The Sigourney Circle of Chichester, Vermont

RUMMAGING (or, as she calls it, regulating) in the garret last week, my Cousin Lucy O. found a relic of considerable value at the bottom of the cedar chest. It was the secretary’s book of the all-but-forgotten Sigourney Circle — that band of young Hypatias which flourished in Chichester a few generations ago. Several of my great-aunts belonged to it, and from this book I find that one of them was its secretary. I should have recognized that limpid handwriting, fine as a hair, traced in the rusty juice of oakgalls !

There were, it appears, fourteen or sixteen of these Chichester blues, who met, once a fortnight, at the houses of each in turn; when some would recite, some would sing, and others, who had indited moralizing essays or poems, would read them amid soft applause. Most of the subjects thus immortalized were serious, and even mournful. Inserted, however, between an autumnal dirge and a lament for Reverend Mr. Smiley, the moderator of Bennington County, we found the following set of verses purporting to describe the Circle itself at one of its intellectual repasts:—

There is a Parlour on the western pike,
Below the seven waterbars:
A dim, cool chamber looking on the woods,
And ceiled with mimic moon and stars;
Within whose walls a Stranger, riding down
From Londonderry Cattle Fair,
Espied a ring of flowery dresses pale
With coronets of braided hair.
And in the midst a mountain Lady stood,
Hanging her bright and bashful head,
And fingering her flounces piped with blue,
And quaintly stitched with silver thread;
Reciting in a small and breathless voice,
(As if in Desperate haste to flee)
Some poem from the admired Tupper’s pen,
Or works of Mrs. Sigourney.

While I was transcribing this piece of verse, in a sort of home-made shorthand, my cousin exclaimed that she had found a still more interesting piece faintly delineated, in very watery, or vinegary, ink, on one of the fly-leaves. She proceeded to read the following lines aloud, in a voice which occasionally grew thin, and threatened to break; for those early Victorian Oldenburys, whose academic wisdom and worldly foolishness are here so well suggested, were her much beloved aunts and uncles. The verses are entitled:


Turn again into the wooded Hollow
By the fabled Tory-hunter’s well,
Where the strange and bookish Oldenburys
On their wasted patrimony dwell.
Rowland ploughs to the sound of Celia’s fiddle;
Celia spins with her Milton on her knee:
Young Miranda goes forth to gather berries,
Singing the song of Ariel by the sea.
When the dusk falls downward from the landslide,
Through the bush they drive the cattle home;
They see the shadows of the first Crusaders,
Or hear the Sibyl at the gates of Rome.
In the northward, in the southward village,
Brisk steps hasten, the busy hours fly fast;
But the clocks are slow in Oldenbury Hollow,
Where they chime with the voices of the past.

This portrait, of the most endeared and delightful of families, deserves better than to be lost again in the depths of a cedar chest. My cousin contemplates having it printed in the Chichester Tri-weekly Gazette ; but a larger circulation would be procured in the Bennington Bugle.