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^ CHILDREN'S BOOK
* * $
LIBRARY OF THE '
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA j|
^ LOS ANGELES ^
PETER PARLEY'S OWN LIFE.
THE COLD FRIDAY.
PETER PARLEY'S OWN LIFE.
FROM THE PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF THE LATE
SAMUEL GOODRICH, ("PETER PARLET.")
EDITED BY HIS FRIEND AND ADMIRER,
SAMPSON LOW, SON, & CO. 47 LUDGATE HILL.
[The right of Translation is reserved.]
STBANGEWAYS AND WALDEN, PaiN
28 Castle St. Leicester Sq.
THIS Story of Peter Parley's Life is gathered from
his Recollections of a Lifetime, written by my good
old friend, Samuel Gr. Gfoodrich, in the year 1854,
while he was the United States Consul at Paris. I
give you, in his own words, a description of the spot
on which he composed his little history:
" My little pavilion, situated upon an elevated slope
formed of the upper bank of the Seine, gives me
a view of the unrivalled valley that winds between
St. Cloud and Asnieres : it shows me Paris in the near
distance, Montmartre to the left, and the Arch of
Triumph to the right. In the rear, close at hand, is
our suburban village, having the aspect of a little
withered city. Around are several chateaux, and from
the terraced roof of my house which is arranged for
a promenade I can look into their gardens and
pleasure-grounds, sparkling with fountains and glowing
with fruits and flowers. A walk of a few rods brings
me to the bank of the Seine, where boatmen are ever
ready to give the pleasure-seeker a row or a sail: in
ten minutes by rail, or an hour on foot, I can be in
Paris. In about the same time I may be sauntering
in the Avenue de Neuilly, the Bois de Boulogne, or the
galleries of Versailles. My rent is but about four hun-
dred dollars a-year, with the freedom of the gardens and
grounds of the chateau, of which my residence is an
appendage. If there be a place on earth combining
economy and comfort where one may be quiet, and
yet in the very midst of life it is here. Why, then,
should I not remain ? In one word, because I would
rather be at home. This is, indeed, a charming
country, but it is not mine. I could never reconcile
myself to the idea of spending my life in a foreign
Several of his friends advised him to write the
history of his life ; and when the cares of the Consulate
were over, and he had leisure, he consented to their
" What I propose," he says, " is this : venturing to
presume upon your sympathy thus far, I invite you to
go with me, in imagination, over the principal scenes
I have witnessed, while I endeavour to make you share
in the impressions they produced upon my own mind.
Thus I shall carry you back to my early days, to my
native village, the ( sweet Auburn ' of my young
fancy, and present to you the homely country life in
which I was born and bred. Those pastoral scenes
were epics to my childhood; and though the heroes
and heroines consisted mainly of the deacons of my
father's church and the school-ma'ams that taught me
to read and write, I shall still hope to inspire you with
a portion of the loving reverence with which I regard
their memories. I shall endeavour to interest you in
some of the household customs of our New England
country life fifty years ago, when the Adams delved
and the Eves span, and thought it no stain upon their
gentility. I shall let you into the intimacy of my
boyhood, and permit you to witness my failures as
well as my triumphs. In this the first stage of my
career I shall rely upon your good nature, in per-
mitting me to tell my story in my own way. If I
make these early scenes and incidents the themes of
a little moralising, I hope for your indulgence.
" From this period, as the horizon of my experience
becomes somewhat enlarged, I may hope to interest
you in the topics that naturally come under review.
As you are well acquainted with the outline of my life,
I do not deem it necessary to forewarn you that my
history presents little that is out of the beaten track
of common experience. I have no marvels to tell, no
secrets to unfold, no riddles to solve. It is true that,
in the course of a long and busy career, I have seen a
variety of men and things, and had my share of
vicissitudes in the shifting drama of life ; still the
interest of my story must depend less upon the im-
portance of my revelations than the sympathy which
naturally belongs to a personal narrative."
That this life of one of the most popular of all
writers for young people will find favour in their eyes,
I cannot doubt. That my worthy friend had his
failings, like the rest of the world, some of my readers
will not fail to discover; and that there is much to
admire in the earnest goodness of his life, and in the
candour of the confessions of his errors, will be owned
by all who have any regard for the works of "Peter
Birth and Parentage The Old House Ridgefield The Meeting-
house Parson Mead Keeler's Tavern The Cannon-hall
Lieutenant Smith P. 1
The New House High Ridge Nathan Kellogg's Spy-glass The
Shovel The Black Patch in the Road Distrust of British In-
fluence Old Chich-es-ter Aunt Delight Return after Twenty
Ridgefield Society -Trades and Professions Chimney-corner Court-
ships Domestic Economy Dram-drinking Family Products
Molly Gregory and Church Music Travelling Artisans
Festival of the Quilts Clerical Patronage Raising a Church
The Retired Tailor and his Farm 22
Habits of the People Their Costume Amusements Festivals
Marriages Funerals Dancing Winter Sports My Two
Grandmothers Mechanical Genius Importance of Whittling
Pigeons Sporting Adventures 38
Death of Washington Jerome Bonaparte and Miss Patterson
Sunday Travelling Oliver Wolcott Timothy Pickering
American Politeness quite Natural Locomotion Public Con-
veyances My Father's Chaise Brings Prosperity to the
Village P. 50
The Upper and Lower Classes of Ridgefteld Master Stebbins and
his School What is a Noun? Deacon Benedict and his Man
Peter Parley on Horseback His Latin Acquirements Family
Worship Widow Bennett The Temple of Dagon . . 57
The Clergy of Fairfield A Laughing Parson The Three Deacons
General King and Colonel Bradley 71
Mat Olmstead, the Town Wit The Salamander Hat Solar Eclipse
Lieutenant Smith Extraordinary Meteor Fulton and his
Steam-boat Granther Baldwin and his Wife The Swearer
Sarah Bishop and her Cave . . . . , . . 81
Farewell to Home Danbury My New Vocation My Brother-
in-law His Conversations with Lawyer Hatch Clerical
New Haven Distinguished Men Whitney's Cotton-gin Durham
Town My Grandmother's Indian Pudding In Search of a
Doctor Return to Danbury Cold Friday Factory Workmen
Arrival at Hartford My Occupation there Restlessness My
friend George Sheldon . . . . . . 120
War with England In the Army My Uncle's Advice Campaigning
On the March Our Military Costume My first Soldier's
Supper P. 125
New London Our Military Reputation Sent with a Letter
British Cannon-balls Out of Harm's Way An Alarm On
Guard Take a Prisoner Strange Emotions My Left-hand
Chum A Grateful Country 129
Effects of War in New England Personal Experience News of
Peace Illuminations The Author's Confessions . .137
Evil Effects of Night Study Commencement of Literary Career
Thoughts on Dancing New York Saratoga Death of his
Uncle Becomes a Bookseller Cold Summer Emigration
Results of 142
Marriage Walter Scott Byron Sidney Smith's Taunt Pub-
lishes Original American Works Mrs. Sigourney . . 152
Domestic Troubles Sketch of Brainard Aunt Lucy's Back-parlour
The Fall of Niagara Death of Brainard . . . 157
First Visit to Europe Hurricane Arrival at Liverpool London
Travels on the Continent Return to Bristol Interview with
Hannah More Design in Travelling Visits Ireland and
The Edinburgh Lions Literary Celebrities Jeffrey in the Forum
Sir Walter at the Desk Riding with Scotch Ladies Beautiful
Scenery A Scotch Mist Moral to his Countrymen . P. 172
Blackwood Licentiousness of Byron's MSS. The General As-
sembly Sir Walter Scott Mr. and Mrs. Lockhart Origin of
" Tarn O'Shanter " Last Words of Scott .... 181.
En Route for London "The Laird o'Cockpen" Localities of
Legendary Fame Difference between England and America 190
London on his Second Visit Jacob Perkins and his Steam-gun
Dukes of Wellington, Sussex, and York British Ladies at a Re-
view House of Commons and its Orators Debate in the Lords
Catalani Distinguished Foreigners Edward Irving compared
to Edmund Kean Byron lying in State ..." . . 197
Embark for the United States Boston and its Worthies Business
Operations Ackermann's Forget-me-Not the Parent of all other
Annuals The American Species Their Declension . 211
" The Token" N. P. Willis and Nathaniel Hawthorne Comparison
between them Lady Authors Publishers' Profits Authors
and Publishers 217
Becomes an Author His real Name a profound Secret How it
was Divulged Great Success Illness The Doctors disagree
English Imitations of his Works Conduct of a London Book-
seller Objections to his Works His own Ideas Sensible
Reflections ... . . ... . . 227
Children his first Patrons His Identity doubted by a Boy
Honoured in New Orleans Feelings of Humiliation The Mice
eat his Papers A Wrong Calculation ... P. 239
Makes a Speech Lectures on Ireland Fortifies himself with
Peppermints A Whig in Politics Everett and Van Buren
Personal Attacks Becomes a Senator The " Fifteen-gallon
Law " Publishes a Pamphlet in its Favour " My Neighbour
Smith " His Family insulted His Political Career un-
Appointed U. S. Consul to Paris Louis XVTIL A few Jottings
upon French Notabilities Cure for Hydrocephalus Unsettled
State of Things in Paris 256
Louis Philippe and the Revolution List of Grievances The Mob
at the Madeleine Barricades " Down with Guizot ! " The
Firing commenced Flight of the King and Queen Scene in
the Chamber of Deputies Sack of the Tuileries A Calm 264
After the Revolution " Funeral of the Victims " The Constituent
Assembly Paris in a State of Siege Cavaignac Louis
Napoleon chosen President 286
The Author's Duties as Consul Aspect of Things in Paris Louis
Napoleon's Designs The 2nd of December, 1852 The New
Reign of Terror complete Louis Napoleon as Emperor Out
of Office Return to New York Conclusion . . .291
AUNT DELIGHT . , . . 16
MAKING MAPLE SUGAR 28
DEACON OLMSTEAD . . . . . 74
FIRST ADVENTURE ON THE SEA . : V v 110
THE COLD FRIDAY . . (Frontispiece) 116
WHITTLING . . . . .160
The Story of Peter Parley s
BIRTH AND PARENTAGE THE OLD HOUSE RIDGEFIELD
THE MEETING-HOUSE PARSON MEAD KEELER's TAVERN
THE CANNON-BALL LIEUTENANT SMITH.
IN the western part of the State of Connecticut is a small
town named Ridgefield. This title is descriptive, and indi-
cates the general form and position of the place. It is, in fact,
a collection of hills, rolled into one general and commanding
elevation. On the west is a ridge of mountains, forming the
boundary between the States of Connecticut and New York ;
to the south the land spreads out in wooded undulations to
Long Island Sound; east and north, a succession of hills,
some rising up against the sky and others fading away in the
distance, bound the horizon. In this town, in an antiquated
and rather dilapidated house built of wood, I was born on the
19th of August, 1793.
My father, Samuel Goodrich, was' minister of the Congre-
gational Church of that place, and there was no other religious
2 The Story of
society and no other clergyman in the town. He was the son
of Elizur Goodrich, a distinguished minister of the same per-
suasion at Durham, Connecticut. Two of his brothers were men
of eminence the late Chauncey Goodrich of Hartford, and
Elizur Goodrich of New Haven. My mother was a daughter
of John Ely, a physician of Say brook, whose name figures, not
unw r orthily, in the annals of the revolutionary war.
I was the sixth child of a family of ten children, two of
whom died in infancy, and eight of whom lived to be married
and settled in life. My father's annual salary for the first
twenty-five years, and during his ministry at Ridgefield, aver-
aged 80?. a-year : the last twenty -five years, during which he
was settled at Berlin, near Hartford, his stipend was about
100?. a-year. He was wholly without patrimony, and, owing
to peculiar circumstances, which will be hereafter explained,
my mother had not even the ordinary outfit when they began
their married life. Yet they so brought up their family of
.eight children, that they all attained respectable positions in
life, and at my father's death he left an estate of 800?.
These facts throw light upon the simple annals of a country
clergyman in Connecticut, half-a-century ago ; they also bear
testimony to the thrifty energy and wise frugality of my parents,
and especially of my mother, who was the guardian deity of
Ridgefield belongs to the county of Fairfield, and is now
a handsome town, as well on account of its artificial as its
natural advantages ; with some two thousand inhabitants.
It is fourteen miles from Long Island Sound, of which its
.many swelling hills afford charming views. The main street
is a mile in length, and is now embellished with several
Peter Parley's Own Life. 3
handsome houses. About the middle of it there is, or was,
some forty years ago, a white wooden Meeting-house, which
belonged to my father's congregation. It stood in a small
grassy square, the favourite pasture of numerous flocks of
geese, and the frequent playground of school-boys, especially
on Saturday afternoons. Close by the front door ran the
public road, and the pulpit, facing it, looked out upon it on
fair summer Sundays, as I well remember by a somewhat
In the contiguous town of Lower Salem dwelt an aged
minister, by the name of Mead. He was all his life marked
with eccentricity, and about those days of which I speak, his
mind was rendered yet more erratic by a touch of paralysis.
He was, however, still able to preach, and on a certain Sunday,
having exchanged with my father, he was in the pulpit and
engaged in making his opening prayer. He had already
begun his invocation, when David P , who was the Jehu
of that generation, dashed by the front door upon a horse,
a clever animal, of which he was but too proud in a full,
round trot. The echo of the clattering hoofs filled the church,
which, being of wood, was sonorous as a drum, and arrested
the attention, as well of the minister as the congregation, even
before the rider had reached it. The minister was fond of
horses, almost to frailty ; and, from the first, his practised ear
perceived that the sounds came from a beast of bottom. When
the animal shot by the door, he could not restrain his admira-
tion; which was accordingly thrust into the very marrow of
his prayer : " We pray Thee, Lord, in a particular and pe-
culiar manner that's a real smart critter to forgive us
our manifold trespasses," &c.
4 The Story of
I have somewhere heard of a traveller on horseback, who,
just at eventide, being uncertain of his road, inquired of a
person he chanced to meet the w r ay to Barkhamstead.
" You are in Barkhamstead now," was the reply.
" Yes, but where is the centre of the place ? "
" It hasn't got any centre."
" Well, but direct me to the tavern."
" There ain't any tavern."
" Yes, but the meeting-house?"
" Why didn't you ask that afore ? There it is, over the
So, in those days, in Connecticut, as doubtless in other
parts of New England, the meeting-house was the great
geographical monument, the acknowledged meridian of every
town and village. Even a place without a centre, or a tavern,
had its house of worship ; and this was its point of reckoning.
It was, indeed, something more. It was the town-hall, where
all public meetings were held for civil purposes ; it was the
temple of religion, the pillar of society, religious, social, and
moral, to the people around. It will not be considered strange,
then, if I look back to the meeting-house of Ridgefield, as not
only a most revered edifice, but as in some sense the starting-
point of my existence. Here, at least, linger many of my most
A few rods to the south of this there was, and still is, a
tavern, kept in my day by Squire Keeler. This institution
ranked second only to the meeting-house; for the tavern of
those days was generally the centre of news, and the gathering-
place for balls, musical entertainments, public shows, &c. ; and
this particular tavern had special claims to notice. It was, in
Peter Parley's Own Life. $
the first place, on the great thoroughfare of the day, between
Boston and New York ; and had become a general and fa-
vourite stopping -place for travellers. It was, moreover, kept
by a hearty old gentleman, who united in his single person the
varied functions of publican, postmaster, representative, justice
of the peace, and I know not what else. He, besides, had a
thrifty wife, whose praise was in all the land. She loved her
customers, especially members of Congress, governors, and
others in authority who wore powder and white top-boots,
and who migrated to and fro in the lofty leisure of their own
coaches. She was, indeed, a woman of mark ; and her life has
its moral. She scoured and scrubbed, and kept things going,
until she was seventy years old; at which time, during an epi-
demic, she was threatened with an attack. She, however, de-
clared that she had not time to be sick, and kept on working ;
so that the disease passed her by, though it made sad havoc
all around her, especially with more dainty dames who had
leisure to follow the fashion.
Besides all this, there was an historical interest attached to
Keeler's tavern; for, deeply embedded in the north-eastern
corner-post, there was a cannon-ball, planted there during the
famous fight with the British in 1777. It was one of the
chief historical monuments of the town, and was visited by all
curious travellers who came that way. Little can the present
generation imagine with what glowing interest, what ecstatic
wonder, what big, round eyes, the rising generation of Ridge -
field, half a century ago, listened to the account of the fight, as
given by Lieutenant Smith, himself a witness of the event and
a participator of the conflict, sword in hand. t
This personage, whom I shall have occasion again to in-
6 The Story of
troduce to my readers, was, in my time, a justice of the peace,
town librarian, and general oracle in such loose matters as
geography, history, and law; then about as uncertain and
unsettled in Ridgefield, as is now the longitude of Lilliput.
He had a long, lean face ; long, lank, silvery hair ; and an
unctuous, whining voice. With these advantages, he spoke
with the authority of a seer, and especially in all things
relating to the revolutionary war.
The agitating scenes of that event, so really great in itself,
so unspeakably important to the country, had transpired some
five-and-twenty years before. The existing generation of
middle age had all witnessed it ; nearly all had shared in
its vicissitudes. On every hand there were corporals, ser-
jeants, lieutenants, captains, and colonels, no strutting fops
in militia buckram, raw blue and buff, all fuss and feathers,
but soldiers, men who had seen service and won laurels in the
tented field. Every old man, every old woman, had stories
to tell, radiant with the vivid realities of personal observation
or experience. Some had seen Washington, and some Old
Put ; * one was at the capture of Ticonderoga under Ethan
Allen ; another was at Bennington, and actually heard old
Stark say, " Victory this day, or my wife Molly is a widow ! "
Some were at the taking of Stony Point, and others in the
sanguinary struggle of Monmouth. One had witnessed the
execution of Andre, and another had been present at the cap-
ture of Burgoyne. The time which had elapsed since these
events had served only to magnify and glorify these scenes,
as well as the actors, especially in the imagination of the
rising generation. If perchance we could now dig up and
* General Putnam.
Peter Parley's Own Life. j
galvanise into life a contemporary of Julius Caesar, who was
present and saw him cross the Rubicon, and could tell us how
he looked and what he said, we should listen with somewhat
of the greedy wonder with which the boys of Ridgefield
listened to Lieutenant Smith, when of a Saturday afternoon,
seated on the stoop of Keeler's tavern, he discoursed upon the
discovery of America by Columbus, Braddock's defeat, and
the old French war ; the latter a real epic, embellished with
romantic episodes of Indian massacres and captivities. When
he came to the Revolution, and spoke of the fight at Ridge -
field, and punctuated his discourse with a present cannon-ball,
sunk six inches deep in a corner -post of the very house in
which we sat, you may well believe it was something more
than words it was, indeed, "action, action, glorious action!"
How little can people now-a-days comprehend or appreciate
these things ! *
* \If our friend Peter Parley had lived to the present time, he would
havs bitterly grieved at the terrible struggle in which his countrymen are
now engaged. F. F.~\
The Story of
THE NEW HOUSE HIGH RIDGE NATHAN KELLOGG*S SPY-
GLASS THE SHOVEL THE BLACK PATCH IN THE ROAD
DISTRUST OP BRITISH INFLUENCE OLD CHICH-ES-TER
AUNT DELIGHT RETURN AFTER TWENTY YEARS.
MY memory goes distinctly back to the year 1797, when
I was four years old. At that time a great event happened
great in the narrow horizon of childhood : we removed from
the Old House to the New House ! This latter, situated on
a road tending westward and branching from the main street,
my father had just built ; and it then appeared to me quite
a stately mansion and very beautiful, inasmuch as it was
painted red behind and white in front : most of the dwellings
thereabouts being of the dun complexion which pine -boards
and chestnut-shingles assume, from exposure to the weather.
Long after, having been absent twenty years, I revisited this
my early home, and found it shrunk into a very small and
ordinary two -story dwelling, wholly divested of its paint, and
scarcely thirty feet square.
This building, apart from all other dwellings, was situated
on what is called High Ridge, a long hill, looking down upon
the village, and commanding an extensive view of the sur-
rounding country. From our upper windows, this was at
once beautiful and diversified. On the south, as I have said,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 9
the hills sloped in a sea of undulations down to Long Island
Sound, a distance of some fourteen miles. This beautiful
sheet of water, like a strip of pale sky, with the island itself,
more deeply tinted, beyond, was visible in fair weather, for a
stretch of sixty miles, to the naked eye. The vessels, even the
smaller ones, sloops, schooners, and fishing -craft, could be
seen, creeping like insects over the surface. With a spy-glass
and my father had one bequeathed to him by Nathan
Kellogg, a sailor, who made rather a rough voyage of life, but
anchored at last in the bosom of the Church, as this bequest
intimates w r e could see the masts, sails, and rigging. It
was a poor, dim affair, compared with modern instruments of
the kind ; but to me, its revelations of an element which then
seemed as beautiful, as remote, and as mystical as the heavens,
surpassed the wonders of the firmament.
To the west, at the distance of three miles, lay the undu-
lating ridge of hills, cliffs, and precipices already mentioned,
and which bear the name of West Mountain. They are some
five hundred feet in height, and from our point of view had
an imposing appearance. Beyond them, in the far distance,
glimmered the peaks of the highlands along the Hudson.
These two prominent features of the spreading landscape
the sea and the mountain, ever present, yet ever remote im-
pressed themselves on my young imagination with all the
enchantment which distance lends to the view. I have never
lost my first love. Never, even now, do I catch a glimpse of
either of these two rivals of nature, such as I first learned
them by heart, but I feel a gush of emotion as if I had sud-
denly met with the cherished companions of my childhood.
In after days, even the purple velvet of the Apennines and the
io The Story of
poetic azure of the Mediterranean, nave derived additional
beauty to my imagination from mingling with these vivid
associations of my childhood.
It was to the New House, then, thus situated, that we
removed, as I have stated, when I was four years old. On
that great occasion, everything available for draught or burden
was put in requisition ; and I was permitted, or required, I
forget which, to carry the peel, as it was then called, but
which would now bear the title of "shovel." Birmingham had
not then been heard of in those parts, or at least was a great
way off; so this particular utensil had been forged expressly
for my father by David Olmstead, the blacksmith, as was the
custom in those days. I recollect it well, and can state that
it was a sturdy piece of iron, the handle being four feet long,
with a knob at the end. As I carried it along, I doubtless
felt a touch of that consciousness of power which must have
filled the breast of Samson as he bore off the gates of Gaza. I
recollect perfectly well to have perspired under the operation,
for the distance of our migration was half- a -mile, and the
season was summer.
One thing more I remember : I was barefoot ; and as we
went up the lane which diverged from the main road to the
house, we passed over a patch of earth blackened by cinders,
where my feet were hurt by pieces of melted glass and metal.
I inquired what this meant, and was told that here a house
was burned down by the British troops already mentioned,
and then in full retreat, as a signal to the ships that awaited
them on the Sound, where they had landed, and where they
intended to embark.
This detail may seem trifling ; but it is not without sig-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 1 1
nificance. It was the custom in those days for boys to go
barefoot in the mild season. I recollect few things in life
more delightful than, in the spring, to cast away my shoes
and stockings, and have a glorious scamper over the fields.
Many a time, contrary to the express injunctions of my
mother, have I stolen this bliss ; and many a time have I been
punished by a severe cold for my disobedience. Yet the bliss
then seemed a compensation for the retribution. In these ex-
ercises I felt as if stepping on air ; as if leaping aloft on wings.
I was so impressed with the exultant emotions thus expe-
rienced, that I repeated them a thousand times in happy
dreams ; especially in my younger days. Even now these
visions sometimes come to me in sleep, though with a lurking
consciousness that they are but a mockery of the past ; sad
monitors of the change which time has wrought upon me.
As to the black patch in the lane, that, too, had its mean-
ing. The story of a house burned down by a foreign army
seized upon my imagination. Every time I passed the place
I ruminated upon it, and put a hundred questions as to how
and when it happened. I was soon master of the whole story,
and of other similar events which had occurred all over the
country. I was thus initiated into the spirit of that day, and
which has never wholly subsided in our country ; inasmuch as
the war of the Revolution was alike unjust in its origin, and
cruel as to the manner in w r hich it was waged. It was, more-
over, fought on our own soil ; thus making the whole people
share, personally, in its miseries. There was scarcely a family
in Connecticut whom it did not visit, either immediately or
remotely, with the shadows of mourning and desolation. The
British nation, to whom this conflict was a foreign war, are
1 2 The Story of
slow to comprehend the popular dislike of England in America.
Could they know the familiar annals of our towns and villages
burned, plundered, sacked with all the attendant horrors,
for the avowed purpose of punishing a nation of rebels, and
those rebels of their own kith and kin: could they be made
acquainted with the deeds of those twenty thousand Hessians,
sent hither by King George, and who have left their name in
our language as a word signifying brigands, who sell their
blood and commit murder for hire : could they thus read the
history of minds and hearts, influenced at the fountains of life
for several generations, they would perhaps comprehend, if
they could not approve, the habitual distrust of British influ-
ence, which lingers among our people.
About three-fourths of a mile from my father's house, on
the winding road to Lower Salem, which I have already men-
tioned, and which bore the name of West Lane, was the
school-house where I took my first lessons, and received the
foundations of my very slender education. I have since been
sometimes asked where I graduated : my reply has always
been, " At West Lane." Generally speaking, this has ended
the inquiry ; whether, because my questioners have confounded
this venerable institution with " Lane Seminary," or have not
thought it worth while to risk an exposure of their ignorance
as to the college in which I was educated, I am unable to say.
The site of the school-house was a triangular piece of land,
measuring perhaps a rood in extent, and lying, according to
the custom of those days, at the meeting of four roads. The
ground hereabouts as everywhere else in Ridgefield was
exceedingly stony ; and, in making the pathway, the stones
Jiad been thrown out right and left, and there remained in
Peter Parley's Own Life. 13
heaps on either side, from generation to generation. All
around was bleak and desolate. Loose, squat stone walls,
with innumerable breaches, inclosed the adjacent fields. A
few tufts of elder, with here and there a patch of briers and
pokeweed, flourished in the gravelly soil. Not a tree, how-
ever, remained; save an aged chestnut, at the western angle of
the space. This, certainly, had not been spared for shade or
ornament, but probably because it would have cost too much
labour to cut it down ; for it was of ample girth. At all
events, it was the oasis in our desert during summer ; and in
autumn, as the burrs disclosed its fruit, it resembled a besieged
city; the boys, like so many catapults, hurled at it stones
and sticks, until every nut had capitulated. -
Two houses only were at hand : one, surrounded by an
ample barn, a teeming orchard, and an enormous wood-pile,
belonged to Granther Baldwin ; the other was the property of
" Old Chich-es-ter ;" an uncouth, unsocial being, whom every-
body, for some reason or other, seemed to despise and shun.
His house was of stone, and of one story. He had a cow,
which every year had a calf. He had a wife dirty and un-
combed, and vaguely reported to have been brought from the
old country. This is about the whole history of the man, so
far as it is written in the authentic traditions of the parish.
His premises, an acre in extent, consisted of a tongue of land
between two of the converging roads. No boy, that I ever
heard of, ventured to cast a stone, or to make an incursion
into this territory, though it lay close to the school-house. I
have often, in passing, peeped timidly over the walls, and
caught glimpses of a stout man with a drab coat, drab breeches,
and drab gaiters, prowling about the house ; but never did I
14 The Story of
discover him outside of his own dominion. I know it was
darkly intimated that he had been tarred and feathered in the
revolutionary war ; but as to the rest, he was a perfect myth.
The school-house itself consisted of rough, unpainted
boards, upon a wooden frame. It was plastered within, and
contained two apartments, a little entry, taken out of a
corner for a wardrobe, and the school -room proper. The
chimney was of stone, and pointed with mortar, which, by
the way, had been dug into a honeycomb by uneasy and
enterprising penknives. The fireplace was six feet w r ide and
four feet deep. The flue was so ample and so perpendicular,
that the rain, sleet, and snow fell direct to the hearth. In
winter, the battle for life with green fizzling fuel, which was
brought in lengths and cut up by the scholars, was a stern
one. Not unfrequently the wood, gushing with sap as it
was, chanced to be out, and as there was no living without
fire, the thermometer being ten or twenty degrees below zero,
the school was dismissed, whereat all the scholars rejoiced aloud,
not having the fear of the schoolmaster before their eyes.
It was the custom at this place to have a woman's school
in the summer months, and this was attended only by young
children. It was, in fact, what we now call a primary or
infant school. In winter, a man was employed as teacher,
and then the girls and boys of the neighbourhood, up to the
age of eighteen, or even twenty, were among the pupils. It
was not uncommon, at this season, to have forty scholars
crowded into this little building.
I was about six years old when I first went to schooL
My teacher was Aunt Delight, that is, Delight Benedict, a
maiden lady of fifty, short and bent, of sallow complexion and
Peter Parley's Own Life. 15
solemn aspect. I remember the first day with perfect dis-
tinctness. I went alone for I was familiar with the road, it
being that which passed by our old house. I carried a little
basket, with bread and butter within, for my dinner, and this
was covered over with a white cloth. When I had proceeded
about half way, I lifted the cover, and debated whether I
would not eat my dinner then. I believe it was a sense of duty
only that prevented my doing so, for in those happy days I
always had a keen appetite. Bread and butter were then in-
finitely superior to pate de foie gras now ; but still, thanks to
my training, I had also a conscience. As my mother had
given me the food for dinner, I did not think it right to con-
vert it into lunch, even though I was strongly tempted.
I think we had seventeen scholars boys and girls
mostly of my own age. Among them were some of my after-
companions. I have since met several of them one at
Savannah, and two at Mobile respectably established, and
with families around them. Some remain, and are now
among the grey old men of the town : the names of others I
have seen inscribed on the tombstones of their native village.
And the rest where are they ?
The school being assembled, we were all seated upon
benches, made of what were called slabs that is, boards
having the exterior or rounded part of the log on one side : as
they were useless for other purposes, these were converted into
school -benches, the rounded part down. They had each four
supports, consisting of straddling wooden legs, set into augur-
holes. Our own legs swayed in the air, for they were too
short to touch the floor. Oh, what an awe fell over me, when
we were all seated and silence reigned around !
i6 7 'he Story of
The children were called up one by one to Aunt Delight,
who sat on a low chair, and required each, as a preliminary,
" to make his manners," which consisted of a small sudden
nod. She then placed the spelling-book which was Dil-
worth's before the pupil, and with a buck -handled penknife
pointed, one by one, to the letters of the alphabet, saying,
"What's that?" If the child knew his letters, the "what's
that?" very soon ran on thus :
I looked upon these operations with intense curiosity and
no small respect, until my own turn came. I went up to the
schoolmistress with some emotion, and when she said, rather
spitefully, as I thought, "Make your bow!" my little intel-
lects all fled away, and I did nothing. Having waited a
second, gazing at me with indignation, she laid her hand on
the top of my head, and gave it a jerk which made my teeth
clash. I believe I bit my tongue a little ; at all events, my
sense of dignity was offended, and when she pointed to A. and
asked what it was, it swam before me dim and hazy, and as big
as a full moon. She repeated the question, but I was doggedly
silent. Again, a third time, she said, "What's that?"
I replied : " Why don't you tell me what it is ? I didn't'
come here to learn you your letters ! " I have not the slightest
Peter Parley's Own Life. 17
remembrance of this, for my brains were all a woolgathering ;
but as Aunt Delight affirmed it to be a fact, and it passed
into a tradition in my family, I put it in.
What immediately followed I do not clearly remember,
but one result is distinctly traced in my memory. In the
evening of this eventful day the schoolmistress paid my parents
a visit, and recounted to their astonished ears this my awful
contempt of authority. My father, after hearing the story,
got up and went away ; but my mother, who was a care-
ful disciplinarian, told me not to do so again! I always
had a suspicion that both of them smiled on one side of
their faces, even while they seemed to sympathise with the
old lady on the other ; still, I do not affirm it, for I am
bound to say of both my parents, that I never knew
them, even in trifles, say one thing while they meant
I believe I achieved the alphabet that summer, but my
after progress, for a long time, I do not remember. Two
years later I went to the winter school at the same place,
kept by Lewis Olmstead a man who made a business of
ploughing, mowing, carting manure, &c., in the summer,
and of teaching school in the winter ; with a talent for
music at all seasons, wherefore he became chorister upon
occasion, when, peradventure, Deacon Hawley could not
officiate. He was a celebrity in ciphering, and Squire
Seymour declared that he was the greatest " arithmeticker "
in Fairfield county. All I remember of his person is his
hand, which seemed to me as big as Goliath's, judging
by the claps of thunder it made in my ears on one or two
1 8 The Story of
The next step of my progress which is marked in my
memory, is the spelling of words of two syllables. I did not
go very regularly to school, but by the time I was ten years
old I had learned to write, and had made a little progress in
arithmetic. There was not a grammar, a geography, or a
history of any kind in the school. Reading, writing, and
arithmetic were the only things taught, and these very indif-
ferently not wholly from the stupidity of the teacher, but
because he had forty scholars, and the custom of the age
required no more than he performed. I did as well as the
other scholars, certainly no better. I had excellent health and
joyous spirits ; in leaping, running, and wrestling I had but
one superior of my age, and that was Stephen Olmstead,
a snug-built fellow, smaller than myself, and who, despite
our rivalry, was my chosen friend and companion. I seemed
to live for play : alas ! how the world has changed since
After I had left my native town for some twenty years, I
returned and paid it a visit. Among the monuments that
stood high in my memory was the West Lane school -house.
Unconsciously carrying with me the measures of childhood, I
had supposed it to be thirty feet square ; how had it dwindled
when I came to estimate it by the new standards I had
formed ! It was in all things the same, yet wholly changed
to me. What I had deemed a respectable edifice, as it now
stood before me was only a weather-beaten little shed, which,
upon being measured, I found to be less than twenty feet
square. It happened to be a warm summer day, and I ven-
tured to enter the place. I found a girl, some eighteen years
old, keeping a ma'am school for about twenty scholars, some
Peter Parley's Own Life. 19
of whom were studying Parley's Geography. The mistress
was the daughter of one of my schoolmates, and some of the
boys and girls were grandchildren of the little brood which
gathered under the wing of Aunt Delight, when I was an
abecedarian. None of them, not even the schoolmistress, had
ever heard of me. The name of my father, as having minis-
tered to the people of Ridgefield in some bygone age, was
faintly traced in their recollection. As to Peter Parley, whose
geography they were learning, they supposed him to be a
decrepit old gentleman hobbling about on a crutch, a long way
off, for whom, nevertheless, they had a certain affection, inas-
much as he had made geography into a story-book. The
frontispiece -picture of the old fellow, with his gouty foot in a
chair, threatening the boys that if they touched his tender toe
he would tell them no more stories, secured their respect, and
placed him among the saints in the calendar of their young
hearts. " Well," thought I, " if this goes on, I may yet
rival Mother Goose!"
I hope the reader will not imagine that I am thinking too
little of his amusement and too much of my own, if I stop a
few moments to note the lively recollections I entertain of the
joyousness of my early life, and not of mine only, but that of
my playmates and companions. In looking back to those
early days, the whole circle of the seasons seems to me almost
like one unbroken morning of pleasure.
I was of course subjected to the usual crosses incident to
my age, those painful and mysterious visitations sent upon
children the measles, mumps, whooping-cough, and the like ;
usually regarded as retributions for the false step of our
mother Eve in the Garden ; but they have almost passed from
20 The Story of
my memory, as if overflowed and borne away by the general
drift of happiness which filled my bosom. Among these cala-
mities, one monument alone remains the small-pox. It was
in the year 1 798, as I well remember, that my father's house
was converted into a hospital, or, as it was then called, a
" pest-house," where, with some dozen other children, I was
inoculated for this disease, then the scourge and terror of the
The lane in which our house was situated was fenced up,
north and south, so as to cut off all intercourse with the world
around. A flag was raised, and upon it were inscribed the
ominous words, " g^f SMALL -POX." My uncle and aunt, from
New Haven, arrived with their three children. Half-a-dozen
others of the neighbourhood were gathered together, making,
with our own children, somewhat over a dozen subjects for
the experiment. When all was ready, like Noah and his family,
we were shut in. Provisions were deposited in a basket at a
point agreed upon, down the lane. Thus we were cut off
from the world, excepting only that Dr. Perry, the physician,
ventured to visit us.
As to myself, the disease passed lightly over, leaving, how-
ever, its indisputable autographs on various parts of my body.
Were it not for these testimonials, I should almost suspect
that I had escaped the disease, for I only remember, among
my symptoms and my sufferings, a little headache, and the
privation of salt and butter upon my hasty-pudding. My
restoration to these privileges I distinctly recollect : doubtless
these gave me more pleasure than the clean bill of health which
they implied. Several of the patients suffered severely, and
among them my brother and one of my cousins.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 21
But although there is evidence that I was subject to the
usual drawbacks upon the happiness of childhood, these were
so few that they have passed from my mind ; and those early
years, as I look back to them, seem to have flowed in one
bright current of uninterrupted enjoyment.
22 The Story of
RIDGEFIELD SOCIETY TRADES AND PROFESSIONS CHIMNEY-
CORNER COURTSHIPS DOMESTIC ECONOMY DRAM-
DRINKING FAMILY PRODUCTS MOLLY GREGORY AND
CHURCH MUSIC TRAVELLING ARTISANS FESTIVAL OF
THE QUILTS CLERICAL PATRONAGE RAISING A CHURCH
THE RETIRED TAILOR AND HIS FARM.
I WILL now give you a sketch of Ridgefield and of the
people, how they lived, thought, and felt, at the beginning of
the present century. It will give you a good idea of the rustic
life of New England fifty years ago.
From what I have already said, you will easily imagine
the prominent physical characteristics and aspect of my native
town : a general mass of hills, rising up in a crescent of low
mountains, and commanding a wide view on every side. The
soil was naturally hard, and thickly sown with stones of every
size. The fields were divided by rude stone walls, and the
surface of most of them was dotted with gathered heaps of
stones and rocks, thus clearing spaces for cultivation, yet
leaving a large portion of the land still encumbered. The
climate was severe, on account of the elevation of the site, yet
this was perhaps fully compensated by its salubrity.
Yet, despite the somewhat forbidding nature of the soil
and climate of Ridgefield, it may be regarded as presenting
Peter Parley's Own Life. 23
a favourable example of New England country life and
society at the time I speak of. The town was originally
settled by a sturdy race of men, mostly the immediate
descendants of English emigrants, some from Norwalk and
some from Milford. Their migration over an intervening
space of savage hills, rocks, and ravines, into a territory so
uninviting, and their speedy conversion of this into a thriving
and smiling village, bear witness to their courage and energy.
At the time referred to, the date of my earliest recollection,
the society of Eidgefield was exclusively English. I remember
but one Irishman, one negro, and one Indian in the town. The
first had begged and blarneyed his way from Long Island,
where he had been wrecked ; the second was a liberated slave ;
and the last was the vestige of a tribe which dwelt of yore in
a swampy tract, the name of which I have forgotten. We
had a professional beggar, called Jagger, who had served in
the armies of more than one of the Georges, and insisted upon
crying " God save the king !" even on the 4th of July, and
when openly threatened by the boys with a gratuitous ride on
a rail. We had one settled pauper, Mrs. Yabacomb, who, for
the first dozen years of my life, was my standard type for the
witch of Endor.
Nearly all the inhabitants of Eidgefield were farmers,
with the few mechanics that were necessary to carry on
society in a somewhat primeval state. Even the persons not
professionally devoted to agriculture had each his farm, or at
least his garden and home lot, with his pigs, poultry, and
cattle. The population might have been 1200, comprising
two hundred families. All could read and write, but in point
of fact, beyond the Almanac and Watts' Psalms and Hymns,
24 The Story of
their literary acquirements had little scope. There were, I
think, four newspapers, ah 1 weekly, published in the State : one
at Hartford, one at New London, one at New Haven, and one
at Litchfield. There were, however, not more than three
subscribers to ah 1 these in our village. We had, however, a
public library of some two hundred volumes, and, what was
of equal consequence, the town was on the road which was
then the great thoroughfare, connecting Boston with New
York ; and hence we had means of intelligence from travellers
constantly passing through the place, which kept us ac-
quainted with the march of events.
If Ridgefield was thus rather above the average of Con-
necticut villages in civilisation, I suppose the circumstances
and modes of life in my father's family were somewhat above
those of most people around us. We had a farm of forty
acres, with four cows, two horses, and some dozen sheep, to
which may be added a stock of poultry, including a flock of
geese. My father carried on the farm, besides preaching two
sermons a -week, and visiting the sick, attending funerals,
solemnising marriages, &c. He laid out the beds and planted
the garden ; pruned the fruit-trees, and worked with the men
in the meadow in hay-time. He generally cut the corn-stalks
himself, and always shelled the ears ; the latter being done by
drawing them across the handle of the frying-pan, fastened
over a wash-tub. I was sometimes permitted, as an indul-
gence, to share this favourite employment with my father.
With these and a few other exceptions, our agricultural
operations were carried on by hired help.
It was the custom in New England, at the time I speak
of, for country lawyers, physicians, clergymen, even doctors of
Peter Parley's Own Life. 25
divinity, to partake of these homespun labours. In the library
of the Athenseum, at Hartford, is a collection of almanacs,
formerly belonging to John Cotton Smith one of the most
elegant and accomplished men of his time -a distinguished
Member of Congress, Judge of the Superior Court, and several
years Governor of the State ; in looking it over, I observed
such notes as the following, made with his own hand : " Cut
my barley," " began rye harvest," " planted field of potatoes,"
&c. : thus showing his personal attention to, if not his par-
ticipation in, the affairs of the farm. Nearly all the judges of
the Superior Court occasionally \vorked in the field, in these
hearty old federal times.
But I return to Ridgefield. The household, as well as
political, economy of those days lay in this, that every
family lived as much as possible within itself. Money was
scarce, wages being about fifty cents a-day, though these were
generally paid in meat, vegetables, and other articles of use
seldom in money. There was not a factory of any kind in the
place.* There was a butcher, but he only went from house
to house to slaughter the cattle and swine of his neighbours.
There was a tanner, but he only dressed other people's skins.
There \vas a clothier, but he generally fulled and dressed other
people's cloth. All this is typical of the mechanical opera-
tions of the place. Even dyeing blue a portion of the wool, so
as to make linsey-woolsey for short gowns, aprons, and blue-
* I recollect, as an after-thought, one exception. There was a
hatter who supplied the town ; but he generally made hats to order,
and usually in exchange for the skins of foxes, rabbits, muskrats, and
other chance peltry. I frequently purchased my powder and shot
from the proceeds of skins which I sold him.
26 The Story of
mixed stockings vital necessities in those days was a
domestic operation. During the autumn, a dye -tub in the
chimney corner thus placed so as to be cherished by the
genial heat was as familiar in all thrifty houses as the Bible
or the back -log. It was covered with a board, and formed a
cosy seat in the wide-mouthed fireplace, especially of a chill
evening. When the night had waned, and the family had
retired, it frequently became the anxious seat of the lover, who
was permitted to carry on his courtship, the object of his ad-
dresses sitting demurely in the opposite corner. Some of the
first families in Connecticut, I suspect, could their full annals
be written, would find their foundations to have been laid in
these chimney-corner courtships.
Being thus exposed, the dye -tub was the frequent subject
of distressing and exciting accidents. Among the early,
indelible incidents in my memory, one of the most prominent
is turning this over. Nothing so roused the indignation of
thrifty housewives, for, besides the mess made upon the floor
by the blue, a most disagreeable odour was diffused by it.
To this general system of domestic economy our family
was not an exception. Every autumn, it was a matter of
course that we had a fat ox or a fat cow ready for slaughter.
One full barrel was salted down; the hams were cut out,
slightly salted, and hung up in the chimney for a few days,
and thus became "dried" or "hung beef," then as essential
as bread. Pork was managed in a similar way, though even
on a larger scale, for two barrels were indispensable. A few
pieces, as the spare-ribs, &c., were distributed to the neigh-
bours, who paid in kind when they killed their swine.
Mutton and poultry came in their turn, all from our own
Peter Parley* s Own Life. 27
stock, except when on Thanksgiving-day some of the mag-
nates gave the parson a turkey. This, let me observe, in
those good old times, was a bird of mark ; no timid, crouch-
ing biped, with downcast head and pallid countenance, but
stalking like a lord, and having wattles red as a "banner
bathed in slaughter." His beard was long, shining, and wiry.
There was, in fact, something of the native bird still in him,
for though the race was nearly extinct, a few wild flocks lin-
gered in the remote woods. Occasionally, in the depth of
winter, and towards the early spring, these stole to the barn-
yard, and held communion with their civilised cousins. Se-
vere battles ensued among the leaders for the favours of the
fair, and as the wild cocks always conquered, the vigour of
the race was kept up.
Our bread was made of rye, mixed with Indian meal.
Wheat bread was reserved for the sacrament and company ; a
proof not of its superiority, but of its scarcity and consequent
estimation. All the vegetables came from our garden and
farm. The fuel was supplied by our own woods sweet-
scented hickory, snapping chestnut, odoriferous oak, and reek-
ing, fizzling ash the hot juice of the latter, by the way,
being a sovereign antidote for the earache. These were laid
in huge piles, all alive with sap, on the tall, gaunt andirons.
The building of a fire, a real architectural achievement, was
always begun by daybreak. There was first a back -log, from
fifteen to four -and -twenty inches in diameter, and five feet
long, imbedded in the ashes ; then came a top log, then a fore
stick, then a middle stick, and then a heap of kindlings, reach-
ing from the bowels down to the bottom. Above all was a
pyramid of smaller fragments, artfully adjusted, with spaces
28 The Story of
for the blaze. Lucifer matches had not then been invented.
So, if there were no coals left from the last night's fire, and none
to be borrowed from the neighbours, resort was had to flint,
steel, and tinder-box. Often, when the flint was dull, and the
steel soft, and the tinder damp, the striking of fire was a task
requiring both energy and patience. If the pile on the
andirons was skilfully constructed, the spark being applied,
there was soon a furious stinging smoke ; but the forked flame
soon began to lick the sweating sticks above, and by the time
the family had arisen, and assembled in the " keeping-room,"
there was a roaring blaze, defying the bitter blasts of winter,
which found abundant admittance through the crannies of the
doors and windows. To feed the family fire in those days,
during the severe season, was fully one man's work.
But to go on with our household history. Sugar was
partially supplied by our maple-trees. These were tapped in
March, the sap being collected, and boiled down in the woods.
This was wholly a domestic operation, and one in which all
the children rejoiced, each taking his privilege of tasting, at
every stage of the manufacture. The chief supply of sugar,
however, was from the West Indies.
Rum was largely consumed, but our distilleries had scarcely
begun. A half-pint of it was given as a matter of course to
every day-labourer, more particularly in the summer season.
In all families, rich or poor, it was offered to male visitors
as an essential point of hospitality, or even good manners.
Women I beg pardon ladies, took their schnapps, then
named " Hopkins' Elixir," which was the most delicious and
seductive means of getting tipsy that has been invented.
Crying babies were silenced with hot toddy. Every man im-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 29
bibed his morning dram, and this was esteemed temperance.
There is a story of a preacher, about those days, who thus
lectured his parish : " I say nothing, my beloved brethren,
against taking a little bitters before breakfast, and after break-
fast ; especially if you are used to it. What I contend against
is, this dramming, dramming, dramming, at all hours of the
day. There are some men who take a glass at eleven o'clock
in the forenoon, and at four in the afternoon. I do not pur-
pose to contend against old-established customs, my brethren,
rendered respectable by time and authority ; but this dram-
ming, dramming, is a crying sin in the land."
As to brandy, I scarcely heard of it, so far as I can recol-
lect, till I was sixteen years old, and, as an apprentice in a
country store, was called upon to sell it. Cider was the
universal table beverage. Brandy and whisky soon after
came into use. I remember, in my boyhood, to have seen a
strange zigzag tin tube, denominated a " still," belonging to
one of our neighbours, converting, drop by drop, certain inno-
cent liquids into " fire-water." But, in the days I speak of,
French brandy was confined to the houses of the rich, and to
the drug -shop.
Wine, in our country towns, was then almost exclusively
used for the Sacrament.
There was, of course, no baker in Ridgefield ; each family
not only made its own bread, cakes, and pies, but its own
soap, candles, butter, cheese, and the like. The manufacture
of linen and woollen cloth was no less a domestic operation.
Cotton that is, raw cotton was then wholly unknown
among us at the North, except as a mere curiosity, produced
somewhere in the Tropics ; but whether it grew on a plant, or
an animal, was not clearly settled in the public mind.
30 The Story of
We raised our own flax, rotted it, hackled it, dressed it,
and spun it. The little wheel, turned by the foot, had its
place, and was as familiar as if it had been a member of the
family. How often have I seen my mother, and my grand-
mother, too, sit down to it though this, as I remember, was
for the purpose of spinning some finer kind of thread the
burden of the spinning being done by a neighbour of ours,
Sally St. John. By the way, she was a good-hearted, cheerful
old maid, who petted me beyond my deserts. I grieve to say,
that I repaid her partiality by many mischievous pranks ; for
which I should have been roundly punished, had not the good
creature forgiven and concealed my offences. I did, indeed,
get licked for catching her foot one day in a steel-trap ; but I
declare that I was innocent of malice prepense, inasmuch as I
had set the trap for a rat, instead of the said Sally. Never-
theless, the verdict was against me ; not wholly on account of
my misdemeanour in this particular instance, but because, if I
did not deserve punishment for that, I had deserved it, and
should deserve it for something else ; and so it was safe to
The wool was also spun in the family; partly by my
sisters, and partly by Molly Gregory, daughter of our neigh-
bour, the town carpenter. I remember her w r ell as she sang
and spun aloft in the attic. In those days, church -singing
was the only one of the fine arts which flourished in Bidgefield,
except the music of the drum and fife. The choir was divided
into four parts, ranged on three sides of the meeting-house
gallery. The tenor, led by Deacon Hawley, was in front of
the pulpit, the bass to the left, and the treble and counter to
the right ; the whole being set in motion by a pitch-pipe, made
by the deacon himself, who was a cabinet-maker. Molly took
Peter Parley's Own Life. 3 1
upon herself the entire counter, for she had excellent lungs.
The fuguing tunes, which had then run a little mad, were
her delight. In her solitary operations aloft I have often
heard her send forth, from the attic windows, the droning hum
of her wheel, with fitful snatches of a hymn, in which the hase
began, the tenor followed, then the treble, and, finally, the
counter winding up with irresistible pathos. Molly singing
to herself, and all unconscious of eavesdroppers, carried on all
the parts thus :
Base. " Long for a cooling
Tenor. " Long for a cooling
Treble. " Long for a cooling
Counter. " Long for a cooling stream at hand,
And they must drink or die !"
The knitting of stockings was performed by the women of
the family in the evening, and especially at tea-parties. This
was considered a moral, as well as an economical, employment ;
for people even believed, with Dr. Watts, that
" Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do."
Satan, however, dodged the question : for if the hands were
occupied the tongue was loose ; and it was said that, in some
families, he kept them well occupied with idle gossip. At all
events, pianos, chess-boards, graces,* battledoors and shuttle-
cocks, with other safety-valves of the kind, were only known
by the hearing of the ear, as belonging to some such Vanity
Fair as New York or Boston.
The weaving of cloth linen as well as woollen was
performed by an itinerant workman, who came to the house,
* Le Jeu des Graces.
32 The Story of
put up his loom, and threw his shuttle, till the season's work
was done. The linen was bleached and made up by the
family ; the woollen cloth was sent to the fuller to be dyed and
dressed. Twice a-year, that is, in the spring and autumn, the
tailor came to the house and made a stock of clothes for the
male members ; this was called " whipping the cat."
Mantuamakers and milliners came, in their turn, to fit out
the female members of the family. There was a similar pro-
cess as to boots and shoes. We sent the hides of the cattle
cows and calves we had killed to the tanner, and these came
back in assorted leather. Occasionally a little morocco, then
wholly a foreign manufacture, was bought at the store, and
made up for the ladies' best shoes. Amby Benedict, the tra-
velling shoemaker, came with his bench, lapstone, and awls,
and converted some little room into a shop, till the household
was duly shod. He was a merry fellow, and threw in lots of
singing gratis. He played all the popular airs upon his lap-
stone as hurdygurdies and hand-organs do now.
Carpets were then only known in a few families, and were
confined to the keeping-room and parlour. They were all
home-made : the warp consisting of woollen yarn, and the
woof of lists and old woollen cloth, cut into strips, and sewed
together at the ends. Coverlids generally consisted of quilts,
made of pieces of waste calico, sewed together in octagons, and
quilted in rectangles, giving the whole a gay and rich appear-
ance. This process of quilting generally brought together the
women of the neighbourhood, married and single ; and a great
time they had of it, what with tea, talk, and stitching. In
the evening the men, were admitted; so that a quilting was a
real festival, not unfrequently leading to love-making and
marriage among the young folk.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 33
This reminds me of a sort of Communism, or Socialism,
which prevailed in our rural districts long before Owen or
Fourier was born. At Bidgefield we used to have " stone
bees," when all the men of a village or hamlet came together with
their draught cattle, and united to clear some patch of earth
of stones and rocks. All this labour was gratuitously rendered,
save only that the proprietor of the land furnished the grog.
Such a meeting was always, of course, a very social and so-
ciable affair. When the work was done, gymnastic exercises
such as hopping, wrestling, and foot-racing took place
among the athletic young men. My father generally attended
these celebrations as a looker-on. It was, indeed, the custom
for the clergy of the olden time to mingle with the people, even
in their labours and their pastimes, For some reason or
other, it seemed that things went better when the parson gave
them his countenance. I followed my father's example, and
attended these cheerful and beneficial gatherings. Most of
the boys of the town did the same. I may add that, if I
may trust the traditions of Bidgefield, the cellar of our new
house was dug by a "bee" in a single day, and that was
House -raising and barn -raising, the framework being
always of wood, were done in the same way by a neighbourly
gathering of the people. I remember an anecdote of a church-
raising, which I may as well relate here. In the eastern part
of the State, I think at Lyme, or Pautipaug, a meeting-house
was destroyed by lightning. After a year or two the society
mustered its energies, and raised the frame of another on the
site of the old one. It stood about six months, and was then
blown over. In due time another frame w r as prepared, and
34 The Story of
the neighbourhood gathered together to raise it. It was now
proposed by Deacon Hart that they should commence the
performances by a prayer and hymn, it having been suggested
that perhaps the want of these pious preliminaries on former
occasions had something to do with the calamitous results
which attended them. When all was ready, therefore, a
prayer was made, and the chorister of the place gave out
two lines of the hymn, thus :
" If God to build the house deny,
The builders work in vain."
This being sung, the chorister completed the verse thus,
adapting the lines to the occasion :
" Unless the Lord doth shingle it,
It will blow down agin ! ''
I must not fail to give you a portrait of one of our village
homes, of the middle class, at this era. I take as an
example that of a neighbour of ours, " Uncle Josey" as he
was called, who had been a tailor, but having thriven in his
affairs, and being now some fifty years old, had become a
farmer. It was situated on the road leading to Salem, there
being a wide space in front occupied by the wood-pile, which
in these days was not only a matter of great importance, but
of formidable bulk. The size of the wood -pile was, indeed,
in some sort an index to the rank and condition of the pro-
prietor. The house itself was a low edifice, forty feet long,
and of two stories in front ; the rear being what was called
a breakback that is, sloping down to a height of ten feet;
this low part furnishing a shelter for garden tools and various
household instruments. The whole was constructed of wood,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 35
the outside being of the dun complexion assumed by unpainted
wood, exposed to the weather for twenty or thirty years, save
only that the roof was tinged of a reddish brown by a fine
moss that found sustenance in the chestnut shingles.
To the left was the garden, which in the productive sea-
son was a wilderness of onions, squashes,* cucumbers, beets,
parsnips, and currants, with the never - failing tansy for
bitters, horseradish for seasoning, and fennel for keeping old
women awake in church time.
The interior of the house presented a parlour with plain,
whitewashed walls, a home-made carpet upon the floor, calico
curtains at the window, and a mirror three feet by two against
the side, with a mahogany frame : to these must be added
eight chairs and a cherry table, of the manufacture of Deacon
Hawley. The "keeping" or sitting-room had also a carpet,
a dozen rush-bottom chairs, a table, &c. The kitchen was
large fully twenty feet square, with a fireplace six feet wide
and four feet deep. On one side it looked out upon the garden,
the squashes and cucumbers climbing up and forming festoons
over the door; on the other it commanded a view of the
orchard, embracing first a circle of peaches, pears, and
plums ; and beyond, a wide-spread clover-field, embowered
with apple-trees. Just by was the well, with its tall sweep,
the old oaken bucket dangling from the pole. The kitchen
was, in fact, the most comfortable room in the house ; cool in
summer, and perfumed with the breath of the garden and the
orchard : in winter, with its roaring blaze of hickory, it was a
cosy resort, defying the bitterest blasts of the season. Here
* A kind of gourd.
3 6 The Story of
the whole family assembled at meals, except when the presence
of company made it proper to serve tea in the parlour.
The bed-rooms were all without carpets, and the furniture
was generally of a simple character. The beds, however,
were of ample size, and well filled with geese feathers, these
being deemed essential for comfortable people. I must say,
by the way, that every decent family had its flock of geese, of
course, which was picked thrice a-year, despite the noisy re-
monstrances of both goose and gander. The sheets of the
bed, though of home-made linen, were as white as the driven
enow. Indeed, the beds of this era showed that sleep was a
luxury, well understood and duly cherished by all classes.
The cellar, extending under the whole house, was by no means
the least important part of the establishment. In the autumn,
it was supplied with three barrels of beef and as many of pork,
twenty barrels of cider, with numerous bins of potatoes, tur-
nips, beets, carrots, and cabbages. The garret, which was of
huge dimensions, at the same time displayed a labyrinth of
dried pumpkins, peaches, and apples, hung in festoons upon the
rafters, amid bunches of summer savory, boneset, fennel, and
other herbs, the floor being occupied by heaps of wool, flax,
tow, and the like.
The barn corresponded to the house. It was a low brown
structure, having abundance of sheds built on to it, without
the least regard to symmetry. It was well stocked with hay,
oats, rye, and buckwheat. Six cows, one or two horses, three
dozen sheep, and an ample supply of poultry, including two
or three broods of turkeys, constituted its living tenants.
The farm I need not describe in detail, but the orchard
must not be overlooked. This consisted of three acres,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 37
covered, as I have said, with apple-trees, yielding abundantly
as well for the cider-mill as for the table, including the in-
dispensable winter apple-sauce according to their kinds. I
think an apple orchard in the spring is one of the most beau-
tiful objects in the world. How often have I ventured into
Uncle Josey's ample orchard at this joyous season, and stood
entranced among the robins, blackbirds, woodpeckers, blue-
birds, jays, and orioles, ah 1 seeming to me like playmates,
racing, chasing, singing, rollicking, in the exuberance of their
joy, or perchance slily pursuing their courtships, or even more
slily building their nests and rearing their young.
The inmates of the house I need not describe, further than
to say that Uncle Josey himself was a little deaf, and of mode-
rate abilities ; yet he lived to good account, for he reared a
large family, and was gathered to his fathers at a good old
age, leaving behind him a handsome estate, a fair name,
and a good example. His wife, who spent her early life at
service in a kitchen, was a handsome, lively, efficient woman,
and a universal favourite in the neighbourhood.
This is the homely picture of a Ridgefield farmer's home
half a century ago. There were other establishments more
extensive and more sumptuous in the town, as there were
others also of an inferior grade ; but this was a fair sample of
the houses, barns, and farms of the middle class.
3 8 the Story of
HABIT8 OF THE PEOPLE THEIR COSTUME AMUSEMENTS
FESTIVALS MARRIAGES FUNERALS DANCING -
WINTER SPORTS MY TWO GRANDMOTHERS MECHANICAL
GENIUS IMPORTANCE OF WHITTLING PIGEONS
You will now nave some ideas of the household industry and
occupations of country people in Connecticut, at the beginning
of the present century. Their manners, in other respects, had
a corresponding stamp of homeliness and simplicity.
In most families, the first exercise of the morning was
reading the Bible, followed by a prayer, at which all were
assembled, including the servants and helpers of the kitchen
and the farm. Then came the breakfast, which was a sub-
stantial meal, always including hot viands, with vegetables,
apple-sauce, pickles, mustard, horseradish, and various other
condiments. Cider was the common drink for labouring
people : even children drank it at will. Tea was common, but
not so general as now. Coffee was almost unknown. Dinner
was a still more hearty and varied repast characterised by
abundance of garden vegetables ; tea was a light supper.
The day began early : the breakfast hour was six in
summer and seven in winter ; dinner was at noon the work-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 39
people in the fields being called to their meals by a conch-
shell winded by some kitchen Triton. Tea was usually taken
about sundown. In families where all were labourers, all sat
at table, servants as well as masters the food being served
before sitting down. In families where the masters and
mistresses did not share the labours of the household or the
farm, the meals of the domestics were taken separately. There
was, however, in those days a perfectly good understanding
and good feeling between the masters and servants. The
latter were not Irish : they had not as yet imbibed the plebeian
envy of those above them, which has since so generally em-
bittered and embarrassed American domestic life. The terms
" democrat" and " aristocrat" had not got into use : these dis-
tinctions, and the feelings now implied by them, had indeed no
existence in the hearts of the people. Our servants, during ah 1
my early life, were generally the daughters of respectable
farmers and mechanics in the neighbourhood, and, respecting
others, were themselves respected and cherished. They were
devoted to the interests of the family, and were always relied
upon and treated as friends. In health they had the same
food, in sickness the same care, as the masters and mistresses
or their children.
At the period of my earliest recollections, men of all classes
were dressed in long, broad-tailed coats, with huge pockets ;
long waistcoats, breeches, and hats with low crowTis and broad
brims; some so wide as to be supported at the sides with
cords. The stockings of the parson, and a few others, were
of silk in summer and worsted in winter ; those of the people
were generally of wool. Women dressed in wide bonnets,
sometimes of straw and sometimes of silk ; and gowns of silk,
4O We Story of
muslin, gingham, &c., generally close and short-waisted, the
breast and shoulders being covered by a full muslin kerchief.
Girls ornamented themselves with a large white collar or
tippet. On the whole, the dress of both men and women has
greatly changed ; for at Ridgefield, as at less remote places,
the people follow the fashions of London and Paris.
The amusements were then much the same as at present,
though some striking differences may be noted. Books and
newspapers were then scarce, and were read respectfully, and
as if they were grave matters, demanding thought and atten-
tion. They were not toys and pastimes, taken up every day,
and by everybody, in the short intervals of labour, and then
hastily dismissed, like waste paper. The aged sat down when
they read, and drew forth their spectacles, and put them deli-
berately and reverently upon the nose. Even the young ap-
proached a book with reverence, and a newspaper with awe.
How the world has changed !
The two great festivals were Thanksgiving and " Training-
day;" the latter deriving, from the still lingering spirit of
the revolutionary war, a decidedly martial character. The
marching of the troops, and the discharge of gunpowder,
which invariably closed the exercises, were glorious and in-
spiring mementoes of heroic achievements upon many a bloody
field. The music of the drum and fife resounded on every
side. A match between two rival drummers always drew an
admiring crowd, and was in fact one of the chief excitements
of the great day.
Tavern-haunting, especially in winter, when there was
little to do, for manufactures had not then sprung up to give
profitable occupation during this inclement season, was com-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 41
mon even with, respectable farmers. Marriages were cele-
brated in the evening, at the house of the bride, with a general
gathering of the neighbourhood, and were usually finished off
by dancing. Everybody went, as to a public exhibition,
without invitation. Funerals generally drew large processions,
which proceeded to the grave. Here the minister always
made an address suited to the occasion. If there were any-
thing remarkable in the history of the deceased, it was turned
to religious account in the next Sunday's sermon. Singing-
meetings, to practise church music, were a great resource for
the young in winter. Dances at private houses were common,
and drew no reproaches from the sober people present. Balls
at the taverns were frequented by the young : the children of
deacons and ministers attended, though the parents did not.
The winter brought sleighing, skating, and the usual round
of indoor sports. In general, the intercourse of all classes was
kindly and considerate, no one arrogating superiority, and yet
no one refusing to acknowledge it where it existed. You
would hardly have noticed that there was a higher and a
lower class. Such there were, certainly ; for there must always
and everywhere be the strong and the weak, the wise and the
foolish. But in our society these existed without being felt
as a privilege to one, which must give offence to another.
It may serve in some degree to throw light upon the
manners and customs of this period, if I give you a sketch of
my two grandmothers. Both were widows, and were well
stricken in years when they came to visit us at Ridgefield,
about the year 1803-4. My grandmother Ely was a lady of
the old school, and sustaining the character in her upright
carriage, her long, tapering waist, and her high-heeled shoes.
42 'The Story of
The costumes of Louis XV.'s time had prevailed in New
York and Boston, and even at this period they still lingered
there in isolated cases. It is curious enough, that at this time
the female attire of a century ago is revived ; and every black-
eyed, stately old lady, dressed in black silk, and showing her
steel-grey hair beneath her cap, reminds me of my maternal
My other grandmother was in all things the opposite :
short, fat, blue-eyed, and practical; a good example of a
hearty country dame. I scarcely know which of the two I
liked the best. The first sang me plaintive songs, told me
stories of the Revolution her husband, Col. Ely, having had
a large and painful share in its vicissitudes she described
Gen. Washington, whom she had seen ; and the French
officers, Lafayette, Rochambeau, and others, who had been
inmates of her house. She told me tales of even more ancient
date, and recited poetry, generally ballads, which were suited
to my taste. And all this lore was commended to me by a
voice of inimitable tenderness, and a manner at once lofty and
condescending. My other grandmother was not less kind, but
she promoted my happiness and prosperity in another way.
Instead of stories, she gave me bread and butter : in place of
poetry, she fed me with apple-sauce and pie. Never was there
a more hearty old lady : she had a firm conviction that child-
ren must be fed, and what she believed she practised.
I recollect with great vividness the interest I took in the
domestic events I have described. The operations of the
farm had no great attractions for me. Ploughing, hoeing,
digging, seemed to me mere drudgery, imparting no instruc-
tion, and affording no scope for ingenuity or invention.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 43
Mechanical operations, especially those of the weaver and
carpenter, on the contrary, stimulated my curiosity, and ex-
cited my emulation. Thus I soon became familiar with the
carpenter's tools, and made such windmills, kites, and per-
petual motions, as to win the admiration of my playmates, and
excite the respect of my parents ; so that they seriously medi-
tated putting me apprentice to a builder. Up to the age of
fourteen, I think this was regarded as my manifest destiny.
It was a day of great endeavours among all inventive geniuses.
Fulton was struggling to develope steam navigation ; and other
discoverers were seeking to unfold the wonders of art as well
as of nature. It was, in fact, the very threshold of the era of
steam-boats, railroads, electric telegraphs, and a thousand other
useful discoveries, which have since changed the face of the
world. In this age of excitement, perpetual motion was the
great hobby of aspiring mechanics. I pondered and " whit-
tled" intensely on this subject before I was ten years old.
Despairing of reaching my object by mechanical means, I at-
tempted to arrive at it by magnetism, my father having bought
me a pair of horse-shoe magnets in one of his journeys to New
Haven. I should have succeeded, had it not been a principle
in the nature of this curious element, that no substance will
intercept the stream of attraction. I tried to change the poles,
and turn the north against the south ; but there, too, nature
had headed me, and of course I failed.
A word, by the way, on the matter of whittling. This is
generally represented as a sort of idle, fidgety, frivolous use of
the penknife, and is set down, by foreigners and sketchers of
American manners, as a peculiar characteristic of our people.
No portrait of an American is deemed complete, unless with
44 The Story of
penknife and shingle in hand. I feel not the slightest dispo-
sition to resent even this, among the thousand caricatures that
pass for traits of American life. For my own part, I can tes-
tify that, during my youthful days, I found the penknife a
source of great amusement, and even of instruction. Many a
long winter evening, many a dull, drizzly day, in spring, and
summer, and autumn sometimes at the kitchen fireside, some-
times in the attic, sometimes in a cosy nook of the barn, some-
times in the shelter of a neighbouring stone wall, thatched over
with wild grape-vines have I spent in great ecstasy, making
candle-rods, or some other simple article of household goods,
for my mother ; or in perfecting toys for myself and my young
friends; or perhaps in attempts at more ambitious achieve-
ments. This was not mere waste of time ; mere idleness and
dissipation. I was amused: that was something. Some of
the pleasantest remembrances of my childhood carry me back
to the scenes I have just indicated ; when, in happy solitude, ab-
sorbed in my mechanical devices, I listened to the rain patter-
ing upon the roof, or the wind roaring down the chimney : thus
enjoying a double bliss, a pleasing occupation, with a conscious
delight in my sense of security from the rage of the elements
without. Nay more ; these occupations were instructive : my
mind was stimulated to inquire into the mechanical powers,
and my hand was educated to mechanical dexterity.
If you ask me why it is that this important institution of
whittling is indigenous among us, I reply that, in the first
place, our country is full of a great variety of woods, suited to
carpentry, many of them easily wrought, and thus inviting
boyhood to try its hands upon them. In the next place, labour
is dear ; and therefore even children are led to supply them-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 45
selves with toys, or perchance to furnish some of the simpler
articles of use to the household. This clearness of labour,
moreover, furnishes a powerful stimulant to the production of
labour-saving machines ; and hence it is through all these
causes, co-operating one with another that steam -navigation,
the electric telegraph, the steam-reaper, &c. &c., are American
inventions : hence it is that, whether it be at the World's Fair
in London or Paris, we gain a greater proportion of prizes for
useful inventions than any other people. That is what comes
of whittling !
I must add, that in these early days I was a Nimrod, a
mighty hunter : first with a bow and arrow, and afterwards
with the old hereditary firelock, which snapped six times and
went off once. The smaller kinds of game were abundant.
The thickets teemed with quails ; * partridges drummed in
every wood; the gray squirrel the most picturesque animal
of our forests enlivened every hickory copse with his mocking
laugh, his lively gambols, and his long, bushy tail. The
pigeons, in spring and autumn, migrated in countless flocks ;
and many lingered in our woods for the season.
Everybody was then a hunter; not, of course, a sports-
man : for the chase was followed more for profit than for pas-
time. Game was, in point of fact, a substantial portion of the
supply of food at certain seasons of the year. All were then
good shots, and my father was no exception : he was even
beyond his generation in netting pigeons. This was not
deemed a reproach at that time in a clergyman ; nor was he
* The American quail is a species of partridge, in size between the
European quail and partridge. The partridge of New England is the
pheasant of the South, and the ruffed grouse of the naturalists.
46 The Story of
the only parson that indulged in these occupations. One day,
as I was with him on West Mountain, baiting pigeons, we had
seduced a flock of three or four dozen down into the bed where
they were feeding ; my father and myself lying concealed in
our bush-hut, close by. Suddenly, whang went a gun into
the middle of the flock ! Out we ran in great indignation ; for
at least a dozen of the birds were bleeding and fluttering before
us. Scarcely had we reached the spot, when we met Parson
M , of Lower Salem, who had thus unwittingly poached
upon us. The two clergymen had first a squabble, and then
a good laugh; after which they divided the plunder, and
The stories told by Wilson and Audubon as to the amazing
quantity of pigeons in the West, were realised by us in Con-
necticut half-a-century ago. I have seen, in the county of
Fairfield, a stream of these noble birds pouring at brief in-
tervals through the skies, from the rising to the setting sun.
Of all the pigeon tribe, this of our country the passenger
pigeon is the swiftest and most beautiful. At the same
time, it is unquestionably superior to any other for the table.
All the other species of the eastern, as well as the western
continent, which I have tasted, are soft and flavourless in
I can recollect no sports of my youth which equalled in
excitement our pigeon hunts, which generally took place in Sep-
tember and October. We usually started on horseback before
daylight, and made a rapid progress to some stubble-field on
West Mountain. The ride in the keen, fresh air, especially
as the dawn began to break, was delightful. The gradual
encroachment of day upon the night filled my mind with
Peter Parley's Own Life. 47
sublime images : the waking up of a world from sleep, the
joyousness of birds and beasts in the return of morning, and
my own sympathy in this cheerful and grateful homage of the
heart to God, the Giver of good all contributed to render
these adventures most impressive upon my young heart. My
memory is still full of the sights and sounds of those glorious
mornings : the silvery whistle of the wings of migrating flocks
of plover, invisible in the gray mists of dawn; the faint
murmur of the distant mountain torrents ; the sonorous gong
of the long-trailing flocks of wild geese, seeming to come from
the unseen depths of the skies these were among the sugges-
tive sounds that stole through the dim twilight. As morning
advanced, the scene was inconceivably beautiful : the mountain
sides, clothed in autumnal green, and purple and gold, rendered
more glowing by the sunrise with the valleys covered with
mists, and spreading out like lakes of silver ; while on every
side the ear was saluted by the mocking screams of the red-
headed woodpecker, the cawing of congresses of crows ; and,
finally, the rushing sound of the pigeons, pouring like a tide
over the tops of the trees.
By this time of course our nets w T ere ready, and our flyers
and stool-birds on the alert. What moments of ecstasy were
these, and especially when the head of the flock some red-
breasted old father or grandfather caught the sight of our
pigeons, and turning at the call, drew the whole train down
into our net-bed ! I have often seen a hundred, or two hun-
dred of these splendid birds, come upon us, with a noise abso-
lutely deafening. Sometimes our bush -hut, where we lay con-
cealed, was covered all over with pigeons, and we dared not
move a finger, as their red, piercing eyes were upon us. When
at last, with a sudden pull of the rope, the net was sprung, and
48 The Story of
we went out to secure our booty often fifty, and sometimes
even a hundred birds I felt a fullness of triumph which
words are wholly inadequate to express!
Up to the age of eight years I was never trusted with a
gun. Whenever I went forth as a sportsman on my own
account, it was only with a bow and arrow. My perform-
ances as a hunter were very moderate. In truth, I had a
rickety old gun, that had belonged to my grandfather, and
though it perhaps had done good service in the Revolution, or
further back in the times of bears and wolves, it was now very
decrepit, and all around the lock seemed to have the shaking
palsy. Occasionally I met with adventures, half serious
and half ludicrous. Once, in running my hand into a hole in
a hollow tree, some twenty feet from the ground, being in
search of a woodpecker, I hauled out a blacksnake. At an-
other time, in a similar way, I had my fingers pretty sharply
nipped by a screech-owl. My memory supplies me with
numerous instances of this kind.
As to fishing, I never had a passion for it : I was too im-
patient. I had no enthusiasm for nibbles, and there were too
many of these in proportion to the bites. I perhaps resembled
a man by the name of Bennett, who joined the Shakers of New
Canaan about these days, but soon left them, declaring that
the Spirit was too long in corning "he could not wait."
Nevertheless, I dreamed away some pleasant hours in angling
in the brooks and ponds of my native town. I well remember,
that on my eighth birthday I went four miles to Burt's mills,
carrying on the old mare two bushels of rye. While my grist
was being ground I angled in the pond, and carried home
enough for a generous meal.
Now all these things may seem trifles, yet in a review of
Peter Parley's Own Life. 49
my life I deem them of some significance. This homely
familiarity with the more mechanical arts was a material part
of my education : this communion with nature gave me in-
structive and important lessons from nature's open book of
knowledge. My technical education, as will be seen hereafter,
was extremely narrow and irregular. This defect was at
least partially supplied by the commonplace incidents I have
mentioned. The teaching, or rather the training of the senses,
in the country ear and eye, foot and hand, by running,
leaping, climbing over hill and mountain, by occasional labour
in the garden and on the farm, and by the use of tools,
and all this in youth is sowing seed which is repaid largely
and readily to the hand of after-cultivation, however unskilful
it may be. This is not so much because of the amount of
knowledge available in after-life, which is thus obtained
though this is not to be despised as it is that healthful,
vigorous, manly habits and associations, physical, moral, and
intellectual, are thus established and developed.
50 The Story of
DEATH OP WASHINGTON JEROME BONAPARTE AND MISS
PATTERSON SUNDAY TRAVELLING OLIVER WOLCOTT
TIMOTHY PICKERING AMERICAN POLITENESS QUITE
NATURAL LOCOMOTION PUBLIC CONVEYANCES MY
FATHER'S CHAISE BRINGS PROSPERITY TO THE VILLAGE.
THE incidents I have just related occurred about the year
1800 some a little earlier and some a little later. Among
the events of general interest that happened near this time I
remember the death of Washington, which took place in 1799,
and was commemorated all through the country by the tolling
of bells, funeral ceremonies, orations, sermons, hymns, and
dirges, attended by a mournful sense of loss, which seemed to
cast a pall over the entire heavens. In Eidgefield the
meeting-house was dressed in black, and we had a discourse
pronounced by a Mr. Edmonds, of Newtown. The subject,
indeed, engrossed all minds. Lieutenant Smith came every
day to our house to talk over the event, and to bring us the
proceedings in different parts of the country. Among other
papers, he brought us a copy of the Connecticut Courant,
which gave us the particulars of the rites and ceremonies
which took place in Hartford in commemoration of the great
man's decease. The celebrated hymn, written for the occasion
by Theodore Dwight, sank into my mother's heart for she
Peter Parley's Own Life. 5 1
had a constitutional love of things mournful and poetic and
she often repeated it, so that it became a part of the cherished
lore of my childhood.
I give you these scenes and feelings in some detail, to im-
press you with the depth and sincerity of this mourning of
the American nation, in cities and towns, in villages and ham-
lets, for the death of Washington.
I have already said that Ridgefield was on the great
thoroughfare between Boston and New York, for the day of
steamers and railroads had not dawned. Even the mania for
turnpikes, which ere long overspread New England, had not
yet arrived. The stage-coaches took four days to make the
trip of two hundred miles between the two great cities. In
winter, during the furious snow-storms, the journey was often
protracted to seven, eight, or ten days. With such public
conveyances, great people for even then the world was
divided into the great and little, as it is now travelled in
their own carriages.
About this time it must have been in the summer of
1804: I remember Jerome Bonaparte coming up to Keeler's
tavern with a coach and four, attended by his young wife,
Miss Patterson of Baltimore. It was a gay establishment,
and the honeymoon sat happily on the tall, sallow stripling
and his young bride. You must remember that Napoleon
was then filling the world with his fame : at this moment his
feet were on the threshold of the empire. The arrival of his
brother in the United States of course made a sensation. His
marriage, his movements, all were gossiped over, from Maine
to Georgia, the extreme points of the Union. His entrance
into Ridgefield produced a flutter of excitement, even there.
52 The Story of
A crowd gathered around Keeler's tavern to catch a sight of
the strangers, and I among the rest. I had a good, long look
at Jerome, who was the chief object of interest, and the image
never faded from my recollection.
[Half a century later, I was one evening at the Tuileries, amid
the flush and the fair of Louis Napoleon's new court. Among
them I saw an old man, taller than the mass around his
nose and chin almost meeting in contact, while his toothless
gums were " munching the airy meal of dotage and decre-
pitude." I was irresistibly chained to this object, as if a
spectre had risen up through the floor and stood among the
garish throng. My memory travelled back back among
the winding labyrinths of years. Suddenly I found the clue :
the stranger was Jerome Bonaparte !
Ah, what a history lay between the past and present a
lapse of nearly fifty years. What a difference between him
then and now ! Then he was a gay and gallant bridegroom :
now, though he had the title of king, he was throneless and
sceptreless an Invalid Governor of Invalids the puppet
and pageant of an adventurer, whose power lay in the mere
magic of a name.]
About this time, as I well remember, Oliver Wolcott
passed through our village. He arrived at the tavern late on
Saturday evening, but he called at our house in the morning,
his family being connected with ours. He was a great man
then ; for not only are the Wolcotts traditionally and histo-
rically a distinguished race in Connecticut, but he had re-
cently been a member of Washington's cabinet. I mention
him now only for the purpose of noting his deference to public
opinion, characteristic of the eminent men of that day. In
Peter Parley's Own Life. 53
the morning lie went to church, but immediately after the
sermon he had his horses brought up, and proceeded on his
way. He, however, had requested my father to state to his
people, at the opening of the afternoon service, that he was
travelling on public business, and though he regretted it, he
was obliged to continue his journey on the Sabbath. This
my father did, but Deacon Olmstead, the Jeremiah of the
parish, shook his white locks, and lifted up his voice against
such a desecration of the Lord's day. Some years after, as I
remember, Lieutenant-Governor Treadwell arrived at Keeler's
tavern on Saturday evening, and prepared to prosecute his
journey the next morning, his daughter, who was with him,
being ill. This same Deacon Olmstead called upon him, and
said, " Sir, if you thus set the example of a violation of the
Sabbath, you must expect to get one vote less at the next
election ! " The Governor was so much struck by the appear-
ance of the deacon, who was the very image of a patriarch
or a prophet, that he deferred his departure till Monday.
Although great people rode in their own carriages, the
principal method of travelling was on horseback. Many of
the members of Congress came to Washington in this way.
I have a dim recollection of seeing one day, when I was
trudging along to school, a tall, pale, gaunt man, approaching
'on horseback, with his plump saddlebags behind him. I
looked at him keenly, and made my obeisance, as in duty
bound. He lifted his hat, and bowed in return. By a quick
instinct, 1 set him down as a man of mark. In the evening,
Lieutenant Smith came to our house and told us that Timothy
Pickering had passed through the town ! He had seen him,
54 The Story of
and talked with him, and was vastly distended with the por-
tentous news thereby acquired, including the rise and fall of
empires for ages to come, and all of which he duly unfolded
to our family circle.
Before I proceed, let me note, in passing, a point of
manners then universal, but which has now nearly faded away.
When travellers met on the highway, they saluted each
other with a certain dignified and formal courtesy. All
children were regularly taught at school to " make their man-
ners" to strangers ; the boys to bow, and the girls to courtesy.
It was something different from the frank, familiar, " How are
you, stranger ? " of the Far West ; something different from
the " Bon jour, serviteur," of the Alps. Our salute was more
measured and formal ; respect to age and authority being evi-
dently an element of this homage, which was sedulously taught
to the young.
For children to salute travellers was, in my early days, as
well a duty as a decency. A child who did not " make his
manners" to a stranger on the high-road was deemed a low
fellow ; a stranger who refused to acknowledge this civility was
esteemed a sans culotte, perhaps a favourer of Jacobinism.
But I must return to locomotion. In Bidgefield, in the
year 1800, there was but a single chaise, and that belonged to
Colonel Bradley, one of the principal citizens of the place. It
was without a top, and had a pair of wide -spreading, asinine
ears. That multitudinous generation of travelling vehicles, so
universal and so convenient now such as top -waggons, four-
wheeled chaises, tilburies, dearborns, &c., was totally un-
known. Even if these things had been invented, the roads
would scarcely have permitted the use of them. Physicians
Peter Parleys Own Life. 55
who had occasion to go from town to town went on horse-
back; all clergymen, except perhaps Bishop Seabury, who
rode in a coach, travelled in the same way. My father's
people, who lived at a distance, came to church on horseback ;
their wives and daughters being seated on pillions behind
them. In a few cases as in spring-time, when the mud was
bottomless the farm waggon was used for transporting the
In winter it was otherwise, for we had three or four
months of sleighing. Then the whole country was a railroad,
and gay times we had. Oh ! those beautiful winters, which
would drive me shivering to the fireside now : what vivid de-
light have I had in their slidings and skatings, their sleddings
and sleighings ! One thing strikes me now with wonder, and
that is, the general indifference in those days to the intensity of
winter. No doubt, as I have said before, the climate was then
more severe ; but, be that as it may, people seemed to suffer
less from it than at the present day. Nobody thought of
staying at home from church because of the extremity of the
weather. We had no thermometers, it is true, to frighten us
with the revelation that it was twenty-five degrees below zero.
The habits of the people were simple and hardy, and there
were few defences against the assaults of the seasons. The
houses were not tight ; we had no stoves, no Lehigh or Lacka-
wanna coal ; yet we lived, and comfortably, too : nay, we even
changed burly winter into a season of enjoyment.
I have said that, in the year 1800, there was but a single
chaise in Ridgefield; and this, was brought, I believe, from
New Haven. There was not, I imagine, a coach, or any kind
of pleasure -vehicle that crazy old chaise excepted in the
56 The Story of
county of Fairfield, out of the two half-shire towns. Such
things, indeed, were known at New York, Boston, and Phila-
delphia; for already the government had laid a tax upon
pleasure conveyances : but they were comparatively few in
number, and were mostly imported. In 1798 there was but
one public hack in New Haven, and but one coach ; the latter,
belonging to Pierpoint Edwards, was a large, four-wheeled
vehicle, for two persons, called a chariot. In the smaller
towns there were no pleasure vehicles in use throughout New
About that time there came to our village a man by the
name of Jesse Skellinger, an Englishman, and chaisemaker
by trade. My father engaged him to build-him a chaise. A
bench was set up in our barn, and certain trees of oak and ash
were cut in our neighbouring woods. These were sawed and
seasoned, and shaped into wheels and shafts. Thomas Haw-
ley, half-blacksmith, and half-wheelwright, was duly initiated,
and he cunningly wrought the iron necessary for the work.
In five months the chaise was finished, with a standing top ;
greatly to the admiration of our family. What a gaze was
there, as this vehicle went through Kidgefield street upon its
first expedition !
This was the beginning of the chaise -manufactory in
Ridgefield, which has since been a source of large revenue to
the town. Skellinger was engaged by Elijah Hawley, who
had formerly done something as a waggon -builder ; and thus
in due time an establishment was founded, which for many
years was noted for the beauty and excellence of its pleasure
Peter Parley's Own Life. 57
THE UPPER AND LOWER CLASSES OF RIDGEFIELD MASTER
STEBBINS AND HIS SCHOOL WHAT IS A NOUN? DEACON
BENEDICT AND HIS MAN PETER PARLEY ON HORSEBACK
HIS LATIN ACQUIREMENTS FAMILY WORSHIP
WIDOW BENNETT THE TEMPLE OF DAGON.
RIDGEFIELD, as well as most other places, had its Up-town
and Down-town ; terms which have not unfrequently been the
occasion of serious divisions in the affairs of Church and State.
In London this distinction takes the name of West End and
the City. The French philosophers say that every great
capital has similar divisions ; West End being always the
residence of the aristocracy, and East End of the canaille.
Ridgefield, being a village, had a right to follow its own
whim ; and therefore West Lane, instead of being the aristo-
cratic end of the place, was really rather the low end. It
constituted, in fact, what was called Down-town, in distinction
from the more eastern and northern section, called Up-town.
In this latter portion, and about the middle of the main street,
was the Up-town school, the leading seminary of the village ;
for at this period it had not arrived at the honours of an
academy. At the age of ten years I was sent here, the in-
stitution being then, and for many years after, under the charge
of Master Stebbins. He was a man with a conciliating stoop
58 The Story of
in the shoulders, a long body, short legs, and a swaying walk.
He was at this period some fifty years old, his hair being thin
and silvery, and always falling in well-combed rolls over his
coat-collar. His eyes were blue, and his dress invariably of
the same colour. Breeches and knee-buckles, blue-mixed
stockings, and shoes with bright buckles, seemed as much a
part of the man as his head and shoulders. On the whole,
his appearance was that of the middle-class gentleman of the
olden time ; and he was, in fact, what he seemed.
This seminary of learning for the rising aristocracy of
Ridgefield was a wooden edifice, thirty by twenty feet, covered
with brown clapboards, and, except an entry, consisted of a
single room. Around, and against the walls, ran a continuous
line of seats, fronted by a continuous writing-desk. Beneath
were depositories for books and writing materials. The centre
was occupied by slab seats, similar to those of West Lane.
The larger scholars were ranged on the outer sides, at the
desks ; the smaller fry of abecedarians were seated in the
centre. The master was enshrined on the east side of the
room, and, regular as the sun, he was in his seat at nine
o'clock, and the performances of the school began.
According to the Catechism, which we learned and recited
on Saturday, the chief end of man was to glorify God and
keep His commandments ; according to the routine of this
school, one would have thought it to be reading, writing, and
arithmetic, to which we may add spelling. From morning to
night, in all weathers, through every season of the year,
these exercises were carried on with the energy, patience, and
perseverance of a manufactory.
Master Stebbins respected his calling : his heart was in
Peter Parley's Own Life. 59
his work ; and so, what he pretended to teach, he taught well.
When I entered the school, I found that a huge stride had
been achieved in the march of mind since I left West Lane.
Webster's Spelling-book had taken the place of Dil worth,
which was a great improvement. The drill in spelling was
very thorough, and applied every day to the whole school. I
imagine that the exercises might have been amusing to a
stranger, especially as one scholar would sometimes go off in
a voice as grum as that of a bull-frog, while another would
follow in tones as fine and piping as a peet-weet. The blunders,
too, were often very ludicrous ; even we children would some-
times have tittered, had not such an enormity been certain to
have brought out the birch. As to rewards and punishments,
the system was this : whoever missed, went down ; so that
perfection mounted to the top. Here was the beginning of
the up and down of life.
Reading was performed in classes, which generally plodded
on without a hint from the master. Nevertheless, when Zeek
Sanford who was said to have " a streak of lightning in
him" in his haste to be smart, read the 37th verse of the
2nd chapter of the Acts, " Now when they heard this, they
were pickled in their heart," the birch stick on Master
Stebbins's table seemed to quiver and peel at the little end, as
if to give warning of the wrath to come. When Orry Keeler
Orry was a girl, you know, and not a boy drawled out
in spelling, "k o n, &oa, s h u n t s, shunts,
konshunts," the bristles in the master's eyebrows fidgeted,
like Aunt Delight's knitting-needles. Occasionally, when the
reading was insupportably bad, he took a book, and himself
read as an example.
Master Stebbins was a great man with a slate and pencil,
60 The Story of
and I have an idea that we were a generation after his own
heart. We certainly achieved wonders in arithmetic, according
to our own conceptions, some of us going even beyond the
Eule of Three, and making forays into the mysterious region
of Vulgar Fractions.
But, after all, penmanship was Master Stebbins' great ac-
complishment. He had no pompous lessons upon single lines
and bifid lines, and the like. The revelations of inspired
copy-book makers had not then been vouchsafed to man. He
could not cut an American eagle with a single flourish of a
goose-quill. He was guided by good taste and native instinct,
and wrote a smooth round hand, like copper-plate. His lessons
from A to &, all written by himself, consisted of pithy pro-
verbs and useful moral lessons. On every page of our writing-
books he wrote the first line himself. The effect was what
might have been expected with such models, patiently en-
forced, nearly all became good writers.
Beyond these simple elements, the Up-town school made
few pretensions. When I was there, two Webster's Gram-
mars and one or two Dwight's Geographies were in use. The
latter was without maps or illustrations, and was, in fact, little
more than an expanded table of contents, taken from Morse's
Universal Geography the mammoth monument of Ame-
rican learning and genius of that age and generation. The
grammar was a clever book, but I have an idea that neither
Master Stebbins nor his pupils ever fathomed its depths. They
floundered about in it, as if in a quagmire, and after some
time came out pretty nearly where they went in, though per-
haps a little confused by the din and dusky atmosphere of
Let me here repeat an anecdote, which I have indeed told
Peter Parley's Own Life. 61
before, but which I had from the lips of its hero, a clergyman,
of some note thirty years ago, and which well illustrates this
part of my story. At a village school, not many miles from
Ridgefield, he was put into Webster's Grammar. Here he
read, " A noun is the name of a thing as horse, hair, jus-
tice." Now, in his innocence, he read it thus : " A noun is
the name of a thing as horse -hair justice."
" What, then," said he, ruminating deeply, " is a noun ?
But first I must find out what a horse -hair justice is."
Upon this he meditated for some days, but still he was as
far as ever from the solution. NQW, his father was a man of
authority in those parts, and, moreover, he was a justice of the
peace. Withal, he was of respectable ancestry, and so there
had descended to him a stately high-backed settee, covered
with horse -hair. One day, as the youth came from school,
pondering upon the great grammatical problem, he entered
the front door of the house, and there he saw before him his
father, officiating in his legal capacity, and seated upon the
old horse-hair settee. "I have found it!" said the boy to
himself, greatly delighted " my father is a horse-hair
justice, and therefore a noun ! "
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the world got on
remarkably well in spite of this narrowness of the country
schools. The elements of an English education were pretty
well taught throughout the village seminaries of Connecticut,
and, I may add, of New England. The teachers were heartily
devoted to their profession : they respected their calling, and
were respected and encouraged by the community. They
had this merit, that while they attempted little, that, at least,
was thoroughly performed.
62 The Story of
I went steadily to the Up-town school for three winters ;
being occupied during the summers upon the farm, and in
various minor duties. I was a great deal on horseback, often
carrying messages to the neighbouring towns of Reading,
Wilton, Weston, and Lower Salem, for then the post routes
were few, and the mails, which were weekly, crept like snails
over hill and valley. I became a bold rider at an early age :
before I was eight years old I frequently ventured to put a
horse to his speed, and that, too, without a saddle. A person
who has never tried it, can hardly conceive the wild delight of
riding a swift horse, when he lays down his ears, tosses his
tail in air, and stretches himself out in a full race. The in-
tense energy of the beast's movements, the rush of the air, the
swimming backward of lands, houses, and trees, with the clat-
tering thunder of the hoofs all convey to the rider a fierce
ecstasy, which, perhaps, nothing else can give. About this
period, however, I received a lesson, which lasted me a lifetime.
You must know that Deacon Benedict, one of our neigh-
bours, had a fellow living with him named Abijah. He was
an adventurous youth, and more than once led me into tribu-
lation. I remember that on one occasion I went with him to
shoot a dog that was said to worry the deacon's sheep. It
was night, and dark as Egypt, but Bige said he could see the
creature close to the cow-house, behind the barn. He banged
away, and then jumped over the fence, to pick up the game.
After a time he came back, but said not a word. Next morn-
ing it was found that he had shot the brindled cow ; mis-
taking a white spot in her forehead for the dog, he had taken
deadly aim, and put the whole charge into her pate. Fortu-
nately her skull was thick and the shot small, so the honest
Peter Parley's Own Life. 63
creature was only a little cracked. Bige, however, was ter-
ribly scolded by the deacon, who was a justice of the peace,
and had a deep sense of the importance of his duties. I came
in for a share of blame, though I was only a looker-on. Bige
said the deacon called me a " parsnip scrimmage," but more
probably it was a particeps criminis.
But to proceed. One day I was taking home from the
pasture a horse that belonged to some clergyman I believe,
Dr. Ripley, of Greensfarms. Just as I came upon the level
ground in front of Jerry Mead's old house, Bige came up
behind me on the deacon's mare an ambling brute with a
bushy tail and shaggy mane. As he approached he gave a
chirrup, and my horse, half in fright and half in fun, bounded
away, like Tarn O'Shanter's mare. Away we went, I hold-
ing on as well as I could, for the animal was round as a
barrel. He was no doubt used to a frolic of this sort, al-
though he belonged to a doctor of divinity, and looked as if he
believed in total depravity. When he finally broke into a
gallop he flew like the wind, at the same time bounding up
and down with a tearing energy, quite frightful to think of.
After a short race he went from under me, and I came with
a terrible shock to the ground.
The breath was knocked out of me for some seconds, and
as I recovered it with a gasping effort, my sensations were in-
describably agonising. Greatly humbled and sorely bruised,
I managed to get home, where the story of my adventure had
preceded me. I was severely lectured by my parents, which,
however, I might have forgotten, had not the concussion made
an indelible impression on my memory, thus perpetuating the
64 2~fo Story of
When I was about twelve years old, a man by the name
of Sackett was employed to keep a high-school, or, as it was
then called, an academy. Here I went irregularly for a few
weeks, and at a public exhibition I remember to have spoken
a piece upon a stage fitted up in the meeting-house, entitled
" Charles Chatterbox." This was the substance of my achieve-
ments at Sackett' s seminary.
The narrowness of my father's income, and the needs of a
large family, induced him to take half-a-dozen pupils to be
fitted for college. This he continued for a series of years. It
might seem natural that I should have shared in these advan-
tages ; but, in the first place, my only and elder brother,
Charles A. Goodrich now widely known by his numerous
useful publications had been destined for the clerical pro-
fession, partly by his own predilection, partly by encourage-
ment from a relative, and partly, too, from an idea that his
somewhat delicate constitution forbade a more hardy career.
To this may doubtless be added the natural desire of his
parents that at least one of their sons should follow the ho-
noured calling to which father, grandfather, and great-grand-
father had been devoted. Hence he was put in training for
college. The expenses to be thus incurred were formidable
enough to my parents, without adding to them by attempting
anything of the kind for me. And, besides, I had manifested
no love of study, and evidently preferred action to books.
Moreover, it must be remembered, that I was regarded as a
born carpenter, and it would have seemed tempting Provi-
dence to have set me upon any other career. So, with perfect
content on my part, from the age of twelve to fourteen, I was
chiefly employed in active services about the house and farm.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 65
I could read, write, and cipher ; this was sufficient for my
ambition, and satisfactory to my parents, in view of the life to
which I was apparently destined.
Nevertheless, though my school exercises were such as I
have described, I doubtless gathered some little odds and ends
of learning about those days, beyond the range of my horn-
books. I heard a good deal of conversation from the clergy-
men who visited us, and, above all, I listened to the long
discourses of Lieutenant Smith upon matters and things in
general. My father, too, had a brother in Congress, from
whom he received letters, documents, and messages, all of
w r hich became subjects of discussion. I remember, further,
that out of some childish imitation, I thumbed over Corderius
and Erasmus the first Latin books, then constantly in the
hands of my father's pupils. I was so accustomed to hear
them recite their lessons in Virgil, that
Tityre, tu patulte recubans sub tegminefagi
Arma, arms virumque, and the man cano, I sing.
were as familiar to my ears as hillery, tillery, zachery zan,
and probably conveyed to my mind about as much meaning.
Even the first lesson in Greek
Ev, in a^xy, the beginning v, was a Xo-yos, the Word
.was also among the cabalistic jingles in my memory. All
this may seem nothing as a matter of education ; still, some
years after, while I was an apprentice in Hartford, feeling
painfully impressed with the scantiness of my knowledge, I
borrowed some Latin school-books, under the idea of attempt-
ing to master that language. To my delight and surprise, I
66 The Story of
found that they seemed familiar to me. Thus encouraged,
I began, and bending steadily over my task at evening, when
my day's duties were over, I made my way nearly through
the Latin Grammar and the first two books of Virgil's ^Eneid.
In my poverty of knowledge, even these acquisitions became
useful to me.
From the age of twelve to fifteen, though generally occu-
pied in the various tasks assigned me, I still found a good
deal of time to ramble over the country. Whole days I spent
in the long, lonesome lanes that wound between Ridgefield
and Salem, in the half-cultivated, half-wooded hills that lay
at the foot of West Mountain, and in the deep recesses of the
wild and rugged regions beyond. I frequently climbed to the
top of the cliffs and ridges that rose one above another ; and
having gained the crown of the mountain, cast long and wist-
ful glances over the blue vale that stretched out for many
miles to the westward. I had always my gun in hand, and
though not insensible to any sport that might fall in my way,
I was more absorbed in the fancies that came thronging to my
imagination. Thus I became familiar with the whole country
around, and especially with the shaded glens and gorges of
West Mountain. I must add that these had, besides their
native, savage charms, a sort of fascination from being the re-
sidence of a strange woman, who had devoted herself to solitude,
and was known under the name of " the Hermitess." This
personage I had occasionally seen in our village ; and I fre-
quently met her as she glided through the forests, while I was
pursuing my mountain rambles. I sometimes felt a strange
thrill as she passed ; but this only seemed to render the recesses
where she dwelt still more inviting.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 67
I have no doubt that I inherited from my mother a love
of the night side of nature ; not a love that begets melancholy,
but an appetite that found pleasure in the shadows, as well as
the lights, of life and imagination. Eminently practical as she
was laborious, skilful, and successful in the duties which
Providence had assigned her, as the head of a large family,
with narrow means she was still of a poetic temperament.
Her lively fancy was vividly set forth by a pair of the finest
eyes I have ever seen ; dark and serious, yet tender and senti-
mental. These bespoke, not only the vigour of her concep-
tions, but the melancholy tinge that shaded her imagination.
Sometimes, indeed, the well of sadness in her heart became
full, and it ran over in tears. These, however, were like
spring showers ; brief in duration, and afterwards brightening
to all around. She was not the only woman who has felt
better after a good cry. It was, in fact, a poetic, not a real
sorrow, that thus excited her emotions; for her prevailing
humour abounded in wit and vivacity, not unfrequently taking
the hue of playful satire. Nevertheless, her taste craved the
pathetic, the mournful ; not as a bitter medicine, but a spicy
condiment. Her favourite poets were King David and Dr.
Watts : she preferred the dirge-like melody of Windham to
all other music. All the songs she sang were minors.
You will gather, from what I have said, that my father
not only prayed in his family night and morning, but before
breakfast, and immediately after the household was assembled
he always read a chapter in the sacred volume. It is recorded
in our family Bible, that he read it through, in course, thirteen
times in the space of about five-and-twenty years. He was
an excellent reader, having a remarkably clear, frank, hearty
68 fhe Story of
voice ; so that I was deeply interested, and thus early became
familiar with almost every portion of the Old and New
The practice of family worship, as I before stated, was at
this time very general in New England. In Ridgefield, it
was not altogether confined to the strictly religious ; to clergy-
men, deacons, and church members. It was a custom which
decency hardly allowed to be omitted. No family was thought
to go on well without it. There is a good story which well
describes this trait of manners.
Somewhere in Vermont, in this golden age, there was a
widow by the name of Bennett. In consequence of the death
of her husband, the charge of a large farm and an ample
household devolved upon her. Her husband had been a pious
man, and ah 1 things had prospered with him. His widow,
alike from religious feeling and affectionate regard for his me-
mory, desired that everything should be conducted as much
as possible as it had been during his lifetime. Especially did
she wish the day to begin and close with family worship.
Now, she had a foreman on the farm by the name of
Ward. He was a good man for work, but he was not a re-
ligious man. In vain did the widow, in admitting his merits
at the plough, the scythe, and the flail, still urge him to crown
her wishes, by leading in family prayer. For a long time the
heart of the man was hard, and his ear deaf to her entreaties.
At last, however, wearied with her importunities, he seemed
to change, and, to her great joy, consented to make a trial.
On a bright morning in June at early sunrise the
family were all assembled in the parlour, men and maidens,
for their devotions. When all was ready, Ward, in a low,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 69
troubled voice, began. He had never prayed, or at least not
in public, but he had heard many prayers, and possessed a
retentive memory. After getting over the first hesitancy, he
soon became fluent, and taking passages here and there from
the various petitions he had heard Presbyterian, Methodist,
Universallst, and Episcopalian he went on with great elo-
quence, gradually elevating his tone and accelerating his deli-
very. Ere long his voice grew portentous, and some of the
men and maids, thinking he was suddenly taken either mad or
inspired, stole out on their toes into the kitchen, where, with
gaping mouths, they awaited the result. The Widow Bennett
bore it all for about half an hour ; but at last, as the precious
time was passing away, she lost patience, and sprang to her
feet. Placing herself directly in front of the speaker, she ex-
claimed, "Ward, what do you mean?"
As if suddenly relieved from a nightmare, he exclaimed,
" Oh dear, ma'am, I'm much obliged to you ; for I couldn't
contrive to wind off."
I must not pass over another incident having reference to the
topic in question. Under the biblical influence of those days
my father's scholars built a temple of the Philistines, and when
it was eompleted within and witho'ut, all the children round
about assembled, as did the Gazaites of old. The edifice was
chiefly of boards, slenderly constructed, and reached the height
of twelve feet ; nevertheless, all of us got upon it, according to
the 16th chapter of Judges. The oldest of the scholars played
Samson. When all was ready, he took hold of the pillars of
the temple, one with his right hand and one with his left.
" Let me die with the Philistines !" said he, and bowing him-
self, down we came in a heap ! Strange to say, nobody but
jo The Story of
Samson was hurt, and he only in some sMn bruises. If you could
see him now dignified even to solemnity, and seldom con-
descending to any but the gravest matters you would scarcely
believe the story, even though I write it and verify it. Never-
theless, if he must have played, he should have taken the part
of Samson, for he is one of the most gifted men I have ever
Peter Parley's Own Life. 71
THE CLERGY OF FAIRFIELD A LAUGHING PARSON THE
THREE DEACONS GENERAL KING AND COLONEL BRADLEY.
BEFORE I complete my narrative so far as it relates to Ridge-
field, I should state that in the olden time a country minister's
home was a ministers' tavern, and therefore I saw at our house,
at different periods, most of the orthodox or Congregational
clergymen belonging to that part of the State. My father
frequently exchanged with those of the neighbouring towns,
and sometimes consociations and associations were held at
Ridgefield. Thus, men of the clerical profession constituted a
large portion of the strangers who visited us. I may add
that my lineage was highly ministerial, from an early period
down to my own time. The pulpit of Durham, filled by my
paternal grandfather, continued in the same family one hundred
and twenty-six consecutive years. A short time since we
reckoned among our relations, not going beyond the degree of
second cousin, more than a dozen ministers of the Gospel, and
all of the same creed.
As to the clergy of Fairfield county, my boyish impres-
sions of them were, that they were of the salt of the earth ;
nor has a larger experience altered my opinion. If I some-
times indulge a smile at the recollection of particular traits of
72 The Story of
character, or more general points of manners significant of the
age, I still regard them with affection and reverence.
I need not tell you that they were counsellors in religious
matters, in the dark and anxious periods of the spirit, in
times of sickness, at the approach of death. They sanctified
the wedding, not refusing afterward to countenance the fes-
tivity which naturally ensued. They administered baptism,
but only upon adults who made a profession, or upon the
children of professors. I may add that, despite their divinity,
they were sociable in their manners and intercourse. The
state of the Church was no doubt first in their minds, but
ample room was left for the good things of life. Those who
came to our house examined my brother in his Greek and
Latin, and I went out behind the barn to gather tansy for
their morning bitters. They dearly loved a joke, and relished
anecdotes, especially if they bore a little hard upon the cloth.
. The following will suffice as a specimen of the stories they
Once upon a time there was a clergyman the Rev. Dr.
T , a man of high character, and distinguished for his
dignity of manner. But it was remarked that frequently as he
was ascending the pulpit stairs he would smile, and sometimes
almost titter, as if beset by an uncontrollable desire to laugh.
This excited remark, and at last scandal. Finally, it was
thought necessary for some of his clerical friends, at a meeting
of the Association, to bring up the matter for consideration.
The case was stated, the Rev. Dr. T being present.
" Well, gentlemen," said he, " the fact charged against me is
true, but I beg you to permit me to offer an explanation. A
few months after I was licensed to preach I was in a country
Peter Parley's Own Life. 73
town, and on a Sabbath morning was about to enter upon the
services of the church. At the back of the pulpit was a window,
which looked out upon a field of clover, then in full bloom, for
it was summer. As I rose to commence the reading of the
Scriptures, I cast a glance into the field, and there I saw a
man performing the most extraordinary evolutions jumping,
whirling, slapping in all directions, *and with a ferocious agony
of exertion. At first I thought he was mad ; but suddenly
the truth burst upon me he had buttoned up a bumblebee in
his pantaloons ! I am constitutionally nervous, gentlemen,
and the shock of this scene upon my risible sensibilities was so
great, that I could hardly get through the services. Several
times I was upon the point of bursting into a laugh. Even
to this day, the remembrance of this scene, through the tempt-
ation of the devil, often comes upon me as I am ascending
the pulpit. This, I admit, is a weakness, but I trust it will
rather excite your sympathy and your prayers than your re-
It may be amusing, perhaps profitable, to give here a few
sketches of the remarkable characters of Ridgefield, at the
opening of the present century. Some were types of their
time ; others, however eccentric, were exemplifications of our
race and our society, influenced by peculiar circumstances, and
showing into what fashions this stuff of humanity may be
wrought. They are still prominent in my recollection, and
seem to me an essential part of the social landscape which en-
circled my youth.
I begin with the three deacons of my father's parish.
First was Deacon Olmstead, full threescore years and ten at
the opening of the present century. His infancy touched
74 The Story of
upon the verge of Puritanism the days of Increase and
Cotton Mather. The spirit of the Puritans lived in his heart,
while the semblance of the patriarchs lingered in his form.
He was fully six feet high, with broad shoulders, powerful
limbs, and the august step of a giant. His hair was white,
and rolled in thin curls upon his shoulders ; he was still erect,
though he carried a long cane, like that of father Abraham in
the old pictures, representing him at the head of his kindred
and his camels, going from the land of Haran to the land of
Canaan. Indeed, he was my personification of the great pro-
genitor of the Hebrews ; and when my father read from the
twelfth chapter of Genesis, how he and Lot and their kindred
journeyed forth, I half fancied it must be Deacon Olmstead
under another name.
Deacon Olmstead was in all things a noble specimen of
humanity an honour to human nature, a shining light in
the church. I have spoken of him as having something
grand about him, yet I remember how kindly he condescended
to take me, a child, on his knee, and how gently his great
brawny fingers encircled my infant hand. I have said he
was wise ; yet his book-learning was small, though it might
have been as great as that of Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob.
He knew, indeed, the Bible by heart, and that is a great
teacher. He had also lived long, and profited by observation
and experience. Above all, he was calm, just, sincere, and it
is wonderful how these lamps light up the path of life. I have
said he was proud, yet it was only toward the seductions of
the world : to these he was hard and stern : to his God he
was simple, obedient, and docile as a child : toward his
kindred and his neighbour, toward the poor, toward the
Peter Parley's Own Life. j$
suffering, though not so soft, he was sympathetic as a sister
I must now present a somewhat different portrait that
of Deacon John Benedict. He was a worthy old man, and
enjoyed many claims to respect. He was not only a deacon,
but a justice of the peace ; moreover, he was the father of
Aunt Delight, of whom I desire ever to speak with reverence.
She, not being a beauty, was never married, and hence, having
no children of her own, she combed and crammed the heads of
other people's children. In this way she was eminently useful
in her day and generation. The Deacon respected the law,
especially as it was administered in his own person. He was
severe upon those who violated the statutes of the State, but
one who violated the statutes of Deacon John Benedict com-
mitted the unpardonable sin. He was the entire police of the
meeting-house on Sunday, and not a boy or girl, or even a
bumblebee, could offend without condign punishment.
Nevertheless, the Deacon is said in one case rather before
my time to have met his match. There was in the village
a small, smart, nervous woman, with a vigorous clack, which,
once set going, was hard to stop. One day she was at church,
and having carried her dinner of mince-pie in a little cross-
handled basket, she set it down under the seat. In the midst
of sermon-time a small dog came into the pew, and getting
behind her petticoats, began to devour the pie. She heard
what was going on, and gave him a kick. Upon this the
dog backed out with a yelp, taking with him the dinner -basket,
hung about his neck, across the pew into the broad aisle.
" Oh dear !" said the woman, in a shrill voice, " the dog's
got my dinner! There! I've spoken loud in meeting - time !
76 The Story of
What will Deacon Benedict say ? Why ! I 'm talking all the
time. There it goes agin ! What shall I du ?"
"Hold yonr tongue!" said the Deacon, who was in his
official seat, fronting the explosion. These words operated
like a charm, and the nervous lady was silent. The next day
Deacon John appeared at the house of the offender, carrying
a calf-hound volume in his hand. The woman gave one
glance at the book, and one at the Deacon. That was enough :
it spoke volumes, and the man of the law returned home, and
never mentioned the subject afterward.
Deacon Hawley was very unlike either of his two asso-
ciates whom I have described. He was younger, and of a
peculiarly mild and amiable temper. His countenance wore a
tranquil and smooth expression. His hair was fine and silky,
and lay, as if oiled, close to his head. He had a soft voice,
and an ear for music. He was a cabinet-maker by trade, a
chorister by choice, and a deacon by the vote of the church.
In each of these things he found his place, as if designed for it
In worldly affairs as well as spiritual, Deacon Hawley's
path was straight and even : he was successful in business,
beloved in society, honoured in the church. Exceedingly
frugal by habit and disposition, he still loved to give in cha-
rity, though he did not talk of it. When he was old, his
family being well provided for, he spent much of his time in
casting about to find opportunities of doing good. Once he
learned that a widow, who had been in good circumstances,
was struggling with poverty. He was afraid to offer money
as charity, for fear of wounding her pride the more sensi-
tive, perhaps, because of her change of condition. He there-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 77
fore intimated that lie owed a debt of fifty dollars to her late
husband, and wished to pay it to her.
"And how was that?" said the lady, somewhat startled.
" I will tell you," said the Deacon. " About five-and-
twenty years ago, soon after you were married, I made some
furniture for your husband to the amount of two hundred
dollars. I have been looking over the account, and find that
I rather overcharged him in the price of some chairs that
is, I could have afforded them at somewhat less. I have
added up the interest, and here, madam, is the money."
The widow listened, and as she suspected the truth, the
tears came to her eyes. The Deacon di<J not pause to reply,
but laid the money on the table and departed.
The term deacon is associated in many minds with a
sort of affectation, a cant in conversation, and an I -am -holier-
than-thou air and manner. I remember Deacon , who
deemed it proper to become scriptural, and to talk as much as
possible like Isaiah. He was in partnership with his son
Laertes, and they sold crockery and furniture. One day a
female customer came, and the old gentleman being engaged,
went to call his son, who was in the loft above. Placing him-
self at the foot of the stairs, he said, attuning his voice to the
occasion, "La-ar-tes, descend a lady waits!" Deacon
C sought to signalise himself by a special respect to the
ways of Providence ; so he refused to be insured against fire,
declaring that if the Lord wished to burn down his house or
his barn he should submit without a murmur. He pretended
to consider thunder, and lightning, and conflagrations as spe-
cial acts of the Almighty, and it was distrusting Providence
to attempt to avert their effects. Deacon Hawley had none of
78 fhe Story of
these follies or frailties. Though a deacon, he was still a
man ; though aspiring -to heaven, he lived cheerily on earth ;
though a Christian, he was a father, a neighbour, and, accord-
ing to his rank in life, a gentleman, having in all things the
feelings and manners appropriate to each of these relations.
From the ecclesiastical notabilities of Ridgefield I turn for a
moment to the secular. And first, Colonel Bradley claims my
notice, for he was the leading citizen of the place, in station,
wealth, education, and power of intellect. He was a tall,
gaunt, sallow man, a little bent at the period of my recol-
lection, for he was then well stricken in years. He lived in a
two -story white house, of ample dimensions, which had a
grave, antique air, the effect of which was enhanced by a row
of wide -arching elms, lining the street. It stood on a slight
elevation, and somewhat withdrawn from the road ; the fence
in front was high and close ; the doors and windows were
always shut, even in summer.
In order to comprehend the impression likely to be made
by such a sombre tenement, you must remember the general
aspect of our country villages at that time, and indeed at the
present time. Each house was built near the street, with a
yard in front and a garden beside it. The fences were low,
and of light, open pickets or slats, made to exclude cattle, pigs,
and geese, which then had the freedom of the place. There
was a cheerful, confiding, wide, open look all around. Every-
body peeped from the windows into everybody's grounds.
Colonel Bradley was an exclusive. His cold, distant
manner bespoke it. He was, I believe, an honourable man.
He was a man of education, and held high offices. He was,
Peter Parley's Own Life. *jg
as I have said, the most distinguished citizen of the place, and
naturally enough imagined that such a position carried with
it, not the shadow, but the substance of power. He seldom
took an open part in the affairs of the town, but when he did,
he felt that his word should be law. He deemed even a nod
of his head to be imperative : people were bound to consult
his very looks, and scenting his trail, to follow in his foot-
steps. Affecting to disdain all meddling, he really contrived,
openly or covertly, to govern the church and the town.
It is not possible to conceive of two persons more unlike
than the one I have just sketched and General King. The
former was tall, thin, dark ; the latter was of middle height,
stout, erect, and florid. The first was highly educated, medi-
tative, secret, deep, cold, circumspect; the latter was un-
schooled, yet intelligent; frank, though perhaps superficial;
imperious, yet fearless and confiding. Colonel Bradley was a
federalist ; General King a democrat. These two, indeed,
were the leaders of the two great political parties in Ridge-
If I were to be asked what made General King a demo-
crat, I should be at a loss to answer. He was fond of autho-
rity : his whole presence and manner bespoke it. His carriage
was erect, his head set back, his chest protruded. His hair
was stiff and bristling, and being long on the top, was combed
back in the manner of General Jackson's. Like him, he had
a decidedly military air and character. He was, no doubt, a
very good man on the whole, but he was not imbued with
any special sympathy for the masses, or the rights of man.
His natural disposition was dictatorial and despotic. It is
related that one day he came into the field where his men
8o Me Story of
were making hay. A thunder-storm was approaching, and
he commanded the labourers in a tone of authority to do this
and that ; thus requiring, in fact, what was impossible. Jaklin,
an old negro, noted for his dry wit, who was present, said in
"I'm thankful the Lord reigns."
" Why so ?" said a bystander.
" Because," was the reply, " if the Lord didn't reign, the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 8 1
MAT OLMSTEAD, THE TOWN WIT THE SALAMANDER HAT
SOLAR ECLIPSE LIEUTENANT SMITH EXTRAORDINARY
METEOR FULTON AND HIS STEAM-BOAT GRANTHER
BALDWIN AND HIS WIFE THE SWEARER SARAH BISHOP
AND HER CAVE.
ANOTHER celebrity in Ridgefield, whom I must not forget,
was Matthew Olmstead, or Mat Olmstead, as he was usually
called ; he was a day labourer, and though his specialty was
the laying of stone fences, he was equally adroit at hoeing corn,
mowing, and farm -work in general. He was rather short and
thick-set, with a long nose, a little bulbous in his latter days ;
with a ruddy complexion, and a mouth shutting like a pair of
nippers, the lips having an oblique dip to the left, giving a
keen and mischievous expression to his face : qualified, how-
ever, by more of mirth than malice. This feature was indica-
tive of his mind and character ; for he was sharp in speech,
and affected a crisp, biting brevity, called dry wit. He had
also a turn for practical jokes, and a great many of these were
told of him ; to which, perhaps, he had no historical claim.
The following is one of them, and is illustrative of his manner,
even if it originated elsewhere.
On a cold, stormy day in December, a man chanced to
come into the bar-room of Keeler's tavern, where Mat Olm-
stead and several of his companions were lounging. The
82 the Story of
stranger had on a new hat of the latest fashion, and still
shining with the gloss of the iron. He seemed conscious of
his dignity, and carried his head in such a manner as to invite
attention to it. Mat's knowing eye immediately detected the
weakness of the stranger ; so he approached him, and said,
" What a very nice hat you 've got on ! Pray who made
" Oh, it came from New York," was the reply.
" Well, let me take it," said Mat.
The stranger took it off his head, gingerly, and handed it
" It is a wonderful nice hat," said Matthew ; " and I see
it 's a real salamander ! "
" Salamander ? " said the other. " What 's that ? "
" Why, a real salamander hat won't hum ?"
" No ? I never heard of that before : I don't believe it 's
one of that kind."
" Sartain sure ; I '11 bet you a mug of flip of it."
" Well, I'll stand you!"
" Done : now I '11 just put it under the fore -stick ?"
It being thus arranged, Mat put the hat under the fore-
stick into a glowing mass of coals. In an instant it took fire,
collapsed, and rolled into a black, crumpled mass of cinders.
" I du declare," said Mat Olmstead, affecting great aston-
ishment, " it ain't a salamander hat arter all ! Well, I '11 pay
Yet wit is not always wisdom. Keen as this man was as
to things immediately before him, he was of narrow under-
standing. He seemed not to possess the faculty of reasoning
Peter Parley's Own Life. 83
beyond his senses. He never would admit that the sun was
fixed, and that the world turned round.
I remember, that when the great solar eclipse of 1806 was
approaching, he with two other men were at work in one of
our fields, not far from the house. The eclipse was to begin
at ten or eleven o'clock, and my father invited the workmen
to come up and observe it through some pieces of smoked
glass. They came, though Mat ridiculed the idea of an
eclipse not but the thing might happen; but it was idle to
suppose it could be foretold. While they were waiting and
watching, my father explained the cause and nature of the
Mat laughed with that low, scoffing chuckle, with which
a woodcock, safe in his den, replies to the bark of a besieging
" So you don't believe this ?" said my father.
" No," said Mat, shaking his head ; " I don't believe a
word of it. You say, Parson Goodrich, that the sun is fixed,
and don't move?"
" Yes, I say so."
" Well : didn't you preach last Sunday out of the 10th
chapter of Joshua?"
" And didn't you tell us that Joshua commanded the sun
and moon to stand still ? "
" Well : what was the use of telling the sun to stand still
if it never moved ? "
This was a dead shot, especially at a parson, and in the
presence of an audience inclined, from the fellowship of ig-
84 fhe Story of
norance, to receive the argument. Being thus successful, Mat
" Now, Parson Goodrich, let 's try it again. If you turn
a thing that 's got water in it bottom up, the water '11 run out,
" No doubt."
" If the world turns round, then, your well will be turned
bottom up, and the water '11 run out I "
At this point my father applied his eye to the sun, through
a piece of smoked glass. The eclipse had begun : a small
piece was evidently cut off from the rim. My father stated
the fact, and the company around looked through the glass,
and saw that it was so. Mat Olmstead, however, sturdily
refused to try it, and bore on his face an air of supreme con-
tempt; as much as to say, " You don't humbug me !"
But ignorance and denial of the works of God do not in-
terrupt their march. By slow and invisible degrees, a shade
crept over the landscape. There was no cloud in the sky ;
but a chill stole through the atmosphere, and a strange dim-
ness fell over the world. It was mid-day, yet it seemed like
the approach of night. All nature seemed chilled and awed
by the strange phenomenon. The birds, with startled looks
and ominous notes, left their busy cares and gathered in the
thick branches of the trees, where they seemed to hold counsel
one 'with another. The hens, with slow and hesitating steps,
set their faces toward their roosts. One old hen, with a brood ,
of chickens, walked along with a tall, halting tread, and sought
shelter upon the barn-floor, where she gathered her young ones
under her wings, continuing to make a low sound, as if saying,
" Hush, my babes, lie still and slumber."
Peter Parley's Own Life. 85
I well remember this phenomenon the first of the kind
I had ever witnessed. Though occupied by this seeming con-
flict of the heavenly bodies, I recollect to have paid some at-
tention to the effect of the scene upon others. Mat Olm stead
said not a word ; the other workmen were overwhelmed with
emotions of awe.
At length, the eclipse began to pass away, and nature
slowly returned to her equanimity. The birds came forth,
and sang a jubilee, as if relieved from some impending cala-
mity. The hum of life again filled the air ; the old hen with
her brood gaily resumed her rambles, and made the leaves and
gravel fly with her invigorated scratchings. The workmen,
too, having taken a glass of grog, returned thoughtfully to
" After all," said one of the men, as they passed along to
the field, " I guess the parson was right about the sun and the
" Well, perhaps he was," said Mat ; " but then Joshua
Notwithstanding Mat's habitual incredulity, he had still
his weak side, for he was a firm believer in ghosts : not ghosts
in general, but two that he had seen himself. These were of
enormous size*, white and winged like angels. He had seen
them one dark night as he was going to his house, which was
situated in a lonesome lane that diverged from the high road.
It was very late, and Mat had spent the evening at the tavern,
like Tarn O'Shanter ; like him, he " was na fou, but just had
plenty." Well, Mat Olmstead's two angels turned out to be
a couple of white geese, which he had startled into flight
as he stumbled upon them quietly snoozing in the joint of a
rail fence !
86 The Story of
It has often appeared to me that Mat Olmstead was a
type, a representative of a class of men not very rare in this
world of ours. It is not at all uncommon to find people, and
those w^ho are called strong-minded, who are habitual un-
believers in things possible and probable nay, in things well
established by testimony while they readily become the dupes
of the most absurd illusions and impositions. Dr. Johnson, it
is stated, did not believe in the great earthquake of Lisbon in
1755, until six months after it had happened, while he readily
accepted the egregious deception of the Cock Lane Ghost.
In our day we see people, and sharp ones, too, who reject the
plainest teachings of common sense, sanctioned by the good
and wise of centuries, and follow with implicit faith some
goose of the imagination, like Joe Smith or Brigham Young.
These are Mat Olmsteads, a little intoxicated by their own
imaginations, and in their night of ignorance and folly they
fall down and worship the grossest and goosiest of illusions.
I now turn to a different character, Lieutenant, or, as we
all called him, Leftenant Smith, who has been already intro-
duced to you. He was a man of extensive reading and large
information ; he was also some sixty years old, and had stored
in his memory the results of his own observation and expe-
rience. He read the newspapers and conversed with travellers,
affected philosophy, and deemed himself the great intelligencer
of the town : he dearly loved to dispense his learning, asking
only in return attentive listeners ; and he liked discussion,
provided the talk was all left to himself. He was equal to
all questions : with my father, he dilated upon such high matters
as the purchase of Louisiana ; Lewis and Clarke's exploring
expedition ; the death of Hamilton in the duel with Aaron
Burr ; the attack of the Leopard on the Chesapeake ; Fulton's
Peter Parley's Own Life. 87
attempts at steam navigation, and the other agitating topics
of those times, as they came one after another.
I have an impression now that Lieut. Smith, after all, was
not very profound ; but to me he was a miracle of learning.
I listened to his discussions with very little interest, but his
narratives engaged my whole attention. These were always
descriptive of actual events, for he would have disdained
fiction : from them I derived a satisfaction that I never found
in fables. The travels of Mungo Park, his strange adventures
and melancholy death, which about those days transpired
through the newspapers, and all of which Lieut. Smith had
at his tongue's end, excited my interest and my imagination,
even beyond the romances of Sinbad the Sailor and Robinson
In the year 1807 an event occurred, not only startling in
itself, but giving exercise to all the philosophical powers of
Lieut. Smith. On the morning of the 14th of December,
about daybreak, I had arisen, and was occupied in building a
fire, this being my daily duty ; suddenly the room was filled
with light, and, looking up, I saw through the window a ball
of fire, nearly the size of the moon, passing across the heavens
from north-west to south-east. It was at an immense height,
and of intense brilliancy. Having passed the zenith, it swiftly
descended toward the earth : while still at a great elevation
it burst, with three successive explosions, into fiery fragments.
The report was like three claps of rattling thunder in quick
My father, who saw the light and heard the sounds, de-
clared it to be a meteor of extraordinary magnitude. It was
noticed all over the town, and caused great excitement. On
88 The Story of
the following day the news came that huge fragments of stone
had fallen in the adjacent town of Weston, some eight or ten
miles south-east of Bidgefield. It appeared that the people
in the neighbourhood heard the rushing of the stones through
the air, as well as the shock when they struck the earth. One,
weighing two hundred pounds, fell on a rock, which it splin-
tered ; its huge fragments ploughing up the ground around to
the extent of a hundred feet. This meteor was estimated to
be half-a-mile in diameter, and to have travelled through the
heavens at the rate of two or three hundred miles a minute.
On this extraordinary occasion the Lieutenant came to
our house, according to his w r ont, and for several successive
evenings discoursed to us upon the subject. I must endeavour
to give you a specimen of his performances.
" I have examined the subject, sir," said he, addressing
my father, " and am inclined to the opinion that these phe-
nomena are animals revolving in the orbits of space between
the heavenly bodies. Occasionally, one of them comes too near
the earth, and rushing through our atmosphere with immense
velocity, takes fire and explodes !"
" This is rather a new theory, is it not ?" said my father.
" It appears that these meteoric stones, in whatever country
they fall, are composed of the same ingredients : mostly silex,
iron, and nickel : these substances would make rather a hard
character, if endowed with animal life, and especially with the
capacity of rushing through space at the rate of two or three
hundred miles a minute, and then exploding ?"
" These substances I consider only as the shell of the
" You regard the creature as a huge shell-fish, then ? "
Peter Parley's Own Life. 89
" Not necessarily a fish; for a whole order of nature, called
Crustacea, has the hones on the outside. In this case of
meteors, I suppose them to he covered with some softer sub-
stance ; for it frequently happens that a jelly-like matter
comes down with meteoric stones. This resembles coagulated
blood ; and thus what is called bloody rain or snow has often
fallen over great spaces of country. Now, when the chemists
analyse these things the stones, which I consider the bones;
and the jelly, which I consider the fat ; and the rain, which I
consider the blood they find them all to consist of the same
elements ; that is, silex, iron, nickel, &c. None but my animal
theory will harmonise all these phenomena, sir."
" But/' interposed my father, " consider the enormous size
of your aerial monsters. I recollect to have read only a short
time since, that in the year 1803, about one o'clock in the
afternoon, the inhabitants of several towns of Normandy, in
France, heard noises in the sky, like the peals of cannon and
musketry, with a long -continued roll of drums. Looking
upward, they saw something like a small cloud at an immense
elevation, which soon seemed to explode, sending its vapour
in all directions. At last a hissing noise was heard, and then
stones fell, spreading over a country three miles wide by eight
miles long. No less than two thousand pieces were collected,
weighing from one ounce to seventeen pounds. That must
have been rather a large animal, eight miles long and three
" What is that, sir, in comparison with the earth, which
Kepler, the greatest philosopher that ever lived, conceived to
be a huge beast ? "
" Yes ; but did he prove it ?"
90 The Story of
" He gave good reasons for it, sir. He found very striking
analogies between the earth and animal existences : such as
the tides, indicating its breathing through vast internal lungs ;
earthquakes, resembling eructations from the stomach; and
volcanoes, suggestive of boils, pimples, and other cutaneous
" I think I have seen your theory set to verse."
Saying this, my father rose, and bringing a book, read as
" To me things are not as to vulgar eyes
I would all nature's works anatomise :
This world a living monster seems to me,
Rolling and sporting in the aerial sea :
The soil encompasses her rocks and stones,
As flesh in animals encircles bones.
I see vast ocean, like a heart in play,
Pant systole and diastole every day,
And by unnumber'd venus streams supplied,
Up her broad rivers force the aerial tide.
The world's great lungs, monsoons and trade-winds show
From east to west, from west to east they blow.
The hills are pimples, which earth's face defile,
And burning Etna an eruptive boil.
On her high mountains living forests grow,
And downy grass o'erspreads the vales below :
From her vast body perspirations rise,
Condense in clouds and float beneath the skies." *
My father having closed the book, the profound Lieutenant,
who did not conceive it possible that a thing so serious could
be made the subject of a joke, said,
" A happy illustration of my philosophy, sir, though I
cannot commend the form in which it is put. If a man has
* By Francis Hopkinson, LL.D,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 91
anything worth saying, sir, he should use prose. Poetry is
only proper when one wishes to embellish folly or dignify
trifles. In this case it is otherwise, I admit ; and I am happy
to find so powerful a supporter of my animal theory of me-
teors. I shall consider the subject, and present it for the con-
sideration of the philosophic world."
One prominent characteristic of this philosopher was, that
when a great event came about, he fancied that he had fore-
seen and predicted it from the beginning. Now, about this
time Fulton actually succeeded in his long-sought application
of steam to navigation. The general opinion of the country
had been, all along, that he was a monomaniac, attempting an
impossibility. He was the standing theme of cheap news-
paper wit, and a God-send to orators who were hard run for a
joke. Lieutenant Smith, who was only an echo of what passed
around him during the period of Fulton's labours, joined in
the current contempt ; but when the news came, in October,
1807, that he had actually succeeded that one of his boats
had steamed at the rate of five miles an hour against the cur-
rent of the Hudson river then, still an echo of the public
voice, did he greatly jubilate.
" I told you so ! I told you so !" was his first exclamation,
as he entered the house, swelling with the account.
" Well, and what is it ?" said my father.
" Fulton has made his boat go, sir ! I told you how it
would be, sir. It opens a new era in the history of navigation.
We shall go to Europe in ten days, sir !"
Now, you will readily understand, that in these sketches I
do not pretend to report with literal precision the profound
discourses of our Ridgefield savant; I remember only the
92 'The Story of
general outlines, the rest being easily suggested. My desire
is to present the portrait of one of the notables of our village
one whom I remember with pleasure, and whom I conceive
to be a representative of the amiable, and perhaps useful race
of fussy philosophers to be found in most country villages.
From the town oracle I turn to the town miser. Granther
Baldwin, as I remember him, was threescore years and ten
perhaps a little more. He was a man of middle size, thin,
wiry, and bloodless, and having his body bent forward at a
sharp angle with his hips, while his head was thrown back
over his shoulders, giving his person the general form of a
reversed letter Z. His complexion was brown and stony; his
eye grey and twinkling, with a nose and chin almost meeting
like a pair of forceps. His hair, standing out with an irri-
table friz, was of a rusty grey. He always walked and
rode with restless rapidity. At church, he wriggled in his
seat, tasted fennel, and bobbed his head up and down and
around. He could not afford tobacco, so he chewed, with a
constant activity, either an oak chip or the roots of elecampane,
which was indigenous in the lane near his house. On Sun-
days he was decent in his attire, but on week-days he was a
beggarly curiosity. It was said that he once exchanged hats
with a scarecrow, and cheated scandalously in the bargain.
His boots a withered wreck of an old pair of whitetops
dangled over his shrunken calves, and a coat in tatters flut-
tered from his body. He rode a rat-tailed, ambling mare,
which always went like the wind, shaking the old gentleman
merrily from right to left, and making his bones, boots, and
rags rustle like his own bush-harrow. Familiar as he was,
the school -boys were never tired of him, and when he passed,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 93
"There goes Granther Baldwin!" was the invariable ejacu-
I must add, in order to complete the picture, that in con-
trast to his leanness and activity, his wife was very fat, and,
either from indolence or lethargy, dozed away half her life in
the chimney-corner. She spent a large part of her life in
cheating her husband out of fourpence -ha'pennies, of which
more than a peck were found secreted in an old chest at her
It was the boast of this man that he had risen from poverty
to wealth, and he loved to describe the process of his advance-
ment. He always worked in the corn-field till it was so dark
that he could see his hoe strike fire. When in the heat of
summer he was obliged occasionally to let his cattle breathe,
he sat on a sharp stone, lest he should rest too long. He paid
half-a-dollar to the parson for marrying him, which he always
regretted, as one of his neighbours got the job done for a pint
of mustard-seed. On fast-days he made his cattle go without
food as well as himself. He systematically stooped to save a
crooked pin or a rusty nail, as it would cost more to make it
than to pick it up. Such were his boasts or at least, such
were the things traditionally imputed to him.
He was withal a man of keen faculties ; sagacious in the
purchase of land, as well as in the rotation of crops. He was
literally honest, and never cheated any one out of a farthing,
according to his arithmetic, though he had sometimes an
odd way of reckoning. It is said, that in his day the law
imposed a fine of one dollar for profane swearing. During
this period, Granther Baldwin employed a carpenter who was
notoriously addicted to this vice. Granther kept a strict ac-
94 fhe Story of
count of every instance of transgression, and when the job was
done, and the time came to settle the account, he said to the
" You 've worked with me thirty days, I think, Mr. Kel-
" Yes, Granther," was the reply.
" At a dollar a-day: that makes thirty dollars, I think?"
" Yes, Granther."
Mr. Kellogg, I am sorry to observe that you have a very
bad habit of taking the Lord's name in vain."
" Well, you know that 's agin the law."
" Yes, Granther."
" And there 's a fine of one dollar for each offence."
"Well here's the account I've kept, and I find you've
broken the law twenty-five times ; that is, sixteen times in
April, and nine in May. At a dollar a time, that makes
twenty-five dollars don't it?"
" Yes, Granther."
" So, then, twenty-five from thirty leaves five : it appears,
therefore, that there is a balance of five dollars due to you.
How '11 you take it, Mr. Kellogg ? In cash, or in my way
say in 'taters, pork, and other things?"
At this point the carpenter's brow lowered, but with a pro-
digious effort at composure he replied,
" Well, Granther, you may keep the five dollars, and I '11
take it out in my way that is, in swearing !"
Upon this he hurled at the old gentleman a volley of
oaths, too numerous and to profane to repeat.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 95
One sketch more, and my gallery of eccentricities is finished.
Men hermits have been frequently heard of, but a woman
hermit is of rare occurrence. Nevertheless, Kidgefield could
boast of one of these among its curiosities. Sarah Bishop was,
at the period of my boyhood, a thin, ghostly old woman, bent
and wrinkled, but still possessing a good deal of activity. She
lived in a cave, formed by nature, in a mass of projecting rocks
that overhung a deep valley or gorge in West Mountain, about
four miles from our house.
The rock, bare and desolate, was her home, except that
occasionally she strayed to the neighbouring villages ; seldom
being absent more than one or two days at a time. She never
begged, but received such articles as were given to her. She
was of a highly religious turn of mind, and at long intervals
came to our church, and partook of the Sacrament. She some-
times visited our family the only one thus favoured in the
town and occasionally remained overnight. She never would
eat with us at the table, nor engage in general conversation.
Upon her early history she was invariably silent ; indeed, she
spoke of her affairs with great reluctance. She neither seemed
to have sympathy for others, nor to ask it in return. If there
was any exception, it was only in respect to the religious exer-
cises of the family : she listened intently to the reading of the
Bible, and joined with apparent devotion in the morning and
My excursions frequently brought me within the wild pre-
cincts of her solitary den. Several times I have paid a visit
to the spot, and in two instances found her at home. A place
more desolate, in its general outline, more absolutely given up
to the wildness of nature, it is impossible to conceive. Her
96 The Story of
cave was a hollow in the rock, about six feet square. Except
a few rags and an old basin, it was without furniture ; her bed
being the floor of the cave, and her pillow a projecting point
of the rock. It was entered by a natural door about three feet
wide and four feet high, and was closed in severe weather only
by pieces of bark. At a distance of a few feet was a cleft,
where she kept a supply of roots and nuts, which she gathered,
and the food that was given her. She was reputed to have a
secret depository, where she kept a quantity of antique dresses ;
several of them of rich silks, and apparently suited to fashion-
able life : though I think this was an exaggeration. At a
little distance down the ledge there was a fine spring of water,
near which she was often found in fair weather.
There was no attempt, either in or around the spot, to
bestow upon it an air of convenience or comfort. A small
space of cleared ground was occupied by a few thriftless peach-
trees, and in summer a patch of starveling beans, cucumbers,
and potatoes. Up two or three of the adjacent forest-trees
there clambered luxuriant grape-vines, highly productive in
their season. With the exception of these feeble marks of cul-
tivation, all was left ghastly and savage as nature made it.
The trees, standing upon the tops of the cliff, and exposed to
the shock of the tempest, were bent and stooping towards the
valley: their limbs contorted, and their roots clinging, as with
an agonised grasp, into the rifts of the rocks upon which they
stood. Many of them were hoary with age, and hollow with
decay ; others were stripped of their leaves by the blasts ; and
others still, grooved and splintered by the lightning. The
valley below, enriched with the decay of centuries, and fed with
moisture from the surrounding hills, was a wild paradise of
Peter Parley's Own Life. 97
towering oaks, and other giants of the vegetable kingdom,
with a rank undergrowth of tangled shrubs. In the distance,
to the east, the gathered streams spread out into a beautiful
expanse of water called Long Pond.
A place at once so secluded and so wild was, of course,
the chosen haunt of birds, beasts, and reptiles. The eagle
built her nest and reared her young in the clefts of the rocks ;
foxes found shelter in the caverns ; and serpents revelled alike
in the dry hollows of the cliffs and the dank recesses of the
valley. The hermitess had made companionship with these
brute tenants of the wood. The birds had become so familiar
with her, that they seemed to heed her almost as little as if she
had been a stone. The fox fearlessly pursued his hunt and
his gambols in her presence. The rattlesnake hushed his mo-
nitory signal as he approached her. Such things, at least,
were entertained by the popular belief. It was said, indeed,
that she had domesticated a particular rattlesnake, and that
he paid her daily visits. She was accustomed so said the
legend to bring him milk from the villages, which he devoured
with great relish.
It will not surprise you that a subject like this should have
given rise to one of my first poetical efforts ; the first verses,
in fact, that I ever published. I gave them to Brainard, then
editor of the Mirror, at Hartford ; and he inserted them, pro-
bably about the year 1823.
The facts in respect to this Nun of the Mountain were,
indeed, strange enough, without any embellishments of fancy.
During the winter she was confined for several months to her
cell. At that period she lived upon roots and nuts, which she
had laid in for the season. She had no fire; and, deserted
98 The Story of
even by her brute companions, she was absolutely alone. She
appeared to have no sense of solitude, no weariness at the slow
lapse of days and months. When spring returned, she came
down from her mountain a mere shadow ; each year her form
more bent, her limbs more thin and wasted, her hair more
blanched, her eye more colourless. At last, life seemed ebbing
away, like the faint light of a lamp sinking into the socket.
The final winter came ; it passed, and she was not seen in the
villages around. Some of the inhabitants went to the moun-
tain, and found her standing erect, her feet sunk in the frozen
marsh of the valley. In this situation, being unable to extri-
cate herself, she had yielded her breath to Him who gave it !
The early history of this strange personage was involved
in some mystery. So much as this, however, was ascer-
tained, that she was of good family, and lived on Long Island.
During the Revolutionary war, in one of the numerous forays
of the British soldiers, her father's house was burned, and
she was most cruelly treated. Desolate in fortune, blighted
at heart, she fled from human society, and for a long time
concealed her sorrows in the cavern which she had acci-
dentally found. Her grief softened by time, perhaps
alleviated by a veil of insanity was at "length so far miti-
gated, that, although she did not seek human society, she
could endure it. She continued to occupy her cave till the
year 1810 or 1811, when she departed in the manner I have
described; and we may hope, for a brighter and happier
Peter Parley's Own Life. 99
FAREWELL TO HOME DANBURY MY NEW VOCATION MY
BROTHER-IN-LAW HIS CONVERSATIONS WITH LAWYER
HATCH CLERICAL VAGARIES.
IN the autumn of the year 1808, a sudden change took place
in my prospects. My eldest sister had married a gentleman
by the name of Cooke, in the adjacent town of Danbury. He
was a merchant, and being in want of a clerk, offered me the
place. It was considered a desirable situation by my parents,
and, overlooking my mechanical aptitudes, they accepted it at
once, and at the age of fifteen I found myself installed in a
This arrangement gratified my love of change ; and at the
same time, as Danbury was a much more considerable town
than Ridgefield, going to live there naturally suggested the
idea of advancement, especially as I was to exchange my un-
certain prospects for a positive profession. However, I little
comprehended what it meant to say " Farewell to home : " I have
since learned its significance. In thus bidding adieu to the
paternal roof, we part with youth for ever. We part with the
spring -tide of life, which strews every path with flowers, fills
the air with poetry, and the heart with rejoicing. We part
with that genial spirit which endows familiar objects brooks,
ico 'The Story of
lawns, play -grounds, Mil-sides with its own sweet illusions :
we bid adieu to this and its fairy companionships. Even if,
in after life, we return to the scenes of our childhood, they
have lost the bloom of youth, and in its place we see the
wrinkles of that age which has graven its hard lines upon our
" Farewell to home " implies something even yet more
serious : we relinquish, and often with exultation, the tender care
of parents, in order to take upon ourselves the responsibilities of
independence. What seeming infatuation it is, that renders
us thus impatient of the guidance of those who gave us being,
and makes us at the same time anxious to spread our untried
sails upon an untried sea, to go upon a voyage which involves
all the chances, evil as well as good, of existence ! And yet it
is not infatuation it is instinct. We cannot always be
young ; we cannot all remain under the paternal roof. The
old birds push the young ones from the nest, and force them
to a trial of their wings. It is the system of nature that impels
us to go forth and try our fortunes, and it is a kind Providence,
after all, which endues us with courage for the outset of our
I was not long in discovering that my new vocation was
very different from what I had expected, and very different
from my accustomed way of life. My habits had been active,
my employments chiefly in the open air. I was accustomed
to be frequently on horseback, and to make excursions to the
neighbouring towns. I had also enjoyed much personal
liberty, which I failed not to use in rambling over the fields
and forests. All this was now changed. My duties lay ex-
clusively in the store, and this seemed now my prison. From
Peter Parley's Own Life. 101
morning to night I remained there, and, as our business was
not large, I had many hours upon my hands with nothing to
do but to consider the weariness of my situation. My bro-
ther-in-law was always present, and being a man of severe
aspect and watchful eyes, I felt a sort of restraint, which, for
a time, was agonising. I had, consequently, pretty sharp
attacks of homesickness ; a disease which, though not dan-
gerous, is one of the most distressing to which suffering hu-
manity is exposed.
This state of misery continued for some weeks, during
which time I revolved various plans of escape from my con-
finement : such as stealing away at night, making my way to
Norwalk, getting on board a sloop, and going as cabin-boy to
the West Indies. I believe that a small impulse would have
set me upon some such mad expedition. By degrees, how-
ever, I became habituated to my occupation, and as my situa-
tion was eligible in other respects, I found myself ere long
reconciled to it.
The father and mother of my brother-in-law were aged
people, living with him in the same house, and as one family.
They were persons of great amiability and excellence of cha-
racter : the former, Colonel Cooke, was eighty years of age,
but he had still the perfect exercise of his faculties, and though
he had ceased all business, he was cheerful, and took a lively
interest in passing events. Never have I seen a more pleasing
spectacle than this reverend couple, at the age of fourscore,
both smoking their pipes in the evening, with two generations
of their descendants around them.
My brother-in-law was a man of decided character, and
his portrait deserves a place in these annals. He had gra-
102 The Story of
duated at Yale College, and had been qualified for the bar ;
but his health was feeble, and therefore, chiefly for occupation,
he succeeded to the store which his father had kept before him.
Being in easy circumstances, he made no great efforts m busi-
ness. Though, as I have said, he was of stern aspect, and
his manners were somewhat cold and distant, his character
was that of a just and kind man. In business he treated
people respectfully, but he never solicited custom : he showed,
but never recommended his goods. If his advice were asked,
he offered it without regard to his own interest. He gave me
no instructions, but left me to the influence of his example.
He was of a religious turn of mind, not merely performing
the accustomed duties of a Christian, but making devotional
books a large part of his study. Perhaps he was conscious of
failing health, and already heard the monitory voice of that
disease which was ere long to terminate his career.
Nevertheless, he was not insensible to the pleasures of cul-
tivated society, and however grave he might be in his general
air and manner, he was particularly gratified with the visits
of a man, in all things his opposite, Moses Hatch, then a
leading lawyer in Danbury.
This person was a frequent visitor to the store, and the
long winter which commenced soon after I entered upon my
apprenticeship was not a little enlivened by his conversations
with my master. It frequently happened during the deep
snows, that the day passed without a single customer, and on
these occasions Lawyer Hatch was pretty sure to pay us a
visit. It was curious to see these two men, so opposite in cha-
racter, attracted to each other as if by contradiction. My
brother-in-law evidently found a pleasant relaxation in the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 103
conversation of Ms neighbour, embellished with elegant wit
and varied learning, while the latter derived equal gratifica-
tion from the serious, manly intellect of his friend. In general
the former was the talker, and the latter the listener ; yet some-
times the conversation became discussion, and a keen trial of
wit versus logic ensued. The lawyer always contended for
victory; my brother-in-law for the truth.
The precise form of these conversations has vanished from
my mind, but some of the topics remain. I recollect long
talks about the embargo, non-intercourse, and other Jeffer-
sonian measures, which were treated with unsparing ridicule
and reproach ; anecdotes and incidents of Napoleon, who ex-
cited mingled admiration and terror ; with observations upon
public men, as well in Europe as in America. I remember
also a very keen discussion upon Berkeley's theory of the
idealty of nature, mental and material, which so far excited
my curiosity, that, finding the Minute Philosopher by that
author in the family library, I read it through with great in-
terest and attention. The frequent references to Shakspeare
in these conversations led me to look into his works, and,
incited by the recommendations of my sister, I read them
through, somewhat doggedly, seeking even to penetrate the
more difficult and obscure passages.
It frequently happened that my master, owing to the in-
fluence of disease, was affected with depression of spirits ; and
the lawyer's best wit and choicest stories were expended with-
out even exciting a smile. Not discouraged, but rather stimu-
lated by such adversity, he usually went on, and was pretty
sure at last to strike the vein, as Moses did the water in the
rock, and a gush of uncontrollable laughter was the result. I
IO4 fhe Story of
remember in one instance, Mr. Cooke sat for a long time,
looking moodily into the fire, while Squire Hatch went on
telling stories, chiefly about clergymen, of which he had a
great assortment. I will endeavour to give you a sketch of
" I know not why it is so," said the lawyer ; " but the
fact is undeniable, that the most amusing anecdotes are about
clergymen. The reason perhaps is, that incongruity is the
source of humorous associations ; and this is evidently the
most frequent and striking in a profession which sets apart its
members as above the mass of mankind, in a certain gravity
of character and demeanour, of which the black coat is the
emblem. A spot upon this strikes every eye, while a brown
coat, being the colour of dirt, hides rather than reveals what
is upon its surface. Thus it is, as we all know, that what
would be insipid as coming from a layman, is very laughable
if it happens to a parson. I have heard that on a certain
occasion, as the Rev. J M was about to read a
hymn, he saw a little boy sitting behind the chorister in the
gallery, who had intensely red hair. The day was cold, and
the little rogue was pretending to warm his hands by holding
them close to the chorister's head. This so disconcerted the
minister, that it was some minutes before he could go on with
The only effect of this was, that my master drew down one
corner of his mouth.
" I have heard of another clergyman," said the lawyer,
" who suffered in a similar way. One day, in the very midst
of his sermon, he saw Deacon B fast asleep, his head
leaning back on the rail of the pew, and his mouth wide open.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 105
A young fellow in the gallery above, directly over him, took
a quid of tobacco from his mouth, and taking a careful aim,
let it drop plump into the deacon's mouth. The latter started
from his sleep, and went through a terrible paroxysm of fright
and choking before he recovered."
Mr. Cooke bit his lip, but was silent. Lawyer Hatch,
although he pretended to be all the while looking into the
fire, got a quick side-glance at the face of .his auditor, and
" You know the Rev. Dr. B , sir ? Well, one day
he told me, that as he was on his way to New Haven he came
to the house of one of his former parishioners, who, some years
before, had removed to that place. As he was about to pass
it, he remembered that this person had died recently, and he
thought it meet and proper to stop and condole with the
widow. She met him very cheerfully, and they had some
pleasant chat together.
" ' Madam,' said he, after a time, 'it is a painful subject
but you have recently met with a severe loss.'
" She instantly applied her apron to her eyes, and said,
" ' Oh yes, doctor ; there's no telling how I feel.'
" ' It is indeed a great bereavement you have suffered.'
" ' Yes, doctor ; very great, indeed.'
" * I hope you bear it with submission ? '
" ' I try tu ; but oh, doctor, I sometimes feel in my heart
Goosy, goosy gander, where shall I wander?'"
The lawyer glanced at the object of his attack, and seeming
to see a small breach in the wall, he thought it time to bring
up his heavy guns. He went on,
" There's another story about this same Dr. B , which
io6 The Story of
is amusing. Some years ago lie lost his wife, and after a time
he began to look out for another. At last he fixed his mind
upon a respectable lady in a neighbouring town, and com-
menced paying her his addresses. This naturally absorbed
much of his time and attention, and his parish became dis-
satisfied. The deacons of the church held several conferences
on the subject, and it was finally agreed that Deacon Becket,
who had the grace of smooth speech, should give the Reverend
Doctor a hint of what they deemed his fearful backsliding.
Accordingly, the next Sabbath morning, on going to church,
the deacon overtook the parson, and the following dialogue
" l Good morning, Dr. B .'
" ' Good morning, Deacon Becket.'
" ' Well, Doctor, I'm glad to meet you ; for I wanted to
say to you as how I thought of changing my pew ! '
" ' Indeed ! And why so ? '
" ' Well, I '11 tell you. I sit, as you know, clear over the
backside of the meeting-house ; and between me and the pulpit
there 's Judy Vickar, Molly Warren, Experience Pettybone,
and half-a-dozen old maids, who sit with their mouths wide
open, and they catch all the best of your sarmon ; and when
it gets to me, it 's plaguy poor stuff!' "
My brother-in-law could hold out no longer : his face was
agitated for a moment with nervous spasms ; and then, bend-
ing forward, he burst into a round, hearty laugh. The lawyer
who made it a point never to smile at his own jokes still
had a look upon his face as much as to say, " Well, sir, I
thought I should get my case."
It may be easily imagined that I was greatly interested
Peter Parley's Own Life. 107
by these conversations and diseussions ; and always felt not a
little annoyed, if perchance, as sometimes happened, I was
called away in the midst of a good story, or a keen debate, to
supply a customer with a gallon of treacle, or a paper of pins.
I know not if this disgusted me with my trade ; but it is very
certain that I conceived for it a great dislike, nearly from the
beginning. Never, so far as I can recollect, did I for one
moment enter heartily into its spirit. I was always, while I
continued in it, a mere servile labourer ; doing my duty, per-
haps, yet with a languid and reluctant heart. However, I got
through the winter ; and when the summer came, Mr. Cooke
nearly gave up personal attention to business in consequence
of ill-health ; and we had a new clerk, who was older than
myself, and took the responsible charge of the establishment.
He was an excellent merchant, and to me was a kind and in-
dulgent friend. He afterwards settled in Troy, where he is
still living, in the enjoyment of an ample fortune, and an ex-
cellent reputation as a father, friend, Christian, and neigh-
bour ; the natural fruit of good sense, good temper, and good
io8 'The Story of
NEW HAVEN DISTINGUISHED MEN WHITNEY* S COTTON-GIN
DURHAM TOWN MY GRANDMOTHER'S INDIAN PUD-
DINGS IN SEARCH OF A DOCTOR RETURN TO DANBURY
COLD FRIDAY FACTORY WORKMEN MATHEMATICS.
IN the summer of 1809 I made a short tour with my brother-
in-law and my sister, for the health of the former. This, to
me, was a grand expedition ; for among other places we visited
was New Haven, then a sort of Jerusalem in my imagination ;
a holy place, containing Yale College, of which Dr. Dwight
was president. Besides all this, one of my uncles and some
of my cousins lived there ; and, better still, my brother was
there, and then a member of the college. Ah, how my heart
beat when we set out ! Such was the vividness of my percep-
tions, that I could fill a book with recollections of that short,
simple journey ; the whole circuit not exceeding one hundred
and twenty miles.
I was duly impressed with the beauty of New Haven;
for then, as now, it was celebrated for a rare union of rural
freshness and city elegance. I have recently, in passing
through it, had a transient view of its appearance ; and may
safely affirm that, after pretty large observation in the Old
World as well as in the New, I know of no town or city
Peter Parley's Own Life. 109
more inviting ; especially to one whose judgment is cultivated
by observation and study, and whose feelings are chastened
by reflection and experience. There is something of the ac-
tivity and bustle of commerce in a part of the town, and at
one point, all the spasm of a railway station. In other por-
tions of the place, and over three-fourths of its area, there is
the quietude and repose proper to a seat of learning. Here the
houses seem suited to the city, each with a garden breathing
the perfumes of the country.
At the period of the visit I am describing, New Haven
had not one -half its present population ; and many of the in-
stitutions which now afdorn it did not exist. The College,
however, was then, as now, a leading literary institution in
the country. To me it was an object of special reverence, as
my grandfather and his five sons had all graduated there.
My brother and two of my cousins were at this time among
its inmates. Of course, I looked with intense curiosity at the
several buildings that belonged to it. Many things here ex-
cited my admiration. I looked with particular interest I
may add, with some degree of envy at the students, who
seemed to me the privileged sons of the earth. Several were
pointed out as promising to be the master-spirits of their age
and generation ; in some cases, I have since seen these antici-
Next to the College I visited the Bay, and for the first
time actually stood upon the shore of that living sea which,
through my whole childhood, had spread its blue bosom before
me in the distant horizon. A party of three or four of us
took a boat, and went down toward the entrance of the Bay,
landing on the eastern side. From this point the view was
no The Story of
enchanting ; it was a soft summer afternoon, and the sea only
breathed upon by light puffs of wind that came from the
west. I looked long, and with a species of entrancement, at
its heaving and swelling surface : I ran my eye far away, till
it met the line where sky and wave are blended together : I fol-
lowed the lulling surf as it broke, curling and winding, among
the mimic bays of the rocky shore. It was a spectacle, not
only full of beauty in itself, but to me it was a revelation and
a fulfilment of the thousand half-formed fancies which had
been struggling in my longing bosom from very childhood.
Our party was so occupied with our contemplations, that
we had scarcely noticed a thunder-storm, which now ap-
proached and menaced us from the west. We set out to re-
turn, but before we had got half across the Bay it broke full
upon us. The change in the aspect of the sea was fearful :
all its gentleness was gone ; and now, black and scowling, it
seemed as if agitated by a demon, threatening everything
with destruction that came within its scope. By a severe
struggle we succeeded in reaching Long Walk, though not
While staying at New Haven, I met many distinguished
men ; as the house of my uncle, Elizur Goodrich, was fre-
quented by all the celebrities of the place. Among these was
Eli Whitney ; to whose invention of the cotton-gin,* America
may almost be said to owe her cotton trade. Whitney's first
gin was made in 1793, at which time almost the whole of our
raw material was imported. The results of his invention may
be estimated by the fact, that while in 1789 only one million
* The gin is a machine for combing out the seeds from the cotton
in its raw state.
FIRST ADVENTURE ON THE SEA.
Peter Parley's Owy Life. in
pounds of cotton were produced in the United States, the pro-
duct of the year 1855 exceeded fourteen hundred millions !
We saw the original model of Mr. Whitney's gin at his
gun-factory, which was situated in a wild, romantic spot, near
the foot of East Rock, and about two miles distant from New
Having spent about a week at New Haven, we proceeded
to Durham, an old-fashioned, sleepy town, of a thousand in-
habitants. It is chiefly remarkable for the distinguished men
it has produced the Chaunceys, celebrated in the annals of
New England, and, I may add, in those of the country at
large ; the Wadsworths, no less noted in various commanding
stations, military and civil, public and private ; the Lymans,
renowned in the battle-field, the college, the pulpit, and the
senate; the Austins father and son to whose talent and
enterprise Texas owes her position as a member of the Union.
To this list of remarkable names, I trust I may add that
of the Goodriches, without the imputation of egotism, for his-
torical justice demands it. At the time I visited the place,
nearly all the family had long since left it. My grandfather,
Dr. Goodrich, died in 1797, but my grandmother was living,
as well as her daughter, Mrs. Smith, wife of Rev. David
Smith, the clergyman of the place, who had succeeded to my
I trust I have all due respect for my paternal grandmother,
who has already, by the way, been introduced to your notice.
She was now quite lame, but active, energetic, and alive to
everything that was passing. She welcomed me heartily, and
took the best care of me in the world, lavishing upon me,
without stint, all the treasures of her abundant larder. As to
1 1 2 The Story of
her Indian puddings alas, I shall never see their like again !
A comfortable old body she was in all things, and, as I have
before remarked, took a special interest in the welfare of the
generation of descendants rising up around her. When she
saw me eating with a good appetite, her benignant grand-
motherly face beamed like a lantern.
As to my uncle and aunt Smith, I may remark that they
were plain, pious people, the former worthily filling the pulpit
of my grandfather, and enjoying a high degree of respect,
alike from his position and character. Besides attending to his
parochial duties, he prepared young men for college. Among
his pupils were several persons who attained distinction. As
a man, he was distinguished for his cheerful, frank, friendly
manners : as a preacher, he was practical, sincere, and suc-
cessful. I must mention a story of him, among my pulpit
anecdotes. As sometimes happens, in a congregation of
farmers during midsummer, it once chanced that a large
number of his people, even the deacons in the sacramental
seat, fell asleep in the very midst of the sermon. The mi-
nister looked around, and just at this moment, the only person
who seemed quite awake was his eldest son, David, sitting in
the pew by the side of the pulpit. Pausing a moment, and
looking down upon his son, he exclaimed, in a powerful voice :
" David, wake up ! "
In a moment the whole congregation roused themselves,
and long did they remember the rebuke.
During our stay at Durham, my brother-in-law was so ill
as to need the advice of a skilful physician. Accordingly, I
was despatched on horseback to Middletown, a distance of
eight or ten miles, for Dr. , then famous in all the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 113
country round about. On my way I met a man of weather-
beaten complexion and threadbare garments, mounted on a
lean and jaded mare. Beneath him was a pair of plump
saddlebags. He had all the marks of a doctor, for then men
of his profession traversed the country on horseback, carrying
with them a collection of pills, powders, and elixirs, equivalent
to an apothecary's shop. Instinct told me that he was my
man. As I was about to pass him I drew in my breath, to
ask if he were Dr. , but a sudden bashfulness seized me :
the propitious moment passed, and I went on.
On arriving at the house of Dr. , I learned that he
had gone to a village in the south-western part of the town,
six or eight miles off. " There ! " said I to myself, " I knew
it was he : if I had only spoken to him !" However, reflec-
tion was vain. I followed to the designated spot, and there I
found that he had left about half an hour before, for another
village in the central part of the town. I gave chase, but he
was too quick for me, so that I was obliged to return to
Durham without him. " Ah ! " I thought, " how much
trouble a little courage would have saved me !" In fact, I
took the incident to heart, and have often practised to advan-
tage upon the lesson it suggested ; which is, Never to let a
doctor, or anything else, slip, for the want of asking an oppor-
At length we departed from Durham, and took our way-
homeward, through a series of small towns, arriving at last at
The week of our sojourn here flew on golden wings with me.
The village itself was after my own heart. It lies in a small
tranquil valley, its western boundary consisting of a succession
H4 Vh* Story of
of gentle acclivities, covered with forests ; that on the east is
formed of basaltic ledges, broken into wild and picturesque
forms, rising sharp and hard against the horizon. Through
the valley, in long serpentine sweeps, flows a stream, clear and
bright, now dashing and now sauntering ; here presenting a
rapid, and there a glassy pool. In ancient times it was bor-
dered by cities of the beaver ; it was now the haunt of a few
isolated and persecuted muskrats. In the spring and autumn,
the wild ducks, in their migrations, often stooped to its bosom
for a night's lodging. At all seasons it was renowned for its
trout. In former ages, when the rivers, protected by the
deep forests, ran full to the brim, and when the larger streams
were filled to repletion with shad and salmon, this was some-
times visited by enterprising individuals of their race, which
shot up cataracts, and leaped over obstructing rocks, roots,
and mounds, impelled by instinct to seek places remote from
the sea, where they might deposit their spawn in safety. In
those days, I imagine, the accidents and incidents of shad and
salmon life often rivalled the adventurous annals of Marco
Polo or Robinson Crusoe.
There was about this little village a singular union of re-
finement and rusticity, of cultivated plain and steepling rock,
of blooming meadow and dusky forest. The long, wide
street, saving the highway and a few stray paths here and
there, was a bright, grassy lawn, decorated with abundance of
sugar-maples, which appeared to have found their Paradise.
Such is the shape of the encircling hills and ledges that the
site of the village seemed a sort of secluded Happy Valley,
where everything turns to poetry and romance. And this
aptitude is abundantly encouraged by history ; for here was
Peter Parley's Own Life. 115
once the favoured home of a tribe of Indians. All around
the rivers, the hills, the forests are still rife with legends
and remembrances of the olden time. A rocky mound, rising
above the river on one side, and dark forests on the other,
bears the name of " Pomperaug's Castle;" a little to the
north, near a bridle-path that traversed the meadows, was a
heap of stones, called " Pomperaug's Grave." To the east I
found a wild ledge, called " Bethel Rock." And each of these
objects has its story.
It was a great time, that happy week for let it be remem-
bered that for a whole year I had been imprisoned in a country
store. What melody was there in the forest echoes then!
Ah ! I have since heard Catalani, and Garcia, and Pasta, and
Sontag, and Grisi ; I have even heard " the Swedish Nightin-
gale;" nay, in France and Italy the very home of music
and song I have listened to the true nightingale, which has
given to Jenny Lind her sweetest and most appropriate
epithet ; but never, in one or all, have I heard such music as
filled my ears that incense-breathing morn, when I made a
foray into the wilds of Woodbury!
We returned to D anbury after a tour of some five or six
weeks. The succeeding autumn and winter presented no
peculiar incident with a single exception. There was, if I
rightly remember, in the month of February, a certain " cold
Friday," which passed down to succeeding generations as
among the marvels of the time. It had snowed heavily for
three days, and the ground was covered three feet deep. A
driving wind from the north-east then set in, and growing
colder and colder, it became at last so severe as to force every-
n6 The Story of
body to shelter. This continued for two days, the whole air
being filled with sleet, so that the sun, without a cloud in the
sky, shone dim and grey as through a fog. The third day
the wind increased, both in force and intensity of cold.
Horses, cattle, fowls, sheep, perished in their coverings. The
roads were blocked up with enormous drifts ; the mails were
stopped, travelling was suspended ; the world, indeed, seemed
paralysed, and the circulation of life to be arrested.
On the morning of this third day, which was the ominous
and famous Friday, word was brought to my sister that a poor
family, about two miles off, to whom she had long been a kind
friend, was in danger of starvation. She knew no fear, and
tolerated no weakness. A thing with her that ought to be
done, was to be done. Therefore, a sack was filled with
bread, meat, candles, and a pint of rum : this was lashed
around my waist. The horse was brought to the door I
mounted and set off. I knew the animal well, and we had
enjoyed many a scamper together. He was, indeed, after my
own heart clean limbed, with full, knowing eyes, and small,
pointed, sensitive ears. He had a cheerful walk, a fleet,
skimming trot, a swift gallop, and all these paces we had
often tried. I think he knew who was on his back; but
when we got to the turning of the road, which brought his
nostrils into the very tunnel of the gale, he snorted, whirled
backward, and seemed resolved to return. I, however, brought
him sternly to his work, gave him sharp advice in the ribs,
and showed him that I was resolved to be master. Hesi-
tating a moment, as if in doubt whether I could be in earnest,
he started forward ; yet so keen was the blast, that he turned
aside his head, and screamed as if his nostrils were pierced
Peter Parley's Own Life. 117
with hot iron. On he went, however, in some instances up to
the saddle in the drift, yet clearing it at full bounds.
In a few minutes we were at the door of the miserable hut,
now half buried in a snow-drift. I was just in time. The
wretched inmates a mother and three small children^ with-
out fire, without food, without help or hope, were in bed, poorly
clothed, and only keeping life in their bodies by a mutual che-
rishing of warmth, like pigs or puppies in a similar extremity.
The scene within was dismal in the extreme. The fireplace
was choked with snow, which had fallen down the chimney :
the ill-adjusted doors and windows admitted alike the drift
and the blast, both of which swept across the room in cutting
currents. As I entered, the pale, haggard mother, compre-
hending at a glance that relief had come, burst into a flood of
tears. I had no time for words. I threw them the sack,
remounted my horse, and, the wind at my back, I flew home.
One of my ears was a little frost-bitten, and occasionally, for
years after, a tingling and itching sensation there reminded
me of my ride ; which, after all, left an agreeable remembrance
upon my mind.
Danbury is a handsome town, chiefly built on a long, wide
street, crossed near the northern extremity by a small river, a
branch of the Housatonic, which, having numerous rapids,
affords abundance of mill-sites in its course. At this crossing
there were two extensive hat-factories, famous over the whole
Nearly all the workmen in these establishments, of whom
there were several hundred at the time I am describing, were
foreigners, mostly English and Irish. A large part of the
business of our store was the furnishing of rum to these poor
n8 The Story of
wretches, who bought one or two quarts on Saturday night
and drank till Monday, and frequently till Tuesday. A fac-
tory workman of those days was thought to be born to toil,
and to get drunk. Philanthropy itself had not then lifted
its eye or its hopes above this hideous malaria of custom.
It is a modern discovery that manufacturing towns may
rise up, where comfort, education, morals, and religion, in
their best and happiest exercise, may be possessed by the
A few words more, and I have done with D anbury. The
health of my brother-in-law gradually failed, and at last, as
winter approached, he took to his room, and finally to his bed.
By almost insensible degrees, and with singular tranquillity of
mind and body, he approached his end. It was a trait of his
character to believe nothing, to do nothing, by halves. Hav-
ing founded his faith on Christ, Christianity was now, in its
duties, its promises, and its anticipations, as real as life itself.
He was afflicted with no doubts, no fears. With his mind in
full vigour, his strong intellect vividly awake, he was ready
to enter into the presence of his God. The hour came. He had
taken leave of his friends, and then, feeling a sense of repose,
he asked to be left alone. They all departed save one, who
sat apart, listening to every breath. In a few moments she
came and found him asleep, but it was the sleep that knows
no waking !
I continued in the store alone for several months, selling
ou^the goods, and closing up the affairs of the estate. I had
now a good deal of time to myself, and thumbed over several
books, completing my reading of Shakspeare, to which I have
already alluded. It happened that we had a neighbour over
Peter Parley's Own Life. 119
the way, a good-natured, chatty old gentleman, by the name
of Ebenezer White. He had been a teacher, and had a great
taste for mathematics. In those days it was the custom for
the newspapers to publish mathematical questions, and to
invite their solution. Master White was sure to give the
answer first. In fact, his genius for mathematics was so
large, that it left rather a moderate space in his brain for
common sense. He was, however, full of good feeling, and
was now entirely at leisure. Indeed, time hung heavy on his
hands, so he made me frequent visits, and in fact lounged
away an hour or two of almost every day at the store. I
became at last interested in mathematics, and under his good-
natured and gratuitous lessons I learned something of geo-
metry and trigonometry, and thus passed on to surveying and
navigation. This was the first drop of real science that I
ever tasted I might almost say the last, for though I have
since skimmed a good many books, I feel that I have really
mastered almost nothing.
1 20 The Story of
ARRIVAL AT HARTFORD MY OCCUPATION THERE REST-
LESSNESS MY FRIEND GEORGE SHELDON.
I NOW enter upon a new era in my life. Early in the summer
ef 1811, I took leave of Danbury, and went to Hartford.
On my arrival there, I was installed in the dry-goods store
of C. B. K , my father having made the arrangement
some weeks before.
My master had no aptitude for business, and spent much
of his time away, leaving the affairs of the shop to an old
clerk, by the name of Jones, and to me. Things went rather
badly, and he sought to mend his fortune by a speculation in
Merino sheep then the rage of the day. A ram sold for a
thousand dollars, and an ewe for a hundred. Fortunes were
made and lost in a day during this mania. My master, after
buying a flock and driving it to Vermont, where he spent
three months, came back pretty well shorn that is, three
thousand dollars out of pocket ! This soon brought his
affairs to a crisis, and so in the autumn I was transferred to
the dry-goods store of J. B. H .
My new employer had neither wife nor child to take up
his time, so he devoted himself sedulously to business. He
was, indeed, made for it elastic in his frame, quick-minded,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 121
of even temper, and assiduous politeness. He was already
well established, and things marched along as if by rail. For
a time we had another clerk, but he was soon dismissed, and
I was the only assistant ; my master, however, seldom leaving
the shop during business hours. Had the capacity for trade
been in me, I might now have learned my business. I think
I may say that I fulfilled my duty, at least in form. I was
regular in my hours, kept the books duly journalised and
posted. I never consciously wronged arithmetic to the amount
of a farthing. I duly performed my task at the counter.
Yet, in all this I was a slave : my heart was not in my work.
My mind was away : I dreamed of other things ; I thought
of other pursuits.
And yet I scarcely knew all this. I had certainly no
definite plan for the future. A thousand things floated before
my imagination. Every book I read drew me aside into its
own vortex. Poetry made me poetical ; politics made me
political ; travels made me truant. I was restless, for I was
in a wrong position ; yet I asked no advice, for I did not know
that I needed it. My head and heart were a hive of thoughts
and feelings, without the regulating and sedative supremacy of
a clear and controlling intelligence.
I was then eighteen years of age. I had been sufficiently
educated for my station. My parents had now removed from
Bidgefield to Berlin, a distance of but eleven miles from my
present residence, so that I had easy and frequent communi-
cation with them. My uncle, Chauncey Goodrich, then a
Senator of the United States, lived in an almost contiguous
street, and while in the city, always treated me with the kind-
ness and consideration which my relationship to him naturally
122 The Story of
dictated. In general, then, my situation was eligible enough ;
and yet I was unhappy.
The truth is, I had now been able to sit in judgment upon
myself to review my acquirements, to analyse my capacities,
to estimate my character, to compare myself with others,
and see a little into the future. The decision was painful to
my ambition. I had all along, unconsciously, cherished a
vague idea of some sort of eminence, and this, unhappily, had
nothing to do with selling goods or making money. I had
lived in the midst of relations, friends, and alliances, all of
which had cultivated in me trains of thought alien to my
present employment. My connexions were respectable
some of them eminent, but none of them rich. All had ac-
quired their positions without wealth, and I think it was
rather their habit to speak of it as a very secondary affair.
Brought up under such influences, how could I give my
heart to trade ? It was clear, indeed, that I had missed
Full of this conviction, I besought my parents to allow
me to quit the store, and attempt to make my way through
college. Whether for good or ill, I know not, but they de-
cided against the change, and certainly on substantial grounds.
Their circumstances did not permit them to offer me any con-
siderable aid, and without it they feared that I should meet
with insuperable difficulties. I returned to the store dis-
heartened at first, but after a time my courage revived, and I
resolved to re-educate myself. I borrowed some Latin books,
and with the aid of George Sheldon, an assistant in a pub-
lisher's establishment, and at this time my bosom friend, I
passed through the Latin Grammar, and penetrated a little
Peter Parley's Own Life. 123
way into Virgil. This was done at night, for during the
day I was fully occupied.
At the same time I began, with such light and strength
as I possessed, to train my mind, to discipline my thoughts,
then as untamed as the birds of the wilderness. / sought to
think to think steadily, to acquire the power of forcing my
understanding up to a point, and make it stand there and do
its work. I attempted to gain the habit of speaking methodi-
cally, logically, and with accumulating power, directed to a
particular object. I did all this as well by study as by prac-
tice. I read Locke On the Understanding and Watts On the
Mind. I attempted composition, and aided myself by Blair's
This was a task ; for not only was my time chiefly oc-
cupied by my daily duties, but it was a contest against habit
it was myself against myself; and in this I was almost
unaided and alone. I was to lay aside the slip -shod prac-
tice of satisfying myself with impressions, feelings, guesses ;
in short, of dodging mental labour by jumping at conclusions.
I was, indeed, to learn the greatest of all arts, that of rea-
soning of discovering the truth ; and I was to do this
alone, and in the face of difficulties, partly founded in my
mental constitution, and partly also in my training.
I did not at first comprehend the extent of my under-
taking. By degrees I began to appreciate it : I saw and felt,
at last, that it was an enormous task, and even after I had
resolved upon it, again and again my courage gave way, and
I ceased my efforts in despair. Still I returned to the work
by spasms. I found, for instance, that my geography was
all wrong : Asia stood up edgewise in my imagination, just
124 The Story of
as I had seen it on an old smoky map in Lieutenant Smith's
study ; Africa was in the south-east corner of creation, and
Europe was somewhere in the north-east. In fact, my map
of the world was very Chinese in its projection. I knew
better, but still I had thus conceived it, and the obstinate
bump of locality insisted upon presenting its outlines to my
mind according to this arrangement. I had similar jumbles
of conception and habit as to other things. This would not
do ; so I re-learned the elements of geography ; I revised my
history, my chronology, my natural history, in all of which
I had caught casual glimpses of knowledge. What I read I
read earnestly. I determined to pass no word without ascer-
taining its meaning, and I persevered in this, doggedly, for
My friend Sheldon was of inestimable service to me in
my studies. Possessing advantages over me in age, ex-
perience, and education, he made many rough places smooth
to my stumbling feet. Especially when, during my early
efforts in thinking, my mind was assailed with doubts as to
the truth of the Christian religion, his clear intelligence and
sincere faith did much to help me through my difficulties.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 125
WAR WITH ENGLAND IN THE ARMY MY UNCLE* S ADVICE
CAMPAIGNING ON THE MARCH OUR MILITARY COS-
TUME MY FIRST SOLDIER'S SUPPER.
DURING my residence at Hartford war was declared against
Great Britain. For some time Connecticut held aloof from
all participation in the struggle. But when, in 1813, our own
territory was threatened, all feelings vanished before the in-
stinct of self-preservation, and the strong feeling of animosity
which then raged against England. Anticipating this state
of things, the State Government had made preparations for
As it was midsummer a period when the husbandmen
could ill afford to leave their farms orders were sent by
Governor Smith to despatch at once the companies of militia
from the larger towns to the defence of New London and the
neighbouring country. At that time I belonged to an ar-
tillery company, and this was among those ordered to the
coast. I received a summons at four o'clock in the afternoon
to be ready to march the next day at sunrise. I went at once
to consult my uncle who, by the way, was at that time
not only mayor of the city, but Lieutenant-Governor of the
State. He had a short time before promised to make me
126 The Story of
one of his aids, and perhaps thought I should expect him
now to fulfil his engagement. He soon set that matter at
" You must, of course, go," said he. " We old federalists
cannot shelter our nephews when there is a question of de-
fending our own territory."
" Ought I not to consult my parents ? " said I.
" I will go down and see them to-morrow," he replied.
" Certainly, then, I shall go. I wish to go. My only
feeling is, that my mother may have some anxiety."
" I will see her to-morrow. You may be at ease on that
subject. Be ready to march at sunrise, according to your
orders. I will come and see you before you start."
The next morning, while it was yet dark, he came, gave
me some letters of introduction, and also supplied me with
ten dollars a welcome addition to my light purse. After a
little advice he said, "I have only one thing to add: If
you come to a fight, don't run away till the rest do. Good-
The next morning, June 7, 1813, about sunrise, the
whole company, nearly sixty in number, mounted in w T aggons,
departed. At sunset we were on the heights two miles back
of New London. No provision had been made for us, and so
we went supperless to bed in a large empty barn. I scarcely
closed my eyes, partly because it was my first experiment in
sleeping on the floor, and partly because of the terrific snoring
of a fellow-soldier by my side. Never have I heard such a
succession of choking, suffocating, strangling sounds, as issued
from his throat. I expected that he would die, and, indeed,
once or twice I thought he was dead. Strange to say, he
Peter Parley's Own Life. 127
got up the next morning in excellent condition, and seemed,
indeed, to feel better for the exercise. This man became
quite a character before the campaign was over : he got the
title of ^olus, and as he could not be tolerated in the bar-
racks, he was provided with a tent at a good distance, where
he blew his blast without restraint. At the close of the cam-
paign he was the fattest man in the company.
I was glad to see the daylight. The weather was fine,
and as the sun came up we saw the British fleet some half-
dozen large ships of war lying off the mouth of the Thames.
They seemed very near at hand, and for the first time I
realised my situation that of a soldier who was likely
soon to be engaged in battle. I said nothing of my emo-
tions : indeed, words were unnecessary. I watched the coun-
tenances of my companions as they first caught a view of the
black and portentous squadron, and I read in almost every
face a reflection of my own feelings. We were, however,
not all sentimentalists. There were among us, as doubtless
in all such companies, a supply of witty, reckless Gallios,
who gave a cheerful turn to our thoughts. We soon dis-
persed among the inhabitants, scattered over the neighbouring
hills and valleys, for breakfast. Like hungry wolves we fell
upon the lean larders, and left famine behind. Of course
every one offered to pay, but not one person would accept a
farthing : we were, indeed, received as protectors and de-
liverers. It was something, after all, to be soldiers ! With
our stomachs fortified, and our consciousness flattered, we
came cheerfully together.
At ten o'clock we were mustered, and began our march
all in our best? trim : cocked hats, long -tailed blue coats, with
128 The Story of
red facings, white pantaloons, and shining cutlasses at our
sides. Our glittering cannon moved along with the solemnity
of elephants. It was, in fact, a fine company all young
men, and many from the best families in Hartford. As we
entered New London the streets presented some confusion,
for still the people were removing back into the country, as
an attack was daily expected. A few military companies
were also gathering into the town. We were, however, not
wholly overlooked : women put their heads out of the win-
dows and smiled their gratitude as we passed along. Men
stopped and surveyed us with evident signs of approbation.
It was a glorious thing to belong to such a company ! At
last we came to a halt in one of the public squares. Then
there was racing and chasing of aids-de-camp for four mortal
hours, during which our martial pride drooped a little in the
broiling sun. At four o'clock in the afternoon we were trans-
ported across the Thames to the village of Groton, and took
up our quarters in a large house on the bank of the river,
vacated for our use. Two immense kettles the one filled
with junks of salt beef, and the other with unwashed potatoes
were swung upon the kitchen trammels, and at six o'clock
in the evening we were permitted each to fish out his dinner
from the seething mass. That was my first soldier's supper ;
and, after all, it was a welcome meal.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 129
NEW LONDON OUR MILITARY REPUTATION SENT WITH
A LETTER BRITISH CANNON-BALLS OUT OF HARM'S
WAY AN ALARM ON GUARD TAKE A PRISONER
STRANGE EMOTIONS MY LEFT-HAND CHUM A GRATEFUL
NEW LONDON is situated on the western bank of the river
Thames, three miles from its mouth. It has now ten or
twelve thousand inhabitants, but at the time I am speaking
of there were not more than four thousand. The entrance
to the river is broad, and affords a fine harbour. This is
defended by Fort Trumbull on the western side of the river,
half a mile below the city. It contained a garrison of six or
seven hundred soldiers during the war of 1812.
Opposite to New London is the village of Groton, the
main street running along the river bank ; on an eminence
some hundred rods from the river, and commanding a view
of the surrounding country, including the harbour and the
islands which lie scattered near it in the Sound, is the site of
Fort Griswold. The old fort is now in ruins, but in my time
it was in tolerable repair. Our company, as well as other
portions of the militia, laboured upon it, and strengthened it,
as well by completing its works as by erecting a small redoubt
130 The Story of
upon the south-eastern side. To the defence of the latter, in
case of attack, the Hartford company was assigned.
The officers of our company were rigid disciplinarians,
and accordingly we were drilled for about four hours each
day. We soon gained much reputation for our martial ex-
ercises and our tidy appearance. Many people came over
from New London to witness our performances, among whom
were often persons of distinction. On Sundays we marched
two miles to church, and being in our best guise, caused quite
a sensation. Men and women, boys and girls, streamed along
at our flanks, often in a broiling sun, yet always with admiring
After the morning drill we were generally at leisure for
the rest of the day, taking our turns, however, on guard, and
in other occasional duties. Most of the soldiers gave up their
rations of mess beef and potatoes, and lived on their own
resources. We formed ourselves into a general club for a
supply of fresh fish. Every day three of us went out fishing,
and generally returned with a half -bushel basket full of various
kinds, among which the blackfish or tataug, now so greatly
esteemed, was always abundant. I was employed by the
captain to keep his journal of our proceedings, and sometimes
I was despatched to New London, or to some one of the
officers along the line, with a letter or a parcel.
I remember that on one occasion H. A , my special
companion, and myself, were sent with a letter to an officer
who commanded a small picket on the eastern shore, near
the mouth of the river; that is, at Point Groton. It was
a distance of some three miles. The weather was pleasant,
and our route lay along the shore of the stream, which
Peter Parley's Own Life. 131
opens into a wide bay as it meets the Sound. As we ap-
proached the southern point of the shore we found ourselves
quite near to the British squadron. One of the vessels, which
we knew as the " Acasta" for we had learned all their names
was under full sail in a light wind, and coming up toward
the shore. She was already so near that we could see the
men, and note every movement on the deck. While we were
admiring the beautiful appearance of the ship, we suddenly
saw several white puffs issue from her sides and uncoil them-
selves into volumes of smoke. Then came a deafening roar ;
a moment after, and in the very midst of it, there were wild
howls in the air above our heads. At a little distance beyond
the ground was ploughed up, scattering the soil around, and
the top of one of the forest trees, of which a few were scat-
tered here and there, was cut asunder and fell almost at our
We understood the joke in an instant, and so did the
lieutenant who commanded the picket. He was the object of
the attack, and the broadside of the "Acasta," sending its shot
over our heads, had hurled one or two balls crashing through
the roof of the little fish -hut which he and his men occupied.
In less than five minutes they were seen trotting off at a
round pace, with their cannon jerking right and left over the
rough ground behind them. Several other shots were fired,
but the party escaped in safety. My companion and myself
ensconced ourselves behind the rocks, and though it was grave
sport we enjoyed it exceedingly. We could trace the cannon-
balls as they flew, by looking like globes of mist twinkling
through the air. Several of them passed close over our heads,
and grooved the earth in long trenches at our sides. The
132 The Story of
noise they made as they rose high in the air was a strange
mixture, between a howl and a scream. After having thus
showed her teeth and made a great noise the frigate returned
to her anchorage, and all was quiet. I hope I shall not
degrade myself as a soldier in your eyes by confessing that
this was the only battle in which I was engaged during this
glorious war !
I must, however, mention one circumstance which tried
the souls of our company. On a certain Saturday a large
accession to the British force arrived in the bay, the whole
number of vessels of all kinds amounting to fourteen. This
looked very much like an attack, and accordingly there was
a feverish anxiety among the inhabitants of New London and
the vicinity, and a general bustle in the army from Groton
Point to Allyn's Mountain. A large body of militia was set
to work upon Fort Griswold. Our company was drilled in the
little redoubt which we were to defend, and every preparation
was made to give the enemy a warm reception. The general
idea was, that a landing of British troops would be made on
the eastern side, and that we should take the brunt of the
The sun set in clouds, and as the evening advanced bursts
of thunder, attended by flashes of lightning, muttered along
the distant horizon. Our company was admonished to sleep
on their arms. Everything wore a rather ominous appear-
ance. There were no signs of cowardice in the men, but they
looked thoughtful ; and when the wit of the company let off
some of his best jokes which would ordinarily have set the
whole corps in a roar he was answered by a dead silence.
It chanced that I was that night on guard. My turn came
Peter Parley's Own Life. 133
at ten o'clock. Taking my gun, I paced the bank of the
river in front of our barracks. I had received orders to let
nothing pass by land or water. It was intensely dark, but
at frequent intervals thin flashes of lightning sprang up
against the distant sky behind dark rolling masses of clouds.
Gradually the lights in the streets and windows of New
London, stretching in a long line on the opposite side of the
river, were extinguished one by one ; a few remaining, how-
ever, as sentinels, indicating anxiety and watchfulness. The
sounds on all sides were at last hushed, " and left the world to
darkness and to me." More than half of my two -hours' watch
had passed when I heard the dip of oars and the flapping of
waves against the prow of a boat. I looked in the direction
of the sounds, and at last descried the dusky outline of a
small craft stealing down the river. I cried out, " Boat
ahoy! who goes there?" My voice echoed portentously in
the silence, but no answer was given, and the low, black,
raking apparition glided on its way. Again I challenged,
but there was still no reply. On went the ghost ! I cocked
my gun. The click sounded ominously on the still night air.
I began to consider the horror of shooting some fellow-being
in the dark. I called a third time, and not without avail.
The rudder was turned, the boat whirled on her heel, and a
man came ashore. According to my orders I marshalled him
to the guard-room, and gave notice of what had happened to
the captain. The man was only a fisherman going home,
but he was detained till morning. So, you see, I can boast
that I made one prisoner. My watch was soon over, and
returning to my station I laid down to sleep.
All was soon quiet, and I was buried in profound repose,
134 The Story of
when suddenly there was a cry in the main barrack-room
overhead, " Alarm ! alarm !"
" Alarm ! alarm ! " was echoed by twenty voices, at-
tended by quick, shuffling sounds, and followed by a hurried
rush of men down the staircase. A moment after the guard
in front discharged his musket, and was answered by a long
line of reports up and down the river, from the various sen-
tinels, extending for half-a-dozen miles. Then came the roll
of drums and the mustering of the men. Several of our com-
pany had been out to see what was going on: they came
back saying that the enemy was approaching ! J. M
distinctly heard the roar of cannon, and positively saw the
flashes of muskets. B. W found out that the attack
had already begun upon our southern pickets. Nobody
doubted that our time had come!
In a very few minutes our company was drawn up in
line, and the roll was called. It was still dark, but the faint
flashes gave us now and then a glimpse of each other's faces.
I think we were a ghostly -looking set, but it was, perhaps,
owing to the bluish complexion of the light. J. S , of
West Hartford, who marched at my left shoulder usually
the lightest-hearted fellow in the company whispered to
me, " Goodrich, I'd give fifty dollars to be at West Divi-
sion !" For myself, I felt rather serious, and asked a certain
anxious feeling in my stomach, "What's to be done?"
Johnson, our captain, was a man of nerve and ready speech.
When the roll was finished, he said in a clear, hearty tone,
"All right, my good fellows! Every man at his post!"
These few words which were, however, more politic than
true, for one fellow was taken with sudden colic, and could
Peter Parley's Own Life. 135
not be got out were electrical. We were ready to take our
places in the redoubt.
Messengers were. now sent to the two neighbouring posts
to inquire into the state of facts. Word was brought that the
first alarm came from our barracks ! The matter was in-
quired into, and it turned out that the whole affair was
originated by a corporal of ours, who, in a fit of nightmare,
jumped up and cried, " Alarm ! alarm ! "
Our martial ardour soon reconciled itself to this rather ludi-
crous d^nouement^ though several persons, who had been some-
what chapfallen, became suddenly inflated with courage, which
signalised itself with outbursts of, "D the British!"
"They're a pack of sneaking cowards, after all!" and the
like. The next morning was fresh and fair. The skirmishing
thunder -gusts of the night had cleared the air, and even dis-
tant objects seemed near at hand. Before us lay the whole
British fleet, still and harmless, in the glassy bay. My left-
hand chum, J. S , who, in the dark hour, would have
given fifty dollars to be at West Division, was now himself
again. "Come on here, you black old Ramilies!" said he,
dashing the doubled fist of his right hand into the palm of
his left : " Come on here, you black-hearted British bull-dogs,
and we'll do your business for you !" &c.
Notwithstanding our military duties, you will readily
comprehend that we had a good deal of leisure. For the
most part this idle time was wasted, or worse than wasted.
The atmosphere of a camp presents a fearful ordeal for all,
but more especially for the young soldier. The restraints of
society being withdrawn, the seducing and corrupting in-
fluences which naturally spring up and riot in such a soil too
136 The Story of
often lead captive the strong as well as the weak. The
military spirit is opposed to reflection : it is reckless, banishes
thought, and teaches a kind of self-abandonment. Our
officers set an excellent example, and there was less of degra-
dation in our company than in others. Still, among us there
was a general reading of bad books, a great deal of petty
gambling, and not a little tippling. It was easy to see, week
by week, the gradual wearing away of the sense of propriety,
of gentlemanly tastes, and general conservatism, in at least
one-half the young men of our company. A similar declen-
sion was visible throughout the whole body of militia along
Fortunately, our period of service was brief. In about six
weeks from the time of our departure we were dismissed, and
returned to our homes. Thus closed my military career, so
far as relates to active service. The remembrances of my
first and last campaign are, on the whole, pleasant. There
were feelings of fraternity established between the members of
the company which have continued to this day. My country
has not been unmindful of my services ; for I have received
two land-warrants, giving me a title to some hundred and
sixty acres, with the fresh virgin soil of the Far West upon
Peter Parley's Own Life. 137
EFFECTS OF WAR IN NEW ENGLAND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
NEWS OF PEACE ILLUMINATIONS THE AUTHOR'S
I REMEMBER perfectly well the universal state of anxiety and
depression which prevailed in New England during the lat-
ter part of the war. The acts of government, the move-
ments of fleets and armies, furnish no idea of the condition of
society in its daily life. Let me give you a few items as
indications of the embarrassments, vexations, and privations
which the war had brought unto every man's house and
home. Such a thing as silver or gold money was almost
unknown. The chief circulation consisted of bills of sus-
pended banks, or what were called "facilities;" that is,
bank-notes, authorised by the legislature of Connecticut, re-
deemable in three years after the war. These were at fifteen
to twenty -five per cent discount compared with specie.
Banks issued notes of fifty, twenty-five, and twelve-and-a-
half cents. Barbers issued bills payable in shaving, and
various institutions adopted a similar course. The whole
mass acquired the title of " rag -money," shin-plasters," &c. :
a large portion of it was notoriously worthless, either as being
ij8 fhe Story of
counterfeit, or issued by irresponsible parties, yet it generally
passed without scrutiny.
I had personal experience of the universal depression. In
the summer of 1814 I was out of my time, and cast about
for some employment. I went to New York for this object,
but found not the slightest encouragement. After some re-
flection I established a manufactory of pocket-books, in con-
nexion with one of my friends, who furnished the capital.
The greatest difficulty was to find the materials. I made ex-
peditions to Boston, Charleston, Providence, &c., and was not
able to obtain over fifty pieces of morocco fit for the purpose.
In December I went to New York, and was more successful.
I made a considerable purchase, and despatched my goods
by the carrier. Pretty well content with my success, I had
gone in the evening to a concert at the City Hotel. While
listening to the music there was a murmur in the streets.
Soon the door of the concert-room was thrown open, and in
rushed a man all breathless with excitement. He mounted
on a table, and swinging a white handkerchief aloft, cried
" Peace ! peace ! peace ! "
The music ceased : the hall was speedily vacated. I
rushed into the street, and oh, what a scene !
It was on the evening of Saturday, the llth of February,
1815, that the news of the treaty of peace reached New York.
In half-an-hour after Broadway was one living sea of shout-
ing, rejoicing people. " Peace ! peace ! peace !" was the deep,
harmonious, universal anthem. The whole spectacle was en-
livened by a sudden inspiration. Somebody came with a
torch : the bright idea passed into a thousand brains. In a
Peter Parley's Own Life. 139
few minutes thousands and tens of thousands of people were
marching about with candles, lamps, torches, making the
jubilant street appear like a gay and gorgeous procession.
The whole night Broadway sang its song of peace. We
were all democrats all federalists ! Old enemies rushed
into each other's arms : every house was in a revel : every
heart seemed melted by a joy which banished all evil thought
and feeling. Nobody asked, that happy night, what were
the terms of the treaty : we had got peace that was enough !
I moved about for hours in the ebbing and flowing tide of
people, not being aware that I had opened my lips. The
next morning I found that I was hoarse from having joined
in the exulting cry of " Peace ! peace !"
The next day, Sunday, all the churches sent up hymns of
thanksgiving for the joyous tidings. I set out in the stage-
coach on Monday morning for Connecticut. All along the
road the people saluted us with swinging of hats and cries of
rejoicing. At one place, in rather a lonesome part of the
road, a schoolmaster came with the whole school at his heels
to ask us if the news was true. We told him it was ; where-
upon he tied his bandanna pocket-handkerchief to a broom,
swung it aloft, and the whole school hosannaed, " Peace !
peace !" At all our stopping-places the people were gathered
to rejoice in the good tidings. At one little tavern I looked
into a room, by chance, the door being open, and there I
saw the goodwife, with a chubby boy in her lap both in
a perfect gale of merriment the child crying out, "Peath!
peath!" Oh, ye makers of war, reflect upon this heartfelt
verdict of the people in behalf of peace !
We arrived at New Haven in the evening, and found it
140 fhe Story of
illuminated: the next day I reached Hartford, and there
also was a grand illumination. The news spread over the
country, carrying with it a wave of shouts and rejoicings.
Boston became clamorous with pealing bells ; the schools had
a jubilee ; the blockaded shipping, rotting at the dilapidated
wharves, got out their dusty buntings, and these, ragged
and forlorn, now flapped merrily in the breeze. At night
the city flamed far and wide from Beacon Street down the
Bay, telling the glorious tale even unto Cape Cod. So spread
the news over the country, everywhere carrying joy to every
heart with, perhaps, a single exception. At Washington,
the authors of the war peeped into the despatches, and found
that the treaty had no stipulations against the Orders in
Council, Paper Blockades, and Impressments, which were
the pretexts for the war. All that could be maintained was,
that we had made war, charging the enemy with very gross
enormities, and we had made peace, saying not one word
So the war was ended.
Let us be frank, and confess the truth : the war, in the
aspects in which history thus presents it, was disgraceful to
the authors of it : it was, in many respects, disastrous to the
country ; and yet it has left us some wholesome lessons. It
has shown the danger and folly of plunging a great country
into a national conflict for narrow and selfish purposes,
because, under such circumstances, the people will be
divided, and it will be a partisan, and not a patriotic war ;
it has put on record another instance in which war has been
declared in boasting, and ended precisely where it began,
after years of violence, sorrow, and bloodshed. It has shown,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 141
also in connexion with subsequent events the superiority
of peace to war, even in obtaining the ends of justice ; for let
it be remembered that Daniel Webster obtained from Great
Britain, by the force of argument, that which the sword could
142 The Story of
EVIL EFFECTS OF NIGHT STUDY COMMENCEMENT OF LITE-
RARY CAREER THOUGHTS ON DANCING NEW YORK
SARATOGA DEATH OF HIS UNCLE BECOMES A BOOK-
SELLER COLD SUMMER 'EMIGRATION RESULTS OF.
I HAVE told you that my apprenticeship terminated in the
summer of 1814. Previous to that time I had made some
advances in the study of the French language, under M. Value,
or, to give him his title, the Count Value. This person had
spent his early life in Paris, but afterward migrated to St.
Domingo, where he owned a large estate. In the insurrection
of 1794 he escaped only with his life. With admirable
cheerfulness and serenity he devoted himself to teaching
French and dancing, as means of support. He settled for a
time at New Haven, where, at the age of seventy, he was cap-
tivated by a tall, red-haired schoolmistress of twenty, whom
The Count finally established himself at Hartford, and I
became one of his pupils. I pursued my studies with con-
siderable assiduity, and to practise myself in French, I trans-
lated Chateaubriand's Rene. One of my friends had just
established a newspaper at Middletown, and my translation
was published there. About this time my health was feeble,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 143
and my eyes became seriously affected in consequence of my
night studies. Unaware of the danger, I persevered, and
thus laid the foundation of a nervous weakness and irritability
of my eyes, which has since been to me a rock ahead in the
whole voyage of my life. From that time I have never been
able to read or write without pain. As if by a kind of
fatality, I seemed to be afterwards drawn into a literary career,
for which I was doubly disqualified first by an imperfect
education, and next by defective eyesight. Oh ! what penal-
ties have I paid for thus persisting in a course which seems to
have been forbidden to me by Providence. After a long and
laborious life, I feel a profound consciousness that I have done
nothing well ; at the same time, days, months, nay years, have
I struggled with the constant apprehension that I should
terminate my career in blindness ! How little do we know,
especially in the outset of our existence, what is before us ! It
is well that we do not know, for the prospect would often
In the autumn of 181.4, as already stated, I established,
in company with a friend, a pocket-book factory at Hartford ;
but the peace put a speedy termination to that enterprise. We
came out of it with a small loss, and my kind-hearted partner
pocketed this, " for he had money, and I had none." He for-
gave me, and would have done the same had the defalcation
been more considerable, for he was a true friend.
Early in the following, I made an arrangement to go to
Paris as a clerk in the branch of the importing house of
Kichards, Taylor, & Wilder, of New York. About a month
afterwards the news came that Bonaparte had suddenly re-
turned from Elba, and as business was prostrated by that
144 Vh* S tor y f
event, my engagement failed. For nearly a year, my health
continued indifferent, and my eyes in such a state that I was
incapable of undertaking any serious business. I spent my
time partly at Berlin, whither my parents had removed from
Ridgefield, and partly at Hartford. I read a little, and prac-
tised my French with Value and his scholars. I also felt the
need of disciplining my hands and feet, which about these
days seemed to me to have acquired a most absurd develop-
ment, giving me a feeling of great embarrassment when I en-
tered into company. I therefore took lessons in dancing, and,
whether I profited by it or not as to manners, I am persuaded
that this portion of my education was highly beneficial to me
in other points of view.
As many good people have a prejudice against dancing, I
am disposed to write down my experience on the subject. In
the whiter, our good old teacher had weekly cotillion parties,
for the purpose of practising his scholars. The young men
invited the young women, and took them to these gatherings,
and after the exercises conducted them home again. I know
this will sound strange to those who only understand metro-
politan manners at the present day ; but I never knew an in-
stance, in my own experience or observation, in which the
strictest propriety was departed from. These parties took
place in the evening : they began at eight o'clock, and con-
tinued till ten or eleven sometimes till twelve. The com-
pany consisted entirely of young persons, from fifteen to
twenty years of age : they included the children of the respect-
able inhabitants, with a number of young ladies from the
boarding-schools. Some of these I have since seen the
wives of bishops, senators, and governors of States filling
Peter Parley's Own Life. 145
the first stations to which women can aspire in this
I am satisfied that these Hartford parties, under the aus-
pices of our amiable and respected old teacher, were every-
way refining and elevating : not only did they impart ease of
manner, but, as I think, purity of sentiment.
In the spring of 1815 I paid a visit to New York, and
having letters of introduction to Oliver Wolcott and Archi-
bald Gracie, I called on these gentlemen.
My lodgings were at the City Hotel, situated on the west-
ern side of Broadway, between Thames and Cedar Streets,
the space being now occupied by warehouses. It was then
the chief hotel of New York, and was kept by a model land-
lord, named Jennings, with a model bar-keeper by the name
of Willard. The latter was said never to sleep night or day,
for at all hours he was at his post, and never forgot a cus-
tomer, even after an absence of twenty years.
It was late in the spring, and Mr. Gracie called for me
and took me to his country seat, occupying a little promontory
on the western side of Hurlgate, a charming spot. Conti-
guous to it were the summer residences of many of the leading
citizens of New York.
Here I spent a fortnight very agreeably. Mr. Gracie was
at this period distinguished alike on account of his wealth, his
intelligence, and his amiable and honourable character. Never
have I witnessed anything more charming - more affectionate,
dignified, and graceful, than the intercourse of the family with
one another. Not many years after, Mr. Gracie lost his
entire fortune by the vicissitudes of commerce, but his cha-
racter was beyond the reach of accident. He is still remem-
146 The Story of
bered with affectionate respect by all those whose memories
reach back to the times in which he flourished, and when it
might be said, without disparagement to any other man, that
he was the first merchant in New York.
Early in the ensuing summer, my uncle, Chauncey Good-
rich, being in bad health, paid a visit to Saratoga and Ball-
ston for the benefit of the waters, and I accompanied him.
We soon returned, however, for it was now apparent that he
had a disease of the heart, which was rapidly tending to a
fatal result. Experiencing great suffering at intervals, he
gradually yielded to the progress of his malady, and at last,
on the 18th of August, 1815, while walking the room, and
engaged in cheerful conversation, he faltered, sank into a chair,
and instantly expired. " His death," says the historian, "was
a shock to the whole community. Party distinctions were
forgotten, under a sense of the general calamity ; and in the
simple but expressive language which was used at his funeral,
* all united in a tribute of respect to the man who had so long
been dear to us, and done us so much good.'" To me, the
loss was irreparable ; leaving, however, in my heart a feeling
of gratitude that I had witnessed an example of the highest
intellectual power united with the greatest moral excellence,
and that, too, in one whose relationship to me enforced and
commended its teachings to my special observance. Alas,
how little have I done in life that is worthy of such inspira-
Not long after this, my friend George Sheldon, who had
established himself as a bookseller and publisher, invited me
to become his partner, and this I did early in the year 1816.
We pursued the business for nearly two years, during which
Peter Parley's Own Life. 147
time we published, among other works, Scott's Family
Bible, in five volumes quarto a considerable enterprise for
that period in a place like Hartford. In the autumn of 1817
I had gone to Berlin, for the purpose of making a short ex-
cursion for the benefit of my health, when a messenger came
from Hartford, saying that my partner was very ill, and
wished me to return. I immediately complied, and on enter-
ing the room of my friend I found him in a high fever, his
mind already wandering in painful dreams. As I came to
his bedside he said, " Oh, take away these horrid knives,
they cut me to the heart !" I stooped over him and said,
" There are no knives here ; you are only dreaming."
" Oh, is it you ? " said he. " I am glad you have come.
Do stay with me, and speak to me, so as to keep off these
I did stay by him for four days and nights ; but his
doom was sealed. His mind continued in a state of wild
delirium till a few minutes before his death. I stood gazing
at his face, when a sudden change came over him : the
agitated and disturbed look of insanity had passed a quiet
pallor had come over his countenance, leaving it calm and
peaceful. He opened his eyes, and, as if waking from sleep,
looked on me with an aspect of recognition. His lips moved,
and he pronounced the name of his wife : she came, with all
the feelings of youth and love ay, and of hope, too, in her
heart. She bent over him : he raised his feeble and emaciated
arms and clasped her to his heart : he gave her one kiss, and
passed to another life !
The summer of 1816 was probably the coldest that has
148 The Story of
been known in this century. In New England from Con-
necticut to Maine there were severe frosts in every month.
The crop of Indian corn was almost entirely cut off: of
potatoes, hay, oats, &c., there was not, probably, more than
half the usual supply. The means of averting the effects of
such a calamity now afforded by railroads, steam naviga-
tion, canals, and other facilities of intercommunication did
not then exist. The following winter was severe, and the
ensuing spring backward. At this time I made a journey
into New Hampshire, passing along the Connecticut river, in
the region of Hanover. It was then June, and the hills
were almost as barren as in November. I saw a man at
Orford who had been forty miles for a half-bushel of Indian
corn, and paid two dollars for it !
Along the seaboard it was not difficult to obtain a supply
of food, although every article was dear. In the interior it
was otherwise : the cattle died for want of fodder, and many
of the inhabitants nearly perished from starvation. The de-
solating effects of the war still lingered over the country, and
at last a kind of despair seized upon some of the people. In
the pressure of adversity many persons lost their judgment,
and thousands feared or felt that New England was destined,
henceforth, to become a part of the frigid zone. At the same
time, Ohio with its rich soil, its mild climate, its inviting
prairies was opened fully upon the alarmed and anxious
vision. As was natural under the circumstances, a sort of
stampede took place from cold, desolate, worn-out New Eng-
land, to this land of promise.
I remember very well the tide of emigration through
Connecticut on its way to the West, during the summer of
Peter Parley's Own Life. 149
1817. Some persons went in covered waggons frequently
a family consisting of father, mother, and nine small children,
with one at the breast some on foot, and some crowded
together under the cover, with kettles, gridirons, feather-beds,
crockery, and the family Bible, Watts's Psalms and Hymns,
and Webster's Spelling-book the lares and penates of the
household. Others started in ox-carts, and trudged on at
the rate of ten miles a-day. In several instances I saw fami-
lies on foot the father and boys taking turns in dragging
along an improvised hand-waggon, loaded with the wreck
of the household goods occasionally giving the mother and
baby a ride. Many of these persons were in a state of
poverty, and begged their way as they went. Some died
before they reached the expected Canaan; many perished
after their arrival, from fatigue and privation ; and others
from the fever and ague, which was then certain to attack
the new settlers.
It was, I think, in 1818, that I published a small tract,
entitled, T'other Side of Ohio, that is, the other view, in
contrast to the popular notion that it was the paradise of the
world. It was written by Dr. Hand, a talented young phy-
sician of Berlin, who had made a visit to the West about
this time. It consisted mainly of vivid but painful pictures
of the accidents and incidents attending this wholesale migra-
tion. The roads over the Alleghanies, between Philadelphia
and Pittsburg, were then rude, steep, and dangerous, and
some of the more precipitous slopes were consequently strewn
with the carcases of waggons, carts, horses, oxen, which had
made shipwreck in their perilous descents. The scenes on the
road of families gathered at night in miserable sheds, called
150 The Story of
taverns mothers frying, children crying, fathers swearing,
were a mingled comedy and tragedy of errors. Even when
they arrived in their new homes, along the banks of the
Musldngum, or the Scioto, frequently the whole family
father, mother, children speedily exchanged the fresh com-
plexion and elastic step of their first abodes, for the sunken
cheek and languid movement, which mark the victim of in-
The instances of home-sickness, described by this vivid
sketcher, were touching. Not even the captive Israelites,
who hung their harps upon the willows along the banks of
the Euphrates, wept more bitter tears, or looked back with
more longing to their native homes, than did these exiles
from New England ; mourning the land they had left, with
its roads, schools, meeting-houses ; its hope, health, and hap-
piness ! Two instances, related by the traveller, I must men-
tion. He was one day riding in the woods, apart from the
settlements, when he met a youth some eighteen years of age,
in a hunting-frock, and with a fowling-piece in his hand.
The two fell into conversation.
" Where are you from ?" said the youth, at last.
" From Connecticut," was the reply.
" That is near the old Bay State ?"
" ^Lnd have you been there ?"
" To Massachusetts ? Yes, many a time."
" Let me take your hand, stranger. My mother was
from the Bay State, and brought me here when I was an
infant. I have heard her speak of it. Oh, it must be a
lovely land! I wish I could see a meeting-house and a
Peter Parley's Own Life. 151
school-house, for she is always talking about them. And the
sea : the sea oh, if I could see that! Did you ever see it,
stranger ? "
" Yes, often."
" What, the real, salt sea the ocean with the ships
" Well," said the youth, scarcely able to suppress his
emotion, " if I could see the old Bay State and the ocean, I
should be willing then to die ! "
In another instance the traveller met, somewhere in the
valley of the Scioto, a man from Hartford, by the name of
Bull. He was a severe democrat, and feeling sorely oppressed
with the idea that he was no better off in Connecticut under
federalism than the Hebrews in Egypt, joined the throng
and migrated to Ohio. He was a man of substance, but
his wealth was of little avail in a new country, where all the
comforts and luxuries of civilisation were unknown.
" When I left Connecticut," said he, " I was wretched
from thinking of the sins of federalism. After I had got
across Byram river, which divides that State from New York,
I knelt down and thanked the Lord for that He had brought
me and mine out of such a priest-ridden land. But I Ve
been well punished, and I'm now preparing to return ; when
I again cross Byram river, I shall thank God that He has
permitted me to get back again !"
152 The Story of
MARRIAGE WALTER SCOTT BYRON SIDNEY SMITH* S
TAUNT PUBLISHES ORIGINAL AMERICAN WORKS MRS.
EARLY in the year 1818 I was married to the daughter of
Stephen Rowe Bradley, of Westminster, Vermont. Thus
established in life, I pursued the business of bookseller and
publisher at Hartford for four years. My vocation gave me
the command of books, but I was able to read very little
my eyes continuing to be so weak, that I could hardly do jus-
tice to my affairs. However, I dipped into a good many
books, and acquired a considerable knowledge of authors and
During the period in which Scott had been enchanting
the world with his poetry that is, from 1805 to 1815 I
had shared in the general intoxication. The Lady of the
Lake delighted me beyond expression, and even now, it seems
to me the most pleasing and perfect of metrical romances.
These productions seized powerfully upon the popular mind,
partly on account of the romance of their revelations, and
partly also because of the simplicity of the style, and the easy
flow of the versification. Everybody could read and com-
prehend them. One of my younger sisters committed the
whole of the Lady of the Lake to memory, and was ac-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 153
eustomed of an evening to sit at her sewing, while she recited
it to an admiring circle of listeners. All young poets were
inoculated with the octo-syllabic verse, and newspapers,
magazines, and even volumes, teemed with imitations and
variations inspired by the " Wizard Harp of the North."
JSTot only did Scott himself continue to pour out volume after
volume, but others produced set poems in his style, some of
them so close in their imitation as to be supposed the works
of Scott himself, trying the effect of a disguise. At last,
however, the market was overstocked, and the general ap-
petite began to pall with a surfeit, when a sudden change
took place in the public taste.
It was just at this point that Byron produced his first
canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.
Scott speedily appreciated the eclipse to which his poetical
career was doomed by the rising genius of Byron. He now
turned his attention to prose fiction, and in July, 1814, com-
pleted and published Waverley, which had been begun some
eight or ten years before. Guy Mannering came out the
next year, and was received with a certain degree of eager-
ness. The Antiquary, Black Dwarf, Old Mortality, Rob
Roy, and the Heart of Mid-Lothian, followed in quick suc-
cession. I suspect that never, in any age, have the pro-
ductions of any author created in the world so wide and deep
an enthusiasm. This emotion reached its height upon the
appearance of Ivanhoe in 1819, which, I think, proved the
most popular of these marvellous productions.
At this period, although there was a good deal of mystery
as to their authorship, the public generally referred them to
Scott. He was called the " Great Unknown" a title which
154 The Story of
served to create even an adventitious interest in Ms career.
The appearance of a new tale from his pen caused a greater
sensation in the United States than did some of the battles of
Napoleon, which decided the fate of thrones and empires.
Everj' body read these works; everybody. the refined and
the simple shared in the delightful dreams which seemed
to transport them to remote ages and distant climes, and made
them live and breathe in the presence of the stern Covenanters
of Scotland, the gallant bowmen of Sherwood Forest, or even
the Crusaders in Palestine, where Coeur de Lion and Saladin
were seen struggling for the mastery ! I can testify to my
own share in this intoxication. I was not able, on account
of my eyes, to read these works myself, but I found friends
to read them to me. To one good old maid Heaven bless
her ! I was indebted for the perusal of no less than seven
of these tales.
Of course, there were many editions of these works in the
United States, and among others, I published an edition, I
think, in eight volumes, octavo including those which had
appeared at that time.
About this time I began to think of trying to bring out
original American works. It must be remembered that I am
speaking of a period prior to 1820. At that date, Bryant,
Irving, and Cooper, the founders of our modern literature,
had just commenced their literary career. Neither of them
had acquired a positive reputation. Halleck, Percival, Brain-
ard, Longfellow, Willis, were at school at least, all were
unknown. The general impression was that we had not,
and could not, have a literature. It was the precise point at
which Sidney Smith had uttered that bitter taunt in the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 155
Edinburgh Review " Who reads an American book?" It
proved to be that " darkest hour just before the dawn." The
successful booksellers of the country were for the most part
the mere reproducers and sellers of English books. It was
positively injurious to the commercial credit of a bookseller to
undertake American works, unless they might be Morse's
Geographies, classical books, school-books, devotional books,
or other utilitarian works.
Nevertheless, about this time I published an edition of
Trumbull's poems, in two volumes, octavo, and paid him a
thousand dollars, and a hundred copies of the work, for the
copyright. I was seriously counselled against this by several
booksellers and, in fact, Trumbull had sought a publisher
in vain for several years previous. There was an association
of designers and engravers at Hartford, called the " Graphic
Company," and as I desired to patronise the liberal arts there,
I employed them to execute the embellishments. For so con-
siderable an enterprise, I took the precaution to get a sub-
scription, in which I was tolerably successful. The work was
at last produced, but it did not come up to the public ex-
pectation, or the patriotic zeal had cooled, and more than half
the subscribers declined taking the work. I did not press it,
but putting a good face upon the affair, I let it pass, and
while the public supposed I had made money by my enter-
prise, and even the author looked askance at me in the jealous
apprehension that I had made too good a bargain out of him
I quietly pocketed a loss of about a thousand dollars.
This was my first serious adventure in patronising American
About the same period I turned my attention to books for
156 The Story of
education and books for children, being strongly impressed
with the idea that there was here a large field for improve-
ment. I wrote, myself, a small arithmetic, and half-a-dozen
toy-books, and published them anonymously. I also em-
ployed several persons to write school histories, and educa-
tional manuals of chemistry, natural philosophy, &c., upon
plans which I prescribed all of which I published ; but
none of these were very successful at that time. Some of
them, passing into other hands, are now among the most
popular and profitable school-books in the country.
It was at this period that Miss Huntly, now Mrs.
Sigourney, was induced to leave her home in Norwich, and
make Hartford her residence. This occurred about the year
1814. Ere long she was the presiding genius of our social
circle. I shall not write her history, nor dilate upon her
literary career, yet I may speak of her influence in this new
relation a part of which fell upon myself. Mingling in the
gaieties of our social gatherings, and in no respect clouding
their festivity, she led us all toward intellectual pursuits and
amusements. We had even a literary coterie under her in-
spiration, its first meetings being held at Mr. Wadsworth's. I
believe one of my earliest attempts at composition was made
here. The ripples thus begun, extended over the whole sur-
face of our young society, producing a lasting and refining
effect. It could not but be beneficial thus to mingle in inter-
course with one who has the faculty of seeing poetry in all
things, and good everywhere. Few persons living have exer-
cised a wider influence than Mrs. Sigourney. No one that I
now know can look back upon a long and earnest career of
such unblemished beneficence.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 157
DOMESTIC TROUBLES SKETCH OF BRAINARD AUNT LUCY*S
BACK-PARLOUR THE FALL OF NIAGARA DEATH OF
IN 1821, clouds and darkness began to gather around my
path. By a fall from a horse, I was put upon crutches for
more than a year, and a cane for the rest of my life. Ere
long death entered my door, and my home was desolate. I
was once more alone save only that a child was left me,
to grow to womanhood, and to die a youthful mother, loving
and beloved. My affairs became embarrassed, my health
failed, and my only hope of renovation was in a change of
Before I give you a sketch of my experience and observa-
tions abroad, I must present the portrait of my friend Brain-
ard. He came to Hartford in February, 1822, to take the
editorial charge of the Connecticut Mirror. He was now
twenty-six years old, and had gained some reputation for wit
and poetical talent. One day a young man, small in stature,
with a curious mixture of ease and awkwardness, of humour
and humility, came into my office, and introduced himself as
Mr. Brainard. I gave him a hearty welcome, for I had heard
very pleasant accounts of him. As was natural, I made a
158 The Story of
complimentary allusion to Ms poems, which I had seen and
admired. A smile, yet shaded with something of melancholy,
came over his face as he replied,
" Don't expect too much of me ; I never succeeded in
anything yet. I never could draw a mug of cider without
spilling more than half of it ! "
I afterwards found that much truth was thus spoken in
jest. This was, in point of fact, precisely Brainard's appre-
ciation of himself. All his life, feeling that he could do
something, he still entertained a mournful and disheartening
conviction that, on the whole, he was doomed to failure and
disappointment. There was sad prophecy in this presentment
a prophecy which he at once made and fulfilled.
We soon became friends, and, at last, intimates. I was
now boarding at " Eipley's" a good old-fashioned tavern,
over which presided Major Ripley, respected for revolutionary
services, an amiable character, and a long Continental queue.
In the administration of the establishment he was ably sup-
ported by his daughter, Aunt Lucy the very genius of
tavern courtesy, cookery, and comfort. Here Brainard joined
me, and we took rooms side by side. Thus, for more than a
year, we were together, as intimate as brothers. He was of a
child-like disposition, and craved constant sympathy. He
soon got into the habit of depending upon me in many things,
and at last especially in dull weather, or when he was sad,
or something went wrong with him he would creep into my
bed, as if it were his right. At that period of gloom in my
own fortunes, this was as well a solace to me as to him.
After my return from Europe we resumed these relations,
and for some months more we were thus together.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 159
I cannot do better than sketch a single incident, which will
give you some insight into Brainard's character. The scene
opens in Miss Lucy's little back-parlour a small, cosy,
carpeted room, with two cushioned rocking-chairs, and a
bright hickory fire. It is a chill November night, about
seven o'clock of a Friday evening. The Mirror Brainard's
paper is to appear the next morning. The week has thus
far passed, and he has not written for it a line. How the
days have gone he can hardly tell. He has read a little
dipped into Byron, pored over the last Waverley novel, and
been to see his friends ; at all events, he has got rid of the
time. He has not felt competent to bend down to his work,
and has put it off till the last moment. No further delay is
possible. He is now not well ; he has a severe cold.
Miss Lucy, who takes a motherly interest in him, tells
him not to go out, and his own inclinations suggest the
charms of a quiet evening in the rocking chair, by a good
fire especially in comparison with going to his comfortless
office, and drudging for the press. He lingers till eight, and
then suddenly rousing himself, by a desperate effort, throws
on his cloak and sallies forth. As was not uncommon, I go
with him. A dim fire is kindled in the small Franklin stove
in his office, and we sit down. Brainard, as was his wont,
especially when he was in trouble, falls into a curious train
of reflections, half comic and half serious.
" Would to Heaven," he says, " I were a slave ! I think
a slave, with a good master, has a good time of it. The
responsibility of taking care of himself the most terrible
burden of life is put on his master's shoulders. Madame
Roland, with a slight alteration, would have uttered a pro-
1 60 The Story of
found truth. She should have said ' Oh, Liberty, Liberty,
thou art a humbug!' After all, liberty is the greatest pos-
sible slavery, for it puts upon a man the " responsibility of
taking care of himself. If he goes wrong why, he's con-
demned ! If a slave sins, he 's only flogged, and gets over it,
and there's an end of it. Now, if I could only be flogged,
and settle the matter that way, I should be perfectly happy.
But here comes my tormentor."
The door is now opened, and a boy with a touselled head
and inky countenance enters, saying curtly " Copy, Mr.
"Come in fifteen minutes !" says the editor, with a droll
mixture of fun and despair.
Brainard makes a few observations, and sits down at his
little narrow pine table hacked along the edges with many
a restless penknife. He seems to notice these marks, and
pausing a moment, says,
" This table reminds me of one of my brother William's
stories. There was an old man in Groton, who had but one
child, and she was a daughter. When she was about eighteen,
several young men came to see her. At last she picked out
one of them, and desired to marry him. He seemed a fit
match enough, but the father positively refused his consent.
For a long time he persisted, and would give no reason for his
conduct. At last he took his daughter aside, and said
' Now, Sarah, I think pretty well of this young man in
general, but I 've observed that he 's given to whittling.
There 's no harm in that, but the point is this : he whittles
and whittles, and never makes nothing ! Now, I '11 tell you,
I '11 never give my only daughter to such a feller as that ! '
Peter Parley's Own Life. 161
Whenever Bill told this story, he used to insinuate that this
whittling chap, who never made anything, was me ! At any-
rate, I think it would have suited me exactly."
Some time passed in similar talk, when, at last, Brainard
turned suddenly, took up his pen, and began to write. I sat
apart, and left him to his work. Some twenty minutes
passed, when, with a smile on his face, he got up, approached
the fire, and taking the candle to light his paper, read as fol-
"THE FALL OF N1AGAEA.
" The thoughts are strange that crowd into my brain,
While I look upward to thee. It would seem
As if God pour'd thee from his ' hollow hand,'
And hung his bow upon thy awful front ;
And spoke in that loud voice that seem'd to him
Who dwelt in Patmos for his Saviour's sake,
' The sound of many waters ;' and had bade
Thy flood to chronicle the ages back,
And notch his cent'ries in the eternal rocks !"
He had hardly done reading when the boy came. Brainard
handed him the lines on a small scrap of coarse paper
and told him to come again in half-an-hour. Before this
time had elapsed, he had finished and read me the following
" Deep calleth unto deep. And what are we
That hear the question of that voice sublime ?
Oh ! what are all the notes that ever rung
From war's vain trumpet by thy thundering side ?
Yea, what is all the riot man can make,
In his short life, to thy unceasing roar ?
And yet, bold babbler, what art thou to Him
Who drown'd a world, and heap'd the waters far
Above its loftiest mountains ? A light wave,
That breathes and whispers of its Maker's might."
1 62 The Story of
These lines having teen furnished, Brainard left his office,
and we returned to Miss Lucy's parlour. He seemed utterly
unconscious of what he had done. I praised the verses, but
he thought I only spoke warmly from friendly interest. The
lines went forth, and produced a sensation of delight over the
whole country. Almost every exchange paper that came to
the office had extracted them. Even then he would scarcely
believe that he had done anything very clever. And thus,
under these precise circumstances, were composed the most
suggestive and sublime stanzas upon Niagara that were ever
penned. Brainard had never, as he told me, been within less
than five hundred miles of the cataract, nor do I believe that,
when he went to the office, he had meditated upon the sub-
The reader will see, from the circumstances I have men-
tioned, that I knew the history of most of Brainard's pieces,
as they came out, from time to time, in his newspaper.
Nearly all of them were occasional that is, suggested by
passing events, or incidents in the poet's experience.
Early in the year 1825 I persuaded Brainard to make a
collection of his poems, and have them published. At first
his lip curled at the idea, as being too pretentious. He in-
sisted that he had done nothing to justify the publication of a
volume. Gradually he began to think of it, and, at length, I
induced him to sign a contract authorising me to make ar-
rangements for the work. He set about the preparation, and
at length after much lagging and many lapses the pieces
were selected and arranged. When all was ready, I persuaded
him to go to New York with me to settle the matter with a
Peter Parley's Own Life. 163
One anecdote, in addition to those already before the
public, and I shall close this sketch. Brainard's talent for
repartee was of the first order. On one occasion, Nathan
Smith, an eminent lawyer, was at Ripley's tavern, in the
midst of a circle of judges and lawyers attending the court.
He was an Episcopalian, and at this time was considered by
his political adversaries unjustly, no doubt as the paid
agent of that persuasion, now clamoring for a sum of money
from the State, to lay the foundation of a " Bishops' Fund."
He was thus regarded somewhat in the same light as O'Con-
nell, who, while he was the great patriot leader of Irish inde-
pendence, was, at the same time, liberally supported by the
" rint." By accident, Brainard came in, and Smith, noticing
a little feathery attempt at whiskers down his cheek, rallied
him upon it.
" It will never do," said he ; " you cannot raise it,
Brainard. Come, here's sixpence take that, and go to the
barber's and get it shaved off ! It will smooth your cheek,
and ease your conscience."
Brainard drew himself up, and said with great dignity
as Smith held out the sixpence on the point of his forefinger
" No, sir, you had better keep it for the Bishops' Fund !"
In Brainard's editorial career though he was negligent,
dilatory, sometimes almost imbecile, from a sort of constitu-
tional inertness still a train of inextinguishable light re-
mains to gleam along his path. Many a busy, toiling editor
has filled his daily columns for years, without leaving a
living page behind him ; while Brainard, with all his fail-
ings and irregularities, has left a collection of gems which will
be cherished to immortality. And among all that he wrote
164 fhe Story of
idly and recklessly, as it might seem there is not a line that,
" dying, he could wish to blot." His love of parents, of
home, of kindred, was beautiful indeed ; his love of nature,
and especially of the scenes of his childhood, was the affection
X)f one never weaned from the remembrance of his mother's
breast. He was true in friendship, chivalrous in all that
belonged to personal honour. I never heard him utter a ma-
lignant thought I never knew him to pursue an unjust
design. At the early age of eight-and-twenty, with a submis-
eive spirit, he resigned himself to death, and in pious, gentle,
cheerful faith, he departed on the 26th of September, 1828.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 165
FIRST VISIT TO EUROPE HURRICANE ARRIVAL AT LIVER-
POOL LONDON TRAVELS ON THE CONTINENT RETURN
TO BRISTOL INTERVIEW WITH HANNAH MORE DESIGN
IN TRAVELLING VISITS IRELAND AND SCOTLAND.
IT was on the llth of November, 1823, that I set sail in the
" Canada," Captain Macy, on my first visit to Europe. I
have now before me four volumes of notes made during my
tour ; which I might, perhaps, have ventured to publish when
they were fresh ; but since that period the world has been in-
undated with tales of travels. I shall therefore only indulge
in a rapid outline of my adventures, and a few sketches of
men and things, which may perchance be of interest to the
Our voyage was, as usual at that season of the year,
tempestuous. As we approached the British Islands we were
beset by a regular hurricane. On the 5th of December, the
Captain kindly informed us that were almost precisely in the
situation of the " Albion," the day before she was wrecked on
the rocky headland of Kinsale, at the south-east extremity of
Ireland ; an event which had spread general gloom through-
out the United States. As night set in we were struck by a
squall, and with difficulty the vessel was brought round, so as
1 66 The Story of
to lie to. The storm was fearful ; and the frequent concus-
sions of the waves upon the ship, sounding like reports of
artillery, made her reel and stagger like a drunken man. The
morning came at last, and the weather was fair, but our deck
was swept of its boats, bulwarks, and hen-coops. Our old
cow in her hovel, the covering of the steerage, and that of the
companion-way, were saved. The next morning we took a
pilot, and on the 8th of December entered the dock at Liver-
I had suffered fearfully by sea-sickness, and had scarcely
strength to walk ashore. I felt such horror such disgust of
the sea that I could easily have pledged myself never to
venture upon it again. However, this all passed away like a
dream : my strength revived ; and even my constitution, shat-
tered by long suffering, seemed to be renovated. With the
return of health and spirits, my journey to London was de-
lightful. Though it was December, the landscape was in-
tensely green, while the atmosphere was dark as twilight.
And this was England ! Oh, what emotions filled my breast
as I looked on Kenilworth, Warwick, and Lichfield, and at
last on London !
I remained in the latter place about a month, and then
went to Paris. In April I visited Switzerland and a portion
of Germany, and followed the Khine to Cologne. Thence I
travelled through Flanders and Holland, and taking a sloop
at Rotterdam, swung down the Maese, and in May reached
I soon after departed for Bristol, taking Salisbury and
Stonehenge in my way. Having reached that city, and seen
its sights, I hired a post-coach, and went to Barley-wood;
Peter Parley's Own Life. 167
some ten miles distant. Hannah. More was still living there !
The house was a small thatched edifice half-cottage and
half- villa tidily kept, and garnished with vines and trel-
lises. Its site was on a gentle hill, sloping to the south-east,
and commanding a charming view over the undulating country
around, including the adjacent village of Wrington, with
a wide valley sloping to the Bristol Channel; the latter
sparkling in the distance, and bounded by the Welsh moun-
tains in the far horizon. Behind the house, and on the crown
of the hill, was a small copse, threaded with neat gravel walks,
and at particular points embellished with objects of interest.
In one place there was a little rustic temple, with this motto
"Audi, Hospes, contemnere opes;" in another, there was a stone
monument, erected to the memory of Bishop Porteus, who
had been a particular friend of the proprietor of the place. A
little further on I found another monument, with this inscrip-
tion : " To John Locke, born in this village, this monument is
erected by Mrs. Montague, and presented to Hannah More"
From this sequestered spot an artificial opening was cut
through the foliage of the trees, giving a view of the house
about a mile distant in which Locke was born!
Mrs. More was now seventy -nine years of age, and was
very infirm, having kept her room for two years.
She received me with great cordiality, and mentioned
several Americans who had visited her, and others, with whom
she had held correspondence. Her mind and feelings were
alive to every subject that was suggested. She spoke very
freely of her writings and her career. I told her of the in-
terest I had taken, when a child, in the story of the Shepherd
of Salisbury Plain ; upon which she recounted its history,
1 68 The Story of
remarking that the character of the hero was modelled from
life, though the incidents were fictitious. Her tract, called
Village Politics, by Witt Chip, was written at the request
of the British Ministry, and two million copies were sold the
first year. She showed me copies of Coelebs in Search of a
Wife the most successful of her works in French and
German ; and a copy of one of her Sacred Dramas, Moses
in the Bulrushes, on palm-leaves, in the Cingalese tongue;
it having been translated into that language by the Missionary
School at Ceylon. She showed me also the knife with which
the leaf had been prepared, and the scratches made in it to re-
ceive the ink. She expressed a warm interest in America,
and stated that Wilberforce had always exerted himself to
establish and maintain good relations between Great Britain
and our country. I suggested to her that, in the United
States, the general impression that of the great mass of the
people was that the English were unfriendly to us. She
said it was not so. I replied that the Americans all read the
English newspapers, and generally the products of the British
press ; that feelings of dislike, disgust, animosity, certainly
pervaded most of these publications ; and it was natural to
suppose that these were the reflections of public opinion in
Great Britain : at all events, our people regarded them as
such, and hence inferred that England was our enemy. She
expressed great regret at this state of things, and said all good
people should strive to keep peace between the two countries :
to all which I warmly assented.
My interview with this excellent lady was, on the whole,
most gratifying. Regarding her as one of the greatest bene-
factors of the age >as, indeed, one of the most remarkable
Peter Parley's Own Life. 169
women that had ever lived I looked upon her not only with
veneration, but affection. Besides, I felt that I owed her a
special debt ; and my visit to her was almost like a pilgrimage
to the shrine of a divinity. When I left America, I had it in
mind to render my travels subservient to a desire I had long
entertained of making an improvement in books for the young.
I had sought in London, France, and Germany, for works
that might aid my design. It is true I had little success ; for
while scientific and classical education was sedulously encou-
raged on the Continent, as well as in England, it seemed to be
thought that Dilworth and Mother Goose had done all that
could be done. In this interview with Mrs. More I had the
subject still in mind ; and discerning by what she had accom-
plished the vast field that was open, and actually inviting cul-
tivation, I began from this time to think of attempting to
realise the project I had formed. It is true that, in some
respects, the example I had just contemplated differed from
my own scheme. Hannah More had written chiefly for the
grown-up masses ; whereas my plan was to begin further
back with the children. Her means, however, seemed
adapted to my purpose : her success, to encourage my at-
tempt. She had discovered that truth could be made attrac-
tive to simple minds. Fiction was, indeed, often her vehicle ;
but it was not her end. The great charm of these works,
which had captivated the million, was their verisimilitude.
Was there not, then, a natural relish for truth in all minds ;
or, at least, was there not a way of presenting it, which made
it even more interesting than romance? Did not children
love truth ? If so, was it necessary to feed them on fiction ?
Could not History, Natural History, Geography, Biography,
170 The Story of
become the elements of juvenile works, in place of fairies and
giants, and mere monsters of the imagination ? These were
the inquiries that from this time filled my mind.
Taking leave of Barley-wood and its interesting occupant,
I traversed Wales, and embarking at Holyhead, passed over
to Ireland. Having seen Dublin, with the extraordinary
contrasts of sumptuousness in some of its streets and edifices,
with the fearful squalidness and poverty in others, I passed
on to the North ; and after visiting the Giant's Causeway re-
turned to Belfast, and embarked in a steamboat for Greenock.
, Thence I proceeded toward Dumbarton, and in the early
evening, as I approached the town in a small steamer, I
realised in the distance before me the scene of the song,
" The sun has gone down o'er the lofty Ben Lomond,
And left the red clouds to preside o'er the scene."
On the morrow I went to Loch Lomond, crossing the lake
in a steamboat ; thence on foot to Callender ; and spent two
days around Loch Katrine, amid the scenery of the Lady of
the Lake. With a copy of that poem in my hand, .which I
had bought of a countryman on the borders of Loch Lomond,
I easily traced out the principal landmarks of the story:
" Ellen's Isle," nearly in the middle of the lake ; on the
northern shore, " the Silver Strand," where the maiden met
Fitz- James ; far to the east, Benain, rearing its " forehead
fair" to the sky; to the south, the rocky pyramid called
" Roderick's Watch-tower;" and still beyond, the " Goblin's
Cave." Leaving the lake, I passed through the Trosachs, a
wild, rocky glen, and the scene of the most startling events in
the poem. At last I came to Coilantogle Ford, where the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 171
deadly struggle took place between the two heroes of the poem
Roderick and Fitz- James. Finally, I went to the borders
of Loch Achray, a placid sheet of water, beautiful by nature,
but still more enchanting through the delightful associations
of poetic art.
" The minstrel came once more to view
The eastern ridge of Benvenue,
For, ere he parted, he would say
Farewell to lovely Loch Achray.
Where shall he find, in foreign land,
So lone a lake, so sweet a strand!"
But I must forbear. I have pledged myself not to weary
my reader with descriptions of scenery, and especially with
that which is familiar to every one. I will try not to sin
again : at least till I get out of Scotland. Having spent two
days in this region of poetry and romance, I left for Glasgow,
and at last reached Edinburgh.
172 The Story of
THE EDINBURGH LIONS LITERARY CELEBRITIES JEFFREY
IN THE FORUM SIR WALTER AT THE DESK RIDING
WITH SCOTCH LADIES BEAUTIFUL SCENERY A SCOTCH
MIST MORAL TO HIS COUNTRYMEN.
EDINBURGH was then decidedly the literary metropolis of the
three kingdoms ; not through the amount of its productions,
but their superiority. I had several letters of introduction ;
among them one to Blackwood ; another to Constable ; another
to Miss Y . The latter proved fortunate. Her father
was a Writer to the Signet ; an elderly gentleman of excellent
position, and exceedingly fond of showing off " Auld Reekie."
Well, indeed, might he be ; for of all the cities I have seen, it
is, in many respects, the most interesting. I am told it is
gloomy in winter; but now it was summer. And in these
high latitudes, nature makes ample amends in this season for
the gloom and inclemency of the winter.
The day after delivering my letters, Mr. Y called on
me, and showed me the lions of the town. Many of them all,
indeed were interesting ; but I pass them by, and shall only
linger a short time at the Court of Sessions, which is the su-
preme civil court of Scotland. This, with the High Court of
Justiciary the supreme criminal court forms the College
Peter Parley's Own Life. 173
of Justice, and constitutes the supreme tribunal of Scotland.
Their sessions are held in the old Parliament House, situated
in the centre of the Old Town.
We entered a large Gothic hall, opening, as I observed,
into various contiguous apartments. Here I saw a con-
siderable number of persons, mostly lawyers and their clients ;
some sauntering, some meditating, some gathered in groups
and conversing together. There was a large number of people
distributed through the several apartments, and in the grand
hall there was a pervading hum of voices, which rose and
rumbled, and died away amid the groinings of the roof
Among the persons in this hall, a man some thirty years
of age, tall and handsome, dressed in a gown, but without the
wig, attracted my particular attention. He was walking
apart, and there was a certain look of coldness and haughtiness
about him. Nevertheless, for some undefinable reason, he
excited in me a lively curiosity.
" Who is that gentleman ?" said I, to my guide.
" That large, noble-looking person, with a gown and wig ?
That is Cranstoun, one of our first lawyers, and the brother-
in-law of Dugald Stuart."
" No : that person beyond, and to the left ? He is without
" Oh, that's Oockburn ; a fiery Whig, and one" of the
keenest fellows we have at the bar."
" Yes : but I mean that younger person near the corner."
" Oh, that small, red-faced, freckled man ? Why, that's
Moncrief; a very sound lawyer. His father, Sir Harry
Moncrief, is one of the most celebrated divines in Scotland."
174 The Story of
" No, no ; it is that tall, handsome, proud-looking person,
walking by himself."
" Oh, I see : that's Lockhart, Sir Walter Scott's son-in-
law. Would you like to know him?"
And so I was introduced to a man who, at that time, was
hardly less an object of interest to me than Scott himself.
Though a lawyer by profession, he had devoted himself to
literature, and was now in the very height of his career.
Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk, Valerius, and other works,
had given him a prominent rank as a man of talent ; and,
besides, in 1820, he had married the eldest daughter of the
" Great Unknown." My conversation with him was brief at
this time, but I afterwards became well acquainted with him.
My guide now led me into one of the side-rooms, where I
saw a judge and jury, and a lawyer addressing them. The
latter was a very small man, without gown or wig, apparently
about forty years of age, though he might be somewhat older.
He was of dark complexion, with an eye of intense blackness,
and almost painfully-piercing expression. His motions were
quick and energetic, his voice sharp and penetrating ; his
general aspect exciting curiosity rather than affection. He
was speaking energetically, and as we approached the bar
my conductor said to me, in a whisper, "Jeffrey!"
We paused, and listened intently. The case in itself
seemed dry enough : something, I believe, about a stoppage
in transitu. But Jeffrey's pleading was admirable ; clear,
progressive, logical. Occasionally, in fixing upon a weak point
of his adversary, he displayed a leopard-like spring of energy,
altogether startling. He seized upon a certain point in the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 175
history of the case, and insisted that the property in question
rested at that period in the hands of the defendant's agent, for
at least a fortnight. This he claimed to be fatal to his adver-
sary's plea. Having stated the facts, with a clearness which
seemed to prove them, he said, turning with startling quick-
ness upon his antagonist, " Now, I ask my learned brother
to tell me, what was the state of the soul during that fort-
night?" To a jury of Scotch Presbyterians, familiar with
theological metaphysics, this allusion was exceedingly pertinent
We passed into another room. Three full-wigged judges
were seated upon a lofty bench, and beneath them, at a little
table in front, was a large man, bent down and writing labo-
riously. As I approached, I caught a side-view of his face.
There was no mistaking him : it was Sir Walter himself !
Was it not curious to see the most renowned personage in
the three kingdoms sitting at the very feet of these men :
they the court, and he the clerk ? They were indeed all
" lords," and their individual names were suggestive to the
ear : one was Robertson, son of the historian of Charles V. ;
another was Gillies, brother of the renowned Grecian scholar
of that name ; another, Mackenzie, son of the author of the
Man of feeling. These are high titles ; but what were they
to the author of Waverley ?
Mr. Y introduced me to him at once, breaking in
upon his occupation with easy familiarity. As he arose from
his seat, I was surprised at his robust, vigorous frame. He
was very nearly six feet in height, full-chested, and of a farmer-
like aspect. His complexion seemed to have been originally
sandy, but now his hair was grey. He had the rough,
176 The Story of
freckled, weather-beaten skin of a man who is much in the
open air ; his eye was small and grey, and peered out keenly
and inquisitively from beneath a heavy brow, edged with
something like grey, twisted bristles : the whole expression of
his face, however, was exceedingly agreeable.
He greeted me kindly, the tone of his voice being hearty,
yet with a very decided Scotch accent. A few common-
place remarks, and one or two inquiries as to my acquaintance
with American literary men, was all that passed between us
on this occasion; but subsequently, as will be seen, I was
more highly favoured.
One morning I found a note at my hotel, from Miss
Y , inviting me to breakfast. I went at ten, and we had
a pleasant chat. She then proposed a ride, to which I ac-
ceded. She was already in her riding-habit ; so without
delay we went forth, calling first upon Mrs. Russell. She led
us into another room, and there, on the floor, in a romp with
her two boys, was Francis Jeffrey!* Think of the first
* Mr. Jeffrey was born in Edinburgh in 1773. He was admitted
to the bar at the age of twenty-one ; having little practice for a time,
he sedulously pursued the study of belles-lettres, history, ethics,
criticism, &c. In 1802, at the age of twenty-nine, he founded the
Edinburgh Review, of which he continued as principal editor till 1829
placing it above every other work of the kind which had ever
appeared. In ]81(3 he was acknowledged to be at the head of the
Scottish bar as an advocate. Having held other high stations, he was
appointed, in 1830, Lord-Advocate of Scotland, and became a member
of Parliament. In 1834 he was raised to the bench as one of the
judges of the Court of Sessions. He died at Edinburgh in 1850. He
married in 1813, at New York, Miss Wilkes, grand-niece of the cele-
brated John Wilkes of England. In 1815 he became the occupant of
the villa of Craigcrook, near Edinburgh, anciently a monastery, but
improved and beautified. Here he was residing at the time I saw him.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 177
lawyer in Scotland, the lawgiver of the great republic of
letters throughout Christendom, having a rough-and-tumble
on the floor, as if he were himself a boy ! Let others think
as they will, I loved him from that moment ; and ever after,
as I read his criticisms, cutting and scorching as they often
were, I fancied that I could still see a kind and genial spirit
shining through them all. At least it is certain that, behind
his editorial causticity, there was in private life a fund of gen-
tleness and geniality which endeared him to all who enjoyed
his intimacy. I was now introduced to him, and he seemed
a totally different being from the fierce and fiery gladiator of
the legal arena, where I had before seen him. His manners
were gentle and gentlemanly : polite to the ladies and gracious
We found Mrs. Russell in a riding-dress, and prepared to
accompany us in our excursion. Taking leave of Mr. Jeffrey,
we went to the stable, and having mounted, walked our steeds
gently out of the town by Holyrood, and to the east of Ar-
thur's Seat, leaving Portobello on the left. We rode steadily,
noting a few objects as we passed, until at last, reaching an
elevated mound, we paused, and the ladies directed my atten-
tion to the scenes around. We were some two miles south of
the town, upon one of the slopes of the Braid Hills. What
a view was before us ! The city, a vast smoking hive, to the
north ; and to the right, Arthur's Seat, bald and blue, seeming
to rise up and almost peep into its streets and chimneys. Over
and beyond all was the sea. The whole area between the
point where we stood and that vast azure line, blending with
the sky, was a series of abrupt hills and dimpling valleys,
threaded by a network of highways and byways ; honey-
178 The Story of
combed in spots by cities and villages, and elsewhere sprinkled
with country seats.
It is an unrivalled scene of varied beauty and interest.
The natural site of Edinburgh is remarkable, consisting of
three rocky ledges, steepling over deep ravines. These have
all been modified by art ; in one place a lake has been dried
up, and is now covered with roads, bridges, tenements, gar-
dens, and lawns. The sides of the cliffs are in some instances
covered with masses of buildings, occasionally rising tier upon
tlsr in one place presenting a line of houses a dozen stories
in height ! The city is divided by a deep chasm into two
distinct parts : the Old Town, dark and smoky, and justifying
the popular appellation of "Auld Reekie ; " the other, the New
Town, with the fresh architecture and the rich and elaborate
embellishments of a modern city. Nearly from the centre of
the old town rises the Castle, three hundred and eighty feet
above the level of the sea ; on one side looking down almost
perpendicularly, two hundred feet into the vale beneath; on
the other, holding communication with the streets by means
of a winding pathway. In the new town is Calton Hill, rich
with monuments of art and memorials of history. From these
two commanding positions the views are unrivalled.
But I forget that I have taken you to the Braid Hills.
My amiable guides directed my attention to various objects
some far and some near, and all with names familiar to his-
tory, or song, or romance. Yonder mass of dun and dismal
ruins was Craigmillar Castle, once the residence of Queen
Mary. Nearly in the same direction, and not remote, is the
cliff, above whose bosky sides peer out the massive ruins of
Roslin Castle ; further south are glimpses of Dalkeith Palace,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 179
the sumptuous seat of the Duke of Buccleuch ; there is the
busy little village of Lasswade, which takes the name of
" Gandercleugh" in the Tales of my Landlord ; yonder winds
the Esk, and there the Galawater both familiar in many a
song; and there is the scenery of the Gentle Shepherd,
presenting the very spot where that inimitable colloquy took
place between Peggy and her companion Jenny,
" Gae farer up the burn to Habbie's How,
Where a' the sweets p' spring an' summer grow :
Between twa birks, out o'er a little linn,
The water fa's and makes a singan din :
A pool, breast deep, beneath as clear as glass,
Kisses wi 1 easy whirls the bordering grass.
We '11 end our washing while the morning 's cool,
And when the day grows hot we '11 to the pool,
There wash oursels it 's healthful now in May,
An' sweetly caller on sae warm a day."
While we were surveying these scenes the rain began to
fall in a fine, insinuating mizzle; soon large drops pattered
through the fog, and at last there was a drenching shower.
I supposed the ladies would seek some shelter ; not they :
accustomed to all the humours of this drizzly climate, and of
course defying them. They pulled off their green veils, and
stuffed them into their saddle-pockets; then chirruping to
their steeds, they sped along the road, as if mounted on
broomsticks. I was soon wet through, and so, doubtless,
were they. However, they took to it as ducks to a pond.
On we went, the water accelerated by our speed spouting
in torrents from our stirrups. In all my days I had never
such an adventure. And the coolness with which the ladies
took it, that was the most remarkable. Indeed, it was
i8o The Story of
provoking : for as they would not accept sympathy, of course
they could not give it, though my reeking condition would
have touched any other heart than theirs. On we went, till
at last, coming to the top of a hill, we suddenly cropped out
into the sunshine, the shower still scudding along the valley
beneath us. We continued our ride, getting once more soaked
on our way, and again drying in the sun. At last we reached
home, having made a circuit of fifteen miles. Scarcely a word
was said of the rain. I saw the ladies to their residences, and
was thankful when I found myself once more in my hotel.
As a just moral of this adventure, I suggest to any
American, who may ride with Scotch ladies around Edinburgh,
not to go forth in his best dress -coat, and trousers without
Peter Parley's Own Life. 1 8 1
BLACKWOOD LICENTIOUSNESS OP BYRON'S MSB. THE
GENERAL ASSEMBLY SIR WALTER SCOTT MR. AND
MRS. LOCKHART ORIGIN OF " TAM o'sHANTER " LAST
WORDS OP SCOTT.
I DELIVERED my letter of introduction to Blackwood, and
he treated me very kindly. I found him an exceedingly
intelligent and agreeable gentleman. The Magazine which
bears his name was then in its glory, and of course a part of
its radiance shone on him. He was a man of excellent judg-
ment in literary matters, and his taste, no doubt, contributed
largely to the success of the Magazine.
Of course I was gratified at receiving from him a note,
inviting me to dine with him the next day. His house was
on the south of the old town, nearly two miles distant. The
persons present were such as I should myself have selected :
among them Lockhart and James Ballantyne. I sat next the
latter, and found him exceedingly agreeable and gentlemanlike.
He was a rather large man, handsome, smooth in person and
manner, and very well dressed. It must be remembered, that
at this time Scott did not acknowledge that he was the author
of the Waverley novels, nor did his friends. Perhaps the mys-
tery was even promoted by them ; for, no doubt, it added to
the interest excited by his works. However, the veil was not
1 82 The Story of
closely preserved in the circle of intimacy. Ballantyne said to
me, in the course of a conversation which turned upon the
popularity of authors, as indicated by the sale of their
works, " We have now in course of preparation forty thou-
sand volumes of Scott's poems and the works of the author
of Waverley:" evidently intimating the identity of their
There was nothing remarkable in the conversation save
only what related to Byron. The news of his death at Misso-
longhi had reached Scotland a few weeks before, and produced
a profound sensation. Even while I was there, the interest in
the subject had not subsided. Mr. Lockhart had not known
Byron personally, but he was in London soon after his de-
parture for tha Continent and at several subsequent periods,
and he gave us many interesting details respecting him. He
was frequently at Lady Caroline Lamb's soirdes, where Byron
was the frequent theme of comment. She had a drawer -full
of his letters, and intimate friends were permitted to read them.
She had also borrowed of Murray the poet's manuscript auto-
biography given to Moore, and had copied some of its pas-
sages. This was soon discovered, and she was obliged to
suppress them ; but still passages of them got into circulation.
The work was written in a daring, reckless spirit, setting at
defiance all the laws of propriety, and even of decency. It
was obvious, from what was said by Mr. Lockhart and
others, that such were the gross personalities and the general
licentiousness of this production, that it was impossible for
any respectable publisher to be concerned in giving it to the
world. The consignment of it to the flames by his friends,
was as much dictated by regard to thjeir own characters as
Peter Parley's Own Life, 183
to the fame of the author, which was in a certain degree
committed to their keeping.
The next day I went to St. Giles's Church, to see the
General Assembly, then holding its annual session there.
This body consisted of nearly four hundred members, chosen
by different parishes, boroughs, and universities. The sessions
are attended by a Commissioner appointed by the Crown, but
he is seated outside of the area assigned to the Assembly, and
has no vote, and no right of debate. He sits under a canopy,
with the insignia of royalty, and a train of gaily-dressed
pages. He opens the sessions in the name of the King, the
Head of the Church : the Moderator then opens it in the
name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only true Head of the
Church ! It appears that the Scotch, in bargaining for a
union with England, took good care to provide for their
religious independence, and this they still jealously preserve.
The aspect of the Assembly was similar to that of the
House of Commons, though somewhat graver. I observed
that the debates were often stormy, with scraping of the floor,
laughing aloud, and cries of " Hear, hear ! " The members
were, in fact, quite disorderly, showing at least as little regard
for decorum as ordinary legislatures. Sir Walter Scott once
remarked, in my hearing, that it had never yet been decided
how many more than six members could speak at once !
The persons here pointed out to me as celebrities were
Dr. Chalmers, the famous pulpit orator ; Dr. Cook, the eccle-
siastical historian ; and Dr. Baird, principal of the University.
The first of these was now at the height of his fame. He had
already begun those reforms which, some years later, resulted
in a disruption of the Scottish Church.
184 The Story of
A few days after the dinner at Mr. Blackwood's I dined
with Mr. Lockhart. Besides the host and hostess, there were
present Sir Walter Scott, his son, Charles Scott, Mr. Black-
wood, and three or four other persons. At dinner I sat next
Sir Walter. Everything went off pleasantly, with the usual
ease, hospitality, and heartiness of an English dinner.
After the ladies had retired the conversation became
general and animated. Byron was the engrossing topic.
Sir Walter spoke of him with the deepest feeling of admira-
tion and regret. A few weeks before, on the receipt of the
news of his death, he had written an obituary notice of him,
in which he compared him to the sun, withdrawn from the
heavens at the very moment when every telescope was
levelled to discover either his glory or his spots.
Lockhart and Blackwood both told stories, and we passed
a pleasant half hour. The wine was at last rather low, and
our host ordered the servant to bring more. Upon which
Scott said, "No, no, Lokert" such was his pronunciation of
his son-in-law's name " we have had enough : let us go and
see the ladies." And so we gathered to the parlour.
Mrs. Lockhart spoke with great interest of Washington
Irving, who had visited the family at Abbotsford. She said
that he slept in a room which looked out on the Tweed. In
the morning, when he came down to breakfast, he was very
pale, and being asked the reason, confessed that he had not
been able to sleep. The sight of the Tweed from his window,
and the consciousness of being at Abbotsford, so filled his ima-
gination, so excited his feelings, as to deprive him of slumber.
Our lively hostess was requested to give us some music,
and instantly complied the harp being her instrument. She
Peter Parley's Own Life. 185
sang Scotch airs, and played several pibrochs, all with taste
and feeling. Her range of tunes seemed* inexhaustible. Her
father sat by, and entered heartily into the performances. He
beat time vigorously with his lame leg, and frequently helped
out a chorus, the heartiness of his tones making up for some
delinquencies in tune and time. Often he made remarks upon
the songs, and told anecdotes respecting them. When a cer-
tain pibroch had been played, he said it reminded him of the
first time he ever saw Miss Edgeworth. There had come to
Abbotsford a wild Gaelic peasant from the neighbourhood of
Staffa, and it was proposed to him to sing a pibroch common
in that region. He had consented, but required the whole
party present to sit in a circle on the floor, while he should
sing the song, and perform a certain pantomimic accompani-
ment, in the centre. All was accordingly arranged in the
great hall, and the performer had just begun his wild chant,
when in walked a small but stately lady, and announced
herself as Miss Edgeworth!
Mrs. Lockhart asked me about the American Indians,
expressing great curiosity concerning them. I told the story
of one who was tempted to go into the rapids of the Niagara
river, just above the Falls, for a bottle of rum. This he took
with him, and having swam out to the point agreed upon, he
turned back and attempted to regain the land. For a long
time the result was doubtful : he struggled powerfully, but in
vain ; inch by inch he receded from the shore ; and at last,
finding his doom sealed, he raised himself above the water,
wrenched the cork from the bottle, and putting the latter to
his lips, yielded to the current, and thus went down to his
1 86 The Story of
Sir Walter then said that lie had read an account of an
Indian, who was in a boat, approaching a cataract ; by some
accident it was drawn into the current, and the savage saw
that his escape was impossible. Upon this he arose, wrapped
his robe of skins around him, seated himself erect, and, with
an air of imperturbable gravity, went over the falls.
" The most remarkable thing about the American In-
dians," said Blackwood, " is their being able to follow in the
trail of their enemies, by their footprints left in the leaves, upon
the grass, and even upon the moss of the rocks. The accounts
given of this seem hardly credible."
" I can readily believe it, however," said Sir Walter.
" You must remember that this is a part of their education.
-I have learned at Abbotsford to discriminate between the
hoof-marks of all our neighbours' horses, and I taught the
same thing to Mrs. Lockhart. It is, after all, not so difficult
as you might think. Every horse's foot has some peculiarity,
either of size, shoeing, or manner of striking the earth. I
was once walking with Southey a mile or more from home
across the fields. At last we came to a bridle-path leading
toward Abbotsford, and here I noticed fresh hoof-prints. Of
this I said nothing; but pausing, and looking up with an
inspired expression, I said to Southey, ' I have the gift of
second sight : we shall have a stranger to dinner ! '
" ' And what may be his name ? ' was the reply.
" ' Scott/ said I.
" ' Ah, it is some relation of yours,' he said ; ' you have
invited him, and you would pass off, as an example of
your Scottish gift of prophecy, a matter previously agreed
upon ! '
Peter Parley's Own Life. 187
" ' Not at all, 1 said I. ' I assure you that, till this
moment, I never thought of such a thing.'
" When we got home, I was told that Mr. Scott, a farmer
living some three or four miles distant, and a relative of mine,
was waiting to see me. Southey looked astounded. The man
remained to dinner, and he was asked if he had given any
intimation of his coming. He replied in the negative : that,
indeed, he had no idea of visiting Abbotsford when he left
home. After enjoying Southey's wonder for some time, I told
him that I saw the tracks of Mr. Scott's horse in the bridle-
path, and inferring that he was going to Abbotsford, easily
foresaw that we should have him to dinner."
Presently the conversation turned upon Burns. Scott knew
him well. He said that Tarn 0' Shanter was written to please
a stonecutter, who had executed a monument for the poet's
father, on condition that he should write him a witch -story in
verse. He stated that Burns was accustomed in his corre-
spondence, more especially with ladies, to write an elaborate
letter, and then send a copy of it to several persons ; modifying
local and personal passages to suit each individual. He said
that of some of these letters he had three or four copies, thus
addressed to different persons, and all in the poet's hand-
The evening passed in pleasant conversation, varied by the
music of Mrs. Lockhart's voice and harp ; and some amusing
imitations by a gentleman of the party, till twelve o'clock.
It will readily be supposed that my eye often turned upon
the chief figure in this interesting group. I could not for a
moment forget his presence; though nothing could be more
unpretending and modest than his whole air and bearing.
1 88 The Story of
The general effect of his face was that of calm dignity ;
and now, in the presence of children and friends, lighted by
genial emotions, it was one of the pleasantest countenances I
have ever seen. When standing or walking, his manly form,
added to an aspect of benevolence, completed the image ; at
once exciting affection and commanding respect.
His manners were quiet, unpretending, absolutely without
self-assertion. He appeared to be happy, and desirous of
making others so. He was the only person present who
seemed unconscious that he was the author of Waverley. His
intercourse with his daughter was most charming. She
seemed quite devoted to him ; watching his lips when he was
speaking, and seeking in everything to anticipate and fulfil
his wishes. When she was singing, his eye dwelt upon her ;
his ear catching and seeming to relish every tone. Frequently,
when she was silent, his eye rested upon her, and the lines came
to my mind,
" Some feelings are to mortals given,
With less of earth in them than heaven :
And if there be a human tear
From passion's dross refined and clear,
A tear so limpid and so meek
It would not stain an angel's cheek :
'Tis that which pious fathers shed
Upon a duteous daughter's head ! "
Eight years later, when I was again there, Scott was on
his death -bed at Abbotsford. Overburdened with the struggle
to extricate himself from the wreck of his fortunes, his brain
had given way, and the mighty intellect was in ruins. On
Peter Parley's Own Life. 189
the morning of the 17th he woke from a paralytic slumber;
his eye clear and calm, every trace of delirium having passed
away. Lockhart came to his bedside. " My dear," he said,
" I may have but a moment to speak to you. Be a good
man : be virtuous ; be religious : be a good man. Nothing
else will give you any comfort when you are called upon to
These were almost the last words he spoke ; he soon fell
into a stupor, which became the sleep of death. So he died,
with all his children around him. " It was a beautiful day,"
says his biographer ; "so warm, that every window was wide
open ; and so perfectly still, that the sound of all others most
delicious to his ear the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its
pebbles was distinctly audible, as we knelt around the bed;
and his eldest son kissed and closed his eyes !"
1 90 The Story of
EN ROUTE FOR LONDON "THE LAIRD O* COCKPEN" LO-
CALITIES OP LEGENDARY FAME DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
ENGLAND AND AMERICA.
EARLY in June I set out for London. My route led me
through the village of Dalkeith, and the possessions of the
Duke of Buccleuch, which extended for thirty miles on both
sides of the road. We were constantly meeting objects which
revived historical or poetic reminiscences. Among these was
Cockpen, the scene of the celebrated ballad ; and as I rode by
the whole romance passed before my mind. I fancied that I
could even trace the pathway along which the old laird pro-
ceeded upon his courtship, as well as the residence of
" The penniless lass wi' a lang pedigree ; "
who was so daft as to reject his offer, although
" His wig -was well powthered and as gude as new ;
His waistcoat was red, and his coat it was blue ;
A ring on his finger, a sword and cocked hat
And wha could refuse the laird wi' a' that ?"
We crossed the Galawater and the Ettrick, and travelled
along the banks of the Tweed. We passed Abbotsford on our
left ; and further on saw the Eildon Hills, " cleft in three" by
Peter Parley's Own Life. 191
the wondrous wizard, Michael Scott; as duly chronicled in
the Lay of the Last Minstrel. We proceeded along the
banks of the Teviot, a small limpid stream, where barefooted
lassies were washing, as in the days of Allan Ramsay. We
saw Netherby Hall, and a little beyond Cannobie Lea, the
scenes of the song of Young Lochinvar. All these, and many
more localities of legendary fame, were passed in the course of
a forenoon's progress in the stage-coach.
One day's journey brought me to Carlisle : thence I tra-
velled through the lake district, looking with delight upon
Windermere, Rydal, Grassmere, Helvellyn, Derwentwater, and
Skiddaw. Then turning eastward, I passed over a hilly and
picturesque country, to the ancient and renowned city of York.
Having lingered, half entranced, amid its antiquities, and
looked almost with worship upon its cathedral the most
beautiful I have ever seen I departed, and soon found myself
once more in London.
As I shall not return to the subject again, I must say a
few words as to the impression England makes upon the mind
of an American traveller. I have visited this country several
times within the last thirty years, and I shall group my im-
pressions in one general view. The whole may be summed
up in a single sentence, which is, that England is incom-
parably the most beautiful country in the world ! I do not
speak of it in winter, when encumbered with fogs; when
" No sun, no moon, no morn, no noon,
No dusk, no dawn no proper time of day;
No sky, no earthly view, no distance looking blue ;
No road, no street, no t'other side the way ! "
192 The Story of
I take her, as I do any other beauty who sits for her por-
trait, in her best attire; that is, in summer. The sun rises
here as high in June as it does in America. Vegetation is
just about as far advanced. The meadows, the wheat -fields,
the orchards, the forests, are in their glory. There is one
difference, however, between the two countries; the sun in
England is not so hot, the air is not so highly perfumed, the
buzz of the insects is not so intense. Everything is more
tranquil. With us, all nature, during summer, appears to be
in haste : as if its time was short ; as if it feared the coming
frost. In England, on the contrary, there seems to be a con-
fidence in the seasons, as if there were time for the ripening
harvests ; as if the wheat might swell out its fat sides, the hop
amplify its many-plaited flowers, the oats multiply and in-
crease their tassels ; each and all attaining their perfection at
leisure. In the United States, the period of growth of most
vegetables is compressed into ten weeks ; in Great Britain, it
extends to sixteen.
If we select the middle of June as a point of comparison,
we shall see that in America there is a spirit, vigour, energy
in the climate, as indicated by vegetable and animal life, un-
known in Europe. The air is clearer, the landscape is more
distinct, the bloom more vivid, the odours more pungent. A
clover-field in America, in full bloom, is by many shades more
ruddy than the same thing in England ; its breath even is
sweeter : the music of the bees stealing its honey is of a higher
key. A summer forest with us is of a livelier green than in
any part of Great Britain ; the incense breathed upon the heart,
morning and evening, is, I think, more full and fragrant. And
yet, if we take the summer through, this season is pleasanter
Peter Parley's Own Life. 193
in England than with us. It is longer, its excitements are
more tranquil, and, being spread over a larger space, the
heart has more leisure to appreciate them, than in the haste
and hurry of our American climate.
There is one fact worthy of notice, which illustrates this
peculiarity of the English summer : the trees there are all of a
more sturdy, or, as we say, stubbed form and character. The
oaks, the elms, the walnuts, beeches, are shorter and thicker,
as well in the trunks as the branches, than ours. The
leaves are thicker, the twigs larger in circumference. I have
noticed particularly the recent growths of apple-trees, and they
are at once shorter and stouter than in America. This
quality in the trees gives a peculiarity to the landscape : the
forest is more solid and less graceful than ours. If you will
look at an English painting of trees, you notice the fact I
state, and perceive the effect it gives, especially to scenes of
which trees constitute a prevailing element. All over Europe,
in fact, the leaves of the trees have a less feathery appearance
than in America ; and in general the forms of the branches
are less arching, and, of course, less beautiful. Hence it will
be perceived that European pictures of trees differ in this re-
spect from American ones : the foliage in the former being
more solid, and the sweep of the branches more angular.
But it is in respect to the effects of human art and in-
dustry that the English landscape has the chief advantage
over ours. England is an old country, and shows on its face
the influences of fifteen centuries of cultivation. It is, with
the exception of Belgium, the most thickly-settled country of
It is under a garden-like cultivation; the ploughing is
194 tte Story of
straight and even, as if regulated by machinery; the boundaries
of estates consist, for the most part, of stonemason-work,
the intermediate divisions being hedges, neatly trimmed, and
forming a beautiful contrast to our stiff stone walls and rail
fences. In looking from the top of a hill over a large extent
of country, it is impossible not to feel a glow of delight at the
splendour of the scene : the richness of the soil, its careful and
skilful cultivation, its green, tidy boundaries chequering the
scene, its teeming crops, its fat herds, its numberless and full-
Nor must the dwellings be overlooked. I pass by the cities
and the manufacturing villages, which, in most parts, are
visible in every extended landscape ; sometimes, as in the
region of Manchester, spreading out for miles, and sending up
wreaths of smoke from a thousand tall, tapering chimneys. I
am speaking now of the country; and here are such residences
as are unknown to us. An English castle would swallow up
a dozen of our wood or brick villas. The adjacent estate often
includes a thousand acres ; and these, be it remembered, are
kept almost as much for ornament as use. Think of a dwelling
that might gratify the pride of a prince, surrounded by several
square miles of wooded park, and shaven lawn, and winding
stream, and swelling hill ; and all having been for a hundred,
perhaps five hundred years, subjected to every improvement
which the highest art could suggest ! There is certainly a
union of unrivalled beauty and magnificence in the lordly
estates of England. We have nothing in America which at
all resembles them.
And then there is every grade of imitation of these high
examples scattered over the whole country. The greater part
Peter Parley's Own Life. 195
of the surface of England belongs to wealthy proprietors, 'and
these have alike the desire and the ability to give an aspect of
neatness, finish, and elegance, not only to their dwellings and
the immediate grounds, but to their entire estates. The pre-
vailing standard of taste thus leads to a universal beautifying
of the surface of the country. Even the cottager feels the in-
fluence of this omnipresent spirit : the brown thatch over
his dwelling, and the hedge before his door, must be neatly
trimmed ; the green ivy must clamber up and festoon his
windows ; and the little yard in front must bloom with roses
and lilies, and other gentle flowers, in their season.
So much for the common aspect of England as the traveller
passes over it. The seeker after the picturesque may find
abundant gratification in Devonshire, Derbyshire, Westmore-
land, though Wales and Scotland, and parts of Ireland, are
still more renowned for their beauty. So far as combinations
of nature are concerned, nothing in the world can surpass some
of our own scenery ; as along the upper waters of the Housa-
tonic and the Connecticut, or among the islands of Lake
George, and a thousand other places : but these lack the em-
bellishments of art and the associations of romance or song,
which belong to the rival beauties of British landscapes.
I confine these remarks to a single topic, the aspect of
England as it meets the eye of an American traveller. The
English do not and cannot enjoy the spectacle as an American
does ; for they are born to it, and have no experience which
teaches them to estimate it by common and inferior standards.
Having said so much on this subject, I shall not venture to
speak of English society : of the lights and shadows of life
beneath the myriad roofs of towns and cities. The subject
196 The Story of
would be too extensive ; and, besides, it has been abundantly
treated by others. I only say, in passing, that the English
people are best studied at home. John Bull, out of his own
house, is generally a rough customer : here, by his fireside,
with wife, children, and friends, he is generous, genial, gentle-
manly. There is no hospitality like that of an Englishman,
when you have crossed his threshold. Everywhere else he
will annoy you. He will poke his elbow into your sides in a
crowded thoroughfare ; he will rebuff you if, sitting at his side
in a railway-carriage, you ask a question by way of provoking
a little conversation : he carries at his back a load of prejudices,
like the bundle of Christian in the Pilgrim's Progress and,
instead of seeking to get rid of them, he is always striving to
increase his collection. If he becomes a diplomat, his great
business is to meddle in everybody's affairs ; if an editor, he
is only happy in proportion as he can say annoying and
irritating things. And yet, catch this same John Bull at home,
and his crusty, crocodile armour falls off, and he is the very
best fellow in the world : liberal, hearty, sincere, the per-
fection of a gentleman.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 197
LONDON ON HIS SECOND VISIT JACOB PERKINS AND HIS
STEAM-GUN DUKES OF WELLINGTON, SUSSEX, AND YORK
BRITISH LADIES AT A REVIEW HOUSE OF COM-
MONS AND ITS ORATORS DEBATE IN THE LORDS
CATALANI DISTINGUISHED FOREIGNERS EDWARD
IRVING COMPARED TO EDMUND KEAN BYRON LYING IN
LONDON, when I first knew it, was not what it is now. Its
population has at least doubled since 1824. At that time
Charing Cross was a filthy, triangular thoroughfare, a stand
for hackney-coaches, a grand panorama of showbills pasted
over the surrounding walls, with the King's Mews in the im-
mediate vicinity : this whole area is now the site of Trafalgar
Square. This is an index of other and similar changes that
have taken place all over the city. At the present day, Lon-
don not only surpasses in its extent, its wealth, its accumula-
tions of all that belongs to art, the extent of its commerce, the
vastness of its influence, all the cities that now exist, but all
that the world has before known.
King George IV. was then on the throne, and though he
was shy of showing himself in public, I chanced to see him
several times, and once to advantage at Ascot Races. For
198 The Story of
more than an hour his majesty stood in the pavilion, sur-
rounded by the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of York, the
Marquis of Anglesea, and other persons of note. But for the
star on his left breast, and the respect paid to him, he might
have passed as only an over-dressed and rather sour old rake.
I noticed that his coat sat very close and smooth, and was told
that he was trussed and braced by stays. It was said to be
the labour of at least two hours to prepare him for a public
exhibition. He was a dandy to the last. The wrinkles of his
coat, after it was on, were cut out by the tailor, and carefully
drawn up with the needle. He had the gout, and walked
badly. I imagine there were few among the thousands
gathered to the spectacle who were really less happy than his
majesty the monarch of the three kingdoms.
I saw the Duke of Wellington not only on this, but on
many subsequent occasions. I think the portraits give a
false idea of his personal appearance. He was really a rather
small, thin, insignificant-looking man, unless you saw him on
horseback. He then seemed rather stately, and in a military
dress, riding always with inimitable ease, he sustained the image
of the great general. At other times I never could discover
in his appearance anything but the features and aspect of an
ordinary, and certainly not prepossessing, old man. I say this
with great respect for his character, which, as a personification
of solid sense, indomitable purpose, steady loyalty, and un-
flinching devotion to a sense of public duty, I conceive to be
one of the finest in British history.
At this period our -countryman, Jacob Perldns, was asto-
nishing London with his steam -gun. He was certainly a man
of extraordinary genius, and was the originator of numerous
Peter Parley's Own Life. 199
useful inventions. At the time of which I write, he fancied
that he had discovered a new mode of generating steam, by
w r hich he was not only to save a vast amount of fuel, but to
obtain a marvellous increase of power. So confident was he
of success, that he told me he felt certain of being able, in a
few months, to go from London to Liverpool with the steam
produced by a gallon of oil. Such was his fertility of in-
vention, that while pursuing one discovery others came into
his mind, and, seizing upon his attention, kept him in a whirl
of experiments, in which many things were begun, and
comparatively nothing completed.
Though the steam-gun never reached any practical result,
it was for some time the admiration of London. I was pre-
sent at an exhibition of its wonderful performances in the pre-
sence of the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of Wellington, and
other persons of note. The purpose of the machine was to
discharge bullets by steam, instead of gunpowder, and with
great rapidity at least a hundred a minute. The balls were
put in a sort of tunnel, and by working a crank back and for-
ward, they were let into the chamber of the barrel one by one,
and expelled by the steam. The noise of each explosion was
like that of a musket ; and when the discharges Avere rapid,
there was a ripping uproar, quite shocking to tender nerves.
The balls carried about a hundred feet across the smithy
struck upon an iron target, and were flattened to the thickness
of a shilling piece.
The whole performance was indeed quite formidable, and
the Duke of Sussex seemed greatly excited. I stood close to
him : and when the bullets flew pretty thick, and the dis-
charge came to its climax, I heard him say to the Duke of
200 The Story of
Wellington, in an under -tone, " Wonderful, wonderful
wonderful ! wonderful, wonderful wonderful ! wonderful,
wonderful wonderful I " and so he went on, without varia-
tion. It was, in fact, a very good commentary upon the
Having spoken of the Duke of Sussex, I must say a few
words of his brother, the Duke of York, whom I had seen at
Ascot. He was there interested in the race, for he had
entered a horse by the name of Moses, for one of the prizes.
Some person reflected upon him for this. His ready reply was,
that he was devoted to Moses and the profits. Despite his dis-
grace in the Flanders campaign, and his notorious profligacy,
he was still a favourite among the British people. There was
about him a certain native honourableness and goodness of heart,
which always existed, even in the midst of his worst career.
I saw the Duke on another occasion, at a cavalry review
on Hounslow Heath. The Duke of Wellington was among
the spectators. He was now in military dress, and mounted
on a fine chestnut-coloured horse. His motions were quick,
and frequently seemed to indicate impatience. Several ladies
and gentlemen on horseback were admitted to the review, and
within the circle of the sentries stationed to exclude the crowd.
I obtained admission by paying five shillings ; for I learned
that in England money is quite as mighty as in America.
The privileged group of fair ladies and brave men, gathered
upon a grassy knoll to observe the evolutions of the soldiers,
presented an assemblage such as the aristocracy of England
alone can furnish. Those who imagine that this is an effemi-
nate generation, should learn that both the men and women
belonging to the British nobility, taken together, are without
Peter Parley's Own Life. 201
doubt the finest race in the world. One thing is certain, these
ladies conld stand fire; for although the horses leaped and
pranced at the discharges of the troops, their fair riders seemed
as much at ease as if upon their own feet. Their horseman-
ship was indeed admirable, and suggested those habits of
exercise and training, to which their full rounded forms and
blooming countenances gave ample testimony.
The performances consisted of various marches and counter-
marches sometimes slow, and sometimes quick across the
extended plain. The evolutions of the fly ing -artillery excited
universal admiration. When the whole body about four
thousand horse rushed in a furious gallop over the ground,
the clash of arms, the thunder of hoofs, the universal shudder
of the earth all together created more thrilling emotions in
my mind, than any other military parade I ever beheld. I
have seen eighty thousand infantry in the field ; but they did
not impress my imagination as forcibly as these few regiments
of cavalry at Hounslow Heath. One incident gave painful
effect to the spectacle. As the whole body were sweeping
across the field, a single trooper was pitched from his horse
and fell to the ground. A hundred hoofs passed over him,
and trampled him into the sod. On swept the gallant host,
as heedless of their fallen companion as if only a feather had
dropped from one of their caps. The conflict of cavalry in
real battle, must be the most fearful exhibition which the dread
drama of war can furnish. On this occasion both the King
and the Duke of York were present ; so that it was one of
universal interest. About fifty ladies on horseback rode back
and forth over the field, on the flanks of the troops, imitating
2O2 The Story of
I have been often at the House of Commons ; but I shall
now only speak of a debate, in July, 1824, upon the petition,
I believe, of the City of London, for a recognition of the in-
dependence of some of the South American States. Canning
was then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and took the brunt of
the battle made upon the Ministry. Sir James Mackintosh
led, and Brougham followed him, on the same side.
I shall not attempt to give you a sketch of the speeches :
a mere description of the appearance and manner of the pro-
minent orators will suffice. Sir James, then nearly sixty
years old, was a man rather above the ordinary size; and
with a fine, philanthropic face. His accent was decidedly
Scotch, and his voice shrill and dry. He spoke slowly, often
hesitated, and was entirely destitute of what we call eloquence.
There was no easy flow of sentences, no gush of feeling, no
apparent attempt to address the heart or the imagination.
His speech was a rigid lecture, rather abstract and philoso-
phical ; evidently addressed to the stern intellect of stern men.
He had a good deal of gesture, and once or twice was boister-
ous in tone and manner. His matter was logical ; and occa-
sionally he illustrated his propositions by historical facts,
happily narrated. On the whole, he made the impression
upon my mind that he was a very philosophical, but not very
Brougham's face and figure are familiar to every one ; and
making allowance for added years, there is little change in his
appearance since the time of which I speak. He had abund-
ance of words, as well as ideas. In his speech on the occasion
I describe, he piled thought upon thought, laced sentence
within sentence, mingled satire and philosophy, fact and argu-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 203
ment, history and anecdote, as if he had been a cornucopia,
and was anxious to disburden himself of his abundance. In
all this there were several hard hits, and Canning evidently
felt them. As he rose to reply, I took careful note of his ap-
pearance ; for he was then, I imagine, the most conspicuous of
the British Statesmen. He was a handsome man, with a bald,
shining head, and a figure slightly stooping in the shoulders.
His face was round, his eye large and full, his lips a little
voluptuous : the whole bearing a lively and refined expression.
In other respects, his appearance was not remarkable. His
voice was musical ; and he spoke with more ease and fluency
than most other orators of the House of Commons ; yet even
he hesitated, paused, and repeated his words, not only in the
beginning, but sometimes in the very midst of his argument.
He, however, riveted the attention of the Members ; and his
observations frequently brought out the ejaculation of " hear,
hear," from both sides of the House. Brougham and Mackin-
tosh watched him with vigilant attention ; now giving nods of
assent, and now signs of disapprobation.
Of course, I visited the House of Lords, paying two shil-
lings and sixpence for admittance. The general aspect of the
assembly was eminently grave and dignified. Lord Eldon was
the Chancellor a large, heavy, iron -looking man the per-
sonification of bigoted Conservatism. He was so opposed to
reforms, that he shed tears when the punishment of death was
abolished for stealing five shillings in a dwelling-house ! When
I saw him, his head was covered with the official wig : his face
sufficed, however, to satisfy any one that his obstinacy of
character was innate.
While I was here, a Committee from the House of Com-
2O4 The Story of
mons was announced ; they had brought up a message to the
Lords. The Chancellor, taking the seals in his hands, ap-
proached the Committee, bowing three times, and they doing
the same. Then they separated, each moving backward, and
bowing. To persons used to such a ceremony, this might be
sublime ; to me it was ludicrous : and all the more so, on ac-
count of the ponderous starchness of the chief performer in
the solemn farce. There was a somewhat animated debate
while I was present, in which Lords Liverpool, Lauderdale,
Harrowby, and Grey participated; yet nothing was said or
done that would justify particular notice at this late day.
A great event happened in the musical world while I was in
London the appearance of Catalani at the Italian Opera, after
several years of absence. The opera was Le Nozze di Figaro.
I had never before seen an opera ; and could not, even by the
enchantments of music, have my habits of thought and my
common sense so completely overturned and bewitched, as to
see the whole business of life intrigue, courtship, marriage,
cursing, shaving, preaching, praying, loving, hating done
by singing, instead of talking ; and yet feel that it was all
right and proper. It requires both a musical ear and early
training fully to appreciate and feel the opera.
Madame Catalani was a large, handsome woman ; a little
masculine, and past forty. She was not only a very clever
actress, but was deemed to have every musical merit volume,
compass, clearness of tone, surpassing powers of execution.
Her whole style was dramatic ; bending even the music to the
sentiments of the character and the song. I could appreciate,
uninstructed as I was, her amazing powers ; though, to say
the truth, I was quite as much astonished as pleased. Pasta
Peter Parley's Own Life. 205
and Garcia, both of whom I afterwards heard, gave me infi-
nitely greater pleasure ; chiefly because their voices possessed
that melody of tone which excites sympathy in every heart ;
even the most untutored. Madame Catalani gave the opera a
sort of epic grandeur an almost tragic vehemence of expres-
sion ; Pasta and Garcia rendered it the interpretation of those
soft and tender emotions, for the expression of which God
seems to have given music to mankind. It was, no doubt, a
great thing to hear the greatest cantatrice of the age ; but I
remember Madame Catalani as a prodigy, rather than as an
enchantress. On the occasion I am describing, she sang, by
request, "Rule Britannia" between the acts; which drew
forth immense applause, in which I heartily joined : not that
I liked the words, but that I felt the music.
It was about this time that a great attraction was an-
nounced at one of the theatres ; nothing less than the King
and Queen of the Sandwich Islands, who had graciously con-
descended to honour the performance with their presence.
They had come to visit England, and pay their homage to
George the Fourth ; hence the Government deemed it neces-
sary to receive them with hospitality, and pay them such at-
tentions as were due to their rank and royal blood. The
king's name was Kamehamaha; but he had also the sub-
title or surname of Rhio-Rhio : which, being interpreted,
meant Dog of Dogs. Canning's wit got the better of his re-
verence, and so he profanely suggested that, if his majesty was
a Dog of Dogs, what must the queen be ? However, there
was an old man about the court, who had acquired the title of
Poodle, and he was selected as a fit person to attend upon
their majesties. They had their lodgings at the Adelphi
206 The Story of
Hotel, and might be seen at all hours of the day, looking at
the puppet-shows in the streets with intense delight. Of all
the institutions of Great Britain, Punch and Judy evidently
made the strongest and most favourable impression upon the
They were, I believe, received at a private interview by
the Mng at Windsor : everything calculated to gratify them
was done. I saw them at the theatre, dressed in a European
costume, with the addition of some barbarous finery. The
Mng was an enormous man six feet three or four inches;
the queen was short, but otherwise of ample dimensions. Be-
sides these persons, the party comprised five or six other mem-
bers of the king's household. They had all large, round, flat
faces, of a coarse, though good-humoured expression. Their
complexion was a ruddy brown, not very unlike the American
Indians : their general aspect, however, was very different.
They looked with a kind of vacant wonder at the play, evi-
dently not comprehending it; the farce, on the contrary,
seemed greatly to delight them. It is sad to relate that this
amiable couple never returned to their country ; both died in
England victims either to the climate, or to the change in
their habits of living.
Among the prominent objects of interest in London at this
period was Edward Irving, then preaching at the Caledonian
Chapel, Cross Street, Hatton Garden. He was now in the
full flush of his fame ; and such was the eagerness to hear
him, that it was difficult to get admission. People of all
ranks literary men, philosophers, statesmen, noblemen, per-
sons of the highest name and influence, with a full and
diversified representation of the fair sex crowded to his
Peter Parley's Own Life. 207
church. I was so fortunate as to get a seat in the pew of a
friend, a privilege which I appreciated all the more when I
counted twenty coroneted coaches standing at the door, some
of those who came in them not being able to obtain even an
entrance into the building. The interior was crowded to
excess ; the aisles were full ; and even fine ladies seemed
happy to get seats upon the pulpit stairway. Persons of the
highest title were scattered here and there, and cabinet
ministers were squeezed in with the mass of common
Mr. Irving's appearance was very remarkable. He was
over six feet in height, very broad-shouldered, with long,
black hair hanging in heavy, twisted ringlets down upon his
shoulders. His complexion was pallid, yet swarthy; the
whole expression of his face, owing chiefly to an unfortunate
squint, was half-sinister and half-sanctified, creating in the
mind of the beholder a painful doubt whether he was a great
saint or a great sinner.
There was a strange mixture of saintliness and dandyism
in the whole appearance of this man. His prayer was affected
strange, quaint, peculiar in its phraseology, yet solemn
and striking. His reading of the psalm was peculiar, and a
fancy crossed my mind that I had heard something like it,
but certainly not in a church. I was seeking to trace out a
resemblance between this strange parson and some star of
Drury Lane or Covent Garden. Suddenly I found the clue :
Edward Irving in the pulpit was imitating Edmund Kean
upon the stage ! And he succeeded admirably his tall and
commanding person giving him an immense advantage over
the little, insignificant, yet inspired actor. He had the tones
208 The Story of
of the latter, his gestures, his looks even, as I had often seen
him in Richard the Third and Shylock. He had evidently
taken lessons of the renowned tragedian, but whether in public
or private is not for me to say.
In spite of the evident affectation, the solemn dandyism,
the dramatic artifices of the performer for, after all, I could
only consider the preacher as an actor the sermon was very
impressive. The phraseology was rich, flowing, redundant,
abounding in illustration, and seemed to me carefully modelled
after that of Jeremy Taylor. Some of the pictures presented
to the imagination were startling, and once or twice it seemed
as if the whole audience was heaving and swelling with
intense emotion, like a sea rolling beneath the impulses of a
tempest. Considered as a display of oratorical art, it was cer-
tainly equal to anything I have ever heard from the pulpit ;
yet it did not appear to me calculated to have any permanent
effect in enforcing Christian truth upon the conscience. The
preacher seemed too much a player, and too little an apostle.
The afterthought was, that the whole effect was the result of
stage trick, and not of sober truth.
The character and career of Edward Irving present a
strange series of incongruities. He was born in Scotland in
1792 ; he became a preacher, and acquired speedy notoriety,
as much by his peculiarities as his merits. He attracted the
attention of Dr. Chalmers, and through his influence was for a
time assistant-minister in the parish of St. John's, at Glasgow.
From this place he was called to the Caledonian Chapel, where
I heard him. His fame continued to increase ; and having
published a volume of discourses, under the quaint title, For
the Oracles of God, four Orations : for Judgment to come,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 209
an Argument in Nine Parts : three large editions of the work
were sold in the space of six months. Wherever he preached
crowds of eager listeners flocked to hear him. His eccen-
tricities increased w^th his fame. He drew ont his discourses
to an enormous length, and on several occasions protracted
the services to four hours! He soon became mystical, and
took to studying unfulfilled prophecy as the true key to the
interpretation of the Scriptures. From this extravagance he
passed to the doctrine that Christians, by the power of faith,
can attain to the working of miracles, and speaking with
unknown tongues, as in the primitive ages. Such at last
were his vagaries, that he was cut off from communion with
the Scottish Church ; in consequence, he became the founder
of a sect which continues to the present time in England,
bearing the title of " Irvingites." Worn out with anxiety and
incessant labours, he died at Glasgow, while on a journey for
his health, in 1834, at the early age of forty -two.
One more event I must notice the arrival in London of
the remains of Lord Byron, and their lying in state previous
to interment. His body had been preserved in spirits, and
was thus brought from Greece, attended by five persons of his
lordship's suite. Having been transferred to the coffin, it lay
in state at the house of Sir Edward Knatchbull, where such
were the crowds that rushed to behold the spectacle, that it
was necessary to defend the coffin with a stout wooden railing.
When I arrived at the place the lid was closed. I was told,
however, that the countenance, though the finer lines had
collapsed, was so little changed as to be easily recognised by
his acquaintances. The general muscular form of the body
was perfectly preserved.
210 The Story of
The aspect of the scene, even as I witnessed it, was alto-
gether very impressive. The coffin was covered with a pall,
enriched by escutcheons wrought in gold. On the top was
a lid, set round with black plumes. Upon it were these
"GEORGE GORDON NOEL BYRON.
BOEN IN LONDON, 22o JANUARY, 1788.
DLED AT MISSOLONGHI, APRIL 19TH, 1824."
At the head of the coffin was an urn containing the ashes of
his brain and heart : this being also covered with a rich pall,
wrought with figures in gold. The windows were closed, and
the darkened room was feebly illumined by numerous wax
And this was all that remained of Byron ! What a lesson
upon the pride of genius, the vanity of rank, the fatuity of
fame, all levelled in the dust, and, despite the garnished pall
and magnificent coffin, their possessor bound to pass through
the same process of corruption as the body of a common
Peter Parley's Own Life. 211
EMBARK FOR THE UNITED STATES BOSTON AND ITS WORTHIES
BUSINESS OPERATIONS ACKERMANN's FORGET-ME-NOT
THE PARENT OF ALL OTHER ANNUALS THE AMERICAN
SPECIES THEIR DECLENSION.
HAVING made a hurried excursion to Paris and back to Lon-
don, I departed for Liverpool, and thence embarked for the
United States, arriving there in October, 1824. I remained
at Hartford till October, 1826, and then removed to Boston,
with the intention of publishing original works, and at the
same time of trying my hand at authorship the latter part
of my plan, however, known only to myself.
At that time Boston was recognised as the literary metro-
polis of the Union the admitted Athens of America. Ed-
ward Everett had established the North- American Review,
and though he had now just left the editorial chair, his spirit
dwelt in it, and his fame lingered around it. R. H. Dana,
E. T. Channing, George Bancroft, and others, were among the
rising lights of the literary horizon. Society was strongly im-
pressed with literary tastes, and genius was respected and
cherished. The day had not yet come when it was glory
enough for a college professor to marry a hundred thousand
212 The Story of
dollars of stocks, or when it was the chief end of a lawyer to
become the attorney of an insurance company, or a bank, or a
manufacturing corporation. A Boston imprint on a book was
equal to a certificate of good paper, good print, good binding,
and good matter. And while such was the state of things at
Boston, at New York the Harpers, who till recently had been
mere printers in Dover Street, had scarcely entered upon their
career as publishers ; and the other shining lights in the trade,
at the present time, were either unborn, or in the nursery, or
"What a revolution do these simple items suggest, wrought
in the space of thirty years ! The sceptre has departed from
Judah : New York is now the acknowledged metropolis of
American literature, as well as of art and commerce. Never-
theless, if we look at Boston literature at the present time, as
reflected in its publishing lists, we shall see that the light of
other days has not degenerated; for since the period of
which I speak, Prescott, Longfellow, Hawthorne, Whipple,
Holmes, Lowell, Hillard, have joined the Boston constellation
It cannot interest the reader to hear in detail my business
operations in Boston at this period. It will be sufficient to
say that, among other works, I published an edition of the
novels of Charles Brockden Brown, with a life of the author,
furnished by his widow, she having a share of the edition. I
also published an edition of Hannah More's works, and of
Mrs. Opie's works : these being, I believe, the first complete
collections of the writings of these authors. In 1827 I pub-
lished Sketches by N. P. Willis, his first adventure in re-
sponsible authorship. The next year I issued the Common-
Peter Parley's Own Life, 213
place Book of Prose, the first work of the now celebrated
Dr. Cheever. This was speedily followed by the Common-
place Book of Poetry, and Studies in Poetry, by the same
In 1828 I published a first, and soon after a second, volume
of the Legendary, designed as a periodical, and intended to
consist of original pieces in prose and verse, principally illus-
trative of American history, scenery, and manners. This was
edited by N. P. Willis, and was, I believe, his first editorial
engagement. Among the contributors were Halleck, Miss
Sedgwick, Miss Francis, Mrs. Sigourney, Willis, and other
popular writers of that day. It was kindly treated by the
press, which generously published, without charge, the best
pieces in full, saving the reading million the trouble of buying
the book and paying for the chaff, which was naturally found
with the wheat. Despite this courtesy, the work proved a
miserable failure. The time had not come for such a publica-
tion. At the present day, with the present accessories and
the present public spirit, I doubt not that such an enterprise
would be eminently successful.
The first work of the Annual kind, entitled the Forget-Me-
Not, was issued by the Ackermanns of London, in the winter
of 1823, while I was in that city. It was successfully imitated
by Carey and Lea at Philadelphia, in a work entitled the
Atlantic Souvenir, and which was sustained with great spirit
for several years. In 1828 I commenced and published the
first volume of the Token, which I continued for fifteen years ;
editing it myself, with the exception of the volume for 1829,
which came out under the auspices of Mr. Willis. In 1836,
the Atlantic Souvenir ceased ; and after that time, by arrange-
214 *fhe Story of
ment with the publishers, its title was added to that of the
The success of this species of publication stimulated new
enterprises of the kind, and a rage for them spread over
Europe and America. The efforts of the first artists and the
first writers were at length drawn into them ; and for nearly
twenty years every autumn produced an abundant harvest of
Diadems, Bijous, Amaranths, Bouquets, Hyacinths, Amulets,
Talismans, Forget-Me-Nots, &c. Under these seductive
titles they became messengers of love, tokens of friendship,
signs and symbols of affection, and luxury and refinement;
and thus they stole alike into the palace and the cottage, the
library, the parlour, and the boudoir. The public taste grew
by feeding on these luscious gifts, and soon craved even more
gorgeous works of the kind ; whence came Heath's Book of
Beauty, Lady Blessington's Flowers of Loveliness, Bulwer's
Pilgrims of the Rhine, Butler's Leaflets of Memory, Christ-
mas with the Poets, and many others of similar design and
execution. Many of the engravings of these works cost 1 00?.
each, and many a piece of poetry 10?. a page. On several of
these works the public spent 10,000?. a -year !
At last the race of Annuals drew near the end of its
career, yet not without having produced a certain revolution
in the public taste. Their existence had sprung, at least in
part, from sfee?-engraving, which had been invented and in-
troduced by our countryman, Jacob Perkins. This enabled
the artist to produce works of greater delicacy than had ever
before been achieved ; steel also gave the large number of im-
pressions which the extensive sales of the Annuals demanded,
and which could not have been obtained from copper. These
Peter Parley's Own Life. 215
works scattered gems of art far and wide, making the reading
mass familiar with fine specimens of engraving ; and not only
cultivating an appetite for this species of luxury, but ex-
alting the general standard of taste all over the civilised
And thus, though the Annuals, by name, have perished,
they have left a strong necessity in the public mind for books
enriched by all the embellishments of art. Hence we have il-
lustrated editions of Byron, Rogers, Thomson, Oowper, Camp-
bell, and others; including our own poets, Bryant, Halleck,
Sigourney, Longfellow, Reed, &c. Wood-engraving, which
since then has risen into such importance, has lent its potent
aid in making books one of the chief luxuries of society, from
the nursery to the parlour.
In comparison with many of these works, the Token was
a very modest affair. The first year I offered prizes for the
best pieces in' prose and poetry. The highest for prose was
awarded to the author of Some Passages in the, Life of an
Old Maid. A mysterious man, in a mysterious way, pre-
sented himself for the money, and, giving due evidence of his
authority to receive it, it was paid to him ; but who the
author really was never transpired, though I had, and still
have, my confident guess upon the subject. Even the subse-
quent volumes, though they obtained favour in their day, did
not approach the splendour of the modern works of a similar
kind. Nevertheless, some of the engravings, from the designs
of Allston, Leslie, Newton, and others, were very clever, even
compared with the finest works of the present day.
The literary contributions were, I believe, equal, on the
whole, to any of the Annuals, American or European. Here
216 Ike Story of
were inserted some of the earliest productions of Willis, Haw-
thorne, Miss Francis (now Mrs. Child), Miss Sedgwick, Mrs.
Hale, Pierpoint, Greenwood, and Longfellow. Several of
these authors first made acquaintance with the public through
the pages of this work. It is a curious fact that the latter,
Longfellow, wrote prose, and at that period had shown neither
a strong bias nor a particular talent for poetry.
The Token was continued annually till 1842, when it
finally ceased. The day of Annuals had, indeed, passed be-
fore this was given up ; and the last two or three years it had
only lingered out a poor and fading existence. As a matter
of business, it scarcely paid its expenses, and was a serious
drawback upon my time and resources for fifteen years ; a
punishment, no doubt, fairly due to an obstinate pride, which
made me reluctant to abandon a work with which my name
and feelings had become somewhat identified.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 217
" THE TOKEN" N. p. WILLIS AND NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
COMPARISON BETWEEN THEM LADY AUTHORS
PUBLISHERS' PROFITS AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS.
I MAY here say, with propriety, a few words more as to the
contributors for the Token. The most prominent writer for it
was N. P. Willis ; his articles were the most read, the most
admired, the most ahused, and the most advantageous to the
work. I published his first book ; and his two first editorial
engagements were with me : hence the early portion of his
literary career fell under my special notice.
He had begun to write verses very early ; and while in
College, before he was eighteen, he had acquired an extended
reputation, under the signature of " Roy." In 1827, when he
was just twenty years old, I published his volume, entitled
Sketches. It elicited quite a shower of criticism, in which
praise and blame were about equally dispensed : at the same
time the work sold with a readiness quite unusual for a book
of poetry at that period. It is not calculated to establish the
infallibility of critics, to look over these notices at the present
day : many of the pieces which were then condemned have
now taken their places among the acknowledged gems of our
2i 8 The Story of
literature ; and others, which excited praise at the time, have
faded from the public remembrance.
One thing is certain, everybody thought Willis worth
criticising. He has been, I suspect, more written about than
any other literary man in the history of American literature.
Some of the attacks upon him proceeded, no doubt, from a
conviction that he was a man of extraordinary gifts, and yet
of extraordinary affectations ; and the lash was applied in kind-
ness, as that of a schoolmaster to a beloved pupil's back;
some of them were dictated by envy ; for we have had no other
example of literary success so early, so general, and so flat-
tering. That Mr. Willis made mistakes in literature and life,
at the outset, may be admitted by his best friends ; for it must
be remembered that, before he was five-and-twenty, he was
more read than any other American poet of his time; and
besides, being possessed of an easy and captivating address, he
became the pet of society, and especially of the fairer portion
of it. Since that period, his life, on the whole, has been one
of serious, useful, and successful labour. His reputation as a
poet has hardly advanced, and probably the public generally
regard some of his early verses as his best. As an essayist,
however, he stands in the first rank ; distinguished for a keen
sagacity in analysing society, a fine perception of the beauties
of nature, and an extraordinary talent for endowing trifles
with interest and meaning. As a traveller, he is among the
most entertaining, sagacious, and instructive.
His style is certainly peculiar, and is deemed affected,
tending to an excess of refinement, and displaying an undue
hankering for grace and melody ; sometimes sacrificing sense
to sound. This might once have been a just criticism, but the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 219
candid reader of his works now before the public will deem
it hypercritical. His style is suited to his thought ; it is
flexible, graceful, musical, and is adapted to the playful wit,
the piquant sentiment, the artistic descriptions of sea, earth,
and- sky, of which they are the vehicle. In the seaming ex-
haustlessness of his resources, in his prolonged freshness, in his
constantly -increasing strength, Mr. Willis has refuted all the
early prophets, who regarded him only as a precocity, des-
tined to shine a few brief years and fade away.
As to his personal character, I need only say, that from
the beginning he has had a larger circle of steadfast friends
than almost any man within my knowledge. There has been
something in his works which has made women generally
both his literary and personal admirers. For so many favours
he has given the world an ample return ; for, with all his im-
puted literary faults some real and some imaginary I
regard him as having contributed more to the amusement of
society than almost any other of our living authors.
It is not easy to conceive of a stronger contrast than is
presented by comparing Nathaniel Hawthorne with N. P.
Willis. The former was for a time one of the principal
writers for the Token, and his admirable sketches were pub-
lished side by side with those of the latter. Yet it is curious
to remark, that everything W T illis wrote attracted immediate
attention, and excited ready praise, while the productions of
Hawthorne were almost entirely unnoticed.
The personal appearance and demeanour of these two
gifted young men, at the early period of which I speak, was
also in striking contrast. Willis was slender, his hair sunny
and silken, his cheek ruddy, his aspect cheerful and confident.
220 The Story of
He met society with a ready and welcome hand, and was re-
ceived readily and with welcome. Hawthorne, on the con-
trary, was of a rather sturdy form, his hair dark and bushy,
his eye steel-grey, his brow thick, his mouth sarcastic, his
complexion stony, his whole aspect cold, moody, distrustful.
He stood aloof, and surveyed the world from shy and sheltered
There was a corresponding difference in the writings cf
these two persons. Willis was all sunshine and summer, the
other chill, dark, and w T intry ; thfc one was full of love and
hope, the other of doubt and distrust ; the one sought the
open daylight sunshine, flowers, music and found them
everywhere ; the other plunged into* the dim caverns of the
mind, and studied the grisly spectres of jealousy, remorse,
I had seen some anonymous publication which seemed to
me to indicate extraordinary powers. I inquired of the pub-
lishers as to the writer, and through them a correspondence en-
sued between me and " N. Hawthorne." This name I considered
a disguise, and it was not till after many letters had passed
that I met the author, and found it to be his true title, repre-
senting a very substantial personage. At this period he was
unsettled as to his views : he had tried his hand in literature,
and considered himself to have met with a fatal rebuff from
the reading world. His mind vacillated between various pro-
jects, verging, I think, toward a mercantile profession. I
combated his despondence, and assured him of triumph, if he
would persevere in a literary career.
He wrote numerous articles, which appeared in the Token :
occasionally an astute critic seemed to see through them, and
Peter Parley's Own Life. 221
to discover the mind that was in them ; but in general they
passed without notice. Such articles as " Sights from a Steeple,"
" Sketches beneath an Umbrella," the " Wives of the Dead," the
" Prophetic Pictures," now universally acknowledged to be
productions of extraordinary depth, meaning, and power,
extorted hardly a word of either praise or blame, while columns
were given to pieces since totally forgotten. I felt annoyed,
almost angry, indeed, at this. I wrote several articles in the
papers, directing attention to these productions, and finding no
echo of my views, I recollect to have asked John Pickering,
a gentleman in whose critical powers I had great confidence,
to read some of them, and give me his opinion of them. He
did as I requested ; his* answer was that they displayed a
wonderful beauty of style, with a sort of second -sight, which
revealed, beyond the outward forms of life and being, a sort
of spirit -world, somewhat as a lake reflects the earth around
it and the sky above it ; yet he deemed them too mystical to
be popular. He was right, no doubt, at that period ; but, ere
long, a large portion of the reading world obtained a new
sense how, or where, or whence, is not easily determined
which led them to study the mystical, to dive beneath and
beyond the senses. Hawthorne was, in fact, a kind of Words-
worth in prose : less kindly, less genial toward mankind, but
deeper and more philosophical. His fate was similar : at first
he was neglected, at last he had worshippers.
In 1837 I recommended Mr. Hawthorne to publish a
volume, comprising his various pieces, which had appeared in
the Token and elsewhere. He consented, but as I had ceased
to be a publisher, it was difficult to find any one who would
undertake to bring out the work. I applied to the agent of
222 The Story of
the Stationers' Company, but he refused ; until at last I relin-
quished my copyrights in such of the tales as I had published
to Mr. Hawthorne, and joined a friend of his in a bond to in-
demnify them against loss ; and thus the work was published
by the Stationers' Company, under the title of Twice- Told
Tales, and for the author's benefit. It was deemed a failure
for more than a year, when a breeze seemed to rise and fill its
sails, and with it the author was carried on to fame and fortune.
Among the most successful of the writers for the Token
was Miss Francis, now Mrs. Child. I have not seen her for
many years, but I have many pleasant remembrances of her
lively conversation, her saucy wit, her strong good sense, and
her most agreeable person and presence. To Rev. F. W. P.
Greenwood I was indebted not only for some of the best con-
tributions, but for excellent counsel and advice in my literary
affairs. He was a man of genius, gentle manners, and
apostolic dignity of life and character.
To Mr. Pierpont I was indebted for encouragement and
sympathy in my whole career, and for some of the best poems
which appeared in the work I am noticing. I remember once
to have met him, and to have asked him to give me a contri-
bution for the Token. He stopped and said, reflectingly, " I
had a dream not long ago, which I have thought to put into
verse. I will try, and if I am successful you shall have it."
A few days after he gave me the lines, now in all the gem-
*' Was it the chime of a tiny bell
That came so sweet to my dreaming ear
Like the silvery tones of a fairy's shell,
That he winds on the beach so mellow and clear,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 223
When the winds and the waves lie together asleep,
And the moon and the fairy are watching the deep
She dispensing her silvery light,
And he his notes, as silvery quite,
While the boatman listens and ships his oar,
To catch the music that comes from the shore ?
Hark ! the notes on my ear that play
Are set to words ; as they float, they say,
' Passing away, passing away ! ' ''
Next to Willis, Mrs. Sigourney was my most successful
and liberal contributor : to her I am indebted for a large part
of the success of my editorial labours in the matter now re-
ferred to. To Miss Sedgwick, also, the Token owes a large
share of its credit with the public. To B. B. Thacher, also
among the good and the departed ; to Mrs. Osgood, to John
Neale, A. H. Everett, Mr. Longfellow, 0. W. Holmes to all
these, and to many others, I owe the kind remembrance which
belongs to good deeds, kindly and graciously bestowed.
It is not to be supposed that in a long career, both as
bookseller and editor, I should have escaped altogether the
annoyances and vexations which naturally attach to these
vocations. The relation of author and publisher is generally
regarded as that of the cat and the dog, both greedy of the
bone, and inherently jealous of each other. The authors have
hitherto written the accounts of the wrangles between these
two parties, and the publishers have been traditionally gibbeted
as a set of mean, mercenary wretches, coining the heart's-
blood of genius for their own selfish profits. Great minds,
even in modern times, have not been above this historical pre-
judice. The poet Campbell is said to have been an admirer of
Napoleon because he shot a bookseller.
224 The Story of
Nevertheless, speaking from my own experience, I suspect,
if the truth were told, that, even in cases where the world has
been taught to bestow all its sympathy in behalf of the author,
it would appear that while there were claws on one side there
were teeth on the other. My belief is, that where there have
been quarrels there have generally been mutual provocations.
I know of nothing more vexatious, more wearisome, more cal-
culated to beget impatience, than the egotisms, the exactions,
the unreasonableness of authors, in cases I have witnessed.
That there may be examples of meanness, stupidity, and
selfishness in publishers, is indisputable. But, in general, I
am satisfied that an author who will do justice to a publisher,
will have justice in return.
I could give some curious instances of this. A school-
master came to me once with a marvellously clever grammar :
it was sure to overturn all others. He had figured out his
views in a neat hand, like copper-plate. He estimated that
there were always a million of children at school who would
need his grammar; providing for books worn out, and a
supply for new-comers, half-a-million would be wanted every
year. At one cent a copy for the author which he insisted
was exceedingly moderate this would produce to him five
thousand dollars a-year ; but if I would publish the work, he
would condescend to take half that sum annually, during the
extent of the copyright twenty-eight years ! I declined, and
he seriously believed me a heartless blockhead. He obtained a
publisher at last, but the work never reached a second edition.
Every publisher is laden with similar experiences.
I once employed a young man to block out some little
books to be published under the nominal authorship of Solomon
Peter Parley's Own Life. 225
Bell : these I remodelled, and one or two volumes were issued.
Some over-astute critic announced them as veritable Peter
Parleys, and they had a sudden sale. The young man who
had assisted me, and who was under the most solemn obliga-
tions to keep the matter secret, thought he had an opportunity
to make his fortune ; so he publicly claimed the authorship,
and accused me of duplicity ! The result was, that the books
fell dead from that hour ; the series was stopped ; and his
unprinted manuscripts, for which I had paid him, became
utterly worthless. A portion I burnt, and a portion still
remain amidst the rubbish of other days.
In other instances I was attacked in the papers, editorially
and personally, by individuals who were living upon the jem-
ployment I gave them. I was in daily intercourse with per-
sons of this character, who, while flattering me to my face, I
knew to be hawking at me in print. These I regarded and
treated as trifles at the time ; they are less than trifles now.
One thing may be remarked, that, in general, such difficulties
come from poor and unsuccessful writers. They have been
taught that publishers and booksellers are vampires, and
naturally feed upon the vitals of genius ; assuming honestly,
no doubt that they are of this latter class, they feel no great
scruple in taking vengeance upon those whom they regard as
their natural enemies.
My editorial experience also furnished me with some
amusing anecdotes. An editor of a periodical once sent me
an article for the Token, entitled La Longue-vue ; the pith of
the story consisted in a romantic youth's falling in love with a
young lady, two miles off, through a telescope ! I ventured
226 The Story of
to reject it; and the Token for that year was duly " cut up"
in the columns of the offended author.
In judging of publishers one thing should be considered,
and that is, that two-thirds of the original works issued by
them are unprofitable. An eminent London publisher once
told me, that he calculated that out of ten publications four
involved a positive, and often a heavy, loss ; three barely paid
the cost of paper, print, and advertising ; and three paid a
profit. Nothing is more common than for a publisher to pay
money to an author, every farthing of which is lost. Self-
preservation, therefore, compels the publisher to look carefully
to his operations. One thing is certain, he is generally the
very best judge as to the value of a book, in a marketable
point of view : if he rejects it, it is solely because he thinks it
will not pay, not because he despises genius.
Happily, at the present day, the relations between these
two parties authors and publishers are on a better footing
than in former times. Indeed, a great change has taken place
in the relative positions of the two classes. Nothing is now
more marketable than good writing, whatever may be its form
poetry or prose, fact or fiction, reason or romance. Starving,
neglected, abused genius, is a myth of bygone times. If an
author is poorly paid, it is because he writes poorly. I do
not think, indeed, that authors are adequately paid, for author-
ship does not stand on a level with other professions as to
pecuniary recompense, but it is certain that a clever, in-
dustrious, and judicious writer may make his talent the means
Peter Parley's Own Life. 227
BECOMES AN AUTHOR HIS REAL NAME A PROPOUND SECRET
HOW IT WAS DIVULGED GREAT SUCCESS ILLNESS
THE DOCTORS DISAGREE ENGLISH IMITATIONS OF
HIS WORKS CONDUCT OF A LONDON BOOKSELLER OB-
JECTIONS TO HIS WORKS HIS OWN IDEAS SENSIBLE
THOUGH I was busily engaged in publishing various works, I
found time to make my long-meditated experiment in the
writing of books for children. The first attempt was made in
1827, and bore the title of the Tales of Peter Parley about
America. No persons but my wife and one of my sisters
were admitted to the secret : for, in the first place, I hesitated
to believe that I was qualified to appear before the public as
an author ; and, in the next place, nursery literature had not
then acquired the respect in the eyes of the world it now
enjoys. It is since that period that persons of acknowledged
genius Scott, Dickens, Lamartine, Mary Howitt, in Europe;
and Abbott, Todd, Gallaudet, Miss Sedgwick, Mrs. Child,
and others, in America have stooped to the composition of
books for children and youth.
I published my little book, and let it make its way. It
came before the world untrumpeted, and for some months
228 The Story of
seemed not to attract the slightest attention. Suddenly I
began to see notices of it in the papers all over the country,
and in a year from the date of its publication it had become a
favourite. In 1828 I published the Tales of Peter Parley
about Europe ; in 1829, Parley's Winter -Evening Tales ;
in 1830, Parley's Juvenile Tales, and Parley's Asia, Africa,
Sun, Moon, and Stars. About this time the public guessed
my secret. Mrs. Sarah J. Hale, to whom I am indebted for
many kind offices in my literary career, first discovered and
divulged it; yet I could have wished she had not done me
this questionable favour. Though the authorship of the
Parley books has been to me a source of some gratification,
you will see, in the sequel, that it has also subjected me to
I shall not enter into the details of my proceedings at this
busy and absorbed period of my life. I had now obtained a
humble position in literature, and was successful in such un-
ambitious works as I attempted. I gave myself up almost
wholly for about four years that is, from 1828 to 1832
to authorship, generally writing fourteen hours a-day. A
part of the time I was entirely unable to read, and could write
but little, on account of the weakness of my eyes. In my
larger publications I employed persons to block out work for
me : this was read to me, and then I put it into style, gene-
rally writing by dictation, my wife being my amanuensis.
Thus embarrassed, I still, by dint of incessant toil, produced
five or six volumes a-year, most of them small, but some of
In the midst of these labours that is, in the spring
of 1832 I was suddenly attacked with symptoms which
Peter Parley's Own Life. 229
seemed to indicate a disease of the heart, rapidly advancing to
a fatal termination. In the course of a fortnight I was so
reduced as not to he ahle to mount a pair of stairs without
help, and a short walk produced palpitation of the heart,
so violent, in several instances, as almost to deprive me of
consciousness. There seemed no hope hut in turning my hack
upon my business, and seeking a total change of scene and
climate. In May I embarked for England, and after a few
weeks reached Paris. I here applied to Baron Larroque,
who, assisted by L'Herminier both eminent in the treat-
ment of diseases of the heart subjected me to various ex-
periments, but without the slightest advantage. At this
period I was obliged to be carried upstairs, and never ven-
tured to walk or ride alone, being constantly subject to
nervous spasms, which often brought me to the verge of
Despairing of relief here, I proceeded to London, and was
carefully examined by Sir B. 0. Brodie. He declared that I
had no organic disease ; that my difficulty was nervous irrita-
bility ; and that whereas the French physicians had inter-
dicted wine, and required me to live on a light vegetable diet,
I must feed well upon good roast beef, and take two generous
glasses of port with my dinner ! Thus encouraged, I passed
on to Edinburgh, where I consulted Abercrombie, then at the
height of his fame. He confirmed the views of Dr. Brodie, in
the main ; and, regarding the irregularity of my vital organs
as merely functional, still told me that, without shortening my
life, it would probably never be wholly removed. He told
me of an instance in w T hich a patient of his, who, having been
called upon to testify before the committee of the House of
2 jo The Story of
Commons, in the trial of Warren Hastings, from mere em-
barrassment had been seized with palpitation of the heart,
which, however, continued till his death, many years after.
Even this sombre view of my case was then a relief. Four-
and-twenty years have passed since that period, and thus
far my experience has verified Dr. Abercrombie's prediction.
These nervous attacks pursue me to this day : yet I have
become familiar with them; and, regarding them only as
troublesome visitors, I receive them as patiently as I can.
After an absence of six months I returned to Boston, and,
by the advice of my physician, took up my residence in the
country. I built a house at Jamaica Plain, four miles from
the city, and here I continued for more than twenty years.
My health was partially restored, and I resumed my literary
labours, which I continued steadily, from 1833 to 1850, with
a few episodes of lecturing and legislating, three voyages
to Europe, and an extensive tour to the South. It would
be tedious and unprofitable, were 1 even to enumerate my
various works, produced from the beginning to the present
time. I may sum up the whole in a single sentence : I am
the author and editor of about one hundred and seventy
volumes, and of these seven millions have been sold !
I have said, that however the authorship of Parley' & Tales
has made me many friends, it has also subjected me to many
annoyances. The chief of these has been the adoption of my
nom de plume by authors of juvenile works, who emulated the
success of my series. Several London publishers employed
persons to write books under the name of "Peter Parley;"
and everything was done to impress the public with the belief
that they were the productions of my pen.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 23 1
When I was in London in 1832, I learned that a pro-
minent publisher there had commenced the repuhlication of
Parley's Tales. I called upon him, and found that he had
one of them actually in the press. The result of our interview
was a contract, in which I engaged to prepare several of these
works, which he agreed to publish, allowing me a small con-
sideration. Four of these works I prepared on the spot, and
after my return to America prepared and forwarded ten
others. Some time after, I learned that the books, or at least
a portion of them, had been published in London, and were
very successful. I wrote several letters to this publisher on
the subject, but could get no reply.
Ten years passed away, and being in pressing need of all
that I might fairly claim as my due, I went to London, and
asked him to render me an account of his proceedings under
the contract. I had previously learned, on inquiry, that he
had indeed published four or five of the works, as we had
agreed, but, taking advantage of these, which passed readily
into extensive circulation, he proceeded to set aside the con-
tract, and to get up a series of publications upon the model of
those I had prepared for him, giving them in the title-pages
the name of Parley. He had thus published over a dozen
volumes, which he was circulating as Peter Parley's Library.
The speculation, as I was told, had succeeded admirably ; and
I was assured that many thousand pounds of profit had been
To my request for an account of his stewardship the pub-
lisher replied, in general terms, that I was misinformed as to
the success of the works in question ; that, in fact, they had
been a very indifferent speculation ; that he found the original
23 2 The Story of
works were not adapted to his purpose, and he had conse-
quently got up others ; that he had created, by advertising
and other means, an interest in these works, and hod thus
greatly benefited the name and fame of Parley ; and, all
things considered, he thought he had done more for me than I
had for him : therefore, in his view, if we considered the account
balanced, we should not be very far from a fair adjustment.
To this answer I made a suitable reply, but without ob-
taining the slightest satisfaction. The contract I had made
was a hastv memorandum, and judicially, perhaps, of no
binding effect on him. And besides, I had no money to expend
in litigation. A little reflection satisfied me that I was totally
at his mercy : a fact of which his calm and collected manner
assured me he was even more conscious than myself. The
discussion was not prolonged. At the second interview he
cut the whole matter short, by saying, " Sir, I do not owe
you a farthing : neither justice nor law requires me to pay you
anything. Still, I am an old man, and have seen a good deal
of life, and have learned to consider the feelings of others as
well as my own. I will pay you four hundred pounds, and
we will be quits ! If we cannot do this, we can do nothing."
In view of the whole ease, this was as much as I expected,
and so I accepted the proposition. I earnestly remonstrated
with him against the enormity of making me responsible for
works I never wrote, but as to all actual claims on the ground
of the contract I gave him a receipt in full, and we parted.
It is not to be supposed that the annoyances arising from
the falsification of the name of Parley, which I have just pointed
out, have been the only obstacles which have roughened the
current of my literary life. Not only the faults and imper-
Peter Parley's Own Life. 233
factions of execution in my juvenile works and no one
knows them so well as myself have been urged against
them, but the whole theory on which they are founded has
been often and elaborately impugned.
It is quite true, that when I wrote the first half-dozen of
Parley's Tales I had formed no philosophy upon the subject :
I simply used my experience with children in addressing
them. I followed no models, I put on no harness of the
schools, I pored over no learned examples. I imagined my-
self on the floor with a group of boys and girls, and I wrote
to them as I would have spoken to them. At a later period
I had reflected on the subject, and embodied in a few simple
lines the leading principle of what seemed to me the true art
of teaching children, and that is, to consider that their first
ideas are simple and single, and formed of images of things
palpable to the senses ; and hence that these images are to
form the staple of lessons to be communicated to them.
THE TEACHER'S LESSON.
I saw a child, some four years old,
Along a meadow stray ;
Alone she went, uncheck'd, untold,
Her home not far away.
She gazed around on earth and sky,
Now paused, and now proceeded;
Hill, valley, wood, she passed them by
Unmarked, perchance unheeded.
And now gay groups of roses bright
In circling thickets hound her
Yet on she went with footsteps light,
Still gazing all around her.
234 Th* St r y f
And now she paused, and now she stooped,
And plucked a little flower ;
A simple daisy 'twas, that drooped
Within a rosy bower.
The child did kiss the little gem,
And to her bosom press'd it ;
And there she placed the fragile stem,
And with soft words caressed it.
I love to read a lesson true
From nature's open book
And oft I learn a lesson new
From childhood's careless look.
Children are simple, loving, true
Tis God that made them so ;
And would you teach them ? be so, too,
And stoop to what they know.
Begin with simple lessons, things
On which they love to look ;
Flowers, pebbles, insects, birds on wings
These are God's spelling-book !
And children know His ABC,
As bees where flowers are set ;
Wouldst thou a skilful teacher be?
Learn then this alphabet.
From leaf to leaf, from page to page,
Guide thou thy pupil's look ;
And when he says, with aspect sage,
" Who made this wondrous book ? "
Point thou with reverend gaze to heaven,
And kneel in earnest prayer,
That lessons thou hast humbly given
May lead thy pupil there !
From this commencement I proceeded, and came to the
conclusion that in feeding the mind of children with facts, we
Peter Parley's Own Life. 235
follow the evident philosophy of nature and Providence ; in-
asmuch as these had created all children to be ardent lovers of
things they could see and hear, and feel and know. Thus I sought
to teach them history, and biography, and geography, and all
in the way in which nature would teach them, that is, by a
large use of the senses, and especially by the eye. I selected
as subjects for my books things capable of sensible represent-
ation, such as familiar animals, birds, trees ; and of these I
gave pictures, as a starting-point. The first line I wrote was,
" Here I am ; my name is Peter Parley ;" and before I went
further, gave an engraving representing my hero, as I wished
him to be conceived by my pupils. Before I began to talk of
a lion, I gave a picture of a lion ; my object being, as you will
perceive, to have the child start with a distinct image of what
I was about to give an account of. Thus I secured his
interest in the subject, and thus I was able to lead his
understanding forward in the path of knowledge.
These views, of course, led me in a direction exactly oppo-
site to the old theories in respect to nursery -books, in two
respects. In the first place, it was thought that education
should, at the very threshold, seek to spiritualise the mind,
and lift it above sensible ideas, and to teach it to live in the
world of imagination. A cow was very well to give milk,
but when she got into a book she must jump over the moon ;
a little girl going to see her grandmother was well enough as
a matter of fact, but to be suited to the purposes of instruc-
tion she must end her career in being eaten up by a wolf.
My plan was, in short, deemed too utilitarian, too material-
istic, and hence it was condemned by many persons, and
among them the larger portion of those who had formed their
2j 6 The Story of
tastes upon the old classics, from Homer down to Mother
This was one objection; another was, that I aimed at
making education easy thus bringing up the child in habits
of receiving knowledge only as made into pap, and of course
putting it out of his power to relish and digest the stronger
meat, even when his constitution demanded it.
On these grounds, and still others, my little books met
with opposition, sometimes even in grave Quarterlies, and
often in those sanctified publications, entitled " Journals of Edu-
cation." In England, at the period that the name of Parley
was most current both in the genuine as well as the false
editions the feeling against my juvenile works was so strong
among the " Conservatives," that an attempt was made to
put them down by reviving the old nursery-books. In order
to do this, a publisher in London reproduced these works,
employing the best artists to illustrate them, and bringing
them out in all the captivating luxuries of modern typography.
Nay, such was the reverence at the time for the old favourites
of the nursery, that a gentleman of the name of Halliwell ex-
pended a vast amount of patient research and antiquarian lore
in hunting up and setting before the world the history of these
performances, from " Hey diddle diddle" to
" A farmer went trotting upon his gray mare
Bumpety, bumpety, bump ! "
I trust that no one will gather from this that I condemn
rhymes for children. I know that there is a certain music in
them that delights the ear of childhood. Nor am I insensible
to the fact, that in Mother Goose's melodies there is frequently
Peter Parley's Own Life. 237
a sort of humour in the odd jingle of sound and sense. There
is, furthermore, in many of them, an historical significance
which may please the profound student who puzzles it out ;
but what I affirm is, that many of these pieces are coarse,
vulgar, offensive, and it is precisely these portions that are apt
to stick to the minds of children. And besides, if, as is com-
mon, such a book is the first that a child becomes acquainted
with, it is likely to give him a low idea of the purpose and
meaning of books, and to beget a taste for mere jingles.
With these views, I sought to prepare lessons which com-
bined the various elements suited to children a few of them
even including frequent, repetitious rhymes, yet at the same
time presenting rational ideas, and gentle, kindly sentiments.
These were my ideas in regard to first books toy -books
those which are put into the hands of children to teach
them the art of reading. As to books of amusement and in-
struction, to follow these, I gave them Parley's tales of travels,
of history, of nature and art, together with works designed
to cultivate a love of truth, charity, piety, and virtue, and I
sought to make these so attractive as to displace the bad books
to which I have already alluded the old monstrosities, Puss
in Boots, Jack the Giant-killer, and others of that class. A
principal part of my machinery was the character of Peter
Parley a kind-hearted old man, who had seen much of the
world, and, not presuming to undertake to instruct older
people, loved to sit down and tell his stories to children.
Beyond these juvenile works, I prepared a graduated series
upon the same general plan, reaching up to books for the
It is true that occasionally I wrote and published a book
238 The Story of
aside from this, my true vocation : thus I edited the Token,
and published two or three volumes of poetry. But, out of
all my works, about a hundred and twenty are professedly
juvenile; and forty are for my early readers advanced to
maturity. It is true that I have written openly, avowedly,
to attract and to please children ; yet it has been my design
at the same time to enlarge the circle of knowledge, to in-
vigorate the understanding, to strengthen the moral nerve, to
purify and exalt the imagination. Such have been my aims :
how far I have succeeded, I must leave to the judgment of
others. One thing I may perhaps claim, and that is, my
example and my success have led others, of higher gifts than
my own, to enter the ample and noble field of juvenile instruc-
tion by means of books ; many of them have no doubt sur-
passed me, and others will still follow surpassing them. I
look upon the art of writing -for children and youth, advanced
as it has been of late years, still as but just begun.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 239
CHILDREN HIS FIRST PATRONS HIS IDENTITY f DOUBTED BY
A BOY HONOURED IN NEW ORLEANS FEELINGS OF
HUMILIATION THE MICE EAT HIS PAPERS A WRONG
IF thus I met with opposition, I had also my success, nay, I
must say, my triumphs. My first patrons were the children
themselves, then the mothers, and then, of course, the fathers.
In the early part of the year 1846 I made a trip from Boston
to the South, returning by the way of the Mississippi and the
Ohio. I received many a kind welcome under the name of the
fictitious hero whom I had made to tell my stories. Some-
times, it is true, I underwent rather sharp cross -questioning,
and frequently was made to feel that I held my honours by a
rather questionable title. I, who had undertaken to teach
truth, w r as forced to confess that fiction lay at the foundation
of my scheme ! My innocent young readers, however, did
not suspect me : they had taken all I had said as positively
true, and I was, of course, Peter Parley himself.
" Did you really write that book about Africa ? " said
a black-eyed, dark-haired girl of some eight years old, at
I replied in the affirmative.
240 The Story of
" And did you really get into prison there?"
" No; I was never in Africa."
" Never in Africa ? "
" Well, then, why did you say you had been there ? "
On another occasion I think at Savannah a gentle-
man called upon me, introducing his two grandchildren, who
were anxious to see Peter Parley. The girl rushed up to me,
and kissed me at once. We were immediately the best friends
in the world. The boy, on the contrary, held himself aloof,
and ran his eye over me, up and down, from top to toe. He
tnen walked round, surveying me with the most scrutinising
gaze. After this he sat down, and during the interview took
no further notice of me. At parting he gave me a keen look,
but said nothing. The next day the gentleman called and
told me that his grandson, as they were on their way home,
said to him,
" Grandfather, I wouldn't have anything to do with that
man; he ain't Peter Parley."
" How do you know that ? " said the grandfather.
" Because," said the boy, " he hasn't got his foot bound
up, and he don't walk with a crutch ! "
On my arrival at New Orleans I was kindly received, and
had the honours of a public welcome. The proceedings were
most gratifying to me ; and, even if they stood alone, would
make amends for much misunderstanding and opposition.
Hitherto I have spoken chiefly of the books I have written
for children, the design of which was as much to amuse as to
instruct them. These comprise the entire series called Par-
ley's Tales, with many others, bearing Parley's name. As to
Peter Parley's Own Life. 241
works for education school-books, including readers, his-
tories, geographies, &c., books for popular reading, and a
wilderness of prose and poetry admitting of no classification
it is as unnecessary as it would be uninteresting to recount
them. This is the closing chapter of my literary history, and
I have little indeed to say, except to make a confession.
In looking at the long list of my publications, in re-
flecting upon the large numbers that have been sold, I feel
far more of humiliation than of triumph. If I have sometimes
taken to heart the soothing flatteries of the public, it has ever
been speedily succeeded by the conviction that my life has
been, on the whole, a series of mistakes, and especially in that
portion of it which has been devoted to authorship. I have
written too much, and have done nothing really well. I
know, better than any one can tell me, that there is nothing
in this long catalogue that will give me a permanent place in
literature. A few things may struggle upon the surface for a
time, but like the last leaves of a tree in autumn, forced at
last to quit their hold and drop into the stream even these
will disappear, and my name and all I have done will be
A recent event, half-ludicrous and half-melancholy, has
led me into this train of reflection. On going to Europe in
1851 I sent my books and papers to a friend, to be kept till
my return. Among them was a large box of business docu-
ments letters, accounts, receipts, bills paid, notes liquidated
comprising the transactions of several years, long since
passed away. Shortly after my return to New York, in pre-
paring to establish myself and family, I caused these things to
be sent to me. On opening the particular box just men-
242 tfhe Story of
tioned, I found it a complete mass of shavings, shreds, frag-
ments. My friend had put it carefully away in the upper loft
of his barn, and there it became converted into a universal
mouse-nest! The history of whole generations of the mis-
chievous little rogues was still visible ; beds, galleries, play-
grounds, birth-places, and even graves, were in a state of
excellent preservation. Several wasted and shrivelled forms
of various sizes the limbs curled up, the eyes extinct, the
teeth disclosed, the long, slender tails straight and stiffened
testified to the joys and sorrows of the races that had flourished
On exploring this mass of ruins, I discovered here and
there a file of letters eaten through, the hollow cavity evidently
having been the happy and innocent cradle of childhood to
these destroyers. Sometimes I found a bed lined with paid
bills, and sometimes the pathway of a gallery paved with
liquidated accounts. What a mass of thoughts, of feelings,
cares, anxieties, were thus made the plunder of these thought-
less creatures ! In examining the papers I found, for instance,
letters from N. P. Willis, written five -and -twenty years ago,
with only " Dear Sir" at the beginning, and " Yours truly"
at the end. I found epistles of nearly equal antiquity from
many other friends sometimes only the heart eaten out, and
sometimes the whole body gone.
For all purposes of record, these papers were destroyed.
I was alone, for my family had not yet returned from Europe :
it was the beginning of November, and I began to light my fire
with these relics. For two whole days I pored over them,
buried in the reflections which the reading of the fragments
suggested. Absorbed in this dreary occupation, I forgot the
Peter Parley's Qwn Life. 243
world without, and was only conscious of bygone scenes which
came up in review before me. It was as if I had been in the
tomb, and was reckoning with the past. How little was there
in all that I was thus called to remember, save of care, and
struggle, and anxiety ! and how were all the thoughts, and
feelings, and experiences, which seemed mountains in their
day, levelled down to the merest grains of dust ! A note of
hand perchance of a thousand dollars what a history rose
up in recollection as I looked over its scarcely legible frag-
ments ! what clouds of anxiety had its approaching day of
maturity cast over my mind ! How had I been, with a trem-
bling heart, to some bank-president he a god, and I a
craven worshipper making my offering of some other note
for a discount, which might deliver me from the wrath to
come ! With what anxiety have I watched the lips of the
oracle, for my fate was in his hands ! A simple monosyllable
yes or no might save or ruin me. What a history was
in that bit of paper! and yet it was destined only to serve
as stuffing for the beds of vermin.
I ought, no doubt, to have smiled at all this ; but I con-
fess it made me serious. Nor was it the most humiliating
part of my reflections, I have been too familiar with care,
conflict, disappointment, to mourn over them very deeply,
now that they were passed. The seeming fatuity of such a
mass of labours as these papers indicated, compared with their
poor results, however it might humble, it could not distress
me. But there were many things suggested by these letters,
all in rags as they were, that caused positive humiliation.
They revived in my mind the vexations, misunderstandings,
controversies of other days ; and now, reviewed in the calm
light of time, I could discover the mistakes of judgment, of
244 iS5 Story of
temper, of policy, that I had made. I turned back to my letter-
book ; I reviewed my correspondence ; and I came to the con-
clusion that in almost every difficulty which had arisen in my
path, even if others were wrong, I was not altogether right :
in most cases, prudence, conciliation, condescension, might
have averted these evils. Thus the thorns which had wounded
me and others too, as it seemed, had generally sprung up from
the seeds I had sown, or had thriven upon the culture my
own hands had unwisely bestowed.
At first I felt disturbed at the ruin which had been
wrought in these files of papers. Hesitating and doubtful, I
consigned them one by one to the flames. At last the work
was complete ; all had perished, and the feathery ashes had
leaped up in the strong draught of the chimney and dis-
appeared for ever. I felt a relief at last ; I smiled at what
had happened ; I warmed my chill ringers over the embers ;
I felt that a load was off my shoulders. " At least," said I
in my heart, " these things are now passed ; my reckoning is
completed, the account is balanced, the responsibilities of those
bygone days are liquidated ; let me burden my bosom with
them no more !" Alas, how fallacious my calculation ! A few
months only had passed, when I was called to contend with
a formidable claim which came up from the midst of trans-
actions to which these extinct papers referred, and against
which they constituted my defence. As it chanced, I was
able to meet and repel it by documents which survived ; but
the event caused me deep reflection. I could not but remark
that, however we may seek to cover our lives with forget -
fulness, their records still exist, and these may come up against
us when we have no vouchers to meet the charges which are
thus presented. Who, then, will be our helper ?
Peter Parley's Own Life. 245
, MAKES A SPEECH LECTURES ON IRELAND FORTIFIES
HIMSELF WITH PEPPERMINTS A WHIG IN POLITICS
EVERETT AND VAN BUREN PERSONAL ATTACKS BE-
COMES A SENATOR THE "FIFTEEN-GALLON LAW "
PUBLISHES A PAMPHLET IN ITS FAVOUR "MY NEIGH-
BOUR SMITH" HIS FAMILY INSULTED HIS POLITICAL
THE first public speech I ever made was at St. Albans, in
England, in the year 1832, at a grand celebration of the
passing of the Reform Bill ; having accompanied thither Sir
Francis Vincent, the representative in Parliament of that
ancient borough. More than three thousand people, men,
women, and children, gathered from the town and the vicinity,
were feasted at a long table, set out in the principal street of
the place. After this feast there were various sports, such as
donkey -races, climbing a greased pole, and the like. At six
o'clock, about one hundred and fifty of the gentry and leading
tradesmen and mechanics sat down to a dinner, Sir Francis
presiding. The President of the United States was toasted,
and I was called upon to respond. Entirely taken by surprise,
for not a word had been said to me upon the subject, I made
a speech. I could never recall what I said : all I remember
246 The Story of
is a whirl of thoughts and emotions as I rose, occasional cries
of " Hear, hear ! " as I went on, and a generous clapping of
hands as I concluded. Whether this last was because I really
made a good hit, or from another principle
" The best of Graham's speeches was his last"
I am totally unable to say.
My next public appearance was in a lecture at the Tremont
Temple, in Boston ; my subject being " Ireland and the Irish." .
Although my discourse was written, and pretty well com-
mitted to memory, yet for several days before the time appointed
for its delivery arrived, when I thought of my engagement,
my heart failed me. When the hour came I went to the
door of the room, but on seeing the throng of persons collected
I felt that my senses were deserting me : turning on my heel,
I went out, and going to an apothecary's, fortified myself with
some peppermint lozenges. When I got back, the house was
waiting with impatience. I was immediately introduced to
the audience by Dr. Walter Channing, and stepping upon the
platform, began. After the first sentence, I was perfectly at
my ease. Afterwards I repeated the same lecture more than
In the autumn of 1836 there was a large evening party
at Jamaica Plain, at the house of Mrs. G , the lady-
patroness of the village. Among the notable men present was
Daniel Webster, whom I had frequently seen, but to whom I
was now introduced for the first time. He spoke to me of
many things, and at last of politics, suggesting that the im-
pending presidential election involved most important ques-
tions, and he deemed it the duty of every man to reflect upon
Peter Parley *s Own Life. 247
the subject, and to exert his influence as his conscience might
Since my residence in Massachusetts, a period of nearly
eight years, I had been engrossed in my business, and had
never even voted. Just at this time I was appointed, without
any suggestion of my own, one of the delegates to the Whig
Convention to nominate a person to represent us, the Ninth
Congressional District, in Congress. This was to take place
at Medway, at the upper end of the district. I went accord-
ingly, and on the first ballot was the highest candidate, save
one, Mr. Hastings, of Mendon. I declined, of course, and
he was unanimously nominated.
The canvass that ensued was a very animated one, Mr.
Van Buren being the democratic candidate for the presidency.
He was considered as the heir-apparent of the policy of Gen.
Jackson, and had, indeed, promised, if elected, to walk in the
footsteps of his illustrious predecessor. Without the personal
popularity of that remarkable man, he became the target for
all the hostility which his measures had excited. He was,
however, elected, but to be overwhelmed with a whirlwind of
discontent and opposition four years after.
The candidate for Congress in our district, in opposition
to Mr. Hastings, was Alexander H. Everett, who had been
hitherto a conspicuous Whig, and who had signalised himself
by the ability and the bitterness of his attacks on General
Jackson and his administration. He had singled out Mr.
Van Buren for especial vehemence of reproach, because, being
Secretary of State at the time, Mr. Everett was superseded as
Minister to Spain without the customary courtesy of an official
note advising him of the appointment of his successor. To
248 The Story of
the amazement of the public in general, and his friends in par-
ticular, on the 8th January, 1836, Mr. Everett delivered an
oration before the democracy of Salem, in which ignoring
the most prominent portion of his political life he came out
with the warmest eulogies upon General Jackson ' and his
administration ! About the first of May, the precise period
when it was necessary, in order to render him eligible to Con-
gress in the Ninth District, he took up his residence within
its precincts, and, as was easily foreseen, was the democratic
candidate for Congress.
The Whig District Committee, of which I was one, and
Charles Bo wen (Mr. Everett's publisher), another, issued a
pamphlet, collating and contrasting Mr. Everett's two opinions
of General Jackson's policy, and especially of Mr. Van Buren
the one flatly contradicting the other, and, in point of date,
being but two or three years apart. This was circulated over
the towns of the district. It was a terrible document, and
Mr. Everett felt its force. One of them was left at his own
door in the general distribution. This he took as a personal
insult, and meeting Bowen, knocked him over the head with
his umbrella. Bowen clutched him by the throat, and would
have strangled him but for the timely interference of a
I had been among Mr. Everett's personal friends, but he
now made me the object of special attack. In a paper, which
then circulated a good deal in the district, I was severely
lashed under the name of Peter Parley, not because I was a
candidate for office, but because I was chairman of the Whig
District Committee. I recollect that one day some rather
scandalous thing came out against me in the editorial columns
Peter Par ley 1 s Own Life. 249
of this journal, and feeling very indignant, I went to see the
editor. I did not know him personally, but from occasionally
reading his paper I had got the idea that he was a very
monster of violence. He was not at the office, but such was
my irritation and impatience that I went to his house. I
rang, and a beautiful black-eyed girl, some eight years old,
came to the door. I asked if Mr. H was in ? " Mother,"
said the child, in a voice of silver, " is father at home ? " At
this moment another child, and still younger, its small, round
head all over curls, came to the door. Then a mild and
handsome woman came, and to my inquiry she said that her
husband was out, but would return in a few moments.
My rage was quelled in an instant. " So," said I to my-
self, " these children call that man father, and this woman calls
him husband. After all, he cannot be such a monster as I
have fancied him, with such a home." I turned on my heel
and went away, my ill -humour having totally subsided. Some
two years after I told him this anecdote, and we had a
good-humoured laugh over it. Both of us had learned
to discriminate between political controversy and personal
The attacks made upon me during this canvass had an
effect different from what was intended. I was compelled to
take an active part in the election, and deeming the success of
my party essential to my own defence, I naturally made more
vigorous efforts for that object. Mr. Everett was defeated by
a large majority, and the Whig candidate triumphed. At the
same time I was chosen a member of the legislature for Rox-
bury Jamaica Plain, where I resided, being a parish of that
town. The next year I was a candidate for the Senate, in
250 The Story of
competition with Mr. Everett, and was elected. In this man-
ner I was forced into politics, and was indebted mainly to
opposition for my success.
During the ensuing session of the legislature, the winter
of 1837 8, the famous "Fifteen-Gallon Law" was passed
that is, a law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors in
less quantities than fifteen gallons. The county I represented
was largely in favour of the measure, and I voted for it,
though I was by no means insensible to the agitation it was
certain to produce. I had determined not to be a candidate
for re-election, and therefore considered myself free to engage
in the discussion which preceded the next election, and which,
of course, mainly turned upon this law. Among other things,
I wrote a little pamphlet, entitled Five Letters to my Neigh-
bour Smith, touching the Fifteen- Gallon Jug, the main
design of which was to persuade the people of Massachusetts
to make the experiment, and see whether such a restraint
upon the sale of intoxicating drinks would not be beneficial.
This was published anonymously, and my intention was to
have the authorship remain unknown. It, however, had an
enormous sale a hundred thousand copies in the course of
a few months, and curiosity soon found me out.
Now in the village of Jamaica Plain I had a neighbour,
though not by the name of Smith a rich liquor-dealer, who
did his business in Boston a very respectable man, but a
vehement opposer of the " Fifteen- Gallon Law." As the
election approached, the citizens of the state were drawn out
in two parties those in favour of prohibition on the one
side, and the men in favour of free liquor on the other. My
neighbour was the wealthiest, the most respectable, and the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 251
most influential of the latter. He insisted, that by " My
Neighbour Smith" I meant him; and though I had said
nothing disagreeable of that personage, but, on the contrary,
had drawn his portrait in very amiable colours, he held that
it was a malicious personal attack. In vain did I deny the
charge, and point to the fact that the residence, character, and
qualities of my fictitious hero were inapplicable to him.
Anxious, like Mawworm, to be persecuted, he insisted upon it
that he was persecuted.
At the county convention, which took place some two
months prior to this election, I declined being a candidate.
The members present, however, clearly discerning the gathering
storm, refused to release me, and I was forced to accept the
nomination. The election was to take place on Monday, in
November. On the Saturday previous there was issued in
Boston a pamphlet, entitled the Cracked Jug, a personal and
political attack upon me, written with great malice and some
ability. It was scattered, like snow-flakes, all over the
country ; and was, I suspect, the Sunday reading of all the
tipplers and taverners of the county. The bar-room critics
esteemed it superior to anything which had appeared since the
Letters of Junius, and of course, considered me as annihilated.
On Monday, election-day, my family were insulted in the
streets of Jamaica Plain, and as I went into the Town Hall
to cast my vote I heard abundance of gibes cast at me from
beneath lowering beavers. The result was, that there was no
choice of senators in the county. The election, when the
people had thus failed to fill their places, fell upon the legis-
lature, and I was chosen. The storm gradually passed away.
The "Fifteen-Gallon Law" was repealed, but it nearly over-
252 The Story of
turned the Whig party in the state, which, being in the
majority, was made responsible for it. I deemed it necessary
to reply to my Neighbour Smith's Cracked Jug, and he
rejoined. What seemed at the time a deadly personal
struggle, was, ere long, forgotten ; neither party, I believe,
carrying, in his character or his feelings, any of the scars in-
flicted daring the battle. Both had, in some sort, triumphed ;
both, in some sort, been beaten ; both could, therefore, afford
to return to the amicable relations of village neighbourhood.
In the autumn of 1840 the Whigs nominated William
Henry Harrison as the candidate for the presidency, in oppo-
sition to Mr. Van Buren. He had held various civil and
military trusts, in which he had displayed courage, wisdom,
and patriotism. His personal character was eminently winning
to the people, being marked with benevolence and simplicity.
He had long retired from public life, and for several years had
lived as a farmer on the " North Bend" of the Ohio, near
Cincinnati. The Democrats ridiculed him as drinking hard
cider and living in a log cabin. The masses, resenting this as
coming from those who, having the Government spoils, were
rioting in the White House on champagne, took these gibes,
and displayed them as their mottoes and symbols upon their
banners. They gathered in barns, as was meet for the friends
of the farmer of .North Bend, using songs and speeches as
flails, threshing his enemies with a will. The spirit spread
over mountain and valley, and in every part of the country
men were seen leaving their customary employments to
assemble in multitudinous conventions. Many of these
gatherings numbered twenty thousand persons.
During this animated canvass I was not a candidate for
Peter Parley's Own Life. 253
office, yet I took part in the great movement, and made about
a hundred speeches in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Every-
body, then, could make a speech, and everybody could sing a
song. Orators sprang up like mushrooms, and the gift of
tongues was not more universal than the gift of music.
A speechmaker in the western part of the State of Vir-
ginia, during the canvass, has given us the following anec-
dote. He was holding forth upon the merits of General
Harrison, and especially upon his courage, tact, and success as
a military commander. While in the midst of his discourse a
tall, gaunt man, who was probably a schoolmaster in those
parts, arose from the crowd, and said, in a voice which
penetrated the whole assembly,
"Mister Mister! I want to ax you a question." To
this the orator assented, and the man went on as follows,-
" We are told, fellow-citizens, that Gineral Harrison is a
mighty great gineral ; but I say he 's one of the very meanest
sort of ginerals. We are told here to-night that he defended
himself bravely at Fort Meigs ; but I tell you that on that
occasion he was guilty of the l Small Tail Movement,' and I
challenge the orator here present to deny it ! "
The speaker declared his utter ignorance of what the
intruder meant by " Small Tail Movement."
" I '11 tell you," said the man ; " I 've got it here in black
and white. Here is Grimshaw's History of the United
States," holding up the book, " and I '11 read "what it says :
' At this critical moment, General Harrison executed a novel
movement ! ' Does the gentleman deny that ? "
" No ; go on."
" Well, he executed a novel movement. Now, here's
254 The Story of
Johnson's Dictionary," taking the book out of his pocket,
and holding it up, " and here it says : ' NOVEL a small
tale ! ' And this was the kind of movement General Harrison
was guilty of. Now, I'm no soger, and don't know much of
milentary tictacks but this I do say : a man who, in the
face of an enemy, is guilty of a ' Small Tail Movement/ is not
fit to be President of the United States, and he shan't have
Towns, cities, and villages were enlivened with torch-
light processions, and with long, bannered phalanxes, shouting
for the hero of Tippecanoe ! The result of the election was
such as might have been anticipated ; the election of Harrison
giving him two hundred and thirty -four votes, leaving oaly
sixty for Van Buren! The death of Harrison, however,
which took place thirty days after he had entered upon the
duties of his office, with consequent divisions among the
leading members of the Whig party at Washington, deprived
the country of nearly the whole benefit due to a change so
emphatically pronounced by the voice of the people.
From this period I have taken no active part in politics.
In reviewing the past, while duly appreciating the honour
conferred by the confidence bestowed upon me by the citizens
who gave me their suffrages, I still regard my political career
as an unprofitable, nay, an unhappy episode, alien to my
literary position and pursuits, and every way injurious to my
interests and my peace of mind. It gave me painful glimpses
into the littleness, the selfishness, the utter quackery of a large
portion of those politicians who lead, or seem to lead, the van
of parties ; and who, pretending to be guided by patriotism,
are usually only using principles and platforms as means to
Peter Parley' 's Own Life. 255
carry them into office. As some compensation for this, it has
also led me to a conviction that the great mass of the people
are governed by patriotic motives, though even with these I
have often noted curious instances in which the public interests
were forgotten in a desire to achieve some selfish end.
256 The Story of
APPOINTED U. S. CONSUL TO PARIS LOUIS XVIII. A FEW
JOTTINGS UPON FRENCH NOTABILITIES CURE FOR HY-
DROCEPHALUS UNSETTLED STATE OF THINGS IN PARIS.
IN the autumn of 1846, I went with my family to Paris,
partly for literary purposes, and partly also to give my
children advantages of education, which, in consequence of
my absorbing cares for a series of years, they had been denied.
Here they remained for nearly two years, while I returned
home to attend to my affairs, spending the winters, however,
Toward the close of 1849 I removed to New York, to
execute certain literary engagements. These completed, I
went, in December 1850, to Washington, taking my family
with me. Here we remained for three months, when, having
received the appointment of United States Consul to Paris, I
returned to New York, and, after due preparation, sailed on
the 5th of April, 1851, to enter upon the official duties which
thus devolved upon me.
About the middle of April, 1851, I arrived in Paris, and
soon after took charge of the Consulate there. I have fre-
quently been in this gay city, and I now propose to gather up
Peter Parley's Own Life. 257
my recollections -of it, and select therefrom a few items which
may fill up the blank that yet remains in my story.
I first visited Paris in January, 1824, as I have told you.
At the time I first arrived here, this city was very different
from what it now is. Louis XVIII. was upon the throne,
and had occupied it for nine years. During this period he had
done almost nothing to repair the state of waste and dilapida-
tion in which the Allies had left it. These had taken down
the statue of Napoleon on the column of the Place Vendome,
and left its pedestal vacant ; the king had followed up the
reform and erased the offensive name of the exiled Emperor
from the public monuments, and put his own, Louis XVIII.,
in their place ; he had caused a few churches to be repaired,
and some pictures of the Virgin to be painted and placed in
their niches. But ghastly mounds of rubbish, the wrecks of
demolished edifices ; scattered heaps of stones at the foot of half-
built walls of buildings, destined never to be completed,
these and other unsightly objects were visible on every hand,
marking the recent history of Napoleon, overthrown in the
midst of his mighty projects, and leaving his name and his
works to be desecrated alike by a foreign foe and a more bitter
The king, Louis XVIII., was a man of good sense and
liberal mind, for one of his race ; but he was wholly unfit to
administer the government. He was a sort of monster of
obesity, and, at the time I speak of, having lost the use of his
lower limbs, he could not walk, and was trundled about the
palace of the Tuileries in a wheel-chair. I have often seen him
let down in this, through the arch in the south-eastern angle
of the palace, into his coach ; and on returning from his ride,
2 5 8 The Story of
again taken up ; and all this more like a helpless barrel of beef
than a sovereign. Had the Allies intended to make Legitimacy
at once odious and ridiculous, they could not better have con-
trived it than by squatting down this obese, imbecile extin-
guisher upon the throne of France, as the successor of Napoleon !
The Parisians are, however, a philosophic race : as they
could not help themselves, they did not spend their lives like
children, in profitless poutings. They had their jokes, and
among these, they were accustomed to call Louis Dix-huit,
"Louis des huitres" a tolerable pun, which was equivalent
to giving him the familiar title of " Oyster Louis." Deeming
it their birthright to have three or four hours of pleasure every
day, whoever may be in power, they still frequented the
promenades, the boulevards, and the theatres.
I cannot, perhaps, do better than transcribe a few passages
from the hasty jottings I made at the time :
" February 6. Washington Irving returned our call.
Strikingly mild and amiable, he spoke of many things, all in
a quiet manner, evidently with a fund of feeling beneath.
"February 14. Went to a meeting of the Societe
Philomatique, composed of members of the Institute ; saw
Fourier, the famous geometrician and physician : Thenard,
a famous chemist, associated with Gay-Lussac : Poisson, one
of the first mathematicians in Europe ; and Geoffroy St.
Hilaire, a zoologist, second only to Cuvier.
" The proceedings were conducted with order and simpli-
city, forming a striking contrast to the pompous declamation
I heard in London, at the Society of Arts, upon hatching eggs.
" February 16. Went to a meeting of the Institute, held
in the Hotel Mazarin : one hundred and fifty members present ;
Peter Parley's Own Life. 259
Arago president. He is tall, broad-shouldered, and imposing
in appearance, with a dark, swarthy complexion, and a black,
piercing eye. Lamarck, the famous writer on natural history
old, infirm, blind was led in by another member, a dis-
tinguished entomologist, whose name I have forgotten : Fon-
taine, the architect ; tall, homely, and aged : Gay-Lussac, a
renowned chemist, under forty, active, fiery in debate : Cuvier,
rather a large man, red face, eyes small, very near-sighted ;
eyes near together and oddly appearing and disappearing ;
features acute, hair grey, long, and careless : he spoke several
times, and with great pertinency and effect ; Lacroix, the
mathematician : Laplace, the most famous living astronomer ;
tall, thin, and sharp -featured reminded me of the portraits
of Voltaire ; he is about seventy-five, feeble, yet has all his
" The principal discussion related to gasometers, the police
of Paris having asked the opinion of the Institute as to the
safety of certain new kinds, lately introduced. The subject
excited great interest, and the debate was quite animated.
Thenard, Gay-Lussac, Girard, Laplace, Cuvier, and others,
engaged in the debate. Nearly all expressed themselves with
great ease and even volubility. They were occasionally vehe-
ment, and when excited several spoke at once, and the president
was obliged often to ring his bell to preserve order.
" It was strange and striking to see so many old men,
just on the borders of the grave, still retaining such ardour
for science as to appear at a club like this, and enter with
passion into all the questions that came up. Such a spectacle
is not to be seen elsewhere on the earth. The charms of
science generally fade to the eye of threescore and ten : few
260 The Story of
passions except piety and avarice survive threescore. It is
evident, in studying this Association, that the highest and
most ardent exercises of the mind are here stimulated by the
desire of glory, which is the reward of success. One thing
struck me forcibly in this assembly, and that was, the utter
absence of all French foppery in dress among the members.
Their attire was plain black, and generally as simple as that
of so many New England clergymen.
" In the evening went to the Theatre Francais, to see
Talma in the celebrated tragedy of ' Sylla,' by Jouy. Do not
well understand the French, but could see that the acting was
very masterly. In the passionate parts there was a display
of vigour, but at other times the performance was quiet and
natural, without any of the stage exaggeration I am accus-
tomed to. Most of the scenes were such as might actually
take place under the circumstances indicated in the play.
Talma is said to resemble Napoleon in person : he certainly
looked very much like his portraits. His hair was evidently
arranged to favour the idea of resemblance to the Emperor.
He is a very handsome man, and comes up to my idea of a
" February 20. Went to see a new comedy by Casimir
Delavigne, 'L'Ecole des Vieillards.' Talma and Mademoiselle
Mars played the two principal parts. The piece consisted of
a succession of rather long dialogues, without any change of
scenery. Talma is inimitable in the character of a refined but
somewhat imbecile man, who has passed the prime of life ;
and Mademoiselle Mars is, beyond comparison, the most
graceful and pleasing of actresses. I am struck with the strict
propriety, the refinement even, of the manners of the audience.
Peter Par/ey's Own Life. 16 1
" February 21st. Went to the Hospital of La Charite.
Saw Laennec, with his pupils, visiting the patients. He
makes great use of the stethoscope, which is a wooden tube
applied to the body, and put to the ear ; by the sound, the
state of the lungs and the vital organs is ascertained. It is
like a telescope, by which the interior of the body is perceived,
only that the ear is used instead of the eye. It is deemed
a great improvement. Laennec is the inventor, and has high
reputation in the treatment of diseases of the chest. He has
learned to ascertain the condition of the lungs by thumping
on the breast and back of the patient, and putting the ear to
the body at the same time.
" The whole hospital was neat and clean ; bedsteads of
iron. French medical practice very light; few medicines
given ; nursing is a great part of the treatment.
" Same day, went to the Hotel Dieu, a medical and
surgical hospital. Saw Dupuytren and his pupils visiting
the patients. He holds the very first rank as a surgeon.
His operations are surprisingly bold and skilful. Edward
C , of Philadelphia, who is here studying medicine, told
me a good anecdote of him. He has a notion that he can
instantly detect hydrocephalus in a patient from the manner
in which he carries his head. One day, while he was in the
midst of his scholars at the hospital, he sa,w a common sort of
man standing at a distance, among several persons who had
come for medical advice. Dupuytren's eye fell upon him, and
he said to his pupils, ' Do you see yonder that fellow that
has his hand to his face, and carries his head almost on his
shoulder ? Now, take notice : that man has hydrocephalus.
Come here, my good fellow ! '
262 fhe Story of
11 The man thus called came up. ' Well,' said Dupuy-
tren, ' I know what ails you ; but come, tell us about it
yourself. What is the matter with you ? '
" ' I've got the toothache!' was the reply.
" ' Take that/ said Dupuytren, giving him a box on the
ear; ' and go to the proper department and have it pulled
out ! ' "
I was again in Paris in the summer of 1832. Great
changes had taken place since 1824. Louis XVIII. was
dead; Charles X. had succeeded; and, after a brief reign,
had been driven away by the revolution of the " Three
Glorious Days." Louis Philippe was now on the throne.
On the 29th of July, and the two following days, we saw the
celebration of the event which had thus changed the dynasty
of France. It consisted of a grand fete, in the Champs
Elysees, closed by a most imposing military spectacle, in
which eighty thousand troops, extending from the Arc de
Triomphe to the Place Vendome, marched before the
admiring throng. Louis Philippe was himself on horseback
as commander -in -chief, and such was his popularity among
the masses, that, in many instances, I saw men in blouses
rush up and grasp his hand, and insist upon shaking it.
Sixteen years after I saw him hustled into a cab, and flying
from the mob for his life his family scattered, and he but
too happy to get safe to England in the disguise of a sailor !
As I have said, I established my family in Paris in 1846 ;
that winter and the following I was also there. I remember
that on a certain Monday in February, 1848, I went up to
see our countrywoman, the Marchioness Lavalette, to arrange
with her about an introduction she had promised me to
Peter Parley's Own Life. 263
Guizot. She was not at home, but as I was coming down
the hill from the Place St. George, I met her in her carriage.
She asked me to walk back to her house, and I did so. I
observed that she was much agitated, and asked her the
cause. " We are going to have trouble ! " said she. " I
have just been to the Chambers : the ministry have deter-
mined to stop the meeting of the Liberals to-morrow; the
proclamation is already being printed."
" Well, and what then ? " said I.
" Another ' Three Glorious Days ! ' "
To this I replied that I conceived her fears groundless ;
that Louis Philippe appeared to me strong in the confidence
of the people ; that he was noted for his prudence and
sagacity ; that Guizot, his prime minister, was a man of
great ability ; that the whole cabinet, indeed, were distin-
guished for their judgment and capacity. The lady shook
her head, and rejoined,
" I know Paris better than you do. We are on the eve
of an earthquake ! "
Soon after this I took my leave. What speedily ensued
may best be told in another chapter, by a few extracts from a
letter I addressed to a friend in Boston at the time.
264 The Story of
LOUIS PHILIPPE AND THE REVOLUTION LIST OP GRIEVANCES
THE MOB AT THE MADELEINE BARRICADES "DOWN
WITH GUIZOT!" THE FIRING COMMENCED FLIGHT OF
THE KING AND QUEEN SCENE IN THE CHAMBER OF
DEPUTIES SACK OF THE TUILERIES A CALM.
11 Paris, M, archl 4^,1848.
" IT may be well to state a few particulars as to tlie political
condition of France at the moment of the revolt.
" Louis Philippe commenced his career under fair aus-
pices, and for a time everything promised a happy fulfilment
of what seemed his duty and his destiny. But by degrees a
great change came over the monarch ; the possession of pow r er
seduced his heart, and turned his head; and forgetting his
pledges, and blind to his true interest, he set himself to
building up a dynasty that should hand down his name and
fame to posterity.
" It seemed, at a superficial glance, that he might realise
his dream. He had acquired the reputation of being the
most sagacious monarch of his time. He had improved and
embellished the capital ; on all sides his ' image and super-
scription' were seen in connexion with works of beauty and
Peter Parley's Own Life. . 265
utility. France was happier than the adjacent countries.
The famine and the pestilence, that had recently desolated
neighbouring states, had trod more lightly here. The king
was blessed with a large family. These had all reached
maturity, and were allied to kings and queens, princes and
princesses. The upholders of the Crown in the parliament
were men whose names alone were a tower of strength. Peace
reigned at home, and the army abroad had just succeeded in
achieving a signal triumph over an enemy that had baffled
them for years.
" Such was the outward seeming of affairs ; but there
were threatening fires within which might at any moment
produce a conflagration. Many thinking people were pro-
foundly disgusted with the retrograde tendency of the Govern-
ment. Although the march of despotism had been cautious
and stealthy, the people generally began to feel the tyranny to
which they had become subjected.
" Among these grievances were the constant increase of
the national debt, and consequent increase of taxation, with
the restraints put upon the liberty of the press and of speech.
By a law of some years' standing, the people were prohibited
from holding stated meetings of more than twenty persons
without license; and reform banquets, or meetings for the
discussion of public affairs of which about seventy had been
held in different parts of the kingdom within the last year
were now pronounced illegal by the ministry. Finally, a
determination to suppress one of them, about to be held in the
twelfth ward of Paris, was solemnly announced by the Ministry
in the Chamber of Deputies.
" It is material to bear in mind, that there are always in
266 The Story of
this metropolis at least one hundred thousand workmen who
live from day to day upon their labour, and who, upon the
slightest check to trade, are plunged into poverty, if not
starvation. At the moment of which we are speaking this
immense body of men, with their families, were suffering sorely
from the stagnation of business in the capital. There were
not less than two hundred thousand persons who, for the space
of three months, had hardly been able to obtain sufficient food
to appease the cravings of hunger. How easy to stir up these
people to rebellion! how natural for them to turn their
indignation against the king and his government ! The
' Opposition' members seized the occasion now afforded them
to excite these discontented masses against the ministry ; and
the latter, by their rashness, did more than their enemies to
prepare the mine and set the match to the train.
" The crisis was now at hand. The ' Opposition' depu-
ties declared their intention to attend the proposed meeting;
and, in spite of the threats of the ministry, the preparations
for the banquet went vigorously on. A place was selected in
the Champs Elysees, and a building was in progress of erec-
tion for the celebration. The programme of the same was
announced ; the toast for the occasion was published ; the
orator, 0. Barrot, selected. The day was fixed : an ominous
day for tyranny, an auspicious one for human freedom. It
was the 22d of February, the birthday of Washington!
Whether it has received a new title to its place in the calendar
of liberty, must be left for the decision of time.
" The evening of the 21st came, and then proclamations
were issued, by the co-operation of the ministry and the
police, prohibiting the banquet. This act, though it had been
Peter Parley's Own Life. 267
hreatened, still fell like a thunderbolt upon the people. It
was known that an immense military force had been quietly
assembled in Paris and the vicinity eighty thousand troops,
with artillery and ample munitions and that the garrisons
around the Tuileries had been victualled as if for a siege.
But it had not been believed that an attempt to stifle the
voice of the people, so bold as this, would really be made.
Yet such was the fact. The leaders of the ' Opposition '
receded from their ground; and it was announced, in the
papers of the 22d, that the banquet, being forbidden by the
Government, would not take place.
" The morning of this day was dark and drizzly. I had
anticipated some manifestation of uneasiness, and at half-past
nine o'clock went forth. Groups of people were reading the
proclamations posted up at the corners of the streets, but all
was tranquil. I walked along the Boulevards for a mile, yet
saw no symptoms of the coming storm.
" The designated place of meeting for the banquet was the
square of the Madeleine. This is at the western extremity of
the Boulevards, and near the great central square called the
Place de la Concorde, a point communicating directly with
the Chamber of Deputies, the Champs Elysees, the gardens of
the Tuileries, &c. At eleven o'clock, A.M., a dark mass was
seen moving along the Boulevards towards the proposed place
of meeting. This consisted of thousands of workmen from the
fauxbourgs. In a few moments the entire square of the Made-
leine was filled with these persons, dressed almost exclusively
in their characteristic costume, which consists of a blue tunic,
called blouse a garment which is made very much in the
fashion of our farmers' frocks.
268 The Story of
" The opening scene of the drama had now begun. The
mass rushed and eddied around the Madeleine, which, by the
way, is the finest church and the finest edifice in Paris. Such
was the threatening aspect of the scene, that the shops were all
suddenly shut, and the people around began to supply them-
selves, with bread and other food, for ' three days.' In a few
moments the avalanche took its course down the Rue Roy ale,
swept across the Place de la Concorde, traversed the bridge
over the Seine, and collected, in swelling and heaving masses,
in the place, or square, before the Chamber of Deputies. This
building is defended in front by a high iron railing. The
gate of this was soon forced, and some hundreds of the people
rushed up the long flight of steps, and, pausing beneath the
portico, struck up the song of the 'Marseillaise' a song,
by the way, interdicted by law on account of its exciting
character. The crowd here rapidly increased : shouts, songs,
cries filled the air. East and west, along the quays, and
through the streets behind the Chamber, came long lines of
students from the various schools. Standing upon one of the
pillars of the bridge, I commanded a view of the whole scene.
It was one to fill the heart with the liveliest emotions. A
hundred thousand people were now collected, seeming like an
agitated sea, and sending forth a murmur resembling the voice
of many waters. From the southern gate of the Tuileries
now issued two bodies of troops one, on horseback, coming
along the northern quay. These were the Municipal Guard,
a magnificent corps, richly caparisoned, and nobly mounted.
Being picked men, and well paid, they were the chief reliance
of the Government, and for that very reason were hated by
the people. The other body of troops were infantry of the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 269
line, and, crossing the Pont Royal, came along the southern
bank of the river. Both detachments approached the multi-
tude, and crowding upon them with a slow advance, succeeded
at last in clearing the space before the Chamber.
" The greater part of the throng recrossed the bridge, and
spread themselves over the Place de la Concorde. This square,
perhaps the most beautiful in the world, is about five acres in
extent. This vast area was now crowded with an excited
populace, mainly of the working classes. Their number con-
stantly augmented, and bodies of troops, foot and horse, arrived
from various quarters, till the square was literally covered.
The number of persons here collected in one mass was over
one hundred thousand.
" At the commencement, the mob amused themselves with
songs and shouts ; but in clearing the space before the Cham-
ber, and driving the people across the bridge, the guards had
displayed great rudeness. They pressed upon the masses, and
one woman was crushed to death beneath the hoofs of the
horses. Pebbles now began to be hurled at the troops from
the square. Dashing in among the people, sword in hand,
the cavalry drove them away ; but as they cleared one spot,
another was immediately filled. The effect of this was to
chafe and irritate the mob, who now began to seize sticks and
stones, and hurl them in good earnest at their assailants.
" While this petty war was going on, some thousands of
the rioters dispersed themselves through the Champs Elysees,
and began to build barricades across the main avenue. The
chairs, amounting to many hundreds, were immediately dis-
posed in three lines across the street. Benches, trellises, boxes,
fences every movable thing within reach were soon added
270 The Story of
to these barricades. An omnibus passing by was captured,
detached from the horses, and tumbled into one of the lines.
The flag was taken from the Panorama near by, and a vast
procession paraded through the grounds, singing the ' Mar-
seillaise,' the ' Parisienne,' and other patriotic airs.
" Meanwhile, a small detachment of foot guards advanced
to the scene of action ; but they were pelted with stones, and
took shelter in their guard-house, This was assailed with a
shower of missiles, which rattled like hail upon its roof. The
windows were dashed in, and a heap of brush near by was laid
to the wall, and set on fire. A body of horse guards soon
arrived, and dispersed the rioters ; but the latter crossed to
the northern side of the Champs Elysees, attacked another
guard -house, and set it on fire. A company of the line came
to the spot, but the mob cheered them, and they remained
inactive. The revel proceeded, and, in the face of the soldiers,
the people fed the fire with fuel from the surrounding trees
and fences, sang their songs, cracked their jokes, and cried
' Down with Guizot ! ' ' Vive la E-eforme ! ' &c. In these
scenes the boys took the lead, performing the most desperate
feats, and inspiring the rest by their intrepidity. A remark-
able air of fun and frolic characterised the mob jokes flew
as freely on all sides as stones and sticks.
" Such was the course of events the first day, so far as
they fell under my own observation. It appears from the
papers that similar proceedings, though in some cases of a
more serious character, took place elsewhere. Great masses of
people gathered at various points. They made hostile demon-
strations before the Office of Foreign Affairs, crying out,
' Down with Guizot ! ' Some person called for the minister.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 271
' He is not here/ said one ; ' he is with the Countess Lieven/
a remark which the habitues of Paris will understand as
conveying a keen satire. At other points a spirit of insub-
ordination was manifested. Bakers' shops were broken open,
armories forced, and barricades begun. Everywhere the hymn
of the ' Marseillaise' and ' Mourir pour la Patrie' were sung
often by hundreds of voices, and with thrilling effect. The
rappel for calling out the National Guard was beaten in
several quarters. As night closed in, heavy masses of soldiery,
horse and foot, with trains of artillery, were seen at various
points. The Place du Carrousel was full of troops, and at
evening they were reviewed by the King and the Dukes of
Nemours and Montpensier. Six thousand soldiers were dis-
posed along the Boulevards, from the Madeleine to the Porte
St. Martin. Patrols were seen in different quarters during
the whole night. About twelve tranquillity reigned over the
city, disturbed only in a few remote and obscure places by
the building of barricades, the arrest of rioters, and one or
two combats, in which several persons were killed. Such
was the first day's work the prelude to the drama about to
" Wednesday, the 23d, was fair, with dashes of rain at
intervals, as in our April. I was early abroad, and soon
noticed that companies of National Guards were on duty.
Only regular troops had been called out the day before a
fact which showed the distrust of the National Guards enter-
tained by the king. This was remarked by the latter, and was
doubtless one of the causes which hastened the destruction of
" At nine o'clock I passed up the Boulevards. Most of
272 The Story of
the shops were shut, and an air of uneasiness prevailed among
the people. At the Porte St. Denis there was a great throng,
and a considerable mass of troops. Barricades were soon after
erected in the streets of St. Denis, Clery, St. Eustache, Cadran,
&c. Several fusilades took place between the people at these
points and the soldiers, and a number of persons were killed.
" Some contests occurred in other quarters during the
morning. At two o'clock the Boulevards, the Rues St. Denis,
St. Martin, Montmartre, St. Honore in short, all the great
thoroughfares were literally crammed with people. Bodies
of horse and foot, either stationary or patrolling, were every-
where to be seen. It was about this time that some officers of
the National Guard ordered their men to fire, but they refused.
In one instance four hundred National Guards were seen
marching, in uniform, but without arms. It became evident
that the soldiers generally were taking part with the people.
This news was carried to the palace, and Count Mole was
called in to form a new ministry. He undertook the task, and
orders were immediately given to spread the intelligence of
this through the city.
" Meanwhile the riot and revel went on in various quar-
ters. The police were active, and hundreds of persons were
arrested and lodged in prison. Skirmishes took place, here
and there, between the soldiers and the people ; long pro-
cessions were seen, attended by persons who sang choruses,
and shouted ' Down with Guizot ! ' ' Vive la Reforme ! '
" About four o'clock the news of the downfall of the Guizot
ministry was spread along the Boulevards. The joyful intel-
ligence ran over the city with the speed of light. It was
everywhere received with acclamations. The people and the
Peter Parley's Own Life. 273
troops, a short time before looking at each other in deadly
hostility, were seen shaking hands, and expressing congratula-
tions. An immense population men, women, and children
poured into the Boulevards, to share in the jubilation.
Large parties of the National Guard paraded the streets, the
officers and men shouting ' Vive la Reforme ! ' and the crowd
cheering loudly. Bands of five hundred to fifteen hundred
men and boys went about making noisy demonstrations of
joy. On being met by the troops, they divided to let them
pass, and immediately resumed their cries and their songs.
" Toward half-past six o'clock in the evening an illumi-
nation was spoken of, and many persons lighted up spontane-
ously. The illumination soon became more general, and the
populace, in large numbers, went through the streets, calling,
' Light up ! ' Numerous bands, alone or following detachments
of the National Guards, went about, shouting ' Vive le Hoi !'
" Vive la Reforme ! ' and singing the ' Marseillaise.' At
many points, where barricades had been erected, and the
people were resisting the troops, they ceased when they heard
the news of the resignations, and the troops retired. ' It is all
over ! ' was the general cry ; and a feeling of relief seemed to
pervade every bosom.
" There can be no doubt that, but for a fatal occurrence
which soon after took place, the further progress of the revolt
might have been stayed. Many wise people now say, indeed,
that the revolution was all planned beforehand ; they had
foreseen and predicted it : and from the beginning of the out-
break everything tended to this point. The fact is unquestion-
ably otherwise. The ' Opposition,' with their various clubs
and societies distributed through all classes in Paris, and
274 The Story of
holding constant communication with the workmen or blouse-
men, no doubt stood ready to take advantage of any violence
on the part of the Government which might justify resistance ;
but they had not anticipated such a contingency on the pre-
sent occasion. It is not probable that the Mole ministry, had
it been consummated, would have satisfied the people ; but
the king had yielded ; Guizot, the special object of hatred,
had fallen, and it was supposed that further concessions would
be made, as concession had begun. But accident, which often
rules the fate of empires and dynasties, now stepped in to
govern the course of events, and give them a character which
should astonish the world.
" In the course of the evening a large mass of people had
collected on the Boulevard, in the region of Guizot's office
the Hotel des Affaires Etrangeres. The troops here had un-
fortunately threatened the people, by rushing at them with
fixed bayonets, after the announcement of the resignation of
the ministry, and when a good feeling prevailed among all
classes. This irritated the mob, and was partly, no doubt,
the occasion of the large gathering in this quarter. For some
reason, not well explained, a great many troops had also
assembled here and in the vicinity. At ten o'clock, the street
from the Madeleine to the Rue de la Paix was thronged with
soldiers and people. There was, however, no riot and no
symptom of disorder.
" At this moment a collection of persons, mostly young
men, about sixty in number, came along the Boulevard, on the
side opposite to the soldiers and the Foreign Office. It is
said that the colonel anticipated some attack, though nothing
of the kind was threatened. It appears that the soldiers stood
Peter Parley' *s Own Life. 275
ready to fire, when one of their muskets went off, and wounded
the commander's horse in the leg. He mistook this for a
shot from the crowd, and gave instant orders to fire. A fu-
silade immediately followed. Twenty persons fell dead, and
forty were wounded. The scene which ensued baffles descrip-
tion. The immense masses dispersed in terror, and carried
panic in all directions. The groans of the dying and the
screams of the wounded filled the air. Shops and houses
around were turned into hospitals. ' We are betrayed ! we are
betrayed ! ' ' Revenge ! revenge ! ' was the cry of the
" From this moment the doom of the monarchy was sealed.
The leaders of the clubs, no doubt, took their measures for-
revolution. An immense waggon was soon brought to the
scene of the massacre ; the dead bodies were laid on it, and
flaring torches were lighted over it. The ghastly spectacle
was paraded through the streets, and the mute lips of the
corpses doubtless spoke more effectively than those of the living*
Large masses of people, pale with excitement and uttering
execrations upon the murderers, followed in the train of the
waggon, as it passed through the more populous streets of the
city, and especially in those quarters inhabited by the lower
classes. The effect was such as might have been anticipated.
At midnight the barricades were begun, and at sunrise the
streets of Paris displayed a net-work of fortifications from the
Place St. George to the church of Notre Dame, which set the
troops at defiance. More than a thousand barricades, some
of them ten feet in height, were thrown up during that memor-
able night ; yet such were the suddenness and silence of the
operations, that most of the inhabitants of the city slept in
276 The Story of
security, fondly dreaming that the tempest had passed, and
that the morning would greet them in peace.
" On Thursday, the decisive day, the weather was still
mild and without rain, though the sky was dimmed with
clouds. At eleven in the morning I sallied forth. I cannot
express my astonishment at the scene. The whole Boulevard
was a spectacle of desolation. From the Rue de la Paix to
the Rue Montmartre the finest part of Paris, the glory of
the city every tree was cut down, all the public monuments
reduced to heaps of ruins, the pavements torn up, and the
entire wreck tumbled into a succession of barricades. Every
street leading into this portion of the Boulevard was strongly
barricaded. Such giant operations seemed like the work of
" But my wonder had only begun. At the point where
the Rue Montmartre crosses the Boulevard, the entire pave-
ment was torn up. and something like a square breastwork
was formed, in which a cannon was planted. The whole
space around was crowded with the populace. As I stood
for a moment surveying the scene, a young man, about
twenty, passed through the crowd, and stepping upon the
carriage of the cannon, cried out, ' Down with Louis Philippe ! '
The energy with which this was spoken sent a thrill through
every bosom ; and the remarkable appearance of the youth
gave additional effect to his words. He was short, broad-
shouldered, and full-chested. His face was pale, his cheek
spotted with blood, and his head, without hat or cap, was
bound with a handkerchief. His features were keen, and his
deep-set eye was lit with a spark that seemed borrowed from
a tiger. As he left the throng he came near me, and I said,
Peter Parley's Own Life. 277
inquiringly, ' Down with Louis Philippe ? ' ' Yes ! ' was his
reply. ' And what then ? ' said I. ' A republic ! ' was his
answer ; and he passed on, giving the watchword of ' Down
with Louis Philippe ! ' to the masses he encountered. This
was the first instance in which I heard the overthrow of the
king and the adoption of a republic proposed.
" In pursuing my walk, I noticed that the population were
now abundantly supplied with weapons. On the two first
days they were unarmed ; but after the slaughter at the
Foreign Office they went to all the houses and demanded
weapons. These were given, for refusal would have been vain.
An evidence of the consideration of the populace, even in their
hour of wrath, is furnished by the fact, that in all cases where
the arms had been surrendered, they wrote on the doors in
chalk, 'Armes donnees' Arms given up; so as to prevent
the annoyance of a second call.
" It might seem a fearful thing to behold a mob, such as
that of Paris, brandishing guns, fowling-pieces, swords, cut-
lases, hatchets, and axes ; but I must say that I felt not the
slightest fear in passing among their thickest masses. Some
of them, who had doubtless never handled arms before, seemed
a little jaunty and jubilant. The gamins the leaders in
riots, rows, and rebellions were swarming on all sides, and
seemed to feel a head taller in the possession of their weapon. .
I saw several of these unwashed imps strutting about witl
red sashes around the waist, supporting pistols, dirks, cut-
lases, &c. ; yet I must state that over the whole scene there
was an air of good-breeding, which seemed a guarantee against
insult or violence. I may also remark here, that during the
whole three days I did not observe a scuffle or wrangle among
278 The Story of
the people ; I did not hear an insulting word, nor did I see
a menace offered, save in conflicts between the soldiers and
the populace. I can add, that I did not see a drunken per-
son during the whole period, with the single exception which
I shall hereafter mention.
" I took a wide circuit in the region of the Rue Mont-
martre, the Bourse, the Rue Vivienne,. St. Honore, and the
Palais Royal. Everywhere there were enormous barricades
and crowds of armed people. Soon after that is, about
twelve o'clock I passed the southern quadrangle of the
Palais Royal, which, lately the residence of the brother of the
King of Naples, was now attacked and taken by the populace.
The beautiful suite of rooms w r ere richly furnished, and deco-
rated with costly pictures, statues, bronzes, and other speci-
mens of art. These were unsparingly tumbled into the square
and the street, and consigned to the flames. At the distance
of one hundred and fifty feet from the front of the Palais
Royal was the Chateau d'Eau, a massive stone building
occupied as a barrack, and at this moment garrisoned by one
hundred and eighty municipal guards. In most parts of the
city, seeing that the troops fraternised with the people, the
Government had given them orders not to fire. These guards,
however, attacked the insurgents in and about the Palais
Royal. Their fire was returned, and a desperate conflict
ensued. The battle lasted for more than an hour, the people
rushing in the very face of the muskets of the guard, as they
blazed from the grated windows. At last the barrack was set
on fire, and the guard yielded, though not till many of their
number had fallen, and the rest were nearly dead with suffo-
cation. The Chateau d'Eau is now a mere ruin, its mottled
Peter Parley's Own Life. 279
walls giving evidence of the shower of bullets that had been
poured upon it.
" No sooner had the Chateau d'Eau surrendered, than the
flushed victors took their course towards the Tuileries, which
was near at hand ; shouting, singing, roaring, they came like
a surge, bearing all before them. The Place du Carrousel
was filled with troops; but not a sword was unsheathed =
not a bayonet pointed not a musket or a cannon fired.
There stood, idle and motionless, the mighty armament which
the king had appointed for his defence. How vain had his
calculations proved ! for, alas ! they were founded in a radical
error. The soldiers would not massacre their brethren, to
sustain a throne which they now despised.
" But we must now enter the Tuileries. For several days
previous to the events we have described, some anxiety had
been entertained by persons in and about the palace. The
king, however, had no fears. He appeared in unusual
spirits ; and, if any intimation of danger was given, he turned
it aside with a sneer or a joke. Even so late as Wednesday,
after he had called upon Count Mole to form a new ministry,
he remarked that he was so ' firmly seated in the saddle, that
nothing could throw him off.'
" Mole soon found it impossible, with the materials at
hand, to construct a ministry. Thiers was then called in;
and, after a long course of higgling and chaffering on the part
of the king, it was agreed that he and Barrot should under-
take to carry on the Government. This was announced by
them in person, as they rode through the streets on Thursday
morning. These concessions, however, came too late. The
cry for a republic was bursting from the lips of the million.
280 The Story of
The abdication of the king was decreed, and a raging multi-
tude were demanding this at the very gates of the palace.
Overborne by the crisis, the king agreed to abdicate in favour
of the Duke de Nemours. Some better tidings were brought
him, and he retracted what he had just done. A moment
after it became certain that the insurgents would shortly burst
into the palace. In great trepidation, the long agreed to
resign the crown in favour of his grandson, the young Count
de Paris ; yet, still clinging to hope, he shuffled and hesitated
before he would put his name to the act of abdication. This,
however, was at last done, and the king and queen, dressed in
black, and accompanied by a few individuals who remained
faithful in this trying moment, passed from the Tuileries to
the Place de la Concorde, through the subterranean passage
constructed many years previously for the walks of the infant
King of Rome. They here entered a small, one-horse vehicle,
and, after a rapid and successful flight, landed safely at
Dover, in England.
" Meanwhile, the mob had seized the royal carriages, four-
teen in number, and made a bonfire of them, near the cele-
brated arch in the Place du Carrousel. Soon after, they forced
the railing at several points, and came rushing across the
square toward the place. Scarcely had the various members
of the royal family time to escape on one side of the building,
when the mob broke in at the other.
" I have not time to follow the adventures of these several
individuals. We cannot but sympathise with them in their
misfortunes; but we may remark, that the fall of the Orleans
dynasty was not broken by a single act of courage or dignity
on the part of any one of the family. Their flight seemed a
Peter Parley's Own Life. 281
vulgar scramble for mere life. Even the king was reduced
to the most common -place disguises the shaving of his
whiskers, the change of his dress, the adopting an ' alias ! ' I
may add here, that they have all escaped ; and while every-
body seems glad of this, there is no one behind who mourns
their loss. None are more loud in denouncing the besotted
confidence of the king than his two hundred and twenty-
five purchased deputies, who were so loyal in the days of
" A short time after the king and queen had passed the
Place de la Concorde I chanced to be there. In a few
moments Odillon Barrot appeared from the gate of the
Tuileries, and, followed by a long train of persons, proceeded
to the Chamber of Deputies. It was now understood that the
king had abdicated, and that Thiers and Barrot were to pro-
pose the Count de Paris as king, under the regency of his
mother, the Duchess of Orleans. Ihe most profound emotion
seemed to occupy the immense multitude. All were hushed
into silence by the rapid succession of astonishing events.
After a short space the Duchess of Orleans, with her two
sons, the Count de Paris and the Duke de Chartres, were seen
on foot coming toward the Chamber, encircled by a strong
escort. She was dressed in deep mourning, her face bent to
the ground. She moved across the bridge, and passing to the
rear of the building, entered it through the gardens. Shortly
after this the Duke de Nemours, attended by several gentlemen
on horseback, rode up, and also entered the building.
" The scene that ensued within is said to have presented
an extraordinary mixture of the solemn and the ludicrous.
The duchess being present, 0. Barrot proceeded to state the
282 The Story of
abdication of the king, and to propose the regency. It was
then that Lamartine seemed to shake off the poet and philo-
sopher, and suddenly to become a man of action. Seizing the
critical moment, he declared his conviction that the days of
monarchy were numbered; that the proposed regency was
not suited to the crisis ; and that a republic alone would meet
the emergency and the wishes of France. These opinions,
happily expressed and strenuously enforced, became decisive
in their effect.
" Several other speeches were made, and a scene of great
confusion followed. A considerable number of the mob had
broken into the room, and occupied the galleries and the
floor. One of them brought his firelock to his shoulder, and
took aim at M. Sauzet, the president. Entirely losing his
self-possession, he abdicated with great speed, and disap-
peared. In the midst of the hubbub a Provisional Govern-
ment was announced, and the leading members were named.
Some of the more obnoxious deputies were aimed at by the
muskets of the mob, and skulking behind benches and pillars,
they oozed out at back-doors and windows. A Houseman
came up to the Duke de Nemours, who drew his sword. The
man took it from him, broke it over his knee, and counselled
his highness to depart. This he did forthwith, having bor-
rowed a coat and hat for the purpose of disguise. A call was
made for the members of the Provisional Government to pro-
ceed to the Hotel de Ville. The assembly broke up, and the
curtain fell upon the last sitting of the Chamber of Deputies
the closing scene of Louis Philippe's government.
" It was about three o'clock in the afternoon that I
retraced my steps towards the Tuileries. The Place de la
Peter Parley's Own Life. 283
Concorde was crowded with soldiers, and fifty cannon were
ranged in front of the gardens. Yet this mighty force seemed
struck with paralysis. Long lines of infantry stood mute
and motionless, and heavy masses of cavalry seemed converted
into so many statues. Immediately before the eyes of these
soldiers was the palace of the Tuileries in full possession of
the mob, but not a muscle moved for their expulsion!
" Passing into the gardens, I noticed that thousands of
persons were spread over their surface, and a rattling dis-
charge of fire-arms was heard on all sides. Looking about
for the cause of this, I perceived that hundreds of men and
boys were amusing themselves with shooting sparrows and
pigeons, which had hitherto found a secure resting-place in
this favourite resort of leisure and luxury. Others were dis-
charging their muskets for the mere fun of making a noise.
Proceeding through the gardens, I came at last to the palace.
It had now been, for more than an-hour, in full possession of
the insurgents. All description fails to depict a scene like
this. The whole front of the Tuileries, one-eighth of a mile
in length, seemed gushing at doors, windows, balconies, and
galleries, with living multitudes a mighty beehive of men,
in the very act of swarming. A confused hubbub filled the
air, and bewildered the senses with its chaotic sounds.
" At the moment I arrived the throne of the king was
borne away by a jubilant band of revellers ; and, after being
paraded through the streets, was burned at the Place de la
" I entered the palace, and passed through the long suites
of apartments devoted to occasions of ceremony. A year
before I had seen these gorgeous halls filled with the flush and
284 The Story of
the fair kings, princes, and nobles gathered to this focal
point of luxury, refinement, and taste from every quarter of
the world. How little did Louis Philippe, at that moment,
dream of ' coming events ! ' How little did the stately queen
a proud obelisk of silk, and lace, and diamonds foresee the
change that was at hand ! I recollected well the effect of this
scene upon my own mind, and felt the full force of the con-
trast which the present moment offered. In the very room
where I had seen the pensive and pensile Princess de Join-
ville and the Duchess de Montpensier the latter then fresh
from the hymeneal altar, her raven hair studded with diamonds
like evening stars whirling in the mazy dance, I now beheld
a band of creatures like Calibans, gambolling to the song of
the ' Marseillaise ! '
" On every side my eye fell upon scenes of destruction.
Passing to the other end of the palace, I beheld a mob in the
chambers of the princesses. Some rolled themselves in the
luscious beds, others anointed their shaggy heads with choice
pomatum, exclaiming, ' Dieu ! how sweet it smells ! ' One of
the gamins, grimed with gunpowder, blood, and dirt, seized a
tooth-brush, and placing himself before a mirror, seemed de-
lighted at the manifest improvement which he produced upon
" On leaving the palace, I saw numbers of the men
drinking wine from bottles taken from the well- stocked cellars.
None of them were positively drunk. To use the words of
' Tarn O'Shanter,' ' They were na fou, but just had plenty'
perhaps a little more. They flourished their guns and pistols,
brandished their swords, and performed various antics, but
they offered no insult to any one. They seemed in excellent
Peter Parley's Own Life. 285
humour, and made more than an ordinary display of French
politesse. They complimented the women, of whom there was
no lack ; and one of them, resembling a figure of Pan, seized
a maiden by the waist, and both rigadooned merrily over
" Leaving this scene of wreck, confusion, and uproar, I
proceeded toward the gate of the gardens leading into the Rue
de Rivoli. I was surprised to find here a couple of ruthless-
looking blousemen, armed with pistols, keeping guard. On
inquiry, I found that the mob themselves had instituted a sort
of government. One fellow, in the midst of the devastation in
the palace, seeing a man put something into his pocket, wrote
on the wall, ' Death to the thief ! ' The Draconian code was
immediately adopted by the people, and became the law of
Paris. Five persons, taken in acts of robbery, were shot down
by the people, and their bodies exposed in the streets, with
the label of ' Thieves ' on their breast. Thus order and law
seemed to spring up from the instincts of society, in the midst
of uproar and confusion, as crystals are seen shooting from the
chaos of the elements.
" Three days had now passed, and the revolution was
accomplished. The people soon returned to their wonted
habits ; the Provisional Government proceeded in its duties ;
the barricades disappeared; and in a single week the more
obtrusive traces of the storm that had passed had vanished
from the streets and squares of Paris."
286 The Story of
AFTER THE REVOLUTION "FUNERAL OF THE VICTIMS"
THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY PARIS IN A STATE OF SIEGE
CAVAIGNAC LOUIS NAPOLEON CHOSEN PRESIDENT.
IT is not my design to enter into the history of the revolution
in detail, but I may sketch a few of the prominent events
which followed. For this purpose, I make an extract from
an account I have elsewhere given :
" For several weeks and months Paris was a scene of
extraordinary excitement. The Provisional Government had
announced that they would provide the people with labour.
Consequently, deputations of tailors, hatters, engravers, mu-
sicians, paviors, cabinet-makers, seamstresses, and a multitude
of other trades and vocations, flocked in long lines to the
Hotel de Ville to solicit the favour of the Government. Vast
crowds of people perpetually haunted this place, and, in one,
instance, a raging multitude came thundering at the doors,
demanding that the blood-red flag of the former revolution
should be the banner of the new republic! It was on this
occasion that Lamartine addressed the people, and with such
eloquence as to allay the storm which threatened again to
deluge France in blood. The members of the Government
Peter Parley's Own Life. 287
were so besieged and pressed by business, that for several
weeks they slept in the Hotel de Ville. They proceeded with
a bold hand to announce and establish the republic. In order
to make a favourable impression upon the people, they decreed
a gorgeous ceremony at the foot of the column of July, on
Sunday, February 27th, by which they solemnly inaugurated
the new republic. All the members of the Provisional
Government were present on horseback; there were sixty
thousand troops and two hundred thousand people to witness
" Another still more imposing celebration took place on
the 4th of March. This was called the ' Funeral of the Vic-
tims.' After religious ceremonies at the Madeleine, the mem-
bers of the Government, with a long train of public officers
and an immense cortege of military, proceeded to the July
column, conducting a superb funeral-car, drawn by eight
cream-coloured horses. This contained most of the bodies
of those slain in the revolution about two hundred and fifty.
These were deposited in the vault of the column, with the
victims of the revolution of 1830.
" Nothing can adequately portray this spectacle. A tri-
coloured flag was stretched on each side of the Boulevards,
from the Madeleine to the July column a distance of three
miles. As this consisted of three strips of cloth, the length of
the whole was eighteen miles ! The solemn movement of the
funeral procession, the dirge-like music, the march of nearly a
hundred thousand soldiers, and the sympathising presence of
three hundred thousand souls, rendered it a scene never sur-
passed and rarely equalled, either by the magnificence of the
panorama or the solemn and touching sentiments excited.
288 The Story of
" Still other spectacles succeeded; and in the summer four
hundred thousand people assembled in the Champs Elysees to
witness the Presentation of Flags to the assembled National
Guards, eighty thousand being present. Such scenes can
only be witnessed in Paris.
" Events proceeded with strange rapidity. A Constituent
Assembly was called by the Provisional Government to form
a constitution. The members were elected by ballot, the
suffrage being universal that is, open to all Frenchmen over
twenty-one. The election took place in April, and on the 4th
of May the first session was held, being officially announced
to the assembled people from the steps of the Chamber of
Deputies. On the 15th of May a conspiracy was disclosed,
the leaders of which were Raspail, Barbes, Sobrier, Caus-
sidiere, Blanqui, Flotte, Albert, and Louis Blanc* the two
last having been members of the Provisional Government.
Caussidiere was prefect of police.
" The Assembly proceeded in the work of framing a con-
stitution, administering the government in the mean time. On
the 24th of June a terrific insurrection broke out, promoted by
the leaders of various factions, all desiring the overthrow of
the republic which had been inaugurated. Cavaignac, who
was minister of war, was appointed dictator, and Paris was
declared in a state of siege. The insurgents confined their
* These men were Socialists, and aimed at a destruction of the
government, so that they might bring into effect their peculiar schemes.
They were shortly afterward tried at Bourges, and sentenced to long
imprisonment or banishment. Louis Blanc and Caussidiere escaped
to England. The former remains in London; the latter is now a wine-
merchant in New York.
Peter Parley's Own Life. 289
operations chiefly to the fauxbourgs St. Jacques and St. An-
toine. They got possession of these, and formed skilful and
able plans of operation, which had for their ultimate object the
surrounding of the city and getting possession of certain im-
portant points-, including the Chamber thus securing the
government in their own hands.
" Cavaignac proceeded to attack the barricades, thus
clearing the streets one by one. The fighting was terrible.
For four days the battle continued, the sound of cannon
frequently filling the ears of the people all over the city.
Night and day the inhabitants were shut up in their houses,
ignorant of all, save that the conflict was raging. The
women found employment in scraping lint for the wounded.
All Paris was a camp. The windows were closed ; the
soldiers and sentinels passed their watchwords; litters,
carrying the dead and wounded, were borne along the streets ;
the tramp of marching columns and the thunder of rushing
cavalry broke upon the ear !
" At last the conflict was over ; the insurgents were
beaten Cavaignac triumphed. But the victory was dearly
purchased. Between two and three thousand persons were
killed, and among them no less than seven general officers had
fallen. The insurgents fought like tigers. Many women
were in the ranks, using the musket, carrying the banners,
rearing barricades, and cheering the fight. Boys and girls
mingled in the conflict. The National Guards who com-
bated them had equal courage and superior discipline. One
of the Garde Mobile Hyacinthe Martin, a youth of fourteen
took four standards from the tops of the barricades. His
gallantry excited great interest, and Cavaignac decorated him
290 The Story of
with the cross of the Legion of Honour. He became a hero
of the day; hut sad to relate! being invited to fetes,
banquets, and repasts, his head was turned, and he was soon
a ruined profligate.
" The leaders in this terrific insurrection were never
detected. It is certain that the movement was headed by
able men, and directed by skilful engineers. The masses who
fought were roused to fury by poverty and distress by dis-
appointment at finding the national workshops discontinued,
and by stimulating excitements furnished by Socialist clubs
and newspapers. It is computed that forty thousand insur-
gents were in arms, and eighty thousand government soldiers
were brought against them. It may be considered that this
struggle was the remote but inevitable result of the course of
the Provisional Government in adopting the doctrine of obli-
gation, on the part of the State, to supply work and wages
to the people, and in establishing national workshops in pur-
suance of this idea. Still, it may be said, on the other hand,
that nothing but such a step could have enabled the Pro-
visional Government to maintain itself during three months,
and give being to an organised Assembly from which a
legitimate government could proceed.
" The Constitution was finished in the autumn, and pro-
mulgated on the 19th of November, 1848. On the 10th of
December following the election of President took place, and
it appeared that Louis Napoleon had five million out of seven
million votes. He was duly inaugurated about a week after
the election, and entered upon the high duties which thus
devolved upon him."
Peter Parley's Own Life. 291
THE AUTHOR'S DUTIES AS CONSUL ASPECT OF THINGS IN
PARIS 'Louis NAPOLEON'S DESIGNS THE 2ND OF DE-
CEMBER, 1852 THE NEW REIGN OF TERROR COMPLETE
LOUIS NAPOLEON AS EMPEROR OUT OF OFFICE RETURN
TO NEW YORK CONCLUSION.
I NOW come to the period of 1851, when I entered upon the
consulate. Of the space during which I was permitted to
hold this office I have no very remarkable personal incidents
to relate. The certifying of invoices, and the legalising of
deeds and powers of attorney, are the chief technical duties of
the American Consul at Paris. If he desires to enlarge the
circle of his operations, however, he can find various ways of
doing it. As, for instance, in supplying the wants of dis-
tressed Poles, Hungarians, Italians, and others, who are
martyrs to liberty, and suppose the American heart and
purse always open to those who are thus afflicted; in
answering questions from notaries, merchants, lawyers, as to
the laws of the different American States upon marriage,
inheritance, and the like; in advising emigrants whether to
settle in Iowa, or Illinois, or Missouri, or Texas ; in listening
to inquiries made by deserted wives as to where their errant
292 The Story of
husbands may be found, who left France ten, or twenty, or
thirty years ago, and went to America, by which is generally
understood St. Domingo or Martinique. A considerable busi-
ness may be done in lending money to foreigners, who pre-
tend to have been naturalised in the United States, and are,
therefore, entitled to consideration and sympathy : it being, of
course, well understood that money lent to such persons will
never be repaid. Some time and cash may also be invested
in listening to the stories and contributing to the wants of
promising young American artists, who are* striving to get to
Italy to pursue their studies such persons usually being
graduates of the London school of artful dodgers. Some
waste leisure and a good deal of postage may be disposed of
in correspondence with ingenious Americans, inventors and
discoverers : as, for instance, with a man in Arkansas or
Minnesota, who informs you that he has contrived a new and
infallible method of heating and ventilating European cities,
and wishes it brought to the notice of the authorities there, it
being deemed the duty of the American Consul to give
attention to such matters. These monotonies are occasionally
diversified by a letter from some unfortunate fellow-country-
man who is detained at Mazas or Clichy, and begs to be
extricated ; or some couple who wish to be put under the
bonds of wedlock; or some enterprising wife, all the way
from Tennessee, in chase of a runaway husband ; or some
inexperienced but indignant youth who has been fleeced by
Such are the duties which devolve upon the American
Consul at Paris, the incidents alluded to having come under
my notice while I was there in that capacity. I must now
Peter Parley's Own Life. 293
speak of certain public events which transpired at that
period, and which will ever be regarded as among the most
remarkable in modern history.
I have told you how Louis Napoleon, in consequence of
the Revolution of 1848, became President of the Republic.
When I arrived in Paris, in April 1851, he was officiating in
that capacity, his residence being the little palace of the Elysee
Bourbon, situated between the Faubourg St. Honore and the
Champs Elysees. The National Assembly, consisting of
seven hundred and fifty members, held their sessions at the
building called the Chamber of Deputies. The Government
had been in operation somewhat over two years.
To the casual observer, the external aspect of things was
not very different from what it had been under the monarchy
of Louis Philippe. It is true that the palace of the Tuileries
was vacant; no royal coaches were seen dashing through
the avenues ; the public monuments everywhere proclaimed
" liberty, equality, fraternity." But still, the streets were filled
with soldiers as before. Armed sentinels were stationed at
the entrances of all the public buildings. The barracks were,
as usual, swarming with soldiers, and large masses of horse
and foot were trained at the Champ de Mars and at Satory.
Martial reviews and exercises were, indeed, the chief amuse-
ment of the metropolis. The President's house was a palace,
and all around it was bristling with bayonets. It was ob-
vious that, whatever name the Government might bear,
military force lay at the bottom of it; and if to-day this
might be its defence, to-morrow it might also be its over-
It is now ascertained that Louis Napoleon, from the
294 The Story of
beginning, had his mind fixed upon the restoration of the
Empire. In accepting the presidency of the Republic, and
even in swearing fidelity to the Constitution, he consi-
dered himself only as mounting the steps of the Imperial
In order to prepare the nation for the revolution which he
meditated, Louis Napoleon caused agitating and alarming
rumours to be circulated of a terrible plot, planned by the
Democrats, Republicans, and Socialists of France, the object
of which was to overturn the whole fabric of society, to
destroy religion, to sweep away the obligations of marriage, to
strip the rich of their property, and make a general distri-
bution of it among the masses. Other conspiracies, having
similar designs, were said to exist in all the surrounding
countries of Europe, and the time was now near at hand when
the fearful explosion would take place. The police of France,
subject to the control and direction of the President, were in-
structed to discover evidences of this infernal plot, and they
were so successful, that the public mind was filled with a
vague but anxious apprehension that society was reposing
upon a volcano, which might soon burst forth, and overwhelm
the whole country in chaos.
The National Assembly was conducted in a manner to
favour these schemes of the President. They were divided
into four or five factions, and spent their time chiefly in angry
disputes and selfish intrigues. A portion of them were
Monarchists ; and, though they had acquired their seats by
pledges of devotion to the republic, they were now plotting its
overthrow ; a part being for the restoration of the Oiieanists,
and a part for the Bourbons. Another faction was for Louis
Peter Parley's Own Life. 295
Napoleon, and actively promoted his schemes. By the Con-
stitution he was ineligible for a second term, and his friends
were seeking the means of overcoming the difficulty, and
giving him a re-election, by fair means or foul. The Liberals
were divided into several shades of opinion some being Re-
publicans, after the model of General Cavaignac ; some being
Democrats, like Victor Hugo ; and some Socialists, after the
fashion of Pierre Leroux. In such a state of things there was
a vast deal of idle debate, while the substantial interests of the
country seemed, if not totally forgotten, at least secondary to
the interests of parties, and the passions and prejudices of
I remember that on a certain Monday evening, the 1st of
December, 1852, I was present at the Elysee, and was then
first introduced to Louis Napoleon. I found him to be an
ordinary -looking person, rather under size, but well formed,
and with a dull expression of countenance. The room was
tolerably full, the company consisting, as is usual in such
cases, of diplomats, military officers, and court officials, with a
sprinkling of citizens, in black coats. I was forcibly struck
by the preponderance of soldiers in the assembly, and I said
several times to my companions that it seemed more like a
camp than a palace. The whole scene was dull ; the Presi-
dent himself appeared preoccupied, and was not master of his
usual urbanity ; General Magnan walked from room to room
with a ruminating air, occasionally sending his keen glances
around, as if searching for something which he could not
find. There was no music no dancing. That gaiety which
almost pervades a festive party in Paris was wholly wanting.
There was no ringing laughter no merry hum of con versa-
296 The Story of
tion. I noticed all this, but I did not suspect the cause. At
eleven o'clock the assembly broke up, and the guests departed.
At twelve, the conspirators, gathered for their several tasks,
commenced their operations.
About four in the morning the leading members of the
Assembly were seized in their beds, and hurried to prison.
Troops were distributed at various points, so as to secure the
city. When the light of day came, proclamations were posted
at the corners of the streets, announcing to the citizens that the
National Assembly was dissolved; that universal suffrage
was decreed ; that the Republic was established ! Such was
the general unpopularity of the Assembly, that the first im-
pression of the people was that of delight at its overthrow.
Throughout the first day the streets of Paris were h'ke a
swarming hive, filled with masses of people, yet, for the most
part, in good-humour. The second day they had reflected,
and began to frown, but yet there was no general spirit of
revolt. A few barricades were attempted, but the operators
were easily dispersed. The third day came; and although
there was some agitation among the masses, there was evi-
dently no preparation, no combination for general resistance.
As late as ten o'clock in the forenoon I met one of the Repub-
licans whom I knew, and asked him what was to be done.
His reply was,
" We can do nothing ; our leaders are in prison ; we are
bound hand and foot. I am ready to give my life at the
barricades, if with the chance of benefit ; but I do not like to
throw it away. We can do nothing!"
Soon after this I perceived heavy columns of troops
some four thousand men marching through the Rue de la
Peter Parley's Own Life. 297
Paix, and then proceeding along the Boulevards towards the
Porte St. Denis. These were soon followed by a body of
about a thousand horse. I was told that similar bodies were
moving to the same point through other avenues of the city.
In a short time the whole Boulevard, from the Rue de la Paix
to the Place de la Bastille, an extent of two miles, was filled
with troops. My office was on the Boulevard des Italiens,
and was now fronted by a dense body of lancers, each man
with his cocked pistol in his hand. Except the murmur of
the horses' hoofs, there was a general stillness over the city.
The side-walks were filled with people; and though there
was no visible cause for alarm, yet there was still a vague
apprehension which cast pallor and gloom upon the faces
Suddenly a few shots were heard in the direction of the
Boulevard Montmartre, and then a confused hum, and soon a
furious clatter of hoofs. A moment after, the whole body of
horse started into a gallop, and rushed by as if in flight ;
presently they halted, however, wheeled slowly, and gradually
moved back, taking up their former position. The men
looked keenly at the houses on either side, and pointed their
pistols threateningly at all whom they saw at the windows.
It afterward appeared, that when the troops had been drawn
out in line and stationed along the Boulevard, some half-dozen
shots were fired into them from the tops of buildings and from
windows : this created a sudden panic ; the troops ran, and,
crowding upon others, caused the sudden movement I have
described. In a few moments the heavy, sickening sound of
muskets came from the Porte St. Denis. Volley succeeded
volley, and after some time the people were seer rushing madly
298 The Story of
along the pavements of the Boulevard, as if to escape. The
gate of our hotel was now closed, and, at the earnest request
of the throng that had gathered for shelter in the court of the
hotel, I put out the " Stars and Stripes" the first and last
time that I ever deemed it necessary. The dull roar of
muskets, with the occasional boom of cannon, continued at
intervals for nearly half-an-hour. Silence at last succeeded,
and the people ventured into the streets.
About four in the afternoon I walked for a mile along the
Boulevard. The pavements were strewn with the fragments
of shattered windows, broken cornices, and shivered door-
ways. Many of the buildings, especially those on the southern
side of the street, were thickly spattered with bullet-marks,
especially around the windows. One edifice was riddled
through and through with cannon-shot. Frequent spots of
blood stained the side-walk, and along the Boulevard Mont-
martre, particularly around the doorways, there were pools
like those of the shambles ; it being evident that the reckless
soldiers had shot down in heaps the fugitives who, taken by
surprise, strove to obtain shelter at the entrances of the hotels
upon the street.
The morning came, and the triumph of the Reign of Terror
was complete. What was enacted in Paris was imitated all
over France. Nearly every department was declared in a
state of siege ; revolt was punished with death, and doubt or
hesitation with imprisonment. Forty thousand persons were
hurried to the dungeons, without even the form or pretence of
trial. All over the country the press was silenced, as it had
been in Paris ; save only a few obsequious prints, which pub-
lished what was dictated to them. These declared that all
Peter Parley's Own Life. 299
this bloodshed and violence were the necessary result of the
Socialist conspiracy, which threatened to overturn society :
happily, as they contended, Louis Napoleon, like a beneficent
Providence, had crushed the monster, and he now asked the
people to ratify what he had done, by making him President
for ten years. In the midst of agitation, delusion, and panic,
the vote was taken, and Louis Napoleon was elected by a vote
of eight millions of suffrages ! The nominal Republic thus
established soon gave way to the Empire ; the President
reached the Imperial throne, and now stands before the world
as Napoleon III. !
Since his acquisition of a throne Louis Napoleon has con-
ducted the government with ability, and he has certainly been
seconded by fortune. He married a lady who has shed lustre
upon her high position by her gentle virtues and gracious
manners. He engaged in the Eastern War, and triumphed. He
has greatly improved and embellished the capital, and made
Paris the most charming city in the world : nowhere else does
life seem to flow on so cheerfully and so tranquilly as here.
He has gradually softened the rigours of his government ;
and though some noble spirits still pine in exile, he has taken
frequent advantage of opportunity to diminish the number.'
The people of France, at the present time, appear to be
satisfied with the government, and, no doubt, a large majority,
could the question be proposed to them, would vote for ita
In the summer of 1853, I was politely advised from the
State Department that President Pierce had appointed my
successor in the consulate. Thus, having held the place a
300 The Story of
little over two years, on the 1st of August, 1853,* I was
restored to the privileges of private-citizen life. As I had
various engagements which forbade me immediately to leave
France, I hired a small house in Oourbevoie, which I made
my residence till my departure for America.
In the autumn of 1 854 I set out with my family for a
short tour in Italy. In all my wanderings I had never visited
this famous country ; and as I was not likely ever to have
another opportunity, I felt it to be a kind of duty to avail my-
self of a few unappropriated weeks to accomplish. this object.
After visiting Florence, Rome, and Naples, we returned to
Paris. Tarrying there for a short time, for the purpose of
seeing the International Exhibition of 1855, we finally left
Europe in July, and in the same month found a new home in
I have now come to my farewell. Leave-takings are in
general somewhat melancholy, and it is best to make them as
brief as possible. Mine shall consist of a single train of
thought, and that suggestive of cheerful rather than mournful
feelings. Like a traveller approaching the end of his journey,
* I shall, I trust, be excused for inserting in a note the following,
which I take from Galignani's Paris Messenger of December 15th,
" ME. GOODRICH, THE LATE CONSUL or THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA AT PARIS. The Americans in Paris lately presented to Mr.
Goodrich a medallion executed in vermeil, by the distinguished artist,
Adam-Salomon, with the following inscription encircling an admirable
portrait of the consul in relief :
' To 8. G. Goodrich, Consul of the United States of America at Paris,
presented by his Countrymen in that City, August ls, 1853.' "
Peter Parley's Own Life. 301
I naturally cast a look backward, and surveying the monu-
ments which rise up in the distance, seek to estimate the
nature and tendency of the march of events which I have
witnessed, and in which I have participated.
One general remark appears to me applicable to the half
century over which my observation has extended ; which is,
that everywhere there has been improvement. I know of no
department of human knowledge, no sphere of human inquiry,
no race of men, no region of the earth, where there has been
retrogression. On the whole, the age has been alike fruitful
in discovery, and in the practical, beneficial results of discovery.
Science has advanced with giant strides ; and it is the distin-
guishing characteristic of modern science that it is not the
mere toy of the philosopher, nor the hidden mystery of the
laboratory, but the hard-working servant of the manufactory,
the workshop, and the kitchen.
On every hand are the evidences of improvement. What
advances have been made in agriculture ; in the analysis of
soils, the preparation of manures, the improvement of imple-
ments, from the spade to the steam-reaper ; in the manufacture
of textile fabrics by the inventions of Jacquard and others in
weaving, and innumerable devices in spinning ; in the working
of iron cutting, melting, moulding, rolling, shaping it like
dough, whereby it is applied to a thousand new uses ; in
commerce and navigation, by improved models of ships, im-
proved chronometers, barometers, and quadrants in chain-
pumps and wheel -rudders ; in printing, by the use of the
steam-press, throwing off a hundred thousand impressions
instead of two thousand in a day; in microscopes, which have
revealed new worlds in the infinity of littleness, as well as
jo 2 ^he Story of
in telescopes, which have unfolded immeasurable depths of
space before hidden from the view. How has travelling been
changed, from jolting along at the rate of six miles an hour
over rough roads in a stage-coach, to the putting one's self
comfortably to bed in a steam-boat and going fifteen miles
an hour ; or sitting down in a railway -carriage to read a
novel, and before you have finished to find yourself five
hundred miles away !
And in the moral world, the last fifty years appear to me
to have shown an improvement, if not as marked, yet as cer-
tain and positive, as in the material world. Everywhere, as I
believe, the standard of humanity is more elevated than before.
If in some things, with the increase of wealth and luxury, we
have degenerated, on the whole there has been an immense
advance, as well in technical morals as in those large humani-
ties which aim at the good of all mankind.
FOR nearly five years the author of the foregoing Story
continued to reside in New York ainid a large circle of friends.
One morning, while reading the New York Times, my eye
rested on the following paragraph, which I cannot do better
than give to my readers as it was printed :
"DEATH OF SAMUEL G. GOODRICH, ESQ. We deeply
regret that we are obliged to announce the death of Mr. S. G.
Goodrich, more widely known as ' Peter Parley ' the
pseudonym under which he acquired his reputation. He died
very suddenly, at his residence in Ninth Street, of disease of
Peter Parley's Own Life. 303
the heart [May 9th, I860]. Mr. Goodrich was a native of
Connecticut, and was horn in 1793, though no one would
have judged from his appearance that he was so nearly
seventy years old. He had a vigorous constitution, which he
preserved to the last hy care and regularity in his mode of
life. He began life as a publisher first in Hartford, and after-
wards in Boston, and edited in the days of Annuals one of
the most celebrated of them, The Token, from 1828 to
1842. His greatest success, however, was achieved in com-
piling books for children, designed to convey instruction in
natural history, travels, biography, and various branches of
science and art, by simply-written narratives and anecdotes,
copiously illustrated by engravings. He wrote as ' Peter
Parley' telling stories to children, and for many years the
series of works thus published, extending to over forty volumes,
had an enormous circulation, both in this country and abroad.
They introduced a class of books which have since become
universal. In 1841 he established a periodical called Merry's
Museum, based upon the same general plan, which he con-
tinued until 1854. In 1857 he published two volumes of
Recollections, containing an immense amount of exceed-
ingly interesting memoranda concerning men and events in
Connecticut, and forming one of the most readable books
of the day. Mr. Goodrich was appointed American Consul
at Paris under Mr. Fillmore, and held that office for several
years. He performed its duties with great fidelity, and en-
joyed the respect and esteem of all with whom he came in
contact. He published several works while there, calculated to
diffuse a more general knowledge of America and its institu-
tions, and upon his return prepared an elaborate and admirable
304 The Story of Peter Parley, &c.
illustrated History of the Animal Kingdom, which, was issued
last year in two large and elegant volumes. He was a man
of great diligence, and continued to prosecute his literary
labours to the latest period of his life.
" Mr. Goodrich was preparing to leave the city and to
reside in Connecticut. Some four or five weeks since he sold
his furniture, pictures, etc., and was intending to remove his
family within a few days. His death will be deeply regretted,
even beyond the very wide circle of his personal friends and
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The Minister's Wooing : a Tale of New England. By the Author
of " Uncle Tom's Cabin." Two Editions : 1. In post Svo. cloth, with
Thirteen Illustrations by Hablot K. Browne, 7s. &d."2. Popular Edition,
crown Svo. cloth, with a'Design by the same Artist. 2s. Qd.
16 Sampson Low, Son, and Co.'s List of Publications.
The Fire Ships : a Tale of the Days of Lord Cochrane. An
entirely New and Original Sea Novel. By W. H. G. Kingston, Esq.
3 vols. post 8vo. I/. 11s. 6d.
" We may commend the reading of this book to all English boys as a
treasure of moving incidents." Daily News.
" Englishmen are proud of their naval heroes, and they have reason to
be so, for it is upon the ocean tliat the heroes of England have been formed.
These times may shortly come again, and ice shall soon perhaps hear once
more of those dashing naval exploits that have made England the mistress
of the seas. Alany of the engagements which have become familiar to our
ears have received from Mr. Kingston's pen a touch of romance and
vitality that will cause them to live in our memories, and the details are
given icith a correctness which none but a scientific sailor could achieve.
The great exploit which gives its name to the novel, that of the burning of
the French fleet by the fire-ships, is told with such truth and clearness as to
bring the whole scene most vividly before us. Some commonly acknowledged
principles have received a new colouring, and many novel thoughts are put
forward in a manner to attract our admiration. The book will be read by
all lovers of naval tales, and their name is legion." Observer.
A Strange Story : by the Author of " Rienzi," " My Novel," &c.
In 2 thick volumes, post 8vo. cloth. II. 4s.
' But the greatest of all these successes is ' A Strange Story.'
Hundreds nf thousands rush to read this 'fairy tale of science and long
results of time' as recorded by Sir E. B. Lytton." Times.
El Fureidis : a Tale of Mount Lebanon and the Christian Set-
tlements in Syria. By Maria S. Cummins, Author of " The Lamp-
lighter." 2 vols. crown 8vo. cloth gilt, 10s. 6d.
" One of the best novels of modern i " A thoroughly good book." Morn-
times : a novel as rich in pure senti- ! ing Star.
ment as it is in Christian philosophy, | " The best novels, of which ' El
and as glowing in its portraiture of Fureidis' is one." Glasgow Herald.
Oriental Hie as in its description of | " Not only has Miss Cummins en-
scenery." City Press. hanced her reputation by her present
" The author has made good use of production, but literature lias gained
her material, and has shown both ! a valuable acquisition in this spirited
skill and industry : she has evidently j and heart-stirring romance of ' El
taken great pains with her work." Fureidis.'" Leader.
When the Snow Falls. A Book of Stories. By W. Moy Thomas.
Second Edition, with Frontispiece on Steel, by John Gilbert. Hand-
somely bound. 5s. Forming the Eighth Volume of Low's Favourite
" A story-book that will not quickly fall out of request. There is a deli-
cacy of conception in the tales often poetical, and the carefulness of their
execution is a comfort to all educated readers." Examiner.
The Volumes now ready of Low's Favourite Library, are :
1. The Eye Witness. 5s. | 7. Cross C<
3. Dead Secret. 5s.
4. Woman in White.
5. My Lady Ludiow.
6. Hide and Seek. 5.
Each with a Steel Engraving, and handsomely bound.
8. When the Know Fulls. 5s.
9. The Queen of Hearts. 5s
10. The Pearl of Orr's Island. By
Mrs. Stowe. [Shortly.
LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, SON, AND CO.
47, L U D G A T E HILL.
English, American, and Colonial Booksellers and Publishers.
Chiswick Press : Whittingham and Wilkins, Tooks Court, Chancery Lane.