The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss
by George L. Prentiss
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Saturday.—I am a mere baby when I think of your getting sick in this time of almost universal sickness and sorrow and death.... Yesterday Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Leonard took me, with Sophia and baby, to the cemetery, and on a long ride of three hours—all of which was delightful. In the afternoon baby had an ill-turn which alarmed me excessively, because so many children are sick, but I gave her medicine and think she will soon be well again. Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Randall and others sent me yesterday a dozen large peaches, two melons, a lot of shell-beans and tomatoes, a dish of blackberries and some fried corn-cakes—not an atom of the whole of which shall I touch, taste, handle, or smell; so you need not fear my killing myself. Mrs. Capt. Delano, where the Rev. Mr. Brock from England stayed, has just lost two children after a few days' illness. They were buried in one coffin. Old Gideon Howland, the richest man here, is also dead. The papers are full of deaths. Our dear baby is nine months old to-day, and may God, if He sees best, spare her to us as many more; and if He does not, I feel as if I could give her up to Him—but we don't know what we can do till the time comes. I hear her sweet little voice down stairs and it sounds happy, so I guess she feels pretty comfortable.

Sabbath Evening.—The baby is better, and I dare say it is my imagination that says she looks pale and puny. She is now asleep in your study, where too I am sitting in your chair. I came down as soon as I could this morning, and have stayed here all day. It is so quiet and pleasant among your books and papers, and it was so dull up-stairs! I thought before your letter came, while standing over the green, grassy graves of Lizzie Read, Mary Rodman, and Mrs. Cadwell, [7] how I should love to have dear Abby in such a green, sweet spot, where we could sometimes go together to talk of her. I must own I should like to be buried under grass and trees, rather than cold stone and heavy marble. Should not you?

* * * * *


Birth of a Son. Death of her Mother. Her Grief. Letters. Eddy's Illness and her own Cares. A Family Gathering at Newburyport. Extracts from Eddy's Journal.

Passing over another year, which was marked by no incidents requiring special mention, we come again to a birth and a death in close conjunction. On the 22d of October, 1848, her second child, Edward Payson, was born. On the 17th of November, her mother died. Of the life of this child she herself has left a minute record, portions of which will be given later. In a letter to his sister, dated New Bedford, November 21st, her husband thus refers to her mother's departure:

We have just received the sad intelligence of Mother Payson's death. She passed away very peacefully, as if going to sleep, at half-past five on Friday afternoon. Dear Lizzy was at first quite overwhelmed, as I knew she would be—for her attachment to her mother was uncommonly tender and devoted; but she is now perfectly tranquil and will soon, I trust, be able to think of her irreparable loss with a melancholy pleasure even. There is much in the case that is peculiarly fitted to produce a cheerful resignation. Mrs. Payson has been a severe sufferer; and since the breaking up of her home in Portland, she has felt, I think, an increasing detachment from the world. I was exceedingly struck with this during her visit here last winter. She seemed to me to be fast ripening for heaven. It is such a comfort to us that she was able to name our little boy! [8]

Mrs. Payson died in the 65th year of her age. She was a woman of most attractive and admirable qualities, full of cheerful life and energy, and a whole-hearted disciple of Jesus. A few extracts from Mrs. Prentiss' letters will show how deeply she felt her loss. To her youngest brother she writes:

How gladly I would go, if I could, to see you all, and talk over with you the thousand things that are filling our minds and hearts! We can not drain this bitter cup at one draught and then go on our way as though it had never been. The loss of a mother is never made up or atoned for; and ours was such a mother; so peculiar in her devotion and tenderness and sympathy! I can not mourn that her sorrowful pilgrimage is over, can not think for a moment of wishing she were still on earth, weeping and praying and suffering—but for myself and for you and for all I mourn with hourly tears. She has sacrificed herself for us.

To her friend, Miss Lord, she writes, Jan. 31:

It seems to me that every day and hour I miss my dear mother more and more, and I feel more and more painfully how much she suffered during her last years and months. Dear Louise, I thought I knew that she could not live long, but I never realised it, and even now I keep trying to hope that she has not really gone. Just in this very spot where I now sit writing, my dear mother's great easy-chair used to sit, and here, only a year ago, she was praying for and loving me. O, if I had only known she was dying then, and could have talked with her about heaven till it had grown to seeming like a home to which she was going, and whither I should follow her sooner or later! But it is all over and I would not have her here again, if the shadow of a wish could restore her to us. I only earnestly long to be fitting, day by day, to meet her again in heaven. God has mingled many great mercies with this affliction, and I do not know that I ever in my life so felt the delight of praying to and thanking Him. When I begin to pray I have so much to thank Him for, that I hardly know how to stop. I have always thought I would not for the universe be left unchastised—and now I feel the smart, I still can say so. Lotty's visit was a great comfort and service to me, but I was very selfish in talking to her so much about my own loss, while she was so great a sufferer under hers. Since she left my little boy has been worse than ever and pined away last week very rapidly. You can form no idea, by any description of his sufferings, of what the dear little creature has undergone since his birth. I feel a perfect longing to see Portland and mother's many dear friends there, especially your mother and a few like her. I am very tired as I have written a great part of this with baby in my lap—so I can write no more.

To Mrs. Stearns, Feb. 17, 1849.

Dear little Eddy has found life altogether unkind thus far, and I have had many hours of heartache on his account but I hope he may weather the storm and come out safely yet. The doctor examined him all over yesterday, particularly his head, and said he could not make him out a sick child, but that he thought his want of flesh owing partly to his sufferings but more to the great loss of sleep occasioned by his sufferings. Instead of sleeping twelve hours out of the twenty-four, he sleeps but about seven and that by means of laudanum. Isn't it a mercy that I have been able to bear so well the fatigue and care and anxiety of these four hard months? I feel that I have nothing to complain of, and a great deal to be thankful for. On the whole, notwithstanding my grief about my dear mother's loss, and my perplexity and distress about baby, I have had as much real happiness this winter as it is possible for one to glean in such unfavorable circumstances. By far the greatest trial I have to contend with, is that of losing all power to control my time. A little room all of my own, and a regular hour, morning and night, all of my own would enable me, I think, to say, "Now let life do its worst!"

I am no stranger, I assure you, to the misgivings you describe in your last letter; I think them the result of the wish without the will to be holy. We pray for sanctification and then are afraid God will sanctify us by stripping us of our idols and feel distressed lest we can not have them and Him too. Reading the life of Madame Guyon gave me great pain and anxiety, I remember. I thought that if such spiritual darkness and trial as she was in for many years, was a necessary attendant on eminent piety, I could not summon courage to try to live such a life. Of all the anguish in the world there is nothing like this—the sense of God, without the sense of nearness to Him. I wish you would always "think aloud" when you write to me. I long to see you and the children and Mr. S., and so does George. Poor G. has had a very hard time of it ever since little Eddy's birth—so much care and worry and sleeplessness and labor, and how he is ever to get any rest I don't see. These are the times that try our souls. Let nobody condole with me about our bodies. It is the struggle to be patient and gentle and cheerful, when pressed down and worn upon and distracted, that costs us so much. I think when I have had all my children, if there is anything left of me, I shall write about the "Battle of Life" more eloquently than Dickens has done. I had a pleasant dream about mother and Abby the other night. They came together to see me and both seemed so well and so happy! I feel perfectly happy now, that my dear mother has gone home.

To the Same, May 7, 1849.

I used to think it hard to be sick when I had dear mother hanging over me, doing all she could for my relief, but it is harder to be denied the poor comfort of being let alone and to have to drag one's self out of bed to take care of a baby. Mr. Stearns must know how to pity me, for my real sick headaches are very like his, and when racked with pain, dizzy, faint and exhausted with suffering, starvation and sleeplessness, it is terrible to have to walk the room with a crying child! I thought as I lay, worn out even to childishness, obliged for the baby's sake to have a bright sunlight streaming into the chamber, and to keep my eyes and ears on the alert for the same cause, how still we used to think the house must be left when my father had these headaches and how mother busied herself all day long about him, and how nice his little plate of hot steak used to look, as he sat up to eat it when the sickness had gone—and how I am suffering here all alone with nobody to give me even a look of encouragement. George was out of town on my sickest day. When he was at home he did everything in the world he could do to keep the children still, but here they must be and I must direct about every trifle and have them on the bed with me. I am getting desperate and feel disposed to run furiously in the traces till I drop dead on the way. Don't think me very wicked for saying so. I am jaded in soul and body and hardly know what I do want. If T. comes, George, at all events, will get relief and that will take a burden from my mind.... I want Lina to come this summer. There is a splendid swing on iron hooks under a tree, at the house we are going to move into. Won't that be nice for Jeanie and Mary's other children, if they come? I wish I had a little fortune, not for myself but to gather my "folks" together with. I shall not write you, my dear, another complaining letter; do excuse this.

This letter shows the extremity of her trouble; but it is a picture, merely. The reality was something beyond description; only young mothers, who know it by experience, can understand its full meaning. Now, however, the storm for a while abated. The young relative, whose loving devotion had ministered to the comfort of her dying mother, came to her own relief and passed the next six months at New Bedford, helping take care of Eddy. In the course of the spring, too, his worst symptoms disappeared and hope took the place of fear and despondency. Referring to this period, his mother writes in Eddy's journal:

On the Saturday succeeding his birth, we heard of my dear mother's serious illness, and, when he was about three weeks old, of her death. We were not surprised that his health suffered from the shock it thus received. He began at once to be affected with distressing colic, which gave him no rest day or night. His father used to call him a "little martyr," and such indeed he was for many long, tedious months. On the 16th of February, the doctor came and spent two hours in carefully investigating his case. He said it was a most trying condition of things, and he would gladly do something to relieve me, as he thought I had been through "enough to kill ten men." ... When Eddy was about eight months old, the doctor determined to discontinue the use of opiates. He was now a fine, healthy baby, bright-eyed and beautiful, and his colic was reducing itself to certain seasons on each day, instead of occupying the whole day and night as heretofore. We went through fire and water almost in trying to procure for him natural sleep. We swung him in blankets, wheeled him in little carts, walked the room with him by the hour, etc., etc., but it was wonderful how little sleep he obtained after all. He always looked wide awake and as if he did not need sleep. His eyes had gradually become black, and when, after a day of fatigue and care with him he would at last close them, and we would flatter ourselves that now we too should snatch a little rest, we would see them shining upon us in the most amusing manner with an expression of content and even merriment. About this time he was baptized. I well remember how in his father's study, and before taking him to church, we gave him to God. He was very good while his papa was performing the ceremony, and looked so bright and so well, that many who had never seen him in his state of feebleness, found it hard to believe he had been aught save a vigorous and healthy child. My own health was now so broken down by long sleeplessness and fatigue, that it became necessary for me to leave home for a season. Dr. Mayhew promised to run in every day to see that all went well with Eddy. His auntie was more than willing to take this care upon herself, and many of our neighbors offered to go often to see him, promising to do everything for his safety and comfort if I would only go. Not aware how miserable a state I was in, I resolved to be absent only one week, but was away for a whole month.

A part of the month, with her husband and little daughter, she passed at Newburyport. His brother, S. S. Prentiss—whose name was then renowned all over the land as an orator and patriot—had come North for the last time, bringing his wife and children with him. It was a never-to-be-forgotten family gathering under the aged mother's roof.

On my return (she continues in Eddy's journal) I found him looking finely. He had had an ill-turn owing to teething which they had kept from me, but had recovered from it and looked really beautiful. His father and uncle S. S. had been to see him once during our vacation, and we were now expecting them again with his Aunt Mary and her three children and his grandmother. We depended a great deal on seeing Eddy and Una together, as she was his twin cousin and only a few hours older than he. But on the very evening of their arrival he was taken sick, and, although they all saw him that night looking like himself, by the next morning he had changed sadly. He grew ill and lost flesh and strength very fast, and no remedies seemed to have the least effect on his disorder, which was one induced by teething.... For myself I did not believe anything could now save my precious baby, and had given him to God so unreservedly, that I was not conscious of even a wish for his life.... When at last we saw evident tokens of returning health and strength, we felt that we received him a second time as from the grave. To me he never seemed the same child. My darling Eddy was lost to me and another—and yet the same—filled his place. I often said afterward that a little stranger was running about my nursery, not mine, but God's. Indeed, I can't describe the peculiar feelings with which I always regarded him after this sickness, nor how the thought constantly met me, "He is not mine; he is God's." Every night I used to thank Him for sparing him to me one day longer; thus truly enjoying him a day at a time.

An extract from a letter to Miss Lord, written on the anniversary of her mother's death, will close the account of this year.

If I were in Portland now, I should go right down to see you. I feel just like having a dear, old-fashioned talk with you. I was thinking how many times death had entered that old Richmond circle of which you and I once formed a part; Mrs. Persico, Susan, Charlotte Ford, Kate Kennedy, and now our own dearest Lotty, all gone. I can not tell you how much I miss and grieve for Lotty. [9] I can not be thankful enough that I went to Portland in the summer and had that last week with her, nor for her most precious visit here last winter. Whenever you think of any little thing she said, I want you to write it down for me, no matter whether it seems worth writing or not. I know by experience how precious such things are. This is a sad day to me. Indeed, all of this month has been so, recalling as it has done, all I was suffering at this time last year, and all my dear mother was then suffering. I can hardly realise that she has been in heaven a whole year, and that I feel her loss as vividly as if it were but yesterday—indeed, more so. I do not feel that this affliction has done me the good that it ought to have done and that I hoped it would. As far as I have any excuse it lies in my miserable health. I want so much to be more of a Christian; to live a life of constant devotion. Do tell me, when you write, if you have such troubled thoughts, and such difficulty in being steadfast and unmovable? Oh, how I sigh for the sort of life I led in Richmond, and which was more or less the life of the succeeding years at home! My husband tries to persuade me that the difference is more in my way of life, and that then being my time for contemplation, now is my time for action. But I know, myself, that I have lost ground. You must bear me in mind when you pray, my dear Louise, for I never had so much need of praying nor so little time or strength for it.

* * * * *


Further Extracts from Eddy's Journal. Ill-health. Visit to Newark. Death of her Brother-in-law, S. S. Prentiss. His Character. Removal to Newark. Letters.

The record of the new year opens with this entry in Eddy's journal:

January, 1850.—Eddy is now fourteen months old, has six teeth, and walks well, but with timidity. He is, at times, really beautiful. He is very affectionate, and will run to meet me, throw his little arms round my neck and keep pat-pat-patting me, with delight. Miss Arnold sent him, at New Year's, a pretty ball, with which he is highly pleased. He rolls it about by knocking it with a stick, and will shout for joy when he sees it moving. He is crazy to give everybody something, and when he is brought down to prayers, hurries to get the Bible for his father, his little face all smiles and exultation, and his body in a quiver with emotion. He is like lightning in all his movements, and is never still for an instant. It is worth a good deal to see his face, it is so brimful of life and sunshine and gladness.

Her letters, written during the winter and spring, show how in the midst of bodily suffering, depression, and sorrow her views of life were changing and her faith in God growing stronger. Three of her brothers were now in California, seeking their fortunes in the newly-discovered gold mines. To one of them she writes, March 10th:

I was delighted yesterday by the reception of your letter. I do not wonder that Lotty's death affected you as it did—but however sharp the instruments by which these lessons come to us, they are full of good when they do come. As I look back to the time when I did not know what death was doing and could do, I seem to myself like a child who has not yet been to school. The deaths of our dear mother and of Lotty have taken fast hold of me. Life is entirely changed. I do not say this in a melancholy or repining temper, for I would not have life appear otherwise than in its true light. All my sickly, wicked disgust with it has been put to the blush and driven away. I see now that to live for God, whether one is allowed ability to be actively useful or not, is a great thing, and that it is a wonderful mercy to be allowed to live and suffer even, if thereby one can glorify Him. I desire to live if it is God's will, though I confess heaven looks most attractive when either sin, sorrow, or sickness weary me. But I must not go on at this rate, for I could not in writing begin to tell you how different everything looks as I advance into a knowledge of life and see its awful sorrows and sufferings and changes and know that I am subject to all its laws, soon to take my turn in its mysterious close. My dear brother, let us learn by heart the lessons we are learning, and go in their strength and wisdom all our days.... Our children are well. Eddy has gone to be weighed (he weighed twenty-four pounds). He is a fine little fellow. I have his nurse still, and ought to be in excellent health, but am a nervous old thing, as skinny and bony as I can be. I can think of nothing but birds' claws when I look at my hands. But I have so much to be thankful for in my dear husband and my sweet little children, and love all of you so dearly, that I believe I am as rich as if I had the flesh and strength of a giant. I am going this week to hear Miss Arnold read a manuscript novel. This will give spice to my life. Warmest love to you all.

Again, May 10th, she writes:

It would be a great pleasure to me to keep a journal for you if I were well enough, but I am not. I have my sick headache now once a week, and it makes me really ill for about three days. Towards night of the third day I begin to brighten up and to eat a morsel, but hardly recover my strength before I have another pull-down, just as I had got to this point the door-bell rang, and lo! a beautiful May-basket hanging on the latch for "Annie," full of pretty and good things. I can hardly wait till morning to see how her eyes will shine and her little feet fly when she sees it. George has been greatly distressed about S. S., and has, I think, very little, if any, hope that he will recover. Dr. Tappan [10] spent Tuesday night here. We had a really delightful visit from him. He spoke highly of your classmate, Craig, who is just going to be married. He told us a number of pleasant anecdotes about father. Eddy has got big enough to walk in the street. He looks like a little picture, with his great forehead and bright eyes. He is in every way as large as most children are at two years. His supreme delight is to tease A. by making believe strike her or in some other real boy's hateful way. She and he play together on the grass-plat, and I feel quite matronly as I sit watching them with their balls and wheel-barrows and whatnots. This little scamp has, I fear, broken my constitution to pieces. It makes me crawl all over when I think of you three fagging all day at such dull and unprofitable labor. But I am sure Providence will do what is really best for you all. We think and talk of and pray for you every day and more than once a day, and, in all my ill-health and sufferings, the remembrance of you is pleasant and in great measure refreshing. I depend more upon hearing from you all than I can describe. What an unconquerable thing family affection is!

She thus writes, May 30th, to her old Portland friend, Miss Lord:

I have written very few letters and not a line of anything else the past winter, owing to the confusion my mind is in most of the time from distress in my head. Three days out of every seven I am as sick as I well can be—the rest of the time languid, feeble, and exhausted by frequent faint turns, so that I can't do the smallest thing in my family. I hardly know what it is so much as to put a clean apron on to one of my children. To me this is a constant pain and weariness; for our expense in the way of servants is greater than we can afford and everything is going to destruction under my face and eyes, while I dare not lift a finger to remedy it. I live in constant alternations of hope and despondency about my health. Whenever I feel a little better, as I do to-day, I am sanguine and cheerful, but the next ill-turn depresses me exceedingly. I don't think there is any special danger of my dying, but there is a good deal of my getting run down beyond the power of recovery, and of dragging out that useless existence of which I have a perfect horror. But I would not have you think I am not happy; for I can truly say that I am, most of the time, as happy as I believe one can be in this world. All my trials and sufferings shut me up to the one great Source of peace, and I know there has been need of every one of them.

I have not yet made my plans for the summer. Our doctor urges me to go away from the children and from the salt water, but I do not believe it would do me a bit of good. I want you to see my dear little boy. He is now nineteen months old and as fat and well as can be. He is a beautiful little fellow, we think, and very interesting. He is as gallant to A. as you please, and runs to get a cushion for her when their supper is carried in, and won't eat a morsel himself till he sees her nicely fixed. George has gone to Boston, and I am lonely enough. I would write another sheet if I dared, but I don't dare.

What she here says of her happiness, amidst the trials of the previous winter, is repeated a little later in a letter to her husband:

I can truly say I have not spent a happier winter since our marriage, in spite of all my sickness. It seems to me I can never recover my spirits and be as I have been in my best days, but what I lose in one way perhaps I shall gain in another. Just think how my ambition has been crushed at every point by my ill-health, and even the ambition to be useful and a comfort to those about me trampled underfoot, to teach me what I could not have learned in any other school!

In the month of June she went on a visit to Newark, New Jersey, where her husband's mother and sister now resided; Dr. Stearns having in the fall of 1849 accepted a call to the First Presbyterian church in that city. While she was in Newark news came of the dangerous illness, and, soon after, of the death at Natchez of her brother-in-law, Mr. S. S. Prentiss. The event was a great shock to her, and she knew that it would be a crushing blow to her husband. Her letters to him, written at this time, are full of the tender love and sympathy that infuse solace into sorrow-stricken hearts. Here is an extract from one of them, dated July 11th:

I can't tell you how it grieves and distresses me to have had this long-dreaded affliction come upon you when you were alone. Though I could do so little to comfort you, it seems as if I must be near you.... But I know I am doing right in staying here—doing as you would tell me to do, if I could have your direct wish, and you don't know how thankful I am that it has pleased God to let me be with dear mother at a time when she so needed constant affection and sympathy. Yes there are wonderful mercies with this heavy affliction, and we all see and feel them. Poor mother has borne all the dreadful suspense and then the second blow of to-day far better than any of us dared to hope, but she weeps incessantly. Anna is with her all she can possibly be, and Mr. Stearns is an angel of mercy. I have prayed for you a great deal this week, and I know God is with you, comforts you, and will enable you to bear this great sorrow. And yet I can't help feeling that I want to comfort you myself. Oh, may we all reap its blessed fruits as long as we live! Let us withdraw a while from everything else, that we may press nearer to God.

We were in a state of terrible suspense all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, and until noon to-day; starting at every footfall, expecting telegraphic intelligence either from you or from the South, and deplorably ignorant of Seargent's alarming condition, notwithstanding all the warning we had had. With one consent we had put far off the evil day.... And now I must bid you good-night, my dearest husband, praying that you may be the beloved of the Lord and rest in safety by Him.

The early years of Mrs. Prentiss' married life were in various ways closely connected with that of this lamented brother; so much so that he may be said to have formed one of the most potent, as well as one of the sunniest, influences in her own domestic history. Not only was he very highly gifted, intellectually, and widely known as a great orator, but he was also a man of extraordinary personal attractions, endeared to all his friends by the sweetness of his disposition, by his winning ways, his wit, his playful humor, his courage, his boundless generosity, his fraternal and filial devotion, and by the charm of his conversation. His death at the early age of forty-one called forth expressions of profound sorrow and regret from the first men of the nation. After the lapse of nearly a third of a century his memory is still fresh and bright in the hearts of all, who once knew and loved him. [11]

Notwithstanding the shock of this great affliction, Mrs. Prentiss returned to New Bedford much refreshed in body and mind. In a letter to her friend Miss Lord, dated September 14th, she writes:

I spent six most profitable weeks at Newark; went out very little, saw very few people, and had the quiet and retirement I had long hungered and thirsted for. Since I have had children my life has been so distracted with care and sickness that I have sometimes felt like giving up in despair, but this six weeks' rest gave me fresh courage to start anew. I have got some delightful books—Manning's Sermons. [12] They are (letting the High-churchism go) most delightful; I think Susan would have feasted on them. But she is feasting on angels' food and has need of none of these things.

In October of this year Mrs. Prentiss bade adieu to New Bedford, never to revisit it, and removed to Newark; her husband having become associate pastor of the Second Presbyterian church in that place. In the spring of the following year he accepted a call to the Mercer street Presbyterian church in New York, and that city became her home the rest of her days. Although she tarried so short a time in Newark, she received much kindness and formed warm friendships while there. She continued to suffer much, however, from ill-health and almost entirely suspended her correspondence. A few letters to New Bedford friends are all that relate to this period. In one to Mrs. J. P. Allen, dated November 2d, she thus refers to an accident, which came near proving fatal:

Yesterday we went down to New York to hear Jenny Lind; a pleasure to remember for the rest of one's life. If anything, she surpassed our expectations. In coming home a slight accident to the cars obliged us to walk about a mile, and I must needs fall into a hole in the bridge which we were crossing, and bruise and scrape one knee quite badly. The wonder is that I did not go into the river, as it was a large hole, and pitch dark. I think if I had been walking with Mr. Prentiss I should not only have gone in myself, but pulled him in too; but I had the arm of a stronger man, who held me up till I could extricate myself. You can't think how I miss you, nor how often I wish you could run in and sit with me, as you used to do. I have always loved you, and shall remember you and yours with the utmost interest. We had a pleasant call the other day from Captain Gibbs. Seeing him made me homesick enough. I could hardly keep from crying all the time he stayed. It seems to us both as if we had been gone from New Bedford more months than we have days. Mr. Prentiss said yesterday that he should expect if he went back directly, to see the boys and girls grown up and married.

To Mrs. Reuben Nye, Newark, Feb 12, 1851.

Mr. Prentiss and Mr. Poor have just taken Annie and Eddy out to walk, and I have been moping over the fire and thinking of New Bedford friends, and wishing one or more would "happen in." I am just now getting over a severe attack of rheumatism, which on leaving my back intrenched itself in Mr. P.'s shoulder. I dislike this climate and am very suspicious of it. Everybody has a horrible cold, or the rheumatism, or fever and ague. Mr. Prentiss says if I get the latter, he shall be off for New England in a twinkling. I think he is as well as can be expected while the death of his brother continues so fresh in his remembrance. All the old cheerfulness, which used to sustain me amid sickness and trouble, has gone from him. But God has ordered the iron to enter his soul, and it is not for me to resist that will. Our children are well. We have had much comfort in them both this winter. Mother Prentiss is renewing her youth, it is so pleasant to her to have us all near her. (Eddy and A. are hovering about me, making such a noise that I can hardly write. Eddy says, "When I was tired, Poor tarried me.") Mr. Poor carries all before him. [13] He is very popular throughout the city, and I believe Mrs. P. is much admired by their people. Mr. Prentiss is preaching every Sabbath evening, as Dr. Condit is able to preach every morning now. I feel as much at home as I possibly could anywhere in the same time, but instead of mourning less for my New Bedford friends, I mourn more and more every day.

To Mrs. Allen she writes, Feb. 21:

I know all about those depressed moods, when it costs one as much to smile, or to give a pleasant answer, as it would at other times to make a world. What a change it will be to us poor sickly, feeble, discouraged ones, when we find ourselves where there is neither pain or lassitude or fatigue of the body, or sorrow or care or despondency of the mind!

I miss you more and more. People here are kind and excellent and friendly, but I can not make them, as yet, fill the places of the familiar faces I have left in New Bedford. I am all the time walking through our neighborhood, dropping into Deacon Barker's or your house, or welcoming some of you into our old house on the corner. Eddy is pretty well. He is a sweet little boy, gentle and docile. He learns to talk very fast, and is crazy to learn hymns. He says, "Tinkle, tinkle leetleeverybody, and give 'tatoes to beggar boys." Mother Prentiss seems to thrive on having us all about her. She lives so far off that I see her seldom, but Mr. P. goes every day, except Sundays, when he can't go—rain or shine, tired or not tired, convenient or not convenient. Since my mother's death he has felt that he must do quickly whatever he has to do for his own.

[1] "I found dear Abby still alive and rejoiced beyond expression to see me. She had had a very feeble night, but brightened up towards noon and when I arrived seemed entirely like her old self, smiling sweetly and exclaiming, "This is the last blessing I desired! Oh, how good the Lord is, isn't He?" It was very delightful. The doctor has just been in and he says she may go any instant, and yet may live a day or two. Mother is wonderfully calm and happy, and the house seems like the very gate of heaven.... I so wish you could have seen Abby's smile when I entered her room. And then she inquired so affectionately for you and baby: "Now tell me everything about them." She longs and prays to be gone. There is something perfectly childlike about her expressions and feelings, especially toward mother. She can't bear to have her leave the room and holds her hand a good deal of the time. She sends ever so much love."— Extract from a letter, dated Portland, January 27, 1847.

[2] The late Rev. William T. Dwight, D.D., pastor of the Third Church in Portland. He was a son of President Dwight, an accomplished man, a noble Christian citizen, and one of the ablest preachers of his day. For many years his house almost adjoined Mrs. Payson's, and both he and Mrs. Dwight were among her most cherished friends.

[3] A devoted friend of her father's, one of his deacons, and a genial, warm-hearted, good man.

[4] A niece of her husband, a lovely child, who died a few years later in Georgia.

[5] Rev. James Lewis, a venerated elder and local preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church, then nearly eighty years of age. He died in 1855, universally beloved and lamented. He entered upon his work in 1800. During most of those fifty-five years he was wont to preach every Sabbath, often three times, rarely losing an appointment by sickness, and still more rarely by storms in summer or winter. He lived in Gorham, Maine, and his labors were pretty equally divided among all the towns within fifteen miles round. His rides out and back, often over the roughest roads or through heavy snows, averaged, probably, from fifteen to twenty miles. It was estimated that he had officiated at not less than 1,500 funerals, sometimes riding for the purpose forty miles. His funeral and camp-meeting sermons included, he could not have preached less than from 8,000 to 9,000 times. He never received a dollar of compensation for his ministerial services. Though a hard-working farmer, his hospitality to his itinerant brethren was unbounded. In several towns of Cumberland and adjoining counties, he was the revered patriarch, as half a century earlier he had been the youthful pioneer of Methodism. When he departed to be with Christ, there was no better man in all the State to follow after him.

[6] One of a number of old whaling captains in her husband's congregation, in whom she was interested greatly. They belonged to a class of men sui generis—men who had traversed all oceans, had visited many lands, and were as remarkable for their jovial large-hearted, social qualities, when at home, as for their indomitable energy, Yankee push, and adventurous seamanship, when hunting the monsters of the deep on the other side of the globe.

[7] Two bright girls and a young mother, who had died not long before.

[8] Her sickness lasted six weeks, dating from the day of her being entirely confined to bed. Her life was prolonged much beyond what her physicians or any one else who saw her, had believed possible. During the last week her sufferings were less, and she lay quiet part of the time. Friday morning she had an attack of faintness, in the course of which she remarked "I am dying." She recovered and before noon sank into a somnolent state from which she never awoke. Her breathing became softer and fainter till it ceased at half-past five in the afternoon. Oh, what a transition was that! from pain and weariness and woe to the world of light! to the presence of the Saviour! to unclouded bliss! I felt, and so I believe did all assembled round her bed, that it was time for exultation rather than grief. We could not think of ourselves, so absorbed were we in contemplation of her happiness. She was able to say scarcely anything during her sickness, and left not a single message for the absent children, or directions to those who were present. Her extreme weakness, and the distressing effect of every attempt to speak, made her abandon all such attempts except in answer to questions. But the tenor of her replies to all inquiries was uniform, expressing entire acquiescence in the will of God, confidence in Him through Christ, and a desire to depart as soon as He should permit. Tranquillity and peace, unclouded by a single doubt or fear, seem to have filled her mind. There were several reasons which led us to decide that the interment should take place here; but on the following Saturday a gentleman arrived from Portland, sent by the Second Parish to remove the remains to that place, if we made no objection. As we made none, the body was disinterred and taken to P., my brother G. accompanying it. So that her mortal remains now rest with those of my dear father.—Letter from Mrs. Hopkins to her aunt in New Haven, dated Williamstown, Dec. 1, 1848.

[9] The wife of her brother, Mr. Henry M. Payson.

[10] The Rev. Benjamin Tappan, D.D., an old friend of her father's and one of the patriarchs of the Maine churches.

[11] See appendix B, p. 534, for a brief sketch of his life.

[12] Sermons by Henry Edward Manning, Archdeacon of Chichester (now Cardinal Manning), 1st, 2d, and 3d Series.

[13] The Rev. D. W. Poor, D.D., now of Philadelphia. He had been settled at Fair Haven, near New Bedford, and was then a pastor in Newark.





Removal to New York and first Summer there. Letters. Loss of Sleep and Anxiety about Eddy. Extracts from Eddy's Journal, describing his last Illness and Death. Lines entitled "To my Dying Eddy."

Mrs. Prentiss' removal to New York was an important link in the chain of outward events which prepared her for her special life-work. It introduced her at once into a circle unsurpassed, perhaps, by any other in the country, for its intelligence, its domestic and social virtues, and its earnest Christian spirit. The Mercer street Presbyterian church contained at that time many members whose names were known and honored the world over, in the spheres of business, professional life, literature, philanthropy, and religion; and among its homes were some that seemed to have attained almost the perfection of beauty. In these homes the new pastor's wife soon became an object of tender love and devotion. Here she found herself surrounded by all congenial influences. Her mind and heart alike were refreshed and stimulated in the healthiest manner. And to add to her joy, several dear old friends lived near her and sat in adjoining pews on the Sabbath.

But happy as were the auspices that welcomed her to New York, the experience of the past two years had taught her not to expect too much from any outward conditions. She entered, therefore, upon this new period of her life in a very sober mood. Nor had many months elapsed before she began to hear premonitory murmurs of an incoming sea of trouble. Most of the summer of 1851 she remained in town with the children. An extract from a letter to her youngest brother, dated August 1, will show how she whiled away many a weary hour:

It has been very hot this summer; our house is large and cool, and above all, I have a nice bathing-room opening out of my chamber, with hot and cold water and a shower-bath, which is a world of comfort. We spent part of last week at Rockaway, L. I., visiting a friend. [1] I nearly froze to death, but George and the children were much benefited. I have improved fast in health since we came here. Yesterday I walked two and a half miles with George, and a year ago at this time I could not walk a quarter of a mile without being sick after it for some days. When I feel miserably I just put on my bonnet and get into an omnibus and go rattlety-bang down town; the air and the shaking and the jolting and the sight-seeing make me feel better and so I get along. If I could safely leave my children I should go with George. He hates to go alone and surely I hate to be left alone; in fact instead of liking each other's society less and less, we every day get more and more dependent on each other, and take separation harder and harder. Our children are well.

To her husband, who had gone to visit an old friend, at Harpswell, on the coast of Maine, she writes a few days later:

On Saturday very early Professor Smith called with the House of Seven Gables. I read about half of it in the evening. One sees the hand of the artist as clearly in such a work as in painting, and the hand of a skilful one, too. I have read many books with more interest, but never one in which I was so diverted from the story to a study of the author himself. So far there is nothing exciting in it. I don't know who supplied the pulpit on Sunday morning. The sermon was to young men, which was not so appropriate as it might have been, considering there were no young men present, unless I except our Eddy and other sprigs of humanity of his age. I suppose you will wonder what in the world I let Eddy go for. Well, I took a fancy to let Margaret try him, as nobody would know him in the gallery and he coaxed so prettily to go. He was highly excited at the permission, and as I was putting on his sacque, I directed Margaret to take it off if he fell asleep. "Ho! I shan't go to sleep," quoth he; "Christ doesn't have rocking-chairs in His house." He set off in high spirits, and during the long prayer I heard him laugh loud; soon after I heard a rattling as of a parasol and Eddy saying, "There it is!" by which time Margaret, finding he was going to begin a regular frolic, sagely took him out.

August 7th—The five girls from Brooklyn all spent yesterday here. They had a regular frolic towards night, bathing and shower-bathing. Afterwards we all went on top of the house. It was very pleasant up there. I took the children to Barnum's Museum, as I proposed doing. They were delighted, particularly with the "Happy Family," which consisted of cats, rats, birds, dogs, rabbits, monkeys, etc., etc., dwelling together in unity. I observed that though the cats forbore to lay a paw upon the rats and mice about them, they yet took a melancholy pleasure in looking at these dainty morsels, from which nothing could persuade them to turn off their eyes. I am glad that you got away from New Bedford alive and that you did not stay longer, but hearing about our friends there made me quite long to see them myself. Do have just the best time in the world at Harpswell, and don't let the Rev. Elijah drown you for the sake of catching your mantle as you go down. I dare not tell you how much I miss you, lest you should think I do not rejoice in your having this vacation. May God bless and keep you.

During the autumn she suffered much again from feeble health and incessant loss of sleep. "I have often thought," she wrote to a friend, "that while so stupefied by sickness I should not be glad to see my own mother if I had to speak to her." But neither sick days nor sleepless nights could quench the Brightness of her spirit or wholly spoil her enjoyment of life. A little diary which she kept contains many gleams of sunshine, recording pleasant visits from old friends, happy hours and walks with the children, excursions to Newark, and how "amazingly" she "enjoyed the boys" (her brothers) on their return from the pursuit of golden dreams in California. In the month of November the diary shows that her watchful eye observed in Eddy signs of disease, which filled her with anxiety. Before the close of the year her worst fears began to be realised. She wrote, Dec. 31: "I am under a constant pressure of anxiety about Eddy. How little we know what the New Year will bring forth." Early in January, 1852, his symptoms assumed a fatal type, and on the 16th of the same month the beautiful boy was released from his sufferings, and found rest in the kingdom of heaven, that sweet home of the little children. A few extracts from Eddy's journal will tell the story of his last days:

On the 19th of December the Rev. Mr. Poor was here. On hearing of it, Eddy said he wanted to see him. As he took now so little interest in anything that would cost him an effort, I was surprised, but told Annie to lead him down to the parlor; on reaching it they found Mr. Poor not there, and they then went up to the study. I heard their father's joyous greeting as he opened his door for them, and how he welcomed Eddy, in particular, with a perfect shower of kisses and caresses. This was the last time the dear child's own feet ever took him there; but his father afterwards frequently carried him up in his arms and amused him with pictures, especially with what Eddy called the "bear books." [2] One morning Ellen told him she was going to make a little pie for his dinner, but on his next appearance in the kitchen told him she had let it burn all up in the oven, and that she felt dreadfully about it. "Never mind, Ellie," said he, "mamma does not like to have me eat pie; but when I get well I shall have as many as I want."

On the 24th of December Mr. Stearns and Anna were here. I was out with the latter most of the day; on my return Eddy came to me with a little flag which his uncle had given him, and after they had left us he ran up and down with it, and as my eye followed him, I thought he looked happier and brighter and more like himself than I had seen him for a long time. He kept saying, "Mr. Stearns gave me this flag!" and then would correct himself and say, "I mean my Uncle Stearns." On this night he hung up his bag for his presents, and after going to bed, surveyed it with a chuckle of pleasure peculiar to him, and finally fell asleep in this happy mood. I took great delight in arranging his and A.'s presents, and getting them safely into their bags. He enjoyed Christmas as much as I had reason to expect he would, in his state of health, and was busy among his new playthings all day. He had taken a fancy within a few weeks to kneel at family prayers with me at my chair, and would throw one little arm round my neck, while with the other hand he so prettily and seriously covered his eyes. As their heads touched my face as they knelt, I observed that Eddy's felt hot when compared with A.'s; just enough so to increase my uneasiness. On entering the nursery on New Year's morning, I was struck with his appearance as he lay in bed; his face being spotted all over. On asking Margaret about it, she said he had been crying, and that this occasioned the spots. This did not seem probable to me, for I had never seen anything of this kind on his face before. How little I knew that these were the last tears my darling would ever shed.

On Sunday morning, January 4, not being able to come himself, Dr. Buck sent Dr. Watson in his place. I told Dr. W. that I thought Eddy had water on the brain; he said it was not so, and ordered nothing but a warm bath. On Thursday, January 8, while Margaret was at dinner, I knelt by the side of the cradle, rocking it very gently, and he asked me to tell him a story. I asked what about, and he said, "A little boy," on which I said something like this: Mamma knows a dear little boy who was very sick. His head ached and he felt sick all over. God said, I must let that little lamb come into my fold; then his head will never ache again, and he will be a very happy little lamb. I used the words little lamb because he was so fond of them. Often he would run to his nurse with his face full of animation and say, "Marget! Mamma says I am her little lamb!" While I was telling him this story his eyes were fixed intelligently on my face. I then said, "Would you like to know the name of this boy?" With eagerness he said, "Yes, yes, mamma!" Taking his dear little hand in mine, and kissing it, I said, "It was Eddy." Just then his nurse came in and his attention was diverted, so I said no more.

On Sunday, January 11, at noon, while they were all at dinner, I was left alone with my darling for a few moments, and could not help kissing his unconscious lips. To my utter amazement he looked up and plainly recognised me and warmly returned my kiss. Then he said feebly, but distinctly twice, "I want some meat and potato." I do not think I should have been more delighted if he had risen from the dead, once more to recognise me. Oh, it was such a comfort to have one more kiss, and to be able to gratify one more wish!

On Friday, January 16th, his little weary sighs became more profound, and, as the day advanced, more like groans; but appeared to indicate extreme fatigue, rather than severe pain. Towards night his breathing became quick and laborious, and between seven and eight slight spasms agitated his little feeble frame. He uttered cries of distress for a few minutes, when they ceased, and his loving and gentle spirit ascended to that world where thousands of holy children and the blessed company of angels and our blessed Lord Jesus, I doubt not, joyfully welcomed him. Now we were able to say, It is well with the child!

"Oh," said the gardener, as he passed down the garden-walk, "who plucked that flower? Who gathered that plant?" His fellow-servants answered, "The MASTER!" And the gardener held his peace.

The feelings of the mother's heart on Friday found vent in some lines entitled To My Dying Eddy; January 16th. Here are two stanzas:

Blest child! dear child! For thee is Jesus calling; And of our household thee—and only thee! Oh, hasten hence! to His embraces hasten! Sweet shall thy rest and safe thy shelter be.

Thou who unguarded ne'er hast left our threshold, Alone must venture now an unknown way; Yet, fear not! Footprints of an Infant Holy Lie on thy path. Thou canst not go astray.

In a letter to her friend Mrs. Allen, of New Bedford, dated January 28, she writes:

During our dear little Eddy's illness we were surrounded with kind friends, and many prayers were offered for us and for him. Nothing that could alleviate our affliction was left undone or unthought of, and we feel that it would be most unchristian and ungrateful in us to even wonder at that Divine will which has bereaved us of our only boy—the light and sunshine of our household. We miss him sadly. I need not explain to you, who know all about it, how sadly; but we rejoice that he has got away from this troublous life, and that we have had the privilege of giving so dear a child to God. When he was well he was one of the happiest creatures I ever saw, and I am sure he is well now, and that he is as happy as his joyous nature makes him susceptible of becoming. God has been most merciful to us in this affliction, and, if a bereaved, we are still a happy household and full of thanksgiving. Give my love to both the children and tell them they must not forget us, and when they think and talk of their dear brother and sisters in heaven, they must sometimes think of the little Eddy who is there too.

* * * * *


Birth of her Third Child. Reminiscence of a Sabbath-Evening Talk. Story of the Baby's Sudden Illness and Death. Summer of 1852. Lines entitled "My Nursery."

The shock of Eddy's death proved almost too much for Mrs. Prentiss' enfeebled frame. She bore it, however, with sweet submission, and on the 17th of the following April her sorrow was changed to joy, and Eddy's empty place filled, as she thought, by the birth of Elizabeth, her third child, a picture of infantine health and beauty. But, although the child seemed perfectly well, the mother herself was brought to the verge of the grave. For a week or two her life wavered in the balance, and she was quite in the mood to follow Eddy to the better country. Her husband, recording a "long and most interesting conversation" with her on Sabbath evening, May 2d, speaks of the "depth and tenderness of her religious feelings, of her sense of sin and of the grace and glory of the Saviour," and then adds, "Her old Richmond exercises seem of late to have returned with their former strength and beauty increased many-fold." On the 14th of May she was able to write in pencil these lines to her sister, Mrs. Hopkins:

I little thought that I should ever write to you again, but I have been brought through a great deal, and now have reason to expect to get well. I never knew how much I loved you till I gave up all hope of ever seeing you again, and I have not strength yet to tell you all about it. Poor George has suffered much. I hope all will be blessed to him and to me. I am still confined to bed. The doctor thinks there may be an abscess near the hip-joint, and, till that is cured, I can neither lie straight in bed or stand on my feet or ride out. Everybody is kind. Our cup has run over. It is a sore trial not to be allowed to nurse baby. She is kept in another room. I only see her once a day. She begins to smile, and is very bright-eyed. I hope your journey will do you good. If you can, do write a few lines—not more. But, good-by.

Hardly had she penned these lines, when, like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, another stunning blow fell upon her. On the 19th of May, after an illness of a few hours, Bessie, too, was folded forever in the arms of the Good Shepherd. Here is the mother's own story of her loss:

Our darling Eddy died on the 16th of January. The baby he had so often spoken of was born on the 17th of April. I was too feeble to have any care of her. Never had her in my arms but twice; once the day before she died and once while she was dying. I never saw her little feet. She was a beautiful little creature, with a great quantity of dark hair and very dark blue eyes. The nurse had to keep her in another room on account of my illness. When she was a month old she brought her to me one afternoon. "This child is perfectly beautiful," said she; "to-morrow I mean to dress her up and have her likeness taken." I asked her to get me up in bed and let me take her a minute. She objected, and I urged her a good deal, till at last she consented. The moment I took her I was struck by her unearthly, absolutely angelic expression; and, not having strength enough to help it, burst out crying bitterly, and cried all the afternoon while I was struggling to give her up.

Her father was at Newark. When he came home at dark I told him I was sure that baby was going to die. He laughed at me, said my weak health made me fancy it, and asked the nurse if the child was not well. She said she was—perfectly well. My presentiment remained, however, in full force, and the first thing next morning I asked Margaret to go and see how baby was. She came back, saying, "She is very well. She lies there on the bed scolding to herself." I cried out to have her instantly brought to me. M. refused, saying the nurse would be displeased. But my anxieties were excited by the use of the word "scolding," as I knew no baby a month old did anything of that sort, and insisted on its being brought to me. The instant I touched it I felt its head to be of a burning heat, and sent for the nurse at once. When she came, I said, "This child is very sick." "Yes," she said, "but I wanted you to have your breakfast first. At one o'clock in the night I found a little swelling. I do not know what it is, but the child is certainly very sick." On examination I knew it was erysipelas. "Don't say that," said the nurse, and burst into tears. I made them get me up and partly dress me, as I was so excited I could not stay in bed.

Dr. Buck came at ten o'clock; he expressed no anxiety, but prescribed for her and George went out to get what he ordered. The nurse brought her to me at eleven o'clock and begged me to observe that the spot had turned black. I knew at once that this was fearful, fatal disease, and entreated George to go and tell the doctor. He went to please me, though he saw no need of it, and gave the wrong message to the doctor, to the effect that the swelling was increasing, to which the doctor replied that it naturally would do so. The little creature, whose moans Margaret had termed scolding, now was heard all over that floor; every breath a moan that tore my heart in pieces. I begged to have her brought to me but the nurse sent word she was too sick to be moved. I then begged the nurse to come and tell me exactly what she thought of her, but she said she could not leave her. I then crawled on my hands and knees into the room, being unable then and for a long time after to bear my own weight.

What a scene our nursery presented! Everything upset and tossed about, medicines here and there on the floor, a fire like a fiery furnace, and Miss H. sitting hopelessly and with falling tears with the baby on a pillow in her lap—all its boasted beauty gone forever. The sight was appalling and its moans heart-rending. George came and got me back to my sofa and said he felt as if he should jump out of the window every time he heard that dreadful sound. He had to go out and made me promise not to try to go to the nursery till his return. I foolishly promised. Mrs. White [3] called, and I told her I was going to lose my baby; she was very kind and went in to see it but I believe expressed no opinion as to its state. But she repeated an expression which I repeated to myself many times that day, and have repeated thousands of times since—"God never makes a mistake."

Margaret went soon after she left to see how the poor little creature was, and did not come back. Hour after hour passed and no one came. I lay racked with cruel torture, bitterly regretting my promise to George, listening to those moans till I was nearly wild. Then in a frenzy of despair I pulled myself over to my bureau, where I had arranged the dainty little garments my darling was to wear, and which I had promised myself so much pleasure in seeing her wear. I took out everything she would need for her burial, with a sort of wild pleasure in doing for her one little service, where I had hoped before to render so many. She it was whom we expected to fill our lost Eddy's vacant place; we thought we had had our sorrow and that now our joy had come. As I lay back exhausted, with these garments on my breast, Louisa Shipman [4] opened the door. One glance at my piteous face, for oh, how glad I was to see her! made her burst into tears before she knew what she was crying for.

"Oh, go bring me news from my poor dying baby!" I almost screamed, as she approached me. "And see, here are her grave-clothes." "Oh, Lizzy, have you gone crazy?" cried she, with a fresh burst of tears. I besought her to go, told her how my promise bound me, made her listen to those terrible sounds which two doors could not shut out. As she left the room she met Dr. B. and they went to the nursery together. She soon came back, quiet and composed, but very sorrowful. "Yes, she is dying," said she, "the doctor says so; she will not live an hour." ... At last we heard the sound of George's key. Louise ran to call him. I crawled once more to the nursery, and snatched my baby in fierce triumph from the nurse. At least once I would hold my child, and nobody should prevent me. George, pale as death, baptized her as I held her in my trembling arms; there were a few more of those terrible, never-to-be-forgotten sounds, and at seven o'clock we were once more left with only one child. A short, sharp conflict, and our baby was gone.

Dr. B. came in later and said the whole thing was to him like a thunderclap—as it was to her poor father. To me it followed closely on the presentiment that in some measure prepared me for it. Here I sit with empty hands. I have had the little coffin in my arms, but my baby's face could not be seen, so rudely had death marred it. Empty hands, empty hands, a worn-out, exhausted body, and unutterable longings to flee from a world that has had for me so many sharp experiences. God help me, my baby, my baby! God help me, my little lost Eddy!

But although the death of these two children tore with anguish the mother's heart, she made no show of grief, and to the eye of the world her life soon appeared to move on as aforetime. Never again, however, was it exactly the same life. She had entered into the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and the new experience wrought a great change in her whole being.

A part of the summer and the early autumn of 1852 were passed among kind friends at Newport, in Portland, and at the Ocean House on Cape Elizabeth. She returned much refreshed, and gave herself up cheerfully to her accustomed duties. But a cloud rested still upon her home, and at times the old grief came back again with renewed poignancy. Here are a few lines expressive of her feelings. They were written in pencil on a little scrap of paper:


I thought that prattling boys and girls Would fill this empty room; That my rich heart would gather flowers From childhood's opening bloom.

One child and two green graves are mine, This is God's gift to me; A bleeding, fainting, broken heart— This is my gift to Thee.

* * * * *


Summer at White Lake. Sudden Death of her Cousin, Miss Shipman. Quarantined. Little Susy's Six Birthdays. How she wrote it. The Flower of the Family. Her Motive in writing it. Letter of Sympathy to a bereaved Mother. A Summer at the Seaside. Henry and Bessie.

The year 1853 was passed quietly and in better health. In the early summer she made a delightful visit at The Island, near West Point, the home of the author of "The Wide, Wide World." She was warmly attached to Miss Warner and her sister, and hardly less so to their father and aunt, whose presence then adorned that pleasant home with so much light and sweetness.

Early in August she went with her husband and child to White Lake, Sullivan Co., N. Y., where, in company with several families from the Mercer street church, she spent six weeks in breathing the pure country air, and in healthful outdoor exercise. [5]

About the middle of October she was greatly distressed by the sudden death of the young cousin, already mentioned, who was staying with her during her husband's absence on a visit to New Bedford. Miss Shipman was a bright, attractive girl, and enthusiastic in her devotion to Mrs. Prentiss. The latter, in a letter to her husband, dated Saturday morning, October 15th, 1853, writes:

I imagine you enjoying this fine morning, and can't rejoice enough, that you are having such weather. A. is bright and well and is playing in her baby-house and singing. Louise is still quite sick, and I see no prospect of her not remaining so for some time. The morning after you left I thought to be sure she had the small-pox. The doctor, however, calls it a rash. It makes her look dreadfully and feel dreadfully. She gets hardly a moment of sleep and takes next to no nourishment. Arrowroot is all the doctor allows. He comes twice a day and seems very kind and full of compassion. She crawled down this morning to the nursery, and seems to be asleep now. Mrs. Bull very kindly offered to come and do anything if Louise should need it, but I do not think she will be sick enough for that. I feel well and able to do all that is necessary. The last proof-sheets came last night, so that job is off my hands. [6] And now, darling, I can't tell you how I miss you. I never missed you more in my life, if as much. I hope you are having a nice visit. Give my love to Capt. and Mrs. Gibbs and all our friends. Your most loving little wife.

On the following Wednesday, October 19th, she writes to her husband's mother:

You will be shocked to hear that Louisa Shipman died on Sunday night and was buried yesterday. Her disease was spotted fever of the most malignant character, and raged with great fury. She dropped away most unexpectedly to us, before I had known five minutes that she was in danger, and I came near being entirely alone with her. Dr. M. happened to be here and also her mother-in-law; but I had been alone in the house with her all day. It is a dreadful shock to us all, and I feel perfectly stupefied. George got home in time for the funeral, but Dr. Skinner performed the services. Anna will go home to-morrow and tell you all about it. She and Mr. S. slept away, as the upper part of the house is airing; and to-night they will sleep at Prof. Smith's.

The case was even more fearful than she supposed while writing this letter. Upon her describing it to Dr. Buck, who called a few hours later, he exclaimed, "Why, it was malignant small-pox! You must all be vaccinated instantly and have the bedding and house disinfected." This was done; but it was too late. Her little daughter had the disease, though in a mild form; and one of her brothers, who was passing the autumn with her, had it so severely as barely to escape with his life. She herself became a nurse to them both, and passed the next two months quarantined within her own walls. To her husband's mother she wrote:

I am not allowed to see anyone—am very lonesome, and hope Anna will write and tell me every little thing about you all. The scenes I have lately passed through make me tremble when I think what a fatal malady lurks in every corner of our house. And speaking after the manner of men, does it not seem almost incredible that this child, watched from her birth like the apple of our eyes, should yet fall into the jaws of this loathsome disease? I see more and more that parents must leave their children to Providence.

In the early part of this year Mrs. Prentiss wrote Little Susy's Six Birthdays, the book that has given so much delight to tens of thousands of little children, wherever the English tongue is spoken. Like most of her books, it was an inspiration and was composed with the utmost rapidity. She read the different chapters, as they were written, to her husband, child and brother, who all with one voice expressed their admiration. In about ten days the work was finished. The manuscript was in a clear, delicate hand and without an erasure. Upon its publication it was at once recognised as a production of real genius, inimitable in its kind, and neither the popular verdict nor the verdict of the children as to its merits has ever changed.

Mrs. Prentiss, as has been stated already, began to write for the press at an early age. But from the time of her going to Richmond till 1853—a period of thirteen years—her pen was well nigh idle, except in the way of correspondence. When, therefore, she gave herself again to literary labor, it was with a largely increased fund of knowledge and experience upon which to draw. These thirteen years had taught her rich lessons, both in literature and in life. They had been especially fruitful in revealing to her the heart of childhood and quickening her sympathy with its joys and sorrows. And all these lessons prepared her to write Little Susy's Six Birthdays and the other Susy books.

The year 1854 was marked by the birth of her fourth child, and by the publication of The Flower of the Family. This work was received with great favor both at home and abroad. It was soon translated into French under the title, La Fleur de la Famille, and later into German under the title, Die Perle der Familie. In both languages it received the warmest praise.

In a letter to her friend Mrs. Clark, of Portland, she thus refers to this book:

I long to have it doing good. I never had such desires about anything in my life; and I never sat down to write without first praying that I might not be suffered to write anything that would do harm, and that, on the contrary, I might be taught to say what would do good. And it has been a great comfort to me that every word of praise I ever have received from others concerning it has been "it will do good," and this I have had from so many sources that amid much trial and sickness ever since its publication, I have had rays of sunshine creeping in now and then to cheer and sustain me.

To the same friend, just bereft of her two children, she writes a few months later:

Is it possible, is it possible that you are made childless? I feel distressed for you, my dear friend; I long to fly to you and weep with you; it seems as if I must say or do something to comfort you. But God only can help you now, and how thankful I am for a throne of grace and power where I can commend you, again and again, to Him who doeth all things well.

I never realise my own affliction in the loss of my children as I do when death enters the house of a friend. Then I feel that I can't have it so. But why should I think I know better than my Divine Master what is good for me, or good for those I love! Dear Carrie,'! trust that in this hour of sorrow you have with you that Presence, before which alone sorrow and sighing flee away. God is left; Christ is left; sickness, accident, death can not touch you here. Is not this a blissful thought?... As I sit at my desk my eye is attracted by the row of books before me, and what a comment on life are their very titles: "Songs in the Night," "Light on Little Graves," "The Night of Weeping," "The Death of Little Children," "The Folded Lamb," "The Broken Bud," these have strayed one by one into my small enclosure, to speak peradventure a word in season unto my weariness. And yet, dear Carrie, this is not all of life. You and I have tasted some of its highest joys, as well as its deepest sorrows, and it has in reserve for us only just what is best for us. May sorrow bring us both nearer to Christ! I can almost fancy my little Eddy has taken your little Maymee by the hand and led her to the bosom of Jesus. How strange our children, our own little infants, have seen Him in His glory, whom we are only yet longing for and struggling towards!

If it will not frighten you to own a Unitarian book, there is one called "Christian Consolation" by Rev. A. P. Peabody, that I think you would find very profitable. I see nothing, or next to nothing, Unitarian in it, while it is full of rich, holy experience. One sermon on "Contingent Events and Providence" touches your case exactly.

No event of special importance marked the year 1855. She spent the month of July among her friends in Portland, and the next six weeks at the Ocean House on Cape Elizabeth. This was one of her favorite places of rest. She never tired of watching the waves and their "multitudinous laughter," of listening to the roar of the breakers, or climbing the rocks and wandering along the shore in quest of shells and sea-grasses. In gathering and pressing the latter, she passed many a happy hour. In August of this year appeared one of her best children's books, Henry and Bessie; or, What they Did in the Country.

* * * * *


A Memorable Year. Lines on the Anniversary of Eddy's Death. Extracts from her Journal. Little Susy's Six Teachers. The Teachers' Meeting. A New York Waif. Summer in the Country. Letters. Little Susy's Little Servants. Extracts from her Journal. "Alone with God."

The records of the year 1856 are singularly full and interesting. It was a year of poignant suffering, of sharp conflicts of soul, and of great peace and joy. Its earlier months, especially, were shadowed by a dark cloud of anxiety and distress. And her feeble bodily state caused by care-worn days and sleepless nights, added to the trouble. Old sorrows, too, came back again. On the 16th of January, the anniversary of Eddy's death, she gave vent to her feelings in some pathetic verses, of which the following lines form a part:

Four years, four weary years, my child, Four years ago to-night, With parting cry of anguish wild Thy spirit took its flight; ah me! Took its eternal flight.

And in that hour of mortal strife I thought I felt the throe, The birth-pang of a grief, whose life Must soothe my tearless woe, must soothe And ease me of my woe.

Yet folded far through all these years, Folded from mortal eyes, Lying alas "too deep for tears," Unborn, unborn it lies, within My heart of heart it lies.

My sinless child! upon thy knees Before the Master pray; Methinks thy infant hands might seize And shed upon my way sweet peace; Sweet peace upon my way.

Here follow some extracts from her journal.

Jan 3d. 1856.—Had no time to write on New Year's day, as we had a host of callers. It was a very hard day, as I was quite unwell, and had at last to give up and go to bed.

15th—Am quite uneasy about baby, as it seems almost impossible she should long endure such severe pain and want of sleep. My life is a very anxious one. I feel every day more and more longing for my home in heaven. Sometimes I fear it amounts almost to a sinful longing—for surely I ought to be willing to live or die, just as God pleases.

Feb. 1st.—I have had no heart to make a record of what has befallen us since I last wrote. And yet I may, sometime, want to recall this experience, painful as it is. Dear little baby had been improving in health, and on Wednesday we went to dine at Mrs. Wainright's. We went at four. About eight, word came that she was ill. When I got home I found her insensible, with her eyes wide open, her breathing terrific, and her condition in every respect very alarming. Just as Dr. Buck was coming in, she roused a little, but soon relapsed into the same state. He told us she was dying. I felt like a stone, In a moment I seemed to give up my hold on her. She appeared no longer mine but God's. It is always so in such great emergencies. Then, my will that struggles so about trifles, makes no effort. But as we sat hour after hour watching the alternations of color in her purple face and listening to that terrible gasping, rattling sound, I said to myself "A few more nights like this, and I do believe my body and soul would yield to such anguish." Oh, why should I try to tell myself what a night it was. God knows, God only! How He has smitten me by means of this child, He well knows. She remained thus about twelve hours. Twelve hours of martyrdom to me such as I never had known. Then to our unspeakable amazement she roused up, nursed, and then fell into a sweet sleep of some hours.

Sunday, Feb. 3d.—The stupor, or whatever it is, in which that dreadful night has left me, is on me still. I have no more sense or feeling than a stone. I kneel down before God and do not say a word. I take up a book and read, but get hold of nothing. At church I felt afraid I should fall upon the people and tear them. I could wish no one to pity me or even know that I am smitten. It does seem to me that those who can sit down and cry, know nothing of misery.

Feb. 4th.—At last the ice melts and I can get near my God—my only comfort, my only joy, my All in all! This morning I was able to open my heart to Him and to cast some of this burden on Him, who alone knows what it is.... I see that it is sweet to be a pilgrim and a stranger, and that it matters very little what befalls me on the way to my blessed home. If God pleases to spare my child a little longer, I will be very thankful. May He take this season, when earthly comfort fails me, to turn me more than ever to Himself. For some months I have enjoyed a great deal in Him. Prayer has been very sweet and I have had some glimpses of joys indescribable.

6th.—She still lives. I know not what to think. One moment I think one thing and the next another. It is harder to submit to this suspense than to a real, decided blow. But I desire to leave it to my God. He knows all her history and all mine. He orders all these aggravating circumstances and I would not change them. My darling has not lived in vain. For eighteen months she has been the little rod used by my Father for my chastisement and not, I think, quite in vain. Oh my God! stay not Thy hand till Thou hast perfected that which concerneth me. Send anything rather than unsanctified prosperity.

Feb. 10th.—To help divert my mind from such incessant brooding over my sorrows, I am writing a new book. I had just begun it when baby's ill-turn arrested me. I trust it may do some little good; at least I would not dare to write it, if it could do none. May God bless it!

Feb. 14th.—Wanted to go to the prayer-meeting but concluded to take A. to hear Gough at the Tabernacle. Seeing such a crowd always makes me long to be in that happy crowd of saints and angels in heaven, and hearing children sing so sweetly made me pray for an entrance into the singing, praising multitude there. Oh, when shall I be one of that blessed company who sin not! My book is done; may God bless it to one child at least—then it will not have been wasted time.

The book referred to was Little Susy's Six Teachers. It was published in the spring, and at once took its place beside the Six Birthdays in the hearts of the children; a place it still continues to hold. The six teachers are Mrs. Love, Mr. Pain, Aunt Patience, Mr. Ought, Miss Joy, and the angel Faith. At the end of six years they hold a meeting and report to little Susy's parents what they have been doing. The closing chapter, herewith quoted, gives an account of this meeting, and may serve as a specimen of the style and spirit of all the Little Susy books.

"If Mr. Pain is to be at the meeting, I can't go," said Miss Joy.

She stood on tip-toe before the glass, dressing herself in holiday clothes.

"Perhaps he would be willing to leave his rod behind him," said Mrs. Love. "I will ask him at all events."

Mr. Pain thought he should not feel at home without his rod. He said he always liked to have it in his hands, whether he was to use it or not.

Miss Joy was full of fun and mischief about this time, so she slipped up slyly behind Mr. Pain while he was talking and snatched away the rod before he could turn round. Mrs. Love smiled on seeing this little trick, and they all went down to the parlor and seated themselves with much gravity. Little Susy sat in the midst in her own low chair looking wide awake, you may depend. Her papa and mamma sat on each side like two judges. Mrs. Love rocked herself in the rocking-chair in a contented, easy way; and Aunt Patience, who liked to do such things, helped Miss Joy to find the leaves of her report—which might have been rose-leaves, they were so small.

Mr. Ought looked very good indeed, and the angel Faith shone across the room like a sunbeam.

"Susy will be six years old to-morrow," said her papa. "You have all been teaching her ever since she was born. We will now listen to your reports and hear what you have taught her, and whether you have done her any good."

They were all silent, but everybody looked at Mrs. Love as much as to say she should begin. Mrs. Love took out a little book with a sky-blue cover and began to read:

"I have not done much for Susy, but love her dearly; and I have not taught her much, but to love everybody. When she was a baby I tried to teach her to smile, but I don't think I could have taught her if Miss Joy had not helped me. And when she was sick, I was always sorry for her, and tried to comfort her."

"You have done her a great deal of good," said Susy's papa, "we will engage you to stay six years longer, should God spare her life."

Then Mr. Pain took up his book. It had a black cover, but the leaves were gilt-edged and the cover was spangled with stars.

"I have punished Susy a good many times," said Mr. Pain. "Sometimes I slapped her with my hand; sometimes I struck her with my rod; sometimes I made her sick; but I never did any of these things because I was angry with her or liked to hurt her. I only came when Mrs. Love called me."

"You have taught her excellent lessons," said Susy's papa, "if it had not been for you she would be growing up disobedient and selfish. You may stay six years longer."

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