Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/364

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
322
ALICE B. NEAL.

in our estimate of the merits of the charming original sketch, published in our present number, from the pen of Miss Alice G. Lee.

“‘No offence to the general, or any man of quality,’ as Cassio has it; but though second to none in our admiration of ‘Fanny Forrester,’ it would be injustice not to say, that ‘The First Declaration’ will compare, without injury, to any other production of the kind that has adorned of late our periodical literature. How it may affect others we cannot tell; but it is to us like moonlight on the flowers when the weary day is done, or like music on the waters, to meet with a sketch so replete with playfulness, yet so delicately marked with Coleridge’s ‘instinct of ladyhood.’ There is genius, too, and originality, in its naiveté—a nice and feminine perception of the beautiful, with an ability to portray it, which cannot fail of its purpose whenever it is thus executed.”

The matter did not end here. The new author continued to contribute to the Gazette. A correspondence ensued, which led to the entertainment on his part of a deep and warm regard. Discovering at length, accidentally, that “Alice G. Lee” was a fiction, and that the real lady was Miss Emily Bradley, now returned to her own home on the Hudson, he immediately sought her acquaintance, and in December, 1846, received her hand in marriage, and brought her to Philadelphia, which has been her home ever since. At his request, she resumed, and she still retains, the endeared name of “Alice,” by which he had first known her.

This union, so romantic in its origin, was doomed to a sad and speedy termination. In July, 1847, the hand of death left Mrs. Neal a widow, at the early age of nineteen. Experience shows, in the moral world if not in the physical, that the coarsest plants are not always the hardiest. This delicate flower, so tenderly fostered and so fragrantly blooming, beneath the genial influences that surround the parterres of city life, now that it was exposed to the blast, seemed suddenly to resume the hardihood of its mountain birth. With a courage that might do honour to an experienced matron, this widowed girl decided at once to assume the editorial duties of her deceased husband, and thus not only avoid eating the bread of dependence, but also win the dearer privilege of ministering to the comfort of her husband’s now childless mother. To this excellent woman, now seventy-two years of age, with a filial piety like that of Ruth to Naomi, she has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Since the death of Mr. Neal, the two ladies have continued to live together, the younger gracefully acknowledging that the rich stores of experience, the varied reading, fine taste, and judicious counsels of her aged companion, have more than compensated for her own more active exertions.

Her first literary effort, after her mournful bereavement, was to superintend the publication of the third series of “Charcoal Sketches,” by her late husband. She has since then, besides her weekly editorial labours in the Gazette, written several books for children, and contributed largely,