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

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you are here and that you look over my shoulder and read while I write.
Are you sure that you will come? Oh, don't repent and send me another
letter to say that you will wait till it is pleasanter weather; it is
pleasant now. I walked out this morning, and the air was a spring air,
and gentlemen go through the streets with their cloaks hanging over
their arms, and there is a constant plashing against the windows, of
water dripping down from the melting snow; yes, I verily believe that
it is warm, and that the birds will sing soon--I do, upon my word ...
I wouldn't have the doctor come and feel my pulse this afternoon for
anything. He would prescribe fever powders or fever drops, or something
of the sort, and bleed me and send me to bed, or to the insane hospital;
I don't know which. I could cry, sing, dance, laugh, all at once. Oh,
that I knew exactly when you will be here--the day, the hour, the
minute, that I might know to just what point to govern my impatient
heart--for it would be a pity to punish the poor little thing too
severely. I have been reading to-day something which delighted me very
much; do you remember a little poem of Goethe's, in which an imprisoned
count sings about the flower he loves best, and the rose, the lily, the
pink, and the violet, each in turn fancy themselves the objects of his
love. [5] You see I put you in the place of the prisoner at the outset,
and I was to be the flower of his love, whatever it might be. Well,
it was the "Forget-me-not." If there were a flower called the
"Always-loving," maybe I might find out to what order and class I
belong. Dear me; there's the old clock striking twelve, and I verily
meant to go to bed at ten, so as to sleep away as much of the time as
possible before your coming, but I fell into a fit of loving meditation,
and forgot everything else. You should have seen me pour out tea
to-night! Why, the first thing I knew, I had poured it all out into my
own cup till it ran over, and half filled the waiter, which is the first
time I ever did such a ridiculous thing in my life. But, dearest, I
bid you good night, praying you may have sweet dreams and an inward
prompting to write me a long, long, blessed letter, such as shall make
me dance about the house and sing.

_Feb. 22d._--Oh, I am frightened at myself, I am so happy! It seems
as if even this whole folio would not in the least convey to you the
gladness with which my heart is dancing and singing and making merry.
The doctor seems quite satisfied with my shoulder, and says "_it's
first-rate;_" so set your heart at rest on that point. I hope there'll
be nobody within two miles of our meeting. Suppose you stop in some out
of the way place just out of town, and let me trot out there to see you?
Oh, are you really coming?

_To G, E. S. March 4, 1844._

I must write a few lines to tell you, my dear cousin, that I am thinking
of and praying for you on your birthday. I have but one request to offer
either for you or for myself, and that is for more love to our Redeemer.
I bless God that I have no other want.... I do not know why it is, but I
never have thought so much of death and of the certainty that I, sooner
or later, must die, as within a few months past. I am not exactly
superstitious, but this daily and hourly half-presentiment that my life
will not be a long one, is singularly subduing, and seems to lay a
restraining hand upon future plans. I am not sorry, whatever may be the
event, that it is so. I dread clinging to this world and seeking my rest
in it. I am not afraid to die, or afraid that anything I love may be
taken from me; I only have this serious and thoughtful sense of death
upon my mind. You know how we have loved the Willis family, and can
imagine how we felt the death of their youngest daughter, who was dear
to everybody. And Mrs. Willis is, probably, not living. This has added
to my previous feeling on the subject, which was, perhaps, first
occasioned by the sudden and terrible loss of my poor friend, Mr.
Thatcher, a year ago this month. [6] God forbid I should ever forget the
lessons He saw I needed, and dare to feel that there is a thing upon
earth which death may not touch. Oh, in how many ways He has sought to
win my whole heart for His own!

_March 22d._--I was interrupted last night by the arrival of G. L. P.,
after his four months' absence in Mississippi, improved in health, and
in looks, and in spirits, and quite as glad to see me, I believe, as
even you, in your goodness of heart, say my lover ought to be. But I
will tell you the truth, my dear cousin, I am _afraid_ of love. There is
no other medium, save that of the happiness of loving and being loved,
by which my affections could be effectually turned from divine to
earthly things. Am I not then on dangerous ground? Yet God mercifully
shows me that it is so, and when I think how He has saved me hitherto
through sharp temptations, it seems wicked, distrust of Him, not to feel
that He will save me through those to come. I know now there are some of
the great lessons of life yet to be learned; I believe I must _suffer_
as long as I have an earthly existence. Will not then God make that
suffering but as a blessed reprover to bring me nearer Himself? I hope

During the winter her health had become so much impaired, that great
anxiety was felt as to the issue. In a letter to her friend, Miss Ellen
Thurston, dated April 20, 1844, she writes:

You remember, perhaps, that on the afternoon you were so good as to
come and spend with me, I was making a fuss about a little thing on
my shoulder. Well, I had at last to have it removed, and though the
operation was not in itself very painful, its effects on my whole
nervous system have been most powerful. I have lost all regular habits
of sleep--for a week I do not know that I slept two hours--and am ready
to fly into a fit at the bare thought of sitting still long enough to
write a common letter. I have, however, the consolation of being pitied
and consoled with, as there's something in the idea of cutting at the
flesh which touches the heart, a thousand times more than some severer
sufferings would do. I am getting quite thin and weak upon it, and I
believe mother firmly expects me to shrink into nothing, though I am a
pretty bouncing girl still.

Owing to some mishap the healing process was entirely thwarted, and
after a very trying summer, the operation had to be repeated. This time
it was performed by that eminent surgeon and admirable Christian man,
Dr. John C. Warren of Boston, assisted by his son, Dr. J. M. W. Dr.
Warren told Miss Payson's friend, who had accompanied an invalid sister
to New York, that he thought it would require "about five minutes;" but
it proved to be much more serious than he had anticipated. Miss Willis,
in her letter from Geneva already quoted, thus refers to it:

My next meeting with Lizzy revealed a striking trait of her character,
which hitherto I had had no opportunity of observing--her wonderful
fortitude under suffering. I was at the seashore with my sister and
family when, her little child being taken suddenly very ill in the
night, I went up to Boston by an early train to bring down as soon
as possible our family physician. On arriving at his house I was
disappointed at being told that he could not come at once, being engaged
to perform an operation that morning. While waiting for the return
train, I called at my father's office and was surprised to hear that
Lizzy was the patient. A painful tumor had developed itself on the back
of her neck, and she had come up with her mother to Boston to consult
Dr. Warren, who had advised its immediate removal.

I went at once to see her. She greeted me with even more than her usual
warmth and after stating in a few words the object of her coming to
Boston and that she was expecting the doctors every moment, she added:
"You will stay with me, I am sure. Mother insists on being present, but
she can not bear it. She will be sure to faint. If you will promise
to stay, I can persuade her to remain in the next room." Seeing the
distress in my face at the request, she said, "I will be very good. You
will have nothing to do but sit in the room, to satisfy mother." It was
impossible to refuse and I remained. There was no chloroform then to
give blessed unconsciousness of suffering and every pang had to be
endured, but she more than kept her promise to "be good." Not a sound or
a movement betrayed suffering. She spoke only once. After the knife was
laid aside and the threaded needle was passed through the quivering
flesh to draw the gaping edges of the wound together, she asked, after
the first stitch had been completed, in a low, almost calm tone, with
only a slight tremulousness, how many more were to be taken. When the
operation was over, and the surgeons were preparing to depart, she
questioned them minutely as to the mark which would be left after
healing. I was surprised that she could think of it at such a moment,
knowing how little value she had always set on her personal appearance,
but her mother explained it afterward by referring to her betrothal to
you, and the fear that you would find the scar disfiguring. [7]

In a letter to Mrs. Stearns, [8] she herself writes, Sept. 6:

I had no idea of the suffering which awaited me. I thought I should get
off as I did the first time. But I have a great deal to be thankful for.
On Wednesday, to my infinite surprise and gladness, George pounced down
upon me from New York, having been quite cut to the heart by the account
mother gave him. Everybody is so kind, and I have had so many letters,
and seen so many sympathising faces, and "dear Lizzy" sounds so sweet
to my insatiable ears; and yet--and yet--I would rather die than live
through the forty-eight hours again which began on Monday morning.
Somebody must have prayed for me, or I never should have got through.

An extract from another of her letters, dated Portland, September 11th,
belongs here:

I must tell you, too, about Dr. Warren (the old one). When mother
asked him concerning the amount he was to receive from her for his
professional services, he smiled and said: "I shall not charge _you_
much, and as for Miss Payson, when she is married and rich, she may pay
me and welcome--but not till then." I told him I never expected to be
rich, and he replied, with what mother thought an air of contentment
that said he knew all about it: "Well, we can be happy without riches,"
and such a good, happy smile shone all over his face as I have seldom
been so fortunate as to see in an old man. As for the young one, he
seemed as glad when I was dressed on Sunday with a clean frock and no
shawl, as if it were really a matter of consequence to him to see his
patients looking comfortable and well. I am getting along finely; there
is only one spot on my shoulder which is troublesome, and they ordered
me on a very strict diet for that--so I am half-starved this blessed
minute. We went to Newburyport on Monday, and stayed there with Anna
till yesterday afternoon. I think the motion of the cars hurt me
somewhat, but by the time you get here I do hope I shall be quite well.

_Evening_.-- ... I have had such happy thoughts and prayers to-night!
You should certainly have knelt with me in my little room, where, for
the first time a year ago this evening, I asked God to bless _us_; and
you too, perhaps, then began first to pray for me. Oh, what a wonderful
time it was!... I hope you have prayed for me to-day--I don't mean as
you always do, but with new prayers wherewith to begin the new year. God
bless you and love you!

But this period was also one of large mental growth. It was marked
especially by two events that had a shaping influence upon both her
intellectual and religious character. One was the study of German. She
was acquainted already with French and Italian; she now devoted her
leisure hours to the language and works of Schiller and Goethe. These
opened to her a new world of thought and beauty. Her correspondence
contains frequent allusions to the progress of her German reading. Here
is one in a letter to her cousin:

I have read George Herbert a good deal this winter. I have also read
several of Schiller's plays--William Tell and Don Carlos among the
rest--and got a great deal more excited over them than I have over
anything for a long while. George has a large German library, but
I don't suppose I shall be much the wiser for it, unless I turn to
studying theology. Did you read in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, the
"Bekenntnisse einer schoenen Seele"? I do think it did my soul good when
I read it last July. The account she gives of her religious history
reminded me of mine in some points very strongly.

The other incident was her introduction to the writings of Fenelon--an
author whom, in later years, she came to regard as an oracle of
spiritual wisdom. In the letter just quoted, she writes: "I am reading
Fenelon's 'Maximes des Saints,' and many of his ideas please me
exceedingly. Some of his 'Lettres Spirituelles' are delicious--so
heavenly, so child-like in their spirit." [9]

[1] _Jan, 1, 1845._--I used never to confide my religious feelings to
any one in the world. I went on my toilsome, comfortless way quite by
myself. But when at the end of this long, gloomy way, I saw and knew and
rejoiced in Christ, then I forgot myself and my pride and my reserve,
and was glad if a little child would hear me say "I love Him!"--glad if
the most ignorant, the most hitherto despised, would speak of Him.

[2] Later she writes: "I have had a long talk with sister to-day about
Leighton. She claims him, as all the Perfectionists do, as one of their
number; though, by the way, in the common acceptation of the word, she
is not a Perfectionist herself, but only on the boundary-line of the
enchanted ground. I am completely puzzled when I think on such subjects.
I doubt if sister is right, yet know not where she is wrong. She
does not obtrude her peculiar opinions on any one, and I began the
conversation this afternoon myself."

[3] "Oh, what a blessed thing it is to lose one's will! Since I have
lost my will I have found happiness. There can be no such thing as
disappointment to me, for I have no desires but that God's will may be
accomplished." "Christians might avoid much trouble if they would only
believe what they profess, viz.: that God is able to make them happy
without anything but Himself. They imagine that if such a dear friend
were to die, or such and such blessings to be removed, they should be
miserable; whereas God can make them a thousand times happier without
them. To mention my own case: God has been depriving me of one blessing
after another; but as every one was removed, He has come in and filled
up its place; and now, when I am a cripple and not able to move, I am
happier than ever I was in my life before or ever expected to be; and
if I had believed this twenty years ago, I might have been spared much

[4] The Right Rev. John Johns, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church
of Virginia, was a man of apostolic simplicity and zeal, and universally
beloved. An almost ideal friendship existed between him and Dr. Charles
Hodge, of Princeton. _Dear, blessed, old John,_ Dr. H. called him when
he was seventy-nine years old. See Life of Dr. Hodge, pp. 564-569.
Bishop Johns died in 1876.

[5] Das Bluemlein Wunderschoen. _Lied des gefangenen Grafen_, is the title
of the poem. Goethe's Samtliche Werke. Vol. I., p. 151.

[6] See appendix A, p. 533.

[7] The horrible operation is over, Heaven be praised! It was far more
horrible than we had anticipated. They were _an hour and a quarter_,
before all was done. I was very brave at first and wouldn't leave the
room, but I found myself so faint that I feared falling and had to go.
Lizzy behaved like a heroine indeed, so that even the doctors admired
her fortitude. She never spoke, but was deadly faint, so that they were
obliged to lay her down that the dreadful wound might bleed; then there
was an artery to be taken up and tied; then six stitches to be taken
with a great big needle. Most providentially dear Julia Willis came
in about ten minutes before the doctors and though she was greatly
distressed, she never faints, and staid till Lizzy was laid in bed....
She was just like a marble statue, but even more beautiful, while the
blood stained her shoulders and bosom. You couldn't have looked on such
suffering without fainting, man that you are.--_From a letter of Mrs.
Payson, dated Boston, Sept. 2, 1844._

[8] Her friend, Miss Prentiss, had been married, in the previous autumn,
to the Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, of Newburyport.

[9] "Explication des Maximes des Saints sur la Vie Interieure" is
the full title of the famous little work first named. It appeared in
January, 1697. If measured by the storm it raised in France and at Rome,
or by the attention it attracted throughout Europe, its publication may
be said to have been one of the most important theological events of
that day. The eloquence of Bossuet and the power of Louis XIV. were
together exerted to the utmost in order to brand its illustrious author
as a heretical Quietist; and, through their almost frantic efforts, it
was at last condemned in a papal brief. But, for all that, the little
work is full of the noblest Christian sentiments. It pushes the doctrine
of pure love, perhaps, to a perilous extreme, but still an extreme that
leans to the side of the highest virtue. After its condemnation the
Pope, Innocent XII., wrote to the French prelates, who had been most
prominent in denouncing Fenelon: _Peccavit excessu amoris divini, sed
vos peccastis defectu amoris proximi_--i.e., "He has erred by too much
love of God, but ye have erred by too little love of your neighbor."





Marriage and Settlement in New Bedford. Reminiscences. Letters. Birth of
her First Child. Death of her Sister-in-Law. Letters.

On the 16th of April, 1845, Miss Payson was married to the Rev. George
Lewis Prentiss, then just ordained as pastor of the South Trinitarian
church in New Bedford, Mass. Here she passed the next five and a half
years; years rendered memorable by precious friendships formed in them,
by the birth of two of her children, by the death of her mother, and by
other deep joys and sorrows. New Bedford was then known, the world over,
as the most important centre of the whale-fishery. In quest of the
leviathans of the deep its ships traversed all seas, from the tumbling
icebergs of the Arctic Ocean to the Southern Pacific. But it was also
known nearer home for the fine social qualities of its people. Many of
the original settlers of the town were Quakers, and its character had
been largely shaped by their friendly influence. Husbands and wives,
whether young or old, called each other everywhere by their Christian
names, and a charming simplicity marked the daily intercourse of life.
Into this attractive society Mrs. Prentiss was at once welcomed. The
Arnold family in particular--a family representing alike the friendly
spirit, the refinement and taste, the wealth, and the generous
hospitality of the place--here deserve mention. Their kindness was
unwearied; flowers and fruit came often from their splendid garden and
greenhouses; and, in various other ways, they contributed from the
moment of her coming to render New Bedford a pleasant home to her.

But it was in her husband's parish that she found her chief interest
and joy. His people at first welcomed her in the warmest manner on her
sainted father's account, but they soon learned to love her for her own
sake. She early began to manifest among them that wonderful sympathy,
which made her presence like sunshine in sick rooms and in the house of
mourning, and, in later years, endeared her through her writings to so
many hearts. While her natural shyness and reserve caused her to shrink
from everything like publicity, and even from that leadership in the
more private activities of the church which properly belonged to her sex
and station, any kind of trouble instantly aroused and called into play
all her energies. The sickness and death of little children wrought upon
her with singular power; and, in ministering aid and comfort to bereaved
mothers, she seemed like one specially anointed of the Lord for this
gentle office. Now, after the lapse of more than a third of a century,
there are those in New Bedford and its vicinity who bless her memory, as
they recall scenes of sharp affliction cheered by her presence and her
loving sympathy.

The following reminiscences by one of her New Bedford friends, written
not long after her death, belong here:

Oh, that I had the pen of a ready writer! How gladly would I depict her
just as she came to New Bedford, a youthful bride and our pastor's wife,
more than a third of a century ago! My remembrances of her are still
fresh and delightful; but they have been for so many years _silent_
memories that I feel quite unable fully to express them. And yet I will
try to give you a few simple details. Several things strike me as I
recall her in those days. Our early experiences in the struggle of life
had been somewhat similar and this drew us near to each other. She was
naturally very shy and in the presence of strangers, or of
uncongenial persons, her reserve was almost painful; but with her
friends--especially those of her own sex--all this vanished and she was
full of animated talk. Her conversation abounded in bright, pointed
sayings, in fine little touches of humor, in amusing anecdotes and
incidents of her own experience, which she related with astonishing ease
and fluency, sometimes also in downright girlish fun and drollery; and
all was rendered doubly attractive by her low, sweet woman's voice and
her merry, fitful laugh. Yet these things were but the sparkle of a very
deep and serious nature. Even then her religious character was to me
wonderful. She seemed always to know just what was prompting her,
whether, nature or grace; and her perception of the workings of the two
principles was like an instinct. While I, though cherishing a Christian
hope, was still struggling in bondage under the law, she appeared to
enjoy to the full the glorious liberty of the children of God. And when
I would say to her that I was constantly doing that which I ought not
and leaving undone so much that I ought to do, she would try to comfort
me and to encourage me to exercise more faith by responding, "Oh, you
don't know what a great sinner I am; but Christ's love is greater
still." There was a helpful, assuring, sunshiny influence about her
piety which I have rarely seen or felt in any other human being. And
almost daily, during all the years of separation, I have been conscious
of this influence in my own life.

I remember her as very retiring in company, even among our own people.
But if there were children present, she would gather them about her and
hold them spell-bound by her talk. Oh, she was a marvellous storyteller!
How often have I seen her in the midst of a little group, who, all eyes
and ears, gazed into her face and eagerly swallowed every word, while
she, intent on amusing them, seemed quite unconscious that anybody else
was in the room. Mr. H---- used to say, "How I envy those children and
wish I were one of them!"

Mrs. Prentiss received much attention from persons outside of our
congregation, and who, from their position and wealth, were pretty
exclusive in their habits. But they could not resist the attraction of
her rare gifts and accomplishments. New Bedford at that time, as you
know, had a good deal of intellectual and social culture. This was
particularly the case among the Unitarians, whose minister, when you
came to us, was that excellent and very superior man, the Rev. Ephraim
Peabody, D.D., afterwards of King's Chapel in Boston. One of the leading
families of his flock was the "Arnold family," whose garden and grounds
were then among the finest in the State and at whose house such men
as Richard H. Dana, the poet, the late Professor Agassiz, and others
eminent for their literary and scientific attainments, were often to be
seen. This whole family were warmly attached to Mrs. Prentiss, and after
you left New Bedford, often referred to their acquaintance with her in
the most affectionate manner. And I believe Mr. Arnold and his daughter
used to visit you in New York. The father, mother, daughter, and aunt
are all gone. And what a change have all these vanished years wrought
in the South Trinitarian society! I can think of only six families then
worshipping there, that are worshipping there now. But so long as a
single one remains, the memory of Mrs. Prentiss will still be precious
in the old church.

The story of the New Bedford years may be told, with slight additions
here and there, by Mrs. Prentiss' own pen. Most of her letters to her
own family are lost; but the letters to her husband, when occasionally
separated from her, and others to old friends, have been preserved and
afford an almost continuous narrative of this period. A few extracts
from some of those written in 1845, will show in what temper of mind she
entered upon her new life. The first is dated Portland, January both,
just after Mr. Prentiss received the call to New Bedford:

I have wished all along, beyond anything else, not so much that we might
have a pleasant home, pleasant scenery and circumstances, good society
and the like, as that we might have good, holy influences about us, and
God's grace and love within us. And for you, dear George, I did not so
much desire the intellectual and other attractions, about which we have
talked sometimes, as a dwelling-place among those whom you might train
heavenward or who would not be a hindrance in your journey thither.
Through this whole affair I know I have thought infinitely more of you
than of myself. And if you are happy at the North Pole shan't I be happy
there too? I shall be heartily thankful to see you a pastor with a
people to love you. Only I shall be jealous of them.

To her friend, Miss Thurston, she writes from New Bedford, April 28th:

I thank you with all my heart for your letter and for the very pretty
gift, which I suppose to be the work of your own hands. I can not tell
you how inexpressibly dear to me are all the expressions of affection I
have received and am receiving from old friends. We have been here ten
days, and very happy days they have been to me, notwithstanding I have
had to see so many strange faces and to talk to so many new people. And
both my sister and Anna tell me that the first months of married life
are succeeded by far happier ones still; so I shall go on my way
rejoicing. As to what your brother says about disappointment, nobody
believes his doctrine better than I do; but life is as full of blessings
as it is of disappointments, I conceive, and if we only know how, we may
often, out of mere _will_, get the former instead of the latter. I have
had some experience of the "conflict and dismay" of this present evil
world; but then I have also had some of its smiles. Neither of these
ever made me angry with this life, or in love with it. I believe I am
pretty cool and philosophical, but it won't do for me at this early day
to be boasting of what is in me. I shall have to wait till circumstances
bring it out. I can only answer for the past and the present--the one
having been blessed and gladdened and the other _being_ made happy and
cheerful by lover and husband. I'll tell you truly, as I promised to do,
if my heart sings another tune on the 17th of April, 1848. I only hope
I shall enter soberly and thankfully on my new life, expecting sunshine
and rain, drought and plenty, heat and cold--and adapting myself to
alternations contentedly--but who knows? We are boarding at a hotel,
which is not over pleasant. However, we have two good rooms and have
home things about us. I like to sit at work while Mr. Prentiss writes
his sermons and he likes to have me--so, for the present, a study can be
dispensed with. In a few weeks we hope to get to housekeeping. I like
New Bedford very much.

To her husband she writes, June 18:

I can not help writing you again, though I did send you a letter last
night. It is a very pleasant morning, and I think of you all the time
and love you with the happiest tears in my eyes. I have just been making
some nice crispy gingerbread to send Mrs. H----, as she has no appetite,
and I thought anything from home would taste good to her. I hope this
will please you. Mother called with me to see her yesterday. She looks
very ill. I have no idea she will ever get well. We had a nice time at
the garden last night. Mr. and Miss Arnold came out and walked with us
nearly an hour, though tea was waiting for them, and Miss A. was very
particularly attentive to me (for your dear sake!), and gave me flowers,
beautiful ones, and spoke with much interest of your sermons. Oh, I am
ready to jump for joy, when I think of seeing you home again. Do please
be glad as I am. I suppose your mother wants you too; but then she can't
love you as I do--I'm sure she can't--with all the children among whom
she has to divide her heart. Give my best love to her and Abby. How I
wish I were in Portland, helping you pack your books. But I can't write
any more as we are going to Mrs. Gibbs' to tea. Mother is reading Hamlet
in her room. She is enjoying herself very much.

Mrs. Gibbs, whose name occurs in this letter, was one of those
inestimable friends, who fulfill the office of mother, as it were, to
the young minister's wife. She was tenderly attached to Mrs. Prentiss
and her loving-kindness, which was new every morning and fresh every
evening, ceased only with her life. Her husband, the late Capt. Robert
Gibbs, was like her in unwearied devotion to both the pastor and the
pastor's wife.

The summer was passed in getting settled in her new home, and receiving
visits from old friends. Early in the autumn she spent several weeks in
Portland. After her return, Nov. 2, she writes to Miss Thurston:

I was in Portland after you had left, and got quite rested and recruited
after my summer's fatigue, so that I came home with health and strength,
if not to lay my hand to the plough, to apply it to the broom-handle and
other articles of domestic warfare. Just what I expected would befall me
has happened. I have got immersed in the whirlpool of petty cares and
concerns which swallow up so many other and higher interests, and
talk as anxiously about good "help" and bad, as the rest of 'em do. I
sometimes feel really ashamed of myself to see how virtuously I fancy I
am spending my time, if in the kitchen, and how it seems to be wasted if
I venture to take up a book. I take it that wives who have no love and
enthusiasm for their husbands are more to be pitied than blamed if they
settle down into mere cooks and good managers.... We have had right
pleasant times since coming home; never pleasanter than when, for a day
or two, I was without "help," and my husband ground coffee and drew
water for me, and thought everything I made tasted good. One of the
deacons of our church--a very old man--prays for me once a week at
meeting, especially that my husband and I may be "mutual comforts and
enjoyments of each other," which makes us laugh a little in our sleeves,
even while we say Amen in our hearts. We have been reading aloud Mary
Howitt's "Author's Daughter," which is a very good story indeed--don't
ask me if I have read anything else. My mind has become a complete
mummy, and therefore incapable of either receiving or originating a new
idea. I did wade through a sea of words, and nonsense on my way home in
the shape of two works of Prof. Wilson--"The Foresters" and "Margaret
Lindsay"--which I fancy he wrote before he was out of his mother's arms
or soon after leaving them. The girls in Portland are marrying off like
all possessed. It reminds me of a shovel full of popcorn, which the more
you watch it the more it won't pop, till at last it all goes racketing
off at once, pop, pop, pop; without your having time to say Jack
Robinson between.

My position as wife of a minister secures for me many affectionate
attentions, and opens to me many little channels of happiness, which
conspire to make me feel contented and at home here. I do not know how
a stranger would find New Bedford people, but I am inclined to think
society is hard to get into, though its heart is warm when you once do
get in. We are very pleasantly situated, and our married life has been
abundantly blessed. I doubt if we could fail to be contented anywhere if
we had each other to love and care for.

We went to hear Templeton sing last night. I was perfectly charmed with
his hunting song and with some others, and better judges than I were
equally delighted. I had a letter from Abby last week. She is in
Vicksburg and in fine spirits, and fast returning health.

Her letters during 1846 glow with the sunshine of domestic peace and
joy. In its earlier months her health was unusually good and she depicts
her happiness as something "wonderful." All the day long her heart, she
says, was "running over" with a love and delight she could not begin
to express. But her letters also show that already she was having
foretastes of that baptism of suffering, which was to fit her for doing
her Master's work. In January she revisited Portland, where she had the
pleasure of meeting Prof, and Mrs. Hopkins with their little boy, and
of passing several weeks in the society of her own and her husband's
family. But Portland had now lost for her much of its attraction. "I've
seen all the folks," she wrote, "and we've said about all we've got to
say to each other, and though I love to be at home, of course, it is not
the home it used to be before you had made such another dear, dear home
for me. Oh, do you miss me? do you feel a _little bit_ sorry you let me
leave you? Do say, yes.... But I can't write, I am so happy! I am so
glad I am going home!" Early in December her first child was born.
Writing a few weeks later to Mrs. Stearns, she thus refers to this

What a world of new sensations and emotions come with the first child! I
was quite unprepared for the rush of strange feelings--still more so for
the saddening and chastening effect. Why should the world seem more than
ever empty when one has just gained the treasure of a living and darling

The saddening effect in her own case was owing in part, no doubt, to
anxiety occasioned by the fatal illness of her husband's eldest sister,
to whom she was tenderly attached. The following letter was written
under the pressure of this anxiety:

_To Miss Thurston, New Bedford, Jan. 31, 1847_

I dare say the idea of _Lizzy Payson_ with a _baby_ seems quite funny
to you, as it does to many of the Portland girls; but I assure you it
doesn't seem in the least funny to me, but as natural as life and I may
add, as wonderful, almost. She is a nice little plump creature, with a
fine head of dark hair which I take some comfort in brushing round a
quill to make it curl, and a pair of intelligent eyes, either black or
blue, nobody knows which. I find the care of her very wearing, and have
cried ever so many times from fatigue and anxiety, but now I am getting
a little better and she pays me for all I do. She is a sweet, good
little thing, her chief fault being a tendency to dissipation and
sitting up late o' nights. The ladies of our church have made her a
beautiful little wardrobe, fortunately for me.

I had a lot of company all summer; my sister, her husband and boy, Mr.
Stearns and Anna, Mother Prentiss, Julia Willis, etc. I had also my last
visit from Abby, whom I little thought then I should never see again.
Our happiness in our little one has been checked by our constant anxiety
with regard to Abby's health, and it is very hard now for me to give up
one who has become in every sense a sister, and not even to have the
privilege of bidding her farewell. George went down about a week since
and will remain till all is over. I do not even know that while I write
she is yet living. She had only one wish remaining and that was to see
George, and she was quite herself the day of his arrival, as also the
day following, and able to say all she desired. Since then she has been
rather unconscious of what was passing, and I fervently trust that by
this time her sufferings are over and that she is where she longed
and prayed to be. [1] You can have no idea how alike are the emotions
occasioned by a birth and a death in the family. They seem equally
solemn to me and I am full of wonder at the mysterious new world into
which I have been thrown. I used to think that the change I saw in
young, giddy girls when they became mothers, was owing to suffering and
care wearing upon the spirits, but I see now that its true source lies
far deeper. My brother H. has been married a couple of months, so I have
one sister more. I shall be glad when they are all married. Some sisters
seem to feel that their brothers are lost to them on their marriage, but
if I may judge by my husband, there is fully as much gain as loss. I am
sure no son or brother could be more devoted to mother and sisters than
he is. Of course the baby is his perfect comfort and delight; but I need
not enlarge on this point, as I suppose you have seen papas with their
first babies. A great sucking of a very small thumb admonishes me that
the little lady in the crib meditates crying for supper, so I must hurry
off my letter.

Abby Lewis Prentiss died on Saturday, January 30, 1847, at the age
of thirty-two. Long and wearisome sufferings, such as usually attend
pulmonary disease, preceded the final struggle. It was toward the close
of a stormy winter's day, that she gently fell asleep. A little while
before she had imagined herself in a "very beautiful region" which her
tongue in vain attempted to describe, surrounded by those she loved.
Among her last half-conscious utterances was the name of her brother
Seargent. The next morning witnessed a scene of such wondrous splendor
and loveliness as made the presence of Death seem almost incredible. The
snow-fall and mist and gloom had ceased; and as the sun rose, clear and
resplendent, every visible object--the earth, trees, houses--shone as
if enameled with gold and pearls and precious stones. It was the Lord's
day; and well did the aspect of nature symbolise the glory of Him, who
is the Resurrection and the Life.

On receiving the news of his sister's death, her brother Seargent,
writing to his mother, thus depicted her character:

My heart bleeds to the core, as I sit down to mingle my tears with
yours, my dear, beloved mother. I can not realise that it is all over;
that I shall never again, in this world, see our dear, dear Abby.
Gladly would I have given my own life to preserve hers. But we have
consolation, even in our extreme grief; for she was so good that we know
she is now in heaven, and freed from all care, unless it be that her
affectionate heart is still troubled for us, whom she loved so well. We
can dwell with satisfaction, after we have overcome the first sharpness
of our grief, upon her angel-like qualities, which made her, long before
she died, fit for the heaven where she now is.... You have lost the
purest, noblest, and best of daughters; I, a sister, who never to my
knowledge did a selfish act or uttered a selfish thought. With the
exception of yourself, dear mother, she was, of all our family circle,
the best prepared to enter her Father's house.

Some extracts from letters written at this time, will show the
tenderness of Mrs. Prentiss' sisterly love and sympathy, and give a
glimpse also of her thoughts and occupations as a young mother.

_To Mrs. Stearns, New Bedford, Feb. 17, 1847_

If I loved you less, my dear Anna, I could write you twenty letters
where I now can hardly get courage to undertake one. How very dearly
I do love you I never knew, till it rushed upon my mind that we might
sometime lose you as we have lost dear Abby. How mysteriously your and
Mary's and my baby are given us just at this very time, when our hearts
are so sore that we are almost afraid to expose them to new sufferings
by taking in new objects of affection! But it does seem to me a great
mercy that, trying as it is in many respects, these births and this
death come almost hand in hand. Surely we three young mothers have
learned lessons of life that must influence us forever in relation to
these little ones!

I have been like one in the midst of a great cloud, since the birth
of our baby, entirely unconscious how much I love her; but I am just
beginning to take comfort in and feel sensible affection for her. I long
to show the dear little good creature to you. But I can hardly give up
my long-cherished plans and hopes in regard to Abby's seeing and loving
our first child. Almost as much as I depended on the sympathy and
affection of my own mother in relation to this baby, I was depending on
Abby's. But I rejoice that she is where she is, and would not have her
back again in this world of sin and conflict and labor, for a thousand
times the comfort her presence could give. But you don't know how I
dread going home next summer and not finding her there! It was a great
mercy that you could go down again, dear Anna. And indeed there are
manifold mercies in this affliction--how many we may never know, till we
get home to heaven ourselves and find, perhaps, that this was one of the
invisible powers that helped us on our way thither. I had a sweet little
note from your mother to-day. I would give anything if I could go right
home, and make her adopt me as her daughter by a new adoption, and be a
real blessing and comfort to her in this lonely, dark time. Eddy Hopkins
calls my baby _his_. How children want to use the possessive case in
regard to every object of interest!

I find the blanket that Mrs. Gibbs knit for me so infinitely preferable,
from its elasticity, to common flannel, that I could not help knitting
one for you. If I say that I have thought as many affectionate thoughts
to you, while knitting it, as it contains stitches, I fancy I speak
nothing but truth and soberness--for I love you now with the love I have
returned on my heart from Abby, who no longer is in want of earthly
friends. Dear little baby thought I was knitting for her special
pleasure, for her bright eyes would always follow the needles as she lay
upon my lap, and she would smile now and then as if thanking me for my
trouble. The ladies have given her an elegant cloak, and Miss Arnold has
just sent her a little white satin bonnet that was made in England, and
is quite unlike anything I ever saw. Only to think, I walked down to
church last Sunday and heard George preach once more!

_March 3d._--We could with difficulty, and by taking turns, get through
reading your letter--not only because you so accurately describe our own
feelings in regard to dear Abby, but because we feel so keenly for you.
I often detect myself thinking, "Now I will sit down and write Abby a
nice long letter"; or imagining how she will act when we go home with
our baby; and as you say, I dream about her almost every night. I used
always to dream of her as suffering and dying, but now I see her just as
she was when well, and hear her advising this and suggesting that, just
as I did when she was here last summer. Life seems so different now from
what it did! It seems to me that my _youth_ has been touched by Abby's
death, and that I can never be so cheerful and light-hearted as I have
been. But, dear Anna, though I doubt not this is still more the case
with you, and that you see far deeper into the realities of life than I
do, we have both the consolations that are to be found in Christ--and
these will remain to us when the buoyancy and the youthful spirit have
gone from our hearts.

_March 12th._ ... I had been reading a marriage sermon to George from
"Martyria," and we were having a nice _conjugal_ talk just as your
little stranger was coming into the world. G. is so hurried and driven
that he can not get a moment in which to write. He has a funeral this
afternoon, that of Mrs. H., a lady whom he has visited for two years,
and a part, if not all, of that time once a week. I have made several
calls since I wrote you last--two of them to see babies, one of whom
took the shine quite off of mine with his great blue-black eyes and
eyelashes that lay halfway down his cheeks.

The latter part of April she visited Portland; while there she wrote to
her husband, April 27:

Just as I had the baby to sleep and this letter dated, I was called down
to see Dr. and Mrs. Dwight and their little Willie. The baby woke before
they had finished their call, and behaved as prettily and looked as
bright and lovely as heart could wish. Dr. Dwight held her a long time
and kissed her heartily. [2] I got your letter soon after dinner, and
from the haste and the _je ne sais quoi_ with which it was written, I
feared you were not well. Alas, I am full of love and fear. How came you
to _walk_ to Dartmouth to preach? Wasn't it by far too long a walk to
take in one day? I heard Dr. Carruthers on Sunday afternoon. He made the
finest allusion to my father I ever heard and mother thought of it as
I did. To-day I have had a good many callers--among the rest Deacon
Lincoln. [3] When he saw the baby he said, "Oh, what a homely creature.
Do tell if the New Bedford babies are so ugly?" Mrs. S., thinking him in
earnest, rose up in high dudgeon and said, "Why, we think her beautiful,
Deacon Lincoln." "Well, I don't wonder," said he. I expect she will get
measles and everything else, for _lots_ of children come to see her and
eat her up. Mother, baby and I spend to-morrow at your mother's. Do up a
lot of sleeping and grow fat, pray do! And oh, love me and think I am
a darling little wife, and write me loving words in your next letter.
_Wednesday_.--We have a fine day for going up to your mother's. And the
baby is bright as a button and full of fun. Aren't you glad?

_To Mrs. Stearns, Portland, May 22, 1847_

We have just been having a little quiet Saturday evening talk about dear
Abby, as we sat here before the lighting of the lamps, and I dare say
I was not the only one who wished you here too. I came up here from my
mother's on Monday morning and have had a delightful week. I can not
begin to tell you how glad I am that we are going to make you a little
visit on our way home. I do so want to see you and your children, and
show you our darling little baby that I can hardly wait till the time
comes. I suppose you have got your little folks off to bed, and so if
you will take a peep into the parlor here you will see how we are all
occupied--mother in her rocking-chair, with her "specs" on, studying my
Dewees on Children; George toe to toe with her, reading some old German
book, and Lina [4] curled upon the sofa, asleep I fancy, while I sit in
the corner and write you from dear Abby's desk with her pen. Mercy
and Sophia watch over the cradle in the dining-room, where mother's
fifteenth grandchild reposes, unconscious of the honor of sleeping where
honorables, reverends, and reverendesses have slumbered before her. How
strange it seems that _my_ baby is one of this family--bone of their
bone, and flesh of their flesh! I need not say how I miss dear Abby, for
you will see at once that that which was months ago a reality to you,
has just become such to me. It pains me to my heart's core to hear how
she suffered. Dear, dear Abby! how I did love her, and how thankful I
am for her example to imitate and her excellencies to rejoice in! Your
uncle James Lewis [5] spent last night here, and this morning he prayed
a delightful prayer, which really softened my whole soul. I do not
know when I have had my own wants so fervently expressed, or been more
edified at family worship, and his allusion to Abby was very touching.

The following extracts from letters written to her husband, while he was
absent in Maine, may be thought by some to go a little too much into
the trifling details of daily life and feeling, but do not such details
after all form no small part of the moral warp and woof of human

_To her husband New Bedford, August 27th_.

I heard this morning that old Mrs. Kendrick was threatened with typhus
fever, and went down soon after breakfast to see how she did, and, as I
found Mrs. Henrietta had watched with her and was looking all worn out,
I begged her to let me have her baby this afternoon, that she might have
a chance to rest; so, after dinner, Sophia went down and got her. At
first she set up a lamentable scream, but we huddled on her cloak and
put her with our baby into the carriage and gave them a ride. She is
a _proper_ heavy baby, and my legs ache well with trotting round the
streets after the carriage. Think of me as often as you can and pray for
me, and I will think of you and pray for you all the time.

_Tuesday Evening_.--You see I am writing you a sort of little journal,
as you say you like to know all I do while you are away. Our sweet baby
makes your absence far less intolerable than it used to be before she
came to comfort me.... I have felt all soul and as if I had no body,
ever since your precious letter came this morning. I have so pleased
myself with imagining how funny and nice it would be if I could creep in
unperceived by you, and hear your oration! I long to know how you got
through, and what Mr. Stearns and Mr. Smith thought of it. I always pray
for you more when you are away than I do when you are at home, because I
know you are interrupted and hindered about your devotions more or less
when journeying. I have had callers a great part of to-day, among them
Mrs. Leonard, Mrs. Gen. Thompson, Mrs. Randall, and Capt. Clark. [6]
Capt. C. asked for nobody but the baby. The little creature almost
sprang into his arms. He was much gratified and held her a long while,
kissing and caressing her. I think it was pretty work for you to go to
reading your oration to your mother and old Mrs. Coe, when you hadn't
read it to me. I felt a terrible pang of jealousy when I came to that in
your letter. I am going now to call on Miss Arnold.

_Friday, Sept, 3d._--Yesterday forenoon I was _perfectly wretched_. It
came over me, as things will in spite of us, "Suppose he didn't get
safely to Brunswick!" and for several hours I could not shake it off.
It had all the power of reality, and made me so faint that I could do
nothing and fairly had to go to bed. I suppose it was very silly, and
if I had not tried in every way to rise above it might have been even
wicked, but it frightened me to find how much I am under the power of
mere feeling and fancy. But do not laugh at me. Sometimes I say to
myself, "What MADNESS to love any human being so intensely! What would
become of you if he were snatched from you?" and then I think that
though God justly denies us comfort and support for the future, and
bids us lean upon Him _now_ and trust Him for the rest, He can give us
strength for the endurance of His most terrible chastisements when their
hour comes.

_Saturday._--I am a mere baby when I think of your getting sick in this
time of almost universal sickness and sorrow and death.... Yesterday
Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Leonard took me, with Sophia and baby, to the
cemetery, and on a long ride of three hours--all of which was
delightful. In the afternoon baby had an ill-turn which alarmed me
excessively, because so many children are sick, but I gave her medicine
and think she will soon be well again. Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Randall and
others sent me yesterday a dozen large peaches, two melons, a lot
of shell-beans and tomatoes, a dish of blackberries and some fried
corn-cakes--not an atom of the whole of which shall I touch, taste,
handle, or smell; so you need not fear my killing myself. Mrs. Capt.
Delano, where the Rev. Mr. Brock from England stayed, has just lost two
children after a few days' illness. They were buried in one coffin. Old
Gideon Howland, the richest man here, is also dead. The papers are full
of deaths. Our dear baby is nine months old to-day, and may God, if He
_sees best_, spare her to us as many more; and if He does not, I feel as
if I could give her up to Him--but we don't know what we can do till
the time comes. I hear her sweet little voice down stairs and it sounds
happy, so I guess she feels pretty comfortable.

_Sabbath Evening._--The baby is better, and I dare say it is my
imagination that says she looks pale and puny. She is now asleep in your
study, where too I am sitting in your chair. I came down as soon as I
could this morning, and have stayed here all day. It is so quiet and
pleasant among your books and papers, and it was so dull up-stairs! I
thought before your letter came, while standing over the green, grassy
graves of Lizzie Read, Mary Rodman, and Mrs. Cadwell, [7] how I should
love to have dear Abby in such a green, sweet spot, where we could
sometimes go together to talk of her. I must own I should like to be
buried under grass and trees, rather than cold stone and heavy marble.
Should not you?

* * * * *


Birth of a Son. Death of her Mother. Her Grief. Letters. Eddy's Illness
and her own Cares. A Family Gathering at Newburyport. Extracts from
Eddy's Journal.

Passing over another year, which was marked by no incidents requiring
special mention, we come again to a birth and a death in close
conjunction. On the 22d of October, 1848, her second child, Edward
Payson, was born. On the 17th of November, her mother died. Of the life
of this child she herself has left a minute record, portions of which
will be given later. In a letter to his sister, dated New Bedford,
November 21st, her husband thus refers to her mother's departure:

We have just received the sad intelligence of Mother Payson's death. She
passed away very peacefully, as if going to sleep, at half-past five on
Friday afternoon. Dear Lizzy was at first quite overwhelmed, as I knew
she would be--for her attachment to her mother was uncommonly tender and
devoted; but she is now perfectly tranquil and will soon, I trust, be
able to think of her irreparable loss with a melancholy pleasure even.
There is much in the case that is peculiarly fitted to produce a
cheerful resignation. Mrs. Payson has been a severe sufferer; and since
the breaking up of her home in Portland, she has felt, I think, an
increasing detachment from the world. I was exceedingly struck with this
during her visit here last winter. She seemed to me to be fast ripening
for heaven. It is such a comfort to us that she was able to _name_ our
little boy! [8]

Mrs. Payson died in the 65th year of her age. She was a woman of most
attractive and admirable qualities, full of cheerful life and energy,
and a whole-hearted disciple of Jesus. A few extracts from Mrs.
Prentiss' letters will show how deeply she felt her loss. To her
youngest brother she writes:

How gladly I would go, if I could, to see you all, and talk over with
you the thousand things that are filling our minds and hearts! We can
not drain this bitter cup at one draught and then go on our way as
though it had never been. The loss of a mother is never made up or
atoned for; and ours was such a mother; so peculiar in her devotion and
tenderness and sympathy! I can not mourn that her sorrowful pilgrimage
is over, can not think for a moment of wishing she were still on earth,
weeping and praying and suffering--but for myself and for you and for
all I mourn with hourly tears. She has sacrificed herself for us.

To her friend, Miss Lord, she writes, Jan. 31:

It seems to me that every day and hour I miss my dear mother more and
more, and I feel more and more painfully how much she suffered during
her last years and months. Dear Louise, I thought I knew that she could
not live long, but I never realised it, and even now I keep trying to
hope that she has not really gone. Just in this very spot where I now
sit writing, my dear mother's great easy-chair used to sit, and here,
only a year ago, she was praying for and loving me. O, if I had only
_known_ she was dying then, and could have talked with her about heaven
till it had grown to seeming like a home to which she was going, and
whither I should follow her sooner or later! But it is all over and I
would not have her here again, if the shadow of a wish could restore
her to us. I only earnestly long to be fitting, day by day, to meet
her again in heaven. God has mingled many great mercies with this
affliction, and I do not know that I ever in my life so felt the delight
of praying to and thanking Him. When I begin to pray I have so much to
thank Him for, that I hardly know how to stop. I have always thought
I would not for the universe be left unchastised--and now I feel the
smart, I still can say so. Lotty's visit was a great comfort and service
to me, but I was very selfish in talking to her so much about my own
loss, while she was so great a sufferer under hers. Since she left
my little boy has been worse than ever and pined away last week very
rapidly. You can form no idea, by any description of his sufferings, of
what the dear little creature has undergone since his birth. I feel a
perfect longing to see Portland and mother's many dear friends there,
especially your mother and a few like her. I am very tired as I have
written a great part of this with baby in my lap--so I can write no

_To Mrs. Stearns, Feb. 17, 1849._

Dear little Eddy has found life altogether unkind thus far, and I have
had many hours of heartache on his account but I hope he may weather
the storm and come out safely yet. The doctor examined him all over
yesterday, particularly his head, and said he could not make him out a
_sick_ child, but that he thought his want of flesh owing partly to
his sufferings but more to the great loss of sleep occasioned by his
sufferings. Instead of sleeping twelve hours out of the twenty-four, he
sleeps but about seven and that by means of laudanum. Isn't it a mercy
that I have been able to bear so well the fatigue and care and anxiety
of these four hard months? I feel that I have nothing to complain of,
and a _great deal_ to be thankful for. On the whole, notwithstanding my
grief about my dear mother's loss, and my perplexity and distress about
baby, I have had as much real happiness this winter as it is possible
for one to glean in such unfavorable circumstances. _By far_ the
greatest trial I have to contend with, is that of losing all power
to control my time. A little room all of my own, and a regular hour,
morning and night, all of my own would enable me, I think, to say,
"_Now_ let life do its worst!"

I am no stranger, I assure you, to the misgivings you describe in your
last letter; I think them the result of the _wish_ without the _will_
to be holy. We pray for sanctification and then are afraid God will
sanctify us by stripping us of our idols and feel distressed lest we
can not have them and Him too. Reading the life of Madame Guyon gave me
great pain and anxiety, I remember. I thought that if such spiritual
darkness and trial as she was in for many years, was a necessary
attendant on eminent piety, I could not summon courage to try to live
such a life. Of all the anguish in the world there is nothing like
this--the sense of God, without the sense of nearness to Him. I wish you
would always "think aloud" when you write to me. I long to see you and
the children and Mr. S., and so does George. Poor G. has had a very hard
time of it ever since little Eddy's birth--so much care and worry and
sleeplessness and labor, and how he is ever to get any rest I don't see.
These are the times that try our souls. Let nobody condole with me about
our _bodies_. It is the struggle to be patient and gentle and cheerful,
when pressed down and worn upon and distracted, that costs us so much. I
think when I have had all my children, if there is anything left of me,
I shall write about the "Battle of Life" more eloquently than Dickens
has done. I had a pleasant dream about mother and Abby the other night.
They came together to see me and both seemed so well and so happy! I
feel _perfectly happy_ now, that my dear mother has gone home.

_To the Same, May 7, 1849._

I used to think it hard to be sick when I had dear mother hanging over
me, doing all she could for my relief, but it is harder to be denied the
poor comfort of being let alone and to have to drag one's self out of
bed to take care of a baby. Mr. Stearns must know how to pity me, for my
real sick headaches are very like his, and when racked with pain, dizzy,
faint and exhausted with suffering, starvation and sleeplessness, it is
terrible to have to walk the room with a crying child! I thought as I
lay, worn out even to childishness, obliged for the baby's sake to have
a bright sunlight streaming into the chamber, and to keep my eyes and
ears on the alert for the same cause, how still we used to think the
house must be left when my father had these headaches and how mother
busied herself all day long about him, and how nice his little plate of
hot steak used to look, as he sat up to eat it when the sickness had
gone--and how I am suffering here all alone with nobody to give me even
a look of encouragement. George was out of town on my sickest day. When
he was at home he did everything in the world he could do to keep the
children still, but here they must be and I must direct about every
trifle and have them on the bed with me. I am getting desperate and feel
disposed to run furiously in the traces till I drop dead on the way.
Don't think me very wicked for saying so. I am jaded in soul and body
and hardly know what I do want. If T. comes, George, at all events, will
get relief and that will take a burden from my mind.... I want Lina to
come this summer. There is a splendid swing on iron hooks under a tree,
at the house we are going to move into. Won't that be nice for Jeanie
and Mary's other children, if they come? I wish I had a little fortune,
not for myself but to gather my "folks" together with. I shall not write
you, my dear, another complaining letter; do excuse this.

This letter shows the extremity of her trouble; but it is a picture,
merely. The reality was something beyond description; only young
mothers, who know it by experience, can understand its full meaning.
Now, however, the storm for a while abated. The young relative, whose
loving devotion had ministered to the comfort of her dying mother, came
to her own relief and passed the next six months at New Bedford, helping
take care of Eddy. In the course of the spring, too, his worst symptoms
disappeared and hope took the place of fear and despondency. Referring
to this period, his mother writes in Eddy's journal:

On the Saturday succeeding his birth, we heard of my dear mother's
serious illness, and, when he was about three weeks old, of her death.
We were not surprised that his health suffered from the shock it thus
received. He began at once to be affected with distressing colic, which
gave him no rest day or night. His father used to call him a "little
martyr," and such indeed he was for many long, tedious months. On the
16th of February, the doctor came and spent two hours in carefully
investigating his case. He said it was a most trying condition of
things, and he would gladly do something to relieve me, as he thought
I had been through "enough to _kill ten men_." ... When Eddy was about
eight months old, the doctor determined to discontinue the use of
opiates. He was now a fine, healthy baby, bright-eyed and beautiful, and
his colic was reducing itself to certain seasons on each day, instead of
occupying the whole day and night as heretofore. We went through fire
and water almost in trying to procure for him natural sleep. We swung
him in blankets, wheeled him in little carts, walked the room with
him by the hour, etc., etc., but it was wonderful how little sleep he
obtained after all. He always looked wide awake and as if he did not
_need_ sleep. His eyes had gradually become black, and when, after a day
of fatigue and care with him he would at last close them, and we would
flatter ourselves that now we too should snatch a little rest, we would
see them shining upon us in the most amusing manner with an expression
of content and even merriment. About this time he was baptized. I well
remember how in his father's study, and before taking him to church,
we gave him to God. He was very good while his papa was performing the
ceremony, and looked so bright and so well, that many who had never seen
him in his state of feebleness, found it hard to believe he had been
aught save a vigorous and healthy child. My own health was now so broken
down by long sleeplessness and fatigue, that it became necessary for me
to leave home for a season. Dr. Mayhew promised to run in _every day_ to
see that all went well with Eddy. His auntie was more than willing to
take this care upon herself, and many of our neighbors offered to go
often to see him, promising to do everything for his safety and comfort
if I would only go. Not aware how miserable a state I was in, I resolved
to be absent only one week, but was away for a whole month.

A part of the month, with her husband and little daughter, she passed at
Newburyport. His brother, S. S. Prentiss--whose name was then renowned
all over the land as an orator and patriot--had come North for the
last time, bringing his wife and children with him. It was a
never-to-be-forgotten family gathering under the aged mother's roof.

On my return (she continues in Eddy's journal) I found him looking
finely. He had had an ill-turn owing to teething which they had kept
from me, but had recovered from it and looked really beautiful. His
father and uncle S. S. had been to see him once during our vacation,
and we were now expecting them again with his Aunt Mary and her three
children and his grandmother. We depended a great deal on seeing Eddy
and Una together, as she was his _twin_ cousin and only a few hours
older than he. But on the very evening of their arrival he was taken
sick, and, although they all saw him that night looking like himself, by
the next morning he had changed sadly. He grew ill and lost flesh and
strength very fast, and no remedies seemed to have the least effect on
his disorder, which was one induced by teething.... For myself I did not
believe anything could now save my precious baby, and had given him to
God so unreservedly, that I was not conscious of even a wish for his
life.... When at last we saw evident tokens of returning health and
strength, we felt that we received him a second time as from the grave.
To me he never seemed the same child. My darling Eddy was lost to me and
another--_and yet the same_--filled his place. I often said afterward
that a little stranger was running about my nursery, not mine, but
God's. Indeed, I can't describe the peculiar feelings with which I
always regarded him after this sickness, nor how the thought constantly
met me, "He is not mine; he is God's." Every night I used to thank Him
for sparing him to me one day longer; thus truly enjoying him _a day at
a time_.

An extract from a letter to Miss Lord, written on the anniversary of her
mother's death, will close the account of this year.

If I were in Portland now, I should go right down to see you. I feel
just like having a dear, old-fashioned talk with you. I was thinking how
many times death had entered that old Richmond circle of which you and I
once formed a part; Mrs. Persico, Susan, Charlotte Ford, Kate Kennedy,
and now our own dearest Lotty, all gone. I can not tell you how much I
miss and grieve for Lotty. [9] I can not be thankful enough that I went
to Portland in the summer and had that last week with her, nor for her
most precious visit here last winter. Whenever you think of any little
thing she said, I want you to write it down for me, no matter whether
it seems worth writing or not. I know by experience how precious such
things are. This is a sad day to me. Indeed, all of this month has been
so, recalling as it has done, all I was suffering at this time last
year, and all my dear mother was then suffering. I can hardly realise
that she has been in heaven a whole year, and that I feel her loss as
vividly as if it were but yesterday--indeed, more so. I do not feel that
this affliction has done me the good that it ought to have done and that
I hoped it would. As far as I have any excuse it lies in my miserable
health. I want so much to be more of a Christian; to live a life of
constant devotion. Do tell me, when you write, if you have such troubled
thoughts, and such difficulty in being steadfast and unmovable? Oh, how
I sigh for the sort of life I led in Richmond, and which was more or
less the life of the succeeding years at home! My husband tries to
persuade me that the difference is more in my way of life, and that then
being my time for contemplation, now is my time for action. But I know,
myself, that I have lost ground. You must bear me in mind when you pray,
my dear Louise, for I never had so much need of praying nor so little
time or strength for it.

* * * * *


Further Extracts from Eddy's Journal. Ill-health. Visit to Newark. Death
of her Brother-in-law, S. S. Prentiss. His Character. Removal to Newark.

The record of the new year opens with this entry in Eddy's journal:

_January, 1850._--Eddy is now fourteen months old, has six teeth, and
walks well, but with timidity. He is, at times, really beautiful. He is
very affectionate, and will run to meet me, throw his little arms round
my neck and keep pat-pat-patting me, with delight. Miss Arnold sent him,
at New Year's, a pretty ball, with which he is highly pleased. He rolls
it about by knocking it with a stick, and will shout for joy when he
sees it moving. He is _crazy_ to give everybody something, and when he
is brought down to prayers, hurries to get the Bible for his father, his
little face all smiles and exultation, and his body in a quiver with
emotion. He is like lightning in all his movements, and is never still
for an instant. It is worth a good deal to see his face, it is so
_brimful_ of life and sunshine and gladness.

Her letters, written during the winter and spring, show how in the midst
of bodily suffering, depression, and sorrow her views of life were
changing and her faith in God growing stronger. Three of her brothers
were now in California, seeking their fortunes in the newly-discovered
gold mines. To one of them she writes, March 10th:

I was delighted yesterday by the reception of your letter. I do not
wonder that Lotty's death affected you as it did--but however sharp the
instruments by which these lessons come to us, they are full of good
when they do come. As I look back to the time when I did not know what
death was doing and could do, I seem to myself like a child who has not
yet been to school. The deaths of our dear mother and of Lotty have
taken fast hold of me. Life is _entirely changed_. I do not say this
in a melancholy or repining temper, for I would not have life appear
otherwise than in its true light. All my sickly, wicked disgust with it
has been put to the blush and driven away. I see now that to live for
God, whether one is allowed ability to be actively useful or not, is a
great thing, and that it is a wonderful mercy to be allowed to live and
suffer even, if thereby one can glorify Him. I desire to live if it is
God's will, though I confess heaven looks most attractive when either
sin, sorrow, or sickness weary me. But I must not go on at this rate,
for I could not in writing begin to tell you how different everything
looks as I advance into a knowledge of life and see its awful sorrows
and sufferings and changes and know that I am subject to all its laws,
soon to take my turn in its mysterious close. My dear brother, let us
learn by heart the lessons we are learning, and go in their strength
and wisdom all our days.... Our children are well. Eddy has gone to be
weighed (he weighed twenty-four pounds). He is a fine little fellow.
I have his nurse still, and ought to be in excellent health, but am
a nervous old thing, as skinny and bony as I can be. I can think of
nothing but birds' claws when I look at my hands. But I have so much to
be thankful for in my dear husband and my sweet little children, and
love all of you so dearly, that I believe I am as rich as if I had the
flesh and strength of a giant. I am going this week to hear Miss Arnold
read a manuscript novel. This will give spice to my life. Warmest love
to you all.

Again, May 10th, she writes:

It would be a great pleasure to me to keep a journal for you if I were
well enough, but I am not. I have my sick headache now once a week, and
it makes me really ill for about three days. Towards night of the third
day I begin to brighten up and to eat a morsel, but hardly recover my
strength before I have another pull-down, just as I had got to this
point the door-bell rang, and lo! a beautiful May-basket hanging on the
latch for "Annie," full of pretty and good things. I can hardly wait
till morning to see how her eyes will shine and her little feet fly when
she sees it. George has been greatly distressed about S. S., and has, I
think, very little, if any, hope that he will recover. Dr. Tappan [10]
spent Tuesday night here. We had a really delightful visit from him. He
spoke highly of your classmate, Craig, who is just going to be married.
He told us a number of pleasant anecdotes about father. Eddy has got big
enough to walk in the street. He looks like a little picture, with his
great forehead and bright eyes. He is in every way as large as most
children are at two years. His supreme delight is to tease A. by making
believe strike her or in some other real boy's hateful way. She and he
play together on the grass-plat, and I feel quite matronly as I sit
watching them with their balls and wheel-barrows and whatnots. This
little scamp has, I fear, broken my constitution to pieces. It makes me
crawl all over when I think of you three fagging all day at such dull
and unprofitable labor. But I am sure Providence will do what is really
best for you all. We think and talk of and pray for you every day and
more than once a day, and, in all my ill-health and sufferings, the
remembrance of you is pleasant and in great measure refreshing. I
depend more upon hearing from you all than I can describe. What an
unconquerable thing family affection is!

She thus writes, May 30th, to her old Portland friend, Miss Lord:

I have written very few letters and not a line of anything else the
past winter, owing to the confusion my mind is in most of the time from
distress in my head. Three days out of every seven I am as sick as I
well can be--the rest of the time languid, feeble, and exhausted by
frequent faint turns, so that I can't do the smallest thing in my
family. I hardly know what it is so much as to put a clean apron on to
one of my children. To me this is a constant pain and weariness; for
our expense in the way of servants is greater than we can afford and
everything is going to destruction under my face and eyes, while I dare
not lift a finger to remedy it. I live in constant alternations of hope
and despondency about my health. Whenever I feel a little better, as I
do to-day, I am sanguine and cheerful, but the next ill-turn depresses
me exceedingly. I don't think there is any special danger of my dying,
but there is a good deal of my getting run down beyond the power of
recovery, and of dragging out that useless existence of which I have a
perfect horror. But I would not have you think I am not happy; for I can
truly say that I _am_, most of the time, as happy as I believe one can
be in this world. All my trials and sufferings shut me up to the one
great Source of peace, and I know there has been need of every one of

I have not yet made my plans for the summer. Our doctor urges me to go
away from the children and from the salt water, but I do not believe it
would do me a bit of good. I want you to see my dear little boy. He is
now nineteen months old and as fat and well as can be. He is a beautiful
little fellow, we think, and very interesting. He is as gallant to A.
as you please, and runs to get a cushion for her when their supper is
carried in, and won't eat a morsel himself till he sees her nicely
fixed. George has gone to Boston, and I am lonely enough. I would write
another sheet if I dared, but I don't dare.

What she here says of her happiness, amidst the trials of the previous
winter, is repeated a little later in a letter to her husband:

I can truly say I have not spent a happier winter since our marriage, in
spite of all my sickness. It seems to me I can never recover my spirits
and be as I have been in my best days, but what I lose in one way
perhaps I shall gain in another. Just think how my ambition has been
crushed at every point by my ill-health, and even the ambition to be
useful and a comfort to those about me trampled underfoot, to teach me
what I could not have learned in any other school!

In the month of June she went on a visit to Newark, New Jersey, where
her husband's mother and sister now resided; Dr. Stearns having in the
fall of 1849 accepted a call to the First Presbyterian church in that
city. While she was in Newark news came of the dangerous illness, and,
soon after, of the death at Natchez of her brother-in-law, Mr. S. S.
Prentiss. The event was a great shock to her, and she knew that it would
be a crushing blow to her husband. Her letters to him, written at this
time, are full of the tender love and sympathy that infuse solace into
sorrow-stricken hearts. Here is an extract from one of them, dated July

I can't tell you how it grieves and distresses me to have had this
long-dreaded affliction come upon you when you were alone. Though I
could do so little to comfort you, it seems as if I _must_ be near
you.... But I know I am doing right in staying here--doing as you would
tell me to do, if I could have your direct wish, and you don't know how
thankful I am that it has pleased God to let me be with dear mother at a
time when she so needed constant affection and sympathy. Yes there are
wonderful mercies with this heavy affliction, and we all see and feel
them. Poor mother has borne all the dreadful suspense and then the
second blow of to-day far better than any of us dared to hope, but she
weeps incessantly. Anna is with her all she can possibly be, and Mr.
Stearns is an angel of mercy. I have prayed for you a great deal this
week, and I know God is with you, comforts you, and will enable you to
bear this great sorrow. And yet I can't help feeling that I want to
comfort you myself. Oh, may we all reap its blessed fruits as long as we
live! Let us withdraw a while from everything else, that we may press
nearer to God.

We were in a state of terrible suspense all day Tuesday, all day
Wednesday, and until noon to-day; starting at every footfall, expecting
telegraphic intelligence either from you or from the South, and
deplorably ignorant of Seargent's alarming condition, notwithstanding
all the warning we had had. With one consent we had put far off the evil
day.... And now I must bid you good-night, my dearest husband, praying
that you may be the beloved of the Lord and rest in safety by Him.

The early years of Mrs. Prentiss' married life were in various ways
closely connected with that of this lamented brother; so much so that he
may be said to have formed one of the most potent, as well as one of the
sunniest, influences in her own domestic history. Not only was he very
highly gifted, intellectually, and widely known as a great orator, but
he was also a man of extraordinary personal attractions, endeared to all
his friends by the sweetness of his disposition, by his winning ways,
his wit, his playful humor, his courage, his boundless generosity, his
fraternal and filial devotion, and by the charm of his conversation. His
death at the early age of forty-one called forth expressions of profound
sorrow and regret from the first men of the nation. After the lapse of
nearly a third of a century his memory is still fresh and bright in the
hearts of all, who once knew and loved him. [11]

Notwithstanding the shock of this great affliction, Mrs. Prentiss
returned to New Bedford much refreshed in body and mind. In a letter to
her friend Miss Lord, dated September 14th, she writes:

I spent six most profitable weeks at Newark; went out very little, saw
very few people, and had the quiet and retirement I had long hungered
and thirsted for. Since I have had children my life has been so
distracted with care and sickness that I have sometimes felt like giving
up in despair, but this six weeks' rest gave me fresh courage to start
anew. I have got some delightful books--Manning's Sermons. [12] They are
(letting the High-churchism go) most delightful; I think Susan would
have feasted on them. But she is feasting on angels' food and has need
of none of these things.

In October of this year Mrs. Prentiss bade adieu to New Bedford,
never to revisit it, and removed to Newark; her husband having become
associate pastor of the Second Presbyterian church in that place. In the
spring of the following year he accepted a call to the Mercer street
Presbyterian church in New York, and that city became her home the
rest of her days. Although she tarried so short a time in Newark, she
received much kindness and formed warm friendships while there. She
continued to suffer much, however, from ill-health and almost entirely
suspended her correspondence. A few letters to New Bedford friends
are all that relate to this period. In one to Mrs. J. P. Allen, dated
November 2d, she thus refers to an accident, which came near proving

Yesterday we went down to New York to hear Jenny Lind; a pleasure to
remember for the rest of one's life. If anything, she surpassed our
expectations. In coming home a slight accident to the cars obliged us to
walk about a mile, and I must needs fall into a hole in the bridge which
we were crossing, and bruise and scrape one knee quite badly. The wonder
is that I did not go into the river, as it was a large hole, and pitch
dark. I think if I had been walking with Mr. Prentiss I should not only
have gone in myself, but pulled him in too; but I had the arm of a
stronger man, who held me up till I could extricate myself. You can't
think how I miss you, nor how often I wish you could run in and sit with
me, as you used to do. I have always loved you, and shall remember you
and yours with the utmost interest. We had a pleasant call the other day
from Captain Gibbs. Seeing him made me homesick enough. I could hardly
keep from crying all the time he stayed. It seems to us both as if
we had been gone from New Bedford more months than we have days. Mr.
Prentiss said yesterday that he should expect if he went back directly,
to see the boys and girls grown up and married.

_To Mrs. Reuben Nye, Newark, Feb 12, 1851._

Mr. Prentiss and Mr. Poor have just taken Annie and Eddy out to walk,
and I have been moping over the fire and thinking of New Bedford
friends, and wishing one or more would "happen in." I am just now
getting over a severe attack of rheumatism, which on leaving my back
intrenched itself in Mr. P.'s shoulder. I dislike this climate and am
very suspicious of it. Everybody has a horrible cold, or the rheumatism,
or fever and ague. Mr. Prentiss says if I get the latter, he shall be
off for New England in a twinkling. I think he is as well as can be
expected while the death of his brother continues so fresh in his
remembrance. All the old cheerfulness, which used to sustain me amid
sickness and trouble, has gone from him. But God has ordered the iron to
enter his soul, and it is not for me to resist that will. Our children
are well. We have had much comfort in them both this winter. Mother
Prentiss is renewing her youth, it is so pleasant to her to have us all
near her. (Eddy and A. are hovering about me, making such a noise that I
can hardly write. Eddy says, "When I was tired, _Poor_ tarried me.") Mr.
Poor carries all before him. [13] He is _very_ popular throughout
the city, and I believe Mrs. P. is much admired by their people. Mr.
Prentiss is preaching every Sabbath evening, as Dr. Condit is able to
preach every morning now. I feel as much at home as I possibly could
anywhere in the same time, but instead of mourning less for my New
Bedford friends, I mourn more and more every day.

To Mrs. Allen she writes, Feb. 21:

I know all about those depressed moods, when it costs one as much to
smile, or to give a pleasant answer, as it would at other times to make
a world. What a change it will be to us poor sickly, feeble, discouraged
ones, when we find ourselves where there is neither pain or lassitude or
fatigue of the body, or sorrow or care or despondency of the mind!

I miss you more and more. People here are kind and excellent and
friendly, but I can not make them, as yet, fill the places of the
familiar faces I have left in New Bedford. I am all the time walking
through our neighborhood, dropping into Deacon Barker's or your house,
or welcoming some of you into our old house on the corner. Eddy is
pretty well. He is a sweet little boy, gentle and docile. He learns to
talk very fast, and is crazy to learn hymns. He says, "Tinkle, tinkle
_leetleeverybody_, and give 'tatoes to beggar boys." Mother Prentiss
seems to _thrive_ on having us all about her. She lives so far off that
I see her seldom, but Mr. P. goes every day, except Sundays, when
he can't go--rain or shine, tired or not tired, convenient or not
convenient. Since my mother's death he has felt that he must do quickly
whatever he has to do for his own.

[1] "I found dear Abby still alive and rejoiced beyond expression to see
me. She had had a very feeble night, but brightened up towards noon and
when I arrived seemed entirely like her old self, smiling sweetly and
exclaiming, "This is the last blessing I desired! Oh, how good the Lord
is, isn't He?" It was very delightful. The doctor has just been in and
he says she may go any instant, and yet may live a day or two. Mother is
wonderfully calm and happy, and the house seems like the very gate of
heaven.... I so wish you could have seen Abby's smile when I entered her
room. And then she inquired so affectionately for you and baby: "Now
tell me everything about them." She longs and prays to be gone. There
is something perfectly childlike about her expressions and feelings,
especially toward mother. She can't bear to have her leave the room and
holds her hand a good deal of the time. She sends ever so much love."--
_Extract from a letter, dated Portland, January 27, 1847._

[2] The late Rev. William T. Dwight, D.D., pastor of the Third Church in
Portland. He was a son of President Dwight, an accomplished man, a noble
Christian citizen, and one of the ablest preachers of his day. For many
years his house almost adjoined Mrs. Payson's, and both he and Mrs.
Dwight were among her most cherished friends.

[3] A devoted friend of her father's, one of his deacons, and a genial,
warm-hearted, good man.

[4] A niece of her husband, a lovely child, who died a few years later
in Georgia.

[5] Rev. James Lewis, a venerated elder and local preacher of the
Methodist Episcopal Church, then nearly eighty years of age. He died
in 1855, universally beloved and lamented. He entered upon his work in
1800. During most of those fifty-five years he was wont to preach every
Sabbath, often three times, rarely losing an appointment by sickness,
and still more rarely by storms in summer or winter. He lived in Gorham,
Maine, and his labors were pretty equally divided among all the towns
within fifteen miles round. His rides out and back, often over the
roughest roads or through heavy snows, averaged, probably, from fifteen
to twenty miles. It was estimated that he had officiated at not less
than 1,500 funerals, sometimes riding for the purpose forty miles. His
funeral and camp-meeting sermons included, he could not have preached
less than from 8,000 to 9,000 times. He never received a dollar of
compensation for his ministerial services. Though a hard-working farmer,
his hospitality to his itinerant brethren was unbounded. In several
towns of Cumberland and adjoining counties, he was the revered
patriarch, as half a century earlier he had been the youthful pioneer of
Methodism. When he departed to be with Christ, there was no better man
in all the State to follow after him.

[6] One of a number of old whaling captains in her husband's
congregation, in whom she was interested greatly. They belonged to
a class of men _sui generis_--men who had traversed all oceans,
had visited many lands, and were as remarkable for their jovial
large-hearted, social qualities, when at home, as for their indomitable
energy, Yankee push, and adventurous seamanship, when hunting the
monsters of the deep on the other side of the globe.

[7] Two bright girls and a young mother, who had died not long before.

[8] Her sickness lasted six weeks, dating from the day of her being
entirely confined to bed. Her life was prolonged much beyond what her
physicians or any one else who saw her, had believed possible. During
the last week her sufferings were less, and she lay quiet part of the
time. Friday morning she had an attack of faintness, in the course of
which she remarked "I am dying." She recovered and before noon sank
into a somnolent state from which she never awoke. Her breathing became
softer and fainter till it ceased at half-past five in the afternoon.
Oh, what a transition was that! from pain and weariness and woe to the
world of light! to the presence of the Saviour! to unclouded bliss! I
felt, and so I believe did all assembled round her bed, that it was time
for exultation rather than grief. We could not think of ourselves, so
absorbed were we in contemplation of her happiness. She was able to say
scarcely anything during her sickness, and left not a single message
for the absent children, or directions to those who were present. Her
extreme weakness, and the distressing effect of every attempt to speak,
made her abandon all such attempts except in answer to questions. But
the tenor of her replies to all inquiries was uniform, expressing entire
acquiescence in the will of God, confidence in Him through Christ, and
a desire to depart as soon as He should permit. Tranquillity and peace,
unclouded by a single doubt or fear, seem to have filled her mind. There
were several reasons which led us to decide that the interment should
take place here; but on the following Saturday a gentleman arrived from
Portland, sent by the Second Parish to remove the remains to that place,
if we made no objection. As we made none, the body was disinterred and
taken to P., my brother G. accompanying it. So that her mortal remains
now rest with those of my dear father.--_Letter from Mrs. Hopkins to her
aunt in New Haven, dated Williamstown, Dec. 1, 1848._

[9] The wife of her brother, Mr. Henry M. Payson.

[10] The Rev. Benjamin Tappan, D.D., an old friend of her father's and
one of the patriarchs of the Maine churches.

[11] See appendix B, p. 534, for a brief sketch of his life.

[12] Sermons by Henry Edward Manning, Archdeacon of Chichester (now
Cardinal Manning), 1st, 2d, and 3d Series.

[13] The Rev. D. W. Poor, D.D., now of Philadelphia. He had been settled
at Fair Haven, near New Bedford, and was then a pastor in Newark.





Removal to New York and first Summer there. Letters. Loss of Sleep and
Anxiety about Eddy. Extracts from Eddy's Journal, describing his last
Illness and Death. Lines entitled "To my Dying Eddy."

Mrs. Prentiss' removal to New York was an important link in the chain
of outward events which prepared her for her special life-work. It
introduced her at once into a circle unsurpassed, perhaps, by any other
in the country, for its intelligence, its domestic and social virtues,
and its earnest Christian spirit. The Mercer street Presbyterian church
contained at that time many members whose names were known and honored
the world over, in the spheres of business, professional life,
literature, philanthropy, and religion; and among its homes were some
that seemed to have attained almost the perfection of beauty. In these
homes the new pastor's wife soon became an object of tender love and
devotion. Here she found herself surrounded by all congenial influences.
Her mind and heart alike were refreshed and stimulated in the healthiest
manner. And to add to her joy, several dear old friends lived near her
and sat in adjoining pews on the Sabbath.

But happy as were the auspices that welcomed her to New York, the
experience of the past two years had taught her not to expect too much
from any outward conditions. She entered, therefore, upon this new
period of her life in a very sober mood. Nor had many months elapsed
before she began to hear premonitory murmurs of an incoming sea of
trouble. Most of the summer of 1851 she remained in town with the
children. An extract from a letter to her youngest brother, dated August
1, will show how she whiled away many a weary hour:

It has been very hot this summer; our house is large and cool, and above
all, I have a nice bathing-room opening out of my chamber, with hot and
cold water and a shower-bath, which is a world of comfort. We spent part
of last week at Rockaway, L. I., visiting a friend. [1] I nearly froze
to death, but George and the children were much benefited. I have
improved fast in health since we came here. Yesterday I walked two and a
half miles with George, and a year ago at this time I could not walk a
quarter of a mile without being sick after it for some days. When I
feel miserably I just put on my bonnet and get into an omnibus and go
rattlety-bang down town; the air and the shaking and the jolting and the
sight-seeing make me feel better and so I get along. If I could safely
leave my children I should go with George. He hates to go alone and
surely I hate to be left alone; in fact instead of liking each other's
society less and less, we every day get more and more dependent on each
other, and take separation harder and harder. Our children are well.

To her husband, who had gone to visit an old friend, at Harpswell, on
the coast of Maine, she writes a few days later:

On Saturday very early Professor Smith called with the House of Seven
Gables. I read about half of it in the evening. One sees the hand of the
_artist_ as clearly in such a work as in painting, and the hand of a
skilful one, too. I have read many books with more interest, but never
one in which I was so diverted from the story to a study of the author
himself. So far there is nothing exciting in it. I don't know who
supplied the pulpit on Sunday morning. The sermon was to young men,
which was not so appropriate as it might have been, considering there
were no young men present, unless I except our Eddy and other sprigs of
humanity of his age. I suppose you will wonder what in the world I let
Eddy go for. Well, I took a fancy to let Margaret try him, as nobody
would know him in the gallery and he coaxed so prettily to go. He was
highly excited at the permission, and as I was putting on his sacque, I
directed Margaret to take it off if he fell asleep. "Ho! I shan't go to
sleep," quoth he; "Christ doesn't have rocking-chairs in His house." He
set off in high spirits, and during the long prayer I heard him laugh
loud; soon after I heard a rattling as of a parasol and Eddy saying,
"There it is!" by which time Margaret, finding he was going to begin a
regular frolic, sagely took him out.

_August 7th_--The five girls from Brooklyn all spent yesterday here.
They had a regular frolic towards night, bathing and shower-bathing.
Afterwards we all went on top of the house. It was very pleasant up
there. I took the children to Barnum's Museum, as I proposed doing. They
were delighted, particularly with the "Happy Family," which consisted of
cats, rats, birds, dogs, rabbits, monkeys, etc., etc., dwelling together
in unity. I observed that though the cats forbore to lay a paw upon
the rats and mice about them, they yet took a melancholy pleasure in
_looking_ at these dainty morsels, from which nothing could persuade
them to turn off their eyes. I am glad that you got away from New
Bedford alive and that you did not stay longer, but hearing about our
friends there made me quite long to see them myself. Do have just the
best time in the world at Harpswell, and don't let the Rev. Elijah drown
you for the sake of catching your mantle as you go down. I dare not tell
you how much I miss you, lest you should think I do not rejoice in your
having this vacation. May God bless and keep you.

During the autumn she suffered much again from feeble health and
incessant loss of sleep. "I have often thought," she wrote to a friend,
"that while so stupefied by sickness I should not be glad to see my own
mother if I had to speak to her." But neither sick days nor sleepless
nights could quench the Brightness of her spirit or wholly spoil her
enjoyment of life. A little diary which she kept contains many gleams of
sunshine, recording pleasant visits from old friends, happy hours and
walks with the children, excursions to Newark, and how "amazingly" she
"enjoyed the boys" (her brothers) on their return from the pursuit of
golden dreams in California. In the month of November the diary shows
that her watchful eye observed in Eddy signs of disease, which filled
her with anxiety. Before the close of the year her worst fears began
to be realised. She wrote, Dec. 31: "I am under a constant pressure of
anxiety about Eddy. How little we know what the New Year will bring
forth." Early in January, 1852, his symptoms assumed a fatal type, and
on the 16th of the same month the beautiful boy was released from his
sufferings, and found rest in the kingdom of heaven, that sweet home of
the little children. A few extracts from Eddy's journal will tell the
story of his last days:

On the 19th of December the Rev. Mr. Poor was here. On hearing of it,
Eddy said he wanted to see him. As he took now so little interest in
anything that would cost him an effort, I was surprised, but told Annie
to lead him down to the parlor; on reaching it they found Mr. Poor not
there, and they then went up to the study. I heard their father's joyous
greeting as he opened his door for them, and how he welcomed Eddy, in
particular, with a perfect shower of kisses and caresses. This was the
last time the dear child's own feet ever took him there; but his father
afterwards frequently carried him up in his arms and amused him with
pictures, especially with what Eddy called the "bear books." [2] One
morning Ellen told him she was going to make a little pie for his
dinner, but on his next appearance in the kitchen told him she had let
it burn all up in the oven, and that she felt _dreadfully_ about it.
"Never mind, Ellie," said he, "mamma does not like to have me eat pie;
but when I _get well_ I shall have as many as I want."

On the 24th of December Mr. Stearns and Anna were here. I was out with
the latter most of the day; on my return Eddy came to me with a little
flag which his uncle had given him, and after they had left us he ran
up and down with it, and as my eye followed him, I thought he looked
happier and brighter and more like himself than I had seen him for a
long time. He kept saying, "Mr. Stearns gave me this flag!" and then
would correct himself and say, "I mean my _Uncle_ Stearns." On this
night he hung up his bag for his presents, and after going to bed,
surveyed it with a chuckle of pleasure peculiar to him, and finally fell
asleep in this happy mood. I took great delight in arranging his and
A.'s presents, and getting them safely into their bags. He enjoyed
Christmas as much as I had reason to expect he would, in his state of
health, and was busy among his new playthings all day. He had taken a
fancy within a few weeks to kneel at family prayers with me at my chair,
and would throw one little arm round my neck, while with the other hand
he so prettily and seriously covered his eyes. As their heads touched my
face as they knelt, I observed that Eddy's felt hot when compared with
A.'s; just enough so to increase my uneasiness. On entering the nursery
on New Year's morning, I was struck with his appearance as he lay in
bed; his face being spotted all over. On asking Margaret about it, she
said he had been crying, and that this occasioned the spots. This did
not seem probable to me, for I had never seen anything of this kind on
his face before. How little I knew that these were the last tears my
darling would ever shed.

On Sunday morning, January 4, not being able to come himself, Dr. Buck
sent Dr. Watson in his place. I told Dr. W. that I thought Eddy had
water on the brain; he said it was not so, and ordered nothing but a
warm bath. On Thursday, January 8, while Margaret was at dinner, I knelt
by the side of the cradle, rocking it very gently, and he asked me to
tell him a story. I asked what about, and he said, "A little boy," on
which I said something like this: Mamma knows a dear little boy who was
very sick. His head ached and he felt sick all over. God said, I must
let that little lamb come into my fold; then his head will never ache
again, and he will be a very happy little lamb. I used the words little
lamb because he was so fond of them. Often he would run to his nurse
with his face full of animation and say, "Marget! Mamma says I am her
little lamb!" While I was telling him this story his eyes were fixed
intelligently on my face. I then said, "Would you like to know the name
of this boy?" With eagerness he said, "Yes, yes, mamma!" Taking his dear
little hand in mine, and kissing it, I said, "It was Eddy." Just then
his nurse came in and his attention was diverted, so I said no more.

On Sunday, January 11, at noon, while they were all at dinner, I was
left alone with my darling for a few moments, and could not help kissing
his unconscious lips. To my utter amazement he looked up and plainly
recognised me and warmly returned my kiss. Then he said feebly, but
distinctly twice, "I want some meat and potato." I do not think I should
have been more delighted if he had risen from the dead, once more to
recognise me. Oh, it was _such_ a comfort to have one more kiss, and to
be able to gratify one more wish!

On Friday, January 16th, his little weary sighs became more profound,
and, as the day advanced, more like groans; but appeared to indicate
extreme fatigue, rather than severe pain. Towards night his breathing
became quick and laborious, and between seven and eight slight spasms
agitated his little feeble frame. He uttered cries of distress for a few
minutes, when they ceased, and his loving and gentle spirit ascended to
that world where thousands of holy children and the blessed company of
angels and our blessed Lord Jesus, I doubt not, joyfully welcomed him.
Now we were able to say, _It is well with the child!_

"Oh," said the gardener, as he passed down the garden-walk, "who plucked
that flower? Who gathered that plant?" His fellow-servants answered,
"The MASTER!" And the gardener held his peace.

The feelings of the mother's heart on Friday found vent in some lines
entitled _To My Dying Eddy; January 16th_. Here are two stanzas:

Blest child! dear child! For thee is Jesus calling;
And of our household thee--and only thee!
Oh, hasten hence! to His embraces hasten!
Sweet shall thy rest and safe thy shelter be.

Thou who unguarded ne'er hast left our threshold,
Alone must venture now an unknown way;
Yet, fear not! Footprints of an Infant Holy
Lie on thy path. Thou canst not go astray.

In a letter to her friend Mrs. Allen, of New Bedford, dated January 28,
she writes:

During our dear little Eddy's illness we were surrounded with kind
friends, and many prayers were offered for us and for him. Nothing that
could alleviate our affliction was left undone or unthought of, and we
feel that it would be most unchristian and ungrateful in us to even
wonder at that Divine will which has bereaved us of our only boy--the
light and sunshine of our household. We miss him _sadly_. I need not
explain to you, who know all about it, _how_ sadly; but we rejoice that
he has got away from this troublous life, and that we have had the
privilege of giving so dear a child to God. When he was well he was one
of the happiest creatures I ever saw, and I am sure he is well now,
and that he is as happy as his joyous nature makes him susceptible of
becoming. God has been most merciful to us in this affliction, and, if
a bereaved, we are still a _happy_ household and full of thanksgiving.
Give my love to both the children and tell them they must not forget
us, and when they think and talk of their dear brother and sisters in
heaven, they must sometimes think of the little Eddy who is there too.

* * * * *


Birth of her Third Child. Reminiscence of a Sabbath-Evening Talk. Story
of the Baby's Sudden Illness and Death. Summer of 1852. Lines entitled
"My Nursery."

The shock of Eddy's death proved almost too much for Mrs. Prentiss'
enfeebled frame. She bore it, however, with sweet submission, and on the
17th of the following April her sorrow was changed to joy, and Eddy's
empty place filled, as she thought, by the birth of Elizabeth, her third
child, a picture of infantine health and beauty. But, although the child
seemed perfectly well, the mother herself was brought to the verge of
the grave. For a week or two her life wavered in the balance, and she
was quite in the mood to follow Eddy to the better country. Her husband,
recording a "long and most interesting conversation" with her on Sabbath
evening, May 2d, speaks of the "depth and tenderness of her religious
feelings, of her sense of sin and of the grace and glory of the
Saviour," and then adds, "Her old Richmond exercises seem of late
to have returned with their former strength and beauty increased
many-fold." On the 14th of May she was able to write in pencil these
lines to her sister, Mrs. Hopkins:

I little thought that I should ever write to you again, but I have been
brought through a great deal, and now have reason to expect to get well.
I never knew how much I loved you till I gave up all hope of ever seeing
you again, and I have not strength yet to tell you all about it. Poor
George has suffered much. I hope all will be blessed to him and to me. I
am still confined to bed. The doctor thinks there may be an abscess near
the hip-joint, and, till that is cured, I can neither lie straight in
bed or stand on my feet or ride out. Everybody is kind. Our cup has run
over. It is a sore trial not to be allowed to nurse baby. She is kept
in another room. I only see her once a day. She begins to smile, and is
very bright-eyed. I hope your journey will do you good. If you can, do
write a few lines--not more. But, good-by.

Hardly had she penned these lines, when, like a thunderbolt from a clear
sky, another stunning blow fell upon her. On the 19th of May, after an
illness of a few hours, Bessie, too, was folded forever in the arms of
the Good Shepherd. Here is the mother's own story of her loss:

Our darling Eddy died on the 16th of January. The baby he had so often
spoken of was born on the 17th of April. I was too feeble to have any
care of her. Never had her in my arms but twice; once the day before she
died and once while she was dying. I never saw her little feet. She was
a beautiful little creature, with a great quantity of dark hair and very
dark blue eyes. The nurse had to keep her in another room on account
of my illness. When she was a month old she brought her to me one
afternoon. "This child is perfectly beautiful," said she; "to-morrow I
mean to dress her up and have her likeness taken." I asked her to get me
up in bed and let me take her a minute. She objected, and I urged her
a good deal, till at last she consented. The moment I took her I was
struck by her unearthly, absolutely angelic expression; and, not having
strength enough to help it, burst out crying bitterly, and cried all the
afternoon while I was struggling to give her up.

Her father was at Newark. When he came home at dark I told him I was
sure that baby was going to die. He laughed at me, said my weak health
made me fancy it, and asked the nurse if the child was not well. She
said she was--perfectly well. My presentiment remained, however, in full
force, and the first thing next morning I asked Margaret to go and see
how baby was. She came back, saying, "She is very well. She lies there
on the bed scolding to herself." I cried out to have her instantly
brought to me. M. refused, saying the nurse would be displeased. But my
anxieties were excited by the use of the word "scolding," as I knew no
baby a month old did anything of that sort, and insisted on its being
brought to me. The instant I touched it I felt its head to be of a
burning heat, and sent for the nurse at once. When she came, I said,
"This child is _very sick_." "Yes," she said, "but I wanted you to have
your breakfast first. At one o'clock in the night I found a little
swelling. I do not know what it is, but the child is certainly very
sick." On examination I knew it was erysipelas. "Don't say that," said
the nurse, and burst into tears. I made them get me up and partly dress
me, as I was so excited I could not stay in bed.

Dr. Buck came at ten o'clock; he expressed no anxiety, but prescribed
for her and George went out to get what he ordered. The nurse brought
her to me at eleven o'clock and begged me to observe that the spot had
turned black. I knew at once that this was fearful, fatal disease, and
entreated George to go and tell the doctor. He went to please me, though
he saw no need of it, and gave the wrong message to the doctor, to the
effect that the swelling was increasing, to which the doctor replied
that it naturally would do so. The little creature, whose moans Margaret
had termed scolding, now was heard all over that floor; every breath a
moan that tore my heart in pieces. I begged to have her brought to me
but the nurse sent word she was too sick to be moved. I then begged the
nurse to come and tell me exactly what she thought of her, but she said
she could not leave her. I then crawled on my hands and knees into the
room, being unable then and for a long time after to bear my own weight.

What a scene our nursery presented! Everything upset and tossed about,
medicines here and there on the floor, a fire like a fiery furnace, and
Miss H. sitting hopelessly and with falling tears with the baby on a
pillow in her lap--all its boasted beauty gone forever. The sight was
appalling and its moans heart-rending. George came and got me back to my
sofa and said he felt as if he should jump out of the window every time
he heard that dreadful sound. He had to go out and made me promise not
to try to go to the nursery till his return. I foolishly promised. Mrs.
White [3] called, and I told her I was going to lose my baby; she was
very kind and went in to see it but I believe expressed no opinion as
to its state. But she repeated an expression which I repeated to myself
many times that day, and have repeated thousands of times since--"_God
never makes a mistake_."

Margaret went soon after she left to see how the poor little creature
was, and did not come back. Hour after hour passed and no one came. I
lay racked with cruel torture, bitterly regretting my promise to George,
listening to those moans till I was nearly wild. Then in a frenzy of
despair I pulled myself over to my bureau, where I had arranged the
dainty little garments my darling was to wear, and which I had promised
myself so much pleasure in seeing her wear. I took out everything she
would need for her burial, with a sort of wild pleasure in doing for her
one little service, where I had hoped before to render so many. She it
was whom we expected to fill our lost Eddy's vacant place; we thought
we had _had_ our sorrow and that now our joy had come. As I lay back
exhausted, with these garments on my breast, Louisa Shipman [4] opened
the door. One glance at my piteous face, for oh, how glad I was to see
her! made her burst into tears before she knew what she was crying for.

"Oh, go bring me news from my poor dying baby!" I almost screamed, as
she approached me. "And see, here are her grave-clothes." "Oh, Lizzy,
have you gone crazy?" cried she, with a fresh burst of tears. I besought
her to go, told her how my promise bound me, made her listen to those
terrible sounds which two doors could not shut out. As she left the room
she met Dr. B. and they went to the nursery together. She soon came
back, quiet and composed, but very sorrowful. "Yes, she is dying," said
she, "the doctor says so; she will not live an hour." ... At last we
heard the sound of George's key. Louise ran to call him. I crawled once
more to the nursery, and snatched my baby in fierce triumph from the
nurse. At least once I would hold my child, and nobody should prevent
me. George, pale as death, baptized her as I held her in my trembling
arms; there were a few more of those terrible, never-to-be-forgotten
sounds, and at seven o'clock we were once more left with only one child.
A short, sharp conflict, and our baby was gone.

Dr. B. came in later and said the whole thing was to him like a
thunderclap--as it was to her poor father. To me it followed closely on
the presentiment that in some measure prepared me for it. Here I sit
with empty hands. I have had the little coffin in my arms, but my baby's
face could not be seen, so rudely had death marred it. Empty hands,
empty hands, a worn-out, exhausted body, and unutterable longings to
flee from a world that has had for me so many sharp experiences. God
help me, my baby, my baby! God help me, my little lost Eddy!

But although the death of these two children tore with anguish the
mother's heart, she made no show of grief, and to the eye of the world
her life soon appeared to move on as aforetime. Never again, however,
was it exactly the same life. She had entered into the fellowship of
Christ's sufferings, and the new experience wrought a great change in
her whole being.

A part of the summer and the early autumn of 1852 were passed among
kind friends at Newport, in Portland, and at the Ocean House on Cape
Elizabeth. She returned much refreshed, and gave herself up cheerfully
to her accustomed duties. But a cloud rested still upon her home, and at
times the old grief came back again with renewed poignancy. Here are a
few lines expressive of her feelings. They were written in pencil on a
little scrap of paper:


I thought that prattling boys and girls
Would fill this empty room;
That my rich heart would gather flowers
From childhood's opening bloom.

One child and two green graves are mine,
This is God's gift to me;
A bleeding, fainting, broken heart--
This is my gift to Thee.

* * * * *


Summer at White Lake. Sudden Death of her Cousin, Miss Shipman.
Quarantined. _Little Susy's Six Birthdays._ How she wrote it. _The
Flower of the Family._ Her Motive in writing it. Letter of Sympathy to a
bereaved Mother. A Summer at the Seaside. _Henry and Bessie._

The year 1853 was passed quietly and in better health. In the early
summer she made a delightful visit at The Island, near West Point, the
home of the author of "The Wide, Wide World." She was warmly attached to
Miss Warner and her sister, and hardly less so to their father and aunt,
whose presence then adorned that pleasant home with so much light and

Early in August she went with her husband and child to White Lake,
Sullivan Co., N. Y., where, in company with several families from the
Mercer street church, she spent six weeks in breathing the pure country
air, and in healthful outdoor exercise. [5]

About the middle of October she was greatly distressed by the sudden
death of the young cousin, already mentioned, who was staying with her
during her husband's absence on a visit to New Bedford. Miss Shipman
was a bright, attractive girl, and enthusiastic in her devotion to
Mrs. Prentiss. The latter, in a letter to her husband, dated Saturday
morning, October 15th, 1853, writes:

I imagine you enjoying this fine morning, and can't rejoice enough, that
you are having such weather. A. is bright and well and is playing in
her baby-house and singing. Louise is still quite sick, and I see no
prospect of her not remaining so for some time. The morning after you
left I thought to be sure she had the small-pox. The doctor, however,
calls it a rash. It makes her look dreadfully and feel dreadfully.
She gets hardly a moment of sleep and takes next to no nourishment.
Arrowroot is all the doctor allows. He comes twice a day and seems
_very_ kind and full of compassion. She crawled down this morning to the
nursery, and seems to be asleep now. Mrs. Bull very kindly offered to
come and do anything if Louise should need it, but I do not think she
will be sick enough for that. I feel well and able to do all that is
necessary. The last proof-sheets came last night, so that job is off my
hands. [6] And now, darling, I can't tell you how I miss you. I never
missed you more in my life, if as much. I hope you are having a nice
visit. Give my love to Capt. and Mrs. Gibbs and all our friends. Your
most loving little wife.

On the following Wednesday, October 19th, she writes to her husband's

You will be shocked to hear that Louisa Shipman died on Sunday night
and was buried yesterday. Her disease was spotted fever of the most
malignant character, and raged with great fury. She dropped away most
unexpectedly to us, before I had known five minutes that she was in
danger, and I came near being entirely alone with her. Dr. M. happened
to be here and also her mother-in-law; but I had been alone in the house
with her all day. It is a dreadful shock to us all, and I feel perfectly
stupefied. George got home in time for the funeral, but Dr. Skinner
performed the services. Anna will go home to-morrow and tell you all
about it. She and Mr. S. slept away, as the upper part of the house is
airing; and to-night they will sleep at Prof. Smith's.

The case was even more fearful than she supposed while writing this
letter. Upon her describing it to Dr. Buck, who called a few hours
later, he exclaimed, "Why, it was malignant small-pox! You must all be
vaccinated instantly and have the bedding and house disinfected." This
was done; but it was too late. Her little daughter had the disease,
though in a mild form; and one of her brothers, who was passing the
autumn with her, had it so severely as barely to escape with his life.
She herself became a nurse to them both, and passed the next two months
quarantined within her own walls. To her husband's mother she wrote:

I am not allowed to see _anyone_--am very lonesome, and hope Anna will
write and tell me every little thing about you all. The scenes I have
lately passed through make me tremble when I think what a fatal malady
lurks in every corner of our house. And speaking after the manner of
men, does it not seem almost incredible that this child, watched from
her birth like _the apple of our eyes_, should yet fall into the jaws of
this loathsome disease? I see more and more that parents _must_ leave
their children to Providence.

In the early part of this year Mrs. Prentiss wrote _Little Susy's Six
Birthdays_, the book that has given so much delight to tens of thousands
of little children, wherever the English tongue is spoken. Like most
of her books, it was an inspiration and was composed with the utmost
rapidity. She read the different chapters, as they were written, to
her husband, child and brother, who all with one voice expressed their

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