« AnteriorContinuar »
of the Patapsco, after which I went to bed, had a sweet night's sleep, and dreamt I was in Mahomet's paradise.
June 22d, he writes to Miss Sarah Irving, from Cassilis, the residence of Mr. Andrew Kennedy :
Mr. John Kennedy and myself left Ellicott's Mills yesterday (Monday) morning, in the train which passed at nine o'clock. We had an extremely hot drive of about a hundred miles, but through lovely scenery. The railroad follows up the course of the Patapsco to its head springs, and a romantic stream it is throughout. The road then crosses some fine, open, fertile country on the summit of Elk Ridge, and descends along the course of Reynolds's Creek and the Monocacy to the Potomac, all beautiful. At Harper's Ferry we changed cars, and pushed on to Charleston, where we found Mr. Andrew Kennedy waiting for us with his carriage. A drive of about a mile and a half brought us to his seat, whence this letter is dated. Here I am, in the centre of the magnificent valley of the Shenandoah, the great valley of Virginia. And a glorious valley it is equal to the promised land for fertility, far superior to it for beauty, and inhabited by an infinitely superior people-choice, though not chosen. To-morrow I expect to go, in company with the two Mr. Kennedys, on a visit to Mr. George Washington Lewis, who has a noble estate about twelve miles off, where we shall remain until the next day. I have several places to visit in this vicinity, connected with the history of Washington, after which we shall push on to the mountains, where we shall find a cooler temperature.
During this absence, I was at Sunnyside, mounting guard, as he terms it, and reading over his "Life of Washington" in manuscript, then nearly completed to the commencement of the Administration. I wrote to him that I was proceeding with the "Life of Washing
ton" with an interest that seemed almost surprising to myself; and that I could not have believed that so much of freshness and new interest could be thrown about a
subject so often gone over. The following is his reply :
MY DEAR PIERRE:
CASSILIS, June 25, 1853.
Your letter of the 19th, received two or three days since, has put me quite in spirits. From your opinion of my manuscripts, I begin to hope. that my labor has not been thrown away. Do not make a toil of reading the manuscripts, but take it leisurely, so as to keep yourself fresh in the perusal, and to judge quietly and coolly of its merits and defects.
I have paid my visit to Mr. George Washington Lewis, to inspect the manuscripts in his possession. His seat (Audley) is about twelve or fourteen miles from this. Andrew and John Kennedy accompanied me. We went on Wednesday, and returned on Thursday. The visit was a most agreeable one. We were hospitably entertained by Mr. Lewis, who is a young man of engaging appearance and manners. . . His mother,
however, is the real custodian of the Washington relics and papers, which she laid before me with great satisfaction. I did not find much among the manuscripts requiring note. In less than an hour I had made all the memoranda necessary.
Yesterday I drove out with the Kennedys, to visit two other establishments of the Washington family in this neighborhood, the proprietors of which had called to see me during my absence at Audley. These visits are all full of interest; but I will tell you all about them when we meet.
To-day we are to visit some other places of note in the neighborhood. On Monday, the day after to-morrow, I set off with Mr. John Kennedy and his bachelor brother, Pendleton Kennedy, for the mountains.
I must again apologize for my wretched scrawl; but it seems hard work for me to extract any ideas out of my weary brain, which is as dry as a "remainder biscuit."
I hope you will continue to mount guard at Sunnyside during my
With love to all, your affectionate uncle,
The next day, in replying to a letter of Mrs. Irving giving him some account of affairs at Sunnyside, where we were sojourning, and speaking encouragingly of his manuscript "Life of Washington," he remarks :
I never shall be able, I fear, to give it the toning up which a painter gives to his picture before finishing it. I am afraid my head will not bear much more work of the kind. It gives me hints, even when I am scrawling letters.
MY DEAR KATE :
[To Miss Kate Irving.]
BERKELEY SPRINGS (BATH), July 1, 1853.
I received, yesterday, your letter of Sunday and Monday last, and rejoice to find you have all survived the late intense weather. I have been for four or five days in this watering-place, which is in a small valley among the mountains, and, as far as my experience goes, one of the hottest places in the known world. You will be surprised to learn, however, that my greatest amusement, during the heat of the day, is at the ten-pin alley, and that I am getting quite expert at bowling. The perspiration it produces is awful, and only to be allayed by the cool baths for which this place is famous.
To-morrow I trust to emerge from this oven, and to return with Mr. Andrew Kennedy to Cassilis, where I shall be once more within the reach of cooling breezes.
Tell Robert [the gardener] I charge him not to work in the sun during the hottest hours of the day, should this intense warm weather continue.
He injured himself by it last summer; and I would not have anything happen to him for all the hay in the country.
Farewell. The weather is so hot that I cannot write, nor do anything else but play at bowls and fan myself.
With love to all, your affectionate uncle,
On the 6th of July, I wrote him that I had concluded the perusal of his manuscript the day before, and that the impression I communicated in my former letter had gained strength by what I had since read. Familiar as I am with the story," I add, "I have been equally surprised and gratified to perceive what new interest it gains in your hands. I doubt not the work will be equally entertaining to young and old."
The following is his reply:
MY DEAR PIERRE :
ELLICOTT'S MILLS, July 8, 1853.
I have just received your letter of the 6th, which I need not tell you has been most gratifying and inspiriting to me. I thank you for writing it; for I was looking most anxiously and dubiously for your verdict, after reading the narrative of the war, in which the interest, I feared, might suffer from diffusion, and from the difficulty of binding up a variety of enterprises and campaigns into one harmonious whole. I now feel my mind prodigiously relieved, and begin to think I have not labored in vain.
I left Bath shortly after I wrote to Kate. We had intended a tour among the Alleghanies, but the intense heat of the weather discouraged us, and we determined to postpone that part of our plan to another
Returning to Cassilis, we passed a few days more under the hospitable
roof of Mr. Andrew Kennedy, where I saw something of a harvest home in the noble valley of the Shenandoah.
Leaving Cassilis on Wednesday morning, we arrived here before sun
Tell Sarah I have received her letter of the 1st July, but cannot answer it at present. To tell the truth, though my excursion has put me in capital health and spirits, I find I cannot handle the pen, even in these miserable scrawls, without feeling a sensation in the head that admonishes me to refrain. Think, then, how gratifying it must be to me to learn from your letter that I may dispense from any severe task work in completing my historical labor.
I feel that my working-days are over, and rejoice that I have arrived at a good stopping-place.
At this period, he did not think of continuing the Life through the history of the administration, but proposed to make the inauguration of Washington his "stoppingplace." Hence his premature felicitation that he had reached the end of his "working-days." He was yet to give a great deal of handling even to the part he deemed finished; but when he returned to Sunnyside, it was with the desire and intention of preparing the Life at once for the press-an intention frustrated by the condition of his health.