« ПретходнаНастави »
itself to be harnessed to a profession which would take him from daily intercourse with the great writers of the past whom he loved. Though he made some genuine attempts to study legal principles and learn the practice of the law, his heart was not only in literature, he was steadily working at it.
'If I live,' he wrote in 1839, 'I don't believe I shall ever practise law. I intend, however, to study it, and prepare myself for practising. But a blind presentiment of becoming independent in some other way is always hovering round me. Above all things I should love to be able to sit down and do something literary for the rest of my
Lowell, however, in 1840 took a degree in the Harvard Law School, that great seminary of legal principles, which in this country, the home of the common law, now forming the basis of the jurisprudence of half the world, we have no legal university to equal or approach. For two years more he was still nominally a lawyer, though literature was more and more absorbing his mind and his time. But the publication of the short-lived . Pioneer,' a magazine which he and his friend Robert Carter projected and published—and to which they obtained contributions from men now so famous as Hawthorne, Poe, and Whittier-and the appearance of a second volume of poems in December 1843 may be said definitely to have settled the course of his life. It is certain, however, that this legal education had valuable effects as a mental training at once bracing and broadening. But Lowell was characteristically a New Englander; he had the common sense and the perseverance which mark this striking section of the American people. He represented one side of it very accurately, its simplemindedness and its culture, its honesty and love of learning, its patriotism and reverence for the treasures of the old world.
No man of letters was less of a Bohemian. He never for a moment imagined that he could be successful without the same everyday qualities which tend to success in other walks of life-moderation of living and perseverance. Witli all his imagination and almost feminine sympathy he was essentially sensible and sane; in that mingling of antagonistic qualities he was typically American.
At the end of December 1844 Lowell was married to Maria White. For some four years he had been engaged to her-a beautiful woman, of kindred taste and feelings. Up to that time his earnings by his pen had been insufficient to justify him in marrying. In September 1842 he expressed a hope that he might safely reckon on earning four hun• dred dollars' by his pen during the next year. It may be doubted whether the year after he married Lowell's professional income was more than 1001. But he had a hopeful, energetic nature; he was not afraid of difficulties, and though singularly impressionable, no external circumstances were able to stop the flow of literary production. On the contrary, events which would have stunned and stayed the vital faculties of most men were an incentive to him. In. expression he found solace. In a letter to his friend Sydney Gay, in March 1850, soon after the death of his second daughter, Rose, and writing to him in reference to the death of his correspondent's brother, he says:
* To show you that I am not unable to go along with you in the feeling expressed in your letter, I will copy a few verses out of my common-place book :
*“ Yes, faith is a goodly anchor,
When the skies are blue and clear;
With a sturdy iron cheer.
And the tempests are all let loose,
'Mid slimy seaweed and ooze.
One broken plank of the past,
Adrift in the whirling vast.
To the flesh its blind despair,
With its threads of gossamer hair.
Thy preaching is wise and true;
Makes mine insensate, too.
So worn and wrinkled and brown,
And argues your wisdom down." But enough, dear Sydney, of death and sorrow. They are not subjects which I think it profitable or wisz to talk about, think about, or write about often. Death is a țrivate tutor. We have no tellow-scholars, and must lay our lessons to heart alone.' VOL. CXCI. NO, CCCXCI.
These lines were at a later time altered and added to, and published under the title of ' After the Burial,' thereby losing not a little of their spirit and their directness of feeling.
It was this peculiar temperament which ensured him success as a man of letters, added to that hard-headedness which is so characteristic of the people from whom he sprang: It gave me great pleasure . . . to find you a man of sense as well as genius—a rare thing, especially in one so young Keep fast hold of the one, for it is the clue that will bring you to the door that will open only to the 'magic password of the other. It is interesting to recall these words, for they were addressed to Mr. W. D. Howells, who has long ago attained a high place, among the novelists of the age ; and, while they may be urged on the attention of every man of ability in every station of life, they will remain also the clue to much of Lowell's success.
To a remarkable and a versatile mind, to a disposition of singular sweetness and refinement, was added, it cannot be too clearly pointed out, a manliness and a force of character not always united with what amounted almost to genius.
The particular period at which we have now arrived in Lowell's life-namely, from his marriage in 1844 to his wife's death in October 1853—is that in which he
be regarded wholly as a journalist in the best sense of the word. He was a contributor to the Pennsylvania Freeman,' and from 1846 to 1850 to the 'Anti-Slavery Standard of New York. For a weekly contribution in prose or verse he received a yearly salary of five hundred dollars. In a letter written in 1846 Lowell gives his own account of the cominencement of this connection. Boston was the centre of that anti-slavery crusade which is chiefly identified with the name of William Lloyd Garrison. The movement attracted Lowell's honest and manly nature, and though for some reasons he felt reluctant to take up this work, for others he was glad of the opportunity which was presented to him.
'I was not only willing but desirous that my name should appear, because I scorned to be indebted for any share of my modicum of popularity to my abolitionism, without incurring at the same time whatever odium might be attached to a complete identification with a body of heroic men and women, whom not to love and admire would prove me unworthy of either of those sentiments, and whose superiors in all that constitutes true manhood and womanhood I believe never existed. There were other considerations which weighed heavily with
me to decline the office altogether. In the first place, I was sure that Mrs. Chapman and Garrison greatly overrated my popularity and the advantage which it would be to the paper to have my name attached to it. I am not flattering myself (I have too good an opinion of myself to do so), but judge from something Garrison said to me. It is all
However it may be in that glorious Hereafter (towards which no man who is good for anything can help casting half an eye), the reputation of a poet who has a high idea of his vocation, is resolved to be true to that vocation, and hates humbug, must be small in his generation. The thing matters nothing to me one way or the other, except when it chances to take in those whom I respect, as in the present case. I am teres atque rotundus, a microcosm in myself, my own author, public, critic, and posterity, and care for no other. But we abolitionists must get rid of a habit we have fallen into of affirming all the geese. who come to us from the magic circle of Respectability to be swans. I said go about Longfellow, and I said so about myself
. What does a man more than his simple duty in coming out for the truth?;. ; In the next place (turn back à page or two, and you will find that I have laid down a "firstly "), if I have any vocation, it is the making of verse. When I take my pen for that, the world opens itself ungrudgingly before me, everything seems clear and easy, as it seems sinking to the bottom would be as one leans over the edge of his boat in one of those dear coves at Fresh Pond. But when I do prose it is invita Minerva. I feel as if I were wasting time and keeping back my message. My true place is to serve the cause as a poet. Then my heart leaps on before me into the conflict. I write to you frankly, as becoines one who is to be your fellow-worker (Letters,' vol. i. p. 123).
Work for newspapers, however, by no means absorbed Lowell's energies during this period. In addition to various general and critical papers contributed to magazines, he published. Sir Launfal,' and also a' Fable for Critics' and the first series of the Biglow Papers,' upon which something will be presently said, which were suggested by the annexation of Texas, a measure promoted by the Southern party in Congress and strongly opposed by the North. The difference presaged the conflict which was later to produce the Civil War.
But we must continue to sketch the course of Lowell's: life and career. In the summer of 1851 he made his first visit to Europe, chiefly for the benefit of the health of his: wife, but without avail. They remained in Europe till the autumn of 1852, and a year later she died.
The European period was one of absolute leisure. "I am. • very well,' he wrote, soon after his return to Elinwood,
and rather older; more inclined to stay in the quiet, if it may be, and lead purely a life of letters. I have written
nothing since I left home, except a few letters and a journal now and then. I have been absorbing.'
From the autumn of 1853 Lowell's career somewhat changed. He became less of a journalist and more of a profes
During the winter he delivered twelve lectures on the English po ts at the Lowell Institute in Boston, and in February of 1855 he was appointed to the Smith Professorship of Modern Languages in Harvard College, the immediate successor of Ticknor and Longfellow, a professorship which is one among innumerable instances of the assistance which has been given to learning in the United States by the gifts of private individuals.
The close connexion between academic teaching and affairs which has existed in the United States has been an inestimable advantage to American education. The selection of Lowell to this professorship, and his subsequent appointment as Minister to Spain, illustrate this fact in a marked degree. It has kept the Universities in touch with the needs of the time, and it has, on the other hand, broadened mental cultivation among non-academical classes. It has been, perhaps, most visible in connexion with Harvard, which has formed, and still continues to form, a part of that remarkable community so varied in its pursuits and in its aspirations which is gathered in the town of Boston.
It was characteristic, too, both of Lowell and of America, that he accepted the position on the condition that, before entering on its duties, he should spend a year or more in Europe in preparatory studies. With the commencement of his work at Harvard, after his return from Europe late in the summer of 1856, the second period of Lowell's life began. The next summer he married again; his second wife was Miss Frances Dunlop, a lady of whom many in England still bave agreeable recollections. He bad ceased to be a journalist; he had attained an assured position among men of letters and in the opinion of his countrymen. He had done tbis before he was forty, and he had done it by sheer ability and manly perseverance.
One of the most interesting chapters in Dr. Hale's rather too discursive reminiscences of Lowell is that in which he tells of Harvard and Lowell's life there—of the striking changes which had taken place between 1834 and 1855, how the College bad developed from a somewhat enlarged country
“academy" into the first of American Universities, and how Lowell himself, almost always on the threshold of the College, had witnessed its expansion. His association with it con