The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss
by George L. Prentiss
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To Mrs. Henry B. Smith, New York, March 22, 1869

We were gladdened early this morning by the arrival of your letter, and the good news it contained. I had a dreadful fright on the day you reached Southampton. Mr. Moore sent up a cable dispatch announcing the fact, and as it came directed to both of us, and I supposed it to be from you, I thought some terrible thing had happened. I paraded down to M. with your letter, and she, at the same time, paraded up here with the one to her and the rest. So we got all the news there was, and longed for more. I hope the worst is now over. I have just got home from a visit of four days and nights to Miss Lyman. I enjoyed it exceedingly, and wish I could tell you all about it, but can't in a letter. She has turns of looking absolutely aged, and seems a good deal of the time in a perfect worry, I don't know what about. Otherwise she is better than last summer. I never saw her when at work before, and perhaps she always appears so. We had two or three good rousing laughs, however, and that did us both good. I did not know she was so fond of flowers; she buys them and keeps loads of them about her parlors, library, and bedroom. What a world it is there! I only wish she was happier in her work, but perhaps if we could get behind the scenes, we should find all human workers have their sorrows and misgivings and faintings. According to her I had an "inquiry meeting" once or twice; believe it if you can and dare. It was certainly very pleasant to get into such an intelligent Christian atmosphere, and on the whole I've got rather converted to Vassar.

I have been greatly delighted with a present of one of my father's cuff- buttons (which I well remember), and a lock of his hair.... I haven't got anything more to say. Oh, Mrs. —— left that on her card here the other day, and we called on her this afternoon. What a jolly old lady she is! Of course, anybody could believe in perfection who was as fat and well as she!

To Mrs. Leonard, New York, April 5, 1869

If I should send you a letter every time I send you a thought, you would be quite overwhelmed with them. Now that Mrs. S. has gone away, and some of my pressing cares are over, I miss you more than ever. We have had a good deal to sadden us this winter, beginning with your sorrow, which was also ours; and Eva P.'s death, occurring as it did in our house, was a distressing one. She was here about a fortnight, and the first week came down to her meals, though she kept in her room the rest of the time. On Tuesday night of the second week she was at the tea-table, and played a duet with A. after tea. Soon after she was taken with distress for breath, and was never in bed again, but sat nearly double in a chair, with one of us supporting her head. It was agonizing suffering to witness, and the care of her was more laborious than anyone can conceive, who did not witness or participate in it. We had at last to have six on hand to relieve each other. She died on Saturday, after four terrible days and nights. We knew she would die here when they first proposed her coming, but did not like to refuse her last desire, and are very glad we had the privilege of ministering to her last wants.... For you I desire but one thing—a full possession of Christ. Let us turn away our eyes from everything that does not directly exalt Him in our affections; we are poor without Him, no matter what our worldly advantages are; rich with Him when stripped of all besides. Still I know you are passing through deep waters, and at times must well nigh sink. But your loving Saviour will not let you sink, and He never loved you so well as He does now. How often I long to fly to you in your lonely hours! But I can not, and so I turn these longings into prayers. I hope you pray for me, too. You could not give me anything I should value so much, and it is a great comfort to me to know that you love me. I care more to be loved than to be admired, don't you? I hope that by next winter you may feel that you can come and see us; I want to see you, not merely to write to you and get answers. I send you a picture of our nest at Dorset. Good-bye.

To Miss E. A. Warner, New York, April 20, 1869

I opened your letter in the street, and was at once confronted with a worldly-looking bit of silk! How can you! Why don't you follow my example and dress in sackcloth and ashes? I think however, if you will be worldly you have done it very prettily, and on the whole don't know that it is any wickeder than I have been in translating a "dramatic poem" in five acts from the German, only you've got your dress done and I'm only half through my play; and there's no knowing how bad I shall get before I am through. I wonder if you are sitting by an open window, as I am, and roasting at that? I had a drive with A. and M. through the Park yesterday, and saw stacks of hyacinths in bloom, and tulips and violets and dandelions; a willow-tree not far from my window has put on its tender green, and summer seems close at hand. I have been to an auction and got cheated, as I might have known I should; and the other day I had my pocket picked. As to "Gates Ajar," most people are enchanted with it; but Miss Lyman regards it as I do, and so do some other elect ladies. I have just written to see if she will come down and get a little rest, now the weather is so fine. Mr. P. has gone to Dorset to be gone all the week, and I am buying up what is to be bought, begrudging every cent! mean wretch that I am.

I have looked through and read parts of "Patience Strong's Outings"—an ugly title, and a transcendental style, but beautiful in conception, and taken off the stilts, in execution. I do not like the cant of Unitarians any better than they like ours, but I like what is elevating in any sect. I have had a present of a lot of table-linen, towels, etc., for Dorset, and feel a good deal like a young housekeeper. I wonder how soon you go back to Northampton? How queer it must be to be able to float round! It is a pity you could not float to New York, and get a good hugging from this old woman. We expect 250 ministers here in May at general assembly (I ought to have spelt it with a big G and a big A). My dear child, what makes you get blue? I don't much believe in any blue devils save those that live in the body and send sallies into the mind. Perhaps I should, though, if I had not a husband and children to look after; how little one can judge for another!

* * * * *


How she earned her Sleep. Writing for young Converts about speaking the Truth. Meeting of the General Assembly in the Church of the Covenant. Reunion. D.D.s and Strawberry Short-cake. "Enacting the Tiger." Getting ready for Dorset. Letters.

This year was one of the busiest of her life; and it were hard to say which was busiest, her body or mind; her hand, heart, or brain. This relentless activity was caused in part by the increasing difficulty of obtaining sleep. Incessant work seemed to be, in her case, a sort of substitute for natural rest and a solace for the loss of it. She alludes to this constant struggle with insomnia in a letter to Miss Warner, dated May 9th:

If you knew the whole story you would not envy my power of driving about so much. You can lie down and sleep when you please; I must earn my sleep by hard work, which uses up so much time that I wonder I ever accomplish anything. I believe that God arranges our various burdens and fits them to our backs, and that He sets off a loss against a gain, so that while some seem more favored than others, the mere aspect deceives. I have to make it my steady object throughout each day, so to spend time and strength as to obtain sleep enough to carry me through the next; it is thus I have acquired the habit of taking a large amount of exercise, which keeps me out of doors when I am longing to be at work within. You say I seem to be always in a flood of joy; well, that too is seems. I think I know what joy in God means, though perhaps I only begin to know; but I am a weak creature; I fall into snares and get entangled—not nearly so often as I used to do, but still do get into them. I have a perfect horror of them; the thought of having anything come between God and my soul makes me so restless and uneasy that I hardly know which way to turn. I have been very much absorbed of late in various interests, and am sure they have contrived to occupy me too much; pressing cares do sometimes, and oh, how ashamed I am!

Do write for young inquirers, if your heart prompts you to do it. I don't know what to think of your suggestion that in writing for young converts I should impress it upon them to speak the truth. It seems to me just like telling them not to commit murder; and that would be absurd. Do Christians cheat and tell lies? I have a great aversion to writing about such things; if children are not trained at home to be upright and full of integrity, it can't be that books can rectify that loss. You may reply that home-training is defective in thousands of cases; yes, that is true, but I have a feeling that truth and honesty must spring from a soil early prepared for them, and that a young person who is in the habit of falsehood is not a Christian and needs to go back to first principles. I can't endure subterfuges, misrepresentation, and the like; the whole foundation looks wrong when people indulge themselves in them, and to say to a Christian, "I hope you are truthful," is to my mind as if I should say to him, "I hope you wash your face and hands every day." Now if your observation says I am wrong, let's know; I am open to conviction.

To Mrs. H. B. Smith, New York, May 24, 1869.

It has just come to me that the true way to enjoy writing and to have you enjoy hearing, is to keep a sort of journal, where little things will have a chance to speak for themselves.

We are now in the midst of General Assembly. Mr. Stearns is here, and we have sprinklings of ministers to dine and to tea at all sorts of odd hours.... I can't help loving what is Christlike in people, whether I like their natural characters or not; after all, what else is there in the world worth much love? My Katy seems to be ploughing her way with more or less success, and making friends and foes. You, who helped me fashion her, would be interested in the letters I get from wives, showing that the want of demonstration in men is a wide-spread evil, under which women do groan being burdened. Entre nous, Mrs. Dr. —— is one, and I got a letter to-day from Michigan to the same effect. We are having delightful weather for the meetings. Yesterday morning Dr. John Hall preached in our church, and it was crammed full to Overflowing.... Lew. S. [3] has decided to study theology. We are all glad. He and I have got quite acquainted of late and talk most learnedly together. Did I tell you I have translated a German dramatic poem in five acts? Miss Anna Nevins says I have done it extremely well. I don't know about that, but my whole soul got into it somehow, and I did not know whether I was in the body or out of it for two or three weeks. I wish I could do things decently and in order. There is to be a great party at Apollo Hall this evening for both Assemblies. I am going and expect to get tired to death.

26th—It was a brilliant scene at Apollo Hall. Everybody was there, and the hall was finely adapted to the purpose of accommodating the 2,000 people present. The speeches were very poor. I went to the prayer-meeting this morning. The church was full, galleries and all, and the spirit was excellent. Many men shed tears in speaking for reunion, and, from what Mr. Stearns reports of the meeting of the Committee last night, union may be considered as good as restored. You will hear nothing else from me; it is all I hear talked about. Monday, 3l.—Hot as need be. Dr. B., of Brooklyn, dined with us; said he never ate strawberry short-cake before, and was reading Katy. It is awful to think how many D.D.s are doing it (eating short-cake, I mean, of course!) Hope the Assembly will wind up to-night. June 5.—We are so glad you have got to La Tour and find it so pleasant there, and that you have met Dr. and Mrs. Guthrie, and that they have met you instead of the blowsy-towsy American women, who make one so ashamed of them. If I wasn't going to Dorset, I should wish I were going where you are; but then, you see, I am going to Dorset!... I have been to the Central Park with Mrs. —-, who talked in one steady stream all the way. I was sleepy and the carriage very noisy; and take it altogether, what a farce life is sometimes! the intercourse of human beings outsides touching outsides, the heart and soul lying to all intents and purposes as dead as a door-nail. Do you ever feel mentally and spiritually alone in the world? Perhaps everybody does.

To Miss E. A. Warner, New York, June 4, 1869.

I concluded you had gone and died and got buried without letting me know, when your letter reached me via Dorset. What possessed you to send it there when you knew, you naughty thing! that I was having General Assembly, I can't imagine; but I suppose, being a Congregationalist, you thought General Assembly wasn't nothing, and that I could entertain squads of D.D.s for a fortnight more or less, just as well at Dorset as I could here. My dear, read the papers and go in the way you should go, and behave yourself! As if 250 ministers haven't worn streaks in the grass round the church, haven't (some of 'em) been here to dinner and eaten my strawberry short-cake and cottage puddings and praised my coffee and drank two cups apiece all round, and as if I hadn't been set up on end for those of 'em to look at who are reading Katy, and as if going furiously to work, after they'd all gone, didn't use me up and send me "lopping" down on sofas, sighing like a what's-its-name. Well, well; the ignorance of you country folks and the wisdom of us city folks! We hope to get to Dorset by the 17th of this month; it depends upon how many interruptions I have and how many days I have to lie by. I can't imagine why I break down so, for I don't know when I've been so well as during this spring; but Mr. P. and A. say I work like a tiger, and I s'pose I do without knowing it. I am so glad you had a pleasant Sunday. No doubt you had more bodily strength with which to enjoy spiritual things. A weak body hinders prayer and praise when the heart would sing, if it were not in fetters that cramp and exhaust it.

Monday—To-day I have been enacting the tiger again, and worked furiously. A. half scolds and half entreats, but I can't help it; if I work I work, and so there it is. I have bought a dinner-set, and had a long visit from my old Mary, who wept over and kissed me, and am going out to call on Mrs. Woolsey this evening. To-morrow A.'s scholars are to come and make an address to her and give her a picture. She is not to know it till they arrive. It is really cold after the very hot weather, and some are freezing and some have internal pains. I wish you could have seen me this forenoon at work in the attic—a mass of dust, feathers, and perplexity. I got hold of one of my John's innumerable trunks of papers, and found among them the MSS. of several of my books laid up in lavender, which I pitched into the ash-barrel. I suppose he thinks I may distinguish myself some time, and that the discerning world will be after a scratch of my gifted pen! Have you read "Gates Off the Hinges"? The next thing will be, "There Aint no Gates."

* * * * *


The new Home in Dorset. What it became to her. Letters from there.

A notable incident of this year was the entering upon housekeeping at Dorset under her own roof. As is usual in such cases, the process was somewhat wearisome and trying, but the result was most happy. All the bright anticipations, with which the event had been so long looked forward to, were more than realised. For the next ten summers the Dorset home was to her a sweet haven of rest from the agitations, cares, and turmoil of New York life. It seemed at the time a venturesome, almost a rash thing, to build it; but when she left it for her home above, the building of the house seemed to have been an inspiration of Providence. While contributing greatly to her happiness, it probably added several years to her life. The four months which she passed each season at Dorset were spent largely in the open air, and in such varied and pleasant exercise as exerted the most healthful, soothing influence upon both body and soul. It was just this fruit her husband hoped might, by the blessing of Heaven, blossom out of the new home, and in later years he used often to say to her, that if the place should be of a sudden annihilated, he should still feel that it had paid for itself many times over.

To Mrs. Smith, Dorset, July 19, 1869.

How many times during the last month I have been reminded of your saying you had lived through the agony of getting your house ready to rent. I can sum up all I have been through by saying that almost everything has turned out the reverse of what I expected. In the first place, I broke down just as we were to start to come here, and had to be left behind to pick up life enough to undertake the journey; then the car we chartered did not get here for a week, and nobody but A. had anything to wear, and all my flowers died for want of water. The car, too, was broken into and my idols of tin pans all taken, with some other things, and when it did arrive it was unpacked, and our goods brought here, in a regular deluge, the like of which has not been seen since the days of Noah. For days everything was in dire confusion; but for all that our own home was delightful, and we had the most outrageous appetites you ever heard of. George is in ecstasies with his house, his land, his pig, and his horse.... I hope you are not sick and tired of all this rigmarole; it isn't in human nature to move into a house of its own and talk of anything else. I got a warm-hearted letter a few days ago from the city of Milwaukee, from an unknown western sister, beginning, "Whom not having seen I love," and going on to say that Katy describes herself and her lot exactly, only she had no Martha on hand. I get so many such testimonies. I am going to spare your eyes and brains by winding up this epistle and going to bed. I do not think your husband ought to come home till he has recovered his power of sleeping. I know how to pity him, if anybody does, and I know how loss of sleep cripples. Good-night, dear child.

"God bless me and my wife; You and your wife, Us four And no more."

To Mrs. Leonard, Dorset, August 3, 1869.

Your last letter endeared you to me more than ever, and I have longed to answer it, but we have been in such a state of confusion that writing has been a task. The whole house has been painted inside and out since we entered it, and I dare say you know what endless uproar the flitting from room to room to accommodate painters, causes. We have just been admitted to our parlor, but it is in no order, and the dining-room is still piled with trunks. But the house is lovely, and we shall feel well repaid for the severe labor it has cost us, when it is done and we can settle down in it. I write to ask you to send me by express what numbers of Stepping Heavenward you have on hand. I would not give you the trouble to do this if I could get them in any other way, but I can not, as all back numbers are gone, and the copy I have has been borrowed and worn, so as to be illegible in many places. Randolph is to publish the work and says he wants it soon. I am constantly receiving testimonies as to its usefulness, and hope it will do good to many who have not seen it in the Advance.

How I do long to see you! I think of you many times every day, and thank God that He enables you to glorify Him in bearing your great sorrow. Sometimes I feel as if I must see Mr. L.'s kind face once more, but I remind myself that by patiently waiting a little while, I shall see it and the faces of all the sainted ones who have gone before. Next to faith in God comes patience; I see that more and more, and few possess enough of either to enable them to meet the day of bereavement without dismay. We are constantly getting letters from afflicted souls that can not see one ray of light, and keep reiterating, "I am not reconciled." How fearful it must be to kick thus against the pricks, already sharp enough! I believe fully with you that there is no happiness on earth, as there is none in heaven, to be compared with that of losing all things to possess Christ. I look back to two points in my life as standing out from all the rest of it as seasons of peculiar joy, and they are the points where I was crushed under the weight of sorrow. How wonderful this is, how incomprehensible to those who have not learned Christ! Do write me oftener; you are very dear to me, and your letters always welcome. I love you for magnifying the Lord in the midst of your distress; you could not get so into my heart in any other way.

To Mrs. Smith, Dorset, August 8, 1869.

Half of your chickens are safely here, well and bright, and settled I hope, for the summer. A., and M., who seems as joyous as a lark, are like Siamese twins, with the advantage of untying at night and sleeping in different beds. I have not been well, and did not go to church to-day; but Prof. Robinson of Rochester, N. Y., preached a very superior sermon, George says. They have gone to our woods together. We took tea a few nights ago at the Pratts, being invited to meet him and Mrs. R. They asked many questions about you and your husband. We find the Pratts charming neighbors in their way, modest, kind, and good. They take the Advance, read Katy, and like it.

Aug. 21st—As we have only had sixteen in our family of late, I have not had much to do. Yesterday we made up a party to the quarry and had just got seated, twenty-nine in all, to eat a very nice dinner, when it began to rain in floods. Each grabbed his plate, if he could, and rushed to a blacksmith's shop not far off; twenty or thirty workmen rushed there too, and there we were, cooped up in the dirt, to finish our meal as we best could. It soon stopped pouring and we had a delightful drive home. Mr. B. F. B., with two of his boys, was with us. He is charmed with our house and its views. Katy has made her last appearance in the Advance, but I keep getting letters about her from all quarters, and the editors say they have had hundreds. [4] H. has caught up with Hal and they are exactly of a height, and I feel as if I had a dear little pair of twins. Last Sunday evening the three boys laid their heads in my lap together, all alike content.

* * * * *


Return to Town. Domestic Changes. Letters. "My Heart sides with God in everything." Visiting among the Poor. "Conflict isn't Sin." Publication of Stepping Heavenward. Her Misgivings about it. How it was received. Reminiscences by Miss Eliza A. Warner. Letters. The Rev. Wheelock Craig.

Early in October she returned to town and began to make ready for the departure of her eldest daughter to Europe, where she was to pass the next year with the family of Prof. Smith. The younger children had thus far been taught by their sister, and her leaving home was fraught with no little trial both to them and to the mother.

To Mrs. Smith, New York, October 12.

I can fully sympathise with the sad toss you are in about staying abroad another year, but we feel that there is no doubt you have decided wisely and well. But the bare mention of your settling down at Vevay has driven us all wild. What hallucination could you have been laboring under? Why, your husband would go off the handle in a week! To be sure it is beautiful for situation as Mount Zion itself, but one can't live on beauty; one must have life and action, and stimulus; in other words, human beings. They're all horrid (except you), but we can't do without 'em. What I went through at lonely Genevrier!

"Oh Solitude, where are the charms That sages have seen in thy face!"

We took it for granted that you would settle in some German city, near old friends; it is true, they mayn't be all you want, but anything is better than nothing, and you would stagnate and moulder all away at Vevay. What is there there? Why, a lake and some mountains, and you can't spend a year staring at them. Well, I dare say light will be let in upon you. I hope A. will behave herself; you must rule it over her with a rod of iron (as if you could!), and make her stand round. Her going plunges us into a new world of care and anxiety and tribulation; we have thrust our children out into, or on to, the great ocean, and are about ready to sink with them. If I could sit down and cry, it would do me lots of good, but I can't. Then how am I to spare my twin-boy, and my A. and my M.? Who is to keep me well snubbed? Who is to tell me what to wear? Who is to keep Darby and Joan from settling down into two fearful old pokes?

Your husband suggests that "if I have a husband, etc." I have had one with a vengeance. He has worked like seventeen mad dogs all summer, and I have hardly laid eyes on him. When I have, it has been to fight with him; he would come in with a hoe or a rake or a spade in his hand, and find me with a broom, a shovel, or a pair of tongs in mine, and without a word we would pitch in and have an encounter. Of all the aggravating creatures, hasn't he been aggravating! Sometimes I thought he had run raving distracted, and sometimes I dare say, he thought I had gone melancholy mad. He persists to this day that the work did him good, and that he enjoyed his summer. Well, maybe he did; I suppose he knows.

How glad I am for you that you are to have the children go to you. It seems to be exactly the right thing. I hope to get a copy of Katy to send by the girls, but can't think of anything else. As A. is to be where you are, you will probably be kept well posted in the doings of our family. I do hope she will not be a great addition to your cares, but have some misgivings as to the effect so long absence from home may have upon her. What a world this is for shiftings and siftings!

To G. S. P. October, 1869.

I always thought George McDonald a little audacious, though I like him in the main. There is a fallacy in this cavil, you may depend. Some years ago, when I was a little befogged by plausible talk, Dr. Skinner came to our house, got into one of his best moods, and preached a regular sermon on the glory of God, that set me all right again. I am not skilled in argument, but my heart sides with God in everything, and my conception of His character is such a beautiful one that I feel that He can not err. I do not like the expression, "He's aye thinking about his own glory" (I quote from memory); it belittles the real fact, and almost puts the Supreme Being on a level with us poor mortals. The more time we spend upon our knees, in real communion with God, the better we shall comprehend His wonderful nature, and how impossible it is to submit that nature to the rules by which we judge human beings. Every turn in life brings me back to this—more prayer.... I shall go with much pleasure to see Mrs. G. and may God give me some good word to say to her. I almost envy you your sphere of usefulness, but unless I give up mine, can not get fully into it. I want you to know that next to being with my Saviour, I love to be with His sufferers; so that you can be sure to remember me, when you have any on your heart.... P. S. I have hunted up Mrs. G. and had such an interesting talk with her that she has hardly been out of my mind since. It is a very unusual case, and the fact that her husband is a Jew, and loves her with such real romance, is an obstacle in her way to Christ. When you can get a little spare time I wish you would run in and let us talk her case over. I'm ever so glad that I'm growing old every day, and so becoming better fitted to be the dear and loving friend to young people I want to be.

I wish we both loved our Saviour better, and could do more for Him. The days in which I do nothing specifically for Him seem such meagre, such lost days. You seemed to think, the last time I saw you, that you were not so near Him as you were last year. I think we can't always know our own state. It does not follow that a season of severe conflict is a sign of estrangement from God. Perhaps we are never dearer to Him than when we hate ourselves most, and fancy ourselves intolerable in His sight. Conflict isn't sin.

To Miss E. A. Warner, New York, October 11, 1869.

I hear with great concern that Miss Lyman's health is so much worse, that she is about to leave Vassar. Is this true? I can not say I should be very sorry if I should hear she was going to be called up higher. It seems such a blessed thing to finish up one's work when the Master says we may, and going to be with Him. I can fully sympathise with the feeling that made Mrs. Graham say, as she closed her daughter's eyes, "I wish you joy, my darling!" But I should want to see her before she went; that would be next best to seeing her after she got back. If you meet with a dear little book called "The Melody of the 23d Psalm," do read it; it is by Miss Anna Warner, and shows great knowledge of, and love for, the Bible. In a few weeks I shall be able to send you a copy of Stepping Heavenward.

We have been home rather more than a week and the house is all upside down, outwardly and inwardly. For A. sails for Europe on the 21st with M. and Hal Smith, to be gone a year, and this involves sending the other children to school, and various trying changes of the sort. Tossing my long sheltered lambs into the world has cost me inexpressible pain; only a mother can understand how much and why; and they, on their part, go into it shrinking and quivering in every nerve. To their father, as well as to me, this has been a time of sore trial, and we are doing our best to keep each other up amid the discouragements and temptations that confront us. For each new phase of life brings more or less of both.

Stepping Heavenward was published toward the end of October, having appeared already as a serial in the Chicago Advance. The first number of the serial was printed February 4, 1869. The work was planned and the larger part of it composed during the winter and spring of 1867-8. Referring more especially to this part of it, she once said to a friend: "Every word of that book was a prayer, and seemed to come of itself. I never knew how it was written, for my heart and hands were full of something else." By "something else" she had in mind the care of little Francis. The ensuing summer the manuscript was taken with her to Dorset, carefully revised and finished before her return to the city. In revising it she had the advantage of suggestions made by her friends, Miss Warner and Miss Lyman, both of them Christian ladies of the best culture and of rare good sense.

Notwithstanding the favor with which the work had been received as issued in The Advance, Mrs. Prentiss had great misgiving about its success—a misgiving that had haunted her while engaged in writing it. But all doubt on the subject was soon dispelled:

The response to "Stepping Heavenward" was instant and general. Others of her books were enjoyed, praised, laughed over, but this one was taken by tired hands into secret places, pored over by eyes dim with tears, and its lessons prayed out at many a Jabbok. It was one of those books which sorrowing, Mary-like women read to each other, and which lured many a bustling Martha from the fretting of her care-cumbered life to ponder the new lesson of rest in toil. It was one of those books of which people kept a lending copy, that they might enjoy the uninterrupted companionship of their own. The circulation of the book was very large. Not to speak of the thousands which were sold here, it went through numerous editions in England. From England it passed into Australia. It fell into the family of an afflicted Swiss pastor, and the comfort which it brought to that stricken household led to its translation into French by one of the pastor's daughters. It passed through I know not how many editions in French. [5] In Germany it came into the hands of an invalid lady who begged the privilege of translating it. The first word of a favorite German hymn,

"Heavenward doth our journey tend; We are strangers here on earth,"

furnished the title for the German translation—"Himmelan." It appeared just after the French war, and went as a comforter into scores of the homes which war had desolated, and frequent testimony came back to her of the deep interest excited by the book, and of the affectionate gratitude called out toward the author. She seemed to have inspired her translator, whose letters to her breathe the warmest affection and the most enthusiastic admiration. It would be easy to fill up the time that remains with grateful testimonies to the work of this book. From among a multitude I select only one: A manufacturer in a New England town, a stranger, wrote to her expressing his high appreciation of the book, and saying that he had four thousand persons in his employ, and a circulating library of six thousand volumes for their use, in which were two copies of "Stepping Heavenward." He adds, "I hear in every direction of the good it is doing, and a wealthy friend has written to me saying that she means to put a copy into the hand of every bride of her acquaintance." [6]

Several chapters might be filled with letters received by Mrs. Prentiss, expressing the gratitude of the writers for the spiritual help and comfort Stepping Heavenward had given them. These letters came from all parts of this country, from Europe, and even from the ends of the earth; and they were written by persons belonging to every class in society. Among them was one, written on coarse brown grocery paper, from a poor crippled boy in the interior of Pennsylvania, which she especially prized. It led to a friendly correspondence that continued for several years. The book was read with equal delight by persons not only of all classes, but of all creeds also; by Calvinists, Arminians, High Churchmen, Evangelicals, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. [7] It was, however, wholly unnoticed by most of the organs of literary opinion in this country; although abroad it attracted at once the attention of men and women well known in the world of letters, and was praised by them in the highest terms. [8]

Miss Eliza A. Warner, in the following Reminiscences, gives some interesting incidents in reference to Stepping Heavenward.

That summer in Dorset—the summer of 1868—is one full of bright and pleasant memories which it is delightful to recall. I had heard much of Mrs. Prentiss from mutual friends, and been exceedingly interested in her books, so that when I found we were to be fellow-boarders for the summer I was greatly pleased; yet I felt a little shy at meeting one of whose superiority in many lines I had heard so much.

How well I remember that bright morning in July on which we first met on our way to the breakfast-table! I can hear now the frank, cheery voice with which she greeted me, and see her large dark eyes, so full of animation and kindly interest, which a moment after sparkled with fun as she recalled an old joke familiar to my friends, and, it seemed, to her also. I was put at my ease at once, and from that moment onward felt the wonderful fascination of a manner so peculiarly her own; it was a frank, whole-souled, sincere manner, with a certain indescribable piquancy and sprightliness blending with the earnestness which made her very individual and very charming.

For the next two months we were a good deal together. I think it was a very happy summer to her. You were building the house in Dorset for a summer home, and the planning for this and watching its progress was a pleasant occupation. And she was such an enthusiastic lover of nature that the out-of-door life she led was a constant enjoyment. She would spend hours rambling in the woods, collecting ferns, mosses, trailing vines, and every lovely bit of blossom and greenery that met her eye—and nothing pretty escaped it—and there was always an added freshness and brightness in her face when she came home laden with these treasures, and eager to exhibit them. "Oh, you don't go crazy over such things as I do," she would say as she held them up for our admiration. She filled her room with these woodland beauties, and pressed quantities of them to carry to her city home.

In that beautiful valley among the Green Mountains, some of whose near summits rise to the height of three thousand feet, her enthusiasm for fine scenery had full scope. She would watch with delight the sunset glow as it spread and deepened along those mountain peaks, suffusing them with a glory which we likened to that of the New Jerusalem; and as we sat and watched this glory slowly fade, tint by tint, into the gray twilight, her talk would be of heaven and holiness and Christ.

Whatever she felt, she felt intensely, and she threw her whole heart and soul into all she said or did; this was one great secret of the power of her personal presence; she felt so keenly herself, she made others feel.

Those summer days were long and bright and beautiful, but none too long for her. She was one of the most industrious persons I have ever known, and her writing, reading and sewing, and the care of her children, over the formation of whose characters she watched closely and wisely, occupied every moment of her time, except when she was out of doors, trying by exercise in the open air to secure a good night's sleep; not an easy thing for her to do in those days.

Early in August we were joined by Miss Hannah Lyman, of Vassar College, a mutual friend and a most delightful addition to our little party.

We knew Mrs. Prentiss spent a part of every day in writing, but she said nothing of the nature of her work. Do you remember coming into the parlor one morning, where Miss Lyman and I were sitting by ourselves, and telling us that she was writing a story, but had become so discouraged she threatened to throw it aside as not worth finishing? "I like it myself," you added, "it really seems to me one of the best things she has ever written, and I am trying to get her to read it to you and see what you think of it."

Of course, both Miss Lyman and myself were eager to hear it, and promised to tell her frankly how we liked it. The next morning she came to our room with a little green box in her hand, saying, with her merry laugh, "Now you've got to do penance for your sins, you two wicked women!" and, sitting down by the window, while we took our sewing, she began to read us in manuscript the work which was destined to touch and strengthen so many hearts—"which," to use the words of another, "has become a part of the soul-history of many thousands of Christian women—young and old—at home and abroad."

It was a rare treat to listen to it, with comments from her interspersed; some of them droll and witty, others full of profound religious feeling. Now and then, as we queried if something was not improbable or unnatural, she would give us bits of history from her own experience or that of her friends, going to show that stranger things had occurred in real life. I need not say we insisted on its being finished, feeling sure it would do great good; though I must confess that I do not think either of us, much as we enjoyed it, was fully aware of its great merits.

I was much impressed by her singleness of purpose; her one great desire so evidently being that her writings should help others to know and to love Christ and His truth, that she thought little or nothing of her own reputation.

She went on with her work, occasionally reading to us what she had added. In those days she always spoke of it as her "Katy book," no other title having been given to it. But one morning she came to the breakfast-table with her face all lighted up. "I've got a name for my book," she exclaimed; "it came to me while I was lying awake last night. You know Wordsworth's Stepping Westward? I am going to call it Stepping Heavenward—don't you like it? I do." We all felt it was exactly the right name, and she added, "I think I will put in Wordsworth's poem as a preface."

Of the heart-communings on sacred things that made that summer so memorable to me I can not speak; and yet, more than anything else, these gave a distinctive character to our intercourse. Her faith and love were so ardent and persuading, so much a part of herself, that no one could be with her without recognising their power over her life. She was interested in everything about her, without a particle of cant, full of playful humor and bright fancies; but the love of Christ was the absorbing interest of her life—almost a passion, it might be called, so fervent and rapturous was her devotion to Him, so great her longing for communion with Him and for a more complete conformity to His perfect will.

As I have said, all her emotions were intense and her religious affections had the same warmth and glow. Believing in Christ was to her not so much a duty as the deepest joy of her life, heightening all other joys, and she was not satisfied until her friends shared with her in this experience. She believed it to be attainable by all, founded on a complete submitting of the human to the Divine will in all things, great and small.

Truly of her it might be said, if of any human being, "she hath loved much."

To Mrs. Smith, New York, Nov. 16, 1869.

Your arrangements at Heidelberg seem to me to be as delightful as anything can be in a world where nothing is ideal. Be sure to let A. bear her full share of the expense, and be a mother to her if you can. The gayest outside life has an undertone of sadness, and I do not doubt she will have hours of unrest which she will hardly know how to account for. I am afraid Heidelberg will be rather narrow bounds for your husband, and hope he may decide to go to Egypt in case his ear gets quite well. How fortunate that he is near a really good aurist. I am always nervous about ear-troubles. Fancy your having to shout your love to him! In a letter written about two weeks ago, Miss Lyman says, "How am I? Longing for a corner in which to stop trying to live, and lie down and die," and adds that she is now too feeble to travel. I suppose she is liable to break down at any moment, but I do hope she won't be left to go abroad. I judge from what you say of Mr. H. that he is slipping off. I always look at people who are going to heaven with a sort of curiosity and envy; it is next best to seeing one who has just come thence. Get all the good out of him you can; there is none too much saintliness on earth. I wonder how you spend your time? Do, some time, write the history of one day; what you said to that funny cook, and what she said to you; what you thought and what you did; and what you didn't think and didn't did.

Friday, 19th.—Thanksgiving has come and gone beautifully. It was a perfect day as to weather. Our congregation joined Dr. Murray's, and he gave us an excellent sermon. The four Stearnses came in to dinner and seemed to enjoy it. I suppose you all celebrated the day in Yankee fashion and got up those abominations—mince pies. When I told L. about ——'s fourth marriage, he said it reminded him of a place he had seen, where a man lay buried in the midst of a lot of women, the sole inscription on his gravestone being "Our Husband." Mrs. —— says the tiffs between my Katy and her husband are exactly like those she had with hers, and Mrs. —— said very much the same thing—after hearing which, I gave up.

Tell A. I had a call yesterday from Mrs. S——, who came to town to spend Thanksgiving at her father's, and fell upon my neck and ate me up three several times. I tell you what it is, it's nice to have people love you, whether you deserve it or not, and this warm-hearted, enthusiastic creature really did me good. Dr. Skinner sent us an extraordinary book to read called "God's Furnace." There is a good deal of egotism in it and self-consciousness, and a good deal of genuine Christian experience. I read it through four times, and, when I carried it back and was discussing it with him, he said he had too. It seems almost incredible that a wholly sanctified character could publish such a book, made up as it is of the author's own letters and journal and most sacred joys and sorrows; but perhaps when I get sanctified I shall go to printing mine—it really seems to be a way they have. The Hitchcocks sailed yesterday, and it must have cheered them to set forth on so very fine a day. Give my love to everybody straight through from Hal up to your husband and Mr. H.

Later.—Of course, my letters to A. are virtually to you, too, as far as you can be interested in the little details of which they are made up. Randolph showed George a letter about Katy, which he says beats anything we have heard yet, which is saying a good deal. One lady said Earnest was exactly like her husband, another that he was painfully so; indeed, many sore hearts are making such confessions. So I begin to think there is even more sorrowfulness and unrest in the world than I thought there was. You would get sick unto death of the book if I should tell a quarter of what we hear about it, good and bad. It quite refreshed me to hear that a young lady wanted to punch me.

Craig's Life is very touching. His delight in Christ and in close fellowship with Him is beautiful; but it is painful to see that dying man wandering about Europe alone, when he ought to have been breathing out his life in the arms he loved so well. How did poor Mrs. C. live through the week of suspense that followed the telegram announcing his illness? for one must love such a man very deeply, I think. Well, he doesn't care now where he died or when, and he has gone where he belonged. I miss you all ever so much, and George keeps up one constant howl for your husband. It is a mystery to me what any of you find in my letters, they do seem so flat to me. What fun it would be if you would all write me a round letter! I would write a rouser for it. Lots of love.

The Rev. Wheelock Craig, whose Life is referred to by Mrs. Prentiss in the preceding letter, was her husband's successor in the pastorate of the South Trinitarian church, New Bedford. [9]

* * * * *


Recollections by Mrs. Henry B. Smith.

The following Recollections from the pen of Mrs. Smith may fitly close the present chapter:

NORTHAMPTON, January 2, 1879.

MY DEAR DR. PRENTISS:—I have been trying this beautiful snowy day, which shuts us in to our own thoughts, to recall some of my impressions of your dear wife, but I find it very difficult; there was such variety to her, and so much of her, and the things which were most characteristic are so hard to be described.

I read "Stepping Heavenward" in MS. before we went to Europe in 1869. I remember she used to say that I was "Katy's Aunt," because we talked her over with so much interest. She sent me a copy to Heidelberg, where I began at once translating it into German as my regular exercise. I was delighted to give my copy to Mrs. Prof. K. in Leipsic, as the American story which I was willing to have her translate into German, as she had asked for one. There is no need of telling you about the enthusiasm which the book created. Women everywhere said, "It seems to be myself that I am reading about"; and the feeling that they, too, with all their imperfections, might be really stepping heavenward, was one great secret of its inspiration. One little incident may interest you. My niece, Mrs. Prof. Emerson, was driving alone toward Amherst, and took into her carriage a poor colored woman who was walking the same way. The woman soon said, "I have been thinking a good deal of you, Mrs. E., and of your little children, and I have been reading a book which I thought you would like. It was something about walking towards heaven." "Was it 'Stepping Heavenward'?" "Yes, that was it."

How naturally, modestly, almost indifferently, she received the tributes which poured in upon her! Yet, though she cared little for praise, she cared much for love, and for the consciousness that she was a helper and comforter to others.

On reading the book again this last summer, I was struck by seeing how true a transcript of herself, in more than one respect, was given in Katy. "Why can not I make a jacket for my baby without throwing into it the ardor of a soldier going into battle?" How ardently she threw herself into everything she did! In friendship and love and religion this outpouring of herself was most striking.

Her earlier books she always read or submitted to me in manuscript, and she showed so little self-interest in them, and I so much, that they seemed a sort of common property. I think that I had quite as much pleasure in their success and far more pride, than herself. The Susy books I always considered quite as superior in their way as Stepping Heavenward. They are still peerless among books for little children. "Henry and Bessie," too, contains some of the most beautiful religious teaching ever written. "Fred and Maria and Me" she used to talk about almost as if I had written it, for no other reason than that I liked it so much.

My sister says that her daughter Nettie read "Little Susy" through twelve times, getting up to read it before breakfast. She printed (before she could write) a little letter of thanks to your wife, who sent her the following pretty note in reply: NEW YORK, January 10, 1854.

MY DEAR "NETTIE":—What a nice little letter you wrote me! It pleased me very much. I shall keep it in my desk, and when I am an old woman, I shall buy a pair of spectacles, and sit down in the chimney-corner, and read it. When you learn to write with your own little fingers, I hope you will write me another letter.

Your friend, with love, AUNT SUSAN.

She did nothing for effect, and made little or no effort merely to please; she was almost too careless of the impression which she made upon others, and, on this account, strangers sometimes thought her cold and unsympathetic. But touch her at the right point and the right moment, and there was no measure to her interest and warmth. She hated all pretense and display, and the slightest symptom of them in others shut her up and kept her grave and silent, and this, not from a severe or Pharisaic spirit, but because the atmosphere was so foreign to her that she could not live in it. "I pity people that have any sham about them when I am by," she said one day. "I am dreadfully afraid of young ladies," she said at another time. She could not adapt herself to the artificial and conventional. Yet with young ladies who loved what she loved she was peculiarly free and playful and forth-giving, and such were among her dearest and most lovingly admiring friends.

When we met, there were no preliminaries; she plunged at once into the subject which was interesting her, the book, the person, the case of sickness or trouble, the plan, the last shopping, the game, the garment, the new preparation for the table—in a way peculiarly her own. One could never be with her many minutes without hearing some bright fancy, some quick stroke of repartee, some ludicrous way of putting a thing. But whether she told of the grumbler who could find nothing to complain of in heaven except that "his halo didn't fit," or said in her quick way, when the plainness of a lady's dress was commended, "Why, I didn't suppose that anybody could go to heaven now-a-days without an overskirt," or wrote her sparkling impromptu rhymes for our children's games, her mirth was all in harmony with her earnest life. Her quick perceptions, her droll comparisons, her readiness of expression, united with her rare and tender sympathies, made her the most fascinating of companions to both young and old. Our little Saturday tear, with our children, while our husbands were at Chi Alpha, were rare times. My children enjoyed "Aunt Lizzy" almost as much as I did. She was usually in her best mood at these times. When you and Henry came in, on your return from Chi Alpha, you looked in upon, or, rather, you completed a happier circle than this impoverished earth can ever show us again.

Her acquisitions were so rapid, and she made so little show of them, that one might have doubted their thoroughness, who had no occasion to test them. Her beautiful translation of Griselda was a surprise to many. I remember her eager enthusiasm while translating it. The writing of her books was almost an inspiration, so rapid, without copying, almost without alteration, running on in her clear, pure style, with here and there a radiant sparkle above the full depths.

It sometimes seemed as if she were interested only in those whom she knew she could benefit. If so, it was from her ever-present consciousness of a consecrated life. She constantly sought for ways of showing her love to Christ, especially to His sick and suffering and sorrowing ones. Life with her was peculiarly intense and earnest; she looked upon it more as a discipline and a hard path, and yet no one had a quicker or more admiring eye for the flowers by the wayside. I always thought that her great forte was the study of character. She laid bare and dissected everybody, even her nearest friends and herself, to find what was in them; and what she found, reproduced in her books, was what gave them their peculiar charm of reality. The growth of the religious life in the heart was the one most interesting subject to her.

I never could fully understand the deep sadness which was the groundwork of her nature. It certainly did not prevent the most intense enjoyment of her rich temporal and spiritual blessings, while it indicated depths which her friends did not fathom. It was partly constitutional, doubtless, and partly, I suppose, from her keener sensitiveness, her larger grasp, her stronger convictions, her more vivid vision, and more ardent desires. Even the glowing, almost seraphic love of Christ which was the chief characteristic of her later life was, in her words, "but longing and seeking." She was an exile yearning for her home, "stepping heavenward," and knowing better than the rest of us what it meant.

These things come to me now, and yet how much I have omitted—her industry so varied and untiring, her generosity (so many gifts of former days are around me now), her interest in my children, her delight in flowers and colors and all beautiful things, her ready sympathy—but it is an almost inexhaustible subject. She comes vividly before me now, seated on the floor in her room, with her work around her, making something for such and such a person. What the void in your life must be those who knew most of her manifold, exalted, inspiring life can but imagine.

"Nay, Hope may whisper with the dead By bending forward where they are; But Memory, with a backward tread, Communes with them afar!

"The joys we lose are but forecast, And we shall find them all once more; We look behind us for the past, But, lo! 'tis all before!"

[1] See Memoir of S. S. Prentiss, edited by his Brother, and published by Charles Scribner's Sons. New Edition. 1879.

[2] The following is part of the notice in the London Daily News:

"We are, unfortunately, ignorant of Little Susy's Six Birthdays, but if that book be anything like as good as the charming volume before us by the same author, ycleped Little Lou's Sayings and Doings, it deserves an extraordinary popularity.... Little Lou. is one of the most natural stories in the world, and reads more like a mother's record of her child's sayings and doings than like a fictitious narrative. Little Lou, be it remarked, is a true baby throughout, instead of being a precocious little prig, as so many good children are in print. The child's love for his mother and his mother's love for him is described in the prettiest way possible."

[3] Now Professor of Theology at Bangor.

[4] The following is an extract from a letter of one of the editors of The Advance, Mr. J. B. T. Marsh, dated Chicago, August 10,1869:—"You will notice that the story is completed this week; I wish it could have continued six months longer. I have several times been on the point of writing you to express my own personal satisfaction—and more than satisfaction—in reading it, and to acquaint you with the great unanimity and volume of praise of it, which has reached us from our readers. I do not think anything since the National Era and 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' times has been more heartily received by newspaper readers. I am sure it will have a great sale if rightly brought before the public. A publisher from London was in our office the other day, signifying a desire to make some arrangement to bring it out there. I have heard almost no unfavorable criticism of the story—nothing which you could make serviceable in its revision. I have heard Dr. P. criticise Ernest—of course the character and not your portrayal. For myself I consider the character a natural and consistent one. Perhaps few men are found who are quite so blind to a wife's wants and yet so devoted, but—I don't know what the wives might say. We have had hundreds of letters of which the expression has been, 'We quarrel to see who shall have the first reading of the story.' I congratulate you most heartily upon its great success and the great good it has done and will yet do. I think if you should ever come West my wife would overturn almost any stone for the sake of welcoming you to the hospitality of our cottage on the Lake Michigan shore."

[5] Marchant vers le Ciel is the title of the French translation.

[6] Memorial discourse by the Rev. Marvin R. Vincent, D.D.

[7] The following is an extract from a letter, dated New Orleans, and written after Mrs. Prentiss' death:

"We called one day to see a poor dressmaker who was dying of consumption. She was an educated woman, a devout Roman Catholic, and a person whom we had long respected and esteemed for her integrity, her love of independence, and her extraordinary powers of endurance. Her husband, a prosperous merchant, had died suddenly, and his affairs being mismanaged, she was obliged, although a constant invalid, to earn a support for many years by the most unremitting labor. We found her reading; 'Stepping Heavenward,' which she spoke of in the warmest terms. We told her about the authoress, of her suffering from ill-health, and of her recent death. She listened eagerly and asked questions which showed the deepest interest in the subject. Soon after she left the city, and a few weeks later we heard of her death."

[8] One of them—said to have been an eminent German theologian—used this strong language respecting it: "Schon manche gute, edle, segensreiche Gabe ist uns aus Nordamerika gekommen, aber wir stehen nicht au, diese als die beste zu bezeichnen unter allen, die uns von dort zu Gesichte gekommen."

[9] See A Memorial of the Character, Work, and Closing Days of Rev. Wheelock Craig, New Bedford.

Mr. Craig was born in Augusta, Maine, July 11, 1824. He entered Bowdoin College in 1839, and was graduated with honor in the class of 1843. He then entered the Theological Seminary at Bangor, where he graduated in 1847. After preaching a couple of years at New Castle, Me., he accepted a call to New Bedford, and was installed there December 4, 1850. In 1859 he received a call to the chair of Modern Languages in Bowdoin College, which he declined. After an earnest and faithful ministry of more than seventeen years, he went abroad for his health in May, 1868. He visited Ireland, England, Scotland, and then passing over to the Continent, travelled through Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and so southward as far as Naples, where he arrived the last of September. Here he was taken seriously ill, and advised to hasten back to Switzerland. In great weakness he passed through Rome, Florence, Turin, Geneva, and reached Neuchatel on the 4th of November in a state of utter exhaustion. There, encompassed by newly-made friends and tenderly cared for, he gently breathed his last on the 28th of November. Two names, in particular, deserve to be gratefully mentioned in connection with Mr. Craig's last hours, viz.: that of his countryman, Mr. W. C. Cabot, and that of the Rev. Dr. Godet, of Neuchatel. Of the former he said the day before his death: "He saw me coming from Geneva a perfect stranger—lying sick, helpless, wretched, and miserable in the ears—and spoke to me, inquired who I was, and took care of me. Anybody else would have gone by on the other side. He brought me to this hotel, and remained with me, and did everything for me; and, fearing that I might be ill some time, and uneasy about money matters, he sent me a letter of credit for two hundred pounds. Such noble and generous conduct to an entire stranger was never heard of." To Dr. Godet he had a letter from Prof. Henry B. Smith, of New York. But he needed no other introduction to that warm- hearted and eminent servant of God than his sad condition and his love to Christ. "From the first quarter of an hour," wrote Dr. Godet to Mrs. Craig, "we were like two brothers who had known each other from infancy. He knew not a great deal of French, and I not more of English; but the Lord was between him and me." "Prof. Godet and family are like the very angels of God," wrote Mr. Craig to his wife. His last days were filled with inexpressible joy in his God and Saviour. Shortly before his departure he said to Dr. Godet and the other friends who were by his bedside, "There shall be no night there, but the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their light."

Mr. Craig had a highly poetical nature, refined spiritual sensibilities, and a soul glowing with love to his Master. He was also a vigorous and original thinker. Some passages in his letters and journal are as racy and striking as anything in John Newton or Cecil. Mrs. Prentiss greatly enjoyed reading them to her friends. Some of them she copied and had published in the Association Monthly.





A happy Year. Madame Guyon. What sweetens the Cup of earthly Trials and the Cup of earthly Joy. Death of Mrs. Julia B. Cady. Her Usefulness. Sickness and Death of other Friends. "My Cup runneth over." Letters. "More Love to Thee, O Christ."

In every earnest life there usually comes a time when it reaches its highest point, whether of power or of enjoyment; a time when it is in

—the bright, consumate flower.

The year 1870 formed such a period in the life of Mrs. Prentiss. None that went before, or that followed after, equalled it, as a whole, in rich, varied and happy experiences. It was full of the genial, loving spirit which inspired the Little Susy books and Stepping Heavenward; full, too, of the playful humor which runs through Fred and Maria and Me; and full, also, of the intense, overflowing delight in her God and Saviour that breathes in the Golden Hours. From its opening to its close she was—to borrow an expression from her Richmond journal—"one great long sunbeam." Everywhere, in her home, with her friends, by sick and dying beds, in the house of mourning, in the crowded street or among her flowers at Dorset, she seemed to be attired with constant brightness. Of course, there were not wanting hours of sadness and heart-sinking; nor was her consciousness of sin or her longing to be freed from it, perhaps, ever keener and more profound; but still the main current of her existence flowed on, untroubled, to the music of its own loving, grateful and adoring thoughts. Often she would say that God was too good to her; that she was satisfied and had nothing more to ask of life; her cup of domestic bliss ran over; and as to her religious joy, it was at times too much for her frail body, and she begged that it might be transferred to other souls. Her letters give a vivid picture of her state of mind during this memorable year; and yet only a picture. The sweet reality was beyond the power of words.

In the early part of this year the correspondence of Madame Guyon and Fenelon fell into her hands, and was eagerly read by her. The perusal of this correspondence led, somewhat later, to a careful study of the Select Works, Autobiography, and Spiritual Letters of Madame Guyon, thus forming an important incident in her religious history. Heretofore she had known Madame Guyon chiefly through the Life by Prof. Upham and the little treatise entitled A Short and very Easy Method of Prayer; and both seem rather to have repelled her. In 1867 she wrote to a friend:

There is a book I would be glad to have you read, and which I think you would wish to own; 'Thoughts on Personal Religion,' by Goulburn. I never read a modern religious book that had in it so much, that really edified me. I take for granted you have Thomas a Kempis; on that and on Fenelon I have feasted for years every day; I like strengthening food and whatever deals a blow at this monster Self. Madame Guyon I do not understand.

But now she began to feel, as so many earnest seekers after holiness had felt before her, the strong attraction of this remarkable woman. While never becoming to her what Fenelon was, Madame Guyon for several years exerted a decided influence upon her views of the Christian life; nor is there reason to think that this influence was not, on the whole, salutary. Notwithstanding her grave errors and the extravagances which marred her career, Madame Guyon was no doubt one of the holiest, as she was certainly one of the most gifted, women of her own or any other age. [1]

To Mrs. J Elliot Condict, New York, Jan. 2, 1870.

It has been a real disappointment not to see you. How quickly we learn to lean on earthly things! I am afraid I prize Christian fellowship too much, and that I am behaving in a miserly way about all divine gifts, shutting myself up here in this room, which often seems like the gate of heaven, and luxuriating in it, instead of going about preaching the glad tidings to other souls. Yet work for Christ, when He gives it, is sweet, too, and if answering your note is the little tiny bit He offers me at this moment, how glad I am. Though I am not, just now, in the furnace as you are, there is no knowing how soon I shall be, and I remember well enough how the furnace feels, to have deep sympathy with you in your trials. Sympathy, but not regret; I can't make myself be very sorry for Christ's disciples when He takes them in hand—He does it so tenderly, so wisely, so lovingly; and it can hardly be true, can it? that He is just as near and dear to me when my cup is as full of earthly blessings as it can hold, as He is to you whose cup He is emptying?

I have always thought they knew and loved Him best who knew Him in His character of Chastiser; but perhaps one never loses the memory of His revelations of Himself in that form, and perhaps that tender memory saddens and hallows the day of prosperity. At any rate, you and I seem to be in full sympathy with each other; your empty cup isn't empty, and my full one would be bitter if love to Christ did not sweeten it. It matters very little on what paths we are walking, since we find Him in every one. How ashamed we shall be when we get to heaven, of our talk about our trials here! Why don't we sing songs instead? We know how, for He has put the songs into our mouths. I think I know something about the land of Beulah, but I don't quite live in it yet; and yet what is this joy if it isn't beatitude, if it is not a foretaste of that which is to come? It isn't joy in what He has done for me, a sinner, but adoring joy for what He is, though I do not begin to know what He is. It will take an eternity to learn that lesson.

Do you really mean to say that Miss K. is going to pray for me? How delightful! I am greedy for prayer; nobody is rich enough to give me anything I so long for; indeed when my husband begged me to tell him what I wanted at Christmas, I couldn't think of a thing; but oh, what unutterable longing I have for more of Christ. Why should we not speak freely to each other of Him? Don't apologise for it again. The wonder is that we have the heart to speak of anything else. Sometimes I am almost frightened at the expressions of love I pour out upon Him, and wonder if I am really in earnest; if I really mean all I say. Is it even so with you? It is not foolish, is it? Perhaps He likes to hear our poor stammerings, when we can not get our emotions and our thoughts into words.

To Miss E. A. Warner, New York, Jan. 7, 1870.

I find letters more and more unsatisfactory. How little I know of your real life, how little you know of mine! So much is going on all the time that I should run and tell you about if you lived here, but which it would take too long to write. I have very precious Christian friends within six months, who take, or rather to whom I give, more time than I could or would spare for any ordinary friendship; one of them has spent four hours in my room with me at a time, and we had wonderful communings together. Then two dear friends have died. One of the two, of whom you have heard me speak, was the most useful woman in our church; my husband and I both wept over her death. The other directed in dying that a copy of Stepping Heavenward should be given to each of her Sunday scholars; a lifelong fear of death was taken away, and she declared it pleasanter and easier to die than to live; her last words, five minutes before she drew her last gentle breath, came with the upward, dying look, "Wonderful love!"

You can't think how sweet it is to be a pastor's wife; to feel the right to sympathise with those who mourn, to fly to them at once, and join them in their prayers and tears. It would be pleasant to spend one's whole time among sufferers, and to keep testifying to them what Christ can and will become to them, if they will only let Him.... No, I never "Dialed" or was transcendental. I don't think knowledge will come to us by intuition in heaven, though knowledge enough to get started there, will. But I don't much care how it will be. I know we shall learn Christ there. I have read lately Prof. Phelps on the Solitude of Christ; it is a suggestive little book which I like much. Have you ever read the Life of Mrs. Hawkes? It is interesting because she records so many of Cecil's wonderful remarks—such, e.g., as these: "a humble, kind silence often utters much." "To-morrow you and I shall walk together in a garden, when I hope to talk with you about everything but sadness." I am going to ask a favor of you, though I hate to put you to the trouble. In writing a telegram in great haste and sorrow, I accidentally used and cut into the lines you copied for me—Sabbath hymn in sickness. It was a real loss, and if you ever feel a little stronger than usual, will you make me another copy? I so often want to comfort sick persons with it.

I have half promised to write a serial for a magazine, the organ of the Young Men's Christian Association, though I know nothing of young men and hate to write serials. I wish I could hide in some hole. I get bright letters from A., who is having a very nice time. I write her every day; wretched letters, which she thinks delightful, fortunately. We have a quiet time this winter, but such nice things can't last, and I am afraid of this world anyhow. I know you pray for me, as I do for you and Miss L. every day. I have a thousand things to say that I shall have to put off till I see you. Good-bye, dearie.

To Mrs. Condict, Sunday, March 6, 1870.

I have had some really sweet days, shut up with my dear little boy. He is better, and I am comparatively at leisure again, and so happy in meditating on the character of my Saviour, and in the sense of His nearness, that I ache, and have had to beg Him to give me no more, but to carry this joy to you and to Miss K. and to two friends, who, languishing on dying beds, need it so much. [2] If I could shed tears I should not have to tell you this, and indeed it is nothing new; but one must have vent in some way. And this reminds me to explain to you why to three dear Christian friends I now and then send verses; they are my tears of joy or sorrow, and when I feel most deeply it is a relief to versify, and a pleasure to open my heart to those who feel as I do. I have been in print ever since I was sixteen years old, and admiration is an old story; I care very little for it; but I do crave and value sympathy with those who love Christ. And it is such a new thing to open my heart thus! I have written any number of verses that no human being has ever seen, because they came from the very bottom of my heart.

I wish I could put into words all the blessed thoughts I had last week about God's dear will: it was a week of such sweet content with the work He gave me to do; naturally I hate nursing, and losing the air makes me feel unwell; but what can't God do with us? I love, dearly, to have a Master. I fancy that those who have strong wills, are the ones to enjoy God's sovereignty most. I wonder if you realise what a very happy creature I am? and how much too good God is to me? I don't see how He can heap such mercies on a poor sinner; but that only shows how little I know Him. But then, I am learning to know Him, and shall go on doing it forever and ever; and so will you. I am not sure that it is best for us, once safe and secure on the Rock of Ages, to ask ourselves too closely what this and that experience may signify. Is it not better to be thinking of the Rock, not of the feet that stand upon it? It seems to me that we ought to be unconscious of ourselves, and that the nearer we get to Christ, the more we shall be taken up with Him. We shall be like a sick man who, after he gets well, forgets all the old symptoms he used to think so much of, and stops feeling his pulse, and just enjoys his health, only pointing out his physician to all who are diseased. You will see that this is in answer to a portion of your letter, in which you say Miss K. interprets to you certain experiences. If I am wrong I am willing to be set right; perhaps I have not said clearly what I meant to say. I certainly mean no criticism on you or her, but am only thinking aloud and querying.

To Miss E. A. Warner, New York, March 27, 1870.

You ask if I revel in the Pilgrim's Progress. Yes, I do. I think it an amazing book. It seems to me almost as much an inspiration as the Bible itself. [3] I am glad you liked that hymn. I write in verse whenever I am deeply stirred, because, though as full of tears as other people, I can not shed them. But I never showed any of these verses to any one, not even my husband, till this winter. But if I were more with you no doubt I should venture to let you run over some of them, at least those my dear husband has seen and likes. I have felt about hymns just as you say you do, as if I loved them more than the Bible. But I have got over that; I prayed myself out of it, not loving hymns the less, but the Bible more. I wonder if you sing; I can't remember; if you do, I will send you, sometime, a hymn to sing for my sake, called "More love to Thee, O Christ." Only to think, our silver wedding comes next month, and A. and the Smiths away!

I have been interrupted by callers, and must have been in the parlor several hours. You can't think what a sweet, peaceful winter this has been, nor how good the children are. My cup has just run over, and at times I am too happy to be comfortable, if you know what that means; not having a strong body, I suppose you do. Mrs. B. has been in a very critical state of late, but she is rallying, and I may, perhaps, have the privilege of seeing her again. I have had some precious times with her in her sick-room; last Friday, a week ago, she prayed with me in the sweetest temper of mind, and came with me when I took leave, to the head of the stairs, full of love and smiles.

To a Young Friend, April 5, 1870.

I wish that hymn for the sick-room were mine, but it is not. I will enclose one that is, which my dear husband has kindly had printed; perhaps you will like to sing it to the tune of "Nearer, my God, to Thee." There is not much in it, but you can put everything into it as you make it your prayer. I can't help feeling that every soul I meet, of whom I can ask, What think you of Christ? and get the glad answer, "He is the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely"—is a blessing as well as a comfort to mine; and whenever you can and do say it, you will become more dear to me. Your God and Saviour won you as an easy victory, but He had to fight for me. It seems to me now that He ought to have all there is of me—which, to be sure, isn't much—and I hope He is taking it. His ways with me have been perfectly beautiful and infinite in long-suffering and patience.

April 11th.—Your note has reawakened a question I have often had occasion to ask myself before. Why do my friends speak of my letters as giving more pleasure or profit than anything that goes to them from me in print? Is human nature so selfish? Must everybody have everything to himself? It might seem so at first blush, but I think there are two sides to this question. May it not be possible that God sends a message directly from one heart to another as He does not to the many? Does He not speak through the living voice and the pen that is that voice, as He does not do in the less unconstrained form of print? At any rate, I love to believe that He directs each word and look and tone; inspires rather, I should say.

I should like you to offer a special prayer for us on Saturday. That day completes twenty-five years of married life to us, and, though it has its shades as well as its lights, I do not think I can do better for you than ask that you may have such years,

"For who the backward scene hath scanned But blessed the Father's guiding hand?"

I can more truly thank Him for His chastisements than for His worldly indulgences; the latter urge from, the former drive to Him. I am saying a great thing in a feeble way, and you may multiply it by ten thousand, and it will still be weak.

The hymn, "More Love to Thee, O Christ," belongs, probably, as far back as the year 1856. Like most of her hymns, it is simply a prayer put into the form of verse. She wrote it so hastily that the last stanza was left incomplete, one line having been added in pencil when it was printed. She did not show it, not even to her husband, until many years after it was written; and she wondered not a little that, when published, it met with so much favor.

* * * * *


Her Silver Wedding. "I have Lived, I have Loved." No Joy can put her out of Sympathy with the Trials of Friends. A Glance backward. Last Interview with a dying Friend. More Love and more Likeness to Christ. Funeral of a little Baby. Letters to Christian Friends.

If 1870 was the crowning year in Mrs. Prentiss' life, the 16th of April was that year's most precious jewel. As the time drew nigh, a glow of tender, grateful recollection suffused her countenance.

Her eyes are homes of silent prayer.

She talked of the past, like one lost in wonder, while the light and beauty of the vanished years appeared still to rest upon her spirit. The day itself, which had been kept from the knowledge of most of her friends, was full of sweet content, rehearsing, as it were, all the days of her married life; and, at its close, the measure of her earthly joy seemed to be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

To Mrs. Leonard, New York, April 16, 1845-1870.

Do you know that it is just twenty-five years since we first met? How gladly would I spend the day of our silver wedding with you! You will see that I am near in spirit, at all events. My thoughts have been busy the past week with reviewing the years through which I have travelled, hand in hand, with my dear husband; years full of sin, full of suffering, full of joy; brimful of the loving-kindness and tender mercy that smote often and smote surely. Your last letter only confirms what I already knew, but am never tired of hearing repeated, the faithfulness of God to those whom He afflicts. When we once find out what He is to an aching, empty heart, we want to make everybody see just what we see, and, until we try in vain, think we can. I had very peculiar feelings in relation to you when your dear husband was, for a time, parted from you. I knew God would never afflict you so, if He had not something beautiful and blissful to give in place of what He took. And what can we ask for that compares for one instant with "the almost constant felt presence of our Saviour's sympathy and support"? Our human nature would like to have the earthly and the divine friendship at once; but, if we must choose between the twain, surely you and I would choose Christ without one moment's hesitation. I hope you mention my name every day to Him as I do yours, as I love to do.

I enclose, and want you, when by yourself, to sing for my sake a little hymn that I am sure is the language of your heart. My dear husband had a few copies struck off to give friends. Write soon and often. Oh, that you lived here or at Dorset. Good-bye, with warmest love, now twenty-five years old!

To Mrs. Condict, New York, April 20, 1870.

Last Saturday was the twenty-fifth anniversary of our marriage, and a very happy day to us both. My dear husband wrote me a letter that made me tremble, lest he should get such hold of me as no human being must have. I have a very curious feeling about life; a satisfied one, and as if it could not possibly give me much more than I now have. "I have lived, I have loved." [4] People often say they have so much to live for; I can't feel so, though I am not only willing, but glad to live while my husband and children need me; and yet—and yet—to have this problem solved, and to be forever with the Lord! I want to see you. I can no longer see my dear Mrs. B.; she is too ill, and that makes me miss you the more. I hope that little MS. of mine did not task your sympathies; I don't want you to pity me, but to magnify Him who took such pains with me, and is carrying on just such work in thousands of hearts and lives. What goodness! What condescension! The least we can do who have suffered much is to love much.... I have been studying the Bible on the subject of giving personal testimony, and think it makes this a plain duty. There is nothing like the influence of one living soul on another. Then why should we not naturally speak to everybody who will listen, of what fills our thoughts; our Saviour, His beauty, His goodness, His faithfulness, His wisdom! I don't believe a full heart can help running over.

To a young Friend, April 21, 1870.

I was right sorry to lose your Saturday's call. It was a happy day to me, but I can conceive of no enjoyment of any sort that would put me out of sympathy with the trials of friends:

"Old and young are bringing troubles, Great and small, for me to hear; I have often blessed by sorrows That drew other's grief so near."

I thought I was saying a very ordinary thing when I spoke of thanking God for His long years of discipline, but very likely life did not look to me at your age as it does now. I was rather startled the other day, to find it written in German, in my own hand, "I can not say the will is there," referring to a hymn which says, "Der Will ist da, die Kraft ist klein, Doch wird dir nicht zuwider seyn." I suppose there was some great struggle going on when this foolish heart said that, just as if God did not invariably do for us the very best that can be done. [5] You speak of having your love to Jesus intensified by interviews with me. It can hardly be otherwise, when those meet together who love Him, and it is a rule that works both ways; acts and reacts. I should be thankful if no human being could ever meet me, even in a chance way, and not go away clasping Him the closer, and if I could meet no one who did not so stir and move me. It is my constant prayer. I have such insatiable longings to know and love Him better that I go about hungering and thirsting for the fellowship of those who feel so too; when I meet them I call them my "benedictions." Next best to being with Christ Himself, I love to be with those who have His spirit and are yearning for more of His likeness. You speak of putting "deep and dark chasms between" yourself and Christ. He lets us do this that we may learn our nothingness, our weakness, and turn, disgusted, from ourselves to Him. May I venture to assure you that the "chasms" occur less and less frequently as one presses on, till finally they turn into "mountains of light." Get and keep a will for God, and everything that will is ready for will come. This is about a tenth part of what I might say.

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