HotFreeBooks.com
The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss
by George L. Prentiss
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

I want to spend a few minutes of this my birthday in talking with you in reply to your letter.

To a Christian Friend, New York, Oct. 26, 1873.

I want to tell you how I love you, because you "learn your lessons" so easily, and how thankful I am that in your great trials and afflictions you have been enabled to glorify God. How small trouble is when set over against that! Is not Christ enough for a human soul? Does it really need anything else for its happiness? You will remember that when Madame Guyon was not only homeless, but deprived of her liberty, she was perfectly happy. "A little bird am I." [5] It seems to me that when God takes away our earthly joys and props, He gives Himself most generously; and is there any joy on earth to be compared for a moment with such a gift?... My husband has just come in and described the scene at Mrs. De Witt's funeral, [6] when her husband said, Good-bye, dear wife, you have been my greatest blessing next to Christ; and he added, "and that I can say of you." This was very sweet to me, for I have faults of manner that often annoy him—I am so vehement, so positive, and lay down the law so! But I believe the grace of God can cure faults of all sorts, be they deep-seated or external. And I ought to be one of the best women in the world, if I am good in proportion to the gifts with which I am overwhelmed. I count it not the least of your and my mercies, that we have been permitted to add four little children to the happy company above. No wonder you miss your darling boy, but I am sure you would not call him back. Have you any choice religious verses not in any book, that you would like to put into one I am going to get up?

To the Same, Nov. 12th.

I want you and your mother to know what I am now busy about, hoping it may set you to praying over it. When I asked you for bits of poetry, I meant pieces gleaned from time to time from newspapers. My plan was to make a compilation, interspersing verses of my own anonymously. But Mr. Randolph has convinced me that it is my duty and privilege to have the little book all original, and to appear as mine; and in unexpected ways my will about it has been broken, and I have ceased from all morbid shyness about it, and am only too thankful that God is willing thus to use me for His own glory. Of course, I shall meet with a good deal of misapprehension and disgust from some quarters, but not from you or yours. It is a comfort, on the other hand, to think of once more ministering to longing or afflicted souls, as I hope to do in these lines, written for no human eye. You say Jesus is pained when His dear ones suffer. I hardly think that can be. Tender sympathy He no doubt feels, but not pain. If He did, He would be miserable all the time, the world is so full of misery.

When I look back over my own life, the precious times were generally seasons of great suffering; so much so, that the idea of discipline has become a hobby. But one can only learn all this by experience. Mrs. —— says she never sings the verse containing "E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me," and that little children never talk in that way to their mothers, and, therefore, we ought not to talk so to God! I did not argue with her about it, but I felt thankful that I could sing and say that line very earnestly, and had been taught to do so by the Spirit of God.

To a Friend in Texas, New York, Dec. 1, 1873.

I am glad you like Faber better on a closer acquaintance. He certainly has said some wonderful things among many weak and foolish ones. What you quote from him about thanksgiving is very true. Our gratitude bears no sort of comparison with our petitions or our sighs and groans. It is contemptible in us to be such thankless beggars. As to domestic cares, you know Mrs. Stowe has written a beautiful little tract on this subject—"Earthly Care a Heavenly Discipline." God never places us in any position in which we can not grow. We may fancy that He does. We may fear we are so impeded by fretting, petty cares that we are gaining nothing; but when we are not sending any branches upward, we may be sending roots downward. Perhaps in the time of our humiliation, when everything seems a failure, we are making the best kind of progress. God delights to try our faith by the conditions in which He places us. A plant set in the shade shows where its heart is by turning towards the sun, even when unable to reach it. We have so much to distract us in this world that we do not realise how truly and deeply, if not always warmly and consciously, we love Christ. But I believe that this love is the strongest principle in every regenerate soul. It may slumber for a time, it may falter, it may freeze nearly to death; but sooner or later it will declare itself as the ruling passion. You should regard all your discontent with yourself as negative devotion, for that it really is. Madame Guyon said boldly, but truly, "O mon Dieu, plutot pecheur que superbe," and that is the consoling word I feel like sending you to-day. I know all about these little domestic foxes that spoil the vines, and sympathise with you in yours. But if some other trial would serve God's purpose, He would substitute it.

To a young Friend, New York, Dec. 3, 1873. I was interested in what you wrote about Miss G. and of Dr. C.'s meeting. You say she spends her time in young works of benevolence. This shows that her piety is of the genuine sort. It is hard to have faith in mere talk. It is a great mystery to me, that, while we meet with negative faults in ordinary prayer-meetings, we find so many positive faults in more earnest ones. Perhaps there is less of self in those who conduct them than we imagine. I always regret to see talk to each other supplant address to God in such meetings—always. As to Miss —— and others making a "creed" as you say out of their experience, I think it may be accounted for in this way: They come suddenly into possession of thoughts and emotions to which others are led gradually; they are startled and overwhelmed by the novelty of the revelations, and at once form a theory on the subject; and, having formed the theory, they fall to so interpreting the Bible as to support it. Those who reach the point they have reached more slowly are not startled, and do not need to form theories or seek for unscriptural expressions with which to declare what they have learned. They are probably less self-conscious, because they have not been aiming to enter any school formed by man, but have been simply following after Christ; hardly knowing what they expect will be the result, but getting a great deal of sweet peace on the way. And they also acquire, gradually, a certain kind of heaven-taught wisdom, whose access comes not with observation; blessed truths revealed by the Holy Spirit, full of strength and consolation.

At any rate, this is as far as I have come to; there may be oceans of knowledge I have yet to acquire, which will modify or wholly change my range of thought. And, according to what light I have, I am inclined to advise you not to confuse yourself with trying to believe in or experience this or that because others do, but to get as close to Christ as you can every day of your life; feeling sure that if you do, He by His Spirit will teach you all you need to know. There has been to my mind, during the last few weeks, something awe-inspiring in the sense I have had of the way in which God instructs His ignorant, forgetful, stupid children. Such goodness, such patience, such love! And, on the other hand, our amazing coldness and ingratitude.

To Mrs. Smith, New York, Dec. 21, 1873.

I wanted to see you before you left, but it would have been cruel to add to the cares and distractions amid which you were hurrying off. [7] ... I am reading, with great interest, the letters of Sara Coleridge. What strikes me most in her is, that knowing so much of her, one still feels what lots there is more to her one does not know. 22d.—Strangely enough, in writing you last evening, I forgot to tell you how much prayer is being offered for you and your husband, and what intense sympathy is expressed. Dr. Vincent said he could not bear to hear another word about his sufferings. Mrs. L—— said, "I do love that man." Mrs. D., herself all knotted up with rheumatism, would hardly speak of herself when she heard he was so ill; and this is only a specimen of the deep feeling expressed on all sides.... I am glad you find anything to like in my poor little book. I hear very little about it, but its publication has brought a blessing to my soul, which shows that I did right in thus making known my testimony for Christ. My will in the matter was quite overturned.

The "poor little book" appeared under the title of Religious Poems, afterwards changed to Golden Hours; Hymns and Songs of the Christian Life. In a letter of Mrs. Prentiss to a friend, written in 1870, occurs this passage:

Most of my verses are too much my own personal experience to be put in print now. After I am dead I hope they may serve as language for some other hearts. After I am dead! That means, oh ravishing thought! that I shall be in heaven one day.

Until the fall of 1873 her husband and two or three friends only knew of the existence of these verses, and their publication had not crossed her mind. But shortly after her return from Dorset she was persuaded to let Mr. Randolph read them. She soon received from him the following letter:

The poems must be printed, and at once! "We"—that is, the firm living at Yonkers—read aloud all the pieces, except those in the book, at one sitting, and would have gone on to the end but that the eyes gave out. Out of the lot three or four pieces were laid aside as not up to the standard of the others. The female member of the firm said that Mrs. Prentiss would do a wrong if she withheld the poems from the public. This member said he should give up writing, or trying to write, religious verses.

I am not joking. The book must be printed. We were charmed with the poems. Some of them have all the quaintness of Herbert, some the simple subjective fervor of the German hymns, and some the glow of Wesley. They are, as Mrs. R. said, out of the beaten way, and all true. So they differ from the conventional poetry. If published, there may be here and there some sentimental soul, or some soul without sentiment, or some critic who doats on Robt. Browning and don't understand him, or on Morris, or Rossetti, because they are high artists, who may snub the book. Very well; for compensation you will have the fact that the poems will win for you a living place in the hearts of thousands—in a sanctuary where few are permitted to enter.

A day or two later Mr. Randolph wrote in reply to her misgivings:

If I had the slightest thought that you would make even a slight mistake in publishing, I would say so. As I have already said, I am sure that the book would prove a blessing in ten thousand ways, and at the same time add to your reputation as a writer.

She could not resist this appeal. The assurance that the verses would prove a blessing to many souls disarmed her scruples and she consented to their publication. The most of them, unfortunately, bore no date. But all, or nearly all of them, belong to the previous twenty years, and they depict some of the deepest experiences of her Christian life during that period; they are her tears of joy or of sorrow, her cries of anguish, and her songs of love and triumph. Some of them were hastily written in pencil, upon torn scraps of paper, as if she were on a journey. Were they all accompanied with the exact time and circumstances of their composition, they would form, in connection with others unpublished, her spiritual autobiography from the death of Eddy and Bessie, in 1852, to the autumn of 1873. [8]

As she anticipated, the volume met in some quarters with anything but a cordial reception; the criticisms upon it were curt and depreciatory. Its representation of the Christian life was censured as gloomy and false. It was even intimated that in her expressions of pain and sorrow, there was more or less poetical affectation. Alluding to this in a letter to a friend, she writes:

I have spoken of the deepest, sorest pain; not of trials, but of sorrow, not of discomfort, but of suffering. And all I have spoken of, I have felt. Never could I have known Christ, had I not had large experience of Him as a chastiser.... You little know the long story of my life, nor is it necessary that you should; but you must take my word for it that if I do not know what suffering means, there is not a soul on earth that does. It has not been my habit to say much about this; it has been a matter between myself and my God; but the results I have told, that He may be glorified and that others may be led to Him as the Fountain of life and of light. I refer, of course, to the book of verses; I never called them poems. You may depend upon it the world is brimful of pain in some shape or other; it is a "hurt world." But no Christian should go about groaning and weeping; though sorrowing, he should be always rejoicing. During twenty years of my life my kind and wise Physician was preparing me, by many bitter remedies, for the work I was to do; I can never thank or love Him enough for His unflinching discipline.

Even the favorable notices of the volume, with two or three exceptions, evinced little sympathy with its spirit, or appreciation of its literary merits. [9] But while failing to make any public impression, the little book soon found its way into thousands of closets and sick-rooms and houses of mourning, carrying a blessing with it. Touching and grateful testimonies to this effect came from the East and the farthest West and from beyond the sea. The following is an extract from, a letter to Mr. Randolph, written by a lady of New York eminent for her social influence and Christian character:

The book of heart-hymns is wonderful, as I expected from the specimens which you read to me from the little scraps of paper from your desk. Do you know that I lived on them ("The School" and "My Expectation is from Thee") and was greedy to get the book that I might read them again and again. And behold, the volume is full of the things I have felt so often, expressed as no one ever expressed them before. I am overwhelmed every time I read it. Mr —— and the children have quite laughed at "Mamma's enthusiasm" over a book of poems, as I am considered very prosaic. I made C. read two or three of them and he surrenders. N. too, who is full of appreciation of poetry as well as of the best things, is equally delighted. I carried the volume to a sick friend and read to her out of it. I wish you could have seen how she was comforted! I do not know Mrs. Prentiss, but if you ever get a chance, I would like you to tell her what she has done for me.

A highly cultivated Swiss lady wrote from Geneva:

What a precious, precious book! and what mercy in God to enable us to understand, and say Amen from the heart to every line! It was He who caused you to send me a book I so much needed—and I thank Him as much as you.

* * * * *

IV.

Incidents of the Year 1874. Prayer. Starts a Bible-Reading in Dorset. Begins to take Lessons in Painting. A Letter from her Teacher. Publication of Urbane and his Friends. Design of the Work. Her views of the Christian Life. The Mystics. The Indwelling Christ. An Allegory.

During the winter and early spring of 1874 Mrs. Prentiss found much delight in attending a weekly Bible-reading, held by Miss Susan Warner. She was deeply impressed with the advantages of such a mode of studying the Word of God, and in the course of the summer was led to start a similar exercise in Dorset. Her letters will show how much satisfaction it gave her during all the rest of her life.

Another incident, that left its mark upon this year, was the sudden and dangerous illness of her husband. His life was barely saved by an immediate surgical operation. He convalesced very slowly and it was many months before she recovered from the shock.

To a Christian Friend, Jan. 25, 1874.

I do not perfectly understand what you say about prayer, but it reminds me of Mrs.——'s expressing surprise at my praying. She said she did not, because Christ was all round her. But it is no less a fact that Christ Himself spent hours in prayer, using language when He did so. That does not prove, however, that He did not hold silent, mystical communion with the Father. It seems to me that communion is one thing, and intercessory prayer another; my own prayers are chiefly of the latter class; the sweet sense of communion of which I have had so much, has been greatly wanting; I dare not ask for it; I must pray as the Spirit gives me utterance. No doubt your experience is beyond mine; I can conceive of a silence that unites, not separates, as existing between Christ and the soul. As to her of whom we sadly spoke, I am so absolutely lost in confusion of thought that I feel as if chart and compass had gone overboard. I believe there can be falls from the highest state of grace, and that sometimes a fall is the best thing that can happen to one; but it is an appalling thought. How wary all this should make you and me!... Though I have felt the greatest respect for Miss ——, I have often wondered why I did not love her more. Well, we have a new reason for fleeing to Christ in this perplexity and disappointment. I had let her be in many things my oracle, and perhaps no human being ought to be that. Shall we ever learn to put no confidence in the flesh? My husband thinks Miss —— insane.

To a young Friend, Jan 27, 1874.

The comfort I have had as the fruit of close acquaintance with a sick-room! I see more and more how wise God was, as well as how good, in hiding me away during all the years that might have been very tempting, had I had my freedom. My publishing this book [10] was a sort of miracle; I never meant to do it, but my will was taken away and it was done in one short month. I should not expect a girl as young as yourself to respond to much of it, but I am glad you found anything to which you could.... When I received my own great blessing thirty-five years ago, I was younger than you are now, and hadn't half the light you have, nor did I know exactly what to aim at, but blundered and suffered not a little.... It seems to me that it is eminently fitting that we should go to the throne of grace together, and expect, in so doing, a different kind of blessing from that sought alone, in the closet. I never feel any embarrassment in praying with those older and better than myself; the better they are, the less disposed they will be to look down upon me. The truth is, we are all alike in being poor and needy, and it is a good thing to get together and confess this to our Father, in each other's hearing. I can unite cordially with anyone, man, woman or child, who really prays. A very illiterate person could win my heart if I knew he truly loved the Lord Jesus, no matter how clumsily he expressed that love; and his prayers would edify me. Perhaps you can not look at this matter exactly as I do. I know I suffered for years, whenever I prayed with others, old or young; but I persevered in what I believed to be a duty, until, not so very long ago, the duty became a pleasure, all fear of man being taken away. I never think anything about what sort of a prayer I make; in fact I make no prayer; we have to speak as the Spirit gives us utterance.

To Mrs. Condict, Kauinfels, [11] Aug. 16, 1874.

Yesterday Miss H. came down and asked me if I would start a Bible-reading at her house. I told her I would with pleasure. This morning I decided to open with the Sermon on the Mount, and have been studying the first promise. Do take your Bible and study that verse by reading the references. I am delighted that our dear Lord has at last pointed out my mission to this village. I have long prayed that He would open a way of access to hearts here. Pray next Wednesday afternoon that I may be a witness for Him. There are a number of families boarding in town, who will join the reading. Miss H. wanted to give notice from the pulpit, but I could not consent to that.... You say your mother asks about my book. It is a queer one, and I am not satisfied with it; but my husband is, and thinks it will do good. God grant it may. I entitle it Paths of Peace; or, Christian Friends in Council. [12] After the most earnest prayer for light, I can not preach sinless perfection. I think God has provided a way to perfection, and that that is, "looking unto Jesus." If the "higher life" means utter sinlessness then I shall have to own that I have never had any experience of it. Mr. P. has given me a world of anxiety. He will go round everywhere, even on jolting straw-rides; his wound is nearly healed, however. He is looking the picture of health, but feels uncomfortable and sleeps restlessly. I went up to the tavern lately as a great piece of self-denial to call on a lady boarding there, and found I had thus stumbled on to fine gold; the gold you and I love. She is the wife of the Rev. Mr. R., of Flushing.

Soon after returning to town she began to take lessons in oil painting. Her teacher was Mrs. Julia H. Beers—now Mrs. Kempson—a lady gifted with much of the artistic power belonging to her distinguished brothers, William and James M. Hart. In this new pursuit Mrs. Prentiss passed many very busy and happy hours. The following letter to her husband gives Mrs. Kempson's recollections of them:

FIRTREE COTTAGE, METUCHEN, Jan. 27, 1880.

My dear Dr. Prentiss:—When the news came of Mrs. Prentiss' death I felt that I had lost a friend whose place could not be filled. I never had a pupil in whom I was so much interested, or one that I loved so dearly. She has told me many times that "the days spent with me were red-letter days in her life." They certainly were in my own. I shall never forget her first visit to my studio on the corner of Fifth avenue and Twenty-sixth street. We had not met before, and I felt somewhat awed in the presence of an authoress. But in a few minutes we were fast friends. Taking one of my portfolios in her arms she asked, "May I sit down on the floor and take this in my lap?" Of course I assented. She pored over the contents with the delight of a child. Then turning to me she said, "This is what I have had a craving for all my life. There has always been a want unsupplied; I knew not what it was; but now I know. It was a reaching out for the beautiful. Look at my white hair and tell me if it would be possible for me to learn." I replied, "Yes, if you desire to do so." "Will you take me for a pupil?" she asked. "I do not know which end of the brush to use." "No matter," I said; "I can teach you."

She became my pupil and you know the result. But you can not know, as I do, the delight she took in her studies. My ordinary pupils were limited to two hours. But I said to her, "Come at ten and stay as long as you please." Punctual to the moment she came, seated herself at her easel, and rarely left it while the light lasted. I never saw such enthusiasm or such appreciation. At first her progress was slow, but as she gained knowledge of the materials, it became very rapid. In my opinion she had remarkable talent, and, if spared, might even have made herself a name as an artist. I have had hundreds of pupils, but not one of them ever made such progress. What a delight it was to teach her! All her quaint sayings and her beautifully expressed thoughts I treasured up as precious things. She always brought brightness to the studio with her. I can see her so plainly this moment as she came in one morning. "Well," she said, "I thought when I commenced painting if ever I painted a daisy that did not need to be labeled, I should be proud, and I have done it." I wish, dear Dr. Prentiss, I could recall the thousand and one pleasant things that every now and then have occurred to me, while I was thinking of her. I tried to write to you when I heard of your great loss, but my heart failed me. I could not, nor can I, imagine you living without her. In her last letter to me she says, speaking of my daughter's marriage:

I hope thirty years hence the twain will be as much in love with each other as two old codgers of my acquaintance, who go on talking heavenly nonsense to each other after the most approved fashion.

How little I then dreamed that we should never meet again! I should much like to see you all. I have not forgotten that pleasant summer at Dorset in 1875, nor the great pan of blackberries you picked for me with your own hands.

With kindest regards, very sincerely,

JULIA H. KEMPSON.

To Mrs. Humphrey, New York, Dec. 1874.

After learning how to manage a "Bible-reading" by attending Miss Warner's once a week for four or five months, I got my tongue so loosed that I have held one by request at Dorset. The interest in it did not flag all summer, and ladies, young and old, came from all directions, not only to the readings, but with tears to open their hearts to me. Some hitherto worldly ones were among the number. I have also helped to start one at Elizabeth, another at Orange, another at Flushing. My husband says if one were held in every church in the land the country would be revolutionised. It is just such work as you would delight in. Do forgive the blots; I am tearing away on this letter so that I forget myself and dip up too much ink. I have been urged to hold three readings a week in different parts of the city, but that is not possible. You can't imagine how thankful I am that I have at last found a sphere of usefulness in Dorset.

We had a great shock last spring when Mr. Prentiss was stricken down; I do not dare to think how hard it would have been to become husbandless and homeless at one blow. But I well know that no earthly circumstances need really destroy our happiness in that which is, after all, our Life. Even if it is only for the few years before our boys leave home, never to return permanently to it, I shall be thankful to have it left as it is—if that is best. If I had not known what my husband's trouble was, and summoned aid in the twinkling of an eye, Dr. Buck says he would have died. He would certainly have died if he had been at Dorset. He has never recovered his strength, but is able to give his lectures. Although I did very little nursing, I got a good deal run down, especially from losing sleep, and have had to go to bed at half-past eight or nine all summer and thus far in the winter.

I am taking lessons this winter in oil-painting with A. She has the advantage of me in having had lessons in drawing, while I have had none. My teacher says she never had a beginner do better than I, so I think beginners very awkward mortals, who get paint all over their clothes, hands and faces, and who, if they get a pretty picture, know in the secrecy of their guilty consciences it was done by a compassionate artist who would fain persuade one into the fancy that the work was one's own.

What you say about my having done you good surprises me. Whatever treasure God has in me is hidden in an earthen vessel and unseen by my own eyes.... I feel every day how much there is to learn, how much to unlearn, and that no genuine experience is to be despised. Some people roundly berate Christians for want of faith in God's word, when it is want of faith in their own private interpretation of His word. I think that when the very best and wisest of mankind get to heaven, they'll get a standard of holiness that might make them blush; only it is not likely they will blush.

In the latter part of this year Urbane and His Friends appeared. Urbane is an aged pastor and his Friends are members of his flock, whom he had invited to meet him from week to week for Christian counsel and fellowship. Some of their names, Antiochus, Hermes, Junia, Claudia, Apelles and the like, sound rather strange, but, together with those more familiar, they are all borrowed from the New Testament.

Urbane and His Friends is the only book of a didactic sort written by Mrs. Prentiss. It is not, however, wholly didactic, but contains also touches of narrative and character that add to its interest. Among the topics discussed are: The Bible, Temptation, Faith, Prayer, the Mystics, "The Higher Christian Life," Service, Pain and Sorrow, Peace and Joy, and the Indwelling Christ. She was dissatisfied with the work and required some persuasion before she would consent to its being published. But its spiritual tone, its tenderness, its "sweet reasonableness," and the bright little pictures of Christian truth and life, which enliven its pages, have led some to prize it more than any other of her writings.

And here it may not be out of place to insert the following letter of her husband, written several months after her death. It gives her matured views on certain points relating to the Christian life, about which there has been no little difference of opinion:

NEW YORK, April 16, 1879.

MY DEAR FRIEND:—Many thanks for your kind words about Urbane and His Friends. So far at least as the aim and spirit of the book are concerned, no praise could exceed its merits. It was written with a single desire to honor Christ by aiding and cheering some of His disciples on their way heavenward. At that time, as you know, there was a good deal of discussion about "the Higher Christian Life" and "Holiness through Faith." She herself had felt some of the difficulties connected with the subject, and was anxious to reach out a helping hand to others similarly perplexed. I do not think her mind was specially adapted to the didactic style, nor was it much to her taste. When writing in that style her pen did not seem to be entirely at ease, or to move quite at its own sweet will. Careful statement and nice theological distinctions were not her forte. And yet her mental grasp of Christian doctrine in its vital substance was very firm, and her power of observing, as well as depicting, the most delicate and varying phenomena of the spiritual life was like an instinct. A purer or more whole-hearted love of "the truth as it is in Jesus," I never witnessed in any human being. At the same time she was very modest and distrustful of her own judgment when opposed to that of others whom she regarded as experienced Christians. I wish you could enjoy a tithe of the happiness that was mine during the winter and spring of 1873-4, as, evening after evening, she talked over with me the various points discussed in her book, and then read to me what she had written. Those were golden hours indeed—hours in which was fulfilled the saying that is written—And it came to pass that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near. As I look back to the Sabbath evenings passed with her in such converse, they seem to me radiant still with the glory of the risen Christ. Nor am I able to imagine what else than His presence could have rendered them, at the time, so soothing and blissful.

You refer to her fondness for the mystics. She thought that Christian piety owes a large debt of gratitude to such writers as Thomas a Kempis, Madame Guyon, Fenelon, Leighton, Tersteegen, and others like them in earlier and later times, to whom "the secret of the Lord" seemed in a peculiar manner to have been revealed, and who with seraphic zeal trod as well as taught the paths of peace and holiness. While she was writing the chapter on the Mystics, I showed her Coleridge's tribute to them in his Biographia Literaria, which greatly pleased her. It is her own experience that she puts into the mouth of Urbane, where he says, after quoting Coleridge's tribute, "I have no recollection of ever reading this passage till today, but had toiled out its truth for myself, and now set my hand and seal to it." [13] It is for her, too, as well as for himself, that Urbane speaks, where, in answer to Hermes' question, "Who are the Mystics?" he says:

They are the men and women known to every age of the Church, who usually make their way through the world completely misunderstood by their fellow-men. Their very virtues sometimes appear to be vices. They are often the scorn and contempt of their time, and are even persecuted and thrown into prison by those who think they thus do our Lord service. But now and then one arises who sees, or thinks he sees, some clue to their lives and their speech. Though not of them, he feels a mysterious kinship to them that makes him shrink with pain when he hears them spoken of unjustly. Now, I happen to be such a man. I have not built up any pet theory that I want to sustain; I am not in any way bound to fight for any school; but I should be most ungrateful to God and man if I did not acknowledge that I owe much of the sum and substance of the best part of my life to mystical writers—aye, and mystical thinkers, whom I know in the flesh.... I use Christ as a magnet, and say to all who cleave to Him—even when I can not perfectly agree with them on every point of doctrine: You love Christ, therefore I love you.

Closely allied to her fondness for the Mystics was her delight in the doctrine of the indwelling Christ. For more than thirty years it was a favorite subject of our Sunday and week-day talk. The closing chapters of the Gospel of John, the Epistle to the Ephesians, and other parts of the New Testament, in which this most precious truth is enshrined, were especially dear to her. So too, and for the same reason, was Lavater's hymn beginning,

O Jesus Christus, wachs in mir—

a hymn with which we became acquainted soon after our marriage, and which I do not doubt she repeated to herself many thousands of times. [14]

The surest way, as she thought, of rising above the bondage of "frames" and entering into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, is to become fully conscious of our actual union to Christ and of what is involved in this thrice-sacred union. It is not enough that we trust in Him as our Saviour and the Lord our Righteousness; He must also dwell in our hearts by faith as our spiritual life. The union is indeed mystical and indescribable, but none the less real or less joy-inspiring for all that. We want no metaphor and no mere abstraction in our souls; we want Christ Himself. We want to be able to say in sublime contradiction, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." And this, too, is the way of sanctification, as well as of rest of conscience. For just in proportion as Christ lives in the soul, self goes out and with it sin. Just in proportion as self goes out, Christ comes in, and with Him righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

But as, in her view, the doctrine of an indwelling Christ did not supplant the doctrine of an atoning and interceding Christ, so neither did it supplant that of Christ as our Example or annul the great law of self-sacrifice by which, following in His steps, we also are to be made perfect through suffering.

Such is a brief outline of her teaching on this subject in Urbane and His Friends. And from its publication until her death, her theory of the way of holiness reduced itself more and more to these two simple points: Christ in the flesh showing and teaching us how to live, and Christ in the Spirit living in us. And this presence of Christ in the soul she regarded, I repeat, as an actual, as well as actuating, presence; mediated indeed, like His sacrifice upon the cross, by the Holy Ghost. But, as "through the Eternal Spirit He offered HIMSELF without spot unto God," even so in and through the same Eternal Spirit, He HIMSELF comes and takes up His abode in the hearts of His faithful disciples. His indwelling is not a mere metaphor, not a bare moral relation, but the most blessed reality—a veritable union of life and love. She thought that much of the meaning and comfort of the doctrine was sometimes lost by not keeping this point in mind. In a letter written not long before her death, she reiterated very strongly her conviction on this subject, appealing to our Lord's teaching in the seventeenth chapter of John. [15]

And this brings me to what you say about the chapter entitled The Mystics of To-day; or, "The Higher Christian Life," and to your inquiry as to her later views on the question. You are quite right in supposing that while writing this chapter she had a good deal of sympathy with some of the advocates of the "Higher Life" doctrine. She heartily agreed with them in believing that it is the privilege of Christ's disciples to rise to a much higher state of holy love, assurance, and rest of soul than the most of them seem ever to reach in this world; and further, that such a spiritual uplifting may come, and sometimes does come, in the way of a sudden and extraordinary experience. But it is never without a history. She gives a beautiful picture of such an experience in the case of Stephanas, who was "as gay as any boy," and then adds: "Now, the descent of the blessing was sudden and lifted him at once into a new world, but the preparation for it had been going on ever since he learned to pray."

But while agreeing with the advocates of the Higher Life doctrine in some points, she was far from agreeing with them in all. And her disagreement increased and grew more decided in her later years. The subject is often alluded to in her letters to Christian friends; and should these letters ever be published, they will answer your inquiry much better than I can do. The points in the "Higher Life" and "Holiness through Faith" views which she most strongly dissented from, related to the question of perfection. The Christian life—this was her view—is subject to the great law of growth. It is a process, an education, and not a mere volition, or series of volitions. Its progress may be rapid, but, ideally considered, each new stage is conditioned by the one that went before: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. It embraces the whole spirit and soul and body; and its perfect development, therefore, is a very comprehensive thing, touching the length and breadth, the depth and height of our entire being. It is also, in its very nature, conflict as well as growth; the forces of evil must be vanquished, and these forces, whether acting through body, soul, or spirit, are very subtle, treacherous, and often occult, as well as very potent; the best man on earth, if left to himself, would fall a prey to them. No fact of religious experience is more striking than this, that the higher men rise in real goodness—the nearer they come to God, the more keen-eyed and distressed are they to detect evil in themselves. Their sense of sin seems to be in a sort of inverse ratio to their freedom from its power. And we meet with a similar fact in the natural life. The finer and more exalted the sentiment of purity and honor, the more sensitive will one be to the slightest approach to what is impure or dishonorable in one's own character and conduct. Such is substantially her ground of dissent from the "Higher Life" theory. Her own sense of sin was so profound and vivid that she shuddered at the thought of claiming perfection for herself; and it seemed to her a very sad delusion for anybody else to claim it. True holiness is never self-conscious; it does not look at itself in the glass; and if it did, it would see only Christ, not itself, reflected there. This was her way of looking at the subject; and she came to regard all theories, still more all professions, of entire sanctification as fallacious and full of peril—not a help, but a serious hindrance to real Christian holiness. For several years she not only read but carefully studied the most noted writers who advocated the "Higher Life" and "Holiness through Faith" doctrines, and her testimony was that they had done her harm. "I find myself spiritually injured by them," she wrote to a friend less than two years before her death. "How do you explain the fact," she added, "that truly good people are left to produce such an effect? Is it not to shut us up to Christ? What a relief it will be to get beyond our own weaknesses, and those of others! I long for that day."

I have just alluded to her deep, vivid consciousness of sin. It would have been an intolerable burden, had not her feeling of God's infinite grace and love in Christ been still more vivid and profound. The little allegory in the ninth chapter of Urbane and His Friends expresses very happily this feeling.

There are several other points in her theory of the Christian life, to which she attached much importance. One is the close connexion between suffering in some form and holiness, or growth in grace. The cross the way to the crown—this thought runs, like a golden thread, through all the records of her religious history. She expressed it while a little girl, as she sat one day with a young friend on a tombstone in the old burying-ground at Portland. It occurs again and again in her early letters; in one written in 1840 she says: "I thought to myself that if God continued His faithfulness towards me, I shall have afflictions such as I now know nothing more of than the name"; in another written four years later, in the midst of the sweetest joy: "I know there are some of the great lessons of life yet to be learned; I believe I must suffer as long as I have an earthly existence." And in after years, when it formed so large an element in her own experience, she came to regard suffering, when sanctified by the word of God and by prayer, as the King's highway to Christian perfection. This point is often referred to and illustrated in her various writings—more especially in Stepping Heavenward and Golden Hours. Possibly she carried her theory a little too far; perhaps it does not appear to be always verified in actual Christian experience; but, certainly, no one can deny that it is in harmony with the general teaching of inspired Scripture and with the spirit of catholic piety in all ages. [16]

Another point, which also found illustration in her books, is the vital connexion between the habit of devout communion with God in Christ and all the daily virtues and charities of religion; another still is the close affinity between depth in piety and the highest, sweetest enjoyment of earthly good.

Her own Christian life was to me a study from the beginning. It had heights and depths of its own, which awed me and which I could not fully penetrate. Jonathan Edwards' exquisite description of Sarah Pierrepont at the age of thirteen, Mrs. Edwards' own account of her religious exercises after her marriage, and Goethe's "Confessions of a Beautiful Soul," always reminded me of some of its characteristic features. If my pastoral ministrations gave any aid and comfort to other souls, I can truly say it was all largely due to her. And as for myself, my debt of gratitude to her as a spiritual helper and friend in Christ was, and is, and ever will be, unspeakable. The instant I began to know her, I began to feel the cheering influence and uplifting power of her faith. For more than a third of a century it was the most constant and by far the strongest human force that wrought in my religious life. Nor was it a human force alone; for surely faith like hers is in real contact with Christ Himself and is an inspiration of His Spirit. She longed so to live and move and have her being in love to Christ, that nobody could come near her without being straightway reminded of Him. She seemed to be always saying to herself, in the words of an old Irish hymn: [17] Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Such was her constant prayer; and it was answered in the experience of many souls, whose faith was kindled into a brighter flame by the intense ardor of hers. So long and so closely, in my own mind, was she associated with Christ, that the thought of her still reminds me of Him as naturally as does reading about Him in the New Testament.

The allegory referred to above is here given:

A benevolent man found a half-starved, homeless, blind beggar-boy in the streets of a great city. He took him, just as he was, to his own house, adopted him as his own son, and began to educate him. But the boy learned very slowly, and his face was often sad. His father asked him why he did not fix his mind more upon his lessons, and why he was not cheerful and happy, like the other children. The boy replied that his mind was constantly occupied with the fear that he had not been really adopted as a son, and might at any moment learn his mistake.

Father. But can you not believe me when I assure you that you are my own dear son?

Boy. I can not, for I can see no reason why you should adopt me. I was a poor, bad boy; you did not need any more children, for you had a house full of them, and I never can do anything for you.

Father. You can love me and be happy, and as you grow older and stronger you can work for me.

Boy. I am afraid I do not love you; that is what troubles me.

Father. Would you not be very sorry to have me deny that you are my son, and turn you out of the house?

Boy. Oh, yes! But perhaps that is because you take good care of me, not because I love you.

Father. Suppose, then, I should provide some one else to take care of you, and should then leave you.

Boy. That would be dreadful.

Father. Why? You would be taken good care of, and have every want supplied.

Boy. But I should have no father. I should lose the best thing I have. I should be lonely.

Father. You see you love me a little, at all events. Now, do you think I love you?

Boy. I don't see how you can. I am such a bad boy and try your patience so. And I am not half as thankful to you for your goodness as I ought to be. Sometimes, for a minute, I think to myself, He is my father and he really loves me; then I do something wrong, and I think nobody would want such a boy, nobody can love such a boy.

Father. My son, I tell you that I do love you, but you can not believe it because you do not know me. And you do not know me because you have not seen me, because you are blind. I must have you cured of this blindness.

So the blind boy had the scales removed from his eyes and began to see. He became so interested in using his eyesight that, for a time, he partially lost his old habit of despondency. But one day, when it began to creep back, he saw his father's face light up with love as one after another of his children came to him for a blessing, and said to himself: They are his own children, and it is not strange that he loves them, and does so much to make them happy. But I am nothing but a beggar-boy; he can't love me. I would give anything if he could. Then the father asked why his face was sad, and the boy told him.

Father. Come into this picture gallery and tell me what you see.

Boy. I see a portrait of a poor, ragged, dirty boy. And here is another. And another. Why, the gallery is full of them!

Father. Do you see anything amiable and lovable in any of them?

Boy. Oh, no.

Father. Do you think I love your brothers?

Boy. I know you do!

Father. Well, here they are, just as I took the poor fellows out of the streets.

Boy. Out of the streets as you did me? They are all your adopted sons?

Father. Every one of them.

Boy. I don't understand it. What made you do it?

Father. I loved them so that I could not help it.

Boy. I never heard of such a thing! You loved those miserable beggar- boys? Then you must be made of Love!

Father. I am. And that is the reason I am so grieved when some such boys refuse to let me become their father.

Boy. Refuse? Oh, how can they? Refuse to become your own dear sons? Refuse to have such a dear, kind, patient father? Refuse love?

Father. My poor blind boy, don't you now begin to see that I do not wait for these adopted sons of mine to wash and clothe themselves, to become good, and obedient, and affectionate, but loved them because they were such destitute, wicked, lost boys? I did not go out into the streets to look for well-dressed, well-cared-for, faultless children, who would adorn my house and shine in it like jewels. I sought for outcasts; I loved them as outcasts; I knew they would be ungrateful and disobedient, and never love me half as much as I did them; but that made me all the more sorry for them. See what pains I am taking with them, and how beautifully some of them are learning their lessons. And now tell me, my son, in seeing this picture gallery, do you not begin to see me? Could anything less than love take in such a company of poor beggars?

Boy. Yes, my father, I do begin to see it. I do believe that I know you better now than I ever did before. I believe you love even me. And now I know that I love you!

Father. Now, then, my dear son, let that vexing question drop forever, and begin to act as my son and heir should. You have a great deal to learn, but I will myself be your teacher, and your mind is now free to attend to my instructions. Do you find anything to love and admire in your brothers?

Boy. Indeed I do.

Father. You shall be taught the lessons that have made them what they are. Meanwhile I want to see you look cheerful and happy, remembering that you are in your father's heart.

Boy. Dear father, I will! But oh, help me to be a better son!

Father. Dear boy, I will.

[1] In Union Theological Seminary, New York.

[2] The Baptism of the Holy Ghost, by Rev. Asa Mahau, D.D., p. 118.

[3] Dr. L. H. Hemenway.

[4] Some of the charades referred to will be found in appendix E, p. 556.

[5] Referring to the following hymn composed by Madame Guyon in prison:

A little bird I am, Shut out from fields of air, And in my cage I sit and sing To Him who placed me there. Well-pleased a prisoner to be, Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

Naught have I else to do; I sing the whole day long; And He, whom most I love to please, Doth listen to my song. He caught and bound my wandering wing, But still He bends to hear me sing.

[6] Mrs. De Witt was the wife of the Rev. Thomas De Witt, D.D., a man of deep learning, an able preacher in the Dutch language as well as the English, and universally revered for his exalted Christian virtues. He was a minister of the Collegiate Church, New York, for nearly half a century. He died May 18, 1874, in the eighty-third year of his age. Here are other sentences uttered by him at the grave of his wife: "Farewell, my beloved, honored, and faithful wife! The tie that united us is severed. Thou art with Jesus in glory; He is with me by His grace. I shall soon be with you. Farewell!"

[7] Prof. Smith had been suddenly stricken down by severe illness and with difficulty removed to the well-known Sanitarium at Clifton Springs.

[8] Referring to the book in a letter to a friend, written shortly after its publication, she says: "Of course it will meet with rough treatment in some quarters, as indeed it has already done. I doubt if any one works very hard for Christ who does not have to be misunderstood and perhaps mocked."

[9] One of the best notices appeared in The Churchman, an Episcopal newspaper then published at Hartford, but since transferred to New York. Here is a part of it:

"For purity of thought, earnestness and spirituality of feeling, and smoothness of diction, they are all, without exception, good—if they are not great. If no one rises to the height which other poets have occasionally reached, they are, nevertheless, always free from those defects which sometimes mar the perfectness of far greater productions. Each portrays some human thirst or longing, and so touches the heart of every thoughtful reader. There is a sweetness running through them all which comes from a higher than earthly source, and which human wisdom can neither produce nor enjoy."

[10] Golden Hours.

[11] The name given to the Dorset home.

[12] Afterwards changed to Urbane and His Friends.

[13] The passage from Coleridge is as follows: "The feeling of gratitude which I cherish towards these men has caused me to digress further than I had foreseen or proposed; but to have passed them over in an historical sketch of my literary life and opinions, would have seemed like the denial of a debt, the concealment of a boon; for the writings of these mystics acted in no slight degree to prevent my mind from being imprisoned within the outline of any dogmatic system. They contributed to keep alive the heart in the head; gave me an indistinct, yet stirring and working presentiment that all the products of the mere reflective faculty partook of DEATH, and were as the rattling of twigs and sprays in winter, into which a sap was yet to be propelled from some root to which I had not penetrated, if they were to afford my soul either food or shelter. If they were too often a moving cloud of smoke to me by day, yet they were always a pillar of fire throughout the night, during my wanderings through the wilderness of doubt, and enabled me to skirt, without crossing, the sandy desert of utter unbelief."

[14] See her translation of the hymn in Golden Hours, p. 123. The original will be found in appendix C, p. 540.

[15] I in them and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.—V. 23.

[16] There should be no greater comfort to Christian persons, than to be made like unto Christ, by suffering patiently adversities, troubles, and sicknesses. For He himself went not up to joy, but first He suffered pain; He entered not into His glory, before He was crucified. So truly our way to eternal joy is to suffer here with Christ.—(The Book of Common Prayer.)

[17] Ascribed to St. Patrick, on the occasion of his appearing before King Laoghaire.



CHAPTER XIV.

WORK AND PLAY.

1875-1877.

I.

A Bible-reading in New York. Her Painting. "Grace for Grace." Death of a young Friend. The Summer at Dorset. Bible-readings there. Encompassed with Kindred. Typhoid Fever in the House. Watching and Waiting. The Return to Town. A Day of Family Rejoicing. Life a "Battle-field."

Her time and thoughts during 1875 were mostly taken up by her Bible- readings, her painting, the society of kinsfolk from the East and the West, getting her eldest son ready for college, and by the dangerous illness of her youngest daughter. Some extracts from the few letters belonging to this year will give the main incidents of its history.

To a young Friend, Jan. 13, 1875.

I have had two Bible-readings, and they bid fair to be more like those of last winter than I had dared to hope. There are earnest, thoughtful, praying souls present, who help me in conducting the meeting, and you would be astonished to see how much better I can do when not under the keen embarrassment of delivering a lecture, as at Dorset.... I have a young friend about your age who is dying of consumption, and it is very delightful to see how happy she is. She used to attend the Bible-readings last winter.

About the painting? Well, I have dug away, and Mrs. Beers painted out and painted in, till I have got a beautiful great picture almost entirely done by her. Then I undertook the old fence with the clematis on it here at home, and made a horrid daub. She painted most of that out, and is having me do it at the studio. Meanwhile, I have worked on another she lent me, and finished it to-day, and they all say that it is a success. In my last two lessons Mrs. B. contrived to let some light into my bewildered brain, and says that if I paint with her this winter and next summer I shall be able to do what I please. My most discouraging time, she says, is over. Not that I have been discouraged an atom! I have great faith in a strong will and a patient perseverance, and have had no idea of saying die.... Some lady in Philadelphia bought forty copies of Urbane. It was very discriminating in you to see how comforting to me would be that passage from Robertson. God only fully knows how I have got my "education." The school has at times been too awful to talk about to any being save Him. [1]

To Mrs. Humphrey, New York, April 6, 1875.

My point about "Grace for Grace" [2] is this: I believe in "growth in grace," but I also believe in, because I have experienced it and find my experience in the Word of God, a work of the Spirit subsequent to conversion (not necessary in all cases, perhaps, but in all cases where Christian life begins and continues feebly), which puts the soul into new conditions of growth. If a plant is sickly and drooping, you must change its atmosphere before you can cure it or make it grow. A great many years ago, disgusted with my spiritual life, I was led into new relations to Christ to which I could give no name, for I never had heard of such an experience. When we moved into this house, I found a paper that had long been buried among rubbish, in which I said, "I am one great long sunbeam"; and I don't know any words, that, on the whole, could better cover most of my life since then. I have been a great sufferer, too; but that has, in the main, nothing to do with one's relation to Christ, except that most forms of pain bring Him nearer. Now, one can not read "Grace for Grace" without loving and sympathising with the author, because of his deep-seated longing for, and final attainment of, holiness; but it seemed to me there was a good deal of needless groping, which more looking to Christ might have spared him. It is, as you say, curious to see how people who agree in so many points differ so in others. I suspect it is because our degrees of faith vary; the one who believes most gets most.

The subject of sin versus sinlessness is the vexed question, on which, as fast as most people get or think they get light, somebody comes along and snuffs out their candles with unceremonious finger and thumb. A dearly-beloved woman spent a month with me last spring. She thinks she is "kept" from sin, and certainly the change from a most estimable but dogmatic character is absolutely wonderful.... There was this discrepancy between her experience and mine, with, on all other points, the most entire harmony. She had had no special, joyful revelations of Christ to her soul, and I had had them till it seemed as if body and soul would fly apart. On the other hand she had a sweet sense of freedom from sin which transcended anything I had ever had consciously; although I really think that when one is "looking unto Jesus," one is not likely to fall into much noticeable sin. Talking with Miss S. about the two experiences of my dear friend and myself, she said that it could be easily explained by the fact that all the gifts of the Spirit were rarely, if ever, given to one soul. She is very (properly) reticent as to what she has herself received, but she behaved in such a beautiful, Christlike way on a point where we differed, a point of practice, that I can not doubt she has been unusually blest.

Early in May of this year she was afflicted by the sudden death in Paris of a very dear friend of her eldest daughter, Miss Virginia S. Osborn. [3] During the previous summer Miss Osborn had passed several weeks at Dorset and endeared herself, while there, to all the family. The following is from a letter of Mrs. Prentiss to the bereaved mother:

I feel much more like sitting down and weeping with you than attempting to utter words of consolation. Nowhere out of her own home was Virginia more beloved and admired than in our family; we feel afflicted painfully at what to our human vision looks like an unmitigated calamity. But if it is so hard for us to bear, to whom in no sense she belonged, what a heartrending event this is to you, her mother! What an amazement, what a mystery. But it will not do to look upon it on this side. We must not associate anything so unnatural as death with a being so eminently formed for life. We must look beyond, as soon as our tears will let us, to the sphere on which she has been honored to enter in her brilliant youth; to the society of the noblest and the best human beings earth has ever known; to the fulness of life, the perfection of every gift and grace, to congenial employment, to the welcome of Him who has conquered death and brought life and immortality to light. If we think of her as in the grave, we must own that hers was a hard lot; but she is not in a grave; she is at home; she is well, she is happy, she will never know a bereavement, or a day's illness, or the infirmities and trials of old age; she has got the secret of perpetual youth.

But while these thoughts assuage our grief, they can not wholly allay it. We have no reason to doubt that she would have given and received happiness here upon earth, had she been spared; and we can not help missing her, mourning for her, longing for her, out of the very depths of our hearts. The only real comfort is that God never makes mistakes; that He would not have snatched her from us, if He had not had a reason that would satisfy us if we knew it. I can not tell you with what tender sympathy I think of your return to your desolate home; the agonizing meeting with your bereaved boys; the days and nights that have to be lived through, face to face with a great sorrow. May God bless and keep you all.

To Mrs. Condict, Dorset, July 11, 1875.

I have been sitting at my window, enjoying the clear blue sky, and the "living green" of the fields and woods, and wishing you were here to share it all with me. But as you are not, the next best thing is to write you. You seem to have been wafted into that strange sea-side spot, to do work there, and I hope you will have health and strength for it. One of the signs of the times is the way in which the hand of Providence scatters "city folks" all about in waste places, there to sow seed that in His own time shall spring up and bear fruit for Him. I was shocked at what you said about Miss —— not recognising you. It seemed almost incredible. Mr. Prentiss has persuaded me to have a family Bible-reading on Sunday afternoon, as we have no service, and studying up for it this morning I came to this proverb which originated with Huss, whose name in Bohemian signifies goose. He said at the stake: "If you burn a goose a swan will rise from its ashes"; and I thought—Well, Miss ——'s usefulness is at an end, but God can, and no doubt will, raise up a swan in her place. About forty now attend my Bible-reading.

We have my eldest brother here and he is a perfect enthusiast about Dorset, and has enjoyed his visit immensely. He said yesterday that he had laughed more that afternoon than in the previous ten years. We expect Dr. Stearns and his daughter on the 20th, and when they leave Mr. P. intends to go to Maine and try a change of air and scene. I hate to have him go; his trouble of last year keeps me uneasy, if he is long out of my sight.

To the Same, Dorset, Aug., 1875.

I have just written a letter to my husband, from whom I have been separated a whole day. He has gone to Maine, partly to see friends, partly to get a little sea air. He wanted me to go with him, but it would have ended in my getting down sick. This summer I am encompassed with relatives; two of my brothers, a nephew, a cousin, a second cousin, and in a day or two one brother's wife and child, and two more second cousins are to come; not to our house, but to board next door. There is a troop of artists swarming the tavern; all ladies, some of them very congenial, cultivated, excellent persons. They are all delighted with Dorset, and it is pleasant to stumble on little groups of them at their work. A. has been out sketching with them and succeeds very well. I have given up painting landscapes and taken to flowers. I have just had a visit here in my room from three humming-birds. They are attracted by the flowers... One of the cousins is just now riding on the lawn. Her splendid hair has come down and covers her shoulders; and with her color, always lovely, heightened by exercise and pleasure, she makes a beautiful picture. What is nicer than an unsophisticated young girl? I have no time for reading this summer among the crowd; but one can not help thinking wherever one is, and I have come to this conclusion: happiness in its strictest sense is found only in Christ; at the same time there are many sources of enjoyment independently of Him. It is getting dark and I can not see my lines. I am more and more puzzled about good people making such mistakes. Dr. Stearns says that the Rev. Mr. —— has been laying his hands on people and saying, "Receive the Holy Ghost." Such excesses give me great doubt and pain.

To the Same, Sept. 3, 1875.

Your letter came to find me in a sorrowful and weary spot. My dear M. lies here with typhoid fever, and my heart and soul and body are in less than a fortnight of it pretty well used up, and my husband is in almost as bad a case with double anxiety, he and A. expecting every hour to see me break down. It has been an awful pull for us all, for not one of us has an atom of health to spare, and only keep about by avoiding all the wear and tear we can. Dr. Buck has sent us an excellent English nurse; she came yesterday and insisted on sitting up with M. all night and we all dropped into our beds like so many shot birds. I heard her go down for ice three times, so I knew my precious lamb was not neglected, and slept in peace. We are encompassed with mercies; the physician who drives over from Manchester is as skilful as he is conscientious; this house is admirably adapted to sickness, the stairway only nine feet high, plenty of water, and my room, which I have given her, admits of her lying in a draught as the doctor wishes her to do. While the nurse is sleeping, as she is now, A. and I take turns sitting out on the piazza, where there is a delicious breeze almost always blowing.

The ladies here are disappointed that I can no longer hold the Bible- readings, but it is not so much matter that I am put off work if you are put on it; the field is one, and the Master knows whom to use and when and where. We have been reading with great delight a little book called "Miracles of Faith." I am called to M., who has had a slight chill, and of course high fever after it. It seems painfully unnatural to see my sunbeam turned into a dark cloud, and it distresses me so to see her suffer that I don't know how I am going to stand it. But I won't plague you with any more of this, nor must I forget how often I have said, "Thy will be done." You need not doubt that God's will looks so much better to us than our own, that nothing would tempt us to decide our child's future.

To her eldest Son, Dorset, Sept. 19, 1875.

Your letters are a great comfort to us, and the way to get many is to write many. M.'s fever ran twenty-one days, as the doctor said it would, and began to break yesterday. On Friday it ran very high; her pulse was 120 and her temperature 105—bad, bad, bad. She is very, very weak. We have sent away Pharaoh and the kitten; Pha would bark, and Kit would come in and stare at her, and both made her cry. The doctor has the house kept still as the grave; he even brought over his slippers lest his step should disturb her. She is not yet out of danger; so you must not be too elated. We four are sitting in the dining-room with a hot fire; papa is reading aloud to A. and H.; it is evening, and M. has had her opiate, and is getting to sleep. I have not much material of which to make letters, sitting all day in a dark room in almost total silence. The artists are rigging up the church beautifully with my flowers, etc., Mr. Palmer and Mr. Lawrence lending their aid. Your father is reading about Hans Andersen; you must read the article in the Living Age, No. 1,631; it is ever so funny.

I had such a queer dream last night. I dreamed that Maggie plagued us so that your father went to New York and brought back two cooks. I said I only wanted one. "Oh, but these are so rare," he said; "come out and see them." So he led me into the kitchen, and there sat at the table, eating dinner very solemnly, two ostriches! Now what that dream was made of I can not imagine. Now I must go to bed, pretty tired. When you are lonely and blue, think how we all love you. Goodnight, dear old fellow.

Sept. 21st.—It cuts me to the heart, my precious boy, that your college life begins under such a shadow. But I hope you know where to go in both loneliness and trouble. You may get a telegram before this reaches you; if you do not you had better pack your valise and have it ready for you to come at a minute's warning. The doctor gives us hardly a hope that M. will live; she may drop away at any moment. While she does live you are better off at Princeton; but when she is gone we shall all want to be together. We shall have her buried here in Dorset; otherwise I never should want to come here again. A. said this was her day to write you, but she had no heart to do it. The only thing I can do while M. is asleep, is to write letters about her. Good-night, dear boy.

22d—The doctor was here from eight to nine last night and said she would suffer little more and sleep her life away. She says she is nicely and the nurse says so. Your father and I have had a good cry this morning, which has done us no little service. Dear boy, this is a bad letter for you, but I have done the best I can.

To Mrs. George Payson, New York, Oct. 31, 1875

I hope you received the postal announcing our safe arrival home. I have been wanting to answer your last letter, but now that the awful strain is over I begin to flag, am tired and lame and sore, and any exertion is an effort. But after all the dismal letters I have had to write, I want to tell you what a delightful day yesterday was to us all; G. home from Princeton, all six of us at the table at once, "eating our meat with gladness"; the pleasantest family day of our lives. M.'s recovery during the last week has been little short of miraculous. We got her home, after making such a bugbear of it, in perfect comfort. We left Dorset about noon in a close carriage; the doctor and his wife were at the station and weighed M., when we found she had lost thirty-six pounds. The coachman took her in his arms and carried her into the car, when who should meet us but the Warners. On reaching the New York depot, George rushed into the car in such a state of wild excitement that he took no notice of any one but M.; he then flew out and a man flew in, and without saying a word snatched her up in his arms, whipped her into a reclining-chair, and he and another man scampered with her to the carriage and seated her in it; I had to run to keep up with them, and nearly knocked down a gigantic policeman who was guarding it. The Warners spent the night here and left next morning before I was up, so afraid of making trouble.... A friend has put a carriage at our disposal, and M. is to drive every day when and where and as long as she pleases. And now I hope I shall have something else to write about.... As to the Bible-readings, I do not find commentaries of much use. Experience of life has been my chief earthly teacher, and one gains that every day. You must not write me such long letters; it is too much for you. How I do wish you would do something desperate about getting well! At any rate, don't, any of you, have typhoid fever. It is the very meanest old snake of a fox I ever heard of, making its way like a masked burglar.

To Mrs. Condict, New York, Nov 7, 1875.

We came home on the 27th of October; M. bore the journey wonderfully well, and has improved so fast that she drives all round the Park every day, Miss W. having put a carriage at our disposal. How delightful it is to get my family together once more no tongue can tell, nor did I realise all I was suffering till the strain was over. I am longing to get physical strength for work, but my husband is very timid about my undertaking anything.... Dr. Ludlow [4] was here one day last week to ask me to give a talk, in his study, to some of his young Christians; but my husband told him it was out of the question at present. I shall be delighted to do it; much of my experience of life has cost me a great price, and I want to use it for the strengthening and comforting of other souls. No doubt you feel so too. Whatever may be said to the contrary by others, to me life has been a battle-field, and I believe always will be; but is the soldier necessarily unhappy and disgusted because he is fighting? I trow not. I am reading the history of the Oxford Conference; [5] there is a great deal in it to like, but what do you think of this saying of its leader? "Did it ever strike you, dear Christian, that if the poor world could know what we are in Christ, it would worship us?" [6] I say Pshaw! What a fallacy! Why should it worship us when it rejects Christ? Well, we have to take even the best people as they are.

A few weeks later she met a company of the young ladies of Dr. Ludlow's church and gave them a familiar talk on the Christian life. The following letter from Dr. L. will show how much they were interested:

DEAR MRS. PRENTISS:—I find that you have so taken hold of the young ladies of my church that it will be hard for you to relieve yourself of them. They insist on meeting you again. The hesitancy to ask you questions last Thursday was due to the large number present. I have asked only the younger ones to come this week—those who are either "seeking the way," or are just at its beginning. Five of those you addressed last week have announced their purpose of confessing Christ at the coming Communion.

Several questions have come from those silent lips which I am requested to submit to you:

"What is it to believe?"

"How much feeling of love must I have before I can count myself Jesus' disciple?"

"I am troubled with my lack of feeling. I know that sin is heinous, but do not feel deep abhorrence of it. I know that Jesus will save me, but I have no enthusiasm of gratitude. Am I a Christian?"

"I am afraid to confess Christ lest I should not honor Him in my life, for I am naturally impulsive and easily fall into religious thoughtlessness. Should I wait for an inward assurance of strength, or begin a Christian life trusting Him to help me?"

Any of these topics will be very pertinent. I trust that nothing will prevent you from being present on Thursday afternoon. I will call for you. The limited number who will be present will give you a better working basis than you had last week. The older young ladies have assented to their exclusion this week on the condition that at some time they too can come.

Very gratefully yours, JAMES M. LUDLOW.

In a letter dated May 3, 1880, Dr. Ludlow thus refers to these meetings:

I regret that I can not speak more definitely of Mrs. Prentiss' conversations with the young ladies of my charge, as it was my custom to withdraw from the room after a few introductory words, so that she could speak to them with the familiarity of a mother. I know that all that group felt the warmth of her interest in them, the charm of her character which was so refined by her love of Christ and strengthened by her experience of needed grace, as well as the wisdom of her words. I was impressed, from so much as I did hear of her remarks, with her ability to combine rarest beauty and highest spirituality of thought with the utmost simplicity of language and the plainest illustrations. Her conversation was like the mystic ladder which was "set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven." Her most solemn counsel was given in such a way as never to repress the buoyant feeling of the young, but rather to direct it toward the true "joy of the Lord." She seemed to regard the cheer of to-day as much of a religious duty as the hope for to-morrow, and those with whom she conversed partook of her own peace. I shall always remember these meetings as among the happiest and most useful associations of my ministry in New York.

* * * * *

II.

The Moody and Sankey Meetings. Her Interest in them. Mr. Moody. Publication of Griselda. Goes to the Centennial. At Dorset again. Her Bible-reading. A Moody-Meeting Convert. Visit to Montreal. Publication of The Home at Greylock. Her Theory of a happy Home. Marrying for Love. Her Sympathy with young Mothers. Letters.

The early months of 1876 were very busily spent in painting pictures for friends, in attendance upon Mr. Moody's memorable services at the Hippodrome, and in writing a book for young mothers. Before going to Dorset for the summer she passed a week at Philadelphia, visiting the Centennial Exhibition. Her letters during the winter and spring of this year relate chiefly to these topics.

To a Christian Friend, Feb. 22, 1976.

You gave me a good deal of a chill by your long silence, and I find it a little hard to be taken up and dropped and then taken up; still, almost everybody has these fitful ways, and very likely I myself among that number. Your little boy must take a world of time, and open a new world of thought and feeling. But don't spoil him; the best child can be made hateful by mismanagement. I am trying to write a book for mothers and find it a discouraging work, because I find, on scrutiny, such awfully radical defects among them. And yet such a book would have helped me in my youthful days.

You ask if I have been to hear Moody; yes, I have and am deeply interested in him and his work. Yesterday afternoon he had a meeting for Christian workers, in which his sound common-sense created great merriment. Some objected to this, but I liked it because it was so genuine, and, to my mind, not un-Christlike. So many fancy religion and a long face synonymous. How stupid it is! I wonder they don't object to the sun for shining. I am glad you think Urbane may be useful, for I hear little from it. Junia's story is true as far as the laudanum and the blindness go; it happened years ago. I do not know what religious effect it had. As to the friend of whom you speak, she would not love you as you say she does if her case was hopeless; at least I don't think so. I am oppressed with the case of one who wants me to help him to Christ, while unwilling to confide to me his difficulties. How little they know how we care for their souls!

To Mrs. George Payson, Feb 28, 1876.

I have been trying to do more than any mortal can, and now must stop to take breath and write to you. In the first place, M.'s illness cut out three months; then fitting up G.'s room at Princeton took a large part of the next three; then ever so many people wanted me to paint them pictures; then I began a book; then Moody and Sankey appeared, and I wanted to hear them, and was needed to work in co-operation with them. I don't know how you feel about Moody, but I am in full sympathy with him, and last Friday the testimony of four of the cured "gin-pigs" (their own language) was the most instructive, interesting language I ever heard from human lips. In talking to those he has drawn into the inquiry rooms, I find the most bitterly wretched ones are back-sliders; they are not without hope, and expect to be saved at last; but they have been trying what the world could do for them and found it a failure. Their anguish was harrowing; one after another tried to help them, and gave up in despair.

I had a vase given me at Christmas somewhat like yours, but a trifle larger, and shaped like a fish. The flowers never fell out but once. I had two little tables given me on which to set my majolica vases, with India-rubber plants, which will grow where nothing else will; also a desk and bookcase, and two splendid specimens of grass which grew in California, and had been bleached to a creamy white. They are more beautiful than Pampa, or even feather-grass.

A. is driven to death about a fair for the Young Women's Christian Association. I have given it a German tragedy which I translated a few years ago. [7] They expect to make $1,600 on it, but Randolph says if they make half that they may thank their stars. I have spent all my evenings of late in revising it, and it goes to the printers to-day. George is going to deliver a literary lecture for the same object this evening, this being the age of obedient parents. No, I never saw and never painted any window-screens. The best things I have done are trailing arbutus and apple-blossoms. A. invited me to do apple-blossoms for her, and said she should have to own that I had more artistic power than herself. I don't agree with her, but it is a matter of no consequence, anyhow. It is a shame for you to buy Little Lou; I meant to send you one and thought I had done so. The bright speeches are mostly genuine, made by Eddy Hopkins and Ned and Charley P.

How came you to have blooming hepaticas? It is outrageous. My plants do better this winter than ever before. I have had hyacinths in bloom, and a plant given me, covered with red berries, has held its own. It hangs in a glass basket the boys gave me and has a white dove brooding over it. Let me inform you that I have lost my mind. A friend dined with us on Sunday, and I asked him when I saw him last. "Why, yesterday," he said, "when I met you at Randolph's by appointment."

There, I must stop and go to work on one of my numerous irons.

The "German tragedy" referred to fell into her hands in the spring of 1869, and her letters, written at the time, show how it delighted her. It is, indeed, a literary gem. The works of its author, Baron Muench- Bellinghausen—for Friederich Halm is a pseudonym—are much less known in this country than they deserve to be. He is one of the most gifted of the minor poets of Germany, a master of vivid style and of impressive, varied, and beautiful thought. Griselda first appeared at Vienna in 1835. It was enthusiastically received and soon passed through several editions.

The scene of the poem is laid in Wales, in the days of King Arthur. The plot is very simple. Percival, count of Wales, who had married Griselda, the daughter of a charcoal burner, appears at court on occasion of a great festival, in the course of which he is challenged by Ginevra, the Queen, to give an account of Griselda, and to tell how he came to wed her. He readily consents to do so, but has hardly begun when the Queen and ladies of the court, by their mocking air and questions, provoke him to such anger that swords are at length drawn between him and Sir Lancelot, a friend of the Queen, and only the sudden interposition of the King prevents a bloody conflict. The feud ends in a wager, by which it is agreed that if Griselda's love to Percival endure certain tests, the Queen shall kneel to her; otherwise, Percival shall kneel to the Queen. The tests are applied, and the young wife's love, although perplexed and tortured in the extreme, triumphantly endures them all. The character of Griselda, as maiden, daughter, wife, mother, and woman, is wrought with exquisite skill, and betokens in the author rare delicacy and nobility of sentiment, as well as deep knowledge of the human heart.

The following extract gives a part of Percival's description of Griselda:

PERCIVAL.

Plague take these women's tongues!

GINEVRA (to her party).

Control your wit and mirth, compose your faces, That longer yet this pastime may amuse us! Now, Percival, proceed!

PERCIVAL.

What was I saying? I have it now! Beside the brook she stood; Her dusky hair hung rippling round her face. And perched upon her shoulders sat a dove; Right home-like sat she there, her wings scarce moving. Now suddenly she stoops—I mean the maiden— Down to the spring, and lets her little feet Sink in its waters, while her colored skirt Covered with care what they did not conceal; And I within the shadow of the trees, Inly admired her graceful modesty. And as she sat and gazed into the brook, Plashing and sporting with her snow-white feet, She thought not of the olden times, when girls Pleased to behold their faces smiling back From the smooth water, used it as their mirror By which to deck themselves and plait their hair; But like a child she sat with droll grimaces, Delighted when the brook gave back to her Her own distorted charms; so then I said: Conceited is she not.

KENNETH.

The charming child!

ELLINOR.

What is a collier's child to you! By heaven! Don't make me fancy that you know her, Sir!

PERCIVAL.

And now resounding through the mountain far, From the church-tower rang forth the vesper-bell, And she grew grave and still, and shaking quickly From off her face the hair that fell around it, She cast a thoughtful and angelic glance Upward, where clouds had caught the evening red. And her lips gently moved with whispered words, As rose-leaves tremble when the soft winds breathe. O she is saintly, flashed it through my soul; She marking on her brow the holy cross, Lifted her face, bright with the sunset's flush, While holy longing and devotion's glow, Moistened her eye and hung like glory round her. Then to her breast the little dove she clasped, Embraced, caressed it, kissed its snow-white wings, And laughed; when, with its rose-red bill, it pecked, As if with longing for her fresh young lips. How she'd caress it, said I to myself, Were this her child, the offspring of her love! And now a voice resounded through the woods, And cried, "Griselda," cried it, "Come, Griselda!" While she, the distant voice's sound distinguished, Sprang quickly up, and scarcely lingering Her feet to dry, ran up the dewy bank With lightning speed, her dove in circles o'er her, Till in the dusky thicket disappeared For me the last edge of her flutt'ring robe. "Obedient is she," said I to myself; And many things revolving, turned I home.

GINEVRA.

By heaven! You tell your tale so charmingly, And with such warmth and truth to life, the hearer Out of your words can shape a human form. Why, I can see this loveliest of maidens Sit by the brook-side making her grimaces; They are right pretty faces spite of coal-smut. Is it not so, Sir Percival?

Mrs. Prentiss' translation is both spirited and faithful—faithful in following even the irregularities of metre which mark the original. It won the praise and admiration of some of the most accomplished judges in the country. The following extract from a letter of the late Rev. Henry W. Bellows, D.D., may serve as an instance:

I read it through at one sitting and enjoyed it exceedingly. What a lovely, pure, and exalting story it is! I confess that I prefer it to Tennyson's recent dramas or to any of the plays upon the same or kindred themes that have lately appeared from Leighton and others. The translation is melodious, easy, natural, and hardly bears any marks of the fetters of a tongue foreign to its author. How admirable must have been the knowledge of German and the skill in English of the translator!

To Mrs. Condict, New York, May 2, 1876.

I do not know but I have been on too much of a drive all winter, for besides writing my book I have been painting pictures for friends, and am now at work on some wild roses for Mrs. D.'s golden wedding next Monday, and yesterday I wrote her some verses for the occasion. The work at the Hippodrome took a great deal of my time, and there is a poor homeless fellow now at work in my garden, whom it was my privilege to lead to Christ there, and who touched me not a little this morning by bringing me three plants out of his scanty earnings. He has connected himself with our Mission and has made friends there.

I do not know what Faber says about the silence of Christ, but I know that as far as our own consciousness goes, He often answers never a word, and that the grieved and disappointed heart must cling to Him more firmly than ever at such times. We live in a mystery, and shall never be satisfied till we see Him as He is. I am enjoying a great deal in a great many ways, but I am afraid I should run in if the gates opened. If I go to the Centennial it will be to please some of the family, not myself. You ask about my book; it is a sort of story; had to be to get read; I could finish it in two weeks if needful. When I wrote it no mortal knows; I should say that about all I had done this winter was to hold my Bible-reading, paint, and work in the revival. I have so few interruptions compared with my previous life, that I hardly have learned to adjust myself to them.

To Miss E. A. Warner, Philadelphia, May 30, 1876.

We came here on a hospitable invitation to spend a week in the Centennial grounds, and yesterday passed several hours in wandering about, bewildered and amazed at the hosts of things we saw, and the host we didn't see. We found ourselves totally ignorant of Norway, for instance, whose contributions are full of artistic grace and beauty; and I suppose we shall go on making similar discoveries about other nations. As to the thirty-two art galleries we have only glanced at them. What interested me most was groups of Norwegians, Lapps and other Northerners, so life-like that they were repeatedly addressed by visitors—wonderful reproductions. The extent of this Exhibition is simply beyond description. The only way to get any conception of it is to make a railroad circuit of the grounds.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16     Next Part
Home - Random Browse