McClure's Magazine, Vol. VI., No. 6, May, 1896
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Sandra Brown and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: STUDY FROM NATURE. BY JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET.
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co.]
[Illustration: MILLET'S COAT OF ARMS.
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. A facsimile of one of
the little drawings which Millet was accustomed to make for
acquaintances and collectors of autographs, and which he laughingly
called his "_armes parlantes_."]
[Illustration: PORTRAIT OF JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET, DRAWN BY HIMSELF.
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. Of this portrait, drawn
in 1847, Sensier, in his "Life" of Millet, says: "It is in crayon, and
life-sized. The head is melancholy, like that of Albert Duerer; the
profound regard is filled with intelligence and goodness."]
A CENTURY OF PAINTING.
JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET.--PARENTAGE AND EARLY INFLUENCES.--HIS LIFE AT
BARBIZON.--VISITS TO MILLET IN HIS STUDIO.--HIS PERSONAL
APPEARANCE.--HIS OWN COMMENTS ON HIS PICTURES.--PASSAGES FROM HIS
BY WILL H. LOW.
These papers, disclaiming any other authority than that which appertains
to the conclusions of a practising painter who has thought deeply on the
subject of his art, have nevertheless avoided the personal equation as
much as possible. A conscientious endeavor has been made to consider the
work of each painter in the place which has been assigned him by the
concensus of opinion in the time which has elapsed since his work was
done. In the consideration of Jean Francois Millet, however, I desire
for the nonce to become less impersonal, for the reason that it was my
privilege to know him slightly, and in the case of one who as a man and
as a painter occupies a place so entirely his own, the value of recorded
personal impressions is greater, at least for purposes of record, than
the registration of contemporary opinion concerning him.
I must further explain that, as a young student who received at his
hands the kindly reception which the master, stricken in health, and
preoccupied with his work, vouchsafed, I could only know him
superficially. It may have been the spectacle of youthful enthusiasm, or
the modest though dignified recognition of the reverence with which I
approached him, that made this grave man unbend; but it is certain that
the few times when I was permitted to enter the rudely built studio at
Barbizon have remained red-letter days in my life, and on each occasion
I left Millet with an impression so strong and vital that now, after a
lapse of twenty years, the work which he showed me, and the words which
he uttered, are as present as though it all had occurred yesterday. The
reverence which I then felt for this great man was born of his works, a
few of which I had seen in 1873 in Paris; and their constant study, and
the knowledge of his life and character gained since then, have
intensified this feeling.
[Illustration: THE SHEEP-SHEARERS. FROM A PAINTING BY JEAN FRANCOIS
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. A replica of Millet's
picture in the Salon of 1861, which is now owned by Mr. Quincy Shaw,
Boston, Massachusetts. Charles Jacque, who had quarrelled with Millet,
after seeing this picture, went to him and said: "We cannot be friends;
but I have come to say that you have painted a masterpiece."]
Jean Francois Millet was born October 4, 1814, in the hamlet of Gruchy,
a mere handful of houses which lie in a valley descending to the sea, in
the department of the Manche, not far from Cherbourg. He was the
descendant of a class which has no counterpart in England or America,
and which in his native France has all but disappeared. The rude
forefathers of our country may have in a degree resembled the French
peasant of Millet's youth; but their Protestant belief made them more
independent in thought, and the problems of a new country, and the lack
of stability inherent to the colonist, robbed them of the fanatical love
of the earth, which is perhaps the strongest trait of the peasant. Every
inch of the ground up to the cliffs above the sea, in Millet's country,
represented the struggle of man with nature; and each parcel of land,
every stone in the walls which kept the earth from being engulfed in the
floods beneath, bore marks of his handiwork. Small wonder, then, that
this rude people should engender the painter who has best expressed the
intimate relation between the man of the fields and his ally and foe,
the land which he subjugates, and which in turn enslaves him. The
inherent, almost savage, independence of the peasant had kept him freer
and of a nobler type than the English yokel even in the time before the
Revolution, and in the little hamlet where Millet was born, the great
upheaval had meant but little. Remote from the capital, cultivating land
which but for their efforts would have been abandoned as worthless,
every man was a land-owner in a small degree, and the patrimony of
Millet sufficed for a numerous family of which he was the eldest son.
Sufficed, that is, for a Spartan subsistence, made up of unrelaxing
toil, with few or no comforts, save those of a spiritual nature which
came in the guise of religion.
[Illustration: PEASANT REPOSING. FROM A PAINTING BY JEAN FRANCOIS
MILLET, EXHIBITED IN THE SALON OF 1863.
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. This picture, popularly
known as "The man with the hoe," was the cause of much discussion at the
time of its exhibition. Millet was accused of socialism; of inciting the
peasants to revolt; and from his quiet retreat in the country, he
defended himself in a letter to his friend Sensier as follows: "I see
very clearly the aureole encircling the head of the daisy, and the sun
which glows beyond, far, far over the country-side, its glory in the
skies; I see, not less clearly, the smoking plough-horses in the plain,
and in a rocky corner a man bent with labor, who groans as he works, or
who for an instant tries to straighten himself to catch his breath. The
drama is enveloped in splendor. This is not of my creation; the
expression, 'the cry of the earth,' was invented long ago."]
Millet was reared by his grandmother, such being the custom of the
country; the younger women being occupied in the service of the
mastering earth, and the elders, no longer able to go afield, bringing
up the children born to their children, who in turn replaced their
parents in the never-ending struggle. This grandmother, Louise Jumelin,
widow of Nicolas Millet, was a woman of great force of character, and
extremely devout. The most ordinary occupation of the day was made the
subject not of uttered prayer, for that would have entailed suspension
of her ceaseless activity, but of spiritual example tersely expressed,
which fell upon the fruitful soil of Millet's young imagination, and
left such a lasting impression that to the end of his life his natural
expression was almost Biblical in character of language.
Another formative influence of this young life was that of a granduncle,
Charles Millet, a priest who, driven from his church by the Revolution,
had returned to his native village and taken up the simple life of his
people, without, however, abandoning his vocation. He was to be seen
behind his plough, his priest's robe gathered up about his loins, his
breviary in one hand, following the furrow up and down the undulating
fields which ran to the cliffs.
[Illustration: THE MILK-CARRIER. FROM A PAINTING BY JEAN FRANCOIS
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. Probably commenced at
Cherbourg, where Millet took refuge with his family during the
Franco-Prussian War, as Sensier mentions it on Millet's return. This
picture, or a replica of it (Millet was fond of repeating his subjects,
with slight changes in each case), was in his studio in 1873, and called
forth the remark quoted in the text, about the women in his country.]
Gifted with great strength, he piled up great masses of granite, to
reclaim a precious morsel of earth from the hungry maw of the sea;
lifting his voice, as he worked, in resonant chants of the church. He it
was who taught Millet to read; and, later, it was another priest, the
Abbe Jean Lebrisseux, who, in the intervals of the youth's work in the
fields, where he had early become an efficient aid to his father,
continued his instruction. With the avidity of intelligence Millet
profited by this instruction, not only in the more ordinary studies, but
in Latin, with the Bible and Virgil as text-books. His mind was also
nourished by the books belonging to the scanty library of his
granduncle. These were of a purely religious character--the "History of
the Saints," the "Confessions" of St. Augustine, the letters of St.
Jerome, and the works of Bossuet and Fenelon.
[Illustration: THE GLEANERS. FROM A PAINTING IN THE LOUVRE, BY JEAN
FRANCOIS MILLET, EXHIBITED IN THE SALON OF 1857.
"The three fates of pauperism" was the disdainful appreciation of Paul
de Saint-Victor on the first exhibition of this picture, while Edmond
About wrote: "The picture attracts one from afar by its air of grandeur
and serenity. It has the character of a religious painting. It is drawn
without fault, and colored without crudity; and one feels the August sun
which ripens the wheat." Sensier says: "The picture sold with difficulty
for four hundred dollars. What is it worth to-day?"]
In his father, whose strongest characteristic was an intense love of
nature, Millet found an unconscious influence in the direction which his
life was to follow. Millet recalled in after life that he would show him
a blade of grass or a flower, and say: "See how beautiful; how the
petals overlap; and the tree there, how strong and fine it is!" It was
his father who was attentive to the youth's first rude efforts, and who
encouraged him when the decisive step was to be taken, which Millet,
feeling that his labor in the fields was necessary to the common good of
the family, hesitated to take. The boy was in his eighteenth year when
his father said:
"My poor Francois, you are tormented between your desire to be an artist
and your duty to the family. Now that your brothers are growing, they
can take their turn in the fields. I have long wished that you could be
instructed in the craft of the painter, which I am told is so noble, and
we will go to Cherbourg and see what can be done."
[Illustration: THE ANGELES, MILLET'S MOST FAMOUS PICTURE.
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. Despite its fame, this
is distinctly not Millet's masterpiece. During his life it sold for
about ten thousand dollars, and later for one hundred and fifty
Thus encouraged, the boy made two drawings--one of two shepherds in
blouse and _sabots_, one listening while the other played a rustic
flute; and a second where, under a starlit sky, a man came from out a
house, carrying bread for a mendicant at his gate. Armed with these two
designs--typical of the work which in the end, after being led astray by
schools and popular taste, he was to do--the two peasants sought a local
painter named Mouchel at Cherbourg. After a moment of doubt as to the
originality of the youth's work, Mouchel offered to teach him all that
Millet stayed with Mouchel some months. Then his father's death recalled
him home, where his honest spirit prompted him to remain as the eldest
son and head of the family, although his heart was less than ever in the
fields. But this the mother, brought up in the spirit of resignation,
would not allow him to do. "God has made you a painter. His will be
done. Your father, my Jean Louis, has said it was to be, and you must
return to Cherbourg."
Millet returned to Cherbourg, this time to the studio of one Langlois, a
pupil of Gros, who was the principal painter of the little city. But
Langlois, like his first master, Mouchel, kept him at work copying
either his own studies or pictures in the city museum. After a few
months, though, he had the honesty to recognize that his pupil needed
more efficient instruction than he could give him, and in August, 1836,
he addressed a petition to the mayor and common council of the city of
Cherbourg, who took the matter into consideration, and, with the
authorities of the department, voted a sum of one thousand francs--two
hundred dollars--as a yearly allowance to Millet, in order that he might
pursue his studies in Paris. Langlois in his petition asks that he be
permitted to "raise without fear the veil of the future, and to assure
the municipal council a place in the memory of the world for having been
the first to endow their country with one more great name."
Grandiloquent promise has often been made without result; but one must
admire the hard-headed Norman councillors who, representing a little
provincial city which in 1884 had but thirty-six thousand inhabitants,
gave even this modest sum to assure a future to one who might reflect
honor on his country.
[Illustration: NESTLINGS. FROM A PAINTING BY JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET, IN
THE MUSEUM AT LILLE.
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. A notable instance of
the scope of Millet's power, as tender in depicting children as it is
austere in "The Gleaners."]
With a portion, of this allowance, and a small addition from the
"economies" of his mother and grandmother, Millet went to Paris in 1837.
The great city failed to please the country-bred youth, and, indeed,
until the end of his life, Millet disliked Paris. I remember his saying
that, on his visits from Barbizon to the capital, he was happy on his
arrival at the station, but when he arrived at the column of the
Bastille, a few squares within the city, the _mal du pays_ took him
by the throat.
At first he spent all his time in the Louvre, which revealed to him what
the little provincial museum of Cherbourg had but faintly suggested.
Before long, however, he entered the studio of Paul Delaroche, who was
the popular master of the time. There he won the sobriquet of the "man
of the woods," from a savage taciturnity which was his defence in the
midst of the _atelier_ jokes. He had come to work, and to work he
addressed himself, with but little encouragement from master or
comrades. Strong as a young Hercules, with a dignity which never forsook
him, his studies won at least the success of attention. When a favorite
pupil of the master remonstrated that his men and women were hewed from
stone, Millet replied tranquilly, "I came here because there are Greek
statues and living men and women to study from, not to please you or any
one. Do I preoccupy myself with your figures made of honey and butter?"
Delaroche, won by the strength of the man, at length unbent, and showed
him such favor as a commonplace mind could accord to native superiority.
He advised him to compete for the Prix de Rome, warning him, however,
that whatever might be the merit of his work, he could not take it that
year, as it was arranged that another, approaching the limit of age,
must have it. This revolted the simple nature of Millet, who refused to
compete, and left the school.
A return to Cherbourg, where he married his first wife, who died at the
end of two years; another sojourn in Paris, and a visit home of some
duration; a number of portraits and pictures painted in Cherbourg and
Havre, in which his talent was slowly asserting itself, brings us to
1845, when he remarried. Returning to Paris with his wife, he remained
there until 1849, when he went to Barbizon "for a time," which was
prolonged to twenty-seven years.
In all the years preceding his final return to the country, Millet was
apparently undecided as to the definite character of his work. Out of
place in a city, more or less influenced by his comrades in art, and
forced to follow in a degree the dictation of necessity in the choice of
subject, as his brush was his only resource and his family constantly
increasing, his work of this period is always tentative. In painting it
is luscious in color and firmly drawn and modelled, but it lacks the
perception of truth which, when once released from the bondage of the
city, began to manifest itself in his work. The first indication of the
future Millet is in a picture in the Salon of 1848, "The Winnower,"
which has, in subject at least, much the character of the work which
followed his establishment at Barbizon. For the rest, although the world
is richer in beautiful pictures of charmingly painted nymphs, and of
rustic scenes not altogether devoid of a certain artificiality, and in
at least one masterly mythological picture of Oedipus rescued from the
tree, through Millet's activity in these years, yet his work, had it
continued on this plane, would have lacked the high significance which
the next twenty-five years were to show.
Having endeavored to make clear the source from which Millet came, and
indicated the formative influences of his early life, I may permit
myself (as I warned my readers I should do) to return to my
recollections of Barbizon in 1873, and the glimpses of Millet which my
sojourn there in that and the following year afforded me.
Barbizon lies on a plain, more vast in the impression which it makes on
the eye than in actual area, and the village consists of one long
street, which commences at a group of farm buildings of some importance,
and ends in the forest of Fontainebleau. About midway down this street,
on the way to the forest, Millet's home stood, on the right of the road.
The house, of two low stories, had its gable to the street, and on the
first floor, with the window breast high from the ground, was the
dining-room. Here, in pleasant weather, with the window wide open, sat
Millet at the head of his patriarchal table, his children, of whom there
were nine, about him; his good wife, their days of acute misery past,
smiling contentedly on her brood, which, if I remember rightly, already
counted a grandchild or more: as pleasant a sight as one could readily
see. Later, in the autumn evenings, a lamplit replica of the same
picture presented itself. Or, if the dinner was cleared away, one would
see Madame Millet busy with her needle, the children at their lessons,
and the painter, whom even then tradition painted a sad and cheerless
misanthrope, contentedly playing at dominoes with one of the children,
or his honest Norman face wreathed in smiles as the conversation took an
amusing turn. This, it is true, was when the master of the house was
free from his terrible enemy, the headache, which laid him low so often,
and which in these days became more and more frequent.
[Illustration: FIRST STEPS. FROM A PASTEL BY JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET.
Reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. As Sensier remarks,
Millet, with nine children, had abundant opportunity to study them. This
charming drawing was one of the collection of Millet's pastels formed by
M. Gavet, which was unfortunately dispersed by auction soon after the
The house, to resume the description of Millet's home, went back at
right angles from the street, and contained the various apartments of
the family, many of them on the ground floor, and all of the most modest
character. It was a source of wonder how so large a family could inhabit
so small a house. The garden lay in front, and extended back of the
house. A high wall with a little door, painted green, by which you
entered, ran along the street, and ended at the studio, which was, like
the dining-room, on the street. The garden was pleasant with flowers and
trees, the kitchen garden being at the rear. But a few short years ago,
within its walls Madame Millet plucked a red rose, and gave it to me,
saying: "My husband planted this." Outside the little green door, on
either hand, were stone benches set against the wall, on which the
painter's children sometimes sat and played; but it is somewhat strange
that I never remember Millet at his door or on the village street. He
walked a great deal, but always went out of the garden to the fields
back of the house, and from there gained the forest or the plain. Among
the young painters who frequented Barbizon in those days (which were,
however, long after the time when the men of Millet's age established
themselves there), there were, strange as it may seem, few who cared for
Millet's work, and many who knew little or nothing of it. The prejudices
of the average art student are many and indurated. His horizon is apt to
be bounded by his master's work or the last Salon success, and as Millet
had no pupils, and had ceased to exhibit at the Salon, he was little
known to most of the youths who, as I look back, must have made Barbizon
a most undesirable place for a quiet family to live in. An accident
which made me acquainted with Millet's eldest son, a painter of talent,
seemed for a time to bring me no nearer to knowing the father until one
day some remark of mine which showed at least a sincere admiration for
his work made the son suggest that I should come and see a recently
If the crowd of young painters who frequented the village were
indifferent to Millet, such was not the case with people from other
places. The "personally conducted" were then newly invented, and I have
seen a wagon load of tourists, who had been driven to different points
in the forest, draw up before Millet's modest door and express
indignation in a variety of languages when they were refused admittance.
There were many in those days who tried with little or no excuse to
break in on the work of a man whose working days were already counted,
and who was seldom free from his old enemy _migraine_. I was to
learn this when--I hope after having had the grace to make it plain
that, though I greatly desired to know Millet, I felt no desire to
intrude--the son had arranged for a day when, at last, I was admitted to
Millet did not make his appearance at once; and when he came, and the
son had said a few kindly words of presentation, he seemed so evidently
in pain that I managed, in a French which must have been distinguished
by a pure New York accent and a vocabulary more than limited, to express
a fear that he was suffering, and suggested that my visit had better be
"No, it will pass," was his answer; and going to his easel he placed,
with the help of his son, picture after picture, for my delectation.
It was Millet's habit to commence a great number of pictures. On some of
them he would work as long, according to his own expression, as he saw
the scene in nature before him; for, at least at this epoch, he never
painted directly from nature. For a picture which I saw the following
summer, where three great hay-stacks project their mass against a heavy
storm cloud, the shepherd seeking shelter from the impending rain, and
the sheep erring here and there, affected by the changing weather--for
this picture, conveying, as it did, the most intense impression of
nature, Millet showed me (in answer to my inquiry and in explanation of
his method of work) in a little sketch-book, so small that it would slip
into a waistcoat pocket, the pencilled outline of the three hay-stacks.
"It was a stormy day," he said, "and on my return home I sat down and
commenced the picture, but of direct studies--_voila tout_." Of
another picture, now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, of a young girl,
life size, with a distaff, seated on a hillock, her head shaded by a
great straw hat relieved against the sky, he told me that the only
direct painting from nature on the canvas was in a bunch of grass in the
foreground, which he had plucked in the fields and brought into his
[Illustration: THE SOWER. FROM A PAINTING BY JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET.
From the original painting, now in the collection of Mrs. W.H.
Vanderbilt; reproduced by permission of Braun, Clement & Co. In his
criticism of the Salon of 1850, where the picture was first exhibited,
Theophile Gautier thus described it: "The sower advances with rhythmic
step, casting the seed into the furrowed land; sombre rags cover him; a
formless hat is drawn down over his brow; he is gaunt, cadaverous, and
thin under his livery of misery; and yet life is contained in his large
hand, as with a superb gesture he who has nothing scatters broadcast on
the earth the bread of the future."]
On this first day, it would be difficult to say how many pictures in
various states of advancement I saw. The master would occasionally say,
reflectively: "It is six months since I looked at that, and I must get
to work at it," as some new canvas was placed on the easel. At first,
fearing that he was too ill to have me stay, I made one or two motions
to leave. But each time, with a kindly smile, I was bidden to stay, with
the assurance that the headache was "going better." After a time I quite
forgot everything in enthusiasm at what I saw and the sense that I was
enjoying the privilege of a lifetime. The life of the fields seemed to
be unrolled before me like some vast panorama. Millet's comments were
short and descriptive of what he aimed to represent, seldom or never
concerning the method of his work. "Women in my country," meaning Lower
Normandy, of course, "carry jars of milk in that way," he said,
indicating the woman crossing the fields with the milk-can supported by
a strap on her shoulder. "When I was a boy there were great flights of
wild pigeons which settled in the trees at night, when we used to go
with torches, and the birds, blinded by the light, could be killed by
the hundred with clubs," was his explanation of another scene full of
the confusion of lights and the whirr of the bewildered pigeons.
[Illustration: CHURNING. FROM A PASTEL BY JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET, IN THE
LUXEMBOURG GALLERY, PARIS.
Delightful for a sense of air through the cool and spacious room, and
for the sculpturesque solidity of the group composed of the woman, the
churn, and the cat.]
"And you have not seen it since you were a boy?" I asked.
"No; but it all comes back to me as I work," was his answer.
From picture to picture, from question to kindly answer, the afternoon
sped, and at length, in response to a question as to the relative
importance of subject, the painter sent his son into the house whence he
returned with a panel a few inches square. The father took it, wiped the
dust from it, absent-mindedly, on his sleeve, with a half caressing
movement, and placed it on the easel. "_Voila!_ (There!)" was all
he said. The panel represented three golden juicy pears, their fat sides
relieved one against the other, forming a compact group which, through
the magic of color, told of autumn sun, and almost gave the odor of
ripened fruit. It was a lovely bit of painting, and much interested, I
said: "Pardon me, but you seem as much or more proud of this than
anything you have shown."
"Exactly," answered Millet, with an amused smile at my eagerness.
"Everything in nature is good to paint, and the painter's business is to
be occupied with his manner of rendering it. These pears, a man or a
woman, a flock of sheep, all have the same qualities for a painter.
There are," with a gesture of his hands to make his meaning clear,
"things that lie flat, that are horizontal, like a plain; and there are
others which stand up, are perpendicular; and there are the planes
between: all of which should be expressed in a picture. There are the
distances between objects also. But all this can be found in the
simplest thing as in the most complicated."
"But," I again ventured, "surely some subjects are more important than
"Some are more interesting in the sense that they add to the problems of
a painter. When he has to paint a human being, he has to represent truth
of action, the particular character of an individual; but he must do the
latter when he paints a pear. No two pears are alike."
I fear at the time I hardly understood the importance of the lesson
which I then received; certainly not to the degree with which experience
has confirmed it. But I have written it here, the sense, if not the
actual language, because Millet has been so often misrepresented as
seeking to point a moral through the subject of his pictures. When we
recall the manner in which "The Angelus" was paraded through the country
a few years ago, and the genuine sentiment of the simple scene--where
Millet had endeavored to express "the things that lie flat, like a
plain; and the things that stand up," like his peasants--was travestied
by gushing sentimentalists, it is pleasant to think of the wholesome
common sense of the great painter.
[Illustration: A YOUNG SHEPHERDESS. FROM A PAINTING BY JEAN FRANCOIS
The background here is typical of that part of the forest of
Fontainebleau which borders the plain of Barbizon.]
The picture which I had specially come to see was meanwhile standing
covered with a drapery, on another easel, and at length the resources of
the studio were apparently exhausted. Millet asked me to step back a few
paces to where a short curtain was placed on a light iron rod at right
angles from the studio window, so that a person standing behind it saw
into the studio while his eyes were screened from the glare of the
window. The painter then drew the covering, and--I feel that what I am
about to say may seem superlative, and I am quite willing to-day to
account for it by the enthusiasm for the painter's work, which had been
growing _crescendo_ with each successive moment passed in the
studio. Be that as it may, the picture which I saw caused me to forget
where I was, to forget painting, and to look, apparently, on a more
enchanting scene than my eyes had ever beheld--one more enchanting than
they have since seen. It was a landscape, "Springtime," now in the
Louvre. Ah me! I have seen the picture since, not once, but many times,
and he who will go to Paris may see it. A beautiful picture; but of the
transcendent beauty which transfigured it that day, it has but the
suggestion. It is still a masterpiece, however, and still conveys, by
methods peculiarly Millet's own, a satisfying sense of the open air, and
the charm of fickle spring. The method is that founded on the constant
observation of nature by a mind acute to perceive, and educated to
remember. The method is one which misses many trivial truths, and
thereby loses the superficial look of reality which many smaller men
have learned to give; but it retains the larger, more essential truths.
Though dependence on memory carried to the extent of Millet's practice
would be fatal to a weaker man, it can hardly be doubted that it was the
natural method for him.
I left the studio that day, walking on clouds. When I returned it was
always to receive kindly and practical counsel. For Millet, though
conscious, as such a man must be, of his importance, was the simplest of
men. In appearance the portrait published here gives him in his youth.
At the time of which I speak he was heavier, with a firm nose, eyes
that, deeply set, seemed to look inwards, except, when directly
addressing one, there was a sudden gleam. His manner of speech was slow
and measured, perhaps out of kindness to the stranger, though I am
inclined to think that it was rather the speech of one who arrays his
thoughts beforehand, and produces them in orderly sequence. In dress he
was like the ordinary _bourgeois_ in the country, wearing generally
a woven coat like a cardigan jacket in the studio, at the door of which
he would leave his _sabots_ and wear the felt slippers, or
_chaussons_, which are worn with the wooden shoes. This was not the
affectation of remaining a peasant; every one in the country in France
wears _sabots_, and very comfortable they are.
One more visit stands out prominently in my memory. It came about in
this wise. In the summer of 1874 the "two Stevensons," as they were
known, the cousins Robert Louis and Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (the
author of the recent "Life of Velasquez," and the well-known writer on
art), were in Barbizon. It fell that the cousins, in pessimistic vein,
were decrying modern art--the great men were all dead; we should never
see their like again; in short, the mood in which we all fall at times
was dominant. As in duty bound, I argued the cause of the present and
future, and as a clinching argument told them that I had it in my power
to convince them that at least one of the greatest painters of all time
was still busy in the practice of his art. Millet was not much more than
a name to my friends, and I am certain that that day when we talked over
our coffee in the garden of Siron's inn, they had seen little or none of
his work. I ventured across the road, knocked at the little green door,
and asked permission to bring my friends, which was accorded for the
same afternoon. In half an hour, therefore, I was witness of an object
lesson of which the teacher was serenely unconscious. Of my complete
triumph when we left there was no doubt, though one of my friends rather
begged the question by insisting that I had taken an unfair advantage;
and that, as he expressed it, "it was not in the game, in an ordinary
discussion, between gentlemen, concerning minor poets, to drag in
Shakespeare in that manner."
I saw Millet but once after this, when late in the autumn I was
returning to Paris, and went, out of respect, to bid him farewell. He
was already ill, and those who knew him well, already feared for his
life. Not knowing this, it was a shock to learn of his death a few
months after--January 20, 1875. The news came to me in the form of the
ordinary notification and convocation to the funeral, which, in the form
of a _lettre de faire part_, is sent out on the occasion of a death
in France, not only to intimate friends, but to acquaintances.
Determined to pay what honor I could, I went to Barbizon, to find, as
did many others gone for the same sad purpose, that an error in the
notices sent, discovered too late to be rectified, had placed the date
of the funeral a day later than that on which it actually occurred.
Millet rests in the little cemetery at Chailly, across the plain from
Barbizon, near his lifetime friend, Theodore Rousseau, who is buried
there. I will never forget the January day in the village of Barbizon.
Though Millet had little part in the village life, and was known to few,
a sadness, as though the very houses felt that a great man had passed
away, had settled over the place. I sought out a friend who had been
Millet's friend for many years and was with him at the last, and as he
told me of the last sad months, tears fell from his eyes.
CHAPTERS FROM A LIFE.
BY ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS,
Author of "The Gates Ajar," "A Singular Life," etc.
"THE GATES AJAR" WITH THE CRITICS AND THE PUBLIC.--THE AUTHOR'S FIRST
STUDY.--READING REVIEWS OF ONE'S OWN BOOKS.--CORRESPONDENCE WITH READERS
OF "THE GATES AJAR."
As was said in the last paper, "The Gates Ajar" was written without hope
or expectation of any especial success, and when the happy storm broke
in truth, I was the most astonished girl in North America.
From the day when Mr. Fields's thoughtful note reached the Andover
post-office, that miracle of which we read often in fiction, and
sometimes in literary history, touched the young writer's life; and it
began over again, as a new form of organization.
As I look back upon them, the next few years seem to have been a series
of amazing phantasmagoria. Indeed, at the time, they were scarcely more
substantial. A phantom among phantoms, I was borne along. Incredulous of
the facts, and dubious of my own identity, I whirled through
readjustments of scene, of society, of purposes, of hopes, and now, at
last, of ambitions; and always of hard work, and plenty of it. Really, I
think the gospel of work then, as always, and to all of us, was
salvation from a good deal of nonsense incident to the situation.
I have been told that the American circulation of the book, which has
remained below one hundred thousand, was rather more than that in Great
Britain. Translations, of course, were manifold. The French, the German,
the Dutch, the Italian have been conscientiously sent to the author;
some others, I think, have not. More applications to republish my books
have reached me from Germany than from any other country. For a while,
with the tenderness of a novice in such experience, I kept all these
foreign curiosities on my book-shelves; but the throes of several New
England "movings" have scattered their ashes.
Not long ago I came across a tiny pamphlet in which I used to feel more
honest pride than in any edition of "The Gates Ajar" which it has ever
been my fortune to handle. It is a sickly yellow thing, covered with a
coarse design of some kind, in which the wings of a particularly sprawly
The print is abhorrent, and the paper such as any respectable publisher
would prepare to be condemned for in this world and in that to come. In
fact, the entire book was thus given out by one of the most enterprising
of English pirates, as an advertisement for a patent medicine. I have
never traced the chemical history of the drug; but it has pleased my
fancy to suppose it to be the one in which Mrs. Holt, the mother of
Felix, dealt so largely; and whose sale Felix put forth his mighty
conscience to suppress.
Of course, owing to the state of our copyright laws at that time, all
this foreign publication was piratical; and most of it brought no
visible consequence to the author, beyond that cold tribute to personal
vanity on which our unlucky race is expected to feed. I should make an
exception. The house of Sampson, Low and Company honorably offered me,
at a very early date, a certain recognition of their editions. Other
reputable English houses since, in the case of succeeding books, have
passed contracts of a gentlemanly nature, with the disproportionately
grateful author, who was, of course, entirely at their mercy. When an
American writer compares the sturdy figures of the foreign circulation
with the attenuated numerals of such visible returns as reach him, he is
more puzzled in his mind than surfeited in his purse. But the relation
of foreign publishers to "home talent" is an ancient and honorable
conundrum, which it is not for this paper or its writer to solve.
Nevertheless, I found the patent medicine "Gates Ajar" delicious, and
used to compare it with Messrs. Fields and Osgood's edition _de
luxe_ with an undisguised delight, which I found it difficult to
induce the best of publishers to share.
Like most such matters, the first energy of the book had its funny and
its serious side. A man coming from a far Western village, and visiting
Boston for the first time, is said to have approached a bartender, in an
exclusive hotel, thus confidentially:
"Excuse me, but I am a stranger in this part of the country, and I want
to ask a question. Everywhere I go, I see posters up like this--'The
Gates Ajar!' 'The Gates Ajar!' I'm sick to death of the sight of the
durn thing; I haven't darst to ask what it is. Do _tell_ a fellar!
Is it a new kind of drink?"
There was a "Gates Ajar" tippet for sale in the country groceries; I
have fancied that it was a knit affair of as many colors as the jewels
in the eternal portals, and extremely openwork. There was a "Gates Ajar"
collar--paper, I fear--loading the city counters. Ghastly rumors have
reached me of the existence of a "Gates Ajar" cigar. I have never
personally set my eyes upon these tangible forms of earthly fame. If the
truth must be told, I have kept a cowardly distance from them. Music, of
course, took her turn at the book, and popular "pieces" warbled under
its title. One of these, I think, is sung in Sunday-schools to this day.
Then there was, and still exists, the "Gates Ajar" funeral piece. This
used to seem to me the least serious of them all; but, by degrees, when
I saw the persistence of force in that elaborate symbol, how many
mourning people were so constituted as to find comfort in it, I came to
have a tolerance for it which even grows into a certain tenderness. I
may frankly admit that I have begun to love it since I heard about the
two ragged little newsboys who came to the eminent city florist, with
all their savings clenched in their grimy fists, and thus made known
"Ye see, Larks he was our pardner--him an' us sold on the same beat--and
he jes' got run over by a 'lectric, and it went over his back. So they
tuk him to the horspittle, 'n Larks he up an' died there yestiddy. So us
fellars we're goin' to give Larks a stylish funeril, you bet. We liked
Larks--an' it went over his back. Say, mister, there ain't nothin' mean
'bout _us_, come to buryin' of Larks; 'n we've voted to settle on
one them 'Gates Ajar' pieces--made o'flowers, doncherknow. So me 'n him
an' the other fellars we've saved up all our propurty, for we're agoin'
ter give Larks a stylish funeril--an' here it is, mister. I told the
kids ef there was more'n enough you's trow in a few greens, anyhow. Make
up de order right away, mister, and give us our money's worf now,
The gamin proudly counted out upon the marble slab of that fashionable
flower store the sum of seventy-five cents.
The florist--blessings on him--is said not to have undeceived the little
fellows, but to have duly honored their "order," and the biggest and
most costly "Gates Ajar" piece to be had in the market went to the
hospital, and helped to bury Larks.
Of course, as is customary in the case of all authors who have written
one popular book, requests for work at once rained in on the new study
on Andover Hill. For it soon became evident that I must have a quiet
place to write in. In the course of time I found it convenient to take
for working hours a sunny room in the farm-house of the Seminary estate,
a large, old-fashioned building adjoining my father's house. In still
later years I was allowed to build over, for my own purposes, the
summer-house under the big elm in my father's garden, once used by my
mother for her own study, and well remembered by all persons interested
in Andover scenery. This building had been for some years used
exclusively as a mud-bakery by the boys; it was piled with those clay
turnovers and rolls and pies in whose manufacture the most select
circles of Andover youth delighted.
But the bakery was metamorphosed into a decent, dear little room, about
nine by eleven, and commanding the sun on the four sides of its
quadrangle. In fact, it was a veritable sun-bath; and how dainty was the
tip-drip of the icicles from the big elm-bough, upon the little roof! To
this spot I used to travel down in all weathers; sometimes when it was
so slippery on the hill behind the carriage-house (for the garden paths
were impassable in winter) that I have had to return to primitive
methods of locomotion, and just sit down and coast half the way on the
crust. Later still, when an accident and crutches put this delightful
method of travelling out of the question, the summer-house (in a
blizzard I delighted in the name) was moved up beside my father's study.
I have, in fact, always had an out-of-door study, apart from the house I
lived in, and have come to look upon it as quite a necessity; so that we
have carried on the custom in our Gloucester house. We heartily
recommend it to all people who live by their brains and pens. The
incessant trotting to and fro on little errands is a wholesome thing.
Proof-sheets, empty ink-stands, dried-up mucilage, yawning wood-boxes,
wet feet, missing scissors, unfilled kerosene lamps, untimely thirst, or
unromantic lunches, the morning mail, and the dinner-bell, and the
orders of one's pet dog--all are so many imperious summonses to breathe
the tingling air and stir the blood and muscle.
Be as uncomfortable or as cross about it as you choose, an out-of-door
study is sure to prove your best friend. You become a species of
literary tramp, and absorb something of the tramp's hygiene. It is
impossible to be "cooped" at your desk, if you have to cross a garden or
a lawn thirty times a day to get to it. And what reporter can reach that
sweet seclusion across the distant housemaid's wily and experienced art?
What autograph or lion hunter can ruin your best chapter by bombardment
In the farm-house study I remember one of my earliest callers from the
publishing world, that seems always to stand with clawing fingers
demanding copy of the people least able to give it. He was an emissary
from the "Youth's Companion," who threatened or cajoled me into a vow to
supply him with a certain number of stories. My private suspicion is
that I have just about at this present time completed my share in that
ancient bargain, so patient and long-suffering has this pleasant paper
been with me. I took particular delight in that especial visit,
remembering the time when the "Companion" gave my first pious little
sentence to print, and paid me with the paper for a year.
"The Gates Ajar" was attacked by the press. In fact it was virulently
bitten. The reviews of the book, some of them, reached the point of
hydrophobia. Others were found to be in a milder pathological condition.
Still others were gentle or even friendly enough. Religious papers waged
war across that girl's notions of the life to come as if she had been an
evil spirit let loose upon accepted theology for the destruction of the
world. The secular press was scarcely less disturbed about the matter,
which it treated, however, with the more amused good-humor of a man of
the world puzzled by a religious disagreement.
In the days of the Most Holy Inquisition there was an old phrase whose
poignancy has always seemed to me to be but half appreciated. One did
not say: He was racked. She was burned. They were flayed alive, or
pulled apart with little pincers, or clasped in the arms of the red-hot
Virgin. One was too well-bred for so bald a use of language. One
politely and simply said: He was put to the question.
The young author of "The Gates Ajar" was only put to the question.
Heresy was her crime, and atrocity her name. She had outraged the
church; she had blasphemed its sanctities; she had taken live coals from
the altar in her impious hand. The sacrilege was too serious to be
dismissed with cold contempt.
Opinion battled about that poor little tale as if it had held the power
to overthrow church and state and family.
It was an irreverent book--it was a devout book. It was a strong
book--it was a weak book. It was a religious book--it was an immoral
book (I have forgotten just why; in fact, I think I never knew). It was
a good book--it was a bad book. It was calculated to comfort the
comfortless--it was calculated to lead the impressionable astray. It was
an accession to Christian literature--it was a disgrace to the religious
antecedents of the author; and so on, and so forth.
At first, when some of these reviews fell in my way, I read them,
knowing no better. But I very soon learned to let them alone. The kind
notices, while they gave me a sort of courage which by temperament
possibly I needed more than all young writers may, overwhelmed me, too,
by a sense of my own inadequacy to be a teacher of the most solemn of
truths, on any such scale as that towards which events seemed to be
pointing. The unfair notices put me in a tremor of distress. The brutal
ones affected me like a blow in the face from the fist of a ruffian.
None of them, that I can remember, ever helped me in any sense
whatsoever to do better work.
I quickly came to the conclusion that I was not adapted to reading the
views of the press about my own writing. I made a vow to let them alone;
and, from that day to this, I have kept it. Unless in the case of
something especially brought to my attention by friends, I do not read
any reviews of my books. Of course, in a general way, one knows if some
important pen has shown a comprehension of what one meant to do and
tried to do, or has spattered venom upon one's poor achievement. Quite
fairly, one cannot sit like the Queen in the kitchen, eating only bread
and honey--and venom disagrees with me.
I sometimes think--if I may take advantage of this occasion to make the
only reply in a working life of thirty years to any of the "slashers"
with whose devotion I am told that I have been honored--I sometimes
think, good brother critics, that I have had my share of the attentions
of poisoned weapons.
But, regarding my reviewers with the great good humor of one who never
reads what they say, I can afford to wish them lively luck and better
game in some quivering writer who takes the big pile of what it is the
fashion to call criticisms from the publisher's table, and
conscientiously reads them through. With _this_ form of being "put
to the question" I will have nothing to do. If it gives amusement to the
reviewers, they are welcome to their sport. But they stab at the summer
air, so far as any writer is concerned who has the pertinacity of
purpose to let them alone.
Long after I had adopted the rule to read no notices of my work, I
learned from George Eliot that the same had been her custom for many
years, and felt reenforced in the management of my little affairs by
this great example. Discussing the question once, with one of our
foremost American writers, I was struck with something like holy envy in
his expression. He had received rough handling from those "critics" who
seem to consider authors as their natural foes, and who delight in
aiming the hardest blows at the heaviest enemy. His fame is immeasurably
superior to that of all his reviewers put together.
"Don't you really read them?" he asked, wistfully. "I wish I could say
as much. I'm afraid I shouldn't have the perseverance to keep that up
In interesting contrast to all this discord from the outside, came the
personal letters. The book was hardly under way before the storm of them
set in. It began like a New England snow-storm, with a few large,
earnest flakes; then came the swirl of them, big and little, sleet and
rain, fast and furious, regular and irregular, scurrying and tumbling
over each other through the Andover mails.
The astonished girl bowed her head before the blast at first, with a
kind of terrified humility. Then, by degrees, she plucked up heart to
give to each letter its due attention.
It would not be very easy to make any one understand, who had not been
through a closely similar experience, just what it meant to live in the
centre of such a whirlwind of human suffering.
It used to seem to me sometimes, at the end of a week's reading of this
large and painful mail, as if the whole world were one great outcry.
What a little portion of it cried to the young writer of one little book
of consolation! Yet how the ear and heart ached under the piteous
monotony! I made it a rule to answer every civil letter that I received;
and as few of them were otherwise, this correspondence was no light
I have called it monotonous; yet there was a curious variety in
monotony, such as no other book has brought to the author's attention.
The same mail gave the pleasant word of some distinguished writer who
was so kind as to encourage a beginner in his own art, or so much kinder
as gently and intelligently to point out her defects; and beneath this
welcome note lay the sharp rebuke of some obscure parishioner who found
the Temple of Zion menaced to its foundation by my little story. Hunters
of heresy and of autograph pursued their game side by side. Here, some
man of affairs writes to say (it seemed incredible, but it used to
happen) that the book has given him his first intelligent respect for
religious faith. There, a poor colored girl, inmate of a charitable
institution, where she has figured as in deed and truth the black sheep,
sends her pathetic tribute:
"If heaven is like _that_, I want to go, and I mean to."
To-day I am berated by the lady who is offended with the manner of my
doctrine. I am called hard names in no soft language, and advised to
pray heaven for forgiveness for the harm I am doing by this ungodly
To-morrow I receive a widower's letter, of twenty-six pages, rose-tinted
and perfumed. He relates his personal history. He encloses the
photographs of his dead wife, his living children, and himself. He adds
the particulars of his income, which, I am given to understand, is
large. He adds--but I turn to the next.
This correspondent, like scores upon scores of others, will be told
instanter if I am a spiritualist. On this vital point he demands my
confession or my life.
The next desires to be informed how much of the story is autobiography,
and requires the regiment and company in which my brother served.
And now I am haughtily taken to task by some unknown nature for allowing
my heroine to be too much attached to her brother. I am told that this
is impious; that only our Maker should receive such adoring affection as
poor Mary offered to dead Roy.
Having recovered from this inconceivable slap in the face, I go bravely
on. I open the covers of a pamphlet as green as Erin, entitled,
"Antidote to the Gates Ajar;" consider myself as the poisoner of the
innocent and reverent mind, and learn what I may from this lesson in
There was always a certain share of abuse in these outpourings from
strangers; it was relatively small, but it was enough to save my
spirits, by the humor of it, or they would have been crushed with the
weight of the great majority.
I remember the editor of a large Western paper, who enclosed a clipping
from his last review for my perusal. It treated, not of "The Gates Ajar"
just then, but of a magazine story in "Harper's," the "Century," or
wherever. The story was told in the first person fictitious, and began
after this fashion:
"I am an old maid of fifty-six, and have spent most of my life in
boarding-houses." (The writer was, be it said, at that time, scarcely
"Miss Phelps says of herself," observed this oracle, "that she is
fifty-six years old; and we think she is old enough to know better than
to write such a story as this."
At a summer place where I was in the early fervors of the art of making
a home, a citizen was once introduced to me at his own request. I have
forgotten his name, but remember having been told that he was
"prominent." He was big, red, and loud, and he planted himself with the
air of a man about to demolish his deadliest foe.
"So you are Miss Phelps. Well, I've wanted to meet you. I read a piece
you wrote in a magazine. It was about Our Town. It did not please Me."
I bowed with the interrogatory air which seemed to be expected of me.
Being just then very much in love with that very lovable place, I was
puzzled with this accusation, and quite unable to recall, out of the
warm flattery which I had heaped upon the town in cool print, any
visible cause of offence.
"You said," pursued my accuser, angrily, "that we had odors here. You
said Our Town smelled of fish. Now, you know, _we_ get so used to
these smells _we like 'em!_ It gave great offence to the community,
madam. And I really thought at one time--feelin' ran so high--I thought
it would kill the sale of your book!"
From that day to this I do not believe the idea has visited the brain of
this estimable person that a book could circulate in any other spot upon
the map than within his native town. This delicious bit of provincialism
served to make life worth living for many a long day.
There was fun enough in this sort of thing to "keep one up," so that one
could return bravely to the chief end of existence; for this seemed for
many years to be nothing less, and little else, than the exercise of
those faculties called forth by the wails of the bereaved. From every
corner of the civilized globe, and in its differing languages, they came
to me--entreaties, outpourings, cries of agony, mutterings of despair,
breathings of the gentle hope by which despair may be superseded;
appeals for help which only the Almighty could have given; demands for
light which only eternity can supply.
A man's grief, when he chooses to confide it to a woman, is not an easy
matter to deal with. Its dignity and its pathos are never to be
forgotten. How to meet it, Heaven only teaches; and how far Heaven
taught that awed and humbled girl I shall never know.
But the women--oh, the poor women! I felt less afraid to answer them.
Their misery seemed to cry in my arms like a child who must be
comforted. I wrote to them--I wrote without wisdom or caution or skill;
only with the power of being sorry for them, and the wish to say so; and
if I said the right thing or the wrong one, whether I comforted or
wearied, strengthened or weakened, that, too, I shall not know.
Sometimes, in recent years, a letter comes or a voice speaks: "Do you
remember--so many years ago--when I was in great trouble? You wrote to
me." And I am half ashamed that I had forgotten. But I bless her because
But when I think of the hundreds--it came into the thousands, I
believe--of such letters received, and how large a proportion of them
were answered, my heart sinks. How is it possible that one should not
have done more harm than good by that unguided sympathy? If I could not
leave the open question to the Wisdom that protects and overrules
well-meaning ignorance, I should be afraid to think of it. For many
years I was snowed under by those mourners' letters. In truth, they have
not ceased entirely yet, though of course their visits are now
I am so often asked if I still believe the views of another life set
forth in "The Gates Ajar" that I am glad to use this opportunity to
answer the question; though, indeed, I have been led to do so, to a
certain extent, in another place, and may, perhaps, be pardoned for
repeating words in which the question first and most naturally answered
"Those appeals of the mourning, black of edge and blurred with tears,
were a mass high beneath the hand and heavy to the heart. These letters
had the terrible and unanswerable power of all great, natural voices;
and the chiefest of these are love and grief. Year upon year the
recipient has sat dumb before these signs of human misery and hope. They
have rolled upon the shore of life, a billow of solemn inspiration. I
have called them a human argument for faith in the future life, and see
no reason for amending the term."
But why dwell on the little book, which was only the trembling
organ-pipe through which the music thrilled? Its faults have long since
ceased to trouble, and its friends to elate me. Sometimes one seems to
one's self to be the least or last agency in the universe responsible
for such a work. What was the book? Only an outcry of nature--and nature
answered it. That was all. And nature is of God, and is mighty before
Do I believe in the "middle march" of life, as the girl did in the
morning, before the battle of the day?
For nature's sake--which is for God's sake--I cannot hesitate.
Useless suffering is the worst of all kinds of waste. Unless He created
this world from sheer extravagance in the infliction of purposeless
pain, there must be another life to justify, to heal, to comfort, to
offer happiness, to develop holiness. If there be another world, and
such a one, it will be no theologic drama, but a sensible, wholesome
scene. The largest and the strongest elements of this experimental life
will survive its weakest and smallest. Love is "the greatest thing in
the world," and love "will claim its own" at last.
The affection which is true enough to live forever, need have no fear
that the life to come will thwart it. The grief that goes to the grave
unhealed, may put its trust in unimagined joy to be. The patient, the
uncomplaining, the unselfish mourner, biding his time and bearing his
lot, giving more comfort than he gets, and with beautiful wilfulness
believing in the intended kindness of an apparently harsh force which he
cannot understand, may come to perceive, even here, that infinite power
and mercy are one; and, I solemnly believe, is sure to do so in the life
beyond, where "God keeps a niche in heaven to hold our idols."
BY ELLA HIGGINSON.
I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blooms burst with snow;
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.
One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,
And one is for love, you know;
And God put another one in for luck--
If you search, you will find where they grow.
But you must have hope, and you must have faith;
You must love and be strong--and so--
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.
A LEAP IN THE DARK
BY JAMES T. MCKAY,
Author of "Stella Grayland," "Larcone's Little Chap," and other stories.
The Windhams and Mandisons were old neighbors, and Phil Windham had
always been very much at home among the Mandisons, and especially with
Mary, the oldest daughter, who was like a wise, kind sister to him. Now
his own house began to break up--his brothers went West; his sisters
married; his father, who was a chemist and inventor, was killed one day
by an explosion. In these trying times the Mandison household was his
chief resource, and Mary most of all.
Then the Mandisons moved away. That seemed to Windham like the end of
things. He was awfully lonely, and thought a great deal about Mary in
the months that followed, but was not quite sure of himself; though he
was certain there was no one else he liked and admired half so much. But
in the following winter he went to spend the holidays with the
Mandisons, and when he came away he and Mary were engaged.
The next summer the Mandisons took a cottage at the shore, and Windham
went to spend some weeks with them. Idly busy and calmly happy in the
pleasant company of Mary and all the friendly house, the sunny days
slipped by till one came that disturbed his dream. An aunt of Mary's
arrived with her husband, Dr. Saxon, and his niece, Agnes Maine. At the
first glance Miss Maine challenged Windham's attention. She was a tall
and striking person, with a keen glance that he felt took his measure at
the first look. She piqued his curiosity, and interested him more and
One day he saw her and Mary together, and caught himself comparing them,
not in Mary's favor. Panic seized him, and he turned his back on Miss
Maine and devoted himself to Mary. Miss Maine went to stay with some
neighbors, the Colemans. One night she was caught at the Mandisons by a
storm. Mary asked Windham to entertain her, and he went and asked her to
play chess. She declined coldly, and Windham turned away with such a
look that Mary wondered what Agnes could have said so unkind. And the
next day Miss Maine spoke so gently to him that it warmed him all
through. Still he persistently avoided her.
The Colemans got up a play in the attic of their large old house. On the
night of the performance the place was crowded. The first two acts went
Windham had been helping to shift the scenes, and was standing alone,
looking over the animated spectacle as the audience chatted and laughed.
Something in the play had made him think of Agnes Maine, though she was
not in the cast, and he had not seen her. Suddenly, without any notice
of her approach, she stood close to him, looking in his face. Her face
was paler than usual, and her eyes had a startling light in them. She
said only half a dozen low words, but they made him turn ghastly white.
What she said was:
"The house is on fire down-stairs."
He stood looking at her an instant, long enough to reflect that any
alarm would result in piling those gay people in an awful mass at the
foot of the one steep and fragile stairway. The stage entrance was
little better than an enclosed ladder, and not to be thought of.
"Go and stand at the head of the stairs," he said to her.
The bell rang for the curtain to rise, but he slipped back behind it,
and it did not go up. Instead, Jeffrey Coleman appeared before it,
bowing and smiling with exaggeration, and announced that the
continuation of the performance had been arranged as a surprise
below-stairs, and would be found even more exciting and interesting than
the part already given. The audience were requested to go below quickly,
but at the same time were cautioned against crowding, as the stair was
rather steep and temporary. As they did not start at once, he came off
the stage and led the way, going on down the stairs, and calling gayly
to the rest to follow.
Windham had got to the stairhead by this time. Agnes Maine stood there,
on one side, looking calm and contained, and he took up his position on
the other, and followed the cue given by young Coleman. He began to call
out, extolling the absorbing and thrilling character of the performance
down-stairs, with the extravagant epithets of the circus posters,
laughing all the while. He urged them on when they lingered, and
restrained them when they came too fast, addressing one and another with
jocularity, laying his hands on some and pushing them on with assumed
playfulness, keeping up the fire of raillery with desperate resistance.
When screams were heard now and then from below, he made it appear to be
only excited feminine merriment, directing attention to it, and calling
out to those yet to come:
"You hear them? Oh, yes; you'll scream, too, when you see it!"
All the time, though his faculties were sufficiently strained by the
effort he was making, he was watching Agnes Maine, who stood opposite,
doing nothing, but looking her calm, pale self, and now and then smiling
slightly at his extravagant humor. And he thought admiringly that her
simple quiet did more to keep up the illusion than all his labored and
It seemed as if there never would be an end to the stream of leisurely
people who answered his banter with laugh and joke. But finally the last
of them were fairly on the stair, and he turned to Agnes Maine with a
suddenly transformed face.
"Now--be quick!" he called.
But she gave a low cry, looking away toward the farther end, where she
caught sight of a young couple still lingering. She ran toward them,
calling to them to hurry, and as they did not understand, she took hold
of the girl, and made her run. Windham had followed her, and the four
came together to the stairhead, but there they stopped, and the young
girl broke into wild screams. The foot of the stairway was wrapped in
smoke and flames.
There was an observatory upon the house, into which Windham had once
gone with Jeffrey Coleman, and he turned to it now, and made the three
go up before him. He stopped and cut away a rope that held some of the
hangings, and took it up with him. Miss Maine was standing with her arm
about Fanny Lee, whom she had quieted.
"Had she better go first?" he asked.
"Yes, of course," Miss Maine answered.
He fastened the rope about the girl, assured her they would let her down
safely, and between them they persuaded her, shrinkingly, to let herself
be swung over, and lowered to the ground. In this Miss Maine gave more
help than young Pritchard, who shook and chattered so much as to be of
little use. And as soon as the girl was down and Windham turned toward
Miss Maine, Pritchard took a turn of the rope around the railing, with a
hasty knot, went over, and slid down it, out of sight. But before he
reached the ground, the rope broke loose, and slipped out of Windham's
grasp as he tried to catch it.
A cry came up from below. Windham turned toward Miss Maine, and they
looked at one another, but said nothing. She was very pale and still.
Windham glanced down and around; the fire was already following them up
the tower. He made her come to the other side, where the balcony
overhung the ridge of the sloping roof, got over the railing, and helped
her to do the same, and to seat herself on the narrow ledge outside,
holding on by the bars with her arms behind her. He let himself down by
his hands till within two or three feet of the roof, and dropped safely
upon it. Then he stood up, facing her just below, braced himself with
one foot on each side of the ridge, and told her to loosen her hold and
let herself fall forward. She did so, and he caught her in his arms as
It was a struggle for a minute to keep his balance; and whether in the
involuntary stress of the effort, or by an instinctive impulse,
conscious or otherwise, he clasped her close for a moment, till her face
touched his own. Then he put her down, and they sat on the ridge near
each other, flushed, and short of breath. Below, on the lawn, a throng
of people looked up at them, some motionless, some gesticulating, and
some shouting in dumb show, their voices drowned in the fierce roar and
crackling that raged beneath the roof and shut in the two above it in a
kind of visible privacy. They were still a while; then Agnes asked: "Can
we do anything more?"
"No," he answered, "nothing but wait."
Both saw that men were running for ladders and ropes. Presently he asked
"Why did you come to me?"
She looked up at him for a moment, then answered:
"I suppose I thought you would know what to do."
"Thank you," he said, in a grave, low voice.
After a little the tower blazed out above them, and they moved along the
ridge till stopped by a chimney, against which he made her lean. Then
they sat still again. The flames rose above the eaves on one side, and
flared higher and hotter. Soon they grew scorching, and Agnes said, with
"We couldn't stay here long."
He looked at her, and the side of her face toward the fire glowed bright
red. He took off his coat, moved close to her, and held it up between
their faces and the flames; and they sat together so, breathing audibly,
but not speaking, till the head of a ladder rose suddenly above the
eaves, and a minute later the head and shoulders of Jeffrey Coleman. He
flung a rope to Windham, who in another minute had let Miss Maine slip
down by it to the ladder; then, throwing a noose of it over the chimney,
he slid down himself to the eaves, and so to the ground.
[Illustration: "AGNES SAID, WITH QUICKENED BREATHING, 'WE COULDN'T STAY
Miss Maine stood waiting for him, pale and trembling now, but said
nothing. Mary Mandison was with her; she had made no scene, and made
But there were sharper eyes than Mary's. That night, as Windham strolled
on the lawn alone, Dr. Saxon confronted him, grimly puffing at his pipe.
Then he said:
"I thought you were an honest fellow."
Windham leaned against a tree.
"I want to be," he said feebly.
"Then you'll have to look sharp," the doctor retorted. "You'd better go
fishing with me up-country in the morning."
He went, Mary making him promise to return in time for an excursion to
Blackberry Island which he had helped her plan. He got back the night
before; and in the morning the party set out, some going round the shore
by stage, and some in the boat down the bay.
Miss Maine went with those in the boat, and Windham went with Mary in
the stage. Both on the way and after their arrival, he stayed by her,
and did all he could to be useful and amusing.
They lunched on a grassy bank, in the shade of a cliff, by a tumbling
brook that streamed down from the rocks. By and by Mary remarked that
she would like to see where the little torrent came from, and Windham
said he would try and find out for her. He scrambled up, and soon passed
out of sight among the bowlders. He found some tough climbing, but kept
on, and after a while traced the stream to a clear pool where a spring
bubbled out of a rock wall in a cave-like chamber near the top.
As he reached its edge, he caught sight of the reflection in the pool of
a woman's white dress; and, glancing up, saw Agnes Maine standing a
little above him, on a sort of natural pedestal, in a rude niche at one
side. She looked so like a statue that she smiled slightly at the
confused thought of it which she saw for an instant in his face, but she
turned grave then as their eyes met for a moment in a look of intimate
recognition. Then he turned his away, with a sudden terror at himself,
and leaned back against the wall, white in the face.
She stepped down and passed by him. He half put out his hand to stop
her, but drew it back, and she partly turned at the gesture, but went on
out of his sight.
He stood there for some time; then climbed down the rocks again, shaping
his features into a careless form as he went, and came back to Mary with
a forced smile on his face. But he forgot what he had gone for, and
looked confused when Mary asked him if he had found it. And she
"Why, Philip, what has happened? You look as if you had seen a ghost."
"I have," he answered.
Mary asked no more, except by her look. Some one came and proposed a
sail, and Windham eagerly agreed, and went out in the boat with Mary and
They sailed down the bay. On the return the wind died away, and when
they got back, the stage had gone with more than half the party, and
Agnes Maine was not among those who were waiting. They came on board,
and the boat headed away for home.
After landing they had to walk across some fields. When near the house,
Mary missed something, and Windham went back for it. He had to cross the
road, and as he came near it the stage passed along, with its merry
company laughing and singing. They did not notice him among the trees,
but he distinctly saw all who were in the open vehicle, and Miss Maine
was not among them.
She had climbed up the cliff by a gradual, roundabout path; and after
Windham saw her, she had wandered on, lost herself for a while, and got
back after both stage and boat had left, each party supposing she had
gone with the other.
Windham found a row-boat and started back. He knew nothing about boats;
but the bay was very smooth, it was yet early, and he got across in due
time. As he neared the island he saw her, in her white dress, standing
on the bluff, and looking out toward him.
Off the shore, rocks and bowlders stood thickly out of the water, and
Windham threaded his way in among them, thinking nothing of those
underneath. The skiff was little better than an egg-shell, being built
of half-inch cedar; and before he knew what had happened, the point of a
sunken rock had cut through the bows, and the boat was filling with
water. With a landsman's instinct, he stood up on a thwart; the boat
tipped over and went from under him. In the effort to right it, he made
a thrust downward with one of the oars, but found no bottom; and the
next minute Agnes saw him clinging to the side of a steep rock, with
only his head and shoulders out of water.
She did not cry out; but after he had struggled vainly to get up the
rock, and found no other support for foot or hand than the one
projection just above him, by which he held, he looked toward her as he
clung there out of breath, and saw her eagerly watching him from the
water's edge. And her voice showed the stress of her feeling, though it
was quite clear when she called:
"Can't you climb up?"
"No, there is nothing to hold by."
"Can you swim?"
She looked all about, then back to him. There was no one in sight; the
island was out of the lines of communication, and a point just north of
them shut off the open water. But she saw that the reef to which Windham
clung trended in to the shore a little way off, and she called:
"I think I can get out to you--keep hold till I come."
She ran along the beach, but not all the way. As soon as she was
opposite a part of the reef that seemed accessible, she walked straight
into the water, and made her way through it, though it was two or three
feet deep near the rocks. He saw her clamber upon them and start toward
him, springing from one to another, wading across submerged places,
climbing around or over the higher points. And even there, in his
desperate plight, as he watched her coming steadily toward him, her eyes
fixed on the difficult path, and her skirt instinctively gathered a
little in one hand, the sight of her fearless grace thrilled through
him, and filled him with despairing admiration.
She came presently to the edge of a wider gap with clear water beneath,
and paused for an instant. Windham called out:
"Don't jump; you'll be lost!"
She looked at him a moment, studied the rocks again, stepped back, then
forward quickly, and sprang across. She slipped and fell, but got to her
feet again, and came on as before. She went out of Windham's sight, but
in another minute he heard a rustle above him, looked up, and saw her
standing very near the edge, and looking down at him, panting a little,
but otherwise calm.
"Don't stand there; you will fall!" he called to her.
She kneeled down and tried to reach over, but could not. She raised
herself again, and looked all around anxiously, but saw no one; she had
not seen any one since she left him hours before on the cliff. She
looked down at him and asked:
"Can you hold on long?"
"No," he answered, "not very long."
She moved back and lay down on the rock, with her face over the edge. It
was wet and slippery, and inclined forward, so that she had to brace
herself with one hand by a projection just below the brink. Lying so,
she could reach down very near him.
"Take hold of my hand," she said.
He raised one arm with an effort, so that she caught him by the wrist,
and his fingers closed about hers. She tried to pull him up slowly, but
he felt that it was hopeless, and would only result in drawing her off
the rock; so he settled back as before. He noticed that she had given
him her left hand, and saw that there was another reason besides the
necessity of bracing herself with her right. Her wrist was cut and
"Oh, you are hurt!" he exclaimed.
"Never mind," she replied; "that is nothing."
He looked up in her face with passionate regret. Her lips were parted,
and her breathing came quick and deep. He felt in her wrist the hot
blood with which all her pulses throbbed, and it went through him as
though one current flowed in their veins. Her eyes looked full into his,
and did not turn away till the lashes trembled over them suddenly, and
tears gushed out upon her face. An agony of yearning took hold of
Windham and wrung his heart.
"Agnes, do you know?" he asked.
And she answered, "Yes."
When she could see him again, drops stood out on his forehead, and his
eyes looked up at her with a despairing tenderness. Her lips closed, and
her features settled into a look of answering resolve.
"You must not give up," she urged. "Don't let go of my hand."
"Oh, I must!" he answered. "You couldn't hold me; I should only draw you
She neither looked away nor made any reply.
"It would do no good," he went on. "I should only drown you too."
"I don't care," she answered. "I will not let you go."
"Oh, Agnes!" he responded, the faintness of exhaustion creeping over
him, and mingling with a sharp but sweet despair.
Mary was standing at the door when the stage arrived, and she saw that
Agnes was not there. She took one of her brothers who was a good
boatman, and started back at once. When their boat rounded the point of
the island she was on the lookout, and was the first to see the two they
came to succor none too soon. And before they saw her she caught sight,
with terrible clearness, of the look in the two faces that were bent
upon one another. It was she who supported Windham until Agnes could be
taken off, and preparations made for getting him on board; but she
turned her eyes away, and did not speak to him.
On the way back she hardly noticed the dreary and draggled pair, who had
little to say for themselves. Many things that had puzzled and troubled
her ranged themselves in a dreadful sequence and order now in her
unsuspicious mind. On their arrival she made some arrangements for their
comfort, quietly; then went to her room, and did not come down again.
Windham left early in the morning, went straight back to Dr. Saxon, and
told him the whole story.
"I hardly know whether I'm a villain or not," Windham concluded.
"You might as well be," the doctor growled. "You've been a consummate
fool, and one does about as much harm as the other. Go home now and stay
there; and don't do anything more, for heaven's sake, until you hear
Windham went home, and was very miserable, as may be supposed. Hearing
nothing for some time, he could not bear it, and wrote to Mary that he
honored and admired her, and thought everything of her that he ever had
or could. In a week he got this reply:
"Mary Mandison has received Philip Windham's letter, and can only reply
that there is nothing to be said."
This stung him more deeply than silence, and he wrote that he was going
to see her on a certain day, and begged her not to deny him. He went at
the time, and she saw him, simply sitting still, and hearing what he had
to say. He hardly knew what to say then, but vowed and protested, and
finally complained of her coldness and cruelty. She replied that she was
not cold or cruel, but only, as she had told him, there was nothing to
be said. In the end he found this was true, and rushed away in despair.
Mary had seemed calm; but when her mother came in that afternoon and
looked for her, she found her in her room, lying on her face.
When she knew who it was, she raised herself silently, looked in her
mother's face a moment, put her arms about her neck, and hid her hot,
dry eyes there as she used to do when a child.
Late that night those two were alone together in the same place, and,
before they parted, the mother said:
"You were always my brave child, and you are going to be my brave Mary
And Mary answered with a low cry:
"Yes--yes; but not now--not now!"
For a good while Windham felt the sensation of having run headlong upon
a blank wall and been flung back and crippled. But the feeling wore
itself out as the months passed.
It was nearly a year before he heard from Dr. Saxon, and he had given up
looking for anything from him, when he received a cold note, inviting
him to call at the doctor's home, if he chose, at a certain date and
hour. At the time set he went to the city, and rang the doctor's bell as
the hour was striking.
[Illustration: "'AGNES, DO YOU KNOW?' HE ASKED. AND SHE ANSWERED, 'YES.'"]
He was shown into the library, and when the door closed behind him, he
fell back against it. Dr. Saxon was not the only person in the room; at
the farther end sat Agnes Maine. She knew nothing of his coming; and
when she glanced round and saw him, she stood up and faced him, with her
hands crossed before her, her breathing quickened, and her face flushed
The old doctor leaned back and looked from one to the other, studying
them openly and keenly. When he was satisfied, he ordered Windham to
take a chair near the window and told Agnes she might go out. She faced
him a moment; then went away with her straight, proud carriage. The
doctor finished something he was at, then got his pipe and filled and
lighted it, backed up against the chimney-piece, and stood eying Windham
with something more than his usual scowl.
"Well, young man," he asked, finally, "what did you come here for?"
"I came here because you asked me to."
"No, sir; you didn't," the old man retorted. "I said you might come if
Windham stood up, trembling, and replied with suppressed passion:
"I came on your invitation. I did not come to be insulted."
"Tut, tut," the doctor rejoined. "You needn't be so hoity-toity; you
haven't much occasion; sit down. Have you been making any more of your
'mistakes,' as you call them?"
Windham answered emphatically: "No!"
"Are you going to?" the doctor continued.
"No, sir; I am not," Windham replied, with angry decision.
"Well, I wouldn't; you've done enough," the doctor commented roughly.
"You call it a mistake, but I call it blind stupidity, worse than many
crimes. Mary is worth three of Agnes, to begin with; but it would be
just as bad if she were a doll or a dolt. Any fellow out of
swaddling-clothes, who has brains in his body, and isn't made of wood,
ought to know that passion is as hard a fact as hunger, and no more to
be left out of account. You were bound to know the chances were that it
would have to be reckoned with, first or last, and you deliberately took
the risk of wrecking two women's lives. I don't say anything about your
own; you richly deserve all you got, and all that's coming to you. If
law could be made to conform to abstract justice, it would rank your
offence worse than many for which men pay behind bars."
He went out abruptly, and after a few minutes returned with Agnes, who
came in lingering, and apparently unwilling.
"Here, Agnes, I am going out," he said. "I've been giving this young man
my opinion of him, and haven't any more time to waste. You can tell him
what you think of him, and send him off."
He went out, and banged the door after him. Agnes leaned against it, and
stood there downcast and perfectly still. Windham sat sunk together, as
the doctor had left him, waiting for her to speak. But she did not, and
after a while he got up and stood by the high desk, looking at her.
Finally he spoke low:
"Are you going to scold me, too? Mary has discarded me, and your uncle
says I am a miserable sinner, and ought to be in the penitentiary. I
don't deny it; but if I went there it would be for your sake. Do you
condemn me, too? Have you no mercy for me?"
A flush spread slowly over her pale face. Then she replied softly:
"No, I have no right. I am no better than you."
Two or three hours later Dr. Saxon sat at his desk, when Agnes entered
and came silently and stood beside him. He did not look up, but asked
"Well, have you packed him off?"
"No," she answered under her breath; "you know I haven't."
He smiled up at her. This gruff old man had a rare smile on occasion for
those he liked. And he said:
"Well, he isn't the worst they make; he's got spirit, and he can take a
drubbing, too, when it's deserved. I tried him pretty well. Didn't I
fire into him, though, hot shot!" He fairly grinned at the recollection.
"I had to, you know, to keep myself in countenance. I suppose I said
rather more than I meant--but don't you tell him so."
She smiled. "I have told him so already; I told him you didn't mean a
word you said."
"You presumptuous baggage!" The doctor scowled now. "Then you told him a
tremendous fib. I meant a deal of it. Well, he'll get his deserts yet,
if he gets you, you deceiving minx. I told him one thing that was true
enough, anyway"--he smiled broadly again--"I told him Mary was worth
half a dozen of you."
Agnes turned grave, and put down her head so that she hid her face.
"So she is," she answered. "Oh, I'm very sorry--and ashamed!"
"Well, well," the old doctor responded soberly, stroking her cheek, "it
is a pity; but I suppose it can't be helped. Mary's made of good stuff,
and will pull through. It wouldn't do her any good if three lives were
spoiled instead of one. It's lucky she found out before it was too
THE LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
BY IDA M. TARBELL.
LINCOLN IN CONGRESS
_The following article is made up almost entirely of new matter. It
includes six hitherto unpublished letters, all of them of importance in
illustrating Lincoln's political methods and his views on public
questions from 1843 to 1848, and an excellent report of a speech
delivered in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1848, hitherto unknown to
Lincoln's biographers, discovered in course of a search instituted by
this Magazine through the files of the Boston and Worcester newspapers
of September, 1848. The article also comprises various reminiscences of
Lincoln in the period covered, gathered especially for this Magazine
from associates of his who are still living._
For eight successive years Lincoln had been a member of the General
Assembly of Illinois. It was quite long enough, in his judgment. He
wanted something better. In 1842 he declined re-nomination, and became a
candidate for Congress. He did not wait to be asked, nor did he leave
his case in the hands of his friends. He frankly announced his desire,
and managed his own canvass. There was no reason, in Lincoln's opinion,
for concealing political ambition. He recognized, at the same time, the
legitimacy of the ambition of his friends, and entertained no suspicion
or rancor if they contested places with him.
"Do you suppose that I should ever have got into notice if I had waited
to be hunted up and pushed forward by older men?" he wrote his friend
Herndon once, when the latter was complaining that the older men did not
help him on. "The way for a young man to rise is to improve himself
every way he can, never suspecting that anybody wishes to hinder him.
Allow me to assure you that suspicion and jealousy never did help any
man in any situation. There may sometimes be ungenerous attempts to keep
a young man down; and they will succeed, too, if he allows his mind to
be diverted from its true channel to brood over the attempted injury.
Cast about, and see if this feeling has not injured every person you
have ever known to fall into it."
Lincoln had something more to do, however, in 1842, than simply to
announce himself in the innocent manner of earlier politics. The
convention system introduced into Illinois in 1835 by the Democrats had
been zealously opposed by all good Whigs, Lincoln included, until
constant defeat taught them that to resist organization by an
every-man-for-himself policy was hopeless and wasteful, and that if they
would succeed they must meet organization with organization. In 1841 a
Whig State convention had been called to nominate candidates for the
offices of governor and lieutenant-governor; and now, in March, 1843, a
Whig meeting was held again at Springfield, at which the party's
platform was laid, and a committee, of which Lincoln was a member, was
appointed to prepare an "Address to the People of Illinois." In this
address the convention system was earnestly defended. Against this rapid
adoption of the abominated system many of the Whigs protested, and
Lincoln found himself supporting before his constituents the tactics he
had once warmly opposed. In a letter to his friend John Bennett of
Petersburg, written in March, 1843, and now for the first time
published, he said:
[Footnote 1: The term "unpublished" is employed in this series of
articles to cover documents that have never been published in any
authoritative or permanent way. Most of the documents so designated have
never, so far as we know, been published at all; but a few have been
printed in local newspapers, though so long ago, and under such
circumstances, as to be practically unpublished now.]
"Your letter of this day was handed me by Mr. Miles. It is too late now
to effect the object you desire. On yesterday morning the most of the
Whig members from this district got together and agreed to hold the
convention at Tremont, in Tazewell County. I am sorry to hear that any
of the Whigs of your county, or of any county, should longer be against
"On last Wednesday evening a meeting of all the Whigs then here from all
parts of the State was held, and the question of the propriety of
conventions was brought up and fully discussed, and at the end of the
discussion a resolution recommending the system of conventions to all
the Whigs of the State was unanimously adopted. Other resolutions also
were passed, all of which will appear in the next 'Journal.' The meeting
also appointed a committee to draft an address to the people of the
State, which address will also appear in the next 'Journal.' In it you
will find a brief argument in favor of conventions, and, although I
wrote it myself, I _will_ say to you that it is conclusive upon the
point, and cannot be reasonably answered.
"The right way for you to do is to hold your meeting and appoint
delegates anyhow, and if there be any who will not take part, let it be
"The matter will work so well this time that even they who now oppose
will come in next time. The convention is to be held at Tremont on the
fifth of April; and, according to the rule we have adopted, your county
is to have two delegates--being double the number of your
"If there be any good Whig who is disposed still to stick out against
conventions, get him, at least, to read the argument in their favor in
[Footnote 2: The original of this letter is owned by E.R. Oeltjen of
The "brief argument" which Lincoln thought so conclusive, "if he did
write it himself," justified his good opinion. After its circulation
there were few found to "stick out against conventions." The Whigs of
the various counties in the Congressional district met as they had been
ordered to do, and chose delegates. John J. Hardin of Jacksonville,
Edward D. Baker and Abraham Lincoln of Springfield, were the three
candidates for whom these delegates were instructed.
To Lincoln's keen disappointment, the delegation from Sangamon County
was instructed for Baker. A variety of social and personal influences,
besides Baker's popularity, worked against Lincoln. "It would astonish,
if not amuse, the older citizens," wrote Lincoln to a friend, "to learn
that I (a stranger, friendless, uneducated, penniless boy, working on a
flat-boat at ten dollars per month) have been put down here as the
candidate of pride, wealth, and aristocratic family distinction." He was
not only accused of being an aristocrat, he was called "a deist." He had
fought, or been about to fight, a duel. His wife's relations were
Episcopalian and Presbyterian. He and she attended a Presbyterian
church. These influences alone could not be said to have defeated him,
he wrote, but "they levied a tax of considerable per cent. upon my
The meeting that named Baker as its choice for Congress appointed
Lincoln one of the delegates to the convention. "In getting Baker the
nomination," Lincoln wrote to Speed, "I shall be fixed a good deal like
a fellow who is made a grooms-man to a man that has cut him out, and is
marrying his own dear 'gal.'" From the first, however, he stood bravely
by Baker. "I feel myself bound not to hinder him in any way from getting
the nomination; I should despise myself were I to attempt it," he wrote
certain of his constituents who were anxious that he should attempt to
secure the nomination in spite of his instructions. It was soon evident
to both Lincoln and Baker that John J. Hardin was probably the strongest
candidate in the district, and so it proved when the convention met in
May, 1843, at Pekin.
It has frequently been charged that in this Pekin convention, Hardin,
Baker, and Lincoln agreed to take in turn the three next nominations to
Congress, thus establishing a species of rotation in office. This charge
cannot be sustained. What occurred at the Pekin convention has been
written out for this magazine by one of the only two surviving
delegates, the Hon. J.M. Ruggles of Havana, Illinois.
"When the convention assembled," writes Mr. Ruggles, "Baker was there
with his friend and champion delegate, Abraham Lincoln. The ayes and
noes had been taken, and there were fifteen votes apiece, and one in
doubt that had not arrived. That was myself. I was known to be a warm
friend of Baker, representing people who were partial to Hardin. As soon
as I arrived Baker hurried to me, saying: 'How is it? It all depends on
you.' On being told that notwithstanding my partiality for him, the
people I represented expected me to vote for Hardin, and that I would
have to do so, Baker at once replied: 'You are right--there is no other
way.' The convention was organized, and I was elected secretary. Baker
immediately arose, and made a most thrilling address, thoroughly
arousing the sympathies of the convention, and ended by declining his
candidacy. Hardin was nominated by acclamation; and then came the
"Immediately after the nomination, Mr. Lincoln walked across the room to
my table, and asked if I would favor a resolution recommending Baker for
the next term. On being answered in the affirmative, he said: 'You
prepare the resolution, I will support it, and I think we can pass it.'
The resolution created a profound sensation, especially with the friends
of Hardin. After an excited and angry discussion, the resolution passed
by a majority of one."
Lincoln supported Hardin as energetically as he had Baker. In a
letter to the former, hitherto unpublished, written on May 11th, just
after the convention, he says:
"Butler informs me that he received a letter from you in which
you expressed some doubt as to whether the Whigs of Sangamon
will support you cordially. You may at once dismiss all fears on
that subject. We have already resolved to make a particular
effort to give you the very largest majority possible in our
county. From this no Whig of the county dissents. We have many
objects for doing it. We make it a matter of honor and pride to
do it; we do it because we love the Whig cause; we do it because
we like you personally; and, last, we wish to convince you that
we do not bear that hatred to Morgan County that you people have
seemed so long to imagine. You will see by the 'Journal' of this
week that we propose, upon pain of losing a barbecue, to give
you twice as great a majority in this county as you shall
receive in your own. I got up the proposal.
"Who of the five appointed is to write the district address? I
did the labor of writing one address this year, and got thunder
for my reward. Nothing new here.
Yours as ever,
"P.S. I wish you would measure one of the largest of those
swords we took to Alton, and write me the length of it, from tip
of the point to tip of the hilt, in feet and inches. I have a
dispute about the length.
[Footnote 3: The originals of both the letters on this page addressed by
Lincoln to Hardin are owned by the daughter of General Hardin, Mrs.
Ellen Hardin Walworth of New York City.]
[Footnote 4: The swords referred to in this postscript are those used in
the Shields-Lincoln duel. See MCCLURE'S MAGAZINE for April, 1896.]
LINCOLN WORKS FOR THE NOMINATION IN 1846.
Hardin was elected, and in 1844 Baker was nominated and elected. Lincoln
had accepted his defeat by Hardin manfully. He had secured the
nomination for Baker in 1844. He felt that his duty toward his friends
was discharged, and that the nomination in 1846 belonged to him. Through
the terms of both Hardin and Baker, he worked persistently and carefully
to insure his own nomination. With infinite pains-taking he informed
himself about the temper of every individual whom he knew or of whom he
heard. In an amusing letter to Hardin, hitherto unpublished, written in
May, 1844, while the latter was in Congress, he tells him of one
disgruntled constituent who must be pacified, giving him, at the same
time, a hint as to the temper of the "Locofocos."
"Knowing that you have correspondents enough, I have forborne to
trouble you heretofore," he writes; "and I now only do so to get
you to set a matter right which has got wrong with one of our
best friends. It is old Uncle Thomas Campbell of Spring Creek
(Berlin P.O.). He has received several documents from you, and
he says they are old newspapers and old documents, having no
sort of interest in them. He is, therefore, getting a strong
impression that you treat him with disrespect. This, I know, is
a mistaken impression, and you must correct it. The way, I leave
to yourself. Robert W. Canfield says he would like to have a
document or two from you.
"The Locos here are in considerable trouble about Van Buren's
letter on Texas, and the Virginia electors. They are growing
sick of the tariff question, and consequently are much
confounded at Van Buren's cutting them off from the new Texas
question. Nearly half the leaders swear they won't stand it. Of
those are Ford, T. Campbell, Ewing, Calhoun, and others. They
don't exactly say they won't go for Van Buren, but they say he
will not be the candidate, and that _they_ are for Texas
"As ever yours,
[Illustration: ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN 1860.--HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED.
From an ambrotype taken in Springfield, Illinois, in 1860, and given by
Lincoln to J. Henry Brown, a miniature artist who had gone to
Springfield to paint a portrait of the President for Judge Read of
Pennsylvania. The ambrotype is now in a collection in Boston. A
companion picture, made at the same time, is owned by Mr. William H.
Lambert of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was reproduced as the
frontispiece to MCCLURE'S MAGAZINE for March, 1896 (see note to this
[Illustration: GENERAL JOHN J. HARDIN.
After a portrait owned by Mrs. Julia Duncan Kirby, Jacksonville,
Illinois. John J. Hardin was born at Frankfort, Kentucky, January 6,
1810; was educated at Transylvania University; removed to Jacksonville,
Illinois, in 1830, and there began practising law. He at once became
active in politics, and in 1834 was a candidate for Prosecuting
Attorney, an officer at that time chosen by the legislature. He was
defeated by Stephen A. Douglas, then a recent arrival from Vermont. In
1836 he was elected to the lower branch of the General Assembly, and
served three terms. In the session of 1836-37, he was one of the few
members who opposed the internal improvements scheme. He was elected to
Congress from the Sangamon district in 1843, and served until 1845. For
some time he was a general in the State militia. In the Mexican War, he
was colonel of the First Illinois Regiment, and was killed at the battle
of Buena Vista, February 23, 1847. General Hardin was a man of brilliant
parts. He was an able lawyer, and at the time of his death had risen to
the leadership of the Whig party in his State. It was through his
intercession, aided by Dr. R.W. English, that the unpleasantness between
Lincoln and Shields in 1842 was amicably settled and a duel
prevented.--_J. McCan Davis_.]
[Illustration: COLONEL EDWARD D. BAKER.
From the Civil War collection of Mr. Robert Coster. Edward Dickinson
Baker was born in London, February 24, 1811. In his infancy his parents
emigrated to America, and his father became a teacher at Philadelphia.
There Edward was apprenticed to a weaver; but he disliked the trade, and
soon gave it up and left home. He drifted to Belleville, Illinois, about
1826, and was followed a year later by his parents. For several months
he drove a dray in St. Louis, Missouri; then removed to Carrollton,
Illinois, and studied law. His early experience at the bar was
disheartening, and upon becoming a member of the Christian church he
resolved to enter the ministry; but political success about this time
caused a change of mind, and robbed the pulpit of a splendid ornament.
In 1835 he removed to Springfield, and in 1837 was elected to the
legislature. He achieved immediate distinction as an orator, and for the
ensuing fifteen years he ranked among the foremost lawyers and
politicians of the State. He was reflected to the House in 1838, served
in the State Senate from 1840 to 1844, and was then elected to Congress.
Upon the breaking out of the Mexican War he returned home, and raised a
regiment of which he was commissioned colonel. After the war he removed
to Galena, and was there sent back to Congress. In 1851 he went to the
Isthmus of Panama with four hundred laborers to engage in the
construction of the Panama Railroad. In 1852 he went to San Francisco,
California, where he at once became the leader of the bar. He was not
successful there in any of his political aspirations, and removed to
Oregon. That State at once made him a United States Senator. The Civil
War coming on, he resigned his seat in the Senate, raised "the
California regiment," immediately went to the front, and was killed at
Ball's Bluff, October 20, 1861.--. _J. McCan Davis_.]
In 1844, being a presidential elector, Lincoln entered the canvass with
ardor. Henry Clay was the candidate, and Lincoln shared the popular
idolatry of the man. His devotion was not merely a sentiment, however.
He had been an intelligent student of Clay's public life, and his
sympathy was all with the principles of the "gallant Harry of the West."
Throughout the campaign he worked zealously, travelling all over the
State, speaking and talking. As a rule he was accompanied by a Democrat.
The two went unannounced, simply stopping at some friendly house. On
their arrival the word was sent around, "the candidates are here," and
the men of the neighborhood gathered to hear the discussion, which was
carried on in the most informal way, the candidates frequently sitting
tipped back against the side of the house, or perched on a rail,
whittling during the debates. Nor was all of this electioneering done by
argument. Many votes were still cast in Illinois out of personal liking,
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