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Henry Lee Higginson's
Thoughts on Charles Lowell and Stephen Perkins

In 1907, Edward Waldo Emerson's Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell was published, citing in it a letter from Henry Lee Higginson to Emerson (no date given). In this letter, Higginson shares his thoughts on friends from childhood who died during the war: Charles Lowell and Stephen Perkins. He remembered these friends all his life, and what they represented to him motivated Higginson's actions in his later adulthood. The following passages are excerpts from Higginson's letter.


Charles LowellIt was about mind and spirit and the meaning of life that I used to hear Charley discussing with Stephen Perkins. Neither of them took anything for granted, as it were, in such conversations, which I suppose is the only true attitude.

They both of them had an immense belief in the natural affections, such as love of one's family, maternity, and the like, but this far-away, lofty mood was a thing that Charley indulged in at times, and it is all the more strange because of his great capacity for active, practical life, and his enjoyment of it. He was, at one time, crazy about self-development, and, as you can see by his letters, he threw that over, by and by, for the higher wish to do his duty to his fellow creatures in the world.

Stephen Perkins
This love of practical life, dealing with daily affairs, Stephen Perkins didn't enjoy, but he did enjoy the intellectual life enormously. It was a wonderful thing to see him—very handsome and tall, with a complexion and hair that any woman would envy, dressed with care—acting as second lieutenant in the Second [Mass.] Infantry and directing the men in sweeping the company street, cleaning the kitchens, and making the camp tidy. It was really a pitiful sight, for he belonged where his brain could be used, and not where common hands were needed. He was always very particular in the care of his own person, just as Charley was—they couldn't bear to have dirty hands for half an hour.

They both really loved their friends very much. They didn't mind vexing them, and their tongues would wag very freely—but they loved their friends dearly. Irish in part they both were; Stephen from the Sullivan family, and Charley from the Tracy family. Another point about Charley was his immense love for the young,—young animals, young people,—and he would have been very glad to have a large family....


Special thanks to Brian Pohanka for providing the following materials: Excerpts of Higginson's letter from Edward Waldo Emerson's Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1907; image of Charles Russell Lowell (top) from Emerson's book, and image of Stephen Perkins (bottom) from Mr. Pohanka's collection.


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