[Boston—Friday, 7 February 1868]

February 7th The birthday of our friend! Dear Charles Dickens! What riches for one life to have such a friend. One whose heart is forever large and open, shut only to the hypocrites of the earth. I have sent to Washington to have flowers on his breakfast table this morning. I hope it will be properly done.

We think of him far away, in love, and feel ourselves companioned. Otherwise just now our life is a quiet one. Quiet mornings when I can read a little thank Heaven: for I needed it enough and felt myself growing away from my purpose in life as far as my own education goes—& hope not in the more essential things.

Mrs Stowe spoke of Mrs Parkman as needing a larger space—needing a career in short! It came to me how vast the sphere is opening before any woman, especially if she has talent, to help to humanize and harmonize society to breathe “sweetness and light” into it, & this entirely apart from the vast labors of the benevolent (in this day & generation) in wh. we must all bear a part.

How I hate to have books recommended to me to read. There is always so much more than I can master lying just along the track of thought and desire that a new book sent in, to be read often seems like an impertinence! But I begin to see that this feeling like many of our bashfulnesses in society belong to our own shortcomings and all we need is to develop a larger power instead of complaining of the riches of the world.

Howells passed last evening here. He has a gift at using words, which has made him distinctively a writer. He is a man of limited capacities in many ways—“sicklied o’er by the pale cast of thought” he has learned a delicate use of language by which he has won a reputation quite exceptional in America at present. He spoke of Georgie Stowe Allen’s “single-minded-ness” in talk, wh. describes capitally a kind of aggressive persistence towards her and wh. distinguishes her conversation; making it often smart but never elegant.

Dear Jamie is well & we are perfectly happy.

“Le trouble est ami du mal” a motto full of meaning wh. I have plucked out of my little French book “Récit d’une soeur” that I am really grateful for in spite of the spirit with which I took it up—(a feeling of a time half stolen from perhaps more necessary reading,—but being in french I was allowed for I hate to forget french and as I almost never hear it spoken it would be a wonder if any of it were retained).

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