from DAUGHTERS OF THE PURITANS By SETH CURTIS BEACH
Mary Lovell Ware
Of all the saints in the calendar of the Church there is no name more worthy of the honor than that of Mary Lovell Ware. The college of cardinals, which confers the degree of sainthood for the veneration of faithful Catholics, will never recognize her merits and encircle her head with a halo, but when the list of Protestant saints is made up, the name of Mary L. Ware will be in it, and among the first half dozen on the scroll.
The writer was a student in the Divinity School at Cambridge when a classmate commended to him the Memoirs of Mrs. Ware as one of the few model biographies. It was a book not laid down in the course of study; its reading was postponed for that convenient season for which one waits so long; but he made a mental note of the “Memoirs of Mary L. Ware,” which many years did not efface. There is a book one must read, he said to himself, if he would die happy.
Mrs. Ware’s maiden name was Pickard. To the end of her days, when she put herself in a pillory as she often did, she called herself by her maiden name. “That,” she would say, “was Mary Pickard.” I infer that she thought Mary Pickard had been a very bad girl.
Her mother’s name was Lovell,–Mary Lovell,–granddaughter of “Master Lovell,” long known as a classical teacher in colonial Boston, and daughter of James Lovell, an active Revolutionist, a prominent member of the Continental Congress and, from the end of the war to his death, Naval officer in the Boston Custom House. Mr. Lovell had eight sons, one of whom was a successful London merchant, and one daughter, who remained with her parents until at twenty-five she married Mr. Pickard and who, when her little girl was five years old returned, as perhaps an only daughter should, to take care of her parents in their old age. So it happened that the childhood of Mrs. Ware was passed at her grandfather Lovell’s, in Pearl St., Boston, then an eligible place of residence.
Mr. Pickard was an Englishman by birth, and a merchant with business connections in London and Boston, between which cities, for a time, his residence alternated. Not much is said of him in the Memoirs, beyond the fact that he was an Episcopalian with strong attachment to the forms of his church, as an Englishman might be expected to be.
Of Mrs. Pickard we learn more. She is said to have possessed a vigorous mind, to have been well educated and a fine conversationalist, with a commanding figure, benignant countenance, and dignified demeanor, so that one said of her, “She seems to have been born for an empress.” Like her husband she was an Episcopalian though, according to the Memoirs, less strenuously Episcopalian than Mr. Pickard. She had been reared in a different school. Her father,–Mr. James Lovell–we are told, was a free-thinker, or as the Memoirs put it, “had adopted some infidel principles,” and “treated religion with little respect in his family.” The “infidels” of that day were generally good men, only they were not orthodox. Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and Washington were such infidels. After Channing’s day, this kind of man here in New England was absorbed by the Unitarian movement, and, as a separate class, disappeared. Mrs. Pickard was bred in this school and she appears never to have forgotten her home training. “She was unostentatious and charitable,” says an early friend, “and her whole life was an exhibition of the ascendency of _principle_ over mere taste and feeling.”
Her religious attitude becomes interesting, because in an exceptional degree, she formed her remarkable daughter,–who was an only child and until the age of thirteen had no teacher except this forceful and level-headed mother.
With these antecedents, Mary Lovell Pickard was born in Boston, October 2, 1798, John Adams being then President. In 1802, Mary having passed her third summer, Mr. Pickard’s business called him to London, where he resided with his family two years, so that the child’s fifth birthday was duly celebrated in mid-ocean on the homeward voyage. In a letter of Mrs. Pickard, written during this London residence, she says, “Mr. Pickard is even more anxious than I to go home. Mary is the only contented one. She is happy all the time.” There is so much that is sad in this record that, before we have done, the reader will be glad the little girl had at least a bright and sunny childhood to remember. It appears she did remember it. It may not be remarkable, but it is interesting, that the experiences of this early London life,–between her third and fifth year,–made an indelible impression upon her, so that twenty years later when she was again in England, much to her own delight, she “recognized her old London home and other objects with which she was then familiar.”
A lady who was a fellow passenger of the Pickards on their homeward voyage was struck by the gentle management of the mother and the easy docility of the child. To say, “It will make me unhappy if you do that,” was an extreme exercise of maternal authority, to which the child yielded unresisting obedience. This, of course, is told to the credit of the child, but the merit, probably belongs to the mother. Doubtless we could all have such children if we were that kind of a parent. A little tact, unfailing gentleness, and an infinite self control: with these, it would seem one may smile and kiss a child into an angel.
On arriving in Boston, Mrs. Pickard took her family to her father’s, where she remained until her death, and where, we read, “with parents and grandparents, Mary found a home whose blessings filled her heart.” Being an only child, with four elderly persons, Mary was likely to be too much petted or too much fretted. We are glad to know that she was not fretted or over-trained. In a letter of retrospect, she writes, “For many years a word of blame never reached my ears.” An early friend of the family writes, “It has been said that Mary was much indulged; and I believe it may be said so with truth. But she was not indulged in idleness, selfishness, and rudeness; she was indulged in healthful sports, in pleasant excursions, and in companionship with other children.”
Everything went smoothly with her until the age of ten when, rather earlier than most children, she discovered her conscience: “At ten years of age I waked up to a sense of the danger of the state of indulgence in which I was living”; but let us hope the crisis was not acute. It does not seem to have been. According to the testimony of her first teacher, she was simply precocious morally, but not at all morbid. Her school was at Hingham, whither she was sent at the age of thirteen. The teacher says that with her “devotedness to the highest objects and purposes of our existence, she was one of the most lively and playful girls among her companions, and a great favorite with them all.”
There seems to have been really no cloud upon her existence up to this point,–the age of thirteen. I have had a reason for dwelling upon this charming period of her childhood, untroubled by a cloud, because from this date until her death, the hand of God seems to have been very heavy upon her, afflictions fell upon her like rain, and it required a brave spirit to carry the burdens appointed for her to bear. Happily, she had a brave spirit, did not know that her life was hard, “gloried in tribulation,” like St. Paul, and was never more cheerful or thankful than when she was herself an invalid, with an invalid husband to be cared for like a baby, seven children to be clothed and fed, and not enough money at the year’s end to square accounts. Ruskin tells of a servant who had served his mother faithfully fifty-seven years. “She had,” he says, “a natural gift and specialty for doing disagreeable things; above all, the service of the sick-room; so that she was never quite in her glory unless some of us were ill.” It will be seen further on that these were only a part of the accomplishments of Mrs. Ware. It is fortunate if a woman is so made that her spirits rise as her troubles thicken, but the reader of the story will be thankful that her life was not all a battle, that her childhood was more than ordinarily serene and sunny, and that not for a dozen years at least, did she have to be a heroine in order to be happy.
Mary had been in Hingham about half a year, enjoying her school-girl life, when her mother was taken ill, fatally ill as it proved, and the child, then at the age of thirteen, was called home and installed in the sick-room as nurse. This was the beginning of sorrow. The mother lingered through the winter and died in the following May. There remained of the family, the grandparents, one son of fine talents, but of unfortunate habits, and her father, “broken in spirits and in fortune, clinging to his only child with doting and dependent affection.” We can see that it could not have been a cheerful home for a young girl of thirteen. Some thirty years later, she wrote to one of her children, “I think I have felt the want all my life of a more cheerful home in my early childhood, a fuller participation in the pleasures and ‘follies’ of youth.” I put this reflection here, because it does not apply to the years preceding the loss of her mother while it exactly fits the period that now follows.
The year following her mother’s death, Mary attended a girls’ school in Boston. A passage from a letter written at this period will show something of her quality. It is dated February 27, 1813, when she was fourteen and a few months. Besides, she had been at school, six months at a time, a total of about one year. She had been mentioning two or three novels, and then discourses as follows: “Novels are generally supposed to be improper books for young people, as they take up the time which ought to be employed in more useful pursuits; which is certainly very true; but as a recreation to the mind, such books as these cannot possibly do any hurt, as they are good moral lessons. Indeed, I think there is scarcely any book from which some good may not be derived; though it cannot be expected that any young person has judgment enough to leave all the bad and take only the good, when there is a great proportion of the former.” Perhaps I am wrong in thinking this an exhibition of remarkable reflection and expression in a girl well under fifteen, whether she had been at school or otherwise. Mrs. Ware was always a wonderful letter-writer, though, if we take her word for it, she had little of her mother’s gift as a conversationalist. It seems to have been a life-long habit to see the old year out and the new year in, spending the quiet hours in writing letters to her friends. In one of these anniversary letters, written when she was fifteen, she says, “I defy anyone to tell from my appearance that I have not everything to make me happy. I have much and am happy. My little trials are essential to my happiness.” In that last sentence we have the entire woman. Her trials were always, as she thought, essential to her happiness.
On this principle, her next twelve years ought to have been very happy, since they were sufficiently full of tribulation. The two years following her mother’s death, passed in the lonely home in Boston, were naturally depressing. Besides, she was born for religion, and the experience through which she had passed had created a great hunger in her soul. Trinity Church, into which she had been baptized, had not yet passed through the hands of Phillips Brooks, and its ministrations, admirable as they are for the ordinary child, were inadequate for the wants of a thoughtful girl like Mary Pickard. The final effect was, she says, to throw her more upon herself and to compel her to seek, “by reading, meditation and prayer, to find that knowledge and stimulus to virtue which I failed to find in the ministrations of the Sabbath.”
At this critical period, she returned to the school at Hingham, which she had left two years before, and there, in the Third Church, then presided over by Rev. Henry Colman, one of the fathers of the Unitarian heresy, she found peace and satisfaction to her spirit. Ten years later, she spent a week in Hingham, visiting friends and reviving, as she says, the memory of the “first awakening of my mind to high and holy thoughts and resolves.” The crisis which, elsewhere, we read of at the age of ten, was a subordinate affair. This Hingham experience, at the age of sixteen, was really the moral event in her history.
As hers was a type of religion,–she would have said “piety”,–a blend of reason and sentiment, peculiar to the Unitarianism of that generation, hardly to be found in any household of faith to-day, we must let her disclose her inner consciousness. One Saturday morning, she writes a long letter to one of her teachers saying that she feels it a duty and a privilege “to be a member of the Church of Christ,” but she fears she does not understand what the relation implies, and says, “Tell me if you should consider it a violation of the sacredness of the institution, to think I might with impunity be a member of it. I am well aware of the condemnation denounced on those who _partake_ unworthily.” She refers to the Lord’s Supper. It is to be hoped that her teacher knew enough to give the simple explanation of that dark saying of the apostle about eating unworthily. At all events, she connected herself with the church, received the communion, and was very happy. “From the moment I had decided what to do, not a feeling arose which I could wish to suppress; conscious of pure motives, all within was calm, and I wondered how I could for a moment hesitate. They were feelings I never before experienced, and for once I realized that it is only when we are at peace with ourselves that we can enjoy true happiness…. I could not sleep, and actually laid awake all night out of pure happiness.”
After a few months, sooner than she expected, she returns to Boston and sits under the ministrations of Dr. Channing, to her an object of veneration. She writes that her heart is too full for utterance: “It will not surprise you that Mr. Channing’s sermons are the cause; but no account that I could give could convey any idea of them. You have heard some of the same class; they so entirely absorb the feelings as to render the mind incapable of action, and consequently leave on the memory at times no distinct impression.” I should like to quote all she says of Channing, both as a revelation of him, and of herself. She heard him read the psalm, “What shall I render unto God for all his mercies?” and says, “The ascription of praise which followed was more truly sublime than anything I ever heard or read.” It must have been an event,–it certainly was for her,–to listen to one of Dr. Channing’s prayers: “It seems often to me, while in the hour of prayer I give myself up to the thought of heaven, as though I had in reality left the world, and was enjoying what is promised to the Christian. I fear, however, these feelings are too often delusive; we substitute the love of holiness for the actual possession.”
There her sanity comes in to check her emotionalism. She is reflecting upon another experience with Dr. Channing when she comes very near making a criticism upon him. She tells us that she does not mean him; he is excepted from these remarks, but she says, “There are few occasions which will authorize a minister to excite the feelings of an audience in a very great degree, and none which can make it allowable for him to rest in mere excitement.” To complete the portraiture of her soul, I will take a passage from a letter written at the age of twenty-five, when death has at last stripped her of all her family, “I believe that all events that befall us are exactly such as are best adapted to improve us; and I find in a perfect confidence in the wisdom and love which I know directs them, a source of peace which no other thing can give; and in the difficulty which I find in acting upon this belief I see a weakness of nature, which those very trials are designed to assist us in overcoming, and which trial alone can conquer.”
Mary Pickards were not common even in that generation, but this creed was then common, and this blend of reason and religious feeling, fearlessly called “piety,” was characteristic of Channing, her teacher, and of Henry Ware, afterward her husband. It was the real “Channing Unitarianism.” Pity there is no more of it.
Mary was sixteen years old,–to be exact, sixteen and a half; the serene and beautiful faith of Channing had done its perfect work upon her; and she was now ready for whatever fate, or as she would have said, Providence, might choose to send. It sent the business failure of Mr. Pickard, in which not only his own fortune was swept away but also the estate of Mr. Lovell was involved. Upon the knowledge of this disaster, Mary wrote a cheerful letter, in which she said: “I should be sorry to think you consider me so weak as to bend under a change of fortune to which all are liable.” Certainly she will not bend, but she is obliged to quit school and return to the shattered home.
Before the summer was over, her grandfather, Mr. Lovell, died; whether the end was hastened by the financial embarrassments in which Mr. Pickard had involved him, is not said. Mrs. Lovell, the grandmother, followed her husband in two years,–for Mary, two years of assiduous nursing and tender care. Perhaps one sentence from a letter at this time will assist us in picturing her in this exacting service. She says that she is leading a monotonous existence, that her animal spirits are not sufficient for both duty and solitude, “And when evening closes, and my beloved charge is laid peacefully to rest, excitement ceases, and I am thrown on myself for pleasure.”
With the death of the grandmother, the home was broken up, and Mary, trying to help her father do a little business without capital, went to New York city as his commercial agent. Her letters to her father are “almost exclusively business letters,” and he on his part gives her “directions for the sale and purchase, not only of muslins and moreens, but also of skins, saltpetre, and the like.”
Details of this period of her career are not abundant in the Memoirs, and the death of her father, in 1823, put an end to her business apprenticeship.
Apparently, she was not entirely destitute. At the time of his disaster, her father wrote, “As we calculated you would, after some time, have enough to support yourself, without mental or bodily exertion.” That is, presumably, after the settlement of her grandfather’s estate. As her biographer says, “Every member of her own family had gone, and she had smoothed the passage of everyone.” But she had many friends, and one is tempted to say, Pity she could not have settled down in cozy quarters and made herself comfortable.
Indeed she did make a fair start. She joined a couple of friends, going abroad in search of health, for a visit to England. She had relatives on the Lovell side, in comfortable circumstances near London, and an aunt on her father’s side, in the north of England, in straightened circumstances. She resolved to make the acquaintance of all these relatives.
The party arrived in Liverpool in April, 1824, and for a year and a half, during which their headquarters were in London, Paris was visited, Southern England and Wales were explored, and finally the Lovell relatives were visited and found to have good hearts and open arms. For these eighteen months, Mary Pickard’s friends could have wished her no more delightful existence. She had tea with Mrs. Barbauld, heard Irving, then the famous London preacher, and saw other interesting persons and charming things in England. There is material for a very interesting chapter upon this delightful experience. It was followed by a drama of misery and horror, in which she was both spectator and actor, when young and old died around her as if smitten by pestilence, and her own vigorous constitution was irreparably broken.
This episode was vastly more interesting to her than the pleasant commonplace of travel, and much more in keeping with what seems to have been her destiny. In the autumn of her second year abroad, she went to discover her aunt, sister of Mr. Pickard, in Yorkshire. The writer of the Memoirs says that this visit “forms the most remarkable and in some respects the most interesting and important chapter of her life.” She found her aunt much better than she expected, nearly overpowered with joy to see her, living in a little two story cottage of four rooms, which far exceeded anything she ever saw for neatness. The village bore the peculiarly English name of Osmotherly, and was the most primitive place she had ever been in. The inhabitants were all of one class and that the poorer class of laborers, ignorant as possible, but simple and sociable. Terrible to relate, smallpox, typhus fever, and whooping cough were at that moment epidemic in that village.
It will be impossible to put the situation before us more briefly than by quoting a passage from one of her letters: “My aunt’s two daughters are married and live in this village; one of them, with three children, has a husband at the point of death with a fever; his brother died yesterday of smallpox, and two of her children have the whooping-cough; added to this, their whole dependence is upon their own exertions, which are of course entirely stopped now…. You may suppose, under such a state of things, I shall find enough to do.”
The death of the husband, whom of course Miss Pickard nursed through his illness, is reported in the next letter, which contains also this characteristic statement, “It seems to me that posts of difficulty are my appointed lot and my element, for I do feel lighter and happier when I have difficulties to overcome. Could you look in upon me you would think it impossible that I could be even tolerably comfortable, and yet I am cheerful, and get along as easily as possible, and am in truth happy.”
Evidently, all we can do with such a person is to congratulate her over the most terrible experiences. In a letter five days later, the baby dies of whooping-cough, and in her arms; a fortnight later, the mother dies of typhus fever; within another month, two boys, now orphans, are down with the same fever at once, and one of them dies. In the space of eight weeks, she saw five persons of one family buried, and four of them she had nursed. By this time, the aunt was ill, and Miss Pickard nursed her to convalescence.
This campaign had lasted three months, and she left the scene of combat with a clear conscience. She was allowed a breathing spell of a month in which to visit some pleasant friends and recuperate her strength, when we find her back in Osmotherly again nursing her aunt. It was the end of December and she was the only servant in the house. Before this ordeal was over, she was taken ill herself, and had to be put to bed and nursed. In crossing a room, a cramp took her; she fell on the floor, lay all night in the cold, calling in vain for assistance. She did not finally escape from these terrible scenes until the end of January, five months from the time she entered them.
Miss Pickard returned to Boston after an absence of about two years and a half, during which time, as one of her friends wrote her, “You have passed such trying scenes, have so narrowly escaped, and done more, much more, than almost any body ever did before.” She went away a dear school-girl friend and a valued acquaintance; she was welcomed home as a martyr fit to be canonized, and was received as a conquering heroine.
In a letter dated from Gretna Green, where so many run-away lovers have been made happy, she playfully reflects upon the possibilities of her visit, if only she had a lover, and concludes that she “must submit to single blessedness a little longer.” Our sympathies would have been less taxed if she had submitted to single blessedness to the end. Why could she not now be quiet, let well enough alone, and make herself comfortable? Destiny had apparently ordered things for her quite differently. One cannot avoid his destiny, and it was her destiny to marry, and marriage was to bring her great happiness, tempered by great sorrows.
The man who was to share her happiness and her sorrows was Rev. Henry Ware, Jr., then the almost idolized minister of the Second Church, in Boston. Mr. Ware was the son of another Henry Ware, professor of theology at Harvard, whose election to the chair of theology in 1806 opened the great Unitarian controversy. Two sons of Professor Ware entered the ministry, Henry and William, the latter the first Unitarian minister settled in New York city. Rev. John F. Ware, well remembered as pastor of Arlington St. Church in Boston, was the son of Henry, so that for more than half a century, the name of Ware was a great factor in Unitarian history.
After Dr. Channing, Henry Ware was perhaps the most popular preacher in any Boston pulpit. One sermon preached by him on a New Year’s eve, upon the Duty of Improvement, became memorable. In spite of a violent snow storm, the church was filled to overflowing, a delegation coming from Cambridge. Of this sermon, a hearer said: “No words from mortal lips ever affected me like those.” There was a difference between Unitarian preaching then and now. That famous sermon closed like this: “I charge you, as in the presence of God, who sees and will judge you,–in the name of Jesus Christ, who beseeches you to come to him and live,–by all your hopes of happiness and life,–I charge you let not this year die, and leave you impenitent. Do not dare to utter defiance in its decaying hours. But, in the stillness of its awful midnight, prostrate yourselves penitently before your Maker; and let the morning sun rise upon you, thoughtful and serious men.” One does not see how the so-called ‘Evangelicals’ could have quarreled with that preaching.
Mr. Ware had been in his parish nine years, his age was thirty-two, he was in the prime of life, and at the climax of his power and his popularity. Three years before, he had been left a widower with three young children, one of whom became Rev. John F. Ware. That these two intensely religious natures, that of Mary Pickard and that of Henry Ware, should have been drawn together is not singular. In writing to his sister, Mr. Ware speaks tenderly of his late wife and says, “I have sought for the best mother to her children, and the best I have found.” Late in life, one of these children said, “Surely God never gave a boy such a mother or a man such a friend.”
Miss Pickard engaged to be a very docile wife. “Instead of the self-dependent self-governed being you have known me,” she writes to a friend, “I have learned to look to another for guidance and happiness.” She is “as happy as mortal can be.” Indeed it was almost too much for earth. “It has made me,” she says, “more willing to leave the world and enjoy the happiness of heaven than I ever thought I should be. Strange that a thing from which of all others, I should have expected the very opposite effect, should have done this.”
The year following the marriage of these saintly lovers,–one can call them nothing less,–was one of exceeding happiness and of immense activity to both. It is not said, but we can see that each must have been a tonic to the other. Considerate persons felt a scruple about taking any of the time of their pastor’s wife. “Mrs. Ware,” said one, “at home and abroad, is the busiest woman of my acquaintance,” and others felt that way. Before the year ended, Mrs. Ware had a boy baby of her own to increase her occupations and her happiness. It lived a few bright years, long enough to become a very attractive child and to give a severe wrench to her heart when it left her. This experience seems to have a certain fitness in a life in which every joy was to bring sorrow and every sorrow, by sheer will, was to be turned to joy.
Of Mr. Ware, it is said that this first year “was one of the most active and also, to all human appearance, one of the most successful of his ministry.” He put more work into his sermons, gave increased attention to the details of his parish, delivered a course of lectures, and undertook other enterprises, some of which are specified; and, during a temporary absence of Mrs. Ware, wrote her that he had hoped he had turned over a new leaf, “but by foolish degrees, I have got back to all my accustomed carelessness and waste of powers, and am doing nothing in proportion to what I ought to do.”
But man is mortal, and there is a limit to human endurance. Mr. Ware could not lash himself into greater activity; but he was in good condition to be ill. In a journey from Northampton, he was prostrated by inflammation of the lungs, with hemorrhages, and after several weeks, Mrs. Ware, herself far from well, went to him and finally brought him home. This was the beginning of what became a very regular annual experience. I met a lady who was brought up on the Memoirs of Mary L. Ware, and who briefly put what had impressed her most, in this way: She said, “It seemed as though Mr. Ware was always going off on a journey for his health, and that Mrs. Ware was always going after him to bring him home”; if we remember this statement, and add the fact that these calls came more than once when Mrs. Ware was on the sick list herself, we shall be able greatly to shorten our history.
This was the end of Mr. Ware’s parish work. He was nursed through the winter and, in early spring, Mrs. Ware left her baby and took her invalid husband abroad, in pursuit of health, spending a year and a half in England, Holland, Switzerland, and Italy. It was, she afterward said, the most trying period of her life. Mr. Ware alternated between being fairly comfortable and very miserable, so that these Memoirs say “He enjoyed much, but suffered more.” Still the travels would be interesting if we had time to follow them.
Near the close of the first year abroad, Mrs. Ware’s second child was born in Rome, and, although this was as she would have said, “providential,” never was a child less needed in a family. Mrs. Ware had then two babies on her hands, and of these, her invalid husband was the greater care. In the following August, Mrs. Ware arrived in Boston with her double charge, and had the happiness to know that Mr. Ware was somewhat better in health than when he left home, a year and a half before.
His parish, during his absence, had been in the care of a colleague, no other than the Rev. Ralph Waldo Emerson. If you remember the New Year’s Eve sermon of Mr. Ware, it will be evident that he must have left behind him a very conservative parish, and you will not be surprised that in about four years, Mr. Emerson found his chains intolerable.
Mr. Ware had been invited to a professorship in the Harvard Divinity School, and it was to this and not to his parish that he returned. For the steady, one might say monotonous, duties of his professorship, Mr. Ware’s health was generally sufficient. The lecture room did not exact the several hundred parish calls then demanded by a large city church, nor the exhausting effort which Mr. Ware and Dr. Channing put into the delivery of a sermon; and the lectures, once prepared, could be delivered and re-delivered from year to year. Real leisure was impossible to one of Mr. Ware’s temperament, but here was a life of comparative leisure; and for Mrs. Ware, who shared all the joys and sorrows of her husband, the twelve years that follow brought a settled existence and very much happiness. Neither her own health nor that of her husband was ever very firm, and there was always a great emptiness in the family purse, but with Mrs. Ware, these were, as with Paul, “light afflictions” which were but for a moment, and she did not let them disturb her happiness.
Impossible as it may seem, they contributed to her happiness. She made them contribute to it. She says in a letter of 1831, “Of my winter’s sickness I cannot write; it contained a long life of enjoyment, and what I hoped would be profitable thought and reflection.” She repeats this statement to another correspondent, and says, with apparent regret, that the illness did not bring her “to that cheerful willingness to resign my life, after which I strove.” You cannot send this woman any trial which she will not welcome, because she wants to be made to want to go to heaven, and she is as yet not quite ready for it.
Mr. Ware has been dangerously ill, and of course she could not spare herself for heaven until he recovered, but this trial did something quite as good for her: “My husband’s danger renewed the so oft repeated testimony that strength is ever at hand for those who need it, gave me another exercise of trust in that mighty arm which can save to the uttermost, and in its result is a new cause for gratitude to Him who has so abundantly blessed me all the days of my life.” It is good to see what the old-fashioned doctrine that God really is, and is good, did for one who actually believed.
That first baby, whom she left behind when she went abroad with her invalid husband, died in 1831; the mother fainted when the last breath left the little body; but this is the way she writes of it: “I have always looked upon the death of children rather as a subject of joy than sorrow, and have been perplexed at seeing so many, who would bear what seemed to me much harder trials with firmness, so completely overwhelmed by this, as is frequently the case.”
After that, one is almost ashamed to mention the trifle that the income of this family was very small. Mr. Ware, after 1834 _Dr._ Ware, held a new professorship, the endowment of which was yet mostly imaginary. The social demands took no account of the family income; the unexpected guest always dropping in; at certain times, it is said, “shoals of visitors;” and the larder always a little scantily furnished. If one wants to know how one ought to live under such circumstances, here is your shining example. “There were no apologies at that table,” we are told. “If unexpected guests were not always filled, they were never annoyed, nor suffered to think much about it.” “I remember,” says a guest, “the wonder I felt at her humility and dignity in welcoming to her table on some occasion a troop of accidental guests, when she had almost nothing to offer but her hospitality. The absence of all apologies and of all mortification, the ease and cheerfulness of the conversation, which became the only feast, gave me a lesson never forgotten, although never learned.”
The problem of dress was as simple to Mrs. Ware as was the entertainment of her guests. “As to her attire,” says an intimate friend, “we should say no one thought of it at all, because of its simplicity, and because of her ease of manners and dignity of character. Yet the impression is qualified, though in one view confirmed, by hearing that, in a new place of residence, so plain was her appearance on all occasions, the villagers suspected her of reserving her fine clothes for some better class.” There are those who might consider these circumstances, very sore privations. What Mrs. Ware says of them is, “I have not a word of complaint to make. We are far better provided for than is necessary to our happiness.” I am persuaded that this is an immensely wholesome example and that more of this kind of woman is needed to mother the children of our generation. In a letter to one of her daughters, she says she has great sympathy with the struggles of young people, that she had struggles too and learned her lessons young, that she found very early in life that her own position was not in the least affected by these externals, “I soon began to look upon my oft-turned dress with something like pride, certainly with great complacency; and to see in that and all other marks of my mother’s prudence and consistency, only so many proofs of her dignity and self-respect,–the dignity and self-respect which grew out of her just estimate of the true and the right in herself and in the world.”
We have seen enough of this woman to discover that she could not be made unhappy, and also to discover why. It was because her nature was so large and strong and fine. Sometimes she thinks Dr. Ware would be better and happier in a parish, “But I have no care about the future other than that which one must have,–a desire to fulfil the duties which it may bring.” Surely that is being,
“Self-poised and independent still On this world’s varying good or ill.”
In 1842, Dr. Ware’s health became so much impaired that Mrs. Ware entertains an unfulfilled desire. It is to get away from Cambridge, which had become so dear to them all. “I scruple not to say that a ten-foot house, and bread and water diet, with a sense of rest to _him_, would be a luxury.” The family removed to Framingham, where Dr. Ware died, a year later. Whatever tribulations might be in store for Mrs. Ware, anxiety on his account was not to be one of them.
Death came on Friday; on Sunday, Mrs. Ware attended church with all her family, and the occasion must have been more trying for the minister who preached to her than for herself. A short service was held that Sunday evening at six, and “Then,” she says, “John and I brought dear father’s body to Cambridge in our own carriage; we could not feel willing to let strangers do anything in connection with him which we could do ourselves.” Think of that dark, silent lonely ride from Framingham to Cambridge! But here was a woman who did not spare herself, and did not ask what somebody would think of her doings.
After this event, the Memoirs tell us that a gentleman in Milton gave her a very earnest invitation to go there and take the instruction of three little children in connection with her own. In this occupation she spent six years of great outward comfort and usefulness. There is much in these years, or in the letters of these years, of great interest and moral beauty. Even with young children to leave, she speaks of death as serenely as she would of going to Boston. “I do not feel that I am essential to my children. I do not feel that I am competent to train them.”
Of her last illness, one of her children wrote, “Never did a sick room have less of the odor of sickness than that. It was the brightest spot on earth.” “Come with a _smile_,” she said to a friend whom she had summoned for a last farewell, and so went this remarkable and exceptionally noble woman.