« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Sherbrooke on his return from India some years after the Canada appearance. He confirmed General Wyndham's story in every particular, and added that in London he frequently saw in the streets a person that strikingly resembled the apparition he had seen in Canada; and one day walking with General Wyndham saw the man again and exclaimed, "There, Wyndham, look at that man!" "Oh," said he, "I know him" (naming him); "he has often been taken for my poor brother from his wonderful likeness to him."
This is the story the Scottish lady told the late Mr Ticknor, who told it to Allston, who told it to me. And I afterwards had it from Mr. Ticknor himself.
In printing this story in the Essay to which I have referred, I concluded by saying: "I have no comments to make upon it and no theories to propound about this or any other similarly remarkable stories. I have only to say with Hamlet, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy." But now in writing my recollections of Allston, I am minded to say something more. I remember asking him once, whether he believed this story. To which he replied that Coleridge used to say he did not believe in ghosts because he had seen too many of them; that, for his own part, though he had never seen a ghost, yet he was a believer in them in a general way; that is, he was ready to believe in any ghost story that was supported by sufficient evidence; and he jocosely added that Judge Story was the only person he knew of at the present day that was of like mind with himself.
This is not the place to discuss the subject. But I will suggest in a sentence or two what might be said in support of Allston's position.
In the first place, Wyndham and his friend were, it cannot reasonably be doubt ed, men of veracity and honor. And they testified to an appearance which they said they saw with their own bodily eyes. The appearance must be taken as a matter of fact. So also the coincidence in point of time between the death in India and the appearance in Canada-which is the most re
markable point in the case-must be taken as a matter of fact.
In the next place, as to the explanation of the appearance. On the one hand, the assumption that it was supernatural is something which nobody can demonstrate the impossibility of; and on the other hand, if it be alleged as natural, nothing but conjectures more or less plausible can be offered in support of the allegation; at any rate, it will be hard to find a satisfactory explanation.
But at bottom what matters the question about natural or supernatural? And what difference does it make whether the witnesses saw or only imagined that they saw what they testified to? The appearance was to them certainly an actual appearance. What more can we certainly know?
But this is the substance of the story: that at Lamb's house one evening a naval officer of distinction related an incident that took place on board a ship of war which he commanded. During action a cannon ball or a splinter struck a sailor near him on the quarter deck and carried off both his arms. He directed the man to be taken below. On the way another shot carried away both his legs-leaving him a mere trunk. The sailors, believing him dead, instead of taking him below dropped him over the side of the ship, and the officer said he saw the man with upturned face floating for a few seconds on the flapping waves and then sinking from sight! The silence that followed the officer's recital was broken by Lamb's exclaiming in his stammering way: board! Oh, what a shame! Why, the ma mi-might have lived to be an or-or-nament to society."
Such is the story.
A great many persons may think this queer exclamation Lamb-like enough to be
Lamb's, and so give immediate, unquestioning credence to the story. And it must certainly be admitted that "se non è vero, è ben trovato." I am pretty sure Allston did not say he himself was present on the occasion, but that he related the story as one he had been told. Be this as it may, I am quite sure no one can read Barry Cornwall's delightful Memoir without feeling that it was not in Lamb's nature not to be deeply affected by the painful images brought to his mind by such a narration; and that his queer exclamation (if he uttered it) was no mere heartless witticism, but sprang from the very depth and tenderness of his heart. Those who know human nature will understand how this may be the case.
My reverence for Allston as a man was greater than my admiration for him as an artist, for I was better able to judge of him in the former than in the latter character. I am not competent to analyze worthily the quality of his genius, or to criticise such of his pictures as I have seen and somewhat studied. Yet whatever of taste and feeling for art or ability to judge of works of art I am possessed of—and it is not much-I owe mainly to him. Many a fruitful remark had its influence on my mind, and many a bit of good advice he gave me. I remember one in particular and the occasion of it. We went together one day into Boston to look at something on exhibition there. I think it was Greenough's Chanting Cherubs. A good many people were in the room. We stood just beside a knot of persons who were discussing the subject in the technical terms of art. Allston listened in his gentle, placid way. When we came out he said to me: My young friend, it is an exceedingly hazardous thing for any one to talk of a work of art in a technical way unless he is either an artist himself or has made art a life-long study. If a work tells you anything, awakens any feelings, gives you any impressions which you can express in ordinary language, you need not fear to give expression to them; whether you are right or wrong in your judgment you will not be likely to say anything which a candid and competent connoisseur would find absurd." I have always remembered this piece of advice and acted upon it.
My reverence for Allston as a man was very great. He was a good man, and eminently a gentleman in the true sense of that noble word; a gentleman inside as well as outside, in spirit as well as in manner. The most distinguishing trait in his character, as it seemed to me, was a love of excellence as pure as it was intense. There is a sentence in Fuseli's lectures which I saw for the first time as penciled by Allston on the door of a commode in his studio: "No genuine work of art ever was or can be produced but for its own sake." Underneath this Allston had written the following comment: "If an artist love his art for its own sake he will delight in excellence wherever he meets it, as well in the work of another as in his own. This is the test of true love." This beautiful utterance is a true exponent of his gentle and noble spirit. He delighted in the excellence of others of whatever sort, not only in works of art, but in every good product of the mind, and especially in the personal character and conduct of his fellow men. He never detracted from the merit of others, but had a hearty, generous joy in praising it. As to his own works, he cared far more for excellence than for the reputation of it. In short I never knew a more pure, simple-hearted, right-hearted and kindhearted man. He never uttered a cynical or ill-natured word, and I do not believe a mean, ungenerous feeling ever entered his bosom.
From the time when I left Cambridge in 1832, I did not see Mr. Allston again until 1837. But I find among my papers a letter from him written in 1836, when I was at Bristol College. From its contents I infer that I must have proposed to him to become one of the regular contributors to the New York Review, which I was then preparing to establish. I print some extracts from it:
My dear Sir:
Cambridgeport 3 May 1836
I am so much ashamed when I think how long I have neglected you that I know not what to say in my defence: so I must e'en throw myself on the mercy of the court; which I do the more readily, knowing that I am in the hands of a kind
I beg you to accept my thanks, both for the compliment implied, and the benefit intended in your proposal; but I regret to say in reply that it is quite out of my power to avail myself of it. My professional duties leave me very little leisure for writing; now and then only a few hours in the evening; and these snatches of leisure have already been forestalled by a work on my art which I have had in hand for some time. As I suffer nothing-not even a collateral pursuit to interfere with my profession, this work has necessarily gone on slowly. When it will be completed I know not; nor do I much care; it serves as a friend of mine once said, as "something to be kind to," while in progress, with which I am content: besides, it makes me sometimes a traveler from this sublime place, inasmuch as it carries me over many miles of thought; which by the way I begin in my old age to think is the only kind of traveling that rewards you for its fatigues.*
I read your review of President Wayland's book with great interest. Your friends here are all well, and all speak as kindly of you as ever.-I am glad to find you in a Professor's chair, and hope that your sound philosophy may take root in your present soil. Mrs. Allston sends you her best regards. Accept mine, and believe me sincerely yours, WA. ALLSTON.
Professor C. S. Henry, Bristol, Pa.
*Allston's residence at that time was in a straggling suburb between Boston and Cambridge, long since handsomely filled up, I believe.
The memory of my last visit to Allston is associated with the recollection of some very agreeable circumstances connected with it. Being in Boston toward the end of the year 1837, Mr. William Sullivan asked me to dinner, saying, "I'll invite your cronies, Felton, Hillard and Charles Sumner to meet you, and we'll have a good time." We did have a good time. Mr. Sullivan enjoyed the lively conversation which he so well knew how to set going and to which he contributed an agreeable share-telling us numerous anecdotes about men and things in the old Federal days of Washington's and Adams's administration, which he looked back upon as the only good days of the republic.
During the dinner Mr. Sumner informed me that he was about to go abroad and wanted to get a letter to Wordsworth from Mr. Allston, to whom he begged I would introduce him. I told him I would go over to Mr. Allston's with him after dinner, and Felton agreed to go with us.
As we were drawing on to the end of the dinner, Mr. Sullivan said: "I don't know when I have had such a set of clever youngsters around me at table. Before you go we must have a libation fitting the occasion.” So he opened a crypt and brought out a bottle of wine which he called the "Bones of Columbus.” We took a parting glass all round and bade him good night. We then walked out to Mr. Allston's. He received us with particular cordiality and entertained us delightfully until the small hours. As we were going away I blurted out, thoughtless of Mr. Sumner's presence, his wish for a letter to Wordsworth. Allston said nothing direct or distinct in reply, and I, though instantly conscious of my breach of propriety, could say nothing then and there. The next morning I was in his studio, when he said: "I did not wish to promise that letter to Wordsworth without a little reflection; but as I liked your friend Sumner I have concluded to give him the letter." He did so; Mr. Sumner afterward told me it procured him a cordial reception at Rydal Mount, and one of the pleasantest days he passed in England.
This was the last time I saw Mr. Allston.
He died after midnight on Sunday morning, July 9, 1843, in the sixty-fourth year of his age. The Editor of his Lectures on Art, etc., Mr. R. H. Dana, Jr., says:
"He had finished a day and a week of labor in his studio upon his great picture of Belshazzar's Feast; the fresh paint denoting that the last touches of his pencil were given to that glorious but melancholy monument of the best years of his later life. Having conversed with his retiring family with
peculiar solemnity and earnestness upon the obligation and beauty of a pure spiritual life, and on the realities of the world to come, he had seated himself at his nightly employment of reading and writing, which he usually carried into the early hours of the morning. In the silence and solitude of this occupation, in a moment, 'with touch as gentle as the morning light,' which was even then approaching, his spirit was called away to its proper home." C. S. Henry.
ONE SUMMER'S WORK.
SHERMAN, PENN., June 3, 1877. "MY DEAR MRS. L.-The ball is set in motion. I took for my text this morning, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me,' and made the practical bearing of my words the bringing out into our homes some of the waifs and outcasts from the city. One man stopped on his way home to say that he would take four. In another house there is a call for a mother and a baby, and so on through the town. The enthusiasm and response of my people have delighted me. "Next to get the money, then to tell the children. Must not two weeks in this mountain air be felt by them in after life? It seems to me that they are all but here!
"Now may I have the introduction you said you would get for me to Dr. Eggleston? I shall try for a pass over the road to go back and forth with the children myself, and perhaps I can arrange it with some of these good people on the way, to bring us a country lunch as the train comes along.
"Some good angel whisper it in the ear of a little one! Tell a tired mother there is life for her child in this fresh country air! 66 'WILLARD PARSONS."
Through a friend, this invitation was offered to Dr. Eggleston. He was about to sail for Europe, and could only give it a hasty and hearty welcome, tell it to his own people, and transfer it to Dr. White of
the Plymouth Church Mayflower Mission, through whose interest full fares on the Erie Railway were reduced to half fares, and half fares to quarter fares; and a pass was secured for Mr. Parsons. He came to
the city at once, and received his first little band of guests.
There were nine in all. They were very poor, and enfeebled by want and disease,in consumption, crippled, suffering from the effects of whooping-cough, thin and pinched for want of sufficient and suitable food. One, eight years old, was well, and went as nurse to his little brother of five, who was just out of the hospital, with spinal troubles, and growing deformity.
As the hour drew near to take them away, the question of so long a journey for those so scantily provided with strength and comforts looked grave. Mr. Parsons left all his own conveniences behind him, and hands accustomed to thoughtful service filled his empty satchel with crackers, oranges, lemons, sugar, some drinking cups, soft old towels and handkerchiefs, witch-hazel and ammonia, a cake of soap, and some pins. And so the little party started for the cars. Most of them had come with some semblance of lunch from their homes, and milk and bread had been ordered to meet the train at noon.
It was an anxious journey, and postal cards brought us tidings on the way.
"July 19, Patterson.-All very happy, and asking if we are not almost there."
แ Ridgewood.--No more trouble with lunch bundles. Lunches nearly used up. One eye treated for cinders. Train-boy has asked if these are all my family!"
"Turners.-One towel and handkerchief needed. One girl sick. My youngest asleep. Crackers almost gone. The E. boys eat all the time. More eyes treated with success at Monroe."
"Middletown.-Henry is standing it well. Sick girl all right again. I could not have done without the ammonia. Will has sat all day looking out of the window, without speaking. He is evidently drinking it in." "Port Jervis.—Lunch has come all right. Cool, and all wraps needed. Four are asleep."
"Last hour.-If any one thinks I have had a leisure day, let him try traveling with my family! It has not been a monotonous trip, although everything has worked well. They are very tired, but have borne the journey better than I feared. All have slept some."
"Hale's Eddy.-Safe and sound."
Soon the first welcome letters came : Sherman, July 20, 1877.-I wish you could see it all for yourself. A pen-andink sketch will be tame. Such happy and good children as they all were on the way. Not the first thing all day that the most fastidious could take the least exception to. On the two-mile drive from Hale's Eddy to Sherman, the E. boys screamed with delight. They are dear little fellows, and are in a good place.
"The two little girls I left with a good German woman, but they came back to me in less than an hour, saying they did not want to stay. I didn't think any the less of them because they wanted their mothers when night came. One woke in the night and said she wanted to go home; but I heard her say at daylight that she thought she would stay.
"I have Henry and Joseph and George also with me. Henry has been out of doors all day, only staying in long enough to eat. He seems a good deal rested.
"The whole town came out last night to see the arrival, and plenty of children have
been in to-day to see mine and to do the honors of the place. They have all been out 'to catch raspberries!'"'
“July 21.—Such a good time as we had last night. After supper I read to them some in St. Nicholas, and then we began talking, with the full moon looking down upon us. Little hearts opened. To be sure, one wanted most to be an Indian chief, but no matter; he began opening his heart to me. And then how we sang! The children all sing with a will and considerable understanding. One after another of the neighbors dropped in, or stood outside the fence enjoying it all. I am sure I am having the best of it myself. I guess it is more than my share of the good.
"Joe is as smart as a whip, and wants to go through college. He is a dreadful cripple. Yesterday the village boys drew him in a little cart up the mountain after wintergreens. George is an orphan. He is having a splendid time. Alida has one of those faces which show sorrow, want and care. She is very quiet-an unusually good child. Nellie has just given a scream of delight over some young potato bugs, thinking they were raspberries! Every thing is doing beautifully!"
Then came the railroad strikes, and Mr. Parsons was cut off from his supplies. Friends had come in upon him unexpectedly and his little house was over-full. No flour could be bought in town, but a small quantity borrowed, fifty pounds of Indian meal secured, and ham on hand, brought his household grandly through. Meanwhile, those of us who had taken up the work at the city end were a little anxious about getting money enough to send the children away. Some one suggested advertising; and a word from Dr. White to the Brooklyn Union, and a kind editorial notice of homes in the country for sick, destitute children, brought us at once "The Mountain-Air Fund;" sufficient to fill all the places that one man could find in one village and its neighborhood, for one summer's work.
Now questions began to be asked. Could it be a hoax? Was it possible that people