The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Sara H. Browne/A Salutation to Fredrika Bremer

A Salutation to Fredrika Bremer
by Sara H. Browne


When America bids you welcome, sweet Lady of the Norseland, it is not as a stranger. With the lineaments of your countenance, to be sure, she cannot assert familiarity, but then how small a portion of one’s individuality is the face! Useful indeed it is to its possessor, and pleasant to look upon as the medium of noble, or gentle, or playful emotions; but ah! how much may be learned of a human being with no knowledge of the physical outline! The soul can speak with a voice so clear and far-resounding that “nations, and tongues, and people,” catch the strain and echo it from heart to heart till the speaker is lost in what she has spoken! Thus is it, Lady of the Norseland, between you and America, when she takes you by the hand to greet your first footstep on the soil.

The great, the rich, the titled sometimes come from the Fatherland to view our cities, our forests, our lakes, our foaming cataracts, our lofty mountains, our interminable caverns. The splendour of their retinue and appointments dazzles the eye as they dash from object to object. They stare at this, wonder at that, dance a few measures at somebody’s fancy ball, dine with a bevy of our millionaires, shake hands with their wives and daughters, and are off in the next steamer to write a book of travels! And it is well thought of, this book of travels; for it reminds the American reader of what he had otherwise speedily forgotten, viz., that the author has actually been and gone! Few heard of him before he came—few saw him—few cared to recollect him when he had taken leave, and, save a smile or two awakened by the book of travels, he is altogether as though he were not. Such travellers must ever be strangers—when they come, and while they tarry, and when they depart. No bosom swells joyfully at the mention of their names, if indeed they are mentioned out of the small circle which has been in personal contact. They have done nothing, said nothing, attempted nothing which deserves daguerreotyping in a nation’s memory, how lofty soever their station, how noble their descent; and they must be content with the tribute of forgetfulness!

But when Fredrika Bremer declares her resolution to cross the world of waves which roll between us and the Norseland, and the papers, circulating in the huts and hamlets all over our broad land, echo that intention, an emotion of a different kind is stirred, and thousands of glad young voices from the cabin as well as from the villa, exclaim, “Welcome to her!” There is no need to explain who she is, or whence she comes—there is not a hamlet in all the land where the question could not be intelligently answered, accompanied with a hearty “God bless her!”

What has made the difference between them? between these scores of gay, and proud, and rich, and great, who move among us like meteors from time to time, and this one woman, whose soft and steady starlight has reached us long before the path of her orbit had brought her hitherward, to shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day?

He has made it, Lady of the Norseland, who anointed you high priestess of the affections in their truest and purest exercise! He, who inspired your pen to consecrate and sanctify the Home! He, who constrained you to pour out from its full fountain such rills and rivers of Love and Concord, of Peace and Hope, and every element of the better life!

Then come among us, and be sure of a benediction. Come to our cots as well as to our palaces—to our wild woods as well as to our gardens—to our hearts as well as to our hearths, and you shall find that we too have our “Homes,” our “Brothers and Sisters,” our “Neighbours,” our Lares and Penates, with their shrines and vestals, our loves and lovers, our jealousies and fears, as well as all gentler and lovelier emotions. Come and see.

From the class which the writer of these lines would represent, a welcome especially sincere and warm will everywhere await you. Homes like hers you have entered again and again with a soft and soothing tread—communicating a peace and joy, a contentedness with life and labour and care—a knowledge that others have borne our burdens of grief and disappointment, have wept our tears and endured our agonies, have cherished our hopes and aimed at our mark; impressing too a conviction that others will yet find strength and courage, faith and fruition, from balmy words welling up from a loving heart, and dropping like diamonds from sweet sympathizing lips! Lone dwellers with nature are we—afar from tower and town, from noise and bustle and business; with forest and lake, hill and village for our wild landscape, with needle and books, music and flowers for society, through the long winter without a “Midnight Sun.” Lights that have burned around the hearthstone have been here and there put out. A silvery head has lately gone from its “old arm-chair” to heaven. Alas! alas! in what Home will you not find one ever vacant chair? Hedvig too has gone, to make a heaven in a newly consecrated household; and sometimes we, the small remnant, repine for a little while, but anon, we are cheered, for we look joyfully onward and aloft, awaiting a sure reunion day; and sweet words, which your dear pen has traced, teach us lessons of Life, of inner, deeper, spiritual Life, whose peace and repose, like a broad still river, sweeps along until it is lost in the ocean depths of Eternity and God!

Yes, you have made blessed such homes as ours. Come to them, and make them lighter and lovelier, by starting an echo of your own human voice, and a reflection of your own human smile, and we will love you better—and for ever!