Henry T. (Henry Theodore) Tuckerman.

The life of John Pendleton Kennedy online

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Enk-red according to Act of Congress, in the j-oar 1871, by

in the OUico of the. Librarian of Congress at Washington.



NRWBUHOH, N . T . 108-114 WooskT Street,

Now York.


INTRODUCTION. ,-. . ~ , Page 9


Parentage ; Birth ; Education. Autobiographical Sketch 23


Baltimore. Historical and social reminiscences; Local and Lit
erary 81


Law Studies ; Social Life; Admitted to the Bar; Eminent Lawyers
of Baltimore; Friendships; "The Red Book;" Death of Cruse;
Public Life; Pinkney; Member of the House of Delegates; Ap
pointed Minister to Chili ; Declines; Marriage; Death of his wife ;
Fox-llunting 101


Second marriage ; Law Business ; Absences ; Letters to Mrs. Kennedy ;
Home Life; Journeys; Residences in the City and Country house
at Patapsco 122


" Swallow Barn ;" Its Publication ; The Class of Writings to which
it Belongs ; Its Plan, Style and Significance ; State of American
Literature at the Time of its Appearance ; Discouragement
Thereto; Its Reception; Success; Subject; Republicatioii and
Illustration.. . 146




Novels ; " Horse-Shoe Robinson ;" Its Scope and Aim ; Its Hero ; Moral ;
Criticism ; Its Success Page 161


Political Life; The Protective System; Clay; Elected to Congress ;
Social Privileges ; " Defence of the Whigs ;" Reports ; Proposal of
Webster; Complimentary Dinner ; Aids Morse s Telegraphic Ex
periment; Again elected to the Maryland House of Delegates;
Speech at Hagerstowii ; Political work and distaste therefor. 172


Publication of " Rob of the Bowl ;" " Annals of Quodlibet" and the
"Life of Wirt;" Elected Provost of the University of Mary-
laud .188

His Interest in the Young ; Anecdotes ; His Godson 203


Appointed Secretary of the Navy ; Enters upon his duties ; Naval
Expeditions; Dr. Kane s search for Sir John Franklin; Ericsson s
trial trip; Irving s Visit; Departure from Washington; Death
of Mrs. Fillmore ; Visit to Greenway Court ; Journey to the
Southwest 217


His Father-in-law; Life and Character of Edward Gray; Visit to
Europe 246


Ill-health ; Lameness ; Cheerful endurance thereof ; Literary Pro
jects ; Notes for Essays ; Miscellaneous Writings ; Autograph
Leaves ; Occasional Addresses ; Taste in Literature ; Advice to a
Young Author ; Adieu to his Library ; Social honors 264



Second visit to Europe ; Extracts from Journal; Letters to Hon. R. 0.
\Viuthrop and Judge Bryan Page 278

During the Rebellion 306


His Journals; His Social Life and Influence; Public Spirit; Various
Speeches; Occupations; Slavery in Maryland; Manumission of
Two Slaves; His Forbearance ; Record of his Feelings and Daily
Experience 343


Intercourse with Authors ; Thackeray ; Cooper ; Willis ; Prcscott and
others : Poe ; Cruse ; Irving 363

The IVabody Institute 390

Correspondence 401

Visit to Cuba Tin. New Orleans 435


Last Visit to Europe ; Last Public Appearance ; Failing Health ; Last
Illness; Death ; Burial at Green Mount ; Tributes 456




THE great need of our country is Social Education, in the
best sense of the term. We have a system of free pub
lic tuition that secures a certain amount and degree of mental
culture j which, however, instead of equalizing social privi
leges, is apt to produce ambition and discontent as well as to
diffuse useful knowledge ; for it is a discipline which deals al
most exclusively with intelligence, leaving the affections and
sympathies crudely or casually developed. We have a grega
rious habit of intercourse subject to no laws of rank or eti
quette and dependent on the individual sense of propriety
and personal affinities, for all of order or amenity it calls forth.
We have political institutions which give free scope to all, ir
respective of endowment, birth, vocation and character. The
extent and enterprise of our country afford exceptional op
portunities to the shrewd and industrious, to acquire for
tunes. But with all these signal advantages, there is no pro
vision either in our civic, educational or economical arrange
ments, for social discipline or refinement as such ; and, therefore,
we find men eminent in certain departments of life, destitute
of that sense of the appropriate, that insight and tact, and
above all, that disinterested sympathy which, in the last anal
ysis, is the safeguard and, distinction of Christian civilization.


Academic culture, official station, material success, are con
stantly in violent contrast with the manners and motives, the
consideration and the character that should accompany and
emphasize these personal distinctions. Incongruity, antag
onism, inaptitude the absence of the generous and the ge
nial, the refined and the elevated in tone, bearing, and the
conduct of life, thus disintegrate and deform our social experi
ence. The old deference to character, the primitive rever
ence for superior wisdom and natural dignity, which, in the
first years of the republic, harmonized, by an instinctive law,
the defects of our social life, have passed away. Hence the
value of a true and pure example and the moral refreshment
we derive from the character and career of an educated citi
zen, who, while true to private duty, equally obeyed the in
spiration of public spirit, and made both attractive by broad,
alert, refined and unselfish social intercourse ; recognizing the
law of usefulness, and at the same time, the daily beauty
wherewith order, kindness, courtesy and the love of art, letters
and nature, harmonize and humanize its performance.

Modern life might be not inaptly symbolized by the libra
ry and the newspaper ; that is, private resources and home
culture, and the extrinsic demands of the " chart of busy
life;" in our country the latter are too often so absorbing as to
mar self-possession and overlay individuality ; the former are
the conservative elements ; and only those who therein attain
somewhat of wisdom and serenity, can master the encroach
ments of the other. Mr. Kennedy was one of the few who
knew how to reconcile what was due to himself and to the
world ; he worked bravely while duty required, but he wel
comed the freedom which gave scope to intellectual tastes and
social interests, as the legitimate end and aim of conscientious


labor. Herein he resembled the subject of his popular biog
raphy : " How can men toil," asks Wirt in one of his letters,
" as they are doing here ; business in their heads, business in
their hearts, business forever in their faces, without one pal
pitation to tell them what love and friendship mean ?"

There are two classes of men who engage in official life ;
one to whom politics are a trade an exclusive means of dis
tinction and livelihood, and cultivated accordingly for these
ends ; the other actuated by patriotic motives, in some cases

yielded to at great personal sacrifice, and, at others, harmon-


izedby a taste and talent for public life; but, in both instances,
accompanied by resources upon which they can fall back with
out impairing either their contentment or usefulness. To the
latter class Mr. Kennedy belonged ; his intelligence and sym
pathies alike fitted him to occupy a representative position both
civic and social ; but his culture and affections, at the same time,
rendered him quite independent of such employment ; to him
emphatically the private station was the post of honor, endear
ed by literary aspirations, personal friendships and domestic
love. Accordingly, he often wearied of the claims and clashings
of political life, and was only reconciled thereto by the oppor
tunities it yielded for honorable duty and congenial associations.
As a natural consequence, his aims, scope and motives were
disinterested, comprehensive, national. He was above intrigue
and far beyond the limits of narrow prejudice and partisan self-
seeking. He presented the rare example, in our day, of a con
scientious citizen, prompt and faithful in the fulfilment of every
duty incumbent upon a loyal son of the republic ; in each sta
tion to which he was called, bringing an earnest and wise pa
triotism, and, in private life, by pen and voice and vote, con
tinually promoting the welfare of his country.


Sir Walter Scott, writing of some cultivated young Ameri
cans whose acquaintance he had just made, says : " I hope they
will inoculate their country with a love of letters so nearly al
lied to a love of peace and a sense of justice ;" and Lord Bacon
observes of men of science and literature, that when devoted to
public affairs, " they carry thereunto a spirit more lofty and com
prehensive than that which animates the mere politician." Both
convictions of these eminent individuals are signally illustrated
in Mr. Kennedy s public life ; his culture widened and elevated
his functions as a public man, and enlisted his effective co-op
eration in behalf of the arts of peace, the progress of science,
and the good of humanity.

The harmonious development of Mr. Kennedy s character,
and his auspicious and attractive personal influence, though
derived from his endowments and temperament, were yet, in
no small degree, owing to the gradual and healthy unfolding
of his mind and his rational enjoyment of life. It is excep
tional in our busy land, where eagerness of pursuit, in the race
for renown or wealth, so often prematurely exhausts or selfish
ly absorbs the mind and heart, to find a man of literary skill
or political eminence, who consistently exercised the one in
the calm maturity of his powers and attained the other without
sacrificing either self-respect or peace of mind. Mr. Kenne
dy s early youth was gay without dissipation, and his manhood
was earnest and useful without being wasted by care or made
restless through ambition. He did not freely and fairly in
dulge his taste for literature until he had patiently labored in
his profession to earn the "glorious privilege of being in
dependent." He did not rush into the arena of politics, but
gradually and gracefully took a part therein, until his obvious
ability and patriotic motives were recognized and honored.


Neither public life nor authorship pre-occupied him to the ex
tent of causing the least neglect of private obligations or the
sacrifice of those sympathies, domestic and personal, which
were ever the essential interests of his life. He cherished no
exaggerated idea of the desirableness of success, in the ordi
nary meaning of the term, either as an author or a statesman.
Hence the man was invariably superior to his vocation ; and
illustrated and emphasized rather than succumbed to it.

Somewhat of this happy blending of the elements of char
acter and balance of faculty was due to circumstances. Plis
physical constitution was so delicate that long-continued se
dentary occupation was impossible without detriment to his
health ; while his social instinct was so predominant that he
could never have reconciled himself to the life of a bookworm.
Happy as were the hours passed in his library, engrossing, for
the time, as were his literary or political studies, he was impelled
to seek companionship, to observe life and to enjoy the face and
freedom of Nature. A profound and systematic student he
never was ; but a lover of books, a man of society, and a
cheerful traveller always : genuine public spirit continually won
him from concentration on private ends ; keen relish of the
fresh air, the free mountains, the picturesque and the peace
ful in rural scenes and the " comedy of life," beguiled him con
stantly from his desk, to which he returned with new zest and
a more wholesome appreciation. While he enjoyed the oppor
tunities for usefulness and the honorable triumphs of political
life, he wearied of its monotonous exactions and disdained its
unworthy expedients ; so that the self-congratulation with
which he escaped was as sincere as the pleasure with which
he accepted office. .It was this alternation of pursuit, this in
terweaving of social and student life, this vibrating between


official labor and pleasant journeys ; and, above all, the con
verging of his sympathies upon home and friends, that kept the
background of his existence rich and bright, and harmonized,
with vivid and evenly-disposed tints, the entire picture thereof.

Grateful recognition of our privileges and a moderate
ideal of life, are too rare in this country, not to make their de
liberate record salutary, as in the following extract from Mr.
Kennedy s journal :

"October 25:11,1854. My birthday; a clear, balmy Indian
Summer day, mild and beautiful, in some features a type of my
life sunshiny, peaceful, almost all I could wish. I say almost,
it has had its drawbacks and its failures enough to teach me
my humanity. I have been prosperous in my modest way, and
moderation is the best form of prosperity. I have had no ex
traordinary successes, no extravagant fortune, no pre-eminent
good luck ; but a temperate, fair and reasonable experience from
day to day. I have lost many golden moments ; I have com
mitted many obvious errors ; my faults have been carelessly
weeded ; these I confess with a penitent spirit. I am on the
verge of old age with these convictions ; but I am sensible that
I am withal a wiser and a better man in the course of each
added year. Above all, I am content, patient, cheerful and re
signed to all that is to come. The good and indulgent Fa
ther of my being, I trust in most devoutly as my guide and pro
tector to the last ; and I abide his providence with undoubted
faith. I have outlived my love of show and luxury, and rest
in perfect satisfaction with the comfort and leisure I have at
tained to."

Eminently valuable and interesting, as a precedent, is the
example Mr. Kennedy s character and Career offer to Ameri
cans, who have the resources to enjoy and the competence to


secure leisure ; as a class, such men are few and far between
in our eager, over-occupied and aspiring country ; but the in
crease of moderate fortunes, and the perpetual vicissitudes that
warn prudent and patient men and women to be satisfied with
little rather than risk all, will, in the future, add largely to
the number of those who early turn from trade and profes
sional life, to intellectual and social culture. How rich the
latter sphere may be in usefulness, and what a resource the
former may become when generously and wisely enjoyed,
Mr. Kennedy nobly illustrated as a faithful and public-spirited
citizen, as a consistent friend and as a genial man. In this
last character he excelled not alone by virtue of a native kind
liness of heart, but through that exquisite solvent and fusing
element in social life we call Humor. Its lambent flame twin
kled in his eyes before the piquant repartee or the amusing
story were uttered ; it gave a singular sweetness to his smile
and a contagious hilarity to his laugh ; it melted and mellowed
the sympathies of his companions into harmonious merriment ;
it sweetened the labor of his political allies and softened the
acerbity of their opponents ; and it warmed and united the re
cipients of his hospitality and the hearts of his household. In
this regard as well as in the integrity of his nature, Mr. Ken
nedy s tone and traits were thoroughly Anglo Saxon ; for the
sturdy undemonstrative character of that honest and energetic
race, in its finest exemplars, are rendered magnetic and win
some by this gracious quality essentially northern which
we call Humor. His felicity in repartee and witty rejoinders
were memorable, but usually too dependent on the scene, the
occasion and the company, to be quoted with effect. One
occurs to me as illustrative of his readiness : ascending the
Biddle staircase at Niagara with a lady, soon after the failure of


the United States Bank, his companion inquired why the steps
were so called ; " winding up the bank," he instantly replied.

Companionable qualities are not rare, neither is it uncom
mon to enjoy the talk of clever men ; but the charm of Mr.
Kennedy s social character cannot be strictly defined as the
offspring of ready intelligence on the one hand, urbanity on
the other, or the fusion of both ; it sprang rather from the sim
plicity and candor of his nature and the spontaneous sympathies
of his heart ; men of wit are apt to be over-conscious and to
make an effort to amuse or astonish ; men of fellowship are
apt to be too familiar and commonplace ; the former exhaust
themselves and often their hearers, while the latter weary
them ; there is a third class who are self-seeking in their con
versation, egotistic or eager for ideas, and so drain rather
than enrich their colloquial victims. The process and the
principle of Mr. Kennedy s intercourse was precisely the re
verse ; as one of his most appreciative friends observed, he
always gave and rarely took ; it was not display nor com
placency that inspired his communion, but genuine social
instinct, pure human sympathy, disinterested, candid, naive
utterance, such as makes the whole world kin.

It was favorable to this electic development that Mr.
Kennedy did not live exclusively in a literary atmosphere ; he
was thus saved from that encouragement in mediocrity which
Lamb attributes to domestic isolation ; he escaped the self-
complacency and intolerance born of a clique ; and the fear of
the shadow of personal reputation which is said to have kept
Campbell silent, as well as the effeminate self-estimation en
gendered by mutual admiration. What his books may have
lost in academic finish or local laudation, by the fact that
they were written with scarcely any literary sympathy to sus-



tain or immediate appreciation to encourage, they gained in
manliness and freedom ; they were thereby more genuine, and
rather exponents than absorbents of the man, whose nature
was too expansive and heart too free and fresh to exhaust their
spontaneous vitality in authorship.

And is not the bane of modern civilization, as regards the in
dividual, that vocation limits and dwarfs his nature by partial de
velopment ? Elevated and beautiful as are the culture and the
creations born of art and letters, how often character suffers
while talent triumphs ! Egotism and selfishness are only the
more conspicuous when they take the form of intellectual
ambition. As the athlete of antiquity sacrificed brain to mus
cle, the devotee of science, of literature and of art, in our day,
is apt to gain success therein at the expense of more gener
ous, sympathetic and humanizing qualities. The conserva
tion of these depends mainly upon the social instincts, upon
a disinterested habit of mind and action, which spontaneously
seeks the happiness of others and the exercise of noble, kind
ly and genial affections. Rarely do these bloom on the polit
ical arena or in artistic and literary isolation and self-seeking ;
and it is because the subject of this memoir, while he bravely
and faithfully did his duty as a public man and gracefully and
skilfully as a literateur, ever kept aglow the sentiment of hu
manity, the warm and true social recognition, which brightens
and purifies life, that his example is so worthy of record and
his memory so widely endeared.

To make an impression or achieve a success in war, states
manship, art, letters, science or trade, is, after all, but a small
part of the great end and function of civilized life ; the harmo
nious development of the individual, the average happiness of
existence, the content born of well-regulated desire and the


consciousness of integrity, the reconciliation of private culture
and public duty, the advancement of knowledge and the daily
inspiration of benign, noble and wise sentiment and service
this is what all are free to seek and sure to attain, if ambition
and avarice, egotism and discontent are kept in abeyance,
through a sympathetic, intellectual and honorable habit of
mind and heart. And, in all this, we but invoke the gentle
man, not in the conventional but essential meaning of the word.
Hazlitt declares independence, the knightly code courtesy
and heroism ; and Calvert, one of Mr. Kennedy s oldest friends,
the aesthetic element, requisites of the character ; but after all,
do we not find that the great moral distinction thereof is use
fulness ? the power and the instinct to enter into and, therefore,
consider or espouse the interests of others through the sym
pathetic freedom and insight they engender ? It is the social
as distinguished from the selfish character, that breeds the
heart of courtesy, the love of the beautiful, the allegiance to
the true, which make our ideal of manhood. And it is this
rare harmony of nature and its practical satisfaction in life,
and not spasmodic brilliancy of achievement, that render our
friend s character precious and his memory beloved.

The last time I had the pleasure of seeing and talking
with the subject of this memoir, he took me aside at a musical
fete, which he had keenly enjoyed, and proposed a visit to
his hospitable home, partly with a view of arranging his writ
ings for revision and publication, in which the state of his
health made some friendly counsel and assistance requisite.
He had the day before consulted an eminent European phy
sician, who, while he gave no encouragement as to the abso
lute cure of the infirmity which had attacked Mr. Kennedy,
yet held out reasonable hopes that by pursuing a certain


course, its fatal termination might be indefinitely postponed.
Five days afterwards all was over; and it was found that, in
anticipation of the event, he had requested, in his will, three
of his friends to perform the work which he hoped to have
accomplished himself; this duty a private note to his wife and
the expressed wishes of the other literary executors, finally
assigned to me. Sitting in his library an apartment more
attractive from its comfortable and convenient than its luxu
rious arrangements, with the effigies of his friends around, his
books, journals and correspondence at hand, as the evidences
of his useful, genial and honorable life are revealed, it is im
possible not to feel that any record thereof must be inade
quate ; that the personal qualities of the man gave peculiar sig
nificance to what he did ; and that, in an exceptional degree,
his presence is essential to the vital interest and attraction of his
career and character. In other words, the writings, the pub
lic services and the private worth of Mr. Kennedy, require for
their due interpretation and just influence, a personal ac
quaintance with him ; and, above all, a vivid memory of his
social ministry. This is the key to every memorial he^has
left. The silence and solitude of his library are in painful
contrast to the life and light that so lately gladdened his
home ; while every object reminds us of his tastes, his friend
ships, his public spirit and his domestic affections ; those
who have not the connecting link whereby the chain of asso
ciation is attached to his personality, lack the means of fully
comprehending the scope and value of his life and enjoying
its record. Still, the number of those thus attached to his
memory and desirous of preserving it, make such a selection
as we propose from his letters and journals, of singular in
terest, however they may fail to impress a stranger. He had


survived the greater part of the friends of his youth. The
photographs of Clay and Webster, Scott and Irving, Prescott
and Cooper, and other literary and political allies and com
panions, remind us of those whose departure preceded his
own ; and two of his dearest family ties recalled by the be
nign features of his father-in-law and favorite uncle, the ven
erable Philip Pendleton were severed some years before his
death. The first impression derived from what may be called
the documentary evidence of his life, is the remarkable or
der and system thereof. " It is order, pursuit, sequence

Online LibraryHenry T. (Henry Theodore) TuckermanThe life of John Pendleton Kennedy → online text (page 1 of 41)