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THE

ATLANTIC MONTHLY

A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art,

and Politics.

VOL. XVIII. - DECEMBER, 1866. — NO. CX.

JOHN PIERPONT.

as we

", wards,” like Lear, and who, like trust, to hear the greeting of “Well Lear, have been “ mightily abused” in done, thou good and faithful servant!” their day, are found, upon diligent in- Says a friend, in a letter now lying quiry, to have long outlived themselves, before me, of August 27th : "On Satlike the Archbishop of Granada ; but urday afternoon, day before yesterday, here is a man, or was but the other your friend and my friend, Rev. John day, in his eighty-second year, with the Pierpont, called upon me, and we had temper and edge and "bright blue rip- a very interesting interview of about pling glitter” of a Damascus blade up an hour. I never saw him look better to the very last; or rather, considering or appear happier. Although eightyhow he was last employed, with the one years of age the 6th of last April, temper of that strange tool, found among he seemed to have the elasticity of the ruins of Thebes, with which they youth, and he was perfectly erect. I used to smooth and polish their huge gave him what he wanted very much, -a monoliths of granite, until they mur- copy of his trial before an ecclesiastical mured a song of joy, whenever the council in this city, several years ago. morning sunshine fell upon them. He gave me his photograph, and, tak

This remarkable man - remarkable ing his gold pen, wrote underneath, in a under many aspects - died at Medford, beautiful hand, John Pierpont, aged Massachusetts, on Monday morning, 81. He said he was doing some work August 27th; and it is now said of heart- at Washington, which he hoped to live disease, - that other name for a myste- long enough to complete. .... When rious and sudden death, happen how it I published my last book, I sent him a may, and when it may. He had been copy. He acknowledged the receipt of perfectly well the day before, attended it in a letter of eight or ten pages, which church, and called on some of his is now a treasure to me. His name neighbors; he retired to rest as usual, on the photograph was probably the and nothing more was heard of him till last time he ever wrote it,” — another Monday morning, when he was found treasure, which my friend would not

Ensered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866, by TickxOR AND Fields, in the Clerk's Office

of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts VOL. XVIII. — NO. 110.

42

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now be likely to part with for any con- South Carolina, beginning by daylight sideration.

and continuing as long as he could see, My acquaintance with Mr. Pierpont in midsummer, to get through with one began in the fall or winter of 1814, just hundred pages of Blackstone; but the when the war had assumed such pro- "grind” was too much for him, - he portions, that men's hearts were failing never tried it again. He read Gibbon, them for fear, and prodigies and por- and Chateaubriand's “Genius of Christents were of daily occurrence. New tianity," and St. Pierre, and Jeremy England too — finding herself defence- Bentham's Theory of Rewards and less and left to the mercy of our foe- Punishments,” but never to my knowlbegan to think, not of setting up for edge a novel, a romance, or a magazine herself, not of withdrawing from the article, except an occasional review; copartnership, without the consent of but Joanna Baillie, - that female Shakethe whole sisterhood, but of coming speare of a later age, — and Beattie, together for conference and proposing and Campbell, and the British poets, to the general government, not to be- and dramatic writers, were always at come neutral after the fashion of Ken- hand, hen he had nothing better to tucky, in our late misunderstanding, do, with no seals to cut, no ciphers, no not of playing the part of umpire be- razor-strops, no stoves, and no clients. tween the belligerents, like that heroic Over that field of enchantment and ilembodiment of Southern chivalry, nor lusion he wandered with lifted wings, of holding the balance of power, but, month after month, and year after year. on being allowed her just proportion of At this time he was in his thirtieth the public revenues, to undertake for year, and I in my twenty-second. No herself, and agree to give a good ac- two persons were ever more unlike; count of the enemy, if he should throw and yet we grew to be intimate friends himself upon her bulwarks, whether after a while; and at the time of his along the seaboard, or upon her great death our friendship had lasted more northern frontier.

than fifty years, with a single interrupHe had just escaped from Newbury- tion of a twelvemonth or so while I port, after writing the “Portrait," a se- was abroad, which was put an end to vere and truthful picture of the times, by our letters of reconciliation crossing which went far to give him a national each other almost on the same day. reputation for the day; and opened With a young family on his hands, a law office at 103 Court Street, Boston, precarious health and a feeble constituwhere he found nothing to do, and spent tion, as we then believed, which drove much of his time in cutting his name on him to Saratoga every two or three little ivory seals, and engraving ciphers years, and no property, what had he to _"J. P." - so beautiful in their char- look forward to, unless he could manacter, and so graceful, that one I have age to go through a course of starvanow before me, an impression taken by tion at half-price, or diet with the chahim in wax, with a vermilion bed, - formeleons ? — though great things were in all such matters he was very partic- expected of him by those who knew ular, — were enough to establish any him best, and the late Mr. Justice Story man's reputation as a seal engraver. could not bear to think of his abandonIt bears about the same relationship to ing the profession, so long as there was what are called ciphers, that Benvenuto a decent chance of living through such Cellini's flower-cups bore to the clumsy a course of preparation. goblets of his day.

After all that he has done as a poet, He was never a great reader, not be- as a preacher, as a reformer, and as a ing able to read more than fifty pages lecturer, I must say that I think he was of law and miscellany in a day, though made for a lawyer. Vigorous and acute, he managed, for once, while a tutor in clear-sighted, self-possessed, and logical Colonel Alston's family at Charleston, to a fault, if he had not married so early,

a

or if a respectable inheritance had fallen and John Pierpont for celebrations and to him, after he had learned to do with- sudden emergencies. But Sargent nevout help or patronage, as Dr. Samuel er tried the heroic, and was generally Johnson did, while undergoing Lord satisfied with imitations of Walter Scott, Chesterfield, he might have been at the and others, who were given to oddihead of the Massachusetts bar, ties and quaintness. For example, " I proud position, to be sure, at any time thought,” says he, in the longest poem within the last fifty years, or, at any he ever wrote, which appeared in quarrate, in the foremost rank, long before to, his death.

"I thought, than as a feather fair He had, withal, a great fondness for More light is filmy gossamer,

So woman's heart is lighter far mechanics, and one at least of his inven

Than lightest breath of summer air, tions, the “Pierpont or Doric Stove,” Which is so light it scarce can bear was a bit of concrete philosophy, - a

The filmiest thread of gossamer," etc., etc., etc. miniature temple glowing with perpet- While Mr. Pierpont flung himself ual fire, - a cast-iron syllogism of itself, abroad — like Handel, over the great so classically just in its proportions, and organ-keys at Haarlem - as if he nevso eminently characteristic, as to be a er knew before what legs and arms were type of the author. He had been led good for, after the following fashion :through a long course of experiment “The misty hall of Odin in the structure of grates and stoves,

With mirth and music swells,

Rings with the harps and songs of bards, and in the consumption of fuel, with the

And echoes to their shells. hope of superseding Saratoga, for him

“See how amid the cloud-wrapped ghosts self at least, by making our terrible win

Great Peter's awful form ters and our east winds a little more

Seems to sanile,

As the while, endurable. No man ever suffered more

Amid the howling storm, from what people sometimes call, with- He hears his children shout, Hurrah ! out meaning to be naughty, damp cold Amid the howling storm," etc., etc. weather.

Few men ever elaborated as he did, In addition to the “Portrait,” he had — not even Rousseau, when he wrote written a New-Year's Address or two, over whole pages and chapters of his and a fine lyric, which was said or sung “Confessions,” I forget how many times. - I forget which – at the celebration Fine thoughts were never spontaneous of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow; so with him, never unexpected, never unthat after he went off to Baltimore, and waited for, — never, certainly till long the “ Airs of Palestine" appeared in after he had got his growth. In fact, 1816, those who knew him best, in- some of the happiest passages we have stead of being astonished like the rest seem to be engraved, letter by letter, of the world, regarded it as nothing instead of being written at once, or more than the fulfilment of a promise, launched away into the stillness, like a and went about saying, or looking as red-hot thunderbolt. Well do I rememif they wanted to say, “ Did n't we tell ber a little incident which occurred in you so ?”

Baltimore, soon after the failure of And yet, with the exception of two or Pierpont and Lord -- and Neal, when three outbreaks and fashes, there was we were all dying of sheer inaction, and really nothing in his earlier manifesta- almost ready to hang ourselves - in a tions to prefigure the “ unrolling glory” metaphorical sense — as the shortest of the “ Airs,” or to justify the extrava- way of scoring off with the world. gant expectations people had enter- We were at breakfast, – it was rather tained from the first, if you would be late. lieve them.

“Where on earth is your good husRobert Treat Paine having disap- band ?” said I to Mrs. Pierpont. peared from the stage, there was no- “In bed, making poetry,” said she. body left but Lucius Manlius Sargent “ Indeed!”

rose."

wet

“ Yes, flat on his back, with his eyes But grandeur and strength were nevrolled up in his head.”

er his characteristics; the natural tenSoon after, the gentleman himself dency of the man was toward the harappeared, looking somewhat the worse monious, the loving, and the beautiful, for the labor he had gone through with, as in the following lines from the titleand all the happier, that the throes were page of his poem, “ By J. Pierpont, Esover, and the offspring ready for exhi- quire" :bition. “Here," said he, “tell me what "I love to breathe where Gilead sheds her balm ; you think of these two lines,” – handing I love to walk on Jordan's banks of palm;

I love to wet my foot in Hermon's dews; me a paper on which was written, with

I love the promptings of Isaiah's muse ; the clearness and beauty of copperplate, In Carmel's paly grots I 'll court repose, “Their reverend beards that sweep their bosoms

| And deck my mossy couch with Sharon's deathless With the chill dews of shady Olivet."

About this time it was, just before he “Charming,” said I. “And what went off to Baltimore, that we began to then ? What are you driving at ? "

have occasional glimpses of that inward “Well, I was thinking of Olivet, and fire shut up in his bones, that subterrathen I wanted a rhyme for Olivet; and

nean sunshine, that golden ore, which, rhymes are the rudders, you know, ac

smelted as the constellations were, cording to Hudibras; and then uprose

makes what men have agreed to call the picture of the Apostles before me,

poetry, - which, after all, is but another their reverend beards all dripping with

name for inspiration ; although the very the dews of night."

first outbreak I remember happened at How little did he or I then foresee the celebration already referred to, where what soon followed, — soon, that is, in

men saw comparison with all he had ever done “The Desolator desolate, the Victor overthrown, before! The “ Airs of Palestine,” like

The Arbiter of others' fate a suppliant for his own," the night-blooming cereus,

the cen- and began to breathe freely once more; tury-plant, -- flowering at last, and all and the shout of “Glory, glory! Alleat once and most unexpectedly too, af- luiah !” went up like the roar of many ter generations have waited for it, as waters from all the cities of our land, as for the penumbra of something foretold, if they themselves had been delivered until both their patience and their faith from the new Sennacherib; yet, after a have almost failed. But, from the very short season of rest, like one of our first, there were signs of growth not to Western prairies after having been overbe mistaken, - of inward growth, too, swept with fire, he began to flower anew, and oftentimes an appearance of slowly and from his innermost nature, like gathered strength, as if it had been long some great aboriginal plant of our husbanded, and for a great purpose. Northern wilderness suddenly transFor example,

ferred to a tropical region, roots and “There the gaunt wolf sits on his rock and howls,

all, by some convulsion of nature, And there, in painted pomp, the savage Indian by hurricane, or drift, or shipwreck. prowls."

And always thereafter, with a very few What a picture of brooding desolation ! brief exceptions, instead of echoing and How concentrated and how unpretend- re-echoing the musical thunders of a ing, in its simplicity and strength ! buried past, - instead of imitating, of

And again, having had visions, and tentimes unconsciously (the worst kind having begun to breathe a new atmos- of imitation, by the way, for what can phere, with Sinai in view, he says, be hoped of a man whose individuality “There blasts of unseen trumpets, long and loud,

has been tampered with, and whose Swelled by the breath of whirlwinds, rent the own perceptions mislead him?)—instead cloud," —

of counterfeiting the mighty minstrels two of the grandest lines to be found he had most reverenced, and oftentimes anywhere, out of the Hebrew.

ignorantly worshipped, as among the

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