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The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss by George L. Prentiss

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Did you ever read Miss Taylor's "Display"? Sister says the character of
Emily there is like mine. I think so myself save in the best point.

We come now to an important change in her outward life. She had accepted
an invitation to become a teacher in Mr. Persico's school at Richmond,
Virginia. Mr. Persico was an Italian, a brother of the sculptor of that
name, a number of whose works are seen at Washington. He early became
interested in our institutions, and as soon as he was able, came to this
country and settled in Philadelphia as an artist. He married a lady of
that city, and afterward on account of her health went to Richmond,
where he opened a boarding and day school for girls. There were four
separate departments, one of which was under the sole care of Miss
Payson. Her letters to her family, written at this time, have all been
lost, but a full record of the larger portion of her Richmond life is
preserved in letters to her cousin, Mr. Shipman. The following extracts
from these letters show with what zeal she devoted herself to her new
calling and how absorbed her heart was still in the things of God. They
also throw light upon some marked features of her character.

BOSTON, _September 23._

I had, after leaving home, an attack of that terrible pain, of which I
have told you, and believed myself very near death. It became a serious
question whether, if God should so please, I could feel willing to die
there alone, for I was among entire strangers. I never enjoyed more of
His presence than that night when, sick and sad and full of pain, I felt
it sweet to put myself in His hands to be disposed of in His own way.

The attack referred to in this letter resembled _angina pectoris_, a
disease to which for many years she was led to consider herself liable.
Whatever it may have been, its effect was excruciating. "Mother was
telling me the other day," she wrote to a friend, "that in her long life
she had never seen an individual suffer more severe bodily pain than she
had often tried to relieve in me. I remember scores of such hours of
real agony." In the present instance the attack was doubtless brought
on, in part at least, by mental agitation. "No words," she wrote a few
months later, "can describe the anguish of my mind the night I left
home; it seemed to me that all the agony I had ever passed through was
condensed into a small space, and I certainly believe that I should die,
if left to a higher degree of such pain."

RICHMOND, _September 30, 1840._

About twelve o'clock, when it was as dark as pitch, we were all ordered
to prepare for a short walk. In single file then out we went. It seems
that a bridge had been burned lately, and so we were all to go round on
foot to another train of cars. There were dozens of bright, crackling
bonfires lighted at short intervals all along, and as we wound down
narrow, steep and rocky pathways, then up steps which had been rudely
cut out in the side of the elevated ground, and as far as we could see
before us could watch the long line of moving figures in all varieties
of form and color, my spirits rose to the very tiptop of enjoyment. I
wished you could have a picture of the whole scene, which, though one of
real life, was to me at least exceedingly beautiful. We reached
Richmond at one o'clock. Mr. Persico was waiting for us and received
us cordially.... When I awoke at eight o'clock, I felt forlorn enough.
Imagine, if you can, the room in which I opened my eyes. It is in the
attic, is very low and has two windows. My first thought was, "I never
can be happy in this miserable hole;" but in a second this wicked
feeling took flight, and I reproached myself for my ingratitude to Him
who had preserved me through all my journey, had made much of it so
delightful and profitable, and who still promised to be with me.

_Oct. 2._--I will try to give you some account of our doings, although
we are not fully settled. We have risen at six so far, but intend to be
up by five if we can wake. As soon as we are dressed I take my Bible out
into the entry, where is a window and a quiet corner, and read and think
until Louisa [6] is ready to give me our room and take my place. At nine
we go into school, where Miss Lord [7] reads a prayer, and from that
hour until twelve we are engaged with our respective classes. At twelve
we have a recess of thirty minutes. This over, we return again to
school, where we stay until three, when we are to dine. All day Saturday
we are free. This time we are to have Monday, too, as a special
holiday, because of a great Whig convention which is turning the city
upside-down. There is one pleasant thing, pleasant to me at least, of
which I want to tell you. As Mr. Persico is not a religious man, I
supposed we should have no blessing at the table, and was afraid I
should get into the habit of failing to acknowledge God there. But I
was much affected when, on going to dine the first day I came, he stood
leaning silently and reverentially over his chair, as if to allow all of
us time for that quiet lifting up of the heart which is ever acceptable
in the sight of God. It is very impressive. Miss Lord reads prayers at
night, and when Mrs. Persico comes home we are to have singing....

That passage in the 119th Psalm, of which you speak, is indeed
delightful. I will tell you what were some of my meditations on it. I
thought to myself that if God continued His faithfulness toward me, I
shall have afflictions such as I now know nothing more of than the name,
for I need them constantly. I have trembled ever since I came here at
the host of new difficulties to which I am exposed. Surely I did again
and again ask God to decide the question for me as to whether I should
leave home or not, and believed that He _had_ chosen for me. It
certainly was against my own inclinations....

_Oct. 12th._--This morning I had a new scholar, a pale, thin little girl
who stammers, and when I spoke to her, and she was obliged to answer,
the color spread over her face and neck as if she suffered the utmost
mortification. I was glad when recess came, to draw her close to my side
and to tell her that I had a friend afflicted in the same way, and that
consequently, I should know how to understand and pity her. She held my
hand fast in hers and the tears came stealing down one after another,
as she leaned confidingly upon my shoulder, and I could not help crying
too, with mingled feelings of gratitude and sorrow. Certainly it will be
delightful to soothe and to console this poor little thing.... You do
not like poetry and I have spent the best part of my life in reading
or trying to write it. N. P. Willis told me some years ago, that if my
husband had a soul, he would love me for the poetical in me, and advised
me to save it for him.

_Oct. 27th._--Sometimes when I feel almost sure that the Saviour has
accepted and forgiven me and that I _belong to Him_, I can only walk my
room repeating over and over again, _How wonderful_! And then when my
mind strives to take in this love of Christ, it seems to struggle in
vain with its own littleness and falls back weary and exhausted,
to _wonder_ again at the heights and depths which surpass its
comprehension.... If there is a spark of love in my heart for anybody,
it is for this dear brother of mine, and the desire to have his
education thorough and complete has grown with my growth. You, who are
not a sister, can not understand the feelings with which I regard him,
but they are such as to call forth unbounded love and gratitude toward
those who show kindness to him.

_Nov. 3d._--I have always felt a peculiar love for the passage that
describes the walk to Emmaus. I have tried to analyse the feeling of
pleasure which it invariably sheds over my heart when dwelling upon it,
especially upon the words, "Jesus Himself drew near and went with them,"
and these, "He made as though He would go further," but yielded to
their urgent, "Abide with us." ... This is one of the comforts of the
Christian; God understands him fully whether he can explain his troubles
or not. Sometimes I think all of a sudden that I do not love the Saviour
at all, and am ready to believe that all my pretended anxiety to serve
Him has been but a matter of feeling and not of principle; but of late
I have been less disturbed by this imagination, as I find it extends
to earthly friends who are dear to me as my own soul. I thought once
yesterday that I didn't love anybody in the world and was perfectly
wretched in consequence.

_Nov. 12th._--The more I try to understand myself, the more I am
puzzled. That I am a mixture of contradictions is the opinion I have
long had of myself. I call it a compound of sincerity and reserve.
Unless you see just what I mean in your own consciousness, I doubt
whether I can explain it in words. With me it is both an open and a shut
heart--open when and where and as far as I please, and shut as tight as
a vise in the same way. I was probably born with this same mixture of
frankness and reserve, having inherited the one from my mother and the
other from my father.... I have often thought that, humanly speaking, it
would be a strange, and surely a very sad thing if we none of us inherit
any of our father's piety; for when he prayed for his children it was,
undoubtedly, that we might be very peculiarly the Lord's. H. was to
be the missionary; but if he can not go himself, and is prospered in
business, I hope he will be able to help send others. I have been
frightened, of late, in thinking how little good I am doing in the
world. And yet I believe that those who love to do good always find
opportunities enough, wherever they are. Whether I shall do any here, I
dare not try to guess.

_Dec. 3d._--How I thank you for the interest you take in my Bible class.
They are so attentive to every word I say that it makes me deeply feel
the importance of seeking each of those words from the Holy Spirit. Many
of them had not even a Bible of their own until now, nor were they
in the habit of reading it at all. Among others there are two
grand-daughters of Patrick Henry. I wish I could give you a picture of
them, as they sit on Sabbath evening around the table with their eyes
fixed so eagerly on my face, that if I did not feel that the Lord
Jesus was present, I should be overwhelmed with confusion at my
unworthiness.... Mr. Persico is a queer man. Last Sabbath Miss L. asked
him if he had been to church. "Oui, Mlle.," said he; "_vous_ etiez a
l'eglise de l'homme--_moi_, j'etais a l'eglise de Dieu--dans les bois."
There is the bell for prayers; it is an hour since I began to write, but
I have spent a great part of it with my eyes shut because I happened
to feel more like meditating than writing, if you know what sort of
a feeling that is. Oh, that we might be enabled to go onward day by
day--and _upward too_.

I have been making violent efforts for years to become meek and lowly in
heart. At present I do hope that I am less irritable than I used to be.
It was no small comfort to me when sister was home last summer, to learn
from her that I had succeeded somewhat in my efforts. But though I have
not often the last year been guilty of "harsh speeches," I have felt
my pride tugging with all its might to kindle a great fire when some
unexpected trial has caught me off my guard. I am persuaded that real
meekness dwells deep within the heart and that it is only to be gained
by communion with our blessed Saviour, who when He was reviled, reviled
not again.

_Sabbath Evening, 8th._--I wanted to write last evening but had a worse
pain in my side and left arm than I have had since I came here. While it
lasted, which was an hour and a half, I had such pleasant thoughts for
companions as would make any pain endurable. I was asking myself if,
supposing God should please suddenly to take me away in the midst of
life, whether I should feel willing and glad to go, and oh, it did seem
_delightful_ to think of it, and to feel sure that, sooner or later, the
summons will come. Those pieces which you marked in the "Observer" I
have read and like them exceedingly, especially those about growth in
grace.... You speak of the goodness of God to me in granting me so much
of His presence, while I am here away from all earthly friends. Indeed I
want to be able to praise Him as I never yet have done, and I don't know
where to begin. I have felt more pain in this separation from home on
mother's account than any other, as I feel that she needs me at home to
comfort and to love her. Since she lost her best earthly friend I have
been her constant companion. I once had a secret desire for a missionary
life, if God should see fit to prepare me for it, but when I spoke of
it to mother she was so utterly overcome at its bare mention that I
instantly promised I would _never_ for any inducement leave or forsake
her. I want you to pray for me that if poor mother's right hand is made
forever useless, [8] I may after this year be a right hand for her, and
be enabled to make up somewhat to her for the loss of it by affection
and tenderness and sympathy.... I don't remember feeling any way in
particular, when I first began to "write for the press," as you call it.
I never could realise that more than half a dozen people would read my
pieces. Besides, I have no desire of the sort you express, for fame.
I care a great deal too much for the approbation of those I love and
respect, but not a fig for that of those I don't like or don't know.

* * * * *


Her Character as a Teacher. Letters. Incidents of School-Life. Religious
Struggles, Aims, and Hopes. Oppressive Heat and Weariness.

Miss Payson had been in Richmond but a short time before she became
greatly endeared to Mr. and Mrs. Persico, and to the whole school. She
had a rare natural gift for teaching. Fond of study herself, she
knew how to inspire her pupils with the same feeling. Her method was
excellent. It aimed not merely to impart knowledge but to elicit latent
powers, and to remove difficulties out of the way. While decided and
thorough, it was also very gentle, helpful, and sympathetic. She had a
quick perception of mental diversities, saw as by intuition the weak and
the strong points of individual character, and was skillful in adapting
her influence, as well as her instructions, to the peculiarities of
every one under her care. The girls in her own special department almost
idolised her. The parents also of some of them, who belonged to Richmond
and its vicinity, seeing what she was doing for their daughters, sought
her acquaintance and showed her the most grateful affection.

Although her school labors were exacting, she carried on a large
correspondence, spent a good deal of time in her favorite religious
reading, and together with Miss Susan Lord, the senior teacher and an
old Portland friend, pursued a course of study in French and Italian. At
the table Mr. Persico spoke French, and in this way she was enabled
to perfect herself in the practice of that language. Of her spiritual
history and of incidents of her school life during the new year, some
extracts from letters to her cousin will give her own account.

RICHMOND, _January 3, 1841._

If I tell you that I am going to take under my especial care and
protection one of the family--a little girl of eleven years whom nobody
can manage at all, you may wonder why. I found on my plate at dinner a
note from Mrs. Persico saying that if I wanted an opportunity of doing
good, here was one; that if Nannie could sleep in my room, etc., it
might be of great benefit to her. The only reason why I hesitated was
the fear that she might be in the way of our best hours. But I have
thought all along that I was living too much at my ease, and wanted a
place in which to deny myself for the sake of the One who yielded up
every comfort for my sake. Nannie has a fine character but has been
mismanaged at home, and since coming here. She often comes and puts her
arms around me and says, "There is _one_ in this house who loves me, I
do _know_." I receive her as a trust from God, with earnest prayer to
Him that we may be enabled to be of use to her. From morning to night
she is found fault with, and this is spoiling her temper and teaching
her to be deceitful.... I have been reading lately the Memoir of Martyn.
I have, of course, read it more than once before, but everything appears
to me now in such a different light. I rejoice that I have been led to
read the book just now. It has put within me new and peculiar desires to
live wholly for the glory of God.

_Jan.13th._--I understand the feeling about wishing one's self a dog,
or an animal without a soul. I have sat and watched a little kitten
frisking about in the sunshine till I could hardly help killing it in my
envy--but oh, how different it is now! I have felt lately that perhaps
God has something for me to do in the world. I am satisfied, indeed,
that in calling me nearer to Himself He has intended to prepare me for
His service. Where that is to be is no concern of mine as yet. I only
wish to belong to Him and wait for His will, whatever it may be.

_Jan. 14th_.--I used to go through with prayer merely as a duty, but now
I look forward to the regular time for it, and hail opportunities for
special seasons with such delight as I once knew nothing of. Sometimes
my heart feels ready to break for the longing it hath for a nearer
approach to the Lord Jesus than I can obtain without the use of words,
and there is not a corner of the house which I can have to myself. I
think sometimes that I should be thankful for the meanest place in the
universe. You ask if I ever dream of seeing the Lord. No--I never did,
neither should I think it desirable; but a few days ago, when I woke,
I had fresh in my remembrance some precious words which, as I had been
dreaming, He had spoken to me. It left an indescribable feeling of love
and peace on my mind. I seemed in my dream to be very near Him, and that
He was encouraging me to ask of Him all the things of which I felt the

_Jan. 17th_.--I did not mean to write so much about myself, for when I
took out my letter I was thinking of things and beings far above this
world. I was thinking of the hour when the Christian first enters into
the joy of his Lord, when the first note of the "new song" is borne to
his ear, and the first view of the Lamb of God is granted to his eye. It
seems to me as if the bliss of that one minute would fully compensate
for all the toils and struggles he must go through here; and then to
remember the ages of happiness that begin at that point! Oh, if the
unseen presence of Jesus can make the heart to sing for joy in the midst
of its sorrow and sin here, what will it be to dwell with Him forever!

My Bible class, which consists now of eighteen, is every week more
dear to me. I am glad that you think poor Nannie well off. She has
an inquiring mind, and though before coming here she had received no
religious instruction and had not even a Bible, she is now constantly
asking me questions which prove her to be a first-rate thinker and
reasoner. She went to the theatre last night and came home quite
disgusted, saying to herself, "I shouldn't like to die in the midst of
such gayeties as these." She urged me to tell her if I thought it wrong
for her to go, but I would not, because I did not want her to stay away
for my sake. I want her to settle the question fairly in her own mind
and to be guided by her own conscience rather than mine. She is so
grateful and happy that, if the sacrifice had been greater, we should be
glad that we had made it. And then if we can do her any good, how much
reason we shall have to thank God for having placed her here!

_Feb. 11th._--My thoughts of serious things should, perhaps, be called
prayers, rather than anything else. I have constant need of looking up
to God for help, so utterly weak and ignorant am I and so dependent upon
Him. Sometimes in my walks, especially those of the early morning, I
take a verse from the "Daily Food" to think upon; at others, if my mind
is where I want it should be, everything seems to speak and suggest
thoughts of my Heavenly Father, and when it is otherwise I feel as
if that time had been wasted. This is not "keeping the mind on the
stretch," and is delightfully refreshing. All I wish is that I were
always thus favored. As to a hasty temper, I know that anybody who ever
lived with me, until within the last two or three years, could tell
you of many instances of outbreaking passion. I am ashamed to say how
recently the last real tempest occurred, but I will not spare myself. It
was in the spring of 1838, and I did not eat anything for so long that I
was ill in bed and barely escaped a fever. Mother nursed me so tenderly
that, though she forgave me, I _never_ shall forgive myself. Since then
I should not wish you to suppose that I have been perfectly amiable, but
for the last year I think I have been enabled in a measure to control my
temper, but of that you know more than I do, as you had a fair specimen
of what I am when with us last summer. It has often been a source of
encouragement to me that everybody said I was gentle and amiable till
my father's death, when I was nine years old.... While reading to-night
that chapter in Mark, where it speaks of Jesus as walking on the sea,
I was interested in thinking how frequently such scenes occur in our
spiritual passage over the sea which is finally to land us on the shores
of the home for which we long. "While they were toiling in rowing,"
Jesus went to them upon the water and "would have passed by" till He
heard their cries, and then He manifested Himself unto them saying, _"It
is I."_ And when He came to them, the wind ceased and they "wondered."
Surely we have often found in our toiling that Jesus was passing by
and ready at the first trembling fear to speak the word of love and
of consolation and to give us the needed help, and then to leave
us _wondering_ indeed at the infinite tenderness and kindness so
unexpectedly vouchsafed for our relief.

_Feb. 13th_--I do not think we should make our enjoyment of religion the
greatest end of our struggle against sin. I never once had such an idea.
I think we should fight against sin simply because it is something
hateful to God, because it is something so utterly unlike the spirit of
Christ, whom it is our privilege to strive to imitate in all things. On
all points connected with the love I wish to give my Saviour, and the
service I am to render Him, I feel that I want teaching and am glad to
obtain assistance from any source. I hardly know how to answer your
question. I do not have that constant sense of the Saviour's presence
which I had here for a long time, neither do I feel that I love Him as
I thought I did, but it is not always best to judge of ourselves by our
feelings, but by the general principle and guiding desire of the mind. I
do think that my prevailing aim is to do the will of God and to glorify
Him in everything. Of this I have thought a great deal of late. I have
not a very extensive sphere of action, but I want my conduct, my every
word and look and motion, to be fully under the influence of this desire
for the honor of God. You can have no idea of the constant observation
to which I am exposed here.

_Feb. 21st._--I spent three hours this afternoon in taking care of a
little black child (belonging to the house), who is very ill, and as
I am not much used to such things, it excited and worried me into a
violent nervous headache. I finished Brainerd's Life this afternoon,
amid many doubts as to whether I ever loved the Lord at all, so
different is my piety from that of this blessed and holy man. The book
has been a favorite with me for years, but I never felt the influence of
his life as I have while reading it of late.

She alludes repeatedly in her correspondence to the delight which she
found on the Sabbath in listening to that eminent preacher and divine,
the Rev. Dr. Wm. S. Plumer, who was then settled in Richmond. In a
letter to her cousin she writes:

I have become much attached to him; he seems more than half in heaven,
and every word is full of solemnity and feeling, as if he had just held
near intercourse with God. I wish that you could have listened with me
to his sermons to-day. They have been, I think, blessed messages from
God to my soul.

All her letters at this time glow with religious fervor. "How wonderful
is our divine Master!" she seemed to be always saying to herself. "It
has become so delightful to me to speak of His love, of His holiness, of
His purity, that when I try to write to those who know Him not, I hardly
know what is worthy of even a mention, if He is to be forgotten." And
several years afterwards she refers to this period as a time when she
"shrank from everything that in the slightest degree interrupted her
consciousness of God."

The following letter to a friend, whose name will often recur in these
pages, well illustrates her state of mind during the entire winter.

_To Miss Anna S. Prentiss. Richmond, Feb 26, 1841._

Your very welcome letter, my dear Anna, arrived this afternoon, and, as
my labors for the week are over, I am glad of a quiet hour in which to
thank you for it. I do not thank you simply because you have so soon
answered my letter, but because you have told me what no one else could
do so well about your own very dear self. When I wrote you I doubted
very much whether I might even allude to the subject of religion,
although I wished to do so, since that almost exclusively has occupied
my mind during the last year. I saw you in the midst of temptations to
which I have ever been a stranger, but which I conceived to be decidedly
unfavorable to growth in any of the graces which make up Christian
character. It was not without hesitation that I ventured to yield to the
promptings of my heart, and to refer to the only things which have at
present much interest for it. I can not tell you how I do rejoice
that you have been led to come out thus upon the Lord's side, and to
consecrate yourself to His service. My own views and feelings have
within the last year undergone such an entire change, that I have wished
I could take now some such stand in the presence of all who have known
me in days past, as this which you have taken. My first and only wish is
henceforth to live but for Him, who has graciously drawn my wandering
affections to Himself.... You speak of the faintness of your heart--but
"they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength," and I do
believe the truth of these precious words; not only because they are
those of God, but also because my own experience adds happy witness to
them. I have lived many years with only just enough of hope to keep me
from actual despair. The least breath was sufficient to scatter it all
and to leave me, fearful and afraid, to go over and over again the same
ground; thus allowing neither time nor strength for progress in the
Christian course. I trust that you will not go through years of such
unnecessary darkness and despondency. There is certainly enough in our
Saviour, if we only open our eyes that we may see it, to solve every
doubt and satisfy every longing of the heart; and He is willing to give
it in full measure. When I contemplate the character of the Lord Jesus,
I am filled with wonder which I can not express, and with unutterable
desires to yield myself and my all to His hand, to be dealt with in
His own way; and His way is a blessed one, so that it is delightful to
resign body and soul and spirit to Him, without a will opposed to His,
without a care but to love Him more, without a sorrow which His love
can not sanctify or remove. In following after Him faithfully and
steadfastly, the feeblest hopes may be strengthened; and I trust that
you will find in your own happy experience that "joy and peace" go hand
in hand with love--so that in proportion to your devotion to the Saviour
will be the blessedness of your life. When I begin I hardly know where
to stop, and now I find myself almost at the end of my sheet before I
have begun to say what I wish. This will only assure you that I love you
a thousand times better than I did when I did not know that your heart
was filled with hopes and affections like my own, and that I earnestly
desire, if Providence permits us to enjoy intercourse in this or in any
other way, we may never lose sight of the one great truth that we are
_not our own._ I pray you sometimes remember me at the throne of grace.
The more I see of the Saviour, the more I feel my own weakness and
helplessness and my need of His constant presence, and I can not help
asking assistance from all those who love Him.... Oh, how sorry I am
that I have come to the end! I wish I had any faculty for expressing
affection, so that I might tell you how much I love and how often I
think of you.

Her cousin having gone abroad, a break in the correspondence with him
occurred about this time and continued for several months. In a letter
to her friend, Miss Thurston, dated April 21st, she thus refers to her

There are six of us teachers, five of them born in Maine--which is
rather funny, as that is considered by most of the folks here as the
place where the world comes to an end. Although the South lifts up its
wings and crows over the North, it is glad enough to get its teachers
there, and ministers too, and treats them very well when it gets
them, into the bargain. We have in the school about one hundred and
twenty-five pupils of all ages. I never knew till I came here the
influence which early religious education exerts upon the whole future
age. There is such a wonderful difference between most of these young
people and those in the North, that you might almost believe them
another race of beings. Mrs. Persico is beautiful, intelligent,
interesting, and pious. Mr. Persico is just as much like John Neal as
difference of education and of circumstances can permit. Mr. N.'s strong
sense of justice, his enthusiasm, his fun and wit, his independence and
self-esteem, his tastes, too, as far as I know them, all exist in like
degree in Mr. Persico.

The early spring, with its profusion of flowers of every hue, so far in
advance of the spring in her native State, gave her the utmost pleasure;
but as the summer approached, her health began to suffer. The heat was
very intense, and hot weather always affected her unhappily. "I feel,"
she wrote, "as if I were in an oven with hot melted lead poured over my
brain." Her old trouble, too--"organic disease of the heart" it was now
suspected to be--caused her much discomfort. "While writing," she says
in one of her letters, "I am suffering excruciating pain; I can't call
it anything else." Her physical condition naturally affected more or
less her religious feelings. Under date of July 12th, she writes:

The word _conflict_ expresses better than any other my general state
from day to day. I have seemed of late like a straw floating upon the
surface of a great ocean, blown hither and thither by every wind, and
tossed from wave to wave without the rest of a moment. It was a mistake
of mine to imagine that God ever intended man to rest in this world. I
see that it is right and wise in Him to appoint it otherwise.... While
suffering from my Saviour's absence, nothing interests me. But I was
somewhat encouraged by reading in my father's memoir, and in reflecting
that he passed through far greater spiritual conflicts than will
probably ever be mine.... I see now that it is not always best for us to
have the light of God's countenance. Do not spend your time and strength
in asking for me that blessing, but this--that I may be transformed into
the image of Christ in His own time, in His own way.

Early in August she left Richmond and flew homeward like a bird to its

* * * * *


Extracts from her Richmond Journal.

Were her letters to her cousin the only record of Miss Payson's Richmond
life, one might infer that they give a complete picture of it; for they
were written in the freedom and confidence of Christian friendship, with
no thought that a third eye would ever see them. But it had another and
hidden side, of which her letters contain only a partial record. Her
early habit of keeping a journal has been already referred to. She kept
one at Richmond, and was prevented several years later from destroying
it, as she had destroyed others, by the entreaty of the only person who
ever saw it. This journal depicts many of her most secret thoughts and
feelings, both earthward and heavenward. Some passages in it are of
too personal a nature for publication, but the following extracts seem
fairly entitled to a place here, as they bring out several features
of her character with sunlike clearness, and so will help to a better
understanding of the ensuing narrative:

RICHMOND, _October 3, 1840._

How funny it seems here! Everything is so different from home! I foresee
that I shan't live nearly a year under these new influences without
changing my old self into something else. Heaven forbid that I should
grow old because people treat me as if I were grown up! I hate old young
folks. Well! whoever should see me and my scholars would be at a loss to
know wherein consists the difference between them and me. I am only a
little girl after all, and yet folks do treat me as if I were as old and
as wise as Methusaleh. And Mr. Persico says, "Oui, Madame." Oh! oh! oh!
It makes me feel so ashamed when these tall girls, these damsels whose
hearts are developed as mine won't be these half dozen years (to say
nothing of their minds), ask me if they may go to bed, if they may walk,
if they may go to Mr. So-and-so's, and Miss Such-a-one's to buy--a stick
of candy for aught I know. Oh, oh, oh! I shall have to take airs upon
myself. I shall have to leave off little words and use big ones. I shall
have to leave off sitting curled up on my feet, turkey-fashion. I shall
have to make wise speeches (But a word in your ear, Miss--I _won't_).

_Oct. 27th_--This Richmond is a queer sort of a place and I should be as
miserable in it as a fish out of water, only there is sunshine enough
in my heart to make any old hole bright. In the first place, this dowdy
chamber is in one view a perfect den--no carpet, whitewashed walls,
loose windows that have the shaking palsy, fire-red hearth, blue paint
instead of white, or rather a suspicion that there was once some blue
paint here. But what do I care? I'm as merry as a grig from morning till
night. The little witches down-stairs love me dearly, everybody is kind,
and--and--and--when everybody is locked out and I am locked into this
same room, this low attic, there's not a king on the earth so rich, so
happy as I! Here is my little pet desk, here are my books, my papers.
I can write and read and study and moralise, I don't pretend to say
_think_--and then besides, every morning and every night, within these
four walls, heaven itself refuses not to enter in and dwell--and I may
grow better and better and happier and happier in blessedness with which
nothing may intermeddle.

Mr. Persico is a man by himself, and quite interesting to me in one
way, that is, in giving me something to puzzle out. I like him for his
exquisite taste in the picture line and for having adorned his rooms
with such fine ones--at least they're fine to my inexperienced eye; for
when I'm in the mood, I can go and sit and dream as it seemeth me good
over them, and as I dream, won't good thoughts come into my heart? As
to Mrs. P., I hereby return my thanks to Nature for making her so
beautiful. She has a face and figure to fall in love with. K. has also a
fine face and a delicate little figure. Miss ---- I shall avoid as far
as I can do so. I do not think her opinions and feelings would do me
any good. She has a fine mind and likes to cultivate it, and for that I
respect her, but she has nothing natural and girlish in her, and I am
persuaded, never had. She hates little children; says she hates to hear
them laugh, thinks them little fools. Why, how odd all this is to me!
I could as soon hate the angels in heaven and hate to hear them sing.
That, to be sure, is my way, and the other way is hers--but somehow it
doesn't seem good-hearted to be so very, very superior to children as to
shun the little loving beautiful creatures. I don't believe I ever shall
grow up! But, Miss ----, I don't want to do you injustice, and I'm much
obliged to you for all the flattering things you've said about me, and
if you like my eyes and think there is congeniality of feeling between
us, why, I thank you. But oh, don't teach me that the wisdom of the
world consisteth in forswearing the simple beauties with which life is
full. Don't make me fear my own happy girlhood by talking to me about
love--oh, don't!

_Dec. 1._--I wonder if all the girls in the world are just alike? Seems
to me they might be so sweet and lovable if they'd leave off chattering
forever and ever about lovers.... If mothers would keep their little
unfledged birds under their own wings, wouldn't they make better mother-
birds? Now some girls down-stairs, who ought to be thinking about all
the beautiful things in life but just lovers, are reading novels,
love-stories and poetry, till they can't care for anything else.... Now,
Lizzy Payson, where's the use of fretting so? Go right to work reading
Leighton and you'll forget that all the world isn't as wise as you think
you are, you little vain thing, you! Alas and alas, but this is such a
nice world, and the girls don't know it!

_Dec. 2._--What a pleasant walk I had this morning on Ambler's Hill.
The sun rose while I was there and I was so happy! The little valley,
clothed with white houses and completely encircled by hills, reminded me
of the verse about the mountains round about Jerusalem. Nobody was awake
so early and I had all the great hill to myself, and it was so beautiful
that I could have thrown myself down and kissed the earth itself. Oh,
sweet and good and loving Mother Nature! I choose you for my own. I will
be your little lady-love. I will hunt you out whenever you hide, and you
shall comfort me when I am sad, and laugh with me when I'm merry, and
take me by the hand and lead me onward and upward till the image of the
heavenly forceth out that of the earthly from my whole heart and soul.
Oh, how I prayed for a holy heart on that hillside and how sure I am
that I shall grow better! and what companionable thoughts I've had all
day for that blessed walk!

_8th._--My life is a nice little life just now, as regular as clockwork.
We walk and we keep school, and our scholars kiss and love us, and we
kiss and love them, and we read Lamartine and I worship Leighton, good,
wise, holy Leighton, and we discourse about everything together and
dispute and argue and argue and dispute, and I'm quite happy, so I am!
As to Lamartine, he's no great things, as I know of, but I want to keep
up my knowledge of French and so we read twenty pages a day. And as to
our discourses, my fidgety, moralising sort of mind wants to compare its
doctrines with those of other people, though it's as stiff as a poker
in its own opinions. You're a very consistent little girl! you call
yourself a child, are afraid to open your mouth before folks, and yet
you're as obstinate and proud as a little man, daring to think for
yourself and act accordingly at the risk of being called odd and
incomprehensible. I don't care, though! Run on and break your neck if
you will. You're nothing especial after all.

_9th._--To-night, in unrolling a bundle of work I found a little note
therein from mother. Whew, how I kissed it! I thought I should fly out
of my senses, I was so glad. But I can't fly now-a-days, I'm growing
so unetherial. Why, I take up a lot of room in the world and my frocks
won't hold me. That's because my heart is so quiet, lying as still as a
mouse, after all its tossings about and trying to be happy in the things
of this life. Oh, I am so happy now in the _other_ life! But as for
telling other people so--as for talking religion--I don't see how I
_can._ It doesn't come natural. Is it because I am proud? But I pray to
be so holy, so truly a Christian, that my _life_ shall speak and gently
persuade all who see me to look for the hidden spring of my perpetual
happiness and quietness. The only question is: Do I live so? I'm
afraid I make religion seem too grave a thing to my watching maidens
down-stairs; but, oh, I'm afraid to rush into _their_ pleasures.

_25th._-- ... I've been "our Lizzy" all my life and have not had to
display my own private feelings and opinions before folks, but have sat
still and listened and mused and lived within myself, and shut myself up
in my corner of the house and speculated on life and the things thereof
till I've got a set of notions of my own which don't _fit into_ the
notions of anybody I know. I don't open myself to anybody on earth; I
can not; there is a world of something in me which is not known to those
about me and perhaps never will be; but sometimes I think it would be
_delicious_ to love a mind like mine in some things, only better, wiser,
nobler. I do not quite understand life. People don't live as they were
made to live, I'm sure ... I want _soul._ I want the gracious, glad
spirit that finds the good and the beautiful in everything, joined to
the manly, exalted intellect--rare unions, I am sure, yet possible ones.
Little girl! Do you suppose such a soul would find anything in yours to
satisfy it? No--no--no--I do not. I know I am a poor little goose which
ought to be content with some equally poor little gander, but I _won't._
I'll never give up one inch of these the demands of my reason and of my
heart for all the truths you tell me about myself--never! But descend
from your elevation, oh speculating child of mortality, and go down to
school. Oh, no, no school for a week, and I guess I'll spend the week in
fancies and follies. It won't hurt me. I've done it before and got back
to the world as satisfied as ever, indeed I have.

_Jan. 1, 184l._--We've been busy all the week getting our presents ready
for the servants, and a nice time I've had this morning, seeing them
show their ivory thereat. James made a little speech, the amount of
which was, he hoped I wouldn't get married till I'd "done been" here two
or three years, because my face was so pleasant it was good to look at
it! I was as proud as Lucifer at this compliment, and shall certainly
look pleasant all day to-day, if I never did before. Monsieur and the
rest wished me, I won't say how many, good wishes, rushing at me as I
went in to breakfast--and Milly privately informed Lucy that she liked
Miss Payson "a heap" better than she did any body else, and then came
and begged me to buy her! I buy her! Heaven bless the poor little girl.
I had some presents and affectionate notes from different members of the
family and from my scholars--also letters from sister and Ned, which
delighted me infinitely more than I'm going to tell _you_, old journal.
Took tea at Mr. P.'s and Mrs. P. laughed at her husband because he had
once an idea of going to New England to get my little ladyship to wife
(for the sake of my father, of course). Mr. P. blushed like a boy and
fidgeted terribly, but I didn't care a snap--I am not old enough to be
wife to anybody, and I'm not going to mind if people do joke with
me about it. I've had better things to think of on this New Year's
day--good, heavenward thoughts and prayers and hopes, and if I do not
become more and more transformed into the Divine, then are prayers and
hopes things of nought. Oh, how dissatisfied I am with myself. How I
long to be like unto Him into whose image I shall one day be changed
when I see Him as He is!

I believe nobody understands me on religious points, for I can not, and,
it seems to me, _need_ not parade my private feelings before the world.
Cousin G., God bless him! knows enough, and yet my letters to him do not
tell the hundredth part of that which these four walls might tell, if
they would. I do not know that I am not wrong, but I do dislike
the present style of talking on religious subjects. Let people
pray--earnestly, fervently, not simply morning and night, but the _whole
day long_, making their lives one continued prayer; but, oh, don't let
them tell others of, or let others know _half_ how much of communion
with Heaven is known to their own hearts. Is it not true that those who
talk most, go most to meetings, run hither and thither to all sorts of
societies and all sorts of readings--is it not true that such
people would not find peace and contentment--yes, blessedness of
blessedness--in solitary hours when to the Searcher of hearts alone are
known their aspirations and their love? I do not know, I am puzzled; but
I may say here, where nobody will ever see it, what I _do_ think, and I
say it to my own heart as well as over the hearts of others--there is
not enough of real, true communion with God, not enough nearness to Him,
not enough heart-searching before Him; and too much parade and bustle
and noise in doing His work on earth. Oh, I do not know exactly what I
mean--but since I have heard so many apparently Christian people own
that of this sense of nearness to God they know absolutely nothing--that
they pray because it is their habit without the least expectation of
meeting the great yet loving Father in their closets--since I have heard
this I am troubled and perplexed. Why, is it not indeed true that the
Christian believer, God's own adopted, chosen, beloved child, may speak
face to face with his Father, humbly, reverently, yet as a man talketh
with his friend? Is it not true? Do not I _know_ that it is so? Oh, I
sometimes want the wisdom of an angel that I may not be thus disturbed
and wearied.

_14th._--Now either Miss ----'s religion is wrong and mine right, or
else it's just the other way. I wrote some verses, funny ones, and sent
her to-day, and she returned for answer that verse in Proverbs about
vinegar on nitre, and seemed distressed that I ever had such worldly and
funny thoughts. I told her I should like her better if she ever had any
but solemn ones, whence we rushed into a discussion about proprieties
and I maintained that a mind was not in a state of religious health, if
it could not _safely_ indulge in thoughts funny as funny could be. She
shook her head and looked as glum as she could, and I'm really sorry
that I vexed her righteous soul, though I'm sure I feel funny ever so
much of the time, can not help saying funny things and cutting up capers
now and then. I'll take care not to marry a glum man, anyhow; not that
I want my future lord and master to be a teller of stories, a wit, or a
particularly funny man--but he shan't wear a long face and make me wear
a long one, though he may be as pious as the day is long and _must_ be,
what's more. Oh, my! I don't think I was so very naughty. I saw Miss
---- laughing privately at these same verses, and she rushed in to Mrs.
P. and read them to her, and then copied them for her aunt and paid
twenty-five cents postage on the letter. I should like to know how she
dared waste so much time in unholy employments! As I was saying, and am
always thinking, it's rather queer that people are so oddly different in
their ideas of religion. Heaven forbid I should trifle with serious and
holy thoughts of my head and heart--but if my religion is worth a straw,
such verse-writing will not disturb it.

_January 16th_.--I wonder what's got into me to-day--I feel cross,
without the least bit of reason for so feeling. I guess I'm not well,
for I'm sure I've felt like one great long sunbeam, I don't know how
many months, and it doesn't come natural to be fretful.

_17th_.--I knew I wasn't well yesterday and to-day am half sick. We got
through breakfast at twenty minutes to eleven, and as I was up at seven,
I got kind o' hungry and out of sorts. This afternoon went to church and
heard one of Dr. E.'s argumentative sermons. But there's something in
those Prayer-book prayers, certainly, if men won't or can't put any
grace into their sermons. I wish I had a perfect ideal Sunday in my head
or heart, or both. If I'm _very_ good I'm tired at night, and if I'm bad
my conscience smites me--so any way I'm not very happy just now and I'm
sick and mean to go to bed and so!

_18th_.--Had a talk with Nannie. She has a thoughtful mind and who knows
but we may do her some good. I love to have her here, and for once in my
life like to feel a little bit--just the least bit--_old_; that is, old
enough to give a little sage advice to the poor thing, when she asks it.
She says she won't read any more novels and will read the Bible and dear
knows what else she said about finding an angel for me to marry, which
heaven forbid she should do, since I'm too fond of being a little mite
naughty, to desire anything of that sort. After she was in bed she began
to say her prayers most vehemently and among other things, prayed for
Miss Payson. I had the strangest sensation, and yet an almost heavenly
one, if I may say so. May it please Heaven to listen to her prayer for
me, and mine for her, dear child. But suppose I do her no good while she
lives so under my wing?

_19th._--Up early--walked and read Leighton. Mr. P. amused us at dinner
by giving a funny account in his funny way, of a mistake of E.----
H.----'s. She asked me the French for _as_. "Aussi" quoth I. Thereupon
she tucked a great O. C. into her exercise and took it to him and they
jabbered and sputtered over it, and she insisted that Miss Payson said
so and he put his face right into hers and said, "Will you try to prove
that Miss Payson is a fool, you little goose?" and at last Miss A.
understood and explained. Read Leighton after school and thirty-two
pages of Lamartine--then Mr. P. called--then Miss ---- teased me to
love her and kept me in her paws till the bell rang for tea. Why can't I
like her? I should be so ashamed if I should find out after all that
she is as good as she _seems_, but I never did get cheated yet when I
trusted my own mother wits, my instinct, or whatever it is by which I
know folks--and she is found wanting by this something.

_28th_.--Mrs. Persico has comforted me to-day. She says Mr. T. came to
Mr. P. with tears in his eyes (could such a man shed tears?) and told
him that I should be the salvation of his child--that she was already
the happiest and most altered creature, and begged him to tell me so. I
was ashamed and happy too--but I think Mr. P. should have told him
that if good has been done to Nannie, it is _as_ much--to say the
least--owing to Louisa as to me. L. always joins me in everything I do
and say for her, and I would not have even an accident deprive her of
her just reward for anything. Nannie sat on the floor to-night in her
night-gown, thinking. At last she said, "Miss Payson?" "Well, little
witch?" "You wouldn't care much if you should die to-night, should you?"
"No, I think not." "Nor I," said she. "Why, do you think you should be
better off than you are here?" "Yes, in heaven," said she. "Why how do
you know you'll go to heaven?" She looked at me seriously and said, "Oh,
I don't know--I don't know--I don't think I should like to go to the
other place." We had then a long talk with her and it seems she's a
regular little believer in Purgatory--but I wouldn't dispute with her. I
guess there's a way of getting at her heart better than that.... Why is
it that I have such a sensitiveness on religious points, such a dread of
having my own private aims and emotions known by those about me? Is it
right? I should like to be just what the Christian ought to be in these
relations. Miss ---- expects me to make speeches to her, but I _can
not_. If I thought I knew ever so much, I could not, and she annoys me
so. Oh, I wish it didn't hurt my soul so to touch it! It's just like
a butterfly's wing--people can't help tearing off the very invisible
_down_ so to speak, for which they take a fancy to it, if they get it
between fingers and thumb, and so I have to suffer for their curiosity's
sake. Am I bound to reveal my heart-life to everybody who asks? Must I
not believe that the heavenly love may, in one sense, be _hidden_ from
outward eye and outward touch? or am I wrong?

_Feb. 1, 184l._--Rose later than usual--cold, dull, rainy morning. Read
in Life of Wilberforce. Defended Nannie with more valor than discretion.
This evening the storm departed and the moonlight was more beautiful
than ever; and I was so sad and so happy, and the life beyond and above
seemed so beautiful. Oh, how I have longed to-day for heaven within my
own soul! There has been much unspoken prayer in my heart to-night. I
don't know what I should do if I could have my room all to myself--and
not have people know it if even a good thought comes into my mind. I
shall be happy in heaven, I know I shall--for even here prayer and
praise are so infinitely more delightful than anything else.

_3d._--Woke with headache, got through school as best I could, then came
and curled myself up in a ball in the easy-chair and didn't move till
nine, when I crept down to say good-bye to poor Mrs. Persico. Miss L.
and Miss J. received me in their room so tenderly and affectionately
that I was ashamed. What makes them love me? I am sure I should not
think they could.

_10th._--I wonder who folks think I am, and what they think? Sally R----
sent me up her book of autographs with a request that I would add mine.
I looked it over and found very great names, and did not know whether
to laugh or cry at her funny request, which I couldn't have made up my
mouth to grant. How queer it seems to me that people won't let me be
a little girl and will act as if I were an old maid or matron of
ninety-nine! Poor Mr. Persico is terribly unhappy and walks up and down
perpetually with _such_ a step.

_12th._-- ... I am sure that in these little things God's hand is just
as clearly to be seen as in His wonderful works of power, and tried to
make Miss ---- see this, but she either couldn't or wouldn't. It seems
to me that God is my Father, my own Father, and it is so natural to
turn right to Him, every minute almost, with either thank-offerings or
petitions, that I never once stop to ask if such and such a matter is
sufficiently great for His notice. Miss ---- seemed quite astonished
when I said so.

_16th._-- ... I've been instituting an inquiry into myself to-day and
have been worthily occupied in comparing myself to an onion, though
in view of the fragrance of that highly useful vegetable, I hope the
comparison won't go on all fours But I have as many natures as an onion
has--what d'ye call 'em--coats? First the outside skin or nature--kind
o' tough and ugly; _any_body may see that and welcome. Then comes my
next nature--a little softer--a little more removed from curious eyes;
then my inner one--myself--that 'ere little round ball which nobody
ever did or ever will see the whole of--at least, s'pose not. Now most
people see only the outer rind--a brown, red, yellow, tough skin and
that's all; but I _think_ there's something inside that's better and
more truly an onion than might at first be guessed. And so I'm an onion
and that's the end.

_17th._--Mrs. P.'s birthday, in honor of which cake and wine. Mr. P. was
angry with us because we took no wine. If he had asked me civilly to
drink his wife's health, I should probably have done so, but I am not to
be _frightened_ into anything. I made a funny speech and got him out of
his bearish mood, and then we all proceeded to the portico to see if the
new President had arrived--by which means we obtained a satisfactory
view of two cows, three geese, one big boy in a white apron and one
small one in a blue apron, three darkies of feminine gender and one old
horse; but Harrison himself we saw not. Mr. Persico says it's Tyler's
luck to get into office by the death of his superior, and declares
Harrison must infallibly die to secure John Tyler's fate. It's to be
hoped this won't be the case. [9]

_March 6th._--Miss L. read to us to-day some sprightly and amusing
little notes written her years ago by a friend with whom she still
corresponds. I was struck with the contrast between these youthful and
light-hearted fragments and her present letters, now that she is a wife
and mother. I wonder if there is always this difference between the girl
and woman? If so, heaven forbid I should ever cease to be a child!

_18th._--Headache--Nannie sick; held her in my arms two or three hours;
had a great fuss with her about taking her medicine, but at last out
came my word _must_, and the little witch knew it meant all it said and
down went the oil in a jiffy, while I stood by laughing at myself for my
pretension of dignity. The poor child couldn't go to sleep till she had
thanked me over and over for making her mind and for taking care of her,
and wouldn't let go my hand, so I had to sit up until very late--and
then I was sick and sad and restless, for I couldn't have my room to
myself and the day didn't seem finished without it.

It is a perfect mystery to me how folks get along with so little
praying. Their hearts must be better than mine, or something. What is
it? But if God sees that the desire of my whole heart is to-night--has
been all day--towards Himself, will He not know this as prayer, answer
it as such? Yes, prayer is certainly something more than bending of the
knees and earnest words, and I do believe that goodness and mercy will
descend upon me, though with my lips I ask not.

_24th._--Had a long talk with Mr. Persico about my style of governing.
He seemed interested in what I had to say about appeals to the
conscience, but said my _youthful enthusiasm_ would get cooled down when
I knew more of the world. I told him, very pertly, that I hoped I should
never know the world then. He laughed and asked, "You expect to make
out of these stupid children such characters, such hearts as yours?"
"No--but better ones." He shook his head and said I had put him into
good humor. I don't know what he meant. I've been acting like Sancho
to-day--rushing up stairs two at a time, frisking about, catching up
Miss J---- in all her maiden dignity and tossing her right into the
midst of our bed. Who's going to be "schoolma'am" out of school? Not I!
I mean to be just as funny as I please, and what's more I'll make Miss
---- funny, too,--that I will! She'd have so much more health--Christian
health, I mean--if she would leave off trying to get to heaven in such a
dreadful bad "way." I can't think _religion_ makes such a long, gloomy
face. It must be that she is wrong, or else I am. I wonder which? Why
it's all sunshine to me--and all clouds to her! Poor Miss ----, you
might be so happy!

_April 9th._--Holiday. We all took a long walk, which I enjoyed highly.
I was in a half moralising mood all the way, wanted to be by myself very
much. We talked more than usual about home and I grew so sad. Oh, I
wonder if anybody loves me as _I love_! I wonder! I long for mother, and
if I could just see her and know that she is happy and that she will be
well again! It is really a curious question with me, whether provided
I ever fall in love (for I'll _fall_ in love, else not go in at all) I
shall leave off loving mother best of anybody in the world? I suppose I
shall be in love sometime or other, but that's nothing to do with me now
nor I with it. I've got my hands full to take care of my naughty little

_17th._--Mrs. Persico got home to-night [10] and what a meeting we had!
what rejoicing! How beautiful she looked as she sat in her low chair,
and we stood and knelt in a happy circle about her! A queen--an
angel--could not have received love and homage with a sweeter grace. Sue
Irvine cried an hour for joy and I wished I were one of the crying sort,
for I'm sure I was glad enough to do almost anything. Beautiful woman!
We sang to her the Welcome Home, Miss F. singing as much with her eyes
as with her voice, and Mr. and Mrs. Persico both cried, he like a little
child. Oh, that such evenings as this came oftener in one's life! All
that was beautiful and good in each of our hidden natures came dancing
out to greet her at her coming, and all petty jealousies were so quieted
and--why, what a rhapsody I'm writing! And to-morrow, our good
better natures tucked away, dear knows where, we shall descend with
business-like airs to breakfast, wish each other good morning, pretend
that we haven't any hearts. Oh, is this life! I won't believe it.
Our good genius has come back to us; now all things will again go on
smoothly; once more I can be a little girl and frolic up here instead of
playing Miss Dignity down-stairs.

_May 7th._--This evening I passed unavoidably through Miss ----'s room.
She was reading Byron as usual and looked so wretched and restless, that
I could not help yielding to a loving impulse and putting my hand on
hers and asking why she was so sad. She told me. It was just what I
supposed. She is trying to be happy, and can not find out how; reads
Byron and gets sickly views of life; sits up late dreaming about love
and lovers; then, too tired to pray or think good thoughts, tosses
herself down upon her bed and wishes herself dead. She did not tell me
this, to be sure, but I gathered it from her story. I alluded to
her religious history and present hopes. She said she did not think
continued acts of faith in Christ necessary; she had believed on Him
once, and now He would save her whatever she did; and she was not going
to torment herself trying to live so very holy a life, since, after all,
she should get to heaven just as well through Him as if she had been
particularly good (as she termed it). I don't know whether a good or a
bad spirit moved me at that minute, but I forgot that I was a mere child
in religious knowledge, and talked about _my_ doctrine and made it a
very beautiful one to my mind, though I don't think she thought it
so. Oh, for what would I give up the happiness of praying for a holy
heart--of striving, struggling for it! Yes, it is indeed true that we
are to be saved simply, only, apart from our own goodness, through the
love of Christ. But who can believe himself thus chosen of God--who can
think of and hold communion with Infinite Holiness, and not long for
the Divine image in his own soul? It is a mystery to me--these strange
doctrines. Is not the fruit of love aspiration after the holy? Is not
the act of the new-born soul, when it passes from death unto life, that
of desire for assimilation to and oneness with Him who is its all in
all? How can love and faith be _one act_ and then cease? I dare not
believe--I would not for a universe believe--that my very sense of
safety in the love of Christ is not to be just the sense that shall bind
me in grateful self-renunciation wholly to His service. Let me be _sure_
of final rest in heaven--sure that at this moment I am really God's own
adopted child; and I believe my prayers, my repentings, my weariness of
sin, would be just what they now are; nay, more deep, more abundant. Oh,
it is _because_ I believe--fully believe that I shall be saved through
Christ--that I want to be like Him here upon earth It is because I do
not fear final misery that I shrink from sin and defilement here. Oh,
that I could put into that poor bewildered heart of hers just the sweet
repose upon the ever present Saviour which He has given unto me! The
quietness with which my whole soul rests upon Him is such blessed
quietness! I shall not soon forget this strange evening.

[1] She refers to this, doubtless, in a note to Mr. Hamlin, dated March
28, 1839. Mr. H. was then in Constantinople. "It seems as if a letter to
go so far ought to be a good one, so I am afraid to write to you. But we
'_think to you_' every day, and hope you think of us sometimes. I have
been so happy all winter that I have some happiness to spare, and if you
need any you shall have as much as you want."

[2] The sermon was preached by her pastor, the Rev. Dr. Condit, April

[3] There is one thing I recall as showing the very early religious
tendency of Lizzy's mind. It was a little prayer meeting which she held
with a few little friends, as long ago as her sister kept school in the
large parlor of the house on Middle street, before the death of her
father. It assembled at odd hours and in odd places. I also remember her
interest in the spiritual welfare of her young companions, after the
return of the family from their sojourn in New York. She showed this by
accompanying some of us, in the way of encouragement, to Dr. Tyler's
inquiry-meeting. Then during the special religious interest of 1838, she
felt still more deeply and entered heartily into the rejoicing of those
of us who at that time found "peace in believing." The next year I
accompanied my elder sister Susan to Richmond, and during my absence she
gave up her Christian hope and passed through a season of great darkness
and despondency, emerging, however, into the light upon a higher plane
of religious experience and enjoyment. She sometimes thought this the
very beginning of the life of faith in her soul. But as I used to say
to her when the next year we were together at Richmond, it seemed to me
quite impossible that any one who had not already received the grace of
God, could have felt what she had felt and expressed. I do not doubt
in the least that for years she had been a true follower of
Christ.--_Letter from Miss Ann Louisa P. Lord, dated Portland, December
30, 1878_.

[4] It may be proper to say here, that while but few of her letters are
given entire, it has not been deemed needful specially to indicate all
the omissions. In some instances, also, where two letters, or passages
of letters, relate to the same subject, they have been combined.

[5] An excellent little work by Rev. William Nevins, D.D. Dr. Nevins was
pastor of the first Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, where he died in
1835, at the age of thirty-seven. He was one of the best preachers and
most popular religious writers of his day.

[6] Miss Ann Louisa P. Lord.

[7] Miss Susan Lord.

[8] Referring to a serious accident, by which her mother was for some
time deprived of the use of her right hand.

[9] But, singularly enough, it was. President Harrison died April 4,
1841, just a month after his inauguration, and Mr. Tyler succeeded him.

[10] From Philadelphia, where she had undergone a surgical operation.





At Home again. Marriage of her Sister. Ill-Health. Letters. Spiritual
Aspiration and Conflict. Perfectionism. "Very, very Happy." Work for
Christ what makes Life attractive. Passages from Her Journal. A Point of

Not long after Elizabeth's return from Richmond, her sister was married
to the Rev. Albert Hopkins, Professor in Williams College. The wedding
had been delayed for her coming. "I would rather wait six years than
not have you present," her sister wrote. This event brought her into
intimate relations with a remarkable man; a man much beloved in his day,
and whose name will often reappear in these pages.

The next two or three months showed that her Richmond life, although so
full of happy experiences, had yet drawn heavily upon her strength. They
were marked by severe nervous excitement and fits of depression. This,
however, passed away and she settled down again into a busy home life.
But it was no longer the home life of the past. The year of absence had
left a profound impression upon her character. Her mind and heart had
undergone a rapid development. She was only twenty-two on her return,
and had still all the fresh, artless simplicity of a young girl, but
there was joined to it now the maturity of womanhood. Of the rest of the
year a record is preserved in letters to her cousin. These letters give
many little details respecting her daily tasks and the life she led in
the family and in the world; but they are chiefly interesting for the
light they shed upon her progress heavenward. Her whole soul was still
absorbed in divine things. At times her delight in them was sweet and
undisturbed; then again, she found herself tossed to and fro upon the
waves of spiritual conflict. Perfectionism was just then much discussed,
and the question troubled her not a little, as it did again thirty years
later. But whether agitated or at rest, her thoughts all centered in
Christ, and her constant prayer was for more love to Him.

PORTLAND, _Sept. 15, 1841._

The Lord Jesus is indeed dear to me. I can not doubt it. His name is
exceedingly precious. Oh, help me, my dear cousin, to love Him more, to
attain His image, to live only for Him! I blush and am ashamed when
I consider how inadequate are the returns I am making Him; yet I can
praise Him for all that is past and trust Him for all that is to come.
I can not tell you how delightful prayer is. I feel that in it I have
communion with God--that He is here--that He is mine and that I am His.
I long to make progress every day, each minute seems precious, and I
constantly tremble lest I should lose one in returning, instead of
pressing forward with all my strength. No, not _my_ strength, for I have
none, but with all which the Lord gives me. How can I thank you enough
that you pray for me!

_Sept. 18th._--I am all the time so nervous that life would be
insupportable if I had not the comfort of comforts to rejoice in. I
often think mother would not trust me to carry the dishes to the closet,
if she knew how strong an effort I have to make to avoid dashing them
all to pieces. When I am at the head of the stairs I can hardly help
throwing myself down, and I believe it a greater degree of just such a
state as this which induces the suicide to put an end to his existence.
It was never so bad with me before. Do you know anything of such a
feeling as this? To-night, for instance, my head began to feel all at
once as if it were enlarging till at last it seemed to fill the room,
and I thought it large enough to carry away the house. Then every object
of which I thought enlarged in proportion. When this goes off the sense
of the contraction is equally singular. My head felt about the size of a
pin's head; our church and everybody in it appeared about the bigness of
a cup, etc. These strange sensations terminate invariably with one still
more singular and particularly pleasant. I can not describe it--it is
a sense of smoothness and a little of dizziness. If you never had such
feelings this will be all nonsense to you, but if you have and can
explain them to me, why I shall be indeed thankful. I have been subject
to them ever since I can remember. I never met with a physician yet who
seemed to know what is the matter with me, or to care a fig whether I
got well or not. All they do is to roll up their eyes and shake their
heads and say, "Oh!" ... As to the wedding, we had a regular fuss, so
that I hardly knew whether I was in the body or out of it. The Professor
was here only two days. He is very eminently holy, his friends say, and
from what I saw of him, I should think it true. This was the point which
interested sister in him. As soon as the wedding was over my spirits
departed and fled. It is true enough that "marriage involves one union,
but _many separations_."

_Oct. 17th._--We had a most precious sermon this afternoon from the
Baptist minister on the words, "Christ is all and in all." I longed to
have you hear the Saviour thus dwelt upon. I did not know how full the
Apostles were of His praise--how constantly they dwelt upon Him, till it
was spread before me thus in one delightful view. Oh, may He become our
all--our beginning and our ending--our first and our last! I do love
to hear Him thus honored and adored. Let us, dear cousin, look at our
Saviour more. Let us never allow aught to come between our hearts and
our God. Speak to me as to your own soul, urging me onward, and if you
do not see the fruits of your faithfulness here, may you see when sowing
is turned to reaping.

_Oct. 24th._--I must call upon you to rejoice with me that I have to-day
got back my old Sunday-school class. I wondered at their being so
earnest about having me again, yet I trust that God has given me this
hold upon their affections for some good purpose.... I do not know
exactly how to discriminate between the suggestions of Satan and those
of my own heart, but for a week past, even while my inclinations and my
will were set upon Christ, something followed me in my down-sittings and
my uprisings, urging me to hate the Lord Jesus; asking if His strict
requirements were not too strait to be endured; and it has grieved me
deeply that such a thought could find its way into my mind. "I have
prayed for thee that thy faith fail not" is my last refuge. How
graciously did Jesus provide a separate consolation for each difficulty
which He foresaw could meet His disciples on their way.

_Nov. 8th._--Mother has been sick. The doctor feared inflammation of the
brain; but she is better now. I have had my first experience as a nurse,
and Dr. Mighels says I am a good one.

Whenever I think of God's wonderful, _wonderful_ goodness to me and of
my own sinfulness, I want to find a place low at the foot of the cross
where I may cover my face in the dust, and yet go on praising Him. You
do not know how all things have been made new to me within less than two
years. Still, I struggle fiercely every hour of my life. For instance,
my desire to be much beloved by those dear to me, is a source of
constant grief. Some weeks ago, a person, who probably did not know
this, told me that I was remarkably lovable and that everybody said so.
I was so foolish, so wicked, as to be more pleased by this than I
dare to tell--but enough so to give me after-hours of bitter sorrow.
Sometimes it seems to me that I grow prouder every day, and I wanted to
ask mother if she did not think so; but I thought perhaps God is showing
me my pride as I had never seen it that I may wage war against this, His
enemy and mine. I do not believe anybody else has such an evil nature
as I. But let us never rest till we are satisfied with being counted as
nothing, that our Saviour may be all in all. It seems no small portion
of the joy I long for in heaven, to be thus self-forgetful in love to
Christ. How strange that we do not now supremely love Him. How I do long
to live with those who praise Him. I long to have every Christian with
whom I meet speak of Him with love and exalt Him. [1]

_Nov. 12th._--I have been very unwell and low-spirited. The cause of
this, folks seem to agree, was over-exertion during mother's sickness.
To tell the truth, I was so anxious about her that I did not try to
save my strength at all, and excitement kept me up, so that I was not
conscious of any special fatigue till all was over and the reaction
came, when I just went into a dead-and-alive state and had the "blues"
outrageously. It seemed as if I could do nothing but fold my hands and

Sister is coming home this winter. I would like you to see this letter
of hers. She is as nearly a perfectionist now as your father is. She
begs me to read the New Testament and to pray for a knowledge of the
truth. And so I have for a year and a half, and this is what I learn
thereby: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately
wicked"--at least such I find mine to be. To be sure, that I am not
perfect is no proof that I may not become so; however, I feel most
sympathy with those who, like Martyn, Brainerd, and my father, had to
_fight_ their way through. Yet her remarks threw my mind into great
confusion at first and I knew not what to do; thereupon I went at once
with my difficulties to the Lord and tried to _seek the truth_, whatever
it might be, from Him. It seems to me that I am safe while in His hands,
and that if those things are essential, He will not withhold them from
me. Truly, if there is a royal road to holiness, and if in one moment of
time sin may be crushed and forever slain, I of all others should know
it; for at present the way is thronged with difficulties. [2] It seems
to me that I am made of wants"--I need everything. At the same time, how
great is the goodness of God to me! I long to have my heart so filled
with the one single image of my Redeemer, that it shall ever flow in
spontaneous adoration. Such a Saviour! I am pained to the very depths of
my soul because I love Him so little.... If I am only purified and made
entirely the Lord's, let Him take His own course and make the refining
process ever so painful.

"When the shore is won at last,
Who will count the billows past?"

_Dec. 16th._--Do you remember what father said about losing his will
when near the close of his life? That remark has always made the subject
of a _lost will_ interesting to me. There is another place where he
wishes he had known this blessedness twenty years before. [3]

_Dec. 18th._--"I am very, very happy; and yet it is hardly a happiness
which I can describe. You know what it is to rejoice in the sweet
consciousness that there is a Saviour--a near and a present Saviour; and
thus am I now rejoicing; grateful to Him for His holy nature, for His
power over me, for His dealings with me, for a thousand things which I
can only try to express to Him. Oh, how excellent above all treasures
does He now appear! One minute of nearness to the Lord Jesus contains
more of delight than years spent in intercourse with any earthly friend.
I could not but own to-night that God can make me happy without a right
hand or a right eye. Lord, make me Thine, and I will cheerfully give
Thee all.

_Dec. 22d._--"As to my Italian and Tasso, I am ashamed to tell you how
slow I have been. Between company and housework and sewing I have my
hands about full, and precious little time for reading and study. Still,
I feel that I live a life of too much ease. I should love to spend
the rest of my existence in the actual service of the Lord, without a
question as to its ease and comfort. Reading Brainerd this afternoon
made me long for his loose hold on earthly things. I do not know how to
attain to such a spirit. Is it by prayer alone and the consequent sense
of the worth of Divine things that this deadness to the world is to be
gained--or, by giving up, casting away the treasures which withdraw
the heart or have a tendency to withdraw it from God? This is quite an
interesting question to me now, and I should really like it settled. The
thought of living apart from God is more dreadful than any affliction I
can think of.

Here are some passages from two leaves of her journal which escaped the
flames. They touch upon another side of her life at this period.

_December 1, 184l._--"I went to the sewing-circle this afternoon and had
such a stupid time! Enough gossip and nonsense was talked to make one
sick, and I'm sure it wasn't the fault of my head that my hair didn't
stand on end. Now my mother is a very sensible mother, but when she
urges me into company and exhorts me to be more social, she runs the
risk of having me become as silly as the rest of 'em. She fears I may be
harmed by reading, studying and staying with her, but heaven forbid I
should find things in books worse than things out of them. I can't think
the girls are the silly creatures they make themselves appear. They want
an aim in life, some worthy _object;_ give them that, and the good and
excellent which, I am sure, lies hidden in their nature, will develop
itself at once. When the young men rushed in and the girls began looking
unutterable things, I rushed out and came home. I can't and won't talk
nonsense and flirt with those boys! Oh, what is it I do want? Somebody
who feels as I feel and thinks as I think; but where shall I find the

_7th._--"Frolicked with G., rushed up stairs with a glass-lamp in my
hand, went full tilt against the door, smashed the lamp, got the oil
on my dress, on two carpets, besides spattering the wall. First
consequence, a horrible smell of lamp-oil; Second, great quakings,
shakings, and wonderings what my ma would say when she came home; Third,
ablutions, groanings, ironings; Fourth, a story for the Companion long
enough to pay for that 'ere old lamp. Letting alone that, I've been a
very good girl to-day; studied, made a call, went to see H. R. with
books, cakes, apples, and what's more, my precious tongue wherewith I
discoursed to her.

_14th._--"Busy all day. Carried a basket full of "wittles" to old Ma'am
Burns, heard an original account of the deluge from the poor woman,
wished I was as near heaven as she seems to be, studied, sewed, taught
T. and E., tried to be a good girl and didn't have the blues once.

_20th._--"Spent most of the afternoon with Lucy, who is sick. She held
my hand in hers and kissed it over and over, and expressed so much love
and gratitude and interest in the Sunday-school that I felt ashamed.

_24th_--Helped mother bake all the morning, studied in the afternoon,
got into a frolic, and went out after dark with G. to shovel snow, and
then paddled down to L----'s with a Christmas-pudding, whereby I got a
real backache, legache, neckache, and all-overache, which is just good
enough for me. I was in the funniest state of mind this afternoon! I
guess anybody, who had seen me, would have thought so!

_25th, Saturday._--Got up early and ran down to Sally Johnson's with a
big pudding, consequence whereof a horrible pain in my side. I don't
care, though. I do love to carry puddings to good old grannies.

_Jan. 1, 1842._--Began the New Year by going to see Lucy, fainting,
tumbling down flat on the floor and scaring everybody half out of their
wits. I don't think people ought to like me, on the whole, but when they
do, aint I glad? I wonder if perfectly honest-hearted people want to be
loved better than they deserve, as in one sense I, with yet a pretty
honest heart, do? I wonder how other folks think, feel inside? Wish I

Most of the year 1842 was passed at home in household duties, in study,
and in trying to do good. Never had she been busier, or more helpful to
her mother; and never more interested in the things of God. It was a
year of genuine spiritual growth and also of sharp discipline. The
true ideal of the Christian life revealed itself to her more and more
distinctly, while at the same time she had opportunity both to learn and
to practise some of its hardest lessons. A few extracts from letters to
her cousin will give an inkling of its character.

_March 19, 1842._--Sometimes I have thought my desire to live for my
Saviour and to labor for Him had increased. It certainly seems wonderful
to me now that I could ever have wished to die, as I used to do, _when
I had done nothing for God_. The way of life which appears most
attractive, is that spent in persevering and unwearying toil for Him.
There was a warmth and a fervency to my religious feelings the first
year after my true hope which I do not find now and often sigh for; but
I think my mind is more seriously determined for God than it was then,
and that my principles are more fixed. Still I am less than the least of
all.... I have read not quite five cantos of Tasso. You will think me
rather indolent, but I have had a great deal to do, which has hindered
study and reading.

_May 3d_--The Christian life was never dearer to me than it is now, but
it throngs with daily increasing difficulties. You, who have become a
believer in perfection, may say that this conflict is not essential, and
indeed I have been so weary, of late, of struggling that I am almost
ready to fly to the doctrine myself. I have certainly been made more
willing to seek knowledge on this point from the Holy Spirit.

_Sept. 30th_--You speak of indulging unusually, of late, in your natural
vivacity and finding it prejudicial. Here is a point on which I am
completely bewildered. I find that if for a month or two I steadily
set myself to the unwearied pursuit of spirituality of mind and entire
weanedness from the world, a sad reaction _will_ follow. My efforts
slightly relax, I indulge in mirthful or worldly (in the sense of not
religious) conversation, delight in it, and find my health and spirits
better for it. But then my spiritual appetites at once become less keen,
and from conversation I go to reading, from reading to writing, and then
comes the question: Am I not going back?--and I turn from all to follow
hard after the Lord. Is this a part of our poor humanity, above which
we can not rise? This is a hard world to live in; and it will prove
a trying one to me or I shall love it dearly. I have had temptations
during the last six months on points where I thought I stood so safely
that there was no danger of a fall. Perhaps it is good for us to be
allowed to go to certain lengths, that we may see what wonderful
supplies of grace our Lord gives us every hour of our lives.

_October 1st_--I have had two or three singular hours of excitement
since I left writing to you last evening. If you were here I should be
glad to read you a late passage in my history which has come to its
crisis and is over with--thanks to Him, who so wonderfully guides me by
His counsel. If I ever saw the hand of God distinctly held forth for my
help, I have seen it here, coming in the right time, in the right way,
_all_ right.

* * * * *


Returns to Richmond. Trials there. Letters. Illness. School Experiences.
"To the Year 1843." Glimpses of her daily Life. Why her Scholars
love her so. Homesick. A Black Wedding. What a Wife should be. "A
Presentiment." Notes from her Diary.

In November of this year, at the urgent solicitation of Mr. Persico,
Miss Payson returned to Richmond, and again became a teacher in his
school. But everything was now changed, and that for the worse. Mr.
Persico, no longer under the influence of his wife, who had fallen a
prey to cruel disease, lost heart, fell heavily in debt, and became at
length hopelessly insolvent. Later, he is said to have been lost at sea
on his way to Italy. The whole period of Miss Payson's second residence
in Richmond was one of sharp trial and disappointment. But it brought
out in a very vivid manner her disinterestedness and the generous warmth
of her sympathies. At the peril of her health she remained far into the
summer of 1843, faithfully performing her duties, although, as she well
knew, it was doubtful if she would receive any compensation for her
services. As a matter of fact, only a pittance of her salary was ever
paid. Of this second residence in Richmond no other record is needed
than a few extracts from letters written to a beloved friend who was
passing the winter at the South, and whose name has already been

A sentence in the first of these letters deserves to be noted as
affording a key to one side of her character, namely: "the depressing
sense of inferiority which was born with me." All her earlier years were
shadowed by this morbid feeling; nor was she ever quite free from its
influence. It was, probably, at once a cause and an effect of the
sensitive shyness that clung to her to the last. Perhaps, too, it grew
in part out of her irrepressible craving for love, coupled with utter
incredulity about herself possessing the qualities which rendered her so
lovable. "It is one of the faults of my character," she wrote, "to fancy
that nobody cares for me."

When, dear Anna, I had taken my last look at the last familiar face
in Portland (I fancy you know whose face it was) I became quite as
melancholy as I ever desire to be, even on the principle that "by the
sadness of the countenance the heart is made better." I dare say
you never had a chance to feel, and therefore will not be able to
understand, the depressing sense of inferiority which was born with me,
which grew with my growth and strengthened with my strength, and
which, though somewhat repressed of late years, gets the mastery very
frequently and makes me believe myself the most unlovable of beings. It
was with this feeling that I left home and journeyed hither, wondering
why I was made, and if anybody on earth will ever be a bit the happier
for it, and whether I shall ever learn where to put myself in the scale
of being. This is not humility, please take notice--for humility is
contented, I think, with such things as it hath.

_To Miss Anna S. Prentiss. Richmond, Nov. 26, 1842_

When I reached Richmond last night, tired and dusty and stupefied, I
felt a good deal like crawling away into some cranny and staying there
the rest of my life; but this morning, when I had remembered mother's
existence and yours and that of some one or two others, I felt more
disposed to write than anything else. Your note was a great comfort to
me during two and a half hours at Portsmouth, and while on my journey.
I thought pages to you in reply. How I should love to have you here in
Richmond, even if I could only see you once a month, or _know_ only that
you were here and never see you! With many most kind friends about me,
I still shall feel very keenly the separation from you. There is nobody
here to whom I can speak confidingly, and my hidden spirit will have to
sit with folded wings for eight months to come. To whom shall I talk
about you, pray? On the way hither I fell in love with a little girl who
also fell in love with me, and as I sat with her over our lonely fire at
Philadelphia and in Washington, I could not help speaking of you now and
then, till at last she suddenly looked up and asked me if you hadn't a
brother, which question effectually shut my mouth. In a religious point
of view I am sadly off here. There is a different atmosphere in the
house from what there used to be, and I look forward with some anxiety
to the future.

The "little girl" referred to received soon after a letter from Miss
Payson. In enclosing it to a friend, more than thirty-seven years later,
she wrote: "I cried bitterly when she left us for Richmond. She was out
and out good and true. When my father was taking leave of us, the
last night in Washington, she proposed that as we had enjoyed so
much together, we should not separate without a prayer of thanks
and blessing-seeking, a proposal to which my father most heartily
responded." Here is an extract from the letter:

When I look over my school-room I am frequently reminded of you, for my
thirty-six pupils are, most of them, about your age. I have some very
lovable girls under my wing. I should be too happy if there were no
"unruly members" among these good and gentle ones; but in the little
world where I shall spend the greater part of the next eight months, as
well as in the great and busy one, which as yet neither you or I know
much about, I fancy there are mixtures of "the just and the unjust," of
"the evil and the good." We have a very pleasant family this year. The
youngest (for I omit the black baby in the kitchen) we call Lily. She
is my pet and plaything, and is quite as affectionate as you are. Then
comes a damsel named Beatrice, who has taken me upon _trust_ just as you
did. You may be thankful that your parents are not like hers, for she is
to be educated _for the world_; music, French and Italian crowd almost
everything else out of place, and as for religious influences, she is
under them here for the first time. How thankful I feel when I see such
cases as this, that God gave me pious parents, who taught me from my
very birth, that His fear is the _beginning_ of wisdom! My room-mate we
call Kate. She is pious, intelligent, and very warm-hearted, and I love
her dearly. She is an orphan--Mrs. Persico's daughter ...

I am rather affectionate by nature, if not in practice, and though I
know that nearness to the Friend, whom I hope I have chosen, could make
me happy in any circumstances, I do not pretend to be above the desire
for earthly friends, provided He sees fit to give them to me. I believe
my father used to say that we could not love them too much, if we only
gave Him the first place in our hearts. Let us earnestly seek to make
Him our all in all. It is delightful, in the midst of adversities and
trials, to be able to say "There is none upon earth that I desire
besides Thee," but it requires more grace, I think, to be able to use
such language when the world is bright about us. You have known little
of sorrow as yet, but if you have given your whole, undivided heart to
God, you will not need affliction, or to have your life made so desolate
that "weariness must toss you to His breast." There is a bright side to
religion, and I love to see Christians walking in the sunshine. I trust
you have found this out for yourself, and that your hope in Christ makes
you happy in the life that now is, as well as gives you promise of
blessedness in that which is to come.

Before she had been long in Richmond she was seized with an illness
which caused her many painful, wearisome days and nights. Referring to
this illness, in a letter to Miss Prentiss, she writes:

It is dull music being sick away from one's mother, but I have a knack
at submitting myself to my fate; so my spirit was a contented one, and I
was not for a moment unhappy, except for the trouble which I gave those
who had to nurse me. I thought of you, at least two-thirds of the time.
As my little pet, Lily L., said to me last night, when she had very
nearly squeezed the breath out of my body, "I love you a great deal
harder than I hug you"; so I say to you--I love you harder than I tell,
or can tell you. A happy New-Year to you, dear Anna. How much and how
little in those few old words! Consider yourself kissed and good-night.

The "New Year" was destined to be a very eventful one alike to her
friend and to herself. She seemed to have a presentiment of it, at least
in her own case, as some lines written on a blank leaf of her almanac
for that year attest:

With mingling hope and trust and fear
I bid thee welcome, untried year;
The paths before me pause to view;
Which shall I shun and which pursue?
I read my fate with serious eye;
I see dear hopes and treasures fly,
Behold thee on thy opening wing
Now grief, now joy, now sorrow bring.
God grant me grace my course to run
With one blest prayer--_His_ will be done.

A little journal kept by her during the following months gives bright
glimpses of her daily life. The entries are very brief, but they show
that while devoted to the school, she also spent a good deal of time
among her books, kept up a lively correspondence with absent friends,
and contributed her full share to the entertainment of the household by
"holding soirees" in her room, "reading to the girls," writing stories
for them, and helping to "play goose" and other games.

_To Miss Anna S. Prentiss, Richmond, Feb. 22, 1843._

Thanks to the Father of his Country for choosing to be born in Virginia!
for it gives us a holiday, and I can write to you, dearest of Annas. You
don't know how delighted I was to get your long-watched-for letter.
You very kindly express the wish that you could bear some of my school
drudgery with me. I would not give you that, but you should have love
from some of these warm-hearted damsels, which would make you happy even
in the midst of toil and vexation. I can't think what makes my scholars
love me so. I'm sure it is a gift for which I should be grateful, as
coming from the same source with all the other blessings which are about
me. I believe my way of governing is a more fatiguing one than that
of scolding, fretting, and punishing. There is a little bit of a tie
between each of these hearts and mine--and the least mistake on my part
severs it forever; so I have to be exceedingly careful what I do and
say. This keeps me in a constant state of excitement and makes my pulse
fly rather faster than, as a pulse arrived at years of discretion, it
ought to do. I come out of school so happy, though half tired to death,
wishing I were better, and hoping I shall become so; for the more my
scholars love me, the more I am ashamed that I am not the pink of
perfection they seem to fancy me.

_Evening._--I have just come up here to my lonely room (which, if I
hadn't the happiest kind of a heart in the world, would look right
gloomy) and have read for the third time your dear, good letter, and all
I wish is that I could tell you how I love you, and how angry I am with
myself that I did not know and love you sooner. It seems so odd that we
should have been born and "raised" so near each other and yet apart. You
say you are a believer in destiny. So am I--particularly in affairs of
the heart; and I hope that we are made friends now for something more
than the satisfaction which we find in loving. I am in danger of
forgetting that I am to stay in this world only a little while and
then _go home._ Will you help me to bear it in mind?... How must the
"Pilgrim's Progress" interest a mind that has never learned the whole
book by rote in childhood. I have often wished I could read it as a
first-told tale, and so I wish about the xiv. of John and some other
chapters in the Bible.

Your incidental mention that you have family prayers every evening
produced a thousand strange sensations in my mind. I hardly know why.
Did I ever tell you how I love and admire the new Bishop Johns? And how
if I _am_ a "good Presbyterian," as they say here, I go to hear him
whenever and wherever he preaches. I don't think him a _great_ man, but
he has that sincerity and truthfulness of manner which win your love at
once. [4] ... What nice times you must have studying German! I dreamed
the night I read your account of it that I was with you, and that you
said I was as stupid as an owl. I have the queerest mind somehow. It
won't work like those of other people, but goes the farthest way round
when it wants to go home, and I never could do anything with it but just
let it have its own way, and live the longer. They are having a nice
time down in the parlor worshipping Miss Ford, the light and sunshine of
the house, who leaves to-morrow for Natchez, and I am going down to help
them. So, good-night.

_To the same. April 24._

Since I wrote you last we have all had a good deal to put our patience
and philosophy and faith to the test, and I must own that I have been
for some weeks about as uncomfortable as mortal damsel could be.
Everything went wrong with Mr. Persico, and his gloom extended to all
of us. I never spent such melancholy weeks in my life, and became so
homesick that I could hardly drag myself into school. In the midst of
it, however, I made fun for the rest, as I believe I should do in a
dungeon; and now it is all over, I look back and laugh still.

We had a black wedding--a very black one--in my schoolroom the other
night; our cook having decided to take to herself a lord and master. It
was the funniest affair I ever saw. Such comical dresses! such heaps of
cake, wine, coffee, and candy! such kissings and huggings! The man who
performed the ceremony prayed that they might _obey each other,_ wherein
I think he showed his originality and good sense, too. Then he held
a book upside down and pretended to read, dear knows what! but the
Professor--that is to say, Mrs. P.--laughed so loud when he said, "Will
you take this _wo-_man to be your wedded _husband_" that we all joined in
full chorus, whereupon the poor priest (who was only the sexton of St.
James') was so confused that he married them over twice. I never saw
a couple in their station in life provided with a tenth part of the
luxuries with which they abounded. We worked all day Saturday in the
kitchen, making and icing cake for them, and a nice frolic we had of it,
too. Do you love babies? We have a black one in the lot whom I pet for
want of something on which to expend my love.

When I find anything that will interest the whole family, I read it
aloud for general edification. The girls persuaded me into writing a
story to read to them, and locked me into my room till it was done. It
was the first love-story I ever wrote, for hitherto I have not known
enough about such things to be able to do it. This reminds me that you
asked if I intend forgetting you after I am married. I have no sort of
idea what I shall do, provided I ever marry. But if I ever fall in love
I dare say I shall do it so madly and absorbingly as to become, in a
measure and for a season, forgetful of everything and everybody else.
Still, though I hate professions, I don't see how I can ever cease to
love you, whatever else I forget or neglect. There is a restlessness
in my affection for you that I don't understand--a half wish to avoid
enjoyment now, that I may in some future time share it with you. And yet
I have a presentiment that we may have sympathy in trials of which I now
know nothing.

I am ashamed of myself, of late, that these subjects of love and
matrimony find a place in my thoughts which I never have been in the
habit of giving them, but people here talk of little else and I am borne
on with the current. I think that to give happiness in married life a
woman should possess oceans of self-sacrificing love and I, for one,
haven't half of that self-forgetting spirit which I think essential.

I am glad you like the "Christian Year," and I see you are quite an
Episcopalian. Well, if you are like the good old English divines, nobody
can find fault with your choice. Mr. Persico was brought up a Catholic
but professes to be a nothingarian now. For myself, this only I know
that I earnestly wish all the tendencies of my heart to be heavenward,
and I believe that the sincere inquirer after truth will be guided by
the Infinite Mind. And so on that faith I venture myself and feel safe
as a child may feel, who holds his father's hand. Life seems full of
mysteries to me of late--and I am tempted to strange thoughtfulness in
the midst of its gayest scenes.

How true was the "presentiment" described in this letter, will appear in
her correspondence with the same friend more than a quarter of a century

_To Anna S. Prentiss, Richmond, June 1, 1843_

I believe you and I were intended to know each other better I have found
a certain something in you that I have been wanting all my life. While I
wish you to know me just as I am, faults and all, I can t bear to
think of ever seeing anything but the good and the beautiful in your
character, dear Anna, and I believe my heart would break outright should
I find you to be otherwise than just that which I imagine you are. I
don't know why I am saying this; but I have learned more of the world
during the last year than in any previous half dozen of my life, and the
result is dissatisfaction and alarm at the things I see about me. I wish
I could always live, as I have hitherto done, under the shelter of my
mother's wing.... I ought to ask your pardon for writing in this horrid
style, but I was born to do things by steam, I believe, and can't do
them moderately. As I write to, so I love you, dear Anna, with all my
interests and energies tending to that one point. I was amused the other
day with a young lady who came and sat on my bed when I was sick (for I
am just getting well from a quite serious illness), and after some half
dozen sighs, wished she were Anna Prentiss that she might be loved as
intensely as she desired. This is a roundabout way of saying how very
dear you are to me. What chatter-boxes girls are! I wonder how many
times I've stopped to say "My dear, don't talk so much--for I am writing
in school."

_June 27th_--Mr. ---- brought "The Home" to me and I have laughed and
cried over it to my heart's content. Out of pure self-love, because they
said she was like me, I liked poor Petra with the big nose, best of the
bunch--though, to be sure, they liken me to somebody or other in
every book we read till I begin to think myself quite a bundle of
contradictions. I have a thousand and one things to say to you, but I
wonder if as soon as I see you I shall straightway turn into a poker,
and play the stiffy, as I always do when I have been separated from
my friends. I am writing in a little bit of a den which, by a new
arrangement, I have all to myself. What if there's no table here and
I have to write upon the bureau, sitting on one foot in a chair and
stretching upwards to reach my paper like a monkey? What do I care? I am
writing to _you_, and your spirit, invoked when I took possession of the
premises, comes here sometimes just between daylight and dark, and talks
to me till I am ready to put forth my hand to find yours. Oh! Anna, you
must be everything that is pure and good, through to the very depths
of your heart, that mine may not ache in finding it has loved only an
imaginary being. Not that I expect you to be perfect--for I shouldn't
love you if you were immaculate--but pure in aim and intention and
desire, which I believe you to be.

_29th._--Do you want to know what mischief I've just been at? There lay
poor Miss ----, alias "Weaky" as we call her, taking her siesta in the
most innocent manner imaginable, with a babe-in-the-wood kind of air,
which proved so highly attractive that I could do no less than pick her
up in my arms and pop her (I don't know _but_ it was _head_ first),
right into the bathing-tub which happened to be filled with fresh cold
water. Poor, good little Weaky! There she sits shaking and shivering and
laughing with such perfect sweet humor, that I am positively taking a
vow never to do so again. Well, I had something quite sentimental to say
to you when I began writing, but as the spirit moved me to the above
perpetration of nonsense, I've nothing left in me but fun, and for that
you've no relish, have you?

I made out to cry yesterday and thereby have so refreshed my soul as
to be in the best possible humor just now. The why and wherefore of my
tears, which by the way I don't shed once in an age, was briefly the
withdrawal from school of one of my scholars, one who had so attached
herself to me as to have become almost a part of myself, and whom I
had taught to love you, dear Anna, that I might have the exquisite
satisfaction of talking about you every day--a sort of sweet interlude
between grammar and arithmetic which made the dull hours of school grow
harmonious. She had a presentiment that her life was to close with our
school session, from which I couldn't move her even when her health was
good, and she says that she prays every day, not that her life may be
lengthened, but that she may die before I am gone. I am superstitious
enough to feel that the prayer may have its answer, now that I see her
drooping and fading away without perceptible disease. The only time I
ever witnessed the rite of confirmation was when the hands of the good
bishop rested upon her head, and no wonder if I have half taken up arms
in defense of this "laying-on of hands," out of the abundance of my
heart if not from the wisdom of my head. Well, I've lost my mirthful
mood, speaking of her, and don't know when it will come again.

I have taken it into my head that you will visit Niagara on your way
home from the South and have half a mind to go there myself. Did your
brother bring home the poems of R. M. Milnes? I half hope that he did
not, since I want to see you enjoy them for the first time, particularly
a certain "Household Brownie" story, with which I fell in love when
President Woods sent us the volume.

Here follow a few entries in her diary:

_May 1._---Holiday. Into the country all of us, white, black, and gray.
Sue Empie devoted herself to me like a lover and so did Sue Lewis, so
I was not at a loss for society. My girls made a bower, wherein I was
ensconced and obliged to tell stories to about forty listeners till my
tongue ached. _July 18th._--Left Richmond. _Aug. 2nd._--Left Reading
for Philadelphia. _5th._--Williamstown and saw mother, sister and baby.
_16th._--President Hopkins' splendid address before the Alumni--also
that of Dr. Robbins. _18th._--Left Williamstown and reached Nonantum
House at night. Saw Aunt Willis, Julia, Sarah, Ellen, etc. _22nd._--Came
home, oh so very happy! Dear, good home! _23rd._--Callers all day, the
second of whom was Mr. P. There have been nineteen people here and I'm
tired! _25th._--What _didn't_ I hear from Anna P. to-day! _31st._--Rode
with Anna P. to Saccarappa to see Rev. Mr. and Mrs. H. B. Smith--took
tea at the P.s and went with them to the Preparatory Lecture. I do
nothing but go about from place to place. _Sept. 1st._--Just as cold as
cold could be all day. Spent evening at Mrs. B.'s, talking with Neal
Dow. _9th._--Cold and blowy and disagreeable. Went to see Carrie H. Came
home and found Mr. P. here; he stayed to tea--read us some interesting
things--told us about Mary and William Howitt. _10th._--Our church was
re-opened to-day. Mr. Dwight preached in the morning and Mr. Chickering
in the afternoon.

September 11th she marked with a white stone and kept ever after as one
of the chief festal days of her life, but of the reason why there is
here no record. The diary for the rest of the year is blank with the
exception of a single leaf which contains these sentences:

"Celle qui a besoin d'admirer ce qu'elle aime, celle, don't le jugement
est penetrant, bien que son imagination exaltee, il n'y a pour elle
qu'un objet dans l'univers."

"Celui qu'on aime, est le vengeur des fautes qu'on a commis sur cette
terre; la Divinite lui prete son pouvoir."


* * * * *


Her Views of Love and Courtship. Visit of her Sister and Child. Letters.
Sickness and Death of Friends. Ill-Health. Undergoes a Surgical
Operation. Her Fortitude. Study of German. Fenelon.

The records of the next year and a half are very abundant, in the form
of notes, letters, verses and journals; but they are mostly of too
private a character to furnish materials for this narrative, belonging
to what she called "the deep story of my heart." They breathe the
sweetness and sparkle with the morning dew of the affections; and while
some of them are full of fun and playful humor, others glow with all
the impassioned earnestness of her nature, and others still with deep
religious feeling. She wrote:

My heart seems to me somewhat like a very full church at the close of
the services--the great congregation of my affections trying to find
their way out and crowding and hindering each other in the general rush
for the door. Don't you see them--the young ones scampering first down
the aisle, and the old and grave and stately ones coming with proud
dignity after them?... I feel now that "dans les mysteres de notre
nature aimer, _encore aimer,_ est ce qui nous est reste de notre
heritage celeste," and oh, how I thank God for my blessed portion of
this celestial endowment!

Love in a word was to her, after religion, the holiest and most
wonderful reality of life; and in the presence of its mysteries she
was--to use her own comparison--"like a child standing upon the
seashore, watching for the onward rush of the waves, venturing himself
close to the water's edge, holding his breath and wooing their approach,
and then, as they come dashing in, retreating with laughter and mock
fear, only to return to tempt them anew." Her only solicitude was lest
the new interest should draw her heart away from Him who had been its
chief joy. In a letter to her cousin, she touches on this point:

You know how by circumstances my affections have been repressed, and
now, having found _liberty to love,_ I am tempted to seek my heaven in
so loving. But, my dear cousin, there is nothing worth having apart from
God; I feel this every day more and more and the fear of satisfying
myself with something short of Him--this is my only anxiety. This drives
me to the throne of His grace and makes me refuse to be left one moment
to myself. I believe I desire first of all to love God supremely and to
do something for Him, if He spares my life.

Early in December her sister, Mrs. Hopkins, with an infant boy, came to
Portland and passed a part of the winter under the maternal roof. The
arrival of this boy--her mother's first grandchild--was an event in the
family history. Here is her own picture of the scene:

It was a cold evening, and grandmamma, who had been sitting by the fire,
knitting and reading, had at last let her book fall from her lap, and
had dropped to sleep in her chair. The four uncles sat around the table,
two of them playing chess, and two looking on, while Aunt Fanny, with
her cat on her knees, studied German a little, looked at the clock very
often, and started at every noise.

"I have said, all along, that they wouldn't come," she cried at last.
"The clock has just struck nine, and I am not going to expect them any
longer. I _knew_ Herbert would not let Laura undertake such a journey in
the depth of winter; or, at any rate, that Laura's courage would tail at
the last moment."

She had hardly uttered these words, when there was a ring at the
doorbell, then a stamping of feet on the mat, to shake off the snow, and
in they Came, Lou, and Lou's papa, and Lou's mamma, bringing ever so
much fresh, cold air with them. Grandmamma woke up, and rose to meet
them with steps as lively as if she were a young girl; Aunt Fanny tossed
the cat from her lap, and seized the bundle that held the baby; the four
uncles crowded about her, eager to get the first peep at the little
wonder. There was such a laughing, and such a tumult, that poor Lou,
coming out of the dark night into the bright room, and seeing so many
strange faces, did not know what to think. When his cloaks and shawls
and capes were at last pulled off by his auntie's eager hands, there
came into view a serious little face, a pair of bright eyes, and a head
as smooth as ivory, on which there was not a single hair. His sleeves
were looped up with corals, and showed his plump white arms, and he sat
up very straight, and took a good look at everybody.

"What a perfect little beauty!" "What _splendid_ eyes!" "What a lovely
skin!" "He's the perfect image of his father!" "He's _exactly_ like his
mother!" "What a dear little nose!" "What fat little hands, full of
dimples!" "Let _me_ take him!" "Come to his own grandmamma!" "Let his
uncle toss him--so he will!" "What does he eat?" "Is he tired?" "Now,
_Fanny!_ you've had him ever since he came; he wants to come to me; I
know he does!"

These, and nobody knows how many more exclamations of the sort, greeted
the ears of the little stranger, and were received by him with unruffled

"Aunt Fanny" devoted herself during the following weeks to the care of
her little nephew. Her letters written at the time--some of them with
him in her arms--are full of his pretty ways; and when, more than a
score of years later, he had given his young life to his country and
was sleeping in a soldier's grave, his "sayings and doings" formed the
subject of one of her most attractive juvenile books.

A few extracts from her letters will give glimpses of her state of mind
during this winter, and show also how the thoughtful spirit, which from
the first tempered the excitements of her new experience, was deepened
by the loss of very dear friends.

PORTLAND, _December 9, 1843._

Last evening I spent at Mrs. H.----'s with Abby and a crowd of other
people. John Neal told me I had a great bump of love of approbation, and
conscientiousness very large, and self-esteem hardly any; and that he
hoped whoever had most influence over me would remedy that evil. He then
went on to pay me the most extravagant compliments, and said I could
become distinguished in any way I pleased. Thinks I to myself, "I should
like to be the best little wife in the world, and that's the height of
my ambition." Don't imagine now that I believe all he says, for he has
been saying just such things to me since I was a dozen years old, and I
don't see as I am any great things yet. Do you?

_Jan. 3d, 1844._--Sister is still here and will stay with us a month
or two yet. Her husband has gone home to preach and pray himself into
contentment without her. Though he was here only a week, his quiet
Christian excellence made us all long to grow better. It is always the
case when he comes, though he rather lives than talks his religion. I
never saw, as far as piety is concerned, a more perfect specimen of a
man in his every-day life.

Do you pray for me every night and every morning? Don't forget how I
comfort myself with thinking that you every day ask for me those graces
of the Spirit which I so long for. Indeed, I have had lately such
heavenward yearnings!... Why do you ask _if_ I pray for you, as if I
could love you and _help_ praying for you continually and always. I have
no light sense of the holiness a Christian minister should possess. I
half wish there were no veil upon my heart on this point, that you
might see how, from the very first hour of your return from abroad, my
interest in you went hand-in-hand with this _looking upward_.

_Jan. 22d._--We have all been saddened by the repeated trials with which
our friends the Willises are visited this winter. Mrs. Willis is still
very ill, and there is no hope of her recovery; and Ellen, the pet
of the whole household--the always happy, loving, beautiful young
thing--who had been full of delight in the hope of becoming a mother,
lies now at the point of death; having lost her infant, and with it her
bright anticipations. For fourteen years there had not been a physician
in their house, and you may imagine how they are all now taken, as it
were, by surprise by the first break death has threatened to make in
their peculiarly happy circle. Our love for all the family has grown
with our growth and strengthened with our strength, and what touches
them we all feel.

_Feb. 8th._--How is it that people who have no refuge in God live
through the loss of those they love? I am very sad this morning, and
almost wish I had never loved you or anybody. Last night we heard of the
death of Julia Willis' sister, and this morning learn that a dear little
girl in whom we all were much interested, and whom I saw on Saturday
only slightly unwell, is taken away from her parents, who have no
manner of consolation in losing this only child. There is a great cloud
throughout our house, and we hardly know what to do with ourselves. When
I met mother and sister yesterday on my return from your house, I saw
that something was the matter of which they hesitated to tell me; and of
whom should I naturally think but of you--you in whom my life is bound
up; and, when mother finally came to put her arms around me, I suffered
for the moment that intensity of anguish which I should feel in knowing
that something dreadful had befallen you. She told me, however, of poor
Ellen's death, and I was so lost in recovering you again that I cared
for nothing else all the evening, and until this morning had scarcely
thought of the aching, aching hearts she has left behind. Her poor young
husband, who loved her so tenderly, is half-distracted.

Oh, I have blessed God to-day that until He had given me a sure and
certain hold upon Himself, He had not suffered me to love as I love now!
It is a mystery which I can not understand, how the heart can live on
through the moment which rends it asunder from that of which it has
become a part, except by hiding itself in God. I have felt Ellen's death
the more, because she and her husband were associated in my mind with
you. I hardly know how or why; but she told me much of the history of
her heart when I saw her last summer on my way home from Richmond, at
the same time that she spoke much of you. She had seen you at our house
before you went abroad, and seemed to have a sort of presentiment that
we should love each other.

But I ought to beg you to forgive me for sending you this gloomy page;
yet I was restless and wanted to tell you the thoughts that have been in
my heart towards you to-day--the serious and saddened love with which I
love you, when I think of you as one whom God may take from me at any
moment. I do not know that it is unwise to look this truth in the face
sometimes--for if ever there was heart tempted to idolatry, to giving
itself up fully, utterly, with perfect abandonment of every other hope
and interest, to an earthly love, so is mine tempted now.

_Feb. 13th._--Mother is going to Boston with sister on Saturday,
provided I am well enough (which I mean to be), as Mrs. Willis has
expressed a strong wish to see her once more. We heard from them
yesterday again. Poor Ellen's coffin was placed just where she stood as
a bride, less than eight months ago, and her little infant rested on her
breast. There is rarely a death so universally mourned as hers; she was
the most winning and attractive young creature I ever saw.

_Feb. 21st._--Are you in earnest? Are you in earnest? Are you really
coming home in March? I am afraid to believe, afraid to doubt it. I am
crying and laughing and writing all at once. You would not tell me so
unless you _really were coming_, I know ... And you are coming home!
(How madly my heart is beating! lie still, will you?) I almost feel that

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