Page images

My dear sir, believe me to remain most cordially your old friend, and, I should now add. humble servant,



Stapleton, June 22, 1827.

I went to pass a week or two with an old friend and relation, a physician, in order to take his advice about anything remedial or palliative for the habitual weakness and frequent painful sensations of my eyes, which are failing sadly. It often occurs to my thoughts how my John, and your James, are quit of all these mortal infirmities, grievances, and apprehensions; no longer involved in the frailty of our animated, endangered, and perishing clay; no longer dependent for their knowledge, their activity, their enjoyments, on these organs of matter; no longer having their" foundation in the dust." But we shall not long stay behind; we, too, are fast advancing toward a separation from all these elements; let us hope and sedulously prepare to meet again in a nobler economy those who have already arrived there, and have carried our affections with them.

. . . I have just declined from conscious necessity and duty, on several accounts, a journey of three weeks through North Wales, with a little party of friends at Worcester, who kindly solicited me to take a seat in a young lady's elegant one horse vehicle, herself the driver. Snowdon! the grand chain bridge! romantic valleys, cataracts, castles, and all the rest! It would truly have been a vast luxury. But, under the veto of ever so many causes combined, I am to see none of those things; some of which I did see about fifteen years since, in company with the person who is to be the leader in this new expedition,-and who tells me he has never since had an opportunity of inviting me under such favourable circumstances to renew the adventure, and thinks very improbable he ever may again. He is an admirable guide, and I am enthusiastic with respect to that enchanted region; but old Conscience said " NO,”—in con

sideration of good wife's unfortunate health and imprisonment at home in this dingy place-of studious work, sadly neglected, though promised to be done long since-of the expense of such luxury; and all this corroborated by a rheumatic affection of my back, which, were it to continue or become worse, would disable me for the climbing of mountains for the purpose of seeing the panorama.

... I have the most unwelcome task before me of preaching in substitution for Hall on Sunday evening; he having consented very reluctantly to go to London to preach two sermons for the benefit of our Bristol Academy.


Stapleton, 1827.

Unless Mr. Evans, who kindly offers to convey this, shall happen to name the writer, it will appear to you as from the hand of a perfect stranger. Nor can I be sure you will not say that the case might just as well have been actually so, for any interest you can now feel in recalling to mind that you did once know such a person as J. Foster.

One has, on some occasions in the long course of life, felt one could say, with perfect consciousness of truth, what one could not reasonably expect to be believed-all appearances being so directly to the contrary. The present is such a one; so that I shall have no just cause to complain, if my declaration be not believed that, ever since I left Ireland to this hour, I have retained a very grateful remembrance of my old friend, Mr. Purser, and of his family; concerning whom I have inquired and heard at intervals, from various persons that I have met with through the long period of more than thirty years.

It would be a vain attempt to explain (and indeed I may justly suppose you would not at all care about any explanation) how then it could have happened, that I never, in any instance, gave any token of such regard as I am professing to have constantly felt. Having always been intending to write to you, and not long to delay doing so, I have sometimes thought there was some kind of spell or fatality in

the case. In truth, there is a certain strange power or tendency in delay to prolong and perpetuate itself. And after it has continued a considerable time, perhaps several years, there comes a feeling that the matter of character is now quite a lost thing, and that therefore the case can become no worse. Something partly similar has happened with respect to one or two early friends in this country, still living, held always in friendly remembrance, never visited in the remote places of their abode, and their last letters, of a date indefinitely far in the past, remaining unanswered. But this case respecting my two Irish friends (the senior and the junior), is by much the worst in my long but unimportant history. The mortification it causes me is such that I could almost wish to be able to introduce myself, not as an ancient friend, little deserving to be remembered as such, but as a person who has just been very much interested in hearing a particular account of you from a lady whose sister has been with you within the last year, and who gave such an account of you that I thought I should have been much gratified to be acquainted with such a family. It recalled to my imagination, once again, with a vivid freshness, the interesting social scenes and circumstances of a period lying on the ascent of life, on the other side, as it were, of a mountain which I have long since passed over, and am now descending, as my old friend also is, far down toward the low last tract of life. But the images so revived (which, however, have never faded), were in strong contrast, in many essential points, with those presented by the description of what I should find if I were in the same scene again. One important and estimable member of the family removed from the world; a younger one long since grown up, and placed in fantily relations far off from you; another, once my young friend and pupil, now in middle age, doubly a family man, and active in a sphere of business and various cares, all this is so vastly different from the picture in my mind, that I have no power of thought to pass the one into the other, so as to realize this later form of the scene to my imagination.

As to myself, you are not likely to have heard anything scarcely of the course of my life, marked by none but common occurrences. Since I saw Ireland I have spent

several years in some, and many years in other parts of England; in Sussex, near London, near Bristol, at Frome, at a remote place high up in Gloucestershire, and lastly, near ten years again near Bristol, to which last place I have always retained a partiality ever since I was at the academy there in my youth. In two of these places of residence I was for a considerable time a settled preacher, as we call it, -at one of them, at two periods distant from each other; but in each instance was compelled to give in, by some kind of debility in the parts about the throat, which rendered the constantly recurring excrcise of public speaking difficult and painful. Always, however, up to this time, I have continued to preach occasionally. Just twenty years I have been a married man, with great cause to be happy in that connection. We have two daughters, our only surviving children; a son, who would have been now eighteen, died last year of consumption. I have great reason to be pleased at having had my lot cast, temporarily, in a variety of situations, though with no very remarkable events in any of them; since this has given me the opportunity and advantage of seeing more of the nature of things and men, than I might if fixed during the main part of life in one place. I am now in the fifty-eighth year, and feel very sensible monitions of approach to old age, especially in the decay of sight, and something in that of memory.


September, 1827.

I have cause to sympathize with your emotions in remembrance of one whom you see on earth no more; it being this week of last year that I resigned my only son. A day or two since, when left in solitude, I went up to an unoccupied room where a number of things that were his are put away; and opened once again, a box where various chemical articles remain exactly in the order in which his own hands placed them; and thought of him as now in another world; with the questions rising again-Where? oh where ?--In what manner of existence ? Amidst what

scenes, and revelations, and society? With what remembrances of this world and of us whom he has left behind in it ? Questions so often breathed, but to which no voice replies. What a sense of wonder and mystery overpowers the mind, to think that he who was here, whose last look, and words, and breath, I witnessed,-whose eyes I closed, whose remains are mouldering in the earth not far hence, should actually be now a conscious intelligence in another economy of the universe!-Such thoughts have numberless times come in solemn shade over your mind; but sometimes they have come in brightness. We have the delightful confidence that our departed sons have now infinitely the advantage of us; and that they are trusting in the divine. mercy in Jesus Christ for us, that we shall one day reach their happy abodes, never again to suffer a separation. And now a year has been taken from the diminishing interval between our losing them in death, and recovering them, I trust, in immortality.

It is an all-wise and all-gracious Power that presides over the appointment of those who remain to us. Not less in wisdom and goodness will it be, if he shall withdraw from us yet another, or another of those who remain to us. Nevertheless, I will hope that such a visitation is not approaching you. I should be gratified to hear that the one you are at present so anxiously watching for is recovering to a less endangered state.


March 10, 1828.

There seems to be a gloomy shade hovering over my mind since I received W -'s letter on Saturday. The image, as now lifeless, of the man that I have so often seen in the highest health and spirits, is continually presenting itself. And many times, these two days, the social scenes of his house, where I have repeatedly been received in so very kind a manner, have come with vividness to my memory. The extreme suddenness seems almost to disable the mind to realize the fact in thought. The idea of his

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »