Graham's Magazine, Vol. XXXVII, No. 3, September 1850 online

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whom the dread future unveiled itself, “was in the island that is called
Patmos,” when he saw in a vision the “the heavens wrapped together like
a scroll, and the dead, small and great, stand before God.”

Heathen mythology sang to her disciples of the “isles of the blessed.”
Classic Greece fixed the birth-place of her deity of the seven-stringed
lyre in wave-girdled Delphos, and bade her most beautiful goddess from
the foam of the sea.

Modern Poetry has not forgotten to invoke the island-spirits. Shakspeare
lifts the magic wand of Prospero in a strange, wild isle, full of

“Sweet sounds and airs that give delight, and hurt not.”

He makes another less lofty character propose “to sow the kernels of a
broken islet in the sea, that they may bring forth more islands.” The
patriotism of Milton beheld in his own native clime, the chief favorite
of Neptune:

“this isle,
The greatest and the best of all the main,
He quarters to his blue-haired deities.”

The Bard of the Seasons still further glorified it, as the

“Island of bliss amid the subject seas.”

It is as easy as it would be tautological to multiply suffrages in
praise of insular regions. Still less necessary is it to bespeak popular
favor for the island that gives this sketch a subject and a name.

The Dutch settlers of Staten Island seem to have regarded it with an
enthusiasm quite in contrast with their usual phlegmatic temperament.
Scarcely a century after its occupation by them, the patient and
true-hearted Huguenots came to solace the woes of their exile amid its
sheltering shades. The armies of Great Britain held it in possession
during the whole of our revolutionary contest; and even the indurating
influences of war did not render them insensible to its surpassing

In later times, the States of New York and New Jersey have contended for
its jurisdiction with the warmth of lovers, and the jealousy of rivals.
The latter approaches with extended arms, as if to enfold it in an
earnest embrace, its bright shores curving closely around the coveted
treasure; but the Empire State, upon whose waters it reposes “as a star
on the breast of the billow,” has bound the gem to her bosom forever.

Yet neither the taciturn Hollander, nor the mournful alien from France,
nor the warring Saxon, nor the native-born American, yearned over it
with such intense affection as the poor red man, its earliest lord. He
longed to rear his cone-roofed cabin upon its sunny slopes, and to sweep
with light canoe into its quiet coves, as his fathers had done of old.
Forced by his pale-faced and powerful brother to yield this dearest
birthright, he sold for as poor a compensation as the hunter-patriarch,
then repented, retracted, reclaimed, re-sold, contended, and vanished
like the smoke-wreath among the hills that he loved. Still, he cast the
Parthian arrow, and the forests where he lingered and lay in ambush were
crimsoned with blood.

Still, his parting sigh, wreathed itself into a name of blessing.
“_Monocnong_,” or the Enchanted Woods, was the epithet he bestowed upon
his beloved and forsaken heritage. In the bitterness of parting, he said
that no noxious reptile had ever been found there, till the white man,
like a wily serpent, coiled himself amid its shades.


Gem of the Bay! enchased in waves of light,
That ’neath the sunbeam rear a diamond crest,
But to the wrathful spirit of the night
Turn unsubdued, with thunder in their breast—
Fair Isle! where beauty lingereth as a dower
O’er rock and roof, and densely-wooded dell,
And in the bosom of the autumnal flower
Foiling the frost-king in its quiet cell,
The Indian hunter of the olden time
Saw thee with love, and on his wandering way
Staid the keen bow, at morning’s earliest prime,
A name of blessing on thy head to lay—
Baptism of tears! it liveth on thy shore,
Though he, the exiled one, returneth never more.

The sail from the city of New York to Staten Island is delightful. The
bay sparkled in the broad sunbeam; six miles of diamonds set in
turquoise and amethyst. We land, and are borne rapidly along, amid
tasteful abodes imbosomed in trees and shrubbery, and adorned with
flowers. We pass also the Hospital, a spacious building, where many beds
and pillows spread in the open air for purification, denote that disease
and death have given a ghastly welcome to some mournful emigrants. Often
are we reminded, amid the most luxuriant scenery, that even “in the
garden there is a sepulchre.”

New Brighton, as seen from the water, is like a cluster of palaces.
Large and well arranged boarding-houses furnish accommodations to
numerous strangers, who seek in summer the invigorating atmosphere of
this island. Among these, the Pavilion and Belmont are conspicuous.

In descriptive writing, I had formerly a fastidious delicacy about using
the names of individuals. When in Europe, I was so fearful of drawing
the curtain from the sanctuary of the hearth-stone, as to fail in a free
tribute for the most liberal and changeless hospitality. Time, which is
wont to destroy undue sensibility on many subjects, has led me to deem
this an error. So I will here avoid it, and say with equal frankness and
gratitude that those who, like myself, are admitted as guests at the
elegant island-residence of George Griffin, Esq., and to share the
intellectual society of his warm-hearted and right-minded home-circle,
will never lose the pleasant memory of such a privilege.

Among the fine views in this vicinity, that from the Telegraph Station
is especially magnificent. I shall not attempt to describe it, not being
willing to sustain or inflict the disappointment that must inevitably be
the result. Let all who have opportunity see it as often as possible.
They can never tire of it. Among the many interesting objects that there
rivet the gaze, there will often be descried passing through the
Narrows, that highway of nations, some white-winged wanderer of the
deep, voyaging to foreign shores. Within her how many hearts are faint
with the pangs of separation! How many buoyed up with the vain
fluttering of curiosity to visit stranger lands. Adventurous ones! ye
know not yet the extent of the penalty ye must pay for this shadowy
good. Tempests without, misgivings within, yearnings after your distant
dear ones, sickness—that shall make this “round world, and all it doth
inherit,” a blank, and a mockery—longings to set foot once more on
solid earth, which have no parallel, save the wail of the weaned child
for its mother.

Many, and of almost endless variety, are the pleasant drives that will
solicit you. The Clove Road, the Quarantine, the lovely, secluded grove,
with the townships of Richmond, Stapleton, Castleton, Tompkinsville,
Clifton, etc. are among them. Seldom, in a circumference of a few miles,
are such contrasts of scenery displayed. At one point you fancy yourself
in the Isle of Wight, then you are reminded of the Vale of Tempo, and
the fabled gardens of the Hesperides. Fair, sunny lawns—deep, solemn
forests, the resounding wheels of mechanical industry, alternate like a
dream, with clusters of humble cottages, the heavy ricks of the
agriculturist, and rude, gray rocks, from whose solitary heights, you
talk only with Ocean, while he answers in thunder.

In our exploring excursions, we often admired, amid its fringed margin
of trees, a circular expanse of water, from whence ice is obtained for
the use of the residents, and which bears the appellation of


Imbosomed deep in cedars, lonely lake!
Thy solemn neighbors that in silence dwell,
Save when to searching winds they answer make,
Then closer scan thee, in thy guarded cell,
No rippling keel hath vexed thee from thy birth,
No fisher’s net thy cloistered musing broke,
Nor aught that holds communion with the earth
Thy sky-wrapt spirit to emotion woke,
For thou from man wert fain to hide away,
Nursing a vestal purity of thought,
And only when stern Winter’s tyrant sway
A seal of terror on thy heart had wrought,
Gave him one icy gift, then turned away,
Unto the pure-eyed heavens, in penitence to pray.

There are several pleasantly situated churches on Staten Island. The
small one at Clifton, with its dark grained arches of oak, strongly
resembles those of the mother land. An ancient, low-browed one, at
Richmond, was built and endowed by Queen Anne, in 1714. Around it sleep
the dead, with their simple memorials. The sacred music that varied the
worship, was sweet and touching, and conducted almost entirely by the
seven daughters of its worthy and venerable clergyman, Dr. David Moore,
a son of the former bishop of Virginia. He has also charge of another
church, at Port Richmond. There we attended divine worship, one
cloudless autumnal Sunday, not deeming the distance of thirteen miles,
going and returning, as any obstacle. It was a simple edifice, on a
green slope, that stretched downward to meet the sea. In his discourse,
the white-haired pastor reminded his flock that for twice twenty years
he had urged them to accept the invitations of the gospel, on that very
spot, where the voice of his sainted father had been also uplifted,
beseeching them to be reconciled to God. Earnest zeal gave eloquence to
his words; and when they ceased, the solemn organ did its best to uplift
the listening soul in praise.

At the close of the service many lingered in the church-yard, to
exchange kind greetings with their revered guide. Old and young pressed
near to take his hand, while with affectionate cordiality he asked of
their welfare, as a father among his children. It was patriarchal and
beautiful. Religion in its pageantry and pomp hath nothing like it.

A boat, with its flashing oars, bore a portion of the worshipers to
their homes on the opposite shore. But on the rocks beneath us sat some
listless fishermen, idling away the hours of the consecrated day. Ah!
have ye not missed salvation’s priceless pearl? The wondrous glory of
the setting sun, as we pursued our homeward way, and the tranquil
meditations arising from the simplicity of devotion, made this a Sabbath
to be much remembered.

We were interested more than once in attending divine service in the
chapel of the Sailor’s Snug Harbor—a noble building, the gift of
private munificence, where the bronzed features and neat, tranquil
appearance of these favored sons of the sea, spoke at once of past
hardships upon the briny wave and of the unbroken comfort of their
present state of repose.

The cliffs and vales of this enchanted island are crowned with the
elegant mansions of the merchant princes. Among them are those of the
brothers Nesmyth, Mr. Anthon, Mr. Aspinwall, Mr. Morgan, and others,
that I greatly admired, without knowing the names of their occupants.
That of Mr. Comstock exhibits a model of perfect taste. All the
appointments within—the pictures, vases, and furniture of white and
gold, bespeak Parisian elegance, while the grounds and conservatory are
attractive; and in the centre of a rich area of turf, a dial points out
the hours to which beauty and fragrance give wings.

The residence of Mr. Jones, at “The Cedars,” has a very extensive
prospect, and is embellished by highly cultivated gardens of several
acres, loaded with fruits and flowers; and also, by an interesting
apiary, aviary, and poultry establishment, where hundreds of domestic
fowls, of the finest varieties, revel in prosperity.

The habitation of George Griswold, Esq. is princely, and of a truly
magnificent location. While in an unfinished state, the prospect from
the windows excited the following effusion:


Earth, sea and sky, in richest robes arrayed,
Wide spreads the glorious panorama round,
Charming the gazer’s eye. O’er wind-swept height,
Villa, and spire, and ocean’s glorious blue
Floats the mild, westering sun. Fast by our side
Frowns Fort Knyphausen, whence, in olden time,
The whiskered Hessian, bought with British gold,
Aimed at my country’s heart. Wild cedars wrap
Its ruined base, stretching their arras dark
O’er mound and mouldering bastion.
With what grace
New Jersey’s shores expand. Hillock and grove,
Hamlet and town, and lithe promontory,
Engird this islet, as a mother clasps
Some beauteous daughter. Still, opposing straits,
With their strong line of indentations, mar
The entire embrace.
Broad spreads the billowy bay,
Forever peopled by the gliding sail,
From the slight speck where the rude fisher toils,
To forms that, like a mountain, tread the wave,
Or those that, moved by latent fires, compel
The awe-struck flood.
Lo! from his northern home,
The bold, unswerving Hudson. He hath burst
The barrier of his palisades, to look
On this strange scene of beauty, and to swell
With lordly tribute what he scans with pride.
Behold the peerless city, lifting high
Its hallowed spires, and fringed with bristling masts,
In whose strong breast beat half a million hearts,
Instinct with hurrying life. The gray-haired sires
Remember well, how the dank waters crept
Where now, in queenly pomp, her court she holds.
Next gleams that Isle, whose long-drawn line of coast
Is loved by Ceres. On its western heights
Towereth a busy mart, and ’neath its wing,
One, whose pure domes are wrapped in sacred shade,
Silent, yet populous. Through its still gates
Pass on the unreturning denizens.
Oh, Greenwood! loveliest spot for last repose,
When the stern pilgrimage of life is o’er,
Even thy dim outline through the haze is dear.
Onward, by Coney Island’s silvery reef,
To where, between its lowly valves of sand,
Opes the Highway of Nations. Through it flows
The commerce of the world. The Mother Realm
Sends on its tides her countless embassies;
Bright France invokes the potency of steam
To wing her message; from his ice-clad pines
The Scandinavian, the grave, turbaned Turk,
The Greek mercurial, even the hermit-sons
Of sage Confucius, like the sea-bird, spread
Fleet pinions toward this city of the west,
That like a money-changer for the earth
Sits ’neath her temple-dome.
Yon ocean-gate,
With telegraphic touch, doth chronicle
The rushing tide of sea-worn emigrants,
Who reach the land that gives the stranger bread,
Perchance a grave. And he who ventureth forth,
The willing prisoner of some white-winged ship,
To seek Hygeia o’er the wave, or test
What spells do linger round those classic climes
That woke his boyhood’s dream, fails not his heart
As the blest hills of Neversink withdraw
Their misty guardianship?
Speech may not tell—
For well I know its poverty to paint
The rapture, when the homeward glance descries,
That native land, whose countless novelties,
And forms of unimagined life, eclipse
The worn-out wonders of an Older World,
That, with its ghostly finger, only points
To things that were.
Oh! great and solemn Deep,
Profound magician of the musing thought,
Release my strain, that to the beauteous Isle
Which hath so long enchained me, thanks may flow,
Warm, though inadequate.
The changeful hand
Of Autumn sheds o’er forest, copse, and grove,
In gorgeous hues, the symbol of decay;
But here and there some fondly lingering flower,
Sweet resonance of Summer, cheers the rocks
Where warm suns latest smile.
Oh, fairest Isle!
I grieve to say farewell. Still for the sake
Of those I love, and for the memories dear,
And sacred hospitalities that cling
Around the mansion, whence my steps depart,
Peace be within the palace-domes that crest
Thy sea-girt hills, and ’neath the cottage roofs
That nestle ’mid thy dells. For when I dream
Of some blest Eden that survived the fall,
That dream shall be of thee.

* * * * *


Shades of Evening! ye remind me
Of my own declining sun,
And of scenes I’ll leave behind me
When my sands of life are run!

Should that change come ere to-morrow,
Grant that I may sink to rest,
And from Virtue’s glory borrow
Hues to make my Evening blest.

* * * * *




’Tis distance lends enchantment to the view.

“What are you thinking of so intently, Annie?” asked Kate Leslie, of her
cousin. “You have not spoken for the last half hour.”

Annie roused herself and answered with a smile, “Only of last night’s
Opera. Nothing very important, you see.”

“And what of the Opera?” pursued Kate. “Come, I should like to hear a
genuine, unsophisticated opinion of our most fashionable city

“I was thinking less of the music, Kate!” returned Annie, “than of the

“And of the audience?” persisted Kate.

“Well, Kate, if you will have it, I was only thinking how happy and gay
they all looked. What a different world it was from any I had ever seen
before; and thinking what a difference of fate there was between those
elegant-looking girls who sat opposite, and myself.”

“Ah! the Hautons, they are fortune’s favorites indeed. They have every
thing, fortune, family, fashion—and elegant, high-bred looking things
they are. They called yesterday and left a card for you; but Mrs. Hauton
told mamma last night that they were moving out to Woodlawn, and hoped
we would return the visit there. I should like it of all things, for the
place is magnificent, and I am told they entertain delightfully. We have
always visited in the city, but have never before been invited out of
town. As soon as Mrs. Hauton is settled there, I presume we shall hear
from her. Fanny Elliot spent a week with them last summer, and she said
it was a continued round of dinner and evening-parties all the time.
Beside invited guests, they have always preparations made for unexpected
company. The table is laid every day as for a dinner-party, with silver,
and I don’t know how many men in attendance. And then they have a
billiard-room and library, and green-house and horses—and all in the
handsomest style.”

“And an opera-box in town,” said Annie, with something that approached a

“Oh, yes, an opera-box, and every thing else you can think of. They live
in the city in the winter, and their parties are always the most elegant
of the season. The girls dress exquisitely, too. They import most of
their things; and, in short, I don’t know any one I’d rather be than one
of those Hautons.”

Annie, who lived in the quiet little village of C——, where her father,
the principal lawyer in the place, could just manage to maintain his
family in a plain, comfortable, but rather homespun way, was rather
dazzled by this picture of the Hautons; and her heart quite died within
her at the idea of paying a visit among such grand people. She looked
upon Kate’s fearlessness on the subject with some surprise. But then
Kate, she remembered, was “used to such people.” But how should she, a
little village-girl, appear among these fashionables. Then her dress,
(that first thought among women,) she almost hoped Mrs. Hauton would
forget to follow up her invitation.

A few days after, however, Kate entered the room, saying, “Here is a
note from Mrs. Hauton, Annie, as I expected. She wishes us to pass a few
days at Woodlawn. Mamma desired me to show it to you before she answered
it. So what do you say?”

“Just what you do, of course,” replied Annie. “They are almost strangers
to me, you know; so you must decide for us both. I am ready to accept or

“Oh, my dear,” interrupted Kate, quickly, “I would not have you refuse
on any account. I am particularly glad, for your sake, that the
invitation should have come while you are with us. Indeed, Annie, I
consider you quite in luck that we are asked just at this time.”

“How long are we to stay?” inquired Annie.

“We are invited from Monday to Wednesday, in English style,” replied
Kate, “which I like. Of all things I hate that indefinite period of ‘as
long as you find it agreeable,’ when half your time is spent in trying
to find out how long you are expected to remain, and your hostess is
equally occupied in endeavoring to ascertain when you mean to go.”

Annie’s eyes dilated with surprise at this definition of city
hospitality, which sounded to her fresh country ears and primitive ideas
as somewhat remarkable, but concluding that her cousin was in jest, she
smiled as she said,

“Is it usual to fix a time for your friends’ departure as it is for
their coming, Kate?”

“No,” answered Kate. “I wish it were. It would not, then, be such a
formidable matter to ask them.”

“Are you in earnest?” asked Annie, looking up surprised.

“To be sure I am,” replied Kate. “You don’t know what a bore it is to
have a place near the city, Annie, and to have people coming forever,
without an idea when they are going.”

“Then why do you ask them at all, if you don’t want them?” inquired

“Oh, because you _must_,” said Kate. “Some expect it, to others you owe
civilities; and its all very well if the time of their going was only
fixed. Two or three days for people you don’t care for, and who don’t
care for you, is long enough.”

“Plenty, I should think,” answered Annie, emphatically. “And I should
not think, Kate, there was any danger of guests under such circumstances
remaining longer.”

“Much you know of it, my dear!” said Kate, in a droll tone of despair.
“The less you care for them, and the greater the bores, the longer they
stay. But papa and mamma have such old-fashioned notions of hospitality,
that they wont adopt this new style of naming the days of the
invitation. The Hautons understand the matter better.”

“Come, Annie,” said Kate, the next day, “as we are to breakfast at
Woodlawn, we shall have no time to do any thing in the morning, so we
may as well pack our trunk now. I suppose you’ll ride out in your gray
barège,” she continued, as she opened the wardrobe to take down some of
her own and her cousin’s dresses.

Now as this gray barège was one of Annie’s two best dresses, and which
she was accustomed to think quite full dress, she hesitated, and said,
with some surprise,

“My gray barège for the morning?”

“Yes, it will do very well,” continued Kate, supposing her hesitation
proceeded from diffidence as to its being too plain. “The simpler a
breakfast-dress the better; and gray is always a good _unnoticeable_

Annie almost gasped. If she was to begin with her barège for breakfast,
what should she do for dinner. But Kate proceeded with,

“Take the sleeves out of your book-muslin, Annie, and that will do for
dinner. You are always safe in white, and I suppose they will supply us
with Camelias from the green-house for our heads.”

“Book-muslins, short sleeves, and Camelia’s for dinner.” Annie’s heart
beat high between expectation and fear. She almost wished the visit
over, and yet would not have given it up for the world.

Monday morning arrived, and an hour’s drive brought them to Woodlawn.
And as they drove up through the beautiful avenues of elms, and stopped
before a very large, handsome house, which commanded a beautiful lawn,
Annie felt that the place quite equalled her expectations.

Mrs. Hauton received them with great politeness, made a slight apology

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Online LibraryVariousGraham's Magazine, Vol. XXXVII, No. 3, September 1850 → online text (page 4 of 16)