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for the "Portico," and at last for the public, as an editor and as an author, mainly at the instigation of Mr. Pierpont, for whom I wrote both "Niagara"* and “Guldau,” and a part of " Allen's" American Revolution, studying law, and languages by the half-dozen at the same time, and laboring upon the average about sixteen hours a day, while Mr. Pierpont struck out boldly for a faroff perilous and rocky shore, with a lighthouse, in the shape of a pulpit, before him, and achieved the "Airs of Palestine while undergoing the process of regeneration, and starving by inches upon what there were left of his wife's teaspoons, which were sold one by one to pay the rent of a cheap room in Howard Street. So poor indeed were we at one time, that we could hardly muster enough between us to pay our bootblack.
I have already said that Mr. Pierpont had no aptitude for extemporaneous speaking; and what was even worse, he had no hope of being able to overcome the difficulty. Once, and once only, did I ever hear him try his hand in that way, until many years after he had entered upon the ministry. A club had been organized among us for literary purposes. We were both members, and he the VicePresident. We called ourselves the Delphians, and passed among our contemporaries for the male Muses, our
*And here I may as well mention a curious incident. When I wrote my poem, I had never seen Niagara; but we agreed to go together on a pilgrimage at our carliest convenience. One thing and another happened, until I had been abroad and returned, without our seeing it together. At last, being about to go to the South of Europe, I made a new arrangement with him; but just as we my wife and I were ready to go, he was called away to consecrate some church in the West, and we started on a jurney of two thousand miles through portions of our country I had never seen, and was ashamed to go abroad again without seeing. On my way back we stopped in Buffalo, and as I stood in the piazza I saw a little card on one of the pillars saying that the Rev. Mr. Pierpont would preach in the evening somewhere. I found him, and we went together at last, and saw Niagara together, as we had agreed to do forty years before. And that night the heavens rained fire upon us, and the great November star-shooting occurred, and our landlord, being no poet, was unwilling to disturb us, so that we missed the show altogether.
number being limited to nine, — not seven, as I see it stated in the Boston Advertiser, on the authority of our friend Paul Allen. The rest of the story is near enough to the truth, although the verses therein mentioned were written by Mr. Pierpont as a volunteer offering, after the Della-Cruscan school, or manner of "Laura Matilda," and not upon the spur of the occasion, as there related, nor as a trial of wit; and the last line should be, "Pulls where'er the zephyr roves," not, as given there, "Pulls where'er the zephyr moves."
It was in this club that Mr. Pierpont first tried himself- and the brethren - with extemporaneous speaking. It was a pitiable failure, worse if possible than my own, and I never made another attempt. Even General Winder, who was a fine advocate, and a capital speaker before a jury, boggled wretchedly before the club, and our President, Watkins, who was said to be exceedingly eloquent before the great Masonic lodges, where he occupied the highest position, could not be persuaded to open his mouth, and all the rest of the brethren were mutes. True, it was like apostrophizing your own grandmother, in the hope of raising a laugh or of bringing tears into her eyes, to make speeches at one another across the table, whatever Molière might be able to do, when alone with his aged servant. Nor did it much help the matter, when, with a view to the treasury, which began to threaten a collapse, we made a law, like that of the Medes and Persians which altereth not, whereby it was provided, among other things, that no member should ever talk over five minutes, nor stop short of three, under any circumstances, the President being timekeeper, and the sufferer not being allowed to look at a watch. Fines of course were inevitable, and we were once more able to luxuriate on bread and cheese, with an occasional pot of beer,
nothing better or stronger being tolerated among us under any pretence, except on our anniversaries, when the
President, or sometimes a member, stood treat, and gave us a comfortable, though not often a costly or showy supper.
Among that, strange, whimsical brotherhood consisting of Dr. Tobias Watkins, editor of the "Portico"; General Winder (William H.), who had been "captivated" by the British, along with General Chandler, at the first invasion of Canada; William Gwin, editor of the "Federal Gazette"; Paul Allen, editor of the "Federal Republican," and of Lewis and Clarke's "Tour," and author of "Noah"; Dr. Readel," a fellow of infinite jest " Brackenridge, author of "Views in Louisiana," and "History of the War"; Dennison, an Englishman, who wrote clever doggerel; and, at different times, two or three more, not worth mentioning, even if I remembered their names we passed every Saturday evening, after the club was established, until it was broken up by President Watkins's going to Washington, Vice-President Pierpont to the Divinity School at Cambridge, and Jehu O'Cataract abroad. All the members bore "clubicular names, by which they were always to be addressed or spoken to, under another penalty; and most of them held "clubicular" offices and professorships, Dr. Readel being Professor of Crambography, and somebody else - Gwin perhaps Professor of Impromptology. The name given to Mr. Pierpont was Hiero Heptaglott, under an idea that he was a prodigious linguist, - another Sir William Jones, at least, if not another Learned Blacksmith; and the President himself went so far as to say so in the "Portico," where he pretended to give an account of the Delphians. Nothing could well be further from the truth, however; for, instead of being a great Hebrew scholar, and learned in the Chaldee, Coptic, and other Eastern languages, he knew very little of Hebrew, and absolutely nothing of the rest. With "a little Latin and less Greek," he was a pretty fair Latin and Greek scholar in the judgment of those who are satisfied with what we
are doing in our colleges; and he was sufficiently acquainted with French to enjoy Chateaubriand, St. Pierre, Rousseau, and Lamartine, and to write the language with correctness, though not idiomatically; but he was never able to make himself understood in conversation, beyond a few phrases, uttered with a deplorable accent, not being able to carry the flavor in his mouth,and, though free and sprightly enough in talking English, having no idea of what passes for freedom and sprightliness with the French. He knew nothing of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, or Dutch, nor indeed of any other modern language.
And now let me say how he came to be an extemporaneous speaker, and sometimes not only logical and convincing, but truly eloquent. On my return from abroad, in 1826, I passed through Boston, on my way to Portland, for a visit to my family, and was taken possession of by him, and went to Hollis Street Church, where I heard my friend, for the second time, in the pulpit. He was exceedingly impressive, and the sermon itself was one of the best I ever heard, calm, serious, and satisfying; not encumbered with illustration, but full of significance. Although the discourse was carefully written out, word for word, and almost committed to memory, yet he ventured to introduce a paragraph - — one paragraph only —which had not been prepared beforehand. My eyes were upon him, and he told me at dinner that he saw by my look how well I understood his departand how soon I detected it. "And now," said he, "I hope you are satisfied. You see now that I shall never
"Suffer me to say that I think you misunderstand the whole question," said I. "The difficulty is in beginning. After you are well under way, if you can talk sitting, you may talk standing. Better take with you into the pulpit the merest outline of the discourse, and then trust to the inspiration of the subject, or to the feeling of the hour, when you have the audience before you, and can look into their eyes, than to have a discourse partly written, with blanks to be filled up as you go along; for then you are always beginning afresh, and by the time you have got easy in your spontaneous effort, you are obliged to go back to what you have written, and of course can never get warmed up with your subject, nor try any new adaptations, whatever may be the character of your hearers."
He shook his head. "No, no," said he, "you will never be able to persuade me that it is easier to say over the whole alphabet than to say only a part."
I persisted, urging the great advantage of spontaneous adaptation to the people. He agreed with me altogether, provided it were possible for him to do it, which he denied, though he promised to take the subject into serious consideration once more, to oblige me.
From Boston I went to Portland, where I had a similar talk with that most amiable and excellent man, the late Dr. Nichols, who labored under a similar disqualification, owing to a similar misapprehension of what was required for extemporaneous speaking, either on the platform or in the pulpit. I told him the story, and urged the same considerations; but he, like Mr. Pierpont, only smiled, compassionately, as I thought, and rather as if he pitied the delusion I was laboring under. Yet within two years both of these remarkable men became free and natural spontaneous speakers, and both acknowledged to me that they had always misunderstood the difficulty. Dr. Nichols began afar off, as I suggested, in the Sabbath school; and Mr. Pierpont, after making two or three at
tempts in a small way, which were anything but satisfactory to himself, as I told him they would be for a while, if he had the true stuff in him,
was at last surprised into doing what he believed to be impossible, by the merest accident in the world; after which he had no further trouble. It seems that he had engaged to supply a neighboring pulpit,—perhaps that of his son John, who was newly settled at Lynn. He thought he had his sermon in his pocket; but, on entering the pulpit, found that he had either left it at home or lost it on the way. What was to be done? Luckily, he had just read it over the night before, and was full of the subject therein treated. Remembering what I said, as he told me himself, he determined to go to work, hit or miss, and either make a spoon or spoil a horn.
The result was, that, after a little hesitation and floundering, he got fairly in. earnest, and threw off a discourse which so delighted those who were best acquainted with him, that they stopped round the door to shake hands and congratulate him. He had never preached so well in all his life, they
This settled the question forever; and from that day forward he began to believe that anybody who can talk in his chair can talk standing up, after he has got over his first impressions, and all the better for having a large auditory, with upturned faces, before him; so that he became at last, and within a few years, one of the finest pulpit orators of the day, and one of the best platform speakers, though not, perhaps, what the multitude consider eloquent; for, at the best, he was only argumentative and earnest and clear and convincing, in his highest manifestations.
Of his career after this, I cannot say anything as I wish, without the risk of saying too much. He had one of the wealthiest and most liberal congregations of New England. He was their idol. He was in every way most agreeably situated, with a large family flowering into usefulness about him,
and hosts of friends, enthusiastic and devoted. Nevertheless, believing that, as a servant of God, he had no right to preach smooth things where rough things were needed, and that acknowledging other people's transgressions would not satisfy the law, he came out boldly, with helm and spear, against two of the worst forms of human slavery, the slavery of the body and the slavery of the soul, the slavery of the wine-cup, and the slavery of bondage to a master. Whether his beloved people would hear or whether they would forbear, being all the more beloved because of their danger, he must preach what he believed to be the truth, and the whole truth. It was like a fire shut up in his bones. He persisted, and they remonstrated, or rather a part of them did so; and the result was a speedy and hopeless alienation, followed by years of strife and bitter controversy at law, and a final separation; though by far the larger part of the church and congregation, if I do not mistake, upheld him to the last, and adhered to him through good report and through evil report, Deacon Samuel May, a host in himself, being of their number.
During this protracted and sorrowful controversy, he became a phrenologist,
a believer in phrenology, - at any rate, following the lead of Spurzheim; and after many years, a Spiritualist, — in which faith he died, one of his last, if not the very last, of his appearances before the public being as President of a convention held by the leading Spiritualists of the land at Philadelphia.
He could not be a materialist; and having faith in the evidence of his own senses, and being as truly conscientious a man as ever breathed, and accustomed to the closest reasoning, what was he to do? There were the facts. They were not to be controverted; they could not be explained; they could not be reconciled to any hypothesis in physics. If he was given over to delusion, to be buffeted by Satan, whose fault was it? That he was by nature somewhat credulous,
and, though patient enough in his investigations, rather too fond of the marvellous, may be acknowledged; but what then? His conclusions might be wrong, his inferences faulty, though honest; but how were they to be counteracted? That he sometimes took too much for granted, I believe, nay, more, I know; because I myself have seen him grossly imposed on by a woman he took me to see, whose impersonations were thought most wonderful. But then he was a devout man, a close observer, an admirable logician, accustomed to the "competition of opposite analogies" and to weighing evidence; and if he misunderstood the facts, or misinterpreted them, or inferred the supernatural from false premises, why then let us grieve for his delusion, and wait patiently for the phenomena which led him astray to be explained.
He went abroad for a time, while pastor of the Hollis Street Church, and visited the Holy Land, in devout pilgrimage; and though he lost his first wife, the mother of all his children, and a most worthy gentlewoman, but the other day, and married another superior woman after a brief widowhood, his last days have been, I should say, most emphatically his best days; for he has lectured through the length and breadth of the land on Temperance, and, after enduring all sorts of persecution as one of the anti-slavery leaders, he lived to see the whole system against which they had been warring so long, and with so little apparent effect, utterly overthrown throughout the land, and the great God of heaven and earth acknowledged as the God of the black man. Thousands and thousands of miles he travelled, not only after having passed the meridian of his life, but after he had reached the allotted term, when life begins to be a heaviness for most, as a laborer in the cause of truth,—often of unacknowledged truth; and if mistaken, as a theologian, or as a Spiritualist, or as a man, being what he was, - let us remember that he was never
false to his convictions, never a hypocrite nor a deceiver, and that he died with his harness on, having been occupied for the last five years of his life in digesting the treasury decisions, often contradictory, and always inaccessible, for there was no index, until he took them in hand, going back thirty years, I believe, and reducing the whole to a system which need be no longer unintelligible to the Department.
One word more. Among the scores of letters I had from him in the day of his bitterest trials and sorest temptations, there was one which he sent off in the midst of his first great triumph, with no date now, although I find a mark upon it which leads me to suppose it was written November 16, 1818, and from which I must venture to take a single paragraph.
"My God!" he says,
I do most devoutly thank Thee. My prayer has reached Thee, and been accepted. My dear friend, join with me in thanking Him in whom I put my trust, to whom alone I look, or to whom I have looked, for a smile. He has blessed me. I have been heard by man, and have not been forsaken by God. Though I have not done perfectly, I have done as well as I could rationally wish, and better than my most sanguine hopes. At Brattle Square this morning, and at the New South (late Mr. Thacher's) this after
Lord! now let thy servant depart in peace; for thou hast lifted the cloud under which he has so long moved, and he may now die in thy light."
Can such a temper as this be misunderstood? Was he not a man fearing God in 1818,- forty-eight years ago? - or, rather, loving God with that perfect love which casteth out all fear? But we need not stop here. After he had become a Spiritualist, that is, on the 5th of April, 1862, the evening before his seventy-seventh birthday, he wrote a poem of one hundred and sixty lines, entitled "Meditations of a Birthday Eve," a copy of which he sent me on the 10th of November following,
With the foregoing came another "In Commemoration of a Silpoem, ver Wedding," October 2, 1863, full of tenderness and pleasantry,—the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. J. Pierpont Lord.
And on his eighty-first birthday, called by a strange mistake his eightieth, there was another celebration, yet more solemn and affecting, where the greetings and congratulations of his brother-poets, all over the land, were sent to him and published in the newspapers of the day.
Among his later poems, the "E Pluribus Unum" appears to me most worthy of his reputation, and least like the doings of his early manhood.
And now, though we had little reason to look for the prolongation of such a life, -a continued miracle from the age of thirty or thirty-five, after which he built himself up anew, by living as well in cold water as in hot, and luxuriating in cold baths, and working hard, harder, perhaps, on the whole, at downright drudgery, than any other man of his age, like Rousseau in copying mu