The Romance of Old New England Rooftrees
Mary C. Crawford
Boston L. C. Page & Company Mdcccciii
Copyright, 1902 by L. C. Page & Company (Incorporated)
All rights reserved
Published, September, 1902
Colonial Press Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co. Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
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These little sketches have been written to supply what seemed to the author a real need,—a volume which should give clearly, compactly, and with a fair degree of readableness, the stories connected with the surviving old houses of New England. That delightful writer, Mr. Samuel Adams Drake, has in his many works on the historic mansions of colonial times, provided all necessary data for the serious student, and to him the deep indebtedness of this work is fully and frankly acknowledged. Yet there was no volume which gave entire the tales of chief interest to the majority of readers. It is, therefore, to such searchers after the romantic in New England's history that the present book is offered.
It but remains to mention with gratitude the many kind friends far and near who have helped in the preparation of the material, and especially to thank Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., publishers of the works of Hawthorne, Whittier, Longfellow, and Higginson, by permission of and special arrangement with whom the selections of the authors named, are used; the Macmillan Co., for permission to use the extracts from Lindsay Swift's "Brook Farm"; G. P. Putnam's Sons for their kindness in allowing quotations from their work, "Historic Towns of New England"; Small, Maynard & Co., for the use of the anecdote credited to their Beacon Biography of Samuel F. B. Morse; Little, Brown & Co., for their marked courtesy in the extension of quotation privileges, and Mr. Samuel T. Pickard, Whittier's literary executor, for the new Whittier material here given.
M. C. C.
Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1902.
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"All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses."
"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history."
"... Common as light is love, And its familiar voice wearies not ever."
"... I discern Infinite passion and the pain Of finite hearts that yearn."
"'Tis an old tale and often told."
* * * * *
The Heir of Swift's Vanessa 11
The Maid of Marblehead 37
An American-Born Baronet 59
Molly Stark's Gentleman-Son 74
A Soldier of Fortune 90
The Message of the Lanterns 104
Hancock's Dorothy Q. 117
Baroness Riedesel and Her Tory Friends 130
Doctor Church: First Traitor to the American Cause 147
A Victim of Two Revolutions 159
The Woman Veteran of the Continental Army 170
The Redeemed Captive 190
New England's First "Club Woman" 210
In the Reign of the Witches 225
Lady Wentworth of the Hall 241
An Historic Tragedy 251
Inventor Morse's Unfulfilled Ambition 264
Where the "Brothers and Sisters" Met 279
The Brook Farmers 293
Margaret Fuller: Marchesa d'Ossoli 307
The Old Manse and Some of Its Mosses 324
Salem's Chinese God 341
The Well-Sweep of a Song 356
Whittier's Lost Love 366
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Page
Sir Harry Frankland (See page 48) Frontispiece
Whitehall, Newport, R. I. 31
Agnes Surriage Pump, Marblehead, Mass. 39
Summer House, Royall Estate, Medford, Mass. 63
Royall House, Medford, Mass.—Pepperell House, Kittery, Maine 66
Stark House, Dunbarton, N. H. 79
General Lee's Headquarters, Somerville, Mass. 94
Christ Church—Paul Revere House, Boston, Mass. 104
Robert Newman House, Boston, Mass. 110
Clark House, Lexington, Mass. 118
Dorothy Q. House, Quincy, Mass. 123
Riedesel House, Cambridge, Mass. 145
House Where Doctor Church Was Confined, Cambridge, Mass. 149
Swan House, Dorchester, Mass. 164
Deborah Sampson Gannett 170
Gannett House, Sharon, Mass. 188
Williams House, Deerfield, Mass. 193
Reverend Stephen Williams 204
Old Corner Bookstore, Site of the Hutchinson House, Boston, Mass. 214
Old Witch House, Salem, Mass. 225
Rebecca Nourse House, Danvers, Mass. 229
Red Horse Tavern, Sudbury, Mass. 242
Governor Wentworth House, Portsmouth, N. H. 246
Fairbanks House, Dedham, Mass. 260
Edes House, Birthplace of Professor Morse, Charlestown, Mass. 264
Oval Parlour, Fay House, Cambridge, Mass. 286
Brook Farm, West Roxbury, Mass. 296
Fuller House, Cambridgeport, Mass. 312
Old Manse, Concord, Mass. 324
Townsend House, Salem, Mass. 342
Old Oaken Bucket House, Scituate, Mass. 359
Whittier's Birthplace, East Haverhill, Mass. 380
THE ROMANCE OF OLD NEW ENGLAND ROOFTREES
THE HEIR OF SWIFT'S VANESSA
Nowhere in the annals of our history is recorded an odder phase of curious fortune than that by which Bishop Berkeley, of Cloyne, was enabled early in the eighteenth century to sail o'erseas to Newport, Rhode Island, there to build (in 1729) the beautiful old place, Whitehall, which is still standing. Hundreds of interested visitors drive every summer to the old house, to take a cup of tea, to muse on the strange story with which the ancient dwelling is connected, and to pay the meed of respectful memory to the eminent philosopher who there lived and wrote.
The poet Pope once assigned to this bishop "every virtue under heaven," and this high reputation a study of the man's character faithfully confirms. As a student at Dublin University, George Berkeley won many friends, because of his handsome face and lovable nature, and many honours by reason of his brilliancy in mathematics. Later he became a fellow of Trinity College, and made the acquaintance of Swift, Steele, and the other members of that brilliant Old World literary circle, by all of whom he seems to have been sincerely beloved.
A large part of Berkeley's early life was passed as a travelling tutor, but soon after Pope had introduced him to the Earl of Burlington, he was made dean of Derry, through the good offices of that gentleman, and of his friend, the Duke of Grafton, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Berkeley, however, never cared for personal aggrandisement, and he had long been cherishing a project which he soon announced to his friends as a "scheme for converting the savage Americans to Christianity by a college to be erected in the Summer Islands, otherwise called the Isles of Bermuda."
In a letter from London to his lifelong friend and patron, Lord Percival, then at Bath, we find Berkeley, under date of March, 1723, writing thus of the enterprise which had gradually fired his imagination: "It is now about ten months since I have determined to spend the residue of my days in Bermuda, where I trust in Providence I may be the mean instrument of doing great good to mankind. The reformation of manners among the English in our western plantations, and the propagation of the gospel among the American savages, are two points of high moment. The natural way of doing this is by founding a college or seminary in some convenient part of the West Indies, where the English youth of our plantations may be educated in such sort as to supply their churches with pastors of good morals and good learning—a thing (God knows) much wanted. In the same seminary a number of young American savages may also be educated until they have taken the degree of Master of Arts. And being by that time well instructed in the Christian religion, practical mathematics, and other liberal arts and sciences, and early imbued with public-spirited principles and inclinations, they may become the fittest instruments for spreading religion, morals, and civil life among their countrymen, who can entertain no suspicion or jealousy of men of their own blood and language, as they might do of English missionaries, who can never be well qualified for that work."
Berkeley then goes on to describe the plans of education for American youths which he had conceived, gives his reasons for preferring the Bermudas as a site for the college, and presents a bright vision of an academic centre from which should radiate numerous beautiful influences that should make for Christian civilisation in America. Even the gift of the best deanery in England failed to divert him from thoughts of this Utopia. "Derry," he wrote, "is said to be worth L1,500 per annum, but I do not consider it with a view to enriching myself. I shall be perfectly contented if it facilitates and recommends my scheme of Bermuda."
But the thing which finally made it possible for Berkeley to come to America, the incident which is responsible for Whitehall's existence to-day in a grassy valley to the south of Honeyman's Hill, two miles back from the "second beach," at Newport, was the tragic ending of as sad and as romantic a story as is to be found anywhere in the literary life of England.
Swift, as has been said, was one of the friends who was of great service to Berkeley when he went up to London for the first time. The witty and impecunious dean had then been living in London for more than four years, in his "lodging in Berry Street," absorbed in the political intrigue of the last years of Queen Anne, and sending to Stella, in Dublin, the daily journal, which so faithfully preserves the incidents of those years. Under date of an April Sunday in 1713, we find in this journal these lines, Swift's first mention of our present hero: "I went to court to-day on purpose to present Mr. Berkeley, one of our fellows at Trinity College. That Mr. Berkeley is a very ingenious man, and a great philosopher, and I have mentioned him to all the ministers, and have given them some of his writings, and I will favour him as much as I can."
In the natural course of things Berkeley soon heard much, though he saw scarcely anything, of Mrs. Vanhomrigh and her daughter, the latter the famous and unhappy "Vanessa," both of whom were settled at this time in Berry Street, near Swift, in a house where, Swift writes to Stella, "I loitered hot and lazy after my morning's work," and often dined "out of mere listlessness," keeping there "my best gown and perriwig" when at Chelsea.
Mrs. Vanhomrigh was the widow of a Dutch merchant, who had followed William the Third to Ireland, and there obtained places of profit, and her daughter, Esther, or Hester, as she is variously called, was a girl of eighteen when she first met Swift, and fell violently in love with him. This passion eventually proved the girl's perdition,—and was, as we shall see, the cause of a will which enabled Dean Berkeley to carry out his dear and cherished scheme of coming to America.
Swift's journal, frank about nearly everything else in the man's life, is significantly silent concerning Esther Vanhomrigh. And in truth there was little to be said to anybody, and nothing at all to be confided to Stella, in regard to this unhappy affair. That Swift was flattered to find this girl of eighteen, with beauty and accomplishment, caring so much for him, a man now forty-four, and bound by honour, if not by the Church, to Stella, one cannot doubt. At first, their relations seem to have been simply those of teacher and pupil, and this phase of the matter it is which is most particularly described in the famous poem, "Cadenus and Vanessa," written at Windsor in 1713, and first published after Vanessa's death.
Human nature has perhaps never before or since presented the spectacle of a man of such transcendent powers as Swift involved in such a pitiable labyrinth of the affections as marked his whole life. Pride or ambition led him to postpone indefinitely his marriage with Stella, to whom he was early attached. Though he said he "loved her better than his life a thousand millions of times," he kept her always hanging on in a state of hope deferred, injurious alike to her peace and her reputation. And because of Stella, he dared not afterward with manly sincerity admit his undoubted affection for Vanessa. For, if one may believe Doctor Johnson, he married Stella in 1716,—though he died without acknowledging this union, and the date given would indicate that the ceremony occurred while his devotion to his young pupil was at its height.
Touching beyond expression is the story of Vanessa after she had gone to Ireland, as Stella had gone before, to be near the presence of Swift. Her life was one of deep seclusion, chequered only by the occasional visits of the man she adored, each of which she commemorated by planting with her own hand a laurel in the garden where they met. When all her devotion and her offerings had failed to impress him, she sent him remonstrances which reflect the agony of her mind:
"The reason I write to you," she says, "is because I cannot tell it you should I see you. For when I begin to complain, then you are angry; and there is something in your looks so awful, that it strikes me dumb. Oh! that you may have but so much regard for me left that this complaint may touch your soul with pity. I say as little as ever I can. Did you but know what I thought, I am sure it would move you to forgive me, and believe that I cannot help telling you this and live."
Swift replies with the letter full of excuses for not seeing her oftener, and advises her to "quit this scoundrel island." Yet he assures her in the same breath, "que jamais personne du monde a ete aimee, honoree, estimee, adoree, par votre ami que vous."
The tragedy continued to deepen as it approached the close. Eight years had Vanessa nursed in solitude the hopeless attachment. At length (in 1723) she wrote to Stella to ascertain the nature of the connection between her and Swift. The latter obtained the fatal letter, and rode instantly to Marley Abbey, the residence of Vanessa. "As he entered the apartment," to quote the picturesque language Scott has used in recording the scene, "the sternness of his countenance, which was peculiarly formed to express the stronger passions, struck the unfortunate Vanessa with such terror, that she could scarce ask whether he would not sit down. He answered by flinging a letter on the table; and instantly leaving the house, mounted his horse, and returned to Dublin. When Vanessa opened the packet, she found only her own letter to Stella. It was her death-warrant. She sunk at once under the disappointment of the delayed, yet cherished hopes which had so long sickened her heart, and beneath the unrestrained wrath of him for whose sake she had indulged them. How long she survived this last interview is uncertain, but the time does not seem to have exceeded a few weeks."
Strength to revoke a will made in favour of Swift, and to sign another (dated May 1, 1723) which divided her estate between Bishop Berkeley and Judge Marshall, the poor young woman managed to summon from somewhere, however. Berkeley she knew very slightly, and Marshall scarcely better. But to them both she entrusted as executors her correspondence with Swift, and the poem, "Cadenus and Vanessa," which she ordered to be published after her death.
Doctor Johnson, in his "Life of Swift," says of Vanessa's relation to the misanthropic dean, "She was a young woman fond of literature, whom Decanus, the dean (called Cadenus by transposition of the letters), took pleasure in directing and interesting till, from being proud of his praise, she grew fond of his person. Swift was then about forty-seven, at the age when vanity is strongly excited by the amorous attention of a young woman."
The poem with which these two lovers are always connected, was founded, according to the story, on an offer of marriage made by Miss Vanhomrigh to Doctor Swift. In it, Swift thus describes his situation:
"Cadenus, common forms apart, In every scene had kept his heart; Had sighed and languished, vowed and writ For pastime, or to show his wit, But books and time and state affairs Had spoiled his fashionable airs; He now could praise, esteem, approve, But understood not what was love: His conduct might have made him styled A father and the nymph his child. That innocent delight he took To see the virgin mind her book, Was but the master's secret joy In school to hear the finest boy."
That Swift was not always, however, so Platonic and fatherly in his expressions of affection for Vanessa, is shown in a "Poem to Love," found in Miss Vanhomrigh's desk after her death, in his handwriting. One verse of this runs:
"In all I wish how happy should I be, Thou grand deluder, were it not for thee. So weak thou art that fools thy power despise, And yet so strong, thou triumph'st o'er the wise."
After the poor girl's unhappy decease, Swift hid himself for two months in the south of Ireland. Stella was also shocked by the occurrence, but when some one remarked in her presence, apropos of the poem which had just appeared, that Vanessa must have been a remarkable woman to inspire such verses, she observed with perfect truth that the dean was quite capable of writing charmingly upon a broomstick.
Meanwhile Berkeley was informed of the odd stroke of luck by which he was to gain a small fortune. Characteristically, his thoughts turned now more than ever to his Bermuda scheme. "This providential event," he wrote, "having made many things easy in my private affairs which were otherwise before, I have high hopes for Bermuda."
Swift bore Berkeley absolutely no hard feeling on account of Vanessa's substitution of his name in her will. He was quite as cordial as ever. One of the witty dean's most remarkable letters, addressed to Lord Carteret, at Bath, thus describes Berkeley's previous career and present mission:
"Going to England very young, about thirteen years ago, the bearer of this became founder of a sect called the Immaterialists, by the force of a very curious book upon that subject.... He is an absolute philosopher with regard to money, titles, and power; and for three years past has been struck with a notion of founding a university at Bermudas by a charter from the Crown.... He showed me a little tract which he designs to publish, and there your Excellency will see his whole scheme of the life academico-philosophical, of a college founded for Indian scholars and missionaries, where he most exorbitantly proposes a whole hundred pounds a year for himself.... His heart will be broke if his deanery be not taken from him, and left to your Excellency's disposal. I discouraged him by the coldness of Courts and Ministers, who will interpret all this as impossible and a vision; but nothing will do."
The history of Berkeley's reception in London, when he came to urge his project, shows convincingly the magic of the man's presence and influence. His conquests spread far and fast. In a generation represented by Sir Robert Walpole, the scheme met with encouragement from all sorts of people, subscriptions soon reaching L5,000, and the list of promoters including even Sir Robert himself. Bermuda became the fashion among the wits of London, and Bolingbroke wrote to Swift that he would "gladly exchange Europe for its charms—only not in a missionary capacity."
But Berkeley was not satisfied with mere subscriptions, and remembering what Lord Percival had said about the protection and aid of government he interceded with George the First, and obtained royal encouragement to hope for a grant of L20,000 to endow the Bermuda college. During the four years that followed, he lived in London, negotiating with brokers, and otherwise forwarding his enterprise of social idealism. With Queen Caroline, consort of George the Second, he used to dispute two days a week concerning his favourite plan.
At last his patience was rewarded. In September, 1728, we find him at Greenwich, ready to sail for Rhode Island. "Tomorrow," he writes on September 3 to Lord Percival, "we sail down the river. Mr. James and Mr. Dalton go with me; so doth my wife, a daughter of the late Chief Justice Forster, whom I married since I saw your lordship. I chose her for her qualities of mind, and her unaffected inclination to books. She goes with great thankfulness, to live a plain farmer's life, and wear stuff of her own spinning. I have presented her with a spinning-wheel. Her fortune was L2,000 originally, but travelling and exchange have reduced it to less than L1,500 English money. I have placed that, and about L600 of my own, in South Sea annuities."
Thus in the forty-fourth year of his life, in deep devotion to his Ideal, and full of glowing visions of a Fifth Empire in the West, Berkeley sailed for Rhode Island in a "hired ship of two hundred and fifty tons."
The New England Courier of that time gives this picture of his disembarkation at Newport: "Yesterday there arrived here Dean Berkeley, of Londonderry. He is a gentleman of middle stature, of an agreeable, pleasant, and erect aspect. He was ushered into the town with a great number of gentlemen, to whom he behaved himself after a very complaisant manner."
So favourably was Berkeley impressed by Newport that he wrote to Lord Percival: "I should not demur about situating our college here." And as it turned out, Newport was the place with which Berkeley's scheme was to be connected in history. For it was there that he lived all three years of his stay, hopefully awaiting from England the favourable news that never came.
In loyal remembrance of the palace of his monarchs, he named his spacious home in the sequestered valley Whitehall. Here he began domestic life, and became the father of a family. The neighbouring groves and the cliffs that skirt the coast offered shade and silence and solitude very soothing to his spirit, and one wonders not that he wrote, under the projecting rock that still bears his name, "The Minute Philosopher," one of his most noted works. The friends with whom he had crossed the ocean went to stay in Boston, but no solicitations could withdraw him from the quiet of his island home. "After my long fatigue of business," he told Lord Percival, "this retirement is very agreeable to me; and my wife loves a country life and books as well as to pass her time continually and cheerfully without any other conversation than her husband and the dead." For the wife was a mystic and a quietist.
But though Berkeley waited patiently for developments which should denote the realisation of his hopes, he waited always in vain. From the first he had so planned his enterprise that it was at the mercy of Sir Robert Walpole; and at last came the crisis of the project, with which the astute financier had never really sympathised. Early in 1730, Walpole threw off the mask. "If you put the question to me as a minister," he wrote Lord Percival, "I must and can assure you that the money shall most undoubtedly be paid—as soon as suits with public convenience; but if you ask me as a friend whether Dean Berkeley should continue in America, expecting the payment of L200,000, I advise him by all means to return to Europe, and to give up his present expectations."
When acquainted by his friend Percival with this frank statement, Berkeley accepted the blow as a philosopher should. Brave and resolutely patient, he prepared for departure. His books he left as a gift to the library of Yale College, and his farm of Whitehall was made over to the same institution, to found three scholarships for the encouragement of Greek and Latin study. His visit was thus far from being barren of results. He supplied a decided stimulus to higher education in the colonies, in that he gave out counsel and help to the men already working for the cause of learning in the new country. And he helped to form in Newport a philosophical reunion, the effects of which were long felt.
In the autumn of 1731 he sailed from Boston for London, where he arrived in January of the next year. There a bishopric and twenty years of useful and honourable labour awaited him. He died at Oxford, whence he had removed from his see at Cloyne, on Sunday evening, January 14, 1753, while reading aloud to his family the burial service portion of Corinthians. He was buried in the Cathedral of Christ Church.
Of the traces he left at Newport, there still remain, beside the house, a chair in which he was wont to write, a few books and papers, the organ presented by him to Trinity Church, the big family portrait, by Smibert—and the little grave in Trinity churchyard, where, on the south side of the Kay monument, sleeps "Lucia Berkeley, obiit., the fifth of September, 1731." Moreover the memory of the man's beautiful, unselfish life pervades this section of Rhode Island, and the story of his sweetness and patience under a keen and unexpected disappointment furnishes one of the most satisfying pages in our early history.
The life of Berkeley is indeed greater than anything that he did, and one wonders not as one explores the young preacher's noble and endearing character that the distraught Vanessa fastened upon him, though she knew him only by reputation, as one who would make it his sacred duty to do all in his power to set her memory right in a censorious world.
THE MAID OF MARBLEHEAD
Of all the romantic narratives which enliven the pages of early colonial history, none appeals more directly to the interest and imagination of the lover of what is picturesque than the story of Agnes Surriage, the Maid of Marblehead. The tale is so improbable, according to every-day standards, so in form with the truest sentiment, and so calculated to satisfy every exaction of literary art, that even the most credulous might be forgiven for ascribing it to the fancy of the romancer rather than to the research of the historian.
Yet when one remembers that the scene of the first act of Agnes Surriage's life drama is laid in quaint old Marblehead, the tale itself instantly gains in credibility. For nothing would be too romantic to fit Marblehead. This town is fantastic in the extreme, builded, to quote Miss Alice Brown, who has written delightfully of Agnes and her life, "as if by a generation of autocratic landowners, each with a wilful bee in his bonnet." For Marblehead is no misnomer, and the early settlers had to plant their houses and make their streets as best they could. As a matter of stern fact, every house in Marblehead had to be like the wise man's in the Bible: "built upon a rock." The dwellings themselves were founded upon solid ledges, while the principal streets followed the natural valleys between. The smaller dividing paths led each and every one of them to the impressive old Town House, and to that other comfortable centre of social interests, the Fountain Inn, with its near-by pump. This pump, by the bye, has a very real connection with the story of Agnes Surriage, for it was here, according to one legend, that Charles Henry Frankland first saw the maid who is the heroine of our story.
The gallant Sir Harry was at this time (1742) collector of the port of Boston, a place to which he had been appointed shortly before, by virtue of his family's great influence at the court of George the Second. No more distinguished house than that of Frankland was indeed to be found in all England at this time. A lineal descendant of Oliver Cromwell, our hero was born in Bengal, May 10, 1716, during his father's residence abroad as governor of the East India Company's factory. The personal attractiveness of Frankland's whole family was marked. It is even said that a lady of this house was sought in marriage by Charles the Second, in spite of the fact that a Capulet-Montague feud must ever have existed between the line of Cromwell and that of Charles Stuart.
Young Harry, too, was clever as well as handsome. The eldest of his father's seven sons, he was educated as befitted the heir to the title and to the family estate at Thirkleby and Mattersea. He knew the French and Latin languages well, and, what is more to the point, used his mother tongue with grace and elegance. Botany and landscape-gardening were his chief amusements, while with the great literature of the day he was as familiar as with the great men who made it.
As early as 1738, when he was twenty-two, he had come into possession of an ample fortune, but when opportunity offered to go to America with Shirley, his friend, he accepted the opening with avidity. Both young men, therefore, entered the same year (1741) on their offices, the one as Collector of the Port, and the other as Governor of the Colony. And both represented socially the highest rank of that day in America.
"A baronet," says Reverend Elias Nason, from whose admirable picture of Boston in Frankland's time all writers must draw for reliable data concerning our hero,—"a baronet was then approached with greatest deference; a coach and four, with an armorial bearing and liveried servants, was a munition against indignity; in those dignitaries who, in brocade vest, gold lace coat, broad ruffled sleeves, and small-clothes, who, with three-cornered hat and powdered wig, side-arms and silver shoe buckles, promenaded Queen Street and the Mall, spread themselves through the King's Chapel, or discussed the measures of the Pelhams, Walpole, and Pitt at the Rose and Crown, as much of aristocratic pride, as much of courtly consequence displayed itself as in the frequenters of Hyde Park or Regent Street."
This, then, was the manner of man who, to transact some business connected with Marblehead's picturesque Fort Sewall, then just a-building, came riding down to the rock-bound coast on the day our story opens, and lost his heart at the Fountain Inn, where he had paused for a long draught of cooling ale.
For lo! scrubbing the tavern floor there knelt before him a beautiful child-girl of sixteen, with black curling hair, dark eyes, and a voice which proved to be of bird-like sweetness when the maiden, glancing up, gave her good-day to the gallant's greeting. The girl's feet were bare, and this so moved Frankland's compassion that he gently gave her a piece of gold with which to buy shoes and stockings, and rode thoughtfully away to conduct his business at the fort.
Yet he did not forget that charming child just budding into winsome womanhood whom he had seen performing with patience and grace the duties that fell to her lot as the poor daughter of some honest, hard-working fisherfolk of the town. When he happened again to be in Marblehead on business, he inquired at once for her, and then, seeing her feet still without shoes and stockings, asked a bit teasingly what she had done with the money he gave her. Quite frankly she replied, blushing the while, that the shoes and stockings were bought, but that she kept them to wear to meeting. Soon after this the young collector went to search out Agnes's parents, Edward and Mary Surriage, from whom he succeeded in obtaining permission to remove their daughter to Boston to be educated as his ward.
When one reads in the old records the entries for Frankland's salary, and finds that they mount up to not more than L100 sterling a year, one wonders that the young nobleman should have been so ready to take upon himself the expenses of a girl's elegant education. But it must be remembered that the gallant Harry had money in his own right, besides many perquisites of office, which made his income a really splendid one. Certainly he spared no expense upon his ward. She was taught reading, writing, grammar, music, and embroidery by the best tutors the town could provide, and she grew daily, we are told, in beauty and maidenly charm.
Yet in acquiring these gifts and graces she did not lose her childish sweetness and simplicity, nor the pious counsel of her mother, and the careful care of her Marblehead pastor. Thus several years passed by, years in which Agnes often visited with her gentle guardian the residence in Roxbury of Governor Shirley and his gifted wife, as well as the stately Royall place out on the Medford road.
The reader who is familiar with Mr. Bynner's story of Agnes Surriage will recall how delightfully Mrs. Shirley, the wife of the governor, is introduced into his romance, and will recollect with pleasure his description of Agnes's ride to Roxbury in the collector's coach. This old mansion is now called the Governor Eustis House, and there are those still living who remember when Madam Eustis lived there. This grand dame wore a majestic turban, and the tradition still lingers of madame's pet toad, decked on gala days with a blue ribbon. Now the old house is sadly dilapidated; it is shorn of its piazzas, the sign "To Let" hangs often in the windows, and the cupola is adorned with well-filled clothes-lines. Partitions have cut the house into tenements; one runs through the hall, but the grand old staircase and the smaller one are still there, and the marble floor, too, lends dignity to the back hall. A few of the carved balusters are missing, carried away by relic hunters. In this house, which was the residence of Governors Shirley and Eustis, Washington, Hamilton, Burr, Franklin, and other notables were entertained. The old place is now entirely surrounded by modern dwelling-houses, and the pilgrim who searches for it must leave the Mount Pleasant electric car at Shirley Street.
Yet, though Agnes as a maid was received by the most aristocratic people of Boston, the ladies of the leading families refused to countenance her when she became a fine young woman whom Sir Harry Frankland loved but cared not to marry. That her protector had not meant at first to wrong the girl he had befriended seems fairly certain, but many circumstances, such as the death of Agnes's father and Frankland's own sudden elevation to the baronetcy, may be held to have conspired to force them into the situation for which Agnes was to pay by many a day of tears and Sir Harry by many a night of bitter self-reproach.
For Frankland was far from being a libertine. And that he sincerely loved the beautiful maid of Marblehead is certain. He has come down to us as one of the most knightly men of his time, a gentleman and a scholar, who was also a sincere follower of the Church of England and its teachings. Both in manner and person he is said to have greatly resembled the Earl of Chesterfield, and his diary as well as his portrait show him to have been at once sensitive and virile; quite the man, indeed, very effectually to fascinate the low-born beauty he had taught to love him.
The indignation of the ladies in town toward Frankland and his ward made the baronet prefer at this stage of the story rural Hopkinton to censorious Boston. Reverend Roger Price, known to us as rector of King's Chapel, had already land and a mission church in this village, and so, when Boston frowned too pointedly, Frankland purchased four hundred odd acres of him, and there built, in 1751, a commodious mansion-house. The following year he and Agnes took up their abode on the place. Here Frankland passed his days, contentedly pursuing his horticultural fad, angling, hunting, overseeing his dozen slaves, and reading with his intelligent companion the latest works of Richardson, Steele, Swift, Addison, and Pope, sent over in big boxes from England.
The country about Hopkinton was then as to-day a wonder of hill and valley, meadow and stream, while only a dozen miles or so from Frankland Hall was the famous Wayside Inn. That Sir Harry's Arcady never came to bore him was, perhaps, due to this last fact. Whenever guests were desired the men from Boston could easily ride out to the inn and canter over to the Hall, to enjoy the good wines and the bright talk the place afforded. Then the village rector was always to be counted on for companionship and breezy chat. It is significant that Sir Harry carefully observed all the forms of his religion, and treated Agnes with the respect due a wife, though he still continued to neglect the one duty which would have made her really happy.
A lawsuit called the two to England in 1754. At Frankland's mother's home, where the eager son hastened to bring his beloved one, Agnes was once more subjected to martyrdom and social ostracism. As quickly as they could get away, therefore, the young people journeyed to Lisbon, a place conspicuous, even in that day of moral laxity, for its tolerance of the alliance libre. Henry Fielding (who died in the town) has photographically described for all times its gay, sensuous life. Into this unwholesome atmosphere, quite new to her, though she was neither maid nor wife, it was that the sweet Agnes was thrust by Frankland. Very soon he was to perceive the mistake of this, as well as of several other phases of his selfishness.
On All Saint's Day morning, 1755, when the whole populace, from beggar to priest, courtier to lackey, was making its way to church, the town of Lisbon was shaken to its foundations by an earthquake. The shock came about ten o'clock, just as the Misericordia of the mass was being sung in the crowded churches; and Frankland, who was riding with a lady on his way to the religious ceremony, was immersed with his companion in the ruins of some falling houses. The horses attached to their carriage were instantly killed, and the lady, in her terror and pain, bit through the sleeve of her escort's red broadcloth coat, tearing the flesh with her teeth. Frankland had some awful moments for thought as he lay there pinned down by the fallen stones, and tortured by the pain in his arm.
Meanwhile Agnes, waiting at home, was prey to most terrible anxiety. As soon as the surging streets would permit a foot passenger, she ran out with all the money she could lay hands on, to search for her dear Sir Harry. By a lucky chance, she came to the very spot where he was lying white with pain, and by her offers of abundant reward and by gold, which she fairly showered on the men near by, she succeeded in extricating him from his fearful plight. Tenderly he was borne to a neighbouring house, and there, as soon as he could stand, a priest was summoned to tie the knot too long ignored. He had vowed, while pinned down by the weight of stone, to amend his life and atone to Agnes, if God in his mercy should see fit to deliver him, and he wasted not a moment in executing his pledge to Heaven. That his spirit had been effectually chastened, one reads between the lines of this entry in his diary, which may still be seen in the rooms of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston: "Hope my providential escape will have a lasting good effect upon my mind."
In order to make his marriage doubly sure, he had the ceremony performed again by a clergyman of his own church on board the ship which he took at once for England. Then the newly married pair proceeded once more to Frankland's home, and this time there were kisses instead of coldness for them both. Business in Lisbon soon called them back to the Continent, however, and it was from Belem that they sailed in April, 1750, for Boston, where both were warmly welcomed by their former friends.
In the celebrated Clarke mansion, on Garden Court Street, which Sir Harry purchased October 5, 1756, for L1,200, our heroine now reigned queen. This house, three stories high, with inlaid floors, carved mantels, and stairs so broad and low that Sir Harry could, and did, ride his pony up and down them, was the wonder of the time. It contained twenty-six rooms, and was in every respect a marvel of luxury. That Agnes did not forget her own people, nor scorn to receive them in her fine house, one is pleased to note. While here she practically supported, records show, her sister's children, and she welcomed always when he came ashore from his voyages her brother Isaac, a poor though honest seaman.
Frankland's health was not, however, all that both might have wished, and the entries in the diaries deal, at this time, almost entirely with recipes and soothing drinks. In July, 1757, he sought, therefore, the post of consul-general to Lisbon, where the climate seemed to him to suit his condition, and there, sobered city that it now was, the two again took up their residence. Only once more, in 1763, was Sir Harry to be in Boston. Then he came for a visit, staying for a space in Hopkinton, as well as in the city. The following year he returned to the old country, and in Bath, where he was drinking the waters, he died January 2, 1768, at the age of fifty-two.
Agnes almost immediately came back to Boston, and, with her sister and her sister's children, took up her residence at Hopkinton. There she remained, living a peaceful, happy life among her flowers, her friends, and her books, until the outbreak of the Revolution, when it seemed to her wise to go in to her town house. She entered Boston, defended by a guard of six sturdy soldiers, and was cordially received by the officers in the beleaguered city, especially by Burgoyne, whom she had known in Lisbon. During the battle of Bunker Hill, she helped nurse wounded King's men, brought to her in her big dining-room on Garden Court Street. As an ardent Tory, however, she was persona non grata in the colony, and she soon found it convenient to sail for England, where, until 1782, she resided on the estate of the Frankland family.
At this point, Agnes ceases in a way to be the proper heroine of our romance, for, contrary to the canons of love-story art, she married again,—Mr. John Drew, a rich banker, of Chichester, being the happy man. And at Chichester she died in one year's time.
The Hopkinton home fell, in the course of time, into the hands of the Reverend Mr. Nason, who was to be Frankland's biographer, and who, when the original house was destroyed by fire (January 3, 1858), built a similar mansion on the same site. Here the Frankland relics were carefully preserved,—the fireplace, the family portrait (herewith reproduced), Sir Harry's silver knee buckles, and the famous broadcloth coat, from the sleeve of which the unfortunate lady had torn a piece with her teeth on the day of the Lisbon disaster. This coat, we are told, was brought back to Hopkinton by Sir Harry, and hung in one of the remote chambers of the house, where each year, till his departure for the last time from the pleasant village, he was wont to pass the anniversary of the earthquake in fasting, humiliation, and prayer. The coat, and all the other relics, were lost in April, 1902, when, for the second time, Frankland Hall was razed by fire.
The ancient Fountain Inn, with its "flapping sign," and the "spreading elm below," long since disappeared, and its well, years ago filled up, was only accidentally discovered at a comparatively recent date, when some workmen were digging a post hole. It was then restored as an interesting landmark. This inn was a favourite resort, legends tell us, for jovial sea captains as well as for the gentry of the town. There are even traditions that pirates bold and smugglers sly at times found shelter beneath its sloping roof. Yet none of the many stories with which its ruins are connected compares in interest and charm to the absolutely true one given us by history of Fair Agnes, the Maid of Marblehead.
[Footnote 1: "Three Heroines of New England Romance." Little, Brown & Co.]
AN AMERICAN-BORN BARONET
One of the most picturesque houses in all Middlesex County is the Royall house at Medford, a place to which Sir Harry Frankland and his lady used often to resort. Few of the great names in colonial history are lacking, indeed, in the list of guests who were here entertained in the brave days of old.
The house stands on the left-hand side of the old Boston Road as you approach Medford, and to-day attracts the admiration of electric car travellers just as a century and a half ago it was the focus for all stage passenger's eyes. Externally the building presents three stories, the upper tier of windows being, as is usual in houses of even a much later date, smaller than those underneath. The house is of brick, but is on three sides entirely sheathed in wood, while the south end stands exposed. Like several of the houses we are noting, it seems to turn its back on the high road. I am, however, inclined to a belief that the Royall house set the fashion in this matter, for Isaac, the Indian nabob, was just the man to assume an attitude of fine indifference to the world outside his gates. When in 1837, he came, a successful Antigua merchant, to establish his seat here in old Charlestown, and to rule on his large estate, sole monarch of twenty-seven slaves, he probably felt quite indifferent, if not superior, to strangers and casual passers-by.
His petition of December, 1737, in regard to the "chattels" in his train, addressed to the General Court, reads:
"Petition of Isaac Royall, late of Antigua, now of Charlestown, in the county of Middlesex, that he removed from Antigua and brought with him among other things and chattels a parcel of negroes, designed for his own use, and not any of them for merchandise. He prays that he may not be taxed with impost."
The brick quarters which the slaves occupied are situated on the south side of the mansion, and front upon the courtyard, one side of which they enclose. These may be seen on the extreme right of the picture, and will remind the reader who is familiar with Washington's home at Mount Vernon of the quaint little stone buildings in which the Father of his Country was wont to house his slaves. The slave buildings in Medford have remained practically unchanged, and according to good authority are the last visible relics of slavery in New England.
The Royall estate offered a fine example of the old-fashioned garden. Fruit trees and shrubbery, pungent box bordering trim gravel paths, and a wealth of sweet-scented roses and geraniums were here to be found. Even to-day the trees, the ruins of the flower-beds, and the relics of magnificent vines, are imposing as one walks from the street gate seventy paces back to the house-door.
The carriage visitor—and in the old days all the Royall guests came under this head—either alighted by the front entrance or passed by the broad drive under the shade of the fine old elms around into the courtyard paved with small white pebbles. The driveway has now become a side street, and what was once an enclosed garden of half an acre or more, with walks, fruit, and a summer-house at the farther extremity, is now the site of modern dwellings.
This summer-house, long the favourite resort of the family and their guests, was a veritable curiosity in its way. Placed upon an artificial mound with two terraces, and reached by broad flights of red sandstone steps, it was architecturally a model of its kind. Hither, to pay their court to the daughters of the house, used to come George Erving and the young Sir William Pepperell, and if the dilapidated walls (now taken down, but still carefully preserved) could speak, they might tell of many an historic love tryst. The little house is octagonal in form, and on its bell-shaped roof, surmounted by a cupola, there poises what was originally a figure of Mercury. At present, however, the statue, bereft of both wings and arms, cannot be said greatly to resemble the dashing god.
The exterior of the summer-house is highly ornamented with Ionic pilasters, and taken as a whole is quaintly ruinous. It is interesting to discover that it was utility that led to the elevation of the mound, within which was an ice-house! And to get at the ice the slaves went through a trap-door in the floor of this Greek structure!
Isaac Royall, the builder of the fine old mansion, did not long live to enjoy his noble estate, but he was succeeded by a second Isaac, who, though a "colonel," was altogether inclined to take more care for his patrimony than for his king. When the Revolution began, Colonel Royall fell upon evil times. Appointed a councillor by mandamus, he declined serving "from timidity," as Gage says to Lord Dartmouth. Royall's own account of his movements after the beginning of "these troubles," is such as to confirm the governor's opinion.
He had prepared, it seems, to take passage for the West Indies, intending to embark from Salem for Antigua, but having gone into Boston the Sunday previous to the battle of Lexington, and remained there until that affair occurred, he was by the course of events shut up in the town. He sailed for Halifax very soon, still intending, as he says, to go to Antigua, but on the arrival of his son-in-law, George Erving, and his daughter, with the troops from Boston, he was by them persuaded to sail for England, whither his other son-in-law, Sir William Pepperell (grandson of the hero of Louisburg), had preceded him. It is with this young Sir William Pepperell that our story particularly deals.
The first Sir William had been what is called a "self-made man," and had raised himself from the ranks of the soldiery through native genius backed by strength of will. His father is first noticed in the annals of the Isles of Shoals. The mansion now seen in Kittery Point was built, indeed, partly by this oldest Pepperell known to us, and partly by his more eminent son. The building was once much more extensive than it now appears, having been some years ago shortened at either end. Until the death of the elder Pepperell, in 1734, the house was occupied by his own and his son's families. The lawn in front reached to the sea, and an avenue a quarter of a mile in length, bordered by fine old trees, led to the neighbouring house of Colonel Sparhawk, east of the village church. The first Sir William, by his will, made the son of his daughter Elizabeth and of Colonel Sparhawk, his residuary legatee, requiring him at the same time to relinquish the name of Sparhawk for that of Peperell. Thus it was that the baronetcy, extinct with the death of the hero of Louisburg, was revived by the king, in 1774, for the benefit of this grandson.
In the Essex Institute at Salem, is preserved a two-thirds length picture of the first Sir William Pepperell, painted in 1751 by Smibert, when the baronet was in London. Of this picture, Hawthorne once wrote the humourous description which follows: "Sir William Pepperell, in coat, waistcoat and breeches, all of scarlet broadcloth, is in the cabinet of the Society; he holds a general's truncheon in his right hand, and points his left toward the army of New Englanders before the walls of Louisburg. A bomb is represented as falling through the air—it has certainly been a long time in its descent."
The young William Pepperell was graduated from Cambridge in 1766, and the next year married the beautiful Elizabeth Royall. In 1774 he was chosen a member of the governor's council. But when this council was reorganised under the act of Parliament, he fell into disgrace because of his loyalty to the king. On November 16, 1774, the people of his own county (York), passed at Wells a resolution in which he was declared to have "forfeited the confidence and friendship of all true friends of American liberty, and ought to be detested by all good men."
Thus denounced, the baronet retired to Boston, and sailed, shortly before his father-in-law's departure, for England. His beautiful lady, one is saddened to learn, died of smallpox ere the vessel had been many days out, and was buried at Halifax. In England, Sir William was allowed L500 per annum by the British government, and was treated with much deference. He was the good friend of all refugees from America, and entertained hospitably at his pleasant home. His private life was irreproachable, and he died in Portman Square, London, in December, 1816, at the age of seventy. His vast possessions and landed estate in Maine were confiscated, except for the widow's dower enjoyed by Lady Mary, relict of the hero of Louisburg, and her daughter, Mrs. Sparhawk.
Colonel Royall, though he acted not unlike his son-in-law, Sir William, has, because of his vacillation, far less of our respect than the younger man in the matter of his refusal to cast in his lot with that of the Revolution. In 1778 he was publicly proscribed and formally banished from Massachusetts. He thereupon took up his abode in Kensington, Middlesex, and from this place, in 1789, he begged earnestly to be allowed to return "home" to Medford, declaring he was "ever a good friend of the Province," and expressing the wish to marry again in his own country, "where, having already had one good wife, he was in hopes to get another, and in some degree repair his loss." His prayer was, however, refused, and he died of smallpox in England, October, 1781. By his will, Harvard College was given a tract of land in Worcester County, for the foundation of a professorship, which still bears his name.
It is not, however, to be supposed that in war time so fine a place as the Royall mansion should have been left unoccupied. When the yeomen began pouring into the environs of Boston, encircling it with a belt of steel, the New Hampshire levies pitched their tents in Medford. They found the Royall mansion in the occupancy of Madam Royall and her accomplished daughters, who willingly received Colonel John Stark into the house as a safeguard against insult, or any invasion of the estate the soldiers might attempt. A few rooms were accordingly set apart for the use of the bluff old ranger, and he, on his part, treated the family of the deserter with considerable respect and courtesy. It is odd to think that while the stately Royalls were living in one part of this house, General Stark and his plucky wife, Molly, occupied quarters under the same roof.
The second American general to be attracted by the luxury of the Royall mansion was that General Lee whose history furnishes material for a separate chapter. General Lee it was to whom the house's echoing corridors suggested the name, Hobgoblin Hall. So far as known, however, no inhabitant of the Royall house has ever been disturbed by strange visions or frightful dreams. After Lee, by order of Washington, removed to a house situated nearer his command, General Sullivan, attracted, no doubt, by the superior comfort of the old country-seat, laid himself open to similar correction by his chief. In these two cases it will be seen Washington enforced his own maxim that a general should sleep among his troops.
In 1810, the Royall mansion came into the possession of Jacob Tidd, in whose family it remained half a century, until it had almost lost its identity with the timid old colonel and his kin. As "Mrs. Tidd's house" it was long known in Medford. The place was subsequently owned by George L. Barr, and by George C. Nichols, from whose hands it passed to that of Mr. Geer, the present owner. To be sure, it has sadly fallen from its high estate, but it still remains one of the most interesting and romantic houses in all New England, and when, as happens once or twice a year, the charming ladies of the local patriotic society powder their hair, don their great-grandmother's wedding gowns and entertain in the fine old rooms, it requires only a slight gift of fancy to see Sir William Pepperell's lovely bride one among the gay throng of fair women.
MOLLY STARK'S GENTLEMAN-SON
Of the quaint ancestral homes still standing in the old Granite State, none is more picturesque or more interesting from the historical view-point than the Stark house in the little town of Dunbarton, a place about five miles' drive out from Concord, over one of those charming country roads, which properly make New Hampshire the summer and autumn Mecca of those who have been "long in populous city pent." Rather oddly, this house has, for all its great wealth of historical interest, been little known to the general public. The Starks are a conservative, as well as an old family, and they have never seen fit to make of their home a public show-house. Yet those who are privileged to visit Dunbarton and its chief boast, this famous house, always remember the experience as a particularly interesting one. Seldom, indeed, can one find in these days a house like this, which, for more than one hundred years, has been occupied by the family for whom it was built, and through all the changes and chances of temporal affairs has preserved the characteristics of revolutionary times.
Originally Dunbarton was Starkstown. An ancestor of this family, Archibald Stark, was one of the original proprietors, owning many hundred acres, not a few of which are still in the Starks' possession. Just when and by whom the place received the name of the old Scottish town and royal castle on the Clyde, no historian seems able to state with definiteness, but that the present Dunbarton represents only a small part of the original triangular township, all are agreed. Of the big landowner, Archibald Stark, the General John Stark of our Revolution was a son.
Another of the original proprietors of Dunbarton was a certain Captain Caleb Page, whose name still clings to a rural neighbourhood of the township, a crossroads section pointed out to visitors as Page's Corner. And it was to Elizabeth Page, the bright and capable daughter of his father's old friend and neighbour, that the doughty John Stark was married in August, 1758, while at home on a furlough. The son of this marriage was called Caleb, after his maternal grandfather, and he it was who built the imposing old mansion of our story.
Caleb Stark was a very remarkable man. Born at Dunbarton, December 3, 1759, he was present while only a lad at the battle of Bunker Hill, standing side by side with some of the veteran rangers of the French war, near the rail fence, which extended from the redoubt to the beach of the Mystic River. In order to be at this scene of conflict, the boy had left home secretly some days before, mounted on his own horse, and armed only with a musket. After a long, hard journey, he managed to reach the Royall house in Medford, which was his father's headquarters at the time, the very night before the great battle. And the general, though annoyed at his son's manner of coming, recognised that the lad had done only what a Stark must do at such a time, and permitted him to take part in the next day's fight.
After that, there followed for Caleb a time of great social opportunity, which transformed the clever, but unpolished New Hampshire boy into as fine a young gentleman as was to be found in the whole country. The Royall house, it will be remembered, was presided over in the troublous war times by the beautiful ladies of the family, than whom no more cultured and distinguished women were anywhere to be met. And these, though Tory to the backbone, were disposed to be very kind and gracious to the brave boy whom the accident of war had made their guest.
So it came about that even before he reached manhood's estate, Caleb Stark had acquired the grace and polish of Europe. Nor was the lad merely a carpet knight. So ably did he serve his father that he was made the elder soldier's aid-de-camp, when the father was made a brigadier-general, and by the time the war closed, was himself Major Stark, though scarcely twenty-four years old.
Soon after peace was declared, the young major came into his Dunbarton patrimony, and in 1784, in a very pleasant spot in the midst of his estate, and facing the broad highway leading from Dunbarton to Weare, he began to build his now famous house. It was finished the next year, and in 1787, the young man, having been elected town treasurer of Dunbarton, resolved to settle down in his new home, and brought there as his wife, Miss Sarah McKinstrey, a daughter of Doctor William McKinstrey, formerly of Taunton, Massachusetts, a beautiful and cultivated girl, just twenty years old.
It is interesting in this connection to note that all the women of the Stark family have been beauties, and that they have, too, been sweet and charming in disposition, as well as in face. The old mansion on the Weare road has been the home during its one hundred and ten years of life of several women who would have adorned, both by reason of their personal and intellectual charms, any position in our land. This being true, it is not odd that the country folk speak of the Stark family with deepest reverence.
Beside building the family homestead, Caleb Stark did two other things which serve to make him distinguished even in a family where all were great. He entertained Lafayette, and he accumulated the family fortune. Both these things were accomplished at Pembroke, where the major early established some successful cotton mills. The date of his entertainment of Lafayette was, of course, 1825, the year when the marquis, after laying the corner-stone of our monument on Bunker Hill, made his triumphal tour through New Hampshire.
The bed upon which the great Frenchman slept during his visit to the Starks is still carefully preserved, and those guests who have had the privilege of being entertained by the present owners of the house can bear testimony to the fact that the couch is an extremely comfortable one. The room in which this bed is the most prominent article of furniture bears the name of the Lafayette room, and is in every particular furnished after the manner of a sleeping apartment of one hundred years ago. The curtains of the high bedstead, the quaint toilet-table, the bedside table with its brass candlestick, and the pictures and the ornaments are all in harmony. Nowhere has a discordant modern note been struck. The same thing is true of all the other apartments in the house. The Starks have one and all displayed great taste and decided skill in preserving the long-ago tone that makes the place what it is. The second Caleb, who inherited the estate in 1838, when his father, the brilliant major, died, was a Harvard graduate, and writer of repute, being the author of a valuable memoir of his father and grandfather. He collected, even more than they had done, family relics of interest. When he died in 1865, his two sisters, Harriett and Charlotte, succeeded him in the possession of the estate.
Only comparatively recently has this latter sister died, and the place come into the hands of its present owner, Mr. Charles F. Morris Stark, an heir who has the traditions of the Morris family to add to those of the Starks, being on his mother's side a lineal descendant of Robert Morris, the great financier of the Revolution. The present Mrs. Stark is the representative of still another noted New Hampshire family, being the granddaughter of General John McNeil, a famous soldier of the Granite State.
Few, indeed, are the homes in America which contain so much which, while of intimate interest to the family, is as well of wide historical importance. Though a home, the house has the value of a museum. The portrait of Major Stark, which hangs in the parlour at the right of the square entrance-hall, was painted by Professor Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the discoverer of the electric telegraph, a man who wished to come down to posterity as an artist, but is now remembered by us only as an inventor.
This picture is an admirable presentation of its original. The gallant major looks down upon us with a person rather above the medium in height, of a slight but muscular frame, with the short waistcoat, the high collar, and the close, narrow shoulders of the gentleman's costume of 1830. The carriage of the head is noble, and the strong features, the deep-set, keen, blue eyes, and the prominent forehead, speak of courage, intelligence, and cool self-possession.
Beside this noteworthy portrait hangs a beautiful picture of the first mistress of this house, the Mrs. Stark who, as a girl, was Miss Sarah McKinstrey. Her portrait shows her to have been a fine example of the blonde type of beauty. The splendid coils of her hair are very lustrous, and the dark hazel eyes look out from the frame with the charm and dignity of a St. Cecilia. Her costume, too, is singularly appropriate and becoming, azure silk with great puffs of lace around the white arms and queenly throat. The waist, girdled under the armpits, and the long-wristed mits stamp the date 1815-21.
The portrait of General Stark, which was painted by Miss Hannah Crowninshield, is said not to look so much like the doughty soldier as does the Morse picture of his son, but Gilbert Stuart's Miss Charlotte Stark, recently deceased, shows the last daughter of the family to have fairly sustained in her youth the reputation for beauty which goes with the Stark women.
Beside the portraits, there are in the house many other choice and valuable antiques. Among these the woman visitor notices with particular interest the fan that was once the property of Lady Pepperell, who was a daughter, it will be remembered, of the Royall family, who were so kind to Major Caleb Stark in his youth. And to the man who loves historical things, the cane presented to General Stark when he was a major, for valiant conduct in defence of Fort William Henry, will be of especial interest. This cane is made from the bone of a whale and is headed with ivory. On the mantelpiece stands another very interesting souvenir, a bronze statuette of Napoleon I., which Lafayette brought with him from France and presented to Major Stark.
Apropos of this there is an amusing story. The major was a great admirer of the distinguished Bonaparte, and made a collection of Napoleonic busts and pictures, all of which, together with the numerous other effects of the Stark place, had to be appraised at his death. As it happened, the appraiser was a countryman of limited intelligence, and, when he was told to put down "twelve Bonapartes," recorded "twelve pony carts," and it was thus that the item appeared on the legal paper.
The house itself is a not unworthy imitation of an English manor-house, with its aspect of old-time grandeur and picturesque repose. It is of wood, two and a half stories high, with twelve dormer windows, a gambrel roof, and a large two-story L. In front there are two rows of tall and stately elms, and the trim little garden is enclosed by a painted iron fence. On either side of the spacious hall, which extends through the middle of the house, are to be found handsome trophies of the chase, collected by the present master of the place, who is a keen sportsman.
A gorgeous carpet, which dates back fifty years, having been laid in the days of the beautiful Sarah, supplies the one bit of colour in the parlour, while in the dining-room the rich silver and handsome mahogany testify to the old-time glories of the place. Of manuscripts which are simply priceless, the house contains not a few; one, over the quaint wine-cooler in the dining-room, acknowledging, in George Washington's own hand, courtesies extended to him and to his lady by a member of the Morris family, being especially interesting. Up-stairs, in the sunlit hall, among other treasures, more elegant but not more interesting, hangs a sunbonnet once worn by Molly Stark herself.
Not far off down the country road is perhaps the most beautiful and attractive spot in the whole town, the old family burying-ground of the Starks, in which are interred all the deceased members of this remarkable family, from the Revolutionary Major Caleb and his wife down. Here, with grim, towering Kearsarge standing ever like a sentinel, rests under the yew-trees the dust of this great family's honoured dead.
A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE
"The only time I ever heard Washington swear," Lafayette once remarked, "was when he called General Charles Lee a 'damned poltroon,' after the arrest of that officer for treasonable conduct." Nor was Washington the only person of self-restraint and good manners whose temper and angry passions were roused by this same erratic General Lee.
Lee was an Englishman, born in Cheshire in 1731. He entered the British army at the age of eleven years, was in Braddock's expedition, and was wounded at Ticonderoga in 1758. He also served for a time in Portugal, but certain infelicities of temper hindered his advancement, and he never rose higher in the British service than a half-pay major. As a "soldier of fortune" he was vastly more successful. In all the pages of American history, indeed, it would be difficult to find anybody whose career was more interestingly and picturesquely checkered than was his.
Lee's purpose in coming to America has never been fully explained. There are concerning this, as every other step of his career, two diametrically opposed opinions. The American historians have for the most agreed in thinking him traitorous and self-seeking, but for my own part I find little to justify this belief, for I have no difficulty whatever in accounting for his soldierly vagaries on the score of his temperament, and the peculiar conditions of his early life. A man who, while still a youth, was adopted by the Mohawk Indians,—who who bestowed upon him the significant name of Boiling Water,—who was at one time aid-de-camp and intimate friend of the King of Poland, who rendered good service in the Russian war against the Turks,—all before interesting himself at all in the cause of American freedom,—could scarcely be expected to be as simple in his us-ward emotions as an Israel Putnam or a General John Stark might be.
General Lee arrived in New York from London, on November 10, 1773, his avowed object in seeking the colonies at such a troublous time being to investigate the justice of the American cause. He travelled all over the country in pursuance of facts concerning the fermenting feeling against England, but he was soon able to enroll himself unequivocally upon the side of the colonies. In a letter written to Lord Percy, then stationed at Boston, this eccentric new friend of the American cause—himself, it must be remembered, still a half-pay officer in the English army—expressed with great freedom his opinion of England's position: "Were the principle of taxing America without her consent admitted, Great Britain would that instant be ruined." And to General Gage, his warm personal friend, Lee wrote: "I am convinced that the court of Tiberius was not more treacherous to the rights of mankind than is the present court of Great Britain."
It is rather odd to find that General Charles Lee, of whom we know so little, and that little scarcely to his credit, occupied in the military court of the American array a position second only to Washington; he was appointed a major-general on June 17, 1775, a date marked for us by the fact that Bunker Hill's battle was then fought. Not long after his arrival at the camp, General Lee, with that tendency to independent action which was afterward to work to his undoing, took up his quarters in the Royall house. And Lee it was who gave to the fine old place the name Hobgoblin Hall. From this mansion, emphatically remote from Lee's command, the eccentric general was summarily recalled by his commander-in-chief, then, as ever after, quick to administer to this major-general what he conceived to be needed reproof.
The house in which General Lee next resided is still standing on Sycamore Street, Somerville. When the place was occupied by Lee it had one of those long pitched roofs, descending to a single story at the back, which are still occasionally met with in our interior New England towns. The house was, however, altered to its present appearance by that John Tufts who occupied it during post-Revolutionary times. From this lofty dwelling, Lee was able to overlook Boston, and to observe, by the aid of a strong field-glass, all the activities of the enemy's camp.
Lee himself was at this time an object of unfriendly espionage. In a "separate and secret despatch," Lord Dartmouth instructed General Gage to have a special eye on the ex-English officer. That Lee had resigned his claim to emolument in the English army does not seem to have made his countrymen as clear as it should have done concerning his relation to their cause.
Meanwhile, General Lee, though sleeping in his wind-swept farmhouse and watching from its windows the movements of the British, indulged when opportunity offered in the social pleasures of the other American officers. Rough and unattractive in appearance,—he seems to have been a kind of Cyrano de Bergerac, "a tall man, lank and thin, with a huge nose,"—he had, when he chose, a certain amount of social grace, and was often extremely entertaining.
Mrs. John Adams, who first met General Lee at an evening party at Major Mifflin's house in Cambridge, describes him as looking like a "careless, hardy veteran," who brought to her mind his namesake, Charles XII. "The elegance of his pen far exceeds that of his person," commented this acute lady. In further describing this evening spent at Major Mifflin's home, in the Brattle mansion, Mrs. Adams writes: "General Lee was very urgent for me to tarry in town, and dine with him and the ladies present, but I excused myself. The general was determined that I should not only be acquainted with him, but with his companions, too, and therefore placed a chair before me, into which he ordered Mr. Spada (his dog) to mount, and present his paw to me for better acquaintance." Lee was very fond indeed of dogs, and was constantly attended by one or more of them, this Spada being a great, shaggy Pomeranian, described by unbiased critics as looking more like a bear than a harmless canine. In this connection, it is interesting to know that Lee has expressed himself very strongly in regard to the affection of men as compared with the affection of dogs.
This love for dogs was, however, one of the more ornamental of General Lee's traits. His carelessness in regard to his personal appearance was famous, and not a few amusing stories are told of the awkward situations in which this officer's slovenliness involved him. On one of Washington's journeys, in which Lee accompanied him, the major-general, upon arriving at the house where they were to dine, went straight to the kitchen and demanded something to eat. The cook, taking him for a servant, told him that she would give him some victuals directly, but that he must first help her off with the pot—a request with which he readily complied. He was then told to take a bucket and go to the well for water, and was actually engaged in drawing it when found by an aide whom Washington had despatched in quest of him. The cook was in despair when she heard her assistant addressed by the title of "General." The mug fell from her hands, and dropping on her knees, she began crying for pardon, when Lee, who was ever ready to see the impropriety of his own conduct, but never willing to change it, gave her a crown, and, turning to the aid-de-camp, observed: "You see, young man, the advantage of a fine coat; the man of consequence is indebted to it for respect; neither virtue nor ability, without it, will make you look like a gentleman."
Perhaps the most remarkable episode in all Lee's social career, was that connected with Sir William Howe's famous entertainment at Philadelphia, the Mischianza. This was just after the affair at Monmouth, in the course of which Washington swore, and Lee was taken prisoner. Yet though a prisoner, the eccentric general was treated with the greatest courtesy, and seems even to have received a card for the famous ball. But, never too careful of his personal appearance, he must on this occasion have looked particularly uncouth. Certainly the beautiful Miss Franks, one of the Philadelphia belles, thought him far from ornamental, and, with the keen wit for which she was celebrated, spread abroad a report that General Lee came to the ball clad in green breeches, patched with leather. To prove to her that entire accuracy had not been used in describing his garb at the ball, the general sent the young lady the very articles of clothing which she had criticised! Naturally, neither the ladies nor their escorts thought any better of Lee's manners after this bit of horse-play, and it is safe to say he was not soon again invited to an evening party. Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Mercy Warren both call Lee "a crabbed man." The latter described him in a letter to Samuel Adams as "plain in his person to a degree of ugliness; careless even to impoliteness; his garb ordinary; his voice rough; his manners rather morose; yet sensible, learned, judicious, and penetrating."
Toward the end of his life, Lee took refuge in an estate which he had purchased in Berkeley County, Virginia. Here he lived, more like a hermit than a citizen of the world, or a member of a civilised community. His house was little more than a shell, without partitions, and it lacked even such articles of furniture as were necessary for the most common uses. To a gentleman who visited him in this forlorn retreat, where he found a kitchen in one corner, a bed in another, books in a third, saddles and harness in a fourth, Lee said: "Sir, it is the most convenient and economical establishment in the world. The lines of chalk which you see on the floor mark the divisions of the apartments, and I can sit in a corner and give orders and overlook the whole without moving from my chair."
General Lee died in an obscure inn in Philadelphia, October 2, 1782. His will was characteristic: "I desire most earnestly that I may not be buried in any church or churchyard, or within a mile of any Presbyterian or Baptist meeting-house; for since I have resided in this country I have kept so much bad company that I do not choose to continue it when dead." In this will, our singular hero paid a tribute of affectionate remembrance to several of his intimate friends, and of grateful generosity to the humble dependents who had adhered to him and ministered to his wants in his retirement. The bulk of his property—for he was a man of no small means—was bequeathed to his only sister, Sydney Lee, to whom he was ever devotedly attached.
[Footnote 2: Drake's "Historic Fields and Mansions of Middlesex." Little, Brown & Co., publishers.]
[Footnote 3: Drake's "Historic Fields and Mansions of Middlesex."]
[Footnote 4: Sparks's "Life of Charles Lee." Little, Brown & Co.]
THE MESSAGE OF THE LANTERNS
There are many points of view from which this tale of Paul Revere may be told, but to the generality of people the interest of the poem, and of the historical event itself, will always centre around Christ Church, on Salem Street, in the North End of Boston—the church where the lanterns were hung out on the night before the battles of Lexington and Concord. At nearly every hour of the day some one may be seen in the now unfrequented street looking up at the edifice's lofty spire with an expression full of reverence and satisfaction. There upon the venerable structure, imbedded in the solid masonry of the tower front, one reads upon a tablet:
THE SIGNAL LANTERNS OF
DISPLAYED IN THE STEEPLE
OF THIS CHURCH,
APRIL 18, 1775,
WARNED THE COUNTRY OF
THE MARCH OF THE
BRITISH TROOPS TO LEXINGTON
If the pilgrim wishes to get into the very spirit of old Christ Church and its historical associations, he can even climb the tower——
"By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread, To the belfry chamber overhead, And startle the pigeons from their perch On the sombre rafters, that round him make Masses and moving shapes of shade"——
to look down as sexton Robert Newman did that eventful night on——
"The graves on the hill, Lonely and spectral and sombre and still."
The first time I ever climbed the tower I confess that I was seized with an overpowering sense of the weirdness and mystery of those same spectral graves, seen thus from above. It was dark and gloomy going up the stairs, and if Robert Newman had thought of the prospect, rather than of his errand, I venture to say he must have been frightened for all his bravery, in that gloomy tower at midnight.
But, of course, his mind was intent on the work he had to do, and on the signals which would tell how the British were to proceed on their march to seize the rebel stores at Concord. The signals agreed upon were two lanterns if the troops went by way of water, one if they were to go by land. In Longfellow's story we learn that Newman——
"Through alley and street, Wanders and watches with eager ears, Till in the silence around him he hears The muster of men at the barrack door, The sound of arms and the tramp of feet, And the measured tread of the grenadiers, Marching down to their boats on the shore."
It had been decided that the journey should be made by sea!
The Province of Massachusetts, it must be understood, was at this time on the eve of open revolt. It had formed an army, commissioned its officers, and promulgated orders as if there were no such person as George III. It was collecting stores in anticipation of the moment when its army should take the field. It had, moreover, given General Gage—whom the king had sent to Boston to put down the rebellion there—to understand that the first movement made by the royal troops into the country would be considered as an act of hostility, and treated as such. Gage had up to this time hesitated to act. At length his resolution to strike a crippling blow, and, if possible, to do it without bloodshed, was taken. Spies had informed him that the patriots' depot of ammunition was at Concord, and he had determined to send a secret expedition to destroy those stores. Meanwhile, however, the patriots were in great doubt as to the time when the definite movement was to be made.
Fully appreciating the importance of secrecy, General Gage quietly got ready eight hundred picked troops, which he meant to convey under cover of night across the West Bay, and to land on the Cambridge side, thus baffling the vigilance of the townspeople, and at the same time considerably shortening the distance his troops would have to march. So much pains were taken to keep the actual destination of these troops a profound secret, that even the officer who was selected for the command only received an order notifying him to hold himself in readiness.
"The guards in the town were doubled," writes Mr. Drake, "and in order to intercept any couriers who might slip through them, at the proper moment mounted patrols were sent out on the roads leading to Concord. Having done what he could to prevent intelligence from reaching the country, and to keep the town quiet, the British general gave his orders for the embarkation; and at between ten and eleven of the night of April 18, the troops destined for this service were taken across the bay in boats to the Cambridge side of the river. At this hour, Gage's pickets were guarding the deserted roads leading into the country, and up to this moment no patriot courier had gone out."
Newman with his signals and Paul Revere on his swift horse were able, however, to baffle successfully the plans of the British general. The redcoats had scarcely gotten into their boats, when Dawes and Paul Revere started by different roads to warn Hancock and Adams, and the people of the country-side, that the regulars were out. Revere rode by way of Charlestown, and Dawes by the great highroad over the Neck. Revere had hardly got clear of Charlestown when he discovered that he had ridden headlong into the middle of the British patrol! Being the better mounted, however, he soon distanced his pursuers, and entered Medford, shouting like mad, "Up and arm! Up and arm! The regulars are out! The regulars are out!"
Longfellow has best described the awakening of the country-side:
"A hurry of hoofs in the village street, A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark, And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet; That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night; And the spark struck out by that steed, in its flight, Kindled the land into flame with its heat."
The Porter house in Medford, at which Revere stopped long enough to rouse the captain of the Guards, and warn him of the approach of the regulars, is now no longer standing, but the Clark place, in Lexington, where the proscribed fellow-patriots, Hancock and Adams, were lodging that night, is still in a good state of preservation.
The room occupied by "King" Hancock and "Citizen" Adams is the one on the lower floor, at the left of the entrance. Hancock was at this time visiting this particular house because "Dorothy Q," his fiancee, was just then a guest of the place, and martial pride, coupled, perhaps, with the feeling that he must show himself in the presence of his lady-love a soldier worthy of her favour, inclined him to show fight when he heard from Revere that the regulars were expected. His widow related, in after years, that it was with great difficulty that she and the colonel's aunt kept him from facing the British on the day following the midnight ride. While the bell in the green was sounding the alarm, Hancock was cleaning his sword and his fusee, and putting his accoutrements in order. He is said to have been a trifle of a dandy in his military garb, and his points, sword-knot, and lace, were always of the newest fashion. Perhaps it was the desire to show himself in all his war-paint that made him resist so long the importunities of the ladies, and the urgency of other friends! The astute Adams, it is recounted, was a little annoyed at his friend's obstinacy, and, clapping him on the shoulder, exclaimed, as he looked significantly at the weapons, "That is not our business; we belong to the cabinet."
It was Adams who threw light on the whole situation. Half an hour after Revere reached the house, the other express arrived, and the two rebel leaders, being now fully convinced that it was Concord which was the threatened point, hurried the messengers on to the next town, after allowing them barely time to swallow a few mouthfuls of food. Adams did not believe that Gage would send an army merely to take two men prisoners. To him, the true object of the expedition was very clear.
Revere, Dawes, and young Doctor Prescott, of Concord, who had joined them, had got over half the distance to the next town, when, at a sudden turning, they came upon the second redcoat patrol. Prescott leaped his horse over the roadside wall, and so escaped across the fields to Concord. Revere and Dawes, at the point of the pistol, gave themselves up. Their business on the road at that hour was demanded by the officer, who was told in return to listen. Then, through the still morning air, the distant booming of the alarm bell's peal on peal was borne to their ears.
It was the British who were now uneasy. Ordering the prisoners to follow them, the troop rode off at a gallop toward Lexington, and when they were at the edge of the village, Revere was told to dismount, and was left to shift for himself. He then ran as fast as his legs could carry him across the pastures back to the Clark parsonage, to report his misadventure, while the patrol galloped off toward Boston to announce theirs. But by this time, the Minute Men of Lexington had rallied to oppose the march of the troops. Thanks to the intrepidity of Paul Revere, the North End coppersmith, the redcoats, instead of surprising the rebels in their beds, found them marshalled on Lexington Green, and at Concord Bridge, in front, flank, and rear, armed and ready to dispute their march to the bitter end.
"You know the rest. In the books you have read How the British regulars fired and fled— How the farmers gave them ball for ball, From behind each fence and farmyard wall, Chasing the redcoats down the lane, Then crossing the fields to emerge again Under the trees at the turn of the road, And only pausing to fire and load.
"So through the night rode Paul Revere; And so through the night went his cry of alarm To every Middlesex village and farm—— A cry of defiance and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo for evermore! For, borne on the night wind of the past, Through all our history, to the last, The people will waken and listen to hear The hurrying hoof beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere."