Today’s post comes courtesy of Clara Endicott Sears, Emilie’s friend and fellow author. Clara descended from colonial governors and a family tree of Boston Brahmin names—Winthrop, Peabody, Sears, Crowninshield, and Endicott. She had a fortune, an enviable figure, and constant attention in the society pages.
When she was in Boston, Clara swept about in social circles, praised for her beauty, poise and pedigree. Then she retreated to her personal haven of solitude, a home she built for herself, to write histories, create museums, and ponder her own spirituality.
The key to Clara was not external acclaim but rather, the power within.
And that’s where this little book came in. After a youthful pining for a man she could not have, and while still caring for her invalid mother, Clara took herself in hand and decided to make a difference in life, to stand for something on her own.
She bought land in Harvard, Massachusetts and built herself a grand home on a hill. “The Pergolas” had a cloister (!) lined with busts of philosophers she admired. Her gardens overlooked the Nashaway Valley where native Americans, Shakers, and Transcendentalists had tried their own ways of living.
Clara liked Transcendentalist ideas, and she gathered a year’s worth of quotations into a little volume for herself that she published privately in 1911–because, if you’re very rich, and you collect some quotes you like, of course you publish a sweet, little volume instead of just keeping them in a notebook.
Twenty years later, when she had authored histories, poems, and songs, and her Fruitlands Museum was well-established, she made more copies of her little book. She gave them to friends with whom she felt a special sympathy, including Emilie Loring. Emilie wrote to Clara that she read The Power Within daily and asked for another copy to give to her sister-in-law.
My copy comes from a final printing in 1949, and it was a gift, too. I was searching through the Fruitlands Museum archives and struck up a conversation with one of the staff. She was tickled to hear that I was working on Emilie Loring’s biography, because she had read her books, too (Seeking: Millions of Readers). After I showed her photos of Emilie that I had in my computer, she disappeared a moment into a back room and came back with this book. It wasn’t for sale; she gave me a copy she had on hand. It was a special kindness.
So my introduction to The Power Within was exactly what Clara Endicott Sears intended:
“This little volume must radiate serenity and happiness in order to fulfill its mission.”
She wrote in the Foreword:
The thoughts this little book contains cannot fail to give poise to those who have lost their bearings; –a reasonable and well-founded joy to those who have become disheartened, and a law of living which makes even the rough places along the path seem worth while.
They have done this for me.
They will do it for you.
I have never known them to fail.
Clara Endicott Sears
With assurance like that, it seems right to end with a thought for the day. Clara compiled the book herself, so let’s look at the quote she chose for her own birthday, December 16:
“You carry into company not only your body, but what is of far more importance, your thought, or mood of mind, and this thought or mood, though you say little or nothing, will create with others an impression for or against you, and as it acts on other minds will bring you results favorable or unfavorable according to its character. What you think is of far more importance than what you say or do, because your thought never ceases for a moment its action upon others.”
Prentice Mulford, in The Power Within
For more about Clara, see Cynthia H Barton’s biography:
History’s Daughter: The Life of Clara Endicott Sears, Founder of Fruitlands Museum, 1988.