Part 8 out of 13
herself. H. made a diagram of the position of the board that I might
fully comprehend the situation, and then showed me how the corpse lay.
They were not willing to part with the remains, and buried them in the
_Saturday._--I went to Yonkers with M. and H. to spend the day with Mrs.
B. Her children are sweet and interesting as ever; but little Maggie,
now three years old, is the "queen of the house." She is a perfect
specimen of what a child should be--gladsome, well, bright, and
engaging. Her cheeks are rosy and shining, and she keeps up an incessant
chatter. They are all wild about her, from papa and mamma down to the
* * * * *
Home-Life in Dorset.
DORSET, June 10, 1870.
Here we are again in dear old Dorset. We got here about ten on Wednesday
evening, expecting to find the house dark and forlorn, but Mrs. F.
had been down and lighted it up, and put on the dining-table bread,
biscuits, butter, cakes, eggs, etc., enough to last for days. Thursday
was hotter than any day we had had in New York, and not very good,
therefore, for the hard work of unpacking, and the yet harder work of
sowing our flower-seeds in a huge bed shaped like a palm-leaf. But, with
M.'s help, it was done before one o'clock to-day--a herculean task, as
the ground had to be thoroughly dug up with a trowel; stones, sticks,
and roots got out, and the earth sifted in our hands. The back of my
neck and my ears are nearly blistered. M. is standing behind me now
anointing me with cocoa butter. Our place looks beautifully. Some of the
trees set out are twelve or fifteen feet high, and when fully leaved
will make quite a show. Papa is to be here about ten days, as he greatly
needs the rest; he will then go home till July 1st, when he will bring
Jane and Martha. I told Martha I thought it very good of Maria to be
willing to come with me, and she said she did not think it needed much
goodness, and that _anybody_ would go with me _any_where. The boys have
a little black and tan dog which Culyer gave them, and M.'s bird is a
fine singer. Our family circle now consists of
(horse) Coco "
(cow) Sukey "
(dog) Nep "
(bird) Cherry "
We never saw Dorset so early, and when the foliage was in such
Last Tuesday I reached our door perfectly and disgracefully loaded with
parcels, and said to myself, "I wonder what Mr. M. would say if he saw
me with this load?" when instantly he opened the door to let me in!
Account for this if you can. Why should I have thought of him among all
the people I know? Did his mind touch mine through the closed door? It
makes me almost shudder to think such things can be. Well, I must love
and leave you. I am going to have a small basket on the table in the
hall with ferns, mosses, and shells in it. They all send love from Pa
Prentiss down to Sukey. What a pity you could not come home for the
summer and go back again! I believe I'll go to your bedroom door and
say, "I wonder whether Annie would shriek out if she saw me in this old
sacque, instead of her pretty one?" and perhaps you'll open and let me
in. Will you or won't you? Now I'm going to ride.
I've been and I've got back, and I'm frozen solid, and am glad I've
got back to my den. G. and H. are now in the kitchen making biscuits.
Good-bye, chicken. Mamma PRENTISS.
_June 12th._--Everybody is in bed save Darby and Joan. We slept last
night under four blankets and a silk comforter, which will give you a
faint idea of the weather. It has been beautiful to-day, and we have sat
out of doors a good deal. Papa and the boys went out to our hill after
tea last evening and picked two quarts of strawberries, so as to have
a short-cake to-day. M. took me yesterday to see a nest in the orchard
which was full of birds parted into fours--not a crack between, and one
of them so crowded that it filled about no space at all. The hymn says,
"Birds in their little nests agree," and I should think they would, for
they have no room to disagree in. They all four stared at us with awful,
almost embarrassing solemnity, and each had a little yellow moustache. I
had no idea they lived packed in so--no wonder they looked melancholy.
The sight of them, especially of the one who had no room at all, made me
_Wednesday._--Your letter reached us on Monday, and we all went out and
sat in a row on the upper step, like birds on a telegraph wire, and papa
read it aloud. I am lying by to-day--writing, reading, lounging, and
enjoying the scenery. You ought to see papa eat strawberries!!! They are
very plentiful on our hill. The grass on the lawn is pricking up like
needles; easy to see if you kneel down and stare hard, but absolutely
invisible otherwise; yet papa keeps calling me to look out of the window
and admire it, and shouts to people driving by to do the same. He has
just come in, and I told him what I was saying about him, on which he
gave me a good beating, doubled up his fist at me, and then kissed me to
make up.... _Don't sew_ Isn't it enough that I have nearly killed myself
with doing it? We have just heard of the death of Dickens and the
sensation it is making in England.
_Thursday._--This bird of ours is splendid. I have just framed the two
best likenesses of you and hung them up in front of my table. You would
laugh at papa's ways about coffee. He complains that he drank too much
at Philadelphia, and says that with strawberries we don't need it, and
that I may tell Maria so. I tell her, and lo! the next morning there it
is. I ask the meaning, and she says he came down saying I did not feel
very well and needed it! The next day it appears again. Why? He had been
down and ordered it because it was _good_. The next day he orders it
because it is his last day here but one, and to-morrow it will be on the
table because it is the last! Dreadful man! and yet I hate to have him
_Friday._--I drove papa to Manchester, and as usual, this exploit
brought on a thunder shower, with a much needed deluge of rain. I had
a hard time getting home, and got wet to the skin. I had not only to
drive, but keep a roll of matting from slipping out, hold up the boot
and the umbrella, and keep stopping to get my hat out of my eyes, which
kept knocking over them. Then Coco goes like the wind this summer.
Fortunately I had my waterproof with me and got home safely. The worst
of it is that, in my bewilderment, I refused to let a woman get in who
was walking to South Dorset. I shall die of remorse.. Well, well, how it
is raining, to be sure.
_Monday._--I hear that papa sent a dispatch to somebody to know how I
got here from Manchester. I do not wonder he is worried. I am such a
poor driver, and it rained so dreadfully. M. follows me round like a
little dog; if I go down cellar she goes down; if I pick a strawberry
she picks one; if I stop picking she stops. She is the sweetest lamb
that ever was, and I am the Mary that's got her. I don't believe anybody
else in the world loves me so well, unless it possibly is papa, and he
doesn't follow me down cellar, and goes off and picks strawberries all
by himself, and that on Sunday, too, when I had forbidden berrypicking!
We are rioting in strawberries, just as we did last summer. We live a
good deal at sixes and sevens, but nobody cares. This afternoon I have
been arranging a basket for the hall table, with mosses, ferns, shells
and white coral; ever so pretty.
_Wednesday._--It is a splendid day and I expect papa. The children have
not said a word about their food, though partly owing to no butcher and
partly to the heat, I have had for two days next to nothing; picked fish
one day and fish picked the next. We regarded to-day's dinner as a most
sumptuous one, and I am sure Victoria's won't taste so good to her.
Letters keep pouring in, urging papa to accept the Professorship at
Chicago, and declaring the vote of the Assembly to be the voice of God.
Of course, if he must accept, we should have to give up our dear little
home here. But to me his leaving the ministry would be the worst
thing about it. After dinner the boys carried me off bodily to see
strawberries and other plants; then they made me go to the mill, and by
that time I had no hair-pins on my head, to say nothing of hair. The
boys are working away like all possessed. A little bird, probably one
of those hatched here, has just come and perched himself on the
piazza, railing in front of me, and is making me an address which,
unfortunately, I do not understand.... You have inherited from me a want
of reverence for relics and the like. I wouldn't go as far as our barn
to see the fig-leaves Adam and Eve wore, or all the hair of all the
apostles; and when people are not born hero-worshippers, they can't
even worship themselves as heroes. Fancy Dr. Schaff sending me back the
MS. of a hymn I gave him, from a London printing-office! What could I do
with it? cover jelly with it? He sent me a beautiful copy of his book,
"Christ in Song."
_Thursday, June 30th._--Papa, with J. and M., came late last night, and
we all made as great a time as if the Great Mogul had come. They give
a most terrific account of the heat in the city. You ask how Stepping
Heavenward is selling. So far 14,000. Nidworth has been a complete
failure, though the publishers write me that it is a "gem." 
_Monday, July 4th._--M. is so absorbed in the study of Vick's floral
catalogue that she speaks of seeing such a thing in the Bible or
Dictionary, when she means that she saw it in Vick. I did the same thing
last night. She and I get down on our knees and look solemnly at the
bare ground and point out up-springing weeds as better than nothing. I
had a long call this morning from Mrs. F. Field, of East Dorset. They
had a dear little bright-eyed baby baptized yesterday, which sat through
all the morning service and behaved even better than I did, for it had
no wandering thoughts. Mrs. F. said some friends of hers in Brooklyn
received letters from France and from Japan simultaneously, urging them
to read Stepping Heavenward, which was the first they heard of it. We
have celebrated the glorious Fourth by making and eating ice-cream.
Papa brought a new-fashioned freezer, that professed to freeze in two
minutes. We screwed it to the wood-house floor--or rather H. did--put in
the cream, and the whole family stood and watched papa while he turned
the handle. At the end of two minutes we unscrewed the cover and gazed
inside, but there were no signs of freezing, and to make a long story
short, instead of writing a book as I said I should, there we all were
from half-past twelve to nearly two o'clock, when we decided to have
dinner and leave the servants to finish it. It came on to the table at
last, was very rich and rather good. The boys spent the afternoon in the
woods firing off crackers. M. went visiting and papa took me to drive,
it being a delightful afternoon. The boys have a few Roman candles which
they are going to send off as soon as it gets dark enough.
_July 13th._--This is a real Dorset day, after a most refreshing rain,
and M. and I have kept out of doors the whole morning, gardening and in
the woods. Dr. and Mrs. Humphrey came down and spent last evening. She
is bright and wide awake, and admired everything from the scenery out of
doors to the matting and chintzes within. I told her there was nothing
in the house to be compared with those who lived in it. Here comes a
woman with four quarts of black raspberries and a fuss to make change.
Papa and the boys are getting in the last hay with Albert. M. has just
brought in your letter. We are glad you have seen those remarkable
scenes [at Ober-Ammergau].One would fancy it would become an old story.
I should not like to see the crucifixion; it must be enough to turn
one's hair white in a single night.
_Saturday._--Yesterday I went with the children to walk round Rupert. We
turned off the road to please the boys, to a brook with a sandy beach,
where all three fell to digging wells, and I fell to collecting wild
grape-vine and roots for my rustic work, and fell into the brook
besides. We all enjoyed ourselves so much that we wished we had our
dinners and could stay all day. On the way home, just as we got near
Col. Sykes', we spied papa with the phaeton, and all got in. We must
have cut a pretty figure, driving through the village; M. in my lap, G.
in papa's, and H. everywhere in general.
_July 14th._--Miss Vance was in last evening after tea, and says our
lawn is getting on extremely well and that our seeds are coming up
beautifully. This greatly soothed M.'s and my own uneasy heart, as we
had rather supposed the lawn ought to be a thick velvet, and the seeds
we sowed two weeks ago up and blooming. If vegetable corresponded to
animal life, this would be the case. Fancy that what were eggs long
after we came here, and then naked birds, are now full-fledged creatures
on the wing, all off getting to housekeeping, each on his own hook!
_July 18th._--M. and I went on a tramp this forenoon and while we were
gone Mrs. M. O. R. and Mary and Mrs. Van W. called. They brought news of
the coming war. Papa showed them all over the house, not excepting your
room, which I think a perfect shame--for the room looks forlorn. I think
men ought to be suppressed, or something done to them. Maria told me
she thought papa's sermon Sunday was "ilegant." _21st._--I feel greatly
troubled lest this dreadful war should cut us off from each other. Mr.
Butler writes that he does not see how people are to get home, and we
do not see either. Papa says it will probably be impossible to have the
Evangelical Alliance. And how prices of finery will go up!
_July 27th._--M.'s and my own perseverance at our flower-bed is
beginning, at last, to be rewarded. We have portulaccas, mignonette,
white candy-tuft, nasturtiums, eutocas, etc.; and the morning-glories,
which are all behindhand, are just beginning to bloom. Never were
flowers so fought for. It is the lion and the unicorn over again. I have
nearly finished "Soll und Haben," and feel more like talking German than
English. The Riverside Magazine has just come and completed my downfall,
as it has a syllable left out of one of my verses, as has been the case
with a hymn in the hymn-book at Cincinnati and one in the Association
Monthly. I am now fairly entitled to the reputation of being a jolty
rhymster. It has been a trifle cooler to-day and we are all refreshed by
_Friday._--Papa read me last evening a nice thing about Stepping
Heavenward from Dr. Robinson in Paris and a lady in Zurich, and I went
to bed and slept the sleep of the just--till daylight, when five hundred
flies began to flap into my ears, up my nose, take nips off my face and
hands, and drove me distracted. They woke papa, too, but he goes to
sleep between the pecks.
_August 4th._--Tuesday I went on a tramp with M. and brought home a
gigantic bracket. We met papa as we neared the house, and he had had his
first bath in his new tank at the mill, and was wild with joy, as were
also the boys. After dinner I made a picture frame of mosses, lichens,
and red and yellow toadstools, ever so pretty; then proofs came, then we
had tea, and then went and made calls. Yesterday on a tramp with M.,
who wanted mosses, then home with about a bushel of ground-pine. Every
minute of the afternoon I spent in trimming the grey room with the pine
and getting up my bracket, and now the room looks like a bower of bliss.
I was to go with M. on another tramp to-day, but it rains, and rain is
greatly needed. The heat in New York is said to exceed anything in the
memory of man, something absolutely appalling.
_Friday._--Here I am on the piazza with Miss K. by my side, reading the
Life of Faber. She got here last night in a beautiful moonlight, and as
I had not told her about the scenery, she was so enchanted with it on
opening her blinds this morning, that she burst into tears. I drove her
round Rupert and took her into Cheney's woods, and the boys invited us
down to their workshop; so we went, and I was astonished to find that
the bath-house is really a perfect affair, with two dressing-rooms and
everything as neat as a pink. Miss K. is charmed with everything, the
cornucopias, natural brackets, crosses, etc., and her delusion as to all
of us, whom she fancies saints and angels, is quite charming, only it
_13th._--There is a good deal of sickness about the village. I made
wine-jelly for four different people yesterday, and the rest of the
morning Miss K., Mrs. Humphrey, and myself sat on a shawl in our woods,
talking. We have had a tremendous rain, to our great delight, and the
air is cooler, but the grasshoppers, which are like the frogs of Egypt,
are not diminished, and are devouring everything. I got a letter from
cousin Mary yesterday, who says she has no doubt we shall get the ocean
up here, somehow, and raise our own oysters and clams.
_16th._--Papa and I went to Manchester to-day to make up a lot of calls,
and among other persons, we saw Mrs. C. of Troy, a bright-eyed old lady
who was a schoolmate of my mother's. She could not tell me anything
about her except that she was very bright and animated, and that I knew
before. Mrs. Wickham asked me to write some letters for a fair to be
held for their church to-morrow; so I wrote three in rhyme, not very
_August 20th._--After dinner papa went to Manchester, taking both boys,
and I went off with M. to Cheney's woods, where we got baskets full
of moss, etc., and had a good time. The children are all wild on the
subject of flowers and spend the evening studying the catalogues, which
they ought to know by heart. I wonder if I have told you how our dog
hates to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy? The moment the
church-bell begins to ring, no matter where he is, or how soundly
asleep, he runs out and gazes in the direction of the church, and as the
last stroke strikes, lifts his nose high in the air and sets up the most
awful wails, howls, groans, despairing remonstrances you can imagine. No
games with the boys to-day--no romps, no going to Manchester, everybody
telling me to get off their Sunday clothes--aow! aow! aow!
Dr. Adams' house has been broken into and robbed, and so has Dr.
Field's. Mrs. H. gave us the history of a conflict in Chicago between
her husband and a desperate burglar armed with a dirk, who wanted, but
did not get a large sum of money under his pillow; also, of his being
garroted and robbed, and having next day sent him a purse of $150, two
pistols, a slug, a loaded cane, and a watchman's rattle. Imagine him as
going about loaded with all these things! I never knew people who had
met with such bewitching adventures, and she has the brightest way of
Papa has got a telegram from Dr. Schaff asking him to come on to his
little Johnny's funeral. This death must have been very sudden, as Dr.
Schaff wrote last Tuesday that his wife was sick, but said nothing of
Johnny. He is the youngest boy, about nine years old, I think, and you
will remember they lost Philip, a beautiful child, born the same day as
our G., the summer we were at Hunter. When the despatch came papa and M.
thought it was bad news about you, and I only thought of Mr. Stearns!
There is no accounting for the way in which the human mind works. And
now for bed, you sleepy head.
_Monday._--A splendid day, and we have all been as busy as bees, if
not as useful,--H. making a whip to chastise the cow with, M., Nep and
myself collecting mosses and toadstools; of the latter I brought home
185! We were out till dinner-time, and after dinner I changed the
mosses in my baskets and jardinet, no small job, and M. spread out her
treasures. She has at last found her enthusiasm, and I am so glad not
only to have found a mate in my tramps, but to see such a source of
pleasure opening before her as woods, fields and gardens have always
been to me. We lighted this morning on what I supposed to be a
horned-headed, ferocious snake, and therefore took great pleasure in
killing. It turned out to be a common striped snake that had got a frog
partly swallowed, and its legs sticking out so that I took them to be
horns. Nep relieved his mind by barking at it. I announced at dinner
that I was going to send for Vick's catalogue of bulbs, which news was
received with acclamation. The fact is, we all seem to be born farmers
or florists; and unless you bring us home something in the agricultural
line, I don't know that you can bring us anything we would condescend to
look at. It is awful to read of the carnage going on in Europe.
_Aug. 27th._--Papa got home Tuesday night. Johnny Schaff's death was
from a fall; he left the house full of life and health, and in a few
minutes was brought in insensible, and only lived half an hour.... I
take no pleasure in writing you, because we feel that you are not likely
to get my letters. Still, I can not make up my mind to stop writing.
Never was a busier set of people than we. In the evening I read to the
children from the German books you sent them; am now on Thelka Von
Grumpert's, which is a really nice book. I tell papa we are making an
idol out of this place, but he says we are not.
_Tuesday._--We all set out to climb the mountain near Deacon Kellogg's.
We snatched what we could for our dinner, and when we were ready to eat
it, it proved to be eggs, bread and meat, cake, guava jelly, cider and
water. We enjoyed the splendid view and the dinner, and then papa and
the boys went home, and M., Nep and myself proceeded to climb higher,
Nep so affectionate that he tired me out hugging me with his "arms,"
as H. calls them, and nearly eating me up, while M. was shaking with
laughter at his silly ways. We were gone from 10 A.M. to nearly 6 P.M.,
and brought home in baskets, bags, pockets and bosom, about thirty
natural brackets, some very large and fearfully heavy. One was so heavy
that I brought it home by kicking it down the mountain. I have just got
some flower seeds for fall planting, and the children are looking them
over as some would gems from the mine.
_Thursday, September 1st._--Your letter has come, and we judge that
you have quite given up Paris; what a pity to have to do it! We spent
yesterday at Hager brook with Mrs. Humphrey and her daughters; papa
drove us over in the straw wagon and came for us about 6 P.M. We had
lobster salad and marmalade, bread and butter and cake, and we roasted
potatoes and corn, and the H.'s had a pie and things of that sort. When
they saw the salad they set up such shouts of joy that papa came to see
what was the matter. We had a nice time. Today I have had proofs to
correct and letters to write, and berries to dry, but not a minute to
sit down and think, everybody needing me at once. All are busy as bees
and send lots of love. Give ever so much to the Smiths.
_September 8th._--Here we are all sitting round the parlor table. The
last three days have each brought a letter from you, and to-day one came
from Mrs. S. to me, and one from Prof. S. to papa. I have no doubt that
the decision for you to return is a wise one and hope you will fall in
with it cheerfully. Dr. Schaff is here, and yesterday papa took him
to Hager brook, and to-day to the quarries; splendid weather for both
excursions, and Dr. S. seems to have enjoyed them extremely. Last
evening he read to us some private letters of Bismarck, which were very
interesting and did him great credit in every way. I had a long call
from M. H. to-day; she looked as sweet as possible and I loaded her with
flowers. Papa is writing Mr. B. to thank him for a basket of splendid
peaches he sent us to-day. H. has just presented me with three pockets
full of toadstools. M. walked with me round Rupert square this
afternoon, and we met a crazy woman who said she wondered I did not go
into fits, and asked me why I didn't. In return I asked her where she
lived, to which she replied, "In the world." We are all on the _qui
vive_ about the war news, especially Louis Napoleon's downfall, and
you may depend we are glad he has used himself up. You can not bring
anything to the children that will please them as seeds would. It
delights me to see them so interested in garden work. Perhaps this will
be my last letter.
Your loving Mammie.
* * * * *
Further Glimpses of her Dorset Life.
The following Recollections of Mrs. Prentiss by her friend, Mrs.
Frederick Field, now of San Jose, California, afford additional glimpses
of her home life in Dorset. The picture is drawn in fair colors; but it
is as truthful as it is fair:
It was the first Sunday in September, 1866. A quiet, perfect day among
the green hills of Vermont; a sacramental Sabbath, and we had come seven
miles over the mountain to go up to the house of the Lord. I had brought
my little two-months-old baby in my arms, intending to leave her during
the service at our brother's home, which was near the church. I knew
that Mrs. Prentiss was a "summer-boarder" in this home, that she was
the wife of a distinguished clergyman, and a literary woman of decided
ability; but it was before the "Stepping Heavenward" epoch of her life,
and I had no very deep interest in the prospect of meeting her. We went
in at the hospitably open door, and meeting no one, sat down in the
pleasant family living-room. It was about noon, and we could hear
cheerful voices talking over the lunch-table in the dining-room.
Presently the door opened, and a slight, delicate-featured woman, with
beautiful large dark eyes, came with rapid step into the room, going
across to the hall door; but her quick eye caught a glimpse of my little
"bundle of flannel," and not pausing for an introduction or word
of preparatory speech, she came towards me with a beaming face and
"O, have you a baby there? How delightful! I haven't seen one for such
an age,--please, may I take it? the darling tiny creature!--a girl? How
She took the baby tenderly in her arms and went on in her eager, quick,
informal way, but with a bright little blush and smile,--"I'm not very
polite--pray, let me introduce myself! I'm Mrs. Prentiss, and you are
Mrs. F---, I know."
After a little more sweet, motherly comment and question over the
baby,--"a touch of nature" which at once made us "akin," she asked,
"Have you brought the baby to be christened?"
I said, No, I thought it would be better to wait till she was a little
"O, no!" she pleaded, "do let us take her over to the church now. The
younger the better, I think; it is so uncertain about our keeping such
I still objected that I had not dressed the little one for so public an
"O, never mind about that," she said. "She is really lovelier in this
simple fashion than to be loaded with lace and embroidery." Then, her
sweet face growing more earnest,--"There will be more of us here to-day
than at the next communion--_more of us to pray for her._"
The little lamb was taken into the fold that day, and I was Mrs.
Prentiss' warm friend forevermore. Her whole beautiful character had
revealed itself to me in that little interview,--the quick perception,
the wholly frank, unconventional manner, the sweet motherliness, the
cordial interest in even a stranger, the fervent piety which could not
bear delay in duty, and even the quaint, original, forcible thought
and way of expressing it, "There'll be more of us here to pray for her
For seven successive summers I saw more or less of her in this "Earthly
Paradise," as she used to call it, and once I visited her in her city
home. I have been favored with many of her sparkling, vivacious letters,
and have read and re-read all her published writings; but that first
meeting held in it for me the key-note of all her wonderfully beautiful
and symmetrical character.
She brought to that little hamlet among the hills a sweet and wholesome
and powerful influence. While her time was too valuable to be wasted
in a general sociability, she yet found leisure for an extensive
acquaintance, for a kindly interest in all her neighbors, and for
Christian work of many kinds. Probably the weekly meeting for
Bible-reading and prayer, which she conducted, was her closest link with
the women of Dorset; but these meetings were established after I had
bidden good-bye to the dear old town, and I leave others to tell how
their "hearts burned within them as she opened to them the Scriptures."
She had in a remarkable degree the lovely feminine gift of
_home-making_. She was a true decorative artist. Her room when she was
boarding, and her home after it was completed, were bowers of beauty.
Every walk over hill and dale, every ramble by brookside or through
wildwood, gave to her some fresh home-adornment. Some shy wildflower
or fern, or brilliant-tinted leaf, a bit of moss, a curious lichen, a
deserted bird's-nest, a strange fragment of rock, a shining pebble,
would catch her passing glance and reveal to her quick artistic sense
possibilities of use which were quaint, original, characteristic. One
saw from afar that hers was a poet's home; and, if permitted to enter
its gracious portals, the first impression deepened into certainty.
There was as strong an individuality about her home, and especially
about her own little study, as there was about herself and her writings.
A cheerful, sunny, hospitable Christian home! Far and wide its potent
influences reached, and it was a beautiful thing to see how many
another home, humble or stately, grew emulous and blossomed into a new
Mrs. Prentiss was naturally a shy and reserved woman, and necessarily a
pre-occupied one. Therefore she was sometimes misunderstood. But those
who--knew her best, and were blest with her rare intimacy, knew her as
"a perfect woman nobly planned." Her conversation was charming.
Her close study of nature taught her a thousand happy symbols and
illustrations, which made both what she said and wrote a mosaic of
exquisite comparisons. Her studies of character were equally constant
and penetrating. Nothing escaped her; no peculiarity of mind or manner
failed of her quick observation, but it was always a kindly interest.
She did not ridicule that which was simply ignorance or weakness, and
she saw with keen pleasure all that was quaint, original, or strong,
even when it was hidden beneath the homeliest garb. She had the true
artist's liking for that which was simple and _genre_. The common
things of common life appealed to her sympathies and called out all her
attention. It was a real, hearty interest, too--not feigned, even in a
sense generally thought praiseworthy. Indeed, no one ever had a more
intense scorn of every sort of _feigning_. She was honest, truthful,
_genuine_ to the highest degree. It may have sometimes led her into
seeming lack of courtesy, but even this was a failing which "leaned to
virtue's side." I chanced to know of her once calling with a friend on a
country neighbor, and finding the good housewife busy over a rag-carpet.
Mrs. Prentiss, who had never chanced to see one of these bits of rural
manufacture in its elementary processes, was full of questions and
interest, thereby quite evidently pleasing the unassuming artist in
assorted rags and home-made dyes. When the visitors were safely outside
the door, Mrs. Prentiss' friend turned to her with the exclamation,
"What tact you have! She really thought you were interested in her
work!" The quick blood sprang into Mrs. Prentiss' face, and she turned
upon her friend a look of amazement and rebuke. "Tact!" she said, "I
despise such tact!--do you think _I would look or act a lie?_"
She was an exceedingly practical woman, not a dreamer. A systematic,
thorough housekeeper, with as exalted ideals in all the affairs which
pertain to good housewifery as in those matters which are generally
thought to transcend these humble occupations. Like Solomon's virtuous
woman she "looked well after the ways of her household." Methodical,
careful of minutes, simple in her tastes, abstemious, and therefore
enjoying evenly good health in spite of her delicate constitution--this
is the secret of her accomplishing so much. Yet all this foundation of
exactness and diligence was so "rounded with leafy gracefulness" that
she never seemed angular or unyielding.
With her children she was a model disciplinarian, exceedingly strict, a
wise law-maker; yet withal a tender, devoted, self-sacrificing mother.
I have never seen such exact obedience required and given--or a more
idolized mother. "Mamma's" word was indeed _Law_, but--O, happy
combination!--it was also _Gospel_!
How warm and true her friendship was! How little of selfishness in all
her intercourse with other women! How well she loved to be of _service_
to her friends! How anxious that each should reach her highest
possibilities of attainment! I record with deepest sense of obligation
the cordial, generous, sympathetic assistance of many kinds extended by
her to me during our whole acquaintance. To every earnest worker in any
field she gladly "lent a hand," rejoicing in all the successes of others
as if they were her own.
But if weakness, or trouble, or sorrow of any sort or degree overtook
one she straightway became as one of God's own ministering spirits--an
angel of strength and consolation. Always more eager, however, that
_souls should grow than that pain should cease_. Volumes could be made
of her letters to friends in sorrow. One tender monotone steals through
'Come unto me, my kindred, I enfold you
In an embrace to sufferers only known;
Close to this heart I tenderly will hold you,
Suppress no sigh, keep back no tear, no moan.
"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 hearts that know Thee not learn Thee to know.
"Till peace takes place of storm and agitation,
Till lying on the current of Thy will
There shall be glorying in tribulation,
And Christ Himself each empty heart shall fill."
Few have the gift or the courage to deal faithfully yet lovingly with an
erring soul, but she did not shrink back even from this service to those
she loved. I can bear witness to the wisdom, penetration, skill, and
fidelity with which she probed a terribly wounded spirit, and then
said with tender solemnity, "_I think you need a great deal of good
O, "vanished hand," still beckon to us from the Eternal Heights! O,
"voice that is still," speak to us yet from the Shining Shore!
"Still let thy mild rebuking stand
Between us and the wrong,
And thy dear memory serve to make
Our faith in goodness strong."
 See the poem in the appendix to Golden Hours, with the "Reply of the
New Year," written by Mrs. Prentiss.
 A clerical circle of New York.
 A Unitarian paper, published in New York.
 An association of ladies for providing garments and other needed
articles in aid of families of Home and Foreign missionaries, especially
of those connected in any way with their own congregation. Such a circle
is found in most of the American churches.
 The passage occurs in a letter to Madame Guyon, dated June 9, 1689.
For another extract from the same letter see appendix F, p. 557.
 On the Resurrection of Christ.
 Helen Rogers Blakeman, wife of W. N. Blakeman, M.D., was born on the
20th of December, 1811, in the city of New York. She was a granddaughter
of the Rev. James Caldwell, of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the
Revolutionary patriot. The tragical fate of her grandmother has passed
into history. When the British forces reached Connecticut Farms, on
the 7th of June, 1780, and began to burn and pillage the place, Mrs.
Caldwell, who was then living there, retired with her two children--one
an infant in her arms--to a back room in the house. Here, while engaged
in prayer, she was shot through the window. Two bullets struck her in
the breast and she fell dead upon the floor. The infant in her arms was
Mrs. Blakeman's mother. On the father's side, too, she was of an old and
 "Your precious lamb was very near my heart; few knew so well as I
did all you suffered for and with her, for few have been over just the
ground I have. But that is little to the purpose; what I was going to
say is this,--'God never makes a mistake.' You know and feel it, I am
sure, but when we are broken down with grief, we like to hear simple
words, oft repeated. On this anniversary of my child's death, I feel
drawn to you. It was a great blow to us because it came to hearts
already sore with sorrow for our boy, and because it came so like a
thunderclap, and because she suffered so. Your baby's death brought it
all back."--_From the Letter to Mrs. W._
 "I must tell you what a busy day I had yesterday, being chaplain,
marketer, mother, author, and consoler from early morning till nine at
night.... A letter came from Cincinnati from the editor of the hymn-book
of the Y.M.C.A., saying he had some of my hymns in it, and had stopped
the press in order to have two more, which he wanted 'right away.' I was
exactly in the mood; it was our little Bessie's anniversary, she had
been in heaven _eighteen_ years; think what she has already gained by
my one year of suffering! and I wanted to spend it for others, not for
myself."--_Letter to her Husband, May 20_.
 Nidworth, and His Three Magic Wands, published by Roberts Brothers.
THE TRIAL OF FAITH.
Two Years of Suffering. Its Nature and Causes. Spiritual Conflicts.
Ill-health. Faith a Gift to be won by Prayer. Death-bed of Dr. Skinner.
Visit to Philadelphia. "Daily Food." How to read the Bible so as to love
it more. Letters of Sympathy and Counsel. "Prayer for Holiness brings
Suffering." Perils of human Friendship.
If in the life of Mrs. Prentiss the year 1870 was marked with a white
stone as one of great happiness, the two following years were marked by
unusual and very acute suffering. Perhaps something of this was, sooner
or later, to have been looked for in the experience of one whose
organization, both physical and mental, was so intensely sensitive.
Tragical elements are latent in every human life, especially in the life
of woman. And the finer qualities of her nature, her vast capacity of
loving and of self-sacrifice, her peculiar cares and trials, as well as
outward events, are always tending to bring these elements into action.
What scenes surpassing fable, scenes both bright and sad, belong to
the secret history of many a quiet woman's heart! Then our modern
civilization, while placing woman higher in some respects than she ever
stood before, at the same time makes her pay a heavy price for
her advantages. In the very process of enlarging her sphere and
opportunities, whether intellectual or practical, and of educating
her for their duties, does it not also expose her to moral shocks and
troubles and lacerations of feeling almost peculiar to our times? Nor is
religion wholly exempt from the spirit that rules the age or the hour.
There is a close, though often very subtle, connexion between the
two; just as there is between the working of nature and grace in the
The phase of her history upon which Mrs. Prentiss was now entering
can not be fully understood without considering it in this light. The
melancholy that was deep-rooted in her temperament, and her tender,
all-absorbing sympathies, made her very quick to feel whatever of pain
or sorrow pervaded the social atmosphere about her. The thought of what
others were suffering would intrude even upon her rural retreat among
the mountains, and render her jealous of her own rest and joy. And then,
in all her later years, the mystery of existence weighed upon her heart
more and more heavily. In a nature so deep and so finely strung, great
happiness and great sorrow are divided by a very thin partition.
But spiritual trials and conflict gave its keenest edge to the suffering
of these years. Such trials and conflict indeed were not wanting in the
earliest stages of her religious life, nor had they been wanting all
along its course; but they came now with a power and in a manner almost
wholly new; and, while not essentially different from those which have
afflicted God's children in all ages, they are yet traceable, in no
small degree, to special causes and circumstances in her own case. Early
in 1870 she had fallen in with a book entitled "God's Furnace," and a
few months later had made the acquaintance of its author--a remarkable
woman, of great strength of character, of deep religious experience, and
full of zeal for God. Her book was introduced to the Christian public by
a distinguished Presbyterian clergyman, and was highly recommended
by other eminent divines. By means of this work, as well as by
correspondence and an occasional visit, she exerted for a time a good
deal of influence over Mrs. Prentiss. At first this influence seemed to
be stimulating and healthful, but it was not so in the end. The points
of sympathy and the points of difference between them will come out so
plainly in Mrs. Prentiss' letters that they need not be indicated here.
It would not be easy to imagine two women more utterly dissimilar,
except in love to God, devotion to their Saviour, and delight in prayer.
These formed the tie between them. Miss ----'s last days were sadly
clouded by mental trouble and disease.
A little book called "Holiness through Faith," published about this
time, was another disturbing influence in Mrs. Prentiss' religious life.
This work and others of a similar character presented a somewhat novel
theory of sanctification--a theory zealously taught, and which excited
considerable attention in certain circles of the Christian community. It
was, in brief, this: As we are justified by faith without the deeds
of the law, even so are we sanctified by faith; in other words, as we
obtain forgiveness and acceptance with God by a simple act of trust in
Christ, so by simple trust in Christ we may attain personal holiness; it
is as easy for divine grace to save us at once from the power, as from
the guilt, of sin.
For more than thirty years Mrs. Prentiss had made the Christian life a
matter of earnest thought and study. The subject of personal holiness
in particular had occupied her attention. Whatever promised to shed
new light upon it she eagerly read. Her own convictions, however, were
positive and decided; and, although at first inclined to accept the
doctrine of "Holiness through Faith," further reflection satisfied her
that, as taught by its special advocates, it was contrary to Scripture
and experience, and was fraught with mischief. Certain unhappy
tendencies and results of the doctrine, both at home and abroad, as
shown in some of its teachers and disciples, also forced her to this
conclusion. Folly of some sort is indeed one of the fatal rocks upon
which all overstrained theories of sanctification are almost certain to
be wrecked; and in excitable, crude natures, the evil is apt to take the
form either of mental extravagance, perhaps derangement, or of silly, if
not still worse, conduct. But, while deeply impressed with the mischief
of these Perfectionist theories, Mrs. Prentiss felt the heartiest
sympathy with all earnest seekers after holiness, and was grieved by
what seemed to her harsh or unjust criticisms upon them.
What were her own matured views on the subject will appear in the
sequel. It is enough to say here that "Holiness through Faith" and other
works, in advocacy of the same or similar doctrines, meeting her as
they did when under a severe mental strain, and touching her at a most
sensitive point--for holiness was a passion of her whole soul--had
for a time a more or less bewildering effect. She kept pondering the
questions they raised, until the native hue of her piety--hitherto so
resolute and cheerful--became "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of
The inward conflict which has been referred to she described sometimes,
in the language of the old divines, as the want of God's "sensible
presence," or of "conscious" nearness to and communion with Christ;
sometimes, as a state of "spiritual deprivation or aridity"; and then
again, as a work of the Evil One. She laid much stress upon this last
point. Her belief in the existence of Satan and his influence over human
souls was as vivid as that of Luther; she did not hesitate to accuse him
of being the fomenter and, in a sense, the author of her distress; the
warnings of the Bible against his "wiles" she accepted as in full force
still; and she could offer with all her heart, and with no doubt as
to the literal meaning of its closing words, the petition of the old
Litany: "That it may please Thee to strengthen such as do stand, and to
comfort and help the weak-hearted, and to raise up those who fall, and
finally to _beat down Satan under our feet_."
The coming trouble seems to have cast its shadow across her path even
before the close of 1870. Early in 1871 it was upon her in power.
Her letters contain very interesting and pathetic allusions to this
experience. But they do not explain it. Nor is it easy to explain. In
the absence of certain inciting causes from without, it would never,
perhaps, have assumed a serious form. But these sharp spiritual
trials are generally complicated with external causes, or occasions;
ill-health, morbid constitutional tendencies, loss of sleep, wearing
cares and responsibilities, sudden calamities, worldly loss or
disappointment, and the like. It is in the midst of such conditions that
pious souls are most apt to be assailed by gloom and despondency. And
yet distressing inward struggles and depression arise sometimes in the
midst of outward prosperity and even of unusual religious enjoyment.
In truth, among all the phenomena of the Christian life none are more
obscure or harder to seize than those connected with spiritual conflict
and temptation. They belong largely to that _terra incognita_, the dark
back-ground of human consciousness, where are the primal forces of
the soul and the mustering-place of good and evil. A certain mystery
enshrouds all profound religious emotion; whether of the peace of
God that passeth all understanding, or of the anguish that comes of
spiritual desertion. Those who are in the midst of the battle, or bear
its scars, will instantly recognise an experience like their own; to all
others it must needs remain inexplicable. Even in the natural life our
deepest joys and sorrows are mostly inarticulate; the great poets come
nearest to giving them utterance; but how much the reality always
surpasses the descriptions of the poet's pen, even though it be the pen
of a Shakespeare, or a Goethe!
Mrs. Prentiss never afterward referred to this "fiery trial" without
strong emotion. It terrified her to think of anyone she loved as exposed
to it; and--not to speak of other classes--she seemed to regard those as
specially exposed to it, who had just passed, or were passing, through
an unusually rich and happy religious experience. One of her last
letters, addressed to a dear Christian friend, related to this very
point. Here are a few sentences from it:
I want to give you EMPHATIC warning that you were never in such danger
in your life. This is the language of bitter, bitter experience and is
not mine alone. Leighton says the great Pirate lets the empty ships go
by and robs the full ones.  ... I do hope you will go on your way
rejoicing, unto the perfect day. Hold on to Christ with your teeth 
if your hands get crippled; He, alone, is stronger than Satan; He,
alone, knows _all_ "sore temptations" mean.
This, certainly, is strong language and will sound very strange and
extravagant in many ears; and yet is it really stronger language than
that often used by inspired prophets and apostles? or than that of
Augustine, Bernard, Luther, Hooker, Fenelon, Bunyan, and of many saintly
women, whose names adorn the annals of piety? Strong as it is, it will
find an echo in hearts that have been assailed by the "fiery darts of
the adversary," and have learned to cry unto God out of the depths
of mental anguish and gloom; while others still in the midst of the
conflict, will, perhaps, be helped and comforted to read of the manner
in which Mrs. Prentiss passed through it. Nothing in the story of her
religious life is more striking and beautiful. Her faith never failed;
she glorified God in the midst of it all; she thanked her Lord and
Master for "taking her in hand," and begged Him not to spare her for her
crying, if so be she might thus learn to love Him more and grow more
like Him! And, what is especially noteworthy, her own suffering, instead
of paralysing, as severe suffering sometimes does, active sympathy with
the sorrows and trials of others, had just the contrary effect. "How
soon," she wrote to a friend, "our dear Lord presses our experiences
into His own service! How many lessons He teaches us in order to make us
'sons' (or daughters) 'of consolation!'" To another friend she wrote:
I did not perceive any selfishness in you during our interview, and you
need not be afraid that I am so taken up with my own affairs as to feel
no sympathy with you in yours. What are we made for, if not to bear each
other's burdens? And this ought to be the effect of trial upon us; to
make us, in the very midst of it, unusually interested in the interests
of others. This is the softening, sanctifying tendency of tribulation,
and he who lacks it needs harder blows.
At no period of her life was she more helpful to afflicted and tempted
souls. In visits to sick-rooms and dying beds, and in letters to friends
in trouble, her heart "like the noble tree that is wounded itself when
it gives the balm," poured itself forth in the most tender, soothing
ministrations. It seemed at times fairly surcharged with love. Meanwhile
she kept her pain to herself; only a few intimate friends, whose prayers
she solicited, knew what a struggle was going on in her soul; to all
others she appeared very much as in her happiest days. "It is a little
curious," she wrote to a young friend, "that suffering as I really am,
nobody sees it. 'Always bright!' people say to me to my amazement.... I
can add nothing but love, of which I am so full that I keep giving off
in thunder and lightning."
The preceding account would be incomplete without adding that the state
of her health during this period, combined with a severe pressure of
varied and perplexing cares, served to deepen the distress caused by her
spiritual trials. Whatever view may be taken of the origin and nature
of such trials, it is certain that physical depression and the mental
strain that comes of anxious, care-worn thoughts, if not their source,
yet tend always greatly to intensify them. In the present case the
trials would, perhaps, not have existed without the cares and the
ill-health; while the latter, even in the entire absence of the former,
would have occasioned severe suffering.
_To Mrs. Frederick Field, New York, Jan. 8, 1871._
'If I need make any apology for writing you so often, it must be this--I
can not help it. Having dwelt long in an obscure, oftentimes dark
valley, and then passed out into a bright plane of life, I am full of
tender yearnings over other souls, and would gladly spend my whole time
and strength for them. I long, especially, to see your feet established
on an immovable Rock. It seems to me that God is preparing you for great
usefulness by the fiery trial of your faith. "They learn in suffering
what they teach in song." Oh how true this is! Who is so fitted to sing
praises to Christ as he who has learned Him in hours of bereavement,
disappointment and despair?
What you want is to let your intellect go overboard, if need be, and to
take what God gives just as a little child takes it, without money and
without price. Faith is His, unbelief ours. No process of reasoning can
soothe a mother's empty, aching heart, or bring Christ into it to fill
up all that great waste room. But faith can. And faith is His gift; a
gift to be won by prayer--prayer persistent, patient, determined;
prayer that will take no denial; prayer that if it goes away one day
unsatisfied, keeps on saying, "Well, there's to-morrow and to-morrow and
to-morrow; God may wait to be gracious, and I can wait to receive, but
receive I must and will." This is what the Bible means when it says,
"the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by
force." It does not say the eager, the impatient take it by force, but
the violent--they who declare, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless
me." This is all heart, not head work. Do I know what I am talking
about? Yes, I do. But my intellect is of no use to me when my heart
is breaking. I must get down on my knees and own that I am less than
nothing, seek _God_, not joy; _consent_ to suffer, not cry for relief.
And how transcendently good He is when He brings me down to that low
place and there shows me that that self-renouncing, self-despairing
spot is just the one where He will stoop to meet me!
My dear friend, don't let this great tragedy of sorrow fail to do
_everything_ for you. It is a dreadful thing to lose children; but a
_lost sorrow_ is the most fearful experience life can bring, I feel this
so strongly that I could go on writing all day. It has been said that
the intent of sorrow is to "toss us on to God's promises." Alas, these
waves too often toss us away out to sea, where neither sun or stars
appear for many days. I pray, earnestly, that it may not be so with you.
Among Mrs. Prentiss' most beloved and honored friends in New York was
the Rev. Dr. Thomas H. Skinner, the first pastor of the Mercer street
church, and then, for nearly a quarter of a century, Professor in the
Union Theological Seminary. His attachment to her, as also that of his
family, was very strong. Dr. Skinner had been among the leaders of
the so-called New School branch of the Presbyterian Church. He was a
preacher of great spiritual power, an able, large-hearted theologian,
and a man of most attractive personal and social qualities. He was
artless as a little child, full of enthusiasm for the best things, and
a pattern of saintly goodness. It used to be said that every stone and
rafter in the Church of the Covenant had felt the touch of his prayers.
This venerable servant of God entered into his rest on the 1st of
February, 1871, in the 80th year of his age. In a letter to her cousin,
Rev. George S. Payson, Mrs. Prentiss thus refers to his last hours:
You will hear at dear Dr. Skinner's funeral to-morrow his dying
testimony, and I want you to know that it was whispered in my enraptured
ear, that I was privileged to spend the whole of Tuesday and all he
lived of Wednesday, at his side, and that mine were the hands that
closed his eyes and composed his features in death. What blissful
moments were mine, as I saw his sainted soul fly home; how near heaven
seemed and still seems!
_To Miss E. S. Gilman, New York, Feb. 7, 1871._
I am glad to hear that you have such an interesting class, and yet more
glad that you see how much Christian culture they need. I am astonished
every day by confessions made to me by young people as to their woful
state before God, and do hope that all this is to prepare me to write
something for them. I began a series of articles in the Association
Monthly, called "Twilight Talks," which may perhaps prove to be in
a degree what you want, but still there is much land untraversed.
Meanwhile I want to encourage you in your work, by letting you feel my
deep sympathy with you in it, and to assure you that nothing will be so
blessed to your scholars as personal holiness in yourself. We _must_
practise what we preach, and give ourselves wholly to Christ if we want
to persuade others to do it. I am saying feebly what I feel very deeply
and constantly. You will rejoice with me that I had the rare privilege
of being with dear Dr. Skinner during his last hours. If you have a copy
of Watts and Select hymns, read the 106th hymn of the 2d book, beginning
at the 2d verse, "Lord, when I quit this earthly stage," and fancy, if
you can, the awe and the delight with which I heard him repeat those
nine verses, as expressive of his dying love to Christ. I feel that
God is always too good to me, but to have Him make me witness of that
inspiring scene, humbles me greatly. In how many ways He seeks us, now
smiling, now caressing, now reproving, now thwarting, and _always_ doing
the very best thing for us that infinite love and goodness can! Let us
love Him better and better every day, and count no work for Him too
small and unnoticed to be wrought thankfully whenever He gives the
opportunity. I hope I am learning to honor the day of small things.
_To Mrs. Humphrey, New York, March 14, 1871._
So you have at last broken the ice and made out, after almost a year, to
write that promised letter! Well, it was worth waiting for, and welcome
when it came, and awakened in me an enthusiasm about seeing the dear
creature, of which I hardly thought my old heart was capable (that
statement is an affectation; my heart isn't old, and never will be). Our
plan now is, if all prospers, to go to Philadelphia on Friday afternoon,
spend the night with you, Saturday with Mrs. Kirkbride, and Sunday and
part of Monday with you. I hope you mean to let us have a quiet little
time with you, unbeknown to strangers, whom I dread and shrink from....
_March 28th._--What a queer way we womenkind have of confiding in each
other with perfectly reckless disregard of consequences! It is a mercy
that men are, for the most part, more prudent, though not half so
delightful!... Well, I'm ever so glad I've seen you in your home, only
I found you more frail (in the way of health) than I found you fair. We
hear that your husband preached "splendidly," as of course we knew he
would, and the next exchange I shall be there to hear as well as to see.
Coming out of the cars yesterday, I picked up a "Daily Food," dropped, I
suppose, by its owner, "Sarah ----," of Philadelphia, given her by "Miss
H. in 1853." It has travelled all over Europe, and is therefore no doubt
precious to her who thus made it her friend. Now how shall I get it to
her? Can you learn her address, or shall I write to her at a venture,
without one? I know how I felt--when I once lost mine; it was given me
in 1835, and has gone with me ever since whenever I have journeyed (as I
was so happy as to find it again).  I think if I have the pleasure of
restoring it to its owner, she will feel glad that it did not fall into
profane hands. I thought it right to look through it, in order to get
some clue, if possible, to its destination; I fancy it was the silent
comforter of a wife who went abroad with her husband for his health,
and came home a widow; God bless her, whoever she is, for she evidently
believes in and loves Him. What sort of a world can it be to those who
don't?  Remember me affectionately to yourself and your dear ones,
and now we've got a-going, let's go ahead.
_April 1st._--What a pity it is that one can't have a separate language
with which to address each beloved one! It seems so mean to use the same
words to two or three or four people one loves so differently! Now about
my visit to you. One reason why I did not stay longer was your looking
worn out. When I am feeling so dragged, visitors are a great wear and
tear to me. But I am afraid my selfishness would have got the upperhand
of me if that were the whole story. I can't put into words the perfect
horror I have of being made into a somebody; it fairly hurts me, and if
I had stayed a week with you and the host of people you had about you,
I should have shriveled up into the size of a pea. I can't deny having
streaks of conceit, but I _know_ enough about myself to make my rational
moments bid me keep in the background, and it excruciates me to be set
up on a pinnacle. So don't blame me if I fled in terror, and that I am
looking forward to your visit, when I hope to have delightful pow-wows
with you all by ourselves.
I am glad that little book can be returned, and I will mail it to you.
I _couldn't_ send it without a loving word; it seemed to fall so
providentially into my hands and knock so at the door of my heart. In
what strange ways people get introduced to each other, and how subtle
are the influences that excite a bond of sympathy!... What do you do
with girls who fall madly and desperately in love with you? Do you laugh
at them, or scold them, or love them, or what? I used to do just such
crazy things, and am not sure I never do them now. Did you ever live in
a queerer world than this is?
_To Miss E.S. Gilman, New York, April 29, 1871._
The subject of your letter is one that greatly interests me, and I
should be glad to get more light upon it myself. As far as I know, those
who live apart from the world, communing with God and working for Him
chiefly in prayer, have least temptation to wandering and distracted
thoughts, and are more devout and spiritual than those of us who live
more in the world. But it stands to reason that we _can't_ all live so.
The outside work must go on, and somebody must do it. But of course we
have the hardest time, since while _in_ the world we must not be of
it. I have come, of late, to think that both classes are needed, the
contemplative and the active, and God does certainly take the latter
aside now and then as you suggest, by sickness and in other ways, to set
them thinking. Holiness is not a mere abstraction; it is praying and
loving and being consecrate, but it is also the doing kind deeds,
speaking friendly words, being in a crowd when we thirst to be alone,
and so on and so on. The study of Christ's life on earth reveals Him
to us as incessantly busy, yet taking _special_ seasons for prayer. It
seems to me that we should imitate Him in this respect, and when we find
ourselves particularly pressed by outward cares and duties, break short
off and withdraw from them till a spiritual tone returns. For we can
do nothing well unless we do it consciously for Christ, and this
consciousness sometimes gets jostled out of us when we undertake to do
too much. The more perfectly He is formed in us the more light we shall
get on every path of duty, the less likely to go astray from the happy
medium of not all contemplation, not all activity. And to have Him thus
to dwell in us we are led to pray by His own last prayer for us on
earth, when He asked for the "_I in them_." Let us pray for each other
that this may be our blessed lot. Nothing will fit us for life but this.
In ourselves we do nothing but err and sin. In Him we are complete.
* * * * *
Her Husband called to Chicago. Lines on going to Dorset. Letters to
young Friends, on the Christian Life. Narrow Escape from Death. Feeling
on returning to Town. Her "Praying Circle." The Chicago Fire. The true
Art of Living. God our only safe Teacher. An easily-besetting Sin.
Counsels to young Friends. Letters.
Mrs. Prentiss' letters relating to her husband's call to Chicago require
perhaps an explanatory word. She had some very pleasant associations
with Chicago. It was the home of a brother and sister-in-law, to whom
she was deeply attached, and of other dear relatives. There Stepping
Heavenward had first appeared, and many unknown friends--grateful for
the good it had done them--were eager to form her acquaintance and bid
her welcome to the great city of the Interior. And yet the thought of
removing there filled her with the utmost distress. Had her husband's
call been to some distant post in the field of Foreign Missions, her
language on the subject could hardly have been stronger. But this
language in reality expresses simply the depth of her devotion to her
church and her friends in New York, her morbid shyness and shrinking
from the presence of strangers, and, especially, her vivid sense of
physical inability to make the change without risking the loss of what
health and power of sleep still remained to her. Misgiving on this last
point caused her husband to hesitate long before accepting the call,
and to feel in after years that his decision to accept it, although
conscientiously made, had been a grave mistake.
_To Mrs. Condict, New York, June 3, 1871._
I knew that you would rather hear from me than through the papers, the
fact that Mr. Prentiss has been once more unanimously elected by the
General Assembly to the Chicago Professorship. He has come home greatly
perplexed as to his duty, and prepared to do it, at any reasonable cost,
if he can only find out what it is. We built our Dorset house not as a
mere luxury, but with the hope that the easy summer there would so build
up our health as to increase and prolong our usefulness; but going to
Chicago would deprive us of that, besides cutting us off from all our
friends. But we want to know no will but God's in this question, and I
am sure you and Miss K. will join us in the prayer that we may not so
much as _suggest_ to Him what path He will lead us into. The experience
of the past winter would impress upon me the fact that _place and
position_ have next to nothing to do with happiness; that we can be
wretched in a palace, radiant in a dungeon. Mr. P. said yesterday that
it broke his heart to hear me talk of giving up Dorset; but perhaps this
heartbreaking is exactly what we need to remind us of what for many
years we never had a chance to forget, that we are pilgrims and
strangers on the earth. Two lines of my own keep running in my head:
Oh foolish heart, oh faithless heart, oh heart on ruin bent, Build not
with too much care thy nest, thou art in banishment.
I have seen the time when the sense of being a pilgrim and a stranger
was very sweet; and God can sweeten whatever He does to us. So though
perplexed we are not in despair, and if we feel that we are this summer
living in a tent that may soon blow down, it is just what you are doing,
and in this point we shall have fellowship. I am sure it is good for
us to have God take up the rod, even if He lays it down again without
inflicting a blow. I know we are going to pray till light comes. I
feel very differently about it from what I did last summer. The mental
conflicts of the past winter have created a good deal of indifference to
everything. Without conscious union and nearness to my Saviour I can't
be happy anywhere; for years He has been the meaning of everything, and
when He only _seems_ gone (I know it is only seeming) I don't much care
where I am. I am just trying to be patient till He makes Satan let go of
me. Excuse this selfish letter, and write me one just as bad!
On the 7th of June she went to Dorset with her husband and the younger
children. The following lines, found among her papers, will show in what
temper of mind she went. It is worth noting that they were written on
Monday, and express a week-day, not merely a passing Sabbath feeling:
Once more at home, once more at home--
For what, dear Lord, I pray?
To seek enjoyment, please myself,
Make life a summer's day?
I shrink, I shudder at the thought;
For what is home to me,
When sin and self enchain my heart,
And keep it far from Thee?
There is but one abiding joy,
Nor place that joy can give;
It is Thy presence that makes home,
That makes it "life to live."
That presence I invoke; naught else
I venture to entreat;
I long to see Thee, hear Thy voice,
To sit at Thy dear feet.
_To a young Friend, Dorset, June 12, 1871._
I trust it is an omen of good that the first letters I have received
since coming here this summer, have been full of the themes I love best.
I was much struck with the sentence you quote, "They can not go back,"
etc.,  and believe it is true of you. Being absorbed in divine things
will not make you selfish; you will be astonished to find how loving you
will gradually grow toward everybody, how interested in their interests,
how happy in their happiness. And if you want work for Christ (and the
more you love Him the more you will _long_ for it), that work will come
to you in all sorts of ways. I do not believe much in duty-work; I think
that work that tells is the spontaneous expression of the love within.
Perhaps you have not been sick enough yourself to be skilful in a
sick-room; perhaps your time for that sort of work hasn't come. I meant
to get you a little book called "The Life of Faith"; in fact, I went
down town on purpose to get it, and passed the Episcopal Sunday-school
Union inadvertently. I think that little book teaches how _every_thing
we do may be done for Christ, and I know by what little experience I
have had of it, that it is a blessed, thrice blessed way to live. A
great deal is meant by the "cup of cold water," and few of us women have
great deeds to perform, and we must unite ourselves to Him by little
ones. The life of constant self-discipline God requires is a happy one;
you and I, and others like us, find a wild, absorbing joy in loving and
being loved; but sweet, abiding peace is the fruit of steady check on
affections that _must_ be tamed and kept under. Is this consistent
with what I have just said about growing more loving as we grow more
Christlike? Yes, it is; for _that_ love is absolutely unselfish, it
gives much and asks nothing, and there is nothing restless about it....
I have been very hard at work ever since I came here, with my darling M.
as my constant, joyous comrade. We have been busy with our flower-beds,
sowing and transplanting, and half the china closet has tumbled out of
doors to serve as protection from the sun. Mr. Prentiss says we do
the work of three days in one, which is true, for we certainly have
performed great feats. The night we got here we found the house lighted
up, and the dining-table covered with good things. People seem glad to
see us back. I don't know which of my Dorset titles would strike you
as most appropriate; one man calls me a "branch," another "a child
of nature," and another "Mr. Prentiss' woman," with the consoling
reflection that I sha'n't rust out.
_To Mrs. Smith, Dorset, August 6, 1871._
I don't know when I have written so few letters as I have this summer.
My right hand has forgot its cunning under the paralysis, under which my
heart has suffered, and which is now beginning to affect my health quite
unfavorably. It seems as if body and soul, joints and marrow, were
rudely separating. Poor George is half-distracted with the weight of
the questions concerning Chicago, and I think almost anything would be
better than this crucifying suspense. But I try not to make a fuss. Mrs.
D---- can tell you that I have said to her many times, during the last
few years, that, according to the ordinary run of life, things would not
long remain with us as they were; they were too good to last.
I have read and re-read "Spiritual Dislodgments," and remember it well.
I certainly wish for such dislodgments in me and mine, if we need them.
George has got hold of a book of A.'s, which delights him, Letters of
William Von Humboldt.  I suppose you recommended it to her. You
_must_ make your plans to come here this summer; I don't seem fully to
have a thing till you've seen it.
_To Mrs. Humphrey, Dorset, Aug. 8, 1871._
It took you a good while to answer my last letter, and I have been
equally lazy about writing since yours strayed this way. Letter-writing
has always been a resource and a pastime to me; a refuge in head-achy
and rainy days, and a tiny way to give pleasure or do good, when other
paths were hedged up. But this summer I have left almost everybody in
the lurch, partly from being more or less unwell and out of spirits,
partly because the Chicago question, remaining unsettled, has been such
a damper that I hadn't much heart to speak either of it or of anything
else. We are perplexed beyond measure what to do; the thought of losing
_my minister_ and having him turn into a professor, agonizes me; on the
other hand, who knows but he needs the rest that change of labor and the
five months' vacation would give him? _His_ chief worry is the effect
the attending funerals all the time has already had on my health. One
day I part with and bury (in imagination!) now this friend, now that,
and this mournful work does not sharpen one's appetite or invigorate
one's frame. I don't know how we've stood the conflict; and it seems
rather selfish to allude to my part of it; but women live more in their
friendships than men do, and the thought of tearing up all our roots is
more painful to me than to my husband, and he will not lose what I must
lose in addition, and as I have said before, my minister, which is the
hardest part of it.
I want you to know what straits we are in, in the hope that you and
yours will be stirred up to pray that we may make no mistake, but go or
stay as the Lord would have us. We have found our little home a nice
refuge for us in the storm; Mr. P. says he should have gone distracted
in a boarding-house. I do not envy you the Conway crowd. But I fancy it
is a good region for collecting mosses and like treasures. I think the
prettiest thing in our house is a flattish bracket, fastened to the wall
and filled with flowers; it looks like a graceful, meandering letter
S and is one of the idols I bow down to.... I have "Holiness through
Faith"; the first time I read it at Mr. R----'s request, I said I
believed every word of it, but this summer, reading it in a different
mood, it puzzles me. The idea is plausible; if God tells us to be holy,
as He certainly does, is it not for Him to provide the way for our being
so, and is it likely He needs our whole lives before He can accomplish
His own design? I talked with Mr. Prentiss about it, and at first he
rejected the thought of holiness through faith, but last night we got
upon the subject again and he was interested in some sentences I read to
him and said he must examine the book. When are you coming to spend that
week in Dorset? Love to each and all.
_To a young Friend, Kauinfels, Sept. 9, 1871._
I have had many letters to write to-day, for to-day our fate is sealed,
and we are to go. But I must say a few words to you before going to bed,
for I want to tell you how very glad I am that you have been enabled
to take a step  which will, I am sure, lead the way to other steps,
increase your holiness, your usefulness, and your happiness. May God
bless you in this attempt to honor Him, and open out before you new
fields wherein to glorify and please Him. This has not been a sorrowful
day to me. I hope I am offering to a "patient God a patient heart." I do
not want to make the worst of the sacrifice He requires, or to fancy I
am only to be happy on my own conditions. He has been most of the time
for years "the spring of all my joys, the life of my delights." Where
He is, I want to be; where He bids me go, I want to go, and to go in
courage and faith. Anything is better than too strong cleaving to this
world. As I was situated in New York, I lacked not a single earthly
blessing. I had a delightful home, freedom from care, and a circle of
friends whom I loved with all my heart, and who loved me in a way to
satisfy even my rapacity. Only one thing was wanting to my perfect
felicity--a heart absolutely holy; and was I likely to get that when my
earthly cup was so full? At any rate I am content. Now and then, as the
reality of this coming separation overwhelms me, I feel a spasm of pain
at my heart (I don't suppose we are expected to cease to be human beings
or to lose our sensibilities), but if my Lord and Master will go with
me, and keeps on making me more and more like Himself, I can be happy
anywhere and under any conditions, or be made content not to be happy.
All this is of little consequence in itself, but perhaps it may make me
more of a blessing to others, which, next to personal holiness, is the
only thing to be sought very earnestly. As to my relation to you, He who
brought you under my wing for a season has something better for you in
store. _That's His way._ And wherever I am, if it is His will and His
Spirit dictates the prayer, I shall pray for you, and that is the best
service one soul can render another.
About this time she and her husband had an almost miraculous escape from
instant death. They had been calling upon friends in East Dorset and
were returning home. Not far from that village is a very dangerous
railroad crossing; and, as the sight or sound of cars so affrighted Coco
as to render him uncontrollable, special pains had been taken not to
arrive at the spot while a train was due. But just as they reached it,
an "irregular" train, whose approach was masked behind high bushes, came
rushing along unannounced, and had they been only a few seconds later,
would have crushed them to atoms. So severe was the shock and so vivid
the sense of a Providential escape, that scarcely a word was spoken
during the drive home. The next morning she gave her husband a very
interesting account of the thoughts that, like lightning, flashed upon
her mind while feeling herself in the jaws of death. They related
exclusively to her children--how they would receive the news, and what
would become of them. 
Late in September she returned to town, still oppressed by the thought
of going to Chicago. In a letter to Mrs. Condict, dated October 2d, she
We got home on Friday night, and very early on Saturday were settled
down into the old routine. But how different everything is! At church
tearful, clouded faces; at home, warmhearted friends looking upon us as
for the last time. It is all right. I would not venture to change it
if I could; but it is hard. At times it seems as if my heart would
literally break to pieces, but we are mercifully kept from realising our
sorrows all the time. The waves dash in and almost overwhelm, but then
they sweep back and are stayed by an almighty, kind hand.... It is like
tearing off a limb to leave our dear prayer-meeting. Next to my closet,
it has been to me the sweetest spot on earth. I never expect to find
To another friend she writes a day or two later:
My heart fairly _collapses_ at times, at the thought of tearing myself
away from those whom Christian ties have made dearer to me than my
kindred after the flesh. And then comes the precious privilege and
relief of telling my yet dearer and better Friend all about it, and the
sweet peace begotten of yielding my will to His. I want to be of all
the use and comfort to you and to the other dear ones He will let me be
during these few months. Do pray for me that I may so live Christ as to
bear others along with me on a resistless tide. Those lines you copied
for me are a great comfort:
"Rather walking with Him by faith,
Than walking alone in the light."
Of the little praying circle, alluded to in her letter to Mrs. C., one
of its members writes:
It was unique even among meetings of its own class. Held in an upper
chamber, never largely attended and sometimes only by the "two or
three," it was almost unknown except to the few, who regarded it as
among their chiefest religious privileges. All the other members would
gladly have had Mrs. Prentiss assume its entire leadership; but she
assumed nothing and was no doubt quite unconscious as to how large
an extent she was the life and soul of the meeting. In the familiar
conversation of the hour nothing fell from her lips but such simple
words as, coming from a glowing heart, strengthened and deepened the
spiritual life of all who heard them. She had, in a degree I never knew
equalled, the gift of leading the devotions of others. But there was not
the slightest approach to performance in her prayers; she abhorred the
very thought of it. Those who knelt with her can never forget the pure
devotion which breathed itself forth in simple exquisite language; but
it was something beyond the power of description.
Another member of the circle writes:
Her prayers were so simple, so earnest, so childlike. We all felt we
were in the very presence of our loving Father. One thing especially
always impressed me during that sacred hour--it was her _quietness of
manner_. She was very cordial and affectionate in her greetings with
each one, as we assembled, and then a holy awe, a solemn hush, came over
her spirit and she seemed like one who saw the Lord! O how we all miss
her! There is never a meeting but we keep her in remembrance and talk
together lovingly about her.
_To a Friend, Oct. 21, 1871._
Mr. Prentiss sent in his resignation last evening, and the church
refused unanimously to let him go. "Praise God from whom all blessings
flow" penetrated the walls of the parsonage, as they sang it when the
decision was made, and so we knew our fate before a whole parlorful
rushed in to shake hands, kiss, and congratulate. You would have been
delighted had you been here. Prof. Smith, who took strong ground in
favor of his going, takes just as strong ground in favor of his staying.
I feel that all this is the result of prayer. I never got any light on
the Chicago question when I prayed about it; never could _see_ that it
was our duty to go; but I yielded my judgment and my will, because my
husband thought that he must go. I think our very reluctance to it made
us shrink from evading it; we were so afraid of opposing God's will. Now
the matter is taken out of our hands and we have only to resume our work
here. God grant that this baptism of fire may purge and purify us
and prepare us to be a great blessing to the church. It is a most
awe-inspiring providence, God's burning us out of Chicago, and we feel
like putting our shoes from off our feet and adoring Him in silence....
Pray that the lessons we have been learning through so many trying
months may help us to be helping hands to those who may pass through
similar straits. One of my brothers was burnt out, and his own and his
wife's letters drew tears even down to the kitchen. For two days and
a night they lost their baby, five months old, in addition to all the
other horrors. But they found refuge with a dear cousin, who has filled
his house to overflowing. I may have spoken of this cousin to you: he
has a foundling home on Mueller's trust system.
Before taking leave of the call to Chicago a word should be added
to what she says concerning it in her letters. The prospect of her
husband's accepting the call rendered the summer a very trying one;
but it was far from being all gloom. She had a marvellous power of
extracting amusement out of the most untoward situation. In 1843 she
wrote from Richmond, referring to Mr. Persico's troubles: "I never spent
such melancholy weeks in my life; in the midst of it, however, I made
fun for the rest, as I believe I should do in a dungeon." It was so in
the present case. She relieved the weariness of many an anxious hour by
"making fun for the rest." As an illustration, one evening at Dorset,
while sitting at the parlor-table with her children and a young
friend who was visiting her, she seized a pencil and wrote for their
entertainment a ludicrous version of the Chicago affair in two parts.
The paper which was preserved by her young friend, illustrates also
another trait which she thus describes at the close of a frolicsome
letter to Miss E. A. Warner: "It is one of the peculiar peculiarities
of this woman that she usually carries on, when she wants to hide her
feelins." Part I. begins thus:
Where are the Prentisses? Gone to Chicago,
Gone bag and baggage, the whole crew and cargo.
Well, they _would_ go, now let's talk 'em over,
And see what compensation we can discover.
They are all "talked over" and then in Part II. the scene changes to
Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Here's the tribe of Prentisses just agoing by;
Dr. Prentiss he,
Mrs. Prentiss she,
And a lot of young ones that all begin with P.
Well, let us view them with our eyes,
And then begin to criticise.
And first the doctor, what of him?
The doctor having been fully discussed, the criticism proceeds:
Now for his wife; well, who would guess
She had set up as authoress!
Why, she looks just like all of us,
Instead of being in a muss
Like other literary folks.
They say she likes her little jokes,
As well as those who've less to say
Of stepping on the heavenward way.
Mrs. P. having been disposed of:
Next comes Miss P.; how she will make
The hearts of all the students quake!
She'll wind them round her fingers' ends,
And find in them one hundred friends.
They'll sit on benches in a row
And watch her come, and watch her go;
But they'll be safe, the precious rogues,
Since she don't care for theologues.
The other children next pass in review and the whole closes with the
Time, and Time only, will make clear
Why the poor geese came cackling here.
_To a young Friend, New York, Nov., 1871._
My heart is as young and fresh as any girl's, and I am _almost_ as
prone to make idols out of those I love, as I ever was; and this is
inconsistent with the devotion owed to God. I do not mean that I really
love anybody better than I do Him, but that human friendships tempt me.
This easily-besetting sin of mine has cost me more anguish than tongue
can tell, and I deeply feel the need of more love to Christ because of
my earthly tendencies. I know I would sacrifice every friend to Christ,
but I am not always disentangled. How strange this is, how passing
strange!... In a religious way I find myself much better off here than
at Dorset. But there is yet something apparently "far off, unattained
and dim" that I once thought I had caught by the wing, and enjoyed for a
season, but which has flown away. I am afraid I am one who has got to be
a religious enthusiast, or else dissatisfied and restless. When I give
way to an impulse to the first, I care for nothing worldly, and am at
peace. But I am unfitted for daily life, for secular talk and reading.
Is it so with you? Does it run in our blood? I do long and pray for more
light; and I _will_ pray for more love, cost what it may. Sometimes I
long to get to heaven, where I shall not have to be curbing my heart
with bit and bridle, and can be as loving as I want to be--as I _am_.
_To a young Friend abroad--New York, Dec. 8, 1871._
There never will come a time in my life when I shall not need all my
Christian friends can do for me in the way of prayer. I am glad you are
making such special effort to oppose the icebergs of foreign life; God
will meet and bless you in it. Let us, if need be, forsake all others to
cleave only unto Him. I don't know of any real misery except coldness
between myself and Him.
I feel warm and tender sympathy with you in all your struggles,
temptations, joys, hopes and fears. As you grow older you will _settle_
more; your troubles, your ups and downs, belong chiefly to your youth.
Yes, you are right in saying that Mr. P---- could go through mental
conflicts in silence; he does not pine for sympathy as you and I do.
You and I are like David, though I forget, at the moment, what he said
happened to him when he "kept silence." (On the whole, I don't think he
I think the proper attitude to take when restless and lonesome and
homesick for want of God's sensible presence, is just what we take when
we are missing earthly friends for whom we yearn, and whose letters,
though better than nothing, do not half feed our hungry hearts, or fill
our longing arms. And that attitude is patient waiting. We are such
many-sided creatures that I do not doubt you are getting pleasure and
profit out of this European trip, although it is alloyed by so much
mental suffering. But such is life. It has in it nothing perfect,
nothing ideal. And this conviction, deepened every now and then by some
new experience, tosses me anew, again and again, back on to that Rock of
Ages that ever stands sure and steadfast, and on whom our feet may rest.
It is well to have the waves and billows of temptation beat upon us; if
only to magnify this Rock and teach us what a refuge He is.
I went, last night, with Mr. Prentiss and most of the children, to hear
the freedmen and women in a concert at Steinway Hall. It was _packed_
with a brilliant, delighted audience, and it was most interesting to see
these young people, simple, dignified, earnest, full of love to Christ,
and preparing, by education, to work for Him. They sang "Keep me from
sinking down" most sweetly and touchingly. I see you have the blues as I
used to do, at your age, and hope you will outgrow them as I have done.
I _suffer_ without being _depressed_ in the sense in which I used to be;
it is hard to make the distinction, but I am sure there is one. I do not
know how far this change has come to me as a happy wife and mother, or
how far it is religious.
_Aunt Jane's Hero_ was published in 1871. It is hardly inferior to
Stepping Heavenward in its pictures of life and character, or in the
wisdom of its teaching. The object of the book is to depict a home whose
happiness flows from the living Rock, Christ Jesus. It protests also
against the extravagance and other evils of the times, which tend to
check the growth of such homes, and aims to show that there are still
treasures of love and peace on earth, that may be bought without money
and without price.
* * * * *
"Holiness and Usefulness go hand-in-hand." No two Souls dealt with
exactly alike. Visits to a stricken Home. Another Side of her Life.
Visit to a Hospital. Christian Friendship. Letters to a bereaved Mother.
Submission not inconsistent with Suffering. Thoughts at the Funeral of
a little "Wee Davie." Assurance of Faith. Funeral of Prof. Hopkins. His
She entered the new year with weary steps, but with a heart full of
tenderness and sympathy. A circle of young friends, living in different
parts of the country, looked eagerly to her at this time for counsel,
and she was deeply interested in their spiritual progress. She wrote to
one of them, January 6, 1872:
Your letter has filled my heart with joy. What a Friend and Saviour we
have, and how He comes to meet us on the sea, if we attempt to walk
there in faith! I trust your path now will be the ever brightening
one that shall shine more and more unto the perfect day. Holiness and
usefulness go hand in hand, and you will have new work to do for the
Lord; praying work especially. _Pray for me_, for one thing; I need a
great deal of grace and strength just now. And pray for all the souls
that are struggling toward the light. O that everybody lived only for
A few weeks later, writing to the same friend, she thus refers to the
"fiery trials" through which she was passing:
This season of temptation came right on the heels, if I may use such
an expression, of great spiritual illumination. Of all the years of my
life, 1869-70 was the brightest, and it seems as if Satan could not
endure the sight of so much love and joy, and so took me in hand. I
have not liked to say much about this to young people, lest it should
discourage them; but I hope you will not allow it to affect you in that
way, for you must remember that no two souls are dealt with exactly
alike, and that the fact that many are looking up to me may have made it
necessary for our dear Lord to let Satan harass and trouble me as he has
done. No, let us not be discouraged, either you or I, but rejoice that
we are called of our God and Saviour to give Him all we have and all we
are.... If we spent more time in thanking God for what He _has_ done for
us, He would do more.
Malignant scarlet fever and other diseases, had invaded and isolated the
household mentioned in the following letter. Their gratitude to Mrs.
Prentiss was most touching; it was as if she had been to them an angel
from heaven. The story of her visits and loving sympathy became a part
of their family history.
_To Mrs. Humphrey, New York, Jan. 26, 1872._
I came home half frozen from my early walk this morning, to get warm not
only at the fire, but at your letter, which I found awaiting me. I am
glad if you got anything out of your visit here. I rather think you and
I shall "rattle on" together after we get to heaven.... You say, "How
skilfully God does fashion our crosses for us!" Yes, He does. And for
my part, I don't want to rest and be happy without crosses--for I can't
_do_ without them. People who set themselves up to be pastors and
teachers must "learn in suffering" what they teach in sermon and book.
I felt a good deal reproved for making so much of mine, however, by my
further visits to the house of mourning of which we spoke to you. The
little boy died early on the next day, and before his funeral his poor
mother, neglected by everybody else, found it some comfort to get into
my arms and cry there. It made no difference that twenty years had
passed since I had had a sorrow akin to hers; we mothers may cease to
grieve, outwardly, but we never forget what has gone out of our sight,
or ever grow unsympathetic because time has soothed and quieted us. But
I need not say this to _you_. This was on Saturday; all day Monday I was
there watching a most lovely little girl, about six years old, writhing
in agony; she died early next morning. The next eldest has been in a
critical state, but will probably recover a certain degree of
health, but as a helpless cripple. Well, I felt that death alone was
_inexorable_--other enemies we may hope and pray and fight against--and
that while my children lived, I need not despair. The tax on my
sympathies in the case of those half-distracted parents has been
terrible, and yet I wouldn't accept a cold heart if I had the offer of
To give you another side of my life, let me tell you of a pleasant
dinner party one night last week, when we met Gov. and Mrs. C----, of
Massachusetts, and I fell in love with her then and there.... Well, this
is a queer world, full of queer things and queer people. Will the next
one be more commonplace? I know not. Good-bye.
Word has come from that afflicted household that the grandfather has
died suddenly of heart disease. His wife died a few weeks ago. Mr.
Prentiss saw him on Saturday in vigorous health.
_To Miss Rebecca F. Morse, New York, March 5,1872._
Can you tell me where the blotting-pads can be obtained? I have got into
a hospital of _spines_; in other words, of people who can only write
lying on their backs, one of them an authoress, and I think it would be
a mercy to them if I could furnish them with the means of writing with
more ease than they do now. I was sorry you could not come last Friday,
and hope you will be able to join us Saturday, when the club meets
here.... How you would have enjoyed yesterday afternoon with me! I went
to call on a lady from Vermont, who is here for spinal treatment, and
found in her room another of the patients. Two such bright creatures I
never met at once, and we got a-going at such a rate that though I had
never seen either of them before, I stayed nearly three hours! I mean to
have another dose of them before long, and give them another dose of E.
P. I have been reading a book called "The Presence of Christ" --which
I liked so well that I got a copy to lend. It is not a great book, but I
think it will be a useful one. It says we are all idolaters, and reminds
me of my besetting sins in that direction. I feel overwhelmed when
I think how many young people are looking to me for light and help,
knowing how much I need both myself.... Every now and then some
Providential event occurs that wakes us up, and we find that we have
been asleep and dreaming, and that what we have been doing that made us
fancy ourselves awake, was mechanical.
I must be off now to my sewing society, which is a great farce, since
I can earn thirty or forty times as much with my pen as I can with my
needle, and if they would let me stay at home and write, I would give
them the results of my morning's work. But the minute I stop going
everybody else stops.
_To Mrs. Condict, April 7, 1872._
How I should love to spend this evening with you! This has been our
Communion Sunday, and I am sure the service would have been very
soothing to your poor, sore heart. And yet why do I say _poor_ when I
know it is _rich_? Oh, you might have the same sorrow without faith and
patience with which to bear it, and think how dreadful that would be!
Your little lamb has been spending his first Sunday with the Good
Shepherd and other lambs of the flock, and has been as happy as the
day is long. Perhaps your two children and mine are claiming kinship
together. If they met in a foreign land they would surely claim it for
our sakes; why not in the land that is not foreign, and not far off? But
still these are not the thoughts to bring you special comfort. "Thy will
be done!" does the whole. And yet my heart aches for you. Some one, who
had never had a real sorrow, told Mrs. N. that if she submitted to God's
will as she ought, she would cease to suffer. What a fallacy this is!
Mrs. N. was comforted by hearing that your little one was taken away by
the consequences of the fever, as her Nettie was, for she had reproached
herself with having neglected her to see to Johnny, who died first, and
thought this neglect had allowed her to take cold. I feel very sorry
when mothers torture themselves in this needless way, as if God could
not avert ill consequences, if He chose.
I have shed more than one tear to-day. I heard last night that my
dearly-loved brother, Prof. Hopkins, is on his dying-bed. I never
thought of his dying, he comes of such a long-lived race. I expect to go
to see him, and if I find I can be of any use or comfort, stay a week or
two. His death will come very near to me, but he is a saintly man, and I
am glad for him that he can go. How thankful we shall be when our turn
comes! The ladies at our little meeting were deeply interested in what
I had to tell them about your dear boy, and prayed for you with much
feeling. May our dear Lord bless you abundantly with His sweet presence!
I know He will. And yet He has willed it that you should suffer.
"Himself hath done it!" Oh how glad He will be when the dispensation of
suffering is over, and He can gather His beloved round Him, tearless,
free from sorrow and care, and all forever at rest.
_May 5th._--Yesterday, the friend at East Dorset whose three children
died within a few weeks of each other, sent me some verses, of which I
copy one for you:
"The eye of faith beholds
A golden stair, like that of old, whereon
Fair spirits go and come;
God's angels coming down on errands sweet,
Our angels going home."
I hope this golden stair, up which your dear boy climbed "with shout and
song," is covered with God's angels coming down to bless and comfort
you. One of the most touching passages in the Bible, to my mind, is
that which describes angels as coming to minister to Jesus after
His temptations in the wilderness. It gives one such an idea of His
helplessness! Just as I was going out to church this morning, Mr.
Prentiss told me of the death of a charming "baby-boy," one of our
lambs, and I could scarcely help bursting into tears, though I had only
seen him once. You can hardly understand how I feel, as a pastor's wife,
toward our people. Their sorrows come right home. I have a friend also
hanging in agonizing suspense over a little one who has been injured by
a fall; she is sweetly submissive, but you know what a mother's heart
is. I have yet another friend, who has had to give up her baby. She is a
young mother, and far from her family, but says she has "perfect peace."
So from all sides I hear sorrowful sounds, but so much faith and
obedience mingled with the sighs, that I can only wonder at what God can
_To Miss Morse, May 7, 1872._
How true and how strange it is that our deepest sorrows, spring from
our sweetest affections; that as we love much, we suffer much. What
instruments of torture our hearts are! The passage you quote is all true
but people are apt to be impatient in affliction, eager to drink the
bitter cup at a draught rather than drop by drop, and fain to dig up the
seed as soon as it is planted, to see if it has germinated. I am fond of
quoting that passage about "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" coming
I have just come from the funeral of a little "Wee Davie"; all the
crosses around his coffin were tiny ones, and he had a small floral
harp in his hand. I thought as I looked upon his face, still beautiful,
though worn, that even babies have to be introduced to the cross, for he
had a week of fearful struggle before he was released.... I enclose an
extract I made for you from a work on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
This was all the paper I had at hand at the moment. The recipe for
"curry" I have copied into my recipe-book, and the two lines at the top
of the page I addressed to M. A queer mixture of the spiritual and the
practical, but no stranger than life's mixtures always are.
_To a young Friend, New York, May 20th, 1872._
As to assurance of faith, I think we may all have that, and in my own
darkest hours this faith has not been disturbed. I have just come home
from a brief visit to Miss ----, with whom I had some interesting
discussions. I use the word _discussions_ advisedly, for we love each
other in constant disagreement. She believes in holiness by faith, while
denying that she has herself attained it. I think her life, as far as I
can see it, very true and beautiful. We spent a whole evening talking
about temptation. Not long ago I met with a passage, in French, to this
effect--I quote from memory only: "God has some souls whom He can not
afflict in any ordinary way, for they love Him so that they are ready
for any outward sorrow or bereavement. He therefore scourges them with
inward trials, vastly more painful than any outward tribulation could
be; thus crucifying them to self." I can not but think that this
explains Mrs. ----'s experience, and perhaps my own; at any rate I feel
that we are all in the hands of an unerring Physician, who will bring
us, through varying paths, home to Himself.
I had a call the other day from an intelligent Christian woman, whom
I had not seen for eighteen years. She said that some time ago her
attention was called to the subject of personal holiness, and as she
is a great reader, she devoured everything she could get hold of, and
finally became a dogmatic perfectionist. But experience modified these
views, and she fell back on the Bible doctrine of an indwelling Christ,
with the conviction that just in proportion to this indwelling will be
the holiness of the soul. This is precisely my own belief. This is
the doctrine I preached in Stepping Heavenward and I have so far seen
nothing to change these views, while I desire and pray to be taught any
other truth if I am wrong. I believe God does reveal Himself and His
truth to those who are willing to know it.
_To Miss Morse, New York, May 31, 1872._
I got home yesterday from Williamstown, where I went, with my husband,
to attend the funeral of my dearly beloved brother, Professor Hopkins.
He literally starved to death. He died as he had lived, beautifully,
thinking of and sending messages to all his friends, and on his last day
repeating passages of Scripture and even, weak as he was, joining in
hymns sung at his bedside. The day of the funeral was a pretty trying
one for me, as there was not only his loss to mourn, but there were
traces of my darling mother and sister, who both died in that house, all
over it; some of my mother's silver, a white quilt she made when a
girl, my sister's library, her collection of shells and minerals, her
paintings, her little conservatory, the portrait of her only child,
dressed in his uniform (he was killed in one of the battles of the
Wilderness). Then, owing to the rain, none of us ladies were allowed to
go into the cemetery, and I had thought much of visiting my sister's
grave and seeing her boy lying on one side and her husband on the other.
But our disappointments are as carefully planned for us as our sorrows,
so I have not a word to say.
After services at the house, we walked to the church, which we entered
through a double file of uncovered students. One of the most touching
things about the service was the sight of four students standing in
charge of the remains, two at the head and two at the foot of the
coffin. His poor folks came in crowds, with their hands full of flowers
to be cast into his grave. My brother said he never saw so many men
shed tears at a funeral, and I am sure I never did; some sobbing as
convulsively as women. I could not help asking myself when my heart was
swelling so with pain, whether love _paid_. Love is sweet when all goes
well, but oh how fearfully exacting it is when separation comes! How
many tithes it takes of all we have and are!
A worthy young woman in our church has been driven into hysterics by
reading "Holiness through Faith." I went to see her as soon as I got
home from W. yesterday, but she was asleep under the influence of an
opiate. There is no doubt that too much self-scrutiny is pernicious,
especially to weak-minded, ignorant young people. It was said of Prof.
Hopkins that he would have been a mystic but for his love to souls, and
I am afraid these new doctrines tend too much to the seeking for peace
and joy, too little to seeking the salvation of the careless and
worldly. But I hesitate to criticise any class of good people, feeling
that those who live in most habitual communion with God receive light
directly and constantly from on high; and of that communion we can not
seek too much. 
* * * * *
Christian Parents to expect Piety in their Children. Perfection. "People
make too much Parade of their Troubles." "Higher Life" Doctrines. Letter
to Mrs. Washburn. Last Visit to Williamstown.
Early in June she went to Dorset. The summer, like that of 1871, was
shadowed by anxiety and inward conflict; but her care-worn thoughts were
greatly soothed by her rural occupations, by visits from young friends,
and by the ever-fresh charms of nature around her.
_To a Christian Friend, Dorset, June 9, 1872._
I was obliged to give up my much-desired visit to you. We went on to the
funeral of Prof. Hopkins, and that took three days out of the busy time
just before coming here. I particularly wanted you to know _at the time_
that my three younger children united with the church on Sunday last,
but had not a moment in which to write you. It was a touching sight to
our people. Mr. P. looked down on his children so lovingly, and kissed
them when the covenant had been read. He said ---'s face was so full of
soul that he could not help it, and his heart yearned over them all.
Someone said there was not a dry eye in the house. I felt not elated,
not cast down, but at peace. I think it plain that Christian parents are
to _expect_ piety in their children, and expect it early. In mine it is
indeed "first the blade," and they will, no doubt, have their trials and
temptations. But it seems to me I must leave them in God's hands and let
Him lead them as He will. It was very sweet to have the elements passed
to me by their young hands. Offer one earnest prayer for them at least,
that they may prove true soldiers and servants of Jesus Christ. No doubt
your two little sainted ones looked on and loved the children of their
The following testimony of one of President Garfield's classmates and
intimate friends may fitly be added here:
"For him there was but one Mark Hopkins in all the world; but for
Professor Albert Hopkins also, or 'Prof. Al.,' as he was called in those
days, the General--not only while at college, but all through life--
entertained the highest regard, both as a man and a scholar. His
intellectual attainments were thought by Gen. G. to be of an unusually
fine order, rivalling those of his brother, and often eliciting the
admiration not only of himself, but of all the other students. In
speaking of his Williamstown life, Gen. Garfield always referred to
Prof. Hopkins in the most affectionate manner; and, both from his own
statements and my personal observation, I know that their mutual college
relations were of the pleasantest nature possible."
On the subject of perfection, you say I am looking for angelic
perfection. I see no difference in kind. Perfection is perfection to my
mind, and I have always thought it a dangerous thing for a soul to fancy
it had attained it. Yet, in her last letters to me, Miss ---- virtually
professes to have become free from sin. She says self and sin are the
same thing, and that she is entirely dead to self. What is this but
complete sanctification? What can an angel say more? I feel painfully
bewildered amid conflicting testimonies, and sometimes long to flee away
from everybody. Miss ----'s last letter saddened me, I will own.
You say, "I am in danger of becoming morbid, or stupid, or wild, or
something I ought not." Why in danger? According to your own doctrine
you are safe; being "entirely sanctified from moment to moment." At any
rate I can say nothing "to quicken" you, for I _am_ morbid and stupid,
though just now not wild. Those sharp temptations have ceased, though
perhaps only for a season; but I have been physically weakened by them,
and have got to take care of myself, go to bed early, and vegetate all
I can--and this when I ought to be hard at work ministering to other
souls. The fact is, I don't know anything and don't do anything, but
just get through the day somehow, wondering what all this strange,
unfamiliar state of things will end in. Poor M---- has gone crazy on
"Holiness through Faith," and will probably have to go to an asylum....
Our little home looks and is very pleasant. I take some comfort in it,
and try to realise the goodness that gives me such a luxury. But a soul
that has known what it is to live to Christ can be _happy_ only in Him.
May He be all in all to you, and consciously so to me in His own good
_To Miss Woolsey, Dorset, June 23, 1872._
I wish you could come and take a look at us this quiet afternoon. Not
a soul is to be seen or heard; the mountains are covered with the soft
haze that says the day is warm but not oppressive, and here and there a
brilliantly colored bird flies by, setting "Tweedle Dum," our taciturn
canary, into tune. M. and I have driven at our out-door work like a pair
of steam-engines, and you can imagine how dignified I am from the fact
that an old fuddy-duddy who does occasional jobs for me, summons me to
my window by a "Hullo!" beneath it, while G. says to us, "Where are you
girls going to sit this afternoon?"
Your sister's allusion to Watts and Select Hymns reminds me of ages long
past, when I used to sing the whole book through as I marched night
after night through my room, carrying a colicky baby up and down for
fifteen months, till I became a living skeleton. We do contrive to live
through queer experiences.
_To a young Friend, Dorset, Aug. 3, 1872._
The lines you kindly copied for me have the ring of the true metal and I
like them exceedingly. People make too much parade of their troubles and
too much fuss about them; the fact is we are all born to tribulation, as
we also are to innumerable joys, and there is no sense in being too
much depressed or elated by either. "The saddest birds a season find to
sing." Few if any lives flow in unmingled currents. As to myself, my
rural tastes are so strong, and I have so much to absorb and gratify
me, that I _need_ a mixture of experience. Two roses that bloomed in my
garden this morning, made my heart leap with delight, and when I get
off in the woods with M., and we collect mosses and ferns and scarlet
berries, I am conscious of great enjoyment in them. At the same time,
if I thought it best to tell the other side of the story, I should want
some very black ink with which to do it. We must take life as God gives
it to us, without murmurings and disputings, and with the checks on our
natural eagerness that keeps us mindful of Him.
You speak of the "Higher Life people." I still hold my judgment in
suspense in regard to their doctrines, reading pretty much all they send
me, and asking daily for light from on high. I have had some talks this
summer with Dr. Stearns on these subjects, and he urges me to keep where
I am, but I try not to be too much influenced for or against doctrines I
do not, by experience, understand. Let us do the will of God (and suffer
it) and we shall learn of the doctrine.
_To Mrs. Washburn, Kauinfels, Friday Evening, (September, 1872)._
I have done nothing but tear my hair ever since you left, to think I let
you go. It would have been so easy to send you to Manchester to-morrow
morning, after a night here, and an evening over our little wood-fire,
but we were so glad to see you both, so bewildered by your sudden
appearance, that neither of us thought of it till you were gone. And
now you are still within reach, and we want you to reconsider your
resolution to turn your backs upon us after such a long, fatiguing
journey, and eating no salt with us. I did not urge your staying because
I do so hate to be urged myself. But I want you to feel what a great
pleasure it would be to us if you could make up your minds to stay at
least over Sunday, or if to-morrow and Sunday are unpleasant, just a day
or two more, to take our favorite drives with us, and give us what you
may never have a chance to give us again. I declare I shall think you
are crazy, if you don't stay a few days, now that you are here. We have
been longing to have you come, and only waiting for our place to be a
little less naked in order to lay violent hands on you; but now you have
seen the nakedness of the land, we don't care, but want you to see more
of it. This is the time, and _exactly_ the time, when we have nothing
to do but to enjoy our visitors, and next year the house may be running
over. And if you don't come now, you'll have the plague of having to
come some other time, and it is a long, formidable journey.
Why _didn't_ we just take and lock you up when we had hold of you! Well,
now I've torn out _all_ my hair, and people will be saying, "Go up, thou
bald-head." Besides--you left them bunch-berries! and do you suppose you
can go home without them? Why, it wouldn't be safe. You would be run off
the track, and scalded by steam, and broken all to pieces, and caught on
the cow-catcher, and get lost, and be run away with, and even struck by
lightning, I shouldn't wonder. And now if you go in to-morrow's train
you'll catch the small-pox and the measles and the scarlet fever and the
yellow fever, and all the colors-in-the-rainbow fever, and go into a
consumption and have the pleurisy, and the jaundice and the tooth-ache
and the headache, and, above all, the conscience-ache. And you never ate
any of our corn or our beans! You never so much as asked the receipt for
our ironclads! You haven't seen our cow. You haven't been down cellar.
You haven't fished in our brook. You haven't been here at all, now I
come to think of it. I dreamed you flew through, but it was nothing
_but_ a dream. And the houses have a habit of burning down, and ours is