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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 




SEBASTIAN CABOT 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

EDITED BY 

JARED SPARKS 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN 

By WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT 

LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON 

By CATHARINE MARIA SEDGWICK 

SEBASTIAN CABOT 

By CHARLES HAYWARD, JR. 

Vol. 7 




HARPER & BROTHERS 

PUBLISHERS 
NEW YORK AND LONDON 1902 



GIFT 



I 
o 

Vol. VII. V* 7 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

LIFE OF CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN . . 3 



A MEMOIR OF LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON 67 



LIFE OF SEBASTIAN CABOT 141 

CHAPTER I 

Cabot s Birth and Youth. Henry the Seventh 
grants a Patent for the Discovery of a North 
west Passage. Discovery of the American 
Continent. Cabot penetrates Hudson s Bay. 
Failure of Provisions and Objections of his 
Crew. Returns to England. Second Patent. 
Death of John Cabot. Second Voyage to 
America. Attempts to colonize Labrador. 
Fails to discover a Northwest Passage. 
Dissatisfaction of Colonists. His Return to 
England. Injustice of Henry the Seventh. 
Cabot quits his Service 141 

CHAPTER II 

Henry the Eighth. Ferdinand of Spain in 
vites Cabot to his Service. Cabot stationed 



M775800 



- - 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

at Seville. Council of the Indies. Death 
of Ferdinand. Cabot returns to England. 
Expedition of 1517. Sir Thomas Pert the 
Cause of its Failure. Cabot recalled to 
Spain by Charles the Fifth. Appointed 
Pilot-Major of Spain. Expedition to the 
Moluccas. Council of Badajos. Jealousy 
of tfie Portuguese. Diego Garcia. Mar 
tin Mendez. The Brothers Rojas .... 155 

CHAPTER III 

Cabot sails to the Canaries, and thence to the 
Cape de Verds. Disaffection of Mendez 
and the Rojas. Mutiny. Cabot enters the 
River La Plata. Annoyed by the Natives. 
Enters the Parana and the Paraguay. 
Three Spaniards seized, and a violent Contest 
ensues. The Party harassed by Diego Gar 
cia, who overtakes Cabot at Santa Ana, and 
claims the Right of Discovery. Cabot re 
sists. Garcia leaves the Country. Cabot 
sends a Messenger to Spain, and determines 
to conquer Peru. The Emperor s pecuniary 
Embarrassments, when he receives the Report. 
Cabot explores the La Plata. Quarrel 
between the Followers of Cabot and Garcia. 
Capture of Sanctus Spiritus.The Ad 
venturers return to Spain 167 

CHAPTER IV 

Cabot s Reception in Spain. Resumes the Office 
of Pilot-Major. Account of a personal In 
terview icith Cabot. His private Character. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Relinquishes his Office and returns to Eng 
land. Edward the Sixth. Charles the Fifth 
requests him to return to Spain. His Occu 
pations in England. Errors with Regard to 
the Knighting of the Cabots 183 

CHAPTER V 

Magnetic Variation. Cabot s early Observa 
tions. Explains his Theory in Public to the 
King. Bad Condition of English Commerce. 
Cabot consulted. His Remedy. Opposed 
by " The Stilyard." Nature of that Corpor 
ation. Remonstrances laid before the Privy 
Council. The Stilyard broken up. Prepa 
rations for Expeditions to the North. Cabot 
furnishes the Instructions. A. Part of the 
Squadron under Chancellor reaches Russia. 
Chancellor s personal Interview with the Em 
peror. The Adventurers obtain a Charter. 
Change in Cabot s Fortune. King Edward s 
Death. Cabot s Pension suspended for Tivo 
Years. Characteristic Anecdote. Cabot re 
signs his Pension. His Death 193 

v 



LIFE 

OF 

CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN 

BY 

WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT 



SPARKS VOL, VI 1. 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWIN. 



THE class of professed men of letters, if we ex 
clude from the account the conductors of periodi 
cal journals, is certainly not very large even at 
the present day in our country. But before the 
close of the 18th century, it was nearly impossible 
to meet with an individual who looked to author 
ship as his only, or indeed his principal means of 
subsistence. This was somewhat the more re 
markable, considering the extraordinary develope- 
ment of intellectual power exhibited in every 
quarter of the country, and applied to every va 
riety of moral and social culture ; and formed a 
singular contrast with more than one nation in Eu 
rope, where literature still continued to be followed 
as a distinct profession, amidst all the difficulties 
resulting from an arbitrary government, and popu 
lar imbecility and ignorance. 

Abundant reasons, indeed, are suggested for this, 
oy the various occupations afforded to talent of all 
kinds, not only in the exercise of political func 
tions, but in the splendid career opened to enler- 
3 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

prise of every description in our free and thriving 
community. We were , iri. -the; morning of life, as 
it were, when every thing summoned us to action ; 
when the spirit; ?v v as .quickened by hope and youth 
ful confidence ; and we felt that we had our race 
to run, unlike those nations, who, having reached 
the noontide of their glory, or sunk into their de 
cline, were naturally led to dwell on the soothing 
recollections of the past, and to repose them 
selves, after a tumultuous existence, in the quiet 
pleasures of study and contemplation. " It was 
amidst the ruins of the Capitol," says Gibbon, 
" that I first conceived the idea of writin^ the his- 

O 

tory of the Roman Empire." The occupation 
sufted well with the spirit of the place, but would 
scarcely have harmonized with the life of bustling 
energy, and the thousand novelties which were 
perpetually stimulating the appetite for adventure, 
in our new and unexplored hemisphere. In short, 
to express it in one word, the peculiarities of our 
siiuation as naturally disposed us to active life, as 
those of the old countries of Europe to contempla 
tive. 

The subject of the present memoir affords an 
almost solitary example, at this period, of a schol 
ar, in the enlarged application of the term, who 
cultivated letters as a distinct and exclusive pro 
fession, resting his means of support, as well as 
his fame, on his success ; and who as a writer of fie- 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. O 

tion is still further entitled to credit, for having 
quitted the beaten grounds of the old country, 
and sought his subjects in the untried wilderness 
of his own. The particulars of his unostentatious 
life have been collected with sufficient industry by 
his friend, Mr. William Dunlap, to whom our na 
tive literature is under such large obligations 
for the extent and fidelity of his researches. 
We will select a few of the most prominent inci 
dents from the mass of miscellaneous fragments 
and literary lumber, with which his work is some 
what encumbered. It were to be wished, that, in 
the place of some of them, more copious extracts 
had been substituted from his journal and corre 
spondence, which, doubtless, in this as in other 
cases, must afford the most interesting, as well as 
authentic materials for biography. 

CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN was born at Phila 
delphia, January 17, 1771. He was descended from 
a highly respectable family, whose ancestors were 
of that estimable sect, who came over with William 
Penn to seek an asylum, where they might wor 
ship their Creator unmolested in the meek and 
humble spirit of their own faith. From his earli 
est childhood Brown gave evidence of his studi 
ous propensities, being frequently noticed by his 
father on his return from school poring over some 
neavy tome, nothing daunted by the formidable 
* ? ords it contained, or mounted on a table and 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

busily engaged in exploring a map which hung on 
the parlor wall. This infantine predilection for 
geographical studies ripened into a passion in later 
years. Another anecdote recorded of him at the 
age of ten, sets in a still stronger light his appreci 
ation of intellectual pursuits, far above his years. 
A. visitor at his father s having rebuked him, as it 
would seem without cause, for some remark he 
had made, gave him the contemptuous epithet ot 
"boy." " What does he mean," said the young 
philosopher, after the guest s departure, " by call 
ing me boy ? Does he not know that it is neither 
size nor age, but sense, that makes the man ? I 
could ask him a hundred questions, none of which 
he could answer." 

At eleven years of age, he was placed under 
the tuition of Mr. Robert Proud, well known as 
the author of the History of Pennsylvania. Under 
his direction, he went over a large course of En 
glish reading and acquired the elements of Greek 
and Latin, applying himself with great assiduity 
to his studies. His bodily health was naturally 
delicate, and indisposed him to engage in the ro 
bust, athletic exercises of boyhood. His seden 
tary habits, however, began so evidently to impair 
his health, that his master recommended him to 
withdraw from his books, and recruit his strength 
by excursions on foot into the country. These 
pedestrian rambles suited the taste of the pupil, 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 7 

and the length of his absence often excited the 
apprehensions of his friends for his safety. He 
may be thought to have sat to himself for this 
portrait of one of his heroes. " I preferred to 
ramble in the forest and loiter on the hill ; perpet 
ually to change the scene ; to scrutinize the end 
less variety of objects ; to compare one leaf and 
pebble with another ; to pursue those trains of 
thought which their resemblances and differences 
suggested ; to inquire what it was that gave them 
this place, structure, and form, were more agreea 
ble employments than ploughing and threshing. 1 
" My frame was delicate and feeble. Exposure 
to wet blasts and vertical suns was sure to make 
me sick." The fondness for these solitary ram 
bles continued through life, and the familiarity 
which they opened to him with the grand and 
beautiful scenes of nature undoubtedly contribut 
ed to nourish the habit of reverie and abstraction, 
and to deepen the romantic sensibilities, from 
which flowed so much of his misery, as well as 
happiness, in after life. 

He quitted Mr. Proud s school before the age 
of sixteen. He had previously made some small 
poetical attempts, and soon after sketched the 
plans of three several epics, on the discovery of 
America, and the conquests of Peru and Mexi 
co. For some time, they engaged his attention 
to the exclusion of every other object. No v<ac 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tige of them now remains, or at least has been 
given to the public, by which we can ascertain the 
progress made towards their completion. The 
publication of such immature juvenile productions 
may gratify curiosity by affording a point of com 
parison with later excellence. They are rarely, 
however, of value in themselves sufficient to 
authorize their exposure to the world, and notwith 
standing the occasional exception of a Pope or a 
Paschal, may very safely put up with Uncle Toby s 
recommendation on a similar display of precocity 
" to hush it up, and say as little about it as pos 
sible." 

Among the contributions, which at a later peri 
od of life he was in the habit of making to differ 
ent journals, the fate of one was too singular to 
be passed over in silence. It was a poetical ad 
dress to Franklin, prepared for the Edentown news 
paper. " The blundering printer," says Brown 
in his journal, " from zeal or ignorance, or per 
haps from both, substituted the name of Washing 
ton. Washington therefore stands arrayed in awk 
ward colors ; philosophy smiles to behold her dar 
ling son ; she turns with horror and disgust from 
those who have won the laurel victory in the 
field of battle, to this her favorite candidate, who 
had never participated in such bloody glory, and 
whose fame was derived from the conquest of 
philosophy alone. The printer by his blundering 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 

ingenuity made the subject ridiculous. Every 
word of this clumsy panegyric was a direct slan 
der upon Washington, and so it was regarded at 
the time." There could not well be imagined a 
more expeditious or effectual recipe for convert 
ing eulogy into satire. 

Our hero had now reached a period of life, 
when it became necessary to decide on a profes 
sion. After due deliberation, he determined on 
the law ; a choice, which received the cordial 
approbation of his friends, who saw in his habitual 
diligence and the character of his mind, at once 
comprehensive and logical, the most essential 
requisites for success. He entered on the studies 
of his profession with his usual ardor ; and the 
acuteness and copiousness of his arguments, on 
various topics proposed for discussion in a law- 
society, over which he presided, bear ample testi 
mony to his ability and industry. But however 
suited to his talents the profession of the law might 
be, it was not at all to his taste. He became a 
member of a literary club, in which he made fre 
quent essays in composition and eloquence. He 
sept a copious journal, and by familiar exercise 
endeavored to acquire a pleasing and graceful 
?tyle of writing ; and every hour that he could 
?teal from professional schooling was devoted to 
<he cultivation of more attractive literature. In 
3ne of h s contributions to a journal, just befcre 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

this period, he speaks of " the rapture with which 
he held communion with his own thoughts, amidst 
the gloom of surrounding woods, where his fancy 
peopled every object with ideal beings, and the 
barrier between himself and the world of spirits 
seemed burst by the force of meditation. In this 
solitude, he felt himself surrounded by a delightful 
society ; but when transported from thence, and 
compelled to listen to the frivolous chat of his 
fellow-beings, he suffered all the miseries of soli 
tude." He declares that his intercourse and con 
versation with mankind had wrought a salutary 
change ; that he can now mingle in the concerns 
of life, perform his appropriate duties, and reserve 
that higher species of discourse for the solitude 
and silence of his study. In this supposed con 
trol over his romantic fancies, he grossly deceived 
himself. 

As the time approached for entering on the 
practice of his profession, he felt his repugnance 
to it increase more and more ; and he sought to 
justify a retreat from it altogether, by such poor 
sophistry as his imagination could suggest. He 
objected to the profession as having something in 
it immoral. He could not reconcile it with his 
notions of duty to come forward as the champion 
indiscriminately of right and wrong 1 ; and he con 
sidered the stipendiary advocate of the guilty party 
as becoming, by that rery act, participator in the 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 

guilt. He did not allow himself to reflect, that 
no more equitable arrangement could be devised, 
none which would give the humblest individual 
so fair a chance for maintaining his rights, as the 
employment of competent and upright counsel, 
familiar with the forms of legal practice, neces 
sarily so embarrassing to a stranger ; that so far 
from being compelled to undertake a cause mani 
festly unjust, it is always in the power of an honest 
lawyer to decline it ; but that such contingencies 
are of most rare occurrence, as few cases are liti 
gated, where each party had not previously plau 
sible grounds for believing himself in the right, 
a question only to be settled by fair discussion on 
both sides ; that opportunities are not wanting, on 
the other hand, which invite the highest display of 
eloquence and professional science, in detecting 
and defeating villany, in vindicating slandered inno 
cence, and in expounding the great principles of 
law, on which the foundations of personal security 
and property are established ; and finally, that the 
most illustrious names in his own and every other 
civilized country have been drawn from the ranks 
of a profession, whose habitual discipline so well 
trains them for legislative action, and the exercise 
of the highest political functions. 

Brown cannot be supposed to have been insen 
sible to these obvious views, and indeed, from one 
of his letters in later life, he appears to have clearly 



12 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



recognised the value of the profession he had de 
serted. But his object was, at this time, to justify 
himself in his fickleness of purpose, as he best 
might, in his own eyes and those of his friends. 
Brown was certainly not the first man of genius, who 
found himself incapable of resigning the romantic 
world of fiction, and the uncontrolled revels of the 
imagination for the dull and prosaic realities of the 
law. Few, indeed, like Mansfield, have been able 
so far to constrain their young and buoyant ima 
ginations, as to merit the beautiful eulogium of the 
English poet; while many more comparatively, 
from the time of Juvenal downwards, fortunately 
for the world, have been willing to sacrifice the 
affections plighted to Themis on the altars of the 
Muse. 

Brown s resolution at this crisis caused sincere 
regret to his friends, which they could not conceal, 
on seeing him thus suddenly turn from the path of 
honorable fame, at the very moment when he was 
prepared to enter on it. His prospects, but lately 
so brilliant, seemed now overcast with a deep 
gloom. The embarrassments of his situation had 
also a most unfavorable effect on his own mind. 
Instead of the careful discipline, to which it had been 
lately subjected, it was now left to rove at large 
wherever caprice should dictate, and waste jtself on 
those romantic reveries and speculations, to which 
he was naturally too much addicted. This was the 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 13 

period when the French Revolution was in its heat, 
and the awful convulsion experienced in one un 
happy country seemed to be felt in every quarter 
of the globe ; men grew familiar with the wildest 
paradoxes, and the spirit of innovation menaced 
the oldest and best established principles in morals 
and government. Brown s inquisitive and specu 
lative mind partook of the prevailing skepticism. 
Some of his compositions, and especially one on 
the Rights of Women, published in 1797, show 
to what extravagance a benevolent mind may be 
led, by fastening too exclusively on the contem 
plation of the evils of existing institutions, and 
indulging in indefinite dreams of perfectibility. 

There is no period of existence when the spirit 
of a man is more apt to be depressed, than when 
he is about to quit the safe and quiet harbor, in 
which he has rode in safety from childhood, and 
launch on the dark and unknown ocean, where so 
many a gallant bark has gone down before him. 
How much must this disquietude be increased, in 
the case of one, who, like Brown, has thrown away 
the very chart and compass, by which he was 
prepared to guide himself through the doubtful 
perils of the voyage. How heavily the gloom of 
despondency fell on his spirits at this time is 
attested by various extracts from his private corre 
spondence. " As for me," he says, in one of his 
etters, " I long ago discovered that Nature had 



14 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

not qualified me for an actor on this stage The 
nature of my education only added to these dis 
qualifications, and I experienced all those devia 
tions from the centre, which arise when all our 
lessons are taken from books, and the scholar 
makes his own character the comment. A happy 
destiny, indeed, brought me to the knowledge of 
two or three minds, which Nature had fashioned 
in the same mould with my own, but these are 
gone. And, O God ! enable me to wait the 
moment, when it is thy will that I should follow 
them." In another epistle he remarks, " I have 
not been deficient in the pursuit of that necessary 
branch of knowledge, the study of myself. I will 
not explain the result, for have I not already 
sufficiently endeavored to make my friends un 
happy by communications, which, though they 
might easily be injurious, could not be of any pos 
sible advantage ? I really, dear W., regret that 
period, when your pity was first excited in my 
favor. I sincerely lament, that I ever gave you 
reason to imagine, that I was not so happy, as a 
gay indifference with regard to the present, stub 
born forgetfulness with respect to the uneasy past, 
and excursions into lightsome futurity could make 
me ; for what end, what useful purposes were pro 
moted by the discovery ? It could not take away 
from the number of the unhappy, but only add to 
t, by making those who loved me participate in 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 15 

my uneasiness, which each participation, so far 
from tending to diminish, would, in reality, in 
crease, by adding those regrets, of which I had 
been the author in them, to my own original 
stock." It is painful to witness the struggles of 
a generous spirit, endeavoring to suppress the 
anguish thus involuntarily escaping in the warmth 
of affectionate intercourse. This becomes still 
more striking, in the contrast exhibited between 
the assumed cheerfulness of much of his corre 
spondence at this period, and the uniform melan 
choly tone of his private journal, the genuine 
record of his emotions. 

Fortunately his taste, refined by intellectual 
culture, and the elevation and spotless purity of 
his moral principles, raised him above the tempta 
tions of sensual indulgence, in which minds of 
weaker mould might have sought a temporary 
relief, His soul was steeled against the grosser 
seductions of appetite. The only avenue, through 
which his principles could in any way be assailed, 
was the understanding ; and it would appear, from 
some dark hints in his correspondence at this pe 
riod, that the rash idea of relieving himself from 
the weight of earthly sorrows, by some voluntary 
deed of violence, had more than once flitted across 
his mind. It is pleasing to observe with what 
beautiful modesty and simplicity of character he 
refers his abstinence from coarser indulgences to 



16 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

his constitutional infirmities, and consequent dis 
inclination to them, which, in truth, could be only 
imputed to the excellence of his heart and his 
understanding. In one of his letters he remarks, 
" that the benevolence of nature rendered him, 
in a manner, an exile from many of the tempta 
tions that infest the minds of ardent youth. What 
ever his wishes might have been, his benevolent 
destiny had prevented him from running into the 
frivolities of youth," He ascribes to this cause his 
love of letters, and his predominant anxiety to ex 
cel in whatever was a glorious subject of competi 
tion. " Had he been furnished with the nerves 
and muscles of his comrades, it was very far from 
impossible that he might have relinquished intellec 
tual pleasures. Nature had benevolently rendered 
him incapable of encountering such severe trials." 
Brown s principal resources for dissipating the 
melancholy, which hung over him, were his inex 
tinguishable love of letters, and the society of a 
few friends, to whom congeniality of taste and 
temper had united him from early years. In 
addition to these resources, we may mention his 
fondness for pedestrian rambles, which sometimes 
were of several weeks duration. In the course of 
these excursions, the circle of his acquaintance and 
friends was gradually enlarged. In the city of 
New York, in particular, he contracted an intimacy 
with several individuals of similar age and kindred 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 



17 



mould with himself. Among these, his earliest 
associate was Dr. E. H. Smith, a young gentleman 
of great promise in the medical profession. Brown 
had become known to him during the residence of 
the latter as a student in Philadelphia. By him 
our hero was introduced to Mr. Dunlap, who has 
survived to commemorate the virtues of his friend 
in a biography already noticed, and to Mr. John 
son, the accomplished author of the New York 
Law Reports. The society of these friends had 
sufficient attractions to induce him to repeat his 
visit to New York, until at length, in the beginning 
of 1798, he may be said to have established his 
permanent residence there, passing much of his 
time under the same roof with them. His amiable 
manners and accomplishments soon recommended 
him to the notice of other eminent individuals. 
He became a member of a literary society, called 
the Friendly Club, comprehending names whicb 
have since shed a distinguished lustre over the 
various walks of literature and science. 

The spirits of Brown seemed to be exalted in 
this new atmosphere. His sensibilities found a 
grateful exercise in the sympathies of friendship; 
and the powers of his mind were called into action 
by collision with others of similar tone with his 
own. His memory was enriched with the stores 
of various reading, hitherto conducted at random, 
with no higher object than temporary amusement 



vii. 2 



18 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

or the gratification of an indefinite curiosity. He 
now concentrated his attention on some determin 
ate object, and proposed to give full scope to his 
various talents and acquisitions in the career of 
an author, as yet so little travelled in our own 
country. 

His first publication was that before noticed, 
entitled " Alcuin, a Dialogue on the Rights of 
Women." It exhibits the crude and fanciful spec 
ulations of a theorist, who, in his dreams of optim 
ism, charges exclusively on human institutions the 
imperfections necessarily incident to human nature. 
The work, with all its ingenuity, made little im 
pression on the public ; it found few purchasers, 
and made, it may be presumed, still fewer con 
verts. 

He soon after began a romance, which he never 
completed, from which his biographer has given 
copious extracts. It is conducted in the epistolary 
form, and, although exhibiting little of his suose- 
quent power and passion, is recommended by a 
graceful and easy manner of narration, more at 
tractive than the more elaborate and artificial style 
of his later novels. 

This abortive attempt was succeeded, in 1798, 
by the publication of Wieland, the first of that 
remarkable series of fictions, which flowed in such 
rapid succession from his pen, in this and the three 
following years. In f his romance, the author, 



CHARGES BROCKDEN BROWN. 19 

deviating from the usual track of domestic or his 
toric incident, proposed to delineate the powerful 
workings of passion, displayed by a mind constitu 
tionally excitable, under the control of some ter 
rible and mysterious agency. The scene is laid 
in Pennsylvania. The action takes place in a 
family by the name of Wieland, the principal 
member of which had inherited a melancholy and 
somewhat superstitious constitution of mind, which 
his habitual reading and contemplation deepened 
into a calm but steady fanaticism. This temper 
is nourished still further by the occurrence of cer 
tain inexplicable circumstances of ominous import. 
Strange voices are heard by different members of 
the family, sometimes warning them of danger, 
sometimes announcing events seeming beyond the 
reach of human knowledge. The still and solemn 
hours of night are disturbed by these unearthly 
summons. The other actors of the drama are 
thrown into strange perplexity, and an underplot 
of events is curiously entangled by the occurrence 
of unaccountable sights as well as sounds. By 
the heated fancy of Wieland they are referred to 
supernatural agency. A fearful destiny seems to 
preside over the scene, and to carry the actors 
onward to some awful catastrophe. At length, 
the hour arrives. A solemn, mysterious voice an 
nounces to Wieland, that he is now called on to 
testify his submission to the Divine will, by the 



20 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

sacrifice of his earthly affections, to surrender up 
the affectionate partner of his bosom, on whom he 
had reposed all his hopes of happiness in this life. 
He obeys the mandate of Heaven. The stormy 
conflict of passion, into which his mind is thrown, 
as the fearful sacrifice he is about to make calls up 
al. the tender remembrances of conjugal fidelity 
and love, is painted with frightful strength of color 
ing. Although it presents, on the whole, as perti 
nent an example as we could offer from any of 
Brown s writings, of the peculiar power and vivid 
ness of his conceptions, the whole scene is too 
long for insertion here. We will mutilate it, how 
ever, by a brief extract, as an illustration of our 
author s manner, more satisfactory than any criti 
cism can be. Wieland, after receiving the fatal 
mandate, is represented in an apartment alone 
with his wife. His courage, or rather his despera 
tion fails him, and he sends her, on some pretext, 
from the chamber. An interval, during which his 
insane passions have time to rally, ensues. 

" She returned with a light ; I led the way to 
the chamber ; she looked round her ; she lifted 
the curtain of the bed ; she saw nothing. At 
length she fixed inquiring eyes upon me. The 
light now enabled her to discover in my vis 
age what darkness had hitherto concealed. Her 
cares were now transferred from my sister to my 
self, and she saH in a tremuluous voice, Wieland 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 21 

you are not well ; what ails you ? Can I do noth 
ing for you ? That accents and looks so win 
ning should disarm me of my resolution, was to be 
expected. My thoughts were thrown anew into 
anarchy. T spread my hand before my eyes, that 
I might not see her, and answered only by groans. 
She took my other hand between hers, and, press 
ing it to her heart, spoke with that voice which 
had ever swayed my will and wafted away sorrow 
My friend ! my soul s friend ! tell me thy cause 
of grief. Do I not merit to partake with thee in 
thy cares ? Am I not thy wife ? 

" This was too much. I broke from her em 
brace, and retired to a corner of the room. In 
this pause, courage was once more infused into me 
I resolved to execute my duty. She followed rne ; 
and renewed her passionate entreaties to know the 
cause of my distress. 

" I raised my head and regarded her with stead 
fast looks. I muttered something about death, 
and the injunctions of my duty. At these words 
she shrunk back, and looked at ine with a new 
expression of anguish After a pause, she clasped 
her hands, and exclaimed, 

" < O Wieland ! Wieland ! God grant that I am 
mistaken ; but surely something is wrong. I see 
it ; it is too plain ; thou art undone, lost to me 
and to thyself. At the same time, she gazed on 
my features with intensest anxiety, in hope that 



22 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



different symptoms would take place. I replied 
with vehemence, Undone ! No ; my duty is 
known, and I thank my God that my cowardice 
is now vanquished, and I have power to fulfil it. 
Catharine ! I pity the weakness of nature ; I pity 
thee, but must not spare. Thy life is claimed 
from my hands, thou must die ! 

"Fear was now added to her grief. What 
mean you ? Why talk you of death ? Bethink 
yourself, Wieland ; bethink yourself, and this fit 
will pass. O why came I hither ! Why did you 
drag me hither ? 

" I brought thee hither to fulfil a divine com 
mand. I am appointed thy destroyer, and de 
stroy thee I must. Saying this I seized her 
wrists. She shrieked aloud, and endeavored to 
free herself from my grasp ; but her efforts were 
vain. 

" Surely, surely, Wieland, thou dost not mean 
it. Am I not thy wife ? and wouldst thou kill me ? 
Thou wilt not ; and yet I see thou art Wie 
land no longer 1 A fury resistless and horrible pos 
sesses thee spare me spare help help 

" Till her breath was stopped she shrieked for 
help, for mercy. When she could speak no 
longer, her gestures, her looks appealed to my 
compassion. My accursed hand was irresolute 
and tremulous. I meant thy death to be sudden, 
thy struggles to be brief. Alas ! my heart was 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 23 

infirm ; my resolves mutable. Thrice I slackened 
my grasp, and life kept its hold, though in the 
midst of pangs. Her eyeballs started from their 
sockets. Grimness and distortion took place of 
all that used to bewitch me into transport, and 
subdue me into reverence. 

" I was commissioned to kill thee, but not to 
torment thee with the foresight of thy death ; not 
to multiply thy fears, and prolong thy agonies. 
Haggard, and pale, and lifeless, at length thou 
ceasedst to contend with thy destiny. 

" This was a moment of triumph. Thus had 
I successfully subdued the stubbornness of human 
passions ; the victim which had been demanded 
was given ; the deed was done past recall. 

" I lifted the corpse in my arms and laid it on 
the bed. I gazed upon it with delight. Such 
was the elation of my thoughts, that I even broke 
into laughter. I clapped my hands and exclaimed, 
* It is done ! My sacred duty is fulfilled. To 
that I have sacrificed, O my God ! thy last and 
best gift, my wife 1 

" For a while I thus soared above frailty. I 
imagined I had set myself for ever beyond the 
reach of selfishness ; but my imaginations were 
false. This rapture quickly subsided. I looked 
again at my wife. My joyous ebullitions vanished, 
and I asked myself who it was \vhom I saw. Me- 
thought it could not be Catharine. It could not 



24 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

be the woman who had lodged for years ir my 
heart ; who had slept nightly in my bosom ; who 
had borne in her womb, who had fostered at her 
breast, the beings who called me father ; whom I 
had watched with delight, and cherished with a 
fondness ever new and perpetually growing ; it 
could not be the same. 

" Where was her bloom ? These deadly and 
blood-suffused orbs but ill resemble the azure and 
ecstatic tenderness of her eyes. The lucid stream 
that meandered over that bosom, the glow of love 
that was wont to sit upon that cheek, are much 
unlike these livid stains and this hideous deformi 
ty. Alas ! these were the traces of agony ; the 
gripe of the assassin had been here ! 

" I will not dwell upon my lapse into desperate 
and outrageous sorrow. The breath of heaven 
that sustained me was withdrawn, and I sunk into 
mere man. I leaped from the floor ; I dashed my 
head against the wall ; I uttered screams of hor 
ror ; I panted after torment and pain. Eternal 
fire, and the bickerings of hell, compared with 
what I felt, v/ere music and a bed of roses. 

" I thank my God that this degeneracy was 
transient, that he deigned once more to raise me 
aloft. I thought upon what I had done as a sacri 
fice to duty, and was calm. My wife was dead ; 
but I reflected, that, though this source of human 
consolation was closed, yet others were still open. 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 25) 

If the transports of a husband were no more, the 
feelings of a father had still scope for exercise. 
When remembrance of their mother should excite 
too keen a pang, I would look upon them and be 
comforted. 

" While I revolved these ideas, new warmth 
flowed in upon my heart. I was wrong. These 
feelings were the growth of selfishness. Of this 
I was not aware, and to dispel the mist that ob 
scured my perceptions, a new effulgence and a 
new mandate were necessary. 

" From these thoughts I was recalled by a ray 
that was shot into the room. A voice spake like 
that which I had before heard, Thou hast 
done well ; but all is not done, the sacrifice is 
incomplete, thy children must be offered, 
they must perish with their mother. 

This too is accomplished by the same remorse 
less arm, although the author has judiciously re 
frained from attempting to prolong the note of 
feeling, struck with so powerful a hand, by the 
recital of the particulars. The wretched fanatic 
is brought to public trial for the murder, but is 
acquitted on the ground of insanity. The illu 
sion which has bewildered him, at length breaks 
on his understanding in its whole truth. He can 
not sustain the shock, and the tragic tale closes 
with the suicide of the victim of superstition and 
imposture. The key to the whole of this myste- 



26 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

nous agency which controls the circumstances of 
the story is ventriloquism ! ventriloquism exert 
ed for the very purpose by a human fiend, from no 
motives of revenge or hatred, but pure diabolical 
malice, or as he would make us believe, and the 
author seems willing to endorse this absurd ver 
sion of it, as a mere practical joke ! The reader, 
who has been gorged with this feast of horrors, is 
tempted to throw away the book in disgust, at 
finding himself the dupe of such paltry jugglery, 
which, whatever sense be given to the term ven- 
iriloquism, is altogether incompetent to the vari 
ous phenomena of sight and sound with which the 
story is so plentifully seasoned. We can feel the 
force of Dryden s imprecation, when he cursed 
the inventors of those fifth acts, which are bound 
to unravel all the fine mesh of impossibilities, 
which the author s wits had been so busily entan 
gling in the four preceding. 

The explication of the mysteries of Wieland 
naturally suggests the question, how far an au 
thor is bound to explain the supernaturalities, if 
we may so call them, of his fictions ; and whether 
it is not better on the whole, to trust to the willing 
superstition and credulity of the reader (of which 
there is perhaps store enough in almost every 
bosom, at the present enlightened day even, for 
poetical purposes), than to attempt a solution on 
purely natural or mechanical principles. It was 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 21 

thought no harm for the ancients to bring the use 
of machinery into their epics, and a similar freedom 
was conceded to the old English dramatists, whose 
ghosts and witches were placed in the much more 
perilous predicament of being subjected to the 
scrutiny of the spectator, whose senses are not 
near so likely to be duped, as the sensitive and 
excited imagination of the reader in his solitary 
chamber. It must be admitted, however, that the 
public of those days, when the 

" undoubting mind 
" Believed the magic wonders that were sung," 

were admirably seasoned for the action of super 
stition in all forms, and furnished, therefore, a most 
enviable audience for the melo-dramatic artist, 
whether dramatist or romance-writer. But all 
this is changed. No witches ride the air now-a 
days, and fairies no longer " dance their rounds by 
the pale moonlight," as the worthy Bishop Cor 
bet, indeed, lamented a century and a half ago. 

But still it may be allowed, perhaps, if the 
scene is laid in some remote age or country, to 
borrow the ancient superstitions of the place, and 
incorporate them into, or at least color the story 
with them, without shocking the well-bred preju 
dices of the modern reader. Sir Walter Scott has 
done this with good effect in more than one of his 
romances, as every one will readily call to mind. 
A. fine example occurs in the Boden Glass ap- 



28 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

parition in Waverley, which the great novelist, far 
from attempting to explain on any philosophical 
principles, or even by an intimation of its being 
the mere creation of a feverish imagination, has 
left as he found it, trusting that the reader s poetic 
feeling will readily accommodate itself to the pop 
ular superstitions of the country he is depicting- 
This reserve on his part, indeed, arising from a 
truly poetic view of the subject, and an honest 
reliance on a similar spirit in his reader, has laid 
him open, with some matter-of-fact people, to the 
imputation of not being wholly untouched himself 
by the national superstitions. How much, nev 
ertheless, would the whole scene have lost in its 
permanent effect, if the author had attempted an 
explanation of the apparition, on the ground of an 
optical illusion not infrequent among the mountain- 
mists of the Highlands, or any other of the inge 
nious solutions so readily at the command of the 
thorough-bred story-teller. 

It must be acknowledged, however, that this 
way of solving the riddles of romance would hard 
ly be admissible in a story drawn from familiar 
scenes and situations in modern life, and especially 
in our own country. The lights of education are 
flung too bright and broad over the land, to al 
low any lurking-hole for the shadows of a twilight 
age. So much the worse for the poet and the 
novelist. Their province must now be confined 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 29 

to poor human nature, without meddling with the 
" Gorgons and Chimeras dire," which floated 
through the bewildered brains of our forefathers, 
at least on the other side of the water. At any 
rate, if a writer, in this broad sunshine, ventures 
on any sort of diablerie, he is forced to explain 
it by ill the thousand contrivances of trapdoors, 
secret passages, w r axen images, and all the other 
makeshifts from the property-room of Mrs. Rad- 
cliffe and Company. 

Brown, indeed, has resorted to a somewhat 
higher mode of elucidating his mysteries by a re 
markable phenomenon of our nature. But the 
misfortune of all these attempts to account for the 
marvels of the story by natural or mechanical 
causes, is, that they are very seldom satisfactory, 
or competent to their object. This is eminently 
the case with the ventriloquism in Wieland. Even 
where they are competent, it may be doubted 
whether the reader, who has suffered his credulous 
fancy to be entranced by the spell of the magi 
cian, will be gratified to learn, at the end, by what 
cheap mechanical contrivance he has been duped. 
However this may be, it is certain that a very 
unfavorable effect, in another respect, is produced 
on his mind, after he is made acquainted with the 
nature of the secret spring by which the machin 
ery is played, more especially when one leading 
circumstance, like ventriloquism in Wieland, is 



30 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

made the master-key, as it were, by which all the 
mysteries are to be unlocked and opened at once. 
With this explanation at hand, it is extremely 
difficult to rise to that sensation of mysterious awe 
and apprehension, on which so much of the sub 
limity and general effect of the narrative neces 
sarily depends. Instead of such feelings, the only 
ones which can enable us to do full justice to the 
author s conceptions, we sometimes, on the con 
trary, may detect a smile lurking in the corner of 
the mouth, as we peruse scenes of positive power, 
from the contrast obviously suggested of the im 
potence of the apparatus and the portentous char 
acter of the results. The critic, therefore, pos 
sessed of the real key to the mysteries of the story, 
if he would do justice to his author s merits., must 
divest himself, as it were, of his previous knowl 
edge, by fastening his attention on the results, to 
the exclusion of the insignificant means by which 
they are achieved. He will not always find this 
an easy matter. 

But to return from this rambling digression ; 
in the following year, 1799, Brown published his 
second novel, entitled Ormond. The story pre 
sents few of the deeply agitating scenes, and pow 
erful bursts of passion, which distinguish the first 
It is designed to exhibit a model of surpassing 
excellence, in a female rising superior to all the 
shocks of adversity, and the more perilous bland- 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 31 

ishments of seduction, and who, as the scene grows 
darker and darker around her, seems to illumine 
the whole with the radiance of her celestial virtues 
The reader is reminded of the " patient Griselda," 
so delicately portrayed by the pencils of Boccac 
cio and Chaucer. It must be admitted, however, 
that the contemplation of such a character in the 
abstract is more imposing, than the minute details 
by which we attain the knowledge of it ; and 
although there is nothing, we are told, which the 
gods look down upon with more satisfaction, than 
a brave mind struggling with the storms of adver 
sity, yet, when these come in the guise of poverty 
and all the train of teasing annoyances in domestic 
life, the tale, if long protracted, too often produces 
a sensation of weariness scarcely to be compensa 
ted by the moral grandeur of the spectacle. 

The appearance of these two novels constitutes 
an epoch in the ornamental literature of America. 
They are the first decidedly successful attempts in 
the walk of romantic fiction. They are still further 
remarkable, as illustrating the character and state 
of society on this side of the Atlantic, instead of 
resorting to the exhausted springs of European 
invention. These circumstances, as well as the 
uncommon powers they displayed both of concep 
tion and execution, recommended them to the 
notice of the literary world, although their philoso 
phical method of dissecting passion and analyzing 



32 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

motives of action, placed them somewhat beyond 
the reach of vulgar popularity. Brown was sen 
sible of the favorable impression which he had 
made, and mentions it in one of his epistles to his 
brother, with his usual unaffected modesty ; 
" I add somewhat, though not so much as I might 
if I were so inclined, to the number of my friends. 
I find to be the writer of Wieland and Ormond is 
a greater recommendation than I ever imagined it 
would be." 

In the course of the same year, the quiet tenor 
of his life was interrupted by the visitation of that 
fearful pestilence, the yellow fever, which had for 
several successive years made its appearance in 
the city of New York, but which, in 1798, fell 
upon ft with a violence similar to that with which 
it had desolated Philadelphia in 1793. Brown 
had taken the precaution of withdrawing from the 
latter city, where he then resided, on its first ap 
pearance there. He prolonged his stay in New 
York, however, relying on the healthiness of the 
quarter of the town where he lived, and the habit 
ual abstemiousness of his diet. His friend Smith 
was necessarily detained there by the duties of n 
profession, and Brown, in answer to the reiterated 
importunities of his absent relatives to withdraw 
from the infected city, refused to do so, on the 
ground that his personal services might be required 
by the friends who remained in it ; a disinterest- 



r 




CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 33 

edness well meriting the strength of attachment 
which he excited in the bosom of his companions. 

Unhappily, Brown was right in his prognostics, 
and his services were too soon required in behalf 
of his friend, Dr. Smith, who fell a victim to his 
own benevolence ; having caught the fatal malady 
from an Italian gentleman, a stranger in the city, 
whom he received, when infected with the disease, 
into his house, relinquishing to him his own apart 
ment. Brown had the melancholy satisfaction of 
performing the last sad offices of affection to hif 
dying friend. He himself soon became affected 
with the same disorder ; and it was not till after a 
severe illness that he so far recovered, as to be 
able to transfer his residence to Perth Amboy, the 
abode of Mr. Dunlap, where a pure and invigorat 
ing atmosphere, aided by the kind attentions of 
his host, gradually restored him to a sufficient de 
gree of health and spirits for the prosecution of his 
literary labors. 

The spectacle he had witnessed made too deep 
an impression on him to be readily effaced, and he 
resolved to transfer his own conceptions of it, while 
yet fresh, to the page of fiction, or as it might 
rather be called, of history, for the purpose, as he 
intimates in his preface, of imparting to others 
some of the fruits of the melancholy lesson he had 
himself experienced. Such was the origin of his 
next novel, Arthur Mervyn, or Memoirs qf the 

VII. 3 



34 AMERICAN BIOGRA.PHY. 

Year 1793. This was the fatal year of the 
yellow fever in Philadelphia. The action of the 
story is chiefly confined to that city, but seems to 

oe prepared with little contrivance, on no regular 
or systematic plan, consisting simply of a succes 
sion of incidents, having little cohesion except in 
reference to the hero, but affording situations of 
great interest, and frightful fidelity of coloring. 
The pestilence wasting a thriving and populous 
city has furnished a topic for more than one great 
master. It will be remembered, as the terror of 
every schoolboy, in the pages of Thucydides ; it 
forms the gloomy portal to the light and airy fic 
tions of Boccaccio ; and it has furnished a subject 
for the graphic pencil of the English novelist, 
De Foe, the only one of the three, who never wit 
nessed the horrors which he paints, but whose 
fictions wear an aspect of reality, which history 
can rarely reach. 

Brown has succeeded in giving the same terrible 
distinctness to his impressions by means of indivi 
dual portraiture. He has, however, not confined 
himself to this, but by a variety of touches lays 
open to our view the whole interior of the city of 
the plague. Instead of expatiating on the loath 
some symptoms and physical ravages of the dis 
ease, he selects the most striking moral circum 
stances which attend it ; he dwells on the wither 
tng sensation that falls so heavily on the heart, in 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 35 

the streets of the once busy and crowded city, 
now deserted and silent, save only where the 
wheels of the melancholy hearse are heard to 
rumble along the pavement. Our author not un- 
frequently succeeds in conveying more to the 
heart by the skilful selection of a single circum 
stance, than would have flowed from a multitude 
of petty details. It is the art of the great mas 
ters of poetry and painting. 

The same year in which Brown produced the 
first part of " Arthur Mervyn," he entered on the 
publication of a periodical entitled The Monthly 
Magazine and American Review, a work, that, 
during its brief existence, which terminated in the 
following year, afforded abundant evidence of its 
editor s versatility of talent and the ample range of 
his literary acquisitions. Our hero was now fairly 
in the traces of authorship. He looked to it as his 
permanent vocation, and the indefatigable diligence 
with which he devoted himself to it may at least 
serve to show that he did not shrink from his pro 
fessional engagements from any lack of industry 
or enterprise. 

The publication of " Arthur Mervyn " was suc 
ceeded not long after by that of Edgar Huntly, 
or the Adventures of a Sleepwalker ; a romance 
presenting a greater variety of wild and pictu 
resque adventure, with more copious delineations 
of natural scenery, than is to be found in his other 



3G AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

fictions ; circumstances no doubt possessing more 
attractions for the mass of readers than the pecu 
liarities of his other novels. Indeed, the author 
has succeeded perfectly in constantly stimulating 
tlie curiosity by a succession of as original inci 
dents, perils and hair-breadth escapes, as ever 
flitted across a poet s fancy. It is no small triumph 
of the art, to be able to maintain the curiosity of 
the reader unflagging through a succession of inci 
dents, which, far from being sustained by one pre 
dominant passion, and forming parts of one whole, 
rely each for its interest on its own independent 
merits. 

The story is laid in the western part of Penn 
sylvania, w r here the author has diversified his de 
scriptions of a simple and almost primitive state 
of society with uncommonly animated sketches of 
rural scenery. It is worth observing, how the 
sombre complexion of Brown s imagination, which 
so deeply tinges his moral portraiture, sheds its 
gloom over his pictures of material nature ; raising 
the landscape into all the severe and savage suo- 
limity of a Salvator Rosa. The somnambulism of 
this novel, which, like the ventriloquism of " Wie- 
land," is the moving principle of all the machinery, 
has this advantage over the latter, that it does not 
necessarily impair the effect, by perpetually sug- 
gesth.g a solution of mysteries, and thus dispelling 
the illusion, on whose existence the effect of the 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 37 

whole story mainly depends. The adventures, 
indeed, built upon it are not the most probable 
in the world. But waving this, we shall be well 
rewarded for such concession, there is no fur 
ther difficulty. 

The extract already cited by us from the first 
of our author s novels has furnished the reader with 
an illustration of his power in displaying the con 
flict of passion under high moral excitement. We 
will now venture another quotation from the work 
before us, in order to exhibit more fully his talent 
for the description of external objects. 

Edgar Huntly, the hero of the story, is repre 
sented in one of the wild mountain fastnesses of 
Norwalk, a district in the western part of Pennsyl 
vania. He is on the brink of a ravine, from which 
the only avenue lies over the body of a tree thrown 
across the chasm, through whose dark depths 
below a rushing torrent is heard to pour its waters. 

" While occupied with these reflections, my 
eyes were fixed upon the opposite steeps. The 
tops of the trees, waving to and fro, in the wildest 
commotion, and their trunks, occasionally bending 
to the blast, which in these lofty regions blew with 
a violence unknown in the tracts below, exhibited 
an awful spectacle. At length my attention wa* 
attracted by the trunk which lay across the gulf, 
and which I had converted into a bridge. I per 
ceived that it had already swerved somewhat from 



38 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

its original position, that every blast broke or 
loosened some of the fibres by which its roots 
were connected with the opposite bank, and that, 
if the storm did not speedily abate, there was im 
minent danger of its being torn from the rock and 
precipitated into the chasm. Thus my retreat 
would be cut off, and the evils, from which I was 
endeavoring to rescue another, would be experi 
enced by myself. 

" I believed my destiny to hang upon the expe 
ditiori with which I should recross this gulf. The 
moments that were spent in these deliberations 
were critical, and I shuddered to observe that the 
trunk was held in its place by one or two fibres 
which were already stretched almost to breaking. 

" To pass along the trunk, rendered slippery by 
the wet, and unsteadfast by the wind, was eminent 
ly dangerous. To maintain my hold in passing, 
in defiance of the whirlwind, required the most 
vigorous exertions. For this end it was necessary 
to discommode myself of my cloak, and of the 
volume which I carried in the pocket of my cloak. 

" Just as I had disposed of these encumbrances, 
and had arisen from my seat, my attention was 
again called to the opposite steep, by the most un 
welcome object that at this time could possibly 
occur. Something was perceived moving among 
the bushes and rocks, which for a time I hoped 
was no more than a racoon or opossum ; but which 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 30 

presently appeared to be a panther. His gray 
coat, extended claws, fiery eyes, and a cry which, 
he at that moment uttered, and which, by its re 
semblance to the human voice is peculiarly terrif- 
fic. denoted him to be the most ferocious and un 
tamable of that detested race. The industry of 
our hunters has nearly banished animals of prey 
from these precincts. The fastnesses of Norwalk, 
however, could not but afford refuge to some of 
them. Of hte I had met them so rarely that my 
fears were seldom alive, and I trod without caution 
the ruggedest and most solitary haunts. Still, how 
ever, I had seldom been unfurnished in my ram 
bles with the means of defence. 

" The unfrequency with which I had lately en 
countered this foe, and the encumbrance of pro 
vision, made me neglect on this occasion to bring 
with me my usual arms. The beast that was now 
before me, when stimulated by hunger, was accus 
tomed to assail whatever could provide him with 
a banquet of blood. He would set upon the man 
and the deer with equal and irresistible ferocity. 
His sagacity was equal to his strength, and he 
seemed able to discover when his antagonist was 
armed and prepared for defence. 

"My past experience enabled me to estimate 
the full extent of my danger. He sat on the brow 
of the steep, eyeing the bridge, and apparently 
deliberating whether he should cross it. It was 



40 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

probable that he had scented my footsteps thus 
far, and, should he pass over, his vigilance could 
scarcely fail of detecting my asylum. 

" Should he retain his present station, my dan 
ger was scarcely lessened. To pass over in the 
face of a famished tiger was only to rush upon my 
fate. The falling of the trunk, which had lately 
been so anxiously deprecated, was now with no 
less solicitude desired. Every new gust, 1 hoped, 
would tear asunder its remaining bands, and by 
cutting off all communication between the oppo 
site steeps place me in security. My hopes, how 
ever, were destined to be frustrated. The fibres 
of the prostrate tree were obstinately tenacious of 
their hold, and presently the animal scrambled 
down the rock and proceeded to cross it. 

" Of all kinds of death that which now menaced 
me was the most abhorred. To die by disease, 
or by the hand of a fellow creature, was propitious 
and lenient in comparison with being rent to pie 
ces by the fangs of this savage. To perish in 
this obscure retreat, by means so impervious to 
the anxious curiosity of my friends, to loose my 
portion of existence by so untoward and ignoble 
a destiny, was insupportable. I bitterly deplored 
my rashness in coming hither unprovided for an 
encounter like this. 

" The evil of my present circumstances consist 
ed chiefly in suspense. My death was unavoida- 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 41 

Die, but my imagination had leisure to torment it 
self by anticipations. One foot of the savage was 
slowly and cautiously moved after the other. He 
struck his claws so deeply into the bark that they 
vere with difficulty withdrawn. At length he 
leaped upon the ground. We were now separat 
ed by an interval of scarcely eight feet. To leave 
the spot where I crouched was impossible. Be 
hind and beside me, the cliff rose perpendicularly, 
and before me was this grim and terrible visage. 
I shrunk still closer to the ground and closed my 
eyes. 

" From this pause of horror I was aroused by 
the noise occasioned by a second spring of the an 
imal. He leaped into the pit, in which I had so 
deeply regretted that I had not taken refuge, and 
disappeared. My rescue was so sudden, and so 
muc h beyond my belief or my hope, that I doubt 
ed for a moment whether my senses did not de 
ceive me. This opportunity of escape was not to 
oe neglected I left my place, and scrambled 
jver the trunk with a precipitation which had like 
to have proved fatal. The tree groaned and shook 
under me, the wind blew with unexampled vio 
lence, and I had scarcely reached the opposite 
steep when the roots were severed from the rock, 
and the whole fell thundering to the bottom of the 
chasm 



42 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" My trepidations were not speedily quieted. ] 
looked back with wonder on my hair-breadth es 
cape, and on that singular concurrence of events, 
which had placed me in so short a period in ab 
solute security. Had the trunk fallen a moment 
earlier, I should have been imprisoned on the hill 
or thrown headlong. Had its fall been delayed 
another moment I should have been pursued ; for 
the beast now issued from his den, and testified 
his surprise and disappointment by tokens, the 
sight of which made my blood run cold. 

" He saw me and hastened to the verge of the 
chasm. He squatted on his hind legs and as 
sumed the attitude of one preparing to leap. My 
consternation was excited afresh by these appear 
ances. It seemed at first as if the rift was too 
wide for any power of muscles to carry him in 
safety over ; but I knew the unparalleled agility 
of this animal, and that his experience had made 
him a better judge of the practicability of this ex 
ploit than I was. 

" Still there was hope that he would relinquish 
this design as desperate. This hope was quickly 
at an end. He sprung, and his fore legs touched 
the verge of the rock on which I stood. In spite 
of vehement exertions, however, the surface was 
too smooth and too hard to allow him to make 
good his hold. He fell, and a piercing cry uttered 
below showed that nothing had obstructed his de 
scent to the bottom " 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 43 

The subsequent narrative leads the hero through 
a variety of romantic adventures, especially with 
the savages, with whom he has several desperate 
rencontres and critical escapes. The track of 
adventure indeed strikes into the same wild 
solitudes of the forest, that have since been so fre 
quently travelled over by our ingenious country 
man Cooper. The light in which the character 
of the North American Indian has been exhibit 
ed by the two writers, has little resemblance. 
Brown s sketches, it is true, are few and faint. 
As far as they go, however, they are confined to 
such views as are most conformable to the popular 
conceptions ; bringing into full relief the rude and 
uncouth lineaments of the Indian character, its 
cunning, cruelty, and unmitigated ferocity, with no 
intimations of a more generous nature. Cooper, 
on the other hand, discards all the coarser elements 
of savage life, reserving those only of a picturesque 
and romantic cast, and elevating the souls of his 
warriors by such sentiments of courtesy, high- 
toned gallantry, and passionate tenderness, as be 
long to the riper period of civilization. Thus ide 
alized, the portrait, if not strictly that of the fierce 
and untamed son of the forest, is at least suffi 
ciently true for poetical purposes. Cooper is in 
deed a poet. His descriptions of inanimate na 
ture, no less than of savage man, are instinct with 
the breath of poetry. Witness his infinitely vari- 



44 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ous pictures of the ocean ; or still more, of the 
beautiful spirit that rides upon its bosom, the gal 
lant ship, which under his touches becomes an ani 
mated thing, inspired by a living soul ; reminding 
us of th? beautiful superstition of the simple- 
hearted natives who fancied the bark of Colum 
bus some celestial visitant, descending on his broad 
pinions from the skies. 

Brown is far less of a colorist. He deals less in 
external nature, but searches the depths of the 
soul. He may be rather called a philosophical 
than a poetical writer ; for, though he has that 
intensity of feeling which constitutes one of the 
distinguishing attributes of the latter, yet in his 
most tumultuous bursts of passion, we frequently 
find him pausing to analyze and coolly speculate 
on the elements which have raised it. This intru 
sion, indeed, of reason, la raisonfroide, into scenes 
of the greatest interest and emotion, has sometimes 
the unhappy effect of chilling them altogether. 

In 1800, Brown published the second part of 
his Arthur Mervyn, whose occasional displays of 
energy and pathos by no means compensate the 
violent dislocations and general improbabilities of 
the narrative. Our author was led into these de 
fects by the unpardonable precipitancy of his com 
position. Three of his romances were thrown off 
in the course of one year. These were written 
with the printer s devil literally at his elbow ; one 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 45 

being begun before another was completed, ajid 
all of them before a regular, well digested plan 
was devised for their execution. 

The consequences of this curious style of doing 
business are such as might have been predicted. 
The incidents are strung together with about as 
little connexion as the rhymes in " The house that 
Jack built " ; and the whole reminds us of some 
bizarre, antiquated edifice, exhibiting a dozen 
styles of architecture according to the caprice or 
convenience of its successive owners. 

The reader is ever at a loss for a clew to guide 
him through the labyrinth of strange, incongruous 
incident. It would seem as if the great object of 
the author was to keep alive the state of suspense, 
on the player s principle, in the " Rehearsal," that 
" on the stage, it is best to keep the audience in 
suspense, for to guess presently at the plot, or the 
sense, tires them at the end of the first act. Now 
here, every line surprises you, and brings in new 
matter!" Perhaps, however, all this proceeds 
less from calculation, than from the embarrassment 
which the novelist feels in attempting a solution of 
his own riddles, and which leads him to put off 
the reader, by multiplying incident after incident, 
until at .ength, entangled in the complicated snarl 
of his own intrigue, he is finally obliged, when the 
fatal hour arrives, to cut the knot which he cannot 
unravel. There is no other way by which we can 



46 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHT. 

account for the forced and violent denouement 
which bring up so many of Brown s fictions. Vol 
taire has remarked somewhere in his Commenta 
ries on Corneille, that " an author may write with 
the rapidity of genius, but should correct with 
scrupulous deliberation." Our author seems to 
have thought it sufficient to comply with the first 
half of the maxim. 

In 1801, Brown published his novel of Clara 
Howard, and, in 1804, closed the series with 
Jane Talbot, first printed in England. They are 
composed in a more subdued tone, discarding those 
startling preternatural incidents, of which he had 
made such free use in his former fictions. In the 
preface to his first romance, " Wieland," he re 
marks, in allusion to the mystery, on which the 
story is made to depend, that " it is a sufficient 
vindication of the writer, if history furnishes one 
parallel fact." But the French critic, who tells 
us le vrai pent quelguefois n etre pas vraisem- 
blable, has, with more judgment, condemned this 
vicious recurrence to extravagant and improbable 
incident. Truth cannot always be pleaded in vm 
dication of the author of a fiction, any more than 
of a libel. Brown seems to have subsequently 
come into the same opinion ; for in a letter ad 
dressed to his brother James, after the publication 
of" Edgar Huntly," he observes ; " Your remarks 
upon the gloominess and out-of-nature incidents 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN 47 

of Huntly, if they be not just in their full extent, 
are doubtless such as most readers will make, 
which alone is a sufficient reason for dropping the 
doleful tone and assuming a cheerful one, or at 
least substituting moral causes and daily incidents 
n place of the prodigious or the singular. I shall 
not fall hereafter into that strain." The two last 
novels of our author, however, although purified 
from the more glaring defects of the preceding, 
were so inferior in their general power and origin 
ality of conception, that they never rose to the 
same level in public favor. 

In the year 1801, Brown returned to his native 
city, Philadelphia, where he established his resi 
dence in the family of his brother. Here he con 
tinued, steadily pursuing his literary avocations, 
and in 1803, undertook the conduct of a periodi 
cal, entitled The Literary Magazine and Ameri 
can Register. A great change had taken place in 
his opinions on more than one important topic con 
nected with human life and happiness, and, indeed, 
in his general tone of thinking, since abandoning 
his professional career. Brighter prospects no 
doubt suggested to him more cheerful considera 
tions. Instead of a mere dreamer in the world of 
fancy, he had now become a practical man ; larger 
experience and deeper meditation had shown him 
the emptiness of his Utopian theories ; and though 
his sensibilities were as ardent, and as easily en- 



48 AMERICAN B10GRAPHI. 

listed as ever in the cause of humanity, hia 
sr-.hemes of amelioration were built upon, not 
against the existing institutions of society. The 
enunciation of the principles, on which the peri 
odical above alluded to was to be conducted, is so 
honorable every way to his heart and his under 
standing, that we cannot refrain from making a 
brief extract from it. 

" In an age like this, when the foundations 
of religion and morality have been so boldly at- 
iacked, it seems necessary, in announcing a work 
of this nature, to be particularly explicit as to 
the path which the editor means to pursue. He, 
therefore, avows himself to be, without equivoca 
tion or reserve, the ardent friend and the willing 
champion of the Christian religion. Christian 
piety he reveres as the highest excellence of 
human beings ; and the amplest reward he can 
seek for his labor is the consciousness of having 
in some degree, however inconsiderable, contribut 
ed to recommend the practice of religious duties 
As in the conduct of this work a supreme re 
gard will be paid to the interests of religion ana 
morality, he will scrupulously guard against all 
that dishonors and impairs that principle. Every 
thing that savors of indelicacy or licentiousness 
will be rigorously proscribed. His poetical pieces 
may be dull, but they shall at least be free from 
voluptuousness or sensuality ; and his prose 



CHARLES BHOCKDEN BROWN 49 

whether seconded or not by genius and knowl 
edge, shall scrupulously aim at the promotion of 
public and private virtue." 

During his abode in New York, our author had 
formed an attachment to an amiable and accom 
plished young lady, Miss Elizabeth Linn, daughter 
of the excellent and highly gifted Presbyterian 
divine, Dr. William Linn, of that city. Their 
mutual attachment, in which the impulses of the 
heart were sanctioned by the understanding, was 
followed by their marriage in November, 1804^ 
after which he never again removed his residence 
from Philadelphia. 

With the additional responsibilities of his new 
station, he pursued his literary labors with in 
creased diligence. He projected the plan of an 
Annual Register, the first work of the kind in the 
country, and in 1806 edited the first volume of 
the publication, which was undertaken at the risl* 
of an eminent bookseller of Philadelphia, Mr. 
Conrad, who had engaged his editorial labors in 
the conduct of the former Magazine, begun in 
1803. When it is considered, that both these 
periodicals were placed under the superintendence 
of one individual, and that he bestowed such* 
indefatigable attention on them, that they were 
not only prepared, but a large portion actually 
executed by his own hands, we shall form no 
mean opinion of the extent and variety of his 



50 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

stores of information, and his facility in applying 
them. Both works are replete with evidences of 
the taste and erudition of their editor, embracing 
a wide range of miscellaneous articles, essays, lite 
rary criticism, and scientific researches. The his 
torical portion of " The Register," in particular, 
comprehending, in addition to the political annals 
of the principal states of Europe and of our own 
country, an elaborate inquiry into the origin and 
organization of our domestic institutions, displays a 
discrimination in the selection of incidents, and a 
good faith and candor in the mode of discussing 
them, that entitle it to great authority as a record 
of contemporary transactions. Eight volumes 
were published of the first mentioned periodical, 
and the latter was continued under his direction 
till the end of the fifth volume, 1809. 

In addition to these regular, and, as they may 
be called, professional labors, he indulged his pro 
lific pen in various speculations, both of a literary 
and political character, many of which appeared 
in the pages of the " Port Folio." Among other 
occasional productions we may notice a beautiful 
biographical sketch of his wife s brother, Dr 
J. B. Linn, pastor of the Presbyterian church in 
Philadelphia, whose lamented death occurred in 
the year succeeding Brown s marriage. We must 
not leave out of the account three elaborate and 
extended pamphlets, published between 1803 and 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 51 

1809, on political topics of deep interest to the 
community at that time. The first of these, on 
the cession of Louisiana to the French, soon went 
into a second edition. They all excited general 
attention, at the time of their appearance, by the 
novelty of their arguments, the variety and copi 
ousness of their information, the liberality of their 
views, the independence, so rare at that day, of 
foreign prejudices, the exemption, still rarer, from 
the bitterness of party spirit ; and, lastly, the tone 
of loyal and heartfelt patriotism, a patriotism 
without cant, with which the author dwells on 
the expanding glory and prosperity of his country, 
in a strain of prophecy, that it is our boast has 
now become history. 

Thus occupied, Brown s situation seemed now 
to afford him all the means for happiness attain 
able in this life. His own labors secured to him 
an honorable independence, and a high reputa 
tion, which, to a mind devoted to professional or 
other intellectual pursuits, is usually of far higher 
estimation than gain. Round his own fireside, 
he found ample scope for the exercise of his 
affectionate sensibilities ; while the tranquil pleas 
ures of domestic life proved the best possible re 
laxation for a mind wearied by severe intellectual 
effort. His grateful heart was deeply sensible to 
the extent of his blessings, and in more than one 
letter he indulges in a vein of reflection, which 



52 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

shows, that his only solicitude was from the fear 
of their instability. His own health furnished too 
well-grounded cause for such apprehensions. 

We have already noticed, that he set out in 
life with a feeble constitution. His sedentary 
habits and intense application had not, as it 
may well be believed, contributed to repair the 
defects of nature. He had for some time shown 
a disposition to pulmonary complaints, and had 
raised blood more than once, which he in vain 
endeavored to persuade himself did not proceed 
from the lungs. As the real character of the dis 
ease disclosed itself in a manner not to be mis 
taken, his anxious friends would have persuaded 
him to cross the water in the hope of reestablish 
ing his health by a seasonable change of climate. 
But Brown could not endure the thoughts of so 
long a separation from his beloved family, and 
he trusted to the effect of a temporary abstinence 
from business, and of one of those excursions into 
the country, by which he had so often recruited 
his health and spirits. 

In the summer of 1809 he made a tour into 
New Jersey and New York. A letter addressed 
to one of his family from the banks of the Hud 
son, during this journey, exhibits in melancholy 
colors how large a portion of his life had been 
clouded by disease, which now, indeed, was too 
oppressive to admit of any other alleviation than 



CHA.RLES BROCKDEN BROWN 53 

what he could find in the bosom of his own 
family. 

" Mr DEAREST MARY, Instead of wandering 
about, and viewing more nearly a place that affords 
very pleasing landscapes, here am I, hovering 
over the images of wife, children, and sisters 
I want to write to you and home, and though 
unable to procure paper enough to form a letter, 
I cannot help saying something, even on this 
scrap. 

" I am mortified to think how incurious and 
inactive a mind has fallen to my lot. I left home 
with reluctance. If I had not brought a beloved 
part of my home along with me, I should probably 
have not left it at all. At a distance from home, 
my enjoyments, my affections are beside you. If 
swayed by mere inclination, I should not be out 
of your company a quarter of an hour, between 
rny parting and returning hour ; but I have some 
mercy on you and Susan, and a due conviction 
of my want of power to beguile your vacant hour 
with amusement, or improve it by instruction. 
Even if I were ever so well, and if my spirits did 
not continually hover on the brink of dejection, 
my talk could only make you yawn ; as things are, 
my company can only tend to create a gap, in 
deed. 

" When have I known that lightness and vi 
vacity of mind which the divine flow of health, 



54: A M K K I A JN BIOGRAPHY. 

even in calamity, produces in some men, and 
would produce in me, no doubt ; at least, when not 
soured by misfortune ? Never; scarcely ever; not 
longer than an half-hour at a time, since I have 
called myself man, and not a moment since I left 
you." 

Finding these brief excursions productive of no 
salutary change in his health, he at length com 
plied with the entreaties of his friends, and de- 
rermined to try the effect of a voyage to Europe 
in the following spring. That spring he was 
doomed never to behold. About the middle of 
November, he was taken with a violent pain in 
bis left side, for which he was bled. From that 
time forwards he was confined to his chamber. 
His malady was not attended with the exemption 
from actual pain, with which nature seems some 
times willing to compensate the sufferer for the 
length of its duration. His sufferings were inces 
sant and acute ; and they were supported, not only 
without a murmur, but with an appearance of 
cheerfulness, to which the hearts of his friends 
could but ill respond. He met the approach of 
death in the true spirit of Christian philosophy. 
No other dread, but that of separation from those 
dear to him on earth, had power to disturb his 
tranquillity for a moment. But the temper of his 
mind in his last hours is best disclosed in a com 
munication from that faithful partner, who con- 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 55 

tributed, more than any other, to support nim 
through them. " He always felt for others more 
than for himself ; and the evidences of sorrow in 
those around him, which could not at all times 
be suppressed, appeared to affect him more than 
his own sufferings. Whenever he spoke of the 
probability of a fatal termination to his disease, it 
was in an indirect and covered manner, as l you 
must do so and so when I arn absent/ or when 
I am asleep. He surrendered not up one faculty 
of his soul but with his last breath, He saw death 
in every step of his approach, and viewed him as 
a messenger that brought with him no terrors. 
He frequently expressed his resignation ; but his 
resignation was not produced by apathy or pain ; 
for while he bowed with submission to the Divine 
will, he felt with the keenest sensibility his sepa 
ration from those who made this world but too 
dear to him. Towards the last he spoke of death 
without disguise, and appeared to wish to prepare 
his friends for the event, which he felt to be ap 
proaching. A few days previous to his change., 
is sitting up in the bed, he fixed his eyes on the 
sky, and desired not to be spoken to until he 
first spoke. In this position, and with a serene 
countenance, he continued for some minutes, and 
then said to his wife, c When I desired you not 
to speak to me, I had the most transporting 
and sublime feelings I have ever experienced ; 



56 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

I wanted to enjoy them and know how long *hey 
would last ; concluding with requesting her to 
remember the circumstance." 

A visible change took place in him on the 
morning of the 19th of February, 1810 ; and 
he caused his family to be assembled around his 
bed, when he took leave of each one of them 
in the most tender and impressive manner. He 
lingered however a few days longer, remaining 
in the full possession of his faculties, to the 
22nd of the month, when he expired without 
a struggle. He had reached the thirty-ninth year 
of his age the month preceding his death. The 
family, which he left, consisted of a widow and 
four children. 

There was nothing striking in Brown s personal 
appearance. His manners, however, were dis 
tinguished by a gentleness and unaffected sim 
plicity, which rendered them extremely agreeable. 
He possessed colloquial powers, which do not al 
ways fall to the lot of the practised and ready 
writer. His rich and various acquisitions supplied 
an unfailing fund for the edification of his hearers. 
They did not lead him, however, to affect an air 
of superiority, or to assume too prominent a part 
ill the dialogue, especially in large or mixed com 
pany, where he was rather disposed to be silent, 
reserving the display of his powers for the un 
restrained intercourse of friendship. He was a 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 57 

granger, not only to base and malignant passions, 
but to the paltry jealousies which sometimes sour 
the intercourse of men of letters. On the con 
trary, he was ever prompt to do ample justice 
to the merits of others. His heart was warm 
with the feeling of universal benevolence. Too 
sanguine and romantic views had exposed him to 
some miscalculations and consequent disappoint 
ments in youth ; from which, however, he was 
subsequently retrieved by the strength of his un 
derstanding, which, combining with what may be 
called his natural elevation of soul, enabled him 
to settle the soundest principles for the regulation 
of his opinions and conduct in after-life. His 
reading was careless and desultory, but his appe 
tite was voracious ; and the great amount of mis 
cellaneous information, which he thus amassed, 
was all demanded to supply the outpourings of 
his mind in a thousand channels of entertainment 
and instruction. His unwearied application is at 
tested by the large amount of his works, large 
even for the present day, when mind seems to 
have caught the accelerated movement, so gene 
rally given to the operations of machinery. The 
whole number of Brown s printed works, compre 
hending his editorial as well as original produc 
tions, to the former of which his own pen con 
tributed a very disproportionate share, is not less 
than four-and-twenty printed volumes, not to men- 



58 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tion various pamphlets, anonymous contributions 
to divers periodicals, as well as more than one 
compilation of laborious research, which he left 
unfinished at his death. 

Of this vast amount of matter produced within 
the brief compass of little more than ten years, 
that portion, on which his fame as an author must 
permanently rest, is his novels. We have already 
entered too minutely into the merits of these pro 
ductions, to require any thing further than a few 
general observations. They may probably claim 
to be regarded as having first opened the way to 
the successful cultivation of romantic fiction in this 
country. Great doubts were long entertained of 
our capabilities for immediate success in this de 
partment. We had none of the buoyant, stirring 
associations of a romantic age, none of the chival 
rous pageantry, the feudal and border story, or 
Robin-Hood adventure, none of the dim, shadowy 
superstitions and the traditional legends, which 
had gathered, like moss, round every stone, hill, 
and valley of the olden countries. Every thing 
here wore a spick-and-span new aspect, and lay 
in the broad, garish sunshine of e very-day life. 
We had none of the picturesque varieties of situ 
ation or costume ; every thing lay on the same 
dull, prosaic level ; in short, we had none of the 
most obvious elements of poetry, at least so it ap 
peared to the vulgar eye. It required the eye 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 59 

of genius to detect the rich stores of romantic and 
poetic interestj that lay beneath the crust of soci 
ety. Brown was aware of the capabilities of our 
country ; and the poverty of the results he was 
less inclined to impute to the soil, than to the cul 
tivation of it. At least this would appear from 
some remarks dropped in his correspondence in 
1794, several years before he broke ground in 
this field himself. " It used to be a favorite max 
im with me, that the genius of a poet should be 
sacred to the glory of his country. How far this 
rale can be reduced to practice by an American 
bard, how far he can prudently observe it, and 
what success has crowned the efforts of those, 
who in their compositions have shown that they 
have not been unmindful of it, is perhaps not 
worth the inquiry, 

" Does it not appear to you, that, to give poe 
try a popular currency and universal reputation, a 
particular cast of manners and state of civilization 
is necessary ? I have sometimes thought so, but 
perhaps it is an error, and the want of popular 
poems argues only the demerit of those who have 
already written, or some defect in their works, 
which unfits them for every taste or understand- 
ing." 

The success of our author s experiment, which 
was entirely devoted to American subjects, fully 
established the soundness of his opinions, which 



60 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

have been abundantly confirmed by the prolific 
pens of Irving, Cooper, Sedgvvick, and other 
accomplished writers, who in their diversified 
sketches of national character and scenery, have 
shown the full capacity of our country for all the 
purposes of fiction. Brown does not direct him 
self, like them, to the illustration of social life 
and character. He is little occupied with the 
exterior forms of society. He works in the 
depths of the heart, dwelling less on human 
action than the sources of it. He has been said 
to have formed himself on Godwin. Indeed, he 
openly avowed his admiration of that eminent 
writer, and has certainly in some respects adopt 
ed his mode of operation ; studying character 
with a philosophic rather than a poetic eye. But 
there is no servile imitation in all this. He has 
borrowed the same torch, indeed, to read the page 
of human nature, but the lesson he derives from it 
is totally different. His great object seems to be 
to exhibit the soul in scenes of extraordinary 
interest. For this purpose striking and perilous 
situations are devised, or circumstances of strong 
moral excitement, a troubled conscience, partial 
gleams of insanity, or bodings of imaginary evil 
which haunt the soul, and force it into all the ago 
nies of terror. In the midst of the fearful strife, 
we are coolly invited to investigate its causes and 
all the various phenomena which attend it ; every 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 61 

contingency, probability, nay possibility, however 
remote, is discussed and nicely balanced. The 
heat of the reader is seen to evaporate in this 
cold-blooded dissection, in which our author seems 
to rival Butler s hero, who, 

"Profoundly skilled in analytic, 
Could distinguish and divide 
A hair twixt south and southwest side." 

We are constantly struck with the strange con 
trast of over-passion and over-reasoning. But 
perhaps, after all, these defects could not be 
pruned away from Brown s composition without 
detriment to his peculiar excellences. Si non 
er r asset, fecer at ille minus. If so, we may wil 
lingly pardon the one for the sake of the other. 

We cannot close without adverting to our au 
thor s style. He bestowed great pains on the 
formation of it, but in our opinion without great 
success, at least in his novels. It has an elabo 
rate, factitious air, contrasting singularly with the 
general simplicity of his taste, and the careless 
rapidity of his composition. We ape aware, in 
deed, that works of imagination may bear a higher 
flush of color, a poetical varnish, in short, that 
must be refused to graver and more studied nar 
rative. No writer has been so felicitous in 
reaching the exact point of good taste in this 
particular as Scott, who, on a ground-work of 
prose, may be said to have enabled his readers to 



62 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

breathe an atmosphere of poetry. More than 
one author, on the other hand, as Flonan in 
French, for example, and Lady Morgan in 
English, in their attempts to reach this middle 
region, are eternally fluttering on the wing of 
sentiment, equally removed from good prose and 
good poetry. 

Brown, perhaps, willing tc avoid this extreme, 
has fallen into the opposite one, forcing his style 
into unnatural vigor and condensation. Unusual 
and pedantic epithets, and elliptical forms of ex 
pression in perpetual violation of idiom, are re 
sorted to, at the expense of simplicity and nature. 
He seems averse to telling simple things in a 
simple way. Thus, for example, we have such 
expressions as these, " I was fraught with the 
persuasion that my life was endangered." " The 
outer door was ajar. I shut it with trembling 
eagerness, and drew every bolt that appended 
to it." " His brain seemed to swell beyond its 
continent" " I waited till their slow and hoarser 
inspirations showed them to be both asleep. 
Just then, on changing my position, my head 
struck against some things which depended from 
the ceiling of the closet." "It was still dark, 
but my sleep was at an end, and by a common 
apparatus [tinderbox?] that lay beside my bed, 
I could instantly produce a light." " On recov 
ering from deliquium, you found it where it had 



CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. 63 

been dropped." It is unnecessary to multiply 
examples, which we should not have adverted to 
at all, had not our opinions in this matter been at 
variance with those of more than one respectable 
critic. This sort of language is no doubt in very 
bad taste. It cannot be denied, however, that, 
although these defects are sufficiently general to 
give a coloring to the whole of his composition, 
yet his works afford many passages of undeniable 
eloquence and rhetorical beauty. It must be 
remembered, too, that his novels were his first 
productions, thrown off with careless profusion, 
and exhibiting many of the defects of an imma 
ture mind, which longer experience and practice 
might have corrected. Indeed his later writings 
are recommended by a more correct and natural 
phraseology, although it must be allowed that the 
graver topics to which they are devoted, if they 
did not authorize, would at least render less con 
spicuous any studied formality and artifice of 
expression. 

These verbal blemishes, combined with de 
fects already alluded to in the developement oi 
his plots, but which all relate to the form rather 
than the fond of his subject, have made our 
author less extensively popular than his extraor 
dinary powers would otherwise have entitled him 
to be. His peculiar merits, indeed, appeal to a 
higher order of criticism than is to be found in 



64 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ordinary and superficial readers. Like the pro 
ductions of Coleridge, or Wordsworth, they seem 
to rely on deeper sensibilities than most men 
possess, and tax the reasoning powers more 
severely than is agreeable to readers who resort 
to works of fiction only as an epicurean indul 
gence. The number of their admirers is, 
therefore, necessarily more limited than that of 
writers of less talent, who have shown more tact 
in accommodating themselves to the tone of 
popular feeling or prejudice. 

But we are unwilling to part, with any thing 
like a tone of disparagement lingering on our lips, 
with the amiable author, to whom our rising lite 
rature is under such large and various obligations ; 
who first opened a view into the boundless fields 
of fiction, which subsequent adventurers have 
successfully explored ; who has furnished so much 
for our instruction in the several departments of 
history and criticism ; and has rendered still 
more effectual service by kindling in the bosom 
of the youthful scholar the same generous love 
of letters which glowed in his own ; whose 
writings, in fine, have uniformly inculcated the 
pure and elevated morality exemplified in his 
rife. The only thing we can regret is, that a life 
to useful should have been so short ; if, indeed, 
that can be considered short, which has done so 
much towards attaining life s great end. 



A 
MEMOIR 

OF 

LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON 

BY 

CATHARINE MARIA SEDGWICK 



SPARKS VOL. VII. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON was bora at Platts- 
burg, in the State of New York, on the 27th 
of September, 1808. Her father, Dr. Oliver Da 
vidson, is a lover of science, and a man of intel 
lectual tastes. Her mother, Margaret Davidson 
(bora Miller), is of a most respectable family, and 
received the best education her times afforded, at 
the school of the celebrated Scottish lady, Isabella 
Graham, an institution in the city of New York, 
that had no rival in its day, and which derived 
advantages from the distinguished individual that 
presided over it, that can scarcely be counterbal 
anced by the multiplied masters and multiform 
studies of the present day. The family of Miss 
Davidson lived in seclusion. Their pleasures and 
excitements were intellectual. Her mother has 
suffered year after year from ill health and debility ; 
and, being a person of imaginative character, and 
of most ardent and susceptible feelings, employed 
on domestic incidents, and concentrated in maternal 
tenderness, she naturally loved and cherished her 
67 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

daughter s marvellous gifts, and added to the inten 
sity of the fire with which her genius and her 
affections, mingling in one holy flame, burned till 
they consumed their mortal investments. We 
should not have ventured to say thus much of the 
mother, who still survives to weep, and to rejoice 
over her dead child more than many parents over 
their living ones, were it not to prove that Lucretia 
Davidson s character was not miraculous, but that 
this flower of Paradise was nurtured and trained 
by natural means and influences. 

The physical delicacy of this fragile creature 
was apparent in infancy. When eighteen months 
old, she had a typhus fever, which threatened her 
life ; but nature put forth its mysterious energy, and 
she became stronger and healthier than before hei 
illness. No records were made of her early child 
hood, save that she was by turns very gay and 
very thoughtful, exhibiting thus early these com 
mon manifestations of extreme sensibility. Her 
first literary acquisition indicated her after course. 
She learned her letters at once. At the age of 
four she was sent to the Plattsburg Academy, 
where she learned to read and to form letters in 
sand, after the Lancasterian method. As soon as 
she could read, her books drew her away from the 
plays of childhood, and she was constantly found 
absorbed in the little volumes that her father 
lavished upon her Her mother, on some occasion 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 69 

in haste to write a letter, looked in vain for a sheet 
of paper. A whole quire had strangely disappeared 
She expressed a natural vexation. Her little 
girl came forward confused, and said, " Mamma, 
I have used it." Her mother, knowing she had 
never been taught to write, was amazed, and asked 
her what possible use she could have for it. Lu- 
cretia burst into tears, and replied that she " did not 
like to tell." Her mother respected the childish 
mystery, and made no further inquiries. 

The paper continued to vanish, and the child 
was often observed with pen and ink, still sedu 
lously shunning observation. At last her mother, 
on seeing her make a blank book, asked what she 
was going to do with it. Lucretia blushed, and left 
the room without replying. This sharpened her 
mother s curiosity. She watched the child nar 
rowly, and saw that she made quantities of these 
little books, and that she was disturbed by obser 
vation ; and, if one of the family requested to see 
them, she would burst into tears, and run away 
to hide her secret treasure. 

The mystery remained unexplained till she was 
six years old, when her mother, in exploring a 
dark closet, rarely opened, found, behind piles ol 
linen, a parcel of papers, which proved to be 
Lucretia s manuscript books. At first the hiero 
glyphics seemed to baffle investigation. On one 
side of the leaf was an artfully-sketched picture ; 



ro 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 



on the other Roman letters, some placed upright, 
others horizontally, obliquely, or backwards, not 
formed into words, nor spaced in any mode. Both 
parents pored over them till they ascertained the 
letters were poetical explanations, in metre and 
rhyme, of the picture on the reverse. The little 
books were carefully put away as literary curiosi 
ties. Soon after Lucretia came running to her 
mother, painfully agitated, her face covered with 
her hands, and tears trickling down between her 
slender ringers. " Oh mamma ! mamma ! " she 
cried, sobbing, " how could you treat me so ? You 
have not used me well ! My little books ! You 
have shown them to papa, Anne, Eliza, I 
know you have. Oh, what shall I do ! " Her 
mother pleaded guilty, and tried to soothe the child 
by promising not to do so again. Lucretia s face 
brightened, a sunny smile played through her 
tears, as she replied, " Oh mamma, I am not afraid 
you will do so again, for I have burned them all." 
And so she had ! This reserve proceeded from 
nothing cold or exclusive in her character ; never 
was there a more loving or sympathetic creature. 
It would be difficult to say which was most rare, 
her modesty or the genius it sanctified. 

She did not learn to write till she was between 
six and seven. Her passion for knowledge was 
then rapidly developing. She read with the closest 
attention, and was continually running to her 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 71 

parents with questions and remarks that startled 
them. At a very early age her mother implanted 
the seeds of religion, the first that should be sown 
in the virgin soil of the heart. That the dews of 
heaven fell upon them, is evident from the breath 
ings of piety throughout her poetry, and still more 
from its precious fruit in her life. Her mother 
remarks, that, " from her earliest years she evinced 
a fear of doing any thing displeasing in the sight 
of God ; and if, in her gayest sallies, she caught a 
look of disapprobation from me, she would ask with 
the most artless simplicity, Oh mother, was that 
wicked? " 

There are, very early, in most children s lives, 
certain conventional limits to their humanity, only 
certain forms of animal life that are respected and 
cherished. A robin, a butterfly, or a kitten is a 
legitimate object of their love and caresses; but 
woe to the beetle, the caterpillar, or the rat, that 
is thrown upon their tender mercies. Lucretia 
Davidson made no such artificial discriminations. 
She seemed to have an instinctive kindness for 
every living thing. When she was about nine, 
one of her schoolfellows gave her a young rat, 
that had broken its leg in attempting to escape 
from a trap. She tore off a part of her pocket 
handkerchief, bound up the maimed leg, carried 
the animal home, and nursed it tenderly. The rat, 
in spite of the care of its little leech, died, and 



72 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

was buried in the garden, and honored with " the 
meed of a melodious tear." This lament has not 
been preserved ; but one she wrote soon after on 
the death of a maimed pet robin, is given here as 
the earliest record of her muse that has been 
preserved. 

ON THE DEATH OF MT ROBIN. 

11 UNDERNEATH this turf doth lie 
A little bird which ne er could fly ; 
Twelve large angle-worms did fill 
This little bird whom they did kill. 
Puss ! if you should chance to smell 
My little bird from his dark cell, 
Oh ! do be merciful, my cat, 
And not serve him as you did my rat * 

Her application to her studies at school was 
intense. Her mother judiciously, but in vain, 
attempted a diversion in favor of that legitimate 
sedative to female genius, the needle. Lucretia 
performed her prescribed tasks with fidelity and 
with amazing celerity, and was again buried in her 
books. 

When she was about twelve, she accompanied 
her father to the celebration of Washington s 
birth-night. The music and decorations excited 
her imagination ; but it was not with her, as with 
most children, the mere pleasure of stimulated 
sensations. She had studied the character and 
history of the father of her country, and the fete 
stirred up her enthusiasm, and inspired that feeling 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 73 

oi actual existence and presence peculiar to minds 
of her temperament. To the imaginative there is 
an extension of life, far back into the dim past, 
and forward into the untried future, denied to those 
of common mould. 

The day after the fete, her elder sister discov 
ered her absorbed in writing. She had sketched 
an urn, and written two stanzas beneath it. She 
was persuaded, with some difficulty, to show them 
to her mother. She brought them blushing and 
trembling. Her mother was ill in bed ; but she 
expressed her delight with such unequivocal ani 
mation, that the child s face changed from doubt to 
rapture, and she seized the paper, ran away, and 
immediately added the concluding stanzas. When 
they were finished, her mother pressed her to her 
bosom, wept with delight, and promised her leisure, 
and all the instruction she could give her. The 
sensitive child burst into tears. " And do you wish 
me to write, mamma ? " she said, " and will papa 
approve ? and will it be right that I should do so? " 
This delicate conscientiousness gives an imper 
ishable charm to the stanzas, and to fix it in the 
memory of our readers we here quote them from 
her published poems. 

" AND does a hero s dust lie here ? 
Columbia ! gaze and drop a tear ! 
His country s and the orphan s friend, 
See thousands o er his ashes bend ! 



74 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

u Among the heroes of the age, 
He was the warrior and the sage t 
He left a train of glory bright, 
Which never will be hid in night ! 

* The toils of war and danger past, 
He reaps a rich reward at last ; 
His pure soul mounts on cherub s wings, 
And now with saints and angels sings. 

"The brightest on the list of Fame, 
In golden letters shines his name ; 
Her trump shall sound it through the world, 
And the striped banner ne er be furled ! 

"And every sex and every age, 
From lisping boy to learned sage, 
The widow and her orphan son, 
Revere the name of Washington." 

Lucretia did not escape the common trial of pre 
cocious genius. A literary friend, to whom Mrs. 
Davidson showed the stanzas, suspected the child 
had, perhaps unconsciously, repeated something 
she had gathered from the mass of her reading, 
and she betrayed her suspicions to Lucretia. She 
felt her rectitude impeached, and this, and not the 
wounded pride of the young author, made her 
weep till she was actually ill. As soon as she re 
covered her tranquillity, she offered a poetic and 
playful remonstrance,* which set the matter at rest, 
and put an end to all future question of the authen 
ticity of her productions. 

* See the Biographical Sketch prefixed to " Amir Kkan, 
and other Poems," p. ix. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 75 

Before she was twelve years old, she had read 
the English poets. " The English poets," says 
Southey, in his review of Miss Davidson s poems, 
" though a vague term, was a wholesome course 
for such a mind." * She had read beside much 
history, sacred and profane, novels, and other works 
of imagination. Dramatic works were particularly 
attractive to her. Her devotion to Shakspeare is 
expressed in an address to him written about this 
time, from which we extract the following stanza ; 

" Heaven, in compassion to man s erring heart, 
Gave thee of virtue, then of vice a part, 
Lest we in wonder here should bow before thee, 
Break God s commandment, worship and adore thee." 

Ordinary romances, and even those highly 
wrought fictions, that without any type in nature 
have such a mischievous charm for most imaginative 
young persons, she instinctively rejected. Her 
healthy appetite, keen as it was, was under the 
government of a pure and sound nature. Her 
mother, always aware of the worth of the gem 
committed to her keeping, amidst her sufferings 
from ill health and other causes, kept a watchful 
eye on her child, directed her pursuits, and sym 
pathized in all her little school labors and trials. 
She perceived that Lucretia was growing pale and 
sickly over her studies, and she judiciously with 
drew her, for a time, from school. 

* See the London Quarterly Review, No. 82. 



<0 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

She was soon rewarded for this wise measure by 
hearing her child s bounding step as she approached 
her sick-room, and seeing the cheek bent over her 
pillow, blooming with returning health. How 
miserably mistaken are those, who fancy that all the 
child s lessons must be learned from the school- 
book, and in the school-room ! This apt pupil of 
Nature had only changed her books and her master. 
Now she sat at the feet of the great teacher, 
Nature, and read and listened, and thought, as she 
wandered along the Saranac, or contemplated the 
varying aspects of Cumberland Bay. She would 
sit for hours and watch the progress of a thunder 
storm, from the first gathering of the clouds to the 
farewell smile of the rainbow. We give a speci 
men of the impression of these studies in the 
following extract from her unpublished poems 

TWILIGHT. 

u How sweet the hour when daylight blends 
With the pensive shadows on evening s breast, 
And dear to the heart is the pleasure it lends, 
For t is like the departure of saints to their rest. 

** Oh tis sweet, Saranac, on thy loved banks to stray, 
To watch the last day-beam dance light on thy wavefc 
To mark the white skiff as it skims o er the bay, 
Or heedlessly bounds o er the warrior s grave.* 

Cumberland Bay was the scene of a battle during 
the last war. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 77 

" Oh t is sweet to a heart unentangled and light, 
When with hope s brilliant prospects the fancy is blest, 
To pause mid its day-dreams so witchingly bright, 
And mark the last sunbeams while sinking to rest." 

The following; from her unpublished poems is 
the result of the same pensive meditations. 

THE EVENING SPIRIT. 

* WHEN the pale moon is shining bright, 
And nought disturbs the gloom of night, 
T is then upon yon level green, 
From which St. Glair s dark heights are seen, 
The Evening Spirit glides along, 
And chants her melancholy song ; 
Or leans upon a snowy cloud, 
And its white skirts her figure shroud, 
By zephyrs light she s wafted far, 
And contemplates the northern star, 
Or gazes from her silvery throne, 
On that pale queen, the silent moon. 
Who is the Evening Spirit fair, 
That hovers o er thy walls, St. Clair? 
Who is it that with footsteps light 
Breathes the calm silence of the night 
Ask the light zephyr, who conveys 
Her fairy figure o er the waves. 
Ask yon bright fleecy cloud of night, 
Ask yon pale planet s silver light, 
Why does the Evening Spirit fair 
Sail o er the walls of dark St Clair ? " 

In her thirteenth year the clouds seemed heavily 
gathering over her morning. Her father had su 



78 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

fered many losses and discouragements during the 
war. The result of his professional labors was 
scarcely adequate to the wants of his family. Her 
mother was so ill that she could no longer extend 
to her child the sympathy, help, and encouragement 
that she needed. Lucretia was oppressed with 
the apprehension of losing this fond parent, who for 
weeks and months seemed on the verge of the 
grave. There are among her unpublished poems, 
some touching lines to her mother, written, I be 
lieve, about this time, concluding thus ; 

" Hang not thy harp upon the willow ; 
That weeps o er every passing wave ; 
This life is but a restless pillow, 
There s calm and peace beyond the grave." 

But far more touchingly than by the most elo 
quent song, did she evince her filial affection. 
Dr. Davidson s well-selected library, which had 
been, at all times, the dearest solace of his daugh 
ter, had been broken up and dispersed at the 
invasion of Plattsburg, and Lucretia sighed over 
the empty shelves. Her father met, at a friend s 
house, an English gentleman, who, saying he had 
heard much of the little girl who promised to 
do great honor to American literature, expressed 
a strong desire to see some of her productions. 
With difficulty her father obtained her permission 
to send copies of a few of them to the stranger. 
He returned a polite note to the father, expressing 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 9 

bis gratification, and enclosed a twenty-dollar note 
for Lucretia. Her father gave it to her, telling 
her to regard it as the first fruit of her poetical 
merit. She took the bank note and examined it 
with eager simplicity, and exclaiming, " Oh papa 
how many books it will buy ! " then, casting her 
eyes to the bed where her suffering mother was 
lying, a shade of tenderness passed over her radiant 
face, and she added, " Oh no, no, no ! I cannot 
spend it ; take it, papa, I do not want it, take it and 
buy something for mamma ! " How must those 
parents have blessed the darkness of that adver 
sity, on which such light from heaven shone ! To 
them it must have been given to see the gracious 
ministry of what the world calls poverty, in nur 
turing those virtues that were rapidly ripening for 
immortality. 

Mrs. Davidson s health gradually amended, and 
with it returned her desire to give her daughter 
leisure, and every other means within her power to 
aid the developement of her extraordinary genius. 
For this some blamed, and others laughed at her. 
The taunts of vulgar minds reached Lucretia s 
ears. " Was she to be made a learned lady ? a 
reverend ? or fitted for the law ? " This she might 
have borne ; but, when she heard whispers that it 
was her filial duty to sacrifice her literary tastes, 
and to bear a part of the domestic burden that 
weighed too heavily on her mother, she made a 



80 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

secret, resolution, to devote herself exclusively to 
the tasks thus gratuitously prescribed. She put 
her books aside, and her mother observed her assid 
uously devoted to her needle, and to household 
labors. Her mind languished for its daily bread. 
She became pale and dejected ; and her vigilant 
mother, after much pains, extracted the reason of 
her change of pursuits, and persuaded her to re 
sume her books and pen. Her cheerfulness 
returned, and she was again the life and charm of 
her home. Her extreme sensibility and delicate 
health subjected her, at times, to depression of 
spirits ; but she had nothing of the morbid dejec 
tion, the exclusiveness, and hostility to the world, 
that are the results of self-exaggeration, selfishness, 
and self-idolatry, and not the natural offspring of 
genius and true feeling, which, in their healthy 
state, are pure and living fountains, flowing out in 
abundant streams of love and kindness.* 

Indulgent as Mrs. Davidson was, she was too 
wise to permit Lucretia to forego entirely the cus 
tomary employments of her sex. When engaged 
with these, it seems she sometimes played truant 
with her Muse. Once she had promised to do a 
sewing-task, and had eagerly run off for her work- 

* Genius, like many other sovereigns, has been allowed 
the exercise of unreasonable prerogatives ; but none, per 
haps much more mischievous, than the right to confer on 
self-indulgence the gracious name of sensibility. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 81 

basket. She loitered, and, when she returned, she 
found her mother had done the work, and that 
there was a shade of just displeasure on her coun 
tenance. " Oh mamma ! " she said, " I did forget x 
I am grieved. I did not mean to neglect you." 
" Where have you been, Lucretia ? " "I have 
been writing" she replied, confused. "As I 
passed the window, I saw a solitary sweet-pea. I 
thought they were all gone ; this was alone ; I ran to 
smell it ; but, before I could reach it, a gust of wind 
broke the stem. I turned away disappointed, and 
was coming back to you ; but, as I passed the table, 
there stood the inkstand, and I forgot you." If 
our readers will turn to her printed poems,* and 
read " The Last Flower of the Garden," they will 
not wonder that her mother kissed her, and bade 
her never resist a similar impulse. 

When in her " happy moments," as she termed 
them, the impulse to write was irresistible. She 
always wrote rapidly, and sometimes expressed a 
wish that she had two pairs of hands, to record as 
fast as she composed. She wrote her short pieces 
standing, often three or four in a day, in the midst 
of the family, blind and deaf to all around her, 
wrapt in her own visions. She herself describes 
these visitations of her Muse, in an address to her, 
beginning ; 



* Amir Khan and Other Poems, p. 87 
vu. 6 



82 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

"Enchanted when thy voice I hear, 

I drop each earthly care ; 

I feel as wafted from the world 

To Fancy s realms of air " 

When composing her long and complicated 
poems, like "Amir Khan," she required entire se 
clusion. If her pieces were seen in the process of 
production, the spell was dissolved ; she could not 
finish them, and they were cast aside as rubbish. 

When writing a poem of considerable length, 
she retired to her own apartment, closed the blinds, 
and, in warm weather, placed her ^Eolian harp 
in the window. Her mother has described her, 
on one of these occasions, when an artist would 
have painted her as a young genius communing 
with her Muse. We quote her mother s graphic 
description : " I entered her room. She was 
sitting with scarcely light enough to discern the 
characters she was tracing. Her harp was in the 
window, touched by a breeze just sufficient to 
rouse the spirit of harmony. Her comb had fallen 
on the floor, and her long dark ringlets hung in 
rich profusion over her neck and shoulders, her 
cheek glowed with animation, her lips were half 
unclosed, her full, dark eye was radiant with the 
light of genius, and beaming with sensibility, her 
head rested on her left hand, while she held her 
pen in her right. She looked like the inhabitant 
of another sphere. She was so wholly absorbed, 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 83 

that she did not observe my intrusion. I looked 
over her shoulder, and read the following lines ; 

What heavenly music strikes my ravished ear, 
So soft, so melancholy, and so clear ? 
And do the tuneful Nine then touch the lyre, 
To fill each bosom with poetic fire ? 
Or does some angel strike the sounding strings, 
Who caught from echo the wild note he sings? 
But ah ! another strain, how sweet ! how wild . 
Now rushing low, t is soothing, soft, and mild. 

" The noise I made in leaving the room roused 
her, and she soon after brought me her f Lines to 
an JEolian harp. " 

During the winter of 1822 she wrote a poetical 
romance, entitled " Rodri." She burned this, 
save a few fragments found after her death. These 
indicate a well-contrived story, and are marked by 
the marvellous ease and grace that characterized 
her versification. During this winter she wrote 
also a tragedy, " The Reward of Ambition," the 
only production she ever read aloud to her family. 
The following summer, her health again failing, 
she was withdrawn from school, and sent on a visit 
to some friends in Canada. A letter, too long to 
be inserted here entire, gives a very interesting 
account of the impression produced on this little 
thoughtful and feeling recluse by new objects and 
new aspects of society. " We visited," says the 
writer, " the British fortifications at Isle-aux-Noix 



84 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The broad ditch, the lofty ramparts, the draw 
bridge, the covered gate-way, the wide-mouthed 
cannon, the arsenal, and all the imposing parapher 
nalia of a military fortress, seemed connected in 
her mind with powerful associations of what she 
had read, but never viewed before. Instead of 
shrinking from objects associated with carnage and 
death, like many who possess not half her sensibil 
ity, she appeared for the moment to be attended 
by the god of war, and drank the spirit of battles 
and sieges, with the bright vision before her eyes of 
conquering heroes and wreaths of victory." 

It is curious to see thus early the effect of story 
and song in overcoming the instincts of nature ; to 
see this tender, gentle creature contemplating the 
engines of war, not with natural dread, as instru 
ments of torture and death, but rather as the 
forges by which triumphal cars and wreaths of 
victory were to be wrought. 

A similar manifestation of the effect of tradition 
and association on her poetic imagination is de 
scribed in the following passages from the same 
letter. " She found much less in the Protestant 
than in the Catholic churches to awaken those 
romantic and poetic associations, created by the 
record of events in the history of antiquity and 
traditional story, and much less to accord with the 
fictions of her high- wrought imagination. In view 
ing the buildings of the city, or the paintings in the 



JLUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 85 

churches, the same uniformity of taste was obser 
vable. The modern, however beautiful in design 
or execution, had little power to fix her attention ; 
while the grand, the ancient, the romantic, seized 
upon her imagination with irresistible power. The 
sanctity of time seemed, to her mind, to give a 
sublimity to the simplest objects ; and whatevei 
was connected with great events in history, or with 
the lapse of ages long gone by, riveted and ab 
sorbed every faculty of her mind. During our 
visit to the nunneries she said but little, and 
seemed abstracted in thought, as if, as she herseli 
so beautifully expresses it, to 

Roll back the tide of time, and raise 
The faded forms of other days. 

" She had an opportunity of viewing an elegant 
collection of paintings. She seemed in ecstasies 
all the evening, and every feature beamed with 

jy-" 

The writer, after proceeding to give an account 
of her surprising success in attempts at pencil- 
sketches from nature, expresses his delight and 
amazement at the attainments of this girl of four 
teen years in general literature, and at the inde 
pendence and originality of mind that resisted the 
subduing, and, if I may be allowed the expression, 
the subordinating effect of this early intimacy 
with captivating models. A marvellous resistance, 
if we take into the account " that timid, retiring 



86 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

modesty," which, as the writer of the letter says 
" marked her even to a painful excess." 

Lucretia returned to her mother with renovated 
health, and her mind bright with new impressions 
and joyous emotions. Religion is the natural, and 
only sustaining element of such a character. Where, 
but at the ever fresh, sweet, and life-giving foun 
tains of the Bible, could such a spirit have drunk, 
and not again thirsted ? During the winter of 
1823, she applied herself more closely than ever 
to her studies. She read the Holy Scriptures with 
fixed attention. She almost committed to mem 
ory the Psalms of David, the Lamentations of 
Jeremiah, and the Book of Job, guided in her 
selection by her poetic taste. Byron somewhere 
pronounces the Book of Job the sublimest poetry 
on record. During the winter, Miss Davidson 
wrote " A Hymn on Creation," the " Exit from 
Egyptian Bondage," and versified many chapters 
of the Bible. She read the New Testament, and 
particularly those parts of it that contain the most 
affecting passages in the history of our Savior, 
with the deepest emotion. 

In her intellectual pursuits and attainments only 
was she premature. She retained unimpaired the 
innocence, simplicity, and modesty of a chfld 
We have had descriptions of the extreme love 
liness of her face, and gracefulness of her person, 
from less doubtful authority than a fond mother. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 87 

Oar country towns are not regulated by the con 
ventional systems of the cities, where a youthful 
beauty is warily confined to the nursery and the 
school, till the prescribed age for the coming out, 
the coup-de-theatre of every young city-woman s 
life, arrives. In the country, as soon as a girl can 
contribute to the pleasures of society, she is in 
vited into it. During the winter of 1823, Platts- 
burg was gay, and Miss Davidson was eagerly 
sought to embellish the village dances. She had 
been at a dancing-school, and, like most young 
persons, enjoyed excessively this natural exercise ; 
for that may be called natural which exists among 
all nations, barbarous and civilized. Mrs. David 
son has given a history of her daughter s first ball, 
which all young ladies at least will thank us for 
transcribing almost verbatim, as it places her more 
within the circle of their sympathies. Her mother 
had consented to her attending one or two public 
assemblies, in the hope they might diminish her 
extreme timidity, painful both to Lucretia and to 
her friends. 

The day arrived ; Mrs. Davidson was consult 
ing with her eldest daughter upon the all-important 
matter of the dresses for the evening. Lucretia 
sat by, reading, without raising her eyes from the 
book, one of the Waverley novels. " Mamma, 
what shall Luly wear ? " asked her elder sister, 
calling her by the pretty diminutive by which they 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

usually addressed her at home. " Come, Lueretia, 
what color do you wear to-night ? " " Where ? " 
" Where ! why, to the assembly to be sure." " The 
assembly ! Is it to-night ? So it is ! " and she tossed 
away the book and danced about the loom, half 
wild with delight ; her sister at length called her 
to order, and the momentous question respecting 
the dress was definitively settled. She then resumed 
her reading, and, giving no farther thought to the 
ball, she was again absorbed in her book. 

This did not result from carelessness of appeal - 
ance or indifference to dress. On the contrary, 
she was rather remarkable for that nice taste, which 
belongs to an eye for proportion and coloring ; and 
any little embellishment or ornament she wore, 
was well chosen, and well placed. But she had 
that right estimate of the relative value of objects, 
which belongs to a superior mind. When the 
evening approached, the star of the ball again 
shone forth; she threw aside her book, and began 
the offices of the toilet with girlish interest, and it 
might be with some heart-beatings at the probable 
effect of the lovely face her mirror reflected. Her 
sister was to arrange her hair, and Lueretia put on 
her dressing-gown to await her convenience ; but, 
when the time came, she was missing. "We 
called her in vain," says Mrs. Davidson ; " at last, 
opening the parlor-door, I indistinctly saw, for it 
was twilight, some person sitting behind the great 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 89 

close stove. I approached nearer, and found 
Lucretia writing poetry ! moralizing on what the 
world calls pleasure ! I was almost dumb with 
amazement. She was eager to go, delighted with 
the prospect of pleasure before her ; yet she acted 
as if the time were too precious to spend in the 
necessary preparations, and she sat still and fin 
ished the last stanza, while I stood by, mute with 
astonishment at this strange bearing in a girl of 
fourteen, preparing to attend her first ball, an 
event she had anticipated with so many mingled 
emotions." " She returned from the assembly," 
continues her mother, " wild with delight. * Oh 
mamma, said she, ( I wish you had been there ! 
When I first entered, the glare of light dazzled my 
eyes, my head whizzed, and I felt as if I were 
treading on air ; all was so gay, so brilliant ! But I 
grew tired at last, and was glad to hear sister say 
it was time to go home. : 

The next day the ball was dismissed from her 
mind, and she returned to her studies with her 
customary ardor. During the winter she read 
Josephus, Charles the Fifth, Charles the Twelfth, 
read over Shakspeare, and various other works in 
prose and poetry. She particularly liked Addison, 
and read, almost every day, a portion of the 
Spectator. Her ardent love of literature seldom 
interfered with her social dispositions, never with 
her domestic affections. She was the life and joy 
of the home circle. 



90 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Miss Davidson s tranquillity was again interrupted 
by those misjudging persons, who, mistaking a 
woman s first duty for her whole duty, were much 
disturbed by this little girl s devotion to literature. 
Her conscience, stimulated by her affection, easily 
took the alarm, when they represented her mother 
as sinking beneath her burdens ; and she again 
secretly resolved to abandon her beloved studies, 
to throw away her pen, and to devote herself 
exclusively to domestic occupations. She was 
now older, and more determined and rigorous in 
the execution of her resolution. But to carry it 
into effect, as those will easily comprehend who 
know the details of a country family in narrow 
circumstances, required strength of body as well as 
strength of mind. Great demands were made on 
her feelings about this time by two extraordinary 
domestic events ; the marriage and removal of her 
elder sister, her beloved friend and companion ; and 
the birth of another, the little Margaret, so often 
the fond subject of her poetry. New, and doubt 
less sanative, emotions were called forth by this 
last event. The following lines from her published 
poems were written about this time. 

ON THE BIRTH OF A SISTER. 

u SWEET babe ! I cannot hope that thou It be freed 
From woes, to all since earliest time decreed ; 
But mayst thou be with resignation blessed, 
To bear each evil, howsoe er distressed. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 91 

* May Hope her anchor lend amid the storm, 
And o er the tempest rear her angel form ; 

May sweet Benevolence, whose words are peace, 
To the rude whirlwind softly whisper * Cease! 

* And may Religion, Heaven s own darling child, 
Teach thee at human cares and griefs to smile 5 
Teach thee to look beyond this world of woe, 

To Heaven s high fount, whence mercies ever flow. 

u And when this vale of years is safely passed, 
When death s dark curtain shuts the scene at last, 
May thy freed spirit leave this earthly sod, 
And fly to seek the bosom of thy God." 

The following lines, never before published, and, 
as we think, marked by more originality and beauty, 
were written soon after, and, as those above, with 
tier infant sister on her lap. What a subject for a 
painter would this beautiful impersonation of genius 
and love have presented ! 

THE SMILE OF INNOCENCE. 

[Written at the age of fifteen.] 

u THERE is a smile of bitter scorn, 

Which curls the lip, which lights the eye ; 
There is a smile in beauty s morn 
Just rising o er the midnight sky. 

** There is a smile of youthful joy, 

When hope s bright star s the transient gueit ; 
There is a smile of placid age, 
Like sunset on the billow s breast 



92 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

** There is a smile, the maniac s smile, 

Which lights the void which reason leaveSj 
And, like the sunshine through a cloud, 
Throws shadows o er the song she weaves. 

u There is a smile of love, of hope, 

Which shines a meteor through life s gloom 
And there s a smile, Religion s smile, 
Which lights the weary to the tomb. 

** There is a smile, an angel smile, 

That sainted souls behind them leave ; 

There is a smile, which shines through toil, 

And warms the bosom, though in grief. 

" And there s a smile on nature s face, 

When evening spreads her shades around ; 
It is a smile which angels might 
Upon their brightest lists enrol. 

a lt is the smile of innocence, 

Of sleeping infancy s light dream; 
Like lightning on a summer s eve, 
It sheds a soft, a pensive gleam. 

"It dances round the dimpled cheek, 

And tells of happiness within ; 

It smiles what it can never speak, 

A human heart devoid of sin." 

The three last most beautiful stanzas must have 
been inspired by the sleeping infant on her lap, 
and they seem to have reflected her soul s image, 
as we have seen the little inland lake catch and 
give back the marvellous beauty of the sunset 
clouds. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 93 

At this time, in pursuance of her resolution to 
devote herself to domestic duties, gall the harness 
as it might, she wrote no poetry except with her 
sister in her arms. Her labors were augmented 
by accidental circumstances. Her elder sister had 
removed to Canada ; her mother, who was very ill, 
lost her monthly nurse ; the infant, too, was ill. 
Lucretia for a while sustained her multiplied and 
varied cares with firmness and efficiency. The be 
lief, that she was doing her duty, gave her strength 
almost preternatural. I shall quote her mother s 
words, for I should fear to enfeeble, by any version 
of my own, the beautiful example of this con 
scientious little being. 

"Lucretia astonished us all. She took her 
station in my sick-room, and devoted herself wholly 
to the mother and child ; and, when my recovery 
became doubtful, instead of resigning herself to 
grief, her exertions were redoubled, not only for 
the comfort of the sick, but she was an angel 
of consolation to her afflicted father. We were 
astonished at the exertions she made, and the 
fatigue she endured ; for, with nerves so weak, a 
constitution so delicate, and a sensibility so ex 
quisite, we trembled lest she should sink with 
anxiety and fatigue. Until it ceased to be neces 
sary, she performed not only the duty of a nurse, 
but acted as superintendent of the household." 

When her mother became cor valescent, Lu- 



94 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

cretia continued her exclusive devotion to house 
hold affairs. She did not so much yield to her 
ruling passion as to look into a book, or take up 
a pen, as was to be expected from the intimate 
union of soul and body. When her mind was 
starved, it became dejected, and her body weak, 
and, in spite of her filial efforts, her mother detected 
tears on her cheeks, was alarmed by her excessive 
paleness, and expressed her apprehensions that she 
was ill. " No, mamma," she replied, " not ill, 
only out of spirits." Her mother then said she had 
observed, that of late she neither wrote nor read. 
She burst into tears. " Oh mamma, don t name 
it ! " she said ; " I have resigned all these things." 
A full explanation followed, and the generous 
mother succeeded in convincing her child, that she 
had been misguided in the course she had adopted, 
that the strongest wish of her heart was to advance 
her in her literary career, and that for this she 
would make every exertion and sacrifice ; at the 
same time she very judiciously advised her to 
intersperse her literary pursuits with those domestic 
occupations so essential to prepare every woman 
n our land for a housewife, her probable destiny. 

This conversation had a most happy effect. 
The stream flowed again in its natural channels, 
and Lucretia became cheerful, read, and wrote, and 
practised drawing. She had a decided taste for 
drawing, and excelled in it. She sung over her 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 95 

work, and in every way manifested the healthy 
condition, that results from a wise obedience to 
the laws of nature. 

We trust there are thousands of young ladies in 
our land, who, at the call of filial duty, would 
cheerfully perform domestic labor ; but, if there are 
any, who would make a strong love for more ele 
vated and refined pursuits an excuse for neglecting 
these coarser duties, we would commend them to 
the example of this conscientious child. She, if 
any could, might have pleaded her genius, or her 
delicate health, or her mother s most tender indul 
gence, for a failure, that, in her, would have hardly 
seemed to us a fault. 

During this summer she went to Canada with 
her mother, where she revelled in an unexplored 
library, and enjoyed most heartily the social 
pleasures at her sister s. They had a family con 
cert of music every evening. Mrs. Townsend, 
her sister, accompanied the instruments with her 
fine voice. Lucretia was often moved by the music, 
and particularly by her favorite song, Moore s 
" Farewell to my Harp." This she would have 
sung to her at twilight, when it would excite a 
shivering through her whole frame. On one occa 
sion she became cold and pale, and was near 
fainting, and afterwards poured her excited feelings 
forth in the following address ; 



96 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

TO MY SISTER 

u WHEN evening spreads her shades around 
And darkness fills the arch of Heaven ; 
When not a murmur, nor a sound 
To fancy s sportive ear is given ; 

When the broad orb of Heaven is bright 

And looks around with golden eye ; 
When nature, softened by her light, 
Seems calmly, solemnly to lie ; 

< Then, when our thoughts are raised above 
This world, and all this world can give ; 
Oh sister, sing the song I love, 
And tears of gratitude receive. 

The song which thrills my bosom s core, 

And hovering, trembles, half afraid, 
Oh sister, sing the song once more, 
Which ne er for mortal ear was made. 

T were almost sacrilege to sing 

Those notes amid the glare of day ; 
Notes borne by angel s purest wing, 
And wafted by their breath away. 

When sleeping in rny grass-grown bed, 
Should st thou still linger here above, 
Wilt thou not kneel beside my head, 
And, sister, sing the song I love ? " 

We insert here a striking circumstance that oc 
curred during a visit she made to her sister the 
following year. She was at that time employed 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 97 

m writing her longest published poem, "Amir 
Khan." Immediately after breakfast she went 
out to walk, and, not returning to dinner, nor even 
when the evening approached, Mr. Townsend set 
forth in search of her. He met her, and, as her 
eye encountered his, she smiled and blushed, as if 
she felt conscious of having been a little ridiculous. 
She said she had called on a friend, and, having 
found her absent, had gone to her library, where 
she had been examining some volumes of an En 
cyclopaedia, to aid her, we believe, in the Oriental 
story she was employed upon. She forgot her 
dinner and her tea, and had remained reading, 
standing, and with her hat on, till the disappear 
ance of daylight brought her to her senses. 

In the interval between her visits, she wrote 
several letters to her friends, which are chiefly 
interesting from the indications they afford of her 
social and affectionate spirit. We subjoin a few 
extracts. She had returned to Plattsburg amid 
the bustle of a Fourth of July celebration. " We 
found," she says, " our brother Yankees had 
turned out well to celebrate the Fourth. The 
wharf from the hill to the very edge of the water, 
even the rafts and sloops, vvere black with the 
crowd. If some very good genius, who presided 
over my destiny at that time, had not spread its 
protecting pinions round me, like every thing else 
m my possession, I should have lost even my 

VII. 7 



98 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

precious self. What a truly lamentable accident it 
would have been just at that moment ! We took 
a carriage, and were extricating ourselves from the 

crowd, when Mr. , who had pressed himself 

through, came to shake hands, and bid good bye. 

He is now on his way to . Well ! here 

is health, happiness, and a bushel of love to all 
married people ! Is it possible, you ask, that Sister 
Lue could ever have permitted such a toast to pass 
her lips ? We arrived safely at our good old 
house, and found every thing as we had left it. 
The chimney swallows had taken up their residence 
in the chimney, and rattled the soot from their 
sable habitations over the hearth and carpet. It 
looked like desolation indeed. The grass is high 
in the door-yard ; the wild-roses, double-roses, and 
sweet-briar are in full bloom, and, take it all in 
all, the spot looks much as the garden of Eden 
did after the expulsion of Adam and Eve. 

" We had just done tea when M came in, 

and sat an hour or two. What, in the name 
of wonder, could he have found to talk about 
all that time ? Something, dear sister, you would 
not have thought of; something of so little con 
sequence, that the time he spent glided swiftly, 
almost unnoticed. I had him all to myself, tete- 
a-tete. 

" I had almost forgotten to tell you I had yes 
terday a present of a most beaudful bouquet. F 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. ITJ 

wore it to church in the afternoon ; but it has 
withered and faded, 

Withered like the world s treasures, 
Faded like the world s pleasures. " 

From the sort of mystical, girl-like allusions in 
the above extracts, to persons whose initials only 
are given, to bouquets and tete-a-tetes, we infer 
that she thus early had declared lovers. Even at 
this age, for she was not yet sixteen, her mother 
says she had resolved never to marry. " Her 
reasons," continues her mother, " for this decision, 
were, that her peculiar habits, hci entire devotion 
to books and scribbling (as she called it), unfitted 
her for the care of a family. She could not do 
justice to husband or children while her whole 
soul was absorbed in literary pursuits ; she was not 
willing to resign them for any man, therefore she 
had formed the resolution to lead a single life ; " 
a resolution that would have lasted probably till 
she had passed under the dominion of a stronger 
passion than her love for the Muses. With affec 
tions like hers, and a most lovely person and 
attractive manners, her resolution would scarcely 
have enabled her to escape the common destiny 
of her sex. 

The following is an extract from a letter written 
after participating in several gay parties ; 

" Indeed my dear father, I have turned round 



100 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

like a top for the last two or three weeks, and am 
glad to seat myself once more in my favorite 
corner. How, think you, should I stand it to be 
whirled in the giddy round of dissipation ? I come 
home from the blaze of light, from the laugh of 
mirth, the smile of complaisance and seeming 
happiness, and the vision passes from my mini 
like the brilliant, but transitory hues of the rainbow * 
and I think with regret on the many, very many 
happy hours I have passed with you and Anne, 
Oh, I do want to see you, indeed I do. You 
think me wild, thoughtless, and perhaps unfeeling ; 
but I assure you I can be sober, I sometimes think, 
and I can and do feel. Why have you not written ? 
Not one word in almost three weeks ! Where 
are your promises of punctual correspondence ? 
Mamma feels almost distracted. They have for 
gotten me ! she said to-day when the boat arrived 
and brought no letter, and burst into tears. Oh, 
do write." 

" Dear brother and sister, I must write ; but, 
dear Anne, I am now doomed to dim your eye and 
cloud your brow, for I know, that what I have to 
communicate will surprise and distress you. Our 
dear, dear cousin John is dead ! Oh, I need not 
tell you how much, how deeply he is lamented. 
You knew him, and, like every one else who did, 
you loved him. Poor Eliza ! how my heart aches 
for her ! her father, her mother, her brother, all 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 101 

gone, almost the last, the dearest tie is broken 
which bound her to life. What a vacancy must 
there be in her heart. How fatal would it preve 
to almost every hope in life, were we allowed even 
a momentary glimpse of futurity ! for often hau 
the enjoyments of life consist, ki .the, anticipation of 
pleasures, which may never be ours/ 

Soon after this, Lucretfy witr/essed the tfeaih of 
a beloved young friend. It was the first death she 
had seen, and it had its natural effect on a reflect 
ing and sensitive mind. Her thoughts wandered 
through eternity by the light of religion, the only 
light that penetrates beyond the death-bed. She 
wrote many religious pieces ; but, as I hope another 
volume of her poems will be given to the public, 
I have merely selected the following. 

" OH that the eagle s wing were mine, 

I M soar above the dreary earth ; 
I M spread my wings, and rise to join 
The immortal fountain of my birth. 

u For what is joy ? How soon it fades, 

The childish vision of an hour ! 
Though warm and brilliant are its shades, 
T is but a frail and fading flower. 

* And what is hope ? It is a light 

Which leads us on, deluding ever, 
Till lost amid the shades of night 
We sink, and then it flies for ever. 



102 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

And what is love ? It is a dream, 

A brilliant fable framed by youth ; 
A bubble dancing on life s stream, 
And sinking neath the eye of truth. 

* And what are honor, glory, fame, 
. But deaths ,-da/k watch- words to the grave? 
The victim dies, and lo ! his name 
.^ Js stamped in life s refl-rolh ng wave. 

M And what are all the joys of life, 
But vanity, and toil, and woe ? 
What but a bitter cup of grief, 

With dregs of sin and death below ? 

"This world is but the first dark gate 

Unfolded to the wakening soul ; 
But Death unerring, led by Fate, 

Shall Heaven s bright portals backward rolL 

" Then shall this unchained spirit fly 
On, to the God who gave it life ; 
Rejoicing, as it soars on high, 

Released from danger, doubt, and strife 

u There will it pour its anthems forth, 
Bending before its Maker s throne, 
The great I AM, who gave it birth, 
The Almighty God, the dread Unknown." 

During this winter her application to her books 
*was so unremitting, that her parents again became 
alarmed for her health, and persuaded her occa 
sionally to join in the amusements of Plattsburg. 
She came home one night at twelve o clock from 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 103 

a ball ; and, after giving a most lively account of 
all she had seen and heard to her mother, who, as 
usual, had been sitting up for her, she quietly 
seated herself at the table, and wrote her " Reflec 
tions after leaving a Ball-room." Her spirit, 
though it glided with kind sympathies into the 
common pleasures of youth, never seemed to relax 
its tie to the spiritual world. 

During the summer of 1824, Captain Partridge 
visited Plattsburg with his soldier-scholars. Mili 
tary display had its usual exciting effect on 
Miss Davidson s imagination, and she addressed 
" To the Vermont Cadets " the following spirited 
stanzas, which might have come from the martial 
Clorinda. 

PASS on ! for the bright torch of glory is beaming ; 
Go, wreathe round your brows the green laurels ot 

fame ; 

Around you a halo is brilliantly streaming, 
And history lingers to write down each name. 

* Yes ; ye are the pillars of Liberty s throne ; 
When around you the banner of glory shall wave, 
America proudly shall claim you her own ; 
And Freedom and Honor shall pause o er each 



W A watch-fire of glory, a beacon of light, 
Shall guide you to honor, shall point you to fame ; 
The heart that shrinks back, be it buried in night, 
And withered with dim tears of sorrow and shame 



104 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" Though death should await you, t were glorious to die 
With the glow of pure honor still warm on the brow ; 
With a light sparkling brightly around the dim eye, 
Like the smile of a spirit still lingering below. 

44 Pass on ! and when War in his strength shall aria*, 
Rush on to the conflict, and conquer or die ; 
Let the clash of your arms proudly roll to the skies 
Be blest, if victorious, and cursed, if you fly ! " 

It was about this time that she finished " Amir 
Khan," and began a tale of some length, which 
she entitled "The Recluse of the Saranac." 
Amir Khan has long been before the public, but 
we think it has suffered from a general and very 
natural distrust of precocious genius. The versi 
fication is graceful, the story beautifully developed, 
and the Orientalism well sustained. We think it 
would not have done discredit to our best popular 
poets in the meridian of their fame. As the 
production of a secluded girl of fifteen, it seems 
prodigious. On her mother accidentally discov 
ering and reading a part of her romance, Lucretia 
manifested her usual shrinkings, and with many 
tears exacted a promise that she would not again 
look at it till it was finished. She never again 
saw it till after her daughter s death. Lucretia 
had a most whimsical fancy for pasting narrow 
slips of paper together, and writing on both sides ; 
and once playfully boasting to her mother of 
having written some yards of poetry, she produced 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 105 

a roll, and, forbidding her approach, she measured 
off twenty yards ! 

She continued her favorite employments, but 
now with a secret disquietude that did not escape 
Mrs. Davidson s vigilant eye. She claimed her 
child s unqualified confidence, and Lucretia, laying 
her head on her mother s bosom, and weeping bit 
terly, confessed her irrepressible longings for more 
effective means and helps to pursue her studies. 
" Dear mamma," she said, " had I but half the 
advantages which I see others slighting, I should 
be the happiest of the happy. I am now sixteen 
years old, and what do I know ? Nothing ! 
nothing, indeed, compared with what I have yet 
to learn. The time is rapidly passing, allotted to 
the improvement of youth, and how dark are my 
prospects in regard to the favorite wish of my 
heart ! " Her mother, instead of remonstrating, 
wept with her, and her sympathy was more 
efficacious than the most elaborate reasoning upon 
the futility and extravagance of her child s desires. 
" She became more cheerful," says her mother, 
" though it was still apparent that her heart was 
ill at ease." 

She often expressed a wish to spend one fort 
night alone, even to the exclusion of her little 
pet sister ; and Mrs. Davidson, eager to afford her 
every gratification in her power, had a room pre 
pared for her recess. Her dinner was sent up to 



106 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

her. She declined coming down to tea, and hex 
mother, on going to her apartment, found her 
writing, her plate untouched. Some secret joy it 
was natural the mother should feel at this devotion 
to intellectual pleasure ; but her good sense, or her 
maternal anxiety, got the better of it, and she 
persuaded Lucretia to consent to the interruption 
of a daily walk. It was during one of these 
walks, that she was first seen by the gentleman 
who was destined to govern the brief space of 
life that remained to her. His benevolent mind 
had been interested by the reputation of her 
genius and loveliness, and no w r onder that the 
beautiful form in which it was enshrined should 
have called this interest into sudden and effective 
action. Miss Davidson was just sixteen. Her 
complexion was the most beautiful brunette, clear 
and brilliant, of that warm tint that seems to 
belong to lands of the sun rather than to our 
chilled regions. Indeed, her whole organization, 
mental as well as physical, her deep and quick 
sensibility, her early developement, were charac 
teristics of a warmer clime than ours. Her stature 
was low, her form slight and symmetrical, her 
hair profuse, dark, and curling, her mouth and 
nose regular, and as beautiful as if they had oeen 
chiselled by an inspired artist ; and through this 
fitting medium beamed her angelic spirit. 

The gentleman, to whom we have alluded, at 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 107 

once determined to give to this rich gem whatever 
polishing could be given by adventitious circum 
stances. He went to her father s house, offered 
to take her under his protection, and to give her 
every facility for education that could be obtained 
in this country. Some conversation ensued, as 
to different institutions for education, and Mrs. 
Willard s celebrated school at Troy was decided 
on. " You do not know, Sir," says her mother, 
in a letter to Lucretia s patron, written long after, 
" the gratitude, the depth of feeling, which your 
disinterested conduct excited in our lamented 
child. She had left the room when you went 
away ; I followed her. She had thrown herself 
into a chair. Her face was as pale as death ; I 
took her hands in mine ; they were as cold as 
marble. I spoke, she made no reply, and I dis 
covered she had fainted ! After the application of 
suitable remedies, she began to recover," continues 
her mother, " and burst into tears, and wept long 
and violently. When she was sufficiently com 
posed, I asked her if she was willing to accept 
your generous offer. Oh yes, mamma ! oh yes ! 
but my feelings overpower me. " 

On the same evening she wrote the following 
letter to her brother and sister. 

" What think you ? Ere another moon shall 
fill round as my shield, I shall be at Mrs. Willard s 
Seminary. A kind and generous friend has in 
vited, ves. urged me, to accept an offer so 



108 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

every way advantageous to myself; and his be 
nevolent offer has been accepted. In a fortnight 
I shall probably have left Plattsburg, not to return 
at least until the expiration of six months. Oh ! 
I am so happy ! so delighted ! I shall scarcely 
eat, drink, or sleep for a month to come. You 
and Anne must both write to me often, and you 
must not laugh when you think of poor Luly in 
the far-famed city of Troy, dropping handker 
chiefs, keys, gloves, &,c., in short, something of 
every thing I have. It is well if you can read 
what I have written, for papa and mamma are 
talking, and my head whirls like a top. Oh ! how 
my poor head aches ! Such a surprise as I have 
had ! " 

On the 24th of November, 1824, she left home, 
health on her cheek and in her bosom, and flushed 
with the most ardent expectations of getting 
rapidly forward in the career her desires were 
fixed upon. But even at this moment her fond 
devotion to her mother was beautifully expressed 
in some stanzas, which she left where they would 
meet her eye as soon as the parting tears were 
wiped away. These stanzas are already pub 
lished, and I shall only quote two from them, 
striking for their tenderness and truth. 

"To thee my lay is due, the simple song 

Which nature gave me at life s opening day, 
To thee these rude, these untaught strains belong, 
Whose heart, indulgent, will not spurn my lav. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON 109 

Oh say, amid this wilderness of life, 

What bosom would have throbbed like thine for me ? 
Who would have smiled responsive ? Who in grief 

Would e er have felt, and feeling grieved like thee ? " 

The following extracts from her letters, which 
were always filled with yearnings for home, will 
show that her affections were the strong-hold of 
her nature. 

" Troy Seminary, December 6th, 1824. Here I 
am at last; and what a naughty girl I was, when I 
was at Aunt Schuyler s, that I did not write you 
every thing ! But to tell the truth, I was topsy 
turvy, and so I am now ; but, in despite of calls 
from the young ladies, and of a hundred new faces, 
and new names which are constantly ringing in my 
ears, I have set myself down, and will not rise until 
I have written an account of every thing to my 
dear mother. I am contented ; yet, notwithstand 
ing, I have once or twice turned a wishful glance 
towards my dear-loved home. Amidst all the 
parade of wealth, in the splendid apartments of 
luxury, I can assure you, my dearest mother, that 
I had rather be with you in our own lowly home, 
than in the midst of all this ceremony." 

" Oh, mamma, I like Mrs. Willard. < And so 
this is my girl, Mrs. Schuyler ? said she, and took 
me affectionately by the hand. Oh, I want to see 
you so much ! But 1 must not think of it now. I 
must learn as fast as I can, and think only of my 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

studies. Dear, dear little Margaret ! kiss her and 
tile little boys for me. How is dear father getting 
on in this rattling world ? " 

The letters that followed were tinged with 
melancholy from her " bosom s depth," and her 
mother has withheld them. In a subsequent one 
she says, " I have written two long letters ; but 1 
wrote when I was ill, and they savor too much of 
sadness. I feel a little better now, and have again 
commenced my studies. Mr. * called here to 
day. Oh, he is very good ! He stayed some time, 
and brought a great many books ; but I fear I shall 
have little time to read aught but what appertains 
to my studies. I am consulting Kames s * Elements 
of Criticism, studying French, attending to Geolo 
gical lectures, composition, reading, paying some 
little attention to painting, and learning to dance." 

A subsequent letter indicated great unhappiness 
and debility, and awakened her mother s appre 
hensions. The next was written more cheerfully. 
" As I fly to you," she says, " for consolation in 
all my sorrows, so I turn to you, my dear mother, 
to participate all my joys. The clouds that envel- 

*This hiatus should oe filled with the name of her 
benefactor; but, as his patronage was marked with the 
delicacy that characterizes true generosity, I cannot, 
without his expressed permission, publish his name. The 
world s praise could be little to him, who enjoyed the 
gratitude of this young earthly angel. 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. Ill 

oped my mind have dispersed, and I turn to you 
with a far lighter heart than when I last wrote. 

The ever kind Mr. called yesterday." She 

then describes the paternal interest her benefactor 
took in her health and happiness, expresses a 
trembling apprehension lest he should be disap 
pointed in the amount of her improvement, and 
laments the loss of time from her frequent indis 
positions. " How, my dear mother," she says, 
" shall I express my gratitude to my kind, my 
excellent friend ? What is felt as deeply as I feel 
this obligation, cannot be expressed ; but I can feel, 
and do feel." It must be remembered that these 
were not formal and obligatory letters to her 
benefactor, but the spontaneous overflowing of 
her heart in her private correspondence with her 
mother. 

We now come to a topic, to which we would 
ask the particular attention of our readers. Ow 
ing to many causes, but chiefly, we believe, to 
the demand for operatives in every department 
of society in our country, the work of school 
education is crowded into a very few years. The 
studies, instead of being selected, spread through 
the whole circle of the sciences. The school 
period is the period of the young animal s phys 
ical growth and developement ; the period when 
the demands of the physical nature are strongest, 
and the mental weakest. Then our young men 



112 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

are immured in colleges, law schools, divinity 
schools, &tc., and our young ladies in boarding- 
schools, where, even in the best regulated, the 
provisions for exercise in the open air are very 
insufficient. In the city schools, we are aware, 
that the difficulties to be overcome to achieve this 
great object are nearly insuperable, we believe 
quite so ; and, if they are so, should not these 
establishments be placed in the country ? Are not 
health and physical vigor the basis of mental 
health and vigor, of usefulness and happiness? 
What a proportion of the miseries of the more 
favored classes of our females result from their 
invalidism ! What feebleness of purpose, weak 
ness of execution, dejection, fretfulness, mental 
and moral imbecility I 

The case would not be so bad, if the misery 
ended with one generation, with the mother, cut 
off in the midst of her days, or dragging on, to 
threescore and ten, her unenjoyed and profitless 
existence. But that it is not so, there are hosts 
of living witnesses in the sickly, pale, drooping 
children of our nurseries. There are multitudes 
who tell us, that our climate will not permit a 
delicate female to exercise in the open air. If the 
climate is bad, so much the more important is it to 
acquire strength to resist it. Besides, if out-of- 
doors exercise is not at all times attractive, we 
know it is not impossible. We know delicately 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 113 

bred females, who, during some of our hardest 
winters, have not for more than a day or two lost 
their exercise abroad. When, in addition to the 
privation of pleasurable exercise, (for the walk in 
funeral procession, attended by martinets, and 
skewered by city decorums, can scarcely be called 
pleasurable,) the school girl is confined to her 
tasks from eight to ten hours in rooms sometimes 
too cold, sometimes too hot, where her fellow suf 
ferers are en masse, can we wonder at the result ? 

How far this evil may have operated in shorten 
ing the life of Lucretia Davidson, we cannot say ; 
but we cannot but think, that her devoted and 
watchful friend erred in sending a creature so deli 
cate in her construction to any boarding-school, 
even the best-conducted institution. We certainly 
do not mean to express or imply any censure of 
the " Troy Seminary." We have no personal 
knowledge of it ; but we believe no similar institu 
tion has more the confidence of the community ; 
and, as it has been now many years established 
and tried, it is fair to believe it deserves it. 

An arrangement of these boarding-schools, that 
bore very hard upon Miss Davidson, was the 
public examination.* These examinations are 

* I did not intend remarking upon the influence these 
examinations have on the scholar s progress ; but I can 
not forbear quoting the following pertinent passage from 
President Hopkins s Inaugural Address. "There are 
VII. 8 



114 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

appalling to a sensitive mind. Could they be 
proved to be of manifest advantage to the scholar 
ship of the young ladies, we should doubt their 
utility on the whole. But, even where they are 
conducted with perfect fairness, are they a test of 
scholarship ? Do not the bold outface, and the 
indolent evade them ? The studious are stimu 
lated, and the sensitive and shrinking, if stimu 
lated, are appalled and disconcerted by them ; so 
that the condiment affects those only, whose 
appetites are already too keen. 

But the experience of Miss Davidson is more 
persuasive than any reasoning of ours, and we 
shall give it in her own language, in occasional 
extracts from her letters to her mother. 

" We now begin to dread the examination. Oh, 
horrible ! seven weeks, and I shall be posted up 
before all Troy, all the students from Schenectady, 
and perhaps five hundred others. What shall I 
do?" 

" I have just received a note from Mr. , 

in which he speaks of your having written to him 
of my illness. I was indeed ill, and very ill for 

not wanting schools in this country, in which the real 
interests and progress of the pupils are sacrificed to 
their appearance at examination. But the vanity of 
parents must be flattered, and the memory is overbur 
dened, and studies are forced on prematurely, and a 
system of infant-school instruction is carried forward 
into maturer life." 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 115 

several days, and in my deepest dejection wrote 
to you ; but do not, my dearest mother, be alarmed 
about me. My appetite is not perfectly good, 
but quite as well as when I was at home. Mr. 

s letter was accompanied by a French 

Testament. The letter was just such a one aa 
was calculated to soothe my feelings, and set me 
completely at rest, and I begin to think he is 
truly my < guardian angel. He expressed a wish 
that my stay here should be prolonged. What 
think you, mother? I should be delighted by 
such an arrangement. This place really seems 
quite like a home to me, though not my own dear 
home. I like Mrs. Willard, I love the girls, and I 
have the vanity to think I am not actually dis 
agreeable to them." 

We come now to another expression (partly 
serious, and partly bantering, for she seems to 
have uniformly respected her instructress) of her 
terrors of " examination." 

" We are all engaged, heart and hand, preparing 
for this awful examination. Oh, how I dread it ! 
But there is no retreat. I must stand firm to my 
post, or experience all the anger, vengeance, and 
punishment, which will, in case of delinquency or 
flight, be exercised with the most unforgiving acri 
mony. We are in such cases excommunicated, 
henceforth and for ever, under the awful ban of 
holy Seminary ; and the evil eye of false report 



116 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

is upon us. Oh mamma, I do though, jesting 
apart, dread this examination; but nothing short 
of real and absolute sickness can excuse a scholar 
in the eyes of Mrs. Willard. Even that will not 
do it to the Trojan world around us ; for, if a young 
lady is ill at examination, they say with a sneer, 
Oh, she is ill of an examination fever ! Thus 
vou see, mamma, we have no mercy either from 
friends or foes. We must l do or die. 9 Tell 
Morris he must write to me. Kiss dear, dear 
little Margaret for me, and don t let her forget 
poor sister Luly, and tell all who inquire for me 
that I am well, but in awful dread of a great 
examination." 

The following extract is from a letter to her 
friends, who had written under the impression, 
that all letters received by the young ladies were, 
of course, read by some one of the officers of the 
institution. 

" Lo ! just as I was descending from the third 
*tory, (for you must know I hold my head high,) 
your letter was put into my hands. Poor little 
wanderer ! I really felt a sisterly compassion for 
the poor little folded paper. I kissed it for the 
sake of those who sent it forth into the wide world, 
and put it into my bosom. But oh, when I read 
it ! Now, Anne, I will tell you the truth ; it was 
cold, perhaps it was written on one of your cold 
Canada days, or perchance it lost a little heat on 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 117 

the way. It did not seem to come from the very 
heart of hearts ; it looked as though it were written 
to a young lady at the Troy Seminary, not to 

your dear, dear, dear sister Luly. Mr. has 

thus far been a father to me, and I thank him ; but 
T will not mock my feelings by attempting to say 
how much I thank him. I can never do them 
justice. What inducement can he have to do 
what he is now doing? I know of none. Personal 
merit on my part is out of the question. His 
heart is naturally benevolent ; he wishes to do 
good ; he saw me, and by some unaccountable 
means I am where I am. The Father of those, 
who are in adversity struggling against despair, 
undoubtedly should receive my heart-felt thanks 
and praises as the original, the moving cause of all 
these blessings ; and I hope they are as mercifully 
received as they are sincerely given." 

" My dear mother ! oh how I wish I could lay 
my head upon your bosom ! I hope you do not 
keep my letters, for I certainly have burned all 
yours, * and I stood like a little fool and wept 
over their ashes, and, when I saw the last one 
gone, I felt as though I had parted with my last 
friend." Then, after expressing an earnest wish 
that her mother would destroy her letters, she 
says, " They have no connexion. When I 

* This was in consequence of a positive command 
from her mother. 



118 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

write, every thing comes crowding upon me at 
once ; my pen moves too slow for my brain 
and my heart, and I feel vexed at myself, and 
tumble in every thing together, and a choice 
medley you have of it." 

" I attended Mr. Ball s public [assembly] last 
night, and had a delightful evening ; but now for 
something of more importance, Ex-am-i-na-tion ! 
I had just begun to be engaged, heart and hand, 
preparing for it, when, by some means, I took a 
violent cold. I was unable to raise my voice above 
a whisper, and coughed incessantly. On the 
second day Mrs. Willard sent for Dr. Robbins ; 
he said I must be bled, and take an emetic ; this 
was sad ; but, oh mamma, I could not speak nor 
breathe without pain." There are farther details 
of pains, remedies, and consequent exhaustion ; 
and yet this fragile and precious creature was 
permitted by her physician and friends, kind ahd 
watchful friends too, to proceed in her suicidal 
preparations for examination ! There was nothing 
uncommon in this injudiciousness. Such viola 
tions of the laws of our physical nature are every 
day committed by persons, in other respects, the 
wisest and the best, and our poor little martyr 
may not have suffered in vain, if her experience 
awakens attention to the subject. 

In the letter, from which we have quoted above, 
and which is filled with expressions of love for the 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 119 

dear ones at home, she thus continues ; " Tell 
Morris I will answer his letter in full next quarter ; 
but now I fear I am doing wrong, for I am yet 
quite feeble, and when I get stronger I shall be 
very avaricious of my time, in order to prepare for 
the coming week. We must study morning, noon, 
and night. / shall rise between two and four 
now every morning, till the dreaded day is past. 
I rose the other night at twelve, but was ordered 
back to bed again. You see, mamma, I shall 
have a chance to become an early riser here." 
"Had I not written you that I was coming 
home, I think I should not have seen you this 
winter. All my friends think I had better remain 
here, as the journey will be long and cold ; but 
oh ! there is that at the journey s end, which would 
tempt me through the wilds of Siberia, father, 
mother, brothers, sister, home. Yes, I shall come." 
We insert some stanzas, written about this time, 
not so much for their poetical merit, as for the 
playful spirit that beams through them, and which 
seems like sunbeams smiling on a cataract. 

A WEEK BEFORE EXAMINATION. 

u ONE has a headache, one a cold, 
One has her neck in flannel rolled ; 
Ask the complaint, and you are told, 
Next week s examination. 
* One frets and scolds, and laughs and cries, 
Another hopes, despairs, and sighs ; 
Ask but the cause, and each replies, 
Next week s examination. 



120 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" One bans her books, then grasps them tight, 
And studies morning, noon, and night, 
As though she took some strange delight 
In these examinations. 

" The books are marked, defaced, and thumbed, 
The brains with midnight tasks benumbed, 
Still all in that account is summed, 

{ Next week s examination ! " 

In a letter of February 10th, she says, " The 
dreaded work of examination is now going on, my 
dear mother. To-morrow evening, which will be 
the last, and is always the most crowded, is the 
time fixed upon for my entree upon the field of 
action. Oh ! I hope I shall not disgrace myself. 
It is a rule here to reserve the best classes till the 
last ; so I suppose I may take it as a compliment 
that we are delayed." 

" February l%th. The examination is over. 

E E did herself and her native village 

honor ; but as for your poor Luly, she acquitted 
herself, I trust, decently. Oh ! mamma, I was so 
frightened ! but, although my face glowed and my 
voice trembled, I did make out to get through, 
for I knew my lessons. The room was crowded 
almost to suffocation. All was still, the fall of a 
pin could have been heard, and I tremble when I 
think of it even now." No one can read these 
melancholy records without emotion. 

Her visit home during the vacation was given 
up, in compliance with the advice of her guardian 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 121 

" 1 wept a good long hour or so," she says, with 
ner characteristic gentle acquiescence, " and then 
made up my mind to be content." 

In her next letter she relates an incident very 
striking in her uneventful life. It occurred in 
returning to Troy, after her vacation, passed 
happily with her friends in the vicinity. %f Uncle 
went to the ferry with me," she says, " where we 
met Mr. Paris. Uncle placed me under his care 
and, snugly seated by his side, I expected a very 
pleasant ride, with a very pleasant gentleman. All 
was pleasant, except that we expected every 
instant that all the ice in the Hudson would come 
drifting against us, and shut in scow, stage, and 
all, or sink us to the bottom, which, in either case, 
you know, mother, would not have been quite so 
agreeable. We had just pushed from the shore, 
I watching the ice with anxious eyes, when, lo ! 
the two leaders made a tremendous plunge, and 
tumbled headlong into the river. I felt the car 
riage following fast after ; the other two horses 
pulled back with all their power, but the leaders 
were dragging them down, dashing and plunging, 
and flouncing in the water. Mr. Paris, in mercy 
let us get out ! said I. But, as he did not see the 
horses, he felt no alarm. The moment 1 informed 
him they were overboard, he opened the door and 
cried, Get out and save yourself, if possible ; I 
am old and stiff, but I will follow in an instant 



122 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

s Out with the lady ! let the lady out ! shouted 
several voices at once ; < the other horses are about 
to plunge, and then all will be over. I made a 
lighter spring than many a lady does in a cotillon, 
and jumped upon a cake of ice. Mr. Paris fol 
lowed, and we stood, (I trembling like a leaf,) 
expecting every instant that the next plunge of 
the drowning horses would detach the piece of ice 
upon which we were standing, and send us adrift ; 
but, thank Heaven, after working for ten or fifteen 
minutes, by dint of ropes and cutting them away 
from the other horses, they dragged the poor 
creatures out more dead than alive. 

" Mother, don t you think I displayed some 
courage ? I jumped into the stage again, and shut 
the door, while Mr. Paris remained outside, watch 
ing the movement of affairs. We at length reached 
here, and I am alive, as you see, to tell the story 
of my woes." 

In her next letter she details a conversation with 
Mrs. Willard, full of kind commendation and good 
counsel. " Mamma," she concludes, " you would 
be justified in thinking me a perfect lump of vanity 
and egotism ; but I have always related to you 
every thought, every action, of my life. I have 
had no concealments from you, and I have stated 
these matters to you because they fill me with 
surprise. Who would think the accomplished 
Mrs. Willard would admire my poor daubing, 01 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 123 

my poor any thing else ! Oh, dear mamma, I am 
so happy now ! so contented ! Every unusual 
movement startles me, I am constantly afraid of 
something to mar it." * 

* This letter manifests strikingly, what all her letters 
indicate, her entire unconsciousness of superiority, her 
freedom from vanity, or any approach even to self- 
complacency. I insert here some extracts from a very 
interesting letter from Mrs. Willard, with which I was 
favored too late to incorporate it in the narrative. 

" Though you have doubtless more exact descriptions 
of Miss Davidson, than I shaH be able, after the lapse of 
so many years, to afford, yet I will give you truly my 
impressions concerning her. They may be of some 
value, as they are formed with the advantage of extensive 
comparison with those of her own age, known under 
similar circumstances. 

"Miss Davidson was scarcely of a middling height, 
delicately formed, with regular features, a fine roseate 
bloom, bright, round black eyes, and dark brown hair, 
which flowed in fine curls about her face. She had all 
the elements of personal beauty ; yet she was so exces 
sively shy, that many a girl, less perfectly endowed in 
that respect, would be sooner noticed by a stranger. 
Her fine eyes, especially in the presence of those with 
whom she was not familiar, would be bent downwards ; 
and there was a certain shrinking of her person, as if 
the would fain make herself so little as not to be seer. 

" From the same excessive timidity she would, undei 
the same circumstances, shrink her mind as well as her 
person : not conversing fluently, or bringing out in speech 
those flashes of fancy, and that delicacy of sentiment, 
irhjch marked her written compositions. Hence her 



124: AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The next extract is from a letter, the emanation 
of her affectionate spirit, to a favorite brother 
seven years old. 

" Dear L , I am obliged to you for your two 

very interesting epistles, and much doubt whether 
I could spell more ingeniously myself. Really, 
I have some idea of sending them to the printer s, 
to be struck off in imitation of a Chinese puzzle. 
Your questions about the stars I have been cogi 
tating upon for some time past, and am of the 

teachers did not find her recitations brilliant, although 
well satisfied that she understood her author. There 
was also a degree of irregularity in her performances, 
her mind operating at different times with different de 
grees of force. I recollect that she was a fine scholar 
in Kames s Elements of Criticism. She was studying 
that work at the same time with Paley s Moral Philos 
ophy. Her companions found Paley a much easier 
author to understand. This surprised Miss Davidson, 
who found Kames much less difficult;, because, she said, 
the work was more connected. It was in truth more 
connected with her internal sensibilities. The * ideal 
presence of Kames was more congenial to her, than 
the general consequences of Paley. She loved better 
to dwell in the high regions of imagination and taste, 
than in the lower but more extensive world of common 
things. 

" However it might be with her recitations, she soon 
became distinguished in school by her compositions. 
My sister, Mrs. Lincoln (now Mrs. Phelps), superintended 
the class in that branch of which Miss Davidson waa 
a member. I well remember the high satisfaction with 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 125 

opinion, that, if there are beings inhabiting those 
heavenly regions, they must be content to feed, 
cameleon-like, upon air; for, even were we disposed 
to spare them a portion of our earth sufficient to 
plant a garden, I doubt whether the attraction of 
gravitation would not be too strong for resistance, 
and the unwilling clod return to its pale brethren 
of the valley, f to rest in ease inglorious. So far 
from burning your precious letters, my dear little 
brother, I carefully preserve them in a little pocket- 
book, and when I feel lonely and desolate, and 

which she came to show me one of her first school 
productions, the subject of which was The Discovery of 
America. But in nothing, not even in poetry, of which 
some of her finest pieces were written here, did she 
evince the superiority of her genius, more than in draw 
ing and painting ; and I am convinced that she wanted 
nothing but practice, with some good instruction, to have 
painted in a style as elegant, and as peculiarly her own, 
as were her finest literary productions. In several re 
spects she would improve upon the copies given her. 
She not only seemed to seize the artist s idea, and to 
know exactly what effect he wished to produce ; but she 
brought out from her own imagination more picturesque 
forms, and sometimes fine touches which were quite 
original. I speak of Miss Davidson s painting, not in 
comparison with those of the practised artist, but with 
these of other school-girls, and of the many who have 
been under my instruction. 

" I do not now recollect one, of whose native genius I 
had so high an opinion ; although we have had many 
who, in consequence of much more practice and instruc 



126 AMERICA* BIOGRAPHT 

think of my dear home, I turn them over and over 
again. Do write often, my sweet little corre 
spondent, and believe me," &c. &c. 

Her next letter to her mother, written in March, 
was in a melancholy strain ; but, as if to avert her 
parent s consequent anxieties, she concludes, 

" I hope you will feel no concern for my health 
or happiness ; for, save the thought of my deal 
mother and her lonely life, and the idea that my 
dear father is vainly spending his time and talents 
in fruitless exertions for his helpless family, save 

tion, have made better performances. The native unedu 
cated poet brings forth the inspirations of his genius in 
words. These he uses from his infancy, and, though his 
stock may be comparatively small, yet of this stock he 
may perfectly apprehend the meaning and use. Not so 
with the uninstructed genius in painting. However 
delightful and original the forms with which his imagina 
tion may be stored, he must learn the medium of lines 
and shades and colors, before he can develope them to 
others. Miss Davidson, I am persuaded, had but to do 
this, to become eminent in painting. 

" Lucretia s moral nature was exquisitely touched with 
all the finer sensibilities. She loved with the utmost 
tenderness those who loved her, and were kind to her ; 
and she loved those who were good, and the more, if 
they were unfortunate. Hence a fund of genuine affec 
tion arose for her, in the hearts of her companions, and 
among them her conversation was entertaining, and often 
witty. To amuse them she sometimes wrote, as well as 
talked. Her * Examination poem was thus produced, 
which was, at the time, much quoted and copied among 
the young ladies." 



LUCRET1A MARIA DAVIDSON. 127 

these thoughts (and I assure you, mamma, they 
come not seldom), I am happy. Do, my dear 
mother, try to be cheerful, and have good courage." 

" I have been to the Rensselaer school, to 
attend the philosophical lectures. They are 
delivered by the celebrated Mr. Eaton, who has 
several students, young gentlemen. I hope they 
will not lose their hearts among twenty or thirty 
pretty girls. For my part, I kept my eyes fixed 
as fast as might be upon the good old lecturer, as 
I am of the opinion, that he is the best possible 
safeguard, with his philosophy and his apparatus ; 
for you know philosophy and love are sworn 
enemies ! " 

Miss Davidson returned to Plattsburg during 
the spring vacation. Hef mother, when the first 
rapture of reunion was over, the first joy at finding 
her child unchanged in the modesty and naturalness 
of her deportment, and fervor of her affections, 
became alarmed at the indications of disease, in 
the extreme fragility of her person, and the deep 
and fluctuating color of her cheek. Lucretia 
insisted, and, deceived by that ever-deceiving 
disease, believed she was well. She was gay and 
full of hope, and could hardly be persuaded to 
submit to her father s medical prescriptions. 
During her stay at home she wrote a great deal. 
Like the bird, which is to pass away with the 
summer, she seems to have been ever on th 



128 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

wing, pouring forth the spontaneous melodies of 
her soul. The following are a few stanzas from 
a piece " On Spring." 

" I have seen the fair Spring, I have heard her sweet 

song, 

As she passed in her lightness and freshness along; 
The blue wave rolled deeper, the moss-crest looked 

bright, 
As she breathed o er the regions of darkness and night 

"I have seen the rose bloom on the youthful cheek, 
And the dew of delight neath the bright lash break ; 
The bounding footstep, scarce pressing the earth, 
And the lip which speaks of a soul of mirth. 

* I have seen the Winter with brow of care, 
With his soulless eye and his snow-white hair ; 
And whate er his footsteps had touched was cold, 
As the lifeless stone which the sculptors mould. 



As I knelt by the sepulchre, dreary and lone, 
Lay the beautiful form in its temple of stone ; 
I looked for its coming, the warm wind passed by,- 
I looked for its coming on earth and on high. 

u The young leaves gleamed brightly around the cold 

spot; 

I looked for the spirit, yet still it came not. 
Shall the flower of the valley burst forth to the light; 
And man in his beauty lie buried in night ? 

u A voice on the waters, a voice in the sky, 
A voice from beneath, and a voice from on high, 
Proclaims that he shall not ; that Spring, in her light, 
Shall waken the spirit from darkness and night." 



LUCRETIA MARIA EAVIDSON. 129 

Thes-e were singular speculations for a beautiful 
girl of sixteen. Were there not spirits ministering 
to her from that world to which she was hastening ? 

The physician, called in to consult with her 
father, was of opinion that a change of air and 
scene would probably restore her, and it was 
decided that she should return to school! Miss 
Gilbert s boarding-schoo at Albany was selected 
for the next six months. There are few more of 
her productions of any sort, and they seem to us 
to have the sweetness of the last roses of summer. 
The following playful passages are from her last 
letter at home to her sister m Canada. 

" The boat will be here in an hour or two, and 
I am all ready to start. Oh, I am half sick. I 
have taken several doses of something quite delec 
table for a visiting-treat. Now," she concludes 
her letter, " by your affection for me, by your pity 
for the wanderer, by your remembrance of the 
absent, by your love for each other, and by all that 
is sacred to an absent friend, I charge you, write 
to me, and write often. As ye hope to prosper, 
as ye hope your boy to prosper (and grow fat !), 
as ye hope for my gratitude and affection now and 
hereafter, I charge you, write. If ye sinfully neg 
lect this last and solemn injunction of a parting 
mend, my injured spirit will visit you in your trans 
gressions. It shall pierce you with goose-quills, 
and hurl down upon your recreant heads the brim- 

VII. 9 



130 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ming contents of the neglected inkstand. This 13 
my threat, and this my vengeance. But if, on the 
contrary, ye shall see fit to honor me with 
numerous epistles, which shall be duly answered 
know ye, that I will live and love you, and not 
only you, but your boy. You now see that upon 
your bearing depends the fate of your little boy, 
e to be beloved, or not to be beloved ! They 
have come ! Farewell, a long farewell ! " 

She proceeded to Albany, and in a letter dated 
May 12th, 1825, she seems delighted with her re 
ception, accommodations, and prospects at Miss 
Gilbert s school. She has yet no anxieties about 
her health, and enters on her career of study with 
her customary ardor. With the most delicate 
health and constant occupation, she found time 
always to write long letters to her mother, and 
the little children at home, filled with fond expres 
sions. What an example and rebuke to the idle 
school-girl, who finds no time for these minor 
duties ! But her studies, to which she applied 
herself beyond her strength, from the conscientious 
fear of not fulfilling the expectations of her friends, 
were exhausting the sources of life. Her letters 
teem with expressions of gratitude to her benefac 
tor, to Miss Gilbert, and to all the friends around 
her. She complains of debility and want of 
appetite, but imputes all her ailings to not hearing 
regularly from home. The mails, of course, were 



LUCRETIA MARIA ZAVIDSON. 131 

at fault, for her mother s devotion never intermitted. 
The following expressions will show that her sen 
sibility, naturally acute, was rendered intense by 
physical disease and suffering. 

" Oh, my dear mother, cannot you send your 
Ituly one little line. Not one word in two weeks ! 
I have done nothing but weep all day long. 1 
>eel so wretchedly ! I am afraid you are ill." 

" I am very wretched, indeed I am. My dear 
*rother, am I never to hear from you again ? I 
am homesick. I know I am foolish ; but I cannot 
help it. To tell the truth, I am half sick. I am 
so weak, so languid, I cannot eat. I am ner 
vous, I know I am ; I weep the most of the time. 
I have blotted the paper so, that I cannot write. 
I cannot study much longer, if I do not hear from 
you." 

Letters from home renovated her for a few days, 

and, at Mr. s request, she went to the 

theatre, and gave herself up, with all the freshness 
of youthful feeling, to the spells of the drama, 
and raved about Hamlet and Ophelia like any 
other school-girl. 

But her next letter recurs to her malady, and, 
for the first time, she expresses a fear that her 
disease is beyond the reach of common remedies. 
Her mother was alarmed, and would have gone 
immediately to her, but she was herself confined 
to her room by illness. Her father s cooler judg- 



132 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ment inferred from their receiving no letters from 
Lucretia s friends, that there was nothing serious 
in her disease. 

The next letter removed every doubt. It was 
scarcely legible ; still she assures her mother she is 
better, and begs she will not risk the consequences 
of a long journey. But neither health nor life 
weighed now with the mother against seeing her 
child. She set off, and, by appointment, joined 

Mr. at Whitehall. They proceeded thence 

to Albany, where, after the first emotions of meet 
ing were over, Lucretia said, "Oh mamma, I 
thought I should never have seen you again 
But, now I have you here, and can lay my aching 
head upon your bosom, I shall soon be better." 

For a few days the balm seemed effectual ; she 
was better, and the physicians believed she would 
recover ; but her mother was no longer to be per 
suaded from her conviction of the fatal nature of 
the disease, and arrangements were immediately 
made to convey her to Plattsburg. The journey 
was effected, notwithstanding it was during the 
heats of July, with less physical suffering than 
was apprehended. She shrunk painfully from the 
gaze her beauty inevitably attracted, heightened 
as it was by that disease which seems to delight 
to deck the victim for its triumph. " Her joy 
upon finding herself at home," says her mother, 
" operated, for a time, like magic." The sweet, 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 133 

health-giving influence of domestic love, the 
home atmosphere, seemed to suspend the pro 
gress of her disease, and again her father, 
brothers, and friends were deluded ; all, but the 
mother and the sufferer. She looked, with pro 
phetic eye, calmly to the end. There was nothing 
to disturb her. That kingdom that cometh 
without observation was within her, and she was 
only about to change its external circumstances, 
about to put off the harness of life in which she 
had been so patient and obedient. To the last 
she manifested her love of books. A trunk filled 
with them, given to her by her benefactor, had 
not been unpacked. She requested her mother 
to open it at her bed-side, and, as each book was 
given to her, she turned over the leaves, kissed it, 
and desired to have it placed on a table at the foot 
of her bed. There they remained to the last, 
her eye often fondly resting on them. 

She expressed a strong desire to see Mr. 

once more, and a fear that, though he had been 
summoned, he might not arrive in time. He came, 
however, to receive the last expressions of her 
gratitude, and to hear the last word pronounced 
by her lips, his own name. 

The " Fear of Madness " was written by her 
while confined to her bed, and was the last piece 
she ever wrote. As it constitutes a part of the 



134 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

history of her disease, it is, though already pub 
lished, inserted here. 

" THERE is a something which I dread ; 

It is a dark, and fearful thing ; 
It steals along with withering tread, 
Or sweeps on wild destruction s wing. 

" That thought comes o er me in the hour 
Of grief, of sickness, or of sadness ; 
T is not the dread of death ; t is more, 
It is the dread of madness. 

" Oh ! may these throbbing pulses pause, 

Forgetful of their feverish course ; 
May this hot brain, which, burning, glows 
With all a fiery whirlpool s force, 

" Be cold, and motionless, and still, 

A tenant of its lowly bed ; 
But let not dark delirium steal" 
[Unfinished.] 

That the records of the last scenes of Lucretia 
Davidson s life are scanty, is not surprising. The 
materials for this memoir, it must be remembered, 
were furnished by her mother. A victim stretched 
on the rack cannot keep records. She says, in 
general terms, " Lucretia frequently spoke to me 
of her approaching dissolution, with perfect calm 
ness, and as an event that must soon take place. 
In a conversation with Mr. Townsend, held at 
intervals, as her strength would permit, she ex 
pressed the same sentiments she expressed to 



L.UCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON. 135 

me before she grew so weak. She declared her 
firm faith in the Christian religion, her dependence 
on the divine promises, which she said had con 
soled and sustained her during her illness. She 
said her hopes of salvation were grounded on the 
merits of her Savior, and that death, which had 
once looked so dreadful to her, was now divested 
of all its terrors." 

Welcome, indeed, should that messenger have 
been, that opened the gates of knowledge, and 
blissful immortality, to such a spirit ! 

During Miss Davidson s residence in Albany, 
which was less than three months, she wrote 
several miscellaneous pieces, and began a long 
poem, divided into cantos, and entitled " Mari- 
torne, or the Pirate of Mexico." This she 
deemed better than any thing she had previously 
produced. The amount of her compositions, con 
sidering the shortness and multifarious occupations 
of a life of less than seventeen years, is sur 
prising.* We copy the subjoined paragraph from 
the biographical sketch prefixed to "Amir Khan." 
" Her poetical writings, which have been col 
lected, amount in all to two hundred and seventy- 
eight pieces, of various lengths. When it is con 
sidered that there are among these at least five 
regular poems of several cantos each, some esti- 

* She died on the 27th of August, 1825, just a month 
before her seventeenth birth-day. 



136 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

mate may be formed of her poetical labors 
Besides these were twenty-four school exercises, 
three unfinished romances, a complete tragedy ; 
written at thirteen years of age, and about forty 
letters, in a few months, to her mother alone." 
This statement does not comprise the large pro 
portion (at least one third of the whole) which 
she destroyed. 

The genius of Lucretia Davidson has had the 
meed of far more authoritative praise than ours. 
The following tribute is from the London " Quar 
terly Review" ; a source whence praise of Ameri 
can productions is as rare as springs in the desert. 
The notice is by Mr. Southey, and is written with 
the earnest feeling, that characterizes that author, 
as generous as he is discriminating. " In these 
poems " [Amir Khan, &c.] " there is enough of 
originality, enough of aspiration, enough of con 
scious energy, enough of growing power, to warrant 
any expectations, however sanguine, which the 
patron, and the friends, and parents of the deceased 
could have formed." 

But, prodigious as the genius of this young 
creature was, still marvellous after all the abate 
ments that may be made for precociousness and 
morbid developement, there is something yet more 
captivating in her moral loveliness. Her modesty 
was not the infusion of another mind, not the 
result of cultivation, not the effect of good taste > 



LUCRETIA MARIA DAVIDSON 137 

nor was it a veil, cautiously assumed and grace 
fully worn ; but an innate quality, that made her 
shrink from incense, even though the censer were 
sanctified by love. Her mind was like the ex 
quisite mirror, that cannot be stained by human 
breath. 

Few may have been gifted with her genius, 
out all can imitate her virtues. There is a uni 
versality in the holy sense of duty, that regu 
lated her life. Few young ladies will be called on 
to renounce the Muses for domestic service ; but 
many may imitate Lucretia Davidson s meek self- 
sacrifice, by relinquishing some favorite pursuit, 
some darling object, for the sake of an humble 
and unpraised duty; and, if few can attain her 
excellence, all may imitate her in her gentleness, 
humility, industry, and fidelity to her domestic 
affections. We may apply to her the beautiful 
lines, in which she describes one of those 

"forms, that, wove in fancy s loom, 
Float in light visions round the poet s head." 

She was a being formed to love and bless, 
With lavish nature s richest loveliness ; 
Such 1 have often seen in Fancy s eye, 
Beings too bright for dull mortality. 
I ve seen them in the visions of the night, 
I ve faintly seen them when enough of light 
And dim distinctness gave them to my gaze 
As forms of other worlds, or brighter days.* 

This memoir may be fitly concluded by the 
following " Tribute to the Memory of my Sister," 



138 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

by Margaret Davidson, who was but two years 
old at the time of Lucretia s death, and whom 
she so often mentions with peculiar fondness. 
The lines were written at the age of eleven. 
May we be allowed to say, that the mantle of the 
elder sister has fallen on the younger, and thai 
she seems to be a second impersonation of hei 
spirit ? 

" Though thy freshness and beauty are laid in the tomb, 
Like the floweret which drops in its verdure and bloom ; 
Though the halls of thy childhood now mourn thee in 

vain, 

And thy strains shall ne er waken their echoes again, 
Still o er the fond memory they silently glide, 
Still, still thou art ours, and America s pride. 
Sing on, thou pure seraph, with harmony crowned, 

And pour the full tide of thy music along, 
O er the broad arch of Heaven the sweet note shall re 
sound, 

And a bright choir of angels shall echo the song. 
The pure elevation which beamed from thine eye, 
As it turned to its home in yon fair azure sky, 
Told of something unearthly ; it shone with the light 
Of pure inspiration and holy delight. 
Round the rose that is withered a fragrance remains, 
O er beauty in ruins the mind proudly reigns. 
Thy lyre has resounded o er ocean s broad wave. 
And the tear of deep anguish been shed o er thy grave 
But thy spirit has mounted to mansions on high, 
To the throne of its God, where it never can die." 



LIFE 

OF 

SEBASTIAN CABOT 

BY 

CHARLES HAY WARD, JR. 



SPARKS VOL. VII. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 



CHAPTER I. 

Cabot s Birth and Youth. Henry the Seventh 
grants a Patent for the Discovery of a North 
west Passage. Discovery of the American 
Continent. Cabot penetrates Hudson s Bay. 
Failure of Provisions and Objections of 
his Crew. Returns to England. Second 
Patent. Death of John Cabot. Second 
Voyage to America. Attempts to colonize 
Labrador. Fails to discover a Northwest 
Passage. Dissatisfaction of Colonists. 
His Return to England. Injustice of Henry 
the Seventh. Cabot quits his Service. 

IT has been the lot of the individual, whose 
alventures form the subject of the following narra 
tive, to receive little gratitude for important servi 
ces. Many know little more of him, than that he 
was a voyager of olden times. Of his peculiar 
firmness, enterprise, and perseverance, while mul 
titudes have heralded the praises of less worthy 
141 



142 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

men, very few have chosen to speak. England 
herself was not profuse of her favors to him while 
living, nor until lately has she seemed disposed to 
render justice to his memory. The inquirer is 
surprised to see how scanty are the written testi 
monials to his official excellence and private mod 
esty and worth. 

SEBASTIAN CABOT was born at Bristol, in Eng 
land, about the year 1477,* and was the son 
of John Cabot, the eminent Venetian navigator. 
From his father s occasional residence abroad, has 
probably arisen the idea that Sebastian Cabot was 
an Italian ; an error which has crept into several 
biographical compilations, but which his own tes 
timony explicitly refutes. " Sebastian Cabote 
tould me," says Richard Eden, "that he was 
borne in Bristowe, and that at four yeare ould he 
was carried with his father to Venice, and so re 
turned agayne into England with his father, after 
certain years, whereby he was thought to have 
been borne in Venice." f Of Cabot s early years 
a meagre account has been transmitted. After 
his removal to Venice, at four years of age, he 
probably received from his father, who is de 
scribed as a man of considerable ability in math 
ematics and other sciences, a thorough and 



* Campbell s Lives of the Admirals, Vol. I. p. 404. 
f Decades of the New World, p. 255. Ed. of 1555 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 143 

judicious education ; and, besides being instructed 
with his two brothers in arithmetic, geography, 
and cosmography, he acquired while young, 
much skill in practical navigation. 

We do not exactly know the year of his return 
to England. It was, however, while he was yet 
a boy; for we find him there entering with youth 
ful enthusiasm into the theories and golden 
speculations, which the discoveries of Columbus 
excited throughout Europe. He was just arrived 
at manhood, when that intrepid navigator im 
parted new life to the old world by his voyages 
to the western hemisphere. All Europe was 
awakened, and the family of the Cabots was 
among the warmest in insisting on further mari 
time adventure. There was a romance in the idea 
of discovering unknown realms ; the world was to 
be enlarged ; every kingdom of nature was to be 
more productive. Fancy wove around the success 
of Columbus numerous attractions for the inex 
perienced and adventurous, and an enthusiasm, of 
which we can hardly conceive, pervaded all class 
es. Cabot, after alluding to the feelings of his 
countrymen, adds, "By this fame and report, 
there increased in my heart a great flame of 
desire to attempt some notable thing." No 
wonder that the future adventurer, ambitious, 
ntelligent, scarcely arrived at manhood, and edu 
cated by an experienced navigator, should be 



144 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

enthusiastic in the cause. Before long the young 
seaman saw his wishes gratified. 

King Henry the Seventh, having failed to se 
cure the services of Columbus, granted a patent, 
under date of March 5th, 1496, to John Cabot 
and his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sancius 
authorizing them, their heirs or deputies, "to sail 
to all parts, countries, and seas of the East, of the 
West, and of the North, under our banners and 
ensigns, with five ships, of what burden or quanti 
ty soever they may be, and as many mariners or 
men as they will have with them in the said ships, 
upon their own proper costs and charges, to seek 
out, discover, and find whatsoever isles, countries, 
regions, or provinces of the heathen and infidels, 
whatsoever they may be, and in what part of the 
world soever they be, which before this time have 
been unknown to all Christians." * In accordance 
with this patent, immediate preparations were 
made to discover the Northwest passage to India ; 
the first important enterprise in which Sebastian 
took part. 

It has been a much controverted question, 
whether John Cabot was not himself the principal 
in, and consequently entitled to the credit of, this 
expedition. For many years it was supposed that 
he was ; although some writers warmly contended, 

* Hakluyt s Voyages and Discoveries, Vol. III. p. 6. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 145 

and one has lately proved,* that the voyage was 
chiefly forwarded by his son Sebastian. The 
problem is not a difficult one. Henry the Seventh 
was notoriously thrifty ; he had granted a liberal 
patent, and he naturally secured his stipul&ted 
share, namely, one fifth of the profits, by imposing 
liabilities on the wealthy Venetian merchant. Se 
bastian was little more than seventeen years of 
age, and the King chose that the patent should be 
dignified by the name of an elder man. More 
over the father " followed the trade of marchan- 
dises," and would gladly facilitate by a short cut, 
as was their expectation, the commerce of the 
East. 

The resources of John Cabot, the royal dona 
tions, and the pride and ambition of all parties, 
assisted the project, until, in the spring of 1497, 
every obstacle having been removed, the expedi 
tion sailed from Bristol under the guidance of its 
youthful commander. The father accompanied 
his son, but only, it is probable, to give occasional 
advice, and to superintend the mercantile proceed 
ings. Even at the early date of this voyage, a 
trade was established between Iceland and Bristol ; 
not only, therefore, for the sake of trade, but to 
recruit the spirit of the crews, which an untried 
and hazardous voyage might otherwise depress, 

* Memoir of Sebastian Cabot, p. 49. 
vn. 10 



146 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

they laid their course toward Iceland. Minute 
accounts of this enterprise are not in existence ; 
but sufficient remains to show the firmness and in 
telligence, which marked then and afterwards the 
character of Cabot. 

After a considerable delay at Iceland, the party, 
partaking in some degree of their young leader s 
enthusiasm, began their voyage through the west 
ern seas. " They sailed happily," we are told, 
" confident of finding the long-desired Northwest 
passage to India, till the 24th of June, 1497," 
when an unexpected wonder was revealed.* About 
five o clock in the morning, the observers from the 
leading ships were surprised at the discovery of 
land, which, on a nearer approach, was found con 
siderably extended. Cabot s simple account of 
this momentous discovery is amusing. He hoped 
to make his way immediately to India, " but, af 
ter certayne dayes," said he, "I found that the 
land ranne towards the north, which was to mee a 
great displeasure." However great a displeasure 
to the young navigator, he had discovered the 
American continent. The land seen was the 
coast, together with an island off the coast, of 
Labrador ; the latter received the name of St. 
John s Island, from the day on which it was dis 
covered, and is described as " full of white bears, 

* HaJduyt, Vol. III. p. 6. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 147 

and stagges far greater than the English." * Co 
lumbus had discovered and taken possession of 
islands in the New World, but it was reserved fof 
Cabot to obtain the first sight of the continent 
We here perceive the straight-forward energy of 
the young navigator; he did not forget, as many 
would have done, the object of his voyage. Al 
though his men were attracted by the unexpected 
continent, he remembered his obligation to open 
the India passage, and, there is reason to think, 
penetrated farther north than to the sixty-seventh 
degree, in the accomplishment, as he hoped, of 
his design. 

The bay, since called Hudson s Bay, appeared 
to Cabot to be the passage he was seeking. With 
something like triumph he left his course on the 
ocean ; the extensive sheet of water before him 
confirmed his opinion, and for several days he 
went forward confident of success. As he was 
urging on with no less enthusiasm than when he 
left Bristol, discontent was manifested on the part 
of his crew. He reasoned with them, encouraged, 
and commanded ; but they wanted his youthful 
confidence ; their voyage had been long and 
dangerous ; their provisions were nearly exhaust 
ed ; they were going they knew not whither ; 
and they insisted on returning to England. He 

* Lives of the Admirals, Vol- I. o. 33. 



143 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

haci sufficient self-command and policy not to 
contend with these repining mariners ; he mildly 
promised to comply with their demands. Retrac 
ing his steps with philosophical coolness, and 
relinquishing his project, he soon regained the 
Atlantic. After coasting to the southward, he left 
the continent he had discovered, and returned to 
his native country. 

If Sebastian Cabot had been a vain man, he 
might have boasted, on his return, of what he 
had succeeded in accomplishing. Such, how 
ever, does not seem to have been his character, 
and we find him making immediate exertions for 
a second expedition. His arguments in favor of 
the first voyage had been laughed at ; he was ac 
cused of being visionary ; when age should teach 
him wisdom, the cautious said, he would be content 
to stay at home. His fortunes now wore a differ 
ent aspect ; in his search for the India passage, he 
bad set eyes on the New World ; his plans, after 
all, were not quite so visionary, and the most in 
credulous allowed that one so enterprising and for- 
r.na e should make another attempt. 

A second patent, bearing date February 3d, 
!498, was granted by Henry the Seventh. It stood 
if: *he name of John Cabot and his deputies, Se 
bastian being still a young man, and it allowed 
them l six English shippes, so that and if the said 
shippes be of the bourdeyn of two hundred tonnes 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 140 

or under, with their apparail requisite and neces- 
sarie for the safe conduct of the said shippes." * 
They were further instructed to pursue their origi 
nal discoveries. These second letters show less 
of the thrifty spirit which Henry before displayed. 
The result of the former voyage had warmed the 
King into something like liberality. 

Shortly after the date of this patent, John 
Cabot died, and Sebastian determined to prose 
cute alone the voyage, of which he had ever, in 
reality, the direction. Aside from his adventurous 
spirit, the heavy expenses of the first voyage 
had been requited only by his claims in the 
new country. Neither was he ready to relin 
quish what he had so hardly won, now that 
public favor was on his side. What the royal 
interest was in this second expedition, it is impos 
sible to state ; it extended, however, to one or 
two ships, and a considerable amount of funds. 
"Divers merchants of London also adventured 
small stocks," induced, as mankind are in every age 
and country, by the novelty of the project. Trust 
ing that the India passage would still be ascertain 
ed, or that the new country might be a profitable 
market, mercantile adventurers exerted themselve? 
io freight several small vessels, which, as part of 
Cabot s fleet, sailed from Bristol in 1498. 

*This interesting document has lately been discov 
ered by the indefatigable author of the " Memoir of Se 
bastian Cabot," bv whom it was first given to the world 



150 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

But for the grossest neglect, we might have 
learned the particulars of these memorable voyages 
from Cabot himself. A series of his papers, with 
suitable maps, descriptive of these adventures, was 
.eft nearly ready for publication. Carelessness, 
however, suffered them to be mislaid, and now 
time has hidden them for ever. How delightful as 
well as remarkable was the modesty, which made 
no boast of such achievements ; committing merit 
to the keeping of a few hasty manuscripts, and 
the gratitude of posterity ; that gratitude, which 
has suffered such a man to be forgotten, because 
he fo bore to proclaim his own praises. 

The particulars of Cabot s second expedition to 
the American continent are very scanty. His 
patience and daring do not seem to have met with 
success. Besides searching for the desirable route 
to the East, his object was doubtless to colonize 
the new region, for which purpose he took with 
him three hundred men. Before long he once 
more saw with delight the shores of the New 
World. With characteristic promptitude he ef 
fected a landing on the coast of Labrador, and 
instructed a portion of his men to examine the 
country, with a view to colonization, while he sailed 
farther to seek the passage. His course is uncer 
tain, and not very important, since his intentions 
were defeated. 

During Cabot s absence, his crew upon the land 
suffered, it is supposed, with extreme cold, al- 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 151 

though in the middle of July. " The dayes were 
very longe, and in manner without nyght." The 
territory was a wilderness, and provisions were un 
attainable ; in a word, they missed their usual 
English comforts, and gave way to despondency. 
Several excursions for exploring the country were 
attempted ; but the resolution, which the conduct 
and commands of their young leader had inspired, 
was gone, and they were naturally enough dispir 
ited by the loss of companions and friends, who 
daily perished under the severity of the climate. 
Cabot, not finding what he sought, returned to 
Labrador ; but how was the vexation of his other 
disappointments increased on learning the condi 
tion of his colonists ! Not only had they taken 
no steps toward a settlement, but absolutely re 
fused to remain longer on the coast. They com 
plained of exposure to a cold climate, and, with a 
disregard to previous engagements and all manly 
discipline, insisted on being removed. 

Cabot yielded to the demands of his crew, and 
having laid his course to the south as far as Cape 
Florida, he recrossed the Atlantic. His reception 
in England was calculated to hurt his pride, and 
it accounts for the blank at this period in his 
public life. Let us see how his nation repaid the 
discoverer of the American continent. * 

* I am aware, that at so late a day it seems presumptu 
cms to deny that Columbus was the discoverer of Amer 



152 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Henry the Seventh was one of the most penuri 
ous monarchs ever seated on the throne of Eng 
land ; avarice was with him almost a disease, and so 
far from excelling, he fell far short of many of his 
subjects in liberality. Such was the king, who, it 
will be remembered, was considerably interested in 
Cabot s pecuniary success. When the navigator re 
turned without having opened the new way to the 
luxuries of India, or having colonized the lately 
discovered territory, disappointment was manifested 
both by the King and private individuals. And, as 
the Cornish rebellion was demanding the royal at 
tention, and the novelty of the voyages had worn 
away, Cabot met with coldness and neglect. The 
King s method of revenging a miscarriage, which 
no one could have prevented, convinces us that 
his disease, as has been said, " had now reached 
his moral sense." 

The second letters patent empowered John 
Cabot and his deputies, with no mention of heirs ; 

ica; certainly, presumptuous, despite the theories con 
cerning the Northmen and others, to assert that Cabot 
first discovered it. That he is entitled to priority of 
claim to Columbus, in discovering the continent, will 
appear from a comparison of dates. Cabot s discovery 
was made June 24th, 1497. Columbus discovered the 
continent on his third voyage, which commenced May 
30th, 1498 ; and Amerigo Vespucci did not leave Spain 
until May 20th, 1499. Cabot was, therefore, nearly one 
year in advance of Columbus, and nearly two in advance 
of Amerigo Vespucci. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 153 

so that in strictness the privilege expired at his 
death, and Sebastian, in acting under this grant, 
might possibly have violated his powers. Of this 
quibble, the magnanimous monarch availed him 
self to rescind the privileges of the first patent, in 
which his name actually appeared. 

Cabot felt deeply the royal injustice, and al 
though his means were limited, he had no idea of 
depending on a disappointed and mean-spirited 
sovereign. If Henry, like Ferdinand of Spain in 
his treatment of Columbus, could slight a man to 
whom the world was indebted, the poor mariner 
could rid himself of a monarch whose patronage 
was limited by hope of pecuniary compensation. 
In the year 1499, he again asked royal assistance ; 
but, meeting with "noe greate or favourable en 
tertainment," he furnished out of his own means 
the suitable vessels, and, setting forth from Bristol, 
"made great discoveries." 

For fifteen years he scarcely returned to Eng 
land ; at least, he took no part in any of her 
naval expeditions. We hear of him at one period 
at Maracaibo. That his spirit of adventure could 
be suddenly checked, is not probable ; and per 
haps, besides extending his reputation abroad, he 
was perfecting his naval education. Columbus 
had now made his second and third voyages, and 
had thereby gained the fame of having discovered 
America. Other adventurers, too, who but fol 



154 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

lowed the steps of predecessors, were honored as 
public benefactors, while not one " bay, cape, or 
headland " in the new country recalled by its 
name the memory of Cabot. With these reflec 
tions were nearly fifteen years of his life embit 
tered. He no more proffered his services to a 
monarch who had slighted them, and in the year 
1512, we find him in the employ of the Spanish 
governme it. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 155 



CHAPTER II. 

Henry the Eighth. Ferdinand of Spain in 
vites Cabot to his Service. Cabot stationed 
at Seville. Council of the Indies. Death 
of Ferdinand. Cabot returns to England. 
Expedition of 1517. Sir Thomas Pert the 
Cause of its Failure. Cabot recalled to 
Spain by Charles the Fifth. Appointed 
Pilot-Major of Spain. Expedition to the 
Moluccas. Council of Badajos. Jealousy 
of the Portuguese. Diego Garcia. Mar 
tin Mendez. The Brothers Rojas. 

THE loss of the documents before alluded to 
cannot be too much lamented. Without them, it 
must be confessed, the fifteen years previous to 
Cabot s appearance in Spain are poorly accounted 
for. A blank occurs, which these annals, written 
when his spirits were buoyant, and his mind 
active, would doubtless fill up.* 

* That such papers were once accessible, may be in 
ferred from the following passage in Hakluyt, which 
stands as the heading to Cabot s description of St. John s 
island, "An extract taken out of the map of Sebastian 
Cabot, cut by Clement Adams, concerning his discovery 
of the West Indies, which is to be scene in her Majes- 
tie s privie galleiie at Westminster, and in many other 
ancient merchants houses" 



156 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

King Henry the Seventh died in the yeai 
1509, during Cabot s absence ; and upon the ac 
cession of his son it became probable that the 
covetousness of the father would be in some 
measure atoned for, and that Cabot would be 
reinstated in the naval service. Henry the 
Eighth, only eighteen years of age when he as 
cended the throne, had an " active and fiery 
spirit," which had been hitherto directed toward 
the attainment of a superior education. His opin 
ion of his own talents, and his ambition, were 
considerable, and he made free with the hoarded 
treasure of his father in encouraging projects of 
public utility. Such a monarch, particularly as 
the events of the last ten years had raised Cabot s 
original discoveries m the general estimation, was 
likely to retrieve the errors of his predecessor. 

In this state of affairs, Ferdinand of Spain de 
termined to anticipate the movements of Henry, 
by attaching Cabot to his service. Amerigo 
Vespucci having lately died, an opening in the 
naval department seemed to offer itself. Accord 
ingly, while Henry was engaged in continental 
discussions, Ferdinand addressed a letter to Lord 
Willoughby, Captain-general of England, re 
questing him to forward his designs by sending 
Cabot to Spain ; a direction which was complied 
with on the 13th of September, 1512. The 
king of Spain, with a very sudden desire to be 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 157 

considered a patron of science, made great exer 
tions to extend maritime discoveries. On Cabot s 
arrival in his kingdom, he gave him the title of 
his Captain, and stationed him at Seville with a 
liberal allowance, and at first, as it would appear, 
with no definite duties. Ferdinand seems to 
have wished to atone for his treatment in England, 
and to have been aware that no one could afford 
more valuable information concerning the North 
west passage, and the coast of Labrador. 

In 1515, Cabot was employed, with several of 
the best cosmographers of the age, on Ferdi 
nand s favorite project, a general revision of maps 
and charts. During the same year he was hon 
ored by being chosen a member of the Council 
of the Indies, a fact which, considering his age 
and nativity, shows him to have been in high fa 
vor at court. These duties were probably well 
performed, since, when Ferdinand set on foot 
an expedition to sail the following year in search 
of the India passage, he complimented Cabot so 
highly as to give him the command. This ad 
vancement is doubtless as much attributable to 
Ferdinand s rivalry with Henry, as to the talents 
of the navigator. An ambitious king easily over 
looks the faults of a favorite. We come now to 
one of the sudden changes, which it was Sebas 
tian Cabot s fortune often to experience. 

The new expedition was in considerable for 



158 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

wardness, when, unluckily for him, Ferdinand 
died on the 23d of January, 1516. All prepa 
rations were checked, public well-wishers and 
ambitious speculators were disappointed , but 
Cabot had more cause than any other to regret 
the loss of his patron. Charles the Fifth, who 
was to be the successor, had lately been acknowl 
edged Emperor in the Netherlands, and remained 
some time in Brussels before assuming the Span 
ish crown ; a period of dissension and much 
confusion among the Spaniards, who, by means 
of his minister Chievres, employed every in 
triguing art to find favor with the young sovereign. 

Ferdinand s kindness to Cabot had incensed his 
jealous subjects ; they were indignant, that the 
King should have raised a foreigner to his confi 
dence, and availed themselves of his death to 
manifest their resentment. They insinuated that 
the voyage of 1496 had accomplished nothing, 
that Cabot was a foreign impostor, and that under 
their new king affairs should take a different turn. 
Cardinal Ximenes was too aged to govern with 
severity during the interregnum, and when Charles 
arrived in Spain, at only sixteen years of age, 
intriguers and misrepresenters had given an undue 
bias to his mind. Even Fonseca, the notorious 
calumniator of Columbus, was in office. 

Cabot could catch no glimmer of hope in all 
this darkness ; and, that he might avoid undeserv 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 159 

ed obloquy, he returned once more to England. 
We may remark here his determination, constant 
ly adhered to, of being independent of royalty. 
If he perceived that he was not needed, he left 
his king s employment; otherwise, he considered 
his services an equivalent for the favors received 
His strong common sense, which generally ex 
ceeded his intellectual powers, prevented his 
considering a well-founded enterprise desperate 
because of a few untoward accidents ; and he re 
lied on his own honest intentions in withstanding 
envy or malice. 

After a short residence in England, our naviga 
tor succeeded in fitting out the expedition which 
the death of Ferdinand had delayed. Henry the 
Eighth, probably not displeased at his return, 
" furnished certen shippes " and some funds, and 
appointed one Sir Thomas Pert first in command 
under Cabot, whose weakness, as we shall see, 
rendered the affair a failure. They sailed from 
England in 1517. Concerning their exact des 
tination many disputes have arisen. Several his 
torians say, that they went on a trading voyage 
to the Spanish settlements in the West Indies; 
but these accounts are so confused, that we find 
them at one time off the coast of Labrador, and 
shortly after as far south as Cape Florida. The 
point is interesting, because, if Cabot really under 
took a trading voyage, he must have relinquished, 



160 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

in a moment of pique, his hopes of discovering 
the Northwest passage. But the fact is other 
wise. The trading voyage, which, by a confusion 
of dates, is assigned to 1517, actually took place 
ten years after, in 1527. So that Cabot was 
neither so inconsistent, nor so ungrateful to the 
memory of his late patron, as to interfere with a 
trade to which the Spanish government laid an 
exclusive claim. 

Contemporary and subsequent accounts repre 
sent Sir Thomas Pert as totally unfit to be second 
in command in such an expedition. His coward 
ice was sufficient to render his commander s en 
ergy ineffectual. They penetrated to about the 
sixty-seventh degree of north latitude, and, enter 
ing Hudson s Bay, gave English names to various 
places in the vicinity, when, as previously, doubts 
of success arose among the crew. The severity 
of the climate, and many privations, increased their 
eagerness to return ; while Pert, a man of high 
command and influence, favored their remonstran 
ces. Under such circumstances it was impossible 
to quell the mutiny by force ; and, the pilots being 
unable to convince the understandings of the 
crew, Cabot turned homeward. Although he 
had confessedly failed, he must have gained credit 
in England oy his resolution, while Sir Thomas 
seems to have been recognised as the cause of 
the miscarriage. " His faint heart," says Eden, 



SEBASTIAN CABOT 161 1 

* was the cause that the voyage took none 
effect."* 

Neither the merchants interested in the late 
unfortunate expedition, nor the King, who was 
now engaged on the continent, were disposed to 
renew an attempt to discover the long-desired 
passage. Moreover, a fiightful disease,! known 
as the Sweating Sickness, prevailed in England 
in 1517, and prevented the nation from thinking 
of an expensive and unpromising enterprise. For 
tunately for Cabot, the affairs of Spain were in a 
better condition. Soon after his accession, Charles 
the Fifth, examining into the unsettled expedition 
of 1516, was surprised at the sudden disappear 
ance of Cabot. He already knew something of 
his character, and the state records bore ample 
testimony of Ferdinand s high regard for him. 
These facts sufficiently exposed the jealousy and 
intrigues of the Spaniards ; and Charles, anxious 
to atone for past injustice, appointed Cabot, in 
1518, to the honorable office of Pilot-Major of 



* It has been a question whether this was not the first 
entrance into Hudson s Bay, and whether the latitude 
of sixty-seven was reached in 1497. As these questions 
have little interest for the general reader, I omit any 
further discussion of them. They are treated at length 
in the " Memoir of Cabot," Chapter xiv. 

f Memoir of Cabot, p. 120 

VII. 11 



162 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

Spain.* This favor was confirmed when the 
Emperor visited England, in 1520. 

Cabot s duties now became numerous and 
highly responsible. Public opinion inclined to a 
Southern expedition. " What need have we," 
said Peter Martyr, the historian, "of these things, 
which are common with all the people of Europe ? 
To the South ! to the South ! They that seek 
for riches must not go to the cold and frozen 
North." 

Attention was gradually directed to the Moluc 
cas, and the other islands in the same latitude ; 
and Cabot advised a voyage thither through the 
Straits of Magellan, then recently discovered. But, 
before the project was matured, he was brought 
conspicuously before the public. Portugal, hav 
ing hitherto by the old route engrossed the trade 
of the Moluccas, remonstrated strongly against 
these movements in Spain, and contended, that, 
by the grants of the papal bull, the said islands fell 
within her limits. Spain laid an opposing claim ; 
and, in order to a settlement, the Emperor or 
dained, that a solemn council should be held at 
Badajos in the year 1524. At the head of a list of 
persons summoned for consultation, and of course 
of the highest repute in the nautical profession, is 
the name of Cabot. After more than a montn s 

* Herrera, Dec. II. lib. iii. cap. 7. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 163 

rsssion, the council declared, on the 31st of May, 
tr.at the islands fell, by at least twenty degrees, 
within the Spanish limits. The Portuguese rep 
resentatives retired, much chagrined, and uttered 
blind threats of maintaining their pretensions by 
force. We shall hereafter see how they vented 
their dissatisfaction. 

The important decision being made known, a 
Company was formed for the prosecution of the 
Molucca trade, of which, having received permis 
sion from the Council of the Indies, Cabot ac 
cepted the command. He gave bonds for the 
faithful performance of his duty, and by the arti 
cles of agreement, executed at Madrid in 1525, 
three ships and one hundred and fifty men were 
to be provided by the Emperor, and the Compa 
ny were to supply all funds for commercial pur 
poses. Four thousand ducats, and a share of the 
profits, were guarantied to the Emperor. In this 
enterprise Cabot received the title of Captain- 
general, and the month of August, 1525, was 
fixed upon for their departure. Numerous cir 
cumstances, however, were combined to cause 
delay. 

When the Portuguese found their threats had 
no effect on Charles the Fifth, they resorted to 
more courteous remonstrances. Their young king 
insisted, that an invasion of his monopoly would 
be the ruin of his kingdom, from which the con 



164 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

sanguinity of the parties, as well as their connex 
ion by marriage (he having obtained the hand 01 
the Emperor s sister), should secure him. To this 
Charles replied, that, however much he might re 
gard domestic ties, he could not reasonably be 
expected to relinquish an enterprise, the right to 
which lay entirely on his side. Incensed by this 
refusal, the king of Portugal took secret measures 
to thwart his rival s hopes ; employing, as the 
sequel renders probable, a worthless man, named 
Diego Garcia. This person, who could proba 
bly be induced by pay to any villany, prepared 
with great secrecy a squadron of three vessels, 
solely, we must believe, to embarrass Cabot s 
movements. We shall meet him at a more 
advanced stage of the enterprise. 

Meantime many delays occurred at home to 
try the patience of our navigator. One set of 
men harassed him exceedingly by superintending, 
in the capacity of agents, the naval arrangements. 
In almost every point they were at variance. He 
wished to appoint his own lieutenant-general, and 
nominated one De Rufis, a trust-worthy friend, to 
that office. The deputies pretended to be pro 
voked at his obstinacy, and committed the trust to 
one Martin Mendez, late an officer under Magel 
lan. Whether Cabot was unjustly prejudiced 
against this man, which is quite possible, or not, it 
is evident that no unanimity could exist between 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 165 

such officers ; nor would Cabot consent to the ap 
pointment, until a written promise had been given, 
that Mendez should act only under his directions or 
in his absence. Instead of looking, therefore, for 
counsel and friendship in the lieutenant, the cap 
tain could only hope that he would not openly 
oppose his orders. 

Two brothers, of Spanish extraction, named 
Miguel de Rojas and Francisco de Rojas, who 
afterwards made themselves conspicuous, were 
also attached to the expedition. The former was 
a man of considerable valor and nautical skill, the 
latter the commander of one of the ships, the 
Trinidad, and both of them zealous adherents of 
Martin Mendez. 

Finally, to complete this dangerous outfit, the 
unprecedented step was taken of furnishing each 
ship with sealed orders, which were to be opened 
as soon as they were fairly embarked. These, 
which were probably given without Cabot s knowl 
edge, contained the provision, that, in case of his 
death, the chief command should devolve on one 
of eleven persons therein nominated, and, in case 
of their death, on him chosen by the general 
vote, provided that, on an equality of votes, thfr 
candidates should cast lots. This was indeed a 
most ingenious " premium to disaffection," and, 
if these facts were known to him, Cabot was to 
blame for sailing at such odds Perhaps, how- 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ever, as he had haggled so long with the captious 
deputies, he was unwilling to raise new objections 
Under these inauspicious circumstances the ex 
pedition sailed at length in the beginning of AprL 
1526. A temptation, as we have seen, was before 
every individual to strive after the supreme power. 
That its devolving on some of the inferiors was 
thought possible in Spain, the sealed orders plainly 
showed ; and we cannot mark the commencement 
of such a voyage without more than one misgiv 
ing as to its success ; without a fear lest the com 
mander s energy may fail, in time of need, to 
calm those stormy elements of disaffection and 
treachery. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 16T 



CHAPTER III. 

Cabot sails to the Canaries, and thence to the 
Cape de Verds. Disaffection of Mendez 
and the Rojas. Mutiny. Cabot enters the 
River La Plata. Annoyed by the Natives. 

Enters the Parana and the Paraguay. 
Three Spaniards seized, and a violent Contest 
ensues. The Party harassed by Diego Gar 
cia, who overtakes Cabot at Santa Ana, and 
claims the Right of Discovery. Cabot re 
sists. Garcia leaves the Country. Cabot 
sends a Messenger to Spain, and determines 
to conquer Peru. The Emperor s pecuniary 
Embarrassments, when he receives the Report. 

Cabot explores the La Plata. Quarrel 
between the Followers of Cabot and Garcia. 

Capture of Sanctus Spiritus. The Ad 
venturers return to Spain. 

No one would have been surprised, had the 
smothered flame of mutiny, which every arrange 
ment must have tended to cherish, broken out the 
very day of leaving the shore. That event was 
reserved for a later period. The testimony of 
personal friends, as well as his public life, gives us 
a high idea of Cabot s gentleness of character. His 



168 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

companions always speak of him with affection, and 
few instances of his harshness or severity are re 
corded. Of firmness, in time of danger, we shall 
see he was not destitute. His ambition was in 
dulged for the public good. Had he been more 
mindful of himself, he would have escaped many 
disappointments, and enjoyed more renown. 

He first sailed to the Canaries,* and thence to 
the Cape de Verd Islands, touching at both, it is 
probable, to replenish the stock of provisions, and 
committing no such outrages as his enemies have 
represented. The Islanders were uniformly kind 
to him, and injury in return would have been un 
necessary and impolitic. Cape St. Augustine was 
their next stopping-place, from which they laid 
their course to the south. But the voyage was not 
thus far accomplished without trouble ; for the three 
secret traitors were much confirmed by the extra 
ordinary arrangements of the deputies to provide 
for the Captain-general s losing the command. 

Cunning men in power may always find causes 
of dissatisfaction; and Martin Mendez and the 
brothers Rojas soon began to complain, that Cabot 
did not strive to allay the disputes which had arisen 
at Seville. They tried to convince the sailors, 
that he had laid in no adequate store of provisions, 
or, at any rate, that he secreted them in his own 

* Lives of the Admirals, Vol. I. p. 409. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 169 

vessel from general distribution. Mendez desired 
his partisans, if they were true men, to withstand 
oppression, and depose a tyrant in favor of honest 
officers. The plans of revolt were originated and 
matured by these reckless mariners in utter se 
crecy. At length the time came, which was 
agreed on for active resistance. 

As the squadron was running down the coast 
of Brazil, these men became openly insolent in 
claming the movements of their commander, ex 
horting the crews, who naturally partook of the 
excitement, to avail themselves promptly of the 
privileges of the sealed orders. Cabot s situation 
was a critical one ; but two of his countrymen 
were in the expedition, and he heard all around 
him insinuations of foreign usurpation, and that he 
was raised by favor to govern a people whom he 
had never materially served. As his three highest 
officers were inimical, he saw that he must rely 
solely on himself. The band which rallied around 
Mendez, he was well aware, hoped to intimidate 
him by numbers, and were not prepared for de 
cisive resistance ; accordingly, without the scruples 
of a weaker man, and with no attempt at a com 
promise, he ordered Martin Mendez and Miguel 
and Francisco de Rojas to be seized, (taking the 
latter from his ship without ceremony,) and, placing 
them with two faithful seamen in an open boat, 
he put them on shore at the nearest island. This 



170 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

degrading treatment of men so lately glorying in 
their superiority was never forgotten ; and years 
afterward we find them employing their malice 
against their energetic commander. 

The measure was entirely successful in quelling 
further mutiny. But as the Captain-general had 
lost his highest officers, he felt unauthorized, with 
out special permission, to prosecute the original 
enterprise, and, as the best expedient, directed his 
course to the mouth of the La Plata. It is prob 
able, that he intended to make this river merely a 
temporary stopping-place. It proved, however, 
the scene of much wild adventure. In fact, we 
have now reached the most romantic period in 
Cabot s life. In addition to being deprived of his 
officers, he lost one of his vessels by shipwreck, 
which deterred him altogether from prosecuting 
the voyage. He resolved, with his usual activity 
of mind, to renew the attempt to explore the La 
Plata; in making which, his predecessor in the 
office of Pilot- Major, Diego de Solis, had perished. 
This course, under existing circumstances, was 
probably the best ; certainly he was right in wait 
ing further commands from the Emperor. The 
next five years did much to unfold his character, 
prove his skill, and mature his judgment. His 
predecessor, it must be remembered, with a body 
of fifty men, had been inhumanly butchered, and 
actually devoured by the people among whom he 
was thrown. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT 171 

Cabot sailed boldly up the river, from which 
modern navigating skill has not yet removed the 
dangers, as far as the small island afterwards called 
St. Gabriel, just off the city of Buenos Ayres. 
Near this is the island called after Martin Gar 
cia, pilot of the unfortunate Solis, and one of the 
few who escaped the voracity of the savages. He 
afterwards died and was buried in the place where 
Diego was destroyed. 

But this melancholy spot was not necessary to 
remind our adventurer of the hostility of the 
natives ; for their very first landing at St. Gabriel 
was stoutly resisted. His courage, however, pre 
vailed; and, obtaining a suitable ground for anchor 
ing his vessels, the captain with most of his crew 
proceeded to further discovery in boats. Seven 
leagues farther up, he found the port which he 
named St. Salvador,* situated on an island just 
where -;he La Plata changes into the Parana, and 
nearly cpposite the mouth of the Uruguay. Here 
the inhabitants likewise annoyed the Spaniards by 
killing two of their number; declaring, however, 
that to make a meal of them was not their inten 
tion, since the party of Solis had given them suf 
ficient opportunity to taste the flesh of soldiers. 

St. Salvador proved an excellent harbor, and 
the ships were left there with a guard under 

* Memoir of Cabot, p. 150. 



172 AMERICAN BIO G R A P H Y . 

Antonio de Grajeda. Meantime Cabot prepared 
several boats and a small caravel, and proceeded 
up the Parana. Some miles higher up, he erect 
ed the fort still seen on the maps as Sanctus Spir- 
itus, finding the inhabitants for the first time very 
intelligent, and, according to Herrera, " a good, 
rational people." Although our voyager s party, 
at first not numerous, was greatly diminished by 
defection and mortality, his hopes do not seem to 
have been weakened for a moment. He encour 
aged the avaricious by hopes of gain, and pointed 
out to the weary the wonderful novelties of the 
country through which they were passing. Be 
sides, the natives were daily attracted from the 
shore, and, in the simplicity of their admiration, 
flocked to the ships. 

After sailing through a land " very fayre and 
inhabited with infinite people," they reached the 
point where the river receives the Paraguay, itself 
branching off to the right. Leaving the Parana, 
therefore, on the right, they ascended the new 
river about thirty-four leagues.* The inhabitants 
of this district differed from any before seen, being 
acquainted with agriculture, and carrying to a great 
extent their jealousy of foreign invasion, and par- 

* Campbell and others transpose the names of these 
rivers. Herrera, however, together with the author of 
the "Memoir of Cabot," who are more worthy to be 
trusted, furnish the above account. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 173 

ticularly their hatred toward the Spanish and Por 
tuguese. These qualities contrasted singularly 
with some other points in their character ; they 
were industrious, regardful of each other s rights, 
and cultivated their land to advantage ; while their 
continual enmity to strangers rendered our naviga 
tor s situation extremely critical. Notwithstanding 
his care to avert difficulty, his hitherto peaceful 
voyage was soon changed into fierce contention. 

Three Spaniards having one day unwittingly 
left their party, to gather the fruit of the palm 
tree, the natives laid violent hands on them. Re 
sistance was impossible, and the poor fellows were 
easily captured. Their comrades, on learning the 
news, determined to avenge the wrong ; and 
Cabot, for the first time, became a military com 
mander. 

The small band of Spanish adventurers, worn 
by the labors of a long voyage, might well have 
declined a contest with the hordes of natives that 
now came against them. But their national spirit, 
together with the hardihood of their profession, 
made them alive to every injury. They were 
ignorant of the country, and unskilled in their 
enemy s mode of warfare ; but yet, under Cabot s 
command, they sustained their part of a long and 
bloody contest with unflinching courage. It prob 
ably lasted most of the day, doubly severe for our 
adventurers, inasmuch as they had no strong-holds 



174 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

on the shore ; yet, on its conclusion, three hundred 
natives and only twenty-five Spaniards were found 
to have fallen. The Captain-general, we may 
suppose from this fact, showed a fair degree of 
military skill ; he was enabled to retain his po 
sition in the river, and, after the battle, despatched 
a letter to the commander of one of the forts, 
giving the particulars of the affray, and the loss on 
each side. 

Cabot could ill afford to lose these men, par 
ticularly as their fate depressed the hopes of the 
survivors, who had by no means agreed to under 
go the hardships of a voyage up the La Plata. 
From this time, the prospects of the party, hith 
erto bright, became dark and ominous. Cabot 
doubtless might have withstood any further attacks 
during his voyage, had not Diego Garcia, a man 
whom we have met before, and who seems always 
to have been the evil genius of our navigator, in 
terrupted his plans at this point. It is time to 
trace this man s movements after leaving Spain 
under the auspices of the Portuguese government 

The reasons for believing that the king of Por 
tugal, disappointed by the decision of the council 
at Badajos, employed Garcia to follow Cabot s 
steps, and frustrate his projects, have already been 
stated. Let us see how faithfully the mission was 
performed. Garcia left Spain in 1 526, made his 
way to the Canaries, next to the Cape de Verds, 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 175 

and thence to the coast of Brazil. During the 
early months of 1527, he visited the bay of All 
Saints, the island of Patos, and at length, probably 
baulked of his intention of meeting Cabot at eithei 
of the abovementioned places, he entered the 
mouth of the La Plata. His course thus far, it 
will be seen, was exactly that of Cabot, and he 
ascended the river immediately. 

Antonio de Grajeda, commander of the ships 
which Cabot left at St. Salvador, had just received 
the letter announcing the dreadful battle, when he 
perceived Garcia s party coming up the La Plata. 
Agitated by the late news, he fancied that they 
were no others than the mutineers, whom the 
captain had put on shore ; accordingly Garcia was 
met with several armed boats, led by the com 
mander in person. At first he favored the mis 
conception, and they had nearly come to open 
contest; he declared himself, however, in time to 
secure a peaceable issue. Parting with one of 
his vessels, which he had shamefully allowed to 
be employed in the slave business, he ordered the 
remainder to follow him immediately to the com 
modious harbor of St. Salvador. Perhaps he 
foresaw that Cabot would give him no favorable 
reception, and was willing to have forces at hand. 

Garcia then manned two brigantines with sixty 
men, and ascended thence to the fort of Sanctus 
Spiritus, where Cabot had left a small force under 



176 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Gregorio Caro. This commander was courteous 
and good-natured; and to Garcia s haughty de 
mand of a surrender of the fort, he replied, that, 
although very ready to serve his guest, he should 
hold command in the name of Cabot and the 
Emperor. He seems, however, to have kept 
terms with the Portuguese. Indeed, we can 
hardly suppose that he was aware of Garcia s 
character and intentions ; for he requested, as a 
favor, that he would liberate any of Cabot s party 
that might have fallen into the enemy s hands, 
pledging himself to reimburse whatever ransom 
money was expended ; and finally besought him 
to befriend the Spaniards, should they in the late 
skirmish have losMheir commander. 

This is not the language he would have used 
towards Garcia, had he fully known him ; and it 
was only likely to excite a smile in an unprincipled 
man, in the employ of a revengeful government. 
Indeed, when he reached the Paraguay, Diego 
was so mindful of Caro s requests, that he made 
an excursion along the right branch of the Pa 
rana. This movement is the only one which 
seems to contradict the supposition, that he in 
tended from the first to overtake and embarrass 
our navigator. If such was his intention, a di 
gression was both useless and prejudicial. 

Garc.a soon returned to his purpose, and led his 
party to Santa Ana, near which port the battle 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 177 

had taken place and Cabot was now stationed 
His surprise at seeing Diego can best be imagined. 
No historian has left a particular account of their 
interview. Probably much displeasure manifested 
tself in his reception, and perhaps Garcia was 
pleased to perceive that his rival s force, what with 
mortality and the detachments at the forts, was 
much weakened. The new-comer repeated his 
demands of a surrender ; insisting, upon grounds 
not very justifiable, on the sole right of discovery. 
Cabot was not a man to yield to such injustice ; 
neither was he inclined, in a savage and obscure 
region, to involve his men in a contest, which, 
whoever got the better, must necessarily produce 
great distress. The result of their altercations 
cannot be known. In a short time they returned, 
not in much mutual cordiality, to Sanctus Spiritus. 
Garcia, having stationed at the forts a large body 
of his followers, who partook of his spirit, and from 
whom Cabot subsequently suffered inconvenience, 
left the country without delay. 

Cabot s only course was to despatch messengers 
to Charles the Fifth, in order, by a candid account 
of his voyage, his treatment of the mutinous 
officers, and consequent change of destination, to 
counteract the calumnies which a disappointed 
rival might circulate in Spain. The persons so 
employed were Francis Calderon and George 
Barlow, and their original report is still in exist 

VII. 12 



178 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ence.* To understand fully the force of this doc 
ument, it is necessary to bring before ourselves 
the hopes which Cabot s success in ascending the 
river, together with his ambitious temperament, 
naturally inspired. 

At the commencement of the voyage, he was 
expected to touch at the western shore of Amer 
ica. " Having passed the winding strait of Ma 
gf*llan, he is to direct his course to the right 
hand, in the rear of our supposed continent." 
Accident had changed his course, and he now 
hoped, that, by continuing his ascent of the river, 
and by risking a few more contests with the sav 
ages, he should reach the intended coast by a 
route hitherto unknown. Besides, he observed 
that gold and silver ornaments were worn in pro 
fusion by several tribes along the La Plata, and, 
with his usual shrewdness, making friends of them, 
" he came to learn many secrets of the country." 
Having reached the waters which would lead him 
to the mines, he had possibly fixed his hopes on 
the reduction of a region, the riches of which 
would secure a competency to his party, and 
repay the generosity of his sovereign. In other 
expeditions he had been baffled ; this discovery 
seemed indisputably his own. 

We have no accounts of Garcia s efforts, on 

* Herrera, Dec. IV. lib. iii. cap. 1. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 179 

arriving in Europe, further than what is to be 
gathered from the ill-natured sneers of severa, 
historians. He was not idle, and in some quarters 
doubtless brought Cabot into disrepute. Perhajs 
he was exciting the Portuguese government to a 
decisive step in opposition. Whatever were his 
endeavors, he influenced not at all the mind of 
Charles the Fifth. Cabot s demands, in case of 
undertaking the great conquest, were "provision, 
ammunition, goods proper for trade, and a com 
plete recruit of seamen and soldiers." These 
seeming exorbitant, the merchants interested in 
the squadron decided that their rights should es 
cheat to the crown ; but the Emperor, willing to 
avow his confidence in the navigator, agreed to 
stand personally responsible for the enterprise. 

But Charles showed more generosity than fore 
sight in this affair. At the very time of this pro 
posal, Bourbon s soldiers were mutinous for pay ; 
the Moluccas had been mortgaged ;* and even 
the pecuniary assistance solicited by the Emperor 
from the Cortes had been refused. The good 
will of a king so straitened of necessity spent itself 
in promises. 

It was at this time that Pizarro offered to re 
duce Peru solely at his own expense. He fol 
lowed up the offer by personal importunity, and it 

* Memoir of Cabot, p. 160. 



180 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

was accepted. After an extravagant promise ta 
provide every thing, and resign all conquests to the 
crown, the entire and exclusive range of the coast 
of Peru was granted to him ; and thus was Cabot 
frustrated by the very sovereign who had nearly 
been his benefactor. If the seaman was at fault 
for immoderate requisitions, Charles was no less so 
for holding out hopes which his empty treasury 
could not fulfil. The facts in the case should 
clear the monarch from the imputations of neglect 
and dilatoriness, which many historians have cast 
upon his character. 

During these negotiations in Spain, Cabot was 
awaiting anxiously the result of his embassy, and 
continuing to hope, until hope became folly. He 
was confirmed in his belief, that the waters of the 
Parana would convey him to the mines of Potosi ; 
and, while doubtful of the Emperor s pleasure, he 
improved and amused his men by exploring the 
country, and ascertaining the manners of the sev 
eral tribes bordering on the La Plata. Whether 
the Emperor apprized him of his change of mind, 
or left him in uncertainty until he returned to 
Spain, their many delays must have been distress 
ing to a band eager to penetrate a region, which 
promised a recompense for their previous depri 
vations. 

Cabot and his crew were bold men, and left no 
region in the vicinity of the river unsearched. It 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 181 

required no little resolution in men anxiously ex 
pecting news from home, and who had seen one 
after another of their number drop away, to ex 
plore the strong-holds of savages, and gather 
knowledge at the risk of life and limb. One or 
tv/o were often left in charge of the vessels, while 
the band rambled into the interior, trusting for 
shelter to the hospitality of the natives, or a tem 
porary tent. The Spanish government, moreover, 
neglecting to send supplies, they were cast on their 
own resources for subsistence ; and Herrera gives 
part of a report from Cabot to the Emperor, in 
which the productions of Brazil, and the improve 
ments in various breeds of Spanish animals, are 
described with an accuracy of observation not un 
worthy the agriculturist or man of science. Cabot 
was endued with an elasticity of temper, which, 
united with sound principles and intelligence, en 
abled him to profit by every event. At home, he 
explained his projects to heedless sovereigns; at 
sea, won affection by courageous perseverance ; 
and in a region of savages, while waiting the 
pleasure of his king, found time to instruct his 
followers, and stimulate them to industry. 

Things were thus proceeding, when misfortune 
broke loose on the little community. Those of 
Garcia s party, whom he had left behind, wanting 
the good influence of a Cabot, fell one day into a 
violent dispute with the natives, and at length 



182 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

so enraged them, that they declared vengeance 
against every white man on the river. Of course 
the little garrisons at Sanctus Spiritus and St. Sal 
vador, though not the offenders, did not escape the 
indignation of the savages. The most hostile tribe 
was the Guaranis, a wantonly ferocious people, 
whose animosity made them forget that they had 
entered into an explicit treaty of peace with our 
navigator. After the affront, several meetings 
were secretly held, until their sanguinary project 
was perfected. 

One morning, just before daybreak, this blood 
thirsty race rushed in a body upon Sanctus Spiritus. 
The inmates, a part surprised asleep, and a part 
fatigued with previous exertions, could offer no 
resistance, and the fort was carried. The savages, 
elated with their good fortune, next besieged St. 
Salvador. But by this time, the alarm had spread, 
and the admiral was able to maintain his position, 
until he could prepare one of his largest vessels for 
sea. The others he determined to leave behind. 
Collecting, therefore, all the supplies which could 
be obtained, the little band, much reduced in 
number, and driven before a tribe of Indians, em 
barked for their native country. They landed in 
Spain in the year 1531, exactly five years from 
the time of their departure. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 183 



CHAPTER IV. 

Cabot s Reception in Spain. Resumes the Office 
of Pilot-Major. Account of a personal In 
terview with Cabot. His private Character. 
Relinquishes his Office and re-turns to Eng 
land. Edward the Sixth. Charles the 
Fifth requests him to return to Spain. His 
Occupations in England. Errors with Re 
gard to the Knighting of the Cabots. 

CABOT was about fifty-three years of age when 
he returned to Spain, and, after his wild life in 
South America, we are glad to find him holding 
office in civilized society. It is not easy to say 
what was his reception at the Spanish court. One 
writer declares that he was received with coldness 
and ill nature, while the author of the " Memoir r 
strives to show that his report was perfectly 
satisfactory. Perhaps neither is entirely correct. 
The fact, that the merchants withdrew from the 
concern, shows them to have been disappointed, 
but surely Charles did not venture to frown on a 
man, whom he had ungenerously deluded, and who 
originated the project, that, in Pizarro s hands, 
now promised the monarch wealth and reputation 

The Spaniards were piqued at. Cabot s severity 



184: AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

to the mutineers, but they could not sully the 
feme he had acquired by his conduct in the La 
Plata. His crew could bear witness to his com 
posure in times of great and most varied danger. 
Moreover, his generosity in alluding to the better 
fortunes of Columbus won him many friends; 
without the jealousy of a selfish man, he did not 
hesitate to declare his exploits to be " more divine 
than human." For these and similar reasons his 
resumption of the office of Pilot-Major afforded 
general satisfaction, and fo/ many years his occu 
pation was one of great emolument and honor. 

Several passages in the old authors show, as 
clearly as documents so imperfect and antiquated 
can show, that, besides being esteemed a strictly 
honorable man, he was the first navigator of the 
day. A thorough theorist, he had learned by 
practice how theory was useful. Charles the 
Fifth relied entirely on his opinion, which was 
always readily given. In all their intercourse no 
allusion is found to the character or progress of 
Pizarro. To the one, his name probably brought 
a twinge of conscience ; and the other, however 
glad to aid a rival by his propositions, must 
have felt that the monarch s favors were unjustly 
conferred. A contemporary writer thus speaks 
of him at this time ; " He is so valiant a man, 
and so well practised in all things pertaining 
to navigations, and the science of cosmographie 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 185 

that at this present he hath not his like in all 
Spaine." On another occasion, a gentleman of 
the time, desiring some important maritime in 
formation, was referred to Cabot ; and his account 
of their personal interview, even now that three 
centuries have elapsed, is highly interesting. The 
writer says, " It was tolde mee that there was in 
the city a valiant man, a Venetian* born, named 
Sebastian Cabot, who had charge of the naviga 
tions of the Spaniards, being an expert man in 
that science, and one that could make cardes for 
the sea with his owne hand, and, by this report, 
seeking his acquaintance, I found him a very gen 
tle and courteous person, who entertained mee 
friendfyj and shewed mee many things, and 
among other a large mappe of the world, with 
certaine particuler navigations, as well of the Por- 
tugals as of the Spaniards, and he spake further 
unto mee to this effect." f 

Several like hints disclose to us the private 
character of Sebastian Cabot. His warm ambition 
was changed into maturer hopes, and we can anti 
cipate an old age, calm, benevolent, and useful. 
Whilst holding the office of Pilot-Major, he fre 
quently led in person small naval expedition? 
which served to keep alive public interest, more 
than to promote discovery. His leisure was prob- 

* This error has already been exposed. 
} Hakluyt, Vol. III. p. 7. 



186 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ably occupied with preparing the documents rela 
tive to his eventful life, which carelessness and 
accident have destroyed. 

These were doubtless among the pleasantest 
years of Cabot s life. He had, indeed, consider 
ing his extensive plans, been singularly unsuccess 
ful ; neither does it appear that domestic comforts 
were gathered thickly around him. But he was 
a man whom many, like Richard Eden, delighted 
to consider their " very friend, and have sometimes 
keepe them company in their own houses." He 
had, moreover, done the w r orld much service, only 
failing because he intended to do much more. He 
sought distinction, because it increased his useful 
ness. 

He thus concludes a letter some years after the 
La Plata expedition. " After this I made many 
other voyages, which I now pretermit, and, waxing 
olde, I give myself to rest from such travels, be 
cause there are nowe many young and lustie pilots 
and mariners of good experience, by whose for 
wardness I do rejoyce in the fruit of my labours, 
and rest with the charge of this office, as you 
see." * This is the language of a man, who 
could view disappointment in the proper light, 
preferring a competency and the general respect 
to success gained by intrigue, or the favors show 
ered upon a parasite. By this time he must have 

* Hakluyt, Vol. III. p. 7. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT 187 

seen, that his name would never rival that of Co 
lumbus ; that it would even be shaded by it ; and 
yet we find him reviewing the past with gratitude, 
and anticipating the future with more than ordi 
nary calmness. 

Seventeen years thus elapsed, when the natural 
feeling of an old man induced Cabot to relinquish 
his situation in Spain, in order to dwell again in 
his native country. It is a pleasant thing, after all 
his wanderings, to see him turning his steps home 
ward. We rejoice when the recipient of foreign 
favor remembers the land which gave him birth. 
In the year 1 548, while in full favor with the Em 
peror, he returned to England. Spain lost an 
exemplary officer ; he knew, better than any one, 
her naval interest, and his eminence was acknowl 
edged both by the king and people. But Charles 
the Fifth had nothing to fear from Cabot s inti 
mate knowledge of his affairs ; no combination of 
circumstances could have induced him to use his 
information against a sovereign, in whose confi 
dence he had gained it. 

Edward the Sixth had just reached the British 
throne, when our navigator returned, and fixed his 
residence in Bristol. Public hopes had been 
much raised touching the young king. Having 
enjoyed an excellent education, and naturally fond 
of naval affairs, it was thought that his reign would 
be memorable for the encouragement of maritime 



188 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

excellence. "In childhood," Burnet tells ui 
" he knew all the harbors and ports both of h s 
own dominions, and of France and Scotland, and 
how much water they had, and what was the way 
of coming into them." Add to this, that nature s 
other gifts exactly fitted him for a popular mon 
arch, and that, in the second year of his reign, Se 
bastian Cabot, an old man respected in private 
life, and the greatest seaman of the age, became 
one of his subjects, and no one will fail to antici 
pate brilliant naval adventures. 

When Charles the Fifth perceived this state of 
things, he repented that on any consideration he 
had lost his Pilot-Major ; accordingly the English 
monarch received before long a formal demand, 
that " Sebastian Cabote, Grand Pilot of the Em 
peror s Indies, then in England, might be sent 
over to Spain, as a very necessary man for the 
Emperor, whose servant he was, and had a pension 
of him." These latter words might lead us to 
think that Charles, hoping his removal would be 
temporary, had wished to continue Cabot s pen 
sion ; at any rate, it is gratifying to see what 
golden opinions the seaman had won by his servi 
ces in Spain. The request was not complied 
with. 

It is difficult to ascertain precisely what Cabot s 
office was after he returned to England. He had 
expected to continue in private life in his native 



SEBASTIAN CABuT. 189 

city; but the importunities of Edward changed 
his determination, and it is supposed, by Hakluyt 
and others, that he was appointed to an office like 
that held under Charles the Fifth, then first crest 
ed; and that he bore the title of Grand Pilot of 
England. However this may be, he was director 
of all maritime enterprises, being consulted, as we 
shall see, on every occasion, and experiencing in 
an eminent degree the royal munificence. Ed 
ward s respect for his character, and gratitude for 
his services, showed themselves by many marks of 
favor; among others a generous pension, as ap 
pears by the following document. 

" Edward the Sixt, by the grace of God, King 
of England, France, and Ireland, defender of the 
faith, to all Christian people, to whom these pres 
ents shall come, sendeth greeting. Know yee, 
that we, in consideration of the good and accepta 
ble service done, and to be done, unto us by our 
beloved servant, Sebastian Cabota, of our speciale 
grace, certaine knowledge, meere motion, and by 
the advice and counsel of our most honourable 
uncle, Edward Duke of Somerset, governor of our 
person, and protector of our kingdomes, domin 
ions, and subjects, and of the rest of our coun- 
saile, have given and granted, and, by these 
presents, do give and grant to the said Sebastian 
Cabota, a certain annuitie, or yerely revenue of 
one hundred, threescore and sixe pounds, thirteene 



190 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

shillings four pence sterling, to have, enjoy, and 
yerely receive the foresaid annuities, or yerely 
revenue to the foresaid Sebastian Cabota during 
his natural life, out of our treasurie at the receit 
of our exchequer at Westminster, at the hands of 
our treasurers and paymasters, there remayning 
for the time being, at the feast of the Annuntia- 
tion of the blessed Virgin Mary, the Nativitie of 
S. John Baptist, S. Michael y e Archangel, and 
the Nativitie of our Lord, to be paid by equal 
portions. In witnesse whereof we have caused 
these our letters to be made patents ; witnesse the 
King at Westminster the sixt day of January, in 
the second yeere of his raigne. The yeere of 
our Lord 1548."* 

Besides the above, a salary was granted at the 
same rate, " from the feast of S. Michael last 
past unto this present time." 

Cabot seems to have been much indebted in 
these affairs to the abovementioned uncle, the 
Duke of Somerset, who first introduced him to his 
royal nephew. The terms of the above pension 
would seem to show, that Cabot was actually in 
office ; but of his duties we have no particular ac 
count. On one occasion we find a French pilot, 
who " had frequented the coast of Brazil eighteen 
?oyages," giving testimony to Sir John Yorke 

* Hakluyt, Vol. III. p. 10. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 191 

" before Sebastian Cabote" ; and a long anonymous 
article is recorded by Hakluyt, descriptive of the 
voyage " unto the mouth of the river of Plata, 
and along up within the sayd river," which has 
been supposed with great plausibility to be Cabot s 
own testimony. From these fragments of testi 
mony, it is perhaps probable, that, without hold 
ing any formal title, he was regarded with univer 
sal confidence. 

I shall now advert to a point, about which 
misrepresentation and error have thickly clustered. 
Nearly two thirds of the old writers confer on one 
or both of the Cabots the honors of knighthood. 
Campbell gives us the memoir of " Sir John 
Cabot," and Purchas commences a couplet, 

"Hail, Sir Sebastian! England s northern pole, 
Virginia s finder," &c.* 

Henry, in his " History of Great Britain," falls 
into a similar error; indeed, most readers may 
have expected to meet the subject of this biogra 
phy with the title of knight. Now that modern 
ingenuity has given us the means, it is amusing 
to perceive how minute an error has caused the 
misapprehension.! 

In the palace at Whitehall formerly hung a 
portrait of Sebastian Cabot, under which was the 
following inscription ; " Effigies Seb. Caboti Angh 

*Purchas s Pilgrims. 

f See " Memoir of Cabot," ch. xxvii. 



192 AMERICAN BIOGRA PHT. 

filii Joannis Caboti militis aurati." This pos 
sessed just enough of oracular ambiguity to cause 
great trouble. Were the terms "militis aurati" 
to be applied to John or Sebastian ? Purchas saw 
the portrait, and immediately knighted the latter, 
while Campbell quotes this very inscription to 
prove, that the father for certain services became 
Sir John Cabot. We have not mentioned either 
as having been knighted ; and, if we will guard 
against inaccuracies of translation, we shall see 
that the above inscription affords no ground for 
ascribing such an honor to either. Eques and not 
miles would have been the Latin term to designate 
knighthood. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Hugh 
Willoughby, Sir Martin Frobisher, and Sir Fran 
cis Drake are mentioned by Hakluyt, each with 
the term eques auratus, and no other of their rank 
is once styled otherwise. * 

* Hakluyt, Vol. III. p. 137. A particular account of 
this portrait is contained in the appendix to the "Me 
moir of Cabot." It is believed to have been painted by 
Holbein. The picture is now in the United States, hav 
ing been purchased by Mr. Richard Biddle. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 193 



CHAPTER V. 

Variation. Cabot s early Observa* 
tions. Explains his Theory in Public to the 
King. Bad Condition of English Com 
merce. Cabot consulted. His Remedy. 
Opposed by "The Stilyard." Nature of 
that Corporation. Remonstrances laid before 
the Privy Council. The Stilyard broken up. 

Preparations for Expeditions to the North. 

Cabot furnishes the Instructions. A. Part 
of the Squadron under Chancellor reaches Rus 
sia. Chancellor s personal Interview with the 
Emperor. The Adventurers obtain a Char 
ter. Change in Cabot s Fortune. King 
Edward s Death. Cabot s Pension suspended 
for two Years. Characteristic Anecdote. 

Cabot resigns his Pension. His Death. 

THE remainder of our narrative will contain 
none of the bustle of adventure ; but it will exhibit 
wha is rather remarkable, a man of more than 
threescore years and ten, devoting himself to the 
illustration of new truths, and originating great 
national enterprises. Cabot s mind retained to the 
last its vigor, and the experience of his manhood 
was an unfailing fund of information. 

vii. 13 



194 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

In one of his early voyages he observed a vari 
ation in the magnetic needle ; but his observations, 
although carefully recollected, at the time only 
found a place in his memorandum book. JNo 
theory of the variation had been started; and, until 
he could frame one, he chose to say little of what 
he had seen. Thirty years afterwards, the mys 
tery still remaining inexplicable, he was surprised 
to perceive the same phenomenon in the La Pla 
ta. His active and roving life then prevented him 
from giving much attention to the subject, and he 
could only note carefully the variations, now and 
then stealing a moment to seek the solution of 
the problem. 

During all changes of fortune, he did not forget 
what he had seen ; and availing himself of the in 
formation of contemporaries, he now announced a 
matured theory of the variation of the needle. 
There is something in this, characteristic of the 
man. He mostly withheld his observations for 
forty years, lest the superstitious might reject or 
fear what the scientific could not explain. Had 
he been less cautious, he would have been indis 
putably acknowledged the discoverer of this great 
wonder of nature. 

When Edward heard of Cabot s theory of the 
variation, with his usual ardor he insisted on a 
convocation of the learned men of the kingdom, 
before whom the venerable seaman had the honor 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 195 

of explaining the phenomenon to his young sov 
ereign. He showed the extent of the variation, 
and that it was different in different latitudes 
Unfortunately we are without the papers of Cab 
ot himself, and are thus unable to know precisely 
the theory offered to the prince. Although not 
the correct one, it attracted general attention, and 
added to the esteem which our navigator now en 
joyed in his native land.* 

Notwithstanding young Edward s willingness to 
encourage maritime enterprise, English commerce, 
about the year 1551, became almost extinct. Na 
tive produce was in no demand ; and, while foreign 
nations easily found markets, there seemed to be a 
general stagnation in the trade, which had once 
raised England to opulence. This affected equally 
the pride and purses of the English merchants, 
and they resolved to detect the cause of the evil, 
and reestablish their credit. The first men in the 
kingdom took the matter in hand ; "certaine grave 
citizens of London, and men of great wisedome 
and carefulle for the good of their countrey, began 
to thinke with themselves howe this mischief might 
bee remedied." After conferring on the subject, 



* Livio Sanuto, a noble Venetian, on learning Cabot s 
eminence from a friend, applied to him for information on 
the subject of magnetic variation, and received a chart 
marked with the degrees in various parts of the world, 
and a full account of his several observations. 



196 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

they agreed to consult Sebastian Cabot. "And 
whereas at the same time one Sebastian Cabota, 
a man in those days very renowned, happened to 
bee in London, they began first of all to deale 
and consult diligently with him." From this mo 
ment Cabot s influence is perceptible in every 
stage of the investigation. 

He was enabled to propose a project, which he 
had long since conceived, and which has event 
ually secured to England one of her most valuable 
branches of trade. He advised his countrymen 
to seek a new northern market, telling them, that, 
although neighboring nations had been sated with 
their commodities, doubtless tribes might be found 
to remunerate their ingenuity. The proposition 
seeming favorable to the merchants and the King, 
it was agreed that three ships "should be pre 
pared and furnished for the search and discovery 
of the northern part of the world." 

But, at this point, the adventurers were opposed 
by a powerful foreign corporation, established in 
London, under the title of The Stilyard, and 
claiming, what they had long possessed, a mo 
nopoly of the trade with the northern European 
ports. It consisted chiefly of the factors of exten 
sive mercantile houses in Antwerp and Hamburg, 
who, by art and good fortune, had obtained com 
mand of most English markets, and used their 
superiority to ruin native merchants. Their im- 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 197 

positions had become insufferable ; and now, whec 
they endeavored to fetter lawful enterprise, Cabot 
determined to rid his country of such an incum- 
brance. He ascertained them to be guilty of 
certain fraudulent acts, and, in the name of the 
new company, laid a remonstrance before Ed 
ward s privy council. 

Such an established favorite was not likely to 
offer a fruitless petition, particularly as the young 
King must himself have perceived the justice of 
the complaints. Parts of his Majesty s private 
journal, which have been preserved, show his 
interest in the dispute, and the result is recorded, 
one may fancy, with something like triumph. 
"February 23c?, 1551. A decree was made by 
the board, that, upon knowledge and information 
of their charters, they had found ; first, that they 
(the Stilyard) were no sufficient corporation ; sec 
ondly, that their number, names, and nature was 
unknown ; thirdly, that, when they had forfeited 
their liberties, King Edward the Fourth did re 
store them on this condition, that they should 
color no strangers goods, which they had done. 
For these considerations, sentence was given that 
they had forfeited their liberties, and were in like 
case with other strangers." 

When the Stilyard heard the decision, they 
were so reluctant to relinquish their monopolies, 
that ambassadors were immediately despatched to 



198 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the English court, " to speak in their behalf.* 
Again the matter came before the Privy Council, 
and the former judgment was confirmed. A few 
days after this memorable defeat, Cabot received a 
donation from the King. " To Sebastian Cabota, 
the great seaman, two hundred pounds, by way 
of the King s majesty s reward, dated in March, 
1551." This tells more plainly than any com 
ment, of his successful exertions in the affair. 

Obstacles being removed, the expedition rapidly 
advanced. Great pains were taken to provide 
plank, " very strong and well seasoned," master 
workmen were engaged in the construction of 
the vessels, the merchants spared no expense in 
the provision of stores, and, for the first time in 
England, the ships bottoms were sheathed with 
copper. Sir Hugh Willoughby, with whose mel 
ancholy fate most readers are familiar, was, after 
some debate, appointed Chief Captain ; " both," 
as we are told, " by reason of his goodly person 
age, (for he was of tall stature,) as also for his 
singular skill in the services of warre." The 
second in command was Richard Chancellor, a 
shrewd and persevering man, who had been edu 
cated with much care by the father of Sir Pmlip 
Sidney. We may form some idea of Cabot s 
strength of mind, when we know, that, although 
between seventy and eighty years old, he superin 
tended personally these extensive outfits ; but our 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 199 

admiration should not stop here. That nothing 
might be wanting to complete success, he wrote, 
with his own hand, a volume of instructions in 
duty,* which were ordered to be read before the 
ships companies every week, and \vhich have 
ever been regarded as a model of high principle 
and good sense, as well as a proof of sagacity and 
an extended knowledge of human nature. 

On the 20th of May, 1553, naval stores and 
crews were in readiness, and the squadron, consist 
ing of the Bona Esperanza, of one hundred and 
twenty tons, Sir Hugh Willoughby master, the Ed- 
ward Bonaventure, of one hundred and sixty tons, 
Richard Chancellor master, and the Bona Con- 
Jidentia, of ninety tons, Cornelius Durfooth mas 
ter, each furnished with a pinnace and boat, drop 
ped down the river to Greenwich. The spirits of 
the men were high, amid the bustle of leave 
taking and crowds of spectators, although occasion 
ally damped by bidding farewell to familiar faces, 
which the dangers before them rendered it prob 
able many would behold no more. The large 
ships floating slowly downward, the sailors dressed 

* They were entitled, "Ordinances, Instructions, and 
Advertisements of, and for the Direction of, the intended 
Voyage for Cathay, compiled, made, and delivered by the 
right worshipful M. Sebastian Cabota, Esq., Governour 
of the Mysterie and Companie o^ Ihe Merchants, Adven 
turers," &c. &r 



200 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

all alike in " watchet or skie-colored cloth," and 
the crowded decks, filled with impatient crews, 
must have formed a highly exciting scene. 

The court happened to be at Greenwich as 
they approached ; and " presently the courtiers 
came running out, and the common people flockt 
together, standing very thick upon the shoare ; 
the privie counsel, they lookt out at the windows 
of the court, and the rest ranne up to the toppes 
of the towers ; the shippes hereupon discharge 
their ordinance, and shoot off their pieces after the 
manner of warre, and of the sea, insomuch that 
the toppes of the hills sounded therewith, the val 
leys and the waters gave an echo, and the mari 
ners, they shouted in such sort, that the skie rang 
again with the noise thereof." * 

The only thing to lessen the happiness of the 
occasion, was the absence of the young monarch, 
whose exertions had given existence to the expe 
dition. He beheld none of the regrets or rejoic 
ings, being confined by the illness which soon 
caused his death. As the vessels left port, shrouds 
and mainyards were crowded by those eager to 
take the last look of recognition ; presently the 
land faded in the distance, and, mutually agreeing 
to meet at the castle of Wardhouse, in Norway, 
should mischance disperse the squadron, they 
committed themselves to the Ruler of the ocean. 

* Hakluyt, Vol. I. p. 245. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 201 

We cannot follow minutely this band of adven 
turers. We have spoken thus much of it, because 
their enterprise was the last of importance in which 
Cabot was concerned, and because of the distin 
guished services he rendered it, at a time of life 
when most are content to repose in ease and in 
action. The dreaded evil was experienced, and, on 
the very day of the agreement to keep together, 
the vessels were separated by a furious tempest. 
Sir Hugh Willoughby, finding a passage to the 
east impracticable, resolved, on the 18th of Sep 
tember, to winter with Durfooth in Lapland. But 
the severity of the climate proved fatal to the 
wearied frames of their party, and their heroic 
commander was obliged to behold his men fall 
victims to a death, whose horrors were soon to 
overtake himself. 

One of the most melancholy records ever pre 
served, is Sir Hugh s manuscript journal, detailing 
their fruitless attempts to reach Wardhouse, their 
resolution to pass the winter on an unknown coast, 
and their extreme destitution after the landing was 
effected. The commander, it is supposed, lin 
gered until the month of January, 1554; the two 
ships were found deserted and decayed, and the 
journal lying beside the body of its author. The 
sad diary is said to have contained a description of 
the wolves and other carnivorous animals, which 
flocked around the bodies of the first victims to 



202 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHi. 

the climate. The last entry is thus mournfully 
abrupt. " September. We sent out three men 
south-southwest, to search if they could find peo 
ple, who went three dayes journey, but could find 
none ; after that, we sent other three men west 
ward foure dayes journey, which also returned 
without finding any people. Then sent we three 
men southeast three dayes journey, who, in like 
sorte, returned without finding of people, or any 
similitude of habitation." " Here endeth," the 
historian adds, "Sir Hugh Willoughbie his note, 
which was written with his owne hand."* 

Richard Chancellor had the good fortune to 
reach Wardhouse, whence with singular resolution 
he prosecuted his voyage, and, after a passage 
through unknown latitudes, where the sunlight 
was perpetual, he landed at Archangel. The in 
habitants at first fled in terror ; but, mindful of 
Cabot s injunctions, he so succeeded in soothing 
their apprehensions by mild treatment, that they 
threw themselves at his feet, and supplied him 
.iberally with such things as he needed. The 
natives being forbidden by the emperor to trade 
witn foreigners, several undertook a journey to 
Moscow, in order to represent to him the object 
of Chancellor in visiting their shores. The em 
peror received the representation with courtesy, 

* Hakluyt, Vol. I. p. 237 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 203 

md invited the Englishman to a personal inter 
view. Chancellor of course embraced the oppor 
tunity, and, providing himself with a sledge, soon 
reached the city of Moscow. He there related 
the design of his voyage, and before long laid the 
foundation of a permanent and extensive trade 
between England and Russia. 

There is something heart-stirring in the manful 
efforts of these early travellers ; they teach us of 
modern times a good lesson of self-forgetting, gen 
erous enthusiasm. Chancellor so represented the 
views and intentions of the English government, 
that Russia, it would seem, with little hesitation, 
acceded to his propositions. In the year 1554 or 
1555, a charter was granted to the company of 
English adventurers, and Sebastian Cabot, in con 
sideration of having originated the enterprise, was 
therein named governor for life. 

Soon afterwards the Emperor of Russia granted 
them certain privileges, which show their com 
mercial intercourse to have been extensive. The 
articles are called, " ACopieof the first Privileges 
graunted by the Emperor of Russia to the English 
Marchants in the Yeere 1555," and thus com 
mence ; " John Vasilvich, by the grace of God, 
Emperor of Russia, Great Duke of Novogrode, 
Moscovia, &ic. To all people that shall see, 
reade, heare, or understand these presents, greet 
ing. Know ye, therefore, that we of our grace 



204 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

speciale, meere motion, certaine knowledge, have 
given and granted, and by these presents for us, 
our heires, and successours, do give and grant as 
much as in us is and lieth, unto Sebastian Cabota, 
Governour, Sir George Barnes, Knight," &c.* 

From this time the Russia trade increased in 
value and extent, until it gave a fresh impulse to 
productive industry in England. Instead of suf 
fering under foreign monopolies, native artisans 
found fair markets ; while, on the other hand, its 
intercourse with the English gradually secured to 
the Russian nation, civilization, intelligence, and 
comfort. Cabot must have observed with un 
speakable delight the ultimate success of this ex 
pedition. Four ships were purchased for the 
trade, and their number annually increased. 

Probably the earliest specimens of the Eng 
lish mercantile style, are to be found in the corre 
spondence between the Russian and English com 
panies at this period. f The first articles of barter 
were cloths, tar, hemp, and feathers ; afterward 
they shipped copper, steel, and in short those va 
rious products, both natural and artificial, which 
form the basis of all commerce between civilized 
nations. As if by magic, the complete stagna- 



* Hakluyt, Vol. I. p. 265. 

f These letters, which are worthy of a careful perusal, 
may be found at length in Hakluyt, Vol. I. p. 297. 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 205 

tion in English trade was succeeded by a healthy 
m^cantiie circulation. 

The Emperor continued his favors toward the 
Cfw traders, and a branch of the company was 
established at Moscow. He sent an ambassador 
to England with instructions to complete and 
confirm the arrangement. The Russia trade soon 
became important. It was conceived with much 
boldness, and sustained with unfailing spirit. Cab 
ot was the director of every movement ; his old 
age, instead of gliding away in debility or sloth, 
was occupied by the innumerable cares arising 
from his connexion with the adventurers. The 
whale fishery of Spitzbergen, and the famous 
Newfoundland fisheries, were improved, if not es 
tablished by him at this period. His ambition 
seems to have been, to do good to the last mo 
ment. " With strict justice," observes Camp 
bell, " it may be said of Sebastian Cabot, that he 
was the author of our maritime strength, and 
opened the way to those improvements, which 
have rendered us so great, so eminent, so flour 
ishing a people." 

Cabot was now eighty years old; and, after fol 
lowing him through so many changes of fortune, 
we have to regret, that gloom should overspread 
his latter days. But, like many others who have 
depended on the justice of crowned heads, he 
found, that gratitude did not invariably follow 



206 AMERICAN B1OGRAPHI. 

meritorious exertion. We must retrace our steps 
a moment to ascertain the origin of the vexations 
we are going to record. 

Not long after the departure of the first expe 
dition to Russia, young Edward died. This mon 
arch had respected Cabot s age, and recompensed 
his talents ; he had given life to naval enterprise 
by liberality, and won the confidence of his sub 
jects by an intimate acquaintance with their inter 
ests. His death was in many respects a public 
loss. To Cabot, as the sequel shows, it was 
almost ruinous. 

The King was a warm Protestant ; and, on the 
accession of the Catholic Mary, eager to spread 
her bigoted faith, his favorites stood no chance of 
fair treatment. It is not probable, that insult was 
shown to the venerable navigator, but he was re 
garded with coldness, doubly severe because par 
tially concealed ; he was made often to feel his 
dependence on the crown, and he saw younger 
men daily gaining the royal confidence to which 
he was entitled. 

The first open neglect was in regard to his 
means of support. His pension, which expired 
at Edward s death, was not renewed for more than 
two years. His cheerfulness did not desert him 
now that his private circumstances were inaus 
picious. Without pretending to be a philosopher, 
he used all with benevolence and generosity 



SEBASTIAN CABOT 



207 



oniting, as is the privilege of age, good counsel 
and a good example. The following extract 
from the journal of Stephen Burroughs gives us 
much insight into his character. 

" The 27th being Munday, the right worshipful 
Sebastian Cabota came aboord our pinesse at 
Gravesende, accompanied with divers gentlemen 
and gentlewomen, who, after that they had viewed 
our pinesse, and tasted of such cheer as we could 
make them aboord, they went on shore, giving to 
our mariners right liberal rewards ; and the good 
olde gentleman, master Cabota, gave to the poore 
most liberall almes, wishing them to pray for the 
good fortune and prosperous success of the 
Searchthrift, our pinesse. And then, at the signe 
of the Christopher, hee and his friends banketed, 
and made me, and them that were in the compa 
ny, great cheere ; and so very joy that he had to 
see the towardness of our intended discovery, he 
entered into the dance himselfe, among the rest 
of the young and lusty company ; which being 
ended, hee and his friends departed, most gently 
commending us to the governance of Aimighty 
God." * This gayety of temper is remarkable, 
considering his private necessities. The remain 
der of his career is brief and gloomy. 

The Queen had occupied the throne but one 

*Hakluyt, Vol. I. p. 274. 



ZUS AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

year, when, to the dismay of her subjects, she 
gave her hand to Philip of Spain. Matters had 
already undergone a disagreeable change, and this 
union with an intriguing and jealous sovereign 
promised England little advantage. Philip came 
into his new dominions exceedingly envious of the 
English naval superiority ; and Cabot, the man to 
whom it was chiefly ascribable, and who had re 
fused the order of Philip s father to return to 
Spain, could hope little courtesy at his hands. 
Philip s first act was to declare war against France, 
and Mary was forced to resort to all expedients to 
supply the requisite funds. Seven days after the 
King reached London, Cabot resigned his pension. 
Of the neglect and cold insinuations which led to 
such a step, and of the wounded feelings of the 
beneficiary, no one, who knows the state of the 
kingdom and the character of the man, can fail to 
conceive. 

Shortly afterward, indeed, the pension wets r-e 
newed, but no longer in favor of Cabot alone 
One half was granted to a William Worthington. 
With Mary the new favorite was in the ascendant ; 
she committed to Worthington all Cabot s manu 
scripts, which have since eluded the most patient 
search. 

The neglect, which we have lately seen shown 
to him, followed him to the last ; and but for 
his friend Richard Eden, we had known no 



SEBASTIAN CABOT. 209 

thing of his end. Eden stood by his death-bed, 
and he tells us, with his usual simplicity, that "the 
good old man had not even in the article of death 
shaken off all worldlie vanitie." He still hovered 
over the scene of his adventures ; he thought of 
his boyhood, and, with that sudden mental illu 
mination, which precedes the more perfect light 
of another existence, reviewing his past struggles, 
he " spoke flightily " of a divine revelation with 
regard to an infallible method of ascertaining the 
longitude, which he might disclose to no mortal. 
Truly, the ruling passion was strong in death ! He 
died calmly as he had lived; and, it is supposed, 
in the city of London. But although, as has 
been well said, " he gave a continent to England," 
we know neither the date of his death, nor does 
the humblest monument show where his remains 
were interred. 

Such were the adventures, and such is an out 
line of the character, of Sebastian Cabot. His 
mind, perhaps, cannot be properly regarded as of 
the highest order. It was better fitted to investi 
gate by help of data, than to create for itself; to 
draw sound conclusions, than to wander in specu 
lations. He had strong common sense, and could 
view the most intricate subjects clearly and calm 
ly; he had command over himself, over his feel 
ings, and over his mental powers. Hence, he was 
composed in danger, and cheerful in affliction ; 

vii. 14 



210 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and, being generally directed by high moral prin 
ciple, failure, of which he experienced a great 
deal, was robbed of half its pangs. He erred at 
limes in judgment, and often conceived what he- 
could not execute. But what he discovered and 
divulged is of the highest value ; and, in a career 
like his, a man must attempt much to accomplish 
even a little. He conferred many benefits on his 
fellow men ; and, although he received very in 
adequate compensation, he was always a gooa 
citizen, a warm friend, and a faithful public officer 



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