Saturday, July 26, 2008

Crusoe's dismay

Felicia Hemans to family

Dove Nest [Windermere, July 1830]

My dear ,
I have too long left unacknowledged your welcome letter, but the wicked world does so continue to persecute me with notes, and parcels, and dispatches, that, even here, I cannot find half the leisure you would imagine. Yesterday I had three visiting cards--upon which I look with a fearful and boding eye--left at the house, whilst I was sitting, in the innocency of my heart, thinking no harm, by the side of the lake. Imagine visiting cards at Dove's Nest! Robinson Crusoe's dismay at seeing the print of the man's foot in the sand could have been nothing, absolutely nothing, to mine, when these evil tokens of 'young ladies with pink parasols' met my distracted sight, on my return from the shore. En revanche, however, I have just received the most exquisite letter ever indited by the pen of man, from a young American, who being an inhabitant of No. _____, _____, is certainly not likely to trouble me with anything more than his 'spiritual attachment,' as Mr. _____of _____ is pleased to call it. He, that is, my American, must certainly not be the 'walking-stick,' but the very leaping- pole of friendship. Pray read, mark, learn, and promulgate for the benefit of the family, the following delectable passage. "How often have I sung some touching stanza of your own, as I rode on horseback of a Saturday evening, from the village academy to my house a little distance out of town; and saw through the waving cedars and pines, the bark roof and the open door of some pleasant wigwam, where the young comely maidens were making their curious baskets, or mocasins, or wampum-belts, and singing their 'To-gas-a-wana, or evening song. How often have I murmured 'Bring flowers' or the 'Voice of Spring,' as thus I pondered along! How often have I stood on the shore of the Cayuga, the Seneca, the Oneida, and the Skanateles, and called to mind the sweetness of your strains!' I see you are enchanted, my dear,--but this is not all: 'the lowliest of my admirers,' as the amiable youth entitles himself, begs permission to be for once my 'cordonnier,' and is about to send me a pair of Indian mocasins, with my illustrious name interwoved in the buckskin of which they are composed, with wampum beads.' If I receive this precious gift before I return to Liverpool, I shall positively make my appearance, en squaw, the very first evening I come to _____ street; and pray tell Dr. ______ that with these mocasins, and a blanket to correspond, I shall certainly be able to defy all the rigours of the ensuing winter. I am much disappointed to find that there is no prospect of your visiting this lovely country. I am sure that nothing would do ______ so much good as a brief return to its glorious scenery: there is balm in the very stillness of the spot I have chosen. The 'majestic silence' of these lakes, perfectly soundless and waveless as they are, except when troubled by the wind, is to me most impressive. O what a poor thing is society in the presence of skies and waters and everlasting hills! You may be sure I do not allude to the dear intercourse of friend with friend--that would be dearer tenfold--more precious, more hallowed in scenes like this. Oh! how I wish you were here! . . .

-from Memorials of Mrs. Hemans: with illustrations of her literary character, from her private correspondence by Henry F. Chorley in 2 volumes (London: Saunders and Otley, 1836) vol. 2, pp. 131-34.

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