The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 929 pages of information about The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss.

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IV.

The Death of President Lincoln.  Dedication of the Church of the Covenant.  Growing Insomnia.  Resolves to try the Water-cure.  Its beneficial Effects.  Summer at Newburgh.  Reminiscence of an Excursion to Paltz Point.  Death of her Husband’s Mother.  Funeral of her Nephew, Edward Payson Hopkins.

Two events rendered the month of April, 1865, especially memorable to Mrs. Prentiss.  One was the assassination of President Lincoln on the evening of Good Friday.  She had been very ill, and her husband, on learning the dreadful news from the morning paper, thought it advisable to keep it from her for a while; but one of the children, going into her chamber, burst into tears and thus betrayed the secret.  Her state of nervous prostration and her profound, affectionate admiration for Mr. Lincoln, made the blow the most stunning by far she ever received from any public calamity.  It was such, no doubt, to tens of thousands; indeed, to the American people.  No Easter morning ever before dawned upon them amid such a cloud of horror, or found them so bowed down with grief.  The younger generation can hardly conceive of the depth and intensity, or the strange, unnatural character, of the impression made upon the minds of old and young alike, by this most foul murder. [12]

The other event was of a very different character and filled her with great joy.  It was the dedication, on the last Sunday in April, of the new church edifice, whose growth she had watched with so much interest.

In the spring of 1865 she was induced, by the entreaty of friends who had themselves tested his skill, to consult Dr. Schieferdecker, a noted hydropathist, and later to place herself under his care.  In a letter to her cousin, Miss Shipman, she writes:  “I want to tell you, but do not want you to mention it to anyone, that I have been to see Dr. Schieferdecker to know what he thought of my case.  He says that I might go on dieting to the end of my days and not get well, but that his system could and would cure me, only it would take a long time.  I have not decided whether to try his process, but have no doubt he understands my disease.”  Dr. Schieferdecker had been a pupil and was an enthusiastic disciple of Priesnitz.  He had unbounded faith in the healing properties of water.  He was very impulsive, opinionated, self-confident, and accustomed to speak contemptuously of the old medical science and those who practised it.  But for all that, he possessed a remarkable sagacity in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease.  Mrs. Prentiss went through the “cure” with indomitable patience and pluck, and was rewarded by the most beneficial results.  Her sleeplessness had become too deep-rooted to be overcome, but it was greatly mitigated and her general condition vastly improved.  She never ceased to feel very grateful to Dr. Schieferdecker for the relief he had afforded her, and for teaching her how to manage herself; for after passing from under his care, she still continued to follow his directions.  “No tongue can tell how much I am indebted to him,” she wrote in 1869.  “I am like a ship that after poking along twenty years with a heavy load on board, at last gets into port, unloads, and springs to the surface.”

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The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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