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A MERICAN LIFE;
BY AMERICAN WRITERS.
MARY RUSSELL MITFORD.
IN THREE VOLS.
NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
EVERY country has its superstitions, and will continue to have them, so long as men are blessed with lively imaginations, and while any portion of mankind remain ignorant of the causes of natural phenomena. That which can not be reconciled with experience will always be attributed to supernatural influence, and those who know little will imagine much more to exist than has ever been witnessed by their own senses. I am not displeased with this state of things; for the journey of life would be dull indeed, if those who travel it were confined for ever to the beaten highway, worn smooth by the sober feet of experience. To turnpikes, for our beasts of burden, I have no objection; but I cannot consent to the erection of railways for the mind, even though the architect be Wisdom, whose ways are pleasant, and
whose paths are peace.” It is, sometimes, agreeable to stray off into the wilderness which fancy creates, to recline in fairy bowers, and to listen to the murmurs of imaginary fountains. When the beaten road becomes tiresome, there are many sunny spots where the pilgrim may loiter with advantage-many shady paths, whose labyrinths may be traced with delight. The mountain and the vale, on whose scenery we gaze enchanted, derive new charms, when their deep caverns and gloomy recesses are peopled with imaginary beings.
But above all, the enlivening influence of fancy is felt when it illumines our fire-sides, giving to the wings of time, when they grow heavy, a brighter plumage, and a more sprightly motion. There are seasons, when the spark of life within us, seems to burn with less than its wonted vigour; the blood crawls heavily through the veins; the contagious dullness seizes on our companions, and the sluggish hours roll painfully along. Something more than a common impulse is then required to awaken the indolent mind, and give a new tone to the flagging spirits. If necromancy draws her magic circle, we cheerfully enter the ring; if folly shakes her cap and bells, we are amused ; a witch becomes an interesting personage, and we are even agreeably surprised by the companionable qualities of a ghost.
We, who live on the frontier, have little acquaintance with imaginary beings. These gentry never emigrate; they seem to have strong local attachments, which not even the charms of a new country can overcome. A few witches, indeed, were imported into New England by our fathers; but were so badly used, that the whole race seems to have been disgusted with new settlements. With them the spirit of adventure expired, and the wierd women of the present day, wisely cling to the soil of the old countries. That we have but few ghosts will not be deemed a matter of surprise, by those who have observed how miserably destitute we are of accommodations for such inhabitants. We have no baronial castles, nor ruined mansions ;-no turrets crowned with ivy, nor ancient abbeys crumbling into decay; and it would be a paltry spirit who would be content to wander in the forest, by silent rivers and solitary swamps.
It is even imputed to us as a reproach, by enlightened foreigners, that our land is altogether populated with the living descendants of Adamcreatures with thews and sinews; who eat when they are hungry, laugh when they are tickled, and die when they have done living. The creatures of romance, say they, exist not in our territory. A witch, a ghost, or a brownie, perishes in America, as a serpent is said to expire, the instant it touches