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EXCURSION TO THE SPRINGS.-NIAGARA, ETC.—EXTRACT OF LETTER TO MISS MARY E. KENNEDY.-OGDENSBURG REVISITED.-LETTER TO JOHN P. KENNEDY.-EXTRACT OF LETTER TO MRS. STORROW.-HIS FINAL RESTING-PLACE MARKED OUT.-SETS OFF ON AN EXCURSION.-LETTER TO MISS SARAH IRVING. THE IRVING HOUSE. TRAVELLING ON HIS CAPITAL.-THE ST. NICHOLAS HOTEL.-EXTRACT FROM LETTER TO MISS CATHERINE IRVING.EXPEDITION TO WINCHESTER AND GREENWAY COURT.-RETURN TO SUNNYSIDE.-LETTER TO MRS. KENNEDY.
OR some time before he went to Virginia, in June, 1853, Mr. Irving had to lay aside the pen almost entirely, "having overtasked myself," he says, "and produced a weariness of the brain that renders it an irksome effort even to scrawl an ordinary letter." On his return, though in excellent general health, he found himself still unable to resume his literary occupations, and thereupon determined to set off for Saratoga, the waters of which were of such service. to him the preceding year, and might be this; "though," he says, "I believe all that I require is a good spell of literary abstinence."
He did not remain long at the Springs. "I feel a little fatigued with the bustle of the place," he writes, August
6th, a few days after his arrival, "and the very attentions I receive begin to be a task upon my spirits."
The following letter, written after his return home, will continue the story of his travels. His reminiscence of the Ogdensburg of his boyhood will recall a similar passage in another letter in the third chapter of the first
[To Miss Mary E. Kennedy.]
MY DEAR MISS KENNEDY :
SUNNYSIDE, September 8, 1853.
Indisposition has prevented me from replying earlier to your welcome letter of the 4th August, which I received about three weeks since, on my return from Saratoga.
The hot weather was as intolerable at Saratoga as I had found it at Berkeley Springs; so, after passing about ten days there, I set off on a tour with your uncle John, who wished to visit the F-s, at Buffalo. We went by the way of the lakes, and had a magnificent sail (if I may use the word) down Lake Champlain in a steamer to Plattsburg, whence we made a night journey by railroad to Ogdensburg. Here we passed part of a day-a very interesting one to me. Fifty years had elapsed since I had visited the place in company with a party of gentlemen proprietors, with some ladies of their families. It was then a wilderness, and we were quartered in the remains of an old French fort at the confluence of the Oswegatchie and the St. Lawrence. It was all a scene of romance to me, for I was then a mere stripling, and everything was strange, and full of poetry. The country was covered with forest; the Indians still inhabited some islands in the river, and prowled about in their canoes. There were two young ladies of the party to sympathize in my romantic feelings, and we passed some happy days there, exploring the forests, or gliding in canoes on the rivers.
In my present visit, I found, with difficulty, the site of the old French fort, but all traces of it were gone. I looked round on the surrounding country and river. All was changed. A populous city occupied both sides of the Oswegatchie; great steamers ploughed the St. Lawrence, and the opposite Canada shore was studded with towns and villages. I sat down on the river bank, where we used to embark in our canoes, and thought on the two lovely girls who used to navigate it with me, and the joyous party who used to cheer us from the shore. All had passed away ---all were dead! I was the sole survivor of that happy party; and here I had returned, after a lapse of fifty years, to sit down and meditate on the mutability of all things, and to wonder that I was still alive!
From Ogdensburg we made a voyage up the St. Lawrence, through the archipelago of the "Thousand Islands," and across Lake Ontario to Lewistown, on the Niagara River, where we took a carriage to the Falls. There we passed an insufferably hot day, and parted in the eveningyour uncle to go to Buffalo, I to Cayuga Lake to visit one of my nieces; whence I went to Syracuse to visit Mrs. B—, and then hastened homeward. All this tour was made during a spell of intensely hot weather, that deranged my whole system. The consequence was, that, the day after my return home, I was taken down with a violent fever and delirium, which confined me several days to my bed.
He had hardly got rid of his fever, and was still in a state of great debility, when he addressed the following letter to the friend and travelling companion with whom he parted at Niagara Falls :
[To Mr. John P. Kennedy.]
MY DEAR KENNEDY :
SUNNYSIDE, August 24, 1853.
After much weary travelling by land and water, by night and day, through dust and heat and "fell morass," I reached home on Wednesday
last, and almost immediately broke down. Whatever it was of evil that had been lurking in my system for some time past, took vent in a spell of chills, fever, and delirium, which hung over me for several days, and has almost torn me to rags. I avail myself of a tolerably sane fragment of myself which is left, to scrawl these lines.
You will now perceive, my dear Horseshoe, that when I was a little techy under your bantering at Niagara, it was not the fault of your jokes, --which were excellent, as usual,-but because I was too miserably out of tune to be played upon, be the musician ever so skillful.
I trust this outbreak of malady, when I get through with it, will carry off with it all the evils that have been haunting my system for some time past, and that, when next we meet, I shall relish your jokes with my usual hearty zest, even though, by singular chance, they should happen to be bad ones.
I fear, however, I shall not be strong enough to go sight-seeing with you in New York; and, indeed, have seen so much of the Crystal Palace in my delirium, that I am afraid the very sight of it would bring on a paroxysm.
I look forward, however, to a visit from you all at my "small contentment," where, however I may be, my nieces will be happy to entertain you in their own modest way, on our rural fare-"a couple of shortlegged hens, a joint of mutton, with any pretty little tiny kickshaws," or, peradventure, with a juicy ham sent to me from the banks of the Patapsco, by a much-valued and somewhat musical friend who flourishes in that quarter. To that excellent friend, and his two inestimable daughters, give my most affectionate remembrances. "Thine evermore," my dear Horseshoe, "while this machine is to him."
Very soon after the date of this letter, Mr. Irving received the visit to which he was looking forward from Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy, and Mr. and Miss G, who
passed the day at Sunnyside. "I do not know," he writes to Miss Kennedy, "when I enjoyed a day more thoroughly. I only wish you had been here, to make the party complete."
The following extract contains an interesting mention of the rural cemetery in which, "after life's fitful fever," he was himself to sleep. It is addressed to his niece in Paris, as he was on the point of setting off on another visit to Maryland and Virginia :
[To Mrs. Storrow.]
SUNNYSIDE, September 29, 1853.
I have had one solemn and sacred duty to perform, of late; which was, to remove from New York the remains of such of the family as were interred in the vault in front of the Brick Church, in Beekman Street. That street was to be widened, and, of course, the church-yard invaded. I have always apprehended some such event, and am glad it has taken place while I am here to protect the ashes of those I loved from desecration. I accordingly purchased a piece of ground in a public cemetery established within a few years on the high ground adjacent to the old Dutch church at Beekman's mill-pond, commonly called the Sleepy Hollow Church. The cemetery, which is secured by an act of the Legislature, takes in a part of the Beekman woods, and commands one of the most beautiful views of the Hudson. The spot I have purchased is on the southern slope, just on the edge of the old church-yard, which is included in the cemetery. I have had it inclosed with an iron railing, and shall have evergreens set out around it. It is shaded by a grove of young oaks.
There I have seen the remains of the family gathered together and interred, where they cannot be again disturbed; and a vast satisfaction