Henry J. (Henry John) Van-Lennep.

The American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry John) Van-LennepThe American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading → online text (page 12 of 18)
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' 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."


THE learned and ingenious Anna Maria Scliur-
man was born at Cologn, Nov. 5th, 1607. Her


parents were descended from noble protestant fa-
milies. Anna Maria discovered from her early
childhood extraordinary ingenuity. At six years
of age she cut, with her scissars, without paitern
or model, a variety of curious figures la paper.—
Two years afterwards, she learned in a few days
to design flowers with great perfection ; and in
her eleventh year, acquired, m three hours, the
art of embroidering. She afterwards received
instructions in music, in painting, in sculpture,
and in engraving ; in all of which she was admi-
rably successful. It is observed, by Mr. Evelyn,
in his history of Caicography, •■' that the very
knowing Ann Maria Schurman is skilled in this
art, with innumerable others, even for a prodigy
of her sex !" iier hand-writing, specimens of
which have been preserved by the curious in their
cabinets, was in all languages inimitably beautiful.
Mr. Joby, in his journey to Munster, speaks of
the beauty of her penmanship in Greek, flebrew,
S) riac, Arabic, and French, of which he had been
an eye-witness : he also mentions her skill in mi-
niature-painting ; and in drawing, with the point
of a diamond, portraits upon glass : she painted
her own picture. She possessed the art of imi-
tating pearls, which could not be distinguished
fro:n the originals, but by piercing them with a

The powers of her understanding were not in-
ferior to her ingenuity. At eleven years of age,
being occasionally present at the lessons of her
brothers, she frequendy set them right by a whis-
per, when examined in their Ladn exercises.—
Her father, observing her genius for literature,
resolved to cultivate a capacity so uncommon :
a lou:.dation was thus laid for htr future acquire-
ments. Her proficiency in the Hebrew, Greek,


and Latin languages, in which she wrote and
spoke fluently, astonihsed the learned. She made
great progress also in the oriental languages, the
Arabic, Kthiopic, Chaldee, and Syriac. With
the living languages, English, Italian, and French,
she was not less conversant. She studied the
sciences with equal success, geography, astrono-
my, and physics. Her temper having early ac-
quired a devotional cast, she at length exchanged
for theology the more liberiii pursuit of learning.

Her father had, during her infancy, settled at
Utrecht, whence, for the improvement of his
children, he moved to Franeker ; where, in 1623,
he died : On this event, his widow returned to
Utrecht, where Anna Maria continued to devote
herself to her studies. Her predilection for let-
ters prevented her from engaging in more active
life, and induced her to decline an advantageous
establishment. Mr. Cots, pensionary of Holland,
and a celebrated poet, who, when she was only
fourteen years of age, had written verses in her
praise, offered her his hand and heart.

Her modesty, no less singular tiic"*!} her know-
led^i:, rendered her desirous of burying her ac-
quirements in obscurity : it was in despite of her
inclination that Rivetus, Spanheim, and Vossius,
brought her forward to notice. To these maybe
added, Salmasius, Huygens, and Beverovicius,
who, holding with her a literary correspondence,
spread her fame through foreign countries. Her
reputation, thus extended, procured her letters
from Balzac, Gassendi, Mercennus, Rochart,
Contart, and other men of eminence : while she
was visited by princesses, and persons of the first
distinction, cardinal Richelieu also honoured her
with marks of his esteem.


About the year 1650 her religious sentiments
underwent a revolution. Having declined atten-
dance on public worship, she performed her de-
votions in private. It was reported that she
meant to embrace poperj^ The truth was, she
had attached herself to Labadie, the celebrated
quietist, whose principles she embraced, and
whom she accompanied wherever he went. She
resided with him for some time at Altona, in
Holstein, where she attended him at his death, in
1674. She retired afterwards to Wierwart, in
Frieland, where she was visited by William Penn,
in 1677. She died at Wiewart, the following
year, May 5th, 1678.




daughter of Dr. Thomas Graeme, by Anne, the
daughter of Sir William*Keith, then governour
of Pennsylvania. Her father was a native of
Scotland, and a graduate in medicine. For nearly
half a century he maintained the first rank in his
profession in the city of Philadelphia. He held,
during the great part of this time, the office of
collector of the port. Her mother possessed a
masculine mind, with all those female charms and
accomplishments Mhich render a woman alike
agreeable to both sexes. They had one son and
three daughters, all of whom attained to the age
of maturity. The subject of this memoir was the
youngest of them. She discovered, in early life,
signs of uncommon talents and virtue, both of
which were cultivated with great care, and chiefly


by her mother. Her person \, as slender and her
health delicate. The latter was partly tht effect
of native weakness, being a seven month's child,
and partly acquired by too great application to
books. She passed her youth in the lap of pa-
rental affection. A pleasant and highly improved
retreat, known by the name of Graeme Park, in
J^Ionigomery county, twenty miles from Philadel-
phia, in which her parents spent their summers,
afforded her the most delightful opportunities for
study, meditation, rural walks and pleasures, and,
above all, for cultivating a talent for poetry. This
retreat was, moreover, consecrated to society and
friendship. A plentiful table was spread daily
for visitors, and two or three young ladies from
Philadelphia generally partook with Miss Gneme
of the enjoyments which her situation in the
country furnished. About her seventeenth year
she was addressed by a citizen of Philadelphia
of respectable connections and character. She
gave him her heart, with the promise of her hand,
upon his return from London, whither he went
to complete his education in the law. From
causes which it is not necessary to detail, the con-
tract of marriage, at a future day, was broken ;
but not without much suffering on the part of
Miss Graeme. To relieve and divert her mind
from the effects of this event, she translated the
whole of Telemachus into English verse ; but
this, instead of saving, perhaps aided the distress
of Her disappointment, in impairing her health,
and that to such a degree as to induce her father,
m conjunction with two other physicians, to ad-
vise a voyage to England for its recovery. Her
mother concurred in this advice, but for another
reason besides that of restoring her daughter's
health. This venerable and excellent woman had


long laboured under a disease which, she believed,
would have a fatal issuer She anticipated the
near approach of death ; and that it might be
less terrible to her, she wished her daughter to
be removed beyond the sphere of the counter at-
traction of her affections from the world of spirits,
which her presence near her deathbed would ex-
cite. This feeling is not a solitary or casual one,
in the human mind. Archbishop Lightfoot wish-
ed to die from home, that he might dissolve more
easily his ties to his family. A lady in Philadel-
phia, some years ago, in her last moments, said to
her daughter, who sat weeping at her bedside,
" Leave me, my child ; I cannot die while you
are in the room." Many instances of similar
conflicts between religion and nature have occur-
red in domestic history, which have escaped ge-
neral observation.

Mrs. Graeme died, according to her expecta-
tions and wishes, during her daughter's absence,
leaving behind her two farewell letters to be de-
livered to her upon her return ; one, upon the
choice of a husband, and the other upon the ma-
nagement of a family. These letters contain
many original ideas, and the most ardent expres-
sions of maternal affection. The tenor of these
expressions may easily be conceived by the fol-
lowing sentence extracted from the introduction
to one of them. " I have rested for some time
with my pen in my hand, from being at a lo^s to
find out an epithet to address you with, that shall
fully express my affection for you. After a good
deal of deliberation, I can find nothing that pleases
me better than ' my own dear Betsy."*

* Mrs. Graeme left letters to several of her friends,
to be delivered to them aft€r her death. The folio v>?-


Miss Grsme spent a year in England, where
she was aceompanied by the Rev. Dr. Richard Pe-
ters, of Philadelphia, a gentleman of highly polish-
ed manners, and whose rank enabled him to intro-
duce her to the most respectable circles of com-
pany. She sought, and was sought lor, by the
most celebrated literary gentlemen who flourished
in England at the time of the accession of George
the Third to the throne. She was introduced to
this monarch and particularly noticed by him.
The celebrated Dr. Fothergill, whom she con-
sulted as a physician, became her friend and cor-
respondent as long as he lived. An accident at-
tached the sentimental and then popular author of
Tristram Shandy to her. She took a seat upon
the same stage with him at the York races. While
bets were making upon diiferent horses, she se-
lected a small horse that was in the rear of the
coursers as the subject of a trifling wager. Upon
being asked the reason for doing so, she said that
the " race was not always to the swift, nor the
battle to the stix)ng." Mr. Sterne, who stood near

ing is an extract from one of them to Mrs. Redman,
the wife of the late Dr. John Redman :

" I have been waiting with a pleasing expectation
of my dissolution a great while, and I beUeve the
same portion of grace which has been afl"orded me
hitherto, will not be withdrawn at that trying hour.
My trust is'in my heavenly Father's mercies, procur-
ed and promised for the ali-suflicient merits of my
blessed Saviour, so that whatever time it may be be-
fore you see this, or whatever weakness I may be un-
der on my deathbed, be assured this is my faith ; this
is my hope from my youth up until now And thus,
my dear, I take my final leave of you. Adieu, for=
ver. ANNE GRiEME,"

Sept. 22, 1762,


to her, was struck with this rtply, and, turning
hastily towards her, begged lor the honour of her
acquaintance. They soon became sociable, and
a good deal of pleasant conversation took place
between them, to the great entertainment of the
surrounding company.

Upon her return to Philadelphia, she was visit-
ed by a numerous circle of friends, as well to con-
dole with her upon the death of her mother, as to
welcome her arrival to her native shores. She
soon discovered, by the streams of information
she poured upon her friends, that she had been
" all eye, all ear, and all grasp," during her visit
to Great-Britain. The Journal she kept of her
travels, was a feast to all who read it. Manners
and characters in an old and highly civilized coun-
try, contrasted with those to which she had been
accustomed in our own, accompanied with many
curious facts and anecdotes, were the component
parts of this interesting manuscript. • Her mo-
desty alone prevented its being made public, and
thereby affording a specimen to the world and to
posterity, of her happy talents for observation,
reflection and composition.

In her father's family she now occupied the
place of her mother. She kept his house, and
presided at his table and fire-side, in entertaining
all his company. Such was the character of Dr.
Grime's family for hospitality and refinement of
manners, that all strangers of note who visited
Philadelphia were introduced to it. Saturday
evenings were appropriated for many years dur-
ing Miss Grseme's winter residence in the city, for
the entertainment not only of strangers, but of
such of her friends of both sexes as were consi-
dered the most suit, hie company for them. These
evenings were, properly speaking, of the attic kind.


The genius of Miss Graeme evolved the heat and
light that animated them. One while she in-
structed hy the stores of knowledge contained in
the historians, philosophers and poets of ancient
and modern nations, which she called forth at her
pleasure ,* and again she charmed by a profusion
of original ideas, collected by her vivid and widely
expanded imagination, and combined with exqui-
site taste and judgment into an endless variety of
elegant and delightful forms. Upon these occa-
sions her body seemed to evanish, and she appear-
ed to be all mind. The writer of this memoir
would have hesitated in giving this description of
the kiminous displays of Miss Graeme's knowledge
and eloquence at these intellectual banquets, did
he not know there are several ladies and gentle-
men now living in Philadelphia, who can testify
that it is not exaggerated.

It was at one of these evening parties she first
saw Mr. Hugh Henry Ferguson, a handsome and
accomplished young gentleman who had lately
arrived in this country from Scotland. They
were suddenly pleased with each other. Private
interviews took place between them, and in the
course of a few months they were married. The
inequality of their ages (for he was ten years
younger than Miss Graeme) was opposed in a cal-
culation of their conjugal happiness, by the same-
ness of their attachment to books, retirement and
literary society. They settled upon the estate in
Montgomery county, which Mrs. Ferguson's
father (who died at an advanced age soon after
her marriage) bequeathed to her. But before the
question of their happiness could be decided by
the test of experiment, the dispute between Great-
Britain and America took place, in which it be-
came necessary for Mr. Ferguson to take part.


He joined the former in the year 1775, and from
that time a perpetual separation took place be-
tween him and Ivirs. Ferguson. Other causes
contributed to prevent their re-union after ihe
peace of 1782 ; but the recital of them would be
uninteresting as well as foreign to the design of
thiS publicacion. Mrs. Ferguson passed the in-
terval between the year 1775 and the time of her
death, chiefly in the country upon her iarm, in
reading and in the different branches of domestic
industry. A female friend v/ho had been the
companion of her youth, and whose mind was
congenial to her own, united her destiny with
hers, and soothed her various distresses by all the
l^ind and affectionate offices which friendship and
sympathy could dictate. In her retirement she
Nvas eminently useful. The doors of the cottages
that were in her neighbourhood bore the marks of
her footsteps, which were always accompanied or
followed with cloathing, provisions or medicines
to relieve the nakedness, hunger or gickness of
thtir inhabitants. During the time Gen. Howe
had possession of Philadelphia, she sent a quan-
tity of linen into the city spun with her own
G'tiiius, rtTiC* %*ircctCC* It t'j D£ inad6 into shirts
for the benefit of the American prisoners that
were taken at the battle of Germantown.

Upon hearing, in one of her visits to Philadel-
phia, that a merchant, once affluent in his circum-
stances, was suddenly thrown into gaol by his cre-
ditors, and was suffering from the want of many
of the usual «. omforts of his life, she sent him a
bed, and afterwards procured admission into his
ap irtment, and put twenty dollars into his hancis.
He asked for the name of his benefactress. She
refused to make herself knovv n to him, and sud-
denlj^ left him. This humane and charitable act


would not have been made known, had not the
gc.>wica;an*s description oi h^r person and uilss
discovered it. At this time her annual mediae
was reduced to the small sum of one hundred nd
sixty dollars a year, which had been saved by he
friendship of the iace Mr. George Meade, out of
the wreck of her estate. Many such secret acts
of charity, exercised at the expense of her per-
soiicu and habitual comforts, might be mentuned.
They will be made known elsewhere. In these
acis -J obeyed the gospel commandment of lov-
ing M'jr neighbours better than herself. Her svm-
paili}^ was not only active, but passive in a high
degree. In the extent of this species of sensi-
bility, she seemed to be all nerve. She partook
of the minutest sorrows of her friends, and even
a newspaper that contained a detail of public or
private wo, did not pass through her hands with-
out being bedewed with a tear. Nor did her
sympathy with misery end here. The sufferings
oi the brute creation often drew sighs from her
bosom, and led her to express a hope that repara-
tion would be made to them for those sufferings
in a future state of existence.

I have said that Mrs. Ferguson possessed a
talent for poetry. Some of her verses have been
published, and many of them are in the hands of
her friends. They discover a vigorous poetical
imagination, but the want of a poetical ear. This
will not surprise those who know there may be
poetry witnout metre, and metre without poetry.

The prose writings oi Mrs. Ferguson indicate
strong marks of genius, taste and knowledge.
Nu thing that came from her pen was common.
Even her hasty notes to her friends placed the
m^.ot trivial siii.jects in such a new and agreeable
light, as not only secured them irom destruction,


but gave them a durable place among the most
prc-cious fragments of fancy and sentiment.

Mrs. Ferguson was a stranger to the feelings
of a mother, lor she had no children ; but she
knt w and faithfully performed all the duties of
that relation to the son and daughter of one of
her sisters, who committed them to her care upon
her deathbed. The both possessed hereditary
talents and virtues. Her nephew, John Young,
became under her direction, an accomplished
scholar and gentleman. He died a lieutenant in
the British army, leaving behind him a recoid of
his industry and knowledge, in an elegant trans-
lation of d' Argent's Ancient Geography, into the
English lai guage. A copy of this valuable work
is Lo be seen in the Philadelphia Library, with a
tribute to the memory of the translator, by Mrs.
Ferguson.* The mind of her niece, Ann Young,
was an elegant impression of her own : she mar-
ried Dr. William Smith, of Philadelphia, and liv-
ed but a few years afterwards. She left a son
and daughter ; the latter followed her mother
prematurely to the grave, in the year 1808, in the
thirtieth year of her -age ; after exhibiting to a
numerous and affectionate circle of acquaintances,
a rare instance of splendid talents and virtues,

* A singular incident laid the foun nation for the
literary acquirements of this young gentleman. Be-
foje hi» twelfth, year, he was an idle boy ; about that
time his aunt ioi ked him in her father's Hbrary, for
four and twenty hours, as a punishment for some of-
fence. In this situation he picked up a book to re-
lieve him^^elf from the uneasiness of his solitude.
Tliii book arvested anil fixed his attention. He read
it rhrouy^h, .md from that time he became devoted to
books and study.


descending unimpaired dirough four successive

The virtues which have been ascribed to Mrs.
Ferguson, were not altogether the effects of edu-
cation, nor of a happy moral texture of mind.
They were improved, invigorated and directed
in their exercises by the doctrines and precepts of
Christianity. To impress the contents of the
Bible more deeply upon her mind, she transcribed
every chapter and verse in it, and hence arose the
facility and success with which she frequently se-
lected its finest historical and moral passages to
illustrate or adorn the subj€cts of her writings
and conversation.

She was well read in polemical divinity, and a
firm believet* in what are considered the mysteries
of revelation. Although educated in the forms
and devoted to the doctrines of the church of
England, she worshipped devoutly with other
sects, when she resided among them, by all of
whom she was with a singular unanimity believed
to be a sincere and pious Christian.

There was a peculiarity in her disposition,
which would seem, at first sight, to cast a shade
over the religious part of her character. After
the reduction of her income, she constantly re-
fused to accept of the least pecuniary assistance,
and even of a present, from any of her friends.
Let such persons who are disposed to ascribe this
conduct to unchristian pride, recollect, there is a
great difference between that sense of poverty
which is induced by adverse dispensations of Pro-
vidence, and that which is brought on by volun-
tary charities. Mrs. Ferguson conformed, in the
place and manner of her living, to the narrowness
of her resources. She knew no want that could
make a wise or good woman unhappy, and she


was a stranger to the " real evil" of debt. Her
charities, moreover, would not have been her
own, had they been replaced by the charities of
her friends.

The afflictions of this excellent woman from
all the causes that have been mentioned, did not
fill up the measure of her sufferings. Her passage
outof life was accompaniedwith great and protract-
ed pain. This welcome event took place On the :i3d
of February, in the year 1801, in the sixty-se-
cond year of her age, at the house of Seneca
Lukins, a member of the Society of Friends,
near Gramme Park. Her body was interred,
agreeably to her request, by the side of her pa-
rents, in the enclosure of Christ Church, in Phi-




MR. BERESFORD was a merchant, engaged
in a very extensive business, and possessed of con-
siderable property, a great part of which was vest-
ed in a large estate in the country, on which he
chiefly resided.

Beresford was what is commonly denominated
purse-proud ; and so eager to be honoured upon
account of his wealth, that he shunned rather
than courted the society of men of rank, as he
was fond of power and precedence, and did not
like to associate with those who had an indisputa-
ble claim to that deference of which he himself
was desirous. But he earnestly wished that his
only child and heiress should marry a man of
rank ; and being informed that a young baronet
of large estates in his neighbourhood, and who
was also heir to a barony, was just returned from
his travels, and intended to settle at his paternal
seat, Mr. Beresford was resolved that Julia
should have every possible opportunity of shew-
ing off to the best advantage before so desirable
a neighbour ; and he determined that his daugh-
ter, his house, and his table, should not want any
charm which money could procure.

Beresford had gained his fortune by degrees ;
and having been educated by frugal and retired


parents, his habits were almost parsimonious ;
and when he launched out into unwonted expenses
on beccming wealthy, it was only in a partial
manner. His house and his furniture had a sort
of pye-bald appearance ; — his syle of living was
not consistent, like that of a man used to live
like a gentleman, but opulence, with a timid grasp,
seemed to squeeze out its indulgencies from the
griping fingers of habitual economy. True, he
could, on occasions, be splendid, both in his pub-
lic and private gifts ; but such bounties were ef-
forts, and he seemed to wonder at himself when-
ever the exertion was over.

Julia Beresford, his daughter, accustomed from
her birth to affluence, if not to luxur)^ — and ha-
ving in every thing what is called the spirit of a
gentlewoman, was often distressed and mortified
at the want of consistency in her father's mode of
living ; but she was particularly distressed to find
that, though he was always telling her what a for-
tune he would give her when she married and at
his death, he allowed her but a trifling sum, com-
paratively, for pocket money, and required from
her, with teasing minuteness, an account of the
manner in which her allowance was spent ; repro-
bating very severely her propensity to spend her
money on plausible beggars and pretended inva-

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry John) Van-LennepThe American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading → online text (page 12 of 18)