Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

written many years afterwards — we read the simple story of his love : —

“We saw each other every day, and I became excessively attached to her. Her shyness wore off by degrees. The more I saw of her the more I had reason to admire her. Her mind seemed to unfold leaf by leaf, and every time to discover new sweetness. Nobody knew her so well as I, for she was generally timid and silent; but I in a manner studied her excellence. Never did I meet with more intuitive rectitude of mind, more native delicacy, more exquisite propriety in word, thought, and action, than in this young creature. I am not exaggerating; what I say was acknowledged by all who knew her. Her brilliant little sister used to say that people began by admiring her, but ended by loving Matilda. For my part, I idolized her. I felt at times rebuked by her superior delicacy and purity, and as if I was a coarse, unworthy being in comparison.”

At this time Irving was much perplexed about his career. He had “a fatal propensity to belles-lettres;” his repugnance to the law was such that his mind would not take hold of the study; he anticipated nothing from legal pursuits or political employment; he was secretly writing the humor

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

ous history, but was altogether in a lowspirited and disheartened state. I quote again from the memorandum : —

“In the mean time I saw Matilda every day, and that helped to distract me. In the midst of this struggle and anxiety she was taken ill with a cold. Nothing was thought of it at first; but she grew rapidly worse, and fell into a consumption. I cannot tell you what I suffered. The ills that I have undergone in this life have been dealt out to me drop by drop, and I have tasted all their bitterness. I saw her fade rapidly away; beautiful, and more beautiful, and more angelical to the last. I was often by her bedside ; and in her wandering state of mind she would talk to me with a sweet, natural, and affecting eloquence, that was overpowering. I saw more of the beauty of her mind in that delirious state than I had ever known before. Her malady was rapid in its career, and hurried her off in two months. Her dying struggles were painful and protracted. For three days and nights I did not leave the house, and scarcely slept. I was by her when she died; all the family were assembled round her, some praying, others weeping, for she was adored by them all. I was the last one she looked upon. I have told you as briefly as I could what, if I were to tell with all

|

the incidents and feelings that accompanied it,
would fill volumes. She was but about seven-
teen years old when she died.
“I cannot tell you what a horrid state of mind
I was in for a long time. I seemed to care for
nothing; the world was a blank to me... I aban-
doned all thoughts of the law. I went into the
country, but could not bear solitude, yet could
not endure society. There was a dismal horror
continually in my mind, that made me fear to be
alone. I had often to get up in the night, and
seek the bedroom of my brother, as if the having
a human being by me would relieve me from the
frightful gloom of my own thoughts. .*
“Months elapsed before my mind would re-
sume any tone; but the despondency I had suf-
fered for a long time in the course of this
attachment, and the anguish that attended its
catastrophe, seemed to give a turn to my whole
character, and throw some clouds into my dis-
position, which have ever since hung about it.
When I became more calm and collected, I ap-
plied myself, by way of occupation, to the finish-
ing of my work. I brought it to a close, as well
as I could, and published it; but the time and
circumstances in which it was produced rendered
me always unable to look upon it with satisfac-
tion. Still it took with the public, and gave me
celebrity, as an original work was something re-

[graphic]

64 WASHINGTON, IRVING.

markable and uncommon in America. I was noticed, caressed, and, for a time, elevated by the popularity I had gained. I found myself uncomfortable in my feelings in New York, and traveled about a little. Wherever I went I was overwhelmed with attentions ; I was full of youth and animation, far different from the being I now am, and I was quite flushed with this early taste of public favor. Still, however, the career of gayety and notoriety soon palled on me. I seemed to drift about without aim or object, at the mercy of every breeze; my heart wanted anchorage. I was naturally susceptible, and tried to form other attachments, but my heart would not hold on ; it would continually recur to what it had lost; and whenever there was a pause in the hurry of novelty and excitement, I would sink into dismal dejection. For years I could not talk on the subject of this hopeless regret; I could not even mention her name; but her image was continually before me, and I dreamt of her incessantly.”

This memorandum, it subsequently appeared, was a letter, or a transcript of it, addressed to a married lady, Mrs. Foster, in which the story of his early love was related, in reply to her question why he had never married. It was in the year 1823,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[graphic]

the year atter the publication of “Bracebridge \{a\\,” while he sojourned in Dresūem, that he became intimate with an Eng\ish family residing there, named Foster, and conceived for the daughter, Miss Emily Foster, a warm friendship and perhaps a deep attachment. The letter itself, which for the first time broke the guarded seclusion of Irving's heart, is evidence of the tender confidence that existed between him and this family. That this intimacy would have resulted in marriage, or an offer of marriage, if the lady's affections had not been preoccupied, the Fosters seem to have believed. In an unauthorized addition to the “Life and Letters,” inserted in the English edition without the knowledge of the American editor, with some such headings as, “History of his First Love brought to us, and returned,” and “Irving's Second Attachment,” the Fosters tell the interesting story of Irving's life in Dresden, and give many of his letters, and an account of his intimacy with the family. From this account I quote: — “Soon after this, Mr. Irving, who had again

for long felt “the tenderest interest warm his

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »