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First Impression, September, 1921 
Second Impression, January » 1922 

Printed in United States of America 







The material for a life of Henry Lee Higginson is abundant. 
He had a fondness for keeping letters and memoranda, and 
the correspondence to which I have had access is enormous in 
quantity, and covers a period of more than seventy years. 
During both of his long sojourns in Europe, in his youth, he 
kept diaries, as he did for a while during the Civil War ; and later 
in life he dictated some vivid Reminiscences. He was passion- 
ately devoted to his friends, and wrote them with the great- 
est frankness; and among his correspondents — who were 
equally frank — were some of the most interesting men of his 

In the earlier chapters I have drawn freely upon his corre- 
spondence with his father, George Higginson, and upon 
Henry's European diaries. The Civil War chapters utilize 
many hitherto unpublished letters from Charles Francis 
Adams, Greely S. Curtis, and other army comrades. In telling 
the story of Major Higginson's adventures with oil-wells in 
Ohio and with a cotton plantation in Georgia, during 1865 
and 1866, I have had the assistance of Mrs. Higginson's 
diaries. In giving an account of the early years of Lee, Hig- 
ginson and Co., I have been permitted to use an unpublished 
sketch of the history of the firm, by the late Professor Barrett 
Wendell. The chapter on the founding of the Boston Sym- 
phony Orchestra could scarcely have been written without 
the aid of the History of the Orchestra by M. A. DeWolfe 
Howe. In the chapter dealing with Major Higginson's rela- 
tions with Harvard and other colleges, I have been particu- 
larly aided by his correspondence with President Eliot, Presi- 
dent Lowell, Dean Briggs, and Professor William James. 
Henry Adams was another lifelong friend whose letters are 
frequently quoted, and Major Higginson's interest in public 


affairs is well illustrated by his correspondence with Charles 
Elliott Perkins and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. During the 
period of the World War, Major Higginson wrote, if possible, 
more vigorously than ever; and I have given much space to 
his letters about the Orchestra in 1917 and 1918, and to his 
delightful correspondence with his many friends in England. 
My thanks are due, not only to the persons who have placed 
their letters from and to Major Higginson so generously at 
my disposal, but also to many of his friends who have assisted 
me in the preparation of this biography, especially to Presi- 
dent Eliot, President Lowell, Dr. Henry P. Walcott, John T. 
Morse, Jr., Dr. W. Sturgis Bigelow, Professor F. W. Taussig, 
James J. Storrow, M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Judge Frederick P. 
Cabot, and Philip Hale. Above all, I wish to thank Mrs. 
Higginson for her tireless and generous assistance in collect- 
ing and arranging her husband's letters, and in aiding me in 
every possible way. Both Mrs. Higginson and her son. Captain 
The index has been prepared by my friend Mr. George B. Ives. 

B. P. 
Cambridge, May, 192 1. 


I. The "Combined Influence" i 

II. First Visit To Europe 28 

III. A Period of Ferment 72 

IV. Four Years of Europe 93 

V. The Civil War: First Phase 140 

VI. The Civil War: Second Phase 176 

VII. The Civil War: Third Phase 203 

VIII. Oil and Cotton 239 

IX. Lee, Higginson and Company 267 

X. The Symphony Orchestra 291 

XI. The Friend of the College 325 

XII. Comrade and Citizen 385 

XIII. The Public Servant 424 

XIV. The World War 462 

Appendix: The Soldiers Field Address 529 

Index 537 


Henry L. Higginson Frontispiece 

Prom the portrait by John Singer Sargent 

Mr. and Mrs. George Higginson i6 

Henry L. Higginson 28 

Class photograph (1855) 

H. L. Higginson, Major of Cavalry, U.S. Army (1863) . . 176 

The Army Friends commemorated by Soldiers Field . . . 332 

Henry L. Higginson 420 

Prom a photograph by Notman {about 1905) 

Henry L. Higginson 480 

Prom a crayon portrait by John S. Sargenl (1911) 




"And no less was the good metal in our Higginson.'* — Cotton Mathbr, 
Magnolia, 1702. 

"No, my friends, I go always (other things being equal) for the man who 
inherits family traditions and the cumulative humanities of at least four or 
five generations." — Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table. 

" It is singular how little we really know of our relations/' 
wrote Henry Lee Higginson to his father, when he was not 
quite eighteen, "and it is still more singular what family views 
we are inclined to take of anything or body or idea. The family 
delivers some opinion and the rest of us are expected to agree 
without a demur • . . . Mother had ideas of her own, and did 
not succumb to the family. If you ask who is the family, it is 
pretty hard to answer, but there certainly is a sort of combined 
influence which is produced from no one person or particular 
persons, which is very healthy and sound and beneficial, but 
which needs something new. Boston is not the world, nor Bos- 
tonians always right. I 'm a New Yorker, thank Heaven ! and 
I believe have always had my eyes open to the fact that Boston 
was but a dot on this earth. I hope you will not think me bitter 
or ungrateful, or that I *m set up in these ideas by anyone else. 
Very far from it. I must be allowed my own opinions, and one 
of them is that the family might be improved, tho* it is about 
the best I know. Love to all. 

"Your affectionate son, H." 

lv*w»u X . '^^*'^-*^y'WvvA--rv^^ 


Higginson of the " Cheerful Yesterdays." Anotherson, George, 
a Boston merchant, noted for benevolence, or what was then 
called " philanthropy," named his eldest son, bom in i804,after 
himself. It is this Geoi^ge Higginson of 1804, in the eighth 
generation from Francis, who in due time married Mary Cabot 
Lee, and became the father of Henry Lee Higginson. 

We have already quoted the boy's letter: "If you ask who 
is the family, it is pretty hard to answer, but there certainly is 
a sort of combined influence." To one who surveys, however 
briefly, the record of the successive generations of Higginsons, 
a purely English stock transplanted to Massachusetts Bay 
and sharing in the typical New England achievements and 
character for two hundred years, the "combined influence" is 
not doubtful. Piety, courage, beneficence, patriotism, and a 
keen sense of personal honor were the traditions of the House, 
The schoolmates of George Higginson's four boys in the eight- 
een-forties and fifties would not, probably, have put "piety" 
first in the list of family characteristics; for these youngest 
Higginsons, like Stevenson's Alan Breck Stewart, were "bonny 
fighters," with a gift for picturesque language, and free from 
any odor of sanctity. But the Puritan blood was there. 

In some frs^^mentary Reminiscences, dictated in 1918, at the 
age of 84, Major Higginson gave the following account of his 
boyhood : — 

I was bom in Amity Street (now Fourth Street) , New York 
City, on the i8th of November, 1834, ^Y father and mother 
being George and Mary Higginson. I can remember that I, 
with my two brothers, used to play in Washington Square, 
which was a little north of where we lived. We used to be 
taken to Boston each summer, and I remember now being on 
the Soimd boat and feeling rather queer one morning. Later I 
recognized that it was seasickness. I have a dim recollection 
of the great fire in New York, which was in 1836. 

In my fourth year we moved to Boston, as my father, who 







With Illustrations 



We were all taking a good deal of interest in the slavery 
question at that time, and to me it appealed very much. Very 
many of the people whom we naturally saw, old and young, in 
Boston, were interested in cotton manufactures and had many 
friends in the South, and did not share the strong feeling that 
we held about slavery. I remember that we boys used to go 
down to Fanueil Hall to hear the meetings for and against slav- 
ery. But my feeling about it was very strong. Mr. Webster 
made his great speech about the fugitive slave law just at that 
time, and excited thereby great dislike as well as great admira- 
tion. Somehow or other, from early days I had had the feel- 
ings of a "reformer," and those feelings grew with me. 

I went to college in 1851, with a very good lot of fellows, 
among whom was Phillips Brooks, with whom I had been at 
school some years: Alex Agassiz, George Dexter, and many 
others. After six months, I again broke down. My eyes were 
too sick to study and, after a few months, I was sent to 

This crisp narrative is characteristic, and renders admirably 
an old man's retrospect; yet many details must be filled in, if 
we are to picture the circumstances and the spirit of his boy- 
hood. We must understand something of his father and 
mother, of the swarm of relatives and friends who formed the 
social atmosphere of his youth ; and we must go back in imagi* 
nation to the pleasant Boston town of the eighteen-f orties — 
vanished now as utterly as Thebes and Troy. 

The dominant influence in the first thirty years of Henry 
Higginson's life was that of his father. George Higginson, from 
early manhood until his death at 85 in 1889, seemed to his 
contemporaries to belong somehow to the *' old school." Short 
of stature, — like his sons, — muscular, merry-eyed, very care- 
fully dressed, studiously and proudly " mercantile" in his bus- 
iness hours, a stanch Whig and Unitarian, admirer of Emerson 
and reader of Dickens and Thackeray, passionately attached 


to his home and children and kinsfolk, an upright, laborious, 
and unselfish gentleman, Geoi^ge Higginson was a glorious ex- 
ample of the English virtue of somehow ''winning through." 

Many thanks for your portrait [wrote his son Henry from 
Vienna in May, 1858] ; it is a very excellent likeness. A touch 
of gray in the hair and whiskers and a few wrinkles to show 
that you are no longer young, a half-smile and a half-joke in 
your eyes to signify the fun of your nature, the pleasantest 
mouth in the world with its very best expression, your chin 
beaming a bit, your nose to settle your destiny, your modem 
cravat with a large tie in contrast with your ancient diminu- 
tive square knot, and your double-breasted waistcoat to prove 
your keeping up with the age and not becoming an old fogy, 
your Puritanism peeping out in the shirt of two plaits, your 
hair-chain — it is all capital, the real old daddy. Anyone can 
see how you scrub your face every morning from the way it 

On September 18 of that year he writes again: — 

Dear old Daddy: — 

You 're fifty-four years old to-day. A jolly day to you and 
many returns of the same. I know that you hope to die early, 
but you 're in for twenty and perhaps thirty more years. Make 
them as pleasant as possible for yourself. If you only take a 
little care of yourself you '11 always be well and strong; and 
that is the principal thing. Much satisfaction and joy in your 
children ; they 've not borne early fruits, but early strawb^rries 
are sour. The apple is our best Northern fruit, but it takes all 
sunmier to ripen it. We find flowers in April and May, but the 
rose, the queen of flowers, comes in June. May your daughter 
prove a rose. Forty years you have worked daily in a counting- 
room, and the result is as fair and honorable a name as ever 
man had. Twenty-five years you 've watched over and cared 


for us every minute of the day and night. You 've done a good 
deal, old daddy, and we all are thankful to you for your care 
and love, and are proud of you as a father and a man. 

And the birthday letter of 1859 must also be quoted: — 

Vienna, Sept. 18, 1859. 

Dearest Father: — 

A happy birthday to you and may we see many more fall 
on your dear old head. Fifty-five years is our jolly daddy; 
when he b seventy-five and his children with gray hairs are 
standing around him, may he look with more satisfaction on 
his past life than he now does. You will probably have a jolli- 
fication with Mr. Forbes to-day. Are you still as troubled as 
formerly about eating too much and getting fat? How you 
did starve yourself in those times; ate one soup a week and 
drank two cups of coffee. Speaking of gray hairs, I plucked a 
white hair, silvery white, from my beard the other day, and 
have some more on my head. 

A hundred traits in the father's character — whimsical, 
pious, stubborn, solicitous — will appear in the correspondence 
printed in later chapters; but no better summary of them is 
likely to be written than that penned by G>lonel Henry Lee, 
his brother-in-law, in 1889.* 

** Mr. Higginson was preeminent in those qualities which 
entitle a man to love and respect. He had been tried by adver- 
sity and prosperity, and subdued by neither; he was liberal — 
nay, prodigal — of his time and his money in the service of all 
who were * distressed in mind, body, or estate.' He waited not 
for wealth, but gave from his penury as afterwards from his 
abimdance. He believed in the payment of debts with interest, 
no matter how outlawed by time, or how excusably incurred ; 
and he paid for others who were disabled, as for himself. You 

^ Reprinted in J. T. Morse's Memoir of Henry Lee (Boston, 1905), p. 348. 


have heard of men fleeing from their taxes, leaving them to be 
paid by their poorer neighbors; but Mr. Higginson, not content 
with paying as doomed, complained to the assessors, and 
insbted on their doubling his tax. . • . 

"At one period of the war, when one of his sons was lying 
dai^rously wounded, another in Libby Prison, while a third 
was with his regiment in South Carolina, ill of malarial fever, 
he repelled the condolences of a Copperhead friend whose sons 
had been harbored at home, saying emphatically that he would 
not exchange places, and that he stood in no need of pity. Such 
was his standard of patriotism. To enumerate his beneficiaries 
would be impossible, as no human being stood near enough to 
him to ascertain their names or number; and some surprising 
revelations have been made by those assisted. His habit of 
living, like his habit of giving, was liberal and unostentatious. 
An old-fashioned simplicity, in which he had been bred, he 
maintained through life, combined with an unbounded hospi- 
tality. An uncle of mine, who was at Andover Academy with 
the father and uncles of Mr. Higginson, said of them that they 
were the heartiest laughers and the fiercest fighters, and these 
traits have come down with the blood. 

"I fear that some solemn occasions, like the funerals of dis- 
tant relatives, have been disturbed or threatened by the out- 
biirsts of Mr. Higginson and his cousin Stephen, so akin are 
tears and laughter in persons of quick sympathy and keen 
sense of humor. He was also quick to resent an injury, and 
exploded instantaneously upon the least hint of imposition or 
baseness, or of brazen intrusiveness. . . . 

"A stranger, meeting him in the street, would conclude from 
his downcast look and his drooping gait that he was dejected; 
and so he was, for his early orphanage, the vicissitudes of his 
life, the loss of his wife, — of whom he could never speak but 
with tears, — had left sad memories. But the face of a friend, 
the sight of a little child, would transform him in an instant. 
His face would light up with cordiality, and his sighs be 


followed by words of affection or peals of laughter; for he was 
very human; his blood was warm within, and his heart most 
susceptible of joy or sorrow, of affection or anger. This 
impressibility made him hasty and sometimes unjust; and 
his tenadousness, or what he laughed over as his obstinacy, 
tended to stereotype his first impressions; but, as a rule, his 
judgments were to be relied on. Without the power to render 
his reasons, the habits of a long life of right feeling and good 
acting gave him an instinctive insight into character, a sense 
of danger or security which made him a safe guide. 

** I have been intimately associated with Mr. Higginson for 
near sixty years, and I have never known a more upright, more 
warm-hearted, more disinterested man." 

Mary Cabot Lee, Henry Higginson's mother, was bom on 
August 1 6, 1811, the daughter of Henry Lee the elder and 
Mary Jackson. She married George Higginson on Novem- 
ber 1, 1832, bore him five children,^ and died August 26, 1849. 
The affection and admiration which she inspired still make 
vivid her memory. "You speak of your mother," wrote her 
brother Colonel Henry Lee to Henry Higginson in 1893; "she 
was bom with too clear sight for comfort, she toiled to accom- 
plish, for those she loved, impossibilities, and died of the over- 
strain." Her birthday is constantly recalled in the correspon- 
dence of her husband and her children. 

It is mother's birthday once more [writes Henry to his 
father from St. Helier, Jersey, on August 16, i860]; her forty- 
ninth birthday. What a long time since you were married! 
Jimmy says in a late letter to me that, if she had lived, she 
would have kept the family together now, after dear grand- 
mother's death, as no one else can do it. She would surely have 
done so, for no one in the world had a greater faculty in these 

* George Higginson, bom Aug. 6, 1833, died June 19, 1921 ; Henry Lee Higgin- 
son, bom Nov. 18, i834» died Nov. 14, 19 19; James Jackson Higginson, bom June 
19, 1836, died Nov. 11, 1911 ; Mary Lee Higginson (Mrs. S. Parkman Blake), bom 
Sept. 5, 1838; Francis Lee Higginson, bom Oct. 11, 1841. 


little social matters. I can remember distinctly several small 
parties at our house, and how easy and agreeable they were. 
She was too, if I mistake not greatly, a favorite with your- 
whole family, high and low, young and old, and this proves in 
no small degree her great social gifts, for the Higginson tri- 
bunal is not an easy one to pass. 

I 've inherited from both parents [wrote Henry Higginson 
in 1883] the belief that one cannot escape with honor from the 
duties of a citizen. ... Do you suppose that as a child I did 
not heed the words of my mother about slavery? 

Too clear-sighted for comfort, as her brother said, was 
this descendant of Anne Hutchinson. Mr. J. T. Morse remem- 
bers her as " ill and feeble, lying on the sofa, while a noisy rout 
of boys frolicked through the house, and she all the while 
smiled gently, making no plea for quiet." 

There is a charming letter from Mrs. William Channing 
(" Cousin Julia ") to George Higginson, in May, 1858, in which 
she speaks of having met his son James in Europe. " It was 
curious to me, who have seen so little of James since he was a 
fine baby, to contrast the dark Spanish head before me with 
that delicate little image of twenty years ago. Yet the crisp 
brown hair of manhood has the same trick of falling over the 
brow as the soft golden curl that strayed there then, and I 
could almost sketch from memory the little infant face in its 
loveliness, with another bending in tender love over it, the 
soft brown curls half shading it from sight. You will pardon 
me and not think it indelicate that I recall this touching 

All the allusions in the family correspondence confirm the 
lines of that picture of the delicate, worn young mother, hater of 
injustice, lover of books, lover of music, lover and giver of life. 

That sense of kinship which is still a marked feature of the 
older Boston families flowered to perfection in the Higginsons. 


Their clan was a prolific one, and by a long series of inter* 
marriages they were allied to an amazing number of Old Bos- 
ton families: Cabots, Lees, Jacksons, Lowells, Channings, 
Perkinses, Tyngs, Storrows, Putnams, Morses, Paines, all 
called them "cousins." * With the Lees, who were associated 
in business with George Higginson after 1848, — when the firm 
of Lee and Higginson was founded, — their associations were 
peculiarly intimate. * * Grandfather Henry Lee * ' and * * Grand- 
mother Lee," the maternal grandparents of the young Higgin- 
sons, counted for more in their childhood than did the paternal 
grandparents; for George Higginson's father had died early, 
and his mother, marrying a younger brother of her husband, 
had absorbing family cares of her own. But Lees and Higgin- 
sons alike spread gradually beyond the confines of Boston and 
Brookline, to Beverly and the North Shore, to Brattleboro, and 
even to Westport on Lake Champlain, where the Lees early 
fixed a habitation, which figures rapturously as "the Lake" 
in the boyish letters of Henry Higginson and his brothers. 

George Higginson, who, as his son often said, never owned 
a house or a horse of his own until within a few years of his 
death, lived after his return from New York, in 1837, in vari- 
ous rented houses in Boston, West Cambridge, and Brookline. 
The homes in Chauncy Place and at No. 2 Bedford Place were 
typical, — each in a little nest of dwellings inhabited chiefly by 
kinsfolk, — "one of those cosey little courts," wrote Colonel 
Henry Lee, "which were favorite retreats for families on inti- 
mate terms with each other and a little aloof from the great 
world. On one side of Bedford Place, for so was the court 
named, was the house and garden of my uncle, Judge Jackson, 
then august, though only forty-five years old. On the other 
side all six houses were owned and occupied by our family and 
near of kin." In a letter to Sarah Ome Jewett, Colonel Lee 
gives another sketch of the social surroundings in which the 
young Higginsons passed their boyhood : — 

^ See T. W. Hig^iiuon's Lije of Francis Higginson^ p. 150. 


" In Boston in my boyhood the houses were for the most 
part detached garden houses ; there was no quarter for the rich ; 
they and the poor, successful and unsuccessful members of the 
same family, perhaps, — at least of the same stock, — dwelt in 
the same quarter; there were only enough foreigners to exer- 
cise benevolence on, not to intrude ; families and friends built 
comts (no thoroughfares) to dwell in together, and there was 
a personal recognition and cooperation in all affairs, — social, 
municipal, ecclesiastical, educational, — which was whole- 
some. We all lived in this little world ; all our work and all our 
play were there." 

If one stands to-day in the sunless, hideous canyon of 
Chauncy Street, between Bedford and Summer Streets, he 
will realize how utterly the pleasant little world of Henry 
Higginson's boyhood has vanished. This portion of Chauncy 
Street did not become a thoroughfare until 1 856. In the eight- 
een-forties its westerly half, a court running eastward from 
Bedford Street, was known as Bedford Place. A brick wall, 
and afterward a chain and posts, surmounted by an iron arch 
bearing a lamp-post, divided Bedford Place from Chauncy 
Place, which opened into Summer Street. Summer Street, at 
that time, deserved its name. It was a winding river of elm 
and horse-chestnut trees and sunshine, bordered with beautiful 
houses, lawns, and gardens — the homes of merchant princes 
and of Daniel Webster. Chauncy Place and Bedford Place 
were like quiet eddies of this stately stream. On the northerly 
side of Chauncy Street was the First Church, where Emerson's 
father had been minister. Then came the Chauncy Hall 
School, and beyond it, marking the transition to Bedford Place, 
Judge Charles Jackson's house, with its perfect doorway, and 
the great pear garden, beyond which could be seen the walls 
of the Second Church.* 

Opposite this garden, on the south side of Bedford Place, 

^ See Dr. James Jackson Putnam's Memoir ofDr, James Jackson (Boston, 1906), 
p. 114. 


were the dwellings of the clansmen. George Higginson lived 
for many years in No. 2, flanked by Lees and Paines; and there 
were Lowells and Jacksons and Morses for good company. 
After a while, George Higginson moved a few doors east on 
Chauncy Place, near Dr. Henry Bigelow; and when the city 
changed Bedford Place and Chauncy Place into Chauncy 
Street, in 1856, his house became No. 22 Chauncy Street. 

It was a community of kinsfolk in a deeper sense than is im- 
plied in mere relationship by marriage. When George Higgin- 
sori's children were bom, Boston had a homogeneous society. 
"The great Irish and German emigrations," says Edmund 
Quincy,* "had not then set in. The city was eminently Eng- 
lish in its character and appearance, and probably no town of 
its size in England had a population of such unmixed English 
descent as the Boston of forty years ago. It was Anglis ipsis 
Anglior — more English than the English themselves." This 
remark is just as true of the Higginsons and Lees, — who, 
like the Jacksons, Cabots, and Lowells, had migrated into 
Boston from Essex County, — as it was of the families who 
had lived in Boston since the seventeenth century. 

But the decade of Henry Higginson's birth saw the b^[in- 
nings of a vast change.* The eighteen-thirties were like one of 
those fine days which bom New Englanders cannot help re- 
garding as weather-breeders. Some of the older Bostonians 
were quite aware that the golden weather could not last. 
George Ticknor, writing in 1863, thus refers to a remark made 
to him a generation earlier: — 

" lAfe of Josiah Quincy (Boston, 1868), p. 396. 

*"The break between the old and the new came some time in the thirties, and 
1850 was well within the new period. Yet at that date this new period was still very 
new, hardly more than a dozen years old, and the ideas of the earlier time — the 
habits, the modes of life, although mortally smitten and fast fading — were still 
felt, still dominant. The men and women of the elder time with the old feelings and 
habits were, of course, very numerous, and for the most part were quite uncon- 
scious that their world was slipping away from them. Hence the atmosphere of our 
old stone house, with its lane, its pear-trees, and its garden nymph, indeed of Boe- 
ton itself, was still an eighteenth-century atmosphere." Henry Cabot Lodge, 
Early Memories (New York, 1913)* P* i6- 


" Dn Bowditch said to me, above thirty years ago, in a man- 
ner so impressive that I remember the spot where we stood, 
and rarely pass it without recalling the circumstances: 'We 
are living in the best days of the republic. That the worst will 
follow soon does not seem to me very likely. But nations 
advance, and thrive, and die, like men ; and can no more have 
a second youth than their inhabitants can.'"^ 

Long before the great fire of 1 872 swept over Summer Street, 
that pleasant Boston world which Summer Street epitomized 
and symbolized had begun its passing. Henry Higginson was 
to live to see it all : the decay of the old commerce, the growth 
of mills and railroads, the War, the development of the West, 
the fierce surge of immigration, new social and economic and 
political forces submerging and obliterating the Boston of his 
youth. But his affection for the city was invincible by any 
change, and it is pleasant to find that his very earliest letters 
have to do with Boston Common ! These letters date from Jan- 
uary and February, 1846, when his brother James, to whom he 
was writing, was exiled temporarily at Newton Lower Falls. 
"The coasting which was down Park Street on the sidewalk 
next the Common was spoilt this morning while we were in 
school by being strewed with ashes from the top to the bottom 
and all the fun is in snowballing and what little coasting there 
is. . . . Mother gave me two half sticks of candy of different 
kinds this evening and I have sent them to you. If you would 
like some newspapers to read, or books, write to me and say so 
and I will send them out to you." 

This letter is typical : — 

Sunday, Jan. 2Sth, 1846. 

My dear James father sajrs he could make no use of a cigar 
and I think I shall not get one and neither George nor I want 
to spend any money except for a looking glass which he hap- 
pened to break by throwing a slipper at me up in our room and 
we wish to have it mended and pay for it ourselves as it was 

^ Life and Letters of George Ticknor, vol. n, p. 464. 


partly my fault. We have got some coasting and I looked at 
the pond this morning as I went up Beacon Street and it looked 
as if it had very little snow upon it but still I believe there has 
been nobody skating there. There was some coasting down the 
great coast but it was nearly worn down yesterday at ii 
o'clock. To-day I saw that there had been coasting down 
Park Street mall after I left it. It is so warm to-day that it is 
melting every where and a great deal of snow is tumbling ofiF 
the houses and the glass at about 3 o'clock was at 46 or 47. 
Mr. Peabody ^ christened 4 babies at 9 a.m. After reading the 
first part he took cousin Lydia's baby and christened it Sarah. 
Then he took cousin Harriet Minot's and christened it Sarah 
Cabot. Next cousin Lucy Morse's oldest and christened it 
Charles Jackson. Next her youngest and christened it Eben 
Rollins. Uncle Frank is quite well he wears moustaches and a 
long beard and he has got one of those great pearl buttons as 
big as a circle cut out of the palm of your hand but he did not 
wear it to-day. He wore a blue one. He said there were lots 
of bows and arrows coming home for us and his birds are com- 
ing home with Gordon Dexter. We are going to have no war 
it is thought as Sir Robert Peel is taken back into the ministry 
and he is for peace. Aunt likes her music-box very much but 
I have not seen it and she says I must come in and see it to- 
morrow evening. I went to dancing school yesterday afternoon 
as usual and as there was a meeting of the classes it was very 
full and we had to stand for the last 2 or 3 hours we were there 
unless we were willing to sit down on the floor which I did part 
of the time I was so tired, we are all well and Frank sends a 
kiss and his love and George and myself also, good bye 

your affectionate brother Henry. 

Sometimes, evidently, the matter of clothing the young Hig- 
ginsons required prompt action, and the family dressmaker 
had to be prodded. 

* Reverend Ephraim Peabody, minister of King's Chapel. 


I went to Miss Powers Friday morning and she said her sis- 
ter had not come and I do not think she will come at all. Mr. 
Davis had cut both our jackets out of the blue pantaloons but 
he had gone away and had put them away and she could not 
get them till Thursday, I believe. She had got my pantaloons 
nearly done, but I said I wanted my jacket first and so she 
went to work on that. She said my clothes would be done on 
Wednesday. Their squirrel is sick. The tall Miss Powers does 
not look as if she had much Power. 

This is the first pun — or what "Jim " Savage and " Char- 
ley " Lx>well later called a " Higgism " — in the correspondence ! 
It is not the last. 

Henry's boyish efforts to give appropriate presents within 
his slender allowance are illustrated by the adventure in buy- 
ing a cheese-knife, apparently for his mother Quly 12, 1847) : — 

I went to Mr. Hunt's the cutler to see about the cheese-knife, 
and he sent me to Jones's. Jones had none and he sent me to 
Bradford's. I had to wait twenty minutes there, at last they 
told me they had got some. I asked to see them and they 
showed them to me. They are just like grandmother's only 
there is a thing, that slips up and down, with which you push 
the cheese off the blade, having scooped it out. I asked 
if they had no plain ones (like grandmother's, that is), but he 
said that they had not. I then asked the price of that and he 
said 4 dollars. I cleared out. 

August 15, 1847. To-day I went to Church in the morning 
and cousin Wentworth preached a very fine sermon. We ex- 
pect him here this evening to tea and to pass the night. 

The sound New England tradition of manual labor for boys 
was duly observed by the young Higginsons. The postscript 
to the letter just quoted remarks: — 


This morning when I came from school I got what little ice 
there was ofiF our sidewalk and aunt's and as it was quite slip- 
pery I put some hot sand on it. We were warned to do so by 
George's slipping upon it and bruising his eye quite badly. 
After I had got the ice off I went down cellar to pick over the 
rest of the potatoes and finished that and I was very tired with 
stooping over them as I had poured them out on to the floor 
and I was quite cold and very dirty because I went without 
my jacket so that I should not dirty it and I did not have any 
frock on. ... I forgot to tell you that the babies were very 
good and quiet at the christening. Good bye 

Your affectionate brother Henry 

sumamed Hal or Harry or 

Henry Joseph. 

P.S. all are well. 

A letter of Henry to his sister Mary, written from Pittsfield 
in August, 1849, just before his mother's death, gives a pleas- 
ant picture of Dr. Holmes, who had evidently been talking to 
the boy on the Doctor's favorite topic of big elm trees: — 

We have been over this afternoon to Dr. Holmes's house. 
There is a beautiful view of the hills, and woods, and of the 
banks of the Housatonic, but you cannot see the river. They 
look very well, and happy. The farm is two hundred and 
eighty-six acres. He has no trees round the house, and he needs 
them very much. There are a great many horses, cows, pigs, 
fowls, etc. In the town, there is an elm, that is of the ancient 
forest, that is when the forest that extended all over the coun* 
try was cut down this tree was left, and, if you will notice, you 
will see that the trees growing in a wood do not throw out any 
limbs, till they reach the light, so this tree grew eighty-six feet 
high, before it threw out any limbs. You must tell Frank, that 
I will write him a letter pretty soon. Your affectionate brother 

Henrie L. Higginson. 


Henry was now half-way through a somewhat broken course 
at the Boston Latin School. As a small boy he had attended 
a neighborhood school kept by Miss Elizabeth Ripley, and 
then one kept by Miss Elizabeth Peabody, the sister of Mrs. 
Nathaniel Hawthorne. At eight he was taught by Mr. Phelps; 
and when his eyes failed at the Latin School, he was for a 
time at Reverend Mr. Eustis's farm at Blue Hill. Mr. Fred 
Williams also tutored him. 

But the chief factor in his education was the Latin School. 
Founded in 1635, and thus the most ancient of American pub- 
lic schools, it occupied from 1844 ^^ ^881 an ugly three-story 
brick building, with granite fagade, on Bedford Street, not 
far from Bedford Place. The situation was unfavorable. The 
street was noisy, there was no playground, the staircases were 
dark, and the ventilation wretched. The head-master, Epes 
Sargent Dixwell, had reigned since 1836, and held office until 

1851, when he established a private fitting-school on Boylston 
Place. Associated with him during Henry Higginson's school- 
life was Francis Gardner, who succeeded Dixwell as head- 
master. Three of the Higginson boys attended the Latin 
School, Henry entering in 1846, James in 1848, and Frank in 

1852. Among the older boys, when Henry entered, were his 
friends Greely Curtis, C. W. Eliot, C. R. Lowell, W. C. Paine, 
J. Q. Adams, and James Savage. Phillips Brooks, Powell 
Mason, and R. T. Paine entered with Henry Higginson, while 
C. F. Adams, William Amory, and Richard Gary entered with 
James Higginson in 1848. Charles Adams's strictures on the 
Latin School are known to all readers of his "Autobiography '* ; 
and Henry Adams, who was fitted for Harvard in Mr. Dix- 
well's private school, has printed an unflattering picture of 
both school and college. 

Says Charles Adams: "I was at the Latin School three 
years; my brother John was at it five. I loathed it, and John 
loathed it worse than I. Not one single cheerful or satisfactory 
memory is with me associated therewith. Its methods were 


bad, its standards low, its rooms unspeakably gloomy. It was 
a dull, traditional, lifeless day-academy, in which a conven- 
tional, commonplace, platoon-front, educational drill was 
carried on." 

Henry Higginson's language about the Latin School was cer- 
tainly not affectionate. He wrote to Mrs. Agnes Fuller in 
1919: "When I think of my own days at the Latin School 

— five years of time — and that nobody ever taught me any- 
thing, the boys being allowed to learn their lessons or not as 
they chose, and being punished accordingly; when I think of 
the waste of time and what I might have learned if I had been 
taught, I do not feel pleasant/' He was equally incapable of 
the fervid school-loyalty which his friend Phillips Brooks ex- 
pressed in the address at the 250th anniversary, or of the dis- 
passionate candor with which his friend President Eliot 
summed up the strong and weak points of the Latin School at 
the 275th anniversary, in 1910. His boyish letters reveal his 
feeling that the teachers at the Latin School and the tutors at 
Harvard College — many of whom were graduates of the 
school — lacked nobility and generosity of character; that 
they cared more for books than for boys and men ; that their 
methods of government were small and mean. 

In the prescribed routine of Latin, Greek, and Mathematics 
he did not distinguish himself, — in spite of the "two prizes," 

— and probably would not have done so even if his eyes had 
given him no trouble. Two of his school compositions, on 
"Gunpowder" and "The Burial of Sir John Moore," duly cor- 
rected by his masters, were preserved among his papers. They 
are painstaking, but mediocre. 

Yet outside the schoolroom Henry's prowess was unques- 
tioned. In " The Education of Henry Adams ' ' there is a record 
of one disastrous day. 

".One of the commonest boy-games of winter, inherited di- 
rectly from the eighteenth century, was a game of war on Bos- 
ton Common. In old days the two hostile forces were called 


North-Enders and South-Enders. In 1850 the North-Enders 
still survived as a legend, but in practice it was a battle of the 
Latin School against all comers, and the Latin School, for 
snowball, included all the boys of the West End. Whenever, 
on a half-holiday, the weather was soft enough to soften the 
snow, the Common was apt to be the scene of a fight, which 
began in daylight with the Latin School in force, rushing their 
opponents down to Tremont Street, and which generally ended 
at dark by the Latin School dwindling in numbers and disap- 
pearing. As the Latin School grew weak, the roughs and young 
blackguards grew strong. As long as snowballs were the only 
weapon, no one was much hurt, but a stone may be put in a 
snowball, and in the dark a stick or a slungshot in the hands of 
a boy is as effective as a knife. One afternoon the fight had 
been long and exhausting. The boy Henry, following, as his 
habit was, his bigger brother Charles, had taken part in the 
battle, and felt his courage much depressed by seeing one of his 
trustiest leaders, Henry Higginson, — * Bully Hig,' his school 
name, — struck by a stone over the eye, and led off the field 
bleeding in rather a ghastly manner." 

All the Higginson boys, it may be noted here, were notor- 
iously imlucky in the matter of physical injuries; but as soon 
as they were patched up, they invariably tried the game again. 

Oddly enough, no Higginson of the direct paternal line since 
Francis Higginson, the original emigrant, had held a college 
degree. They did not belong to what Oliver Wendell Holmes, 
speaking of Emerson's ancestry, called "the academic races." 
But "Cousin Waldo" and "Cousin Wentworth," "Uncle 
Harry" Lee, and many other remoter kinsmen, had been Har- 
vard men, and George Higginson wished his sons to go to coK 
lege. The eldest, George, chose what Wendell Phillips mel- 
lifluously described as. " the better education of practical life," 
and turned farmer. It was Henry, then, who had to serve as 
pioneer in that perilous venture across the Charles River. 
His career was brief. 


In a little package of Harvard souvenirs found after his 
death, is this blue-tinted certificate, bearing the bold auto- 
graph of Jared Sparks: — 


Cambridgb, Jidy 16/A, 1851. 
H. L. HiGGiNSON is admitted a member of the Freshman 
Class in Harvard College on probation, and on condition of 
passing a satisfactory examination in the following studies at 
the end of the Vacation : — 

Latin Composition^ Compounded proportions and intercut in 
Arithmetic and Equations in Algebra. 

Jared Sparks 

Henry Higginson, future banker, conditioned in "interest 
in arithmetic"! But into Harvard he went, for his Steward's 
certificate, dated August, 1851, and carefully preserved, at- 
tests that " Henry L. Higginson has complied with the law re- 
specting admission to the Freshman CUiss'* Among his class- 
mates were several boys with whom his associations, either 
then or later, were intimate : Alexander Agassiz, whose sister 
he was to marry; S. Parkman Blake, who married Henry's 
sister; William Amory, F. C. Barlow, Phillips Brooks, Chan- 
ning Clapp, E. B. Dalton, George Dexter, R. T. Paine, and 
Stephen G. Perkins. Amory, Dexter, Higginson, and Perkins 
all roomed at "Mr. B. F. Wyeth's." In the Sophomore class, 
'54, were J. C. Bancroft, C. R. Lowell, and James Savage. 
Among the Juniors, '53, were J. Q. Adams, Wilder Dwight, 
C. W. Eliot, A. S. Hill, and C. J. Paine. Joseph H. Choate and 
James B. Thayer were Seniors. There were only 304 students 
in the College proper, and a total of 631 in all departments. 

In the officers of Harvard College there was surely distinc- 
tion enough. In the catalogue of i85i-'52, — the only cata- 


logue to bear the name of Henry L. Higginson until after 1882, 
when he received the honorary degree of A.M., — the list of 
Fellows is headed by Lemuel Shaw. Daniel Webster and 
Edward Everett were among -the Overseers, Theophilus Par- 
sons was teaching in the Law School, and Oliver Wendell 
Holmes was Dean of the Medical School. Among the pro- 
fessors in Harvard College proper were Longfellow and 
Agassiz, Asa Gray and Benjamin Peirce. Professors Felton 
and Sophocles taught Greek; Lane was just beginning his 
professorship of Latin, and Child was succeeding Edward T. 
Channing as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. 

But to a freshman like Henry Higginson these shining names 
meant little: he recited, for better or worse, to tutors trained 
in the traditions already wearisome to him in the Latin School. 
There were the four rigidly prescribed subjects of the Fresh- 
man year, — Latin, Greek, mathematics, and a little history, 
— and if a boy were not a scholar by nature, it was all a tread- 
mill round. One need not turn to the disillusioned reminis- 
cences of the Adams brothers to be aware that Boston boys, 
proceeding to Harvard as a matter of course, because it was 
expected of them, often failed then, as they have failed in so 
many college generations since, to lift up their eyes to new 
horizons of the mind and spirit. 

Except in the "football fight" on "Bloody Monday," 
where his exhibition of strength and skill grew into a family 
tradition, young Higginson made no mark. Like two others of 
that joyous little band at " Mr. B. F. Wyeth's," — Amory and 
Perkins, — he found that his eyes began to fail. Was it "ex- 
posure to the early morning air," necessitated by required 
Chapel, or was there no good oculist in Boston? The evidence 
inclines one to take the latter alternative. 

At any rate, it was evident by December that the condition 
of the boy's eyes made it necessary for him to leave college, at 
least temporarily. Dr. Bethune, who was consulted, thought 
it might be well to try a six weeks' treatment at the then 


famous "Water-Cure Establishment" of Dr. Wesselhoeft at 
BrattleborOy Vermont. Dr. Francis Higginson of Brattleboro 
was a kinsman, and there was a swarm of aunts and cousins to 
furnish agreeable society. Fortified against the rigors of sl 
Vermont winter with India-rubber boots, — then a novelty, — 
mittens, extra blankets, and a sack of Spitzbergen apples from 
home, the boy seems to have endured his exile cheerfully 
enough, and his sister learned later that he was "an important 
person at the establishment." The various aunts and cousins 
were kind to him, and Stephen Perkins and Charles Lowell — 
neither of whom was then in good condition — came up to 
visit him for a while. But the weeks and months dragged by 
without any perceptible improvement. By March the furni- 
ture from his Cambridge room was stored in the garret at 
Bedford Place. The Harvard game was up — at least for the 

What next? A long sea-voyage was discussed — that pre- 
scription for weak eyes having been popular among Boston 
youths ever since R. H. Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast" 
experience, some fifteen years earlier. But as the spring came 
on, Henry proposed a foot-journey in Germany and Switzer- 
land. His father demurred at first, thinking that the boy's 
loneliness and ignorance of European languages would be 
serious obstacles. But he found that various Boston friends 
had tried the experiment successfully, George S. Hale for in- 
stance, at the cost of only $800 for a year — and discovered 
in the "New York Christian Inquirer" a notice concerning a 
''cultivated" person in slender health who proposed to make 
a pedestrian tour in Europe and desired a companion. The 
cultivated person turned out to be a Reverend Mr. Eliot, an 
Orthodox clergyman of Northampton. Henry called upon 
him in April, on his way home from Brattleboro, and they 
agreed to meet in London in June, and to travel together as 
long as it proved mutually agreeable. 

So it came to pass that the boy, still lacking six months of 


his eighteenth year, sailed from New York on a Saturday after- 
noon in May, on board the packet Constitution, Captain Brit- 
ton commanding. She was reputed to be the finest ship then 
sailing out of New York. George Higginson saw his son off. 
" I watched her from the pier till she was under way," he wrote ; 
and then the yearning, solicitous little man hurried back to 
Boston, to the tiny counting-room on State Street, and the 
four motherless children. 



Loi^ the quest and far the ending 
When my wayfarer is wending — 

When desire is once afoot, 
Doom behind and dream attending! 

— Charles G. D. Roberts, Afoot. 

The Constitution ran into fogs, calms, and head-winds, and 
was thirty days at sea, not reaching Liverpool until the 
seventh of June. 

Henry's state-room companion, as he wrote in his first 
letter home, "was the pleasantest man on board, a yoimg 
Irishman, tho' he is thoroughly English in feelings and opin- 
ions, and I am told in appearance. • . • The Captain was 
worried very much by our ill-luck, and there were some pas- 
sengers who kept asking questions and giving advice and med- 
dling generally. ... I got along very pleasantly with him, 
as I was careful not to worry him. . . . The chief difficulty at 
sea is that there is nothing to do. I walked a good deal, but 
that is very tiresome, and I slept considerably; but the only 
thing in which I took any satisfaction was reading, and I felt 
as guilty when I was doing so as a man does when he is steal- 
ing; besides knowing that I was hurting myself. Still, I read a 
little when I felt very desperate, tho' I tried not to. The fact 
is, I do not like the sea at all.'' And he never did. 

His English Diary begins on June 9, 1852, with the sound if 
not highly original observations: "Cultivation much better 
than American. . . . Saw castle occupied in Conqueror's 
time. . • . Railway stations very good. Cars not so good as 


ClaM Photograph (iSsi) 


ours." Mr. Eliot was waiting for him in the boarding-house 
then kept for Americans, at 142 Strand, by John Chapman, the 

I was a very green boy [Higginson says in the Reminiscences 
dictated in 1918], saw a few people, and did not know what to 
do — that is, had no "shape" at all. In Boston, before going 
away, we had been to the Italian opera, getting there seats for 
twenty-five cents in the upper gallery, and enjoying it highly. 
I had an inborn taste for music, which was nourished by a few 
concerts in Boston and by the opera. It was really a great 
pleasure to us. In London of course the opera was better and 
delighted me. 

In fact, after only two days of sight-seeing in London, he 
began going to the opera. 

June 12. Heard Mario, Grisi, Marini, Ronconi, Polonini, 
Soldi, in "Puritani." Mario perfectly delicious. Best tenor, 
and Grisi best prima donna. Ronconi best baritone, Marini 
best bass I ever heard. Very impassioned acting. Splendid 
acting and orchestra. Everything beautiful, and splendid, 
and delicious. English ladies very much like ours, a littie 
plumper. Saw one very handsome girl. 

A few days later he notes : — 

Grisi and Mario and Ronconi and Marini as usual. Madame 
Seguin fair, tho' rather poor; has a shaky sort of a way of sing- 
ing that is rather in fashion now, very bad taste. Madame 
Julienne has a fine, full, fresh voice and sings beautifully, tho' 
she wants a little toning down, as they say. A little want of 
sentiment, a very good actress. Tamberlik sings beautifully, 
tho* he can't compare. More voice, and fuller than Mario's, 


but not so exquisitely soft and beautiful. Has a little of the 
shaky style. Beautiful, tho'. Saw a criticism on Bosio's d6but. 
They underrate her decidedly. Formes splendid. The best 
basso I ever heard and executes very well indeed and acts 
finely. He made a fine devil. Julienne as before, tho' she is 
rather too ornamental. Tamberlik very fine. Stigello very 
good 2nd class tenor. Saw the Queen and Prince Albert. 

The Northampton clergyman, who was still under thirty, 
and who was convinced after a long talk with the clear-headed 
Boston boy that his own itinerary for the next two months had 
been badly planned, now left for Paris, agreeing to meet 
Higginson in Antwerp. 

We had a conversation yesterday [the boy wrote on June 
15I in which he said that he thought we had both better under- 
stand that, if either wished to part, if he found company that 
was more to his taste, or I did, or we found we wished to go 
different ways, we both were at liberty to do as we pleased 
without offense. He said that we could not tell how well we 
should suit each other without trying, but that he might find 
some ministers out here whose company he might like better 
than mine, for, as he said, our religious opinions differ, though 
I don't think I have any in particular except that I don't 
believe all that he does, and I don't believe he ever heard me 
say a word about it except I said something about Mr. Pea- 
body,^ and I went to the opera, which he thinks wrong. But 
he was very pleasant about it and I am glad he said it, for I 
much prefer being entirely at liberty. 

And he added, a few days later: "I have found him a re- 
markably agreeable, pleasant, well-informed and liberal- 
minded man, notwithstanding his Orthodoxy." 

The Reminiscences continue the story. 

I Rev. Ephraim Peabody, the Higginsons' pastor at King's Chapel. 


One morning I took the train and the boat to Ostend, ar- 
rived there after some sickness, and got ashore at about six 
o'clcxdc in the afternoon. I remember we were met at the land- 
ing by various porters, and one large fellow seized my luggage 
on his shoulders and marched me up to the hotel. There a very 
civil man with a large beard bowed to me and addressed me in 
two tongues, and then said : " Do you want a room? " I said : 
"I do." Having got that room, I was afraid to go downstairs 
to get anything to eat, because I had no words, and, therefore, 
I went to bed without supper. The next day I got some break- 
fast, and took the railroad to Bruges, where I passed part of 
the day, and then to Antwerp, where I met Mr. Eliot. I 
passed a few days there and at various others of the Belgian 
cities, and presently reached Cologne, and from there went to 
Bonn. For some reason or other Mr. Eliot left me there, and 
I walked from Bonn to Coblentz, and then to Mainz. From 
that city I went to Frankfort, where I passed two or three 
days looking about, and somehow or other ran across a culti- 
vated Englishman who was one of the tutors at Cambridge, 
England. We struck up an acquaintance, and I went with him 
to Heidelberg, and then to Freiburg, and I enjoyed being with 
this gentleman, who invited me to come to see him in England 
when I returned to that country. At Basle I waited a few 
days again for Mr. Eliot, and then we began a tramp through 
Switzerland, which had been the object of my going to Europe. 

Some details from the Diary will show the boy's enei^gy in 

Aug. 2, 1852. Left Lucerne at 6, to Stannstadt, and to Mey- 
ringen over the Brtinig pass. • • . Walked 9 hours and rode 
3 hours. Rain. 

Aug. 3. Took a guide, Ulrich Lauemer. Left Meyringen at 
quarter of six over the Susten Pass. Very long and hard, but 
very fine, to Vaasen. Saw the Stein glacier. 28 miles over 


mountains. Two hours on horses, from Vaasen to Hospenthal. 
Over part of St. Gothard, in carriage 2 hours. Saw the Devil's 
bridge, very fine indeed. In at 9 o'clock. Rain. 

In a letter from Dresden in the following March, to his class- 
mate Ned Browne, Higginson gives some details of this climb, 
together with an interesting message to Alexander Agassiz, 
also his classmate and afterward his brother-in-law: — 

I , never imagining that it would be so very cold, took nothing 
to cover my hands, and afterwards, when we were creeping up 
as best we could in the snow, using all the muscles given us, 
my hands became so stiff that I could hardly hold anything; 
just then my feet gave way, and I had nothing to stand on. I 
was the first of us three, with one guide in front and one be- 
hind, and if I failed (we were all bound together in a line) and 
thus pulled down the guide in front, we were all as good as 
dead, whereas if the next man failed, there were two in front 
to hold him ; therefore I was anxious, and when my feet failed, 
I could hardly hold the rope in my hands on account of th^ 
cold, for the guide to pull me up. But the worst was on the 
face of a great rock pretty nearly perpendicular, where we 
were all standing on a little ledge. I became faint from cold 
and anxiety; I do not think I was frightened at all really, for I 
knew what to expect, and fear is hardly a feeling to come to 
one in such a position, unless he is a great coward about every- 
thing; but I do not think my nerves were as firm as my com- 
panions', for I am a mere boy, and they were both men. How- 
ever we did have a glorious time, and I would gladly go again. 
Tell Agassiz that we were on the glacier where his father made 
so many experiments, the Aar glacier, and saw where his hut 
used to stand. There is now a German professor employed in 
the same way, or rather he was there in summer. 

Aug. 6. Left the hut at 5 o'clock. Over the Strahleck; in at 
Grindelwald at 5 o'clock. Rain. 


Aug. 7. Left Grindelwald at 10 o'clock for the Faulhorn. 
Ascent quite hard, and the path very bad. In at 3 o'clock. 
Views very fine, and the sunset too. Took a guide up and 

Aug. 8. Saw the sunrise on the Faulhorn. Very fine. The 
descent to Giessbach hard. No path part of the way. Left at 
7 o'clock. In at 12. Saw the falls of Giessbach, beautiful, 
seven falls. Fine carvings and very cheap. 

Aug. 9. Left Giessbach at 2 o'clock for Interlaken, the lake 
of Brienz — beautiful. In at 4 o'clock. Heard our luggage 
from Meyringen was lost. The hotel at Giessbach charming, 
very simple. Sent No. i to Father. Rain. 

A letter written from Geneva on August 11 to his father 
gives a fuller account of his adventures on the Strahleck: — 

. . . We arrived at the Grimsel hospice on Wednesday 
night, and the next day made preparations for crossing the 
Strahleck pass. 

It is necessary to premise with regard to this pass, that it is 
a very rare thing, in consideration of the number of travelers, 
to attempt it. Mr. Murray says, there is some danger, and a 
great deal of difficulty in it, and the guides say the same. We 
all desired to go, for it was an uncommon thing, and then the 
views are very fine indeed. 

Therefore we engaged a second guide, for we had had one 
for several days, and our provisions, and started about noon 
on Thursday for a hut belonging to a gentleman who makes 
experiments yearly on the Aar glacier, which is the one Prof. 
Agassiz experimented on, and lectured about particularly. 
Our walk was principally over the Aar glacier, and its collec- 
tion of rocks and gravel, which is immense, being two hundred 
feet high at the end, where the glacier terminates, otherwise as 
high as Bunker Hill Monument. It is very hard walking over 
these collections, for the stones are very rough and sharp and 
the glaciers are not much better. But we had a good time run- 


ning over the litde mounds of ice, and jumping the crevices 
which, by the way, are very frequent and wide, and if you 
tumble down one of them, there is little chance of coming out 
alive. But the guides were always ready to help us, and it is 
not often that they fall, or slip. • • . 

We started off at five with prospect of a fair day; but after 
two hoiu^' walk on the glaciers, it began to rain. Soon after 
we came to snow on the glaciers, which makes them much more 
dangerous, as the cracks are hidden. After we had been walk- 
ing about an hour in the snow, which was always over our 
shoes, and often deeper, following the steps of the foremost 
guide, who tried the ice with his pole before he stepped, Mr. 
E. fell — from one foot's failing to be well placed — on to his 
knee, being just on the edge of a crack. Haldeman, who was 
just in front of him, sprang back, and seized him by the arm, 
and I ran my pole under his other arm, fixing the point on 
the other side of the crack, so that if he had fallen farther, I 
should have merely dropped the pole, and he would have clung 
to it. But he got out very easily ; so my help was of no use. 
The guides always tell you to carry your pole so, by the mid- 
dle, and then if you fall, it comes right across the crack, if it is 
long enough, and will form a support until further aid. This 
was all I could do, as I was behind, and could not get across 
the crack. 

This accident rather frightened the guides, so they tied us 
all together, putting a band around each of us, and then tying 
us by these at about eight ft. apart, with one of them at each 
end tied also, and then, if any one of us fell, the others would 
hold him. I was placed next to the foremost guide, a great 
fellow of six ft. and very strong, and therefore felt quite com- 
fortable. We trotted on for some hours more, the snow getting 
deeper, and the rain having changed to snow, and at last 
stopped to eat just at the foot of a tremendous precipice, 
which we had to ascend. 

After a little rest, and good lunch, during which we were 


quite cold, for we were on the snow, and tho' we had India 
rubber on, we were very wet, and except a very thin under 
jacket, and one outside my vest, of knit woolen, such as the 
peasants wear, I was dressed entirely in linen, we started again 
with our ropes longer than before, and in a few minutes came 
to very steep ground. Just as we began it, I fell into a sort of 
a crevice just below a rock on which the guide was, and as I 
had lost all footing, he pulled me up, as I held on with my 
hands. The others came after in somewhat the same way. 
Then we had a ladder to climb at as steep angle as any I ever 
tried. After that more snow, and then we came to a great 
rock not far from perpendicular; but there is a little ledge on 
which we stood, until the guide scrambled across it the length 
of his rope, and then he pulled us up ^ain one by one. My 
companions were more warmly dressed than myself, as they 
were in woolen, and they had also gloves, which I, not expect- 
mg such cold, had not brought ; and as we had been obliged to 
climb up on our hands and feet and knees, as we could, my 
hands were intensely cold, and numb, giving me a great deal 
of pain, and therefore I began to be faint just in the worst 
possible place. However I had a pull at the brandy-flask, which 
set me right, and then we started again. After a long pull, dur- 
ing which we had to take great care not to spoil the steps of 
the guide, as the others had to follow in them, we at last 
reached the top, having spent an hour about it. It is four hun- 
dred feet high, and is almost perpendicular, for what Mr. E. 
said is perfectly true, that is, his hat-brim often touched the 
snow, when he was upright. It is wonderful what these guides 
can do. The fellow in front of me, besides carrying a pretty 
good weight, helped us all by pulling, and also either made 
steps in the snow, or clearing that away, cut them with his 
hatchet in the ice. 

He and the other guide told us, when we were once up, that 
the new snow, which had fallen very lately, it was evident, had 
made the ascent three times as hard as usual. 


We were now ten thousand feet above the sea, and some of 
the most remarkable and glorious views I ever saw were be- 
fore us. The snow would cease for a little while, and the mist 
roll up a little: then it was that we saw the monstrous moun- 
tains we were near, the Finsteraarhom, the Schreckhom, the 
Wetterhom, and many others towering up, and the Jungfrau, 
on which very few people have been, and after the ascent of 
which Prof. Agassiz went to bed for three days ; or at least so 
it is said. 

A striking instance of the boy's power of concentration and 
of his maturity of judgment is given in this letter from the 
Grimsel Hospice on August 5 — in the very midst of his excit- 
ing Alpine experiences : — 

My dear Father, — 

I have something to say to you on a subject which was not 
discussed, or much considered, before I left home: what I am 
to do, after it is too late to travel in the north, and where I 
am to stay? ... I have been making enquiries about the 
German Universities on all sides, and of every one I have met, 
who knows about them, and one of my present companions 
has been for the last six months at Heidelberg. I have asked 
Mrs. Follen and her son about it, and Mr. Dana, who has 
been four years at Heidelberg more or less, and taking out 
his absences and vacations, two and a half years all the time. 

Charles Follen has been considerably on the Continent, 
and a great deal at the University in London, where he will 
graduate next year. He stayed in Dresden with a Professor 
Wigard, — pronounced Vigard, — a very accomplished gentle- 
man, who has a family, and takes yoimg men into his family, 
but does not teach them, and Charles liked him very much 
indeed. A young friend, I think a classmate of his, a Mr. Gibbs 
— he is of the Newport family, Alfred Seymour Gibbs his 
name is, I think, — stayed a year with this gentleman, study- 


ing in the city somewhere all the time, and was also very much 
pleased. Charles F. advised me to go to Paris or London, if I 
sought the best lectures, by which all the instruction is given 
at German, and I think, French Universities; but as I told 
him, I did not wish to go and stay alone in those great cities, 
nor in Berlin, where there is too a University, and the best 
lectures in Germany; he said he thought Gottingen the next 
best place. But as I did not know the language, both he and 
his mother strongly recommended this Professor Wigard, for 
they told me, what in fact everyone has, that the easiest and 
quickest way to learn a language, is to live in a family where 
only that language is spoken. If I go there, the Professor can 
put me in the way of seeing and hearing what would be of 
much use to me, besides what I should hear at his table, for he 
sees the best society in Dresden. I do not mean the peers, etc., 
but really the best society. 

Then too, he will tell me of the best teachers for everything 
that I may wish to study; and Dresden, too, is a very fine 
place to live in, for there are many works of art here; and in- 
deed I believe the Dresden gallery is the finest out of Italy in 
the world, and there is a great deal of music, etc. Dresden is 
called the German Florence. Tho' there may seem to be no 
positive gain in all the fine arts, they certainly can do no harm, 
and they may be of great use; and of music, tho' a person 
understanding and knowing something of it is not perhaps any 
more educated for practical purposes than one without it, yet 
it is certainly best to cultivate yourself in what you have a 
talent for, and it is not vanity in me to say that I have some, 
tho' it may be in a slight degree, for music. All these things 
are to be considered, and taken for what they are worth. 

When I was at Heidelberg, as I before said, I asked Mr. 
Dana's opinion about a University life, and also told him 
about my opportunity at Dresden, and my former circum- 
stances, in fact just where I was, and all about it. Tho' he 
thinks very highly of the University there, and of all the others, 


yet he told me that my best chance, by all odds, was at Dres- 
den, for he said it was a rare chance to go into a family with 
whom I could associate, instead of a mere boarding-house, and 
it would take me some time to learn German at any rate. He 
said if I came to Heidelberg my best chance to learn to speak 
was to go into one of the fighting corps, who do nothing but 
practise, fight, and drink beer, and of them I should only learn 
enough to talk about their occupations. The students, he 
says, are divided into three classes, the reading men, who 
associate very little, the fighting men, with whom of course 
I do not wish to mix, and the idle men, who are the worst of 
the lot, and of course would make very poor associates. Then, 
too, I am sure I am rather young for a University, for the 
American and English students that come to them are almost 
always graduates of some University at home, and the Ger- 
man students have to pass a severe examination to graduate 
at the Gjonnasia, which are equivalent to our Universities, be- 
fore they can enter their Universities. Of course the lectures 
are prepared for them, and tho' I might very likely profit by 
some of them, yet I should be much more fit to do so when I 
had graduated at Cambridge. For instance, Mr. Dana, who 
has practised as a lawyer in Boston, has been here, shidying 
law, and Mr. Child, and Lane, and Mr. Gould, the son of 
Benjamin Gould, and who is, you know, a great mathemati- 
cian, came here after Cambridge; the two former are now Pro- 
fessors, and were called home for that purpose from here. 

I have endeavored as fairly as possible to represent the 
comparative advantages of a University and Dresden, and 
tho' it is apparent that I incline to Dresden, it is quite natural 
with the advice I have had, and all of which I have not men- 
tioned; but everybody thinks I had better go to Dresden. 
Moreover, it is very natural that I, so young, and unaccus- 
tomed to be in the world much, should prefer a family, which 
would be a sort of home to me, certainly more so than a board- 
ing-house near a University. . . . 


The next question, or rather the first one, is, whether it is 
worth while for me to stay in Europe this winter* In the first 
place, it seems to me that my best plan is to do as Stephen 
[Perkins] has decided to do himself, that is, join this year's 
class at the beginning of the Sophomore year. If I came home 
this fail, it would be too late, I am afraid, to join my own class. 

Moreover, tho' my eyes are improving, they will not be 
strong enough, I think, to do the work necessary at Cambridge 
to satisfy myself, for I am not going there again until I can do 
what there is to be done, properly. I have had quite enough 
of half learning my lessons. 

I think it is certain, if I can study but little this winter, say 
only four or five hours without injiuing myself, — for I have 
done that too often to try it again, — that I can learn more 
here than at home ; and even if I can study more, I cannot of 
coiu-se tell what effect a month or two of traveling, as I now 
am, may produce. 

I shall profit more here than there, for I can get a language, 
the finest — or certainly, next to the English, the finest — 
there is, pretty well established in my head, besides what else 
I may pick up: and at home, tho' I may study a language, it 
cannot be to so great advantage as here, and there is hardly 
anything would be of more benefit to me, particularly as I 
should study French in Soph., and German in the Junior year. 
I think that perhaps I should like to learn French better than 
German, as it is more common and easier, but it is not nearly 
so fine a language. 

To go and live in Paris would be the best way of mastering 
French, but I probably should not get into as fine a situation, 
or as advantageous a one, as I said before. I do not wish to 
go there to stay for a long time at present. It is the most 
vicious, yet the most tempting and dangerous place on earth, 
and I prefer not to be exposed, when too young, to it. This 
may seem as if I had got into bad habits, but such is not in 
the least the case, only I do not think anybody is too strong 


in good principles, nor that it is good, especially for young 
persons, to try themselves in order to get seasoned. I am sure 
we have had examples enough of that doctrine near us, without 
trying it. 

I have precisely the same objection to London and Berlin. 
There is another thing I could do at home, that is, look over 
the Freshman studies; but it seems to me that it is hardly 
worth while, for they may be learned in a much shorter time 
than they are at Cambridge, for it is the recitations there that 
take up eyes and time. I should have time enough for those, 
when I come home. As far as my own wishes go, if I should 
get up to-morrow with strong eyes, I would start for America 
immediately. Charming as traveling is, particularly here in 
Switzerland, it is not so much, nor half so much so, as home is. 
If I thought that I could gain as much by coming home this 
winter, as by staying here, I would not hesitate a minute by 
it, and I am not sure that I can make up my mind to stay, 
even if you say yes. But if you will merely leave it to me, to de- 
cide according to the circumstances and the state of my eyes, 
I will endeavor to use my judgment, unbiased by my feelings, 
or anything else. I do not wish you to think a moment of 
what I feel, for that is not of real importance, but merely of 
the case as it stands. 

One thing more. As regards the cost of the matter, C. F. 
told me it would be about three quarters as much as at Cam- 
bridge, and about the same as at a German University, which, 
Mr. Dana also told me, is about three quarters of an American 
University's expenses. Charles F. must have lived pretty 
cheaply at Cambridge, and as he has tried Professor Wigard's, 
he knows about that also. 

• • • 

This letter, we may be sure, caused some excitement in 
Bedford Place. No answer could be expected for nearly two 
months, and Henry and his clerical companion marched on 
by Interlaken and Thun to Berne, thence to Freiburg (in 


Switzerland) and Vevey. Here the boy saw M. Thiers: a 
"short bright-looking little man, with a queer voice." At 
Geneva he discovered "a good deal of female beauty" — to 
say nothing of fine sunsets on Mont Blanc. He made the pil- 
grimage to Femey and saw Voltaire's chiteau, and the church 
"Deo erexit Voltaire." But he visited Calvin's old church 
likewise, and museums and libraries and the prison of Chillon. 
He tramped from Martigny over the T#te Noire to Cha- 
mounix, and thought ''the 24 miles equal to 30 on a road." 
Many walkers in Switzerland will quite agree with him. For 
a week or more Higginson and the Reverend Mr. Eliot and 
the young Englishman Haldeman — who was "not very 
pleasant but was bright" — had fine climbing over the high 
passes on the Italian border, and down into Italy. 

Sept. 3. Over the Gemmi to Kandersteg. A very steep, 
hard walk. Very wonderful. Parted with Haldeman on top 
of the Gemmi — a "cold farewell." . . . 

Milan, SepL 9. Went to the Opera. Dirty and poor lights, 
but good orchestra and singing and pretty dancing. 

Thence by Como, Bellagio, and Bormio, Higginson tramped 
into the Tyrol alone, for Mr. Eliot was called away for a time. 
A letter from Bormio, September 16, gives some vivid detail. 

. . . Clothes wear out very fast here, and my shoes have 
to be constantly repaired. I have just been obliged to give up 
an old pair of pantaloons after mending and darning them 
till I was tired. My socks too are almost gone, altho' this 
morning I have darned four holes in them ; but their substance 
has departed forever, and is resting on the Swiss mountains, 
and I could find no suitable ones at all in Milan. . . . 

Mr. E. has a sincere wish to economize, and does so to a 
certain extent ; but everything with him depends on his health, 
for if he feels badly, he loses his spirits, and then does not 


enjoy walking, and cannot bear so much as if he were 
happy, • • . 

Besides this, it is very hard sometimes for me to keep pleas- 
ant when I do not feel so, or often he is low-spirited from ill- 
ness or something else, and does not feel like talking, and I 
sometimes am troubled with my eyes or want of success in 
curing them. But it would not do at all to let my light go out, 
for try as hard as he can, it is impossible for him to be cheerful, 
and we should never get along with no light. 

Many times, too, there are little things to be done, for the 
good of both, which fall upon me, being younger; and I found 
occasionally in Switzerland that my physical strength was 
rather a bore, for it often happened that I carried more or did 
things, because I was stronger, tho' both of my companions 
were under thirty, and if they had thought, they would have 
known that in all probability their strength was more lasting 
than mine; for after all, I am but a boy. However, I am none 
the worse for it all, and I would not change with either of 
them. I have liked Mr. E. as a companion very much, for he 
is an excellent man of good principles, open, just, and generous, 
and with a great deal of taste, and generally well informed. 
If I were coming again, I would get a younger companion, one 
whom I could sympathize more with, and whom I should 
value as a friend all my life. . . . 

You ask about the languages. In Switzerland our third 
companion managed for us part of the way, as he spoke Ger- 
man very well, and nearly half the time we were in German 
Switzerland; and the rest of the way Mr. E., who picked up 
a little French in Paris, did the talking ; before that in Germany 
I learned a few words, and when I could not speak, I laughed, 
to keep the people in good humour, and managed as best I 
could. I paid, when I had to do so; held on to my own, and 
got something to eat. . . . 

This mountain scenery is very fine, but I do wish to see 
something more beautiful and soft and less grand, something 


that will make one smile and feel happy and contented to 
live among it, rather than what is glorious, but still pleases, 
tho' in a different and to me less s^reeable way. The one 
strikes the right string within me, the other does not. . . . 

I think the want of softness and gentleness in the scenery is 
the chief defect in Switzerland. . . . 

At Munich, as at Milan, his diary contains increasingly 
careful notes upon painting and sculpture; but it is clearly 
music that charms him beyond the other arts. All this is in 
his mind as he writes to his father from Munich, on September 
29, about plans for the winter. 

. . . You may take the fine arts and society for what they 
are worth, and tho' neither a knowledge of music, painting or 
anything of the kind will probably be of any practical use to 
me, yet everyone will admit that they are worth something. 
Before I had seen paintings, fine ones I mean, sculpture, etc., 
I could not tell whether I really cared for them or not; but 
since I have seen them, I have found that I really have a love 
of them, tho' there is nothing like music to me. Now if I 
should stay in Dresden, and have sufficient eyes, I should like 
very much to study music. . . . 

In the first place, I think it will be my best plan to join the 
present Freshman class at the beginning of their Sophomore 
year, and if I were to come home now, I do not think it would 
be possible for me (in fact I am almost sure it would not) to 
join the class this year, and certainly the first of it. I do not 
see that there is anything better for me to do than to stay here, 
and learn what I can by my ears, and a very moderate use 
of my eyes, if they are well enough. 

I can stay till late in the spring, and return about the first 
of June. That would be soon enough to just be ready for the 
College course again after a little preparation. But if you do 
not think this best, why just tell me so, and I shall be much 


better pleased to return than stay; for much as I enjoy every- 
thing here, and I am in the middle of it now here in Mimich, 
I should be delighted to see home and home-faces once more. 
Then too the disappointment of not improving faster, and the 
constant remembrance, as I see one thing after another, and 
find I am ignorant of the history connected with it, and of 
thousands of other things, that I cannot remedy now, and I 
don't know when I can, the constant remembrance that I am 
cut off from all reading, all literary pursuits, is very, very gall- 
ing. Then this idea ever recurs and appears to me : " You need 
not trouble yourself, for you are ignorant, and there is little 
chance of your remedying the trouble, at least for a long 
time." But never mind. . . . 

A letter to his brother George, written on the following day, 
takes up again this problem of self-education. 

• • • I went to the opera last night for the first time, as 
there had been none since my arrival here. It was " Martha," 
by Flotow, a comic opera, and the music is beautiful ; there is 
very little noise, in fact none, but in two or three choruses, 
reminding one of Bellini's music, tho' in a comic opera there is 
not any play for the same exquisite and pathetic sweetness 
that Bellini infuses thro' his works. I do not know that Flo- 
tow has the power of that, or whether he has composed, or 
can do so, a serious opera, that is, one where death appears, or 
where there is any approach to it. But at any rate " Martha " 
is very beautiful. There is one thing I was surprised at, that 
is, the "Last Rose of Summer" is a reigning air, and is sung in 
allusion to a bunch of flowers, mostly roses, I thought. I do 
not think Flotow would have taken that air from someone 
else, and introduced it so constantly, yet I had thought it was 
originally English or Irish. It is a most beautiful thing, and 
I liked it more than ever last night, sung as it was beautifully, 
and repeated again and again. . . . 


You know, my dear fellow, that your stock of knowledge 
is not too great, and I advise you sincerely to do your best 
to make it as long as possible, for the more you know, the 
more you are respected, and the more power you have both 
to help yourself and others. You understand, I know, and 
will not feel offended. Therefore do all you can now, for the 
time may come, when you will have little or no time for such 

If you are in a store, or take up a profession or anything 
else, very likely you will be entirely occupied, and there will 
be no opportunity for anything else. Remember that you are 
nineteen years old, and that at that age a person is expected 
to know a good deal, and it is far, far better to be beyond what 
is looked for than behind. 

So make up your deficiencies as soon as you can. You, very 
likely, will come abroad by and by, and before you do, it is 
much better to know the history of Europe, of each country 
and city, to have some knowledge of the important men, 
generals, kings, emperors, artists, poets, statesmen, etc., 
whose portraits and statues you will constantly see, and whose 
deeds are represented in various ways. I have felt the want 
of this knowledge very much, and you had better prepare 
yourself. . . • 

The Diary continues to give notes on operas: — 

Munich, Oct. 5. Went to hear " Nabucodonosor " by Verdi. 
Less noisy than Verdi's usually are, and some very beautiful. 
Finely performed, particularly the King, by Kindermann. 

Oct. 8. Went to hear the opera of "Figaro's Wedding." 
Beautiful music, tho' very slightly like "Don Giovanni." 
Recitative in words without music. Kindermann (Figaro) 
very, very good. 

Sunday f Oct. 10. Heard some fine music at St. Michael's. 

Oct. 13. Yesterday I went to the opera. "Jessonda," by 


Spohr. Quiet music and pleasant, but wanting life and deci- 
sion, character ; somewhat like Meyerbeer's, but not nearly so 
much talent. Kindermann is a genius. 

Sunday J Oct. 17. Went to hear "Norma," with Signorina 
Falconi as Norma! A very beautiful opera and well per- 
formed. More noisy than Bellini's music generally; not so 
fine as *' Puritani," but still very beautiful. Signorina Falconi 
has a very fine, powerful voice, but shakes it too much. A 
very bad habit and a common modern one ! She is very ugly, 
but a very fine singer, and some of the airs in "Norma" very 

OcL 19. Heard "Nebuchadnezzar" again in the evening. 
Liked it better than before, but perceived Verdi's faults more. 
He tries the voice too much, is too noisy, is very fine in 
choruses, but is not a very pleasing composer. 

Oct. 21. Met a young English architect at the restaurant. 
Went to the opera with him, and heard Beethoven's " Fidelio." 
Beautiful, exquisite opera, so full of feeling, so quiet, so soft, 
so expressive: and Fidelio's part is exquisite. Having only 
heard it once, I cannot tell how it would compare with others, 
but it is certainly next " Don Giovanni " and " Furitani." The 
music is mostly from stringed instruments, and hardly any 
drum. Recitative is mostly spoken. Signorina Falconi sang 
her part very well, as did they all. Kindermann as usual, 
and a tenor, Hartinger, whom I heard in ''Jessonda" and 
" Norma," has a fine voice and sings very well indeed. A most 
beautiful opera, so calm, and yet so full of feeling. I must 
hear it again. 

Sunday, Oct. 24. Went to the English service ; do not like it. 
Heard "Don Giovanni." Same as usual, tho' better. A very 
good Leporello and fine Don G. Fine Donna Anna, with a 
glorious voice. 

Oct. 28. Draw 10 pounds. See more of the Glyptothek, pay 
and pack. Hear a little farcical opera, " The Voice of Nature," 
by Lortzing. Some pretty music tho' nothing more. 


On the next day he left Munich, alone, for Augsburg, Nu- 
remberg, and Leipzig. Here he had the good fortune to hear 
the famous Gewandhaus orchestra on a gala day. 

Nov. 4. Saw Mr. C. C. Perkins and his brother Mr. Doane. 
Went to a very fine concert, Mendelssohn's death-day, I 
believe, and heard a sjonphony of Mozart, Fantasia for piano, 
chorus and orchestra of Beethoven, and Mendelssohn's " Ath- 
alie," a trs^edy of Racine; everything very fine and the music 
very, very beautiful. "Athalie" exquisite thing, the finest 
concert I think I ever heard. Mr. P. told me these concerts 
were the finest to be heard in Germany. Very full of first- 
class people, ranged in the shape of a horse-shoe. 

Two days later he arrived in Dresden, which was to be his 
home for the winter. In the fragmentary Reminiscences, dic- 
tated in 1918, sixty-six years afterward, Henry Higginson 
thus pictures his surroundings : — 

i then went to Dresden, and looked up Professor Wigard, 
with whom Charles FoUen had lived and to whom Charles 
Follen had given me a letter. This professor, with his wife and 
two little daughters, lived in a good house just outside the 
wall of Dresden. With him were four or five students boarding, 
and I proposed to board there too. He gave me an excellent 
room, of course without any fireplace, and I lived with them, 
studied German, went to the theatre and the opera, which was 
very good indeed, studied my lessons hard, saw considerable of 
society, and enjoyed myself. There were various small socie- 
ties of the Germans where they would have little concerts or 
little plays, and chiefly dances, and to those I went and tried 
to dance. There were also some balls of a higher class of people 
belonging to the Court circles, although not Court balls, and 
to those I also — a stranger — could go; but it was clear 
enough that I was not welcome, for I knew nobody and 


nobody knew me, and I was a green, uncombed, unlicked cub. 
Saxony — a Protestant land — had a Catholic king and a 
church where there was splendid music, to which I also used 
to go when it was not too cold. 

Dresden was a very pretty dty lying on both sides of the 
Elbe, across which a fine bridge was built. The opera house, 
and especially the picture gallery, were of the finest kind, and 
the opera was at that time celebrated. There were also excel- 
lent symphony concerts in the gardens, and there were con- 
certs of a lower grade in the various coffee-houses. I used 
constantly to go to them, drinking a little coffee or eating ice- 
cream and hearing the music. Everything was very cheap 
indeed — clothes, entertainments, and also my board, a good 
room, such fare as we had, all cost thirty thalers a month, a 
thaler being seventy-five cents. 

Richard Wagner had been conductor at the Dresden Opera 
until the Revolution of 1848, when he had run away; and as 
this was in 1853, his work and his influence remained; and it 
was there that I first heard the Wagner opera "Tannhauser." 

The professor with whom I lived had been a government 
officer, had been in the Frankfort Parliament and had shown 
himself to be a *' Red," so he lost his appointment. Therefore, 
at about forty, he studied medicine and became an excellent 
physician. His wife, a simple housekeeper, a good woman, 
with one maid, looked after the food for her husband, the two 
little girls, and us six young fellows. The food was of the 
simplest. Bread soup was very common — bread, a trifle of 
lard and hot water; and it was very thin. Then we had all 
kinds of sausages, and in the evening at supper we used to do 
very well. My digestion was that of a horse, and I did not 
care what I ate, but I did not like to see the lady of the house 
serve the food, cut the bread and the sausages, trim the oil- 
lamps, wipe her fingers on her hair, and then cut the bread 
again. Still, a boy's stomach is strong. Of course there were 
no habits of washing, and when I asked for a bathtub I had to 


buy one. I sat on the floor and was measured, and they 
brought me a nice wooden tub, which was put under my bed. 
Presently I found that it had disappeared, and learned that 
the family washing was done in the bathtub during the day 
and I was allowed to have it at night. 

The students all lived in one room, and I remember that 
they changed their shirts once a week. They would begin with 
them white, and they would be dark brown before the week 
was over; but they were pretty good fellows. It was there 
that I first saw the disposition of the younger German men. I 
lived there five months, and for some reason or other I was not 
on speaking terms with one or another of the students. One 
man would take up a huff and would not speak to me or look 
at me for a week or ten days, and then another, and then 
another. I never knew what the matter was, and very soon 
gave up caring. 

It was a peaceful, happy life. Mr. Lothrop Motley was there 
studying to write his "History of the Netherlands." I had a 
letter to him, and he and his wife were very kind to me, and 
invited me to dine there once a week, which I did.* His three 
daughters were young, the eldest being twelve years old, and 
they were very nice children. 

I remember that at one of the little societies where we used 
to go pretty often and where I learned to dance, a little fes- 
tival came, and a little ballet was arranged. A certain costume 
was necessary, and more particularly a certain kind of shoe. 
I was selected to lead the ballet, and had a nice partner. But 
if I was considered the best dancer, think what the others 
must have been. 

The boy's letters home durii\g that fall and winter were 
uniformly cheerful, though his eyes were still far from strong. 
He had youth, health, and humor; and he was justifying his 

^ "He is a very honest, ingenuous, intelligent lad/' wrote Motley, on December 


father's full confidence in his ability to decide all the larger 
matters for himself. His letter of credit with the Baring 
Brothers of London for £400 was ample for his needs. 

" I have entire confidence in your prudence and good judg- 
ment with regard to outgoes," wrote his father, who did not 
wish to know the details of Henry's expenditures, and was 
constantly urging him not to economize too much. * * Do not 
pinch yourself. See all the sights, go to all the entertainments 
you can, and enjoy yourself in every rational mode. I have 
not been in so good a position to incur the expenditure for 
many years. . • . Get all the amusement you can, and if you 
have time for it, take lessons on the piano or for the voice. I 
go for cultivating the tastes which are commendable — so far 
as one can consistently widi other calls — to any extent. You 
are disposed to be very prudent about your expenditures, 
which is an excellent habit, but I wish you to feel free to give 
yourself all the advantages which are at command, knowing 
as I do that you will use the privilege wisely." 

Upon a few points, however, George Higginson was most 
particular in his admonitions. One of them concerned Henry's 
clothes. " Do let me know that you have a wardrobe becoming 
a well-provided and well-dressed Gentleman." Henry's reply 
to this was succinct: "To dress better than those around me 
except in the matter of clean underclothes would be bad taste." 

Another matter for worriment was Henry's epistolary style. 
Though the father wrote more than once "how much your 
blessed mother would have enjoyed your letters," he neverthe- 
less found his boy sadly lacking "in the mechanical execu- 
tion" of the "beautiful accomplishment" of letter-writing. 
"Avoid repetitions studiously, by having at command a stock 
of synonyms for ready use." "Aim at simplicity and concise- 
ness." " Let me recommend you to omit some of the 'ands* in 
arranging sentences, and to adopt the old spelling, using two 
/'s in 'traveller,' for instance, instead of one^ as Webster lays 
down." The humorous fact was that his father's own hand- 


writing was almost undecipherable, and that he broke the 
rules of Blair's Rhetoric, on occasion, as recklessly as his boy. 
Sometimes he seems almost aware of it ! "I fear that my let- 
ters will try your eyes somewhat." '* I often think that I re- 
peat too much in way of admonitions and in expression of 
earnest wishes for behavior. The fact is, I am rather fussy." 
And so are many of the most lovable persons in the world. 

What the son preferred in a letter, on the other hand, was 
absolute informality, directness, simple " talking." " I do not 
want to hear anything remarkable," he wrote to his aimt, 
Mrs. S. T. Morse, in August, 1852, "but write just as you 
would if I saw you only yesterday and you were talking to me. 
Write what you are thinking about, what is going on inside 
rather than out. . • • Draw a picture in words, of the family, 
of everybody, of Father, of the children, of all of you." 

In letter after letter, in reply to his father's continued sug- 
gestions, Henry defends his own theory of writing. "When 
I 've thought over what I wish to say, it is not so well said as 
when I write and think at the same time, though the mechan- 
ical part of the premeditated portion is better." He finds 
brother George's letters "a little too much like themes . . . 
rather too much style, if I may say so. You all write what you 
see and say and what is done; no more. It would really do 
the elder boys and Mary good to write out what is going on 
inside. It would be far more interesting than mere narrative 
to me, and they would learn to know themselves and to think 
more." *' I must choose my subject and humor for each corre- 
spondent." Four years later, he was to write from Paris: "A 
letter should be merely a little talk on paper, and that is quite 

Here are extracts from two or three of his own letters to his 
father from Dresden, telling about himself. 

Nau. 15, 1852. 

. . . For amusements I want no money but for music, and 
that is not very expensive here: even that I would not indulge 


in to the extent I have and shall, did I not try to learn some- 
thing by it, did I not consider it as a study in a measure: in- 
deed I have already learned something and would know more. 
My desire has only increased very much since IVe been 
abroad, and I shall certainly study it with a master, if I have 
the eyes, and if not, at least I can play somewhat, and amuse 
my otherwise idle hours. I've already hired a very good 
piano for $2.50, cheap enough when compared with the prices 
at home, and not dear at any rate. I shall practise by my- 
self till I can understand German better, and then try a 

Tell me, or rather let Geoiige tell me, how he gets on, and 
what his difficulties are ; also tell him to ask Aunt Hattie what 
she thinks of his trying what I always did and do now : play- 
ing airs that I remembered from the concerts and operas, and 
also much from other people's playing, and setting a bass for 
myself. Also playing the same thing in different keys, etc., 
etc. I learned much I think by that, and tho' it is much better 
to play by note, yet, as I could not always use my eyes, I 
learned this. . • . 

Nov. 26, 1852. 

. . • One thing I 've here that few students have — a very 
large tub, no modern tin hat or anything of the kind, but a 
huge wooden tub for which I was measured as I lay on the 
floor, and in it I jump every morning, and it is the best thing 
I have except my piano. Oh ! I am very well off indeed. . . . 

Now I think of it, let me say to you that it is useless to 
expect me to come home with strong eyes or certainly weU 
ones; for tho' they are, I think, much better, yet they are by 
no means well, and indeed I do not suppose they will be before 
the limit first set by Dr. B., my twenty-first year. Do not 
feel discouraged, because it has been so for three years now, 
and I suppose I can stand it for three more, tho' I hope it will 
not be so bad. I hope and expect when I return to join the 
present Fresh, class at the beginning of my Soph, year, but I 


would prefer to have it not mentioned, for I do not like to 
have reports of what I shall do circulated when it is so 
uncertain. • • . 

Dec. 14, 1852. 

• • • As to my own eyes, I can't say that they are better 
than when I came to Dresden, tho' I did not expect them to 
be SO9 and think they are no worse or certainly very little ; I do 
not use them much, and think they may last as they are till 
I b^^ to move again, when they may improve more. At 
least they must try their luck in college next year. I am finely 
as usual, and very much pleased with my life; more so than I 
have been with anything since I left school three years, almost, 
since: pleased I am, because satisfied with my present occupa- 
tion. I know I learn something every day; that I need not 
and do not depend on those around me for occupation and 
amusement, but that I can always help myself; that my mind 
has something to do, to occupy itself with, and that is a most 
important thing for everyone. It is an occupation in itself to 
watch people and talk with them, to learn what they think, 
feel, and do, to study their national character, and compare it 
with our own and with what I know of theirs. • • . 

I think this six months here may be a most useful period of 
my life in after years, and it is a thing which I probably should 
never have done, if not sent abroad in this way when young. 
That is the only point, the youths that annoys me, and that not 
much. I of course am with men and women, grown-up per- 
sons, and it has been so ever since I was in Europe. Those 
young Englishmen that I met in Munich were two of them 
twenty-two and the third a little younger than I : but the two 
elder ones were thoro'ly men, and one of them had made his 
own living for some years, and was then doing the same. I 
found them infinitely more to my taste and agreeable to me 
than the younger one, tho' he was perfectly pleasant and good- 
humored. It has been so constantly all thro', and I Ve passed 
for twenty years old everywhere and do here. Indeed some- 


one, I foiiget who, thought I was twenty-four. Stfll I do not 
feel so old, and I would give a great deal to have a good game 
of football or something of the sort. . • • 

The diary of 1852 and 1853 gives some further details that 
illuminate the boy's character and tastes, in his strange en- 

Nov. 12. Mr. Webster dead. Much feeling about it in 

Nov. 16. Heard " Masaniello." Beautiful opera and the 
overture remarkable. 

Nov. 18. My birthday. [He was now 18,] Saw the gallery 
for the first time. The Madonna (Raphael) by all odds the 
finest thing I ever saw. . . . But I must see more before 
saying anything. 

Nov. 20, Went to a concert on the Terrace and heard a 
symphony of Beethoven's and more very good music. Some 
of Wagner's which I liked very well indeed. 

Nov. 26. Went to Mr. Motley's. 

Sunday, Nov. 28. Heard "Tannhauser" of Wagner's. A 
very beautiful opera indeed, and showing a vast deal of talent, 
I think. Very difficult music, and must be heard several times. 
It is eqtial to Meyerbeer's. No ballet, and a deal of singing. 

Dec. 3. Went to a fine concert. Had "The Rose of Pilger- 
fahrt" from Schumann and "CEdipus" from Mendelssohn. 
The first beautiful and very well sung, particularly the soprano 
and tenor parts. "CEdipus," entirely for men's voices, is very 
fine, but too deep to decide at one hearing. 

Dec. 4. Heard the " Prophet." It is fine but not so good as 
'* Roberto," I think, tho' I must hear it twice more to decide. 
Too much spectacle and the skating is too much prolonged. 
Still it is very fine music indeed, tho' not well performed that 
night. The tenor is no actor and Michalesi is too old for her 


Dec. 6. Began my music lessons. Went to a rather common 
bally but had a good time. We almost got into a fight. Went 
to bed at 5 a.m. 

Dec. II. Heard "Iphigenia in Aulis" from Gliick. A very 
fine opera indeed , with small amount of show and most beau- 
tiful music. Better performed than they usually play here. 
It must, like the other great operas, be heard more than once. 

Dec. 14. Made my first visit to a German family and had 
a good time. 

Dec. 15. Heard a Pole, "Mr. Dawison," play "Shylock," 
and it was very fine indeed. Everything about the company 
was good. 

Dec. 24. The presents were given this evening, and a very 
pretty sight it was. The little tree lighted, etc. Some relations 
of Mad. W. were there and we had a very pleasant supper in- 
deed. Afterwards two of us went to the Catholic church to 
hear mass from eleven to one o'clock. The music was very fine 
indeed. The church very full. 

Dec. 25. Christmas Day. Went to Mr. Motley's to dinner, 
and after to see a quantity of children receive their presents in 
the "Odeon." Very pretty. 

Dec. 30. Went to Berlin with Sedgwick* and arrived after 
six hours' ride. No scenery. Met a number of Americans, 
Crocker, Joy, Easter, Hungerford, Heard, Aiken, Williams, 
Underwood, Whitney, Brown, Levett Hunt, Ellery, Dr. Ab- 
bott, etc. Very pleasant, all of them. . . . Went to hear 
"Euryanthe" of Weber, with Wagner, Koster, another prima 
donna, a tenor Formes, and some others. Beautiful music 
and learned, requiring to be heard often. Wagner's voice 
is splendid, but she sings too loud sometimes. I like her very 
much. Koster has a beautiful voice tho' not very strong, but 
she sings beautifully and would have pleased me more a year 
since than Wagner. She is very graceful and I think pretty, 
and Wagner is just the contrary. The tenor is very fine tho' 

^ William Dwight Sedgwick, who was killed at Antietam. 


not equal to Tichatschek, yet he sings better. The other 
singers good ; a baritone or bass Krause very good. The whole 
opera well got up. The orchestra very fine, but no better than 
the Dresden, tho' a little stronger; it seemed to me there was 
a little too much brass, but I don't know. The ballet is said 
to be very good here, but there was very little dancing in 
"Euryanthe." The theatre is the handsomest, most brilliant 
I Ve seen, and the King's box is very handsome. . . . After 
the theatre we went to a number of caf6s, etc., and had a good 
deal of fun. 

Dec. 31. Went to Mr. Fay's, who is very agreeable, sang, 
etc., and then to a masked public ball. We danced somewhat, 
but all the women were engaged; it was at "KroU's" and the 
room is very fine indeed. Saw the New Year in, for the first 
time in my life. 

Jan. 3, 1853. In the evening in opera house we saw "Ham- 
let" in German, and I did not understand a great deal. A 
man Dessoir played Hamlet, and very well too. 

Jan. 5. Left Berlin and got home in the evening. 

Jan. 14. Went to my first Casino ball and did pretty well; 
but it was stiff, and I knew no German ladies. The English 
are not easy to dance with. 

Jan. 25. Heard '* Jessonda" from the Meyer. Very beauti- 
ful indeed, improving vastly on acquaintance. Meyer sang 
beautifully, I think, and the critics are all wrong about her: 
she sings in time, truly, and clearly. The others, particularly 
Mittewurzer, sang very well. 

Jan. 31. "Josua" oratorio from Handel. Very fine, the' 
rather beyond me. 

Feb. s. Saw " Die Stumme von Portici." Such an overture 
as that has been rarely composed, I believe. A beautiful opera, 
and very much better than before. Tichatschek sings very 
well indeed in it, and everything is so charming. 

Feb. 9. Great concert in the theatre: played a s}anphony 
from Haydn, performed for the first time here, very beautiful 


indeed^ and the melodies, two movements, were repeated. 
The orchestra played exquisitely. Some choruses, a song from 
Meyer, and a s}anphony from Beethoven more beautiful to me 
than Haydn's. The finest concert I Ve heard, I think. The 
orchestra very full and Lapinski leading and Beissinger direct- 
ing. Afterwards we had another lesson for our costume-dance. 

Feb. 10. Had our costume-dance in Lese-Verein, and it suc- 
ceeded capitally, I believe. My partner was the best dancer, 
and she certainly looked and danced very prettily. The short 
dresses, boots, etc., were very pretty, but our dress was ugly 
enough and very hot. My moustache was highly successful and 
admired by my partner and others much. Afterwards we had 
a very nice dance, and in the two dances the ladies engaged, 
I had much to do. We danced until about 5 o'clock, and got 
to bed at 6 o'clock a.m. 

Feb. 19. Heard "The Montagues and Capulets." A good 
opera, but the Italian music is very meagre after the German, 
nothing but melody and very little accompaniment. It does 
not appear to me nearly so good as "Puritani." The Meyer 
sang very well and with a good deal of taste, I think, but she 
did not please me so much as she has before, in " Jessonda" 
and perhaps in other parts. The Krebs sang finely, better 
than I could have believed she could, and she looked and 
played very well indeed. The other parts are not much, tho' 
the tenor is a tolerable one and fairly sung. It is not Bellini's 
best, and far behind the German music for me. 

Feb. 23. Went to a little party at Mrs. Motley's. Very 

March 5. The police were at the Professor's to-day, and 
searched the house, also throughout the city; nothing found. 

March 7. Went to the last Lapinski concert, beautiful in- 
deed. Very sorry they are over. 

March 9. Heard a nice comedy with Devrient, who plays 
capitally; very good and amusing. Understood pretty well. 

March 11. Drew 10 pounds. Passport wa3 late and $0 I 


could not go with the others to Prague, but the pass, came in 
P.M. and I went at lo o'clock. There was a strong endeavor to 
put me thro' a course of sprouts reaching nearly to the skin, 
but it failed. Reached Prague at 5, and turned in for three 
hours. Very cold. 

He passed a delightful week in the galleries, churches, and 
museums of Vienna, a city which was later to be his home for 
several years. "An Italian opera troupe here, and therefore I 
shall not go to the opera." But he heard Weber's "Frei- 
schtttz" in Prague on the way back to Dresden, and liked it. 
This Boston youth of eighteen perceived that ^* the ladies of 
Vienna and Prague have much beauty, far more than in 
Dresden." Returning to Dresden on March 19, he was just 
in time for " the rehearsal of the great concert in the theatre. 
The concert is Mozart's * Requiem ' and the ninth Symphony 
of Beethoven with a chorus and singing. The finest concert 
I think I ever heard. The 'Requiem' wonderful, but hard 
to understand and take in. The s}anphony most beautiful, 
,and the singing part also." 

Sunday, March 20. Heard again the great concert, and it 
was much better (to me) but I had a bad place. The theatre 
very full. These two concerts have been most wonderful, and 
one wishes to hear them 12 times or more. 

March 21. The police asked to see me about my passport, 
and asked a few questions of no importance. 

March 22. I received my notice from the police to quit, and 
wrote immediately to Mr. Barnard, American Minister in 
Berlin, and to Mr. Fay. 

March 23. My affair is going on, Mr. Forbes, the English 
Minister, having interfered with the Saxon, one Beust. 

March 25. Wrote to Beust and sent these two letters with 
mine to him. Rec'd leave early in the day to remain another 


March 26. Heard thro* Mr. Forbes that the police have 
orders not to act for the present. 

This affair of the "police," which mystified young Hig^n- 
son at the time, and amused him throughout his life, is best 
explained through a letter which Mr. Motley wrote to Mr. 
Henry Cabot of Boston, the grandfather of Honorable Henry 
Cabot Lodge, who discovered the letter in 191 1. Through his 
kindness it is here reprinted. 

Dresden, 26 March, '53. 

My dear Mr. Cabot : — 

Young Higginson, who brought me a letter of introduction 
from yourself in November last, is writing by this mail to his 
father. I have promised to write to you also, to give an ac- 
count of a slight episode in the history of our own time in 
which he is connected. 

He went to Vienna about a fortnight ago in company with 
some young friends (Americans) from Berlin. They all went 
off sooner than he had expected, in order to reach Rome for 
the Holy Week. Being left alone, he returned to Dresden. On 
applying for his carte de sSjour next day, he was informed by the 
police that he must leave the city within three days. He came 
to me for advice. I told him that he had better write at once 
to Mr. B&mard, the American Minister in Berlin, and that 
I would at the same time address a line to Mr. Fay, secretary 
of Legation there, who was an old acquaintance of mine. 

As Higginson was entirely innocent of any offense either by 
word or deed against the Government of Saxony or of any 
other Government in Europe, the affront of expelling him 
from Dresden seemed not only unjust but even ridiculous. I 
stated as much to Mr. Fay, and I gave him at the same time 
the assurance that the young gentleman thus shabbily treated 
was a member of one of the most respectable families in Mas- 
sachusetts, that he had left our college on account of his eye- 


sight, which had been slightly impaired by study, and that he 
was in Dresden for the sake of acquiring the German language. 

In the meantime, as the term was so short, and as I consid- 
ered it highly important that this police order should be sus- 
pended in order that he might not be obliged to leave the 
town at the dictation of the police, I consulted privately and 
unofficially the English Minister here, Mr. Forbes, with whom 
I happened to be intimately acquainted. As he is always as 
ready to do a kindness to an American, as to one of his own 
coimtrymen, I thought it best to apply to him, that the matter 
might be stopped in time if possible. 

This I thought would be in better taste and more agreeable 
to Mr. Higginson's father and friends than for him to submit 
to an expulsion and then to become the topic of several long- 
winded official despatches and newspaper paragraphs. Judg- 
ing of their feelings by my own, I thought they would prefer 
that he should establish the high respectability of his position 
at home and of his individual character and so be allowed to 
remain, rather than to make a claim for an empty apology 
afterwards, which might or might not be granted. 

Mr. Forbes, within ten minutes after my conversation with 
him, mentioned the matter to the chief minister here, who is 
at the head both of foreign affairs and of the home depart- 
ment. The minister stated that he had not yet been informed 
as to the facts of the case, but he had thought that Mr. Hig- 
ginson was an Englishman who had been recently expelled 
from Vienna. Mr. Forbes in the evening called at my house, 
and after being informed by me that his last statement was 
entirely erroneous, he addressed a note to the minister, cor- 
recting the mistake. The reply was a hurried line, stating that 
Higginson was at liberty to stay a day longer, and that in the 
meantime the affair would be examined. Next day came let- 
ters from Mr. Barnard and Mr. Fay, at Berlin, vouching at 
length and in the strongest terms for the high respectability 
of Mr. Higginson and expressing an undoubting conviction 


that the police authorities of Dresden, in ordering his expul- 
sion, were acting under error or upon some grossly false infor- 
mation. These papers were enclosed by Higginson, according 
to my advice, to the Minister of State (Amory's old acquaint- 
ance, von Beust, by the way), accompanied by a brief note 
expressing his entire innocence of any offense against the re- 
pose of the Kingdom of Saxony or of the Austrian Empire. 

This morning I received a note from Mr. Forbes informing 
me that he had just received one from Mr. de Beust. In this 
commimication the Home Minister stated that ''orders had 
been given to the police not to act for the present." Mr. 
Forbes added his conviction "that nothing more would be 
done to annoy Mr. Higginson." 

I have just written an account of the whole matter to Mr. 
Fay at Berlin, and unless Mr. Barnard should think proper, 
which I do not expect or desire (for my own part) , to take any 
further official notice of the transaction, the subject will, I 
suppose, be thus terminated. • . • 

The real dessous des cartes of the whole business is simply 
this. Higginson was advised before ever coming to Dresden, 
by some friends, to take up his residence, for the sake of learn- 
ing the language, in the family of a certain professor of stenog- 
raphy, who is disliked by the government here for his political 
principles. I know nothing of him, good, bad, or indifferent. 
Higginson was already established in his house before he pre- 
sented himself to me last November. I never had heard the 
professor's name in my life, and as H. had never asked my ad- 
vice on the subject, of course it never occurred to me to give 
him any. Neither did it ever occur to me that he would render 
himself liable to any such annoyance by having selected such 

I suppose the matter is now settled. At the same time, were 
I in Higginson's place I should not feel inclined (having fully 
vindicated my character) to stay much longer in a place where 
my least action would be inevitably observed. The professor 


with whom he lives is under the minute surveillance of the 
police and so doubtless are all his inmates. I know no advan- 
tage to be derived by Higginson from a long stay in Dresden, 
which would compensate for such an uncomfortable position. 
• . , If governments are afraid of such a perfectly quiet and 
well-behaved young man as your kinsman, they must be of 
necessity in a perpetual state of anxiety and trepidation. 
There could hardly have been a more harmless "looker on in 
Vienna" than H. was. . . . 

Very sincerely and affectionately yours, 

J. L. M. 

Major Higginson's comment upon this letter, when Senator 
Lodge brought it to his attention, is too breezily characteristic 
to be omitted : — 

/tt/y 25, 191 1. 

Dear Cabot: — 

Thank you for your note and for that interesting paper from 
Mr. Motley. I never have forgotten the event, for it made a 
deep impression and, indeed, excited much wrath. Mr. Mot- 
ley was very kind indeed, and the same is true of Mr. Forbes, 
the English Minister; von Beust, who was much hated at that 
time, and who afterwards was in the Prussian service, treated 
me civilly enough, although it was in a lordly style which those 
men use. I could have punched his head with pleasure. . . • 

I had taken a good deal of pains not to annoy anybody, had 
never had a pistol, never talked of a pistol, never threatened 
anybody, had done nothing irregular, did not drink or smoke, 
went to my lessons regularly and to the theatre or the opera 
two or three times a week, and to all the concerts I could find. 
(I was eighteen years old.) The little pistol incident, which 
had been cooked up no doubt in order to get me out of the 
town, and then the other part of confronting me with the 
witness, made me very wrathy. Mr. Motley knew of it at the 
time, I think, but it was not worth remembering. Then I 


stayed a few days, and quit, going to Berlin, where I stayed 
some months. There, following the advice of Mr. Fay, as I 
think, I made for myself a very regular life, going to the lec- 
tures at a certam hour, and going to the theatre, and never 
had any more trouble. • • • 

The boy took his time before leaving for Berlin, lingering 
in the Gallery over Holbeins, Ruysdaels, and hearing "die 
Ney" in "Norma" — a new singer whose voice was admi- 
rable, though she was "ugly and badly made. Only the singing 
part of her is good." 

Sunday, April 3. Heard the "Huguenots" for the first 
time: it pleased me better than "The Prophet," tho* still 
Meyerbeer makes too much noise and show. The long scene 
between the lovers is very good, and many other things too. 
I must hear it more to decide. Tichatschek is here and sang 
most beautifully, and also "the Ney." Mittewurzer very 
badly. "Tichat" is perfectly wonderful, more so than "the 

April 6. Heard " Oberon " from Weber. The overture very 
beautiful, and I liked the whole opera very much, tho' it 
wants more hearing. Too much "spectacle," and yet, with the 
story, almost unavoidable. Beautiful scenery and all very 
pleasing indeed. Tichatschek and others sang very well, and 
"the Ney" better and with more expression than I have heard 
her before. Much pleased. 

April 10. Heard "Der Freischiitz" again with "the Ney" 
and Tichatschek. I liked it very well indeed in some parts, 
and it was well performed, but I should like to hear it again 
with a little more p>assion and more soul. 

April 1^. Heard "The Prophet" again. Better than before, 
but still not much, after the old composers. 

April 15. Went on the terrace and heard a "zither,** a very 
old instrument, like a guitar a little, tho' not so long. 


April i6. Heard "Martha" in the evening, with Ellinger 
again. A very fair little opera with some good things in it» 
but the best air stolen as aforesaid. "The Meyer" sang very 
well, pleasing as usual. 

April 22. Went to see Mr. Forbes, the English Min., very 
pleasant man. Packed up and went off. Arrived in Berlin in 
the evening. Had i6o German lbs. luggage. Went to Dr. 

Berlin in the spring of 1853 was not an inspiring place for 
the Boston boy. He took lodgings in the jSlger-Strasse, at- 
tended Professor Magnus's lectures in physics, took lessons in 
German and music, and went steadily to the theatres and 
opera house; but the diary gives one the impression that he 
was bored. He was troubled, too, by the question of his future. 
Back in March, at Dresden, just before the difficulty with the 
police, he had written a twenty-four page letter to his father, 
discussing the various professions, and asking his father's 
counsel upon the advisability of remaining two or three years 
at a German university. Portions of this letter follow. 

Law seems to me a profession calculated to draw forth the 
disagreeable, disputatious, quarrelsome features, which are 
more or less in every man's character. • . . There is one 
thing about a doctor's profession that places it in my eyes 
high above a lawyer's, that is, it is one in which there is al- 
ways room for advance and improvement of the profession 
itself, not of one's self in it. . . . For a clei^gyman's calling 
there is but one thing to be said, as it appears to me: if one 
feels inside himself, in his heart, that he should be a clet^gsonan, 
let him be one, and on no other condition. As regards a mer- 
chant, you yourself are most strongly set against any of us 
following the profession, and I for myself am too — if any- 
thing better offers. In the first place money is the thing with 
a merchant. . . . How often have both you and Grandfather 


Lee said to us all, "Don't be merchants; anything else is 
better!'* . . . There is but one conclusion to be drawn of your 
opinion of wealth, which I know you have always had — that 
it is very dangerous. Moreover, what good personally does a 
man derive from money further than that always derived from 
giving? • . . Of an engineer or surveyor's profession I think 
very well . . . but it takes one rather too much away from the 
civilized world, excludes one too much from any social enjoy- 
ment. ... If I was sure I had a talent for music, as I am cer- 
tain that it is the one thing I like best in the world, I would 
study it thoroughly and make it my profession. But I am not, 
and therefore shall merely do so far as lies in my power. . • . 

There are several professions here which we hardly have as 
yet as professions^ and among them some very necessary to us. 
One, that of chemist, — I do not mean merely apothecary, for 
the sale of drugs, — is very little practised as a profession in 
America, and yet how necessary, in our factories very much, 
in farming also very useful. ... It is as yet a very empty 
profession, and all the others I have named are very full. • . . 
I cannot say that I should like to follow it as a profession, but 
I should like some knowledge . . . and then I can judge more 
properly. ... I have striven to understand myself, my own 
nature, character, feelings, all as hard, nay harder than for 
anything, and if I have not succeeded, it is not my fault; but 
I think I have. Since I have left home, it appears to me I 
have changed, I have grown older, I have found my way, and 
can see more clearly thro' the mist that envelopes one's youth ; 
I feel more as if I had an object in life, and consequently hap- 
pier and better satisfied with myself. I do not know whether 
you have marked anything of the kind in my letters, but it 
is so. • • • 

Now what I wish to ask is to stay here longer, and go to a 
university and gain all I can. It may seem strange for me, 
with weak eyes, to think of such a thing, but I have been wait- 
ing some time to tell you what I can now, that my eyes are 


decidedly better. ... I can study six hours a day, and to- 
day have been writing and practising with notes seven or 
more without any suffering to speak of . • • • I think it would 
be well to take chemistry, physics to a certain degree, perhaps 
history, and to continue with music. . • • Of the bad habits of 
the German students, I think with myself there is not much 
danger. I mean the fighting, beer-drinldng, and smoking. 
-Tor the first I have merely to say that it is too childish and 
ally to be tolerated ; for beer, tho' I have tried to like it, as it 
is wholesome and good in moderation, I have not the slightest 
daste^ and have a very strong distaste; for all liquors and wines 
H seem to have been bom with a dislike, for which I am truly 
thankful ; and as to smoking, altho' it would be a great conven- 
ience to smoke, as I am every day annoyed by it, I have a 
real hate for tobacco in every shape, and I think I would not 
learn for the world. It may be that at last I should come to 
it, but I do not believe it after a year's seasoning, such as I 
have had. • . • 

You must decide what you can afford. • • • There is one 
thing, as I before said, that makes me very, very sorry to 
leave Europe : the loss of music. I do think it makes and has 
made a real and a great change in me, since I first began with 
it; and if I continue to hear and to cultivate it, so will the 
change go on and the advantage increase. I do not believe there 
is anything more refining than music, no greater or stronger 
preservative against evil, and at least for me it has done much. 
I am almost thankful that I have had weak eyes; indeed I am 
quite so, for it has given me the time and opportunity to fimd 
out how much music is to me, and it has opened pleasures to 
me that otherwise would very possibly have never been dis- 
covered. I am afraid to trust to my feelings within, to my own 
ideas, or I should study music for a profession. I know not 
bow one finds that he has a talent for any one thing without 
trying: but everyone has a particular faculty for something, 
everyone has a decided turn and talent for a particular branch, 


and it is his duty to try to find this out, and to turn to it. If 
one may trust what he hears within himself, in his own heart, 
and be sure that it is right, I should say that my talent was for 
music, and that, if I studied it properly and persevered, I 
could bring out something worth having, worthy of a life thus 
spent, worthy of a man, worthy of my mother and of you. 
... I would not be a music teacher for anything; far better 
to be a merchant. ... I beg of you not to show this letter to 
anyone. ... If you can give me any answer by the middle of 
May, I should be glad. 

Here was a good deal, siu^ly, to set George Higginson 
thinking. ** I pray Heaven to give me power to aid you by my 
experiences and counsels," he replied; but the counsels varied 
with each letter. In general he was inclined, at first, to leave 
the decision to Henry, though he suggested a return to Cam- 
bridge for two years, to be followed by attendance at some 
university in Germany. He wants his son to take more pains 
with style, to "attend church once at least on Sundays," to 
overcome **a certain dash or tinge of conceit," which he dis- 
covers in Henry's letters, to take boxing and dancing lessons, 
to avoid the "anti-Christian and unholy" practice of dueling, 
to frequent the society of "cultured ladies," and to beware of 
the infidelity and immorality of a university city, lest the father 
should feel "the self-reproach in after years of beholding you 
astray and with unstable opinions on all sacred things, trace- 
able perhaps to foreign influences." 

The boy's answers to these various admonitions are full of 
patient good sense. As for the boxing lessons, "Bully Hig" b 
becomingly modest : — 

You suggest the propriety of dancing and boxing lessons, 
and also drawing, to me. I have danced enough for the pres- 
ent, and as to boxing, with the exception of a few Englishmen 
in Dresden, I was very likely, indeed probably, the best boxer 


there. The Germans have no itfea of boxing, not one. Drawing 
is a thing I should like very much to do, but I do not think I 
have any faculty for it, and moreover it is not well to under- 
take so many things at once. 

On the subject of immorality and infidelity the boy writes 
with perfect frankness. 

' There is unquestionably less morality than at home in some 
ways. . . . Female virtue is not so highly prized as at home, 
but this arises, I think, chiefly from the poverty of people 
generally, and from the great restrictions placed by the Gov- 
ernment on marriages. Drinking is very much less frequent 
than at home, at least hard drinking. ... I know full well 
all these dangers, or at least as well as one who has not tried 
them can ; I have been here perfectly free for a year, and have 
seen something of them all in others. I have refused several 
times to go to Paris until I was older and more seasoned ; and 
even now, tho' I could and should like much to go with Uncle 
H. this summer, I will not do so. Believe me, I will not make 
the false step in these matters. . . . About this matter of 
infidelity I have thought lately considerably. The great diffi- 
culty with the Germans is indiflFerence. . . . If you knew how 
hateful this indifference among the Germans about matters 
of religion is to me, more hateful even than open atheism, for 
that shows decision and thought, at least, and is moreover 
more pitiable than hateable ! . . . You say in your last letter 
that you "recommend" me to return. ... If you mean so, 
dosay," you must return/' or express the command. . . . Do 
be quick but sure. 

But after having given his ''free assent*' to Henry's plans 
for remaining in Germany, the father announces, late in June, 
that he has changed his mind. He has had "anxious doubts" 
ever since he gave assent, and now he wishes his son to come 


home, in order to enjoy the social advantages of Cambridge, 
and to "cherish these blessed family bonds." Eliot Cabot has 
told him that the surface drain^^e of Berlin is offensive in 
summer-time, and likely to result in an epidemic of cholera. 
James is entering Harvard, and will need an older brother's 
care. And "/ need you*'; at last the affectionate, wonying 
father tells the whole truth. 

May, June, and July dragged on, while these letters went 
back and forth. "Read pretty nearly all day," the diary 
records. " Read and read, and heard ' Fidelio.' " " Read again 
much." Dr. and Mrs. William Dexter of Boston were kind to 
him, as were the Fays and the Bamards. One lucky Sunday 
he met "a young American, Mr. Gildersleeve," who was 
later to become the famous Johns Hopkins professor, and the 
two boys went to KroU's Theatre and heard "Der Frei- 
schtitz." A few days later he heard ''the Wagner" ^ain: — 

"Very fine, voice very fine and powerful, I think manages 
it well, tho' I wish to hear more to be certain, and sings with 
a great deal of feeling and expression. Her higher notes are 
wonderful and she has fine low notes also. Her appearance 
pleased me very well." He thought Hal6vy's "Die Jiiden" 
"too noisy and showy" ; but adds, characteristically, " I must 
hear it again to decide about it." It took only one visit to the 
Dom-Kirche, however, to persuade him that it was "not 
much of a church." He enjoyed "the W^^ner" and Formes 
again in "Lucrezia Boi^ia" and "Die Jiiden," and liked par- 
ticularly "the KSster" in Gluck's "Iphigenia in Tauris," al- 
though this composition seemed to him "very hard indeed to 

A letter from the Island of Rligen, on July 27, shows that 
the boy was wearying of the long uncertainty, and was ready 
enough to welcome any decision that his father might make. 

. . . Perhaps you do not know just where this island is, 
for it is a very small one. It is just off the southern shore 


of the Baltic, north of Stettin, and about lo hours sail from 
that place. We, that is Dr, Dexter, Mrs. D,, and myself, 
heard of this place as a pleasant one, and after studying it 
out, determined to come here, and spend as long a time as 
was agreeable, in walking, bathing, fishing, reading, etc. ; and 
accordingly we left Berlin the 20th of this month for the trip. It 
was sooner than we had intended to start, for our lectures were 
not finished and there were other reasons for staying; but we 
were all getting run down, we could not study, and so thought 
it better to depart from that city of pestilent odors. . . . 

I knew, when you wrote me about leaving Berlin for the 
summer, that it was not healthy there, but had hardly b^^un 
to feel it in the air. However, it will not be so another siunmer, 
for an English company have taken a contract to supply the 
city with water and also to drain it properly, building the 
drains — all of which are now on the surface except the very 
largest — under ground and conducting fresh water thro' 
them to keep them clean. That is German enterprise, to let 
the English do such a thing for the public use and good ! 

We h^d a ride of a few hours to Stettin, where we stayed a 
day looking round to see the greatest Prussian port where the 
Prussian navy lies. Such miserable-looking affairs as their 
vessels, I never saw, so diflFerent from our trim, pretty-looking 
ones ; and as to the navy, I have heard that they have two 
vessels. We saw one very good-sized, nice steamship, but I 
do not believe the Prussians ever built such a thing. . . . 

My last was pretty strong against coming home, and yet 
I almost think I shall be glad to do as you wish. Nothing but 
the future advantages could induce me to remain, and tho' it 
may seem very changeable in me to have and to express so 
many and so different opinions on one subject, yet the diffi- 
culty of the position must excuse it. One day I feel as if I 
could and would stay and profit very much by the advantages 
within my reach, as if it would be my ruin to return now. 
Another, I am longing to get back, and feel as if no earthly 


honor or pleasure, no hope even of doing more for the good of 
others in my lifetime than is possible if I leave the advantages 
of this part of the world behind me, could tempt me to stay 
another month so alone. However, send your decision and I 
will act upon it at once, one way or the other, and not whine 
any more. . • . 

The outing at Riigen was pleasant enough. He tramped^ 
loafed, heard a good deal of light opera, dined and danced 
with some ^^eeable German ladies, and saw the King of 
Prussia (the "old Kaiser'* of later fame). "The King came; 
looked very tight; bowed to us particularly; great many offi- 
cers, eta" But by August 10 the diary notes: " Nothing par- 
ticular. Getting on in life." Evidently it was time to move 
on, and two days later he bade good-bye to Doctor and Mrs. 
Dexter, went back to Berlin to pack up, and started for Paris. 
"Return with all convenient speed," his father was writing, 
"in order that you may place yourself under the influences of 
the Cambridge worthies." 

Yet the boy stayed two weeks in Paris, "saw a great deal," 
as the diary indicates in detail, and found the dty "very in- 
teresting indeed." He dined with French officers, called upon 
such Perkinses, Lees, and Peabodys as happened to be in 
Paris, shopped industriously to procure gifts for his family,* 
and then crossed to London for his last week, sailing for home 
on the America on Saturday, September 17, 1853. "We were 
fourteen days at sea precisely," says the diary. " Rough, un- 
comfortable weather. One pretty English girl on board. Also 
a very pleasant German lady, who took me for her brother- 
in-law. The last day was beautiful, and our harbor was so, 
too. Good-bye, we are there." 

But long, long, will "the Cambridge worthies" sit, before 
they see anything of Henry Higginson. 

1" If you once begin in our enormous family, where can you end; where do 
you wish to end ? " he had written in boyish despair to his father. 


A period of (ennent for all of us young people. — H. L. H., Reminiscences. 

The next three years are best summarized in the words that 
appear at the head of this chapter. In one sense it is the old 
story of the influence of an entrancing, fatal Wanderjahr. 
The youth returns to the family hearth-stone; but he is no 
longer the same youth who went away, and the kinsfolk whom 
he finds waiting for him are strangely the same and yet not 
the same as they were before. Turgenev has painted the sit- 
uation once for all in "Fathers and Children," yet each gen- 
eration must continue to discover it anew in its own expe- 
rience. The inevitable period of readjustment need not be 
tragic, as in Turgenev's story. Sometimes it is smiling or 
tearful comedy, and often it may be diagnosed as "growing 

To understand that Bedford Place world to which Henry 
Higginson returned in the autumn of 1853, we must be allowed 
to glance back at the family correspondence during his ab- 
sence. These letters will reveal the characteristic interests of 
the Higginson household, and they afford some pleasant 
glimpses of the long-vanished Boston Town of 1852 and 1853^ 

An affectionate note from Henry's aunt, Harriet Lee Morse, 
— his mother's sister, — written from Brookline in June, 1852, 
gives a charming picture of the England she had wished the 
boy to know. 

Brooelinb, June 28, 1852. 
. . . You will be in your glory , dear Henry , when you return 
to England and really travel through some of those exquisite 
quiet old villages, so loved by dear Miss Mitford, and by your 


Mother through Miss Mitford's books; just think of the lanes 
hedged by primroses and hawthorn, and a fine ruin in the dis- 
tance overgrown with ivy; and then again coming to a little 
serene-looking village, and stopping at mine host's inn and 
sleeping in sweet-scented lavender sheets. Dear Hen, I could 
almost envy you when I think of your continental enjoyments; 
but when in fancy I place you in England next spring just as 
Isaak Walton's brooks are beginning to ripple over their 
sunny beds, and all nature is bursting into leaf and flower, 
then, I say , I really fong to be with you. . . . Do not forget to 
leave plenty of time for bonny Old England, there are so many 
thousand scenes of interest there to you now, and still more 
when you have regained your eyes in future years. Explore 
Westmoreland, where is Lake Windermere, where Words- 
worth lived and wrote; and near by is Fox How (don't fail to 
go there), the retreat and rest of Dr. Arnold, one of the best 
and most useful men this sun ever shone upon. Then Oxford 
and Cambridge teeming with interest to you, and every other 
scholar. ... 

But of all this he had seen nothing ! 

Here is the Harvard Class Day of 1852, described by faithful 
elder brother George, aged 19, who, like Henry and their 
mtimate friends, William Amory, Stephen Perkins, and "Jim " 
Savage, — and their older acquaintance, Francis Parkman, — 
is now having serious trouble with his eyes : — 

Brooklinb^ June 18, 1852. 

My dear Henry: — 

. . . Last Friday was Class-day. The fellows seemed to en- 
joy the day very much. It is said to be the largest class which 
has ever graduated from Harvard, being over ninety in number 
when they parted. They have not lost any of their number by 
death, and few have left for other reasons. Thayer delivered a 
fine oration, which gratified his class very much, and William- 


son wrote a good poem, which he was unfortunately prevented 
from delivering by the death of his Mother. Choate of Salem 
read it in his place. The Ode was written by Horatio Alger, 
and sung tolerably well by the class. They made one or two 
changes, which I think was a mistake; they ran but once 
around the tree, which vexed the other classes very much, 
particularly the Juniors, who thought they were afraid of be- 
ing knocked over by the lower classes. They also made another 
mistake, in cutting down the wreath of flowers instead of 
jumping for it, both of which changes rather took away from 
the excitement of the scene. 

It is Geoi^e, likewise, who in the autumn of that year de- 
scribes with due solemnity the passing of Daniel Webster. 

"... You will see by the papers that the greatest man by 
far that our country has been able to boast of, since the time of 
Washington, has finished his earthly course. Daniel Webster 
died at Marshfield on the morning of the 24th. He is a great 
loss to the country and everyone seems to feel it. The dty is 
dressed in mourning — coaches, shops and streets. It will be a 
long time, I am afraid, before we shall have another man who 
will do so much good to the Union as he has; however, he has 
done his work on earth faithfully, and it is not possible that 
such a person should be always with us, for every man must 
die some time, and he was past the usual age of man, being 
more than seventy." 

In November the Music Hall was dedicated, and we shall 
let Frank describe the great event. 

Nod. 23, 1852. 

Dear Henry : — 

I wish you could have been here at the opening of the New 
Music Hall on Saturday evening. Friday evening they had it 
open to subscribers. Father had the use of Uncle Harry's 
tickets, and Mary and I went with him to see it. It is a splen- 
did Hall. There are two galleries. It is lighted in a new manner 


from above just below the cornice by a succession of gas-lights 
about half a foot apart running all round the room ; for the 
purpose of lighting there is a pass2^e-way round between the 
lights and the outer wall for one man only to pass. The seats 
are very comfortable and have round backs. The Organ is out 
of sight and there is an open piece of work in front. It was 
opened by Madame Alboni and there was an Oratorio Sun- 
day evening, in which Madame Sontag sang. The dimensions 
are 130 long, 78 wide, 65 feet high, and it will seat about 
3000 people. Aunt Hatty had a little son born on Thursday 
morning which was your birthday, and they think of nam- 
ing him Henry.* I saw it on Sunday and it looked very 
queer. . . . 


But it is brother Jim, just turned sixteen in June, 1852, and 
already a music-lover and philosopher, who provides the most 
varied and delightful comments upon what is going on during 
Henry's absence. James is greatly worried, at first, over 
Henry's traveling with a clergyman. ''Don't let him [Mr. 
Eliot] prevent you from going either to concerts and operas." 
By August it was evident that his fears on this head were 
groundless. " I am glad you and Mr. Eliot are on as good terms 
as you describe, though I had no doubt of his being agreeable, 
etc. His religious opinions will not interfere with yours, if 
indeed you have any." Then he turns cheerfully to an account 
of the Harvard- Yale boat-race of 1852, on Lake Winnepe- 
saukee. Yale men who read this page will note that it is a 
future President of the Harvard Club of New York who is 

"There has just been a regatta at Lake Winnipisiogee be- 
tween the Harvard fellows and the Yale ditto. There were 
four boats present, the Oneida of Cambridge, the Shawmut 
and Undine both of Yale, and the Atalanta belonging to New 

1 Dr. Henry Lee Morse. 


York, but manned by students from Yale. The last one pulls 
four oars, the other three are eight-oared boats. In a prelimi- 
nary trial, which was had on the morning of the day appointed 
for the race, the course being about a mile and a half, the 
boats came in in the order I have named them above, the 
Oneida distancing the Shawmut by about eighty feet. At the 
regular trial in the afternoon, in which the boats were to pull 
up the bay two miles, they started together and kept so for 
some time; but afterwards the Oneida shot ahead and main- 
tained her place, coming in again firsts and was very heartily 
cheered by the spectators on shore. The prize was a handsome 
pair of black walnut oars, ornamented with silver tops, etc. 
The second prize, which was taken by the Shawmut, was a 
silver-mounted boat-hook. I hear that Charley Paine be- 
longed to the Oneida. The last ten strokes of her crew are 
said to have been very powerful ones. You can imagine them 
swearing away, while they almost lift their boat out of the 
water at each stroke. The Yale fellows, I hear, had been prac- 
tising for a long time, in expectation of the contest, before they 
sent their invitation to the Harvard boys. They therefore had 
the advantage in that, but the latter were heavier men, and so 
gained the victory." 

Here is James Higginson's comment on the Presidential 
nominations of 1852: — 

"The Whig Presidential nomination has been made, and 
Gen. Scott is the unhappy man fixed upon. The Godlike 
Daniel was again disappointed in his hopes and expectations, 
though his friends are trying to console his wounded pride as 
much as possible. Mr. Fillmore may send him to England, 
since the Hon. Abbott [Lawrence] has asked to be recalled 
next November. Gen. Pierce is the other candidate [Demo- 
cratic] and will probably be elected, for Scott at present seems 
to stand but very little chance. You see in these glorious days, 
nothing but military heroes will suit the people. Henry Clay 
has just breathed his last, amidst the groans and lamentations 
of an affectionate people, as the papers say." 


In the same letter, July 11, 1852, he gives his elder brother 
this grave warning: "Don't become too much of an English- 
man, Henry; they are very well in their way, but in common 
with other people, have their faults." 

But he does not neglect local matter like " Bloody Monday " 
at Harvard. 

"I shall go over with S n Perkins, if he will go, alone if 

he will not, to see the football match on the memorable Mon- 
day, the 6th Sept.* Don't you wish you could be there to tum- 
ble over some of the Sophomores of last year. Your class will 
of coiu-se beat. The Freshmen who were examined in July as a 
dass do not look very promising, I hear rather sheepish than 

It is in this letter that he refers to the building which was 
soon to be the home of the new firm of Lee and Higginson : 
"The new building in Exchange St. is progressing rapidly and 
promises when finished to be quite handsome and bear the 
marks of the Lee taste." 

In November James reports the result of the Presidential 

"The Presidential Ellection has taken place, and Pierce of 
New Hampshire, the Democratic Candidate, has been chosen 
by a very large majority, carrying every State but two. . . . 
Poor old Scott ! The only thing he can now claim is to being — 
since Wellington is dead — the greatest soldier in the world. If 
he had never tried to be anything but a soldier, his reputation 
would have been better." 

Then he passes to the musical and theatrical affairs of 
Boston, in which the Higginson boys were so keenly interested. 

" Madame Sontag has made her d6but on the Boston stage 
and been received very warmly; her voice is said to possess an 
exceeding depth of pathos and sweetness. Madame Anna 

^ Qiaries Lowell, who was a Junior, wrote to Henry a full description of this 
ooDtest. "Steph. Perkins was on the ^s^nnd fighting kunly, and I observed tuum 
fratrem on the fence." — £. W. Emerson, Life and Letters of Charles Russell 
Lama (Boston, 1907), p. 75- 


Thillon is also here, at the Howard. The New National 
Theatre has been opened, but Leonard, — the former auction- 
eer, — who is now man^^er, does not seem to have a very good 
stock company, and the theatre is sinking to its original posi- 
tion. It is a pity we should not have some good permanent 
company here. At present, there seems to be no chance for an 
opera this winter. Bosio, Bettini, Truffi and husband are in 
Europe, Badiali is singing with Sontag. Perhaps we may be 
able to have one before the season is through. The Musical 
Fund and Germanians have both opened their subscription 
lists in this dty, and we shall no doubt have a continued 
stream of concerts." 

So the boy's merry letters go gossiping along, about Mr. 
Abbott Lawrence's return from the English mission, about 
Uncle Harry Lee's presence at the Duke of Wellington's 
funeral, and the coup d'etat of Louis Napoleon. In February, 
1853, he goes into rhapsodies over Madame Alboni's "glorious 


" Nobody looked or thought of her figure, only her beautiful 
face, beaming with the sunniest and most unaffected smiles 
that ever were seen. ... I never heard such tremendous ap- 
plause in my life. . . . The Germanians brought out a new 
symphony of Beethoven last Saturday evening, the first time 
it has ever been performed in this country. Dwightf I believe, 
says it was very fine, beautiful, etc., but no doubt most of the 
audience thought it terribly dull." 

He quizzes Henry over his friendship with the Motleys. 

**We are glad to hear that our respected brother is on an 
intimate footing with Mr. and Mrs. Lothrop Motley. Can't 
you aid him in his history, that history which for so many years 
has been preparing? ... It will no doubt be so valuable that 
its chances for a rapid sale are about equal to those of Jeremy 
Taylor's 'Tracts and Sermons,' " 

But the "Dutch Republic," it is now quite unnecessary to 
say, outsold Jeremy Taylor ! 


James Higginson's last letter to his brother, in July, 1853, 
combats with fierce affection a plan which was already, it 
seems, in Henry's mind, and which he was later to carry out. 

'* Young German^ for that is the title by which I shall here- 
after designate you if you still determine to make Germany 
your fatherland, why were you so foolish as to write a (private) 
letter of such enormous length to yoiu* father on the subject of 
staying on the Continent for a term of three or more years, in 
spite of the voice of reason, which tells you, or ought to tell 
you, that such a course would be ruinous to you hereafter, as 
you would find that you had no contemporaries. ... I vow 
perhaps you had better spend all your life there, marry a Ger- 
man girl, and never come over the broad ocean to revisit your 
friends and former home. I '11 cut you if you do, never come to 
see you as long as you live. . . . This will be my last letter to 
you, old fellow, unless you come home." 

A few lines from Henry's little sister "Molly" must com- 
plete the family correspondence of this eventful year. Mary 
contents herself at first with describing Uncle Harry Lee's new 
bouse in Brookline, and asking such delightfully inconsecutive 
questions as: "Have you seen the Queen or any of her child- 
ren? Have you heard how sick Sarah Cabot is? " 

By October Mary, who is now fourteen, is permitted to at- 
tend a Harvard "Exhibition." "You asked me to tell any- 
thing that may come into my head, so I am doing it now. I 
went to Cambridge the other day with George. It was Exhibi- 
tion day, and Charley Lowell, James Pierce, young Mr. Davis, 
Sylvester Waterhouse, Charles Bancroft, that handsome 
pleasant young man cousin of Wilder Dwight, Wilder Dwight, 
and I don't remember the others, spoke. I enjoyed it very 
much indeed." 

By February she writes: " I shall have my ears bored pretty 
soon and I want you to bring me a pretty pair of ear-rings. 
Father is willing. Ella Lowell told me that in Rome they wore 
a great deal of jewelry and that it was very pretty and very 


cheap. So if you go there you might look out for some. But it 
is no sort of matter, for Paris or any other place will do just as 

Her father, always anxious about the epistolary style of 
his children, adds this characteristic postscript: " M. has made 
various attempts with this affair — yet it is full of errors. I 
send it, simply to show you what she desires to offer by way of 
remembrance of you. When it has performed its office, put it 
into your fireplace, for I would not have it kept." 

But Henry kept it till his death. 

And here he was, at last, back in Bedford Place, with his 
presents for all of the family, and his stories of the Strahleck 
Pass and the Dresden police and Berlin and Paris ; with his first 
beard, too, for he was almost nineteen, and this is the Penden- 
nis and George Warrington era.^ He was loyal and affection- 
ate, as always, but, like Bazaroff in ''Fathers and Children," 
he did not quite fit in with the Bedford Place scheme of things. 
He had intellectual ambitions, as we have seen, but he had 
fallen out of step with the Cambridge men. His Harvard class- 
mates were now Juniors. He could no longer hope to make up 
his studies and rejoin them; nor could he be allowed to enter, 
like Stephen Perkins, the Sophomore class of 1856. Unwilling 
to start over again as a Freshman, he asked his father's per- 
mission to pursue studies with Mr. Samuel Eliot, — a cousin of 
Charles W. Eliot, — who was then taking private pupils in his 
house in Louisburg Square. ''He took great pains with me, 
and I worked very hard under his care," said the pupil. These 
lessons lasted about a year and a half. 

"He continued," notes Mrs. Higginson, "friendly relations 

^Thackeray had been lecturing in Boston in January, 1853. Here ia the account 
of it written by George Higginson, Sr., to Henry. " We have all been very much 
entertained and delighted by a course of lectures which Thackeray of Pendennis 
memory — now on a visit to our shores — has just given us, portraying the pri- 
vate lives and characters of some of the noted writers and evils of Queen Anne's 
times and later — beginning with Dean Swift and ending with Sterne and Gold- 
smith. His audiences were large and intelligent, and doubtless very pleasing to 
himself. I never listened to a course with more pleasure." 


with his dassmatesi passing much of his time at Mrs. Lowell's, 
the mother of Charles Lowell, and joining all the sociable life of 
the young people in Cambridge, which centred in Mrs. Lowell's 
house. There were private theatricals, sometimes in German, 
there was a delightful German class, and there were readings 
which finished with a delightful social gathering in the evening. 
He belonged to a singing society, 'The Orpheus,' and also to 
a private singing club in Boston, and often went to James 
Savage's room in Holworthy, where there was much informal 
singing and music." 

Nothing could be more agreeable than all this, but it was 
obvious that time was passing, and that Henry would soon be 
twenty-one. Mr. George Higginson now appears upon the 
scene. Henry had had eighteen months at home, and there was 
apparently very little to show for it. Surely the calling of 
"a merchant" — whatever George Higginson may have said 
against it — was much better than no profession at all. And 
here the Reminiscences take up the story: — 

In March, 1855, my father secured for me a place in the 
office of Messrs. Samuel and Edward Austin, India merchants 
on India Wharf, and there I served nineteen months as sole 
clerk and bookkeeper. I enjoyed the life with them, did the 
work to their satisfaction, attended to the correspondence and 
the cash, kept the bank accounts, wrote copies of the foreign 
letters, examined the invoices, entered all the goods in the 
Custom House, made out the bills and collected them. Of 
course all the financial operations they themselves made, in 
securing letters of credit, buying remittances, chartering ships, 
etc. We had a ship a month, the goods coming from Calcutta, 
Manila, Java, and Australia. At the end of my time of service 
with them I received their recommendation as having satisfied 
them, and a recommendation to go to India under the employ 
of a friend who had a large business there ; but he did not want 
me, and I did not want to go. 


During all that time I had seen a great deal of certain class- 
mates, and a great deal of my friends, Stephen Perkins, Charles 
Lowell, James Savage, and many others. We had walked and 
talked together, discussed all sorts of problems, been deeply 
interested in many things — and they had plenty of new ideas. 
Charles Lowell and Stephen Perkins were among the most 
brilliant men I ever have known — very thoughtful, and fond of 
taking up everjrthing and discussing it from the bottom — not 
content with the affairs of this world, being what one now 
would call real reformers or radicals, and measuring everything 
by their own footrule. The slavery questions were more and 
more important at that time, and the question of Kansas came 
up. Men were sent to Kansas and Nebraska to keep the States 
out of Slavery. Frank Sanborn, who was in our class, had gone 
out and reported as to how things looked there, and I wanted 
to go, but he said it was useless to go unless I proposed to live 

I had had two ventures in indigo, which were allowed while 
I was in the office, and the result of the first was spent in 
equipping a good-looking Irishman with his family to go to 
Kansas and settle. I fitted him out with clothes and arms, and 
he started off, got as far as Albany, sent his family adrift, and 
went elsewhere. 

During all this time I used to go into society a good deal, 
went to the parties, made many acquaintances, saw many 
girls, with whom I made friends and who added very much to 
the happiness of my life. I used to do figures all day long in 
examining fresh sets of invoices, and I remember saying to Mr. 
Edward Austin — who was very bright — one day something 
about future employment. He asked me what I wanted to do, 
and I said I did not know ; that work on the wharf did not seem 
to me to require any mind; that I wanted something which 
would use my mind and would give me a chance to take hold of 
life more seriously. He muttered: "I guess when you have 
some notes to pay, you will find that your mind is busy 
enough " ; which struck me as true. 


It was a period of ferment for all of us young people. I was 
wild about slavery and anti-slavery, did not like the Aboli- 
tionists, cx)uld not bear the disgrace to our country of slavery, 
believed that we should have sooner or later a great struggle, 
and that we should get rid of it in some way. At that time 
several fugitive slaves in Boston were taken and sent back 
under the Fugitive Slave Act, which Mr. Webster had helped 
pass, being merely a strengthening of a law which had stood 
for many years. A slave-owner had a right to come anywhere in 
the North and seize a man who had been his slave and had run 
away, and the Federal authorities were obliged to take that 
man back. It happened two or three times in Boston that these 
cases arose, and the last one was the case of Anthony Bums. 
The whole matter busied our town for some days; the Court 
House was surrounded with chains, some of the militia com- 
panies were called out, and eventually a body of marines from 
the Navy Yard — a body of prize-fighters and bar-tenders — 
were put right around the negro Bums, and several of our 
militia companies marched with them in order that, if at- 
tacked, there should be no rescue. Charles Lowell and I saw 
the man put on board the ship and carried off, and we swore 
that that thing should be redressed, and it was.^ 

Our class graduated in 1855 and let me partake in the 
festivities of Class Day and Commencement, for I had many 
friends there. After another year of work in the office on the 
wharf, I wished much to go abroad. Charles Lowell had 
broken down and had been sent abroad, and I proposed to 
join him. Stephen Perkins and Powell Mason were going with 
me, and we sailed about the first of November. At that time I 
had inherited about $13,000 from an old uncle who had just 
died, and I expected to live on the interest of that. 

Samuel and Edward Austin, who gave Henry Higginson his 
first training in business, were old-fashioned shipping mer- 

^ Henry's words were: *' Charley, it will come to us to set this right." — E. W. 
Emerson, op. cit.t P- &• 


chants at 34 India Wharf. Some of their characteristics are 
vividly painted in letters from Henry to his father after the 
death of the senior partner, in 1858. 

Vienna, Ocf. 19, 1858. 
Mr. Sam Austin too is gone. I'd expected to hear that 
pretty soon, but not immediately. I had a letter to him 
in hand, half written; it is the second, the first having been 
burned as unsatisfactory to me. Mr. Charles Sumner, who was 
here last week, told me that his trouble was in the kidneys, of 
which I Ve no conception or understanding. Mr. Austin was a 
tolerably happy man, I should say, tho' not especially desirous 
of living, or of dying either, perhaps. As I Ve often told you, 
they were both curious men ; they liked to make money, and 
did not like to lose it ; yet it caused them no particular pleasure 
in the one case, and certainly no real pain, or even vexation, in 
the other. You could never have told, when Mr. Edward 
looked at the balance at the foot of an account sales of a cargo 
and of the a/c current with Mr. Bowditch, you could never 
have told whether it was to his debit or credit; and the same of 
his brother. He used to express annoyance at remissness in 
forwarding a/cs and remittances ; and they both were vexed by 
disobedience to express orders to their agents or at cheating; 
but farther than that their tempers were astonishingly even. 
As masters they were perfectly easy to satisfy; regularity, 
punctuality, thoughtfulness, accuracy, obedience (to the spirit 
not to the letter), use of one's common sense was all that was 
required. In return one was treated like a gentleman, no 
questions asked ; interest in one's affairs and consideration for 
one's feelings and wishes, a desire to help and not to keep down 
the clerk, was always shown. And what always struck me 
agreeably, they were both quite willing to be proved wrong; 
many a time I have shown Mr. Edward this or that little error 
in statistics or other things, where he 'd forgotten, and where it 
was my business to know; the correction always was accepted 


with perfect courtesy, and, last but not least, an entire trust in 
my truth and honor. • . • 

And he wrote again on March 30, 1 859 : — 

Mr. E. A. is a knowing, cool merchant; I used to think him 
sometimes better than his brother. I never saw such entire 
self-possession; no fall, no rise, no loss, no gain, no misfortune, 
no difficulty, no man, nothing could disturb his imperturbabil- 
ity. He was always ready to jrield to Mr. Bowditch, always 
ready to correct a mistake, very energetic, a perfect man to 
work for because one always knew what was expected, never 
angry at errors, always ready to give explanations and advice, 
and the latter was so good. For instance my order to India on 
coming here; I knew that indigo was scarce at home, and was 
going to be scarce in Bengal, and therefore judged it safe for 
an operation within limits; but should have probably done 
nothing without his advice on the subject, so readily and 
clearly given. He looked at the matter and said "Yes." 
Prime man. He could make a million now, if he wanted to do so. 

It is pleasant to add here a letter from the junior partner, 
written to his former clerk diuing the Civil War. Mr. Edward 
Austin is remembered in State Street as an old gentleman of 
somewhat severe aspect, who " looked as if he wanted to knock 
you down with the stick he was carrying" ; but though only a 
graduate of the "Campaigns of Gunny Bags and Saltpetre," 
his views of soldiership and his loyalty to the Union must have 
comforted the young Major to whom the letter is addressed. 

Boston, April 11 [1863]. 

My DEAR Sir: — 

I have your very interesting note of 5th inst., for which am 
much obliged. I regret very much not seeing you when you 
were here. If I had known that you were in town, I should 


have done myself the pleasure to have called upon you. It 
gives me much satisfaction to find that you did not leave your 
men to go into the 2d. merely to be advanced a grade. I cannot 
conceive anything more detrimental to the discipline of a Regi- 
ment than for its officers to want that esprit de corps which 
binds them to it in every other service. Every new officer has 
his ideas of discipline, and when often changed, the men get 
disheartened. You are perfectly right in your remarks as to 
men. First of all, the elements of all Trades are to be learned, 
i.e., its tools, be they accounts or guns and muskets; but the 
mistake which is made in all professions is that the graduate 
who has learned but the names conceives that he is master 
of his Trade. The graduate at Cambridge thinks himself a 
scholar, of West Point a General, and from the counting-room, 
a merchant. Now, one in a million of these graduates really 
proves that Providence has given him brains to at once com* 
mand after preliminary study; for the remainder, nothing but 
hard and constant work will ever bring out success. Napoleon 
was a genius; the Duke of Wellington a hard and patient 
worker, and I have never known a hard and constant worker 
in any profession — with average brains — that did not stand 
above his fellows. 

To take the conceit out of a man, give him a responsible 
situation, and see what he will do. We have had examples 
enough during this war. Heaven knows. The clever men do 
not seem to have been found in the right place, but I have 
firm faith in the army — there may, and must be, mistakes, 
but in the long run it must be successful. Do you know that I 
envy the young men who have been so fortunate as to start in 
life with such an object as yours? All the property I have, 
and ten times more, if I had it, would I give for the chance to 
distinguish myself in such a cause. My Campaigns were Gunny 
Bags and Saltpetre. 

The "Union Club" not only admits "Army men" but 
makes much of them, and you may be sure — as well as your 


friends — of not only a hearty welcome but to become mem- 
bers whenever you desire it, I send you Everett's oration to us 
upon our first meeting. 

Pray let me hear from you as often as you have leisure. If 
you meet Lieutenant (who ought to have by right been 
Captain) Bowditch, give him my kind regards — he is a 
promising young man. 

Very truly yours, 

Ed. Austin. 

Major H. L. Higginson 
2d Mass. Cavalry. 

Of political ferment, between 1853 and 1856, there was 
surely enough. The Bums case has be^n so fully described ia 
Charles F. Adams's "Life of R. H. Dana" and in Thomas 
Wentworth Higginson's "Cheerful Yesterdays," that it needs 
no further comment here. But no one can forget the picture of 
the two shame-stricken Boston boys, Higginson and Lowell, 
among the crowd of 20,000 that followed the last fugitive 
slave captured in Massachusetts, as the mob swept down 
State Street to Long Wharf on June 2, 1854. " Charley, it will 
come to us to set this right." But how? 

One solution of the insoluble problem was then thought to 
be possible through the emigration of Free Soil men to Kansas. 
As late as September, 1856, Charles Lowell wrote from Vevey 
to Henry: "Are you going to Kansas? You 'd better, I think, 
unless things look brighter." The zeal for a free Kansas was 
shared by Henry's brother James, who in 1856 was a Junior at 
Harvard. He had attended for a while the well-known school 
in Concord taught by young Frank B. Sanborn, one of Henry's 
classmates in Cambridge, and was still fond of spending his 
spare time in Concord. George Higginson's sons had now 
come into a small inheritance, and the following letter shows 
James's ideas on investing it. 



Concord, June 23 [1856]. 
... I want you, Henry, to give a hundred dollars with me 
to that Kansas Committee — each give that amount, I mean. 
Two hundred to $800, Reeder said, was enough to support a 
man there (or one year. It will be some comfort to think that 
we were doing something towards helping make Kansas a free 
state — and money after all is not much to give. Men are what 
they want. Why don't you go out there? I should feel might- 
ily like going if I were out of college. That's a safe proviso 
perhaps, but really I would like to go for a year or more and do 
what I could — not to settle there, however. Should n't fancy 
that at all. But for giving that money, what do you think 
about it? I won't press you hard, for I know you will need 
your income (don't that sound grandly for a little amount like 
$300 or $400 a year) much sooner than I shall mine, either for 
business or other purposes, so that it might be a real sacrifice 
to you, if not an imprudent expenditure, while it would not 
make much difference to me, for I shall not need mine — ex- 
cept perhaps to live on, and even then what would a hundred 
dollars more or less be — for two or three years. I hope you 
will think about it and tell me. I have no doubt you feel as 
much interest as I do in the affair, so won't say anything more 
about that. I can't draw mine, you see, as you can yours, and 
it is rather doubtful whether Father will give me any. I 
threatened in a letter I wrote to him yesterday to borrow it of 
some friend, if he did not send it along. . . . 

A later letter shows the attempt to enlist the support of 
Harvard undergraduates. It may safely be hazarded that 
President Walker did not approve of the proposed meeting ! 

Concord, Sept. yth, 1856. 

Dear Henry, — 

Sanborn asked me to tell you that there is to be a Kansas 
meeting at Cambridge on Wednesday evening next, at which 


he will be — and wants you to come out there if possible, so 
that he may see you and have a chance to tell you about his 
journey to the West, which he says he promised to do before he 
started. So come along there and you will enjoy it, I have no 
doubt. I don't know who presides. James was invited to, but 
declined on the plea that he never presided at political meet- 
ings of any kind. Sanborn says he thinks there will be a good 
deal of enthusiasm. James has promised a subscription and 
Jennison the same, to be made at the meeting, I suppose. 

Then there are to be subscription lists passed round on 
Thursday among the fellows, who I hope will come out well. 
I am going down on Wednesday myself to see to the matter in 
my own class. 

However, you come out there on Wednesday and we will see 
about all these things. The meeting will probably be at Ly- 
ceum Hall. Yrs. truly, 


John Brown's fijght at Ossawatomie against the Border Ruf- 
fians had taken place one week earlier, on August 30. "There 
will be no more peace in this land until slavery is done for," 
said "old Brown," as he watched with streaming eyes the 
flames of burning Ossawatomie. " I will give them something 
else to do than to extend slave territory. I will carry the war 
into Africa." But the young enthusiasts of Concord and 
Cambridge were not ready for this — as yet. 

One sentence in the Reminiscences of this period has a touch 
of wistfulness: " Our class graduated in 1855 and let me partake 
of the festivities of Class Day and Commencement, for I had 
many friends there." His little bundle of Harvard souvenirs, 
kept religiously for more than sixty years, contains all the 
programmes of the Commencement of his class, marked ^^Our 
Class Day, 1855.'^ Here is a ticket admitting *'a Gentleman 
and Ladies to the Exercises in the Chapel and Dance in Har- 
vard Hall " ; a penciled list of Class officers; and the formidable 


" Order of Exercises for Commencement/' with titles of thirty- 
nine ''Essays," "Disquisitions," ''Dissertations," and "Ora- 
tions," culminating in the two "parts," — bracketed as indi- 
cating that the highest honors for scholarship were divided in 
that year, — "An Oration, ' The Man of Purpose,' " by Robert 
Treat Paine of Boston, and "An Oration, ' Immature Author- 
ship and Premature Publication,'" by Francis Channing 
Barlow of Cambridge. Paine was one of Henry Higginson's 
cousins, and "Frank" Barlow — not yet a major-general — 
was a warm friend. Phillips Brooks, it may be noticed, de- 
livered a Dissertation on " Rabaut, the Protestant Preacher" ; 
Alexander Agassiz, a Disquisition on "Goethe as a Man 
of Science," and F. B. Sanborn an Oration on "The School- 
master of the Future " — curious foreshadowings of the future 
of the three boys. One cannot tell what the unlucky "some- 
time member" — so full of sentiment, of secret ambition for 
self -development and for service — really felt as he listened to 
all this eloquence, or whether he listened to it at all. But one 
cannot help hoping that he recalled a certain ancient fable 
about a hare and a tortoise. 

For Henry Higginson, as everyone knows now, was destined 
ultimately to "arrive." He was a type-specimen of the slowly 
developing Anglo-Saxon, uncertain of himself, unconscious of 
his deepest motives, unaware as yet of his true aim. In the 
autumn of 1856, when he "wished to go abroad " s^ain, he was 
almost twenty-two ; vigorous in body, inquisitive and tenacious 
of facts, with some training in mercantile affairs, yet dis- 
satisfied with "trade" as a livelihood. His chief pleasures 
were in music and in the society of a few young men of his own 
age and social circumstances. He felt that he was a "radical," 
in one of the most conservative communities in the United 
States; but Charles Lowell and Stephen Perkins and James 
Savage were "radical" likewise, perceiving vaguely that the 
times were out of joint, and ignorant as yet of any practicable 
method of setting them right. 


He had absorbed a great deal of the Emersonian doctrine 
of individualism, and was soon to keep over his desk a picture 
of the Concord seer. He had marked independence of judg- 
ment, and clung pertinaciously to his conclusions. Yet his 
family affection and tribal loyalty ran warm. He had a whim- 
sical appreciation of the Higginson and Lee characteristics, 
and could be a sharp critic, not only of inherited foibles, but of 
petty matters like his sister's spelling, and his brothers' care- 
lessness in school, and his father's choice of ink and writing- 
paper. He had, in fact, a streak of his father's fastidiousness, 
and it might have grown into priggishness if " Bully Hig " had 
been anything of a prig. But he was not. In general, he was 
singularly tolerant, for a young Bostonian of his day. His 
anger blazed s^ainst "cool cheating," and like Henry Field- 
ing, he thought it worse than any sins of the flesh. " Nothing 
like an open game on this earth," he exclaims in one of his 
youthful letters. 

In his personal habits he was then, as always, a Puritan. 
In deference to his father and mother, he could sit decorously 
in the family pew in the gallery of King's Chapel. But at 
heart he disliked liturgies, and preferred solitary reading of his 
Bible to churchgoing. If he had any deep passion, at twenty- 
two, it was the passion for friendship, for "the manly love of 
comrades," so often denied to the cold New England tempera- 
ment. Henry Higginson had what Emerson and Thoreau de- 
scribed and yearned for, without ever quite possessing — a 
strong natural affection for other men. His night-long talks 
with "Johnny" Bancroft and Stephen Perkins and Charles 
Lowell taught him more than a university could teach, and he 
kept fresh, until he was more than eighty, this adolescent 
capacity for interest in new persons. He rarely lost an old 
friendship, and he was forever forging new ones. Both early 
and late in life, he was "splenetic and rash" in passing judg- 
ment upon individuals ; but these hasty decisions, for the most 
part, had to do with persons whom he did not really know. To 


his true comrades he was like a lover. ''Wherever you are/' 
said Stephen Perkins to him once, ** there is a hearth and roses 

When he sailed for Europe with Powell Mason and Stephen 
Perkins in November, 1856, his most obvious reason for going 
was that Charles Lowell was ill and lonely in Italy, and that he 
could help him with his presence and his purse. Mingled with 
this impulse of comradeship there were, no doubt, obscurer 
motives: weariness of the counting-room on India Wharf, the 
restlessness of youth, and the desire for self-realization; the 
dream, scarcely acknowledged in words, of devoting himself 
to the art of music; and the discovery, already made in 1852 
and 1853, that Europe, siren-sweet, was forever beckoning. 




Long I followed happy guides, 
I could never reach their sides. 

— Emerson, Forerunners. 

The first entry in his diary of the journey follows. 

Wednesday t Nov. 5 [1856]. I sailed from Boston for Liver- 
pool in the Arabia on this day at 12 m., in company with 
Stephen Perkins and Powell Mason. . . . Capt. Stone com- 
mander — a fine, clear, cold day — glad to be off after so 
many delays — was not sick. I left my will ashore with father, 
contg. a note for Charley to be del'd to Jim H. in case of his 
death and mine too, of course. Jim H. also to take charge of 
my papers and books, etc. 

They had a ten days' voyage. Henry b^^ed the time with 
long talks with Stephen Perkins about their future, and read 
"The Heir of Redcliffe" — "rather tiresome yet interesting." 
Landing at Liverpool at 2 A.M., the three Boston boys ran 
all the way to the Victoria Hotel. On the next day, Sunday, 
November 16, Henry looked up his cousins, the William 
Channings of London, who happened to be in Liverpool, 
where Mr. Channing was preaching. They went up to Lon- 
don on Monday, and Henry celebrated his twenty-second 
birthday by moving into lodgings on the Strand. He visited 
the Turner exhibition but *' did n't like many of the pictures " ; 
also the Crystal Palace and the famous Barclay's Brewery. 
At the bookshops he bought Bacon's * ' Essays ' ' and ' ' Advance- 
ment of Learning," and Clough's "Bothie" — though he dis- 


covered that Clough was " hardly known to the booksellers in 
London/' He went to the opera, of course, and found Grisi's 
voice "wearing thin," and that the English were too boisterous 
in the applause of favorite passages. "They don't under- 
stand applause. It should be given delicately." 

The Channings, who had now returned to London, took 
him to the house of Gordon Cummings, then famous as an 
African lion-hunter: — 

Went to Gordon Cummings's in the evening, with Fanny 
and Frank C. Lots of skins, horns, skulls, tusks, etc., of all 
kinds of beasts. Charming musician with old ballads. Cum- 
mings is a very tall, large, graceful and strong man, and re- 
lates the account of his hunting — chiefly in South Africa — 
with a good deal of spirit — sometimes swelling into the most 
absurd bombast — giving us a little of his own poetry — 
killed 104 elephants — lions without number, shot rhinocer- 
oses and all manner of beasts — something quite new and 

"Cousin William" Channing told him that the English 
were disappointed at Buchanan's victory over Fr6mont in the 
Presidential election : — 

They are with the Republican party, with the North, and 
they damn the South and its principles. The idea cherished 
and put forth by the South that England will form an alliance 
with them in case of our disunion is all stuff. They'll do 
nothing of the kind, but they may do something quite differ* 
ent. They might perhaps help us in getting rid of slavery, or 
in any struggle we may have. However, we shall see. 

At the end of November the three Boston youths left for 
Paris, and settled down there, as it proved, for two months. 
Charles Lowell had just left Florence for the South, and it 


was impossible to join him at once. The friends took rooms in 
different pensions^ so as to hear nothing but French. "Scrub- 
bing away at the language" was Henry's description of his 
life for the next few weeks in "dirty and cloudy" Paris. But 
they relaxed occasionally. "Waxed our moustaches and 
walked in the Champs £lys6es, very much noticed, Pow. in 
his new clothes and I in my old homespuns and cap." — 
"Went to Mass at the Madeleine, a huge gorgeous temple 
inside, too much gilded, too much bosh, for beauty; inappro- 
priate inside and out for a church." He saw the Emperor and 
Empress at a ball in the opera house: "At iij the Emperor 
and Empress entered their box — cry of 'Vive TEmpereur' — 
a rush to see him — we succeeded in getting near him and 
were much pleased. The Empress looked thin and pale." 
Of a ball in a private house he writes in his diary : — 

To a ball at M. Chalamet's — got there at ten o'clk, a 
concert just beginning. Four rooms prettily arranged for the 
ball with mirrors and hangings, rooms very full. Watched the 
whist-players for more than an hour and then played four 
hours myself, won 22 sous — strange game they play, leading 
trumps out first, etc., etc., a king having the queen too, very 
often. Saw the dancing a while ; they waltz very fast, and with 
small side-steps; pretty well only. Some pretty faces and 
figures f men small and measly; got home and to bed at five. 

Occasionally the three friends allowed themselves some 
conversation in English. 

Dec. 19. In the afternoon S. and P. came round, and we 
talked on religious matters. S. cannot believe now that the 
good person receives his reward on this earth. Would like to 
annihilate his soul. Says the best people are the unhappiest. 
I think the reward does come on this earth now and then. 
P. does not see where Providence ends and free-will begins. 


A letter to his sister Mary, December 31, gives some inter- 
esting advice about books and reading : — 

. . • About Shakespeare, I should advise to leave that till 
some future day. There are people of much intellect who never 
like Shakespeare, and it is no disgrace to you that you do not. 
The Lord made you, better than you can make yourself. You 
may understand, as you say, Shakespeare, but may reap no 
real good from him. I read Shakespeare very little, till I was 
older than you. Jim, I think, told me that he read all his plays 
at about seventeen and did not enjoy them. Stephen said to 
me a day or two since, that he read about one play a year, re* 
read that 15 or 20 times, and considered it quite enough for 
him. I should recommend the "Spectator," Goldsmith, some 
of the more modem works, Johnson, if you like, tho' he is 
puffed up and stupid, Boswell's "Life of Johnson," "The 
Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich," "Consuelo," Scott's novels. 
Biographies of any kind ; above all. Lamb's Essays, if you like 
them — anything rather than Shakespeare. . . . Never force 
a love of literature, that is, of books written for pleasure 
whether high or low. Literature is a fine art. Some people 
care merely for information. Perhaps you are one of them. I 
should recommend to read the Bible a little, when you feel 
like it. Only a little at a time. It is very beautiful in parts. 
Don't do so, if it is distasteful. The "Proverbs" are good. 
Change your books, when you 're reading. Read an hoiu: or 
two in one, and then change. 

I 'm going to Italy in ten days [Henry wrote his father on 
January 21, 1857]. I '11 do my best for C. [Charles Lowell] 
in pecuniary ways. I 've got a plenty for both. Now don't 
shake your head. If I were to show you my map of life for five 
or ten years, you 'd agree. It is n't covered with gold by any 
means. But what is money good for, if not to spend for one's 
friends and to help them? You've done so all your life — let 


me do so too while I can, for it is in me (I have always known 
it) to be a close man, a miser. 

It was on January 25 that Higginson and Stephen Perkins 
started for Florence, by way of Dijon, Lausanne, and Geneva, 
then Lyons, Avignon, Marseilles, and Nice. At Lausanne they 
visited with "Cousin Frank" Lowell and his children, and 
called upon the Baron d'Hauteville, an old acquaintance. 
They had a cold, uncomfortable sail down the Rhone, but 
Marseilles atoned for it: ''Went on the rocks outside and sat 
there all the morning. Beautiful sky and sea, — wann^ very^ — 
pink and white rocks. Dark people. Red caps and colors 
strong everywhere." They took a boat for Nice, and then 
walked along the Italian Riviera nearly to Genoa, where 
Henry was too lame to walk more. 

It was delightful [he wrote to his father on February 19 
from Florence] : the beautiful Mediterranean always in sight 
on one side, the snow mountains on the other, the olive trees 
with their beautiful gray-green foliage, the tropical palms, the 
orange and lemon trees covered with ripe and ripening fruit, 
the houses covered with frescoes, the men and women in the 
bright, strong colors of southern races, driving mules and 
carrying baskets of fruit on their heads to market. The sun 
was very warm, and at the same time the air at morning and 
evening cool. We had overcoats without any undercoats, and 
were just warm enough. We used to lie on the beaches in the 
evening and go to bed early. Imagine this in February. 

Charles Lowell was, fortunately, better, quite free from the 
dreaded cough, and although nervous and excited, evidently 
on the mend. Mr. and Mrs. Samuel R. Putnam of Boston 
were at Florence, as were Mr. and Mrs. William Tappan 
(Caroline Sturgis), all intimate family friends of the Higgin- 
sons. Henry tramped around Florence with Willie Putnam, 



went to musical evenings at Mr. Francis Boott's, and was there 
told that " Mozart was old-fashioned and that Verdi was the 
composer for modem times." The diary records a long talk 
with Mrs. Tappan about stud3dng music ''as the best thing 
for me and others." Perhaps Charles Lowell was of the same 
opinion, for the diary avers: "We settled yesterday [March 6, 
1857] that in order to do and be anything, a man must know 
one thing; which is rarely the case — no information ; know- 
ledge is wanted — being in accounting-room and reading is of 
no use — learn one thing and then you can go on without 
effort — else life is damned nonsense. C. wishes to study 
science and I music — the best things for us." 

At the end of March the little Boston colony migrated from 
Florence to Rome — Henry Higginson living with the Tap- 
pans, Charles Lowell with the Putnams, and Stephen Perkins 
going into lodgings. Rome was full of other Bostonians that 
pleasant spring: Charles Eliot Norton, Mrs. Stowe, the 
Paines, the Frank Lowells, the Thomas Carys, and the Tick- 
nors. Henry writes to his father in April: "We came in yes- 
terday from a walk of four days among the hills, Charley, 
Stephen and L Charley took a horse, which he rode most of 
the time." They visited Hadrian's villa, Tivoli, Subiaco, and 

It was too much for C, — indeed he came in with a cold, 
over-taxed, and lost by it, — not much, but a little. The last 
day, as I wrote you, it rained furiously. C, having a thick 
overcoat, rode in on horse-back at full speed — 25 miles, 
there being no other conveyance. He got wet to his knees only. 
S. and I walked in 6i hours the whole way, and being without 
overcoats, were wet to the skin. We had to keep up our pace 
in order to keep warm, and not get the Roman fever. We could 
hardly move for a day or two, so very sore were our feet. Now 
you know that we have considerable natural bottom, power of 
endurance, and yet we were nearly exhausted (literally so) on 


our arrival. The speedy and weight of the wet clothes had been 
too much for us. Three miles an hour is fair walking, three 
and a quarter good walking, if one is to keep it up five hours 
or so. Just think of C.'s doing that. Why, it would kill him ! 

But only a week later the boys are planning another excur- 
sion: ** Mr. Hamilton Wild, son of the cashier, a young painter 
of much merit, we see very often and find him very merry and 
pleasant. He, Mr. Story, Mr. [John W.] Field, Charley L. 
and I are going out among the mountains for a week or so. 
We shall have a great time.'' 

It is curious [Henry wrote to his father after the week was 
over] to watch two or three new people as we did on that trip; 
traveling brings out people's weak points certainly, and also 
many of their good ones. I am continually surprised to find 
how little men are, — that is, that they amount to no more, 
— indeed, hardly so much as the young men whom I have so 
constantly seen. It may be that men of settled employment, 
whatever it may be, put their whole strength into their work 
and have none to spare for ordinary occasions, for everyday 
life, which is wrong. Mr. Story is a man of considerable tal- 
ents, and of great industry, but of no genius; so I believe. 
His theory is that there is more difference in will than in 
ability to do, and that a man can with industry do anything. 
On this theory he has acted, and it rests with the world to 
decide whether he has succeeded. He is a sculptor, a good 
draftsman, writes poetry, is skilled in belles-lettres and in 
music, is very kind and good-natiu^, very vain, honest and 
true in intention, tho' he exaggerates for the sake of a joke 
far too much, is rather prejudiced. He is a good fellow, and 
a very pleasant man and acquaintance. 

Rather shrewd comment for a young man living for the 
first time with "artistic" temperaments! 


A letter to his sister Mary shows how he is learning to see 
things with a painter's eye. 

The Campagna, May 12th, '57. 

Dear Mary, — 

* You must know that the Campagna is an undulating plain 
extending on all sides of Rome for twenty miles or more. 
Upon it are very few houses or buildings of any kind, as the 
malaria or Roman fever attacks the inhabitants. All about 
one can see the ruins of old towers, aqueducts, etc., etc., but 
very few trees or fences or anything but smooth pastures. In 
some places are large grain-fields, and fewer fields of vege- 
tables, etc. These Isist fields are beautifully green, but the 
pastures are purple, brown, yellow, red, sometimes green; 
and the whole is bounded by the Sabine and Alban hills, which 
are branches of the Apennines. Speaking of the color of the 
pastures, I do not mean that they are not green just as at 
home ; but if you will notice any green fields seen at a distance, 
you will see that they are not green^ just green. This Cam- 
pagna is unlike anything in the world as far as my knowledge 
goes: it is unlike any rolling prairie even, tho' of the same 
character, I fancy. Seen from Lake Albano in the Alban hills 
a few days since, the Campagna looked precisely like the sea 
slightly tossed by the wind. It is an enchanting place, which 
one becomes more and more f etsdnated by daily. 

On this great plain Mr. and Mrs. Tappan and I are passing 
the day. A rain-storm has been threatening us for some hours, 
and is now pouring out its force upon the snow-capped moun- 
tains in the distance. The clouds are rolling down into the 
valley, and may wet us before we can get home. Mr. T. has 
gone into one of the many excavations on the Campagna, in 
order to escape the wind and to read. Mrs. T. is lying on the 
grass with her head against an old stone- wall, listening to the 
larks; and I am writing on her sketch-book to my youthful 
sister at home. . . . 



Summer was coming, and the three lads started on a unique 
journey North. The diary, which comes to an abrupt close on 
May 25, has this entry for Sunday, May 24 : — 

Left Rome at 6 and J o'clk, Ch. on horse-back, St. and I 
with three trunks in the cart with Gusway [the horse]. Drove 
out on the Siena road to Baccano, where we breakfasted and 
nooned — 19 miles — thence to Monterose, 26 m., turned off 
to Sutri, 7 m. more, beautifully situated in a valley, where we 
saw a fine old amphitheatre cut from the rock; thence drove 
thro' a beautiful winding valley, woody, to Capranica, 3 m. 
more, and slept miserably at . Made in all 36 miles. 

They had had great difficulty in securing horses. Henry 
wrote to his father, after a month on the road : — 

If you consider that Rome is crammed at a certain season 
with thousands of strangers seeking pleasure, and that there 
are peculiar advantages for riding in consequence of the Cam- 
pagna, you will at once see that it must be very difficult or 
even impossible to find a horse. Charles Norton said in Novem- 
ber even he could not get a horse for love or money. Charley 
proposed to me to ride from Rome north to Florence, Venice, 
and even to Dresden. We tried horses, and at last found two 
for our purposes. I had decided to drive and carry the luggage, 
and Stephen as far as he wished to go. Charley paid — never 
mind ; I paid $90 for my horse, $50 for a strong two- wheeled 
gig, $10 for my harness, and a little more for extras. It is a 
pretty considerable expense, but it ought to do C. much good 
— indeed, he is already rather better than in Rome. It is 
considered the best thing for him, and seems to be very good 
in theory. He can ride as far as he likes, and then drive in 
the gig. My horse is very strong. He carries 150 to 200 lbs. 
luggage, and all three of us, easily. Generally one of us rides 
and the other two drive. Two days since, we went fifty miles 


under three heavy showers, and the horses were fresh as larks 
the next day, and went on as usual. We start from five to six 
(sometimes later), drive till it gets warm, stop several hours, 
feed our horses and eat, read and sleep till it is again cool, 
when we drive on. We average 30 to 35 miles a day ; the horses 
are good for fifty any day. It cost C. for eleven days from 
Rome to Florence about $17; he and his horse. Dr. Wilson 
says it is a good thing for C, and that 's enough. 

The opening paragraph of this letter, written at Venice on 
June 23, is delightful : — 

Dear Father: — 

Here am I at five o'clock in the morning sitting in the piazza 
of St. Mark in front of a caf6 and writing to you. Stephen, 
Charley and I have been talking all night. At half -past three 
they went to bed, and I, having washed my face and re-read 
all your letters from No. 19 to 23 inclusive, which came into 
my possession yesterday, have made a list of the items to be 
answered, and am now ready to begin. But first let me say 
that Venice is about the most charming city in the world, and 
this square of St. Mark is unrivaled in beauty. Around on 
three sides runs a colonnade in which are caf6s and bright, gay 
shops; at the end of it is the Church of St. Mark, the hand- 
somest church that has met my view for many a day. It is far, 
far handsomer than St. Peter's at Rome. For this church the 
sea-captains of Venice, when at its prime, were ordered to 
bring home whatever they could find in the world handsome 
and rich. Over this church the sun is just peeping; at its foot, 
or rather doorway, the Austrian soldiers are marching by. It 
is a delightful place to write, but the wind blows about my 
letter sadly. You see that it is already blotted tho' I had re- 
solved to send you a clean sheet; nor can I write well here. 
Still, the romance of the thing must carry you through. One 
great charm in Venice is that you never see a horse there. One 
takes a gondola for a long distance. 


"Both our horses have proved sound and kind," wrote 
Charles Russell Lowell to his mother from Venice. ** Henry's 
was bought from a carter and has shown himself a miracle of 
endurance, but he has worked too hard in his youth to enjoy 
much now; mine, on the contrary, had always rollicked on the 
Campagna, had never worn shoes, and I feared the monoto- 
nous routine of labour might be intolerable to him, in spite of 
the solid oats he earned at both ends of the day. Madam, my 
fears were groundless — that cavallino works as well, eats as 
fast, sleeps as sound as his more staid companion, and life is to 
him tenfold less bitter; our midday siesta is a season of ever 
new delights to him ; he rejoices in the song of the birds, in the 
rustling of the leaves, in the wind that shakes his mane: the 
other takes his rest as gladly in the shadow of a house as under 
the shade of forest trees, I call my animal Nosegay — nor is 
it physically inappropriate, as he has a bright pink spot on the 
end of his nose."* 

As they pushed North for the Tyrol, they were thrilled by 
the vision of the Alps. Henry wrote : — 

As we drove out of Treviso, we saw for the first time the 
long, deep-blue line of the Tyrolese Alps. It was splendid 
after so long a time on the flat Lombard plains. All day long 
we drove nearer to them, and at night slept at their bases. A 
strange feeling of excitement seizes one on getting among 
mountains. One not only finds delight in their beauty, their 
wondrous lights and shadows chasing one another along their 
sides, up and down their valleys, their gushing, dashing 
streams, their beautiful clothing of trees and turf, or, high up, 
of gray rock and snow, while down below their bases are cov- 
ered with pastures and cultivated fields of grain, with here and 
there a cluster of cottages. In all this one delights, and really 
loves them too. But beyond it all is a wonderful exhilaration 
amounting to excitement about them. Else whence comes the 
intense, overwhelming passion to go over high passes and 

^ £. W. Emerson, op, ciL, p. 138. 


mountains? Everyone who has walked much in Switzerland, 
and is capable of being excited, owns to the same feeling. Mr. 
Field, a quiet and reasonable man enough, owned to just our 
feelings about it. It is not foolhardiness: married men like 
my companions, Mr. Eliot and Mr. Field, have this feeling, 
yet would indulge in no foolhardiness for its own sake. It is a 
separate passion, quite by itself, only to be understood by 
those who have experienced it. It is a thing to be considered 
and treated by future metaphysicians. 

From Salzburg, July i8, Henry writes of Lowell's improve- 
ment : — 

He grows stronger daily. I think he has not been in my 
cart since we left Venice the ist July. He rides the whole 
distance, that is, 30 to 35 miles or more daily. Uphill and 
down we go, and he has been some days eight or nine hours in 
the saddle. If the hill is very steep, he walks by the side of his 
horse uphill, and usually does so downhill. We went on the 
glaciers one day, and had seven hours of walking and climb- 
ing ; he was not tired by it. We are traveling now quite at our 
ease, and can stop when we will. Venice did not quite agree 
with C. He was not well there; that is, he felt feverish and 
used up. It was pretty hot. But sinee that he has been very 

They went down the Danube from Linz to Vienna. 

I often wish you were here, old daddy, to drive about with 
me in the cart ; it would jolt your old bones a bit, but you would 
soon be used to it, and only feel hungry, not sore, at the end 
of the day. You would enjoy very much the beautiful scenery, 
which is daily before us. This way of traveling is very good 
and cheap, reckoned day by day. I brought two Englishmen 
part of the way from Salzburg here ; the cart is very broad and 


the horse strong. We leave Vienna, where we've enjoyed 
ourselves much, to-morrow. It is too hot and close for C. The 
opera and concerts are first rate here, you know. 

Turning northward again through Bohemia to Prague, they 
finally reached Dresden on August 31 — having been more 
than three months on the way. Nosegay, Gusway, and the 
cartwere sold at half price. ** We were both of us rather glad," 
wrote Charles to his mother, " to put off our dusty riding gar- 
ments and settle down into civilization. We ' vote ' our mode 
of traveling to be in every respect the best that young men 
can find, except walking with a knapsack." At Dresden they 
found their friend John C. Bancroft, the historian's son, who 
had been on an unlucky voyage to Surinam, and was now 
taking up painting; also Powell Mason, ''Bob" Paine and the 
Putnam family. 

Charley is to stay here about a month in a German family, 
John with him, painting, and I go to Vienna in a few days, for 
the winter certainly, in order to learn something of music 
practically and theoretically. I should stay with them here 
until C.'s departure for Algiers, but have already spent so 
much time in mere moving, sight-seeing and loafing, that I 
ought to begin immediately. I Ve had this plan of trying to 
learn a little music for some time (it is a very old idea, you 
know, of my former visit to Europe) , and have been making 
inquiries about my best place of residence. My conclusion is 
as aforesaid — Leipzig, Berlin, Prague, Dresden for Germany, 
Paris and Brussels for France, and several cities for Italy, have 
all great musical schools and reputation, but Germany seems 
to me best of all lands for music, Vienna to combine most of all 
German cities. It is possible that I may not go there, but stay 
in North Germany. You may wonder at my staying in Europe 
apart from my friends for any such purpose. All I can say is 
this — I am quite tired of mere traveling, and of half studying, 


and I have no desire to return to America and earn money. I 
will write more fully of this some other morning; to-day I am 
not sufficiently quiet and collected to do so. 

Henry's next letter is dated from Vienna in September, and 
it is most significant. 

Dear Father, — 

My last letter was short and poor, mentally and physically, 
for the simple reason that I could not write that day. However, 
it was fully time that you should know my plans, so far as 
they were perfected. I had formed them long before, and had 
been brooding over them so long, that I had assembled many 
reasons for and against them; hence out of this plenty grew 
the want of my letter. 

My decision in favor of this city was thus based. Here one 
can get good enough, if not the best, instruction in the theory 
of music, and also in instrumental music; and in singing far 
better instruction than in any other German city. Many 
people go to Italy for vocal and to Germany for instrumental 
music, and for harmony. I hope to unite the two here, as of 
course many Italians come to Vienna in connection with the 
Italian opera-troupe and in other ways. Instruction in all 
three things can be taken to advantage at one time; and I 
deemed it wiser to make the most of my opportunities. 
Vienna is also said to be the pleasantest German city, which 
is certainly something to me. The people are half southern in 
their feelings and manners ; none of the northern f rigidness and 
splendor of manner. A coachman has just been dancing to a 
hand-organ in the courtyard. It is a rather dear place, but all 
Europe is growing much dearer, owing to the internal improve- 
ments, to the war, etc., etc., the same things affecting them 
as at home. I have been searching far and wide for a room, 
have seen an innumerable number of them, and have at last 
got one at $io a month. It is very well placed, has plenty of 


light and air (not common in a European city), and is really 
cheap. There is no rate for rooms here. I 've seen bad ones 
dear, and good ones cheap; as for instance, one poorer than 
mine seen to-day at $17}. I can get my coffee in the morning 
and a good dinner with wine (the water is bad in some places 
here, and never safe) for 60 cents, and if supper is necessary, 
that for 15 to 20 cents more. I judged it wise to have a clean, 
airy and pleasant room, inasmuch as it was to be my home, 
sleeping- and studjdng-room ; and as regards food, I imagine 
it is good economy to have really good tho' plain food, and to 
live at a restaurant where I am sure to get bona-fide articles 
and no grease. • • • I feel sure that I can live and have every 
advantage in instruction, under $1000 per annum; but how 
much under remains to be seen. My reasons for taking this 
step are, I suppose, as well known to you as to me — but I 
will write a little of them. 

As everyone has some particular object of supreme interest 
to himself, so I have music. It is almost my inner world; 
without it, I miss much, and with it I am happier and better. 
You may remember that I wished to study music some years 
ago, when in Europe before. 

On my return home other studies took up my time so much 
that music had to be neglected much against my will. The 
same was true when in the store. It is quite true that I had 
plenty of spare hours during my apprenticeship, but it is, in 
my opinion, very false to suppose that a knowledge of any- 
thing so difficult as music can be gained, when the best hours 
of the day and the best energies of the man are consumed by 
the acquiring of another knowledge. Of course men more bus- 
ily employed than I was have applied themselves to and con- 
quered great things in science, in art, etc., etc., but they are 
exceptions certainly, and / nothing of the kind. At any rate, 
I did not learn anything more of music during those nineteen 
months. I felt the want of it greatly, and was very sorry to 
give up the thing dearest to me. When I came out here, I had 


no plansy as you know. Trade was not satisfjdng to the inner 
man for a life-occupation. Out here I have consulted, and 
have decided to try to learn something of music ex- and in- 
temally, i.e., of plajdng and of harmony or thorough-bass. If 
I find that I am not profiting at all by my work, I shall throw 
it up and go home. If I gain something, I shall stick to it. 

You will ask, "What is to come of it all if successful?" I 
do not know. But this is clear. I have then improved my own 
powers, which is every man's duty. I have a resource to which 
I can always turn with delight, however the world may go 
with me. I am so much the stronger, the wider, the wiser, the 
better for my duties in life. I can then go with satisfaction to 
my business, knowing my resource at the end of the day. It 
is already made, and has only to be used and it will grow. 
Finally, it is my province in education, and having cultivated 
myself in it, I am fully prepared to teach others in it. 

Education is the object of man, and it seems to me the duty 
of us all to help in it, each according to his means and in his 
sphere. I have often wondered how people could teach this 
and that, but I understand it now. I could teach people to 
sing, as far as I know, with delight to myself. Thus I have a 
means of living if other things should fail. But the pleasure, 
pure and free from all disagreeable consequences or after- 
thoughts, of playing, and still more of singing myself, is in- 
describable. In Rome I took about eight lessons of a capital 
master, and I used to enjoy intensely the singing to his ac- 
companiment my exercises and some little Neapolitan songs. 

My reasons for studying harmony are manifest. I cannot 
properly understand music without doing so; moreover, it is 
an excellent exercise for the mind. As to writing music, I 
have nothing to say; but it is not my expectation. It is like 
writing poetry: if one is prompted to do so, and has anything 
to say, he does it. But I entirely disavow any such intention 
or aim in my present endeavor — and this I wish to be most 
clearly expressed and understood, should anyone ask about 


me. I am studying for my own good and pleasure. And now, 
old daddy, I hope you will be able to make something out of 
this long letter. You should not have been troubled with it, 
but I thought you would prefer to know all about it. It is only 
carrying out your own darling idea of making an imperish- 
able capital in education. My money may fly away; my know- 
ledge cannot. One belongs to the world, the other to me. 

A few lines from a letter to his sister Mary, on October i , 
make it clear that his estimate of his musical ability w£is 
modest : — 

... I distinctly disavow all intention or expectation of 
writing music, and if I can get a clear insight into the art 
and a knowledge of its nature, capabilities, and place, shall be 
quite satisfied. It is not even my belief that my fingers will 
ever be limber enough to play well. If I find that my labor in 
it is to have no adequate reward, I shall throw the whole thing 
up and go home. . . . The opera [in Vienna] (as also the 
theatres) is the best, I think, in the world. In London and in 
Paris the orchestra singers, etc., are of course of the best, but 
the music is inferior; in Berlin everything German is to be 
heard most admirably and correctly given, but the fire is 
wanting; and in Dresden and Munich the courts are not rich 
enough to keep such a company as here. Besides, in Vienna 
during three months there is an Italian opera company sing- 
ing their own music. Night before last " Der Freischiitz" was 
given ; the opera is a gem in itself, as anyone must allow, who 
knows it. The first act was given excellently: and then came 
the "Cassh," my darling singer here, a very handsome, mod- 
est, jolly girl of twenty or so, with a splendid, fresh, full, 
thrilling voice. She is going to be married and sang for her 
last time. And she was charming thro'out. Dear me ! I wish 
that she 'd stay here at least, instead of going to Paris with her 
rich husband. She is, I believe, a Hungarian, and is splendid. 


Henry Higginson had now been ten months away from 
home, and he was just settling down to what he thought might 
prove his life-work. His anxiety about his best friend, Charles 
Lowell, was in a measure relieved. His own health seemed 
perfect. The legacies from his grandfather and his uncle gave 
assurance of financial independence for a long residence 

He was speculating a little, on his own account, — and, as 
it proved, profitably, — in indigo, jute, and other East India 
products. "Give me a bit of the market now and then,'* 
he had written to his father; and George Higginson liked 
nothing better. It must be remembered that Charles Lowell, 
during those months of intimate companionship in Italy, 
wrote home to his mother that Henry was '*a bom merchant." 
Henry's letters of this period to his brother George, who was 
making a business trip to Calcutta, have the same hard, stac- 
cato common sense about buying and selling that marked his 
addresses to the young bond salesmen of Lee, Higginson and 
Co., fifty years later. 

Yet, while he was following keenly every turn in the Boston 
and London markets, his letters reveal also a strong interest in 
American and European politics. ''Why can't you write some- 
thing of Kansas and of its prospects of freedom?" he had 
asked his father. In that happy month of May, 1857, in Rome, 
he had written : — 

It is well that our government disapproves of the Chinese 
war, for it surely seems unjust. There is no pretense even of 
Christianity in the dealings of nations. Governments act on a 
wrong principle, it seems to me. Judge Taney's decision is 
infamous to the last degree. Ben Curtis [who had dissented 
from Chief Justice Taney's opinion] for once has been honest. 
I do wish the North would take higher and firmer ground. It 
is the only course consistent with truth, and will alone save 
our country. 



When the Indian Mutiny of 1857 broke out, George Hig- 
ginson wrote: "India news gloomy, but who can doubt that 
the resolute will and unflinching valor of our glorious English 
blood will triumphantly carry the day through? " But his son 
was chafing at British red tape: — 

The "Times" is teeming with offers from educated^ energetic 
men quite ready to enlist as privates, if the government will 
give them a decent chance. And yet, on the old fools plod 
with their cursed red-tape system, "No man under 5 ft. 5 in. 
taken." " No man without family and fortune to be an officer," 
etc., etc. It is enough to make one sick to see their horrid in- 
dolence, slowness, apathy. Only last night an Englishman said 
to me, "Oh, they are sending soldiers out, and it will be all 
right directly." Fool! The lesson in the Crimea has done them 
no good. With the best stuff in the world, they '11 make a botch 
of it. Why should they send men in sailing vessels, which may 
be five months on the way? To save a penny, they are losing 
many a pound and many a life. ... It almost makes me 
cry to read the accounts of the abused, murdered women and 
children in India. 

The youth was already what he remained throughout a long 
life: a curiously subtle combination of warrior and philoso- 
pher. The philosophy is ripe in this letter to his father, who 
was troubled that his younger sons were not making more 
rapid progress in their studies: — 

Just remember, father, men are differently made, and be- 
cause a boy will not study at school or win honors at college, 
he is not necessarily going to the devil, and his father does not 
need to wear "a thorn in his hearty** or feel **deep mental an- 
guish" Take the boys as they are, mend them if you can, and 
at all events don't worry. You only chafe yourself and them 
to the bone. 'T is not the way to cause happiness to anyone, 


yourself or them. I should think that you would, in the course 
of your life, have found pride of any kind a most wearing, bur- 
densome article. Do not be proud in any way; take and give; 
it is the usual fault of good people. There is a theory that a 
proper kind of pride is a good thing ; there never was such non- 
sense — vanity is better. Just think once again in a quiet 
half -hour, and you will see it. Do not be proud or ashamed of 
your children; you're not responsible for them. They are 
beings who stand on their own legs, and have volition just 
like you. If they won't do what you wish, don't worry about 
it. I dislike exceedingly to see you day by day wearing your- 
self by worrying because the children are not angels. Be at 
peace, father, make lots of money, and enjoy the remainder 
of your days on this ball. If you cannot get pleasure one way, 
get it another. 

That letter was written in August, 1857, but by October 
there was news from home of a far more ominous nature than 
defective grades in the Latin School and Harvard. It was the 
panic of 1857. George Higginson wrote: — 

"A whirlwind of terrible power and significance is sweeping 
over our country, prostrating many who have been consid- 
ered staunch and almost beyond harm, and handling all so 
swiftly that the most serious fears are entertained of the safety 
of large numbers. Most of the Banks south of New York and 
at the West have suspended specie payments. We still reso- 
lutely believe that New York and New England will stand 
fast, but the supply of coin is so small and the need so urgent 
that there is doubt, serious doubt, in many quarters. The storm 
is cruelly destructive. Heaven only knows when and how it 
may end, but it is sure to leave a host crushed and stripped 
and the conununity in an exhausted state.'* 

Instantly Henry offered to give up his cherished plans and 
come home : — 


Thank God you can lose only your year*s income, at least 
have no capital to lose. . . . Now tell me, old father, in a 
quiet moment f shall I come home? Can I be of any use in your 
oflSce to you; cannot I learn to do some of your work? . . . 
As I have already written, I am well placed and started here, 
but it seems to me selfish to stay here studying, leading a 
quiet, peaceful, industrious life, while you are struggling so 
hard, . . . I 'd start for America directly, but it seems wiser 
to await your answer, which will, I am sure, be clear and 

Clear and conclusive it was: — 

Oct. 27, 1857. 
Make no change in your plans at present. You could not 
help us or me in office-work, for we really never had less to do. 
I am in firmest health. Your steady and deep-seated affection 
and willingness to sacrifice I needed no assurance of, nor do I 
from any one of my children, for well I know where the true 
hearts are. Yet I cannot but be touched by your words. There 
is nought to do but wait patiently, gather up the materials 
that remain and proceed as usual. All will be poorer, but in a 
new set of values. Don't give yourself the least uneasiness 
about me, my dear son, nor any of us. Thank God we are all in 
vigorous health. My partners give all necessary aid to our 
work, but report that we are truly without employment. Go 
on as you are, spend prudently, cutting off indulgences. 

It is beautiful to read your letter written in the midst of the 
storm [replied the son]. No one is so calm here. You 're not 
the old fool you think yourself. I am studying music here, that 
I may be like you ; and that I may have some unfailing re- 
source if money does run away. 

I cannot sufficiently admire [he added a few days later] your 
perfect equanimity about money matters. At 53 and penniless 


almost, you see your income cut down, for the present at least, 
without anything more than a smile. • • . I did not foresee 
your wonderful balance. . . . John [Bancroft] thinks you are 
only saved from perfection by writing an illegible hand. 

George Higginson wrote on November 4: — 
** I am very well off, far above many, many of those about us 
that we care for. So please dismiss my condition so far as re- 
gards 'ten-penny subsistence' from your mind. The children 
are hardly fair judges of office-work. Mine has not been severe 
and, for the last five weeks, very, very light; witness our re- 
ceipts in way of commissions for October were so small, say 
$500. Office rent, clerk hire, etc., cost us more than $300. The 
truth is, the strain on nerves and anxiety of mind have been 
the chief burdens to all of us, especially so to my partners ; but 
don't, I pray, indulge in reflections or expressions with regard 
to their performances. . . . The worst is over, I believe ; there 
will be more failures doubtless, but on the whole improvement, 
more confidence and returning ease. ... So give yourself no 
uneasiness, my dear child, on our account. We are mighty well 
off, God be thanked. The few trivial privations will be most 
cheerfully borne, and will do good. Besides, what are they? 
too insignificant to be told over. You children will not I think 
lose more, except in dividends and shrinkage of stocks. Stay 
where you are for the winter, by all means, carry out your 
plans, spend prudently." 

By November 14 Henry was philosophizing over the general 
situation, in a strain which is curiously like his conversation 
and letters in the panic of 1907, fifty years afterward : — 

Looking at the thing from a philosophical point of view, this 
crisis is a very useful event for our country. People stop, add 
up their accounts, ascertain the truth concerning their money, 
see their awful pace, give up much of their wicked extrava- 
gance, discover the difference between necessaries and luxuries, 


go to work again, and they are wiser men. It stops the too 
great rush into trade, shows the danger of too extended credit, 
proves that one man cannot well do a dozen things at a time, 
and that we need railroad directors who will work and not 
play, etc., etc. It makes more room for young men, and more 
room for every man, and it turns the wheel which carries the 
rich and the educated down and brings the poor and the 
ignorant up to be educated and refined. It is a most effectual 
instrument for putting life and energy into our Republic. If we 
had no such troubles, the poor people would begin to think 
equality, etc., was a joke, and the rich people would agree with 
them. Of course, much suffering results from it, but it is 
healthy. There was a growing belief that all that was needed 
to be rich was to become a merchant. In the meantime, the 
country is very rich and powerful, and has enormous resources. 
All the real wealth is still in the land. 

"The fury of the hurricane has passed,'' the father wrote in 
November, ''yet we shall remain in a state of lassitude and in- 
action for many months. The percentage of loss on Calcutta 
cargoes is terrific." . 
Highly characteristic is his letter of December 21 : — 
"With regard to my own state of health, never was it better. 
Never have I had so much flesh on my bones as now. I am en- 
tirely free from ailments. With regard to your admiration of 
what you call * equanimity touching money affairs,' I thank 
you and John from my heart, but the commendation is dearly 
and simply undeserved. I am penniless almost, but such is the 
lot of lai^e numbers around me. Besides, I am perfectly well, 
although with lessening powers of performance. I have the 
good-will and am sure of cheerful co5peration from many 
friends in our midst, from which I may reasonably look for a 
competency so long as health and strength are given me. The 
'complacency' or 'equanimity' you allude to is the result of 
no forethought, self-discipline, nor mental struggle, but simply 


of temperament. Would not some define it as indifference and 
neglect of the future? It arises in part, perhaps, from the 
sickening exhibitions one sees of men thrown into unhappiness 
and most unchristian states of mind and heart by partial 
losses, or apprehended losses of property, while many blessings 
of a far more solid character are vouchsafed to them. This 
senseless worry of mind about matters so fleeting is vexatious 
and disgusting, as if supreme enjoyment centred therein. I 
have been highly favored by nature and in circumstance, and 
ought to look kindly and charitably on the mental distresses 
of those of other mental states. Your pleasing views, my son, 
of your old father's merits, are, believe me, illusions. A 
just arbiter at the scales would present a widely varying 
conclusion . 

A whimsical letter about family finances, written by Henry 
to his sister Mary just before Christmas, 1857, is full of "Hig- 
gisms," and may fitly close the chronicle of the panic year. 

• • • James has written me a detailed account of your 
economy of living. It is good for you all. In the language of 
that great man, Dad, "The practice is excellent." In that 
luxurious style of life, which was supplanting our original 
simple habits, you and Frank were rapidly sinking from that 
high moral standard, that habit of self-denial which hasformed 
the fine characters of your three elder brothers, of whom you 
are so justly proud. You were sinking into silks, velvets, 
Brussels carpets, beef-steaks, jams, "birds." Frank was get- 
ting a confirmed, settled belief that he was the son of a rich 
man, whereas his father is in reality a pauper, who would go to 
the almshouse from mere necessity in case of accident. Our 
youngest brother was becoming a Sybarite ; indeed was already 
one. Even now it is, I fancy, hard to win him from his luxuri- 
ous habits. Does he bring wood and coal in old (once used, 
that is) yellow gloves, and shovel snow in soiled whites? I 
should like to see him dressing for school. Something pretty 


daborate, is n't it? But on Sunday a beaver, yellow kids, 
cane, straps, very short coat, very tight pants. Really does he 
wax his moustache? His imperial is hardly heavy yet, I fancy. 

You see the effect of wealth in your father's family. We 
three were brought up on the no-butter system, everjrthing 
economical; you two younger ones on the lots-of -butter sys- 
tem and "birds" to match. Here are the gradations. Geoi^e, 
from education and from principle, is truly careful (sometimes 
close in his own affairs, tho' he 'd give me all his money to-mor- 
row) with money. I, from education, am also careful, but from 
want of principle and from wild theories, am occasionally care- 
less; we are both sternly opposed to luxurious living in food, 
clothing or show^ and have urged our father not to indulge his 
offspring so much; our James was^ from education, careful ; but 
corrupted by the times and led away by an easy, generous, 
rather careless nature, inclines to luxury and extravagance, 
tho' his education sometimes comes up before him, reminding 
him of his folly ; while you and Frank, from education and ease 
totally corrupted, have no clear idea of self-restraint or econ- 
omy. You are a pair of Sybarites. Your common sense occa- 
sionally tells you that you are not doing right, but habit 
rules you. 

I am in earnest for the most part on this matter. . . . 
There is not a glutton, gourmand, or a drunkard among us, 
nor is there one whose happiness depends at all on luxurious 
food, on curtains, on carpets,, etc., on clothes, on show, on 
living as well as our neighbor s^ . . . tho* you have sometimes 
made yourself unhappy, because our house was not so hand- 
somely furnished as Mr. A's or Mr. B's. Your father was 
gradually yielding to this and that wish and whim of yours or 
his in decoration, was keeping too many domestics, was in- 
dulging us all in too many titbits, etc., etc. He is stopped short 
and I am very glad. I do not wish to be vain or arrogant, but, 
you know, I had opposed these things frequently from a firm 
belief that they were injurious to us all, and that they were 


immoral^ in the full sense of the word. I could see no reason 
why we should thus spend money, when others needed it. It 
made me uncomfortable. I am aware that many of the con- 
veniences, which were really luxuries, I accepted. Education, 
mental enjoyment, real enjoyment of any kind, I am in favor 
of; such as a summer place, etc., etc. ; but show in any way and 
pampering of the stomach is to me disgusting. If we were 
getting luxurious and extravagant, just consider how far other 
people had advanced in that way. This trouble may cause 
much misery among all classes, but it is our only corrector of 
extravagance and luxury. 

Your father is a curious mixture. Here is an instance of his 
extravagance, indulgence towards his children. The class-day 
of my class, father said to me in the afternoon, ''Jim came to 
town this morning, and asked me for a few bottles of claret.*' 
"What did you do?" asked I. "I sent him a box" (12 bot- 
tles), said he; "but, Henry, what do you suppose he means to 
do with it?" "Why, confound it, old daddy, drink it, of 
course! What do you suppose?" There he is, all over. As 
aforesaid, he is a pauper, and always will be on this earth, but 
he has a heap of riches in heaven. You had better keep close 
to him there, for he will be one of the nobs. How they *11 shout, 
when he goes up. "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Ha! Ha! Ha!" 
and repeat several times. You just state on arriving that you 
are a connection of his, and there will be no further trouble. 

At least so I should do, if I were going there, but I Ve de- 
cided to go somewhere else. It is just like a bed six feet high 
that we had in Italy. It was necessary to get a run in order to 
spring upon it. The room was too small for that, so we had to 
get on another bed, and then jump across a chasm to the high 
article, at the risk of falling and breaking our necks. Just so I 
should have to get upon a heap of my virtues, and then jump 
to heaven. Now my heap is not high enough to make it a very 
safe experiment, so I have decided to seek another bed, another 
place. But you had better go with your father. It is said to be 


very pleasant there, nothing to do but to sing choruses : all the 
voices are naturally fine. 

As I wrote Jim, you are unwise to give up the Christmas 
dinner. You should have some pea-soup, a big piece of halibut, 
and some beef and pudding, quite plain; sherry, but no 
champagne or anything else to drink. It would cost very little, 
if you will exclude all ''fancies," and might be very pleasant, 
especially in these low times. Have an everyday dinner, and 
trust to the ''flow of souL" The dinner should be an institu- 
tion. • • • 

The New Year opened merrily with a visit to brother Jim 
(who had graduated from Harvard and come to Germany for 
further study) and John Bancroft at Berlin. The letter is a 
joint product of these three boys. 

Christinas Day — Berlin. 

Dear Father: — 

Merry Christmas to you all ! Here are Jimmy, Johnny and I 
m the former's room, scribbling with fingers stiff with cold. 
I Ve no record and have forgotten all numbers. With the New 
Year shall number my series " B. " 

These lazy boys could n't be induced to go to Vienna, al- 
though Jim had never seen the place and Johnny but little; so 
I came up here. The boys are very well in looks and in reality. 
The journey up here was a bit severe, for we had a snow-storm 
of several days which blocked up the railroads; thus we had to 
wait one day to start, and then were 26 hours to Dresden in- 
stead of 23 to Berlin. The car was built of wood and pitched 
within and without. [Handwriting now changes.] When the 
cats are away, dear Mr. Higginson, the mice will play, and 
Henry having at this moment his mouth full of roast goose, the 
quill has fallen into my hands. 

(Dresden, Jan. ist.) We meant to send you a united Merry 
Christmas from Berlin, and fate will have it that it subsides 


into a Happy New Year from Dresden. There never was such 
a representation of Cambridge in Dresden before. We are 
eight birds of passage, and found two who have nests here. 
And so we fill up almost a hotel, overflow the restaurants, and 
talk over old times and old friends, and are all agreed that 
Boston is better than any place here, and people beyond com- 
parison, and that it does n't pay to come back to foreign cities 
where you left pleasant associations, for they thrive but poorly 
in foreign soil. 

Henry, you will be happy to hear, has lost flesh, and now 
can fairly be taken as a model of grace, elegance and manly 
beauty. I sometimes urge him to go to Dfisseldorf with me, 
that I may draw him in various postures; but, modest as ever, 
he declines. 

[Handwriting changes again.] Henry and John have both 
done their parts in this letter, dear Pa, and so I must do mine. 
We are having a real pleasant time together here in spite of 
cloudy weather and a stupid theatre. Henry rushes about 
energetically, wakes us in the morning, makes innumerable 
calls, and tries perseveringly to smoke in the intervals. John 
and I wander around with the rest of the party, go to concerts, 

Next week we separate and all go their way — about half 
the number with Henry towards Vienna and the rest to Leip- 
zig, these to see the famous fair always held in that city at 
the New Year, and swarming with people from every quarter 
of the globe. I filled my purse well in Berlin, having an eye to 
purchases at the fair. Meanwhile, you are no doubt thinking 
of us, and that we do the same by you does not need this letter 
to tell you. It is a pleasant way to end the Old Year and begin 
the New, such a coming together as this. 

But the shadow of a great disappointment was all the time 
deepening, a disappointment destined to affect Henry's whole 
career. He had written on December i, 1857: — 


When I last wrote, a fearful headache of three days' dura- 
tion was troubling me. I went to the greatest physician here, 
Oppolzer, a very renowned man; he was out of town, so I went 
to a bleeder, and got rid of 8 ounces of blood — a tumblerful. 
He would not take any more tho' I urged him to do so. In 
fifteen minutes the pressure, which had been tremendous, was 
nearly gone, and the next day (Sunday) I was quite well. On 
Monday and Tuesday I played with my left arm (the one 
opened), and not considering the effect of such exercise, lamed 
it badly. I have since seen Oppolzer. He says the affliction is 
neuralgia (that I supposed) and gave me quinine to take daily, 
forbade cold bathing, ordered cold water on the head when in 
pain, and in the morning. I am now using these remedies, and 
am better. ... I shall write less in future. The music de- 
mands eight hours a day, and I must study the languages and 
read a bit beside ; then other necessary demands are made on 
my time, such as two lectures a week, a weekly evening at the 
Minister's unavoidably, etc., etc. I have nine music lessons a 
week, and must crowd sail as much as possible, so letters will 
be less frequent. 

Less than a week later he wrote : — 

I am industrious and in earnest about my work. My only 
fear is that I am trying too much at a time. However, if I can 
bear eight hours per day, the burden is not too heavy. My 
only mistake was the using of my arm too soon after bleeding, 
and thus laming it for three weeks. ... I have taken up 
music and will give it a good trial. ... I cannot now msdy 
listen to plans for making money. . . . Charley prophesied 
that I should be at home in a year, and that I should become a 
merchant and a rich man. Heaven knows; but I do believe 
that the spirit of trade is in my veins, tho' other things may be 
more agreeable to me. Let the thing take its natural course 
and don't worry about my future. • . . Believe me, I am not 


vain of my own abilities, but I am sure of getting a skiving (not 
1 1 0,000 per annum) by hook or by crook. I could make myself 
a useful derk for $500 a year; but the thing takes its course. 

It is a bad climate [he wrote on December 31], one catches 
cold constantly, and a cold in the head brings on neiualgia 
often, or a hot concert will do it. I shaved my face dean in the 
fall, and have therefore caught cold in my throat often. To-day 
I can hardly speak, much less sing. It is bad luck. My arm 
that was bled is not thoroughly strong yet. It is exceedingly 
provoking to lose my time so. 

[A month later.] My infernal arm is not well yet, the* bet- 
ter. . • • I am getting on very well, singing and writing a good 
deal, and also playing with my right hand. Every day I am 
better satisfied with my occupation, and were my arm only 
wdl, I should be contented. 

[On March 11.] My arm and shoulder are still lame and 
prevent me from playing. I Ve lost five months' practice. . . . 

[On June 22.] My arm is an accursed limb. I swim it daily 
in a fine bath, and then get it magnetized. It is a little better, 
but to-day for instance hurts me. ... In September it will 
have to go; but only think, it will be eleven months of practice, 
tho' not of time, lost. 

[On July 18.1 I am going to some baths in Styria in a few 
days for my arm, by advice of my Dr. and of Oppolzer, to be 
there six weeks or less. . . . About my studies: I sing two 
hours a day, sometimes more, and have three singing-lessons a 
week. But the chief work is on the harmony, etc., the form of 
music-pieces, etc., work hardly explicable to one ignorant of 
composition. It is very interesting, pretty hard, and quite 
tedious from the amount of manual work necessary. Then I 
have some German books and some English always on hand. 
In the fall I '11 play certainly. 

[On August 30, from Markt-Tiiffer in Styria.] About my 
arm, I cannot say that it is better than before coming; yet I 
think improvement has taken place. Henry Bigelow's opinion 


I believe wrong* There is no sharp, indeed almost no pain: 
weakness is the prevailing sensation, particularly in the two 
lesser fingers and in the muscles leading thereto. • • . The 
foot is as it was and always will be. About returning home, 
father: I have already written you that my arrangements are 
made for another year from Sept. ist in Vienna. How can I 
return when my object is music, and I Ve been unable to play 
at all the whole year? Besides, what is there in America par- 
ticularly tempting in business, and what is there out of 
business for me? 

[On October 19, from Vienna.] As to the arm: IVe been to 
the first authority here on nervous diseases. . . . The arm is 
probably injured for life, not seriously, but so far that I shall 
not be able to play the piano very long at a time. . . . When 
I look back at those six weeks I played, I could cry heartily. 
It is a hard line for me ; cuts deeper than you think. What I 
had wished for years was at hand, with every possible help ; 
and in that time I really learned much. Now it is over forever ; 
I can never play freely again. I almost wonder that I managed 
to bear so much as I did. If you will sit down, and play the 
same five keys with your five fingers for five minutes, you '11 
feel it sharply in your arms as I did then ; yet I forced myself to 
play about two hours (with many intervals of course) these 
same things, and besides to read and play pieces two, three, and 
four hours a day. . . . 

Thus a young man ruins himself. I came home and swore 
like a pirate for a day ; then, coming to my senses, I decided to 
sing away, study composition, etc., hard, magnetize, and await 

[On November 9.I My lessons go on, my voice and throat 
are in pretty fair condition. You may not remember that my 
throat troubled me in the spring from irritation caused by sing- 
ing, and gave me cause to fear a fever. The physician warned 
me in time, and at last it got pretty well. . . . My voice is 
decent and plenty strong enough for a room but not for a hall, 


etc. My studies in composition get on and are interesting^ but 
they give me hard and long work, I am hoping to play in 
January, but not at all sure about it. The trouble is the most 
strange and inopportune infliction possible. 

These comments on the physical condition of the would-be 
musician, when massed in this fashion, give perhaps a too mel- 
ancholy coloring to the year 1858. But though it was a year of 
hope deferred, its disappointments were sturdily borne, and it 
gave opportunity for new friendships and new mental horizons. 
In his large, sunny room in the fifth story, looking down on 
one of the gayest of Viennese market-places, young Higginson 
entertained many promising Austrian musicians. Mr. Geoi^ge 
W. Lippitt, Secretary of the American Legation, introduced 
him to the family of his father-in-law, a wealthy merchant 
named Miller, whose nine children, ranging from ten to thirty- 
five, welcomed Henry Higginson and Powell Mason most 
cordially. The day's routine was Spartan in its severity. ** I 
get up about half -past six and go to bed about eleven to half- 
past: have nine music lessons a week, and two lectures. It re- 
quires fully 8 hours a day, and that is the limit of my present 
power." His diet was too low for a young fellow weighing be- 
tween 170 and 180: ** Bread to the amount of four or five mod- 
erate bread-cakes with my coffee in the morning, at two o'clock 
some soup (always thin) , one slice of boiled beef and potatoes, 
and six apples during the day, — no wine, no beer, usually no 
supper, occasionally a bit of pudding at dinner." 

One explanation of these forced economies is betrayed in a 
letter to his father: "A large portion of my yearly expenses are 
not for myself. ... I sometimes curse myself for trying to 
help others when I Ve not enough for my own real wants, but 
again think that money well used is not wasted." At the end 
of the year it appeared that he had "given away over $500; 
don't mention this to anyone. Were the money only in my 
pocket now! In Tiiffer I thought myself safe, but one poor 


woman was ill, could n't work, and had no money. I could n't 
help giving her something, and then there were other cases." 

His expense account for the year 1858 shows that his in- 
vested capital of about $13,000, somewhat impaired by the 
panic of 1857, had brought him in only $455.62, while he had 
spent upon himself $1100: "no riotous living, tho' more than 
I wish it were." It should be added that his private ventures 
in indigo netted him in 1858 precisely $1154.97, a trifle more 
than his personal expenses! 

A curious example of his interest in business, coexisting 
with hard work on counterpoint and thorough-bass, is his 
scheme for getting Charles Lowell to join him in buying a small 
Austrian brewery, through his friend Miller. "It is really a 
great chance," Henry wrote. " It is possible that I could be 
brewer and study music too, although it is far better to do one 
thing at a time. • . . Vienna is certainly a pleasanter home 
than India or China." ButLowell "doubted his own strength," 
and the project came to nothing. 

Among his "excellent, warm friends," in Vienna he men- 
tions his piano-teacher, "a most captivating man and a great 
artist, two years older than I am ; another, a violin-player in 
the opera, a beauty, a prime fellow. These are both Jews ; and 
I never saw a Jew before coming here ; but those whom I have 
known in Vienna are very talented, true, liberal in views of life 
and religion, and free-handed to a marvelous extent." 

"You allude," wrote George Higginson in reply, "to the 
Jew friends you have among the musicians. You are favored, 
for I have rarely met individuals of that race who seemed fitted 
in solid essentials for an intimacy of such a character. I am 
thankful that really worthy ones have fallen in your way." 

Both father and son, it may be noted here, agreed that it 
was better to bum all letters, and both father and son kept all 
letters with the most scrupulous care ! "A letter should be an- 
swered directly, while the matter is still full of life and plastic," 
wrote Henry to his sister from Markt-Tiiffer; and his own 


letters of this period, now sad, now stoical, now touched with 
quaint, whimsical ^'Hig^isms," are surely "full of life/* He is 
angry that a rich Bostonian has died without leaving public 
bequests: " He ought to have helped the College and the Hos- 
pital and the Boston Library and the theatre and the model 
lodging-houses." His anti-slavery passion flares out in this 
note about Sumner, who was in Europe recovering from the 
dastardly attack by Brooks: — 

Mr. Charles Sumner was here only a few days; I went to 
call on him as a fellow citizen and as an acquaintance of our 
family. He was very cordial and pleasant indeed. Do you 
know how the poor man has suffered from the brutality prac- 
tised on him? He has been undergoing a very severe course of 
treatment in Paris, and is now somewhat better; but I fancy 
he is ruined for life. They burned hb back in Paris, so that he 
could not sit in a carriage for months. Mr. Jackson, our min- 
ister here, and Mr. Stiles (the U.S. Consul) and the other 
Southerners always laugh, when he is spoken of, and say it is 
all sham on his part. 

His comment on the completion of the Atlantic cable like- 
wise shows how his mind was working on politics: — 

The greatest work of the age is done : the Atlantic telegraph 
is laid; it is truly something for the English and our people to 
be proud of. Nothing like pluck ; people here said that it would 
never be laid, etc. It is done; if broken hereafter, can be done 
again. Moreover, it is an iron link against the worst war for 
the world. If we only hold together, the other nations here 
may raise the devil. The English will soon get a real, able 
Liberal cabinet, which will put reforms into action and use; 
and we will have an anti-slavery government of what name 
you please. 


So the weeks grew months and the months years, and 1858 
was followed by 1859, ^iid Henry Higginson was still waiting 
for the improvement that never came. A photograph of this 
period, given to his friend A. W* Thayer, who was in Austria 
working on his monumental "Life of Beethoven," tells the 
story of disappointed hopes better than any words. It is the 
saddest, the most wistful of all the Higginson photographs. 
But his letters during 1859 ^^^ singularly uncomplaining, and 
he was finding in himself and in the companionship of musical 
friends soiurces of quiet happiness. The year 1858 had ended 
with a jolly visit to "Jim" and John Bancroft at Dresden ; but 
on New Year's Day he is back in Vienna, frequenting the 
society of his Jewish " chum " Epstein, and wondering whether 
the threatened war between Austria and France and Sardinia 
will interrupt his studies. When the Austrian army was sud- 
denly mobilized, he wrote to his father : — 

A friend of ours, physician in a regiment stationed here, the 
other day came to dinner and said, "We march to-morrow 
for Italy." By Jove, they all went at 11 the next morning 
— twenty hours — and another regiment marched six hours 
earlier than they. Our friend had quite a little practice here, 
was pleasantly situated, and not at all prepared for any- 
thii^ of this kind. He had no time to collect his bills (about 
$400), and wishing very much to pay his debts, I lent him 
money to do so. I suppose that you '11 consider this careless; 
and yet for a good friend and a reliable man as he is, I could 
do no less. 

George Higginson did not approve this loan. " If war comes," 
he added, "do not, as you love me, place your life in danger. 
Return at once. With all the new appliances at command, the 
game will be fearfully destructive." 

When the short and bloody campaign in Lombardy was at 
its full fury, Henry wrote : — 


You will have read ere this of the tremendous battle [Sol- 
ferino] on the 24th inst., between the two great armies. 
Heaven only knows why the French conquered, for these Aus- 
trians fight like devils. The regiments that were in Vienna last 
winter are half gone to another world. . . . One of the jSger 
battalions — Tyrolese skirmishers properly — went into this 
battle, and none came back. • • . In this war the men seem 
to be much embittered and some of them show great brutality. 
. . . You know the crimes and outrages of war, and can 
easily imagine all ; in truth very few men of education easily 
restrain themselves after 12 hours of bloodshed. 

Save for his characteristically reckless loans and charities, 
he was living very closely, and even giving a few lessons in 
English to eke out his income. "The concerts cost me nothing 
almost. I don't smoke, drink or eat costly food, do not drive, 
rarely use a coach, though they 're cheap and the city is large; 
my clothes very little." 

Quite too little, the respectable George Higginson thought. 
"I have heard two or three times from our countrymen who 
have seen you in Vienna that your street dress is rather pecu- 
liar and shabby. If such is the truth, let me request you to 
consider more favorably what the personal appearance of one 
of your class should be. Dress reputably always, which you 
can do without approach to extravagance." 

"Pray who told you that I dress shabbily in Vienna — 
Powell?" the son replied. " It is done from motives of econ- 
omy, and because I do not much care ; yet my dress has been 
improved within six months. In winter I rarely wear white 
shirts, but prefer the dark flannel shirts; that gives a shabby 
look, and then my hats are always bad. I *11 see to it." 

Nor did the father altogether approve of some expressions in 
his son's letters. "Let me call attention to the bad taste and 
vulgarity displayed in using oaths and profane expressions or 
any slang terms in one's letters. Do watch this tendency in 


your familiar correspondence." And the merchant's sense of 
personal dignity was also ruffled by what will seem to many 
readers to-day one of the most charming and lovable aspects of 
the son's letters. " My dear Henry, you know I attach little 
importance to forms, to set rules of society, which are for the 
most part unmeaning, but as a matter of correct taste on your 
part, would it not be in better keeping to omit the terms * old 
fellow,' 'old boy,' etc., when addressing me? I think so." 

Henry did not reply to this criticism, but he could no more 
help using terms of endearment than he could help saying 
"damn" when that was what he meant. His characterization 
of his father's letters is full of generosity and sweetness: " You 
are a capital correspondent in quantity and quality; do not 
mind reproving me now and then (a rarity new to me so far 
from home) , answer my questions, give me news and advice, 
and best of all a smile and a kiss at the end." 

Once in a while they exchange a word about new books, the 
last "Atlantic," Emerson's speech at the Bums centenary, or 
Dwight's "Journal of Music," which Henry did not care for, 
aldiough he occasionally contributed to it. "Have you seen a 
book by an Englishman, George Eliot," Henry writes in June, 
1859, "called 'Scenes from Clerical Life,' and one by the same 
author just published and highly praised by the 'Times'? 
Eliot is a mere nam de guerre.'' And in October: " 'Adam Bede ' 
is capital; Mrs. Poyser is a character, a person f which is more 
than most authors can give birth to. The writer's real name 
has not appeared yet. • • • Read Thackeray's new book 
("The Virginians"] — you'd Uke it, father." 

Two business schemes of Henry's occupy much space in the 
correspondence of this yean One was a project for shipping 
light Hungarian wines from Vienna, on commission; but 
George Higginson, after careful inquiries in Boston and New 
York, found that there was no market. The other was a prof- 
fered clerkship in Herr Miller's wholesale drug business, which 
Henry debated very seriously, but which was suddenly with- 


drawn. Yet the chief topic of correspondence between father 
and son was the question of coming home. The father hun- 
gered for his boy, yet he had too much New England reticence 
to say so, and contented himself with elaborate and ingenious 
moral arguments which would have done credit to one of his 
seventeenth-century ancestors. He fears Henry is wasting 
precious time: "You should return to this country in the 
autumn, decide on a pursuit, and take it up in earnest.'' Yet 
in this very letter he admits there is nothing encouraging in 
the state of trade, and that the shipping business is sufiFering 
severely. "You must return in the autumn. When here you 
may perhaps have the benefit of Mr. E. Austin's sagacious and 
wise management." But the sagadous Mr. Austin, though he 
talked kindly about a possible opening in his counting-room, 
made no very definite offer. " Can't you come home and get 
musical instruction here?" To this Henry makes no reply, 
and his father waxes bolder. " Come home. You cannot look 
for eminence in music. To stay, would strengthen selfish pro- 
pensities." Voluntary exile, it appeared, was developing a 
streak of "soft conceit" and "vanity" in Henry; to which 
the youth answered rather bitterly, for once, " God knows I 've 
nothing to be vain of." Then there was the "foot, arm and 
shoulder" argument: was not Dr. Bigelow of Boston a better 
doctor than anybody in Vienna? Are not Abana and Pharpar, 
in short, better than all the waters of Israel? 

Very skillful, too, was the appeal to Henry's responsibilities 
as a brother: "George and Mary and Frank need you here." 
But on this point Henry seems to score : — 

I do not well see in what I can help my brothers and dster. 
Each time that I see Jim, I am more and more convinced that 
he is more of a man than I, and more able to give me and oth- 
ers advice than I him. George is doing excellently [he was 
farming in Hadley], will, I believe, continue to do so, and is at 
any rate not at home within my reach. Mary seems to be 


growing as straight as an arrow, to be as natural, loving, truly 
good and useful, darling a daughter and sister as anyone need 
be. She needs little help from me. And as for Frank, he has 
lately been industrious and painstaking. His last letters be- 
tray an excellent spirit about his studies; he is pure-minded, 
high-minded, honest, good-hearted, and as little likely to get 
into trouble as any boy of his age. 

So the good father falls back again on his pet ''selfish pro- 
penaties" argument. " How ugly this is ! Look at that noble 
fellow, Charley Lowell ! Does not this blight affect his char- 
acter? '* As Henry does not reply to this criticism upon his best 
friend, George Higginson invents another variation: "Will 
your knowledge and devotion to music enable you to look upon 
it as a profession, or to render rich services of good to society? " 
(The founding of the Symphony Orchestra was the answer to 
that last clause, though it came twenty-two years later!) 
Finally, the perplexed parent fell back on the economic argu- 
ment: "Come back and begin to earn!'' And here again the 
son's quiet, patient answer is conclusive : — 

What can you offer at home? Nothing tempting. You 
speak of business in no tones of encouragement ; you allude to 
the depressed state of our shipping (sure however to be re- 
duced if England be drawn into this war) ; you mention the 
numbers of able and excellent young men without employ- 
ment. Only look at your own picture and you see the dis- 
heartening tendency of it. Think of all these aforesaid young 
men with more natural ability, with more and better prepara- 
tion for their work, with excellent characters for workers; all 
more than I, and yet they are idle. What is the inference? 
That I should have nothing to do for a long time. • • • I give 
my word of honor that when I cease working I '11 return to 
America and work. But I cannot return next fall, nor can I fix 
any time for that same. 


The fact is, — though neither father nor son realized it at 
the time, — that vast changes were imminent in New England. 
The old commercial Boston was passing away; the new manu- 
facturing and industrial life of Massachusetts was barely 
beginning. Young men in the late eighteen-fifties stood "be- 
tween two worlds," and felt powerless to direct their destiny. 
And there were purely personal reasons, well understood by 
his father, which made young Higginson reluctant to return to 
Boston. He wrote often about going West, as Charles Lowell 
had just done. ** If I were to go home this fall, I should ask him 
to take me as his clerk. There is a great chance on the rail- 
roads." But Lowell's report proved unfavorable. 

He does not like the West and never will. "The West may 
make a man strong, rock-like — never large and generous and 
manly." You have the gist of the matter in those few words, 
and I fancy he is quite right. A land which is simply devoted 
to money-making cannot produce broad and noble characters. 
. . . Mr. Alpheus Hardy, who has just been here with his 
wife, said lately to me : " I know no dty in the world where the 
merchants are so active and energetic without losing their in- 
terest in life generally and sinking into mere merchants, as in 
Boston." He is an interesting man. 

When George Higginson realized that a fourth winter in 
Vienna was inevitable, he ceased pleading, contenting himself 
with the remark that Henry's decision was a " misjudgment, a 
serious error." He is delighted that the clerkship with the 
Millers came to nothing. German merchants are " stately and 
precise old formalists, of ancient views and habits." When 
Henry's Jewish friends, the Epsteins, were in bereavement and 
financial difficulties, George Higginson wrote: " Give of money 
if there be need. One of the obligations assumed with the gifts 
which your Heavenly Father confers is to avail of such open- 
ings and dispense judicially." The father's letters about family 


a£fairs are radiantly cheerful. He goes out to Cambridge in 
September to see Frank — entering Harvard from Mr. San- 
bom's school in Concord — maintain the family tradition in 
the great Sophomore-Freshman game: — 

" Frank was foremost in the fray. Black eyes, bruised head, 
lame through a heavy blow on the chest — are regarded as 
honorable proofs of his share in the deeds of the day. • • . 
Some of the blows appear to have been stunning ones, for after 
the first games he was for a time wandering about the ground 
unconsciously. His pluck and spirit appear to have sustained 
him most creditably, but the sport is brutal and alarming, and 
will, I trust, be moderated somewhat under later years. '* 

Possibly that final wish was even then echoed by a certain 
Harvard instructor, of whom Frank writes to Henry : " Charley 
E. is our mathematical tutor, and is a very fair, gentlemanly, 
and pleasant one too. Though cold as an icicle,^ he is liked by 
the dass better than any other one." 

So the year runs by in Boston, the year of Prescott's death, 
and Washington Irving's, and of Theodore Parker's break- 
down, and of President Walker's resignation, and of the 
founding of Agassiz's Museum of Comparative Zodlogy in 
Cambridge, and of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. 
"Nobleold John Brown," George Higginson wrote — "heroic, 
imflinching." And his boy's own future was to be shaped by 
that tragedy in Viiiginia. 

I would hardly believe [replies Henry] that Brown of Kansas 
would have tried such a thing. It is a pretty mad plan, but the 
slaveholders deserve it. Hang them ! they ' ve no right to keep 
such a firebrand alive in the midst of our country. The 
Southerners are infernally pig-headed. • . • For the fine old 
man we can have but one sentiment ; he was a real hero and has 
immortalized hb name. The Southerners may curse and swear 
as they like ; he is worth all of them put together, and his work 
will be accomplished in time. 

^QiK of the earliest appearaooes of the "icicle" myth about President £liot« 


The New Year began happily for Henry with the usual hol- 
iday visit to "Jimmy and Johnny" and five or six other Bos- 
ton boys in Dresden and Berlin. But he had not reached 
Vienna again before his father opened the i860 campaign of 
arguments for returning home. "Your place is here — in 
readiness for work.^^ He admits that, although Lee, Higginson 
and Co. have not a dollar of indebtedness, factory shares are 
low, and the Western railroads in trouble. Yet his boy must 
come back. It is " indolent " to remain. " Choose your calling 
and pursue it with zeal and perseverance." The "selfishness" 
argument reappears, and there are new turns in the economic 
argument. Henry's income for 1859, it appeared, was only 
$450, and his expenses apparently $1800. "Of the money left 
you in 1856, by Uncle G., but $2500 is now available. How 
long that will answer for $1500 to $1800 per annum, you can 
answer. You have played too long in Vienna. I therefore pray 
you to retrieve the error without delay and choose some occu- 
pation that will enable you to pay your way." He thinks 
Henry has been "careless in sending accounts, unmercauitile," 
and delivers a lecture on "the indispensable necessity of 
method, order and promptitude." Then, humorously enough, 
Baring's accounts come to hand, and tally precisely with 
Henry's figures. His expenses had been but $1200, and his 
credit with Baring's was excellent. So the father takes back 
his lecture: "I hasten to acquit you of negligence." 

But then follows the only passage in which George Hig- 
ginson ever seems to be suspicious that his son is not wholly 
frank with him : — 

" I am in the dark as to the precise character of your studies. 
What ties have you at Vienna? Have you not led a sober, 
discreet and blameless life there? You have an enlightened 
conscience, a just sense of true manliness, of the place you 
ought to fill in our community. Why then hesitate? Come 
back, place yourself in the best position, and render all the 
good you can to those about you as a good Christian and 


citizen. ... I have long intended to ask you where you pass 
your Sundays. Where do you go to church? Answer my 
queries about your habits, and think seriously of duties on 
ihis side." 

Henry's reply to this letter, on March i , is quiet, affection- 
ate — and imperturbable. 

I Ve long intended to go at about this time, but have avoided 
saying anything about it, because my plans might have been 
altered by circumstances and thus you disappointed. I shall 
go to Diisseldorf to Johnny, stay with him until the weather 
is warm, and then make a foot journey in France. . . . Up to 
the present time, almost, I have hoped to be able to play, but 
it cannot be; and therefore I, seeing that my musical studies 
cannot be prosecuted to advantage without playing, have de- 
termined to leave here. If you consider the whole thing, and 
remember that I enjoy in the depths of my soul music as 
nothing else, you'll easily comprehend my stay. . . . You 
ask about churchgoing; there is no place for me to go, as the 
English service is very unpleasant to me.' I do go to the 
Catholic churches somewhat. But I ought to tell you that I 
should hardly go if there were twenty churches, for I do not 
like it. ... I Ve collected quite a quantity of books (second- 
hand) which will be valuable to others and to me, and which 
are to be got very cheap. You once desired me to bring home 
something for each cousin (of the 200 or 300?) and also some 
books for the college. ... He who is fond of books and has 
been for an hour in an old bookshop will understand how I 
have got so many together. 

He was in no hurry to start, lingering a few weeks to enjoy 
a visit from brother Jim, and "an unusual number of con- 
certs, among them the first one of my chum Epstein in many 
years, given by him on his own account." But his thoughts 
were turning homeward at last. He writes in April : " At home 


you are all expecting the different nominations for the Presi- 
dency; it will be a strange election and much depends on it. 
But after all one will hardly get Mr. Seward in, if he be put 
up ; he is more likely to be in the Cabinet than in the White 
House." Mr. Seward, by the way, had been in Vienna in 
October, 1859, and Henry found him "a very interesting man, 
pleasant, kindly, funny, simple, straightforward; ought to be 
the next President." 

" I don't believe that you have any idea how much father 
wants you to come back," writes Frank. "He says almost 
daily, ' I do wish that Henry would come home.' " And Frank 
himself is anxious to have his big brother back before Septem- 
ber, to coach his class football team: "to help us in the foot- 
ball as you did Jim. We shall have to fight like the d ." 

Frank's "training weight," it appears from this letter, is 120 
pounds. Only a little while now, and all three brothers will be 
fighting on far other fields than the Harvard Delta! 

By the middle of May Henry was in Diisseldorf with Du 
Maurier and John Bancroft, who had come into an inheri- 
tance "and can paint on in peace. . . . Have you anything in 
prospect for me, daddy dear? Calcutta is too slow and too 
dull for me. . . . If the wines go [this was a second scheme for 
importing wine from Hungary] one might easily unite the two 
— in fact, the whole would not be work enough for anyone 
really desirous to be busied. . . ." 

By July Henry is in Paris, and following keenly the political 
developments at home: — 

If the Republicans be once in, they'll hold office long enough 
to kill this question of slavery. I read portions of Mr. Sumner's 
speech,^ i.e., the statistical parts, which are dreadful in their 
native inborn strength, but the whole comes too late, I fancy. 
The evil has gone too far to be thus discussed. Mr. Adams's 
speech pleased me very well indeed ; it is strong and temperate 
in its tone. 

^ On the "Barbarism of Slavery." 


But he was also giving himself a full draught — for the last 
time for many a year — of his favorite pleasure. He writes 
to his Aunt Harriet (Mrs. S. T. Morse) : — 

I am again in this most beautiful of cities, going continually 
to theatres, and operas (comigue)^ which are indeed the strong- 
est attraction of Paris for me. Such acting as one sees in low 
and high comedy is hardly to be found elsewhere ; a half-dozen 
people perhaps in Vienna and a few in Germany play in the 
same finished way. Yet the astonishing thing about the acting 
is, that it is not acting; it is just Parisian life on a stage for 
us to look at. . . . Music is not to be heard to advantage 
here; the opera-comique is very nice indeed, and the Lyrique 
too, but the grand opera is very second-rate in music and in 
singers; the orchestra and the decorations, as also ballet, are 
excellent. At the Italian opera a company of old and second- 
rate people are advertised ; the best go to St. Petersburg for the 
winter; Grisi still sings, but should be buried; four years ago 
she was dreadful from weakness, and now — ! Mario is done 
too, they say, tho' he will sing still. At Vienna both the Ger- 
man and the Italian companies were far better than here. In- 
deed M'lle La Grua, whom I heard there in April in the 
Italian opera, is for me the greatest singer that I ever heard ; 
greatest as artist, for her voice is small, just as those of Jenny 
Lind, of Sontag, of Malibran and of most very great singers 
have been. (You'll hear a great voice in the Czilk^ from 
Vienna, mezzo-soprano, just engaged by Ullman for America.) 
In addition the La Grua acts wonderfully; her Norma 
stands above that of Grisi, I think, impossible as it may seem. 
I wrote to " Dwight " an account of her, which you may have 
seen. One great objection to the Paris theatres for me, is that 
the representations last 4 to 5 hours, whereas two and a half 
are quite enough. It is debilitating and injurious to stay so 
long in a theatre. 


Powell writes me [he says in writing his father from Paris] 
that he sees nothing which a safe and honest man can begin 
with just now; he means of course a young man opening his 
course in life ; but I must find something or I shall go into the 
Insane Asylum. I 'd not live at home without employment 
for any possible reward. . . . IVe always coimted on doing 
something, with you, an old hand who has burned his fingers, 
to give me advice in my movements. . . . Suggest something 
if you can. 

But George Higginson makes no discoverable reference to a 
business opening, though he composes long and eloquent let- 
ters about "your dear, loving, ever-faithful and devoted old 
Grandmother [Lee],'* who had died in June. Henry had been 
particularly fond of her. 

There never was such a grandmother [he writes his Aunt 
Harriet (Mrs. Lee's daughter)], and there will not be soon 
again. I remember long ago Dr. Dexter, not an impressionable 
or sentimental man, said to me, " Among the few people whom 
I should take real, honest pleasure in seeing again at home, 
are your grandfather and grandmother Lee" ; and he went on 
to eulogize them. You'll not think that I'm writing fine 
phrases or flattering you when I say that yoiu* children are 
greatly, truly blessed in their parents, all devoted to them ; 
but they've lost this sunshiny, thoughtful, sympathizing 
grandmother, who has done so much for us. I used sometimes 
to wonder that grandmother could even understand many of 
our whims and notions, not existing in her day and often too 
absurd to be tolerated at all. Yet she comprehended them, 
sympathized with them, and then merely said, "One of these 
days you '11 change your mind and not think so " ; and we went 
away thinking dear grandmother a little absurd, at least old- 
fashioned, and waked up one day to find her wisdom staring 
us in the face; whence we may perhaps draw the moral to 


" Make sure of children's hearts and let them work out their 
own notions in peace; the truth is sure to come out finally; 
and one cannot hasten it by command or opposition." 

A typical " Massachusetts in i860" view of Lincoln is found 
in George Higginson's letter of July 15. 

" You ask about the Presidential candidates: the Republican 
party will, from present sight, carry the day. Mr. Lincoln is 
of Springfield, Illinois — of Kentucky birth, but long a con- 
sistent and earnest Free-soiler. Not an abolitionist. He is a 
very respectable man, hardly known out of his state, but held 
in high esteem there. Hamlin is of Maine, a former Governor 
— late Senator at Washington, a sound and very good man. 
It was a matter of expediency with the party, in which Mr. 
Seward, notwithstanding the unquestionable disappointment, 
fully and frankly concurred." 

Henry had been in Concameau in Brittany with John Ban- 
croft, then at St. Helier on the island of Jersey, and now, after 
the brief stay in Paris, he tarried in London, waiting for pas- 
sage on the Arabia, the boat which had brought him to Europe 
with such high hopes just four years before. She sailed from 
Liverpool for Boston on November 17, i860. Lincoln had been 
elected eleven days earlier, although Higginson did not get the 
news until he reached Halifax. A new epoch was at hand. 


"I said: */ 'm goingr'— H. L. H. 

Yet from November, i860, to the firing upon Fort Sumter 
on April 12, 1 861 , the months dragged. The public uncertainty 
as to the policy of the incoming administration was reflected 
in the business situation, and nowhere more noticeably than 
in Boston. Everybody was marking time. No one ventured 
forward. And Henry Higginson, aged 26, was as far from find- 
ing employment as ever. Charles Lowell, who had given up a 
railroad position in Burlington, Iowa, and was turning iron- 
master at Mt. Savage, Maryland, had tried to comfort him 
by writing: "Don't bother with plans, but be governed by 
circumstances. Damn it, a man who has got himself up as 
well as you have ought to be happy anywhere." On Decem- 
ber 28, Lowell wrote from Mt. Savage: — 

" If you have any respectable mode of getting through your 
days, and do not feel yourself in danger of becoming a denined 
disreputable, dissatisfied loafer, I should advise you to be in 
no hurry to plunge into trade. Cotton is unthroned, but Com 
is not yet King, and meanwhile Chance rules. The South is 
just now a mere mob, and no man can tell whither a mob may 

Early in February, 1861, Henry himself wrote to his brother 
James, who was still in Germany: " Do not hurry about com- 
ing home: our country is in an unfortunate state, and ofiFers 
little employment or enjoyment until something decided and 
strong comes." He goes on to describe his good fortune in 
selling profitably an invoice of wines which he had imported as 
a venture; — 


In consequence therefore of this success, I Ve sent for more 
wines and shall try to make a living out of it ; in these times 
one must earn a living as one can. • . • What a howling about 
the cotton there is ! Do you know that the whole cotton crop 
is 5 per cent in value of our annual products? It is a fact 
worthy of note, Jim, that the N. Western Senators and Rep. 
are the men who are most decided and clear in pronouncing 
their sentiments against the South ; they have talked of coer- 
cion and war, and theyUl be very lively, when the fighting 
comes, i.e.f if it comes. . • • 

Meantime trade is in a rather stagnant state, from the un- 
certainty in the future rather than from any inherent diffi- 
culty. For one like myself seeking occupation, nothing is 
easily to be found. N. York is probably the best chance, and 
even she does not appear very tempting at the present time. 
Besides, I am loath to quit our Puritan city after all, un- 
willing to give up my niunerous valued acquaintances and 
my friends. Society is in some respects much pleasanter to 
me than formerly, and the easy, familiar converse with girls 
affords me much delight; here I am known at least in my own 
circle, and am trusted as a son of my father and a brother of 
James J.; in N.Y. I must begin all over again, must seek far 
and wide and work hard at society before gaining the advan- 
tages here in my hand. Perhaps it may be my course after 
all, but I Ve seen enough of figuring among strangers not to 
dii^ to friends with all my strength. 

But this disappointed musician, living now in his father's 
house in Chauncy Street, and often confined there, in fact, by 
a renewal of the old trouble with his foot, was not fated to be- 
come a wine-merchant in "our Puritan city/' or to "begin all 
over again" in New York. 

The first shot at Fort Sumter changed all that. The news 
reached Boston on April 13. On the 22d, Henry writes to his 
brother: — 


Dearest Jim, — 

We are in for the fight at last and we will carry it thro' 
men. One week ago to-day appeared the President's prodaxna- 
tion calling on the states (or troops. To-day Washington is 
cared for, Fort Monroe garrisoned, and the route to Washing- 
ton held open. Never in my whole life have I seen anything ap- 
proaching in the slightest degree to the excitement and the 
enthusiasm of the past week. Everything excepting the war 
is forgotten, business is suspended, the streets are filled with 
people, drilling is seen on all sides and at all times. Our Massa- 
chusetts troops were poured into Boston within 12 to 24 hours 
after the command was issued from here, and were the first to 
go on and the first to shed blood. May the devil catch those 
Baltimorean rioters, the cowards! On the 19th April, the an- 
niversary of the Lexington fight, our first men were shot in 

But you should have seen the troops, Jimmy: real, clean- 
cut, intelligent Yankees, the same men who fought in '76, a 
thousand times better than any soldiers living. They left 
their wives and children in some cases without a farewell, and 
marched thro' to Washington. We Ve been told of our degen- 
eracy for years and years: I tell you, Jim, no more heartfelt 
enthusiasm or devotion was to be found in '76 than now. 
Everyone is longing to go. One man walked 100 miles to join 
a volunteer company raised and gone between Wednesday and 
Sunday. Two thousand Irish volunteers have been raised in 
Boston, besides many companies of Americans and Germans 
and French. One hundred Germans put their names down as 
volunteers in a half -hour at a small meeting which was held 
Friday. Money is forthcoming, everyone is making clothes for 
the troops. Yesterday sailed from N.Y. 5000 troops (1200 
from here, conunanded by one of my classmates) ; they say 
500,000 people were present to see them march down Broad- 
way and sail. That famous N.Y. 7th regiment is holding the 
R.R. to Washington from Annapolis. A r^ment of 800 N.Y. 


firemen has been raised in two or three days, and will go as 
skirmishers to-morrow or to-day. The Ohio troops are in Wash- 
ington, and the Westerners are coming on perfectly wild. 
Eoery slave-state has refused troops; we do not want them. 
The Southern army is, they say, well-drilled : we may lose at 
first, but they will be wiped out from the face of the earth in 
the end. We want arms sadly ; those villains have stolen every- 
thing that they could find in our armories and arsenals. And 
for us — George will, I hope and trust, finish his house at 
Lenox before moving . • . father is of course too old. I have 
been laid up all winter with a sprained foot, which is still weak, 
but I *11 go if I can march possibly. I Ve committed myself to 
a raiment of volunteers to be raised and drilled in our harbor 
before going. It is the best way, if they are not wanted im- 
mediately, for then a disciplined body of active troops will be 
opposed to the enemy, instead of raw recruits. Jim Savage will 
go in this regiment as an officer. This foot has been a great 
nuisance to me for months, and now may prevent my going, 
for a lame man will not be accepted. And now, Jim, you must 
decide for yourself whether you '11 return just yet or not ; you 
might wait a few months to advantage. There will be little 
business in any way for beginners until the war is over, I sup- 
pose: the first quota is gone and the second will be off also be- 
fore you can reach here. Then will come much drilling and 
preparation for the future: the war will, I fancy, be very 
severe, but of short duration. You might get all possible in- 
formation as to the muskets and rifles with sword-bayonets to 
be got in each country, Germany, France and England ; we 
must import from Europe to meet our immediate wants. 
Send this letter to Johnny with my love : I Ve not time to write 
him to-day and he '11 want to know of these things. Father is 
very well indeed and drills hard, with a view to teaching others 
— as also Frank. Father gets dreadfully excited; indeed so 
does everyone. My best love to you, Jimmy. Yrs. 



The President's call (or troops had found Massachusetts 
ready. In January, 1861, Governor Andrew had begun to 
prepare the state militia for service; in February he had se- 
cured authority from the Legislature to utilize these militia 
outside the limits of the state on requisition of the* President. 
Lincoln's summons reached Boston on Monday, April 15 ; and 
on the morning of the i6th the militia regiments had reported 
in Boston for duty. On the 17th and i8th foiu: of these regi- 
ments started South. It was quick work. 

Major George H. Gordon, a graduate of West Point who had 
served in the Mexican War, but had since resigned from the 
army and entered upon the practice of law in Boston, had 
rendered great service to Governor Andrew in the organiza- 
tion of these State troops. But he saw clearly that the militia 
system was inadequate to the strain now laid upon it. 

He wrote in his reminiscences of the Second Massachusetts 
Regiment:^ '*My course was plain. It was to raise a regiment 
modeled upon the regular army of the United States — an 
enlistment of men; an appointment of officers; and an indefi- 
nite term of service. By what law such a regiment was to be 
held together, fed, paid, clothed, I knew not: there was no 
law, but there was something above law, something that makes 
law — necessity. So I addressed myself to two essentials in 
getting together and organizing in form a regiment of men ; and 
these were, first, the assent and cordial codperation of Gover- 
nor Andrew to raise it; second, the promise of the General 
Government to accept it." 

Governor Andrew had already assented on that fateful 
Monday, April 15, and by the 30th President Lincoln had 
accepted the proffered regiment. *' So far as I know," wrote 
Gordon in 1883, ''this offer of a regiment of citizens of Massa- 
chusetts, to fight for an indefinite period, — organized, armed 
and equipped, a present from the State, — was the first offer of 
the kind made in this War of the Rebellion." 

^ Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain, Boston, 1883. 


It will be noted that this action of the President antedates 
his proclamation of May 3 asking for thirty-nine regiments of 
infantry and one of cavalry, to serve for three years, or during 
the war. The men of the Second Massachusetts, therefore, 
always considered themselves the first of the three-years regi- 
ments to be accepted and mustered in by the United States. 
There was some irregularity in the dating of commissions, 
which gave rise to later controversy. Gordon's commission as 
Colonel of the Second was officially dated May 24, while the 
commission of the Colonel of the First Massachusetts was 
dated May 21. Yet Henry Higginson, for instance, who, as we 
shall see, became a second lieutenant in Company D of the 
Second, was mustered in on May ii. But the fame of the 
Second Massachusetts was to be won by four years of desper- 
ate fighting. It does not turn upon the precise chronology of 

Henry Higginson's own share in the raising of the regiment 
was typical of the hour and the man. He had been a member 
of the Salignac Drill Club, with James Savage and many other 
friends of his boyhood. Savage was a sergeant in the Club and 
particularly efficient, though his reticence and dislike of war- 
talk kept him silent. Long after the war, Higginson wrote : — 

No one living can forget the feeling of everyone when the 
news of the capture of Fort Sumter, and then of the call for 
Volimteers, came. We all said little. Those who were going 
knew their own minds ; those who were not going were thinking 
it over. . . . The call came Monday. ... I well remember 
seeing the first of our Volimteers come from the Providence 
R.R. Station, where they had just arrived. Odd-looking, 
bng, lean fellows, something to laugh at and to envy. It made 
me laugh and cry, grow hot and cold, and so I followed them to 
State Street, crowds looking at them as they passed without 
music. In a minute a company of New Bedford men came by 
with a band. That was splendid. How the crowd cheered as 


they marched up the street, and up went the windows to the 
tops of the houses where the printers and working people are, 
and out came a yell, such as I had never heard and only dreamt 
of ! If these poor people felt so, how should others with health 
and without a bond feel? Who would stay at home and be 
counted out of the fight? I had sometimes been surprised dur- 
ing the winter to hear Jim Savage say that he should not fight 
if the South did secode. "Let her go. We should be better 
without her." "Perhaps his reasoning is sound," thought I, 
"but you just cannot stay at home and not fight in such a 
cause. I can't and you can't." But I never said so. When the 
time came, he just said, " I 'm going," and I said, " I'm going." 
Of course we were. 

Well, the excitement and enthusiasm increased. Jim saw 
Gordon about himself and about me, and was promised com- 
missions of Captain and ist Lieutenant for us. In a few days 
we were recruiting in a side street near Faneuil Hall, and later 
at Fitchburg, where Jim was known. The night before going, 
I had told father of my commission, and had quite astonished 
him. We engaged our room, borrowed a flag, got out our post- 
ers and spent the next day in driving through the country, dis- 
tributing and pinning them to fences. We drove to Jim's house 
at Lunenburg.^ I don't suppose he was ever there again. . 

• . 

Many of Henry Higginson's dearest friends were enrolling 
in " Gordon's regiment." Greely Curtis seems to have been the 
very first applicant. Wilder Dwight enrolled and began to 
raise subscriptions on April i8, and it was he who went to 
Washington on April 25, with G. L. Andrews, — a West 
Pointer, now an engineer, and the lieutenant colonel of the 
proposed regiment, — to secure the President's acceptance. 
C. F. Morse, Henry S. Russell, R. G. Shaw, William D. Sedg- 
wick, Richard Cary, Richard C. Goodwin, T. L. Motley, S. M. 

^ "Jim's" father, the Hon. James Savage, President of the Massachusetts His- 
torical Society, had a country place at Lunenburg, not far from Fitchbuiig. 


Quincy, Stephen Perkins, were all going in. Recruiting offices 
were opened in Boston and elsewhere on April 25, each man 
who had been promised a captaincy, for instance, engaging to 
raise his own company. Savage and Higginson had slow work 
at first in Fitchburg — that "infernal little hole/* as Henry 
writes to his father on May 6. The difficulty was that the best 
men had already enrolled in the State militia and were expect- 
ing to go in the Ninth Regiment. But Captain Savage and 
Lieutenant Higginson — technically uncommissioned as yet 
— were tireless. " Usually James Savage stayed in the office, 
where men came in, talked with him, and signed the articles to 
go with us, or refused ; and I went from place to place collecting 
men as I could — to Leominster, Shirley, Hopedale, and many 
other towns." 

On May 14 they marched the first detachment of Company 
D, 42 men, into the new regimental camp at Brook Farm at 
West Roxbury. Captain Abbott's Company A, from Lowell, 
had beaten them by three days. They found Wilder Dwight 
serving as Major of the Regiment, Greely Curtis was Captain 
of Company B, and C. F. Morse (afterward Colonel of the 
Second), First Lieutenant. "Bill" Sedgwick got the first 
lieutenancy in Company D, Higginson being Second Lieu- 
tenant. "Bob" Shaw was First Lieutenant in Company F, 
Richard Cary was Captain of Company G, and Henry Russell 
First Lieutenant. In Company H, T. L. Motley was First 
Lieutenant, and Stephen Perkins Second Lieutenant. The 
regimental surgeon was Lucius Manlius Sargent, Jr., who was 
afterward, as captain, major and lieutenant-colonel of the First 
Massachusetts Cavalry, the superior officer of Henry Higgin- 
son and Charles F. Adams, both of whom will have much to 
say about him. The assistant surgeon was Lincoln R. Stone, 
a comrade for whom Henry Higginson cherished a lifelong af- 
fection. The chaplain was the Reverend A. H. Quint, who 
afterward wrote the history of the R^;iment.* 

^ Record of the Second MassachuseUs Infantry^ by Alonzo H. Quint, Bofton, 1867. 


Brook Farm — rechristened "Camp Andrew" out of com- 
pliment to the Governor — had seen queer gatherings twenty 
years earlier, during the Transcendental picnic ironically im- 
mortalized by Hawthorne's "Blithedale Romance." But its 
aspect during May and June was queerer still. 

It was droll work [wrote Higginson afterward], and seemed 
like a frolic to the men at first. They stood guard a little, ate, 
slept and played leap-frog. If a man was tired of walking his 
beat, he 'd shout, " Who '11 take my place? " and a dozen would 
answer, "I will." In the afternoon some tents were pitched 
and we took possession of them. I got a bit of bread and meat 
for supper, and it was a day or two before I knew of any regu- 
lar meals, although our men fared sumptuously. The first 
night in camp was very exciting and pretty cold. I hardly 
slept. . . . Very many funny incidents occurred. One evening 
I was officer of the guard and went round with the patrol, tak- 
ing up the sentries. All was going regularly until an old man 
named " Death" refused to be relieved and fall in. *' I '11 not 
leave my post." I told him it was orders. " No." I explained 
— in vain. I ordered. " I may be killed, but I'll never desert 
my post alive." I threatened punishment, but in vain, and as 
soon as I approached him, he lunged most vigorously at me 
with his bayonet. So I left him, and reported to the officer of 
the day, who went with me to try his authority. ** Death " re- 
peated that we might overpower him, but he'd never leave his 
post alive. So we rushed on him and upset him, and he was 
put in the guard-house. • . . 

Gradually some degree of order was secured, for the colonel 
and lieutenant-colonel were West Pointers, who knew their 
business. The rations were good, the equipment of Enfield 
rifles was adequate, and the regiment was well clothed in the 
regular uniform of the United States Army. As a concession to 
the traditions of the Massachusetts militia, the men of each 
company went through the form of electing their own officers. 


although these officers had been already appointed and com- 
missioned by the State. Some of the companies were not fuUi 
and as more recruits were needed, Lieutenant Higginson was 
detsdled to drill a dub of Germans in South Boston. He gave 
his orders in their native language, and was amused to note 
that, when they were directed to choose their officers, each man 
voted for himself. Most of these men went into the Twentieth 
Rq;iment subsequently, and did excellent service. 

Each day at noon the young officers at Brook Farm report- 
ed to Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews for instruction, reciting 
their lessons to him in a little farmhouse near the gate of the 

We were usually so tired that we could not recite, and we 
had really no time to study, but somehow or other we learned 
what we had to do. He used to catechize us about all sorts of 
points, give instruction about the drill and about the control of 
the men, the feeding of the men, and many other smaller 
points. Men were taught to stand up when they were spoken 
to, to stand in the presence of officers, to wash themselves 
properly, and, in short, were disciplined. Presently, our drill 
became so attractive that people used to come and see us, and 
the parades which were given every evening were visited by a 
large concourse of people — friends and neighbors. 

On June 26 the ''friends and neighbors" all appeared for the 
ceremony of presenting the United States flag to the regiment. 
Mr. J. Lothrop Motley made the speech of presentation, and 
Colonel Gordon an eloquent response. According to the 
"Boston Advertiser," "The regiment was drawn up in line of 
battle, and presented a fine and soldierly appearance. Their 
movements all indicated a high state of efficiency and drill." 
Let us hope that the reporter was qualified to judge; at any 
rate, one platoon was commanded by the Second Lieutenant of 
Company D, the First Lieutenant being indisposed. It was a 
proud afternoon for George Higginson and his son. 


One brief note to the father is now the only discoverable 
letter written by Henry from the Brook Farm camp. Its first 
sentence is : " Will you get Charley a pistol from me ? " Charles 
Lowell had just secured a captain's commission at Washing- 
ton, in the Third United States Cavalry. The last sentence is : 
** Ask S. [Stephen Perkins] to pass the night, and give him some 
Hungarian wine." 

Late in the afternoon of July 6 the regiment got its orders to 
move South. " Camp Andrew" was broken up, and the ghosts 
of the Transcendentalists once more took possession of that 
deserted hillside. 

On the 8th of July — a very hot day — we took the train 
to Boston, marched through the city, rested a while on the 
Common, and then took the train again for Providence and the 
boat to New York, where we arrived in the morning. There 
we rested in the park, where now the post-office is, and by and 
by, when our wagons had been got onto the boats, we went 
across the bay to Elizabeth, and again took the train, and 
turned up the next day at Hagerstown, Maryland. 

Higginson's commission as first lieutenant dated from July 8. 
I have often heard him say that, among the thirty-six com- 
missioned officers of the Second, there were not half a dozen 
who went South with the intention to free the slaves; that they 
went to save the Union, but as soon as they reached Virginia, 
they all turned "anti-slavery." Higginson himself had, as we 
know, been "anti-slavery" from boyhood. His remark about 
the other officers is corroborated by the letters written from 
the front by Chaplain Quint in October. "Our men are fight- 
ing for the flag, not for the abolition of slavery. So far as the 
army feels, slavery is not a prominent theme or thought. The 
supremacy of law, and the honor of the stars and stripes — 
these are the soldiers' principles. ... At the same time, if 
there is any work which our soldiers loathe, it is the returning 


of fugitive slaves. They despise it. . . . But they are not 
fighting for * abolition.' " Yet when this letter, which originally 
appeared in the " Congregationalist," was reprinted in 1864, 
the author added this significant footnote: " I was right then, 
but I should not be right to use the same language now. The 
feelings of the army have gradually and totally changed. Few 
soldiers of any rank but now detest slavery and mean to 
fight it.*'* 

The Second Massachusetts saw hard fighting enough before 
Colonel C. F. Morse marched them into Richmond on May 11, 
1865, four years to a day after the first detachment reached 
Brook Farm. Of the thirty-six original officers, but four re- 
mained, and of the thousand men first enlisted, less than a 
hundred entered Richmond. But from July to October, 1861, 
— when Lieutenant Higginson was transferred to the new First 
Massachusetts Cavalry with the rank of captain, — the Second 
marched and countermarched and camped along the Potomac, 
almost without firing a shot. Fording the Potomac at Williams- 
port on July II, they reported at Patterson's headquarters, 
and started for Winchester to face Johnston.* But Johnston 


easily effected his union with Beauregard at Manassas, and on 
the 2 1st came the battle of Bull Run. The Second Massachu- 
setts had been ordered back to hold Harper's Ferry, and was 
the first Northern regiment to enter it. 

That night I was on guard [wrote Lieutenant Higginson]. 
As I had not been to sleep the night before, the task was not 
easy. I sat on a fence-rail, and whenever I began to fall, I 
waked up. I walked up and down and did everything to keep 
myself alive, and certainly went to sleep part of the time while 
I was walking. . • . Seventeen regiments of three-months 

^ See A. H. Quint's The Potomac and the Rapidan (Boston, 1864), p. 49. 

* "The 2nd Massachusetts Volunteers, a three-years regiment, came to us here 
[Mardnsbui^g;] and I for the first time saw a well-disciplined volunteer regiment. 
They were dressed and equipped in Regular Army fashion and were a splendid- 
looking set of men." — Col. T. L. Livermore, Days and Events (Boston, 1920), p. 15, 


men have crossed the river for home, and we are thankful (or 
it. Such a set of untamed and undisciplined wild-cats you 
never saw. They steal, they get drunk. We have foxu* com- 
panies in the town guarding the houses and stores against 
these robbers. . . . Talk to the men as we will, they will not 
take care of themselves. Jim [Savage] is imder the weather just 
now and will have to be off duty a day or two. Sedgwick 
stands it well so far. Stephen has been starving considerably, 
as indeed we all have. ... I am well and strong and shall 
bear more work than most of the men. The want of good 
officers is surprising. ... I am glad of the defeat at Bull 
Run, and believe it will be productive of good to us. 

The lieutenant's list of articles that he wishes his father to 
procure for him in Boston reads curiously, now that sixty 
years have passed. It includes ''a buffalo-robe," "an India 
rubber blanket," "a pair of strong suspenders," "three pairs 
of 1st Lieut, patent Infantry shoulder-straps, two pairs of 
Captain's ditto," "a bit of wash-leather to polish my sword," 
"one pair of thin cotton drawers." That "two pairs of Cap- 
tain's ditto" shows pleasing forethought for what might 

Meanwhile the Second Regiment marched back and forth 
under General Banks's none too competent directions, and 
"prayed daily for a fight." The weather, fine at first, grew 
cold, and sickness increased ominously. There was a good deal 
of drinking, and in some of the regiments brigaded with the 
Second a marked lack of discipline. Colonel Gordon dis- 
covered in one of these regiments, " dressed in full uniform and 
enrolled as a soldier regularly mustered into the service, a 
young woman of about eighteen years of age. She had been in 
the regiment about a month ; imtil within a day or two there 
had been no suspicion of her sex. I am not aware that her 
presence tended to elevate the standard of character in her 
company. She could smoke a pipe, and swear like a veteran." ^ 

' Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain, p. 57. 


lieutenant Higginson and Captain Greely Curtis had plenty 
of court-martial duty to perform, 

I was officer of the guard at Damestown [wrote the former] 
just before the battle of Ball's Bluff. A private who had been 
disorderly in the ranks was sent to me by his captain to be 
punished. He came very drunk, talking and swearing. I 
ordered him to keep still and march on — as a precaution, 
though I did n't think much about it, taking the cap from his 
charge. He walked to the end of the beat, turned, put another 
cap on his gun, and leveled the piece at my belt, saying he 'd 
blow a hole through me. There was nothing to do, we could n't 
reach the man in time, and my sergeant standing by had no 
gun. I looked steadily at him and said peremptorily, "Bring 
your piece to your shoulder and march on." Then the in- 
stinctive habit of obedience told, even crazy-drunk as the man 
was. Clap went the piece to his shoulder, and on he marched 
towards us. My sergeant then took the musket away and 
Martin marched until he dropped. He was afterwards court- 
martialed, but let off, and I see him now, an English Jew, 
down-town, selling pictures. It would have been an eternal 
disgrace to our regiment if an officer had been shot by a private. 

On September 14 he wrote his father: "The 20th Mass. has 
just passed up the River about two miles from here. Paul 
Revere [a Latin School and Harvard College friend] said that 
he had not taken off his clothes for three days; he will think 
nothing of ten days soon without a change." It was only five 
weeks later that Major Revere, wounded and captured after 
desperate fighting at Ball's Bluff, was sent to Libby Prison 
and to the horrors of the Henrico County Jail, where the lack of 
a change of clothing was the least of his troubles. He was after- 
ward exchanged, and fell at Gettysburg. 

Higginson himself saw the aftermath of this disaster at 
Ball's Bluff, where the Twentieth Massachusetts suffered so 
terribly. He pictures it with a sort of Tolstoyan simplicity: — 


One evening, just after drill, we were ordered to march. We 
heard that there had been a severe fight on the river, and we 
were to go as fast as we could. We marched all night, going 
right through a considerable stream, and presently it began to 
rain, and toward morning, as we were pegging along, we came 
across various men coming back, who said that we had had a 
terrible beating. This was the battle of Ball's Bluff. We 
reached the bank of the river, and there were various men 
in the houses thereabouts, and troops lying pretty near to the 
point we reached ; and we then learned how our men had gone 
across the river, had been attacked and driven back, and how 
much harm had been done. All this time it was raining as 
hard as it well could, and we were wet through. I heard that 
a canal boat was going down the river, and that various men 
whom I knew were on board. I ran down and found Caspar 
Crowninshield on the stern of the canal boat in a pair of 
drawers and an overcoat. He gave me a hand, and I got up on 
the boat, heard his story, saw Willy Putnam and various others 
lying down below. Willy Putnam had been shot in the stomach 
and could hardly speak, and there were various other men 
badly wounded. 

William Lowell Putnam's wound proved mortal. He was 
one of the three nephews whom James Russell Lowell was to 
immortalize in the " Biglow Papers." Higginson had seen much 
of him in those happy spring days at Florence in 1857. Put- 
nam's cousin. Lieutenant James Jackson Lowell, and Lieuten- 
ant O. W. Holmes, Jr., were among the wounded; Colonel 
W. R. Lee and Lieutenant C. L. Bartlett and many another 
friend of Higginson escaped unhurt. The Germans whom he 
had drilled in South Boston were mainly in Company C, which 
was shot to pieces.* 

On October 31, ten days after the battle, Higginson and 

^ The best detailed account of the battle of BalFs Bluff is in George A. Bruoe's 
Twentieth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers^ Boston, 1906. 


Greely Curtis received their commissions in the First Massa- 
chusetts Cavalry, and resigned from the Second Regiment. 
It was about to go into winter quarters, and they saw no 
chance of active service for many months. It also appears 
from Henry's letters to his father that his relations with Colo- 
nel Gordon were not cordial, and he was glad of the change. 
So the Second went on without him, to Cedar Mountain and 
Antietam, to Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and in Sher- 
man's march to the sea. Major Curtis and Captain Higginson 
drove over to the camp of the Twentieth Massachusetts to say 
good-bye, and then took a wagon for Washington, on their 
way back to Boston, where their new regiment was to be 
mustered in. Higginson's Civil War Reminiscences continue 
the story : — * 

I had been feeling very queer for three or four days, and by 
the time I got to Washington did not very well know what I 
was doing. Apparently I had a very bad cold and was feverish. 
The next day we took a train for New York, and reached there 
about midnight, when we went to the Astor House, and there 
again I felt wretched. The next day we again took the train for 
Boston, and I probably slept most of the time. When I ar- 
rived in Boston, Greely Curtis had disappeared, he having 
been left on the way by some accident. I got a carriage and 
drove to Wendell Holmes's house, told them of his son and 
that he was doing pretty well, drove to Greely Curtis's house 
and told them that he was on the way, and would be there 
pretty soon, and then drove to my father's house, where I 
turned up at ten o'clock or so at night. I had a longing for a 
drink of lemonade, and this longing had lasted forty-eight 
hours, and I had not got it. My father looked at me, and in 
fifteen minutes appeared with Doctor Ware, who told me to go 
to bed. My nose had been bleeding a good deal, and continued 
to bleed, and the next day they found that I had tjrphoid 
fever, which kept me fast for a good many weeks. 


Typhoid fever was not an inspiring dose of the first phase of 
Higginson's military life, nor was it a good omen for his 
campaign of 1862 as a cavalryman. But late in December he 
had strength enough to join his new comrades in their muddy, 
freezing, desolate camp at Readville. 

It must be remembered that in April, 1861, the Federal 
army had only five regular regiments of cavalry, to which a 
sixth was then added. Militia cavalry companies soon volun- 
teered, but throughout 1861 the superiority of the Confederate 
cavalry was manifest, and this superiority was easily main- 
tained during 1862. By the summer of 1863, a measure of 
equality was at last obtained by the North, and in 1864 and 
1865 the Confederate cavalry, in spite of brilliant leadership, 
was inferior in numbers and equipment.^ But in 1862 the 
North was only beginning to learn its lesson. There was no 
cavalry bureau at Washington, no general in command over 
that branch of the service, and no Federal officer of high rank 
in the field seemed to understand the proper use of mounted 
troops. They were wasted and demoralized, frittered away 
in random futilities. The organization and record of the 
First Massachusetts Cavalry illustrate the amateurishness 
of method and the squandering of splendid material which 
crippled the Northern cavalry until the essential lessons had 
been learned. Henry Higginson's experience was fairly typical. 

Governor Andrew of Massachusetts had determined, in 
September, 1 861, to raise a cavalry regiment. Plenty of men 
from various Dragoons, Lancers, and Horse-Guards organiza- 
tions were ready to enlist. The Governor secured as colonel a 
Virginian in the United States Army, Robert Williams, a 
graduate of West Point, who had distinguished himself there 
as an instructor of cavalry. He was an admirable disciplina- 
rian and organizer. But according to Charles Francis Adams, 
who served under him and proposes to "deal kindly with him,'' 

^ This matter is fully discussed in chapter i of the History of the First RtgimoiU 
of MassachuseUs Cavalry , by B. W. Crowninshield, Boston, 1891. 


— ^ ominous phrase, — "he was ail-outside. There was no 
realstuff in him. . . . As an officer » in presence of the enemy 
or under the stress of campaign, Williams was an utter failure; 
and so recognized."^ 

As lieutenant-colonel, the Governor appointed a member of 
his own staff, Horace Binney Sargent, first scholar in the 
Harvard class of 1843, and a graduate of the Law School. He 
looked well on horseback. His brother, Lucius Manlius Sar- 
gent, Jr., was successively captain, major and lieutenant-col- 
onel in the regiment, and fell gallantly in action in December, 
1864. Both brothers were brave and energetic, but without 
military training, or the gift for handling men.* 

That autumn was unusually cold and wet, and it took all 
the experience of Colonel Williams and the enthusiasm of 
Lieutenant-Colonel Sargent to organize the Readville camp 
mto anything like discipline. Many horses were sick, and the 
men were untrained in caring for them. Mounted drill began 
about December i , but there was no issue of horse-equipments 
until December 15. The regiment paraded in Boston four days 
later, but it was too cold for pomp and circumstance. Henry 
Higginson, just out of bed, had been assigned to Company A, 
as senior captain of the r^ment. He says of his company: — 

They were a remarkably tough set of men of all sorts of oc- 
cupations, among them prize-fighters, barkeepers and the 
like, and also some very good men. They had had as their 
first captain a barkeeper, who could do nothing with them, 
and he was dismissed and I was put in charge. ... I had 
to ride and look after my men, do the regular guard-duty, 
drill, etc., and I knew nothing about it and had to learn as I 

* Cbarles Francis Adams, An AiUobiograpky (Boston, 1916), p. 138. 

' See John T. Morse's Memoir of Henry Lee (Boston, 1905), p. 165, and C. F. 
Adams, Autobiography, p. 146. It would be needless to allude to the ancient bitter- 
oesses in the regiment, if they were not essential to an understanding of the real 
situation of Henry Higginson and his brother officers in the coming campaigns. 


It was a comfort to him that Greely Curtis, his boyhood 
friend and comrade in the Second Infantry, was now major 
of the First Cavalry. Among his fellow captains were Caspar 
Crowninshield, who had distinguished himself at Ball's BluSp 
T. L. Motley, L. M. Sargent, Jr., and S. E. Chamberlain, a 
former fireman in Cambridge, who rose later to be colonel of 
the regiment. Charles F. Adams, B. W. Crowninshield, and 
Pelham Curtis were first lieutenants, and among the second 
lieutenants were H. P. Bowditch, Nathaniel Bowditch, George 
Blagden, Louis Cabot, W. H. Forbes, Channing Clapp, and 
Arnold Rand. A "Harvard crowd," unmistakably, and their 
subsequent record proved that, whatever Colonel Williams's 
own defects as a fighter might be, he had a keen eye for pick- 
ing good officer material. 

On Christmas Day the First Battalion, Companies A, B, 
C, and D, under Major Curtis, left Readville for Annapolis, 
Maryland, expecting to join Bumside's expedition to North 
Carolina. But the War Department changed its plans; and 
after a few weeks of drill at Annapolis the First Battalion 
joined the second and third as a part of General Hunter's 
Expeditionary Corps. Hunter had captured the forts at Hil- 
ton Head, South Carolina, had taken possession of Beaufort 
and a small territory on the sea-islands, and now threatened 
Savannah and Charleston, in case Fort Pulaski should fall. 

Exactly how useful cavalry might prove on Beaufort 
Island, no one seemed to know. In case of a real invasion of 
South Carolina, they could be used. So down the cavalry 
sailed, on improvised transports, and went into camp at Beau- 
fort and Hilton Head. They found plenty of roses, jasmine, 
and blackberries, even in February, also mosquitoes, sand-flies, 
and fleas, but no fighting. The weather was fine and they drilled 
diligently. Captain Higginson writes to his father in March : — 

I was ignorant as a baby of horses when I joined the regi- 
ment at Readville, and yet knew that I must take great care 


of my company horses as my means of making my men effi- 
cient. Now I know very little of horses, but I have succeeded 
in making my men work at them in every way until they look 
tolerably well. ... I find great and continual pleasure in 
this occupation, and foresee the same for a long time. Infantry 
drill once learned is monotonous, but riding is a lasting excite- 
ment and delight. 

The captain's letters home, during that spring, are the hap- 
piest that he wrote in war-time. He was doing his work well, 
and knew it, and Colonel Williams, who at this time had the 
regiment well in hand, selected him for promotion. His com- 
mission as major dated from March 26. He wrote to his father 
on April 12: "I am very much pleased to receive promotion 
in our r^ment, and all the more because I did not expect it. 
Three other captains had, as I thought, a better chance than 
I." The new major wrote gayly to his sister Mary: — 

Beaufort, S.C, May 20, 1862. 

Dear little Molly: — 

What do you want to know about our camp? One camp is 
very like another, the difference being that with us cavalry 
folks a long rope is stretched down the company street, to 
which the horses are tied. We keep very tidy and clean, strike 
(that is take down) the tents three times a week, send the 
men to bathe as often, take all the bedding, etc., out of the 
tents every fair day, and in short do everything we can to 
keep healthy. We have lost two men by death since Septem- 
ber, the regiment next us sixty. They are pigs. If we never 
see a fight, we all have nevertheless learned to care for and 
manage men : you 'd be siuprised to find how little our intel- 
ligent Yankees know of caring for their own health. They eat 
and drink all sorts of things. 

Last week, as you know, I sent my mare home; she'll do 
nicely at Lenox and will take you over the ground a little 


faster than you ever went with horseflesh. But she is not the 
kind of beast for me. My new horse came to me Saturday, and 
is a beauty. We don't like to trot here, you know, but do like 
to canter. The mare can trot very well and very fast, but she 
gets into a great fret if another horse comes near her, and then 
she will break into a gallop and run like a wild-cat. This new 
horse and my other (taken from the regiment) canter and 
gallop well and trot also if I like; they are quiet-tempered and 
yet full of life. You see, Molly, there is quite enough to do 
even on drill without having a horse wild with excitement to 
bother one; and when we come to actual service, it will be es- 
sential to have one's horse well in hand. My new horse comes 
from an officer in a Rhode Island regiment, — who has more 
than he wants, — and is part Arabian. If we ever get home 
with our nags, you shall have the jolliest ride in the world on 
him. My big horse, popularly known as " Rats-in-a-barrei," 
and called for short '' Rats," is an excellent work-horse, handy, 
light, strong and ugly; he can run fast for a short distance. 
Saturday jve are going to have a very short race, all of us offi- 
cers here: I '11 tell you who wins, if the steamer does not go 
till then; but I hope to be in first, for ''Rats" starts very 
quickly indeed. 

You can't imagine how big I feel now that I 've a camp under 
me. A year ago this time I was learning guard-duty and 
squad-drill on foot; now I ride around on a big horse, have 
two rows of brass buttons on my coat (you should have seen 
the men look last night at parade, as I wore the new coat for 
the first time), preside at parade, go to see the general com- 
manding our brigade, and am generally just as big as I can 
swell. There is one thing about it: I don't swear so much as 
when I had to do directly with the men. I 've a real pretty 
cap and beautiful boots and spurs, and so, with my new coat, 
it is quite a pity that my picture should n't be taken. My hair 
and beard are as short as scissors can cut them, which adds to 
the beautiful effect. . . . 


Give my love to father and the other children ; Jim will be 
at home one of these days, but not in time enough for the war. 
I 'm afraid that our regiment will never see a fight. Where are 
you going this summer? We've had bushels of blackberries 
etc. for several weeks, and to-day have very hot weather: we 
do nothing from 9 o'clk A.M. to 3 P.M. ; otu* mounted drill-hour 
is from 6 to 8 A.M. Good-bye, little girl: be good and you'll be 
happy. H. 

It will be noted that the Major's love for horses developed 
rapidly. It was to become a lifelong passion. His war letters 
are full of the exploits of his favorite horses: " Rats," " Piggy," 
"Nutmeg," and a bigger horse named "Grater." Like all 
cavalry officers of this period, in both armies, he was greatly 
worried over the difficulty of securing suitable remounts. 
Each officer in 1862 had to buy his own horses, and the faith- 
ful Geoi^e Higginson is kept busy looking at "Howland 
Shaw's mare," at " that mare in Haverhill," and a dozen more, 
that might perhaps be bought reasonably and shipped South. 

In the meantime General Hunter's artillery had opened 
upon Fort Pulaski. " They b^an yesterday morning [April 10] 
upon Fort Pulaski (the fort is on the Savannah River and is 
very strong), and have been firing away most of the time 
smce, as if Hell had broken loose. Everyone here has gone to 
see the fun, among others, Greely and Captain Chamberlain 
of ours." The fort fell on the next day, but it was several 
weeks before the invasion of the mainland was attempted, and 
it proved to be a failure. Eight companies of the First Cavalry 
joined in the attack on Charleston, early in June, but Major 
Higginson, with two companies, was left behind at Beaufort 
— "the cussedest luck." In the James Island fight, a few 
days later, C. F. Adams was under fire for the first time, and 
" never passed a more pleasurable morning in my life. The ex- 
citement of a battlefield is grand .' ' But again there was no such 
luck for the companies under Major Higginson's command. 


His account of a young rebel prisoner is too characteristic 
to be omitted : — 

I went to see a rebel prisoner wounded and taken in our fight 
the other day. He b^ged for his life, when we came up at the 
bridge, and was astonished at our kind treatment — only an- 
other proof of the lies so industriously circulated at the South 
of our barbarity. But I was surprised to see the little fellow 
this morning — young and small, with beautiful fair hair 
thrown back from his forehead which was high and fine, a deli- 
cately cut nose and a sweet expression about his mouth. He 
spoke only a few words and with pain, but those few betrayed 
that he was of gentle blood and well-bred. He is but seventeen 
years of age, and took his father's place against the will of his 
mother, as his father was drafted. The negroes here say he is 
a Barnwell, and he bears a resemblance, I think, to one of 
that family in college with me. The poor boy has a severe 
wound, but will recover, so the doctor thinks. I took a great 
fancy to him, and should much like to send his mother tidings 
of him. He gives his name as Hughes. 

June crept by, and there was news of Banks's retreat to the 
Potomac, and of the gallant rear-guard fighting of the Second 
Massachusetts. " I see that my old Company D suffered much. 
It is too bad. If we had been there, we might have saved many 
a good fellow." James Savage had distinguished himself, and 
Higginson thinks he should be made a major. The promotion 
came, in fact, before this letter reached Boston. 

June! turned to July, and the weather grew fiercely hot. 
Higginson kept "hearty as a bull," he writes, but his weight 
of 175 pounds was soon reduced to 155, and many of his fellow 
officers broke down. There was bad news from Virginia. 
"Poor Jimmy Lowell," Higginson writes on July 23, "or 
rather poor Cousin Anna, for Jimmy is well enough off."^ 

> Lieutenant James Jackson Lowell, younger brother of Charles Russell Lowell, 


Week by week it became only too apparent that the regi- 
ment was wasted in South Carolina. 

We are useless here, and might be useful at the North. • • • 
Can no one get us moved North? Ask Mr. Forbes if he can't 
start us. • • • I do think that the horizon looks very stormy. 
I hope the opinion that we shall not get back our lost states 
is gaining ground, in order to save future disappointment. If 
we can clean out Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and keep 
the Mississippi, including all west of it, for ourselves, we shall 
do well enough. The Gulf states, once shut in thus, will decay, 
and will in time come again into our hands. But this war has 
been most shamefully managed in some respects. Halleck 
will, it is to be hoped, concentrate all the troops, including the 
12,000 to 15,000 useless men in this Department, and will thus 
sweep Virginia clean. If he does not, God help the land. 

This was written to his father on August 10, and on that 
same day Henry wrote to his brother Jim, who was still linger- 
mg in Germany — though drilling there and trying to get a 
commission at Boston : — 

... I remember full well that I never wanted anyone's 
opinion as to my return and that I bided my time with perfect 
composure. For just that reason I 've not urged your return, 
but now I will say that you may not comprehend fully the facts 
of our position as a nation. We have made the greatest army 
in the world, we have made great exertions, we have offered 
money freely, we have waited in all patience for victory and 

bad fallen at Glendale, near Richmond, crying: "Don't mind me, men: go for- 
wanL" He was bom at Elmwood, — the home of his uncle James Russell Lowell 
in Cambridge, — and like Charles Lowell, had led his class at Harvard. He had 
been wounded at Ball's BlufiF, where his cousin, William Lowell Putnam, had been 
killed. There are touching lines about him by James Russell Lowell (Btglaw 
Papers^ Second Series, No. X), and he is one of the six dear friends of Major Hig- 
ginsoD oommemorated by the monument on Soldiers Field. 


deliverance — and we have been divided by our own leaders, 
ihrashed, aye thrashed^ and now we are struggling for our exist- 
ence. Our hope lies in reinforcements and then in unity of 
action ; if Halleck and McCIellan cannot manage that, we shall 
go to the devil. You cannot gather from the papers nor from 
letters the full import of the thing, and of course cannot feel 
the matter as we living in the midst of it do. Everyone at home 
is straining to help the cause, almost everyone going to the war 
who can go — drafting ought to commence at once. Now, 
Jimmy, you will feel very sorry if you have no hand in the 
struggle — whether we sink or swim. We are fighting against 
slavery, present or future, and we are struggling for the right 
of mankind to be educated and to think; come and do your 
part. Of your father's children I am the only one bearing arms; 
I know that I was placed exactly right for the emergency and 
that no one of the rest of you was so: that I went because I 
could n't stay at home, and have enjoyed myself highly since; 
that for a hundred reasons it was no sacrifice, but an enormous 
gratification and pleasure, and to me, as education, as expe- 
rience, as occupation, as good pay for my otherwise idle time. 
I do not take an atom of credit to myself, but I do think that 
the family quota should be stronger. ... I want you and 
Frank to learn all that you can in the army, and to have the 
satisfaction of feeling that you were doing your part. • • . 
Charley Lowell is on McClellan's staff, and will do something 
there. Jinuny L. is dead, poor fellow. We are burning here on 
the sand, and are of no use to anyone — thermometer at 1 1 1 
degrees in the shade (to-day 120 in the shade). I am hearty 
and strong, tho' pretty thin. We are praying to go North. • . . 
P.S. Aug. 14. — We are just ordered North, for which, 
thank God! Another call for 300,000 men, making in all 
600,000 called for this summer, has come and they 're go- 
ing to draft. Now we '11 thrash 'em. 

When these letters were written, Higginson was ignorant of 
what had befallen his comrades of the Second Massachusetts 


on the previous day, August 9, at Cedar Mountain. Stonewall 
Jackson had cut Banks's corps to pieces. The Second Massa- 
chusettSy fighting heroically, had had to fall back. Of its 
twenty-two officers in action, only eight escaped unhurt. 
Thirty-five per cent of the regiment were killed or wounded. 
Captains Abbott, Cary, Goodwin and VWlliams, with Lieuten- 
ant Stephen Perkins, were killed. Major James Savage, mor- 
tally wounded, was a prisoner, as were also Captain Henry S. 
Russell, — who had stayed to help Major Savage, — Captain 
Quincy and Lieutenant Miller. Robert G. Shaw, serving as 
aid to General Gordon, was untouched. Halleck telegraphed 
from Washington to Major-General Pope : "I congratulate you 
and your army, and particularly General Banks and his corps, 
on your hard-earned and brilliant success against vastly 
superior numbers.'' But this was only military rhetoric. 
Cedar Moimtain was a stupid, useless sacrifice of brave men, 
and it cost Major Higginson two of his most intimate friends. 
The memory of James Savage and Stephen Perkins haunted 
him throughout his long life; he never wearied of talking and 
writing of them, and the tragedy of their deaths, ennobled by 
time and the ultimate triumph of their cause, affected pro- 
foundly, as we shall see, the whole current of his beneficent 

Both James Savage and Stephen Perkins had "finished in 
style," to use Kipling's phrase. "It was splendid," wrote 
Robert Gould Shaw, who was to "finish in style" himself at 
Fort Wagner less than a year later, "to see those sick fellows 
walk straight up into the shower of bullets as if it were so much 
rain; men who, imtil this year, had lived lives of perfect ease 
and luxury." Perkins died instantly, pierced by three bullets.' 
Savage had an arm and a leg shattered, and was carried as a 
prisoner to Charlottesville, where he was tenderly cared for by 
the family of his brother-in-law, Professor W. B. Rogers. But 

^He had written to Higginaon when a mere boy, ^'I wonder whether we shaU 
go on constantly expecting life to unfold ittelf , and the great poesibilities to ap- 
pear in us and outside of us, until we are surprised that death has come for us, 
when we hardly seem to ourselves to have lived." 


his wounds were mortal. ' 'Of all the officers I ever saw/' said a 
private soldier, ''Major Savage was the noblest Christian 
gentleman." And Charles Adams, when the first rumors of the 
disaster at Cedar Mountain reached Hilton Head, wrote in his 
diary: "Stephen Perkins is reported dead • • • the ablest nian 
I ever knew, the finest mind I ever met." * 

Weeks went by before Higginson could bring himself to be- 
lieve the bad news. He wrote to his father from the ship 
Planter on Sunday, August 24: — ^ 

Here we are lying in Hampton Roads with a rousing north- 
easter singing thro' our rigging. We got here yesterday at 
three o'clock P.M. after a very favorable and pleasant voyage, 
and foimd everything heels over head, officers, soldiers, sailors, 
teamsters, niggers, mules, horses, wagons, steamers, ordnance 
of all kinds hastening in every direction. We ought to have 
run up the bay and up the Potomac to Acquia Creek, whither 
we are going, last night. We tried to start this morning, but it 
blew too hard for the steamer to hold us. I went ashore to get 
some orders; two of the sailors in the boat ran off, so another 
officer and myself took oars and tugged away. But it was use- 
less with so tremendous a wind and sea ; so we got hold of a tug 
laden with soldiers and were at last taken out to our ship. The 
tug had to tow us thro' this smashing sea, and bring us round 
thro' the trough of the sea without swamping the boat. She 
did it, God knows how, but it was a job to get aboard the 
ship; and we were well ducked. I've four companies with 
me, and three more have run up the river in the McClellan 
and Ericsson with the colonel. Greely is coming very soon with 
some more companies. Thank God that we aro out of South 

We heard before starting of Banks's last battle, and of the 
dreadful losses there sustained. We have not yet received 

> Admirable sketches of Perkins and Savage will be found in the Harvard Menuh 
rial Biographies. 


authentic accounts of the fight, and cannot believe in the loss 
of our friends. . . . 

They are on their last legs at the South. Certain it is that 
neither they nor we can bear this tremendous strain much 
longer. • . . I'm ready to fight ten years, but the country 
can't and won't stand it. We have got North soon enough 
for the great fight of the war, thank God Almighty — and 
we'll try to show our stuff. 

But it was nearly two weeks after leaving Hilton Head that 
the Planter came to anchor at Acquia Creek, in the Potomac, 
near Fredericksburg. The Major writes on September 2 : — 

We were out yesterday and the day before on picket duty, 
covering Gen. Bumside's retreat. . . . Heaven only knows 
the position of affairs here; we hear all sorts of stories, but I 
fancy we are not doing brilliantly. ... I shall buy no more 
horses, for Uncle Sam will furnish a beast at $8 a month. . • . 
I was horrified to hear the truth about the 2nd Mass. Poor 
Stephen ! and Dick Cary's wife.* But we live so fast that one 
can't think of one battle more than a day. 

Five days later he writes from Rockville, Maryland: "We 
have nearly done this war; the enemy is here in Maryland in 
great force, and we are thrashed." This was just after Pope 
had been defeated in the second battle of Bull Run, and just 
before Antietam. 

Higginson's fragmentary Reminiscences of the Civil War — 
dictated long afterwards — give some vivid glimpses of men 
and military movements in that confused period. It is not a 
military historian who is writing, but an old man who recalls 
what most impressed him at the time. It is the method of Tol- 
stoy's "War and Peace" and of Stephen Crane's " Red Badge 
of Courage." 

^ Captain Richard Cary was the brother of Mrs. Louis Agassiz. 


Just then the army was falling back during the second Bull 
Run campaign, and we could hear the fighting going on day 
after day. General Bumside was at Falmouth in command, 
and very soon we were ordered north to Alexandria, and then 
through Washington into Maryland. The army was in the 
greatest confusion; Pope had been badly beaten, and, just as 
we reached Alexandria, everybody was streaming into that 
town, and nobody knew where anybody was. I passed the 
night riding through Alexandria to find our own men, part of 
whom had gone into one boat and part in another. As the 
colonel was away and the lieutenant-colonel was ill at the 
north and the senior major had been left in South Carolina, I 
was in command. I received orde^ in the middle of the night 
to picket the river from ten miles north of Washington to 
Harper's Ferry or some point near that. I got these orders at 
about one o'clock, and had no provisions and no cooking-kits. 
I managed to get these during the night, and towards daylight 
found my men, and we marched through Washington. There 
I ran across Charles Lowell, who told me that General Mc- 
Clellan had taken command the night before, and that things 
were being gotten in good order. We reached Georgetown, 
passed the night there, and then marched north. Colonel 
Williams having turned up from Baltimore and taken com- 
mand of the regiment. When we got near Poolesville we were 
encamped, and a large body of cavalry under General Pleason- 
ton came up. Some of our own regiment had been sent to 
Poolesville and had a little skirmish there, the Confederate 
cavalry being in charge of that place. We lost a few men, but 
it did not amount to anything. 

Then the whole army gradually marched north to Frederick. 
We used to see two or three columns abreast marching across 
the fields, in the roads, etc., and we came across many friends. 
One day we saw the Second Massachusetts Infantry, which we 
had served with before, and heard something of the terrible 
disaster which had befallen that regiment at Cedar Mountain, 


where many of the men and best officers were killed, and the 
r^;iment sacrificed by the stupidity of General Banks. 

We saw the 20th regiment too, and many other old com- 
rades. One of these days we stopped for the noon halt in a 
pleasant field, and I noticed a large camp of general officers 
nearby. Asking, I found that it was General McClellan's 
headquarters; therefore, I went there to inquire for Charles 
Lowell, who was on his staff. I found him and we lay on the 
grass discussing all manner of things imtil it was time to start. 
He told me that he liked the general very much ; that he was a 
great strategist, but not so decisive in action as he should be. 
He said that he was like the Duke of Wellington in that he got 
everything ready, and then unlike the Duke of Wellington in 
that he did not strike resolutely and as hard as possible. He 
said that he was too good-natured and too considerate of his 
subordinates. He thought that our campaign would be success- 
ful, but might be marred by this irresolution of the general. 

That night we rode into Frederick City, found it in great 
confusion, and at last passed through the city and found 
quarters in a big pasture. The next morning we started again, 
and soon came to the mountains beyond Frederick City, and 
all of a sudden came across some of the enemy. One of our 
batteries was brought quickly to the front and went into action, 
and we were ordered to support it, the enemy firing at us also ; 
but the enemy's battery was quickly withdrawn, and we 
pushed on a little way. There was hardly a skirmish, and 
presently we came to the hills looking toward South Mountain. 
There I was put to the foremost post, with a couple of guns 
and a squadron or two of cavalry, and we went to bed supper- 
less. We had no rations, nor had we received any for some 
days, and had picked up what we could in the country. We 
could not light any fire because we were watched by the enemy, 
who had batteries opposite us, and we knew that the Confeder- 
ate army was on the South Mountain and looking towards us. 
Ther^ was no attack at night, although we rather expected it. 


After a night of careful watching the day came, and the army 
began to move up. Several general officers came to the hill on 
which I passed the night, and took observations about the 
Confederate line. Then the infantry and artillery came along 
in very good spirits, which surprised me greatly, for the army 
had had such a terrible beating before Washington that I sup- 
posed that it would feel downcast — nothing of the kind ! Our 
men advanced on various spots, and drove the Confederates 
back. There was a good deal of sharp fighting, chiefly in- 
fantry, although artillery had its share. We had no chance 
whatsoever; we started up the great road at the South Moim- 
tain, but the artillery raked the road, and so we were ordered off 
without injury to the regiment, and we supported a gun or 
two which was firing at the enemy. They passed, we driving 
the enemy clean out of the Mountain, and we were taken over 
to the right of our line, where we passed the night picketing 
and watching the roads. There we got a little meal from a 
stable, and I made some cakes and baked them on hot stones. 

Presently we were ordered to move up, and rode up the 
road and over the South Mountain and down the other side, 
seeing some remnants of the army. Just at the foot of the 
mountain we saw signs of a skirmish with some Confederate 
cavalry, but it did not amount to anything. 

We went on about on the lead, and presently came to a ridge 
where, looking across, we saw the Confederate army posted. 
Our men were pouring up the various roads and coming across 
the fields in good order, and by night a large number of them 
had arrived. General McClellan came up at about six o'clock 
and was received with loud cheers by the men all along the 
road. We were encamped a little way back in the position 
which we had taken, and were wondering what we should do 
for supper. We had not had a regular meal for a week or ten 
days. The next morning the colonel ordered me to go and find 
two pigs, which I did. I took with me two men, who shot the 
pigs, whereupon I was called to order by a little captain, who 


rose up in the orchard where the pigs had been feeding. He 
forebade my taking the pigs, but when he saw that I outranked 
him, he said no more. We took the pigs back to camp, and 
they were dressed, and the men ate them. As they had no salt 
and almost no bread, it made them very sick. 

The South Mountain fight had been Sunday ; we had come 
up Monday, September 15, and this was Tuesday of which I 
speak. At about eight o'clock William Sedgwick came to see 
us and took Pelham Curtis and me to his camp for breakfast, 
and gave us some bread and butter, and I remember oying, I 
was so hungry. 

The army was all up and in line, and in the afternoon there 
was a very sharp fight on our right. General Hooker getting in 
chiefly and being rather beaten back. Meanwhile General 
Bumside had come on our left. The next morning the fight 
began in earnest, and we had the battle of Antietam. We were 
taken to the rear to get us out of the way, and presently 
brought up at the middle point of our line on the Chesapeake 
Road, with batteries before us and batteries behind us, and 
the artillery fire was very heavy. A few shot came down 
among us, but did no harm. We stayed there two or three 
hours, until at last we were withdrawn and put behind the 
bank of Antietam Creek, where we could not be hurt, and thus 
our chance was lost.^ We might have been taken up the main 
road and done a good deal of mischief. The battle went on, 
and night came, and nobody knew just what the result had 
been. We know now that, if Bumside had moved promptly, as 
he was ordered to, at 8 o'clock, we should have surrounded 
Lee's army and taken the whole army prisoners, for we could 
have easily shut it off from Shepard's Ford, over which fresh 
troops came and strengthened it. 

The next day we expected to renew the fight, and on moving 
forward found that Lee's army had gone across the river in the 
night. I picked up an old letter or two, which I have some- 

^ It was here that C. F. Adams "dropped quietly asleep." AtUobiography, p. 153. 


where, and which show the spirit of the Confederate troops. 
It was very good indeed. 

Presently a part of the army was pushed forward toward 
the river, and a few troops thrown across the river; but the 
enemy came down, and our troops were withdrawn. We went 
to the bank of the river, and were just going in when we were 
pushed back. There was really nothing to be accomplished. 
Then we went into camp, and the army began to get itself in 
order again. In our regiment we took occasion to get dean 
clothes by washing those we had. I had seen no baggage since 
Alexandria, and I had not changed my underclothes for six 
weeks ; so I took everything off, except my trousers and over- 
coat, it being hot weather, and gave them to my striker to be 
washed. Greely Curtis and I, with one or two others, took a 
bath in one of the small streams, and then, in this costume, we 
rode over to see Bill Sedgwick, who had been wounded, and 
who was lying in a house to the rear two or three miles. We 
found him very contented and jolly, and we knew, as he did, 
that he must die in twenty-four or forty-eight hours. He was 
absolutely paralyzed below the waist, and there was no help 
for him. We had half an hour with him, and then went back to 
the regiment. 

A letter to his father from Sharpsburg (Andetam) on 
September i8 is concise enough: — 

We had a great fight yesterday and rather beat them, tho' 
nothing is yet decided. Old Sumner got his hat shot off and 
put things right thro' on the right wing. He is a buster. Gen'l 
Sedgwick hit in two places, not dangerously. Wilder Dwight 
mortally wounded ; Bill — probably killed ; Palfrey shot thro* 
the chest; Paul Revere slightly wounded; Hooker, Mansfield, 
Richardson and others high in rank more or less woimded. 
Wendell Holmes slightly hurt; Hallowell lost an arm.^ Charlie 

^ Hallowell did not loee an arm, though he was severely wounded. 


all right, but a horse shot under him. I see Charlie every day 
now. . . . 

I congratulate you on your birthday, daddy. 

We are getting reinforcements and shall fight again. The 
whole rebel army is here in front of us. I think we '11 thrash 
them here for good and alL 

A week later he summarizes Andetam in two sentences: 
" It came very near being a tremendous victory for us and also 
equally near being a defeat. If Bumside had done at all what 
was expected of him, we should have cut off their retreat 

Yet the year closed gloomily. The regiment went into camp 
at Acquia Creek and then at Falmouth near Fredericksburg. 
The internal troubles increased. Colonel Williams resigned to 
enter the Adjutant-General's office at Washington, where he 
did excellent service, and rose to be Adjutant-General himself. 
He was succeeded by Colonel Sargent. "We learned nothing," 
says C. F. Adams, "unless it were to carry insubordination to 
a fine art. . • • Regimental quarrels were incessant.'" Frank 
Higginson was eager to enter the service, and Jim was landing 
from his long sojourn in Germany; but Henry, because of the 
r^mental quarrels, did not wish either of his brothers in the 
First Cavalry. In some moods indeed, in that dispiriting 
autumn, Henry wished that Jim would keep out of the army 
altogether, and help in some other way. But Jim wanted to 
fight, as the following letter shows. 

Boston, Oa. 9, 1862. 
Dear Henry, — 

We have been hoping for some days to hear from you again 
— and I especially, because I thought you might give me some 

^ "To overcome Lee in any way and on any terms was matter for congratula- 
tion. . . . The state of feeling at the North had changed from despondency before 
South Mountain to positive buoyancy after Antietam." J. F. Rhodes, History of 
thi CivU War (N.Y., 1917), p. 170. 


advice as to my future occupation. Father advises strongly 
that I go into the Sanitary Commission, and so do many others 
also. • • • 

The tone of the army, according to latest accounts, is not so 
good as it should be, in my opinion. I of course judge by what 
I hear and may be wrong. The officers and men appear to be 
tired of the war and not willing to carry it on to the end. If 
that is the case, it would be better if all who felt so could re- 
turn quietly to their homes, and give the new men a chance. I 
join with those who prefer an utter extermination of the rebels 
to stopping, unless of course the rebels yield unconditionally. 
All desire for peace with any conditions attached seems to me 
short-sighted and cowardly, the real coward's policy. 

People here consider the whole matter far too lightly in my 
opinion; in fact they hardly feel the war, excepting through 
the death of a relative now and then. I can scarcely help wish- 
ing that we may all be made sooner or later to feel it most 
keenly, for I hold the war with its scourges to be the saving of 
this country. 

I hope now you will write me as soon as possible and say 
straight out what you think I had better do — whether you 
can get me a place in your regiment, etc. I wish also to know 
what the objections to entering as private are, for that seems 
to me the proper thing to do. 

It is very lonely here, so few fellows are at home, and I am 
longing to get off and be at work. . . . 

Yrs. ever 


Brother Jim did enter the Sanitary Commission for a few 
days, and got enough of it. Many of the officers in the First 
Cavalry were resigning in order to enter the Second Massa- 
chusetts Cavalry, which was now being organized in Boston. 
These vacancies gave James Higginson his chance. He soon 
got a second lieutenancy in the First Regiment, in spite of his 


elder brother's forebodings, and proceeded to make a cheerful 
and efficient officer. 

Late in November General Buford ordered the regiment to 
the front again, but again they had no real fighting. They 
bivouacked in the woods near Fredericksburg during the 
disastrous battle of December 13, but were not called into 
action. Pessimism settled in with winter weather, and Major 
Higginson's last letter of the year, on December 26, is black. 
"Stupidity and wickedness" rule. Emancipation Proclama- 
tions are " mere waste paper" ; Senator Sumner and Governor 
Andrew are deeply at fault. 

If we could only have McClellan and Banks in place of 
Halleck and Stanton, and Moses Taylor or some sagacious and 
able merchant in place of Chase, and another in place of Welles 
— a real war Cabinet that meant to finish this war in the 
shortest possible space of time, and that would let all other 
matters go, we should soon be at peace again. 

There is something here, of course, of the soldier's im- 
memorial privilege of grumbling; some echo of the mess-talk 
of a dissatisfied regiment; but it was mainly the despairing 
mood of a baffled idealist, mourning in secret over the sacri- 
fice of very dear friends, and feeling that his own best efforts 
during the twenty long months since he first enlisted had been 
wasted. " If we had cavalry leaders who did or could do their 
work one half as well as many a captain, we should be of very 
great use." The medicine Henry Higginson most needed at the 
end of 1862 was a ringing cavalry charge at the head of his 
men. Eighteen sixty-three gave it to him. 



Year that trembled and red'd beneath me! 

Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed f fx>ze me, 

A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and daricen'd me, 

Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself, 

Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled? 

And sullen hymns of defeat? 

— Walt Whtfman: Drum-Taps, 

At first there was little change. On January ii, 1863, he 
writes: — 

We are fiddling around the country as usual, this day after 
Stuart, the next after Hampton ; all in vain. I may soon tell 
you of a brilliant plan which would have eclipsed any of the 
cavalry movements in this country. I was on court-martial 
when Greely told me a bit of a plan, for which details of 100 
picked men and horses from six or eight regiments of cavalry 
had been made. He had been taken from our regiment. I im- 
mediately went to our General Averell and applied for leave to 
accompany them, to which he — contrary to usual rules — 
consented. I returned to camp and got ready. ... It was a 
risky expedition, but a buster. All went swimmingly and we 
were thirty miles from camp, December 31, when an order 
from Halleck, came, stopping us; oh, such a pity! Everybody 
was in such spirits; a splendid command of cavalry; a battery 
finely officered, and furnished with fresh horses from General 
Bumside's own wagons. We could and would have done any- 
thing. Such checks destroy the enthusiasm of any army. 

On January 3: "Nothing new except the changes of gen- 
erals. We are getting on to perdition. ... If the people 



at home do not take the mismanagement of this war and 
this government to heart, we shall have a disgraceful peace 
before summer." 

But the next day his spirits seem to have risen, for he writes 
his sister that he is thinking of becoming a professional soldier 
of fortune: *\ . . I mean to go to Mexico and fight the 
French after this war is done. It might be a pleasant life, and 
it would certainly be good fun to cut off those little red-l^^ed 
sinners, who have been swelling about their fighting and vic- 
tory. After that I shall return and enter some European ser- 
vice, perhaps that of *La Belle France,' or of Austria. . . ." 

Probably this was only a "Higgism," intended for Molly's 
amusement, but at any rate it indicates a more cheerful 
mood. Before the end of the month the r^;imental troubles 
culminated in a "very lively storm " which '* purified the air." * 
Higginson, Curtis, and Adams stood together in this matter, 
and Higginson's outspoken courage won Adams's lifelong 
gratitude. Discipline was restored, and the Major's spirits 
rose. By February he is begging his father to " tell Frank to 
seek a commission with Bob Shaw in his black regiment." 
This is his first reference to the famous Massachusetts Fifty- 

Major Higginson was now responsible for a picket line 
about ten miles in length, lying some eighty miles from the 
regiment's winter camp at Falmouth. He rode along the whole 
line daily, and often at night. But there were few alarms — 
the only real attack, which was easily repulsed, happening to 
come during the few days when Higginson had returned to 
Boston on a furlough. He had a happy time at Chauncy 
Street.' He had a gay evening in Washington on his way back 
to Viiiginia, and describes it in this letter to Molly: — 

> See A Cycle of Adams Letters (Boston, 1920), vol. i, pp. 248, 249. 

'Mn. Higginson writes of this furlough: "I remember especially a party at 
Papanti's, a dinner at Mrs. Putnam's (mother of Lieutenant Putnam, who was 
killed at Ball's Blu£F)i and a party at Dr. Hooper's, where all sadness and anxiety 
was for the moment kept in the background." 



In Washington I saw Cousin Anna and Annie, and dined at 
the Hoopers', seeing the three younger ladies as well as Mrs. 
Hooper and Mary Motley (who is very pleasant and gentle), 
Professors Agassiz and Bache, Mr. Boutwell of our state, and 
Secretary Chase. About this last gentleman I have felt much 
curiosity — and quite like him. He is bright-minded, and is 
a gentleman for the most part. He and Prof. A. were funny. 
Mr. Chase wotdd call me colonel, so I, in retiun, admired him. 
In the evening I went to his reception, and saw his daughter, 
the prettiest woman in Washington, I hear — very pretty too 
— beautiful eyes and eyelashes, complexion, expression, grace- 
ful, good manners, good mouth — altogether quite charming. 
Nelly Hooper lent me a pair of gloves, which I shall keep as a 
memento of my pleasant dinner and evening and of my beau- 
tiful hand. I put the gloves on, that is I got two fingers inside 
one of them. Meantime I owe her a pair of gloves, as I asked 
for these. But I had a very nice talk with Nelly and Annie 
Hooper. I found Molly Motley had my cross-eyed photograph. 
I expect the last one will prove a success — with my pretty cap 
and eyes turned to Heaven. Write me how it is. I found that 
Thayer (life of Beethoven) was in Washington, and Jim has 
written to bring him hither. • • • 

He came back full of energy. "Not having quite enough to 
do, I asked the general commanding our division if I might 
help to drill a New York regiment [the Fourth New York Cav- 
alry] which was under the command of Colonel Cesnola, and 
which had really no manners or customs.*' 

One March day, on picket duty, he penciled in a beautiful 
clear hand the following letter to his old friend A. W. Thayer, 
whom he had just missed in Washington. Thayer had been 
Mr. Motley's secretary in Vienna, and served for thirty years 
as United States Consul at Trieste. It is a most significant 
letter, and shows that the black and bitter mood had passed.^ 

^ This letter has kindly been placed at my disposal by Mrs. Jabez Fox. 



On Picket — March 15, 1863. 
Dear Thayer: — 

When you were in Washington, I passed thro', and was as- 
tonished to hear at the Sanitary rooms of "Thayer," "Vienna 
Thayer," the " Great Thayer." I tried twice in my short stay 
of a few hours to see you — in vain. If you could have come 
here, you should have seen something of oiu* army, and should 
have delighted our eyes with your presence and our ears with 
tales of your own doings, of friends in Europe and of music in 
all its forms. But you must hurry back to \^enna, my second 
and well-beloved home. Well, old fellow, go your own way 
and work out your own salvation. I am trying to work out 
mine, so is Jim, and so is many a good, brave man. The many 
little salvations will go to make that of our country and of the 
human race. Tell me there is no American people, is no nation- 
ality, is no distinct and strong love of country! It is a lie, and 
those who have said it to me in Europe simply were ignorant ! 
We've been to school for two years aU the time, and have been 
learning a lesson — wait and see if we don't know it and use 
it pretty soon. We '11 beat these men, fighting for slavery and 
for wickedness, out of house and home, beat them to death, 
this summer too. I do not say this to boast, but as my belief 
and my intention, so far as I am concerned. We are right, and 
are trying hard ; we have at last real soldiers, not recruits, in 
the field, and we shall reap our harvest. Only people at home 
must support us, and must cheer us on, as they now again, 
after their apathy, are doing. I cannot, for the life of me, see 
any other possible way for us than to whip them : we have no 
ground on which to make peace — and cannot have any, until 
we or they have given in — beaten. Peace cannot last if made 
now. Besides, this is all we can do for mankind. I, for one, have 
felt merely delight from the beginning of the war, that the day 
had come, which was to make me a soldier fighting for freedom 
for man, for the right and the good, for God. My whole re- 
l^;ion (that is my whole belief and hope in everything, in life 


in man, in woman, in music, in good, in the beautiful, in the 
real truth) rests on the questions now really before us. It is 
enough to keep up one's pluck, is n't it, old fellow? 

And I 'm still young enough to go much farther and fare 
much worse than I have, for one warm look and one kind word 
from a maiden. Does one ever lose the real love and enthu- 
siasm for women who are good and pure and high-minded? I 
do not think it: at least the decay has not yet begun with me. 
The little week at home brightened and cheered me very much: 
and it was a real delight to find that one's place was kept and 
a warm welcome ready for the wanderer, for the soldier. And 
so it goes: all in a lifetime. Thank God that we were bom in 
these days! 

When you go back to dear old Vienna, Thayer, give my best 
love to my friends, one and all, to Epstein, Rufinatscha, Kdnig, 
R6ver, August and Eugene Miller, to Mr. and Mrs. Lippitt 
and all the Miller family and to any more who may remember 
me. Kindest remembrances also to Mr. and Mrs. Motley and 
their whole family; they all were very kind to me in past years 
at Dresden. I saw Miss Mary Motley, his daughter, in Wash- 
ington a few days ago: she is a charming girl. Perhaps she 
might like to send by you to Vienna. I've not written to 
Vienna for a long time, from the laziness which so often pre- 
vents writing. It does not matter, for I shall write to them 
now. Can you find time to write me a few words before leav- 
ing this side? My father is at No. 40 State St., Lee, Higginson 
and Co., and would be very glad to see you. 

Jim sends his love and good wishes. 

Would it not be jolly to wake up some morning in Vienna, 
and then go to see one's old friends and wind up with a big con- 
cert? It will come all in good time, if my bullet does not come 
along; and if it does, ** Nunc dimittis" will not be so imwdcome 
a song. My love again to you, old fellow, and to all in Vienna 
or in other places, and tell them that I often and often think of 
them and former times with very great pleasure. My friends 


are still and always will be my greatest delight in life. But 
chiefly love to August Miller, Epstein, and Rufinatscha. And 
so good-bye, for we are saddling up to go off this moment. 


H. Lf. H. 

This letter crossed one from Thayer, then in Boston. 
Thayer's opinion of the "weak old President" was shared 
by many Bostonians. 

"^I am to sail in the Saxonia April 6 for Hamburg, and shall 
carry back with me the heartiest contempt for Abe Lincoln and 
old Halleck, but an unbounded admiration for the spirits of 
the Northern people. I tell you the uprising in the North was 
the grandest thing in modem history. . . . Last night I was 
in company with Gov. Andrew and he told me of Hooker — 
Fighting Joe — the man of men, and cheered me and encour- 
aged me mightily. I have hopes that the weak old president 
may at length be forced to find out who his true friends are, 
and who are the real lovers of the country, and seek his coun- 
sellors from among them." 

On March 17 came the sharp cavalry fight at Kelly's Ford. 
The First Massachusetts was not in this action, but three of 
its ofiicers, performing staff duty, were wounded. Lieutenant 
"Nat" Bowditch mortally.^ 

"I liked the boy so much," Higginson wrote to Mrs. Bow- 
ditch. " His handsome face and pleasant smile will stay by me 
forever. He was in our tent (that of Col. Curtis and myself) 
very frequently, and often spent an evening with us, smoking 
his pipe. Poor Nat ! The war made him a man and then took 
him away so quickly." 

Hooker had now succeeded Bumside in command of the 
Army of the Potomac. "The sullen gloom of the camps soon 

^ Greely Curtis gave him some water, which he first offered to a wounded private. 
When told that he must die, he said: " WeU, I hope I have done my duty. I ani 


disappeared » and a new spirit of pride and hope began to per- 
vade the ranks/' wrote Carl Schurz. 

Hooker was a very blunt, brave officer [says Higginson in 
his Reminiscences] ; insubordinate, a good fighter, and not very 
much more. He had been in the regular army and had after- 
ward lived in California, where he did no good. It was when 
he took charge of the army that things began to get brisker. 
We had a tremendous review of the whole army, to which 
President Lincoln came. We marched by him in review, and 
it was the only time that I ever saw him. He was sitting on a 
horse, with General Hooker and other high officers by his 
side. He looked like marble, and was very strange in his 
black clothes and his tall black hat. 

This glimpse of Lincoln was on the fifth of April. That 
month was brightened for the Higginson brothers by a visit 
from their father and brother George. Henry's war Diary, 
which unfortunately covers only the period from April 1 1 to 
May 4, 1 863, gives some vivid pictures of the daily life of a cav- 
alryman during the three weeks preceding Chancellorsville. 

April II. G. [Greely Curtis] and I were summoned by the 
Col., who laid before us orders to clear the country for three 
miles in front of our picket line of hostile inhabitants, spies, 
guerrillas, etc., etc. A dirty job and one likely to injure us. 
. . . Started at 3 o'clk p.m. with all our available force, I hav- 
ing the centre of the line to clean out. A beautiful night. I had 
asked to leave Jim in camp to welcome father and George, but 
was refused by the Col. 

April 12. We were ordered to return to camp at 4 o'dk A.M. 
. . . Father and George arrived at noon. . . . They're look- 
ing very well. Father was of course supplied with every possi- 
ble thing, — soap, beef -stock, sponges, tooth-brushes, flannels, 
candy, everything, which he distributed amidst our laughter. 


Jolly old fellow he is! The same man, living for others only. 
His life is made up of little works, and on these he expends 
time, energy and ability enough for great works. 'T is a pity he 
has no child worthy of him and none one tenth so good. He 
has been bright and cheerful as possible all day, asking every 
nowandthenfor Jim, if he was away ten minutes. • . • 

April 13. Were waked at 5 o'clk and hurried to be quite 
ready for the start, which was ordered notwithstanding the 
rain of last night. The Col. is in command of the brigade, so 
G. is in charge of the regiment. We formed about 7 o*clk 
before the camp, our own force amounting to about 425 men 
and 22 officers. Had some talk with father about my property, 
the little left, and he made solme excellent suggestions about 
its disposition in case of death, a legacy to this and that one. 
He is always thinking of the lone, stray people on this earth, 
and suggested one or two relations to me, who need a little 
care — also one or two of my friends. . . . We left father and 
George about 8i o'clk and marched to Hartwood church. The 
sky has been cloudy and the weather cold all day ; the roads 
are quite fair except in the woods. Halted at Hartwood and 
thence proceeded to Elk Run, camping in a very close wood 
about 9 o'clk p.m. Very bad arriving so late. My nutmeg 
horse is lame from an old kick on the off fore-leg. Got to sleep 
late and was aroused early. By the way, I had a long talk with 
Dr. Osborne, who is a good fellow. Expressed my decided 
wish to die rather than to lose a leg, and desired the two 
surgeons, W. and Osborne, to note it in case of accident. 
They laughed, talked of the beauties of cork legs, of crippling 
wounds, etc., and did not at first believe me in earnest. I 
promised to shoot either of them who took off my leg. . . . 
Sacrifices! A young, healthy, unmarried man can learn, and 
profit himself very much by service. I do thank God that I 
never had but one feeling about the war, pure and undivided 
from the first ; it is no credit to me, but resulted simply from 
my thought, wishes, the tone of my mind. I always did long 


for some such war, and it came in the nick of time for me. 
Circumstances left me free to act, and indeed drove me to it. 

April 14. Were awakened early and started about daylight 
for Bealeton. Our brigade to-day had the lead, and after some 
mistakes at last hit the road. A most beautiful warm day . The 
spring is really opening, the grass is getting green and the 
buds are swelling. We found the mule train of Gregg's Divi- 
sion passing, and so waited a little. After a march of 5 miles or 
so, we reached Bealeton and lay on the ground for some hours. 
Gregg is here with us close by the R.R. Buford is below at 
Kelly's Ford, where he will make a feint. Davis with Pleason- 
ton's Division is farther up the river. Firing at Kelly's Ford 
and at Rappahannock Bridge. Some of Gregg's men dis- 
mounted, crossed the R.R. bridge and drove the enemy away; 
they then came back. Sent back all extras and also my Nut- 
meg to camp — 't is too bad to lose even for a time such a 
horse ; he is so steady and strong and enduring. My little colt, 
Peter Smink, is full of fun. We encamped in a wood dose by. 
What are we waiting for? . . . 

April 15. We marched before daybreak, having been roused 
2io'clk. Rained very hard, and the roads were horrid. Halted 
after some five miles, in a wood, and dismounted. . . . The 
crossing was given up on account of the storm and we en- 
camped in the woods. It rained all day and all night tremen- 
dously, and wet everything and everybody. 'Tis odd how well 
one can sleep between damp blankets in wet clothes and boots 
soaked thro' and thro' ; yet we did very well. . . . 

April 16. The sun came out and so we dried everything. . . . 
It has been a beautiful day and we had a good wash, the 
first since leaving camp. These little amenities of life must 
now be rare. Puttered over our little shelter tent and read a 
great deal, an article in the April "Atlantic," "A Spasm of 
Sense," written by a woman, I think, is pretty good, and in 
the right direction. . . . Newhall the other day expressed the 
greatest confidence in Greely. "The best in the division," he 


dd, and I believe so, too. Averell and Stoneman and Duffie 
have all excellent reputations and have claim to them in my 
belief, tho* I Ve never seen them do anything yet. But no one 
in the service here has the marked ability for cavalry work 
that G. has. Such is my opinion, and we shall see if others 
are not of the same mind before June ist. The river and 
brooks are very high and we are short of forage — besides 
which, it is going to rain again. Had a pleasant chat with 
Charles A. [Adams] about Stephen and Dwight. 

April 17. Cloudy still. . . . Jim and Greely were discussing 
Thackeray this morning; neither of them likes him, and think 
little good comes of his writings. They're mistaken. Thack- 
eray does certainly present people to our gaze as they are; 
then comes the question, "Cannot we better them?** for 
"them" is nobody but ourselves. We are very short of forage 
and there is no prospect of any; streams are unfordable, etc. 
. . . [H. P.] Bowditch brought us two beautiful little flowers 
this morning. 

April 18. Pleasant day. Broke camp and moved to Beale- 
ton Station about noon. Detailed for picket to guard the river 
bank from Rappahannock Bridge to Lee*s Ford at 12 o'clk m., 
a distance of 6 miles. Nothing worthy of note. . . . 

April 19. Rode to the right of the lines and got a splendid 
view from above Lee's Ford across the country to the moun- 
tains. A little more firing, but no signs of the enemy until 12 
o'clk, when some 200 cavalry (rebel) were seen at a distance 
over Hedgeman*s River. . . . Made a sketch of the picket 
line. Relieved at 6 o'clk p.m. and returned thro' the mud to 
Bealeton Station, where I foimd the preparations for a six- 
days' jaunt making. 

April 20. Cloudy, a little rain, wind N. East. Started about 
II o'clk for Sulphur Springs. Rained very hard for seven or 
eight hourst roads dreadful. Beautiful country, more espe- 
cially near the Springs, but no cultivation at all this year. 
Davis's column in advance, next ours, then Gregg's, Buford's 


last. Encamped about 5 o'clk in a chestnut and oak wood. 
Mac, C.'s [C. F. Adams's] dog» caught and slew a pig.^ . . . 

April 21. Cloudy, a little rain, still N.E. Changed our loca- 
tion to a nice little grove, had a bath and read a pamphlet by 
Still6 — very good. Nothing done all day — waiting for the 
river to fall, I fancy. . . . The plans of the campaign are kept 
a secre w. • • . 

April 22. Pleasant day, wind westerly. Bowditch's and 
Fillebrown's parties returned from picket. Discussion of 
campaigns here and in Europe. . . . Our real strength lies in 
moving quickly and cutting lines of communication, as well 
as harassing the enemy in falling back. In this we can do 
much, when Lee retreats on Richmond. This next four to eight 
weeks will settle the campaign. . . • 

April 23. Hard rain, N. E^terly still, the little brook at 
our feet boiling with water and everything afloat. Read, and 
wrote to John and to Mary. 

April 24. Raining hard and blowing well. Had our shelter 
tent logged in. Rumors of a mail. This lying still is horrid. 
Read and wrote and washed. It would be a relief to get an- 
swers to some of my letters before starting, tho' waiting for 
something seems to be the normal state of men. Browning's 
"Men and Women" seems to please Greely, too; no wonder. 

April 25. Clear and bright. Wind N.W. Read and read, 
and dreamed away as usual. Had a ride on Peter, who was 
full of mischief and desirous of running and jumping. Still 
no mail. ... 

April 26. Clear and cold. Wrote to Charley and to N . 

Found a quantity of anemones in the woods. . • . Lt. Col. 
Taylor of Stoneman's staff came to inquire into our wants, 
etc. . . . Taylor said that "Charley L. was the most perfect 
bom soldier whom he had ever seen." . . . 

April 27. Read and wrote a little. Pleasant day. . . . 

^ " Mac" was an English buU-Klog "with a very open countenance," and a great 
favorite in the r^ment. 


April 28. • . . Were ordered to move about 9 o'clk p.m., 
which we did — rode till 3 o'clk next morning thro' mud and 
water. The country is very wet. Camped in the woods near 
Bealeton and slept. 

April 29. Got up at 5 a.m. and started about 7 o*clk. 
Gleason examined Rappahannock Ford and thought it too 
deep for use. Marched to Kelly's Ford slowly, forded there, 
and grazed our horses on beautiful grass for several hours. 
Three corps of infantry had crossed, 5th, nth and 12th, and 
had gone on. Heard also that Hooker had crossed below 
Fredericksbui^. . . . Crossing the river was very pretty; 
the water came half way up the horses* withers. Three col- 
umns were put across together at one time, one swimming, one 
fording, and one on the pontoon. . . . We went on a mile or 
two thro' the woods, passed the scene of the Kellysville fight, 
a beautiful field. Just as we got there firing began, first car- 
bmes, then a few shells. We formed, and got thro* another 
belt of woods, then formed line on a huge field, where also the 
former fight took place. It was just dark, and in ten minutes 
we retiuned to the edge of the woods, dismounted, and kept 
the squadrons formed all night. We made very small fires 
indeed, fed horses, and slept thro' a hard rain all night. . . . 

April 30. Got up very early, fed and breakfasted as we 
could, which was very little. It was a fast day and we fasted. 
One eats little on a trip of this kind. Started behind the bat- 
tery and stayed there. A column in the road and one each side 
in the fields were moved all day. Sometimes by fours, some- 
times by squadrons. A very beautiful country indeed, this 
Culpeper country; the grass is wonderfully green, the slopes 
from hill to valley are beautiful. Saw some cattle and some 
horses, but very few. The houses are quite fine and very 
stately. . . . Got to Culpeper Court House about noon. 
. . . Heard that Stuart had passed thro' two hours before 
us, with about four thousand men and artillery. They are 
marching all night. . . * Stopped several hours for the mule 


train, and then marched on to Cedar Mt., where we examined 
the field carefully. It is a splendid position to defend. The 
bones are lying over the field now. Had a description of the 
battle from Major Farrington, R. I. Cav., who was there from 
the b^;inning. . . • The mail party came up. Dr. Warner 
sorted the mail in the ambulance, and we read our letters on 

horseback. Got letters from Mary, Laura, N , father, 

Col. Williams, Clark, Pat Jackson, Bob Shaw, Mr. Austin. 
. . . Bob's letter was funny. . . . Marched aroimd the moun- 
tain and went over very heavy roads some eight miles towards 
Somerville Ford. Slept in a swamp, which was full of water. 
. . . Jim went on picket. 

May I. . . . Fed and started about 8 o'clk. Marched a 
mile thro' fearful mud and halted in a field. Genl. Averell and 
Col. Davis were nearly taken while reconnoitering this morn- 
ing. Jim led his men to a charge and took three prisoners. 
The enemy ran very fast. Gleason had a fight with two men, 
shot one and beat him badly. Both were unhorsed, and a 
second rebel came. Gleason drove him away. We fired at the 
enemy and they at us all day. Lieut. Phillips was shot in the 
neck, probably will die. We did nothing all day and encamped 
after a blind march thro' the woods in the swamp again. 

May 2. Aroused early and ordered to march in f of an hour. 
Marched and waited and marched thro' a beautiful country to 
Stevensburg, and then to Ely's Ford. Heard bad and good 
reports of a big battle ; had a long discussion with G. and con- 
cluded it to be a drawn battle. Encamped about 8 o'clk. 
From 4 to 8 we heard very heavy firing indeed toward Chan- 
cellorsville, where the forces are. Aroused about 12 o'clk by a 
volley fired into the 2d brigade by someone unknown. Turned 
out all hands. I went with the carbineers into a wood on foot 
to hold it. Great confusion in the arrangement of our brigade. 
Col. S. knew nothing of his regiment or of the ground. Genl. 
A. decided that it was a mistake of our own infantry. Left a 
small picket on foot, and got to sleep about i \ o'clk in a wood. 

May 3. Wakened with orders for moving. Sent out Wth 


our whole regiment to picket the road from Culpeper, etc., 
and returned about 3 o'clk. Nothing to be seen. Heard vari- 
ous reports of the battle, but nothing authentic. Quin and 
several of our men rode to our lines as escort and took some 
prisoners. Learned that the volley of the night before was 
fired by the rebels. • . . Crossed with our brigade alone at 
Ely's Ford, and rode to our fortification, about two miles. 
Went inside some two or three miles and encamped in a field 
near the United States Ford. Saw the wounded — which is 
horrid. Everything in excellent order — 1st, 3rd, 5th, nth 
and I2th corps are here. . . . We are well entrenched. We 
had very heavy fighting this morning, but little this afternoon 
here. The heights of Fredericksbitfg were taken by Sedgwick 
to-day. Genl. Berry was killed on our right. Slept here — 
without a picket or a guard. 

May^. Wakened by shelling from the rebels. Learned that 
the nth and 12th Corps were sent out to attack Jackson's 
train — nth thought the 12th was taken and so ran away; 
I2th came back, found Jackson's men in their (12th) entrench- 
ments, and cleaned them right out. nth marched to the front 
at Howard's request. 12th chaffed them badly. Sedgwick 
took the F. heights by eight charges, each time carrying a 
battery. Bimey said to be in the enemy's rear. Stonemanhas 
cut the R.R. at the Pamunkey. Averell relieved of his com- 
mand and ordered to Washington — we don't know the reason. 

Here the Diary ends, on the last day of the three days' 
batde of Chancellorsville. The grandiloquent Hooker had 
measured himself against Lee and Jackson, and there was 
none to deliver him from the paw of the lion and the bear. 
Hooker had lost his nerve, or, as he himself said later : '' Double- 
day, I was not hurt by a shell, and I was not drunk. For once 
I lost confidence in Hooker, and that is all there is to it."^ At 
midn^ht on May 4 he decided to recross the Rappahannock. 
How little an intelligent officer, in forced inactivity although 

^ Quoted in Gamaliel Bradford's Union Portraits^ p. 64. 


within sight and sound of a great battle, may know of what is 

really happening, may be seen in Major Higginson's hasty 

note to his father : — 

Nbar U.S. Ford, May 4, 1863. 

Dearest Father: — 

... So far as I can see or hear, we are well off (the army, I 
mean), have entrenched ourselves here, have taken Fredericks- 
burg Heights, carrying eight batteries in succession, have cut 
the railroad near the Pamunkey River, have Stoneman with 
some 4000 or 5000 cavalry in the rear of the enemy, have killed, 
etc., a great many rebels. There has been savage fighting; the 
2d Regiment has lost 170 men out of some 400 or less, I think. 
The nth Corps (Sigel's famous men) ran away yesterday 
and has been marched to the front to-day at Howard's re- 
quest, he being the commander. The 12th Corps (Banks's 
old men) cleaned Jackson's men out of our entrenchments 
wherein they had got while the nth Corps ran away. 

We are all right, so good-bye, and love to all. H. 

Even three days later, when the regiment was back in its old 
camp at Falmouth, he could write: ''Still I regard Hooker's 
movement a success ; it was brilliant and has inflicted a terrible 
loss on the enemy. . . . Whip Lee's army we can and will. . . . 
We are expecting orders to move every moment. I heard last 
night that the Infantry was again under marching orders to 
move either last night or this morning in pursuit of Lee's 
army." The rumor was true enough, but the "pursuit" was 
northward, following Lee's triumphant invasion of Pennsyl- 
vania! And Lincoln, hearing that Hooker had recrossed the 
Rappahannock, was crying: "My God! My God! what wiU 
the country say!" while Sunmer was exclaiming, "Lost, lost, 
all is lost!"^ 

1 Rhodes, History 0/ the CioU War, p. 23a. A remarkably dear aooount of the 
battle of ChancellorBville is given by Higginson's friend and comrade^ Cokmel 
C. F. Morse, in his LeUers Written During the doU Wof (privately printed* 
Boston, 1898), p. 127. 


All was not lost, as we know. Meade succeeded Hooker in 
command of the Army of the Potomac, and Lee's invasion of 
Pemisylvania ended at Gettysburg. In the two months be- 
tween Chancellorsville and Gettysburg the Federal cavalry 
"found itself" at last, and Major Higginson got the chance for 
which he had so long been waiting. 

Let us go back to his letter of May 7, with its optimism 
about the army, and its pleasant news about many friends : — 

I received a letter from Bob Shaw, speaking of his wedding, 
this afternoon. . . • Charley should be married too; it is 
much better, for his wife might go to him while in winter 
quarters. . • • William Channing was here this afternoon, he 
having been on duty with the Sanitary people here. . . . 
Jim is very well and happy ; he has been in charge of a com- 
pany for some three or four weeks. . . . Bob Shaw wrote to 
me about Frank, speaking very well of him ; he will get promo- 
tion faster there than in the 2d Cavalry. Did I ask you to tell 
Charley that I would like his gray horse very much, if he will 
take him to Fortress Monroe and keep him until we meet. I 
need another horse and cannot in any way find one; Washing- 
ton has none. He wants the money ($200) for the beast now. 

A letter to his sister Mary, on May 8, contains a curious 
prophecy about Anna Lowell nursing him in case he is 
wounded, and also a characteristically delicate and thought- 
ful message to Mrs. Rogers, the sister of James Savage, killed 
at Cedar Mountain the year before. 

Camp nbar Falmouth, May 8, 1863. 

Dear Molly, — 

. . . Bob Shaw has just written to Greely and me after his 
marriage ; he is as happy as a king. I should much like to see 
his wife, for I have heard a great deal of her for years past. . . . 
For years I have taken people on trust or by their faces, and 


gone along with them» waiting until the little upper crust, 
which is of one kind or another always^ was melted. It has 
always turned out well. 

If I do get hurt or ill, I shall be sent to the Armory Hospital, 
where Anna Lowell and Molly Felton are — that is always 
possible, and I shall be well nursed then. But their life this 
summer will be hard, for it will be a season full of horrors. An 
enormous number of wounded men, ours and rebel, are here 
awaiting transportation. These late battles have cost many 
lives to us, and very many to the enemy. Jim, by the way, 
made a charge with twenty men in his command at a body of 
cavalry, and chased them across the Rapidan River. . • . The 
spring is very late this year in Virginia. 

P.S. ... I send you a flower which I picked a week ago on 
the very spot where the severest fighting at Cedar Mountain 
took place. Give it to Mrs. Rogers, if she would like it, with my 

Colonel Robert G. Shaw ("Bob"), it will be remembered, 
was now at the Readville camp, drilling his gallant negro 
regiment, the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts. F. L. Higginson 
was one of his first lieutenants. Colonel Charles Russell Lowell 
(" Charley") was also at Readville, drilling his new regiment, 
the Second Massachusetts Cavalry. He was betrothed to 
Josephine Shaw, ' * Bob's ' ' sister. Major Higginson's old friend 
Mrs. Tappan, writing him from Newport on May 7, says: — 

*' Mrs. Tweedie has just been in and says Willie James saw 
the colored regiment reviewed , — Bob Shaw's, — and that they 
were a very fine set of men, finer looking than any white rai- 
ment he had seen. Charles Lowell and Effie Shaw sat on their 
great war horses looking on, and looked so like a king and 
queen that he did not venture to speak to them. Charles ap- 
pears perfectly happy, as well he may be, for Effie is a very 
fine girl, true and full of character." 

William James, it may be added, had a brother, Wilkinson 


James, who was Adjutant of the Fifty-Fourth and was severely 
wounded in the assault on Fort Wagner. 

It was on May 28 that the Fifty-Fourth sailed from Boston, 
after a great popular demonstration in honor of the first col- 
ored regiment oi^anized in the North. Henry Higginson 
remembered the day, in his camp at Bealeton, Virginia. "The 
54th sails to-day, I see by the newspapers. I am very grateful 
that Frank is in it. Gentlemen are needed in such regiments. 
. . . The gray horse has come, and is a capital purchase.'* 

That gray horse came just in time, for the major's big roan 
had gone lame, and the First Cavalry was moving northward 
now, in Colonel Duffie's division of Pleasonton's Corps. They 
were intermittently in touch with the Confederate cavalry, 
commanded by Stuart and FitzHugh Lee, who were guarding 
the right flank of their army. Pleasonton crossed to the south 
bank of the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford, and had a sharp 
fight on June 9 at Brandy Station. Four squadrons under 
Captain Tewksbury and Lieutenant J. J. Higginson made a 
reckless chaise against two regiments of Confederate cavalry. 
"We went through them like a whirlwind," said Sergeant Sher- 
man. This battle of Brandy Station, inconclusive as it was, 
"made the Federal cavalry," according to a Southern military 
critic. "One result of incalculable advantage certainly did 
follow this battle — it made the Federal cavalry. Up to that 
time confessedly inferior to the Southern horsemen, they 
gained on this day that confidence in themselves and in their 
commanders which enabled them to contest so fiercely the 
subsequent battlefields of June, July, and October."* 

Regaining the north bank of the river, Pleasonton reor- 
ganized his cavalry, Buford now commanding the First Divi- 
sion, and Gregg the Second. The First Massachusetts was in 
Kilpatrick^s brigade of Gregg's Division. Following the line of 
the Orange and Alexandria Railroad to Manassas, they turned 
to the left, across the Bull Run battlefields, toward the passes 

^ Quoted in History of the First Cavalry, p. 140. 


in the Bull Run hills. On June i6, in camp near Union Mills, 
Major Higginson wrote his last letter home for many a month: 

We have been at work every day for 17 days, and when we 
have been in camp I have been so very weary as to be unfit to 
write a line. Twice we have been nearly 24 hours on duty, that 
is to say, in the saddle. . . • Jim and I are very well indeed. 
. . . The rebel army will get well into Pennsylvania, will anger 
the people • . • and finally will get a severe whipping. ... It 
is a desperate move on Lee's part, but it can be checkmated by 
someone, and turned into a great and final defeat. We have 
yet to see who "someone" is. . . . We are going to have a 
very severe campaign, I suppose. . . . You spoke of sending 
one or two little articles; send nothing now. • • • 

On the following afternoon, June 17, Kilpatrick's brigade 
reached Aldie Gap, a narrow opening in the hills, through 
which roads ran to Snicker's Gap and Ashby's Gap in the Blue 
Ridge, and so on to the valley of the Shenandoah. Pickets of 
the Second Virginia Cavalry had been posted all day at the 
village of Aldie, and four other regiments of Virginians, with 
one battery, were close at hand, hidden by the woods. As 
Kilpatrick's troopers rode noisily into the little village, — 
which lay drowsy in the June heat, — shots were fired from 
behind a stone wall. Kilpatrick ordered Lieutenant-Colonel 
Greely Curtis to ascertain the enemy's force, and Captain 
L. M. Salient's squadron. Lieutenant Fillebrown command- 
ing the first platoon, was sent forward. This squadron charged 
the outposts of the Second Virginia Regiment, and drove them 
back, but in the excitement of the chaise, fdiled to stop at the 
point indicated by Curtis, who now ordered Major Higginson 
to halt Sargent's squadron. As this order was being carried 
out, a regiment of Virginia cavalry ; — probably the Fifth, under 
Colonel Rosser — chained down the rough winding road upon 
the Massachusetts men. For a moment there was fierce hand- 


to-hand fighting with sabres and pistols. Major Higginson fell, 
severely wounded. Captain Sargent lay apparently dead, and 
Lieutenant Fillebrown was shot through the body. Lieutenant 
Parsons, reforming the squadron, bore the enemy back an in- 
stant, only to find himself cut off from his regiment. Kil- 
patrick's brigade was not in effective position, while the Vir- 
ginians knew every foot of groimd. The Fourth and Fifth 
Vii^ginia drove back Captain Tewksbiuy , who was striving to 
support Captain Sargent's men. Captain C. F. Adams's 
squadron was holding its ground, but nothing more.^ The 
Fourth New York — Cesnola's regiment — refused to follow 
their colonel in the charge, and he was captured with the col- 
ors. Colonel Curtis now ordered Lieutenant Davis's squadron 
of the First Massachusetts to charge up the narrow road. But 
dismounted sharpshooters, hidden behind the stone wall, 
opened a murderous fire, and Davis's whole squadron was 
killed or captured. Among the prisoners was Lieutenant 
James J. Higginson. 

Then the currents of this confused battle turned. The four 
squadrons of the First Massachusetts, which had borne the 
brunt of the fighting, had lost more than half their men — 
killed, wounded, and captured. But Gregg now brought up the 
First Maine, and Kilpatrick swung the Second New York and 
the Sixth Ohio into action. That did the business. As the sun 
went down over Aldie Gap, the Confederates fell back along 
the Snickersville road, under Stuart's orders. 

Let us now return to Major Higginson, whom we left lying 

^ "My poor men were just slaughtered and all we could do was to stand still 
and be shot down, while the other squadrons rallied behind us. The men fell right 
and left and the horses were shot through and through, and no man turned his 
backp but they only called on me to charge. I could n't charge, except across a 
ditch, up a hill and over two high stone walls, from behind which the enemy were 
slaying us; so I held my men there until, what with men shot down and horses 
wounded and plunging, my ranks were disordered and then I fell slowly back to 
some woods." A Cyde cf Adams Letters, vol. 2, pp. 36, 37. This letter, while 
aketdiing vividly the fortune of Colonel Adams's inunediate command, gives a 
most inadequate account of the engagement as a whole. 


in the road with a sabre-cut across his face and a pistol bullet 
at the base of his spine. Many a time, in later years, did his 
friends persuade him to tell the story of that rough-and-tumble 
fight: how " the one who struck me across the face was a fine 
handsome-looking fellow,^ and the one whom I hit on the head 
was a bad-looking chap'*; how Rosser's men left him to die» 
taking with them the gray horse, wounded though it was by 
four bullets;* how the Major painfully pulled off his shoulder- 
straps, the only distinguishing mark between him and a pri- 
vate; how he took out his diary to ''make a memorandum or 
two and say good-bye to my father'*; and having done this, 
proceeded to crawl through the woods and down to the brook, 
and so on and on until his men found him. 

But it is better to quote a few paragraphs from the 

It had been a hot, tiresome ride. The men came along in 
pretty good order, although one of the regiments belonging to 
another brigade galloped about to get water, and acted in a 
foolish way. Just as we ceune to the town of Aldie, we heard a 
little firing, and were ordered to the front. As we rode through 
the town, we saw a little fighting going on in front of us — a 
little charge by some men of another regiment. We turned to 
the right, went up by a little wood, and our regiment was put 
into a field close by a farmhouse and close by the road. There, 
Colonel Curtis, in command, left me with two squadrons, and 

^ Major Higginson's son, Mr. A. H. Higginson, tells me that his father supposed 
that the Confederate officer who gave him the sabre cut across his face was Colonel, 
afterwards General, Rosser. When the Hooker statue was dedicated in Boston, a 
delegation of Confederate veterans was invited to attend, and among them was 
General Rosser. Major Higginson and his son were dining in the University Club 
that evening, and one of these Confederate officers, who, Mr. A. H. Higginson 
thinks, was General Rosser, came over to their table and, touching Major Hi^n- 
son's shoulder, remarked genially: "I want to see how good a job I did on your 
face, that day at Aldie." The Major gave him both hands, and the two old men 
fraternized until the small hours of the morning. 

* The gray was recaptured, and served Major Higginson as a riding-horse for 
many years. 


went to attend to something else. I rode up to this farmhouse, 
and saw one or two soldiers' jackets hanging at the door, and 
was looking about, when I saw a regiment coming down at full 
tilt on the road towards us. I inunediately ordered one 
squadron into the road and we charged these men. They 
turned straight around and ran away. We came very near 
their rear, but could not reach them. They went down a hill 
and at the top I ordered a halt. Captain Sai^ent, with two or 
three men, rode straight on down into a valley after a few of 
the troopers we had been pursuing, and began fighting them. 
I yelled to him to come back, but he would not do so, and fear- 
ing that he would get into trouble, I rode down to give him the 
order, when right behind us came a whole regiment of Con- 
federate cavalry at full speed. I shouted to Sai^ent and the 
two or three men with him to ride for their lives, and we gal- 
loped up a hill in front of us, where we lost one man through 
the balking of his horse. We reached the top of the hill, and 
the Confederates had stopped, as we were not worth pursuing. 
Sargent turned around in his saddle and made faces at them 
with his fingers, whereat they pursued us, and we rode down 
another very steep hill, and at the bottom they caught us, and 
we had a little shindy. Sargent was knocked from his horse 
and shot, as he thought, just above the heart. One of our men 
was killed, and one lieutenant was shot through the side. In 
striking a man opposite to me, who was using improper 
language, I was knocked from my horse, and found myself in 
the road. Over me was standing a man whom I had unhorsed, 
and who struck at my head. He then proposed to take me 
prisoner, but I told him I should die in a few minutes, for I put 
my hand under and found a hole in my backbone. He took 
what he could get of my goods, and rode off, leaving my horse, 
which had been shot with four bullets. 

So in five minutes the shindy was over, and three of us were 
woimded and one dying. When they were out of sight, I in- 
duced Captain Sargent to get up off the ground and come 


under a tree, where I left him close by a little house. He de- 
clared he could go no further and should die in a few minutes. 
I crawled along to a brook, where I lay down and drank a pail- 
ful of water, then crossed the brook and got up into a wood. 
When I had nearly reached a fence, I heard some noise, and 
lay down in the leaves and made a little memorandum in my 
notebook. Just then a solid shot came down close by me. 
Presently, when all was quiet, I got up again, climbed over the 
fence, and walked in the direction where fighting was still go- 
ing on, and presently came in sight of our men, many of whom 
had been killed or wounded. I lay down on the ground, was 
presently put on a horse, which I could hardly bear, and taken 
to the hospital, where Dr. Osborne looked at me, and began 
to patch me up. He made a little slit in my back to see if he 
could find the ball, but could not ; as a matter of fact, I had a 
pistol ball in the sacrum, a good slash across the cheek, a 
punch in the shoulder, which was of little account, and a bad 
whack on the head, which also turned out to have no results 
except a sore. Then I was taken down to the village by 
Colonel Curtis, — some men canying the litter, — and put in 
a house with one or two other prisoners, and there left for the 
night. I heard that my brother had been captured, and a good 
many of our men had been killed or wounded ; in fact, we had 
lost about half of our regiment. But we had beaten the enemy 
back. . . . 

Luckily for me, I was in splendid condition, and lost con- 
siderable blood. The next day we were put into ambulances 
and sent toward Alexandria. The road was very rough indeed. 
Our lieutenant, who had been found and brought in by some 
men, was with me in the ambulance, and he suffered consider- 
able pain. We drove over a very rough road which had been 
much used, tree-roots standing out and giving us terrible 
jerks. About dusk we reached the railway and were put into 
freight cars. Of course we had had nothing to eat, nor could I 
eat at all, my face being in such a condition that any move- 


ment was painful. I could stand up or lie down, but could not 
sit down, and I remember well one of our men lifted me into 
the car» and was greatly shocked. He was a Scotchman named 
McNabb» a most insubordinate, troublesome soldier, but was 
a good man after all. 

The train jerked us to and fro, and we got into Alexandria 
about one or two o'clock in the morning, were taken out by a 
lot of young men^ who acted as if they were on a picnic, and 
who got us into ambulances with many jokes, and at last we 
were carried to a hospital, and got to bed somewhere. I had a 
little straw mattressy with a deep hollow in the middle. It was 
a great relief, but still was very bad to lie on, for I could lie 
only on one side, one shoulder being hurt, the back of my head 
bemg hurt, and my back being hurt, and, on the other side, 
my face being cut. Our wounds were dressed, and I found in 
the morning lying next me Dr. John Perry, whose leg had been 
broken by a kick of his horse. On my other side lay our lieu- 
tenant, who had considerable morphine to relieve his pain and 
who would sit up in bed and eat peanuts. I knew that he had 
been shot through the side, and I watched to see them come 
out, but none of them came.^ 

There were two or three rough privates who waited upon us, 
and tried to help. They were good boys, but did not know 
anjrthing and were not nice at first, but presently they learned 
better manners. My difficulty was getting in a position in 
which I could lie without excessive weariness; there was no 
good side, and I could not move without putting my arms 
around somebody's neck and then swinging from one side to 

John Perry was waiting to have his leg set. Presently the 
young surgeon brought in a lady from Lexington, who was an 
amateur nurse, and had never set a leg, but wished to do so. 

Ffllebrown 18 tdll living (1921), and sends word to me through 
Gcnefal Morris Schaff that, when their wounds were to be dressed. Major Higgin- 
lon said to the suigeon: " Look after that man [Fillebrown] first. He 's hurt a 
great deal more than I am." 


She begged to set this leg, took nearly an hour about it, so that 
John got faint — and the surgeon let her do it. Then she pro- 
posed to wash my wounds, but I told her I was much obliged to 
her, but would get along without it. 

There we lay several days. Presently Colonel Lowell came 
to see me, found out about my condition, and reported to my 
father, who came a day later. He, together with Channing 
Clapp and two or three soldiers, carried me to the ferry. We 
crossed the river, and I was taken to the Armory Square Hos- 
pital, where Anna Lowell was a nurse, and was put in her 
ward. Mary Felton was another nurse, and came in to see me. 
The bed was good, and I was much more comfortable. Then, 
the next day Anna brought the surgeon of the hospital, who 
was a friend of hers, and who dressed my wounds carefully. 
Anna saw that I had good food which I could eat, and I had 
not very much pain. It was decided to send me home, and 
after the second or third day and a restless night or two, I was 
taken to the railroad and put into a car full of wounded men, 
which was going North. All the seats had been taken out, and 
a lot of beds slung from standards one over the other and one 
beside the other, with just a narrow space between. Opposite 
to me lay a man, yoimg and pleasant-looking, who had lost his 
leg up to his thigh, and was evidently dying. I saw many 
horrid cases in the hospital. John Perry went in the same car 
with me, and as the mattresses on which we lay were slung 
from rubber straps, we did as well as we could ; but it was a 
dreadful night, and the language was fearful. 

In the morning we were at Jersey City, got across the river, 
and then we were put into wagons, and I was driven to a hospi- 
tal in Union Square, where father got Doctor Stone, and he re- 
dressed my wounds. John Perry was driven to his home, 
where his leg had to be broken again and set straight, for this 
friendly nurse, who was learning her business, had set it 
crooked. That night I was taken home in a sleeping-car and 
carried to father's house in Chauncy Street, where I passed 


several months. After a few days, Dr. Cabot, who had ex- 
amined my wounds and had seen a piece of cloth and piece of 
bone come out of my back, thought he had found the bullet. 
He had already probed for it, and the second time, by using a 
porcelain probe, got the black mark of the lead, and then knew 
that he had foimd the bullet. So he gave me ether for the sec- 
ond time, and when I came to, the bullet was out, and he was 
sitting in the chair saying, "Thank God!" The truth is that 
the bullet had been close by the seat of the nerves, and if it 
had not come out, I should have been paralyzed as to my 
lower limbs. That is what I had feared from the first, because 
I knew that I was shot pretty nearly where William Sedgwick 
was shot, and he was paralyzed below his waist, and presently 
died. I had a dreadful night after the extraction of the bullet, 
for he had touched one of the great nerves, and that began to 
beat like a hammer; but father gave me so much laudeuium 
that I went to sleep and the next day was all right. After a 
while, I was well enough to go downstairs, and presently to go 
out to Waltham and stay with Mn Frank Lowell and his 

^ In Mr. J. T. Morse's briUiant biographical sketch of Major Higginson, printed 
in the Harvard Graduates* MagoMine for March, 1920, and also printed in the 
Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society for 1920, appear two pleasant 
footnotes to the Aldie a£Fair, written by Mrs. Higginson: — 

"Some years ago, when Mr. Higginson and I were in Washington (I have for- 
gotten the exact date), I asked him to take me to Aldie and show me the ground 
where the battle was fought, — it was really not a battle but an active skirmish 
fight, — where Mr. Higginson was wounded, which was the 17th of June, 1863. 
We went first by rail to Leesbuig and there we hired a mule team and open wagon 
and drove to Aldie. The wagon could n't go as far as the battlefield itself, so we 
left it by the roadside and walked. As we approached the field we saw a man plow- 
ing, who said : ' Hello, friends, you come to see where we beat you Yankees at the 
Battle of Aldie.' (He was a pleasant-looking farmer, I should say about 12 or 15 
years younger than Mr. Higginson was at that time.) Evidently he was an ex- 
Confederate. We said : 'Yes, we came to see it and to look the place over.' Upon 
which he replied: 'Well, I remember all about it myself, I was about a dozen 
years old and I heard the fighting from my house which is over there,' — pointing 
to a farmhouse at no great distance, — 'and when the fighting had stopped, my 
mother said, "I want you to go with this pail of water and give a drink to all the 
men you find there, no matter whether they are Federalists or Confederates. 


There 11 a Federal major there who has been badly wounded and a captain and 
other wounded men, and I want you to look after all of them." So I went. There 
were one or two wounded men, but I could n't find the Major. I looked every^ere 
for him, asked a few men who were left if they knew anything about him, but they 
said they did n't. They believed that in some way he must have managed to get 
back to camp, although wounded. Well, the long and short of it is that I could 
n't find him anywhere — he got away.' 

" Upon which, my husband laughed and said, ' Yes, you are right; he did get away. 
I am the Major.' The man laughed heartily, held out his hand and said: 'Well, 
Major, I am glad to see you. At least, it is all right now.' We walked over the 
whole place, Mr. Higginson explaining to me in detail just all the action of the fight 
We saw the monument which had been erected on the spot, giving the names of 
the men engaged in the fight; also, names of prisoners and the wounded men, 
among which were Mr. Higginson's own brother, Captain James J. Higginson, 
and his own name — as having been badly wounded. It was a lovely day in spring 
and the place looked as peaceful as if there had never been any fighting there. 
"Another incident connected with Aldie is also interesting: — 
"My son, who is a member of various hunting dubs in this country, was riding 
with a hunting club of the region all about Aldie, — and in Aldie, — when one of 
the Southern members said to him: ' By the way, was n't your father wounded at 
the battle of Aldie? If so, I wish you would give him this sword, which was pidced 
up on the battlefield; he may like to keep it as a remembrance.' This sword is 
now hanging in Mr. Higginson's room and is a very precious relic to us." 



Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks, 
The unknown road still marchii^. 

— Walt WHmiAN, Drum-Taps. 

It was in the little house at 22 Chauncy Street, then, that 
Henry Higginson, tended lovingly by his father, — for there 
was no other nurse, — tossed restlessly during those July days 
that decided the ultimate victory of the North. Higginson had 
done his best; had waited long for his ''one crowded hour of 
glorious life"; had been cut and beaten down in an obscure, 
random fight; and here he lay, hopelessly "out of it/' while 
both his old regiments were marching into Gettysburg! 

On July 4 Boston got the news that Meade had defeated Lee 
on the previous day, and that Grant had taken Vicksburg. 
Faithful Greely Curtis, stricken now with malaria, and able to 
keep in his saddle for but one week more, writes on July 6 from 
Westminster, Maryland : — 

"The men are moving so that I have but § minute to write 
— Genl. Kilpatrick sent me down here with one squadron 
and 500 prisoners — now the whole army seems to be moving 
in pursuit. 

"• • • It was a tremendous fight at Gettysburg and we 
whipped. The good old army of the Potomac fought splendidly. 
Thursday afternoon it went very hard with us and looked like a 
defeat. By the grace of God a council of corps commanders 
decided to stand and fight it out the next day. Friday it was 
terrible, but we had a strong position and the slaughter of the 
gray-backs was — what shall I say — awful and splendid. At 
any rate I saw heaps of dead 30 in a pile, touching. Now I 


suppose the rebs are in full retreat. If the army from Washing- 
ton will but move up and cut off their retreat to Richmond, I 
see no reason why the war should not be over, up here, in three 
weeks. We have had the hardest sort of work, but being in a 
meuiner detached we have managed to take pretty good care of 
the horses and have lost but few. Morse tells me that the 2nd 
never fought so well — 7 color-bearers shot in about 20 min- 
utes, and men jumping out of the ranks, vying with each other 
for the bloody honor of carrying it.*' 

Two days later he writes from Frederick, Marylemd : — 
"... The army has been moving through here to-day and 
yesterday. We hear that the rebs are crossing at Williamsport 
— I never thought that we could overtake them between Gettys- 
burg and W'msport, — the map will show you why, — but I 
did hope and fairly believe that Halleck would know enough to 
try to cut off their retreat with fresh troops either on this side 
of the river or in the valley of the Shenandoah. Hurrah for 
Vicksburg! If we only follow these scoundrels up vigorously, 
we can sit down under our Thanksgiving fig-tree and eat the 
turkeys thereof. . . ." 

And on July 18, while still with the regiment, although in- 
capacitated for service, Colonel Curtis writes from Harper's 
Ferry some valuable notes upon Meade's pursuit of Lee. 

"The 1st and 2nd days at Gettysburg we were crowded* In 
the third and final struggle our lines were held throughout and 
their repulse was complete and deadly. Their retreat was not 
a rout, as the newspapers would have you believe. They were 
in a hurry, but not in a mob. They took up a strong line near 
Hagerstown, a part of it passing right through our old camping 
ground at St. James College, and evidently awaited an attack 
in preference to crossing with insufficient means to do it rap- 
idly. Meade, it seems to me at the time, did n't mean to attack 
unless he could get them on the wing. It was said on pretty 
good authority that we were to have attacked last Sunday if 
the field had not been so soft with rain that artillery could not 


be handled. The fields were soft, very soft. Our brigade, 

under the d dest fool you ever dreamed of, H by name, 

was sent down the St. James road to W'msport to feel the 
enemy. We did nothing. Our regt. was put on the advance 2 
days in 3, and if I had obeyed all the orders I rec'd from the 

sapient H there would have been very little of the regt. left. 

But he was such an overpowering damned fool of a retired (or 
X) barkeeper that I made no bones at all of doing just what 
I darned pleased smd he was happy. We fired away lots of car- 
bine ammunition as skirmishers dismounted, attacking a wood 
held by infantry, had 2 or 3 men wounded and advanced slowly 
to within } a mile of their lines. . . . The aft. we crossed came 
the news that the rebs had crossed the night before. It was and 
is a sad blow, but I am not sure that Meade was not right in 
refusing to attack them posted, as they were, strongly. I saw 
Morse day before yesterday, here, and he says that he thinks 
we should have been repulsed and the best corps commemders 
are said to have been of the same opinion. I think there was a 
want of information which should have been procured at any 
cost, save a general engagement, which seemed and seems to 
me the only want of generalship on Meade's part. . . . 

"Now everything appears uncertain: whether we are to re- 
cruit the army in strength and rest, or press on in the old route 
to Richmond. Since leaving the Potomac the A. P. has really 
done splendidly in marching and fighting, but I think that the 
life of the thing has fizzed out now that Lee has recouped. 
Still the Southern and S. Western news is so cheering that I am 
in favor of pushing them while they are tottering, if some good 
plan can be speedily adopted for so doing. If we are to have 
merely a repetition of last winter's work, then I am fairly 
heartsick. It seems to me that every time we have followed in 
the steps of Geo. B. [McClellan] we have done well and when 
varying from his plans we have done ill. There is a strong and 
general confidence in Meade, which even Lee's escape has not 
destroyed* Our regt. is in good shape — well shod, short 


officered, and much fatigued, but the horses in good condition, 
and the poor old dear has this time managed to get ahead of 
other regiments in stealing forage, horses, etc. • . • 

'^Personal — I am kind o' run down. I made up my mind to 
see this campaign through and did up to the crossing here — 
but now am lying off, sleeping and eating and getting strong 
very fast. Shall be fit for duty very soon. ..." 

But Greely Curtis was never again fit for military duty. 

On the evening of that very day, July i8, came the fatal 
assault of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts upon Fort Wagner. 
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, at the head of his negro regiment, 
scaled the parapet, but was shot dead as he was shouting, 
"Forward, Fifty-Fourth." ''Stainless soldier on the walls," 
wrote Emerson in his "Voluntaries," and St. Gaudens has im- 
mortalized him in bronze. But neither verse nor bronze can be 
finer than the words of Shaw's father, when he heard that his 
son had been buried in the common trench with his negroes: 
"Nor is there any monument so worthy of a soldier as the 
mound heaped over him by the bodies of his conu-ades." 

James Savage, Stephen Perkins, and now "Bob" Shaw! 
Only one other blow of equal or even greater poignancy re- 
mained to fall upon Henry Higginson ; but Charles Lowell was 
to bear for another year what seemed a charmed life. News 
from the front came slowly, but it was learned that Lieutenant 
F. L. Higginson, of Colonel Shaw's regiment, had been assigned 
to the command of a fatigue detail on that July evening, and 
had not participated in the attack on Wagner. Lieutenant 
James J. Higginson, the merry, stammering, indomitable 
Jim," captured at Aldie, was lying in Libby Prison. 

Don't forget to tell me what has become of my littie brown 
horse [he writes from prison to Henry]. Poor Rats! He was 
taken and now where he is, I don't know. Did you lose your 
gray horse? I remember you were on him that Aldie day. Do 
you recollect our halting on the old Bull Run battlefield that 



morning, Bniderchen? That was where I last saw you. I had 
DO idea that somebody shot you while you were down — which 
little fact I have carefully noted in my memory, for future ref- 
erence. My ideas on the subject of using arms in a fight (my 
own, I mean) have undergone a most complete change in the 
past few months and my scruples have vanished. I used to 
think officers ought not to fight themselves — only direct. Tell 
me all about the regiment and its conduct throughout the 
summer. I am quite well, beyond a few scurvy sores, not seri- 
ous, however. Send me in the next box a parcel of old papers, 
from June ist down, especially those relative to Gettysbiug 
and the attack on Ft. Wagner." 

Never, in fact, were more cheerful letters sent from Libby 
Prison than those by James Higginson. 

"At first it was weary work [he writes in August], and time 
hung heavy on our hands; but the books we got helped us 
greatly. My Virgil and some French books lent me by friends 
in the prison have given me great pleasure. . . . The Western 
men here I like, and have frequently long talks with them — 
they have more snap about them than our men. • • . How is 
my little brown horse?" 

On September 4 he writes again: — 

" There is no news to tell you. Of course, under such a cen- 
sorship as our letters are subject to, nothing specially interest- 
ing can be told. My wants are the subject on which I shall just 
now dwell. You at home can ascertain whether the chances of 
our staying here are many or few. If we are to stay any time 
longer, I should like some coffee, sugar, etc., and also some 
more books. It might be worth while to risk sending the coffee 
anyway. As for books, pick me out two or three of your French 
books (no valuable copies) and your little black-covered fat- 
bellied French-English dictionary. We have here "Corinne," 
Moli^, "T616maque," and "Les Trois Mousquetaires." 
Send if possible G. Sand's — what's the name of her famous 
book? I leave the matter to you ; pick out some 4 or 5 and send 


them along. My chief need is money, of which I can get none 
at all. We manage to pass time pretty well now — having 
some 300 books in the establishment, mostly purchased here. 
Wrap each book in a newspaper to prevent chafing. . • • All 
is going on well here, as regards health and spirits. • • .'' 

Captain Charles Francis Adams, writing affectionately from 
the front to the wounded Major, continues to speak disrespect- 
fully of his senior officers, for the "Fulmens" ("chain light- 
ning" and "sheet lightning") of the following letter are the 
two brothers with whom Adams "never could get on/* 

Camp of ist Mass. Cav. 
Sulphur Sps., Va., Sunday, 9 Aug. '63. 

My dear Henry: — 

I got yours of the 3d inst. yesterday. I was glad enough to 
hear that the bullet had been extracted and that you were 
doing well. I hope that you '11 have a pleasant convalescence 
and enjoy all the laurels, wines, fruits, and bon-bons which, 
rumor tells us, await at home the battered war-worn veterans of 
our memy fights. What you have earned — enjoy! . . . Poor 
Gary — our list of officers creeps up apace ! — but I was glad 
indeed to hear that Jim got off untouched, and I hope he will 
soon walk free, and remember "the Libby" only as one of 
the follies of his youth and a place to be avoided. I look for 
" Rats" daily, but have not yet seen him bestridden by Jim's 
gallant captor. 

As for us here. We are encamped just opposite to Sulphur 
Springs on the South bank — just where we used to look so in- 
tently for the rebel pickets. The Fultnens are both here, but 
they don't trouble me much — and I think I Ve run my ma- 
chine too long, 2md through too severe times, to be continually 
pestered by them with efforts — first to teach me my duty, 
and then to enforce my performance of it, and I suspect some 
such idea occurs at times to even old chain lightning himself; 
and, as for sheet lightning, he's on his taps, and, looking for 


promotion, seeks popularity; but I Ve yet to learn that, though 
the leopard may hide his spots, he does therefore cheuige them. 
You ask for any further developments regarding old fulmen 
primum^ or chain. There are none — he expects a brigade and 
a damned bad one, and I can see clearly enough has the Brig. 
bee in his bonnet to such a degree that he don't care a damn for 
the regiment — for which praise to the Lord ! I heartily wish 
he may get it, 2uid he has all my influence. There are few 
enough of us left now, for we don't boast a line officer to each 
company, and, of these, how few are of the desired stock ! I am 
the only officer who, as such, has now been with the regiment 
in all its campaigns, marches and actions. I hold out well — 
am in fact sadly robust, thin and light. I have never, since I 
have been in the service, been nearly so well as since the middle 
of June. . . . 

Novelists have assured us for many a century that a 
wounded soldier's period of convalescence is peculiarly danger- 
ous to his heart. Henry Higginson proved to be no exception, 
and his engagement to Miss Ida Agassiz, in the autumh of 
1863, was the greatest good fortune of his life. From boy- 
hood he had been fond of the society of gracious and charming 
women, and his fianc6e was an old friend, a member of that 
talented and happy Cambridge circle which in the eighteen- 
fifties and sixties gave gayety to Quincy Street. 

Here lived Professor Louis Agassiz, radiant and magical. 
He had arrived in Cambridge in 1846, leaving his delicate, 
gifted wife, C6cile Braun, at Carlsruhe, with his two daughters, 
Pauline and Ida, and his boy, Alexander, in Neuchitel. After 
the children had been left motherless in 1848, they joined their 
father in Cambridge. In 1850 he married Miss Elizabeth Cabot 
Gary, daughter of Thomas G. Cary and the granddaughter 
of Colonel T. Handasyd Perkins, the great China merchsmt, 
who looked — it was thought in Boston — like the Duke of 



Elizabeth Gary was bom in her grandfather's stately house 
in Temple Place, then a secluded "court" after the pleasant 
Boston fashion, full of Perkinses and Cabots and Gardiners and 
Carys. The transition from Temple Place to Professor Agas- 
siz's house in Oxford Street, and then in Quincy Street, Cam- 
bridge, was an adventure in which Elizabeth Gary revealed 
the rarest qualities. Her "Life and Correspondence " of her 
famous husband, Miss Lucy A. Paton's "Elizabeth Gary 
Agassiz," and Mr. George R. Agassiz's " Letters and Recollec- 
tions of Alexander Agassiz" are three delightful biographies, 
picturing the Agassiz household in its early years. 

By 1863 the Quincy Street home was somewhat changed. 
The school for girls, begun in 1855 by Mrs. Agassiz, with the 
assistance of the professor and his three children, had been 
given up. Young Alexander Agassiz, who had been graduated 
from Harvard in 1855, and was helping his father in the new 
Museum of Comparative Zo6logy, had married Miss Anna 
Russell in i860, but continued to live in his father's house. 
In November, 1859, likewise, his sister Pauline had married 
Quincy A. Shaw of Boston, and now his sister Ida was be- 
trothed to his classmate Henry Higginson. But the Agassiz 
house continued to be for many a year the centre of a truly 
cosmopolitan culture, musical, artistic, and literary, as well as 
scientific. No other house in Cambridge, except Longfellow's 
and Charles Eliot Norton's, welcomed so many distinguished 
foreign guests, or was warmed by the fires of a more friendly 
hospitality.^ It was into this home that Henry Higginson was 
now welcomed as a son. 

Brother Jim, writing from Libby Prison on October 7, 
pronounced Henry's engagement *'the pleasantest news one 
could have while spending his days in this wretched place, and 
good enough to make one cheerful even here." 

1 See President Eliot's article, "The Agassiz House in Quincy Street/' in the 
Harvard Alumni BuUeUn for March 29, 1917. In January of that year the house 
had been burned. 


"Allow me to call your attention [he added in a later note] to 
a most beautiful passage in Schiller's ' Das Lied von derGlocke.' 
After the young man has rampaged out into the world, he re- 
turns to his home, puts his Wanderstai in the comer, lights his 
pipe and ruminates — that 's the commencement of the pas- 
sage. The last line runs thus : ' Die schdne Zeit der jungen 
Liebe* — most admirable lines. Don't they meet your ap- 
proval? Write to me, my boy — pity the sorrow of a jailbird." 

Henry Adams's congratulations upon the engs^ement, 
written from London, were highly characteristic: — 

** Let me say one word as to your annoimcement to me. As a 
general principle and in the most offensive sense of the word, 
I consider him who marries to be an unmitigated and immiti- 
gable ignoramus and ruffian. In your particular case, however, 
I incline to the opinion that there are palliating circumstances. 
I have not the honor of knowing Miss Agassiz, though I have 
an indistinct recollection of once seeing her somewhere. But I 
have heard a great deal about her, from an early youth, and 
this has induced me to believe that she is a person whom 
weakminded men like you and me instantaneously, profoundly 
and irredeemably adore. Probably I shall have some occasion 
to tell her so some day, if ever a misguided Providence permits 
me to go home. Meanwhile I only hope that your life won't be 
such an eternal swindle as most life is, and that, having suc- 
ceeded in getting a wife so much above the common run, you 
mil succeed in leading an existence worth having. If I knew 
your fiemc^, I should congratulate her upon getting for a 
husband one of the curiously small number of men whom I 
ever have seen, for whom I have morally a certain degree of 
respect. This perhaps would n't be quite so enthusiastic praise 
as one might give, but it 's more than I ever said of anyone else. 
The truth is, a good many of my acquaintances have been get- 
ting engaged lately, and I believe yours is the only case that 
has made me really, sincerely glad to hear about." 

Charles Lowell, who was now betrothed to Josephine 


("Effie") Shaw, the sister of the hero of Fort Wagner, was 
prompt in his felicitations. He writes in September from 
camp : — 

''Henry, don't tell me about your being happy; wait three 
months; then, as you begin to see how happiness grows, you 
may begin to talk about it; but you won't care to talk about 
it then, so don't let me hear anything more from you ujitil you 
can write an intelligible letter, giving me your deliberate 
opinion on the conduct of the war, and on the best candidate 
for the presidency, and on real things generally. . . . You've 
been a great deal of trouble to me for the last 25 years, Henry, 
a great deal of trouble. Still I should have been very willing to 
continue to take care of you. Life has been made such a very 
light burden to me lately, that I feel as if I could carry you 
along without much trouble. Still, old fellow, I am very, very 
glad, to turn you over to so much better hands. It has been 
a pleasant thing always to have two such good friends, and 
it will be a pleasanter thing to know of you now helping one 
another along in these uncomfortable times." 

Later in that month he writes : — 

" Did I tell you that I hoped to get a leave of absence some 
time about November 1st? . . . 

" I shall ask for twenty days, and shall try to be married in 
the first five (one of the first five, Henry ; it only takes one day), 
and I want you to be married on one of the other five. E. and 
I would so much like to be at your wedding, old fellow. . . . 
Of course in these times, weddings are what they should be, 
quiet, simple and sacred." 

In October he discusses with Henry, a question pertinent 
to each of them : — 

"How could I be married without 'daily bread'? A perti- 
nent question, Henry. There are still ravens, but it does not 
appear that Elijah ever taxed the powers of his by marrying. 
... I have nothing, as you know; I am going to marry upon 
nothing ; I am going to make my wife as happy upon nothing as 


if I could give her a fortune — in that I still have faith ; in that 
one respect this war is perhaps a personal Godsend. ' Daily 
bread ' sinks into insignificance by the side of the other more 
important things which the war has made uncertain; and I 
know now that it would be unwise to allow a possible want of 
* daily bread' in the future to prevent the certainty of even a 
month's happiness in the present." 

Colonel Lowell was married on the last day of October, and 
his wife joined him in camp at Vienna, Virginia. Late in 
November, hearing that his friends were to be married in 
Appleton Chapel, he sends his benedictions: — 

"This is not a letter. Merely hearing how soon you are to 
be married, I wish to express my satisfaction and give my for- 
mal consent. . . . How old are you? To see a fellow like you, 
whom I 've seen grow up from an infant, go and be married, 
makes me feel very old. I should like to shake hands with you 
and Mrs. H., even though I had to do it in the College Chapel. 
. . . You 've always been a good boy and I 'm fond of you." 

The wedding — "quiet, simple, and sacred" — was on 
December 5. Major and Mrs. Higginson went first to Waltham, 
where Mr. Frank C. Lowell had placed his house at their dis- 
posal. They spent Christmas in the Agassiz home on Quincy 
Street, and after visiting for a time in Chauncy Street, re- 
turned to Cambridge, and with the coming of spring went to 
the Agassiz cottage at Nah2mt. But the Major's recovery from 
his wounds was very slow. He had hoped to rejoin his regi- 
ment by New Year's; but the weeks and months crept by, and 
he still found himself unable to sit in a saddle without great 
pain. The entire year of 1864, in fact, — with the exception 
of one stirring week before Petersburg in July, — was the too 
familiar story of hope deferred. 

Nor was the news that reached him from the regiment cal- 
culated to increase his comfort. The letters from his fellow of- 
ficers were affectionate and breezy, but it was evident that the 
First Massachusetts Cavalry was in a bad way. A few of these 


letters must be quoted here, to show how easily a crack regi- 
ment could be demoralized by lack of confidence in its superior 
officers, and how swiftly the changes in the public opinion of 
the North affected young officers at the front. 

A letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Theodore Lyman, a col- 
lege classmate of Higginson's, now on Meade's staff, indicates 
that even in November, 1863, Major Higginson was getting 
worried over the question of getting his sick leave extended. 


My dear Hig: — 

Your plea for the wounded hero has duly been presented at 
my wall tent. 

I have, in an indirect and discreet manner, made enquiries; 
and I find that all officers who have had more than 60 days sick 
leave are duly reported by the Adj.-Gen'l, but they are not 
reported to he mustered out. This general order is only used to 
sponge off the lazy gentleman, with pains in the end of the 
little finger; and I was assured that the rule was never en- 
forced in the case of any decent sort of an officer. Such are not 
so plenty that the department can afford to cut them out. 
Of course, if an officer were away 6 or 8 months, some row 
would be created; but even then, I fancy that, upon good 
reason shown, he would be held on. 

I have seen your regiment once or twice, since I was here. 
The first time at Cedar Mt., where was Charlie Adams in a 
state of great despair; he had been scrimmaging the day be- 
forei and had beheld no transportation for a week. But, the 
next time, he had a new jacket on, and Adams was himself 
again I I saw Col. Sargent that same time, but he hath since 
departed to the warmer realms of New Orleans. Also I saw 
Flint — familiarly known to my college days as "Ducky." 
Our weather, just now, I have every reason to be satisfied with ; 
and in consequence, the men are in great trim, so that we 
really feel as if (in the classic words of Gen. Buford) we ought 


"to boolge in on the Rebs!" — The cavalry have of late suf- 
fered severely from hoof disease; also the artillery; but it has 
taken now a favorable turn, and is disappearing. 

While we lay at Centreville, Lowell came over, accompan- 
ied by little Caspar Crowninshield. Both were well, and so was 
Willie Forbes, who looked as trained down as a boat-racer. 
Your chief, Gen. Gregg, I see from time to time; his eye hath 
not changed its blue nor his beard its length. 

Gen. Pleasonton I see almost every day; I was detached on 
his sta£F, when we drove the Rebs over the Rapidan, and he 
treated me very handsomely. »• 

Gen. Buford, too, comes often to headqr's. He is the prime 
favorite of your '' cavalry bucks"; and indeed has a mighty 
good horse-head. 

Lord ! I wish I had an honorable shot, that was n't dan- 
gerous and would take a long time to heal ! 

With many remembrances to Ida 

Always yrs. 

Theodore Lyman. 

By January it is apparent that Captain C. F. Adams is 
again "in a state of great despair." 

Camp of ist Massachusetts Cavalry 
Warrbnton, Va., Jan, 5/A, '64. 

Dear Major: — 

A long time ago, at a time when nights on duty were not 
wholly intolerable, I got a kind letter from you by the hand of 
your immanuensis [sic\ now, I hear, Mrs. Major. And by the 
way, remember me most kindly to her, and I hope before the 
winter is over to pay my respects in person. 

1 shan't in this letter go into business or regimental details — 
things here are bad, very bad, and this regiment must have a 
head and that soon, or, it is "done gone up." It would make 
you weep to come down and see us now — three months of 


drifting have done their work very thoroughly, and we are 
no more what we have been than you are yourself. I regret to 
say that all my fears of incompetence in those who have 
temporarily been in command, are more than justified — we 
have been drifting, drifting, drifting, running steadily down- 
hill for three months past. I have been, and now am, most 
anxious to get home to see you and Curtis about matters be- 
fore it was too late, and I hope yet to do so. Meanwhile, I do 
not myself know what to advise; the more of an up-turning 
we now have, the better — and my great hope is to get the 
regiment home : should we do so and there reorganize, there is 
plenty of stuff left in the regiment down in the ranks, and 
there will yet be a hope for us. About the new battalion I 
have nothing to say — but on it I imagine our fate hinges. 

One thing I am clear on — it must n't be commanded by S , 

unless Curtis* or yourself or Chamberlain are sure of coming 
back and staying with us. . . . 

Within a month Adams, much broken in health, had secured 
leave of absence, and went for a brief visit to England. Just 
before sailing he sent this note to Higginson : — 

Boston, Fehy, 2nd, '64. 

Dear Major: — 

Enclosed you will find the paper which I discussed with you. 
Of course I am prepared to stand by it, but, at the same time, 
as you must see, it brings on the bitter issue so far as I am con- 
cerned. If it is used, S or I must leave the regiment. I 

sail to-morrow and shall be gone until the whole thing is over 
and settled. I leave it and myself wholly in the hands of Cur- 
tis, yourself and my brother; I earnestly hope that, while you 
effect something, things will not eternally smash for us and 
the regiment. Pray do not use these papers unnecessarily and, 
if they must be used, I should wish S and C to know 

^ Greely Curtis had now married Miss Harriet Appleton, and was about to go 
abroad in search of health. 


all I have written. I want to stab, if I must stab, — hard, — 
but not in the back. . . .^ 

A letter from Adams written shortly after his return con- 
tinues the story: — 

H.Q. Cav'y Escort A. of P. 
Monday f 2d May '64. 

Dear Major: — 

Yours of the 25th reached me some days ago. I must say 
I read it with considerable feeling and if, as should be the 
case, the approbation and strong sympathy of those who, 
knowing best, are best able to judge, is most valuable, you 
have all mine. You have acted disinterestedly and gener- 
ously — only as I knew you would act though. More was 
asked of you, and has been asked of you, throughout all this 
wretched business than ever should have been asked of a 
wounded officer, and you have always been equal to the occa- 
sion. I hope it may be some satisfaction to you to know that 
one person at least was up to an appreciation of such a course 
in another. Be assured my good word will not be wanting 
whenever and wherever your name may be mentioned. 

As to results. I cannot regret anything that I have done, 
though I do wish it had not been my ill fortune to be mixed 
up in such a miserable personal matter. I acted for the best 
and according to my sense of what I ought to do for the regi- 
ment — as regardless of myself as I was of S or anyone 

else. I did n't want promotion for myself, I honestly think, 
but I did want to see the regiment have a head, and a sane 
one at that ; and, if others thought that I could best meet the 
issue at the moment it had to be made, I did n't consider that 
I should allow what Mrs. Grundy would say to prevent my 
taking a place, which I felt someone ought to take. God 
knows I never wanted to interfere with you or Greely, but I 

^ I do not know whether "the paper'' was ever presented to Governor Andrew. 
On his return from England in April, Adams's squadron was transferred to the 
Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, and he never rejoined the old raiment. 


did feel that, if the necessities of the regiment called for it, 

you, Greely, S 1 or myself should be jumped or anythii^ 


For the future I am not going to express myself in any way 
about the regiment. When you say that "the old corps no 
longer exists," you don't yourself know how true your remark 
is. A lower-toned, more vulgar regiment than ours now is I 
never saw, and the deterioration since I left it in Jany. is to 
me amazing. The officers are such as I had never imagined 
that we should see, and mine here (Teague, and your old buyer 
Baldwin) are actually afraid to tell me of the style of conversa- 
tion, manners, amusements and language indulged in in the 
regiment. Will Chamberlain succeed in reforming this? I 
don't know. . . . You must consider me a very rash or ambi- 
tious man. Meanwhile, I don't mean to commit myself to 
anything. I am very happy and comfortable here, and, if all 
goes well, will in two months have the finest squadron of cav- 
alry in the whole Army. My men are contented and cheerful 
and my officers are satisfied and only grumble when they get 
on their wrongs in the regiment ; if they send me any black- 
guard from the regiment I will court-martial him. I do wish I 
could get Jim with me, but I have no vacancy on either of my 
rolls; still I shall try to do something for him when I see 
Chamberlain.^ With Chamberlain I mean to have a dear and 
honest understanding — I cannot and will not go back to the 

regiment with S my senior, and continually likely to be 

in command. 

Now a word or two of your future. Your treatment has been 
such, being jumped by Chamberlain, that I do not think you 
are called on either to resign or to go back to the regiment, 

* Chamberlain, it will be remembered, was the former Cambridge fireman. By 
the time Adams wrote hiaAutobiogrc^phy, he had formed a higher estimate of Cham* 
berlain*8 capacity. "A large, rough, self-made man, he had been wild and adven- 
turous in his youth, serving as a trooper in the Mexican war. Wholly lacking in 
refinement and education, he was a dashing fellow in his way; and on the whole, I 
fancy, the best officer that regiment ever had." — Autobiography, p. 155. 


unless you choose. I would hold my rank, and if possible, get 
put on some staff . Could not Frank Barlow help you? Could 
not Major Williams? Do not however go back to the regiment. 
With Chamberlain in command you would not only be im- 
happy there, but useless. . . . 

Yours etc. 

Charles F. Adams, Jr. 

In the meantime Colonel Henry S. Russell, Higginson's 
former comrade in the Second Massachusetts and now organ- 
izing the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry at Readville, was 
anxious to secure Major Higginson as lieutenant-colonel of 
the new regiment. An undated note from Readville explains 
the situation* 

Dear Henry : — 

Yesterday morning the Governor spoke about your regi- 
ment — saying that you wanted someone put over you in 
1st Cavalry; and represented that Major Chamberlain would 
be acceptable to all in the regiment, as he would, I suppose, 
from all accounts. The Governor asked me whom I should 
like for Lt. CoU, and I said you; he said that, if you could not 
take the field with the ist, you probably could not with the 
5th, and spoke of Charley Adams as a good person for it. I 
told him I liked Adams, but was sorry about you. Now 
Henry, I should prefer you to anybody else and I wish you 
would at once take steps about it ; what kind of position can 
we take to oppose the Governor's theory that, if you are not 
well enough for one, you are not for the other? I am sincere 
in what I say; I would rather be without any Lt. Col. for many 
months, if I can have you in the end. I shall write to the 
Governor to-night and tell him more strongly how I feel ; but 
I hope you will post me in the facts as to your health. 

Love to Ida. Sincerely, 

H. S. R. 


A second note from Colonel Russell followed on May 5 : — 

Dear Henry: — 

Whatever the Governor does about the Lt, Col. of 5th Cav., 
I know that he is actuated by his desire to help the regiment 
in this hour of trial ; I wish you were ready for work, for then 
there would be no hesitation. 

1st battalion (mounted) left this morning, 2nd goes to- 
morrow probably, and 3rd on Sunday. 

Very sincerely 

H. S. Russell. 

Why won't you call on the Governor at once? H. 

While Major Higginson was hesitating, and daily trying his 
strength in the saddle, the indications of dissatisfaction in the 
First Cavalry were accumulating. " I feel as if I had been 
treated like a dog," writes Captain Pelham Curtis. " I wish 
you were here to take command." Captain Channing Clapp, 
whose promotion to the lieutenant-colonelcy was being urged 
by Higginson, writes that he thinks both Higginson's and 
Adams's claims to promotion are greater than his own. 
Finally Chamberlain got the promotion. Channing Clapp 
writes : — 

**. • . You are right about its not being the same Regt. as 
formerly. Ned Dalton, who is now Medical Director of the 
A.O.P., spent several nights with me lately and he told a 
pitiful story of the condition of things — he had just inspected 
it and noticed the great difference at once without speaking of 
it first. Motley and Adams are both trying to get out — and 
Adams would not have gone back had his squadron not been 
detached. ..." 

The Campaign of the Wilderness was now opening, and 
Major Higginson, though able to ride only a few miles at a 
walk, could not be kept from the front any longer. "A staff 
appointment is pretty," Greely Curtis writes from Paris, "and. 


the war lasting, I intend to try for one. So had you." Adams, 
too, had written: "Could not Frank Barlow help you?" And 
it was "Frank Barlow'* of Cambridge, the brilliant scholar of 
Harvard '551 who had enlisted as a private and was now a 
brigadier-general in the Second Corps, who gave him his chance. 
There is a grim note of dissuasion from Henry R. Dalton, 
penciled hastily from the battlefield of Cold Harbor : — 

Hdqrs. 1ST Div. 6 Corps, June 6, 1864. 
Coal [sic] Harbor, Va. 

My dear Major : — 

Your kind note of the 24th May I received yesterday. I am 
afraid I can give you no encouragement hereabouts, at present 
anyhow, for we are mixed up very much. ... I can hardly 
write more now, as we are Ijdng in line of battle within 100 
yards of the enemy, and liable any instant to open or be opened 

Good luck to you and yours. I advi3e you not to hurry 
back here. Sincerely, 

Henry R. Dalton. 

But at last came the cheery summons from his classmate, 
telling of the staff appointment : — 

Hdqrs. ist Drv., 2nd Corps, 
July 4tk, 1864. 

My dear Major : — 

Your note and the order of the War Dept. came to-day. 

Come on. I shall be glad to see you. 

I have just had a pleasant talk with Henry Dalton, who is 
about the only savory morsel I see. 

Theodore came over yesterday conducting a new lamb (one 
Sedgwick to the slaughter, i.e., the 20th Mass. Vols. 

Truly in haste, F. C. B. 

' Lieutenant Arthur G. Sedgwick, of Stockbridge. 


Two days later, the invalid Major started South. Mrs. 
Higginson accompanied him as far as New York, and in 
Philadelphia he rested with his old friend John W. Field. 
Early's cavalry was making its well-nigh successful raid on 
Washington, and the railroad was cut both north and south 
of Baltimore* He managed to reach Baltimore on July 12, 
and offered his services to General Ord in reorganizing the 
stragglers from the Union army. But by the 14th he was in 
Washington, and found his servant Spencer waiting for him 
with his favorite horse, *' Piggy." 

The enemy could easily have taken the city either Sunday 
orMonday[hewrotetohiswife], but say nothing of this, . • . 
Now I am going to the Armory Square Hospital, waiting for 
Anna Lowell. An umbrella marked J. S., a very pretty hat of 
brown and white mixed straw trimmed with a brown ribbon 
and a little black net veil about it, is lying on the bookcase 
near by and indicates that Effie ^ is here, though not in the ward 
this minute. Everything looks as nice as possible — each bed 
covered with a high net to keep off the flies — a few books are 
on the bookcase and remind me that I might have sent some 
of our useless — I mean to say "unused'* — books to this 
hospital. The men look as comfortable as possible under the 
circumstances, but it is bad at best. • • • 

On the 1 8th he started by steamer down the Potomac, pass- 
ing at night Point Lookout, where his brother Frank was 
stationed, and hoping to meet at City Point his brother James, 
who had been exchanged from Libby Prison, and was now with 
Adams's squadron at the Headquarters of the Army of the 
Potomac. At City Point he was welcomed by his classmate 
Dr. Edward B. Dalton,* who had been selected by Grant to 

^ Josephine Shaw Lowell, wife of Colonel C. R. Lowell, who was now in pur- 
suit of Early's retreating cavalry, and ** winning golden opinions from everybody." 

* Dalton's name is on the Soldiers Field monument erected by Major Higgin- 
son, together with the names of James Savage, C. R. Lowell, S. G. Perkins, J. J. 
Lowell, and R. G. Shaw. 


take charge of the great camp of 10,000 sick and wounded 
"BarloWy Channing Clapp, and Charles Adams all dined 
. here/* the Major writes on July 21, *'and were very pleasant 
indeed. I go to Barlow this morning and shall then see how 
much I can do. He has been made by Dalton fully to under- 
stand how little can be expected of me." 

On July 22 he quotes Dr. Dalton's professional opinion : — 

I should tell you of Ned Dalton's opinion about my under- 
taking to serve at all. He considers that the abscess was a 
very serious matter and that it may on a slight provocation 
return, its track having been already plainly marked out. An 
abscess of this kind is very difficult to stop, and is very wasting 
to the patient, leaving often the tissues destroyed or injured. 
He thinks me very unwise even to try the experiment, as it is 
impossible to ascertain the limit of my capacity to do and to 
bear, imtil the mischief is done. There is the opinion of a truly 
conscientious and able surgeon, the man whom I should trust 
above them all. I told him that I would go to Barlow and try 
very gently for a short time. . . . Jimmy is not looking well at 
all nor feeling well ; not a bit better than when at home. 

A few lines from the Major's daily letters follow. 

July 23. Camp nbar Pstsrsburg. 

What we are to do here, no one knows, but I have great faith 
in our general. We were ordered out this morning at 4J o'clk 
on fatigue work, i.e. digging, and stayed until dark. 

. • • So I arose, drank a cup of tea, ate a cracker or two on 
the way out, and thus began a tiresome day cheerlessly enough. 
We rode about the works with the General, and then lay off in 
the woods, occasionally taking a look at the progress made by 
our men. We also went up outside our lines and looked for a 
few minutes at the rebel lines, they being about a quarter of a 


mile from us. Their works are very strong and so are ours -— 
the pickets lie outside, behind low breastworks of logs and 
earth. More to-morrow of this. It is my first day's work and a 
very easy one, but I am pretty tired to-night. I am not the 
tough fellow that I was. • • • 

JvXy 24, Sunday, 

We started from camp at 4§ o'clk A.M., and came back at 
7J o'clk P.M. It was a tedious day. We lay off and rode 
around the works alternately. . . . Riding back, I overtook 
General Meade and that French officer, Theodore Lyman 
and a couple of the staff being behind them. I rode with 
Theodore a short distance and had a nice little chat with him. 
... Of General Meade I got little idea, as he hardly turned 
round ; he commands the respect of his men and of his officers 
in this army far more than its former commanders, I fancy. 
He himself has moved, and has fought his four corps, the 2d, 
5th, 6th, and 9th throughout the campaign, and has done it 
admirably. He is said to be very irascible and often cross with 
his staff. General Grant has his headquarters near City Point, 
as Genl. Butler's command, the loth, i8th, and 19th Corps are 
nearer that point. There is a good deal of mystery about 
internal matters generally. Peace reigns between Grant and 
Meade, but no one knows farther. Butler was to have been 
ordered away at one time, but he is still here. He and Smith 
did not pull together, I suppose. If anyone interferes with 
General Grant, I wish and believe that he would crush him. 
. • • Barlow has told me a good deal of his ideas about 
managing men and about the merits and success of officers — 
general officers, especially. He lives with his division, goes to a 
piece of work or to a fight with them — sees that they have 
nice, clean, uniform camps, that they are well cared for, that 
they are well placed and advantageously moved in a fight. In 
short he minds his work thoro'ly, and this he considers the 
secret of success, common sense being granted. There is a 
General Miles whom he selected as his Lieut.-Colonel long 


ance, and who has been promoted this summer. He is, in 
Barlow's opinion, one of the best generals whom he knows. 
Miles is a young man, rather uneducated and formerly a shop- 
boy in a crockeryware shop in Boston. He has a good deal of 
character, as one sees from his face, and is very soldierly and 
very brave. This, united with energy and with common sense 
sharpened by experience in this line, has given him his brigade. 

No great mental powers are needed to manoeuvre a brigade 
of infantry (of not more than 1500 men) when in plain sight. 
The difficulty of the problem increases as the numbers in- 
crease, and therefore it happens that many a man can handle a 
brigade admirably, who can do nothing with a corps or even a 
division. Barlow was telling me the other day what geese we 
fellows were to go into a regiment so well-officered as our best 
Mass. r^punents (more especially into a mounted regiment), 
if we expected any promotion. . . • Certainly the young men 
whom we have known at home had more ability and more 
character than those one often meets here — and they were 
and are much more conscientious in the performance of their 
duties. We all should have gained in rank, and lost in pleas- 
ant companionship and associations by following Barlow's 
example. . . . 

My bay horse can carry me more miles than I can ride, the 
beggar. He is about the best horse that I ever saw, so kind, so 
strong, so fast, so courteous, so enduring, I am delighted with 
him, and hope to take him home with me whenever that may 
be. It is raining hard, and to-morrow will see us busily eng^ed 
d^ging, I fear. My back aches to-night — confound it! I 
have been reading the "Acts" this afternoon, and thinking 
of you all. 

July 25. 

General Bumside does not seem to stand very high with this 
army. He is a good man, but not great. Sedgwick was the best 
corps commander ever in this army, I fancy ; and now we ,have 
lost McPherson, one of the very ablest men in the western 



army. • . . I have been reading Shakespeare's Henry VI, 1st 
and 2d parts, and was shocked to find what vulgar nonsense he 
has written about Joan of Arc. It is too bad, and I have al- 
ways been inclined to adore hen But he depicts very well 
Henry VFs weakness and goodness, as well as the vicious 
character of his Queen Margaret. My chief knowledge of 
English history comes from Shakespeare; but as great works 
these parts of Henry VI seem to me inferior to many of the 
historical plays. ... Do you know that I found Effie had 
read Mill's *' Political Economy" three times this winter? 
•I These people near Washington get very tired indeed of the 
war; it seems to them endless. That peace conference at Niag- 
ara Falls is a strange affair; we can have no peace until they 
are willing to yield the question of slavery entirely, I think 
that both parties would fed better if we took Richmond and 
Atlanta before a peace. But any compromise would be horrid; 
and I don't believe that the President will think of any. 

The enemy have just begun their evening salute; they usu- 
ally fire a few shells at us, and we return the compliment about 

6 P.M. 

July 28. North Side of the Jambs. 
I had just begun this date when the General ^ sent for me, 
and told me that his wife was dead. She has been quite ill, but 
he had been informed not dangerously so — very likely with 
truth. Not improbably it was a sudden turn in the disease. 
He applied immediately for leave to go to Washington (where 
she died), but was refused it, altho' General Hancock endorsed 
it. So he was forced to return to his command and has been at 
work all day. He was very sad indeed about it, broke down 
utterly this morning. Poor fellow! it is a dreadful blow to 
him, — for he and his wife were evidently wrapped up in each 
other, — and totally unexpected. He intended to take me 
with him. We are in the midst of a movement and the com- 
manding officer decided that the leave could not be granted 

> Barlow. 


to-day. Possibly it may be granted to-morrow, in which case I 
may or may not go with him. 

We left our camp at 4 o'clk p.m. Tuesday and marched 
until 3 o'clk A,M. over the James River. There we rested 
until 4 o'clk, when we got into position and soon after at- 
tacked the enemy with a skirmish line, which took a line of pits 
and four guns and caissons to match. It was very suddenly 
and well done. Then we advanced and accomplished nothing 
all day long. There was firing along the skirmish line all day 
long and to-day it is the s^une thing, but except a little cavalry 
fight in which oiu* cavalry whipped the rebel infantry, taking 
200 to 300 prisoners, there is nothing done. I saw Arthur 
Sedgwick tramping along with his regiment as they went to the 
front, and shook hands with him. He looked well tho* weary. 
Subsequently the 20th went out to the skirmish line, and is out 
a few hundred yards from us popping away at the rebels. • • . 
It is now five o'clk, and we are about to fall back, I believe. 
Whatever was intended, nothing of moment has been ac- 
complished. You never saw anything like the delays and the 
slowness of movements. It is disheartening. Perhaps we have 
accomplished our work in making a way for the cavalry to get 
out on some errand. We do get so tired and so achii^. 

The next day General Barlow was granted fifteen days* 
leave, and as he could not bear to be alone, he begged Major 
Higginson to return to Boston with him. Thus they missed 
the spectacular but futile explosion of the Petersburg mine on 
July 30. 

By Ai^^st 4 Higginson was back in Washington, but it 
was only too plain that he himself was unfit for further active 
service. He turned wearily homeward with his brother James 
and resigned from the army.* "Perhaps by Saturday," he 

' He had been only six days at the actual front. Yet, when he received the grade 
of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, U.S.A., on March 13, 1865, it was "for gallant 
and meritorious service during the war, and especially in the campaign of 1864 
of the Army of the Potomac." 


writes his wife on August 1 1 , '' I shall drop my buttons and ap- 
pear in black and gray." 

Black and gray enough was the mood of the North in that 
midsummer of 1864. Grant's campaign against Petersbiii:g 
had failed. Sherman, with the Western Army, had marched 
off toward the southeast, no one knew whither. Peace talk 
was heard everywhere. *'Mr. Lincoln is already beaten," 
wrote Horace Greeley on August 18; and the platform of the 
Democratic Convention, eleven days later, contained the 
famous phrase "after four years of failure." 

Greely Curtis had written from Paris in June : — 
'*..•! should like very much to know what you (or any 
other man whom / know) think of passing events and to what 
tending. We always receive such distorted news at first 
through the telegraph that one never can believe it. The tele- 
grams to the London 'Times' I hope will be collected and 
published after the war as representing the sort of news the 
'Times* readers like to have put before them. I have got 
tired of going up to the banker's and trying to keep lily-livered 
men from believing everything is for the bad. We all go there 
to get the first telegraphic news, and as they come in there is 
a deal of croaking. There is one to-day saying that Grant at- 
tacked on the 1 8th (of May) — a general assault, entirely 
repulsed, after many hours hard fighting, loss 1200 killed 
and wounded. It is vain to tell the sapheads that after a gen- 
eral assault and many hours hard fighting the loss would be 
counted in thousands not in hundreds. No, the ' Times ' says 
we have been licked, etc., etc. 

"As for me myself I don't know exactly what to think. I 
fully believe in the justice of our cause and yet I do not fed 
confident that, as the main rascality Slavery has been over- 
thrown, we of the North will be permitted to conquer the South 
and hold it. Don't jump up and say I 'm a croaker like the 
rest. I have never permitted that idea to leave my pen or lips 
before, but of late I have been thinking that, as in all great 


national convulsions, after the great cause is removed, by un- 
foreseen ways generally, the struggle is over. So now I should 
not find it hard to believe that with the death of Slavery our 
work is finished. I do not think it would be wise to give up at 
the end of this campaign, if unsuccessful, but I am afraid the 
people will. At any rate we can form some opinion about it 
when the draft is put in operation. ... I am in strong hopes 
however that Grant is to be successful and that these are but 
the dying flurries of the Confederacy — of course it must die 

Writing again on July 21 from Lucerne, Colonel Curtis 
makes some vigorous remarks about Boston copperheads : — 

*' I get very mad with the traitors who live in security in 
Boston and elsewhere and who really kill more men in the front 
than the same number of graybacks do. I really am getting to 
believe that a little powder burned in Boston and New York 
would be the most economical expenditure — that is to say, 
when a damned scoundrel talks his treason, let some American 
treat him as an enemy deserves to be treated in time of war. 
Could n't the healthy practice of shooting be brought a little 
distance to the rear? 

"The idea has been growing in my mind that if a club of 
young men could be found whose object would be to stamp out 

such rascals as X and Co. it would be good — to make 

social treason dangerous, to taboo men in business and every 
way who are really cutting our throats. When such fellows as 

Y (why did he ever disgrace our flag and us by prating at 

Brook Farm), when fellows of that kidney maunder about the 
Kberty of speech, let them know it has its responsibilities, and 
if they don't choose to incur the one they must n't indulge the 
other. I remember a small case in point in my own experience, 
but I think the rule holds good anywhere. A fellow said some- 
thii^ about me which was libelous. I spoke mildly to him and 
asked him what he meant. He was a modem stickler for lib- 
erty (of speech), and said that he had a right to say what he 
chose. I assented and added that he had also the right to take a 


flogging for saying it — which he at once got. Now that is ex- 
actly what I wish to see inaugurated in Boston. Let men pay 
for their antagonism to the country. I believe in the French 
revolution of '92. I accept all its hangings, drownii^s, guillo- 
tinings, and everything else. Of course it was dreadful, but 
then you can't play at revolution, and it resulted in the happi- 
ness of 20 millions instead of their previous utter and starving 
misery. Those men meant to be fair and were straining every 
nerve to fight foreign enemies. The bloody manner in which 
they disposed of domestic treason was most thorough. To be 
suspected of treason was death. Now I say that is just right. I 
would n't have said it two years ago, but I think so now. What 
is done in Boston to the man who talks open treason? He is 
caUed a copperhead and that is all. Men dine with him, trade 
with him, are friends with him. He should be at least tabooedi 
horsewhipped or shot in duel. • . ." 

Nor was the news from Major Higginson's former regiment 
calculated to raise his spirits. Colonel Chamberlain writes him 
early in September : — 

" Our reg. have present for duty over four himdred men, 
and only four Kne officers, and they 2nd Lieutenants, sadly 
demoralize.* • . . The last month campaign exceeds in sever- 
ity all the previous ones, and we must have rest. • • . I can- 
not imagine what has come over the North, what has brought 
about this strong apathy and criminal carelessness about filling 
up the Army. We want men, not a lot of sickly Boys and crip- 
ples, where is all of the boasted patriotism of Massachusetts, 
gone too, to have her send agents to collect such scum and 
trash, that has been sent us of late. They are a source of weak- 
ness, instead of strength to the cause. But avoid the draft by 
all means, let the Army, the South, all go to the devil, but 
stave off the draft by all that is patriotic. How cheering it is to 
the men here, to see that all the north seems to care about, is 
to prevent the draft. Forty or fifty thousand men, added to 

^The Colonel's spelling and punctuation have been loyally followed 


this army would use up Bob Lee, Richmond and Co before 
another month, and we, that would be left, could eat our 
Thank^ven dinner at home. But I don't believe this will be, 
and we must make up our minds for winter Quarters, south of 
the James. Yet I feel hopefuU, and caimot believe that all this 
blood has been shed for nothing, the North will yet arouse. 
We are digging for safety. Earley is our front, and spades are 
trumps again. ... I wish to see this fight out or I woiild re- 
sign, for the Cav. Corps is no place for a soldier or any one who 
keeps discipline. • • .** 

And then, just when the sky seemed blackest, Sherman's 
victorious telegram from Atlanta cleared the air. The last fort 
m Mobile Bay surrendered to Farragut. ** Sherman and Farra- 
gut have knocked the bottom out of the Chicago nominations," 
said Seward on September 14 ; and within a week came the vic- 
tories of Sheridan at Winchester and Fisher's Hill. ** Three 
cheers for Sherman ! " wrote Greely Curtis from Montreux. *' I 
got hold of the new * Galignani ' containing the Atlanta news, 
and that was consolation for all disappointments. As Robert 
Williams might say, * I felt like I was drunk.' " 

But in that jubilant October Henry Higginson was once more 
bereaved of a friend, and this time it was the closest friend of 
all, Charles Lowell. Colonel Lowell fell at Cedar Creek, on the 
19th, charging at the head of his brigade, holding back the 
Confederate cavalry while Sheridan was galloping up from 
)A^chester. Thirteen horses had been shot under him in that 
Valley campaign. *' I have no idea that I shall be hit," he had 
just written to his wife, " but I want so much not to now, that 
it sometimes frightens me." 

Greely Ciutis, it seems, had a premonition of what was 

"I know well enough when thinking quietly about it [he 
wrote Higginson] that no good fellow lives or dies fruitlessly; 
but the cowardly selfishness of these peace men comes out in 
such strong contrast to the gallantry and truth of Jim Savage, 


Bob Shaw, Charley Lowell and the others that I feel heartsick. 
• • • It was rather curious that after the news of Sheridan's 
defeat and victory had reached us by telegraph, without any 
details, I felt sure that Charley Lowell was killed — owing 
doubtless to your having mentioned that he had 4 horses shot 
under him in previous fights. I felt so certain of it that I ex- 
amined the subsequent lists with a view to his name only, and 
on not finding it, said, * Thank God it is n't there ' ; but in the 
next paragraph found it mentioned by itself." 

" I do not think there was a quality," said Sheridan, ' Vhich 
I could have added to Lowell. He was the perfection of a man 
and a soldier." He was buried on October 28, from Appleton 
Chapel. ** I remember," writes Edward Waldo Emerson, "one 
rainy day when the sudden gusts blew the yellow leaves in 
showers from the College elms, hearing the beautiful notes of 
Pleyel's Hymn, which was the tune to which soldiers were borne 
to burial, played by the band as the procession came, bearing 
Charles Lowell's body from his mother's house to the College 
Chapel; and seeing the coffin, wrapped in the flag, carried to 
the altar by soldiers; and how strangely in contrast with the 
new blue overcoats and fresh white and red bunting were the 
campaign-soiled cap and gauntlets, the worn hilt and battered 
scabbard of the sword that lay on the coffin.^ . • . 

Henry Higginson, "in black and gray," was one of the pall- 
bearers; and in the fifty-five years that were to pass before he 
himself should be borne from Appleton Chapel to Mt. Auburn, 
there was scarcely a day, I believe, in which he was not think- 
ing of his friend. Lowell's last letter to him, written on Sep- 
tember 10, is essential to an understanding of the controlling 
motive of Higginson's later life: — 

"• • . I felt very sorry, old fellow, at your being finally 
obliged to give up, for I know you would have liked to see it 
out ; however, there is work enough for a public-spirited cove 
everywhere. Labor for recruits and for Linkum, and you will 

1 Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell, p. 68. 


do more than by sabring six Confederates. How do you earn 
your bread nowadays; or, if you are not earning it, how do you 
mznage to pay for it? ... I hope, Mr. Higginson, that you 
are going to live like a plain Republican, mindful of the beauty 
and the duty of simplicity. Nothing fancy now. Sir, if you 
please. It 's disreputable to spend money, when the Govern- 
ment is so hard up, and when there are so many poor officers. 
I hope you have outgrown all foolish ambitions and are now 
content to become a* useful citizen.' . . . Don't grow rich; if 
you once begin, you will find it much more difficult to be a use- 
ful citizen. The useful citizen is a mighty unpretending hero. 
But we are not going to have any country very long unless 
such heroism is developed. 

"There! what a stale sermon I'm preaching; but being a 
soldier, it does seem to me that I should like nothing else so well 
as being a useful citizen. ... By Jove! what I have wasted 
through crude and stupid theories. I wish old Stephen were 
alive. I should like to poke fingers through his theories and 
have him poke through mine. How I do envy (or rather ad- 
mire) the young fellows who have something to do now with- 
out theories, and do it. I believe I have lost all my ambitions, 
old fellow. ... I don't think I would turn my hand to be a 
distinguished chemist or a famous mathematician. All I now 
care about is to be a useful citizen, with money enough to buy 
my bread and firewood and to teach my children how to ride 
on horseback and look strangers in the face, especially South- 
em strangers. ... I wonder whether I shall ever see you 
again.* ..." 

Lincoln's reelection on November 8 meant that the war 
would be fought out. Army men knew it. Theodore Lyman 
wrote, on November 10, to Higginson: "To-night we have 
positive news of Lincoln's reelection. I am glad of it — not 
that I like him — nor that I dislike McClellan — but Mac had 

^ Emeraon, op. cil., p. 340. 


a lot of peace men about him, and that spoiled the thing." 
And Captain F. L. Higginson of the Fifth Cavalry wrote a 
curious detail: "On the day we heard of the result of the elec- 
tion a salute was fired in honor of Lincoln by a Wisconsin bat- 
tery that voted almost unanimously for McClellan, and a flag- 
staff and flag was raised by rebel prisoners in a fort built by 
rebel prisoners. Rather funny, was n't it?" 

Within a week after the election Henry Higginson, obstin- 
ately reckless of himself as ever, wrote to C. E. Perkins, Low- 
ell's young associate on the Burlington R.R., that he was im- 
patient to take the field again. But he got little encouragement 
from those who knew his physical condition. Curtis wrote 
sensibly from Paris: — 

"... Let me urge on you the absolute need of perfect rest. 
Just remember that the year's work of a i sick man is n't J the 
work of a well man and that it is the truest economy to get 
well first and foremost. This is intended as a lecture, for in 
your last letter you gave me the idea that you were disheart- 
ened with doing nothing, ' that it was n't the way to earn one's 
bread.' It is the way to do just that thing. I am entirely con- 
vinced of it. To be egotistical and refer again to myself as an 
example, let me say that if, from Jan. 1863 to May 1st, 1863, 1 
had been simply idling and amusing myself at home, I should 
have been a well man, and fit to have done good wholesome 
service from May out (barring the accidents which occur at 
Aldie and such). You and I thought that we had got away 
from South Carolina scot free. I doubt much if we did, and at 
any rate the wear and tear of rough life and all weathers told 
on our fragile forms. So keep quiet as a money-making pursuit 
and in future we '11 do great things. ..." 

Captain James J . Higginson of the First Cavalry was eqiially 

*\ . . I am sorry to see that you are allowing various plans 
for reentering the service to occupy your attention seriously. 
It seems to me you make a great mistake in so doing. The 


most foolish thing that you have done for years past was re- 
turning to the army last July, and the fortnight you were here 
did you harm. Why will you be so unwise as to repeat the 
error? There is no call upon you to reenter the service. The 
Government has more officers now than it needs. It is a mis- 
taken notion that duty calls you back to the service. It does n't. 
It bids you remain where you are and try not to be rest- 
less. • • • 

"[P.S., in pencil] . . . The more I think of yr. plan, the 
more impracticable it seems to me. Pray give it up like a sensi- 
ble fellow and rest on your laurels." 

And Colonel Charles F. Adams, kind and brusque as ever, 
volunteers his opinion : — 

"... It surprises me that you yet hanker after the tented 
field. If you return to it now, it will only set you so much fur- 
ther back in the world, for I presume you 've got some day to 
find an occupation whereby to keep wolf from your door, and 
one would think that a year or two of application to some call- 
ing now would not be thrown away. As to a sense of duty on 
your part — a man who has your scars to show, and who has 
married a wife, is not in my opinion called on to resume the 
cudgels, at any rate in the present aspect of the race. I say 
unto thee — settle down! — and turn thy hand to honest toil, 
and, having given hostages to fortune, don't waste any more 
time in aimless pursuits. All of which excellent advice is given 
gratuitously, and you need n't mind paying me, for I shan't 
send in any bill. 

" Col. Russell and his wife are well and domestically con- 
tented. I have fallen into the most matrimonial crowd here it 
was ever my fortune to encounter. Our officers marry right 
and left and every second Lieut, in the regiment either has, 
or is about to have, his vyrife in camp. I grimly refrain from 
disapprobation, but keep up a powerful thinking. Wives are 
all very well, and I wish I had two or three myself, but not in 
camp — not in camp. A camp should be nomadic — it should 


never take root. A lady living in camp is in contravention of 
the natural fitness of things. 

" Your brother Frank appears to be very well. I like him very 
much — have taken quite a fancy to him. He is an excellent 
captain and does his work so much more thoroughly and con- 
scientiously than I ever did that I feel it is not for me to ever 
find fault with him. In fact, their officers get out of these dark- 
ies an amount and quality of work which would put to the 
blush the highest flights of our imagination in the best days of 
the old regiment. ..." 

But it was by no means easy to discover the way to that 
"honest toil" of which Adams wrote so gayly. Higginson, dis- 
couraged from reenlisting, tried again and again, as the 
autumn turned to winter, to find work in Boston. He was 
thirty. His letter to his brother James on December 6 breathes 
bitterness — and contempt for profiteers: — 

• • • I am still prospecting, and shall continue until some- 
thing good offers. It is not easy work, and very few people 
help. Edward Atkinson has taken some pains and has been 
very kind ; Charles Dalton is as good as ever. I often wish to 
be in service once more, but am not yet well enough for the 
field. Do not expect that any one beside your father will help 
you here, and then you will not be disappointed. The list of 
incomes for last year over $25,000 has just been published, and 
gives one a start. These people have been reaping this harvest, 
while we have defended them, but few remember it. Think 
of $365,000 (A),* $188,000 (B), $150,000 (C), $160,000 (D), 
$70,000 (E) , and lots more of them. (F) $39,000, the heirs of 

(G) $170,000 income. They are raising $10,000 for G 

W 's mother and sister; one of these men had better give 

it. However, no decent man would change places to-day with 
(H) or with many others. . . . 

* The names mentioned in this letter — represented here by A, B, C, etc — are 
those of prominent Boston families. 


At last a chance for work came, in the oil-fields of Southern 
Ohio. It was only an experiment, like so many other efforts 
in Henry Higginson's long endeavor to find his true calling. 
Some incidents of his life in Ohio will be sketched in the next 
chapter. It will be sufficient now if we think of him in the 
mire of the oil-fields from January to July, 1865, — at first 
alone and then in company with his wife, — while his brothers, 
with the Army of the Potomac, were closing in upon Richmond, 
and Sherman was marching northwards, and Lee surrendering 
at Appomattox. In that Ohio wilderness Lincoln's assassina- 
tion was for days an unproved rumor, and the Grand Review 
of the Army of the Potomac in Washington was as distant and 
unreal as the pageantry of a dream. The era of the Civil War 
closed for Higginson, not in battle or triumphal march, but to 
the slow dirge music of Commemoration Day at Harvard, on 
July 21, 1865. 

He had returned to Cambridge with his wife, and he marched 
on that July morning, in the halting procession of veterans, 
from old Gore Hall through the Yard to the Unitarian meet- 
ii^-house. Colonel Henry Lee was marshal. Major Higginson 
walked with his classmate Hosmer, and heard the thimders of 
applause that greeted Major-Generals Barlow and Bartlett. 
There was an address and music, and the prayer by Phillips 
Brooks, unreported as to its words, but even now the most 
living memory of that noble day, the "matchless prayer of 
resignation and of triumph." * After the luncheon in Harvard 
Hall there were the exercises under the pavilion by the Tree 
in the Yard : speeches by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Governor 
Andrew, General Devens, General Meade, and Colonel Henry 
Russell; poems by Holmes and Julia Ward Howe (this latter 
read by Charles W. Eliot), and an attempted speech by Gen- 
eral Bartlett, to whom Colonel Heiuy Lee, the presiding officer, 
made his famous comforting ban mot — "As Congress said 

1 William Garrott Brown, "The Great Occasions of an American University/' 
in The Foe of Compromise, N.Y., 1903. 


to Washington, 'Sit down, sir, sit down. Your modesty is 
equal to your valor.' " And there was Lowell's " Commemora- 
tion Ode," not impressive to most hearers as delivered, and 
without the superb stanzas on Lincoln which were subse- 
quently added. But on that day, as Colonel Lee said long 
afterwards, all words, except the prayer of Phillips Brooks, 
seemed powerless to convey what was felt- 
When Major Higginson took off his army uniform that 
night, the epoch of his youth was over. 



The pain was great when the strings were being tuned, 
My Master. 

— Rabindranath Tagore. 

It is clear enough now that the impression made by Henry 
Higginson upon his generation was not due to his success in 
any particular calling. It was due to a unique character, to 
certain ideals of conduct steadily pursued through a long se- 
ries of disappointments and failures in discovering a career. 
Nothing was really wasted in those wanderings in Europe, in 
the futile efforts to become a musician, in the gallant endeavor 
to render efficient service in the War. He had proved to be a 
brave and capable officer, like many of his intimate friends ; 
but in all that group, with the possible exceptions of Lowell 
and Barlow, there was little of the indefinable gift which is 
known as military genius. Nor did Higginson possess, like his 
friends of a later period, Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan, 
a bom genius for affairs. Even after he became a successful 
banker, there were always plenty of men in State Street who 
were ready with the opinion that he had no special talent for 
finance. His success was owing, they thought, to his honesty, 
his courage, his fortunate association with other men, his 
"luck." I have heard him say more than once: "Men often 
speak of me as successful in business, but I have guessed wrong 
more often than I have guessed right." 

The story of the three years between January, 1865, and 
January, 1868, — when he joined the firm of Lee, Higginson 
and Co., — is chiefly a story of two wrong guesses. One of 
them has to do with oil and one with cotton. Each of these 
experiments left him even poorer than before in pocket, but 


each was rich in picturesque experience, in fresh contacts 
with men and with economic forces, and in self -discipline. He 
had to take, between thirty-one and thirty-four, some very 
hard hammering; and the resilience of boyhood was no longer 
his. But he showed certain qualities even more valuable than 
resilience: namely, endurance, patience, humor, and good- 
will. Recognized victory came to him tardily ; but not to know 
when you are beaten is already victory under another and 
perhaps a finer form. 

In the winter of i864-'65 Boston had one of the first of its 
recurrent fevers for speculation in oil. The discovery of petro- 
leum in Pennsylvania and Ohio filled the sky with rainbows. 
No one in Boston knew anything about oil, but everybody 
bought oil stocks. A few highly respectable gentlemen, headed 
by William Sheafe, Dr. J. B. Upham, and Mr. George P. Up- 
ham, organized the Buckeye Oil Company, to develop the 
hidden resources of the Duck Creek district near Caldwell, 
Ohio, some twenty-five miles north of Marietta. They raised 
$25,000, and engaged Major Higginson to go out as thdi* 
agent, on a salary, to begin with, of $8.25 a day. 

His ignorance of his duties was absolute. Stopping in Phila- 
delphia to investigate some new pumping devices, and in Pitts- 
burgh to bargain for tanks and barrels, he found himself at the 
end of January in the tumbled little hills along Duck Creek, 
many miles from the railroad. The nearest post-offices were at 
Olive and Caldwell; the nearest market for oil, if oil should 
be found, was a dozen miles away, over clay roads impassable 
in winter. The Buckeye Company had bought a farm or two, 
and had leases of others. Rival companies had begun work 
along the Creek, and the natives of the region — "greedy, 
ugly and dirty" and Secessionist in their sympathies — were 
selling their farms as fast as possible, and moving on. 

The Buckeye Company did not own even a horse. Pump- 
ing machinery and tanks were coming down the Ohio from 


Kttsbui^h by the Zanesville-Pittsburgh Weekly Packet — 
"the good Steam Boat Emma Graham." (The Major kept 
those old bills of lading all his life.) Teams had to be hired to 
haul machinery, coal was needed for the pumps and Imnber for 
the buildings, and for weeks neither coal nor lumber nor horses 
were to be had. The Major, quartered in a rude boarding- 
house, where he had to share his room at times with three 
other men, bargained and persuaded and tramped through the 
mire, — sometimes twelve miles at a stretch, — until he 
brought something like order out of chaos. He bought horses, 
built a sawmill, contracted for coal, hired men at $5 a day, and 
by the middle of February, "comfortless, dirty and lonely" 
though he was, he was able to report that " things are moving." 
One of his wells struck a little oil, and oil, if it could be tanked, 
barreled and hauled to market, was worth $15 a barrel. Rain- 
bows and pots of gold ! 

But accounts bothered him, as always. He writes naively 
to his father: " I've a simple account book for the Company. 
In what form should I keep my account? Which side is Dr. 
and which Cr.?'* George Higginson could answer that ques- 
tion very easily indeed ! But if the son was not much of an 
arithmetician, he had some shrewd notions as to geology, and 
submitted to his father-in-law, Professor Louis Agassiz, some 
questions about sinking wells, not in the bottom lands as was 
customary, but up among the folds of the hills. Agassiz, who 
was just starting on his expedition to Brazil, confirmed Hig- 
ginson's opinion, but the trustees of the Buckeye Company 
were suspicious of scientific experts. "All of our Trustees," 
wrote Mr. Sheafe from Boston, "are not of the opinion that 
scientific men know more about where and how to sink wells 
than other people." Divining-rods, it may be added, were 
still in favor along Duck Creek. 

The problems of organization likewise worried the agent, 
and he corresponded about them with Alexander Agassiz, who 
was just at that time absenting himself from the Museum of 



Comparative ZoSlogy in order to develop some oil properties 
in Pennsylvania. The younger Agassiz was getting ready for 
his Calumet and Heda experience, though he did not know it. 
He gave his brother-in-law some good advice, but it was dear 
that a proper organization of the Buckeye interests was im- 
possible without additional capital and a freer hand for the 
agent. ** Once opposite to a man, I can make him say ' Yes' or 
*No,"' wrote Higginson to his wife; but the Trustees of the 
Buckeye Company would say neither "Yes" nor "No" in 
response to his letters and telegrams. Everything of impor- 
tance had to be referred to them; and receiving plenty of 
drafts drawn by H. L. Higginson, and no returns whatever 
from the sale of oil, they began to write of " the want of fimds 
and perhaps of faith from here." 

This was in the middle of March, "a horrid month" for 
the Major. The saw-mill broke down, and the piunps were 
working badly. The natives of Duck Creek refused to labor 
in bad weather. Higginson's wounds troubled him: "I get 
so weary and ache so that I drag along sometimes, longing to 
sit or lie down." But he stuck grimly to his task and hoped 
for better weather. "As soon as the roads are pretty dry, 
teamsters enough will come in from the country around here 
and will reduce the price by the competition (see Mill's * Prin. 
Pol. Econ.')." His letters to his wife during this period say 
little about the war; but he was sure that slavery at least was 

Now we stand fair with all the world and have wiped away 
this stain of inheritance forever and ever. The theory of the 
nation has become its practice. I was thinking about it yes- 
terday as I climbed over the hills covered with snow, jumped 
over fences and brooks. The evening clouds were splendid, 
too, leaden color and purple in the west with a streak or two 
of orange where the light broke thro', and overhead white 
and lilac with broad patches of blue sky, like sides in some of 
Rubens's and some of Ruysdael's landscapes. 


He had a nx)m to himself now, " where I can read my Testa- 
ment in peace/' He was reading Browning, too, and found 
time to discuss the stories of Henry James. "Harry James's 
story sounds interesting enough, but the conclusion will show 
him up. There is no lack of talent in that family/' William 
James, as it appears from the correspondence, had been hold- 
ing high debate with Mrs. Higginson about artistic greatness : 
what constitutes it? 

I am glad [wrote the weary Agent of the Buckeye G>mpany] 
that Willy James was so pleasant and talked so well. How 
can I tell what makes the artist great or greater than his neigh- 
bor? . • . Beethoven seems to have mastered his art, and yet 
he doubtless had something to learn and left unsaid much in 
his own spirit. He has shown us as many sides (in that art) 
as any artist in any art, has not he? It is strange that he, of 
ail men, should be dted as the beginner of this "School of the 
Future" in music (what an arrogant title!), when he of all 
men mastered form and incorporated it into his own mind. 
This wild, reckless, formless mode of expression ! Words may 
not suffice, but maudlinizing surely will not. Have you heard 
Liszt's chords of ninths, elevenths, thirteenths? It makes my 
hair stand on end to think of them. It is not necessary to 
write music like anyone, but it is necessary to write it within 
bounds if it is to live. 

The Major had written in February: "Everyone in this 
world shirks responsibility; I assume it here from necessity, 
and like it." His letters grew more gay as spring came on, and 
he was now planning for a log cabin, or at least a board shanty, 
to shelter Mrs. Higginson, who hoped to join him at Duck 
Creek. On April 7 he is able to write that the ''badly built 
shanty" is ready for her at last. On April 16: "They have a 
horrid story about the assassination of the President and of 
Mr. Seward all through the country here. It sounds too 
horrible to be true, and also unlikely." 


Ten days later Mrs. Higginson arrived. She was pleased 
with the shanty, with her saddle horse, and with the life in 
the open ; pleased too with her cow and chickens and the new 
problems of housekeeping, in which she had the assistance of 
a "native helper," Mrs. Hicks. Here is a Cotter's Saturday 
Night picture, drawn from Mrs. Higginson's " Diary" : — 

*' After Hal came home Saturday, we had dinner of tongue, 
bread and butter, and baked apples. After dinner I drew and 
Hal read and we sat by the fire at dusk and talked. We talked 
about John Mill and then had tea, bread and butter and cheese, 
and in the evening Hal read some more * Political Economy' 
and I drew and we talked and had some hot claret and water 
and a first-rate jollification." 

Alas, in that very week, — and as if to spite the idyll of 
cherry blossoms and horseback rides and Mill's "Political 
Economy," read aloud over hot claret and water, — Mr. Wil- 
liam Sheaf e is writing on behalf of the Buckeye Trustees: — 

I paid yesterday your draft of $2000. . • . The payment of 
these bills and drafts reduced the amount remaining in the 
Treasury to about $6000, scarcely enough to complete the 
work you have now under weigh. In nearly all the letters I 
have written you, I have desired you to keep in mind the neces- 
sity of a reasonable economy in your expenditures, as the work- 
ing capital of the Company was not large, although it was 
considered sufficient to complete the work the Trustees had 
marked out to be accomplished. . . . The object in view, you 
will perceive, is stop doing any more work on the Company's ac- 
count. . . . You will perceive that our aim is to reduce at 
once the expenses of the Company to the lowest possible 
figure; but otherwise than to discharge such of the hands as 
can he spared without injury to the Company's interest or to stop 
buying any more tools, etc., incurring expense or contracting any 
debt, we do not wish you to conclude or decide upon any 


arrangement with B. and F. until first submitting the matter 
to us for decision. . . . 

P.S. Please send your account of expenditures from the 
time you first went out. W. S. 

It cannot be said that this letter was wholly a surprise to the 
Major. He had just written to his father that the Buckeye 
people were in such haste to make fortunes and so afraid of ex- 
penditures that they must find another agent. Only in March 
had he been informed that the working capital was limited to 
$25,000. "We are doing rather too much work for the capital. 
... I cannot and will not bind myself to such a concern for 
any length of time." He had already, it appears, applied to 
George L. Ward of Boston, Treasurer of the Lewiston Cotton 
Mills, for a clerkship in New Orleans. Mr. Ward thought there 
might be an opening by November, but did not commit 

By the first week in June cherries and strawberries were ripe 
along Duck Creek, the Higginson's cow was giving twenty 
quarts of milk a day, and there were '' signs of oil " in eight out 
of the Major's nine wells. One was actually pumping oil at the 
rate of $300 a month, if only the oil could be marketed. But 
even the kindly and courteous Dr. J. B. Upham of the Buckeye 
Trustees now informs their agent: "Your time for which we 
originally agreed is indeed, as you say, well-nigh up." Mr. 
Sheafe writes on June 7 : — 

Sight drafts for $2601 .38 and $510, drawn by you, have been 
presented. I have received no advices or notice of these drafts, 
and can only conjecture for what purpose they were drawn. 
• . . Our capital is exhausted, and any further drafts we shall 
have to pay out of our own pockets^ as the articles of Trust for- 
bid our contracting for more work than we have the actual 
means on hand to pay for. I trust you will not have to make 
any more drafts on me and that these amounts, together with 


the two thousand dollars lately sent you, will be the last be- 
fore you will be in condition to sell oil enough to pay all 
expenses. • • • 

P.S. Please send your accounts to June 1st or to the time 
you next write. Also send correct estimate of daily expenses 
and the estimated cost of completing the work now going on. 
We wish you to reduce the expenses from this time to the low- 
est possible figure and contract for no material without special 
instructions to that eflfect from the Trustees. 


P.S. I wrote you May 24th and May 30th; nothing from 
you since those dates. An encouraging item greatly wanted 
and would be duly appreciated. Quotation Petroleum ex- 
change to-day: "Buckeye — $3. asked." 

The final letter in the Buckeye file is also from Mr. Sheafe, 
and is dated June 24 : — 

"Your drafts come so thick and fast that I must again re- 
quest you not to draw on me for purchase of any more ma- 
terial. The $2000 1 last sent we supposed would finish the work 
you have on hand for Company's account. . . . The strictest 
economy is now, more than ever, absolutely necessary; wages 
ought to be reduced, they have been reduced everywhere else. 
On the 15th March I wrote you stating the amount of capital 
we had to expend, and requested you not to undertake more 
work than that amount would fully pay for. That has all been 
expended, and considerably more, which I have paid out of my 
own pocket, taking my chance of getting it back. I will pay 
the draft you advise, of $1000, but I do not feel like advancing 
any more — so you will incur no debts on my account, or on 
the Company's beyond what this will pay. When this is gone, 
we must stop work." 

And so the curtain falls upon Duck Creek. Mrs. Higginson's 
Diary records : — 

"We left our dear log-house last Friday, July 14. It was a 


very fresh, cool morning. . • • We both had sat up late, Hal 
doing up accoiints, and, as I found out the next morning, kill* 
ing chickens at midnight for our morning breakfast. They 
were very nice — to reward his patience for picking them till 
2 o'clock in the morning." Just seven days later, the Major 
was marching in the Commemoration Day procession in Cam* 
bridge. The Boston "Advertiser " of that date, July 2 1 , quotes 
Buckeye shares at "$3.00 asked." A month or two later it is 
''f 2.00 asked" ; and by November Major Higginson, in a letter 
to his father, will be found rating the value of his own holdings 
in Tremont and Buckeye Oil stocks at "$0,000." This was a 
closer guess than usual. 

What next? Rainbow-chasing was followed by a gallant ex- 
periment in making bricks without straw: after hunting oil in 
Ohio, Henry Higginson turned to cotton-raising in Georgia. 
"Making money there is a simple question of being able to 
make the darkies work" ; at least Higginson was so assured in 
September, 1865, by General Barlow, who was thinking of turn- 
ing cotton-planter himself. A simple question! And Barlow 
was an able man, without many illusions. That golden autunm. 
of 1865 was in truth a carpet-bagger's Paradise. Everything 
looked "simple" in the South: simple to "Thad" Stevens in 
the House, simple to Sumner in the Senate, simple — but per- 
haps not quite so innocently simple — to President Johnson 
with his shifting Reconstruction policies. The economic prob- 
lems of the states lately in rebellion seemed to many Northern- 
ers as easy as the political problems : it was ' * simply ' ' a matter 
of getting back to work, of increased production and better dis- 
tribution. Blacks and whites would adjust themselves sooner 
or later to the new condition of affairs. The resources of the 
South were boundless; free labor was less wasteful than slave 
labor; with Northern capital and Northern energy, success 
was certain. In truth, it was a sort of after- the- Armistice intox- 
ication. But human nature was not so easily to be bom again* 


In the Reminiscences Major Higginson thus described the 
purchase of " Cottonham " : — 

At the close of the Civil War many of us had nothing to do, 
and needed to earn our bread. I had perhaps four or five thou- 
sand dollars. • • • I had been in an office many years earlier, 
but my mercantile education was of no value, and, what was 
more, I did not wish to go into business. So we conceived the 
plan of going South and buying a plantation on which to grow 
cotton. We had done our best to upset the social conditions at 
the South, and helped free the negroes, and it seemed fair that 
we should try to help in their education. Two old comrades 
and friends — Channing Clapp and Charles F. Morse — liked 
the idea, and we three therefore went to Savannah in a re- 
markably dirty steamer, hoping to proceed from that pomt 
and get what we wanted. We rather liked the State of Georgia, 
We had no letters and no people to whom to turn, and knew 
only the commanding officer of the United States Army, Gen- 
eral Brannan. We asked and asked about plantations and 
about means of getting at them, and at last heard of one called 
"' Cottonham," belonging to an old man named Rogers. After 
trying for a week to get means of communication, we at last 
lighted on one venturesome hack-driver who would take us, 
for there were only two hacks in the town, and no means of 
conveyance except a dray. The railroad was gone, and the 
plantation was fifteen miles from the railroad. So we started 
out, came to various broken bridges, got across somehow or 
otHfer; crossed the Ogeechee in a ferry, and reached a point on 
the railroad. From there it was a clean drive in the sand to the 
plantation, fifteen miles, with not a soul in sight and not an 
animal except one deer. We came to a bridge some twenty feet 
wide, and tried it to see if it was good. It seemed sound, and 
we drove on to it. The horses went through with all eight legs 
and hung there by their bellies. The driver was frantic, and 
said we had ruined him. We unhitched the team, and worked 


hard to get the horses' legs out on to something stable, putting 
in fence-rails for that purpose. At last we got them up, pulled 
the carriage over and drove to the plantation. 

The house was situated in a large field, and was surrounded 
by beautiful live oaks. A pleasant-looking old gentleman came 
out and greeted us, and asked us to come in and pass the 
night. We had a villainous supper of hominy, sweet potatoes 
and grease; it was hot as tophet, and we saw what our life 
was going to be. 

The next day, Channing Clapp, being a good negotiator, 
traded with the old man, and we paid him $30,000 for his five 
thousand acres of land. Of course there was a good, roomy 
house, a good stable for that country, a large negro settlement 
a mile away, and some negro houses on the yard of eight acres 
where the house stood. We went through the usual formalities 
of piu-diase, and then the old gentleman left. He was single 
and lived in piggish surroundings. The black woman who 
Kved with him cooked his food, and her children put it on the 
table, and the boy slept in his room. 

I went to Savannah, advertised for some negroes, as we 
needed some more, bought an army ambulance and half a 
dozen mules* and went back to the plantation. This was in 
the late autumn. The next duty was to get furniture, for there 
was nothing in the house fit to touch. We had to bum beds, 
mattresses, and everything else. Therefore, I went North, 
and engaged a schooner to take our goods to a point near the 
house. The creek of the Ogeechee River came to within a 
quarter of a mile of our house, and to that point we could bring 
the schooner. I brought furniture, some dogs, i>aint and vari- 
ous other things needed, including hams, for we could have no 
fresh meat. Then I went back to the plantation, and presently 
the schooner turned up and was unloaded. At that point Chan- 
ning Clapp and I took off our coats and undertook to paint 
the whole house and a few pieces of old furniture which re- 
mained. The old man had gone one night, after getting drunk. 


To this account, related more than fifty years after theevent, 
a few details must be added from the bundle of "Georgia 
Plantation" letters in the Major's correspondence. It will be 
remembered that none of the three Yankee guardsmen who 
thus took possession of Cottonham was without experience of 
the South. Captain Channing Clapp, a classmate of Higgin- 
son, had served with him at Hilton Head and Beaufort and m 
the Virginia campaigns of 1862 and 1863. Colonel C. F. Morse, 
Harvard '58, and Higginson's conuade in the Second Massa- 
chusetts, had marched through Georgia with Sherman in 
December, 1864, and had fought over this very territory of 
Cottonham. Fort McAllister, whose capture is described in 
Sherman's '* Memoirs," was only a short ride from the planta- 
tion, and the Federal gunboats had been thick on the Ogeechee 
River, but eight months before. 

The nearest railroad station, fifteen miles away, was Way's 
Station in Bryan County, on the Gulf Railroad. It had fallen 
into the hands of "Mr. Sherman," — as the Georgians still 
called him, — and both railroad and station were considerably 
the worse for the experience. In fact, neither had been rebuilt 
at the time when the Massachusetts men took chaise of their 
plantation. The easiest mode of delivering goods at Cotton- 
ham was to charter a schooner at Savannah, some thirty miles 
to the North. The winding channel ran through Ossabaw 
Sound, then up the Ogeechee River and Redbud Creek, to the 
landing-place, a quarter of a mile from the " big house. " 

The new owners were not ignorant of the typical features of 
the old plantation life. Higginson, at least, had read Olmsted's 
"Sea-Board Slave States," and in his box of books for Cotton- 
ham — selected, by the way, with the aid of Charles Eliot 
Norton — was Fanny Kemble's ''Journal of a Residence on a 
Georgian Plantation in 1 838-1 839," which had been published 
in 1863. The plantation described by the unhappy English- 
woman was only thirty miles south of Cottonham. 

In mid-October the three Massachusetts men had spent 


three days in the Sea Islands, examining their system of labor 
and cultivation. "Three fourths of our letters are to rebels/' 
Higginson wrote to his father. "That does not matter now. 
We are assured that we shall be well treated if we mind our 
own business. Still, many of the men to be met in the hotels 
have a very defiant air." On October 20 he sent this jubilant 
letter about the purchase: — 

We have bought a plantation about thirty miles from Sa- 
vannah, healthy, open to the sea-breeze, with deep water con- 
tiguous, with excellent house, negro-quarters, cotton and gin 
houses, gins, grist-mill, bams, etc., etc. The buildings are 
worth about $20,000, and would cost more at going prices of 
lumber, etc. We have from 4000 to 6000 acres (surveys are 
not accurate here), 1000 under cultivation, and fences about 
eight miles in length in excellent order. For this we pay $27,- 
000, but please mention this to no one at allt as we all have agreed 
so to do. We have bought together of necessity, and shall run 
it together. We have also bought some stock, and shall buy 
more — as little as is needed to get on. We find the country 
perfectly qiiiet and safe, the people, black and white, as peace- 
able as at home, the educated men glad to see us, and labor we 
can get as much as we want apparently. At any rate many of 
the n^^oes on this plantation have never left at all and wish to 
stay. So we have solved our knotty points. And if cotton is 
going to advance even more, we shall do well. 

Channing goes North in the morning to make money- 
arrangements, and he will call on you for $9500 — say nine 
thousand, five hundred dollars. ... I shall not return yet, 
but shall help to organize matters on the plantation and to get 
the house in order and be back between now and Christmas. 
. . . We have bought a good deal under the going rates here, 
and had no sooner finished our bargain than we were followed 
by two men from the Hilton Head colony, who were grieved to 
have lost the bargain. So I am easy about the investment. 


. . . We can see no obstacle to a peaceful life and to ultitnate 
success* • • • 

On November 15 the Major, in a confidential letter to his 
father about raising funds for the enterprise, thus proceeds to 
count the unhatched chickens: — 

We mean to cultivate 400 acres of cotton. A good yield is 
120 lbs. to the acre on that plantation without any manure, so 
Mr. Rogers assures us. We shall manure a good deal, and have 
counted the cost of it. Suppose we get 80 lbs. to the acre, a low 
yield; that gives 32 ,000 lbs. This gives us, at $1 per lb., $32,000. 
Our labor % will be covered by $12,000, and our other running 
expenses by ^1^. This leaves us $17,000, or $5633, apiece. 
I have here calculated everything to come in low, and every ex- 
penditure high. Next year we can probably cultivate much 
more land, and we shall average, one year with another, much 
more cotton to the acre. I have left out all gain of stock, such 
as cattle and hogs, which cost literally nothing and are very 

Of the labor situation the Major thus writes hopefully to 
his wife : — 

These people are beginning to see that work or starvation b 
before them. Also that the idea of having a house and 40 acres 
from the U.S. is chimerical. They also know that we shall put 
other laborers, black or white, into their houses if they do not 
work for us ; so they will fall in. We have offered them for good 
work the year round about $370 for a man and wife, or about 
half that amount for a single person ; also a good house, an acre 
of land for each hand, i.e. two acres for a man and wife, and 
fuel for the year. They will have sufficient time to cultivate 
this plot for themselves and can raise upon it com and potatoes 
enough to eat. Of course they can keep pi^s and chickens and 


thus save nearly all their earnings except a small sum for cloth- 
ing. We shall keep a store on the place for their benefit. Then 
we propose bye and bye to have a school for their children ; 
this last as soon as we can manage it. 

He had long talks in Savannah with an ex-rebel officer, a 
Harvard graduate, about the attitude of Southern men toward 

They feel no interest in the present state of public affairs [he 
writes]. Their whole theory of government, which was simply 
aristocratic, their every belief and hope, their personal prop- 
erty, everything but their acres of land, has vanished; and 
they do not yet see what or how to do. The idea of passive re- 
sistance still lives with them — they will not vote, they do not 
care to be represented, and they expect to embarrass the gov- 
ernment in this way. They will see whether it makes any dif- 
ference if all the southern representatives stay away. It is the 
old error that the South is in itself a first-class power, and 
carries in her hand the destinies of the world. Ignorance of 
history, of science, of the living world is at the bottom of it all. 


There were wearisome days of waiting at Savannah for sup- 
plies and extra negro hands for the plantation. The major 
read St. Mark's Gospel, and Mill's "Essays,'* and Carlyle's 
"Cromwell," and wrote copiously on these topics to his wife. 
Finally he collected a few negroes, and sailed them down to 
Cottonham in a little schooner. Morse and Clapp now took 
charge of the outdoor work, leaving the house and its surround- 
ings to be cleaned and repaired by the Major. He scrubbed and 
whitewashed and hammered away, and took his first lessons in 
housekeeping with negro servants. 

They have been indulging in a belief or hope that the lands 
were to be divided at Christmas. But they are quite ready to 


work, are strong, energetic, as far as we can see, and will come 
to their bearings before long. . . . They suspect everyone a 
little or much, and will not work at aU for their old masters. 
• . • One good fellow, named January, is at work in the 
house, and has been asking me questions to-day. He says that 
very many of the blacks fear that, if they make a contract to 
work for a year (a point on which we insist in order to cany 
thro' and pick our crop), they will be slaves at the end of that 
time. I have told him, just as we tell everyone, the plainest, 
simplest facts of the case, and have told on what terms he 
can move into one of our houses and work for us. He is en- 
tirely content with our terms and our system; so are they all. 
. • • January wants to own a house and a piece of land ; and 
he will do so in a few years. 

This simple wish indicates the foundation of an excellent 
agricultural population. They get good wages, and then they 
spend freely at our little store. Their stock of clothing is 
wretched, and probably always was incomplete, so they are 
much pleased to see our cotton, calicoes, flannel, cloths, shoesi 
etc., etc. They see the work brings wages and the wages bring 
food and clothing. Once let this suspicion pass away, as is 
likely with us, and we shall have a good, reliable set of hands, 
I think, and what we can do others can do by like means. 
January was much pleased at my whitewashing beside hinii 
and spoke of it. We of course do anything which is to be done 
with our own hands, if necessary, and these men compare it 
with the conduct of their former owners. It gives the labor a 
new aspect to them, and it puts life into their movements. 
All day I direct personally these men and women in and about 
the house as to the details of their work, in the kitchen, in the 
yard, in the overseer's house, in our house, and they like it. 
Then among us we have done the painting so far. M. does the 
same thing with the hands in the field and C. does the same 
likewise. They believe us already, when we say that we shall 
work for our living and shall get our crop in some way. It 


removes somewhat the feeling of caste, and it presents the 
labor in a new light. Bye and bye, when they see us plough 
and chop and hoe, and drive mules and clean horses as well 
as show them the use of unknown tools like scythes, they will 
feel still more persuaded to do their whole duty. 

They get their wages whenever they ask for them, and are 
already asking less frequently for them, because the suspicion 
is dying away that we shall cheat them. When we can estab- 
lish a school and teach them something (some of them read 
now), we shall make another step onward; but even now we 
feel quite confident that we shall get men and women enough 
to fill our houses and to make our crops for next year. Even 
our overseer, who has the regular Southern notions about 
manual labor, has to-day been whitewashing a little and work- 
ing at his house that is to be. I was quite pleased, for that 
class needs reforming and educating quite as much as the 
blacks. It will come all in good time — they must work or die. 

By the middle of December the " big house" looked cleaner, 
and the Major left for Boston, to spend Christmas and to 
bring back his wife. Her diary for February 9 describes the 
long drive behind tired mules from Savannah to Cottonham. 

"The branches of the Cherokee roses were green already, 
and there were pretty little yellow flowers in the swamp. 
... It was too dark to see our place as we entered. Mr. 
Morse and Channing Clapp came out with a light to the gate. 
A bright fire was blazing on the hearth. The first impression 
of the house is much more low and homelike than I had imag- 
ined. The rooms looked clean but bare. The table looked 
quite pleasant, with Matilda standing near, grinning and curt- 
seying at every turn, and Mary also." 

Two days later she writes of the house-servants: "They 
have not the remotest sense of time, any of them, and are 
forgetful but pleasant in their manners, very polite and kind, 
and ready to learn." So far, so good. 


The cotton-planting was now beginning, and the field-hands 
struck for higher wages. After two days of excitement they 
quieted down. Mrs. Higginson's diary notes, February 14: — 

' ' The darkies have been coming round about the strike, now 
that they find they cannot stay unless they work, and that no 
credit is given them in the store unless they are earning wages. 
Mr. M. says they really have an attachment to the place and 
that is about the only definite feeling he can find that they 
have, and so they are beginning to make and sign contracts, 
though unwillingly. They still do not understand the value 
of work and wages. Think they ought to get all their living 
and have wages besides, all extra. The men walked in with 
their old coats and hats, put their finger on the pen while Mr. 
M. made the cross, and I was called in as witness. The con- 
tracts run in this way. Every family is to have an acre and i 
of land to a full hand, and a house and the right to cut wood. 
On their land they can grow either cotton or com, provided 
it does not interfere with the proper cultivation of the land 
provided for. For each acre cultivated, about $8.50, which 
carries them on to the middle of July, then the picking, sorting, 
moting, by the pound. Two cents a pound for packing, and 
for extra labor $1.00 for men per day and less for women and 
boys, which would give to a good, steady hand about $18.50 
income of work per acre, and all extra work to be counted by 
the day. A good hand could take about eight acres, and earn 
about $200 per year, or somewhat less, and get his house, 
his wood, and his com and cotton land. 

"The largest contract is made with a man named Samuel, 
who with his family has contracted for about thirty-five acres 
for this year, and earns in wages about $800 per year. To 
this they have finally agreed, after much parley. 

"The house servants get wages by the month: the women 
$12 per month, the old women about .75 for each washing-day; 
little Mary will have something too, and Charity who helps, 
a niece of Mathilda's, will get .50 per day, and be dismissed 


soon, when Prince's wife, "The Princess,*' arrives, who is to 
help about the washing. The pian David, Mathilda's husband, 
carpenter, gets $25 per month and his rations for himself and 
family, house, fuel, but no land to cultivate. Prince, who 
milks cows, cuts wood, blacks boots, is also paid per month. 
And this is about the whole household. They are good, active, 
honest people, all of them." 

After two weeks more of experience, the kindly lady from the 
North records a somewhat modified estimate of the negroes : — 

"We none of us think that if left to themselves they would 
have energy enough to be really thrifty and prosperous, no 
matter how much help they should get in the way of lands. 
Of course there are exceptions, but they seem to need super- 
vision, and spurring on and urging and system to guide them, 
which they would not be likely to have of their own accord. 
However, time will show, whether this is merely the result 
of slavery and dependence, or whether they can ever be wholly 
mdependent.' ' 

And on March 9 the diary notes: "Curious creations these 
darkies ai:e. I don't believe they could work, entirely left to 
themselves." "Ida works very hard with her people," the 
Major wrote to his father. "She has to teach them almost 
everything except the plainest cooking. Washing and ironing 
were unknown to them." 

Meanwhile Major Higginson was having his own experiences 
with the colored brethren. 

Do you know [he writes home], that these people eat at odd 
times, standing up, sitting in the doorway, one by one, not 
together? The men very frequently say at ten o'clk, or some- 
times as late as one or two o'clk, that they must go to their 
breakfasts, and I find that man and wife receive their wages 
separately, and spend them separately, not paying each 
other's debts at the store nor sharing each other's money or 
food. " Pete, him pay for him one, and me, me pay for me 



one/' said a woman to us yesterday at the store, she and Pete 
being wife and man. It is strange and bad. We do not give 
them thingSf for various reasons: they had better work for 
everything now ; they exp)ect, and are not grateful for, presents, 
and we cannot afford to give. You never saw such strange 
and at the same time unpleasant work as keeping shop for 
these folks. "Give me five cents* sugar,'* and I change a 
dollar-bill and weigh out a dole of sugar. ** Give me five cents' 
hard bread," and then "ten cents' tobacco," and then "ten 
cents' flour" etc., etc., each time receiving the whole change 
before ordering again, for this is all the purchase of one person. 
We sometimes try to get all the things before making any 
change, but do not find it easy to extract the orders in that 

Greely Curtis, who had returned from Europe and become 
a financial backer of the cotton-planting scheme, visited the 
plantation in March. He was amused to recognize that the 
"big house," of which he was now part owner, was the very 
one at which he had thrown a few shells, "just for fun, not 
intending to injure it," in 1862, when the Union gunboat 
Huron had shelled Fort McAllister. 

By April the crops were planted, the coimtry was ablaze 
with wild a2saleas, honeysuckles, and Cherokee roses, and Mr. 
and Mrs. Higginson had wonderful horseback rides in the late 
afternoons. He wrote his father: "I am getting able to bear 
considerable bodily fatigue now, but am surprised to see how 
much less I can bear or do than at seventeen." By May i he 
discovered that "incidental expenses run up a good deal"; 
and as the hot weather came on, there was increasing trouble 
with fleas, flies, mosquitoes, and snakes. 

There was sickness among the negroes, and Mr. and Mrs. 
Higginson had to prescribe remedies, chiefly quinine, as best 
they could. 

"They are very strange people, these darkies [Mrs. Higgin- 


son wrote in her diary]. Their wits and intellect seem to me 
far ahead of their morals. • . . You feel as if you could not 
influence them in the least. . . . When we first came they 
were getting over the smallpox, and now all the children have 
the whooping-cough. Three of them died. I am quite in de« 
spair, as I don't know exactly what to do for them. I got the 
doctor the other day, a pale lounging vague man, who was the 
rebel surgeon in Ft. McAllister, and who gave me some medi- 
cine for them. ... I have been struck with the cheerful way 
m which the negroes take death. One young woman lost her 
only child, and looked as bright as possible when I spoke to 
her about it. I don't think it is indifference, and don't know 
what it is." 

Mrs. Higginson had now started a little school for the negro 
children, and by June she and her husband were teaching 
reading and writing to a class of fifteen. "As for the blacks," 
the Major writes to his father, "their future is a mystery as 
dark as their own skins. They have understanding and quick- 
ness enough. . . . They learn quickly, comprehend easily, 
both as regards work and in school. But their moral percep- 
tions are deficient, either from nature or from habit or from 
ignorance. They know that it is wrong to steal and lie* but 
they do it continually." 

One Sunday, when the Major was preaching to the negroes 
in their church, — a discourse unfortunately unreported, — 
Mrs. Higginson "preached in the kitchen to Jane, Mary, and 
the old lady, Mathilda having gone on a spree. The text was 
the parable of the sower of seeds. I wonder if they understood 
one half of what I said." 

The cotton was blossoming beautifully by the end of June; 
the Major had his two war horses, "Piggy" and "the gray," 
for riding; and though the weather grew intensely hot, and 
the drinking-water from the shallow wells was bad, and food- 
supplies difficult to obtain, the Northerners kept up their 


We had some nice-looking cows which gave very little milk 
[says Mr. Higginson's Reminiscences], and a large abundance 
of pigs. The house was raised from the ground two or three 
feet, as is customary there, for there are no cellars. The 
pigs used to come under the house and rub and squeal and 
fight. Therefore, we made up our minds that we would give 
those pigs away. We called all the negroes into the yard, and 
told them that each family was to have one large pig, one mid- 
dle-sized pig and one little pig, and in that way we got rid of 
all of them. By and by we did the same thing with the cows 
— that is, killed them, and divided the beef among our people. 

It is not until the loth of July that there is any hint of 
disappointment with the cotton crop. ^'I am in hopes/* 
writes the Major to his father, "that we shall harvest 25,000 
lbs. of ginned cotton, which at 80 cents would give us $20,000; 
some drawbacks are of course to be reckoned out. If insects 
should attack the cotton, we may not get more than 15,000 
lbs., say $12,000, which would about cover our wages for 
the year *66. But I hope for a better result than this." 

Such was the situation when he took Mrs. Higginson north 
in August. Returning alone, early in September, he writes 
his father that the cotton is " in fair condition, though no more, 
in consequence of the drought.'' Picking had begun, and the 
negroes were content with their lot. 

They help each other [wrote the Major] in picking the differ- 
ent patches of cotton, as it opens, and get so much per lb. for 
all picked. It is an encouragement to them to cultivate well 
and raise as much as possible off their patches, for each family 
picks its own ground. If they receive help on it, they return 
help, not money. Of course a woman can pick cotton (or 
berries) more quickly from an acre bearing well than from 
two acres bearing ill. Last week we paid one woman, who has 
a husband and two children of fifteen or so working with her, 


$20 for four days' work. During the rest of the time they were 
earning more money on other work. As I was writing to Ida 
to-night, this plan of payment seems to us better than giving 
a share in the crop, because the laborer with empty pockets 
risks a bad or a good season, has to seek advances continually 
of which he can keep no account, thereby complicating the 
settlement, and then has to wait a long time for the prepara- 
tion, marketing and sale of the crop. 

But two days later he is obliged to write: "The continual 
rains are injuring our crop considerably. Yesterday we had 
two tremendous showers lasting several hours altogether, and 
to-day we found quite a lot of cotton beaten out and lying 
dirty and useless in the sand." On the fine days in October he 
was busy picking and weighing cotton; and occasionally he 
rode off on "Piggy" for a shot at a wild turkey or a rabbit. 
But he was worried about the crop. If the rains could only 
have come in the summer instead of the fall ! " It has cut off 
all our profit, I fancy," he confides to his father on Novem- 
ber 4. Yet at the same time he was writing to his wife, who 
was troubled over their expenses: " Please remember that one 
great reason for our coming here was the work of great impor- 
tance to be done for these blacks. Money is less valuable than 
time and thought and labor, which you have given and will 
give freely. ... DO NOT FRET ABOUT ACCOUNTS!!!! 
Money is to be spent wisely, not hoarded forever." 

He was never to write more characteristic words than these; 
and he had jumped up twice as he was writing them, to fire 
at a hawk that was just then stealing his chickens! 

"We have made about half a crop," he tells his father on 
November 17, "and seem likely to get a low price for our best 
cotton. . • • So we have lost a good deal of money." 

And in December he writes from Savannah : — 

We have just about 12,000 lbs. of clean cotton and are done 
ginning. I find the prices lower and the market very dull here 


to*day. I am a little puzzled to know what to do. Present 
prices are not enough to compensate at all for the year's work 
and outlay. • • • It has cost about $16,500 to make our crop, 
and we shall get $9000 to $10,000 for it, we hope. A good 
crop at $1.00 a lb. would have given $25,000. There is the 
whole story. 

Here ended the first lesson. The second lesson was shorter. 
Was it worth while to remain? 

''I think that common sense and my own good name 
for courage and persistency demand that the experiment be 
fairly tried," wrote the Major manfully. Mrs. Higginson, with 
Channing Clapp's mother, had arrived in time for the Christ- 
mas preparations, and there was a great tree, with presents for 
all the women and children on the plantation, and candy for 
everybody. "A bery elegant entertainment," declared Ma- 
thilda; but Mrs. Higginson confessed in her diary to "disap- 
pointment at not hearing more expressions of delight from 
these impertm-bable darks. . . . The more I see of them, 
the more inscrutable do they become, and the less do I like 

The housemaids left immediately after Christmas. "The 
old year finished rather gloomily with the whole day spent in 
the cold wet washroom, instructing *Amy' from our village 
about washing." Then arrived a certain ragged and foul 
Lavinia. "I took her to the washroom," continues Mrs. 
Higginson's Diary, "where there was a big fire, filled a bucket 
with warm water and proceeded." (Miss Ophelia, of "Uncle 
Tom's Cabin," would have liked that reticent word "pro- 
ceeded" !) But Lavinia, once scrubbed and dressed in some old 
clothes of her mistress, proved a cheerful person, and could re- 
peat the Lord's Prayer. 

By the middle of January all the field hands threatened to 
leave. " Perhaps we shall not plant at all," wrote Henry to his 
father, "for our people may clear out. One can never tell in 
this blessed land. These darkies have been very well paid, 


kindly treated, taught, helped by us, but they feel no gratitude 
for all this, and may go any day/' Soon they signed the con- 
tracts for 1867, but Henry writes to his father that the part- 
ners had spent $20,155, including interest, in raising the 1866 
crop, and that it '^may bring us $io,ooo. I am at present 
rather looking forward to leaving this place in the summer for 
good • . • exceedingly imwilling as I am to make another 
move. If I could earn $1500 a year at the North, I could live 

He adds in his next letter : — 

I should have done better to enter your office in '64 as a paid 
derk with a prospect of becoming partner: indeed should do 
so now, if that were possible. Still this work, embracing as it 
does the whole black question, is highly useful and important. 
If I were rich enough to disregard gains, and could spend some- 
thing on the welfare of the blacks, Ida and I could doubtless 
produce some satisfactory results in a few years. A little 
money put into better houses and into the simplest home- 
comforts would tell greatly. 

One reason, doubtless, for Henry's restlessness in February, 
1867, was the sudden change in the Higginson family affairs. 
Grandfather Lee had just died, after years of invalidism, and 
had left an unexpectedly large bequest to George Higginson, 
in trust for his children. James J. Higginson had entered a 
broker's office, and F. L. Higginson had gone to work with Lee, 
Higginson and Co. Alexander Agassiz and Quincy Shaw, 
brothers-in-law of Henry Higginson, had secured control of 
the Calumet and Hecla mines in Michigan, and were beginning 
to see results beyond their most sanguine expectations; in 
fact, "beyond the wildest dreams of copper men."* George 
Higginson, cautious as he was by nature, and unfortunate as 

> See Agassiz's letter to H. L. H., Feb. 3, 1867, in Letters and RecolkcUons of 
Alexander AgassiM, p. 58. 


his ventures had often proved, was buying all the Calumet and 
Heda he could carry, and his children did likewise. 

I think that we had better hold the Calumet [wrote Henry 
on February 15] and I sincerely wish that I had much more. 
If I could have had 1000 shares at $20, it would have been 
pleasant in the present state of the market. I know that cop- 
pers are very riskyi but a mine of such promise, well managed, 
should be good property. If you should think it wise and it is 
possible, I should much like to put something more into Calu- 
met or Hecla, say $1000 to $2000. Jim can ascertain from Alex, 
I think, the comparative value, but I should fancy Hecla at $50 
cheaper than Calumet at $75. I cannot feel very sure as to the 
move, for I have made several bad strokes — in the '* Tremont 
Oil Co." — in selling a share of " Norway Plains " — in buying 
"Washington." Quin and Alex, with their knowledge of just 
this business, with their ability, honesty, industry, nerve, and 
power (in the way of money), and with their complete control 
of these mines, give me faith in them as an investment. 

It is no wonder that Henry's inu^nation played around 
Lake Superior and Boston while the spring ploughing was 
going forward at Cottonham. Minor annoyances increased. 
The house-servants stole. Supplies were stolen from the ex- 
press office at Way's Station, and from the wharf at Savannah. 
" It does require the patience and purse of a Job to stand it.'* 

More serious than these petty losses was the discovery that 
the suave Mr. Rogers had really owned only 2500 of the 5000 
acres which he had sold to the unsuspecting Yankees. Their 
title to one half of the plantation was worthless. They brought 
suit, but were able to recover very little.* Always, in the back- 
ground, there was the insoluble race question. Higginson 
wrote in April : — 

' ^Colonel C. F. Mone charitably suggests (192 1) that, though Rogers cheated 
them, it is possible that he really did not know how much land he owned. 


The black population must be helped towards civilization of 
any kind, if we wish to see any result within a reasonable time. 
The Southerners cannot help them for various reasons : because 
they hate and despise them, because they, the whites, are too 
lazy, because they are too ignorant and uncivilized. It is a 
long, long struggle against ignorance, prejudice and laziness. 
The blacks will advance, if they are led, and if they will trust 
anyone. Now they cannot be induced to talk, to ask questions. 
They will listen, but not heed much from a white man. 

The heat increased. Higginson had sound ideas about ma- 
nuring for cotton, and the Egyptian seeds, procured through 
the friendly Edward Atkinson, — a *' projector" after Defoe's 
own heart, — sprouted vigorously. But rats and mice and fleas 
and malaria flourished likewise. Channing Clapp decided to 
leave. George Higginson, paternally concerned for Henry's 
future, advised him to give up: *'Alex" and "Quin" might 
make a place for him at the mines, or there might be a chance 
for a clerkship in some London banking house. Mrs. Higgin- 
son wanted to stay at least a year longer. "We had better not 
leave this place till we have at least been of some trifling use in 
some way or other." But she had already had a touch of 
malaria, and her husband grew more and more anxious about 
her. On May 9 she writes in her diary : — 

" It is discouraging to see how utterly wanting in character 
and conscience these people seem to be, and how much more 
hopeful they appear at a distance than near to. Henry and I 
have had quite a long talk about going home. It is pretty cer- 
tain that we shall not come back again to stay. Henry at any 
rate means to try to get employment at the North, and only 
come back to settle his affairs here. • . . I am sorry, for I shall 
leave this place with a sense of utter failure. Failure to do any 
good, except the littie I have done in school. Failure to man- 
age the blacks well and quietly as servants ; but I have learnt a 
great deal, and I suppose if I keep that in view, and remember 


it and also the errors^ to avoid them in future, it will not be 
time lost, at least not personally." 

A few days later Henry Higginson's copies of the New York 
"Evening Post," the "Nation," the "Spectator," "LittellV 
and the " Revue des Deux Mondes " were ordered to be sent to 
44 State Street, Boston. The books were packed, presents 
were distributed to the schoolchildren and house-servants, 
and at midnight on the twenty-first the Higginsons started 
North. It was another failure. 

Colonel Morse stayed on at Cottonham, though he had 
"come to the conclusion that all the money ever made there 
[before the war] was made in live stock — that is, in negroes. 
The cotton perhaps paid the expenses, and when they needed 
a little money, they sold a negro." But this convenient solu- 
tion of the financial problem was now out of date. The crop of 
1867 looked promising until September, when the caterpillars 
suddenly appeared and ruined it. When the Massachusetts 
men finally settled their accounts, they found that their ex- 
perience had cost them about $65,000. "We sold the planta- 
tion," said Higginson, "for $5000, and were glad to be rid of 
it." Channing Clapp, writing from New Orleans on Decem- 
ber 22, 1867, is equally terse: "What a d d piece of busi- 
ness the whole thing is! " 

Yet that is too profane an ending for the second lesson. If 
Henry Higginson had been a prophet, he might have chanted, 
with Tagore : — 

My sword is forged, my armor is put on, my horse is eager to run. 
I shall win my kingdom. 



We have kept our hands dean. It has come from old John Lee and George 
Higginson. — H. L. H. June 20, 1919. 

On January i, 1868, Henry Higginson became a partner in 
L^» Higginson and Co. He remained a member of the firm 
until his death, more than fifty years later. The chances and 
changes of his venturesome youth and early manhood were at 
last behind him. He had come to anchof in State Street. Cer- 
tainly it was not the port he had first looked for, and some of 
his lifelong intimates, while fully recognizing his success, per- 
sisted in thinking him temperamentally out of tune with his 
calling. He once said, in fact, to a near kinsman, that he never 
walked into 44 State Street without wanting to sit down on 
the doorstep and cry. No doubt he meant at the moment — 
or thought he meant — quite what he said.^ 

But Mr. Higginson's simple and forthright habit of speech 
was often the disguise for very complex emotional moods. He 
was almost as far as Lincoln from being a simple-minded man. 
It is not recorded that this lover of music ever did sit down 
and weep in State Street, either through self-pity, or through 

' " As a matter of fact," comments one of his partners, " Mr. Higginson loved to 
be tn this office; it was very hard to get him out of it for a day — even a single 
Saturday. He seemed to me always, during the twenty years I was associated 
with him, to wake up every morning with an eager desire to be in his office and to 
be there for the day, and to be nowhere else. ... He was much more interested 
in the venture side of business than in mere buying at wholesale and selling at 
retail . . . Between his love of adventure, as applied to business (I might say 
almost passbn for adventure), and his often fallacious judgment of men, there is 
no doubt he not only loved to be in his office, but also at times endured much 
anxiety and almost agony. I can perfectly understand his saying some day to a 
friend that he felt like sitting down on the doorstep and crying. It represented a 
mood for that day and very likely some anxiety or depression which bore heavily 
just then upon him.** 


instinctive antagonism to his environment. What is certain is 
that he worked and laughed there for half a century ; that there 
he bought and sold, worried, dreamed, was angered and re- 
lented, served his partners and assisted his friends, forgot some- 
times to look at the debit side of accounts, but on the whole 
was clearly and greatly disobedient to Charles Lowell's injunc- 
tion, "Don't grow rich." Europe and Virginia, Ohio and 
Georgia, had helped to fashion him, but it was State Street, 
after all, that gave him opportunity to render an unmatched 
service to the community. 

In some notes on the history of Lee, Higginson and Co., 
dictated late in life, Henry Higginson thus describes the origin 
of the firm: — 

In the year 1848 Mr. John C. Lee, of Salem, and Mr. George 
Higginson, of Boston, who were cousins by marriage, joined 
hands in making a stock-brokerage house, and established 
themselves in State Street on the southern side, over the old 
Boylston insurance office.* They were men of about forty-four 
or forty-five years, and had had some experience in business. 
Mr. Lee had inherited some money, and had gone on quietly, 
not doing much in an active way. Mr. Higginson, from the 
age of twenty-one, had been a conunission agent in New York, 
where he had lived and worked with a cousin until the year 
1837, when he failed, as so many did. Then he came to Boston 
with his wife and three children, and undertook a small com- 
mission business in merchandise, which he carried on from 
that time until he established himself as a stockbroker. In 
these ten years he earned very little — just enough to keep the 
wolf from the door. . . . 

When Mr. Lee went into business he had nine children, and, 
therefore, probably felt the need of a little more money. He 
always had lived in a beautiful house in Chestnut Street, 
Salem, and amused himself with a garden in the neighborhood. 

^ The Exchangt Building now stands on this site. 


The house of Lee and Higginson began by getting a fair 
share of the brokerage business, Mr. Lee being the partner in 
the office, and Mr. Higginson being the partner in the brokers' 
Board and outside. Neither of them ever earned so much 
money as they did in those years, but it was very little after 

Mr. George C. Lee, son of Mr. John C. Lee, was taken in as 
a derk after leaving college, and on April i, 1853, Mr. Henry 
Lee (Jr.) — who was Mr. Higginson's brother-in-law, and who 
had had considerable success as an East India merchant — 
and Mr. George C. Lee were admitted to partnership. The 
firm at that time opened an account with Messrs. Baring 
Brothers and Co., and used to draw on that house, doing in 
this way a considerable business in exchange and in notes re- 
ceivable. The house used to buy the best paper, chiefly mill 
paper, and also executed such orders as it received. This went 
on for some years until the Civil War broke out, when, owing 
to the fluctuations in gold, they thought an exchange account 
too dangerous and, therefore, gave it up. 

In the first five years the firm of Lee and Higginson em- 
ployed no clerk except at periods of special pressure. When 
Colonel Henry Lee and Mr. George C. Lee were admitted to 
partnership in 1853, the name of the firm became "Lee, Hig- 
ginson and Co.," and its importance increased. They moved 
into the back part of No. 44 State Street. Colonel Henry Lee, 
even in his youth, was a notable figure in Boston.^ Mr. George 
C. Lee, whose partnership lasted 57 years, until his death in 
1 9 10, was prudent, assiduous, a lover of detail. Both Colonel 
Henry Lee and Mr. John C. Lee had the confidence of the busi- 
ness community. The Civil War brought some changes in the 
activities of the firm. John C. Lee retired at the end of 1862, 
and Colonel Henry Lee's patriotic services at the State House 
demanded a large portion of his energy. George Higginson 

*Sce the Memoir of Henry Lee, by J. T. Morse, Jr., Boston, 1905. 


and George C. Lee divided the Stock Ebcchange work — a seat 
then costing but $ioo. 

In 1867 Colonel Henry Lee hit upon a plan for constructing 
a safety vault under No. 40 State Street. This building was 
owned by his family. 

" Always skillful in real estate affairs/' says Professor Barrett 
Wendell/ he conceived the plan of excavating, under the build- 
ing where his firm had its offices, the first safety-deposit vaults 
in Boston, which long remained the most satisfactory in the 
United States, and indeed have been held the models from 
which later ones have since developed everywhere. They were 
constructed slowly and with every imaginable care: for one 
thing, the strength of their roof was tested by dropping a large 
safe on it from a height of four or five stories. They were not 
ready for use until 1868 ; since that time, for a full half -century, 
they have been the principal depository of the securities held 
in Boston. They have long been incorporated as the Union 
Safe Deposit Vaults. Though never a part of the business of 
Lee, Higginson and Company, they have always stayed dose 
to it, both physically and in management. The general confi- 
dence implied by such an institution can hardly be exaggerated; 
and, incidentally, it is pleasant tc^ think that Mr. Schuyler 
Bartlett, who came into the service of the vaults when they 
were opened in 1868, is still at his responsible post there in 

" Mr. Henry Lee began by passing four days of the week 
there,*' notes Mr. Higginson, "and Mr. George C. Lee passed 
two days; presently Mr. George C. Lee passed four days in the 
vaults and Mr. Henry Lee two days; and before long Mr. 
Geoiige C. Lee passed all his time there, and Mr. Henry Lee 
went in when he chose.** 

Such was the situation at 40 and 44 State Street on January i, 
1868, when the new partner joined the firm. His father had 

^ In an unpublished sketch of the history of the firm. 
' He is still there in 1931. 


been in the business twenty years; his younger brother Frank 
was as yet only a clerk. Henry Higginson loved to insist that 
he himself was not really wanted. " I was taken in at the be- 
ginning of 1868 as a matter of charity, to keep me out of the 
poorhouse ; I had been in the War, had been planting cotton at 
the South, and lost all I had, and more too." ^ 

In the notes dictated in 1912, and already quoted in part, 
he said: — 

Mr. Henry L. Higginson, knowing that he was not wanted 
in the firm and having to make his place good, worked as hard 
as possible to draw in business. At the time he joined the firm 
he was $10,000 or $12,000 under water. [He was sent at once 
into the Stock Exchange, alternating there with Mr. George 
C. Lee.J On Jan. i, 1869 [the notes continue], Mr. F. L. Hig- 
ginson and John C. Bancroft were taken into the firm as 
partners. Mr. Bancroft remained 18 months, and then went 
away, as business was distasteful to him. Mr. F* L. Hig- 
ginson was a man of unusual ability, quickness of mind and 
shrewdness, with the highest kind of character; and he was the 
most brilliant partner that the house ever had. When he 
came back from Em-ope he took hold of the business in earnest, 
and helped to increase it very much.* 

Mr. John T. Morse, in his noteworthy sketch of Major Hig- 
ginson,' comments thus upon the stock-brokerage firm of Lee, 
Higginson and Co. in this period : — 

^' It was already a good business and rapidly growing. It is 
true that one had not to look back far to see one or two brokers 
running about State Street and trying to get someone to buy 
or to sell a few shares of a cotton mill or one of the little New 

' Letter to De Forest Candee, 1908. 

* "My brother, F. L. Higginson, and I got out in front here at 44 State Street, 
and we thought that was a great stroke. Then we got our 50 State Street, and that 
was better." H. L. H. Talk to Bond Salesmen, Oct. 9, 1919. 

'Proceedinzs Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 53, p. 116. Also printed in 
Harvard Graduates* Magaaine, March, 1920. 


England railroads, and thus doing all the brokerage business 
that offered. But within a few years a new situation had de- 
veloped. The lavish outpouring of bonds and stock by the 
new Western railroads, the impetus given by the war to manu* 
facturing industries, the flood of paper money, the issues of 
Government bonds with tempting fluctuations in price, the 
speculation in gold, the gambling in the cheap * coppers/ all 
combined to make a stock exchange which would have dazed 
the old-time broker. The family and social connections of the 
firm assured to it the best possible clientele ; there was sufficient 
capital; the partners had the highest standing in point of 
character; thus, all else being propitious, it remained only for 
them to make good in point of ability, and this they proceeded 
to do. • • . 

** Further, the firm owed in some measure to family alliances 
its well-advised connections with the best financial enterprises 
of the day. Thus in the case of the great Calumet and Heda 
Copper Mine, mother of fortunes, and fruit of the resolute 
faith of Quincy Shaw, the scientific knowledge of Alexander 
Agassiz, the practical energy of both — these two brothers-in- 
law of Major Higginson naturally brought their gallant bird 
to deposit her golden (or copper) eggs in the nest at 40 State 

The Calumet and Hecla shares, as some persons still rue- 
fully remember, were originally offered at $12.50, and had 
been sold as low as $5.00. Since then, they have touched 
$1000. Mr. George Higginson had been a director from the 
first, and his children, ever since Alexander Agassiz's letter to 
Henry Higginson in February, 1867, had invested in the mines 
to the extent of their ability. "Our office was a sort of head- 
quarters for the property," said Mr. Higginson, "and our 
friends bought a great many shares." But those dizzying hopes 
of 1867 were followed by a period of discouragement. Alexan- 
der Agassiz's lonely and heroic struggles at Lake Superior — 
recorded in chapter rv of his biography — ultimately saved 
the situation ; but the first dividend from the Hecla mine was 


not paid until December, 1869, and the first dividend from the 
Calumet in August, 1870. The consolidation of the mines 
foUowed in 187 1, and the subsequent record of the property is 
written large in the memory of Bostonians. But the unwritten 
history of the public and private benefactions — scientific, 
artistic, philanthropic — made possible by Calumet and Hecla, 
and its influence upon certain family histories, is a theme 
worthy of Balzac. 

The construction of Western railroads, and particularly the 
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, a Boston enterprise, afforded 
another great field for the activities of Lee, Higginson and Co. 
The New England energy and daring, which had once found 
its outlet in foreign commerce, now turned to the development 
of the West. It is curious to remember that John M. Forbes, 
who had begun his career in the China trade, had written to 
his brother in 1836 : — 

" By no means invest any funds of mine in railway stocks. 
... I have good reasons to believe, from all I can learn of the 
English railways, that ours will prove a failure after the first 
few years; the wear and tear proves ruinous. At any rate, 
keep clear of them. Three ships going this week.'* 

Yet only ten years later, when it became apparent that 
steamships and tariffs would ultimately ruin the Boston China 
trade, Mr. Forbes turned shrewdly to the despised "railway 
stocks." He became President of the Michigan Central Rail- 
road in 1846, and raised millions for its equipment. Then he 
became President of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. 
One of his directors was General Charles Jackson Paine — a 
Bedford Place boy and cousin of Henry Higginson. Paine ** sat 
habitually,** says J. T. Morse, '*in the office of Lee, Higginson 
and Co., where he could be seen almost any forenoon, en- 
sconced in a comfortable armchair, handsome, silent, puffing at 
a cigar which seemed never to have had a beginning and cer- 
tainly never had an end. If the firm sought information, it was 
there at hand." 
The firm did seek information, exact and dispassionate, 



about the condition of all the properties in whose stocks and 
bonds it was dealing. It was one of the pioneers in the prac- 
tice of securing statistical information, and placing it at the 
disposal of its clients* But it was before the days of card* 
indexes and filing cabinets, and it exemplified Goethe's theory 
that the best encyclopaedia is a man who is well posted. The 
Lees and Higginsons were not only well posted as to the value 
of securities, but were known to be honest men. Much of the 
initiative in widening the firm's business, in the five years be- 
tween 1868 and 1873, was due to the yoimger partners, the 
Higginson brothers. The strain was at times fierce and ex- 
hausting; not all mines were Calumets nor all railroads " C. B. 
and Q.'s." The days of darkness were many. In the autumn 
of 1868 there was a bad time in the stock market, and in 1869, 
(September 24) came " Black Friday " — the gold panic due to 
the machinations of Fisk and Gould. The Chicago fire of 187 1 
and the Boston fire of 1872 brought heavy losses to holders of 
securities, and the panic of 1873 was far more serious still. 
"All these thmgs were an education," said Major Higginson, 
"but at the same time very painful to the firm." 

Those five years brought many changes to the Higginson 
family. Chauncy Street had been given up to "trade," and 
Mr. George Higginson had removed to Beacon Street. For- 
tune was smiling upon him at last, and he was able at seventy 
to retire from the firm with a competency. His daughter was 
married,^ and was living in Philadelphia. His son James was 
also married,* and had formed a broker's partnership in New 
York with Edward C. Chase, an army comrade who had shared 
his blanket in Libby Prison. This firm of Chase and Higginson 
prospered, and made a convenient New York connection for 
Lee, Higginson and Co. of Boston. 

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Higginson, after their return from 
Georgia, lived in a little apartment house at the comer of La 

^ To S. Parkman Blake. 

' To Miss Margaret Grade, of New York. 


Grange Street and Tremont Street, called the "La Grange 
House." Mr. Francis Boott and his daughter and Mr. Sebas- 
tian Schlesinger also had apartments here, and there were 
many delightful musical evenings in Mr. Schlesinger's rooms. 
Then the Higginsons moved to the Hotel Hamilton on Claren- 
don Street, where their daughter C6cile — named after Mrs. 
Higginson's mother, C6cile Braun — was bom, in January, 
1870. There they remained until February, 1874, when they 
removed into 191 Commonwealth Avenue. They spent the 
summers from 1870 to 1875 in a rented cottage at Beverly 
Farms, and began to build their own sununer home in Manches- 
ter-by-the-Sea in 1878. Ten years later they acquired another 
sunmier home, "Rock Harbor" at Westport on Lake Cham- 
plain, and were habitually there in the early autumn. But it 
was ten years after their marriage before they ceased to be 

Henry Higginson could afford to take few holidays. His 
hurried business trips to New York are recorded in brief letters 
to his wife. "We'repretty busy to-day. I Ve turned a penny 
for you, and hope one of these days to see you driving your 
own wagon." Or it might be: "A bad day in stocks. But 
Chase and Higginson and we are all right." 

In the summer of 1870 he made the first of many journeys 
to the West, to investigate railroad properties. At Niagara 
he saw the first train of Pullman cars, just then "perfected." 
At Burlington, Iowa, the home of his friend C. E. Perkins, 
who had married a niece of John M. Forbes, he writes a typ- 
ically Higginsonian preachment against the American eager- 
ness for wealth: " Money, money, success in material pursuits! 
It is injuring our generation, but perhaps the next may be 
the better for it. More good and educated men and women 
may strive for the welfare and civilization of America." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his yearly lecture-trips through 
this same West, had recorded many similar passages in his 


In 1 87 1 Higginson crossed the Mississippi and the Missouri 
again, in company with his friends C. F. Adams and C. F. 
Morse, and saw the Indian Territory. "The prairie stretched 
out for miles and miles/' he writes to his wife, "and far away 
on the horizon was an enormous cattle herd just coming from 
Texas. A few Indian women rode away, with their colts and 
dogs galloping after them. It was the only lai^e, free view 
that I had had, so it seemed then, although everything is so 
wide and open here. And I wished that you and I had our 
horses here to gallop away over the soft springy sod, until we 
were tired." On his way home he studied some new Michigan 
railroad projects and visited Quincy Shaw at Calumet. In 
October, he had some tonic days with John M. Forbes on the 
island of Naushon, riding and shooting. But on all these ex- 
cursions "business" sat behind the saddle. 

In 1872 [the Reminiscences relate], came the great Boston 
fire, which was a terrible disaster to us. Professor and Mrs. Agas- 
siz were staying with us that night [Saturday, November 9] 
at the Hotel Hamilton, where we were then living. During 
dinner, seeing the great light, I went down-town at about eight 
o'clock. I soon found what trouble everybody was in, tried to 
do what I could, and did not return home until four o'clock 
Sunday afternoon. I had had nothing to eat or drink in all that 
time, but was in duty bound to look after the Union Safety 
Deposit Vaults. People were trying to get in and carry their 
securities away, because they thought the vaults would be 
burned. Mr. Henry Lee was in Europe, as was my brother 
Frank; Mr. Whittier, who had joined the firm a year or two 
before, was in the West, and Mr. George C. Lee, who had chasge 
of the vaults, was terribly worried by the demands to open the 
vaults. Therefore, he went to the South End and kept out of 
sight. (This by agreement, and I never knew where he went.) 
Therefore, I was left alone. A crowd of men kept trying to have 
the vaults opened, and I was continually fending them off. 



My father came down and carried away our books to his house. 
Diuing the night I went to all sorts of places, and, among 
others, to City Hall, to beg the Mayor to order the blowing up 
of certain buildings in order to make a gap. By and by there 
were a few explosions tried under the care of General Benham 
of the United States Army, but nothing decent was accom- 
plished. In order to get the powder, he had telegraphed to the 
forts, and a number of kegs of powder were sent to the end of 
Long Wharf, but there was nobody to fetch it up. So I found 
a covered wagon open at the sides, got it to the end of Long 
Wharf, and loaded some thirty kegs of powder on it and drove 
up State Street, which was full of engines pumping, and sparks 
were flying in every direction. 

The fire was checked at last, chiefly because there was not 
much more to bum. It had begun in the dry-goods district. 
During the previous week there had been a bad attack of 
"horse-ail" [the ** epizootic"], and during the week a great 
many horses had been incapacitated. The City Government 
had been asked to get fresh horses every day, in order that the 
engines could be got out promptly in case of fire. I remember 
during that week seeing an ox-team coming down State Street, 
for there had not been a horse about for several days. When 
the fire broke out, the engines were slow in reaching the fire 
because of this disease among the horses. However, when they 
got there, they did their work as well as they could. When 
the great stores of goods had been burned and the fire reached 
nearly to State Street, it struck a great liquor house in Ex- 
change Place, and there the owner said : " It is a pity that all 
this good wine and liquor should be lost ; come in and take a 
drink, anybody who wants to." In consequence of this, many 
of the firemen were drunk. However, the fire was well fought 
in all directions, especially by C. F. Hovey and Company, 
where one of the principal partners was most energetic, and 
.saved that shop and that block of buildings. 

Seven or eight nights after the fire was out I passed in the 


office with one or two of the clerks. The police were very 
busy, and the town seemed to be disorganized for the time. 
By degrees they recovered from their calamity, and things 
moved on. 

Major Higginson's testimony before the Commissioners 
appointed to investigate the cause of the fire and the efforts 
made for its suppression deals in detail with the question of 
using powder.* He had procured the powder, it seems, under 
the direction of GenersJ Benham of the United States Army; 
but there were violent differences of opinion between General 
Benham, the Mayor, the Chief Engineer, and the firemen, as 
to whether buildings should be blown up before the fire ac- 
tually reached them. 

The bringing of that powder up State Street [testified 
Major Higginson] struck me as a horrible thing to do, but 
there was nothing else to be done. I was told to do it, and I 
did it. We drove by a couple of engines, and stopped about 
twenty feet from them, and took this powder out. ... I 
bothered the Mayor almost to death, I suppose, that night. 
The last time I was there, it was about sunrise. I begged him 
to cut this path by blowing from Washington Street to the 
Post Office, and then down to the water. 

Question (by Mr. Firth). Looking back upon it, what do 
you think now of the use of powder, as it was used that night? 

Answer (by H. L. H.). I should think it helped the firemen 
to get at the fire and to extinguish it ; but it seemed to me that 
it was as badly used as it could be. I may be quite wrong, but 
I can't see any point in letting a building catch fire, and then 
blowing it down. I had supposed, and do now, that the point 
of the whole thing was to throw the buildings down and make 
a path before the fire got there, and keep it back. 

> Report of the Commissioners on the Great Fire in Boston (Boston, 1873), pp. 


Q. Did you suggest that to General Benham, or anybody 
you saw? 

A. I told the Mayor. I did n't tell General Benham, be- 
cause he don't keep very quiet when there is any excitement. 
I knew him at the South. He gets a little worried. He ran 
aroimd there, and seemed to have a worse time than anybody 
that morning. 

That story of the frenzied owners of securities trying in 
vain to enter the Safe Deposit Vaults to rescue their own prop- 
erty, and prevented by those stubborn Hig^nsons, became one 
of the legends of State Street and an asset to the growing 
reputation of the firm. Colonel T. W. Higginson suggested 
that George Higginson's portrait ought to be painted, stand- 
ing in the lurid light of the conflagration, with his back to the 
Safety Vaults, defying the "anxious mob of respectable capi- 
talists"! But the colonel was incurably literary. 

In the spring of 1873, after more than four years of labori- 
ous service to his firm, Henry Higginson took a real holiday. 
The Massachusetts Legislature appointed a Commission to 
visit the Vienna Exposition and report thereon. C. F. Adams 
was Chairman, and sailed in April, with his old regimental 
companions Greely Curtis and Higginson, the latter being one 
of the Honorary Commissioners. F. D. Millet, the Secretary 
of the Commission, was already in Europe. A more joyous 
quartette for a junket it would have been difficult to find. 
The three colonels (although Higginson never used his brevet 
title) advanced promptly upon Paris. Adams went on to 
Vienna, while Curtis and Higginson visited Venice. But they 
were back in Paris for the month of June, shopping vigorously 
for their absent wives, and cultivating the theatre. ** I live 
quite by myself," the Major wrote home, " go to the theatre a 
great deal, read and write (a little) French and take two 
lessons a day in the hope of reviving my faded knowledge. I 
shun all the Americans and do not leave my address any- 


where. . . . I've been to the Frangais a great deal." He de- 
scribes with much detail the acting of Got, Mme. Favarti 
Miles. Reichembei^ and Peirson, and a new actress, Sarah 
Bernhardt — "fascinating, wonderful. ... I took a glass to 
watch her. . • • Very little beauty, thin as a rail, handsome 
eyes and nice hair — if her own — head well placed." 

Henry Adams and his wife ("Clover' Hooper) were in 
Paris, and Mrs. Adams helped Higginson in bujring furniture 
for the Commonwealth Avenue house, then building, and in 
dress-making commissions from the Major's wife, who was 
an old friend of Mrs. Adams. Higginson went to London for 
a few days with the Adamses, and dined with J. R. Lowell, 
"very bright and charming. He had just been to Oxford to 
receive his degree." He sold a good many American securities, 
incidentally, in London, and saw much of Sir Thomas Brassey, 
William Malcolm, and other British investors and bankers. 
" I believe I could build up a capital business between here and 
America — simply investing money for safe people." 

Early in July he was at Lausanne, making the acquaintance 
of his Agassiz relatives — fifty of them at one wedding party, 
all talking delightfully in French and German at him at once. 
"Then I got back to Berne, where I talked with Harry 
James until one o'clock in the night." Finally he reached 
Vienna, after thirteen years absence. 

I am delighted [he writes] with severed things here. In the 
first and least place I 'm very glad to find that I can talk Ger- 
man with entire volubility, pretty well (two people said "bet- 
ter than when I went away" — ridiculous!), and with toler- 
able correctness. I need words for new subjects sometimes, 
and have n't such a choice as I once had. Then, of course, I 'm 
pleased very much to be so kindly and aflfectionately received 
by all and to find that I 've not been forgotten during this 
eighth of a century — egotistical, is n't it? but very pleasant 
for one who prizes friends. Then too I 'm greatly pleased to see 


how sundry men, whom I knew, have grown larger and better. 
One of them is director of the opera, another is sub-director, 
another leader of the orchestra, etc., and the chief of the Con- 
servatorium, which is greatly improved. Epstein is the piano- 
professor at the Conservatorium, and the pianist of Vienna. I 
wish he could come for a trip to America. 

He now visited the Exposition "industriously," yet not, 
it appears, too industriously. "The white wines suit me ad- 
mirably, and the weather is charming. ... I heard Strauss's 
people play in the Volks-garten. Though Johann Strauss 
didn't lead, but a brother, yet we had the old swing and 

Ten days later he is back in London, studying the annual 
Royal Exhibition of paintings. " I do think the whole lot in- 
ferior to the French show, though James Lowell, who ought to 
know, and Henry Adams, who does know • • • thought them 
better." His comments on France and Prussia, in this letter 
to his wife, contain a prophecy : — 

The French are trying to learn something. . . . They've 
taken their whipping, borne their trials well, paid their money 
punctually, got rid of the accursed German (you'd swear 
yourself to see those Prussian helmets in the French towns), 
and except that they're training for another war, they're all 
right. ... I wouldn't in any case be a Prussian. "Pride 
goes before a fall." It '11 be some time, but Prussia will get hit 
hard some day. 

And then, in mid-August from Paris, just before sailing, he 
writes this to his father, in strange contrast to his light talk 
about white wines and Strauss waltzes and actresses and pic- 
ture-shows : — 

My real r^jet down-town, beyond my own ability to regu- 
late my life well and to do much without so much worry to 


me, isy that I don't gain wisdom much. To lose money is no 
such serious matter, but to see clearly that one will lose and 
to act accordingly in due season to avoid it — that is worth 
working for; and when shall I get it? Another thing came to 
me clearly one day in London : " We can 7 serve God and Mam- 
man,** which always had a distinct enough meaning for me, 
but — if one wishes a thing very much indeed and works and 
struggles for it, one is likely to lose balance a little and may 
sacrifice better things. You have preserved your honesty en- 
tirely thro' a long and hard life, and it is a wonder. Well, per- 
haps one reason has been that you Ve cared more to keep your 
balance and your honesty than to get money, and the same is 
true of Uncle Harry, and the same is true of the Barings — 

and the same is not true of X , I fear, tho' no one can say 

that he has sinned. 

To-day [August i6; his mother's birthday] is to be remem- 
bered always — and has been here. Sixty-two years old — 
and 24 years since she died. It is a great while, and has been 
a great deal longer for you than for us, and I am older than 
mother was. You have had a hard life — certainly not with- 
out its joys too, but still a hard and dry life, which is all the 
more reason for my being at home soon. How well I remember 
the last summer of mother's life! It is as distinct as possible 
to me, as clear as if it had just passed, and how she sent some 
sweet peas to Lydia Storrow for the coffin of a baby that died 
in the summer. 

He was back in State Street in September, just in time to 
face the panic of 1873. He had noted the business depression 
all over Europe, and particularly in Vienna, but had felt no 
immediate anxiety. Yet the United States had been over- 
trading. The paramount cause of the panic, in the opinion of 
James Ford Rhodes,* was excessive railroad construction, 
ever since the completion of the Union Pacific in 1869. It 1^ 

* History of the United States, vol. 7, pp. 37-53. 


absorbed a large part of the circulating capital of the country 
and all the money that could be borrowed abroad. And now 
the money market grew tight. The failure of Jay Cooke and 
Co. 9 who had financed the Northern Pacific, came on Septem- 
ber 18. The next day Fisk and Hatch, backers of the Chesa- 
peake and Ohio, went down. Wall Street was in terror, and 
the New York Stock Exchange was closed for eight days. 
Wholesale failures followed, and there was no genuine revival 
of business until 1878. 

"These five years [1873-1878]," says Mr. Rhodes, "are a 
long dismal tale of declining markets, exhaustion of capital, a 
lowering in value of all kinds of property, including real estate, 
constant bankruptcies, close economy in business and grinding 
frugality in living, idle mills, furnaces and factories, former 
profit-earning iron mills reduced to the value of a scrap-heap, 
laborers out of employment, reductions of wages, strikes and 
lockouts, the great railroad riots of 1877, su£Fering of the unem- 
ployed, depression and despair.'' 

It was an anxious five years for Lee, Higginson and Co., but 
the anchor held. The firm had solid resources, and the money 
Henry Higginson had raised in London in 1873 came just in 
time. John M. Forbes's handling of the finances of the C. B. 
and Q. and the Burlington and Missouri — roads in which the 
firm was interested — was masterly.* Calumet and Hecla 
never passed a dividend. The old Boston merchants had con- 
fidence in the Lees and Higginsons, and stood by them. An 
illustration may be found in a long letter dictated by Henry 
Higginson on the day of his death, November 14, 1919, to 
Professor Barrett Wendell : — 

In the panic of 1873, some notes of two young men who were 
wards of Mr. Frank Lowell came to us, or rather Mr. Lowell 
brought them to us to sell, he endorsing them. Mr. Lowell was 

1 See An American Railroad Builder — John Murray Forbes, by H. G. Pearson, 
Boston, 1911. 


of the highest kind of type, and had a fair amount of money. 
He took the notes to Edward Austin, in whose office I had 
worked for eighteen months after leaving college. He looked 
and sniffed and said, " Huh, Frank Lowell — a single name — 
after all, those young men do not count ; wonder what would 
happen if Frank Lowell died." Said I, "John Gardner would 
pay the notes, sir." Said he, "Go and ask him"; so I walked 
down to Mr. Gardner and told him the story. Mr. Gardner 
said at once: "Tell Ekiward Austin I will pay every note tiiat 
Frank Lowell ever made," and the sale went through. I tell 
you, the Gardners are high-minded gentlemen all the way 
through — scrupulous, careful, bold, not afraid of the devil. 

But the strain of the panic told on George Higginson, and at 
the end of April, 1874, his sons persuaded him to give up his 
active membership in the firm. He was seventy and had been 
in business from the age of twelve. He lived fifteen years 
longer, and could not keep entirely away from State Street; 
but the days of his real warfare were now accomplished. 

A new partner, Charies A. Whittier, had been admitted to 
the firm on January i , 1873 — a dashing figure, who was, imtil 
he suddenly left the firm in 1888, an idol of the market-place. 
His earlier activities were highly useful to Lee, Higginson and 
Co. Henry Higginson, in his Reminiscences, thus pictures the 
"good years" which succeeded the panic: — 

Business went on, up and down; we took hold of certain 
lines of railroad bonds, bought and sold them, and increased 
our business in that way. By and by we resumed specie pay- 
ments, and then came a period of speculation. As Frank Hig- 
ginson and Whittier were very bright, a large business was de- 
veloped, and while I was abroad again in 1878, they got a laige 
order in Atchison shares and made a great deal of money for 
our customers and for the firm ; in fact, we were the principal 
men in the Stock Exchange at that time. The Biu-lington and 


Missouri Railroad in Nebraska was also being developed at 
that time, as settlers in Nebraska were buying lands, and the 
bonds were being paid off; and there again we had great suc- 
cess for our customers and for ourselves. Whittier was very 
clever indeed in the Stock Exchange, was "king pin." . . . 
Frank was very keen and able, managed the financial side, and 
kept things in excellent order. We had severed very remunera- 
tive years, and made a good deal of money. 

In the summer of 1878 Mr. Higginson was in London, Paris, 
and Berlin again, seeing many friends and visiting picture 
exhibitions and the opera. He heard Patti for the first time : 
"She combines more than anyone known to me. In Vienna 
they told me that she was the first artist of the day, and they *re 
right. She sings, intonates, vocalizes, enunciates, plays, looks 
charmingly, and her voice goes right into one's heart." He 
had one very happy Sunday at Preston Hall, Aylesford, with 
the Brasseys: — 

Passing the Sunday in a lovely place, quietly and idly. A 
great stretch of smooth green meadow, dotted with great oaks, 
elms and chestnuts, deer feeding or lying in the shade (hundred 
or two deer) ; beyond, a greater stretch of meadow yellow with 
buttercups in which beautiful great cows are feeding; just be- 
yond, the Medway flowing unseen and unmarked except by a 
boat with a huge red sail just passing before my eyes — and on 
the other bank a charming old Carmelite monastery, tower and 
church and a brown village. Beyond lie rising meadows 
fringed with trees, and then high hills, half -bare, half-wooded. 
The house is a huge building of gray stone built thirty years 
ago, stretching along a great terrace with a few little beds in 
the garden and a fountain — below it a balustrade of stone. 
The great house has a high great hall on entering, a high din- 
ing-room hung with old armor and weapons, with some good 
carving in it, and a high billiard-room, where the men sit and 
smoke and chat. About twelve guests are now here. 


This was the first of many visits in English country houses. 

Those "good years" that brought him such friendships and 
rapidly increasing business success brought also joy and grief 
into his private life. His father-in-law, Professor Louis Agassiz, 
had died on December 14, 1873, and only eight days later the 
wife of Alexander Agaissiz died also. Henry Higginson*s 
daughter C6cile, whom he idolized with the passion of an in- 
tensely emotional nature, died in 1875. Those who knew him 
intimately were aware that he carried the secret sorrow with 
him till his death. In 1876, his son Alexander was bom, and 
the yearning solicitude of the father followed every waking 
and sleeping instant of the boy's life. But such things as these 
elude biography. ** There are moments in life," said Tui^genev, 
"there are feelings ... we can only indicate them — and 
pass by." 

When Henry Higginson was a very old man, his mind dwelt 
often upon the first decades of his experience in State Street. 
He realized then the years of peculiar strain, the critical pe- 
riods in the firm's existence. He loved to talk of Colonel Harry 
Lee, who ''was our one large capitalist in dangerous times. 
In those times he was always cheerful and full of courage. 
When the seas were smooth, he was not in such good spirits." 

He wrote in 1915: "From 1868 until 1898 there were these 
constant frights and uncertainties, which gave gamblers a 
great chance if they could guess right, and which kept decent 
men in doubt and often in agony. They could not do bu^ess 
in a proper way,and I look back on all those yearswith horror/' 
He dwelt often upon " the desperate years from 1891 to 1898," 
and going back still further, upon "the Villard troubles" and 
the " Union Pacific troubles." " There was a great deal of soda- 
water in business at that time, grave doubts, great extrava- 
gance and certainly great waste. It was an education, but a 
very painful one." He talked much, also, of the " silver craze," 
the failure of Baring Brothers, and the panic of 1893, when 
" things broke loose and were horrible " — "as bad a time as I 


have ever seen"; and the panic of 1907 — when "we lived 
through it after a good deal of suffering." 

But there were ancient triumphs, as well as agonies, upon 
which he often spoke freely: how "Jim Storrow [the elder] 
battled the watch for the Telephone Company, beat the West- 
em Union — which was very strong — and established the 
patents for the Bell Telephone Company; and he was helped 
by Bill Forbes, who thought very little of himself, but was 
stiff and brave; and Vail was a remarkable man; and it was 
those three men who made the Telephone Company with the 
aid of many others " ; * how his friend Charles Coffin, that ' * won- 
derful trader," had succeeded in the difficult negotiations that 
led to the formation of the General Electric Company; how his 
friend C. E. Perkins, of the C. B. and Q., had, single-handed, 
saved the banks of Nebraska from disaster. 

He had fascinating stories, too, of dreams that had come to 
nothing: of fabulous silver mines; of coal and iron properties, 
the only flaw in the perfection of which was the lack of coal and 
iron ; of rainbow-hued bubbles like Duck Creek and the Cot- 
tonham plantation. He had a soft spot in his heart for ''pro- 
moters," visionaries, gamblers, and was never more delightful 
than in recounting some successful swindle upon himself. And 
in truth, to the very end, he was quite willing, in spite of many 
a "burnt finger," to take any legitimate chance once more. 
When he was over eighty he wrote to his old friend General 
C. J. Paine, — who was too much interested in golf, the Major 
thought, to give proper attention to the market, — urging him 
to take a venture in some Sugar bonds. " You ought really to 
attend more carefully to business and not sit and reflect on 
your past glory." The Major's stenographer must have caught 
the twinkle in his eye. 

But it is not the purpose of the present chapter to trace the 
detailed history of Lee, Higginson and Company beyond 1 881. 
With the founding of the Symphony Orchestra, in that year, 

^ Letter to Professor Barrett Wendell, Nov. 14, 1919. 


Major Higginson began his r&le as public benefactor; and 
though everyone knew he was a banker and broker, men b^;an 
to think of him primarily as a patron of the arts, as a philan- 
thropbt. Yet it was his partnership in Lee, Higginson and Co. 
that made his philanthropies possible. It widened immensely 
the scope of his mental activities and his personal friendships. 
It affected his judgment of men, his views of political and 
economic questions. It exercised a steadily moulding pressure 
upon his character. It will be impossible, therefore, to tell the 
story of his later life without frequent allusion to the firm of 
which he was so long an important member. It must suffice 
here to indicate in the briefest fashion the later changes in the 
personnel of the firm and the extension of its activities. 

In 1880 Mr. Charles Fairchild had been admitted as a part- 
ner, and remained until 1894. Mr. F. L. Higginson, after in- 
valuable services, retired from partnership in 1885. In that 
year Mr. James Jackson joined the firm. He died in 1900. 
Gardiner M. Lane was admitted to partnership in 1892, and 
Mr. George L. Peabody and Mr. Harry K. White in 1898. In 
that year Colonel Henry Lee died, leaving George C. Lee, who 
had joined the firm in 1853, as the senior partner. His son, 
George C. Lee, Jr., and Mr. James J. Storrow, were admitted 
to partnership in 1900. 

"At the beginning of the present century, then," says Pro- 
fessor Wendell in his sketch of Lee, Higginson and Co., "the 
firm seemed strong in men. Mr. George Lee was still vigor- 
ous, Mr. Henry Higginson was at his best. Mr. James Jackson 
still seemed almost young, and Mr. Lane and Mr. Peabody 
were actually so. Fifteen years later . . . all of them but Mr. 
Higginson were dead, and Mr. White had long left thebusiness. 
Such losses must in any event have meant a certain break in 
the continuity of personal tradition. This happened to coin- 
cide with a general alteration in the character of the business. 
The general character of American business, indeed, altered 
almost everywhere. The period of promotion was, on the whole, 


past. The problem was no longer, as a rule, to interest large 
mvestors in enterprises which would involve considerable risks 
and if successful should result in great profits. It was rather, 
and increasingly, to find a great number of comparatively 
small investors and to place before them unquestionably sound 
securities. . . . The period in the history of the firm since 
1900 is on the whole as distinct from that between 1868 and 
1900 as that period was from those which came earlier." 

Major Higginson adapted himself, with more flexibility of 
mind than is usual with men past seventy, to these inevitable 
changes in method and in personnel. He was very proud and 
fond of the dozen or more younger partners who had been ad- 
mitted to the firm since 1906 ; proud of the establishment of the 
Chicago and New York offices of Lee, Higginson and Co., and 
of the record of the firm of Higginson and Co. in London. Dur- 
ing the World War he was constantly writing and talking about 
the eflSciency of these younger partners in connection with the 
Red Cross, the Liberty Loans, and other services to the conmiun- 
ity and the nation. He felt that the old firm was still meeting 
its obligations, financial and moral, that it was contribut- 
ing to the welfare of the United States, and helping to safe- 
guard the interests of civilization. In the last summer of his 
life. Major Higginson made one or two brief talks to the school 
for bond-salesmen, organized by Lee, Higginson and Co. for 
the training of their younger employees. Not often, surely, 
has a senior partner, in his eighty-fifth year, given more ripe 
and laconic admonitions. He was talking to boys, but the 
abrupt sentences condensed the long years of experience in 
State Street: — 

The hoilse has always tried to do its work well and to have 
and keep a high character, and I think it has succeeded in 
those points. Character is the foundation-stone of such a busi- 
ness, and once lost, is not easily regained. . . . Now, for your- 
selves: Do not lose a day; use your time well, remembering 


that that day never comes again ; know your business, and tell 
the story just as it is; find out the truth about the bonds and 
shares; if a bond is pretty good, say so; if it is first-class, say 
that; if it is attractive from a speculator's point of view, say 
that. Put the "cards on the table" every time, and do not 
bore buyers. If you are roughly treated, never mind. Good 
men are not infrequently out of temper or very busy, and do 
not care to see you. Remember this about truth : you must 
know your subject in order to speak truly; and although mak- 
ing a mistake is not the same thing as deceiving, still you are 
responsible for the facts, and, therefore, for the truth. Do not 
waste your time. Keep your temper. Play the game decently, 
and be faithful. 

This does not soimd much like weeping on the doorstep ! 



All good work takes time and life-blood — and shows us why most of us 
must live long to do a real piece of work. — H. L. H. to A. W. T&atbr, July 
21, 1887. 

Wdche grosse Opfer bringst Du der MusikI Ddn Name wird nicht ver- 
gcssen werden. Dein alter Verehrer und Freund, Juuus Epstein. — To 
H. L. H., July 15, 1914. 

The orchestra sprang from the faith of my youth and has been the faith of 
my life and of my old age. — From H. L. H.'s penciled memoranda for his 
farewell address, May 4, 1918. 

No one knows the precise hour when Henry Higginson first 
dreamed his dream of foimding a Symphony Orchestra in 
Boston. But again and again, in the closing years of his life, he 
stated that the idea came to him during his student days in 
Vienna.* The Civil War and the struggle for a livelihood forced 
his energies into other channels for a time, and it was not until 
the spring of 1 881 , following two or three years of marked suc- 
cess in business, that he was able at last to carry out his in- 
tention. No clearer statement of his purposes can be made 
than is contained in his address to the members of the Sym- 
phony Orchestra on April 27, 1 9 14, in his eightieth year: — 

Gentlemen : — 

Sixty years ago I wished to be a musician, and therefore 
went to Vienna, where I studied two years and a half diligently, 
learned something of music, something about musicians, and 
one other thing — that I had no talent for music. I heard 

^ The story of the Symphony Orchestra during the World War will be told 
briefly in the concluding chapter. 
* In a letter of Dec. 2, 1917, to President Eliot, he gives the date as 1857. 


there and in other European cities the best orchestras, and 
much wished that our own country should have such fine or- 
chestras. Coming home at the end of i860, I found our 
country in trouble, and presently in a great war. Naturally I 
took part in the war, at the end of which time I did various 
things, and at last came to our present office in State Street, 
where I was admitted as a partner. 

For many years I had hard work to earn my living and sup- 
port my wife. Originally I had had a very small sum of money, 
which had been used up while studying in Vienna and during 
the war. All these years I watched the musical conditions in 
Boston, hoping to make them better. I believed that an 
orchestra of excellent musicians under one head and devoted 
to a single purpose could produce fine results, and wished for 
the ability to support such an undertaking; for I saw that it 
was impossible to give music at fair prices and make the Or- 
chestra pay expenses. 

After consulting with some European friends, I laid out a 
plan, and at the end of two very good years of business began 
concerts in the fall of 188 1. It seemed best to undertake the 
matter single-handed, and, beyond one fine gift from a dear 
friend, I have borne the costs alone. All this is a matter of 
record, and yet it may interest you. It seemed clear that an 
orchestra of fair size and under possible conditions would cost 
at least $20,000 a year more than the public would pay. There- 
fore, I expected this deficit each year, and faced contracts 
with seventy men and a conductor. It was a large sum of 
money, which depended on my business each year and on the 
public. If the concert halls were filled, that would help me; 
if my own business went well, that would help me; and the 
truth is, that the great public has stood by me nobly. 

In my eyes the requisites about the Orchestra were these: 
to leave the choice and care of the musicians, the choice and 
care of the music, the rehearsals and direction of the Orches- 
tra, to the conductor, giving him every power possible; to 


leave to an able manager the business affairs of the enterprise; 
and on my part, to pay the bills, to be satisfied with nothing 
short of perfection, and always to remember that we were 
seeking high art and not money: art came first, then the good 
of the public, and the money must be an after consideration. 

We began with Mr. Henschel as a conductor, taking the 
musicians of this town. I told Mr. Henschel that the Orches- 
tra should play under one leader and only one, to learn his 
ways and to get the proper discipline ; and he agreed with me. 
He conducted the Orchestra with much success for three years, 
during which time he drew a few men from Europe. He and 
the Orchestra worked hard, and gave us fair results. 

Then I engaged in Vienna Mr. Gericke, who came here for 
five years, brought in his second year many good musicians 
from Europe, and really created our Orchestra. He became a 
great favorite with the public, which was very sorry to lose 
him. After Mr. Gericke came Mr. Nikisch, who did much bril- 
liant work during four years; but, owing to a tempting offer 
from Europe, he left us and was succeeded by Mr. Paur, who 
stayed five years. He also gave us good concerts, and then Mr. 
Gericke came back for eight years, which many of you will 
remember well. He f oimd the Orchestra in excellent condition, 
and, with his skill and admirable taste, brought it to a high 
pitch. Then came Dr. Muck for two years, then for three 
years Mr. Fiedler, to whom we also owe many beautiful 
concerts, and now Dr. Muck is here again. 

Mr. Ellis suggested the summer concerts, in order to give 
more work to the members of the Orchestra; and this step met 
a want which was keenly felt. Mr. Gericke suggested the 
system of pensions, which was put in force and has given help 
to many past members of the Orchestra, and must be a com- 
fort to you gentlemen of the Orchestra to-day as something to 
look forward to when you leave off work. 

For the term of thirty-three years the total deficit is about 


$900,000. My friends have b^;ged me again and again to 
stop the concerts because the strain was too great; but the 
work has gone on, and the result is the present beautiful 
Orchestra, of which we all are proud. 

We had been driven out of the old Music Hall in Hamilton 
Place because the city planned to put a street through the 
hall, and I welcomed the change, as the old hall was not well- 
aired, and was not very safe. Friends built the present 
hall, which I leased for a long term of years, as we must have 
it free for our use at all times. The hall is not rented so 
much as we could wish, the costs of keeping it in order are 
large, and therefore the yearly deficit ranges from $13,000 to 

Now what does each of us do for the Orchestra? Dr. Muck 
chooses the music, prepares everything for the public, con- 
ducts the rehearsals and the concerts. E^ch of you gentlemen 
does his part excellently, and each of you is as well treated as 
lies in my power. My part is to run the risk of each year's 
contracts, and to meet the deficit, which never will fall below 
$20,000 yearly, and is often more. At present we have good 
luck in cities other than Boston, but it is a luck on which we 
cannot coimt, for good orchestras exist everywhere, and pres- 
ently we may not be needed beyond our home. In Boston I 
have to take my luck, which thus far has been good ; but there 
is always a chance, and you have only to reckon how many 
contracts I must sign, to see what a heavy burden would be 
on my shoulders if the concerts were not successful, and the 
audiences were small. Pray remember that I must go to my 
office daily, in order to earn money enough to carry on this 
enterprise yearly and to accumulate $1,000,000, on the inter- 
est of which the Orchestra will depend after my death.* I do 
not wish to make too much of this point, but if our concerts 
were to cease, my work could cease, as my friends wish; 

^ Ultimately Mr. Higginson was compelled to abandon this long-cherished plan. 
See chap. xrv. 


and please bear in mind that I shall be eighty years old next 

There is the story. I am content and happy to go on with 
my work, and fully expect to get together enough money to 
carry on the Orchestra long after my death, if it is wanted ; but 
without peace we cannot have a noble orchestra, and we can- 
not keep our reputation without excellent work by high-grade 
artists and as good a conductor as exists. All these things we 
have now ; but if we do not have a peaceful life, it will drive 
me out of this business, and will destroy the Orchestra. 

We have had to dismiss various men for good reasons, and 
we have replaced them by able, conscientious musicians — 
real artists, who play for the joy of the music. Do not suppose 
that I am ignorant about the various members of the orches- 
tra. At one time I knew every man ; and if that is not the case 
now, I know many of you, and listen carefully to the playing 
of this or that man ; know well when Witek is doing his best, 
hear Ferir, hear Wamke, never miss a tone of Longy or 
Maquarre or Grisez or Wendler or Sadony ; I know very well 
what the trumpets are doing, and the trombones, and watch 
the drummer, and listen for the tuba; I watch with pleasure 
the double basses as they stand behind you all. We lost 
Schuecker last year, and have in his place an admirable artist 
whose skill gives us much pleasure. In short, I watch the 
musicians almost too much, for it often interferes with my 
pleasure, thinking whether they are playing their best, and 
listening for the various points instead of listening for the 
whole. Whenever I go to a concert, there is always a sense of 
responsibility on my mind, and there is always great joy. 

Gentlemen, to sum up : You see that I know your work, and 
now you know mine ; I know your share, and know that you 
try to give us the best music in the best way; and on my part, 
I try to make your position as comfortable as possible. It 
would be a great pleasure to raise your pay to a still higher 
point, but I cannot. 


One last word. Ever since my boyhood I have longed to 
have a part in some good work which would leave a lasting 
mark in the world. To-day we have a noble orchestra — the 
work of our hands — which gives joy and comfort to many 
people. Dr. Muck and I are glad to do oiu* part, and, with 
your hearty co5peration, the work will last. 

The frank simplicity of this story as told by Major Higgin- 
son needs no praise. But to estimate the full significance of 
his service to the cause of music, and the personal conditions 
under which that service was rendered, we must now go back 
to 1 88 1, and to the inception of the great enterprise. Mr. 
Howe's admirable history of the Orchestra* covers the first 
thirty-three years of its existence. To his accurate and spirited 
record of that period there is little to be added, except some 
reminiscences by Major Higginson, written or spoken subse- 
quently to 19141 and a few extracts from the ample bimdle of 
Orchestra correspondence. It must be remembered that for 
many decades Mr. Higginson was carrying a great weight of 
business responsibilities, of philanthropic services to Harvard 
and other institutions, and of commiuiity activities of a hun- 
dred kinds, in addition to the load of the Orchestra. All these 
things were on his mind at the same time, and being given to 
speaking his mind freely, his general correspondence is full of 
references to Orchestra matters. It is characteristic of him 
that, on the back of an important letter from Mr. Henschel, 
there are penciled jottings about the day's work in State 
Street, — "Sell for our account 3000 C. & B. 6* at 105," — and 
that between two important business letters in his copying- 
files there should be a curt cablegram to Mr. Gericke in 
Vienna: "Engagiren Sie niemand mehr." 

It is now more than forty years since that March afternoon 

1 The Boston Symphony Orchestra, An Historical Sketch, by M. A. DeWolfe 
Howe, Boston and New York, 1914. 


in 188 1 y when Mr. Higginson met Mn Henschel at the house 
of Mrs. George D. Howe, at 17 Marlborough Street, and re- 
vealed his plan of founding an orchestra in Boston. Three 
noteworthy facts must be kept in mind, if we would measure 
the significance of that conversation. The first is the long 
preliminary brooding over the project, the tenacious holding 
to a youthful resolve. Mr. Higginson's wisest counselor in 
Eiu'Qpe was his old "chum,'* Julius Epstein of Vienna, who 
had become a famous professor at the Conservatory, and knew 
the foremost musicians in Austria and Germany. Out of a 
friendship which began in the eighteen-fifties and lasted until 
after the World War, Professor Epstein was able to render 
the most valuable service to the Orchestra from the very 

The second fact, skillfully narrated by Mr. Howe, is the 
forty-years' preparation of the Boston musical public. Mr. 
Higginson could not have obeyed his friend Mrs. Fanny 
Kemble's injunction to "plant flowers in the great corn-field 
of America " if the soil had not been ready for him. It had all 
counted: J. S. Dwight's dream of "an orchestra worthy to 
execute the grand works of Haydn and Mozart,'' set forth in 
the ** Dial" for July, 1840; the Academy of Music concerts in 
the eighteen-forties; the concerts of the Musical Fund Society 
and the Germania Orchestra in the fifties; the building of the 
Music Hall in 1852; the fine concerts of the Harvard Musical 
Association and the Philharmonic Society, under the leader- 
ship of Carl Zerrahn, for the seventeen years previous to 188 1 ; 
and the early visits of Theodore Thomas's Orchestra to Bos- 
ton.^ Neither the seed-time nor the harvest failed. 

And the third fact to be remembered is the swift audacity 
with which Mr. Higginson acted, as soon as his mind was 
made up. To engage Mr. Henschel, a brilliant musician with 

1 See Howe, op, cii., chap. I, and the article by J. S. Dwight in the Memorial 
History of Boston, edited by Justin Winaor, x88a-6i. 


but little experience as a conductor, was running an indubi- 
table risk. To undertake, single-handed, the support of an 
orchestra by his yearly earnings in State Street was an act of 
daring. Judged by ordinary standards of financial prudence, 
the founding and sustaining of the Symphony Orchestra was 
a reckless undertaking. But it was precisely the sort of unself- 
ish recklessness which endeared the Major to his friends. It 
belonged, somehow, with his erect soldierly bearing, with his 
abrupt vigorous speech, with the sabre-scar across his finely 
modeled face. 

This temperamental rashness, however, was only one side 
of a singularly many-sided man. The formal announcement 
of the enterprise, made by Mr. Higginson in the newspapers 
on March 30, 1881, and the long statement of the details of 
his scheme, entitled '*Inre the Boston Symphony Orchestra,"^ 
reveal a carefully perfected plan, elaborated with minute at- 
tention to details, and with shrewd insight into human nature. 
The test of its soundness lies in the simple fact that the plan 
has worked, in all its essential features, from the very begin- 
ning. In the words of Mr. Howe, written in 1914: "The very 
details of the plan which Mr. Higginson put into words in the 
spring of 1 88 1, before a single concert was given, have, to an 
extraordinary degree, been carried out. Except for the change 
of method in the sale of tickets, the inevitable advance of 
prices, and the substitution of nominal for actual rehearsals 
on Friday afternoons, it is hard to name any modifications of 
the original scheme, which have not been developments rather 
than changes in its provisions." Never, in short, in all the 
rest of his life, did Henry Higginson exhibit more strikingly 
his capacity for straight, hard thinking. 

And mingled with the hard thinking there was delicate 
sentiment, and the ever-present thought of his friends who 
had been sacrificed in the Civil War. He wrote to Miss Fran- 
ces R. Morse, on September 18, 1881: — 

' Howe, op. cU,, pp. 27-34* 


I had a noble set of men-friends and loved them much and 
lived on them. They led me in part to thoughts and hopes 
which have resulted in this scheme. It seems to me to be 
worth wlule, and to be a little gravestone to them if anything, 
for they are all dead but one — a great loss to me and the 
world. To these friends I tried to give everjrthing, because my 
belief was that one cannot do or give or take too much from 
a friend. 

Older Bostonians remember vividly the excitement pro- 
duced by Mr. Henschel's first season. He was only thirty-one, 
and he had the enthusiasm, the glamour, the daring of youth. 
Most of Mr. Higginson's friends were inclined to agree with 
John C. Bancroft, who had written in March : — 

* * I can't but think that for an experiment like yours Henschel 
must be the right type of man. I have only heard him sing 
and accompany himself and others, but he does both in such 
a masterly way, with so much fire, tenderness and poetry, and 
there is so much charm in his own compositions, that he is 
evidently a musician of exceeding fine fibre, and as you have 
seen him leading an orchestra to your satisfaction, it gives a 
wdl-roimded view of him. I cannot believe there will be any 
commonplace playing under a leader of that type. I don't 
think anyone could prophesy now how your experiment will 
work or what it may not lead to if successful — possibly great 
musical things for Boston in the future. Certainly it is some- 
thing more than founding a first-class orchestra. ..." 

The seventy men directed by the new conductor were for the 
most part, it must be remembered, also players in the concerts 
of the Harvard Musical Association and the Philharmonic 
Society. It was natural that both players and public should 
compare Henschel, favorably or unfavorably, with Zerrahn 
and Maas. There were skeptics and scoffers, whose comments 
are amusingly quoted by Mr. Howe; but the twenty concerts 
imder Mr. Henschel proved, on the whole, an amazing success. 


Many of us remember the long waiting line of ticket-buyers in 
Hamilton Place, crowding the entrance to the old Music Hall; 
the endless debates over the conductor 's programme-making: 
the joy of the Wagnerians and the wrath of the anti-Wagner- 
ians, the puzzlement over Brahms. In the second season the 
number of Boston concerts was increased to twenty-six, and 
the Cambridge concerts — an integral part of Mr. Higginson's 
plan from the first — began. There were concerts, too, in 
many other New England cities, and the business arrangements 
grew steadily more complicated in consequence. Mr. John P. 
Lyman served valiantly as a volunteer treasurer. Mr. Higgin- 
son had secured the control of Music Hall, and Mr. Charles A. 
Ellis soon began his long service as manager. 

When Mr. Henschel, at the end of his third season, returned 
to Europe and to his own career as a singer, the Symphony 
Orchestra had firmly established itself. The Orchestra corre- 
spondence of those three years still retains ^' the freshness of 
the early world.'* Here are Mr. Lyman's first designs for tick- 
ets, suggestions for newspaper advertising, records of the first 
struggles with speculators, and tentative lists for complimen- 
tary seats. Early in the third season (November 20, 1883) Mr. 
Lyman is able to report, in view of the probability that Mr. 
Henschel would not return for another season : — 

" I am convinced that the Boston Symphony Orchestra is the 
head and Henschel the tail of the beast. You may be surprised 
that I should think it worth while to say this ; but former years 
I have been in doubt whether people went to hear the Boston 
Symphony Orchestra or to hear the result of Henschel's con- 
ducting: for you must remember that he was a much per- 
secuted man in 1881, and that sympathy and curiosity are 
powerful agents. But now, in the fine results that he has at- 
tained, his triumph has been achieved, popular sentimentality 
has in a large measure died out and people have come to regard 
the Orchestra as the main attraction, though the two are yet 
closely connected. If the new man has a wide and established 


reputation, he can begin where Henschel left off and perhaps 
do more. ' 

On December 2, 1883, Mr. Ellis wrote to Mr. Higginson, 
who was then in Europe : — 

" One third of our season is now over, and I am glad to write 
that the concerts have all been successful — we have not yet 
had a poor house in or out of Boston. I wish you could hear 
one concert — the Orchestra is stronger and plays very much 
better than ever before, and Mr. Henschel deserves great 
credit for it. Many of the men now say he has no superior as a 
conductor, and I am sure every one of them will be sorry when 
he goes. . • « 

" Mr. Cotting wants us to give some light summer concerts: 
he proposes to decorate Music Hall with plants, etc., making a 
kind of garden of it, and will either rent it to us at a low rate, 
or for a percentage of receipts sharing the risk with us. I be- 
lieve such a series would go. I talked last summer with Mr. 
Listemann about it, and he said the men would be glad to 
accept at a small salary (say $1 8 a week) a summer engagement 
that would keep them at home. There are enough people in 
Boston summer evenings with nothing to do who would sup* 
port such concerts." 

There are many letters from Julius Epstein, who followed 
every phase of the Orchestra's development with the keenest 
professional and personal interest. But it is the letters in the 
bold hand of Sir George Henschel, which bring back most 
vividly the b^nnings of the Orchestra. On March 17, 1881, 
he is considering — with a thoughtf ulness imitated by all of 
his successors — the question of salary. A week later he is 
ready to sign the contract, and thinks ' ' The Symphony Orches- 
tra of Boston; Conductor, Mr. Geoi^ge Henschel, would be the 
best title after all." The next letter touches a point destined 
to become later a matter of long controversy: "We are grad- 
ually coming to my original proposition, viz. : to simply engage 


the men and not to care at all what they are doing besides our 
work. I assure you that is the best thing we can do, and if you 
have any confidence in my judgment, pray drop all conditions 
in the contract except those relating to our own welfare. I 
mean now the conditions of discipline, etc/* 

In July Mr. Henschel writes from Germany at great length, 
controverting a Boston "Transcript" critic, who had main- 
tained that the Music Hall was too lai^e for successful orches- 
tra concerts, defending Henschel's own theory of "mixed 
programmes," and telling of his success in selecting the musi- 
cal library for the Orchestra, " The money I have spent for the 
complete library will not exceed two hundred and fifty pounds, 
but it will be one of the finest and most complete libraries in 
existence." * Less than forty years afterward, the value of the 
Symphony Orchestra Library was estimated at $100,000! In 
later letters of that summer Mr. Henschel describes the exact 
height of the conductor's platform, the probable cost of the 
coming season's soloists, and answers suggestions that Mr. Hig- 
ginson had evidently made about programmes. "2. 'Nichtzu 
viel Wagner.' Be sure I will always remember, as you say, 
what different people need. I spent a most delightful three 
days with Brahms near Vienna. He was delighted with the 
catalogue of our library and the idea of our giving lighter music 
in the second part of the concert." 

Mr. Higginson's letters to Mr. Henschel, throughout his en- 
gagement, are tactful, friendly, and generous. 

During the last winter of Mr. Henschel's engagement Mr. 

> Mr. Henschel's list of the year 1 881 is subjoined, for the benefit of music- 
lovers of the present day: "The catalogue is now complete and contains over 50 
sjrmphonies, 80 overtures and 90 miscellaneous works, — the names of the best 
representatives of the German, French, Italian, Hungarian, Bohemian, Danish, 
English and Russian schools, namely: Abert, Adam, Auber, J. S. Bach, Ph. E. 
Bach, Bargiel, Beethoven, Bennett, Berlioz, Boleldieu, Boccherini, Brahms, Bruch, 
Cherubini, Delibes, DvoVik, Gade, Glinka, Glfick,Goldniark, Gounod, Grammann, 
Grimm, Handel, Haydn, Harold, Hiller, Lachner, Lully, Liszt, M^hul, Massenet, 
Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Monsigny, Mozart, Raff, Reinecke, Rubinstein, Saint- 
SaSns, Schubert, Schumann, Sdderman, Spohr, Spontini, Tschaikowsky, Volk- 
mann, Wagner, and Weber." 


Higginson was in Europe. He had gone over in June, 1883, 
with his wife and son, intending to stay a year, partly for busi- 
ness, partly for a holiday, — ^ which he scarcely succeeded in 
getting, — and partly to secure a conductor to succeed Hen- 
schel. But the year was a troubled one. His wife and son fell 
ill; business obligations pressed him hard, and the negotia- 
tions for a conductor proved difficult. In October he was in 
Vienna, consulting with Epstein about the relative merits of 
Richter, Gericke, and Nikisch, and making the personal ac- 
quaintance of these artists. The negotiations dragged along. 
In December he wrote his father about Wagner operas : — 

The whole list of these (except the last) has been given, and 
I 've heard them all as a matter of education. They 're very ex- 
hausting from their noise, length, and intricacy in form and in 
structure. They appeal far too much to the senses of various 
kinds, and I 'm very glad they are past. The scenic effects 
are beyond belief, and the work of conductor [Richter and 
Gericke], Orchestra and singers is wonderful. 

By January, 1884, he was in London, worried about the 
market. He writes to his father: — 

I was going to ask you to sell some of your Calumet shares: 
2300 is a great many, and good as they are, how can anyone 
tell to what price copper will go? I fear the market always. 
Don't you? Don't you also fear the upset likely to be caused 
by a low tariff, which has got to come ? It may be sooner or later, 
but come it will. It will bother cotton and woolen goods and 
iron at least, and so it will bother our railroad. I 'm glad to 
hear of the dividend on preferred shares, but I wish you would 
sell some of your stock, and I never could understand why you 
chose to keep so much. It looked clear to me that it must go 
down, but then I see wrong about six times in seven. I 'm 
awfully perplexed by the whole situation. 


Two days later he wrote to his wife, who was still in Vienna: 
*' Our markets at home are as bad as I ever saw them — every- 
one selling right and left. It is simply cussed." On February 
5: "Father writes me that I ought to go home and now 
Unde H. and George Lee telegraph me the same. What can I 
do but go? And what will you do?" But a month went by 
before he could sail, and a few sentences from his letters to Mrs. 
Higginson give pleasanter pictures of his interests in London. 

Harry James came in for a chat this noon. He is a good chap 
and agreeable. — Gordon reaches Khartoum in a day or two, 
and is very hopeful. Thank Heaven we've no foreign policy. 
"Mind your own business" is a good rule for nations, until 
they 've an orderly house to show. — Mr. Bryce has just called 
on me and found me out. He left a kind card offering services, 
and it is much from a member of Parliament just now.— 
[Clarence] King leaves this evening for Paris, so I shall be still 
more alone. — John Morley, late of the "Pall Mall," is tak- 
ing a prominent part in the House and much is expected of 
him. But Chamberlain and Dilke are the coming men, who 
will be at the front when Gladstone leaves work. 

But his farewell note, on March 8, 1884, breathes disap- 
pointment with his various endeavors : " I have tried to do the 
work of a large man, and I'm a small man." He reached home 
just in time to hear Henschel's last concert, and then plunged 
into his tasks at State Street. The low price of copper had 
forced Calumet and Hecla to pass its dividend for the first 
time, and there were many other business anxieties. He 
worked feverishly hard, amused himself when he could by 
planting trees at "Sunset Hill," — his Manchester estate, — 
and had some pleasant drives with his father. He wrote long 
letters to Gericke, the new conductor, about engaging musi- 
cians in Europe ; and by the time Mrs. Higginson returned, late 
in the summer, he was in a more cheerful mood. 


Mr. Gericke's first term of service as conductor* is admirably 
described by Mr. Howe, who prints the interesting accounts of 
it given by Mr. Gericke as well as by Mr. Higginson. They 
need not be repeated here. It is sufficient to quote the well- 
known words, "Gericke made our Orchestra." His training 
and temperament were precisely what was needed for the 
necessary task of rendering the Orchestra " both homogeneous 
and expert." His programme-making was criticized, — like 
that of every conductor, — and the changes which his love of 
perfection made in the personnel of the Orchestra gave rise to 
some hard feeling among the superseded musicians. Before 
his second season began, he brought no less than twenty new 
players from Europe, many of them destined to win great re- 
nown. The "Pop" concerts began in the spring of 1885. In 
1887 came the first concerts of the Orchestra in New York, and 
the first trip to the West. Mr. Gericke's patience and compe- 
tence had triumphed, and when his first engagement came 
to a close, in the spring of 1889, and his admirers presented 
him with an album in recognition of their gratitude, the vet- 
eran lover of music, Mr. J. S. Dwight, inscribed upon the fly- 
leaf: "To the Maker of the Boston Symphony Orchestra." 
Mr, Higginson's words, spoken at a farewell dinner to Mr. 
Gericke at the Tavern Club, are an eloquent summary of 
his services:* — 

Coming from Vienna, whose very name rings with music, to 
our new country, he found an orchestra without the long- 
established traditions that are the very groundwork of artistic 
undertakings in Europe. The methods, the relations between 
leader and men, the general conditions were wholly new to him. 

1 For the convenience of the reader, the dates of the service of the various con- 
ductors of the Orchestra are given here: Henschel, 1881-1884; Gericke (first term), 
1884-1889; Nikisch, 1889-1893; Paur, 1893-1898; Gericke (second term), 1898- 
1906; Muck (first term), 1906-1908; Fiedler, 1908-1912; Muck (second term), 

* Howe, op, cit,, p. 149. 



The muddans were no longer young; were of various nations 
and of various habits; the climate was trying; the hall was too 
large for fine musical effects. The circumstances, in many re- 
spects, were unfavorable to good results. But he did not abate 
his zeal. He worked early and late with absolute fidelity to his 
task. He exacted an amount of practice which his men found 
trying, but which they came to recognize as the only means of 
success. He gave his three weekly performances month by 
month and year by year, under trials and against obstacles, 
always feeling that, work as he would, he could not reach the 
excellence of which he dreamed, and for which he ached. After 
Mr. Gericke had trained his Orchestra so as to have it well in 
hand, he himself proposed to increase his work by giving addi- 
tional concerts in other cities, in order to keep the musicians 
employed during a longer period of the year, and so secure for 
them more practice and more pay. In these cities he has stead- 
ily won fame for himself and for them, until now he is gladly 
welcomed East and West ; and in New York and in Philadel- 
phia his departure is deplored, as it is here. You have heard 
and will bear witness to the great results which he has 
achieved, and with which he has delighted his audiences, and 
you will not soon forget how the Orchestra under his hand has 
learned to soar and to sing — surely the highest praise. 

Mr. Gericke's successor was Mr. Arthur Nikisch of Leipzig. 
He had been under consideration five years before, and the 
new negotiations with him were entrusted to Mr. Otto Dresel, 
a Boston musician of high standing. In a long letter of instruc- 
tions to Mr. Dresel, October 8, 1888,^ Mr. Higginson sets forth 
his views in an interesting fashion. 

• • • Mr. Gericke does not look very well and is suflFering 
from his nerves and from too much work in the past years. 
He exhausts himself very much with his work, and perhaps 

^ Mr. Howe prints a portion of this letter. 


this is unavoidable for a thorough and conscientious artist. 
The men of the orchestra are naturally very trying, as you 
are aware, and musicians are made upon their own plan. 
About all this you know better than I do. Further than that, 
our climate is very trying to us, to foreigners, and more es- 
pecially, as it would seem, to artists. 

About Mr. Nikisch — I never had a doubt. In the first 
place, your opinion in such matters is very valuable. You 
were very clear and emphatic as to his artistic value. In the 
second place, I got a very full and very favorable account of 
him from friends in Vienna, on whose judgment I entirely 
rely. ... I have no question that he can do the work — no 
doubt, if he is strong enough. ... I am bound to say about 
Mr. Gericke that he has done all that he could do, and has 
worked very hard and very conscientiously at all times to 
carry out the ends in view. He never spares himself one 
moment. I never have exercised any supervision ; I never have 
uiged him, and I am not in a position to do so. You know very 
well that I am a busy man, and have many cares on my mind ; 
that I must keep this orchestral matter before me, but I can- 
not give it much daily care or thought. I cannot go and see 
that the conductor is busy with his work day after day, week 
after week. Very often I do not go to a rehearsal for months 
at a time. That care I will not have on my mind, nor will I 
have any care or worry with regard to making the programmes 
or arrangements ; nor will I undertake to engage any musicians. 
I have a manager who is an excellent fellow and has had some 
experience, and who, here and in other cities, makes all ar- 
rangements. He also makes the contracts, by reengaging men 
when they expire, engages new men and discharges old men ; 
but he does this at the bidding of the conductor of the orches- 
tra. He has neither the experience nor the knowledge to en- 
able him to look up new men, therefore to the conductor is 
left the whole artistic direction of the work and management. 
He must lay out his plans, of course make his programmes. 


find new men if he loses the old ones, either by their going or 
by his dismissal of them for ill conduct or for want of ability. 
He must think beforehand and arrange as to the concerts in 
town and out of town; he must preserve discipline in the 
orchestra, which is a more difficult matter than on the other 
side. He is free and unfettered in all these matters, has no 
government officer, inspector or director to bother him. He 
is as free as a man can well be in this world — any man who 
has much work and considerable responsibilities on his 
shoulders. • . • 

My contracts are very strong, indeed much stronger than 
European contracts usually are.^ They have only been used 
for the good of the men as a body. If a man is so rude and so 
insubordinate that it cannot be borne at the rehearsals, and 
does not show any signs of improvement, he must be dis- 
chaif^ed, and can be under this contract. In short, I have the 
power, but have never used it, and shall not use it unless abso- 
lutely necessary. Of course, a man who makes a disturbance 
in a public meeting — being at a concert or any other meeting 
— in this country can be locked up, but nobody wants to lock 
up an offending violin or clarinet player. On these scores he 
need have no uneasiness. But I want to know whether I can 
rely on his conscientiousness and fidelity to his duties without 
a word from me ; on his power to rule the men and keep the 
peace, and get such work as he needs out of them ; and whether 
I can rely on his physical health and strength. Mr. Gericke 
was a pretty strong man and he has exhausted himself. He 
said on coming here that he had injured his health before by 
much hard work. He does not work as Thomas does, but I 
fancy few men can do so. It will not help Mr. Nikisch to come 
over here and fail from want of physical vigor. . . . 

To sum up — the engagement would be for eight months of 

> Section twelve of the Orchestra contract reads: " If said musician fails to 
play to the satisfaction of said Higginson, said Higginson may dismiss aaid musi- 
cian from the Orchestra, paying his salary to the time of dismissal, and shaU not 
be liable to pay him any compensation or damages for such dismissal." 


the year, or less; the salary would be $8000; the conductor has 
the sole artistic management of the concerts given; he is to 
rule the men ; rehearse as often as he finds necessary ; rehearse 
the choruses, if he wishes them for any concerts; to make the 
programmes; to engage the soloists; to look up and engage 
fresh musicians when needed, which will now rarely happen, 
if at all ; to dischaige men if he sees fit. Of course, this will be 
done with my assistance, if I can help him. He has sole power 
in all these matters. . . . You know the aims, objects and 
pecuniary results of all my musical experience here, and you 
know what the result has been. It is far enough from what I 
want to attain, but, at the same time, it has been something. 
It is a work with which I wish to go on as long as I can, and 
if it can be made to continue forever, which is my expectation, 
so much the better. I do not believe that there is any such 
engagement for a director of an orchestra in the world. • . . 
I want him to fully understand that, if he comes here, I must 
rely on him entirely, and I do not want to rely in vain, either 
on his will to do all that an artist may do to carry out my 
purposes, or on his strength to accomplish all this. Pray let 
him understand that I have never interfered with Mr. Gericke 
in his programmes or any of his arrangements, and shall not 
interfere with him. Whatever I may know of music, I do not 
know enough to meddle with that part. If he understands all 
these conditions and thinks he can carry these all out, / 
shotdd like to know it by cable. . • • 

Mr. Dresel's reply to Major Higginson's anxiety about Mr. 
Nikisch's health is amusing enough : — 

"... He is not strongly built, but must have a pretty tough 
and wiry constitution, or else he would not be alive. In reply 
to my expressed anxiety about his physical strength, he said 
that more than once he had had to conduct four Wagner 
Operas in one week. Considering that it nearly kills me to 
hear cw of the beastly things, I think conducting four of them 

• ^ 


in one week, may be sufficient to prove his powers of 

The delightful Mr. Nikisch arrived in due time, in spite of 
the objections of the Musicians* Protective Union on the 
ground that his "admission to the United States was a viola- 
tion of the Contract Labor Law." This contention was not 
sustained, but it marked the beginning of the long strus^le 
with the Union. Mr. Higginson never yielded ground. So far 
as the welfare of the Orchestra players was concerned, he saw 
"no use or need for the Union"; and in this position he was 
upheld by the great majority of lovers of music.^ 

Mr. Nikisch has been characterized as a poet rather than a 
disciplinarian, and his temperament inclined him to "free- 
verse " renderings of his musical moods. The public liked him, 
and sorrowed over his sudden departure for Budapest in 
1893. His correspondence with Mr. Higginson is most agree- 
able, except in their ultimate divergence of view with reganl 
to the obligations imposed by Mr. Nikisch's contract. 

The negotiations for a new conductor were placed in the 
hands of Major Higginson's friend O. W. Donner, who pro- 
ceeded to Vienna to consult with Epstein and Gericke. The 
position was offered to the latter, but his health then seemed to 
forbid a second term of service. Richter was invited, and ac- 
tually signed a contract, without, however, succeeding in secur- 
ing a release from his Vienna contract. His correspondence 
on this point does not leave a favorable impression upon the 
mind of a layman. Then it looked for a time as if Schuck of 
Dresden might accept the position. Mr. Donner's letters and 
cablegrams, through this trying period, are an illuminating 
comment upon the psychology of musicians. " You told me at 
the time that artists were a * queer lotf* but in Richter's case 


In keeping the Boston Symphony Orchestra independent and wholly devoted 
to art he has bestowed upon his fellow countrymen a gift more precious than 
valor on the battlefield.*' — W. J. Henderson in the New York Sun. 


this is much too mild an expression." — " It is almost impos- 
sible to get any reliable information from impartial people. 
Impartiality is hard to find among artists. I have yet to meet 
the artist that does not consider himself far superior to any of 
the others." 

Anxious Major Higginson, sitting in State Street, had a 
list of twenty-two possible European conductors ; and as Mr. 
Donner's letters and cablegrams poured in, he checked off the 
characteristics of each candidate: ''fairish," ''inexperienced 
and talented," "pretty good," "no," "no use," "can't," 
"poor," "rough but goodish," "Richter recommended," etc. 
Ultimately the choice fell upon Emil Paur, who had been 
Nildsch's successor in the Stadt Theater at Leipzig. 

Mr. Paur, after his first rehearsal in Boston, thought the 
Orchestra "the best in the world." Critics praised his "sin- 
cerity" and "robustness" and his hospitality to new musical 
ideas. "The Orchestra," wrote Mr. H. T. Parker in 191 1, 
"had been primitive under Mr. Henschel; it had become 
expert under Mr. Gericke ; it had turned romantic under Mr. 
Nikisch and Mr. Paur."^ 

And now, in 1898, Mr. Gericke came back for eight more 
seasons. "Mr. Gericke, returning for a second term," says 
Mr. Parker, "restored the balance again. He abated not a 
whit his zeal for technical perfection, his exquisite sense of 
quality and euphony of tone. He was soon able to begin again 
with those proficiencies where he had ended, and to advance 
upon the refining and perfecting of them. He had only to 
make ready anew a familiar and sensitive instrument." Those 
were happy years for Mr. Higginson, in spite of his heavy re- 
sponsibilities for the Orchestra and for many other under- 
takings. His relations with Mr. Gericke were cordial, and the 
Orchestra passed from triumph to triumph. 

^"Thirty Years of the Boston Symphony Orchestra"; Boston Transcript, 
September 30, 191 1. 


A landmark in its history was the removal to the new Sym- 
phony Hall on Huntington Avenue, in 1900. The plans had been 
made seven years before, when the proposed opening of a new 
street threatened the destruction of the old building in Hamil- 
ton Place, A corporation had been formed to carry out the 
undertaking, and the generous subscription of over $400,000 
for shares indicated how completely the cause of music had 
won its way in Boston. But the cost of building had risen so 
rapidly by 1900 that more than three quarters of a million 
was necessary. The directors mortgaged the hall, and leased 
it to Mr. Higginson, who agreed to "meet costs of adminis- 
tration, taxes and all charges, and to pay to the stockholders 
the rest of the receipts." As a matter of fact, there has never 
been any profit for the stockholders, and Mr. Higginson quietly 
added the lai^e annual deficit from the Symphony Hall to 
the regular and expected deficit upon the Orchestra. But the 
building was wonderfully well adapted to its purposes, as the 
Inaugural Concert proved; and Major Higginson's address at 
the ceremonies gave the public an opportunity to manifest 
their sense of gratitude and pride. Indeed, there had been few 
of the letters enclosing subscriptions for shares that had not 
expressed the warmest personal feeling toward the initiator 
and sustainer of the Orchestra. 

The establishment of the Pension Fund in 1903 gave the 
players an additional sense of security for the future. The 
Musicians Union was sleepless in its hostility. '' I do not wish 
to fight the union," wrote Major Higginson to Mr. Gericke, 
"but if the union wishes to fight our orchestra, it must fight 
me, and I am ready." He did not hesitate to write and speak 
plainly to Gericke about the burden he himself was carrying. 
In 1898: "The load is heavy and does not grow lighter, as I 
grow older and less able to work. You will not work for money 
when you are of my age [64], and you will never work so hard 
as I do now and must work for ten years more." In 1901 : " It 
has cost me great anxiety and pain in the bad years when I 


was losing much money and could not be sure of keeping the 
concerts." With characteristic energy, however, he urges 
Gericke in 1903 to go to Europe to secure new players: "Go 
to-morrow or the next day. Don't wait until next week; go this 
week. Get right at the matter; finish it as fast and as well as 
you can. ... I have a great many things to do, but, if 
necessary, I could sail for Europe to-morrow.*' Sometimes he 
paid Gericke the compliment of writing him in German, after 
a particularly fine concert: — 

Verehrter Herr Kapellmeister: — 
Musterhaft! Reizend! E^el! VoUkommen! und noch mehr 
wenn ich nur die Worte h&tte! 

Or this (February 25, 1906), after a noble rendering of the 
Freischiitz overture : — 

Verehrter Herr Kapellmeister: — 

"Freischiitz" kenne ich vom Anfange bis zum Ende, und 
ich habe die Overttire sehr lieb, aber nie wie gestem — nicht 
sogar in Wien — habe ich sie gehort. Jede Note, jede Phrase 
— alles. Das Blut ist mir in Kopf gestiegen und ich woUte 
nicht sprechen. 

High-water mark ! ! ! 

Here is a letter written to comfort the distressed conductor 
after a small audience : — 

April 14, 1904. 

My bear Mr. Gericke : — 

I understand very well that you should have been much an- 
noyed and mortified by the small house to hear the Ninth 
Symphony, but I want you also to understand the position 
of other people. Did you notice that we had hardly a friend 
in the hall? Your especial friends and admirers, as well as 
ours, were busy with other things and could not go. 


My own life is an escample of the lives of others. Yesterday 
morning I went to work at a quarter past eight o'clock; was 
very busy until two o'clock, when I went to Concord, twenty 
miles away, to the funeral of a dear friend. I arrived home at 
half -past six; could not even get the nap which I am ordered 
to take ; got my dinner and went to the concert. I have a very 
strong liking for the Ninth Symphony, but last night I should 
have gone to bed at 8 o'clock if it had not been for you and 
the Orchestra. 

This morning I went to work at half -past eight and shall be 
busy steadily until seven o'clock to-night, with one care or 
another. I have two business meetings after I leave the office 

Plenty of other people work just as much as I do, are just 
as full of cares and are just as tired. I would give a week's 
earnings to go to bed this very hour, but I cannot do it. The 
men are very busy, and the women are full of engagements 
and duties and are very busy. . . . 

Now, I know better than anybody else that you have de- 
served every bit that you have got, that you have earned all 
the reputation and the applause which have been given to 
you; but I also know that other people have worked just as 
hard as you and have failed to get these returns. They have 
been well paid neither in money nor in praise. Everybody 
must suffer from disappointment. I have been very busy with 
an especial and very important matter of business for some 
months, have traveled a great many miles to carry ^ it out, 
have worked very hard; and I failed absolutely yesterday. It 
is a much greater disappointment and loss to me than you have 
had since you have been in this country, but there is no use in 
complaining about it. It made me very tired and very cross 
yesterday, and you no doubt noticed both these things and 
suffered from them 

Dear Mr. Gericke, don't think that I am ignorant of your 
feelings as an artist and a man last night. I wish to present 


to you the fact that we are all mortal, that we cannot always 

SUCCCCQ* • • • 

I think you have got more and had fewer disappointments 
as an artist than any man I know, and I am very glad of it. 

With kind regards to Mrs. Gericke (to whom I was very 
cross) and to you (to whom I was crosser), I am, 

Very truly yours, 


[Penned postscript.] Please read this note patiently. It is 
written in the kindest spirit to you, Gluck auf! 

It was not conductors alone who needed occasional com- 
forting and admonition. There were jealousies among the 
players, and lapses of various sorts. ^ Some of these masters of 
heavenly music drank at times, and played a certain card 
game invented for cooler nerves than most artists possess. To 
a friend who suggested that a committee might relieve him of 
some of his personal responsibilities for the Orchestra, and 
that ladies might be asked to serve upon this committee, Mr. 
Higginson replied : " No woman would wish to reprove a man 
for drinking or gambling, or listen to foolish love-affairs — all 
of which comes to a showman." Forehanded artists asked him 
to invest their money for them, and the impecunious or ill 
knew that Major Higginson had a soft heart. Sometimes he 
groaned: " If the world consisted only of musicians, it would 
go to pieces at once." 

But Mr. Higginson's personal relations with musicians 
brought him pleasures which far outweighed the annoyances. 
Many of the distinguished artists of the Orchestra became his 
warm friends. All of the conductors, from Henschel to Fiedler, 
delighted to arrange musical evenings for the Higginsons at 191 
Commonwealth Avenue. Mr. Kneisel and Mr. Longy brought 
their quartettes for chamber music, and famous pianists and 

> "Every now and then a man would be very insolent, which lasted about five 
minutes." — H. L. H, 


soloists played and sang. Expressions of appreciation of Mr. 
Higginson's services to the musical public kept pouring in 
upon him; and in spite of his New England shyness in the 
presence of open praise, he was deeply gratified. In 1906, for 
instance, many of his friends united in subscribing for a por- 
trait bust by St. Gaudens to be set up in Symphony Hall. The 
following letter from Mrs. George Tyson, the chairman of the 
committee, explains their purpose: — 

May 10, 1906. 

Dear Mr. Higginson: — 

We, the undersigned, are moved to express our deep appre- 
ciation of your generosity, coiu^e and patience in the incep- 
tion and continuance of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 
which has for twenty-five years given joy and education to 
thousands. But above and beyond this has been the force of 
your example, which we believe has permanently raised the 
quality of citizenship in our Commonwealth. We therefore 
ask that you will consent to sit to the sculptor, St. Gaudens, 
for a portrait to be placed in some permanent position, that 
the example of your life may serve as an enduring inspiration 
to your fellow citizens. 

To this Mr. Higginson replied: — 

May II, 1906. 
Your letter has moved us both deeply, and we are very 
grateful for the high honor offered to me. The work of the 
Orchestra has been made light by the never-failing sympathy 
of friends and of a great, generous public, an immense encour- 
agement to us. We all hold the creed that our national home 
is what we make it, and that by joint work we can make it 
beautiful and happy. The part which has fallen to me is no 
less a duty than a joy, indeed a necessity to myself. Will you 
say to your Committee that I thank each and all of them heart- 


ily for their kindness in the past and present, and for this 
fresh, graceful expression of their sympathy and confidence in 
my work and life. It pleases us both that Mr. St. Gaudens is 
chosen to make the portrait. 

The sculptor's ill-health prevented his execution of the task, 
and it was finally entrusted to the accomplished hands of Bela 
Pratt. His noble bronze, completed in 191 1, perpetuates the 
friendship and gratitude felt by a whole community. 

Mr. Higginson cherished, likewise, the hundreds of letters 
from music-lovers quite unknown to him, telling of their in- 
debtedness to his generosity. One must here suffice. 

My dear Major Higginson: — 

As I graduate from the Rehearsal rush-line to the proud and 
happy possession of a subscriber's ticket, I beg you to let me 
thank you for the great privilege the Rehearsal line is to many. 

For seven years, in rough and pleasant weather, I, with 500 
other beneficiaries, have rejoiced in the music so generously 
placed within our reach. 

Dropping the quarter into the open palm I always felt a 
deep gratitude to Major Higginson, and bounded up the stairs, 
to forget everything in the re-creating power of that marvelous 
orchestra's universal language, which to lonely and homesick 
people is tonic and consolation. 

The Symphony waiting line is unique. There you see people 
from all over this vast country, young and old, many music 
students, making the sacrifice of the whole day and studying 
while they wait. Often the blind come. One day I stood be- 
side a young Italian violin teacher, who had brought three 
little girl pupils, eager, dark-eyed children, doubtless talented, 
and recruited from the crowded quarter of Boston. We fell to 
talking about instruments, of Mr. Ferir's viola, a Gasparo da 
Salo ; and this man had come from that part of Italy and knew 
the history of that famous worker so long ago. 


Then the excitement of not knowing whether you '11 get in 
and the joy of a seat if you do; and the brilliancy of the music 
from the second balcony. Oh! it's Paradise! and I 'm not sure 
but some of the best critics sit there too, to say nothing of their 
enthusiasm and appreciation^ and the neighborliness of divid- 
ing your bread and butter and apple with the fellow next, if 
he hasn't any, and the profitable and pleasant chats it often 
leads to. 

Early in 1906, there was a friendly difference of opinion be- 
tween Mr. Higginson and Mr. Gericke with r^ard to the 
terms for renewing their contract, and the conductor decided 
to resign. Mr. Higginson's letter to him is impeccable: — 

Boston, February 18, 1906. 

Dear Mr. Gericke: — 

Your pleasantnote of to-day has just come, and does notsur- 
prise me, as your wish for a quiet life and for a return to your 
own home is strong. 

I am very sorry for your decision, and have yielded what 
seemed possible in order to get a different reply from you, for 
your decision ends a long and fine service to the Orchestra and 
to us all. But I accept your reply as wise, and in the kindly 
spirit, and I think with pleasure and gratitude of the concerts 
during this season as the finest in our experience. 

They will leave a noble memory. May I thank you heartily 
for your brilliant and arduous work in making an orchestra, 
and for the ripe, beautiful results which the Orchestrahas given 
us. I am with great resf)ect, 

Very truly yours, 

Henry L. Higginson. 

Gericke, as well as I [wrote Mr. Higginson in 1911], had 
been much disappointed at the leaving of Kneisel with his 
quartette and at the loss of Martin LoefHer, who was a ripe 


musidan of great skill with his violin and of much power as a 
composer. The loss of all these men at one time was severe, 
but we filled their places with men from Em'ope and elsewhere, 
and put at first Arbos as concert-master, and then, after a year, 
put Willy Hess in that position. Hess was an admirable con- 
cert-master and soloist, and made also a pretty good quartette. 
Arbos was a charming man and artist, but he did not like the 
position of concert-master. 

When it was dedded that Mr. Gericke should go, Mr. Ellis 
went to Europe to see whom he could engage, talked with vari- 
ous musicians, and eventually made a bai^ain with Dr. Karl 
Muck, who at that time was at the Opera in Berlin. It seemed 
doubtful for many weeks whether he could come ; but at last 
the Emperor of Germany, who had a particular liking for Dr. 
Muck, agreed that he should come to us for a year. . . . 

Dr. Muck was in a way like Mr. Gericke, — a man of dis- 
tinguished taste and skill and inspiration, — a very noble con- 
ductor. During the year, as we much wanted to keep him for 
a second year, the request was preferred to the Emperor, and 
he granted us the privilege. 

The engagement of Dr. Muck was considered a most bril- 
liant stroke of fortune. Bom in Darmstadt in 1859, and edu- 
cated at the universities of Leipzig and Heidelberg, he had 
risen to the very head of his profession as conductor of the 
Royal Opera House in Berlin. Mr. Higginson had long had 
him under consideration, and in various visits to Europe had 
watched his conducting with care. The German Emperor's 
consent to Dr. Muck's American engagement was obtained 
with difficulty.* From his first concert in Boston Dr. Muck's 
artistic distinction was fully recognized. Mr. Higginson wrote 
thus to his wife (October 16, 1906) of the success of the opening 

^ " In an interview soon after his arrival in America, Dr. Muck attributed this 
consent entirely to the Emperor's regard for Americans, especially for Harvard 
University, with which Mr. Higginson was known to be doeely associated." — 
Howe, op, eit,f p. 2io. 


concert: " Muck*8 security in his orchestra was shown by his 
cessation of beating time for some minutes, tho' the Orchestra 
felt him all the time. The men and he are mutually content 
— and happy over it. It was a very fine, delicate, artistic 

As Mr. Parker wrote in 1911 :* — 

"A perfected instrument awaited him; he appreciated, re- 
spected, preserved its perfections. He could hardly refine upon 
the technique in which Mr. Gericke had schooled the band or 
upon the tonal quality, to which his ear was almost as sensitive 
as had been Mr. Gericke's own. He could, however, b^ 
where Mr. Gericke ended, in the broadening of the eloquence 
and in the heightening of the accent of his orchestral voices. 
The technique and tonal perfections were, so to say, fixed qual- 
ities, and in them and through them Dr. Muck sought and 
attained a diversity of characterizing eloquence. In him was 
and is the discriminating, the responsive, and to disclose the 
individuality of each composer, of each composition that he 
played. He made his orchestra as discerning and as charac- 
terizing, as responsively eloquent. ..." 

High diplomacy was utilized in order to persuade the Em- 
peror to extend Dr. Muck's leave of absence for a second year. 
Major Higginson sent a personal letter, which Senator Lodge 
declared "wholly admirable. I would not change a word." 
The Secretary of State, Elihu Root, asked our Ambassador in 
Berlin, Charlemagne Tower, to use his influence. 

"I have pleasure in informing you," wrote Mr. Tower on 
March 7, 1907, to Senator Lodge, " that I have had a conversa- 
tion with the Emperor in which he announced to me that he 
has decided to grant to Dr. Muck a leave of absence for one 
year more, in order that he may remain during that time in 
Boston. The Emperor said that he cannot well dispense with 
the services of Dr. Muck as director of his own orchestra here, 
though he recognizes the great service which Colonel Higgin- 

1 Boston Transcript^ Sept. 30, 191 1. 


son has rendered in maintaining the standard of good music 
in America, and he is willing to assist him in his efforts in that 
direction by complying with his request that Dr. Muck may 
remain one more year. The Emperor added, however, that he 
cannot extend Dr. Muck's leave of absence beyond that 
period, but that, if he should decide to remain for a longer time 
absent from Germany, he would have to resign his position as 
director here." 

Upon Dr. Muck's return to Berlin in 1908, Mr. Max Fiedler 
of Hamburg succeeded to the conductorship of the Orchestra. 
He proved a great favorite with the general public, both in his 
programme-making, and in his personal vigor and enthusiasm. 
After *' the four happiest years of his life," he handed back the 
b&ton to Dr. Muck, who began his second term of service in 
1912, and continued it until 1918. 

Every reader of these pages is aware of the bitterness and 
the tragedy associated with the name of Dr. Muck during 
our war with Germany. That must be touched upon in a 
later chapter, but it should not be allowed now to obliterate 
the happier memory of his achievement through many un- 
clouded seasons. Even after the World War had for nearly 
two years wakened every latent racial and nationalistic ani- 
mosity, Philip Hale, the distinguished critic, could thus de- 
scribe Dr. Muck and the Orchestra: — 

"These concerts in Boston are so remarkable, they have been 
so remarkable under the leadership of Dr. Muck, that they are 
now taken by too many as a matter of course. For the Boston 
Symphony Orchestra is not merely one that contains certain 
accomplished virtuosos; the orchestra is a virtuoso. It is an 
instrument which, having been brought to a state of perfect 
mechanism by Dr. Muck, responds to his imaginative and 
poetic wishes. He stands there calm, undemonstrative, grace- 
ful, elegant, aristocratic; a man of singularly commanding and 
magnetic personality even in repose. The orchestra is his 
speech, the expression of the composer's music as it appeals to 


the conductor's brain, heart and soul. It is now hardly pos- 
sible to think of this Orchestra without the vision of Dr. Muck 
at its head as the interpreter of beauty and brilliance. Fortu- 
nate, thrice fortunate, is he in having at his command this Or- 
chestra, largely his own creation ; wholly the superb interpreter 
of composers as he understands them, as he shares in their 
own emotions, confessions, declarations, griefs and longings."^ 

In the autumn of 1918, after the storm still to be described 
was over, and Major Higginson had ceased his connection 
with the Orchestra, several thousand persons signed a testi- 
monial written by President Eliot for presentation to Major 
Higginson upon his eighty-fourth birthday. The two men 
were bom in the same year, 1834, and they had been comrades 
in many a great cause. No close for the Orchestra chapter 
of Major Higginson's life could be more serenely perfect than 
this letter:* — 

CAMBRnxsB, 31 OcL, 1918. 
Dear Major Higginson : — 

Some of the thousands of persons who have had their lives 
made more interesting and happier by the concerts of your 
Symphony Orchestra in Boston and its vicinity during the 
past thirty-seven years wish to declare to you on your eighty- 
fourth birthday their personal gratitude and their strong sense 
of the public benefits which have resulted and will result from 
your disinterested and patient labors on behalf of the Orchestra 
and the community it has served. Many of the signers of this 
Memorial are acquaintances who have long cherished high 
respect for you and your generous works, or friends, old and 
young, who feel for you the sincerest affection; but most of 
them are strangers, who gladly embrace this their first oppor- 
tunity to tell you directly that you have gladdened and exalted 
their physical and spiritual lives. 

Boston was historically the right place in the United States 

1 Boston Herald, May 7, 19 16. 

* Mr. Higginson *s reply to the letter is printed in chapter xiv. 


to develop an orchestra of high merit. The soil in which you 
planted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1880-81 had been 
well prepared during the forty years preceding by a series of 
earlier oiiganizations for providing orchestral concerts in the 
community where you and I grew up. These pioneering oiigan- 
izations were the Boston Academy of Music, the Musical Fund 
Society, the Germania Orchestra, the Philharmonic Society, 
and the Harvard Musical Association. Their resources were 
limited, and their achievements modest; but they made ready 
a supporting public for you. Your purpose was to create an 
Orchestra out of the best available material in all the world 
competent to render to perfection the best music in the world. 
In this very difficult undertaking your success has been mar- 
velous. Your plans and policies have been wise and generous 
toward both your public and the artists whom you employed. 
Your Orchestra has given year by year a demonstration of the 
exceeding value of cooperative discipline. You have steadily 
insisted that the skilled musician's occupation is not a me- 
chanical trade but an artistic profession. You have given your 
public the pure, refining, exalting, inspiring music of all na- 
tions and all periods. You have enlarged and strengthened the 
appreciation of sweet and noble music in this community. 

We shall all better appreciate the work you have done for 
Boston and the country, if we bear in mind that good music 
sustains and consoles the human spirit in times of adversity, 
and is, next to good literatiu'e, the best expression of public 
prosperity, social joy, and religious transport. It transcends 
the limits of language or race, requires no versions or transla- 
tions, and ranges freely through all the civilized world and the 
successive generations of men. Your success in creating the 
Symphony Orchestra as a permanent institution will have a 
high educational value in the future; for common enjoyment 
of immortal music allied with immortal poetry will prove an 
exalting and binding influence among the various elements of 
the American population. 


On behalf of the signers of this Memorial, I greet you and 
Mrs. Higginson with heartiest congratulations on the principal 
work of your useful life, warmest thanks, and best wishes for 
your enjoyment of serene content as you look backward, and 
still more as you look forward. 

Your old friend 

Charles W. Eliot. 

To receive such a letter as that — and to deserve it — may 
surely be counted among the durable satisfactions of life. 



Henricxjm Lee Higginson, virum egregium, cuius munificenda cum dvi- 
bus suis sununam voluptatem attulit, turn hanc universitatem auxit saepius et 
omavit, Artium Magistrum. — President Euot, on presendi^; H. L. H. 
for the honorary degree of A.M. in 1882. 

That you have found the College work the pleasantest of your life is a delight 
to me, and a good omen for the future of the University. . . . The things at 
Cambridge to which you have given largely are fundamental — playgrounds 
and the Union, both pleasure-giving, wholesome, and democratic. I suppose 
you know that for years you have been to Harvard students the type of the 
public-spirited, independent, generous American ddzen, who ** looks forward 
and not backward and lends a hand." I hope you and Mrs. Higginson thor< 
oughly enjoy this reputation of yours. It corresponds accurately to the facts 
of your life. — President Eliot to H. L. H., May 22, 1909. 

He was the friend of all men — his immediate circle, his city, his state, his 
college, his country, all of which he saw in terms of mankind. His relation 
with every one of these units was a personal relation, the relation of a friend. 
It was primarily as a friend that he bestowed upon Harvard the great bene- 
factions which his ability, industry, and self-sacrifice empowered him to make. 
— Harvard Alumni Bulletin, November 20, 1919. 

In the decade of 1 880-1 890, as we have seen, the chief event 
in Henry Higginson's public life was the founding of the Sym- 
phony Orchestra. In the following decade, 1 890-1 900, he 
became known as a munificent benefactor of Harvard, a mem- 
ber of its Corporation, and a man deeply concerned with the 
relations of the American college to the American Common- 
wealth. This aspect of his life will be surveyed in the present 
chapter. The succeeding chapters will deal with some of his 
friendships, tastes, opinions, and the various activities which 
gave him his imique position as a " useful citizen," particularly 
from 1900 to the celebration of his 80th birthday in 1914. 
The final chapter will discuss what is in some respects the most 
dramatic and picturesque phase of his whole career — the 
epoch of the World War. 


As we now pass from the decade that witnessed the birth 
of the Orchestra to the decade peculiarly identified with 
Major Higginson's work for Harvard, we must pause to note 
the death of George Higginson, on April 27, 1889.^ "Your 
father," wrote William James, "was one of the very earliest 
elder figures whom I can remember in Boston; and the im- 
pression he always gave me, of ruggedness and masculinity 
with modesty and kindliness, was altogether imique." Charles 
Francis Adams wrote : " He was honest, straightforward, single- 
minded. He had a hard fight of it through much of his life, but 
he won his battle and made a success of it. Finally he retired, 
carrying with him the respect and kindly regard of everyone. 
I don't well see what any man can ask for more." — "A high- 
minded, simple, courageous man," wrote Henry Cabot Lodge, 
" honest with an aggressive honesty none too common, gener- 
ous and patriotic. It is a deep satisfaction to feel that I have 
known him, and that I had the honor to be his kinsman and 
friend." A letter of condolence from Dr. Vincent Y. Bow- 
ditch made a reference to George Higginson's Puritanism. 
"When I hear sneers at the Puritanism of Boston, your dear 
old father's face is one of a few that come up to me to put such 
sneers to shame and make one wish that suck * Puritanism' 
could be spread far and wide," 

Henry Higginson's reply was most characteristic : — 

Boston, April 30, '89. 

My dear Boy : — 

You are very kind to think of us in trouble, tho' you can't 
help it by nature, and very kind to say pleasant words of 
father. The loss and the pain is evident, and perhaps this 
other feeling too. As I sat with him in the last days and nights, 
the thought came to me again and again, that a return to 
health would be very short-lived, and of doubtful vigor,— 

^ The memory of the gallant, old-school gentleman is now perpetuated by the 
George Higginson Professorship of Physiology at Harvard, endowed by his 


and then another illness and suffering perhaps, — and I half 
hoped that he would die then quietly — without pain and after 
a very happy winter. He was a man without great talents, 
but of a great gift for goodness, which he cultivated vigorously, 
— and when your father comes to die, you and others will 
prize the same qualities in him even more highly than his 
fame. . * . Puritanism ! The older I grow, the more I incline 
to their ideal — and the luxury and the wastefulness and a 
thousand things send me that way — in thought — tho' 
hardly in deeds or living perhaps. Let no one sneer at ideals 
or enthusiasms. 

Henry Higginson's loyalty to Harvard ran back to his 
boyhood. It was affected in no way by the fact that his own 
college course had ended before Christmas of his Freshman 
year. In some of his earliest letters from Europe he had repre- 
hended the example of a rich Bostonian who had died without 
leaving anything to "the college." Out of his own slender 
income, in i860, he had purchased books in Vienna for the 
Harvard Library. In September, 1868, the year before Charles 
W. Eliot became President, Major Higginson had written to 
his wife: " Yoiu* mother discoursed about the poverty of the 
University and said that not improbably the salaries of the 
Professors would not be paid in full this year. Oh! if some 
dozen men would only put it up high and dry above want! 
One million dollars to start with and three million more after- 

He had married the daughter of one of the most famous of 
Harvard professors. Mrs. Louis Agassiz's name led the list of 
Cambridge ladies who, in 1879, organized that "Private Col- 
legiate Instruction for Women " which marked the first definite 
step toward the founding of Radcliffe College. This under- 
taking may fairly be considered an outgrowth of the Agassiz 
School on Quincy Street. "But for the school," wrote Mrs. 
Agassiz late in life, "the college (so far as I am concerned) 


would never have existed." When "The Society for the Col- 
legiate Instruction of Women" was formed in May, 1882, 
Major Higginson's name appears as one of the signers of the 
Articles of Association. When Radcliffe College was finally 
incorporated in 1894, he became an "Associate," or member 
of the governing board. He served in this capacity until 
1906, and from 1894 imtil 1905 he acted also as Treasurer. 
As a matter of fact, then. Major Higginson's * ' affectionate and 
incalculable service " * to Radcliffe — a service induced by his 
loyalty to Mrs. Agassiz as well as by his interest in the higher 
education for women — began much earlier than his official 
relations with Harvard. 

His first — and only — degree from Harvard was conferred 
in 1882, after the first season of the Boston Symphony Or- 

" It is a strange thing," says President Eliot, " that Major 
Higginson was never given any degree from Harvard Univer- 
sity till he was nearly fifty years of age. That was a degree 
of Master of Arts, an honorary degree. Stranger still, consid- 
ering that he was one of the most beloved men in the whole 
generation of Harvard graduates and benefactors between 
1 861 and 1893, he was never elected to the Board of Over- 
seers. I cannot recall now any reason for this curious omission; 
but it is a fact that he was never even presented to the electors 
as a candidate for their votes. I find it impossible to eicpkun 
this anomaly."* 

But Henry Higginson was never a man to stand upon cere- 
mony, or to wait for official sanctions, when he saw an oppor- 
tunity for rendering service. Long before he became a member 
of the Harvard Corporation, he had begun to solicit funds for 
the College. Here is an admirable begging letter, addressed 
to a kinsman, in March, 1886: — 

^ Elisabeth Cary Ag<issiz: a Biography, by Lucy Allen Paton (Boston, I9i9)> 
p. 208. 
* Address at the Memorial meeting in the Harvard Union, Nov. 17, 1919. 


DearX: — 

Nobody knows his duties better than yourself — therefore 
I presume to admonish you, I want you, as the oldest and 
richest member of your family and mine, to give to the 
College $100,000, to be used in any way which seems best to 

My reasons are that you, a public-spirited and educated 
gentleman, owe it to yourself, to your country, and to the 
Republic. How else are we to save our country if not by edu- 
cation in all ways and on all sides? What can we do so useful 
to the human race in every aspect? It is wasting your time to 
read such platitudes. 

Democracy has got fast hold of the world, and will rule. 
Let us see that she does it more wisely and more humanly than 
the kings and nobles have done ! Our chance is now — before 
the coxmtry is full and the struggle for bread becomes intense 
and bitter. 

Educate, and save ourselves and our families and our money 
from mobs! 

I would have the gentlemen of this country lead the new 
men, who are trying to become gentlemen, in their gifts and 
in their efforts to promote education. 

We have a neighbor who gives very freely, and whom you 
rightly do not respect. Stand before him in all ways. I shall 
be sorry to see his name down for $100,000 before yours. It 
gives a certain power to give this money, and will give you 
great pleasure. Think how easily it has come. Give one fourth 
of your last year, and count it money potted down for quiet 

One gentleman has just given $115,000, who cannot spare 
it so well as you, and whom people do not accredit with such 

generosity. B is not so rich a man as is supposed, and 

cannot afford to do more than you. If I were to name two 
men who have helped nobly, you would stare. 

Kindly send your name to Edward Hooper to-morrow A.M. 


for the $100,000, I know that you will enjoy it much more 
than you will by keeping it. Never mind any reasons now. 
You and yours are too far on to mind them. . . . 

Gratify me, and gratify yourself and your wife and child- 
ren. Not a thought, not a doubt. Do it ! 

The earliest of Major Higginson's notable benefactions to 
Harvard was the gift, in 1890, of Soldiers Field, the great 
playground south of the Charles River, where the Stadium 
now stands. On May 14, 1890, he had written to his wife from 
New York: "The purchase of land is made, and is certainly a 
boon to the College. I hope that you approve, and know that 
some day you '11 be glad of it. All your family have done some- 
thing for the College, and I ought to, and the memorial is worth 
while, too." In passing the deeds to the President and Fellows 
on June 5, Major Higginson wrote: — 

The gift is absolutely without condition oi any kind. The 
only other wish on my part is, that the ground shall be called 
The Soldier's Field ^ — and marked with a stone bearing the 
names of some dear friends, alumni of the University, and 
noble gentlemen, who gave freely and eagerly all that they had 
or hoped for, to their country and to their fellow men in the 
hour of great need — the war of 1861 to 1865, in defence of 
the Republic. 

James Savage, Jr. 

Charles Russell Lowell 

Edward Barry Dalton 

Stephen George Perkins 

James Jackson Lowell 

Robert Gould Shaw 

^ This is the form of words used in the official pamphlet published by the Univer- 
sity in 1890, containing Major Higginson's address. In republishing the address in 
1903, he used the form, "The Soldiers' Field." The common usage at Cambridge, 
however, is "Soldiers Field." See the Harvard Alumni BuUeHn for Jan. i, 193a 


This is only a wish and not a condition — and, moreover, it is 
a happiness to me to serve in any way the College which has 
done so much for us all. 

He had already consulted his friend James Russell Lowell, 
then an old man ending his days at Elm wood, about an ap- 
propriate inscription. Lowell's letter follows : — 

Elmwood, Cambridge, Mass. 
24/A May, 1890. 

My dear Henry : — 

You were a good boy, are a good man, and are always doing 
good things. But you lay a hard thing upon me, for there is no 
writing so full of pitfalls as an inscription. 

I know your modesty will hesitate, but I think this is a 
case where the memorial will lose in meaning if your name be 
not associated with it. Should the inscription be in Latin or 
English? I think it should be in English. How would some- 
thing like this do? or something like it? 



Friends, Comrades, Kinsmen, who died for 
their country, this field is dedicated by 

H. H. 

'* Though love repine and reason chafe, 
There comes a voice without reply, 
T is man's perdition to be safe 
When for the truth he ought to die." 

It would n't be well to mingle Latin with English, and these 
verses of Emerson are nobly fitting for the purpose. 


Throw this into your waste-paper-basket if you don't 
like it. 

I quote E. from memory and the verses should be compared 
with the text.^ With love to your wife, 

Affectionately yours, 

J. R. Lowell. 

Major Higginson's address to the Harvard students, ex- 
plaining the purpose of his gift, was on the evening of June lo. 
" It may interest you to know," he wrote to Colonel Henry 
Lee, " that I am asked by Dr. Walcott and others to say a few 
words to the students about this playground, and that I am 
to do so next Tuesday evening at 7J o'clock, Sever Hall or 
Building. It is not much that I am to say, but I '11 try to inter- 
est them." 

Equally modest were the arrangements made by Harvard 
for his reception. Professor John Williams White, the Chair- 
man of the Athletic Committee, wrote on June 9: " I called a 
hundred of the fellows together, and told them briefly that 
you had given us the field and that you would come out to- 
morrow evening and talk to us about it. I thought it better 

^ Lowell's memory was only slightly at fault. The inscription as it now stands 
upon the stone in front of the Locker Building north of the Stadium is as follows: — 

To the 
Happy Memory 
Jambs Savage, Jr., 
Charles Russell Lowell, 
Edward Barry Dalton, 
Stephen' Georgb Perkins, 
jAtfES Jackson Lowell^ 
Robert Gould Shaw, 
Friends, Comrades, Kinsmen, 
Who Died for Their Country, 
This Field is Dedicated by 
Henry Lee Higginson. 

'^Though love repine and reason chafe. 
There came a voice without reply, — 
'T is man's perdition to be safe. 
When for the truth he ought to die." 


Stephen G. Perkins 
Robert Gould Shaw Charles Russell Lowell 

James J. Lowell 
Edward B. Dalton James Savage 


to tell some of the fellows just the day before your talk, and 
have them tell the others, than to put up posters announcing 
the meeting." Professor White also asked about a hundred 
men, students and faculty, to meet Major Higginson at his 
house after the conclusion of the brief exercises. 

I cannot discover that Major Higginson had ever made a 
speech in his life, except in that negro church at Cottonham, 
Georgia, and in the friendly intimacy of the Tavern Club. He 
did not understand that ladies could be admitted to Sever 
Hall, and did not ask Mrs. Higginson to accompany him, 
though he did take his fourteen-year-old son. About four 
hundred men crowded into "Sever 11." President Eliot spoke 
briefly, in acceptance of the gift, and then came the address 
thus characterized by J. T. Morse: "As an utterance of deep 
feeling, made more intense by restrained expression, it is not 
surpassed in English literature. In form and substance it is be- 
yond criticism. Hereafter the Major spoke on other occasions 
. . . and always with eloquence, beauty and feeling ; but he 
never again quite reached the level of this address." ^ 

The men who listened to it were greatly moved. 

"After your husband's words to-night," wrote Charles Eliot 
Norton to Mrs. Higginson, " I was not in the mood to go to 
Mr. White's, so I thanked Henry for what he had said, and 
came home to tell you of the great service he has rendered in 
speaking as he did. You know what he said ; it was said with 
such directness, simplicity, sincerity, and with such manly 
emotion as to be deeply impressive. It touched the heart." 

Another auditor — no less fastidious than Norton — was 
William James. 

95 Irving Srr., June 11. 

My dear Henry : — 

I could n't shake hands wi' you last night at Sever Hall, and 
was not asked to meet you at White's. But you can guess how 
I felt. To their dying day those men will remember your noble 
and simple appearance before them and the words you spoke» 

^The Soldiers Field Address is printed as an appendix to this volume. 


The best thing about this university is the chance these 
fellows get of meeting one man after another in Sever Hall who 
stands for something in the world outside, and who gives them 
a glimpse of an example and makes one of those personal im- 
pressions that abide. I 'm sure you hit the mark last night 
And I 'm sure the field will do all the good, and more than all 
the good, you can possibly hope from it. 

Yours ever, 

Wm. James. 
No answer called for ! 

An answer came, however, and James wrote a second 

note : — 

Tamworth Iron Works, N.H., June 20. 

My dear Henry: — 

I never expected a reply; but since you have written, I will, 
at the risk of appearing an ass, write an additional word my- 
self. Which is that in the after-taste your speech looms more 
and more gigantic, or, seriously speaking, that it seems a more 
unique and impressive thing than ever. It entered into no cut- 
and-dried literary category, but was the expression of your own 
personal character and nothing else; and its simplicity and 
originality will make it stick in those boys as long as they live. 
I hear everyone else speak of it in the same way, as most im- 
pressive. Now don't reply to this! 



Colonel Henry Lee wrote exultingly to Mrs. Higginson : — 
''The Bible says that a man shall leave father and mother 
and cling to his wife, and vice-versa^ the wife to the husband. 
And yet you were absent on the great occasion of Henry's life; 
for let him live to the age of Methuselah, he will never com- 
bine the making and the presenting a gift so happily. The 
nature of the gift, its most felicitous name suggested by you, 
its touching simplicity, and in consequence, beauty — it was 


all perfect, and you of all beings should have been there to 
weep and to esnilt. 

** I sent you all the papers giving any account of the presenta- 
tion, that you might select the best and bind them up with 
Henry's letter and speech and President Eliot's introduction.'* 

Lowell, too infirm to attend the meeting in Sever Hall, wrote 

from Elmwood : — 

II June, 1890. 
Dear Henry: — 

Your speech gave me a pleasure which I should call unquali- 
fied, but for the amari aliquid which memory flavored it with. 
It was simple, strong, tender — manly in short, and just what 
it should be. How pleased Ida must have been ! 

Yours always 

J. R. Lowell. 

Mr. Higginson, in his modesty, was at first reluctant to allow 
the College to reprint the address. He writes to his wife on 
June 20: *'John Gray says we should undoubtedly let that 
sermon be printed. I told him that we both objected, but he 
thinks us wrong." Colonel Lee bade them "not hesitate a 
moment to print" ; and the address was soon in the hands of 
many persons. Touching acknowledgments came from the 
nearest relatives of the six comrades who were specially com- 
memorated: from Charles Lowell's widow, James Savage's 
sister, and from the mother and sister of Robert Gould Shaw. 
The mother of William Lowell Putnam alludes to those happy 
days in Italy in 1857: — 

It is a great pleasure to have a letter from you, and to re- 
ceive from yourself the Address, which, at the time it ap- 
peared, I read with a deep and sacred sense of happiness and 

Since then, I have read it again from time to time, and always 
with the same appreciation, and the same absorbed interest. 

The portraits you have drawn, so lifelike, and so finely dis- 


tinguished from one another, are representative of the youth of 
our country in that hour — of different types, yet alike in cer- 
tain essential traits. You have given to our national history a 
page which will live, and teach, and inspire. 

Your words, combined with your memorial gift, have pro- 
longed the lives which might have seemed prematurely ended, 
and have extended their action far beyond its natural term. 
You have thus fulfilled the highest offices of friendship. 

To the deep and devout satisfaction which the knowledge 
that this work has been done gives me, is added that of its 
having been done by you. 

Those distant days in Italy, are often present to me, with 
other days that can never become distant to you or to me. . . . 

Mary Lowell Putnam. 

Particularly gratifying were the notes from old comrades 
like C. F. Morse, Greely and Pelham Curtis, Charles L. Peir- 
son, Arnold Rand, Charles Devens, and Lincoln R. Stone. " It 
is well," said the latter, "to recall the heroic ideal in these da)rs 
when service seems to mean, not self-denial, doing only our 
duty to our country, — but money, * pension ' rather, ' pen- 
sion, pension'!! Ex- President Hayes struck the same key: 
"We are drifting away from the golden days. We must not 
drift away from their nobleness.** Other men wrote of "the 
low and sordid current of the times." "Your words struck a 
note that I am sorry to say seems rare in our days now." Ed- 
ward W. Hooper, the Treasurer of Harvard, wrote from 
London : — 

" Professor Sophocles used to say to us, ' There is a pleasure 
in tears.' I have just had such a pleasure while reading the 
report of your talk to the boys at Cambridge, and I owe you 
thanks for it — as well as for many other good things. Your 
gift of land is a great boon to the College, but the words and 
feelings that went with it are worth more than the land. Life 
at Cambridge is so comfortable and pleasant that a moral tonic 


is really needed from time to time to keep it in health and 

Dr. Weir Mitchell, too, read the speech while traveling, and 
wrote : " I am not ashamed to say that over it I choked like an 
hysterical girl, and for a little was glad no one was by." ** I 
want to send it to Theodore Roosevelt," wrote Henry Cabot 
Lodge. " It is the best, noblest, and most simply eloquent 
utterance that this comer of the world has heard for some 
time." John C. Bancroft wrote in Lincolnian monosyllables: 
" I can't say any less than that it is a good thing well done and 
a good speech well said : and I won't say any more lest I say 
too much." 

But of all the scores of letters elicited by the Soldiers Field 
Address, it may be doubted if any gave more pleasure to its 
author than those words from a young Harvard athlete, who 
had perceived the ethical purpose of the Major's exhortation 
to undei^graduates : "It matters but little the week after, 
whether a boat race or a football match be won or lost; but let 
a man pr a team do but a single thing which is not entirely 
manly and aboveboard, and it sets them back in the real race, 
perhaps for years." 

In that June of 1890, then, began the personal expressions of 
pride and affection which Major Higginson received from Har- 
vard for nearly thirty years thereafter. There is something 
touching in the simplicity with which he records his pleasure, 
in this letter to his wife, on June 22 : — 

I went out late to Class Day and walked into the tree- 
grounds with the graduates, and sat on the grass with them 
all, that the folks on benches might see over our heads. Then 
in came the Seniors, sang, and then cheered quickly. • • • 
They cheered Dr. Peabody, Mr. Eliot, George Weld, who gave 
them the boathouse, and then they cheered me, all coming to 
their feet and giving me my title, when the Juniors took up the 
cheers. I got up, too, and stood still and sat down, wishing 



that you and Alex were there, a little homesick, as I felt at 
Sever Hall. It is wonderful to me how sympathetic and kind, 
men and women, old and young, have been to me, and I am 
very grateful indeed to them, very glad for you, for you Ve not 
had very much to be proud of in your husband, very glad for 
all those old chaps who used to laugh at me and care for me, 
very glad indeed that people appreciate these fellows and their 
quality. Man after man, woman after woman, said the kindest 
words to me, until I almost cried. 

A week later he made his first speech at a Commencement 
dinner, had ill luck with it, he thought, and made the first of a 
hundred resolutions never to speak s^ain ! '* I forgot my piece 
at Commencement, and so Alex [Agassiz] had to prompt me. 
It was very late and everyone was tired, and so it went badly 
and now I shall have no more to say. Lots of people at Cam- 
bridge were very civil again to me.'* 

The best evidence of the place Henry Higginson had now 
won in the regard of the Harvard authorities was his election 
in December, 1893, as a member of the Corporation. This 
honor came to him at the close of a distracted year. The fail- 
ures due to the panic of 1893, while more acutely felt in the 
West and South than in New York and Boston, had had a dis- 
astrous effect upon the stock market. The extra session of 
Congress, called by President Cleveland in August, finally 
repealed the Silver- Purchase clause of the "Sherman Act" of 
1890, thus maintaining the gold standard. But the free-^ver 
agitation had swept the West ; and Wall Street and State Street 
had had an anxious and at times a despairing summer.^ 

^ " People have been having a real hell of a time of it financially. The silver 
party in the Senate has been acting with a pertinacity worthy of a better cause. 
Nothing but the certainty of Cleveland's veto has brought things to a square vote 
there for repeal. Henry Higginson looks as if he had grown five years older. I got 
an idea the first time I saw him of what the strain must have been." — Henry 
James to William James, Oct. 29, 1893. 


A long letter written by Henry Higginson to his uncle 
Henry Lee on August 1 7 gives details of the market situation, 
of the railroads, and particularly of the aflfairs of the General 
Electric Company, of which Higginson had become a director. 
The closing pages are very personal : — 

. . . One thing pray remember — about me. I've inherited 
from both parents the belief that one cannot escape with honor 
from the duties of a citizen — and I 've seen the example of 
you and father. Do you suppose that as a child I did n't heed 
the words of my mother about slavery or your own course as 
ayotmgman? It made a deep mark on me. And so I have felt 
and now feel the positive obligation to do as you have done, to 
struggle against ignorance and selfishness and sin — and in 
these times I am pushing in all ways at Washington to get 
action on this accursed law. Indeed, it has seemed to me so 
vital that I have for that reason feared this present crisis — 
for years — and if it were over, I should gladly die. But I 
must fight — and yet never in my life have I given my thought 
or my time so little to outside matters — whether to my fam- 
ily, to the orchestra, or to social duties. I Ve not been away 
from the office for even part of a day, during this summer, 
unless when in New York on duty — and I shall not go 
away. I am now arranging to send a good agent to Wash- 
ington for political ends. . . . The firm will not be asked to 
pay for this. 

I say these things to you, because you have a right to my 
full time and thoughts, and because I wear your name and my 
father's, and I do not forget it — and try to keep it bright. 
Life is no boon unless well used. My mother died yesterday 
and my daughter to-morrow — years ago. Be sure that I '11 
do my best by you in all ways. 

Colonel Lee's reply is one of his masterpieces of whimsical, 
affectionate admonition : — 


Beverly Fasms, August i8, '93. 

My dear Henry: — 

There is a deal of truth and also of self-deceit in your letter. 

Get La Farge or some man who will charge enough, and 
whom you vainly imagine yourself bound to support, to paint 
for your home this : " Omnes non omnia possumus." One of my 
neighbors, partly from greed, mostly from good nature and 
inability to say no, undertook to work himself, horse and oxen, 
night and day. He died instead of living, poor instead of rich, 
worn out with work never thoroughly executed because too 
much undertaken. 

Col. Stark, when leading his New Hampshire men over 
Charlestown Neck across which the cannon-balls were flying, 
marched moderately, against the remonstrances of his officers, 
saying, "One fresh man is worth a dozen tired ones " ; and that 
is as true in 1893 as in 1775. Dr. Jackson performed more 
valuable service than any doctor, and he would not be inter- 
rupted at his meals or during his naps. You are not, and can- 
not be, omnipresent, mind and body; and no matter what the 
allurement or the entreaty, or the seeming necessity, you 
must calculate and choose and decline, else your life will con- 
tinue to be exhausted, your spirits causelessly depressed, 
your time purloined, your services fitful. 

You speak of your mother. She was bom with too dear 
sight for comfort, she too toiled to accomplish, for those she 
loved, impossibilities, and died of the overstrain. As to my 
example, do not exaggerate my merits or services. I have been 
independent, and to a degree, and in certain directions, duti- 
ful, but seldom overworked. A little while ago you had a most 
seasonable opportunity to close your career as Musical 
Benefactor, and, in my opinion, should have done so. You 
could not bear to. Will you now embrace the proper alterna- 
tive and retire from a most exciting, unwholesome form of 
business, knowing that for some reason you cannot be cool, 
systematic, prudent, cannot be aided by partners, however 
faithful or competent, but partly from temperament, partly 


from want of early business training, must always be heated 
and hurried. When your grandfather Lee was two years 
younger than you, I drove him to retirement by taking a deter- 
mined stand, knowing that, if he stayed, he was doomed to 
reverses or the cheating he could not bear, and consequently 
grandmother could not bear, and also that, once out, he had 
plenty of resources. So will you suffer with no good to any- 
body ; so are you able to occupy yourself without business, and 
so ought you to be constrained. 

Let us free ourselves from cant, and not mistake love of 
excitement and rashness for devotion to duty. 

Don't talk about my example, when you give away $200,000 
to music, or $40,000 to $50,000 to the Soldier's Field, for you 
know I have set no such example, and I also know it. 

Why, when overtaxed, do you constitute yourself a guar- 
dian to an excitable Italian actress^ whom you know nothing 
about, who has not the most remote claim on you ; why allow 
yourself to be made President of a superfluous Club got up by 
people too vacant or too ignorant to know how to live in the 

No, you are generous, you are full of benevolence inherited 
from father and mother, and in addition, you are weakly 
good-natured, and last but not least, you are addicted to ex- 
citement, which you foster by your overburdened feverish life, 
which ends in your being unstrung and depressed. • . . 

The anxiety which weights you and all of us down now is 
fearful, sickening ; yet in spite of the wickedness of such men 

as A , counseling, from his high place in the Senate, 

wickedness; in spite of pitiful partisan B , etc., etc., — I 

do believe that Cleveland's wise disinterested warnings will 
be heeded. . . . 

I hope your agent may do good service. . . . ji Dec. i8q3^ 
H. L. and H. L. H. retire from business. 

Your affectionate 

Uncle H. 

> Mr. and Mra. Higginson had been showing great kindness to Madame Duse. 


Probably Colonel Lee suspected that his proposal that they 
should both retire from business at the end of the year would 
be taken in a Pickwickian sense. On August 29 he made a 
delightful change of tactics: — 

• • . Now, from this hour forward decline all outside work, 
be it what it may, resolutely. Even then your Music Hall 
and concerts, added to your business, will be more than you 
can find time to attend to, leaving necessary time for home 
and rest. You march into an undertaking voluntarily, or under 
an utterly false impression that you owe it to somebody to 
incur such labor and risk, you lose time and money — and 
who is to blame? Yourself and nobody else. While you go 
on in this monthly-nurse way, overburdened and distracted 
and exhausted you will be, poorly discharged will your duties 
be, in spite of Lanes and Jacksons and Lees and Fairchilds. 
If you must go on with your music, why not release me and 
George and yourself from this perilous mode of hardy indus- 
try? If you want to make up your losses, then abstain from 
all, all outside work of whatever kind, and conduct your busi- 
ness quietly, methodically, prudently, leaving a time for 
gardening, for driving (only don't deceive yourself into buy- 
ing a $1000 horse, you can't afford to kick gravel into your 
eyes), for seeing your friends, including Ida — and then you 
need not wish to die. 

Your affectionate 

Uncle H. 

P.S. The majority for repeal [of the Silver Purchase 
clause] is wonderful and we may infer that this delusion is 
dissipated. . . • 

I would not write to anybody unless they requested it. It 
wastes your time, and is quite as likely to do harm as good, I 
believe. Congratulatory notes are welcome — but letters of 
advice, etc.?? 

The picture of a frugal, industrious, reserved, methodical 
man, who follows his trade, and orders his affairs discreetly^ 


is an august spectacle, the sight of it stimiilates all to the 
wisest course, which, if followed by all, would make an Utopia. 

Utopia in State Street ! Henry Lee was far too shrewd and 
humorous an old gentleman to expect anything of the sort; 
but he was very fond of his nephew, and he liked to amuse 
himself with painting the ''august spectacle" of a Henry 
Higginson miraculously converted into a frugal, reserved, 
methodical man. And in November, instead of persuading 
Major Higginson to celebrate the twenty-sixth anniversary of 
his becoming a member of Lee Higginson and Co. by retiring 
from the firm, we shall find him urging his nephew to accept 
the additional and very onerous burden of service on the 
Harvard Corporation! 

The invitation reached Mr. Higginson unexpectedly while 
he was in New York on business. He wrote to his wife, 
November 28 : — 

. . . I've been kept here over to-night, and now wish to 
greet you and send you this news — that the College would 
like me as a Fellow of the Corporation. 

Am I fit? Shall I accept? The matter has been under con- 
sideration for two months, but I never heard a word of it 
until to-day — and they *d like a reply to-morrow — for the 
regular meeting — so Edward [Hooper] sent word to me. 

Will you telegraph me your reply ?^ Personally it seems to 
me a poor nomination — and an undeserved honor. . . . 

By the same mail he wrote to Colonel Henry Lee: — 

My dear Uncle: — 

When an honor is offered to me, it always seems as coming 
by means of my ancestors, and I can only regret that my de- 
serts have been so small. This may seem to you wrong, and 
yet I always feel it keenly. 

* The reply was, "Accept. You deserve it. I. A. H." 


And now comes one which I have craved for you thro' 
years and still do — but it does not come to you, very likely, 
because you ' ve been so useful and important elsewhere, the 
oldest and most honored among the Overseers, the one who is 
always present, well as ill, rain or shine. 

Exiward Hooper asks if I will be a Fellow of Harvard Col- 
lege — a great and undeserved honor, a poor choice, a prize 
which I should be very glad to accept; but how can I? 

You know the duties, and my qualities and my great faults. 
Am I fit for that place, remembering always what a choice of 
men is open to the College? I can't think so. Then also — 
I've promised you and my partners and myself that I'll 
undertake nothing without your full approval. My life belongs 
to my wife and child and to the house, and I Ve finished my 
outside interests, even to dinner speeches, have resigned from 
the University Club, have sold my horses pretty well out, 
have sold that piece of land, and am expecting to sell two 

I only wish to work reasonably, and try to make good my 

I cannot take this place without your full approval and that 
of my partners, and of my wife. 

You always will give me your full and frank opinion, 
and it has done me more good than you know. Pray do so 

Edward asked for a reply for to-morrow. I must stay here 
about business to-night, and am entirely ready to be guided 
by you in this matter. Please believe that you cannot hurt 
my feelings by your candid opinion. 

I do wish it were you, and it would be if you were younger. 

You have deserved it, but, as I began, it is after all a greater 
honor to be chosen an Overseer always.* 

Your aflf . 


^ This tactful remark does not correspond with the ordinary view of the relative 
honor involved. 


Colonel Lee instantly replied : — 

Boston, Nov. 29, 1893. 

My dear Henry: — 

For two months perhaps I have been holding conversations, 
in some of which you have taken a part, as to whom we should 
select for the Corporation in place of [Frederick L.] Ames. 
You have been wanted : — 

1. For your affection for the College. 

2. For their reciprocation of this feeling, Government and 
Students and Alumni generally. 

3. For your knowledge of men and things ; and 

4. For your judgment. 

In these consultations I have, as far as I can, acted honestly, 
crediting and debiting you as well as I knew how. I have been 
rejoiced over this because I thought that yoxur being selected 
would be very gratifying, and also because I thought the 
occupation would be the most congenial and wholesome pos- 
sible, both for the subjects treated and because of the com- 
panionship, and that this avocation offered would incline you 
to slip out of business and perhaps out of the Symphony 
business after this contract is up. 

Whether you ought to engage in this new and weighty task, 
with all your divers distracting cares, depends on whether 
you will resolutely, little by little, economize your time and 
methodize your work, to the great relief of your partners and 
to the benefit of the business, or whether you will continue 
your miscellaneous and helter-skelter meddlesome style. 

We are all very anxious you should accept such an honor, 
engage in such a congenial work, and equally anxious that you 
should amend your life. 

As for me, the time has been when I felt that I might as 
well be in the Corporation as some who were there; but I am 
convinced that I should never have done for it, while as Over- 
seer I have my uses, perhaps. 

Your affectionate 

Uncle H. 


One week later, Henry Higginson was elected a Fellow of 
the Corporation — one of that group of five who, together 
with the President and the Treasurer, form the principal gov- 
erning board of Harvard University. In reply to the congratu- 
lations of Senator Lodge, he answered : — 

Dear Cabot: — 

You are very kind. I cannot see the wisdom of the step, 
for men noted for scholarship or ability or knowledge in some 
large field are usually and rightly chosen. But the great honor 
is offered to me — and tho' I at first wished to decline it, my 
advisers have given other counsel. I know how little good the 
College will get from me. The kind words of many men and 
women whom I hold in esteem, as I do you, are very touching. 
What a wretched failure a man is in his own eyes ! . . . 

Was he a failure in the eyes of others? 

'' The kind of man needed in the governing board of a uni- 
versity," says President Eliot, ^ "is the highly educated, public- 
spirited, business or professional man, who takes a strong in- 
terest in educational and social problems, and believes in the 
higher education as the source of enlightenment and progress 
for all stages of education, and for all the industrial and social 
interests of the community. He should also be a man who has 
been successful in his own calling, and commands the confi- 
dence of all who know him. The faculty he will most need is 
good judgment; for he will often be called upon to decide on 
matters which lie beyond the scope of his own experience, and 
about which he must, therefore, get his facts through others, 
and his opinions through a process of compariscMi and judi- 
cious shifting. 

"The best number of members for a university's principal 
governing board is seven ; because that number of men can sit 

1 University Administration, by Charles W. Eliot (Boston and New York, 1908), 
p. 2. 


round a small table, talk with each other informally without 
waste of words or any display or pretence, provide an adequate 
diversity of points of view and modes of dealing with the sub- 
ject in hand, and yet be prompt and efficient in the despatch 
of business. In a board of seven the different professions and 
callings can be sufficiently represented." 

How completely did Henry Higginson fulfil these require- 
ments of the kind of man needed? He served imder two chiefs, 
President Eliot from 1893 to 1909, and President Lowell from 
1909 to 1 91 9. The testimony of both should be given here. 
President Eliot wrote on November 14, 1919, — as it happened, 
the very day of Major Higginson's death, although the article 
was intended to appear in honor of his approaching eighty-fifth 
birthday on November 18, — as follows: — 

" His chief direct service has been that he served as a Fellow 
in the Corporation for twenty-six years, 1893-19 19, with the 
utmost pimctuality, assiduity, and devotion, and with intelli- 
gence. Why was he chosen a member of the Corporation? 
Not because he was a successful banker and broker on State 
Street. Far from it. He was chosen because he was as fine an 
exemplar of the patriotic citizen-soldier as there was in the 
country or the world ; because he gave the University two great 
gifts — one the Soldier's Field, on which he hoped that manly 
sports of many kinds would be generously cultivated through 
long generations of Harvard youth, and on which he erected a 
monument to youthful friends of his who fell in the Civil War, 
and the Harvard Union, where he hoped that democracy and 
good-fellowship among Harvard students would be forever cul- 
tivated ; because he had proved himself to be the most suc- 
cessful promoter of good music that Eastern Massachusetts 
had ever known; and because he was the intimate friend of 
Alexander Agassiz, a great naturalist and a great administrator 
in varied fields, who had already served two terms in the Cor- 
poration, the last of which closed in 1890; and because the 
Corporation of that day knew no better example of the public 


spirit and courage which had made New England what it then 
was. The expectations and purposes with which the Corpora- 
tion of 1893 elected Major Higginson a member of the Board 
have been completely fulfilled. All men who love Harvard 
rejoice with Major Higginson at the striking fruits of his noble 
career.*' * 
President Lowell writes, February 16, 1921: — 
** There are, as you know, two ways in which a member of a 
Governing Board can be of great use. One is by his perception 
of the policy the institution ought to pursue and his wisdom in 
deciding questions that come before the Board. In this Mr. 
Higginson was not lacking; but his really great contribution 
was in the second way — that is, in supporting, helping, en- 
couraging, and smoothing the path for those who carry the 
burden of the administration. It was not only that he did his 
work well as a member of the Corporation ; it was also that I 
did my work better because he was there, and so, I think, did 
every man in the service of the University. His sympathy, his 
active comprehension of the human element in a man's work, 
made a great difference. When he thought a thing was well 
done, he said so, and infused a spirit of doing it better still ; nor 
would he hesitate to say a thing was not well done if he 
thought so. His sympathy went out, also, in the giving of his 
time and strength. If we wanted to bring a powerful influence 
to bear upon undergraduate conduct, he was always ready to 
address a meeting of students, and did it with effect. These 
are the chief traits of his work as they lie in my mind, and they 
are very unusual and very valuable ones. They make for the 
vitality of the whole institution." 

The labor and responsibility required of a member of the 
Corporation are exacting. The Fellows are elected for life. 
They meet once a fortnight, usually for a four-hours* morning 

^ Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Nov. 27, 1919. 


session,^ and in addition there is a great variety of committee 
work. The associations involved are naturally intimate, and 
Major Higginson owed some of his warmest friendships to the 
relations thus established.* The master-key of his own action, 
as a member of the Harvard and Radclifle governing boards, 
was personal loyalty to his chief. He had plenty of ideas of his 
own, — although not always the greatest confidence in them, 
— but his instinctive first question was: what does " Charles 
Eliot** or "Lawrence Lowell" or "Mrs. Agassiz" want done? 
That they wanted it was often enough for him. Accustomed as 
he was to individual responsibility, and unafraid of the word 
"autocracy,*' he was singularly deferential in council. At an 
age when many men grow captious and intolerant, he showed 
a cheerful willingness to "throw his mind into the conunon 
pot '* — which was Gladstone's test of a good cabinet minister. 
One of his later colleagues, in fact, thinks that Major Higgin- 
son's conciliatory spirit, and instinctive desire to think nobly 
of men and measures, was his chief service to the Corporation. 
He had many intimate friends, of course, among the Over- 
seers and the Faculty, and his correspondence reveals his warm 
and generous interest in almost every phase of University life. 
Yet his own instinct led him, from the first, straight to the 
tmdergraduates. It was for the "boys" that he gave Soldiers 
Field. His only son, Alexander, had entered Harvard in 1894, 

^H. L. H.'s speech to the Associated Harvard Clubs in Chicago, 1906: " I have 
been in the Corporation twelve years, and that president of ours (who can lift as 
much as anybody in this room) does not seem to have any tire in him. He puts us 
to work at half-past ten in the morning, and if we get to lunch at half -past two, we 
are doing well/' 

< During his first years of service there were many changes in the Board. John 
Quincy Adams died in 1894, and Martin Brinmier in 1896. William C. Endicott re- 
tired in 1895. Dr. Henry P. Walcott is now (192 1 ) the only member of the Corpora- 
tion whose service antedates that of Major Higginson. Charles Francis Adams, 
2d, succeeded Edward Hooper as Treasurer in 1898. Major Higginson had four 
younger associates who died in office between 1904 and 1919: Samuel Hoar, Fran- 
cis C. Lowell, Arthtu: T. Cabot, and Robert Bacon. Of the members of the Corpora- 
tion in 192 1, President Lowell, Henry P. Walcott, Thomas Nelson Perkins, WUliam 
Lawrence, John F. Moors, and Charles Francis Adams were all colleagues of 
Major Higginson. 


and for four years the father had been brought into close con- 
tact with undergraduates and their problems. One result of 
this quickened interest was his gift, in 1899, of the Harvard 

The Harvard undergraduates of that epoch have recently 
been described by one of the most gifted of their number, Pro- 
fessor George Santayana, 1886: — 

'' The students were intelligent, ambitious, remarkably able 
to * do things ' ; they were keen about the matters that had 
already entered into their lives, and invincibly happy in 
their ignorance of everything else. A gentle contempt for the 
past permeated their judgments. • • • About high questions of 
politics and religion their minds were open but vague; they 
seemed not to think them of practical importance; they ac- 
quiesced in people having any views they liked on such sub- 
jects; the fluent and fervid enthusiasms so common among 
European students, prophesying about politics, philosophy 
and art, were entirely unknown among them. . . . Life, for 
the undergraduates, was full of droll incidents and broad 
farce; it drifted good-naturedly from one commonplace thing 
to another. ... It was an idyllic, haphazard, humoristic ex- 
istence, without fine imagination, without any familiar infusion 
of scholarship, without articulate religion : a flutter of intelli- 
gence in a void, flying into trivial play, in order to drop back, 
as soon as college days were over, into the drudgery of affairs. 
There was the love of beauty, but without the sight of it; for 
the bits of pleasant landscape or the world of art which might 
break the ugliness of the foreground were a sort of aesthetic 
miscellany, enjoyed as one enjoys a museum ; there was noth- 
ing in which the spirit of beauty was deeply interfused, charged 
with passion and discipline and intricate familiar associations 
with delicate and noble things. . . . The young had their own 
ways, which on principle were to be fostered and respected ; 
and one of their instincts was to associate only with those of 
their own age and calibre. The young were simply young, and 


the old simply old, as among peasants. Teachers and pupils 
seemed animals of different species, useful and well-disposed 
towards each other, like a cow and a milkmaid; periodic 
contributions could pass between them, but not conver- 
sation. . • ."* 

Was it possible to create at Harvard "conversation," as it 
was known at Oxford and Cambridge in England ; to create 
that keen intelligence for public affairs, for contemporary 
questions of art and literature, which characterizes the fore- 
most universities of the Continent? One man, at least, be- 
lieved so, William Roscoe Thayer, whom Major Higginson 
afterward described as "the father of the Union."* For four 
years, beginning in 1895, Mr. Thayer advocated his idea, 
backed by the "Crimson" and various committees; until, in 
1899, Major Higginson offered $150,000 for the building. A 
few sentences from his letters to Mrs. Higginson, who was then 
in the South, reveal his attitude toward the new enterprise. 

November 3, 1899: The papers have the Harvard Union 
plan, and men are very kind with their notes and words. 
Meanwhile the students have asked for a "ratification meet- 
ing" on Monday at Sanders, and I shall go, of course, and say 
a few words of our ideas about the Union, for men will easily 
misunderstand its purpose, and we need the support of every- 

November 4, 1899 : I Ve sundry nice letters to show you, for 
people are much pleased, and excellent men think it has been a 
sore need at Cambridge. 

^ Character and Opinion in the United States, by George Santayana; New York, 

* " To the conception of William Roscoe Thayer it is that we owe the act of Major 
Higginson. . . . He allowed no rest to some of us until that idea assumed a sub- 
stantial form. . . . Meetings inspired by him were held, and committees organ- 
ized. Of these committees I was the figurehead, he was the efficient force. ... At 
last the giver was found in the person of my familiar and life-long friend." — 
Charles Francis Adams, '56, in the address at the opening of the Harvard Union, 
Oct. 15, 1901. Harvard Graduates* MagoMine, Dec., 1901. 


November lo, 1899: Morris G. spoke of a fine young grad- 
uate from Brookline, who after his four years knew no more 
boys than at the beginning. It is a pity and we must stop it. 

November 12, 1899: I *m still pruning my words for to-mor- 
row, and would make them worthy of the cause ; for this dub 
may become a strong influence in college life, and I would 
make the boys see it — an influence against selfishness and 
snobbishness. Men are in earnest about it. I will try to tell 
you of my plans. They simmer in my head and take no shape, 
until suddenly they come into being. 

Of the many "nice notes" which he was saving to show 
to his wife, the one from Charles Francis Adams may be 
quoted : — 

Dear Henry : — 

I this morning got your note. I envy you. I would like to 
have done that ! That is your monument, and like a wise man, 
you have not waited to erect it after death. Now hold on to 
your wisdom. Concentrate on that, and do not let anyone else 
touch it. Don't have any partners ! Let that be all yours. 

In future, — a hundred years hence, — that building will 
make of you more of a household word at Harvard, than Hol- 
worthy , Stoughton or HoUis. You will go directly home to the 
daily social life of all the students. You will not be an abstrac- 
tion ; you will be a reality. All this in a far-away future. 

One thing in connection with this gift I reserve to myself. 
I propose to give to the dub a full-length portrait of you, to be 
fitted into the wall over the big fire-place in the main sitting- 
room. A portrait which shall, for all time, familiarize the stu- 
dents with the giver of the edifice. That shall be my contribu- 
tion. Accordingly we must look about for an artist. • . . 
Meanwhile you have done the best day's work in your life — 
and you have before done many good days' work, and you have 
done it betimes. You have put yourself in the intimate daily 


life of the students before John Harvard was. I wish I could 
have got ahead of you. It only remains for me to associate 
myself with you, — which I propose to do. . . . 

And William James wrote from London: — 

Noo, 17, '99, 

My dear Henry: — 

Some good angel inspired our neighbor Taussig to write 
me a letter which reached here night before last, and in 
which, amongst other pieces of news, he tells of your gift for 
the University Club. He couples therewith some remarks on 
your character, of which, in spite of the danger of appearing 
fulsome, I will transcribe one sentence: "He will never be 
done with good deeds until he dies; and even then {pace 
Shakespeare) the memory of him ought to bring forth more 
and more of them in perpetuas ceterniUUesy I also, as a hum- 
ble member of the University, wish to thank you. The Club 
must inevitably become an institution of the greatest use 
to the rank and file of the college and schools, and a great 
additional factor in leaving in them an affectionate memory of 
the place. Idon'tlikeyoupersonally, my dear Henry, but on 
this occasion I join in the general Rah, rah, rah, you glorious 
old man! . . . 

The ''ratification meeting" in Sanders Theatre, on Novem- 
ber 13, 1899, was crowded and enthusiastic, and Major Hig- 
ginson's words were certsunly " worthy of the cause," as he had 
hoped. A few paragraphs must suffice to show their spirit : — 

Harvard College is not the comer-stone of the Republic, 
but it tries to furnish fit material for the building up of the 
Republic, — men of education, of high purpose and power to 
execute, men of character who will look their fellows in the 
face and speak the truth, — good public and private citizens. 



Such is the task of every university in our beautiful land, 
and for this task Harvard must be thoroughly equipped. 
For this equipment is needed, besides teachers, lectures, and 
books, the freest and fullest intercourse between the stu- 
dents. • . • 

Is there a better or sweeter thing on earth than the free and 
close intimacy of young fellows, discussing everything on 
earth and in heaven, tossing the ball from one to another, 
lifting each other to a higher plane, as healthy, earnest boys 
will, and thus learning to know their comrades and themselves? 

This great blessing and all others the University earnestly 
seeks for you, and in due course it will require of you full 
results. The government of the University has steadily striven 
to offer the largest opportunities for instruction, — lecture- 
rooms, dormitories, athletic buildings and grounds, — and 
thus has drawn an ever-growing stream of students to its doors. 
And by this very action it has unwittingly imperiled the com- 
radeship and social life of the University. The old clubs, with 
their happy traditions, are delightful ; but their membership 
is small, and entails expenses too large for most young men. 
Thus have crept in habits of exclusiveness and of luxury in 
living which hurt our democratic university. President 
Hadley of Yale, in his inaugural address, noted well this fact 
as a serious evil at New Haven. In latter years, many a boy 
has lived through a lonely course here and gone away as lonely 
as he came. 

We cannot bear such a result, cannot tolerate this sense of 
isolation; and, further, we must see to it that young men 
entering our University stand on a footing equal in all respects, 
until they themselves, by their merits or faults, have raised 
or lowered it. Any other basis implies a failm-e in the system 
of our University, which, in the name of true civilization, we 
will strive to avert. 

A Harvard student needs and has the right to every advan- 
tage which the government of the University can give. Neither 


books, nor lectures, nor games can replace the benefits arising 
from free intercourse with aU his companions — the education 
of friendship. The proverb says, "We have as many uses for 
friendship as for fire and water." 

Therefore, we will build a great house on college groimds, 
and vest it in the President and Fellows of the Corporation. 
We will call it the Harvard Union, and it shall be the meeting- 
house of all Harvard men — alumni, students, teachers. It 
shall pay to the University a full rental for its land, and meet 
its own expenses, as a condition of its being, and it shall be 
beholden to nobody but to Harvard men and Harvard lovers. 
It shall have large, simple, comfortable rooms; ample space 
for reading, study, games, conversation; and a great hall, 
where all may meet and hold the freest talk in public. In this 
house should centre all the college news, of work, athletics, 
sport, of public affairs; and there, we hope, may be found a 
comer and a chair and a bit of supper for the old and home- 
less alumni from other cities. . . . 

The Harvard Union will in no way antagonize the other 
clubs, which are so pleasant and so useful; but it needs the 
support of our whole University world. Note well that fact. 
Therefore, we will urge every living Harvard man to join us 
for his sake and ours. 

The setting-up of such a meeting-house is a little matter, but 
the holding-up of it on a large-minded, generous, lasting basis 
is a great matter, and is impossible unless you, one and all, 
make it easy. Change it, develop it, do with it what you will, 
so you keep its character; but use it constantly and in a kindly 
^irit, and in later life come back to it as to your home. 

Just one more point : To whom the conception of a Harvard 
Union is due is beyond my knowledge;^ but we owe the fos- 
tering of the idea to many men, and we owe the grounds to 
the Corporation. As you see, it is the result of Harvard team- 
work, of mutual reliance, the future abiding-place of comrade- 

1 He had not then learned of Mr. Thayer's service in initiating the idea. 


ship; and therefore let it never and in no place bear any name 
except that of JOHN HARVARD. We will nail open the 
doors of our house, and will write over them : — 

The Harvard Union welcomes to its home all Harvard men. 

Two years passed before the Union was ready for occupancy. 
The new Sjmiphony Hall was building at the same time, and 
Mr. Higginson's correspondence with architects and builders, 
and professorial experts like Ira N. Hollis and Wallace C. 
Sabine, shows his endless interest in details. He was in Europe 
in the summer of 1901 ; but on October 15, immediately after 
his return, came the formal dedication of the Union. The 
great hall, one hundred feet by forty, was packed with stu- 
dents and alumni. Charles Francis Adams, '56, who presided, 
was in his best vein, and there were speeches by President 
Eliot, Malcolm Donald, '99, and James Hazen Hyde, '98, 
who had given $20,000 for the Union Library. Mr. Higginson, 
the last speaker, uttered some eloquent words about friend- 
ship and hospitality : — 

• • • Our new house is built in the belief that here also 
will dwell this same spirit of democracy side by side with the 
spirit of true comradeship, friendship; but to-day this house 
is a mere shell, a body into which you, Harvard students, and 
you alone can breathe life, and then, by a constant and gener- 
ous use of it, educate yourselves and each other. 

Looking back in life I can see no earthly good which has 
come to me, so great, so sweet, so uplifting, so consoling, as 
the friendship of the men and the women whom I have known 
well and loved — friends who have been equally ready to 
give and to receive kind offices and timely counsel. 

Is there anything more delightful than the ties between 
yoimg fellows which spring up and strengthen in daily college 
life — friendships bom of sympathy, confidence, and aflPecdon 
as yet untouched by the interests and claims of later life? 


We older men would oflFer to you a garden in which such 
saplings will grow until they become the oaks to whose shade 
you may always return for cheer and for rest in your victories 
and your troubles. Be sure that you will have both, for the 
one you will win and the other you must surely meet; and 
when they come, nothing will steady and strengthen you like 
real friends, who will speak the frank words of truth tempered 
by affection — friends who will help you and never count the 

C08t« • • • 

One point pray note. The house will fail of its full purpose 
imless there is always a warm comer for that body of men 
who devote themselves to the pm-suit of knowledge and to 
your instruction — the whole staff of Harvard University, 
from our distinguished and honored President, the professors, 
librarians, and instructors, to the youngest proctor. And if 
you see an older graduate enter the hall, go and sit beside him, 
tell him the college news, and make him a welcome guest, for 
this is the house of friendship. He wants your news and he 
likes boys, else he would not have come. Old men are more 
shy of boys than boys of old men. I have been one and am 
the other — and ought to know. Like the Arabs, nail open 
your doors and offer freely to all comers the salt of hospitality, 
for it is a great and a charming virtue. . • . 

In these halls may you, young men, see visions and dream 
dreams, and may you keep steadily bmiiing the fire of high 
ideals, enthusiasm, and hope, otherwise you cannot share in 
the great work and glory of our new century. Already this 
century is bringing to you younger men questions and deci- 
sions to the full as interesting and as vital as the last century 
brought to us. Every honor is open to you, and every victory, 
if only you will dare, will strive strongly, and will persist. • . . 

In closing, he referred to the recent death of President Mc- 
Kinley, and exclaimed : '' May God keep safe and guide aright 
our fellow graduate, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the 
United States!" 


A few days later came this letter: — 

ExEcxmvE Mansion, Washington 
October 19, 1901. 

My dear Major Higginson : — 

I have just heard of the close of your address at the Harvard 
reunion, in which you wished me well with such impressive 
sincerity. It has touched me deeply, and I thank you for it. 

Faithfully yours, 

Theodore Roosevelt, 

President Eliot had already written : — 

Cambridge, 17 Oct., '01. 

My dear Higginson: — 

Meditating yesterday on that delightful meeting Tuesday 
evening, I perceived that your public benefactions have had 
a consistent purpose which has very rarely been so well carried 
into eflFect. You have succeeded in promoting, in a community 
of Puritan origin, things that make for good health, good fel- 
lowship, and genuine happiness — namely, music, out-of-door 
sports, and wholesome sociability under pleasant conditions. 

Certainly your many acts of public spirit have a unique and 
wholly admirable quality. You and yours ought to have heart- 
felt satisfaction in them. 

Sincerely yours, 

Charles W. Eliot. 

The visitor to the Harvard Union to-day will see in the great 
living-room Sargent's magnificent portrait of Major Hig- 
ginson — seated, with his cavalry cloak thrown across his 
knees. It was given, not by a private donor, but by a sub- 
scription from undergraduates.* The Union, after various 

^ At a meeting of the Associated Harvard Clubs in Cincinnati in 1909, Mr. 
Higginson told this story about the portrait: ^ 

" Let me give one further illustration, which makes me choke every time I think 
of it. It is purely egotistical. When the students were trying to get money for a 


vicissitudes, has become an indispensable factor in the life of 
the University. That it has accomplished all that was first 
dreamed for it, no one would claim. The ideal community of 
scholars, like democracy itself, is always arriving — and it 
never quite arrives.^ Yet for a score of years the Union has 
striven to approximate those early visions of its possible serv- 
ice. It has given something of a home to otherwise homeless 
individuals and organizations, and it has been the scene of 
many remarkable gatherings. 

One of these must be mentioned. It will be remembered 
that, shortly before President Eliot's retirement in 1909, 
there was much talk of Theodore Roosevelt, among others, 
as a possible successor. Major Higginson, as a member of the 
Corporation, was of course deeply interested in their choice, 
and his friends will recall that he used to carry in his pocket a 
list of the various names which had been suggested for the 
approaching vacancy. It was even a longer list than that of 
his twenty-two possible directors for the Symphony Orchestra, 
and he would pull it out, with his teasing, quizzical smile, and 

portrait of myself to put in the Harvard Union, they went around and asked for it 
of the various men in College. (I want you to understand that the students paid 
for that portrait and put it there. They asked John Sargent to paint it, and he did.) 
One of the men who was looking for money came to College House where the poor 
fellows live, and asked: ' Is there anybody upstairs here? ' He was told there was a 
chap up in the attic, but that he had no money. He went up, looked in the door, 
and found the man cooking supper at the fireplace. He drew back and shut the door 
behind him. But the man came after him and said, 'What do you want? ' — 'I 
don't want anything.' — ' Yes, you do, you came for something; what did you come 
for? ' — 'Well,' said he, 'some money for that portrait.' The man said, 'Well, here, 
I have got thirty-two cents. I am going to-night to the wharf for work; I will give 
you twenty-five cents.' Can any of you do better than that, gentlemen? That 
feUow was paying twenty-five cents out of the thirty-two cents to paint a portrait 
of me, because he thought he wished to do it. (Applause.) If we have men of that 
sort, if men come there and go through college by working at night on the wharves 
as that man was doing — we are all right ! " 

1 In 1919 the Union was taken over by the University authorities. The title of 
the property is now vested in the President and Fellows, who appoint a Graduate 
Manager. A Governing Board, chosen annually, directs the policy of "the club- 
house for social purposes for members of Harvard University." Since this change 
waa made» the Union has entered upon a period of great activity and success. 


ask for additions and corrections. No one could tell how far 
he was serious. But his friend William James suspected that 
Major Higginson's personal fondness for Roosevelt did not 
carry with it the fullest conviction as to Roosevelt's fitness 
for this particular post. 

He had written to the Major: — 

" Think of the virtues of Roosevelt, either as permanent 
sovereign of this great country, or as President of H. U. I 've 

been having a discussion with X about him, which has 

resulted in making me his faithful henchman for life, X 

was so violent. Think of the mighty good- will of him, of his 
enjoyment of his post, of his power as a preacher, of the num- 
ber of things to which he gives attention, of the safety of his 
second thoughts, of the increased courage he is showing, and 
above all, of the fact that he is an open, instead of an imder- 

ground leader. . . . Bless him — andd all his detractors 

like you and X . . . ."^ 

To this Major Higginson replied : — 

. • . His great virtues and his high character are indis- 
putable, and his tremendous enei^ and courage should be 
used for the public good ; but in the first place, I do not believe 
that he could give up the very laiige field in which he has lived 
and wrought such great things, and be happy in a quiet, 
studious atmosphere of Yankee scholars. Next, we need a 
man of much judgment, and is judgment to be found coupled 
with such enormous energy? This last thought has always 
perplexed my mind, but I believe the two things to be almost 
always incompatible. You philosophers know the correctness 
of my thought. ... If I may be allowed to say so, I judge 
somewhat by myself, as I always wish to do things my own 
way and to see things as I wish, being very narrow-minded 
and self-willed. Luckily, I Ve always lived, from my young 
boyhood to the present time, with men and women greatly 

^ This letter is printed in full in the Letters of WiUiam James, voL n, p. 233. 


my superiors. • . • Can a man be of any real use or value in 
this life unless he knows what a limited and damned fool 
he is? 

Then came a speech by President Roosevelt in the Harvard 
Union, where he seems to have captivated most of the "de- 
tractors/' Henry Higginson wrote to Senator Lodge, Febru- 
ary 25, 1907: — 

. . . We had great pleasure in seeing the President. He 
was pleasant, jolly — indeed, full of fun ; talked to the students 
in excellent fashion, and was very friendly (as he always is) 
to me when I had the pleasure of seeing him at Bishop Law- 
rence's. I agree to a dot with what he says about play and 
study, and also about the duty of these young men to their 
coimtry. As he went along, I could not help thinking how he 
was saying just what was in my mind, and saying it very 
much better than I could. It was very wholesome talk, and 
the students enjoyed it immensely. One of them is sitting in 
my office now, and has said that very thing to me. It was 
really a great sight to see those boys packed as close as her- 
rings, and see a lot of the teachers up in the gallery, and see 
the general enthusiasm of welcome and eagerness to hear 
what the President had to say. . . . 

Alas! however, for the orator who has to please with the 
same speech the ''boys packed as close as herrings,'' and the 
* * teachers up in the gallery ! ' ' For among those teachers in the 
gallery was William James. 

"You remember one day," he wrote to Henry Higginson in 
1909, " when I tried to convert you to the notion of Roosevelt 
as a Harvard President. He ceased to be my candidate after 
his speech to the men in the Harvard Union, in which, altho' 
he praised scientific research, there was n't otherwise a single 
note of elevation or distinction in anything he said. Just the 


ordinary street-level talk of fairness and courage, and down 
with molly-coddles, meaning by them all the men with cour- 
age enough to oppose him. I gave him up ! At the same time 
I believe his influence on our public life and on our people's 
feelings about public life 'has been of enormous value. . . .*' 

It is natural, in telling the story of Henry Higginson's inter- 
est in University affairs, to speak first of his chief services to 
Harvard. But these were only a part of his friendly concern 
for the American college everywhere. " Mates, the Princeton 
and the Yale fellows are our brothers,*' he had exclaimed in 
the Soldiers Field address, and everyone knew that he meant 
it. The sons of Eli and of Old Nassau have sometimes been 
puzzled by certain representatives of Harvard, but they had 
no difficulty in placing Major Higginson. In the undergrad- 
uate vernacular, he was '' all right." It is pleasant to know that 
the key-note of the Soldiers Field speech — "all these dead 
men would have done a great deal for the world, and I must 
do what lies in my power to carry out their will"^ — found 
a singularly fitting response from Yale. On December 9, 1892, 
Major Higginson had entertained the Yale and Harvard foot- 
ball teams at dinner in the University Club at Boston. Among 
the older guests was the Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell, — a 
member of the Yale Corporation and a famous army chap- 
lain, — who held a place in the affection of Yale men very 
similar to that enjoyed by Henry Higginson in Cambridge. 
Shortly after Christmas he wrote to Major Higginson from 
Hartford : — 

Dear Col. Higginson : — 

The beautiful copy of *' The Soldier's Field " which you sent 
me was, to my feeling, the crown of my Christmas gifts this 
time. Thank you kindly for it. If it were framed in gold, it 
would not, in my eye, be too richly dressed. 

^ H. L. H. to Edward W. Hooper, June 15, 1900. 


I thank you also for offering me additional copies, should I 
desire them. I expressed to Mr. Bacon, beside whom I had the 
good luck to be seated at the dinner, my wish that every mem- 
ber of the Yale team might have one. If they have not been 
furnished with them, I should feel it a privilege to be the me- 
dium of their supply. Yes, and I would exceedingly like to 
have a moderate stock on hand for future use — to give out 
now and then to Yale boys of my acquaintance who are to take 
part in intercollegiate contests. 

Would God I could preach a sermon half as well worth cir- 
culating! — with half as much essential Christianity in it, I 

Thank you too for your letter. I think that, to us fellows 
who went to the war, the memory of those noble and dear 
spirits it parted from us forever for this world is freighted with 
the same perennial sacred meaning. 

What you said it meant to you brought to my mind, dimly, 
a passage of a Decoration Day address I made away back some 
time in the sixties. So I hunted it up to see exactly what it 
was. And here it is. 

** For one, I own myself called to double duty. For the 
friend with whose life, a little while ago, my own was most en- 
tirely mingled, — the man I loved, — for whose sake I think 
I would have died, lies now beneath the mound of a soldier's 
grave, a bullet through his true heart, the cold marble stand- 
ing sentinel over his dear remains. As my thoughts wander 
away to seek the place, and I read the inscription * Aged 27,' I 
feel that I have not only my work to do in life, but his also." 
I was young when I said that. To-day I would repeat it ; but 
in that manifold deeper sense of its import which you have ex- 
pressed. I feel just as you do — and the more so, the older I 

When Major Higginson received his honorary degree of 
LL.D. from Yale in 190 1, he was characterized by President 


Hadley as '^the ideal Harvard man." His zest for contribut- 
ing to the funds of other colleges than his own was insatiable, 
and both Yale and Princeton nmde chivalrous response. I 
quote a portion of a letter written by a Princeton Trustee 
in 1909: — 

Dear Maj. Higginson : — 

Of all the innumerable fine thii^ which you have done in 
your life, about the finest was that unsolicited gift of the Har- 
vard Fellowship to Princeton. I have been longing ever since 
to be in position to get even with you, and am happy to say 
that I have at last arrived. 

You will confer a great favor upon me if you will ascertain 
if the authorities of Harvard University will accept a similar 
gift from me to endow a Princeton Fellowship at Harvard, on 
the same general terms under which you gave your Fellowship 
to Princeton. If so, I shall be very glad, after the turn of the 
year, to send you my check for $10,000 for this piupose. • . . 

"This gift from Princeton," wrote President Lowell to Mr. 
Higginson, '' will help to cement the kind feeling, and the senti- 
ment that after all we are working for something higher and 
larger than the prosperity of our own institutions, as we are 
common servants of a common country." 

He made generous and quiet benefactions to AA^lliams, to 
the University of Virginia, and to a multitude of other colleges 
and schools. I recall a Commencement dinner at the Univer- 
sity of Virginia, when President Alderman annoimced a liberal 
gift from a donor who refused to let his name be known. But 
the President then proceeded to read aloud a portion of a very 
characteristic letter. It began: ''My friend Charles Eliot tells 
me that you are trying to raise an endowment fund," and then 
followed some abrupt humorous sentences about an enclosed 
check and the request for secrecy. ** I wish I could show you 
the signature," said President Alderman, turning to his guest 


from Massachusetts. But it needed no signature to identify 
one of Henry Higginson's inimitable notes. 

" I am tearing my shirt," he wrote to Senator Lodge in 1901, 
" to get a few remaining dollars for a professorship of econom- 
ics at Washington and Lee Univer^ty, to which I attach the 
greatest importance." It may be added that he had a delight- 
fully peremptory fashion of summoning his friends to help in 
these worthy causes. Generally they surrendered promptly. 

Single-handed, Major Higginson undertook such enterprises 
as the foimding of the Morristown School in New Jersey, 
though he would never allow his name to be mentioned; and 
he gave freely to the Middlesex and other schools in New Eng- 
land. Time and time again he fmnished the Boston Symphony 
Orchestra, at his own expense, for academic celebrations in 
New Haven, Princeton, and Williamstown. He was a Director 
and endower of the American Academy in Rome. In 1901 he 
accepted Mr. Carnegie's invitation to become a trustee of 
the Carnegie Institution. The iron-master's notes are most 
characteristic : — 

Col. Henry L. Higginson. 
Dear Sir: — 
I am about to transfer ten millions of 5% bonds to a body of 
Trustees for the purposes described in the enclosed paper. A 
list of the Trustees selected is also enclosed. It will be a source 
of much pleasure to me if you will kindly consent to serve. 

Very truly yours, 

Andrew Carnegie. 

A second note deals with the selection of a President for the 
Institution: — 

April 2nd, 1904. 
Grand Hotel du Cap, Antibes (A.M.) 

My dear Friend: — 

Sorry your note finds me beyond your circuit. I am not ap- 
prehensive about the Committee's selection, not one whit. 


They will select the best man for a trial, that's all — the one 
who seems to them most likely to prove the man for the place, 
but after all by his fruits ye shall know him. Preconceived 
notions of a man's ability and suitability for a new position are 
of little value. Such is my own experience. Many an able 
Colonel have I promoted to Brigadier Generalship, to find his 
qualities did n't stretch. I reproach myself with the ill health 
of several, and the death of more than one. Therefore, my 
friend, the Committee trying a man will, I know, watch him 
closely, give him rope more or less to see just what he amounts 
to in his new imtried and dizzy height. . . • 

During the years when Mr. Carnegie's friend Dr. Pritchett 
was serving as President of the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology, Major Higginson came into intimate relations 
with him. The welfare of the Technology students was con- 
stantly upon the Harvard Fellow's mind. The following note 
will represent many similar ones. 

Dear Mr. Pritchett: — 

Mrs. Pritchett last night spoke of a freshman at the head of 
his class on $3 a week. "Nichts kommt heraus!" Lend the 
boy $200, to be spent on food and to be returned to me when 
he can. Do this if you think it best. Business loan secured by 
his character. Don't give me away to anyone and send for 
the money if you wish. Yrs. 

H. L. Higginson. 

The occasion for the second and even more delightful note 
was an attack by a Boston preacher upon the beer-drinking 
habits of "Tech. " students: — 

Feb. iiih, 1902. 
My dear Dr. Pritchett: — 

Is it not a pity that so many geese exist, and more especially 
in the church? and what has our Saviour to do with beer- 


drinking? I hate beer, and want no wine or liquor, and should be 
glad to suppress them, but feel just so about lobsters and salad 
of all kinds. Mince-pie I Uke, but they've nothing to do with 
the church or religion. Indigestion is injiuious and foolish, and 
has come to me of tener from water in excess than from rum or 
pie — but the church likes water. 

Next they *11 ask you how often your boys bathe, whether in 
hot or cold water, and if they use soap which floats. 

Every time you say a word in public, I wish I had said it. 
The church suffers more from the priesthood than from us sin- 
ners, or even sin. It is a great and beneficent institution badly 
run, but Gordon and Bishop Lawrence are good. I 'm very sorry 
we can't dine with you, but are tied up. Remember that I Ve 
a preferred claim on your hall for the boys — as a builder. 
Play fair with me, for it is the only way to win games. $10,000 
on it. 

Yours truly, 


That Mr. Higginson could be wisely tolerant of youthful 
folly, without condoning anything dishonorable, is shown by 
his comment on the now forgotten " Med. Fac." episode at 
Harvard in 1905. Dean Hurlbut had handled a most difiicult 
question of discipline with such courage and originality as to 
bring about the volxmtary suppression of the ancient "Med. 
Fac." organization. Mr. Higginson wrote to Dean Briggs: — 

Touching this Med. Fac. matter, — Dean Hurlbut's letter, 
yours and [E. S.] Martin's I have read, and glanced at the 
" Herald" editorial. Dean Hurlbut's plan seems to me clever 
and sound ; and it is ingenious and kindly. No right-minded 
man will fail to condemn as foolish and childish and distinctly 
wrong any such action as that of the Med. Fac. the other day. 
It is not nearly as bad a prank as took place by men in and out 
of the Med. Fac. when I was in college, and since then. The 


worst prank I ever knew of was very dishonest and very bold 
and was repeated because of a challenge to repeat it. The men 
were among the best in college — two or three of them very 
high-minded men indeed. I asked one, who was an intimate of 
mine, why they did it, and he said: "Because we were in a 
morbid state of mind and did n't care what happened, and we 
wanted something to arouse us." He had gone armed with a 
bludgeon. I asked him if he meant to use it, and hesaid "Yes." — 
" And did you recognize that you might kill a man by so doing? " 
He said, " Yes; and I should have used it." He was shot dead 
in the war, like many good fellows. 

The only surviving man of this crowd is the highly honorable, 
trustworthy president of a savings bank — good in every re- 
spect, and has been so for fifty years, to my knowledge. He 
was simply a first-dass jackass on those occasions and, for the 
time being, a criminal. I expressed to these men great disgust 
at their prank, and they simply laughed. They all of them led 
very fine, or, at least (lacking one case only), a decent life. It 
would have done no good to send any of them to jail ; it would 
have done them all good to be whipped. The object of disd- 
pline is to make men go straight and not to hiut them, and I 
don't believe any punishment would have stopped any future 
proceedings of the Med. Fac. 

By this move of Dean Hurlbut's he has united all parties 
in the wish to wipe out the Med. Fac. The present and ancient 
members of that society have agreed to do everything in their 
power to squelch it now and for all time. The other students 
at Cambridge wish to get rid of it; the government of the 
College wishes to get rid of it. Everybody is united in this 
measure. It is one thing to be a jackass and another thing to 
break one's solemn word, and I think it is doing a lot of 
good fellows a rank injustice to suppose that they, respect- 
able citizens of the commimity and foolish students (inrho, 
nevertheless, are honorable in the ordinary sense of the word). 


will promise solemnly to do a thing and then break their word. 

As to the rubbish of supposing that these boys or any of 
them are let off because they belong to well-to-do people, 
rather than to poor people, it is a mean thing to say. It will 
puzzle anybody to find an instance in a great while in the 
history of the University that any such distinction has been 
made by the government of the University or by any prom- 
inent member of it. 

As to these yoimg men deserving punishment, leave that 
for the law. Dear me ! if we all were spanked every time we 
deserved a spanking in this life, what a sorry time we should 
have! It is a brilliant, generous, human effort to straighten 
out some foolish boys and get rid of a real evil ; and, so far as 
my word goes, Dean Hurlbut has my sympathy and support, 
and so have you. 

As for Martin's letter, he was as pungent as he was humor- 
ous, but then he can't help it. 

What is the use of growing old if one cannot have a soft 
spot for folly? I have seen and committed more acts of folly 
than the whole senior class, probably, and have not been 
punished as often as I should have been. Young people are 
very fond of talking of getting one's deserts, but I don't want 
mine, nor do most old people. Deliver us from the temptation 
of making forcibly others do right — and read [Sill's] **The 
Poors Prayer." It was written for me and on account of 
me. . . . 

[P.S.] Tell Hiu-lbut my opinion if he wants it. 

It is not strange that a man of such human qualities should 
touch the imagination of undergraduates. Sometimes, of 
course, they thought Major Higginson a trifle Quixotic, as 
when, for instance, he declared at the YaJe-Harvard football 
dinner: '' It may be that soon we shall see a football captain 
sending one of his own men off the field for unfair play. Who 


so fit to do it as he? " That phenomenon has not yet been ob- 
served. Yet one way to hasten the millennium is to believe 
that it is coming; and when Major Higginson went to New 
Haven in 1898, in the Tavern Club car, to see the Yale game, 
he wrote to his wife: "We saw our lads play a very handsome 
game and beat Yale 1 7 to o, fairly. I saw no bad manners at 
all and think there were none." And as a matter of fact, that 
was a notably clean game. 

It was in the nineties that Major Higginson b^an his long 
series of brief Memorial Day speeches at Harvard. A letter 
to Colonel Henry Lee (May 24, 1892) asks advice about de- 
tails of the ceremonial : — 

My dear Uncle : — 

The note to the students suited them, and convinced them 
— but they need something to start them, something to 
gather for, beyond the usual flower-tribute, which has become 
perfunctory. Richard Norton came in to see me last night, 
talked it over, and wanted to gain this point. 

We suggested the reading of President Lincoln's Gettys- 
burg address, — 3 minutes long, — or the last stanza from 
Mr. Lowell's Ode, or both, or something else. Finally, it was 
suggested that I should repeat my letter of yesterday — in 
effect — and then read this address of Mr. Lincoln's — i.e., 
Richard asked if I would do so, the boys singing a song or 
two, laying their flowers on the tablet, and all over in 15 
minutes. I said that I 'd do it, if the boys wished it — and 
he came in to-day to beg that I would. 

That is all simple — is none of mine — is healthy, and the 
address is a jewel. Does this please you? 

Have you any suggestions to make? Shall I read also that 
last stanza of Mr. Lowell's Ode? I should like to do the right 
thing, be very short, hear a song — and keep every personal 
element and all "slop" out of it. 

You see such things in your mind's eye and will know what 


to say. I begged Richard to see that it was well arranged, 
without formalities of coUege-oflScers or the like, all done by 
the boys, vigorously, and finished quickly. 

These boys never meant to ask for anything but a word or 
two from me and even that as a point d'appui, as a crowd of 
lads are hard to start. And they all hope and ask earnestly 
that the older graduates will come. 

If only the custom of singing and flowers and nothing more 
can be begun, I think some good will have been accomplished ; 
but I await your judgment, tho' I Ve agreed to go out and 
salute them in any case, and read this word or two. 

Few of his auditors ever knew how he worried over these 
little speeches. He wrote them painstakingly, and tried to 
memorize them; but even in the brilliant Soldiers Field ad* 
dress, he had had to be prompted by a young medical student 
who sat behind him with the manuscript. Of the Memorial 
Day address of 1897, on Robert Gould Shaw, he wrote to his 
wife before the ordeal: "I wish it were better, less tired, less 
dull ; but my day has gone by even in that late field." Yet he 
charmed his audience, and continued to do so for another 
score of years. 

As he grew older, the tender elegiac note in these Cambridge 
addresses became more and more apparent. It gave great 
delicacy and beauty to his portraits of women friends, — 
Elizabeth Gary Agassiz, Sarah Helen Whitman, Josephine 
Shaw Lowell, and Ellen Hooper Gumey, — which he read on 
various occasions at Radcliffe. How graceful are the opening 
words of his sketch of Mrs. Agassiz: — 

Woman is a closed book to men, and whenever a man says 
that he knows women well, you may be sure that he knows 
them very little. The only key to this closed book known to 
me is to love them — love them, not perhaps as wives or 
sweethearts, but as friends. It is an education and civilization 


along delicate lines, and all education is dangerous because 
it opens the mind and the spirit to new ideas which may 

A few sentences give a memorable picture of Mrs. 
Whitman : — 

She disliked ugly or unfit objects of daily use, and put a 
graceful silver pitcher on the desk in Sanders Theatre, to 
replace an ugly, common water-jug. She was fond of jewels 
and fine book-binding and, in general, of beautifying everyday 
life. She has left behind her sundry portraits of men, women 
and children, which show sentiment and comprehension of 
her friends. These pictures, together with many landscapes 
and colored glass-work, she made at her studio, where she often 
invited her friends and strangers of note — for a cup of tea 
and a bit of bread ; and we all flocked thither. We remember 
her tall, graceful figure, clad in a quaint fashion, and her 
friendly smile and greeting. . . • She was an intense woman, 
who gave her possessions and herself to others without stiyit — 
indeed, with boundless hospitality of soul ; yet we felt a great 
reserve, and well knew that behind the door of her own room 
we could not venture. Of familiar friends who counted on 
her she had many, but whether she had intimates, I never 

And how Mrs. Gumey lives again in these brief lines: — 

How is one to describe a rose, to recite its beauty, its 
nature, its charm and the memory which it leaves to those who 
have seen it? Mrs. Gimiey — Ellen Hooper she was to us — 
was a beautiful flower and of such peculiar quality that she 
baffles description. From her childhood I knew her, — as a 
small girl at school, full of intelligence and mischief and way- 
wardness, — as a maiden budding into womanhood, running 


over with fun and bright thoughts^ — as a grown woman 
intent on the ideas of the dever men and women whom she 
daily saw, full of interest for the new aspects of life, and full 
of fire for the cause of the Union in our great Civil War. . . . 
She loved books and sought the occupation and solace of 
them. Once, in talking with Mr. Emerson, who was the be- 
loved apostle of our youth, and who had known her parents, he 
said: *'Miss Hooper, reading is a matter of race with you.*' 
She replied: "Yes, I do read very fast." • • • She loved the 
sea and the skies, and delighted in walking and riding on horse- 
back in the woods. I well remember her handsome vicious 
black mare, and once, when the mare was rebellious, said to 
her: "Ellen, some day that mare will kill you." She replied: 
" Henry, I don't mind being killed, but I do not wish to have 
my front teeth broken." She was a wonderful woman, gifted 
with the love of poetry, nature, books, talk, wit, humor, and, 
most of all, love of men and women. All was grist to her mill, 
and her mill ground exceeding fine. She could not express 
fully what she thought and felt, because she was running over 
with thought and feelings, and yet shy, but those which came 
from her were pure jewels. . . . Her lovely head and figure 
and voice, with its sweet, low tones and perfect enunciation, 
her beautiful hands and feet, her brilliant, kindly wit, her frank 
truthfulness, her exquisite ways and her charming manners 
all remain in the memories of her lovers. 

It is no wonder that Rufus Choate's daughter — Mrs. 
Helen Choate Bell — wrote to Mr. Higginson: "If Sargent 
could paint with his brush portraits of the strength and deli- 
cacy which you paint with your pen — well ! he would not be 
Sargent! You have made Ellen Gurney blossom in the gar- 
den of my memory, till she stands before me like a white 

William Jam^s wrote : — 

" As for your address, it was good in every sense of the word, 


but more of the Radcliffe girls ought to have heard it. Your 
loyalty to old friends is magnificent, but after all one can't 
carry on any real feeling of the worthies of one generation 
into the next unless they have figured in countless memoirs, 
autobiographiesi correspondences, etc., with sayings, anec- 
dotes, etc., innumerable. Johnson is a live figure to us because 
Boswell reported him stenographically and so copiously. 
Your lachrymals, dear Heiuy, and your lips lie too dose to- 
gether. I don't think you spoke of EflSe L.'s voice — to me 
that constituted perhaps her chief personal charm. So low 
and yet so vibrant. . . ." 

Yet the sentimental side of Henry Higginson, true and deep 
as it was, was only one phase of a complex personality. As he 
faced, during the last decade of his life, the intricate problems 
involved in the expansion of Harvard University, he showed a 
singular capacity for looking forward and not back. He was 
resourceful in plans, tireless in curiosity and energy. He had 
the foresight and the hope of youth, as one knowing that 
the Alma Mater, at least, is immortally young, immortally 

Of all the departments of the University, the Medical 
School was perhaps nearest his heart. His correspondence with 
President Lowell reveals him as the sustainer of a new pro- 
fessorship in the Medical School in 1909, providing $5000 a 
year for five years, in order to secure a brilliant specialist 
Five years later he is full of enthusiasm over a second new pro- 
fessorship in the School. It was a hard year with him finan- 
cially, and there is something boyish in his excuses for giving 
more than he could now afford to give — particularly as he 
had just contributed $25,000 toward the Freshman Dormi- 
tories. He writes to President Lowell : *' You see $5000 yearly 
for five years is not $25,000. I ought not to draw out large 
sums from our business, but ought to spend my income. Why 
pile it up? . . . You really agree and live up to it, but are 
careful of me. Don't! Why not do as you'd be done by? 


Who knows how much will be left presently? and meantime 
let us trust in the Lord." 

It was typical of him that, when the Corporation was 
obliged, one year, to reduce the appropriation for the Jeffer- 
son Physical Laboratory, he should quietly send his personal 
check to Professor Trowbridge to make up the amoimt — 
imder a pledge of secrecy. More than once a Harvard professor 
received a generous bank draft *'for yoxu: own personal ex- 
penses or comforts. I hope you will accept it in the spirit in 
which it is offered, and believe that this gives me more pleas- 
ure than any other use I can make of the money." It was 
never possible to trace the giver, but *' the long arm of coinci- 
dence" pointed significantly toward 191 Commonwealth 

Typical, likewise, is the story kindly written by Professor 
Taussig about the beginnings of the Graduate School of 
Business Administration : — 

" In the spring of 1907 the project for the establbhment of 
a business school had become ripe for action. It had been un- 
der consideration for some time, and had been the subject 
of repeated conferences between myself and President Eliot. 
The distinctive feature of the school, namely, that it should 
be a graduate department, on a par with the Law School and 
Medical School, had been approved by the Corporation, and 
the development of the project on this basis was settled. 
There remained the question of ways and means. The belief 
of those concerned was that the sum of $25,000 a year for 
five years would suffice as a laimching fund. Somewhat rashly, 
I undertook to see that such a sum would be provided, and 
was authorized by President Eliot to endeavor to secure it. 

''Good progress was made in the first appeals to donors. 
More particularly, the General Education Board, attracted by 
a scheme for a novel and promising experiment in education, 
agreed to provide one half the sum needed. A considerable 
part of the remainder was pledged, when the panic of the 


autumn of 1907 put a damper on all imdertakings of the sort. 
It was not deemed wise to press appeals for money during the 
winter of 1907-08. 

In the spring of 19089 however, it became necessary to de- 
termine whether the school should be established in the 
autunm of that year, as had been originally contemplated. 
The Corporation passed a vote to the effect that, if the pro- 
ject for a business school was to be carried out, it was desir- 
able that the necessary fimds should be provided forthwith. 
That vote was communicated to me. 

*'I recall vividly that the very morning on which the mem- 
orandum from the Corporation reached me by mail, a telephone 
call came from Lee, Higginson and Co., asking me to meet 
Major Higginson at some time on that day. An appointment 
was arranged for the afternoon at the familiar apartment at 
191 Commonwealth Ave. On arrival I was shown at once to 
the modest room which Major Higginson kept for himself: al- 
most bare, equipped with an iron bed and Jaeger blankets, a 
simple table and a chair or two. There Major Higginson went 
at once to the root of the matter and asked whether I had re- 
ceived the conummication from the Corporation about the 
funds for the business school. Hardly waiting for a reply, he 
went on in some such words as these : ' Go to President Eliot 
to-morrow morning and tell him that a donor whose name you 
are not at liberty to state, but whose financial ability you can 
guarantee, has underwritten the entire sum still remaining to 
be raised on the estimated annual requirements for the busi- 
ness school.' And then he turned the conversation to other 
matters and talked about music, the University, the Union, 
Needles? to say, a load was off my mind ; especially as the 
spring was a busy one, and I was not at the moment in the 
mood for gathering pledges or able to spare the time. The 
Corporation acted upon the verbal assurance which I gave to 
President Eliot. Professor Gay was elected Dean of the School 
and it was launched on the career with which all Harvard men 
are familiar. 


"In the autumn of 1908 I foimd myself able to take up once 
more the task of gathering pledges, and had the satisfaction of 
securing the full amoimt without resort to Major Higginson. 
None the less, his guarantee not only was an inunense relief to 
myself, but made it possible to carry out the program as 

" Perhaps I should add that, at an earlier sts^e, in the spring 
of 1907, when Major Higginson knew that pledges for contri- 
butions were being asked, he remarked jocularly that he was 
much disposed to take a ticket himself, but already had a good 
many on hand for other voyages. The circumstance that he 
had already done so much for the University was an obvious 
reason why he should not be asked to join in this enterprise. 
His generous spirit impelled him to volunteer when something 
in the nature of an exigency arose." 

Henry Higginson was too loyal an Emersonian not to re- 
member the proverb quoted in the essay on " Compensation'* : 
"What will you have? quoth God ; pay for it and take it." He 
received from his own Alma Mater and from a very large circle 
of college men throughout the coxmtry all the honor and affec- 
tion of which a man could dream. He paid the price, not 
merely in money, — which he counted as nothing except as 
an opportunity of service, — but in time, energy, and travail 
of soul. "Himself he could not save." What he said once to 
the boys of Middlesex School about Dean Briggs reveals his 
own spirit: "His head, hand, heart are at your service for 
twenty-foiu- hours for three hundred and sixty-five days in 
each year. If you go to him once, you will go again." He sim- 
ply did not know how any servant of the College could keep 
back part of the price. 

Over-work was the inevitable consequence.^ The solicitude 
and admonition of his friends find constant expression in his 
correspondence. President Eliot writes him in 1906: — 

^ "Lack of adf-contxol has marked my life. When the Univerrity or a cause or a 
person needs help, I wish to bear a hand. In conaequence, I bite off more than I can 
chew (my epitaph) and half do things or load myself to a fretting point, often." 
H. L. H. to B. P., Jan. 14, I9». 


" Will you let me exhort you most urgently to take greater 
care of yourself, partly by avoiding all work and all pleasure 
which may involve exposure to cold, or to hot emotions. 
Warmth and serenity are desirable for men of our age. ... I 
submit that good sense requires a more careful way of living 
than comes natural to you. . . . You will excuse me for writ- 
ing in the above hortatory way. I feel strongly on the subject, 
because I have a high sense of the value of your life to the 
community. Naturally I have talked with some of your part- 
ners in business on the subject; but they invariably say that 
they do their best and yet find themselves very ineffectual." 

The recipient of this letter knew, of course, that such advice 
was sound; and though it was temperamentally impossible 
that he should follow it, he preached to his friends those very 
counsels of perfection which he refused to apply to himself. A 
month after receiving President Eliot's letter, how deftly does 
Major Higginson turn the same argument against President 

Charley Stone writes me that you are ill, and it is high time 
that you were. I thought you had more sense than I, and 
would know enough to stop somewhere within a reasonable 
point, and you have done nothing of the sort. • • • May I 
suggest that, if you were in my employ, I should come up and 
give you a spanking? ... I was housed the Monday before 
Thanksgiving, and hope with good luck to get out in the first 
week of the year, and I have had a very sweet time — as I did 
two years ago ; and have also known from the beginning to the 
end that I have brought it on myself just as much as if I had 
got drunk and had delirium tremens. 

You are of far too much value to many people to be allowed 
the sort of freedom which you have taken with yoiu^f . With 
an old corpse like me it is no great matter; but you are in the 
full vigor of your manhood, and you have a piece of work on 
hand of inestimable value to the best class of people in the 


country, i.e., the teachers. . • • If a man or a woman shows a 
capacity for doing anything, or a willingness to listen to the 
tales of others, he is sure to be crowded to death. . . . 

I do not know what you could expect [he writes to Dean 
Briggs in 1908], except that some disease would catch you be- 
cause you live so fast. A man cannot do everything, and you 
are trying to. Have you not reached the time in life when 
quality is of more value than quantity? That is, your exist- 
ence and influence are worth more than your work — and no 
one would undervalue the latter. 

Nor does he hesitate to exhort the Bishop of Massachusetts 
to amend his life : — 

Boston, Jan, 17, 1919. 

Dear Bishop : — 

You are very good to everybody except yourself. Fred 
Shattuck and Frank Balch have told me for ten years that I 
could behave and flourish, or go it blind and pay the bill — 
and the same is true of William Lawrence, only more so. It 
would be better for the public, let alone your friends and lov- 
ers, if you would behave. I am much troubled at your grievous 
illness. Pray consider your ways, for nobody of my acquaint- 
ance keeps such a full head of steam as you do. You have all 
the feelings toward you which are possible and lots of sym- 
pathy, and get WeU Now. 

Yours affectionately, 


To complete this series of preachments, take another letter 
to Dean Briggs, upon his departure for Paris as Exchange 
Professor. Lovers of irony should remember that neither of 
these great servants of the University had in the preceding 
dozen years altered his ways in the slightest. 


Massachusetts General Hospital 
Feb. 20, 1919. 

My dear Dean : — 

In the hurry of departure^ that you should have written to 
me is a great proof of your kindness and friendship. I am de- 
lighted that you are going to France to represent the Univer- 
sity and our country — and you will do both, and thereby 
teach Europe what we are. Of course you are a great loss here, 
both to the University and to Radcliff e. I can remember no 
fault of yours, except your desire to take on another piece of 
work and then another ; and I often wish that, at your age, you 
would be content — for you must be sixty. When you return, 
cannot you moderate your desire for work? A great railroad 
man said to me once : '' The head of a great railroad ought to 
have no work or anything to do except to sit at his desk and 
consider" — and it seems to me that you are in pretty much 
that position. Of course, the girls would mourn, and the 
University might suffer ; but also, you have a wife and children. 
I have often thought how decent men make a certain oath in 
church with regard to a woman when they "take up " together 
and then how the man does not get drunk, or does not steal, 
but he does overwork and keep himself away from his family. 
As a matter of morals, is it much worse to drink too much wine 
or to do too much work? I do not know, but I do know this: 
that Frank Balch, who is a wise, kind adviser, who has taken 
care of me since he left College, said to me one day: ** If you 
cannot moderate your gait, you will catch it." — "Well," said 
I, " Frank, how?" — Said he : "That I cannot tell you, but you 
will catch it." On the 6th of March, 1918, the devil knocked 
at my door, and he has sat in my lap ever since. I have wasted 
a year or more in bed, wasted lots of money, worried my wife 
and friends, and am less wise than I was before. Fred Shattuck 
has told me the same as Frank Balch, and said to me: "Only 
your power of sleep, which is enormous, has saved you from 
going to the devil long ago." But I do not do as much work as 


you do, and could not. Possibly when you come back, you 
may be more sober, and wiser. Then we will put you on a 
pedestal, where you belong. . . . 

Yet if the price paid by Henry Higginson for personal de- 
votion to his Alma Mater was great, the reward was great also. 
He renewed his vitality by intimate contact with the spirit of 
youth. Thousands of Harvard men remember him, not so 
much as the donor of Soldiers Field and the Union, the mem- 
ber of the Corporation, the president of the Harvard Club and 
of the Alunmi Association, the guest of the Associated Harvard 
Clubs at great gatherings in Philadelphia, Pittsbui:gh, Cleve- 
land, and Cincinnati, but as the erect, alert, quick-eyed, pleas- 
ant-voiced old man, who talked to them when they were 
Freshmen, at the first mass-meeting of the year. He said wise 
things, of course, — for he could not help being pungent, 
humorous, patriotic, — but precisely what he said made little 
difference. Perhaps the phrase by which recent undergradu- 
ates best remember him was uttered at the mass-meeting in 
the Union in April, 1914, when there was wild excitement about 
enlisting for an invasion of Mexico. ** Keep your shirts on," 
was the terse command of Major Higginson — and he was 
obeyed. He stood there as an embodiment of the ancient vir- 
tues, a scarred veteran of the Civil War — like one of those 
" men of Marathon " in the age of Aristophanes. It was good 
to look at him ; good to know that such men were still alive. 
And the last letters to be quoted in this chapter shall be the 
notes to Dean Briggs about those meetings for Freshmen at 
the opening of the college year. 

September 6, 1912. 

My dear Dean : — 

I have your letter of September 3d. Who can resist your 
letters? Of course I shall come out if it will do you or the Col- 
lege any good. But it constantly comes up to me what my 
wisest friend said to me twenty years ago : "You are all right, 


and what you said was well enough'' (it was the speech about 
Soldiers Field), " but now do not get into the habit of orating. 
It is a very bad habit." I can go up and sit on that platform 
and smile; but when you, Charles Eliot and Lawrence Lowell 
talk, I am not wanted. However, there are very few things 
you can ask of me that I shall not do, and I shall go out. 

September 27, 1912. 

My dear Dean: — 

Thank you for your letter of September 26th. I enjoyed the 
evening at Cambridge very much. Lawrence always talks 
very well, but, as you say, he never talked better than he did 
the other night. It is the best audience a man can have, ex- 
cepting always that it is so deadly still while a man is speaking, 
and no expressions during the speech. But even that is prob- 
ably best. As for Mr. Eliot, he will remain unique, and his 
advice is very sweet and good, and his way of putting the case 
convincing. He never speaks when I do not enjoy it very 
much. Dean Yeomans impressed me very favorably. He has 
a fine, strong face, and his words were the same — and that 
was a fine boy who spoke, too. As for my own part, I always 
think that I can state my case well, and always find that I do 
state it ill. As my wife said long ago, every thing that I say or 
write is spasmodic and lacks connection. What one's person- 
ality is to others, no man can judge, and I always am glad to 
be welcomed. But, thinking over my words, I saw that they 
were not to the point, and that the ideas did not move together. 
Earnestness, hard work and thinking of others is the whole 
story; but I do feel sure that we are in troubled times and can 
only get out of them by a joint and also individual effort; and 
no man or woman can begin too soon. 

July 2ip 1916. 

Dear Dean : — 

I have been away, so your letter has been neglected. I shall 
hope to be with you to speak to the Freshmen if it does them 
any good, but I can see very little reason in it. 


October 9, 1917. 

Dear Dean : — 

I have your letter. 

It seems to me next Monday would be a good time. Only I 
wish to think over what to say — what topics to take up. One 
gets so tired of one's own thoughts that it is not easy to think 
that other people are not equally tired. Place? Time? How 
long a talk? Can I sit down? Gossip? Chat as with you? 

SxTNSET Hill, Manchbster by thb Ssa 
August II, 1918. 

Dear Dean: — 

Will you tell me when and where the reception of the Fresh- 
men of this year will be held? I always care to be present and 
see the lads — which does not mean that I am to talk to them. 

If you are as tired of my words as I am — that part will be 
left out. But I like well to hear you and the President speak 
to them. 

Forgive the pencil, but I am laid up in bed. 

Wbstport, Essex County, New York 
Sept. 20. 

My dear Dean : — 

Your bidding to the Freshmen meeting has just come — by 

I am here on a vacation and Judge Cabot is here also. I will 
go down, if you like and think it worth while (for my words 
are worn out and few) and if I can. . . . 

I can leave here at noon and arrive in Boston (North Sta- 
tion) at about 8 — and go to Cambridge. If I could turn up at 
8.30 or so, would it do? 

I can go the night before, but thus lose a day here. 

Remember that my services to Harvard to-day are very few 
and so don't scruple to answer frankly. At this time any ser- 
vice which anybody can yield is a debt of moment — which 
must be paid. You have time enough to write me at the above 
address — or you can telegraph or telephone. 


Time of meeting — place of meeting — need of me. You 
could not count on me before 8.30 p.m. 

Play fair — remembering that I shall speak very few times, 
for my age is — long. 

The speech of September 23, 1919, was his last. His age 
was "long" — but his memory among Harvard men will be 



The nobler a soul, the more objects of compassion it hath. — pRANas 

Don*t grow rich; if you once begin you will find it much more difficult to 
be a useful citizen. Don't seek office; but don't ''disremember " that the use- 
ful citizen holds his time, his trouble, his money, and his life always ready at 
the hint of his country. The useful citizen is a mighty unpretending hero, but 
we are not goii^ to have a country very long unless such heroism is developed* 
— Charles R. Lowell to H. L. H., September lo, 1864. 

I was struck by Henry Higginson*s high level of mental tension, so to call it, 
which made him talk incessantly and passionately about one subject after 
another, never running dry, and reminding me more of myself when I was 
twenty years old. It is n't so much a man's eminence of elementary faculties 
that pulls him through. They maybe rare, and he do nothing. It is the steam- 
pressure to the square inch behind that moves the machine. The amount of 
that is what makes the great difference between us. Henry has it high. — 
WnxiAM Jambs, in September, 1906. Letters, vol. n, p. 261. 

That high steam-pressure to the square inch, which so im- 
pressed William James when Henry Higginson was seventy- 
two, was due in part to an athletic body. The Higginsons 
were a tough, wiry, long-lived race. Unlike his mother, he 
did not "die from the over-strain." He was built too power- 
fully for that. The bullet-wound received at Aldie troubled 
him intermittently for half a century, and, as some of his let- 
ters printed in the preceding chapter confess, he did not al- 
ways obey his doctor's warnings. But in spite of some physical 
sufferings incident to old age, and in spite of burdens that 
would have crushed a less robust frame, he lived to be nearly 
eighty-five. The Sargent portrait shows him at seventy, but 
the painter noted a marked increase of vigor on the part of 
his sitter during the subsequent decade. 

Henry Higginson was one of those "middle-sized" men 



whom Oliver Cromwell loved to pick for ** Ironsides" material. 
He was five feet eight in height, and never varied more than 
a few pounds from 1 70 in weight. He had long arms, powerful 
legs, and a notably deep chest. He sat a horse well, and was 
fond of driving. Bostonians who recall the now remote ''Silas 
Lapham" period may remember how Henry Higginson used 
to race horses with Greely Curtis and John Shepard on the 
old "Mill-Dam." His son, Captain A. Henry Higginson, 
notes : — 

** I remember very clearly my great delight when he came 
to me one day and told me that he had made up his mind 
to go in for breeding hackneys, and that he was going to 
build a new stable and import a lot of animals from England. 
At that time I was far more interested in yachting than in 
horse-breeding, but the thought that we were going to be to- 
gether a lot in the summer pleased me greatly. This was in 
1 89 1, and he spent nearly all the summer at home working 
over his new stable. He had at that time a very able man 
called Mitchell, whom he sent to England with orders to buy 
the best there was to be found; and about September they 
arrived. He was as excited as a boy over them, and I can well 
remember the night they came down by special train from Bos- 
ton and were unloaded at Manchester. Among the lot was a 
stallion called Enthorpe Performer, one of the most noted 
hackneys that ever came to this country, and a winner both 
in New York and at other shows. 

"Everything looked most promising, and I was very much 
disappointed to find, when I came back the next spring (I 
spent the winter of 1892 in the West), that it was all given up. 
I don't know just what went wrong, but I do know that he 
never said much about it, and I know that he himself was very 
much disappointed at having to give it up. Father was a 
sportsman at heart — but he was always too busy to indulge 
himself that way in his early years, and I think that in later 
life, when he had the time to do it, he had lost to a great degree 


the desire. But horses always had a very strong fascination 
for him, and he always sympathized very strongly with me in 
my racing and hunting, and did everything to make it easy 
for me to have that sport that he himself had never had but 
always wanted. . . . 

" About 1900 I began to take an active interest in horses, 

and he was always ready to help me in any way and every 

way in connection with them. I remember one day that my 

trainer said to me, 'Mn Higginson, your father was at the 

track yesterday to see General Douglas run.' I had not been 

able to be there myself, but father, without saying anything 

to me about it, had slipped over to New York and had gone 

down to the race-track to see my horse run. I waited to see if 

he would refer to the matter, but he did n't, and so finally 

one day I said to him, ' Well, sir, you saw General Douglas 

run the other day and you never told me anything about it. 

Why didn't you?* — 'Well,' he said, *I don't exactly know 

why I did n't, but we '11 go down together next time.' I knew 

why, knew as well as if he'd told me. It was a funny shyness 

that he had, — he hated to show his feelings, — and I think 

he thought that I 'd have made fun of him. But needless to 

say, after that we went many, many times together and had 

a lot of fun out of it. 

** As my stable grew in numbers and in quality, he took more 
and more interest in it, and I don't believe that there were 
many races that I rode in myself that my father (and my 
mother too) were n't there, although I knew it used to make 
my mother rather nervous. In 191 1 and 191 2 I was the pre- 
siding steward at the Country Club races in Brookline, and 
at that time I had it in my power to take him up in the 
judges' stand, where he could see the races very well. At first, 
when I asked him to go up with me, he was very diffident 
about going; but after a bit he came up, and how he did en- 
joy himself! He was a very good judge of horses, and he used 
to like to stand in the judges' box and pick out horses as they 


went by for their warming-up gallops. I remember one day 
in 191 1, he was standing there with me before a race, and a 
very handsome gray horse galloped by. * What is that horse?' 
said father; 'he looks like a good one.' I replied that he was, 
and that he had won the Grand National Steeplechase in 
New York a few weeks before. 'Why don't you buy him?' 
said he ; and when I explained that he was a very expensive 
horse, he thought a moment and then said to me: 'Let's go 
and look at him, I 'd like to see him near to.' Unsuspecting, 
I went down to the paddock with him and we saw the horse 
being saddled for his race. 'Who owns him?' said father. 
'Why,' I said, 'he is owned by Tompkins, who trains for 
me.' — 'Ask him to come out here a minute; I want to meet 
him,' he said; and I did so. ' Mr. Tompkins,' said my father, 
' I want that horse of yours for Alex, and I want him now. 
What's his price?' Tompkins told him. 'All right,' said 
father, ' he runs in our name and interest then ' ; and so he 
did. And it all happened so quickly that I had n't time even 
to draw a long breath, and he would hardly let me thank him, 
though you may be sure I tried very hard to do so. If that 
horse had won that day, the story would have been complete; 
but luck was against us and he was beaten by a nose, though 
he won many a good race for me after that. 

" I only tell this story to illustrate his great generosity to- 
ward me, which was ever present through our relations with 
each other. I don't think any man could have had a better 
father, and I know that no man ever had a more generous 
or thoughtful one." 

Major Higginson cared nothing for sailing, fishing, shooting, 
or the life of the woods. He was an expert axeman, however, 
and both at Sunset Hill and on his farm at Lake Champlain, 
he could hold his own with Irish and Canadian wood-choppers. 
He used to keep in condition, too, by driving down from 
Manchester, in the summer mornings, to the Beverly Fanns 


or Montserrat station, before boarding the train for Boston. 
When living in town, he liked to walk from Commonwealth 
Avenue to State Street. He disliked motor-cars, fought against 
them for years, and then one day, happening to ride in a big 
car that caught his fancy, he proceeded to buy two of them ! 
But he was happier on foot. Thousands of his fellow citizens 
recognized that straight-shouldered, brisk, friendly-looking 
personage. Unlike his uncle, Henry Lee, he was not modish 
in dress. Yet he had his preferences : he was faithful through 
life to his youthful fondness for fine shirts from London and 
Paris and for red-silk handkerchiefs, and his straw hats (''Such 
a hat," notes his son, "as New Yorkers call a * Boston' straw 
hat") were invariably purchased on Elm Street, off Hanover. 
He was a familiar figure at football and baseball games 
on Soldiers Field, and liked the company of young athletes. 
But his vacations, whether at Manchester or Lake Champlain 
or in Europe, were usually very brief, and were haunted by 
telegrams and long-distance telephone calls. His physical 
salvation lay in his abstemious habits as to food, his absti- 
nence from stimulants, and his ability to sleep. Sometimes he 
seemed to realize that he was growing old without ever having 
learned to take a real holiday. He wrote to Miss Grace Minns 
from Munich in 191 1 : — 

• . . The stay in London was too hard, for the demands of 
work and of society, i.e.^ seeing friends, tired me, and the 
British Museum, with its chill, laid me up. I am all right s^ain, 
enjoyed Paris with its gallery and sights, — and also much 
business, — and then went to Geneva. Then for the first time 
I took in that I had missed the object of my trip — rest and 
nothing to do in good air. And now I wish I had stayed there 
and loafed. Perhaps I shall get back for a few days. The air was 
wonderful and the scenery, the gentle smiling landscape, most 
refreshing. You must have noticed that I always reach my 
point too late. Will it be so all my life? . . • 


That Henry Higginson's home life was exceptionally happy 
need not be stated here. His tastes were simple, and he could 
never quite forgive an elderly kinsman, who once accused 
him of " liking to flaunt his wealth in the face of the public." 
Nothing could have been further from the truth. His own 
room was Spartan. He bought some good pictures, it is true: 
a Sir Joshua Reynolds, a Constable, a Turner, a Bonifazio, 
some Millet pastels, eight Corots, and many works by Hunt, 
Fuller, and La Fax^e. Henry Adams, in Paris, bargained with 
Rodin for some bronzes for Mr. Higginson, and they were ulti- 
mately delivered, after a contest in financial shrewdness be- 
tween the French peasant and the Quincy Yankee which is 
most amusingly set forth in Henry Adams's letters. The 
Yankee won! Mr. Higginson bought Chinese and Japanese 
bronzes, but he never became a "collector." In the good old 
New England fashion, he bought books freely, but cared littie 
for bindings and "editions." His eyes continued to trouble 
him in the evenings, but this disability brought about the 
pleasant habit of listening while his wife read aloud. Mrs. 
Higginson notes : — 

"... He and Charley Lowell and Stephen Perkins were 
fond of reading poetry and prose. I remember, when Henry 
was quite a young man, he lent me his copy of Clough's 
*Bothie* and a book called 'Oakfield,* written by one of the 
Arnolds, which I am just re-reading now for the sake of ' Auld 
Lang Syne.' I know that he read Goethe and Shakespeare a 
great deal in his youth. As his eyes were weak and he could 
not read in the evening, he was in the habit of playing solitaire, 
and I always read aloud to him. He liked to hear Mill's and 
Bagehot's Essays, but especially Bagehot's. He did not care 
very much for Macaulay. When I read to him in the evening 
it was in the books that were coming out, such as Morley's 
'Recollections,* various 'Lives of Lincoln,* the series of 
'English Men of Letters,* as they came out, and the 'Amer- 
ican Statesmen' series. At one time I used to read German 


to him, but of late years he had foi^gotten his German some- 
what, and could not follow easily enough for me to continue. 
The last thing we read was Shakespeare's ' Much Ado About 
Nothing,* which he enjoyed very much indeed. • . • " 
He wrote me from Manchester in June, 1919: — 

To go back to my young days, I am reading " Faust " again, 
and like it. By the way, if men and women were willing to 
tell their thoughts and feelings freely, when on a stage, should 
we not have more eloquence, or at any rate more feeling, from 
man to man? We Yankees dislike to tell the story as we feel 
it, and only break out when the house begins to bum. Some- 
times I wish to say: "Hang this self-control!" 

There speaks the man who in his India Wharf epoch used to 
save one hour a day to read Jean Paul Richter with Charles 
Lowell ! 

" Music," writes Mrs. Higginson, "continued to be what it 
had always been from his youth up — a passion. Although not 
at all an accomplished performer, he liked to sit down at the 
piano and play snatches of songs, — often his own composi- 
tions, — of symphonies, or any favorite pieces. It was a 
pleasiu^ to hear him. He had a very delightful touch." 

I, too, wished to write music [he wrote me in 1909], studied 
two or three years in earnest and very hard, and wrote a few 
songs good enough for the fire in the grate. Disappointed! 
yes, but what of it? I could saw wood, and so have sawed. 
There are wood-sawers needed and they are paid well — in 
cash, though not in joy, imless the woodpile can light a good 
fire and heat mankind. 

" You will have noticed in his very early diary," says Mrs, 
Higginson, "that his musical taste was already inclined 
towards Beethoven. If you were to ask me what his tastes 


were within my recollection, I should say Beethoven, Schu- 
mann, Schubert, Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Brahms — especially 
Bach and Beethoven.- He did not have much sympathy with 
some of the later composers, even the distinguished ones, such 
as Wagner, Strauss, Tschaikowski, although he liked some of 
C^sar Franck's compositions." In his younger days he had 
sometimes grown impatient with the conservative tastes of 
John Sullivan Dwight, who did so much to diffuse a love of 
music in Boston; but now that he himself had grown old in 
turn, he could use Dwight's own words: "We candidly con- 
fess that what now challenges the world as new in music fails 
to stir us to the same depths of soul and feeling that the old 
masters did, and doubtless always will. Startling as the new 
composers are, and novel, curious, brilliant, beautiful at times, 
they do not bring us nearer heaven." * 

It is the old story of " Milestones" : each generation rebels, 
conforms, and then finds itself out of touch with the new. Of 
the many expressions of personal musical taste in Mr. Higgin- 
son's correspondence, nothing is more characteristic than these 
words to Mrs. Geoi^ge D. Howe about Beethoven's Third 
Symphony: — 

As to the "Eroica," I had meant to tell you how I felt 
about it, but it opens the flood-gates, and I can't. The 
wail of grief, and then the sympathy which should comfort the 
sufferer. The wonderful funeral dii^ge, so solenm, so full, so 
deep, so splendid, and always with courage and comfort. The 
delightful march home from the grave in the scherzo — the 
wild Hungarian, almost gypsy in tone — and then the climax 
of the melody, where the gates of Heaven open, and we see the 
angels singing and reaching their hands to us with perfect wel- 
come. No words are of any avail, and never does that passage 
of entire relief and joy come to me without tears — and I wait 
for it through life, and hear it, and wonder. 

^ Dwight 's valedictory in the last number of his Journal of Music, Sept, l88l. 


That Henry Higginson's nature was deeply and sincerely 
religious, all of his friends were aware. He disliked forms and 
creeds and controversies. In 1865, while alone in Georgia, he 
wrote to his wife that she and her girl friends seemed in danger 
of ''sinking into religious discussion." 

If by creed [he goes on] is meant form of religion or theol- 
ogy, i.e.f Catholicism, Protestantism, — divided into Calvin- 
ism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Episcopacy, Trinitarian- 
ism, Unitarianism, etc., etc., — they have slight meaning for me 
and no preference in my eyes farther than this : that the most 
liberal, wide and charitable of them is the best. ... As to 
Trinity or Unity, I cannot feel the most remote interest in 
the question. The Unitarian church is, I believe, more tolerant 
than the others, and therefore wins in my eyes; that is all. 

A message to his son, written in 1892, gives the root of the 
matter as it lay in his mind : ' ' He can think as he pleases about 
religion, but he has got to live with other folks ^ and he cannot get 
rid of God. The world and we all are made so, and the chap 
who sees it early and lives accordingly, is best off." 

In a letter to Mrs. Louis Agassiz, in 1899, he speaks of him- 
self "as one naturally hating conventions and the received 
rules of life and even of morality and often of conduct. Yet I 
know by experience the great value of these things and am 
aware of the folly of running a-tilt at windmills. I believe in 
many tenets of socialism, else Christianity would be false and 
the religion of humanity would die." 

He was far from a regular church-goer, although at various 
times he attended Appleton Chapel, and had for a while a pew 
in Dr. Crothers's church in Cambridge. In an address to stu- 
dents in the Union in 1907, he confessed his own fondness for 
keeping outdoors on Sundays, but declared: ** Church-going 
is a good habit ; and so take it up and keep it up, for an hour in 
church quiets and cools us, makes us kind and thoughtful." 


He wrote his friend Dr. George A. Gordon in 191 1 : " I rardy 
go to church, but am not an entire heathen, and I do know a 
man when I see one — as I did this afternoon." Dr. Gordon, 
in reply, gave him glorious absolution for his non-attendance: 
** I give you a free pass to the highest realms of light, if you do 
not go to church. Good as it is, there is something infinitely 
better than church-going; you have chosen the better part." 
His old New England training, however, inclined him to 
listen to his wife's reading of a sermon on Sundays, even if he 
had ^pent most of the day in chopping trees. He liked partic- 
ularly something by his classmate "Phil Brooks," or one of 
Archbishop Temple's Rugby sermons. Like most connoisseurs 
of good conversation, he enjoyed the society of ministers, — 
provided he could select the minister, — and his letters to 
clerical friends are invariably delightful.^ Here is one written 
in 1912 to Bishop Brent, who had that morning eacalted "in- 
spirational idealism" above "practical idealism." Mr. Hig- 

ginson did not quite agree. 

Boston, Feb. 35, 1912. 

Dear Bishop Brent : — 

This afternoon we have buried an old friend and comrade 
of the war, Edward Hall, and the service increases the com- 
fort of the day which you began so well and warmly this 
morning. Of course your words were true and vital, and they 
go deep. It seems to me that we have not time or strength 
for the needed work, and for us old folks time is short, and 
strength less. 

But to my question: Have you any special quest on hand? 
Once you came to me on some mutual matter, — for all your 
matters are mutual, — and I was glad to see you. Never since 
then have you been to my shop. If you have a wish which is 
within my reach, pray tell me. That is my errand. After all, 
we are trying to play the same game, or at least I hope so. 

1 His letter to Phillips Brooks, urging him to remain at Trinity Church rather 
than become the college preacher at Harvard, is quoted in Dr. A. V. G. Alkn's 
Life ofPhiiUps Brooks, and in Mr. Howe's A Great PrioaU CUtMen^ reprinted from 
the Atlantic MorUhly, March, 1920. 


Now another matter: "Practical idealism is a failure." Is 
it? Is it not the follower of "inspirational idealism," the other 
handy the other half? Consider slavery. Phillips, Garrison, 
Channing, and Wentworth Higginson talked and talked about 
slavery, its sin, etc. Olmsted showed its practical — that is, 
economic weakness — failure. Lincoln and the quiet men of 
the countryside and of the factories and of the counting-room 
showed their "practical idealism" by wrestling against it at 
any cost, and paid the bill. Is not the same true in many 

Our nation needs education and civilization, thought of 
others, — as to their condition, hopes, aims, refreshment, 
amusement, religion, — active and unceasing thought of and 
work for others. Plenty of people think so and seek all these 
things. Is not this "practical idealism"? 

In it lies the only solution of life, the only means of allaying 
the fever of the times; and my mates of sixty years ago who 
are lying in Virginia thought so sixty years ago, and their 
"relic" thinks so to-day. We cannot smash; God does not 
wish it, for it upsets his plan for the world, so it seems to me^ 
and, therefore, we must go on in better fashion. Is this child* 
ish reasoning? Never mind — we always feel better when we 
are trying, hoping, wrestling and using practical idealism, don't 

We old soldiers are sure that we might well have won at 
Antietam, and taken Lee's Army, body and breeches, and 
again at Chancellorsville, and again at Gettysbiu^g; but we 
did not, and two of us old files yesterday were saying to each 
other that our only explanation was that God thought we had 
not paid the full price for our sin, and so was not willing to let 
us succeed. I believe it fully. 

Do you know that in my youth (when I was twenty years 
old) oiu* minister, Ephraim Peabody, prayed aloud in church 
for the slave in chains who was in our Court House and was 
taken away to slavery again, — and he was spanked for his 
rash words by a dear old citizen, an uncle of mine, — spanked 


between churches, — and he stopped talking. Times are 
changed when you can venture on such talk in the conservative 
church of the town. Phil Brooks, my old classmate and school- 
mate, did not mind any ''old uncle"; he was reporting the 
laws of the Lord. They suited him and us. Times are better, 
and Bishop Brent talks as he and we like. 

All we men of the world can do is to indulge in practical 
idealism, and try to make it answer, and remember that it is 
according to the truth, which must prevail ; otherwise, life is a 
failure — almost a farce. 

I liked much what you said about the past being a philoso- 
pher and to be forgotten, except as it can teach us something. 
To me the past has little interesting; what we have done is 
over, and it is only the future which is really interesting. I am 
an old man, and regret my age only because so much work 
remains to be done, and I cannot do my share. • • . Never 
mind — when a man talks as you do, a real man must once 
more get into the fight and do his best. All of which is useless 
to you. What do you want that an old man can do for you? 
Do not think of answering my letter except to tell me your 
wishes. Yours truly, 

Henry L. Higginson. 

It has recently become the fashion to place the "mission" 
of the theatre alongside of the mission of the church. Major 
Higginson was not modem enough for this, but he was a life- 
long theatre-goer, a keen critic of the stage, and a friend of 
many actors. Passages from his early diaries about French 
and German players have already been quoted. He always 
thought the Paris stage the best in the world : " it is the French 
conscience which teaches honest, careful work." He wrote in 
1897: **I think Got the best French actor within my ken — 
better than Coquelin, or even Regnier or Samson. Madame 
Amauld-Plessy was greats — ugly, charming, almost malign, 
— but great." He took a strong dislike to Mounet-Sully's 


Hamlet: "It is brutal and horrid. The French may like it, 
but it is absolutely out of character. He wiggles over the stage 
on his stomach. It is burlesque." 

He praised Mrs. Fiske in "Tess," but thought the play 
"coarse and wicked to a wonderful degree.'* Barrie's " Little 
Minister" delighted him: "Miss Adams plays her part with 
zest and grace. She uses her face too much — breaks it 
into fifty pieces and is quite absurd sometimes — but she is 

Among the players on the Higginsons' long list of personal 
friends were Miss Marlowe, the Kendals, the Forbes-Robert- 
sons, and Madame Duse. The Higginsons thought that the 
last-named artist was being unfairly treated by ber London 
agents, and asked Henry James to intercede. He replied : — 

Lucerne, May loth, 1893. 

My dear Henry: — 

It is a blessing to hear from you, and a very great pleasure; 
all the more in such a characteristic exhibition of your kind- 
ness. I gather, though you don't definitely say so, that you have 
given Madame Duse some note or word to me — which (if I 
reach London before she quits it, as I hope to do) will serve as 
my warrant for personally approaching her. Otherwise I shall 
be embarrassed. Her artistic fame long since reached me — 
and I have greatly yearned to see her; she is moreover a very 
good friend of a Roman friend of mine. But, I confess I am a 
little bewildered by this question of an active interest in her 
economical situation. I am the vaguest and feeblest of econo- 
mists and men-of -business myself — don't even understand 
my own little sixpenny affairs — and go through life, I sus- 
pect, without having the intelligence to discover it — defraud- 
ed at every turn of my sixpences. Therefore I should be a 
broken reed for this more grandly victimized lady. But to any 
stray hint I can give her she shall be infinitely welcome. The 
gentleman you mention to me who is Coutts's partner will 


probably have put his hand on the right man to advise and 
protect her. Exactly the right man does exist in London in the 
person of George Lewis — the legal providence of the cheated — 
of the defenceless actress, etc. If she consents I will gladly 
place her in relation with him. Unfortunately I fear I shall 
lose a part of her short visit to London — though I hope I shall 
not lose the whole. I am spending three months abroad and 
have lately come to this place to join my brother William and 
his wife, who have come up from Italy after their Florentine 
winter, ... I will write to you of any happy contact I ma,y 
have achieved with Madame Duse — whom one of my very 
first cares will be to go and listen to. I wish you had told me 
more about yourself. But I know that your "self" is simply 
your perpetual service to others. . . . 

A second letter from Henry James follows : — 

2 Wellington Crescent, Ramsgate 
Jvly i/^h, 1893. 

My dear Henry: — 

Your second good letter about Madame Duse made me 
doubly regret that it was foredoomed I should not see her. 
Much machinery, in London, was set in motion to that end : I 

repeated my visits to her hotel ; little Helen D , who seemed 

practically to be "running" her (in what pie has the great 
American girl not her finger?), exerted herself laudably, etc.; 
but the lady remained inaccessible, unattainable. Then I was 
obliged to leave town before the end of her engagement (flying 
from the storm and stress of the London July), and everything 
ended in smoke. I saw her in everything she played except 
"Cleopatra" (which she gave but once or twice — London 
would n't have it at any price), but only from the stalls. She 
is exquisite, and exquisitely interesting, so everyone thought. 
Her success with the press, critics, etc., was unqualified (save 
by the one case of "Cleopatra"); but her houses were piob- 


ably not what they were in America. This was probably 
partly because her prices were higher than London ever pays 
for anyone it has never heard of before (she came here imknown) , 
and partly on acct. of the immense concurrence of London 
evening engagements at the height of the season; the concur- 
rence too of the Commie Frangaise (which has been here au 
camplet)f the extreme fashionability of the opera, etc., at only 
the same price. Whenever I saw her, however, the house was 

But, alas, so far from being able to "advise'* her, I could 
n't even approach her. My own satisfaction apart, indeed, 
that probably little mattered, for my advice would not have 
been much worth. I talked of her situation (very discreetly) 
to one or two sage theatrical people; and they declared that 
she is only in a situation which every actress or artist is con- 
demned to who has n't a natural (or artificial) caretaker on 
her own side; some husband, father, brother, friend or re- 
lation, domestic appendage, in short, acting naturally in her 
interest and with whom her managers have to reckon. It must 
be a personal tie; from the moment it is only a business one, 
this individual (in 19 cases out of 20) only cheats her too. 
Most actresses have such an appendage, and the misfortune of 
poor Madame Duse appears to be her strange and pathetic 
isolation ; as pathetic as her unspeakably touching art. Only 

little Helen D "on her side"! Is it not also true that 

she has her own impracticabilities — through an ignorance 
extreme in some directions? Peace at any rate be to her 
memory! She is still young, after all, and there is time for her 
yet to win her battle ! I have a hope that I shall still see her 
in Venice. Mrs. Gilder wrote me about her too, and I have 
had to confess my failure also to her. I have surrendered my 
London habitation to my brother William and his wife for a 
few weeks and, on this somewhat sordid shore, am far from 
the madding crowd. You probably are tasting of more re- 
fined refreshment at some balmy Beverly. At least I hope 


you are; and particularly Mrs. Ida. Please give her my friend- 
liest greeting. 

Yours most truly 

Henry James. 

Although Major Higginson was nothing of a ''dubman/' 
in the newspaper sense of that word, he was a member of 
many of those pleasant dining-clubs which link Boston so 
g^eeably to the English eighteenth century. Samuel Johnson 
himself had no greater happiness than Henry Higginson in the 
company of his friends; and there is a fine Johnsonian flavor 
in this note from the Major, — dated from his New York dub, 
the Knickerbocker, — about late hours: "When I am in Bos- 
ton, I want to go to bed at ten o'clock; but when I am in New 
York, I don't care when I go to bed." Is it not like Johnson's 
"joyous contempt of sleep" on the night when he went upon 
"a frisk" with Beauclerk and Langton? 

And even in Boston, the Wintersnight Club, the Wednesday 
Evening Club, the Tavern, and "The Club," strained his ten- 
o'clock rule far beyond the breaking-point. He was elected to 
the Saturday Club in 1893, but its monthly luncheons, shifted 
to the hour of one-thirty instead of the original dining hour at 
three o'clock,* came at a time when Mr. Higginson was anx- 
ious to close his desk at State Street, and get home — for 
Saturday was the only day of the business week when lunch- 
ing at home was possible. Nevertheless he came to the Satur- 
day Club frequently. The table, in his day, had grown too 
large for much general conversation, and sometimes he has 
been known to declare that the Saturday Club was dull. That 
depended, however, upon one's luck in being seated next to 
good t6te-i-t6te talkers, and few men who ever sat by Major 
Higginson thought the dub a dull affair. Many of his inti- 
mates upon the Corporation and Board of Overseers were 
members. President Eliot sat at the head of the table. James 

* Edward W. Emerson, Early Years of the Saturday Club (Boston, 1918), p. 22. 


Russell Lowell once set a bad example to the club by utilizing 
the luncheon for attending to the business of Harvard College : 
"With me it was a business meeting. I sat between Hoar and 
Brimmer, that I might talk over college matters."* Henry 
Higginson was occasionally guilty of similar transgressions; 
but even then he talked about Harvard more racily than 
most men talk about anything. He was proud of his member- 
ship in the famous club, and was highly concerned, in 1917, 
— as has been mentioned in an earlier chapter, — that it 
should set a good example in war-time by abstaining from wine 
and tobacco. The wine was cheerfully given up, for the first 
time since 1857; but skilful parliamentary practice succeeded 
in amending Major Higginson's motion so as to salvage the 

For thirty-five years Major Higginson was a member of the 
Tavern Club, and served as its President from 1899 to his 
death — his friends Howells, Henry Lee, and Norton having 
preceded him in that office. His sympathy with younger men, 
his natural friendliness, and his usually quick discernment of 
character enabled him to enter easily and joyfully into the 
comradeship of the club. There were times of physical weari- 
ness, it is true, when his tendency to self -depreciation made 
him feel out of touch. " I went for a while to the Tavern Club,'* 
he wrote in 1895, " and do not wish to go again. I 'm too old 
and stupid." He was sixty-one, and it was four years later 
that he began his twenty years term as President. His per- 
sonal distinction, his simplicity of manner and fidelity to 
noble standards in the arts, were known to his fellow Tavern- 
ers, and instantly recognized by the club's guests from other 
American cities and from Europe. He worried a great deal 
about his speeches, as alwa3rs; but it was quite needless. 
There are some men who can violate every recognized rule of 
after-dinner oratory, and every rhetorical law of "unity, mass 
and coherence," and nevertheless make an admirable impres- 

> Quoted in Early Years of the Saturday Club, p. 75. 


sion ; and few persons who watched Major Higginson preside 
at a Tavern Club dinner wished him to be other than he was: 
picturesque, ejaculatory, intimate, illogical, noble, whimsical, 
reckless — and delightful. 

^* His nature was without disguises," the club recorded after 
his death. *' He endeared himself to us by his soldier-like blunt- 
ness and directness of speech, by his disregard of conven- 
tional estimates of men, by his amazing simplicities. A man 
of the world, in the best sense, he was nevertheless wholly 
without sophistication. His love of beauty was unaffected. He 
had no pretences. He never betrayed bitterness, except toward 
hypocrisy and cowardice. He had known pain and sorrow, 
but he kept unspoiled, to the age of eighty-five, a zest for life, 
the heart of youth and the gift for friendship." 

There is good reason for thinking, however, that Major 
Higginson was really more at his ease at the small dinners of 
"The Club," on the first Friday of the month, than he was at 
the Saturday Club luncheons or in the high-backed President's 
chair at the Tavern. "'The Club,'" he wrote in 1902, "'is 
far and away the most agreeable and interesting club here, 
like the old Saturday Club in its great days and much beyond 
it at present. The talk is often brilliant — nothing which is 
not discussed.' " ^ Readers of William James's "Letters" will 
remember his interest in this "Friday" Club. Henry James 
was also a member, as were Howells, Henry Adams, Alexander 
Agassiz, James M. Crafts, John Fiske, John C. Gray, Francis 

^ ". . . I think you will agree with me that one hears the best talk in the town 
at our little club. Certainly one hears the freest interchange of thought, for the 
Saturday Club is clever enough, but men do not say all that they wish to, and they 
do hesitate to express themselves with absolute freedom. In the old days [of the 
** Friday " Club] it used to be great f im to hear William James and Wendell Holmes 
(the Judge) spar, or at any rate excite each other to all sorts of ideas and expres- 
sions, and John Fiske (though rarely present) was illuminating, while John Ho- 
mans you remember. John Ropes, too, never hesitated to attack or defend any- 
thing which came up, and he was as reckless as he was courageous, and no humbug 
ever found place with him. . , ." — H.L.H. to James Ford Rhodes, Dec. 27, 1906. 


Parkman, Arthur G. Sedgwick, and John C. Ropes. Mr. 
Higginson outlived these companions. Among the more con- 
stant attendants in his later years were his friends Dr. Wil- 
liam Stui^s Bigelow, George A. P. Duncan (now the Earl 
of Camperdown), John T. Morse, Jr., Thomas Sergeant 
Perry, Raphael Pumpelly, James Ford Rhodes, Moorfield 
Storey, Dr. H. P. Walcott, and a few younger men. There were 
rarely more than six or eight present, and "general talk'* was 
the rule. Henry Higginson had his favorite seat, on the left 
of John T. Morse, Jr., — who sat at the head of the table, — 
and opposite James Ford Rhodes. In the years when Mr. 
Rhodes was writing his Civil-War volumes, and John C. Ropes 
was living, the Club talk was rather likely to touch upon mili- 
tary history. But with John Fiske or William James or Judge 
Holmes or Raphael Pumpelly present, the topic might be 
anything conceivable. For twenty-five years William James's 
letters to Henry Higginson are full of references to "The 
Club": — 

October 13, 1893. I am hungrily waiting for the October 
Friday dinner! 

January i, 1901. [From Rome] If you go to the Friday 
Dining Club, pray give my love to all those men of genius, wit 
and character. I should like to hear them talk! 

February 8, 1903. You left too early Friday eve. 

April 6, 1908. It was a real grief to me to have to cut last 
Friday's dinner, but I had no choice. 

January 4, 1909. The dinner was a disappointment Friday 
night; the conversation kept steadily on too trivial a key; if 
you had been there, it would have maintained a somewhat 
more serious level. I missed you greatly. 

Some dinners, of course, were boimd to be less sparkling 
than others. Even John Fiske sometimes remained silent, 


hour after houri and William James himself has been known 
more than once to sit taciturn and abstracted throughout a 
Friday dinner, and then to talk like the most voluble and 
wonderful of Angelic Doctors all the way out to Cambridge! 
But though some of Henry Higginson's oldest friends had 
gone, he maintained his eager interest in ''The Club" imtil 
the close. The last words of his last letter to me, eleven days 
before his death, are these: ''X is to dine with us on Fri- 
day. Come and cheer him and show him how pleasant we 
all can be." 

Major Higginson's fidelity to old army comradeships was 
constant. For more than forty years he was a member of an 
Officers' Club that dined once a month during the winter, 
holding the final meeting invariably on the anniversary of 
Lee's surrender. There were nineteen original members of 
this organization, all of them Boston men. Charles Frands 
Adams, Charles L. Peirson, Greely S. Curtis, Theodore Ly- 
man, and Henry S. Russell were among the number.^ Major 
Higginson was also a regular attendant upon the meetings of 
the Loyal Legion, and upon regimental reunions. He enjoyed 
particularly the reunion of the Second Massachusetts Volun- 
teer Infantry, at their old camping-ground at Brook Farm, 
on July 8, 191 1 , fifty years after the regiment left for Virginia. 
A couple of notes addressed to Dr. Lincoln R. Stone of the 
Second Regiment will show the warmth of Major Higginson's 
feelings toward his surviving comrades, and his ever-present 
thoughts of the dead. 

Dec. 1st, 1907. 

Dear Lincoln : — 

Your very kind note on my birthday was very welcome 
indeed — for old comrades and friends are few and dear. 

Do you know that the memory of past deeds is less inter- 
esting than the hope to accomplish other deeds — so much 

^ The Boston Sunday Harold of April 4, 1915, gives an interesting account o£ tbs 
club. Colonel Robert Hooper Stevenson is now (1921) the sole survivor. 


needed. As the country grows older and the requirements of 
many people are so much more complicated, the need of active, 
honest brains is greater — and we are growing f eebler, 

I sometimes think of the dear and simple minds which 
have left us. 

Charles Lowell and Stephen Perkins were clear, keen, com- 
prehensive, and Bob's simple and sound ; Jim Savs^e's honest 
and earnest — and they all would have helped. Roosevelt's 
mind is vigorous and not clear or wise — and these men would 
have helped him in his honest purposes. This life is queer and 
trying, but we must work and think and try to be honest and 

Good-bye, dear old mate. 

Your affectionate 


What a sweet, clear, honest beauty Bob's was! 

March 31, 1919. 

Dear Lincoln : — 

You are very kind to write me, and I would have replied 
long ago, but am still in bed, and often am not able to write a 
letter even by the hand of a stenographer. The truth is I get 
very tired indeed doing anything, and, although my recovery is 
marching on well, still I am eighty-four — and you are older. 
Neither of us should have lived so long. It is a great mistake 
to live after seventy-five. 

It is a good while since we started out from Brook Farm, 
isn't it? — And since that time we all have been through a 
good deal. Jim Savage was a very unusual man. One could 
not call him remarkable ; but a most disinterested, true, steady 
friend — and a more unconquerable foe I never saw. As a 
boy, he never was afraid of anything, and he would tackle any 
job or any man, no matter what the size of it was. I always 
hoped he had a quiet end, but I suppose we never have known. 
Because his brother-in-law — Professor Rogers — was a Vir- 


ginian and had friends in Virginia, I believe Jim was well 
cared for. 

Is n't it marvellous to think of the difference in our prepara- 
tion and our equipment and that of the present day! . . . 
Next summer I hope to see you all on August 9th, but one 
never knows. 

• . 

As one studies Henry Higginson's enormous correspondence, 
one comes to the realization that his usefulness to the com- 
munity is to be measured, not merely by this or that splendid 
or long-sustained act of munificence, but by the boundless 
energy with which he threw himself into multitudinous causes, 
and the sympathy with which he entered into the lives of an 
extraordinary variety of men and women. He was no hiunan- 
itarian in the abstract, and he left abundant record of his dis- 
like for the society of professional "reformers." But back of 
every good cause he saw a living person — a person for whom 
something ought to be done. He writes to Miss Grace Minns 
in 1910: "The number of folks who are to be smoothed, ad- 
monished, touched up, is wonderful — and now I Ve a word for 
Senator Aldrich about the currency; so good-night." 

He was one of the men who like to keep letters, and he used 
often to tie them up in bundles marked " Interesting," without 
attempting to file them by authors or topics or any system 
whatever. One of these bundles, opened at random, contains 
letters from eighteen different men, and the names of the 
writers, together with the topic of each letter, will give a vivid 
illustration of the range of his correspondence. The letters are 
from Bishop Brent, about his work in the Philippines; Bishop 
Phillips Brooks, about talking in public ("Yes, it is good to 
talk, but sometimes one grows weary of himself and gets 
glimpses of how weary other people must be of him ") ; James 
Bryce, on Jews; J. M. Crafts, on the Institute of Technology; 
George A. Gordon, on church-going; Thomas Wentworth 
Higginson, on the family genealogy; Baron Kentaro Kaneko, 


giving thanks for courtesies; Major J. R. Kean, about a 
Charities meeting; Charles F. McKim, on the interior of the 
Music Hail; Frank D. Millet, on the American Academy in 
Rome; Cardinal 0*Connell, on Christianity and the working- 
man; Auguste Rodin, a bill for bronzes; Theodore Roosevelt, 
on the currency question; Elihu Root, on the United States 
Treasiuy; Augustus St. Gaudens, on the Shaw Memorial; 
Charlemagne Tower, on his interview with the Kaiser over Dr. 
Muck's leave of absence; Booker Washington, on a Tuskegee 
meeting; Leonard Wood, thanking Mr. Higginson for his con- 
tribution to a Cuban school at Santis^o. And all of these gen- 
tlemen, together with thousands more, were duly "smoothed, 
admonished, touched up" by the indefatigable Major. 

Goldsmith once remarked that he could ''play on the 
German flute as well as most men" — implying, it is sup- 
posed, that no one really plays on the German flute very 
well. Major Higginson could dictate to a stenographer as well 
as most men, if not better, and yet his most characteristic 
letters were written with a quill pen, and preferably upon little 
square correspondence cards. He used these cards, particu- 
larly in his later life, for his countless messages of remem- 
brance, sympathy, or congratulation. He inherited from his 
father an iron memory for anniversaries of every kind, — birth- 
days, wedding-days, anniversaries of deaths, — and his notes 
to a very wide circle of kinsfolk and intimate friends reveal 
the happiest faculty for saying the delicate and right word. 
As long, for instance, as Mrs. Charles Russell Lowell lived, 
Mr. Higginson rarely failed to write her on "Charley's" 
birthday, their wedding-day, the anniversary of his death, 
and the birthday of their daughter. He had a special gift for 
writing charming notes to women. Many of his wife's best 
friends were his also, and he addressed them with a touch of 
chivalry, of quaint poetic grace and gallantry, unexpected in 
a New Englander, and inimitably his own. "Attention to a 
woman is sunshine," he once wrote to a kinsman who was 


about to be married. "They all need sunshine, steady sun- 
shine. • • • All men are queer, and in their aims great and 
little forget their wives. Your head gets into the clouds, and 
in your wish to serve man^ you forget tnen and women. Show 
A. to all of us who are living twenty years hence, and if her 
face is as peaceful as her mother's, you will get the prize — 
which then you will not want.'* 

An earlier chapter has touched upon Henry Higginson's 
theory of letter-writing. It was something that interested him 
continually. One of his partners notes : — 

" He had an extraordinary power of statement — both ver- 
bal and written. In fact, his letters are as unmistakable as a 
Rembrandt portrait. Once he came tp a newly opened office 
and addressing the young partner in charge said, ' I would like 
to talk to you about letters ; I talk to the Preddent of Harvard 
College about them. I told him that nowadays our young men 
can neither write nor spell. You get over the difficulty of 
chirography by typing, but the fundamental trouble is that 
the men are not taught to express themselves. Now, my 
theory of a letter is this : you sit down and visualize the person 
you are addressing; you dictate exactly as if he were present; 
you watch the changes in his face and anticipate his replies. 
You put yourself into the letter exactly as if you were looking 
him in the eyes. You go through and cut out all the adjectives 
and adverbs ; then you probably have a good letter. ' He added 
a postscript in long hand to almost every letter, which made 
it real and personal." 

This art of personal expression had its roots in his genius 
for friendship, for getting acquainted with individuals. He 
had prided himself in the Army on knowing by name every 
man in the two regiments with which he served. He carried 
the same faculty into his business life. He wanted to learn 
the name of every office-boy, and all there was to be known 
about him. 

"As he came into the office one day," says a member of the 


finii of Lee, Higginson and Co., "he discovered a new boy at 
the door — very young (fifteen years old) bright-eyed and 
apple-cheeked. He stopped and said, * My name is Higginson; 
what is your name?* The boy replied, * Thomson, sir — Sam 
Thomson/ Mr. Higginson said, *Good! Are you a Jew?' — 
* No, sir, I am a Presbyterian.' To which the Major responded, 
' I think we are fifty-fifty. I'm a Unitarian.' Returning a 
month later, the Major remembered the boy and his name. 
Stepping up to the stool where he sat taking prices o£F the 
ticker and recording them on the sheet, the Major gravely 
said, 'Good morning, Sam; how's the market?' Somewhat 
flustered, Sam replied, 'Steel is 102, sir'; and the Major 
passed along. Whereupon Sam strolled over to the near- 
est yoimgster, threw out his chest, and said, ' Do you know 
what Mr. Higginson said to me? He said, ''Sam, how's the 

Another office anecdote will serve to illustrate his ability to 
handle young men who were not of the "Sam Thomson " type. 
A friend once asked him to take his son, just graduated, 
into the banking office, as a great personal favor. The gilded 
youth began as did all the others, answering the bell when some- 
one pushed a button. Meandering into the Major's room, he 
was handed a telegram for the private wire signed, " H. L. H." 
As he leisurely departed, the Major curtly asked, "Harry, 
can you read that telegram? What is the signature?" Harry 
replied, " H. L. H." — "Do you know what that stands for? " 
— "Yes, sir: 'H. L. Higginson.'" — "No, that stands for 
' Himy like Hell!' " The look on Harry's face indicated that 
his education was progressing. 

But whether it were office-boy or " gilded " college graduate, 
or long-time business associate, Mr. Higginson knew how to 
win and keep their friendship. From the scores of letters 
addressed to him on his birthdays, here are three, each written 
by a man of high standing in the Boston business world, and 
each expressive of an affection begun in boyhood. 


'* I suppose every boy at heart believes certain things, and 
wants to be assured that his beliefs are true. They smolder 
or bum brightly according to the way he behaves, and still 
more according to the way they are fed by the people he sees. 
I shall never forget how mine were affected by the talks you 
gave to us in college. Each time I came away my beliefs were 
blazing, with a perfect certainty that they were true, and an 
immense desire to put them into practice. And it has been so 
ever since. I don't mean that they have been put in practice; 
I wish they had ; but they have come a good deal nearer than 
they otherwise would, and I have had a feeling of inner com- 
fort and security which has made an immense dilBFerence in my 
happiness. So I am grateful to you on many accounts; and 
what is true of me is equally true of thousands of other boys 
who have seen you and heard you talk, altho' they have not 
had the chance of seeing you at close quarters. . . . '' 

" I first came into this office in 1881, thirty-two years ago. 
For a short time I was with the Union Pacific, but even 
then my relations with you were dose. Looking back over 
these thirty-two years, I can appreciate how much your affec- 
tionate friendship has meant to me and how much I owe to 
you. I cannot remember a single moment when you have not 
been kind, considerate, and helpful. Neither has there been a 
time when my ambition has not been to please you. Don't 
think that I am not grateful because I don't say much. I am 
more than grateful, and I value your affection and good word 
more than anything else except the happiness of my wife and 
child. I hope you are having a happy birthday. You deserve 
it if anybody in this world does." 

** My father died as I began to face life. From that day your 
care and coimsel have helped me throxigh such dark hours as 
came along, and made me feel that I did not lack a father's 
affection. It was right that this conmiunity should have ex- 


pressed to you its affection. It may have felt moments of equal 
enthusiasm for public servants, but never such sustained feel- 
ing for a citizen because his joy was in service. To that ex- 
pression I cannot add. I should only like to have you feel that 
since boyhood's days you have been my inspiration and joy.'* 

Such tributes to his usefulness in the commimity gave Mr. 
Higginson the deepest satisfaction. But he had too much New 
England shyness to enjoy being praised to his face, unless the 
praise came from his intimates. President Eliot says : — 

"... I was hurrying to the Corporation meeting one day, 
now perhaps twenty-five years ago, and met Major Higginson 
near the door of the building in which the Corporation office 
was and still is. As I came up to him I noticed he looked as if 
something very disagreeable had happened to him. His ap- 
pearance was so unusual that I immediately asked, 'Why, 
what is the matter, Major?' He replied, 'Oh, that damned 
/ mentioning the name of a respectable citizen of Bos- 
ton whom we both knew and had long known — ' Oh, that 
danmed Jones; he has been patting me on the back right here 
on this sidewalk, and telling me that I have done well. He has 
been praising me! What right has he to do that? He and I 
never played together when we were boys. • . .'"^ 

But his correspondence is rich, fortunately, in letters from 
men who had "played" with him from boyhood, and who 
wrote without restraint. What comedies and tragedies lie 
hidden even in the business correspondence of a banker who 
was in State Street for fifty years! Here, for instance, is a yel- 
lowing bimdle of letters from and to Clarence King, the min- 
ing expert, — and expert builder, too, of castles in Spain, — 
the friend of John Hay and John La Farge and Henry Adams 
and Howells and Raphael Pumpelly. Joseph Conrad could 
create a romance as fascinating as "Nostromo" from these 

1 Harvard Alumni Bulletin^ Nov. 27, 1919. 


Higginson-King letters about the control of the fabulously 
rich Yedras and Sombrerete silver mines ; and yet who remem- 
bers to-day the "Anglo-Mexican Mining Company'* of the 
eighteen-eighties, and the fortunes that came and went like 
sheet-lightning in the sky? 

Less sensational, but even more typical of those personal 
relationships which underlay Mr. Higginson's business enter- 
prises, is his correspondence with the pioneer railroad-builder, 
C. E. Perkins of the "C. B. and Q." Henry Higginson acted 
as his broker, and bought and sold for his friend's account — 
as he did for scores of other men and women — without over- 
much consultation upon details. On one occasion Higginson 
offered to make good a loss which was apparently due to his 
own carelessness, and succeeded only in eliciting this delight- 
ful reply : — 

Aug. 24, 1899. 
My dear Henry: — 

I have your letter of Aug. 23rd, and, while it is very good of 
you to suggest paying my losses on Wisconsin Central, I think, 
on reflection, that you will agree with me that it is an utterly 
impracticable scheme, and one which I cannot consent to for a 

In the first place, supposing you did buy the bonds for me 
without an order to do so (which I am not sure about), I never- 
theless knew about it within a very short time, and could have 
sold out then and there, had I chosen to do so; but, as I pre- 
ferred to take the chance of profit, I also necessarily took with 
it the chance of loss. Had I sold at once, I could, no doubt, 
have gotten out even, or better. 

In the second place, since that time, and perhaps before, you 
have put me into things, or let me into things, out of which I 
have made money; so, if you are to pay losses on these \^- 
consin Centrals, we must go through the books for about forty 
years, and have an accounting, and I must pay back to you. 


no doubt, considerably more than you are now proposing to 
pay back to me. 

In the third place, considering our relations for the last 
forty years, I shall agree to nothing of the kind, and will see 
you damned first ! Yours truly, 

C. E. P. 

I don't know what it is about accounts [confessed Mr. 
Higginson to William James]. It has been a great pleasure to 
look after yours, and it has been here a long time ; but it has 
been a lucky account. I have had one for A for about as long, 
and that has been an unlucky accoimt. I have one from B, 
and that has been just a fair account and no more. In one case 
I have bought discreetly or fortunately; in the other I have 
not. You, who are accustomed to study and understand the 
workings of men's minds will please explain this problem in 

But William James, instead of attacking the psycholog- 
ical problem, contented himself with gratitude to Henry 
Higginson : — 

"The diminution of care and nervous wear-and-tear and 
anxiety has been something for which A. and I have returned 
thanks weekly. It is different if one is in the fight one's self 
and has one 's health. But I am doing, on a small stock of 
working energy, things of which I now believe (from evidence 
afforded) that they will influence the thought of the next gen- 
eration (they are already stirring the puddle and making the 
toads jump about) , and it is most important for me that that 
job should not be frustrated by solicitudes and prohibitions of 
an entirely irrelevant sort to keep me awake and tire me out. 
I 'm glad I 'm not in the market life of which you describe the 
spasms so eloquently — I could n't stand it at all ! Therefore, 
once more, mygratitude can find no expression in words. • • •" 


That letter dates from 1909, but it is pleasant to know that, 
as early as the disastrous year of 1893, William James had in- 
sisted upon Henry Higginson's using that '' account'* as if it 
were his own. *' I shall esteem you no true man or friend if you 
don't take me at my word in case hereafter you are ever pushed 
so that the use of that amount will make things go any easier. 
It is yours, not mine, for an indefinite time to come." 

If James could exclaim, ''How lucky I am in having such a 
friend as you for a banker!" Higginson could also count him- 
self lucky in having such a correspondent for more than five- 
and-thirty years. It was the banker who suggested James as 
the orator for the dedication of the Shaw Memorial in Boston 
in 1897; but James, characteristically enough, rated Higgin- 
son's address on Shaw in Sanders Theatre more highly than 
his own. "As for our speeches, yours was infinitely the more 
impressive, being the work of an honest man, and not that of 
a professional phrase-monger and paid rhetorician. Those are 
the bad devils!" It was to Higginson that James confided his 
plans for resigning his professorship. 

RoMBy Dec, 14, 1900. 

You doubtless have received, or soon will receive, as mem- 
ber of the " Corporation," the resignation of my professorship, 
which I sent in the other day, under cover to Walcott. It 
seemed to me that a step already made morally certain in 
my own mind ought not, in the general interests of the de- 
partment of philosophy, to be any longer postponed. There 
is a cumulative amount of nervous wear-and-tear involved in 
preparing and delivering lectures at the sound of the bell, 
through so many weeks of the year, which is great and far in 
excess of the intellectual output proper. I can work my small 
intellectual capital far more economically and with more 
profit relatively to the animal expenditure, I am sure (no mat- 
ter how greatly my strength might improve after this), by the 
use of the pen than by that of the tongue; so, although I am 
still hoping for an improvement of indefinite amoimt, I have 


had almost no doubts as to the wisdom of sending in my 
resignation now. . • • 

Rome is great! I can't imagine a gloriouser place for a man 
to be turned loose on after breakfast, with eyes in his head, 
some little book-learning, muscles in his legs, and enough 
money in his pocket to buy such souvenir spoons as take his 
fancy. I have theCyes, but too little of the other requisites. 
But I say Rsyrre is great all the same. . . . 


I congratulate you on the Yale LL.D.," he wrote in 1901. 
They invited me, unworthy as I am, to come and receive 
one, but my health forbade." 

In the following year it appears that James managed to 
"escape" a degree from Harvard: — 

**. . . As I have frequently said, I mean to support you in 
your old age. In fact the hope of that is about all that I now 
live for, being siuf eited with the glory of academic degrees just 
escaped, like this last one which, in the friendliness of its 
heart, your Corporation designed sponging upon me at Com- 
mencement. Boil it and solder it up from the microbes, and 
it may do for another year, if I am not in prison ! The friendli- 
ness of such recognition is a delightful thing to a man about 
to graduate from the season of his usefulness. ' La renomm^e 
vient,' as I have heard John La Farge quote, '^ ceux qui ont 
la patience d'attendre, et s'accrolt 3t raisondeleurimb6cillit6.* " * 

Among the thousands of ingenious and pitiful and shame- 
less ** begging letters" received by Henry Higginson, what a 
veritable human document is the following from the hand of 
William James! 

95 Irving St., Cambridge, Mass. 
Nov. I, 1902. 

Dbar Henry: — 

I am emboldened to the step I am taking by the conscious- 
ness that, though we are both at least 60 years old and have 

1 This letter has been printed in Letters of WiUiatn James, vol. n, p. 173. 


known each other from the cradle, I have never but once (or 
possibly twice) traded on your well-known lavishness of dis- 
position to swell any "subscription" I was trying to raise. 

Now the doomf ul hour has struck. The altar is ready, and 
I take the victim by the ear. I choose you for a victim because 
you still have some undesiccated human feeling about you 
and can think on terms of pure charity — for the love of God, 
without ulterior hopes of returns from the investment. 

The subject is a man of 50 who can be recommended to no 
other kind of a benefactor. His story is a long one, but it 
amounts to this, that Heaven made him with no other power 
than that of thinking and writing, and he has proved by this 
time a truly pathological inability to keep body and soul 
together. He is abstemious to an incredible degree, is the most 
innocent and harmless ot human beings, is n't propagating 
his kind, has never had a dime to spend except for vital neces- 
sities, and never has had in his life an hour of what such as we 
call freedom from care, or of "pleasure" in the ordinary exu- 
berant sense of the term. He is refinement itself mentally and 
morally; and his writings have all been printed in first-rate 
periodicals, but are too scanty to "pay." There's no excuse 
for him, I admit. But God made him ; and after kicking and 
cuffing and prodding him for twenty years, I have now come 
to believe that he ought to be treated in charity pure and 
simple (even though that be a vice), and I want to guarantee 
him $350 a year as a pension to be paid to the Mills Hotel in 
Bleecker Street, New York, for board and lodging and a few 
cents weekly over and above. I will put in $150. I have 
secured $100 more. Can I squeeze $50 a year out of you for 
such a non-public cause? If not, don't reply and foi^et this 
letter. If " ja," and you think you really can afford it, and it 
is n't wicked, let me know, and I will dun you regularly every 
year for the 50 dollars. 

Yours as ever, 

Wm, James. 


It 's a great compliment that I address you. Most men say 
of such a case, "Is the man deserving?" Whereas the real 
point is, *' Does he need us? " Who is deserving nowadays? 

Another correspondent, whose letters ranged from the stock- 
market to things undreamed of in State Street, was Henry 
Adams. His letters to Higginson begin in 1863, but those 
written in the twentieth century are the most characteristic. 
Adams had discovered by 1901 that the world was "sick." 

Hotel Beau Site, Paris, 4 Nov,, 1901. 

... I was in London last week; not a gay place just now, 
and much worried about the world. In fact, I have found the 
world pretty sick on my travels. Whether it is acute or chronic 
may be a question, but to my mind the German sickness goes 
deeper than the skin ; I never could believe in German econom- 
ics or German business as I 've seen it carried on. When we 
were young, we never conceived of the Germans as possible 
rivals in practical matters. The collapse shows how exceedingly 
unpractical their expansion was. I believe the shipping 
expansion to be still worse. Both in Germany and in Russia 
the governments alone are carrying the industrials. Russia 
is what she has always been and, for at least three generations 
more, must continue to be; but Germany must root or die. 
Which? Her history is not dazzling. 

For the last month you have been worrying Paris and Lon- 
don, not to say Berlin, badly with your copper. On high 
moral principles, I deeply disapprove of the way in which our 
people seem to have rigged the copper-market; but I am 
greatly interested in watching the struggle. For two hundred 
years Europe has clubbed her capital to rig markets against 
us, and now comes a first-class fight to see who has the biggest 
pile. Apparently Paris is with us, and, as far as I can see, 
France and America have all the money there is. I am sorry 
that I know none of the Rio Tinto people, to ask questions. 



Still I do wish we could let prices down easily a little all 
round. Capital is terrifically strong and can now safely do 
things that would have been fatal fifty years ago; but all the 
same, bumps are almost as unpleasant to fear as to feel. 

Europe and her embarrassments are going more and more 
to dominate our home issues ; at least, to threaten our markets. 
At Washington they see it clearly enough. There is no great 
danger luiless someone in Europe runs mad; but that may 
happen. In fact, England is mad already. Chamberlain's 
speeches show very clearly a failing mind, and Salisbury is 
long passed. I begin to look for a social collapse; perhaps a 
revolution. The old aristocracy and the new middle-class 
leaders have ail broken down. They are discredited to a 
point that would be fatal in America. Luckily or unluddly, 
all England is senile with them. No young energy is left. . . . 

Here is the opening par^^^raph of the nine-ps^e letter about 
Rodin, referred to on a previous page : — 

Paris, 12 July, 1902. 

My dear and learned Friend: — 

To you, who have dealt with artists all your life, there is no 
need to explain what artists are. Your friend Rodin is an 
artist. I am an irritable cuss. Yet, guided by the genial influ- 
ence of your character, I Ve not quarreled with him, though I 
must now explain to you how very dose I have been to break- 
ing o£F relations. Still, down to the present moment, we are 
prodigies of courtesy. He is not in the least dishonest; he b 
only a peasant of genius; grasping; distrustful of himself 
socially; susceptible to flattery, especially to that of beautiful 
or fashionable women; and just now much elated by his per- 
sonal triumphs in London and Prague. He is perfectly buzzy 
about his contracts; keeps no books or memoranda; foigets 
all he says, and has not the least idea of doing what is prom- 
ised. If it were not that his marble block is in his way, I doubt 


if he would ever remember to get it out of his way by executing 
an order. 

• • 

By 1902 Adams is toying with that theory of acceleration 
which he was soon to work out in his ** Education of Henry 

Inveslocht Castlb, Fort WnxiAM, N.B. 
14 August, 1902. 

• . . For once, the whole world seems as dull as Scotland. 
I suppose America is working as hard as ever, and piling up 
wealth, but no one seems any longer surprised at America. 
I see nothing to prevent the next generation from quadrupling 
its activity and sixteen-folding its wealth; but as I am not in 
it, why should I care? One thing I hold to be mathematically 
certain. The world can't go on another century doubling up 
speed and power as it has done since 1800 without breaking 
its own neck. I shall be pleased to see if it comes in my time, 
for it can't hurt me much; but it will certainly wake up some- 
body some day if the skies suddenly fall. . . . 

I hear not a word about politics or politidans. Politics 
ought to be the science of leaving things dexterously alone. 
On the whole our Government seems well adapted to do it. 

We have some annoyances caused by A , but they are 

slight, and we know what they are. We don't know what the 
next will be. As for me, I have long since learned wisdom in 
big liunps and I 've got it down to as fine a point as old what's- 
his-name did who burnt the Alexandrian Library. Wisdom is 

• • 

By the following year the search for truth brought Adams 
''as far as Ming porcelain." 

1603 H Strbbt, 26 AprUf 1903. 
... I have regretted to lose a visit from you this winter, 
but I suspect that you are wise in keeping away. For myself, 


I am humbly seeking truth. You have found it. My search 
has brought me only as far as Ming porcelain. I have derived 
much pleasure from the jar which stands since January on my 
comer book-case, and looks me in the face with every sincerity 
of truth. I wish I may say as much of Sargent's portrait.^ 
I wish still more that you may say that it lives you. The jar 
lives me. . . . 

Two years later, just before the adjournment of Congress, 
he is puzzled about the world — and Wall Street. This was 
the year when he wrote the " Education." 

1603 H SiKBBT, 26 FA., 1905. 
. . . We shall all flit as soon as we've tucked dear Theodore 
into his little bed. Don't you wish he may go to sleep ! No- 
body seems to mind him, which amuses me. Who is the fool 
here? Is it Wall Street or Theodore? Is it the Jews or the Tsar? 
When we were yoimg, everybody would have had fits at a 
quarter part of what we have had to stand this year past. I 
wonder whether a general war all over the world, with a total 
collapse of industry, would stir Wall Street now. . . . 

In the following letters, he refers to the privately printed 
copies of the '' Education," now ready for circulation among 
his friends : — 

1603 H Street, 17 Fe&y., 1907. 
• • . Truly I should squirm at having to recommend a 
teacher of law,* but I will ask better and wiser men than my- 
self what to do about it. The danger is of catching a prig. 
International law, like Art, is a wild world of priggism. Never 
should a cautious historian wish himself therein. He respects 
no law. 

^ H. L. H. was then sitting for the portrait now in the Harvard Union. 
> For the Harvard Law School. 

From a pbotograph by Notmaa (aj^ut i<N5) 


I have much missed you in matters of wise advice, for I 
have needed someone to teach better things than law. . . . 

As for me, I am very, very old; so old that I can't help 
telling about it, and becoming more of a bore than when I 
was only young. I have even written it out, and mean to ask 
you some day to look at it, as my last words of imbecility on 
man and matters. I have seen Calumet sell at a thousand, and 
the roads choked by their own food. Figure up that equation 
on Caliunet! Some forty years ago Quin Shaw was using his 
last dollar to carry in at nothing. If the figure stands thus: 
1 : 1000: : 1000: X, what is to happen in the year 1947? . . • 

1603 H Street, April i, 1907. 
. • . The volume, or rather the sheets of the possible pro- 
jected book would have been sent to you earlier, for your 
consent or correction, had I not been obliged to wait for the 
permission of persons more seriously affected, such as presi- 
dents, senators and ladies. I am still waiting for a few belated 
beleidigtCt the chief of whom is Mrs. Hay, still in California; 
and the State Department, dumb as beetles. Nevertheless, 
I regard you as one of the family, and therefore entitled to 
your will. For my personal interest, the book is written only 
for the last three chapters. I doubt whether your personal 
interest can carry you much beyond the first three. In any 
case, I will correct, erase or deny anything you dislike, even to 
suppressing the whole if you say so. It is not likely to suit 
my successors at Harvard. . . . 

25 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne 
27 May 1907. 
• • • I received also, and read, the volume of Charley 
Lowell.^ We are piously embalming our friends in mummy- 
form ; and I wonder whether any archaeologist of the year 3000 
will decipher them. Let 's hope they will find amusement in 

1 This was the Life and Letters, edited by Edward W. Emenon. 


it. For myself » I am very much more interested in the future, 
and I think Charley Lowell was of the same mind. He was a 
1900 man, and we are very short of such. 

You and Alex Agassiz are the only ones of our Boston 
lot who have accomplished anythingi for I don't count the 
mere running with the machine. I suppose the war killed 
two or three more, who might have rivalled you, and Charley 
Lowell may have been one. But would he have lived long 

Paris is a terror, a dream of chaos. I stay here because I 
have no other to go to; but it is rather worse than New York. 
And we thought our Paris of 1 860 a fast place ! Yet the women 
adore it more than the men do — and the automobile — and 
the restlessness! Read me that riddle ahead for sixty years 
more ! It is the only book I care to study now. . . . 

At the end of Roosevelt's administration Henry Adams 
writes (February 25, 1909) : "With March 4 I quit the game. 
All ends ! Next winter, my world of Lafayette Square will have 
vanished, and I will let you run the show.'* A year later his 
tone is still that of affectionate, whimsical detachment: — 

1603 H Street, 3 Feby.^ 1910. 

• • • From time to time, nieces or other stray vagabonds 
give me hints of your doings, and they have told me that your 
health had been poor. I am sorry for it. . . • 

Every day I hug myself with delight at the thought that 
you young fellows, and not I, are running the solar system. 
As you are all so cocksure of running it right, I can look on 
and tell you what nice fellows you are and how nicely you are 
doing it. If I had been left to myself, I never would have 
known how to do it so well. I don't know that I would have 
done it even with the help of my brothers and first cousins. 

I am still smiling — like Charles Eliot — and hope you are 
too. There is nothing like smiles. . . . 


But the death of Alexander Agassiz, on March 27, 191O1 
stirred him beyond his wont. 

1603 H Street, 2 April, 1910. 

... I wish I were there to show what respect I could for 
Alex. If I showed all I felt, it would be worth while to go far. 
He was the best we ever produced, and the only one of our 
generation whom I would have liked to envy. When I look 
back on our sixty years of life, and think of our millions of 
contemporaries, I am pacified when the figure of Alex occurs 
to me, and I feel almost reconciled to my own existence. We 
did one first-rate work when we produced him, and I do not 
know that, thus far, any other century has done better. 

I feel as though our lives had become suddenly poor — 
almost as though our generation were bankrupt — by his 
loss. He stood so high above anyone else on my horizon that 
I can no longer see a landmark now that he is gone. To any- 
one else except you I should have to explain all this feeling, 
but you know how true and natural it is, and I can leave it 

so* • • • 

Dr. Weir Mitchell was another friend who was deeply moved 
at Agassiz's sudden death. He wrote to Henry Higginson: 
"The friends of my past years are dropping around me like 
the leaves in autumn, but although, as one nears the fatal 
rifle-pits, casualties multiply and death becomes familiar, 
the passing of so vitalized a spirit as Agassiz gives one a more 
than usual sense of mortality.'* 

1 This letter has heen printed in the Letters and Recollections of Alexander A gassis, 
p. 447- 



Personally I know no better example of the useful citizen portrayed by 
Charles Lowell than he whom we meet here to-night to honor. But he is 
much more than a useful citizen. He is a great public servant. He has never 
held office; he has never desired to; but he has been a great public servant in 
the highest and largest sense. Eveiy year and all the years have been marked 
by service to his country, to his state and to his fellow men. On the battlefield 
and in the sheltered dty, in unending charities, in the encouragement of art 
and the advancement of learning — wherever there was a good cause to be 
found, there has his service been rendered. — Henrt Cabot LoDGSp at the 
dinner in honor of Major Higginson's eightieth birthday, November i8, 1914. 

That personal quality which colors the letters of William 
James and Henry Adams is not lacking in the ample section 
of the Higginson correspondence which deals primarily with 
public affairs. Henry Higginson personalized most questions, 
and his letters about political, social, and economic issues are 
as vivid as anything he wrote. He had distinguished corre- 
spondents in these fields, and their views were frequently the 
opposite of his own. Never was his contact with other minds 
so rich and varied as in the epoch-making period that b^an 
with the Spanish- American War in 1898 and ended in the 
summer of 1914. 

Before passing to this group of letters upon public affairs, 
it must be remembered that Henry Higginson was, by taste 
and habit, a private citizen. He had slender interest in the 
national game of party politics. Walter H. Page used to say 
that Americans cared in reality but little for politics as such; 
that their interests were primarily economic and social, and 
that they were compelled to use a machinery originally de- 
signed for political ends, — and now out of date, — in order 
to bring to pass their economic and social desires. Higginson 


shared to a considerable degree this distrust of politics and 
politicians. In March, 18671 he wrote to his father: ** It seems 
to me as if no man in Congress really knew anything about 
taxes or finance. Any able, well-informed man could teach 
the whole crew something. Surely men enough in New York, 
Philadelphia! Boston, or the Western cities could instruct 
them." Carlyle's "Cromwell," which he had just been read- 
ing, is not more contemptuous of parliamentary wind-bags. 
And over forty years later, in an article in the Boston 
" Herald " (December 28, 1918), he is still repeating his dislike 
of legislation: "Let us ask Congress to do their work in their 
own way and let us [business men] do ours in our way." 

He was typically American, likewise, in his combination of 
Hamiltonianism and Jeffersonianism. Fervently and some- 
times fiercely patriotic, an advocate of a " strong ' * government, 
a central banking system, the gold standard, and the rights of 
" property," it was chiefly in his disbelief in a protective tariff 
that he parted company with Hamilton. Yet he shared 
Je£Ferson's ardent faith in the common man, the "plain 
people." He wanted to have the Federal Govenunent keep 
its hands off the private citizen as far as possible. Decade 
after decade he fought the steady encroachment of govern- 
mental supervision and control of transportation and indus- 
try. He wished to be let alone. No man desired more passion- 
ately the happiness and freedom of his fellow citizens; but to 
much of the Progressive legislation enacted under Roosevelt, 
Taft, and Wilson, he gave but tardy and reluctant assent. It 
is easy to say that he was illogical ; yet it is precisely by this 
illogical blending of the ideals of Hamilton and of Jefferson, 
this Yankee dexterity in swapping moods and methods as 
successive emergencies arise, that the Republic has main- 
tained its life. 

On the main issue of the Spanish-American War, Henry 
Higginson had no hesitation. His ancestor Francis Higginson, 


who was a small boy when the Armada sailed, could not have 
blazed more hotly against Spain than Major Higginson. He 
raised the money for the equipment of the Harvard Battalion. 
He writes to his kinsman Henry Cabot Lodge, just before the 
battle of Santiago: — 

Knickerbocker Club, Jidy isi, '98. 

Noble Senator : — 

The President has done little to be criticized, but one thing 
troubles me. He should have, at the outset, called for 250,000 
men. They were sure to be needed, and in any case would 
have been in training — a most needed process, which only 
time can give. And now I wish he'd put 100,000 more men 
into camp — U.S. volunteers in U.S. and not in State Regi- 
ments — and then give these new U.S. R^;ts. to trained 
U.S. Officers. Why not? 

Griffin is getting a very fine set of enlisted men — so he 
tells me and so I see. \A/lthin a few days two Harvard students 

— Livermore's son and Stephen Higginson, son, grandson, 
great-grandson, great-great-grandson of Stephen of the Revo- 
lution — have enlisted in the regiment as privates. Had to! 
Could n't help it t We of '61 got commissions, and these boys 
go us one better and enlist ! God ! I believe the whole country 
would enlist if need be. 

Here I sit in the dude dub — sports — loafers — athletes — 
dandies — raised in cotton-wool — a rose-garden — scoffers 

— what you please — a little club — and 40 men have already 
gone — II per cent of the club, which has many old men as 
well as young. Twenty seniors of Harvard Collie and many 
of the older schools are in the service, chiefly privates. 

At Commencement Charles Eliot, in reply to Charles Adams, 
spoke out warmly and said, '' In '61 1 knew well and saw daily 
the men who went into the service and now I see daily the 
yoimg men here — and I declare that these men of to-day are 
moved by the same feelings and motives as those/' — and 


the audience cheered him as he said it, — and I noticed that 
day that every mention of the war, etc., was rec'd with the 
same spirit, by the old men and young, and the audience was 
much more old than yoimg. It is wonderful — wonderful! 

Of course, I, like an old fool, feel so, and long to go into the 
service, and Jim Hig, too. But I 'm struggling with the Hos- 
pital Ship and begging for money with all my wiles. Tell X 
to send to Draper $5000. I 'm treasurer, but she hates me. 

My profound respects to the President, whose name here 
draws cheers, and tell him to call very liberally for troops 
now and train them — as a benefit to the nation — a great 
benefit. He '11 get all he asks, and while it makes me cry to see 
these lads go, I wish them to do so, as an education. By the 
Eternal ! It is our country and we are here to guard and help 
it. Call at once and largely! Too many if you please. 

Senator Lodge replied : — 

U.S. Senate Chamber, WASHmcTON 
July 3, 1898. 

Dear Henry: — 

Whether I am a "noble senator" or not, your letter was a 
very noble letter, and I felt a choking sensation in my throat 
as I finished it. It would have been well to have called for 
250,000 men at the start, and I think that they are consider- 
ing a 100,000 more now. We have a bad business at Santiago 
and must send a lot more there. 

It is most splendid and most uplifting the way our boys are 
going in everywhere, and it makes one love the coimtry better 
than ever. I want to go, but I should be a fool, I suppose, and 
only fiill a place some younger man could fill better, while here 
I can be of some use. • • • It is a righteous war and inevitable. 
Spanish despotism and our free government could no more 
continue side by side than freedom and slavery. I send a 
mite for the hospital ship and will write to X. 


The difference between Henry Higginson and a host of men 
who shouted * * Remember the Maine ' ' was that he remembered 
also the sick and wounded and the education of the Cubans 
for self-government. A few lines from notes to his wife will 
give a hint of his activities. 

August 19, 1898. We sent cooks, food, etc., to Montauk 
Point, and also a good phy^dan. The need is great and we 
must patch up the invalids. • . • HoUister of the Law School 
has just died of wounds, poor boy. 

August 22. It has been a confused and hot day again, for 
the camp at Montauk Point is full of sick and convalescent, 
neglected soldiers, whom we are trying to help. I was to have 
gone to Maine with several great R.R. men to-day, but gave 
it up because these sick men need help. It is horrid. 

August 23. Still busy with the soldiers, 200 of whom were 
landed here [Boston], very ill. 

October 28. The Bay State came in late to-day, and G. 
and I have seen her unloaded: 133 convalescent and sick, 
19 on stretchers, and two dead. It was most interesting 
and painful, and as for those nurses and doctors, they are 

After the war was over, it was Major Higginson who raised 
the money for a model school at Santiago, and he was largely 
instrumental in sending the 1 500 Cuban teachers for a sununer 
session at Harvard. No wonder that these teachers, as they 
filed up to shake his hands, shouted, ** Viva Senor Higginson^ el 

On the vexed question of the retention of the Philippine 
Islands, Major Higginson inclined to the opinion of the Anti- 
Imperialists, among whom he had many friends. Mrs. Charles 
Russell Lowell wrote him eloquent Anti-Imperialist letters, 
but even these pale before the following paragraph from 
William James: — 


Nauheim, Sept. 18, 1900. 
... I read your political observations with respect, and 
see how you are professionally bound to resist Bryan. But I 
pray for his victory none the less. There are worse things than 
financial troubles in a Nation's career. To puke up its ancient 
soul, and the only things that gave it eminence among other 
nations, in five minutes without a wink of squeamishness, is 
worse; and that is what the Republicans would commit us to 
in the Philippines. Our conduct there has been one protracted 
infamy towards the Islanders, and one protracted lie towards 
oiu-selves. If we can only regain our old seat in the American 
saddle, and get back into some sincere relations with our prin- 
ciples and professions, it seems to me it makes very little 
permanent difference what incidental disturbances may ac- 
company the process, for this crisis is one which is sure to 
determine the whole moral development of our policy in a 
good or a bad way for an indefinite future time. . . . 

After the election Major Higginson wrote to Senator Lodge : 

November 12, 1900. 

I think many wise thoughts about the election and believe 
this thing, that if a good and able Democrat of high character 
had been put up, Mr. McKinley would not have been elected, 
which simply means that the country has not been satisfied 
with the Republican administration in regard to foreign parts 
and that, in my judgment, you have got to remodel a good 
many things and put that and Cuba on a quieter basis, leaving 
the inhabitants to manage their own affairs, or else you will 
go out of power next time. 

The following summer he wrote to another friend: ** Hold- 
ing Manila was a mistake." Yet later, when Cameron Forbes, 
the son of his comrade Colonel William H. Forbes, and the 
grandson of his old friend John M. Forbes, was appointed 


a member of the Philippine Commission, Major Higginson 
wrote to him: " It is a call from your country and you can- 
not refuse. Even if you should not return, we should mourn 
you, but we should be glad you had done the right thing. 
Go, and an old man's blessing be with you." 

When Governor Forbes's health was impaired by his labors 
in the Islands, and many friends lu^ed his return, it was Major 
Higginson who exhorted him to stick to his post. In no letter 
has he put more of his philosophy of life. 

Novemher 22, 1910. 

Dear Cameron: — 

... To begin almost at the end: I cannot go to the Philip- 
pines because I am always sick at sea or, if not sick, wretched, 
and because it is no rest for me at all. Next, I am really an 
old man, and my wife would not let me go without a doctor, 
for some break might come on board ship, as with Alex Agas- 
siz. I should very much like to see the Philippines, but shall 
never go farther than Liverpool again, and then soon after 
that to Mount Auburn, or such other point as may be desig- 
nated. • • . 

Now, as to yourself: Ralph said to me once: " It is all very 
well for Cameron to work out there, but supposing he dies in 
the service? " My reply was : "Very good ! What better can a 
man expect than to do as good service as Cameron has done 
and is doing, and to die in harness? " The world will have got 
full value out of you, and you will have got full value out of 
life, and that is what you were made for. Many of us would be 
very sorry if you did not come home to rejoice us with your 
presence, and that you might enjoy your laurels; but if you 
die in the service, you will only do what many a good fellow 
has done again and again in the Indies, in this coimtry — in 
peace, and in war. What's the odds? I thought you had a 
great chance, and you have used it admirably. If you were my 
boy, I should feel just so, and I should mourn your death or 


broken health, and I should feel very proud of you. I do feel 
very proud of you now. 

Every now and then, your grandfather Forbes used to talk 
through his hat. He once told me that he did not wish his 
sons to do anything except enjoy life and have boats and 
horses, and I did not believe a word that he said, nor do I 
now. Your father died in the harness, having set s^oing one 
of the wonderful companies of the world,^ and he gave it a 
tone that it has never lost. I think he got all the "change" 
out of life that a man could have, and, if you add to that his 
own disbelief in his ability as a business man, I think you will 
see something pretty fine. He has left as good a name as your 
grandfather, he did quite as good work. Your grandfather 
did work at high pressure, and s^ain and again came very near 
breaking down, but he accomplished so much with his enor- 
mous energy and courage that I regard his sufferings or his 
collapses from over-strain as of no consequence. I believe in 
toiling terribly, and the only thing that I ask of my body is 
to give me the power to work and work until I drop. In 
this modem world there is so much to do, so many places to 
fill, so many errors to correct, so many men and women to help, 
that one's own comfort or pleasure seems of no consequence. 

I hope that you will not leave your task, but will stay there 
until you have got the Islands on a much higher basis than at 
present. It is most interesting to note what you have been 
at, and it is also consoling to see that you know enough to 
make others work, and to do as little as possible yourself. 
Charley Perkins said long ago that the head of a great corpora- 
tion should have nothing to do but sit and watch; that he 
should have no work, and then he would have more than he 
could do. You are in the same position. It is your duty to keep 
as well and as fresh as possible, and to make others do every- 
thing that it is possible for them to do. Never mind about the 
honor, the credit or anything else — it is honor enough to 

* The American Bell Telephone Co. 


accomplish the task which you have undertaken. Your 
mother has gone out, and will be glad to fetch you home, and 
I hope she will not succeed. I should much like to see you 
again before I die (there is no sign of the funeral yet) , but I 
want to see you fill that position as well as now for some 
years. It is a tremendous task to undertake; it is a great 
chance for a full-blooded man — and if you show your power 
to do great work, you have got to do it. That is the rule of 
life, and you neither can nor will dodge it. Of coiuse it is not 
necessary to work at fever heat, or be as nervous as a witch, 
as your grandfather was; but the remembrance of all such 
moments in his life is as nothing compared to the great satis- 
faction and delight which he and all his friends felt in what he 
could accomplish. 

Stay where you are, and keep at it ! Keep as well as you can, 
and remember that you hoped for this place, and yoiu- friends 
hoped for it on your account. May I repeat that, if a man 
shows himself able to carry a load, he has got to carry it. 
Now, this talk is not hard ; it is merely recognizing the condi- 
tions of a very restless, eager period of history, in which men 
are looking all around to see what may be done and what is 
to come. If you were here, you would be in a fever, just as 
we are; if you are there, you may find your life more peaceful 
than here. . . . If my letter reads like a sermon, pray remem- 
ber that it is only because I wish you every good, and because 
I believe you can accomplish a great task. • . . 

As for party allegiance. Major Higginson was a Republican 
with somewhat frequent lapses. He went with the Mugwumps 
for Cleveland against Blaine. He had a horror of Bryan and 
his free-silver heresies. He voted for McKinley in 1896 and 
1900, for Roosevelt in 1904, Taft in 1908, ^Ison in 1912, and 
Hughes in 191 6. In Massachusetts politics he was an Inde- 
pendent. He rarely attended political rallies, though he once 
presided at a meeting in Curtis Guild's campaign for the gov- 
ernorship. *' 1 have always believed in free trade, or as near 


an approach to it as we could* get/' he wrote to Cameron 
Forbes; and to Republicans of the ''Home Market'' school, 
of whom there are many in State Street, this was almost un- 
patriotic. Yet Higginson learned it from John M. Forbes and 
Colonel Henry Lee. 

Few Americans change their general political views after 
they are thirty. Henry Higginson tried harder than most men 
to keep learning and to maintain an open mind. But his busi- 
ness experience of the 1870's and i88o's, during the expansion 
of railroads through the West, remained the formative influ- 
ence upon his opinions. His natural sympathies were with 
the pioneer builders, who took great risks in the hope of great 
profits; with the far-seeing corporations that had had the 
patience, energy, and honesty to create gigantic industrial 
enterprises. Why should the Government lay its restrictive 
hand upon such men? When political agitators and academic 
economists talked of curbing ''Capital," Higginson's mind 
flashed back to the Forbeses and the Perkinses, to "Alex" 
Agassiz and "Quin" Shaw, to Theodore Vail and Charles 
Cofiin. He had summered and wintered with these men, and 
knew them to be honest and high-minded. Why afilict them 
with Sherman Anti-Trust laws. Interstate Commerce Commis- 
sions, and regulations forbidding interlocking directorates? 
Why cannot Congress adjourn and leave us in peace? Presi- 
dents and law-makers are disturbers of traffic, troublers of 

For, after all, who are the most useful citizens of the Amer- 
ican Commonwealth? Higginson and C. E. Perkins once de- 
bated thatquestion. Here aretheviews of the railroad-builder, 
and Higginson, at bottom, agreed with him. 

On Car "Old Hundred" in Ilunois 
March Sth, 1900. 

My dear Henry: — 

The other day, when I ventured the remark that the men 
who made money were public benefactors, you said I was 


talking to hear myself talk, and, as we were both in a hurry, 
nothing more came of it. Now, having time to spare, and 
always having a wish to convince you of yoiu* errors, I should 
like to continue the conversation. 

It takes all kinds of men and women to make the world, 
many of whom desire to be, and a few of whom are, benefac- 
tors in some degree; but to attempt to go into the question of 
exactly what makes one a benefactor, and what are the 
various degrees of the good different kinds of individuals may 
do, would obviously take volumes, and this is not my purpose. 
But here are a few points for your consideration : — 

First. It is literally true that men can live only by the 
sweat of their faces (Genesis 3: 19). This is true as a general 
proposition. The number of individuals who live without 
work is so small, compared with the working millions, that 
they are of no account. This is true among civilized people 
and among uncivilized people. Looking at the population of 
the world, men can only live by hard work, and most of the 
workers have no comforts, and, of course, no luxuries. 

Second. Now, I say that they who, regardless of their 
motives, do something which mitigates this situation, thus 
giving man a chance for progress, are public benefactors. 
Without such mitigation of his circumstances, no other kind 
of assistance is of the slightest use to a man — one who is 
hungry and cold can think of nothing else, no gospel touches 

Third. I say that men who do something to lessen the cost 
of living are the only ones who do mitigate this situation; and 


Fourth. I say the men who successfully improve, oiiganize, 
and make use of the means of production and distribution, or 
help others to do so, are those who do lessen the cost of living. 

Fifth. It is dear, as a rule, that men do not obtain some- 
thing for nothing, or for any less than the something is worth. 
So, for what men acquire, they must give value received. 
Therefore, if men acquire much, they must give much, and if 


much or little is acquired, by improving the means of produc- 
ing or distributing the things which people wish to consume, 
those who acquire it are public benefactors. 

Sixth. Furthermore, I say that as a rule they who acquire 
most, through successful improvement and organization of 
the means of production and distribution, whereby the cost 
of living is lessened, are the greatest public benefactoi?, be- 
cause they do most to mitigate the hardship of life, and to 
make progress possible. What they acquire is the best pos- 
sible measure of the value of what they do. Other benefactors 
are secondary. 

What do you say? 

C E. Perkins. 

Seven years later, in Roosevelt's administration, the rail- 
road situation was in one of its many acute phases. Higgin- 
son corresponded voluminously with the President, and drew 
some vigorous replies,^ from which a single quotation must 
here suffice : — 

February 11, 1907. 

The present unsatisfactory condition in railroad affairs is 
due ninety-five per cent to the misconduct, the short-sighted- 
ness, and the folly of the railroad men themselves. Unques- 
tionably there is loose demagogic attack upon them in some 
of the States, but not one particle of harm has come to them 
by Federal action; on the contrary, merely good. I wish very 
much that our laws could be strengthened, and I think that 
the worst thing that could be done for the railroads would be 
an annoimcement that for two or three years the Federal 
Government would keep its hands off of them. It would result 
in a tidal wave of violent State action against them through- 
out three fourths of this country. I am astonished at the 
curious short-sightedness of the railroad people — a short- 

> Theodore Roosevelt and his Time, by J. B. Bishop (N.Y., 1920), vol. n, pp. 38, 
39, Sa. 


sightedness which, thanks to their own action, extends to 
would-be investors. Legislation such as I have proposed, or 
whatever legislation in the futiu'e I shall propose, will be i|i 
the interest of honest investors and to protect the public and 
the investors against dishonest action. 

I may incidentally say that I think that no possible action 
on railroads would have as disturbing an effect upon busi- 
ness as action on the tariff at this time. I earnestly and cor- 
dially agree with you on the need of currency legislation, and 
have been doing all I can for it; but the big financial men of 
the country, instead of trying to get sound currency legisla- 
tion, seem to pass their time in lamenting, as Wall Street 
laments, our action about the railroads. 

And now, as a terse presentation of the views shared by 
Henry Higginson, take these three paragraphs from letters 
of C. E. Perkins to him. 

BuBiiNGTON, Iowa, Afar. 30, 1907. 

My dear Henry: — 

... If you are right, that the depression will be shortlived, 
perhaps I have made a mistake; but I have a feeling that 
Rooseveltism and labor-unionism may have precipitated what 
of course was bound to come some day, that is, a period of 
rest and depression, after a long period of extravagance and 
over-investment. A community, or a nation, is in that respect 
like an individual. I told Hill last fall I thought we, as a nation, 
were spending more than our income, but he did not seem to 
think there was much in it. It is easy to destroy or impair 
confidence, but a slow business getting it back again. How- 
ever, as my old friend Lyman Cook used to say, " the longer I 
live the less I know, and the more I become convinced that 
talking does very little good.'* You accuse me of sitting back 
and saying nothing; but how much good has been done by 
the talkers? Hill has been talking, and telling the truth, for 


the last two or three years, but it has not produced any good 
effect. Twenty years ago I wrote a letter on the subject of 
railroad regulation; probably you never read it. In preparing 
it, I had the help of John M. Forbes, Charles J. Paine, 
T. Jefferson Coolidge, Wm. Endicott, and John L. Gardner, all 
sound and level-headed men, as you know. I sent that letter 
to Senator CuUom before the passage of the Interstate Com- 
meroe Law, and it did not have as much effect as a fly on a 
cart-wheel. . . . 

BusuNGTON, Iowa, March 25, 1907. 

My dear Henry: — 

I have your letter of March 21st. You ask what I think 
about federal charters for railroads? I had never given the 
subject much consideration, because I have never been able 
to see how any of the railroads I am interested in could change 
from the state charters they now exist under, and become 
federal corporations. So, even if it were true that it is easier 
to get bad laws in the states than it is at Washington, I do 
not see how we can escape from state legislation. I cannot 
agree, however, that the states are any worse than Congress. 
Indeed, all the most serious legislation against the railroads 
has been in Washington. The Sherman Anti-Trust Law of 
1 890 is probably the most vicious and unreasonable law that 
was ever passed by any legislative body, and there is nothing 
in any state that I know of, any worse than the Interstate 
Commerce Law and its various amendments, giving more 
power to half a dozen lawyers than is possessed by the Czar 
of Russia, and making it directly for the interest of the rail- 
roads to buy immunity from these gentlemen, when the pres- 
ent hysterical fit of virtue is over. . . . 

Burlington, Iowa, June 18, 1907. 

My dear Henry: — 

... I think, as I suggested yesterday, that sooner or later 
there will be a new alignment of parties on the issue of States' 


Rights, but this may not come about before the next presiden- 
tial election. All of these new-fangled statesmen, including 
both Roosevelt and Bryan, and the crowd of youngsters who 
swarm around them, are hell-bent on centralizing everjrthing 
at Washington, and wiping out state lines. This situation 
raises a real, and, as it seems to me, the only real issue of im- 
portance upon which the country can divide. These modem 
philosophers contend that the general government, because of 
the delegated power to regulate commerce among the states, 
can go into a state and interfere with any or all of its police 
regulations which in any way affect interstate commerce. 
They claim, for example, that because the C. B. and Q. R. R. 
Co., of Illinois, being a corporation chartered by that state, is 
engaged, to some extent, as part of its business, in interstate 
commerce, therefore Congress may pass laws under which the 
government at Washington may come into the State of Illi- 
nois, and say what this interstate carrier shall chaise, what 
wages it shall pay, how and when it shall run its trains, and 
regulate every other detail of the railroad's operation. This is 
too much, and I do not believe the people will stand it. It is 
more than a question of law. It is a question of politics, of 
changing fundamentally our form of government, which is 
based on the idea of local self-government.'^ 

To one who reads this correspondence in 192 1, it seems clear 
that Roosevelt's political prescience gave him the advantage 
of the debate. The purely competitive era of American rail- 
roading was nearing its end, and the railroad men of the older 
generation could not see it. 

In the campaign of 191 2, while Higginson was hesitating 
between Taft, Roosevelt and Wilson, he wrote the following 
letter: — 

• . . Theodore is the most capable man of the three, and 
is a very attractive and brilliant creature; but men like to 


know what they can count on, and they do not feel sure that 
they can count on him. Theodore talks nonsense about Wall 
Street, where most of the men are honest — far honester than 
the politicians, who promise this or t'other for votes. He talks 
about the corporations as being wicked, which means that the 
directors are wicked. I have known the inside of corporations 
for a great many years, and I have yet to see a director who 
has taken advantage of his position as director. He makes 
no more money than any stockholder, and he gets kicks and 
curses if his corporation does not go on well and is not suc- 
cessful, although neither he nor the active officers of the cor- 
poration are to blame. It would be very easy to drive respect- 
able men out of the corporations, and then an ordinary class 
of men — perhaps crooks — would come in, who might spoil 
the corporation or who would be pretty sure to do wrong 
things, including robbery. 

Incorporation is the most brilliant invention of our past 
century, enabling everybody to have a share ; and when Theo- 
dore and his mates, and Wilson and plenty of the politicians 
talk of the crimes of the corporations, they are simply • . . 
foiigetting that they are cuffing just such people as you and 
X, who are also stockholders — and perhaps larger stockhold- 
ers than any of the directors. Most directors do consider 
themselves trustees, and act accordingly. 

I am going to New York this week, with the thermometer 
at near 100, to be present at a corporation meeting. I have 
been in this corporation for twenty years, and have been cuffed 
and kicked very hard. It has had a very fine, a very disastrous, 
and a very wonderful life, and it owes its success to the wonder- 
ful services of its active officers and to the care and guidance of 
the directors. The disaster came in the break-down in 1893, 
when our politicians ran amuck, did not know whether the 
nation's dollar should be paid in silver or gold, and frightened 
people so much that they put their money in boxes and hid it, 
which in itself is a crime. 


I know about the wickedness of some of our rich men, and 
deprecate to the last degree their accumulation of riches. 
Some of the great bankers I have seen and known intimately, 
and I can tell you from positive knowledge, that, if the great 
bankers had not stood together in 1907 and done the best 
they could for the public, you would have lost your house, 
we might have failed, and the ruin of the land would have been 
excessive. Those men did not try to make money, and they 
did not produce bad results, but they risked their fortunes 
and their health in preserving the community from terrible 
disaster. (I am not telling you anything I do not know.) 

You have lived among a farming population more or less, 
and a pretty poor population, too. I do not believe there is a 
man in Westport or in E^ssex County who is higher minded or 
more honest than most of the business men whom I know. 
. . . Do not suppose for a moment that any one class of 
men is honester than another, unless it may possibly be the 
physicians and the teachers. It is very hard to be honest, it 
is very hard to see the other man's rights and to put one's 
self in the proper position toward others. I have been trying 
to do it for eighty years nearly, and still have to think just 
what is due me and what is due the other fellow. 

All these things our three candidates for the Presidency 
ignore or are ignorant of. 

As to the higher prices, they come in part from people 
wanting more things, in part from people working less, in 
part from high taxes, and in part from the increase in gold. 
We ought to reduce our tariff to almost nothing, and I hope 
we shall do it. If we break up the great corporations, we shall 
raise the price of everything that they produce, and, more 
than that, we shall put out of work a great many men who 
need it and a great many women who need it still more. If I 
could see a Presidential candidate who understood the business 
interests, I should be glad to vote for him; and "business" 
does not include us in our line or bankers or shop-keepers or 


fanners or working people, but all of them. If you will think 
how much labor and thought and anxiety the best men in 
every community spend upon the care of the savings banks 
alone, — where they get nothing, where they cannot borrow 
from their own banks, where they are paid no salary, and 
where, in short, they have no possible advant^e, — if you 
will think of all they do, can you tell me of anybody among 
the workingmen who does so much? All these facts are ig- 
nored, and the classes invited to attack each other. It is a 
very poor business. We shall worry through it and come out 
on the other side ; but the men who foment that sort of thing 
are to my mind very reprehensible. 

In saying all this, I do not at all foi^get what has been before 
me since I was eighteen years old — that we must help the 
working man and woman in all sorts of ways, that they must 
have a larger part of what is going — and I know that plenty 
of corporations are working that way. • • • 

Dear child, I say all this to you because you are an uncom- 
monly sensible creature, and because you can look at things 
as they are. Ignorance of facts with regard to our fellow 
creatures is a curse, and if it cannot be cured, it becomes a 
crime. . . . 

A second letter to the same correspondent, on August 1 1 , 
renews the defense of corporations and trusts, but admits 
that there are evils involved: — 

. . . **The predatory rich!** as T. R. says. Who are they? 
sons of farmers, mechanics, day-laborers, etc., who fought 
hard for their first $100, and so believe that they can do as 
they like with their millions. They never had any good tradi- 
tions, never had any high fine talk and should not be expected 
to act well. Their successors may well do better. . . • God 
Almighty is looking round and lifts us along — slowly perhaps, 
but well. And he has made rules which T. R. forgets. By the 


way, can you name one R.R. which has not had to fight hard 
for existence? and its stockholders have had to wait. But the 
public gets the benefit of the transportation — and the new 
country. If you say to the enterprisers, " Heads I win, tails 
you lose," enterprisers will reply, " Nothing doing." I saw my 
brother-in-law wait, work, live anywhere and anyhow to make 
the Calumet mine succeed — and then help the men to a share 
of it. . . . Men are not going to fight to keep the corporations 
which they direct. They will quietly sell out and leave the 
direction to others, who lack knowledge and character. Why 
not? We have seen it done and shall see more of it, if the yells 
go on; and in case the courts are fooled with by ignorant 
people, the corporations will suffer injustice. Theodore under- 
stand these things as little as Taft or Wilson. I should not 
think of pushing Taft, and do think them all three unfit. . . . 
I like all these candidates — especially T, R. — and would 
rather vote for neither. . . . 

As a matter of fact, he voted for ^\^Ison, and became a 
very frequent and copious correspondent of the President. 
Of the many topics which they discussed, the matter of inter- 
locking directorates may be selected as typical. It will be 
observed that even in 1 914 Henry Higginson retained his con- 
viction of 1867, that "any well-trained business man" was 
wiser than the Congress and the Executive. He writes to 
Charles W. Eliot : — 

December 15, 1914. 

Dear Mr. Eliot: — 

. . • I have a letter from President Wilson, a copy of which 
I enclose. As you see, he sets up a doctrine which seems 
wrong. I wrote to him about the attacks on the interlocking 
directorates, as he had spoken of them, and about the great 
difficulty of getting directors at all if they are threatened with 
lines or imprisonment for being in corporations where mistakes 


are made. No director can know all that goes on in his cor- 
poration, and men do not care very much to be directors if 
they are threatened. Further than that, a man may very well 
be in two or three corporations that help each other and that 
work together, and be much more serviceable than if these 
directorships were divided among three or four men. In short, 
the interlocking directorate idea [i.e. , forbidding it] seems to me 
often foolish. The President writes that the law is made for 
the men who do not go straight, and that is the point which 
seems to me wrong. . . . 

A law directing how business corporations shall be carried 
on should assume that it is dealing with honest men, put 
proper restrictions on the acts of honest men, and trust them. 
The President does not trust them, nor does Congress. My 
own opinion is that the business men are far more to be 
trusted than the men in public life, as a rule. I am grieved that 
President Wilson does not see that a law covering a deal of 
ground should not be made simply to trip up great rogues. . . . 

President Wilson is trying to do good in many ways, and 
has already accomplished much. I like the change in the tariff ; 
I should like the income tax if it were properly imposed and 
guarded, and if decent arrangements were made with regard 
to its collection. The collection of it is as clumsy and as costly 
as possible. In our office alone last year we spent $20,000 for 
various people in doing the needed work. Any well-trained 
business man could have shown Secretary McAdoo and the 
President the easy way to do things, and the result would 
have brought in more money and a great deal less temper. • • . 

The trouble with the Democratic party and the President 
is that they do not know how to do business, they are not 
willing to learn from business men, and they are willing to 
assume that their [own] methods are better, and that they are 
honester. Any fairly well-educated business man knows that 
both claims are ridiculous. 


Every now and then I write to Mr. Wilson, and always get 
a very pleasant reply. • . • 

The letter from the President was as follows : — 

T&E White House, Washington 
December lo, 1914. 

My dear Major: — 

Your letters always stimulate me, and I thank you sincerely 
for yours of December seventh. 

I think I realize, perhaps too keenly for a man of action, 
that there are two sides to every question, and sometimes two 
sides of almost equal weight. I know, therefore, the inconven- 
iences and drawbacks arising from the enforcement of some 
of our recently enacted laws; but, after all, laws have to be 
made for those who do not go straight, and undoubtedly there 
has been a very wide-spread abuse of interlocking directorates 
and of the many other arrangements by which men are per- 
mitted to arrange, not only their own business, but the busi- 
ness of those with whom they are dealing. After all, the best 
that the law can do is to thread its way carefully amidst 
difEculties and be careful to keep on the right side of some 
obvious line. 

Cordially and sincerely yours, 

WooDROw Wilson. 

Four days later, Mr. Higginson stated his views once more 
to President Eliot, with increasing dissatisfaction with the 
political situation : — 

December 19, 1914. 

... As to the interlocking directorates, I have no doubt 
that there has been some trouble from them, and in many 
cases they should be avoided. May it not be more safdy left 
to the business men, to the business sense of the community, 


to correct that evil? And when we are considering, should not 
we consider all the great advant^es that come from inter- 
locking directorates? My trouble with Mr. Wilson and his 
Cabinet is that they do not understand how business should 
be done, and of course some of the methods of the past fifty 
years have not been sound. 

I agree entirely with what you say about the income tax, 
for it is a great deal better that everybody should feel the 
pressure. Mr. Wilson, so far as I am concerned, is ready to 
discuss things and is frank. . . • 

The farmer is the bottom stone in our country and every 
other country. You and I blush when we see that our spring 
wheat averages eleven bushels to the acre and England, Ger- 
many and France raise twenty-five to thirty-five bushels to 
the acre. We are a slovenly people. 

I sympathize with the efforts of the Wilson Administration 
to curb some of the great powers, but in doing so they have 
frightened people to such an extent that they will not under- 
take what they should undertake. They do not wish to go to 
jail, they do not wish to be fined, they do not wish to be pub- 
lished, and, not knowing what they may do, in many cases 
they do nothing. It is not good for the nation, it is not good for 
the laborer, it is not good for anybody. • . . 

He continued to write at great length to President \^^lson, 

— as he did to Secretary McAdoo and other members of the 
Cabinet, — and invariably received his " very pleasant reply." 
But on September 7, 1915, he confides to Senator Lodge: 
' * You know how far my words will go with him [the President] 

— that is, no distance at all." 

Upon the whole, as the foregoing correspondence makes 
dear, Major Higginson approached politics from the angle of 
economics. His article on "Justice to the Corporations" 
("Atlantic Monthly," January, 1908) repeats his customary 
defense of the "enterprising, able, thoughtful men" who 


have built up the corporations — with illustrations drawn 
from the record of his own associates. He concludes that ''The 
Nation and our legislation can safely trust the ruling Wall 
Street men. • . . Cease all hard words about the corporations 
and capitalists." 

This was a brave and sincere argument, but one not calcula- 
ted to convince the skeptical, or to soothe the bitter sufferers 
from social injustice. This is dear from the seventeen replies 
printed by " The Survey " for February 7, 1914, to Higginson's 
article, "Consider the Other Fellow," in the same issue of 
that magazine. The ' * other fellow ' ' was the abused capitalist, 
whom the Major defended loyally. The replies were cour- 
teous, but two sentences from Dr. Crothers summed up a 
fundamental divergence in view. " It does not follow," wrote 
Dr. Crothers, ''that, because a man has shown great ability 
in the accumulation of wealth, he is a good judge of what is 
best for the masses of the people. The people have begim to 
insist upon judging for themselves." 

These printed articles in defense of corporations are dis- 
tinctly more conservative than some of Major Higginson's 
letters and conversations. He wrote to Mr. C. A. Cofiin 
in 191 I : — 

... I also have certain views about corporate manage- 
ments, which do not entirely agree with those of other people. 
I do think that the corporations have been rather too eager, 
just as certain rich men have. It is perfectly natural in the 
struggle to succeed, and still more in the effort not to fail, — 
as we (G. E.) came near doing in '93, in the desire to do good 
work, and to prevent others doing mischief, — that we should 
have become too eager, and have forgotten other people who 
are either stupid or inefficient ; and we sometimes forget our 
workmen or our competitors. I do not believe that, because a 
man owns property, it belongs to him to do with as he pleases. 
The property belongs to the community, and he has charge 



of it, and can dispose of or use it, if it is well done and not with 
sole regard to himself or to his stockholders. If you will think 
a little while, perhaps you will agree that my views are not 
radical, or rather revolutionary at all; it is merely injecting 
morals and religion into daily life — and they belong there, 
and form a part of our conduct, and must guide us. . . . 

He addressed some college students, at this period, in the 
same vein: — 

. . • Pray bear in mind that any lai^e work which you build 
up, be it a factory or a railroad or anything else, is not yours 
absolutely. It has been done for the world and done with the 
help of the world, which has after all aided you and given you 
your education. No matter how large a work you have done, 
it belongs to the world in a measure ; and the more you can 
draw your helpers to your side, the more you can make them 
feel that it is "our" mill or railroad, and not "mine" alone, 
the stronger you will stand. . . . 

Major Higginson had written to Professor Taussig, as early 
as 1894, "We must meet the social questions more than half 
way, or be beaten." Yet he never ceased to think that the 
"economists and the regulators" were unfair toward the 
capitalists who were willing to take risks. He wrote to Pro- 
fessor Taussig on March 16, 1913: — 

Dear Taussig: — 

An old man gets up early, for he has little time to spare — 
a few months or years at the best. It is 7 o'clk Sunday a.m. 
I have been reading the records of the American Economic 
Society last autumn, and note your remarks and those of 
Carver, as well as others. In a discussion of prices for neces- 
saries, and especially public-service corporations and their 
just reward or return, not a word is said of the fool who risks 


and loses money in sundry experiments, and who succeeds in 
a few. Hear my sad tale: I have been putting money into a 
well-studied experiment to make magnetic iron out of ore at a 
much lower cost than at present. With several friends, I 
have spent $60,000 or more. It is a failure. If it had been a 
success, it would have reduced the cost of pig-iron or magnetic 
steel four or five dollars a ton. 

Think of that for the world ! 

Next: I am doing the same with a new battery, and that 
question is not yet solved. 

Next : I am doing the same with a process for making alco- 
hol from chips, and probably that will succeed. 

A lot of us took up the Submarine Signal Company some 
twenty years ago, and have spent $1 ,750,000 of real money on 
it. The company is eminently successful, but never has made 
a penny of return ; it has saved lots of lives and property, and 
the whole joy of it is in that fact. That $1,750,000 twenty 
years ago with interest would amount to about $6,000,000 
at the present time. 

Some idiots — ... Bill Forbes, Cochrane, Vail and I — 
risked our money on the Telephone in a dream of '76 or '78. 
. . . This time it was "trumps" — and think of the blessing 
to the world ! 

Some unwise men bought Calumet shares in 1865, sweated 
terribly until 1 870, and then got a dividend. Many of them 
were afraid to acknowledge the ownership of these shares. 
The mine has paid about $120,000,000 in dividends. 

I have a string more of these things if they are of any 
interest. Almost every railroad in the country has failed 
because built too soon, and the original men have lost their 
money. I bought Chicago and Northwestern at six dollars, 
and Jersey Central at about the same. The latter is in the 
three hundreds, and Chicago and Northwest has been over 
$200. . • . 

If our country is to grow, through developments, the "ecxjn- 


omists" and the ''regulators" must allow for the losses in 
risks, else we shall get behind countries which do allow for 
brains, character and ability; that is, they must allow for 
extra dividends. I certainly have got rid of $500,000 in 
experiments — and I am about as much of a fool as most men, 
and no more. . • . 

Carver speaks of vanity as a motive, and he is right in a 
way. What does our ofl&ce care for and work for most? — 
vanity — that is, the name of selling only reliable goods; and, 
to reach this point, it must study and spend a great deal of 
money. Every now and then it makes a mistake and has to 
pay for it by lifting lame enterprises out of the mud or carry- 
ing them through a panic. This firm has been in existence 
about sixty-five years, and certainly has lost some millions of 
money in lifting and carrying; and also to gratify the vanity 
of never failing to pay a loan on time, and getting ready to do 
so a month beforehand. Long live vanity, i.e.^ character! 

The "regulators" leave this sort of thing out of their 
calculations — that is, the determination to win by deserts, 
and keep character. It is the one and only sure asset and is 
worth the whole world. . • . 

Of course, if we had better public officers, we might get 
better results out of regulations, but we should also lose our 
own sense of responsibility and of thought as to our own 
actions. . . . But public ownership is the greatest folly ex- 
tant. You or I can run a railroad or a factory better than can 
our State House or any of its inhabitants. 

But, to return to my beginning: when the economists are 
reckoning the large profits made on this or t'other transaction, 
let them also reckon the mistakes. Somehow or other, the 
Lord made us, and allows us to make mistakes, and he brings 
the thing out pretty even. • . . 

If we insist that the leading men of the Nation shall behave 
more quietly and generously to their fellows, we shall, by slow 
degrees, build up a better sentiment, so that men shall be 



ashamed of many things which to-day may be done, just 
exactly as business men will not now ventiu^ to do things 
which they did freely thirty or forty years ago. 

If you were not the best fellow in the world, I should not 
bother you with such a long screed, but I cannot help watch- 
ing you and Carver and listening to you. . . . 

Professor Taussig replied, March 20, 191 3 : — 

'' Youareabsolutelyright. Risksand lossesmustbereckoned 
as well as prizes. Every real investment of capital involves 
risks, and the rate of return necessary to induce lending by 
the man who is virtually guaranteed against losses is by no 
means sufficient to induce the actual investment by the man 
who gives the guaranty. It is perfectly true that the general 
public too often wants to eat its cake and have it too; or, to 
put it in other words, wants to play the game, heads we win 
and tails you lose. When an enterprise is in its inception, the 
immense majority will have nothing to do with it; when that 
same enterprise happens to have been carried through the 
period of risk and difficulty to the stage of success, that same 
majority wants a handsome share of the profits. . . . 

"If you have nothing to do next Sunday morning at 7 
o'clock, turn to a certain work by a Harvard Professor on 
the ' Principles of Economics/ and look at volume 11, pages 
90-91 and 93-94, also page 467. You will see the element of 
risk is not entirely neglected by the economist. . . . 

" Nevertheless, I believe it is true that in a considerable 
class of ventures the stage is being reached at which the losses 
will be very much outweighed by the gains, if there be no sort 
of public regulation. I quite admit that public regulation, 
administered by the kind of public officials we get too often, 
is a dangerous thing. I suspect the bow just now is being 
pulled too taut the other way; but some degree of oversight, 
and of curtailment of gains imnecessarily high, must be 


Major Higginson's most effective preaching on public 
affairs, however, was not in the field of politics, or of econom- 
ics in the narrow sense, but rather in the discussion of the 
obligations of rich men to the conunimity. Here he had the 
immense advant^^e that lay in the public's knowledge that 
he practised exactly what he preached. His ''Hint to the 
Rich," published in the "Atlantic" for March, 191 1, was the 
most widely discussed of all his utterances. He had long been 
aware, of course, of what he called, in a letter to Charles A. 
Coffin in 1905, the insolent power of money: "Anyone who 
has the luck to gain money must feel the insolent power of it 
and the misuse of it in giving it away. So a person of any 
modesty often prefers to hide the name of the giver. I lie about 
it now and then." He began the "Atlantic" article with one 
of his favorite quotations, the motto cut on the gravestone of 
Edward Courtenay , Earl of Devonshire : — 

What I gave, I have; 
What I spent, I had; 
What I kept, I lost. 

After defining "success" as service, and illustrating it, as was 
his wont, by the ideals of some of his friends, he admits the 
existence of envy and jealousy among the crowd. " The man 
who has not made speed in the race thinks hardly of his fav- 
ored mate. He forgets the self-control, the ceaseless toil, the 
constant thought which his old companion has used, while he 
has gone to a ball game or a bar or simply smoked his pipe 
after a day of work. He ignores the differences in ability. He 
forgets, too, the failures which may have preceded success." 
Yet it is these strong "enterprisers" who have built up the 
coimtry and enriched themselves. Let them now seek content- 
ment and peace of mind by aiding others, and especially by 
giving to the cause of education, "the key-stone of civiliza- 
tion." The rich man should give away all his fortune during 
his lifetime. Examples of such generosity "would soothe 


men's minds and counteract the sense of injustice/' The 
best social insurance would be this sense of mutual good-will. 

There were many replies to this article. Representatives 
of "labor" made the obvious retort that the splendid gener- 
osities of a Rockefeller and a Carnegie had not soothed in the 
least "the sense of injustice" over the economic conditions 
that had made the Rockefeller and Carnegie fortunes possible. 
Even Major Higginson's English friend, William R. Malcolm, 
a partner in the Coutts banking house, makes a keen criticism 
of Higginson's thesis: — 

London, May 4, 191 1. 

... I return your copy of the "Atlantic Monthly" with 
your article, which is very interesting. As an exhortation to 
the rich, it is very useful and I fancy would apply more to 
your country than to Britain, because I believe the general 
diffusion of wealth is greater here than with you. I wish that 
the rich in both countries were more and more penetrated with 
the spirit you inculcate. It is an expression of the true spirit 
of Christianity. But I doubt whether you can look to it to 
allay the spirit of discontent among the poor at present. 
There is jealousy of the power which wealth places in a man's 
hands quite as much as of the possession and inequality of 
wealth. The rich man says, "I will do this or that good 
work with my wealth " ; but after all it is he who does it and 
orders it. 

Of course there ought to be Charity and Christianity of 
feeling among the poor towards the rich, as well as vice versa^ 
and this ought to lead them to appreciate the work of the rich 
on their behalf; but we can hardly look for this at present. I 
think we must work for a better general distribution of wealth 
leading to fewer rich and fewer poor. Free Trade and grad- 
uated Income Tax will do something in this direction. If we 
could raise the bulk of the people to a condition of indepen- 
dence and tolerable prosperity, the ant^^onism of classes would 
vanish. • • • 


But Major Higginson was unconvinced. At the annual 
dinner of the Carnegie Institution at Washington, on Decem- 
ber 15, 191 1, he asked leave to speak, and in one of the most 
earnest and skillful of all of his addresses urged Mr. Carnegie 
to even more lavish generosities: '' I for one should be glad to 
see him carry out his expressed wish to die a poor man, but 
this is impossible. He may strip himself of his pennies, but he 
will live and die rich in blessings." One of his fellow trustees 
wrote thus about the address : — 

" I am not going to let this occasion go by without the 
personal satisfaction of now saying what was in my mind when 
I was listening to the noble and characteristic words you spoke 
the other evening in Washington. You addressed your words 
to Carnegie and the company, and they evidently were most 
eflFective — but the man who embodied all that you held up for 
a copy was yourself; you have done all that you invite others 
to do — and have done it with a simplicity and sincerity which 
add a quality to the giving, of higher worth even than the 
generous gifts themselves. One of the crowning satisfactions 
of my life has been my association with you — and the fact 
that you call me friend. May I long see that face and hear that 
welcome voice." 

As one reflects upon the number and variety of Major Hig- 
ginson's appearances before the public, both as speaker and 
as writer, after he had passed his seventy-fifth birthday, the 
more amazing seems this record of physical and mental 
energy. Instead of slowing down, as men usually do, he 
speeded up. He writes chaffingly to Senator Lodge on March 
21,1911: — 

Dear Cabot: — 

I suppose you think you are an orator, but just look at me! 
I am to preside at Dr. Grenfell's meeting this afternoon, and 
make a beautiful speech; I am to go to a performance of a 
dramatic association and make a beautiful speech; am to 


speak at the Harvard Club in New York next week, and am 
employed to write for the newspapers obituaries, etc. — and 
you are not in it with me. To be sure, people like to hear what 
you have to say, and they do not care about my words, but 
they seek me, and they pass you by. When I made my first 
speech at Cambridge about the Soldiers Field, Charles Per- 
kins warned me s^ainst orating, and he was right ; and it was 
a sad day for me and for all my hearers. ... I am going to 
Europe on the 5th of April, in the Mauretania. . . . 

He had become a Boston "institution." Newspapers liked 
to interview him. The curiosity of the American public about 
any rich man is insatiable, and Major Higginson usually found 
something picturesque and forcible to say to a reporter. He 
attended "hearings" on all sorts of public questions. He 
served on endless committees and boards. His shrewdness and 
hiunor and record as a fighter made him admired by the masses 
of his fellow citizens of Boston — over three fourths of whom, 
by 1900, were of foreign parentage. This old army officer knew 
precisely how to "hit it off" with Irishman and Hebrew, 
negro and Italian. They spoke of him as a " blue-blood," and 
properly enough ; but they had the instinct to see that he be- 
longed to what Carlyle called the "working aristocrats." He 
was fond of saying that " the workman ought to have a bigger 
piece of pie " ; and though he was disinclined to pass the work- 
man the knife and ask him to help himself, the laboring men 
of Boston would nevertheless cheer for Major Higginson when 
they would cheer for no one else. They knew that he meant 
to play fair, though he played by the old rules. 

There is one clause of the Book of Conunon Prayer which 
Major Higginson could never have repeated with much unc- 
tion: "Grant us minds always contented with our present 
condition." " SchiflF told me," he wrote President Eliot, " that 
he was content, and wished nothing more. I do not believe 
in sympathizing with that mood, unless it is for money. Why 


be content?" And he wrote in the same vein to Miss Ruth 
Draper : ''This eternal progress and regress and progress again 
seems to be the most cheering thing in our lives here. I Ve 
always been saying to myself, ' What next? Come, move on. 
Hits is good, but what next?' How can we be ever content?" 

Yet, though contentment was denied him, the decade from 
1904 to 1 914 brought him much happiness. He had occasional 
illnesses, it is true, and some keen anxieties. His circle of inti- 
mates was broken more than once by death. Mrs. Charles 
Russell Lowell died in 1906. The deaths of Alexander Agassiz 
and William James in 191 o were followed by that of James J. 
Higginson in 191 1. "Major *Jim' Higginson is so straight 
that he leans backward," it used to be said in Wall Street. He 
was the first of George Higginson's children to pass away, and 
he was seventy-five. Merry and modest to the last, a pros- 
perous banker, the President of the Harvard Club of New 
York, his name still brings an affectionate smile to the faces 
of the men who knew him. 

Major Higginson's relations with old and new friends were 
never more delightful than in this decade. " Rock Harbor" — 
his sxmimer home in Westport on Lake Champlain — was 
filled with a succession of lively house-parties. The Higgin- 
sons captured many friends as they were going or returning 
from the Adirondacks, and the "Putnam camp," not far 
away, gave them agreeable companions. Two stout volumes 
of "Rock Harbor Journals" keep the record of the house 
guests for thirty years — with poems and sketches that are 
full of gayety and charm, but are too intimate for transcrip* 
tion here. "Sunset Hill" at Manchester was likewise known 
for its gracious hospitality. It was a " House of Kinsfolk," as 
the Russians say, but it welcomed also many a stranger. 

Some of Major Higginson's most^f aithful friends were Eng- 
lishmen: John White, Esq., General Sir George Higginson (a 
kinsman), Sir William Farrer, William R. Malcolm, Esq., 
and in later years Mr. Higginson's partner. Sir Hugh Levick. 



He repeated at intervals his visits to hospitable country 
houses in England. He had many friendly correspondents on 
the Continent, particularly among musicians and artists, and 
great French and German bankers. His own marriage had 
helped to make him something of a cosmopolitan in feeling, 
and after the Hagae Conferences he had for a while a strong 
hope of some form of world-organization that would lessen 
the chances of war. 

Nothing is more charming in his correspondence of those 
years than the letters from old companions, looking back upon 
the past. Professor Basil L. Gildersleeve, the great Greek 
scholar of Johns Hopkins, who had first met Higginson when 
they were fellow students in Berlin in 1853, wrote on Octo- 
ber 21, 191 I : — 

Dear Major Higginson : — 

As soon as my daughter* arrived, she gave me your letter, 
which I was glad to receive as a birthday gift at her dear 
hands rather than by the common carrier. Our paths in life 
have had three significant crossings, in Berlin, in Cambridge, 
in New Haven, at the Bendemann dinner, then more than 
forty years afterwards at Lane's funeral, at the Yale Bicen- 
tennial; times of aspiration, of sorrow, of honor. Well, it 
gives me unfeigned pleasure to be told that in your eyes my 
long career seems to match that first success which appealed 
so strongly to your youthful imagination; and as for the 
younger of the two young men, whatever your hopes and 
aims were in 1853, you can now say with Victor Hugo, " J'ai 
fait ce que j'ai pu, j'ai send"; and when I think what you 
have been able to do and what high service you have rendered, 
no life seems to me better worth living than yours has been. 

With sincere thanks and best wishes, I am 

Yours faithfully 

Basil L. Gildersleeve. 

^ Mrs. Gardiner M. Lane. 


Horace Howard Fumess,^ the Shakespeare scholar, had 
written in 1901 : — 

. . . Our circle seemed once so large, and now it is dwindled 
down to but little more than you and Blight and me — oh, 
for a moment I forgot Binney, with whom I still keep in touch, 
and who seems still to bear a charmed life. 

Indeed, indeed, but I was disappointed over missing you 
when I was in Boston town. What would n't I give for good 
old gossip with you. I think we should behave like fools. I 
know I should. Do you remember a way you had of suddenly 
plumping on the floor with a force that would jar any frame- 
built house in New England? — and then how we'd all roar 
with laughter! O time! what times! And do you remember 
the exalted pride with which you sent me from Vienna a hair 
of your moustache to prove its extraordinary growth? I'd 
not swear I have n't that hair yet. Is it not written in the book 
of Fate, dear boy, that we shall meet and have a good whole- 
some laugh over those days long syne, and not postpone it to 
the fields of asphodel? And, Johnny's* gone! he whom we all 
looked on, after Charley Lowell, as the man of genius in our 
class (you know we all claimed you as of our class of ^54). " I 
feel chilly and grown old." But your affectionate letter warms 
me. Do it again — when the spirit prompts. But whether it 
prompt or not I shall, all the same, remain in secula seculorum^ 

Yours affectionately 

Horace Howard Furness. 

His last letter, undated, but not long before his death in 
1 912, ends thus : — 


He was the last of my mates to call me 'Higgy.' In college he was meny, 
earnest, studious, warm -— but one would not have guessed his fine career. After 
the war and years more, I went to his office. He looked at me and did not know me. 
I smiled, and he said, 'Dear me! Your smile in your eyes tells me. It is Higgy!' 
Thank God for such friends." — H. L. H. to B. P., June 7, 1919. 
■ John C. Bancroft. 


. . . Before long, when balmy spring days visit us earlier 
than they do you, then, oh, then do you and Ida just come 
hither and let us live over again some of the old days and 
gossip till the cock is crowing aloof. I live very quietly, and 
't will be a lettered day of the very brightest red if you '11 only 

It's long past midnight and I must creep upstairs. Inas- 
much as I remember Ida when she was a little girl, with her 
hair brought round in a braid above her forehead, playing 
with the Felton children, I think I may venture to send my 
love. Withhold it if you wish, but don't repress your own 
huge share from 

Yours ever and ever and the day after, 

Horace Howard Furness. 

One of Colonel Charles Francis Adams's last letters to Hig- 
ginson surveys both their lives stoically: — 

January 12, 1912. 

. . . You say of yourself that you regard your own life as 
''a miserable patchwork." It would by no means be so re- 
garded generally, or from the outside. The only difference 
between a successful man and a failure is, as old John L. Gard- 
ner remarked, years and years s^o, that the successful man is 
mistaken only two times out of five, and the unsuccessful man 
is mistaken three times out of five. Few men, I take it, ever 
got to our point in life without looking back, and, in view of 
the mistakes they have made, wondering that they ever got 
through at all. I am sure it has been so in my own case. As I 
review it, my mistakes in life were fully three out of five. 
The only thing was that I was lucky enough to have the two 
out of five which were not mistakes redeem the other three. 
What I have accomplished, as compared with what I ought to 
have accomplished, seems to me a very patchy sort of outcome. 
However, as Bob Stevenson very sensibly remarked, it is for 
usonly to ''thank God it is no worse." • • • 


Among Henry Adams's last notes to Higginson is this un- 
dated one from Paris, whither he had gone ''a seeker of the 
Lord, praying for light; a worm crawling towards the asphalt 
in a spring rain; a pilgrim, very seasick, looking for the har- 
bor of Paris": — 

Wedy, noon 
23 Avenue du Bois db Boulogne 
My dear Henry : — 

I will come for you at any time, to take you wherever you 
wish to go, — shopping, sight-seeing, visiting, to drive or to 
feed, — if you will fix an hour, and let me know by any legal 
form of notification, — except the telephone, which I have 
not. But I fear it will bore you if I insist. I am old, decrepit 
and a bore, and pride myself on being it all to the full, with 
some few additions; so don't be shy. I on my part, concede 
nothing whatever to the insolence of * youth, so be on your 
guard. Ever yrs. 

Henry Adams. 

Henry Higginson kept faith with the living, but the key 
to this long story of his usefulness as a citizen and public 
servant is the singular and noble fashion in which he sought to 
keep faith with the dead. He wrote to his wife in 1865 : "You 
do not know how much I miss Charley and Stephen and Jim 
too. They constantly come before me." When Emerson's 
house was burned, and his friends, unknown to him, subscribed 
money to rebuild it, one contribution was marked, " In mem- 
ory of Charles Russell Lowell and Stephen Perkins." "That," 
says Emerson's son, "was from H. L. H." It was the same 
H. L. H. who wrote in November, 1914, to James Ford Rhodes : 

. . . We need more true democracy, true fellowship be- 
tween man and man and more wish to serve our fellows, for 
on it depends religion, morality, the usefulness and happiness 
of life — God's blessing, else why are we here? It was our 
youthful doctrine and it wears well. Why feel a faith and not 


try to live according to it? If my nearest and dearest play- 
mates had lived, they would have tried to help their fellows, 
and as they had gone before us, the greater the need for me to 
try — and the many tasks are still before us — and still very 
incomplete. As for you, dear friend, your especial task has 
been nobly fulfilled and what better task can a man take 
up? . . . 

And once more, in May, 1918, to C. W. Barron: — 

... I have never cared about money for its own sake, have 
had the good luck to get considerable, and have spent of it as 
well as I could. It is n't bread and butter we want half as 
much as it is pleasant, friendly relations with our fellow crea- 
tures; and if we did nothing for them, did n't hold out our 
hands to them, did n't foster the real democratic spirit, not of 
excess but of real charity and kindness, I think we have missed 
our ends. . . . Mind you, I have n't changed my views since 
I was twenty. These views were held by half a dozen of the 
ablest, most thoughtful, really brilliant men of my day, and 
with me they have only grown and deepened. These men are 
all dead, and I am their heir, as it were, to these ideas. I 
might make four times the money I now have, but I would 
not change on any account. • . • 

All this tested fidelity to an ideal was in the minds of the 
three hundred men who gathered in the Copley-Plaza Hotel 
on November 18, 1914, to celebrate Major Higginson's 
eightieth birthday. There was also a dinner in his honor at 
the Tavern Club, and a reception at the Harvard Club of 
Boston, of which Major Higginson was likewise President. 
But the dinner at the Copley-Plaza, presided over by Henry 
Cabot Lodge, was the final seal of approbation of a great 
private citizen and public servant. The Symphony Orchestra 
played, and the Apollo Club sang. Letters were read from 


President Eliot, President Lowell, William Howard Taft, 
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Seth Low, and Charles Fran- 
cis Adams. There were speeches by Bishop Lawrence, George 
W. Chadwick, William Roscoe Thayer, and General Stephen 
M. Weld. Mr. Higginson, the final speaker, had prepared a 
response, but as he rose and faced the long-continued applause, 
he found himself unable to speak more than a few sentences 
of gratitude. Yet he repeated what he called "the keynote 
of my faith" : ''From my boyhood I have had a deep and pas- 
sionate wish that we should live a^ccording to our highest ideals.^* 
The phrases were simple enough, and brief and broken, but in 
that company there was really no need for any words at all. 
What was eloquent was the gallant figure, the sabre-marked 
face, the passionate, wistful desire for service, and the record 
of eighty years. 



Du hast sie zeretdrt 
Die sch5ne Wdt. 

— Goethe, Fausl, 

Only a sweet and virtuous soul, 
Like seasoned timber, never gives; 
But though the whole world turn to coal. 
Then chiefly lives. 

— George Herbert, Virtue. 

Yet if Henry Higginson could have been wafted to the 
skies upon those clouds of incense burned in honor of his eight- 
ieth birthday, his life would have been incomplete. The fifth 
act of the drama, bringing the ultimate test of heroic hardi- 
hood, had indeed already begun. 

On the very morning after the birthday celebration, Major 
Higginson had to look financial ruin in the face. In his pre- 
occupation with public affairs during those opening months 
of the World War, he was unaware of the state of his personal 
accounts. He had lived through many an * ' ^ony ' ' of the mar- 
ket, in 1873, i^ 1893, and in 1907; but those anxieties were 
nothing when compared with this imminence of insolvency. 
It was there, stark and pitiless, like a reef looming suddenly 
through the fog. He ''came about," as a laboring ship might, 
just in time and with nothing to spare. He was a proud man 
and kept silence. A friend quietly assumed the burden of car- 
rying the Orchestra, insisting that this fact should not be 
known. Gradually Mr. Higginson's affairs straightened them- 
selves, and the sky was dear again at his death. But those 
persons who thought that his failure to fulfill his long-cher- 
ished plan of. endowing the Orchestra was due to pique over 


the Muck incident, were very far out of the way. When Major 
Higginson's will was drawn in 1918, he could not possibly, 
after making suitable provision for his family, have carried 
out his earlier purpose of leaving a million to the Orchestra. 
He had already spent upon the Orchestra alone considerably 
more than that sum, without reckoning any of his other count- 
less benefactions. His precept that ''the rich man should give 
away all of his fortune during his lifetime" was more literally 
followed in his own case than the public ever realized.^ 

The fifth act of this life-drama, then, opens with one of 
those reversals of fortune dear to the Tragic Muse. But the 
final years of Henry Higginson's career were not to be a 
tragedy. His pride was wounded, his mind was troubled, some 
of his purposes were foiled, and his friendship was betrayed, 
but through it all he remained unbeaten. 

I was ever a fighter, so — one fight more, 
The best and the last! 

To realize the full extent of the difficulties facing him 
we must now go back from the birthday feast of November 
to the tragic days of early August. Brief passages from sev- 
eral letters make his personal attitude toward the conflict 
unmistakably clear. On August 3, 1914, he wrote to Senator 
Weeks : — 

My dear Senator: — 

In these horrible times, may I say a word? 

I am really astonished to find the unanimity and strong 
feeling about the German Emperor. Everybody speaks of 
him with horror and hatred for his cruelty in the matter of 
this war, which hurts everybody in the world. It looks like 
insanity, of which he has at times been accused, and certainly 
no one can call him sane if he wishes to fight the world. 

> The inventory of his estate, filed in May, 1921, shows, however, that at the 
time of his death his holdings of personal property were more valuable than he 


I am hoping that England will take a strong hand in this 
game» and help smash him; but, if England is in any need, I 
think we ought to take hold. If in any contingency the Ger- 
man Emperor should succeed, he would make for us next, 
and we don't want to fight him single-handed, though, as I 
feel to-day, I should be glad of the chance. We ought to do 
everything that we can for the good of the side opposed to 
the German Emperor, and I see no reason why we should not 
express publicly our detestation of his conduct. Perhaps this 
is not in conformity with diplomatic usages, but it looks like 
the death-grapple of an unprincipled man, who would rule the 
world for his own good and glory and that of his nation, and 
who will not consider anybody else. How far his pernicious 
influence goes, whether he has friends in this country, is hard 
to say. . . . 

Two days later, he wrote to Mr. J. P. Morgan (the 
younger) : — 

... As an old man, and a friend of your father and of the 
house, I venture to trouble you with these lines. ... It is 
cheering to see the English take the matter in hand so quietly 
and so resolutely, and personally I wish that we should go in 
too and help the English, for this man [the Kaiser] is an enemy 
to the world. If he is sane, he ought to be removed, and if he 
is insane, he ought to be locked up. Horrible as the destruction 
of property will be, and destruction of life, and almost worse, 
the maiming of many men and women, is the terrible temper 
which has been aroused. • . . However, there is more man- 
hood in keeping your shirt on and making other people steady 
their nerves than there is in any amoimt of fighting. . . . 

The feeling expressed in that last sentence is repeated in two 
short newspaper articles that Major Higginson wrote in the 
hope of steadying public feeling, which was already fearful of 


a financial panic. In neither article does he betray his own 
sympathy for the Allies. 

We have good crops and quiet homes, and we have the great 
barrier of the Atlantic Ocean between us and this terrible war. 
As men, we cannot forget the passions and sufferings of the 
fighting nations, but we can go on quietly. Nothing helps more 
in life than cheerfulness, and we Americans have the right and 
the duty to be cheerful. — Boston " Herald,'* August 7, 1914. 

We are not responsible for the war — we could do noth- 
ing to prevent it ; we have simply to see it through and keep 
our equilibrium and keep sawing wood. — Boston " Globe," Au- 
gust 11, 1914. 

But in his private letters he confesses his bewilderment. 
'* I can't get to anything decent," he writes to Mrs. George R. 
Agassiz On August 20, ''can't get at the result to anyone 
here in America. It upsets all business and all calculations." 
He was quite aware that the traditional policy of the United 
States called for non-interference in European affairs.^ He 
approved, like most of our citizens at the time, the President's 
proclamation of neutrality, as conforming to our traditions, 
and necessary to the *' proper performance of our duty as the 
one great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready 
to play a part of impartial mediation." 

Yet his letter of August 27, to Richard S. Guinness, of the 
London house of Higginson and Co., makes a clear distinction 
between our national policy and his personal mood : — 

* In both conferences at The Hague, in 1899 and 1907, we reaffirmed this policy. 
As our delegates signed the first convention in regard to arbitration, they read into 
the minutes this statement: "Nothing contained in this convention shall be so 
<x>nstnied as to require the United States of America to depart from its traditional 
policy of not intruding upon, interfering with, or entangling itself in the political 
questions or policy or internal administration of any foreign State; nor shall any- 
thing contained in the said convention be construed to imply a relinquishment by 
the United States of America of its traditional attitude toward purely 



Dear Richard: — 

This morning I see in some paper that England would like 
to have the active sympathy of America. Naturally, our coim- 
try must stand neutral, and one reason lies in the fact that 
perhaps we can act as a mediator, and if we take sides, we 
cannot do this well. I suppose that was Sir E/lward Grey's 
attitude with regard to the impending war, before the crisis 
came. At any rate, it is the attitude which the Government 
has taken, and sane men think it is right. I am not sane, and 
wish that our country should soon declare its sympathy, if 
such sympathy is required to throw the Germans back. As 
regards the feeling of men and women whom I see, it is as 
strongly on your side as human thought and feeling can make 
it. Men are as hot as pepper, and women hotter still. • • . 
As I see it, if he [the Kaiser] succeeds and is not permanently 
beaten down in some way, the world is not a fit place to live in. 
The world has got on too far in the direction of a reasonable 
democracy to allow any autocrat to talk and act as the Em- 
peror does. He has kindled an enormous enthusiasm in the 
German people for the German country, but it seems to me 
that in doing so he has Ughted a fire which is burning up a 
great many of the German people; in short, it is the nation 
against its inhabitants. ... I would not have any English- 
man whom I know, or even do not know, think that we are 
not on your side, and I told you yesterday that, if it were left 
to me, I would put our navy in and send over half a million 
troops. Indeed, I feel like encouraging our people to go across 
the line and enlist in the Canadian regiments, and I have no 
doubt a great many will go. . . . 

Two long letters to Colonel E. M. House, both dated Sep- 
tember I, 1914, show Mr. Higginson's feelings after the first 
month of warfare. 

. . • England has been caught at a disadvantage ; the same 
is true of France. Nobody thought that the German Emperor 


would do what he has done, and I don't care a fig whether he 
brought the war on or whether he is to blame ; he could have 
stopped it; he has made it; and he will be held guilty of the 
deed in the future. He has prepared this machine for years, 
and it is a wonderful machine. His officers have been drinking 
to "the day" for years, and we know perfectly well what he 
meant to do. He has brought a ruin on the world that is in- 
conceivable. If he should succeed, we would come next. He 
will be sure to order us about. He may take Canada by treaty ; 
he may go into South America ; and we have no use for him nor 
his ideas this side of the water. I think our Navy should be 
kept in first-class order, and if I were President of the United 
States, I would see that it is used in convoying provision ships 
across the water, letting all the English ships go free to attend 
to their own affairs. Our Army should be carried to the full 
number, and I do think that the German system of every- 
thing in connection with the army should be studied, and our 
officers fully instructed in it. This may seem wild, and I 
should have said it was, a month ago; but I have lived in 
Europe, we have a house in Europe, we have close connections 
with it; I have known the Germans and the Austrians well, 
for I lived among them six or seven years. I have a letter from 
one of the great bankers there, written a week before the war, 
in which he said he did not think there would be any war 
between Germany and France and Russia — and yet it came. 
Mind you, he is one of the men who ought to have been in- 
formed by the German officials. Our turn will come next. We 
can do this: we can express our strong disapproval of various 
acts of the German army, and we can show our sympathy for 
the other side. If England were smashed, we should have lost 
our only real ally in this world. I think these things need 
consideration. . . • Nobody has a higher respect for the 
President, his motives, his actions, than I have. • . . When 
I think that the German Ambassador allows himself to talk 
as he does now, — declare that the victory is won, and that 
it is won in the cause of Democracy, — I wonder if I under- 


stand the English language. This war is a war between Aris- 
tocracy, Autocracy, and Democracy, and you and I belong 
on one side, and cannot say it too loud or too often. . . . 

In the second letter he uiiges Colonel House to use his in- 
fluence with the President in favor of a move for peace. 

. . • There is but one man who can move to advantage in 
this whole matter, and that is President Wilson. As the head 
of a great nation, which represents many more nations, he 
can fairly say to the European warring nations : " You showed 
your courage; you showed power; now just stop, and make 
peace. You are doing much to bankrupt yourselves; you are 
injuring the whole world greatly. Our workmen are suffering 
because of the disturbance; if ours are suffering, yours are 
suffering ten-fold. You are setting yourselves back a great 
many years and you are wasting the substance for which you 
worked so hard. Stop now; make terms, and try to keep the 
peace." Whether the exact moment for this has arrived, I 
certainly cannot say, but it would seem to me, after much 
consideration, that the President at least could express our 
belief and wishes in the matter. . . . Mr. Wilson's attitude 
and that of the nation has been excellent, and yet, as you 
know, with very few exceptions, everybody is on the side of 
the Allies. . . . Will you take up these matters with the 
President? There is really no time to be lost. I have seen a 
good many strange times, but you and I have never seen any- 
thing equal to the present time, and once more, there is no 
occasion for it. It can do nobody any good, neither Germany, 
England, France, Russia, Austria, nor any other nation, and 
it is daily and hourly doing to these nations a great harm, and 
through them hurting the whole world. . . . 

On September lo he wrote again to Colonel House: "He 
[the President] has struck the right note about his duty and 


about his proclamation for a day of prayer for peace, and 
he has gained power thereby." 

In the meantime Major Higginson had been greatly con- 
cerned about the Orchestra. Dr. Muck had spent the summer 
of 1914 in Europe, as usual. It will be remembered that he 
was now in the middle of his second term as conductor, under 
a five-year engagement, which began in the fall of 1912. 
Charles A. Ellis, the manager of the orchestra, was also in 
Europe, engaging new players. On September 3 Major Hig- 
ginson wrote to Mr. Ellis in London, begging him to lay all 
the difficulties of the situation before Dr. Muck. 

. . . You know my knowledge of, association with, and 
liking for the German people, men and women whom I have 
known, and especially with the South Germans. You know 
how I have got along with the Germans of the Orchestra dur- 
ing all these years, and how I have managed, with your great 
help, to get the best musicians — at the head, and away down 
the line. You know how much I have cared to keep the Or- 
chestra going, and raised it to the present point, and how I 
have hoped to make it last long after I die. We have at its 
head the man who seems to me the best musician in the world 
as conductor of an orchestra, and a man of the highest ideals 
as a musician and as a gentleman. For all these reasons, I 
want to put the matter clearly before you and before him. 

The feeling here with regard to this war is entirely against 
the German Emperor, and not against the German people. 
Rightly or wrongly, our people believe that the Emperor 
could have stopped the war, even if he did not make it. They 
believe that he has prepared for this war during his whole 
lifetime. Further than that, I don't think the Prussians are 
much liked here, and he represents the Prussians. . . . This 
feeling does not pass over to the German people. . . . Now 
it is only fair that Dr. Muck shall understand the sentiment 
about himself: there is one feeling universally, and that is 


great admiration and gratitude for the beautiful concerts he 
has given» and which the people hope he will continue to give. 
... I wish Dr. Muck to know the attitude of our coimtry- 
people ; and let me repeat that nobody will take any attitude 
toward him but that of the kindest, most cordial appreciation 
of him and all his work. He has never been received more 
warmly than he will be on his first appearance here this year; 
but also you and he will agree that the passions of men have 
been inflamed to a degree not seen in our lifetime. . . . 
Since the war began, it has seemed to me a very difficult 
problem for Dr. Muck to make all his men play together. I 
have doubted whether he would care to play at all unless he 
got his best men. ... It is n't the lessened numbers but it is 
the lessened quality which I dread, and which may disturb Dr. 
Muck very much. You remember that we cannot get any 
outside musicians, for they are all in the Union. Perhaps some 
of them might be willing to leave for the season, but I greatly 
doubt it ; and Dr. Muck will not try to live with the Union, 
nor will I. I have so great a respect for Dr. Muck and his 
qualities and his ideals that I wish him to know all these 
things. . . . 

Before the month was over, however, Dr. Muck arrived in 
Boston, and it was determined that the concerts should pro- 
ceed. At the first rehearsal, October 12, 1914, Major Hig- 
ginson made the following address to the members of the 
Orchestra : — 

Gentlemen : — 

It is pleasant to see you all, and I offer to you my kind greet- 
ing and best wishes, and I welcome the newcomers to our 

Nearly sixty years ago I dreamed of this orchestra for the 
sake of art, and especially for the happiness and welfare of 
our people. For thirty-four years I have worked over it and. 


by the aid of many able and distinguished artists, the Orches- 
tra has been formed, and has reached its present point of 
excellence. I care very much for the Orchestra. 

We meet again under difficult circumstances; we are of 
many nationalities, including Americans, and we all are on 
American soil, which is neutral. Therefore, we must use every 
effort to avoid all unpleasant words or looks, for our task is 
to make harmony above all things — harmony even in the 
most modem music. I expect only harmony in your relations 
to one another. 

I had feared that we might not be able to give the concerts 
this year, because the presence of Dr. Muck and of many 
members seemed unlikely. We have lost only a few men, and 
have filled their places well. The public has uiigently asked 
me again and again for the concerts, and my only reply has 
been that it depended upon circumstances, and that, in case 
of a general war, the contracts allowed me to give up the con- 
certs if I were not satisfied with the members to be had. It 
seemed clear that, if one year passed without the concerts, we 
should hardly ever have the Orchestra again ; for to bring to- 
gether the old men, who might have sought positions else- 
where, and to get the new men needed, would be a great task, 
to which neither Dr. Muck nor I was equal. It has taken 
many years to make the Orchestra, and you can understand 
how many years it would take to rebuild it. 

I have thought of you all as needing the work; I have 
thought of the beautiful concerts already given, and have 
thought of the people who wanted them ; and, considering all 
these points, I wish to go on with the concerts. 

The conditions of this year were against us, and it was our 
part as men to overcome these conditions if we could. Dr. 
Muck has done his best; Mr. Ellis and Mr. Brennan have done 
their best; and I ask your agreement to do your best and, 
under no circumstances, however trying, to do or say any- 
thing which may cause friction. You have to sit together for 


rehearsals, for concerts, in the tuning*room, in the railroad 
trains, in the hotels while on journeys. Mutual forbearance 
and respect toward each other is absolutely indispensable. 
Without it the Orchestra cannot live. 

You all have at heart the reputation of our Orchestra, 
which has achieved a fine name and which is known in Europe 
as well as here. It rests with you to keep that name bright, 
and to give to our public such concerts as we have had before. 

In making this appeal for harmony among the artists. 
Major Higginson knew that consistency required that his own 
public utterances on the subject of the war should not rouse 
antagonism among the players. If "mutual forbearance and 
respect" were commended to them, certainly the founder 
of the Orchestra would be expected to conform to his own 
precepts. Very significant is his note to President Eliot, of 
October i6: — 

. . . Long ago I should have expressed strongly my own 
opinion that, if England needs support, it is our bounden duty 
and our interest to help her in any and every way to the full 
extent of our power; but I must keep on good terms with the 
Orchestra, which plays this afternoon for the first time this 
season. I have counseled to these men of a dozen different 
nationalities moderation and kind treatment of one another. 
I really am sorry that I am not free. . • • 

A month later, at the birthday dinner, it was Dr. Muck 
who proposed Major Higginson's health, on behalf of the 
Orchestra, and except for a passing remark by a single speaker, 
there was no reference whatsoever to the war which was already 
threatening Western civilization. 

Throughout 191 5 Major Higginson appeared seldom in 
public. He was terribly worried : first by the crisis in his per- 
sonal affairs; then by the problem of keeping peace in 


the Orchestra and thus keeping faith with its patrons; 
and by the defeats of the Allies. He was a proud man, 
and his financial difficulties were kept secret. He wrote to 
an intimate friend in February: "I promised my partners 
and another friend that I would give nothing to anybody and 
lend nothing to anybody for a while. I have done too much 
of it." Referring to the renewal of the Symphony concerts 
in May, he wrote: "I must make contracts, must encourage 
those men in the belief of a good future, and yet cannot feel 
easy to bind myself, because of age and increased inefficiency. 
I 'm in no distress, but have been too free, because the object 
was greater than the money, for the Orchestra, people, or the 

His best friends understood why he did not speak more 
freely about the war. President Eliot wrote thus on January 
5,1915: — 

My dear Higginson : — 

I will go to the Union to-morrow evening. 

You must, of course, keep on good terms with your German 
musicians. All the more, because music is really the only sub- 
ject in which Germany can still claim superiority. Her philos- 
ophy and religion have failed to work; her education has not 
developed in the people power to reason or good judgment; 
her efficiency even in war is not greater than that of her ad- 
versaries; and her ruling class is too stupid to see that their 
game of domination in Europe is already lost. 

Has it occurred to you that the Germans did not invent a 
single one of the new machines and processes which they are 
now using for purposes of destruction? Here is a list of some 
of these inventions, — all made in countries which enjoy 
some public liberty, — telegraph, telephone, wireless teleg- 
raphy, dreadnought, submarine, aeroplane, high explosives, 
typewriter, shoe machinery, sewing-machine, explosive engine 
and automobiles, anaesthesia, typhoid inoculation, and asepsis. 


I hope that this war is going to prove that an individual or 
a nation will develop a higher efficiency as well as a finer 
character with liberty than without it. 

Portions of three letters from Major Higginson to President 
Eliot, in May, show how his mind was working. 

May 6. [The day before the sinking of the Lusitania.] 
The world seems to be agog, and now the East is going to 
begin. • • • But if all Europe and Asia wants to fight, or at 
any rate keep itself in a snarl, what other Powers should keep 
their heads except those of America — North and South? 

May 8. The present trouble puzzles me, as it does every- 
body. We cannot fight; we have nothing to fight with. We 
can, however, cut off all intercoiu'se with Germany and make 
it so unpleasant- for the German Ambassador that he would 
like to go home. We can refuse to let anything in the way of 
merchandise go to Germany, and we can refuse to let any of 
her merchandise come here, so far as can be managed , although 
that would be an injury to us. In short, we could stop all inter- 
course, I suppose. We can also take and hold fast a dozen of 
her ships, which are now interned, until ample money indemni- 
fication is given for all that she has done. As a matter of fact, 
it seems to me that Germany could not have done a worse 
thing for herself, for she has enraged a great many people, 
not only on account of the cruelty but the meanness of this 
whole business. . . .*. 

May 10. . . . There is no question about the Lusitania 
matter as I see it. It seems to be illegal, and there is no occa- 
sion for other adjectives about it. I have not seen the country 
so stirred since the Civil War. I very much wish that Mr. 
Wilson should have better advice, which he needs terribly. 
Root and Taft both would be good advisers at the present 
juncture. Taft is undecided at times, but he has a great deal 
of sense and knowledge and a great deal of courage, or I am 


greatly mistaken. I should suppose that the President would 
demand of Germany instant apology and ample indemnifi- 
cation, with a promise that this shall not happen again; and 
that he would also say the same things to Bemstorff » saying 
that if he did not get these things, Bemstorff would get his 
passports. I should suppose also that the President would 
order that Philadelphia Consul and his clerks out of the coun- 
try at once, without any delay or excuse, whether it is within 
the custom or is not within the custom, and that he would 
give warnings to various Germans who do not seem to be able 
to hold their tongues, that they hold their tongues or leave the 
country. Of course these are harsh measures, but we have 
either got to fight or stop the fire which is burning all over the 
country. Demburg does not seem to have sufficient sense to 
hold his tongue, and if I knew him, I would tell him that he 
woidd better leave at once. In short, I would either have a 
full apology, or else I would tell all those men to get out. 
This would be no great injury to Germany, although it would 
be a warning to her. In writing to Germany, I would not mince 
matters one bit, but would express my horror and disgust at 
their cowardly and barbarous acts. In short, I woxdd do every- 
thing except to make war. If they chose to declare war, we 
have all their ships here, and should take them, and we should 
do what we could to help England. Germany cannot hurt us, 
and I think she cannot accuse us of breaking the Monroe 
Doctrine, because we are simply resenting an attack on our 
own people. I think I would go as far as that. . . . 

On September 24, 191 5, he wrote to Senator Lodge: — 

Dear Cabot : — 

A friend who has much red blood in his veins has been sim- 
mering for a year past and now comes to me to ask if a public 
meeting at Faneuil Hall, to express our strong sympathy with 
the Allies on moral grounds, would be worth while. ... As 


you are aware, I cannot take an active part in such a meeting, 
because I must get along somehow or other with the hun- 
dred men of the Orchestra. If I did it, it might break up the 

Yet he had already begim to counsel preparation for war, 
as a measure of national defense. In a lecture on ** Military 
History," delivered at the Harvard Summer School on July 7, 
he had advocated "a system of training like the Swiss sys- 
tem." He had prepared this address in April, and sent me 
the manuscript with this comment : — 

What I especially had in mind was to point out our national 
slovenly ways, our guesses instead of study, our lack of knowl- 
edge, our conceit and especially that of our public men, and 
then to set forth some of the experiences of the Civil War, 
and to point out to them that our best Massachusetts militia 
regiment, which went at once, was under the command of a 
classmate of mine, who, when ordered at Bull Run to move 
forward, refused to do so. Thank God, he at last got into the 
fight and was wounded. It was only want of training. 

He had also spoken at the Harvard Commencement on 
June 24, and this letter to Senator Lodge on the following 
day refers to this speech : — 

. . . The one thought that I wish to express constantly is 
that we have no quarrel with any nation as such, — that is, 
as regards the people, -^ but we will not have the Prussian 
rule in this country, and we will not submit to their regula- 
tions or views with regard to us. We cannot as yet interfere, 
and also we cannot be neutral — that is, you and I cannot. I 
do suppose that we would better keep out of the war if we can, 
and that it would be better for Europe as well as for us; but I 
also suppose that we will not bear certain things which Ger- 


many thinks we may bear. As I ventured to say: "If any 
man strikes your mother, will you ask him to strike her again, 
or will you resent it as strongly as you can?" If our Revolu- 
tion was worth while, if our fight in 1861 was worth while, if 
the whole English history for years and years has been worth 
while, or that of France or Italy, it is worth while to condemn 
absolutely and entirely the Prussian idea of government. It 
does not concern me very much who began this row, although 
the evidence is very clear. On my desk lies an unread letter 
from a dear old German friend, who is as true as you are, and 
who believes that Germany was oppressed and threatened 
and, therefore, she fought. I cannot quarrel with him any 
more than I can with you. Also, I cannot agree with him, and 
have told him so. But if this world is to be subjected to the 
Prussian rule, the Lord or the devil can receive me as soon as 
he likes. I cannot now — and indeed since I was five years old I 
never have been able to — conceive of life under any such rules, 
regulations and theories as Bismarck and William and the 
Prussian Oligarchy chose to impose; and when I said: '*We 
will not bear it," I meant just that. . . . 

It surprised no one, therefore, that he appeared in the Bos- 
ton "Herald" of October 27, 1915, as a champion of "pre- 
paredness" : " First comes the need of an army and navy able 
to keep the peace, no matter who knocks at the door. . . . 
Never fear that we, as a nation, shall want to fight after 
watching this terrible war. We need these armed forces in 
order to keep the peace, and our nation once well prepared 
for war, is it likely that any nation would meddle with us?" 
He was aware, of course, that this was precisely the same 
reasoning employed by Germany, France, Russia, and other 
European powers during the forty years preceding 1914. It 
had proved futile as a preventive of war. It was the old Ham- 
iltonian argument for a self-sufficient empire, strong enough 
to resist any possible attack — an argument irrefutable only 


so long as rival empires do not also arm upon the same prin- 
ciple. Yet Major Higginson, together with increasing masses 
of his countrymen, now saw no escape from this endless circle 
of cause and consequence. 

He became Chairman of the Conunittee that arranged the 
Preparedness parade in Boston on May 27, 1916, and insisted, 
though he was in his eighty-second year, upon marching on 
foot the entire distance. In that same week he issued a plea 
for the Plattsbui^ training camps: " If our American citizens 
are not going to look after our country, who will do it? . . . 
Manhood suffrage requires manhood service, and this means 
service for every man and woman in the country. Go to PlaUs- 
burgr* On June 24, in the Boston "Herald," he pleaded for 
"500,000 volunteers for service anywhere, whether on land 
or on the water, and thus let Mexico see that we are in earnest. 
• . . The President has tried patience and delay, and they 
do not suit the case.'* Still he uttered no specific word against 
Germany, not even in his eloquent address in Appleton Chapel 
on November i, 191 6, in memory of the Harvard men who had 
fallen in the war. 

The Orchestra, as a matter of fact, had enjoyed singularly 
tranquil and successful seasons in 1914-15, 1915-16, and well 
into the spring of 191 7. In spite of the trying circumstances, 
Mr. Higginson's confidence in Dr. Muck, in the players, and 
in the public's continued cordiality, had seemed to be justified. 
His affairs in State Street were gradually adjusting themselves, 
and the sharpest anxiety had passed. There was not in truth 
very much for him to do in his office, and this period was one of 
extraordinary activity in letter-writing, particularly to pub- 
lic officials. There are fifty letters from President Wilson in 
his files, in reply to long communications from Major Higgin- 
son. The Major had approved of the repeal of the Panama 
Tolls Act, as the only honorable fulfillment of our treaty obli- 
gations. He likewise approved the lowering of the tariff. He 
liked the Federal Reserve Act in principle^ but found fault 


with many details. He was invariably critical of the Inter- 
state Commerce Conmussion, and accepted with reluctance 
any measures looking toward governmental regulation and 
control of public-service corporations. The railroad situation 
continued to be a very sore point with him, long after he had 
ceased to own any railroad shares or bonds himself. During 
the Roosevelt and Wilson administrations alike, he always 
feared that some indefinable thing was about ''to happen" 
at Washington. It may possibly be that State Street is as 
credulous as any other section of Boston Town. In general, 
Major Higginson's letters to the President, to Cabinet officers, 
and to Senators and Representatives from Massachusetts ex- 
press his impatience with the tardy processes of legislation, 
and in fact his ineradicable distrust of legislation itself. ''If 
we could only have quiet, no more moves, no Congress, the 
country would move on.'* He wrote these words to President 
Eliot in 1915, but he might have written them in any year 
since 1865. 

Although he approved many of the acts of President Wil- 
son's first administration, and wrote him in praise of his hand- 
ling of the Lusitania incident, his enthusiasm gradually cooled, 
as it had done during the administrations of Roosevelt and 
Taf t. He had never made any pretense of strong party fealty, 
and he had inherited his full share of the immemorial New 
England capacity for pointing out flaws in the conduct of the 
government of the United States. In the campaign of 1916 he 
had voted for Hughes. 

And now, in the spring of 191 7, when it was at last evident 
that the aggressions of Germany could be met only by war. 
Major Higginson was in a quandary. He had urged President 
Wilson to prompt action, and had supported his policy of 
arming oiu: ships against submarine attacks. Our declaration 
of war was expected from hoiu* to hour. As soon as it came, 
what would happen to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and 
its German conductor? Dr. Muck was just finishing the fifth 


and final year of his second engagement. What was to be 

On March* 22, 191 7, Major Higginson turned for counsel, 
as so often, to President Eliot. 

Dear old Friend : — 

• • • We have come to a strange pass. Our contracts pro- 
vided for war and other accidents, gave me the power to break 
up the work at any time if the Orchestra was injured seriously ; 
and it was left for me to decide. We have a dozen nationalities 
in the Orchestra, and the men have behaved perfectly wdl 
toward each other since the war began. Dr. Muck is a hearty 
German, who wished to enlist and was refused for lack of 
strength. He has behaved well, and has been cordial to me 
since the war began, as before; and he has been most kindly 
received by audiences here and in other cities. • • • I trust 
him entirely as an artist and as a man, and he has worked as 
no other conductor has worked. 

Query: Shall I go on with him and the Orchestra? He is the 
only man I know who can conduct for us. The Orchestra is 
fine, and has set the pace for the country, following out Theo- 
dore Thomas. The Orchestra has won a lai^e and good public 
here and in many other cities, and the New York house is 
sold out permanently. 

My connection with the Orchestra has shut my mouth many 
times, to my great regret, since August, 1914. 

Turn it over, and advise me, for you are a sober, hearty 
patriot and a great figure in education and civilization.' 


The reply follows. 

Dear old Friend: — 

I have taken a little time to think over your letter of March 
22nd, for I find your problem a hard one. 

. . . Have you, or the French members of the Orchestra, 






■ ■ - • /• .. .. 

Ftom a crayon portrait bjr J. S. Saitral (ig: 


had any reason to believe that the German members, or some 
of them, were what may fairly be called German agents? If 
no such suspicions have been entertained, I should think it 
would be safe for you to go on with the Orchestra until war 
breaks out, and the Government takes measiu'es against Ger- 
mans resident in this country, confining them or subjecting 
them to police siuveillance. I think our Government will be 
slow to take any really troublesome action against German 
residents; but the moment killing, drowning, and woimding 
begin, our people will probably make the Germans with us 
uncomfortable and apprehensive. Then you may have to 
stop maintaining the Orchestra. 

For the present, it seems to me to be possible for you to go 
on just as you have been going on. As to engagements for 
next year, is it possible to make them anything more than pro- 
visional, or dependent on the coming of peace? 

It must have been very disagreeable to you to feel that your 
mouth has been shut; but I hardly think that such reticence as 
you have observed has really done any harm. I am sure that 
it has done you no harm. Everybody knows what your posi- 
tion really is in regard to national defense and war on Ger- 
many. Probably the members of the Orchestra all understand 
you and your opinions. They must know, for example, how 
active your firm has been in floating war loans of the Allies. 
In short, your comparative reticence has been unnatural and 
grievous to you and your family; but not harmful to the 
public. . • • 

Within a week thereafter the nation was at war. The fate 
of the Orchestra was of course only a "leaf in the storm,'* but 
it involved and revealed the personal qualities of Major Hig- 
ginson in such a striking fashion that some detail is necessary.^ 
On July 5, 1917, he wrote to President Eliot: — 

^ Mr. Higginson's files of Orchestra correspondence for 1917 and 1918 alone 
would fill several volumes as large as the present one. Only the more significant 
and typical letters can be given here. 


Sundry good and friendly people have told me to look out 
for Dr. Muck and his doings, and some of them are sure that 
he is making mischief; yet nobody knows anything about it; 
theysimplyguessand bid me to dismiss him. • . . If he is dan- 
gerous, so are many others of the Orchestra, and, if he goes, the 
Orchestra goes too, for I cannot replace him. I have never dis- 
cussed war-matters with him, but I believe him. to be a loyal 
South German. His father took out Swiss papers of citizenship 
for his children when Dr. Muck was a child, and those he has 
to-day. He was a favorite of the Emperor and came here at 
my solicitation, and because of much larger pay. There is the 
state of the case. . . . My intention is this — to go on as 
always and let things take their course. If any of these men 
behave wrongly, they will be punished by the law; and in 
case the war is finished, the Orchestra will be wanted. What 
else can I do? The men are of ten nationalities, and at my re- 
quest have behaved perfectly well in every way since the war 
was declared. Of course, it is bread and butter to them. 
Whether Dr. Muck looks pleasant or is pleasant to those who 
run across him, is not my concern. So far as I know, he treats 
everybody well, but he should be by inheritance a loyal 
Grerman. He was not accepted by the German war office be- 
cause he was not strong enough, or perhaps too old, for he 
is 55 or 56 years of age. . . . 

On July 9 he wrote again : — 

... I could not keep the Orchestra going without Dr. 
Muck, and should not try. In the first place, conductors who 
like old and new music are very rare; next, Dr. Muck is the 
most industrious, painstaking and the ablest conductor whom 
we have ever had. ... I do not want the modem men, that 
is, the men who believe in the modem music only and have lit- 
tle respect for the old music ; and that is the tendency of the 

He is perfectly honest in his transactions, in his work; he 


never grumbles at anything, and makes the best of it ; he is on 
most friendly terms with all his men, whom he rules firmly 
and kindly. I could not replace him either in this country or 
any other. Next, the Orchestra does not play well imder any 
member of the Orchestra. We have tried that, and it does not 
work. If the quality given to the public were let down, I 
should lose my houses, and, if I lost my houses, I should have 
to stop. 

I do not wish to be relieved of the burden during the war; 
that is to say, I do not wish to do so now, but what time will 
bring forth I cannot tell. To-day I am content to go on. If 
peace came to-morrow, I should not know where to look for 
a conductor in Europe. 

My only question to you was whether I had not better let 
things take their course. Let me repeat that I can stop the 
Orchestra whenever I think it is, so to speak, dismantled in 
that degree that it is not satisfactory. If Dr. Muck went, it 
would be so dismantled. If Dr. Muck should be sent away, 
plenty of the men should be sent away on the same ground. 
Of course you see that the reason for getting the best possible 
conductor is to attain the highest possible standard in music, 
and also to hold the audiences, for I have to play against 
many other orchestras in this country, which have improved 
largely during the last thirty years. To-day not a seat can be 
had in New York, and very few good seats, in the afternoon, 
here. . • • 

[Penned postscript.] Of course, it would be a relief finan- 
cially and physically to stop the concerts, but a man may not 
undertake a real job and then drop it, to ease himself. You 
never have. But I will not sin against our country's welfare, 
or even disregard well-founded complaints of my loyalty. No 
one ever alleges anything overt, but some good people snarl. 

President Eliot replied on July 1 1 : — 
"The reasons you give for keeping the Orchestra going 
and holding on to Dr. Muck are unanswerable, unless Dr. 


Muck or some members or member of the Orchestra commit 
real offenses against this country. You and I will not believe 
that they have committed any offenses, or desire to do so, 
until we get real proofs of misconduct on their part. A safe 
conclusion then is to go on just as you have been. 

"Your statement, however, that you could not keep the 
Orchestra going without Dr. Muck is somewhat disquieting. 
When peace comes, will he not surely desire to return imme- 
diately to Berlin, to take part in the rehabilitation of Germany 
and its Capital? Must that natural determination on his part 
bring the Orchestra to an end? I hope not." 

Such was the situation in the midsummer of 1917. With 
every month of warfare, popular feeling against the Germans 
had naturally grown in bitterness. Talk of "German spies" 
filled the air, and the conduct of the German members of the 
Symphony Orchestra was closely watched. Of the 100 play- 
ers, 51 were American citizens (17 being native-bom), and 22 
were Germans, 9 of whom had taken out their first natural- 
ization papers. There were 8 Austrians, 2 Italians, 2 British, 
6 Dutch, 2 Russians, 3 French, 2 Belgians, and 2 Bohemians. 
Dr. Muck's status was peculiar. He was bom in Hesse, of 
Bavarian parents, in 1859, and acquired Swiss citizenship in 
1867 by reason of his father's becoming a Swiss citizen in 
that year. The Imperial German Government did not come 
into existence imtil 1871. Hesse then became a part of it. 
Dr. Muck brought his Swiss papers to this coimtry, and a 
Swiss passport. But in blood and sympathy he was unques- 
tionably German, although the Federal authorities, after most 
careful investigation, reported that they had "found nothing 
to incriminate him as a German agent or as having performed 
any act which is prejudicial to the interests of our country." 
These authorities, it should be added, were long doubtful 
whether he could properly be classed as an "alien enemy" 
under the terms of the President's proclamations of April 6 
and November 16, although he had certainly been a "deni- 
zen," if not technically a "citizen," of the German Empire. 


When the Orchestra season opened in Boston^ there was no 
evidence of trouble, except a few empty seats. But there had 
been some talk about the non-appearance of an American flag 
on Symphony Hall. Major Higginson, preoccupied with real 
war-work and with the future of the Orchestra, had simply 
forgotten to order a flag displayed.^ He remedied the over- 
sight as soon as it was called to his attention, but the incident 
was imfortimate. *' Until lately my loyalty has never been 
questioned," he wrote sadly. Still more unlucky, as it proved, 
was his attitude toward the proposal that the Star-Spangled 
Banner should be played at the beginning of each Symphony 
concert. It had been invariably played at the *' Pop " concerts 
during the summer, but Major Higginson, in common with 
most persons of musical training, felt that this air was out of 
place in a Symphony programme. As one correspondent ex- 
pressed it: — 

*' I am sorry to see from the papers how much you have 
been harried about the Orchestra by people who have more 
zeal than judgment, and who, however loyal, can certainly 
not have proved their patriotism more than you have yourself. 
Whatever may be said for the playing of patriotic airs in pub- 
lic gatherings, the Star-Spangled Banner is not well-fitted for 
a full-stringed symphony orchestra, good as it is for a military 
band. The objection to playing it is not in any sense on 
patriotic groimds, but because of its inappropriateness, and 
I hope you will not give way. If these same people were to 
demand that, as a proof of loyalty, you should wear a star- 
spangled blue waistcoat and red-and-white striped trousers, 
you would refuse, not from lack of patriotism, but from a 
sense of what is appropriate. Those of us who, being too 
old to bear arms, are working to our full capacity for the 
coimtry in these times, when acts count more than words, 
need not fear any charge of lack of enthusiasm for our coun- 
try's cause." 

^ Judge Hoar of Concord, when once requested to buy a flag and "raise " it on 
tlie Fourth of July, had remarked dryly: " Mine is a patriotism that never flags." 


But that last sentence was too optimistic. When the war- 
spirit is blazing, a dispassionate judgment about the ''appro- 
priateness" of such a symbol as a flag or a national anthem 
becomes impossible. If Henry Higginson had possessed the 
political instinct of the average ward politician, he could 
have saved the situation ; he had only to dismiss Dr. Muck, 
to wave the American flag, order the national anthem played, 
and make one of his inimitable little speeches to a pleased 
audience. But he had no political cunning whatever. He was 
a weary and perplexed old man of eighty-three, who was simply 
trying, as always, to discover his duty and to do it. 

The storm broke first in Providence. The " Reminiscences " 
dictated in 191 8 continue the story: — 

In the autumn of 1917 some mutterings were heard about 
the Germans and the Orchestra, and when the first concert 
in Providence was to be given, there came a demand that the 
Star-Spangled Banner be played. The demand came to Mr. 
Ellis, the manager, when he was sitting in my ofiice between 
two and three o'clock in the afternoon. The demand came 
from four women in Providence, who were subscribers and who 
were unknown to us. As the Orchestra was to go to Providence 
at five o'clock and, therefore, there was no time for rehearsal, 
as we had not the music, and as Dr. Muck had never heard 
anything about it, it seemed impossible. Therefore, by tele- 
graph, I ordered stopped all sale of extra seats for the Provi- 
dence concert that night. Fearing some trouble, I went to 
Providence myself and attended the concert, which was well 
given and received. One or two newspaper men wished to 
come in and were not allowed to do so. We then came home, 
and the next day Dr. Muck heard of this request. He had not 
heard anything about it before. Then trouble began. X, of 
the Providence "Journal,'* who had been advertising himself 
and making various revelations, was abusive, as well as one 
or two of the other papers, and the request for the Star- 


Spangled Banner was heard in Boston. In the spring of 191 7 
one man in Boston had written to me on the subject, but I 
had put it aside. 

We had played in Providence Tuesday evening, October 
30th. I considered carefully the question of playing the 
National Anthem at our concerts ; one good friend advised me 
to have it played. My objection had been that it did not be- 
long in the programme and that nobody of value to me had 
asked for it. Three wise friends advised me not to have it 
played. On Friday, November 2, 1 asked Dr. Muck to come 
to my office, which he did. I then said to him : "Will you play 
the Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning of our concert 
to-day and always?" His reply was: "What will they say to 
me at home?'* I said: "I do not know, but let me say this: 
when I am in a Catholic country and the Host is carried by, 
or a procession of churchmen comes along, I take oS my hat 
out of consideration — not to the Host, but respect for the 
customs of the nation. It seems to me only friendly and 
reasonable.'* He said: "Very well, I will play the Star-Span- 
gled Banner." At the same time Dr. Muck said that he would 
like to resign his position; to which I replied that that would 
be very inconvenient ; that I did not know what we could do, 
as I knew of nobody to take his place. He said: "Suppose I 
should be interned?" to which I replied: "That is most un- 
likely" ; and left it there. 

Before the concert began on Friday afternoon, I went on 
the stage, stated that Dr. Muck had resigned, and that the 
matter was in my hands; that I had asked him to play the 
Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning of all our concerts, 
and that he would do so — and he always did. 

On the next journey we had no trouble in New York, 
Brooklyn, Philadelphia, or Washington; but Baltimore 
threatened a riot if the Orchestra was allowed to play there 
as it always had. Therefore, the order was given to cut out 
Baltimore entirely, and the Orchestra has never played there 


since. The threat came from an ex-Govemor of Maryland, 
and many false statements were made with regard to the 
Orchestra and Dr. Muck. We played in Philadelphia the next 
day with success, and then in New York and Brooklyn, but 
there was more or less uneasiness from a few people. This 
trouble went on all winter more or less. Very many letters 
were written to me, begging that the concerts should go on 
as usual, with the same conductor and the same musicians. 
A few letters objected, a few were anonymous, and some were 
very abusive and, indeed, indecent. 

A few passives from the enormous correspondence of this 
autumn should be given here, for they reveal a side of Henry 
Higginson that the public ignored. The press had spread the 
Orchestra troubles over the country, with the usual distortions 
and falsifications. Some Boston newspapers took pains to 
tell the exact truth, but the truth never overtakes the lie. 
The impression received by the general public in other cities 
was that Major Higginson was a well-meaning but arbitrary 
old gentleman, who had now received, particularly from 
Providence and Baltimore, a much-needed lesson in '' patriot- 
ism." But in reality what most impresses the reader of his 
correspondence is the gentle patience, the infinite personal 
courtesy, with which he imdertook to reply to every signed 
communication, no matter how abusive. There was perhaps 
one exception. The Washingtonian who wrote, "The state- 
ment attributed to you that the Star-Spangled Banner has no 
place in a programme of artistic symphony music is an indica- 
tion of an unmitigated snobbery — as ungentlemanly and un- 
refined as it is unpatriotic and un-American," apparently had 
that letter returned to him ; for he writes again : *' I notice that 
you took care to retain the blank half-sheet. Had I only been 
aware how small a man you really are — as evidenced by that 
petty action on your part — I should probably not have been 
so exercised over your gratuitous insult to the national air. . . • 


As you seem to be hard up for stationery, I am enclosing a 
whole blank sheet, which may come in handy some time." 

From Roanoke, Virginia, came an indignant demand: '' If 
you are a Major of State Militia or of the U.S. Army . . . 
you should be stripped of your title and be dishonorably dis- 
charged" for insulting the National Anthem. Major Higgin- 
son, in replying, courteously hinted where he had earned his 
titie: " I served in the Northern Army during the Civil War, 
and met the Confederate troops, more especially those of 
Viiiginia. We had high respect for them and hope they had the 
same feeling toward us." The Virginian promptiy apologized. 

An army officer, disgusted with the newspaper attacks upon 
Major Higginson, wrote to him: *' War is indeed made more 
terrible by the persons who stay at home!" 

" If you mind the nasty letters," wrote President Eliot, " I 
suggest that whoever opens your mail throw away all the un- 
signed ones and all the signed ones from strangers." But Mr. 
Higginson could not bring himself to do this, although he con- 
fessed that "when mud is thrown, a littie usually sticks, and, 
at any rate, leaves a stain." 

More than ever in these autumn days, he sought coimsel 
from his tried friends. He had yielded on the Star-Spangled 
Banner, but he was not ready to break up the Orchestra. " My 
own opinion is," he wrote Erving Winslow, **that if I backed 
out from this work now I should be a sneak." **The public is 
not always reasonable," he wrote President Lowell, on Novem- 
ber 5, **. . . and now I am wondering how long people will 
bear the Star-Spangled Banner played at every concert. They 
will get tired of it, and presentiy I shall have remonstrances 
the other way. That is one of the troubles of war, and we must 
bear it as well as we can." 

** It seems to me," wrote President Lowell on November 20, 
" that the continuance of the Symphony Concerts, and the re- 
tention of Dr. Muck as Director is a very important matter for 
our community. Music is one of the things in which America 


is singularly backward^ and the amount that the Symphony 
Orchestra has contributed to American education cannot be 
overestimated. I do not see how Grerman music, or German 
musicians, can corrupt America, or Germanize us. Because 
we quarrel with a nation because their conduct is outrageous 
and requires to be suppressed by force, is no reason why we 
should deprive ourselves of their art." 

President Eliot and a score of other leading citizens of Bos- 
ton, whom Mr. Higginson consulted at this time, were of the 
same opinion. They had been informed by Mr. Higginson on 
November 20 that '* The Department of Justice has conducted 
a special investigation of the newspaper charges against Dr. 
Muck, and has assured me that no objectionable conduct 
whatsoever on his part has been discovered. This is in keep- 
ing with the result of a former investigation in the early fall.'* 
And nevertheless the clamor for Dr. Muck's dismissal steadily 

Two facts must be kept clearly in mind at this point. One 
is that nothing had as yet transpired to shake Mr. Higginson's 
confidence in Dr. Muck as a man of honor. He stood by him 
with chivalric and obstinate loyalty, believing him to be inno- 
cent of any of the charges whispered or shouted against him. 
Major Higginson's action at this time must be judged in the 
light of this belief, and not in the light of his later knowledge 
that Dr. Muck was a scoundrel. 

The other fact — to which Major Higginson gave possibly 
too tardy a recognition — was a phase of war-feeling which 
made it impossible for many good men and women to look — 
if they could help it — at a German face, or to read a German 
book, or to listen to a German musical composition. It was 
illogical and perhaps irrational ; yet most of us, in our disgust 
and horror at Germany's conduct in the war, could not help 
transferring our dislike to any object that reminded us vividly 
of Germany. Now Dr. Muck, however innocent he might be, 
was certainly one of those objects. Many persons pointed out 


the fact to Mr. Higginson, and if he was at fault at all in this 
whole trying experience, it was in his slowness in putting him- 
self in the place of the subscribers to concerts. 

Yet he tried to do so. One of his kinswomen, for instance, 
wrote him affectionately that it was really impossible for her 
to attend the concerts any longer, for the reason just stated. 
His reply on November 14 is touching in its simplicity and 
frankness : — 

Of course I imderstand your ground about Dr. Muck and 
find it perfectly natural, and the more horrid things the Ger- 
mans do, the more natural it seems. I have thought and still 
think that I know about that man very well, for I have seen 
considerable of him for the last eight years, and think he is a 
typical artist who holds strong opinions about art and not 
very much about other things. Of com-se he is a German, and 
of course he sympathizes with that side, but he has done us 
great services which it is fair to recognize. When they talk 
about his having done this or that which is disloyal to us, 
when they say that he is pushing schemes here, they are say- 
ing what they do not know. . . . He is very shrewd and he 
would not give himself away on any account, no matter what 
he thinks or what he wants. But I do feel very badly that the 
public should throw so many stones at him and at the Orches- 
tra. ... I am sorry to say that it has destroyed for me all 
pleasure in the Orchestra, We will go on with it if possible. 
And there comes another point. I don't know whether it is 
possible. If the newspapers and cavillers will stop their noise 
now, we can go on, and if not, I shall have to stop, and it will 
cost a very large sum of money. I can break all the contracts 
of all the men, but the poor devils have got to have something 
to live on, and if I won't employ them, who will? In short, 
it is an impossible position for them. People tell me to let 
them go home, but they can't go home. A Frenchman could 
return; the Belgians cannot, nor the Roumanians, or Poles, 


or Bohemians, or Russians, or anybody else except possibly 
some Englishmen, and I don't think we have any. Meantime, 
the papers say that I threaten to disband the Orchestra. The 
people who disband it are the newspapers and the men and 
women who attack it. And speaking of this last class, the chief 
people who attack it are those who do not go to the concerts, 
who are n't in the cities where the Orchestra has played, and 
the newspapers. 

Years ago I refused to have anything to do with the musical 
union, because the union stipulates how many rehearsals shall 
be given and what the men shall do and what their pay shall 
be, etc., and I could not get the best artists in that way, and 
I sought the best artists. The union warned me that they 
would hit us when they could, and I believe they are at the 
bottom of this whole trouble. Then there are the men who are 
envious of our success, like some of the leaders in New York 
and Philadelphia. They began last simuner by saying Dr. 
Muck was going away. It is not well to call names, but I 
could tell you of two or three who have done what they could. 
It is a cabal which wants to throw us out, and it will succeed 
if the papers and a certain number of noisy people keep up the 
row. ... I tell you, dear child, I never have had such a pain- 
ful experience in this life. Certainly I tried my best to help 
our people and give them enjoyment and refreshment. I 
could go on in the same way if allowed, but at present I 
cannot conceive that we can play another year. One silly 
woman, whom you know, wrote me the other day that she 
didn't like the attitude of Dr. Muck. She knew no more 
about him than the man in the moon. I call it a very mean 
attitude to take, and it is a very different thing from your 
own attitude, which I respect and understand entirely. 

To get back to the two contracts which I made. One was 
with the public in various cities, to give them a certain kind 
of concert, and I will try to do it. The other is my contract with 
a lot of musicians, to give them certain employment, and I 


shall try to do it. They tell me to change the conductor. 
There is no other conductor to take, known to me. As I said 
before, they say to send these men home, but they cannot go. 
Supposing that a great German artist has painted a lot of 
beautiful pictures which your father has bought, as he did the 
great Millets, and that he offered them to the Museum and 
the Museum said, "We don't want your darned old pictures. 
They were painted by a German. Never mind if they are beau- 
tiful. We won't have them in the house." 

However, I am tired out and can think of nothing else, 
which is very childish. But if I cannot write to you, dear 
child, I don't know to whom I can write. . . . 

He turned again to President Eliot for counsel on Decem- 
ber 5: — 

• • • The feeling among good people who care much about 
the Orchestra and are most friendly to me, on this subject, 
puzzles me. This morning I have been hearing the words of 
a wise, enthusiastic lover of music and of our Orchestra. She 
takes her tickets, but she does not go because she cannot bear 
to hear these Germans play. She tells me that many, many 
people feel the same way ; and when I asked her why there were 
not many vacant seats, she said they give their seats away. 
All that, no doubt, is true, but still a very large majority is on 
the other side. It really is a question -for you and me as to 
what is right in the interests of civilization and particularly in 
the cause of our country, and I am puzzled. 

To this letter President Eliot replied, December 6: — 
" Several excellent women have said to me that they cannot 
stand seeing that hateful Dr. Muck leading admirably an 
orchestra largely composed of Germans and demonstrating 
the superiority of Germany in music during the last hundred 
years. Their judgment is overpowered by their passionate 


hatred of the actual Germany and its crimes on land and 
sea. They cannot bear to admit that Germany has any merits 
whatever, or ever had. Some of our learned men want to 
return to Germany all the honors and titles they have received 
from her, and to withdraw from membership in German 
learned societies. These, I think, must be persons whose 
imaginations deal chiefly with the present, soon become 
cloudy as to the past, and are imable to reach forward into 
the future. 

"We must admit, however, that the case of the Orchestra 
presents some difficulties besides technical ones. Music stirs 
the emotions very much at the moment of hearing it ; and the 
emotions stirred by the Orchestra in a woman who has a 
husband or a son in the Army or Navy are adverse to the per- 
formance, and particularly to the conductor. You and I are 
not sorry to remember in these day? that the American people 
as a mass has been, and is, a fighting people, prone to resort to 
force, and easily provoked to violence and combat. This is 
true of the women as well as of the men ; and when the people 
have gone to war they are not going to be considerate of alien 
enemies within the gates. 

'' I am not at all puzzled about the right course of action in 
regard to the Orchestra. I think it should be maintained 
through the War as a valuable institution of art education. 
I wish it had more of an institutional aspect. It, of course, 
appears now as the creation of an individual, which may cease 
whenever that individual dies or is disabled. • • • 

" If desired, the Orchestra might play some other national 
airs in addition to, or substitution for, the Star-Spangled 
Banner. America, for example, is a fine old German tune, 
known in England as God Save the King; and the Marseillaise 
is the best of all the national hymns. Mrs. Howe's hymn is 
set to a first-rate marching tune which would be welcome in 
many northern cities. . . . 

" Finally, I hope you are eating and sleeping well, and taking 


plenty of fresh air every day. It would be somewhat morti- 
fying if your activities should be even temporarily impaired 
in consequence of these attacks on the Orchestra and its 
conductor. ..." 

Mr. Higginson wrote to him again on December 7 : — 

. . . Not being a reasonable man, and having very strong 
feelings about this war and its causes, I sympathize with the 
people who cannot bear to hear German music or Dr. Muck 
or the men in the Orchestra. . . . On Wednesday he made an 
application for a permit, according to the wishes of the Mar- 
shal here, and thereby agreed to do nothing and say nothing 
[adverse] to our country. . • . The exact status of Dr. Muck 
will be settled presently by the Attorney-General's office. . . . 
The whole question of citizenship is very mixed and must be 
left to the experts. 

If we feel very strongly about the Germans, I understand 
that German music would hurt people's feelings; still more, 
that German musicians rendering that music would hurt 
people's feelings. No doubt the same is true of A Mighty 
Fortress is our God, for it was composed by Luther, as I under- 
stand it. The same is true of God Save the King — America. 
Both of these are matters of association. Probably many of 
the hymns which we sing in church are of German origin, and 
certainly the greatest masterpieces of music have been written 
by Germans or men with German blood. Of course there is 
a claim that Beethoven was not a German but a Dutchman, 
which is pretty much the same thing; in short, it is not a mat- 
ter of reason, but a matter of feeling, and one good that we 
get from women is that they are often governed by their feel- 
ings and not infrequently are nearer right than we are. 

The other side is this. Women make up much the larger 
part of the audiences which hear the Boston Symphony Or- 
chestra, and probably other orchestras. If the women are 
hostile or refuse to go, the audiences would be small, and 


without good audiences our Orchestra cannot play. We must 
have first-rate houses and, to that end, we must have a very 
high-grade orchestra and we must have a very high-grade con- 
ductor. • • • When people talk about it being easy to find 
them, I don't know where, and I have tried to keep myself 
informed for many years. ... I also have thought of the 
Orchestra playing other national airs, but how to bring it in 
is not easy. Anybody may say of America that it is Ger- 
man, and they probably would. I do not believe it would be 
wise to play the Marseillaise, and I have already considered 
playing Mrs. Howe's hymn, which has much more swing and 
much more charm than the Star-Spangled Banner or almost 
anything else. In a multitude of cares, we have not done it 
as yet. 

You hope that I am eating and sleeping well. I am eating 
as little as possible, and usually sleep well, which is really my 
only gift. I have slept everywhere, even in church, in a pig- 
sty, etc., but it is my gift; and I get a fair amount of fresh 
air, and I fret a great deal, which is the most unwise and in- 
jurious habit man can have. It is almost impossible to help 
it. I am foolish enough to mind the nasty letters, signed and 
unsigned. In short, I have never learned any wisdom since I 
was bom. 

As to making our Orchestra an institutional affair, how to 
do it I do not know. I have always believed that it had much 
of its success from the fact that it was so simple, that the con- 
ductor managed all the art part, that our men managed the 
business part, and that I passed on the important points, 
and nothing more. . . . 

As to the women who have husbands and brothers and sons 
and grandsons at the front, and who are nervous about them 
or else deeply grieved, there is only one word to be said. We 
must pity them, sympathize with them to the utmost. When 
I was brought home hurt in '63, and heard and saw the awful 
suffering of the women, I thought the wounds were a very 


small matter; and to-day I do not pity the young fellows who 
are going out one bit; on the contrary, envy them; but I do 
pity the women who send them, and if they are nervous or can- 
not bear to hear a German conduct the Orchestra and listen to 
German musicians in the Orchestra, I have nothing to say. 
Only they cannot have their cake and eat it too, and if they 
frown on the Orchestra and even refuse to go, though they buy 
the tickets, the game is up. • • • 

But in truth the game was more nearly " up " than even Mr. 
Higginson realized. The Orchestra had made the usual con- 
tracts for out-of-town concerts in January, February, and 
March, 191 8. On account of the continued outcry against Dr. 
Muck, the concerts in Mid-Western cities were abandoned, 
although the Department of Justice had ruled in December 
that the Orchestra, with Dr. Muck and the other "alien ene- 
mies" among the players, could go anywhere in the United 
States except to the District of Columbia. This exclusion from 
Washington was based upon a proclamation by the President 
regarding ''alien enemies." The Attorney-General and his 
assistants treated Mr. Higginson with the greatest personal 
consideration, and he accepted the rulings of the Department 
of Justice with entire loyalty. Although Dr. Muck had, on 
legal advice, refused to register in January as an "alien 
enemy," holding that his Swiss passport protected him from 
that status, the Department of Justice decided that as a former 
"denizen" of Germany, no exception could be made in his 
case. The moment the out-of-town concerts began, Mr. Hig- 
ginson had to face a new storm of protesting letters. His 
Reminiscences describe briefly the troubles in New York: — 

By and by — say in January — one or two New York 
women, backed up by one or two men, — people in good posi- 
tion, — wrote me demanding that Dr. Muck should be dis- 
missed and this or that, because he was a German and because 



they said he was doing very wrong. The correspondence went 
on more or less for a month or two, and the affair became very 
disagreeable and very annoying to me. In early February, 
owing to certain facts, I made up my mind that Dr. Muck 
should go at the end of the season (he had stayed over one year 
at my request, his contract being out), as it seemed wiser that 
he should leave us. I had promised a near friend that it should 
be done. 

In Matx:h came the last concerts in New York, and as there 
had been a great deal of abuse from that city, both from decent 
and indecent people, I went with Mrs. Higginson to the last 
concerts there — one concert in the evening Thursday, March 
14, and another in the afternoon, Saturday, March 16. On 
both occasions Dr. Muck was very well received by the audi- 
ence, and even I was applauded as I left the hall to speak to 
Dr. Muck in the intervals, both at the evening and the after- 
noon concerts. In short, his reception was perfectly good. 

These New York people had chained that we were distrib- 
uting tickets in New York and Brooklyn and givii^ them to 
soldiers and sailors, in order to fill the house with loyal peo- 
ple. This was a lie made out of whole cloth. There were no 
tickets given away and no seats to spare at the New York 
concerts or at the Brooklyn concert. On the contrary, in or- 
der not to have trouble, we stopped the sale of ''standee" 
tickets in New York. There were a few places vacant owing 
to the cavil against the Orchestra, but the season there fin- 
ished quietly. 

Yet the strain told. On February 25, Mr. Higginson confided 
to an intimate friend. Judge Frederick P. Cabot of Boston, 
his intention to retire from all connection with the Orchestra 
at the end of the season, on May 4. The proposal that a com- 
mittee should henceforth undertake the work thus far carried 
on by Major Higginson, had already been made by many 
friends. The letter follows : — 


Dear Fred : — 

• • . My present plan is to keep absolute silence until the 
end of the last concert, and then to state my case from the 
stage — viz. : that the conductor has been so harassed that he 
can only go ; and that I quit also. This plan involves a con- 
siderable statement, which can be made then and there. Any 
earlier statement would injure the concerts and make much 
trouble all around. Tell me if you approve of this plan. 

Now as to the future, if you have time to consider it and 
take action : We have reached a time, through circumstances, 
when I can drop this task without comment as to my motives, 
because the Orchestra and conductor have been attacked, and 
I also, as a man who employs Germans and, therefore, whose 
loyalty can well be doubted. As you know, various decent 
people here and in other cities have joined in this attack; so 
the moment seems opportune. 

Now, as to a conunittee to manage the Orchestra as in Chi- 
cago and Philadelphia: I do not know how it would work. 
Several times I have tried it here, and the good people always 
defer to me and ask what I want. Do you suppose a commit- 
tee can be found that will sign yearly contracts, or longer, say 
for $400,000 a year, and who will hire the hall at a loss of 
$15,000 a year, and supply the music, and get and keep the 
confidence of the men, as well as find a great conductor, and 
take him for a period of years? The hardest of all is that they 
must keep their hands and tongues off the conduct of the art 
side, or they will make trouble. 

One source of anxiety to me in all these years has been the 
chance of a large loss. It came once in a bad year of business 
to $52,000, and it sent the blood to my head. This year it will 
be more than that. I have often wondered that the luck has 
been with me so greatly, wondered that it did not hurt my 
credit ; but nobody knew the facts. Several times my father 
urged me to stop, but I was obstinate. The men, as you know, 
have come to trust in me, and have a feeling of loyalty to the 


Orchestra and to me, as well as to the public. But on this last 
point they have been rudely shaken this year. Kind opinion 
has been universal until this year. • . . 

You will note one point : I could not have stopped prudently 
at the beginning of the war, because it might have looked as 
if I had been badly hit by the war, and you know what a 
ticklish thing credit is. Now an excellent reason has arisen. 
I may say to you as an intimate friend that the load has be- 
come almost intolerable. It is with me night and day, and it 
worries me and tires my head — and that is not right to my 
wife or my partners. Very much of the joy of the concerts 
and the joy of the music is gone for me; but, again, that is of 
no consequence, for I have had my day, and had great com- 
fort from the Orchestra. 

• . . 

Another intimate friend had written on February i6: — 
'' As you asked my opinion, dismal as I feel the outlook to be 
without the Orchestra, there seems to me nothing to be done 
but to stop it before the insidious poison has spoiled the vision 
you have given us, — or obscured it, for it is immortal, — 
nothing can change that, — and it must arise 3gam for our 
salvation 'when this tyranny is over-past.' I am naturally 
obstinate and a fighter, but the powers of darkness do not 
fight fair." 

The denouement came swiftly. On March 6 Major Higgin- 
son informed Dr. Muck that his engagement would be ter- 
minated on May 4. Dr. and Mrs. Muck asked his help in 
securing a permit to leave the country, and as a final act of 
chivalrous courtesy* Mr. Higginson applied to the Washing- 
ton authorities. "They do not intend to come back. Also, 
they wish to keep their going a secret until the time comes. 
• • • I am satisfied with the fact that he has done nothing 
disloyal or injurious in any way to our country. . • • He has 

' " He has been inside our house just once since the spring of X9X4**' H. L». H. 
to Henry Cabot Lodge, April 2, 1918. 


behaved himself with absolute propriety in every respect. I 
have known him well and can testify to his honesty and honor. " 
Never were more sincere words written. 

A fortnight later, on March 25, Dr. Muck was arrested, 
and interned as an alien enemy. No specific charge against 
him was made public, in the nature of the case. But Major 
Higginson also learned, for the first time, that there was 
indisputable proof of Dr. Muck's base personal character. 
This narrative will not touch further upon that matter. The 
Reminiscences tell merely the story of the arrest of the " alien 
enemy": — 

• • • About the first of March Dr. and Mrs. Muck had 
come to my office, and Dr. Muck said he thought he would 
better leave his position, to which I replied: "Not until the 
end of the season, but at that time I think you would better 
go"; to which they assented. At that time he was preparing 
the second great choral concert of the year. He had been 
working as he had never worked before during the whole 
winter, had given one very fine choral concert two or three 
times, and was preparing the last Bach's Passion Music. At 
the last rehearsal of this music I was absent with some friends 
in Cambridge, and during the rehearsal some United States 
officers came to the hall and proposed to take Dr. Muck off 
the stage and lock him up; but, at Mr. Ellis's request, they 
waited until he came from the rehearsal, then arrested him 
and locked him up. He was not properly treated that night, 
not being allowed to change his clothes, — which were wet 
from perspiration, — and was put in a police-station cell. 
The next day he was taken to Cambridge, and, after a few 
days there, was sent to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and interned. 
The complaint against him had been that he was an enemy 
alien, so the United States attorney in Boston told my counsel, 
Mr. Clapp. . . . 

After Dr. Muck was interned, Mr. Schmidt — a full- 


blooded German — oonducted the concerts and carried the 
season through fairly well, although it was not the same thing 
as under Dr. Muck; but the Orchestra kept its swing and 
satisfied the audiences. • . • 

At the end of the season, at the last concert of Satiu'day 
evening, May 4, 191 8, I went on to the stage, stated the 
original purposes of the Orchestra, and said that I was done 
with the work, added a few words to the men of the Orchestra, 
and came away ; and that was the finish of my connection with 
that enterprise. Various friends had already been moving 
and had resolved to carry on the Orchestra, and I stated that 
fact at the last concert. . . • 

Readers of Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast" will 
never f oi^et how the good brig Alert, after beating her way in 
heavy weather around Cape Horn, came out upon the wide 
Pacific, caught the southeast trade-winds, and ran before 
them week after week toward California, without so much as 
altering a sail or bracing a yard. The tension was over, and in 
golden weather and with favoring winds the Alert made for 
port. So it was with Henry Higginson, now that the orchestra 
troubles were past. It is true that he had been very hard hit. 
He had been misrepresented, insulted, and betrayed, but he 
had not been conquered. He was made of indomitable stu£F, 
and he had "carried through." Physical suffering had accom- 
panied the worst period of his anxiety, for on that 6th of 
March, when he had told Dr. Muck that the engagement 
would cease on May 4, came a sharp attack of an old malady, 
which troubled him for many months. 

"I regret to say," he wrote Senator Lodge on April 2, 
"that these attacks and rows have stirred up trouble inside 
of my own old body, so that for four weeks I have been inca.- 
padtated for any work, and cannot travel." * He aged visibly 

* He wrote to Charles A. Coffin in May: " Tve turned over the charge of our 
Orchestra simply because the lying dirty attacks on it and me have used me up and 
given me eight weeks of real physical pain." 


that spring. Nevertheless, his correspondence shows no decline 
in mental vigor, and never had he more letters to answer. No 
one who has not seen his letter-files can have any conception 
of the number of men who presented themselves as candidates 
for the conductorship of the Orchestra. But he referred these 
aspiring artists to the committee which was organized at his 
house on April 18, and which undertook the future charge of 
of the Orchestra. He was able to appear at the final Friday 
concert on May 3, and received an ovation from the public. 
On the evening of Saturday, May 4, the Orchestra played in 
his honor the Eroica Symphony, and never more magnifi- 
cently. Major Higginson read the following brief address, in 
terminating his years of labor. It is perfect in tone and 
temper : — 

My Friends : — 

The Boston Symphony Orchestra was set up from the convic- 
tion of my youth that our country should have great and per- 
manent orchestras. In Europe I had seen the pleasiu'e and 
comfort of such orchestras, and it seemed my duty and was 
my aim to give our country the best music possible. 

To achieve this object, it was necessary to give to the con- 
ductor the sole artistic responsibility as an essential to suc- 
cess, and then to require of him and of his men a high and 
ever higher standard. To win that standard nothing has been 
spared and the aim never forgotten; and in this season oiu: 
Orchestra has reached our high-water mark. 

The concerts were offered to the whole public, but my chief 
wish and hope was to meet the needs, and satisfy the longings- 
for the beautiful art of the many people leading quiet or busy 
lives and having little enjoyment; and fiuthermore, to help in 
the education of the students of music. ^ i 

To me the concerts have been a great joy, not only because i 

of the lovely music, but chiefly because of the refreshment 
and enjoyment of the multitude of people unknown to me 


who, leading gray lives, have needed this sunshine; and this 
year it is they who have written to me a mass of warm letters 
full of gratitude for the past and of urgent requests for the 
future. To these unknown friends and to all of our audiences 
far and wide I offer my heartiest thanks. 

Thus the faith and the vision of my youth have been 

I I had hoped to have carried on the concerts during my 
lifetime; but this war has brought us many troubles, and, 
among them, the problems of the Orchestra during this season, 
which have exhausted my strength and nerves. Therefore, 
my part in our Orchestra ceases to-night, except for the popular 
concerts of this year. 

The conductors, the members of our Orchestra, and the 
office management have done their work excellently from 
first to last, and have deserved the warmest thanks and 

{To the Musicians) 

Gentlemen of the Boston Symphony Orchestra: — 

For many years we — you and I — have been good com- 
rades — an honor and a great pleasure for me. 

In these years we have worked hand and glove together, 
and have kept true to our rule, laid down at the outstart, of 
intelligent study under one conductor at a time; and we have 
reaped the reward of success sure to follow. 

We have played in many cities of the United States, and 
have won great applause and, better still, have deserved it. 

Each year has marked an advance in the quality of our 
\ music, and this year has seen our high point. 

I I like to think myself a member of our Orchestra, and have 

done my best to help you ; and, on your side, you have served 
with an intelligence and devotion not to be forgotten by the 
audiences or by me. I congratulate you, and thank you for 
our success fairly won. 

My time for work is past; and now a number of excellent 


men and women have taken my place. Of you I ask for them 
the same intelligence and devotion as in years gone by. 
My best wishes go out to you. 

{To the Audience) 

Our Orchestra has always been heartily supported by you 
and by the public throughout our country, else it coiild not 
have lived. It must live in all its strength and beauty, and 
now will be carried on by some friends who have taken it up ; 
and for them I ask the same support which you have given me 
through all these years. 

As the spring turned to summer, Major Higginson's phy- 
sicians insisted upon his taking a rest. They succeeded 
in keeping him in bed for a time, but even there he had a 
stenographer at his elbow. There were so many persons, as 
always, "to be smoothed, admonished, touched up " ! He fol- 
lowed every important move of the committee who had taken 
over the care of the Orchestra; kept in touch with the various 
phases of war-work which had their headquarters at his office; 
had his eye upon training camps, particularly those where 
Harvard students were assembled; and besides all this, as- 
sumed the responsibility of organizing community singing 
throughout Massachusetts. Never were his letters to his 
friends more genial. **The doctor says I shall be perfectly 
well by the first of October," he writes; "much better than I 
have been for a long time. Now that the load of the Orchestra 
is off my shoulders, I know what a load and care it has been, 
but I 'm very glad I have had it." Hundreds of letters express- 
ing gratitude and regard reached his bedside. William H. 
Taf t had written during the Orchestra troubles, earlier in the 
year: " If I were to name a man of the highest type of loyalty 
a*nd patriotism, I would name him to whom this letter is 
axidressed." Theodore Roosevelt wrote in August: "I hope 


you will soon be better. You have always been an inspiration, 
not only to those who knew you, but to all your countrymen, 
my dear sir." Mr. Higginson was particularly delighted with 
a letter from Elihu Root, to whom he had written offering to 
resign as trustee of the Carnegie Institute, on the groimd that 
he could no longer attend many of the meetings. Mr. Root's 
letter of dissuasion may give comfort to other elderly gentle- 
men who are wondering what service they can still render to 

October 29, 1918. 

Dear Major : — 

I have your letter of the 26th. Do not quit. What if you 
cannot attend all the meetings. What if you cannot attend 
any of them. Your continued countenance and comradeship 
are a source of strength, as they have been for the past seven- 
teen years, to an Institution which really is enlai^ng the 
bounds of human knowledge and doing honest scientific work 
in a modest and unadvertised way. Your name is an asset and 
a certificate of character. Consider this view of the opportu- 
nities of life. — A man lives a long life of active touch and 
experience in affairs ; he acquires the respect and confidence of 
the community ; his strength declines but his judgment ripens. 
As he loses his capacity for the service of youth in active exer- 
tion, he acquires capacity for a new service of discrimination 
and guidance between the true and false objects and methods 
to which the oncoming generations are to devote themselves. 
Thousands of vague proposals, visionary schemes, dishonest 
schemes, waste money and effort, come to nothing. One of 
the services a man can render in his old age is to give the 
credit acquired