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bors thought, to lay up money. In the mean time, he passed his summers in journeys to different parts of the country; or in rambling about the fields and the sides of ponds, with an umbrella over his head, picking up weeds and pebbles; while his winters were employed in arranging the collections of the summer, dipping into books, scribbling, and mending his study fire. My curiosity was somewhat excited by the account
landlord gave me of this singular personage. I recollected his invitation, and being desirous to examine a little more nearly a character which had so exotic an appearance in this practical country, I determined to make him a visit. I went the next morning to his house. A great deal of snow had fallen, and had been blown by the wind into enormous heaps. When I came to the house of my literary friend, I found the door next to the street defended by a huge pyramidal drift, the crest of which, rising higher than the top of the door, curled over towards the southeast, and seemed to intimate a sort of defiance to any body who might be disposed to enter. I observed, however, a small footpath leading to a postern door, and followed it in the hope of gaining admission in that quarter. At this door I knocked, and after I had waited some time it was opened by a figure that came crouching and shivering through a dark kitchen, with a pamphlet in his hand, and whom, notwithstanding the length of his beard and the feathers on his thread-bare coat, I easily recognised as my old friend of the stage coach, wearing still the identical sheepskin shoes. He received me very cordially, ushered me into an apartment,
6 Which served him for study, for parlour and all,” and in which sat an old housekeeper knitting, placed a chair for me, and in honor of my visit, selected from a basket of chips that stood in the chimney corner, two of the very largest, and added them to the fire. After a moment's conversation, he invited me to look at his collection of minerals. He showed me a small cabinet of specimens, neatly arranged and mostly labelled; among which lay several slips of paper, on which was written a prohibition to strangers against handling them. He ran over the hard German names which abound in the nomenclature of that science, with such volubility, that it seemed as if each gigantic polysyllable was hastening, with all precipitation, to get out of the way of the still more unwieldly and formidable ones that closely followed it. He informed me, that a large proportion of the specimens before me, had been collected by himself; the surrounding country being very abundant in minerals.
Upon my observing that he must have been very diligent in his researches, he rubbed his hands, and told me with a grin, that he believed there was not a rock, nor a stone fence, nor the channel of a brook, within five miles of his house, which he had left unexamined. Besides,” said I, “ it must be a matter of no small labour to ascertain the characters of the different specimens, and determine the species to which they belong." At this my friend looked grave, and said that he hoped I did not suppose that whenever he met with a mineral of which he did not know the name, he sat down with book in one hand and the specimen in the other, in order to search for its description; that this would be an intolerable drudgery, and that it would require an accurate acquaintance with the technology of the science, which, I must know, it was no easy matter to obtain. He went on to inform me that his method was to send duplicates, carefully numbered, of all the specimens that came into his hands, to Professor Silliman, of Yale College, or some other eminent mineralogist, who in return named them for him; by which means a great deal of trouble was saved, and all mistakes prevented.
“Now, sir,” said he, displaying several blank volumes in folio, with leaves of brown paper, " I am going to show you my herbarium. In these volumes,”—and as he spoke he opened them one by one, and turned over the leaves with great deliberation, showing me a moderate sized collection of dried plants, neatly put up,—“ in these volumes are deposited the specimens which are named and labelled; and in this other volume," showing me one which looked a little more shabbily than the rest, “I keep the plants which I have collected, but of which I have not yet received the names. I take the same method with my plants that I do with my minerals. I get Dr. Torrey, or Professor Eaton, to give me their names, and then I am certain of having the right ones.”
His next movement was to give me a sight of his library. He unlocked a large chest, and raising the lid, showed me where, secure from dust, and the irreverent hands of ordinary readers, reposed a few books of the best editions, their binding and edges glistening as if they had just come from the bookseller's. I took up, probably with too hasty hands, one of these well guarded volumes, when the proprietor gravely desired me to be careful not to soil the leaves and binding; “ for when that is done,” said he, “the beauty of the book is lost, you know." I begged his pardon, and replaced the volume with as much veneration as if it had been a holy relic. “There," said he, pointing to a corner of the chest, “is a collection of the most faithful and exact versions of the great poet Virgil. There you will see Trapp, Davison, Alexander, and others. I am engaged in a very important and arduous work,—no less than a prose translation of the Ænead; of which I execute, on an average, about four lines a day. I am now nearly in the middle of the third book ; so that some years must elapse before it is completed; for it is my maxim that great literary enterprises should never be executed in a hurry. My method is to place the original with the several translations before me, and then to select the rendering which, in my opinion, best expresses the sense of the original. In this way I combine the scattered beauties and excellencies of all the translations. A very happy idea, I think.”
Here my friend paused, as I thought, for a compliment, and I administered one of as equivocal a nature as ordinary politeness would allow, which, however, he caught at with great apparent greediness. He then gave me a long history of a very perplexing dilemma, in which he was involved at the very outset of his great work. He was for a long time in doubt about the proper rendering of arma virumque cano,--whether to translate it “arms and the man I sing,” according to Davison,
“ I sing arms and the man,” according to Alexander. The former rendering preserved the order of the words in the original; the latter was most conformable to the idiom of our own language. What should he do? After much deliberation, he had fixed
the former, and he now wished to know whether I thought he had done right.
I answered that I must beg leave to be excused from giving my judgment, on the sudden, in a matter that had occasioned so much doubt to a man of his learning and sagacity.
My friend said he thought that I was in the right of it; for that important questions ought never to be rashly decided : and then, turning suddenly, and looking me full in the face, he demanded whether I was fond of poetry. I suspected from his manner that he had some design upon me, and therefore cautiously answered, that I could not say that I was particularly so. My reserve, however, was of no avail, for
host imme. diately complimented me on the delicacy of my taste, which was not to be satisfied with every thing that passed for poetry at the present day; and added, that since that was the case, he thought he could show me something that would give me pleasure ;-a little poem of his, on which he prided himself a good deal, entitled, the Loves of the Cats; in which he had described the characters, courtship, and marriage, of two of the feline species.
He went on to say, that he had made his tom cat a great Greek scholar, and his female an adept in music and drawing, and that if I had no objection he would do himself the honor of reading me the poem.
Saying this, he took, from a drawer in a cherry bureau, a manuscript of two or three sheets, and began reading a poem, of which I recollect little except that the execution was worthy of the subject. My memory, however, retains a single passage, to which he particularly requested my attention, as a happy specimen of the figure of alliteration :
“Oft, in the fragrant shade of catmint bowers,
Huinmed round the humble blooms harmoniously." Now that my friend was upon the subject of his manuscripts, it seemed as if he was determined to make me look at every thing he had written in the course of his life. He drew them forth, one after another, in all the changes of his hand-writing from his boyhood upwards, some yellow with age and some freshly written, till he had fairly emptied the contents of his magazine of papers at my feet. Among these, I recollect a large profusion of amatory poems, in which the usual changes were sung upon
those novel images of roses and lilies, snows, pearls, stars, &c.—an elegy on an old negro domestic of his father; a metrical paraphrase of one of the chapters of Leviticus; and a tract against the doctrine of transubstantiation. He showed me a voluminous roll, which he said was the diary of an overland journey made by him to the Newport ruin; in which its exact measurement was recorded, and a description given of every brook, bridge, windmill, and other curiosity on the way, not forgetting the famous rock, down which Gen. Putnam leaped his horse in the revolutionary war. Another, of smaller size, contained a memoir, which he had lately prepared for the Journal of Science and Arts, on the subject of certain strange characters, discovered on some rocks in the neighborhood, and engraved, as he supposed, by the aboriginal inhabitants. He remarked, that this memoir was withheld, for the present, on account of a suggestion made by somebody, that the rocks were soft, and their tops nearly even with the soil, that the ground about them had been lately cleared of its wood, and that the farmer who owned it, had several times gone over it, in different directions, with a harrow, the teeth of which probably engraved the characters in question. My friend add
ed, that although he did not give much credit to this suggestion, coming as it did from a man of no taste for antiquities, he intended to examine the subject a little further before he gave his memoir to the world. :
“ Now that we are upon the subject of my writings," continued he, “ I think I may as well show you an article, written by me not many years since, and sent to the editor of the North American Review, for insertion in that work. By some strange whim of the editor, it was rejected. It is a review of the last edition of Webster's Spelling Book. I cannot for my life comprehend why the article was not printed;
for the book is certainly a very useful and valuable one, and well deserving of notice. I will read you the article, if you please, and you shall judge whether the editor was right in rejecting it."
By this time, the addition of fuel, which my hospitable entertainer had made to the fire at my entrance, was nearly consumed; the air of the apartment was growing chilly; the old housekeeper drew her chair close to the fireplace, and crouched over the little piles of white ashes that covered the dying embers, as if she meant that no particle of heat should escape her. I saw before me only the prospect of a long half hour of shivering, and a catarrh the next day, if I sat out the reading of the voluminous manuscript which my friend was preparing to inflict upon me. I therefore pleaded the urgency of business, which obliged me to decline the pleasure he intended for me, and bidding him good morning, was shown out through the dark passage by which I entered.
; On receiving from her a LEAF, taken from a wreath which had
graced one of the triumphs of the
66 NATION'S GUEST."
Oh! this—it is a charmed thing,
And, trust me, shall be cherished,
And proudest wreaths have perished: