Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Samuel Gridley Howe to Theodore Parker, August 2, 1850

Edinburgh, August 2nd, 1850.

My Dear Parker: — I have not heard a word from you since I left home, and this causes me regret, because I have no means of answering the questions which I am always asking myself about you and your health and your doings, &c. &c. Do give me the means of satisfying myself.

I was amused and pleased the other day in London, being in the private reading-room of the great Athenaeum Club: — among the books upon the centre table was one much thumb-worn and evidently greatly in use, and I took it up to see what it was; — what think you,— the Bible, — or Hoyle, — or the Court Guide? No; — Parker's Discourses!

I find you useful sometimes even here, as a means of interesting people in my poor talk. The other day, visiting a very quiet family in the country, I found an ancient maiden lady in the library whom I did not know, — that is, we had not been introduced. We tried to talk, but it was dry work, and the weather and politics, &c. were soon used up. At last she, finding I was an American, asked if I knew Theodore Parker, the new light; upon which I said, in Yankee phrase, that “I guessed I did not know anybody else,” — upon which the antiquated maiden grew suddenly bright and animated, waxed warm in looks, and was at once only a bright middle-aged lady. She knew all about you too, and believed in you, and said you were the man for her money, &c., &c. Luckily for you she had never read the description of you by the correspondent of the New York Mirror. I told the maiden that you were not so well stricken in years as you looked. “In short,” said I, “Mr. Parker is not an old man by any means, and though you could hardly believe it if you should see him in the pulpit, he is not much older than I am!

There! did I not pay you a compliment? If you think not, ask Felton, who was not ashamed to pass for my father!

I have come up here to attend the meeting of the British Scientific Association, which you should do next year. I have seen a few big bugs, and some who only feel big; and some little bugs who may be big ones by and by. It is a beautiful city, as you know, and if it were not so confounded cold I should enjoy the remarkable scenery about it more than I do.

I have not done anything since I left home worth writing about. My principal business has been dawdling about the streets, studying nothing, paying close attention to nothing. I let my poor, weak brain lie fallow, and am almost ashamed of so doing; but que voulez vous? one cannot use up his brains and have them too.

I have found out that in the matter of idiocy they do not know so much in England as they do in France, and in France not half so much as they and the world think they do. The French are a little given to charlatanism, it must be said, and the Idiot School of Paris does allow the world to think that the wonderful things done in it are wonderful, upon the supposition that the forward pupils are idiots, which they are not. . . .

Believe me, dear Parker, most truly yours,
S. G. Howe.

SOURCE: Laura E. Richards, Editor, Letters and Journals of Samuel Gridley Howe, Volume 2, p. 316-7

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