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Thu May 20, 2010 10:50 pm

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From that period until I know not what year the Stavers House prospered. It was at the sign of the William Pitt that the officers of the French fleet boarded in 1782, and hither came the Marquis Lafayette, all the way from Providence, to visit them. John Hancock, Elbridge Gerry, Rutledge, and other signers of the Declaration sojourned here at various times. It was here General Knox--"that stalwart man, two officers in size and three in lungs"--was wont to order his dinner, and in a stentorian voice compliment Master Stavers on the excellence of his larder. One day--it was at the time of the French Revolution--Louis Philippe and his two brothers applied at the door of the William Pitt for lodgings; but the tavern was full, and the future king, with his companions, found comfortable quarters under the hospitable roof of Governor Langdon in Pleasant Street.

A record of the scenes, tragic and humorous, that have been enacted within this old yellow house on the corner would fill a volume. A vivid picture of the social and public life of the old time might be painted by a skillful hand, using the two Earl of Halifax inns for a background. The painter would find gay and sombre pigments ready mixed for his palette, and a hundred romantic incidents waiting for his canvas. One of these romantic episodes has been turned to very pretty account by Longfellow in the last series of The Tales of a Wayside Inn--the marriage of Governor Benning Wentworth with Martha Hilton, a sort of second edition of King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid.

Martha Hilton was a poor girl, whose bare feet and ankles and scant drapery when she was a child, and even after she was well in the bloom of her teens, used to scandalize good Dame Stavers, the innkeeper's wife. Standing one afternoon in the doorway of the Earl of Halifax, (1. The first of the two hotels bearing that title. Mr. Brewster commits a slight anachronism in locating the scene of this incident in Jaffrey Street, now Court. The Stavers House was not built until the year of Governor Benning Wentworth's death. Mr. Longfellow, in the poem, does not fall into the same error.


"One hundred years ago, and something more,
In Queen Street, Portsmouth, at her tavern door,
Neat as a pin, and blooming as a rose,
Stood Mistress Stavers in her furbelows.")


Dame Stavers took occasion to remonstrate with the sleek-limbed and lightly draped Martha, who chanced to be passing the tavern, carrying a pail of water, in which, as the poet neatly says, "the shifting sunbeam danced."

"You Pat! you Pat!" cried Mrs. Stavers severely; "why do you go looking so? You should be ashamed to be seen in the street."

"Never mind how I look," says Miss Martha, with a merry laugh, letting slip a saucy brown shoulder out of her dress; "I shall ride in my chariot yet, ma'am."

Fortunate prophecy! Martha went to live as servant with Governor Wentworth at his mansion at Little Harbor, looking out to sea. Seven years passed, and the "thin slip of a girl," who promised to be no great beauty, had flowered into the loveliest of women, with a lip like a cherry and a cheek like a tea-rose--a lady by instinct, one of Nature's own ladies. The governor, a lonely widower, and not too young, fell in love with his fair handmaid. Without stating his purpose to any one, Governor Wentworth invited a number of friends (among others the Rev. Arthur Brown) to dine with him at Little Harbor on his birthday. After the dinner, which was a very elaborate one, was at an end, and the guests were discussing their tobacco-pipes, Martha Hilton glided into the room, and stood blushing in front of the chimney-place. She was exquisitely dressed, as you may conceive, and wore her hair three stories high. The guests stared at each other, and particularly at her, and wondered. Then the governor, rising from his seat,


"Played slightly with his ruffles, then looked down,
And said unto the Reverend Arthur Brown:
'This is my birthday; it shall likewise be
My wedding-day; and you shall marry me!'"


The rector was dumfounded, knowing the humble footing Martha had held in the house, and could think of nothing cleverer to say than, "To whom, your excellency?" which was not cleaver at all.

"To this lady," replied the governor, taking Martha Hilton by the hand. The Rev. Arthur Brown hesitated. "As the Chief Magistrate of New Hampshire I command you to marry me!" cried the choleric old governor.

And so it was done; and the pretty kitchen-maid became Lady Wentworth, and did ride in her own chariot. She would not have been a woman if she had not taken an early opportunity to drive by Staver's hotel!

Lady Wentworth had a keen appreciation of the dignity of her new station, and became a grand lady at once. A few days after her marriage, dropping her ring on the floor, she languidly ordered her servant to pick it up. The servant, who appears to have had a fair sense of humor, grew suddenly near-sighted, and was unable to the ring until Lady Wentworth stooped and placed her ladyship's finger upon it. She turned out a faultless wife, however; and Governor Wentworth at his death, which occurred in 1770, signified his approval of her by leaving her his entire estate. She married again without changing name, accepting the hand, and what there was of the heart, of Michael Wentworth, a retired colonel of the British army, who came to this country in 1767. Colonel Wentworth (not connected, I think, with the Portsmouth branch of Wentworths) seems to have been of a convivial turn of mind. He shortly dissipated his wife's fortune in high living, and died abruptly in New York--it was supposed by his own hand. His last words--a quite unique contribution to the literature of last words--were, "I have had my cake, and ate it," which showed that the colonel within his own modest limitations was a philosopher.

The seat of Governor Wentworth at Little Harbor--a pleasant walk from Market Square--is well worth a visit. Time and change have laid their hands more lightly on this rambling old pile than on any other of the old homes in Portsmouth. When you cross the threshold of the door you step into the colonial period. Here the Past seems to have halted courteously, waiting for you to catch up with it. Inside and outside the Wentworth mansion remains nearly as the old governor left it; and though it is no longer in the possession of the family, the present owners, in their willingness to gratify the decent curiosity of strangers, show a hospitality which has always characterized the place.

The house is an architectural freak. The main building--if it is the main building--is generally two stories in height, with irregular wings forming three sides of a square which opens in the water. It is, in brief, a cluster of whimsical extensions that look as if they had been built at different periods, which I believe was not the case. The mansion was completed in 1750. It originally contained fifty-two rooms; a portion of the structure was removed about half a century ago, leaving forty-five apartments. The chambers were connected in the oddest manner, by unexpected steps leading up or down, and capricious little passages that seem to have been the unhappy afterthoughts of the architect. But it is a mansion on a grand scale, and with a grand air. The cellar was arranged for the stabling of a troop of thirty horse in times of danger. The council-chamber, where for many years all questions of vital importance to the State were discussed, is a spacious, high-studded room, finished in the richest style of the last century. It is said that the ornamentation of the huge mantel, carved with knife and chisel, cost the workman a year's constant labor. At the entrance to the council-chamber are still the racks for the twelve muskets of the governor's guard--so long ago dismissed!

Some valuable family portraits adorn the walls here, among which is a fine painting-yes, by our friend Copley--of the lovely Dorothy Quincy, who married John Hancock, and afterward became Madam Scott. This lady was a niece of Dr. Holme's "Dorothy Q." Opening on the council-chamber is a large billiard-room; the billiard-table is gone, but an ancient spinnet, with the prim air of an ancient maiden lady, and of a wheezy voice, is there; and in one corner stands a claw-footed buffet, near which the imaginative nostril may still detect a faint and tantalizing odor of colonial punch. Opening also on the council-chamber are several tiny apartments, empty and silent now, in which many a close rubber has been played by illustrious hands. The stillness and loneliness of the old house seem saddest here. The jeweled fingers are dust, the merry laughs have turned themselves into silent, sorrowful phantoms, stealing from chamber to chamber. It is easy to believe in the traditional ghost that haunts the place--


"A jolly place in times of old,
But something ails it now!"


The mansion at Little Harbor is not the only historic house that bears the name of Wentworth. On Pleasant Street, at the head of Washington Street, stands the abode of another colonial worthy, Governor John Wentworth, who held office from 1767 down to the moment when the colonies dropped the British yoke as if it had been the letter H. For the moment the good gentleman's occupation was gone. He was a royalist of the most florid complexion. In 1775, a man named John Fenton, and ex-captain in the British army, who had managed to offend the Sons of Liberty, was given sanctuary in this house by the governor, who refused to deliver the fugitive to the people. The mob planted a small cannon (unloaded) in front of the doorstep and threatened to open fire if Fenton were not forthcoming. He forth-with came. The family vacated the premises via the back-yard, and the mob entered, doing considerable damage. The broken marble chimney-place still remains, mutely protesting against the uncalled-for violence. Shortly after this event the governor made his way to England, where his loyalty was rewarded first with a governorship and then with a pension of L500. He was governor of Nova Scotia from 1792 to 1800, and died in Halifax in 1820. This house is one of the handsomest old dwellings in the town, and promises to outlive many of its newest neighbors. The parlor has undergone no change whatever since the populace rushed into it over a century ago. The furniture and adornments occupy their original positions and the plush on the walls has not been replaced by other hangings. In the hall--deep enough for the traditional duel of baronial romance--are full-length portraits of the several governors and sundry of their kinsfolk.

There is yet a third Wentworth house, also decorated with the shade of a colonial governor--there were three Governors Wentworth--but we shall pass it by, though out of no lack of respect for that high official personage whose commission was signed by Joseph Addison, Esq., Secretary of State under George I.


V. OLD STRAWBERRY BANK

THESE old houses have perhaps detained us too long. They are merely the crumbling shells of things dead and gone, of persons and manners and customs that have left no very distinct record of themselves, excepting here and there in some sallow manuscript which has luckily escaped the withering breath of fire, for the old town, as I have remarked, has managed, from the earliest moment of its existence, to burn itself up periodically. It is only through the scattered memoranda of ancient town clerks, and in the files of worm-eaten and forgotten newspapers, that we are enabled to get glimpses of that life which was once so real and positive and has now become a shadow. I am of course speaking of the early days of the settlement on Strawberry Bank. They were stormy and eventful days. The dense forest which surrounded the clearing was alive with hostile red-men. The sturdy pilgrim went to sleep with his firelock at his bedside, not knowing at what moment he might be awakened by the glare of his burning hayricks and the piercing war-whoops of the Womponoags. Year after year he saw his harvest reaped by a sickle of flames, as he peered through the loop-holes of the blockhouse, whither he had flown in hot haste with goodwife and little ones. The blockhouse at Strawberry Bank appears to have been on an extensive scale, with stockades for the shelter of cattle. It held large supplies of stores, and was amply furnished with arquebuses, sakers, and murtherers, a species of naval ordnance which probably did not belie its name. It also boasted, we are told, of two drums for training-days, and no fewer than fifteen hautboys and soft-voiced recorders--all which suggests a mediaeval castle, or a grim fortress in the time of Queen Elizabeth. To the younger members of the community glass or crockery ware was an unknown substance; to the elders it was a memory. An iron pot was the pot-of-all-work, and their table utensils were of beaten pewter. The diet was also of the simplest--pea-porridge and corn-cake, with a mug of ale or a flagon of Spanish wine, when they could get it.

John Mason, who never resided in this country, but delegated the management of his plantation at Ricataqua and Newichewannock to stewards, died before realizing any appreciable return from his enterprise. He spared no endeavor meanwhile to further its prosperity. In 1632, three years before his death, Mason sent over from Denmark a number of neat cattle, "of a large breed and yellow colour." The herd thrived, and it is said that some of the stock is still extant on farms in the vicinity of Portsmouth. Those old first families had a kind of staying quality!

In May, 1653, the inhabitants of the settlement petitioned the General Court at Boston to grant them a definite township--for the boundaries were doubtful--and the right to give it a proper name. "Whereas the name of this plantation att present being Strabery Banke, accidentlly soe called, by reason of a banke where strawberries was found in this place, now we humbly desire to have it called Portsmouth, being a name most suitable for this place, it being the river's mouth, and good as any in this land, and your petit'rs shall humbly pray," etc.

Throughout that formative period, and during the intermittent French wars, Portsmouth and the outlying districts were the scenes of bloody Indian massacres. No portion of the New England colony suffered more. Famine, fire, pestilence, and war, each in turn, and sometimes in conjunction, beleaguered the little stronghold, and threatened to wipe it out. But that was not to be.

The settlement flourished and increased in spite of all, and as soon as it had leisure to draw breath, it bethought itself of the school-house and the jail--two incontestable signs of budding civilization. At a town meeting in 1662, it was ordered "that a cage be made or some other meanes invented by the selectmen to punish such as sleepe or take tobacco on the Lord's day out of the meetinge in the time of publique service." This salutary measure was not, for some reason, carried into effect until nine years later, when Captain John Pickering, who seems to have had as many professions as Michelangelo, undertook to construct a cage twelve feet square and seven feet high, with a pillory on top; "the said Pickering to make a good strong dore and make a substantiale payre of stocks and places the same in said cage." A spot conveniently near the west end on the meeting-house was selected as the site for this ingenious device. It is more than probable that "the said Pickering" indirectly furnished an occasional bird for his cage, for in 1672 we find him and one Edward Westwere authorized by the selectmen to "keepe houses of publique entertainment." He was a versatile individual, this John Pickering--soldier, miller, moderator, carpenter, lawyer, and innkeeper. Michelangelo need not blush to be bracketed with him. In the course of a long and variegated career he never failed to act according to his lights, which he always kept well trimmed. That Captain Pickering subsequently became the grandfather, at several removes, of the present writer was no fault of the Captain's, and should not be laid up against him.
Down to 1696, the education of the young appears to have been a rather desultory and tentative matter; "the young idea" seems to have been allowed to "shoot" at whatever it wanted to; but in that year it was voted "that care be taken that an abell scollmaster [skullmaster!] be provided for the towen as the law directs, not visious in conversation." That was perhaps demanding too much; for it was not until "May ye 7" of the following year that the selectmen were fortunate enough to put their finger on this rara avis in the person of Mr. Tho. Phippes, who agreed "to be scollmaster for the the towen this yr insewing for teaching the inhabitants children in such manner as other schollmasters yously doe throughout the countrie: for his soe doinge we the sellectt men in behalfe of ower towen doe ingage to pay him by way of rate twenty pounds and yt he shall and may reserve from every father or master that sends theyer children to school this yeare after ye rate of 16s. for readers, writers and cypherers 20s., Lattiners 24s."

Modern advocates of phonetic spelling need not plume themselves on their originality. The town clerk who wrote that delicious "yously doe" settles the question. It is to be hoped that Mr. Tho. Phippes was not only "not visious in conversation," but was more conventional in his orthography. He evidently gave satisfaction, and clearly exerted an influence on the town clerk, Mr. Samuel Keais, who ever after shows a marked improvement in his own methods. In 1704 the town empowered the selectmen "to call and settell a gramer scoll according to ye best of yower judgement and for ye advantag [Keais is obviously dead now] of ye youth of ower town to learn them to read from ye primer, to wright and sypher and to learne ym the tongues and good-manners." On this occasion it was Mr. William Allen, of Salisbury, who engaged "dilligently to attend ye school for ye present yeare, and tech all childern yt can read in thaire psallters and upward." From such humble beginnings were evolved some of the best public high schools at present in New England.

Portsmouth did not escape the witchcraft delusion, though I believe that no hangings took place within the boundaries of the township. Dwellers by the sea are generally superstitious; sailors always are. There is something in the illimitable expanse of sky and water that dilates the imagination. The folk who live along the coast live on the edge of a perpetual mystery; only a strip of yellow sand or gray rock separates them from the unknown; they hear strange voices in the winds at midnight, they are haunted by the spectres of the mirage. Their minds quickly take the impress of uncanny things. The witches therefore found a sympathetic atmosphere in Newscastle, at the mouth of the Piscataqua--that slender paw of land which reaches out into the ocean and terminates in a spread of sharp, flat rocks, lie the claws of an amorous cat. What happened to the good folk of that picturesque little fishing-hamlet is worth retelling in brief. In order properly to retell it, a contemporary witness shall be called upon to testify in the case of the Stone-Throwing Devils of Newcastle. It is the Rev. Cotton Mather who addresses you--"On June 11, 1682, showers of stones were thrown by an invisible hand upon the house of George Walton at Portsmouth [Newcastle was then a part of the town]. Whereupon the people going out found the gate wrung off the hinges, and stones flying and falling thick about them, and striking of them seemingly with a great force, but really affecting 'em no more than if a soft touch were given them. The glass windows were broken by the stones that came not from without, but from within; and other instruments were in a like manner hurled about. Nine of the stones they took up, whereof some were as hot as if they came out of the fire; and marking them they laid them on the table; but in a little while they found some of them again flying about. The spit was carried up the chimney, and coming down with the point forward, stuck in the back log, from whence one of the company removing it, it was by an invisible hand thrown out at the window. This disturbance continued from day to day; and sometimes a dismal hollow whistling would be heard, and sometimes the trotting and snorting of a horse, but nothing to be seen. The man went up the Great Bay in a boat on to a farm which he had there; but the stones found him out, and carrying from the house to the boat a stirrup iron the iron came jingling after him through the woods as far as his house; and at last went away and was heard no more. The anchor leaped overboard several times and stopt the boat. A cheese was taken out of the press, and crumbled all over the floor; a piece of iron stuck into the wall, and a kettle hung thereon. Several cocks of hay, mow'd near the house, were taken up and hung upon the trees, and others made into small whisps, and scattered about the house. A man was much hurt by some of the stones. He was a Quaker, and suspected that a woman, who charged him with injustice in detaining some land from here, did, by witchcraft, occasion these preternatural occurrences. However, at last they came to an end."

Now I have done with thee, O credulous and sour Cotton Mather! so get thee back again to thy tomb in the old burying-ground on Copp's Hill, where, unless thy nature is radically changed, thou makest it uncomfortable for those about thee.

Nearly a hundred years afterwards, Portsmouth had another witch--a tangible witch in this instance--one Molly Bridget, who cast her malign spell on the eleemosynary pigs at the Almshouse, where she chanced to reside at the moment. The pigs were manifestly bewitched, and Mr. Clement March, the superintendent of the institution, saw only one remedy at hand, and that was to cut off and burn the tips of their tales. But when the tips were cut off they disappeared, and it was in consequence quite impracticable to burn them. Mr. March, who was a gentleman of expedients, ordered that all the chips and underbrush in the yard should be made into heaps and consumed, hoping thus to catch and do away with the mysterious and provoking extremities. The fires were no sooner lighted than Molly Bridget rushed from room to room in a state of frenzy. With the dying flames her own vitality subsided, and she was dead before the ash-piles were cool. I say it seriously when I say that these are facts of which there is authentic proof.

If the woman had recovered, she would have fared badly, even at that late period, had she been in Salem; but the death-penalty has never been hastily inflicted in Portsmouth. The first execution that ever took place there was that of Sarah Simpson and Penelope Kenny, for the murder of an infant in 1739. The sheriff was Thomas Packer, the same official who, twenty-nine years later, won unenviable notoriety at the hanging of Ruth Blay. The circumstances are set forth by the late Albert Laighton in a spirited ballad, which is too long to quote in full. The following stanzas, however, give the pith of the story--


"And a voice among them shouted,
"Pause before the deed is done;
We have asked reprieve and pardon
For the poor misguided one.'

"But these words of Sheriff Packer
Rang above the swelling noise:
'Must I wait and lose my dinner?
Draw away the cart, my boys!'

"Nearer came the sound and louder,
Till a steed with panting breath,
From its sides the white foam dripping,
Halted at the scene of death;

"And a messenger alighted,
Crying to the crowd, 'Make way!
This I bear to Sheriff Packer;
'Tis a pardon for Ruth Blay!'"


But of course he arrived too late--the Law led Mercy about twenty minutes. The crowd dispersed, horror-stricken; but it assembled again that night before the sheriff's domicile and expressed its indignation in groans. His effigy, hanged on a miniature gallows, was afterwards paraded through the streets.


"Be the name of Thomas Packer
A reproach forevermore!"


Laighton's ballad reminds me of that Portsmouth has been prolific in poets, one of whom, at least, has left a mouthful of perennial rhyme for orators--Jonathan Sewell with his


"No pent-up Utica contracts your powers,
But the whole boundless continent is yours."


I have somewhere seen a volume with the alliterative title of "Poets of Portsmouth," in which are embalmed no fewer than sixty immortals!

But to drop into prose again, and have done with this iliad of odds and ends. Portsmouth has the honor, I believe, of establishing the first recorded pauper workhouse--though not in connection with her poets, as might naturally be supposed. The building was completed and tenanted in 1716. Seven years later, an act was passed in England authorizing the establishment of parish workhouses there. The first and only keeper of the Portsmouth almshouse up to 1750 was a woman--Rebecca Austin.

Speaking of first things, we are told by Mr. Nathaniel Adams, in his "Annals of Portsmouth," that on the 20th of April, 1761, Mr. John Stavers began running a stage from that town to Boston. The carriage was a two-horse curricle, wide enough to accommodate three passengers. The fare was thirteen shillings and sixpence sterling per head. The curricle was presently superseded by a series of fat yellow coaches, one of which--nearly a century later, and long after that pleasant mode of travel had fallen obsolete--was the cause of much mental tribulation (1. Some idle reader here and there may possibly recall the burning of the old stage-coach in The Story of a Bad Boy.) to the writer of this chronicle.

The mail and the newspaper are closely associated factors in civilization, so I mention them together, though in this case the newspaper antedated the mail-coach about five years. On October 7, 1756, the first number of "The New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle" was issued in Portsmouth from the press of Daniel Fowle, who in the previous July had removed from Boston, where he had undergone a brief but uncongenial imprisonment on suspicion of having printed a pamphlet entitled "The Monster of Monsters, by Tom Thumb, Esq.," an essay that contained some uncomplimentary reflections on several official personages. The "Gazette" was the pioneer journal of the province. It was followed at the close of the same year by "The Mercury and Weekly Advertiser," published by a former apprentice of Fowle, a certain Thomas Furber, backed by a number of restless Whigs, who considered the "Gazette" not sufficiently outspoken in the cause of liberty. Mr. Fowle, however, contrived to hold his own until the day of his death. Fowle had for pressman a faithful negro named Primus, a full-blooded African. Whether Primus was a freeman or a slave I am unable to state. He lived to a great age, and was a prominent figure among the people of his own color.

Negro slavery was common in New England at that period. In 1767, Portsmouth numbered in its population a hundred and eighty-eight slaves, male and female. Their bondage, happily, was nearly always of a light sort, if any bondage can be light. They were allowed to have a kind of government of their own; indeed, were encouraged to do so, and no unreasonable restrictions were placed on their social enjoyment. They annually elected a king and counselors, and celebrated the event with a procession. The aristocratic feeling was highly developed in them. The rank of the master was the slave's rank. There was a great deal of ebony standing around on its dignity in those days. For example, Governor Langdon's manservant, Cyrus Bruce, was a person who insisted on his distinction, and it was recognized. His massive gold chain and seals, his cherry-colored small-clothes and silk stockings, his ruffles and silver shoe-buckles, were a tradition long after Cyrus himself was pulverized.

In cases of minor misdemeanor among them, the negros themselves were permitted to be judge and jury. Their administration of justice was often characteristically naive. Mr. Brewster gives an amusing sketch of one of their sessions. King Nero is on the bench, and one Cato--we are nothing if not classical--is the prosecuting attorney. The name of the prisoner and the nature of his offense are not disclosed to posterity. In the midst of the proceedings the hour of noon is clanged from the neighboring belfry of the Old North Church. "The evidence was not gone through with, but the servants could stay no longer from their home duties. They all wanted to see the whipping, but could not conveniently be present again after dinner. Cato ventured to address the King: Please you Honor, best let the fellow have his whipping now, and finish the trial after dinner. The request seemed to be the general wish of the company: so Nero ordered ten lashes, for justice so far as the trial went, and ten more at the close of the trial, should he be found guilty!"

Slavery in New Hampshire was never legally abolished, unless Abraham Lincoln did it. The State itself has not ever pronounced any emancipation edict. During the Revolutionary War the slaves were generally emancipated by their masters. That many of the negros, who had grown gray in service, refused their freedom, and elected to spend the rest of their lives as pensioners in the families of their late owners, is a circumstance that illustrates the kindly ties which held between slave and master in the old colonial days in New England.

The institution was accidental and superficial, and never had any real root in the Granite State. If the Puritans could have found in the Scriptures any direct sanction of slavery, perhaps it would have continued awhile longer, for the Puritan carried his religion into the business affairs of life; he was not even able to keep it out of his bills of lading. I cannot close this rambling chapter more appropriately and solemnly than by quoting from one of those same pious bills of landing. It is dated June, 1726, and reads: "Shipped by the grace of God in good order and well conditioned, by Wm. Pepperills on there own acct. and risque, in and upon the good Briga called the William, whereof is master under God for this present voyage George King, now riding at anchor in the river Piscataqua and by God's grace bound to Barbadoes." Here follows a catalogue of the miscellaneous cargo, rounded off with: "And so God send the good Briga to her desired port in safety. Amen."


VI. SOME OLD PORTSMOUTH PROFILES

I DOUBT if any New England town ever turned out so many eccentric characters as Portsmouth. From 1640 down to about 1848 there must have been something in the air of the place that generated eccentricity. In another chapter I shall explain why the conditions have not been favorable to the development of individual singularity during the latter half of the present century. It is easier to do that than fully to account for the numerous queer human types which have existed from time to time previous to that period.

In recently turning over the pages of Mr. Brewster's entertaining collection of Portsmouth sketches, I have been struck by the number and variety of the odd men and women who appear incidentally on the scene. They are, in the author's intention, secondary figures in the background of his landscape, but they stand very much in the foreground of one's memory after the book is laid aside. One finds one's self thinking quite as often of that squalid old hut-dweller up by Sagamore Creek as of General Washington, who visited the town in 1789. Conservatism and respectability have their values, certainly; but has not the unconventional its values also? If we render unto that old hut-dweller the things which are that old hut-dweller's, we must concede him his picturesqueness. He was dirty, and he was not respectable; but he is picturesque--now that he is dead.

If the reader has five or ten minutes to waste, I invite him to glance at a few old profiles of persons who, however substantial they once were, are now leading a life of mere outlines. I would like to give them a less faded expression, but the past is very chary of yielding up anything more than its shadows.

The first who presents himself is the ruminative hermit already mentioned--a species of uninspired Thoreau. His name was Benjamin Lear. So far as his craziness went, he might have been a lineal descendant of that ancient king of Britain who figures on Shakespeare's page. Family dissensions made a recluse of King Lear; but in the case of Benjamin there were no mitigating circumstances. He had no family to trouble him, and his realm remained undivided. He owned an excellent farm on the south side of Sagamore Creek, a little to the west of the bridge, and might have lived at ease, if personal comfort had not been distasteful to him. Personal comfort entered into no part of Lear's. To be alone filled the little pint-measure of his desire. He ensconced himself in a wretched shanty, and barred the door, figuratively, against all the world. Wealth--what would have been wealth to him--lay within his reach, but he thrust it aside; he disdained luxury as he disdained idleness, and made no compromise with convention. When a man cuts himself absolutely adrift from custom, what an astonishingly light spar floats him! How few his wants are, after all! Lear was of a cheerful disposition, and seems to have been wholly inoffensive--at a distance. He fabricated his own clothes, and subsisted chiefly on milk and potatoes, the product of his realm. He needed nothing but an island to be a Robinson Crusoe. At rare intervals he flitted like a frost-bitten apparition through the main street of Portsmouth, which he always designated as "the Bank," a name that had become obsolete fifty or a hundred years before. Thus, for nearly a quarter of a century, Benjamin Lear stood aloof from human intercourse. In his old age some of the neighbors offered him shelter during the tempestuous winter months; but he would have none of it--he defied wind and weather. There he lay in his dilapidated hovel in his last illness, refusing to allow any one to remain with him overnight--and the mercury four degrees below zero. Lear was born in 1720, and vegetated eighty-two years.

I take it that Timothy Winn, of whom we have only a glimpse, would like to have more, was a person better worth knowing. His name reads like the title of some old-fashioned novel--"Timothy Winn, or the Memoirs of a Bashful Gentleman." He came to Portsmouth from Woburn at the close of the last century, and set up in the old museum-building on Mulberry Street what was called "a piece goods store." He was the third Timothy in his monotonous family, and in order to differentiate himself he inscribed on the sign over his shop door, "Timothy Winn, 3d," and was ever after called "Three-Penny Winn." That he enjoyed the pleasantry, and clung to his sign, goes to show that he was a person who would ripen on further acquaintance, were further acquaintance now practicable. His next-door neighbor, Mr. Leonard Serat, who kept a modest tailoring establishment, also tantalizes us a little with a dim intimation of originality. He plainly was without literary prejudices, for on one face of his swinging sign was painted the word Taylor, and on the other Tailor. This may have been a delicate concession to that part of the community--the greater part, probably--which would have spelled it with a y.

The building in which Messrs. Winn and Serat had their shops was the property of Nicholas Rousselet, a French gentleman of Demerara, the story of whose unconventional courtship of Miss Catherine Moffatt is pretty enough to bear retelling, and entitles him to a place in our limited collection of etchings. M. Rousselet had doubtless already mad excursions into the pays de tendre, and given Miss Catherine previous notice of the state of his heart, but it was not until one day during the hour of service at the Episcopal church that he brought matters to a crisis by handing to Miss Moffatt a small Bible, on the fly-leaf of which he had penciled the fifth verse of the Second Epistle of John--


"And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I
wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that
which we had from the beginning, that we love one another."


This was not to be resisted, at lease not by Miss Catherine, who demurely handed the volume back to him with a page turned down at the sixteenth verse in the first chapter of Ruth--


"Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I
will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my
God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be
buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but
death part thee and me."


Aside from this quaint touch of romance, what attaches me to the happy pair--for the marriage was a fortunate one--is the fact that the Rousselets made their home in the old Atkinson mansion, which stood directly opposite my grandfather's house on Court Street and was torn down in my childhood, to my great consternation. The building had been unoccupied for a quarter of a century, and was fast falling into decay with all its rich wood-carvings at cornice and lintel; but was it not full of ghosts, and if the old barracks were demolished, would not these ghosts, or some of them at least, take refuge in my grandfather's house just across the way? Where else could they bestow themselves so conveniently? While the ancient mansion was in process of destruction, I used to peep round the corner of our barn at the workmen, and watch the indignant phantoms go soaring upward in spiral clouds of colonial dust.

A lady differing in many ways from Catherine Moffatt was the Mary Atkinson (once an inmate of this same manor house) who fell to the lot of the Rev. William Shurtleff, pastor of the South Church between 1733 and 1747. From the worldly standpoint, it was a fine match for the Newcastle clergyman--beauty, of the eagle-beaked kind; wealth, her share of the family plate; high birth, a sister to the Hon. Theodore Atkinson. But if the exemplary man had cast his eyes lower, peradventure he had found more happiness, though ill-bred persons without family plate are not necessarily amiable. Like Socrates, this long-suffering divine had always with him an object on which to cultivate heavenly patience, and patience, says the Eastern proverb, is the key to content. The spirit of Xantippe seems to have taken possession of Mrs. Shurtleff immediately after her marriage. The freakish disrespect with which she used her meek consort was a heavy cross to bear at a period in New England when clerical dignity was at its highest sensitive point. Her devices for torturing the poor gentleman were inexhaustible. Now she lets his Sabbath ruffs go unstarched; now she scandalizes him by some unseemly and frivolous color in her attire; now she leaves him to cook his own dinner at the kitchen coals; and now she locks him in his study, whither he has retired for a moment or two of prayer, previous to setting forth to perform the morning service. The congregation has assembled; the sexton has tolled the bell twice as long as is custom, and is beginning a third carillon, full of wonder that his reverence does not appear; and there sits Mistress Shurtleff in the family pew with a face as complacent as that of the cat that has eaten the canary. Presently the deacons appeal to her for information touching the good doctor. Mistress Shurtleff sweetly tells them that the good doctor was in his study when she left home. There he is found, indeed, and released from durance, begging the deacons to keep his mortification secret, to "give it an understanding, but no tongue." Such was the discipline undergone by the worthy Dr. Shurtleff on his earthly pilgrimage. A portrait of this patient man--now a saint somewhere--hangs in the rooms of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society in Boston. There he can be seen in surplice and bands, with his lamblike, apostolic face looking down upon the heavy antiquarian labors of his busy descendants.

Whether or not a man is to be classed as eccentric who vanishes without rhyme or reason on his wedding-night is a query left to the reader's decision. We seem to have struck a matrimonial vein, and must work it out. In 1768, Mr. James McDonough was one of the wealthiest men in Portsmouth, and the fortunate suitor for the hand of a daughter of Jacob Sheafe, a town magnate. The home of the bride was decked and lighted for the nuptials, the banquet-table was spread, and the guests were gathered. The minister in his robe stood by the carven mantelpiece, book in hand, and waited. Then followed an awkward interval--there was a hitch somewhere. A strange silence fell upon the laughing groups; the air grew tense with expectation; in the pantry, Amos Boggs, the butler, in his agitation split a bottle of port over his new cinnamon-colored small-clothes. Then a whisper--a whisper suppressed these twenty minutes--ran through the apartments,--"The bridegroom has not come!". He never came. The mystery of that night remains a mystery after the lapse of a century and a quarter.

What had become of James McDonough? The assassination of so notable a person in a community where every strange face was challenged, where every man's antecedents were known, could not have been accomplished without leaving some slight traces. Not a shadow of foul play was discovered. That McDonough had been murdered or had committed suicide were theories accepted at first by a few, and then by no one. On the other hand, he was in love with his fiancee, he had wealth, power, position--why had he fled? He was seen a moment on the public street, and then never seen again. It was as if he turned into air. Meanwhile the bewilderment of the bride was dramatically painful. If McDonough had been waylaid and killed, she could mourn for him. If he had deserted her, she could wrap herself in her pride. But neither course lay open to her, then or afterward. In one of the Twice Told Tales Hawthorne deals with a man named Wakefield, who disappears with like suddenness, and lives unrecognized for twenty years in a street not far from his abandoned hearthside. Such expunging of one's self was not possible in Portsmouth; but I never think of McDonough without recalling Wakefield. I have an inexplicable conviction that for many a year James McDonough, in some snug ambush, studied and analyzed the effect of his own startling disappearance.

Some time in the year 1758, there dawned upon Portsmouth a personage bearing the ponderous title of King's Attorney, and carrying much gold lace about him. This gilded gentleman was Mr. Wyseman Clagett, of Bristol, England, where his father dwelt on the manor of Broad Oaks, in a mansion with twelve chimneys, and kept a coach and eight or ten servants. Up to the moment of his advent in the colonies, Mr. Wyseman Clagett had evidently not been able to keep anything but himself. His wealth consisted of his personal decorations, the golden frogs on his lapels, and the tinsel at his throat; other charms he had none. Yet with these he contrived to dazzle the eyes of Lettice Mitchel, one of the young beauties of the province, and to cause her to forget that she had plighted troth with a Mr. Warner, then in Europe, and destined to return home with a disturbed heart. Mr. Clagett was a man of violent temper and ingenious vindictiveness, and proved more than a sufficient punishment for Lettice's infidelity. The trifling fact that Warner was dead--he died shortly after his return--did not interfere with the course of Mr. Clagett's jealousy; he was haunted by the suspicion that Lettice regretted her first love, having left nothing undone to make her do so. "This is to pay Warner's debts," remarked Mr. Clagett, as he twitched off the table-cloth and wrecked the tea-things.

In his official capacity he was a relentless prosecutor. The noun Clagett speedily turned itself into a verb; "to Clagett" meant "to prosecute;" they were convertible terms. In spite of his industrious severity, and his royal emoluments, if such existed, the exchequer of the King's Attorney showed a perpetual deficit. The stratagems to which he resorted from time to time in order to raise unimportant sums reminded one of certain scenes in Moliere's comedies.

Mr. Clagett had for his ame damnee a constable of the town. They were made for each other; they were two flowers with but a single stem, and this was their method of procedure: Mr. Clagett dispatched one of his servants to pick a quarrel with some countryman on the street, or some sailor drinking at an inn: the constable arrested the sailor or the countryman, as the case might be, and hauled the culprit before Mr. Clagett; Mr. Clagett read the culprit a moral lesson, and fined him five dollars and costs. The plunder was then divided between the conspirators--two hearts that beat as one--Clagett, of course, getting the lion's share. Justice was never administered in a simpler manner in any country. This eminent legal light was extinguished in 1784, and the wick laid away in the little churchyard in Litchfield, New Hampshire. It is a satisfaction, even after such a lapse of time, to know that Lettice survived the King's Attorney sufficiently long to be very happy with somebody else. Lettice Mitchel was scarcely eighteen when she married Wyseman Clagett.

About eighty years ago, a witless fellow named Tilton seems to have been a familiar figure on the streets of the old town. Mr. Brewster speaks of him as "the well-known idiot, Johnny Tilton," as if one should say, "the well-known statesman, Daniel Webster." It is curious to observe how any sort of individuality gets magnified in this parochial atmosphere, where everything lacks perspective, and nothing is trivial. Johnny Tilton does not appear to have had much individuality to start with; it was only after his head was cracked that he showed any shrewdness whatever. That happened early in his unobtrusive boyhood. He had frequently watched the hens flying out of the loft window in his father's stable, which stood in the rear of the Old Bell Tavern. It occurred to Johnny, one day, that though he might not be as bright as other lads, he certainly was in no respect inferior to a hen. So he placed himself on the sill of the window in the loft, flapped his arms, and took flight. The New England Icarus alighted head downward, lay insensible for a while, and was henceforth looked upon as a mortal who had lost his wits. Yet at odd moments his cloudiness was illumined by a gleam of intelligence such as had not been detected in him previous to his mischance. As Polonius said of Hamlet--another unstrung mortal--Tilton's replies had "a happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of." One morning, he appeared at the flour-mill with a sack of corn to be ground for the almshouse, and was asked what he knew. "Some things I know," replied poor Tilton, "and some things I don't know. I know the miller's hogs grow fat, but I don't know whose corn they fat on." To borrow another word from Polonius, though this be madness, yet there was method in it. Tilton finally brought up in the almshouse, where he was allowed the liberty of roaming at will through the town. He loved the water-side as if he had had all his senses. Often he was seen to stand for hours with a sunny, torpid smile on his lips, gazing out upon the river where its azure ruffles itself into silver against the islands. He always wore stuck in his hat a few hen's feathers, perhaps with some vague idea of still associating himself with the birds of the air, if hens can come into that category.

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*(`'·.¸(`'·.¸*¤*¸.·'´)¸.·'´)*
«´¨`·.Pooja Merchant·´¨`»
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