“ ‘Peter Parley’ ”—As Known to His Daughter,” by Emily Goodrich Smith (The Connecticut Quarterly, July, August, September 1898: pp. 304-315)
These recollections of my father are rescued from Time’s “Omnium Gatherum.” They are put upon record, in memory of the children of sixty and seventy years ago, who knew the earliest stories of Peter Parley and studied his lesson books, made so attractive to them; for the children of those children, who grew up on his school-books, many of whom knew him personally, and for the grandchildren of to-day, who have had their curiosity excited through hearing the odd name of “Peter Parley” mentioned at intervals, and are invading the “query columns” of the newspapers with questions as to his identity.
Every generation or two there is a return wave, which bears upon its crest the name of some prominent character in the past, quiescent, though not forgotten. Writers and publishers are quite aware of this fact, and are keenly on the watch for the first sign of a returning wave. Within the last three or four years, the name of the children’s friend, Peter Parley, has been upon the lips of those aged readers who learned from his books. Constant mention of him has been made in educational articles in the newspapers, and the magazines have brought him to mind again. Many letters to myself, urging me to write of him and his work, prepared me for the request of the editor of The Connecticut Quarterly to give some reminiscence therein, which I gladly do in a most informal and unpretentious manner. This first part of my story is told entirely from a child’s point of view, in language such as a child would employ. Ignoring the royal “we,” as unsuited to the subject, I have written simply in the first person, a simple record. In order to avoid repetition, I have not confined myself rigidly to a sequence of dates, but now and then, when speaking of some charactaristic [sic] of my father, as, for instance, his love for music, I have grouped together events occuring at wide intervals.
Mr. Goodrich very rarely referred to his family tree. Suffice it to say it was well rooted in English soil, and as early as 1628 there were upon its American branches the names of governors, mayors, senators, diplomats, Revolutionary officers, college presidents, clergymen, and judges. We give a portrait of one of them, an uncle, Elizur Goodrich.
Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Jr., was born in 1793, in Ridgefield, Conn., where his father was pastor for years. Their home was a large rambling house, picturesque in its appearance and surrounded by several acres of very fertile lands, which was carefully farmed and added largely to the comfort of a numerous and growing family. Mr. Goodrich’s salary as a clergyman was but four hundred dollars a year. He added to this by taking into his household six or eight young men to fit for college. The old homestead overflowed with life, kindness and an at-
mosphere of religion which was never gloomy. In these happy surroundings he grew apace. His mother was Betsy Ely, daughter of Rev. Col. John Ely of Lyme, where she often met our own officers and those of France and Germany. She was a most cultivated woman, but slightly tinged with sadness, caused by the troubles of her country, the disasters which beset her father and by the ingratitude of Congress toward him.
This delightful home was known far and wide in the state for its genial hospitality. Travelers of mark left their servants and equipages at the tavern, but were entertained personally at the parsonage. Here judges and senators, officers of the government and public men of varied opinions often met. Grave discussions
The father and mother of “Peter Parley.”
and learned talk were frequent, and often in their midst would be noticed an eager but modest little lad, listening and sometimes venturing a pertinent question. When on their return that way some of them brought him desired books—others left such behind them for his use. On these he grew and throve ad studied and hoped. At five years old he had been sent to a dame school, kept by Aunt Delight Benedict, whose nose and cap ran to the sharpest of points. He started off in high feather, taking his little chair with him. (It had then served several generations—it is one hundred years older to-day.) In this chair Miss Benedict seated him under her wind where she could conveniently tap his head with a huge brass thimble. She called him to read his letters, and with a ruler indicated the one he should name.
“What’s ’at? What’s that?”
He looked in her face without reply.
At the third question and a prod with the thimble, he said quietly:
“I did not come to tell you the letters, you tell ’em to me.”
She looked at him amazed but said no more. At recess she led the culprit home, now and then assisting him by a pull at the ear. His parents were called in solemn conclave and the story told. You could not convince him he had done any wrong. He was willing enough to say he was sorry if he had been rude to “Miss Daylite” but he couldn’t see it in that way. “Thammy didn’t go to tell Miss Benedict wat’s A and wat’s B,” and there he took his stand. So far school was a failure. Later on he had a few months chance at the “three R’s” at “West Lane Academy,” and this closed his educational opportunities outside of his home.
Early in his mind blossomed a desire for good literature, fostered to begin with, by a copy of the English “Mother Goose,” sent him from London by an uncle. Instead of entertaining him, he was disgusted. The tales were so unmeaning, the poems so silly, the language vulgar. Childlike he at once picked out its most objectionable features and went about repeating some of the undesirable rhymes. In reply to an inquiry from his mother who scarcely recognized her little son in this unusual attitude, he brought her his gift, telling her once for all that he meant to write better books for children; stories they would love to read, rhymes that would teach something, and facts told in a way that would at first attract, then cling in the mind. Bravely he kept this promise which grew with his growth and developed more and more in his brain the plan for good and entertaining reading for the young, and lesson-books made interesting for the scholar, until Peter Parley had become a well-known and favorite writer for children, and England, America, the Continent and “The Isles of the Sea” knew his works in many languages.
We have not space to tell of the years when he was building his plans, but to his life’s end he never forgot what he owed to the advice given him by Miss Lydia Huntley (later Mrs. Sigourney), when, a shy youth of sixteen or seventeen, he was in a book store in Hartford. Through this he studied French, learned to dance, took part in debates, sought the company of refined young ladies, and was one of the fortunate members of her Literary Society, the first of its kind in Connecticut.
Presently, assisted by an uncle, he went abroad for counsel from older and wiser heads. He visited dear, quaint Hannah More at “Barley Wood” and was entertained by her there, coming away greatly encouraged by her sympathy and the gladness with which she welcomed his broad plan for attractive and instructive literature for youth.
He often told me of how carefully he sought a nom de plume; something which would catch and hold the public ear. Many a book has fallen flat on the market because of a faulty title as a send off, which, being withdrawn for a while, renamed and reissued, has floated on to success.
While deliberating on this fact one day, he was declining the verb “Parlee—to speak,” and found what he sought—“Peter the Talker—Peter Parley”—and he adopted it then and there.
His first book was written abroad and published in 1823, “Parley’s Tales of the Sea,” and had an immense sale. One hundred and sixteen Parley’s books were his own, and fifty-four compilations, beside “Merry’s Museum,” published as a monthly for many years; the “Token,” a gift book, and “The Cabinet Library.” John and Epps Sargent, Royal Robbins, and S.P. Holbrook, Esq., assisted in the larger and more important compilations.
For “Peter Parley’s Method of Searching Geography,” Mr. Goodrich received $300 and the publisher made a fortune by it. It was translated by our missionaries for use in their foreign schools. Hon. Donald G. Mitchell, in a late work, tells of the recollection of this little book which came over him when he visited the Tower of London.
Of the “Natural History,” George Du Maurier says: “Last, but not least of our library, was Peter Parley’s ‘Natural History,’ of which we knew every word by heart.”
Mr. Martin, of the “Conversation Corner,” in a recent number of the Boston Congregationalist writes: “We have no doubt, were it needed, that 1,000 aged people could rise and repeat the widely famous lines, “The World is round and like a ball, seems swinging in the air.”
His series of school histories, have been adapted for the blind in raised type, and are still in use in schools. We understand that his “Readers,” admirably adapted to interest and improve, are still published in St. Louis.
Charles Sumner found in the depths of a Cornish coal mine a copy of “Tales of the Sea,” side by side with one other book—the Bible. In telling my father this, he remarked: “Goodrich, this is fame.”
My father was one of those men, who, with a stern profile, had a most winning expression. Every baby stretched out its little arms to him, and children gathered to him like bees, while animals, large and small, regarded him as their friend. In those days when there was no organization for their protection, he was a humane society in himself. He dearly loved his home. He built his place named “Rockland” at Jamaica Plain, near Boston, with careful detail, a house in which he hoped his family would grow and prosper. Every cent of it was paid out of his own honest work. By this time he had become in easy circumstances, enjoying the results of his labors.
The rose garden, built especially for my mother’s pleasure, was a perfumed picture and no pains were spared to make it a delight to the eye. Flowering shrubs dotted the brilliant green lawns and loop-holes were cut out to make attractive views. In short, no other gentleman’s residence in those days was more perfect or desirable.
A great deal of the time his mind was working to shape some great thought and well we children understood that when we saw him walking up and down on the broad piazza, with his hands behind him, he must not be interrupted. But in the morning, before he went into Boston to business, he always had a frolic or a talk, or a walk with us, and we waited about in the neighborhood for his call to us to brush his coat and see that he was an immaculate gentlem[a]n in every way. Now and then he would have a word to say to the
An Uncle of “Peter Parley,” connected with Yale College
for about 70 years.
gardener or the stable boys as he sauntered down there with us hand in hand. We were never allowed to venture into these regions, but there was a lovely hill rose up just opposite the great barn doors, which, in the early spring, was one carpet of blue violets, with yellow eyes—one could believe a tender cloud had come down upon it like a mantle of beauty.
Here we camped, keeping keen watch for his coming again, and if perchance he was robed in his soft velvet dressing gown, he would have his pockets full of kittens, or an impudent puppy, or some fluffy chickens, just struggling into life; and meanwhile he was filling our small minds with ideas and thoughts of strength and beauty which stayed by us through life. Or, it might be at the “children’s hour” before the open grate, when perched on his knees like inquisitive birds, we plied him with questions without stint and listened to stories galore.
How vivid are these scenes. As I “think back” they come before my mind’s eye like an old-time dagu[e]rreotype scarcely dimmed by age. Among these is a picture of a summer morning, when the family as usual are gathered to see the head of the house “mount and away.” He did not care much for a lord, but he dearly loved a fine horse, and always had two or three of them in the stable. Ariel, his riding horse, was standing ready saddled in front of the veranda. She was an exquisite specimen of equine beauty, coal-black, polished like satin, with a white star on her forehead and not another hair upon her save black. She never would tolerate being tied, so a groom stood just in front of her. She obeyed my father with perfect docility but with anyone else she was not reliable and was, to tell the truth, a rather dangerous animal. But this morning she won our fervent gratitude and admiration by an intelligence which seems to me marvelous, at this late day.
My mother, seated on one step of the piazza, had my six months’ old brother beside her, holding him by his long dress. All in a flash, no one ever knew how it happened, the baby suddenly rolled over and down beneath the horse’s feet. It takes little time to tell, but it seemed hours before we could catch a breath. Then my father said in a scarcely audible whisper, but full of anguish, “Let no one stir.” The mare was in evident distress, and understood as well as a human, the terrible danger of the situation. She began an almost imperceptible movement of her small feet, walking slowly, but surely, away from the baby who was calmly looking about him, quite unaware of impending danger.
My parents’ faces were white and drawn and my father’s lips were set and held between his teeth to keep from groaning aloud. Of course we children could not appreciate the horror that those moments contained, but I never forgot the scene. It was, as it were, seared upon the tablets of my memory.
Meanwhile, our pretty Ariel had moved far enough to one side for mother to grasp and withdraw the child, and then the mare seemed to wilt and a sweat broke out all over her so profuse that great drops fell to the ground.
Later she grew too nervous for everyday use and my father reluctantly sold her. She became a great racer, known as the “Lone Star,” and was famous all over the country.
My father early became somewhat of a public man and entered with enthusiasm into politics. As a very young man, when aid to his uncle Gov. Chauncey Goodrich, of Hartford, he had met most of the members of the famous Hartford Convention, and had already made for himself a reputation as a publisher and a
man of great literary attainments, beside being an admirable conversationalist and witty speaker and lecturer. My mother, an English woman by birth, was remarkable both as a singer and musician, and between them they drew all that was desirable of surrounding society of talent, culture and charm. Their guests often brought with them foreigners of note, and entertaining ere long became obligatory on account of the position he had attained. At stated intervals father gave large dinner parties to gentlemen, while their wives were enjoying a “dish of tea” in the drawing-rooms, or on the wide veranda at “Rockland.” Music was a matter of course, and such “chamber concerts” as were held there were rare treats indeed. Brainard wrote a song for my mother called the “Sea Bird” which she set to an old Welsh air. I heard Daniel Webster ask her for it one evening and she sang it, accompanying herself with the harp. Wild, weird, intense, it seemed to hold something in its measure which seized upon Webster’s innermost feelings and he sat where he could watch the singer; as she closed with the last gloomy lines, where the voice mounts higher and higher and then abruptly descends in a long wail,—he was so motionless that the other listeners noted it,—
“ ’Tis the sea-bird, sea-bird, sea-bird,
Lone witness of despair,
’Tis the sea-bird, sea-bird, sea-bird,
The only witness there.”
Then a few liquid notes of the harp and she was the very “mocking-bird” itself. Her trills, echoed through the large rooms and halls—trills I never heard equalled—even Grisi made a fiasco of them. They are unheard now, not only on account of their extreme difficulty, but the present style of musical composition does not lend itself to them.
My father was of an eminently social nature and a delightful entertainer, and he and my mother made their home most attractive. There was always more or less of a house party, and “Afternoon Tea” was known there as an established fact a generation ago.
Of a summer afternoon, elegant equipages from Boston and neighboring towns drove out for a call, or in winter brilliant sleighing parties filled the air with their tuneful bells and not unseldom a delicious serenade would seem to melt in the air.
My brother and I had favorites among these intimate friends. He would draw as near to Webster as he dared, being recognized only by a sudden raising of those great, gloomy eyes and a kindly glance. I was more drawn to Hawthorne, who would sit remote and silent, brooding over the outlines of some of those weird tales which surprised and startled the reading world. His sails were filled out, his ships were going on summer seas, freighted with stories so rare, so fascinating, that the soon reached the “Fortunate Isles.” Henceforth he was one of the earliest makers of our literature.
Lothrop Motley, afterward one of the most famous of the great historians of his age, drew us like a magnet.
N.P. Willis, full of life and jokes, bore with us as we drifted up to the two, just for the pleasure of hearing Motley’s winning voice or to watch the ripples of laughter running over Willis’ speaking face. He was nothing if not roguish and sharp, and at times went beyond the allowances of polite writing and conversa-
tion, but with his light curly locks and brilliant eyes, he made a perfect foil for Motley. The latter was a gentleman in every sense of the word, and something in his gracious, quiet manner, presented an example of the best style of a American. In after years he became a giant in literature.
I can remember to-day, though half a century has elapsed, the enjoyment these guests all seemed to feel. In perfect sympathy, drawn together with the high purpose of refining and elevating the world of letters, their faces were instinct with enthusiasm and glowed with the desire to give of their best.
The result of these simple gatherings was world-wide. These sturdy, young Americans went forth to represent the growing literature of a youthful republic. Most, indeed all of them, were for years contributors to the “Token,” one of the earliest books edited by Mr. Goodrich, in which the reader will find embalmed some of the choicest gems of poetry and prose. This dainty annual has now become one of the treasured “Americana,” found in large city libraries only. It will reward the seeker for “Gems of purest ray serene” are bound between its covers,—a very treasure book. Park Benjamin and Greenwood, Bryant and Doane, Washington Irving, Emerson, Percival, Brainard, and others beside those mentioned above, contributed to make it for seventeen years, a valued and sought for work.
My father’s study was a fascinating room into which we ventured, only on distinct permission. Its large square table, covered with green broadcloth, with all the elegant stationery and ornamental paraphernalia so useless to the writer; gifts from many friends of elegant ink-stands, elaborate pen-racks, paper-cutters, erasers, pen-knives and other adjuncts. These were seldom used. I can see now the long black leather portfolio filled with blotted sheets, ink-stained, marred here and there with figures and notes and memoranda thereon. Here he wrote down his thoughts, shaping his sentences as he walked up and down his spacious room, often smiling as a pleasant thought came over him. Now and then casting a loving glance out upon the wide drive-way or down a glorious steep bank where ornamental trees caught the eye. Down this bank in winter we coasted. One sled was built expressly for me with a back and a shelf behind it on which my grand old Newfoundland sat as we flew down the snowy incline, he barking wildly.
It was always a pleasure, even a rest, for my father to see children at play, and he encouraged the coming of others to join in our happy games. For many years there had been at Jamaica Plain, an important and flourishing boarding school for boys, kept by Mr. Charles Green. There were lads here from the West Indies, the Spanish South, and especially from New England. The Boston contingent was very large. Russell and John Sturgis, Masons, Lowells,
Chair which “Peter Parley” used
Putnams; young commodores, embryo ambassadors, whose names since those days have gone round the world.
Every other Saturday at Rockland, our lovely home, was a gathering of children. It was an understood fact that the four boys of this school, who had the best all-round record for that term, were invited to join us. This was considered a privilege and much sought after. Thus father secured us desirable boy playmates in a small village, and surrounded himself with the merry faces of youth.
I saw the name of one of these playmates of ours mentioned as an important factor in a recent diplomatic move, within the week, who painted for me such a set of paper dolls, as no modiste’s advertisements of to-day can equal.
My father was deeply stirred by martial music, and greatly enjoyed orchestral concerts; but these little home gatherings were his greatest pleasure. His fondness for Scotch songs was remarkable and to gratify his taste my mother took lessons of the famous Dempster. What was an odd feature in this was that father could not catch airs though he recognized them at once. Sometimes when walking up and down thinking out some speech or lecture, we would hear him keeping time to his steps, humming, all on one key,
“Oh, ’tis my delight of a shiney night
The season of the year.”
That was all, but it seemed to be a great help to him. When we children heard this, we would be “just round a corner” ready to pounce on him, for that remarkable ditty was a signal that he was in a merry mood, and we made the most of such hours. We would dance about him, begging for a walk or a talk, which was our most valued time with him.
He always halted more or less on one knee and kept time to his step with a cane, which had descended to him from Matthew Griswold, and on the broad piazza at Rockland was many an imprint of the brass ferrule. Here we walked with him nearly every day, or down the long drive which was as smooth as marble. He could not mount hills or many steps, as all his life long he suffered from attacks of breathlessness, which were very startling and we never could get used to them. As I write I recall how many a time we waited outside his study door, terror-struck at the attacks which seized him. They would yield after a time of agony, fighting for his breath and leaving his face white and drawn. After it was over, he always had a smile for us, two terrified little mites, his ardent lovers, but he could not speak.
I have wandered far afield from the topic of music and his fondness for it.
The scene changes to the music-room of the Amer[ic]an Consul in Paris, where the family, denied of all other guests, were holding their last meeting with John Howard Paine. He was leaving the next day, for Tunis, as Consul. It was far away, remote from kindred and friends; his heart was low and sad, and apprehensive of the outcome; he clung to this home evening and seemed so discouraged and weary that my mother called us to the piano and gently struck the notes of “Home, Sweet Home.” Paine buried his face in his hands to hide a few bitter tears. One by one we too broke down, and grasping each by the hand, he hurried from the room. We had one letter from him telling us of the dreary scene of his work, of the Consular rooms stripped of their furniture, their desolate appearance. Then the bitter, bitter news of his sudden death reached us. With no one near
who spoke his language, with no friend to close his eyes, he passed away. He, who had thrilled continents with the words of “Home, sweet Home,” was dead, on alien shores, the loneliest man in Christendom.
Many a delightful musicale was held in these pleasant rooms, though not called by such a pretentious name. Ole Bull, Paul Julien, Thalberg and many a genius gave us of his best. My father said he never played upon but one instrument, a whistle made for him by his older brother, “from the old willow which drooped over the mossy home-roof.” “ ’Twas,” said he, “by far the sweetest music of my young life.”
Greatly to his delight, as the household grew up to maturity, the two sons developed remarkable musical talent. The younger, the baby of the earlier pages, became not only a most accomplished musician, but a composer as well. By this time we were living in France, and he had the best instructors to be secured. The two brothers had each a “parlor grand” in their apartments and of a summer eve the brick court of the “Cite Vinde,” on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, would be full of listeners to the lovely melodies, and they, with others, played hand pieces with great effect, their little soirees being much sought after.
In after years, Chauncey, named for his great uncle, the governor of Connecticut, had become a young man of fourteen, nearly six feet tall and a wonder to his friend. He understood chemistry and mechanism from the letter A. He built a piano of exact proportions and tone. When not wrapped in music, he was absorbed in inventions, the mechanic arts, etc. Thalberg had begged that the lad might remain with him, as a pupil, for two years; he would make him equal to the greatest artist, but father was unwilling. By this time we were on a visit to America, intending to spend a winter in Washington, D. C., and looking forward with delight to the novelty of our Capitol city and its vast interests. Alas for human foresight. But a few days and my father sickened with a dangerous attack of varioloid. He and my mother removed to the rooms occupied by my brothers on an adjacent street, to which we three children went every day and talked to my mother at the window. The anxiety of my parents was of course very great and increased my father’s sufferings. After a week or two, Chauncey, who had been passing long hours absorbed in the wonders of the patent office, came home one day, complaining of distressing pains, which, followed by a severe chill, developed into pneumonia. Alone, frightened, and totally unused to illness, I do not know what would have become of us if Miss Dorothea Dix had not at once hurried to our assistance, an angel of mercy. The President sent his physician and offers of sympathy, and help came to us on every hand. Meantime the dread disease worked its will, and one evening his brother and sister watched the sinking breath of the loved one alone. As dawn approached he stirred and whispered, “Tell mother I’m in my boat.”
I looked at his watch; it ran down with a sudden whirr. Leaning to glance at the invalid, we saw with a hush of terror that life had passed with the breaking main spring of the watch.
Kind friends took charge of the preparations for the funeral, and my mother was able to come to us then, but poor father bore his anguish alone, without a farewell of the boy in whom he had taken such pride.
Great interest was shown in Washington, for the stalwart, handsome lad was seen by many, and at one or two simple home concerts had improvised melodies
which brought tears to the eyes of music lovers. His devotion to the Patent Office had also been noted. It took his life from him.
The inevitable hour came and our rooms at Willard’s were filled with sympathizing friends. Fillmore was there, Gen. Marcy stood near the open casket. Clay looked sadly upon the beautiful young face and said to Webster, “We older ones stay and such a lamp of life as this goes out.” Both sighed deeply and it was a tearful company that watched the shutting away of so much promise from our eyes. Very many of the friends accompanied us to the Congressional Cemetery on the banks of the Potomac. Here we laid him to rest upon the brow of a hill, where the waters of the river seemed to chant a requiem, and returned heartbroken to our homes.
Our winter plans were blighted, our hopes in our young brother had been stricken down. Mourning, sad and unhappy, we returned to Paris. Thalberg shed tears of regret. The brother closed his piano and seldom played “after Chauncey died.” The effect upon my father was lasting. He did not rally from the shock with his usual strength of mind, and long years after we heard him draw a painful sigh as he looked upon the famous artist Cheney’s sketch of this bright youth. ’Twas all we had remaining.
At one of the early literary gatherings at Rockland, Cheney was present. He watched Chauncey, who was absorbed in a railroad he was building. The engine was made from a quart cup and ran on a rail of laths, with a great puff of steam, quite down the long hall. Cheney rose and made a request to my father who rung the bell and told the servant who answered it to take Mr. Cheney to the fuel house and see that he found what he wanted.
Child-like, full of curiosity, I followed and saw the artist select three long slim bits of charcoal, rub them to a point on a brick and then return to the reception rooms. Here he took the sketch mentioned above, on the cover of a large paste-board box.
Our home, “Rockland,” was one fell day shattered as by a bolt of lightning. My father came out from Boston, silent, white and stern. We had, as usual, run to meet him, but shrank back as he beckoned my mother into his study and closed the door. Later my brother told me that a wicked man had taken all papa’s money and we had
Silhouette of “Peter Parley" in his study.
not a cent to live on. A friend whom he trusted as he would himself had failed, borrowing from my father such large amounts that it crippled his work, threw him into the debtor’s prison and forced him to face the fact that he was a poor man. He passed one night in jail, a short time, indeed, but it seared his heart as with a hot iron.
When this became known, Boston rose to the occasion. He was immediately bailed out. Moneyed men offered him large amounts with which to start again. Harvard College would educate his eldest son. The finest school in Boston opened its doors to the young daughter. But he would accept nothing. He took up his writing again, walking to Roxbury every day, a distance of two and one-half miles. One devoted friend finally persuaded him to accept the loan of a horse and sleigh through the winter, and he began at first principles.
This blow so shattered his home and family that it broke his spirits and shadowed his life for many a day.
In our once happy home men were now seen taking up and carrying away carpets; friends with tears falling fast bore away the rare and beautiful furnishings which came from abroad. We children wandered around like little ghosts, driven from pillar to post in doubt and anxiety untold. Our parents desired to send us to our relatives in Boston; we would not leave them. But I may not prolong the scene. There came a day when there was a great gathering down at the stables, and we children were hidden amidst the blossoms on “Violet Hill.” A man was standing on an old chair, pounding the back of it, and, as I thought, saying “Going, going, going, gone!” The horses and carriages went at a private sale. My brother’s pretty pony had been driven away. Our pet mooly and her calf trotted lowing down the lane, when Leo, my huge Newfoundland, came dashing up to us, amidst the violets, with a frayed rope about his neck and a dangerous gleam in his usually soft eyes.
William, father’s especial valued servant, came running up to me with tears in his eyes, begging me to go with him and help tie the dog under the chaise of a gentleman who had bought him. Sold to a stranger, my dear, dear dog! On whose broad back I had ridden and who had drawn me in my little go-cart all about the place. Never! Spite of poor William Preston’s sad word, “Now Miss Meely, he done got to go,” I buried my head in the blue blossoms and wailed out, “He’s a wicked man to take my dog.”
Just then a handsome gentleman came up and said, “What is it, little one? Is he going and you love him? He shall not leave you. Put this in your little dress pocket and remember that I gave you this, and gave you back your pet because you love him and he loves you and you shall not be separated.” I never knew Wm. Preston was pledged not to tell me the name of this good samaritan, who found me faint and sorrowing and poured oil upon my wounds. Not till night,—the last one spent in our beloved home, when I took off my dress did I remember that I had something in my pocket. I thought it was a button. It was a gold piece. A twenty dollar picture!
The good-byes to our people were heartrending. The gardener absolutely refused to go. He planted himself on a sawhorse on the piazza and doggedly sat there. He had neither kith nor kin and was rather uncouth looking, with red hair and those pale blue eyes which are so appealing. One leg was shorter than the other, and when he pushed a wheel-barrow it was a funny sight. But we had
been rigidly taught not only politeness, but kindness to all. “A servant,” said my father, “is one who serves. He gives us good work in return for good money.”
John remained with us. The last straw was when the old nurse and her daughter, our playmate and guardian came to say good-bye.
The mother was a retainer of the family and had been with us five years, going now to a dear friend in Boston. Mother hastened the adieus,—life was becoming too harrowing. Suddenly the young girl threw her apron or “tier” over her head and wailed out in Scotch, “Oh, my heart is fairly skwinched on me,” and ran round the house.
We walked down the drive-way and entered the gardener’s lodge, which was to be our refuge. In the next early morning we heard hammering without and went to see what it meant. A fence was being built between us and our early home—we were shut out—“at the gate disconsolate.” “Oh, Paradise! Oh, Paradise!” “Going, going, gone!”
“ ‘Peter Parley’ ”—As Known to His Daughter,” by Emily Goodrich Smith (The Connecticut Quarterly, October, November, December 1898: pp. 399-407)
Since writing the first part a friend tells me that a disastrous fire had a great deal to do with father’s failure, and that some borrowed money had not been returned, so he started in the old road again and worked like a beaver in Boston all day, and at night sat behind a heavy screen while my patient mother wrote to his dictation, on the other side.
He had a haunting fear of blindness and had twice crossed the ocean to consult European experts for this trouble of the eyes. A bright light was always
kept burning in an adjacent room. Once through the neglect of a servant it was not trimmed and went out, and at midnight he wakened and an agonized cry rang out in the startled house, “Mary, Mary, I am blind! I am blind!” Thus he prepared four lectures; the most daring and successful of which was “Ireland and the Irish.” There had been for a long time a growing feeling against the Irish, superinduced by some unsavory reports regarding a convent at Charlestown near Boston. Nor was this feeling entirely in the lower element but had permeated the upper classes also. A mob had risen and destroyed much property belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, besides burning a large business block, ruining the houses of the laboring poor and annihilating the small and pitiful holdings of recent emigrants. It was in the cause of these latter that my father pleaded.
He had traveled in the old, old land, had noted her grand castles, talked with her sages, looked deep into her rich language and had determined to make a plea for her people, whom we had ourselves called to us with open arms and cheerful voice and make their home.
But he was startled, almost dismayed when he beheld the audience gathered to hear him in Tremont Temple—an audience Daniel Webster would have valued. As he took his seat in the rostrum beside the Rev. Dr. Channing, he saw my mother, who was in one of the front pews, put her hand twice to her head. He still retained his high hat.
The moment had arrived. He rose to the introduction of the most Reverend Doctor, raising his hat as he did so. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I am so unaccustomed to public speaking that I do not know enough to remove my hat in your presence. Pardon my awkwardness and hear me for my cause.” This brought him at once in touch with his audience who were pleased with his quick wit. He carried them with him holding their interest throughout, and as he closed repeating one verse of that sad poem,
“The harp that once through Tara’s halls,
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls,
As though that soul were dead.”
They gave him generous applause and the papers next day commended his lecture highly. He delivered it forty times.
I went with him once to some stately old town, riding in style in an elegant carriage sent for him. Over the pulpit of the old church in which he spoke, hung what looked like a very heavy cover, and as I watched it I was sure it swayed; I was alone in my glory in a little corner pew, in full view. I was about to cry out to warn him that he would be crushed, when a lady near put her hand upon me as father rose in safety and as everyone applauded vigorously, I took a hand in and so got rid of my nervousness.
We stayed with President Someone that night and the next morning the gentleman took me to an immense toy factory and gave me my choice of its contents. I froze at once to a miniature cooking stove with elaborate paraphernalia, but he persuaded me to choose a very costly wax doll. She was taller than I and a queen—fastened to a pedestal and her crown screwed on. When we reached home I begged for it to be removed. Henceforth if she were especially good she had a night cap for a change. Her name was Amelia.
Just as we started away from our pleasant visit at President Blank’s in the
carriage, the doll toppled over and gazed out of the window. Father was convulsed with laughter and a jolly crowd who had gathered to see us off, gave round after round of cheers. Many years after as father and I were walking on the Rue de Rivole, Paris, Queen Amelia passed us bowing from her carriage. Memory gave us a second hearty laugh.
I have said that Mr. Goodrich entered into politics, but after all it was rather against his will. He disliked the fighting spirit it seemed to engender between the hitherto best of friends. Daniel Webster rebuked him kindly but firmly for his stand-offish attitude, and bade him use the great rights and privileges of a rising young American, for until now father had never voted.
This command of the great Daniel brought him to a decision and he was put to work in the Whig ranks. He was appointed delegate to the Whig convention to nominate someone to represent the ninth district in congress. On the first ballot, he was to his surprise, the highest candidate but one—of course he withdrew. Alexander Everett who had been a conspicuous Whig came out for Jackson. This of course injured his cause, his own publisher, Bowen, being against him. Father defeated him, without any desire of his own, and Everett, who had been very friendly toward him became very bitter. Benjamin F. Hallett, one of his
supporters and editor of an influential paper in Boston, attacked father as “Peter Parley,” most harshly accusing him of ungentlemanly and dishonorable conduct.
Mr. Goodrich was justly indignant and, strong in his sense of right, hastened to Mr. Hallett’s home and angrily rang the bell. A lovely young girl of ten or twelve with startled look answered the summons. “Is Mr. Hallett in?” asked my father. “Mother,” said the girl in a soft voice, “has father come in?” “No, dear,” replied a gentle lady-like woman who came at her call, “Will you not step in, sir?” A curly headed urchin clung to her skirt and as usual with children, was fascinated by my father’s face, stern though it was. He put out a tiny hand to shake that of the visitor, and with that touch every atom of rancor faded from my father’s heart. “So,” he said to himself, “this man who seemed to me to be full of hatred and cruelty has a beautiful home, a loving, tender wife and children. He cannot be so evil as I deemed him. I will wait,” and so saying he left the house, a wiser and much happier man. Some months later mutual friends brought them together thinking it a pity two such bright spirits should work at cross purposes. Mr. Goodrich related the incident to Mr. Hallett who was much touched, and, with explanations they became good friends.
Most appropriately come in here another typical “Peter Parley” anecdote.
We are in the English Channel on our way to London from Paris. My mother’s relatives, who had ostracised her for years because she married an “impecunious Yankee” had made the “Amende honorable[”] and invited them to come and make acquaintance. Father who was always for peace, consistent with conscience, was a mind to accept. The letter urging this said: “Bring the children,” so my brother and I were with them. It was a fine day but a sharp wind had raised a choppy sea, one which thumped you on one side and then on the other, and not leave you a moment of repose between jerks. The worst kind of a sea to endure. Father who was always a martyr to nausea, without obtaining relief, was prone upon a mattress laid in a shaded corner of the deck. Seeing how pale and suffering he looked, I wanted to try a remedy, and taking a big book of illustrations with me I sat down beside him. He could no more resist pictures than any child. Soon my brother prowling in search of me came into the group and a few wandering children joined us. We were quite absorbed over the views for a while and then suddenly I said: “Father tell us a story, a true story.” There was a traveling vehicle of the most stylish appearance, on a small deck appropriated to such, with three men servants, a governess, two saddle horses, and a couple of rakish ponies. The parents, seasoned travelers, chatted complacently together, taking no notice of two wan and discouraged little men of six and nine years who did not know what ailed them, but the motion of the carriage added to that of the boat was harrowing indeed. They had been watching us for some time and I purposely raised my voice as I asked for a story. “Ma can’t we go and hear it?” said the smallest boy. She shook her head. Father said, “Emily, go and invite them to join us,” and I, nothing loath, started away, and because I had never been taught that riches or rank made anyone any better than a simple little Yankee girl, I went up to the carriage and held out my hand, but withdrawing it at once I said, “I forgot that you English people do not shake hands unless you are introduced.” I heard my father’s amused laugh, and that of the travelers was not far behind. The boys did not wait for the supercilious servant to help them down, but clambered out, took my hands and running, were soon seated by the mat-
tress, while above it was an older audience of which “Peter Parley “ was quite unaware. He began, “Once upon a time,” and with a settling down to listen and a long breath of satisfaction we were ready with an eager look in our eyes which was his inspiration. “Once upon a time, there was a famous snow storm, famous because there had never been such an one before and there has never been such an one since, though in those days they were remarkable for length and depth of fall. You little English lads have no idea of a snow storm, a few big flakes at most and a fog eats them up. But it had been storming more and more rapidly for three days when I started out to carry food to a starving family. They were without any the day before. I jumped on my pony Bob and with a basket slung about my shoulders I was off. I knew every path, every tree, almost every branch, but by this time the whole world was a dazzling white though it was so dark beneath the
The Southbury home.
heavily laden trees that I had at times to feel along the great trunks to find the deep cuts or ‘blazes’ made by an axe to guide travelers. The snow was already two feet deep and the cart path quite obliterated”—“Wot is ’bliterated?’ ” asked the smallest boy. “Right you are, my lad. It is your privilege to ask questions and there is one who will never refuse to answer them and he is your friend P. P. It means ‘rubbed out,’ nothing left of it.
“I kept steadily on with no thought that I might turn back, tho’ at times the lonely little traveler was almost buried by the white masses which the wind tossed from the overhanging branches, and it was growing piercingly cold. Suddenly there was a rush, a roar, a blinding, whirling mass enveloped us that knocked me from Bob, but I clung to the basket still. Gasping, trembling, we struggled up to find we had wandered from the path and our way was blocked all about by an
avalanche fallen from above. I was in despair. Never before had I known what helplessness, loneliness and desolation meant. But I was trained to quick thought and set about getting out of our snow prison, though the wind piled the drift higher and higher, faster and faster and we made no headway.
“Just then a strong hand grasped Bob’s bridle and the collar of my coat, and with a wrench and a twist we were freed by ‘Old Witch Sarah,’ the weird hermitess of the mountain. Now my children there is no such thing as a witch. A name is fastened on some poor creature whose face is marred, whose reason is broken by sorrow. Let us beware how we fix upon anyone so harsh and cruel a name.
“Sarah, by main effort dragged us into a sheltered spot, and while I was trying to get back my breath, she fed Bob a loaf of bread, bathed his forehead and lips with snow water until he was some what restored from his exhaustion.
“ ‘Go back, boy,’ she said, ‘to your sheltered home and thank God you are not without one; also that Witch Sarah has saved you from a snowy grave. Hasten for you can go no further. Turn about while you may. In an hour disaster and death will be abroad in the forest.’
“The pony picked up his courage and his feet together and in three laborious hours—as the wind was now with us—we reached home, where they were beginning to be greatly alarmed, and this is the tale of the historic storm of 1807.” As he closed the parents of the boys at once introduced themselves and urged father to use their carriage to our hotel, he did not accept this most generous offer but did enjoy a glass of most excellent port wine from their elaborate medicine chest which was built under the front and back seats of the carriage. This was divided into compartments with silver boxes and crests and cut glass bottles with monograms and every drug useful or otherwise known to man.
“Yours is elegant but I think ours is more convenient,” I said, “show it to them please, father.” He laughed and touched a strap across his shoulder holding a morocco wallet of about a foot long and three inches high inside of which was a tin box with a cover on hinges. There were five parts within. In one, gum camphor, in a second, rhubarb, third guaicum, fourth sol-volatile and fifth laudanum. These were balanced by a traveling flask of brandy. “And with these,” said by father, “I can circumnavigate the globe.”
A rare evening was arranged for us in Florence, Italy, when Mr. Goodrich and his family was passing a winter there. It was planned by Charles Lever, the clever Irish author at Casa Guidi. Mr. Browning brought his invalid wife into the drawing room and placed her in her own peculiar chair. There were gathered there the Storys, Gibson and Powers the sculptors, both Tennysons—and I liked Frederic best, who has just died,—James Russell Lowell, Lamertine, Longfellow and Buchanan Read and family, Trollope and others. Father was seated on a hassock with two ranges of children about him—and many of a larger growth around the room. He was to tell them stories, and they wanted to know particularly about himself. So he told these people—many of them English—of his going to fight when Tryon burned Danbury and had appeared with his fleet off New Haven during the revolution. How one night he was sentinel and a movement in the thick brush near him caused him to challenge. No answer. “ ‘Who goes there? Advance and give the countersign, or I fire,’ and I did. Great excitement. We
heard calvary retreating—it was a disgusted cow with her calf galloping down the road.”
Burial lot at Southbury.
He told them how hard he had worked to reach his present position in letters as the veritable and only Peter Parley and a sanctimonious fraud, an Englishman by name of “Old Mogridge” was writing unwholesome books for children under his name, making thousands of illegal dollars thereby to the detriment of father’s purse. We closed with an hour of social enjoyment and left early as Mrs. Browning was an invalid. This evening was long talked of in Florence.
After our return to our summer home at Courbevoir, near Paris, a shattered man enfeebled by grief came to our door. It was the poet-painter, Buchanan Read, who had left his tiny wife and child in a cholera grave at Rome. We took him in and comforted him.
We were in America and heard her sing, when Jenny Lind made her debut at Castle Garden. Never had I seen my father so disappointed. He told Barnum that he did not consider her a prima donna; that she had little presence, not much magnetism and her appearance was anything but striking. Barnum winked and said, “So?”
A sad event occurred when we were spending a few days at Fire Island. There came a night when there was a fearful storm and a ship in dire distress was firing signals. The next morning it was learned that Margaret Fuller Ossoli and her husband and child had sunk to a watery grave.
“It was awful, sir,” said one of the wrecked sailors talking to my father the next day, “awful indeed. They could all have been saved if Mme. Ossoli would have cast off her heavy garments, but she did not and so carried the young and loyal husband down with her, and between them they carried that pretty bairn.”
At the beginning of the second year of Mr. Fillmore’s incumbency we were in Paris and Mr. Goodrich consul. Never was there a more acceptable one. He had keen foresight, sagacity, quick wit, suavity, authority when needed and a most friendly and sympathetic soul. All these talents he used for the benefit of his countrymen and when he was superceded, great was the regret.
A medallion of himself by Adam Salomon, a famous sculptor, was presented him, of the size of a large dinner plate of silver triple gilt and elegantly framed. A petition to retain him signed by two hundred and fifty French and American
merchants was sent to the United States in vain. During his consulate, Henry Shelton Sanford, who was United States attache at Paris, found my father a staying power. Sanford was stiff, unyielding and his countrymen feared to ask favors of him. He was born in the “Hollow” in ancient Woodbury, in a little house where was manufactured the tinware for all the neighboring towns and here were found the supplies for the calithumpian serenades for half the county.
During all our years abroad my parents had many young people under their fostering care. I mention but two of them. Elsie Henslee the protegee of many Boston gentlemen, who studied music at the Paris “Conservatoire,” became a prima donna, and married the then King of Portugal, and is now, if I mistake not, the Countess Elda, much beloved and admired at Lisbon, where she is now one of the court favorites. The second was Rosalie Benedict, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Abner Benedict of New York. They brought her over and placed her in school, where after they left, my mother found the girl ill with nostalgia. She at once brought her to our home. I shared my pretty room with her and we were a happy pair, until one fall day, when the news came of the awful disaster to the “Arctic,” in which her parents had sailed. It became my painful lot to break to her the tidings of her double loss. Some fiend had sent her a package of newspaper cuttings in which it was told that the last seen of her parents, they were on their knees on a raft and the sharks clambering over the sides. I held her close to my heart for three days and thus saved her from insanity, but among the many sore hurts of my life, this one stands preeminent.
Our family returned to the United States when the first break in the house-hold began. The children scattered to different homes. Then my father decided to give up the New York house and bought a quaint old brick mansion at Southbury, Conn., which he improved and beautified to his heart’s content.
At this time his mind was full of a great work he was preparing, a natural history in two large volumes, in which the engravings alone cost thousands of dollars. He rode on his bay mare through woods and over streams for two summers, studying every animal or insect with which he came in contact. He was called “the old gentleman” for twenty miles around and at every lane and by-way he was known and loved. Women brought him cookies and milk, and he enjoyed them in the shade by their doors, and the children hunted bugs and birds for him to study, to which he was giving up the last years of his life. This work was a most arduous one and he overtaxed his strength bringing back the old distressed turns of his early manhood. The book was dedicated to Agassiz, who himself commended it as a most rare and exhaustive work—the best work of a great man.
The quiet people of the little village of Southbury had rather dreaded the coming of a city family to their midst, but they had learned one and all to value him as a neighbor and friend, and when one day in May, 1860, the stage driver came up the street calling out “Mr. Goodrich is dead, Mr. Goodrich is dead in New York,” there was mourning indeed; but it was only too true. He had gone down to the city Monday on business and on Wednesday had passed away while quietly talking with my brother in his home. Most of the family were at Southbury.
Stern as was heaven’s decree in thus calling him from us, we did not repine.
He had died in his full vigor of mind, all in a moment as he had often wished. With that sad Civil War coming on he would have been heartbroken, for he dearly loved the Union, and was himself greatly beloved in the South, where his books were in general use.
His remains were borne to St. Bartholomew’s Church in the city where services were held, and he lay for twenty-four hours while sad crowds passed about him. General Dix, the publishers Appleton, Derby, Goupil, and many friends were his pall bearers. The “Marble Cemetery” offered a lot, but he had elected to lie in “God’s Acre” where the sun shines and where the rain falls upon the grassy mound. Mr. Hoey, president of Adams Express Company had the body reverently and tenderly borne to his Southbury home free of charge and on Sunday the 13th of May, we laid him at rest. Crowds had been gathering, churches were closed for twenty miles away—on the sloping hill-sides in front of the house were waiting masses who had come to pay their last tribute to a great man, known the world over as the “Children’s Teacher and Friend.” After short services at the house, friendly farmers and neighbors took up the casket. Everyone had taken a last sad look at that clear cut face with the color still in the cheeks and the lips as though ready to speak. Children led the way to the adjacent village cemetery, strewing flowers and singing as they moved. For the last time I took my brother’s arm, the brother who has been with me through every page. Oh ye, who are blessed with this relationship, cherish it in your heart. There is none more generous, more lasting, more true.
The season was advanced and the “blossom wind” was shedding the petals from the apple orchard ’neath which we passed—the casket was covered with the rose colored down fall. In a lot above the side hill in full view of the main street, all the mortal remains of the Hon. Samuel Griswold Goodrich were laid. Sunrise and sunset alike glow over the mound. Stately robins seem watching there. Wild vines and blossoms trail across the lot, and he is surrounded by nature’s freedom, which he loved. And there we bade him adieu.
His faithful wife, Mary Boott Goodrich, of London, England, was buried near him in 1868.
A simple slab of Italian marble marks his resting place, name and date, without eulogy, but a dog-eared book is a speaking emblem of his life work.