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spair ; yet always said to myself, I shall be wiser next year.”Memoirs of an American Lady, p. 238. American Ed.
This volume was the means of introducing her to the most distinguished woman of the Province of New York, Madam Schuyler ; who, though she herself continued a Royalist to the last, was aunt of the eminent and excellent General Schuyler, to whose services in our American Revolution due honor has not yet been paid. At Albany, in a wasteroom, where she found a tattered dictionary, Anne, by the aid of this, and with occasional assistance from those who were able and willing to help her through her difficulties, studied out the meaning of her Milton, feeling an absorbing interest in the pursuit, which a student of riper years might well envy. This is the kind of study which benefits the mind. Impressions thus received are ineffaceable.
6. Time ran on,” is her own account, given in after life ; “ I was eight years old, and quite uneducated, except reading and plainwork. When company came, I was considered as in the way, and sent up to my waste-room; but here lay my whole pleasure; for I had neither companions nor amusement.”
Meanwhile, the fame of Madam Schuyler reached her ears, and she was earnestly desirous of seeing her. The opportunity at last arrived. Her father took lodgings in Albany, in a house next to that lady's ; and she, being pleased with what she heard of his character, sent an invitation to the family to pass the evening with her. - With no little awe and agitation," says Mrs. Grant, “I came into the presence of Madame." But she was now about to receive a great reward for her faithful study of Milton. She says:
" In the course of the evening, dreams began to be talked of; and every one in turn gave their opinion with regard to that wonderful mode, in which the mind acts independent of the senses, asserting its immaterial nature in a manner the most conclusive. I mused and listened, till at length the spirit of quota. tion (which very early began to haunt me) moved me to repeat, from Paradise Lost,
" When nature rests,
Wild work produces oft.'
mere a child, she attached much more importance to the circumstance than it deserved ; so much, indeed, that, long after, she used to repeat it to strangers in my presence, by way of accounting for the great fancy she had taken to me.
These partial repetitions of hers fixed this lucky quotation indelibly in my mind.” — Memoirs of an American Lady, pp. 243, 244.
The connection thus formed grew stronger, and had an important influence on Anne's happiness and improvement,
* It is remarkable, that of the manner of her introduction to the notice of Madam Schuyler Mrs. Grant has given three different accounts, each inconsistent in its details with both of the others. That quoted above has the appearance of being the most correct. In the autobiographical memoir, prefixed to the posthumous collection of her letters, she says: “Some time after our arrival at Albany, I accompanied my parents one evening to visit Madame Schuyler... The conversation fell upon dreams and forewarn. ings. I rarely spoke till spoken to, at any time; but, of a sudden, the spirit moved me to say, that bad angels sometimes whispered dreams into the soul. When asked for my authority, I surprised every one, but myself most of all, by a long quotation from Eve's fatal dream, infusing into her mind the ambition that led to guilt. After this happy quota. tion I became a great favorite, and Madame Schuyler never failed to tell any one who had read Milton of the origin of her partiality.'
But the quotation given above, which Mrs. Grant supposed to have been indelibly fixed in her mind, is not a long quotation from Eve's account of her dream, but is taken from Adam's reply to her; and nothing is said in it about bad angels whispering dreams into the soul.
Again; in her “ Letters from the Mountains,” (Letter XXI.,) she says: “My father attracted Madame Schuyler's notice by, his piely, not very frequently a distinguishing feature in the military character. I will not tire you with the detail of all the little circumstances that gradually acquired me the place in her favor which I ever continued to possess. She saw me reading Paradise Lost with delighted attention ; she was astonished to see a child take pleasure in such a book, and no less so lo observe, that I loved to sit thoughtful by her, and hear the conversations of elderly and grave people.?
These three passages strikingly illustrate the fact, that a story may be unquestionably true in all its essential characteristics and bearings, though individuals who have been placed in the best possible circumstances for knowing the truth – eye and ear witnesses — may differ from each other irreconcilably in their details of it. We have here three narratives of a single individual relating to an incident adapted to make a deep impression on her memory, and they are irreconcilable.
The general truth just mentioned has not often been very grossly disre. garded, except by those who have objected to the essential truth of the facts recorded in the Gospels on account of the unessential discrepancies in the narrations of them by different Evangelists. But it is a truth which does not appear to have dawned upon the minds of some of the modern German writers of this class. Adopting their style of criticism on the Gospels, and applying it to Mrs. Grant's narratives, we should undoubtedly conclude, that the whole story about Milton was a myth, and that Mrs. Schuyler was probably a mythical personage; especially as, in immediate connection with one of the narratives quoted, Mrs. Grant expressly says, that she “regarded her as the Minerva of her imagination.”
during the remaining four years which she spent in America. Mrs. Schuyler, who had no children of her own, appears to have become much attached to the intelligent little girl who loved and revered her, and to have found her often her most pleasant companion.
She now obtained access to more books, and among them to Shakspeare, and was not a little mortified when she found herself unable to appreciate his merits. “I thought bis plays,” she says, “very inferior to Cato, whom Aunt (Madam] Schuyler had taught me to admire.” But she persevered in their study.
“I remember,' she relates, reading Hamlet the third or fourth time, in a frosty night, by moonlight, in the back porch. This reiterated perusal was not in consequence of any great pleasure it afforded me; but I was studiously laboring to discover the excellence I thought it must needs contain ; yet with more diligence than success." Memoirs of an American Lady, p. 288.
Her mind gradually unsolded, and Shakspeare became to her a new source of delight. But her efforts at intellectual improvement were pursued under great disadvantages and discouragements. At one time, a terrible decree went forth, that she was to read no more “idle books or plays.” She had, it may be feared, neglected her sewing tasks. driven to read books of divinity, probably Calvinistic divinity. But, with a degree of casuistry, in which young people are apt to display their talents on such occasions, she persuaded herself that the spirit of the prohibition did not exclude the reading of the historical plays, because they · were true ; and in the lapse of time, she evidently regarded the decree itself as having become obsolete.
In 1768, when she was thirteen years old, her father, who had been suffering much in his spirits and health, determined to return with his wife and child to Scotland, and Anne left America never to see it again. Thus ends one epoch of her long, eventful, and changing life, during which she had to do and to suffer much, and was brought into close connection with very different forms of life, and very different classes of mankind. In America she had become acquainted with the primitive manners of the Dutch settlers on the Hudson, she had spent months in a garrisoned fort on Lake Ontario,
she had been familiar with our aborigines, who still dwelt in the neighbourhood of Albany; she had, in company with her father, visited a great Indian king or chief in his palace or wigwam on the Mohawk, and “went out of the royal presence overawed and delighted"; she was in a few years to become the wife of a Highland clergyman, and to dwell among another portion of mankind scarcely less peculiar, and not less romantic in their aspect, than our native Indians ; and thence she was to be removed to associate familiarly with a highly cultivated and intellectual circle, that drew upon
itself the gaze of the world.
On her return to Scotland, her father entered into some kind of business at Glasgow, and here she remained, without any particular incident to mark her life, till the commencement of her nineteenth year. She here, however, formed an intimate friendship with two young ladies, sisters, of the name of Ewing, and with another, Henrietta Reid. It continued with each of them till it was dissolved by death.
The two former appear in the last collection of her letters under the names of Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Brown. To Miss Reid many of her earlier printed letters are addressed. This lady was soon, but not happily, married. Her husband was unfortunate in business, and other circumstances contributed to her discomfort. “ She was,” says Mrs. Grant, “a perfect model of patient meekness, always suffering, never complaining, frugal, industrious, and preserving not the equanimity only, but the dignity and delicacy of her mind, through all exigencies." Her family increased rapidly, and she died in giving birth to her eleventh child.*
In 1773, Mrs. Grant's father received the appointment of Barrack-master of Fort Augustus, in Inverness-shire, and removed his family thither. With her journey to that place commences the portion of Mrs. Grant's correspondence which was published under the title of “ Letters from the Mountains. The first forty of them contain an account of the incidents of her life, with notices and sketches of friends and acquaintance, during the six years between her leaving Glasgow and her marriage (when twenty-four years old) in May, 1779. Her residence during this period was at Fort Augustus, where she formed a friendship with Miss Ourry,
afterwards Mrs. Furzer, to whom many of her letters are addressed. On the first evening after her arrival there, she met her future husband, the Rev. James Grant.
The account of the events and concerns of her life during the interval just mentioned, to be read with interest, must be read in her own letters. The society at Fort Augustus was, in general, far from being agreeable ; and in her circumstances, there could, for the most part, have been nothing very gratifying. Whatever she effected for her own improvement it would seem that she must have done with little aid from without. Yet there is no repining in her letters. Her cheerfulness and alacrity of mind do not appear to have failed.
Her residence at Fort Augustus was terminated by her marriage. This connection, as regards both the character and the circumstances of her husband, seems to have been peculiarly adapted to make her happy. She was free from the cravings and sufferings of vanity and the love of display. She had no tendency to regard herself as an extraordinary personage, to whom her fellow-creatures were in danger of doing injustice by neglect. In her simplicity and true-heartedness, she was happy to be the wife of an obscure Highland clergyman, without the least thought of ever becoming famous ; though pleased, without doubt, to gratify her friends by her talents in writing letters and making verses, and by the vivacity of her conversation. While she was faithfully performing her duties in the secluded parish of Laggan, of which her husband was the pastor, few things could have seemed less probable than that she should become known to the world. But for circumstances that could not be anticipated, she would probably have lived and died in the Highlands, one of those “ of whom Fame speaks not,” but
gentle hearts rejoice
Around their steps, till silently they die." In truth, the fame of Mrs. Grant, if it may be so called, was in great part only an expression of esteem for those admirable qualities of character, exercised in domestic and private life, which her vicissitudes and sufferings were accidentally the means of bringing into public view.
Somewhat more than two years after her marriage, she wrote to her friend, Miss Ewing, describing her situation. The letter is dated at Fort Augustus, where she was on a visit. She says: