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 have had a very busy winter; held a Bible-reading once a week, written a book, painted lots of pictures to give away, and really need rest, only I hate rest.... We find out where our hearts really are when we get these fancied invitations homeward. I look upon Christians who are, at such times, reluctant to go, with unfeigned amazement. The spectacle, too often seen, of shrinking from the presence of Christ, is one I can not begin to understand. I should think it would have been a terrible disappointment to you to get so far on and then have to come back; but we can be made willing for anything.

I am glad you liked Griselda; I knew you would. [8]

The extreme heat and her unusually enfeebled state rendered the summer a very trying one; but its discomfort was in a measure relieved by the extraordinary loveliness of the Dorset scenery this season. There was much in this scenery to remind her of Chateau d'Oex, where she had passed such happy weeks in the summer and autumn of 1858. If not marked by any very grand features, it is pleasing in the highest degree. In certain states of the atmosphere the entire landscape—Mt. Equinox, Sunset Mountain, Owl's Head, Green Peak, together with the intervening hills, and the whole valley—becomes transfigured with ever-varying forms of light and shade. At such times she thought it unsurpassed by anything of the kind she had ever witnessed, even in Switzerland. The finest parts of this enchanting scene were the play of the cloud-shadows, running like wild horses across the mountains, and the wonderful sunsets; and both were in full view from the windows of her "den." Her eyes never grew weary of feasting upon them. The cloud-shadows, in particular, are much admired by all lovers of nature. [9]

To Mrs. George Payson, Kauinfels, July 8, 1876.

We have been here four weeks, and ought to have been here six, for I can not bear heat; it takes all the life out of me. Last night when I went up to my room to go to bed, the thermometer was 90 deg.... Are you not going to the Centennial? George and I went on first and stayed at Dr. Kirkbride's. They were as kind as possible, and we all enjoyed a great deal. What interested me most were wonderful life-like figures (some said wax, but they were no more wax than you are) of Laplanders, Swedes, and Norwegians, dressed in clothes that had been worn by real peasants, and done by an artistic hand. Next to these came the Japanese department; amazing bronzes, amazing screens ($1,000 a pair, embroidered exquisitely), lovely flowers painted on lovely vases, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. The Norwegian jewelry was also a surprise and delight; I don't care for jewelry generally, but these silvery lace-like creations took me by storm. Among other pretty things were lots of English bedrooms, exquisitely furnished and enormously expensive. The horticultural department was very poor, except the rhododendrons, which drove me crazy. I only took a chair twice. You pay sixty cents an hour for one with a man to propel it, but can have one for three hours and make your husband (or wife!) wheel you. You do not pay entrance fee for children going in your arms, and I saw boys of eight or nine lugged in by their fathers and mothers. We think everybody should go who can afford it. Several countries had not opened when we were there; Turkey and Spain, for instance; and if Switzerland was ready we did not see it. The more I think of the groups I spoke of, the more I am lost in admiration. A young mother kneeling over a little dead baby, and the stern grief of the strong old grandfather, brought a lump into my throat; the young father was not capable of such grief as theirs, and sat by, looking subdued and tender, but nothing more. The artist must be a great student of human nature. I went, every day, to study these domestic groups; at first they did not attract the crowd; but later it was next to impossible to get at them. Every one was taken from life, and you see the grime on their knuckles. Almost every face expressed strong and agreeable character. There were very few good and a great many had pictures. Of statuary "The Forced Prayer" was very popular; the child has his hands folded, but is in anything but a saintly temper, and two tears are on his cheeks. I should like to own it. If I had had any money to spare I should have bought something from Japan and something from Denmark. I do not think any one can realise, who has not been there, what an education such an Exposition is. China's inferiority to Japan I knew nothing about.

A. goes out sketching every day. The other day I found her painting a white flower which she said she got from the lawn; it was something like a white lockspur, only very much prettier, and was, of course, not a wild flower, as she supposed, or, at any rate, not indigenous to this soil. She declared it had no leaves, but I made her go out and show me the plant; it grew about ten inches high, with leaves like a lily, and then came the pure, graceful flowers.

To Mrs. Condict, Dorset, July 9, 1876.

There has been a great change here in religious interest, the foundation of which is thought to have been laid in the Bible-readings. I am ashamed to believe it, all I say and do seems so flat; but our Lord can overrule incompetence. The ladies are eager to have the readings resumed, but I can not undertake it unless I get stronger. The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Reed are doing a quiet work among non-churchgoers at the other end of the village. She has been to every house in the neighborhood and "compelled them to come in," having meetings at her own house. Of course the devil is on hand. He reminds me of a slug that sits on my rose bushes watching for the buds to open, when he falls to and devours them, instanter. I am sure it is as true of him as of the Almighty, that he never slumbers or sleeps. His impertinences increase daily.

One of the last things I did before leaving home was to decide to bring here one of the Hippodrome converts, about whom I presume I wrote you. We knew next to nothing about him, and I could ill afford to support him; but I was his only earthly friend. He had no home, no work, and I felt I ought to look after him. We gave him a little room in the old mill, and he is perfectly happy; calls his room his "castle," does not feel the heat, takes care of my garden, enjoys haying, has put everything in order, is as strong as a horse, and a comfort to us all; being willing to turn his hand to anything. In the evenings he has made for me a manilla mat, of which I am very proud. He has been all over the world and picked up all sorts of information. He went to hear Mr. Prentiss' centennial address on the Fourth at a picnic, and I was astonished when he came back at his intelligent account of it. Everybody likes him, and he has proved a regular institution. I would not have had a flower but for him, for I can not work out in such a blazing sun as we have had. [10]

My book is to be called, I believe, "The Home at Greylock"; but I don't know. My husband and Mr. Randolph fussed so over the title that I said it would end in being called "Much Ado about Nothing." They, being men, look at the financial question, to which I never gave a thought. Even Satan has never so much as whispered, Write to make money; don't be too religious in your books. Still he may do it, now I have put it into his head. How little any of us know what he won't make us do! I enjoyed the Centennial more than I expected to do, but got my fill very soon, and was glad to go home.

No account of the Dorset home would be complete without some reference to "the old mill." It had been dismantled during the war, but, at the request of the neighbors, was now restored to its original use. It also contained the boys' workshop, a bathing-room, an ice-house, a ram, and a bowling-alley; formed, indeed, together with the pond and the boat, part and parcel of the Dorset home itself.

To Mrs. James Donaghe, Dorset, July 15, 1876.

I have hardly put pen to paper since I came here. I never could endure heat; it always laid me flat. Yesterday there was a let-up to the torrid zone, and to-day it is comparatively cool. Yesterday the mother of our pastor here got her release. I cried for joy, for she has been a great sufferer, and had longed to die. What a mystery death is! I went in to see how she was, and she had just breathed her last, and there lay her poor old body, eighty-two years old, looking as rent and torn as one might suppose it would after a fight of thirty years between the soul and itself. I have wondered if the heat, so dreadful to many, had not been good for you. A rheumatic boy, who works for us off and on, says it has been splendid for him. We heard yesterday that Dr. Schaff had lost his eldest daughter after a ten days' illness with typhoid fever. He has been greatly afflicted again and again and again by such bereavements, but this must be hardest of all. [11] There is a different religious atmosphere here now from anything we have ever known. The ladies hoped to begin the Bible-readings right off, but it was out of the question. I expect such a number of guests this week that I dare not undertake it. I wish you were coming, too. How you would enjoy sitting on the piazza watching the shadows on the mountains! We have had some magnificent sunsets this season. Mr. Prentiss and I drive every night after tea, a regular old Darby and Joan. Generally, I prefer working in the garden to driving, but this time it has been too hot, and we have next to no flowers. It quite grieves me that I have nothing to lay on Grandma Pratt's coffin. However, she won't care! Won't it be nice to get rid of these frail, troublesome bodies of ours, and live without them! I hope I shall see you in heaven, with plenty of room and no rheumatism. How could you make such a time over that doggerel! [12] Such things are a drug in this house. I thought I had a long letter from you, and it was that stuff! My last book is all printed. My husband kindly corrected the proof-sheets for me; a thing I hate to do. He likes the book better than I do. I always get tired of my books by the time they are done. I read very little; only some few devotional books over and over. I wonder if you have read "Miracles of Faith"? It is a remarkable little book. Do write and let me know how you and your husband are. We make great account of our afternoon mail.

She alludes in the preceding letter to the guests she was expecting. The entertainment of friends formed a marked feature of her Dorset life; and it called into play the brightest traits of her character. Her visitors always went away feeling like one who has been gazing upon a beautiful landscape or listening to sweet music, so charming was her hospitality. One of them, writing to her husband a year after her death, thus refers to it:

I seem to see the Dorset hills now with their beautiful cloud-shadows and lovely blue. I can see in my mind your pleasant home and all the faces, including the dear one you miss this summer. What a delightful home she made! The "good cheer" she furnished for the minds, hearts, and bodies of her guests was something remarkable. I shall never forget my visits; I was in a state of high entertainment from beginning to end. What entertaining stories she told! what practical wisdom she gave out in the most natural and incidental way! and what housekeeping! Common articles of food seemed to possess new virtues and zest. I always went away full of the marvels of the visit, as well as loaded down with many little tokens of her kindness and thoughtfulness.

To Mrs. Condict, Dorset, Sept. 9, 1876.

What interested me most at the Centennial was in the Main Building, and two things stand out, prominently, in my memory. The first is groups of Swedish figures, dressed in national costume, and all done by the hand of a real artist. Especially examine the dead baby and its weeping mother and rugged old wounded grandfather; it will remind you of the words, "A little child shall lead them." Next in interest to me were the Japanese bronzes and screens; next wares from Denmark, butterflies and feathers from Brazil. In the art department a picture called "Betty" in the British division, up in a corner, and in statuary "The Forced Prayer." Both my girls agreed with me in the main; the boys cared most for Machinery hall, and my husband for Queensland, for which I did not care a fig.

Last Sunday was as perfect here as with you. My husband preached at Pawlet, about six miles from here, and I went with him. He preached a very earnest sermon on prayer. My Bible-reading is thronged, and I can't but hope the Holy Spirit is helping my infirmities and blessing souls. My heart yearns over these women, many of whom have faces stamped with care. There is a class here that nobody has any idea how to get at. To meet their case, apostolic work needs to be done. Do you know that Irishmen are buying up the New England farms at a great rate?

To Mrs. Donaghe, Dorset, Sept. 10, 1876.

The extraordinary heat has worked unfavorably on both my husband and myself; he has been under medical treatment most of the time, forlorn and depressed. I have just pushed through as I could; my Bible-reading, which has been wonderfully attended, being the only work I have done. The weather is cool now and I feel stronger.

A party of young people, who were coming to call on A., were upset just above us; two had broken legs, others bruises and cuts, and one had both knee-pans seriously injured. We got her here and put her to bed, and then I started off to get the rest; but the surgeon, on arriving, decided they should be removed at once, and got them all safely back to Manchester.

To Mrs. Condict, New York, Oct. 16, 1876.

Since my last letter I have been to Montreal, fled from and settled down here. My book is out in England, and my husband sat up till midnight, reading an English copy of it, although he had heard me read it aloud when written, and read it twice in proof-sheets. He thinks it will be a useful book. I feel sure you will agree with me in its main points. God grant it may send many a bewildered mother to her knees! Miss S. called here a few days ago; she has written a book called "The Fullness of the Blessing,"—one object of which is to prove that sanctification is not, can not be instantaneous.... I do hope the book will do good. It seems timely to me, for I shudder when I hear that A. and B. "professed sanctification" on such and such a day. My visit to Montreal gave me indignant pain when I saw crowds kneeling to the Virgin, and not to Christ, in those costly churches and cathedrals.

As to Miss —— I do not know enough of her to form an opinion of her state; I incline, however, to think that demoniac possession is sometimes permitted. Fenelon, you know, thinks we should not be too eager for spiritual delight. He is entirely right when he says that the "night of faith" may witness a faith dearer to God than that of sensible delight. I love Job when he says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," more than I do David when he is in green pastures and beside still waters; it does not require much faith to be happy there.

Nov. 12th.—I am glad Greylock reached you in safety, and sorry I could not correct its numerous misprints. Your question about Kitty I don't quite understand; I did not mean to say that her parents had no more trouble with her, but they had no more fights growing out of self-will on both sides. I know that there is no end to trouble with obstinate or otherwise naughty children, only if the mother lives close to Christ the fault will be on their side, not hers. You speak, by-the-bye, of my using the word Christ rather than the word Jesus. I do so because it means more to my mind, and because the apostles use it much more frequently. I do hope my book will be a comfort and help to many well-meaning but inexperienced mothers. And I wish I practised more perfectly what I preach. But I have my infirmities and find it hard to be always on my guard.... A. and I are taking drawing-lessons of a very superior French teacher, who offers us the privilege of spending our whole time in her studio, with "conseil."

The Home at Greylock was published the latter part of October. It embodied, as she said, the results of thirty years of experience and reflection. Its views of marriage and of the office of a Christian mother found frequent expression in her other writings and in her correspondence. She placed religion and love alike at the foundation of a true home; the one to connect it with heaven above, the other to make it a heaven upon earth. She enjoined it upon her young friends, as they desired enduring domestic felicity, to marry first of all for love. To one of them, who was tempted, as she feared, to marry out of gratitude rather than from love, she wrote:

We women are exacting creatures; and you can not please us unless we have the whole of you. Oh, if you knew the sacredness, the beauty, the sweetness of married life, as I do, you would as soon think of entering heaven without a wedding garment, as of venturing on its outskirts even, save by the force of a passionate, overwhelming power that is stronger than death itself!

How warmly she sympathised with mothers, especially with young mothers, in their peculiar experiences and how great she thought their privilege to be, her writings testify. The same trait is brought out still more fully in her letters. "Only a mother," she wrote, "knows the varied discipline of hopes and fears and joys and sorrows through which a mother passes to glory—for this is the mother's pathway, and she rarely walks on a higher road or one that may so lead to perfection." Some of her letters addressed to bereaved mothers have already been given. But if her heart was always touched with grief by the death of an infant, it seemed to leap for joy whenever she heard that in the home of a friend a child was coming or had just arrived. Here are samples of her letters on such occasions.

To Mrs. ——, Jan 10, 1874.

You little know into what a new world you are going to be introduced! I wouldn't be a bit frightened, if I were you; it is ever so much more likely that you'll get through safely, than that you will not; and then what joy! You will be a very loving, devoted mother, and I hope this little one will only be the beginning of a houseful. I spoke for ten, but only had six; and our dear Lord had to take two of them back.... I have just run over your letter again, and want to reiterate my charge to you to feel no fear about your future. If you live and have a child, your joy will be wonderful, but if you do not live (here) it will be because you are going to dwell with Christ, which is better than having a thousand children. So I see nothing but bright sides for you.

To the Same, April 18 10, 1874.

By this time you ought to be able to receive letters; at any rate I am going to write one and you can do as you please about reading it. Well, isn't a baby an institution? I am sure you had no idea what a delightful thing it is to be a mother, and that you have had a most bewildering experience of both suffering and joy. I shall want to hear all about the young gentleman when you get strong enough to write an enthusiastic letter about him; nor have I any objection to hear how his mother is behaving under these new circumstances.

What does your husband think of the upsetting of all home customs and the introduction of this young hero therein? Thank him for sending me the news in good season. I should not have liked it from a stranger. And by-the-bye, don't let your children say parp-er and marm-er, as nine children out of ten do. I daresay you never meant they should, having a little mite of sense of your own. Now this is all a new mother ought to read at once, so with lots of congratulations and thanksgivings, good-bye.

The following is an extract from a letter to another friend, dated Feb. 20, 1875:

Your last letter was so eloquent in its happiness that in writing an article for a magazine on the subject of education, I could not help beginning "The King is coming," and depicting his heralds... I am indeed rejoicing in your joy, and hope the little queen will long sit on the right royal throne of your heart. Keep me posted as to Miss Baby's progress. I know a family where the first son was called "Boy" for years, the servants addressing him as "Master Boy."

Here are the opening sentences of the article referred to:

The King is at hand. Heralds have been announcing his advent in language incomprehensible to man, but which woman understands as she does her alphabet. A dainty basket, filled with mysteries half hidden, half displayed; soft little garments, folded away in ranks and files; here delicate lace and cambric; there down and feathers and luxury. The King has come. Limp and pink, a nothing and nobody, yet welcomed and treasured as everything and everybody, his wondrous reign begins. His kingdom is the world. His world is peopled by two human beings. Yesterday, they were a boy and a girl. To-day, they are man and woman, and are called father and mother.

Their new King is imperious. He has his own views as to the way he shall live and move and have his being. He has his own royal table, at which he presides in royal pomp. His waiting-maid is refined and educated—his superior in everyway. He takes his meals from her when he sees fit; if he can not sleep, he will not allow her to do so. His treasurer is a man whom thousands look up to, and reverence, but, in this little world, he is valued only for the supplies he furnishes, the equipages he purchases, the castle in which young royalty dwells. The picture is not unpleasing, however; the slaves have the best of it, after all.

The reign is not very long. Two years later, there is a descent from the throne, to make room for the Queen. She is a great study to him. He puts his fingers into her eyes to learn if they are little blue lakelets. He grows chivalrous and patronizing. So the world of home goes on. The King and Queen give place to new Kings and Queens, but, though dethroned, they are still royal; their wants are forestalled, they are fed, clothed, instructed, but above all, beloved. When did their education begin? At six months? A year? Two years? No; it began when they began; the moment they entered the little world they called theirs. Every touch of the mother's hand, every tone of her voice, educates her child. It never remembers a time when she was not its devoted lover, servant, vassal, slave. Many an ear enjoys, is soothed by music, while ignorant of its laws. So the youngest child in the household is lulled by uncomprehended harmonies from its very birth. Affections group round and bless it, like so many angels; it could not analyse or comprehend an angel, but it could feel the soft shelter of his wings. [13]

The following was addressed to a friend, whose home was already blessed with six fine boys:

DORSET, Sept. 16, 1868.

Dear Mr. B.:—I am just as glad as I can be! I said it was a girl, and I knew it was a girl, and that is the reason it is a girl. Give my best love to Mrs. B., and tell her I hope this little damsel will be to her like a Sabbath of rest, after the six week and work days she has had all along. It is hard to tell which one loves best, one's girls or one's boys, but it is pleasant to have both kinds... I hope your place has as appropriate a name as ours has had given to it—"Saints' Rest"!!—and that you will fill it full of saints and angels; only let them be girls, you have had boys enough.

* * * * *


The Year 1877. Death of her Cousin, the Rev. Charles H. Payson. Illness and Death of Prof. Smith. "Let us take our Lot in Life just as it comes." Adorning one's Home. How much Time shall be given to it? God's Delight in His beautiful Creations. Death of Dr. Buck. Visiting the sick and bereaved. An Ill-turn. Goes to Dorset. The Strangeness of Life. Kauinfels. The Bible-reading. Letters.

During the early months of 1877 Mrs. Prentiss' sympathies were much excited by sickness and death among her friends.

"I spend a deal of time," she wrote, "at funerals and going to see people in affliction, and never knew anything like it." And wherever she went, it was as a daughter of consolation. The whole year, indeed, was marked by a very tender and loving spirit, as also by unwonted thoughtfulness. But it was marked no less by the happiest, most untiring activity of both hands and brain. During the month of January she wrote the larger portion of a new serial for The Christian at Work. It would seem as if she foresaw the end approaching and was pressing toward it with eager steps and a glad heart.

To her eldest Son, New York, Jan. 28, 1877.

The great event of last week was cousin Charles' unexpected death. [14] Your father and I attended the funeral, in his church, which was crowded to overflowing with a weeping audience. Most of the ministers we know were there. Cousin G. came on Friday night and said nothing would comfort him like hearing your father preach and he promised to do so. I went with him to Inwood, and we have just got back. Your father preached a beautiful sermon and paid a glowing tribute to cousin Charles in it, and I am very glad I went. After the funeral yesterday I came home and put up some chicken-jelly I had made for Prof. Smith, and carried it down to him; there I met Dr. Gould, of Rome, who had seen him, and said he considered his case a very critical one. Feb. 4th.—Your father was invited to repeat his lecture on Recollections of Hurstmonceux and Rydal Mount, and did so, yesterday morning, in our lecture-room, which was filled with a fine audience, mostly strangers. What have you on your natural bracket? And have you put up your leaves on your windows? Mine are looking splendidly. H. is burning one of them with a magnifying-glass your father gave me at Christmas. The sun does lie delightfully in this room. I must now go to the Smiths. All send love.

Prof. Smith passed away peacefully in the early morning on the 7th of February. One of his last conscious utterances was addressed to Mrs. Prentiss: "I have ceased to cumber myself with the things of time and sense, and have had some precious thoughts about death." Henry Boynton Smith was one of those men who enrich life by their presence, and seem to render the whole world poorer by their absence. He was strongly attached to Mrs. Prentiss; for more than forty years the relation between him and her husband resembled that of brothers; Mrs. Smith was one of her oldest and most beloved friends, and for a quarter of a century the two families had dwelt together in unity. And, then, with one of the saddest and one of the happiest events of her domestic history—the burial of her little Bessie, at which he ministered with Christlike sympathy, and at the baptism of her Swiss boy who bore his name—he was tenderly associated. It is not strange, therefore, that his death, as well as the wearisome years of invalidism which preceded it, touched her deeply. What manner of man he was; how gifted, wise and large-hearted; how devoted to the cause of his Lord and Saviour; what a leader and master-workman in sacred science and in the Church of Christ; how worthy of love and admiration—all this may be seen and read elsewhere. [15]

To Mrs. Condict, Feb. 14, 1877.

Before I go down to the meeting at Mrs. D.'s I must have a little chat with you, in reply to your last two letters. I felt like shrieking aloud when you contrasted your life with mine. But it is impossible to state fully why. Yet I may say one thing; I have had to learn what I teach in loneliness, suffering, conflict, and dismay, which I do not believe you have physical strength to bear. The true story of my life will never be written. But whatever you do, don't envy it. And I do not mean by that, that I am a disappointed, unhappy woman; far from it. But I enjoy and suffer intensely, and one insulting word about Greylock, for instance, goes on stinging and cutting me, amid forgetfulness of hundreds of kind ones. [16] Let us take our lot in life just as it comes, courageously, patiently, and faithfully, never wondering at anything the Master does. I am concerned just as you are about my interest in things of time and sense. But I have not the faintest doubt that if we could have all we want in Christ, inferior objects would fade and fall. But we live in a strange world, amid many claims on time and thought; we can not dwell in a convent, and must dwell among human beings, and fall more or less under their influence. We shall get out of all this by and by. Feb. 27th.—This winter I am drawing in charcoal under an accomplished teacher; she has so large a class that I had to withdraw from it and take private lessons. She has invited A. to assist her in teaching little ones twice a week, which materially curtails her bill. A. was introduced to one youth, aged five, as Monsieur So and So; he had his easel, his big portfolio, and charcoal, in great style, but only took one lesson, he hated it so. I don't see what his mother was made of. I sympathise with your fear of spending too much time adorning your home, etc., etc. It is a nice question how far to go and how far to stay. But I honestly believe that a bare, blank, prosaic house makes religion appear dreadfully homely. We enjoy seeing our children enjoy their work and their play; is our Father unwilling to let us enjoy ours? In a German book [17] I translated, a little boy is very happy in making a scrap-book for a little friend, and God is represented as being glad to see him so happy. And I don't believe He begrudged your making me that pretty picture, or did not wish me to make yours. (By-the-bye, when you have time, tell me how to do it.) It seems to me we are meant to use all the faculties God gives us; to abuse them is another thing. I feel that I am having a vacation, and wonder how long it is going to last. I do not know how I should have stood the tremendous change in my life, through my husband's change of profession, if I had not had this resource of painting. O, how I do miss his preaching! How I miss my pastoral work! Dr. Buck is on his dying bed, and longing to go. [18]

To her eldest Son, New York, March 11, 1877.

We had an excellent sermon from Dr. Vincent this morning, which he repeated by request. Last evening we had Chi Alpha, and as I saw this body of men enter the dining-room, I wondered whether I had borne any minister to take up your father's and my work when we lay it down.

18th.—I thought within myself, as I listened to a sermon on the union of Christ and the believer, whether I should have the bliss of hearing you preach. Let me see; how old should I have to be, at soonest? Sixty-two; the age at which my ancestors died, unless they died young. I got a beautiful letter, a few days ago, from a minister in Philadelphia, the Rev. Mr. Miller, who has 1,300 members in his church, and says if he could afford it he would give a copy of Greylock to every young mother in it.

I went to Mrs. P.'s funeral on Friday. She wanted to die suddenly, and had her wish. She ate her breakfast on Tuesday; then went into the office and arranged papers there; her husband went out at ten, and shortly after, she began to feel sick and the girls made her go to bed. One of them went out to do some errands, and the other sat in the room; she soon heard a sound that made her think her mother wanted something, and on going to her found her dead. Dr. P. got home at twelve, long after all was over. He told me it was the most extraordinary death he ever heard of, but his theory was that a small clot of blood arrested the circulation, as she had no disease. I had a talk with C. about his wife's sudden death. I had already written him and sent him a note. I cut from the Evening Post the slip I enclose about Mr. Moody's question-drawer. I wish I could hope for as sudden a death as Mrs. P.'s.

To Mrs. Condict, April 16, 1877.

I am glad you liked the picture. Did you know that you too can get leaves and flowers in advance of spring, by keeping twigs in warm water? I had forsythia bloom, and other things leafed beautifully. It is said that apple and pear blossoms will come out in the same way, if placed in the sun in glass cans. I have been thinking, lately, that if I enjoy my imperfect work, how God, who has made so many beautiful, as well as useful, things, must enjoy His faultless creations. My work is still to go from house to house where sickness and death are so busy. Mrs. F. G. has just lost her two only children within a day of each other. Neither her mother nor sister could go near her during their illness or after their death, because of the flock of little ones in their house, and it was not safe to have a funeral. Dr. Hastings made a prayer; he said the scene was heart-rending.

May 3d.—Dr. Storrs preached for us last Sunday, and said one striking thing I must tell you on the passage, "They were stoned, were sawn asunder, they were tempted," etc. He said many thought the word tempted out of place amid so many horrors, but that it held its true position, since few things could cause such anguish to a Christian heart as even a suggestion of infidelity to its Lord. To this a Kempis adds the hell of not knowing whether one had yielded or not.

May 17th.—"Misery loves company"; and so I am writing to you. Perhaps it will be some consolation to you that I too have been knocked up for two weeks, one of which I spent in bed. Nothing serious the matter, only put down and kept down; not agreeable, but necessary. How astounded we shall be when we wake up in heaven and find our hateful old bodies couldn't get in!... M. is making, and H. has made, a picture scrap-book for a hospital in Syria. Your mother might enjoy that. We all crave occupation. "Imprisonment with hard labor" never seems to me so frightful as imprisonment and nothing to do, does. Did you ever hear the story of the man who spent years in a dark dungeon, idle, and then found some pins in his coat, which he spent years in losing, and crawling about and finding?

Well, I have got rid of a wee morsel of this weary day in writing this, and you will get rid of another morsel in reading it. So we'll patch each other up, and limp along together, and by and by go where there it no limping and no patching.

The new serial, her Bible-readings, and painting, with visits to sick- rooms and to the house of mourning, during the early half of this year, left little time for correspondence. Her letters were few and brief; but they are marked, as was her life, by unusual quietness and depth of feeling. Her delight was still to speak in them a helpful and cheering word to souls struggling with their own imperfections, or with trials of the way. A single extract will illustrate the gentle wisdom of her counsels:

I think there is such a thing as peace of conscience even in this life. I do not mean careless peace, or heedless peace; I mean calm consciousness of an understanding, so to speak, between the soul and its Lord. A wife, for instance, may say and do things to her husband that show she is human; yet, at the same time, the two may live together loyally, and be happy. And unless a Christian is aware of having on hand an idol, dearer than God, I see no reason why he should not live in peace, even while aware that he is not yet finished (perfect). We love God more than we are aware; when He slays us we trust in Him, when He strikes us we kiss His hand.

Her own mood at this time was singularly grave and pensive. She felt more and more keenly the moral puzzle and contradictions of existence. "From beginning to end, in every aspect," she wrote to a friend, "life grows more mysterious to me, not to say queer—for that is not what I mean. Such strange things are all the time happening, and even good people doing and saying things that nearly drive one wild.... We live in a mixed state, in a kind of see-saw: we go up and then we go down; go down and then fly up." Still this strange, ever-changing mystery of life, although it sometimes perplexed her in the extreme, did not make her unhappy. "I have great sources of enjoyment," she adds, "and do enjoy a good deal; infinitely more than I deserve."

Early in June she and the younger children went to Dorset. On reaching there, she wrote to her husband:

Here we are, sitting by the fire in our dear little parlor. We made a very comfortable journey to Manchester, but the ride from there here was rather cheerless and cold, as they forgot to send wraps. The neighbors had sent in various good things, and the strawberries looked very nice. It rains, but M. and I have surveyed the garden, and she says it is looking better than usual.

I only wish you were here. Your love is intensely precious to me, as I know mine is to you. How thankful we ought to be that we have loved each other through thick and thin! This is God's gift. I can not write legibly with this pencil, nor see very well, as it is a dark day, and yet too early for a lamp.

The latter part of June she made a short visit with her husband to Montreal. A pleasant incident of this journey was an excursion to Quebec, where two charming days were spent in seeing the Falls of Montmorenci, the Plains of Abraham, and other objects of interest in and about that remarkable city. During the ride in the cars from Montreal to St. Albans, she called the attention of her husband to a paragraph from an English newspaper containing an account of the death of a miner by an explosion, on whose breast was found a lock of hair inscribed with the name of "Jessie." She remarked that the incident would serve as an excellent hint for a story. This was the origin of Gentleman Jim, the pathetic little tale published shortly after her death.

Soon after her return from Montreal she began painting in water-colors, which afforded her much delight during the rest of her life. The following note to Mrs. Ellen S. Fisher, of Brooklyn, dated July 2d, will show how her lessons were taken:

Will you kindly inform me as to your method of teaching your system of water-colors by mail, and as to terms. I have not had time to do anything in that line, as I had to go to Canada (by-the-bye, you can get delightful Chinese white paint there in tubes). My daughter says she thinks she heard you say that you would paint a little flower-piece reasonably, or perhaps you have one to spare now. I should like a few wild flowers against a blue sky. I got half a dozen Parian vases at Montreal—each a group of three—and filled with daisies and a few grasses, they are exquisite. Some of them are in imitation of the hollow toadstools one finds in the woods.

To Mrs. Condict, Kauinfels, July 23, 1877.

Kauinfels is a word we invented, after spending no little time, by referring to a spot in a favorite brook as "the place where the old cow fell in"; it looked so German and pleased us so much that we concluded to give our place that name. We are fond of odd names. We have a dog Pharaoh and a horse Shoo Fly. Then we had Shadrach, Meseck, and Abednego for cats. We had a dog named Penelope Ann—a splendid creature, but we had to part with her. My Bible-reading began two weeks ago, and neither rain nor shine keeps people away. For a small village the attendance is very large. I do not know how much good they do, but it is a comfort to try.

I can't get over Miss —-'s tragical end. She must have suffered dreadfully. I do not doubt her present felicity, nor that she counts her life on earth as anything more than a moment's space. I do not feel sure that she did me any good. I saw so much that was morbid when she visited me here, that I never enjoyed her as I did when I knew her less. But there is nothing morbid about her now.

To Mrs. James Donaghe, Dorset, Aug. 20, 1877.

Yesterday was the first fine day we have had in a long time, and, as I sat enjoying it on the front porch, how I wished I could transport you here and share these mountains with you! To-day is equally fine, and how gladly would I bottle it up and send it to you! A score of times I have asked myself why I do not bring you here, and then been reminded that you can not leave your husband.

I do not write many letters this summer. We have three or four guests nearly all the time. This uses up what little brain I have left, and by half-past eight or nine I have to go to bed. I am unusually well, but work hard in the garden all the forenoon and get tired. Yesterday the Rev. Mr. Reed, of Flushing, preached a most impressive sermon on the denial of self. In the afternoon he preached to a neighborhood meeting at his own house, to which we three girls go, namely, M., her friend Hatty K., and myself. I give Thursdays pretty much up to my Bible-reading—studying for it in the morning and holding it at three in the afternoon. Utter unfitness for this or any other work for the Master makes me very dependent on Him. The service is largely attended, and how I get courage to speak to so many, I know not.

A. is gone to Portland and Prout's Neck. Mr. P. is unusually well this summer, and has actually worked a little in my garden. He is going to Saratoga this week to visit Mrs. Bronson.... M. is a kind of supplement to her father; I love in her what I love in him, and she loves in me what he loves; we never had a jar in our lives, and are more like twin-sisters than mother and daughter. Hatty K. is like a second M. to me. At this moment they are each painting a plate. They work all the morning in the garden, and in the afternoon sit in my room sewing "for the poor" like two Dorcases, or drive, or row on the pond. They also study their Greek Testament together like a pair of twins. Just here Mr. P. came driving up to take me out to make calls. We made three together, and then I made three alone. Now we are going to have tea, and should be glad if you could take it with us.

To Mrs. Condict, Kauinfels, Sept. 13, 1877.

Since you left, I have been very busy in various ways; among other things, helping Hatty collect her last trophies, pack her various plants, and the like. Then there is a woman, close by, who is very sick and very poor, and the parson and his wife (meaning himself and myself) must needs pack a big basket of bread, butter, tea, apples, etc., for her watchers and family, with extract of beef for her. That was real fun, as you may suppose. I mean to devote Thursdays to such doings, including the Bible-readings. I took for my Bible-reading this afternoon, the subject of confession of sin, and should really like to know what perfectionists would say to the passages of Scripture relating to it. However, I know they would explain them away or throw them under the table, as they do all the Bible says about the discipline of life. Our bad Pharaoh lifted up his voice in every hymn at Mrs. Reed's last Sunday, and little Albert fairly shrieked with laughter. If next Sunday is pleasant we are to go to Pawlet to preach. Good-night. [19]

To Mrs. Fisher, Kauinfels, Sept. 15, 1877.

Excuse my keeping your pictures so long. It is owing to my having so much company. We feel it a duty to share our delightful home here with friends.

Will you send me some more pictures, and in your letter please tell me how to make the light-green in the large arbutus leaf; I tried all sorts of experiments, but failed to get such a toned-down tint. My copy is pretty, as I have improved a good deal on the whole; but my work looks parvenu. I had to use a powerful magnifying-glass to puzzle out your delicate touches, and your work bore the test, it is so well done. My work, viewed in the same way, is horrid. A. has been to Portland and found there some exquisite placques; some of them of a very delicate cream color; others of a least suspicion of pink. She began to paint thorn apples on one; but a day or two later, found some of the foliage we had thrown away, turned to most delicious browns; so she painted the leaves in those shades, only—and the effect is richly and gravely autumnal. I hope your eyes are better.

* * * * *


Return to Town. Recollections of this Period. "Ordinary" Christians and spiritual Conflict. A tired Sunday Evening. "We may make an Idol of our Joy." Publication of Pemaquid. Kezia Millet.

She returned to town early in October and began at once to prepare for the winter's work. Her industry was a marvel. The following references to this period are from reminiscences, written by her husband after her death:

She lost not a day, scarcely an hour. The next eight months were among the busiest of her life; and in some respects, I think, they were also among the happiest. She resumed her painting with new zeal and delight. It was a never-failing resource, when other engagements were over. Hour after hour, day after day, and week after week she would sit near the western window of her sunshiny chamber, absorbed in this fascinating occupation. Rarely did I fail to find her there, on going in to kiss her good-bye, as I started for my afternoon lecture. How often the scene comes back again! Were I myself a painter I could reproduce it to the life. Her posture and expression of perfect contentment, her quick and eager movements, all are as vividly present to my mind, as if I saw and parted from her there yesterday! One morning each week was devoted to her Bible-reading; the others, when pleasant, were generally spent in going down town with M. in quest of painting materials, shopping, making calls, etc., etc.

She was much exercised in the early part of the winter by a burglary, which robbed her of a beautiful French mantel clock given her on our silver wedding-day by a dear friend; and by the loss of my watch, stolen from me in the cars on my way home from the Seminary—a beautiful watch with a chain made of her hair and that which once "crowned little heads laid low." She had ordered it of Piguet, when we were in Geneva in 1858, and given it to me in memory of our marriage. But her grief over the loss of the watch was small compared with mine, then and even since. What precious memories can become associated with such an object! One of the books which she read during the winter was "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. She read it in the original in a copy given her by Miss Woolsey. She was quite captivated by this work, and some of its most striking scenes and incidents she repeated to me, during successive mornings, before we got up. Her power of remembering and reproducing, in all its details, and with all the varying lights and shades, any story which she had read was something almost incredible. It always seemed to me like magic. Her father possessed the same power and perhaps she inherited it from him. [20]

The following letter will show that while her mind was still exercised about the doctrines taught by writers on the "Higher Life" and "Holiness through Faith," it was in the way of a deepening conviction that these doctrines are not in harmony with the teaching of Scripture or with Christian experience. Referring to some of these writers, she says:

To a Christian Friend, Oct. 21, 1877.

I have not only no unkind feeling towards them, but have no doubt they have lived near to Christ. But this I believe to have been their state of mind for years, though perhaps not consciously: Most Christians are "ordinary." Nearly all are a set of miserable doubters. Most of them believe the Christian life a warfare. Most of them imagine it is also a state of discipline, and make much of chastening, even going so far as to thank God for His strokes of Fatherly love! Strange love, to be sure! They also fancy they can work out their own salvation.

Now we are not "ordinary" Christians. We understand God's Word perfectly; and when He says, "Work out your own salvation," He means nothing by it except this, that He will work it in you to will and to do, and you are to do nothing, but let Him thus work. And furthermore, we know His mind beyond dispute; we can not err in judgment. Therefore, if you doubt our doctrine, it is the same as doubting God, and you should fall on your knees and pray to read Scripture as we do.

As to the Christian life being a conflict, why, you "ordinary" Christians are all wrong. Satan never tempts us, though he tempted our Lord; it comes natural to us to go into Canaan with one bound; the old-fashioned saints were ridiculous in "fighting the good fight of faith." Look at the characters in the Bible, "resisting unto blood, striving against sin"; what blunderers they were to do that!... In our enlightened day nobody is "chastened"; it used to be done to every son the Father received and it was a token of His love. He knows better now. He chastens no one; or if He does, we will cover it up and ignore it; religion is all rapture, and this is not a scene of probation. Still if you insist that you have been smitten, it only shows how very "ordinary" you are, and how angry God is with you.

Now you may ask why I have taken time to write this, since you are not led away by these errors. Well, they are pleasant and very plausible writers, and it has puzzled me to learn just where they were wrong. So I have been thinking aloud, or thinking on paper, and perhaps you may find one or more persons entangled in this attractive web, and be able to help them out. How a good man and a good woman ever fell into such mischievous mistakes, I can not imagine....

As to you and me, I see nothing strange in the weaning from self God is giving us. It is natural to believe that He weans us from the breast of comfort in which we had delighted, because He has strong meat in store for us. I know I was awfully selfish about my relation to Christ, and went about for years on tip-toe, as it were, for fear of disturbing and driving Him away; but I do not know that I should dare to live so again. And how better can He show us our weakness than by making it plain that we, who thought we were so strong in prayer, are almost "dumb before Him"! My dear friend, I believe more and more in the deep things of God.

"STRENGTH is born In the deep silence of long-suffering hearts, Not amid joy."

Imagine soldiers getting ready for warfare, being told by their commander that they had no need to drill, and had nothing to do but drink nectar! As to being brought low, I will own that I have not been entirely left of God to my own devices and desires; if I had been, I should have gone overboard. He had such a grip of me that He couldn't let go. I saw a man apply a magnet to steel pens the other day, and that's the way I clung to God; there was no power in me to hold on, the magnetism was in Him, and so I hung on. Wasn't it so with you?

And now to change the subject again; if you have any faded ferns, vines, leaves on hand, you can paint and make them beautiful again. For a light wall, paint them with Caledonian brown, and they will have a very rich effect. I expect a patent-right for this invention.

The vivid sense of human weakness and of the sharp discipline of life, which she expresses in this letter, was deepened by hearing what a sea of trouble some of her friends had been suddenly engulphed in. Early in October she wrote to one of them:

For some time before I left Dorset, your image met me everywhere I went, and I felt sure something was happening to you, though not knowing whether you were enjoying or suffering. And since then there has been nothing I could do for you but to pray that your faith may bear this test and that you may deeply realise that—

God is the refuge of His saints, When storms of sharp distress invade.

The longer I live the more conscious I am of human frailty, and of the constant, overwhelming need we all have of God's grace.... I can not but hope things will turn out better than they seem. But if not, there is God; nothing of this sort can take Him from you. You have longed and prayed for holiness; this fearful event may bring the blessing. May God tenderly bless and keep you, dear child.

But vivid as was her sense of human weakness and of the imperfections cleaving to the best of men, while yet in the flesh, she still held fast to the conviction, uttered so often in "Urbane and His Friends" and in her other writings, that it is the privilege of every disciple of Jesus to attain, by faith, to high degrees of Christian holiness, and that, too, without consuming a whole lifetime in the process. In a letter to a young friend she says:

Your letter shows me that I have expressed my views very inadequately in Urbane, or that you have misunderstood what I have said there.... "There is a shorter way"; a better way; God never meant us to spend a lifetime amid lumbering machinery by means of which we haul ourselves laboriously upward; the work is His, not ours, and when I said I believed in "holiness through faith," I was not thinking of the book by that title, but of utterances made by the Church ages before its author saw the light of day. We can not make ourselves holy. We are born sinners. A certain school believe that they are "kept" by the grace of God from all sin. I do not say that they are not. But I do say that I think it requires superhuman wisdom to know positively that one not only keeps all God's law, but leaves no single duty undone. Think a minute. Law proceeds from an infinite mind; can finite mind grasp it so as to know, through its own consciousness, that it comes up to this standard? On the other hand, I do believe that a way has been provided for us to be set free from an "evil conscience"; that we may live in such integrity and uprightness as to be at peace with God; not being afraid to let His pure eye range through and through us, finding humanity and weakness, but also finding something on which His eye can rest with delight—namely, His own Son. Every day I live I see that faith is my only hope, as perhaps I never saw it before.... Read over again the experience of Antiochus; he got in early life what dear Dr. —— only found on his deathbed, and so may you.

To Miss E. A. Warner, New York, Oct. 28, 1877.

I am too tired on Sunday evenings to find much profit in reading, and have been sitting idle some minutes, asking myself how I should spend the hour till bed-time, if I could pick and choose among human occupations. I decided that if I had just the right kind of a neighbor, I should like to have her come in, or if there was the right kind of a little prayer-meeting round the corner, I would go to that. Then I concluded to write to you, in answer to your letter of July 24. I write few letters during the summer, because it seems a plain duty to keep out of doors as much as I possibly can; then we have company all the time, and they require about all the social element there is in me. We feel that we owe it to Him who gives us our delightful home to share it with others, especially those who get no mountain breezes save through us; of some I must pay travelling expenses, or they can not come at all. Their enjoyment is sufficient pay. My Bible-reading takes all the time of two days not spent in outdoor exercise, as I have given up almost everything of help in preparation for it but that which is given me in answer to prayer and study of the Word. I am kept, to use a homely expression, with my nose pretty close to the grindstone; in other words, am kept low and little. But God blesses the work exactly as if I were a better woman. Sometimes I think how poor He must be to use such instruments as He does.

How is the niece you spoke of as so ill and so happy? For my part I am confounded when I see people hurt and distressed when invited home. How a loving Father must feel when His children shrink back crying, "I have so much to live for!" or, in other words, so little to die for. It frightens me sometimes to recall such cases.

And now I am going to tote my old head to bed. It is 59 years old and has to go early.

To Mrs. Fisher, Oct. 31, 1877.

With young children, and artistic work to do, the wonder is not that you have to neglect other things, but that you ever find time to attend to any one outside of house and home. I do not want you to make a care and trouble of me; I feel it a privilege to try even to copy anything from your hand, and am willing to bide my time. It is shocking to think of your summer's work being burned up; no money can compensate for such a loss—I hate to think of it. I have had your landscape framed, and it is the finest thing in the house.

Nov. 9th.—I have your apple-blossoms ready to mail with this. I found the subject very difficult, and at one time thought I should have to give it up; but your directions are so clear and to the point that I have succeeded in getting a picture we all think pretty, though wanting in the tender grace of yours.

The picture, which is a gentle blaze of beauty, has just reached me. We have had burglars in the house, and one of my songs of praise is that they did not take the little gem I got from you last summer. Glad you are a woman and not all artist.

To Mrs. Condict, Nov. 24, 1877

As to the running fern, I paint it the color of black walnut, and round placques it looks like carving. Emerald green I hate, but it is a popular color, and A. was obliged to put it into the flower pictures she painted on portfolios. I am glad you are still interested in your painting. I have just finished the second reading of Miss Smiley's book, and marked passages which I am sure you will like. I will mail my copy to you. As to joy—"the fruits of the Spirit" come naturally to those in the Spirit, and joy is one. But we may make an idol of our joy, and so have to part with it. There may come a period when God says, virtually, to the soul, "You clung to Me when I smiled upon and caressed you; let Me see how you will behave when I smile and speak comfortably no more." Fenelon says, "To be constantly in a state of enjoyment that takes away the feeling of the cross, and to live in a fervor of devotion that keeps Paradise constantly open—this is not dying upon the cross and becoming nothing." [21]

When I look at the subject at a distance, as it were, remembering that this life is mere preparation for the next, it seems likely that we shall have religious as well as other discipline; if we ascend the mount of Transfiguration it is not that we may dwell there, though it is natural to wish we could. And the fact is, no matter what professions of rapture people make, if they believe in Christ and love Him as they ought to do, what they have enjoyed will be nothing when compared with going to live with Him forever, surrounded by sanctified beings all united in adoring Him. When I think of this my courage grows apace, and I say to myself, I may never live in heaven again here below; but I certainly shall, above; and can't I be patient till then? I wonder if you know that I am going to begin a Bible-reading on the first Wednesday in December? I have a very kind letter from Mr. Peter Carter, who says Kezia would make the fortune of any book.

Kezia is one of the characters in Pemaquid; or, a Story of Old Times in New England, then recently published. She had written it with "indescribable ease and pleasure," to use her own words, mostly during the previous January. The pictures of New England life—especially its religious life—in old times are vivid and faithful; and the character of Kezia Millet for originality, quiet humor, and truth to nature, surpasses any other in her writings, with the exception, perhaps, of Aunt Avery in "Fred and Maria and Me."

The following is an extract from a letter of Mr. Hallock, the publisher of "The Christian at Work," dated Aug. 25, 1877, in which he begged her to gratify its readers by telling them more about Ruth and Juliet. She accordingly added some pages to the last chapter, although not quite enough to satisfy the curiosity about Juliet:

Let me express to you my personal thanks for your most excellent serial. I feel that it has done a real good to thousands. You need to be placed in my position, receiving hundreds of letters daily from your readers, to be able to fully appreciate how intensely interested they are in the story. It does not seem to satisfy them to feel assured of Ruth's marriage, but they want to be there and see it. Juliet, too, is not with them, as with you, a mere impersonation, but a living reality, and they will never rest till they hear from her. If I was a betting man I would bet five to one that what your husband struck out, is just exactly what is wanted. What do we men know about such things, anyhow?

A lady friend, well qualified to judge, writes to her:

I have read "Pemaquid," and have laughed till I cried, then cried and laughed together. In my humble opinion it is the brightest book you have written. You know how to make a saint and how to make a sinner. As for old Kezia Millet, with her great loving heart, if she is not a model of Christian "consistency" and a natural born poet, where will you find one? She is perfectly fascinating. How do you keep your wit so ready and so bright? I suppose you'll answer, "by using it." The chapter which contains Mrs. Woodford's interview with Rev. Mr. Strong (the dear old saint) in her penitential mood, is very, very admirable.

To Mrs. George Payson, Dec. 20, 1877.

Before the year quite departs, I must tell you, my dear Margaret, how glad I am that you appreciate my dear, good bad Kezia. It is nineteen years since I read Adam Bede, but I remember Mrs. Poysen in general. Kezia is not an imitation of her; the main points of her character were written out long before Adam Bede appeared; I destroyed the book in which I trotted her out, but kept her, and once in a while tried her on my husband, but as he did not seem to see it, put her away in her green box, biding my time. As to Juliet, my good man loathes so to read about bad people that he almost made me cut out all my last mention of her. I was in an unholy frame when I did it, and with reason, for they who like Pemaquid best, say it was a mistake not to dispose of her in some way. But as to Mrs. Woodford being a model mother, I did not aim to make her a model anything. All I wanted of her was to bring out the New England pecularities as they would appear to a worldly stranger. As to all parties seeming indifferent about Juliet, you may be right; I was behind the scenes and knew they were not; but as I say, what I thought the best part of her, George made me cut out. No, I never knew any one sing exactly like Kezia, but there are such cases on record. There was "the Singing Cobbler," whose wife complained of him in court, and he defended himself so wittily in verse, that everybody sided with him, and his wife forgave his offence, whatever it might be. [22]

[1] The following is the passage referred to: "If you aspire to be a son of consolation; if you would partake of the priestly gift of sympathy; if you would pour something beyond commonplace consolation into a tempted heart; if you would pass through the intercourse of daily life with the delicate tact that never inflicts pain; if to that most acute of human ailments—mental doubt, you are ever to give effectual succor, you must be content to pay the price of the costly education. Like Him, you must suffer, being tempted."

[2] By the late Rev. William James, D.D.

[3] See appendix G, p.557.

[4] Then pastor of the Collegiate Reformed Church, Fifth avenue and Forty-eighth street, now of Brooklyn.

[5] "Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874."

[6] "Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874." P. 59.

[7] GRISELDA; A Dramatic Poem in Five Acts. Translated from the German of FRIEDERICH HALM (Baron Muench-Bellinghausen), by Mrs. E. Prentiss.

[8] How glad I was to see Griselda's fair face! She is a gem, and I am sure will prove a blessing as she moves about the world in her nobleness and purity, so exceedingly womanly and winning. The book is full of poetry, and held me spell-bound to the close. It is very musical, too, in its rich, pure English. I don't know how much of its poetic charm lies in the original or in your rendering, but as it is, it is "just lovely," as the girls say.—Letter from Miss Warner.

[9] In a letter written in 1879, just after a visit to Dorset, Dr. Hamlin thus refers to them:

"Now that I have seen again those lights and shadows of the Green Mountains, as they lie around your Dorset home, I must tell you why they awakened such deep emotions. Forty-one years ago I was married to Miss Henrietta Jackson, the youngest daughter of the venerated and beloved pastor of Dorset, and we left that lovely valley for our oriental home. I had heard from her lips a glowing description of the magic work of light and shade upon those uplands and heights that lie west of the valley, before I had seen the place. The first morning of my first visit I recognised the truth and accuracy of her description, and was forced to confess that, although I had always admired cloud-shadows, I had never seen them in such rich display and constant recurrence. There were certain days, which we called field-days, when all their resources were called out, and they seemed hurrying in swift battalions to some great contest or grand coronation scene. But at other times they rested in calm repose as though the pulse of nature had ceased to beat... In our home upon the Bosphorus we were sometimes reminded of these scenes of her native valley. When, occasionally, the Black Sea clouds floated down in broken masses, and floods of light here and there poured through the darkly shadowed landscape, lighting up fragments of hill and vale to the very summits of Alem Dagh, her soul took flight to her beloved Dorset and all other thoughts vanished."

[10] On hearing of Mrs. Prentiss' death, the "poor, homeless fellow" wrote to her husband a touching letter of sympathy. The following is an extract from it:

It was, I must acknowledge, a cherished desire of your dear departed lady that I should walk in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, and, to obtain that grace, I must invoke God's Power that I may accomplish that great Result. Dear sir, I would like to suggest to you that I am disgusted with a wandering life; would like to see Dorset next Summer and look on the grave of my greatest friend. Nothing could give me greater Pleasure than to be under the Influence of your Christian family; now, if I had any Employment, no matter how simple, in that locality for the winter, then I would feel Happy to go next season to your country Residence and offer my services free.

[11] Meeta Sophia Schaff died July 14, 1876, in the twenty-first year of her age. She had just returned from the Centennial. She was a young lady of unusual loveliness of character, and was deeply lamented by a wide circle of friends, both young and old.

[12] A printed copy of Lines on her Golden Wedding, written by Mrs. Prentiss.

[13] The article is entitled Educated while Educating, and appeared in the Brooklyn Journal of Education for March, 1875.

[14] The Rev. C. H. Payson. See the interesting Memoir of him, entitled "All for Christ," edited by his brother George, and published by the American Tract Society.

[15] See HENRY BOYNTON SMITH; His Life and Work. Edited by his Wife. A. C. Armstrong & Son. 1880.

[16] His biographer, Mr. Moore, relates of Lord Byron that in all the plenitude of his fame, he confessed that "the depreciation of the lowest of mankind was more painful to him than the applause of the highest was pleasing."

[17] Peterchen and Gretchen. She translated it at Genevrier during the illness of her children.

[18] Dr. Gurdon Buck. He died shortly afterwards. For more than a quarter of a century be had been a faithful friend of Mrs. Prentiss, and as their family physician had made both her and her husband his debtors alike by his kindness and his skill. With a generosity so characteristic of his profession, he refused, during all these years, to receive any compensation for his services. As a surgeon he stood in the front rank; some of the operations, performed by him, attracted wide attention for then—novelty and usefulness. He published an account of them, with illustrations, which greatly interested Mrs. Prentiss. She was almost as fond of reading about remarkable eases in surgery as about remarkable criminal trials.

Dr. Buck was one of the founders and first ruling elders of the Church of the Covenant. His gratuitous labors in connection with the New York Hospital and other public institutions were very great. He was a man of solid worth, modest, upright, and devoted to his Lord and Master.

[19] "One of my brightest recollections of this season at Dorset is our last Sunday before returning to town. We went in the phaeton to Pawlet, where I preached for the Rev. Mr. Aiken. The morning was pleasant, the road lay through a lovely mountain valley, and the beauty of nature was made perfect by the sweet Sabbath stillness; and our thoughts were in unison with the scene and the day. I preached on Rest in Christ, and the service was very comforting to us both. How well I recall the same drive and a similar service early in September of 1876, when prayer was my theme! What sweet talks and sweeter fellowship we had together by the way, going and coming!"—Recollections of 1877-8.

[20] Recollections of 1876-7

[21] "Better is it sometimes to go down into the pit with him, who beholding darkness and bewailing the loss of consolation, crieth from the bottom of the lowest hell, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? than continually to walk arm in arm with angels, to sit, as it were, in Abraham's bosom, and to have no thought, no cogitation but this, 'I thank my God it is not with me as it is with other men.'"—HOOKER.

[22] A list of Mrs. Prentiss' writings, with brief notices of some of them, will be found at the end of the appendix, p. 568.




"But a bound into home immortal, And blessed, blessed years."


Enters upon her last Year on Earth. A Letter about The Home at Greylock. Her Motive in writing Books. Visit to the Aquarium. About "Worry." Her Painting. Saturday Afternoons with her. What she was to her Friends. Resemblance to Madame de Broglie. Recollections of a Visit to East River. A Picture of her by an old Friend. Goes to Dorset. Second Advent Doctrine. Last Letters.

Mrs. Prentiss crossed the threshold of her last year on earth with hands and thoughts still unusually busied. Her weekly Bible-reading, painting in oils and in water-colors, needle-work, and other household duties, left her no idle moment. "My fire is so full of irons," she wrote, "that I do not know which one to take out." Nor was her heart less busy than her hands and brain. Twice in January, once in February, and again in April, death invaded the circle of her friends; and when her friends were in trouble she was always in trouble, too. [1] These deaths led to earnest talk with her husband on the mystery of earthly existence, and on the power of faith in Christ to sustain the soul in facing its great trials. "I am filled with ever fresh wonder at this amazing power," she said. Such subjects always interested her deeply; never more so than at this time, when, although she knew it not, her feet were drawing so near to the pearly gates.

The keynote of her being throughout this last winter was one of unwonted seriousness. A certain startling intensity of thought and feeling showed itself every now and then. It was painfully evident that she was under a severe strain, both physical and mental. Again and again, as spring advanced, the anxiety of her husband was aroused to the highest pitch by what seemed to him indications that the unresting, ever-active spirit was fast wearing away the frail body. At times, too, there was a light in her eye and in her face an "unearthly, absolutely angelic expression"—to use her own words about her little Bessie, six and twenty years before—that filled him with a strange wonder, and which, after her departure, he often recalled as prophetic of the coming event and the glory that should follow.

But while to his ear an undertone of unusual seriousness, deepening ever and anon into a strain of the sweetest tenderness and pathos, ran through her life during all these early months of 1878, there was little change in its outward aspect. She was often gay and full as ever of bright, playful fancies. Never busier, so was she never more eager to be of service to her friends—and never was she more loving to her children, or more thoughtful of their happiness. She proposed for their gratification and advantage to write four new books, one for each of them, provided only they and their father would furnish her with subjects. The plan seemed to please her greatly, and, had she been spared, would probably have been carried into effect—for it was just the sort of stimulus she needed to set her mind in action. Once furnished with a subject, her pen, as has been said before, always moved with the utmost ease and rapidity. But while she wrote very easily, she did not write without reflection. 'She had a keen sense of character in all its phases, and her individual portraits, like those of Katy, Mrs. Grey and Margaret, Aunt Avery and Kezia Millet, were worked out with the utmost care, the result of years of observation and study being embodied in them.

And here, in passing, it may not be out of place to dwell for an instant upon her motives and experience as an author. From first to last she wrote, not to get gain or to win applause, but to do good; and herein she had her reward, good measure, pressed down and running over. But of that kind of reward which gratifies literary taste and ambition, she had almost none. Her books, even those most admired by the best judges, and which had the widest circulation, both at home and abroad, attracted but little attention from the press. The organs of literary intelligence and criticism scarcely noticed them at all. Nor is it known that any attempt was ever made to analyse any of her more striking characters, or to point out the secret of her power and success as a writer. To be sure, she had never sought or counted upon this sort of recognition; and yet that she was keenly alive to a word of discriminating praise, will appear from a letter to Mrs. Condict, dated Jan. 20th:

The burglary was on this wise, as far as we know. One man stood on the front steps, and another slipped the hasp to one of the parlor windows, stepped in, took a very valuable French clock, given me on my silver- wedding day, and all the hats and overcoats from the hall. This was all they had time to do before our night-watchman came round; they left the window wide open, and at 4 A.M. Pat rang the bell and informed Mr. Prentiss that such was the case. We feel it a great mercy that we were not attacked and maltreated. Poor A. was sitting up in bed, hearing what was going on, but being alone on the third floor, did not dare to move.

I have just finished a short story called Gentleman Jim, which I am going to send to Scribner's; very likely it will get overlooked and lost. I received, not long ago, a letter from Mr. Cady [2] about Greylock, which he had just read. It was a gratification to both my husband and myself, as the most discriminating letter I ever received; and after the first rush of pleasure, the Evil One troubled me, off and on, for two or three hours, but at last I reminded him that I long ago chose to cast in my lot with the people of God, and so be off the line of human notice or applause, and that I was glad I had been enabled to do it, since literary ambition is unbecoming a Christian woman. There are 500 other things I should say, if you were here!

The following is a part of the letter referred to: The day after "New Year's" I was visited with a severe cold and general prostration that has kept me in my bed—giving me time! As soon as I was strong enough to read I had "The Home" brought. After reading it I felt I ought to tell you how deeply I was impressed with the usefulness, excellence, and spirit of the book. As to its usefulness, you are to be envied; to have brought light, as I believe you have, to a large number of people upon the most precious and vital interests of life, is something worth living and suffering for. The good sense, wisdom, experience, and Christian faith embodied in it must make it a strong helper and friend to many a home in trouble and to many perplexed and discouraged hearts, who will doubtless rise up some day to call you "blessed."

Though you cared less about the manner than the matter, I was impressed by its literary qualities. The scene at the death of Mrs. Grey and parting of herself and Margaret is as highly artistic and beautiful as anything I can think of. The contrast of good and bad, or good and indifferent, is common enough; but the contrast of what is noble and what is "saintly" is something infinitely higher and subtler. I can't imagine anything more exquisitely tender and beautiful than Mrs. Grey's departure, but it is the more realised by the previous action of Margaret. The few lines in which this is told bring their whole character—in each case—vividly before you. But I see that if the book had previously to this point been differently written it would have been impossible to have rendered this scene so remarkably impressive. The story of "Eric" is extremely quaint and charming; it is a vein I am not familiar with in your writings. It is a little classic. This quaint child's story and the death of Mrs. Grey affect me as a fine work of art affects one, whenever I recall them. The trite saying is still true, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

You know children complain of some sweets that they leave a bad taste—and works of fiction often do with me. I feel tired and dissatisfied after I have passed out of their excitements; but the heavenly atmosphere of this book left me better; I know that the Blessed Spirit must have influenced you in the writing of it, and I doubt not His blessing will accompany its teachings.

Now will you excuse this blotty letter—written in bed—and accept my thanks for all the good your book has done me.

The following is her reply:

DEAR MR. CADY:—Your letter afforded me more satisfaction than I know how to explain. It is true that I made up my mind, as a very young girl, to keep out of the way of literary people, so as to avoid literary ambition. Nor have I regretted that decision. Yet the human nature is not dead in me, and my instincts still crave the kind of recognition you have given me. I have had heaps of letters from all parts of this country, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland, about my books, till I have got sick and tired of them. And the reason I tired of them was, that in most cases there was no discrimination. People liked their religious character, and of course I wanted them to do so. But you appreciate and understand everything in Greylock, and have, therefore, gratified my husband and myself. Not a soul out of this house, for instance, has ever so much as alluded to my little Eric, except one friend who said, "We thought that part of the book forced, and supposed A. wrote it." Nobody has ever alluded to Margaret, save yourself. I hoped a sequel to the book might be called for, when I meant to elaborate her character. Still, it would have been very hard.... I am not sorry that I chose the path in life I did choose. A woman should not live for, or even desire, fame. This is yet more true of a Christian woman. If I had not steadily suppressed all such ambition, I might have become a sour, disappointed woman, seeing my best work unrecognised. But it has been my wish to

"Dare to be little and unknown, Seen and loved by God alone."

Your letter for a few hours, did stir up what I had always trampled down; but only for that brief period, and then I said to myself, God has only taken me at my word; I have asked Him, a thousand times, to make me smaller and smaller, and crowd the self out of me by taking up all the room Himself. There is so much of that work yet to be done, that I wonder He ventures to make so many lines fall to me in pleasant places, and that I have such a goodly heritage. I trust He will bless you for your labor of love to me.

I do not like the idea of your buying my books. Greylock being for mothers, I never dreamed of men reading it. Have you had The Story Lizzie Told, Six Little Princesses, The Little Preacher, and Nidworth? Neither of these is really a child's book, and the next time you are sick, if you have not read them, I shall love to send them to you. If this is conceit, I have the effrontery not to be a mite ashamed of it!

The following notes to Mrs. Fisher show how pleasantly she sympathised with her teacher as a young mother, while taking lessons of and admiring her as an artist:

NEW YORK, February 4, 1878.

What a relief to have the days come long again! On Saturday I found in A.'s portfolio a study you lent her; exquisite ferns behind the fallen trunk of a tree, and a tiny group of orange-colored toad-stools. I will send it with its two lovely sisters, when I get through with them. I wish you could get time to come to see me, or that I could get time to go to see you. But it is my unlucky nature to have a great many irons in the fire at once. I am glad your baby keeps well, and hope he will grow up to be a great comfort to you.

Feb. 23d.—I have just received your letter. I have my hands full and there is no need to hurry you.

As to "worry" not being of faith, I do not suppose it is. But a young mother can not be all faith. I do not envy people who love so lightly that they have no wringing out of the heart when they lose their dear ones; nor can I understand her who says she can sit and read the newspaper, while her babies are crying. "None are so old as they who have outlived enthusiasm"; and who should be enthusiastic if a mother may not? I don't think God has laid it up against me that I nearly killed myself for the sake of my babies, because when He took two away within three months of each other, my faith in Him did not falter.... Dear Mrs. Fisher, if you love God nothing but His best things will ever come to you. This is the experience of a very young, old woman, and I hope it will comfort you.

April 21st.—Such a fight as I have had with your exquisite studies, and how I have been beaten! I failed entirely in the golden-rod, and do not get the brilliant yellow of the mullein flower; one could not easily fail on the saggitarius, and the clover was tolerable. I think I will take no more lessons at present, as I have much to do in getting another boy fitted for college. After I get settled at Dorset I want to make a desperate effort to paint from nature, and if I have any success, send to you for criticism. "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," and I am afraid you will be disgusted with my work, which will be in the dark, since I have had no instruction in copying nature.... Perhaps you may put alongside of the rejection of your picture a lady's telling me about one of my books into which I had thrown an experience of the last thirty years of my life, "There was nothing in it." "Il faut souffrir pour etre belle." As long as memory lasts I shall rejoice that I have seen and studied your work.

I remember what a splendid fellow your baby was a year ago. It will depend on your maternal prayers and discipline whether he grows up to be your comfort.

A few extracts from her letters will give further glimpses of the manner in which she passed these closing months of her life in New York— especially of her delight in the weekly Bible-reading. One of the ladies who attended it, thus refers to that exercise:

You remember that for one or two years she was a member of a small circle, that met weekly for Bible-study. When the leader of this circle removed from the city, Mrs. Prentiss was urgently requested to become its teacher, and she consented to do so. For the last four years of her life she threw her whole soul into this exercise. Every week the appointed morning found her surrounded by a little group of from eight to fifteen, each with an open Bible and all intent less to analyse the word of God than to feed upon it and "grow thereby." And what a wonderful teacher she was! Not neglectful of any helps that dictionary or commentator might give, her chief source of light was none of these, but was received in answer to the promise, "If any man will do the will of God he shall know of the doctrine." She wished the service to be entirely informal, and that each one present should do her part to aid in the study. This brought out diverse views and different standards of opinion. Here her keen intellect, her warm heart, the rich stores of her experience and her "sanctified common sense" all found play, and many of the words that fell from her lips dwell in the memory as little less than inspired. The last winter of this service showed some marked differences from previous years. As eager as ever to have questions asked and answered by others, yet from the moment she commenced to speak she scarcely paused till the hour was finished, her eyes sparkling and her whole manner intensely earnest. Often those words of the Psalmist passed through my mind, The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up. Her love for her work and zeal in doing it were visibly consuming her. At the last meeting I asked her if she should commence the Bible-reading at Dorset immediately. She said no, she must rest a little; she would wait till her garden was made. When next I heard from her flowers and her Bible-study she had made the "bound into home immortal." And all who loved her must rejoice with her; else have we failed to learn one of the clearest lessons of her life: For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

To Mrs. Condict, Feb. 14, 1878.

Is it possible I had portiere on the brain when I wrote you last? I thought I had just caught the disease. I am very fond of needle-work, but for years have nearly abandoned it, because I could not thread my needle. But the portiere is made with a large worsted needle and will give me pleasant work for the evening. I am getting my hand in on a contumacious closet door that won't stay open in my bedroom....

Imitation Macaroni,

By the author of Pemaquid:

Boil hominy overnight. Next day's dinner prepare like macaroni, with a little milk and grated cheese and bake. Good for a change and cheaper.

March 9th.—What an improvement on the old fashion of reading the Bible is the present search of the Word! It is, as you say, fascinating work. I have just given M. an admirable book called "Emphatic Diaglott," being the Greek Testament with a literal translation; still even that can be misunderstood by one who has a false theory to sustain. The spiritual conflicts I have passed through have been a blessing, as I am beginning to see; I can understand better how such conflicts may prepare one for work. This afternoon I have, as usual, been getting ready for the Wednesday reading, and as I was requested to speak of the Holy Spirit, have been poring over the Bible and am astonished at the frequency and variety of passages in which He is spoken of. But I feel painfully unfit to guide even this little circle of women, and would be so glad to sit as a learner.

Some of the children were going, last Friday night, to see the Aquarium, and some educated horses and dogs there, and they persuaded me to go. The performance was wonderful, but I could not help thinking of all these poor animals had gone through in learning all these incredible feats; each horse responding to his own name, each dog barking in response to his; two dogs hanging a third, cutting him down, when he lay apparently dead, other dogs driving in, in a cart, and carrying away the body; others waltzing on their hind legs, and others jumping the rope. Two horses played see-saw, and one rolled a barrel up an inclined plane with his fore legs; he hated to do it. But the marvellous fishes and sea-flowers charmed me most.

To Mrs. Reed, New York, March 13, 1878.

... I have had a busy winter. We had a variety of losses, and I undertook, therefore, to manufacture Reed, most of my Christmas gifts, which were, chiefly, umbrella racks; this took time. Then my Bible-reading uses up pretty much one day. I never felt so unfit for it, or more determined to keep it up as long as one would come. Besides that, I have read and painted more or less and sewed a good deal; on the whole, have had more vacation than work, at least one looking on would say so. But we all lead two lives, and one of them is penetrated and understood by no mortal eye. I heard such a sermon from Dr. Bevan last Sunday night on the text, "They saw God and did eat and drink." He divided mankind into four classes: Those who do eat and drink and do not see God; those who do not see Him and do not eat and drink; those who see Him and do not eat and drink (he handled them tenderly); and those who see Him and yet eat and drink. I hope I have made its outline plain to you. It took hold of me.

To Mrs. Donaghe, New York, April 26, 1878.

I am living my life among breakings-up; you gone, Mrs. Smith about to flee to Northampton, and our neighbor Miss W. storing her furniture and probably leaving New York for good. On the other hand, M. spends most of her time in helping Mr. and Mrs. Talbot get to rights in apartments they have just taken. Mr. T., as I suppose you know, is pastor of our Mission and as good as gold. God has been pleased greatly to bless two ladies, who attend the Bible-reading, and I am sure He loves to have us study His Word. The more I dig into it the richer I find it, and I have had some delightful hours this winter in preparing for my Wednesday work.

There is to be a Women's Exchange in this city, where everything manufactured by them (except underclothing) will be exposed for sale; embroidery, pickles, preserves, confectionery, and articles rejected by the Society of Decorative Art. I hope it will be a success, and help many worthy women, all over the land, to help themselves.... I find it hard to consent to your having, at your age, to flit about from home to home, but a loving Father has a mansion for you beyond all the changes and chances of this strange complicated life. If He gives you His presence, that will be a home. I wish you could visit us at Dorset.

A visit to Dorset was afterward arranged, and one of Mrs. Prentiss' last letters was addressed to this old friend, giving her directions how to get there. [3]

To Mrs. Condict, New York, May 6, 1878. My last Bible-reading, or rather one of the last, was on prayer; as I could not do justice to it in one reading, I concluded to make a resume of the whole subject. Though I devoted all the readings to this topic last summer, yet it loomed up wonderfully in this resume. Last week the subject was "the precious blood of Christ," and in studying up the word "precious" I lighted on these lovely verses, Deut. xxxiii. 13-16. Since I began to study the Bible, it often seems like a new book. And that passage thrilled the ladies, as a novelty. I am to have but one more reading. The last sermon I heard was on lying. That is not one of my besetting sins, but, on the other hand, I push the truth too far, haggling about evils better let alone. A. has just finished a splendid placque to order; a Japanese figure, with exquisite foliage in black and grey as background. I have a widow lady every Saturday to paint with me; she has a large family, limited means, and delicate health; and I want to aid her all I can. She enjoys these afternoons so much, and is doing so well.

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