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Title: Children's Stories in American Literature, 1660-1860
Author: Wright, Henrietta Christian
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's Note: Original spelling and grammar has been retained
except in the following instances: on page 45, "four hundred vears"
was changed to "four hundred years", on page 62, "book are
transscriptions" was changed to "book are transcriptions", and on
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received the territory". The original contains both 'dooryard' and
'door-yard' as well as 'stage coach' and 'stage-coach'.]



                       CHILDREN'S STORIES

                                IN

                       AMERICAN LITERATURE



  BY THE SAME AUTHOR

  CHILDREN'S STORIES IN AMERICAN LITERATURE,
  1861-1896. One vol., 12mo.         $1.25

  CHILDREN'S STORIES IN AMERICAN LITERATURE,
  1660-1860. One vol., 12mo.         $1.25

  CHILDREN'S STORIES OF AMERICAN PROGRESS.
  One vol., 12mo. Illustrated        $1.25

  CHILDREN'S STORIES IN AMERICAN HISTORY.
  One vol., 12mo. Illustrated        $1.25

  CHILDREN'S STORIES OF THE GREAT SCIENTISTS.
  One vol., 12mo. Illustrated        $1.25

  CHILDREN'S STORIES IN ENGLISH LITERATURE.
  FROM TALIESIN TO SHAKESPEARE. One vol.,
  12mo.                              $1.25

  CHILDREN'S STORIES IN ENGLISH LITERATURE.
  FROM SHAKESPEARE TO TENNYSON. One vol.,
  12mo.                              $1.25

  THE PRINCESS LILLIWINKINS AND OTHER STORIES.
  One vol., 12mo. Illustrated        $1.25



                       CHILDREN'S STORIES

                               IN

                       AMERICAN LITERATURE

                           1660-1860

                               BY

                    HENRIETTA CHRISTIAN WRIGHT


NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1909
COPYRIGHT, 1895, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS.



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER I                                PAGE

  THE EARLY LITERATURE,                       1

  CHAPTER II

  JOHN JAMES AUDUBON--1780-1851,             14

  CHAPTER III

  WASHINGTON IRVING--1783-1859,              28

  CHAPTER IV

  JAMES FENIMORE COOPER--1789-1851,          51

  CHAPTER V

  WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT--1794-1878,          69

  CHAPTER VI

  WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT--1796-1859,            82

  CHAPTER VII

  JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER--1807-1892,        96

  CHAPTER VIII

  NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE--1804-1864,           108

  CHAPTER IX

  GEORGE BANCROFT--1800-1891,               123

  CHAPTER X

  EDGAR ALLAN POE--1809-1849,               137

  CHAPTER XI

  RALPH WALDO EMERSON--1803-1882,           149

  CHAPTER XII

  HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW--1807-1882,    156

  CHAPTER XIII

  JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY--1814-1877,           174

  CHAPTER XIV

  HARRIET BEECHER STOWE--1811-1896,         188

  CHAPTER XV

  JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL--1819-1892,          203

  CHAPTER XVI

  FRANCIS PARKMAN--1823-1893,               219

  CHAPTER XVII

  OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES--1809-1894,         234



CHAPTER I

THE EARLY LITERATURE


One Sunday morning, about the year 1661, a group of Indians was
gathered around a noble-looking man, listening to a story he was
reading. It was summer and the day was beautiful, and the little
Indian children who sat listening were so interested that not even the
thought of their favorite haunts by brookside or meadow could tempt
them from the spot. The story was about the life of Christ and his
mission to the world, and the children had heard it many times,
but to-day it seemed new to them because it was read in their own
language, which had never been printed before. This was the Mohegan
tongue, which was spoken in different dialects by the Indians
generally throughout Massachusetts; and although it had been used
for hundreds of years by the tribes in that part of the country
its appearance on paper was as strange to them as if it had been a
language of which they knew not a single word. It was just as strange
to them, in fact, as if they had heard one of their war cries or love
songs set to music, or had seen a picture of their dreams of the happy
hunting grounds in that invisible western world where the sun went
every night, and which they expected to see only after death.

The man who was reading the old story was John Eliot, an English
missionary, who had devoted his life to the Indians, and whose
ambition it was to leave behind him as his greatest gift the Bible
translated into their own tongue. With this in view he set about
making them familiar with the Christian faith, and established
Sunday-schools among them, where men, women, and children alike were
instructed.

From time to time they heard read stories from the New Testament which
Eliot had translated, and in which he was greatly helped by one or two
Indians who had gifts as translators, and could express the English
thought into Indian words more fitting and beautiful than Eliot
himself could have done. In all his earlier missionary work he also
had the assistance of the great sachem Waban, because, as it happened,
the first sermon Eliot ever preached to the Indians was delivered
in Waban's wigwam. The text was from the old poetic words of
Ezekiel--"Say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God," etc.

The Indian name for wind was Waban, the old sachem's name, and he
thought the sermon was addressed to him. He became an ardent convert
and helped Eliot greatly in his work of Christianizing the tribes,
and in particular in his trouble to keep peace among the sachems,
who objected to the freedom of thought which the new religion taught,
thinking that it interfered with their own authority over their
people.

In a little book in which Eliot describes these grievances of the
chiefs he calls them _Pills for the Sachems_, and says they were much
harder to swallow than even the nauseous doses of their medicine men.

For the better instruction of the Indian children Eliot prepared a
small primer, which was printed in 1669, eight years after the New
Testament was printed. It was a curious little book, having the
alphabet in large and small letters on the fly-leaf, and containing
the Apostles' Creed, the Catechism, and the Lord's Prayer, with other
religious matter. Out of this primer the Indian youth learned to read
and to spell in words of one syllable. When he was able to master the
whole Bible, which was printed in 1663, his education was considered
complete.

This old Indian Bible, which Eliot was ten years in translating, was
printed at Cambridge and bound in dark blue morocco, it being the
first Bible and one of the first books ever printed in America. Two
hundred copies were made, and a second edition contained a dedication
to Charles II. of England, praising him for his goodness in
distributing the word of God among his colonies, which had not
yielded him gold and silver as the Spanish colonies had yielded their
sovereign, but which would nevertheless redound to his immortal glory
as the first-fruits of Christianity among those heathen tribes. The
dedication took up two pages, which was about all the English the
old book contained, the rest being in that curious, half-musical,
half-guttural tongue of the Mohegans, which Cotton Mather said had
been growing since the time of the confusion of tongues at the Tower
of Babel. Certainly some of the words are of such mighty length and
awful sound that we may well believe the same old preacher when he
says that he knew from personal knowledge that demons could understand
Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but that they were utterly baffled by the
speech of the American Indians.

Very few of these Bibles now exist, and those are of priceless value
to lovers of old books.

One of the earliest books that may be claimed as belonging to American
letters was a volume descriptive of the early settlements in Virginia
by Captain John Smith. It has great value as a representation of
Indian life before its contact with white civilization. Smith had
followed the army of England through the greater part of Europe and
Asia and knew the life of a soldier of fortune. He had fought with
Turks, hunted Tartars, and had always been the hero of the occasion.
The Indian to him was but another kind of heathen to subdue, and the
book is full of adventures, in which he describes himself as always
intrepid and victorious. This is the earliest book that brings the
Indians of the colonies closely before our eyes, and its style is
good, and shows that strong, terse, English fibre which characterized
the writings of the adventurous Englishman of that time. In another
book Smith gives a charming description of inland Virginia, whose
birds, flowers, wild animals, rivers, and scenery are discussed in
a poetic fashion that throws a new light on the character of
the adventurous soldier. There is in both volumes a richness of
description in the details of Indian life that possesses a rare value
to the student. The story of Smith's visit to Powhatan, the father
of Pocahontas, reads like a bit of oriental fairy lore, and the great
Indian chief, seated upon his couch of skins, with his savage guard
around him, is brought as vividly before our eyes as the hero of
a romance. And so Smith's books stand for good literature, though
written only with the idea of familiarizing the people at home with
the condition of the new colony, and they make no mean showing as the
beginning of American letters.

In New England literature from the first partook inevitably of the
Puritan character. There were long journals of the pilgrim fathers,
books on books of sermons, and volume after volume of argument on the
burning religious questions that had been heard in England since
the first Puritan defied the king and openly declared for freedom of
conscience. Among the most celebrated of these old books is the _Bay
Psalm Book_ of 1640, in which the psalms of David were done into metre
for the use of congregations. This book, in which the beautiful Hebrew
poetry is tortured into the most abominable English, is a fair example
of the religious verse-making of the day.

A curious book was the first almanac, published at Cambridge in
1689, and which contained prognostications of the weather, dates of
historical events, general news of the world, and bits of poetry,
having also blank spaces for the use of the owner, who could either
utilize them for preserving his own verses, as Cotton Mather did, or
keep therein his accounts with his wig maker and hair-dresser, as did
that worthy Puritan Thomas Prince.

Perhaps the greatest poet of those early times was Anne Bradstreet,
who wrote her famous poems on the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and
Roman monarchies, and who was called the tenth muse by an admiring
public. These works are long and learned, but they show less the
poetic spirit of the age than do the short but pointed ballads that
sprang up from time to time and which indicated the popular feeling
over the events that were making the history of New England. These
ballads were on every conceivable subject, from the Day of Judgment
to the sale of a cow. The war between England and France for the
possession of Canada gave rise to many ditties the tunes of which
remained popular long afterward. The Indian wars also furnished
material for many. They were printed in almanacs, or loose sheets, and
sometimes not printed at all. They served as news-venders long before
the first newspaper was published (in 1690) and they expressed, as
nothing else could have done, the attitude of the people toward
the church, the state, the governor, and even the "tidy man"
(tithing-man), whose duty it was to tickle with a hazel rod any
youngster who was unlucky enough to fall asleep in church. Later, in
revolutionary times, the ballad became a power second to none.
Here first appears that great hero Yankee Doodle, who comes, like
will-o'-the-wisp, from no one knows where, although many learned pages
have been written to show his nationality. He seems to have been as
great a traveller as Marco Polo or Baron Munchausen, and, like them,
he must have seen many strange sights and countries. Perhaps he
may have a trace of the gypsy in him and could recall, if he
liked, strange wanderings through the Far East. He may have been a
camp-follower through the German and Flemish wars. It is more than
probable that he hobnobbed with the Italian banditti, and took an
elfish delight in depriving honest travellers of their wits and
purses. We know that he lived for a time in Holland, where he seems
to have preferred a peaceful life and was content with the humdrum
existence of those worthy Dutch farmers who invited him to their
feasts, welcomed him to their roofs, and sang his praises in their
harvest-fields in such stirring words as these:

  Yanker didel doodel down,
  Didel dudel lanter;
  Yanke viver voover vown,
  Botermilk un tanther;

which means that if the lads and lassies reaped and gleaned faithfully
they should be rewarded by a tenth of the grain, and an unlimited
supply of buttermilk.

Afterward Yankee Doodle seems to have tired of pastoral life, for we
find him in the midst of Roundhead and Cavalier upon the battle-fields
of England during the Civil War. No doubt such a jolly comrade felt a
tinge of sadness at the misfortunes of the unlucky Charles I., and he
could not have found the long-faced Puritans, with their nasal voices,
very good company for such a happy-go-lucky as himself. At any rate he
never became an Englishman, and seems only to have paused in England
while making up his mind where to settle down and spend his old age.
He probably made his first bow in America in 1775, and it is evident
that he took a fancy to the new country, and was pleased, and perhaps
flattered, by the reception he met. With his old abandon he threw
himself heart and soul into the conflict, and became, in fact, the
child of the Revolution. He was a leading spirit everywhere. Throwing
all recollections of English hospitality to the winds, he chased the
red coats at Bunker Hill, gave them a drubbing at Bennington, and
remained bravely in the rear to watch their scouts while Washington
retreated from Long Island. Many a time he was the sole support of the
faithful few stationed to guard some important outpost; many a time he
marched along with the old Continentals, grim and faithful, expecting
every moment would reveal danger and perhaps death.

He crossed the Delaware with Washington on that eventful Christmas
night, in 1775, though the Italian blood in him must have shrunk a
little from the cold. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the great
leader through all the misery and hopelessness of Valley Forge. He was
joyously welcomed by the soldiers in all their daring escapades when
breaking loose from the restraints of camp life; and the women and
children who had to remain home and suffer danger and privation alone,
never saw his honest face without a smile.

Such devotion met with its reward. When the war was over the old
veteran retired from the service with full military rank, and was
brevetted an American citizen besides. It is pleasant to think that he
has at last found a resting place among a people who will always honor
and love him.

Two other ballads very popular at that time were _The Battle of
Trenton_ and _The Massacre of Wyoming_, while innumerable ones of
lesser note were sung by fireside and camp-fire, all through the
colonies.

In New York the first liberty pole raised in the country was planted
by the Sons of Liberty, a band of patriotic Americans, who set it up
again and again as it was cut down by the Tories, accompanying their
work by singing every imaginable kind of ballad that would irritate
the breast of the British sympathizers.

During the war of 1812, came the _Star Spangled Banner_, written to
the accompaniment of shot and shell, while the author, Francis S. Key,
was a prisoner on shipboard watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry
by the British, in the harbor of Baltimore. The song was born in the
darkness of a night of terrible anxiety, and when the dawn broke and
found the flag still floating over the fort, an earnest of the victory
to come, its triumphant measures seemed the fitting pæan of American
liberty.

The ballad of the camps had developed into the national anthem.



CHAPTER II

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON

1780-1851


In the days when Louisiana was a province of Spain a little dark-eyed
boy used to wander among the fields and groves of his father's
plantation studying with eager delight the works of nature around him.

Lying under the orange-trees watching the mocking-bird, or learning
from his mother's lips the names of the flowers that grew in every
corner of the plantation, he soon came to feel that he was part of
that beautiful world, whose language was the songs of birds and whose
boundaries extended to every place where a blossom lifted its head
above the green sod. To him, as he said years afterward, the birds
were playmates and the flowers dear friends, and before he could
distinguish between the azure of the sky and the emerald of the
grass he had formed an intimacy with them so close and endearing
that whenever removed from their presence he felt a loneliness almost
unbearable. No other companions suited him so well, and no roof
seemed so secure as that formed of the dense foliage under which the
feathered tribes resorted, or the caves and rocks to which the curlew
and cormorant retired to protect themselves from the fury of the
tempest. In these words, recorded by himself, we read the first
chapter of the life history of John James Audubon, the American
naturalist and the author of one of the early classics of American
literature.

In those early days his father was Audubon's teacher, and hand in hand
they searched the groves for new specimens, or lingered over the nests
where lay the helpless young. It was his father who taught him to
look upon the shining eggs as 'flowers in the bud,' and to note the
different characteristics which distinguished them. These excursions
were seasons of joy, but when the time came for the birds to take
their annual departure the joy was turned to sorrow. To the young
naturalist a dead bird, though beautifully preserved and mounted, gave
no pleasure. It seemed but a mockery of life, and the constant care
needed to keep the specimens in good condition brought an additional
sense of loss. Was there no way in which the memory of these feathered
friends might be kept fresh and beautiful? He writes that he turned in
his anxiety to his father, who in answer laid before him a volume of
illustrations. Audubon turned over the leaves with a new hope in
his heart, and although the pictures were badly executed the idea
satisfied him. Although he was unconscious of it, it was the moment of
the birth of his own great life work. Pencil in hand he began to
copy nature untiringly, although for a long time he produced what he
himself called but a family of cripples, the sketches being burned
regularly on his birthdays. But no failure could stop him. He
made hundreds of sketches of birds every year, worthless almost in
themselves because of bad drawing, but valuable as studies of nature.

Meantime for education the boy had been taken from Louisiana to
France, the home of his father, who wished him to become a
soldier, sailor, or engineer. For a few hours daily Audubon studied
mathematics, drawing, and geography, and then would disappear in the
country, returning with eggs, nests, or curious plants. His rooms
looked like a museum of natural history, while the walls were covered
with drawings of French birds.

Learning mathematics with difficulty Audubon became easily proficient
in fencing and dancing, and learned to play upon the violin, flute,
flageolet, and guitar. His drawing lessons were his greatest delight,
the great French artist, David, being his teacher and critic. Once, on
the elder Audubon's return from a long sea-voyage, he was chagrined
to find that although his son had probably the largest amateur
natural-history collection in France, he had neglected his equations,
angles, and triangles, and the lad was sent to his father's station,
given one day to visit the ships and fortifications, and then set to
the study of mathematics, and mathematics only.

For one year he wrestled with problems and theorems, counting himself
happy if by any chance he could fly to the country for an hour to take
up his acquaintance with the birds; and then the father admitted his
son's unfitness for military pursuits and sent him to America to take
charge of some property.

Audubon was then seventeen years of age, and had but one ambition
in life--to live in the woods with his wild friends. As his father's
estate was rented by a very orderly minded Quaker there was little
for Audubon to do except enjoy himself. Hunting, fishing, drawing,
and studying English from a young English girl he afterward married,
filled the day, while he never missed the balls and skating parties
for which the neighborhood was famous. He was the best marksman in the
region, able to bring down his quarry while riding at full speed.
He was the best skater to be found; at balls and parties he was the
amateur master of ceremonies, gayly teaching the newest steps and
turns that obtained in France. In the hunt it was Audubon--dressed,
perhaps, in satin breeches and pumps, for he was a great dandy--who
led the way through the almost unbroken wilderness. Add to this
that he was an expert swimmer, once swimming the Schuylkill with a
companion on his back; that he could play any one of half a dozen
instruments for an impromptu dance; that he could plait a set of
picnic dishes out of willow rushes; train dogs, and do a hundred other
clever things, and it is easy to see why he was a general favorite.

His private rooms were turned into a museum. The walls were covered
with festoons of birds' eggs, the shelves crowded with fishes, snakes,
lizards, and frogs; the chimney displayed stuffed squirrels and
opossums, and wherever there was room hung his own paintings of birds.
It was the holiday of life for the young lover of nature, and he
enjoyed it with good will.

Here the idea of his great work came to him as he was one day looking
over his drawings and descriptions of birds. Suddenly, as it seemed to
him, though his whole life had led to it, he conceived the plan of a
great work on American ornithology. He began his gigantic undertaking
as a master in the school of nature wherein he had been so faithful a
student, for he now saw with joy that the past, which had often seemed
idle, had been in reality rich with labors that were to bear fruit.

He began at once to put his work into scientific form, and nothing
better illustrates his energy and ambition than the fact that he
entered on it alone and unaided, though none knew better than he the
toil and ceaseless endeavor necessary for its completion. Except in a
very immature form, American ornithology at that time did not exist;
it was a region almost as unknown to human thought as the new world
which Columbus discovered. Season after season, from the Gulf to
Canada and back again, these winged creatures of the air wended their
way, stopping to hatch and breed their young, becoming acquainted with
Louisiana orange-groves and New England apple-orchards, now fluttering
with kindly sociability round the dwellings of men and again seeking
lonely eeries among inaccessible mountain tops, pursuing their course
at all times almost without the thought and cognizance of man. It was
Audubon who was the conqueror, if not the discoverer of this aërial
world of song, of which he became the immortal historian. It was
his untiring zeal which gave thus early to American literature
a scientific work of such vast magnitude and importance that it
astonished the scientists of Europe and won for itself the fame of
being the most gigantic biblical enterprise ever undertaken by a
single individual. To do this meant a life of almost constant change,
and Audubon can hardly have had an abiding place after his first
serious beginning. The wide continent became his home and he found his
dwelling wherever the winged tribes sought shelter from the wind and
storm. His pursuit was often interrupted by occupations necessary for
the support of his family, for at his father's death he had given to
his sister his share of the estate and so became entirely dependent
upon his own efforts for a livelihood; but at all times, no matter
what his situation, his heart was in the wild retreats of nature.
Travelling through the West and South in search of fortune as well as
of specimens his experiences were often disenchanting. At Louisville
and New Orleans he would be forced to make crayon portraits of the
principal citizens in order to raise the money for family expenses.
Again he taught drawing; he served as tutor in private families, and
in order to secure funds for the publication of his work he earned
$2,000 by dancing lessons, the largest sum he had ever earned.
Many business speculations enlisted Audubon's hopes, but all failed
utterly. Once he embarked his money in a steam mill, which, being
built in an unfit place, soon failed. At another time he bought a
steamboat, which, proving an unlucky speculation, was sold to a shrewd
buyer who never paid the purchase money. Again he was cheated in the
clearing of a tract of timber. But his studies in natural history
always went on. When he had no money to pay his passage up the
Mississippi he bargained to draw the portrait of the captain of the
steamer and his wife as remuneration. When he needed boots he obtained
them by sketching the features of a friendly shoemaker, and more
than once he paid his hotel bills, and saved something besides, by
sketching the faces of the host and his family.

On the other hand, his adventures in search of material for his work
were romantic enough to satisfy the most ambitious traveller. From
Florida to Labrador, and from the Atlantic to the then unknown regions
of the Yellowstone he pursued his way, often alone, and not seldom in
the midst of dangers which threatened life itself. He hunted buffalo
with the Indians of the Great Plains, and lived for months in the
tents of the fierce Sioux. He spent a season in the winter camp of
the Shawnees, sleeping, wrapped in a buffalo robe, before the great
camp-fire, and living upon wild turkey, bear's grease, and opossums.
He made studies of deer, bears, and cougars, as well as of wild
turkeys, prairie hens, and other birds. For days he drifted down the
Ohio in a flat-bottomed boat, searching the uninhabited shores for
specimens, and living the life of the frontiersman whose daily food
must be supplied by his own exertions. Sometimes his studies would
take him far into the dense forests of the West, where the white man
had never before trod, and the only thing that suggested humanity
would be the smoke rising miles away from the evening camp-fire of
some Indian hunter as lonely as himself.

Once as he lay stretched on the deck of a small vessel ascending the
Mississippi he caught sight of a great eagle circling about his head.
Convinced that it was a new species, he waited patiently for two years
before he again had a glimpse of it, flying, in lazy freedom, above
some butting crags where its young were nested. Climbing to the place,
and watching like an Indian in ambush until it dropped to its nest,
Audubon found it to be a sea-eagle. He named it the Washington Sea
Eagle, in honor of George Washington. Waiting two years longer, he was
able to obtain a specimen, from which he made the picture given in his
work. This is but one example of the tireless patience with which he
prosecuted his studies, years of waiting counting as nothing if he
could but gain his end.

Some of his discoveries in this kingdom of the birds he relates with a
romantic enthusiasm. Throughout the entire work there runs the note
of warmest sympathy with the lives of these creatures of the air and
sunshine. He tells us of their hopes and loves and interests, from the
time of the nest-making till the young have flown away. The freedom of
bird life, its happiness, its experiences, and tragedies appeal to him
as do those of humanity. The discovery of a new species is reported as
rapturously as the news of a new star. Once in Labrador, when he was
making studies of the eggers, his son brought to him a great hawk
captured on the precipice far above his head. To Audubon's delight, it
was that rare specimen, the gerfalcon, which had heretofore eluded all
efforts of naturalists. While the rain dripped down from the rigging
above, Audubon sat for hours making a sketch of this bird and feeling
as rich as if he had discovered some rare gem.

After twenty years the work was published. Every specimen, from the
tiny humming-bird to the largest eagles and vultures, was sketched
life size and colored in the tints of nature. There were four hundred
and seventy-five of these plates, furnishing a complete history of
the feathered tribes of North America, for they showed not only the
appearance of the birds but represented also the manners and home
life of this world of song. The humming-bird poised before the crimson
throat of the trumpet flower, the whippoorwill resting among the
leaves of the oak, the bobolink singing among the crimson flowers
of the swamp maples, the snow-bird chirping cheerily among the
snow-touched berries of the holly, were not sketches merely but bits
of story out of bird history. So also are those pictures of the swan
among the reeds of the Great Lakes, of the great white heron seizing
its prey from the waters of the Gulf, and of the golden eagle winging
its way toward the distant heights that it inhabits.

The work was published by subscription in London in 1829 under the
title, "The Birds of North America." The price was eighty guineas.
Later on a smaller and cheaper edition was issued. The work now is
very rare. Audubon had the gratification of knowing that his labors
were understood and appreciated by the world of science. When he
exhibited his plates in the galleries of England and France, whither
he went to obtain subscriptions, crowds flocked to see them, and the
greatest scientists of the age welcomed him to their ranks. _The Birds
of America_ was his greatest work, though he was interested somewhat
in general zoölogy and wrote on other subjects.

Audubon died in New York in 1851. The great zoölogist Cuvier called
_The Birds of North America_ the most magnificent monument that art
has ever erected to ornithology. The Scotch naturalist Wilson said
that the character of Audubon was just what might have been expected
from the author of such a work, brave, enthusiastic, self-sacrificing,
and capable of heroic endurance.



CHAPTER III

WASHINGTON IRVING

1783-1859


"Left his lodging some time ago and has not been heard of since, a
small elderly gentleman, dressed in an old black coat and cocked hat,
by the name of Knickerbocker. . . . Any information concerning him
will be thankfully received."

Such was the curious advertisement that appeared in the _Evening Post_
under the date of October 26, 1809, attracting the attention of all
New York. People read it as they sat at supper, talked of it afterward
around their wood fires, and thought of it again and again before
they fell asleep at night. And yet not a soul knew the missing old
gentleman or had ever heard of him before. Still he was no stranger to
them, for he was a Knickerbocker, and everyone was interested in
the Knickerbockers, and everyone felt almost as if a grandfather or
great-grandfather had suddenly come back to life and disappeared again
still more suddenly without a word of explanation.

Those who could remember their childhood sent their wits back into the
past and gathered up memories of these old Knickerbockers. They saw
the old burghers again walking through the streets dressed in their
long-waisted coats with skirts reaching nearly to the ankles, and
wearing so solemnly their low-crowned beaver hats, while their small
swords dangled by their sides to show their importance. They saw their
wives in their close-fitting muslin caps, with their dress-skirts
left open to show their numerous petticoats of every color, their
gay stockings, and their low-cut, high-heeled shoes. They entered the
quaint gabled houses made of brick brought from Holland, and sat
in the roomy kitchen whose floor had just been sprinkled with sand
brought from Coney Island, and on whose walls hung deer antlers and
innumerable Dutch pipes. They passed into the parlor, whose chief
ornament was the carved bedstead upon which reposed two great
feather-beds covered with a patch-work quilt. They sat in the
fireplace and drank from the huge silver tankard while listening to
stories of Indian warfare. In the streets they saw groups of Indians
standing before the shop windows, and passed by the walls of the old
fort wherein cows, pigs, and horses were feeding. They noticed the
queerly rigged ships in the bay, the windmills scattered everywhere,
and the canal passing right through the town and filled with Dutch
canal boats. They saw the Dutch maidens standing around the ponds
washing the family linen, and visited the bowerie or country house
of some honest burgher, and sat with him in his little garden where
cabbages and roses flourished side by side.

Such were the scenes that the strange advertisement called up, and
more than one New Yorker dreamed that night that he was a child again,
living over those long past days.

For some time nothing was heard of Diedrich Knickerbocker, and then
another advertisement appeared in the _Post_ saying he had been seen
twice on the road to Albany. Some time again elapsed, and finally the
paper stated that the landlord of the inn at which he stopped gave up
hope of ever seeing his guest again, and declared that he should sell
the manuscript of a book that Mr. Knickerbocker had left behind and
take the proceeds in payment of his bill. People were really excited
about the fate of the old gentleman, and one of the city officials was
upon the point of offering a reward for his discovery when a curious
thing happened. It was found that there was no old gentleman by the
name of Knickerbocker who had wandered away from his lodging; that
there was no inn at which he had lived, and no manuscript he had left
behind, and that in fact, Mr. Knickerbocker was simply the hero of a
book which the author had taken this clever means of advertising. The
book claimed to be the true history of the discovery and settlement
of New York, and began with an account of the creation of the world,
passing on to the manners, customs, and historical achievements of the
old Hollanders from their first voyage in the celebrated ark the Good
Vrow, to the shores of New Jersey. Here we read how, as the Indians
were given to long talks and the Dutch to long silences, they had no
trouble about the settlement of the land, but all lived peacefully
together. How Oloffe Van Kortlandt took his perilous journey from New
Jersey as far north as Harlem and decided to build a city on Manhattan
Island. Then we read of the golden reign of the first Dutch governor,
Wouter Van Twiller, who was exactly five feet six inches in height,
and six feet five inches in circumference, and who ate four hours a
day, smoked eight, and slept twelve, and so administered the affairs
of the colony that it was a marvel of prosperity. Next we hear of
Governor Keift, of lofty descent, since his father was an inspector of
windmills--how his nose turned up and his mouth turned down, how his
legs were the size of spindles, and how he grew tougher and tougher
with age so that before his death he looked a veritable mummy. And
then we see the redoubtable Peter Stuyvesant stumping around on
his wooden leg adorned with silver reliefs and follow him in his
expedition against the neighboring Swedish colonies, when the entire
population of the city thronged the streets and balconies to wave
farewell to him as he left, and to welcome his return as a victorious
conqueror. Lastly we see him, furious with rage, menacing the British
fleet which has come to take possession of the town, threatening
vengeance dire upon the English king, and still cherishing his wrath
with fiery bravery when the enemy finally occupy the old Dutch town
and proceed to transform it into an English city. The book was read
with interest, admiration, or amazement as the case might be. Some
said it appeared too light and amusing for real history, others
claimed that it held stores of wisdom that only the wise could
understand; others still complained that the author was no doubt
making fun of their respectable ancestors and had written the book
merely to hold them up to ridicule. Only a few saw that it was the
brightest, cleverest piece of humor that had yet appeared in America,
and that its writer had probably a career of fame before him.

The author was Washington Irving, then a young man in his
twenty-seventh year and already known as the writer of some clever
newspaper letters, and of a series of humorous essays published in a
semi-monthly periodical called _Salmagundi_.

Irving was born in New York on April 3, 1783, and was named after
George Washington. The Revolution was over, but the treaty of peace
had not yet been signed, and the British army still remained in the
city, which had been half burned down during the war.

New York was then a small town, with a population of about one
seven-hundredth of what it now has; beyond the town limits were
orchards, farms, country houses, and the high road leading to Albany,
along which the stage coach passed at regular times. There were
no railroads, and Irving was fourteen years old before the first
steam-boat puffed its way up the Hudson River, frightening the country
people into the belief that it was an evil monster come to devour
them. All travelling was done by means of sailing vessels, stage
coaches, or private conveyances; all letters were carried by the
stage-coach, and every one cost the sender or receiver twenty-five
cents for postage. The telegraph was undreamed of, and if any one had
hinted the possibility of talking to some one else a thousand miles
away over a telephone wire he would have been considered a lunatic, or
possibly a witch. In fact New York was a quiet, unpretentious little
town, whose inhabitants were still divided into English or Dutch
families according to their descent, and in whose households were
found the customs of England and Holland in full force. In Irving's
family, however, there was doubtless greater severity practised in
daily life than in the neighboring households. The father was a
Scotch Presbyterian who considered life a discipline, who thought all
amusement a waste of precious time, and who made the children devote
one out of the two half weekly holidays to the study of the catechism.
They were also obliged to attend church three times every Sunday,
and to spend any spare moments left in reading some religious book,
a discipline which had such an effect upon Irving that, to avoid
becoming a Presbyterian, he went secretly to Trinity Church and was
confirmed. Naturally Irving's love of fun was sedulously hid from such
a father, and, as fun he must have, he sought amusement outside his
own home. Forbidden to attend the theatre, he would risk his neck
nightly by climbing out of his window to visit the play for an hour or
so, and then rush home in terror lest his absence had been discovered
and his future fun imperilled. Many a night when sent early to bed he
would steal away across the adjacent roofs to send a handful of stones
clattering down the wide, old-fashioned chimney of some innocent
neighbor, who would start from his dreams to imagine robbers, spooks,
or other unpleasant visitors in his bed-chamber; and often when Irving
was supposed to be fast asleep he was far away in the midst of a group
of truant boys concocting some scheme of mischief which was meant
to startle the neighborhood and bring no end of fun to the daring
perpetrators.

Irving went to school kept by an old Revolutionary soldier, with whom
he was a great favorite and who always called him _General_. He
was not particularly brilliant in his studies, but he distinguished
himself as an actor in the tragedies which the boys gave at times in
the school-room; at ten years of age he was the star of the company,
which did not even lose respect for him when once, being called
suddenly upon the stage through a mistake, he appeared with his mouth
full of honey-cake, which he was obliged to swallow painfully while
the audience roared at the situation. Afterward, when he rushed around
the stage flourishing a wooden sabre, he was not a tragedian to be
trifled with. The glory of it even paid him for the cruelty of having
to run away to see a real play.

It was a favorite amusement with him after school to wander down to
the wharves, where he would spend hours in watching the ships load
and unload, and dream of the day when he, too, should visit those
beautiful regions that lay only in reach of their white sails; for,
fond as he was of boyish sports, he was much given to day-dreams, and
the romantic past of the old world held a great charm for him.
His favorite books were "Robinson Crusoe," "The Arabian Nights,"
"Gulliver's Travels," and all stories of adventure and travel. The
world beyond the sea seemed a fairyland to him; a little print of
London Bridge and another of Kensington Gardens, that hung up in
his bed-room, stirred his heart wistfully, and he fairly envied the
odd-looking old gentlemen and ladies who appeared to be loitering
around the arches of St. John's Gate, as shown in a cut on the cover
of an old magazine.

Later his imagination was also kindled by short excursions to the then
wild regions of the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. Drifting up the
Hudson in a little sloop, day after day the picturesque beauty of the
Highlands and Catskills impressed itself more deeply upon him, while
his mind dwelt fondly upon the traditions which still lingered around
the mountains and rivers forever associated with the struggles of the
early settlers. Years afterward we find the remembrance of these days
gracing with loving touch the pages of some of his choicest work, and
it is this power of sympathy, so early aroused, that gives Irving one
of his greatest charms as a writer, and makes the period of which he
writes seem as real as if a part of to-day.

At seventeen Irving left school and began to study for the bar. But
his health, which had always been delicate, made it necessary for him
to take a long rest from study, and he accordingly left America for
two years of travel abroad. He visited England, France, and Italy,
taking great delight in seeing those lands he had so often dreamed of,
in meeting the famous people of the day, and, above all, in indulging
in frequent visits to the theatre and opera, becoming in this way
acquainted with all the great singers and actors whose reputation had
reached America. It was after his return home that he brought out his
Knickerbocker history, a work which made him so famous that when he
returned to England some time afterward he found himself very well
known in the best literary circles. The results of this second visit
are found in the volumes comprising _Geoffrey Crayon's Sketch Book_,
_Bracebridge Hall_, _Tales of a Traveller_ and other miscellany, in
which occur charming descriptions of English country life, delightful
ghost stories, the famous description of an English Christmas, the
immortal legend of _Rip Van Winkle_, and an account of a visit to the
haunts of Robin Hood, whose exploits had so fascinated him as a boy
that he once spent his entire holiday money to obtain a copy of his
adventures.

_Abbotsford_ is an account of a visit that Irving paid to Sir Walter
Scott. It is a charming revelation of the social side of Scott's
character, who welcomed Irving as a younger brother in art, became his
guide in his visit to Yarrow and Melrose Abbey, and took long rambling
walks with him all around the country made so famous by the great
novelist. Irving recalled as among the most delightful hours of his
life those walks over the Scottish hills with Scott, who was described
by the peasantry as having "an awfu' knowledge of history," and whose
talk was full of the folk-lore, poetry, and superstitions that made up
the interest of the place.

In the evening they sat in the drawing-room, while Scott, with a great
hound, Maida, at his feet, read to them a scrap of old poetry or a
chapter from King Arthur, or told some delightful bit of peasant fairy
lore, like that of the black cat who, on hearing one shepherd tell
another of having seen a number of cats dressed in mourning following
a coffin, sprang up the chimney in haste, exclaiming: "Then I am king
of the cats," and vanished to take possession of his vacant kingdom.
From this time Irving's life was one of constant literary labor
for many years, all of which were spent abroad. His works on the
companions of Columbus, and the Alhambra, were written during his
residence in Spain, where he had access to the national archives and
where he became as familiar with the life of the people as it
was possible for a stranger to become. He was at home both in the
dignified circles of higher life and among the picturesque and simple
peasantry, whose characteristics he draws with such loving grace.

After seventeen years' absence Irving returned to America, where he
was welcomed as one who had won for his country great honors. He was
the first writer to make American literature respected abroad, and his
return was made the occasion of numerous fêtes given in his honor in
New York and other cities. He now built Sunnyside, on the Hudson, the
home that he loved so dearly and that will ever be famous as the abode
of America's first great writer.

His principal works following the Spanish histories were _Astoria_,
the history of the fur-trading company in Oregon founded by the head
of the Astor family; _Captain Bonneville_, the adventures of a hunter
in the far West; the _Life of Goldsmith_ and the _Lives of Mahomet and
His Successors_.

He returned to Spain in 1842 as ambassador, and remained four years.
In the _Legends of the Conquest of Spain_ Irving tells the story of
the conquest of Spain by the Moors, as related in the old Spanish and
Moorish chronicles. The pages are full of the spirit of the warfare
of the middle ages. Here we see the great Arab chieftain, Taric, the
one-eyed, with a handful of men cruising along the Spanish coast to
spy out its strength and weakness, and finally making a bold dash
inland to capture and despoil a city and return to Africa laden with
plunder to report the richness of the land. "Behold!" writes Taric's
chief in a letter to the Caliph, "a land that equals Syria in its
soil, Arabia in its temperature, India in its flowers and spices, and
Cathay in its precious stones."

And at this news the Caliph wrote back in haste that God was great,
and that it was evidently his will that the infidel should perish, and
bade the Moors go forward and conquer.

In these delightful chapters we follow Taric in his conquests from the
taking of the rock of Calpe, henceforth called from him Gibraltar,
the rock of Taric, to the final overthrow of the Christians and the
establishment of the Moorish supremacy in Spain.

The whole story is a brilliant, living picture of that romantic age.
The Spanish king goes to battle wearing robes of gold brocade, sandals
embroidered with gold and diamonds, and a crown studded with the
costliest jewels of Spain. He rides in a chariot of ivory, and a
thousand cavaliers knighted by his own hand surround him, while tens
of thousands of his brave soldiers follow him, guarding the sacred
banners emblazoned with the cross. The Moorish vanguard, riding the
famous horses of Arabia, advance to the sound of trumpet and cymbal,
their gay robes and snowy turbans and their arms of burnished gold and
steel glittering in the sunshine, which reflects in every direction
the sacred crescent, the symbol of their faith. The surroundings are
equally picturesque and romantic. The famous plain of Granada, adorned
with groves and gardens and winding streams, and guarded by the famous
Mountains of the Sun and Air, forms the foreground to the picture,
while in the distance we see the gloomy mountain passes, the fortified
rocks and castles, and the great walled cities, through which the
Moors passed, always victorious and never pausing until their banners
floated from every cliff and tower.

Scattered through the narrative of battles and sieges we find also
many legends that abounded at that time both in the Moslem and
Christian faiths, translated with such fidelity from the old
chroniclers that they retain all the supernatural flavor of the
original. Here we learn how Arab and Christian alike beheld portents,
saw visions, received messages from the spirits, and were advised,
encouraged, and comforted by signs and warnings from heaven, the whole
narrative being most valuable as presenting in fine literary form
the every-day life and intense religious fervor of the soldier of the
middle ages.

For eight hundred years the Moors held Spain. They built beautiful
cities and palaces, the remains of which are marvels to this day;
they made the plain of Granada a garden of flowers; they preserved
classical literature when the rest of Europe was sunk in ignorance;
they studied the sciences, and had great and famous schools, which
were attended by the youth of all nations; they rescued the Jewish
people from the oppression of the Spaniards, and made them honorable
citizens; and they impressed upon their surroundings an art so
beautiful that its influence has extended throughout Christendom.
Their occupation of Spain at that time probably did more for the
preservation of literature, science, and art than any other event in
history.

In his chapters on the Alhambra, the beauties of that celebrated
palace, the favorite abode of the Moorish kings, is described by
Irving as seen by him during a visit in 1829. Even at that date,
nearly four hundred years after its seizure by the Spaniards, the
Alhambra retained much of its original magnificence. The great courts,
with their pavements of white marble, and fountains bordered with
roses, the archways, balconies, and halls decorated with fretwork and
filigree and incrusted with tiles of the most exquisite design;
the gilded cupolas and panels of lapis lazuli, and the carved lions
supporting the alabaster basins of the fountains, all appealed to
Irving so strongly that when he first entered the palace it seemed, he
relates, as if he had been transported into the past and was living in
an enchanted realm.

Irving remained some months in the Alhambra, living over again the
scenes of Moorish story, and so catching the spirit of the lost
grandeur of the old palace, that his descriptions read like a bit of
genuine Arabian chronicle, which had been kept safe until then in the
grim guardianship of the past.

The chapters of the _Alhambra_ are also full of delightful legends,
the fairy tales which time had woven around the beautiful ruin, and
which the custodians of the place related gravely to Irving as genuine
history. It calls up a pleasant picture to think of Irving sitting
in the stately hall or in his balcony, listening to one of these old
tales from the lips of his tattered but devoted domestic, while the
twilight was gathering and the nightingale singing in the groves and
gardens beneath.

He himself said that it was the realization of a day-dream which he
had cherished since the time when, in earliest boyhood on the banks of
the Hudson, he had pored over the story of Granada.

In his work, _The Conquest of Granada_, Irving relates the story of
the retaking of Granada by Ferdinand and Isabella, during a war which
lasted ten years and which held nothing but disaster for the Moors.
Ferdinand and Isabella took the field with an army composed of
the nobles of Spain and their followers, and which represented the
chivalry of Europe, for all Christendom hastened to espouse the
holy cause of driving the infidel from the land. The Spanish camps
glittered with the burnished armor and gold-embroidered banners of
foreign knights; and whether on the march, in the field, or in camp,
the whole pageant of the war as depicted by Irving passes before our
eyes like a brilliant panorama. We see the Moorish king looking
down from the towers of the Alhambra upon the plains once green
and blooming but now desolate with fire and sword by the hand of
Ferdinand. We follow the Moors as they rush from their walls in one of
their splendid but hopeless sallies, to return discomfited, and hear
the wail of the women and old men--"Woe! woe! to Granada, for its
strong men shall fall by the sword and its maidens be led into
captivity." We watch the Spaniards, tireless in endeavor, building the
fortified city of Santa Fé, the city of holy faith, to take the place
of the camp destroyed by fire, and which has remained famous as the
place where Columbus received from Isabella his commission to sail
westward until India was reached. And in the end we see the Moors in
their retreat looking sadly from the hill which is called to this day,
The Last Sigh of the Moor, upon the beautiful valley and mountains
lost to them forever. So graphically is the scene described that
Irving must ever remain the historian of the Moors of Spain, whose
spirit seemed to inspire the beautiful words in which he celebrated
their conquests, their achievements, and their defeats.

A favorite among Irving's books was the _Life of Washington_, based
upon the correspondence of the great statesman. It is an appreciative
story of the life work of Washington, written by one whose own work
connected the past and present, and who, as a child, had felt the hand
of the nation's hero laid upon his head in blessing.

In the _Chronicle of Wolfert's Roost_ Irving follows in imagination
old Diedrich Knickerbocker into the famous region of Sleepy Hollow,
where much of the material for the celebrated Knickerbocker's History
was said to have been collected. This chronicle, it was claimed, was
written upon the identical old Dutch writing desk that Diedrich used;
the elbow chair was the same that he sat in; the clock was the very
one he consulted so often during his long hours of composition. In
these pages old Diedrich walks as a real person and Irving follows him
with faithful step through the region that he loved so fondly all his
life.

Everything here is dwelt upon with lingering touch; the brooks and
streams, the meadows and cornfields, the orchards and gardens, and the
groves of beech and chestnut have each their tribute from the pen of
one who found their charms ever fresh, who sought in them rest and
happiness, and who came back to them lovingly to spend the last days
of his life in their familiar companionship.

Irving died in 1859 and was buried at Sunnyside, in sight of the
Hudson whose legends he had immortalized and whose beauty never ceased
to charm him from the moment it first captivated his heart in his
boyhood days.



CHAPTER IV

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER

1789-1851


The region of Otsego Lake, New York, was at the last of the eighteenth
century a wilderness. Here and there rose a little clearing, the
birthplace of a future village, but westward the primeval forest
extended for miles around the little lake, which reflected the shadows
of wooded hills on every side. Here roved deer, wolves, panthers, and
bears unmolested in the green depths and following the same runways
which their species had trodden for centuries. Here also lurked the
red man, suspicious and cautious and ever ready to revenge on the
white man the wrongs of his race.

In this beautiful spot lived the boy, James Fenimore Cooper, in the
family mansion built by his father and named Otsego Hall, the starting
point of the now famous village of Cooperstown. It was a fitting home
for the boy who was hereafter to immortalize the Indian race in the
pages of fiction. His life was almost as simple as that of the Indian
lads who roamed through the forest fishing and hunting and knowing no
ambition beyond.

The little hamlet lay far away from the highways of travel. The
nearest villages were miles distant and only to be reached on foot or
on horseback through miles of unbroken forest. A visitor was rare,
and meant perhaps a warning that the Indians were on the war-path.
Occasionally a new settler drifted into the little valley, and the
village grew slowly through the lad's boyhood, Otsego Hall keeping its
dignity as the Manor House. Sometimes a visitor of note brought news
of the great political troubles in Europe, and thus Cooper met many
men of distinction whose visits seemed to bring the great world very
close to the little settlement. This glimpse of a broader life, with
attendance at the village school and an intimate companionship with
nature, made up his early education. It was not bad training for the
future novelist. The acquaintanceship of celebrated men widened his
horizon and fed his imagination; his daily life kept his mind fresh
and active with the spirit that was fast turning the uninhabited
regions of the frontier into busy settlements; and the familiar
intercourse with nature kept pure the springs of poetry that lie in
every child's heart. He learned wood-lore as the young Indian learned
it, face to face with the divinities of the forest. He knew the calls
of the wild animals far across the gloomy wilderness. He could follow
the deer and bear to their secluded haunts. He could retrace the path
of the retreating wolf by the broken cobwebs glistening in the early
sunlight; and the cry of the panther high overhead in the pines and
hemlocks was a speech as familiar as his own tongue. When he was
thirsty he made a hunter's cup of leaves and drank in the Indian
fashion. When fatigued he lay down to rest with that sense of security
that comes only to the forest bred. When thoughtful he could learn
from the lap of the waves against the shore, the murmur of leaves, and
the rustle of wings, those lessons which nature teaches in her quiet
moods.

These experiences and impressions sank into Cooper's heart, and were
re-lived again long after in the pages of his romances.

While still a boy Cooper went to Albany to study, and in 1803 entered
Yale College, at the age of thirteen.

He played as much and studied as little as he possibly could, and
the first year's preparation perhaps accounts for his dismissal from
college in his junior year. This in turn led to a life much more to
his liking. His father took his part in the trouble at Yale, but was
now anxious to see his son embarked on the serious business of life.
Both father and son liked the idea of a naval career for the boy, and
it was decided that Cooper should go to sea. He left New York in the
autumn of 1806 on a vessel of the merchant marine. There was then no
Naval Academy in America, and a boy could fit himself for entering the
navy as an officer only by serving before the mast. Cooper was away
nearly a year, his ship, the Sterling, visiting London, Portugal,
and Spain, carrying cargoes from one port to another in the leisurely
manner of the merchant sailing-vessels of that day. It was a time of
peculiar interest to all seamen, and his mind was keenly alive to the
new life around him. The English were expecting a French invasion, and
the Channel was full of ships of war, while every southern port was
arming for defence. The Mediterranean was terrorized by the Barbary
pirates, who, under cover of night, descended upon any unprotected
merchant vessel, stole the cargo, scuttled the ship, and sold the crew
into slavery, to Tripolitan and Algerine husbandmen, whose orchards of
date and fig were cultivated by many an American or English slave.

Cooper saw all this and remembered it, being even then a student of
men and events. His work was hard and dangerous; he was never admitted
to the cabin of the ship; in storm or wind his place was on the
deck among the rough sailors, who were his only companions. But this
training developed the good material that was in him, and when in 1808
he received his commission as midshipman he was well equipped for his
duties.

Cooper remained in the navy three years and a half. He spent part
of this time at the port of Oswego, Lake Ontario, superintending the
building of a war vessel, the Oneida, intended for the defence of the
Canadian frontier in case of a war with England. The days passed in
this wild region were not fruitless, for here in the solitude of the
primeval forest Cooper found later the background of a famous story.
It was the land of the red man, and during the long winter months
of his residence there Cooper dwelt in spirit with the wild natives,
though he little dreamed that he was to be the historian that would
give the story of their lives to a succeeding generation. Cooper saw
no active service during the time, and resigned his commission on his
marriage.

Several succeeding years were passed partly in Westchester County,
his wife's former home, and partly in Cooperstown. Here he began
the erection of a stone dwelling, in Fenimore, a suburb of the old
village. While living at Scarsdale, Westchester County, N. Y., he had
produced his first book. Already thirty years old, a literary career
was far from his thoughts. This first novel was merely the result of a
challenge springing from a boast. Reading a dull tale of English life
to his wife, he declared that he could write a better story himself,
and as a result produced a tale in two volumes, called _Precaution_.
It was founded upon English society life, and it obtained some
favorable notices from English papers. But it showed no real talent.
But in the next year, 1821, he published a story foreshadowing his
fame and striking a new note in American literature. At that time
Americans still cherished stirring memories of the Revolution. Men and
women could still recall the victories of Bunker Hill and Trenton, and
the disasters of Monmouth and Long Island.

Cooper's own first impressions of life were vivid with the patriotism
that beat at fever heat during his youth, when the birth of American
independence was within the recollection of many. In choosing a
subject for fiction Cooper therefore naturally turned to the late
struggle, and American literature owes him a large debt for thus
throwing into literary form the spirit of those thrilling times. This
novel, _The Spy_, was founded upon the story of a veritable spy who
had been employed by the Revolutionary officer who related to Cooper
some of his daring adventures. Taking this scout for a hero Cooper
kept the scene in Westchester and wove from a few facts the most
thrilling piece of fiction that had yet appeared in the United States.
The novel appeared in December, 1821, and in a few months it had made
Cooper famous both in America and Europe. It was published in England
by the firm which had brought out Irving's _Sketch Book_, and it
met with a success that spoke highly for its merit, since the story
described English defeat and American triumphs. The translator of
the Waverley novels made a French version, and before long the book
appeared in several other European tongues, while its hero, Harvey
Birch, won and has kept for himself an honorable place in literature.

Cooper had now found his work, and he continued to illustrate American
life in fiction. His most popular books are the _Leather Stocking
Tales_ and his novels of the sea. The _Leather Stocking Tales_ consist
of five stories, _The Deerslayer_, _The Last of the Mohicans_, _The
Pathfinder_, _The Pioneers_, and _The Prairie_, concerning the same
hero, Leatherstocking.

In _The Deerslayer_ the hero of the series makes his appearance as a
youth of German descent whose parents had settled near a clan of the
Mohegans on the Schoharie River. At a great Indian feast he receives
the name Deerslayer from the father of Chingachgook, his Indian boy
friend, and the story is an account of his first war-path. The tale
was suggested to the author one afternoon as he paused for a moment
while riding to gaze over the lake he so loved, and whose shores,
as he looked, seemed suddenly to be peopled with the figures of a
vanished race. As the vision faded he turned to his daughter and said
that he must write a story about the little lake, and thus the idea of
Deerslayer was born. In a few days the story was begun. The scene
is laid on Otsego Lake, and in the tale are incorporated many tender
memories of Cooper's own boyhood. It portrays Leatherstocking as a
young scout just entering manhood, and embodies some of the author's
best work. Perhaps no one was so well-fitted to illustrate the ideal
friendship between Deerslayer and Chingachgook as he, who in his
boyhood stood many a time beside the lakeside as the shadows fell
over the forest, not knowing whether the faint crackling of the bushes
meant the approach of the thirsty deer, or signalled the presence of
some Indian hunter watching with jealous eye the white intruder.

In _The Last of the Mohicans_, Leatherstocking, under the name
Hawkeye, is represented in the prime of manhood, his adventures
forming some of the most exciting events of the series. Here his old
friend Chingachgook and the latter's son Uncas follow Deerslayer hand
in hand, and make, next to the hero, the principal characters of
the story, the scene of which is laid near Lake Champlain during the
trouble between the French and English for the possession of Canada.

In _The Pathfinder_ the famous scout, under the name which gives the
title to the book, is carried still further in his adventurous career.
The scene is laid near Lake Ontario where Cooper spent some months
while in the navy. These three tales are not only the finest of the
series from a literary standpoint, but they illustrate as well the
life of those white men of the forest who lived as near to nature
as the Indian himself and whose deeds helped make the history of the
country in its beginnings.

_The Pioneers_ finds Leatherstocking an old hunter living on Otsego
Lake at the time of its first settlement by the whites. The character
was suggested by an old hunter of the regions who in Cooper's boyhood
came frequently to the door of his father's house to sell the game he
had killed. The hero is in this book called Natty Bumppo and the story
is one of the primitive life of the frontiersmen of that period.
Their occupations, interests and ambitions form the background to the
picture of Leatherstocking, the rustic philosopher, who has finished
the most active part of his career, and who has gathered from nature
some of her sweetest lessons. Many of the scenes in the book are
transcriptions from the actual life of those hardy pioneers who joined
Cooper's father in the settlement of Cooperstown, while the whole is
tinged with that tender reminiscence of the author's youth which sets
it apart from the rest though it is, perhaps, the least perfect story
of the series.

Leatherstocking closes his career in _The Prairie_, a novel of the
plains of the great West, whither he had gone to spend his last days.
It is the story of the lonely life of the trapper of those days,
whose love of solitude has led him far from the frontier, and whose
dignified death fitly closes his courageous life. It is supposed that
the actual experiences of Daniel Boone suggested this ending to the
series.

The story of the war of the frontiersmen with nature, with
circumstances and with the red man is told in these books. It is the
romance of real history and Leatherstocking was but the picture
of many a brave settler whose deeds were unrecorded and whose name
remains unknown. Side by side with Leatherstocking stand those Indian
characters which the genius of Cooper immortalized and which have
passed into history as typical.

Cooper began the tales without any thought of making a series, but the
overwhelming success of _The Pioneers_, the first which appeared, led
him to produce book after book until the whole life of the hero was
illustrated.

Cooper's series of sea novels began with _The Pilot_, published
in 1824. It followed _The Pioneers_, and showed the novelist to be
equally at home on sea and land. In his stories of frontier life,
Cooper followed the great Scott, whose thrilling tales of Border life
and of early English history had opened a new domain to the novelist.
Cooper always acknowledged his debt to the great _Wizard of the
North_, and, indeed, spoke of himself as a chip of Scott's block. But
in his sea stories Cooper was a creator. He was the first novelist to
bring into fiction the ordinary, every-day life of the sailor afloat,
whether employed on a peaceful merchant vessel or fighting hand
to hand in a naval battle. And it is interesting to know that the
creation of the sea story was another debt that he owed to Scott,
though in a far different way. Scott's novel, _The Pirate_, had been
criticised by Cooper as the work of a man who had never been at sea.
And to prove it the work of a landsman he began his own story, _The
Pilot_. The time chosen is that of the Revolution, and the hero is the
famous adventurer John Paul Jones, introduced under another name.
It was so new a thing to use the technicalities of ship life, and to
describe the details of an evolution in a naval battle, that, familiar
as he was with ocean life, Cooper felt some doubts of his success.
To test his power he read one day to an old shipmate that now famous
account of the passage of the ship through the narrow channel. The
effect was all that Cooper hoped. The old sailor fell into a fury of
excitement, paced up and down the room, and in his eagerness for a
moment lived over again a stormy scene in his own life. Satisfied with
this experiment Cooper finished the novel in content.

_The Pilot_ met with an instant success both in America and Europe.
As it was his first, so it is, perhaps, his best sea story. Into it
he put all the freshness of reminiscence, all the haunting memories
of ocean life that had followed him since his boyhood. It was
biographical in the same sense as _The Pioneers_. A part of the
romance of childhood drafted into the reality of after life.

_The Red Rover_, the next sea story, came out in 1828. By that time
other novelists were writing tales of the sea, but they were mere
imitations of _The Pilot_. In _The Red Rover_ the genuine adventures
of the sailor class were again embodied in the thrilling narrative
that Cooper alone knew how to write, and this book has always been one
of the most popular of novels.

The Red Rover, so called because of his red beard, and whose name
gives the title to the book, is a well born Englishman who has turned
pirate, and whose daring adventures have made him famous along the
coasts of America, Europe and Africa. The scene opens in the harbor of
Newport in the days when that town was the most important port of the
Atlantic coast, and from there is carried to the high seas, whereon is
fought that famous last sea fight of the Red Rover, the description of
which forms one of Cooper's best efforts.

_Wing and Wing_ is a tale of the Mediterranean during the exciting
days of privateers and pirates in the latter part of the eighteenth
century. The great admiral, Nelson, is introduced in this book, which
abounds with incidents of the tropical seas and reflects much of
Cooper's experience during his apprenticeship on the Sterling. The
story is one of Cooper's masterpieces, and, like so much of his work,
has preserved in literature a phase of life that has forever passed
away.

In _The Two Admirals_ is introduced, for the first time in fiction, a
description of the evolution of great fleets in action. The scene
is taken from English history, and in many instances the story shows
Cooper at his best.

_The Water Witch_, and _Ned Myers, or Life Before the Mast_, a
biography almost of Cooper's own early life at sea, must be included
among the tales which illustrate the author's genius as a writer of
tales of the sea.

Nothing can be more different than the picture of Leatherstocking and
his Indian friends in the forest retreats of nature and that of the
reckless sailor race which found piracy and murder the only outcome
for their fierce ambitions. Yet both are touched with the art of a
master, and both illustrate Cooper's claim as one of the greatest
masters of fiction.

Besides his _Leather Stocking Tales_ and the sea stories Cooper
wrote novels, sketches of travel, essays on the social and political
condition of America, and innumerable pamphlets in answer to attacks
made upon him by adverse critics. But his rank in American literature
will ever be determined by the _Leather Stocking Tales_ and his
best sea stories. His place is similar to that of Scott in English
literature, while he enjoys also the reputation of having opened a new
and enchanted realm of fiction.

Next to Hawthorne, he will long be held, probably, the greatest
novelist that America has produced. With the exception of seven years
abroad, Cooper spent his life in his native land. While in Europe
he wrote some of his best novels, and though he grew to love the old
world he never wavered in his devotion to America.

Cooper's popularity abroad was equalled only by that of Scott. His
works were translated and sold even in Turkey, Persia, Egypt and
Jerusalem in the language of those countries. It was said by a
traveller that the middle classes of Europe had gathered all their
knowledge of American history from Cooper's works and that they had
never understood the character of American independence until revealed
by this novelist. In spite of defects of style and the poor quality of
some of his stories, Cooper has given to fiction many creations that
must live as long as literature endures.

He died in his sixty-second year at Cooperstown.



CHAPTER V

WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

1794-1878


William Cullen Bryant was born in 1794 in a log farmhouse in the
beautiful Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. His father was the
country doctor and the child was named after a celebrated physician.
He began his school days in a log school-house beside a little brook
that crept down from the hills and went singing on its way to the
valley.

All around stood the great forest-covered hills, haunted by wolves,
bears, deer and wild-cats, which occasionally crept down even to the
settlements carrying terror to the hearts of the women and children.
Wherever the slopes were cleared, the farm lands had taken possession,
the forest often creeping up close to the little homes.

From the door-yard of the Bryant homestead the whole world seemed to
be made up of hills and forest, and fertile fields, while in the woods
grew the exquisite New England wild flowers, the laurel and azalea,
the violet, the tiger lily, and the fringed gentian. Here also lived
the summer birds of New England, the robins, the blue bird and the
thrush, haunting the woods from early spring until late autumn.

All these sights and sounds sunk into the boy's heart and made
themselves into a poem which he wrote down in words many years after,
and which is as clear and fresh as the voice of the little brook
itself after which it was named. This poem is called _The Rivulet_ and
it shows the poet-child standing upon the banks of the little stream
listening to the song of the birds or gathering wild flowers.

It was his first lesson in that wonder-book of nature from which he
translated so much that was beautiful that he became the distinctive
poet of the woods and streams.

Lessons from books he learned in the little log school-house,
preparing himself for ordeals when the minister came to visit the
school. At these times the pupils were dressed in their best and sat
in solemn anxiety while the minister asked them questions out of the
catechism and made them a long speech on morals and good behavior. On
one of these occasions the ten-year-old poet declaimed some of his own
verses descriptive of the school.

In Bryant's boyhood New England farm life was very simple. The farmers
lived in log or slab houses, whose kitchens formed the living room,
where the meals were generally taken. Heat was supplied by the great
fireplaces that sometimes filled one whole side of the kitchen and
were furnished with cranes, spits, and pothooks. Behind the kitchen
door hung a bundle of birch rods with which mischievous boys were kept
in order, and in the recess of the chimney stood the wooden settle
where the children sat before bed-time to watch the fire or glance up
through the wide chimney at the stars.

Here, when three years old, Bryant often stood book in hand and with
painful attention to gesture repeated one of Watts's hymns, while his
mother listened and corrected. Here he prepared his lessons, and wrote
those first childish poems so carefully criticised by his father,
who was his teacher in the art of composition. In the poem called
_A Lifetime_ Bryant long afterward described many incidents of his
childhood and the influence of his father and mother upon his art,
one developing his talent for composition, and the other directing his
imagination to and enlisting his sympathies with humanity. This poem
shows the boy by his mother's knee, reading the story of Pharaoh and
the Israelites, of David and Goliath, and of the life of Christ. As he
grew older Bryant shared the usual amusements of country life. In
the spring he took his turn in the maple-sugar camp; in the autumn he
attended the huskings when the young people met to husk the corn in
each neighborhood barn successively, until all was done. He helped at
the cider-making bees, and the apple parings, when the cider and apple
sauce were prepared for the year's need; and at the house raisings,
when men and boys raised the frame of a neighbor's house or barn. In
those times the farmers depended upon each other for such friendly
aid, and the community seemed like one great family.

On Sunday everyone went three times to meeting, listened to long
sermons, and sang out of the old Bay Psalm Book. If any unlucky child
fell asleep he was speedily waked up by the tithingman, who would
tickle his nose with a hare's-foot attached to a long pole. Once in a
while a boy might be restless or noisy, and then he was led out of
the meeting-house and punished with the tithingman's rod, a terrible
disgrace.

Throughout his childhood Bryant wrote verses upon every subject
discussed in the family, and in those days New England families
discussed all the great events of the time. The listening children
became public-spirited and patriotic without knowing it. At thirteen
Bryant wrote a most scathing satire upon the policy of Thomas
Jefferson, intended to make the President hang his head in shame. It
was quoted in all the newspapers opposed to Jefferson, and a second
edition of this pamphlet was called for in a few months. Bryant
here prophesies the evils in store for the country if the President
insisted on the embargo that was then laid upon American vessels, and
advises him to retire to the bogs of Louisiana and search for horned
frogs; advice which Jefferson did not feel called upon to follow. It
was Bryant's first introduction to the reading public, but it was not
that path in literature that he was destined to follow. Only one or
two of his earliest verses give any hint of the poet of nature,
though it was during this time that he absorbed those influences that
directed his whole life. It is from the retrospective poem, _Green
River_, that we really know the boy Bryant to whom the charm of sky
and wood and singing brook was so unconscious that it seemed a part of
life itself. In _Green River_, written after he became a man, we hear
the echoes of his young days, and we know that the boy's soul had
already entered into a close communion with nature.

But Bryant had not yet reached manhood when the true voice of his
heart was heard in the most celebrated poem that he ever wrote,
and one of the most remarkable ever written by a youth. This was
_Thanatopsis_, which his father discovered among his papers and sent
to the _North American Review_ without his son's knowledge, so little
did the poet of eighteen, who five years before had published the
tirade against Jefferson, realize that he had produced the most
remarkable verses yet written in America.

_Thanatopsis_ attracted instant attention in this country and in
England. It had appeared anonymously, and American critics insisted
that it could not be the work of an American author as no native poet
approached it either in sublimity of thought or perfection of style.
But _Thanatopsis_ bears no trace of English influence, nor was it
strange that an heir of the Puritan spirit, who had lived in daily
communion with nature, should thus set to the music of poetry the
hopes and inspirations of his race.

_Thanatopsis_ is the first great American poem, and it divides by a
sharp line the poetry hitherto written on our soil from that which was
to follow. Henceforth the poets of the newer England ceased to find
their greatest inspiration in the older land. At the time of the
publication of the poem Bryant was studying law in Great Barrington,
Mass., having been obliged by poverty to leave college after a two
years' course. It was in the brief interval before beginning his
office studies that he wrote _Thanatopsis_ putting it aside for future
revision.

He was already hard at work upon his profession when his sudden
literary success changed all his plans. Destined by nature to be a man
of letters, he poured forth verse and prose during the whole time he
was studying and practising law. Six months after the publication of
_Thanatopsis_ the poem entitled _To a Waterfowl_, suggested by the
devious flight of a wild duck across the sunset sky, appeared.

It is a perfect picture of the reedy river banks, the wet marshes, and
the lonely lakes over which the bird hovered, and it is full of
the charm of nature herself. From this time on Bryant's touch never
faltered. He was the chosen poet of the wild beauty of his native
hills and valleys, and his own pure spirit revealed the most sacred
meanings of this beauty.

In 1821 he published his first volume of poems under the title,
_Poems by William Cullen Bryant_. It was a little book of forty pages,
containing _Thanatopsis_, _Green River_, _To a Waterfowl_, and other
pieces, among which was the charming, _The Yellow Violet_, a very
breath of the spring. This little book was given to the world in the
same year in which Cooper published _The Spy_ and Irving completed
_The Sketch Book_.

In 1825 Bryant removed to New York to assume the editorship of a
monthly review, to which he gave many of his best-known poems. A year
later he joined the staff of the _Evening Post_, with which he was
connected until his death.

From this time his life was that of a literary man. He made of the
_Evening Post_ a progressive, public-spirited newspaper, whose field
embraced every phase of American life. When he became its editor five
days were required for the reports of the Legislature at Albany
to reach New York, these being carried by mail coach. The extracts
printed from English newspapers were a month old, and even this was
considered enterprising journalism. All the despatches from different
cities of the United States bore dates a fortnight old, while it
was often impossible to obtain news at all. The paper contained
advertisements of the stage lines to Boston, Philadelphia, and the
West; accounts of projects to explore the centre of the earth by means
of sunken wells; reports of the possibility of a railroad being built
in the United States; advertisements of lottery tickets; a list of
the unclaimed letters at the post-office, and usually a chapter of
fiction. Such was the newspaper of 1831.

During the fifty-two years of his editorship the United States were
developed from a few struggling colonies bound together by common
interests into one of the greatest of modern nations. And through all
the changes incident to this career Bryant stood always firm to the
principles which he recognized as the true foundations of a country's
greatness.

When he was born the United States consisted of a strip of land lying
between the Atlantic and the Alleghany Mountains, of which more than
half was unbroken wilderness. At his death the Republic extended from
the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Gulf to Canada. His life-time
corresponded with the growth of his country, and his own work was
a noble contribution to the nation's prosperity. In all times of
national trouble the _Evening Post_ championed the cause of justice,
and Bryant was everywhere respected as a man devoted above all to the
"cause of America and of human nature."

The conduct of the _Evening Post_ did not, however, interfere with his
work as a poet, and in 1832 he published in one volume all the
poems which he had written, most of which had previously appeared in
magazines. A few months later an edition appeared in London with
an introduction by Irving. It was this volume which gave Bryant
an English reputation as great as that he enjoyed in America. Like
Cooper, he revealed an unfamiliar nature as seen in American forests,
hills, and streams, taking his readers with him into those solitary
and quiet places where dwelt the wild birds and wild flowers. The very
titles of his poems show how closely he lived to the life of the world
around him. _The Walk at Sunset_, _The West Wind_, _The Forest Hymn_,
_Autumn Woods_, _The Death of the Flowers_, _The Fringed Gentian_,
_The Wind and Stream_, _The Little People of the Snow_, and many
others disclose how Bryant gathered from every source the beauty which
he translated into his verses.

Among the poems which touch upon the Indian traditions are _The
Indian Girl's Lament_, _Monument Mountain_, and _An Indian at the
Burial-place of his Father_. In these he lingers upon the pathetic
fate of the red man driven from the home of his race and forced into
exile by the usurping whites. They are full of sadness, seeming to
wake once again the memories of other times when the forest was alive
with the night-fires of savage man and the days brought only the
gladness of freedom.

Besides his original work Bryant performed a noble task in the
translation of the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ of Homer. He was over seventy
when he began this work, and was five years in completing it. The
poems are put into blank verse, of which Bryant was a master, and they
have caught the very spirit of the old Greek bard; so faithfully
did the modern poet understand that shadowy past that he might have
watched with Helen the burning of Troy, or journeyed with Ulysses
throughout his wanderings in the perilous seas.

The light of Bryant's imagination burned steadily to the end. In his
eighty-second year he wrote his last important poem, _The Flood of
Years_. It is a beautiful confession of faith in the nobility of life
and the immortality of the soul, and a fitting crown for an existence
so beneficent and exalted.

His last public work was to participate in unveiling a monument to the
Italian statesman Mazzini in Central Park, when he was the orator of
the day. On the same evening he was seized with his last illness. He
died on June 12, 1878, and was buried at Roslyn, Long Island, one of
his favorite country homes.



CHAPTER VI

WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT

1796-1859


One of the stories that mankind has always liked to believe is that of
the existence of a marvellous country whose climate was perfect, whose
people were happy, whose king was wise and good, and where wealth
abounded. The old travellers of the Middle Ages dreamed of finding
this land somewhere in the far East. Many books were written about it,
and many tales told by knight and palmer of its rivers of gold, mines
of precious stones, and treasure vaults of inexhaustible riches. But,
although from time to time some famous traveller like Marco Polo or
Sir John Mandeville described the great wealth of Ormus or Cathay, yet
no one ever found the real country of his imagination, and the dream
passed down from generation to generation unfulfilled. The Spaniards
called this country _El Dorado_, and perhaps their vision of it was
the wildest of all, for not only were they to find inexhaustible
riches, but trees whose fruit would heal disease, magic wells which
yielded happiness, and fountains of immortal youth. Thus dreamed the
Spaniard of the fifteenth century, and when Columbus found the new
world it was believed that it included El Dorado. Leader after leader
mustered his knights and soldiers and sought the golden country. They
traversed forests, climbed mountains, forded rivers, and waded through
swamps and morasses; they suffered hunger, thirst, and fever, and the
savage hostility of the Indians; they died by hundreds and were buried
in unmarked graves, and expedition after expedition returned to Spain
to report the fruitlessness of their search. But the hope was not
given up. New seekers started on the quest, and it seemed that the
ships of Spain could hardly hold her eager adventurers.

In a strange way this dream of El Dorado was realized. Two soldiers
of fortune, bolder, hardier, luckier than the rest, actually found not
one country but two, which were in part at least like the golden world
they sought. High upon the table-land of Mexico and guarded by its
snow-capped mountains they found the kingdom of the Aztecs, with their
vast wealth of gold and silver. Safe behind the barrier of the Andes
lay the land of the Incas, whose riches were, like those of Ophir
or Cathay, not to be measured. Both of these countries possessed a
strange and characteristic civilization. In fact, even to this day,
scholars are puzzled to know the source of the knowledge which these
people possessed.

In Mexico Hernando Cortez found a government whose head was the king,
supported by a tribunal of judges who governed the principal cities.
If a judge took a bribe he was put to death. In the king's tribunal
the throne was of gold inlaid with turquoises. The walls were hung
with tapestry embroidered with figures of birds and flowers. Over the
throne was a canopy flashing with gold and jewels. There were
officers to escort prisoners to and from court, and an account of the
proceedings was kept in hieroglyphic paintings. All the laws of the
kingdom were taught by these paintings to the people. The Aztecs
had orders of nobility and knighthood; they had a military code and
hospitals for the sick. Their temples glittered with gold and jewels,
and they had ceremonies of baptism, marriage, and burial. They had
monastic orders, astrologists and astronomers, physicians,
merchants, jewellers, mechanics, and husbandmen. Their palaces were
treasure-houses of wealth. In fact, they were as unlike the Indians of
the eastern coast of America as the Englishman of to-day is unlike
the half-naked savage who in the early ages roamed through England,
subsisting upon berries and raw flesh.

In Peru Francisco Pizarro found a great and powerful empire, ruled
over by a wise sovereign. In the whole length and breadth of the land
not one poor or sick person was left uncared for by the state. Great
highways traversed mountain passes and crossed ravines and precipices
to the most distant parts of the kingdom. Huge aqueducts of stone
carried the mountain streams for hundreds of miles to the plains
below. Massive fortresses, whose masonry was so solid that it seemed
part of the mountain itself, linked the cities together, and a postal
system extended over the empire composed of relays of couriers who
wore a peculiar livery and ran from one post to another at the rate
of one hundred and fifty miles a day. The walls of temples and palaces
were covered with plates of gold encrusted with precious stones. The
raiment of the king and nobles was embroidered with jewels. The lakes
in the royal court-yards were fringed with wild flowers brought from
every corner of the empire and representing every degree of climate.
In a word, it was the dream of El Dorado fulfilled.

Although these two countries were alike peopled by races who had lived
there since remote antiquity, neither had ever heard of the existence
of the other, and thus we have the picture of two civilizations, very
similar, springing up independently.

The conquest of Mexico by Cortez in 1521 changed the entire life of
the people. Their forts and cities were ruined; three of their kings
had fallen during the struggle; the whole country had been divided
among the conquerors, and the Aztecs were made slaves. Cortez
rebuilt the City of Mexico and filled the country with cathedrals and
convents. He tried to convert the natives to Christianity, and Mexico
became Spanish in its laws and institutions.

But the old civilization had passed away; there was no more an Aztec
nation; and though in time the Indians and Spaniards formed together a
new race, it did not partake of the spirit of the old.

What Cortez did for Mexico, Pizarro accomplished twelve years later
in Peru. On the death of their monarch, the Inca, the Peruvians lost
spirit and were more easily conquered than the Aztecs. Peru became a
Spanish province, and, like Mexico, was considered by the crown only
as a treasure-house from which to draw endless wealth. No regret was
felt for the two great and powerful nations that had ceased to exist.

In the meantime the settlement of America went on rapidly. Florida,
the valley of the Mississippi, Canada, and New England became powerful
colonies forming the nucleus of new countries, which had never heard
of the civilizations of Mexico and Peru, and whose only knowledge
of Indians was gathered from the savage tribes from which they had
wrested the soil. In 1610 the Spanish historian Solis wrote an account
of the subjugation of Mexico, in which the conquerors were portrayed
in glowing colors. This work was read chiefly by scholars. In 1779 the
English historian Robertson gave in his _History of the New World_ a
brilliant sketch of the Spanish conquests in America. But not until
1847 was the world offered the detailed narrative of the conquest and
ruin of the Aztec empire.

This work was from the pen of the American scholar, William H.
Prescott, who was already known as the author of a history of
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, a work which had brought him a
European reputation.

Prescott was born in Salem, Mass., in 1796, in an old elm-shaded
house. From his earliest years he was a teller of stories, and had a
high reputation among his boy friends as a romancer. Walking to and
from school with his companions he invented tale after tale, sometimes
the narrative being continued from day to day, lessons and home duties
being considered but tiresome interruptions to the real business
of life. Very often one of these stories begun on Monday would
be continued through the whole week, and the end be celebrated on
Saturday by a visit to the Boston Athenæum, into whose recesses he
would beguile his fellows, while they buckled on the old armor found
there, and played at joust and tournament, imagining themselves to be
Lancelot, Ronsard, or Bayard, as the case might be.

A life of Gibbon which Prescott read in his teens led to an
enthusiastic study of history and to the resolve to become if possible
a historian himself. While a student at Harvard one of his eyes was so
injured by the carelessness of a fellow pupil that he lost the entire
use of it; but he kept to the resolution to fulfil the task he had set
for himself. His fame began with the publication of the _History of
Ferdinand and Isabella_, which was published almost simultaneously in
Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Russia. It covers the history of
Spain from the Moorish invasion through the period of national glory
which illumined the reign of Isabella. The civil wars, the Jewish
persecutions, the discovery of the New World, the expulsion of the
Moors, the Italian wars, and the social life of the people, their arts
and pursuits, their amusements, and the literature of that age, are
vividly presented.

The recognition of his merits was welcome to Prescott. While doubting
which subject to choose for his labors he had heard several lectures
upon Spanish literature, prepared for delivery at Harvard College, and
at once applied himself to the study of the Spanish language, history,
and romance as a preparation for his life work, and two years after
began his celebrated work. The book was eleven years in preparation,
and is full of enthusiasm for the romance and chivalry of the Old
World. Prescott's _History of the Conquest of Mexico_ began with a
sketch of the ancient Aztec civilization, proceeded to a description
of the conquest by Cortez, and concluded with an account of the after
career of the great commander, the whole work seeming a brilliant
romance rather than sober history.

The materials for Prescott's work were gathered from every known
available source. The narratives of eye-witnesses were brought
forth from their hiding-places in the royal libraries of Spain, and
patiently transcribed; old letters, unpublished chronicles, royal
edicts, monkish legends, every scrap of information attainable, was
transmitted to the worker across the sea, who because of his partial
blindness had to depend entirely upon others in the collection of his
authorities. These documents were read to Prescott by a secretary, who
took notes under the author's direction; these notes were again read
to him, and then after sifting, comparing and, retracing again and
again the old ground, the historian began his work. He wrote upon a
noctograph with an ivory stylus, as a blind man writes, and because of
great physical weakness he was able to accomplish only a very little
each day. But week by week the work grew. His marvellous memory
enabled him to recall sixty pages of printed matter at once. His
wonderful imagination enabled him to present the Mexico of the
sixteenth century as it appeared to the old Spanish cavaliers, and as
no historian had ever presented it before. He made of each episode of
the great drama a finished and perfect picture. In fact, the _History
of the Conquest of Mexico_ is more than anything else a historical
painting wrought to perfection by the cunning of the master hand.

Prescott spent six years over this work, which enhanced his fame as
a historian and kept for American literature the high place won by
Irving. Indeed, Irving himself had designed to write the history of
the conquest of Mexico, but withdrew in favor of Prescott.

Three months after the publication of his work on Mexico, Prescott
began the _History of the Conquest of Peru_, the materials for which
had already been obtained. But these documents proved much more
complete than those describing the Mexican conquest.

The conquest of Mexico was achieved mainly by one man, Cortez; but
while Pizarro was virtually the head of the expedition against Peru,
he was accompanied by others whose plans were often opposed to his
own, and whose personal devotion could never be counted upon. Each
of these men held regular correspondence with the court of Spain, and
Pizarro never knew when his own account of the capture of a city or
settlement of a colony would be contradicted by the statement of one
of his officers. After the capture and death of the Inca, which was
the real conquest of the country from the natives, Pizarro was obliged
to reconquer Peru from his own officers, who quarrelled with him and
among themselves continually.

The conquest is shown to be a war of adventurers, a crusade of
buccaneers, who wanted only gold. The sieges and battles of the
Spaniards read like massacres, and the story of the death of the Inca
like an unbelievable horror of the Dark Ages. This scene, contrasted
with the glowing description of the former magnificence of the Inca,
shows Prescott in his most brilliant mood as a writer. Perhaps his
greatest gift is this power of reproducing faithfully the actual
spirit of the conquest, a spirit which, in spite of the glitter of
arms and splendor of religious ceremonial, proves to have been one of
greed and lowest selfishness.

_The Conquest of Peru_, published in 1847, when Prescott was
fifty-two years old, was the last of his historical works. These three
histories, with three volumes of an uncompleted life of Philip
II., which promised to be his greatest work, and a volume of essays
comprise Prescott's contribution to American literature, and begin
that series of brilliant historical works of which American letters
boast.

Prescott, during the most of his literary life, was obliged to sit
quietly in his study, leaving to other hands the collection of the
materials for his work. For, besides the accident which during
his college life deprived him of one eye, he was always delicate.
Sometimes he would be kept for months in a darkened room, and at best
his life was one of seclusion. The strife of the world and of action
was not for him. In his library, surrounded by his books and assisted
by his secretary, he sought for truth as the old alchemists sought for
gold. Patient and tireless he unravelled thread after thread of
the fabric from which he was to weave the history of the Spanish
conquests.

If Prescott had had access to documents which have since come to
light, if he had been able to visit the places he described, and to
study their unwritten records, his work would have been a splendid
and imperishable monument to the dead civilization of the Aztec and
Peruvian.

As it is, it must serve as a guiding light pointing to the right way,
one which shed lustre on the new literature of his country and opened
an unexplored region to the American writer.



CHAPTER VII

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

1807-1892


In an old New England farm-house kitchen, a barefoot boy, dressed in
homespun, one day sat listening to a lazy Scotch beggar who piped the
songs of Burns in return for his meal of bread and cheese and cider.
The beggar was good-natured, and the boy was an eager listener, and
_Bonnie Doon_, _Highland Mary_, and _Auld Lang Syne_ were trilled
forth as the master himself may have sung them among the Scottish
"banks and braes." Never before had the farmer boy heard of the famous
peasant, and a new door was opened through which he passed into an
undreamed of world. A few months later the school-master gave him
a copy of Burns's poems, and with this gift the boy became a poet
himself. For these songs of roadsides and meadows, of ploughed fields
and wet hedgerows, were to him familiar pictures of every-day life,
whose poetry, once revealed, had to express itself in words.

The boy was the son of John and Abigail Whittier, Quaker farmers
owning a little homestead in the valley of the Merrimac, near the town
of Haverhill, Mass. In honor of an ancestor he had been named John
Greenleaf Whittier, the Greenleaf, as he tells us in one of his poems,
having become Americanized from the French _feuille verte_, _green
leaf_, a suggestion, perhaps, of far away days in which the family
might have been men of the wood, keepers of the deer or forest
guarders in France during feudal ages. In his boyhood, life in the
Merrimac valley was primitive enough. The house was small and plain,
the kitchen being the living room, and the parlor dedicated to Sunday
and holiday use only. The floor was sanded and on the wide fire-place
benches the men and children of the family sat at night to whittle
axe-handles, mend shoes, crack nuts, or learn the next day's lessons.
Often a stranger was found among them; some Quaker travelling on
business, or a stranger on his way to some distant town, or perhaps
a professional beggar to whom the hospitality of the place was well
known. Once when the mother had refused a night's shelter to an
unprepossessing vagabond, John was sent out to bring him back. He
proved to be an Italian artisan, and after supper he told them of the
Italian grape gatherings and festivals, and of the wonderful beauty
of Italy, paying for his entertainment by presenting to the mother a
recipe for making bread from chestnuts.

Sometimes the visitor would be an uncanny old crone who still believed
in witches and fairies, and who told how her butter refused to come,
or how her candle had been snuffed out by a witch in the form of a
big black bug. One old woman in the neighborhood was renowned for
her tales of ghosts, devils, fairies, brownies, sprenties, enchanted
towers, headless men, haunted mills that were run at night by ghostly
millers and witches riding on broom-sticks by the light of the full
moon, and descending unguarded chimneys to lay their spells upon
cream-pot and yeast-bowl.

After such an evening's entertainment the boy needed courage to leave
the bright kitchen fire and climb up the narrow stairs to the loft
where he slept, and where the sound of the night-wind crept through
the frosty rafters, and the voice of the screech-owl came dismally
from the trees outside.

Haverhill boasted at that time its village conjurer, who could remove
the spells of those wicked spirits, and whose gaunt form could be seen
any day along the meadows and streams gathering herbs to be stewed
and brewed into love-potions, cures for melancholy, spells against
witchcraft, and other remedies for human ills. He was held in great
respect by the inhabitants, and feared almost as much as the witches
themselves.

An ever-welcome guest at the Whittiers was the school-master, whose
head was full of the local legends, and whose tales of Indian raids
and of revolutionary struggles were regarded as authentic history.
This Yankee pedagogue, moreover, could, with infinite spirit and zest,
retell the classic stories of the Greek and Latin poets.

Twice a year came to the little homestead the Yankee pedler, with his
supply of pins, needles, thread, razors, soaps, and scissors for the
elders, and jack-knives for the boys who had been saving their pennies
to purchase those treasures. He had gay ribbons for worldly minded
maids, but these were never bought for Quaker Whittier's daughters.
But to Poet John's thinking the pedler's choicest wares were the songs
of his own composing, printed with wood-cuts, which he sold at an
astonishingly low price, or even, upon occasions, gave away. These
songs celebrated earthquakes, fires, shipwrecks, hangings, marriages,
deaths, and funerals. Often they were improvised as the pedler sat
with the rest around the hearth fire. If a wedding had occurred during
his absence he was ready to versify it, and equally ready to lament
the loss of a favorite cow. To Whittier this gift of rhyming seemed
marvellous, and in after years he described this wandering minstrel as
encircled, to his young eyes, with the very nimbus of immortality.

Such was the home-life of this barefooted boy, who drove the cows
night and morning through the dewy meadows, and followed the oxen,
breaking the earth into rich brown furrows, whose sight and smell
suggested to him always the generous bounty of nature. From early
spring, when the corn was planted in fields bordered by wild
rose-bushes, to late autumn, when the crop lay bound into glistening
sheaves, his life was one of steady toil, lightened sometimes by a
day's fishing in the mountain streams or by a berrying excursion up
among the hills.

In cold weather he went to school in the little school-house that he
celebrates in one of his poems, and very often, as he confessed, he
was found writing verses instead of doing sums on his slate.

This old phase of New-England life has now passed away, but he has
preserved its memory in three poems, which are in a special sense
biographical. These poems are, _The Barefoot Boy_, _My Schoolmaster_,
and _Snow-Bound_. The first two are simple, boyish memories, but
the last is a description not only of his early home, but of the
New-England farm life, and is a Puritan idyl.

All are full of the idealization of childhood, for the poet could
never break loose from the charm which had enthralled him as a boy.
The poetry of common life which lay over the meadow lands and fields
of grain, which gave a voice to the woodland brook, and glorified
the falling rain and snow, was felt by Whittier, when, as a child, he
paused from his work to listen to the robin's song among the wheat or
watch the flocks of clouds making their way across the summer sky.

When he was nineteen years of age the country-side mail-carrier one
day rode up to the farm and took from his saddle-bags the weekly
paper, which he tossed to the boy, who stood mending a fence. With
trembling eagerness Whittier opened it, and saw in the "Poet's Corner"
his first printed poem. He had sent it with little hope that it would
be accepted, and the sight of it filled him with joy, and determined
his literary career. A few months later the editor of the paper,
William Lloyd Garrison, drove out to the homestead to see the young
verse-maker. Whittier was called from the field where he was hoeing,
and in the interview that followed Garrison insisted that such talent
should not be thrown away, and urged the youth to take a course of
study at some academy. But, although the farm supplied the daily needs
of the family, money was scarce, and the sum required for board and
tuition was impossible to scrape together. A young farm assistant,
however, offered to teach Whittier the trade of shoemaking, and his
every moment of leisure was thereafter spent in learning this craft.
During the following winter the lad furnished the women of the
neighborhood with good, well-made shoes, and with the money thus
earned he entered Haverhill Academy in April, 1827, being then in his
twentieth year. For the next six months his favorite haunts in field
and wood were unvisited, except on the Saturdays and Sundays
spent with his family. He gained some reputation as a poet by the
publication of the ode which he wrote in honor of the new academy,
and although he returned to the farm after six months of study, it was
only to earn more money for further schooling.

His poems and sketches now began to appear in the different newspapers
and periodicals, and he did some editing for various papers. This
work brought him into notice among literary people, but it was his
political convictions that first gave him a national reputation.

From the first Whittier stood side by side with William Lloyd Garrison
in his crusade against slavery, and many of his best poems appeared in
the _Liberator_, Garrison's own paper. These poems, with others, were
collected in a volume called _Voices of Freedom_. It was these songs,
which rushed onward like his own mountain brooks, that made Whittier
known from one end of the country to the other as an apostle of
liberty. All Whittier's poems of this period belong to the political
history of the country, of which they are as much a part as the war
records.

In all this work there is no trace of bitterness or enmity. His songs
of freedom were but the bugle-notes calling the nation to a higher
humanity. Like the old Hebrew prophets, he spared not his own, and
many of his most burning words are a summons to duty to his brothers
in the North. If he could remind the South that the breath of slavery
tainted the air

  "That old Dekalb and Sumter drank,"

he could also, in _Barbara Frietchie_, pay loving tribute to the noble
heart of one of her best-loved sons. His was the dream of the great
nation to be--his spirit that of the preacher who saw his people
unfaithful to the high trust they had received as guardians of the
land which the world had been taught to regard as the home of liberty.
It was this high conception that gave to his work its greatest power,
and that made Whittier, above all others, the poet of freedom; so that
although the mission of these poems has ceased, and as literature they
will not appeal to succeeding generations as forcibly as they did to
their own, as a part of national history they will be long preserved.

Whittier's other poems deal so largely with the home-life of his
day that he is called the poet of New England. All its traditions,
memories, and beliefs are faithfully recorded by him. In _Snow-Bound_
we have the life of the New-England farmer. In _Mabel Martin_ we
see again the old Puritan dogmatism hunting down witches, burning or
hanging them, and following with relentless persecution the families
of the unhappy wretches who thus came under the ban. In _Mogg Megone_
is celebrated in beautiful verse one of those legends of Indian life
which linger immortally around the pines of New England, while the
_Grave by the Lake_, the _Changeling_, the _Wreck of Rivermouth_,
the _Dead Ship of Harpswell_, and others in the collection called the
_Tent on the Beach_, revive old traditions of those early days when
history mingled with legend and the belief in water-spirits and
ghostly warnings had not yet vanished.

In some exquisite ballads, such as _School Days_, we have the memory
of the past, fresh as the wild violets which the poet culled as a boy,
while _Maud Muller_ is a very idyl of a New-England harvest-field in
the poet's youth. In _Among the Hills_ we have some of Whittier's best
poems of country life, while many minor poems celebrate the hills and
streams of which he was so fond. Whittier wrote, also, many beautiful
hymns, and his poems for children, such as _King Solomon and the Ants_
and _The Robin_, show how easy it was for his great heart to enter
into the spirit of childhood. _Child Life_, his compilation of
poems for childhood, is one of the best ever made, while another
compilation, called _Songs of Three Centuries_, shows his wide
familiarity and appreciation of all that is great in English poetry.

After the sale of the old home of his childhood Whittier lived in the
house at Amesbury, which for many years his sister shared. His last
collection of poems, called _Sundown_, was published in 1890, for
some friends only, as a memento of his eightieth birthday. He died two
years later, and was buried in the yard of the Friends' meeting-house
in Amesbury, a short distance from his birthplace.



CHAPTER VIII

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

1804-1864


In 1804 the town of Salem, in Massachusetts, was the most important
seaport in America. With the regularity of the tides its ships sailed
to China, the East Indies, the Feejee Islands, South America, and the
West Indies, and its seamen were as well known in the harbors of these
distant places as in their native town. Throughout the Revolution
Salem, with some neighboring smaller ports, was the hope of the
colonists. No American navy existed; but the merchants and marines
turned their vessels into ships of war, and under the name of
privateers swept the seas of British cruisers, capturing in six years
over four hundred and fifty prizes. During the war of 1812, again,
the naval service was led by the hardy Salem captains, and the brave
little seaport gave generously to the cause of the nation. Salem
from the first was identified with American independence. Upon her
hillsides one memorable day the inhabitants gathered to watch the
fight between the Chesapeake and the Shannon, and through her streets,
a few weeks later, the body of the heroic Lawrence was borne in
state. Among the thronging crowds that day must have wandered the boy
Nathaniel Hawthorne, then in his tenth year. Born in Salem, he came of
a line of seafaring men who had fought their way to fame and fortune
in the teeth of wind and wave; his family having its American
beginning at the time when Indian and white man alike made their homes
in the shadowy aisles of the New-England forests. These ocean-roving
ancestors were among the first to take an American ship to St.
Petersburg, Sumatra, Australia, and Africa. They fought pirates,
overcame savages, suffered shipwreck and disaster, and many of them
found their graves in the waters of some foreign sea. Hawthorne's own
father was lost on a voyage.

From this race of hardy sailors Hawthorne inherited the patience,
courage, and endurance which were the basis of his character, a
character touched besides by that melancholy and love of solitude
which is apt to distinguish those born by the sea. It is this
combination, perhaps, of Puritan steadfastness of purpose and wild
adventurous life that descended to Hawthorne in the form of the most
exquisite imagination tinctured with the highest moral aspirations.
It was the sturdy, healthy plant of Puritanism blossoming into a
beautiful flower.

In this old town of Salem, with its quaint houses, with their carved
doorways and many windows, with its pretty rose-gardens, its beautiful
overshadowing elms, its dingy court-house and celebrated town-pump,
Hawthorne passed his early life, his picturesque surroundings forming
a suitable environment for the handsome, imaginative boy who was to
create the most beautiful literary art that America had yet known.
Behind the town stood old Witch Hill, grim and ghastly with memories
of the witches hanged there in colonial times. In front spread the
sea, a golden argosy of promise, whose wharves and warehouses held
priceless stores of merchandise. Between this haunting spirit of the
past and the broader, newer life of the future, Hawthorne walked
with the serene hope of the youth of that day. The old, intolerant
Puritanism had passed away. Only the fine gold remained as the
priceless treasure of the new generation.

Hawthorne's boyhood was much like that of any other boy in Salem town.
He went to school and to church, loved the sea and prophesied that he
should go away on it some day and never return, was fond of reading,
and ready to fight with any school-fellows who had, as he expressed
it, "a quarrelsome disposition." He was a healthy, robust lad, finding
life a good thing whether he was roaming the streets, sitting idly
on the wharves, or stretched on the floor at home reading a favorite
author.

Almost all boys who have become writers have liked the same books, and
Hawthorne, like his fellows, lived in the magic world of Shakespeare
and Milton, Spenser, Froissart, and Bunyan. _The Pilgrim's Progress_
was an especial favorite with him, its lofty spirit carrying his soul
into those spiritual regions which the child mind reverences without
understanding. For one year of his boyhood he was supremely happy in
the wild regions of Sebago Lake, Me., where the family lived for a
time. Here, he says, he led the life of a bird of the air, with no
restraint and in absolute freedom. In the summer he would take his
gun and spend days in the forest, doing whatever pleased his vagabond
spirit at the moment. In the winter he would follow the hunters
through the snow, or skate till midnight alone upon the frozen lake
with only the shadows of the hills to keep him company, and sometimes
pass the remainder of the night in a solitary log cabin, warmed by the
blaze of the fallen evergreens.

But he had to return to Salem to prepare for college, whither he went
in 1821, in his seventeenth year. He entered Bowdoin, and had among
his fellow-students Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Franklin Pierce,
afterward President of the United States. Here Hawthorne spent happy
days, and long afterward, in writing to an old college friend, he
speaks of the charm that lingers around the memory of the place
when he gathered blueberries in study hours, watched the great
logs drifting down the current of the Androscoggin from the lumber
districts above, fished in the forest streams, and shot pigeons and
squirrels in hours which should have been devoted to the classics.

In this same letter, which forms the dedication to one of his books,
he adds that it is this friend, if any one, who is responsible for
his becoming a writer, as it was here, in the shadow of the tall pines
which sheltered Bowdoin College, that the first prophecy concerning
his destiny was made. He was to be a writer of fiction, the friend
said, little dreaming of the honors that were to crown one of the
great novelists of the world.

After leaving Bowdoin Hawthorne returned to Salem, where he passed the
next twelve years of his life. Here he produced, from time to time,
stories and sketches which found their way to the periodicals and won
for him a narrow reputation. But the years which a man usually devotes
to his best work were spent by Hawthorne in a contented half-dream of
a great future, for good as is some of the work produced at this time,
it never would have won for the author the highest place in American
literature. These stories and sketches were afterward collected and
published under the title _Twice-Told Tales_ and _The Snow Image_.
Full of the grace and beauty of Hawthorne's style, they were the best
imaginative work yet produced in America, but in speaking of them
Hawthorne himself says that in this result of twelve years there is
little to show for its thought and industry.

But the promise of his genius was fulfilled at last. In 1850, when
Hawthorne was forty-six years old, appeared his first great romance.
Hawthorne had chosen for his subject a picture of Puritan times in
New England, and out of the tarnished records of the past he created
a work of art of marvellous and imperishable beauty. In the days of
which he wrote, a Puritan town was exactly like a large family bound
together by mutual interests, the acts of each life being regarded as
affecting the whole community. Hawthorne has preserved this spirit of
colonial New England, with all its struggles, hopes, and fears, and
the conscience-driven Puritan, who lived in the new generation only
in public records and church histories, was given new life. In
Hawthorne's day this grim figure, stalking in the midst of Indian
fights, village pillories, town-meetings, witch-burnings, and
church-councils was already a memory. With his steeple-crowned hat and
his matchlock at his side he had left the pleasant New-England farm
lands and was found only in the court-houses, where his deeds were
recorded. Hawthorne brought him back from the past, set him in the
midst of his fellow-elders in the church, and showed him a sufferer
for conscience' sake.

This first romance, published under the title _The Scarlet Letter_,
revealed to Hawthorne himself, as well as to the world outside, the
transcendent power of his genius. Hawthorne, who was despondent of the
little popularity of his other books, told the publisher who saw the
first sketch of _The Scarlet Letter_, that he did not know whether
the story was very good or very bad. The publisher, however, at once
perceived its worth and brought it out one year from that time,
and the public saw that it had been entertaining a genius unawares.
Hawthorne's next book, _The House of the Seven Gables_, is a story
of the New England of his own day. A clever critic has called it an
impression of a summer afternoon in an elm-shadowed New-England town.
Through its pages flit quaint contrasting figures that one might find
in New England and nowhere else. The old spinster of ancient family,
obliged to open a toy and gingerbread shop, but never forgetting
the time when the house with seven gables was a mansion of limitless
hospitality, is a pathetic picture of disappointed hope and
broken-down fortune. So is her brother, who was falsely imprisoned
for twenty years, and who in his old age must lean upon his sister for
support; and the other characters are equally true to the life that
has almost disappeared in the changes of the half-century since its
scenes were made the inspiration of Hawthorne's romance.

_The House of the Seven Gables_ was followed by two beautiful volumes
for children, _The Wonder Book_ and _Tanglewood Tales_. In _The Wonder
Book_ Hawthorne writes as if he were a child himself, so simple is the
charm that he weaves around these old, old tales. Not content with
the Greek myths, he created little incidents and impossible characters
that glance in and out with elfin grace. One feels that these were
the very stories that were told by the centaurs, fauns, and satyrs
themselves in the shadows of the old Attic forests. Here we learn that
King Midas not only had his palace turned to gold, but that his
own little daughter, Marigold, a fancy of Hawthorne's own, was also
converted into the same shining metal. We learn, too, the secrets of
many a hero and god of this realm of fancy which had been unsuspected
by any other historian of their deeds. Every child who reads _The
Wonder Book_ doubts not that Hawthorne had hobnobbed many a moonlit
night with Pan and Bacchus in their vine-covered grottos by the
riverside. This dainty, ethereal touch appears in all his work for
children.

A like quality gives distinction to his fourth great novel, which
deals with a man supposed to be a descendant of the old fauns. This
creation, named Donatello, from his resemblance to the celebrated
statue of the Marble Faun, is not wholly human, although he has
human interests and feeling. Hawthorne makes Donatello ashamed of his
pointed ears, though his spirit is as wild and untamed as that of his
rude ancestors. In this book there is a description of a scene where
Count Donatello joins in a peasant dance around a public fountain. And
so vividly is his half-human nature here brought out that Hawthorne
seems to have witnessed somewhere the mad revels of the veritable
fauns and satyrs in the days of their life upon the earth. Throughout
this story Hawthorne shows the same subtle sympathy with uncommon
natures, the mystery of such souls having the same fascination for
him that the secrets of the earth and air have for the scientist and
philosopher.

The book coming between _The House of the Seven Gables_ and _The
Marble Faun_ is called _The Blithedale Romance_. It is in part the
record of a period of Hawthorne's life when he joined a community
which hoped to improve the world by combining healthy manual labor
with intellectual pursuits, and proving that self-interest and all
differences in rank must be hurtful to the commonwealth. This little
society lived in a suburb of Boston, and called their association
Brook Farm. Each member performed daily some manual labor on the
farm or in the house, hours being set aside for study. Here Hawthorne
ploughed the fields and joined in the amusements, or sat apart while
the rest talked about art and literature, danced, sang, or read
Shakespeare aloud. Some of the cleverest men and women of New England
joined this community, the rules of which obliged the men to
wear plaid blouses and rough straw hats, and the women to content
themselves with plain calico gowns.

These serious-minded men and women, who tried to solve a great problem
by leading the lives of Arcadian shepherds, at length dispersed,
each one going back to the world and working on as bravely as if the
experiment had been a great success. The experiences of Brook Farm
were shadowed forth in _The Blithedale Romance_, although it was not a
literal narrative.

Immediately after this Hawthorne was married and went to live in
Concord, near Boston, in a quaint old dwelling called The Manse. And
as all his work partakes of the personal flavor of his own life, so
his existence here is recorded in a delightful series of essays called
_Mosses from an Old Manse_. Here we have a description of the old
house itself, and of the author's family life, of the kitchen-garden
and apple-orchards, of the meadows and woods, and of his friendship
with that lover of nature, Henry Thoreau, whose writings form a
valuable contribution to American literature. The _Mosses from an Old
Manse_ must ever be famous as the history of the quiet hours of one of
the greatest American men of letters. They are full of Hawthorne's own
personality, and reveal more than any other of his books the depth and
purity of his poetic and rarely gifted nature.

In 1853 his old friend and schoolmate, President Pierce, appointed
Hawthorne American Consul at Liverpool. He remained abroad seven
years, spending the last four on the Continent, some transcriptions
of his experience being found in the celebrated _Marble Faun_ and
in several volumes of _Note-Books_. _The Marble Faun_, published in
Europe under the title _Transformation_, was written in Rome, and was
partly suggested to Hawthorne by an old villa which he occupied near
Florence. This old villa possessed a moss-covered tower, "haunted," as
Hawthorne said in a letter to a friend, "by owls and by the ghost of
a monk who was confined there in the thirteenth century previous to
being burnt at the stake in the principal square in Florence." He also
states in the same letter that he meant to put the old castle bodily
in a romance that was then in his head, which he did by making the
villa the old family castle of Donatello, although the scene of the
story is laid in Rome.

After Hawthorne's return to America he began two other novels, one
founded upon the old legend of the elixir of life. This story was
probably suggested to him by Thoreau, who spoke of a house in which
Hawthorne once lived at Concord having been, a century or two before,
the abode of a man who believed that he should never die. This subject
was a charming one for Hawthorne's peculiar genius, but the story,
with another, _The Dolliver Romance_, was interrupted by the death of
Hawthorne in 1864.

In point of literary art the romances of Hawthorne are the finest work
yet done in America, and their author was a man of high imagination,
lofty morality, and pure ideals; an artist in the noblest meaning of
the word.



CHAPTER IX

GEORGE BANCROFT

1800-1891


Seventy years ago the Round Hill School at Northampton, Mass., was
perhaps the most famous school in New England. The founder, George
Bancroft, had modelled it upon a celebrated school in Switzerland, in
the hope that it would prove a starting-point for a broader system of
elementary training than had yet existed in America, and everything
was done to develop the physical and moral, as well as the mental,
traits of the pupils. The school was beautifully situated, commanding
a superb view, and had, besides the school-rooms, a gymnasium and
play-rooms that were kept warm in cold weather and furnished with
tools for carpentering. Here the boys could make bows and arrows,
squirrel-traps, kites, sleds, and whatever their fancy dictated. There
were large play-grounds on the slopes of the hill, and here was the
village of "Cronyville," every house, hut, or shanty in which had been
built and was owned by the boys themselves. There were many varieties
of architecture in "Cronyville," but each dwelling had at least a
large chimney and a small store-room. After school hours each shanty
was its owner's castle, where entertainments were held, and the guests
feasted with roasted corn, nuts, or apples, which the entire company
had helped to prepare on the hearth of the wide chimney. Sometimes
the feast was enlivened by recitations, poems, and addresses by the
pupils, among whom was at one time the future historian, John Lothrop
Motley, and very often the festivities would end in one of those
earnest talks that boys fall into sometimes when tired out with play.
Bancroft's assistant and partner in the school was Dr. Cogswell, who
superintended the course of study, which was carried out by the best
teachers procurable in America, England, and France. The boys were in
the main good students, some of them brilliant ones, and they enjoyed
so much freedom that their spirits gained them sometimes an unenviable
reputation. The solemn keeper of a certain inn on the stage line
between Northampton and Boston suffered so much from their pranks that
he refused to allow them to stop over night, and only consented to
give them dinner upon promise of good behavior.

The school became so popular that the best families in all parts of
the country sent their boys there, but, financially, it was not a
success, and after seven years' trial Bancroft was forced to abandon
it, though his partner struggled on a few years longer. If the
experiment had been entirely successful the cause of education might
have been advanced fifty years ahead of the old method, for both
founders were men devoted to the cause of education and longed to see
newer and broader methods supersede the old ones.

As a boy Bancroft had studied at the Exeter Academy; finishing his
course there he entered Harvard at thirteen, was graduated in his
seventeenth year, and a year later was sent abroad by Harvard to fit
himself for a tutorship in the University. During his four years'
absence he studied modern languages and literatures, Greek philosophy
and antiquities, and some natural history. But he made history the
special object of study, and bent all his energies to acquiring as
wide a knowledge as possible of the sources and materials that make
up the records of modern history. During his vacations he visited the
different countries of Europe, travelling in regular student fashion.
He would rise at dawn, breakfast by candlelight, and then fill the
morning with visits to picture galleries, cathedrals, and all the
wonders of foreign towns; after a light luncheon he would start again
on his sight-seeing, or visit some person of note, meeting during his
travels almost every distinguished man in Europe. At night, if not too
tired, he would study still politics, languages, and history, and when
he returned to America he had made such good use of his time that he
was equipped for almost any position in its intellectual life.

His obligations to Harvard led him to accept a tutorship there, which,
however, proved so distasteful to him that he only held it one year.
It was after this experience that he founded his school at Round Hill.
During the years that he was trying to make the Round Hill school a
model for boys' schools, the idea of his work as the historian of the
United States came to him. Undismayed by the scope of the work, which
he meant should include the history of the United States from the
time of the landing of Columbus to the adoption of the Constitution in
1789, Bancroft, month after month, settled the plan more definitely
in his mind; and when the time came for him to begin the work he only
looked forward eagerly to the task of writing the records of three
hundred years of the world's progress during the most absorbing period
known to history. It is doubtful if at this time there was any other
man living better qualified for this task than Bancroft. He had been
a student of history and politics since boyhood. He had traced the
stream of history from its sources in the East through the rise of
the great modern nations. He had mastered the politics of the ancient
world, whose language, literature, and art were also familiar to him,
and civilized Europe had been his field of study during the years
which leave the most profound impressions upon the mind.

To him the rise and establishment of the United States as a great
nation presented itself as one of the most brilliant passages of the
world's history, and no labor seemed tiresome which should fittingly
chronicle that event.

Besides his literary requirements Bancroft possessed eminent qualities
for practical life. He was successively Governor of Massachusetts,
Secretary of the Navy, and for a time Acting-Secretary of war; he
served his country as Minister to Great Britain. He was made Minister
to Prussia and afterward Minister to Germany when that country took
its place as a united nation. Some of the most important treaties
between the United States and foreign powers were made during
Bancroft's diplomatic career, and in every act of his political life
showed a talent for practical affairs. While he was Secretary of the
Navy he founded the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Previous
to this there was no good system by which the boys who desired to
enter the navy could receive instruction in any other branch than
that of practical seamanship. In the old navy the middies were taught,
while afloat, by the chaplains, who gave them lessons in odd hours in
writing, arithmetic, and navigation; if the pupils were idle they were
reported to the captain, whose discipline was far from gentle. A boy
eager to learn could pick up a great deal by asking questions and
noticing what was going on about him, and sometimes the officers would
volunteer their help in a difficult subject. Later each ship had
one regular school-master, who made the voyage with the ship, twenty
middies being appointed to each man-of-war. This system was superseded
by schools, which were established at the different navy-yards, and
which the boys attended in the intervals of sea duty; but, as in the
case of the other methods, the instruction was desultory, and the
pupils had not the advantage of education enjoyed by the cadets of the
West Point Military Academy, though it was evident the necessity for
it was the same.

Bancroft brought to the office of Secretary of the Navy his old love
for broad principles of education, and eight months after he took
office the United States Naval Academy was in full operation, with
a corps of instructors of the first merit, and with a complement of
pupils that spoke well for the national interest in the cause. At
first the course was for five years, the first and last of which only
were spent at the Academy and the rest at sea, but this was later
modified to its present form. Bancroft's generous policy placed the
new institution upon a firm basis, and it became at once a vital force
in the life of the United States Navy.

Bancroft began his history while still at Round Hill, and published
the first volume in 1834. Previous to beginning his history he had
published a small volume of verse, a Latin Reader, and a book on
Greek politics for the use of the Round Hill School, and various
translations and miscellaneous writings in the different periodicals
of the day. But none of these had seemed serious work to him, and he
brought to his history a mind fresh to literary labor, and a fund of
general information that was invaluable.

While he was minister to Great Britain he visited the state archives
of England, France, and Germany for additional historical material.
From this time he devoted himself as exclusively to his work as the
diplomatic positions he held would allow.

His official administration in his own country was also far-reaching.
Besides the establishment of the Naval Academy, it was he who, while
acting as Secretary of War _pro tem._, gave the famous order for
General Taylor to move forward to the western boundary of Texas, which
had been annexed to the United States after seceding from Mexico and
setting up as a republic. General Taylor's appearance on the borders
was the signal to Mexico that the United States intended to defend the
new territory, and eventually led to the war with Mexico, by which the
United States received the territory of New Mexico and California.

When the lookout on the Pinta called out "Land ho!" he really uttered
the first word of American history, and Bancroft's narrative begins
almost at this point. The first volume embraces the early French
and Spanish voyages; the settlement of the Colonies; descriptions of
colonial life in New England and Virginia; the fall and restoration of
the house of Stuart in England, which led to such important results
in American history, and Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia, which was the
first note of warning to England that the American Colonies would not
tolerate English injustice without a protest. To the reader who loves
to find in history facts more marvellous than any imaginations of
fairy lore, the first volume of Bancroft's history must ever be
a region of delight. The picturesque figure of Columbus fronting
undismayed the terrors of that unknown sea, which the geographers of
the period peopled with demons and monsters; the adventures of
the French and Spanish courtiers in search of fabled rivers and
life-giving fountains; the trials of the gold-seekers, De Soto,
Navarez, Cabeça de Vaca, and others, who sought for the riches of the
romantic East; and the heroic suffering of those innumerable bands who
first looked upon the wonders of the New World, and opened the way to
its great career, are such stories as are found in the sober history
of no other country. To the Old World, whose beginnings of history
were lost in the mists of the past, this vision of the New World, with
its beauty of mountains, river, and forest, with its inexhaustible
wealth and its races yet living in the primitive conditions of remote
antiquity, was indeed a wonder hardly to be believed. It is something
to be present at the birth of a new world, and Bancroft has followed
the voyagers and settlers in their own spirit, made their adventures
his own, and given to the reader a brilliant as well as faithful
picture of the historic beginning of the American continent.

In his second volume Bancroft takes up the history of the Dutch in
America; of the occupations of the Valley of the Mississippi by the
French; of the expulsion of the French from Canada by the English,
and the minor events which went toward the accomplishment of these
objects. Here are introduced the romantic story of Acadia and the
picturesque side of Indian life. "The Indian mother places her child,
as spring does its blossoms, upon the boughs of the trees while she
works," says Bancroft in describing the sleeping-places of the
Indian babies, and we see the same sympathetic touch throughout his
descriptions of these dark children of the forest, to whom the white
man came as a usurper of their rights and destroyer of their woodland
homes.

The remaining volumes of the history consist almost entirely of the
causes which led up to the American Revolution, the Revolution itself,
and its effect upon Europe. One-half of the whole work is devoted to
this theme, which is treated with a philosophical breadth that makes
it comparable to the work of the greatest historians. Here we are led
to see that, besides its influence upon the history of the New World,
the American Revolution was one of the greatest events in the world's
history; that it followed naturally from the revolt of the Netherlands
against Spain and the Revolution of the English people against the
tyranny of Charles I., and that, like them, its highest mission was to
vindicate the cause of liberty.

In two other volumes, entitled _History of the Formation of the
Constitution of the United States_, Bancroft gave a minute and careful
description of the consolidation of the States into an individual
nation after the Revolution, and the draughting and adopting of the
Constitution by which they have since been governed. This, with
some miscellaneous papers, among which may be mentioned the dramatic
description of the Battle of Lake Erie, comprise the remainder of
Bancroft's contribution to American literature.

Bancroft said that there were three qualities necessary to the
historian: A knowledge of the evil in human nature; that events are
subordinate to law, and that there is in man something greater
than himself. To these qualifications, which he himself eminently
possessed, may be added that of untiring industry, which distinguished
his work. A passage was written over and over again, sometimes as
many as eight times, until it suited him. And he was known to write
an entire volume over. He carried his labor into his old age, being
eighty-four years of age when he made the last revision of the history
which had occupied fifty years of his life.

His diplomatic career also extended over many years, he being
seventy-four when at his own request the Government recalled him from
the Court of Berlin where he was serving as Minister.

Bancroft died in 1891, in his ninety-second year. The most famous
of his own countrymen united in tributes to his memory, and the
sovereigns of Europe sent wreaths to place upon his coffin. As
historian, diplomatist, and private citizen, he had honored his
country as is the privilege of few.



CHAPTER X

EDGAR ALLAN POE

1809-1849


In the play-ground of an old-fashioned English school the boy Edgar
Allan Poe, then in his ninth year, first entered that world of
day-dreams, whose wonders he afterward transcribed so beautifully in
his prose and poetry. The school was situated in the old town of Stoke
Newington, and the quaint, sleepy village, with its avenues shaded
by ancient trees and bordered by fragrant shrubberies, and with its
country stillness broken only by the chime of the church-bell tolling
the hour, seemed to the boy hardly a part of the real world. In
describing it in after years he speaks of the dream-like and soothing
influence it had upon his early life. The school building, also the
village parsonage, as the master of the school was a clergyman, had
a similar effect; it was a large, rambling house, whose passages and
rooms had a labyrinthine irregularity which charmed the young student
and made him regard it almost as a place of enchantment. It had
many nooks and corners in which one might lose one's self and dream
day-dreams out of the books, poetry and history, with which it was
pretty well stocked. The school-room itself was low-walled and ceiled
with oak, and filled with desks and benches that had been hacked and
hewed by generations of boys. It was of great size, and seemed to Poe
the largest in the world. In this room he studied mathematics and the
classics, while in the play-ground outside, which was surrounded by
brick walls topped with mortar and broken glass, he spent many of his
leisure hours, taking part in those sports so loved by the English
school-boy. The boys were allowed beyond the grounds only three times
in a week; twice on Sunday, when they went to church, and once during
the week, when, guarded by two ushers, they were taken a solemn walk
through the neighboring fields. All the rest of life lay within the
walls that separated the school from the village streets. In this
quiet spot Poe spent five years of his life, speaking of them
afterward as most happy years and rich in those poetic influences
which formed his character.

In his thirteenth year he left England and returned to America with
his adopted parents, Mr. and Mrs. Allan, of Baltimore, spending the
next four or five years of his life partly in their beautiful home and
partly at school in Richmond.

The parents of Poe had died in his infancy. They had both possessed
talent, his mother having been an actress of considerable repute, and
from them he inherited gentle and winning manners and a talent for
declamation, which, combined with his remarkable personal beauty,
made him a favorite in the Allan home, where he was much petted and
caressed. The child returned the interest of his adopted parents,
and though he was sometimes wilful and obstinate he never failed in
affection. To Mrs. Allan especially he always showed a devotion and
gratitude that well repaid her for the love and care she had bestowed
upon the orphan child.

Though fond of books, especially books of poetry, and loving to be
alone in some quiet place where he could indulge in the day-dreams
that formed so large a part of his life, Poe yet had the fondness of a
healthy boy for athletic sports, and some of his feats of strength are
still found recorded in the old newspapers of Baltimore. Once on a
hot day he swam a distance of seven miles on the James River against a
swift tide; in a contest he leaped twenty-one feet on a level, and in
other feats of strength he also excelled.

He was very fond of animals, and was always surrounded by pets which
returned his affection with interest, and which, with the flowers he
loved to tend and care for, took up many of his leisure hours.

When he was seventeen Poe entered the University of Virginia, where he
remained not quite a year, distinguishing himself as a student of the
classics and modern languages. Upon his return to Baltimore he had a
disagreement with his foster-father because of some college debts,
and though Poe was very much in the wrong he refused to admit it, and,
leaving the house in a fit of anger, went to live with his aunt,
Mrs. Clemm. He had already published a volume of poems, and now being
forced to depend upon himself he issued a second edition. But this
brought him neither fame nor money, and after a two years' struggle
with poverty he was glad to accept a cadetship at West Point, obtained
for him through the influence of Mr. Allan. Mrs. Allan had in the
meantime died, and in her death Poe lost his best friend, one who had
been ever ready to forgive his faults, to believe in his repentance,
and to have faith in his promises of amendment.

Poe was charmed with the life at West Point, and in his first
enthusiasm decided that a soldier's career was the most glorious in
the world. The hard study, the strict discipline, the rigid law and
order of cadet life seemed only admirable, and he soon stood at the
head of his class. But it was impossible that this enthusiasm should
last long. Poe was endowed by nature with the dreamy and artistic
temperament of the poet, and discipline and routine could not fail
to become in a short time unbearable. When this period arrived the
prospective life of the soldier lost its charm, and he was seized with
a desire to leave the Academy and bid a final farewell to military
life. It was impossible to do this without the consent of his
guardian, and as Mr. Allan refused this, Poe was forced to carry his
point in his own way. This he did by lagging in his studies, writing
poetry when he should have been solving problems, and refusing point
blank to obey orders. Military discipline could not long brook this.
Poe was court-martialed, and, pleading guilty, was discharged from the
Academy, disgraced but happy. During his stay there he had published a
third edition of his poems, containing a number of pieces not included
in the other editions. It was dedicated to his fellow-cadets, and was
subscribed for by many of the students.

Almost immediately after his departure from West Point, Poe went
to live with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, and her daughter Virginia, who
afterward became his wife; and from this time forward he never seems
to have had any serious idea of a career otherwise than literary. In
1832, when he was in his twenty-fourth year, prizes were offered by a
Baltimore paper for the best short story and best poem that should be
presented. Among the material offered in competition the judges found
a small collection of tales bound together, and written in neat Roman
characters. These stories were the last ones read by the committee
which had about decided that there had been nothing offered worthy the
prize; their unmistakable signs of genius were instantly recognized.
It was decided that the prize of one hundred dollars belonged to this
author, and out of the series the story entitled _A Manuscript Found
in a Bottle_ was selected as the prize tale, though all were so
excellent that it was difficult to determine which was best. This
little volume had been submitted by Poe, and when the poetry came to
be examined it was found also that the best poem in the collection
was his. He was not, however, awarded the prize for poetry, that being
given to another competitor, whose work the committee thought worthy
the second prize, in view of the fact that Poe had obtained the first.

It was in this manner that Poe was introduced to the world of
literature, his previous productions having excited no attention other
than that generally given to the work of a clever or erratic boy. The
workmanship of these stories was so fine and the genius so apparent as
to give them a distinct place in American fiction, a place to which at
that time the promise of Hawthorne pointed. Besides the reputation and
money thus earned, the story brought him a stanch friend in the person
of Mr. Kennedy, one of the members of the committee, who, from that
time, was devoted to the interests of the young author.

Poe now became busy with the composition of those beautiful tales
which appeared from time to time in the periodicals of the day, and
which speedily won him a reputation both in America and Europe. He was
also employed in editorial work for different magazines, and became
known as the first American critic who had made criticism an art. It
was his dream at this time to establish a magazine of his own, and
for many years one project after another with this object in view was
tried and abandoned. He was never able to start the magazine and felt
the disappointment keenly always. Through all his disappointments he
still lived much in that dream-world which had always been so real
to him, and much of his best work found there its inspiration. His
exquisite story of _Ligeia_ came to him first in a dream. This
world, so unreal to many, was to Poe as real as his actual life. Like
Coleridge in English literature, he had the power of presenting the
visions which came to him in sleep or in his waking dreams, surrounded
by their own atmosphere of mystery and unreality, thus producing an
effect which awed as well as fascinated. No other American writer
has ever brought from the dream-world such beautiful creations, which
charm and mystify at the same time, and force the most unimaginative
reader to believe for the time in the existence of this elusive realm
of faery.

Poe's poems have this same character, and found their inspiration in
the same source.

While engaged in editorial work in New York Poe wrote his first great
poem, _The Raven_, which was first published under an assumed name.
It was not until he recited the poem by request at a gathering of
the literary workers of New York that his authorship was suspected.
Immediately afterward the poem was published under his name. It was
regarded by critics in England and America as illustrating the highest
poetic genius. From this time Poe, who had hitherto been ranked among
the best prose writers of his native land, now took precedence among
the poets. It is, indeed, as a poet that he is always thought of
first. It was during the next five years after the publication of _The
Raven_ that he produced the series of remarkable poems that has given
him immortality. _The Bells_, the original draft of which consisted of
only eighteen lines, is, perhaps, next to _The Raven_, the poem that
has brought him the most fame. But the number of exquisite shorter
poems which he produced would in themselves give him the highest rank
as a poet. Chief among these is the little idyll, _Annabel Lee_, a
transcription of the ideal love which existed between Poe and his
young wife.

While engaged in literary work in New York Poe lived for the greater
part of the time in the suburb of Fordham, in an unpretentious but
charming cottage, bowered in trees and surrounded by the flower
garden, which was the especial pride of the poet and his wife. Perhaps
the happiest days of his life were spent in this quiet place, to which
he would retire after the business of the day was over, and occupy
himself with the care of the flowers and of the numerous pet birds and
animals, which were regarded as a part of the family.

Over this otherwise happy existence hung always the clouds of poverty
and sickness, his wife having been an invalid for many years. It was
in this little cottage, at a time when Poe's fortunes were at their
lowest ebb, that his wife died amid poverty so extreme that the family
could not even afford a fire to heat the room in which she lay dying.
Poe remained at Fordham a little over two years after his wife's
death, leaving it only a few months before his own death, in October,
1849.

Poe is undoubtedly to be ranked among the greatest writers of American
literature. His prose works would grace any literary period; his
poetry is alive with the fire and beauty of genius, and his criticisms
marked a new era in critical writing in America.

Twenty-six years after his death a monument was erected to his memory
in the city of Baltimore, mainly through the efforts of the teachers
of the public schools. Some of the most distinguished men of America
were present at the unveiling to do honor to the poet whose work was
such a noble contribution to the art of his native land.



CHAPTER XI

RALPH WALDO EMERSON

1803-1882


Walking the streets of Boston, in the days when old-fashioned
gambrel-roofed houses and gardens filled the space now occupied by
dingy warehouses, might be seen a serious-eyed boy who, whether at
work or at play, seemed always to his companions to live in a world
a little different from their own. This was not the dream-world so
familiar to childhood, but another which few children enter, and those
only who seem destined to be teachers of their race. One enters this
world just as the world of day-dreams is entered, by forgetting the
real world for a time and letting the mind think what thoughts it
will. In this world Milton spent many long hours when a child, and
Bunyan made immortal in literature the memory of these dreams of
youth. Never any thought of the real world enters this place, whose
visitors see but one thing, a vision of the soul as it journeys
through life. To Bunyan this seemed but a journey over dangerous
roads, through lonely valleys, and over steep mountain sides;
to Milton it seemed a war between good and evil; to this little
New-England boy it seemed but a vision of duty bravely accomplished,
and in this he was true to the instincts of that Puritan race to which
he belonged. The boy's father was the Rev. William Emerson, pastor of
the First Church in Boston, who had died when this son, Ralph Waldo,
was in his ninth year; but for three years longer the family continued
to reside in the quaint old parsonage, in which Emerson had been born.
The father had left his family so poor that the congregation of the
First Church voted an annuity of five hundred dollars to the widow for
seven years, and many were the straits the little family was put to
in order to eke out a comfortable living. The one ambition was to have
the three boys educated. An aunt who lived in the family declared
that they were born to be educated, and that it must be brought about
somehow. The mother took boarders, and the two eldest boys, Ralph and
Edward, helped do the housework. In a little letter written to his
aunt, in his tenth year, Ralph mentions that he rose before six in the
morning in order to help his brother make the fire and set the table
for prayers before calling his mother--so early did the child realize
that he must be the burden-sharer of the family. Poverty there was,
but also much happiness in the old parsonage, whose dooryard of trees
and shrubs, joined on to the neighboring gardens, made a pleasant
outlook into the world. When school work was over, and household duty
disposed of, very often the brothers would retire to their own room
and there find their own peculiar joy in reading tales of Plutarch,
reciting poetry, and declaiming some favorite piece, for solitude was
loved by all, and the great authors of the world were well studied by
these boys, whose bedchamber was so cold that Plato or Cicero could
only be indulged in when the reader was wrapped so closely in his
cloak that Emerson afterward remarked, the smell of woollen was
forever afterward associated with the Greek classics. Ralph attended
the Latin Grammar School, and had private lessons besides in
writing, which he seems to have acquired with difficulty, one of his
school-fellows telling long afterward how his tongue moved up and down
as the pen laboriously traversed the page, and how on one occasion he
even played truant to avoid the dreaded task, for which misdemeanor
he was promptly punished by a diet of bread and water. It was at this
period that he wrote verses on the War of 1812, and began an epic poem
which one of his school friends illustrated. Such skill did he attain
in verse-making that his efforts were delivered on exhibition days,
being rendered with such impressiveness by the young author that his
mates considered nothing could be finer.

From the Latin school Emerson passed to Harvard in his fifteenth year,
entering as "President's Freshman," a post which brought with it a
certain annual sum and a remission of fees in exchange for various
duties, such as summoning unruly students to the president, announcing
the orders of the faculty, and serving as waiter at commons.

At college Emerson was noted as a student more familiar with general
literature than with the college text-books, and he was an ardent
member of a little book club which met to read and discuss current
literature, the book or magazine under discussion being generally
bought by the member who had the most pocket-money at the time. But
in spite of a dislike for routine study, Emerson was graduated with
considerable honor, and almost immediately afterward set about the
business of school-teaching.

But Emerson was not able to take kindly to teaching, and in his
twenty-first year began preparations to enter the ministry. These were
interrupted for a while by a trip South in search of health, but he
was finally able to accept a position as assistant minister at the
Second Church. A year or two later he was again obliged to leave his
work and go abroad for his health. After he returned home he decided
to leave the ministry, and he began that series of lectures which
speedily made him famous and which have determined his place in
American literature.

From this time Emerson began to be recognized as one of the
thought-leaders of his age. To him literature appealed as a means
of teaching those spiritual lessons that brace the soul to brave
endurance. While Hawthorne was living in the world of romance, Poe
and Lowell creating American poetry, and Bancroft and Motley placing
American historical prose on the highest level, Emerson was throwing
his genius into the form of moral essays for the guidance of conduct.
To him had been revealed in all its purity that vision of the perfect
life which had been the inspiration of his Puritan ancestors. And
with the vision had come that gift of expression which enabled him to
preserve it in the noblest literary form. These essays embrace every
variety of subject, for, to a philosopher like Emerson every form of
life and every object of nature represented some picture of the soul.
When he devoted himself to this task he followed a true light, for he
became and remains to many the inspiration of his age, the American
writer above all others whose thought has moulded the souls of men.

Much of Emerson's work found form in verse of noble vein, for he was
a poet as well as philosopher. He also was connected with one or two
magazines, and became one of the most popular of American lecturers;
with the exception of several visits to Europe and the time given
to his lecturing and other short trips, Emerson spent his life at
Concord, Mass. To this place came annually, in his later years, the
most gifted of his followers, to conduct what was known as the Concord
School of Philosophy. Throughout his whole life Emerson preserved
that serenity of soul which is the treasure of such spiritually gifted
natures.

He died at Concord in 1882, and was buried in the village cemetery,
which he had consecrated thirty years before.



CHAPTER XII

HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

1807-1882


Almost any summer day in the early part of the century a blue-eyed,
brown-haired boy might have been seen lying under a great apple-tree
in the garden of an old house in Portland, forgetful of everything
else in the world save the book he was reading.

The boy was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the book might have been
_Robinson Crusoe_, _The Arabian Nights_, or _Don Quixote_, all
of which were prime favorites, or, possibly, it was Irving's
_Sketch-Book_, of which he was so fond that even the covers delighted
him, and whose charm remained unbroken throughout life. Years
afterward, when, as a famous man of letters, he was called upon to pay
his tribute to the memory of Irving, he could think of no more tender
praise than to speak with grateful affection of the book which had so
fascinated him as a boy, and whose pages still led him back into the
"haunted chambers of youth."

Portland was in those days a town of wooden houses, with streets
shaded with trees, and the waters of the sea almost dashing up to its
doorways. At its back great stretches of woodland swept the country
as far as the eye could see, and low hills served as watch-towers over
the deep in times of war. It was during Longfellow's childhood that
the British ship Boxer was captured by the Enterprise in the famous
sea-fight of the War of 1812; the two captains, who had fallen in the
battle, were buried side by side in the cemetery at Portland, and
the whole town came together to do honor to the dead commanders. Long
afterward Longfellow speaks of this incident in his poem entitled _My
Lost Youth_, and recalls the sound of the cannon booming across
the waters, and the solemn stillness that followed the news of the
victory.

It is in the same poem that we have a picture of the Portland of his
early life, and are given glimpses of the black wet wharves, where the
ships were moored all day long as they worked, and also the Spanish
sailors "with bearded lips" who seemed as much a mystery to the boy
as the ships themselves. These came and went across the sea, always
watched and waited for with greatest interest by the children, who
loved the excitement of the unloading and loading, the shouts of the
surveyors who were measuring the contents of cask and hogshead; the
songs of the negroes working the pulleys, the jolly good-nature of the
seamen strolling through the streets, and, above all, the sight of
the strange treasures that came from time to time into one home or
another--bits of coral, beautiful sea-shells, birds of resplendent
plumage, foreign coins, which looked odd even in Portland, where all
the money nearly was Spanish--and the hundred and one things dear to
the hearts of children and sailors.

Longfellow's boyhood was almost a reproduction of that of some Puritan
ancestor a century before. He attended the village school, played ball
in summer and skated in winter, went to church twice every Sunday,
and, when service was over, looked at the curious pictures in the
family Bible, and heard from his mother's lips the stories of David
and Jonathan and Joseph, and at all times had food for his imagination
in the view of bay stretching seaward, on one hand, and on the other
valley farms and groves spreading out to the west.

But although the life was severe in its simplicity, it was most sweet
and wholesome for the children who grew up in the home nest, guarded
by the love that was felt rather than expressed, and guided into noble
conceptions of the beauty and dignity of living. This home atmosphere
impressed itself upon Longfellow unconsciously, as did the poetic
influences of nature, and had just as lasting and inspiring an effect
upon his character, so that truth, duty, fine courage were always
associated with the freshness of spring, the early dawn, the summer
sunshine, and the lingering sadness of twilight.

It is the spiritual insight, thus early developed, that gives to
Longfellow's poetry some of its greatest charms.

It was during his school-boy days that Longfellow published his first
bit of verse. It was inspired by hearing the story of a famous fight
which took place on the shores of a small lake called Lovell's
Pond, between the hero Lovell and the Indians. Longfellow was deeply
impressed by this story and threw his feeling of admiration into four
stanzas, which he carried with a beating heart down to the letter-box
of the _Portland Gazette_, taking an opportunity to slip the
manuscript in when no one was looking.

A few days later Longfellow watched his father unfold the paper, read
it slowly before the fire, and finally leave the room, when the sheet
was grasped by the boy and his sister, who shared his confidence,
and hastily scanned. The poem was there in the "Poets' Corner" of the
_Gazette_, and Longfellow was so filled with joy that he spent the
greater part of the remainder of the day in reading and re-reading
the verses, becoming convinced toward evening that they possessed
remarkable merit. His happiness was dimmed, however, a few hours
later, when the father of a boy friend, with whom he was passing
the evening, pronounced the verses stiff and entirely lacking in
originality, a criticism that was quite true and that was harder to
bear because the critic had no idea who the author was. Longfellow
slipped away as soon as possible to nurse his wounded feelings in his
own room, but instead of letting the incident discourage him, began,
with renewed vigor, to write verses, epigrams, essays, and even
tragedies, which he produced in a literary partnership with one of
his friends. None of these effusions had any literary value, being no
better than any boy of thirteen or fourteen would produce if he turned
his attention to composition instead of bat and ball.

Longfellow remained in Portland until his sixteenth year, when he went
to Bowdoin College, entering the sophomore class. Here he remained for
three years, gradually winning a name for scholarship and character
that was second to none.

His love for reading still continued, Irving remaining a favorite
author, while Cooper was also warmly appreciated. From the
_Sketch-Book_ he would turn to the exciting pages of _The Spy_, and
the announcement of a new work by either of their authors was looked
forward to as an event of supreme importance. From time to time he
wrote verses which appeared in the periodicals of the day, and as his
college life neared its close he began to look toward literature as
the field for his future work, and it was with much disappointment
that he learned that his father wished him to study law.

But what the effect of such a course may have had upon his mind so
filled with the love of poetry, and so consecrated to the ideal, will
never be known, as the end of his college life brought to him a chance
which, for the moment, entirely satisfied the desire of his heart.

This was an offer from the college trustees that he should visit
Europe for the purpose of fitting himself for a professorship of
modern languages, and that upon his return he should fill that chair,
newly established at Bowdoin.

This was the happiest fortune that could come to Longfellow in the
beginning of his literary career. Accordingly, at the age of nineteen,
he sailed for France in good health, with fine prospects, and with as
fair a hope for the future as ever was given.

Longfellow remained abroad three years, studying and absorbing all the
new conditions which were broadening his mind, and fitting him for his
after-career. He visited France, Spain, Italy, and Germany, meeting
with adventure everywhere, and storing up memory after memory that
came back to his call in after-years to serve some purpose of his art.

We have thus preserved in his works the impressions that Europe then
made upon a young American, who had come there to supplement his
education by studying at the universities, and whose mind was alive to
all the myriad forms of culture denied in his own land.

The vividness of these early impressions was seen in all his work, and
was perhaps the first reflection of the old poetic European influence
that began to be felt in much American poetry, where the charm of old
peasant love-songs and roundelays, heard for centuries among the lower
classes of Spain, France, and Italy, was wrought into translations and
transcriptions so perfect and spirited that they may almost rank with
original work.

One of Longfellow's great pleasures while on this trip was the meeting
with Irving in Spain, where the latter was busy upon his _Life
of Columbus_; and Irving's kindness on this occasion was always
affectionately remembered.

Longfellow returned to America after three years' absence, and at once
began his duties at Bowdoin College, where he remained three years,
when he left to take a professorship at Harvard, which he had accepted
with the understanding that he was to spend a year and a half abroad
before commencing his work.

The results of his literary labors while at Bowdoin were the
publication of a series of sketches of European life called _Outre
Mer_, in two volumes; a translation from the Spanish of the _Coplas
de Manrique_, and some essays in the _North American Review_ and
other periodicals. And considering the demand upon his time which his
college duties made, this amount of finished work speaks well for his
industry, since it does not include a number of text-books prepared
for the use of his pupils, and numberless papers, translations,
and other literary miscellany necessary to his work as a teacher of
foreign languages. _Outre Mer_, which had first appeared in part in
a periodical, was very favorably received. It was really the story of
picturesque Europe translated by the eye and heart of a young poet.

After his return to America Longfellow settled down to the routine of
college work, which was interrupted for the next ten years only by his
literary work, which from this time on began to absorb him more and
more. Two years after his return he published his first volume of
poems and his romance _Hyperion_. In _Hyperion_ Longfellow related
some of the experiences of his own travels under the guise of the
hero, who wanders through Europe, and the book is full of the same
biographical charm that belongs to _Outre Mer_. Here the student life
of the German youth, the songs they sang, the books they read, and
even their favorite inns are noted, while the many translations of
German poetry opened a new field of delight to American readers. It
was well received by the public, who appreciated its fine poetic fancy
and its wealth of serious thought.

But it was not by his prose that Longfellow touched the deepest
sympathies of his readers, and the publication of his first volume
of poetry a few months later showed his real position in the world of
American letters. This little book, which was issued under the title
_Voices of the Night_, consisted of the poems that had so far appeared
in the various magazines and papers, a few poems written in his
college days, and some translations from the French, German, and
Spanish poets.

In this volume occurs some of Longfellow's choicest works, the gem of
the book being the celebrated _A Psalm of Life_.

It is from this point that Longfellow goes onward always as the
favorite poet of the American people. The _Psalm of Life_ had been
published previously in a magazine without the author's name, and
it had no sooner been read than it seemed to find its way into every
heart. Ministers read it to their congregations all over the country,
and it was sung as a hymn in many churches. It was copied in almost
every newspaper in the United States; it was recited in every school.
To young and old alike it brought its message, and its voice was
recognized as that of a true leader. The author of _Outre Mer_ and
_Hyperion_ had here touched hands with millions of his brothers and
sisters, and the clasp was never unloosened again while he lived.

In the same collection occurs _The Footsteps of Angels_, another
well-beloved poem, and one in which the spirit of home-life is made
the inspiration.

Longfellow's poems now followed one another in rapid succession,
appearing generally at first in some magazine and afterward in book
form in various collections under different titles.

His greatest contributions to American literature are his _Evangeline_
and _Hiawatha_, and a score of shorter poems, which in themselves
would give the author a high place in any literature.

In _Evangeline_ Longfellow took for his theme the pathetic story of
the destruction of the Acadian villages by the English during the
struggle between the English and French for the possession of Canada.
In this event many families and friends were separated never again to
be reunited, and the story of _Evangeline_ is the fate of two young
lovers who were sent away from their homes in different ships, and who
never met again until both were old, and one was dying in the ward of
a public hospital. Longfellow has made of this sad story a wondrously
beautiful tale, that reads like an old legend of Grecian Arcadia.

The description of the great primeval forests, stretching down to the
sea; of the villages and farms scattered over the land as unprotected
as the nests of the meadow lark; of the sowing and harvesting of the
peasant folk, with their _fêtes_ and churchgoing, their weddings and
festivals, and the pathetic search of Evangeline for her lost lover
Gabriel among the plains of Louisiana, all show Longfellow in his
finest mood as a poet whom the sorrows of mankind touched always with
reverent pity, as well as a writer of noble verse.

Everywhere that the English language is read _Evangeline_ has passed
as the most beautiful folk-story that America has produced, and the
French Canadians, the far-away brothers of the Acadians, have included
Longfellow among their national poets. Among them _Evangeline_ is
known by heart, and the cases are not rare where the people have
learned English expressly for the purpose of reading Longfellow's poem
in the original, a wonderful tribute to the poet who could thus touch
to music one of the saddest memories of their race.

In _Hiawatha_ Longfellow gave to the Indian the place in poetry that
had been given him by Cooper in prose. Here the red man is shown with
all his native nobleness still unmarred by the selfish injustice of
the whites, while his inferior qualities are seen only to be those
that belong to mankind in general.

_Hiawatha_ is a poem of the forests and of the dark-skinned race who
dwelt therein, who were learned only in forest lore and lived as near
to nature's heart as the fauns and satyrs of old. Into this legend
Longfellow has put all the poetry of the Indian nature, and has made
his hero, Hiawatha, a noble creation that compares favorably with the
King Arthur of the old British romances. Like Arthur, Hiawatha has
come into the world with a mission for his people; his birth is
equally mysterious and invests him at once with almost supernatural
qualities. Like Arthur, he seeks to redeem his kingdom from savagery
and to teach the blessing of peace.

From first to last Hiawatha moves among the people, a real leader,
showing them how to clear their forests, to plant grain, to make for
themselves clothing of embroidered and painted skins, to improve their
fishing-grounds, and to live at peace with their neighbors. Hiawatha's
own life was one that was lived for others. From the time when he was
a little child and his grandmother told him all the fairy-tales of
nature, up to the day when, like Arthur, he passed mysteriously away
through the gates of the sunset, all his hope and joy and work were
for his people. He is a creature that could only have been born from a
mind as pure and poetic as that of Longfellow.

All the scenes and images of the poem are so true to nature that they
seem like very breaths from the forest. We move with Hiawatha through
the dewy birchen aisles, learn with him the language of the nimble
squirrel and of the wise beaver and mighty bear, watch him build his
famous canoe, and spend hours with him fishing in the waters of the
great inland sea, bordered by the pictured rocks, painted by nature
herself. Longfellow's first idea of the poem was suggested, it is
said, by his hearing a Harvard student recite some Indian tales.
Searching among the various books that treated of the American Indian,
he found many legends and incidents that preserved fairly well the
traditional history of the Indian race, and grouping these around one
central figure and filling in the gaps with poetic descriptions of the
forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, and plains, which made up the abode
of these picturesque people, he thus built up the entire poem. The
metre used is that in which the Kalevala, the national epic of the
Finns is written, and the Finnish hero, Wainamoinen, in his gift of
song and his brave adventures, is not unlike the great Hiawatha. Among
Longfellow's other long poems are: _The Spanish Student_, a dramatic
poem founded upon a Spanish romance; _The Divine Tragedy_, and _The
Golden Legend_, founded upon the life of Christ; _The Courtship of
Miles Standish_, a tale of Puritan love-making in the time of the
early settlers, and _Tales of a Wayside Inn_, which were a series of
poems of adventure supposed to be related in turn by the guests at an
inn.

But it is with such poems as _Evangeline_ and _Hiawatha_, and the
shorter famous poems like _A Psalm of Life_, _Excelsior_, _The Wreck
of the Hesperus_, _The Building of the Ship_, _The Footsteps of
Angels_ that his claim as the favorite poet of America rests.
_Evangeline_ and _Hiawatha_ marked an era in American literature in
introducing themes purely American, while of the famous shorter poems
each separate one was greeted almost with an ovation. _The Building of
the Ship_ was never read during the struggle of the Civil War without
raising the audience to a passion of enthusiasm, and so in each of
these shorter poems Longfellow touched with wondrous sympathy the
hearts of his readers. Throughout the land he was revered as the
poet of the home and heart, the sweet singer to whom the fireside and
family gave ever sacred and beautiful meanings.

Some poems on slavery, a prose tale called _Kavanagh_, and a
translation of _The Divine Comedy_ of Dante must also be included
among Longfellow's works; but these have never reached the success
attained by his more popular poems which are known by heart by
millions to whom they have been inspiration and comfort.

Longfellow died in Cambridge in 1882, in the same month in which was
written his last poem, _The Bells of San Blas_, which concludes with
these words:

  "It is daybreak everywhere."



CHAPTER XIII

JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY

1814-1877


One day in the year 1827, a boy of thirteen first entered the
chapel of Harvard College to take his seat there as a student. His
schoolfellows looked at him curiously first, because of his remarkable
beauty, and second because of his reputation as a linguist, a great
distinction among boys who looked upon foreign tongues as so many
traps for tripping their unlucky feet in the thorny paths of learning.
He had come to Harvard from Mr. Bancroft's school at Northampton,
where he was famous as a reader, writer, and orator, and was more
admired, perhaps, than is good for any boy. Both pupils and masters
recognized his talents and overlooked his lack of industry. But
neither dreamed that their praise was but the first tribute to the
genius of the future historian, John Lothrop Motley.

Motley was born in Dorchester, a suburb of Boston, April 15, 1814. As
a child he was delicate, a condition which fostered his great natural
love for reading. He devoured books of every kind, history, poetry,
plays, orations, and particularly the novels of Cooper and Scott. Not
satisfied with reading about heroes, he must be a hero himself, and
when scarcely eight he bribed a younger brother with sweetmeats to lie
quiet, wrapped in a shawl, while he, mounted upon a stool, delivered
Mark Antony's oration over the dead body of Cæsar. At eleven he began
a novel, the scene of which was laid in the Housatonic Valley, because
that name sounded grand and romantic. On Saturday afternoon he and
his playmates, among whom was Wendell Phillips, would assemble in
the garret of the Motley house, and in plumed hats and doublets enact
tragedies or stirring melodramas. Comedy was too frivolous for these
entertainments, in which Motley was always the leading spirit; the
chief bandit, the heavy villain, the deadliest foe.

In the school-room also Motley led by divine right, and expected
others to follow. Thus, in spite of his dislike for rigid rules of
study, he was always before the class as one to be deferred to and
honored wherever honor might be given. While still at college Motley
seems to have had some notion of a literary career. His writing-desk
was constantly crammed with manuscripts of plays, poetry, and sketches
of character, which never found their way to print, and which were
burned to make room for others when the desk became too full. With the
exception of a few verses published in a magazine, this work of
his college days served only for pastime. Graduated from Harvard at
seventeen, Motley spent the next two years at a German university,
where he lived the pleasant, social life of the German student, one of
his friends and classmates being young Bismarck, afterward the great
Chancellor, who was always fond of the handsome young American, whose
wit was the life of the student company and whose powers of argument
surpassed his own.

Coming back to America, Motley studied law until 1841, when, in his
twenty-seventh year, he received the appointment of Secretary of
Legation to St. Petersburg.

His friends now looked forward to a brilliant diplomatic career
for him, but the unfavorable climate soon led him to resign the
appointment and return to America. But the St. Petersburg visit was
not fruitless, for three years afterward he published an essay in the
_North American Review_ which showed a keen appreciation of Russian
political conditions. The article was called "A Memoir of the Life
of Peter the Great," and its appearance surprised the critics who had
justly condemned a novel previously published by the young author. His
essay portrayed the character of the great Peter, half king and
half savage. It showed a full appreciation of the difficulties that
hindered the establishment of a great monarchy, and paid due honor to
that force of will, savage courage, and ideal patriotism that laid
the foundations of Russia's greatness. The reader is made to see this
fiery Sclav, building up a new Russia from his ice-fields and barren
valleys; a Russia of great cities, imperial armies, vast commerce,
and splendid hopes. It was a brilliant and scholarly narrative of the
achievement of a great man, and it placed Motley among the writers of
highest promise.

A year later he began collecting materials for the serious work of
his life. For his subject he chose the story of the old Frisians or
Hollanders who rescued from the sea a few islands formed by the ooze
and slime of ages, and laid thereon the foundations of a great nation.
They raised dykes to keep back the sea, built canals to serve as
roads, turned bogs into pasture-lands and morasses into grain-fields,
fought with the Romans, founded cities, laid the foundations of
the vast maritime commerce of to-day, and finally, in the sixteenth
century, when the wealth of their merchants, the power of their
cities, and the progress of their arts were the wonder of the world,
met their worst foe in the person of their own king, Philip II.

From the beginning the Hollanders or Netherlanders had cherished a
savage independence which commanded respect even in barbarous ages,
and this characteristic insured a quarrel between them and their
ruler. Philip II. was King of Spain and of Sicily as well as of
Holland. Born in Spain, he could not speak a word of Dutch. He was
haughty, overbearing, and unscrupulous, and he resolved to make the
Hollanders see in him a master as well as a king. Already in
his father's reign there had been trouble because of the growing
Protestantism which many of the Hollanders favored. Already some of
the chief Dutch cities had been punished for resisting the Emperor's
authority, and their burghers sentenced to kneel in sackcloth and beg
him to spare their homes from destruction. These things happened in
his father's time and had made an impression upon Philip II., who
saw that in every case the royal power had been triumphant, and he
believed himself invincible.

Motley painted the life of Philip from the day of his inauguration
through all the years of revolt, bloodshed, and horror which marked
his reign. He saw that this rebellion of the Hollanders meant less
the discontent of a people with their king than the growth of a great
idea, the idea that civil and religious liberty is the right of all
men and nations. To Motley's mind the struggle seemed like some old
battle between giants and Titans. Unlike other historians, who looked
over the world for a subject, rejecting first one and then another,
Motley's subject took possession of him and would not be rejected. His
work was born, as a great poem or picture is born, from a glimpse of
things hidden from other eyes.

But at once he discovered that Prescott had already in contemplation a
history of Philip II. This was a severe blow to all his hopes. But he
resolved to see Prescott, lay the matter before him, and abide by his
decision, feeling that the master of history, who was the author of
the _Conquest of Mexico_ and the _Conquest of Peru_, would be the best
adviser of a young and unknown writer.

Prescott received the idea with the most generous kindness, advised
Motley to undertake the work, and placed at his disposal all the
material which he himself had collected for his own enterprise.

After several years the book appeared in 1856, under the title _The
Rise of the Dutch Republic_.

To write this book Motley dwelt for years in the world of three
hundred years ago, when the whole of Europe was shaken by the new
Protestantism, when Raleigh and Drake were sailing the Atlantic and
adding the shores of the new world to English dominion, the French
settling Canada and the Mississippi Valley, Spain sending her mission
priests to California, and the Huguenots establishing themselves in
Florida. Thus the foundations of the American Republic were being
laid, while Philip was striving to overthrow the freedom of the
Netherlands.

Leaving the nineteenth century as far behind him as he could, Motley
established himself successively at Berlin, Dresden, The Hague, and
Brussels, in order to consult the libraries and archives of state
which contained documents relating to the revolt of the Netherlands
against Philip II. In speaking of his work in the libraries of
Brussels, he says that at this time only dead men were his familiar
friends, and that he was at home in any country, and he calls himself
a worm feeding on musty mulberry leaves out of which he was to spin
silk. Day after day, year after year, he haunted the old libraries,
whose shadows held so many secrets of the past, until the
personalities of those great heroes who fought for the liberty of
Holland were as familiar as the faces of his own children. William of
Orange, called the Silent, the Washington of Dutch independence, Count
Egmont, Van Horn, and all that band of heroes who espoused the cause
of liberty, came to be comrades.

And the end rewarded the years of toil. Out of old mouldy documents
and dead letters Motley recreated the Netherlands of the sixteenth
century. Again were seen the great cities with their walls miles in
extent, their gay streets, their palaces and churches, and public
buildings, and the great domains of the clergy, second to none in
Europe. The nobles possessed magnificent estates and entertained their
guests with jousts and tourneys like the great lords of England and
France. The tradespeople and artisans who comprised the population
of the cities were divided into societies or guilds, which were so
powerful that no act of state could be passed without their consent,
and so rich that to their entertainments the proudest nobles came
as guests, to see a luxuriousness which vied with that of kings. The
Dutch artists were celebrated for their noble pictures, for their
marvellous skill in wood and stone carving, and for the wonderful
tapestries which alone would have made Dutch art famous.

In the midst of this prosperity Philip II. came to the throne, and
soon after his coronation the entire Netherlands were in revolt.
Motley has described this struggle like an eye-witness. We see the
officers of the Inquisition dragging their victims daily to the
torture-chamber, and the starved and dying rebels defending their
cities through sieges which the Spanish army made fiendish in
suffering. Motley's description of the siege of Leyden, and his
portrait of William the Silent, are among the finest specimens of
historical composition.

The work ends with the death of the Prince of Orange, this tragic
event forming a fitting climax to the great revolution which had
acknowledged him its hope and leader.

Motley carried the completed manuscript of _The Rise of the Dutch
Republic_ to London, but failing to find a publisher willing to
undertake such a work by an unknown author, he was obliged to produce
it at his own expense. It met with the most flattering reception,
and the reviews which appeared in England, France, and America placed
Motley's name among the great historians. The book was soon translated
into Dutch, German, and Russian.

Motley's two other great works were similar in character to the first.
The second work, called _The History of the United Netherlands_, began
with the death of William the Silent, and ended with the period known
as the Twelve Years' Truce, when by common consent the independence of
the Netherlands was recognized throughout Europe.

This work consists of four volumes, the first two having been
published in 1860, and the remaining two in 1867.

These volumes embrace much of the history of England, which became
the ally and friend of Holland, and are full of the great events which
made up that epoch of English history. The names of Queen Elizabeth,
the Duke of Leicester, Lord Burghley, and the noble and chivalrous Sir
Philip Sidney, who lost his life on one of the battle-fields of this
war, figure as largely in its pages as those of the Dutch themselves.
The war had ceased to be the revolt of Holland against Spain, and had
become a mighty battle for the liberty of Europe. Every nation was
interested in its progress, and all men knew that upon its success or
failure would depend the fate of Europe for many centuries. In this
work Motley's pen lost none of its art. The chapters follow one
another in harmonious succession, the clear and polished style giving
no hint of the obscurities of diplomatic letters, the almost illegible
manuscripts, and the contradictory reports which often made up the
original materials.

Like its predecessor, it was at once classed among the great histories
of the world. _The Life of John of Barneveld_, who shares with William
of Orange the glory of achieving Dutch independence, was the subject
of Motley's next and last work. The book is not in a strict sense a
biography. It is rather a narrative of the quarrel of the Netherlands
among themselves over theological questions. The country was now
Protestant, and yet the people fought as fiercely over the
different points of doctrine as when they were struggling for their
independence. The book appeared in 1874, completing the series,
which the author called _The History of the Eighty Years' War for
Independence_.

During this period of literary work Motley was twice appointed to
represent the United States at foreign courts. He was Minister to
Austria from 1861 to 1866, and during the stormy period of the Civil
War showed his powers as a statesman in his diplomatic relations with
the Austrian Court, which honored him always both as a diplomatist and
as a patriot, his devotion to his country being a proverb among his
fellows.

In 1868 he was appointed Minister to England, but held the office only
two years. On both these occasions Motley proved his ability to meet
and master questions of state, and there is no doubt that, had fortune
led him into active political life, he would have made a brilliant
reputation.

He died in May, 1877, and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, near
London, England.



CHAPTER XIV

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

1811-1896


Harriet Beecher Stowe, the first distinguished woman writer of
America, was born at Litchfield, Conn., in those old New England days
when children were taught that good little girls must always speak
gently, never tear their clothes, learn to knit and sew, and make all
the responses properly in church. Such is her own story of her early
education, to which is also added the item that on Sunday afternoons
she was expected to repeat the catechism, and on the occasion of a
visit to her grandmother, her aunt made her learn two catechisms, that
of her own faith, the Episcopal, and that of Harriet's father, who was
a Presbyterian minister. This discipline, however, had no depressing
effect upon the child, whose family consisted of a half-dozen healthy,
clever brothers and sisters, a father who was loved more than revered
even in those days when a minister was regarded with awe, and a
stepmother whose devotion made the home-life a thing of beauty to be
held in all after-years in loving memory.

The old Presbyterian parsonage where Harriet was born had in it one
room that was the child's chief delight. This was her father's study,
in a corner of which she loved to ensconce herself with her favorite
books gathered around her, and read or day-dream, while her father sat
opposite in his great writing-chair composing the sermon for the next
Sunday. Children's books were not plentiful in those days, and Miss
Edgeworth's _Tales_ and Cotton Mather's _Magnalia_ were her principal
resource, until one joyful day, rummaging in a barrel of old sermons,
she came upon a copy of _The Arabian Nights_. These flowers of fairy
lore took healthy root in the imagination of the little Puritan child,
whose mind had hitherto resembled the prim flower-beds of the New
England gardens, where grew only native plants. The old stories opened
a new world of thought, and into this unknown realm she entered,
rambling amid such wonderful scenes that never again could their
mysterious charm cease; when some time later her father came down from
his study one day with a volume of _Ivanhoe_ in his hand, and said: "I
did not intend that my children should ever read novels, but they must
read Scott," another door into the realm of fairy was opened to the
delighted child.

This power to lift and lose herself in a region of thought so
different from her own, became thereafter the peculiar gift by
which she was enabled to undertake the work which made her name
distinguished.

The library corner, however, did not hold all the good things of life,
only part of them. Outside was the happy world of a healthy country
child, who grew as joyously as one of her own New England flowers.
In the spring there were excursions in the woods and fields after
the wild blossoms that once a year turned the country-side into
fairy-land; in the summer was the joy of picnics in the old forests,
and of fishing excursions along the banks of the streams; in the
autumn came nutting parties, when the children ran races with the
squirrels to see who could gather the most nuts; and in the winter,
when the snow and ice covered the earth, life went on as gayly as
ever, with coasting and snow-balling, and the many ways in which the
child's heart tunes itself to the spirit of nature.

By the time she was five years old Harriet was a regular pupil at a
small school near by, whither she also conducted, day after day,
her younger brother, Henry Ward Beecher, afterward the celebrated
preacher. She was a very conscientious little pupil, and besides her
school lessons, was commended for having learned twenty-seven hymns
and two long chapters in the Bible during one summer. School-life
henceforth was the serious business of existence, and in her twelfth
year she appears as one of the honor pupils at the yearly school
exhibition, and was gratified by having her composition read in the
presence of the distinguished visitors, her father, the minister,
being among the number. The subject of the composition was the
immortality of the soul, and into it Harriet had woven, as only a
clever child could, all the serious thoughts that she had gleaned
from theological volumes in the library, or sermons that her father
preached, or from the grave conversations that were common among the
elders of the family. It was listened to with great approval by the
visitors, who saw nothing absurd in the idea of a child of twelve
discoursing upon such a subject, and it was especially pleasing to
Harriet's father, which so delighted the affectionate heart of the
little writer that she felt no higher reward could be hers.

Harriet's first flight from the home nest came in her thirteenth year,
when she left Litchfield to attend her sister Catherine's school in
Hartford. As her father's salary did not permit any extra expense,
Harriet went to live in the family of a friend, who in turn sent his
daughter to the parsonage at Litchfield that she might attend
the seminary there. This exchange of daughters was a very happy
arrangement as far as Harriet was concerned, as she enjoyed the
responsibility of being so much her own guardian, and took care
of herself and her little room with what she herself calls "awful
satisfaction."

Here she began the study of Latin, which fascinated her, the Latin
poetry making such an impression on her mind that it became her dream
to be a poet. Pages and pages of manuscript were now written in the
preparation of a great drama called "Cleon," the scene of which was
laid in the time of the Emperor Nero. Every moment that could be
spared from actual duties was given to this play, which might have
grown to volumes had not the young author been suddenly brought up
sharply by her sister, who advised her to stop writing poetry and
discipline her mind. Whereupon Harriet plunged into a course of
Butler's _Analogy_ and other heavy reading, forgot all about the
drama, and was so wrought upon by Baxter's _Saint's Rest_ that she
longed for nothing but to die and be in heaven.

The next years of Harriet's life were spent almost entirely at the
Hartford school, where she was successively pupil and teacher until
her father removed to Cincinnati, whither she accompanied him with
the intention of helping her sister to found a college for women. And,
although all undreamed of, it was in this place that she was first to
feel the inspiration of the work that made her famous. During a short
visit across the Ohio River into Kentucky, she saw for the first time
a large plantation and something of the life of the negro slaves.
Though apparently noticing little of what was before her eyes, she
was really absorbing everything with all the keenness of a first
impression. The mansion of the planter and the humble cot of the
negro, the funny pranks and songs of the slaves, and the pathos that
touched their lives, all appealed to her so strongly that, years
afterward, she was able to reproduce with utmost faithfulness each
picturesque detail of plantation life.

In her twenty-fifth year Harriet was married to Professor Stowe, of
Lane Seminary. She had for some time been a contributor to various
periodicals, and continued her literary work after her marriage,
producing only short sketches for various papers, an elementary
geography, and a collection of sketches in book form under the title,
_The Mayflower_. These efforts had been well received by publishers,
and friends prophesied a satisfactory career, but it was many years
afterward before the author gave herself to the literary life with the
earnestness and devotion which so characterized her nature.

Some of her experiences in this Western home, where living was so
primitive, were very funny, and some were very trying; but through
them all Mrs. Stowe kept a clear head and brave heart. Sometimes she
would be left without warning with the entire care of her house and
children; often her literary work was done at the sick-bed of a child;
and more than once a promised story was written in the intervals of
baking, cooking, and the superintendence of other household matters;
one of her stories at this time was finished at the kitchen table,
while every other sentence was addressed to the ignorant maid, who
stood stupidly awaiting instructions about the making of brown bread.

After seventeen years' experience in the Western colleges, Professor
Stowe accepted a professorship at Bowdoin, and the family removed
to Brunswick, Me. Here her stories and sketches, some humorous, some
pathetic, still continued to add to the household's income, and many a
comfort that would have been otherwise unknown was purchased with the
money thus obtained.

Mrs. Stowe's first important book took the form of an appeal for the
freedom of the slaves of the South. One day, while attending communion
service in the college chapel, she saw, as in a mental picture, the
death-scene of Uncle Tom, afterward described in her celebrated
book. Returning home, she wrote out the first draft of that immortal
chapter, and calling her children around her read it to them. The two
eldest wept at the sad story, which from this beginning grew into the
book which made its author famous over the civilized world. In _Uncle
Tom's Cabin_ it was Mrs. Stowe's aim to present the every-day life of
the Southern plantation. She chose for her hero one of those typical
negro characters whose faithfulness and loyalty would so well
illustrate the fidelity of his race, while his sad story would make an
appeal for the freedom of his people.

Into this story she wove descriptions of Southern life, delineations
of negro character, and so many incidents, pathetic and humorous, that
it seemed to present when finished a life-like picture of plantation
life. The pathetic figure of Uncle Tom, the sweet grace of Eva,
the delightful Topsy, and the grim Yankee spinster show alike the
sympathetic heart and mind of the author, who linked them so closely
together in the invisible bonds of love. The beautiful tribute that
St. Clair pays to his mother's influence in one of the striking
passages of the book, was but a memory of Mrs. Stowe's own mother,
who died when her daughter was four years old. No one could read this
pathetic tale without being touched by the sorrows beneath which the
negro race had bowed for generations, and through which he still kept
a loyal love for his white master, a pride in the family of which he
counted himself a member, and that pathetic patience which had been
the birthright of his people.

The book _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, or _Life Among the Lowly_, ran first as
a serial, and came out in book form in 1852. Into it the author had
thrown all the seriousness of her nature, and it met with overwhelming
success. It was translated into twenty different languages, and Uncle
Tom and Eva passed, like the shadow and sunlight of their native land,
hand in hand into the homes, great and humble, of widely scattered
nations.

Another plea for the negro called _Dred, a Tale of the Dismal Swamp_,
followed _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ within a few years, after which Mrs.
Stowe turned her attention to the material that lay closer at hand,
and began the publication of a series of New England life. Into these
she put such a wealth of sympathetic reminiscences, with such a fund
of keen observation, that they stand easily as types of the home-life
of her native hills. The first of this series was _The Minister's
Wooing_, a story of a New England minister's love. It is full of the
sights and scenes familiar to the author from childhood, and is a
faithful picture of Puritan village life, wherein are introduced
many characters as yet new in fiction. Unlike Hawthorne, who sought
inspiration in the spiritual questions which so largely made up the
life of the Puritans, Mrs. Stowe found her delight in giving the
home-life, the household ambitions, the village interests, a place in
literature, thus preserving a phase of society which has passed away
even in her own lifetime.

_The Minister's Wooing_ appeared simultaneously with _The Pearl of
Orr's Island_, a tale of the Maine coast, in which are introduced an
aged fisherman and his old brown sea-chest, and other characters and
accessories all imbued with the true sea flavor and forming a story
which Whittier pronounced the most charming New England idyll ever
written.

In _Old Town Folks_, the most delightful perhaps of her New England
stories, Mrs. Stowe has drawn the character of Harry from the memory
of her husband's childhood. Professor Stowe had been one of those
imaginative children, who, when alone, conjure up visions of fairies
and genii to people empty space. He spent many an hour in following
the pranks of these unreal people. He imagined that these creatures of
his brain could pass through the floor and ceiling, float in the air
and flit through meadow or wood, sometimes even rising to the stars.
Sometimes they took the form of friendly brownies who would thresh
straw and beans. Two resembled an old Indian man and woman who fought
for the possession of a base viol. Another group was of all colors and
had no shape at all; while the favorite was in human form and came and
answered to the name of Harry.

Besides her New England tales, Mrs. Stowe wrote a charming novel,
_Agnes of Sorrento_, the scene of which is laid in Italy.

_Little Foxes_, _Queer Little People_, and _Little Pussy Willow_ are
three books for children, written in the intervals of more serious
work which included several other novels and some volumes of sketches.

In all her work appears a warm love of humanity, which she studied
under many conditions.

Soon after the publication of _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ Mrs. Stowe accepted
an invitation from the Anti-Slavery Society of Glasgow to visit
Scotland; her reception was in reality an ovation from the nation. At
every railroad station she had to make her way through the crowds that
had gathered to welcome her. Every city she visited honored her with
a public greeting, and even her sight-seeing excursions to cathedrals
and places of interest were made the occasions of demonstrations of
joy from the crowds which quickly gathered. From the nobility to
the peasants, who stood at their doors to see her pass by, she was
everywhere received as one who had done noble work for the cause of
freedom. In England she met with the same enthusiasm, and, both from
England and Scotland she received large sums of money to be used for
the advancement of the anti-slavery cause in America. Mrs. Stowe has
left a sketch of this pleasant episode in her life in a little work
called _Sunny Memories_.

Some years later she purchased a winter home in Florida, and here she
erected a building to be used as church and school-house by the poorer
inhabitants. In this she conducted Sunday-school, singing and sewing
classes. Her pleasant experiences in her Southern home are embodied in
a series of sketches called _Palmetto Leaves_.

On the seventieth anniversary of her birthday her publishers arranged
a garden party in her honor, to which were invited all the literary
celebrities of America. It calls up a pleasant picture to think of her
thus surrounded by the distinguished men and women who had gathered to
do honor not only to her work for literature, but to that nobility of
soul that had made her long life a service for others.

Whittier, Holmes, and many others contributed poems on this occasion.

In American literature Mrs. Stowe stands as its chief woman
representative before the Civil War, taking high place by right among
the novelists whose sphere is the presentation of national life.



CHAPTER XV

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

1819-1892


James Russell Lowell was born on the 22d of February, 1819, at
Cambridge, Mass. Fate had willed that he, beyond all other writers,
was to preserve a certain phase of Yankee life and make it the
treasure of futurity, and the Cambridge of his early boyhood was the
best training he could have received for such a mission.

The then unpretentious village, with its quiet streets shaded with
elms, lindens, and horse-chestnuts, was revered throughout New England
as the home of Harvard College, but it was much more than that. It
was a little world in which still lingered all the quaintness and
simplicity of early New England life, and Lowell, imbibing these
influences unconsciously in childhood, was able afterward to reproduce
their flavor in his literary work and thus preserve them from
oblivion. The birthplace of Lowell was Elmwood, a charming
country-seat formerly occupied by a Tory tax-collector, who had
emigrated on the outbreak of the Revolution. It had a large,
comfortable house shaded by some of the Cambridge elms, which Lowell
characteristically remarks were unable fortunately to emigrate with
the tax-collector, and the grounds were beautified by the trees and
flowers which were the delight of Dr. Lowell, the poet's father.

In Cambridge streets were to be seen many of the sights characteristic
of New England village life, suggesting still the village life of
England when Shakespeare was a boy. The coach rumbled on its way to
Boston, then a little journey away, and old women gathered around
the town spring for their weekly washing of clothes. At the inn were
discussed all those questions of law, religion, and politics that had
not been settled at the town-meeting, and the village barber-shop,
with its choice collection of rarities, had the dignity of a museum.
So fascinating was this place that the boy who had to have his hair
cut was considered in luck, and was usually accompanied by several of
his play-fellows, who took this means of feasting their eyes upon the
barber's treasures. Here were tomahawks, Indian bows and arrows, New
Zealand paddles and war-clubs, beaks of albatrosses and penguins, and
whales' teeth; here were caged canaries and Java sparrows, and one
large cockatoo who, the barber asserted, spoke Hottentot. Old Dutch
prints covered the walls, and the boys were barbered under the
pictured eyes of Frederick the Great and Bonaparte. Perhaps the
choicest treasure was the glass model of a ship which the young
patrons valued at from one hundred to a thousand dollars, the barber
always acquiescing in these generous valuations.

Once a year Cambridge celebrated a curious festival called the
Cornwallis, in which, in masquerade, the town's people and country
people marched in grotesque processions in honor of the surrender of
Cornwallis. There was also the annual muster, when the militia
were drilled under the eyes of their admiring wives, mothers,
and daughters. But the great event of the year at Cambridge was
Commencement Day. The entire community was aroused to do its best
in the celebration of this festival, the fame of which had spread to
every corner of New England. The village was turned into a great
fair, where came every kind of vender and showman to take the places
assigned them by the town constable; the gayly decorated booths
extended in an orderly row along the streets, and the entire
population gaped unrestrained at the giants, fat women, flying horses,
dwarfs, and mermaids, only taking their eyes away long enough to
regale themselves with the ginger-beer and egg-pop, sold on the stands
or wheeled through the streets in hand-carts by the enterprising
venders. The college exercises were dignified and grave, as suited the
traditions of its classic halls, but to the boys who, like Lowell, had
but this one opportunity in the year, the marvels of the booths and
peep-shows made Commencement a red-letter day.

Another charm of old Cambridge was found in the river, which to the
boyish imagination led to fairy realms beyond. Once a year the sloop
Harvard, owned by the college, voyaged to the Maine coast to carry
back the winter supply of wood. Her going and coming was an event in
the life of the Cambridge schoolboy, who watched the departure with
wistful eyes, filled the time of absence with romantic imaginings of
adventure in the perilous seas, and welcomed her return with eager
thirst for the news she might bring. This humble little craft held no
secondary place in the interests of Lowell and his mates. The heroic
adventures of her crew inspired the boys to bold ventures on the duck
pond, the admiral of the home-made fleet being the young Dana, who
delighted an after-generation of boys by the story of his actual
adventures at sea in the fascinating book, _Two Years Before the
Mast_.

Lowell's first school was not far from Elmwood, and although he did
not distinguish himself for scholarship, he went willingly every
day, returning rather more willingly, perhaps, and sending always his
boyish salutation of a cheery whistle to his mother as he approached
the house. But in the daily life of the old village, and in the
rambles through wood and by stream, he learned lessons more valuable
than those he found in books. Nature, who appealed so strongly to his
heart, had made him a poet, and she took her own way of teaching him
the mysteries of his art.

Lowell enjoyed his singularly fortunate and happy boyhood as only
one gifted with a poetic mind could. To him New England village life
revealed a charm that enabled him in after-days to paint a picture
of it as lovingly faithful as one of Shakespeare's scenes. In his
charming reminiscence, _Cambridge Thirty Years Ago_, he has preserved
one of the dearest memories of his boyhood. _Beaver Brook_ and _Indian
Summer Reveries_ are also transcriptions of those idyllic days of his
youth.

Lowell entered Harvard in his sixteenth year and was graduated in his
twentieth, during which time he says he read everything except the
books in the college course. It was during these years, however, that
he studied the great poets of the world, while romances, travels,
voyages, and history were added as a flavor to his self-chosen course
of study.

Perhaps he showed the true bent of his mind in his boyhood poem,
addressed to the old horse-chestnuts, whose arms twined themselves
around his study-room at home. He was class poet for his year, but
was not allowed to read his poem, as he was at the time temporarily
suspended from the college. In this poem Lowell made good-natured fun
of Carlyle, Emerson, and other philosophers, whose thought was just
beginning to influence their generation, thus hinting the power which
made him later the most successful humorist of America.

After leaving college Lowell studied law and was admitted to the
bar, a profession which he almost immediately saw would make him
only miserable, and which he soon left. In his twenty-second year he
published his first book of verse under the title _A Year's Life_, a
volume which was mainly inspired by his admiration for the woman who
afterward became his wife, and which gives indication of the power
which was developed later, though in the after-editions of his works
the poet discarded most of the productions of that time. A little
later Lowell conceived the idea of starting a magazine, which should
rival in value and fame the celebrated Philadelphia magazines, which
were believed to stand for the highest literary art in America. The
magazine was named _The Pioneer_, and its editorship and ownership
were shared with a friend. It appeared in January, 1843, and ran
for three months, ending in dismal failure, though the contributors
numbered such names as Poe, Elizabeth Barrett, Whittier, and the
artist Story. It was not until twelve years later, when his own fame
was well established, that Lowell undertook the editorship of another
magazine, and put to practical use his reserve talent for adapting and
selecting for popular favor the best literary work of the time.

A year after the failure of _The Pioneer_, Lowell published a second
volume of poems. In this collection occur the poems _The Legend of
Brittany_; _Prometheus_, a poem founded on the old Greek myth of
Prometheus, who incurs the wrath of Jupiter by giving fire to mankind;
_The Heritage_, a stirring ballad, and _The Shepherd of King Admetus_,
embodying the myth of the coming of Apollo to King Admetus and his
gift of poesy to the world. The volume heralded the fame that Lowell
was afterward to attain as a poet.

In 1846 the Mexican war was the great political question of the day,
and the country was divided in opinion as to whether the Government
had undertaken the war in a spirit of justice, or merely for the sake
of acquiring new territory. The South mainly favored the war, while
a portion of the North opposed it on the principle that the new
territory would favor the extension of slavery. There was much talk
of glory, and the heroes of the day were the generals and soldiers who
were winning laurels on the Mexican battle-fields.

Lowell considered the war dishonorable and opposed to the principles
of liberty, and he took a firm stand against it. He did this, not,
as may be said, in his own way, for the way was new to him, but in a
manner that turned the vaunted heroism of the day into ridicule,
and appealed to the public conscience by its patriotism and honesty.
Keeping his own personality in the background, Lowell sent his wits
roving into the world of memory and brought from it a hero who was
destined to rival in fame the leader of the Mexican campaigns. This
hero possessed the old courage, fire, and enthusiasm which had braved
the British in Revolutionary days. His patriotism was a pure flame,
his wisdom that of the builders who had founded a commonwealth of
civil rights in the midst of the primeval forest; his common-sense
would have made him a king in Yankeedom, and his humor was as grim as
that of the old Puritans, who believed in fighting the devil with his
own weapons. He came on the scene dressed in homespun, and spoke the
homely dialect of New England, that singular speech so unlike any
other and which seems to have had grafted upon the original English
all the eccentricities which made the Puritans a peculiar people.

This singular figure which now attracted public attention was first
heard from in the columns of the Boston _Courier_, as the author of a
poem on the subject of the raising of volunteers for the Mexican War.
The poem was written in the Yankee dialect and, it was stated, had
been sent to the office by the poet's father, Ezekiel Biglow. The
verses rang with New England canniness, and the familiar dialect
acquired a dignity never before acknowledged. Scholars, statesmen,
critics, and the public at large, after a first few puzzling moments
grasped the full force of the new crusade, and the standard-bearer and
author, Hosea Biglow, became the most talked about man of the time.
Previous to this society had laughed at the reformers. Now people
laughed with Hosea at the supporters of the war. From this time Hosea
Biglow's sayings and doings were the most popular comment on the
political situation. Whatever happened was made the subject of a poem
by Hosea, expressing sometimes his own opinions and sometimes the
opinions of Parson Wilbur, John P. Robinson, and other persons
introduced into the series. These poems met with tremendous success.
Wherever it was possible they were set to music and sung with all the
abandon of a popular ballad. There is a story told to the effect that
John P. Robinson grew so tired of hearing the song in which he is
introduced that he fled across the sea in despair. This brought no
relief, however, for the street gamins of London and the travelling
American and Englishman, wherever he could be found, unconsciously
greeted his ears with the rollicking refrain:

  "But John P.
    Robinson, he
  Sez they didn't know everythin'
    Down in Judee."

Among the political poems occurs in "The Notices of the Press," which
form the introduction, the exquisite love-poem, _The Courtin'_.

In wit, scholarship, and knowledge of human nature, the Biglow papers
are acknowledged as a classic, and the future student of American
literature will be ever grateful for this preservation of the Yankee
dialect by New England's greatest poet.

Lowell's next important contribution to literature was the publication
of the poem, _The Vision of Sir Launfal_. This beautiful poem, in
which in a vision a young knight arms himself and starts in search of
the Holy Grail, reads like a sacred legend of the Middle Ages. It is
full of the pious spirit of the old monks who still believed the
story of the existence of the Holy Grail, and the possibility of its
recovery by the pure in heart. This story, which has appealed to the
art of every age, found in Lowell a poet worthy of its expression,
and one who has transcribed the mysticism of the past into the vital
charity of the present. Though a dream of the Old World, it is still
the New England poet who translates it, as may be seen from the bits
of landscape shining through it. Glimpses of the northern winter; of
the wind sweeping down from the heights, and of the little brook that

  "Heard it and built a roof
  'Neath which he could house him winter-proof,"

show the poet in his mood of loving reminiscence.

In his poems _Prometheus_, _The Legend of Brittany_, _Rhoecus_, and
the collection known as _Under the Willows_, which includes the
_Commemoration Ode_, Lowell shows his highest point as a poet, which
is also reached in _The Cathedral_. His was a large and generous
spirit, which found no experience or condition of life trivial. He was
in sympathy with nature and with the aims and happiness of humanity.
The affectionate side of his nature is shown in many of his poems,
one of the most beautiful being that which is expressed in _The First
Snowfall_, a tender and sacred memory of one of the poet's children.

The _Commemoration Ode_, written in honor of the Harvard graduates who
fell in the War for the Union, was read by Lowell July 21, 1865, at
the Commemoration Service held in their memory. No hall could hold the
immense audience which assembled to hear their chosen poet voice the
grief of the nation over its slain in the noblest poem produced by
the war. To those present the scene, which has become historic, was
rendered doubly impressive from the fact that Lowell mourned in his
verse many of his own kindred.

_A Fable for Critics_ is a satire in verse upon the leading authors of
America. The first bit was written and despatched to a friend without
any thought of publication. The fable was continued in the same way
until the daily bits were sent to a publisher by the friend, who
thought the matter too good for private delectation only. In this
production Lowell satirizes all the writers of the day, himself
included, with a wit so pungent and so sound a taste that the
criticism has appealed to the succeeding generation, which has
in nearly every case vindicated the poet's judgment of his
contemporaries. The authorship remained for some time unknown, and was
only disclosed by Lowell when claimed by others.

Besides his poetry Lowell produced several volumes of charming prose.
Among these is _The Fireside Travels_, which contains his description
of Cambridge in his boyhood; _Among My Books_, and _My Study Windows_,
which contain literary criticism of the choicest sort, the poet easily
taking rank as one of the foremost critics of his time. Throughout his
prose we find the same feeling for nature and love for humanity
that distinguishes his poetry. His whole literary career was but an
outgrowth of his own broad, sympathetic, genial nature, interwoven
with the acquirements of the scholar.

Lowell was for a large part of his life Professor of Modern Languages
and Belles-lettres at Harvard. Soon after its beginning he became
editor of the _Atlantic Monthly_, and he also was for a time one of
the editors of the _North American Review_.

Outside of his literary life he was known as a diplomat who served his
country with distinction as minister, successively, to Spain and
to England. Though finding congenial surroundings in foreign lands,
Lowell was always pre-eminently an American; one who, even in his
country's darkest hour, saw promise of her glory, and to whom her
fame was ever the dearest sentiment of his heart. Most of his life was
spent in his old home at Elmwood, where he died in 1892.



CHAPTER XVI

FRANCIS PARKMAN

1823-1893


At twelve o'clock on a summer night, nearly a half century ago, a
young man of twenty-three stood in the shadow of a great Indian camp
watching intently the scene before him. On the farther side of the
camp a number of Indians were gathered about the fire, which threw
into relief their strong, handsome frames, for they were all young
and formed, as they stood there, the hope and ambition of their tribe.
Suddenly a loud chant broke the silence of the night, and at the same
time the young braves began circling around the fire in a grotesque,
irregular kind of dance. The chant was now interrupted by bursts of
sharp yells, and the motions of the dancers, now leaping, now running,
again creeping slyly, suggested the movements of some stealthy animal;
this was, in fact, what was intended, for the young warriors were
the "Strong Hearts" of the Dacotahs, an association composed of the
bravest youths of the tribe, whose _totem_ or tutelary spirit was the
fox, in whose honor they were now celebrating one of their dances.

The stranger, who stood looking on at a little distance away, since
the superstitions of the tribe would not allow him to approach too
near the scene of the solemnities, was Francis Parkman, a Harvard
graduate, who had left civilization for the purpose of studying the
savage form of Indian life face to face.

Parkman was born in Boston in 1823. He was noted as a child who threw
himself body and soul into whatever happened to be the pursuit of the
hour, and thus illustrated even in childhood the most striking feature
of his character. During a residence in the country from his eighth to
his twelfth year he was seized with a passion for natural history,
and bent all his energies to collecting eggs, insects, reptiles, and
birds, and to trapping squirrels and woodchucks, practising in the
meantime shooting in Indian fashion with bow and arrow. At twelve he
forsook natural history and found chemistry the only interest in life.
For four years longer he now secluded himself largely from family
life and youthful companions, while he experimented in his amateur
laboratory. Acids, gases, specific gravity, and chemical equations
were the only delight of his life, and he pursued his experiments with
all the ardor of the old seekers of the philosopher's stone. But at
sixteen the charms of chemistry faded, and he became again a haunter
of the woods, but was saved in the end from becoming a naturalist
by an equally strong passion for history, a passion so real that at
eighteen he had chosen his life-work, that of historian of the
French in the New World. With the idea of his work had also come the
conception of its magnitude, and he calmly looked forward to twenty
years of hard and exacting labor before realizing his hopes. Still,
mastered by the spirit of thoroughness, he spent all his vacations in
Canada, following in the footsteps of the early French settlers. Here
in the forest, he slept on the earth with no covering but a blanket,
exhausted his guides with long marches, and exposed his health by
stopping neither for heat nor rain. Fascinated by the visions of
forest life and with the pictures which the old stories called up,
Parkman entered upon the literary preparation for his work with zeal.
Indian history and ethnology were included in his college course,
while he spent many hours that should have been devoted to rest in
studying the great English masters of style. He was graduated at
twenty-one, and after a short trip to Europe started for the Western
plains to begin his historical studies from nature.

For months he and a college friend had followed the wanderings of a
portion of the Dacotahs in their journey across the Western prairies
to the Platte River, where they were to be joined by thousands of
others of their tribe, and take part in the extermination of the Snake
Indians, their bitter enemies. They had suffered from the heat and
the dust of the desert; they had hunted buffalo among the hills and
ravines of the Platte border, and had slept night after night in
open camps while wolves and panthers crawled dangerously near. To all
intents and purposes their life was that of the Indian of the plains,
an alien to civilization, a hunter of buffalo, and an enemy to all
human beings except those of his own nation.

It was in the year 1846, three years before the discovery of gold in
California, and the great West was still a land of forests, and the
home of wandering tribes of Indians. From the Mississippi to the
Pacific coast the country was entirely unsettled, with the exception
of a few military forts and trading-posts. Here the Indian lived as
his race had lived from time immemorial. Dressed in his robe of skins,
with his gay moccasins on his feet, his dog-skin quiver at his back,
and his powerful bow slung across his shoulder, the Dacotah of that
day was a good specimen of a race that has almost disappeared. The
only two objects in life were war and the hunt, and he was ready at a
moment's notice to strike his tent and engage in either.

Six or eight times during the year the Great Spirit was called upon,
fasts were made, and war parades celebrated preliminary to attacks
upon other tribes, while during the remainder of the time he hunted
the buffalo which supplied him with every necessity of life. The
coverings for their tents, their clothing, beds, ropes, coverings for
their saddles, canoes, water-jars, food, and fuel, were all obtained
from this animal, which also served as a means of trading with the
posts. The Indians had obtained rifles from the whites in a few
cases, but they still largely used the bow and arrow, with which their
predecessors on the plains had hunted the mammoth and mastodon in
prehistoric ages. Their arrows were tipped with flint and stone, and
their stone hammers were like those used by the savages of the Danube
and Rhine when Europe was still uncivilized.

While civilization had laid a chain of cities and towns around the
borders of the continent, the American Indian of the interior remained
exactly as his forefathers had been. And it was to study this curious
specimen of humanity, whose like had faded from almost every other
part of the world, that Parkman had come among them. He wished to
reveal the Indian in his true character, and he thought he could only
do this by living the Indian life. And so, for six months, he shared
their lodges, their feasts, hunts, and expeditions of war. He became
acquainted with their beliefs in the Great Spirit, the father of the
universe, and in the lesser spirits which controlled the winds and
rain, and which were found inhabiting the bodies of the lower animals.
He learned to know the curious character of their "medicine-men" and
their witch-doctors, and all their strange superstitions regarding the
mysteries of life and death and the origin of man.

Suffering constantly from physical ills, and in danger of death at
any moment from the treachery of the red men, Parkman yet was able to
maintain his position among them with dignity, and to be acknowledged
worthy of their hospitality, and he took advantage of this to make his
study of them thorough. The Dacotahs were a branch of the Sioux, one
of the fiercest of the tribes of the plains. In his journey with them
Parkman traversed the regions of the Platte, which was one of the best
known routes to Oregon and California. Frequent parties of emigrants
passed them on their way to new homes, and those, with the traders'
posts and occasional bands of hunters, gave them their only glimpses
of white faces. Reaching the upper waters of the Platte, they branched
off for a hunting trip to the Black Hills, and then returning, made
the passage of the Rocky Mountains, gained the head-waters of the
Arkansas, and so returned to the settlements.

It was a trip full of danger and adventure, but Parkman had gained
what he wanted--a picture of Indian life still preserved in the
solitudes of the plains and mountains as inviolate as the rivers
and rocks themselves. A few years later the discovery of gold in
California changed this condition almost as if by magic. The plains
and mountains became alive with unnumbered hosts of emigrants on their
way to the gold fields. Cities and towns sprung up where before Indian
lodges and buffalo herds had held sway. Year by year the Indians
changed in character and habits, adopting in some measure the dress of
the whites and their manner of living. The true Indian of the plains
passed out of history, and but for Parkman's visit, even the memory
of him as an example of the picturesque freedom of savage life, might
have been lost.

A year after his return to the east Parkman published an account of
his adventures in the _Knickerbocker Magazine_, under the title _The
Oregon Trail_, the name by which the old route was generally known.
Later on these sketches appeared in book form. They formed Parkman's
first book and indicated the scheme of his life-work.

Parkman had elaborated his first idea, and now intended writing an
account of the history of the French influence in America from the
earliest visits of Verazzani and Jacques Cartier, down to the time
when the English drove out the French from Canada and the Mississippi
Valley, and laid the foundations of what was destined to be the
American Republic.

His second book, _The Conspiracy of Pontiac_, published five years
after his adventures among the Sioux, deals with the last act of the
struggle between France and England. This book appeared thus early
in the series because at that time, on account of ill-health, Parkman
could not begin any work of vast magnitude such as would require
exhaustive research.

The conspiracy of Pontiac, a chief of the Ottawas, who formed a
confederation of the tribes to drive the English from the forts near
the Great Lakes, was a theme complete in itself, and yet one that
could easily supplement any series dealing with similar subjects.
Parkman visited the scene of Pontiac's exploits, talked with the
descendants of the tribes which still lingered around the Great Lakes,
which then formed the outposts of the English, and stored his mind
with such local traditions and color as would give character to the
narrative. The book was written through the aid of readers and an
amanuensis, whose task it was to gather the notes, which Parkman
sifted until ready for dictation. It dealt with one of the most
picturesque episodes of the French and Indian War, and the character
of Pontiac--brave, patriotic, and ready for any fate--was drawn with a
master-touch.

Fourteen years passed by before Parkman presented another volume of
the series which he intended should illustrate the complete history of
the French in America. This volume was called the _Pioneers of France
in the New World_, and opens the theme with a description of the
early voyagers, thus making it in point of place the first book of the
series.

His books, which appeared at different times after the _Pioneers
of France_, under the titles _The Jesuits of North America_; _The
Discovery of the Great West_; _The Old Regime in Canada_; _A Half
Century of Conflict_; and _Montcalm and Wolfe_, indicate each in turn
the character of its scope.

They tell the history of the French race in America for over two
hundred years, beginning with the old voyagers who sought in America
a region of romance and mystery which should rival the fairy realms of
the poets of the Middle Ages, and ending with the last efforts of the
Indians to recover their land from the grasp of the hated English.

Through all this period the Indians had regarded the French as
friends. Jesuit missionaries had penetrated the wilds of the
Mississippi, and had brought to the tribes on its banks the message
of peace and brotherly love. They spread the story of Christ from
Carolina to the St. Lawrence, and from the Mississippi to the
Atlantic. They lived the Indian life, dwelling in lodges, eating the
Indian food, conforming as much as possible to the Indian habits, and
retaining, in their geographical descriptions, the Indian names of the
lakes and rivers, so dear to the savage heart.

They made, in the main, a peaceful conquest of the country, and they
won the natives to such a degree that in the contest with the English
which ensued the Indian remained throughout the firm friend and ally
of the French. The English had thus two enemies to deal with instead
of one, the military knowledge of the French being in every case
strengthened by the subtle and savage modes of Indian warfare. This
state of things kept the final issue doubtful, even though the English
won victory after victory, for the taking of a fort and the slaughter
or capture of the garrison might be followed at any time by a
murderous night attack from the savage allies, who ignored the
civilized methods of war and would never acknowledge defeat.

In this work Parkman not only aimed at the history of the actual
struggle between France and England for the possession of North
America, but he also wished to present clearly the story of the French
alone, as they appeared in their character of settlers and conquerors
of uncivilized lands.

In the vivid pictures with which Parkman tells this story of their
life in the New World, we see a strong contrast to the Spanish
power in South America, as illustrated in the pages of history. The
Spaniards conquered a race already far advanced in civilization,
reduced it to slavery, destroyed its race characteristics, and made
everything else bend to their insatiate love of gold.

Very different was the conduct of the French in their treatment of the
savage tribes that they found inhabiting the primeval forests of North
America. The Jesuit missionaries and the persecuted Huguenots alike
approached the Indian with one message, that of Christian love
and faith in the brotherhood of man. To them the dark child of the
forests, savage in nature, untamed in habit, was still a brother who
must be lifted to a higher life. And to do this they lived among them
as teachers and advisers rather than as conquerors.

In these pages all the heroes of the French occupation appear before
us as in their daily life with the Indians: Marquette, La Salle,
Tonti, Fronténac, Du Gorgues--whose visit of vengeance is so well
described that he is forever remembered by the Indians as an avenger
of their race--and the men of lesser note. We have also a picture of
the Hurons, the Iroquois, and other tribes as they appeared to the
early French settlers; and in fact Parkman has left no phase or detail
of the movement untouched. It was a vast undertaking, and carried out
in the midst of many difficulties, and its completion placed Parkman's
name among the greatest historians of all time.

Parkman suffered from ill-health from his earliest years throughout
his life, and to this was added partial blindness, which made his
literary work as great a task as that of Prescott. Very often he was
interrupted for months and years by illness, and in the main he had
to depend upon the help of others in collecting his material; but his
purpose never faltered, and the end was brilliant with success.



CHAPTER XVII

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

1809-1894


Among the boys most familiar with the scenes described in Lowell's
recollections of his youth was Oliver Wendell Holmes, the son of the
pastor of the First Congregational Church at Cambridge. Holmes was
ten years older than Lowell, but Cambridge altered little between the
birthtimes of the two poets, and in the writings of both are embalmed
many loving memories of the old village.

In his reminiscence of the famous Commencement week, so faithfully
described by Lowell, Holmes says, "I remember that week well, for
something happened to me once at that time, namely, I was born." Many
after-touches show us how the great week possessed for Holmes the same
magic charm it held for Lowell. The wonders of the menagerie where he
beheld for the first time a live tiger, the side-show where he enjoyed
the delights of Punch and Judy, and gazed with awe at the biggest live
fat boy known to showmen, and the marvels of the toy-counter, over
which hung the inscription,

  "Look, but handle not,"

shared honors with the Governor's parade, and Commencement exercises,
and in fact far out-ranked them with Holmes, who confessed that he
would willingly have stayed from morning till night viewing their
delights, and declared that the sound of the tent-raising on the
Common the night before the show began could be compared to nothing
but the evening before Agincourt!

Holmes was born in August, when, he tells us in one of his charming
essays, the meadows around Cambridge were brilliant with the cardinal
flower, and blossoming buckwheat covered the fields, while the
bayberry, barberry, sweetfern, and huckleberry made delightful
retreats for the small boy of the neighborhood. In the same essay
he describes the old garden of the parsonage, with its lilac-bushes,
hyacinths, tulips, peonies, and hollyhocks, its peaches, nectarines,
and white grapes, growing in friendly companionship with the beets,
carrots, onions, and squashes, while the old pear-tree in the corner,
called by Holmes "the moral pear-tree," because its fruit never
ripened, taught him one of his earliest lessons. Bits of reminiscence
like this scattered throughout the pages of Holmes enable us to
reconstruct the scenes of his youth and to follow him from the time
he was afraid of the masts of the sloops down by the bridge, "being a
very young child," through all the years of his boyhood. The parsonage
was an old-fashioned gambrel-roofed house, which Holmes recurs to
again and again with loving remembrance. The rooms were large and
light and had been the scenes of stirring events in other days.

On the study floor could still be seen the dents of the muskets
stacked there in Revolutionary times, and an old family portrait in
one of the upper rooms still bore the sword-thrusts of the British
soldiers. A certain dark store-room contained a pile of tables and
chairs, which to the child's fancy seemed to have rushed in there to
hide, and tumbled against one another as people do when frightened.
Another store-room held an array of preserve-jars containing delicious
sweets; before the door of this room he would stand with one eye
glued to the keyhole while his childish imagination revelled in the
forbidden luxuries.

The house had also a ghostly garret about which clustered many
legends, and these in connection with certain patches of sand bare of
grass and vine and called the Devil's Footsteps, which might have been
seen around the neighborhood, tended to make the bedtime hour a season
of dread to the imaginative boy, who saw shadowy red-coats in every
dark corner, and with every unfamiliar noise expected even more
uncanny visitors.

Outside was the old garden, sweet and sunny, and close to it the
friendly wall of a neighbor's house, up which climbed a honeysuckle
which stretched so far back into memory that the child thought it
had been there always, "like the sky and stars," and on the whole the
atmosphere of the old home was most wholesome.

When Holmes was but a little child he was sent to Dame Prentice's
school, where he studied the primer and spent his leisure moments
in falling in love with his pretty girl schoolmates or playing with
certain boyish toys which were always confiscated sooner or later by
the school-mistress, and went to help fill a large basket which
stood ready to receive such treasures. At ten years of age he began
attendance at the Cambridgeport school, where he had for schoolmates
Margaret Fuller and Richard Henry Dana, and where he remained for some
years.

Holmes says that in these years of his childhood every possible
occasion for getting a crowd together was made the most of--school
anniversaries and town centennials; Election Day, which came in
May, when everyone carried a bunch of lilacs and the small boys ate
"election buns" of such size that the three regular meals had to
be omitted; Fourth of July, a very grand holiday indeed, when the
festivities were opened by the Governor; Commencement Week, with its
glories of shows and dancing on the Common, were each in turn made
seasons of joy for the youthful denizens of Cambridge and Boston.
Perhaps the most gratifying of all the holidays was the old-fashioned
Thanksgiving, when even the sermon, though of greater length than
usual, "had a subdued cheerfulness running through it," which
kept reminding the children of the turkey and oyster-sauce, the
plum-pudding, pumpkin-pie, oranges, almonds, and shagbarks awaiting
them at home, and the chink of the coin in the contribution-boxes was
but a joyous prelude to the music of roasting apples and nuts.

Holmes left the Cambridgeport school to enter Phillips Academy, and
has left us a charming account of this first visit to Andover,
whither he went in a carriage with his parents, becoming more and more
homesick as the time came for parting, until finally he quite broke
down and for a few days was utterly miserable. But he had happy days
at Andover, and revisiting the place in after years he describes
himself as followed by the little ghost of himself, who went with him
to the banks of the Showshine and Merrimac; to the old meeting-house,
the door of which was bullet-riddled by the Indians; to the
school-rooms where he had recited Euclid and Virgil; to the base-ball
field, and to the great bowlder upon which the boys cracked nuts,
proving such a faithful guide that when the day was over Holmes almost
committed the folly of asking at the railroad office for two tickets
back to Boston. Perhaps of all the celebrated men who have been pupils
at the famous school no one held it more lovingly in his heart than
he who turned back after so many years of success to pay this loving
tribute to its memory.

The stay at Andover lasted but a year, during which time Holmes
discovered that he could write verse, and gained a little reputation
thereby, which led to his being made class-poet when he left school to
enter Harvard, in his sixteenth year. Throughout his college life he
kept his reputation as a maker of humorous verse, and was perhaps
the most popular member of the various societies and clubs for which
Harvard was noted. He was graduated in his twentieth year, and within
a year of this time had decided to study medicine, and after a two
years' course in Boston went abroad to attend lectures in Paris and
Edinburgh.

But the practice of medicine included but a few years of Holmes's
life, as in 1847 he accepted the chair of anatomy and physiology at
Harvard, holding the position for thirty-five years.

During his years of study and practice, Holmes had gained gradually
the reputation of a clever literary man whose name was familiar to the
readers of the best periodicals of the day. This reputation began with
the publication of a poem, _Old Ironsides_, which was inspired by
the proposition to destroy, as of no further use, the old frigate
Constitution, which had done such glorious service during the war of
1812. These verses, which begin the literary life of Holmes, ring with
a noble patriotism which flashed its fire into the hearts of thousands
of his countrymen and made the author's name almost a household word.
They were published originally in the Boston _Advertiser_, but so
furious was the storm aroused that within a short time they had been
copied in newspapers all over the land, printed on handbills that
placarded the walls, and circulated in the streets from hand to hand.
It was a satisfaction to the young patriot to know that his appeal
had not been made in vain, and that the old ship was allowed to rest
secure in the keeping of a grateful nation. A few years later
Holmes published his first volume of poems, collected from various
periodicals, and gained medals for some essays on medical subjects.
For many years after this his literary work consisted chiefly of
fugitive poems, written very often for special occasions, such as
class anniversaries and dinners.

It was, however, by the publication of a series of essays in the
_Atlantic Monthly_, which was started in 1857, with James Russell
Lowell as editor, that Holmes began his career as the household
intimate of every lover of reading in America. These essays, which
are now collected in four volumes, appeared in the _Atlantic_, at
intervals between the series, between 1857 and 1859, and thus cover
almost the entire period of the author's life as a man of letters.

The first series--_The Autocrat at the Breakfast-Table_--struck the
key-note for the rest, a note which showed the author's heart attuned
in its broad yet subtle sympathy to the heart of his race, and created
such a friendship as rarely exists between author and reader. In the
Autocrat Holmes introduces a variety of characters which at intervals
flit throughout the rest of the series.

The papers are thrown into the form of talks at the breakfast-table
between the author and his fellow-boarders, and so strong is the
personal flavor that they seem to the reader like the home-letters
of an absent member of the family. The landlady and her son, Benjamin
Franklin, the sharp-eyed spinster in black, the young fellow "whose
name seems to be John and nothing else," and the school-teacher,
appear and disappear side by side with Little Boston, Iris, and the
characters of the other series, and emphasize the life-likeness of
the whole. It never seems in reading these papers that the _dramatis
personæ_ are anything else than living human beings, with whom Holmes
actually converses around the boarding-house table or at his own
fireside. The series, besides _The Autocrat at the Breakfast-Table_,
includes _The Professor at the Breakfast-Table_, _The Poet at the
Breakfast-Table_, and _Over the Teacups_, the last being separated
from the others by an interval of thirty years.

One of the chief charms of these essays is found in the bits of
biography which stamp them in so many cases as personal history. One
may read here the nature of the man who could thus step back into the
realm of childhood, appreciate the delicate grace of girlhood, enjoy
the robust enthusiasm of young manhood, and pause with reverent
sympathy before the afflicted. Behind each character portrayed one
feels the healthful, generous throb of a humanity to which no ambition
of soul could seem foreign or no defect appeal in vain. Scattered
throughout the volumes are many charming verses, to some of
which Holmes owes his fame as a poet. In _The Autocrat at the
Breakfast-Table_ occurs, among others, the celebrated poem, _The
Chambered Nautilus_, which shows perhaps the highest point to which
Holmes's art as a poet has reached. This poem, founded upon the
many-chambered shell of the pearly nautilus, is made by the poet to
illustrate the progress of the soul in its journey through life; the
spiritual beauty of the verse shows it a genuine reflection of
that soul illumination which made of the poet's Puritan ancestors
a peculiar people. Many other poems bear the mark of this spiritual
insight, and stamp the author as possessing the highest poetic sense.
But it is perhaps in his humorous poems that Holmes has appealed to
the greatest number of readers. Throughout the verse of this class
runs the genuine Yankee humor, allied to high scholarship and the
finest literary art.

Many of the verses seem but an echo in rhyme of the half-serious,
half-whimsical utterances of the Breakfast-Table Series. Who but
the Autocrat himself could have given literary form to the exquisite
pathos of The _Last Leaf_, the delicious quaintness of _Dorothy Q_, or
the solemn drollery of _The Katy Did_?

Many of the more popular poems are simply _vers d'occasion_, written
for some class reunion, college anniversary, or state dinner. These
poems, collected under the title _Poems of the Class of '29_, show
Holmes in his most charming mood of reminiscence. Through all his
poetry shines here and there an intense sympathy with nature, for
running side by side with his appreciation of human interests we see
ever that deep love of nature which is the mark of the true poet.
Trees and flowers, the seasons, the meadows, rivers, clouds, and
the enchanting mysteries of twilight touch his heart to sympathetic
vibrations, and their beauty enters into and becomes a part of
himself. In this sense some of his most charming recollections cease
to be merely remembrance; they are the very air and sunlight which he
breathed and which became incorporated into his being. Thus the
old garden whose fragrance lingers so loving in his memory and is
enshrined with such tender grace in his pages is not a description,
but a breath of that far-away childhood which still shines for him
immortally beautiful; and the fire-flies flitting across the darkened
meadows bring once again to his mind the first flash of insight into
the wonder and meaning of the night.

In some charming pages he has told us of his love for trees,
particularly of the old elms which are the pride of the New England
villages, and in equally poetic vein he has emphasized the beauty of
the pond-lily, the cardinal flower, the huckleberry pasture, and the
fields of Indian corn.

Dr. Holmes is also known as a novelist as well as essayist and poet.
His three novels, _Elsie Venner_, _The Guardian Angel_, and _A
Mortal Antipathy_, are undoubtedly the results of his experience as
a physician, for each in turn is founded upon some mental trait
which sets the hero or heroine apart from the rest of mankind. In
the treatment of these characteristics Holmes has made apparent the
powerful effect of heredity upon the life of the human being. These
novels are chiefly valuable as character-studies by an earnest student
of moral science whose literary bias tempted him to throw them into
the form of fiction. While touched with the true Holmes flavor, they
cannot be called fiction of the highest order nor do they emphasize
Holmes's place in literature. They seem rather to show his versatility
as a writer and to illustrate his familiarity with those subtle
problems of character that have always puzzled mankind.

Holmes's medical and literary essays, poems, novels, and other
miscellany have been collected in thirteen volumes, the last of which,
_Over the Teacups_, appeared but a short time before his death.

He spent most of his life in Boston, his home there being the favorite
meeting-place for the most distinguished of his countrymen and a
recognized rallying-point for foreign guests. He was the last of that
brilliant circle which made New England famous as the literary centre
of America; in many senses he combined the excellences which have
given American letters their place in the literature of the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beside the writers who founded American literature must be placed
many others whose work belongs to the same period. In history
and biography, besides the work of the great historians, we have
Hildreth's _History of the United States_, Lossing's _Field Book of
the Revolution_, Schoolcraft's studies and researches among the Indian
tribes, the carefully written biographies of Sparks, the Peter Parley
and Abbott stories for the young, and numerous other contributions
which throw valuable light upon the early history of the United
States.

In fiction the pictures of Southern life by Sims, and the romances of
Dutch life in New York by Hoffman, preserve the colonial traditions,
and with many other writers of lesser note supplement the work of the
great novelists.

The philosophy of Emerson has found expression in the writings of
Bronson Alcott, Theodore Parker, and Margaret Fuller. In poetry,
the still honored names of Fitz-Greene Halleck, Joseph Rodman Drake,
Elizabeth Kinney, Alice and Phoebe Cary illustrate the place that they
held in the popular heart. Chief among these minor singers stands John
Howard Payne, whose immortal song has found a home in nearly every
land.





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