Early Letters of George Wm. Curtis
by G. W. Curtis, ed. George Willis Cooke
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The love of music which George Curtis had developed at Brook Farm continued during his stay in Concord. He sang on occasion, and he often played a flute. The young singer he mentions was Belinda Randall, a sister of John Randall, who published a volume of poems. She was a daughter of Dr. Randall, of Winter Street, Boston, who had a summer place in Stowe. From there she often visited in Concord, perhaps attended school there, and was an intimate friend of Elizabeth Hoar, the betrothed of Edward Emerson, and the sister of Judge Hoar and Senator Hoar, who, when she visited Mrs. Hawthorne, was described as coming "with spirit voice and tread." Belinda Randall has recently died, and left half a million dollars to Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Cambridge Prospect Union. Her sister Elizabeth married Colonel Alfred Cumming, of Georgia, afterwards Governor of Utah. Dr. Randall did not approve of the marriage, and would not have the wedding take place in his house. They were married at the house of Judge Hoar, the father of Elizabeth. She was an excellent musician, but Belinda was the musical genius of the family.

Another person mentioned by Curtis was Almira Barlow, who was at Brook Farm during the time he was there. She had been a Miss Penniman of Brookline, and had the reputation of being a famous beauty. She married David Hatch Barlow, a graduate of Harvard in 1824, and of the Theological School in 1829. Their marriage took place in Brookline about 1830, and they were regarded as the handsomest couple that had been seen in the town. He had a parish in Lynn, and was afterwards settled in Brooklyn; but his habits became irregular, he remained but a short time in any place, and he separated from his wife in 1838. There was much gossip about her, owing to her beauty and her fondness for the society of men.

With Mrs. Barlow at Brook Farm and Concord was her son Francis Channing, born in 1834, who graduated at Harvard in 1855, was a lawyer in New York, rose to the rank of Major-General during the Rebellion, and was afterwards prominent in his profession. He married as his second wife Miss Ellen Shaw, the sister of Colonel Robert G. Shaw and of Mrs. George William Curtis.

Curtis mentions hearing Emerson's address on the anniversary of emancipation in the West Indies, which was delivered in Concord, August 1, 1844. There had existed in Concord for a number of years a Woman's Antislavery Society, of which Mrs. Emerson was a member. Of this society, Mrs. Mary Merrick Brooks was the president, and its most active worker. She invited Emerson to speak on this occasion. He felt that he was excused from political action by virtue of his having been a clergyman, and because of his life as a man of letters. Mrs. Brooks thought otherwise, and she gave him good and urgent reasons why he ought to speak, and to speak then. At last she prevailed, partly because she gave him no rest until he had complied with her request, and partly because his conscience went with her arguments. His attitude hitherto had been such as in part justified the statement made by Carlyle to Theodore Parker in 1843, that the negroes were fit only for slavery, and that Emerson agreed with him.


The second abiding place of Curtis and his brother in Concord was the farm of Edmund Hosmer, which was one-half mile east of Emerson's house, about that distance from Walden Pond, and nearly the same from Hawthorne's Wayside of later years, which faced it, and from which it could be seen. Hosmer was a native of Concord, gave his earlier years to his trade as a tanner, and then spent the remainder of his life as a Concord farmer. He was Emerson's authority on agriculture and gardening more than any one; though in later years Samuel Staples (usually known and spoken of as "Sam") superseded him because he was a nearer neighbor. In 1843, when Emerson wrote to George Ripley declining to join the Brook Farm community, he referred to the opinions of Edmund Hosmer, "a very intelligent farmer and a very upright man in my neighborhood." He gave in full his neighbor's reasons for want of faith in the community idea, that co-operation in farming was not successful, that the word of gentlemen-farmers could not be trusted, that the equal payment of ten cents an hour to every laborer was unjust, and that good work could not be secured if the worker was not directly benefited.

In his notes on the agriculture of Massachusetts, published in The Dial, Emerson described his neighbor in these words: "In an afternoon in April, after a long walk, I traversed an orchard where boys were grafting apple-trees, and found the farmer in his cornfield. He was holding the plough, and his son driving the oxen. This man always impresses me with respect, he is so manly, so sweet-tempered, so faithful, so disdainful of all appearances—excellent and reverable in his old weather-worn cap and blue frock bedaubed with the soil of the field; so honest, withal, that he always needs to be watched lest he should cheat himself. I still remember with some shame that in some dealing we had together a long time ago, I found that he had been looking to my interest, and nobody had looked to his part. As I drew near this brave laborer in the midst of his own acres, I could not help feeling for him the highest respect. Here is the Caesar, the Alexander of the soil, conquering and to conquer, after how many and many a hard-fought summer's day and winter's day; not like Napoleon, hero of sixty battles only, but of six thousand, and out of every one he has come victor; and here he stands, with Atlantic strength and cheer, invincible still. These slight and useless city limbs of ours will come to shame before this strong soldier, for his having done his own work and ours too. What good this man has or has had, he has earned. No rich father or father-in-law left him any inheritance of land or money. He borrowed the money with which he bought his farm, and has bred up a large family, given them a good education, and improved his land in every way year by year, and this without prejudice to himself the landlord, for here he is, a man every inch of him, and reminds us of the hero of the Robin Hood ballad:

'Much, the miller's son, There was no inch of his body But it was worth a groom.'

"Innocence and justice have written their names on his brow. Toil has not broken his spirit. His laugh rings with the sweetness and hilarity of a child; yet he is a man of a strongly intellectual taste, of much reading, and of an erect good sense and independent spirit which can neither brook usurpation nor falsehood in any shape. I walked up and down the field as he ploughed his furrow, and we talked as we walked. Our conversation naturally turned on the season and its new labors." The conversation went on, leading to a discussion of the agricultural survey of the State; Hosmer's opinions of it are quoted as of much worth, and as sounder than anything which the writer could himself say on the subject.

Mr. Sanborn is of the opinion that Edmund Hosmer was described as Hassan in Emerson's fragments on the "Poet and the Poetic Gift," in the complete edition of his poems:

"Said Saadi, 'When I stood before Hassan the camel-driver's door, I scorned the fame of Timour brave; Timour, to Hassan, was a slave: In every glance of Hassan's eye I read great years of victory, And I, who cower mean and small In the frequent interval When wisdom not with me resides, Worship Toil's wisdom that abides. I shunned his eyes, that faithful man's, I shunned the toiling Hassan's glance.'"

Hosmer was also described by William Ellery Channing in his "New England":

"This man takes pleasure o'er the crackling fire, His glittering axe subdued the monarch oak; He earned the cheerful blaze by something higher Than pensioned blows—he owned the tree he stroke, And knows the value of the distant smoke, When he returns at night, his labor done, Matched is his action with the long day's sun."

Channing spoke of him again as the

"Spicy farming sage, Twisted with heat and cold and cramped with age, Who grunts at all the sunlight through the year, And springs from bed each morning with a cheer. Of all his neighbors he can something tell, 'Tis bad, whate'er, we know, and like it well! The bluebird's song he hears the first in spring— Shoots the last goose bound south on freezing wing."

Hosmer was also one of the farmer friends of Thoreau, who much enjoyed his society and the vigor of his conversation. He is described in the fourteenth chapter of "Walden" as among Thoreau's winter visitors at his hut: "On a Sunday afternoon, if I chanced to be at home, I heard the cronching of the snow made by the step of a long-headed farmer, who from far through the woods sought my house, to have a social 'crack'; one of the few of his vocation who are 'men on their farms'; who donned a frock instead of a professor's gown, and is as ready to extract the moral out of church or state as to haul a load of manure from his barn-yard. We talked of rude and simple things, when men sat about large fires in cold, bracing weather, with clear heads; and when other dessert failed, we tried our teeth on many a nut which wise squirrels have long since abandoned, for those which have the thickest shells are commonly empty." In W.E. Channing's book about Thoreau as the "Poet-Naturalist," there is a passage from his journal in which Thoreau speaks of Hosmer as the last of the farmers worthy of mention. "Human life may be transitory and full of trouble," he says, "but the perennial mind whose survey extends from that spring to this—from Columella to Hosmer—is superior to change. I will identify myself with that which will not die with Columella and will not die with Hosmer."

At Hosmer's house the two young men lived in a single room, and did their own cooking and house-keeping. Mrs. Hosmer furnished them with milk, and they ate crackers, cheese, and fruit largely. They were Grahamites, and used no meat. They read much, and had with them a large number of books. It was their custom here, as well as at Captain Barrett's, to spend much time in the woods. They were enthusiastic students of botany, and came home from their excursions in the woods with their arms loaded with flowers, and often searched out the rarest which could be found in the Walden and Lincoln woods.

It was while the Curtises were living at Hosmer's that they assisted Thoreau in building his hut at Walden Pond. Thoreau says that in March, 1845, he borrowed an axe and went into the woods to build him a house. The axe was procured of Emerson, and he says he returned it sharper than when he received it. He was assisted in building the house, he says, by some of his acquaintances, "rather to improve so good an occasion for neighborliness than from any necessity." These acquaintances were Emerson, Alcott, W.E. Charming, Burrill and George Curtis, Edmund Hosmer and his sons John, Edmund, and Andrew. Thoreau said that he wished the help of the young men because they had more strength than the older ones, and that no man was ever more honored in the character of his raisers than he. It was Thoreau's custom while at Walden to dine on Sundays with Emerson, and to stop at Hosmer's on his way back to the pond, often remaining to supper. After the failure of his experiment at Fruitlands, it was into Hosmer's house that Alcott found himself welcomed; and he was given much of help and encouragement by the farmer and his wife.


At this time several of the Brook Farmers were living in Concord, and among them were Bradford, Pratt, and Mrs. Barlow; and later on Marianne Ripley, the sister of George Ripley, found a home there, and kept a school for small children. On the third return of the Curtises to Concord, in the summer of 1846, they found a home in the house of Minott Pratt, who was living at the foot of Punkatassett Hill, on the top of which was the house of Captain Barrett. In the same neighborhood lived William Ellery Channing, the poet, whose wife was a sister of Margaret Fuller. They are frequently mentioned in Hawthorne's and his wife's letters from the Old Manse. Pratt's cottage was in a quiet, delightful location; and in the family George Curtis found himself quite at home.

Curtis made a very pleasant impression in Concord, for he was social in his ways, paid much deference to others, and always exemplified a fine etiquette. The brothers are remembered by one person who then knew them as having no mannerisms, and as being perfect gentlemen. His article on Emerson, in the "Homes of American Authors," gave much offence in the town, and by Mrs. Alcott, as well as others, was warmly resented. He was exact enough as to facts, but he drew from them wrong inferences. He afterwards said that there was nothing romantic in his paper, and that every incident mentioned was an actual occurrence. He had letters from Emerson and Hawthorne before he wrote his papers on those two authors, to enable him to verify certain details.

The relations of Curtis and Hawthorne were cordial if not intimate. In a letter to Hawthorne, written from Europe, Curtis said: "Does Mrs. Hawthorne yet remember that she sent me a golden key to the studio of Crawford, in Rome? I shall never forget that, nor any smallest token of her frequent courtesy in the Concord days." In another letter to Hawthorne he speaks of Concord as "our old home, which is very placid and beautiful in my memory." In his paper on Hawthorne, in the "Homes of American Authors," Curtis gave an interesting account of his acquaintance with that reticent genius during these Concord days:

"There glimmer in my memory a few hazy days, of a tranquil and half-pensive character, which I am conscious were passed in and around the house, and their pensiveness I know to be only that touch of twilight which inhered in the house and all its associations. Beside the few chance visitors there were city friends occasionally, figures quite unknown to the village, who came preceded by the steam shriek of the locomotive, were dropped at the gate-posts, and were seen no more. The owner was as much a vague name to me as any one.

"During Hawthorne's first year's residence in Concord, I had driven up with some friends to an aesthetic tea at Mr. Emerson's. It was in the winter, and a great wood fire blazed upon the hospitable hearth. There were various men and women of note assembled, and I, who listened attentively to all the fine things that were said, was for some time scarcely aware of a man who sat upon the edge of the circle, a little withdrawn, his head slightly thrown forward upon his breast, and his bright eyes clearly burning under his black brow. As I drifted down the stream of talk, this person, who sat silent as a shadow, looked to me as Webster might have looked had he been a poet—a kind of poetic Webster. He rose and walked to the window, and stood quietly there for a long time, watching the dead, white landscape. No appeal was made to him, nobody looked after him, the conversation flowed steadily on, as if every one understood that his silence was to be respected. It was the same at table. In vain the silent man imbibed aesthetic tea. Whatever fancies it inspired did not flower at his lips. But there was a light in his eye which assured me that nothing was lost. So supreme was his silence that it presently engrossed me to the exclusion of everything else. There was very brilliant discourse, but this silence was much more poetic and fascinating. Fine things were said by the philosophers, but much finer things were implied by the dumbness of this gentleman with heavy brows and black hair. When he presently rose and went, Emerson, with the 'slow, wise smile' that breaks over his face like day over the sky, said, 'Hawthorne rides well his horse of the night.'

"Thus he remained in my memory, a shadow, a phantom, until more than a year afterwards. Then I came to live in Concord. Every day I passed his house, but when the villagers, thinking that perhaps I had some clew to the mystery, said, 'Do you know this Mr. Hawthorne?' I said, 'No,' and trusted to time.

"Time justified my confidence, and one day I too went down the avenue and disappeared in the house. I mounted those mysterious stairs to that apocryphal study. I saw 'the cheerful coat of paint, and golden-tinted paper-hangings, lighting up the small apartment; while the shadow of a willow-tree, that swept against the overhanging eaves, attempered the cheery western sunshine.' I looked from the little northern window whence the old pastor watched the battle, and in the small dining-room beneath it, upon the first floor, there were

'Dainty chicken, snow-white bread,'

and the golden juices of Italian vineyards, which still feast insatiable memory.

"Our author occupied the Old Manse for three years. During that time he was not seen, probably, by more than a dozen of the villagers. His walks could easily avoid the town, and upon the river he was always sure of solitude. It was his favorite habit to bathe every evening in the river, after nightfall, and in that part of it over which the old bridge stood, at which the battle was fought. Sometimes, but rarely, his boat accompanied another up the stream, and I recall the silence and preternatural vigor with which, on one occasion, he wielded his paddle to counteract the bad rowing of a friend who conscientiously considered it his duty to do something and not let Hawthorne work alone, but who, with every stroke, neutralized all Hawthorne's efforts. I suppose he would have struggled until he fell senseless, rather than ask his friend to desist. His principle seemed to be, if a man cannot understand without talking to him, it is useless to talk, because it is immaterial whether such a man understands or not. His own sympathy was so broad and sure that, although nothing had been said for hours, his companion knew that nothing had escaped his eye, nor had a single pulse of beauty in the day or scene or society failed to thrill his heart. In this way his silence was most social. Everything seemed to have been said. It was a Barmecide feast of discourse from which a greater satisfaction resulted than from an actual banquet.

"When a formal attempt was made to desert this style of conversation, the result was ludicrous. Once Emerson and Thoreau arrived to pay a call. They were shown into the little parlor upon the avenue, and Hawthorne presently entered. Each of the guests sat upright in his chair like a Roman senator. 'To them,' Hawthorne, like a Dacian King. The call went on, but in a most melancholy manner. The host sat perfectly still, or occasionally propounded a question which Thoreau answered accurately, and there the thread broke short off. Emerson delivered sentences that only needed the setting of an essay to charm the world; but the whole visit was a vague ghost of the Monday Evening Club at Mr. Emerson's—it was a great failure. Had they all been lying idly on the river brink or strolling in Thoreau's blackberry pastures, the result would have been utterly different. But imprisoned in the proprieties of a parlor, each a wild man in his way, with a necessity of talking inherent in the nature of the occasion, there was only a waste of treasure. This was the only 'call' in which I ever knew Hawthorne to be involved.

"In Mr. Emerson's house I said it seemed always morning. But Hawthorne's black-ash trees and scraggy apple boughs shaded

'A land in which it seemed always afternoon.'

"I do not doubt that the lotus grew along the grassy marge of the Concord behind his house, and that it was served, subtly concealed, to all his guests. The house, its inmates, and its life lay dream-like upon the edge of the little village. You fancy that they all came together and belonged together, and were glad that at length some idol of your imagination, some poet whose spell had held you, and would hold you forever, was housed as such a poet should be.

"During the lapse of the three years since the bridal tour of twenty miles ended at the 'two tall gate-posts of roughhewn stone,' a little wicker wagon had appeared at intervals upon the avenue, and a placid babe, whose eyes the soft Concord day had touched with the blue of its beauty, lay looking tranquilly up at the grave old trees, which sighed lofty lullabies over her sleep. The tranquillity of the golden-haired Una was the living and breathing type of the dreamy life of the Old Manse. Perhaps, that being attained, it was as well to go. Perhaps our author was not surprised or displeased when the hints came, 'growing more and more distinct, that the owner of the old house was pining for his native air.' One afternoon I entered the study and learned from its occupant that the last story he should ever write there was written."

In the midnight chapter of his "Blithedale Romance," Hawthorne described an incident which actually took place in Concord. A young girl drowned herself, and her body was found as there set forth. Hawthorne wrote a full account of the drowning in his journal, which is printed by Julian Hawthorne in his biography of "Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife." No mention is made of Curtis, who took part in the search, and who gave his own account of the affair in his paper on Hawthorne. When Thoreau went to New York, in 1843, he put his boat into the keeping of Curtis, and he and Channing made their excursions on the river in it. In it they searched for Mary Hunt, who lived near Channing. Curtis's account of this affair deserves to be placed by the side of Hawthorne's:

"Martha was the daughter of a plain Concord farmer, a girl of delicate and shy temperament, who excelled so much in study that she was sent to a fine academy in a neighboring town, and won all the honors of the course. She met at the school and in the society of the place a refinement and cultivation, a social gayety and grace, which were entirely unknown in the hard life she had led at home, and which by their very novelty, as well as because they harmonized with her own nature and dreams, were doubly beautiful and fascinating. She enjoyed this life to the full, while her timidity kept her only a spectator; and she ornamented it with a fresher grace, suggestive of the woods and fields, when she ventured to engage in the airy game. It was a sphere for her capacities and talents. She shone in it, and the consciousness of a true position and genial appreciation gave her the full use of all her powers. She admired and was admired. She was surrounded by gratifications of taste, by the stimulants and rewards of ambition. The world was happy, and she was worthy to live in it. But at times a cloud suddenly dashed athwart the sun—a shadow stole, dark and chill, to the very edge of the charmed circle in which she stood. She knew well what it was, and what it foretold, but she would not pause nor heed. The sun shone again, the future smiled; youth, beauty, and all hopes and thoughts bathed the moment in lambent light.

"But school-days ended at last, and with the receding town in which they had been passed, the bright days of life disappeared, and forever. It was probable that the girl's fancy had been fed, perhaps indiscreetly pampered, by her experience there. But it was no fairy-land. It was an academy town in New England, and the fact that it was so alluring is a fair indication of the kind of life from which she had emerged, and to which she now returned. What could she do? In the dreary round of petty details, in the incessant drudgery of a poor farmer's household, with no companions or any sympathy—for the family of a hard-working New-England farmer are not the Chloes and Clarissas of pastoral poetry, nor the cowboys Corydons—with no opportunity of retirement and cultivation, for reading and studying—which is always voted 'stuff' under such circumstances—the light suddenly quenches out of life, what was she to do?

"The simple answer is that she had only used all her opportunities, and that, although it was no fault of hers that the routine of her life was in every way repulsive, she did struggle to accommodate herself to it, and failed. When she found it impossible to drag on at home, she became an inmate of a refined and cultivated household in the village, where she had opportunity to follow her own fancies and to associate with educated and attractive persons. But even here she could not escape the feeling that it was all temporary, that her position was one of dependence; and her pride, now grown morbid, often drove her from the very society which alone was agreeable to her. This was all genuine. There was not the slightest strain of the femme incomprise in her demeanor. She was always shy and silent, with a touching reserve which won interest and confidence, but left also a vague sadness in the mind of the observer. After a few months she made another effort to rend the cloud which was gradually darkening around her, and opened a school for young children. But although the interest of friends secured her a partial success, her gravity and sadness failed to excite the sympathy of her pupils, who missed in her the playful gayety always most winning to children. Martha, however, pushed bravely on, a figure of tragic sobriety to all who watched her course. The farmers thought her a strange girl, and wondered at the ways of the farmer's daughter who was not content to milk cows and churn butter and fry pork, without further hope or thought. The good clergyman of the town, interested in her situation, sought a confidence she did not care to bestow, and so, doling out a, b, c to a wild group of boys and girls, she found that she could not untie the Gordian knot of her life, and felt with terror that it must be cut.

"One summer evening she left her father's house and walked into the fields alone. Night came, but Martha did not return. The family became anxious, inquired if any one had noticed the direction in which she went, learned from the neighbors that she was not visiting, that there was no lecture nor meeting to detain her, and wonder passed into apprehension. Neighbors went into the adjacent woods and called, but received no answer. Every instant the awful shadow of some dread event solemnized the gathering groups. Every one thought what no one dared whisper, until a low voice suggested the river. Then with the swiftness of certainty all friends far and near were roused, and thronged along the banks of the stream. Torches flashed in the boats that put off in the terrible search. Hawthorne, then living in the Old Manse, was summoned, and the man whom the villagers had only seen at morning as a musing spectre in his garden, now appeared among them at night, to devote his strong arm and steady heart to their service. The boats drifted slowly down the stream, the torches flashed strangely upon the black repose of the waters, and upon the long slim grasses that weeping fringed the marge. Upon both banks silent and awe-stricken crowds hastened along, eager and dreading to find the slightest trace of what they sought. Suddenly they came to a few articles of dress, heavy with the night dew. No one spoke, for no one had doubted the result. It was clear that Martha had strayed to the river, and quietly asked of its stillness the repose she sought. The boats gathered around the spot. With every implement that could be of service the melancholy search began. Long intervals of fearful silence ensued, but at length, towards midnight, the sweet face of the dead girl was raised more placidly to the stars than ever it had been to the sun.

"So ended a village tragedy. The reader may possibly find in it the original of the thrilling conclusion of the 'Blithedale Romance,' and learn anew that dark as is the thread with which Hawthorne weaves his spells, it is no darker than those with which tragedies are spun, even in regions apparently so torpid as Concord."

Far too much has been made of the realistic elements in the "Blithedale Romance." Hawthorne says in his preface that "he has occasionally availed himself of his actual reminiscences;" but it cannot be claimed that he did anything more. The fact seems to be that he used such reminiscences and incidents merely as stimuli to his imagination, that the real romance of the story was purely of his own creation. So far as he used the facts of his life at Brook Farm it was to give an air of reality to his story; and in no other sense can it be accepted as truthful to Brook Farm life. For instance, his Zenobia was in every sense an original creation, and not a description of any person he had known. Three persons he knew at Brook Farm gave him hints, traits of character, and points of departure for the activity of his imagination. The stately elements in Zenobia resembled those of Mrs. George Ripley, her luxurious tastes were like those of Mrs. Almira Barlow, while her genius and brilliancy had a few similarities to Margaret Fuller. His habit seems to have been to take a single incident in the life of a person, and to make that the chief one in a character. In this way his romances gained a realistic phase of a very impressive kind; but the character of a person as a whole he never copied. It is a strange comment on his powerful writing that so much should have been made of his superficial realism, while the persistent and profound romanticism of his work is too often overlooked. Yet this was one of the weird results of his genius, that his imagination weaves for itself a world more real than life itself, and that claims for itself an acceptance as truer to facts than the word of the historian.

In his paper on Emerson, Curtis gives further account of his life in Concord. He said that "Thoreau lives in the berry-pastures upon a bank over Walden Pond, and in a little house of his own building. One pleasant summer afternoon a small party of us helped him raise it—a bit of life as Arcadian as any at Brook Farm. Elsewhere in the village he turns up arrow-heads abundantly, and Hawthorne mentions that Thoreau initiated him into the mystery of finding them." His account of the club which gathered for a few evenings in Emerson's study deserves to be placed here in order to complete his story of Concord experiences, the fictitious names used by him being changed to the real ones:

"It was in the year 1845 that a circle of persons of various ages, and differing very much in everything but sympathy, found themselves in Concord. Towards the end of the autumn, Mr. Emerson suggested that they should meet every Monday evening through the winter in his library. 'Monsieur Aubepine,' 'Miles Coverdale,' and other phantoms, since known as Nathaniel Hawthorne, who then occupied the Old Manse; the inflexible Henry Thoreau, a scholastic and pastoral Orson, then living among the blackberry pastures of Walden Pond; Plato Skimpole [Margaret Fuller's name for Alcott], then sublimely meditating impossible summer-houses in a little house on the Boston Road; the enthusiastic agriculturist and Brook Farmer [George Bradford], then an inmate of Mr. Emerson's house, who added the genial cultivation of a scholar to the amenities of the natural gentleman; a sturdy farmer-neighbor [Edmund Hosmer], who had bravely fought his weary way through inherited embarrassment to the small success of a New England husbandman; two city youths [George and Burrill Curtis], ready for the fragments from the feast of wit and wisdom; and the host himself, composed the club. Ellery Channing, who had that winter harnessed his Pegasus to the New York Tribune, was a kind of corresponding member. The news of this world was to be transmitted through his eminently practical genius, as the club deemed itself competent to take charge of tidings from all other spheres.

"I went the first evening very much as Ixion may have gone to his banquet. The philosophers sat dignified and erect. There was a constrained but very amiable silence, which had the impertinence of a tacit inquiry, seeming to ask, 'Who will now proceed to say the finest thing that has ever been said?' It was quite involuntary and unavoidable, for the members lacked that fluent social genius without which a club is impossible. It was a congress of oracles on the one hand, and of curious listeners upon the other. I vaguely remember that the Orphic Alcott invaded the Sahara of silence with a solemn 'Saying,' to which, after due pause, the honorable member for Blackberry Pastures responded by some keen and graphic observations, while the Olympian host, anxious that so much material should be spun into something, beamed smiling encouragement upon all parties. But the conversation became more and more staccato. Hawthorne, a statue of night and silence, sat a little removed, under a portrait of Dante, gazing imperturbably upon the group; and as he sat in the shadow, his dark hair and eyes and suit of sables made him, in that society, the black thread of mystery which he weaves into his stories; while the shifting presence of the Brook Farmer played like heat lightning around the room.

"I remember little else but a grave eating of russet apples by the erect philosophers, and a solemn disappearance into night. The club struggled through three Monday evenings. Alcott was perpetually putting apples of gold in pictures of silver; for such was the rich ore of his thoughts coined by the deep melody of his voice. Thoreau charmed us with the secrets won from his interviews with Pan in the Walden woods; while Emerson, with the zeal of an engineer trying to dam wild waters, sought to bind the wide-flying embroidery of discourse into a whole of clear, sweet sense. But still in vain. The oracular sayings were the unalloyed saccharine element; and every chemist knows how much else goes to practical food—how much coarse, rough, woody fibre is essential. The club struggled on valiantly, discoursing celestially, eating apples, and disappearing in the dark, until the third evening it vanished altogether. But I have since known clubs of fifty times the number, whose collected genius was not more than that of either of the Dii Majores of our Concord coterie. The fault was its too great concentration. It was not relaxation, as a club should be, but tension. Society is a play, a game, a tournament; not a battle. It is the easy grace of undress; not an intellectual, full-dress parade."


As will have been seen, Curtis never lost his interest in Brook Farm or his faith in the principles on which it was founded. In his letters to Dwight he clearly pointed out its defects, and he indicated in an emphatic manner that he could not accept some of its methods. He showed that he was an individualist rather than an associationist or socialist, that his supreme faith was in individual effort, and in each person making himself right before he undertook to reform society. His "Easy Chair" essays make it clear that he saw with keen vision the limitations of Brook Farm; but it had for him a distinct charm, and one that increased rather than grew less as the years went on. The Brook Farm effort to right the wrongs of society, to give all persons an opportunity in life, and to bring the help of all to the aid of each one, he heartily accepted in its spirit and intent; and to that faith he ever held with unswerving confidence.

Not less did the Concord episode remain with Curtis as a bright spot in his life. He gladly went to Concord whenever the opportunity offered; he frequently lectured there, and was always heard with delight; and he gave the Centennial Address, April 19, 1875, on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the battle at the old north bridge.

It was a part of the Brook Farm and Concord life which Curtis continued in his intimacy with Dwight. So great was the confidence of this friendship that he wrote to Dwight as soon as his marriage had been arranged, telling him of his happiness, and telling him that the promised bride was the daughter of their old Brook Farm friends, the Francis George Shaws. "Do you remember her in Brook Farm days?" he asked. "There was never anything that made parents and children happier." In closing his letter he wrote: "When do you come to New York? I so want you to see her and know her; then of course you will love her. Give my love to your wife—think that love is not for this world, but forever!—and remember your friend who remembers you." In his reply, Dwight said:

"You are right, George; link your destinies with youth. I scarcely believe in anything else—except Spring and Morning. But then, there is a way of making these—the soul of them—perpetual; and you have the secret of it, I am sure, better than most of us.

"To think of that child, who used to play about Brook Farm, and go through finger drudgery under my piano-professorship (Heaven save the mark!), the child of our young friends, Mr. and Mrs. F.S. (how can you think of them as parents?) being the future Mrs. Howadji! or I a dull drudge of an editor! I do wish indeed to see and know her, and doubt not I shall find your glowing statements all confirmed, and that in your height of joy you need not be ashamed to 'blush it east and blush it west.' There is a certain 'Maud'-like ecstasy in your note that makes me think of that.

"A small bird had already sung the news in my ear. But it was doubly pleasant to have it straight from you. It was good in you to remember me so.... Would that I might see you in New York! but I must content myself with the not very remote prospect of having you by the hand here. Till then, believe me happy in your happiness, and faithfully as ever your friend."

Francis George Shaw, and his wife Sarah B. Shaw, were not members of the Brook Farm community; but they lived in the immediate vicinity, often visited the farm, joined in its entertainments, and were intimate friends of the leaders of the association. He was a contributor to the Harbinger, for which he wrote a number of articles in favor of the associationist social movement. He made an admirable translation of George Sand's "Consuelo" for the paper, in which that novel was for the first time printed in this country. Their children were frequently at the farm, and grew up in the midst of such ideas and influences as it fostered. One of them was that Colonel Robert G. Shaw who was "buried with his niggers" at Fort Wagner, after having led one of the most gallant military movements of modern times. Three of the daughters married, Curtis, General Barlow, and General Charles Russell Lowell. Mrs. Josephine Shaw Lowell has made for herself a lasting name by her philanthropies, and her generous interest in all good causes. Mrs. Shaw wrote the biography of her son Robert, which was published in the work devoted to the Harvard graduates who fell in the Civil War.

The real effect of Brook Farm, and that movement of which it was a part, can be rightly understood only when there is taken into consideration what they did for such persons as Shaw, Curtis, Barlow, Lowell, and Mrs. Lowell. These persons were trained by Brook Farm and Transcendentalism; and their aspirations, philanthropies, chivalrous spirit, and romantic courage were fostered and developed by them. The tone and quality of Shaw's courage, and of his heroic effort for the colored men, found in Brook Farm their motive and incentive; and in Brook Farm because it represented a phase of life much larger than itself, one that fosters the noblest faith in men and in the spiritual future of humanity. Of Barlow and Lowell it may be also said that their heroism and their patriotism were the legitimate products of that movement whose hope and faith were the inspiration of their youth. To this source was due Barlow's love of justice, his unflinching courage in opposing self-seekers and partisan patriots, and his trust in the ultimate worth of what is right and true.

The letters printed in this volume have a large interest as indications of how George William Curtis was making ready for his life-work. His independence, his love of humanity, his courage in maintaining his own convictions, his chivalrous and romantic spirit, his literary skill and charm, his profound spiritual convictions, that would not be limited by any sectarian bounds, all find expression here in such form as to give sure promise for his future. It was a somewhat erratic kind of training which Curtis received; but for him it was better than any college of his day could have given him. Admirably fitted to his tastes, it was no less well adapted to his needs. It fostered in him all that was best in his character, and it served to bring out his genius to its rounded expression.

The two years which Curtis spent in Concord must have been of the greatest value to him. His contact with Emerson was of itself of inestimable worth, for it gave him that enthusiasm for ideas, that contact with a noble life lived for the highest ends of spiritual development, which fostered in him the enthusiasms which were so genuine a part of his life. Without Brook Farm, Transcendentalism, and Emerson, it is quite safe to say that the life of Curtis would have been less worthy of our admiration. The stay in Concord was a time of seed-planting, and the harvest came in all that the man was in later years. Without the enthusiasms then cherished the independent in politics would have been less courageous. And these letters may suggest anew one of the most important lessons of education, that without enthusiasms no man can do any great or noble work in the world. What will give to youth visions, ideals, and enthusiasms is worth all other parts of culture, for out of these grow the noblest results of human willing, thinking, and doing.



PROVIDENCE, August 18, 1843.

Are you quite recovered from those divine enchantments which held us bound so long? Memory preserves for me those silvery sounds, and almost I seem to catch their echo. Have we indeed heard the Siren song—are we unscathed? Let me be your Father John, and to these reverend years commit the tale of youthful fervor. So good a Catholic as I, of course, has long ago made confession. But another yet remains for me—namely, that I cannot get that song. Yesterday I heard from Isaac, who cannot buy it in New York. Nothing but a copy for the guitar and that Rosalie. Would it be an expensive thing to import? Reed told me he could do that, but as I supposed there was no doubt of its being in New York, I said nothing about it. She should have the song; it would be so fine falling out of her mouth. Mouth-dropped gems would be no longer a fable. As, indeed, we have seen already. For what so universal an Interpreter as music? That art has the gift of tongues (ecce, the Singing-School).

Burrill met with a mishap on Wednesday. We were walking out of town, and he, springing from a wall, turned his ankle and sprained it. He is therefore laid up for some days. It is a disappointment to him, for he hoped to leave on Monday next, and meanwhile see several persons. I doubt if he can step on his foot so soon.

I had yesterday a German letter from Isaac; German in spirit, not in language. He has certainly a great heart, more delicate in his character than I thought, with a constant force, nervous, not muscular strength.

Will you accept so city-like a letter? I am busy or I should write more; another time will suffice. Let me accept from you a country-like letter.

Yours in the bonds,



PROVIDENCE, September 1, 1843.

My dear Friend,—Your letter did not reach my hands until last evening, when I returned from Newport, where I have passed the last eight days, how pleasantly I need not tell you. After the quiet beauty of our farm home, there was a striking grandeur in the sea that I never beheld so plainly before. There is something sublimely cheerful about the ocean, altho' it is so stored with woe, and so constantly suggestive it is of that ocean, life, whereon we all float.

It was pleasant to me that Nature confirmed my judgment of Tennyson. The little poem that closes one of the volumes, "Break, break, break," etc., is so exquisitely human and tender, with all its vague and dim beauty, that the waves dashed to its music, and silently the whole sea sung the song. Just so the jottings down of poets, the few words that must be said, tho' the Nature which they sing is so limitless, and inexpressible are the blossoms of poetry and all literature. Will not the little song of Shakespeare's, "Take, oh! take those lips away," be as immortal as Hamlet? Not because chance may print them together, but because it is as universal and more delicate an expression. That charm pervades our favorite, Tennyson. There is no rough-marked outline, all fades away upon earnest contemplation into the tones of his songs, into the colors of the sky. So in the landscape, tint fades gently into tint, and the beauty that attracts spreads from leaf to hill, from hill to horizon, till the whole is bathed in sunlight. Is not this fact also recognized in other arts? In painting, the great picture is without marked outline; in music, the truest and deepest is undefined. Beethoven is greater than Haydn. The precision which offends in manner is as disagreeable everywhere else. Is it not because when named as Precision, the depth which necessarily means a graceful form is absent? As when we say a woman has beautiful eyes we indirectly acknowledge her want of universal beauty. Certainly a man of elegant manners is admired not for himself, but what he represents. Indeed, all society is only thus endurable. Nature, and to me particularly the ocean, makes no such partial impression; and therefore the poet who sits nearest to the great heart sings rather the sense of vague beauty and aspiration, of tender remembrance and gentle hope, than a bald description of the sight. The ocean is not fathomless water nor the woods green trees to him, but a presence, and a key that unlocks the chambers of his soul where the diamonds are. Therefore, when I have been into nearer conversation with Nature I have little to say, but my life is deepened. The poet is he who with deepened life chants also a flowing hymn which utters the music of that life. You will understand why the little poem seems to me so fine, therefore. This water I also see; but not in me lies the power of the due expression of its influence.

There was another pleasant aspect in Newport, of persons. I walked one evening towards the town (for I was boarding in the outskirts), and passed an encampment of soldiers, who in their gay uniforms glittered among the lighted tents like soldier fays. The band in the shadow of the camp was playing very sweetly airs proper for that fading light, half-mournful, half-tender and hopeful. I passed by the houses brilliantly lighted and filled with finely dressed people, who also thronged the streets. Before one of the principal hotels was a band from the fort serenading, and surrounded with a crowd of easy listeners. The ice-cream resort was filled, the cottages shone among the trees, and an air of entire abandonment to joy filled the place. Old men and young men, women and girls, seemed to have laid aside all business, all care, and to be only gay. It was a vision of the Lotos islands, an earthly portrait of that meek repose which haunts us ideally sometimes.

I was surprised upon my return to find Burrill still here. He is able only to crutch about the house, but will probably return to Brook Farm with me during the latter part of next week, which is the commencement week here....

I should have been glad to have seen the gay picnic, and to have heard the O.; let me hope she will not be gone when I return. I am exceedingly obliged for your kind suggestion of "Adelaide," and if you choose to present it as a joint gift, you confer a great pleasure upon me.

Commend me particularly to Almira; to the young men whom you will, including mainly Charles D. and James S.; to Mr. and Mrs. R.; and if you will write me again you will be sure that your proxy will be welcome to

Your friend,


Will you say to Miss Russell that I shall see my aunt this afternoon, and will perform her commission. Moreover, that I am gratified at so distinguished a mark of her approbation as the permission to escort a plant to her garden.



NEW YORK, Saturday eve'g, November 11, 1843.

Your letter has just reached me, my dear friend, loaded with much that was not in it, and which needed only a person or a letter from a region so delightful to bear it to me. Already my life at the Farm is removed and transfigured. It stands for so much in my experience, and is so fairly rounded, that I know the experience could never return, tho' the residence might be renewed. When we mend the broken chain, we see ever after the point of union.

To-night the wind sighs thro' the chimney, complaining and wailing and melting away in a depth of sadness, as if it would pacify its own sorrow, and found newer grief in that need. The clouds break and roll away in the sky, and the wan moon sails up as if to a weary duty. Yet so calm it is, so pure, that it chides weariness and preaches a deep, still hope. In the city I seem not to breathe quite freely yet, but daily I gain ground and air. It is so different, even more than I tho't; so new, tho' I had seen it for years; so full, tho' I walk miles without speaking or seeing a face seen before. I must constantly say to myself, "Be quiet, be quiet. This huge enigma will gradually explain itself, and out of these conventions and courtesies you shall see the same tender Nature looking that so enchanted your country life."

Here is Burrill, and we are of more worth to each other than ever before. Sometimes I fear to think how much. He was as glad to see me as the old Christians a prophet, for I know him best of all.

The aspect of things here impresses me mainly with the absolute necessity and duty of making our place good. The stern, stirring activity around me compels me to give account to myself of my silence and repose. The answer is always clear and steady. I have not heard the voice. Yet my mind begins to shape some outline of life. Of this I am assured, that in this world of work, where the hum of business makes music with the stars, I must work too. And how I must work, by what handle I shall grasp the world and justify my consumption of its food, that begins to appear. My Genius is not decided enough to lead me unquestioning in any one direction, and my taste is so equally cultivated and developed that choice seems somewhat arbitrary. Yet it is not so. Above all, I regret no culture, tho' it may have thus multiplied the roads to be chosen. It is a tinge and charm to whatever is performed.

A gentleman in never so ragged clothes is a gentleman still. You may be sure nothing has charmed me more than my meeting with Isaac in his mealy clothes and brown-paper cap. His manner had a grand dignity, because he was universally related by his diligent labor, and my conversation with him was as earnest and happy as any intercourse I have had with him. This general activity does not reprove me, for my silence respects itself and gives good reasons why judgment should not proceed. And therefore it views more lovingly what surrounds it. The God stirs within, and presently will say something. Let us plant ourselves there and be lawyers that we may so dispense justice, not that we may get bread; and priests, because the Divine will speaks thro' us; and merchants and doctors and shoemakers and bakers, from the same reason. If we honestly serve in any such profession, bread will come of course.

Your letter has quickened my thought upon these things, quite active before. My impulse is to say at once, go. The worst and all you can dread is the foul breath that will befog your fair name, because E.W. has done what he has, because you were a minister and are a Transcendentalist and a seceder from the holy office, and a dweller at that place, unknown to perfumed respectability and condemned of prejudice and error. This is the first great reason, and the second is not unlike unto it. It is that you retard your preparation for any permanent pursuit, as a centre of your sensuous life, by passing two or three years in Europe. With respect to the first reason, not your own feelings, but those of your friends, demand some consideration. In Heaven's court will their sorrow at your departure and intimacy with E.W. at this time outweigh your own happiness at the trip, and because so you lend your own good character to one perhaps unjustly condemned. Such a sudden departure and intimacy with him might have an indirect influence upon your future attempts to base yourself in some way. If your mind is determining itself towards no pursuit, and you anticipate the same general employment that has filled the last year or two, I should say go. If God doesn't call here, he may in Europe; and if not for years, your voyage cannot interfere with him. There are privater reasons, which you know, of his character and of your probability of assimilation, and of your independence in intimacies. Perhaps you may link little fingers, if you cannot clasp the whole hand. On the whole, I should say go, though not without due thought of friends, to whom your name and relation may be more than your friendship. You will soon let me know of your movements, will you not?

For a week or two, I am man of the house for my cousin, whose husband is in Boston. Burrill fulfils the same duty for an aunt. It is a great separation, though only a step separates us when I am at home; but the fine social sympathy of actual contact, in the early morning and late night, the kind deeds that link the minutes and adorn the hours, the tender sweets of the dignity of friendship without its form—these are buds that bloom only in the warmth of hands perpetually united.

To-night Charles Dana and Isaac and Burrill came to see me. I smelled summer leaves and heard summer flutes as I stood with them and talked. Charles was never so important to me; he was himself and all Brook Farm beside. We are all going to hear William Henry Channing in the morning. Last Sunday at the church door I met C.P. Cranch and his wife. I mean to go and see them very soon, though they live streets away. Of Isaac I have seen much for a week's space. He lives two miles or more from us.

I have heard no music yet. Max Bohrer concerts on Monday with Timm, Mrs. Sutton, Antogigni, and Schafenberg; I mean to go. The Philharmonic concerts begin a week from this evening. They have four concerts, and the subscription is $10, for which one obtains three tickets to each concert, and the privilege of buying two occasional tickets at $1.50 each. A singular arrangement. They are to play the 8th Symphony next Saturday. I know not what else.

Give Almira a great deal of love from me. I shall sing a song to her solitude and patiently await the response. I have begun to read "Wilhelm Meister" in German. I read about three or four hours a day, then an hour or two in Latin, and the rest to poetical reading—Beaumont and Fletcher, Ford, Massinger, Shakespeare, and the Bible, at present. In Worcester I found Montaigne, whom I devoured. What cheerful good sense! I have begun also to learn two or three of B.'s waltzes from note. "La Dobur" I have almost accomplished. Possibly I shall thus pick up some note knowledge, though I do not build any castles. Good-night. Could I but send myself in my letter! Your friend,


Tuesday morning. I concluded to retain my letter for Charles, who leaves to-day. Charles and Isaac and Burrill and I all went to Max Bohrer's concert last evening. The hall was full, 1000 or 1500 people present. I was glad to go, for he introduced me to the Instrument, but no more. He has great skill, and has fully mastered it. That is what persevering talent can always do. Bohrer loved his instrument because he could display himself by its aid, not because it was through his genius a minister and revealer of the art to himself and others. His conceit is sublime. It was entire and unique. His posture and air were ridiculously Olympian. Mrs. Sutton is very fat and has a thin voice. There are some good tones in it, but she undertakes the most difficult music. Antignini sings pleasantly but with great effort. All his songs were his own composition, and all Max Bohrer's his. In fact, it was not a musical festival so much as a gymnasium for musical instruments, both mechanical and human. Timm and Scharfenberg both played admirably. I saw Fred'k Rakemann in the crowd; could not conveniently speak to him, and am going, as soon as I can find out where he lives, to see him. His face was so sad that I wanted to go to him and say some tenderer word than I should have said had I spoken. Yet after all he doesn't need tender words, but a calm, grateful demeanor towards him.

I wish that I could tell all the glories of my trip to New York. I went from Worcester over the Western R.R. to Albany and down the river. Some other day shall be consecrated to their fit celebration when the recollection may be pleasant and soothing among cares that disturb. Now I expect Charles every moment to go with me to see Cranch.

Ask Charles for all news about our "externe." Remember me most tenderly to my many friends at Brook Farm.



NEW YORK, November 20, '43.

Certainly, my dear Friend, the concert of the Philharmonic Society on Saturday evening was the finest concert ever given in the country. It is pleasant to see the homage paid to the art indirectly by the whole style of the concert. The room is small, holding 1000 people. Every gentleman goes in full-dress, and the ladies in half-dress. Various members of the society are appointed managers, distinguished by a ribboned button-hole, and they provide seats for the audience. No bills are issued before the night, so there are only rumors of what the particular will be, with a quiet consciousness that the general will be fine. So we arrived on Saturday evening and found the following bill: Symphony No. 7 in A minor (Beethoven); Cavatina from an opera of Nini's (Signora Castellan); Overture to "Zauberflote" (Mozart); Cavatina from Donizetti (Signora Castellan); Overture to "The Jubilee" (Weber). I think we have not had many such concerts.

The symphony was interpreted upon the bills as a musical presentment of the mythological story of Orpheus and Eurydicc. That did very well as a figure to represent it, but it was taken by the audience as a theme; and they all fixed their eyes upon the explanation, thereby to judge the symphony. It was grand, and full of his genius. It was another of those earnest, hopeless questionings of Destiny. The very first bars were full of this. It opens with a crash of the whole orchestra, determined and inexorable. Then follows a low deep wailing of the flutes and horns, full of tenderness, of aspiration, of subdued hope; and another crash of the whole, like a lightning flash, instantaneous and scathing the world, sweeps across the plaintiveness of the wind instruments and as instantly is gone. The sad inquiry continues, the determined Thunder of Fate drowns it constantly, and it is lost. Then it becomes more imperious and active, and the call upon the Invisible and the Unanswerable sounds on every side, rises to the top of the flutes, sinks to the lowest bases, appears now among the violins, now vanishes to the rest, until it has disciplined the whole, and the whole orchestra together thunders out the call. Then comes the adagio, where, as always, the mystery seems to be developing itself, where the earnest-seeking solemnly consecrates itself to success; and the minuet and finale conclude—the soaring, mocking, hellish laughter of fiends and demons of the air, at baffled curiosity and blighted hope. Is not that what these symphonies express? The pith of the matter is never reached. The very movement of the adagio, while it expresses a deep, solemn hope, seems to mourn with unutterable sorrow that the hope must be only consecrated and profound, never realized. The climax of the music and the sentiment seems to be always in the adagio.

What remained for such a man as he, separate from all others and alone with his life, but to question the Fate that impelled him, now in this tone and now in that? What remained for such unsatisfied, joyless strength but the stern, wild laughter of fiends that the question could not be answered—and the deep wail of Fate, which also is sung in his music, that such strength should have the ruggedness of endurance but not the gracefulness of Faith? How I wished you had been there!

Castellan's voice is full and rich; it was very sweet, and she sang with warmth but no passion. She needs some cultivation yet, for her shake is not good. Why did we not hear Mali-bran? who was also so great an actor that she would have been famous without a voice. I could not for a moment suffer my idea of her to be compared with Castellan. Malibran must have been so lovely from her sensibility and passion, so commanding from the majesty of her voice, that the art and not the woman must have found newer worshippers with every new audience.

I hope to hear Cinto Damoreau this week. You have heard "The Magic Flute" overture, I think, so fairy-like and graceful, full of tender shadows and heart-rejoicing sunlight and aerial shapes that fade and glint like stars. And the magnificent "Jubilee" concluded with "God save the King."

Evening. My aunt sent for me to hear Timm play the "Pathetique." His playing is wonderfully graceful, his touch more delicate than either of the R.'s. But he lacks genius; and time and practice will give Fred. R. all that Timm has. He is very enthusiastic. I spoke to him of "Egmont;" he seemed delighted, said he hadn't heard it for 12 years, but instantly sat down and played portions of it. He promised to play the adagio of the "Pathetique" on the organ next Sunday. We had but a few moments, for his time is all devoted to teaching, or I should have kept him till midnight. He is so simple and natural about the matter that it is very pleasant to be with him. If you mention anything to him, he instantly runs to the piano and plays something from it. Imagine him the other evening standing up straddling the stool, a roll of music under each arm, gloves in hand, and playing a movement from one of the symphonies!

I have been to see Cranch; found his wife at home, whom I have not seen since January. They are pleasantly situated, though a good way off. He has a room in the house where he paints. I saw two of his landscapes, views from nature, that were very striking. If I should find fault, I should say they were too warmly colored; and I suspect that is his error, if he has any, from what his wife told me he said of one of Durand's.

Mr. Furness preached finely for us on Sunday. Mr. Dewey does not charm me at all. Have heard W.H.C. once, as Charles will have told you. Have not yet seen him, for I have been out to see people hardly at all. Met Isaac at the Saturday concert. He looks fresh and well. Seems better every way than I ever knew him. Has he not found his place? I must see him again to discern the direction of Almira, to whom I have a letter written partly, and know not how to address it.

Are you singing Eastward ho! or do you remain? Remember that he who criticises Handel and Mozart, as the "Democratic" witnesseth, owes something to the art—shall I say his life? What literary work are you about, or have you still the same reluctance to assume the pen that you had? Let the consideration that the pen is so invaluable a minister to friendship tempt you to honor it more by use.

I have squeezed myself into such little space that I must defer an outline of my days till I write again. One moral inquiry for your wits, and I will withdraw into silence and the infinite. Does not one friend who indites many letters, unanswered, to another, thereby heap coals of fire upon somebody's head as effectually as if he fed the hungry? Scatter my love as broadly as you think it will bear, and reserve the carver's share for yourself.



Saturday night, November 25, '43.

Why do I love music enough to be only a lover, and cannot offer it a life-devoted service? Yet the lover serves in his sort, and if I may not minister to it, it cannot fail to dignify and ennoble my life. I am just from hearing Ole Bull, who this evening made his first appearance in America. How shall I fitly speak to you of him, how can I now, while the new vision of beauty that he caused to sweep by still lingers? Yet itself shall inspire me. The presence of so noble a man allures to light whatever nobility lies in us.

He came forward to a house crowded in every part with the calm simplicity of Genius. There was no grimace, no graces, but a fine grace that adorned his presence and assured one that nothing could disappoint—that the simplicity of the man was the seal and crown of his genius. A fair-haired, robust, finely formed man, the full bloom of health shining on his face, he appeared as the master of the great instrument, as the successor, in point of time, of the world-famous Paganini. Yet was one confident that here was no imitator, but a pupil who had sat thoughtfully at the master's feet and felt that beneath the depth of his expression there was yet a lower depth, who knew himself consecrated by a will grander than his will to the service of an art so divine and so loved. In him there was that sure prophecy of latent power which surrounds genius, and assures us that the thing done is an echo only and shadow of the possible performance.

The playing followed this simple, majestic appearance. It was full of music, irregular, wild, yearning, trembling. His violin lay upon his arm tenderly as a living thing; and such rich, mellow, silver, shining tones followed his motion that one seemed to catch echoes of that eternal melody whereof music itself is but the shadow and presentment. The adagios reminded me of Beethoven, not as they were imitated, but as all the great ones, in their appearing, summon all the rest. The mechanical execution was faultless. I detected no thick note. It was smooth as the sea of summer, embosoming only deep cloud-shadows and the full sunlight, but no lesser thing. Then he came, and he withdrew; and my heart followed him.

Do not be alarmed if the critics call him cold, and speak of him disparagingly when others are mentioned. The noble and heroes serve divine powers, and at last win men. Men of talent and application love their instrument as it introduces the world to them; men of genius as it interprets to them and to the world the mystery of music. Genius men must reverence, and they are not apt to do it boisterously. Is not the influence of fine character, which is only genius for virtue, like the brooding of God over chaos? Which is chaos only to the blind, but teems with generous, melodious laws to the spiritually discerned. Creation is the opening of eyes, not the fabrication of objects. "Let there be light" is the creative fiat, spoken by every God-filled soul. Yet how sure is this power of Genius.

The world henceforth gives to Ole Bull the full and generous satisfaction of his needs. It cannot fail to esteem God's messengers when they come, if they be true and collected. Talent wins the same subsistence; earnest, unfailing, unshrinking endeavor wins it anywhere; but what does Talent and Trial do but imitate the action of the result of Genius! How sublime the revelations it makes in this art! While the rest have risen and culminated and paused, this seeks a zenith ever loftier and diviner. That deep nature, that central beauty, which all art strives to reveal, floats to us in these fine harmonies, to me more subtly and surely than elsewhere. But in this region, where my thought bears me, they are all united. This soft, silent face of Urania, which looks upon me sleeplessly and untired, is not its wonderful influence woven of that same essence that has ravished me tonight in the tones of the violin? In the coolness of thought, do not the masters of song, of painting, of sculpture meet in eternal congress, for in each is the appearance of equal skill? Raphael could have sung as Shakespeare, and Milton have hewn these massy forms as Angelo. Yet a divine economy rules these upper spiritual regions, as sure and steadfast as the order of the stars. Raphael must paint and Homer sing, yet the same soul gilds the picture and sweetens the song. So Venus and Mars shine yellow and red, but the same central fire is the light of each. In the capacity of doing all things well lies the willingness to serve one duty. The Jack of all trades is sure to be good at none, for who is good at all is Jack of one only. It seemed a bitter thing to me, formerly, that painters must only paint and sculptors carve; but I see now the wisdom. In one thing well done lies the secret of doing all.

Music, painting, are labels that designate the form of action; the soul of it lies below. The earnest merchant and the earnest anti-tradesman do join hands and work together. Not ends are demanded of them, but vital strength and soul. The world does not need that I name my work, but that the work be accomplished.

The midnight warns me to pause. The stillness accords with the intercourse of friendship, as the silence of space with the calm, speechless recognition of the planets. Thoughts of all friends circle round me like gentle breezes from the black wing of the night. Friends are equal and noble always to friends. Lovers only know the depths and the heights of lovers. Love prophesies only a surer, diviner friendship, crowned with the dignity and composure of God.

I shall re-enter the world through the white gate of dreams, yet more quiet and resolved that I have heard this man, more tender, more tolerant. He has touched strings of that harp whose vibrations never cease, but affirm the infiniteness of our being and its present habitation in Eternity. Your friend,


Wednesday. Sunday P.M. I passed with Fred. Rakemann. He was very glad to see me, and I him. His fine face lighted with enthusiasm as we spoke of music, of Germany and its poets. He played magnificently, among others "Adelaide," translated for the piano by Liszt, a beautiful andante of Chopin, some of Henselt, etc., until it was quite twilight. Then I went away. He promised to come and see me, nor shall I fail to see him as often as I think he will endure, though his days are so busy with teaching that I do not hope to find him except on Sundays.

To-night Ole Bull plays the second time. I shall go to hear him. The Frenchmen are cliqued against him, for Vieuxtemps has arrived, and they mean to maintain his superiority. He has no announcement as yet. My letter I will not close until to-morrow, and say a final word about Ole Bull. Wednesday night. I have heard him again, and the impression he made on Saturday is only deepened. He played an adagio of Mozart's. It was simple and severely chaste. His beautiful simplicity is just the character to apprehend the delicate touches of the Master, which he drew to us, without any ornament or addition. It was as if Mozart had been in spirit in the instrument, and given us, with all the freshness of creation, the music that can never lose its bloom. Scharfenberg was in the box with us, Fred. Rakemann in the next box. I saw Castellan in a private box, and Isaac H. The evening was glorious. Had you only been there! Yet you will see him in Boston. Do not fail to write me how he impresses you—that is, particularly. I cannot misapprehend his power so much as not to feel that it will seem to you very grand. Observe his manner towards the orchestra, how Olympian, how supreme, yet with all the gentle grace and tenderness of power! Good-night. May you ever hear sweet music!


N.Y., Friday, Dec. 15, 1843.

Truly the musical art culminates in our zenith this winter. It gives me other thoughts than of music only, unfolds to me something more of art, and I am charmed constantly to see how calmly we receive the great artists, after the noise of their entry, as the world quietly accepts the light of stars and swings unastonished on its wonderful way. Ole Bull and the rest are the scouts we have sent on before us, and they return to tell us of the Wonderful Land, and bring mementos and captives from the rich Eldorado of our hopes. That country to which nature points, of which all art is the flaming beacon, and which the weary voyager home-returning from fruitless search tells us is in ourselves—not the less far away for that.

Ole Bull's quiet, rapt manner is the full remembrance of that land which he has seen, and which he unfolds to us—is always the character and expression of the deepest insight. Just look at our bill for the week which ends to-night: Monday, Vieuxtemps; Tuesday, Artot and Damoreau; Wednesday, Ole Bull, Miss Sperty (the new pianist), and Madame Sphor Zahn; Thursday, Castellan, Antoquin Brough and Sphor Zahn in the "Stabat Mater," followed by the "Battle of Waterloo Symphony," by Beethoven; Friday, Vieuxtemps again! Monday evening I could not hear Vieuxtemps, but went on Tuesday to hear C. Damoreau and Artot. The former, with the smallest voice, sings pleasantly from her wonderful cultivation, of which, however, the technicalities, so to say, are too much obtruded. She shakes through all her songs, and this power, which would render her plain singing so sure and pleasing, demands attention for itself, not because it improves the tone of the singing. Artot is an elegant artist. He plays very finely, wonderfully; but the greater his execution the more marked appeared to me the difference between the highest cultivated talent and the supremacy of Genius. He played difficult music, he shook and warbled and imitated, some of his tones were very exquisite, but it was all lifeless, the passionless semblance of beauty. I was as if walking in a Gorgon's ice-palace, with magnificent, clear crystals, and noble, transparent pillars, and all the artifice of beauty and comfort, but evermore a deep chill from the lavish elegance. When he had done, I knew he had done his utmost, that he had exhausted hope. In him I found none of that depthless background which genius ever offers. He made sing in my ears the old text, "The things seen are temporal; the things unseen are eternal." His performance is a thing seen, not a dim beacon on the outskirts of an unexplored country, wherein we hear birds singing and rivers flowing, and see the great cloud-shadows fall upon the hills, where in the dim distance stately palaces are faintly traced, and the depthless woods fringe unknown seas. Artot's playing seemed to me like the full flower exhausting the plant; Ole Bull's like a star shining out of the infinite space.

Flowers wither, but the stars do not fade. We gather the blossoms with joy and hurry home; but the stars light us on our way and make our homes beautiful. Talent has something familiar and social in its impression and greeting; but Genius receives us with a calm dignity that transfigures courtesy and complaisance, and makes our relations healthy and grand. The whole tone of Artot's violin differs from Bull's. I felt they must not be compared, and so listened delightedly, but with a pale, ghastly joy. When I heard Ole, I could not sleep. It was like a fire shining out of heaven, sudden and bright. It kindled within me flames which seek heaven, disturbed the surface of my soul, evoking spirits out of that depth I did not know were there, and it was as if a thousand hopes, which were the substance and object of memory, rose out of their graves and held long vigil with me in those silent hours. How few of us can keep our balance when a regal soul dashes by. I presently recover myself, and serve with a milder and firmer persistence my own nature. The way is made clearer by these bright lights, universal nature shines fairer that there are so many single stars; but they must only be stars in my heaven and fires upon my hearth, nor burn out my heart by inserting themselves in my bosom.

The next night I went to hear Ole Bull again at the Tabernacle, which holds 3000 persons. The doors were open at 6, the concert began at 8. At quarter-past 6 the house was full, and at 7 was jammed, and hundreds went away. I arrived too late, but was so satisfied at the triumph that I went gladly home again, pleased to be one who could not hear.

Last evening I heard the "Stabat." Castellan has a magnificent voice. Does she not lack passion? She certainly needs cultivation. The symphony was merely a musical picture of the battle—a battle of Prague for the orchestra! It begins with a drum, a bugle-call follows; a march—and what march do you think? "Malbrook." Imagine me, a fervid worshipper of Beethoven, rushing in the crowd to hear a symphony wherein, with all orchestral force, the old song, L-a-w, Law, was banged into my ears. I sat in motionless dismay, while there followed another trumpeting and drumming and marching and imitations of musketry by some watchman's rattle. Then came some good passages, which confounded me only the more. Then, "God save the King," which announced the British victory. Anon followed some marches, with the occasional bang of the bass drum to "disfigure or present" the distant cannon; and then there was a pause, and the people began to get up. I was confounded, looked towards the orchestra, and they were moving away; and I discovered I had heard the whole—alas! the day. What it meant, what Beethoven meant by writing it, how he could be so purely external, how he could so use the orchestra, I cannot comprehend. Perhaps it was a curious relaxation with him, as artists imitate other instruments upon their own—perhaps it is a joke—but that it was a sad disappointment to me admits no perhaps. Since the limitations of life appear most forcibly to correspondents in limited sheets of paper, let me bear away abruptly from music. My German progresses finely. I have read Novalis's poetry, and am just now finishing the "Lehrjahre." I read three or four hours daily, and am pleased at my progress. Burrill and I have just finished Johnson's "Elements of Agricultural Chemistry" and Buel's book. I read to him daily from Bunyan. I am also busy with Beaumont and Fletcher, Paul's Epistles, and St. Augustine. You will easily imagine that my whole day is devoted to literature. After dinner, at 5 o'clock, I sally down Broadway for exercise; and in the evening, if I go to no concert, usually seek my room and books. To-night, for the first time, I am going out to a ball at a friend's, the girl of whom you have heard me speak as singing so well. Cranch I meet very rarely. Have been only once to see him. W.H. Channing do not yet know. At his meeting I see Isaac and C.P. Cranch, and Rufus Dawes, and Parke Godwin, William Chace, and a host of the unconverted and heretical. Him I do not yet know personally, nor Vathek. His enthusiastic manner, and the tranquil fervor of his character, charm me very much.

I find that I do not care to go after people. Perhaps I have been rather too much with them; at all events, I will go to see none for curiosity. Isaac is my good friend, and passed Sunday P.M. in my room. We spoke of the church and society, and all topics that do so excite the youthful mind. I must break short off to dress for my party. I shall speak to you again before you know that I have been.

Saturday. To-day I have finished the "Lehrjahre." It is very calm and wise. It is full of Goethe, and therefore leaves behind in its impression that almost indefinite want which his character leaves, a want apparently readily designated. Yet to say his intellect was disproportionately developed leaves us in doubt whether a pure natural growth of the moral nature would have harmonized with his peculiar manifestation of intellect. He is to me as a blind God, made wise by laborious experience, not perpetual sight. He is at least too large for the tip of a letter.

What do you read, or don't you read? Sunday. To-day I heard a fine sermon from W.H. Channing. There I met Isaac and C.P. Cranch. Walked home with the latter, who during the week had heard Ole Bull. I suppose he will write you of it. Prof. Adam, from Northampton, was there. At our church, a few Sundays since, I saw Mrs. Delano, late Kate Lyman, and her sister Susan. The latter was beautiful. She seemed like a pure, passionless saint. Had I been in a Catholic church I had imagined her to have been some holy being, incarnated by her deep sympathy with the worshippers. I hardly saw her, just enough to receive a poetic impression.

How little I have said! My life is very quiet, yet very full. Your letters are very grateful to me. One dares trust so much more to paper than to conversation. Friends living intimately learn of each other from tones and glances, not by conversation. Friends meet intellectually in words, lovers heartfully in words.

Macready has gone and I did not see him; he played nothing of Shakespeare. Shall I direct to Brook Farm or Boston? More anon. Yrs ever,



NEW YORK, Friday, Dec. 22, '43.

A merry Christmas to you, and to all Christian souls. How brave goes the year to its setting! These calm, cold days impress me like the fine characters of history and the elder time, inspired with a generous wisdom, and prophesying what shall be the newest and best word of hope in our day. The season embraces and surpasses those old men, even the finest. To-day, as I walked, the magnificence of the closing year, so steadfast and sure, sparing no sunshine nor rain, passing quietly out to be renewed nevermore, quite reproved the solemn martyrdoms of men, upon which we hang our hopes.

Nature is great that she does not suffer us to define her influence upon ourselves. Like all greatness, she suggests to us beauty and grace, not as attributes of hers, but fair buds and flowers of the soul. Therefore, in the full presence of nature, the grandest deeds seem harmonious and the wisdom of Plato, and actions whose greatness is the centre, not the utmost compression, of our life are harmonious and symmetrical. To the Greeks and Jews the Gospel is blindness and a stumbling-block, but joy and peace to the elect.

Nothing is so stern and lofty a cordial to me as this severe inscrutability of nature. I must obey or die, and dying is no help to me, for the spirit that rules now rules evermore. How like a god sits she brooding over the world, announcing her laws by blows and knocks, by agonies and convulsions, by the mouths of wise men, affirming that as the sowing so also is the harvest. And there is no alleviation, no palliation. She heeds no prayers, no sighs; those who fall must raise themselves; the sick must of their own force recover or perish. When thus she has set us upon our legs everything works for us, and the sun and moon are great lamps for our enlightenment, and men and women leaves of a wondrous book. Then, imperceptibly to us, in these snows and blossoms and fruits annually all history is rewritten, and the honest man who knows nothing of Greece and Rome derives from the swelling trees and the bending sky the same subtle infusion of heroism and nobility that is the vitality of history. The vice of our mode of education is that we do not regard life from an eternal point. We want magnanimity and truth, not the names of those who have been magnanimous and true; and I see not why nature to-day does not offer to me all the grandeur of character that has illustrated any period. Men and nature and art all seek to say the same thing. Could we search deeply enough, I doubt not we should find all matter to be one substance; and could we appreciate the worth of every art and every landscape and man, they would be identical. As I am a better man, the more soluble is the great outspreading riddle of nature, and the more distinct and full the delicate grace of art. As an old, quaint divine said of fate and free-will, they are two converging lines which of necessity must somewhere unite, though our human vision does not see the point; so all mysteries are radii, and could we follow one implicitly, then we have found the centre of all. Therefore the best critic of art is the man whose life has been hid with God in nature; and therefore the triumph of art is complete when birds peck at the grapes.

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