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CHILD, LYDIA MARIA [FRANCIS), an American novelist and philanthropist, born at Medford, Mass., February II, 1802 ; died at Wayland, Mass., October 20, 1880. Her first novel, Hobomok, was published in 1824. For several years she was editor of the Juvenile Miscellany. In 1841, in association with her husband, Mr. David Lee Child, she became the editor of the Anti-Slavery Standard
The following story is told of the beginning of her authorship: Having been for several years removed from all literary associations, she one Sunday, while on a visit to her brother, a clergyman of Watertown, happened to read, in the North American Review, Dr. Palfrey's article on Yamoyden, in which the adaptation of New England history to the purposes of fiction was eloquently set forth. She had never written a word for the press, never dreamed of turning author; but the spell was on her, and seizing a pen, within two or three hours she had composed the first chapter of Hobomok just as it is printed. She showed it to her brother, and her young ambition was flattered by his exclamation : " But, Maria, did you really write this? Do you mean to say that it is entirely your own?” “ The excellent Doctor,” says Dr. Griswold, in relating this incident, “ little knew the effect of his words; her fate was fixed, and in six weeks Hobomok was finished."
Speaking of the influences which contributed to making Mrs. Child a literary woman, the Atlantic Monthly, in its review of her Letters, said: “Her formative period was that curious and interesting one when there was a serene and not self-conscious provincialism in New England; when foreign and ancient literature and lise were quietly measured by standards kept in the neighborhood of Boston Common; when there was a flower of culture which was entirely of native growth and production ; when New York was a remote and interesting region to be reported upon by travellers; and when all questions of philosophy and religion were to be determined with a calm disregard of the rest of the world, for the use of the descendants of the Puritans and Pilgrims. This prevalent tone of intellectual and moral life was apparent in Mrs. Child to the end of her days. It gave her an innocent audacity in handling themes which required larger equipment than she could bring into service, and made her, even when professing an inquiry into history, and a large human experience, to be curiously obliv. ious of great historic movements. All this was common enough in the New England of her early days, but the book which she prepared just before her death, Aspirations of the World, was just as provincial as if it had been written forty years before, when New England had its own exclusive prophets and philosophers."
Among her numerous writings are The Rebels, A Tale of the Revolution, Philothea, A Romance of Greece, The Mother's Book, The Girl's Book, The American Frugal Housewife, A History of the Condition of Women of all Ages and Nations, Biographies of Good Wives, The Family Nurse, The Coronal, Pieces in Prose and Verse, Flowers for Children, Fact and Fiction, Memories of Madame de Staël and Madame Roland, Life of Isaac T. Hopper, Letters from New York, Progress of Religious Ideas through the Ages, Autumnal Leaves, Looking Toward Sunset, The Freedman's Book, and A Romance of the Republic.
Following the railroad, which lay far beneath our feet, as we wound our way over the hills, we came to the burying-ground of the poor. Weeds and brambles grew along the sides, and the stubble of last year's grass waved over it, like dreary memories of the past; but the sun smiled on it, like God's love on the desolate soul. It was inexpressibly touching to see the frail memorials of affection, placed there by hearts crushed under the weight of poverty. In one place was a small rude cross of wood, with the initials J. S. cut with a penknife, and apparently filled in with ink. In another a small hoop had been bent into the form of a heart, painted green, and nailed on a stick at the head of the grave. On one upright shingle was painted only, "MUTTER; "the German word for “Mother." On another was scrawled, as if with charcoal, “ So ruhe wohl, du unser liebes Kind." (Rest well, our beloved child.) One recorded life's brief history thus: “H. G., born in Bavaria ; died in New York.” Another short epitaph in French told that the speaker came from the banks of the Seine.
The predominance of foreign epitaphs affected me deeply. Who could now tell with what high hopes those departed ones had left the heart homes of Germany, the sunny hills of Spain, the laughing skies of Italy, or the wild beauty of Switzerland ? Would not the friends they had left in their childhood's home weep scalding tears to find them in a pauper's grave, with their initials rudely carved on a fragile shingle. Some had not even these frail memorials. It seemed there was none to care whether they lived or died. Returning homeward, we passed a Catholic buryingground. It belonged to the upper classes, and was filled with marble monuments, covered with long inscriptions. But none of them touched my heart like that rude shingle, with the simple word “MUTTER" inscribed thereon.—Letters from New York.
A LITTLE WAIF.
The other day I went forth for exercise merely, without other hope of enjoyment than a farewell to the setting sun, on the now deserted Battery, and a fresh kiss from the breezes of the sea, ere they passed through the polluted city, bearing healing on their wings. I had not gone far, when I met a little ragged urchin, about four years old, with a heap of newspapers, “more big than he could carry,” under his little arm, and another clenched in his small red fist. The sweet voice of childhood was prematurely cracked into shrillness by screaming street cries, at the top of his lungs, and he looked blue, cold, and disconsolate. May the angels guard him! How I wanted to warm him in my heart.
I stood looking after him as he went shivering along. Imagination followed him to the miserable cellar where he probably slept on dirty straw. I saw him flogged after his day of cheerless toil, because he had failed to bring home pence enough for his parents' grog ; I saw wicked ones come muttering, and beckoning between his young soul and heaven ; they tempted him to steal to avoid the dreaded beating. I saw him years after, bewildered and frightened, in the police office surrounded by hard faces. Their law-jargon conveyed no meaning to his ear, awakened no slumbering moral sense, taught him no clear distinction between right and wrong ; but from their cold, harsh tones, and heartless merriment, he drew the inference that they were enemies ; and as such he hated them. At that moment, one tone like a mother's voice might have wholly changed his earthly destiny ; one kind word of friendly counsel might have saved him-as if an angel, standing in the genial sunlight, had thrown to him one end of a garland, and gently diminishing the distance between them, had drawn him safely out of the deep and tangled labyrinth, where false echoes and winding paths conspired to make him lose his way. But watchman and constables were around him, and they have small fellowship with angels. The strong impulses that might have become overwhelming love for his race, are perverted to the bitterest hatred. He tries the universal resort of weakness against force ; if they are too strong for him, he will be too cunning for them. Their cunning is roused to detect his cunning ; and thus the gallows-game is played, with interludes of damnable merriment from police reports, whereat the heedless multitude laugh ; while angels weep over the slow murder of a human soul. God grant the little shivering carrier-boy a brighter destiny than I have foreseen for him.-Letters from New York.
TO WHITTIER ON HIS SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY.
I thank thee, friend, for words of cheer,