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Harriet Martineau
by [?]

No college professor can see so far as a Sioux Indian, neither can he hear so well as a native African. There are rays of light that no unaided human eye can trace, and there are sounds subtler than human ear can detect. These five bodily faculties that we are pleased to call the senses were developed by savage man. He holds them in common with the brute. And now that man is becoming partly civilized he is in danger of losing them. Faculties not used are taken away. Dame Nature seems to consider that anything you do not utilize is not needed; and as she is averse to carrying dead freight she drops it out.

But man can think, and the more he thinks and the further he projects his thought, the less need he has for his physical senses. Homer’s matchless vision was the rich possession of a blind man; Milton never saw Paradise until he was sightless, and Helen Keller knows a world of things that were neither told to her in lectures nor read from books. The far-reaching intellect often goes with a singularly imperfect body, and these things seem to point to the truth that the body is one thing and the soul another.

I make no argument for impoverished vitality, nor do I plead the cause of those who enjoy poor health. Yet how often do we find that the confessional of a family or a neighborhood is the bedside of one who sees the green fields only as did the Lady of Shalott, by holding a looking-glass so that it reflects the out-of-doors. Let me carry that simile one step further, and say that the mirror of the soul when kept free from fleck and stain, reveals the beauties of the universe. And I am not sure but that the soul, freed from the distractions of sense and the trammels of flesh, glides away to a height where things are observed for the first time in their true proportions.

“The soul knows all things,” says Emerson, “and knowledge is only a remembering.”

* * * * *

The Martineaus were Huguenots, a stern, sturdy stock that suffered exile rather than forego the right of free-thought and free speech. These are the people who are the salt of the earth. And yet as I read history I see that they are the people who have been hunted by dogs, and followed by armed men carrying fagots. The driving of the Huguenots from France came near bankrupting the land, and the flight of Jews and Huguenots into England helped largely to make that country the counting-house of the world. Take the Quakers, Puritans, Huguenots and other refugees from America and it is no longer the land of the free or the home of the brave.

Of the seven Presidents who presided over the deliberations of that first Continental Congress in Philadelphia, three were Huguenots: Henry Laurens, John Jay and Elias Boudinot, and in the seats there were Puritans not a few.

“By God, Sir, we can not afford to persecute the Quakers,” said a certain American a long while ago. “Their religion may be wrong, but the people who cling to an idea are the only people we need. If we must persecute, let us persecute the complacent.”

Harriet Martineau had all the restless independence of will that marked her ancestry. She set herself to acquire knowledge, and she did. When she was twenty she spoke three languages and could read in four. She knew history, astronomy, physical science, and it crowded her teacher in mathematics very hard to keep one lesson in advance of her. Besides, she could sew and cook and “keep house.” Yet it was all gathered by labor and toil and lift. By taking thought she had added cubits to her stature.