Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton
Part 5 out of 5
observed on ship-board with gifts for everybody; thoughtfulness
and kindness had made the trip a delight to the crew as well as the
The letters sent home from the _Sunbeam_ were so thoroughly enjoyed
by her father and friends, that they prevailed upon her to publish a
book, which she did in 1878. It was found to be as full of interest
to the world as it had been to the intimate friends, and it passed
rapidly through four editions. An abridged edition appeared in the
following year; then the call for it was so great that an edition
was prepared for reading in schools, in 1880, and finally, in 1881, a
twelve-cent edition, that the poor as well as the rich might have an
opportunity of reading this fascinating book, _Around the World in
the Yacht Sunbeam_. And now Lady Brassey found herself not only the
accomplished and benevolent wife of a member of Parliament, but a
famous author as well.
This year, July, 1881, the King of the Sandwich Islands, who had been
greatly pleased with her description of his kingdom, was entertained
at Normanhurst Castle, and invested Lady Brassey with the Order of
The next trip made was to the far East, and a book followed in 1880,
entitled, _Sunshine and Storm in the East; or, Cruises to Cyprus and
Constantinople_, dedicated "to the brave, true-hearted sailors of
England, of all ranks and services."
The book is intensely interesting. Now she describes the Sultan going
to the mosque, which he does every Friday at twelve o'clock. "He
appeared in a sort of undress uniform, with a flowing cloak over
it, and with two or three large diamond stars on his breast. He was
mounted on a superb white Arab charger, thirty-three years old,
whose saddle-cloths and trappings blazed with gold and diamonds. The
following of officers on foot was enormous; and then came two hundred
of the fat blue and gold pashas, with their white horses and brilliant
trappings, the rear being brought up by some troops and a few
carriages.... Nobody dares address the Sultan, even if he speaks to
them, except in monosyllables, with their foreheads almost touching
the floor, the only exception being the grand vizier, who dares not
look up, but stands almost bent double. He is entirely governed by his
mother, who, having been a slave of the very lowest description, to
whom his father, Mahmoud II., took a fancy as she was carrying wood
to the bath, is naturally bigoted and ignorant.... The Sultan is not
allowed to marry, but the slaves who become mothers of his children
are called sultanas, and not allowed to do any more work. They have a
separate suite of apartments, a retinue of servants, besides carriages
and horses, and each hopes some day to be the mother of the future
Sultan, and therefore the most prominent woman in Turkey. The sultanas
may not sit at table with their own children, on account of their
having been slaves, while the children are princes and princesses in
right of their father."
Lady Brassey tells the amusing story of a visit of Eugenie to the
Sultan's mother, when the Empress of the French saluted her on the
cheek. The Turkish woman was furious, and said she had never been so
insulted in her life. "She retired to bed at once, was bled, and had
several Turkish baths, to purify her from the pollution. Fancy the
Empress' feelings when, after having so far condescended as to kiss
the old woman, born one of the lowest of slaves, she had her embrace
received in such a manner."
The habits and customs of the people are described by Lady Brassey
with all the interest of a novel. On their return home, "again the
Battle bells rang out a merry peal of gladness; again everybody rushed
out to welcome us. At home once again, the servants and the animals
seemed equally glad to see us back; the former looked the picture of
happiness, while the dogs jumped and barked; the horses and ponies
neighed and whinnied; the monkeys chattered; the cockatoos and parrots
screamed; the birds chirped; the bullfinches piped their little paean
of welcome.... Our old Sussex cowman says that even the cows eat their
food 'kind of kinder like' when the family are at home. The deer and
the ostriches too, the swans and the call ducks, all came running to
meet us, as we drove round the place to see them." Kindness to both
man and beast bears its legitimate fruit.
Two years later she prepared the letter-press to _Tahiti: a Series of
Photographs_, taken by Colonel Stuart Wortley. He also is a gentleman
of much culture and noble work, in whose home we saw beautiful things
gathered from many lands.
The last long trip of Sir Thomas and Lady Brassey was made in the fall
of 1883, and resulted in a charming book, _In the Trades, the Tropics,
and the Roaring Forties_, with about three hundred illustrations. The
route lay through Madeira, Trinidad, Venezuela, the Bahamas, and home
by way of the Azores. The resources of the various islands, their
history, and their natural formation, are ably told, showing much
study as well as intelligent observation. The maps and charts are also
valuable. At Trinidad they visit the fine Botanic Gardens, and see
bamboos, mangoes, peach-palms, and cocoa-plants, from whose seeds
chocolate is made. The quantity exported annually is 13,000,000
They also visit great coffee plantations. "The leaves of the
coffee-shrub," says Lady Brassey, "are of a rich, dark, glossy green;
the flowers, which grow in dense white clusters, when in full bloom,
giving the bushes the appearance of being covered with snow. The
berries vary in color from pale green to reddish orange or dark
red, according to their ripeness, and bear a strong resemblance to
cherries. Each contains two seeds, which, when properly dried, become
what is known to us as 'raw' coffee."
At Caracas they view with interest the place which, on March 26,
1812, was nearly destroyed by an earthquake, twelve thousand persons
perishing, thousands of whom were buried alive by the opening of
the ground. They study the formation of coral-reefs, and witness the
gathering of sponges in the Bahamas. "These are brought to the surface
by hooked poles, or sometimes by diving. When first drawn from the
water they are covered with a soft gelatinous substance, as black as
tar and full of organic life, the sponge, as we know, being only the
skeleton of the organism."
While all this travelling was being enjoyed, and made most useful
as well, to hundreds of thousands of readers, Lady Brassey was not
forgetting her works of philanthropy. For years she has been a leading
spirit in the St. John's Ambulance Association. Last October she
gave a valuable address to the members of the "Workingmen's Club and
Institute Union," composed of several hundred societies of workingmen.
Her desire was that each society take up the work of teaching
its members how to care for the body in case of accidents. The
association, now numbering over one hundred thousand persons, is an
offshoot of the ancient order of St. John of Jerusalem, founded eight
hundred years ago, to maintain a hospital for Christian pilgrims. She
says: "The method of arresting bleeding from an artery is so easy that
a child may learn it; yet thousands of lives have been lost through
ignorance, the life-blood ebbing away in the presence of sorrowing
spectators, perfectly helpless, because none among them had been
taught one of the first rudiments of instruction of an ambulance
pupil,--the application of an extemporized tourniquet. Again, how
frequent is the loss of life by drowning; yet how few persons,
comparatively, understand the way to treat properly the apparently
drowned." Lectures are given by this association on, first, aid to the
injured; also on the general management of the sick-room.
Lady Brassey, with the assistance of medical men, has held classes in
all the outlying villages about her home, and has arranged that simple
but useful medical appliances, like plasters, bandages, and the like,
be kept at some convenient centres.
At Trindad, and Bahamas, and Bermudas, when they stayed there in
their travels, she caused to be held large meetings among the most
influential residents; also at Madeira and in the Azores. A class was
organized on board the _Sunbeam_, and lectures were delivered by
a physician. In the Shetland Islands she has also organized these
societies, and thus many lives have been saved. When the soldiers
went to the Soudan, she arranged for these helpful lectures to them
on their voyage East, and among much other reading-matter which
she obtained for them, sent them books and papers on this essential
She carries on correspondence with India, Australia, and New Zealand,
where ambulance associations have been formed. For her valued services
she was elected in 1881 a _Dame Chevaliere_ of the Order of St. John
Her work among the poor in the East End of London is admirable. Too
much of this cannot be done by those who are blessed with wealth
and culture. She is also interested in all that helps to educate the
people, as is shown by her Museum of Natural History and Ethnological
Specimens, open for inspection in the School of Fine Art at Hastings.
How valuable is such a life compared with one that uses its time and
money for personal gratification alone.
In August, 1885, Sir Thomas and Lady Brassey took Mr. and Mrs.
Gladstone, and a few other friends, in the _Sunbeam_, up the coast of
Norway. When they landed at Stavanger, a quaint, clean little town,
she says, in the October _Contemporary Review_: "The reception which
we met in this comparatively out-of-the-way place, where our visit had
been totally unexpected, was very striking. From early morning little
groups of townspeople had been hovering about the quays, trying to get
a distant glimpse of the world-renowned statesman who was among our
passengers." When they walked through the town, "every window and
doorway was filled with on-lookers, several flags had been hoisted in
honor of the occasion, and the church bells were set ringing. It was
interesting and touching to see the ex-minister walking up the
narrow street, his hat almost constantly raised in response to the
salutations of the townspeople."
They sail up the fiords, they ride in stolkjoerres over the country,
they climb mountains, they visit old churches, and they dine with the
Prince of Wales on board the royal yacht _Osborne_. Before landing,
Mr. Gladstone addresses the crew, thanking them that "the voyage has
been made pleasant and safe by their high sense of duty, constant
watchfulness, and arduous exertion." While he admires the "rare
knowledge of practical seamanship of Sir Thomas Brassey," and thanks
both him and his wife for their "genial and generous hospitality,"
he does not forget the sailors, for whom he "wishes health and
happiness," and "prays that God may speed you in all you undertake."
Lady Brassey is living a useful and noble as well as intellectual
life. In London, Sir Thomas and herself recently gave a reception to
over a thousand workingmen in the South Kensington Museum. Devoted to
her family, she does not forget the best interests of her country,
nor the welfare of those less fortunate than herself. Successful in
authorship, she is equally successful in good works; loved at home and
* * * * *
Lady Brassey's last voyage was made in the yacht she loved: the
_Sunbeam_. Three or four years before, her health had received a
serious shock through an attack of typhoid fever, and it was hoped
that travel would restore her. A trip was made in 1887 to Ceylon,
Rangoon, North Borneo and Australia, in company with Lord Brassey,
a son, and three daughters. While in mid-ocean, on their way to
Mauritius, Lady Brassey died of malarial fever, and was buried at sea,
September 14, 1887.
[Illustration: BARONESS BURDETT-COUTTS.]
We hear, with comparative frequency, of great gifts made by men:
George Peabody and Johns Hopkins, Ezra Cornell and Matthew Vassar,
Commodore Vanderbilt and Leland Stanford. But gifts of millions have
been rare from women. Perhaps this is because they have not, as often
as men, had the control of immense wealth.
It is estimated that Baroness Burdett-Coutts has already given away
from fifteen to twenty million dollars, and is constantly dispensing
her fortune. She is feeling, in her lifetime, the real joy of giving.
How many benevolent persons lose all this joy, by waiting till death
before they bestow their gifts.
This remarkable woman comes from a remarkable family. Her father,
Sir Francis Burdett, was one of England's most prominent members of
Parliament. So earnest and eloquent was he that Canning placed him
"very nearly, if not quite, at the head of the orators of the day."
His colleague from Westminster, Hobhouse, said, "Sir Francis Burdett
was endowed with qualities rarely united. A manly understanding and a
tender heart gave a charm to his society such as I have never derived
in any other instance from a man whose principal pursuit was politics.
He was the delight both of young and old."
He was of fine presence, with great command of language, natural,
sincere, and impressive. After being educated at Oxford, he spent some
time in Paris during the early part of the French Revolution, and
came home with enlarged ideas of liberty. With as much courage as
eloquence, he advocated liberty of the press in England, and many
Parliamentary reforms. Whenever there were misdeeds to be exposed, he
exposed them. The abuses of Cold Bath Fields and other prisons were
corrected through his searching public inquiries.
When one of his friends was shut up in Newgate for impugning the
conduct of the House of Commons, Sir Francis took his part, and for
this it was ordered that he too be arrested. Believing in free speech
as he did, he denied the right of the House of Commons to arrest
him, and for nearly three days barricaded his house, till the police
forcibly entered, and carried him to the Tower. A riot resulted, the
people assaulting the police and the soldiers, for the statesman was
extremely popular. Several persons were killed in the tumult.
Nine years later, in 1819, because he condemned the proceedings of the
Lancashire magistrates in a massacre case, he was again arrested for
libel (?). His sentence was three months' imprisonment, and a fine of
five thousand dollars. The banknote with which the money was paid
is still preserved in the Bank of England, "with an inscription
in Burdett's own writing, that to save his life, which further
imprisonment threatened to destroy, he submitted to be robbed."
For thirty years he represented Westminster, fearless in what he
considered right; strenuous for the abolition of slavery, and in all
other reforms. Napoleon said at St. Helena, if he had invaded England
as he had intended, he would have made it a republic, with Sir Francis
Burdett, the popular idol, at its head.
Wealthy himself, Sir Francis married Sophia, the youngest daughter of
the wealthy London banker, Thomas Coutts. One son and five daughters
were born to them, the youngest Angela Georgina (April 21, 1814),
now the Baroness Burdett-Coutts. Mr. Coutts was an eccentric and
independent man, who married for his first wife an excellent girl of
very humble position. Their children, from the great wealth of the
father, married into the highest social rank, one being Marchioness of
Bute, one countess of Guilford, and the third Lady Burdett.
When Thomas Coutts was eighty-four he married for the second time,
a well-known actress, Harriet Mellon, who for seven years, till his
death, took excellent care of him. He left her his whole fortune,
amounting to several millions, feeling, perhaps, that he had provided
sufficiently for his daughters at their marriage, by giving them a
half-million each. But Harriet Mellon, with a fine sense of honor,
felt that the fortune belonged to his children. Though she married
five years later the Duke of St. Albans, twenty-four years old, about
half her own age, at her death, in ten years, she left the whole
property, some fifteen millions, to Mr. Coutts' granddaughter, Angela
Burdett. Only one condition was imposed,--that the young lady should
add the name of Coutts to her own.
Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts became, therefore, at twenty-three, the
sole proprietor of the great Coutts banking-house, which position she
held for thirty years, and the owner of an immense fortune. Very many
young men manifested a desire to help care for the property, and to
share it with her, but she seems from the first to have had but one
definite life-purpose,--to spend her money for the good of the human
race. She had her father's strength of character, was well educated,
and was a friend of royalty itself. Alas, how many young women, with
fifteen million dollars in hand, and the sum constantly increasing,
would have preferred a life of display and self-aggrandizement rather
than visiting the poor and the sorrowing!
Baroness Burdett-Coutts is now over seventy, and for fifty years her
name has been one of the brightest and noblest in England, or, indeed,
in the world. Crabb Robinson said, she is "the most generous, and
delicately generous, person I ever knew."
Her charities have extended in every direction. Among her first good
works was the building of two large churches, one at Carlisle, and
another, St. Stephen's, at Westminster, the latter having also three
schools and a parsonage. But Great Britain did not require all her
gifts. Gospel work was needed in Australia, Africa, and British
America. She therefore endowed three colonial bishoprics, at Adelaide,
Cape Town, and in British Columbia, with a quarter of a million
dollars. In South Australia she also provided an institution for the
improvement of the aborigines, who were ignorant, and for whom the
world seemed to care little.
She has generously aided her own sex. Feeling that sewing and other
household work should be taught in the national schools, as from her
labors among the poor she had seen how often food was badly cooked,
and mothers were ignorant of sewing, she gave liberally to the
government for this purpose. Her heart also went out to children in
the remote districts, who were missing all school privileges, and for
these she arranged a plan of "travelling teachers," which was heartily
approved by the English authorities. Even now in these later years the
Baroness may often be seen at the night-schools of London, offering
prizes, or encouraging the young men and women in their desire to
gain knowledge after the hard day's work is done. She has opened
"Reformatory Homes" for girls, and great good has resulted.
Like Peabody, she has transformed some of the most degraded portions
of London by her improved tenement houses for the poor. One place,
called Nova Scotia gardens,--the term "gardens" was a misnomer,--she
purchased, tore down the old rookeries where people slept and ate in
filth and rags, and built tasteful homes for two hundred families,
charging for them low and weekly rentals. Close by she built Columbia
Market, costing over a million dollars, intended for the convenience
of small dealers and people in that locality, where clean, healthful
food could be procured. She opened a museum and reading-room for the
neighborhood, and brought order and taste out of squalor and distress.
This building she presented to the city of London, and in
acknowledgment of the munificent gift, the Common Council presented
her, July, 1872, in a public ceremony, the freedom of the city, an
uncommon honor to a woman. It was accompanied by a complimentary
address, enclosed in a beautiful gold casket with several
compartments. One bore the arms of the Baroness, while the other
seven represented tableaux emblematic of her noble life, "Feeding
the Hungry," "Giving Drink to the Thirsty," "Clothing the Naked,"
"Visiting the Captive," "Lodging the Homeless," "Visiting the
Sick," and "Burying the Dead." The four cardinal virtues, Prudence,
Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice, supported the box at the four
corners, while the lid was surmounted by the arms of the city.
The Baroness made an able response to the address of the Council,
instead of asking some gentleman to reply for her. Women who can do
valuable benevolent work should be able to read their own reports,
or say what they desire to say in public speech, without feeling
that they have in the slightest degree departed from the dignity and
delicacy of their womanhood.
Two years later, 1874, Edinburgh, for her many charities, also
presented the Baroness the freedom of the city. Queen Victoria, three
years before this, in June, 1871, had made her a peer of the realm.
In Spitalfields, London, where the poverty was very great, she started
a sewing-school for adult women, and provided not only work for them,
but food as well, so that they might earn for themselves rather than
receive charity. To furnish this work, she took contracts from the
government. From this school she sent out nurses among the sick,
giving them medical supplies, and clothes for the deserving. When
servants needed outfits, the Baroness provided them, aiding in all
ways those who were willing to work. All this required much executive
So interested is she in the welfare of poor children, that she has
converted some of the very old burying-grounds of the city, where
the bodies have long since gone back to dust, into playgrounds, with
walks, and seats, and beds of flowers. Here the children can romp
from morning till night, instead of living in the stifled air of
the tenement houses. In old St. Pancras churchyard, now used as a
playground, she has erected a sundial as a memorial to its illustrious
Not alone does Lady Burdett-Coutts build churches, and help women and
girls. She has fitted hundreds of boys for the Royal Navy; educated
them on her training-ships. She usually tries them in a shoe-black
brigade, and if they show a desire to be honest and trustworthy, she
provides homes, either in the navy or in some good trade.
When men are out of work, she encourages them in various ways. When
the East End weavers had become reduced to poverty by the decay of
trade, she furnished funds for them to emigrate to Queensland, with
their families. A large number went together, and formed a prosperous
and happy colony, gratefully sending back thanks to their benefactor.
They would have starved, or, what is more probable, gone into crime in
London; now they were contented and satisfied in their new home.
When the inhabitants of Girvan, Scotland, were in distress, she
advanced a large sum to take all the needy families to Australia. Here
in America we talk every now and then of forming societies to help the
poor to leave the cities and go West, and too often the matter ends in
talk; while here is a woman who forms a society in and of herself,
and sends the suffering to any part of the world, expecting no money
return on the capital used. To see happy and contented homes grow from
our expenditures is such an investment of capital as helps to bring on
When the people near Skibbereen, Ireland, were in want, she sent food,
and clothing, and fishing-tackle, to enable them to carry on their
daily employment of fishing. She supplied the necessary funds for Sir
Henry James' topographical survey of Jerusalem, in the endeavor to
discover the remains of King Solomon's temple, and offered to restore
the ancient aqueduct, to supply the city with water. Deeply interested
in art, she has aided many struggling artists. Her homes also contain
many valuable pictures.
The heart of the Baroness seems open to distress from every clime. In
1877, when word reached England of the suffering through war of the
Bulgarian and Turkish peasantry, she instituted the "Compassion Fund,"
by which one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in money and stores
were sent, and thousands of lives saved from starvation and death. For
this generosity the Sultan conferred upon her the Order of Medjidie,
the first woman, it is said, who has received this distinction.
In all this benevolence she has not overlooked the animal creation.
She has erected four handsome drinking fountains: one in Victoria
Park, one at the entrance to the Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park,
one near Columbia Market, and one in the city of Manchester. At the
opening of the latter, the citizens gave Lady Burdett-Coutts a most
enthusiastic reception. To the unique and interesting home for lost
dogs in London, she has contributed very largely. If the poor animals
could speak, how would they thank her for a warm bed to lie on, and
proper food to eat!
Her private gifts to the poor have been numberless. Her city house,
I Stratton Street, Piccadilly, and her country home at Holly Lodge,
Highgate, are both well known. When, in 1868, the great Reform
procession passed her house, and she was at the window, though half
out of sight, says a person who was present, "in one instant a shout
was raised. For upwards of two hours and a half the air rang with the
reiterated huzzas--huzzas unanimous and heart-felt, as if representing
a national sentiment."
At Holly Lodge, which one passes in visiting the grave of George Eliot
at Highgate Cemetery, the Baroness makes thousands of persons happy
year by year. Now she invites two thousand Belgian volunteers to meet
the Prince and Princess of Wales, with some five hundred royal and
distinguished guests; now she throws open her beautiful gardens to
hundreds of school-children, and lets them play at will under the oak
and chestnut trees; and now she entertains at tea all her tenants,
numbering about a thousand. So genial and considerate is she that
all love her, both rich and poor. She has fine manners and an open,
For some years a young friend, about half her own age, Mr. William
Ashmead-Bartlett, had assisted her in dispensing her charities, and
in other financial matters. At one time he went to Turkey, at her
request, using wisely the funds committed to his trust. Baroness
Coutts had refused many offers of marriage, but she finally desired
to bestow her hand upon this young but congenial man. On February 12,
1881, they were wedded in Christ Church, Piccadilly. Her husband
took the name of Mr. Burdett-Coutts Bartlett, and has since become a
capable member of Parliament. The marriage proved a happy one.
The final years of the Baroness' long, useful life were rather
secluded, being spent at her London residence, or at her delightful
country place near Highgate, where she formerly entertained largely.
On Christmas Eve, in 1906, she became ill of bronchitis, and though
her wonderful vitality led her to revive somewhat, she finally
succumbed on December 30, at the age of ninety-two. She was greatly
beloved from the highest to the humblest citizens. Queen Alexandra
sent repeated inquiries and messages. King Edward once said that he
regarded the Baroness, after his mother, as the most remarkable woman
in England. Her life was a link with the past, as it began during the
reign of Emperor Napoleon I, and witnessed the reigns of five British
sovereigns. Throughout it was spent in doing good.
[Illustration: JEAN INGELOW.]
The same friend who had given me Mrs. Browning's five volumes in blue
and gold, came one day with a dainty volume just published by Roberts
Brothers, of Boston. They had found a new poet, and one possessing a
beautiful name. Possibly it was a _nom de plume_, for who had heard
any real name so musical as that of Jean Ingelow?
I took the volume down by the quiet stream that flows below Amherst
College, and day after day, under a grand old tree, read some of
the most musical words, wedded to as pure thought as our century has
The world was just beginning to know _The High Tide on the Coast of
Lincolnshire_. Eyes were dimming as they read,--
"I looked without, and lo! my sonne
Came riding downe with might and main:
He raised a shout as he drew on,
Till all the welkin rang again,
(A sweeter woman ne'er drew breath
Than my sonne's wife Elizabeth.)
"'The olde sea wall (he cried) is downe,
The rising tide comes on apace,
And boats adrift in yonder towne
Go sailing uppe the market-place.'
He shook as one who looks on death:
'God save you, mother!' straight he saith;
'Where is my wife, Elizabeth?'"
And then the waters laid her body at his very door, and the sweet
voice that called, "Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" was stilled forever.
The _Songs of Seven_ soon became as household words, because they
were a reflection of real life. Nobody ever pictured a child more
exquisitely than the little seven-year-old, who, rich with the little
knowledge that seems much to a child, looks down from superior heights
"The lambs that play always, they know no better;
They are only one times one."
So happy is she that she makes boon companions of the flowers:--
"O brave marshmary buds, rich and yellow,
Give me your honey to hold!
"O columbine, open your folded wrapper,
Where two twin turtle-doves dwell!
O cuckoopint, toll me the purple clapper
That hangs in your clear green bell!"
At "seven times two," who of us has not waited for the great heavy
curtains of the future to be drawn aside?
"I wish and I wish that the spring would go faster,
Nor long summer bide so late;
And I could grow on, like the fox-glove and aster,
For some things are ill to wait."
At twenty-one the girl's heart flutters with expectancy:--
"I leaned out of window, I smelt the white clover,
Dark, dark was the garden, I saw not the gate;
Now, if there be footsteps, he comes, my one lover;
Hush nightingale, hush! O sweet nightingale wait
Till I listen and hear
If a step draweth near,
For my love he is late!"
At twenty-eight, the happy mother lives in a simple home, made
beautiful by her children:--
"Heigho! daisies and buttercups!
Mother shall thread them a daisy chain."
At thirty-five a widow; at forty-two giving up her children to
brighten other homes; at forty-nine, "Longing for Home."
"I had a nestful once of my own,
Ah, happy, happy I!
Right dearly I loved them, but when they were grown
They spread out their wings to fly.
O, one after another they flew away,
Far up to the heavenly blue,
To the better country, the upper day,
And--I wish I was going too."
The _Songs of Seven_ will be read and treasured as long as there are
women in the world to be loved, and men in the world to love them.
My especial favorite in the volume was the poem _Divided_. Never have
I seen more exquisite kinship with nature, or more delicate and tender
feeling. Where is there so beautiful a picture as this?
"An empty sky, a world of heather,
Purple of fox-glove, yellow of broom;
We two among them, wading together,
Shaking out honey, treading perfume.
"Crowds of bees are giddy with clover,
Crowds of grasshoppers skip at our feet,
Crowds of larks at their matins hang over,
Thanking the Lord for a life so sweet.
* * * * *
"We two walk till the purple dieth,
And short, dry grass under foot is brown;
But one little streak at a distance lieth
Green like a ribbon to prank the down.
"Over the grass we stepped into it,
And God He knoweth how blithe we were!
Never a voice to bid us eschew it;
Hey the green ribbon that showed so fair!
* * * * *
"A shady freshness, chafers whirring,
A little piping of leaf-hid birds;
A flutter of wings, a fitful stirring,
A cloud to the eastward, snowy as curds.
"Bare, glassy slopes, where kids are tethered;
Round valleys like nests all ferny lined;
Round hills, with fluttering tree-tops feathered,
Swell high in their freckled robes behind.
* * * * *
"Glitters the dew and shines the river,
Up comes the lily and dries her bell;
But two are walking apart forever,
And wave their hands for a mute farewell.
* * * * *
"And yet I know past all doubting, truly--
And knowledge greater than grief can dim--
I know, as he loved, he will love me duly--
Yea, better--e'en better than I love him.
"And as I walk by the vast calm river,
The awful river so dread to see,
I say, 'Thy breadth and thy depth forever
Are bridged by his thoughts that cross to me.'"
In what choice but simple language we are thus told that two loving
hearts cannot be divided.
Years went by, and I was at last to see the author of the poems I had
loved in girlhood. I had wondered how she looked, what was her manner,
and what were her surroundings.
In Kensington, a suburb of London, in a two-story-and-a-half stone
house, cream-colored, lives Jean Ingelow. Tasteful grounds are in
front of the home, and in the rear a large lawn bordered with many
flowers, and conservatories; a real English garden, soft as velvet,
and fragrant as new-mown hay. The house is fit for a poet; roomy,
cheerful, and filled with flowers. One end of the large, double
parlors seemed a bank of azalias and honeysuckles, while great bunches
of yellow primrose and blue forget-me-not were on the tables and in
But most interesting of all was the poet herself, in middle life, with
fine, womanly face, friendly manner, and cultivated mind. For an hour
we talked of many things in both countries. Miss Ingelow showed great
familiarity with American literature and with our national questions.
While everything about her indicated deep love for poetry, and a keen
sense of the beautiful, her conversation, fluent and admirable,
showed her to be eminently practical and sensible, without a touch of
sentimentality. Her first work in life seems to be the making of her
two brothers happy in the home. She usually spends her forenoons
in writing. She does her literary work thoroughly, keeping her
productions a long time before they are put into print. As she is
never in robust health, she gives little time to society, and passes
her winters in the South of France or Italy. A letter dated Feb. 25,
from the Alps Maritime, at Cannes, says, "This lovely spot is full of
flowers, birds, and butterflies." Who that recalls her _Songs on
the Voices of Birds_, the blackbird, and the nightingale, will not
appreciate her happiness with such surroundings?
With great fondness for, and pride in, her own country, she has the
most kindly feelings toward America and her people. She says in the
preface of her novel, _Fated to be Free_, concerning this work and
_Off the Skelligs_, "I am told that they are peculiar; and I feel that
they must be so, for most stories of human life are, or at least aim
at being, works of art--selections of interesting portions of life,
and fitting incidents put together and presented as a picture is; and
I have not aimed at producing a work of art at all, but a piece of
nature." And then she goes on to explain her position to "her American
friends," for, she says, "I am sure you more than deserve of me some
efforts to please you. I seldom have an opportunity of saying how
truly I think so."
Jean Ingelow's life has been a quiet but busy and earnest one. She was
born in the quaint old city of Boston, England, in 1830. Her father
was a well-to-do banker; her mother a cultivated woman of Scotch
descent, from Aberdeenshire. Jean grew to womanhood in the midst of
eleven brothers and sisters, without the fate of struggle and poverty,
so common among the great.
She writes to a friend concerning her childhood:--
"As a child, I was very happy at times, and generally wondering at
something.... I was uncommonly like other children.... I remember seeing
a star, and that my mother told me of God who lived up there and made
the star. This was on a summer evening. It was my first hearing of
God, and made a great impression on my mind. I remember better than
anything that certain ecstatic sensations of joy used to get hold of
me, and that I used to creep into corners to think out my thoughts by
myself. I was, however, extremely timid, and easily overawed by fear.
We had a lofty nursery with a bow-window that overlooked the river. My
brother and I were constantly wondering at this river. The coming up
of the tides, and the ships, and the jolly gangs of towers ragging
them on with a monotonous song made a daily delight for us. The
washing of the water, the sunshine upon it, and the reflections of the
waves on our nursery ceiling supplied hours of talk to us, and days
of pleasure. At this time, being three years old, ... I learned my
letters.... I used to think a good deal, especially about the origin
of things. People said often that they had been in this world, that
house, that nursery, before I came. I thought everything must have
begun when I did.... No doubt other children have such thoughts,
but few remember them. Indeed, nothing is more remarkable among
intelligent people than the recollections they retain of their early
childhood. A few, as I do, remember it all. Many remember nothing
whatever which occurred before they were five years old.... I have
suffered much from a feeling of shyness and reserve, and I have not
been able to do things by trying to do them. What comes to me comes of
its own accord, and almost in spite of me; and I have hardly any power
when verses are once written to make them any better.... There were no
hardships in my youth, but care was bestowed on me and my brothers and
sisters by a father and mother who were both cultivated people."
To another friend she writes: "I suppose I may take for granted that
mine was the poetic temperament, and since there are no thrilling
incidents to relate, you may think you should like to have my views
as to what that means. I cannot tell you in an hour, or even in a day,
for it means so much. I suppose it, of its absence or presence, to
make far more difference between one person and another than any
contrast of circumstances can do. The possessor does not have it for
nothing. It isolates, particularly in childhood; it takes away some
common blessings, but then it consoles for them all."
With this poetic temperament, that saw beauty in flower, and sky, and
bird, that felt keenly all the sorrow and all the happiness of the
world about her, that wrote of life rather than art, because to live
rightly was the whole problem of human existence, with this poetic
temperament, the girl grew to womanhood in the city bordering on the
Boston, at the mouth of the Witham, was once a famous seaport, the
rival of London in commercial prosperity, in the thirteenth century.
It was the site of the famous monastery of St. Botolph, built by
a pious monk in 657. The town which grew up around it was called
Botolph's town, contracted finally to Boston. From this town Reverend
John Cotton came to America, and gave the name to the capital of
Massachusetts, in which he settled. The present famous old church of
St. Botolph was founded in 1309, having a bell-tower three hundred
feet high, which supports a lantern visible at sea for forty miles.
The surrounding country is made up largely of marshes reclaimed from
the sea, which are called fens, and slightly elevated tracts of land
called moors. Here Jean Ingelow studied the green meadows and the
Her first book, _A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings_, was
published in 1850, when she was twenty, and a novel, _Allerton and
Dreux_, in 1851; nine years later her _Tales of Orris_. But her
fame came at thirty-three, when her first full book of _Poems_ was
published in 1863. This was dedicated to a much loved brother, George
"YOUR LOVING SISTER
OFFERS YOU THESE POEMS, PARTLY AS
AN EXPRESSION OF HER AFFECTION, PARTLY FOR THE
PLEASURE OF CONNECTING HER EFFORT
WITH YOUR NAME."
The press everywhere gave flattering notices. A new singer had come;
not one whose life had been spent in the study of Greek roots, simply,
but one who had studied nature and humanity. She had a message to give
the world, and she gave it well. It was a message of good cheer, of
earnest purpose, of contentment and hope.
"What though unmarked the happy workman toil,
And break unthanked of man the stubborn clod?
It is enough, for sacred is the soil,
Dear are the hills of God.
"Far better in its place the lowliest bird
Should sing aright to him the lowliest song,
Than that a seraph strayed should take the word
And sing his glory wrong."
"But like a river, blest where'er it flows,
Be still receiving while it still bestows."
Goes best with those who take it best.
--it is well
For us to be as happy as we can!"
"Work is its own best earthly meed,
Else have we none more than the sea-born throng
Who wrought those marvellous isles that bloom afar."
The London press said: "Miss Ingelow's new volume exhibits abundant
evidence that time, study, and devotion to her vocation have both
elevated and welcomed the powers of the most gifted poetess we
possess, now that Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Adelaide Proctor sing
no more on earth. Lincolnshire has claims to be considered the Arcadia
of England at present, having given birth to Mr. Tennyson and our
present Lady Laureate."
The press of America was not less cordial. "Except Mrs. Browning, Jean
Ingelow is first among the women whom the world calls poets," said the
The songs touched the popular heart, and some, set to music, were sung
at numberless firesides. Who has not heard the _Sailing beyond Seas?_
"Methought the stars were blinking bright,
And the old brig's sails unfurled;
I said, 'I will sail to my love this night
At the other side of the world.'
I stepped aboard,--we sailed so fast,--
The sun shot up from the bourne;
But a dove that perched upon the mast
Did mourn, and mourn, and mourn.
O fair dove! O fond dove!
And dove with the white breast,
Let me alone, the dream is my own,
And my heart is full of rest.
"My love! He stood at my right hand,
His eyes were grave and sweet.
Methought he said, 'In this fair land,
O, is it thus we meet?
Ah, maid most dear, I am not here;
I have no place,--no part,--
No dwelling more by sea or shore!
But only in thy heart!'
O fair dove! O fond dove!
Till night rose over the bourne,
The dove on the mast as we sailed past,
Did mourn, and mourn, and mourn."
Edmund Clarence Stedman, one of the ablest and fairest among American
critics, says: "As the voice of Mrs. Browning grew silent, the songs
of Miss Ingelow began, and had instant and merited popularity. They
sprang up suddenly and tunefully as skylarks from the daisy-spangled,
hawthorn-bordered meadows of old England, with a blitheness long
unknown, and in their idyllic underflights moved with the tenderest
currents of human life. Miss Ingelow may be termed an idyllic lyrist,
her lyrical pieces having always much idyllic beauty. _High Tide,
Winstanley, Songs of Seven, and the Long White Seam_ are lyrical
treasures, and the author especially may be said to evince that
sincerity which is poetry's most enduring warrant."
_Winstanley_ is especially full of pathos and action. We watch this
heroic man as he builds the lighthouse on the Eddystone rocks:--
"Then he and the sea began their strife,
And worked with power and might:
Whatever the man reared up by day
The sea broke down by night.
* * * * *
"A Scottish schooner made the port
The thirteenth day at e'en:
'As I am a man,' the captain cried,
'A strange sight I have seen;
"'And a strange sound heard, my masters all,
At sea, in the fog and the rain,
Like shipwrights' hammers tapping low,
Then loud, then low again.
"'And a stately house one instant showed,
Through a rift, on the vessel's lea;
What manner of creatures may be those
That build upon the sea?'"
After the lighthouse was built, Winstanley went out again to see his
precious tower. A fearful storm came up, and the tower and its builder
went down together.
Several books have come from Miss Ingelow's pen since 1863. The
following year, Studies for Stories was published, of which the
Athenaeum said, "They are prose poems, carefully meditated, and
exquisitely touched in by a teacher ready to sympathize with every joy
and sorrow." The five stories are told in simple and clear language,
and without slang, to which she heartily objects. For one so rich
in imagination as Miss Ingelow, her prose is singularly free from
obscurity and florid language.
_Stories told to a Child_ was published in 1865, and _A Story of Doom,
and Other Poems_, in 1868, the principal poem being drawn from the
time of the Deluge. _Mopsa the Fairy_, an exquisite story, followed a
year later, with _A Sister's Bye-hours_, and since that time, _Off the
Skelligs_ in 1872, _Fated to be Free_ in 1875, _Sarah de Berenger_
in 1879, _Don John_ in 1881, and _Poems of the Old Days and the New_,
recently issued. Of the latter, the poet Stoddard says: "Beyond all
the women of the Victorian era, she is the most of an Elizabethan....
She has tracked the ocean journeyings of Drake, Raleigh, and
Frobisher, and others to whom the Spanish main was a second home,
the _El Dorado_ of which Columbus and his followers dreamed in their
stormy slumbers.... The first of her poems in this volume, _Rosamund_,
is a masterly battle idyl."
Her books have had large sale, both here and in Europe. It is stated
that in this country one hundred thousand of her _Poems_ have been
sold, and half that number of her prose works.
Miss Ingelow has not been elated by her deserved success. She has
told the world very little of herself in her books. She once wrote a
friend: "I am far from agreeing with you 'that it is rather too bad
when we read people's works, if they won't let us know anything about
themselves.' I consider that an author should, during life, be as much
as possible, impersonal. I never import myself into my writings, and
am much better pleased that others should feel an interest in me,
and wish to know something of me, than that they should complain of
It is said that the last of her _Songs with Preludes_ refers to a
brother who lies buried in Australia:--
"I stand on the bridge where last we stood
When delicate leaves were young;
The children called us from yonder wood,
While a mated blackbird sung.
* * * * *
"But if all loved, as the few can love,
This world would seldom be well;
And who need wish, if he dwells above,
For a deep, a long death-knell?
"There are four or five, who, passing this place,
While they live will name me yet;
And when I am gone will think on my face,
And feel a kind of regret."
With all her literary work, she does not forget to do good personally.
At one time she instituted a "copyright dinner," at her own expense,
which she thus described to a friend: "I have set up a dinner-table
for the sick poor, or rather, for such persons as are just out of the
hospitals, and are hungry, and yet not strong enough to work. We have
about twelve to dinner three times a week, and hope to continue the
plan. It is such a comfort to see the good it does. I find it one of
the great pleasures of writing, that it gives me more command of money
for such purposes than falls to the lot of most women." Again, she
writes to an American friend: "I should be much obliged to you if you
would give in my name twenty-five dollars to some charity in Boston.
I should prefer such a one as does not belong to any party in
particular, such as a city infirmary or orphan school. I do not like
to draw money from your country, and give none in charity."
Miss Ingelow is very fond of children, and herein is, perhaps, one
secret of her success. In Off the Skelligs she says: "Some people
appear to feel that they are much wiser, much nearer to the truth and
to realities, than they were when they were children. They think of
childhood as immeasurably beneath and behind them. I have never been
able to join in such a notion. It often seems to me that we lose quite
as much as we gain by our lengthened sojourn here. I should not at all
wonder if the thoughts of our childhood, when we look back on it after
the rending of this vail of our humanity, should prove less unlike
what we were intended to derive from the teaching of life, nature, and
revelation, than the thoughts of our more sophisticated days."
Best of all, this true woman and true poet as well, like Emerson, sees
and believes in the progress of the race.
"Still humanity grows dearer,
Being learned the more,"
she says, in that tender poem, _A Mother showing the Portrait of her
Child._ Blessed optimism! that amid all the shortcomings of human
nature sees the best, lifts souls upward, and helps to make the world
sunny by its singing.
* * * * *
Jean Ingelow died at her home in Kensington, London, July 19, 1897, at
the age of sixty-seven, having been born in Boston, Lincolnshire, in
1830. Her long illness ended in simple exhaustion, and she welcomed
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