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

How strange are the chance coincidences of human life! In another letter to the same friend in New York, in which Mr. Hamlin refers in a similar manner to Elizabeth, occur these words:

In a few weeks I hope to be in Dorset, among the Green Mountains, where my thoughts and feelings have their centre above all places on this earth. I wish you could be present at my wedding there on the third of September.

How little did he dream, when penning these words, or did his friend dream while reading them, that, after the lapse of more than forty years, the "dear Elizabeth" would find her grave near by the old parsonage in which that wedding was to be celebrated, while the dust of the lovely daughter of Dorset would be sleeping on the distant shores of the Bosphorus!

[1] For many years after the publication of his Memoir, it was so often given to children at their baptism that at one time those who bore it, in and out of New England, were to be numbered by hundreds, if not thousands. "I once saw the deaths of three little Edward Paysons in one paper," wrote Mrs. Prentiss in 1832.

[2] He was the author of a curious work entitled, "Proofs of the real Existence, and dangerous Tendency, of Illuminism." Charlestown, 1802. By "Illuminism" he means an organised attempt, or conspiracy, to undermine the foundations of Christian society and establish upon its ruins the system of atheism.

[3] "I spent part of last evening reading over some old letters of my grandmother's and never realised before what a remarkable woman she was both as to piety and talent."—From a letter of Mrs. Prentiss, written in 1864.

[4] In a letter to his mother,—written when Elizabeth was three years old, he says: "E. has a terrible abscess, which we feared would prove too much for her slender constitution. We were almost worn out with watching; and, just as she began to mend, I was seized with a violent ague in my face, which gave me incessant anguish for six days and nights together, and deprived me almost entirely of sleep. Three nights I did not close my eyes. When well nigh distracted with pain and loss of sleep, Satan was let loose upon me, to buffet me, and I verily thought would have driven me to desperation and madness."

[5] The late President Wayland.

[6] Prof. Calvin E. Stowe, D.D.

[7] The late Rev. Absalom Peters, D.D.


I can see the breezy dome of groves, The shadows of Deering's Woods; And the friendships old and the early loves Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves In quiet neighborhoods. And the verse of that sweet old song, It flutters and murmurs still: "A boy's will is the wind's will, And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts." —LONGFELLOW'S My Lost Youth.

[9] "The Lament of the Last Peach" had been written by her a year before when in Brooklyn, and her friend's brother had sent it to "The Knickerbocker," the popular Magazine of that day. Here it is:


In solemn silence here I live, A lone, deserted peach; So high that none but birds and winds My quiet bough can reach. And mournfully, and hopelessly, I think upon the past; Upon my dear departed friends, And I, the last—the last.

My friends! oh, daily one by one I've seen them drop away; Unheeding all the tears and prayers That vainly bade them stay. And here I hang alone, alone— While life is fleeing fast; And sadly sigh that I am left The last, the last, the last.

Farewell, then, thou my little world My home upon the tree, A sweet retreat, a quiet home Thou mayst no longer be; The willow trees stand weeping nigh, The sky is overcast, The autumn winds moan sadly by, And say, the last—the last!

[10] "Dear Lizzy is in her little school. Her pupils love her dearly. She will have about thirty in the summer."—Letter of Mrs. Payson, March 28, 1839.

[11] Three years later Elizabeth thus referred to this period in the life of her friend:—"During the time in which she was seeking the Saviour with all her heart, I was much with her and had an opportunity to see every variety of feeling as she daily set the whole before me. The affection thus acquired is, I believe, never lost. If I live forever, I shall not lose the impressions which I then received—the deep anxiety I felt lest she should finally come short of salvation, and then the happiness of having her lost in contemplation of the character of Him whom she had so often declared it impossible to love."

[12] Old friends of her father also became much interested in her. Among them was Simon Greenleaf, the eminent writer on the law of evidence, and Judge Story's successor at Harvard. On removing to Cambridge, in 1833, he gave her with his autograph a little volume entitled, "Hours for Heaven; a small but choice selection of prayers, from eminent Divines of the Church of England," which long continued to be one of her books of devotion.

[13] See the touching memorial of her, "Light on the Dark River," prepared by her early friend, Mrs. Lawrence.





A Memorable Experience. Letters to her Cousin. Goes to Richmond as a Teacher. Mr. Persico's School. Letters.

Miss Payson was now in her twenty-first year, a period which she always looked back to as a turning-point in her spiritual history. The domestic influences that encompassed her childhood, her early associations, and the books of devotion which she read, all conspired to imbue her with an earnest sense of divine things, and while yet a young girl, as we have seen, she publicly devoted herself to the service of her God and Saviour. For several years her piety, if marked by no special features, was still regarded by her young friends, and by all who knew her, as of a decided character. But during the general religious interest in the winter of 1837-8, even while absorbed in solicitude for others, she began herself to question its reality. "For some months I had no hope that I was a Christian, and pride made me go on just as if I felt myself perfectly safe. Nothing could at that time have made me willing to have any eye a witness to my daily struggles." And yet she "often longed for the sympathy and assistance of Christian friends," and to her unwillingness to confide in them she afterwards attributed much of the suffering that followed. "I do not know exactly how I passed out of that season, but my school commenced in April, and I became so interested in it that I had less time to think of and to watch myself. The next winter most of my scholars were deeply impressed by divine things, and, of course, I could not look on without having my own heart touched. It was my privilege to spend many delightful weeks in watching the progress of minds earnestly seeking the way of life and early consecrating themselves to their Saviour." [1] But after a while a severe reaction set in and in the course of the summer she became careless in her religious habits, shrank from the Lord's table as a "place of absolute torture," and while spending a fortnight in Boston in the fall, entirely omitted all exercises of private devotion.

She had now reached a crisis which was to decide her course for life. During the winter of 1839-40, she passed through very deep and harrowing exercises of soul. Her spiritual nature was shaken to its foundation, and she could say with the Psalmist, Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord. For several months she was in a state similar to that which the old divines depict so vividly as being "under conviction." Her sense of sin, and of her own unworthiness in the sight of God, grew more and more intense and oppressive. At times she abandoned all hope, accused herself of having played the hypocrite, and fancied she was given over to hardness of heart. At length she sought counsel of her pastor and confided to him her trouble, but he "did not know exactly what to do with me." In the midst of her distress, and as its effect, no doubt, she was taken ill and confined to her room, where in solitude she passed several weeks seeking rest and finding none. "Sometimes I tried to pray, but this only increased my distress and made me cry out for annihilation to free me from the agony which seemed insupportable." With a single interval of comparative indifference, this state of mind continued for nearly four months. She thus describes it:

It was in vain that I sought the Lord in any of the lofty pathways through which my heart wished to go. At last I found it impossible to carry on the struggle any longer alone. I would gladly have put myself at the feet of a little child, if by so doing I could have found peace. I felt so guilty and the character of God appeared so perfect in its purity and holiness, that I knew not which way to turn. The sin which distressed me most of all was the rejection of the Saviour. This haunted me constantly and made me fly first to one thing and then another, in the hope of finding somewhere the peace which I would not accept from Him. It was at this time that I kept reading over the first twelve chapters of Doddridge's "Rise and Progress,"—the rest of the book I abhorred. So great was my agony that I can only wonder at the goodness of Him who held my life in His hands, and would not permit me in the height of my despair to throw myself away.

It was in this height of despair that thoughts of the infinite grace and love of Christ, which she says she had hitherto repelled, began to irradiate her soul. A sermon on His ability to save "unto the uttermost" deeply affected her. [2] "While listening to it my weary spirit rested itself, and I thought, 'surely it can not be wrong to think of the Saviour, although He is not mine.' With this conclusion I gave myself up to admire, to love and to praise Him, to wonder why I had never done so before, and to hope that all the great congregation around me were joining with me in acknowledging Him to be chief among ten thousand and the One altogether lovely." On going home she could at first scarcely believe in her own identity, the feeling of peace and love to God and to all the world was so unlike the turbulent emotions that had long agitated her soul. "From this time my mind went slowly onward, examining the way step by step, trembling and afraid, yet filled with a calm contentment which made all the dealings of God with me appear just right. I know myself to be perfectly helpless. I can not promise to do or to be anything; but I do want to put everything else aside, and to devote myself entirely to the service of Christ."

Her account of this memorable experience is dated August 28, 1840. "While writing it," she adds, "I have often laid aside my pen, to sit and think over in silent wonder the way in which the Lord has led me."

How in later years she regarded certain features of this experience, is not fully known. The record passed at once out of her hands, and until after her death was never seen by anyone, excepting the friend for whose eye it was written. Many of its details had, probably, faded entirely from her memory. It can not be doubted, however, that she would have judged her previous state much less severely, would hardly have charged it with hypocrisy, or denied that the Saviour had been graciously leading her, and that she had some real love to Him, before as well as after this crisis. So much may be inferred from the record itself and from the narrative in the preceding chapter. Her tender interest in the spiritual welfare of her friends and pupils, the high tone of religious sentiment that marks her early writings, the books she delighted in, her filial devotion, the absolute sincerity of her character, all forbid any other conclusion. [3] The indications, too, are very plain that her morbidly-sensitive, melancholy temperament had much to do with this experience. Her account of it shows, also, that her mind was unhappily affected by certain false notions of the Christian life and ordinances then, and still, more or less prevalent—notions based upon a too narrow and legal conception of the Gospel. Hence, her shrinking from the Lord's table as a place of "torture," instead of regarding it in its true character, as instituted on purpose to feed hungry souls, like her own, with bread from heaven. But for all that, the experience was a blessed reality and, as these pages will attest, wrought a lasting change in her religious life. No doubt the Spirit of God was leading her through all its dark and terrible mazes. It virtually ended a conflict which the intensely proud elements of her nature rendered inevitable, if she was to become a true heroine of faith—the conflict between her Master's will and her own. Her Master conquered, and henceforth to her dying hour His will was the sovereign law of her existence, and its sweetest joy also.

The following extracts from letters to her cousin, George E. Shipman, of New York, now widely known as the founder of a Foundling Home at Chicago, will throw additional light upon her state of mind at this period. Mr. Shipman was the friend to whom the account of her experience already mentioned was addressed. He had just spent several weeks in Portland, and to his Christian sympathy, kindness, and counsels while there and during the two following years, she felt herself very deeply indebted. [4]

PORTLAND, August 22, 1840.

I am always wondering if any body in the world is the better off for my being in it. And so if I was of any comfort to you, I am very glad of it. I do want, I confess, the privilege of offering you sometimes the wine and oil of consolation, and if I do it in such a way as to cause pain with my unskilful hand, why, you must forgive me.... Mr. —— talked to me as if he imagined me a blue-stocking. Just because my sister wears spectacles, folks take it for granted that I also am literary.

Aug. 25th.—You ask if I find it easy to engage in religious meditation, referring in particular to that on our final rest. This is another of my trials. I can not meditate upon anything, except indeed it be something quite the opposite of what I wish to occupy my mind. You know that some Christians are able in their solitary walks and rides to hold, all the time, communion with God. I can very seldom do this. Yesterday I was obliged to take a long walk alone, and it was made very delightful in this way; so that I quite forgot that I was alone.... I am beginning to feel, that I have enough to do without looking out for a great, wide place in which to work, and to appreciate the simple lines:

"The trivial round, the common task, Would furnish all we ought to ask; Room to deny ourselves; a road To bring us daily nearer God."

Those words "daily nearer God" have an inexpressible charm for me. I long for such nearness to Him that all other objects shall fade into comparative insignificance,—so that to have a thought, a wish, a pleasure apart from Him shall be impossible.

Sept. 12th.—At Sabbath-school this morning, while talking with my scholars about the Lord Jesus, my heart, which is often so cold and so stupid, seemed completely melted within me, with such a view of His wonderful, wonderful love for sinners, that I almost believed I had never felt it till then. Such a blessing is worth toiling and wrestling for a whole life. If a glimpse of our Saviour here upon earth can be so refreshing, so delightful, what will it be in heaven!

Sept. 17th.—I have been reading to-day some passages from Nevins' "Practical Thoughts." [5] Perhaps you have seen them; if so, do you remember two articles headed, "I must pray more," and "I must pray differently"? They interested me much because in some measure they express my own feelings. I have less and less confidence in frames, as they are called. I am glad that you think it better to have a few books and to read them over and over, for my own inclination leads me to that. One gets attached to them as to Christian friends. Do not hesitate to direct me over and over again, to go with difficulties and temptations and sin to the Saviour. I love to be led there and left there. Sometimes when the exceeding "sinfulness of sin" becomes painfully apparent, there is nothing else for the soul to do but to lie in the dust before God, without a word of excuse, and that feeling of abasement in His sight is worth more than all the pleasures in the world.... You will believe me if I own myself tired, when I tell you that I made fourteen calls this afternoon. But even the unpleasant business of call-making has had one comfort. Some of the friends of whom I took leave, spoke so tenderly of Him whose name is so precious to His children that my heart warmed towards them instantly, and I thought it worth while to have parting hours, sad though they may be, if with them came so naturally thoughts of the Saviour. Besides, I have been thinking since I came home, that if I did not love Him, it could not be so refreshing to hear unexpectedly of Him.... I did not know that mother had anything to do with your father's conversion, and when I mentioned it to her she seemed much surprised and said she did not know it herself. Pray tell me more of it, will you? I have felt that if, in the course of my life, I should be the means of leading one soul to the Saviour, it would be worth staying in this world for no matter how many years.

Did you ever read Miss Taylor's "Display"? Sister says the character of Emily there is like mine. I think so myself save in the best point.

We come now to an important change in her outward life. She had accepted an invitation to become a teacher in Mr. Persico's school at Richmond, Virginia. Mr. Persico was an Italian, a brother of the sculptor of that name, a number of whose works are seen at Washington. He early became interested in our institutions, and as soon as he was able, came to this country and settled in Philadelphia as an artist. He married a lady of that city, and afterward on account of her health went to Richmond, where he opened a boarding and day school for girls. There were four separate departments, one of which was under the sole care of Miss Payson. Her letters to her family, written at this time, have all been lost, but a full record of the larger portion of her Richmond life is preserved in letters to her cousin, Mr. Shipman. The following extracts from these letters show with what zeal she devoted herself to her new calling and how absorbed her heart was still in the things of God. They also throw light upon some marked features of her character.

BOSTON, September 23.

I had, after leaving home, an attack of that terrible pain, of which I have told you, and believed myself very near death. It became a serious question whether, if God should so please, I could feel willing to die there alone, for I was among entire strangers. I never enjoyed more of His presence than that night when, sick and sad and full of pain, I felt it sweet to put myself in His hands to be disposed of in His own way.

The attack referred to in this letter resembled angina pectoris, a disease to which for many years she was led to consider herself liable. Whatever it may have been, its effect was excruciating. "Mother was telling me the other day," she wrote to a friend, "that in her long life she had never seen an individual suffer more severe bodily pain than she had often tried to relieve in me. I remember scores of such hours of real agony." In the present instance the attack was doubtless brought on, in part at least, by mental agitation. "No words," she wrote a few months later, "can describe the anguish of my mind the night I left home; it seemed to me that all the agony I had ever passed through was condensed into a small space, and I certainly believe that I should die, if left to a higher degree of such pain."

RICHMOND, September 30, 1840.

About twelve o'clock, when it was as dark as pitch, we were all ordered to prepare for a short walk. In single file then out we went. It seems that a bridge had been burned lately, and so we were all to go round on foot to another train of cars. There were dozens of bright, crackling bonfires lighted at short intervals all along, and as we wound down narrow, steep and rocky pathways, then up steps which had been rudely cut out in the side of the elevated ground, and as far as we could see before us could watch the long line of moving figures in all varieties of form and color, my spirits rose to the very tiptop of enjoyment. I wished you could have a picture of the whole scene, which, though one of real life, was to me at least exceedingly beautiful. We reached Richmond at one o'clock. Mr. Persico was waiting for us and received us cordially.... When I awoke at eight o'clock, I felt forlorn enough. Imagine, if you can, the room in which I opened my eyes. It is in the attic, is very low and has two windows. My first thought was, "I never can be happy in this miserable hole;" but in a second this wicked feeling took flight, and I reproached myself for my ingratitude to Him who had preserved me through all my journey, had made much of it so delightful and profitable, and who still promised to be with me.

Oct. 2.—I will try to give you some account of our doings, although we are not fully settled. We have risen at six so far, but intend to be up by five if we can wake. As soon as we are dressed I take my Bible out into the entry, where is a window and a quiet corner, and read and think until Louisa [6] is ready to give me our room and take my place. At nine we go into school, where Miss Lord [7] reads a prayer, and from that hour until twelve we are engaged with our respective classes. At twelve we have a recess of thirty minutes. This over, we return again to school, where we stay until three, when we are to dine. All day Saturday we are free. This time we are to have Monday, too, as a special holiday, because of a great Whig convention which is turning the city upside-down. There is one pleasant thing, pleasant to me at least, of which I want to tell you. As Mr. Persico is not a religious man, I supposed we should have no blessing at the table, and was afraid I should get into the habit of failing to acknowledge God there. But I was much affected when, on going to dine the first day I came, he stood leaning silently and reverentially over his chair, as if to allow all of us time for that quiet lifting up of the heart which is ever acceptable in the sight of God. It is very impressive. Miss Lord reads prayers at night, and when Mrs. Persico comes home we are to have singing....

That passage in the 119th Psalm, of which you speak, is indeed delightful. I will tell you what were some of my meditations on it. I thought to myself that if God continued His faithfulness toward me, I shall have afflictions such as I now know nothing more of than the name, for I need them constantly. I have trembled ever since I came here at the host of new difficulties to which I am exposed. Surely I did again and again ask God to decide the question for me as to whether I should leave home or not, and believed that He had chosen for me. It certainly was against my own inclinations....

Oct. 12th.—This morning I had a new scholar, a pale, thin little girl who stammers, and when I spoke to her, and she was obliged to answer, the color spread over her face and neck as if she suffered the utmost mortification. I was glad when recess came, to draw her close to my side and to tell her that I had a friend afflicted in the same way, and that consequently, I should know how to understand and pity her. She held my hand fast in hers and the tears came stealing down one after another, as she leaned confidingly upon my shoulder, and I could not help crying too, with mingled feelings of gratitude and sorrow. Certainly it will be delightful to soothe and to console this poor little thing.... You do not like poetry and I have spent the best part of my life in reading or trying to write it. N. P. Willis told me some years ago, that if my husband had a soul, he would love me for the poetical in me, and advised me to save it for him.

Oct. 27th.—Sometimes when I feel almost sure that the Saviour has accepted and forgiven me and that I belong to Him, I can only walk my room repeating over and over again, How wonderful! And then when my mind strives to take in this love of Christ, it seems to struggle in vain with its own littleness and falls back weary and exhausted, to wonder again at the heights and depths which surpass its comprehension.... If there is a spark of love in my heart for anybody, it is for this dear brother of mine, and the desire to have his education thorough and complete has grown with my growth. You, who are not a sister, can not understand the feelings with which I regard him, but they are such as to call forth unbounded love and gratitude toward those who show kindness to him.

Nov. 3d.—I have always felt a peculiar love for the passage that describes the walk to Emmaus. I have tried to analyse the feeling of pleasure which it invariably sheds over my heart when dwelling upon it, especially upon the words, "Jesus Himself drew near and went with them," and these, "He made as though He would go further," but yielded to their urgent, "Abide with us." ... This is one of the comforts of the Christian; God understands him fully whether he can explain his troubles or not. Sometimes I think all of a sudden that I do not love the Saviour at all, and am ready to believe that all my pretended anxiety to serve Him has been but a matter of feeling and not of principle; but of late I have been less disturbed by this imagination, as I find it extends to earthly friends who are dear to me as my own soul. I thought once yesterday that I didn't love anybody in the world and was perfectly wretched in consequence.

Nov. 12th.—The more I try to understand myself, the more I am puzzled. That I am a mixture of contradictions is the opinion I have long had of myself. I call it a compound of sincerity and reserve. Unless you see just what I mean in your own consciousness, I doubt whether I can explain it in words. With me it is both an open and a shut heart—open when and where and as far as I please, and shut as tight as a vise in the same way. I was probably born with this same mixture of frankness and reserve, having inherited the one from my mother and the other from my father.... I have often thought that, humanly speaking, it would be a strange, and surely a very sad thing if we none of us inherit any of our father's piety; for when he prayed for his children it was, undoubtedly, that we might be very peculiarly the Lord's. H. was to be the missionary; but if he can not go himself, and is prospered in business, I hope he will be able to help send others. I have been frightened, of late, in thinking how little good I am doing in the world. And yet I believe that those who love to do good always find opportunities enough, wherever they are. Whether I shall do any here, I dare not try to guess.

Dec. 3d.—How I thank you for the interest you take in my Bible class. They are so attentive to every word I say that it makes me deeply feel the importance of seeking each of those words from the Holy Spirit. Many of them had not even a Bible of their own until now, nor were they in the habit of reading it at all. Among others there are two grand-daughters of Patrick Henry. I wish I could give you a picture of them, as they sit on Sabbath evening around the table with their eyes fixed so eagerly on my face, that if I did not feel that the Lord Jesus was present, I should be overwhelmed with confusion at my unworthiness.... Mr. Persico is a queer man. Last Sabbath Miss L. asked him if he had been to church. "Oui, Mlle.," said he; "vous etiez a l'eglise de l'homme—moi, j'etais a l'eglise de Dieu—dans les bois." There is the bell for prayers; it is an hour since I began to write, but I have spent a great part of it with my eyes shut because I happened to feel more like meditating than writing, if you know what sort of a feeling that is. Oh, that we might be enabled to go onward day by day—and upward too.

I have been making violent efforts for years to become meek and lowly in heart. At present I do hope that I am less irritable than I used to be. It was no small comfort to me when sister was home last summer, to learn from her that I had succeeded somewhat in my efforts. But though I have not often the last year been guilty of "harsh speeches," I have felt my pride tugging with all its might to kindle a great fire when some unexpected trial has caught me off my guard. I am persuaded that real meekness dwells deep within the heart and that it is only to be gained by communion with our blessed Saviour, who when He was reviled, reviled not again.

Sabbath Evening, 8th.—I wanted to write last evening but had a worse pain in my side and left arm than I have had since I came here. While it lasted, which was an hour and a half, I had such pleasant thoughts for companions as would make any pain endurable. I was asking myself if, supposing God should please suddenly to take me away in the midst of life, whether I should feel willing and glad to go, and oh, it did seem delightful to think of it, and to feel sure that, sooner or later, the summons will come. Those pieces which you marked in the "Observer" I have read and like them exceedingly, especially those about growth in grace.... You speak of the goodness of God to me in granting me so much of His presence, while I am here away from all earthly friends. Indeed I want to be able to praise Him as I never yet have done, and I don't know where to begin. I have felt more pain in this separation from home on mother's account than any other, as I feel that she needs me at home to comfort and to love her. Since she lost her best earthly friend I have been her constant companion. I once had a secret desire for a missionary life, if God should see fit to prepare me for it, but when I spoke of it to mother she was so utterly overcome at its bare mention that I instantly promised I would never for any inducement leave or forsake her. I want you to pray for me that if poor mother's right hand is made forever useless, [8] I may after this year be a right hand for her, and be enabled to make up somewhat to her for the loss of it by affection and tenderness and sympathy.... I don't remember feeling any way in particular, when I first began to "write for the press," as you call it. I never could realise that more than half a dozen people would read my pieces. Besides, I have no desire of the sort you express, for fame. I care a great deal too much for the approbation of those I love and respect, but not a fig for that of those I don't like or don't know.

* * * * *


Her Character as a Teacher. Letters. Incidents of School-Life. Religious Struggles, Aims, and Hopes. Oppressive Heat and Weariness.

Miss Payson had been in Richmond but a short time before she became greatly endeared to Mr. and Mrs. Persico, and to the whole school. She had a rare natural gift for teaching. Fond of study herself, she knew how to inspire her pupils with the same feeling. Her method was excellent. It aimed not merely to impart knowledge but to elicit latent powers, and to remove difficulties out of the way. While decided and thorough, it was also very gentle, helpful, and sympathetic. She had a quick perception of mental diversities, saw as by intuition the weak and the strong points of individual character, and was skillful in adapting her influence, as well as her instructions, to the peculiarities of every one under her care. The girls in her own special department almost idolised her. The parents also of some of them, who belonged to Richmond and its vicinity, seeing what she was doing for their daughters, sought her acquaintance and showed her the most grateful affection.

Although her school labors were exacting, she carried on a large correspondence, spent a good deal of time in her favorite religious reading, and together with Miss Susan Lord, the senior teacher and an old Portland friend, pursued a course of study in French and Italian. At the table Mr. Persico spoke French, and in this way she was enabled to perfect herself in the practice of that language. Of her spiritual history and of incidents of her school life during the new year, some extracts from letters to her cousin will give her own account.

RICHMOND, January 3, 1841.

If I tell you that I am going to take under my especial care and protection one of the family—a little girl of eleven years whom nobody can manage at all, you may wonder why. I found on my plate at dinner a note from Mrs. Persico saying that if I wanted an opportunity of doing good, here was one; that if Nannie could sleep in my room, etc., it might be of great benefit to her. The only reason why I hesitated was the fear that she might be in the way of our best hours. But I have thought all along that I was living too much at my ease, and wanted a place in which to deny myself for the sake of the One who yielded up every comfort for my sake. Nannie has a fine character but has been mismanaged at home, and since coming here. She often comes and puts her arms around me and says, "There is one in this house who loves me, I do know." I receive her as a trust from God, with earnest prayer to Him that we may be enabled to be of use to her. From morning to night she is found fault with, and this is spoiling her temper and teaching her to be deceitful.... I have been reading lately the Memoir of Martyn. I have, of course, read it more than once before, but everything appears to me now in such a different light. I rejoice that I have been led to read the book just now. It has put within me new and peculiar desires to live wholly for the glory of God.

Jan.13th.—I understand the feeling about wishing one's self a dog, or an animal without a soul. I have sat and watched a little kitten frisking about in the sunshine till I could hardly help killing it in my envy—but oh, how different it is now! I have felt lately that perhaps God has something for me to do in the world. I am satisfied, indeed, that in calling me nearer to Himself He has intended to prepare me for His service. Where that is to be is no concern of mine as yet. I only wish to belong to Him and wait for His will, whatever it may be.

Jan. 14th.—I used to go through with prayer merely as a duty, but now I look forward to the regular time for it, and hail opportunities for special seasons with such delight as I once knew nothing of. Sometimes my heart feels ready to break for the longing it hath for a nearer approach to the Lord Jesus than I can obtain without the use of words, and there is not a corner of the house which I can have to myself. I think sometimes that I should be thankful for the meanest place in the universe. You ask if I ever dream of seeing the Lord. No—I never did, neither should I think it desirable; but a few days ago, when I woke, I had fresh in my remembrance some precious words which, as I had been dreaming, He had spoken to me. It left an indescribable feeling of love and peace on my mind. I seemed in my dream to be very near Him, and that He was encouraging me to ask of Him all the things of which I felt the need.

Jan. 17th.—I did not mean to write so much about myself, for when I took out my letter I was thinking of things and beings far above this world. I was thinking of the hour when the Christian first enters into the joy of his Lord, when the first note of the "new song" is borne to his ear, and the first view of the Lamb of God is granted to his eye. It seems to me as if the bliss of that one minute would fully compensate for all the toils and struggles he must go through here; and then to remember the ages of happiness that begin at that point! Oh, if the unseen presence of Jesus can make the heart to sing for joy in the midst of its sorrow and sin here, what will it be to dwell with Him forever!

My Bible class, which consists now of eighteen, is every week more dear to me. I am glad that you think poor Nannie well off. She has an inquiring mind, and though before coming here she had received no religious instruction and had not even a Bible, she is now constantly asking me questions which prove her to be a first-rate thinker and reasoner. She went to the theatre last night and came home quite disgusted, saying to herself, "I shouldn't like to die in the midst of such gayeties as these." She urged me to tell her if I thought it wrong for her to go, but I would not, because I did not want her to stay away for my sake. I want her to settle the question fairly in her own mind and to be guided by her own conscience rather than mine. She is so grateful and happy that, if the sacrifice had been greater, we should be glad that we had made it. And then if we can do her any good, how much reason we shall have to thank God for having placed her here!

Feb. 11th.—My thoughts of serious things should, perhaps, be called prayers, rather than anything else. I have constant need of looking up to God for help, so utterly weak and ignorant am I and so dependent upon Him. Sometimes in my walks, especially those of the early morning, I take a verse from the "Daily Food" to think upon; at others, if my mind is where I want it should be, everything seems to speak and suggest thoughts of my Heavenly Father, and when it is otherwise I feel as if that time had been wasted. This is not "keeping the mind on the stretch," and is delightfully refreshing. All I wish is that I were always thus favored. As to a hasty temper, I know that anybody who ever lived with me, until within the last two or three years, could tell you of many instances of outbreaking passion. I am ashamed to say how recently the last real tempest occurred, but I will not spare myself. It was in the spring of 1838, and I did not eat anything for so long that I was ill in bed and barely escaped a fever. Mother nursed me so tenderly that, though she forgave me, I never shall forgive myself. Since then I should not wish you to suppose that I have been perfectly amiable, but for the last year I think I have been enabled in a measure to control my temper, but of that you know more than I do, as you had a fair specimen of what I am when with us last summer. It has often been a source of encouragement to me that everybody said I was gentle and amiable till my father's death, when I was nine years old.... While reading to-night that chapter in Mark, where it speaks of Jesus as walking on the sea, I was interested in thinking how frequently such scenes occur in our spiritual passage over the sea which is finally to land us on the shores of the home for which we long. "While they were toiling in rowing," Jesus went to them upon the water and "would have passed by" till He heard their cries, and then He manifested Himself unto them saying, "It is I." And when He came to them, the wind ceased and they "wondered." Surely we have often found in our toiling that Jesus was passing by and ready at the first trembling fear to speak the word of love and of consolation and to give us the needed help, and then to leave us wondering indeed at the infinite tenderness and kindness so unexpectedly vouchsafed for our relief.

Feb. 13th—I do not think we should make our enjoyment of religion the greatest end of our struggle against sin. I never once had such an idea. I think we should fight against sin simply because it is something hateful to God, because it is something so utterly unlike the spirit of Christ, whom it is our privilege to strive to imitate in all things. On all points connected with the love I wish to give my Saviour, and the service I am to render Him, I feel that I want teaching and am glad to obtain assistance from any source. I hardly know how to answer your question. I do not have that constant sense of the Saviour's presence which I had here for a long time, neither do I feel that I love Him as I thought I did, but it is not always best to judge of ourselves by our feelings, but by the general principle and guiding desire of the mind. I do think that my prevailing aim is to do the will of God and to glorify Him in everything. Of this I have thought a great deal of late. I have not a very extensive sphere of action, but I want my conduct, my every word and look and motion, to be fully under the influence of this desire for the honor of God. You can have no idea of the constant observation to which I am exposed here.

Feb. 21st.—I spent three hours this afternoon in taking care of a little black child (belonging to the house), who is very ill, and as I am not much used to such things, it excited and worried me into a violent nervous headache. I finished Brainerd's Life this afternoon, amid many doubts as to whether I ever loved the Lord at all, so different is my piety from that of this blessed and holy man. The book has been a favorite with me for years, but I never felt the influence of his life as I have while reading it of late.

She alludes repeatedly in her correspondence to the delight which she found on the Sabbath in listening to that eminent preacher and divine, the Rev. Dr. Wm. S. Plumer, who was then settled in Richmond. In a letter to her cousin she writes:

I have become much attached to him; he seems more than half in heaven, and every word is full of solemnity and feeling, as if he had just held near intercourse with God. I wish that you could have listened with me to his sermons to-day. They have been, I think, blessed messages from God to my soul.

All her letters at this time glow with religious fervor. "How wonderful is our divine Master!" she seemed to be always saying to herself. "It has become so delightful to me to speak of His love, of His holiness, of His purity, that when I try to write to those who know Him not, I hardly know what is worthy of even a mention, if He is to be forgotten." And several years afterwards she refers to this period as a time when she "shrank from everything that in the slightest degree interrupted her consciousness of God."

The following letter to a friend, whose name will often recur in these pages, well illustrates her state of mind during the entire winter.

To Miss Anna S. Prentiss. Richmond, Feb 26, 1841.

Your very welcome letter, my dear Anna, arrived this afternoon, and, as my labors for the week are over, I am glad of a quiet hour in which to thank you for it. I do not thank you simply because you have so soon answered my letter, but because you have told me what no one else could do so well about your own very dear self. When I wrote you I doubted very much whether I might even allude to the subject of religion, although I wished to do so, since that almost exclusively has occupied my mind during the last year. I saw you in the midst of temptations to which I have ever been a stranger, but which I conceived to be decidedly unfavorable to growth in any of the graces which make up Christian character. It was not without hesitation that I ventured to yield to the promptings of my heart, and to refer to the only things which have at present much interest for it. I can not tell you how I do rejoice that you have been led to come out thus upon the Lord's side, and to consecrate yourself to His service. My own views and feelings have within the last year undergone such an entire change, that I have wished I could take now some such stand in the presence of all who have known me in days past, as this which you have taken. My first and only wish is henceforth to live but for Him, who has graciously drawn my wandering affections to Himself.... You speak of the faintness of your heart—but "they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength," and I do believe the truth of these precious words; not only because they are those of God, but also because my own experience adds happy witness to them. I have lived many years with only just enough of hope to keep me from actual despair. The least breath was sufficient to scatter it all and to leave me, fearful and afraid, to go over and over again the same ground; thus allowing neither time nor strength for progress in the Christian course. I trust that you will not go through years of such unnecessary darkness and despondency. There is certainly enough in our Saviour, if we only open our eyes that we may see it, to solve every doubt and satisfy every longing of the heart; and He is willing to give it in full measure. When I contemplate the character of the Lord Jesus, I am filled with wonder which I can not express, and with unutterable desires to yield myself and my all to His hand, to be dealt with in His own way; and His way is a blessed one, so that it is delightful to resign body and soul and spirit to Him, without a will opposed to His, without a care but to love Him more, without a sorrow which His love can not sanctify or remove. In following after Him faithfully and steadfastly, the feeblest hopes may be strengthened; and I trust that you will find in your own happy experience that "joy and peace" go hand in hand with love—so that in proportion to your devotion to the Saviour will be the blessedness of your life. When I begin I hardly know where to stop, and now I find myself almost at the end of my sheet before I have begun to say what I wish. This will only assure you that I love you a thousand times better than I did when I did not know that your heart was filled with hopes and affections like my own, and that I earnestly desire, if Providence permits us to enjoy intercourse in this or in any other way, we may never lose sight of the one great truth that we are not our own. I pray you sometimes remember me at the throne of grace. The more I see of the Saviour, the more I feel my own weakness and helplessness and my need of His constant presence, and I can not help asking assistance from all those who love Him.... Oh, how sorry I am that I have come to the end! I wish I had any faculty for expressing affection, so that I might tell you how much I love and how often I think of you.

Her cousin having gone abroad, a break in the correspondence with him occurred about this time and continued for several months. In a letter to her friend, Miss Thurston, dated April 21st, she thus refers to her school:

There are six of us teachers, five of them born in Maine—which is rather funny, as that is considered by most of the folks here as the place where the world comes to an end. Although the South lifts up its wings and crows over the North, it is glad enough to get its teachers there, and ministers too, and treats them very well when it gets them, into the bargain. We have in the school about one hundred and twenty-five pupils of all ages. I never knew till I came here the influence which early religious education exerts upon the whole future age. There is such a wonderful difference between most of these young people and those in the North, that you might almost believe them another race of beings. Mrs. Persico is beautiful, intelligent, interesting, and pious. Mr. Persico is just as much like John Neal as difference of education and of circumstances can permit. Mr. N.'s strong sense of justice, his enthusiasm, his fun and wit, his independence and self-esteem, his tastes, too, as far as I know them, all exist in like degree in Mr. Persico.

The early spring, with its profusion of flowers of every hue, so far in advance of the spring in her native State, gave her the utmost pleasure; but as the summer approached, her health began to suffer. The heat was very intense, and hot weather always affected her unhappily. "I feel," she wrote, "as if I were in an oven with hot melted lead poured over my brain." Her old trouble, too—"organic disease of the heart" it was now suspected to be—caused her much discomfort. "While writing," she says in one of her letters, "I am suffering excruciating pain; I can't call it anything else." Her physical condition naturally affected more or less her religious feelings. Under date of July 12th, she writes:

The word conflict expresses better than any other my general state from day to day. I have seemed of late like a straw floating upon the surface of a great ocean, blown hither and thither by every wind, and tossed from wave to wave without the rest of a moment. It was a mistake of mine to imagine that God ever intended man to rest in this world. I see that it is right and wise in Him to appoint it otherwise.... While suffering from my Saviour's absence, nothing interests me. But I was somewhat encouraged by reading in my father's memoir, and in reflecting that he passed through far greater spiritual conflicts than will probably ever be mine.... I see now that it is not always best for us to have the light of God's countenance. Do not spend your time and strength in asking for me that blessing, but this—that I may be transformed into the image of Christ in His own time, in His own way.

Early in August she left Richmond and flew homeward like a bird to its nest.

* * * * *


Extracts from her Richmond Journal.

Were her letters to her cousin the only record of Miss Payson's Richmond life, one might infer that they give a complete picture of it; for they were written in the freedom and confidence of Christian friendship, with no thought that a third eye would ever see them. But it had another and hidden side, of which her letters contain only a partial record. Her early habit of keeping a journal has been already referred to. She kept one at Richmond, and was prevented several years later from destroying it, as she had destroyed others, by the entreaty of the only person who ever saw it. This journal depicts many of her most secret thoughts and feelings, both earthward and heavenward. Some passages in it are of too personal a nature for publication, but the following extracts seem fairly entitled to a place here, as they bring out several features of her character with sunlike clearness, and so will help to a better understanding of the ensuing narrative:

RICHMOND, October 3, 1840.

How funny it seems here! Everything is so different from home! I foresee that I shan't live nearly a year under these new influences without changing my old self into something else. Heaven forbid that I should grow old because people treat me as if I were grown up! I hate old young folks. Well! whoever should see me and my scholars would be at a loss to know wherein consists the difference between them and me. I am only a little girl after all, and yet folks do treat me as if I were as old and as wise as Methusaleh. And Mr. Persico says, "Oui, Madame." Oh! oh! oh! It makes me feel so ashamed when these tall girls, these damsels whose hearts are developed as mine won't be these half dozen years (to say nothing of their minds), ask me if they may go to bed, if they may walk, if they may go to Mr. So-and-so's, and Miss Such-a-one's to buy—a stick of candy for aught I know. Oh, oh, oh! I shall have to take airs upon myself. I shall have to leave off little words and use big ones. I shall have to leave off sitting curled up on my feet, turkey-fashion. I shall have to make wise speeches (But a word in your ear, Miss—I won't).

Oct. 27th—This Richmond is a queer sort of a place and I should be as miserable in it as a fish out of water, only there is sunshine enough in my heart to make any old hole bright. In the first place, this dowdy chamber is in one view a perfect den—no carpet, whitewashed walls, loose windows that have the shaking palsy, fire-red hearth, blue paint instead of white, or rather a suspicion that there was once some blue paint here. But what do I care? I'm as merry as a grig from morning till night. The little witches down-stairs love me dearly, everybody is kind, and—and—and—when everybody is locked out and I am locked into this same room, this low attic, there's not a king on the earth so rich, so happy as I! Here is my little pet desk, here are my books, my papers. I can write and read and study and moralise, I don't pretend to say think—and then besides, every morning and every night, within these four walls, heaven itself refuses not to enter in and dwell—and I may grow better and better and happier and happier in blessedness with which nothing may intermeddle.

Mr. Persico is a man by himself, and quite interesting to me in one way, that is, in giving me something to puzzle out. I like him for his exquisite taste in the picture line and for having adorned his rooms with such fine ones—at least they're fine to my inexperienced eye; for when I'm in the mood, I can go and sit and dream as it seemeth me good over them, and as I dream, won't good thoughts come into my heart? As to Mrs. P., I hereby return my thanks to Nature for making her so beautiful. She has a face and figure to fall in love with. K. has also a fine face and a delicate little figure. Miss —— I shall avoid as far as I can do so. I do not think her opinions and feelings would do me any good. She has a fine mind and likes to cultivate it, and for that I respect her, but she has nothing natural and girlish in her, and I am persuaded, never had. She hates little children; says she hates to hear them laugh, thinks them little fools. Why, how odd all this is to me! I could as soon hate the angels in heaven and hate to hear them sing. That, to be sure, is my way, and the other way is hers—but somehow it doesn't seem good-hearted to be so very, very superior to children as to shun the little loving beautiful creatures. I don't believe I ever shall grow up! But, Miss ——, I don't want to do you injustice, and I'm much obliged to you for all the flattering things you've said about me, and if you like my eyes and think there is congeniality of feeling between us, why, I thank you. But oh, don't teach me that the wisdom of the world consisteth in forswearing the simple beauties with which life is full. Don't make me fear my own happy girlhood by talking to me about love—oh, don't!

Dec. 1.—I wonder if all the girls in the world are just alike? Seems to me they might be so sweet and lovable if they'd leave off chattering forever and ever about lovers.... If mothers would keep their little unfledged birds under their own wings, wouldn't they make better mother- birds? Now some girls down-stairs, who ought to be thinking about all the beautiful things in life but just lovers, are reading novels, love-stories and poetry, till they can't care for anything else.... Now, Lizzy Payson, where's the use of fretting so? Go right to work reading Leighton and you'll forget that all the world isn't as wise as you think you are, you little vain thing, you! Alas and alas, but this is such a nice world, and the girls don't know it!

Dec. 2.—What a pleasant walk I had this morning on Ambler's Hill. The sun rose while I was there and I was so happy! The little valley, clothed with white houses and completely encircled by hills, reminded me of the verse about the mountains round about Jerusalem. Nobody was awake so early and I had all the great hill to myself, and it was so beautiful that I could have thrown myself down and kissed the earth itself. Oh, sweet and good and loving Mother Nature! I choose you for my own. I will be your little lady-love. I will hunt you out whenever you hide, and you shall comfort me when I am sad, and laugh with me when I'm merry, and take me by the hand and lead me onward and upward till the image of the heavenly forceth out that of the earthly from my whole heart and soul. Oh, how I prayed for a holy heart on that hillside and how sure I am that I shall grow better! and what companionable thoughts I've had all day for that blessed walk!

8th.—My life is a nice little life just now, as regular as clockwork. We walk and we keep school, and our scholars kiss and love us, and we kiss and love them, and we read Lamartine and I worship Leighton, good, wise, holy Leighton, and we discourse about everything together and dispute and argue and argue and dispute, and I'm quite happy, so I am! As to Lamartine, he's no great things, as I know of, but I want to keep up my knowledge of French and so we read twenty pages a day. And as to our discourses, my fidgety, moralising sort of mind wants to compare its doctrines with those of other people, though it's as stiff as a poker in its own opinions. You're a very consistent little girl! you call yourself a child, are afraid to open your mouth before folks, and yet you're as obstinate and proud as a little man, daring to think for yourself and act accordingly at the risk of being called odd and incomprehensible. I don't care, though! Run on and break your neck if you will. You're nothing especial after all.

9th.—To-night, in unrolling a bundle of work I found a little note therein from mother. Whew, how I kissed it! I thought I should fly out of my senses, I was so glad. But I can't fly now-a-days, I'm growing so unetherial. Why, I take up a lot of room in the world and my frocks won't hold me. That's because my heart is so quiet, lying as still as a mouse, after all its tossings about and trying to be happy in the things of this life. Oh, I am so happy now in the other life! But as for telling other people so—as for talking religion—I don't see how I can. It doesn't come natural. Is it because I am proud? But I pray to be so holy, so truly a Christian, that my life shall speak and gently persuade all who see me to look for the hidden spring of my perpetual happiness and quietness. The only question is: Do I live so? I'm afraid I make religion seem too grave a thing to my watching maidens down-stairs; but, oh, I'm afraid to rush into their pleasures.

25th.— ... I've been "our Lizzy" all my life and have not had to display my own private feelings and opinions before folks, but have sat still and listened and mused and lived within myself, and shut myself up in my corner of the house and speculated on life and the things thereof till I've got a set of notions of my own which don't fit into the notions of anybody I know. I don't open myself to anybody on earth; I can not; there is a world of something in me which is not known to those about me and perhaps never will be; but sometimes I think it would be delicious to love a mind like mine in some things, only better, wiser, nobler. I do not quite understand life. People don't live as they were made to live, I'm sure ... I want soul. I want the gracious, glad spirit that finds the good and the beautiful in everything, joined to the manly, exalted intellect—rare unions, I am sure, yet possible ones. Little girl! Do you suppose such a soul would find anything in yours to satisfy it? No—no—no—I do not. I know I am a poor little goose which ought to be content with some equally poor little gander, but I won't. I'll never give up one inch of these the demands of my reason and of my heart for all the truths you tell me about myself—never! But descend from your elevation, oh speculating child of mortality, and go down to school. Oh, no, no school for a week, and I guess I'll spend the week in fancies and follies. It won't hurt me. I've done it before and got back to the world as satisfied as ever, indeed I have.

Jan. 1, 184l.—We've been busy all the week getting our presents ready for the servants, and a nice time I've had this morning, seeing them show their ivory thereat. James made a little speech, the amount of which was, he hoped I wouldn't get married till I'd "done been" here two or three years, because my face was so pleasant it was good to look at it! I was as proud as Lucifer at this compliment, and shall certainly look pleasant all day to-day, if I never did before. Monsieur and the rest wished me, I won't say how many, good wishes, rushing at me as I went in to breakfast—and Milly privately informed Lucy that she liked Miss Payson "a heap" better than she did any body else, and then came and begged me to buy her! I buy her! Heaven bless the poor little girl. I had some presents and affectionate notes from different members of the family and from my scholars—also letters from sister and Ned, which delighted me infinitely more than I'm going to tell you, old journal. Took tea at Mr. P.'s and Mrs. P. laughed at her husband because he had once an idea of going to New England to get my little ladyship to wife (for the sake of my father, of course). Mr. P. blushed like a boy and fidgeted terribly, but I didn't care a snap—I am not old enough to be wife to anybody, and I'm not going to mind if people do joke with me about it. I've had better things to think of on this New Year's day—good, heavenward thoughts and prayers and hopes, and if I do not become more and more transformed into the Divine, then are prayers and hopes things of nought. Oh, how dissatisfied I am with myself. How I long to be like unto Him into whose image I shall one day be changed when I see Him as He is!

I believe nobody understands me on religious points, for I can not, and, it seems to me, need not parade my private feelings before the world. Cousin G., God bless him! knows enough, and yet my letters to him do not tell the hundredth part of that which these four walls might tell, if they would. I do not know that I am not wrong, but I do dislike the present style of talking on religious subjects. Let people pray—earnestly, fervently, not simply morning and night, but the whole day long, making their lives one continued prayer; but, oh, don't let them tell others of, or let others know half how much of communion with Heaven is known to their own hearts. Is it not true that those who talk most, go most to meetings, run hither and thither to all sorts of societies and all sorts of readings—is it not true that such people would not find peace and contentment—yes, blessedness of blessedness—in solitary hours when to the Searcher of hearts alone are known their aspirations and their love? I do not know, I am puzzled; but I may say here, where nobody will ever see it, what I do think, and I say it to my own heart as well as over the hearts of others—there is not enough of real, true communion with God, not enough nearness to Him, not enough heart-searching before Him; and too much parade and bustle and noise in doing His work on earth. Oh, I do not know exactly what I mean—but since I have heard so many apparently Christian people own that of this sense of nearness to God they know absolutely nothing—that they pray because it is their habit without the least expectation of meeting the great yet loving Father in their closets—since I have heard this I am troubled and perplexed. Why, is it not indeed true that the Christian believer, God's own adopted, chosen, beloved child, may speak face to face with his Father, humbly, reverently, yet as a man talketh with his friend? Is it not true? Do not I know that it is so? Oh, I sometimes want the wisdom of an angel that I may not be thus disturbed and wearied.

14th.—Now either Miss ——'s religion is wrong and mine right, or else it's just the other way. I wrote some verses, funny ones, and sent her to-day, and she returned for answer that verse in Proverbs about vinegar on nitre, and seemed distressed that I ever had such worldly and funny thoughts. I told her I should like her better if she ever had any but solemn ones, whence we rushed into a discussion about proprieties and I maintained that a mind was not in a state of religious health, if it could not safely indulge in thoughts funny as funny could be. She shook her head and looked as glum as she could, and I'm really sorry that I vexed her righteous soul, though I'm sure I feel funny ever so much of the time, can not help saying funny things and cutting up capers now and then. I'll take care not to marry a glum man, anyhow; not that I want my future lord and master to be a teller of stories, a wit, or a particularly funny man—but he shan't wear a long face and make me wear a long one, though he may be as pious as the day is long and must be, what's more. Oh, my! I don't think I was so very naughty. I saw Miss —— laughing privately at these same verses, and she rushed in to Mrs. P. and read them to her, and then copied them for her aunt and paid twenty-five cents postage on the letter. I should like to know how she dared waste so much time in unholy employments! As I was saying, and am always thinking, it's rather queer that people are so oddly different in their ideas of religion. Heaven forbid I should trifle with serious and holy thoughts of my head and heart—but if my religion is worth a straw, such verse-writing will not disturb it.

January 16th.—I wonder what's got into me to-day—I feel cross, without the least bit of reason for so feeling. I guess I'm not well, for I'm sure I've felt like one great long sunbeam, I don't know how many months, and it doesn't come natural to be fretful.

17th.—I knew I wasn't well yesterday and to-day am half sick. We got through breakfast at twenty minutes to eleven, and as I was up at seven, I got kind o' hungry and out of sorts. This afternoon went to church and heard one of Dr. E.'s argumentative sermons. But there's something in those Prayer-book prayers, certainly, if men won't or can't put any grace into their sermons. I wish I had a perfect ideal Sunday in my head or heart, or both. If I'm very good I'm tired at night, and if I'm bad my conscience smites me—so any way I'm not very happy just now and I'm sick and mean to go to bed and so!

18th.—Had a talk with Nannie. She has a thoughtful mind and who knows but we may do her some good. I love to have her here, and for once in my life like to feel a little bit—just the least bit—old; that is, old enough to give a little sage advice to the poor thing, when she asks it. She says she won't read any more novels and will read the Bible and dear knows what else she said about finding an angel for me to marry, which heaven forbid she should do, since I'm too fond of being a little mite naughty, to desire anything of that sort. After she was in bed she began to say her prayers most vehemently and among other things, prayed for Miss Payson. I had the strangest sensation, and yet an almost heavenly one, if I may say so. May it please Heaven to listen to her prayer for me, and mine for her, dear child. But suppose I do her no good while she lives so under my wing?

19th.—Up early—walked and read Leighton. Mr. P. amused us at dinner by giving a funny account in his funny way, of a mistake of E.—— H.——'s. She asked me the French for as. "Aussi" quoth I. Thereupon she tucked a great O. C. into her exercise and took it to him and they jabbered and sputtered over it, and she insisted that Miss Payson said so and he put his face right into hers and said, "Will you try to prove that Miss Payson is a fool, you little goose?" and at last Miss A. understood and explained. Read Leighton after school and thirty-two pages of Lamartine—then Mr. P. called—then Miss —— teased me to love her and kept me in her paws till the bell rang for tea. Why can't I like her? I should be so ashamed if I should find out after all that she is as good as she seems, but I never did get cheated yet when I trusted my own mother wits, my instinct, or whatever it is by which I know folks—and she is found wanting by this something.

28th.—Mrs. Persico has comforted me to-day. She says Mr. T. came to Mr. P. with tears in his eyes (could such a man shed tears?) and told him that I should be the salvation of his child—that she was already the happiest and most altered creature, and begged him to tell me so. I was ashamed and happy too—but I think Mr. P. should have told him that if good has been done to Nannie, it is as much—to say the least—owing to Louisa as to me. L. always joins me in everything I do and say for her, and I would not have even an accident deprive her of her just reward for anything. Nannie sat on the floor to-night in her night-gown, thinking. At last she said, "Miss Payson?" "Well, little witch?" "You wouldn't care much if you should die to-night, should you?" "No, I think not." "Nor I," said she. "Why, do you think you should be better off than you are here?" "Yes, in heaven," said she. "Why how do you know you'll go to heaven?" She looked at me seriously and said, "Oh, I don't know—I don't know—I don't think I should like to go to the other place." We had then a long talk with her and it seems she's a regular little believer in Purgatory—but I wouldn't dispute with her. I guess there's a way of getting at her heart better than that.... Why is it that I have such a sensitiveness on religious points, such a dread of having my own private aims and emotions known by those about me? Is it right? I should like to be just what the Christian ought to be in these relations. Miss —— expects me to make speeches to her, but I can not. If I thought I knew ever so much, I could not, and she annoys me so. Oh, I wish it didn't hurt my soul so to touch it! It's just like a butterfly's wing—people can't help tearing off the very invisible down so to speak, for which they take a fancy to it, if they get it between fingers and thumb, and so I have to suffer for their curiosity's sake. Am I bound to reveal my heart-life to everybody who asks? Must I not believe that the heavenly love may, in one sense, be hidden from outward eye and outward touch? or am I wrong?

Feb. 1, 184l.—Rose later than usual—cold, dull, rainy morning. Read in Life of Wilberforce. Defended Nannie with more valor than discretion. This evening the storm departed and the moonlight was more beautiful than ever; and I was so sad and so happy, and the life beyond and above seemed so beautiful. Oh, how I have longed to-day for heaven within my own soul! There has been much unspoken prayer in my heart to-night. I don't know what I should do if I could have my room all to myself—and not have people know it if even a good thought comes into my mind. I shall be happy in heaven, I know I shall—for even here prayer and praise are so infinitely more delightful than anything else.

3d.—Woke with headache, got through school as best I could, then came and curled myself up in a ball in the easy-chair and didn't move till nine, when I crept down to say good-bye to poor Mrs. Persico. Miss L. and Miss J. received me in their room so tenderly and affectionately that I was ashamed. What makes them love me? I am sure I should not think they could.

10th.—I wonder who folks think I am, and what they think? Sally R—— sent me up her book of autographs with a request that I would add mine. I looked it over and found very great names, and did not know whether to laugh or cry at her funny request, which I couldn't have made up my mouth to grant. How queer it seems to me that people won't let me be a little girl and will act as if I were an old maid or matron of ninety-nine! Poor Mr. Persico is terribly unhappy and walks up and down perpetually with such a step.

12th.— ... I am sure that in these little things God's hand is just as clearly to be seen as in His wonderful works of power, and tried to make Miss —— see this, but she either couldn't or wouldn't. It seems to me that God is my Father, my own Father, and it is so natural to turn right to Him, every minute almost, with either thank-offerings or petitions, that I never once stop to ask if such and such a matter is sufficiently great for His notice. Miss —— seemed quite astonished when I said so.

16th.— ... I've been instituting an inquiry into myself to-day and have been worthily occupied in comparing myself to an onion, though in view of the fragrance of that highly useful vegetable, I hope the comparison won't go on all fours But I have as many natures as an onion has—what d'ye call 'em—coats? First the outside skin or nature—kind o' tough and ugly; anybody may see that and welcome. Then comes my next nature—a little softer—a little more removed from curious eyes; then my inner one—myself—that 'ere little round ball which nobody ever did or ever will see the whole of—at least, s'pose not. Now most people see only the outer rind—a brown, red, yellow, tough skin and that's all; but I think there's something inside that's better and more truly an onion than might at first be guessed. And so I'm an onion and that's the end.

17th.—Mrs. P.'s birthday, in honor of which cake and wine. Mr. P. was angry with us because we took no wine. If he had asked me civilly to drink his wife's health, I should probably have done so, but I am not to be frightened into anything. I made a funny speech and got him out of his bearish mood, and then we all proceeded to the portico to see if the new President had arrived—by which means we obtained a satisfactory view of two cows, three geese, one big boy in a white apron and one small one in a blue apron, three darkies of feminine gender and one old horse; but Harrison himself we saw not. Mr. Persico says it's Tyler's luck to get into office by the death of his superior, and declares Harrison must infallibly die to secure John Tyler's fate. It's to be hoped this won't be the case. [9]

March 6th.—Miss L. read to us to-day some sprightly and amusing little notes written her years ago by a friend with whom she still corresponds. I was struck with the contrast between these youthful and light-hearted fragments and her present letters, now that she is a wife and mother. I wonder if there is always this difference between the girl and woman? If so, heaven forbid I should ever cease to be a child!

18th.—Headache—Nannie sick; held her in my arms two or three hours; had a great fuss with her about taking her medicine, but at last out came my word must, and the little witch knew it meant all it said and down went the oil in a jiffy, while I stood by laughing at myself for my pretension of dignity. The poor child couldn't go to sleep till she had thanked me over and over for making her mind and for taking care of her, and wouldn't let go my hand, so I had to sit up until very late—and then I was sick and sad and restless, for I couldn't have my room to myself and the day didn't seem finished without it.

It is a perfect mystery to me how folks get along with so little praying. Their hearts must be better than mine, or something. What is it? But if God sees that the desire of my whole heart is to-night—has been all day—towards Himself, will He not know this as prayer, answer it as such? Yes, prayer is certainly something more than bending of the knees and earnest words, and I do believe that goodness and mercy will descend upon me, though with my lips I ask not.

24th.—Had a long talk with Mr. Persico about my style of governing. He seemed interested in what I had to say about appeals to the conscience, but said my youthful enthusiasm would get cooled down when I knew more of the world. I told him, very pertly, that I hoped I should never know the world then. He laughed and asked, "You expect to make out of these stupid children such characters, such hearts as yours?" "No—but better ones." He shook his head and said I had put him into good humor. I don't know what he meant. I've been acting like Sancho to-day—rushing up stairs two at a time, frisking about, catching up Miss J—— in all her maiden dignity and tossing her right into the midst of our bed. Who's going to be "schoolma'am" out of school? Not I! I mean to be just as funny as I please, and what's more I'll make Miss —— funny, too,—that I will! She'd have so much more health—Christian health, I mean—if she would leave off trying to get to heaven in such a dreadful bad "way." I can't think religion makes such a long, gloomy face. It must be that she is wrong, or else I am. I wonder which? Why it's all sunshine to me—and all clouds to her! Poor Miss ——, you might be so happy!

April 9th.—Holiday. We all took a long walk, which I enjoyed highly. I was in a half moralising mood all the way, wanted to be by myself very much. We talked more than usual about home and I grew so sad. Oh, I wonder if anybody loves me as I love! I wonder! I long for mother, and if I could just see her and know that she is happy and that she will be well again! It is really a curious question with me, whether provided I ever fall in love (for I'll fall in love, else not go in at all) I shall leave off loving mother best of anybody in the world? I suppose I shall be in love sometime or other, but that's nothing to do with me now nor I with it. I've got my hands full to take care of my naughty little self.

17th.—Mrs. Persico got home to-night [10] and what a meeting we had! what rejoicing! How beautiful she looked as she sat in her low chair, and we stood and knelt in a happy circle about her! A queen—an angel—could not have received love and homage with a sweeter grace. Sue Irvine cried an hour for joy and I wished I were one of the crying sort, for I'm sure I was glad enough to do almost anything. Beautiful woman! We sang to her the Welcome Home, Miss F. singing as much with her eyes as with her voice, and Mr. and Mrs. Persico both cried, he like a little child. Oh, that such evenings as this came oftener in one's life! All that was beautiful and good in each of our hidden natures came dancing out to greet her at her coming, and all petty jealousies were so quieted and—why, what a rhapsody I'm writing! And to-morrow, our good better natures tucked away, dear knows where, we shall descend with business-like airs to breakfast, wish each other good morning, pretend that we haven't any hearts. Oh, is this life! I won't believe it. Our good genius has come back to us; now all things will again go on smoothly; once more I can be a little girl and frolic up here instead of playing Miss Dignity down-stairs.

May 7th.—This evening I passed unavoidably through Miss ——'s room. She was reading Byron as usual and looked so wretched and restless, that I could not help yielding to a loving impulse and putting my hand on hers and asking why she was so sad. She told me. It was just what I supposed. She is trying to be happy, and can not find out how; reads Byron and gets sickly views of life; sits up late dreaming about love and lovers; then, too tired to pray or think good thoughts, tosses herself down upon her bed and wishes herself dead. She did not tell me this, to be sure, but I gathered it from her story. I alluded to her religious history and present hopes. She said she did not think continued acts of faith in Christ necessary; she had believed on Him once, and now He would save her whatever she did; and she was not going to torment herself trying to live so very holy a life, since, after all, she should get to heaven just as well through Him as if she had been particularly good (as she termed it). I don't know whether a good or a bad spirit moved me at that minute, but I forgot that I was a mere child in religious knowledge, and talked about my doctrine and made it a very beautiful one to my mind, though I don't think she thought it so. Oh, for what would I give up the happiness of praying for a holy heart—of striving, struggling for it! Yes, it is indeed true that we are to be saved simply, only, apart from our own goodness, through the love of Christ. But who can believe himself thus chosen of God—who can think of and hold communion with Infinite Holiness, and not long for the Divine image in his own soul? It is a mystery to me—these strange doctrines. Is not the fruit of love aspiration after the holy? Is not the act of the new-born soul, when it passes from death unto life, that of desire for assimilation to and oneness with Him who is its all in all? How can love and faith be one act and then cease? I dare not believe—I would not for a universe believe—that my very sense of safety in the love of Christ is not to be just the sense that shall bind me in grateful self-renunciation wholly to His service. Let me be sure of final rest in heaven—sure that at this moment I am really God's own adopted child; and I believe my prayers, my repentings, my weariness of sin, would be just what they now are; nay, more deep, more abundant. Oh, it is because I believe—fully believe that I shall be saved through Christ—that I want to be like Him here upon earth It is because I do not fear final misery that I shrink from sin and defilement here. Oh, that I could put into that poor bewildered heart of hers just the sweet repose upon the ever present Saviour which He has given unto me! The quietness with which my whole soul rests upon Him is such blessed quietness! I shall not soon forget this strange evening.

[1] She refers to this, doubtless, in a note to Mr. Hamlin, dated March 28, 1839. Mr. H. was then in Constantinople. "It seems as if a letter to go so far ought to be a good one, so I am afraid to write to you. But we 'think to you' every day, and hope you think of us sometimes. I have been so happy all winter that I have some happiness to spare, and if you need any you shall have as much as you want."

[2] The sermon was preached by her pastor, the Rev. Dr. Condit, April 19th.

[3] There is one thing I recall as showing the very early religious tendency of Lizzy's mind. It was a little prayer meeting which she held with a few little friends, as long ago as her sister kept school in the large parlor of the house on Middle street, before the death of her father. It assembled at odd hours and in odd places. I also remember her interest in the spiritual welfare of her young companions, after the return of the family from their sojourn in New York. She showed this by accompanying some of us, in the way of encouragement, to Dr. Tyler's inquiry-meeting. Then during the special religious interest of 1838, she felt still more deeply and entered heartily into the rejoicing of those of us who at that time found "peace in believing." The next year I accompanied my elder sister Susan to Richmond, and during my absence she gave up her Christian hope and passed through a season of great darkness and despondency, emerging, however, into the light upon a higher plane of religious experience and enjoyment. She sometimes thought this the very beginning of the life of faith in her soul. But as I used to say to her when the next year we were together at Richmond, it seemed to me quite impossible that any one who had not already received the grace of God, could have felt what she had felt and expressed. I do not doubt in the least that for years she had been a true follower of Christ.—Letter from Miss Ann Louisa P. Lord, dated Portland, December 30, 1878.

[4] It may be proper to say here, that while but few of her letters are given entire, it has not been deemed needful specially to indicate all the omissions. In some instances, also, where two letters, or passages of letters, relate to the same subject, they have been combined.

[5] An excellent little work by Rev. William Nevins, D.D. Dr. Nevins was pastor of the first Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, where he died in 1835, at the age of thirty-seven. He was one of the best preachers and most popular religious writers of his day.

[6] Miss Ann Louisa P. Lord.

[7] Miss Susan Lord.

[8] Referring to a serious accident, by which her mother was for some time deprived of the use of her right hand.

[9] But, singularly enough, it was. President Harrison died April 4, 1841, just a month after his inauguration, and Mr. Tyler succeeded him.

[10] From Philadelphia, where she had undergone a surgical operation.





At Home again. Marriage of her Sister. Ill-Health. Letters. Spiritual Aspiration and Conflict. Perfectionism. "Very, very Happy." Work for Christ what makes Life attractive. Passages from Her Journal. A Point of Difficulty.

Not long after Elizabeth's return from Richmond, her sister was married to the Rev. Albert Hopkins, Professor in Williams College. The wedding had been delayed for her coming. "I would rather wait six years than not have you present," her sister wrote. This event brought her into intimate relations with a remarkable man; a man much beloved in his day, and whose name will often reappear in these pages.

The next two or three months showed that her Richmond life, although so full of happy experiences, had yet drawn heavily upon her strength. They were marked by severe nervous excitement and fits of depression. This, however, passed away and she settled down again into a busy home life. But it was no longer the home life of the past. The year of absence had left a profound impression upon her character. Her mind and heart had undergone a rapid development. She was only twenty-two on her return, and had still all the fresh, artless simplicity of a young girl, but there was joined to it now the maturity of womanhood. Of the rest of the year a record is preserved in letters to her cousin. These letters give many little details respecting her daily tasks and the life she led in the family and in the world; but they are chiefly interesting for the light they shed upon her progress heavenward. Her whole soul was still absorbed in divine things. At times her delight in them was sweet and undisturbed; then again, she found herself tossed to and fro upon the waves of spiritual conflict. Perfectionism was just then much discussed, and the question troubled her not a little, as it did again thirty years later. But whether agitated or at rest, her thoughts all centered in Christ, and her constant prayer was for more love to Him.

PORTLAND, Sept. 15, 1841.

The Lord Jesus is indeed dear to me. I can not doubt it. His name is exceedingly precious. Oh, help me, my dear cousin, to love Him more, to attain His image, to live only for Him! I blush and am ashamed when I consider how inadequate are the returns I am making Him; yet I can praise Him for all that is past and trust Him for all that is to come. I can not tell you how delightful prayer is. I feel that in it I have communion with God—that He is here—that He is mine and that I am His. I long to make progress every day, each minute seems precious, and I constantly tremble lest I should lose one in returning, instead of pressing forward with all my strength. No, not my strength, for I have none, but with all which the Lord gives me. How can I thank you enough that you pray for me!

Sept. 18th.—I am all the time so nervous that life would be insupportable if I had not the comfort of comforts to rejoice in. I often think mother would not trust me to carry the dishes to the closet, if she knew how strong an effort I have to make to avoid dashing them all to pieces. When I am at the head of the stairs I can hardly help throwing myself down, and I believe it a greater degree of just such a state as this which induces the suicide to put an end to his existence. It was never so bad with me before. Do you know anything of such a feeling as this? To-night, for instance, my head began to feel all at once as if it were enlarging till at last it seemed to fill the room, and I thought it large enough to carry away the house. Then every object of which I thought enlarged in proportion. When this goes off the sense of the contraction is equally singular. My head felt about the size of a pin's head; our church and everybody in it appeared about the bigness of a cup, etc. These strange sensations terminate invariably with one still more singular and particularly pleasant. I can not describe it—it is a sense of smoothness and a little of dizziness. If you never had such feelings this will be all nonsense to you, but if you have and can explain them to me, why I shall be indeed thankful. I have been subject to them ever since I can remember. I never met with a physician yet who seemed to know what is the matter with me, or to care a fig whether I got well or not. All they do is to roll up their eyes and shake their heads and say, "Oh!" ... As to the wedding, we had a regular fuss, so that I hardly knew whether I was in the body or out of it. The Professor was here only two days. He is very eminently holy, his friends say, and from what I saw of him, I should think it true. This was the point which interested sister in him. As soon as the wedding was over my spirits departed and fled. It is true enough that "marriage involves one union, but many separations."

Oct. 17th.—We had a most precious sermon this afternoon from the Baptist minister on the words, "Christ is all and in all." I longed to have you hear the Saviour thus dwelt upon. I did not know how full the Apostles were of His praise—how constantly they dwelt upon Him, till it was spread before me thus in one delightful view. Oh, may He become our all—our beginning and our ending—our first and our last! I do love to hear Him thus honored and adored. Let us, dear cousin, look at our Saviour more. Let us never allow aught to come between our hearts and our God. Speak to me as to your own soul, urging me onward, and if you do not see the fruits of your faithfulness here, may you see when sowing is turned to reaping.

Oct. 24th.—I must call upon you to rejoice with me that I have to-day got back my old Sunday-school class. I wondered at their being so earnest about having me again, yet I trust that God has given me this hold upon their affections for some good purpose.... I do not know exactly how to discriminate between the suggestions of Satan and those of my own heart, but for a week past, even while my inclinations and my will were set upon Christ, something followed me in my down-sittings and my uprisings, urging me to hate the Lord Jesus; asking if His strict requirements were not too strait to be endured; and it has grieved me deeply that such a thought could find its way into my mind. "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not" is my last refuge. How graciously did Jesus provide a separate consolation for each difficulty which He foresaw could meet His disciples on their way.

Nov. 8th.—Mother has been sick. The doctor feared inflammation of the brain; but she is better now. I have had my first experience as a nurse, and Dr. Mighels says I am a good one.

Whenever I think of God's wonderful, wonderful goodness to me and of my own sinfulness, I want to find a place low at the foot of the cross where I may cover my face in the dust, and yet go on praising Him. You do not know how all things have been made new to me within less than two years. Still, I struggle fiercely every hour of my life. For instance, my desire to be much beloved by those dear to me, is a source of constant grief. Some weeks ago, a person, who probably did not know this, told me that I was remarkably lovable and that everybody said so. I was so foolish, so wicked, as to be more pleased by this than I dare to tell—but enough so to give me after-hours of bitter sorrow. Sometimes it seems to me that I grow prouder every day, and I wanted to ask mother if she did not think so; but I thought perhaps God is showing me my pride as I had never seen it that I may wage war against this, His enemy and mine. I do not believe anybody else has such an evil nature as I. But let us never rest till we are satisfied with being counted as nothing, that our Saviour may be all in all. It seems no small portion of the joy I long for in heaven, to be thus self-forgetful in love to Christ. How strange that we do not now supremely love Him. How I do long to live with those who praise Him. I long to have every Christian with whom I meet speak of Him with love and exalt Him. [1]

Nov. 12th.—I have been very unwell and low-spirited. The cause of this, folks seem to agree, was over-exertion during mother's sickness. To tell the truth, I was so anxious about her that I did not try to save my strength at all, and excitement kept me up, so that I was not conscious of any special fatigue till all was over and the reaction came, when I just went into a dead-and-alive state and had the "blues" outrageously. It seemed as if I could do nothing but fold my hands and cry.

Sister is coming home this winter. I would like you to see this letter of hers. She is as nearly a perfectionist now as your father is. She begs me to read the New Testament and to pray for a knowledge of the truth. And so I have for a year and a half, and this is what I learn thereby: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked"—at least such I find mine to be. To be sure, that I am not perfect is no proof that I may not become so; however, I feel most sympathy with those who, like Martyn, Brainerd, and my father, had to fight their way through. Yet her remarks threw my mind into great confusion at first and I knew not what to do; thereupon I went at once with my difficulties to the Lord and tried to seek the truth, whatever it might be, from Him. It seems to me that I am safe while in His hands, and that if those things are essential, He will not withhold them from me. Truly, if there is a royal road to holiness, and if in one moment of time sin may be crushed and forever slain, I of all others should know it; for at present the way is thronged with difficulties. [2] It seems to me that I am made of wants"—I need everything. At the same time, how great is the goodness of God to me! I long to have my heart so filled with the one single image of my Redeemer, that it shall ever flow in spontaneous adoration. Such a Saviour! I am pained to the very depths of my soul because I love Him so little.... If I am only purified and made entirely the Lord's, let Him take His own course and make the refining process ever so painful.

"When the shore is won at last, Who will count the billows past?"

Dec. 16th.—Do you remember what father said about losing his will when near the close of his life? That remark has always made the subject of a lost will interesting to me. There is another place where he wishes he had known this blessedness twenty years before. [3]

Dec. 18th.—"I am very, very happy; and yet it is hardly a happiness which I can describe. You know what it is to rejoice in the sweet consciousness that there is a Saviour—a near and a present Saviour; and thus am I now rejoicing; grateful to Him for His holy nature, for His power over me, for His dealings with me, for a thousand things which I can only try to express to Him. Oh, how excellent above all treasures does He now appear! One minute of nearness to the Lord Jesus contains more of delight than years spent in intercourse with any earthly friend. I could not but own to-night that God can make me happy without a right hand or a right eye. Lord, make me Thine, and I will cheerfully give Thee all.

Dec. 22d.—"As to my Italian and Tasso, I am ashamed to tell you how slow I have been. Between company and housework and sewing I have my hands about full, and precious little time for reading and study. Still, I feel that I live a life of too much ease. I should love to spend the rest of my existence in the actual service of the Lord, without a question as to its ease and comfort. Reading Brainerd this afternoon made me long for his loose hold on earthly things. I do not know how to attain to such a spirit. Is it by prayer alone and the consequent sense of the worth of Divine things that this deadness to the world is to be gained—or, by giving up, casting away the treasures which withdraw the heart or have a tendency to withdraw it from God? This is quite an interesting question to me now, and I should really like it settled. The thought of living apart from God is more dreadful than any affliction I can think of.

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