
no pretensions to beauty then, or at any time, her face was one that
attracted, that awakened a lively interest, that made one desirous
of a nearer acquaintance. It was a face that fascinated, without
satisfying. Never seen in repose, never allowing a steady perusal
of its features, it baffled every attempt to judge the character by
physiognomical induction. You saw the evidence of a mighty force, but
what direction that force would assume,--whether it would determine
itself to social triumphs, or to triumphs of art,--it was impossible
to divine. Her moral tendencies, her sentiments, her true and
prevailing character, did not appear in the lines of her face. She
seemed equal to anything, but might not choose to put forth her
strength. You felt that a great possibility lay behind that brow, but
you felt, also, that the talent that was in her might miscarry through
indifference or caprice.

"I said she had no pretensions to beauty. Yet she was not plain. She
escaped the reproach of positive plainness, by her blond and abundant
hair, by her excellent teeth, by her sparkling, dancing, busy eyes,
which, though usually half closed from near-sightedness, shot piercing
glances at those with whom she conversed, and, most of all, by the
very peculiar and graceful carriage of her head and neck, which all
who knew her will remember as the most characteristic trait in her
personal appearance.

"In conversation she had already, at that early age, begun to
distinguish herself, and made much the same impression in society that
she did in after years, with the exception, that, as she advanced
in life, she learned to control that tendency to sarcasm,--that
disposition to 'quiz,'--which was then somewhat excessive. It
frightened shy young people from her presence, and made her, for a
while, notoriously unpopular with the ladies of her circle.

"This propensity seems to have been aggravated by unpleasant
encounters in her school-girl experience. She was a pupil of Dr. Park,
of Boston, whose seminary for young ladies was then at the height of a
well-earned reputation, and whose faithful and successful endeavors
in this department have done much to raise the standard of female
education among us. Here the inexperienced country girl was exposed
to petty persecutions from the dashing misses of the city, who pleased
themselves with giggling criticisms not inaudible, nor meant to be
inaudible to their subject, on whatsoever in dress and manner fell
short of the city mark. Then it was first revealed to her young heart,
and laid up for future reflection, how large a place in woman's world
is given to fashion and frivolity. Her mind reacted on these attacks
with indiscriminate sarcasms. She made herself formidable by her wit,
and, of course, unpopular. A root of bitterness sprung up in her which
years of moral culture were needed to eradicate.

"Partly to evade the temporary unpopularity into which she had fallen,
and partly to pursue her studies secure from those social avocations
which were found unavoidable in the vicinity of Cambridge and Boston,
in 1824 or 5 she was sent to Groton, where she remained two years in
quiet seclusion.

"On her return to Cambridge, in 1826, I renewed my acquaintance, and
an intimacy was then formed, which continued until her death. The
next seven years, which were spent in Cambridge, were years of
steady growth, with little variety of incident, and little that was
noteworthy of outward experience, but with great intensity of the
inner life. It was with her, as with most young women, and with most
young men, too, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five, a period
of preponderating sentimentality, a period of romance and of dreams,
of yearning and of passion. She pursued at this time, I think, no
systematic study, but she read with the heart, and was learning more
from social experience than from books.

"I remember noting at this time a trait which continued to be a
prominent one through life,--I mean, a passionate love for the
beautiful, which comprehended all the kingdoms of nature and art. I
have never known one who seemed to derive such satisfaction from the
contemplation of lovely forms.

"Her intercourse with girls of her own age and standing was frank and
excellent. Personal attractions, and the homage which they received,
awakened in her no jealousy. She envied not their success, though
vividly aware of the worth of beauty, and inclined to exaggerate her
own deficiencies in that kind. On the contrary, she loved to draw
these fair girls to herself, and to make them her guests, and was
never so happy as when surrounded, in company, with such a bevy. This
attraction was mutual, as, according to Goethe, every attraction is.
Where she felt an interest, she awakened an interest. Without
flattery or art, by the truth and nobleness of her nature, she won
the confidence, and made herself the friend and intimate, of a large
number of young ladies,--the belles of their day,--with most of whom
she remained in correspondence during the greater part of her life.

"In our evening re-unions she was always conspicuous by the brilliancy
of her wit, which needed but little provocation to break forth in
exuberant sallies, that drew around her a knot of listeners, and made
her the central attraction of the hour. Rarely did she enter a company
in which she was not a prominent object.

"I have spoken of her conversational talent. It continued to develop
itself in these years, and was certainly her most decided gift.
One could form no adequate idea of her ability without hearing her
converse. She did many things well, but nothing so well as she talked.
It is the opinion of all her friends, that her writings do her very
imperfect justice. For some reason or other, she could never deliver
herself in print as she did with her lips. She required the stimulus
of attentive ears, and answering eyes, to bring out all her power. She
must have her auditory about her.

"Her conversation, as it was then, I have seldom heard equalled. It
was not so much attractive as commanding. Though remarkably fluent
and select, it was neither fluency, nor choice diction, nor wit, nor
sentiment, that gave it its peculiar power, but accuracy of statement,
keen discrimination, and a certain weight of judgment, which
contrasted strongly and charmingly with the youth and sex of the
speaker. I do not remember that the vulgar charge of talking 'like
a book' was ever fastened upon her, although, by her precision, she
might seem to have incurred it. The fact was, her speech, though
finished and true as the most deliberate rhetoric of the pen, had
always an air of spontaneity which made it seem the grace of the
moment,--the result of some organic provision that made finished
sentences as natural to her as blundering and hesitation are to
most of us. With a little more imagination, she would have made an
excellent improvisatrice.

"Here let me say a word respecting the character of Margaret's mind.
It was what in woman is generally called a masculine mind; that is,
its action was determined by ideas rather than by sentiments. And yet,
with this masculine trait, she combined a woman's appreciation of the
beautiful in sentiment and the beautiful in action. Her intellect was
rather solid than graceful, yet no one was more alive to grace. She
was no artist,--she would never have written an epic, or romance, or
drama,--yet no one knew better the qualities which go to the making
of these; and though catholic as to kind, no one was more rigorously
exacting as to quality. Nothing short of the best in each kind would
content her.

"She wanted imagination, and she wanted productiveness. She wrote with
difficulty. Without external pressure, perhaps, she would never have
written at all. She was dogmatic, and not creative. Her strength was
in characterization and in criticism. Her _critique_ on Goethe, in
the second volume of the Dial, is, in my estimation, one of the best
things she has written. And, as far as it goes, it is one of the best
criticisms extant of Goethe.

"What I especially admired in her was her intellectual sincerity. Her
judgments took no bribe from her sex or her sphere, nor from custom
nor tradition, nor caprice. She valued truth supremely, both for
herself and others. The question with her was not what should be
believed, or what ought to be true, but what _is_ true. Her yes and
no were never conventional; and she often amazed people by a cool and
unexpected dissent from the common-places of popular acceptation."

* * * * *

Margaret, we have said, saw in each of her friends the secret interior
capability, which might become hereafter developed into some special
beauty or power. By means of this penetrating, this prophetic insight,
she gave each to himself, acted on each to draw out his best nature,
gave him an ideal out of which he could draw strength and liberty hour
by hour. Thus her influence was ever ennobling, and each felt that in
her society he was truer, wiser, better, and yet more free and happy,
than elsewhere. The "dry light" which Lord Bacon loved, she never
knew; her light was life, was love, was warm with sympathy and a
boundless energy of affection and hope. Though her love flattered and
charmed her friends, it did not spoil them, for they knew her perfect
truth. They knew that she loved them, not for what she imagined,
but for what she saw, though she saw it only in the germ. But as the
Greeks beheld a Persephone and Athene in the passing stranger, and
ennobled humanity into ideal beauty, Margaret saw all her friends thus
idealized. She was a balloon of sufficient power to take us all up
with her into the serene depth of heaven, where she loved to float,
far above the low details of earthly life. Earth lay beneath us as a
lovely picture,--its sounds came up mellowed into music.

Margaret was, to persons younger than herself, a Makaria and Natalia.
She was wisdom and intellectual beauty, filling life with a charm and
glory "known to neither sea nor land." To those of her own age she
was sibyl and seer,--a prophetess, revealing the future, pointing the
path, opening their eyes to the great aims only worthy of pursuit
in life. To those older than herself she was like the Euphorion
in Goethe's drama, child of Faust and Helen,--a wonderful union
of exuberance and judgment, born of romantic fulness and classic
limitation. They saw with surprise her clear good-sense balancing her
now of sentiment and ardent courage. They saw her comprehension of
both sides of every question, and gave her their confidence, as to one
of equal age, because of so ripe a judgment.

But it was curious to see with what care and conscience she kept her
friendships distinct. Her fine practical understanding, teaching
her always the value of limits, enabled her to hold apart all her
intimacies, nor did one ever encroach on the province of the other.
Like a moral Paganini, she played always on a single string, drawing
from each its peculiar music,--bringing wild beauty from the slender
wire, no less than from the deep-sounding harp string. Some of her
friends had little to give her when compared with others; but I never
noticed that she sacrificed in any respect the smaller faculty to the
greater. She fully realized that the Divine Being makes each part
of this creation divine, and that He dwells in the blade of grass as
really if not as fully as in the majestic oak which has braved the
storm for a hundred years. She felt in full the thought of a poem
which she once copied for me from Barry Cornwall, which begins thus:--

"She was not fair, nor full of grace,
Nor crowned with thought, nor aught beside
No wealth had she of mind or face,
To win our love, or gain our pride,--
No lover's thought her heart could touch,--
No poet's dream was round her thrown;
And yet we miss her--ah, so much!
Now--she has flown."

I will close this section of Cambridge Friendship with the two
following passages, the second of which was written to some one
unknown to me:

'Your letter was of cordial sweetness to me, as is ever the
thought of our friendship,--that sober-suited friendship, of
which the web was so deliberately and well woven, and which
wears so well.

* * * * *

'I want words to express the singularity of all my past
relations; yet let me try.

'From a very early age I have felt that I was not born to the
common womanly lot. I knew I should never find a being who
could keep the key of my character; that there would be none
on whom I could always lean, from whom I could always learn;
that I should be a pilgrim and sojourner on earth, and that
the birds and foxes would be surer of a place to lay the head
than I. You understand me, of course; such beings can only
find their homes in hearts. All material luxuries, all the
arrangements of society, are mere conveniences to them.

'This thought, all whose bearings I did not, indeed,
understand, affected me sometimes with sadness, sometimes
with pride. I mourned that I never should have a thorough
experience of life, never know the full riches of my being; I
was proud that I was to test myself in the sternest way, that
I was always to return to myself, to be my own priest,
pupil, parent, child, husband, and wife. All this I did not
understand as I do now; but this destiny of the thinker, and
(shall I dare to say it?) of the poetic priestess, sibylline,
dwelling in the cave, or amid the Lybian sands, lay yet
enfolded in my mind. Accordingly, I did not look on any of the
persons, brought into relation with me, with common womanly

'Yet, as my character is, after all, still more feminine than
masculine, it would sometimes happen that I put more emotion
into a state than I myself knew. I really was capable or
attachment, though it never seemed so till the hour of
separation. And if a connexion was torn up by the roots, the
soil of my existence showed an unsightly wound, which long
refused to clothe itself in verdure.

'With regard to yourself, I was to you all that I wished to
be. I knew that I reigned in your thoughts in my own way.
And I also lived with you more truly and freely than with any
other person. We were truly friends, but it was not friends
as men are friends to one another, or as brother and sister.
There was, also, that pleasure, which may, perhaps, be termed
conjugal, of finding oneself in an alien nature. Is there any
tinge of love in this? Possibly! At least, in comparing it
with my relation to--, I find _that_ was strictly fraternal.
I valued him for himself. I did not care for an influence over
him, and was perfectly willing to have one or fifty rivals in
his heart. * *

* * 'I think I may say, I never loved. I but see my possible
life reflected on the clouds. As in a glass darkly, I have
seen what I might feel as child, wife, mother, but I have
never really approached the close relations of life. A sister
I have truly been to many,--a brother to more,--a fostering
nurse to, oh how many! The bridal hour of many a spirit, when
first it was wed, I have shared, but said adieu before the
wine was poured out at the banquet. And there is one I always
love in my poetic hour, as the lily looks up to the star from
amid the waters; and another whom I visit as the bee visits
the flower, when I crave sympathy. Yet those who live would
scarcely consider that I am among the living,--and I am
isolated, as you say.

'My dear--, all is well; all has helped me to decipher the
great poem of the universe. I can hardly describe to you the
happiness which floods my solitary hours. My actual life is
yet much clogged and impeded, but I have at last got me
an oratory; where I can retire and pray. With your letter,
vanished a last regret. You did not act or think unworthily.
It is enough. As to the cessation of our confidential inter
course, circumstances must have accomplished that long ago; my
only grief was that you should do it with your own free will,
and for reasons that I thought unworthy. I long to honor you,
to be honored by you. Now we will have free and noble thoughts
of one another, and all that is best of our friendship shall



"Be thou what thou singly art, and personate only thyself.
Swim smoothly in the stream of thy nature, and live but one


"Ah, how mournful look in letters
Black on white, the words to me,
Which from lips of thine cast fetters
Bound the heart, or set It free."

GOETHE, _translated by J.S. Dwight_.

"Zu erfinden, zu beschliessen,
Bleibe, Kunstler, oft allein;
Deines Wirkes zu geniessen
Eile freudig zum Verein,
Hier im Ganzen schau erfahre
Deines eignes Lebenslauf,
Und die Thaten mancher Jahre
Gehn dir in dem Nachbar auf."

GOETHE, _Artist's Song_.

* * * * *

When I first knew Margaret, she was much in society, but in a circle
of her own,--of friends whom she had drawn around her, and whom she
entertained and delighted by her exuberant talent. Of those belonging
to this circle, let me recall a few characters.

The young girls whom Margaret had attracted were very different from
herself, and from each other. From Boston, Charlestown, Roxbury,
Brookline, they came to her, and the little circle of companions would
meet now in one house, and now in another, of these pleasant towns.
There was A----, a dark-haired, black-eyed beauty, with clear olive
complexion, through which the rich blood flowed. She was bright,
beauteous, and cold as a gem,--with clear perceptions of character
within a narrow limit,--enjoying society, and always surrounded with
admirers, of whose feelings she seemed quite unconscious. While they
were just ready to die of unrequited love, she stood untouched as
Artemis, scarcely aware of the deadly arrows which had flown from her
silver bow. I remember that Margaret said, that Tennyson's little poem
of the skipping-rope must have been written for her,--where the lover
expressing his admiration of the fairy-like motion and the light grace
of the lady, is told--

"Get off, or else my skipping-rope
Will hit you in the eye."

Then there was B----, the reverse of all this,--tender, susceptible,
with soft blue eyes, and mouth of trembling sensibility. How sweet
were her songs, in which a single strain of pure feeling ever reminded
me of those angel symphonies,--

"In all whose music, the pathetic minor
Our ears will cross--"

and when she sang or spoke, her eyes had often the expression of one
looking _in_ at her thought, not _out_ at her companion.

Then there was C----, all animated and radiant with joyful interest
in life,--seeing with ready eye the beauty of Nature and of
Thought,--entering with quick sympathy into all human interest, taking
readily everything which belonged to her, and dropping with sure
instinct whatever suited her not. Unknown to her was struggle,
conflict, crisis; she grew up harmonious as the flower, drawing
nutriment from earth and air,--from "common things which round us
lie," and equally from the highest thoughts and inspirations.

Shall I also speak of D----, whose beauty had a half-voluptuous
character, from those ripe red lips, those ringlets overflowing the
well-rounded shoulders, and the hazy softness of those large eyes?
Or of E----, her companion, beautiful too, but in a calmer, purer
style,--with eye from which looked forth self-possession, truth and
fortitude? Others, well worth notice, I must not notice now.

But among the young men who surrounded Margaret, a like variety
prevailed. One was to her interesting, on account of his quick,
active intellect, and his contempt for shows and pretences; for his
inexhaustible wit, his exquisite taste, his infinitely varied stores
of information, and the poetic view which he took of life, painting
it with Rembrandt depths of shadow and bursts of light. Another she
gladly went to for his compact, thoroughly considered views of God and
the world,--for his culture, so much more deep and rich than any other
we could find here,--for his conversation, opening in systematic
form new fields of thought. Yet men of strong native talent, and rich
character, she also liked well to know, however deficient in culture,
knowledge, or power of utterance. Each was to her a study, and she
never rested till she had found the bottom of every mind,--till she
had satisfied herself of its capacity and currents,--measuring it with
her sure line, as

--"All human wits
Are measured, but a few."

It was by her singular gift of speech that she cast her spells and
worked her wonders in this little circle. Full of thoughts and full
of words; capable of poetic improvisation, had there not been a slight
overweight of a tendency to the tangible and real; capable of clear,
complete, philosophic statement, but for the strong tendency to life
which melted down evermore in its lava-current the solid blocks of
thought; she was yet, by these excesses, better fitted for the arena
of conversation. Here she found none adequate for the equal encounter;
when she laid her lance in rest, every champion must go down before
it. How fluent her wit, which, for hour after hour, would furnish best
entertainment, as she described scenes where she had lately been,
or persons she had lately seen! Yet she readily changed from gay to
grave, and loved better the serious talk which opened the depths of
life. Describing a conversation in relation to Christianity, with a
friend of strong mind, who told her he had found, in this religion,
a home for his best and deepest thoughts, she says--' Ah! what a
pleasure 'to meet with such a daring, yet realizing, mind as his!'
But her catholic taste found satisfaction in intercourse with persons
quite different from herself in opinions and tendencies, as the
following letter, written in her twentieth year, will indicate:

* * * * *

'I was very happy, although greatly restrained by the
apprehension of going a little too far with these persons of
singular refinement and settled opinions.

'However, I believe I did pretty well, though I did make one
or two little mistakes, when most interested; but I was not
so foolish as to try to retrieve them. One occasion more
particularly, when Mr. G----, after going more fully into
his poetical opinions than I could have expected, stated his
sentiments: first, that Wordsworth had, in truth, guided, or,
rather, completely vivified the poetry of this age; secondly,
that 't was his influence which had, in reality, given all his
better individuality to Byron. He recurred again and again
to this opinion, _con amore_, and seemed to wish much for an
answer; but I would not venture, though 'twas hard for me
to forbear, I knew so well what I thought. Mr. G----'s
Wordsworthianism, however, is excellent; his beautiful
simplicity of taste, and love of truth, have preserved him
from any touch of that vague and imbecile enthusiasm, which
has enervated almost all the exclusive and determined admirers
of the great poet whom I have known in these parts. His
reverence, his feeling, are thoroughly intelligent. Everything
in his mind is well defined; and his horror of the vague, and
false, nay, even (suppose another horror here, for grammar's
sake) of the startling and paradoxical, have their beauty.
I think I could know Mr. G---- long, and see him perpetually,
without any touch of satiety; such variety is made by the very
absence of pretension, and the love of truth. I found much
amusement in leading him to sketch the scenes and persons
which Lockhart portrays in such glowing colors, and which he,
too, has seen with the _eye of taste_, but how different!'

* * * * *

Our friend was well aware that her _forte_ was in conversation. Here
she felt at home. Here she felt her power, and the excitement which
the presence of living persons brought, gave all her faculties full
activity 'After all,' she says, in a letter,

'this writing is mighty dead. Oh, for my dear old Greeks, who
talked everything--not to shine as in the Parisian saloons,
but to learn, to teach, to vent the heart, to clear the mind!'

Again, in 1832:--

'Conversation is my natural element. I need to be called
out, and never think alone, without imagining some companion.
Whether this be nature or the force of circumstances, I know
not; it is my habit, and bespeaks a second-rate mind.'

I am disposed to think, much as she excelled in general conversation,
that her greatest mental efforts were made in intercourse with
individuals. All her friends will unite in the testimony, that
whatever they may have known of wit and eloquence in others, they have
never seen one who, like her, by the conversation of an hour or two,
could not merely entertain and inform, but make an epoch in one's
life. We all dated back to this or that conversation with Margaret, in
which we took a complete survey of great subjects, came to some clear
view of a difficult question, saw our way open before us to a higher
plane of life, and were led to some definite resolution or purpose
which has had a bearing on all our subsequent career. For Margaret's
conversation turned, at such times, to life,--its destiny, its duty,
its prospect. With comprehensive glance she would survey the past, and
sum up, in a few brief words, its results; she would then turn to
the future, and, by a natural order, sweep through its chances and
alternatives,--passing ever into a more earnest tone, into a more
serious view,--and then bring all to bear on the present, till its
duties grew plain, and its opportunities attractive. Happy he who can
lift conversation, without loss of its cheer, to the highest uses!
Happy he who has such a gift as this, an original faculty thus
accomplished by culture, by which he can make our common life rich,
significant and fair,--can give to the hour a beauty and brilliancy
which shall make it eminent long after, amid dreary years of level

I recall many such conversations. I remember one summer's day, in
which we rode together, on horseback, from Cambridge to Newton,--a day
all of a piece, in which my eloquent companion helped me to understand
my past life, and her own,--a day which left me in that calm repose
which comes to us, when we clearly apprehend what we ought to do, and
are ready to attempt it. I recall other mornings when, not having seen
her for a week or two, I would walk with her for hours, beneath the
lindens or in the garden, while we related to each other what we had
read in our German studies. And I always left her astonished at the
progress of her mind, at the amount of new thoughts she had garnered,
and filled with a new sense of the worth of knowledge, and the value
of life.

There were other conversations, in which, impelled by the strong
instinct of utterance, she would state, in words of tragical pathos,
her own needs and longings,--her demands on life,--the struggles of
mind, and of heart,--her conflicts with self, with nature, with
the limitations of circumstances, with insoluble problems, with an
unattainable desire. She seemed to feel relief from the expression of
these thoughts, though she gained no light from her companion. Many
such conversations I remember, while she lived in Cambridge, and one
such in Groton; but afterwards, when I met her, I found her mind risen
above these struggles, and in a self-possessed state which needed no
such outlet for its ferment.

It is impossible to give any account of _these_ conversations; but
I add a few scraps, to indicate, however slightly, something of her
ordinary manner.

'Rev. Mr. ---- preached a sermon on TIME. But what business
had he to talk about time? We should like well to hear the
opinions of a great man, who had made good use of time; but
not of a little man, who had not used it to any purpose. I
wished to get up and tell him to speak of something which he
knew and felt.'

* * * * *
'The best criticism on those sermons which proclaim so loudly
the dignity of human nature was from our friend E.S. She said,
coming out from Dr. Channing's church, that she felt fatigued
by the demands the sermon made on her, and would go home
and read what Jesus said,--"_Ye are of more value than many
sparrows." That_ she could bear; it did not seem exaggerated

* * * * *

'The Swedenborgians say, "that is _Correspondence_," and the
phrenologists, "that it is _Approbativeness,_" and so think
they know all about it. It would not be so, if we could be
like the birds,--make one method, and then desert it, and make
a new one,--as they build their nests.'

* * * * *

'As regards crime, we cannot understand what we have not
_already_ felt;--thus, all crimes have formed part of our
minds. We do but recognize one part of ourselves in the worst
actions of others. When you take the subject in this light,
do you not incline to consider the capacity for action as
something widely differing from the experience of a feeling?'

* * * * *

'How beautiful the life of Benvenuto Cellini! How his
occupations perpetually impelled to thought,--to gushings of
thought naturally excited!'

* * * * *

'Father lectured me for looking satirical when the man of
Words spake, and so attentive to the man of Truth,--that is,
of God.'

Margaret used often to talk about the books which she and I were

GODWIN. 'I think you will be more and more satisfied with
Godwin. He has fully lived the double existence of man, and he
casts the reflexes on his magic mirror from a height where
no object in life's panorama can cause one throb of delirious
hope or grasping ambition. At any rate, if you study him, you
may know all he has to tell. He is quite free from vanity, and
conceals not miserly any of his treasures from the knowledge
of posterity.

M'LLE. D'ESPINASSE. 'I am swallowing by gasps that _cauldrony_
beverage of selfish passion and morbid taste, the letters
of M'lle D'Espinasse. It is good for me. How odious is the
abandonment of passion, such as this, unshaded by pride or
delicacy, unhallowed by religion,--a selfish craving only;
every source of enjoyment stifled to cherish this burning
thirst. Yet the picture, so minute in its touches, is true as
death. I should not like Delphine now.'

Events in life, apparently trivial, often seemed to her full of mystic
significance, and it was her pleasure to turn such to poetry. On one
occasion, the sight of a passion-flower, given by one lady to another,
and then lost, appeared to her so significant of the character,
relation, and destiny of the two, that it drew from her lines of
which two or three seem worth preserving, as indicating her feeling of
social relations.

'Dear friend, my heart grew pensive when I saw
The flower, for thee so sweetly set apart,
By one whose passionless though tender heart
Is worthy to bestow, as angels are,
By an unheeding hand conveyed away,
To close, in unsoothed night, the promise of its day.

* * * * *

'The mystic flower read in thy soul-filled eye
To its life's question the desired reply,
But came no nearer. On thy gentle breast
It hoped to find the haven of its rest;
But in cold night, hurried afar from thee,
It closed its once half-smiling destiny.

'Yet thus, methinks, it utters as it dies,--
"By the pure truth of those calm, gentle eyes
Which saw my life should find its aim in thine,
I see a clime where no strait laws confine.
In that blest land where _twos_ ne'er know a _three_,
Save as the accord of their fine sympathy,
O, best-loved, I will wait for thee!"'



"Nur durch das Morgenthor des Schoenen
Drangst du in der Erkenntniss Land;
An hoehen Glanz sich zu gewoehnen
Uebt sich, am Reize der Verstand.
Was bei dem Saitenklang der Musen
Mit suessem Beben dich, durchdrang,
Erzog die Kraft in deinem Busen,
Die sich dereinst zum Weltgeist schwang."


"To work, with heart resigned and spirit strong;
Subdue, with patient toil, life's bitter wrong,
Through Nature's dullest, as her brightest ways,
We will march onward, singing to thy praise."

E.S., _in the Dial_.

"The peculiar nature of the scholar's occupation consists in
this,--that science, and especially that side of it from
which he conceives of the whole, shall continually burst forth
before him in new and fairer forms. Let this fresh spiritual
youth never grow old within him; let no form become fixed
and rigid; let each sunrise bring him new joy and love in his
vocation, and larger views of its significance."


* * * * *

Of Margaret's studies while at Cambridge, I knew personally only of
the German. She already, when I first became acquainted with her, had
become familiar with the masterpieces of French, Italian and
Spanish literature. But all this amount of reading had not made her
"deep-learned in books and shallow in herself;" for she brought to
the study of most writers "a spirit and genius equal or superior."--so
far, at least, as the analytic understanding was concerned. Every
writer whom she studied, as every person whom she knew, she placed in
his own class, knew his relation to other writers, to the world, to
life, to nature, to herself. Much as they might delight her, they
never swept her away. She breasted the current of their genius, as a
stately swan moves up a stream, enjoying the rushing water the more
because she resists it. In a passionate love-struggle she wrestled
thus with the genius of De Stael, of Rousseau, of Alfieri, of

The first and most striking element in the genius of Margaret was the
clear, sharp understanding, which keenly distinguished between things
different, and kept every thought, opinion, person, character, in
its own place, not to be confounded with any other. The god Terminus
presided over her intellect. She knew her thoughts as we know each
other's faces; and opinions, with most of us so vague, shadowy, and
shifting, were in her mind substantial and distinct realities. Some
persons see distinctions, others resemblances; but she saw both. No
sophist could pass on her a counterfeit piece of intellectual money;
but also she recognized the one pure metallic basis in coins of
different epochs, and when mixed with a very ruinous alloy. This gave
a comprehensive quality to her mind most imposing and convincing,
as it enabled her to show the one Truth, or the one Law, manifesting
itself in such various phenomena. Add to this her profound faith in
truth, which made her a Realist of that order that thoughts to her
were things. The world of her thoughts rose around her mind as a
panorama,--the sun-in the sky, the flowers distinct in the foreground,
the pale mountain sharply, though faintly, cutting the sky with its
outline in the distance,--and all in pure light and shade, all in
perfect perspective.

Margaret began to study German early in 1832. Both she and I were
attracted towards this literature, at the same time, by the wild
bugle-call of Thomas Carlyle, in his romantic articles on Richter,
Schiller, and Goethe, which appeared in the old Foreign Review, the
Edinburgh Review, and afterwards in the Foreign Quarterly.

I believe that in about three months from the time that Margaret
commenced German, she was reading with ease the masterpieces of its
literature. Within the year, she had read Goethe's Faust, Tasso,
Iphigenia, Hermann and Dorothea, Elective Affinities, and Memoirs;
Tieck's William Lovel, Prince Zerbino, and other works; Koerner,
Novalis, and something of Richter; all of Schiller's principal dramas,
and his lyric poetry. Almost every evening I saw her, and heard an
account of her studies. Her mind opened under this influence, as the
apple-blossom at the end of a warm week in May. The thought and the
beauty of this rich literature equally filled her mind and fascinated
her imagination.

* * * * *

But if she studied books thus earnestly, still more frequently did she
turn to the study of men. Authors and their personages were not ideal
beings merely, but full of human blood and life. So living men
and women were idealized again, and transfigured by her rapid
fancy,--every trait intensified, developed, ennobled. Lessing says
that "The true portrait painter will paint his subject, flattering him
as art ought to flatter,--painting the face not as it actually is,
but as creation designed, omitting the imperfections arising from the
resistance of the material worked in." Margaret's portrait-painting
intellect treated persons in this way. She saw them as God designed
them,--omitting the loss from wear and tear, from false position, from
friction of untoward circumstances. If we may be permitted to take
a somewhat transcendental distinction, she saw them not as they
_actually_ were, but as they _really_ were. This accounts for her
high estimate of her friends,--too high, too flattering, indeed, but
justified to her mind by her knowledge of their interior capabilities.

* * * * *

The following extract illustrates her power, even at the age of
nineteen, of comprehending the relations of two things lying far apart
from each other, and of rising to a point of view which could overlook

'I have had,--while staying a day or two in Boston,--some of
Shirley's, Ford's, and Hey wood's plays from the Athenaeum.
There are some noble strains of proud rage, and intellectual,
but most poetical, all-absorbing, passion. One of the finest
fictions I recollect in those specimens of the Italian
novelists,--which you, I think, read when I did,--noble, where
it illustrated the Italian national spirit, is ruined by the
English novelist, who has transplanted it to an uncongenial
soil; yet he has given it beauties which an Italian eye could
not see, by investing the actors with deep, continuing, truly
English affections.'

* * * * *

The following criticism on some of the dialogues of Plato, (dated June
3d, 1833,) in a letter returning the book, illustrates her downright
way of asking world-revered authors to accept the test of plain common
sense. As a finished or deliberate opinion, it ought not to be read;
for it was not intended as such, but as a first impression hastily
sketched. But read it as an illustration of the method in which her
mind worked, and you will see that she meets the great Plato modestly,
but boldly, on human ground, asking him for satisfactory proof of all
that he says, and treating him as a human being, speaking to human

'_June_ 3, 1833.--I part with Plato with regret. I could have
wished to "enchant myself," as Socrates would say, with
him some days longer. Eutyphron is excellent. Tis the best
specimen I have ever seen of that mode of convincing. There is
one passage in which Socrates, as if it were _aside_,--since
the remark is quite away from the consciousness of
Eutyphron,--declares, "qu'il aimerait incomparablement mieux
des principes fixes et inebranlables a l'habilite de Dedale
avec les tresors de Tantale." I delight to hear such things
from those whose lives have given the right to say them. For
'tis not always true what Lessing says, and I, myself, once

"F.--Von was fur Tugenden spricht er denn?
MINNA.----Er spricht von keiner; denn ihn fehlt keine."

For the mouth sometimes talketh virtue from the overflowing of
the heart, as well as love, anger, &c.

'"Crito" I have read only once, but like it. I have not got it
in my heart though, so clearly as the others. The "Apology"
I deem only remarkable for the noble tone of sentiment, and
beautiful calmness. I was much affected by Phaedo, but think
the argument weak in many respects. The nature of abstract
ideas is clearly set forth; but there is no justice in
reasoning, from their existence, that our souls have lived
previous to our present state, since it was as easy for the
Deity to create at once the idea of beauty within us, as the
sense which brings to the soul intelligence that it exists in
some outward shape. He does not clearly show his opinion of
what the soul is; whether eternal _as_ the Deity, created
_by_ the Deity, or how. In his answer to Simmias, he takes
advantage of the general meaning of the words harmony,
discord, &c. The soul might be a result, without being a
harmony. But I think too many things to write, and some I have
not had time to examine. Meanwhile I can think over parts, and
say to myself, "beautiful," "noble," and use this as one of my

* * * * *

'I send two of your German books. It pains me to part with
Ottilia. I wish we could learn books, as we do pieces of
music, and repeat them, in the author's order, when taking a
solitary walk. But, now, if I set out with an Ottilia, this
wicked fairy association conjures up such crowds of less
lovely companions, that I often cease to feel the influence of
the elect one. I don't like Goethe so well as Schiller now.
I mean, I am not so happy in reading him. That perfect wisdom
and _merciless_ nature seems cold, after those seducing
pictures of forms more beautiful than truth. Nathless, I
should like to read the second part of Goethe's Memoirs, if
you do not use it now.'

* * * * *

1832.--I am thinking how I omitted to talk a volume to you
about the "Elective Affinities." Now I shall never say half of
it, for which I, on my own account, am sorry. But two or three
things I would ask:--

'What do you think of Charlotte's proposition, that the
accomplished pedagogue must be tiresome in society?

'Of Ottilia's, that the afflicted, and ill-educated, are
oftentimes singled out by fate to instruct others, and her
beautiful reasons why?

'And what have you thought of the discussion touching graves
and monuments?

'I am now going to dream of your sermon, and of Ottilia's
china-asters. Both shall be driven from my head to-morrow,
for I go to town, allured by despatches from thence, promising
much entertainment. Woe unto them if they disappoint me!

'Consider it, I pray you, as the "nearest duty" to answer my
questions, and not act as you did about the sphinx-song.'

* * * * *

'I have not anybody to speak to, that does not talk
common-place, and I wish to talk about such an uncommon
person,--about Novalis! a wondrous youth, and who has only
written one volume. That is pleasant! I feel as though I could
pursue my natural mode with him, get acquainted, then make my
mind easy in the belief that I know all that is to be known.
And he died at twenty-nine, and, as with Koerner, your feelings
may be single; you will never be called upon to share his
experience, and compare his future feelings with his present.
And his life was so full and so still.

Then it is a relief, after feeling the immense superiority of
Goethe. It seems to me as if the mind of Goethe had embraced
the universe. I have felt this lately, in reading his lyric
poems. I am enchanted while I read. He comprehends every
feeling I have ever had so perfectly, expresses it so
beautifully: but when I shut the book, it seems as if I had
lost my personal identity; all my feelings linked with such
an immense variety that belong to beings I had thought so
different. What can I bring? There is no answer in my mind,
except "It is so," or "It will be so," or "No doubt such and
such feel so." Yet, while my judgment becomes daily more
tolerant towards others, the same attracting and repelling
work is going on in my feelings. But I persevere in reading
the great sage, some part of every day, hoping the time will
come, when I shall not feel so overwhelmed, and leave off this
habit of wishing to grasp the whole, and be contented to learn
a little every day, as becomes a pupil.

'But now the one-sidedness, imperfection, and glow, of a mind
like that of Novalis, seem refreshingly human to me. I have
wished fifty times to write some letters giving an account,
first, of his very pretty life, and then of his one volume,
as I re-read it, chapter by chapter. If you will pretend to
be very much interested, perhaps I will get a better pen, and
write them to you.' * *


'_Aug_. 7, 1832.--I feel quite lost; it is so long since I
have talked myself. To see so many acquaintances, to talk
so many words, and never tell my mind completely on any
subject--to say so many things which do not seem called out,
makes me feel strangely vague and movable.

''Tis true, the time is probably near when I must live alone,
to all intents and purposes,--separate entirely my acting from
my thinking world, take care of my ideas without aid,--except
from the illustrious dead,--answer my own questions, correct
my own feelings, and do all that hard work for myself. How
tiresome 'tis to find out all one's self-delusion! I thought
myself so very independent, because I could conceal some
feelings at will, and did not need the same excitement as
other young characters did. And I am not independent, nor
never shall be, while I can get anybody to minister to me. But
I shall go where there is never a spirit to come, if I call
ever so loudly.

'Perhaps I shall talk to you about Koerner, but need not write.
He charms me, and has become a fixed star in the heaven of
my thought; but I understand all that he excites perfectly.
I felt very '_new_ about Novalis,--"the good Novalis," as
you call him after Mr. Carlyle. He is, indeed, _good_, most
enlightened, yet most pure; every link of his experience
framed--no, _beaten_--from the tried gold.

'I have read, thoroughly, only two of his pieces, "Die
Lehrlinge zu Sais," and "Heinrich von Ofterdingen." From the
former I have only brought away piecemeal impressions, but the
plan and treatment of the latter, I believe, I understand. It
describes the development of poetry in a mind; and with this
several other developments are connected. I think I shall tell
you all I know about it, some quiet time after your return,
but if not, will certainly keep a Novalis-journal for you some
favorable season, when I live regularly for a fort night.'

* * * * *

'_June_, 1833.--I return Lessing. I could hardly get through
Miss Sampson. E. Galeotti is good in the same way as
Minna. Well-conceived and sustained characters, interesting
situations, but never that profound knowledge of human nature,
those minute beauties, and delicate vivifying traits, which
lead on so in the writings of some authors, who may be
nameless. I think him easily followed; strong, but not deep.'

* * * * *

'_May_, 1833.--_Groton_.--I think you are wrong in applying
your artistical ideas to occasional poetry. An epic, a drama,
must have a fixed form in the mind of the poet from the first;
and copious draughts of ambrosia quaffed in the heaven of
thought, soft fanning gales and bright light from the outward
world, give muscle and bloom,--that is, give life,--to this
skeleton. But all occasional poems must be moods, and can a
mood have a form fixed and perfect, more than a wave of the

* * * * *

'Three or four afternoons I have passed very happily at my
beloved haunt in the wood, reading Goethe's "Second Residence
in Rome." Your pencil-marks show that you have been before me.
I shut the book each time with an earnest desire to live as
he did,--always to have some engrossing object of pursuit.
I sympathize deeply with a mind in that state. While mine is
being used up by ounces, I wish pailfuls might be poured into
it. I am dejected and uneasy when I see no results from my
daily existence, but I am suffocated and lost when I have not
the bright feeling of progression.' * *

* * * * *

'I think I am less happy, in many respects, than you, but
particularly in this. You can speak freely to me of all your
circumstances and feelings, can you not? It is not possible
for me to be so profoundly frank with any earthly friend. Thus
my heart has no proper home; it only can prefer some of its
visiting-places to others; and with deep regret I realize that
I have, at length, entered on the concentrating stage of
life. It was not time. I had been too sadly cramped. I had not
learned enough, and must always remain imperfect. Enough! I am
glad I have been able to say so much.'

* * * * *

'I have read nothing,--to signify,--except Goethe's "Campagne
in Frankreich." Have you looked through it, and do you
remember his intercourse with the Wertherian Plessing? That
tale pained me exceedingly. We cry, "help, help," and there is
no help--in man at least. How often I have thought, if I could
see Goethe, and tell him my state of mind, he would support
and guide me! He would be able to understand; he would show
me how to rule circumstances, instead of being ruled by them;
and, above all, he would not have been so sure that all would
be for the best, without our making an effort to act out the
oracles; he would have wished to see me what Nature intended.
But his conduct to Plessing and Ohlenschlager shows that to
him, also, an appeal would have been vain.'

'Do you really believe there is anything "all-comprehending"
but religion? Are not these distinctions imaginary? Must not
the philosophy of every mind, or set of minds, be a system
suited to guide them, and give a home where they can bring
materials among which to accept, reject, and shape at
pleasure? Novalis calls those, who harbor these ideas,
"unbelievers;" but hard names make no difference. He says with
disdain, "To _such_, philosophy is only a system which will
spare them the trouble of reflecting." Now this is just
my case. I _do_ want a system which shall suffice to my
character, and in whose applications I shall have faith. I
do not wish to _reflect_ always, if reflecting must be always
about one's identity, whether "_ich_" am the true "_ich_" &c.
I wish to arrive at that point where I can trust myself, and
leave off saying, "It seems to me," and boldly feel, It _is_
so TO ME. My character has got its natural regulator, my heart
beats, my lips speak truth, I can walk alone, or offer my arm
to a friend, or if I lean on another, it is not the debility
of sickness, but only wayside weariness. This is the
philosophy _I_ want; this much would satisfy _me_.

'Then Novalis says, "Philosophy is the art of discovering the
place of truth in every encountered event and circumstance, to
attune all relations to truth."

'Philosophy is peculiarly home-sickness; an over-mastering
desire to be at home.

'I think so; but what is there _all-comprehending_;
eternally-conscious, about that?'

* * * * *

'_Sept.,_ 1832.--"Not see the use of metaphysics?" A moderate
portion, taken at stated intervals, I hold to be of much
use as discipline of the faculties. I only object to them as
having an absorbing and anti-productive tendency. But 'tis not
always so; may not be so with you. Wait till you are two years
older, before you decide that 'tis your vocation. Time
enough at six-and-twenty to form yourself into a metaphysical
philosopher. The brain does not easily get too dry for
_that_. Happy you, in these ideas which give you a tendency to
optimism. May you become a proselyte to that consoling faith.
I shall never be able to follow you, but shall look after you
with longing eyes.'

* * * * *

'_Groton._--Spring has come, and I shall see you soon. If
I could pour into your mind all the ideas which have passed
through mine, you would be well entertained, I think, for
three or four days. But no hour will receive aught beyond its
own appropriate wealth.

'I am at present engaged in surveying the level on which the
public mind is poised. I no longer lie in wait for the
tragedy and comedy of life; the rules of its _prose_ engage my
attention. I talk incessantly with common-place people, full
of curiosity to ascertain the process by which materials,
apparently so jarring and incapable of classification, get
united into that strange whole, the American public. I have
read all Jefferson's letters, the North American, the daily
papers, &c., without end. H. seems to be weaving his Kantisms
into the American system in a tolerably happy manner.'

* * * * *

* * 'George Thompson has a voice of uncommon compass and
beauty; never sharp in its highest, or rough and husky in its
lowest, tones. A perfect enunciation, every syllable round
and energetic; though his manner was the one I love best,
very rapid, and full of eager climaxes. Earnestness in every
part,--sometimes impassioned earnestness,--a sort of "Dear
friends, believe, _pray_ believe, I love you, and you MUST
believe as I do" expression, even in the argumentative parts.
I felt, as I have so often done before, if I were a man, the
gift I would choose should be that of eloquence. That power of
forcing the vital currents of thousands of human hearts into
ONE current, by the constraining power of that most delicate
instrument, the voice, is so intense,--yes, I would prefer it
to a more extensive fame, a more permanent influence.'

'Did I describe to you my feelings on hearing Mr. Everett's
eulogy on Lafayette? No; I did not. That was exquisite.
The old, hackneyed story; not a new anecdote, not a single
reflection of any value; but the manner, the _manner_^ the
delicate inflections of voice, the elegant and appropriate
gesture, the sense of beauty produced by the whole, which
thrilled us all to tears, flowing from a deeper and purer
source than that which answers to pathos. This was fine; but
I prefer the Thompson manner. Then there is Mr. Webster's,
unlike either; simple grandeur, nobler, more impressive, less
captivating. I have heard few fine speakers; I wish I could
hear a thousand.

Are you vexed by my keeping the six volumes of your Goethe?
I read him very little either; I have so little time,--many
things to do at home,--my three children, and three pupils
besides, whom I instruct.

'By the way, I have always thought all that was said about
the anti-religious tendency of a classical education to be
old wives' tales. But their puzzles about Virgil's notions
of heaven and virtue, and his gracefully-described gods and
goddesses, have led me to alter my opinions; and I suspect,
from reminiscences of my own mental history, that if all
governors do not think the same 't is from want of that
intimate knowledge of their pupils' minds which I naturally
possess. I really find it difficult to keep their _morale_
steady, and am inclined to think many of my own sceptical
sufferings are traceable to this source. I well remember what
reflections arose in my childish mind from a comparison of the
Hebrew history, where every moral obliquity is shown out with
such naivete, and the Greek history, full of sparkling deeds
and brilliant sayings, and their gods and goddesses, the
types of beauty and power, with the dazzling veil of flowery
language and poetical imagery cast over their vices and

* * * * *

'My own favorite project, since I began seriously to entertain
any of that sort, is six historical tragedies; of which I have
the plans of three quite perfect. However, the attempts I
have made on them have served to show me the vast difference
between conception and execution. Yet I am, though abashed,
not altogether discouraged. My next favorite plan is a series
of tales illustrative of Hebrew history. The proper junctures
have occurred to me during my late studies on the historical
books of the Old Testament. This task, however, requires
a thorough and imbuing knowledge of the Hebrew manners and
spirit, with a chastened energy of imagination, which I am as
yet far from possessing. But if I should be permitted peace
and time to follow out my ideas, I have hopes. Perhaps it is
a weakness to confide to you embryo designs, which never may
glow into life, or mock me by their failure.'

* * * * *

'I have long had a suspicion that no mind can systematize its
knowledge, and carry on the concentrating processes, without
some fixed opinion on the subject of metaphysics. But that
indisposition, or even dread of the study, which you may
remember, has kept me from meddling with it, till lately, in
meditating on the life of Goethe, I thought I must get some
idea of the history of philosophical opinion in Germany, that
I might be able to judge of the influence it exercised upon
his mind. I think I can comprehend him every other way, and
probably interpret him satisfactorily to others,--if I can get
the proper materials. When I was in Cambridge, I got Fichte
and Jacobi; I was much interrupted, but some time and earnest
thought I devoted. Fichte I could not understand at all;
though the treatise which I read was one intended to be
popular, and which he says must compel (_bezwingen_) to
conviction. Jacobi I could understand in details, but not in
system. It seemed to me that his mind must have been moulded
by some other mind, with which I ought to be acquainted, in
order to know him well,--perhaps Spinoza's. Since I came home,
I have been consulting Buhle's and Tennemann's histories of
philosophy, and dipping into Brown, Stewart, and that class of

* * * * *

'After I had cast the burden of my cares upon you, I rested,
and read Petrarch for a day or two. But that could not last.
I had begun to "take an account of stock," as Coleridge calls
it, and was forced to proceed. He says few persons ever did
this faithfully, without being dissatisfied with the result,
and lowering their estimate of their supposed riches. With
me it has ended in the most humiliating sense of poverty; and
only just enough pride is left to keep your poor friend off
the parish. As it is, I have already asked items of several
besides yourself; but, though they have all given what they
had, it has by no means answered my purpose; and I have laid
their gifts aside, with my other hoards, which gleamed so
fairy bright, and are now, in the hour of trial, turned into
mere slate-stones. I am not sure that even if I do find the
philosopher's stone, I shall be able to transmute them into
the gold they looked so like formerly. It will be long before
I can give a distinct, and at the same time concise, account
of my present state. I believe it is a great era. I am
thinking now,--really thinking, I believe; certainly it seems
as if I had never done so before. If it does not kill me,
something will come of it. Never was my mind so active; and
the subjects are God, the universe, immortality. But shall I
be fit for anything till I have absolutely re-educated myself?
Am I, can I make myself, fit to write an account of half a
century of the existence of one of the master-spirits of this
world? It seems as if I had been very arrogant to dare
to think it; yet will I not shrink back from what I have
undertaken,--even by failure I shall learn much.'

* * * * *

'I am shocked to perceive you think I am _writing_ the life of
Goethe. No, indeed! I shall need a great deal of preparation
before I shall have it clear in my head, I have taken a great
many notes; but I shall not begin to write it, till it all
lies mapped out before me. I have no materials for ten years
of his life, from the time he went to Weimar, up to the
Italian journey. Besides, I wish to see the books that have
been written about him in Germany, by friend or foe. I wish to
look at the matter from all sides. New lights are constantly
dawning on me; and I think it possible I shall come out from
the Carlyle view, and perhaps from yours, and distaste you,
which will trouble me.

* * 'How am I to get the information I want, unless I go to
Europe? To whom shall I write to choose my materials? I have
thought of Mr. Carlyle, but still more of Goethe's friend, Von
Muller. I dare say he would be pleased at the idea of a life
of G. written in this hemisphere, and be very willing to help
me. If you have anything to tell me, you will, and not mince
matters. Of course, my impressions of Goethe's works cannot be
influenced by information I get about his _life_; but, as
to this latter, I suspect I must have been hasty in my
inferences. I apply to you without scruple. There are subjects
on which men and women usually talk a great deal, but apart
from one another. You, however, are well aware that I am very
destitute of what is commonly _called_ modesty. With regard to
this, how fine the remark of our present subject: "Courage
and modesty are virtues which every sort of society reveres,
because they are virtues which cannot be counterfeited; also,
they are known by the _same hue_." When that blush does not
come naturally to my face, I do not drop a veil to make people
think it is there. All this may be very unlovely, but it is


'This is a noble work. So refreshing its calm, benign
atmosphere, after the pestilence-bringing gales of the day. It
comes like a breath borne over some solemn sea which separates
us from an island of righteousness. How valuable is it to have
among us a man who, standing apart from the conflicts of the
herd, watches the principles that are at work, with a truly
paternal love for what is human, and may be permanent; ready
at the proper point to give his casting-vote to the cause of
Right! The author has amplified on the grounds of his faith,
to a degree that might seem superfluous, if the question had
not become so utterly bemazed and bedarkened of late. After
all, it is probable that, in addressing the public at large,
it is _not_ best to express a thought in as few words as
possible; there is much classic authority for diffuseness.'


_Groton_.--'Ritcher says, the childish heart vies in the
height of its surges with the manly, only is not furnished
with _lead_ for sounding them.

'How thoroughly am I converted to the love of Jean Paul, and
wonder at the indolence or shallowness which could resist
so long, and call his profuse riches want of system! What a
mistake! System, plan, there is, but on so broad a basis that
I did not at first comprehend it. In every page I am forced to
pencil. I will make me a book, or, as he would say, bind me a
bouquet from his pages, and wear it on my heart of hearts, and
be ever refreshing my wearied inward sense with its exquisite
fragrance. I must have improved, to love him as I do.'



"O friend, how flat and tasteless such a life!
Impulse gives birth to impulse, deed to deed,
Still toilsomely ascending step by step,
Into an unknown realm of dark blue clouds.
What crowns the ascent? Speak, or I go no further.
I need a goal, an aim. I cannot toil,
_Because the steps are here_ in their ascent
Tell me THE END, or I sit still and weep."


_Translated by Margaret._

"And so he went onward, ever onward, for twenty-seven
years--then, indeed, he had gone far enough."

GOETHE'S _words concerning Schiller_

* * * * *

I would say something of Margaret's inward condition, of her aims and
views in life, while in Cambridge, before closing this chapter of
her story. Her powers, whether of mind, heart, or will, have been
sufficiently indicated in what has preceded. In the sketch of her
friendships and of her studies, we have seen the affluence of her
intellect, and the deep tenderness of her woman's nature. We have seen
the energy which she displayed in study and labor.

But to what _aim_ were these powers directed? Had she any clear view
of the demands and opportunities of life, any definite plan, any high,

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest