« AnteriorContinuar »
I hope the success of your work has been equal to its merits. To me, your "Adventures in the Wilds" are a continual refreshment of the spirits. I take a volume of your work to bed with me, after fagging with my pen, and then I ramble with you among the mountains and by the streams in the boundless interior of our fresh, unhackneyed country, and only regret that I can but do so in idea, and that I am not young enough to be your companion in reality.
I have taken great interest, of late, in your " Expedition among the Alleghany Mountains," having been campaigning, in my work, in the upper parts of the Carolinas, and especially in the "Catawba country," about which you give such graphic sketchings. Really, I look upon your work as a vade mecum to the American lover of the picturesque and romantic, unfolding to him the wilderness of beauties and the variety of adventurous life to be found in our great chains of mountains and system of lakes and rivers. You are, in fact, the picturesque explorer of our country.
With great regard, my dear Mr. Lanman, yours ever very truly, WASHINGTON IRVING.
By the following brief notes to myself, it will appear that the fourth volume of the "Life of Washington" was going through the press, and that he was prone to make modifications and corrections during the process :
SUNNYSIDE, March 20, 1857.
MY DEAR PIERRE:
Page 161 must be carefully collated with the manuscript. There are two places where I cannot supply the deficit.
I have struck out some lines in page 172, so that the chapter may end on page 173, and save the great blank in page 174. The printers appear to be fond of ending a chapter at the top of a page.
I have no doubt of getting the Inauguration into this volume; but the printers must not make blank pages unnecessarily.
SUNNYSIDE, Monday Evening.
There is a passage in, I think, De Rochambeau's "Memoirs," about the sending in a flag, at Yorktown, to Cornwallis, to obtain permission for Secretary Nelson to leave the town; and about his being brought out on a litter, being old, and ill with the gout. I wish you would copy it, and send it to me with the next proofs, as I wish to make immediate use of it. You will find De Rochambeau's "Memoirs" in the American department of the Astor Library.
If it is not in De Rochambeau's "Memoirs," it is in Chastellux; but I think it is in the former.
It was in Chastellux.
SUNNYSIDE, March 22, 1857.
I send you the page which was missing. Fortunately, I had impaled it, as I now do all the canceled pages.
SUNNYSIDE, Tuesday Evening.
I shall send no copy for a day or two, for I am fagged and a little out of order, and need rest; and I wish to be careful about the ensuing chapters, which I have been patching, and must revise to avoid muddling. I shall be heartily glad to receive the last proofsheet.
Not long after this note was written, Mr. Irving received a visit from Mr. Charles Lanman, who had recently sent him his "Adventures in the Wilds of America," for which he makes his acknowledgment in a letter just given. On his return to his residence, at Georgetown, Mr. Lanman gave a detail of his visit in a letter to Peter Force, Esq., entitled, "A Day with Washington Irving," which was published in the "National Intelligencer," and inclosed in an epistle from the writer to Mr. Irving. This is his tardy but characteristic acknowledgment :—
[To Charles Lanman, Georgetown, D. C.]
SUNNYSIDE, May 9, 1857,
MY DEAR MR. LANMAN :
I have been too thoroughly occupied in getting a volume of my work through the press, to acknowledge, at an earlier date, your letter of March 24th, respecting your letter* which has found its way into the "Intelligencer." I can only say, that I wish you had had a worthier subject for your biographic pen, or that I had known our conversation was likely to be recorded; I should then have tasked myself to say some wise or witty things, to be given as specimens of my off-hand table talk. One should always know when they are sitting for a portrait, that they may endeavor to look handsomer than themselves, and attitudinize.
I am scrawling this in great haste, merely that your letter may not remain longer unacknowledged; and am, very truly, your friend,
The letter which follows is addressed to Mr. Henry T. Tuckerman, in acknowledgment of his volume of "Biographical Essays," which Mr. Irving had pronounced, in a previous letter, written on a partial perusal, the best work he had given to the public, and one that must greatly advance his reputation :
[To Mr. H. T. Tuckerman.]
SUNNYSIDE, January 26, 1857.
A letter to Peter Force, Esq.
MY DEAR MR. TUCKERMAN:
I wrote to you, some days since, on the subject of your new work, when
I had read but a part of it. I have just finished the perusal of it, and
cannot rest until I have told you how thoroughly I have been delighted with it. I do not know when I have read any work more uniformly rich, full, and well sustained. The liberal, generous, catholic spirit in which it is written, is beyond all praise. The work is a model of its kind.
I have no doubt that it will take a high stand in England, and will reflect great credit on our literature, of which it will remain a lasting ornament.
Congratulating you, with all my heart, on this crowning achievement of your literary career, I remain, yours, very cordially and truly,
The fourth volume of the "Life of Washington" was published in May. The first letter he received on the subject was from Bancroft, who pronounced the picture he had drawn of Washington "the most vivid and the truest" that had "ever been written." To a warm, congratulatory letter from Mr. Frederick S. Cozzens, author of the humorous "Sparrowgrass Papers," a resident of Yonkers, about eight miles south of Sunnyside, he sends the following characteristic reply:
SUNNYSIDE, May 22, 1857.
MY DEAR MR. COZZENS:
Your letter has been most acceptable and animating; for letters of the kind are not, as you presume, "common to me as blackberries." Excepting a very cordial and laudatory one from Bancroft, yours is the only one, relative to my last volume, that I have yet received. Backed by these two letters, I feel strong enough to withstand that self-criticism which is apt to beset me and cuff me down at the end of a work, when the excitement of composition is over.
You speak of some misgivings which you felt in the course of my literary enterprise, whether I would be able to go through with it, and "end as happily as I had begun." I confess I had many misgivings of the kind
myself, as I became aware of the magnitude of the theme upon which I had adventured, and saw "wilds immeasurably spread lengthening on every side as I proceeded. I felt that I had presumed on the indulgence of nature in undertaking such a task at my time of life, and feared I might break down in the midst of it. Whimsical as it may seem, I was haunted occasionally by one of my own early pleasantries. My mock admonition to Diedrich Knickerbocker not to idle in his historic wayfaring, rose in judgment against me: "Is not Time, relentless Time, shaking, with palsied hand, his almost exhausted hour-glass before thee? Hasten, then, to pursue thy weary task, lest the last sands be run ere thou hast finished thy history of the Manhattoes."
Fortunately, I had more powers of endurance in me than I gave myself credit for. I have attained to a kind of landing-place in my work, and, as I now rest myself on the bank, feel that, though a little weary, I am none the worse for having so long tugged at the oar.
And now, as the winter is past, the rains are over and gone, and the flowers are appearing upon the earth, I mean to recreate myself a little, and may, one day or other, extend my travels down even to Yonkers, but will always be happy to welcome you to Sunnyside.
With kindest remembrances to Mrs. Cozzens, believe me, very truly, your obliged friend,
I now place before the reader the two following letters; the first written by Prescott after completing the perusal of the fourth volume of the "Life of Washington," and the second by Motley, about to leave the country, and whom Mr. Irving never met. Motley had recently achieved a brilliant fame by his "Rise of the Dutch Republic;" and, after some modest demur to which his letter alludes, had sent his volumes to Mr. Irving, who responded with a sincere and warm eulogy.