Catalogue


The magnificent activist : the writings of Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) /
edited by Howard N. Meyer.
edition
1st Da Capo Press ed.
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Da Capo Press, c2000.
description
xviii, 618 p. ; 23 cm.
ISBN
0306809540 (paperback)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
added author
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Da Capo Press, c2000.
isbn
0306809540 (paperback)
catalogue key
3846520
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
First Chapter


Chapter One

Not by Bread Alone

    There are two kinds of what may be called Thanksgiving.

    There is a gratitude which, showing itself in thought and works, as love for the giver of all good things, temporal and things spiritual--shows itself whenever occasion is found, in love for man and unfailing service in the unrestrained imparting to others of whatever good is given, in wide philanthropy, in remembering those in bonds as "bound with them," the poor as having them always with us,--and this Thanksgiving, whether it show itself in its practical attitude, or its devotional, is especially bestowed and accepted.

    There is another kind which is less worthy. Its gratitude is superficial, or at least self-deceptive. Recognizing temporal goods as the beginning and the end of all blessing, the one thing needful in life, it dwells on its happiness in securing them, if it does secure them with such intense vividness that it seems like thankfulness ; it calls itself grateful because it is glad, and exults that it is not as other men are. It forgets that Christ said "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which it possesseth," and values itself above others by comparative worldly possessions. It forgets that we are "not to live by bread alone," and by bread alone, that is by the body, its comforts and luxuries, by material acquisitions and triumphs does it live. This kind of Thanksgiving is in fact vainglory, material enslavement of the mind.

    Yet it is the ordinary vice of our society ... this avarice, this materialism, this money-getting, this "living by bread alone," is our peculiar sin and must be recognized as such and especially today, because, as I said, it comes so close to our Thanksgiving, as often to counterfeit it, intercept it, and take its place. And this temptation to to fall in with the popular estimate, and sacrifice conscience to comfort, the soul to "bread" is very terribly strong.

    It takes many shapes.

    It comes to the mechanic in the form of poor work and mind puffing; it comes to the merchant in the form of buying too cheap and selling too dear; it comes to the lawyer and the preacher in the form of supporting bad causes and opposing good ones; it comes finally, to the majority of the community in their political relations, just now in a peculiar form, which, because it is very important and very apparent, I shall take as the illustration of my text. Another presidential election has just passed. The plans I spoke of long since (a year ago, last August, you may remember) as being made to place another slaveholding president at the head of this nominally free republic, have been developed, consummated, carried through, with the consent and approval, nay the enthusiasm, of a majority of you.

    If the fact seemed important enough to allude to it then when I was here as an occasional preacher, and had no ties with you, you can hardly think it is strange if I hold it enough so to speak of it now, when the majority of you have defined your position on it, and that position, so widely different (as you know) from mine.... do you not see that by your expressions of delight at at the result of the election , you have voluntarily foregone all the defense you had when you endlessly lamented for the "necessary evil, ..." you have accepted the triumph as your triumph, and rejoiced over it and for that you are now to be held accountable.... you knew that the ultra slave men of the South electioneered for and chose him on this ground--bargaining, however, for as many northern votes as they wanted. You knew that he was a man professedly of not the smallest political knowledge, a mere warrior, a mere slaveholder and never could have been nominated or chosen but by this ultra slave influence.

(Continues...)

Excerpted from THE MAGNIFICENT ACTIVIST by . Copyright © 2000 by Howard N. Meyer. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-07-17:
Massachusetts-born Higginson was a 19th-century Renaissance man. He was an active abolitionist, a supporter of women's rights and an accomplished essayist. This collection of his essays captures Higginson's many talents and interests. "Obeying the Higher Law" offers a response to the Fugitive Slave Law. "The Fact of Sex" argues that it is precisely because men and women are fundamentally different that women need the voteÄwomen "never can, and never will be, justly represented by" men. In "Negro Spirituals," Higginson gives thanks that during the Civil War, when he commanded an all-black Union regiment, he was able to learn some of the haunting melodies and arresting lyrics. "Scripture Idolatry" confronts the question of biblical authority; Higginson writes that advances in scholarship are bound to show that Scripture is not infallible, and he hopes that people's faith in God will not be shattered when the infallibility of Scripture is challenged. Several of Higginson's essays marry literary criticism with politics. In "Sappho," for example, he assesses the poet's work and also urges Americans to create a society where more women will be free to write great poetry. (Higginson was a crucial correspondent and friend of Emily Dickinson.) "The Clergy and Reform" takes ministers to task for failing to speak out against the "social evils against which we know that Christ if alive would have protested." There are dozens of similarly delightful, challenging essays in this volume; kudos to biographer and historian Meyer (The Amendment that Refused to Die) for making it possible for a wide audience of readers to once again enjoy the wit and insight of Thomas Wentworth Higginson. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2001-01-03:
Meyer collects the writings--many obscure and out of print--of the gifted minister and 19th-century American man of letters, Thomas Wentworth Higginson. During his eventful life, Higginson played a leading part in the abolitionist movement, secretly funded John Brown, openly campaigned for women's rights and suffrage, commanded the first black army regiment of the Civil War (during which he wrote the notes for what later became the classic Army Life in a Black Regiment, 1870), befriended and championed the writings of Emily Dickinson and Helen Hunt Jackson, wrote extensive travelogues and naturalist writings that influenced a later generation of environmentalists, penned lengthy and moving obituaries of the galaxy of reformers who were his friends--just to name some of his activities. Of himself, he modestly wrote that "my great intellectual difficulty is having too many irons in the fire"; but as editor Meyer points out, this is precisely what makes him fascinating and relevant to contemporary readers. An absolute must for libraries, scholars of US history and letters, and a delight for general readers. P. Harvey; University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Appeared in Library Journal on 2000-08-01:
Largely unknown today yet highly regarded historically and part of the inner circle that included William Lloyd Garrison, Lydia Marie Childs, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Thomas Wentworth Higginson deserves to be a part of the nation's memory. This selection of his engrossing and eclectic writings illuminates his life and legacy. Though Higginson is probably most often cited for his discovery and support of Emily Dickinson, this book offers evidence of his activism and passion for racial and gender equality, literature, theology, nature, and anti-imperialist efforts. This reviewer couldn't help wishing that Higginson were alive today to lead the current debates on race, feminism, militarism, religion, globalism, and environmentalism. Edited by Meyer (The Amendment That Refused To Die), this marvelous collection has an equally marvelous introduction that provides a substantive biographical profile and discussion of an exciting period in American history. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.DSherri Barnes, Univ. of California Lib., Santa Barbara (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, July 2000
Publishers Weekly, July 2000
Library Journal, August 2000
New York Times Book Review, August 2000
Choice, January 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
A Da Capo original: The extraordinary writings of one of the most vigorous, effective-and overlooked-shapers of American history, and the rediscovery of an American visionary.
Main Description
Thomas Wentworth Higginson is little known today, but during his own lifetime his remarkable activism put him at the very heart of the pivotal social movements reshaping America for the nineteenth century and beyond. Born in Cambridge, he was a fervent abolitionist, running guns to anti-slavery settlers and financing John Brown's raid. During the Civil War, he commanded the first black unit to fight for the Union, and their achievements (publicized in his classic Army Life in a Black Regiment ) opened the way for further black enlistment. He also championed women's rights for sixty years, lecturing and agitating for suffrage. His lifelong correspondence with Emily Dickinson led to his editing her verse for publication, which some have called his greatest literary legacy. But in fact that legacy is here, in the essays he wrote about the many causes to which he dedicated his life. With this volume Meyer has guaranteed the rediscovery of a major American figure whose ideas made him a radical in his society but a visionary in ours.
Main Description
Thomas Wentworth Higginson is little known today, but during his own lifetime his remarkable activism put him at the very heart of the pivotal social movements reshaping America for the nineteenth century and beyond. Born in Cambridge, he was a fervent abolitionist, running guns to anti-slavery settlers and financing John Brown's raid. During the Civil War, he commanded the first black unit to fight for the Union, and their achievements (publicized in his classic Army Life in a Black Regiment ) opened the way for further black enlistment. He also championed women's rights for sixty years, lecturing and agitating for suffrage. His lifelong correspondence with Emily Dickinson led to his editing her verse for publication, which some have called his greatest literary legacy. But in fact that legacy is here, in the essays he wrote about the many causes to which he dedicated his life. With this volume Meyer has guaranteed the rediscovery of a major American figure whose ideas made hima radical in his society but a visionary in ours.
Main Description
Thomas Wentworth Higginsonis little known today, but during his own lifetime his remarkable activism put him at the very heart of the pivotal social movements reshaping America for the nineteenth century and beyond. Born in Cambridge, he was a fervent abolitionist, running guns to anti-slavery settlers and financing John Brown's raid. During the Civil War, he commanded the first black unit to fight for the Union, and their achievements (publicized in his classicArmy Life in a Black Regiment) opened the way for further black enlistment. He also championed women's rights for sixty years, lecturing and agitating for suffrage. His lifelong correspondence with Emily Dickinson led to his editing her verse for publication, which some have called his greatest literary legacy. But in fact that legacy is here, in the essays he wrote about the many causes to which he dedicated his life. With this volume Meyer has guaranteed the rediscovery of a major American figure whose ideas made him a radical in his society but a visionary in ours.
Publisher Fact Sheet
The extraordinary writings of Emily Dickinson's editor, who was also one of the most overlooked shapers of American history.
Unpaid Annotation
Thomas Wentworth Higginson is little known today, but during his own lifetime his remarkable activism put him at the very heart of the pivotal social movements reshaping America for the nineteenth century and beyond. Born in Cambridge, he was a fervent abolitionist, running guns to anti-slavery settlers and financing John Brown's raid. During the Civil War, he commanded the first black unit to fight for the Union, and their achievements (publicized in his classic Army Life in a Black Regiment) opened the way for further black enlistment. He also championed women's rights for sixty years, lecturing and agitating for suffrage. His lifelong correspondence with Emily Dickinson led to his editing her verse for publication, which some have called his greatest literary legacy. But in fact that legacy is here, in the essays he wrote about the many causes to which he dedicated his life. With this volume Meyer has guaranteed the rediscovery of a major American figure whose ideas made him a radical in his society but a visionary in ours.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Chronology
Introductionp. 1
Abolitionist and Champion of Civil Rightsp. 41
Not by Bread Alonep. 47
The School of Mobsp. 52
Obeying the Higher Lawp. 60
A Ride Through Kanzasp. 74
Assorted Lots of Young Negroesp. 101
The New Revolution: What Commitment Requiresp. 106
Why Back John Brown?p. 117
Miss Forten on the Southern Questionp. 124
Letter to the Editorp. 128
The South Carolina Blacksp. 130
Letter to The Nation: "The Case of the Carpet-baggers"p. 133
Southern Barbarityp. 136
Lydia Maria Childp. 138
William Lloyd Garrisonp. 155
Fourteen Years Laterp. 162
Colonel of the First Black Regimentp. 175
The Black Troops: "Intensely Human"p. 178
Negro Spiritualsp. 190
Camp Diaryp. 212
The Negro as Soldierp. 233
Grantp. 247
Memo from War of the Rebellionp. 260
Crusader for Women's Rightsp. 263
Ought Women to Learn the Alphabet?p. 266
Who Was Margaret Fuller?p. 283
The Shadow of the Haremp. 303
The Pleasing Art of Self-Extinctionp. 306
Repression at Long Rangep. 309
The Fact of Sexp. 312
Womanhood and Motherhoodp. 315
"Chances"p. 318
Essayist as Activistp. 321
The Clergy and Reformp. 324
A New Counterblastp. 331
Scripture Idolatryp. 344
The Sympathy of Religionsp. 354
Public and Private Virtuesp. 375
"Tell the Truth"p. 378
More Mingled Racesp. 381
Edward Bellamy's Nationalismp. 384
The Complaint of the Poorp. 396
Where Liberty is Not, There is My Countryp. 399
How Should a Colored Man Vote in 1900?p. 402
Higginson Answers Captain Mahanp. 404
Naturalistp. 411
Water-Liliesp. 414
Snowp. 427
Oldport Wharvesp. 447
The Life of Birdsp. 457
The Procession of the Flowersp. 471
Critic as Essayistp. 483
Sapphop. 489
The Word Philanthropyp. 506
Unconscious Successesp. 515
Longfellow as a Poetp. 518
A Letter to a Young Contributorp. 528
Emily Dickinsonp. 543
The Sunny Side of the Transcendental Periodp. 565
The Literary Pendulump. 577
Henry James, Jr.p. 581
Bibliographyp. 587
Publishing Historyp. 591
About the Authorp. 596
Indexp. 597
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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