Part 12 out of 13
In 1842 his yearning for affection was satisfied by his marriage to Miss
Mary Jane Williams, of Natchez; and henceforth his life was full of the
sweetest domestic peace and joy. From the moment of first leaving home
he had carried on a constant correspondence with his mother, sisters,
and brothers, in the North; and he kept it up while he lived. He took a
special interest in the education of his youngest brother, and at one
time had planned to join him in Germany for purposes of study and
travel. All the later years of his life were years of unwearied toil and
In 1845 a case involving the validity of his title to the "Commons"
property, was decided against him in the Supreme Court of the United
States; thus wresting from him at a blow that property and the costly
buildings which he had erected upon it. In consequence of this
misfortune and of his abhorrence of repudiation, which, in spite of his
determined opposition, had, unhappily, been foisted upon his adopted
State, he removed to New Orleans in 1846. Here, notwithstanding that he
had to master a new system of law, he at once took his natural position
as a leader of the bar; and but for failing health, would no doubt have
in the end repaired his shattered fortunes and made himself a still
more brilliant name among the remarkable men of the country. He died at
Natchez, July 1, 1850, in the forty-second year of his age, universally
beloved and lamented. He left a wife and four young children, three of
whom still survive.
Mr. Prentiss was a natural orator. Even as a boy he attracted
everybody's attention by the readiness and charm of his speech. But all
this would have contributed little toward giving him his marvellous
power over the popular mind and heart, had he not added to the rare
gifts of nature the most diligent culture, a deep study of life and
character, and a wonderful knowledge of books. The whole treasury of
general literature--more especially of English poetry and fiction--was
at his command; Shakespeare, Milton, and Byron he almost knew by heart;
with the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, and Sir Walter Scott, he seemed
to be equally familiar; and from all these sources he drew endless
illustrations in aid of his argument, whether it was addressed to a
jury, to a judge, to the people, or to the legislative assembly. When,
for example, he undertook to show the wrongfulness of Mississippi
repudiation, he would refer to Wordsworth as "a poet and philosopher,
whose good opinion was capable of adding weight even to the character of
a nation," and then expatiate, with the enthusiasm of a scholar, upon
the noble office of such men in human society. He had corresponded with
Mr. Wordsworth and knew that members of his family had suffered heavily
from the dishonesty of the State; and perhaps no passages in his great
speeches against repudiation were more effective than those in which he
thus brought his fine literary taste and feeling to the support of the
claims of public honesty. This feature of his oratory, together with the
large ethical element which entered into it, was, no doubt, a principal
source of its extraordinary power. It would be hard to say in what
department of oratory he most excelled. On this point the following is
the testimony of Henry Clay, himself a great orator as well as a great
statesman, and one of Mr. P.'s most devoted and admiring friends:
Mr. Prentiss was distinguished, as a public speaker, by a rich, chaste,
and boundless imagination, the exhaustless resources of which, in
beautiful language and happy illustrations, he brought to the aid of a
logical power, which he wielded to a very great extent. Always ready and
prompt, his conceptions seemed to me almost intuitive. His voice was
fine, softened, and, I think, improved, by a slight lisp, which an
attentive observer could discern. The great theatres of eloquence and
public speaking in the United States are the legislative hall, the
forum, and the stump, without adverting to the pulpit. I have known some
of my contemporaries eminently successful on one of these theatres,
without being able to exhibit any remarkable ability on the others. Mr.
Prentiss was brilliant and successful on them all.
Of the attractions of his personal and social character the testimonies
are very striking. Judge Bullard, in a eulogy pronounced before the bar
of New Orleans, thus refers to his own experience:
What can I say of the noble qualities of his heart? Who can describe
the charms of his conversation? Old as I am, his society was one of my
greatest pleasures--I became a boy again. His conversation resembled
the ever-varying clouds that cluster round the setting sun of a summer
evening--their edges fringed with gold, and the noiseless and harmless
flashes of lightning spreading, from time to time, over their dark
In a similar strain Gov. J. J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, wrote of him
shortly after his death:
It was impossible to know him without feeling for him admiration and
love. His genius, so rich and rare; his heart, so warm, generous, and
magnanimous; and his manners, so graceful and genial, could not fail to
impress these sentiments upon all who approached him. Eloquence was a
part of his nature, and over his private conversations as well as his
public speeches it scattered its sparkling jewels with more than royal
* * * * *
Here are the first stanzas of some of her favorite German hymns,
referred to in this letter:
Jesus, Jesus, nichts als Jesus
Soll mein Wunsch sein und mein Ziel;
Jetzund mach ich ein Verbuendniss,
Dass ich will, was Jesus will;
Denn mein Herz, mit ihm erfuellt,
Rufet nur; Herr, wie du willt.
_Written by Elizabeth, Countess of Schwartzburg_, 1640-1672.
Gott ist gegenwaertig! Lasset uns anbeten,
Und in Erfurcht vor ihn treten;
Gott ist in der mitten! Alles in uns schweige
Und sich innig vor ihm beuge;
Wer ihn kennt, wer ihn nennt,
Schlagt die Augen nieder,
Kommt, ergebt euch wieder.
_By Gerhard Tersteegen_, 1697-1769.
Zum Ernst, zum Ernst ruft Jesu Geist inwendig;
Zum Ernst ruft auch die Stimme seiner Braut;
Getreu und ganz, und bis zum Tod bestaendig.
Ein reines Herz allein den reinen schaut.
_By the Same_.
Wir singen dir, Immanuel,
Du Lebensfuerst und Gnadenquell,
Du Himmelsblum und Morgenstern,
Du Jungfrausohn, Herr aller Herrn.
_Paul Gerhard_, 1606-1676.
Such, wer da will, ein ander Ziel
Die Seligkeit zu finden,
Mein Herz allein bedacht soll sein
Auf Christum sich zu gruenden:
Sein Wort ist wahr, sein Werk ist klar,
Sein heilger Mund hat Kraft und Grund,
All Feind zue ueberwinden.
_George Weissel_, 1590-1635.
Gott, mein einziges Vertrauen,
Gott, du meine Zuversicht,
Deine Augen zu mir schauen,
Deine Huelf versage mir nicht;
Lass mich nicht vergeblich schreien,
Sondern hoer und lass gedeihen;
So will ich, Gott, halten still,
Gott, dein Will ist auch mein Will.
_Elizabeth Eleonore, Duchess of Sax-Meiningen_, 1658-1729.
O Durchbrecher aller Bande,
Der du immer bei uns bist,
Bei dem Shaden, Spott und Schande
Lauter Lust und Himmel ist,
Uebe femer dein Gerichte
Wider unsern Adamssinn,
Bis dein treues Angesichte
Uns fuehrt aus dem Kerken hin.
_Gotter. Arnold_, 1666-1714.
* * * * *
HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE.
--John iii. 30.
O Jesus Christus, ivachs in mir,
Und alles andre schwinde!
Mein Herz sei taeglich naeher dir,
Und ferner von der Suende.
Lass taeglich deine Huld und Macht
Um meine Schwachheit schweben!
Dein Licht verschlinge meine Nacht,
Und meinen Tod dein Leben!
Beim Sonnenstrahle deines Lichts
Lass jeden Wahn verschwinden!
Dein Alles, Christus, und mein nichts,
Lass taeglich mich empfinden.
Sei nahe mir, werf ich mich hin,
Wein ich vor dir in stillen;
Dein reiner gottgelassner Sinn
Beherrsche meinen Willen.
Blick immer herrlicher aus mir
Voll Weisheit Huld und Freude,
Ich sei ein lebend Bild von dir
Im Gluck, und wenn ich leide.
Mach alles in mir froh und gut,
Dass stets ich minder fehle;
Herr, deiner Menschen-Liebe Glut
Durchgluehe meine Seele.
Es weiche Stolz, und Traegheit weich;
Und jeder Leichtsinn fliehe,
Wenn, Herr, nach dir und deinem Reich
Ich redlich mich bemuehe.
Mein eignes, eitles, leeres Ich
Sei jeden Tag geringer.
O rd ich jeden Tag durch dich
Dein wuerdigerer Junger.
Von dir erfuellter jeden Tag
Und jeden von mir leerer!
O du, der uber Flehn vermag,
Sei meines Flehns erhoerer!
Der Glaub an dich und deine Kraft
Sei Trieb von jedem Triebe!
Sei du nur meine Leidenschaft,
Du meine Freud und Liebe!
* * * * *
A few extracts from the little diaries referred to are here given:
_May 15, 1857._--Box came from Mrs. Bumstead--my dear, kind friend--
containing _everything_; salmon, tomatoes, oranges, peaches, prunes,
cocoa and ham, tea and sugar from her father. How pleasant the
kindness of friends! _21st._--Worked at planting aster seeds and putting
in verbena cuttings--all in my room, of course. _23d._--First hepaticas
in garden. Sweet peas coming up. Brownie hatched--_one_ chicken. _June
1st._--Books from dear Lizzy. "Sickness," may it do me good. 
_28th._--Sent flowers to the B.'s, flowers and strawberries to Mrs. N.,
green peas to E. M., and trout to Mother Hopkins. _July 2d._--Continue
to send strawberries--yesterday to the B.'s--to-day to A. B. and Miss
G., with rosebuds.
_Oct. 11th._--A beautiful autumn day. Could not leave my bed till near
noon. Then Albert drove me down the lane and carried me into the woods
in his arms. Eddy has collected $30 for Kansas.  _25th._--My whole
time, night and day, is spent in setting traps for sleep. To-day
the money was sent for Kansas--$55, of which $9 was from us. _Nov.
4th._--Election day. Great excitement. _5th._--Wretched news; it is
feared that Buchanan is elected. _Nov. 17th._--The anniversary of my
dear mother's death. My own can not be far distant. _I earnestly entreat
that none of my friends will wear mourning for me_.
_January 1, 1858._--Outwardly all looks dark--health at the
lowest--brain irritated and suffering inexpressibly--but _underneath
all_, thank God, some patience, some resignation, some quiet trust. If
it were not for wearing out my friends! But this care, too, I must learn
to cast on Him.
_5th._--Albert is reading Miss Bronte's Life to me, and oh, how many
chords vibrate deep in my soul as I hear of her _shyness_; her dread
of coming in contact with others; her morbid sensitiveness and intense
suffering from lowness of spirits; her thirst for knowledge, her
consciousness of personal defects, etc., etc., etc.
_9th._--Storms to-day "like mad." Present from Julia Willis. Each day
seems a week long, but let me be thankful that I have a chair to sit in,
limbs free from palsy, books of all sorts to be read, and kind friends
to read. Oh, yes; let me be _thankful_. A. brought "School-days at
Rugby." _22d._--Eddy began to wear his coat! A. read to me Tom Brown's
"School-days." _23d._--LOVE is the word that fills my horizon to-day.
God is Love; I must be like Him. _Feb. 3d._--How lovely seem the
words DUTY and KIGHT! How I long to be spotless--all pure within and
without!... Albert read from Adolph Monod. What a precious book!
_23d._--To-morrow I shall be forty-six years old. If I said one hundred
I should believe it as well. _24th._--My birthday.... I feel disposed to
take as my motto for this year, "I will hope continually, and will yet
praise Thee _more and more_" Eddy began Virgil to-day. _27th._--Woke
with a strong impression that I am Christ's, His servant, and as such
have nothing to do for myself--no separate interest. Oh, to feel this
and _act_ upon it always. And not _only_ a servant, but a _child_; and
therefore entitled to feel an interest in the affairs of the _Family_.
Albert read from the Silent Comforter the piece called "Wearisome
Nights," which is an exact expression of my state and feelings. Long
to do some good, at least by praying for people. A note from Mrs.
C. Stoddard to my husband and myself, which was truly refreshing.
_26th._--This morning God assisted me out of great weakness to converse
and pray with my beloved child. He also prayed. I can not but entertain
a trembling hope that he is indeed a Christian. So great a mercy would
fill me with transport.
_April 6th._--"I love the Lord because He hath heard my voice and my
supplication" (Ps. cxvi. I). Albert read this psalm to me nearly fifteen
years ago, the morning of the day succeeding that on which God had
delivered me out of great danger and excruciating sufferings and had
given us a _living child_. Our hearts swelled with thankfulness then;
now we have received our child a second time--anew _gift_. _June
8th._--A.'s holiday. First strawberry! and first rose! (cinnamon).
_July 3d._--Oh, my dear, dear sister Lizzy! Shall I never see you again
in this world? I fancied I was familiar with the thought and reconciled
to it, but now it agonizes me. 
_Dec. 26th._--I do long to submit to--no, to accept joyfully--the will
of God in everything; to see only Love in every trial. But to be made a
whip in His hand with which to scourge others--I, who so passionately
desire to give pleasure, to give only pain--I, who so hate to cause
suffering, to inflict nothing else on my best friends--oh, this is
_hard_!... I write by feeling with eyes closed. It is midnight; and, as
usual, I am and have been sleepless. I am full of tossings to and fro
until the dawn. All temporal blessings seem to be expressed by one
word--_Sleep_.... Disease is advancing with rapid strides; many symptoms
of paralysis; that or insanity certain, unless God in mercy to myself
and my friends takes me home first.
_31st._--"Here then to Thee Thine own I leave--
Mould as Thou wilt Thy passive clay;
But let me all Thy stamp receive,
But let me all Thy words obey.
Serve with a single heart and eye,
And to Thy glory live or die."
_Jan. 26, 1859._--Cars ran through from Adams to Troy _first time_.
Eddy studying Greek, Latin, etc., at school; Geology at home. _Feb.
3d._--Much of the day in intense bodily anguish, but have had lately
more of Christ in my heart. Albert is reading me a precious sermon by
Huntingdon on "a life hid with Christ in God." Oh, to learn more of
Christ and His love! _5th._--O God, who art _rich_ in mercy, if Thou
art looking for some creature on whom to bestow it, behold the poorest,
neediest, emptiest of all Thou hast made, and _satisfy_ me with Thy
mercy. _Sunday, 6th._--How thankful I am for the many good books I have!
and oh, how I stand _amazed_ at the faith and patience of God's dear
children (Mrs. Coutts, _e.g._), to _read_ of whose sufferings makes
my heart bleed and almost murmur on their account. _March 17th._--"So
foolish was I and ignorant, I was as a _beast_ before Thee." Oh, howr it
comforts me that there is such a verse in the Bible as this! It comes
_near_ describing my folly, stupidity, ignorance, and blindness....
Quite overcome to-day by a most unexpected favor from my dear friends
the Jameses,  who I thought had forgotten me. _April 12th._--My love
to my dear, dear sister. I shall never see her, never write to her, but
we will spend eternity together.
_Dec 1st._--Albert opened the _piano_, and, for the first time in _six
years_, I touched it. Beautiful flower-pictures from Lizzy. 
_Sunday, Jan._ 1, 1860.--"Out of weakness were made strong." This is
the verse which has been given me as a motto for the year. May it be
fulfilled in my experience! But should it not be so to my apprehension,
may I be able to say, "Most gladly, therefore, will I glory in my
infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
_March 26th._--For several days I have been led to pray that the
indwelling Spirit may indite my petitions. To-day He leads me to pray
for the annihilation of self. My whole soul cries out for this--to
forget my own sorrows, wants, sins even, and lose myself in Christ.... O
precious Saviour, let me see Thee; let me behold Thy beauty; let me hear
Thy voice; let me wash Thy feet with tears; let me gaze on Thee forever.
_March 31st._--A remarkable day. 1st. Weather like Indian summer. 2d.
After a very poor night, expecting to spend the day in bed, I was so
strengthened as to ride up to the mountain with Albert and to enjoy
seeing the mosses. In the P.M. rode again with Eddy.
_June 30th._--For years I have been constantly fearing insanity or
palsy. Now I hear of Mrs. ---- struck with paralysis and my dear friend
---- with mental alienation, while I am spared.
_June 27th._--Let a person take a delicately-strung musical instrument
and strike blows on it with a hammer till nearly every string is broken
and the whole instrument trembles and shrieks under the infliction--that
is what has been done to me. Words are entirely inadequate to paint what
_June 30th._--Another great mercy. A letter from N. P. W.  Under date
of June 4th, I wrote, "May God bless," etc., and God has blessed him.
Oh, praise, praise to Him who hears even before we ask.
_April 26, 1861._--"Hangs my helpless soul on Thee." Oh, how many
thousand times do I repeat this line during the sleepless hours of my
As the year advanced, the entries became fewer and fewer; some of
them, by reason of extreme weakness and suffering, having been left
unfinished. But no weakness or suffering could wholly repress her love
of Nature. Imprisoned within the same pages that record her nights
and days of anguish are exquisite bits of fern, delicate mosses,
rose-leaves, and other flowers pressed and placed there by her own hand.
But far more touching than these mementoes of her love of Nature are the
passages in this diary of her last year on earth, that express her love
to Christ and testify to His presence and supporting grace in what she
describes as "the fathomless abyss of misery" in which she was plunged.
They remind one of the tints of unearthly light and beauty that adorn
sometimes the face of a thundercloud. They are such as the following:
_June 11, 1861._--Blessed be God for comfort. I see my sins all
gone--all set down to Christ's account; and not only so, but--oh,
wonder!--all His merits transferred to me. Well may it be said, "Let us
come boldly to the throne of grace." Why not be bold with such--just
like presenting an order at a bank.
_Nov. 6th._--Come, O come, dear Lord Jesus! Come to this town, this
church, this family, and oh, come to this poor longing famished heart.
_Sunday, Nov. 10th._--A better night and some peace of mind. But O my
Saviour, support me; let not the fiery billows swallow me up! And O
let me not fail to be thankful for the mercies mingled in my cup of
suffering--a pleasant room adorned with gifts of love from absent
friends, and just now with beautiful mosses brought from the woods by my
The next entry contains directions respecting parting gifts to be sent
to her sister and other absent friends after her death. Then comes the
last entry, which is as follows:
"I need not be afraid to ask to be--first, 'holy and without blame
before Him in love'; second, 'filled with all the fullness of God';
Here her pen dropped from her hand, and a little later her wearisome
pilgrimage was over, and she entered into the saint's everlasting rest.
* * * * *
Further extracts from her literary journal:
_Tuesday, Jan. 11, 1836._--Last meeting of the class. Mr. Dana made some
remarks intended as a sort of leave-taking. He spoke of the importance
of having some fixed _principles_ of criticism. These principles should
be obtained from within--from the study of our own minds. If we try many
criticisms by this standard, we shall turn away from them dissatisfied.
Addison's criticisms on Milton are often miserable, and, where he is
right, it seems to be by a sort of accident. He constantly appeals to
the French critics as authorities. Another advantage will result from
establishing principles of judging--we shall acquire self-knowledge.
We can not ask ourselves, Is this true? does it accord with my own
consciousness? etc., without gaining an acquaintance with ourselves. And
then, in general, the more the taste is cultivated and refined, the more
we shall find to like. Critics by rule, who have one narrow standard
by which they try everything, may find much to condemn and little to
approve: but it is not so in nature, nor with those who judge after
nature. The great duty is to learn to be happy in ourselves.... I
am surprised (said Mr. Dana) to find how much my present tastes and
judgments are those of my childhood. In some respects, to be sure, I
have altered; but, in general, the authors I loved and sympathised with
then, I love and sympathise with now. When I was connected with the
North-American, I wrote a review of Hazlitt's British Poets, in which I
expressed my opinion of Pope and of Wordsworth. The sensation it excited
is inconceivable. One man said I was mad and ought to be put in a
strait-jacket. However, I did not mind it much, so long as they did not
put me in one--that, to be sure, I should not have liked very well.
Public opinion has changed since then. Many of the old _prose_ writers
are very fine. Jeremy Taylor, though I admire him exceedingly, has been,
I think, rather indiscriminately praised.... To come to the poets again,
Young should be read and thought upon. He is often antithetical, but is
a profound thinker. I was quite ashamed the other day on taking up his
works to find how many of my thoughts he had expressed better than I
could express them. I am convinced there is nothing new under the sun.
Collins has written but little, but he is a most graceful and beautiful
creature. For faithfulness of portraiture and bringing out every-day
characters, Crabbe is unrivalled in modern days. And Wordsworth--he and
Coleridge have been obliged to make minds to understand them. Who
equals Wordsworth in purity, in majesty, in tranquil contemplation, in
childlikeness? Coleridge is exerting a great influence in this country,
especially over the minds of some of the young men.
_Friday._--To-day by invitation I attended the first meeting of the new
class and heard the introductory lecture. Mr. D. began by speaking of
the object of the formation of the class. I shall adopt the first person
in writing what he said, though I do not pretend to give his words. I
have not invited you here to amuse an idle hour, or to afford you a
topic of conversation when you meet. One great design has been to
cherish in you a love of home and of solitude. Yet this is not all, for
of what advantage is it to be at home, unless home is a place for the
unfolding of warm affections? and of what use is solitude, unless it be
improved by patient thought, self-study and a communion with those great
minds who became great by thinking. But it is not merely thinking as an
operation of the intellect that is necessary; it must be affectionate
thinking; there must be heartfelt love, and this can be attained only by
a _habit_ of loving.... I would not impart sternness to the beautiful
countenance of English literature. Beautiful indeed it is, but not like
the beauty of the human face, that may be discovered by all who have
eyes to look upon it; the heart as well as the head must engage, or
as Coleridge says, _the heart in the head_. Let us not approach with
carelessness or light-mindedness. Poetry requires a peculiar state of
mind, a peculiar combination of mental and moral qualifications to be
feelingly apprehended. But there--I will not write a word more. It is
a shame to spoil anything so beautiful. Poor Mr. Dana! I hope he will
never know to what he has been subjected.
_Wednesday._--Everybody has set out to invite me to visit them. I made
two visits last evening, one to Mrs. Robinson, where I had a fine
opportunity to settle some of my Hebrew difficulties with Prof. R., and
saw De Wette's translations of Job. This evening I am to make two more,
and to-morrow I spend the day out and receive company in the evening. So
much for dissipation, and for study.
PORTLAND, March 1, 1836.
I believe there is scarcely any branch of knowledge in which I am so
deficient as history, both ecclesiastical and profane. I have never been
much interested _facts_, considered simply as facts, and that is about
all that is to be found in most historical works. The relations of facts
to each other and of all to reason, in other words, the philosophy of
history, are not often to be found in books, and I have not hitherto
been able to supply the want from my own mind. _April 16, 1836._--If my
bump of combativeness does not grow it won't be for want of exercise.
I have had another dispute of two hours' length to-day with another
person. Subjects, Cousin--Locke--innate ideas--idea of space--of
_June._--My patience has been sorely tried this afternoon. I was
visiting and Coleridge was dragged in, as it seemed for the express
purpose of provoking me by abusing him--just as anybody might show off a
lunatic.... But I did not and never will dispute on such subjects with
those who seek not to know the truth.
_Feb. 6, 1837._--Why is it that our desires so infinitely transcend our
capacities? We grasp at everything--do so by the very constitution of
our natures; and seize--less than nothing. We can not rest without
perfection in _everything_, yet the labor of a life devoted to _one
thing_, only shows us how unattainable it is. I am oppressed with
gloom--oh, for light, light, light! _Feb. 20th._--Alas! my feelings of
discouragement and despondency, instead of diminishing, strengthen every
day. I have been ill for the last fortnight; and possibly physical
causes have contributed to shroud my mind in this thick darkness. Yet I
can not believe that conviction so clear, conclusions so irresistible as
those which weigh me down, are entirely the result of morbid physical
action. In order to prove that they are not, and to have the means of
judging hereafter of the rationalness of my present judgments, I will
record the grounds of my despondency. As nearly as I can recollect, the
thought which oftenest pressed itself upon me, when these feelings of
gloom began, was that I was living to no purpose. I was conscious,
not only of a conviction that I _ought_ to live to do good, but of
an _intense desire_ to do good--to _know_ that I was living to some
purpose; and I felt perfectly certain that this knowledge was essential
to my happiness. I began to wonder that I had been contented to seek
knowledge all my life for my own pleasure, or with an indefinite idea
that it might contribute in some way to my usefulness,--without any
distinct plan.... I then began to inquire what results I had of "all my
labor which I have taken under the sun" and these are my conclusions:
1. I have not that mental discipline, or that command of my own powers,
which is one of the most valuable results of properly directed study. I
can not grasp a subject at once, and view it in all its bearings.
2. I have not that self-knowledge which is another sure result of proper
study. I do not know what I am capable of, nor what I am particularly
fitted for, nor what I am most deficient in. I am forever pouring into
my own mind, and yet never find out what is there.
3d. I have no principle of arrangement or assimilation which might unite
all my scattered knowledge. Oh, how different if I had had one definite
object which, like the lens, should concentrate all the scattered rays
to one focus. I met with this remark of Sir Egerton Bridges to-day; it
applies to me exactly: "I have never met with one who seemed to have the
same overruling passion for literature as I have always had. A thousand
others have pursued it with more principle, reason, method, fixed
purpose, and effect; mine I admit to have been pure, blind, unregulated
4th. I have lost the power of thinking for myself. My memory, which was
originally good, has been so washed away by the floods of trash which
have been poured into it, that now it scarcely serves me at all.
A pleasant picture this of a mind, which ought to be in the full
maturity of its powers. And much reason have I to hope that with such an
instrument I shall leave an impress on other minds!... How I envy the
other sex! They have certain fixed paths marked out for them--regular
professions and trades--between which they may make a choice and know
what they have to do. A friend, to whom I had spoken of some of these
feelings, tried last night to convince me that they are the result of
physical derangement, and not at all the expression of a sane mind in a
sound body. I laughed at him, but have every now and then a suspicion
that he was right.
_Feb. 25th._--Last evening we had the company of some friends who are
interested in the subjects which I love most to talk about. We had a
good deal of conversation about books, authors, the laws of mind and
spirit, etc. My enthusiasm on these subjects revived; I felt a genial
glow resulting from the action of mind upon mind, and the delight of
finding sympathy in my most cherished tastes and pursuits. Whether it is
owing to this or not, I can not say; but I must confess to a new change
of mood, and, consequently, of opinion. I mean that my studies have not
only regained their former attractions in my eyes, but that it seems
unquestionably right and proper to pursue them (when they interfere with
no positive duty) as a means of expanding and strengthening the mind--
even when I can not point out the precise _use_ I expect to make of such
One of my friends tried to convince me last night that I was not
deficient in invention, because I assigned the fact that I am so, as a
reason for attempting translation rather than original writing. Several
others have labored to convince me of the same thing. Strange that they
can be so mistaken! I know that I have no fancy, from having tried to
exert it; and, as this is the lower power and implied in imagination, of
course I have none of the latter faculty. The only two things which look
like it are my enthusiasm and my relish for works of a high imaginative
_Feb. 28th._--... Oh, how transporting--how infinite will be the delight
when _all_ truth shall burst upon us as ONE beautiful and perfect
whole--each distinct ray harmonising and blending with every other, and
all together forming one mighty flood of radiance!... I can not remember
all the thoughts which have given so much pleasure this evening; I only
know that I have been very happy, and wondered not a little at my late
melancholy. I believe it must have been partly caused by looking at
myself (and that, too, as if I were a little, miserable, isolated
wretch), instead of contemplating those things which have no relation
to space and time and matter--the eternal and the infinite--or, if
I thought of myself at all, feeling that I am part of a great and
wonderful whole. It seems as if a new inner sense had been opened,
revealing to me a world of beauty and perfection that I have never
before seen. I am filled with a strange, yet sweet astonishment.
_Sept. 24, 1837._--I have been profoundly interested in the character of
Goethe, from reading Mrs. Austin's "Characteristics" of him. Certainly,
very few men have ever lived of equally wonderful powers. A thing
most remarkable in him is what the Germans call Vielseitigkeit,
many-sidedness. There was no department of science or art of which he
was wholly ignorant, while in very many of both classes his knowledge
was accurate and profound. Most men who have attained to distinguished
excellence, have done so by confining themselves to a single
department--frequently being led to the choice by a strong, original
bias. Even when this is not the case, there is some _class_ of objects
or pursuits, towards which a particular inclination is manifested;
one loves facts, and devotes himself to observations and experiments;
another loves principles and seeks everywhere to discover a _law_. One
cherishes the Ideal, and neglects and despises the Real, while
another reverses his judgment. We have become so accustomed to this
one-sidedness that it occasions no wonder, and is regarded as the
natural state of the mind. Thus we are struck with astonishment on
finding a mind like Goethe's equally at home in the Ideal and the Real;
equally interested in the laws of poetical criticism, and the theory of
colors, equally attentive to a drawing of a new species of plants, and
to the plan of a railroad or canal. In short, with the most delicate
sense of the Beautiful, the most accurate conception of the mode of its
representation, and the most intense longing for it (which alone
would have sufficed to make him an Idealist) he united a fondness for
observation, a love of the actual in nature, and a susceptibility to
deep impressions from and interest in the objects of sense, which would
have seemed to mark him out for a Realist. But is not this the
true stale of the mind, instead of being; one which should excite
astonishment? Is it not one-sidedness rather than many-sidedness that
should be regarded as strange? Is it not as much an evidence of disease
as the preponderance of one element or function in the physical
_26th._--I have been thinking more about this many-sidedness of Goethe.
It is by no means that _versatility_ which distinguishes so many
second-rate geniuses, which inclines to the selection of many pursuits,
but seldom permits the attainment of distinguished excellence in one.
It was one and the same principle acting throughout, the striving after
unity. It was this which made him seek to idealise the actual, and
to actualise the Ideal. The former he attempted by searching in each
outward object for the law which governed its existence and of which its
outward development was but an imperfect symbol, the latter by giving
form and consistency to the creations of his own fancy. Thus _the one_
was ever-present to him, and he sought it not in one path, among the
objects of one science alone, but everywhere in nature and out. In all
that was genuine nature he knew that it was to be found; that it was
_not_ to be found in the acquired and the artificial was perhaps the
reason of his aversion for them. This aversion he carried so far that
even acquired virtue was distasteful to him. Whatever may be thought
of such a distaste esthetically, we must think that, morally, it was
carrying his principle rather to an extreme. I have just come across a
plan of study which I formed some months ago and I could not but smile
to see how nothing of it has been accomplished. I was to divide my
attention between philosophy, language (not languages), and poetry. The
former I was to study by topics; e.g., take the subject of perception,
write out my own ideas upon it, if I had any, and then read those
of other people. In studying language, or rather ethnography, I
intended--1. To take the Hebrew roots, trace all the derivatives and
related words first in that language, then in others. 2. To examine
words relating to the spiritual, with a view to discover their original
picture-meaning. 3. Search for a type or symbol in nature of every
spiritual fact. Under the head of poetry I mean, to study the great
masters of epic and dramatic poetry, especially Shakspeare and Milton,
and from them make out a science of criticism. Alas!
_April 5, 1838._--I have been thinking about myself--what a strange,
wayward, incomprehensible being I am, and how completely misunderstood
by almost everybody. Uniting excessive pride with excessive
sensitiveness, the greatest ardor and passionateness of emotion with
an irresolute will, a disposition to _distrust_, in so far only as the
affection of others for me is concerned, with the extreme of confidence
and credulity in everything else--an incapability of expressing, except
occasionally as it were in gushes, any strong feeling--a tendency
to melancholy, yet with a susceptibility of enjoyment almost
transporting--subject to the most sudden, unaccountable and irresistible
changes of mood--capable of being melted and moulded to anything by
kindness, but as cold and unyielding as a rock against harshness and
compulsion--such are some of the peculiarities which excellently prepare
me for un-happiness. It is true that sometimes I am conscious of none of
them--when for days together I pursue my regular routine of studies and
employments, half mechanically--or when completely under the influence
of the outward, I live for a time in what is around me. But this never
lasts long. One of the most painful feelings I ever know is the sense of
an unappeasable craving for sympathy and appreciation--the desire to be
understood and loved, united with the conviction that this desire can
never be gratified. I feel _alone_, different from all others and
of course misunderstood by them. The only other feeling I have more
miserable than this is the sense of being _worse_ than all others, and
utterly destitute of anything excellent or beautiful. Oh! what mysteries
are wrapped up in the mind and heart of man! What a development will
be made when the light of another world shall be let in upon these
BOSTON, _Jan. 7, 1839._--I came here on the last day of the last
year, and have since then been very much occupied in different ways.
Yesterday, I heard President Hopkins all day, and in the evening,
a lecture from Dr. Follen on Pantheism. The most abstract of all
pantheistic systems he described to be that of the Brahmans, as taught
in the Vedas and Vedashta, and also at _first_ by Schelling, viz., that
the _absolute_ is the first principle of all things; and this absolute
is not to be conceived of as possessing any attribute at all--not even
that of existence. A system a little less abstract is that of the
Eleatics, who believed in the absolute as existing. Then that of
Giordano Bruno, who made _soul_ and _matter_ the formative principle and
the principal recipient of forces--to be the ground of the universe.
Then Spinoza, who postulated _thought_ as the representative of the
spiritual, and _extension_ as that of the material principle; and
these together are his _originaux_. From thence sprang the spiritual
pantheists--such as Schelling, Fichte, and Hegel--and the material
_Wednesday, April 10th._--To-morrow I go to Andover. Have been
indescribably hurried of late. Have finished Claudius--am reading
Prometheus and Kant's Critique. _April 19th_.--Am reading Seneca's Medea
and Southey's Life of Cowper.
ANDOVER, _May 13th._--Dr. Woods was remarking to-day at dinner on the
influence of _hope_ in sustaining under the severest sufferings. It
recalled a thought which occurred to me the other day in reading
Prometheus; that, regarded as an example of unyielding determination and
unconquerable fortitude he is not equal to Milton's Satan. For he
has before him not only the _hope_, but the _certainty_ of ultimate
deliverance, whereas Satan bears himself up, by the mere force of
his will, unsustained by hope, "which comes to all," but not to him.
_15th_.--It has just occurred to me that the doctrine of the soul's
mortality seems to have _no_ point of contact with humanity. It surely
can not have been entertained as being agreeable to man's _wishes_. And
what is there in the system of things, or in the nature of the mind, to
suggest it? On the contrary, everything looks in an opposite direction.
How is it _possible_ to help seeing that the soul is not here in its
proper element, in its native air? How is it possible to escape the
conviction that all its unsatisfied yearnings, its baffled aims, its
restless, agonizing aspirings after a _something_, clearly perceived
to exist, but to be here unattainable--that all these things point
to _another_ life, the _only_ true life of the soul? There is such a
manifest disproportion between all objects of earthly attainment and the
capacities of the spirit, that, unless man is immortal, he is vastly
more to be pitied than the meanest reptile that crawls upon the earth.
So I thought as I was walking this morning and saw a frog swimming in a
puddle of water. I could hardly help envying him when I considered that
_his_ condition was suited to his nature, and that he has no wants which
are not supplied.
_June 17th._--I am reading Goethe's Conversations with Eckermann. One
thing I remark is this--he does not, as most men do, make the degree
of sympathy he finds in others the measure of his interest in them and
attention to them. Goethe looked at all as specimens of human nature,
and, therefore, all worthy of study. But, after all, this way of looking
at others seems to be more suited to the _artist_ than to the man; and I
can not conceive of any but a very passionless and immobile person who
could do it.... Does all nature furnish one type of the soul? If so, it
might be the ocean; the rough, swelling, fluctuating, unsounded ocean.
Shall it ever _rest? Rest?_ What an infinite, mournful sweetness in the
word! How perfectly sure I feel that my soul can never rest in _itself_,
nor in anything of earth; if I find peace, it must be in the bosom of
_July 2d._--The vulgar proverb, "It never rains but it pours," is fully
illustrated in my case. Last week I would have given half the world for
a new book; yesterday and today have overflooded me. Mr. Hubbard has
sent me Prof. Park's "German Selections," Pliny, Heeren's Ancient
Greece, two volumes of the Biblical Repository, and two of his own
magazines; Mr. Judd has sent me two volumes of Carlyle, and Mr. Ripley
four of Lessing--all of these must be despatched _a la hate. July
5th._--Last evening we spent upon the Common witnessing a beautiful
exhibition of fireworks. This morning I have been to Union wharf to see
the departure of some missionaries. For a few minutes, time seemed
a speck and eternity near--but how transient with me are such
impressions! I am indulging myself too much of late in a sort of
sentimental reverie. Life and its changes, the depths of the soul,
the fluctuations of passion and feeling--these are the subjects which
attract my thoughts perpetually.... We spent last evening at Richard H.
Dana's. _He_ does not separate his intellectual and sentimental tastes
from his moral convictions as I do--I mean that neither in books nor men
does he find pleasure unless they are such as his conscience approves.
_Tuesday, 9th._--Have visited the Allston gallery and seen Rosalie for
the last time before going home. I could not have believed that I should
feel such a pang at parting from a picture. I did not succeed in getting
to the gallery before others--but, no matter. I forgot the presence of
everybody else and sat for an hour before Rosalie without moving. I took
leave of the other pictures mentally, for I could not look. Farewell,
sweet Beatrice, lovely Inez, beautiful Ursulina--dear, dear Rosalie,
_Monday, 15th._--Yesterday I was happy; to-day I am not exactly unhappy,
but morbid and anxious. I feel continually the pressure of obligation
to write something, in order to contribute toward the support of the
family--and yet, I can not write. Mother wants me to write children's
books; Lizzy wants me to write a book of Natural Philosophy for schools.
I wish I had a "vocation." _Sabbath._--Stayed at home on account of
the rain and read one of Tholuck's sermons to Julia. Wrote in my other
journal some account of my thoughts and feelings. Burned up part of an
_Thursday, July 25th._--"My soul is dark." What with the sin I find
within me, and the darkness and error, disputes and perplexities around
me, I well-nigh despair. Whether I seek to _discover_ truth or to _live_
it, I am _equally_ unsuccessful. "I grope at noon-day as in the night."
But there is a God, holy and changeless. He _is_. From eternity to
eternity, He IS. On this Rock will I rest----. I stopped a moment and my
eye was caught by the waving trees. What do they say to me? How silent
they are! and yet how _eloquent!_ And here I sit--to myself the centre
of the world, wondering and speculating about this same little self. Do
the trees so? No; they wave and bend and bloom for _others._ I am ready
to join with Herbert in wishing that I were a tree; then
"At least some bird would trust
Her household to me, and I should be just."
_Evening._--I read to-day another of Lessing's tragedies--"Miss Sarah
Sampson,"--which I do not like nearly as well as Mina von Barnhelm. We
were engaged to take tea with "the Mayor," and went with many tremblings
and hesitations on account of the rain. Very few there, and a most
uncommonly stupid time.
_Saturday Evening._--I have been alone for a little while, and, as
usual, this time brings with it thronging remembrances of absent
friends. Their forms flit before me; their spirits are around me; I feel
their presence--almost; dear friends, almost I clasp you in my arms. My
soul yearns for love and sympathy. I do bless and praise my God for all
His goodness to me in this respect, for my _many_ tender and faithful
and devoted friends. Part of the day I spent in arranging shells in my
cabinet of drawers. This afternoon I went to Mr. Prentiss' library and
obtained Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature.
_Monday Morning._--Have been trying to rouse myself to write Lessing,
but can not. It looks so little. When it is all done, what will it
amount to? Why, I shall get a few dollars for mother, which will go to
buy bread and butter--and that's the end of it.
_Evening._--S. W. and M. W. made a call on us and the former played and
sang. Then we sat up till after eleven naming each of our acquaintances
after some flower. _Aug. 8th_,--Oh, what a happy half hour I had last
evening, looking at the sky after sunset! We went down to the water--it
was smooth as a crystal lake. The horizon was all in a glow--the
softest, mellowest, warmest glow, and above dark, heavy clouds of
every variety of form--the clouds and the glow alike reflected in the
answering heaven below--I was almost _too_ happy; but--it _faded_.
_Evening_.--I had something to wake me up this afternoon, viz., the
arrival of the July No. of the New York Review, containing "Claudius."
This led to some conversation about writing, its pecuniary
profitableness, subjects for it, etc. Julia wished I would take some
other topics besides German authors, but when I told her the alternative
would be metaphysics, she laughed and retracted the wish. We then
laughed over several schemes such as these--that one of us should write
a review and another make the book for it afterward; that I should
review some book which did not exist and give professed extracts from
it, etc. Soon after Mrs. D. came in and began to talk about "Undine,"
which she and her husband have just been reading--the new translation.
I was amused at their opinion of it. The most absurd, ridiculous story,
she said--with no _rationality_, nothing that one can _understand_ in
it--and so on, showing that she had not the slightest idea of a work of
fancy merely. I have been wishing, as I often do, for some records of my
past life. What could I not give for a daily journal as minute as this,
beginning from my childhood! My past life is mostly a blank to me. _Aug.
15th_.--I am beginning to see dimly some new truths--such I believe
them to be--in theology. I am inclined to think, but do not feel sure,
that Redemption, instead of being merely a necessary _remedy_ for a
great evil, is in itself the highest positive good, and that the state
into which it brings man, of union with God, is a far nobler and better
condition than that of primitive innocence, and at the same time a
condition attainable in no other way than through redemption, and, of
course, through sin. In this case the plan of redemption, instead
of being an _afterthought_ of the divine mind (speaking
anthropomorphically), is that in reference to which the whole
world-system was contrived. These thoughts were partly suggested by
reading Schleiermacher, who, if I understand him, has some such notions.
If there is any truth in them, do they not throw light on the much-vexed
question why God permitted the introduction of moral evil? Another point
which I feel confident is misunderstood by our theologians is the nature
of the redemptive act. The work of Christ in redemption is generally
explained to be His incarnation, sufferings, and death, by which He made
_atonement_ to justice for the sins of the world. This, it is true, is a
part of what He did; it is that part which He performed in reference to
God and His law, but it is not what Coleridge calls the "spiritual and
transcendent act" by which He made us one with Himself, and thus secured
the possibility of our restoration to spiritual life. _Aug. 17th_.--Have
devoted almost the whole day to Coleridge's Literary Remains, which Mr.
Davenport brought me. My admiration, even veneration, for his almost
unequalled power is greater than ever, but I can not help thinking that
his studies--some of them--exerted an unfavorable influence upon him,
especially, perhaps, Spinoza. _Aug. 22d_--Mr. Park sent me the Life of
Mackintosh by his son. I rejoiced much too soon over it, for it proves
very uninteresting. This is partly to be accounted for from my want of
interest in politics, etc. In great measure, however, it is the fault of
the biographer, who has shown us the man at a distance, on stilts, or at
best only in his most outward circumstances, never letting us know,
as Carlyle says, what sort of stockings he wore, and what he ate for
dinner. I don't think Sir James himself has much _inwardness_ to him,
but certainly his son has shown us only the outermost shell. Have read
the Iliad and Schleiermacher to-day. _Aug. 24th_.--A queer circumstance
happened this evening. Col. Kinsman and Mr. C. S. Davies called. I was
considering what unusual occurrence could have brought Mr. D. here,
when he increased my wonder still more by disclosing his errand. He had
received, he said, a letter from Prof. Woods, requesting that I, or
a "lady whose taste was as correct in dress as in literature," would
decide upon the fashion of a gown to be worn by him at his inauguration
as President of Bowdoin College, and forthwith procure such a gown to be
made. _Aug. 25th_.--I have been reading the second volume of Mackintosh,
which is much better than the first, and gives a higher opinion of him.
He is certainly well described by Coleridge as the "king of men of
talent." It is curious, by the way, to compare what M. says of C.: "It
is impossible to give a stronger example of a man, whose talents are
beneath his understanding, and who trusts to his ingenuity to atone for
his ignorance.... Shakespeare and Burke are, if I may venture on
the expression, above talent; but Coleridge is not!" Ah, well--_de
I have been as busy as a bee all day; wrote notes, prepared for leaving
home, read Schleiermacher, and Philip von Artevelde, which delighted me;
walked after tea with Lizzy, then examined my papers to see what is
to be burned. I wish I knew what I was made for--I mean, in
_particular_--what I _can_ do, and what I _ought_ to do. I can not bear
to live a life of literary self-indulgence, which is no better than
another self-indulgence. I _do want_ to be of some use in the world,
but I am infinitely perplexed as to the _how_ and the _what_. _Aug.
26th_.--Hurried through the last 200 pages of Mackintosh today. On the
whole, there is much to _like_ as well as to admire in him. One thing
puzzles me in his case as in others: How men who give no signs through a
long life of anything more than the most cold and distant _respect_ for
religion--the most unfrequent and uninterested remembrance, if any
at all--of the Saviour, all at once become so devout--I mean it not
disrespectfully--on their death-beds. What strange doubts this and other
like mysteries suggest!
After tea I carried a bouquet to Mrs. French. Saw all the way a sky
so magnificent that words can do no justice to it--splendors piled on
splendors, till my soul was fairly sick with admiration. Mrs. French
asked me if life ever looked sad and wearisome to me. _Ever!_
BOSTON, _Saturday morning, Sept. 8th_--The rain keeps me home from
church, but I still have the more time for reading and reflection. At
every change in my outward situation I find myself forming new purposes
and plans for the future.... I _will_ trust that, by the grace of God,
the ensuing winter shall be a period of more vigorous effort and more
persevering self-culture than any previous season of my life. Above all,
let me remember that intellectual culture is worthless when dissociated
from moral progress; that true spiritual growth embraces both; and the
latter as the basis and mould of the former. Let me remember, too, that
in the universe _everything_ may be had for a price, but nothing can be
had without price. The price of successful self-culture is unremitted
toil, labor, and self-denial; am I willing to pay it? I feel that I need
light and strength and life; may I find them in _Christ!_ As to studies,
I mean to study the Bible _much;_ also dogmatic theology--which of late
has an increasing interest for me--and ecclesiastical history. To the
Spirit of all Truth I surrender my mind.
_Monday._--I have fallen in with Swedenborg's writings. Wonder whether
the destiny which seems to bring to us just what we chance to be
interested in is a real ordinance of fate or only a seeming one--because
interest in a subject makes us observant. Am reading Greek with Julia.
We began the sixth book of the Iliad. _Tuesday_.--Fifty lines in Homer;
Companion proofs; Schleiermacher; the prologue and first scene of
Terence's comedy of Andria; two Nos. of N. Nickleby, and walked
round the Common with Julia twice. _Wednesday_.--Studies the same as
yesterday, except that I read less of Schleiermacher and spent an hour
or so upon Lessing. Read "Much Ado about Nothing," and disliked Beatrice
less than ever before. But I am not satisfied with Claudio; he is not
_half_ sorry and remorseful enough for the supposed death of Hero--and
then to think of his being willing to marry another right off! Oh, it
is abominable! Walked over _four miles_ in the morning, and out again
_Tuesday, Sept. 17th_--Well. The family are off--Mr. and Mrs. Willis,
and Julia too--and the Recorder and Companion  are left for a
fortnight in my charge. I have been much interested in what I have read
to-day in Schleiermacher. It is his evolution of the idea of God--if I
may so say--from holy, human consciousness. It recalls some thoughts
which I had on this subject once before, and which I began to write
about. My notion was this--that an absolutely perfect idea of man
implies, contains an idea of God. I have a great mind to try and make
something out of it, only I am so hurried just now. They keep sending me
papers to make selections for the Recorder, and I have just been
writing an article for the Companion. I spend half my time looking
over newspapers. Double, double toil and trouble; most wearisome and
profitless. Would not edit a paper for the world.
No truth can be said to be seen _as it is_ until it is seen in its
relation to all other truths. In this relation only is it true.... No
_error_ is understood till we have seen all the truth there is in it,
and, therefore, as Coleridge says, you must "understand an author's
ignorance, or conclude yourself ignorant of his understanding."
_Monday, 30th._--I have been very happy this afternoon--writing all the
time with a genial flow of thought and without effort. How I love to
feel that for this I am indebted to God. He is my intellectual source,
the Father of my spirit, as well as the author of everything morally
good in me.
_Friday, Oct. 4th._--I have been too busy reading and writing for the
last few days to find time for my journal. I go on with Schleiermacher
and have resumed Lessing. I am reading the Memoir of Mrs. S. L. Smith
and Tappan's "Review of Edwards on the Will." Fifty lines in the Iliad
with Julia. Finished the Andria and to-day began the Adelphi. I am
amused at comparing the comedy of that day with the modern French
school. Davus in Andria is but a rough sketch of Moliere's valet, and
the whole plot is so bungling in comparison. Have had very few attacks
of melancholy lately; because, I suppose, my health is good and I am
_Evening_.--I never came nearer losing my wits with delight than this
afternoon. Went to call on Mr. and Mrs. Ripley, and saw his fine library
of German books. The sight was enough to excite me to the utmost, but
to be told that they were all at my service put me into such an ecstasy
that I could hardly behave with decency. I selected several immediately
and promised myself fuller examination of the library very soon.... Mr.
R. proposed to me to translate something for his series. Shall I? 
_Sabbath Evening, Oct. 13th_.--I have just been writing to my dear
brother G., for whom as well as for my other brothers, I feel the
greatest solicitude. I have separate sources of anxiety for each of
them, and hope that the intenseness of this anxiety will make me more
earnest in commending them to God. _Oct. 14th_.--Gave up the time
usually devoted to Lessing to writing two articles for the Mother's
Magazine. Read Homer, and the 149th and 150th Psalms and the first
chapter of Genesis in Hebrew. Read or rather _studied_ Schleiermacher.
Corrected proof. Read several articles in the Biblical Repository--one
by Prof. Park--aloud to Julia. On the whole, I have been pretty
industrious. Oh, how many reasons I have for gratitude! Health, friends,
books--nothing is wanting but the heart to enjoy God in all. Wrote to
_Oct. 17th._--This morning dear Lizzy came; of course the day has been
given up to _miscellanies_.
_Oct. 21st._--Mr. Albro  called and stayed till dinner-time. After
dinner read Greek with Julia and then wrote a notice of Gesenius' Hebrew
Grammar, and then set off for Lucy's, where the others were already
gone. Mr. Albro has concluded to read Schleiermacher with me--that is,
to keep along at the same rate, that we may talk about it. Letter
from mother, and notes from Mr. Condit and Mr. Hamlin, with a copy of
"Payson's Thoughts" in Armenian. Have just finished reading Mr. Ripley's
Reply to Mr. Norton. Mr. Willis is forming a Bible-class for me to teach
on the Sabbath--am very glad.
_Nov. 14th._--Finished Lessing yesterday, and hope for a little rest
from hurry. Shall resume Schleiermacher and take up Fichte on the
Destination of Man.
_Nov. 22nd._--I am afraid that I may have to be resigned to a very great
misfortune; namely, to the partial loss of eyesight--for a time at
least; so yesterday I resolved to give them a holiday, though sorely
against my will, by not opening a book the whole day. Whether I should
have succeeded in observing such a desperate resolution without the aid
of circumstances is quite problematical, but Mr. Gray opportunely came
with a request that I should take a ride with him to Cambridge, and
visit the libraries there. This occupied four or five hours, and a
lyceum lecture provided for the evening. I have always congratulated
myself on being so little dependent on _others_ for entertainment--but
never considered how entirely I am dependent on _books_. If I should be
deprived of the use of my eyes, I should be a most miserable creature.
_Thanksgiving, Nov. 29th._--A very pleasant and delightful day--our
hearts full of gladness and, I hope, of gratitude. I hope dear mother
and all at home are as happy.
_Dec. 25th._--How plain that all the creations of the ancient mythology
are but representations of something in the heart of man!... What is the
end of man? Infinite contradictions--all opposites blended into one--a
mass of confused, broken parts, of disjointed fragments--such _is_ he.
The circumstances that surround him--the events that happen unto him,
are no less strange. What shall be the end? Oh then, abyss of futurity,
declare it! unfold thy dark depths--let a voice come up from thy cloudy
infinite--let a ray penetrate thy unfathomable profound. If we could
but _rest_ till the question is decided! if we could but float softly on
the current of time till we reach the haven! But no, we must _act_. We
must _do_ something. _I_ must do something _now_--WHAT?
_Evening._ But as the morning. In the afternoon I was talking with L.
W.  with as much eagerness and vivacity as if I had never known a
cloud. This evening I was going to a _dance_ at the _Insane_ Hospital.
For me truly it has been a day of opposites--all the elements of life
have met and mingled in it.
_Wednesday, 26th._--The end of man, says Carlyle, is an action, not a
thought. This is partly true, though all noble action has its root in
thought. Thought, indeed, in its true and highest sense, _is_ action. It
is never lost. If uttered, it may breathe inspiration into a thousand
minds and become the impulse to ten thousand good actions. If unuttered,
and terminating in no single outward act, it yet has an emanative
influence; it impregnates the man and makes itself felt in his life. A
man can not do so noble and godlike a thing as to think, without being
the better for it. Indeed, the distinction between thought and action is
not always an accurate one. Many thoughts deserve the name of activities
much better than certain movements of the muscles and changes of the
outward organization which we denominate actions. In this sense, it is
better of the two to think without acting than to act without thinking.
Mrs. Hopkins was the author of the following works, intended mostly for
the young. Some of them have had a wide circulation. They are written in
an attractive style and breathe the purest spirit of Christian love and
wisdom: 1. The Pastor's Daughter. 2. Lessons on the Book of Proverbs. 3.
The Young Christian Encouraged. 4. Henry Langdon; or, What Was I Made
For? 5. The Guiding Star; or, The Bible God's Message; a Sequel to Henry
Langdon. 6. The Silent Comforter; a Companion for the Sick-room. A
* * * * *
The following is the rhapsody referred to by Mr. Butler: (The words to
be used were _Mosquito, Brigadier, Moon, Cathedral, Locomotive, Piano,
Mountain, Candle, Lemon, Worsted, Charity_, and _Success_).
A wounded soldier on the ground in helpless languor lay,
Unheeding in his weariness the tumult of the day;
In vain a pert _mosquito_ buzzed madly in his ear,
His thoughts were far away from earth--its sounds he could not hear;
Nor noted he the kindly glance with which his _brigadier_
Looked down upon his manly form when chance had brought him near.
It was a glorious autumn night on which the _moon_ looked down,
Calmly she looked and her fair face had neither grief nor frown.
Just as she gazed in other lands on some _cathedral_ dim,
Whose aisles resounded to the strains of dirges or of hymn.
But now with _locomotive_ speed the soldier's thoughts took wing:
Back to his home they bore him, and he heard his sisters sing--
Heard the softest-toned _piano_ touched by hands he used to love.
Was it home or was it heaven? Was that music from above?
Oh, for one place or the other! In his mountain air to die,
Once more upon his mother's breast, as in infancy, to lie!
The scene has changed. Where is he now? Not on the cold, damp ground.
Whence came this couch? and who are they who smiling stand around?
What friendly hands have borne him to his own free _mountain_ air?
And father, mother, sisters--every one of them is there.
Now gentle ministries of love may soothe him in his pain;
Water to cool his fevered lips he need not ask in vain.
His mother shades the _candle_ when she steals across the room;
A face like hers would radiant make a very desert's gloom.
The fragrant _lemon_ cools his thirst, pressed by his sister's hand--
Not one can do enough for him, the hero of their band.
Oh, happy, convalescing days! How full of pleasant pain!
How pleasant to take up the old, the dear old life again!
Now, sitting on the wooden bench before the cottage door,
How many times they make him tell the same old story o'er!
How he fought and how he fell; how he longed again to fight;
And how he would die fighting yet for the triumph of the right.
His good old mother sits all day so fondly by his side;
How can she give him up again--her first-born son, her pride?
His sisters with their _worsted_ his stockings fashion too,
In patriotic colors--the red, the white, the blue.
If he should never wear them, a _charity_ 'twill be
To give them to some soldier-lad as brave and good as he.
They're dreadful homely stockings; one can not well say less,
But whosoever wears 'em--why, may he have _success_!
Here are samples of the charades referred to by Miss Morse:
ON RETURNING A LOST GLOVE TO A FRIEND.
A hand I am not, yet have fingers five;
Alive I am not, yet was once alive.
Am found in every house and by the dozen,
And am of flesh and blood a sort of cousin.
Now cut my head off. See what I become!
No longer am I lifeless, dead, and dumb.
I am the very sweetest thing on earth;
Royal in power and of royal birth.
I in the palace reign and in the cot--
There is no place where man is and I'm not.
I am too costly to be bought and sold;
I can not be enticed by piles of gold.
And yet I am so lowly that a smile
Can woo and win me--and so free from guile,
That I look forth from many a gentle face
In tenderness and truthfulness and grace.
Say, do you know me? Have you known my reign?
My joy, my rapture, and my silent pain?
Beneath your pillow have I roses placed--
Your heart's glad festival have I not graced?
Ah me! To mother, lover, husband, wife
I am the oil and I the wine of life.
With you, my dear, I have been hand and _glove_.
Shall I return the first and keep the _Love_?
My _first_ was born to rule; before him stand
The potentates and nobles of the land.
He loves his grandeur--hopes to be more grand.
My second you will find in every lass--
Both in the highest and the lowest class,
And even in a simple blade of grass.
But add it to my _first_, and straightway he
Becomes my _whole_--loses identity;
Parts with his manhood and becomes a _She_.
(Prince, _ss.,_ Princess).
* * * * *
Here is another extract from the same letter:
J'ai peine a me mettre a l'oraison, et quelquefois quand j'y suis il me
tarde d'en sortir. Je n'y fais, ce me semble, presque rien. Je me trouve
meme dans une certaine tiedeur et une tachete pour toutes sortes de
biens. Je n'ai aucune peine considerable ni dans mon interieur, ni dans
mon exterieur, ainsi je ne saurois dire que je passe par aucune epreuve.
Il me semble que c'est un songe, ou que je me moque quand je cherche mon
etat tant je me trouve hors de tout etat spirituel, dans la voie
commune des gens tiedes qui vivent a leur aise. Cependant cette languor
universelle jointe a l'abandon qui me fait acceptes tout et qui
m'empeche de rien rechercher, ne laisse pas de m'abattre, et je sens
que j'ai quelquefois besoin de donner a mes sens quelque amusement pour
m'egayer. Aussi le fais--je simplement, mais bien mieux quand je suis
seul que quand je suis avec mes meilleurs amis. Quand je suis seul, je
joue quelquefois comme un petit enfant, etc., etc.
The letter may be found in Vol. V., pp. 411-12, of Madame Guyon's
LETTRES CHRETIENNES ET SPIRITUELLES _sur divers Sujets qui regardent
La Vie Interieure, ou L'esprit du vrai Christianisme_--enrichie de la
Correspondance secrette de MR. DE FENELON avec l'Auteur. London, 1768.
The whole work is extremely interesting.
* * * * *
[From The Evangelist of May 27, 1875.]
Died in Paris, France, May 8, 1875, VIRGINIA S. OSBORN, only daughter of
William H. and Virginia S. Osborn, of this city, and granddaughter of
the late Jonathan Sturges.
The sudden death of this gifted young girl has overwhelmed with grief a
large social and domestic circle. Last February, in perfect health and
full of the brightest anticipations, she set out, in company with her
parents and a young friend, on a brief foreign tour. After passing
several weeks at Rome and visiting other famous cities of Italy, she had
just reached Paris on the way home when a violent fever seized upon her
brain, and, in defiance of the tenderest parental care and the best
medical skill, hurried her into the unseen world.
And yet it is hardly possible to realise that this brilliant young life
has forever vanished away from earth, for she seemed formed alike by
nature and Providence for length of days. Already her character gave the
fairest promise of a perfect woman. It possessed a strength and maturity
beyond her years. Although not yet twenty-one, her varied mental culture
and her knowledge of almost every branch of English literature, history,
poetry, fiction, even physical science, were quite remarkable; nor was
she ignorant of some of the best French and German, not to speak of
Latin, authors. We have never known one of her age whose intellectual
tastes were of a higher order. She seemed to feel equally at home in
reading Shakespeare and Goethe; Prescott, Motley, and Froude; Mrs.
Austin, Scott, and Dickens; Taine, Huxley, and Tyndall; or the popular
biographies and fictions of the day. And yet her studious habits and
devotion to books did not render her any the less the unaffected,
attractive, and whole-hearted girl. Her friends, both old and young,
greatly admired her, but they loved her still more. As was natural in
one of so much character, she was very decided in her ways; but she was
also perfectly frank, truthful, and conscientious--resembling in
this respect, as she did in some other excellent traits, her honored
grandfather, Mr. Sturges.
Several years before her death she was enrolled among the disciples of
Jesus. How vividly the writer recalls her earnest look and tones of
voice when she declared to him her desire publicly to confess her
Saviour and to remember Him at His table! When from beneath the deep sea
the news that she was dangerously ill and then soon after that she was
dead stole upon her friends here like a thief in the night, almost
stunning them with grief; their first feeling was one of tender sympathy
for the desolate, sorely-smitten parents, and of prayer that God would
be pleased to comfort and uphold them in their affliction.
From many hearts, we are sure, that prayer has been offered up
oftentimes since. If it were not for the relief which comes of faith and
prayer, what a cloud of hopeless gloom would enshroud such an event!
Blessed be God for this exceeding great and precious relief. The dark
cloud is not indeed dispersed even by faith and prayer, but with what
a silver lining they are able to invest it! If we really believed that
such tragical events are solely the effects of chance or mere natural
law--if we did not believe that the hand of infinite wisdom and love is
also in them, surely the grass would turn black beneath our feet. _The
Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away; and blessed be the name of the
G. L. P.
* * * * *
_Extracts front Dr. Vincent's Memorial Discourse._
The men and women who know how to comfort human sorrow, and to teach
their fellows to turn it to its highest uses, are among God's best gifts
to the world. The office and the name of Comforter have the highest and
purest associations. It is the Holy Spirit of God who calls Himself by
that name, and to be a true comforter is to be indeed a co-worker with
God. But even as the _word_ "comfort" goes deeper than those pitying
commonplaces which even nature teaches us to utter to those who are
in any trouble, so the _office_ of a true comforter requires other
qualifications than mere natural tenderness of heart, or even the
experience of suffering. One must know how to _interpret_ as well as how
to _feel_ sorrow; must know its _lessons_ as well as its _smart_. Hence
it is that God makes His comforters by processes of His own; by hard
masters ofttimes, and by lessons not to be found in books.
It is in illustration of this truth that I bring to you to-day some
memorials of the experience, character, and life-work of one widely
known, deeply beloved, and greatly honored by God as an instrument of
Christian instruction and of Christian comfort. It would, indeed, be
possible to strike some other keynote. A character presenting so many
points of interest might be studied from more than one of those points
with both pleasure and profit; but, on the whole, it seems to me that
the thought of a _Christian comforter_ best concentrates the lessons of
her life, and best represents her mission to society; so that we might
aptly choose for our motto those beautiful words of the Apostle:
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father
of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our
tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any
trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."
In endeavoring to depict a life which was largely shaped by sorrow, I am
not going to open the record of a sorrowful life, but rather of a joyful
one; not of a starved and meager life, but of a very rich one, both in
itself and in its fruits; yet it may be profitable for us to see through
what kind of discipline that life became so rich, and to strike some
of the springs where arose the waters which refreshed so many of the
children of pain and care.
The daughter of Edward Payson might justly have appropriated her
father's words: "Thanks to the fervent, effectual prayers of my
righteous parents, and the tender mercies of my God upon me, I have
reason to hope that the pious wishes breathed over my infant head are in
some measure fulfilled." She might have said with Cowper:
"My boast is not that I deduce my birth
From loins enthroned and rulers of the earth;
But higher far my proud pretensions rise;
The child of parents passed into the skies."
The life and work of that devoted minister of Jesus Christ have passed
into the religious history of New England--not to say of our whole
country--and no student of that history is unfamiliar with that
character so tried, yet so exalted by suffering; with that ministry so
faithful, so unselfish, marked by such yearning for souls, and with such
persistence, tact, and success in leading them to Christ; with that
intellect so richly endowed and so well trained; that devotional spirit
so rapt, that conscience so acutely sensitive; with that life so
fruitful and that death so triumphant....
* * * * *
In the summer of 1869 she found a lovely and peaceful retreat among the
hills of Vermont. There arose that tasteful home with which, perhaps
more than any other spot, memory loves to associate her. There, for ten
happy summers, she enjoyed the communion with Nature's "visible forms,"
and heard her "various language," and felt her healing touch on the
wearied brain and overstrung nerves; there, as I think she would have
wished, she took leave of earth amid the pomp and flush of the late
summer, and gladly ascended to the eternal sunshine of heaven; and
there, in the shadow of the giant hills which "brought peace" to her,
and the changing moods of which she so loved to study, her ashes await
the morning of the Resurrection.
In reviewing this life of nearly sixty years, we find its keynote, as
was said at the outset, in the thought of the Christian comforter. We
see in her one whom God commissioned, so far as we can judge, to bring
light and comfort to multitudes, and whom He prepared for that blessed
work by peculiar and severe discipline.
There is nothing in which ordinary minds are more commonly mistaken than
in their estimate of _suffering._ They seem often unable to conceive it
except in its association with appreciable tragedies, in those grosser
forms in which it waits upon visible calamity. Such do not know that the
heart is often the scene of tragedies which can not be written, and that
there are sufferings more subtle and more acute than any which torture
the nerve or wring the brow. Take a character like this with which we
are dealing; combine the nature to which love was a necessity of being
with those high and pure ideals of character which culled cautiously the
objects of affection; add the intense sensitiveness without the self-
esteem which so often serves as a rock of refuge to the most sensitive;
add the sharply-cut individuality which could only see and do and
express in its own way, and which, therefore, so frequently exposed its
subject to the misunderstanding of strangers or of unappreciative souls;
crown all with the stern conscientiousness which would not compromise
the truth even for love's sake, and the exquisite selfreverence, if you
will allow the expression, which held the region of religious emotion as
holy ground, and which regarded the attempt to open or to penetrate the
inner shrines of Christian feeling as something akin to sacrilege--and
blend all these in a delicate, highly-strung, nervous organization, and
you have the elements of a fearful capacity for suffering.
Besides this _capacity_ for suffering, Mrs. Prentiss had a very clear
cognition of the sacred _office_ of suffering, and of its relation to
perfection of character. There were two ideas which pervaded her whole
theory of religious experience. The one was that whenever God has
special work for His children to do, He always fits them for it by
suffering. She had the most intense conviction of any one I ever knew
of the necessity of suffering to perfection of character or of work.
Doubtless there have been others who have learned as well as she its
value as a purifying and exalting power, but very few, I think, who have
so early and so uncompromisingly taken that truth into their theory of
Christian education. She quoted with approval the words of Madame Guyon,
that "God rarely, if ever, makes the educating process a painless one
when He wants remarkable results." Such must drink of Christ's cup
and be baptized with His baptism. Along with this went another and a
complementary thought, viz., that as God prepares His workmen for great
work by suffering, so there is another class of His children whom He
does not find competent to this preparation; who escape much of the
conflict and suffering, but never attain the highest enjoyments or fight
the decisive battles of time.... In a volume of Fenelon's Christian
Counsel, which was one of her favorite closet companions, this passage
is scored: God "attacks all the subtle resources of self-love within,
especially in those souls who have generously and without reserve
delivered themselves up to the operations of His grace. The more He
would purify them, the more He exercises them interiorly." And she has
added a special note at the foot of the page: "He never forces Himself
on ungenerous souls for this work."
Along with this went the thought that God's discipline was intended to
make not only _models_, but _ministers_; that one who had passed through
the furnace with Christ was to emerge from the fiery baptism not merely
to be _gazed_ at, but to go down to his brethren telling with power the
story of the "form of the Fourth." This is the sentiment of some lines
addressed by her to an afflicted friend:
"O that this heart with grief so well acquainted
Might be a fountain, rich and sweet and full,
For all the weary that have fallen and fainted
In life's parched desert--thirsty, sorrowful.
"Thou Man of Sorrows, teach my lips that often
Have told the sacred story of my woe,
To speak of Thee till stony griefs I soften--
Till those that know Thee not, learn Thee to know."
At a comparatively early period of her Christian experience, the theme
of her prayer was: "I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory"; for in the
answer to that prayer there seemed, as she said, to be summed up
everything that she needed or could desire. In a paper in which she
recorded some of her aspirations, she wrote: "Let my life be an
all-day looking to Jesus. Let my love to God be so deep, earnest, and
all-pervading, that I can not have even the passing emotion of rebellion
to suppress. There is such a thing as an implicit faith in, and
consequent submission to, Christ. Let me never rest till they are fully
I do not know the precise date, but I think it could not have been very
late when she received a mighty answer to the prayer to behold God's
glory. New views of Christian privilege and of the relation of Christ
to believing souls came with prayerful searching of the Scriptures.
She entered, to use her own words, upon "a life of incessant peace and
serenity--notwithstanding it became, by degrees, one of perpetual self-
denial and effort." The consciousness of God never left her. The whole
world seemed holy ground. Prayer became a perpetual delight. The pride
and turbulence of nature grew quiet under these gentle influences, and
anything from God's hand seemed just right and quite good.
The secret of her peace and of her usefulness lay very largely in the
prayerfulness of her life. From her early years, prayer was her delight.
In describing the comforts of her chamber in the school at Richmond, she
noted as its crowning charm the daily presence of the Eternal King, who
condescended to make it His dwelling-place. With the deeper experiences
of which we have spoken came a fresh delight in prayer. "It was very
delightful," she says, "to pray all the time; all day long; not only for
myself, but for the whole world--particularly for all those who
loved Christ." Her views of prayer were Scriptural, and, therefore,
discriminating. She fully accepted Paul's statement that "we know not
what we should pray for as we ought" without the help of the Spirit;
and, therefore, she always spoke of prayer as something to be _learned_.
If she believed that a Christian "learns to pray when first he lives,"
she believed also that the prayer of the infant Christian life was like
the feeble breath of infancy. She understood by prayer something
far more and higher than the mere preferring of petitions. It was
_communion_; God's Spirit responding harmoniously to our own. With
Coleridge she held, that the act of praying with the total concentration
of the faculties is the very highest energy of which the human heart is
capable. Hence she was accustomed to speak of _learning_ the mysterious
art of prayer by an apprenticeship at the throne of grace. She somewhere
wrote: "I think many of the difficulties attending the subject of prayer
would disappear if it could be regarded in early life as an art that
must be acquired through daily, persistent habits with which nothing
shall be allowed to interfere." She saw that prayer is not to be made
dependent on the various emotive states in which one comes to God. "The
question," she said, "is not one of mere delight." The Roman Catholic
poet accurately expressed her thought on this point:
"Prayer was not meant for luxury,
Nor selfish pastime sweet;
It is the prostrate creature's place
At the Creator's feet."
She illustrated in her own quaint way the truth that moods have nothing
to do with the duty of prayer. When one of your little brothers asks
you to lend him your knife, do you inquire first what is the state of
his mind? If you do, what reply can he make but this: "The state of my
mind is, I want your knife."
With her natural temperament and inherited tendencies she might,
perhaps, under other influences have been drawn too far over to the
emotional, or at least to the contemplative side of religious life.
But she saw and avoided the danger. She discerned the harmony and just
balance between the contemplative and the active Christian life, and
felt that they ought to co-exist in every genuine experience. She
attached as little meaning to a life of mere raptures as to one of bare,
loveless duty. "Christian life," she wrote, "is not all contemplation
and prayer; it is not all muscle and sinew. It is a perfect, practicable
union of the two. I believe in your joyful emotions if they result in
self-denying, patient work for Christ--I believe in your work if it is
winged by faith and prayer." She had scored this passage in her copy of
Fenelon: "To be constantly in a state of enjoyment that takes away
the feeling of the cross, and to live in a fervor of devotion that
continually keeps Paradise open--this is not dying upon the cross and
Such experience and such views were behind the active side of her life,
as represented by her personal ministries and by the work of her pen.
The one book in which she endeavored to embody _formally_ her views of
Christian doctrine and experience did not, as might have been expected,
find the same reception or the same response which were accorded to
other productions. It was a book which appealed to a smaller and higher
class of readers. But, when she wrought these same truths into pictures
of living men and women--when she illustrated them at the points where
they touched the drudgery and commonplace of thousands of lives--when
she opened outlooks for hundreds of discouraged souls upon the roads
where hundreds more were bearing the very same burdens, and yet stepping
heavenward under their pressure--when she, who had walked in the fire
herself, went to her sisters in the same old furnace and told them of
her vision of the form of the Fourth--when she went down to the many who
were sadly working out the mistakes of ill-judged alliances, and lifted
the veil from sorrows which separate their subject from human sympathy
because they must be borne in silence--when she told such how heaven
might come even into their life--when she, with her hands yet bleeding
from the grasp of her own cross, came to other sufferers, not to mock
them by the show of an unattainable beauty and an impossible peace, but
to _offer_ them _divine_ peace and the beauty of the Lord in the name
of her Saviour--then she spoke with a power which multitudes felt and
I am sure that hers is, in an eminent degree, the blessing of them
that were ready to perish. Weary, overtaxed mothers; misunderstood and
unappreciated wives, servants, pale seamstresses, delicate women forced
to live in an atmosphere of drunkenness and coarse brutality, widows and
orphans in the bitterness of their bereavement, mothers with their tears
dropping over empty cradles--to thousands of such she was a messenger
Of all her seventeen or eighteen published volumes, "Stepping
Heavenward" is the one which best represents her and her life-work--not
that she produced nothing else of value, nor that many of her other
books were not widely read, greatly enjoyed, and truly useful; but
"Stepping Heavenward" seemed to meet so many real, deep, inarticulate
cravings in such a multitude of hearts, that the response to it was
instant and general....
She wrote for readers of all ages. Not the least fruitful work of her
pen was bestowed upon the little ones; and in the number of copies
circulated, the Susy Books stand next to Stepping Heavenward. Through
those little half allegories she initiated the children into the
rudiments of self-control, discipline and consecration, and taught eyes
and hands and tongue and feet the noble uses of the kingdom of God. Even
from these children's stories the thought of the discipline of suffering
was not absent, and _Mr. Pain_, as many mothers will remember, figures
among Little Susy's Six Teachers. With the same pure and wholesome
lessons, and with the same easy vivacity she appealed to youth through
"The Flower of the Family," "The Percys," and "Nidworth," and it would
be hard to say by readers of what age was monopolised the interest
in "Aunt Jane's Hero," "Fred and Maria and Me," and those two little
gems--"The Story Lizzie Told," and "Gentleman Jim."
While all her writings were _religious_ in the best sense, they were in
nothing more so than in their _cheerfulness_. They were not only happy
and hopeful in their general tone, but sparkled with her delicate and
sprightly humor. The children of her books were not religious puppets,
moving in time to the measured wisdom of their elders, but real children
of flesh and blood, acting and talking out their impish conceits, and in
nowise conspicuous by their precocious goodness.
I think that those who knew her best in her literary relations, will
agree with me that no better type of a consecrated literary talent can
be found in the lists of authors. She received enough evidences of
popular appreciation to have turned the heads of many writers. Over
200,000 bound volumes of her books have been sold in this country alone,
to say nothing of the circulation in England, France, and Germany. She
was not displeased at success, as I suppose no one is--but success to
her meant doing good. She did not write for popularity, and her aversion
to having her own literary work mentioned to her was so well known
by her friends, that even those who wished to express to her their
gratitude for the good they had received from her books were constrained
to be silent. "While," says her publisher, "she was very sensitive to
any criticism based on a misconception or a perversion of her purpose,
never, in all my intercourse with her, did I discover the slightest
evidence of a spirit of literary pique, or pride, or ambition."
In attempting to sum up the characteristics of her writings, time will
suffer me only to state the more prominent features without enlarging
First, and most prominent, was their _purpose_. Her pen moved always and
only under a sense of _duty_. She held her talent as a gift from God,
and consecrated it sacredly to the enforcement and diffusion of His
truth. If I may quote once more the words of her publisher in his
tribute to her memory--"her great desire and determination to educate
in the highest and best schools was never overlooked or forgotten. She
never, like many writers of religious fiction, caught the spirit of
sensationalism that is in the air, or sought for effects in unhealthy
portraiture, corrupt style, or unnatural combinations."
Second, she was _unconventional_. Her writings were not religious in
any stereotyped, popular sense. Her characters were not stenciled. The
holiest of them were strongly and often amusingly individualized. She
did not try to make automatons to repeat religious commonplaces, but
actual men and women, through whose very peculiarities the Holy Spirit
revealed His presence and work.
Third, I have already referred to her _sprightliness_. She had naturally
a keen sense of humor which overflowed both in her conversation and in
her books. She saw nothing in the nature of the faith she professed
which bade her lay violent hands on this propensity; and she once said
that if her religion could not stand her saying a funny thing now and
then it was not worth much. But, whatever she might say or write of this
character, one never felt that it betrayed any irreverent lightness
of spirit. The undertone of her life was so deeply reverential, so
thoroughly pervaded with adoring love for Christ, that it made itself
felt through all her lighter moods, like the ground-swell of the sea
through the sparkling ripples on the surface.
Fourth, her style was easy, colloquial, never stilted or affected,
marked at times by an energy and incisiveness which betrayed earnest
thought and intense feeling. She aimed to impress the truth, not her
style, and therefore aimed at plainness and directness. Her hard common
sense, of which her books reveal a goodly share, was offset by her vivid
fancy which made even the region of fable tributary to the service of
Fifth, her books were intensely _personal_; expressions, I mean, of her
own experience. Many of her characters and scenes are simple transcripts
of fact, and much of what she taught in song, was a repetition of what
she had learned in suffering.
To go back once more to her office of consoler. She exercised this not
only through her books, but also through her personal ministries in
those large and widening circles which centred in her literary and
pastoral life. Those who were favored with her friendship in times of
sorrow found her a comforter indeed. Her letters, of which, at such
times, she was prodigal, were to many sore hearts as leaves from the
tree of life. She did not expect too much of a sufferer. She recognized
human weakness as well as divine strength. But in all her attempts at
consolation, side by side with her deep and true sympathy, went the
_lesson_ of the _harvest_ of sorrow. She was always pointing the mourner
_past_ the floods, to the high place above them--teaching him to
sing even amid the waves and billows--"the Lord will command His
loving-kindness"; "I shall yet praise Him for the help of His
countenance." "I knew," she wrote to a bereaved friend, "that God would
never afflict you so, if He had not something beautiful and blissful to
give in place of what He took." The insight which her writings revealed
into many and subtle aspects of sorrow, made her the recipient of hosts
of letters from strangers, opening to her their griefs, and asking her
counsel; and to all she gave freely and joyfully as far as her strength
and time and judgment would allow. There was a tonic vein mingling with
her comforts. Her touch was firm as well as tender. She knew the shoals
of morbid sentimentality which skirt the deeps of trouble, and sought to
pilot the sorrowing past the shoals to the shore.
And now, having thus spoken of her preparation for God's work, the
work itself, and its fruits, how can we gather up and depict the many
personal traits and associations which crowd upon the memory? Of such
things how many are incapable of reproduction, their fine flavor
vanishing with the moment. How often that which most commends them to
remembrance lies in the glance of an eye, an inflection of the voice, an
expression of the face, which neither pen nor pencil can put on record.
How many such recollections, for example, group themselves round that
beautiful home among the hills. How it bore her mark and was pervaded
with her presence, and seemed, more than any other spot, the appropriate
setting of her life. Now she was at her chamber window studying the ever
shifting lights and shadows on the hills; now rambling over the fields
and through the woods and returning with her hands laden with flowers
and grasses; now busy with her ferns in her garden; again beguiling the
hours with her pencil, or stealing away to develop some happy fancy
or fresh thought on which her mind had been working for days. And how
pleasant her talk. How she would dart off sometimes from the line of the
gravest theme into some quaint, mirth-provoking conceit. How many odd
things she had seen; of how many strange adventures she had partaken,
and how graphically and charmingly she told them. With what relish she
would bring forth some good thing saved up to tell to one who would
appreciate it; yet, on the other hand, how earnestly, how intelligently,
with what simplicity, with what eager delight would she pursue the
discussion of the deep things of God. Nor was her home merely a place of
rest and retirement. Its doors were ever wide open to congenial spirits,
and also to some of Christ's poor, to whom the healing breath of the
mountains and the rare sights and sounds of country life were as gifts
from heaven. In that little community she was not content to be a mere
summer idler. There, too, she pursued her ministry of comfort and of
instruction. Eternity alone will reveal the fruitage of the seeds she
sowed in her weekly Bible-reading, to which the women came for miles
over the mountain roads, through storm and through sunshine.
And here the end came. Death, if a surprise at all to her, could only be
a pleasant surprise. In one of her stories an old family servant says
of her departed mistress: "Often's the time I've heard her talk about
dying, and I mind a time when she thought she was going, and there was
a light in her eye, and it was just as she looked when she said, 'Mary,
I'm going to be married.'" It was a leaf out of her own life. She had
marked in one of her books of devotion a passage which, I imagine,
summed up her view of the whole matter: "A true Christian is neither
fond of life nor weary of it." She had no sentimental disgust with life,
but her overmastering desire was to see and be like her Lord, and death
was the entrance gate to that perfect vision. Only the opening of that
portal could bring the full answer to her prayer of years, "I beseech
Thee, show me Thy glory." In this attitude the messenger found her. I
will not dwell on the closing scenes.... It is pleasanter to turn from
that long, weary Sabbath, when nature in its perfect beauty and repose
seemed to mock the bitter agony of the death-chamber, to the hour when,
with the first full brightness of the morning, the silver cord was
loosed, and she was present with the Lord. Surely it was something more
than an accidental coincidence that, in the little "Daily Food," which
for nearly forty years had been her closet companion, the passage for
the 13th of August was: "I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me,
Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea,
saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works
do follow them." That summer afternoon when she was laid to rest had a
brightness which was not all of the glories of the setting sun, as he
burst forth from the encircling clouds, and touched with his parting
splendor the gates of the grave. Nature, with its fulness of summer
life, was set in the key of the resurrection by the assurance of her
victory over death, and it was with a new and mighty sense of their
truth that we spoke over her ashes the words of the Apostle: "It is sown
in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it
is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is
sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. O death, where is
thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
So now, as then, _more_ even than then, since these months have given us
time to study the lesson of that life and the sources of its power, we
give thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord; thanks for the divine
processes which moulded a daughter of consolation; thanks for the
fountains of comfort opened by her along life's highways and which
continue to flow while she sleeps in Jesus; thanks for a good and
fruitful life ended "in the communion of the Holy Catholic Church, in
the confidence of a certain faith, in the comfort of a reasonable,
religious, and holy hope, in charity with all mankind, and in peace with
* * * * *
A List of Mrs. Prentiss' Writings, with notices of some of them and the
dates of their publication:
1. _Little Susy's Six Birthdays._ 1853.
2. _Only a Dandelion, and other Stories._ 1854.
The first piece, from which the little book takes its name, was written
at the time, and is not excelled by anything of the kind written by Mrs.
Prentiss. Spring Breeze is as fresh and delicate as a May flower. The
other stories are mostly a selection from her early contributions to The
3. _Henry and Bessie; or, What they did in the Country._ 1855.
4. _Little Susy's Six Teachers._ 1856.
5. _Little Susy's Little Servants._ 1856.
The three Little Susy books were republished in England, where they seem
to have been as popular among the children as at home. Not far from
50,000 copies have been sold in this country.
6. _The Flower of the Family._ A Book for Girls. 1856.
This work has had a wide circulation at home and abroad. Some 19,000
copies have been sold here. The following is the title-page of one of
the French editions:
* * * * *
Le Fleur de La Famille
Simple Histoire pour Les
Societe des Livres Religieux.
* * * * *
Die Perle der Familie is the German title. Here are a few sentences from
a highly laudatory notice in the well-known "Neue Preuss. Zeitung":
In ausserordentlicher lieblicher und sinniger Weise wird uns ein
haeusliches, schlichtes, von edlem Christlichen Sinn getragenes Familien-
leben forgefuehrt, das durch seine treffliche Characterschilderung unser
lebhaftestes Interesse flir jedes Glied des kinderreichen Hauses in
Anspruch nimmt. Es ist im eigentlichsten Sinne ein Buch fuer die Familie.
_The Flower of the Family_ was translated into German,--as were also
_Stepping Heavenward, The Percys, Fred and Maria and Me_,--by Miss Marie
Morgenstern, of Goettingen. Some omissions in the version of _Stepping
Heavenward_ mar a little the vivacity of the book; but otherwise her
work seems to have been very carefully and well done, and to have met
with the warm approval of the German public.
7. _Peterchen and Gretchen; or, Tales of Early Childhood._ 1860.
This is a translation from the German.
8. _The Little Preacher._ 1867.
One of the most striking of her smaller works. It has throughout the
flavor of German peasant life and of the Black Forest. But it seems
never to have found its way across the sea.
9. _Little Threads; or, Tangle Thread, Silver Thread, and Golden
The aim of _Little Threads_ is happily indicated in its closing
If you find that you like to have your own way a good deal better than
you like your mamma to have hers; if you pout and cry when you can not
do as you please; if you never own that you are in the wrong, and are
sorry for it; never, in short, try with all your might to be docile and
gentle, then your name is Tangle Thread, and you may depend you cost
your mamma many sorrowful hours and many tears. And the best thing you
can do is to go away by yourself and pray to Jesus to make you see how
naughty you are, and to make you humble and sorry. Then the old and
soiled thread that can be seen in your mother's life will disappear, and
in its place there will come first a silver, and by and by, with time
and patience, and God's loving help, a sparkling and beautiful golden
one. And do you know of anything in this world you should rather be than
Somebody's Golden Thread?--especially the Golden Thread of your dear
mamma, who has loved you so many years, who has prayed for you so many
years, and who longs so to see you gentle and docile like Him of whom it
was said: "Behold the _Lamb_ of God!"
_Little Threads_ is based upon a very keen observation of both the dark
and the bright side of childhood. The allegory, in which its lessons are
wrought, is, perhaps, less simple and attractive than that of _Little
Susy's Six Teachers_, or that of _Little Susy's Little Servants_; but
the lessons themselves are full of the sweetest wisdom, pathos, and
10. _Little Lou's Sayings and Doings_. 1868.
Among the papers of her sister, Mrs. Prentiss found a journal containing
numerous little incidents in the early life of her only child, together
with more or less of his boyish sayings. Much of the material found in
this journal was used in the composition of _Little Lou_; and that is
one thing that gives it such an air of perfect reality.
11. _Fred and Maria and Me._ 1868.
12. _The Old Brown Pitcher._ 1868.
This is a temperance tale. It was written at the request of the National
Temperance Society and issued for their press.
_13. Stepping Heavenward. 1869._
Some interesting details respecting this work have been given already.
Its circulation has been very large, both at home and abroad; far
greater than that of any other of Mrs. Prentiss' books. More than 67,000
copies of it have been sold in this country; while in England it was
issued by several houses, and tens of thousands of copies have been
sold there, in Canada, in Australia, and in other parts of the British
Among the English houses that republished _Stepping Heavenward_, were
James Nisbet & Co.; Ward, Lock & Co.; Frederick Warne & Co.; Thomas
Nelson & Sons, London and Edinburgh; Milner & Co.; Weldon & Co. An
edition by the last-named house, neatly printed and intended specially
for circulation in Canada and Australia, as well as at home, was sold at
fivepence, so that the very poorest could buy it. No accurate estimate
can be formed of the number of copies circulated in Great Britain and
its dependencies, but it must have been enormous. It was also issued at
Leipsic, by Tauchnitz, in his famous "Collection of British Authors."
The German translation has already passed into a fourth edition--a
remarkable proof of its popularity. In the preface to this edition Miss
Morgenstern, the translator, says: "So moege sie denn hinausziehen in die
Welt, diese vierte Auflage, moege wiederum aufklopfen an die Stuben
und Herzenthueren, der deutschen Lesewelt, und nachdem ihr aufgethan,
hineintragen in die Stuben und Herzen, was ihre Vorgaengerinnen
hineintrugen;--Freude und Rath und Trost." Nowhere has the work won
higher, or more discriminating, praise than in Germany. The following
extract from one of the critical notices of it may serve as an instance:
In Form von Tagebuch--Aufzeichnungen, somit Selbstbekenntnissen,
wird uns das Leben einer Frau erzaelt, welche--ohne andere _aeussere_
Schickungen freudiger und trueber Art, als sie in _jedem_ Leben
vorzukommen pflegen--aus einem zwar gutartigen und wohlbegabten aber
Susserst reizbaren und leidenshaftlich erregten Muedchen zu einer
gelaeuterten Juengerin des Herrn heranreift. Was aber dies Buch zu einem
wahren Kleinod macht, das ish nicht die ueberaus wahre und tiefe Analyse
jener menschlichen Suende, Suendenschwachheit und Eitelkeit, die sich auch
in die froemmsten Regungen einuschleichen sucht, sondern die Angabe des
wahren Heilmittels. Der goldne Faden naemlich, der sich durch das ganze
Buch zieht, ist die Wahrheit; Nicht _unser_ Rennen und Lanfen, sondern
_Sein_ Erbarmen! Nicht _wir_ haben _Ihn_ geliebt, sondern _Er_ hat _uns_
geliebt, und daran haben _wir_ kindlich zu _glauben_. Sich _Ihm_ an
_Sein_ Herz werfen mit all unsern Schwaechen, all unser Armuth--das
_wirkt_--ja das _ist_ Heilung.... Das Ganze ist im hoechsten Grade
fesselnd. Man lebt sich unwillkuerlich in dies christliche Hauswesen mit
ein, und glaubt in vielen Zuegen einen Spiegel des eigenen zu erkennen.
The title-page of the French translation is as follows:
* * * * *
VERS LE CIEL.
Auteur de _La Fleur de la Famille_, etc.
Traduit de L'Anglais avec
L'Autorization de L'Auteur.
Georges Bridel, Editeur.
* * * * *
The following extract from a letter of Madame de Fressense, dated Paris,
July 18, 1882, will show what impression the work made not only upon
the gifted and accomplished writer, but upon many other of the most
cultivated Christian women of France and Switzerland:
C'est un livre qui fait aimer celle qui y a mis son ame, une etude du
coeur humain bien vraie et bien delicate. L'amour de Dieu deborde dans
ses pages charmantes, dont la lecture rechauffe le coeur. Je crois qu'il
a ete fort apprecie dans nos pays de langue francaise. Une personne dont
toute la vie est un service de ceux qui souffrent me disait l'autre
jour: "C'est _mon_ livre, il m'a fait beaucoup de bien."
Le nombre d'editions qu'a atteint la traduction francaise teemoigne
qu'il a eu du succes, et je suis sure que beaucoup de personnes ont
prefere, avec raison, le lire dans l'original.
Je suis heureuse que vous m'avez donne l'occasion de le relire, et d'en
eprouver de nouveau la bienfaisante influence....
Ce serait un vrai privilege de pouvoir faire connaitre a notre public
francais cette femme aussi distinguee par le coeur que par l'esprit, que
nous aimons tous.
14. _Nidworth, and his three Magic Wands._ 1869.
The three Magic Wands are: Riches, Knowledge, and Love; and in depicting
their peculiar and wonderful virtues Mrs. Prentiss has wrought into the
story with much skill her own theory of a happy life. She wrote the
book with intense delight, and its strange, weird-like scenes and
characters--the home in the forest; Dolman, the poor woodcutter; Cinda,
his tall and strong-minded wife; Nidworth, their first-born; wandering
Hidda, boding ill-luck; the hermit; these and all the rest--seemed to
her, for a while, almost as real as if she had copied them from life.
Its publishers (Roberts Brothers) pronounced _Nidworth_ "a gem" and were
not a little surprised at its failure to strike the popular fancy. It
certainly contains some of the author's brightest pictures of life and
15. _The Percys._ 1870.
This work was translated into French and German, and won warm praise in
both languages. It is full of spirit, depicts real boys and girls and
a loving Christian mother with equal skill, and abounds in the best
lessons of domestic peace.
16. _The Story Lizzie Told._ 1870.
17. _Six Little Princesses and what they turned into._ 1871.
No one of Mrs. Prentiss' lesser works betrays a keener insight into
character or a finer touch than this. Its aim is to illustrate the truth
that all girls are endowed with their own individual talents; and to
enforce the twofold lesson, that the diligent use of these talents, on
the one hand, can furnish innocent pleasures beyond the reach of any
outward position, however brilliant; and, on the other, is the best
preparation for the day of adversity.
The closing sentences of the story will give an inkling of its aim and