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CHAPTER XI.

DINNER AT JOHN JACOB ASTOR'S.-CONVERSATION ABOUT GHOSTS.-THE OPERA-HOUSE, ONE OF THE GREAT CHARMS OF NEW YORK. THE PROJECTED RAILROAD ALONG THE BANKS OF THE HUDSON.-IMPENDING DESECRATION OF SUNNYSIDE.-LETTER TO HACKETT.-ARRANGEMENT WITH MR. PUTNAM FOR THE REPUBLICATION OF HIS WORKS.—“KNICKERBOCKER.”—AUTHOR'S REMARKS ABOUT THE REVISED EDITION.-NOTICE OF HENRY T. TUCKERMAN. COMMENTATOR CITING KNICKERBOCKER. SCHEFFER'S "CHRISTUS CONSOLATOR."- -NOTICES OF THE REPUBLICATION OF THE 66 SKETCH BOOK."-LIBERAL RECEPTION OF THE REVISED SERIES.

66

-A GERMAN

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HE opening of this year finds Mr. Irving on a prolonged visit to New York. The following letter is addressed to Mrs. Storrow from the residence of his nephew, John T. Irving, where he was fixed for the present:

NEW YORK, February 27, 1848.

After eleven months' seclusion in the country, during which I made but three or four visits of business to town, going down and returning the same day in the boat, I came down on a visit early in the winter, having recovered sufficiently from my old malady to go again into society. The cordial, and I may say affectionate reception I met with everywhere, and the delight I felt on mingling once more among old friends, had such an enlivening effect upon me, that I soon repeated my visit, and have ended by passing almost the whole of the winter in town. I think it had a good effect upon me in every way. It has rejuvenated me, and given such a healthful tone to my mind and spirits, that I have

worked with greater alacrity and success. I have my books and papers with me, and generally confine myself to the house and to my pen all the long morning, and then give up the evening to society and amusement.

One great charm of New York, at present, is a beautiful opera-house, and a very good troupe. We have a prima donna, named Truffi, who delights me as much as Grisi did, and in the same line of characters, though I will not say she is equal to her, excepting in occasional scenes. She is an admirable actress and an excellent singer. We have an excellent tenor also a young man who, when he gets more cultivation and training, will be worthy of the Paris stage. The theatre is well arranged, and so fashionable in every part that there is no jealousy about places, as in the old opera-house here. Ladies are seated everywhere, and, with their gay dresses, make what is the parquette in other theatres look like a bed of flowers. It is filled every night. Everybody is well dressed, and it is altogether one of the gayest, prettiest, and most polite-looking theatres I have ever seen. I have not missed a single performance since I have been in town.

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One meets all one's acquaintances at the opera, and there is much visiting from box to box, and pleasant conversation, between the acts. The opera-house is, in fact, the great feature in polite society in New York, and I believe is the great attraction that keeps me in town. Music is to me the great sweetener of existence, and I never enjoyed it more abundantly than at present.

March 8, Mr. Irving refers to "a fancy ball recently given at the opera-house, of which," he says, "I, sorely against my will, was made one of the managers." It was a distasteful position, but he had not the faculty of resisting well-intended importunity in trifles.

A portion of this period of his lengthened sojourn in New York, he was the guest of John Jacob Astor, then eighty-four years of age, whom he had often urged, he

tells us, to commence his noble enterprise of the Astor Library, and enjoy the reputation of it while living. It was left, however, to be carried out under the provisions of his will.

Calling on Mr. Irving one morning before breakfast at Mr. Astor's, I found him engaged on his "Life of Washington," but somewhat out of patience at the want of feature in parts of the war. It was so barren of interestsuch a cursed sand flat; the two enemies, like two drunken men, impotently striking at each other without hurting. Sometimes, he said, he dragged along; at other times got a little breeze, and went forward briskly; then adverting to the changes of mood in his task, sometimes felt as if he could remove mountains; at other times, the molehill was a mountain.

I was dining with him, at another time, at Mr. Astor's, during this period, when, the conversation turning upon ghosts, I mentioned the story of Wesley, and the sanction given to it by Southey in his life of that eminent divine. who was also dining there, instanced the story of Major Blomberg, and expressed his surprise that neither Scott in his "Demonology," nor Dendie in his "Philosophy of Mystery," had included this most remarkable ghost story. Two officers were sitting up with a corpse in the West Indies; one was in the room with the body, the other in an adjoining room which communicated. The corpse rose; came to the person in same room; told him he had a secret to communicate, to prevent a

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great wrong; had been permitted to return to life to reveal it; bade him summon (which he did) his companion in the adjoining room, to hear his disclosure; told of a secret marriage to a girl in Ireland now with child; stated the name of the clergyman who married them, and how they could get the evidence. had seen the depositions. Mr. Irving suggested the solution that the man was not dead, and this secret lay so heavily on his mind as to rouse him from his state of apparent death. He then proceeded to say that he had been hardly treated by the ghosts; that he had invoked the presence of the dead more than once, but in vain; and brought up especially the singular compact with Hall, and its barren result, narrated in a previous volume.

Mr. Irving had been much disturbed by a project which had been started of running a railroad along the eastern bank of the Hudson. Besides the utter desecration which he considered it of that beautiful shore, it threatened to make his little cottage almost untenable, inasmuch as its situation on the immediate margin of the river would bring the nuisance, with all its noise and unsightliness, to his very door, and mar forever, as he feared, the peculiar charms for which he had chosen the spotits quiet and retirement. For a time he hoped the plan would not be carried out, and, when it was actually decided, was quite in despair. It was hopeless, however, to rebel; and, once settled, he began, in his accustomed way, to try to make the best of it. As it was carried a

short distance out in the river, he was spared the trial of having it cross his very grounds; and the trees along the bank formed a screen that he hoped, with a little care, would soon shut it out from view. Though in the first paroxysm of annoyance, therefore, he wished "he had been born when the world was finished," and declared he believed, "if the garden of Eden were now on earth, they would not hesitate to run a railroad through it," yet, when the committee came whose duty it was to call on the owners of property, and arrange for the terms of compensation, Mr. Irving submitted at once, giving them permission to commence the work when they chose; and, as the damage to him was such as could not be paid by money, left it entirely with themselves to determine the amount of their award.

"The liberal and courteous spirit," says the committee, in a letter of April 4, 1848, from which I quote, "in which you, last summer, gave permission to enter on your lands to commence the construction of the road, and in which the committee have uniformly been met by you in the discharge of their unpleasant duties, has been quite a solace to them amidst the many cases of a contrary character which have occurred. It is the more worthy of remark, as, in their view, you are more seriously invaded by this necessary work, in respect to derangement of rural taste and retirement, than is any other proprietor on the whole line of the road below the highlands."

In adjustment of these land damages, the railroad

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