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S. V. S. Wilder (search for this): chapter 3
blue-gray eyes, a rose-tinted complexion, soft brown hair, a pliant figure, with slender hands and feet. She had, in all, ten children of her own, of whom I was the youngest. But before my birth the whole scene had suddenly changed. My father's whole fortune went when Jefferson's embargo came; his numerous vessels were captured or valueless. He retired into the country, living on a beautiful sheep-farm in Bolton, Massachusetts, placed at his disposal by a more fortunate friend, Mr. S. V. S. Wilder. There lies before me my mother's diary at this farm, which begins thus: On Saturday, the 8th April, 1815, we left our home, endeared to us by a long and happy residence and by the society of many dear and kind friends, to make trial of new scenes, new cares, and new duties; but though by this change we make some sacrifices and have some painful regrets, we are still experiencing the same goodness and mercy which have hitherto crowned our lives with happiness. I always awake, she a
Bountiful (search for this): chapter 3
n less foreseen than the ultimate outcome of this arrangement. My mother was betrothed at fifteen or sixteen to a young man-Edward Cabot — who was lost at sea; a year or two later her benefactress, my father's first wife, died, and my mother remained in the household as an adopted daughter, ultimately becoming, at the early age of nineteen, my father's second wife. My father was sixteen years older than my mother, and into all his various interests she was at once thrown as the young Lady Bountiful of the household. She also had the care of two stepchildren, who all their lives thought of her as their mother. My father lived in the then fashionable region of Mt. Vernon Street, in all the habits of affluence; his hospitality was inconveniently unbounded, and the young wife found herself presiding at large dinner-parties and at the sumptuous evening entertainments, then more in vogue than now. It was the recorded verdict of the Hon. George Cabot, the social monarch of that day in
n done, in the way of rebellion, by the pupils of a previous generation; and the initials of older students still remained carved in vast confusion on the end of the woodshed, like the wall which commemorates Canning and Byron at Harrow. Above all, a literature circulated under the desks, to be read surreptitiously,--such books as those to which Emerson records his gratitude at the Latin School; fortunately nothing pernicious, yet much that was exciting, including little dingy volumes of Baron Trenck, and Rinaldo Rinaldini, and The three Spaniards, and The Devil on two sticks. Can these be now found at any bookstore, I wonder, or have the boys of the present generation ever heard of them? But the most important portion of a boy's life is perhaps his outdoor training, since to live out of doors is to be forever in some respects a boy. Who could be before me, though the palace of the Caesars crackt and split with emperors, while I, sitting in silence on a cliff of Rhodes, watcht the
Dick Swiveller (search for this): chapter 3
ty of spotted ladybird (coccinella or chrysomela); and I remember pondering, as I compared them, with pre-Darwinian wonder, whether they were all created from the beginning as separate species, or were somehow developed from one another. On other days I played a game of football a mile long, trying to kick before me some particular stone or horse-chestnut for the whole distance from the school door to my own gate; sometimes betting heavily with myself, and perhaps losing manfully, like Dick Swiveller at his solitary cribbage. Then in winter there was always the hope of punging, getting a ride on the runners of a sleigh, or hitching my sled behind some vehicle; and in spring that of riding with the driver of an empty ice-cart or walking beside a full one, and watching the fine horses that then, in endless procession, drew heavy wagons bearing the winter harvest of Fresh Pond to be shipped to distant lands. My most immediate playmate was the next-door neighbor, already mentioned, w
Pietro Bachi (search for this): chapter 3
had books enough, nor have I ever had to this day. Seeing the uniform respect with which my mother and aunt and elder sisters were treated by the most cultivated men around us, I cannot remember to have grown up with the slightest feeling that there was any distinction of sex in intellect. Why women did not go to college was a point which did not suggest itself; but one of my sisters studied German with Professor Charles Follen, while another took lessons in Latin and Italian from Professor Bachi and in geometry from Professor Benjamin Peirce. I forget where this especial sister studied English, but she wrote for me all the passages that were found worth applauding in my commencement oration. Yet it is a curious fact that I owe indirectly to a single remark made by my mother all the opening of my eyes to the intellectual disadvantages of her sex. There came to Cambridge a very accomplished stranger, Mrs. Rufus King, of Cincinnati, Ohio, -afterward Mrs. Peter,--who established
Samuel Longfellow (search for this): chapter 3
, and would sometimes sit on a footstool at my mother's feet, gazing up at her in admiration. A younger sister of Professor Longfellow was a frequent guest, and the young poet himself came, in the dawning of his yet undeveloped fame. My nurse was a certain Rowena Pratt, wife of Dexter Pratt, the Village Blacksmith of Longfellow; and it is my impression that she was married from our house. It is amusing to remember that Professor Longfellow once asked me, many years after, what his hero's namProfessor Longfellow once asked me, many years after, what his hero's name was. My special playmate, Charles Parsons, was a nephew of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was in those years studying in Europe; and in the elder Dr. Holmes's house Charles Parsons and I often tumbled about in a library, -indeed, in the very same lburn sands, now included in the cemetery of that name, or the extensive jungle north of Fresh Pond, where the herons of Longfellow's poem had their nests,--were more or less guided by historic objects. There was the picturesque old Revolutionary Pow
Harriet Mills (search for this): chapter 3
good-natured woman, without a trace of inspiration! She was the sister of Lieutenant (afterwards Admiral) Davis, and his fine naval achievements at Port Royal and Memphis seemed only to put into squadron-strophes the magnificent triumphs of her song. I still recall the enchantment with which I heard, one moonlit summer night, the fine old glee To Greece we give our Shining blades, sung as a serenade under my sister's window, by a quartette consisting of Miss Davis and her brother, of Miss Harriet Mills, who afterwards became his wife, and of William Story. I had never before heard the song, and it made me feel, in Keats's phrase, as if I were going to a tournament. I went to a woman's school till I was eight; then walked daily, for five years, from the age of eight to that of thirteen, to the private school of William Wells, an institution which was then regarded as being — with the possible exception of the Boston Latin School--the best place in which to fit for Harvard College
Washington Irving (search for this): chapter 3
some tamarinds to accompany the note. The precise object of the tamarinds I have never clearly understood, but it is pleasant to think that I was, at the age of seven months, assisted toward maturity by this benefaction from a man so eminent. Professor Andrews Norton and George Ticknor habitually gave their own writings; and I remember Dr. J. G. Palfrey's bringing to the house a new book, Hawthorne's Twice-told tales, and reading aloud A Rill from the town Pump. Once, and once only, Washington Irving came there, while visiting a nephew who had married my cousin. Margaret Fuller, a plain, precocious, overgrown girl, but already credited with unusual talents, used to visit my elder sister, and would sometimes sit on a footstool at my mother's feet, gazing up at her in admiration. A younger sister of Professor Longfellow was a frequent guest, and the young poet himself came, in the dawning of his yet undeveloped fame. My nurse was a certain Rowena Pratt, wife of Dexter Pratt, the V
Christopher Pearse Cranch (search for this): chapter 3
re important, however, than all this, to my enjoyment, at least, was the musical atmosphere that pervaded the house. My youngest sister was an excellent pianist,--one of the first in this region to play Beethoven. Among the many students who came to the house there were three who played the flute well, and they practiced trios with her accompaniment. One of them was John Dwight, afterwards editor of the Journal of music, and long the leading musical critic of Boston; another was Christopher Pearse Cranch, poet and artist; and the third was William Habersham from Savannah, who had a silver flute, of which I remember John Dwight's saying, when it first made its appearance, It has a silver sound. When I read in later years the experiences of the music-loving boy in Charles Auchester, it brought back vividly the happiness with which, when sent to bed at eight o'clock, I used to leave the door of my little bedroom ajar, in order that I might go to sleep to music. Greater still were
Margaret Davis (search for this): chapter 3
the older boys, being of a peculiarly inventive turn, got up a long and imaginary wooing of a black-eyed damsel who went to school in Cambridge. He showed us letters and poems, and communicated all the ups and downs of varying emotion. They were finally separated, amid mutual despair, and I do not suppose that she had ever known him by sight. We had our share of dancing-schools, always in private houses, taught sometimes by the elder Papanti, and sometimes by a most graceful woman, Miss Margaret Davis, sister of the songstress I have described. We had Mayday parties, usually at Mount Auburn, and showed in the chilly May mornings that heroic courage which Lowell plaintively attributes to children on these occasions. But all this sporting with Amaryllis soon became secondary for us, being Cambridge boys, to the great realm of academical life, to which no girls might then aspire. That vast mysterious region lies always before the boy who is bred in a college town, alluring, excitin
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