Part 2 out of 4
Ever could we rove over those sunny distances, breathing that modulated
wind, eyeing those so well-blended, imaginative, yet thoughtful
surfaces, and above us wide--wide a horizon effortless and superb as a
"I was a prisoner where you glide, the summer's pensioned guest, and my
chains were the past and the future, darkness and blowing sand. There,
very weary, I received from the distance a sweet emblem of an
incorruptible, lofty and pervasive nature, but was I less weary? I was
a prisoner, and you, plains, were my prison bars.
"Yet never, O never, beautiful plains, had I any feeling for you but
profoundest gratitude, for indeed ye are only fair, grand and majestic,
while I had scarcely a right there. Now, ye stand in that past day,
grateful images of unshattered repose, simple in your tranquillity,
strong in your self-possession, yet ever musical and springing as the
footsteps of a child.
"Ah! that to some poet, whose lyre had never lost a string, to whom
mortality, kinder than is her custom, had vouchsafed a day whose down
had been untouched,--that to him these plains might enter, and flow
forth in airy song. And you, forests, under whose symmetrical shields of
dark green the colors of the fawns move, like the waters of the river
under its spears,--its cimeters of flag, where, in gleaming circles of
steel, the breasts of the wood-pigeons flash in the playful sunbeam, and
many sounds, many notes of no earthly music, come over the well-relieved
glades,--should not your depth pass into that poet's heart,--in your
depths should he not fuse his own?"
The other letters show the painter's eye, as this the poet's heart.
"Springfield, Illinois, May 20, 1840.
"Yesterday morning I left Griggsville, my knapsack at my back, pursued
my journey all day on foot, and found so new and great delight in this
charming country, that I must needs tell you about it. Do you remember
our saying once, that we never found the trees tall enough, the fields
green enough. Well, the trees are for once tall, and fair to look upon,
and one unvarying carpet of the tenderest green covers these marvellous
fields, that spread out their smooth sod for miles and miles, till they
even reach the horizon. But, to begin my day's journey. Griggsville is
situated on the west side of the Illinois river, on a high prairie;
between it and the river is a long range of bluffs which reaches a
hundred miles north and south, then a wide river bottom, and then the
river. It was a mild, showery morning, and I directed my steps toward
the bluffs. They are covered with forest, not like our forests, tangled
and impassable, but where the trees stand fair and apart from one
another, so that you might ride every where about on horseback, and the
tops of the hills are generally bald, and covered with green turf, like
our pastures. Indeed, the whole country reminds me perpetually of one
that has been carefully cultivated by a civilized people, who had been
suddenly removed from the earth, with all the works of their hands, and
the land given again into nature's keeping. The solitudes are not
savage; they have not that dreary, stony loneliness that used to affect
me in our own country; they never repel; there are no lonely heights, no
isolated spots, but all is gentle, mild, inviting,--all is accessible.
In following this winding, hilly road for four or five miles, I think I
counted at least a dozen new kinds of wild flowers, not timid, retiring
little plants like ours, but bold flowers of rich colors, covering the
ground in abundance. One very common flower resembles our cardinal
flower, though not of so deep a color, another is very like rocket or
phlox, but smaller and of various colors, white, blue and purple.
Beautiful white lupines I find too, violets white and purple. The vines
and parasites are magnificent. I followed on this road till I came to
the prairie which skirts the river, and this, of all the beauties of
this region, is the most peculiar and wonderful. Imagine a vast and
gently-swelling pasture of the brightest green grass, stretching away
from you on every side, behind, toward these hills I have described, in
all other directions, to a belt of tall trees, all growing up with noble
proportions, from the generous soil. It is an unimagined picture of
abundance and peace. Somewhere about, you are sure to see a huge herd,
of cattle, often white, and generally brightly marked, grazing. All
looks like the work of man's hand, but you see no vestige of man, save
perhaps an almost imperceptible hut on the edge of the prairie. Reaching
the river, I ferried myself across, and then crossed over to take the
Jacksonville railroad, but, finding there was no train, passed the night
at a farm house. And here may find its place this converse between the
solitary old man and the young traveller.
My son, with weariness thou seemest spent,
And toiling on the dusty road all day,
Weary and pale, yet with inconstant step,
Hither and thither turning,--seekest thou
To find aught lost, or what dark care pursues thee?
If thou art weary, rest, if hungry, eat.
Oh rather, father, let me ask of thee
What is it I do seek, what thing I lack?
These many days I've left my father's hall,
Forth driven by insatiable desire,
That, like the wind, now gently murmuring,
Enticed me forward with its own sweet voice
Through many-leaved woods, and valleys deep,
Yet ever fled before me. Then with sound
Stronger than hurrying tempest, seizing me,
Forced me to fly its power. Forward still,
Bound by enchanted ties, I seek its source.
Sometimes it is a something I have lost,
Known long since, before I bent my steps
Toward this beautiful broad plane of earth.
Sometimes it is a spirit yet unknown,
In whose dim-imaged features seem to smile
The dear delight of these high-mansioned thoughts,
That sometimes visit me. Like unto mine
Her lineaments appear, but beautiful,
As of a sister in a far-off world,
Waiting to welcome me. And when I think
To reach and clasp the figure, it is gone,
And some ill-omened ghastly vision comes
To bid beware, and not too curiously
Demand the secrets of that distant world,
Whose shadow haunts me.--On the waves below
But now I gazed, warmed with the setting sun,
Who sent his golden streamers to my feet,
It seemed a pathway to a world beyond,
And I looked round, if that my spirit beckoned
That I might follow it.
Dreams all, my son. Yes, even so I dreamed,
And even so was thwarted. You must learn
To dream another long and troublous dream.
The dream of life. And you shall think you wake,
And think the shadows substance, love and hate,
Exchange and barter, joy, and weep, and dance,
And this too shall be dream.
Oh who can say
Where lies the boundary? What solid things
That daily mock our senses, shall dissolve
Before the might within, while shadowy forms
Freeze into stark reality, defying
The force and will of man. These forms I see,
They may go with me through eternity,
And bless or curse with ceaseless company,
While yonder man, that I met yesternight,
Where is he now? He passed before my eyes,
He is gone, but these stay with me ever.
That night the young man rested with the old,
And, grave or gay, in laughter or in tears,
They wore the night in converse. Morning came,
The dreamer took his solitary way;
And, as he pressed the old man's hand, he sighed,
Must this too be a dream?
Afterwards, of the rolling prairie. "There was one of twenty miles in
extent, not flat, but high and rolling, so that when you arrived at a
high part, by gentle ascents, the view was beyond measure grand; as far
as the eye could reach, nothing but the green, rolling plain, and at a
vast distance, groves, all looking gentle and cultivated, yet all
uninhabited. I think it would impress you, as it does me, that these
scenes are truly sublime. I have a sensation of vastness which I have
sought in vain among high mountains. Mountains crowd one sensation on
another, till all is excitement, all is surprise, wonder, enchantment.
Here is neither enchantment or disappointment, but expectation fully
realized. I have always had an attachment for a plain. The Roman
Campagna is a prairie. Peoria is in a most lovely situation. In fact I
am so delighted that I am as full of superlatives as the Italian
language. I could, however, find fault enough, if you ask what I
But no one did ask; it is not worth while where there is so much to
admire. Yet the following is a good statement of the shadow side.
"As to the boasts about the rapid progress here, give me rather the firm
fibre of a slow and knotty growth. I could not help, thinking as much
when I was talking to E. the other day, whom I met on board the boat. He
quarrelled with Boston for its slowness; said it was a bad place for a
young man. He could not make himself felt, could not see the effects of
his exertions as he could here.--To be sure he could not. Here he comes,
like a yankee farmer, with all the knowledge that our hard soil and
laborious cultivation could give him, and what wonder if he is surprised
at the work of his own hands, when he comes to such a soil as this. But
he feeds not so many mouths, though he tills more acres. The plants he
raises have not so exquisite a form, the vegetables so fine a flavor.
His cultivation becomes more negligent, he is not so good a farmer. Is
not this a true view? It strikes me continually. The traces of a man's
hand in a new country are rarely productive of beauty. It is a cutting
down of forest trees to make zigzag fences."
The most picturesque objects to be seen from Chicago on the inland side
were the lines of Hoosier wagons. These rude farmers, the large first
product of the soil, travel leisurely along, sleeping in their wagons by
night, eating only what they bring with them. In the town they observe
the same plan, and trouble no luxurious hotel for board and lodging. In
the town they look like foreign peasantry, and contrast well with the
many Germans, Dutch, and Irish. In the country it is very pretty to see
them prepared to "camp out" at night, their horses taken out of harness,
and they lounging under the trees, enjoying the evening meal.
On the lake side it is fine to see the great boats come panting it from
their rapid and marvellous journey. Especially at night the motion of
their lights is very majestic.
When the favorite boats, the Great Western and Illinois, are going out,
the town is thronged with people from the south and farther west, to go
in them. These moonlight nights I would hear the French rippling and
fluttering familiarly amid the rude ups and downs of the Hoosier
At the hotel table were daily to be seen new faces, and new stories to
be learned. And any one who has a large acquaintance may be pretty sure
of meeting some of them here in the course of a few days.
Among those whom I met was Mrs. Z., the aunt of an old schoolmate, to
whom I impatiently hastened, as soon as the meal was over, to demand
news of Mariana. The answer startled me. Mariana, so full of life, was
dead. That form, the most rich in energy and coloring of any I had ever
seen, had faded from the earth. The circle of youthful associations had
given way in the part, that seemed the strongest. What I now learned of
the story of this life, and what was by myself remembered, may be bound
together in this slight sketch.
At the boarding-school to which I was too early sent, a fond, a proud,
and timid child, I saw among the ranks of the gay and graceful, bright
or earnest girls, only one who interested my fancy or touched my young
heart; and this was Mariana. She was, on the father's side, of Spanish
Creole blood, but had been sent to the Atlantic coast, to receive a
school education under the care of her aunt, Mrs. Z.
This lady had kept her mostly at home with herself, and Mariana had gone
from her house to a day-school; but the aunt, being absent for a time in
Europe, she had now been unfortunately committed for some time to the
mercies of a boarding-school.
A strange bird she proved there,--a lonely swallow that could not make
for itself a summer. At first, her schoolmates were captivated with her
ways; her love of wild dances and sudden song, her freaks of passion and
of wit. She was always new, always surprising, and, for a time,
But, after awhile, they tired of her. She could never be depended on to
join in their plans, yet she expected them to follow out hers with
their whole strength. She was very loving, even infatuated in her own
affections, and exacted from those who had professed any love for her,
the devotion she was willing to bestow.
Yet there was a vein of haughty caprice in her character; a love of
solitude, which made her at times wish to retire entirely, and at these
times she would expect to be thoroughly understood, and let alone, yet
to be welcomed back when she returned. She did not thwart others in
their humors, but she never doubted of great indulgence from them.
Some singular habits she had which, when new, charmed, but, after
acquaintance, displeased her companions. She had by nature the same
habit and power of excitement that is described in the spinning
dervishes of the East. Like them, she would spin until all around her
were giddy, while her own brain, instead of being disturbed, was excited
to great action. Pausing, she would declaim verse of others or her own;
act many parts, with strange catch-words and burdens that seemed to act
with mystical power on her own fancy, sometimes stimulating her to
convulse the hearer with laughter, sometimes to melt him to tears. When
her power began to languish, she would spin again till fired to
recommence her singular drama, into which she wove figures from the
scenes of her earlier childhood, her companions, and the dignitaries she
sometimes saw, with fantasies unknown to life, unknown to heaven or
This excitement, as may be supposed, was not good for her. It oftenest
came on in the evening, and often spoiled her sleep. She would wake in
the night, and cheat her restlessness by inventions that teazed, while
they sometimes diverted her companions.
She was also a sleep-walker; and this one trait of her case did somewhat
alarm her guardians, who, otherwise, showed the same profound stupidity
as to this peculiar being, usual in the overseers of the young. They
consulted a physician, who said she would outgrow it, and prescribed a
Meantime, the fever of this ardent and too early stimulated nature was
constantly increased by the restraints and narrow routine of the
boarding school. She was always devising means to break in upon it. She
had a taste which would have seemed ludicrous to her mates, if they had
not felt some awe of her, from a touch of genius and power that never
left her, for costume and fancy dresses, always some sash twisted about
her, some drapery, something odd in the arrangement of her hair and
dress, so that the methodical preceptress dared not let her go out
without a careful scrutiny and remodelling, whose soberizing effects
generally disappeared the moment she was in the free air.
At last, a vent for her was found in private theatricals. Play followed
play, and in these and the rehearsals she found entertainment congenial
with her. The principal parts, as a matter of course, fell to her lot;
most of the good suggestions and arrangements came from her, and for a
time she ruled masterly and shone triumphant.
During these performances the girls had heightened their natural bloom
with artificial red; this was delightful to them--it was something so
out of the way. But Mariana, after the plays were over, kept her carmine
saucer on the dressing-table, and put on her blushes regularly as the
When stared and jeered at, she at first said she did it because she
thought it made her look prettier; but, after a while, she became quite
petulant about it,--would make no reply to any joke, but merely kept on
This irritated the girls, as all eccentricity does the world in general,
more than vice or malignity. They talked it over among themselves, till
they got wrought up to a desire of punishing, once for all, this
sometimes amusing, but so often provoking nonconformist.
Having obtained the leave of the mistress, they laid, with great glee, a
plan one evening, which was to be carried into execution next day at
Among Mariana's irregularities was a great aversion to the meal-time
ceremonial. So long, so tiresome she found it, to be seated at a certain
moment, to wait while each one was served at so large a table, and one
where there was scarcely any conversation; from day to day it became
more heavy to her to sit there, or go there at all. Often as possible
she excused herself on the ever-convenient plea of headache, and was
hardly ever ready when the dinner-bell rang.
To-day it found her on the balcony, lost in gazing on the beautiful
prospect. I have heard her say afterwards, she had rarely in her life
been so happy,--and she was one with whom happiness was a still
rapture. It was one of the most blessed summer days; the shadows of
great white clouds empurpled the distant hills for a few moments only to
leave them more golden; the tall grass of the wide fields waved in the
softest breeze. Pure blue were the heavens, and the same hue of pure
contentment was in the heart of Mariana.
Suddenly on her bright mood jarred the dinner bell. At first rose her
usual thought, I will not, cannot go; and then the _must_, which daily
life can always enforce, even upon the butterflies and birds, came, and
she walked reluctantly to her room. She merely changed her dress, and
never thought of adding the artificial rose to her cheek.
When she took her seat in the dining-hall, and was asked if she would be
helped, raising her eyes, she saw the person who asked her was deeply
rouged, with a bright glaring spot, perfectly round, in either cheek.
She looked at the next, same apparition! She then slowly passed her eyes
down the whole line, and saw the same, with a suppressed smile
distorting every countenance. Catching the design at once, she
deliberately looked along her own side of the table, at every schoolmate
in turn; every one had joined in the trick. The teachers strove to be
grave, but she saw they enjoyed the joke. The servants could not
suppress a titter.
When Warren Hastings stood at the bar of Westminster Hall--when the
Methodist preacher walked through a line of men, each of whom greeted
him with a brickbat or a rotten egg, they had some preparation for the
crisis, and it might not be very difficult to meet it with an impassive
brow. Our little girl was quite unprepared to find herself in the midst
of a world which despised her, and triumphed in her disgrace.
She had ruled, like a queen, in the midst of her companions; she had
shed her animation through their lives, and loaded them with prodigal
favors, nor once suspected that a powerful favorite might not be loved.
Now, she felt that she had been but a dangerous plaything in the hands
of those whose hearts she never had doubted.
Yet, the occasion found her equal to it, for Mariana had the kind of
spirit, which, in a better cause, had made the Roman matron truly say of
her death-wound, "It is not painful, Poetus." She did not blench--she
did not change countenance. She swallowed her dinner with apparent
composure. She made remarks to those near her, as if she had no eyes.
The wrath of the foe of course rose higher, and the moment they were
freed from the restraints of the dining-room, they all ran off, gaily
calling, and sarcastically laughing, with backward glances, at Mariana,
She went alone to her room, locked the door, and threw herself on the
floor in strong convulsions. These had sometimes threatened her life, as
a child, but of later years, she had outgrown them. School-hours came,
and she was not there. A little girl, sent to her door, could get no
answer. The teachers became alarmed, and broke it open. Bitter was their
penitence and that of her companions at the state in which they found
her. For some hours, terrible anxiety was felt; but, at last, nature,
exhausted, relieved herself by a deep slumber.
From this Mariana rose an altered being. She made no reply to the
expressions of sorrow from her companions, none to the grave and kind,
but undiscerning comments of her teacher. She did not name the source of
her anguish, and its poisoned dart sank deeply in. It was this thought
which stung her so. What, not one, not a single one, in the hour of
trial, to take my part, not one who refused to take part against me.
Past words of love, and caresses, little heeded at the time, rose to her
memory, and gave fuel to her distempered thoughts. Beyond the sense of
universal perfidy, of burning resentment, she could not get. And
Mariana, born for love, now hated all the world.
The change, however, which these feelings made in her conduct and
appearance bore no such construction to the careless observer. Her gay
freaks were quite gone, her wildness, her invention. Her dress was
uniform, her manner much subdued. Her chief interest seemed now to lie
in her studies, and in music. Her companions she never sought, but they,
partly from uneasy remorseful feelings, partly that they really liked
her much better now that she did not oppress and puzzle them, sought her
continually. And here the black shadow comes upon her life, the only
stain upon the history of Mariana.
They talked to her, as girls, having few topics, naturally do, of one
another. And the demon rose within her, and spontaneously, without
design, generally without words of positive falsehood, she became a
genius of discord among them. She fanned those flames of envy and
jealousy which a wise, true word from a third will often quench forever;
by a glance, or a seemingly light reply, she planted the seeds of
dissension, till there was scarce a peaceful affection, or sincere
intimacy in the circle where she lived, and could not but rule, for she
was one whose nature was to that of the others as fire to clay.
It was at this time that I came to the school, and first saw Mariana. Me
she charmed at once, for I was a sentimental child, who, in my early ill
health, had been indulged in reading novels, till I had no eyes for the
common greens and browns of life. The heroine of one of these, "The
Bandit's Bride," I immediately saw in Mariana. Surely the Bandit's Bride
had just such hair, and such strange, lively ways, and such a sudden
flash of the eye. The Bandit's Bride, too, was born to be
"misunderstood" by all but her lover. But Mariana, I was determined,
should be more fortunate, for, until her lover appeared, I myself would
be the wise and delicate being who could understand her.
It was not, however, easy to approach her for this purpose. Did I offer
to run and fetch her handkerchief, she was obliged to go to her room,
and would rather do it herself. She did not like to have people turn
over for her the leaves of the music book as she played. Did I approach
my stool to her feet, she moved away, as if to give me room. The bunch
of wild flowers which I timidly laid beside her plate was left there.
After some weeks my desire to attract her notice really preyed upon me,
and one day meeting her alone in the entry, I fell upon my knees, and
kissing her hand, cried, "O Mariana, do let me love you, and try to love
me a little." But my idol snatched away her hand, and, laughing more
wildly than the Bandit's Bride was ever described to have done, ran into
her room. After that day her manner to me was not only cold, but
repulsive; I felt myself scorned, and became very unhappy.
Perhaps four months had passed thus, when, one afternoon, it became
obvious that something more than common was brewing. Dismay and mystery
were written in many faces of the older girls; much whispering was going
on in corners.
In the evening, after prayers, the principal bade us stay; and, in a
grave, sad voice, summoned forth Mariana to answer charges to be made
Mariana came forward, and leaned against the chimney-piece. Eight of the
older girls came forward, and preferred against her charges, alas, too
well-founded, of calumny and falsehood.
My heart sank within me, as one after the other brought up their proofs,
and I saw they were too strong to be resisted. I could not bear the
thought of this second disgrace of my shining favorite. The first had
been whispered to me, though the girls did not like to talk about it. I
must confess, such is the charm of strength to softer natures, that
neither of these crises could deprive Mariana of hers in my eyes.
At first, she defended herself with self-possession and eloquence. But
when she found she could no more resist the truth, she suddenly threw
herself down, dashing her head, with all her force, against the iron
hearth, on which a fire was burning, and was taken up senseless.
The affright of those present was great. Now that they had perhaps
killed her, they reflected it would have been as well, if they had taken
warning from the former occasion, and approached very carefully a nature
so capable of any extreme. After awhile she revived, with a faint groan,
amid the sobs of her companions. I was on my knees by the bed, and held
her cold hand. One of those most aggrieved took it from me to beg her
pardon, and say it was impossible not to love her. She made no reply.
Neither that night, nor for several days, could a word be obtained from
her, nor would she touch food; but, when it was presented to her, or any
one drew near for any cause, she merely turned away her head, and gave
no sign. The teacher saw that some terrible nervous affection had fallen
upon her, that she grew more and more feverish. She knew not what to do.
Meanwhile a new revolution had taken place in the mind of the
passionate, but nobly-tempered child. All these months nothing but the
sense of injury had rankled in her heart. She had gone on in one mood,
doing what the demon prompted, without scruple and without fear.
But, at the moment of detection, the tide ebbed, and the bottom of her
soul lay revealed to her eye. How black, how stained and sad. Strange,
strange that she had not seen before the baseness and cruelty of
falsehood, the loveliness of truth. Now, amid the wreck, uprose the
moral nature which never before had attained the ascendant. "But," she
thought, "too late, sin is revealed to me in all its deformity, and,
sin-defiled, I will not, cannot live. The, mainspring of life is
And thus passed slowly by her hours in that black despair of which only
youth is capable. In older years men suffer more dull pain, as each
sorrow that comes drops its leaden weight into the past, and, similar
features of character bringing similar results, draws up a heavy burden
buried in those depths. But only youth has energy, with fixed unwinking
gaze, to contemplate grief, to hold it in the arms and to the heart,
like a child which makes it wretched, yet is indubitably its own.
The lady who took charge of this sad child had never well understood her
before, but had always looked on her with great tenderness. And now love
seemed, when all around were in greatest distress, fearing to call in
medical aid, fearing to do without it, to teach her where the only balm
was to be found that could have healed this wounded spirit.
One night she came in, bringing a calming draught. Mariana was sitting,
as usual, her hair loose, her dress the same robe they had put on her at
first, her eyes fixed vacantly upon the whited wall. To the proffers and
entreaties of her nurse she made no reply.
The lady burst into tears, but Mariana did not seem even to observe it.
The lady then said, "O my child, do not despair, do not think that one
great fault can mar a whole life. Let me trust you, let me tell you the
griefs of my sad life. I will tell to you, Mariana, what I never
expected to impart to any one."
And so she told her tale: it was one of pain, of shame, borne, not for
herself, but for one near and dear as herself. Mariana knew the lady,
knew the pride and reserve of her nature; she had often admired to see
how the cheek, lovely, but no longer young, mantled with the deepest
blush of youth, and the blue eyes were cast down at any little emotion.
She had understood the proud sensibility of the character. She fixed her
eyes on those now raised to hers, bright with fast falling tears. She
heard the story to the end, and then, without saying a word, stretched
out her hand for the cup.
She returned to life, but it was as one who has passed through the
valley of death. The heart of stone was quite broken in her. The fiery
life fallen from flame to coal. When her strength was a little restored,
she had all her companions summoned, and said to them; "I deserved to
die, but a generous trust has called me back to life. I will be worthy
of it, nor ever betray the truth, or resent injury more. Can you forgive
And they not only forgave, but, with love and earnest tears, clasped in
their arms the returning sister. They vied with one another in offices
of humble love to the humbled one; and, let it be recorded as an
instance of the pure honor of which young hearts are capable, that these
facts, known to forty persons, never, so far as I know, transpired
beyond those walls.
It was not long after this that Mariana was summoned home. She went
thither a wonderfully instructed being, though in ways those who had
sent her forth to learn little dreamed of.
Never was forgotten the vow of the returning prodigal. Mariana could not
resent, could not play false. The terrible crisis, which she so early
passed through, probably prevented the world from hearing much of her. A
wild fire was tamed in that hour of penitence at the boarding school,
such as has oftentimes wrapped court and camp in its destructive glow.
But great were the perils she had yet to undergo, for she was one of
those barks which easily get beyond soundings, and ride not lightly on
the plunging billow.
Her return to her native climate seconded the effects of inward
revolutions. The cool airs of the north had exasperated nerves too
susceptible for their tension. Those of the south restored her to a more
soft and indolent state. Energy gave place to feeling, turbulence to
intensity of character.
At this time love was the natural guest, and he came to her under a form
that might have deluded one less ready for delusion.
Sylvain was a person well proportioned to her lot in years, family, and
fortune. His personal beauty was not great, but of a noble character.
Repose marked his slow gesture, and the steady gaze of his large brown
eye, but it was a repose that would give way to a blaze of energy when
the occasion called. In his stature, expression, and heavy coloring, he
might not unfitly be represented by the great magnolias that inhabit the
forests of that climate. His voice, like everything about him, was rich
and soft, rather than sweet or delicate.
Mariana no sooner knew him than she loved, and her love, lovely as she
was, soon excited his. But, oh! it is a curse to woman to love first, or
most. In so doing she reverses the natural relations, and her heart can
never, never be satisfied with what ensues.
Mariana loved first, and loved most, for she had most force and variety
to love with. Sylvain seemed, at first, to take her to himself, as the
deep southern night might some fair star. But it proved not so.
Mariana was a very intellectual being, and she needed companionship.
This she could only have with Sylvain, in the paths of passion and
action. Thoughts he had none, and little delicacy of sentiment. The
gifts she loved to prepare of such for him, he took with a sweet, but
indolent smile; he held them lightly, and soon they fell from his grasp.
He loved to have her near him, to feel the glow and fragrance of her
nature, but cared not to explore the little secret paths whence that
fragrance was collected.
Mariana knew not this for a long time. Loving so much, she imagined all
the rest, and, where she felt a blank, always hoped that further
communion would fill it up. When she found this could never be; that
there was absolutely a whole province of her being to which nothing in
his answered, she was too deeply in love to leave him. Often after
passing hours together, beneath the southern moon, when, amid the sweet
intoxication of mutual love, she still felt the desolation of solitude,
and a repression of her finer powers, she had asked herself, can I give
him up? But the heart always passionately answered, no! I may be
miserable with him, but I cannot live without him.
And the last miserable feeling of these conflicts was, that if the
lover, soon to be the bosom friend, could have dreamed of these
conflicts, he would have laughed, or else been angry, even enough to
give her up.
Ah weakness of the strong. Of these strong only where strength is
weakness. Like others she had the decisions of life to make, before she
had light by which to make them. Let none condemn her. Those who have
not erred as fatally, should thank the guardian angel who gave them more
time to prepare for judgment, but blame no children who thought at arm's
length to find the moon. Mariana, with a heart capable of highest Eros,
gave it to one who knew love only as a flower or plaything, and bound
her heartstrings to one who parted his as lightly as the ripe fruit
leaves the bough. The sequel could not fail. Many console themselves for
the one great mistake with their children, with the world. This was not
possible to Mariana. A few months of domestic life she still was almost
happy. But Sylvain then grew tired. He wanted business and the world;
of these she had no knowledge, for them no faculties. He wanted in her
the head of his house; she to make her heart his home. No compromise was
possible between natures of such unequal poise, and which had met only
on one or two points. Through all its stages she
The agonizing sense
Of seeing lore from passion melt
The fearful shame that, day by day,
Burns onward, still to burn,
To have thrown her precious heart away,
And met this black return,"
till death at last closed the scene. Not that she died of one downright
blow on the heart. That is not the way such cases proceed. I cannot
detail all the symptoms, for I was not there to watch them, and aunt Z.
was neither so faithful an observer or narrator as I have shown myself
in the school-day passages; but, generally, they were as follows.
Sylvain wanted to go into the world, or let it into his house. Mariana
consented; but, with an unsatisfied heart, and no lightness of
character, she played her part ill there. The sort of talent and
facility she had displayed in early days, were not the least like what
is called out in the social world by the desire to please and to shine.
Her excitement had been muse-like, that of the improvisatrice, whose
kindling fancy seeks to create an atmosphere round it, and makes the
chain through which to set free its electric sparks. That had been a
time of wild and exuberant life. After her character became more tender
and concentrated, strong affection or a pure enthusiasm might still have
called out beautiful talents in her. But in the first she was utterly
disappointed. The second was not roused within her thought. She did not
expand into various life, and remained unequal; sometimes too passive,
sometimes too ardent, and not sufficiently occupied with what occupied
those around her to come on the same level with them and embellish their
Thus she lost ground daily with her husband, who, comparing her with the
careless shining dames of society, wondered why he had found her so
charming in solitude.
At intervals, when they were left alone, Mariana wanted to open her
heart, to tell the thoughts of her mind. She was so conscious of secret
riches within herself, that sometimes it seemed, could she but reveal a
glimpse of them to the eye of Sylvain, he would be attracted near her
again, and take a path where they could walk hand in hand. Sylvain, in
these intervals, wanted an indolent repose. His home was his castle. He
wanted no scenes too exciting there. Light jousts and plays were well
enough, but no grave encounters. He liked to lounge, to sing, to read,
to sleep. In fine, Sylvain became the kind, but preoccupied husband,
Mariana, the solitary and wretched wife. He was off continually, with
his male companions, on excursions or affairs of pleasure. At home
Mariana found that neither her books nor music would console her.
She was of too strong a nature to yield without a struggle to so dull a
fiend as despair. She looked into other hearts, seeking whether she
could there find such home as an orphan asylum may afford. This she did
rather because the chance came to her, and it seemed unfit not to seize
the proffered plank, than in hope, for she was not one to double her
stakes, but rather with Cassandra power to discern early the sure course
of the game. And Cassandra whispered that she was one of those
"Whom men love not, but yet regret."
And so it proved. Just as in her childish days, though in a different
form, it happened betwixt her and these companions. She could not be
content to receive them quietly, but was stimulated to throw herself too
much into the tie, into the hour, till she filled it too full for them.
Like Fortunio, who sought to do homage to his friends by building a fire
of cinnamon, not knowing that its perfume would be too strong for their
endurance, so did Mariana. What she wanted to tell, they did not wish to
hear; a little had pleased, so much overpowered, and they preferred the
free air of the street, even, to the cinnamon perfume of her palace.
However, this did not signify; had they staid, it would not have availed
her! It was a nobler road, a higher aim she needed now; this did not
become clear to her.
She lost her appetite, she fell sick, had fever. Sylvain was alarmed,
nursed her tenderly; she grew better. Then his care ceased, he saw not
the mind's disease, but left her to rise into health and recover the
tone of her spirits, as she might. More solitary than ever, she tried to
raise herself, but she knew not yet enough. The weight laid upon her
young life was a little too heavy for it. One long day she passed alone,
and the thoughts and presages came too thick for her strength. She knew
not what to do with them, relapsed into fever, and died.
Notwithstanding this weakness, I must ever think of her as a fine sample
of womanhood, born to shed light and life on some palace home. Had she
known more of God and the universe, she would not have given way where
so many have conquered. But peace be with her; she now, perhaps, has
entered into a larger freedom, which is knowledge. With her died a great
interest in life to me. Since her I have never seen a Bandit's Bride.
She, indeed, turned out to be only a merchant's.--Sylvain is married
again to a fair and laughing girl, who will not die, probably, till
their marriage grows a "golden marriage."
Aunt Z. had with her some papers of Mariana's, which faintly shadow
forth the thoughts that engaged her in the last days. One of these seems
to have been written when some faint gleam had been thrown across the
path, only to make its darkness more visible. It seems to have been
suggested by remembrance of the beautiful ballad, _Helen of Kirconnel
Lee_, which once she loved to recite, and in tones that would not have
sent a chill to the heart from which it came.
Opens her sweet white arms, and whispers Peace;
Come, say thy sorrows in this bosom! This
Will never close against thee, and my heart,
Though cold, cannot be colder much than man's."
"I wish I were where Helen lies,"
A lover in the times of old,
Thus vents his grief in lonely sighs,
And hot tears from a bosom cold.
But, mourner for thy martyred love,
Could'st thou but know what hearts must feel,
Where no sweet recollections move,
Whose tears a desert fount reveal.
When "in thy arms burd Helen fell,"
She died, sad man, she died for thee,
Nor could the films of death dispel
Her loving eye's sweet radiancy.
Thou wert beloved, and she had loved,
Till death alone the whole could tell,
Death every shade of doubt removed,
And steeped the star in its cold well.
On some fond breast the parting soul
Relies,--earth has no more to give;
Who wholly loves has known the whole,
The wholly loved doth truly live.
But some, sad outcasts from this prize,
Wither down to a lonely grave,
All hearts their hidden love despise,
And leave them to the whelming wave.
They heart to heart have never pressed,
Nor hands in holy pledge have given,
By father's love were ne'er caressed,
Nor in a mother's eye saw heaven.
A flowerless and fruitless tree,
A dried up stream, a mateless bird,
They live, yet never living be,
They die, their music all unheard.
I wish I were where Helen lies,
For there I could not be alone;
But now, when this dull body dies,
The spirit still will make its moan.
Love passed me by, nor touched my brow;
Life would not yield one perfect boon;
And all too late it calls me now,
O all too late, and all too soon.
If thou couldst the dark riddle read
Which leaves this dart within my breast,
Then might I think thou lov'st indeed,
Then were the whole to thee confest.
Father, they will not take me home,
To the poor child no heart is free;
In sleet and snow all night I roam;
Father,--was this decreed by thee?
I will not try another door,
To seek what I have never found;
Now, till the very last is o'er,
Upon the earth I'll wander round.
I will not hear the treacherous call
That bids me stay and rest awhile,
For I have found that, one and all,
They seek me for a prey and spoil.
They are not bad, I know it well;
I know they know not what they do;
They are the tools of the dread spell
Which the lost lover must pursue.
In temples sometimes she may rest,
In lonely groves, away from men,
There bend the head, by heats distrest,
Nor be by blows awoke again.
Nature is kind, and God is kind,
And, if she had not had a heart,
Only that great discerning mind,
She might have acted well her part.
But oh this thirst, that none can still,
Save those unfounden waters free;
The angel of my life should fill
And soothe me to Eternity!
It marks the defect in the position of woman that one like Mariana
should have found reason to write thus. To a man of equal power, equal
sincerity, no more!--many resources would have presented themselves. He
would not have needed to seek, he would have been called by life, and
not permitted to be quite wrecked through the affections only. But such
women as Mariana are often lost, unless they meet some man of
sufficiently great soul to prize them.
Van Artevelde's Elena, though in her individual nature unlike my
Mariana, is like her in a mind whose large impulses are disproportioned
to the persons and occasions she meets, and which carry her beyond those
reserves which mark the appointed lot of woman. But, when she met Van
Artevelde, he was too great not to revere her rare nature, without
regard to the stains and errors of its past history; great enough to
receive her entirely and make a new life for her; man enough to be a
lover! But as such men come not so often as once an age, their presence
should not be absolutely needed to sustain life.
At Chicago I read again Philip Van Artevelde, and certain passages in it
will always be in my mind associated with the deep sound of the lake, as
heard in the night. I used to read a short time at night, and then open
the blind to look out. The moon would be full upon the lake, and the
calm breath, pure light, and the deep voice harmonized well with the
thought of the Flemish hero. When will this country have such a man? It
is what she needs; no thin Idealist, no coarse Realist, but a man whose
eye reads the heavens while his feet step firmly on the ground, and his
hands are strong and dexterous for the use of human implements. A man
religious, virtuous and--sagacious; a man of universal sympathies, but
self-possessed; a man who knows the region of emotion, though he is not
its slave; a man to whom this world is no mere spectacle, or fleeting
shadow, but a great solemn game to be played with good heed, for its
stakes are of eternal value, yet who, if his own play be true, heeds not
what he loses by the falsehood of others. A man who hives from the
past, yet knows that its honey can but moderately avail him; whose
comprehensive eye scans the present, neither infatuated by its golden
lures, nor chilled by its many ventures; who possesses prescience, as
the wise man must, but not so far as to be driven mad to-day by the gift
which discerns to-morrow. When there is such a man for America, the
thought which urges her on will be expressed.
Now that I am about to leave Illinois, feelings of regret and admiration
come over me, as in parting with a friend whom we have not had the good
sense to prize and study, while hours of association, never perhaps to
return, were granted. I have fixed my attention almost exclusively on
the picturesque beauty of this region; it was so new, so inspiring. But
I ought to have been more interested in the housekeeping of this
magnificent state, in the education she is giving her children, in their
Illinois is, at present, a by-word of reproach among the nations, for
the careless, prodigal course, by which, in early youth, she has
endangered her honor. But you cannot look about you there, without
seeing that there are resources abundant to retrieve, and soon to
retrieve, far greater errors, if they are only directed with wisdom.
[Illustration: ROLLING PRAIRIE OF ILLINOIS]
Might the simple maxim, that honesty is the best policy be laid to
heart! Might a sense of the true aims of life elevate the tone of
politics and trade, till public and private honor become identical!
Might the western man in that crowded and exciting life which develops
his faculties so fully for to-day, not forget that better part which
could not be taken from him! Might the western woman take that interest
and acquire that light for the education of the children, for which she
alone has leisure!
This is indeed the great problem of the place and time. If the next
generation be well prepared for their work, ambitious of good and
skilful to achieve it, the children of the present settlers may be
leaven enough for the mass constantly increasing by emigration. And how
much is this needed where those rude foreigners can so little understand
the best interests of the land they seek for bread and shelter. It would
be a happiness to aid in this good work, and interweave the white and
golden threads into the fate of Illinois. It would be a work worthy the
devotion of any mind.
In the little that I saw, was a large proportion of intelligence,
activity, and kind feeling; but, if there was much serious laying to
heart of the true purposes of life, it did not appear in the tone of
Having before me the Illinois guide-book, I find there mentioned, as a
"visionary," one of the men I should think of as able to be a truly
valuable settler in a new and great country--Morris Birkbeck, of
England. Since my return, I have read his journey to, and letters from,
Illinois. I see nothing promised there that will not surely belong to
the man who knows how to seek for it.
Mr. Birkbeck was an enlightened philanthropist, the rather that he did
not wish to sacrifice himself to his fellow men, but to benefit them
with all he had, and was, and wished. He thought all the creatures of a
divine love ought to be happy and ought to be good, and that his own
soul and his own life were not less precious than those of others;
indeed, that to keep these healthy, was his only means of a healthy
But his aims were altogether generous. Freedom, the liberty of law, not
license; not indolence, work for himself and children, and all men, but
under genial and poetic influences;--these were his aims. How different
from those of the new settlers in general! And into his mind so long ago
shone steadily the two thoughts, now so prevalent in thinking and
aspiring minds, of "Resist not evil," and "Every man his own priest, and
the heart the only true church."
He has lost credit for sagacity from accidental circumstances. It does
not appear that his position was ill chosen, or his means
disproportioned to his ends, had he been sustained by funds from
England, as he had a right to expect. But through the profligacy of a
near relative, commissioned to collect these dues, he was disappointed
of them, and his paper protested and credit destroyed in our cities,
before he became aware of his danger.
Still, though more slowly and with more difficulty, he might have
succeeded in his designs. The English farmer might have made the English
settlement a model for good methods and good aims to all that region,
had not death prematurely cut short his plans.
I have wished to say these few words, because the veneration with which
I have been inspired for his character by those who knew him well,
makes me impatient of this careless blame being passed from mouth to
mouth and book, to book. Success is no test of a man's endeavor, and
Illinois will yet, I hope, regard this man, who knew so well what
_ought_ to be, as one of her true patriarchs, the Abraham of a promised
He was one too much before his time to be soon valued; but the time is
growing up to him, and will understand his mild philanthropy and clear,
I subjoin the account of his death, given me by a friend, as expressing,
in fair picture, the character of the man.
"Mr. Birkbeck was returning from the seat of government, whither he had
been on public business, and was accompanied by his son Bradford, a
youth of sixteen or eighteen. It was necessary to cross a ford, which
was rendered difficult by the swelling of the stream. Mr. B.'s horse was
unwilling to plunge into the water, so his son offered to go first, and
he followed. Bradford's horse had just gained footing on the opposite
shore, when he looked back and perceived his father was dismounted,
struggling in the water, and carried down by the current.
"Mr. Birkbeck could not swim; Bradford could; so he dismounted, and
plunged into the stream to save his father. He got to him before he
sank, held him up above water, and told him to take hold of his collar,
and he would swim ashore with him. Mr. B. did so, and Bradford exerted
all his strength to stem the current and reach the shore at a point
where they could land; but, encumbered by his own clothing and his
father's weight, he made no progress; and when Mr. B. perceived this,
he, with his characteristic calmness and resolution, gave up his hold of
his son, and, motioning to him to save himself, resigned himself to his
fate. His son reached the shore, but was too much overwhelmed by his
loss to leave it. He was found by some travellers, many hours after,
seated on the margin of the stream, with his head in his hands,
stupefied with grief.
"The body was found, and on the countenance was the sweetest smile; and
Bradford said, 'just so he smiled upon me when he let go and pushed me
away from him.'"
Many men can choose the right and best on a great occasion, but not many
can, with such ready and serene decision, lay aside even life, when it
is right and best. This little narrative touched my imagination in very
early youth, and often has come up, in lonely vision, that face,
serenely smiling above the current which bore him away to another realm
A territory, not yet a state; still, nearer the acorn than we were.
It was very pleasant coming up. These large and elegant boats are so
well arranged that every excursion may be a party of pleasure. There are
many fair shows to see on the lake and its shores, almost always new and
agreeable persons on board, pretty children playing about, ladies
singing, (and if not very well, there is room to keep out of the way.)
You may see a great deal here of Life, in the London sense, if you know
a few people; or if you do not, and have the tact to look about you
without seeming to stare.
We came to Milwaukie, where we were to pass a fortnight or more.
This place is most beautifully situated. A little river, with romantic
banks, passes up through the town. The bank of the lake is here a bold
bluff, eighty feet in height. From its summit, you enjoyed a noble
outlook on the lake. A little narrow path wound along the edge of the
lake below. I liked this walk much. Above me this high wall of rich
earth, garlanded on its crest with trees, the long ripples of the lake
coming up to my feet. Here, standing in the shadow, I could appreciate
better its magnificent changes of color, which are the chief beauties of
the lake-waters; but these are indescribable.
It was fine to ascend into the lighthouse, above this bluff, and watch
from thence the thunder-clouds which so frequently rose over the lake,
or the great boats coming in. Approaching the Milwaukie pier, they made
a bend, and seemed to do obeisance in the heavy style of some dowager
duchess entering a circle she wishes to treat with especial respect.
These boats come in and out every day, and still afford a cause for
general excitement. The people swarm down to greet them, to receive and
send away their packages and letters. To me they seemed such mighty
messengers, to give, by their noble motion, such an idea of the power
and fullness of life, that they were worthy to carry despatches from
king to king. It must be very pleasant for those who have an active
share in carrying on the affairs of this great and growing world to see
them come in. It must be very pleasant to those who have dearly loved
friends at the next station. To those who have neither business nor
friends, it sometimes gives a desolating sense of insignificance.
The town promises to be, some time, a fine one, as it is so well
situated; and they have good building material--a yellow brick, very
pleasing to the eye. It seems to grow before you, and has indeed but
just emerged from the thickets of oak and wild roses. A few steps will
take you into the thickets, and certainly I never saw so many wild
roses, or of so beautiful a red. Of such a color were the first red ones
the world ever saw, when, says the legend, Venus flying to the
assistance of Adonis, the rosebushes kept catching her to make her stay,
and the drops of blood the thorns drew from her feet, as she tore
herself away, fell on the white roses, and turned them this beautiful
I will here insert, though with no excuse, except that it came to memory
at the time, this description of Titian's Venus and Adonis.
"This picture has that perfect balance of lines and forms that it would,
(as was said of all Raphael's) 'seen at any distance have the air of an
ornamental design.' It also tolls its story at the first glance, though,
like all beautiful works, it gains by study.
"On one side slumbers the little God of Love, as an emblem, I suppose,
that only the love of man is worth embodying, for surely Cytherea's is
awake enough. The quiver of Cupid, suspended to a tree, gives sportive
grace to the scene which softens the tragedy of a breaking tie. The dogs
of Adonis pull upon his hand; he can scarce forbear to burst from the
detaining arms of Beauty herself, yet he waits a moment to coax her--to
make an unmeaning promise. 'A moment, a moment, my love, and I will
return; a moment only.' Adonis is not beautiful, except in his
expression of eager youth. The Queen of Beauty does not choose Apollo.
Venus herself is very beautiful; especially the body is lovely as can
be; and the soft, imploring look, gives a conjugal delicacy to the face
which purifies the whole picture. This Venus is not as fresh, as moving
and breathing as Shakspeare's, yet lovelier to the mind if not to the
sense. 'T is difficult to look at this picture without indignation,
because it is, in one respect, so true. Why must women always try to
detain and restrain what they love? Foolish beauty; let him go; it is
thy tenderness that has spoiled him. Be less lovely--less feminine;
abandon thy fancy for giving thyself wholly; cease to love so well, and
any Hercules will spin among thy maids, if thou wilt. But let him go
this time; thou canst not keep him. Sit there, by thyself, on that bank,
and, instead of thinking how soon he will come back, think how thou
may'st love him no better than he does thee, for the time has come."
It was soon after this moment that the poor Queen, hearing the
frightened hounds, apprehended the rash huntsman's danger, and, flying
through the woods, gave their hue to the red roses.
To return from the Grecian isles to Milwaukie. One day, walking along
the river's bank in search of a waterfall to be seen from one ravine, we
heard tones from a band of music, and saw a gay troop shooting at a
mark, on the opposite bank. Between every shot the band played; the
effect was very pretty.
On this walk we found two of the oldest and most gnarled hemlocks that
ever afforded study for a painter. They were the only ones we saw; they
seemed the veterans of a former race.
At Milwaukie, as at Chicago, are many pleasant people, drawn together
from all parts of the world. A resident here would find great piquancy
in the associations,--those he met having such dissimilar histories and
topics. And several persons I saw evidently transplanted from the most
refined circles to be met in this country. There are lures enough in the
West for people of all kinds;--the enthusiast and the cunning man; the
naturalist, and the lover who needs to be rich for the sake of her he
The torrent of emigration swells very strongly towards this place.
During the fine weather, the poor refugees arrive daily, in their
national dresses, all travel-soiled and worn. The night they pass in
rude shantees, in a particular quarter of the town, then walk off into
the country--the mothers carrying their infants, the fathers leading the
little children by the hand, seeking a home, where their hands may
One morning we set off in their track, and travelled a day's journey
into this country,--fair, yet not, in that part which I saw, comparable,
in my eyes, to the Rock River region. It alternates rich fields, proper
for grain, with oak openings, as they are called; bold, various and
beautiful were the features of the scene, but I saw not those majestic
sweeps, those boundless distances, those heavenly fields; it was not the
Neither did we travel in the same delightful manner. We were now in a
nice carriage, which must not go off the road, for fear of breakage,
with a regular coachman, whose chief care was not to tire his horses,
and who had no taste for entering fields in pursuit of wild flowers, or
tempting some strange wood path in search of whatever might befall. It
was pleasant, but almost as tame as New England.
But charming indeed was the place where we stopped. It was in the
vicinity of a chain of lakes, and on the bank of the loveliest little
stream, called the Bark river, which flowed in rapid amber brightness,
through fields, and dells, and stately knolls, of most idylic beauty.
The little log cabin where we slept, with its flower garden in front,
disturbed the scene no more than a stray lock on the fair cheek. The
hospitality of that house I may well call princely; it was the boundless
hospitality of the heart, which, if it has no Aladdin's lamp to create a
palace for the guest, does him still higher service by the freedom of
its bounty up to the very last drop of its powers.
Sweet were the sunsets seen in the valley of this stream, though here,
and, I grieve to say, no less near the Rock River, the fiend, who has
ever liberty to tempt the happy in this world, appeared in the shape of
mosquitoes, and allowed us no bodily to enjoy our mental peace.
One day we ladies gave, under the guidance of our host, to visiting all
the beauties of the adjacent lakes--Nomabbin, Silver, and Pine Lakes. On
the shore of Nomabbin had formerly been one of the finest Indian
villages. Our host said that, one day, as he was lying there beneath the
bank, he saw a tall Indian standing at gaze on the knoll. He lay a long
time, curious to see how long the figure would maintain its statue-like
absorption. But, at last, his patience yielded, and, in moving, he made
a slight noise. The Indian saw him, gave a wild, snorting sound of
indignation and pain, and strode away.
What feelings must consume their heart at such moments! I scarcely see
how they can forbear to shoot the white man where he stands.
But the power of fate is with the white man, and the Indian feels it.
This same gentleman told of his travelling through the wilderness with
an Indian guide. He had with him a bottle of spirit which he meant to
give him in small quantities, but the Indian, once excited, wanted the
whole at once. I would not, said Mr.----, give it him, for I thought if
he got really drunk, there was an end to his services as a guide. But he
persisted, and at last tried to take it from me. I was not armed; he
was, and twice as strong as I. But I knew an Indian could not resist the
look of a white man, and I fixed my eye steadily on his. He bore it for
a moment, then his eye fell; he let go the bottle. I took his gun and
threw it to a distance. After a few moments' pause, I told him to go and
fetch it, and left it in his hands. From that moment he was quite
obedient, even servile, all the rest of the way.
This gentleman, though in other respects of most kindly and liberal
heart, showed the aversion that the white man soon learns to feel for
the Indian on whom he encroaches, the aversion of the injurer for him he
has degraded. After telling the anecdote of his seeing the Indian gazing
at the seat of his former home,
"A thing for human feelings the most trying,"
and which, one would think, would have awakened soft compassion--almost
remorse--in the present owner of that fair hill, which contained for the
exile the bones of his dead, the ashes of his hopes,--he observed, "They
cannot be prevented from straggling back here to their old haunts. I
wish they could. They ought not to permitted to drive away _our_ game."
OUR game--just heavens!
The same gentleman showed, on a slight occasion, the true spirit of the
sportsman, or, perhaps I might say of Man, when engaged in any kind of
chase. Showing us some antlers, he said, "This one belonged to a
majestic creature. But this other was the beauty. I had been lying a
long time at watch, when at last I heard them come crackling along. I
lifted my head cautiously, as they burst through the trees. The first
was a magnificent fellow; but then I saw coming one, the prettiest, the
most graceful I ever beheld--there was something so soft and beseeching
in its look. I chose him at once; took aim, and shot him dead. You see
the antlers are not very large; it was young, but the prettiest
In the course of this morning's drive, we visited the gentlemen on their
fishing party. They hailed us gaily, and rowed ashore to show us what
fine booty they had. No disappointment there, no dull work. On the
beautiful point of land from which we first saw them, lived a contented
woman, the only one I heard of out there. She was English, and said she
had seen so much suffering in her own country that the hardships of this
seemed as nothing to her. But the others--even our sweet and gentle
hostess--found their labors disproportioned to their strength, if not
to their patience; and, while their husbands and brothers enjoyed the
country in hunting or fishing, they found themselves confined to a
comfortless and laborious indoor life. But it need not be so long.
This afternoon, driving about on the banks of these lakes, we found the
scene all of one kind of loveliness; wide, graceful woods, and then
these fine sheets of water, with fine points of land jutting out boldly
into them. It was lovely, but not striking or peculiar.
All woods suggest pictures. The European forest, with its long glades
and green sunny dells, naturally suggested the figures of armed knight
on his proud steed, or maiden, decked in gold and pearl, pricking along
them on a snow white palfrey. The green dells, of weary Palmer sleeping
there beside the spring with his head upon his wallet. Our minds,
familiar with such figures, people with them the New England woods,
wherever the sunlight falls down a longer than usual cart-track,
wherever a cleared spot has lain still enough for the trees to look
friendly, with their exposed sides cultivated by the light, and the
grass to look velvet warm, and be embroidered with flowers. These
western woods suggest a different kind of ballad. The Indian legends
have, often, an air of the wildest solitude, as has the one Mr. Lowell
has put into verse, in his late volume. But I did not see those wild
woods; only such as suggest little romances of love and sorrow, like
A maiden sat beneath the tree,
Tear-bedewed her pale cheeks be,
And she sigheth heavily.
From forth the wood into the light,
A hunter strides with carol light,
And a glance so bold and bright.
He careless stopped and eyed the maid;
"Why weepest thou?" he gently said,
"I love thee well; be not afraid."
He takes her hand, and leads her on;
She should have waited there alone,
For he was not her chosen one.
He leans her head upon his breast,
She knew 't was not her home of rest,
But ah! she had been sore distrest.
The sacred stars looked sadly down;
The parting moon appeared to frown,
To see thus dimmed the diamond crown.
Then from the thicket starts a deer,
The huntsman, seizing on his spear,
Cries, "Maiden, wait thou for me here."
She sees him vanish into night,
She starts from sleep in deep affright,
For it was not her own true knight.
Though but in dream Gunhilda failed;
Though but a fancied ill assailed,
Though she but fancied fault bewailed.
Yet thought of day makes dream of night:
She is not worthy of the knight,
The inmost altar burns not bright.
If loneliness thou canst not bear,
Cannot the dragon's venom dare,
Of the pure meed thou shouldst despair.
Now sadder that lone maiden sighs,
Far bitterer tears profane her eyes,
Crushed in the dust her heart's flower lies.
[Illustration: INDIAN ENCAMPMENT]
On the bank of Silver Lake we saw an Indian encampment. A shower
threatened us, but we resolved to try if we could not visit it before it
came on. We crossed a wide field on foot, and found them amid the trees
on a shelving bank; just as we reached them the rain began to fall in
torrents, with frequent thunder claps, and we had to take refuge in
their lodges. These were very small, being for temporary use, and we
crowded the occupants much, among whom were several sick, on the damp
ground, or with only a ragged mat between them and it. But they showed
all the gentle courtesy which marks them towards the stranger, who
stands in any need; though it was obvious that the visit, which
inconvenienced them, could only have been caused by the most impertinent
curiosity, they made us as comfortable as their extreme poverty
permitted. They seemed to think we would not like to touch them: a sick
girl in the lodge where I was, persisted in moving so as to give me the
dry place; a woman with the sweet melancholy eye of the race, kept off
the children and wet dogs from even the hem of my garment.
Without, their fires smouldered, and black kettles, hung over them on
sticks, smoked and seethed in the rain. An old theatrical looking Indian
stood with arms folded, looking up to the heavens, from which the rain
dashed and the thunder reverberated; his air was French-Roman, that is,
more romanesque than Roman. The Indian ponies, much excited, kept
careering through the wood, around the encampment, and now and then
halting suddenly, would thrust in their intelligent, though amazed,
phizzes, as if to ask their masters when this awful pother would cease,
and then, after a moment, rush and trample off again.
At last we got off, well wetted, but with a picturesque scene for
memory. At a house where we stopped to get dry, they told us that this
wandering band (of Pottawattamies,) who had returned on a visit, either
from homesickness, or need of relief, were extremely destitute. The
women had been there to see if they could barter their head bands with
which they club their hair behind into a form not unlike a Grecian knot,
for food. They seemed, indeed, to have neither food, utensils, clothes,
nor bedding; nothing but the ground, the sky, and their own strength.
Little wonder if they drove off the game!
Part of the same band I had seen in Milwaukie, on a begging dance. The
effect of this was wild and grotesque. They wore much paint and feather
head-dresses. "Indians without paint are poor coots," said a gentleman
who had been a great deal with, and really liked, them; and I like the
effect of the paint on them; it reminds of the gay fantasies of nature.
With them in Milwaukie, was a chief, the finest Indian figure I saw,
more than six feet in height, erect, and of a sullen, but grand gait and
gesture. He wore a deep red blanket, which fell in large folds from his
shoulders to his feet, did not join in the dance, but slowly strode
about through the streets, a fine sight, not a French-Roman, but a real
Roman. He looked unhappy, but listlessly unhappy, as if he felt it was
of no use to strive or resist.
While in the neighborhood of these lakes, we visited also a foreign
settlement of great interest. Here were minds, it seemed, to "comprehend
the trusts," of their new life; and if they can only stand true to them,
will derive and bestow great benefits therefrom.
But sad and sickening to the enthusiast who comes to these shores,
hoping the tranquil enjoyment of intellectual blessings, and the pure
happiness of mutual love, must be a part of the scene that he encounters
at first. He has escaped from the heartlessness of courts, to encounter
the vulgarity of a mob; he has secured solitude, but it is a lonely, a
deserted solitude. Amid the abundance of nature he cannot, from petty,
but insuperable obstacles, procure, for a long time, comforts, or a
But let him come sufficiently armed with patience to learn the new
spells which the new dragons require, (and this can only be done on the
spot,) he will not finally be disappointed of the promised treasure; the
mob will resolve itself into men, yet crude, but of good dispositions,
and capable of good character; the solitude will become sufficiently
enlivened and home grow up at last from the rich sod.
In this transition state we found one of these homes. As we approached
it seemed the very Eden which earth might still afford to a pair willing
to give up the hackneyed pleasures of the world, for a better and more
intimate communion with one another and with beauty: the wild road led
through wide beautiful woods, to the wilder and more beautiful shores of
the finest lake we saw. On its waters, glittering in the morning sun, a
few Indians were paddling to and fro in their light canoes. On one of
those fair knolls I have so often mentioned, stood the cottage, beneath
trees which stooped as if they yet felt brotherhood with its roof tree.
Flowers waved, birds fluttered round, all had the sweetness of a happy
seclusion; all invited on entrance to cry, All hail ye happy ones! to
those who inhabited it.
But on entrance to those evidently rich in personal beauty, talents,
love, and courage, the aspect of things was rather sad. Sickness had
been with them, death, care, and labor; these had not yet blighted them,
but had turned their gay smiles grave. It seemed that hope and joy had
given place to resolution. How much, too, was there in them, worthless
in this place, which would have been so valuable elsewhere. Refined
graces, cultivated powers, shine in vain before field laborers, as
laborers are in this present world; you might as well cultivate
heliotropes to present to an ox. Oxen and heliotropes are both good, but
not for one another.
With them were some of the old means of enjoyment, the books, the
pencil, the guitar; but where the wash-tub and the axe are so constantly
in requisition, there is not much time and pliancy of hand for these.
In the inner room the master of the house was seated; he had been
sitting there long, for he had injured his foot on ship-board, and his
farming had to be done by proxy. His beautiful young wife was his only
attendant and nurse, as well as a farm housekeeper; how well she
performed hard and unaccustomed duties, the objects of her care shewed;
everything that belonged to the house was rude but neatly arranged; the
invalid, confined to an uneasy wooden chair, (they had not been able to
induce any one to bring them an easy chair from the town,) looked as
neat and elegant as if he had been dressed by the valet of a duke. He
was of northern blood, with clear full blue eyes, calm features, a
tempering of the soldier, scholar, and man of the world, in his aspect;
whether that various intercourses had given himself that thorough-bred
look never seen in Americans, or that it was inherited from a race who
had known all these disciplines. He formed a great but pleasing contrast
to his wife, whose glowing complexion and dark mellow eye bespoke an
origin in some climate more familiar with the sun. He looked as if he
could sit there a great while patiently, and live on his own mind,
biding his time; she, as if she could bear anything for affection's
sake, but would feel the weight of each moment as it passed.
Seeing the album full of drawings and verses which bespoke the circle of
elegant and affectionate intercourse they had left, behind, we could not
but see that the young wife sometimes must need a sister, the husband a
companion, and both must often miss that electricity which sparkles from
the chain of congenial minds.
For man, a position is desirable in some degree proportioned to his
education. Mr. Birkbeck was bred a farmer, but these were nurslings of
the court and city; they may persevere, for an affectionate courage
shone in their eyes, and, if so, become true lords of the soil, and
informing geniuses to those around; then, perhaps, they will feel that
they have not paid too dear for the tormented independence of the new
settler's life. But, generally, damask roses will not thrive in the
wood, and a ruder growth, if healthy and pure, we wish rather to see
I feel very differently about these foreigners from Americans; American
men and women are inexcusable if they do not bring up children so as to
be fit for vicissitudes; that is the meaning of our star, that here all
men being free and equal, all should be fitted for freedom and an
independence by his own resources wherever the changeful wave of our
mighty stream may take him. But the star of Europe brought a different
horoscope, and to mix destinies breaks the thread of both. The Arabian
horse will not plough well, nor can the plough-horse be rode to play the
jereed. But a man is a man wherever he goes, and something precious
cannot fail to be gained by one who knows how to abide by a resolution
of any kind, and pay the cost without a murmur.
Returning, the fine carriage at last fulfilled its threat of breaking
down. We took refuge in a farm house. Here was a pleasant scene. A rich
and beautiful estate, several happy families, who had removed together,
and formed a natural community, ready to help and enliven one another.
They were farmers at home, in western New York, and both men and women
knew how to work. Yet even here the women did not like the change, but
they were willing, "as it might be best for the young folks." Their
hospitality was great, the housefull of women and pretty children seemed
all of one mind.
Returning to Milwaukie much fatigued, I entertained myself for a day or
two with reading. The book I had brought with me was in strong contrast
with the life around me. Very strange was this vision of an exalted and
sensitive existence, which seemed to invade the next sphere, in contrast
with the spontaneous, instinctive life, so healthy and so near the
ground I had been surveying. This was the German book entitled:
Die Scherin von Prevorst.--Eroeffnungen ueber das innere Leben des
Menschen und ueber das hereinragen einer Geisterwelt in die unsere.
Mitgetheilt von Justinus Kerner.
The Seeress of Prevorst.--Revelations concerning the inward life of man,
and the projection of a world of spirits into ours, communicated by
This book, published in Germany some twelve years since, and which
called forth there plenteous dews of admiration, as plenteous
hail-storms of jeers and scorns, I never saw mentioned till some year or
two since, in any English publication. Then a playful, but not sarcastic
account of it, in the Dublin Magazine, so far excited my curiosity that
I procured the book intending to read it so soon as I should have some
leisure days, such as this journey has afforded.
Dr. Kerner, its author, is a man of distinction in his native land, both
as a physician and a thinker, though always on the side of reverence,
marvel, and mysticism. He was known to me only through two or three
little poems of his in Catholic legends, which I much admired for the
fine sense they showed of the beauty of symbols.
He here gives a biography, mental and physical, of one of the most
remarkable cases of high nervous excitement that the age, so interested
in such, yet affords, with all its phenomena of clairvoyance and
susceptibility of magnetic influences. I insert some account of this
biography at the request of many who have been interested by slight
references to it. The book, a thick and heavy volume, written with true
German patience, some would say clumsiness, has not, probably, and may
not be translated into other languages. As to my own mental position on
these subjects it may be briefly expressed by a dialogue between several
persons who honor me with a portion of friendly confidence and of
criticism, and myself expressed as _Free Hope_. The others may be styled
_Old Church, Good Sense_, and _Self-Poise_.
_Good Sense_. I wonder you can take any interest in such observations or
experiments. Don't you see how almost impossible it is to make them with
any exactness, how entirely impossible to know anything about them
unless made by yourself, when the least leaven of credulity, excited
fancy, to say nothing of willing or careless imposture, spoils the
whole loaf. Beside, allowing the possibility of some clear glimpses into
a higher state of being, what do we want of it now? All around us lies
what we neither understand nor use. Our capacities, our instincts for
this our present sphere are but half developed. Let us confine ourselves
to that till the lesson be learned; let us be completely natural, before
we trouble ourselves with the supernatural. I never see any of these
things but I long to get away and lie under a green tree and let the
wind blow on me. There is marvel and charm enough in that for me.
_Free Hope_. And for me also. Nothing is truer than the Wordsworthian
creed, on which Carlyle lays such stress, that we need only look on the
miracle of every day, to sate ourselves with thought and admiration
every day. But how are our faculties sharpened to do it? Precisely by
apprehending the infinite results of every day.
Who sees the meaning of the flower uprooted in the ploughed field? The
ploughman who does not look beyond its boundaries and does not raise his
eyes from the ground? No--but the poet who sees that field in its
relations with the universe, and looks oftener to the sky than on the
ground. Only the dreamer shall understand realities, though, in truth,
his dreaming must not be out of proportion to his waking!
The mind, roused powerfully by this existence, stretches of itself into
what the French sage calls the "aromal state." From the hope thus
gleaned it forms the hypothesis, under whose banner it collects its
Long before these slight attempts were made to establish as a science
what is at present called animal magnetism, always, in fact men were
occupied more or less with this vital principle, principle of flux and
influx, dynamic of our mental mechanics, human phase of electricity.
Poetic observation was pure, there was no quackery in its free course,
as there is so often in this wilful tampering with the hidden springs of
life, for it is tampering unless done in a patient spirit and with
severe truth; yet it may be, by the rude or greedy miners, some good ore
is unearthed. And some there are who work in the true temper, patient
and accurate in trial, not rushing to conclusions, feeling there is a
mystery, not eager to call it by name, till they can know it as a
reality: such may learn, such may teach.
Subject to the sudden revelations, the breaks in habitual existence
caused by the aspect of death, the touch of love, the flood of music, I
never lived, that I remember, what you call a common natural day. All my
days are touched by the supernatural, for I feel the pressure of hidden
causes, and the presence, sometimes the communion, of unseen powers. It
needs not that I should ask the clairvoyant whether "a spirit-world
projects into ours." As to the specific evidence, I would not tarnish my
mind by hasty reception. The mind is not, I know, a highway, but a
temple, and its doors should not be carelessly left open. Yet it were
sin, if indolence or coldness excluded what had a claim to enter; and I
doubt whether, in the eyes of pure intelligence, an ill-grounded hasty
rejection be not a greater sign of weakness than an ill-grounded and
I will quote, as my best plea, the saying of a man old in years, but not
in heart, and whose long life has been distinguished by that clear
adaptation of means to ends which gives the credit of practical wisdom.
He wrote to his child, "I have lived too long, and seen too much to be
incredulous." Noble the thought, no less so its frank expression,
instead of saws of caution, mean advices, and other modern instances.
Such was the romance of Socrates when he bade his disciples "sacrifice a
cock to Aesculapius."
_Old Church_. You are always so quick-witted and voluble, Free Hope, you
don't get time to see how often you err, and even, perhaps, sin and
blaspheme. The Author of all has intended to confine our knowledge
within certain boundaries, has given us a short span of time for a
certain probation, for which our faculties are adapted. By wild
speculation and intemperate curiosity we violate his will and incur
dangerous, perhaps fatal, consequences. We waste our powers, and,
becoming morbid and visionary, are unfitted to obey positive precepts,
and perform positive duties.
_Free Hope_. I do not see how it is possible to go further beyond the
results of a limited human experience than those do who pretend to
settle the origin and nature of sin, the final destiny of souls, and the
whole plan of the causal spirit with regard to them. I think those who
take your view, have not examined themselves, and do not know the ground
on which they stand.
I acknowledge no limit, set up by man's opinion, as to the capacities
of man. "Care is taken," I see it, "that the trees grow not up into
heaven," but, to me it seems, the more vigorously they aspire the
better. Only let it be a vigorous, not a partial or sickly aspiration.
Let not the tree forget its root.
So long as the child insists on knowing where its dead parent is, so
long as bright eyes weep at mysterious pressures, too heavy for the
life, so long as that impulse is constantly arising which made the Roman
emperor address his soul in a strain of such touching softness,
vanishing from the thought, as the column of smoke from the eye, I know
of no inquiry which the impulse of man suggests that is forbidden to the
resolution of man to pursue. In every inquiry, unless sustained by a
pure and reverent spirit, he gropes in the dark, or falls headlong.
_Self-Poise_. All this may be very true, but what is the use of all this
straining? Far-sought is dear-bought. When we know that all is in each,
and that the ordinary contains the extraordinary, why should we play the
baby, and insist upon having the moon for a toy when a tin dish will do
as well. Our deep ignorance is a chasm that we can only fill up by
degrees, but the commonest rubbish will help us as well as shred silk.
The God Brahma, while on earth, was set to fill up a valley, but he had
only a basket given him in which to fetch earth for this purpose; so is
it with us all. No leaps, no starts will avail us, by patient
crystallization alone the equal temper of wisdom is attainable. Sit at
home and the spirit-world will look in at your window with moonlit
eyes; run out to find it, and rainbow and golden cup will have vanished
and left you the beggarly child you were. The better part of wisdom is a
sublime prudence, a pure and patient truth that will receive nothing it
is not sure it can permanently lay to heart. Of our study there should
be in proportion two-thirds of rejection to one of acceptance. And, amid
the manifold infatuations and illusions of this world of emotion, a
being capable of clear intelligence can do no better service than to
hold himself upright, avoid nonsense, and do what chores lie in his way,
acknowledging every moment that primal truth, which no fact exhibits,
nor, if pressed by too warm a hope, will even indicate. I think, indeed,
it is part of our lesson to give a formal consent to what is farcical,
and to pick up our living and our virtue amid what is so ridiculous,
hardly deigning a smile, and certainly not vexed. The work is done
through all, if not by every one.
_Free Hope._ Thou art greatly wise, my friend, and ever respected by me,
yet I find not in your theory or your scope, room enough for the lyric
inspirations, or the mysterious whispers of life. To me it seems that it
is madder never to abandon oneself, than often to be infatuated; better
to be wounded, a captive, and a slave, than always to walk in armor. As
to magnetism, that is only a matter of fancy. You sometimes need just
such a field in which to wander vagrant, and if it bear a higher name,
yet it may be that, in last result, the trance of Pythagoras might be
classed with the more infantine transports of the Seeress of Prevorst.
What is done interests me more than what is thought and supposed. Every
fact is impure, but every fact contains in it the juices of life. Every
fact is a clod, from which may grow an amaranth or a palm.
Do you climb the snowy peaks from whence come the streams, where the
atmosphere is rare, where you can see the sky nearer, from which you can
get a commanding view of the landscape. I see great disadvantages as
well as advantages in this dignified position. I had rather walk myself
through all kinds of places, even at the risk of being robbed in the
forest, half drowned at the ford, and covered with dust in the street.
I would beat with the living heart of the world, and understand all the
moods, even the fancies or fantasies, of nature. I dare to trust to the
interpreting spirit to bring me out all right at last--to establish
truth through error.
Whether this be the best way is of no consequence, if it be the one
individual character points out.
For one, like me, it would be vain
From glittering heights the eyes to strain;
I the truth can only know,
Tested by life's most fiery glow.
Seeds of thought will never thrive
Till dews of love shall bid them live.
Let me stand in my age with all its waters flowing round me. If they
sometimes subdue, they must finally upbear me, for I seek the
Universal--and that must be the best.
The Spirit, no doubt, leads in every movement of my time: if I seek the
How, I shall find it, as well as if I busied myself more with the Why.
Whatever is, is right, if only men are steadily bent to make it so, by
comprehending and fulfilling its design.
May not I have an office, too, in my hospitality and ready sympathy? If
I sometimes entertain guests who cannot pay with gold coin, with "fair
rose nobles," that is better than to lose the chance of entertaining
You, my three friends, are held in heart-honor, by me. You, especially,
Good-Sense, because where you do not go yourself, you do not object to
another's going, if he will. You are really liberal. You, Old Church,
are of use, by keeping unforgot the effigies of old religion, and
reviving the tone of pure Spenserian sentiment, which this time is apt
to stifle in its childish haste. But you are very faulty in censuring
and wishing to limit others by your own standard. You, Self-Poise, fill
a priestly office. Could but a larger intelligence of the vocations of
others, and a tender sympathy with their individual natures be added,
had you more of love, or more of apprehensive genius, (for either would
give you the needed expansion and delicacy) you would command my entire
reverence. As it is, I must at times deny and oppose you, and so must
others, for you tend, by your influence, to exclude us from our full,
free life. We must be content when you censure, and rejoiced when you
approve; always admonished to good by your whole being, and sometimes by
your judgment. And so I pass on to interest myself and others in the
memoir of the Scherin von Prevorst.
Aside from Loewenstein, a town of Wirtemberg, on mountains whose highest
summit is more than eighteen hundred feet above the level of the sea,
lies in romantic seclusion, surrounded on all sides by woods and hills,
the hamlet of Prevorst.
Its inhabitants number about four hundred and fifty, most of whom
support themselves by wood-cutting, and making charcoal, and collecting
As is usual with those who live upon the mountains, these are a vigorous
race, and generally live to old age without sickness. Diseases that
infest the valley, such as ague, never touch them; but they are subject
in youth to attacks upon the nerves, which one would not expect in so
healthy a class. In a town situated near to, and like Prevorst, the
children were often attacked with a kind of St. Vitus's dance. They
would foresee when it would seize upon them, and, if in the field, would
hasten home to undergo the paroxysms there. From these they rose, as
from magnetic sleep, without memory of what had happened.
Other symptoms show the inhabitants of this region very susceptible to
magnetic and sidereal influences.
On this mountain, and indeed in the hamlet of Prevorst, was, in 1801, a
woman born, in whom a peculiar inner life discovered itself from early
childhood. Frederica Hauffe, whose father was gamekeeper of this
district of forest, was, as the position and solitude of her birthplace
made natural, brought up in the most simple manner. In the keen mountain
air and long winter cold, she was not softened by tenderness either as
to dress or bedding, but grew up lively and blooming; and while her
brothers and sisters, under the same circumstances, were subject to
rheumatic attacks, she remained free from them. On the other hand, her
peculiar tendency displayed itself in her dreams. If anything affected
her painfully, if her mind was excited by reproof, she had instructive
warning, or prophetic dreams.
While yet quite young, her parents let her go, for the advantages of
instruction, to her grandfather, Johann Schmidgall, in Loewenstein.
Here were discovered in her the sensibility to magnetic and ghostly
influences, which, the good Kerner assures us, her grandparents deeply
lamented, and did all in their power to repress. But, as it appears that
her grandfather, also, had seen a ghost, and there were evidently
legends in existence about the rooms in which the little Frederika saw
ghosts, and spots where the presence of human bones caused her sudden
shivering, we may be allowed to doubt whether indirect influence was not
more powerful than direct repression upon these subjects.
There is the true German impartiality with regard to the scene of
appearance for these imposing visiters; sometimes it is "a room in the
Castle of Loewenstein, long disused," a la Radcliffe, sometimes "a
This "solemn, unhappy gift," brought no disturbance to the childish life
of the maiden, she enjoyed life with more vivacity than most of her
companions. The only trouble she had was the extreme irritability of the
optic nerve, which, though without inflammation of the eyes, sometimes
confined her to a solitary chamber. "This," says Dr. K. "was probably a
sign of the development of the spiritual in the fleshly eye."
Sickness of her parents at last called her back to the lonely Prevorst,
where, by trouble and watching beside sick beds, her feelings were too
much excited, so that the faculty for prophetic dreams and the vision of
spirits increased upon her.
From her seventeenth to her nineteenth year, when every outward relation
was pleasant for her, this inward life was not so active, and she was
distinguished from other girls of her circle only by the more
intellectual nature, which displayed itself chiefly in the eyes, and by
a greater liveliness which, however, never passed the bounds of grace
She had none of the sentimentality so common at that age, and it can be
proved that she had never an attachment, nor was disappointed in love,
as has been groundlessly asserted.
In her nineteenth year, she was by her family betrothed to Herr H. The
match was desirable on account of the excellence of the man, and the
sure provision it afforded for her comfort through life.
But, whether from presentiment of the years of suffering that were
before her, or from other hidden feelings, of which we only know with
certainty that, if such there were, they were not occasioned by another
attachment, she sank into a dejection, inexplicable to her family;
passed whole days in weeping; scarcely slept for some weeks, and thus
the life of feeling which had been too powerful in her childhood was
called up anew in full force.
On the day of her solemn betrothal, took place, also, the funeral of
T., the preacher of Oberstenfeld, a man of sixty and more years, whose
preaching, instruction, and character, (he was goodness itself,) had had
great influence upon her life. She followed the dear remains, with
others, to the church-yard. Her heart till then so heavy, was suddenly
relieved and calmed, as she stood beside the grave. She remained there
long, enjoying her new peace, and when she went away found herself
tranquil, but indifferent to all the concerns of this world. Here began
the period, not indeed as yet of sickness, but of her peculiar inward
life, which knew afterward no pause.
Later, in somnambulic state, she spoke of this day in the following
verses. The deceased had often appeared to her as a shape of light,
protecting her from evil spirits.
(These are little simple rhymes; they are not worth translating into
verse, though, in the original, they have a childish grace.)
What was once so dark to me,
I see now clearly.
In that day
When I had given in marriage myself away,
I stood quite immersed in thee,
Thou angel figure above thy grave mound.
Willingly would I have exchanged with thee,
Willingly given up to thee my earthly luck,
Which those around praised as the blessing of heaven.
I prayed upon thy grave
For one blessing only,
That the wings of this angel
On the hot path of life,
Waft around me the peace of heaven.
There standest thou, angel, now; my prayer was heard.
She was, in consequence of her marriage, removed to Kuernbach, a place on
the borders of Wuertemberg and Baden. Its position is low, gloomy, shut
in by hills; opposite in all the influences of earth and atmosphere to
those of Prevorst and its vicinity.
Those of electrical susceptibility are often made sick or well by change
of place. Papponi, (of whom Amoretti writes,) a man of such
susceptibility, was cured of convulsive attacks by change of place.
Penriet could find repose while in one part of Calabria, only by
wrapping himself in an oil-cloth mantle, thus, as it were, isolating
himself. That great sense of sidereal and imponderable influences, which
afterward manifested itself so clearly in the Seherin, probably made
this change of place very unfavorable to her. Later, it appeared, that
the lower she came down from the hills, the more she suffered from
spasms, but on the heights her tendency to the magnetic state was the
But also mental influences were hostile to her. Already withdrawn from
the outward life, she was placed, where, as consort and housekeeper to a
laboring man, the calls on her care and attention were incessant. She
was obliged hourly to forsake her inner home, to provide for an outer,
which did not correspond with it.
She bore this seven months, though flying to solitude, whenever outward
relations permitted. But longer it was not possible to conceal the
inward verity by an outward action, "the body sank beneath the attempt,
and the spirit took refuge in the inner circle."
One night she dreamed that she awoke and found the dead body of the
preacher T. by her side; that at the same time her father, and two
physicians were considering what should be done for her in a severe
sickness. She called out that "the dead friend would help her; she
needed no physician." Her husband, hearing her cry out in sleep, woke
This dream was presage of a fever, which seized her next morning. It
lasted fourteen days with great violence, and was succeeded by attacks
of convulsion and spasm. This was the beginning of that state of bodily
suffering and mental exaltation in which she passed the remaining seven
years of her life.
She seems to have been very injudiciously treated in the first stages of
her illness. Bleeding was resorted to, as usual in cases of extreme
suffering where the nurses know not what else to do, and, as usual, the
momentary relief was paid for by an increased nervousness, and capacity
Magnetic influences from other persons were of frequent use to her, but
they were applied without care as to what characters and constitutions
were brought into connexion with hers, and were probably in the end just
as injurious to her as the loss of blood. At last she became so weak, so
devoid of all power in herself, that her life seemed entirely dependent
on artificial means and the influence of other men.
There is a singular story of a woman in the neighborhood, who visited
her once or twice, apparently from an instinct that she should injure
her, and afterwards, interfered in the same way, and with the same
results, in the treatment of her child.
This demoniacal impulse and power, which were ascribed to the Canidias
of ancient superstition, may be seen subtly influencing the members of
every-day society. We see persons led, by an uneasy impulse, towards the
persons and the topics where they are sure they can irritate and annoy.
This is constantly observable among children, also in the closest
relations between grown up people who have not yet the government of
themselves, neither are governed by the better power.
There is also an interesting story of a quack who treated her with
amulets, whose parallel may be found in the action of such persons in
common society. It is an expression of the power that a vulgar and
self-willed nature will attain over one delicate, poetical, but not yet
clear within itself; outwardly it yields to a power which it inwardly
A touching little passage is related of a time in the first years, when
she seemed to be better, so much so as to receive an evening visit from
some female friends. They grew merry and began to dance; she remained
sad and thoughtful. When they stopped, she was in the attitude of
prayer. One of her intimates, observing this, began to laugh. This
affected her so much, that she became cold and rigid like a corpse. For
some time they did not hear her breathe, and, when she did, it was with
a rattling noise. They applied mustard poultices, and used foot and hand
baths; she was brought back to life, but to a state of great suffering.
She recognized as her guardian spirit, who sometimes magnetized her or
removed from her neighborhood substances that were hurtful to her, her
grandmother; thus coinciding with the popular opinion that traits
reappear in the third generation.
Now began still greater wonders; the second sight, numerous and various
visits from spirits and so forth.
The following may be mentioned in connection with theories and
experiments current among ourselves.
"A friend, who was often with her at this time, wrote to me (Kerner):
When I, with my finger, touch her _on the forehead between the
eyebrows_, she says each time something that bears upon the state of my
soul. Some of these sentences I record.
"Keep thy soul so that thou mayst bear it in thy hands."
"When thou comest into a world of bustle and folly, hold the Lord fast
in thy heart."
"If any seek to veil from thee thy true feeling, pray to God for grace."
"Permit not thyself to stifle the light that springs up within thyself."
"Think often of the cross of Jesus; go forth and embrace it."
"As the dove found a resting-place in Noah's ark, so wilt thou, also,
find a resting-place which God has appointed for thee."
When she was put under the care of Kerner, she had been five years in
this state, and was reduced to such weakness, that she was, with
difficulty, sustained from hour to hour.
He thought at first it would be best to take no notice of her magnetic
states and directions, and told her he should not, but should treat her
with regard to her bodily symptoms, as he would any other invalid.
"At this time she fell every evening into magnetic sleep, and gave
orders about herself; to which, however, those round her no longer paid
I was now called in. I had never seen this woman, but had heard many
false or perverted accounts of her condition. I must confess that I
shared the evil opinion of the world as to her illness; that I advised
to pay no attention to her magnetic situation, and the orders she gave
in it; in her spasms, to forbear the laying of hands upon her; to deny
her the support of persons of stronger nerves; in short, to do all
possible to draw her out of the magnetic state, and to treat her with
attention, but with absolutely none but the common medical means.
These views were shared by my friend, Dr. Off, of Loewenstein, who
continued to treat her accordingly. But without good results.
Hemorrhage, spasms, night-sweats continued. Her gums were scorbutically
affected, and bled constantly; she lost all her teeth. Strengthening
remedies affected her like being drawn up from her bed by force; she
sank into a fear of all men, and a deadly weakness. Her death was to be
wished, but it came not. Her relations, in despair, not knowing
themselves what they could do with her, brought her, almost against my
will, to me at Weinsburg.
She was brought hither an image of death, perfectly emaciated, unable to
raise herself. Every three or four minutes, a teaspoonful of nourishment
must be given her, else she fell into faintness or convulsion. Her
somnambulic situation alternated with fever, hemorrhage, and
night-sweats. Every evening, about seven o'clock, she fell into magnetic
sleep. She then spread out her arms, and found herself, from that
moment, in a clairvoyant state; but only when she brought them back upon
her breast, did she begin to speak. (Kerner mentions that her child,
too, slept with its hands and feet crossed.) In this state her eyes were
shut, her face calm and bright. As she fell asleep, the first night
after her arrival, she asked for me, but I bade them tell her that I
now, and in future, should speak to her only when awake.
After she awoke, I went to her and declared, in brief and earnest terms,
that I should pay no attention to what she said in sleep, and that her
somnambulic state, which had lasted so long to the grief and trouble of
her family, must now come to an end. This declaration I accompanied by
an earnest appeal, designed to awaken a firm will in her to put down the
excessive activity of brain that disordered her whole system.
Afterwards, no address was made to her on any subject when in her
sleep-waking state. She was left to lie unheeded. I pursued a
homoeopathic treatment of her case. But the medicines constantly
produced effects opposite to what I expected. She now suffered less from
spasm and somnambulism, but with increasing marks of weakness and
decay. All seemed as if the end of her sufferings drew near. It was too
late for the means I wished to use. Affected so variously and powerfully
by magnetic means in the first years of her illness, she had now no life
more, so thoroughly was the force of her own organization exhausted, but
what she borrowed from others. In her now more infrequent magnetic
trance, she was always seeking the true means of her cure. It was
touching to see how, retiring within herself, she sought for help. The
physician who had aided her so little with his drugs, must often stand
abashed before this inner physician, perceiving it to be far better
skilled than himself."
After some weeks forbearance, Kerner did ask her in her sleep what he
should do for her. She prescribed a magnetic treatment, which was found
of use. Afterwards, she described a machine, of which there is a drawing
in this book, which she wished to have made for her use; it was so, and
she derived benefit from it. She had indicated such a machine in the
early stages of her disease, but at that time no one attended to her. By
degrees she grew better under this treatment, and lived at Weinsberg,
nearly two years, though in a state of great weakness, and more in the
magnetic and clairvoyant than in the natural human state.
How his acquaintance with her affected the physician, he thus expresses:
"During those last months of her abode on the earth, there remained to
her only the life of a sylph. I have been interested to record, not a
journal of her sickness, but the mental phenomena of such an almost
disembodied life. Such may cast light on the period when also our Psyche
may unfold her wings, free from bodily bonds, and the hindrances of
space and time. I give facts; each reader may interpret them in his own
The manuals of animal magnetism and other writings have proposed many
theories by which to explain such. All these are known to me. I shall
make no reference to them, but only, by use of parallel facts here and