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- The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe - 20/82 -
suffering, put him into a wet sheet, and kept him there until he was in a profuse perspiration. He is evidently getting better, and is auspiciously cross. Never was crossness in a baby more admired. Anna and I have said to each other exultingly a score of times, "How cross the little fellow is! How he does scold!"
_July_ 15. Since I last wrote our house has been a perfect hospital. Charley apparently recovering, but still weak and feeble, unable to walk or play, and so miserably fretful and unhappy. Sunday Anna and I were fairly stricken down, as many others are, with no particular illness, but with such miserable prostration. I lay on the bed all day reading my hymn-book and thinking over passages of Scripture.
_July_ 17. To-day we have been attending poor old Aunt Frankie's [Footnote: An old colored woman.] funeral. She died yesterday morning, taken sick the day before while washing. Good, honest, trustful old soul! She was truly one who hungered and thirsted for righteousness.
Yesterday morning our poor little dog, Daisy, who had been ailing the day before, was suddenly seized with frightful spasms and died in half an hour. Poor little affectionate thing! If I were half as good for my nature as she for hers I should be much better than I am. While we were all mourning over her the news came that Aunt Frankie was breathing her last. Hatty, Eliza, Anna, and I made her shroud yesterday, and this morning I made her cap. We have just come from her grave.
_July_ 23. At last, my dear, the hand of the Lord hath touched us. We have been watching all day by the dying bed of little Charley, who is gradually sinking. After a partial recovery from the attack I described in my last letter he continued for some days very feeble, but still we hoped for recovery. About four days ago he was taken with decided cholera, and now there is no hope of his surviving this night.
Every kindness is shown us by the neighbors. Do not return. All will be over before you could possibly get here, and the epidemic is now said by the physicians to prove fatal to every new case. Bear up. Let us not faint when we are rebuked of Him. I dare not trust myself to say more but shall write again soon.
_July_ 26. MY DEAR HUSBAND,--At last it is over and our dear little one is gone from us. He is now among the blessed. My Charley-- my beautiful, loving, gladsome baby, so loving, so sweet, so full of life and hope and strength--now lies shrouded, pale and cold, in the room below. Never was he anything to me but a comfort. He has been my pride and joy. Many a heartache has he cured for me. Many an anxious night have I held him to my bosom and felt the sorrow and loneliness pass out of me with the touch of his little warm hands. Yet I have just seen him in his death agony, looked on his imploring face when I could not help nor soothe nor do one thing, not one, to mitigate his cruel suffering, do nothing but pray in my anguish that he might die soon. I write as though there were no sorrow like my sorrow, yet there has been in this city, as in the land of Egypt, scarce a house without its dead. This heart-break, this anguish, has been everywhere, and when it will end God alone knows. With this severest blow of all, the long years of trial and suffering in the West practically end; for in September, 1849, Professor Stowe returned from Brattleboro', and at the same time received a call to the Collins Professorship at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine, that he decided to accept.
REMOVAL TO BRUNSWICK, 1850-1852.
MRS. STOWE'S REMARKS ON WRITING AND UNDERSTANDING BIOGRAPHY.--THEIR APPROPRIATENESS TO HER OWN BIOGRAPHY.--REASONS FOR PROFESSOR STOWE'S LEAVING CINCINNATI.--MRS. STOWE'S JOURNEY TO BROOKLYN.--HER BROTHER'S SUCCESS AS A MINISTER.--LETTERS FROM HARTFORD AND BOSTON.--ARRIVES IN BRUNSWICK.--HISTORY OF THE SLAVERY AGITATION.--PRACTICAL WORKING OF THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW.--MRS. EDWARD BEECHER'S LETTER TO MRS. STOWE AND ITS EFFECT.--DOMESTIC TRIALS.--BEGINS TO WRITE "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN" AS A SERIAL FOR THE "NATIONAL ERA."--LETTER TO FREDERICK DOUGLASS.-- "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN" A WORK OF RELIGIOUS EMOTION.
Early in the winter of 1849 Mrs. Stowe wrote in a private journal in which she recorded thought and feeling concerning religious themes: "It has been said that it takes a man to write the life of a man; that is, there must be similarity of mind in the person who undertakes to present the character of another. This is true, also, of reading and understanding biography. A statesman and general would read the life of Napoleon with the spirit and the understanding, while the commonplace man plods through it as a task. The difference is that the one, being of like mind and spirit with the subject of the biography, is able to sympathize with him in all his thoughts and experiences, and the other is not. The life of Henry Martyn would be tedious and unintelligible to a mind like that of a Richelieu or a Mazarin. They never experienced or saw or heard anything like it, and would be quite at a loss where to place such a man in their mental categories. It is not strange, therefore, that of all biography in the world that of Jesus Christ should be least understood. It is an exception to all the world has ever seen. 'The world knew Him not.' There is, to be sure, a simple grandeur about the life of Jesus which awes almost every mind. The most hardened scoffer, after he has jested and jeered at everything in the temple of Christianity, stands for a moment uncovered and breathless when he comes to the object of its adoration and feels how awful goodness is, and Virtue in her shape how lovely. Yet, after all, the character of the Christ has been looked at and not sympathized with. Men have turned aside to see this great sight. Christians have fallen in adoration, but very few have tried to enter into his sympathies and to feel as He felt." How little she dreamed that these words were to become profoundly appropriate as a description of her own life in its relation to mankind! How little the countless thousands who read, have read, and will read, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" enter into or sympathize with the feelings out of which it was written! A delicate, sensitive woman struggling with poverty, with weary step and aching head attending to the innumerable demands of a large family of growing children; a devoted Christian seeking with strong crying and tears a kingdom not of this world,--is this the popular conception of the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? Nevertheless it is the reality. When, amid the burning ruins of a besieged city, a mother's voice is heard uttering a cry of anguish over a child killed in her arms by a bursting shell, the attention is arrested, the heart is touched. So "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was a cry of anguish from a mother's heart, and uttered in sad sincerity. It was the bursting forth of deep feeling, with all the intense anguish of wounded love. It will be the purpose of this chapter to show this, and to cause to pass before the reader's mind the time, the household, and the heart from which this cry was heard.
After struggling for seventeen years with ill health and every possible vexation and hindrance in his work, Professor Stowe became convinced that it was his duty to himself and his family to seek some other field of labor.
February 6, 1850, he writes to his mother, in Natick, Mass.: "My health has not been good this winter, and I do not suppose that I should live long were I to stay here. I have done a great deal of hard work here, and practiced no little self-denial. I have seen the seminary carried through a most vexatious series of lawsuits, ecclesiastical and civil, and raised from the depths of poverty to comparative affluence, and I feel at liberty now to leave. During the three months of June, July, and August last, more than nine thousand persons died of cholera within three miles of my house, and this winter, in the same territory, there have been more than ten thousand cases of small-pox, many of them of the very worst kind. Several have died on the hill, and the Jesuits' college near us has been quite broken up by it. There have been, however, no cases in our families or in the seminary.
"I have received many letters from friends in the East expressing great gratification at the offer from Bowdoin College, and the hope that I would accept it. I am quite inclined to do so, but the matter is not yet finally settled, and there are difficulties in the way. They can offer me only $1,000 a year, and I must, out of it, hire my own house, at an expense of $75 to $100 a year. Here the trustees offer me $1,500 a year if I will stay, and a good house besides, which would make the whole salary equivalent to $1,800; and to-day I have had another offer from New York city of $2,300. . . . On the whole, I have written to Bowdoin College, proposing to them if they will give me $500 free and clear in addition to the salary, I will accept their proposition, and I suppose that there is no doubt that they will do it. In that case I should come on next spring, in May or June."
This offer from Bowdoin College was additionally attractive to Professor Stowe from the fact that it was the college from which he graduated, and where some of the happiest years of his life had been passed.
The professorship was one just established through the gift of Mrs. Collins, a member of Bowdoin Street Church in Boston, and named in her honor, the "Collins Professorship of Natural and Revealed Religion."
It was impossible for Professor Stowe to leave Lane Seminary till some one could be found to take his place; so it was determined that Mrs. Stowe, with three of the children, should start for the East in April, and having established the family in Brunswick, Professor Stowe was to come on with the remaining children when his engagements would permit.
The following extracts from a letter written by Mrs. Stowe at her brother Henry's, at Brooklyn, April 29, 1850, show us that the journey was accomplished without special incident.
"The boat got into Pittsburgh between four and five on Wednesday. The agent for the Pennsylvania Canal came on board and soon filled out our tickets, calling my three chicks one and a half. We had a quiet and agreeable passage, and crossed the slides at five o'clock in the morning, amid exclamations of unbounded delight from all the children, to whom the mountain scenery was a new and amazing thing. We reached Hollidaysburg about eleven o'clock, and at two o'clock in the night were called up to get into the cars at Jacktown. Arriving at Philadelphia about three o'clock in the afternoon, we took the boat and railroad line for New York.
"At Lancaster we telegraphed to Brooklyn, and when we arrived in New York, between ten and eleven at night, Cousin Augustus met us and took us over to Brooklyn. We had ridden three hundred miles since two o'clock that morning, and were very tired. . . . I am glad we came that way, for the children have seen some of the finest scenery in our country. . . . Henry's people are more than ever in love with him, and have raised his salary to $3,300, and given him a beautiful horse and carriage worth $600. . . . My health is already improved by the journey, and I was able to walk a good deal between the locks on the canal. As to furniture, I think that we may safely afford an outlay of $150, and that will purchase all that may be necessary to set us up, and then we can get more as we have means and opportunity. . . . If I
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