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such vigor as was needed. Read the quaint old biog
rapher s account of the forcible removal of one young
woman from one room to another : " You must go into
the large room/ said the teacher." The young woman
went. 28

But usually the reliance was less upon coercion than
upon persuasion. " She will try to make us vote so-
and-so, and I won t vote that way I won t," 29 said one
recalcitrant to another as they prepared to listen to her
gentle exhortation. Then they voted as she wished.
Above all, her discipline was dynamic, consisted in instill
ing a bewitching impluse to do things, not to avoid things.
"Our happiness lies largely in remembering/ she said;
"do what will be pleasant to remember." And what
ever you do, put life into it. Do not half do, or do
negligently. "Learn to sit with energy." 30 Did ever
any one put more character into a phrase than that?



MARY LYON 81

And as they were taught energy, so they were taught
the use of it by order and method. Hours should be
planned and kept and followed. "I have suffered all
my life from the want of regular habits," she told her
girls; "I wish you to accustom yourselves to be thor
oughly systematic in the division of your time and
duties." 31 Train and discipline the mind, she urged
upon them, govern your thoughts. "Bring the mind
to a perfect abstraction and let thought after thought
pass through it." 32

She herself was ardent, full of emotion, full of im
pulse. "I endeavor daily to avoid excessive emotions
on any subject," 33 she says. She was not always suc
cessful, and admitted it; but she wanted those who
learned from her to be better than she. Even in giv
ing, in charity, which meant so much to her, she
advised restraint and intelligence. " If you had really
rather spend your money on yourselves, spend it." Do
not overdo from the impulse of the moment. " I don t
want artificial fire." 34 In short, she was as anxious
to make progress solid and sure as to establish it upon
an undying enthusiasm. " Character," she told those
incorrigible workers of samplers, "like embroidery, is
made stitch by stitch." 35

From all this you gather perhaps an impression of



82 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

pedantry, of formal priggishness. It is true that, as
we look back from the familiarity of to-day, Miss Lyon s
methods and manners sometimes seem stiff, like her
caps. Her girls to her were always " young ladies/
as their contemporaries of the other sex were " young
gentlemen/ Her phraseology was elaborate, and she
wished others to use the same. In her portraits one
perceives a certain primness, and the undeniable beauty
has also an undeniable suggestign of austerity. If haste
made her sometimes forget to fasten a button or adjust
a tie, one imagines her upon any state occasion as com
plete in her dignity as Queen Elizabeth herself.

But brief study suffices to penetrate beneath this
superficial stiffness and form. "It is very important
a teacher should not be schoolified," 36 said Miss Lyon
to her pupils.

Many teachers say this, not so many practice it. She
did. Under the formal garb and manner, she was es
sentially human. In the first place, she had the keen
est insight into human strength and weakness. She
knew the heart, or at least knew that none of us know
it, and was ever alive to opportunities to increase her
knowledge. In one case she comments with the keenest
analysis upon the weaknesses of a relative, and then
apologizes for doing so; "only I love to remark the



MARY LYON 83

extreme unlikeness in members of the same family." 3T
In general, the good qualities impress her most/though
she notes this with due reserve: "On the whole, as I
grow in years, I have a better opinion of people." 88

But her humanity went far deeper than mere obser
vation and insight. Under the formal outside there was
the most sensitive affection and tenderness. She loved
her pupils as if they were her daughters, felt as if she
must supply the mother s place to every one of them.

"You are spoiling that child," said her teachers, of
one whom she petted, though she never really showed
any favoritism. Her answer was : " Well, she is young
and far from her mother, and I am sorry for her, and
I don t believe it will hurt her." 39

This was only one instance out of many. When girls
were solitary and homesick and weary and discour
aged, she could and did sympathize, for she had known
all those things herself and went back readily to the
days when she had said that she had " but just physical
strength enough left to bear her home, just intellect:
enough to think the very small thoughts of a little
infant, and just emotion enough to tremble under the
shock." 40

In short, she had the supreme element of sympathy,
the power of always putting one s self in the place of



84 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

another. Nothing can be of greater help to a teacher
or to any leader of men or women than this, and saying
after saying of Miss Lyon s shows how richly she was
endowed with it. The brief remarks and comments
gathered at the end of Miss Fidelia Fiske s quaint little
volume of "Recollections" are the best illustration of
what I mean. " More than nine tenths of the suffering
we endure is because those around us do not show that
regard for us which we think they ought to/ 41 This
bit of wisdom, curiously exaggerated for a thinker so
careful as Miss Lyon, is as interesting for what it sug
gests about herself as about her study and comprehen
sion of others.

With the sympathetic and imaginative power of put
ting one s self in the place of others is apt to go a large
and fine sense of humor. Had Miss Lyon this? It is
amusing to see how answers vary. Some of the numer
ous pupils who have written reminiscences of her insist
that she had no humor at all, that she rarely, if ever,
smiled, and took life always from the serious side.
Others are equally positive that she was ready for a
jest, and on occasion could twinkle with merriment.
The explanation of these conflicting views probably is
that she was very different with different people. Some
persons have the faculty of cherishing the warm flame



MARY LYON 85

of humor, of teasing even fretted spirits into bright and
gracious gayety. Others put out that pleasant flame as
a snuffer puts out a candle. I have known pupils of
Miss Lyon with whom I am sure that she was always
as serious as the bird of Pallas.

Then, too, she was brought up in an age that re
strained laughter. As a teacher, she knew the danger
of satire, and herself admitted that she had to be on
her guard against her appreciation of the ludicrous,
lest she should do irreparable damage to sensitive hearts.
Moreover, the Puritan strain was strong in her and
she shied at any suggestion of uncontrolled gayety for
herself or those she guided. " It is not true," insists an
admiring pupil, "that Miss Lyon enjoyed fun! . . . Fun/
she said, is a word no young lady should use/ " 42

Yet I dare swear that she enjoyed. fun just the same;
that she could see a joke, and take and make a joke.
One would certainly not say of her, in the dainty phrase
of the old poet,

"Her heart was full of jigs and her feet did wander
Even as autumn s dust."

But, at any rate in youth, before care settled too
heavily, she was capable of full-lunged, resounding
cachinnation. " Mr. Pomeroy s father has heard Miss
Lyon, when a girl, laugh half a mile away, from one



86 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

hill to another. Once she laughed so loud she scared
the colts in the field and made them run away." 43

Now, isn t that jolly? In later years she did not,
indeed, scare the colts or the coltish young ladies, but
there can be no doubt that large possibilities of spiritual
laughter lightened the troubles and vexations that
were inseparable from her triumph. To be sure, she
sometimes fell into strange freaks of professional sol
emnity, such as seem quite inconsistent with any sense
of humor at all, as when she cautioned her young
ladies: "The violation of the seventh commandment
may and ought to be examined as a general subject,
but beware of learning particulars "; 44 or again:
" Choose the society of such gentlemen as will converse
without even once seeming to think that you are a
lady." 45 But I believe the winking of an eye would
have made her see the humorous slant of these sug
gestions. She saw it in regard to many others, and
especially in regard to that most delicate of humorous
tests, the absurdity of one s self. Is there not a depth
of humor in her overheard remark, as she stood before
the mirror trying to tie her bonnet-strings: "Well, I
may fail of heaven, but I shall be very much disap
pointed if I do very much disappointed." 46

All this analysis of Miss Lyon s educational influ-



MARY LYON 87

ence, her discipline, her method, her sympathy, her
laughter, does not catch the entire depth and power
of it. We must add the magnetism, the gift of inspira
tion. She could draw money out of men s pockets ; she
could draw folly out of girls souls and put thought
and earnest effort in its place. Never give up, she
taught them; never submit, never be beaten. "Teach
till you make a success of it." 47 Live with high ideas,
she taught them; make noble dreams noble realities.
" Our thoughts have the same effect on us as the com
pany we keep." 48 When you have a great object in
view, let no obstacle, no difficulty, distract you from it.
" Go where no one else is willing to go ; do what no one
else is willing to do." 49

And she herself never forgot the greatest test of
teaching; did her best to keep it before all who assisted
her and worked under her. " Make the dull ones think
once a day, make their eyes sparkle once a day." 50 The
teacher who can do this has indeed magnetism, has in
spiration. She did it, perhaps many times a day.

IV

IT is interesting that the enthusiasm of scholarship
proper is not a marked element in Miss Lyon. She
had an immense desire to educate herself ; later, an im-



88 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

mense desire to educate others. It does not appear
that in youth or in age she was overpowered by the
passion for acquiring knowledge as an end merely.
Now and then she has words that seem to belie this.
" There are peculiar sweets derived from gaining knowl
edge, delights known only to those who have tested
them/ 51 she says. She pursued all varieties of study,
with equal ardor. Mathematics, logic, science, litera
ture, she was at home in all, delighted to talk about
them, delighted to teach them. But you feel instantly:
the difference between her and, for example, Mrs.
Samuel Ripley, in this regard. Mrs. Ripley followed
all studies because they were all in themselves equally
delightful. Miss Lyon followed them all because they
were all, comparatively speaking, indifferent. To Mrs.
Ripley knowledge was an end in itself, an all-sufficing,
inexhaustible end. To Miss Lyon knowledge was only
a beginning. Mathematics and all the rest were bright,
sharp, splendid instruments. The first thing was to get
them; but an infinitely more important thing was what
you could do with them. What a significant, if uninten
tional, revelation there is in the phrase I have already
quoted (italics mine) : "In my youth I had much vigor
was always aspiring after something. / called it
loving to study."* 2 What scorn there is in another



MARY LYON 89

brief phrase of her later years : " The intellectual miser
is an object of contempt." B3

No, she was not essentially a scholar ; she could never
have been content to spend long hours and long years
over books and the problems of books. She was essen
tially and by every instinct a teacher. And her object
in teaching was not to make other scholars. In all the
great volume of "Reminiscences" contributed by her
pupils, pure scholarship fills but a very little place.
What she aimed at was to teach girls, not to know,
but to live. It is true, her biographer says that in her
early years of teaching her great aim was to make
scholars. But even so, I think she was anxious rather
to succeed in anything she had undertaken than to im
part the fine fury of intellectual acquirement.

And as time went on, the mere lore of books took a
more and more subordinate place. Life was to be
studied, character was to be studied, all the curious,
subtle, surrounding and moulding influences that govern
our existence. "Make as much effort to gain knowl
edge from objects around us, from passing events, and!
from conversation, as from books." 54 She labored hard
and long at the greatest of human tasks, that of
making people think for themselves. " Knowledge and
reflection," she said, "should balance"; though she



90 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

added, with a sigh, that " all we can do in this matter,
is to stand about the outer court and say, "Won t you
reflect ? " 55

And her object was not only reflection, but reflection
turned into conduct. She wanted to take a group of
bright and eager spirits from the great middle circle
of democracy and send them out again to make over
the world. This America, as she then saw with almost
prophetic vision, needed so many things, some con
sciously and some unconsciously. She wanted her girls
to do something toward supplying the need. " We have
made it an object," she said, "to gain enlarged and
correct views ... as to what needs to be done, what
can be done, what ought to be done; and, finally, as to
what is our duty/ 56

To know one s duty, in the largest sense, and to do
it, was her idea of education. As one of her pupils
expresses it, "her first aim was to make us Christians*
her second to cultivate us intellectually." 57 But her
own phrase, far finer, rings like a trumpet: "That they
should live for God and do something." 58

V

HERE we have the essence of Miss Lyon s teaching, of
her work in the world, of her own heart, that they



MARY LYON 91

should live for God and do something. Is it not, so
far as it goes, a splendid, direct, and simple clue to
the great problem of education? It is, perhaps, for the
lack of such a clue that nowadays we grope and
flounder so dismally. For who will deny that in all
the difficulties that beset educative theory at the present
day the greatest is that we do not know what we want?
The old convenient standard of a liberal education is
slipping from us, has slipped from us completely. What
are we to put in the place of it? Two at least of our
great institutions of learning have mottoes that suggest:
Miss Lyon s, " Not to be ministered unto but to minis
ter," and " For Christ and the Church." But we can
neither agree about what they mean nor unite to apply
them. As with the unhappily married couple in Mr.
Ade s Fable, " The motto in the dining-room said, Love
one another/ but they were too busy to read." In
stead, we turn to the practical issue of bread and
butter, and make it our educational ideal to train men
and women to go out into the world and contend with
their fellows for the material necessaries of life.

Miss Lyon s aim was simpler not always easy to
apply, perhaps, but tangible, and, above all, inspiring
from its very nature: That they should live for God
and do something. But to understand the full bearing



92 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

of the words, we must consider more carefully what
God was to Miss Lyon herself.

To begin with, her religion was not a matter of con
vention, not a mere tradition accepted from others and
passed on to others again, without an intimate grasp
of its nature and meaning. She came slowly to the
fullness and ripeness of faith; regretted often in her
early years that the divine ecstasy descended less amply
upon her than upon some more favored. She abhorred
pretense, the theory of feeling; wanted only sentiments
that were truly hers. How admirable is her confusion
in the presence of great natural beauty : " I feared that
I should be unable to feel the soul-moving power, and
I had an ardent desire that I might not acknowledge,
even to myself, any second-hand emotions, any influ
ence which did not affect my own heart." 59 Second
hand emotions! Do we not all of us need to beware
of them?

As religion took fuller possession of her, she did
not suffer herself to be unduly exalted. To others it
seemed to come with ease and swiftness of glory. It
came with struggle and effort and long agony to her.
"In view of invisible and divine realities, my mind is
darkened, my preceptions feeble, my heart cold and
stupid. It seems as if such a low, groveling worm of



MARY LYON 93

the dust could never be fitted for heaven." 60 There
were days of distress and discouragement, days of bar
renness, if not of doubt. "Sometimes I almost feel
that I am not my own, but I find my heart repeatedly
desiring those things from which I had almost sup
posed it was forever separated/

A clear, calm, intellectual analysis was so natural to
her that she was tempted to apply it where faith and
love would have been more wholesome; although, in
the end, with the author of the "Imitation/* she finds
that "after winter comes summer, after the night the
day, and after a storm a great calm." "It is won
derful to me how the mind, after a state of doubt
and difficulty from which it seemed impossible to be
extricated, can, without any new light or new evi
dence, settle down into a state of calm and quiet
decision." 62

But all these negative elements were as nothing to
the joy and rapture which religion gave her. She was
certainly not a mystic in the sense of pure contempla
tion. Action was life to her, her soul was dynamic,
and her conception of God must have been that of a
full, outflowing, energetic, creative love. But this en
ergy of action came to her, seasoned and flavored with
rapturous delight. "I love sometimes," she says, "to



94 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

lose sight of individuals, in thinking of the bundles of
eternal life and happiness that are bound up together
in heaven." 63 And again: "But amidst the darkness,
and with a burden on my heart which I cannot de
scribe, there is something in my soul which seems like
trust in God, that is like a peaceful river, overflowing
all its banks." 64

She wanted to bathe all who followed her in this
peaceful river, to make them partakers of this sustain
ing and enduring joy; and to do this, she wanted to
build up their souls on an assured and stable founda
tion of thought and devotion and self-control and self-
sacrifice. It must be admitted that some of her methods
for accomplishing her end seem to us now strange and
a little repellent, though perhaps they were none the
worse for that. Even to-day some persons feel that
dancing is not a very profitable employment; but few
would go so far as Miss Lyon: "When Satan would
spread his net to fascinate, allure, and destroy, he never
omits the dance." 65 The payment *of small debts is
undoubtedly desirable ; but it is making a serious matter
of it to urge that " it might be impossible, when, praying
for some one, to keep out of mind a ten cents her due." 66
Again, the following injunction seems a little porten
tous, though eminently appropriate to much modern



MARY LYON 95

youthful reading: "Never read a book without first
praying over it/ 67

These extremes make us smile. Others more solemn
make us tremble. Miss Lyon believed in hell with all
her soul. "If she had ever a flitting doubt of the
certainty of future retributions, that doubt was never
known or suspected by her most intimate friends." 68 She
proposed to have her pupils believe in hell also. She
stood before them in chapel, a quiet, prim New England
lady, and made hell real. " It was the warning voice of
one who saw the yawning gulf. She would point to the,
dark, shelving, fatal precipice, without a gesture, with
out a motion, save of her moving lips, her hand laid
devoutly on that well-worn octavo Bible. She would
uncover the fiery billows rolling below, in the natural
but low, deep tones with which men talk of their
wills, their coffins, and their graves." 69 And this to a
company of young girls, at the most sensitive, emotional
age, just snatched from their sheltering homes and al
ready unhinged by novel strains of every kind. It seems
to us like saving their souls at fearful peril to their
bodies.

Even Miss Lyon s most concrete definition of educa
tion, so often quoted, will hardly be quoted by any one
to-day without a smile of good-natured amusement,



96 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

" A lady should be so educated that she can go as a mis
sionary at a fortnight s notice." 70

Yet, in spite of all these excesses, I believe that the
essence of the matter was with Miss Lyon. The minor
drawbacks, the superficial eccentricities, even hell,
fall away, and leave her dominant and vital with the su
preme object of all her thought and life, which was God.
Those who followed her, she taught, must get out of
themselves, forget themselves: "How much happier
you would be to live in a thousand lives beside yourself
rather than to live in yourself alone!" 71 They must
be ready to give all, to sacrifice all, to endure all, for
Christ and His Kingdom : " Property, education, time,
influence, friends, children, brothers and sisters, all
should be devoted to this object!" 72 And in giving, in
sacrificing, there should be no waywardness, no willful
ness, no whim of the individual. " Neither teachers nor
scholars should have any way of their own, or will of
their own, but all should be swallowed up in the will of
Cod." 73

Finally, the heart of the whole was not merely doing,
not merely the devoted, unremitting effort to do right,
but rapture and glory : " Our minds are so constituted
that nothing but God can fill them." 74

"There is but one thing needful," said Amiel, "to



MARY LYON 97

possess God." Miss Lyon thought it needful, not only
to possess God herself, but to make all others possess
Him, and she could not feel her own possession perfect
when she was not laboring at this magnificent, if
impossible, task.



IV
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE



CHRONOLOGY

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher.

Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, June 14, 1811.

At school in Hartford, 1824.

Converted, 1825.

Taught at Hartford, 1827 to 1832.

Went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to teach, 1832.

Married Rev. Calvin E. Stowe, January 6, 1836.

Removed to Brunswick, Maine, 1850.

" Uncle Tom s Cabin " published, 1852.

Removed to Andover, Massachusetts, 1852.

In Europe, 1853, 1856, 1859.

Removed to Hartford, 1863.

Mr. Stowe died August, 1886.

Died, July i, 1896.




HARRIET BEECHER STOWE



IV
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

I

SHE was a little woman, rather plain than beautiful,
but with energy, sparkle, and vivacity written all over
her. I always think of her curls, but they were not
curls of coquetry or curls of sentiment; they were
just alive, as she was, and danced and quivered when
she nodded and glowed.

The first half of the nineteeth century, when she
was growing up, was still the age of ministers in New
England, and she was of a ministerial family, grew
up in that atmosphere, and inherited all its traditions.
Only she preached in books, not from the pulpit. She
passed her youth among the joys and torments of re
ligion, as then practiced. She married and had children.
Then she set the world afire with " Uncle Tom s Cabin/*
made money, which she sorely needed, wrote more
books, a huge number of them, made more money in
proportion, spent it with much generosity and some joy,
and died, perhaps a great author, certainly having been
a great power in her day.



102 PORTRAITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN

She did all this with health that was never robust,
never reKabK an4 often wretched. " A wisp of nerve/ *
she call a herself; and she was. " She loved more/ says
her biographer, "and consequently suffered more
than others, and the weight of her suffering was
heavier because she had grown up, apparently, almost
without care, either from herself or others, in behalf
of her body." 2 There were no gymnasiums for girls in
those days, no vigorous outdoor sports, no lithe, swaying
figures and red cheeks; only samplers and prayer.
Mrs. Stowe often analyzed these conditions in her char
acters, and also analyzed them, with much acuteness, in
herself. "About half of my time I am scarcely alive,
and a great part of the rest, the slave and sport of
morbid feeling and unreasonable prejudice. I have
everything but good health." 3

But do not suppose that she let morbid fancies or
cringing nerves interfere when there was work to be
done. That generation had its weaknesses, and some


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