The Autobiography of a Journalist, Volume I
Stillman, William James

Part 4 out of 5

a larger image in the American Walhalla; but he never gave care to the
perfection of what he wrote, for his mind so teemed with material that
the time to polish and review never came. Holmes, like a true artist,
loved the _limae labor_. He was satisfied, it seemed to me, to do the
work of one lifetime and then rest, while Lowell looked forward to a
succession of lifetimes all full of work, and one can hardly conceive
him as ever resting or caring to stop work. Lowell's was a generous,
widely sympathizing nature, from which radiated love for humanity, and
the broadest and most catholic helpfulness for every one who asked
for his help, with a special fund for his friends. Holmes drew a line
around him, within which he shone like a winter sun, and outside of
which his care did not extend. The one was best in what he did, the
other in what he was. Holmes always seemed to me cynical to the
general world; Lowell to have embodied the antique sentiment, "I am a
man, and hold nothing human as indifferent to me." Both were adored
by those around them, and the adoration kindled Holmes to a warmer
reflection to the adorers; Lowell felt it as the earth feels sunshine,
which sinks into the fertile soil and bears its fruit in a richer

Excepting Holmes, Norton, and Longfellow, our company included most of
what was most distinct in the world in which we lived, with some who
were eminent only in their social relations, and who neither cared
to be nor ever became of interest to the general world. The care of
arranging the details of the excursion was left to me, and I had,
therefore, to precede the company to the Wilderness, and so missed
what must have been to the others a very amusing experience. The rumor
of the advent of the party spread through the country around Saranac,
and at the frontier town where they would begin the journey into the
woods the whole community was on the _qui vive_ to see, not Emerson or
Lowell, of whom they knew nothing, but Agassiz, who had become famous
in the commonplace world through having refused, not long before, an
offer from the Emperor of the French of the keepership of the Jardin
des Plantes and a senatorship, if he would come to Paris and live.
Such an incredible and disinterested love for America and science in
our hemisphere had lifted Agassiz into an elevation of popularity
which was beyond all scientific or political dignity, and the
selectmen of the town appointed a deputation to welcome Agassiz and
his friends to the region. A reception was accorded, and they came,
having taken care to provide themselves with an engraved portrait
of the scientist, to guard against a personation and waste of their
respects. The head of the deputation, after having carefully compared
Agassiz to the engraving, turned gravely to his followers and said,
"Yes, it's him;" and they proceeded with the same gravity to shake
hands in their order, ignoring all the other luminaries.

I had in the mean time been into the Wilderness and selected a site
for the camp on one of the most secluded lakes, out of the line of
travel of the hunters and fisherfolk,--a deep _cul de sac_ of lake on
a stream that led nowhere, known as Follansbee Pond. There, with
my guide, I built a bark camp, prepared a landing-place, and then
returned to Saranac in time to meet the arriving guests. I was
unfortunately prevented from accompanying them up the lakes the next
morning, because a boat I had been building for the occasion was not
ready for the water, and so I missed what was to me of the greatest
interest,--the first impressions of Emerson of the Wilderness,
absolute nature. I joined them at night of the first day's journey, in
a rainstorm such as our summer rarely gives in the mountains, and
we made the unique and fascinating journey down the Raquette River
together; Agassiz taking his place in my boat, each other member of
the party having his own guide and boat.

The scene, like the company, exists no longer. There is a river which
still flows where the other flowed; but, like the water that has
passed its rapids, and the guests that have gone the way of all
those who have lived, it is something different. Then it was a deep,
mysterious stream, meandering through unbroken forests, walled up on
either side in green shade, the trees of centuries leaning over to
welcome and shelter the voyager, flowing silently in great sweeps of
dark water, with, at long intervals, a lagoon setting back into the
wider forest around, enameled with pond lilies and sagittaria, and the
refuge of undisturbed waterfowl and browsing deer. Our lake lay at the
head of such a lagoon, a devious outlet of the basin of which the
lake occupied the principal expanse, reached through three miles of
no-man's route, framed in green hills forest-clad up to their summits.
The camp was a shelter of spruce bark, open wide in front and closed
at the ends, drawn on three faces of an octohedron facing the
fireplace. The beds were made of layers of spruce and other fir
branches spread on the ground and covered with the fragrant twigs of
the arbor vitae. Two huge maples overhung the camp, and at a distance
of twenty feet from our lodge we entered the trackless, primeval
forest. The hills around furnished us with venison, and the lake with
trout, and there we passed the weeks of the summer heats. We were ten,
with eight guides, and while we were camping there we received the
news that the first Atlantic cable was laid, and the first message
sent under the sea from one hemisphere to the other,--an event which
Emerson did not forget to record in noble lines.



In the main, our occupations were those of a vacation, to kill time
and escape from the daily groove. Some took their guides and made
exploration, by land or water; after breakfast there was firing at a
mark, a few rounds each, for those who were riflemen; then, if venison
was needed, we put the dog out on the hills; one boat went to overhaul
the set lines baited the evening before for the lake trout. When the
hunt was over we generally went out to paddle on the lake, Agassiz and
Wyman to dredge or botanize or dissect the animals caught or killed;
those of us who had interest in natural history watching the
naturalists, the others searching the nooks and corners of the pretty
sheet of water with its inlet brooks and its bays and recesses, or
bathing from the rocks. Lunch was at midday, and then long talks,
discussions _de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis_; and it was
surprising to find how many subjects we found germane to our

Emerson has told the daily life in verse in "The Adirondacs," adding
his own impressions of the place and time. It is not generally
considered among the most interesting of his poems, being a narrative
with reflections, and such a subject could hardly rise above the
interest of the subject of the narration, which was only a vacation
study; but there are in it some passages which show the character of
Emerson's intellect better than anything else he has written. His
insight into nature, like that of the primitive mind as we find it in
the Greek poetry, the instinctive investment of the great mother with
the presence and attribute of personality, the re-creation from his
own resources of Pan and the nature-powers, the groping about in that
darkness of the primeval forest for the spiritual causes of the
things he felt,--all this is to me evident in the poem; and it is
the sufficient demonstration of the antique mould of his intellect,
serene, open-eyed to natural phenomena, seeing beyond the veil
they are, to the something beyond, but always questioning, hardly
concluding, and with no theories to limit his thought or bend it to
preconceived solutions. Knowing that all he saw in this undefiled
natural world, this virgin mother of all life (for around Follansbee
Pond, at the time we went, there was the primeval woodland, where
the lumberer had not yet penetrated, and the grove kept still the
immaculacy of the most ancient days), that all this was the mask of
things, he was ever on the watch if perchance he might catch some hint
of the secret,--secret never to be discovered, and therefore more
passionately sought. This seems to me contained in "The Adirondacs" as
in no other work of the philosopher. And to me the study of the great
student was the dominant interest of the occasion. I was Agassiz's
boatman on demand, for while all the others had their personal guides
and attendants, I was his; but often when Emerson wanted a boat I
managed to provide for Agassiz with one of the unoccupied guides, and
take the place of Emerson's own guide. Thus Emerson and I had many
hours alone on the lake and in the wood. He seemed to be a living
question, perpetually interrogating his impressions of all that
there was to be seen. The rest of us were always at the surface of
things,--even the naturalists were only engaged with their anatomy;
but Emerson in the forest, or looking at the sunset from the lake,
seemed to be looking through the phenomena, studying them by their
reflections on an inner speculum.

In such a great solitude, stripped of the social conventions and
seeing men as they are, mind seems open to mind as it is quite
impossible for it to be in society, even the most informal. Agassiz
remarked, one day, when a little personal question had shown the
limitations of character of one of the company, that he had always
found in his Alpine experiences, when the company were living on terms
of compulsory intimacy, that men found each other out quickly. And so
we found it in the Adirondacks: disguises were soon dropped, and one
saw the real characters of his comrades as it was impossible to see
them in society. Conventions faded out, masks became transparent,
and for good or for ill the man stood naked before the questioning
eye,--pure personality. I think I gathered more insight into the
character of my companions in our greener Arden, in the two or three
weeks' meetings of the club, than all our lives in the city could have
given me.

And Emerson was such a study as can but rarely be given any one. The
crystalline limpidity of his character, free from all conventions,
prejudices, or personal color, gave a facility for study of the man,
limited only by the range of vision of the student. How far my vision
was competent for this study is not for me to decide; so far as it
went I profited, and so far as my experience of men goes he is unique,
not so much from intellectual power, for I should be indisposed to
accept his as the mind of the greatest calibre among those I have
known, but as one of absolute transparency of intellect, perfect
receptivity, and devotion to the truth. In the days of persecution and
martyrdom Emerson would have gone to the stake smiling and undismayed,
but questioning all the time, even as to the nature of his own
emotions. It was this serene impassibility in his study of human
nature which gave the common impression of his coldness,--an
impression which is shown, by the anecdote I have elsewhere recorded
of Longfellow, to have been shared by one who might have been supposed
to know him well for years. But Emerson was not cold or disposed to
make mere subjects of analysis of his friends, as Longfellow thought;
he was an eager student of men as of nature, but superficial men he
tired of and dropped, nothing being to be learned from them, though
where he found what he looked for in a character he never tired of it.
His friendships were of the most constant because of this temper, and
it was only their serenity and almost impersonality that made them
seem frigid to those whose temperament was widely different. Wrong,
injustice to man or beast, roused his warmth in indignation,--he could
be hot enough on occasion; though the quiet warmth of his affection
for his friends was like the sun of May. But undoubtedly his greater
passion was for the truth in whatever form he could find it.

Of all the mental experiences of my past life nothing else survives
with the vividness of my summers in the Adirondacks with Emerson. The
last sight I had of him was when, on his voyage to Egypt, he came to
see me at my home in London, aged and showing the decay of age, but
as alert and interrogative as ever with his insatiate intellectual
activity. And as I look back from the distance of years to the days
when we questioned together, he rises above all his contemporaries as
Mont Blanc does above the intervening peaks when seen from afar, not
the largest in mass, but loftiest in climb, soaring higher if not
occupying the space of some of his companions, even in our little
assemblies. Emerson was the best listener I ever knew, and at the
other meeting-place where I saw him occasionally, the Saturday Club,
his attention to what others were saying was far more notable than his
disposition to enter into the discussions. Now and then he flashed out
with a comment which lit up the subject as an electric spark might,
but in general he shone unconsciously. I remember that one day when,
at the club, we were discussing the nature of genius, some one turned
to Emerson and asked him for a definition of the thing, and he
instantly replied, "The faculty of generalizing from a single
example;" and nobody at the table could give so good and concise a
definition. There is a portrait of him by Rowse, who knew and loved
him well, which renders this side of Emerson in a way that makes
it the most remarkable piece of portraiture I know, the listening

His insatiability in the study of human nature was shown curiously in
our first summer's camp. He had the utmost tenderness of animal life
and had no sympathy with sport in any form,--he "named the birds
without a gun,"--and when we were making up the outfit for the outing
he at first refused to take a rifle; but, as the discussion of make,
calibre, and quality went on, and everybody else was provided, he at
length decided, though no shot, to conform, and purchased a rifle.
And when the routine of camp life brought the day of the hunt, the
eagerness of the hunters and the passion of the chase, the strong
return to our heredity of human primeval occupation gradually involved
him, and made him desire to enter into this experience as well as the
rest of the forest emotions. He must understand this passion to kill.
One Sunday morning, when all the others went out for the drive of
the deer,--necessary for the larder, as the drive the day before had
failed,--Emerson asked me to take him out on the lake to some quiet
place for meditation. We landed in a deep bay, where the seclusion was
most complete, and he went into the woods to meditate. Presently we
heard the baying of the hound as he circled round the lake, on the
hillsides, for the deer at that season were reluctant to take to the
water, and gave a long chase; and, as he listened, he began to take in
the excitement of the hunters, and finally broke out abruptly, "Let us
go after the deer;" and down the lake we went, flying at our best, but
we arrived too late,--Lowell had killed the deer.

He said to me later, and emphatically, "I must kill a deer;" and
one night we went out "jack-hunting" to enable him to realize that
ambition. This kind of hunting, as most people know, is a species
of pot-hunting, much employed by the hunters for the market, and so
destructive to the deer that it is now forbidden by the law in all the
Adirondack country. The deer are stalked by night along the shores,
where they come in to feed, the hunter carrying in his boat a light
so shaded that it illuminates only the space directly in front of the
boat, the glare blinding the animal so that he does not see the boat
or the boatman. In this way the deer may be approached within a few
yards if the paddler is skillful; but as he stands perfectly still,
and is difficult to see in the dim light, the tyro generally misses
him. We paddled up to within twenty yards of a buck, and the guide
gave the signal to shoot; but Emerson could see nothing resembling a
deer, and finally the creature took fright and ran, and all we got
of him was the sound of galloping hoofs as he sped away, stopping a
moment, when at a safe distance, to snort at the intruders, and then
off again. We kept on, and presently came upon another, toward which
we drifted even nearer than to the first one, and still Emerson could
see nothing to distinguish the deer from the boulders among which he
stood; and we were scarcely the boat's length from him, when, Emerson
being still unable to see him, and not caring to run the risk of
losing him, for we had no venison in camp and the luck of the morning
drive was always uncertain, I shot him. We had no other opportunity
for the "jack-hunt," and so Emerson went home unsatisfied in this
ambition,--glad, no doubt, when he recalled the incident, that he had

The guides--rude men of the woods, rough and illiterate, but with all
their physical faculties at a maximum acuteness, senses on the alert
and keen as no townsman could comprehend them--were Emerson's avid
study. This he had never seen,--the man at his simplest terms,
unsophisticated, and, to him, the nearest approach to the primitive
savage he would ever be able to examine; and he studied every action.
When the dinner was over, and the twilight coming on, he sometimes
asked me to row him out on the lake to see the nightfall and watch the
"procession of the pines," that weird and ghostly phenomenon I have
before alluded to.

More than a generation has passed since then. Twenty-five years
afterward I went back to the scene of the meeting. Except myself, the
whole company are dead, and the very scene of our acting and thinking
has disappeared down to its geological basis, pillaged, burnt, and
become a horror to see; but, among the memories which are the only
realities left to it, this image of Emerson claiming kinship with the
forest stands out alone, and I feel as if I had stood for a moment on
a mount of transfiguration, and seen, as if in a vision, the typical
American, the noblest in the idealization of the American, of all the
race. Lowell was of a more cosmopolitan type, of a wider range of
sympathies and affections, accepted and bestowed, and to me a
friend, loved as Jonathan loved David; but, as a unique, idealized
individuality, Emerson looms up in that Arcadian dream more and
more the dominant personality. It is as character, and not as
accomplishment or education, that he holds his own in all comparisons
with his contemporaries, the fine, crystallized mind, the keen,
clear-faceted thinker and seer. I loved more Agassiz and Lowell, but
we shall have many a Lowell and Agassiz before we see Emerson's like
again. Attainments will be greater, and discovery and accomplishments
will surpass themselves as we go on, but to _be_, as Emerson was, is
absolute and complete existence.

Agassiz was, of all our company, the acknowledged master; loved by
all, even to the unlettered woodsmen, who ran to meet his service as
to no other of the company; by all the members of it reverenced as not
even Emerson was; the largest in personality and in universality of
knowledge of all the men I have ever known. No one who did not know
him personally can conceive the hold he had on everybody who came into
relations with him. His vast command of scientific facts, and his
ready command of them for all educational purposes, his enthusiasm for
science and the diffusion of it, even his fascinating way of imparting
it to others, had even less to do with his popularity than the
magnetism of his presence and the sympathetic faculty which enabled
him to find at once the plane on which he should meet whomever he had
to deal with. Of his scientific position I cannot speak, though I can
see that his was the most powerful of the scientific influences of
that epoch in America. When we were traveling it was always in my
boat, and we moved as his investigations prompted, wherever there
seemed to be a promise of some addition to his collections. We dredged
and netted water and air wherever we went, and of course there arose a
certain kind of intimacy, which was partly that of a _camaraderie_
in which we were approximately equals, that of the backwoods life in
which I was, if a comparison were to be made, the superior, and partly
that of teacher and pupil; for, with trifling attainments, I had the
passion of scientific acquisition, and all that Agassiz needed to open
the store of his knowledge was the willingness of another to learn.

The _odium scientificum_, which I notice is no less bitter than the
variety _theologicum_, has, in these years, poured on Agassiz the
floods of its opprobrium, and even the little dogs of physical science
bark at his name; but his greater contemporaries knew and esteemed him
better. The revival of the evolutionary hypothesis by Darwin, and the
controversies growing out of it, then filled the air, and Agassiz paid
the penalty of his eminence and constancy to the system in which he
had been grounded by his master, Cuvier. He was attacked and insulted
by men who had never made an observation, and, what was more curious,
as a panderer to the theological prejudices of the past. But in
my mind was still the memory of a former outcry and theological
persecution of him, because he had himself laid down what might
be considered the forerunner of the doctrine of evolution,--the
declaration that the human race could not have been the offspring of
one Adam, but must have had a multiple beginning. The result of this
was to bring on his head the execrations of the theological world in a
storm which no one who had witnessed it was likely to forget or take
for other than what it was, the proof of his absolute scientific
honesty,--a proof needed by no one who knew him personally, but which,
in view of the later animosity shown him, requires reaffirmation.

As I was much with him at this time, and perhaps, out of his family,
the one to whom he talked with the greatest freedom and fullness on
the subject, owing to my own intense interest in it, it cannot be
amiss that I state his exact position as far as he let me see it. It
must be remembered that the doctrine of evolution, as he knew it, and
in the only form in which it was then stated, was simply and purely
that of development by natural selection acting on chance variation,
and differing mainly by this from the doctrine of Lamarck, which had
long been rejected by the scientific world at large. We have seen
since then that this primitive doctrine has been largely supplemented
by other theories, and that it no longer stands before the scientific
world in the bare simplicity of Darwin's original statement, though
even he, at a later date, claimed natural selection not as the
only but as the most influential agency of variation of species in
creation; repudiating, however, a plan in the universe, and not
demanding the influence of the conscious mind on creation. Agassiz's
primary objection to the doctrine was that it left the creator out of
creation, for it distinctly repudiated the element of design in it;
and, though he did not recognize the Creator of Genesis, he could not
dispense with the supreme mind.

Myself a convert to the doctrine of evolution, in as absolute a form
as it is held even by the materialists, though differently, I am
persuaded that if Agassiz had lived long enough to see the latest
development of it he would have accepted it, as did Professor Owen,
who was, like Agassiz, and possibly even more literally, a believer
in the designer of the universe. The fundamental ground for Agassiz's
rejection of it is stated by himself in one of the lectures delivered
at Cambridge, as follows: "I believe that all these correspondences
between the different aspects of animal life are the manifestations
of mind acting consciously with intention towards one object from
beginning to end. This view is in accordance with the working of our
minds; it is an instinctive recognition of a mental power with which
our own is akin, manifesting itself in nature. For this reason, more
than any other, perhaps, do I hold that this world of ours was not the
result of the action of unconscious organic forces, but the work of an
intelligent, conscious power." Whatever might have been the process
by which the orderly creation was produced (into which he did not
inquire), it was the result of a definite plan and the work of design.
The immutability of species, _as he defined species_, was the
logical consequence of this theory, and that, it seems to me, is the
substantial difference between him and Darwin.

But Agassiz was no sectarian, and held no other creed than a belief
in the Creator. In the fibre of the man was the consciousness of
the immanent deity, rooted, perhaps, in that influence of his early
theological environage from which no man can ever escape, though
he may rebel against it; and the almost universal deduction by the
scientific world from Darwin's theory then was that there could be no
divine design in creation. It was this negation of the direction of
the great artist in the process of creation against which Agassiz
rebelled; and although, at a later phase of the conflict, Darwin
himself protested against the implication sometimes drawn from his
theory, there can be no question that at that moment the general
evolutionary opinion was that the hypothesis of a divine authorship
of creation was superfluous. Agassiz maintained the presence of
"Conscious Mind in Creation;" Darwin did not deny it explicitly, nor
did he admit it.

As a matter of observation, no case of a development of one species
from another has ever been noted, and the evidence for it is precisely
analogous to that adduced by Agassiz, "that it is in accordance
with the working of our minds," still further illuminated by the
side-lights which science has thrown on it since Agassiz died. The
ultimate decision in the individual mind will be according to the bias
for or against the "conscious mind" or automatic creation; and it must
not be forgotten that one of the most powerful arguments for a large
evolution was the discovery by Agassiz that the embryo of the highest
organizations passes through an evolution similar to that of the
animal creation. Professor Martins--a leading French scientist and an
evolutionist--says of Agassiz: "Another of these precursors of modern
science is Louis Agassiz. The oldest fossil forms have a simpler
organization than the later ones, and represent some stage of the
embryonic development of the latter. This truth, established by
Agassiz, has, more than any other, enlightened the history of
creation, and prepared for the generalization by which the whole may
be comprehended. The oldest fishes known are all more or less related
to the sharks and skates; their teeth and scales only, with small
portions of the skeleton, have been preserved. Their form, widely
different from that of the living species, recalls that of the embryo
of our living fishes. This is a truth which Louis Agassiz was the
first to proclaim to the scientific world."[1]

[Footnote 1: _De l'Origine du Monde organique_.]

But, beyond this question as to the evidence of mutability of species
which Agassiz did not find, he took the position "that the hypothesis
of the method of creation by evolution exceeded physical science and
became theology, which belonged to the province of theology, into
which he had no intention of venturing." That was his statement to me
during the interval between the two attacks of brain trouble from
the latter of which he died. Science, to his understanding, was
observation and classification, arrangement, and it had no function
in investigating the causes or _modus operandi_ through which things
became what they were.

Amongst the evolutionists whom I have known there have been several
who did not accept without modification the theory of natural
selection, and supplemented it by design, amongst whom I may mention
the great American botanist, Asa Gray,--one of the most distinguished
of Darwinians,--who accepted the method of evolution as the _modus
operandi_ of the Supreme Intelligence. Professor Jeffries Wyman, the
associate of Agassiz in the University, who was one of the doctors of
our Adirondack company, accepted in a qualified manner the theory of
evolution, but his premature and lamented death set the seal to his
conclusions before they were complete, though I have always had the
impression that his position was similar to that of Gray. To my
question one day as to his conclusions, he replied, with a caution
characteristic of the man and very unlike the resolute attitude of
Agassiz before the question which the Sphinx proposes still, "An
evolution of some sort there certainly was," but nothing more would he
say. The loss to American science in his death can never be estimated,
for his mind was of that subtle and inductive nature which is needed
for such a study, fine to poetic delicacy, penetrating with all the
acumen of a true scientific imagination, but modest to excess, and
personally so attached to Agassiz that he would with reluctance give
expression to a difference from him, though that he did differ was no
occasion for abatement of their mutual regard. Wyman's was the poetry
of scientific research, Agassiz's its prose, and they offered a
remarkable example of mental antithesis, from which, had Wyman lived,
much might have been expected through their association in study.
Wyman had all the delicacy of a fine feminine organization, wedded
unfortunately to a fragile constitution, but the friendship he held
for the robust and dominating character of the great Switzer was to
the utmost reciprocated.

And Agassiz's disposition was as generous as large. He had absolutely
no scientific jealousy or sectarian feeling. The rancor which was
shown him by some of the Darwinians never disturbed his serenity an
instant; for of the world's opinion of him and his ideas, even when
the "world" was scientific, he never took account other than to regret
that science was the loser, by running off on what he considered side
issues. We had much conversation on the question of evolution and
allied topics, in which my part was naturally that of listener and
only occasional questioner, and I remember the warm appreciation he
always expressed for Darwin and his researches, for his fineness
of observation and scientific honesty. He regarded the widespread
acceptance of the theory of natural selection as one of the epidemics
which have swept the scientific world from time to time, and looked
with absolute serenity to the return of science one day to the
conception of creation by design.

I am neither qualified nor disposed to pass judgment on Agassiz as
a scientist, or institute any kind of comparison of his relative
authority, and probably the time is far away at which his comparative
eminence can be estimated impartially. I have only to do with his
personality as it appeared to me in our relations, and, as the latest
survivor of those who enjoyed that greenwood intimacy, to put on
record my impression of the great, lovable, magnanimous man. Of his
unbounded generosity and indifference to personal advantage, his
freedom from scientific jealousy, everybody who came in contact with
him was witness. He refused all offers of emolument from any quarter,
and spent all his surplus earnings for the aggrandizement of the great
natural-history museum he founded at Cambridge. The propositions of
the Emperor Napoleon III. he had declined with thanks as soon as
made, and without a thought. He had come to America to study natural
history, and did not propose to be diverted from this purpose. To a
lecturing agent who offered him a very large sum for delivering a
course of lectures in the principal cities of the Union, he replied
that he had no time to make money; and he died of overwork, insatiate
in the pursuit of the completion of his museum and the classification
of his observations. I have heard him speak with pain of the animosity
shown him by a Swiss associate in his glacial investigations, who
had once been his warm advocate, but there was no bitterness in his
manner. I am convinced that there was no bitterness in him, and that
all personal feeling was overshadowed and minimized by his absolute
devotion to scientific truth, with his loyalty to which nothing ever

His influence even on the business men of the city of Boston and the
legislature of the State of Massachusetts was the most remarkable
phenomenon of the kind ever witnessed in that frugal and
matter-of-fact community, for he had only to announce that he wanted
for his museum or department in the University a donation or an
appropriation, to obtain either, so absolutely recognized was his
unselfish devotion to science by all classes. There are few of us left
who can remember the sudden shadow that fell on our community at his
unexpected death, and the universal grief that told of the hold he had
on the entire nation; and the mourning extended far beyond the circle
of personal acquaintance with Agassiz. Even men who had no interest in
physical science took it into consideration on account of him, carried
away by his enthusiastic advocacy of its advancement. The religious
world forgot the indignation at his repudiation of Adam in the refuge
it found from absolute atheism in his affirmation of a Supreme
Intelligence, as Creator of all things, though to theological
contentions he never gave the slightest consideration.

It is needless to say that this was the effect, not of scientific
education or of the capacity in the great majority of those who
accepted his position to judge of a theory or a scientific line of
demonstration, but of the dominance of personal character in the man,
his inflexible honesty and disinterestedness. The last time I saw
him was when he came to make me a brief visit in a glen of the White
Mountains, where I was encamped near a subject which I was painting,
and which was in part composed of huge boulders, dropped in the
gorge by a primeval glacier, and brought, perhaps, from beyond Lake
Superior. He had then had the first attack of the brain trouble, from
which he was recovering, and was making a mountain trip where he
could, if possible, study and rest at once. But his want of common
prudence in regard to overwork prevented his recovery, and he died
just as he was beginning to elaborate his conclusions on the doctrine
of evolution, for which he had a colossal plan, cut short in its
opening. He was always too hurried in his work, as if he knew that his
life would not suffice for its completion, if indeed completion were
possible in such work, and he persisted in accumulation of material
without pause either to coordinate his ideas or to rest and reflect. I
one day said to him that I was intending to write a little book, and
he exclaimed: "Oh, I wish I had time to write a little book! All my
books come large, and I have not the time to condense them."



The third magnate of our Club was Lowell, with whose personality the
world at large is already well acquainted. In his own day and presence
it was impossible to form a satisfactory personal judgment of him, and
even now, through the perspective of the years since he died, it is
out of the question for me to pronounce a dispassionate judgment. Of
all that New England world, so hospitable, so brotherly to me that
if I had been born in Cambridge it could hardly have been more kind,
Lowell and Norton were those who most made my welcome free from any
embarrassment to myself. Norton, almost exactly my contemporary, is
still living, and which of us two shall say the last word for the
other is in the lap of the gods, but in the Adirondack Club life he
does not appear. No kinder or wiser friend have I ever had. Himself
the son of one of the most distinguished of the great Unitarian
leaders of liberal New England, his broad, common-sense views of
sectarian questions first widened my religious horizon, emancipated me
from the tithes of mint and cummin, and helped me to see the value
of observances, and his hand was always held out to me in those
straitened moments in which my impulsive and ill-regulated manner of
life continually landed me. I shall not disturb the serenity of his
old age by the indiscreet garrulity of mine. But the brotherhood
between him and Lowell brought our lives together, and Lowell was the
pole to which both our needles swung. Norton's delicate health made it
impossible for him to take part in the excursions made by the Club,
though he was enrolled as a member.

Of Lowell much has been said by many people, some of whom were less,
and others, perhaps, better acquainted with him than I was, but of him
I can speak at least without restraint, other than that which love and
gratitude impose. And to-day, more than forty years since I found his
friendship what it ever remained, the judgment I formed of him at
first acquaintance comes up again in one point dominant. He seemed to
me a man whom good fortune, and especially the favor of society, had
prevented from filling the role that fate had intended for him. There
was in not a few of his poems the promise of reaching a height which
was attainable only to a man who climbs light. There was in him the
possible making of a great reformer, an evangelist, which possibility
never became actuality, owing to the weight which social success laid
on him.

All through his early poems runs the thread of a fine morality, the
perception of the highest obligations of religion and philanthropy,
the subtle distinction of the purest Christianity, the defense of the
weak and oppressed, the succor of the poor; in fine, the creed of a
practical religion which required its adherent to go into the slums
and out on the highways to carry out his convictions in acts. In the
warfare he waged on slavery when the anti-slavery cause was very
unpopular, and, in the case of Garrison and others, brought on its
advocates continual danger and occasional violence, Lowell was
unsparing in the denunciation of the national sin; but whether because
the anti-abolition public which ruled Boston thought denunciation
in form of verse had no practical value, or because the personal
fascination the man always exercised on all around him was such as to
disarm hostility, it happened that he was never made the object of

"Men called him but a shiftless youth,
In whom no good they saw;
And yet, unwittingly, in truth,
They made his careless word their law.

"Men granted that his speech was wise,
But, when a glance they caught
Of his slim grace and woman's eyes,
They laughed and called him good-for-naught."

There was a gracious indolence in him, an imperturbable serenity,
which made proclamation in advance of a truce to all forms of brute
collision. No doubt if they had hunted him out for a victim of the
political animosity which led to so many tragedies in the early days
of our anti-slavery agitation, he would have stood up to the stake as
gayly as one of the martyrs of old; but the man's nature was repugnant
to discords, and shrank from combats ruder than those of the

All through his career, the religion of humanity is put forward with
point and persistence, and the finest of distinctions in morality are
maintained,--the so constantly ignored vital difference between the
deed and its motive, as in "Sir Launfal:"--

"The Holy Supper is kept, indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need;
Not what we give, but what we share,--
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,--
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me;"

so that one might have expected from him the life of a social
reformer, so keenly did he feel the outrages of civilization. But,
possibly from the fact that in those days human slavery in our country
summed up all villainies and crimes, and in the war against that he
threw all his surplus energy, he never took part in the crusade then
beginning against the more familiar iniquities nearer home. But in his
constitution there was, I think, another reason why the author of "Sir
Launfal," "Hunger and Cold," "The Landlord," and "The Search" should
not have emulated Howard or Miss Fry, and have gone into the realms of
destitution to relieve its wrongs. He was extremely fastidious, and
anything that offended his taste by vulgarity or crudeness repelled
him with such force that the work of practical philanthropy would have
been impossible to his temperament. The indolence I have above spoken
of--which must not be confounded with slothfulness, but is, as the
true meaning of the word indicates, the following of the dictates of
the temperament, whether in activity or rest--led him to contemplation
rather than action.

The refined idealism of his nature, made more subtle by the indulgence
of an idolizing circle of relatives and friends, who saw in him the
promise of more even than he ever attained, or than was possible to
the smooth prosperity of his life, made it impossible for him to
thrust himself into the social conflicts, whether of poverty or of
politics, though the finest and most exalted passages of his work
were not so fine and exalted as his personality; he was better than
anything he ever wrote, and this is understood by all who knew him,
and that what he wrote was only the overflow of a mind which never
needed a stimulus to divine cogitation. The fascination, the subtle
personal glamour he unconsciously threw over those who came in true
contact with him, made them always expect more than he accomplished,
for in that there was not even the stimulus of ambition. What he did
was done with the spontaneousness of the wind or the sunshine. If he
had a vanity, it was to be in all points accoutred for his place in
society; but even this was so lightly held that few knew him well
enough to see it, and it was never a motive power in him.

Knowing all his earlier work before I knew him, I thought I detected a
want of that profounder sympathy with humanity and the pathos of life
which comes from actual suffering, and I remember saying to one of his
admirers, before I saw him, that what he wanted to make him a great
poet was suffering. This he had gained somewhat of when I made his
acquaintance. His wife had died not long before I went to Cambridge to
see him and to enlist his assistance in "The Crayon," and he was in
the earliest phase of the reaction from a sorrow which had made him
insist on solitude. All his surroundings had kept up the impressions
of his bereavement, and all his associates sympathized with and
respected it, and I came in with a new life just as he came to need
relief from the depression which had become morbid. He has told it in
one of his first letters to me:--

"I am glad you had a pleasant time here. I had, and you made me
fifteen years younger while you stayed. When a man gets to my age,
enthusiasms don't often knock at the door of his garret. I am all
the more charmed with them when they come. A youth full of such
pure intensity of hope and faith and purpose, what is he but the
breath of a resurrection trumpet to us stiffened old fellows,
bidding us up out of our clay and earth if we would not be too

"Your inspiration is still to you a living mistress; make her
immortal in her promptings and her consolations by imaging her
truly in art. Mine looks at me with eyes of paler flame, and
beckons across a gulf. You came into my loneliness like an
incarnate inspiration. And it is dreary enough sometimes; for a
mountain peak on whose snow your foot makes the first mortal print
is not so lonely as a room full of happy faces from which one is
missing forever."

The tone of his life at that period is given in the few poems of the
time, published later: the "Ode to Happiness," which he read to me
unfinished during that first visit; "The Wind-Harp," in which

"There murmured, as if one strove to speak,
And tears came instead; then the sad tones wandered
And faltered among the uncertain chords
In a troubled doubt between sorrow and words;
At last with themselves they questioned and pondered,
'Hereafter?--who knoweth?' and so they sighed
Down the long steps that lead to silence and died;"

"The Dead House," "Auf Wiedersehen (Summer)" and the "Palinode
(Autumn)," in which the first grief had deepened while losing its
acuteness, and the feeling of loneliness had taken largely the place
of the first desolation, the wrenching apart of soul and body:--

"It is pagan; but wait till you feel it,--
That jar of our earth, that dull shock
When the ploughshare of deeper passion
Tears down to our primitive rock;"

and some of his friends had tried the folly of condolence, to whom he
replies, in the same poem ("After the Burial"):--

"Console if you will, I can bear it;
'Tis a well-meant alms of breath;
But not all the preaching since Adam
Has made Death other than Death."

But the man was too robust in body and mind to linger long in the
shadows of melancholy, and though the effects of bereavement--which,
in the few years before I knew him, had taken his only boy, who died
in Rome, his elder daughter, of whose death "The First Snow-Fall"
keeps a touching record, and finally his wife--deepened his character
as expressed in his subsequent writing, the buoyancy and elasticity
which he found in his enjoyment of nature, and his severe application
to the studies of the new position to which the retirement of
Longfellow from the professorship of modern languages at Harvard
promoted him, restored his old tone of life, while his very happy
marriage with his second wife made him, as may now be said without
indiscretion, happier than he had ever been.

The second Mrs. Lowell was a woman of the rarest mental, moral, and
personal qualities, and her influence on Lowell was of the happiest
and sunniest. She was one of three daughters of a merchant of Maine,
who had left them without other resources than what their own
excellent education gave them, and with the charge of a younger
brother, for whose education they provided after the New England way.
The other sisters I never knew; but Fannie, Mrs. Lowell, was one of
the most remarkable women I ever knew for the combination of resolute
and persistent courage and serene religious temperament. She was a
Swedenborgian, and probably owed to that form of faith her serenity
and imperturbable faith in a Divine Providence; but her unflinching
courage in adversity and her extreme sweetness of character were of
her New England birth and education. After her father's death she
became a governess, and came to Lowell's house in that capacity after
the death of his wife; but she had, before that, gone through many
vicissitudes of fortune. She told me one day an incident of travel
which is worth recording as indicating her character. She had been
in a situation in Charleston, S.C., and had accepted another in the
valley of the Ohio, to reach which, there being then no railway that
traversed the distance, she had to make a long journey by stagecoach,
traveling day and night across the Alleghanies. One night she found
herself in the coach with a single fellow-passenger, apparently a
gentleman, who took his place with her on the back seat, and who,
after a time, pretending to be asleep, fell over towards her, so that
his head lay on her shoulder, but, correcting himself, sat upright
again, to repeat the feint again and again, each time with more
abandon, until his arm dropped behind Fannie's waist, with an
unmistakable attempt to embrace her. She quietly drew out her
shawl-pin and drove it into his arm, without any remark or other
attention to him. He sat up instantly, at the next stopping-place took
an outside seat, and discontinued his journey at the first town they
came to.

Mrs. Lowell fitted her husband as sunshine fits calm, and the gravest
sorrow he ever felt with her was her having no children. When, two or
three years after the time I am now writing of, I had decided to go
to Europe again, and he tried to dissuade me from going, and I, for
reasons I could not tell him, persisted, he brought me one day, just
before I sailed, six hundred dollars, insisting on my accepting it as
a gift, saying: "I shall never want it. I know now that I shall never
have another child, and I can well spare it." Lowell had never been
wealthy, but he had an income sufficient for all needs in the state of
life which he preferred, and his generosity towards his friends who
were poorer than he took all the surplus. He rejoiced in the addition
to his income in the salary of his professorship, but it added nothing
to his own expenditure. And yet I have always felt that if he had
been a poor man, compelled to work for his daily bread, he would have
occupied a larger place in the world of letters. He was not one of the
"intellectual giants buried under mountains of gold," but he was
a greater man than he ever showed him self, always cushioned by a
sufficiency of fortune for all his needs, and by his tastes inclined
to a simple and tranquil life; for, though he became later a political
personage, he cared little, _au fond_, for the political world.
Perhaps the little was too much for his attainment as a poet, and some
of his best friends have always held that his diplomatic life was a
disaster for his intellectual completion.

I have elsewhere alluded to his going to Europe to complete the
preparations to enter into his professorship, and when he came back
from this voyage he said to me, "I must study yet a good deal before I
attempt to produce anything more." He finally felt the carelessness of
form in his work, and in the succeeding years he worked very hard
in his professorial work, which was, perhaps, not the best for his
advancement as an author, but it certainly gave more solidity to the
production of those years which intervened between his simpler life
and his diplomatic career. His lectures before the students and the
public (the popularity of Lowell as a lecturer was immense) solidified
an education which, as he himself humorously avowed, was often broken
by freaks of irrepressible youthful spirit; and the saddening and
indelible effects of the war, which came between and sharply divided
those phases of his career, had so modified his character for the
graver and more profound that I agree with those of his friends who
consider his entry into the diplomatic career as a misfortune for
American letters, and that his mind flowed to waste in those later
years. Nor was he at home in diplomacy. It was a reversal of all the
conditions of his habitual existence; but it flattered his _amour
propre_ that the country should recognize the part he had taken in the
cultivation of the anti-slavery sentiment of the nation, and the trace
of worldly feeling which I have noted grew under the stimulus to a
motive in life. His social gifts were very great, and his patriotic
pride intensified the pleasure of his successes in a line of life
which was really secondary in his nature.

In those years of his diplomatic life we saw little of each other. Our
intimate intercourse was suspended by my going to Europe in 1859. We
were nearest each other in our Adirondack life, in which he had all
the zest of a boy. He was the soul of the merriment of the company,
fullest of witticisms, keenest in appreciation of the liberty of
the occasion, and the _genius loci_. One sees through all his
nature-poetry the traces of the heredity of the early settler, the
keen enjoyment of the fresh and unhackneyed in nature, even of the
angularity of the New England farmhouse and the brightness and newness
of the villages, so crude to the tastes founded in the picturesqueness
of the Old World. Not even Emerson, with all his indifference to the
mere form of things, took to unimproved and uncivilized nature as
Lowell did, and his free delight in the Wilderness was a thing to
remember, and perhaps by none so keenly appreciated as by me, to whom
the joy of forest life was a satisfactory motive for living.



Of the rest of our company in that famous old camp by "Follansbee
Water" there is little more to be said which will interest others or
recall names known to the world. I painted a study of the camp and its
inhabitants, with the intention of making from it, at a future time, a
picture which should commemorate the meeting; but, owing to changes in
my plans, it remained a study, and was purchased by Judge Hoar, the
most eminent of my companions still to be described. He had been a
justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts,--a man as well known
for his intellectual fibre and sympathy with letters as for his
judicial abilities. He was one of the most brilliant members of the
old Saturday Club, of which ours might be considered the offspring and
succursal; of wit the most spontaneous and electric, whose sallies
burst in the merriment of our _al fresco_ camp dinners with the flash
and surprise of rockets, and left behind them the perfume of erudition
as did no others of the company, not even Lowell's. In my study the
party is divided in the habit of the morning occupations: Lowell,
Hoar, Binney, Woodman, and myself engaged in firing at the target;
Agassiz and Wyman dissecting a trout on a tree-stump, while Holmes
and Dr. Howe watch the operation; but Emerson, recognizing himself as
neither a marksman nor a scientist, choosing a position between the
two groups, pilgrim-staff in hand, watches the marksmen, with a slight
preference as between the two groups. My own figure I painted from a
photograph, the company insisting on my putting myself in; but it was
ill done, for I could never paint from a photograph.

When the company left me I returned to my painting, and remained in
camp as long as the weather permitted. On my return to Cambridge I
became affianced to Miss Mack, the eldest daughter of Dr. David Mack,
with whom I had been boarding while I was occupied in painting the
various pictures of the Oaks at Waverley.

The excursion had been so satisfactory that when the whole company
had come together again, in the autumn, at Cambridge, the formal
organization of the Club was called for, and to the number of those
who had been at Camp Maple there was a large accession of the most
prominent members of the intellectual society of Boston and Cambridge.
It was decided to purchase a tract in the Adirondack Wilderness, the
less accessible the better, and there to build a permanent club-house,
and I was appointed to select the site and lay it out. The meeting was
late in the autumn, and the winter had set in with heavy snow before I
had my orders. I caught a severe cold at New York,--a trivial
matter to notice, but one which very narrowly escaped the gravest
consequences to me; for the cold became aggravated to a bronchial
attack, disregarding which I pushed on into the Wilderness, and
drove from the settlements in to the Saranac in a storm, facing
a northwesterly wind which, filling the air with a cold fog as
penetrating as the wind, crystallized on every tree and twig, and made
the entire forest, as far as the eye could reach, like a forest of
frosted silver. It was a spectacle for a lifetime, and has never been
offered to me again; but I reached Martin's, where we had to put up,
dangerously chilled.

Next day, however, I had all the guides of the neighborhood in for
consultation as to a certain tract which I had fixed on from report
and general knowledge of the region, and we planned a survey in the
snow. It was fourteen miles from any house to the lake I had fixed
on,--that known as the Ampersand Pond; but, fortunately, there were,
amongst the guides called in, some who had been assistants in the
official survey, and, with their practical knowledge and memory of the
lines, I was enabled, without leaving the inn, to draw a map of the
section of a township which included the lake, and determine its exact
position, with the fact that it had been forfeited to the State at
the last tax sale, and was for sale at the land office in Albany. We
bought the entire section, less 500 acres, taxes on which had been
paid, for the sum of $600,--thus securing for the Club a tract
of 22,500 acres. My cough was increasing alarmingly, and, when I
consulted a physician at New York, he advised me to get home and to
bed as quickly as I might; so, returning to Boston, I called together
the executive committee of the Club to dinner, made my report, drank a
glass of champagne to the future lodge, and went to bed in the early
stages of pneumonia, which kept me prostrate six weeks.

I owed it to the fortunate and intelligent woodcraft of my guides that
I was not caught in the depth of the forest by the increasing lung
trouble, probably never to return to civilization. It was the closest
shave to death that I have ever had, and the actual survey of the
tract, buried four feet deep in snow, without a shelter or other bed
than the ground, would in all probability have finished me, for I
barely escaped as it was; but I was determined to finish my work,
animated by the same incomprehension of, rather than indifference to,
the danger before me which had obtained in my Hungarian expedition
and in many other circumstances of my life. Something of the splendid
physical health I brought back with me from the Wilderness helped me,
no doubt, through the attack of pneumonia and pleurisy, which
released me in the early spring, when I was ordered off to Florida to
recuperate. Being advised not to occupy myself with painting while
there, I bought a photographic apparatus, and learned photography
as it was practiced in 1857,--a rude, inefficient, and cumbersome
apparatus and process for field work, of which few amateurs nowadays
can conceive the inconveniences.

This trip--for the means to make which I was indebted to Norton, my
illness having exhausted my resources, and the great crisis which had
broken over New York the year before having swept off the fortune of
my brother--gave me a sight of the South before the war, with slavery
and the patriarchal system at its perfection. I went up the St. John's
River, and took board at a plantation called Hibernia, one of numerous
similar establishments on the river, hotels proper not existing there.
The owner of the plantation, old Colonel Fleming, was one of the
traditional patriarchal planters, and the experience I gained there
certainly agreed with the views of the institution of slavery
entertained by the great majority of Southern people I have known. I
never heard of the punishment of a slave, or saw a discontented negro;
the black children were the jolliest little creatures I ever saw in
clothes, and the adults seemed to do as much or as little work as they

I had carried my rifle with me, and young Fleming and I used to go
hunting for alligators, still abundant in the river. The thickets
of palmetto and the groves of magnolia filling the air with new and
cloying fragrance, alternating with other unaccustomed odors which
made the grove resemble an orchestra of perfumes, were to me a new and
delightful experience. There was a mythical wild turkey in the woods
around, and the hope of a shot at him carried me many a mile, though
he proved only a myth; but of rattlesnakes and copperheads there was
no lack. As I was collecting specimens for the natural-history museum
of Cambridge, I canned the largest snakes that I came across, and I
secured one rattlesnake which measured nine feet; but the fear of his
kind never damped my enthusiasm for the luxuriant forest. Into the
great cypress swamps, with their centennial trees, swarming with
reptiles of infinite variety, there run devious inlets which they call
"creeks," and up these I used to paddle my skiff, and lie and watch
the teeming life, wishing I were a naturalist. I spent a week at
the ancient (for America) town of St. Augustine, on the Atlantic
coast,--then the sleepy watering-place of a few Southern
invalids,--and enjoyed greatly its local color, so different from that
of all other American towns, its picturesque fortress of the days
of Spanish rule, and its Spanish fishermen, in their undiluted
nationality and costume. I here poisoned myself dreadfully, rubbing
with my legs some poison plant as I shinned up the trees for epiphytal
orchids, new to me and an irresistible attraction.

To naturalists, this part of Florida must have been a most interesting
field before the bird-slaughterers had invaded it to the extermination
of its myriad population of feathered winterers from the Northern
regions. The geological formation is a concrete of shells of enormous
thickness, which has hardened to the only semblance of rock which the
coast affords, and the low dunes have shut off from the Atlantic long
lagoons which swarm with life, marine and aquatic creatures occurring
in numberless species and orders; alligators lie in wait for their
prey, and schools of porpoises come in by the inlets in pursuit of
other schools of fat mullet which swarm in the water. Such teeming
life I had never before any conception of. In the surf the sharks
lurked and coasted up and down, watching us as we waded in fishing for
bass, if by chance we should give them an opportunity for a bite; the
sharp, warning fin showing in the hollow green of the combing breaker
ever and anon as we stood thigh-deep in the foam. It made one shudder
to see that silent terror patrolling up and down the margin of the
deep water, waiting for an incautious venture of the bather beyond the
shallows, into which the shark dared not come.

I went with a fishing party down the coast to Matanzas, an abandoned
fort of the early Spanish days, and passed there the most impressive
open-air night in my recollection. We camped on the beach, and my
shelter was a gauze mosquito netting stretched over four poles, about
three feet high, driven in the sand, and as wide as high, and my bed
was the sea sand, no covering being required. Through the gauze the
sea breeze blew gently; on one side of the long, narrow beach the
great Atlantic breakers roared a monotonous bass, and on the other
there came from the lagoon the many-toned murmur of a thousand bird
voices, some familiar and some strange, whooping of cranes and
chattering of coots, ducks, and divers, cries of pelicans, and now
and then the sound of flapping wings, as if some great bird had been
routed out and had changed his feeding-ground. Around me on the sand
ran and crawled the host of crabs, some pulling curiously at the gauze
of my shelter; and now and then a huge spider crab climbed up the
netting like a squirrel and danced an infernal jig over my head,
skipping about on the very tips of his claws, until I tired of his
frivolity and hit him from underneath, when he scuttled away, and
after half an hour, more or less, was succeeded by another, as if they
found an intoxication in dancing over my head. The gnats sang their
monody, and the midges put in their treble, but the meshes of my
gauze were too fine to let them pass; and after hours of this strange
pandemonium I fell asleep, to be waked in the morning by the sun
streaming over me from the broad Atlantic.

It is worthy to note here, in justice to the old days of the Floridian
society, a society now utterly extinct, and a subject of history, that
the kindliness to the slaves was universal on the St. John's River. At
nightfall they used to gather in their quarters and sing; and they had
a peculiar yodel, which, starting from one plantation, was caught up
by the others, and ran round and off along the river into the
distance and back, going and coming again and again with a peculiar
fascination, like the voice of a happy and careless common life. It
was a kindly and indulgent community, and that it was a slave-holding
society never forced itself on the attention. The lazy social virtues
had, no doubt, their lazy vices, but we never saw them on the surface.
The negro quarters were as merry as the day was long, and the negro
was a more important and better appreciated element of social life
than in the North. The whole valley joined in unreserved malediction
of a planter, one of our neighbors, who had profited by the accidental
burning of the free papers of a black family which had been bought out
of slavery by the father, with money earned as pilot to the steamers
of the United States Army during the Seminole War, to compel him to
purchase himself and his wife and children again, and the thief was
spoken of as the meanest of white men, out of the social pale of
self-respecting folk; cheating a slave being far worse than cheating
one of his own class. The old scoundrel was the reproach of the whole
community; but no more formal indictment of the system of slavery, as
established in the United States, is required than the fact that a
former master could recall to slavery an emancipated slave family, the
head of which had paid in hard cash for himself, his wife, and all his
children, because his free papers had been burned, in a fire of
which, moreover, the neighbors accused the former owner of being the
incendiary. While those papers were in existence the negro could
legally sue and be sued; but without them he had no more legal rights
than a dog. The life which honest people lived in that primitive
community was Arcadian, and it is probable that even in Arcadia they
had slaves. Certainly, in my experience of living in many countries
and under various systems, I have not found that the most primitive
system secures the largest personal liberty; rather the contrary.

I returned to my painting with the early summer, and, when the season
came, to the organization of the Club and the inauguration of its
club-house and grounds. It was certainly the most beautiful site I
have ever seen in the Adirondack country,--virgin forest, save where
the trappers or hunters had cut wood for their camp-fires, the tall
pines standing in their long ranks along the shores of a little lake
that lay in the middle of the estate, encircled by mountains, except
on one side, where the lake found its outlet; and the mountains were
cloaked to their summits in primeval woods. In a little valley where
a crystal spring sent its water down to the lake, and a grove of
deciduous trees gave high and airy shelter, I pitched the camp,--a
repetition slightly enlarged of that on Follansbee Pond. As usual I
preceded the Club party, accompanied by S.G. Ward and his son, and
also the son of Emerson, to prepare the ground. The solitude of the
locality may be judged from the first hunt. We had arrived late in the
day, and had no food except the bread we took with us, and the next
morning we had to kill our breakfast before we could eat it. I took
Mr. Ward and the boys in my boat and paddled down to the foot of the
lake, where was a wide beach, on which we found a two-year-old buck
grazing. I paddled to within fifty yards of him, and, though I found
that my rifle would not go off and had to change it for another, with
considerable movement, the deer took no notice of us, and I dropped
him in his tracks with a feeling of compunction only overcome by the
fact that we had no breakfast if he went away. So peaceful was our
realm! I have often paddled within easy shot of a deer on other
waters, but only by remaining motionless when he was looking round,
for the movement of a hand would send him flying in panic; but this
poor deer might have been reared in Eden.

The meeting of the Club that year was a most successful one; and when
it was over, and I was left alone to my painting, I selected a subject
in which, for the first time, I introduced a dramatic element. I
supposed that a hunter and a buck had had a hand-to-horn fight, and,
during it, had fallen together over a ledge of rocks, at the bottom of
which both lay dead. A perpendicular ledge of granite, about twenty
feet high, mosses and ferns clinging in its crevices, overhanging a
level space covered with a heavy growth of luxuriant fern, furnished
the background. There I laid the first large buck I killed, and
painted him with extreme care, and then painted my guide with his arms
locked in the antlers of the deer. The hour was the late afternoon,
when the red sunlight slanted through the trees and fell in broken
masses on the face of the cliff, catching the leaves here and there in
its path. All this was painted carefully from the scene, with as
much of the details of the forest as the time permitted, on a canvas
twenty-five by thirty inches, on which I worked about two months, till
the lake began to freeze and the snow fell. The thermometer was about
zero Fahrenheit before I broke off, early in November.

I never enjoyed so entirely the forest life as that autumn. I had laid
a line of sable traps for miles through the woods, and caught several
"prime" sable which I intended as a present to my fiancee, and the
long walks over the line in the absolute silence of the great forest,
the snowfall, and the gorgeous autumn were more fascinating than ever
before. The bears left their tracks around me, and several pumas made
themselves heard, but of wolves, which I had heard in other parts of
the woods, I heard none. Returning in the gloaming from my traps,
one day, I heard at a distance a wailing cry like that of a woman in
distress, to which I replied by hallooing at the top of my voice.
After a few minutes I heard the cry again, approaching me, and again
responded. The cry continued, still nearer and nearer, but slow in its
approach; and, wondering why so slow, I finally fired my rifle three
times rapidly, which is the conventional signal for help, and at the
same time a reply to the call for help; and it was only when this
evoked no further call that I remembered that the cry was that of a

As usual I lived alone, save for the weekly visit of my guide bringing
me bread and my post. It was with the greatest reluctance that I
obeyed the necessity to return to the state of civilization, and
took leave of that most charming retreat of the natural man from the
artificial life. That was my last serious experience of woodland
life. The uneasy and thriftless spirit which drove me out, like the
possessed of the Scripture, to wander in strange places at times,
again drove me that winter to England, putting, as it happened,
against my intention or prevision, an end to the American period of my



I have generally been happy at sea; and when not so, it has been from
reasons apart from the sea itself,--preoccupations which kept me
insensible to the old charm, or mental troubles which made me
insensible to everything beside them. On this voyage I had the
company of an old friend of the days of "The Crayon," one of our most
thoughtful and successful portrait painters, George Fuller, and a
young friend of his, a Mr. Ames. We sailed just before Christmas, in
an old sailing ship of about eight hundred tons burthen; for, unless
time is of importance, I prefer a sailing ship to a steamer, and one
pleasant companion is worth a shipload of commonplace fellow-voyagers.
A stiff westerly blow caught us off Sandy Hook, and never left us till
we were halfway across the Atlantic, increasing in violence every day,
until it gave me, what I had always longed for, but never seen, a
first-class gale on the open ocean.

I had said to the captain (one of the old sort of Cape Cod sailors,
still a young man, however) that I wanted to see a real gale; and one
day, after we had been out nearly a week, he called me up on deck,
saying, "You wanted to see a gale, and now you may see it; for unless
you get into a tornado you will never see anything worse than this." I
went on deck, obliged to hold firmly to the rails or some part of the
rigging, for the wind was such as to have carried me overboard if I
had attempted to stand alone on the quarter-deck. We were running with
the wind dead abaft, under a reefed fore-topsail and a storm
jib, everything else having been taken in the night before. The
studding-sail boom of the foreyard, which had been carelessly left
out, had been broken off short in the earing, from the pressure of the
wind on the bare spar. The roaring of the wind through the rigging was
such as only one who has heard it can conceive.

I gripped close the quarter-deck railing, and drew myself aft to the
shelter of the wheelhouse, where, securing myself from being blown
away like a piece of paper, I watched the sea. It rose behind us in
huge mountains, the summits of which were always combing over and
sliding down the weltering flanks of the wave,--not like the surf on a
shore, but pushed over like snow; and as a wave overtook us lying in
the bottom of the valley, it so overhung that it seemed impossible
that when it broke it should not bury us; but the stern was always
caught by the forefoot of it, and the old ship began to rise, and went
up, up, up, until I was dizzy. Then we hovered on the summit a moment,
looking out on such an expanse of gigantic waves as I had never
pictured to myself, the distance lost in the driving spray; and, while
I looked, the wave passed from under us, and we went down and down
with a rapidity of descent which was almost like falling from a
balloon. Then, after another moment's rest in the valley, came the
shuddering half apprehension of the next wave as it rose above us,
threatening again, and then, after again soaring aloft, down again
into the driving of the spray; the old ship rolling, plunging, and now
and then quivering, as some side wave struck her, with a complication
of motions, sidelong and headlong, the huge waves flying before us and
yet carrying us on,--wild motions, rolling, pitching, sinking down the
long green slope into the valley, to be flung up into the tumult of
wind and wave again. In all this complexity of forces we were as
helpless as feathers in the wind, cut off from mother earth as much
as if we were carried away on the clouds; the feeling of absolute
insignificance growing on one as the ship drove on, the creaking of
the ship and the hissing rush of the waters hardly audible for the
shrieking of the gale through the rigging. In all my life I have never
so understood the utter impotence and triviality of humanity as I felt
it then.

The ship, though not in measure with the colossi of later times, was
yet a huge mass as measured by the man, and she was no more than
a cork on the tide. Up and down she went, like a child's
swing,--wallowing and rolling, with the sea breaking over the side
till the channels were full, and pouring over the bows in green
torrents, and then in blinding deluges of spray and water over the
stern; tearing along ten knots an hour, and yet always seeming to
be left behind by the waves that tore by us,--the great waves, that
obeyed the wind only to be crushed down again by it, spurting up here
and there fitfully in pinnacles which were instantly driven off in
foam and froth; no combing waves, such as the land dweller sees,
for no wave could rise enough to comb,--only great hills of water,
crystalline with wavelets, streaked with spun foam, heaving as if from
a blind impulse, and leaving us, in a contemptuous toleration, to keep
afloat if we could. And now and then two great waves raced each other,
as they will at long intervals, till they ran close to each other and
united, and we were thrown aloft a little higher, to see nothing more
than a wild waste of foam, spray, and watery chaos which defies human
language to express it.

This was the sea as I had wanted to see it, and as no painter has ever
painted, or probably ever will paint it, and as very few could ever
have seen it; for in seventy thousand miles of sea travel I have seen
it only once. For three days and nights our captain never left the
bridge to rest. Of two other ships that left New York the same day
that we did, one was dismasted to the south of us, and the other had
her quarters stove in and barely escaped foundering just to the north
of us. The gale blew out and left us in a dead calm, which lasted
a couple of days, when another gale of three days drove us in the
direction we wanted to go, and dropped us off Torquay in the morning
of what seemed a delicious spring day, all sunshine and south wind. We
hailed a fishing boat and went ashore. We had left a land buried in
snow and ice, and we reached one in early spring, though it was still
January, the gorse in odorous blossoming, and in the hedgerows the
early wild flowers in profusion. But we learned, on landing, that the
recent gales had strewn the shores of England with wrecks, with great
loss of life. It had been one of those terrible winters which have
helped make the British sailor the sea dog he is.

I took lodgings in Charles Street, Middlesex Hospital, near Wehnert,
and worked hard. I had brought my "Bed of Ferns," a large study from
nature on Saranac Lake, and one or two smaller studies. I had visits
from Dante Rossetti, Leighton (then in all the glory of his Cimabue
picture, and in the promise of even a greater career than he finally
attained), Millais, Val Prinsep, and Boyce. I had brought letters from
Lowell to Tom Hughes, from Norton to Arthur Hugh Clough, from Agassiz
to Professor Owen. Hughes introduced me to the Cosmopolitan Club,
where I made the acquaintance, amongst others whom I do not remember,
of Millais and Monckton Milnes.

The artists who came seemed to be interested in my work, especially
in the "Bed of Ferns," of which Rossetti--whose opinion I valued more
than any other, for he was very honest and blunt in his criticisms,
and not at all inclined to flattery--expressed himself in strong terms
of praise. As it was the first thing in which I had attempted to
introduce a human interest in the landscape, I was naturally inclined
to consider it my most important work, and I was dismayed when Ruskin
came to see me, and, in a tone of extreme disgust, said, pointing to
the dead deer and man: "What do you put that stuff in for? Take it
out; it stinks!" My reverence for Ruskin's opinion was such that I
made no hesitation in painting out the central motive of the picture,
for which both subject and effect of light had been selected.
Unfortunately, I habitually used copal varnish as a medium. When
Rossetti called again, he asked me, with a look of dismay, what I had
done to my picture. I explained to him that on Ruskin's advice I
had painted out the figures, and exclaiming, "You have spoiled your
picture!" he walked out of the room in a rage. However, I sent it to
the Academy as it was, and had it back, "Not hung, for want of room,"
or something equivalent. I then tried to remove the pigment which hid
my figures; but the varnish was refractory, and, after a vain attempt,
I finally cut the picture up and stuck it in the fire.

The incident, though it cost me the work of three months, and was
in fact the only important outcome of the summer's study, did not
diminish my confidence in Ruskin's judgment and correct feeling for
art. It required a still more severe experience. As all the world
knows, that knows anything of Ruskin's ways with artists, he was blunt
and outspoken in his criticisms, and not in the least tender of their
feelings, unless indeed they happened to be women. Knowing this, I
took his praise for certain studies and drawings I had brought with
me as a patent of ability; and though I was never extravagant in my
opinion of my own capacities for art, his approbation of some things
that I had done, and his assurance of a respectable attainment if
I followed the best methods of study, encouraged me, and I took it
without question that the methods were his, and it was a costly
experience which undeceived me.

Of the people with whom I made acquaintance in London at this visit,
those who most interested me were Clough and Owen. Of the artists I
saw little, as they and myself had other things to do than to frequent
one another's studios; but by the Rossetti family I profited largely,
as I had been more or less in intimate relations with William since he
undertook the correspondence of "The Crayon" from England. Of Dante,
indeed, I saw little at that time, as he lived by himself; but with
William my relations were constant and cordial, and he was for many
years my most valued English friend. Through his extreme honesty and
liberality, and his extensive knowledge of and wide feeling for
art, there was great community of appreciation between us, and our
friendship lasted long beyond the direct interest I had in English art

Of Christina I saw a good deal, for the hospitality of the Rossetti
family was informal and cordial. She was then in excellent health,
and, though she was never what would be, by the generality of tastes,
considered a beautiful woman, there was a noble serenity and dignity
of expression in her face which was, as is often said of women of the
higher type of character, "better than beauty," and in which one
saw the spiritual exaltation that, without the least trace of the
_devote_, dominated in her and made her, before all other women of
whom I know anything, the poetess of the divine life. The faith in
the divine flamed out in her with a mild radiance which had in it no
earthly warmth. She attracted me very strongly, but I should as soon
have thought of falling in love with the Madonna del Gran Duca as
with her. Being myself in the regions of dogmatic faith, I was in
a position to judge sympathetically her religion, and, though we
differed in tenets as far as two sincere believers in Christianity
could, I found in our discussions of the dogmas a broad and
affectionate charity in her towards all differences from the ideal of
credence she had formed for herself. I do not remember ever meeting
any one who held such exalted and unquestioning faith in the true
spiritual life as was hers. From my mother, who was in most respects
the most purely spiritual woman I have ever known, Christina differed
by this serenity, which in my mother was often disturbed by the doubts
that had their seeds in the old and superstitious Calvinism mingled
with the ground of her creed, and from which she never could liberate

Christina believed in God, in heaven, in the eternal life, with an
unfaltering constancy and fullness which left no questionings except,
it might be, concerning her fulfillment of her religious obligations.
And while I thought her belief in certain dogmas, such as
transubstantiation, and in the fasting and ritual of her High Church
observances, to be too trivial for such a really exalted intellect, so
near the perception of the essential truth, she held them with such a
childlike and tranquil faith that I would sooner have worshiped
with her than have disturbed her tranquillity in it. She gave me a
demonstration of doctrinal charity which was to me a novelty, and
showed me that tenets which are to me, and those trained like me, idle
formalities were in reality the steps of a ladder by which she must
climb to the realization of the abstract good. Dogmas and observances
apart, I felt that her religion was so much loftier than my own that,
though it would have been impossible for me to profess acceptance of
it, it was equally impossible to argue with her about it,--that it was
so woven into the fibre of her existence that to move it in the least
would be impossible, or, if possible, only at the cost of mental and
spiritual dislocation. But, with all this, there was not in her a
trace of the assumption of a religious superiority which I have so
often found in the driest non-conformist, or the putting me apart with
the creatures that perish and are doomed which I have oftener found in
Catholic friends, with whom I have felt that they regarded me with a
sort of pitiful friendship, as one certain to be damned, and so only
worth a limited regard, lest love should be wasted. In after years I
saw her not infrequently, and when illness and grief had touched her,
and I saw always the same serenity and the same wide personal charity.

Much of Christina's character one could see in her mother, a noble
and worshipful woman, in whom the domestic virtues mingled with the
spiritual in a way that set off the singleness of life of Christina
singularly, as if it were the same light in an earthen vessel. Mrs.
Rossetti was what one often hears spoken of as "a dear, good woman,"
whose motherly life had absorbed her existence,--one of the witnesses
(martyrs) of the practical Christianity, who go, unseen and unknown,
to build the universal church of humanity, and whom we reverence
without naming them. Of Maria, the elder sister of Christina, I saw
less, but enough to know that the same ardent, beautiful religious
spirit burned in her, mute. In the years when I, later, saw most of
the family, Maria lived in a sisterhood. She had none of the genius or
the personal charm of her sister, but possessed the same elevation and
serene religious sentiment.

Of Clough I saw a good deal, though his occupation in a government
office left him not much leisure; and it seemed to me that, of all
public officials I ever knew, he was the most misplaced at an office
desk. Of fragile health and with the temperament of a poet, gentle as
a woman can be, he often reminded me of Pegasus in harness. I had a
commission from Norton to paint a small full-length portrait of him,
and had several sittings; but it did not get on to suit me, and his
being compelled to go to Italy for his health before I had finished
with it, for well or ill, put an end to it. He left me in occupation
of his house while they were away. Of all the people of the poet's
temper I ever knew, Clough was the least inclined to talk of poetry,
and but for the sensitive mouth and the dreamy eye, with a reflective
way he had when talking, as if an undercurrent of thought were going
on while he spoke, one might have taken him for a well-educated man
of business, a poet-banker, or publisher. Perhaps it is in the memory
more than it was in the life, but as I recall him there seemed to
be in him an arcanum of thought, something beyond what came into
every-day existence,--a life beyond the actual life, into which he
withdrew, and out of which he came to speak. I should have liked to
live beside him and know him always, for in that phase of him was
infinite study. What I did see, however, left on me the impression of
a man who was able only to sketch out the life he would have lived,--a
life of far greater capabilities than anything accomplished could

In giving me the letter to Tom Hughes, Lowell had remarked that,
though he had never seen him, yet, as Hughes had edited his "Biglow
Papers," he thought he might assume an acquaintance sufficient to
warrant a letter of introduction. He was not mistaken, for Hughes did
the fullest honor to his letter; and as long as I was in London, and
indeed for many years after, our relations were of the most cordial,
and not long before his death he made me a visit at Rome. Very much of
the enjoyment of that winter in London was due to the hospitable and
companionable welcome of the author of "Tom Brown," and one of
the most enjoyable items was the introduction to the evenings at
Macmillan's, where the contributors to the magazine used to meet
on Thursday evenings, if I remember rightly, and where I saw the
Kingsleys,--Charles only once, but Henry often enough to contract with
him a pleasant friendship. Hughes was one of the largest and most
genial English natures I knew,--robust, all alive to all his human
obligations; and in those troublesome days when the American question
was coming to the crisis of our Civil War he was a consistent friend
of the North, when the dominant feeling in English society was hostile
to it, and this was a strong bond between us.

Owen I saw frequently, and, though my scientific education was, and
is, superficial, he interested me greatly; for he had, like Agassiz,
the gift of making his knowledge accessible to those who only
understood the philosophy and not the facts of science, and I knew
enough of the former to profit by his knowledge. Then he was a warm
friend of Agassiz, and we used to talk of his theories and studies, of
which I knew more than of any other scientific subject. Like Agassiz,
he had at first resisted the theory of natural selection, but had,
unlike Agassiz, come to recognize the necessity of admitting the idea
of evolution in some form, like Asa Gray and Jeffries Wyman. How far
he finally went in recognizing the agency of natural selection as the
sufficient element in this I do not know, for at that time the battle
waged over that phase of the question; but that he did not accept the
solution proposed by Darwin as final I have reason to believe, from
the fact that, the last time I saw him, he assured me that he was
confident that if he could have seen Agassiz again before he died
he could have persuaded him that evolution was the solution of the
problem of creation, though knowing that Agassiz could never have
accepted the doctrine of natural selection in its bareness, absolutely
convinced as he was of the agency of Conscious Mind in creation. And
I had the further declaration of Owen himself in his expressed
conviction that the process of evolution was directed by the Divine
Intelligence. One statement he made struck me forcibly in this
connection, viz.: that he believed that the evolution of the horse
reached its culmination synchronously with the evolution of man, and
that the agreement was a part of the divine plan, while Darwin refuses
to admit a plan in creation. I have heard amongst evolutionists much
bitterness expressed concerning Owen for what they considered his
yielding to the pressure of public opinion, and adopting the theory of
evolution in contradiction to his real convictions; but I saw enough
of him to be certain that he really believed in evolution subject
to the dominance of the Divine Intelligence, nor did any of the
accusations I heard against him persuade me of the least insincerity
in his acceptance of the theory with that qualification,--a position,
I am convinced, held by many, even then, who did not openly support
it, not caring to go counter to the very general advocacy of natural

The teaching of Owen completed my conversion to the theory of
evolution as a general law, not on grounds of physical science, the
demonstration by which is and must remain forever incomplete, but on
the philosophical ground, which I was more capable of measuring; and
with the acceptance of evolution disappeared, logically and, in the
subsequent years, completely, the influence of the old anthropomorphic
religion, with its terrible dogmas of the inheritance of Adam's
transgression and an angry God with His vicarious punishment of His
only son, with all the puzzles of miraculous intervention and the
perplexities of an infallible revealed word which continually
contradicts itself. The conception of Deity thus liberated from the
fetters of a materialistic faith rose to a dignity I had never before
comprehended, and brought me the new perception of a spiritual
religion and life, which was more consoling and vivifying by far than
the old belief.

It is possible that the impressions of that time have been modified by
my subsequent intercourse with scientific men in England; but they are
that the very wide and rapid acceptance of the theory of evolution by
natural selection was largely due to the relief it offered from the
incubus of the old theological conception of the Deity as a personal
agency, always interfering with the course of events,--an infinite,
omnipotent, and omniscient stage manager,--a conception under which
the Christian world at large lay when Darwin announced his solution of
the problem. The religious world had been, up to that time, chained to
the anthropomorphic conception of Deity, and it was even less due to
the purely scientific faculty than to the philosophic that Darwin came
as a liberator from a depressing superstition,--the belief in the
terrible Hebrew God, ingrained in the conscience of every reverently
educated boy, and become in his growth inseparable from the maturer
beliefs. The evolution of the human mind itself had finally reached
the point at which this anthropomorphism became a thing impossible
to maintain reasonably any longer, and the magic word was spoken
by Darwin which broke the spell and set us free--who wished to be
free--from a mental servitude grown dangerously dear to our deepest
faculties, those of reverence and devotion. That evolution took hold
slowly with some who finally adopted it was owing to the fact that,
with them, that servitude had never been slavish, but always held less
sway than pure reason. And contemporaneously with this evolution of
the human mind had come the liberation from religious persecution,
either inquisitorial, legal, or social; and, perhaps for the first
time in the history of the religious dogma, a man might openly dispute
the fundamental ideas of a dominant religion and suffer no penalty for
his skepticism.



Though my "Bed of Ferns" was sent back from the Academy, one of my
large studies was exhibited at the British Society, and the result of
the year's work was, on the whole, satisfactory. Ruskin invited me
to go to Switzerland with him for the summer, finding in some of my
studies and drawings the possibility of getting from me some of the
Alpine work he wanted done. Unfortunately for both of us I could not
draw well in traces, and he did not quite well know how to drive, and
the summer ended in disappointment, and finally in disaster. I was
too undisciplined to work except when the mood suited, and our moods
rarely agreed: he wanted things which were to me of no interest, and
I could not interest myself vicariously enough to do them to his
satisfaction. He preceded me some weeks, and it was arranged that I
should come to meet him at Geneva early in June. Certainly I owe
to him my earliest and most delightful memories of the Alps and of
Switzerland. More princely hospitality than his no man ever received,
or more kindly companionship; but, as might have been expected, we
agreed neither in temperament nor in method, if indeed the mainly
self-taught way in which I worked and thought could be called method.

He met me with a carriage at Culoz, to give and enjoy my first
impressions of the distant Alps, and for the ten days we stopped at
Geneva I stayed with him at the Hotel des Bergues. We climbed the
Saleve, and I saw what gave me more pleasure, I confess, than the
distant view of Mont Blanc, which he expected me to be enthusiastic
over,--the soldanella and gentians. The great accidents of
nature,--Niagara and the high Alps,--though they awe me, have always
left me cold; and all that summer I should have been more fruitfully
employed in some nook of English scenery, where nature went
undisturbed by catastrophes and cataclysms.

Our first sketching excursion was to the Perte du Rhone, and, while
Ruskin was drawing some mountain forms beyond the river, he asked me
to draw some huts near by,--not picturesque cottages, thatched roofs
and lichen-stained walls, but shanties, such as the Irish laborers on
our railways build by the roadside, of deal boards on end, irregular
and careless without being picturesque, and too closely associated
with pigsty construction, in my mind, to be worth drawing. When Ruskin
came back I had made a careless and slipshod five minutes' sketch, not
worth the paper it was on, as to me were not the originals. Ruskin was
angry, and he had a right to be; for at least I should have found it
enough that he wanted it done, to make me do my best on it, but I
did not think of it in that light. We drove back towards Geneva in
silence,--he moody and I sullen,--and halfway there he broke out,
saying that the fact that he wanted the drawing done ought to have
been enough to make me do it. I replied that I could see no interest
in the subject, which to me only suggested fever and discomfort, and
wretched habitations for human beings. We relapsed into silence, and
for another mile nothing was said, when Ruskin broke out with, "You
were right, Stillman, about those cottages; your way of looking at
them was nobler than mine, and now, for the first time in my life, I
understand how anybody can live in America."

We went to Bonneville to hunt out the point of view of a Turner
drawing which Ruskin liked, but, needless to say, though we ransacked
the neighborhood for views, we never found Turner's; and then we went
on to St. Martin, the little village opposite Sallanches, on the Arve.
For a subalpine landscape with Mont Blanc in the distance, this is the
most attractive bit of the Alpine country I know, with picturesque
detail and pleasant climbing up to 7000 feet. The view of Mont Blanc,
too, is certainly the finest from below which can be found. In fine
weather the mountain is hidden to the summit by clouds which clear
away at sunset, and from the little and picturesque bridge over the
Arve we saw the huge dome come out, and glow in the sunlight, when we
were all in shadow. It was to me new and startling, this huge rosy
orb, which at its first appearance suggests a huger moon rising
above the clouds, until, slowly, the clouds below melt away, and the
mountain stands disclosed to its base. If anything in the Alps can be
called truly picturesque, it is the view of the Aiguille de Varens
which overhangs the village of St. Martin, with the quaint and
lichenous church and cemetery in the foreground, and I made a large
drawing of it from the bridge, intending to return and work it up
after Ruskin had left me. The little inn of the village was the most
comfortable _auberge_ I was ever in, and its landlord the kindest
and most hospitable of hosts. Twenty years later I went back to the
locality, hoping to find something of the old time; but there was
only a deserted hostel, the weeds growing over the courtyard, and the
sealed and mouldy doors and windows witnessing ancient desertion.

Hardly had I become interested in my drawing when Ruskin decided to
move on to Chamounix, where we might hope to get really to work. When
the first sublime and overpowering impression of Chamounix and the
majesty and gloom of its narrow valley wore off, it began to oppress
me, and long before we got away I felt as if I were in a huge grave.
The geological interest was great, and the sublimity overpowering.
But to my mind sublimity does not suffice for art; the beautiful must
predominate, and of the beautiful there is little in the valley. The
sublime rendered on a small scale is not satisfactory; the beautiful
loses nothing by reduction.

I was disappointed in the High Alps,--they left me cold; and after
visiting the points of view Turner had taken drawings from, we went up
to the Montanvert, where Ruskin wished me to paint for him a wreath
of Alpine rose. We found the rose growing luxuriantly against a huge
granite boulder, a pretty natural composition, and I set to work on it
with great satisfaction, for botanical painting always interested
me. Ruskin sat and watched me work, and expressed his surprise at my
facility of execution of details and texture, saying that, of the
painters he knew, only Millais had so great facility of execution.
We were living at the little hotel of the Montanvert, and he was
impatient to get back to the better accommodation of the valley
hotels; so that when the roses and the rocks were done we went back,
the completion of the picture being left for later study. From Paris,
in the ensuing winter, I sent it to Ruskin, the distance being made of
the actual view down the valley of Chamounix; and he wrote me a bitter
condemnation of it, as a disappointment; for he said that he "had
expected to see the Alpine roses overhanging an awful chasm," etc. (an
expectation he should have given expression to earlier), and found it
very commonplace and uninteresting. So it was, and I burnt it after
the fashion of the "Bed of Ferns." As Rowse said of him later, "he
wanted me to hold the brush while he painted." But our ideas clashed
continually, and what he wanted was impossible,--to make me see with
his eyes; and so we came to great disappointment in the end.

I was very much interested in his old guide, Coutet, with whom I had
many climbs. He liked to go with me, he said, because I was
very sure-footed and could go wherever he did. He was a famous
crystal-hunter, and many of the rarest specimens in the museum of
Geneva were of his finding. There was one locality of which only he
knew, where the rock was pitted with small turquoises like a plum
pudding, and I begged him to tell me where it was. There is a
superstition amongst the crystal-hunters that to tell where the
crystals are found brings bad luck, and he would never tell me in so
many words; but one day, after my importunity, I saw him leveling his
alpenstock on the ground in a very curious way, sighting along it and
correcting the direction, and when he had finished he said, as he
walked past me, "Look where it points," and went away. It was pointing
to a stratum halfway up to the summit of one of the aiguilles to the
west of the Mer de Glace, a chamois climb. He told me later that he
found the crystals in the couloir that brought them down from that
stratum. A dear old man was Coutet, and fully deserving the affection
and confidence of Ruskin. Connected with him was a story which Ruskin
told me there of a locality in the valley of Chamounix, of which the
guides had told him, haunted by a ghost which could be seen only by
children. It was a figure of a woman who raked the dead leaves, and
when she looked up at them the children said they saw only a skull in
place of a face. Ruskin sent to a neighboring valley for a child who
could know nothing of the legend, and went with him to the locality
which the ghost haunted. Arrived there he said to the boy, "What a
lonely place! There is nobody here but ourselves." "No," said the
child, "there is a woman there raking the leaves," pointing in a
certain direction. "Let us go nearer to her," said Ruskin; and they
walked that way, when the boy stopped, saying that he did not want to
go nearer, for the woman looked up, and he said that she had no eyes
in her head,--"only holes."

The valley of Chamounix finally became to me the most gloomy and
depressing place I was ever in. We made excursions and a few sketches;
but I had little sympathy with it, though I tried to do what Ruskin
wanted, and to get a faithful study of some characteristic subject in
the valley. Every fine day we climbed some secondary peak, five or six
thousand feet, and in the evenings we discussed art or played chess,
mainly in rehearsing problems, until midnight. Sundays no work was
done, but we used to climb some easy hilltop; and there he spent the
afternoon in writing a sermon for a girls' school in which he was much
interested, but not a hue of drawing would he do. To me, brought up in
the severity of Sabbatarianism, the sanctity of the first day of the
week had always been a theological fiction, and the result of the
contact with the larger world of thinkers and the widening of my range
of thought by the study of philosophy had also made me see that the
observances of "new moons and fast-days" had nothing to do with true
religion, and that the Eden repose of the Creator was too large
a matter to be fenced into a day of the week. This slavery to a
formality in which Ruskin was held by his terrible conscience provoked
me, therefore, to the discussion of the subject.

I showed him that there was no authority for the transference of the
Christian weekly rest from the seventh to the first day of the week,
and we went over the texts together, in which study my Sabbatarian
education gave me an advantage in argument; for he had never given the
matter a thought. Of course he took refuge in the celebration of the
weekly return of the day of Christ's resurrection; but I showed him
that the text does not support the claim that Christ rose on the first
day of the week, and that the early fathers, who arranged that portion
of the ritual, did not understand the tradition of the resurrection.
"Three days and three nights," according to the gospel, Christ was to
lie in the tomb,--not parts of three times twenty-four hours. But the
women went to the tomb "in the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn
toward the first day of the week," and they found that he had already
risen and was gone. Now, as by the Jewish ritual the day began at
sunset, the first day of the week began with the going down of the sun
on Saturday, and, therefore, as Christ had already risen, he must have
risen on the seventh day. And the reason of this twilight visit was in
the prohibition to touch a dead body on the Sabbath, and the zeal of
the disciples sent them to the sepulchre at the earliest possible
moment. And I showed him how careless or ignorant of the record the
redisposition of the sacred time had been, in the fact of the total
disregard of the words of Christ, that he should lie in the earth
three days and three nights; for they assumed him to have been
crucified on Friday, while he must have lain buried Thursday, Friday,
and Saturday, and was therefore buried on Wednesday, just before
sunset. And this is confirmed by the text which says that the
disciples hastened to bury Christ on the day of crucifixion, because
the next day was the day of preparation for one of the high Sabbaths,
which the early church, which instituted the observance of the first
day, confounded with the weekly Sabbath, not knowing that a high
Sabbath could not fall on the weekly Sabbath.

To this demonstration Ruskin, always deferent to the literal
interpretation of the gospel, could not make a defense; the creed had
so bound him to the letter that the least enlargement of the stricture
broke it, and he rejected the whole tradition,--not only the Sunday
Sabbath, but the authority of the ecclesiastical interpretation of the
texts. He said, "If they have deceived me in this, they have probably
deceived me in all," and he came to the conclusion of rejecting all.
This I had not conceived as a possible consequence of the criticism of
his creed, and it gave me great pain; for I was not a skeptic, as he,
I have since learned, for a time became. It was useless to argue
with him for the spirit of the gospel; he had always held to its
infallibility and the exactitude of doctrine, and his indignation was
too strong to be pacified. He returned somewhat, I have heard, to his
old beliefs in later years, as old men will to the beliefs of their
youth, and his Christianity was too sincere and profound for a matter
of mistaken credence in mere formalities ever to affect its substance,
and the years which followed showed that in no essential trait had the
religious foundations of his character been moved. For myself, I was
still a sincere believer in the substantial accuracy of the body of
Christian doctrine, and the revolt of Ruskin from it gave me great
pain. My own entire liberation from the burdens of futile beliefs had
yet to come, and at that time he went further than I could go with
him. But we never discussed theological matters any more.

I finally found a subject which interested me in a view of the foot of
the Mer de Glace from the opposite side of the river, looking up the
glacier, with the bridge under the Brevent, and a cottage in the
foreground, and set to work on it energetically. Ruskin used to sit
behind me and comment on my work. My methods of painting were my own,
for I had never painted under any one except the few months with
Church, whose method had taught me nothing; and I had a way of
painting scud clouds, such as always hang around the Alpine peaks, by
brushing the sky in thinly with the sky-blue, and then working into
that, with the brush, the melting clouds, producing the grays I wanted
on the canvas. It imitated the effect of nature logically, as the
pigment imitated the mingling of the vapor with the blue sky; but
Ruskin said this was incorrect, and that the colors must be laid like
mosaic, side by side, in the true tint. Another discouragement! I
used to lay in the whole subject, beginning with the sky, rapidly
and broadly, and, when it was dry, returning to the foreground and
finishing towards the distance; and Buskin was delighted with the
foreground painting, insisting on my doing nothing further to it. In
the distance was the Montanvert and the Aiguille du Dru; but where the
lines of the glacier and the slopes of the mountain at the right met,
five nearly straight lines converged at a point far from the centre,
and I did not see how to get rid of them without violating the
topography. I pointed it out to Ruskin, and he immediately exclaimed:
"Oh, nothing can he done with a subject like that, with five lines
radiating from an unimportant point! I will not stay here to see you
finish that study." And the next day we packed up and left for Geneva.

At Lausanne I made some careful architectural drawings, which he
praised,--some pencil sketches on the lake; and then we drove across
country to Freiburg, and finally to Neuchatel, where I found a
magnificent subject in the view from the hill behind the city, looking
over the lake towards the Alps, with Mont Blanc and the Bernese Alps
in the extreme distance. In the near distance rise the castle and
its old church, which Ruskin drew for me in pencil with exquisite
refinement of detail, for in this kind of drawing he was most
admirable. As we should stay only a few days, I could not paint
anything, and spent all my time, working nine hours a day, hard, on
the one subject in pencil. We still spent our evenings till late in
discussions and arguments, with a little chess, rarely going to bed
before midnight; and the steady strain, with my anxiety to lose none
of my time and opportunities, finally told on my eyes. One day, while
working hard on the view of Neuchatel, I felt something snap behind
my eyes, and in a few minutes I could no longer see my drawing;
the slightest attempt to fix my vision on anything caused such
indistinctness that I could see neither my work nor the landscape, and
I was obliged to suspend work altogether. In a few days we went to
Basle, and, after a rest, my vision came back partially, and we went
to Laufenburg, where Turner had found the subject for one of his
Liber Studiorum engravings. Here the subjects were entirely after my
feeling, and, as my eyes had ceased to trouble me, I set to work on a
large drawing of the town and fall from below. In the midst of it the
snapping behind my eyes came back, worse than ever, and that time not
to leave me for a long time. It was followed by an incessant headache,
which made life a burden, with obstinate indigestion. Here Ruskin
suddenly found that he must go back to England, and I returned with
him as far as Geneva, and thence went to St. Martin, where I spent the
rest of the autumn, as helpless for all work as a blind man.

My summer with Ruskin, to which I had looked for so much profit to my
art, had ended in a catastrophe of which I did not then even measure
the extent. It was nearly two years before I recovered from the attack
at Neuchatel enough to work regularly, and these circumstances threw
me still further from my chosen career. More exciting and absorbing
occupation called me, and I obeyed, whether for better or worse it now
matters not. When I was free to return with undivided attention to my
painting my enthusiasm had cooled, and human interests claimed and
kept me. Ruskin had dragged me from my old methods, and given me none
to replace them. I lost my faith in myself, and in him as a guide to
art, and we separated definitely, years later, on a personal question
in which he utterly misunderstood me; but, apart from questions of
art, he always remains to me one of the largest and noblest of all the
men I have known, liberal and generous beyond limit, with a fineness
of sympathy in certain directions and delicacy of organization quite
womanly. Nothing could shake my admiration for his moral character or
abate my reverence for him as a humanist. That art should have been
anything more than a side interest with him, and that he should
have thrown the whole energy of his most energetic nature into the
reforming of it, was a misfortune to him and to the world, but
especially to me.

At St. Martin I waited the return of my vision. I climbed, and tried
chamois-hunting with no success so far as game was concerned, though I
saw the beautiful creatures in their homes, and now rejoice that I did
not kill any, though I fear I wounded one mortally, where we could not
retrieve him. One of my excursions was to the summit of the Aiguille
de Varens, by a path, in one place cut in the face of a precipice,
only wide enough for one's feet, with sheer cliff above and below, and
nothing to hold by. I have a good head, but to follow my guide on that
path was something which only _mauvaise honte_ brought me to. I was
ashamed to hesitate where he walked along so cheerily. We arranged to
spend the night at a chalet where a milkmaid with the figure of the
Venus of Milo tended a remnant of the herd, most of which had already
descended to the valleys below. As the sun was setting I walked out to
the brow of the aiguille, which from below seemed a point, but was in
reality only the perpendicular face of a mass of mountain which in the
other direction sloped away towards Switzerland for miles. The view of
Mont Blanc, directly opposite, then bare of clouds from the base to
the summit, with the red sunset light falling full on the great fields
of snow, of which I had never realized the extent from any other
point, was by far the most imposing view of the great mountain I have
ever found. I stood at an elevation of about 7000 feet, halfway to
the summit of Mont Blanc, with the whole broad expanse of glacier and
snowfield glowing in the rosy twilight; and, while I watched the
sun set, at my feet lay the valley of the Arve, with the town of
Sallanches and its attendant villages in the blue distance of
gathering night, thousands of feet below me. As I looked, enchanted,
the chimes of the convent below rang out a Gregorian air, which came
up to my heights like a solemn monition from the world of dreams, for
nothing could be distinguished of its source. We started a chamois,
and saw him race across the broad field of snow like the wind, while
I could only follow, laboring knee-deep in the snow, like a tortoise
after a hare. We slept that night buried in the hay. I am glad to
say that the hunt in the morning was without other result than a
delightful walk, for my guide was a better climber than huntsman.

A few days later, I made, with another guide, an excursion to the
Col des Fours, on the other side of the valley. The guide was an old
professional hunter, and knew the habits of the chamois well. We
climbed up leisurely in the afternoon, and slept in the hay of a
deserted chalet; for from there the cattle had already been all driven
down. While the guide prepared the supper, I walked out to the edge of
the cliffs to get the view. The landscape had become a sea of mist,--a
river, rather; for the whole valley was filled with a moving, billowy
flood of fog flowing from Mont Blanc, and enveloping mountain and
valley alike in a veil of changing vapor, melting, forming, and
flowing beneath my feet, hiding every object in the landscape below
the cliffs I stood on. It made me dizzy, for I seemed to be in the
clouds. And while I waited there came a transfiguration of the
scene,--the mist began to grow rosy, and deeper and deeper, till it
was almost like a sea of blood. No source of light was visible from
my point of view, but, of course, the phenomenon, though seemingly
mysterious, was evident. The sun, in setting, illuminated the fields
of snow at the summit of the mountain beyond, which reverberated its
flaming light into the vapor below, penetrating it down to my feet,
but the mountain itself was, from my elevation, invisible. It passed
like all glories, and quicker than most.

The next morning we went to take our posts for a chamois drive. A
friend of the guide, whom he had picked up to profit by my coming,
took one side of the valley, and I the other, while a boy with an
umbrella went down the valley to drive the chamois up to us. Having
posted me, the stupid guide crossed the line of the drive between me
and the meadow where the chamois would come to feed, and took his
post, hiding nearer the peaks where they had passed the night. Soon
after sunrise they made their appearance on a field of snow which
sloped down into the Val,--nine, young and old. I shall never see
anything prettier than the play of those young chamois on the snow.
They butted and chased each other over the snow, frolicked like
kittens, standing on their hind legs and pushing each other, until,
probably, they grew hungry, and then came down to the grass to feed.
This was the moment for the driver to come in, and he came up the
valley waving his arms and umbrella and shouting. The chamois came in
my direction till they crossed the track of the old hunter, scenting
which they halted, sniffed the air, and then broke in panic, the
majority running back past the driver and within a few yards of him,
so that if he had had a gun he could easily have killed one, and went
down the valley out of sight; three came up the valley, taking the
flank of the almost perpendicular rocks, within shot of me, but at
full gallop, and I fired at the middle one of the group. They passed
behind a mass of rock as I fired, and two came out on the other side.
If I hit one I could not know, for the place was inaccessible, but I
hope that I missed. I have often thought of the possibility that I
might have hit the poor beast, and sent him mortally wounded amongst
the rocks to die, and I never recur to the incident without pain. It
becomes incomprehensible to me, as my own life wanes, how I could ever
have found pleasure in taking the lives of other creatures filling
their stations in the world better than I ever did. The late educated
soul pays the penalty of earlier ignorance, but there is no atonement
to the victims.

I stayed at St. Martin while the plebiscite and annexation to France
took place. It was a hollow affair, the voting being a mockery, but
the Sardinian government had never made itself seriously felt in
Savoy, for either good or ill; the people were a quiet and law-abiding
race, and while I was in the country I never heard of a crime or a
prosecution. The regiments of Savoyard troops went into the French
army with ill will, and there was a bloody fight between them and the
French soldiers at Lyons when the former went into the barracks there.

I was at St. Martin when the Emperor and Empress made their tour
through the new possession. The state carriages had to be left at
Sallanches when the sovereigns went up to the great ball offered them
at Chamounix, and, when they returned, the little mountain carriages
which brought them down halted under the windows of the _auberge_ of
St. Martin, in which I lived, to wait for the state carriages to come
across the river. They had to wait about half an hour, and as they
walked up and down in the road under my window, beside which stood
my loaded rifle, I thought how easily I could change the course of
European politics, for I could have hit any button on the Emperor's
clothes, and I hated him enough to have killed him cheerfully, as
an enemy of mankind; but regicide has always seemed to me a great
mistake, as it would have been in that case, for it would only have
placed the young Prince Imperial on the throne, under the regency of
the Empress. I was then a radical republican, with all the sympathies
of a Parisian Red, for I had not learned that it is less the form of
the government than the character of the governed which makes the
difference between governments. I did not spare the life of the
Emperor from any apprehension of consequences to me, for I had none.
I knew the paths up the mountain at the back of the hotel, and before
the confusion should have been overcome, and a pursuit organized, I
could have been beyond danger, on my way to the Swiss frontier, for
the pine woods came to the back door of the hotel; and beyond that, I
never had the habit of thinking of the consequences of what I proposed
to do. When I returned to Paris, after the autumn had passed, I told
the story to an artist friend, an ultraradical, how I stood at my
window with a loaded rifle by my side, and the Emperor twenty feet
below, and he shouted with fury, "And you didn't kill him?" Time and
fate have punished him more fitly than I should have done, and wise
men leave these things to time and fate.



I remained in Paris all that winter, and took a studio with an
American friend,--Mr. Yewell,--but I could do no work; the headache
never left me, and, though I could draw a little, my vision failed
when it was strained, and I seemed to have lost my color sense. I was
desperate, and, when Garibaldi set out on the Marsala expedition, I
was just on the point of sailing to join him when I received a letter
from the father of my fiancee, telling me that her perplexities and
distress of mind over our marriage had so increased that they feared
for her reason if she were not set at rest. I took the next steamer,
and ended the vacillation by insisting on being married at once.
Nothing but a morbid self-depreciation had prevented her from coming
to a decision in the matter long before, and there was no other
solution than to assume command and impose my will. We were married
two days after my landing, and returned to Paris a few days after.
When the spring opened we went down into Normandy, and there,
returning to the study of nature and living in quiet and freedom from
anxiety, I slowly and partially recovered my vision, and began to
regain in a measure the power of drawing. The landscape of the quiet
French country suited me perfectly, and I made two or three good
studies, but without getting into a really efficient condition for
painting, which I only did a year or two later at Rome.

Our winter in Paris had been greatly brightened by the acquaintance of


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