What did I care for preachers and theological arguments? What matter who sent me my bread, or whether I had any? What matter for anything, so long as I had a canvas and some paints, with that long perspective of faces and figures crowding up and begging to be painted. The face of every one I knew was there, with every line and varying expression, and in each I seemed to read the inner life in the outer form. Oh, how they plead with me! What graceful lines and gorgeous colors floated around me! I forgot God, and did not know it; forgot philosophy, and did not care to remember it; but alas! I forgot to get Bard’s dinner, and, although I forgot to be hungry, I had no reason to suppose he did. He would willingly have gone hungry, rather than give any one trouble; but I had neglected a duty. Not only once did I do this, but again and again, the fire went out or the bread ran over in the pans, while I painted and dreamed.
My conscience began to trouble me. Housekeeping was “woman’s sphere,” although I had never then heard the words, for no woman had gotten out of it, to be hounded back; but I knew my place, and scorned to leave it. I tried to think I could paint without neglect of duty. It did not occur to me that painting was a duty for a married woman! Had the passion seized me before marriage, no other love could have come between me and art; but I felt that it was too late, as my life was already devoted to another object—housekeeping.
It was a hard struggle. I tried to compromise, but experience soon deprived me of that hope, for to paint was to be oblivious of all other things. In my doubt, I met one of those newspaper paragraphs with which men are wont to pelt women into subjection: “A man does not marry an artist, but a housekeeper.” This fitted my case, and my doom was sealed.
I put away my brushes; resolutely crucified my divine gift, and while it hung writhing on the cross, spent my best years and powers cooking cabbage. “A servant of servants shall she be,” must have been spoken of women, not negroes.
Friends have tried to comfort me by the assurance that my life-work has been better done by the pen, than it could have been with the pencil, but this cannot be. I have never cared for literary fame; have avoided, rather than sought it; have enjoyed the abuse of the press more than its praise; have held my pen with a feeling of contempt for its feebleness, and never could be so occupied with it as to forget a domestic duty, while I have never visited a picture gallery, but I have bowed in deep repentance for the betrayal of a trust.
Where are the pictures I should have given to the world? Where my record of the wrongs and outrages of my age; of the sorrows and joys; the trials and triumphs, that should have been written amid autumn and sunset glories in the eloquent faces and speaking forms which have everywhere presented themselves, begging to be interpreted? Why have I never put on canvas one pair of those pleading eyes, in which are garnered the woes of centuries?