An Autobiography HTML version
satisfied. I began by saying that I undertook the work for two reasons--first, to make my
audience more familiar with the writings of two poets very dear to me; and second, to
make easier henceforward for any woman who felt she had something to say to stand up
and say it. I felt very nervous, and as if my knees were giving way; but I did not show
any nervousness. I read the lecture, but most of the quotations I recited from memory.
Not having had any lessons in elocution, I trusted to my natural voice, and felt that in this
new role the less gesticulation I used the better. Whether the advice of Demosthenes is
rightlv translated or not--first requisite, action; second, action; third, action--I am sure
that English word does not express the requisite for women. I should rather call it
earnestness--a conviction that what you say is worth saying, and worth saying to the
audience before you. I had a lesson on the danger of overaction from hearing a gentleman
recite in public "The dream of Eugene Aram," in which he went through all the
movements of killing and burying the murdered man. When a tale is crystallized into a
poem it does not require the action of a drama. However little action I may use I never
speak in public with gloves on. They interfere with the natural eloquence of the hand.
After these lectures I occasionally was asked to give others on literary subjects.
At this time I began to study Latin with my nephew, a boy of 14. He was then an orphan,
my youngest and beloved sister Mary having recently died and left her two children to
my care. My teacher thought me the more apt pupil, but it was really due more to my
command of English than to my knowledge of Latin that I was able to get at the meaning
of Virgil and Horace. When it came to Latin composition I was no better than the boy of
14. Before the death of my sister the family invested in land in Trinity street, College
Town, and built a house. Mother had planned the house she moved into when I was six
months old, and she delighted in the task, though she said it seemed absurd to build a
house in her seventy-ninth year. But she lived in it from January, 1870, till December,
1887, and her youngest daughter lived in it for only ten months. Before that time I had
embarked with my friend, Miss Clark, on one of the greatest enterprises of my life--one
which led to so much that my friends are apt to say that, if I am recollected at all, it will
be in connection with the children of the State and not with electoral reform. But I
maintain now, as I maintained then, that the main object of my life is proportional
representation, or, to use my brother John's term, effective voting.