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FRANCIS W. GILMER TO WILLIAM WIRT.

MY DEAR MR. WIRT:

July 16, 1824.

I write you my first letter from England, not from Warwick Castle or Guy's Cliff,-which are both near at hand-nor from Stratford generally, but from the identical room in which the immortal bard first came "into this breathing world." Here day first dawned upon his infant eyes-a miserable hovel. Imagine in that hovel a small room, with a low roof; but one window,—that looking to the setting sun; a fire place advanced into the room, by the naked chimney coming through the floor. The house is neither wood nor brick, but a wooden frame with the intervals filled up with brick. The wooden beams are shrunk and warped by weather and time. On the lower floor is a butcher's stall. No where is there a single vestige of Shakspeare. His chair is gone. His mulberry tree, which was in the garden, is attached to another house; it is reduced to the last fibre. Except his will, and the walls and beams of this lowly mansion, I know of no object in existence which he touched. Here the wise and the great repair to worship him. In the register before me is the name of Sir Walter Scott among others less illustrious. The walls. were once scribbled over by men of genius and fame-Fox, Pitt, and others, but a mischievous tenant lately whitewashed them, and you see only what have been recently written.

His body lies near the altar in the church, and neither name, nor date, nor arms appear upon the stone;-conclusive circumstances, I think, to show that he wrote the epitaph which is sculptured upon the stone. This has been doubted. What but the modesty of his own great mind could limit the epitaph of Shakspeare to the expression of the simple wish that his bones might rest undisturbed in their last repository. We have seen the lines. in Johnson's life of him, but here is a fac simile:

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I inquired of half a dozen persons in Stratford for the tomb of Shakspeare before I could find it. I should not have been surprised if this had occurred in a search for the tomb of Newton or Milton. But I was amazed at its happening in the case of the Poet of all ages and conditions.

I begin to be impatient to see Virginia once more. It is more like England than any other part of the United States-slavery non obstante. Remove that stain, blacker than the Ethiopian's skin, and annihilate our political schemers, and it would be the fairest realm on which the sun ever shone. I like the elbow room we have, where the wild deer cross the untrodden grass, and the original forest never heard the echo of the woodman's axe. There is nothing in England so beautiful as the scenery of Albemarle, or the view from Montevideo-the window from which you used to gaze on the deep blue of these silent and boundless mountains. Peace to them!-and a blessing warm, though from afar, on you and all your house!

Yours affectionately,

F. W. GILMER.

TO FRANCIS W. GILMER.

WASHINGTON, December 4, 1824.

MY DEAR FRANCIS:

I received your letter from Stratford upon Avon, with the Kenilworth leaf-and a most interesting letter it was. I sent it to Dabney Carr in Winchester. He has returned it to me.

I should have acknowledged it by a letter to England, but that I supposed, from your constant locomotion, I might as well have attempted to shoot a humming bird on the wing.

I hope to see you as you pass,—though it will be more probably in Baltimore than in Washington. I have a cause to argue there, and shall return to Baltimore on Wednesday or Thursday.

If

you should chance to come in the Christmas holidays you will find me at home here, when we shall be delighted to eat mince

* A leaf of ivy from the tower of Kenilworth, which was enclosed in the letter referred to, accompanying a description of a visit to the Castle.

pies and drink champagne with you. Though in both operations I shall be merely a looker on. I have been a water drinker, now, for more than a year, and am somewhat on a regimen in other respects; by reason whereof I have been continually in better health than I have enjoyed since I was twenty. I require depletion, you repletion. So, you shall eat mince pies and drink wine to my bread and water.

You will find every thing pretty much as you left it amongst your friends. In the political world there are some changes in prospect, a little different, I suppose, from what you anticipated. But this you will learn in New York.

As to my succeeding Mr. Rush*—there is not the slightest foundation for the report. Such a thing is not thought of either by the President or myself. I should consider it an act of madness, on my part, to accept of any mission or any office in the gift of the Government, other than that which I now hold. And whether I shall retain this depends on contingencies. Though, I have no reason to doubt that it will be in my own choice. God bless you and restore you to health!

Your friend,

WM. WIRT.

The anticipation of enjoyment in the usual festivities of the approaching Christmas, which is indulged in this letter, was sadly disappointed by the tidings which arrived at this time from France, communicating the death of Robert Wirt, the eldest son of the Attorney General. This youth had been admitted, as we have seen, to the Academy at West Point. The discipline of that school was found too severe for a constitution naturally feeble, and he was withdrawn from it in the second year of his probation there, greatly reduced in health. A sea voyage had been prescribed to him by his physician, and, in the hope of finding that which was already irretrievable, he had embarked on the 5th of August in this year, for Havre. His disease-a pulmonary affection-seems to have taken a fatal direction almost immediately upon his arrival in September. He was unable to prosecute his

• Mr. Rush was then Minister of the United States in England.
VOL. 2-17

travels, and died in the city where he had landed, on the 31st of October. He was a youth of fine promise, of a meditative, studious habit, and although, but now, in his nineteenth year, deeply imbued with a strong religious sentiment, which showed itself in the habitual cast of his manners, and in the grave character of his studies.

This was the first serious affliction which had yet visited the happy fireside of the subject of our Memoir. It did not find him unprepared or unarmed. Mr. Wirt had long since disciplined his mind to that higher philosophy which is born of the Christian faith and hope, and was not to be shaken even by a calamity so poignant as this. I find a letter written, at this moment, to her whose sorrows had a deeper root than is ever found even in a father's breast, and who stood in sorest need of that manly support which it is the husband's first duty to supply. The most fastidious will see no reason to object to the perusal of the beautiful lesson of Christian resignation, submission and cheerful patience which breathes in the extract I have ventured to make from this private record of thoughts that welled forth from a fountain of truest feeling.

TO MRS. WIRT.

"BALTIMORE, December 27, 1824. The image of your

"I am here safe and well.

pensive face is on my heart and continually before my eyes. May the Father of mercies support you, and pour into your bosom the rich consolations of his grace, and preserve and strengthen you for your family! What can we do, if you suffer yourself to sink under the sorrow that afflicts you? Let us bear up and endeavor to fulfil our duty to our surviving children. Let us not overcast the morning of their lives with unavailing gloom, by exhibiting to them, continually, the picture of despair. Trouble comes soon enough, whatever we do to avert it, and the sombre side of life will early enough show itself to them, without any haste on our part to draw aside the curtain. Let them be innocently gay and happy as long as they can; and let us rather promote than dissipate the pleasing illusions of hope and fancy. Let us endeavor

to show religion to them in a cheering light; the hopes and promises it sets before us; the patience and resignation which it inspires under affliction; the peace and serenity which it spreads around us; the joyful assurances with which it gilds even the night of death.

"These are realities by which, while we inculcate them on others, we may profit ourselves. They are not fallacies to cheat children, but realities which ought to give strength to our own bosoms. Is not religion a reality? Are not its promises true? Are not its consolations substantial? Why, then, should we not appeal to our Lord in prayer, with confidence in his promises? What though he scourge us, he will not cast us off, if we come to him with humility and entreat him, with earnestness and contrition, to pity and pardon and accept of us. Our Lord himself, when on earth, was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and knows how to pity our distresses and support us by the influences of his holy spirit.

"May God bless you and breathe into your bosom peace and cheerful resignation!"

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