Chapter V. Painting — Marriage.

From: The Life and Letters of Christopher Pearse Cranch (1917)
Author: Leonora Cranch Scott
Published: Houghton Mifflin Company 1917 Boston


IN 1841 there enters into my father’s life a new element. To occupy himself while he had some distemper which prevented him from writing or thinking for the time being, he turned to painting. His brother John had given some time to portrait painting, afterwards studying abroad. Some very good portraits remain in the family, attesting by their worth his ability in that direction.

  At that time in America painting and music as professions were generally very lightly regarded. When my father was about to decide upon a profession, he considered the ministry the only one left him to his taste. His brother Edward was a lawyer, and for a doctor he seemed entirely unfitted. He speaks thus of the beginning of this great change in his life:—

  In the winter of 1841 I passed several weeks in Bangor, Maine, where I preached for Dr. F. H. Hedge during his absence. But I was far from well, suffering from a trouble in my head and brain. In the spring I was at home in Washington, where we had my brother Edward and his bride for a short visit. As I was not very well, it was a great solace and delight to me when I began here my first attempts at oil painting.

  The following extracts from a letter to Miss Myers tell of these first crude beginnings in my artistic career.1

WASHINGTON, August 2, 1841.
  I am actually at present almost too busy during the day to write or read. I have for the last week given up everything but the brush,—yes, the brush,—the glorious brush and palette! I have come to it at last, and am anxiously at work—alias daubing landscapes. I first tried modelling in clay. One day while ransacking the old garret, which, by the way, is the greatest curiosity shop in the country, containing the strangest odds and ends of forty years’ housekeeping, on the strict principle of throwing nothing away, not even an old shoe or an iron hoop, or a rusty nail, or an empty bottle—ransacking, I say, this queer old musty garret, I forget for what, I came upon a great lump of clay left here by Powers,2 the sculptor. I immediately went to work, daubing in the sticky materials, and modelled a few faces, then proceeded to taking likenesses therein: tried at my brother William and my sister Margaret. But as my busts were by no means flattering, I was not encouraged much, and very soon laid aside the spatula, and struck into another field.

  The success of two friends of mine at landscape painting has mightily moved me to enter the lists, as a knight of the palette.

  In a moment of superabundant inspiration I went me to Fischer’s store and bought me divers colors, brushes, a palette, palette-knife, et cetera, hunted up an old scrap of canvas and an easel, left in the aforesaid garret by my brother John, and forthwith set up a studio, -ahem! Unfortunately I have taken no lessons, save a few hints picked up from my artist friends aforesaid, who encouraged me mightily, and offer to give me what information they are masters of in the art. For a week I have been painting steadily, and think with my friends that I do remarkably well for a beginning. I feel encouraged to go on. It is moreover a real blessing to me, for I needed something to occupy me pleasantly, without tasking my mind. I feel, while painting, as if I were amid the very scenes which my inexperienced brush attempts to portray. It is living with nature. It is more, for I feel the joy of a creator, as if I were the spring,—making the trees put out leaves and unloosing the purling streams, and rolling them down their rocky beds, calling up clouds, and lighting them with sunset glories. The mere attempting to do this is an infinite pleasure to me. In fine, I am in love with my palette and easel. I only want some elementary instruction in coloring and a proper supply of canvas, and I am a sovereign on my throne. I do not know how long this fit will last, but I certainly have had a little foretaste of the joys of the artist, and it seems to me, I could never grow weary of the work. I have attempted nothing but small sketches as yet, but long to launch into something larger. Why may I not pursue it eventually as a profession? It is a precarious one, I know, to earn a livelihood by, but not less so than that of a minister, a free speaker,—I mean, in the present crisis of things. I shall therefore work on, and trust in Providence.

To John S. Dwight

BANGOR, MAINE, February 12, 1841.
  . . . Thy letter was as the rennet which turneth the watery milk into the rich coagulum of curds,—the chemical element wanting to the union of half intention and performance. For my long silence you must in. part charge my bodily system—for I have not been, and am not well, and my ailment is of a kind to depress and render unelastic both mind and will. While this trouble of the head lasts, both enjoyment and endeavor are damped. Nothing is whole, bright, and perfect to me. I have no inspirations. Thought, eloquence, and poetry desert me. Preaching and praying are fallen into traditions, and things of routine. I live—that is all. Nothing interests me but what excites or amuses. Music and drawing I can enjoy. But reading and writing lag most ominously.

But I should not weary you with complaints. The fact is, after all, that I am enjoying myself. I am very pleasantly fixed here—at John A. Poor’s. Have his library to myself—see pleasant people—and do very much as I please. I have no sermons to write—which is a comfort to me now. I use the pencil not for comical subjects or devils—I am out of that vein—but in landscape sketching. One want I feel here is music. There is a flute in the house. And I have seen a couple of pianos since I have been in Bangor—but more unmusical people I have seldom met. Rupel has been here, giving concerts this week. Mr. Poor you know. He spoke with enthusiasm of you and your preaching. He is a clever man and so is his brother Henry, who, by the way, is engaged to a sister of Mrs. Hedge. I have as pleasant quarters here as I could find in the city. I have had lately some refreshing communings with Mr. Stone of Machias, who spent a few days here lately. He is a brother-in-law of the Poors. You remember his article in the “Dial”—”Man in the Ages”? A freer, more childlike, more beautiful mind, I never met with. He is fragrant with the very warmest bloom of the true transcendentalism—a true Christian Pantheist, a man with a soul—which is leading him farther and farther away from the prison house of his brethren, the Philistines. All the best things of Emerson and the “Dial,” flowering and exhaling in spontaneous odors in his spirit. I see not how he can stay in his present fetters. The man is larger than the bed—the unwieldy armor of Saul’s carcass fitteth not this spiritual David. I would we had conversed more on matters of faith. I saw so much in him that I longed to see all—were it even remotely possible. . . .

To John S. Dwight

WASHINGTON, June 8, 1841.
  . . . One thing I know of you—and herein feel deeply the contrast between us, viz., that you have been at work, that you suffer no dark ennui or vacancy, that you have a definite, daily, sphere of action and are happy in doing somewhat at the quarry of life. I have no such sphere, no such daily, necessity to labor, hardly even a definite source of action to look forward to. The future, like the present, seems to me a cheerless blank. Conscious of capabilities, yet unable to choose, unable to decide what I am to work at, as first and foremost. Where am I to go? What am I to do? Advise me. I feel called back to New England, and yet when I get there, it is more than I can say or foresee what my vocation is to be. I must support myself. Body, mind, soul, all need action. Yet I see not into the dark void before me. At present I cannot study or write. I am not well enough. I have the same old trouble in the head, nerves, and brain. Of this, however, I hope to get rid in time. Meanwhile I cultivate the fine arts a little. I spend a part of every day in drawing, which always makes the time pass pleasantly. Of late, I have been a little excited to aspire somewhat higher. Some productions by two young landscape painters here, contemporaries of mine, who, until of late, were working in quite different spheres from the artist’s and now have “planted themselves indomitably on their instincts,” which instincts promise not to betray and befool them, have given me a desire to try the brush and palette. I have not done it as yet, but I feel a call that way. To be a landscape painter, I have often strongly desired. It would be an infinite joy to me to do something in this way. And I think I will try it. A little instruction in coloring is the most that I need. With this I feel that I could go on alone, conquering. I shall not, however, take it up as a profession. That were too hazardous an experiment. I do not look any farther at present than to begin, to be seated before the easel, with brush and palette.
  Another steaming day. There is one pleasant place of resort this warm weather, quite near me, and that is the Congress Library. It is getting, however, too public for a library. Strangers, men and women, are thronging in all the time. I have almost just returned from there, where I have been with my sister looking over Flaxman’s Dante, Michael Angelo, and a splendid collection of mezzotint engravings of Claude. Did you ever see these? They are in an English work, folio, 3 volumes, called “Liber Veritatis.” They are great. After looking at them I have no taste for your modern landscapes. There is such truth, yet such ideality, such simplicity, yet such richness, variety and effect! He has such splendid trees, such graceful classic groups, such a delicious coolness about his rivers, and woods, and flocks and herds, and all executed in such masterly drawing, and such a rich brown umbre tint, I am never weary of turning them over. They are just the pictures, those quiet, cool, pastoral landscapes, to look at this fiery summer weather. Quite different are other apartments in that great Capitol, from this room.

  Congress you know is in session. I have gone into the Chambers of Council, a few times, but it is so close and crowded and warm; business moves on there so laggingly, or so uproariously, that I have little taste for resorting there. . . . J. Q. Adams, as you will see by the papers, has quite unexpectedly succeeded in getting the 21st rule of the House rescinded, that, namely, which rejected all abolition petitions. It is quite a triumph for the North, and more a triumph for truth and freedom, though I doubt if any immediate good, or any quite remote good, can result from it. The Southern members are doubtless mad enough about it. . . .

  Have you sent any German translations to Brooks for his forthcoming book? I sent two or three trifles. I had nothing by me and one sees no German books here. What a totally different atmosphere—intellectually and morally—there is here from Massachusetts. You cannot conceive a more external place than this. . . . I want to hear something about Boston matters—particularly about Ripley’s farm. I may join them yet. Write to me, dear friend, and tell me what is going on.

  My father speaks of his visit to his relatives, the De Windts, at Fishkill-on-the-Hudson: “In the latter part of August, I went by invitation from Mrs. J.P. De Windt to Fishkill to preach to a very small congregation and society, which had been for some time in existence there. The meetings were held in a schoolhouse. I was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. De Windt, in their beautiful home on the banks of the Hudson, amid flowers and trees, surrounded by lovely scenery, and soon held spellbound by a tie which has lasted all my life.”

  My mother, Elizabeth De Windt, was a beautiful creature. She had regular features and quantities of light-brown, curly hair. Her head was handsomely set on her shoulders, and she carried herself with grace.

  Tom Hicks had painted a portrait of her in a sad and pensive mood, which impressed her father gloomily, so he painted another. But the first picture was much the better, and was given to my mother by the artist. Later, F. O. C. Darley said to her, “Mrs. Cranch, your profile is full of tenderness.” He dashed off a little sketch of that profile, and as it is the most characteristic likeness of her extant, it is much prized by her daughters. It is given here.

  Mrs. De Windt was a granddaughter of John Adams.3 She brought the culture of New England into the De Windt family, and often made visits to her uncle, John Quincy Adams, in the old home in Quincy. Her mother was the beautiful Abigail Adams who went to the court of George III when John Adams was Minister to England, and whose picture was painted by Copley in pearls and powder. This was unfortunately destroyed by fire in the old De Windt homestead, but a copy is in existence with the same beautiful coloring, done con amore by George Hall.

  Miss Elizabeth De Windt was the third daughter in a large family. She frequently visited Quincy and Washington and kept in touch with her mother’s family.

To Miss Catherine H. Myers

FISHKILL LANDING, N.Y., October 4, 1841.
  . . . Know you that here in the beautiful village of Fishkill Landing on the Hudson, with a most beautiful environment of things, places, and persons, I have been sojourning since the last of August. A small society is established here, to whom I have been preaching. But the pleasantest part of it is that I am the inmate of a delightful family; that is, not to be enthusiastic, a right good, excellent, kind, intelligent family—by name De Windt. It is one of the oldest, best, and, I believe, wealthiest families in this vicinity, consisting of Mr. De Windt, his wife and some eleven children. Their farm and house is directly on the banks of the Hudson, embosomed in trees, a most lovely, lovely spot, called Cedar Grove. Mrs. De Windt is a relative of my father’s. She is the granddaughter of John Adams, and daughter of Colonel Smith, who was a somewhat distinguished officer in the Revolution. Her mother was Abby Adams, the only daughter of the old President. Mrs. De Windt has published a volume of her mother’s letters and correspondence which you may have seen. Now, you ask, what have I been doing—which may be easily answered. Little enough of anything, for I am the laziest of men. Yet I have been doing something, not writing much, but painting, sketching, singing, rambling in search of scenery,—which is abundant and of the first order here, for we have river, mountains, streams, and woods around us,—cultivating some pleasant acquaintance, and altogether enjoying myself in my old dreaming fashion.

  My health is considerably better—indeed I am a well and sound man to what I was when with you. So do not be anxious about me on that score. I have preached regularly, made visits, taken walks, and enjoyed life and nature.

  And I may allow myself to hint another thing, of later date. I cannot exactly decide with myself whether I am actually in love, but there is a fair spirit here who has breathed new life around me of late. More of her I shall not say just now than this, and just amuse myself with hinting afar off the remote possibility of some crisis occurring in your friend’s life. Yet it may all turn out a dream.

  . . . The other day came William H. Channing for an hour or two on his way up the river to see his wife. Day before yesterday came Charles F. Hoffman and spent yesterday with us, a writer and poet of a good deal of merit. I found him a highly agreeable man, of fine mind and fine powers of conversation. Over the river there is a son-in-law of Mr. De Windt’s—at Newburgh, opposite Fishkill—a man of fine intellect and caste, whose house and gardens are perfect gems. His name is Downing. He is the author of a work on landscape gardening. Then there are beautiful houses and good collections of pictures to be seen, and people who seem to appreciate them. . . .

To John S. Dwight

FISHKILL LANDING, October 16, 1841.
  . . . I am a happy man, and you will rejoice with me over my good fortune. Know thou that not only am I a lover, but am actually engaged. A true and lovely soul, incarnated in a lovely form, has crossed my orbit within the last four weeks, in the person of Miss Elizabeth De Windt, daughter of John Peter De Windt of this place, at whose house I have been residing since the latter end of August. Three weeks’ acquaintance may seem a short prelude to a genuine, matter-of-fact engagement, but you must know that I have seen her and been near her all the time, and our attachment to one another ripened fast. A few days after I saw her she became my pupil in German, my first pupil, now my companion through life. Should not the old Saxon tongue wear now, besides its former attractions, a new and original brightness? Is it not associated with some of the brightest passages of my life? Good friend of mine, if you would win your love, if you have not won her, try this order of tactics. Cannonade the proud citadel with right tough Teutonic words, watch her lips as she reads and stumbles over the rough vocables; insist upon her sounding the ch right and all the other hard pronunciations. . . . Then, how has beautiful Nature befriended me! What beautiful moonlight rambles, and piazza promenades, and rides; also music, and drawing! Surely all good angels officiated in bringing the happy result about. I would describe her to you, but don’t feel analytic—yet may give a few random strokes. For her mind, she is not a genius, but has talent, good sound sense, and can appreciate the higher sorts of minds. For her soul and heart, they are of the finest make, warranted sound and pure and noble, she is eminently “a girl of truth, of golden truth,” for her heart in all its purity and devotion has she given to me. And last-for her person—not so faultlessly beautiful as your young flower of Northampton, but yet very fair, tall, very tall, regular features, lightish hair, soft blue eyes, and the loveliest mouth and smile—and so on—and so on. I care not to describe, when I love so well.

And now for the dull necessities of the world. I must look about in earnest for a living. I have thought and thought and thought, and am now pretty much determined, spite of all my objections, to stick a while longer at the candidatory trade. I am sick of it, and pining for freedom and self-repose, but there is a good side to the profession after all, and I must be married. I may not always be a minister, exclusively a minister, but at present I see no other way open. How are the vacancies in New England? Write me what you know about it. I shall probably be looking that way ere long. I shall be here, however, perhaps a few months longer, after a short visit South. The country is magnificent for scenery. It is perpetual enjoyment to me to see. I have painted considerably, little things, and carry my colors and palette with me. I need instruction, but improve, nevertheless.

To Miss Julia Myers

FISHKILL LANDING, N.Y., April 11, 1841.
  . . . I can hardly tell you in the compass of a letter all that I have been seeing, hearing, thinking, and doing since I last wrote you. I have been for the most part in Boston, that little world, that vortex of life, that spot of all others in the country where life in all its various aspects is so concentrated and distilled, that city of bright intellects, warm hearts, fair faces, sweet music, parties, concerts, lectures, churches, schools,—an olla podrida of everything to be thought of and done. . . .

  Of the many æsthetic banquets at which I have regaled, I will here speak of one of the most savory and satisfactory, that is the concerts. The music of Harmony certainly seems to have descended this past winter upon the capital of Yankee land. No longer speaketh the divine guest through pumpkin stalks and base fiddles and spinnets and fifes and drums and Jew’s-harps, but through the sweetest tones of the violin, violoncello, oboe, guitar, and organ; and through the richest of singers of both sexes, and the sublimest of choral and orchestral harmony.

  There is one instrument, which in the hands of the master whose performances upon it I have repeatedly listened to, has been like a new revelation in music to me. It is the violoncello. Did you ever hear it? But even if you have, and in the hands of the best amateur, you can have no idea, nor can I give you any, of its wonderful power when touched by Knoop, said to be the greatest artist on this instrument in Germany. If you would hear the very soul tell all its deepest, most inner feelings, if you would listen to language as from another world and from some matured spirit in a more exalted and perfect state than here below, go to hear Knoop. You will feel as if he were drawing out of you your very soul. I will transcribe a part of what I wrote down on first hearing him.

  O the power of expression it has! Those high, flutelike harmonic notes, vanishing off and off like some bird you watch in the blue sky, till it recedes forever from you:—those deep wailings of grief, where the rich bass of the man’s voice and the softer complainings of woman so wonderfully blend with and succeed each other,—those bursts and growls of passion from the lower strings, the tenderness and depth of all its tones, make it to me the most expressive of all instruments. It seems to have all the force and expressiveness of the violin, without any of its obtrusive harshness, and besides this, the glorious bass, which the violin wants. It is the violin matured and mellowed, the perfect man of stringed instruments. How eloquently it seems to talk and discourse to us, how persuasive, how dignified, how careless and unconscious it appears of its own commanding power! It is Adam conversing with his spouse—man and woman, wisdom and love blended.

  . . . My friend Dwight has been delivering a great course of lectures on the musical composers, but to very small audiences. The people are hardly prepared to enter into those moods from which his lofty strains flow. Music is a different thing to him from what it is to anybody I ever knew; therefore he is a mystic to those whose natures do not lead them into the same feelings and ideas . . . .

To John S. Dwight

  I am determined not to give up preaching unless compelled to by health, and by want of sympathy and encouragement from without. I like my profession in many respects, and have grown accustomed to it. I should never get my bread in any other way; and I know not if, upon the whole, any other sphere of life would bring me any more inward peace and satisfaction, than this. I am resolved, therefore, to submit as far as I can do so without compromising my views and feelings, to such usages and forms as the profession ordinarily carries with it, and wait for things to grow better and more rational.

  I have rather pleasant quarters here in the Pearl Street house. The people of the society are friendly and sociable, with some degree of refinement and cultivation. I miss the delights of music. There are some pianos in town, but none at the house where I am. I hanker and thirst for a piano, the want of which excitement I make up for, as well as I am able, by playing through “Norma” on my flute, and by smoking cigars. I have written a little rhyme, and two sermons—I also sketch a little, and go out after wild flowers; but spring with her glories seems but a slow and reluctant visitor to this northern clime.

To Edward P. Cranch

FISHKILL LANDING, N.Y., May 30, 1843.
  . . . I thank you for all your sympathy and counsel, as to the vague future before me, and the blank present, which this transition state is the natural cause of. Preaching I have about done with. What little I have lately done, has not been through choice, so much as necessity, and for love. I feel ambitious of entering life as a whole man—an individual man; and if possible, of working and earning money in some way suited to my tastes. But at present I do not stand even on the threshold of this new life. Something I must do, however, and soon. Three ways present themselves to me, and I do not know why I may not endeavor to unite them all! (1) Make illustrations; of this I have spoken. There is a good field for this work in the city of New York, and I shall make inquiries there about it. I could easily learn to draw on wood, or even perhaps to etch. This, however, we waive for the present. (2) Landscape painting. I want to make the experiment at least, and see if I can’t paint something that will sell. I have many friends, who may perhaps help me. I took a few lessons in Boston of John Greenough which helped me a good deal. And with a little more practice and a few more hints from painters, I should get on, I think, quite fast. (3) Author. I am writing for magazines which will give me a little. I shall publish a small volume of poems before the winter, which, though it may pay me nothing, will get my name up, and insure me better pay with the magazines.

I think of going to New York to live,—at least for the present,—and look out there for something to do. . . . I should live in New York as economically as possible, and as independently as a Bedouin chief. There is no place in the United States like New York for individual living. I shall miss Boston society, and the friends I saw there, but then, I shall be near my Cara Lisa, and the Highlands. . . .

So far from my lady love’s thinking it a descent from pulpitdom to any otherdom, she rejoices infinitely over the chance, and would indeed have me be anything but a minister. She is content with any sphere of life which would allow us a support. We have even talked of joining Ripley’s community at Roxbury, and the suggestion came from her. She has a truly independent and energetic soul. . . . She wants me to devote myself to landscape painting and illustrations; also to authorship. But her own taste in painting encourages me particularly towards that path. Next week I shall probably be in New York, where I can feel about me more tangibly. I feel as if there must be something for me to do there; from which dollars and cents shall flow forth for the refreshing of my soul. Believe me that your wholesome doctrine therefore begins to assume a deeper significance to my soul. Henceforth I devote myself to money-making, “remuneration”! I repeat over to myself with Costard the clown; “Guerdon, O sweet Guerdon! Be thou before me night and day, till I can command where now I stand and beg.” . . .

To John S. Dwight

August 18, 1843.
  . . . Is the world all occupied, that you and I cannot find a single comer to stand in and eat our bread and cheese? Must we be “of the chameleon’s dish and eat the air, promise-crammed”? But your lot is a harder one than mine, for you have less in common with the ways and tastes of the many than I. You stand upon a loftier summit, and feed on purer nectar, and more divine ambrosia, and the world acknowledges none such as useful. They lend no money’s worth to the markets, and then “on their hermit’s rock, on their divine mountain summits, let them starve!” says the thick-skulled, filmy-eyed world. Yet, my friend, I am in the hope you will one day be not without your reward, even in hard specie. Only produce, produce, hide not your light under a bushel, but let it blaze forth, wherever there is an eye to appreciate it, for it is a rare genius you are endowed with, and you should not hide it like the Rosicrucians, nor dream it away in the fields, but bear it like a torch into the very thickest of the multitude, and make them acknowledge and honor you.

  I am becoming more and more a student of nature and only regret that heretofore I have made so little use of the opportunities, I have had, when among scenes of great natural beauty. As yet I do not expect much ·profit from painting, pecuniarily. The parson as you conjecture is pretty nigh obsolete. I have preached one sermon only for Bulfinch, as he needed help. But I am fairly rid of all parishes and all the bores and petty hopes and fears which young ministers are heir to, and am a free and independent man, thank Heaven! My only regret is now that I did not cut through this tangled skein long ago.

  Though all is uncertain before me in this, my newly chosen profession, yet welcome poverty, I say, if it wears such a jewel as this—if I can so brighten my days with the delights and fascinations of an artist’s life. I have now no ennui, no grief, no anxiety, no pain, no languor, which I cannot drown in this flood of beauty which pours around me, and which bears me buoyantly and in festal pomp and strength upon its bosom. While I can transfer, even so imperfectly, sweet nature to my canvas, or trace the ideal nature beneath this outward life, I live in perpetual creation. I am in a world of my own, and nothing can pain me. After all what atmosphere is comparable to that of the studio? Here in this quiet, subdued, mellow light, the harsh world is shut out, and approached only when duty and common everyday interests summon us to action, which only prepares us for the next day’s absorbing labor, at the end of which we only find ourselves weary without knowing why. And, is not the artist, too, working for truth and goodness as well as beauty? Is he not doing the world a great benefit when he thus sows flowers along its sandy tracts, and festoons its desolate places with beauty? I have an inward feeling that my time is not misspent, though I may never attain to eminence. If I can in the remotest degree, by my labors, bring thoughts of nature and dreams of paradise into a single soul, I have done some good, I have spoken some truth.

To Edward P. Cranch

WASHINGTON, October 18, 1843.
  The great event of my life, I am happy to inform you, has at length taken place, and all things therewith connected and associated have up to the present hour proved auspicious and happy, even the weather. . . .

  The wedding took place at hall-past eight on Tuesday evening the 10th, precisely two years from the day of our engagement. Dr. Dewey officiated. Charles F. Hoffman, of New York, was my groomsman, and Isabel, Lizzie’s sister, bridesmaid. The bride was dressed in white muslin, her hair curled and adorned with beautiful white flowers, and looked very lovely. There were twenty or thirty persons present, the greater part relatives of the family. A supper and a big wedding cake concluded the evening. At ten o’clock on Wednesday we were off, making a call at Mr. Downing’s in Newburgh on our way.—And here we are safely at home, where already has commenced the routine of visits of ceremony to the new married pair. We only want you and Abby here to make everything complete. It is really provoking that you should have been here so recently and were obliged to return without seeing your sister-in-law. But I hope it may not be long before you will see her.

  We shall remain about a fortnight, and then return to New York, where we shall get established in our house in Lexington Avenue, near Twenty-second Street, in the course of next month. . . . If I can contrive it I shall have my painting room in the house, where I expect to be very industrious the coming winter.

To John S. Dwight

NEW YORK, December 6, 1848.
  I scarcely yet realize the change I have gone through. From a lonesome loafer of a poor bachelor to a proud and happy bridegroom, from a careless, independent, irresponsible, improvident dreamer, to an anxious, dutiful, active, practical, prudent manager and head ol a family, living in a three-story house, my name publicly blazoned on the front door, and ten grown people and a wife to look after every day—a man that counteth the dollars and cents, keepeth accounts, maketh bargains, taketh the daily paper and saith to his servants in the kitchen—“do this—and they do it”; one that looketh before rather than after, and feels that life is earnest, and the Ideal—alas! less for a season than the Actual. One, that feeleth after, with sorrowful surprise, the limitations, which press on all sides, whenever he compareth the Fact with the Idea, -here is signified a change which is not small. Not that I would dwell more on the cares of married life than its delights, for both have their emphasis.

  It is a great step to have taken. But I see, I think, the leading hand of Providence in it. It is singular that I should have been married just at a time when I have no profession, no resources, nothing certain to look forward to as a support. We take a house at three hundred dollars rent for the first year (it will undoubtedly be raised the second year), move into it, with nothing given us but our furniture and some occasional presents from my father-in-law, and depend for our daily subsistence on a few boarders. Somehow we get along very comfortably. Our boarders are not strangers, but friends. We have a house full, and make quite a pleasant little circle. Doubtless it were far pleasanter to have a home consecrated to no divinities but Hymen and the Muses, but there would be after all a sort of refined selfishness in this, which might punish itself in monotony and ennui. On the whole, I quite like to have my house full, provided the inmates are to our taste. I have a little room, just big enough to tum around in, where I paint and write. Of the first, I have done little lately, of the second, nothing; but as I become more settled, I hope to be more industrious. You compliment altogether too highly my letter in which I spoke of turning artist. I fear I shall utterly disappoint my friends, on this score. Besides, I fear I am but a half-blooded artist after all. There are still sidelong glances at my old profession. You will be surprised, perhaps, to learn that I have occasionally preached, and still shall do so, when the inward and the outward calls agree. But I do so with perfect freedom, preaching whatever I please, with none to make me afraid. When I do not preach, I hear William H. Channing. I regret every chance I miss of hearing him. I could write you a great deal about him, had I room and time. He is a wonderful speaker, and it is perfectly astonishing that he is not more appreciated here. I never have seen such purely intense inspiration in any speaker. You must come on and hear him with me. Besides, I want to see you and talk with you about sundry matters. I heard of your plan you had in consideration of going to Europe, and am glad you did not go, though the temptation must have been strong: You are living, too, in a musical atmosphere. I hear no music. Ole Bull is great, no doubt, and Castillan, and Vieuxtemps, and others, but I fear I must deny myself these luxuries. I must, however, see Macready. Do come on and see me. I have a spare room for you, and room at the table, and a chair for you by the fire, and a warm welcome to all I can give you.

  Of the Reverend William Henry Channing, Mr. Cranch wrote more than forty years later:—

  My first acquaintance with him was in the Divinity School in 1838. But I cannot say that I knew him well till somewhere about the year 1839, when he was in Cincinnati. How long he was settled there I forget. I afterwards knew him better in New York, I think in 1844-45, where he preached several years, in a hall to a small congregation of “Come-outers” and where my wife and I regularly attended. He seemed to me then one of the most fervent and eloquent of preachers; all the other preaching in New York was tame in comparison. His themes were mostly in the line of social reform. He always took an intense interest in the spiritual elevation of the people, but no less in establishing a high standard of morality for the cultured classes. He was an uncompromising opponent of the encroachments of Slavery upon the country, and his sermons against the Mexican War and the annexation of Texas were very powerful. It is difficult to describe a man who seemed so perfect. He would have appeared like one of the saints of the old time, had not his keen, cultivated, but restless intellect, and his broad, liberal tendencies allied him to all the nearest and most practical interests of life. He united in his nature, the ideal philosopher, poet, and preacher. He was keenly alive to everything true, good, and beautiful. He held an ideal standard in everything. His tenderness, his enthusiasm, were almost feminine, and though his emotional nature seemed the main spring of his life, he had a wonderful strength, balance, and self-discipline. He seemed to live habitually in an upper region of thought and feeling. He had a limpid purity and a lofty standard which almost set him outside the pale of intimate fellowship. . . . He was always cheerful, always hopeful—a genuine optimist. . . . He was never idle, never off his track. His temperament seemed to yield him no easy cushion on which his nervous intellect and his keen conscience could repose.

  But I can only imperfectly give the impression he made upon me, at that time. . . . Since those early days I have seen almost nothing of him. I do not think he ever in the least declined to a lower range in his ideal standard, or in his daily life.

To John S. Dwight

NEW YORK, April 8, 1844.
  . . . I see you are thoroughly immersed in Fourier, and hear of you as established at Brook Farm. You have got the start on me altogether in this reform, theoretically and practically, for as yet I am but a humble and very ignorant inquirer, standing hardly on the threshold of Phalanstery, an imperfect note in the great harmony you and others are aspiring towards; an instrument, weak, dull, ineffective, discordant, out of tune in the grand symphony, your great Panharmonic Orchestra are about to perform. But I hope that I shall tune up my fiddle by degrees, and learn to keep time and tune with my brothers. I have long been looking to something better than I can arrive at, under our present social organization. . . . It is getting to be more and more the great vital question, the heaviest pressure upon my thoughts, the gloomiest shades around my heart, this matter of Social Reform, and I wish now more than all things else, in my higher moments, to study the system of Fourier, of which, I am ashamed to say, I, at present, know so little. Channing has been a great light to me here, as well as to many others. I have no words which would adequately express what I owe to him, as prophet, thinker, eloquent speaker, pure and heaven-gifted spirit. But I must do more than receive. I must also give out and create. May heaven only help me to be true to myself. I should study and write more were it not that I have so earnestly taken hold of the brushes and palette. This, as you know, is now “my vocation, Hal.” I have taken it up with the intention of succeeding in my limited sphere, as a painter of landscapes. To be sure, as yet it puts no money into my pockets, but it is to me a perpetual spiritual joy and satisfaction. It is its own reward. Besides I have some hopes that in a year or two it may bring something to me in the way of vulgar dollars and cents, which I by no means affect to despise. I have improved considerably since the miserable daubs you saw in the garret of the old United States Hotel, Boston. I shall send three pieces to the Exhibition of the Academy this spring.

  I shall also exhibit in a few days another work, in another and kindred line, viz., a small volume of Poems from the press of Carey and Hart, in Philadelphia. It has been delayed somewhat, and should have been out some weeks since. My publisher insists upon limiting me to 112 pages which I fear will not contain me. Besides this, I wish I had given vent in a few more poems to some of my later and riper thoughts. These poems seem hardly to do justice to what I might say and sing now, but are of the past, in a great degree.

To John S. Dwight

NEW YORK, November 30, 1845.
  . . . I was glad to see your criticism on the virtuoso school, and your last word about Leopold de Meyer. Such views are much needed among us, when there is so little soundness of faith. What you say of Ole Bull I think is perfectly just, neither too little nor too much. Mrs. Child, however, is angry with you because you do not make him the god he is to her, but assign him his proper niche and pedestal. But she is one who sees everything in the prismy hues of feeling; with her mind there is but little of the pure white light of philosophic judgment. How can she then consent, that this subject of her highest enthusiasm should be called one who “moves in the sphere of virtuosodom”? To her he is the top of the world: the rarest perfume of all genius. No one denies that in his sphere he is truly great. I have never heard anything to compare with the depth and purity and passion of his tones. Then what grace, what power, what finish of execution! But what are his compositions beside the master composers? Even Vieuxtemps far excels him here, it seemed to me. Write me what you think of the Norwegian minstrel, more at large. There is such a nimbus of light around him at present, that few persons are clear-sighted enough to speak moderately of him.
December 7.
  I wrote thus far a week ago, but my unfinished sheet has been lying perdu. I could not send it as it was, because I had a few words to add to what I have said about Ole Bull. The fact is I was in company with him at Mrs. Child’s the very evening of the day I had been so coolly writing about him, and the deep impression the man made upon me was hardly in harmony with the very moderate tone in which I had been speaking of his music. . . . He is the most delightful person I almost ever met. He attracted me at once. We now saw what we could not see in a concert room, from the distance we were, and hear him speak only in his music. This seems only a part of him. We could now observe the beauty of his countenance with its varied expression, his soft eyes beaming with genius and his whole heart shining through them with such tenderness, such open truth and friendliness, a sweet smile. His strong electric motions are rounded in by an almost feminine grace and gentleness; his perfect harmony of organization, bodily and mental; his healthy self-abandoned unconsciousness, so much better than the conscious self-possession of many—in fine his graceful and cordial manners: all these combine to make him exceedingly interesting.

  We soon had him seated at the piano, where he sat at least an hour, singing wild Norwegian airs, and passages from “Don Giovanni.” He says he plays only by ear, but he seems perfectly at home in all chords and modulations, as if he knew the instrument intuitively. His voice is agreeable, and very expressive. Among other things, he sang and played part of his fine Concerto in E minor, his voice taking the violin part and his fingers the orchestral. He also told me anecdotes of Norway, its mountain scenery, its music and dances; its houses and peasantry, with most dramatic spirit.

  I parted from him with deep regret, for it was the first and last time I met him in society.

To Edward P. Cranch

FISHKILL LANDING, N.Y., July 26, 1846.
  I must write you once more before sailing; even though it be a short letter. All is arranged for our departure on the first of August, on the packet ship Nebraska via Marseilles. Our friend George William Curtis goes with us. The ship is a fine one, new, having made but two voyages, and the Captain—who is a very nice man—says we shall make the voyage in thirty-two days.

  I wrote you from Washington on the receipt of your letter about Italy. I hope you received my letter. In it, I presented the matter in a light, different from that in which you viewed it. And I hope now that you agree with me, that it is not so mistaken an idea we are carrying into effect. . . .

  My views about landscape painting are and will be unchanged, wherever I am. Nature and nothing but nature shall be my guide. The book you spoke of called “Modern Landscape Painters,” by a graduate of Oxford, I have been reading with great pleasure, and general approval. I shall now in some measure be able to judge for myself whether he is right. I cannot yet realize that I am so soon to leave the country, and for a month or more to be tossed on the sea; then to land in a strange clime. How exciting is the prospect of a first sea voyage! Heaven grant us a safe passage! We have every reason to anticipate one. It is hard indeed to part with our friends, but the worst part, to me, is over, since we left Washington. You and John and Abby, I should scarcely see even if I remained, for separation seems our destiny, whether parted by mountains or by seas. Let us all pray for a happy meeting, in a year or two at least. God bless you, dear brother, and grant you every happiness and success.

1 Autobiography.
2 Hiram Powers made a fine bust of Judge Cranch.
3 John Adams                            Richard Cranch
   married                                married
  Abigail Smith.           sisters          Mary Smith.
   Their daughter                          Their son
  Abigail Adams                        William Cranch, the Judge.
   married                                 married
  Col. William Stephen Smith.             Ann (Nancy) Greenleaf.
   Their daughter                          Their son
  Caroline Amelia Smith                Christopher Pearse Cranch
   married                                 married
  John Peter De Windt.                Elizabeth De Windt, daughter of Caroline Amelia.

4 Of this house he says in a later letter to his brother: “It is nearly in the suburbs and three miles from the Battery, but omnibuses are passing us all the time, and you can go the whole distance down for 6 ¼ cents. I have become used to New York distances. Sister Lizzie lives about a mile from us, but we consider it quite in our neighborhood.”

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