« ZurückWeiter »
passed-among children who are his great delight, with friends between whom and himself there is natural sympathy and appreciation; in the midst of scenes, studious, historical, and romantic, surrounded by all the comforts of life-by the simple luxuries which his simple tastes desire; where there is quiet, and yet convenience; at peace, wherein he may still, and will, we ardently hope, for these many years to come, occasionally send out to his wide-spread audience of thousands, not seeing him and unseen by him, more verses wherewith to charm them.
On the next estate to that of the "Washington Head-quarters" lived, till within two years, a genius of a far different sort-as truly practical as Longfellow is brilliantly fanciful, and enjoying a renown perhaps almost as extensive. The house, standing back from the street and sheltered by lofty trees, is a modest, plain, white frame building, without the least attempt at ornamentation, not observable except for its quiet and cozy simplicity; while, next door, "Evangeline," "Hiawatha," and the "Wayside Inn" were being spun out of the poet's brain, here there was going on a busy tinkering at the English language; a "perfecting of the theory of defective verbs," as Carlyle says, and of regular ones too; nouns, and "nouns in action." The long work of Dr. Johnson was being lengthened and completed; for here was the study of Dr. Joseph E. Worcester, whose "Dictionary," ponderous and well worth the scholar's pondering, was receiving its final touches. Doctor Worcester was an eccentricity of the amiable sort; a dry, plodding scholar-retiring, fond of a small circle of friends, and among them bright and genial, but not fond of mingling to any great extent in society; in his best element, when in the midst of his manuscripts, his old classical and new, and the dusty works of the lexicographers, great and small, who have intervened between the first and himself. Having no family except a sympathetic wife, there was always a stillness about the " man of words," in striking contrast with the noisy merriment at the "Washington Head-quarters."
Doctor Worcester, in his latter days (he died in 1865, at the age of eighty) seldom walked abroad, his limbs being affected with slight paralysis. He was, however, a constant attendant at Christ Church, the Episcopalian, and walked slowly there and back on Sunday mornings, accompanied by Mrs. Worcester. He took daily exercise, driving in a curious old-fashioned buggy, with an equally queer oldfashioned, tumbling, jolting horse, all in harmony with the quaint Occupant within. It was a curious sight to see the venerable lexicographer, rumbling along slowly over the pleasant suburban highways,
keenly enjoying the brief relief from his plodding labours. Few, however, knew him, so retired was he in all his habits, so intent upon his great work, his association with the other literary celebrities in the neighbourhood were not intimate. A tall gaunt man, thin and apparently feeble, his lower limbs hardly sufficing to carry him at the slowest pace; his hair long and grey, curly towards the shoulders; his face spare and short, with, however, a broad forehead and dullish blue eyes, hidden beneath spectacles. In manner, he was simple and cordial; his welcome was always gracious; his hospitality unostentatious, but always pleasant. His voice was high and feeble, and in the later years of his life his hearing was very much affected. A stringent moralist and earnestly pious, he was the model of a quiet Christian gentleman. His charities, unseen, were discovered, after his death, to have been wide spread and well directed. He died possessed of an extensive property, consisting chiefly of lands and houses in the vicinity of his residence, where he had lived for many years previous to his departure from earth. Although a graduate of the rival University of Yale, Dr. Worcester's literary career had always been identified with Harvard. The latter university adopted his dictionary as an authority in preference to that of Dr. Noah Webster, patronized by Yale, where the latter also graduated. In the United States, Worcester's Dictionary is generally preferred among scholars for orthography, and that of Webster for accurate definitions; the scale, on the whole, appears to be turning in favour of the latter, due in part, perhaps, to the essays recently published thereon by the distinguished American philologist, the Hon. George P. Marsh, now minister at the Court of Florence.
Passing up the same street (or road rather, it is so rural and winding), called "Brattle Street," a short distance, we reach a small brown house with two monster elms before the door, the residence lately of the widow of Henry Wheaton, the author of "Wheaton's Elements of International Law." The venerable lady, in her extreme age, was the centre of an elegant and refined circle, and shone almost as brilliantly in conversation as when ambassadress at Copenhagen and Berlin. She was the model of an intellectual lady of the old school, full of interesting recollections of courts and the past generations of American celebrities, and still retained evidences of early beauty and the fascination of manner which once charmed the present King of Prussia when Crown Prince. Further on are two snug, oldfashioned houses, embedded in foliage and flower-gardens, moss-roofed -quiet, dreamy old places enough; in the first one which you
approach lives George Nicholls, the celebrated annotator; and in the next, Charles C. Little, the great Boston publisher, son-in-law of Wheaton, and the greatest landed proprietor of Cambridge. A little off the main street, on a pretty little way which ascends a gentle hill, and which is named after Sparks the historian, resides in a neat French cottage, the Rev. James Walker, formerly President of Harvard University (and the best-beloved of the century), famous, also, as one of the most eloquent and powerful of the Unitarian clergy, yet a modestly-appearing, undemonstrative man-lame, with sandy hair and prominent nose, and always wearing a bright, intelligent smile Whenever it is known that Dr. Walker is to preach, multitudes flock to listen; there is something about his sermons and his manner equally pleasing to scholars and to the unlettered. As an essayist on moral and mental philosophy, few Americans are his equals; as a neighbour, he is social and unpretending; as a conversationalist, delightful to listen to. Dr. Walker's reign at the University is remembered with loving respect; no man so thoroughly understood the art of governing temperately, graciously, firmly, and effectively withal -so governing, that the institution was vigorous and orderly, yet so that there dwelt in the hearts of the students a universal respect and affection for their chief magistrate and counsellor.
Let us continue our jaunt on Brattle Street. Further on in the direction of Mount Auburn, until a turn in the road brings into view the monitory white-shining shafts and the chapel pinnacles of the cemetery. At this point a deliciously cool and picturesque little avenue starts off to the left-more a shady lane than an avenue. We now seem to be (though are not) in the broad country; for the avenue is of that patched, turfy nature which a scarcely-used country road exhibits. Narrow paths run in under trees along its sides, hedges divide the public way from the private estates within. few houses are scattered along on the left, and at the end of the avenue, some of the old-fashioned sort; others modern, in the French style-models of elegant comfort. On the right of the road is but one extended estate; there is a miniature forest of trees scattered about the lawn, some of fruit, others ornamental; vegetable patches; a well-kept hedge surrounding all. After passing along this boundary for a while, we come to a high gate; beyond it is a long, broad walk, on either side of which are shrubs and flowers all the way; in the distance, at the end of the broad walk, is a large ancient mansior plainly adorned with a sort of wooden façade. At the back and o
the sides of the house are orchards, gardens, and shrubberies. It is snugness itself, this and its surroundings. There is a very dreamy look about it. One does not in the least marvel when told that here is the abode of another poet; the air of literary seclusion, of poetic taste for rural things, of the otium cum dignitate of prosperous letters, is all about the place. There is a certain carelessness about the trees and shrubs, a graceful neglect of trim neatness (which is not poetic). Then, when one knows that it is the home of a poet, the name of the estate, "Elmwood," strikes harmoniously upon the ear; a place, above all others, to move the fancy of an impressible soul, if there is leisure to abide and wait for it to move. The right man then lives in the right place-James Russell Lowell. Fortunately, he being of an ancient and wealthy family, this drowsy, old, romantic place fell to the share of its quickest-witted and most appreciative member. The present proprietor's father, Rev. Dr. John Lowell, was an eminent man, a parson of rare merit to New England eyes; but "Biglow Papers" have got beyond the paternal sermons, have fairly eclipsed all the reverend propoundings. Those who have seen Lowell in his daily life, in the midst of his books, among his trees and flowers, surrounded by the little odds and ends of authorship, know how keenly he enjoys his unfashionable but poetically-luxurious patrimony, and how fully he is the loving genius of his habitation. He, more than any living, is to be called the peculiarly representative poet of America. As a caricaturist of the genuine Yankee countryman— rather, we should say, as the portrayer, for he hardly exaggerates -he is without parallel. The humour of Sam Slick and of Artemus Ward consists in carrying Yankeeism to the extremest travesty. Walking about in Yankeeland, you find few such. The humour of "Biglow Papers," to American minds, consists in its startling and amusing truthfulness. There are Hosea Biglows in every New England village; you cannot walk a mile in the country without meeting one-twang, homely wit, rugged sense and all. Lowell is a Yankee dealing with Yankees, as the "Mr. Snob" of Thackeray was a snob dealing with snobs; Lowell, however, being no more like Hosea than Thackeray was like the ludicrous creatures of his brain. Living, as he does, among Yankees, and seeing much of the prevailing rustic type, alive keenly to their salient points of character, their manner of viewing things, their spicy rural wit, and quick to transfer the picture from mind to paper, imitating and readily versifying the exact language and pronunciation, he is beyond all competition the first portrayer of the Yankee
character in America. One is surprised, after reading "Biglow Papers," to find what manner of man Professor Lowell is; more still, when he hears his rich, sparkling conversation, clothed in the best of English, and bearing evidence of a rare scholastic culture. The versatility of the poet is remarkable; he turns as easily from a "Biglow" sketch to a philosophical dissertation on current politics, as Sheridan did from "The Rivals" to a harangue from the benches of the Opposition. Some of the most trenchant political essays which have lately appeared in America were his productions; several, in the "North American Review," commanding the attention of the whole country. In common with a large majority of Northern men of letters, Lowell is Radical, and may in politics, be ranked with Emerson, Phillips, Sumner; bitterly hostile to the President and Secretary Seward, and favourable to putting the negro on a full equality with the white citizen. Among the small coterie which has for years braved public opinion (before the question of abolition was ripe) in advocacy of negro freedom, Lowell was, perhaps next to Wendell Phillips, the ablest champion of the oppressed race. There is a little volume of lyrics and poetical stories, album scraps, acceptations of gifts in verse, and so on (which Ticknor and Fields have put out, blue-and-gold bound), which illustrates still further the rich variety of Lowell's mind, and which is to be found in almost every American parlour. Mr. Lowell succeeded his rival, neighbour, and friend, Longfellow, some six or seven years ago, as Professor of Modern Languages and Literature in Harvard University. Among his duties in this capacity is that of delivering a series of lectures, in the course of the winter, on Modern Literature, to the senior class. It is a rare treat to listen to them. They are the production of a cultivated and most facile mind, strongly prone to humour, and above all eminently capable of holding the attention of all his auditory. They are not the less instructive because they abound in apt anecdotes, and are rich in pertinent and well-timed illustration. Among other subjects, the lectures treat of Dante, Shakspeare, Milton-those who mark epochs in modern letters; and one of the lectures (the richest of all) is on "English humour," in which the lecturer manages to blend a compendium of knowledge with a multitude of laughter-exciting stories.
The voice and manner of delivery add greatly to the charm of the lectures; neither, indeed, would be effective before a miscellaneous audience assembled to hear a political discussion. Professor Lowell is not fitted for "stump speechifying "; and, although a keen lover of