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.



The allusion is to a young officer of the navy, James Swan Thatcher—­a grandson of General Knox, the friend of Washington, and a younger brother of Lieutenant, afterwards the gallant Rear Admiral, Henry Knox Thatcher.  He had become deeply interested in Miss Payson, and at length solicited her hand.  The story of his hopeless attachment to her, as disclosed after his death, is most touching.  He would spend hours together late into the night in walking about the house, which, to borrow his brother’s expression, “his love had placed on holy ground.”  He was a young man of singular purity and nobleness of character—­“one of a thousand,” to use her own words—­and, although she could not accept him as a lover, she cherished for him a very cordial friendship.  Not long after, he was lost at sea.  In later years she often referred to him and his tragical end with the tenderest feeling.  The following is an extract from a letter of Rear Admiral Thatcher to her husband, written several months after her death and shortly before his own: 

I have read with great interest your reference to my dear and only brother, James Swan Thatcher.  It carried me back to one of the saddest afflictions of my life.  We had both been stationed at Portland for the purpose of recruiting some of the hardy sons of Maine as seamen for the U. S. naval service.  The wife of the Rev. Dr. Dwight had advised my calling upon Mrs. Payson, Cumberland street, to obtain quarters.  I did so, and with my wife removed from a noisy hotel to the quiet of that most desirable retreat.  My brother made frequent visits to us, and, by invitation of Mrs. Payson, dined with us on Sundays, and passed the hours between meetings, accompanying the ladies to church in the afternoons.  This led to an acquaintance between Miss Payson and himself.  As they were both highly intellectual and were both “stepping heavenward,” they naturally fancied each other’s conversation and formed a mutual friendship.  Until after my dear brother’s death I never imagined that it was more than a fondness for Miss Payson’s conversational gifts that induced him to call so frequently at Cumberland street....  James was unexpectedly ordered to join the U. S. schooner Grampus at Norfolk, Va., for a winter cruise on the Southern coast for relief of distressed merchant vessels.  The cruise continued for some weeks without entering any port, but about the 20th of March, 1843, the Grampus appeared off the bar of Charleston, S. C., and sent in a letter-bag for mailing.  That night there came on a terrible gale and the Grampus disappeared forever—­no vestige of her ever having been seen.  She was commanded by Lt.-Commander Albert E. Downes, a good man and a fine seaman, and who as a midshipman had sailed with me three years before in the Pacific.  My brother was educated for the law, and studied his profession with the Hon. John Holmes, and, after completing his studies, became

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