Imágenes de páginas

Charles L. Brace, author of various interesting works, writes, January 22d, of the second volume:

[blocks in formation]

I do not see why one should not acknowledge a pleasure, when one has so enjoyed it; and I want to say how intensely interesting your second volume of "Washington" is. I have read it as I would read a romance. To me it is history alive. I enter into the feelings, and struggle, and uncertainties of the actors, so that I feel, as it were, doubtful of the issue. Washington looms out grandly in this volume; much more so than in the first, naturally. It is the most living picture we have ever had of him, and shows, best of all, the incessant difficulties of his work. It is strange, too, how you have made those battles real. I have read them often, and never had any clear idea at all of them; now they are indissolubly associated with the places. You have again made the Hudson classic ground. I predict without a doubt that this will be the "Washington" of the people-especially of the young people. As a boy, I should read it like "Robinson Crusoe" or "Captain Cook's Voyages."

To a letter from Bancroft, congratulating him on the success of his second volume, he replies


I thank you sincerely for your cordial and well-timed note. It is always an anxious time with an author when he has just launched a volume, and is waiting for a verdict; and especially with one like myself, apt to be troubled with self-distrust. I never was more troubled with it than in the prosecution of my present task, when I am occasionally venturing, in a somewhat familiar way, upon themes which you will treat in such an ampler, nobler, and more truly historical style. Indeed, I am putting to sea at a hazardous time, when you, and Macaulay, and Prescott (with his grand Spanish Armada) are afloat. However,

I am ready to drop my peak whenever any of you come into the same waters.

Give my best thanks to Mrs. Bancroft for her favorable opinion of my volume. As Sir Fretful Plagiary says, the women are the best judges, after all.

Ever, my dear Bancroft, yours most heartily,


February 23d, 1856.-I returned to the city from a visit of ten days at the cottage. Mr. Irving was busy at the third volume of "Washington," which was going through the press. About one hundred pages were printed when I came down. He had been reconstructing the narrative of Burgoyne's expedition, and the affair of Schuyler and Gates. His head troubled him occasionally, and he seemed to feel the pressure of such a task at his time of life. Rewrote three or four pages after he had got the proof; namely, Signs of an Approaching Enemy at Ticonderoga. Seemed to feel, at times, an uneasy consciousness that he might not get through with his labor. "I am constantly afraid," he said to me the morning I came down, "that something will happen to me," alluding to his head. Never saw him so impatient at the encroaching demands of letters upon his valuable time. "O! these letters-these letters! They tear my mind. from me in slips and ribbons."

He had received, the day before (Washington's birthday), from his publisher, the present of a new table for his study. It had a good many drawers, and sundry novel conveniences, the use of which he did not readily com

prehend. "You will be bothered with your very conveniences," said I. "Yes. I must get everything in a mess, and then I'll go on comfortably."

The letter which follows, is in reply to one from Mr. Kennedy, announcing the death of his wife's father, Mr. Edward Gray:

[To Mr. J. P. Kennedy.]

SUNNYSIDE, March 22, 1856.

MY DEAR KENNEDY: The sight of your letter, just received, with its black seal and edgings, gave me a severe shock, though I thought I was prepared for the event it communicated. The death of my most dear and valued friend, Mr. Gray, is a relief to himself, and to the affectionate hearts around him who witnessed his prolonged sufferings; but I, who have been out of the hearing of his groans, can only remember him as he was in his genial moments, the generous and kind-hearted centre of a loving circle, dispensing happiness around him.

My intimacy with him, in recent years, had fully opened to me the varied excellence of his character, and most heartily attached me to him. My dear Kennedy, my intercourse with your family connection has been a great sweetener of the last few years of my existence, and the only attraction that has been able to draw me repeatedly from home. And in all this I recognize the influence of the kind, cordial, sympathetic character of Mr. Gray. To be under his roof, in Baltimore or at Ellicott's Mills, was to be in a constant state of quiet enjoyment to me. Everything that I saw in him, and in those about him; in his tastes, habits, mode of life; in his domestic relations and chosen intimacies, continually struck upon some happy chord in my own bosom, and put me in tune with the world and with human nature. I cannot expect, in my brief remnant of existence, to replace such a friend, and such a domestic circle rallying ound him; but the remembrance will ever be most dear to me.

Give my most affectionate remembrance to your wife and her noblehearted sister, and believe me, my dear Kennedy,

Ever yours, most truly,


A few weeks before the date of the following letter, Mr. Irving had written to Gouverneur Kemble that his gardener had been constructing a hot-house, and preparing a piece of ground, sheltered by a fence, where he expected to effect great things: and that, if he had any cuttings or plants of grapes and figs to spare, and could send them to him by railroad, he would make his gardener very happy :


[To Gouverneur Kemble.]

SUNNYSIDE, April 23, 1856.

The roots and cuttings sent by your gardener arrived safe, and are all properly disposed of. I should like to have a few more cuttings for out of doors, and a black Hamburg or two, if you have any. I shall raise some of the grapes under glass, having a small hot-house which will accommodate a few. I hope your visit to Washington was pleasant and profitable, and that you will be favored with a seat in the Cabinet, or a foreign mission in this or the next Presidency.

I am happy to learn that your lawn is green. I hope it will long continue so, and yourself likewise. I shall come up, one of these days, and have a roll on it with you.

Yours ever, my dear Kemble,


April 24th, 1856, he writes to his niece at Paris, "at a

late hour of the night after a hard day's work":—

VOL. III.-19

I have about two-thirds of my third volume of "Washington" in type, and shall be heartily glad when the whole volume is completed, when I will give myself repose before I commence another. It is a toilsome task, though a very interesting, and, I may say, delightful one. It expands and grows more voluminous as I write, but the way it is received by the public cheers me on; for I put it to the press with more doubt and diffidence than any work I ever published. The way the public keep on with me is a continual wonderment to me, knowing my own shortcomings in many things; and I must say I am sometimes surprised at my own capacity for labor at my advanced time of life—when I used to think a man must be good for nothing.

The third volume, embracing the period from the commencement of the year 1777 to the retirement of Washington into winter quarters in 1779, appeared in July, 1856.

The following letter is from Mrs. Fuller, the Emily Foster of former days, one of the English family with whom, it may be recollected, the author was so intimate at Dresden in 1823.* Their intercourse was not confined to Dresden. On leaving that city, they travelled together

* Of this lady it has been claimed, since Mr. Irving's death, that he offered his hand to her at Dresden, and was rejected. While I do not for a moment question his admiration of the lady, or the warmth with which he may have expressed it to the mother as was his wont, that he could have thought of matrimony at this period is, in my view, entirely disproved by the communication to the mother, written at this very date, and referred to in the first volume, page 164, in which, after recounting the progress and catastrophe of his early love, and glancing at other particulars of his life, he closes by saying: "You wonder why I am not married. I have shown you why I was not long since. My time has now gone by, and I have growing claims upon my thoughts and upon my means, slender and precarious as they are."

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »