Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/44

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ELIZA LESLIE.

admirable Letters on England, and his histories of Rome and Greece (Robinson Crusoe and the Arabian Nights, of course), and I had gone through the six octavo volumes of the first edition of Cook’s Voyages. I talked much of Tupia and Omiah, and Otoo and Terreoboo—Captain Cook I almost adored. Among our visitors in London, was a naval officer who had sailed with Cook on his last voyage, and had seen him killed at Owhyhee—I am sorry the name of that island has been changed to the unspellable and unpronounceable Hawaii. I was delighted when my father took me to the British Museum, to see the numerous curiosities brought from the South Sea by the great circumnavigator.

The “Elegant Extracts” made me acquainted with the best passages in the works of all the British writers who had flourished before the present century. From this book I first learned the beauties of Shakspeare. My chief novels were Miss Burney’s, Mrs. Radcliffe’s, and the Children of the Abbey.

Like most authors, I made my first attempts in verse. They were always songs, adapted to the popular airs of that time, the close of the last century. The subjects were chiefly soldiers, sailors, hunters, and nuns. I scribbled two or three in the pastoral line, but my father once pointing out to me a real shepherd, in a field somewhere in Kent, I made no farther attempt at Damons and Strephons, playing on lutes and wreathing their brows with roses. My songs were, of course, foolish enough; but in justice to myself I will say, that having a good ear, I was never guilty of a false quantity in any of my poetry—my lines never had a syllable too much or too little, and my rhymes always did rhyme. At thirteen or fourteen, I began to despise my own poetry, and destroyed all I had. I then, for many years, abandoned the dream of my childhood, the hope of one day seeing my name in print.

It was not till 1827 that I first ventured “to put out a book,” and a most unparnassian one it was—“Seventy-five receipts for pastry, cakes, and sweetmeats.” Truth was, I had a tolerable collection of receipts, taken by myself while a pupil of Mrs. Goodfellow’s cooking school, in Philadelphia. I had so many applications from my friends for copies of these directions, that my brother