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

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untrained, irreverent eyes they all looked perfectly funny. George was
greatly interested and edified. It has been raining and shining by turns
all day, and is this evening very cold.

_15th._--Another of those days which the English so euphoniously term
"_nasty_." Not knowing what else to do with it, we set off in search of
No. 5 Sermon Lane, a house connected with a stereoscopic establishment
in Paris, which we reached after many evolutions and convolutions, and
found it to be a wholesale concern only. Pitying us for the trouble we
had been at in seeking them, they let us have what views we wanted, but
at higher prices than they sell them at Paris. We then went to the Tract
House, and while selecting French and other tracts, a gentleman came and
asked for a quantity of the "Last Hours of Dr. Payson."

_16th._--Went to the Tower, and had a most interesting visit there. We
were particularly struck by some spots shown us by one of the wardens,
after the regular round had been gone through with, and the other
visitors dispersed--namely, the cell where prisoners were confined with
thumbscrews attached to elicit confession, and the floor where Lady Jane
Grey was imprisoned. We looked from the window where she saw her husband
carried to execution, and A. was locked up in the room so as to be able
to say she had been a prisoner in the Tower.

_17th._--Heard Dr. Hamilton again. Met Dr. and Mrs. Adams of New York
there, and had a most kind and cordial greeting from them. Dr. A.
introduced us to Dr. Hamilton. In the evening we went to hear Dr. Adams
at Dr. H.'s church, and came home quite proud of our countryman, who
gave us a most excellent sermon. At the close of the service Dr. H.
invited us to take tea with him next week, and introduced us to his
wife; a young, quiet little lady, looking as unlike most of us American
parsonesses as possible, her parochial cares being, perhaps, less
weighty than ours.

_18th._--Two things made this day open pleasantly. One was a decided
attempt on the part of the sun to come out and shine. The second was Dr.
Adams' dropping in and taking breakfast with us. We also got letters
from home, and the news that Mr. Little had reached New York in safety.
After lunch, George went off in glory to the House of Commons, hinting
that he might stay there till to-morrow morning, and begging for a
night-key to let himself in. The rest of us went to the Zoological
Garden, which is much more ample and interesting than the Jardin des

_20th._--Yesterday it poured in torrents all day, so that going out was
not possible. To-day we went out in the drops and between the drops, to
do a little shopping in the way of razors, scissors, knives, needles,
and such like sharp and pointed things. We stepped into Nesbit's and
took a view of Little Susy, who looked as usual, bought a few books,
subscribed to a library, coveted our neighbor's property, and came home
covered with mud and mire.

_22d._--Went out to Barnet to call on Miss Bird. On reaching the
station, we found Miss B. awaiting us with phaeton and pony. We were
driven over a pretty three miles route to "Hurst Cottage," where we were
introduced to Mrs. Bird and a younger daughter, and I had a nice little
lunch, together with pleasant chat about America in general and E. L. S.
in particular. Miss Bird said she showed her likeness to a gentleman,
who is a great physiognomist, and asked his opinion of her. He replied,
"She is a genius, a poetess, a Christian, and a true wife and mother."
We then went up-stairs, and looked at Miss B.'s little study, after
which she took us to see the church in Hadley, a very old building
dating back to 1494. It has been repaired and restored and is a
beautiful little church. On leaving it Miss Bird came with us a part of
the way to the station and we got home in good season for dinner. The
weather, true to its rule, could not last fine, and so this evening it
is raining again. [9]

_24th._--No rain all day! Can it be true? George went in the morning to
hear Mr. Binney, and A. and I to Dr. Hamilton's, who preached a very
good sermon on a favorite text of mine, "I beseech Thee show me Thy
glory." In the evening Dr. Patton, of New York, induced us to go with
himself and wife to a meeting at a theatre three miles off. The Rev. Mr.
Graham preached. It was an interesting, but touching and saddening sight
to look upon the congregation; to wonder why they came, and whether they
would come again, and whether under those stolid and hardened faces
there yet lay humanity. Many came with babies in their arms, who made
themselves very much at home; some were in dirty week-day clothes; "some
in rags and some in jags." Coming home we passed the spot where John
Rogers was burned, and that where in time of the plague dead bodies were
thrown in frightful heaps into one grave.

_25th._--We took tea at Dr. Hamilton's, where we had a very pleasant
evening, meeting Dr. and Mrs. Adams, as well as all Dr. H.'s session.
Dr. H. strikes one most agreeably, and seems as genial and as full of
life as a boy.

_26th._--Visited Windsor Castle with Dr. Adams and his party, ten of us
in all. We drove afterward to see the country church-yard, where Grey
wrote his elegy and where he now lies buried. This was a most charming
little trip and we all enjoyed it exceedingly. The young folks gathered
leaves and flowers for their books.

_29th._--Last evening we had a nice time and a cup of tea with the
Adamses. To-day--another nasty day--they lunched with us, which broke
up its gloom and we went with them to see Sloan's museum, a most
interesting collection. We all enjoyed its novelty as well as its

She also records the pleasure with which she visited the National
Gallery, Madame Tussaud's Collection, the British Museum, Richmond, the
Kew Gardens, and Bunhill Fields Burying-Ground, and, in particular, the
grave of "Mr. John Bunyan."

Not long before leaving London she attended a Sunday evening service
for the people in Westminster Abbey, which interested her deeply. It
suggested--or rather was the original of--the scene in The Story Lizzie

When we first got into that grand place, I was scared, and thought they
would drive us poor folks out. But when I looked round, most everybody
was poor too. At last I saw some of them get down on their knees, and
some shut their eyes, and some took off their hats and held them over
their faces. Father couldn't, because he had me in his arms; and so I
took it off, and held it for him.

"What's it for?" says I.

"Hush," says father, "the parson's praying."

When I showed IT to God, the room seemed full of Him. But that's a small
room. The church is a million and a billion times as big, isn't it,
ma'am? But when the minister prayed, that big church seemed just as
full as it could hold. Then, all of a sudden, they burst out a-singing.
Father showed me the card with large letters on it, and says he, "Sing,
Lizzie, Sing!"

And so I did. It was the first time in my life. The hymn said,

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,

and I whispered to father, "Is Jesus God?" "Yes, yes," said he, "Sing,
Lizzie, sing!"

After the praying and the singing, came the preaching, I heard every
word. It was a beautiful story. It told how sorry Jesus was for us when
we did wrong, bad things, and how glad He was when we were good and
happy. It said we must tell Him all our troubles and all our joys, and
feel sure that He knew just how to pity us, because He had been a poor
man three and thirty years, on purpose to see how it seemed.

The most stirring sight by far which she witnessed while in London, was
a review of 20,000 volunteers by the Queen in Hyde Park, on the 23d of
June. She waited for it several hours, standing much of the time upon a
camp-stool. As her Majesty appeared, accompanied by Prince Albert,
the curiosity of the immense crowd "rose to such a pitch that every
conceivable method was resorted to, to catch a glimpse of the field. Men
climbed on each other's shoulders, gave 'fabulous prices' for chairs,
boxes, and baskets, raised their wives and sweethearts high in the air,
and so by degrees our view was quite obstructed." [10] The scene did
not, perhaps, in numbers or in the brilliant array of fashion, rank, and
beauty surpass, nor in military pomp and circumstance did it equal, a
grand review she had witnessed not long before in the Champ de Mars; but
in other respects it was far more impressive. Among the volunteers were
thousands of young men in whose veins ran the best and most precious
blood in England. And then to an American wife and mother, Queen
Victoria was a million times more interesting than Louis Napoleon. She
stood then, as happily she still stands, at the head of the Christian
womanhood of the world; and that in virtue not solely of her exalted
position and influence, but of her rare personal and domestic virtues as
well. She was then also at the very height of her felicity. How little
she or any one else in that thronging multitude dreamed, that before the
close of the coming year the form of the noble Prince, who rode by her
side wearing an aspect of such manly beauty and content, and who was so
worthy to be her husband, would lie mouldering in the grave! [11]

About the middle of July Mrs. Prentiss with her husband and children
left London for Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, where, in spite of cold
and rainy weather, she passed two happy months. With the exception of
Chateau d'Oex, no place in Europe had proved to her such a haven of
rest. Miss Scott, the hostess, was kindness itself. The Isle of Wight in
summer is a little paradise; and in the vicinity of Ventnor are some of
its loveliest scenes. Her enjoyment was enhanced by the society of Mr.
and Mrs. Jacob Abbott, who were then sojourning there. An excursion
taken with Mr. Abbott was doubly attractive; for, as might be inferred
from his books, he was one of the most genial and instructive of
companions, whether for young or old. A pilgrimage to the home and grave
of the Dairyman's Daughter and to the grave of "Little Jane," and a
day and night at Alum Bay, were among the pleasantest incidents of the
summer at Ventnor.

Of the visit to "Little Jane's" grave she gives the following account in
her journal:

_Aug. 10th._--To-day being unusually fine, we undertook our
long-talked-of expedition to Brading. On reaching the churchyard we
asked a little boy who followed us in if he could point out "Little
Jane's" grave; he said he could and led us at once to the spot. How
little she dreamed that pilgrimages would be made to her grave! Our
pigmy guide next conducted us to the grave-stones, where her task was
learned. "How old are you, little fellow?" I asked. "_Getting an
to five_," he replied. "And does everybody who comes here give you
something?" "_Some_ don't." "That's very naughty of them," I continued;
"after all your trouble they ought to give you something." A shrewd
smile was his answer, and George then gave him some pennies. "What do
you do with your pennies?" I asked. "I puts them in my pocket." "And
then what do you do?" "I saves them up." "And what then?" "My mother
buys shoe's when I get enough. She is going to buy me some soon with
_nails_ in them! These are dropping to pieces" (no such thing). "If that
is the case," quoth George, "I think I must give you some more pennies."
"Thank you," said the boy. "Do you see my sword?" George then asked him
if he went to church and to Sunday-school. "Oh, yes, and there was
an organ, and they learned to sing psalms." "And to love God?" asked
George. "Yes, yes," he answered, but not with much unction, and so we
turned about and came home.

_To Mrs. Stearns, Ventnor, Aug. 24, 1860._

As this is to be our last letter home, it ought to be a very brilliant
one, but I am sure it won't; and when I look back over the past two
years and think how many stupid ones I have written you, I feel almost
ashamed of myself. But on the other hand I wonder I have written no
duller ones, for our staying so long at a time in one place has given
small chance for variety and description. It is raining and blowing at a
rate that you, who are roasting at home, can hardly conceive; we agreed
yesterday that if you were blindfolded and suddenly set down here and
told to guess what season of the year it was, you would judge by your
feelings and the wind roaring down the chimney, that it was December.
However disagreeable this may be it is more invigorating than hot
weather, and George and the children have all improved very much. George
enjoys bathing and climbing the "downs" and the children are out nearly
all day when it does not rain. You may remember that the twilight is
late in England, and even the baby is often out till half-past eight or
nine.... I just keep my head above water by having no cares or fatigue
at night. I feel _dreadfully_ that I am so helpless a creature, but I
believe God keeps me so for my mortification and improvement, and that I
ought to be willing to lead this good-for-nothing life if He chooses.
We have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Abbott here. They have
gone now to spend the winter in Paris. Mrs. A. sent her love to you
again and again, and I was very glad to meet her for your sake as well
as her own, and to know Mr. A. better than I did before, and it was very
pleasant to George to chat with him. We walked together to see Shanklin
Chine. A. went with us, and Mr. Abbott amused her so on the way that she
came home quite dissatisfied with her stupid papa and mamma.

We are talking of little else now but getting home, and it is a pity you
could not take down the walls of our hidden souls and see the various
wishes and feelings we have on the subject. I forgot to say how glad we
were that you found George Prentiss such a nice boy. [12] I always loved
him for Abby's sake and he certainly was worthy of the affection she
felt for him as the most engaging child I ever knew; he is a thorough
Prentiss still, it seems. What is he going to be? You must feel queer
to have a boy in college; it is like a strange dream. Our boys are two
spunky little toads who need, or will need, all our energies to bring
up. I have quite got my hand out, M. is so good--and hate to begin. But
good-bye, with love to mother, Mr. S. and the children.

The family embarked at Cowes on the magnificent steamship "Adriatic,"
September 13th, and, after a rough voyage, reached New York on the 24th
of the same month. Old friends awaited their coming and welcomed them
home again with open arms. It was a happy day for Mrs. Prentiss, and
in the abundance of its joy she forgot the anxious and solitary months
through which she had just been passing. She came back with four
children instead of three; her husband was, partially at least, restored
to health; and she breathed once more her native air.

[1] A most faithful servant, to whom Mrs. P. was greatly attached.

[2] The Hon. Benjamin F. Butler, of New York, was one of the most
honored members of the Mercer street church. He was known throughout the
country as an eminent lawyer and patriotic citizen. In the circle of his
friends he was admired and beloved for his singular purity of character,
his scholarly tastes, the kindness of his heart, and all the other fine
qualities that go to form the Christian gentleman. During a portion of
President Jackson's administration Mr. Butler was Attorney-General of
the United States. He died in the sixty-third year of his age.

[3] Referring to the death of Dr. Stearns' mother, Mrs. Abigail Stearns,
of Bedford, Mass.

[4] Mrs. Wainwright and her husband, the late Eli Wainwright, were
members of the old Mercer street Presbyterian church, and both of them
unwearied in their kindness to Mrs. Prentiss and her husband.


"Far along,
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,

Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud,
But every mountain now hath found a tongue,

And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps, which call to her aloud!"

[6] Now Bishop of the P. E. Church of Central New York.

[7] "Christian Believing and Living."

[8] The Rev. George B. Little was born in Castine, Maine, December
21, 1821. He was graduated at Bowdoin College in 1843. Having studied
theology at Andover, he was ordained in 1849 pastor of the First
Congregational church in Bangor, Me. In 1850 he married Sarah Edwards,
daughter of that admirable and whole-souled servant of Christ, the Rev.
Elias Cornelius, D.D. In November, 1857, Mr. Little was installed as
pastor of the Congregational church in West Newton, Mass. Early in
March, 1860, he went abroad for his health, but returned home again in
May, and died among his own people, July 20, 1860. The last words he
littered were, "I shall soon be with Christ." Mr. Little was a man
of superior gifts, full of scholarly enthusiasm, and devoted to his
Master's work.

[9] Miss Bird is known to the world by her remarkable books of travel in
Japan and elsewhere.

[10] An account of the Volunteer Review in Hyde Park is given in Sir
Theodore Martin's admirable Life of the Prince Consort, Vol. V., pp.
105-6, Am. Ed. The Prince himself, in responding to a toast the same
evening, speaks of it as "a scene which will never fade from the memory
of those who had the good fortune to be present."

[11] It is hardly possible to allude to the great affliction of this
illustrious lady without thinking also of the persistent acts of womanly
sympathy by which, during the anguish and suspense of the past two
months, she has tried to minister comfort to the stricken wife of our
suffering and now sainted President. Certainly, the whole case is
unique in the history of the world. By this most tender and Christ-like
sympathy, she has endeared herself in a wonderful manner to the heart
of the American people. God bless Queen Victoria! they say with one
voice.--_New York, September_ 24, 1881.

[12] The eldest son of her brother-in-law, Mr. S. S. Prentiss, a youth
of rare promise, and who had especially endeared himself to his Aunt
Abby. He died of fever at Tallahoma, Tennessee, during the war.





At Home again in New York. The Church of the Covenant. Increasing
Ill-health. The Summer of 1861. Death of Louisa Payson Hopkins. Extracts
from her Journal. Summer of 1862. Letters. Despondency.

We come now to a new phase of Mrs. Prentiss' experience as a pastor's
wife. Before her husband resigned his New York charge, during the winter
of 1857-8, the question of holding a service in the upper part of the
city, with the view to another congregation, was earnestly discussed in
the session and among the leading members of the church, but nothing
then came of it. Soon after his return from Europe, however, the project
was revived, and resulted at length in the formation of the Church of
the Covenant. In consequence of the great civil war, which was then
raging, the undertaking encountered difficulties so formidable, that
nothing but extraordinary zeal, liberality, and wise counsel on the part
of his friends and the friends of the movement could overcome them. For
two or three years the new congregation held service in what was then
called Dodworth's Studio Building at the corner of Fifth avenue and
Twenty-sixth street, but in 1864 it entered the chapel on Thirty-fifth
street, and in 1865 occupied the stately edifice on Park avenue. In the
manifold labors, trials, and discouragements connected with this work,
Mrs. Prentiss shared with her husband; and, when finally crowned with
the happiest success, it owed perhaps as much to her as to him. This
brief statement seems needful in order to define and render clear her
position, as a pastor's wife, during the next twelve years.

After spending some weeks in Newark and Portland, she found herself once
more in New York in a home of her own and surrounded by friends, both
old and new. The records of the following four or five years are
somewhat meagre and furnish few incidents of special significance. The
war, with its terrible excitement and anxieties, absorbed all minds
and left little spare time for thought or feeling about anything else.
Domestic and personal interests were entirely overshadowed by the one
supreme interest of the hour--that of the imperiled National life. It
was for Mrs. Prentiss a period also of almost continuous ill-health. The
sleeplessness from which she had already suffered so much assumed more
and more a chronic character, and, aggravated by other ailments and
by the frequent illness of her younger children, so undermined her
strength, that life became at times a heavy burden. She felt often that
her days of usefulness were past. But the Master had yet a great work
for her to do, and--

In ways various,
Or, might I say, contrarious--

He was training her for it during these years of bodily infirmity and

The summer of 1861 was passed at Newport. In a letter to Mrs. Smith,
dated July 28th, she writes:

We find the Cliff House delightful, within a few minutes' walk of the
sea, which we have in full view from one of our windows. And we have no
lack of society, for the Bancrofts, Miss Aspinwall and her sister, as
well as the Skinners, are very friendly. But I am so careworn and out of
sorts, that this beautiful ocean gives me little comfort. I seem to
be all the time toting one child or another about, or giving somebody
paregoric or rhubarb, or putting somebody to sleep, or scolding somebody
for waking up papa, who is miserable, and his oration untouched. There,
don't mind me; it's at the end of a churchless Sunday, and I dare say I
am "only peevis'," as the little boy said.

But in a few weeks the children were well again and her own health so
much improved, that she was able to indulge in surf-bathing, which she
"enjoyed tremendously," and early in the fall the whole family returned
to town greatly refreshed by the summer's rest.

On the 24th of January, 1862, her sister, Mrs. Hopkins, died. This event
touched her deeply. She hurried off to Williamstown, whence she wrote to
her husband, who was unable to accompany her:

If you had known that I should not get here till half-past nine last
night, and that in an open sleigh from North Adams, you would not have
let me come. But so far I am none the worse for it; and, when I came in
and found the Professor and T. and Eddy sitting here all alone and so
forlorn in their unaccustomed leisure, I could not be thankful enough
that a kind Providence had allowed me to come. It is a very great
gratification to them all, especially to the Professor, and even more
so than I had anticipated. In view of the danger of being blocked up by
another snow-storm, I shall probably think it best to return by another
route, which they all say is the best. I hope you and my precious
children keep well.

No picture of Mrs. Prentiss' life would be complete, in which her
sister's influence was not distinctly visible. To this influence she
owed the best part of her earlier intellectual training; and it did much
to mould her whole character. Mrs. Hopkins was one of the most learned,
as well as most gifted, women of her day; and had not ill-health early
disabled her for literary labors, she might, perhaps, have won for
herself an enduring name in the literature of the country. There were
striking points of resemblance between her and Sara Coleridge; the same
early intellectual bloom; the same rare union of feminine delicacy and
sensibility with masculine strength and breadth of understanding; the
same taste for the beautiful in poetry, in art, and in nature, joined to
similar fondness for metaphysical studies; the same delight in books of
devotion and in books of theology; and the same varied erudition. Only
one of them seems to have been an accomplished Hebraist, but both were
good Latin and Greek scholars; and both were familiar with Italian,
Spanish, French, and German. Even in Sara Coleridge's admiration and
reverence for her father, Mrs. Hopkins was in full sympathy with her.
She lacked, indeed, that poetic fancy which belonged to the author of
"Phantasmion;" nor did she possess her mental self-poise and firmness of
will; but in other respects, even in physical organization and certain
features of countenance, they were singularly alike. And they both died
in the fiftieth year of their age.

Louisa Payson was born at Portland, February 24, 1812. Even as a child
she was the object of tender interest to her father on account of her
remarkable intellectual promise. He took the utmost pains to aid and
encourage her in learning to study and to think. The impression he made
upon her may be seen in the popular little volume entitled "The Pastor's
Daughter," which consists largely of conversations with him, written out
from memory after his death. She was then in her sixteenth year. The
records of the next eight years, which were mostly spent in teaching,
are very meagre; but a sort of literary journal, kept by her between
1835 and 1840, shows something of her mental quality and character, as
also of her course of reading. She was twenty-three years old when the
journal opens. Here are a few extracts from it:

BOSTON, Nov. 18, 1835.

Last evening I passed in company with Mr. Dana. [1] I conversed with him
only for a few moments about Mr. Alcott's school, and had not time to
ask one of the ten thousand questions I wished to ask. I have been
trying to analyse the feeling I have for men of genius, Coleridge,
Wordsworth and Dana, for example. I can understand why I feel for them
unbounded admiration, reverence and affection, but I hardly know why
there should be so much excitement--painful excitement--mingled with
these emotions. Next to possessing genius myself would be the pleasure
of living with one who possessed it.

_Nov. 19th._--I have read to-day one canto of Dante's Inferno and eight
or ten pages of Cicero de Amicitia. In this, as well as in de Senectute
which I have just finished, I am much interested. I confess I am not a
little surprised to find how largely the moderns are indebted to the
ancients; how many wise observations on life, and death, the soul, time,
eternity, etc, have been repeated by the sages of every generation since
the days of Cicero.

_Jan. 14th, 1836._--I spent last evening with Mr. Dana, and the
conversation was, of course, of great interest. We talked of some of the
leading Reviews of the day, and then of the character of our literature
as connected with our political institutions. This led to a long
discussion of the latter subject, but as the same views are expressed in
Mr. D.'s article on Law, I shall pass it over. [2] I differed from him
in regard to the French comedies, especially those of Moliere; however,
he allowed that they contain genuine humor, but they are confined to the
exhibition of _one_ ridiculous point in the character, instead of giving
us the whole man as Shakespeare does.

_Sept, 22d._--This morning I have had one of the periods of _insight,_
when the highest spiritual truths pertaining to the divine and human
natures, become their own light and evidence, as well as the evidence of
other truths. No speculations, no ridicule can shake my faith in that
which I thus see and feel. I was particularly interested in thinking of
the regeneration of the spirit and the part which Faith, Hope, and Love,
have in effecting it.

_Sab. 23d._--It seems to me that this truth alone, there is a God, is
sufficient, rightly believed, to make every human being absolutely and
perfectly happy.

_Jan. 14th, 1839._--Wednesday evening attended Mr. Emerson's lecture on
Genius, of which I shall _attempt_ to say nothing except that it was
most delightful. Thursday morning Mr. Emerson [3] called to see me and
gave me a ticket for his course. Afterwards Mr. Dana called. It seems to
me that I have lived _backwards;_ in other words, the faculties of my
mind which were earliest developed, were those which in other minds come
last--reflection and solidity of judgment; while fancy and imagination,
in so far as I have any at all, have followed.

_Sat. Jan. 26th._--My occupations in the way of books at present,
consist in reading "Antigone," Guizot's "History," Lockhart's "Scott,"
and _sundries._ I am also translating large extracts from Claudius, with
a view to writing an article about him, if the fates shall so will it.

_Thurs. Jan. 1st._--Mr. Emerson's lecture last night was on Comedy. He
professed to enter on the subject with reluctance, as conscious of a
deficiency in the organ of the ludicrous--a profession, however, that
was not substantiated very well by the lecture itself, which convulsed
the audience with laughter. He spoke in the commencement of the silent
history written in the faces of an assembly, making them as interesting
to a spectator as if their lives were written in their features.

_25th._--I began yesterday Schleiermacher's "Christliche Glaube"--a
profound, learned, and difficult work, I am told--Jouffroy's
"Philosophical Writings," Landor's "Pericles and Aspasia," and "The
Gurney Papers." Considering that I was already in the midst of several
books, this is rather too much, but I could not help it; the books were
lent me and must be read and returned speedily. I have been all the
morning employed in writing an abstract of the Report of the Prison
Discipline Society, and am wearied and stupefied.

_Jan. 7th, 1840._--Went to Mr. Ripley's where I met Dr. Channing, and
listened to a discussion of Spinoza's religious opinions. This afternoon
Mr. D. came again; talked about the Trinity and other theological
points. This evening, heard Prof. Silliman. I have nearly finished
Fichte, and like him on the whole exceedingly, though I think he errs in
placing the roots of the speculative in the practical reason. It seems
to me that neither grows out of the other, but that they are coincident
spheres. Still, there is a truth, a great truth, in what he says. It is
true that action is often the most effectual remedy against speculative
doubts and perplexities. When you are in the dark about this or
that point, ask what command does conscience impose upon me at this
moment--obey it and you will find light.

These extracts will suffice to show the quality and extent of her
reading. What sort of fruit her reading and study bore may be seen by
her articles on Claudius and Goethe, in the New York Review. No abler
discussion of the genius and writings of Goethe had at that time
appeared in this country; while the article on Claudius was probably the
first to make him known to American readers.

During many of the later years of her life Mrs. Hopkins was a martyr to
ill-health. The story of her sufferings, both physical and mental, as
artlessly told in little diaries which she kept, is "wondrous pitiful;"
no pen of fiction could equal its simple pathos. Again and again, as she
herself knew, she was on the very verge of insanity; nothing, probably,
saving her from it but the devotion of her husband, who with untiring
patience and a mother's tenderness ministered, in season and out of
season, to her relief. Often would he steal home from his beloved
Observatory, where he had been teaching his students how to watch the
stars, and pass a sleepless night at her bedside, reading to her and by
all sorts of gentle appliances trying to soothe her irritated nerves.
And this devotion ran on, without variableness or shadow of turning,
year after year, giving itself no rest until her eyes were closed in
death. [5]

Let us now resume our narrative. A portion of the summer of 1862 was
passed by Mrs. Prentiss at Newport. Her season of rest was again invaded
by severe illness among her children. Under date of August 3d, she
writes to Mrs. Smith:

I can see that our landlady, who has good sense and experience, thinks
G. will not get well. Sometimes, in awful moments, I think so too; but
then I cheer up and get quite elated. Last night as I lay awake, too
weary to sleep, I heard a harsh, rasping sound like a large saw. I
thought some animal unknown to me must be making it, it was so regular
and frequent. But after a time I found it was a dying young soldier who
lives farther from this house than Miss H. does from our house in New
York. His fearful cough! Oh, this war! this war! I never hated and
revolted against it as I did then. I had heard some one say such a young
man lay dying of consumption in this street, but till then was too
absorbed with my own incessant cares to hear the cough, as the rest had
done. I never realised how I felt about our country till I found the
terror of losing, a link out of that little golden chain that encircles
my sweetest joys, was a _kindred_ suffering. Have the times ever looked
so black as they do now? We seem to be drifting round without chart or

Two weeks later, August 17th, she writes to her cousin, Miss Shipman:

G. is really up and about, looking thin and white, and feeling hungry
and weak; but little H. has been sick with the same disease these ten
days past. I got your letter and the little cat, for which G. and I
thank you very much. I should think it would about kill you to cook all
day even for our soldiers, but on the whole can not blame any one who
wants to get killed in their service. I am impressed more and more
with their claims upon us, who confront every danger and undergo every
suffering, while we sit at home at our ease. However, the ease I have
enjoyed during the last five weeks has not been of a very luxurious
kind, and I have felt almost discouraged, as day after day of
confinement and night after night of sleeplessness has pulled down my
strength. But, what am I doing? Complaining, instead of rejoicing that I
am not left unchastised.

After a careworn summer at Newport, she went with the children to
Williamstown, where a month was passed with her brother-in-law,
Professor Hopkins. The following letters relate to this visit:

_To her Husband, Williamstown, Sept. 19, 1862._

I am glad to find that you place reliance on the reports of our late
victory, for I have been in great suspense, seeing only The World, which
was throwing up its hat and declaring the war virtually ended. I have no
faith in such premature assertions, of which we have had so many, but
was most anxious to know your opinion. Do not fail to keep me informed
of what is going on. The children are all out of doors and enjoying
themselves. The Professor has gone on horseback to see about his
buckwheat. He took me up there yesterday afternoon, and I crawled
through forty fences (more or less) and got a vast amount of exercise,
which did not result in any better sleep, however, than no exercise
does. Caro. H. read me yesterday a most interesting letter from her
brother Henry, describing the scene at Bull Run when he went there five
days after the battle. It is very painful to find such mismanagement as
he deplores. He gave a most touching account of a young fellow who lay
mortally wounded, where he had lain uncared-for with his companions the
five days, and whom they were obliged to decline removing, as they had
only room for a portion of the hopeful cases. After beseeching Mr. H. to
see that he was removed, and entreating to know when and how he was ever
to get home if they left him, he was told that it was not possible to
make room for him in this train of ambulances. As Mr. H. tore himself
away, he heard him say,

"Here, Lord, I give myself away;
'Tis all that I can do."

The torture of the wounded men in the ambulances was so frightful, that
Mr. H. gave each of them morphine enough to kill three well men. They
"cried for it like dogs and licked my hands lest they should lose a
drop," he adds. As a contrast to this letter, some of the new recruits
came into the Professor's grounds yesterday to get bouquets, and thought
if _their_ folks had a "yard" so gayly decked with flowers they would
feel set up.

_To Mrs. Smith, Williamstown, Sept. 25, 1862._

I have been feeling languid, or lazy, ever since I came here, and for a
few days past have been miserable; but I am better to-day. This place
is perfectly lovely and grows upon me every day. But the Professor is
entirely absorbed in his loss. He does not know it, or else thinks he
does not show it, for he makes no complaint, but it is in every tone and
word and look. It is plain that Louisa's ill-health, which might have
weaned a selfish man from her, only endeared her to him; she was so
entirely his object day and night, that he misses her and the _care_ of
her, as a mother does her sick child. If we ride out he says, "Here I
often came with _her_;" if a bird sings, "That is a note she used to
love;" if we see a flower, "That is one of the flowers she loved." He
has an astonishing amount of journal manuscripts, and I think may in
time prepare something from them.... Isn't it frightful how cotton goods
have run up! I gave twenty cents for a yard of silicia (is that the way
to spell it?) and suppose everything else has rushed up too. I hope you
are prepared to tell me exactly what to buy and instruct me in the way I
should go.

_To her Husband, Williamstown, Sept. 26._

I spent yesterday forenoon looking over Louisa's papers and found an
enormous mass of manuscript; journals, extract books, translations,
and work enough planned and begun for many lifetimes. It was very
depressing. One's only refuge is faith in God, and in the certainty that
her lingering illness was more acceptable to Him than years of active
usefulness, and such extraordinary usefulness even as she was so fitted
for. I read over some of my own letters written many, many years ago;
and the sense this gave me of lost youth and vivacity and energy, was,
for a time, most painful.... I have felt for a long while greatly
discouraged and depressed, yes, weary of my life, because it seems to me
that broken down and worn out as I am, and full of faults under which I
groan, being burdened, I could not make you happy. But your last letter
comforted me a good deal. I see little for us to do but what you
suggest: to cheer each other up and wear out rather than rust out. It is
more and more clear to me, that patience is our chief duty on earth, and
that we can not rest here.

I am anxious to know what you think of the President's Proclamation. [6]
The Professor likes it. He seems able to think of little but his loss.
Even when speaking in the most cheerful way, tears fill his eyes, and
the other day putting a letter into my hands to read, he had to run
out of the room. The letter stated that fifty young persons owed their
conversion to Louisa's books; it was written some years ago. His mother
spent Saturday here. She is very bright and cheerful and full of
sly humor; he did everything to amuse her and she enjoyed her visit
amazingly. I long to see you. Letters are more and more unsatisfactory,
delusive things. M. is going to have a "party" this afternoon, and is
going to one this forenoon. The others are bright and busy as bees.

A tinge of sadness is perceptible in most of her letters during this
year. Her sister's death, the fearful state of the country, protracted
sickness among her children, and her own frequent ill-turns and
increasing sense of feebleness, all conspired to produce this effect.
But in truth her heart was still as young as ever and a touch of
sympathy, or an appeal to her love of nature, instantly made it
manifest. An extract from a letter to Miss Anna Warner, dated New York,
December 16th, may serve as an instance: I wanted to write a book when
the trunk came this afternoon; that is, a book full of thanks and
exclamation marks. You could not have bought with money anything for my
Christmas present, that could give half the pleasure. I shut myself up
in my little room up-stairs (I declare I don't believe you saw that
room! did you?), and there I spread out my mosses and my twigs and my
cones and my leaves and admired them till I had to go out and walk to
compose myself. Then the children came home and they all admired too,
and among us we upset my big work-basket and my little work-basket, and
didn't any of us care. My only fear is that with all you had to do you
did too much for me. Those little red moss cups are _too_ lovely! and as
to all those leaves how I shall leaf out! G. asked me who sent me all
those beautiful things. "Miss Warner," quoth I absently. "Didn't Miss
Anna send any of them?" he exclaimed. So you see you twain do not pass
as one flesh here. I have read all the "Books of Blessing" [7] save
Gertrude and her Cat--but though I like them all very much, my favorite
is still "The Prince in Disguise." If you come across a little book
called "Earnest," [8] published by Randolph, do read it. It is one of
the few _real_ books and ought to do good. I have outdone myself in
picture-frames since you left. I got a pair of nippers and some wire,
which were of great use in the operation. I am now busy on Mr. Bull, for
Mr. Prentiss' study.

To one of her sisters-in-law she wrote, under the same date:

I do not know as I ever was so discouraged about my health as I have
been this fall. Sometimes I think my constitution is quite broken down,
and that I never shall be good for anything again. However, I do not
worry one way or the other but try to be as patient as I can. I have
been a good deal better for some days, and if you could see our house
you would not believe a word about my not being well, and would know my
saying so was all a sham. To tell the truth, it does look like a garden,
and when I am sick I like to lie and look at what I did when I wasn't;
my wreaths, and my crosses, and my vines, and my toadstools, and other
fixins. Yesterday I made a bonnet of which I am justly proud; to-morrow
I expect to go into mosses and twigs, of which Miss Anna Warner has just
sent me a lot. She and her sister were here about a fortnight. They grow
good so fast that there is no keeping track of them. Does any body in
Portland take their paper? [9] The children are all looking forward to
Christmas with great glee. It is a mercy there are any children to keep
up one's spirits in these times. Was there ever anything so dreadful as
the way in which our army has just been driven back! [10] But if we had
had a brilliant victory perhaps the people would have clamored against
the emancipation project, and anything is better than the perpetuation
of slavery.

Our congregation is fuller than ever, but there is no chance of building
even a chapel. Shopping is pleasant business now-a-days, isn't it? We
shall have to stop sewing and use pins.

* * * * *


Another care-worn Summer. Letters from Williamstown and Rockaway. Hymn
on Laying the Corner-stone of the Church of the Covenant.

The records of 1863 are confined mostly to her letters written during
the summer. In June she went again with the younger children to
Williamstown, where she remained a month. The family then proceeded
to Rockaway, Long Island, and spent the rest of the season there in a
cottage, kindly placed at their disposal by Mrs. William G. Bull. They
passed through New York barely in time to escape the terrible riots,
which raged there with such fury in the early part of July. A few
extracts from her letters belonging to this period follow:

_To her Husband, Troy, June 10._

I hope you'll not be frightened to get a letter mailed here; anyhow I
can't resist the temptation to write, though standing up in a little
newspaper office. We were routed up at half past five this morning by
pounds and yells about taking the "Northern Railroad." On reaching Troy
the captain bid us hurry or we should lose the train, and we did hurry,
though I pretty well foresaw our fate, and after a running walk of a
quarter of a mile, we had the felicity of finding the train had left and
that the next one would not start till twelve. The little darlings are
bearing the disappointment sweetly.

4 P.M.--After depositing my note in the Post-office, we strolled about
awhile and then came across to a hotel, where I ordered a lunch-dinner.
We got through at twelve and marched to the station, expecting to start
at once, when M. came running up to me declaring there was no train to
Williamstown till five o'clock. My heart fairly turned over; however,
I did not believe it, but on making inquiries it proved to be only too
true. For a minute I sat in silent despair. Just then the landlord of
the hotel drew nigh and said to me, "You don't look very healthy, Mrs.;
if you'll walk over to my house, I will give you a bedroom free of
charge and you can lie down and rest awhile." Over to his house we went,
weary enough. After awhile, finding them all forlorn, I got a carriage
and we drove out; on coming back I ordered some ice-cream, which built
us all up amazingly. The children are now counting the minutes till
five. One of the boys is perched on a wash-stand with his feet dangling
down through the hole where the bowl should be; the other is eating
crackers; the landlord is anxious I should take a glass of wine; and M.
is everywhere at once, having nearly worn out my watch-pocket to see
what time it was.

_Monday, June 21st._--It is now going on a fortnight since we left home.
Oh, if it were God's will, how I should love to get well, pay you back
some of the debts I owe you, be a better mother to my children, write
some more books, and make you love me so you wouldn't know what to do
with yourself! Just to see how it would seem to be well, and to show
you what a splendid creature I could be, if once out of the harness! A
modest little list you will say!... I said to myself, Is it after all
such a curse to suffer and to be a source of suffering to others? Isn't
it worth while to pay something for warm human sympathies and something
for rich experience of God's love and wisdom? And I felt, that for you
to have a radiant, cheerful, health-happy wife was not, perhaps, so good
for you, as a minister of Christ's gospel, as to have the poor feeble
creature whose infirmities keep you anxious and off the top of the wave.

Saturday afternoon the Professor took me off strawberrying again. Can
you believe that till this June I never went strawberrying in my life?
I don't eat them, so the fun is in the picking. Do you realise how kind
the Professor is to me? I am afraid I don't. He works very hard, too
hard, I think; but perhaps he does it as a refuge from his loneliness.
His heart seems still full of tenderness toward Louisa. Yesterday he
took me aside and told me, with much emotion, that he dreamed the night
before that she floated towards him with a leaf in her hand, on which
she wrote the words "Sabbath peacefulness." I love him much, but am
afraid of him, as I am of all men--even of you; you need not laugh, I

To Mrs. Smith she writes from Rockaway, July 24th:

We were glad to hear that you were safely settled at Prout's Neck, far
from riots, if not from rumors thereof. We have as convenient and roomy
and closetty a cottage as possible. We are within three minutes or so
of the beach, and go back and forth, bathe, dig sand, and stare at the
ocean according to our various ages and tastes. I really do not know how
else we spend our time. I sew a little, and am going to sew more when my
machine comes; read a little, doze a little, and eat a good deal. The
butcher calls every morning, and so does the baker with excellent bread;
twice a week clams call at thirty cents the hundred; we get milk,
butter, and eggs without much trouble; and ice and various vegetables
without any, as Mrs. Bull sends them to us every day, with sprinklings
of fruit, pitchers of cream, herring and whatever is going. We either
sit on the beach looking and listening to the waves, every evening, or
we run in to Mrs. Bull's; or gather about our parlor-table reading. By
ten we are all off to bed. George does nothing but race back and forth
to New York on Seminary business; he has gone now. I went with him the
other day. The city looks pinched and wo-begone. We were caught in that
tornado and nearly pulled to pieces.

_27th._--You will be sorry to hear that our last summer's siege with
dysentery bids fair to be repeated. Yesterday, when the disease declared
itself, I must own that for a few hours I felt about heart-broken. My
own strength is next to nothing, and how to face such a calamity I knew
not. Ah, how much easier it is to pray daily, "Oh, Jesus Christus, wachs
in mir!" than to consent to, yea rejoice in, the terms of the grant!
Well, George went for the doctor. His quarters at this season are right
opposite; he is a German and brother of the author Auerbach. We brought
G.'s cot into our room and George and I took care of him till three
o'clock, when for the first time since we had children, I gave out and
left the poor man to get along as nurse as he best could. I can tell
you it comes hard on one's pride to resign one's office to a half-sick
husband. I think I have let the boys play too hard in the sun. I long to
have you see this pretty cottage and this beach.

_Aug. 3d._--The children are out of the doctor's hands and I do about
nothing at all. I hope you are as lazy as I am. Today I bathed, read the
paper and finished John Halifax. I wish I could write such a book!

To Miss Gilman she writes, August 10th:

We have the nicest of cottages, near the sea. I often think of you as I
sit watching the waves rush in and the bathers rushing out. I have not
yet thanked you for the hymns you sent me. The traveller's hymn sounds
like George Withers. Mr. P. borrowed a volume of his poems which
delights us both. I am glad you are asking your mother questions about
your father. I am amazed at myself for not asking my dear mother many
a score about my father, which no human being can answer now. I do not
like to think of you all leaving New York. Few families would be so
missed and mourned.

I can sympathise with you in regard to your present Sunday "privileges."
We have a long walk in glaring sunshine, sit on bare boards, live
through the whole (or nearly the whole) Prayer-book, and then listen, if
we can, to a sermon three-quarters of an hour long, its length not being
its chief fault. I am utterly unable to bear such fatigue, and spend my
time chiefly at home, with some hope of more profit, at any rate. How
true it is that our Master's best treasures are kept in earthen vessels!
Humanly speaking, we should declare it to be for His glory to commit the
preaching of His gospel to the best and wisest hands. But His ways are
not as our ways.... I feel such a longing, when Sunday conies, to spend
it with good people, under the guidance of a heaven-taught man. A
minister has such wonderful opportunity for doing good! It seems
dreadful to see the opportunity more than wasted. The truth is, we all
need, ministers and all, a closer walk with God. If a man comes down
straight from the mount to speak to those who have just come from the
same place, he must be in a state to edify and they to be edified.

From New York she writes to Miss Shipman, October 24th:

Your letter came just as we started for Poughkeepsie. The Synod met
there and I was invited to accompany George, and, quite contrary to my
usual habits, I went. We had a nice time. I feel that you are in the
best place in the world. Next to dying and going home one's self, it
must be sweet to accompany a Christian friend down to the very banks
of the river. Isn't it strange that after such experiences we can ever
again have a worldly thought, or ever lose the sense of the reality of
divine things! But we are like little children--ever learning and ever
forgetting. Still, it is well to be learning, and I envy you your
frequent visits to the house of mourning. You will miss your dear friend
very much. I know how you love her. How many beloved ones you have
already lost for a season!... Don't set me to making brackets. I am
as worldly now as I can be, and my head full of work on all sorts of
things. I made two cornucopias of your pattern and filled them with
grasses and autumn leaves, and they were magnificent. I got very large
grasses in the Rockaway marshes. The children are all well and as gay as

Early in November the corner-stone of the Church of the Covenant was
laid. She wrote the following hymn for the occasion:

A temple, Lord, we raise;
Let all its walls be praise
To Thee alone.
Draw nigh, O Christ, we pray,
To lead us on our way,
And be Thou, now and aye,
Our corner-stone.

In humble faith arrayed,
We these foundations laid
In war's dark day.
Oppression's reign o'erthrown,
Sweet peace once more our own,
Do Thou the topmost stone
Securely lay.

And when each earth-built wall
Crumbling to dust shall fall,
Our work still own.
Be to each faithful heart
That here hath wrought its part,
What in Thy Church Thou art--
The Corner-stone.

* * * * *


Happiness in her Children. The Summer of 1864. Letters from Hunter.
Affliction among Friends.

In the early part of 1864 she was more than usually afflicted with
neuralgic troubles and that "horrid calamity," as she calls it,
sleeplessness. "I know just how one feels when one can't eat or sleep or
talk. I declare, a good deal of the time pulling words out of me is like
pulling out teeth."

Still (she writes to a sister-in-law, Jan. 15th), we are a happy family
in spite of our ailments. I suffer a great deal and cause anxiety to my
husband by it, but then I enjoy a great deal and so does he, and
our younger children--to say nothing of A.--are sources of constant
felicity. Do not you miss the hearing little feet pattering round the
house? It seems to me that the sound of my six little feet is the very
pleasantest sound in the world. Often when I lie in bed racked with pain
and exhausted from want of food--for my digestive organs seem paralysed
when I have neuralgia--hearing these little darlings about the house
compensates for everything, and I am inexpressibly happy in the mere
sense of possession. I hate to have them grow up and to lose my pets, or
exchange them for big boys and girls. I suppose your boys are a great
help to you and company too, but I feel for you that you have not also
a couple of girls.... Poor Louisa! It is very painful to think what she
suffered. Her death was such a shock to me, I can hardly say why, that I
have never been since what I was before. I suppose my nervous system was
so shattered, that so unexpected a blow would naturally work unkindly.

Early in the following summer she was distressed by the sudden
bereavement of dear friends and by the death of her nephew, who fell in
one of the battles of the Wilderness. In a letter to Miss Gilman, dated
June 18th, she refers to this:

Your dear little flowers came in excellent condition, but at a moment
when I could not possibly write to tell you so. The death of Mrs. R. H.
broke my heart. I only knew her by a sort of instinct, but I sorrowed in
her mother's sorrow and in that of her sisters. Death is a blessed thing
to the one whom it leads to Christ's kingdom and presence, but oh, how
terrible for those it leaves fainting and weeping behind! We expect to
go off for the summer on next Thursday. We go to Hunter, N. Y., in the
region of the Catskills. My husband's mother has been with me during the
last six weeks and has just gone home, and I have now to do up the last
things in a great hurry. You may not know that my A. and M. S., and a
number of other young people of their age, joined our church on last
Sunday. I can hardly realise my felicity. I seem to myself to have a new
child. Your sister may have told you of the loss of Professor Hopkins'
son. He was the first grandchild in our family and his father's _all_.
We may never hear what his fate was, but the suspense has been dreadful.

Her interest in the national struggle was intense and her conviction of
its Providential character unwavering. To a friend, who seemed to her a
little lukewarm on the subject, she wrote at this time:

For my part, I am sometimes afraid I shall die of joy if we ever gain a
complete and final victory. You can call this spunk if you choose.
But my spunk has got a backbone of its own and that is deep-seated
conviction, that this is a holy war, and that God himself sanctions it.
He spares nothing precious when He has a work to do. No life is too
valuable for Him to cut short, when any of His designs can be furthered
by doing so. But I could talk a month and not have done, you wicked

_To her Husband, Hunter, June 27, 1864._

This morning, after breakfast, I sallied out with six children to take a
most charming walk, scramble, climb, etc. We put on our worst old duds,
tuck up our skirts June 27, knee-high, and have a regular good time of
it. If you were awake so early as eight o'clock--I don't believe you
were! you might have seen us with a good spy-glass, and it would have
made your righteous soul leap for joy to see how we capered and laughed,
and what strawberries we picked, and how much of a child A. turned into.
They all six "played run" till they had counted twelve and then they
tumbled down and rolled in the grass, till I wondered what their bones
were made of. I do not see that we could have found a better place for
the children. What with the seven calves, the cows, the sheep, the two
pet lambs, the dogs, hens, chickens, horses, etc., they are perfectly
happy. Just now they have been to see the butter made and to get a drink
of buttermilk. We have lots of strawberries and cream, pot-cheese,
Johnny-cakes, and there are always eggs and milk at our service. From
diplomatic motives I advise you not to say too much about Hunter to
people asking questions. It would entirely spoil its only great charm if
a rush of silly city folks should scent it out. It is really a primitive
place and that you can say. Mr. Coe preached an excellent sermon on
Sunday morning.

_To Mrs. Smith, Hunter, July 4, 1864._

I have just been off, all alone, foraging, and have come home bringing
my sheaves with me: ground pine and red berries, with which I have made
a beautiful wreath. I have also adorned the picture of Gen. Grant with
festoons of evergreens, conjuring him the while not to disappoint our
hopes, but to take Richmond. Alas! you may know, by this time, that he
can't; but in lack of news since a week ago, I can but hope for the
best. I've taken a pew and we contrive to squeeze into it in this wise:
first a child, then a mother, then a child, then an Annie, then a child,
the little ones being stowed in the cracks left between us big ones. Mr.
R., the parson, looking fit to go straight into his grave, was up here
to get a wagon as he was going for a load of chips. His wife was at
home sick, without any servant, had churned three hours and the butter
wouldn't come, and has a pew full of little ones. Oh, my poor sisters in
the ministry! my heart aches for them. Mr. R. gave us a superior sermon
last Sunday.... I know next to nothing about what is going on in the
world. But George writes that he feels decidedly pleased with the look
of things. He has been carrying on like all possessed since I left,
having company to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and finally went and had Chi
Alpha all himself.

_July 25th._--We went one day last week on a most delightful excursion,
twenty-one of us in all. Our drive was splendid and the scenery sublime;
even we distinguished Swiss travellers thought so! We came to one spot
where ice always is found, cut out big pieces, ate it, drank it, threw
it at each other and carried on with it generally. We had our dinner
on the grass in the woods. We brought home a small cartload of natural
brackets; some of them beautiful.

_August 1st._--You have indeed had a "rich experience." [11] We all read
your letter with the deepest interest and feel that it would have been
good to be there. Your account of Caro shows what force of character she
possessed, as well as what God's grace can do and do quickly. This is
not the first time He has ripened a soul into full Christian maturity
with almost miraculous rapidity. A veteran saint could not have laid
down his armor and adjusted himself to meet death with more calmness
than did this young disciple. I do not wonder her family were borne, for
the time, above their sorrow, but alas! their bitter pangs of anguish
are yet to meet them. Her poor mother! How much she has suffered and has
yet to suffer! all the more because she bears it so heroically.

_To Miss Emily S. Gilman, Hunter, Aug 1, 1864._

You must have wondered why I did not answer your letter and your book,
for both of which I thank you. Well, it has been such dry, warm weather,
that I have not felt like writing; besides, for nurse I have only a
little German girl fourteen years old, who never was out of New York
before, and whom I have been so determined on spoiling that I couldn't
bear to take her off from her play to mend, patch, darn, wash faces,
necks, feet, etc., and unconsciously did every thing there was to do
for the children and a little more besides. I like the little book very
much. You have the greatest knack, you girls, of lighting on nice books
and nice hymns. We are right in the midst of most charming walks. Here
is a grove and there is a brook; here is a creek, almost a river (big
enough at any rate to get on to the map) and there a mountain. As to
ferns and mosses for your poetical side, and as for raspberries and
blackberries for your t'other side, time would fail me if I should begin
to speak of them. I think a great deal of you and your sisters when off
on foraging expeditions, and wish you were here notwithstanding you are
mossy and ferny there. We have as yet made only one excursion. That was
delightful and gave us our first true idea of the Catskills. Before
Mr. P. came I usually went off on my forenoon walk alone, unless the
children trooped after, and came home a miniature Birnam wood, with all
sorts of things except creeping things and flying fowl.

I have just finished reading to M. and a little girl near her age, a
little French book you would like, called "Augustin." I never met with
a sweeter picture of a loving child anywhere. Well, I may as well stop
writing. Remember me lovingly to all your dear household.

To Mrs. Stearns she writes, Sept. 16:

How much faith and patience we poor invalids do need! The burden of life
sits hard on our weary shoulders. I think the mountain air has agreed
with our children better than the seaside has done, but George craves
the ocean and the bathing. He spent this forenoon, as he has a good many
others, in climbing the side of the mountain for exercise, views, and
blackberries. I go with him sometimes. We had a few days' visit from
Prof. Hopkins. He has heard confirmation of the rumors of poor Eddy's
death and burial. He means to go to Ashland as soon as the state of the
country makes it practicable, but has little hope of identifying E.'s
remains. It is a great sorrow to him to _lose all he had_ in this
horrible way, but he bears it with wonderful faith and patience, and
says he never prayed for his son's life after he went into action. Some
letters received by him, give a pleasant idea of the Christian stand E.
took after entering the army. I believe this is Lizzie P----'s wedding
day. There is a beautiful rainbow smiling on it from our mountain home,
and I hope a real one is glorifying hers.

_To Miss Gilman, Hunter, Sept. 17._

Oh, I wish you were here on this glorious day! The foliage has begun to
turn a little, and the mountains are in a state bordering on perfection.
It is wicked for me stay in-doors even to write this, but it seems as if
a letter from here would carry with it a savor of mountain air, and must
do you more good than one from the city could. I wish I had thought
sooner to ask you if you would like some of our mosses. I _thought_ I
had seen mosses before, but found I had not. I will enclose some dried
specimens. I thought, while I was in the woods this morning, that I
never had thanked God half enough for making these lovely things and
giving us tastes wherewith to enjoy them.

You ask if I have spilled ink all down the side of this white house.
Yes, I have, wo be unto me. I was sick abed and got up to write to Mr.
P., not wanting him to know I was sick, and one of the children came in
and I snatched him up in my lap to hug and kiss a little, and he, of
course, hit the pen and upset the inkstand and burst out crying at my
dismay. Then might have been seen a headachy woman catching the apoplexy
by leaning out of the window and scrubbing paint, sacrificing all her
nice rags in the process, and dreadfully mortified into the bargain....
Yesterday we were all caught in a pouring rain when several miles from
home on the side of the mountain, blackberrying. We each took a child
and came rolling and tearing down through the bushes and over stones,
H.'s little legs flying as little legs rarely fly. We nearly died with
laughing, and if I only knew how to draw, I could make you laugh by
giving you a picture of the scene. You will judge from this that we are
all great walkers; so we are. I take the children almost everywhere, and
they walk miles every day. Well, I will go now and get you some scraps
of pressed mosses.

* * * * *


The Death of President Lincoln. Dedication of the Church of the
Covenant. Growing Insomnia. Resolves to try the Water-cure. Its
beneficial Effects. Summer at Newburgh. Reminiscence of an Excursion
to Paltz Point. Death of her Husband's Mother. Funeral of her Nephew,
Edward Payson Hopkins.

Two events rendered the month of April, 1865, especially memorable to
Mrs. Prentiss. One was the assassination of President Lincoln on the
evening of Good Friday. She had been very ill, and her husband, on
learning the dreadful news from the morning paper, thought it advisable
to keep it from her for a while; but one of the children, going into her
chamber, burst into tears and thus betrayed the secret. Her state of
nervous prostration and her profound, affectionate admiration for Mr.
Lincoln, made the blow the most stunning by far she ever received from
any public calamity. It was such, no doubt, to tens of thousands;
indeed, to the American people. No Easter morning ever before dawned
upon them amid such a cloud of horror, or found them so bowed down with
grief. The younger generation can hardly conceive of the depth and
intensity, or the strange, unnatural character, of the impression made
upon the minds of old and young alike, by this most foul murder. [12]

The other event was of a very different character and filled her with
great joy. It was the dedication, on the last Sunday in April, of the
new church edifice, whose growth she had watched with so much interest.

In the spring of 1865 she was induced, by the entreaty of friends who
had themselves tested his skill, to consult Dr. Schieferdecker, a noted
hydropathist, and later to place herself under his care. In a letter to
her cousin, Miss Shipman, she writes: "I want to tell you, but do
not want you to mention it to anyone, that I have been to see Dr.
Schieferdecker to know what he thought of my case. He says that I might
go on dieting to the end of my days and not get well, but that his
system could and would cure me, only it would take a _long_ time. I have
not decided whether to try his process, but have no doubt he understands
my disease." Dr. Schieferdecker had been a pupil and was an enthusiastic
disciple of Priesnitz. He had unbounded faith in the healing properties
of water. He was very impulsive, opinionated, self-confident, and
accustomed to speak contemptuously of the old medical science and those
who practised it. But for all that, he possessed a remarkable sagacity
in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease. Mrs. Prentiss went
through the "cure" with indomitable patience and pluck, and was rewarded
by the most beneficial results. Her sleeplessness had become too
deep-rooted to be overcome, but it was greatly mitigated and her general
condition vastly improved. She never ceased to feel very grateful to Dr.
Schieferdecker for the relief he had afforded her, and for teaching her
how to manage herself; for after passing from under his care, she still
continued to follow his directions. "No tongue can tell how much I am
indebted to him," she wrote in 1869. "I am like a ship that after poking
along twenty years with a heavy load on board, at last gets into port,
unloads, and springs to the surface."

_To Miss E. S. Gilman, New York, Feb. 23, 1865._

It is said to be an ill wind that blows nobody good, and as I am
still idling about, doing absolutely nothing but receive visits from
neuralgia, I have leisure to think of poor Miss ----. I wrote to ask
her if there was anything she wanted and could not get in her region;
yesterday I received her letter, in which she mentions a book, but says
"anything that is useful for body or mind" would be gratefully received.
Now I got the impression from that article in the Independent, that she
could take next to no nourishment. Do you know what she _does_ take, and
can you suggest, from what you know, anything she would like? What's the
use of my being sick, if it isn't for her sake or that of some other
suffering soul? I want, very much, to get some things together and send
her; nobody knows who hasn't experienced it, how delightfully such
things break in on the monotony of a sick-room. Just yet I am not strong
enough to do anything; my hands tremble so that I can hardly use even a
pen; yet you need not think I am much amiss, for I go out every pleasant
day, to ride, and some days can take quite a walk. The trouble is that
when the pain returns, as it does several times a day, it knocks my
strength out of me. I hope when all parts of my frame have been visited
by this erratic sprite, it may find it worth while to beat a retreat.
Only to think, we are going to move to No. 70 East Twenty-seventh
street, and you have all been and gone away! The rent is _enormous_,
$1,000 having been just added to an already high price. Our people
have taken that matter in hand and no burden of it will come on us. I
received your letter and am much obliged to you for writing to Miss
----, for me; the reason I did not do it was, that it seemed like
hurrying her up to thank me for the little drop of comfort I sent her.
Dear me! it's hard to be sick when people send you quails and jellies,
and fresh eggs, and all such things--but to be sick and suffer for
necessaries must be terrible.

_To the Same, New York, March 9, 1865._

I thank you for the details of Miss ----'s case, as I wished to describe
them to some friends. I sent her ten dollars yesterday for two of my
friends. I also sent off a box by express, for the contents of which I
had help. The things were such as I had persuaded her to mention; a new
kind of farina, figs, two portfolios (of course she didn't ask for two,
but I had one I thought she would, perhaps, like better than the one I
bought), a few crackers, and several books. Mr. P. added one of those
beautiful large-print editions of the Psalms which will, I think, be a
comfort to her. I shall also send Adelaide Newton by-and-by; I thought
she had her hands full of reading for the present, and the great thing
is not to heap comforts on her all at once and then leave her to her
fate, but keep up a stream of such little alleviations as can be
provided. She said, she had poor accommodations for writing, so I
greatly enjoyed fitting up the portfolio which was none the worse for
wear, with paper and envelopes, a pencil with rubber at the end, a
cunning little knife, some stamps, for which there was a small box, a
few pens, etc. I know it will please you to hear of this, and as the
money was furnished me for the purpose, you need not set it down to my

I meant to go to see your sister, but my head is still in such a weak
state that though I go to walk nearly every day, I can not make calls.
It is five weeks since I went to church, for the same reason. It is a
part of God's discipline with me to keep me shut up a good deal more
than the old Adam in me fancies; but His way is _absolutely perfect_,
and I hope I wouldn't change it in any particular, if I could. Have you
Pusey's tract, "Do all to the Lord Jesus"? If not, I must send it to
you. It seems as if I had a lot of things I wanted to say, but after
writing a little my hands and arms begin to tremble so that I can hardly
write plainly. You never saw such a lazy life as I lead now-a-days; I
can't do _any_ thing. I advise you to do what you have to do for Christ
_now_; by the time you are as old as I am perhaps you will have the will
and not the power. Well, good-bye till next time.

The summer of this year was passed at Newburgh in company with the
Misses Butler--now Mrs. Kirkbride, of Philadelphia, and Mrs. Booth,
of Liverpool--and the families of Mr. William Allen Butler, Mr. B.
F. Butler, and Mr. John P. Crosby, to all of whom Mrs. Prentiss was
strongly attached. The late Mr. Daniel Lord, the eminent lawyer, with
a portion of his family, had also a cottage near by and was full of
hospitable kindness. In spite of the exacting hydropathic treatment, she
found constant refreshment and delight in the society of so many dear
friends. "The only thing I have to complain of" she wrote, "is everybody
being too good to me. How different it is being among friends to being
among strangers!"

In a letter to her husband, dated New York, Sept. 15, 1879, Mr. William
Allen Butler gives the following reminiscence of an excursion to Paltz
Point and an evening at Newburgh:

From the date you, give in your note (to which I have just recurred)
of our trip to Paltz Point, it seems that in writing you to-day I have
unwittingly fallen on the anniversary of that pleasant excursion.
Without this reminder I could not have told the day or the year, but
of the excursion itself I have always had a vivid and delightful
recollection; and, if I am not mistaken, Mrs. Prentiss enjoyed it as
fully as any one of the merry party. It was only on that jaunt and in
our summer home at Newburgh that I had the opportunity of knowing her
readiness to enter into that kind of enjoyment, which depends upon the
co-operation of every member of a circle for the entertainment of all.
The elements of our group were well commingled, and the bright things
evoked by their contact and friction were neither few nor far between.
The game to which you allude of "Inspiration" or "Rhapsody" was a
favorite. The evening at Paltz Point called out some clever sallies, of
which I have no record or special recollection; but I know that then, as
always, Mrs. Prentiss seemed to have at her pencil's point for instant
use the wit and fancy so charmingly exhibited in her writings. She
published somewhere an account of one of our inspired or rhapsodical
evenings, but greatly to my regret failed to include in it her own
contribution which was the best of all. I distinctly remember the time
and scene--the September evening--the big, square sitting-room of the
old Seminary building in which you boarded--the bright faces whose
radiance made up in part for the limitations of artificial light--the
puzzled air which every one took on when presented with the list of
unmanageable words, to be reproduced in their consecutive order in prose
or verse composition within the next quarter or half hour--the stillness
which supervened while the enforced "pleasures" of "poetic pains" or
prose agony were being undergone--the sense of relief which supplemented
the completion of the batch of extempore effusions--and the fun which
their reading provoked. Mrs. Prentiss had contrived out of the odd and
incoherent jumble of words a choice bit of poetic humor and pathos,
which I never quite forgave her for omitting in the publication of the
nonsense written by other hands. These trifles as they seemed at the
time, and as in fact they were, become less insignificant in the
retrospect, as we associate them with the whole character and being
we instinctively love to place at the farthest remove from gloom or
sadness, and as they rediscover to us in the distance the native
vivacity and grace of which they were the chance expression. Since that
summer of 1865, having lived away from New York, I saw little of Mrs.
Prentiss, but I have a special remembrance of one little visit you made
at our home in Yonkers which she seemed very much to enjoy--saying of
the reunion which made it so pleasant to the members of our family and
all who happened to be together at the time, that it was "like heaven."

During the summer of 1865 the sympathies of Mrs. Prentiss were much
wrought upon by the sickness and death of her husband's mother, who
entered into rest on the 9th of August, in the eighty-fourth year of her
age. On the 12th of the previous January, she with the whole family
had gone to Newark to celebrate the eighty-third birthday of this aged
saint. Had they known it was to be the last, they could have wished
nothing changed. It was a perfect winter's day, and the scene in the old
parsonage was perfect too. There, surrounded by children and children's
children, sat the venerable grandmother with a benignant smile upon her
face and the peace of God in her heart. As she received in birthday
gifts and kisses and congratulations their loving homage, the measure of
her joy was full, and she seemed ready to say her _Nunc dimittis_. She
belonged to the number of those holy women of the old time who trusted
in God and adorned themselves with the ornament of a meek and quiet
spirit, and whose children to the latest generation rise up and call
them blessed.

In the course of this year her sympathies were also deeply touched by
repeated visits from her brother-in-law, Professor Hopkins, on his way
to and from Virginia. Allusion has been made already to the death of her
nephew, Lieutenant Edward Payson Hopkins. He was killed in battle while
gallantly leading a cavalry charge at Ashland, in Virginia, on the 11th
of May, 1864. In June of the following year his father went to Ashland
with the hope of recovering the body. Five comrades had fallen with
Edward, and the negroes had buried them without coffins, side by side,
in two trenches in a desolate swampy field and under a very shallow
covering of earth. The place was readily discovered, but it was found
impossible to identify the body. The disappointed father, almost
broken-hearted, turned his weary steps homeward. When he reached
Williamstown his friends said, "He has grown ten years older since he
went away."

Several months later he learned that there were means of identification
which could not fail, even if the body had already turned to dust.
Accordingly he again visited Ashland, attended this time by soldiers, a
surgeon, and Government officials. His search proved successful, and,
to his joy, not only was the body identified, but, owing to the swampy
nature of the ground, it was found to be in an almost complete state of
preservation. There was something wonderfully impressive in the grave
aspect and calm, gentle tone of the venerable man, as with his precious
charge he passed through New York on his way home. In a letter to Mrs.
Prentiss, dated January 2d, 1866, he himself tells the story of the
re-interment at Williamstown:

... After stopping a minute at my door the wagon passed at once to
the cemetery, and the remains were deposited in the tomb. This was on
Thursday. After consulting with my brother and his son (the chaplain) I
determined to wait till the Sabbath before the interment. Accordingly,
at 3 o'clock--after the afternoon service--the remains of my dear boy
were placed beside those of his mother. The services were simple, but
solemn in a high degree. They were opened by an address from Harry.
Prayer followed by Rev. Mr. Noble, now supplying the desk here. He
prefaced his prayer by saying that he never saw Edward but once, when he
preached at Williamstown at a communion and saw him sitting beside me
and partaking with me. Singing then followed by the choir of which Eddy
was for a long time a member. The words were those striking lines of

Go to the grave in all thy glorious prime, etc.

After which the coffin was lowered to its place by young men who were
friends of Edward in his earlier years.

The state of the elements was exceedingly favorable to the holding of
such an exercise in the open air at a season generally so inclement.
The night before there was every appearance of a heavy N. E. storm. But
Sabbath morning it was calm. As I went to church I noticed that the sun
rested on the Vermont mountains just north of us, though with a mellowed
light as if a veil had been thrown over them. In the after part of the
day the open sky had spread southward--so that the interment took place
when the air was as mild and serene as spring, just as the last sun
of the year was sinking towards the mountains. Almost the entire
congregation were present.... Thus, dear sister, I have given you a
brief account of the solemn but peaceful winding up of what has been to
me a sharp and long trial, and I know to yourself and family also. In
eternity we shall more clearly read the lesson which even now, in the
light of opening scenes, we are beginning to interpret.

[1] Richard H. Dana, the poet.

[2] The article referred to appeared in The Biblical Repository and
Quarterly Observer for January, 1835. Vol V., pp. 1-32. It is entitled,
"What form of Law is best suited to the individual and social nature of

[3] Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

[4] The article appeared in the New York Review for July, 1839.

[5] Some passages from the little diaries referred to, together with
further extracts from her literary journal, will be found in appendix D,
p. 541.

[6] The Proclamation of Emancipation.

[7] By Anna Warner.

[8] By her friend, Mrs. Frederick G. Burnham.

[9] "The Little Corporal."

[10] At Fredericksburg.

[11] Referring to the sudden death of a young niece of Mrs. S.

[12] This was written before the assassination of President Garfield.

[13] The "Rhapsody," referred to by Mr. Butler was preserved by a young
lady of the party, and will be found in appendix E, p. 555.





Happiness as a Pastor's Wife. Visits to Newport and Williamstown
Letters. The great Portland Fire. First Summer at Dorset. The new
Parsonage occupied. Second Summer at Dorset. _Little Lou's Sayings and
Doings_. Project of a Cottage. Letters. _The Little Preacher_. Illness
and Death of Mrs. Edward Payson and of Little Francis.

We now enter upon the most interesting and happiest period of Mrs.
Prentiss's experience as a pastor's wife. The congregation of the Church
of the Covenant had been slowly forming in "troublous times"; it was
composed of congenial elements, being of one heart and one mind; some of
the most cultivated families and family-circles in New York belonged to
it; and Mrs. Prentiss was much beloved in them all. What a help-meet
she was to her husband and with what zeal and delight she fulfilled her
office, especially that of a daughter of consolation, among his people,
will soon appear.

How ignorant we often are, at the time, of the turning-points in our
life! We inquire for a summer boarding-place and decide upon it without
any thought beyond the few weeks for which it was engaged; and yet,
perhaps, our whole earthly future or that of those most dear to us,
is to be vitally affected by this seemingly trifling decision. So it
happened to Mrs. Prentiss in 1866. Early in May her husband and his
brother-in-law, Dr. Stearns, went, at a venture, to Dorset, Vt., and
there secured rooms for their families during the summer. But little did
either she, or they, dream that Dorset was to be henceforth her summer
home and her resting-place in death! [1]

The Portland fire, to which reference is made in the following letters,
occurred on the 4th of July, and consumed a large portion of the city.

_To Miss Mary B. Shipman, Dorset, July 25, 1866._

Never in my life did I live through such a spring and early summer as
this! As to business and bustle, I mean. You must have given me up as a
lost case! But I have thought of you every day and longed to hear
how you were getting on, and whether you lived through that dreadful
weather. Annie went with the children to Williamstown about the middle
of June; I nearly killed myself with getting them ready to go and could
see the flesh drop off my bones. George and I went to Newport on what
Mrs. Bronson called our "bridal trip," and stayed eleven days. Mr. and
Mrs. McCurdy were kindness personified. We came home and preached on
the first Sunday in July, and then went to Greenfield Hill to spend the
Fourth with Mrs. Bronson. [2] That nearly finished me, and then I went
to Williamstown on that hot Friday and was quite finished on reaching
there, to hear about the fire in Portland. Did you ever hear of anything
so dreadful? I did not know for several days but H. and C. were burnt
out of house and home; most of my other friends I knew were, and can
there be any calamity like being left naked, hungry and homeless,
everything gone forever.... But let no one say a word that has a roof
over his head. All my father's sermons were burned, the house where
most of us were born, his church, etc. Fancy New Haven stripped of its
shade-trees, and you can form some idea of the loss of Portland in
that respect. Well, I might go on talking forever, and not have said
anything. [3] The heat upset G. and we have been fighting off sickness
for a week, I getting wild with loss of sleep. We are enchanted with
Dorset. We are so near the woods and mountains that we go every day and
spend hours wandering about among them. If there is any difference, I
think this place even more beautiful than Williamstown; it suits us
better as a summer retreat, from its great seclusion. I am, that is we
are, mean enough to want to keep it as quiet and secluded as it is
now, by not letting people know how nice it is; a very few fashionably
dressed people would just spoil it for us. So keep our counsel, you dear

A few days later she writes to Mrs. Smith, then in Europe:

On the sixth, a day of fearful heat, I went to Williamstown, where I
found all the children as well as possible, but heard the news of the
Portland fire which almost killed me. All my father's manuscripts are
destroyed; we always meant to divide them among us and ought to have
done it long ago. I heard of any number of injudicious babies as taking
the inopportune day succeeding the fire to enter on the scene of
desolation; all born in tents. I am sorry my children will never see my
father's church, nor the house where I was born; but private griefs are
nothing when compared with a calamity that is so appalling and that must
send many a heart homeless and aching to the grave. I spent two weeks at
Williamstown, when George came for me, and the weather cooling off, we
had a comfortable journey here. We are perfectly delighted with Dorset;
the sweet seclusion is most soothing, and the house is very pleasant.
Mr. and Mrs. F. are intelligent, agreeable people, and do all they can
to make us comfortable. The mountains are so near that I hear the
crows cawing in the trees. We are making pretty things and pressing an
unheard-of quantity of ferns. We go to the woods regularly every morning
and stay the whole forenoon. In the afternoon we rest, read, write,
etc.; sometimes we drive and always after tea George walks with me about
two miles. I hope the war is not impeding your movements. I suppose you
will call this a short letter, but I think it is as long as is good for
you. All my dear nine pounds gained at Newburgh have gone by the board.
_August 20th._--I am sorry you had such hot weather in Paris, but hope
it passed off as our heat did. Dr. Hamlin's two youngest daughters have
been here, and came to see me; they are both interesting girls, and the
elder of the two really brilliant. They had never been here before, and
were carried away with the beauties of their mother's birthplace. I wish
you could see my room. Every pretty thing grows here and has come to
cheer and beautify it. The woods are everywhere, and as for the views,
oh my child! However, I do not suppose anything short of Mt. Blanc will
suit you now.

In April, 1867, the parsonage on Thirty-fifth street was occupied. It
had been built more especially for her sake, and was furnished by the
generosity of her friends. Her joy in entering it was completed by a
"house-warming," at the close of which a passage of Scripture was read
by Prof. Smith, "All hail the power of Jesus's name" sung, and then the
blessing of Heaven invoked upon the new home by that holy man of God,
Dr. Thomas H. Skinner. Here she passed the next six years of her life.
Here she wrote the larger portion of "Stepping Heavenward." And here the
cup of her domestic joy, and of joy in her God and Saviour often ran
over. Here, too, some of her dearest Christian friendships were formed
and enjoyed.

The summer of 1867 was passed at Dorset. In less than a month of it
she wrote one of her best children's books, _Little Lou's Sayings and
Doings_; and much of the remainder was spent in discussing with her
husband the project of building a cottage of their own. In a letter to
her cousin, Miss Shipman, dated Sept. 21, she writes:

We have had our heads full all summer, of building a little cottage
here. We are having a plan made, and have about fixed on a lot. We are
rather tired of boarding; George hates it, and Dorset suits us as well,
I presume, as any village would. It is a lovely spot, and the people
are as intelligent as in other parts of New England. The Professor is
disappointed at our choosing this rather than Williamstown, but it would
be no rest to us to go there. We have not decided to build; it may turn
out too expensive; but we have taken lots of comfort in talking about
it. We have been on several excursions, one of them to the top of
Equinox. It is a hard trip, fully six miles walking and climbing. I have
amused myself with writing some little books of the Susy sort: four in
less than a month, A.'s sickness taking a good piece of time out of that
period. They are to appear, or a part of them, in the Riverside next
winter, and then to be issued in book-form by Hurd and Houghton. This
will a good deal more than furnish our cottage and what trees and shrubs
we want, so that I feel justified in undertaking that expense. We had
two weeks at Newport before we came here, and Mr. and Mrs. McCurdy
overwhelmed us with kindness, paying our traveling expenses, etc., and
keeping up one steady stream of such favors the whole time. I never
saw such people. How delightful it must be to be able to express such
benevolence! Well; you and I can be faithful in that which is least, at
any rate.

We have all had plenty to read all summer, and have sat out of doors
and read a good deal. I am going now to carry a little wreath to a
missionary's wife who is spending the summer here; a nice little woman;
this will give me a three miles walk and about use up the rest of the
forenoon. In the afternoon I have promised to go to the woods with the
children, all of whom are as brown as Indians. My room is all aflame
with two great trees of maple; I never saw such a beautiful velvety
color as they have. We have just had a very pleasant excursion to a
mountain called Haystack, and ate our dinner sitting round in the grass
in view of a splendid prospect.... I have thus given you the history of
our summer, as far as its history can be written. Its ecstatic joys have
not been wanting, nor its hours of shame and confusion of face; but
these are things that can not be described. What a mystery life is, and
how we go up and down, glad to-day and sorrowful to-morrow! I took real
solid comfort thinking of you and praying for you this morning. I love
you dearly and always shall. Good-bye, dear child.

The "four little books" afford a good illustration of the ease and
rapidity with which she composed. When once she had fixed upon a
subject, her pen almost flew over the paper. Scarcely ever did she
hesitate for a thought or for the right words to express it. Her
manuscript rarely showed an erasure or any change whatever. She
generally wrote on a portfolio, holding it upon her knees. Her pen
seemed to be a veritable part of herself; and the instant it began to
move, her face glowed with eager and pleasurable feeling. "A kitten
(she wrote to a maiden friend) a kitten without a tail to play with,
a mariner without a compass, a bird without wings, a woman without a
husband (and fifty-five at that!) furnish faint images of the desolation
of my heart without a pen." But although she wrote very fast, she never
began to write without careful study and premeditation when her subject
required it.

About this time _The Little Preacher_ appeared. The scene of the story
is laid in the Black Forest. Before writing it she spent a good deal of
time in the Astor Library, reading about peasant life in Germany. In a
letter from a literary friend this little work is thus referred to:

I want to tell you what a German gentleman said to me the other day
about your "Little Preacher." He was talking with me of German peasant
life, and inquired if I had read your charming story. He was delighted
to find I knew you, and exclaimed enthusiastically: "I wish I knew her!
I would so like to thank her for her perfect picture. It is a miracle of
genius," he added, "to be able thus to portray the life of a _foreign_
people." He is very intelligent, and so I know you will be pleased with
his appreciation of your book. He said if he were not so poor, he would
buy a whole edition of the "Little Preacher" to give to his friends.

During the autumn of this year her sister-in-law, Mrs. Edward Payson,
died after a lingering, painful illness. The following letter, dated
October 28, was written to her shortly before her departure:

I have been so engrossed with sympathy for Edward and your children,
that I have but just begun to realise that you are about entering on a
state of felicity which ought, for the time, to make me forget them.
Dear Nelly, _I congratulate you with all my heart._ Do not let the
thought of what those who love you must suffer in your loss, diminish
the peace and joy with which God now calls you to think only of Himself
and the home He has prepared for you. Try to leave them to His kind,
tender care. He loves them better than you do; He can be to them more
than you have been; He will hear your prayers and all the prayers
offered for them, and as one whom his mother comforteth, so will He
comfort them. We, who shall be left here without you, can not conceive
the joys on which you are to enter, but we know enough to go with you to
the very gates of the city, longing to enter in with you to go no more
out. All your tears will soon be wiped away; you will see the King in
His beauty; you will see Christ your Redeemer and realise all He is and
all He has done for you; and how many saints whom you have loved on
earth will be standing ready to seize you by the hand and welcome you
among them! As I think of these things my soul is in haste to be gone;
I long to be set free from sin and self and to go to the fellowship
of those who have done with them forever, and are perfect and entire,
wanting nothing. Dear Nelly, I pray that you may have as easy a journey
homeward as your Father's love and compassion can make for you; but
these sufferings at the worst can not last long, and they are only the
messengers sent to loosen your last tie on earth, and conduct you to the
sweetest rest. But I dare not write more lest I weary your poor worn
frame with words. May the very God of peace be with you every moment,
even unto the end, and keep your heart and mind stayed upon Him!

Mrs. Payson had been an intimate friend of her childhood, and was
endeared to her by uncommon loveliness and excellence of character. The
bereaved husband, with his little boy, passed a portion of the ensuing
winter at the parsonage in New York. There was something about the
child, a sweetness and a clinging, almost wild, devotion to his father,
which, together with his motherless state, touched his aunt to the quick
and called forth her tenderest love. Many a page of Stepping Heavenward
was written with this child in her arms; and perhaps that is one secret
of its power. When, not very long afterwards, he went to his mother,
Mrs. Prentiss wrote to the father:

Only this morning I was trying to invent some way of framing my little
picture of Francis, so as to see it every day before my eyes. And now
this evening's mail brings your letter, and I am trying to believe what
it says is true. If grief and pain could comfort you, you would be
comforted; we all loved Francis, and A. has always said he was too
lovely to live. How are you going to bear this new blow? My heart aches
as it asks the question, aches and trembles for you. But perhaps you
loved him so, that you will come to be willing to have him in his dear
mother's safe keeping; will bear your own pain in future because through
your anguish your lamb is sheltered forever, to know no more pain, to
suffer no more for lack of womanly care, and is already developing into
the rare character which made him so precious to you. Oh do try to
rejoice for him while you can not but mourn for yourself. At the longest
you will not have long to suffer; we are a short-lived race.

But while I write I feel that I want some one to speak a comforting word
to me; I too am bereaved in the death of this precious child, and my
sympathy for you is in itself a pang. Dear little lamb! I can not
realise that I shall never see that sweet face again in this world; but
I shall see it in heaven. God bless and comfort you, my dear afflicted
brother. I dare not weary you with words which all seem a mockery; I can
only assure you of my tenderest love and sympathy, and that we all feel
with and for you as only those can who know what this child was to you.
I am going to bed with an aching heart, praying that light may spring
out of this darkness. Give love from us all to Ned and Will. Perhaps Ned
will kindly write me if you feel that you can not, and tell me all about
the dear child's illness.

* * * * *


Last Visit from Mrs. Stearns. Visits to old Friends at Newport and
Rochester. Letters. Goes to Dorset. _Fred and Maria and Me_. Letters.

The life of a pastor's wife is passed in the midst of mingled gladness
and sorrow. While somebody is always rejoicing, somebody, too, is always
sick or dying, or else weeping. How often she goes with her husband from
the wedding to the funeral, or hurries with him from the funeral to the
wedding. And then, perhaps, in her own family circle the same process
is repeated. The year 1868 was marked for Mrs. Prentiss in an unusual
degree by the sorrowful experience. The latter part of May Mrs. Stearns,
then suffering from an exhausting disease, came to New York and spent
several weeks in hopes of finding some relief from change of scene. But
her case grew more alarming; she passed the summer at Cornwall on the
Hudson in great pain and feebleness, and was then carried home to lie
down on her dying bed.

_To Mrs. Stearns, Newport, July 7, 1868._

We had a dreadful time getting here; I did not sleep a wink; there
were 1,250 passengers on board, almost piled on each other, and such
screaming of babies it would be hard to equal. There are lots of people
here we know; ever so many stopped to speak to us after church. We are
in the midst of a perfect world of show and glitter. But how many empty
hearts drive up and down in this gay procession of wealth and fashion!

I shall think of you a good deal to-day, as setting forth on your
journey and reaching your new home. I do hope you will find it
refreshing to go up the river, and that your rooms will be pleasant and
airy. We shall be anxious to hear all about it.

It is a constant lesson to be with Mrs. McCurdy. I think she is a true
Christian in all her views of life and death. Her sweet patience,
cheerfulness and contentment are a continual reproof to me. Here she
is so lame that she can go nowhere--a lameness of over twenty
years--restricted to the plainest food, liable to die at any moment, yet
the very happiest, sunniest creature I ever saw. She says, with tears,
that God has been _too good_ to her and given her too much; that
she sometimes fears He does not love her because He gives her such
prosperity. I reminded her of the four lovely children she had lost.
"Yes," she says, "but how many lovely ones I have left!" She says that
the long hours she has to spend alone, on account of her physical
infirmities, are never lonely or sad; she sings hymns and thinks over to
herself all the pleasures she has enjoyed in the past, in her husband
and children and devoted servants. She goes up to bed singing, and I
hear her singing while she dresses. She said, the other day, that at
her funeral she hoped the only services would be prayers and hymns of
praise. I think this very remarkable from one who enjoys life as she
does. [4]

_To the Same, Newport, July 20._

George and I went to Rochester, taking M. with us, last Wednesday and
got back Friday night. We had one of those visits that make a mark in
one's life; seeing Mr. and Mrs. Leonard, and Mrs. Randall, and Miss
Deborah, [5] so fond of us, and all together we were stirred up as we
rarely are, and refreshed beyond description. We rowed on Mr. Leonard's
beautiful, nameless lake, fished, gathered water-lilies, ate black
Hamburg grapes and broiled chickens, and wished you had them in our
place. Mr. L.'s mother is a sweet, calm old lady, with whom I wanted to
have a talk about Christian perfection, in which she believes; but there
was no time. It was a great rest to unbend the bow strung so high here
at Newport, where there is so much of receiving and paying visits. I
have been reading a delightful French book, the history of a saintly
Catholic family of great talent and culture, six of whom, in the course
of seven years, died the most beautiful, happy deaths. I am going to
make an abstract of it, for I want everybody I love to get the cream of
it. You would enjoy it; I do not know whether it has been translated.

_To the Same, Dorset, July 26._

Here begins my first letter to you from your old room, whence I hope to
write you regularly every week. That is the one only little thing I can
do to show how truly and constantly I sympathise with you in your sore
straits. It distresses me to hear how much you are suffering, and at the
same time not to be near enough to speak a word of good cheer, or to do
anything for your comfort. It grieves me to find how insecure my health
is, for I had promised to myself to be your loving nurse, should any
turn in your disease make it desirable. Miss Lyman boards here, but
rooms at the Sykes', and her friend Miss Warner is also here, but rooms
out. Miss W. is in delicate health, takes no tea or coffee, and is full
of humor. We have run at and run upon each other, each trying to get
the measure of the other, and shall probably end in becoming very good

It is a splendid day, and we feel perfectly at home, only missing you
and finding it queer to be occupying your room. What a nice room it is!
How I wish you were sitting here with me behind the shade of these maple
trees, and that I could know from your own lips just how you are in body
and mind. But I suppose the weary, aching body has the soul pretty well
enchained. Never mind, dear, it won't be so always; by and by the tables
will be turned, and you will be the conqueror. I like to think that far
less than a hundred years hence we shall all be free from the law of sin
and death, and happier in one moment of our new existence, than through
a whole life-time here. Rest must and will come, sooner or later, to you
and to me and to all of us, and it will be glorious. You may have seen a
notice of the death of Prof. Hopkins' mother at the age of ninety-five.
But for this terribly hot weather, I presume she might have lived to be
one hundred.

I shall not write you such a long letter again, as it will tire you, and
if you would rather have two short ones a week, I will do that. Let me
know if I tire you. Now good-bye, dear child; may God bless and keep you
and give you all the faith and patience you need.

_To Miss Mary B. Shipman, Dorset, Aug. 2, 1868._

We spent rather more than two weeks at Newport, taking two or three days
to run to Rochester, Mass., to see some of our old New Bedford friends.
We had a charming time with them, as they took us up just where they
left us nearly twenty years ago. Oh, how our tongues did fly! We left
Newport for home on Tuesday night about two weeks ago. I went on board
and went to bed as well as usual, tossed and turned a few hours, grew
faint and began to be sick, as I always am now if I lose my sleep; got
out of bed and could not get back again, and so lay on the floor all
the rest of the night without a pillow, or anything over me and nearly
frozen. The boys were asleep, and anyhow it never crossed my mind to let
them call George, who was in another state-room. He says that when he
came in, in the morning, I looked as if I had been ill six months, and I
am sure I felt so. Imagine the family picture we presented driving from
the boat all the way home, George rubbing me with cologne, A. fanning
me, the rest crying! On Saturday more dead than alive I started for this
place, and by stopping at Troy four or five hours, getting a room and a
bed, I got here without much damage.

Our house is very pretty, and I suppose it will be done by next year.
Oh, how they do poke! George is so happy in watching it, and in working
in his woods, that I am perfectly delighted that he has undertaken this
project. It may add years to his life. Imagine my surprise at receiving
from Scribner a check for one hundred and sixty-four dollars for six
months of Fred and Maria and Me. The little thing has done well, hasn't
it? I feel now as if I should never write, any more; letter-writing is
only talking and is an amusement, but book-writing looks formidable.
Excuse this horrid letter, and write and let me know how you are.
Meanwhile collect grasses, dip them in hot water, and sift flour over
them. Good-bye, dear.

_Fred and Maria and Me_ first appeared anonymously in the Hours at Home,
in 1865. It had been written several years before, and, without the
knowledge of Mrs. Prentiss, was offered by a friend to whom she had
lent the manuscript, to the Atlantic Monthly and to one or two other
magazines, but they all declined it. She herself thus refers to it in
a letter to Mrs. Smith, July 13: "I have just got hold of the Hours at
Home. I read my article and was disgusted with it. My pride fell below
zero, and I wish it would stay there." But the story attracted instant
attention. "Aunt Avery" was especially admired, as depicting a very
quaint and interesting type of New England religious character in the
earlier half of the century. Such men as the late Dr. Horace Bushnell
and Dr. William Adams were unstinted in their praise. In a letter to
Mrs. Smith, dated a few months later, Mrs. Prentiss writes: "Poor old
Aunt Avery! She doesn't know what to make of it that folks make so much
of her, and has to keep wiping her spectacles. I feel entirely indebted
to you for this thing ever seeing the light." When published as a book,
_Fred and Maria and Me_ was received with great favor, and had a wide
circulation. In 1874 a German translation appeared. [6] Although no
attempt is made to reproduce the Yankee idioms, much of the peculiar
spirit and flavor of the original is preserved in this version.

_To Mrs. H. B. Smith, Dorset, August 4, 1868._

Miss Lyman says I have no idea of what Miss W. really is; she looks as
if she would drop to pieces, can not drive out, far less walk, and every
word she speaks costs her an effort. Miss Lyman is not well either; and
what with their health and mine, and A.'s, I see little of them. But
what I do see is delightful, and I feel it to be a real privilege to get
what scraps of their society I can. Our house proves to be far prettier
and more tasteful than I supposed. I am writing up lots of letters, and
if I ever get well enough, shall try to begin on my Katy once more. But
since reading the Recit d'une Soeur, I am disgusted with myself and my
writings. I ache to have you read it. Miss Lyman and Miss Warner send
love to you. I do not like Miss L.'s hacking cough, and she says she
does not believe Miss W. will live through the winter. Among us we
contrive to keep up a vast amount of laughter; so we shall probably live

_August 18th._--I have enjoyed Miss Lyman wonderfully, but want to
get nearer to her. I see that she is one who does not find it easy to
express her deepest and most sacred feelings. I read Katy to her and
Miss W., as they were kind enough to propose I should, and they made
some valuable suggestions to which I shall attend if I ever get to
feeling able to begin to write again. I am as well as ever save in one
respect, and that is my sleep; I do not sleep as I did before I left
home, while I ought to sleep better, as I work several hours a day in
the woods, in fact do almost literally nothing else.... But after all,
we are having the nicest time in the world. I have not seen George so
like himself for many years; he lives out of doors, pulls down fences,
picks up brushwood, and keeps happy and well. I feel it a real mercy
that his thoughts are agreeably occupied this summer, as otherwise he
would be incessantly worried about Anna. We work together a good deal;
this morning I spoiled a new hatchet in cutting down milkweed where our
kitchen garden is to be and we are literally raising our Ebenezer, which
we mean to conceal with vines in due season. George is just as proud of
our woods as if he created every tree himself. The minute breakfast is
over the boys dart down to the house like arrows from the bow, and there
they are till dinner, after which there is another dart and it is as
much as I can do to get them to bed; I wonder they don't sleep down
there on the shavings. The fact is the whole Prentiss family has got
house on the brain. There, this old letter is done, and I am going to
bed, all black and blue where I have tumbled down, and as tired as tired
can be.

_Aug. 28th._--I made a fire in MY woods yesterday, and another to-day,
when I melted glue, and worked at my rustic basket, and felt extremely
happy and amiable.

_Sept. 13th._--Miss Warner told me to-night that she thought my Katy
story commonplace at the beginning, but that she changed her mind
afterward. Of course I wrote a story about that marigold of G----
W----'s and I am dying to inflict it on you. Then if you like it,

_To Miss Woolsey, Dorset, Aug. 13, 1868._

I was right glad to get your letter yesterday, and to learn a little
of your whereabouts and whatabouts. You may imagine "him" as seated,
spectacles on nose, reading The Nation at one end of the table, and
"her" as established at the other. This table is homely, but has a
literary look, got up to give an air to our room; books and papers are
artistically scattered over it; we have two bottles of ink apiece, and a
box of stamps, a paper cutter and a pen-wiper between us. Two inevitable
vases containing ferns, grasses, buttercups, etc., remind us that we are
in the country, and a "natural bracket" regales our august noses with
an odor of its own. A can of peaches without any peaches in it, holds
a specimen of lycopodium, and a marvelous lantern that folds up into
nothing by day and grows big at night, brings up the rear. But the most
wonderful article in this room is a bookcase made by "him," all himself,
in which may be seen a big volume of Fenelon, Taylor's Holy Living and
Dying, the Recit d'une Soeur, which have you read? Les Soirees de Saint
Petersbourg, Prayers of the Ages, a volume of Goethe, Aristotle's Ethics
and some other Greek books; the Life of Mrs. Fry, etc. etc. Such a queer
hodge-podge of books as we brought with us, and such a book-case! The
first thing "he" ever made for "her" in his mortal life.

Our house isn't done, and what fun to watch it grow, to discuss its
merits and demerits, to grab every check that comes in from magazine and
elsewhere, and turn it into chairs and tables and beds and blankets!
Then for "them boys," what treasures in the way of bits of boards, and
what feats of climbing and leaping! Above all, think of "him" in an old
banged-in hat, and "her" in a patched old gown, gathering brushwood in
their woods, making it up into heaps, and warming themselves by the
fires it is agoing for to make.

"Stick after stick did Goody pull!"

Mr. P. is unusually well. His house is the apple of his eye, and he is
renewing his youth. Thus far the project has done him a world of good.

_To Mrs. Stearns, Dorset, September 13, 1863._

Yesterday Mr. F. and George drove somewhere to look at sand for mortar,
and the horse took fright and wheeled round and pitched George out,
bruising him in several places, but doing no serious harm. But I shudder
when I think how the meaning might be taken out of everything in this
world, for me, at least, by such an accident. He preached all day
to-day; in the afternoon at Rupert. I find my mission-school a good deal
of a tax on time and strength, and it is discouraging business, too. One
of the boys, fourteen years old, found the idea that God loved him so
irresistibly ludicrous, that his face was a perfect study. I often think
of you as these "active limbs of mine" take me over woods and fields,
and remind myself that the supreme happiness of my father's life came to
him when he called himself what you call yourself--a cripple. If it is
not an expensive book, I think you had better buy A Sister's Story, of
which I wrote to you, as it would be a nice Sunday book to last some
time; the Catholicism you would not mind, and the cultivated, high-toned
Christian character you would enjoy.

The boys complain, as George and I do, that the days are not half long
enough. They have got their bedsteads and washstands done, and are now
going to make couches for George and myself, and an indefinite number of
other articles.

_Sept. 20th._--I am greatly relieved, my dear Anna, to hear that you
have got safely into your new home, and that you like it, and long to
see you face to face. George has no doubt told you what a happy summer
we have had. It has not been unmingled happiness--that is not to be
found in this world--but in many ways it has been pleasant in spite of
what infirmities of the flesh we carry with us everywhere, our anxiety
about and sympathy with you, and the other cares and solicitudes that
are inseparable from humanity. I had a great deal of comfort in seeing

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