Whittier Cameo        
Elizabeth Lloyd Howell        
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Elizabeth Lloyd Howell

I first met John in Philadelphia at the home of his cousins, the Wendalls, when he was working at the anti-slavery headquarters. I illustrated his writings in a copy book of prose and poems. I thought it would be a good thing if he could publish all his Indian and traditional poetry; so he contacted James Fields of the publishing house Ticknor and Fields.

When he was back working in Lowell as the editor of Middlesex Standard, he wrote to me that it was not the kind of city to inspire poetry, living among the din of the shuttles. He also wrote that "he must labor with head or hands if necessary, for the maintenance of that pecuniary independence which every honorable mind must seek after."

sammi_0656-denoise-clear_cp1_fx1_med.jpg People speculated about us marrying, but he said that he "admired me and respected me too highly to think of marrying me." Even having said that, John may have been under the impression that we may be together someday, but it was not to be. I had a growing distaste for Quakers and was becoming an Episcopalian, and John had no use for the religion.

As we were drifting apart, I wrote and asked him for definite understanding of why we would not be together - he said his way of life was old fashioned and homey and that he could not bear the restraints of fashion and society. And that I lived in a different world. Neither of us spent any time lamenting that we were not to marry.

I ended up marrying Robert Howell. When my husband died in 1853, Whittier came to Philadelphia to cheer me up, but I was not able to receive him due to ill health. At that point John would have liked to renew our twenty year friendship. I think his love for me had never died. His health was better, he was earning more money from his writings, and only had his sister Elizabeth dependent on him. But my health was not good and I ended up in a sanitarium in Elmira, NY for hydrotherapeutic treatments to ease my pain.

Years later, Whittier's affection for me was reflected in the poems that he wrote. He even wanted to dedicate a volume of poems to me. But in the meantime I asked him to destroy letters that I had written to him. We drifted further apart, I with my beliefs, he with his.

After a visit with me in Princeton, he wrote a poem about a walk we took and sent me a copy. I sent him an Episcopal sermon hoping that he would have an open mind, but it may have offended him as he began his letter back with "My Dear Friend," not "Dear Elizabeth" as he had so many times before. Even though there was no engagement, it was said that I "was the love of his life."

Note. Whittier's simplicity was that of a child. He was very shy. Each summer a group of friends and invited guests would gathered at The Laurels, now site of today's Maudsley State Park in Newburyport, to celebrate poetry, music, good food and friendship. When people got up to speak, he would hide in the back of the bushes so as not to call attention to himself.

As retiring as he was, he brought authors of a real talent before the public who might otherwise have waited a long time for their recognition. At this time a writer who came into his life was Mary Abigail Dodge, who wrote under the pen name Gail Hamilton.