Mr. Prentiss was distinguished, as a public speaker, by a rich, chaste, and boundless imagination, the exhaustless resources of which, in beautiful language and happy illustrations, he brought to the aid of a logical power, which he wielded to a very great extent. Always ready and prompt, his conceptions seemed to me almost intuitive. His voice was fine, softened, and, I think, improved, by a slight lisp, which an attentive observer could discern. The great theatres of eloquence and public speaking in the United States are the legislative hall, the forum, and the stump, without adverting to the pulpit. I have known some of my contemporaries eminently successful on one of these theatres, without being able to exhibit any remarkable ability on the others. Mr. Prentiss was brilliant and successful on them all.
Of the attractions of his personal and social character the testimonies are very striking. Judge Bullard, in a eulogy pronounced before the bar of New Orleans, thus refers to his own experience:
What can I say of the noble qualities of his heart? Who can describe the charms of his conversation? Old as I am, his society was one of my greatest pleasures—I became a boy again. His conversation resembled the ever-varying clouds that cluster round the setting sun of a summer evening—their edges fringed with gold, and the noiseless and harmless flashes of lightning spreading, from time to time, over their dark bosom.
In a similar strain Gov. J. J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, wrote of him shortly after his death:
It was impossible to know him without feeling for him admiration and love. His genius, so rich and rare; his heart, so warm, generous, and magnanimous; and his manners, so graceful and genial, could not fail to impress these sentiments upon all who approached him. Eloquence was a part of his nature, and over his private conversations as well as his public speeches it scattered its sparkling jewels with more than royal profusion.
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Here are the first stanzas of some of her favorite German hymns, referred to in this letter:
Jesus, Jesus, nichts als Jesus
Soll mein Wunsch sein und mein Ziel;
Jetzund mach ich ein Verbuendniss,
Dass ich will, was Jesus will;
Denn mein Herz, mit ihm erfuellt,
Rufet nur; Herr, wie du willt.
Written by Elizabeth, Countess of Schwartzburg, 1640-1672.
Gott ist gegenwaertig! Lasset uns
Und in Erfurcht vor ihn treten;
Gott ist in der mitten! Alles in uns schweige
Und sich innig vor ihm beuge;
Wer ihn kennt, wer ihn nennt,
Schlagt die Augen nieder,
Kommt, ergebt euch wieder.
By Gerhard Tersteegen, 1697-1769.
Zum Ernst, zum Ernst ruft Jesu Geist inwendig;
Zum Ernst ruft auch die Stimme seiner Braut;
Getreu und ganz, und bis zum Tod bestaendig.
Ein reines Herz allein den reinen schaut.
By the Same.