[Boston—Thursday, 15 June 1871]

June 15. 1871. Was dressing somewhat hurriedly to come to breakfast at eight o’clock (having been out late the night before which could be my only excuse at this season) when I heard the bell ring and I thought at once it was probably Mr. Whittier who had come to breakfast on his way home from yearly meeting at Newport. So I made still greater haste and coming down a few moments before the hour found him chatting with Mr. Fields in the library. He was looking uncommonly well and not quite so large-eyed as is usual with him after a long stay at home in Amesbury. He talked plainly with regard to Wendell Phillips whom he finds a hard man and remarked how frequently it happens that these philanthropists big with desire to benefit the human race are narrow, unkind and uncharitable to their neighbors. He can’t help it, he said, it is the Calvinism in him. It seems so queer he should be a Calvinist at all. But it was born in him, gets it by inheritance and without such people are puffed up and consider themselves among the elect they are pretty badly off and must suffer.

We talked a little of Grace Greenwood and our mutual friends and at last came round naturally enough to the topic which continually agitates his mind, our dearly beloved, where are they? So near faith tells us and yet -- “I don’t see that science brings us an inch nearer to it” he said “now all these discoveries in astronomy how they overturn our old ideas of heaven, that we were the inhabitants of the planets in our future state, but here I have been reading a book upon “The Plurality of Worlds” where Mars is described as knowingly as the earth itself by maps and a chart there is really something quite fearful in it. “J” then quoted a remark of Agassiz to him at the last Saturday Club. “J” asked A. if he thought man ever would draw nearer to the mystery of birth and death. “I am sure he will” was the Savant’s reply “the time will come when all these things will be made as clear as this table now spread out before us.” Whittier shook his head sadly and doubtingly to this astounding conversation. “What good will it do to us if they do” he queried half musingly. I said I thought the kernel of truth hidden in so called Spiritualism came nearer to proving the outlet or inlet for Science than any other facts opening before us. Astronomy and all the rest seem to tend to materialism strictly, that alone deals with the mysterious union between the seen and the unseen. Whittier could not willingly let the subject drop. “Where is he now?” he says suddenly about some dear dead friend. After Dickens’s death the subject broke out afresh in his mind—there the vitality was so prodigious, it was such a power set free, that all felt the mystery of the unlinking deeply however removed they might be from his personal influence. We asked Whittier if he did not feel tempted to go to Canada some time from Plymouth, his favorite resting-place among the White Hills. “No” he said “he thought he shouldn’t go!” J. tried to tell him of the old world air of Quebec. “Oh Yes—I know it all by books and pictures just as well as if I had seen it exactly. By the way that reminds me of an incident that happened the other day in Amesbury. An Arab belonging to a Circus travelling in that vicinity was wandering through the village street and stopped oddly enough at Whittier’s gate. He stood there for some time looking over the gate and reading by turns from a small book he held in his hand. Presently W. went out to speak with him, found he had lived all his life until he came to America upon the edge of the Desert. He was very homesick and longed for the time of return to come. He had hired himself for a term of years to the master of the Circus. The desert with its wild life, the palms, and sands, and above all freedom was attracting his desire continuously. It was the Koran he held in his hand. When W. told him he had read that book also, the Arab’s heart was touched. He was ready then to do his best for this unknown brother in faith I daresay. Whittier is much interested in the North End Mission. He left us about half past ten o’clk and on his way down town with “J” again gave vent to the topic, which possesses him. As they passed Mr. Minot’s house on Beacon St. he said, “there’s the house where thee and I came once to see Catherine Sedgwick. Where is she now?”

Mrs Towne came from Manchester, and the men about the Coffee House, and I arranged roses from the garden and carried one up to poor sick Maggie whose face always lights up as I go to see her. She observes very little today, as I discovered by her hand dropping feebly on my dress and feeling the silk instead of the cotton of her sisters dress which seemed to surprise her, as if she thought her sister were by her side. I have been at work writing out memories of our visits at Gad’s Hill and the vicinity for J. to use in his “Whispering Gallery.” I have made over 50 small mss. pages.

Went in the afternoon to Mr. Francis Parkman’s place in Jamaica Plains. The house is simple enough, on the Pond, but the garden slopes down very prettily and he has devoted himself so intelligently to it that he has one of the most productive gardens of its size probably in the neighborhood of Boston. He has also made a book about Roses and gardening. He is also hard at work upon his histories; the next in the series being already advertised but not written: “Monarchy in America under Louis the XIV”. As he talked he cut a noble burden of roses, the finest I ever saw for me and gave me a Wisteria to plant at home. He went about with a small box or seat to sit down upon as his spinal infirmity prevents him from standing or moving long without pain. He was evidently suffering today. His life is one of a laborer, hard work allowing him sometimes to forget himself. He must have known many lonely sad hours especially while his children were growing. Now I fancy them old enough to be company for him and help to take care of him. He lost his wife soon after their three children were born.

We went to bed early tonight as the day before had proved a long day to us although most interesting—after Gardening before breakfast I had remained at home to write until time to start for Framingham in the afternoon to see our married brother Z.B.A. there. I had previously written to say we were coming, so what was our discomfiture in reaching the house to find nobody at home all having chosen the ripe June Day to go to the Hunnewell Gardens in Natick. Not to be daunted we too took a carriage (having previously stopped at the way station and driven a matter of two miles from there) for Natick nine miles away. Fortunately our horse was a swift one and we reached the gardens just in the bloom and glory of the afternoon. We saw nothing looking like our family, but proceeding with wondering eyes through the well-rolled avenue under the loveliest trees with a rose garden sheltered from the winds by an impenetrable hedge, twice as high as a man, I came at a sudden turn upon Sarah & soon found the rest. These gardens are something to know of, something to show as a representative place, gardens, terraces, lake drives, rare ferns and trees, quaint grottoes and reserved corners, vistas, turf, all remind one of the finest of the English places in point of style and care.

Returning from this wonderful place too late to go to Framingham with the party and too late for tea at home, we thought we would finish the day in a delicious state of vagabondage—come in from Natick by train, take tea at a restaurant opposite the theatre and go to see Matthews, Charles Matthews who is playing here now. All this we accomplished. Matthews was perfect in “£1000 a year” and a short comedietta of his own called “Toddlekins” (and something else). The fatigue may be imagined—and so I was not ready much before Mr. Whittier arrived to breakfast the next day. Matthews is drawing wonderful houses for this season. The finish, the last-century excellence of his acting, the French perfection, the English flavor, the in-short absolute perfectness of what he undertakes bring him the recognition he deserves. We saw him play “The Critic” Sheridans play readapted by himself for our stage. The taste of the Past and the interest of the present were finely combined. Matthews is a man of great talents, and of inherited talents; there is a book written I believe by his sister, the life of his father which is full of brilliant, interesting incidents and anecdotes. Matthews is now 67 years old. On Saturday he ends his engagements by playing in 6 plays—at two different times in the day however 3 each time. He will return here in the autumn when we hope to see him.


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