Boyhood and Youth





IT is the pious custom of good Americans to bestow, somewhat in the Chinese fashion, a kind of posthumous nobility upon their ancestors; to transform the farmers and small tradesmen from whom they are almost all descended into gentlemen of aristocratic birth and the scions of historic English houses. This innocent exercise of the fancy produces a good deal of blameless satisfaction, since there is indeed, I believe, a richer and more abiding sense of noble birth to be derived from false than from authentic pedigrees; and plebeian blood flows with a more consciously aristocratic thrill through the veins of those who have dyed it in the azure of their own imaginations.

It is not for me, at least, to reprobate such delusions, for was I not nourished in my youth upon them? Had not certain elderly and imaginative members of my family succeeded, after long meditation, in adorning the mediocrity of their circumstances with at least one escutcheon — in tracing one portion of their line to aristocratic sources?

Of the plebeian lineage and name of Smith they could indeed make little; the Smiths were only too plainly a race of Yorkshire yeoman farmers, who, becoming Quakers, had emigrated to New Jersey in the time of William Penn, and settling in the quiet town of Burlington on the Delaware, and building themselves houses of bricks imported from England, had engaged in commerce with the West Indies, watching the broad river for the arrival of small brigantines or ‘snows,’ which sailed thither, laden with the products of the South. But one of them in the eighteenth century, my grandfather’s grandfather, with the respectable name of John Smith, had married a daughter of the secretary whom William Penn had brought to Pennsylvania and left there as his representative.

This secretary, James Logan, was, so history says, the son of a linen draper in Dublin, and he himself claimed no nobler derivation; in the creative imagination of his descendants he became, however, a descendant of a noble Scottish family, the Logans of Restalrig and owners of that Fast Castle which was described by Scott, in The Bride of Lammermoor as the castle of Ravenswood. One of the Logans had gone to Palestine as a Crusader, to convey thither the heart of Robert Bruce, and another had been hanged, centuries later, for his participation in the Gowrie Conspiracy.

Copyright 1937, by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston, Mass. All rights reserved.

This background of crusades and crimes, with imaginary castles and gallows in the distance, shed a kind of glamour on the lives of these mild Quakers, who, in spite of the Quaker ban on worldly fiction, must, it appears, have been reading Waverley Novels on the sly. And was it not for them all perfectly authentic? Had not one of them crossed the Atlantic and made a special pilgrimage to Scotland, and there, on the spot, when visiting the estate of this family, been overcome by a profound conviction of its truth? What genealogist could demand, what documents, the family felt, could provide, more convincing evidence than that?

This imaginary glory rather obscured in the eyes of his descendants their ancestor’s real distinction, for William Penn’s secretary had been an author and a man of science, and had made an important contribution to the theory of the sexuality of plants. He was a classical scholar too, and had translated into English Cicero’s De Senectute, which translation had been appropriated by Benjamin Franklin (of whom he was one of the earliest patrons) and printed by Franklin at his Philadelphia press, with a preface in which that great man expressed a hope that ‘this first translation of a classic in the Western world might be a happy omen that Philadelphia shall become the seat of the Muses.’ This hope, I may note in passing, has not been yet fulfilled, though my ancestor did his best to prepare for the advent of the Nine to the Quaker city, by bequeathing his large collection of the classics (he was one of the first of American book collectors) to the Philadelphia Library which Benjamin Franklin founded there — a collection containing two thousand volumes of the Latin classics, as well as one hundred folios in Greek.

In the meantime his son-in-law, the John Smith I have mentioned, occupied himself in a prosperous commerce with the West Indies, exchanging grain, lumber, and other products of the North with sugar, rum, and molasses from the South. These were transported in his own vessels, built in his own shipyard at Burlington, and sailing from the wharf there which he owned. After publishing in Philadelphia, where he dwelt, a pamphlet in defense of the pacifist principles of the Quakers, he had retired to the family home at Burlington, up the river, and spent the rest of his life in reading, and as his grandson, my grandfather, put it, in ‘copying into commonplace books those sentiments and sententious remarks of favorite authors which he approved.’ This taste for copying things out was shared by his family and his descendants; his brother, Samuel Smith, compiled from many documents a history of New Jersey which is still, I believe, cited by those who are interested in that subject; his son, who inherited the name of John Smith, inherited this taste also, and filled several volumes with the lives and memorable sayings of New Jersey Quakers; his grandson, who was my grandfather, published many colonial documents, and I too, with the various documents and anthologies I have published, have not failed in carrying on this family tradition.

I like to think of that lot of quiet and bookish old forbears, among whom was at least one minor poet, settled on the banks of the Delaware among the wigwams and papooses of the Indians, thinking their mild Quaker thoughts in their meetinghouses, or listening to the preaching of John Woolman, who also lived at Burlington, and was their friend and neighbor. They seem to have been content to spend their lives in this Quaker Arcadia, fishing in the broad river which flowed past their farms, or reading the books which trickled over to them across the Atlantic, and copying out sententious extracts from those eighteenth-century volumes.

My grandfather, however, John Jay Smith, left Burlington as a boy, and sailing down the Delaware to Philadelphia, establishing himself there first as a chemist’s assistant, soon began to engage in other activities. Among the stipulations which James Logan had made in bequeathing his books to the Philadelphia Library was one to the effect that any descendant of his who might desire it should be its librarian, if his tastes and qualifications rendered him fit for the position. To my grandfather this appointment was given; he occupied it many years, and was succeeded in it by one of my uncles. James Logan’s will was, I believe, invalid; the position thus dubiously bequeathed was a modest one; but since it was held for so long a period by members of our family, our claim to this humble librarianship came to be regarded, at least by ourselves, as conferring a kind of dim distinction, and it was originally intended that I should succeed my uncle, who had no son, in this, as we imaginatively designated it, the only hereditary office in America.

It was from this old Philadelphia Library, an eighteenth-century building in the neighborhood of Independence Square, with its air of venerable antiquity,— for the few old buildings found in a new country seem to possess a more antique aspect than anything in Europe, — it was in this old library, long since destroyed, with its dim interior and old folios and bewigged portraits, that I received my first bookish impressions, being often taken there as a little boy, and given a book to read by my uncle who presided over the silence of that unfrequented institution. Thus in my earliest years I became familiar with the atmosphere of old libraries, and the dim light that dwells in them, and fell under the spell which they cast upon those who haunt their precincts — that quietness, that hush of the spirit in the ghostly presence of their own immortality, stored up in rows of ancient volumes and great folios of the classics.

But I anticipate, perhaps, my more romantic impressions of this kind; it was in this library at least that, encouraged by my librarian uncle, I first formed the habit of reading. What that habit might grow into was impressed upon me by my occasional visits to the aged ex-librarian, my grandfather, at the house to which he had retired in the Quaker suburb of Germantown, where he lived to a great old age, spending his days in his study upstairs, with his gouty toe on a cushion, reading and reading all day long. ‘I believe it may be safely said,’ my grandfather wrote of himself towards the end of his life, ‘that for forty years, eight hours of every day, or nearly so, have been employed in reading of the most miscellaneous character, often the best books, but too often the lighter kind.’ When I happened, not long ago, upon this sentence in my grandfather’s Recollections, I was struck by the accurate description it gave of my own existence, which for the last forty years or so has been spent, like his, in miscellaneous reading, and often too, like his, ‘of the lighter kind.’ The analogy was a curious one — indeed, I found it more curious than pleasing, for recalling my visits to that old gentleman upstairs, and remembering what he looked like then, I turned my eyes on myself, where I sat reading upstairs, and saw myself for a disconcerting moment — and then I went on reading.


The life of the Quakers in Philadelphia, where we lived as children, was that of a secluded community, carefully entrenched and guarded from all contact with what we called the ‘World’ — that dangerous world of temptations and wickedness which, we vaguely knew, lay all about us. With that world and its guilty splendors we had no contact; of the fashionable American aristocracy (and every population has its aristocracy and fashion) we were not members; and I can make no claim, as Americans abroad are apt to claim, that I belong to one of what are called America’s first families. With members of this greater world, like Edith Wharton and Mrs. Winthrop Chanler, I became acquainted only after I came to live in Europe.

No, we spent our youth amid the evangelical plainness and the simple ways of living of the stricter Philadelphia Friends. And yet, those richly carved and velvet-covered chairs which adorned my grandfather’s drawing-room at Germantown, those antlers which hung on the walls of his suburban residence — these seemed to tell a tale of richer experience, and tinged for me with gayer colors the past history and the European expeditions of the old gentleman who sat reading upstairs.

The theme of the American abroad has given rise to a considerable literature in recent years; its earlier documents are less well known, and it was with a good deal of interest that I recently read my grandfather’s account of his experiences in Europe, and the authentic history of those trophies which had so impressed me as a boy. In my grandfather a tendency which he bequeathed to his descendants manifested itself at an early date: to make ‘jaunts,’ as he called them, to Europe; and in 1845 he had gone to England on a sailing packet, accompanied by my father. On his return he published in two volumes, under the title of A Summer’s Jaunt across the Waters, an account of this journey. To boast of the distinguished acquaintances they have made abroad is one of the most legitimate satisfactions of returned Americans, and this was plainly one of the motives which inspired the composition of my grandfather’s volumes.

The Philadelphia Quakers had always kept up a connection with the members of their sect in England, and this connection was frequently renewed by the visits of English Friends on holy missions. Some of these visiting preachers belonged to the highest sphere of the Quaker world — for all religious communities, however holy, arc stratified in social layers of increasing splendor — and the impressiveness of their doctrine was much augmented by a sense of the plain yet brilliant world in which they lived, a world of Barclays and Gurneys and other rich English Quaker families which, like a Quaker Versailles, holy and yet splendid, shone for us across the Atlantic with a kind of glory — a glory which, to tell the truth, has never completely faded from my eyes.

My grandfather, though indifferent to their doctrines, was by no means indifferent to the country houses and opulent tables of these English Quakers; he tells of dining with Samuel Gurney at Ham House, of meeting Elizabeth Fry, of hearing her, in her feeble but honored old age, make a beautiful prayer from her large mahogany armchair in the meeting she attended. He tells also of being welcomed among a company of English Friends by a fellow Philadelphian and youthful acquaintance, Eliza P. Kirkbride, who had married the eminent and opulent Joseph John Gurney, as his third wife.

But the great glory of this jaunt abroad of my grandfather was his visit to Stoke Park, then the residence of Granville Penn, William Penn’s great-grandson and heir. Granville Penn, learning, according to my grandfather’s account, — and I dare say by a note from my grandfather himself, — that a descendant of William Penn’s secretary had come from Pennsylvania to England, sent him an invitation to Stoke Poges, which was accepted with alacrity. He relates how an elegant family carriage with liveried servants met him at the station; how he was conducted to the noble family mansion of the Penn family, where he spent some days, and in whose deer park he shot the buck of which the antlers afterwards adorned his suburban home; how his host drove him about the neighborhood in a coach with four horses, and took him to Oxford, where they dined at a raised table in the hall of Christ Church, and where, he tells with undisguised elation, all the guests except Mr. Penn and himself were lords.

These were indeed rich experiences; encouraged by them, my grandfather, five years after his return to America, started out on a still more glorious jaunt abroad. The great Crystal Palace Exhibition was then in preparation, and he had the happy idea of traveling to Europe as a sort of self-appointed and unofficial envoy to arrange, if possible, for the transport of this exhibition, or a portion of it, across the Atlantic after it had run its course in England. His purpose, as he states in his memoirs, was in part at least the utility to America of this plan, but his main intention, as he frankly admits, was to gain by this means ‘an introduction to men of mark abroad, and a sight of foreign life behind the scenes.’ Though the public part of his scheme came to no fruition, his private aim was brilliantly successful. Procuring a letter of recommendation from the Secretary of State at Washington, he proceeded to London, where he was received by Lord Granville and made the acquaintance of a certain General Gray, whom he describes as ‘a most elegant and portly gentleman.’ In London also he was privileged to witness the Duchess of Sutherland purchase a rug. He sat at tables, he tells his descendants, ‘of the most recherché character’; and once when the royal box at the Opera had been lent to someone of his acquaintance, and he was invited to share it, he had reason to believe, he tells us, that he was mistaken by some of the operagoers for a foreign prince who was then on a visit to England.

Most ‘gratifying’ of all his experiences (‘gratifying’ and ‘elegant’ are favorite words in his vocabulary) was his reception by Queen Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold, in Belgium. The King of the Belgians, who was much interested in the proposed London Exhibition, wished to discuss the project of its transference to America; but that thrifty monarch seems on this occasion to have done a good bit of business on his own account, since he induced my grandfather to purchase from a workshop of his own two expensive and elaborately carved chairs, facsimiles of the chair in which the King was wont to seat his own royal person. These splendid chairs, reeking with the bad taste of the LouisPhilippe period, my grandfather conveyed home with him in great triumph on the new steamer, the Atlantic, on which steamer one of the fellow passengers was the singer Jenny Lind, who ‘was most affable, and danced and sang the whole trip, the weather being admirable.’

The echo of these glories, the sight of these antlers and royal chairs, must have seemed evidences of a ‘gayness’ they could not but deplore to the stricter Quakers of Philadelphia, to whom my mother’s family belonged, and among whom my sisters and I spent our childish years. But into the hearts of these most unspotted of the chosen people the spirit of the world had found an entrance, though unsuspected by themselves. No dreams, indeed, of dining with lords, of opera boxes, or of being mistaken for foreign princes, troubled, I am sure, their meditations in their silent meetings; but when some opulent Friend from England came to preach the gospel to them, was not the impressiveness of his or her doctrine tinged and deepened by a sense of the sanctified splendor of such English Friends? Had they not indeed among them a living representative of that splendor in the Eliza Kirkbride who had reigned at Earlham, and with whom my grandfather had dined in England, and who, after the decease of her husband, — that eminent evangelist, Joseph John Gurney, — had returned to her native city, where, preaching with great acceptance, she now reigned as a kind of Quaker queen, with many courtiers to listen to her holy boastings? Among these courtiers, one of the most assiduous was my mother’s mother, Friend Mary Whitall, who was in our childhood always holding up before us the figure of Friend Gurney as the glass of Quaker fashion, and the very mould of form among the stricter Friends.

Thus into my boyish heart the spirit of the World found its entrance in various disguises, and intimations were also not wanting of those other enemies of our souls, the Flesh and the Devil.

It has become of late the fashion to speak with great frankness on sex matters, and many eminent authors dwell with especial emphasis on the first awakenings in them of a consciousness of this kind, so why should I not follow their example? These awakenings often come to innocent youth in troubled ways, and my first awareness of the allurements of what we call the Flesh was derived from circumstances of an unusual nature. Barnum’s Circus came to Philadelphia in my boyhood, rousing considerable excitement in the youth of that quiet city; and among the Quakers the question was much debated whether their children should be allowed to witness this entertainment. While it was admitted on the one hand that the sight of the elephants and the other exotic animals would help to enhance their conception of the wonders of creation, there were grave fears on the other hand that the spectacle of the scantily clad female acrobats on the tightropes might sully the innocence of their childish minds. The compromise finally arrived at, at least in our family, was that the children should be taken to the circus and allowed to see the animals, but should sit with closed eyes while the acrobats were performing.

So there we sat, a row of Quaker children, staring with all our eyes at the performing elephants, but with our organs of vision closed and our hands before them during the less seemly interludes. But one little Quaker boy — no other, in fact, than the writer of these pages — permitted himself a guilty peep through his fingers, and gazed on a show of muscular limbs moving, slowly moving in pink tights. What he was gazing at was, he knew, the spectacle of Sin, and so striking was the impression that his concept of that word when he read or heard it afterwards was colored in his imagination for a long time with the pinkness of those slowly moving legs. It was only long afterwards that he came to understand why he had been forbidden to gaze upon them, and the grave danger he had thereby incurred.


My grandfather had married a Rachel Pearsall, of a Quaker family in Long Island, and my father, Robert Pearsall Smith, was, by his marriage in 1851 to my mother, Hannah Whitall, introduced into surroundings and circumstances different from those of his own family. His wife’s father, John Whitall, was descended from another more pious and less bookish line of New Jersey Quakers, being the grandson of that rather terrific Ann Whitall, of whose old religious journal I have written elsewhere. He had run away to sea as a boy, and, sailing before the mast on East Indian voyages, had become the captain of a merchantman at the age of twenty-four. On retiring from the sea he purchased a glass factory in New Jersey, and founded a manufacturing business which, owing to the admirable output of glass bottles, had prospered with the years, and indeed still prospers. My father, after several unsuccessful business adventures, had, owing to his marriage to my mother, been given a partnership in this firm.

He was a man of fine presence, and a sanguine enthusiastic temperament, too impulsive to manage his own affairs by himself; however, being restrained by the caution of his cautious partners, his gifts of imagination were made to contribute to the firm’s prosperity. He was, above all, a magnificent salesman; and traveling all over the United States, and offering the firm’s wares to the chemists of the rapidly expanding Republic, he exercised upon those apothecaries the gifts of persuasion and blandishment, almost of hypnotization, which were destined later, in European and more exalted spheres, to produce such startling results. However, before he undertook these journeys, he had been placed for some years in charge of the glass factories in New Jersey; and it was in a small New Jersey town, with the romantic name of Millville, that I Was born in 1865.

My earliest recollections are tinged with the gleam of those great fiery furnaces which I used to gaze at from a distance. To my infant apprehensions the whole alarming picture, with the half-naked glass-blowers moving like devils among the flames, presented a vivid image of what I believed might very likely be my future fate. For partly owing to the more serious religious tone of my mother’s family, but still more (for the darker aspects of Christian doctrine were not much dwelt on by good Quakers) to the lava stream of evangelical revivalism into which my parents were swept away, the notion of Hell formed, as it were, a fiery background to my childish thoughts; I was always expecting, half in terror, half in thrilled anticipation, to hear the blast of the last trumpet, to see the earth and heavens collapse and the sinners led off to their abodes of eternal torment.

The old doctrines of the corruption of man and his inevitable doom unless he found salvation in the conviction of sin, the gift of grace, and a sudden catastrophic, miraculous conversion — this evangelical theology, though I was nourished on it in my youth, and tasted its joys and terrors, has now become utterly alien and strange to me. I cannot reconstruct in imagination that melodramatic world of hopes and terrors. I know, of course, that this body of beliefs has an important place in religious history, and that, as a scheme of salvation, millions have fervently believed in it.

My parents, dissatisfied with what they considered the spiritual deadness of Quaker doctrine, welcomed the new outburst in America of revivalism, into which they plunged with high enthusiasm, as into a great flood of life-giving water; and their evangelical activities formed for many years the absorbing interest of their lives. They went to revivalist meetings, they preached, they both wrote innumerable tracts, they converted souls, they lived in constant expectation of the Day of Judgment; and this highly colored world, with the heights of Heaven above them and the abysses of Hell beneath — this, and not their commonplace and commercial surroundings, formed the environment in which they lived with such feverish excitement. We children naturally caught the infection of this excitement; we were unwisely encouraged to embark in our tender years upon these spiritual adventures, and my elder sister, who is now the wife of Bernard Berenson, began at the age of six the career of an evangelist, and I, who was then a little boy of four, was the first object of her zeal.

One day she and a like-minded little evangelical maiden, named Fanny Potts, led me to our bathroom, and there they prayed and wrestled with my carnal nature till I felt, or thought I felt, the conviction of Sin and the consciousness of Grace, and the miracle of conversion was, or seemed to be, accomplished in me. The little girls rushed out to announce the glad news of my salvation, which my delighted father immediately embodied in a tract (for, as I have said, he was a writer of innumerable tracts) in which he told the world the story of my conversion. This tract had, I believe, an unusually large circulation, and, penetrating to the Western districts of America, made a powerful impression on the yet remaining tribes of Red Indians, who were converted by it in their thousands. Such, at least, was our family legend; and I remember the pride I took in the conversions thus accomplished; and believing, as I then believed, that each of us should wear as stars in our diadems in Heaven the souls which we had saved on earth, I took a holy delight in the prospect of shining in the courts of Heaven in the radiance of these rubies of the West.


Not long after the memorable event of my conversion, our family went to Europe. My father’s health had been affected by his combined mercantile and evangelical exertions; a period of rest and change was recommended by his doctors and it was thought that this rest and change could be best procured in England. So in 1872 we embarked, my sisters and I, with our handsome florid father and our beautiful straightforward Quaker mother.

Both our parents were quite without any anticipation of the extraordinary experiences which awaited them. It is not my purpose to tell in any detail the story of these experiences. Let it suffice to say that news had already reached England of my father’s gifts and successes as an evangelist; my mother’s fame had also spread abroad, and when they arrived in London they were received with an interest which soon became enthusiasm, and finally almost a frenzy, in that strange world of evangelicals which was once so important, but which has now almost disappeared. It was a world, as I remember it, of large, opulent, ruddy aristocrats, living in great London mansions or country houses, and much given to immense collations and extempore prayers and the propagation of innumerable children. These personages often drove up to the house my father rented at Stoke Newington in the London suburbs, and my sisters and I would peep out through the windows at their fine carriages and horses, and would sometimes be presented to some large, friendly, red-faced man or woman whom we would be summoned to meet in the drawing-room. Often too, while our parents were rapt away to earnest conferences, we would be deposited in some country house, either with the Barclays at Monkhams in Essex (Mrs. Barclay was by birth one of the Gurneys of Earlham, and we thus became acquainted with the world of which we had heard so much from Friend Gurney in Philadelphia), or else at Broadlands in Hampshire, the home of our parents’ friends, the Cowper Temples.

When our parents had first arrived in England, they had been invited to a drawing-room meeting of leading evangelists, which was summoned to judge whether their doctrine was perfectly sound according to the strictest standards. All was well save on one point, about which there were dark and dreadful whispers. From something my mother had said or written, it had come to be suspected that she was not altogether sound on the doctrine of Eternal Torment.

Hell, it was known, she believed in, but did she hold that its torments were destined to endure forever? As a matter of fact, she did n’t; and although my father and her friends beseeched her to conceal this heresy, when the crisis came and the question was put plainly to her in that London drawing-room, with that large company gravely waiting for her answer, a sudden impulse came upon her to tell the truth. She knew that her own and perhaps her husband’s career as expositors of the gospel might be ruined by this avowal; she had agreed that it would be wiser to give evasive answers on this point; but when questioned she suddenly felt that if she was questioned she must say what she thought, whatever might be the consequences; and if she had been capable of using such a profane expression she would have told herself that she did n’t care a damn.

She could not, she avowed to the assembled company, believe that the God she worshiped as a God of love was capable of such awful cruelty; sinners, of course, He punished, but that He had decreed that their torments should be unending was to her a horrible belief. Her auditors were inexpressibly dismayed by this declaration, the myrtle, in Keats’s phrase, ‘sickened in a thousand wreaths’; the company was on the point of breaking up in confusion when from the depths of that great drawing-room there floated forward, swathed in rich Victorian draperies and laces, a tall and stately lady, who embraced my mother, saying, ‘My dear, I don’t believe it either.’

This dramatic moment was, perhaps, a turning point in my life, since, if it had not occurred, our family would no doubt have soon returned to America, and the ties and friendships which drew us all back again to England would never have been formed. For this lady who thus intervened and took my mother under her protection was, as it were, the queen of evangelical Christians; and her acceptance, afterwards confirmed by that of her husband, William Cowper Temple, silenced all opposition and no further objections were suggested.

The Cowper Temples, owing to their great wealth and high position, were by far the most important people in the world in which my parents were, so to speak, on trial. Cowper Temple was in law the son of Earl Cowper, but in fact the son of Lord Palmerston, who had long been Lady Cowper’s lover, and who married her when Lord Cowper died. Their son had inherited Lord Palmerston’s estates and great house at Broadlands; and the problem of this double paternity, if I may put it so, which was the gossip of the time (gossip which sounded strange in our Philadelphian ears), had been successfully regulated by the young William Cowper’s adding Lord Palmerston’s family name of Temple to that of Cowper in a double appellation. After acting as secretary to his authentic father, he served in several posts in the governments of the time and was raised to the peerage as Lord Mount Temple in 1880. His wife, who had corroborated my mother’s view of Hell, is known in the history of art as the friend of the Pre-Raphaelites, and above all as the Egeria of Ruskin.

Her friendship with my mother lasted till her death in extreme old age. She became a beautiful old saint, in whose character my mother could find only one flaw, if flaw it could indeed be called. Lady Mount Temple could never grasp the difference between right and wrong when no cruelty was involved; she could n’t see why people should not do what they liked. My mother would try to explain moral distinctions to her, and though Lady Mount Temple would say at the moment that she understood them, they soon faded from her mind.

When Oscar Wilde was out on bail between his two trials, she wrote him a friendly letter, inviting him to pay her a visit, by which letter, Oscar Wilde tells us, he was greatly touched. Her family, the Tollemaches, were a wild family, much given to misbehavior, and when one or another got in disgrace she would invite the offender to her home and would often send for my mother, as one familiar with what was right or wrong, to come and help the erring one back to the righteous path. I remember my mother telling of one occasion when a Tollemache, married to a foreign prince, had run away from him with a lover, and then had been placed under Lady Mount Temple’s roof to be made to realize the impropriety of her conduct. My mother was as usual summoned, and arrived in her Quaker garb and with her Bible, to help in this work of moral reformation. The Bible was read, there were prayers and exhortations, and all seemed to be going on in a most satisfactory manner, till one day, entering the old lady’s writing room, my mother noticed that she was trying to conceal a piece of paper, and, when questioned, confessed that she was composing a telegram for the lover of the erring lady to come and join them, since, as she put it, she felt that Matilda was feeling so lonely without him.

But all this happened years after the occasion of which I have been writing, on which occasion we were promptly invited to come to Broadlands, whither we soon proceeded, my mother, my father, my two sisters and myself. Broadlands became thenceforward almost our home in England, and in its ample halls were gathered innumerable guests, to listen to the glad tidings of salvation which had reached the shores of England from across the Atlantic Ocean.

My mother and father had more than once attended camp meetings in America, where, amid primeval forests or by the shore of some mountain lake, evangelicals had been accustomed to gather for holy jubilations (not always unaccompanied by hysterical outbursts in which the Chosen People would scream and dance and roll upon the earth), and as they often described to their hosts these outpourings of the spirit it occurred to the good Cowper Temples to inaugurate a series of such meetings in their park upon the banks of the Test in England, and this project was successfully carried out. My father was an acceptable preacher at these meetings, but my sincere simple-minded mother, beautiful in her Quaker dress, with her candid gaze and golden hair, was given the name of ‘the Angel of the Churches,’ and her expositions of the Gospels, delivered in the great beautiful eighteenth-century orangery in the Park at Broadlands, attracted the largest audiences, and made those gatherings famous in the religious world. They were unattended, however, by any of the wilder phenomena of the American camp meetings, with which my mother had no sympathy, and I cannot recall the spectacle of any English aristocrats foaming at the mouth or rolling in holy ecstasy upon those Hampshire lawns.

My mother paid little attention to all the unaccustomed circumstances in which she found herself at Broadlands; those to whom she preached were in her eyes no more than souls she hoped she could help to a true knowledge of the gospel truths; but my father, being more worldly-minded, was immensely delighted by his sanctified success among the great ones of this earth. If his head was turned by it, one can hardly blame him; though a little worldly wisdom (but what chance had he ever had of acquiring worldly wisdom?) might have given him some notion of the fantastic character of this adventure. Even the presence at Broadlands of a large black evangelical Negress from America, named Amanda Smith, who would also expound the Scriptures to the earnest but indiscriminating ears of the assembled company — even the concurrence of this holy Negress (whom my mother came to like and made a friend of) and the necessity of sharing his triumphs with this dusky rival, though no doubt extremely repugnant to him, did not in the least impress upon my father the sandy basis upon which his fairy castle was being built. Indeed, as its airy pinnacles rose higher and higher in the sky, he became incapable of listening to the warnings my mother gave him of the risks he ran.

How could he listen? Ruddy, handsome, with the fine whiskers so admired at that date, rich from the proceeds of the bottle factory at home, and, unlike other evangelists, paying his own way in a lordly fashion, he became, as his fame spread from Broadlands, more or less the rage in religious circles. His photograph adorned the windows of the London shops; immense crowds flocked to his ministrations; his thrilling voice held audiences of thousands in rapt attention. Soon his reputation as a preacher crossed the Channel; he was invited to Paris, where he held many meetings; the wives of monarchs in Belgium and Holland welcomed him to those countries, and discussed the state of their royal souls with him in private interviews. But it was in Germany that he obtained his greatest triumphs; he was received by the Empress Augusta; he held forth to immense audiences in Berlin, where his fervor, his persuasive, almost hypnotic power, stirred, even through the cold medium of translation, the Teutonic hearts to such depths of emotion that his ministrations resulted in the formation of an evangelical sect which numbered many adherents, and still, I believe, exists, if Hitler has not suppressed it. He returned to England intoxicated with his success abroad, and my sensible and undeluded mother came to be really alarmed by certain aspects of his conduct.

The life of emotional excitement which evangelical preachers live, the incense of adoration which they breathe, the tender relations they form with those converted by them — all this makes them liable to certain temptations to which they are very apt to succumb, and this was what happened to my father. The pious ladies who crowded round him formed a band of enthusiastic disciples, and sat at his feet, and even, it was darkly whispered, on his knees. This led to the end of his career as an evangelist in England. One female disciple who had become jealous of another told other evangelists of his sanctified flirtations; these preachers, jealous perhaps of his success, made the gossip public, and my father found it wise to cease his ministrations and return to America. To the Cowper Temples, I think, — certainly to Mrs. Cowper Temple, — all this fuss seemed incomprehensible and silly. If these good people wanted to kiss each other, what, she wondered, could be the harm in that?

In sackcloth and ashes he recrossed the Atlantic, not, like my grandfather, with song and dancing; no staghorns, no royal chairs were among his luggage. However, — and these coincidences are perhaps worth noting, — my mother brought with her a haunch of venison from Dunrobin Castle, where she had been on a visit, which haunch, given her by the Duke of Sutherland, was consumed immediately on our return to Philadelphia by ourselves and our relations with more snobbish than gastronomical delight.

The toughness, the lack of savor, of this ducal haunch still linger on my palate, as my first taste — there have been others — of the vanity and insipidity of worldly things.


Then we settled down again in our Philadelphia suburb. My father, feeling that the divine power had somehow let him down, and voices which seemed to come from Heaven had led him to his fall, became more sympathetic to my grandfather’s want of faith; and this feeling was much increased by the daily companionship of his brother Lloyd, with whom he used to drive every morning behind a fine pair of horses (my father had a passion for fine horses) to the not distant city of Philadelphia.

My father had begun to lose his faith in the whole scheme of Salvation which he had so fervently advocated, and by means of which he had converted so many thousands of earnest souls. His situation was thus an awkward one; he had still a reputation in the religious world, he still possessed the hypnotic power of swaying great audiences, and many calls were made upon him to address meetings and administer religious instruction to souls in trouble. Invitations to preach he could avoid on the grounds of health, but the religious inquirers who called at the house, coming sometimes as far as from Russia, were the source of greater embarrassment; and I remember how desperately he would try to keep one or the other of his children in the room to avoid the necessity of a spiritual dialogue, and how quite heartlessly we would escape from it, leaving him to grapple alone with these spiritual inquirers. This we thought great fun.

Perhaps unconsciously affected by my father’s loss of faith, or because the good seed in my case had fallen on extremely shallow ground, my early religious feelings began before long to fade away. They had remained with me for some years after my conversion, which had transformed me into an infant evangelist who would distribute religious tracts in the Philadelphia horse-trams, and who, profoundly impressed by the necessity of doing something each day before the sun went down to save some human soul, would often hurry out towards evening to perform this godly task before it was too late. This zeal was maintained during our sojourn in England, and indeed increased by the holy excitement of that period; and I recall in especial one hot summer day, when, driving with my parents across the Isle of Wight, I was filled with an ineffable consciousness of sanctification and exemption from the fear of Hell and the fate of others, which filled my little heart with a sensation of felicitous vanity more exquisite than almost any sensation I have experienced since. The scent and taste of ripe peaches plucked from a sunny wall in August? No, I have felt nothing in my life which I can compare with that holy joy.

Leslie Stephen, in his essay on Jonathan Edwards, mentions the story, so similar to my own, of the redemption of little Phebe Bartlet, of Northampton, Massachusetts, who was, like me, converted at the age of four, and made subsequent efforts to save the souls of others. The account of Phebe he describes as ‘the grotesque story of this detestable infant,’ or words to that effect. Such a detestable infant I must have been, no doubt; yet I was, after all, no Phebe Bartlet, but a healthy schoolboy, and the usual schoolboy interests and occupations began to fill my mind with more seasonable thoughts. Finally, one Sunday afternoon in June, when I was up in a cherry tree picking cherries, the whole supernatural scheme of things seemed to fade away into the blue sky, never to return.

Our summer holidays from school came more and more to be spent, as we grew older, in camping expeditions, first in the Adirondacks, or the Maine forests, and then amid the Rocky or the Californian mountains, and these delightful fishing and shooting trips, though they stored my mind with infinite forest and mountain memories which are still vivid and delightful, aroused in me a passion for wild life in the open air which obliterated not only my religious sentiments, but also my early taste for reading, and retarded whatever tendency there was in me towards the development of my mind. I became in my school days nothing more than an ordinary healthy boy, fond of games and sports, and above all of camping trips and fishing and shooting among wild lakes and mountains.

When we were not on camping expeditions, we often went to Newport — not to the fashionable part of that fashionable watering place, but to the old town on the harbor, where my uncle, James Whitall, and several Philadelphia Quakers owned old-fashioned houses, in which their summers were quietly spent; and memories of these happy sojourns amid a band of happy cousins often return to me now, and fill the background of my mind — the sailing in little boats, the sounds of guitars and youthful voices, the wind on starlit nights and the splash of the dark waters; the sight of the great steamers that passed like furnaces of light, and my departure at last in one of these steamers, watching with tears and smiles the lanterns waved by cousins and friends from my uncle’s wharf. To tuck a happy childhood under a child’s jacket was the principle which my mother’s kindly father often preached as the best preparation for happiness in future years, and such a childhood was certainly the provision which was made for us, adding greatly to the future felicity of our lives.

(To be continued)