Besides the annual journeys to and from Florida, and her many
interests in the South, Mrs. Stowe's time between 1870 and 1880 was
largely occupied by literary and kindred labors. In the autumn of 1871
we find her writing to her daughters as follows regarding her work:--
"I have at last finished all my part in the third book of mine that is
to come out this year, to wit 'Oldtown Fireside Stories,' and you can
have no idea what a perfect luxury of rest it is to be free from all
literary engagements, of all kinds, sorts, or descriptions. I feel
like a poor woman I once read about,--
"'Who always was tired,
'Cause she lived in a house
Where help wasn't hired,'
and of whom it is related that in her dying moments,
'She folded her hands
With her latest endeavor,
Saying nothing, dear nothing,
Sweet nothing forever.'
"I am in about her state of mind. I luxuriate in laziness. I do not
want to do anything or go anywhere. I only want to sink down into lazy
enjoyment of living."
She was certainly well entitled to a rest, for never had there been a
more laborious literary life. In addition to the twenty-three books
already written, she had prepared for various magazines and journals
an incredible number of short stories, letters of travel, essays, and
other articles. Yet with all she had accomplished, and tired as she
was, she still had seven books to write, besides many more short
stories, before her work should be done. As her literary life did not
really begin until 1852, the bulk of her work has been accomplished
within twenty-six years, as will be seen from the following list of
her books, arranged in the chronological order of their publication:--
1833. An Elementary Geography.
1843. The Mayflower.
1852. Uncle Tom's Cabin.
1853. Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin.
1854. Sunny Memories.
1858. Our Charley.
1859. Minister's Wooing.
1862. Pearl of Orr's Island.
1863. Agnes of Sorrento.
1864. House and Home Papers.
1865. Little Foxes.
1866. Nina Gordon (Formerly "Dred").
1867. Religious Poems.
1867. Queer Little People.
1868. The Chimney Corner.
1868. Men of Our Times.
1869. Oldtown Folks.
1870. Lady Byron Vindicated.
1871. The History of the Byron Controversy (London).
1870. Little Pussy Willow.
1871. Pink and White Tyranny.
1871. Old Town Fireside Stories.
1872. My Wife and I.
1873. Palmetto Leaves.
1873. Library of Famous Fiction.
1875. We and Our Neighbors.
1876. Betty's Bright Idea.
1877. Footsteps of the Master.
1878. Bible Heroines.
1878. Poganuc People.
1881. Dog's Mission.
In 1872 a new and remunerative field of labor was opened to Mrs.
Stowe, and though it entailed a vast amount of weariness and hard
work, she entered it with her customary energy and enthusiasm. It
presented itself in the shape of an offer from the American Literary
(Lecture) Bureau of Boston to deliver a course of forty readings from
her own works in the principal cities of the New England States. The
offer was a liberal one, and Mrs. Stowe accepted it on condition that
the reading tour should be ended in time to allow her to go to her
Florida home in December. This being acceded to, she set forth and
gave her first reading in Bridgeport, Conn., on the evening of
September 19, 1872.
The following extracts from letters written to her husband while on
this reading tour throw some interesting gleams of light on the scenes
behind the curtain of the lecturer's platform. From Boston, October
3d, she writes: "Have had a most successful but fatiguing week. Read
in Cambridgeport to-night, and Newburyport to-morrow night." Two weeks
later, upon receipt of a letter from her husband, in which he fears he
has not long to live, she writes from Westfield, Mass:--
"I have never had a greater trial than being forced to stay away from
you now. I would not, but that my engagements have involved others in
heavy expense, and should I fail to fulfill them, it would be doing a
"God has given me strength as I needed it, and I never read more to my
own satisfaction than last night.
"Now, my dear husband, please do want, and try, to remain with
us yet a while longer, and let us have a little quiet evening together
before either of us crosses the river. My heart cries out for a home
with you; our home together in Florida. Oh, may we see it again! Your
ever loving wife."
>From Fitchburg, Mass., under date of October 29th, she writes:--
"In the cars, near Palmer, who should I discover but Mr. and Mrs. J.
T. Fields, returning from a Western trip, as gay as a troubadour. I
took an empty seat next to them, and we had a jolly ride to Boston. I
drove to Mr. Williams's house, where I met the Chelsea agent, who
informed me that there was no hotel in Chelsea, but that they were
expecting to send over for me. So I turned at once toward 148 Charles
Street, where I tumbled in on the Fields before they had got their
things off. We had a good laugh, and I received a hearty welcome. I
was quickly installed in my room, where, after a nice dinner, I curled
up for my afternoon nap. At half-past seven the carriage came for me,
and I was informed that I should not have a hard reading, as they had
engaged singers to take part. So, when I got into the carriage, who
should I find, beshawled, and beflowered, and betoggled in blue satin
and white lace, but our old friend ---- of Andover concert memory, now
become Madame Thingumbob, of European celebrity. She had studied in
Italy, come out in Milan, sung there in opera for a whole winter, and
also in Paris and London.
"Well, she sings very sweetly and looks very nice and pretty. Then we
had a little rosebud of a Chelsea girl who sang, and a pianist. I read
'Minister's Housekeeper' and Topsy, and the audience was very jolly
and appreciative. Then we all jogged home."
The next letter finds Mrs. Stowe in Maine, and writing in the cars
between Bangor and Portland. She says:--
MY DEAR HUSBAND,--Well, Portland and Bangor are over, and the latter,
which I had dreaded as lonesome and far off, turned out the
pleasantest of any place I have visited yet. I stayed at the Fays; he
was one of the Andover students, you remember; and found a warm, cosy,
social home. In the evening I met an appreciative audience, and had a
delightful reading. I read Captain Kittridge, apparently to the great
satisfaction of the people, who laughed heartily at his sea stories,
and the "Minister's Housekeeper" with the usual success, also Eva and
One woman, totally deaf, came to me afterwards and said: "Bless you. I
come jist to see you. I'd rather see you than the Queen." Another
introduced her little girl named Harriet Beecher Stowe, and another,
older, named Eva. She said they had traveled fifty miles to hear me
read. An incident like that appeals to one's heart, does it not?
The people of Bangor were greatly embarrassed by the horse disease;
but the mayor and his wife walked over from their house, a long
distance off, to bring me flowers, and at the reading he introduced
me. I had an excellent audience notwithstanding that it rained
tremendously, and everybody had to walk because there were no horses.
The professors called on me, also Newman Smith, now a settled minister
Everybody is so anxious about you, and Mr. Fay made me promise that
you and I should come and spend a week with them, next summer. Mr.
Howard, in Portland, called upon me to inquire for you, and everybody
was so delighted to hear that you were getting better.
It stormed all the time I was in Portland and Bangor, so I saw nothing
of them. Now I am in a palace car riding alongside the Kennebec, and
recalling the incidents of my trip. I certainly had very satisfactory
houses; and these pleasant little visits, and meetings with old
acquaintance, would be well worth having, even though I had made
nothing in a pecuniary sense. On the whole it is as easy a way of
making money as I have ever tried, though no way of making money is
perfectly easy,--there must be some disagreeables. The lonesomeness of
being at a hotel in dull weather is one, and in Portland it seems
there is nobody now to invite us to their homes. Our old friends there
are among the past. They have gone on over the river. I send you a bit
of poetry that pleases me. The love of the old for each other has its
poetry. It is something sacred and full of riches. I long to be with
you, and to have some more of our good long talks.
The scenery along this river is very fine. The oaks still keep their
leaves, though the other trees are bare; but oaks and pines make a
pleasant contrast. We shall stop twenty minutes at Brunswick, so I
shall get a glimpse of the old place.
Now we are passing through Hallowell, and the Kennebec changes sides.
What a beautiful river! It is now full of logs and rafts. Well, I must
bring this to a close. Good-by, dear, with unchanging love. Ever your
>From South Framingham, Mass., she writes on November 7th:--
Well, my dear, here I am in E.'s pretty little house. He has a pretty
wife, a pretty sister, a pretty baby, two nice little boys, and a
lovely white cat. The last is a perfect beauty! a Persian, from a
stock brought over by Dr. Parker, as white as snow, with the softest
fur, a perfect bunch of loving-kindness, all purr and felicity. I had
a good audience last evening, and enjoyed it. My audiences,
considering the horse disease and the rains, are amazing. And how they
do laugh! We get into regular gales.
E. has the real country minister turn-out: horse and buggy, and such a
nice horse too. The baby is a beauty, and giggles, and goos, and
shouts inquiries with the rising inflection, in the most inspiring
November 13. Wakefield. I read in Haverhill last night. It was
as usual stormy. I had a good audience, but not springy and
inspiriting like that at Waltham. Some audiences seem to put spring
into one, and some to take it out. This one seemed good but heavy. I
had to lift them, while in Framingham and Waltham they lifted me.
The Lord bless and keep you. It grieves me to think you are dull and I
not with you. By and by we will be together and stay together. Good-by
dear. Your ever loving wife,
H. B. S. November 24. "I had a very pleasant reading in
Peabody. While there visited the library and saw the picture of the
Queen that she had painted expressly for George Peabody. It was about
six inches square, enameled on gold, and set in a massive frame of
solid gold and velvet. The effect is like painting on ivory. At night
the picture rolls back into a safe, and great doors, closed with a
combination lock, defend it. It reminded me of some of the foreign
wonders we have seen.
"Well, my course is almost done, and if I get through without any
sickness, cold, or accident, how wonderful it will seem. I have never
felt the near, kind presence of our Heavenly Father so much as in
this. 'He giveth strength to the faint, and to them of no might He
increaseth strength.' I have found this true all my life."
>From Newport she writes on November 26th:--
"It was a hard, tiring, disagreeable piece of business to read in New
London. Had to wait three mortal hours in Palmer. Then a slow, weary
train, that did not reach New London until after dark. There was then
no time to rest, and I was so tired that it did seem as though I could
not dress. I really trembled with fatigue. The hall was long and dimly
lighted, and the people were not seated compactly, but around in
patches. The light was dim, except for a great flaring gas jet
arranged right under my eyes on the reading desk, and I did not see a
creature whom I knew. I was only too glad when it was over and I was
back again at my hotel. There I found that I must be up at five
o'clock to catch the Newport train.
"I started for this place in the dusk of a dreary, foggy morning.
Traveled first on a ferry, then in cars, and then in a little cold
steamboat. Found no one to meet me, in spite of all my writing, and so
took a carriage and came to the hotel. The landlord was very polite to
me, said he knew me by my trunk, had been to our place in Mandarin,
etc. All I wanted was a warm room, a good bed, and unlimited time to
sleep. Now I have had a three hours' nap, and here I am, sitting by
myself in the great, lonely hotel parlor.
"Well, dear old man, I think lots of you, and only want to end all
this in a quiet home where we can sing 'John Anderson, my Jo'
together. I check off place after place as the captive the days of his
imprisonment. Only two more after to-night. Ever your loving wife."
Mrs. Stowe made one more reading tour the following year, and this
time it was in the West. On October 28, 1873, she writes from
Zanesville, Ohio, to her son at Harvard:--
You have been very good to write as often as you have, and your
letters, meeting me at different points, have been most cheering. I
have been tired, almost to the last degree. Read two successive
evenings in Chicago, and traveled the following day for thirteen
hours, a distance of about three hundred miles, to Cincinnati. We were
compelled to go in the most uncomfortable cars I ever saw, crowded to
overflowing, a fiend of a stove at each end burning up all the air,
and without a chance to even lay my head down. This is the grand route
between Chicago and Cincinnati, and we were on it from eight in the
morning until nearly ten at night.
Arrived at Cincinnati we found that George Beecher had not received
our telegram, was not expecting us, had no rooms engaged for us, and
that we could not get rooms at his boarding-place. After finding all
this out we had to go to the hotel, where, about eleven o'clock, I
crept into bed with every nerve aching from fatigue. The next day was
dark and rainy, and I lay in bed most of it; but when I got up to go
and read I felt only half rested, and was still so tired that it
seemed as though I could not get through.
Those who planned my engagements failed to take into account the
fearful distances and wretched trains out here. On none of these great
Western routes is there a drawing-room car. Mr. Saunders tried in
every way to get them to put one on for us, but in vain. They are all
reserved for the night trains; so that there is no choice except to
travel by night in sleeping cars, or take such trains as I have
described in the daytime.
I had a most sympathetic audience in Cincinnati; they all seemed
delighted and begged me to come again. The next day George took us for
a drive out to Walnut Hills, where we saw the seminary buildings, the
house where your sisters were born, and the house in which we
afterwards lived. In the afternoon we had to leave and hurry away to a
reading in Dayton. The next evening another in Columbus, where we
spent Sunday with an old friend.
By this time I am somewhat rested from the strain of that awful
journey; but I shall never again undertake such another. It was one of
those things that have to be done once, to learn not to do it again.
My only reading between Columbus and Pittsburgh is to be here in
Zanesville, a town as black as Acheron, and where one might expect to
see the river Styx.
Later. I had a nice audience and a pleasant reading here, and to-day
we go on to Pittsburgh, where I read to-morrow night.
I met the other day at Dayton a woman who now has grandchildren; but
who, when I first came West, was a gay rattling girl. She was one of
the first converts of brother George's seemingly obscure ministry in
the little new town of Chillicothe. Now she has one son who is a judge
of the supreme court, and another in business. Both she and they are
not only Christians, but Christians of the primitive sort, whose
religion is their all; who triumph and glory in tribulation, knowing
that it worketh patience. She told me, with a bright sweet calm, of
her husband killed in battle the first year of the war, of her only
daughter and two grandchildren dying in the faith, and of her own
happy waiting on God's will, with bright hopes of a joyful reunion.
Her sons are leading members of the Presbyterian Church, and most
active in stirring up others to make their profession a reality, not
an empty name. When I thought that all this came from the conversion
of one giddy girl, when George seemed to be doing so little, I said,
"Who can measure the work of a faithful minister?" It is such living
witnesses that maintain Christianity on earth.
Good-by, We shall soon be home now, and preparing for Florida. Always
your own loving mother,
H. B. S.
Mrs. Stowe never undertook another reading tour, nor, after this one,
did she ever read again for money, though she frequently contributed
her talent in this direction to the cause of charity.
The most noteworthy event of her later years was the celebration of
the seventieth anniversary of her birthday. That it might be fittingly
observed, her publishers, Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co. of Boston,
arranged a reception for her in form of a garden party, to which they
invited the literati of America. It was held on June 14, 1882,
at "The Old Elms," the home of Ex-Governor Claflin of Massachusetts,
in Newtonville, one of Boston's most beautiful suburbs. Here the
assembly gathered to do honor to Mrs. Stowe, that lovely June
afternoon, comprised two hundred of the most distinguished and best
known among the literary men and women of the day.
>From three until five o'clock was spent socially. As the guests
arrived they were presented to Mrs. Stowe by Mr. H. 0. Houghton, and
then they gathered in groups in the parlors, on the verandas, on the
lawn, and in the refreshment room. At five o'clock they assembled in a
large tent on the lawn, when Mr. Houghton, as host, addressed to his
guest and her friends a few words of congratulation and welcome. He
closed his remarks by saying:--
"And now, honored madam, as
"'When to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Mozambic, off at sea northeast winds blow
Sabean odors from the spicy shore
Of Arabie the blest,'
so the benedictions of the lowly and the blessings of all conditions
of men are brought to you to-day on the wings of the wind, from every
quarter of the globe; but there will be no fresher laurels to crown
this day of your rejoicing than are brought by those now before you,
who have been your co-workers in the strife; who have wrestled and
suffered, fought and conquered, with you; who rank you with the
Miriams, the Deborahs, and the Judiths of old; and who now shout back
the refrain, when you utter the inspired song:--
"'Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.'
* * * * *
The Almighty Lord hath disappointed them by the hand of a woman.'"
In reply to this Mrs. Stowe's brother, Henry Ward Beecher, said: "Of
course you all sympathize with me to-day, but, standing in this place,
I do not see your faces more clearly than I see those of my father and
my mother. Her I only knew as a mere babe-child. He was my teacher and
my companion. A more guileless soul than he, a more honest one, more
free from envy, from jealousy, and from selfishness, I never knew.
Though he thought he was great by his theology, everybody else knew he
was great by his religion. My mother is to me what the Virgin Mary is
to a devout Catholic. She was a woman of great nature, profound as a
philosophical thinker, great in argument, with a kind of intellectual
imagination, diffident, not talkative,--in which respect I take after
her,--the woman who gave birth to Mrs. Stowe, whose graces and
excellences she probably more than any of her children--we number but
thirteen--has possessed. I suppose that in bodily resemblance,
perhaps, she is not like my mother, but in mind I presume she is most
like her. I thank you for my father's sake and for my mother's sake
for the courtesy, the friendliness, and the kindness which you give to
The following poem from John Greenleaf Whittier was then read:--
"Thrice welcome from the Land of Flowers
And golden-fruited orange bowers
To this sweet, green-turfed June of ours!
To her who, in our evil time,
Dragged into light the nation's crime
With strength beyond the strength of men,
And, mightier than their sword, her pen;
To her who world-wide entrance gave
To the log cabin of the slave,
Made all his wrongs and sorrows known,
And all earth's languages his own,--
North, South, and East and West, made all
The common air electrical,
Until the o'ercharged bolts of heaven
Blazed down, and every chain was riven!
"Welcome from each and all to her
Whose Wooing of the Minister
Revealed the warm heart of the man
Beneath the creed-bound Puritan,
And taught the kinship of the love
Of man below and God above;
To her whose vigorous pencil-strokes
Sketched into life her Oldtown Folks,
Whose fireside stories, grave or gay,
In quaint Sam Lawson's vagrant way,
With Old New England's flavor rife,
Waifs from her rude idyllic life,
Are racy as the legends old
By Chaucer or Boccaccio told;
To her who keeps, through change of place
And time, her native strength and grace,
Alike where warm Sorrento smiles,
Or where, by birchen-shaded isles
Whose summer winds have shivered o'er
The icy drift of Labrador,
She lifts to light the priceless Pearl
Of Harpswell's angel-beckoned girl.
To her at threescore years and ten
Be tributes of the tongue and pen,
Be honor, praise, and heart thanks given,
The loves of earth, the hopes of heaven!
"Ah, dearer than the praise that stirs
The air to-day, our love is hers!
She needs no guaranty of fame
Whose own is linked with Freedom's name.
Long ages after ours shall keep
Her memory living while we sleep;
The waves that wash our gray coast lines,
The winds that rock the Southern pines
Shall sing of her; the unending years
Shall tell her tale in unborn ears.
And when, with sins and follies past,
Are numbered color-hate and caste,
White, black, and red shall own as one.
The noblest work by woman done."
It was followed by a few words from Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, who
also read the subjoined as his contribution to the chorus of
"If every tongue that speaks her praise
For whom I shape my tinkling phrase
Were summoned to the table,
The vocal chorus that would meet
Of mingling accents harsh or sweet,
From every land and tribe, would beat
The polyglots of Babel."
"Briton and Frenchman, Swede and Dane,
Turk, Spaniard, Tartar of Ukraine,
Hidalgo, Cossack, Cadi,
High Dutchman and Low Dutchman, too,
The Russian serf, the Polish Jew,
Arab, Armenian, and Mantchoo
Would shout, 'We know the lady.'"
"Know her! Who knows not Uncle Tom
And her he learned his gospel from,
Has never heard of Moses;
Full well the brave black hand we know
That gave to freedom's grasp the hoe
That killed the weed that used to grow
Among the Southern roses."
"When Archimedes, long ago,
Spoke out so grandly, 'Dos pou sto,--
Give me a place to stand on,
I'll move your planet for you, now,'--
He little dreamed or fancied how
The sto at last should find its pou
For woman's faith to land on."
"Her lever was the wand of art,
Her fulcrum was the human heart,
Whence all unfailing aid is;
She moved the earth! Its thunders pealed.
Its mountains shook, its temples reeled,
The blood-red fountains were unsealed,
And Moloch sunk to Hades."
"All through the conflict, up and down
Marched Uncle Tom and Old John Brown,
One ghost, one form ideal;
And which was false and which was true,
And which was mightier of the two,
The wisest sibyl never knew,
For both alike were real."
"Sister, the holy maid does well
Who counts her beads in convent cell,
Where pale devotion lingers;
But she who serves the sufferer's needs,
Whose prayers are spelt in loving deeds,
May trust the Lord will count her beads
As well as human fingers.
"When Truth herself was Slavery's slave
Thy hand the prisoned suppliant gave
The rainbow wings of fiction.
And Truth who soared descends to-day
Bearing an angel's wreath away,
Its lilies at thy feet to lay
With heaven's own benediction."
Poems written for the occasion by Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney, Miss
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Mr. J. T. Trowbridge, Mrs. Allen (Mrs.
Stowe's daughter), Mrs. Annie Fields, and Miss Charlotte F. Bates,
were also read, and speeches were made by Judge Albion W. Tourgee and
others prominent in the literary world.
Letters from many noted people, who were prevented from being present
by distance or by other engagements, had been received. Only four of
them were read, but they were all placed in Mrs. Stowe's hands. The
exercises were closed by a few words from Mrs. Stowe herself. As she
came to the front of the platform the whole company rose, and remained
standing until she had finished. In her quiet, modest, way, and yet so
clearly as to be plainly heard by all, she said:--
"I wish to say that I thank all my friends from my heart,--that is
all. And one thing more,--and that is, if any of you have doubt, or
sorrow, or pain, if you doubt about this world, just remember what God
has done; just remember that this great sorrow of slavery has gone,
gone by forever. I see it every day at the South. I walk about there
and see the lowly cabins. I see these people growing richer and
richer. I see men very happy in their lowly lot; but, to be sure, you
must have patience with them. They are not perfect, but have their
faults, and they are serious faults in the view of white people. But
they are very happy, that is evident, and they do know how to enjoy
themselves,--a great deal more than you do. An old negro friend in our
neighborhood has got a new, nice two-story house, and an orange grove,
and a sugar-mill. He has got a lot of money, besides. Mr. Stowe met
him one day, and he said, 'I have got twenty head of cattle, four head
of "hoss," forty head of hen, and I have got ten children, all
mine, every one mine.' Well, now, that is a thing that a black
man could not say once, and this man was sixty years old before he
could say it. With all the faults of the colored people, take a man
and put him down with nothing but his hands, and how many could say as
much as that? I think they have done well.
"A little while ago they had at his house an evening festival for
their church, and raised fifty dollars. We white folks took our
carriages, and when we reached the house we found it fixed nicely.
Every one of his daughters knew how to cook. They had a good place for
the festival. Their suppers were spread on little white tables with
nice clean cloths on them. People paid fifty cents for supper. They
got between fifty and sixty dollars, and had one of the best frolics
you could imagine. They had also for supper ice-cream, which they made
"That is the sort of thing I see going on around me. Let us never
doubt. Everything that ought to happen is going to happen."
Mrs. Stowe's public life ends with the garden party, and little more
remains to be told. She had already, in 1880, begun the task of
selection from the great accumulation of letters and papers relating
to her life, and writes thus to her son in Saco, Maine, regarding the
September 30, 1880.
MY DEAR CHARLEY,--My mind has been with you a great deal lately. I
have been looking over and arranging my papers with a view to sifting
out those that are not worth keeping, and so filing and arranging
those that are to be kept, that my heirs and assigns may with the less
trouble know where and what they are. I cannot describe (to you) the
peculiar feelings which this review occasions. Reading old letters--
when so many of the writers are gone from earth, seems to me like
going into the world of spirits--letters full of the warm, eager,
anxious, busy life, that is forever past. My own letters, too,
full of by-gone scenes in my early life and the childish days of my
children. It is affecting to me to recall things that strongly moved
me years ago, that filled my thoughts and made me anxious when the
occasion and emotion have wholly vanished from my mind. But I thank
God there is one thing running through all of them from the
time I was thirteen years old, and that is the intense unwavering
sense of Christ's educating, guiding presence and care. It is
all that remains now. The romance of my youth is faded, it
looks to me now, from my years, so very young--those days when
my mind only lived in emotion, and when my letters never were
dated, because they were only histories of the internal, but
now that I am no more and never can be young in this world, now that
the friends of those days are almost all in eternity, what remains?
Through life and through death, through sorrowing, through sinning,
Christ shall suffice me as he hath sufficed.
Christ is the end and Christ the beginning,
The beginning and end of all is Christ.
I was passionate in my attachments in those far back years, and as I
have looked over files of old letters, they are all gone (except one,
C. Van Rensselaer), Georgiana May, Delia Bacon, Clarissa Treat,
Elisabeth Lyman, Sarah Colt, Elisabeth Phenix, Frances Strong,
Elisabeth Foster. I have letters from them all, but they have been
long in spirit land and know more about how it is there than I do. It
gives me a sort of dizzy feeling of the shortness of life and nearness
of eternity when I see how many that I have traveled with are gone
within the veil. Then there are all my own letters, written in the
first two years of marriage, when Mr. Stowe was in Europe and I was
looking forward to motherhood and preparing for it--my letters when my
whole life was within the four walls of my nursery, my thoughts
absorbed by the developing character of children who have now lived
their earthly life and gone to the eternal one,--my two little boys,
each in their way good and lovely, whom Christ has taken in youth, and
my little one, my first Charley, whom He took away before he knew sin
or sorrow,--then my brother George and sister Catherine, the one a
companion of my youth, the other the mother who assumed the care of me
after I left home in my twelfth year--and they are gone. Then my
blessed father, for many years so true an image of the Heavenly
Father,--in all my afflictions he was afflicted, in all my
perplexities he was a sure and safe counselor, and he too is gone
upward to join the angelic mother whom I scarcely knew in this world,
who has been to me only a spiritual presence through life.
In 1882 Mrs. Stowe writes to her son certain impressions derived from
reading the "Life and Letters of John Quincy Adams," which are given
as containing a retrospect of the stormy period of her own life-
"Your father enjoys his proximity to the Boston library. He is now
reading the twelve or fourteen volumes of the life and diary of John
Q. Adams. It is a history of our country through all the period of
slavery usurpation that led to the war. The industry of the man in
writing is wonderful. Every day's doings in the house are faithfully
daguerreotyped,--all the mean tricks, contrivances of the slave-power,
and the pusillanimity of the Northern members from day to day
recorded. Calhoun was then secretary of state. Under his connivance
even the United States census was falsified, to prove that freedom was
bad for negroes. Records of deaf, dumb, and blind, and insane colored
people were distributed in Northern States, and in places where John
Q. Adams had means of proving there were no negroes. When he
found that these falsified figures had been used with the English
embassador as reasons for admitting Texas as a slave State, the old
man called on Calhoun, and showed him the industriously collected
proofs of the falsity of this census. He says: 'He writhed like
a trodden rattlesnake, but said the census was full of mistakes; but
one part balanced another,--it was not worth while to correct them.'
His whole life was an incessant warfare with the rapidly advancing
spirit of slavery, that was coiling like a serpent around everything.
"At a time when the Southerners were like so many excited tigers and
rattlesnakes,--when they bullied, and scoffed, and sneered, and
threatened, this old man rose every day in his place, and, knowing
every parliamentary rule and tactic of debate, found means to make
himself heard. Then he presented a petition from negroes, which
raised a storm of fury. The old man claimed that the right of petition
was the right of every human being. They moved to expel him. By the
rules of the house a man, before he can be expelled, may have the
floor to make his defense. This was just what he wanted. He held the
floor for fourteen days, and used his wonderful powers of
memory and arrangement to give a systematic, scathing history of the
usurpations of slavery; he would have spoken fourteen days more, but
his enemies, finding the thing getting hotter and hotter, withdrew
their motion, and the right of petition was gained.
"What is remarkable in this journal is the minute record of going to
church every Sunday, and an analysis of the text and sermon. There is
something about these so simple, so humble, so earnest. Often
differing from the speaker--but with gravity and humility--he seems
always to be so self-distrustful; to have such a sense of sinfulness
and weakness, but such trust in God's fatherly mercy, as is most
beautiful to see. Just the record of his Sunday sermons, and his
remarks upon them, would be most instructive to a, preacher. He was a
regular communicant, and, beside, attended church on Christmas and
Easter,--I cannot but love the old man. He died without seeing even
the dawn of liberty which God has brought; but oh! I am sure he sees
it from above. He died in the Capitol, in the midst of his labors, and
the last words he said were, 'This is the last of earth; I am
content.' And now, I trust, he is with God.
"All, all are gone. All that raged; all that threatened; all the
cowards that yielded; truckled, sold their country for a mess of
pottage; all the men that stood and bore infamy and scorn for
the truth; all are silent in dust; the fight is over, but eternity
will never efface from their souls whether they did well or ill--
whether they fought bravely or failed like cowards. In a sense, our
lives are irreparable. If we shrink, if we fail, if we choose the
fleeting instead of the eternal, God may forgive us; but there must be
an eternal regret! This man lived for humanity when hardest bestead;
for truth when truth was unpopular; for Christ when Christ stood
chained and scourged in the person of the slave."
In the fall of 1887 she writes to her brother Rev. Dr. Edward Beecher
of Brooklyn, N. Y.:--
49 FOREST STREET, HARTFORD, CONN., October 11, 1887.
Dear Brother,--I was delighted to receive your kind letter. You
were my earliest religious teacher; your letters to me while a school-
girl in Hartford gave me a high Christian aim and standard which I
hope I have never lost. Not only did they do me good, but also my
intimate friends, Georgiana May and Catherine Cogswell, to whom I read
them. The simplicity, warmth, and childlike earnestness of those
school days I love to recall. I am the only one living of that
circle of early friends. Not one of my early schoolmates is
living,--and now Henry, younger by a year or two than I, has gone--my
husband also. [Footnote: Professor Stowe died August, 1886.] I often
think, Why am I spared? Is there yet anything for me to do? I
am thinking with my son Charles's help of writing a review of my life,
under the title, "Pebbles from the Shores of a Past Life."
Charlie told me that he has got all written up to my twelfth or
thirteenth year, when I came to be under sister Catherine's care in
Hartford. I am writing daily my remembrances from that time. You were
then, I think, teacher of the Grammar School in Hartford. . . .
So, my dear brother, let us keep good heart; no evil can befall us.
Sin alone is evil, and from that Christ will keep us. Our journey is
I feel about all things now as I do about the things that happen in a
hotel, after my trunk is packed to go home. I may be vexed and annoyed
. . . but what of it! I am going home soon.
Your affectionate sister,
To a friend she writes a little later:--
"I have thought much lately of the possibility of my leaving you all
and going home. I am come to that stage of my pilgrimage that is
within sight of the River of Death, and I feel that now I must have
all in readiness day and night for the messenger of the King. I have
sometimes had in my sleep strange perceptions of a vivid spiritual
life near to and with Christ, and multitudes of holy ones, and the joy
of it is like no other joy,--it cannot be told in the language of the
world. What I have then I know with absolute certainty, yet it
is so unlike and above anything we conceive of in this world that it
is difficult to put it into words. The inconceivable loveliness of
Christ! It seems that about Him there is a sphere where the enthusiasm
of love is the calm habit of the soul, that without words, without the
necessity of demonstrations of affection, heart beats to heart, soul
answers soul, we respond to the Infinite Love, and we feel his answer
in us, and there is no need of words. All seemed to be busy coming and
going on ministries of good, and passing each gave a thrill of joy to
each as Jesus, the directing soul, the centre of all, 'over all, in
all, and through all," was working his beautiful and merciful will to
redeem and save. I was saying as I awoke:--
"''T is joy enough, my all in all,
At thy dear feet to lie.
Thou wilt not let me lower fall,
And none can higher fly.'
"This was but a glimpse; but it has left a strange sweetness in my