Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

out feeling wiser and better. I had known him so long and well, and had been the recipient of so many acts of love and kindness from his hands, that I began to look upon his existence as necessary for my happiness upon earth. There was nothing that he could do for me that he did not do cheerfully. In no instance did he endeavor to make me sensible of the obligation I owed him, but ever appeared more like the receiver than the giver. There has scarcely been a day during the past five years that I did not see him, or receive some message from him. It was his custom to spend at least two evenings in every week at my house. A chair was placed for him regularly at our table, and no one was allowed to occupy it during his absence. This little mark of respect seemed always to please him exceedingly, for even trivial kindnesses were never passed unnoticed by him, and those who conferred them were always well paid by some pleasant word or acknowledgment. There was a mildness, a dignity, a love and a patience about him that seemed peculiarly his own; and now that he is dead I feel half ashamed of the little that I can add to his memory.

GEORGE DENNISON PRENTICE was born at Griswold, Connecticut, on the 18th of December, 1802. He displayed very early in life talents of no common order. He excited the admiration of every one who knew him by the marvellous facility with which he acquired the inost difficult and complicated branches of knowledge. He was able to read fluently when only four years of age. a fine Greek and Latin scholar, and at the age of fifteen could translate and parse any sentence in Homer or Virgil. At this time he was prepared to enter the Sophomore class at college, but was compelled to teach a district school in order to defray the expense of a collegiate education. In 1820 he entered Brown University, at Providence,

He was

3

Rhode Island, where he was graduated in 1823. A few years later he studied law, and was soon admitted to the bar. He did not find the law congenial to his tastes, and he devoted himself to the profession of literature. In 1828 he started the New-England Review. This paper was a success from the beginning. The editor at once distinguished himself by his bold and incisive style of writing. In 1830 he left the New England Review in charge of the poet Whittier, and accepted an invitation to go to Ken. tucky for the purpose of writing the biography of Henry Clay. As soon as he reached Lexington, the home of Mr. Clay, he went to work at once upon the biography. It was completed in a very short time. It met with a most enthusiastic reception, not only from the people of Kentucky, but from the entire Whig party of the nation. It contains by far the most correct account ever given to the public, of the life of that distinguished statesman, as well as the most animated and eloquent exposition of the political principles of his party. Mr. Clay cherished for his biographer the warmest feelings of affection, and often said that he owed the greater part of his fame to him. It is almost useless to speak of the services Mr. PRENTICE rendered Mr. Clay, for they are so manifold and varied that the names of the great statesman and journalist are inseparably associated.

Mr. PRENTICE removed to Louisville in the month of September, 1830, and on the 24th day of the following November he published the first number of the Louisville Fournal. The politics of the country were at that time exciting in the extreme. The Democratic party determined, if possible, to defeat Mr. Clay in his own State. The leading Democratic organ in Kentucky was a paper called the Louisville Advertiser. It was under the editorial management of Shadrack Penn, one of the most eloquent and effective writers in the State. Mr. Penn's friends had the

most unbounded confidence in him. They predicted that he would demolish Mr. PRENTICE at a single blow.

Those who remember the warfare waged between these two knights of the quill, have no difficulty in realising that there were giants in those days. Each of the editors was recognised as a champion with whom ordinary mortals must not interfere. In their respective fields of force they possessed powers rarely rivalled. Mr. Penn had a great advantage in a well and widely established reputation in the venue where the case was to be tried, while Mr. PRENTICE was comparatively a stranger, and apparently weak. Mr. Penn had rarely met an editor able to cope with him. After he had vanquished the redoubtable Amos Kendall, on the Old and New Court issues which convulsed the State, Mr. Penn was the recognised champion of the party that had triumphed in the great contest in which those issues were tried. In this condition of things, it is not likely that Mr. Penn dreaded any contemporary writer on politics. The comparatively young Connecticut writer had fully surveyed the ground before consenting to link himself with the enterprise of a new daily paper in Louisville. He had measured the powers of the veteran Penn, but he had unbounded confidence in his own powers.

When the emeute began to brew in the Advertiser, Mr. PRENTICE gave an admonitory warning, announcing that without desiring strife he was ready for it. He stated that his editorial quiver was armed with quills of all sizes, from those of the humming-bird to those of the eagle. The war began, and was waged with activity and vigor for the space of eleven years. Each of the combatants possessed great powers, and up to the end of the war each had hosts of friends. Mr. PRENTICE became famous throughout the Union. The remarkable purity of his diction--a purity in which he had few equals and no superior; his wonderful

versatility of expression, by which he was able to use the same thing many times, and never twice alike; the Attic salt of his wit, the torturing power of his irony, his satire and sarcasm, the terse epigrammatic force which enabled him often to overwhelm an antagonist in a single sentence, made him the most popular and renowned journalist in the country. These qualities made Mr. PRENTICE a power in the land ; a power which he never abused. He was at all times placable, even with those who had most abused him. This is beautifully portrayed in his reconciliation with Mr. Penn. I am indebted to Dr. T. S. Bell, of Louisville, for an account of this noble feature in the lives of the two renowned journalists. Dr. Bell was the intimate friend of each of the editors; and on the eve of the departure of Mr. Penn for St. Louis, Dr. Bell proposed to both gentlemen the project of an interview. Each assented to the proposal, and each of them gave Dr. Bell full power to act for him. The interview took place at Dr. Bell's office, and commenced and ended most happily. Mr. PRENTICE began by expressing the hope that the necessity of Mr. Penn's departure was not absolute, and begged to know of Mr. Penn whether he, Mr. PRENTICE, could be of any ser-. vice in aiding him to remain. He eloquently alluded to the long series of Kentucky enterprises, and the numerous recognised schemes for the prosperity of Louisville, that endeared Mr. Penn to the principles of Kentucky, and Mr. PRENTICE deplored the departure of Mr. Penn from the State as a public calamity. Towards the close of the interview, Mr. PRENTICE assured Mr. Penn of his earnest purpose to give him all the aid in his power towards making Mr. Penn's career in Missouri a success. This pledge he fulfilled. It is difficult to conceive of anything more beautiful of its kind than Mr. PRENTICE's tribute to Mr. Penn upon the departure of the latter for St. Louis.

Mr. PRENTICE read the article, before publishing it, to Dr. Bell, as the common friend of Mr. Penn and of himself, and asked for any suggestions for elaborating this magnanimous editorial. I need not add that Mr. Penn was much gratified with it.

Mr. PRENTICE was one of the most industrious men that ever edited a daily paper. He wrote with great facility, but kept himself well posted in all political matters, not only those that were contemporary with him, but with those of the past. Until within a few years he never left the office until the editorial page was imposed as he desired it to be, and locked up in the chase.

In 1840 he was attacked with a disease called Chorea Scriptorum, caused by excessive writing. This disease shows itself only when the hand attempts to write. Mr. PRENTICE, could handle other things than a writing instrument without any trouble. Indeed, for a long time after the appearance of the disease, he was able to write many words until the thumb was pressed towards the index finger, when the pen would fly from him as though some one had struck it. One morning while suffering in this way, he composed a beautiful song for his friend, Dr. T. S. Bell. Mr. PRENTICE'S amanuensis was not in, and he stepped over to the Doctor's office, and asked him to write something for him, saying "It is for you and your wife.” Mr. PRENTICE then dictated the following beautiful lines, which were afterwards 'set to music by a distinguished artist of Poland :

" We've shared each other's smiles and tears

Through years of wedded life
And love has bless'd those fleeting years,

My own, my cherished wife.
“ And if, at times, the storm's dark shroud

Has rested in the air,
Love's beaming sun has kissed the cloud,

And left the rainbow there.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »