Audubon and His Journals/Audubon
IN the brief biography of Audubon which follows, I have given, I believe, the only correct account that has been written, and as such I present it. I am not competent to give an opinion as to the merits of his work, nor is it necessary. His place as naturalist, woodsman, artist, author, has long since been accorded him, and he himself says: "My enemies have been few, and my friends numerous."
I have tried only to put Audubon the man before my readers, and in his own words so far as possible, that they may know what he was, not what others thought he was.
M. R. A.
THE village of Mandeville in the parish of St. Tammany, Louisiana, is about twenty miles from New Orleans on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain. Here, on the plantation of the same name, owned by the Marquis de Mandeville de Marigny, John James Laforest Audubon was born, the Marquis having lent his home, in the generous southern fashion, to his friend Admiral Jean Audubon, who, with his Spanish Creole wife, lived here some months. In the same house, towards the close of the last century, Louis Philippe found refuge for a time with the ever hospitable Marigny family, and he named the beautiful plantation home "Fontainebleau." Since then changes innumerable have come, the estate has other owners, the house has gone, those who once dwelt there are long dead, their descendants scattered, the old landmarks obliterated.
Audubon has given a sketch of his father in his own words in "Myself," which appears in the pages following; but of his mother little indeed is known. Only within the year, have papers come into the hands of her great-grand-children, which prove her surname to have been Rabin. Audubon himself tells of her tragic death, which was not, however, in the St. Domingo insurrection of 1793, but in one of the local uprisings of the slaves which were of frequent occurrence in that beautiful island, whose history is too dark to dwell upon. Beyond this nothing can be found relating to the mother, whom Audubon lost before he was old enough to remember her, except that in 1822 one of the family Marigny told my father, John Woodhouse Audubon, then a boy of ten, who with his parents was living in New Orleans, that she was "une dame d'une beauté incomparable et avec beaucoup de fierté." It may seem strange that nothing more can be found regarding this lady, but it is to be remembered these were troublous days, when stormy changes were the rule; and the roving and adventurous sailor did not, I presume, encumber himself with papers. To these circumstances also it is probably due that the date of Audubon's birth is not known, and must always remain an open question. In his journals and letters various allusions are made to his age, and many passages bearing on the matter are found, but with one exception no two agree; he may have been born anywhere between 1772 and 1783, and in the face of this uncertainty the date usually given, May 5, 1780, may be accepted, though the true one is no doubt earlier.
The attachment between Audubon and his father was of the strongest description, as the long and affectionate, if somewhat infrequent letters, still in the possession of the family, fully demonstrate. When the Admiral was retired from active service, he lived at La Gerbétière in France with his second wife, Anne Moynette, until his death, on February 19, 1818, at the great age of ninety-five.
In this home near the Loire, Audubon spent his happy boyhood and youth, dearly beloved and loving, and receiving the best education time and place afforded. As the boy grew older and more advantages were desired for him, came absences when he was at school in La Rochelle and Paris; but La Gerbétière was his home till in early manhood he returned to America, the land he loved above all others, as his journals show repeatedly. The impress of the years in France was never lost; he always had a strong French accent, he possessed in a marked degree the adaptability to circumstances which is a trait of that nation, and his disposition inherited from both parents was elated or depressed by a trifle. He was quick-tempered, enthusiastic, and romantic, yet affectionate, forgiving, and with unlimited industry and perseverance; he was generous to every one with time, money, and possessions; nothing was too good for others, but his own personal requirements were of the simplest character. His life shows all this and more, better than words of mine can tell; and as the only account of his years till he left Henderson, Ky., in 1819, is in his own journal, it is given here in full.
The precise period of my birth is yet an enigma to me, and I can only say what I have often heard my father repeat to me on this subject, which is as follows: It seems that my father had large properties in Santo Domingo, and was in the habit of visiting frequently that portion of our Southern States called, and known by the name of, Louisiana, then owned by the French Government.
During one of these excursions he married a lady of Spanish extraction, whom I have been led to understand was as beautiful as she was wealthy, and othenwise attractive, and who bore my father three sons and a daughter,—I being the youngest of the sons and the only one who survived extreme youth. My mother, soon after my birth, accompanied my father to the estate of Aux Cayes, on the island of Santo Domingo, and she was one of the victims during the ever-to-be-lamented period of the negro insurrection of that island.
My father, through the intervention of some faithful servants, escaped from Aux Cayes with a good portion of his plate and money, and with me and these humble friends reached New Orleans in safety. From this place he took me to France, where, having married the only mother I have ever known, he left me under her charge and returned to the United States in the employ of the French Government, acting as an officer under Admiral Rochambeau. Shortly afterward, however, he landed in the United States and became attached to the army under La Fayette.
The first of my recollective powers placed me in the central portion of the city of Nantes, on the Loire River, in France, where I still recollect particularly that I was much cherished by my dear stepmother, who had no children of her own, and that I was constantly attended by one or two black servants, who had followed my father from Santo Domingo to New Orleans and afterward to Nantes.
One incident which is as perfect in my memory as if it had occurred this very day, I have thought of thousands of times since, and will now put on paper as one of the curious things which perhaps did lead me in after times to love birds, and to finally study them with pleasure infinite. My mother had several beautiful parrots and some monkeys; one of the latter was a full-grown male of a very large species. One morning, while the servants were engaged in arranging the room I was in, "Pretty Polly" asking for her breakfast as usual, "Du pain au lait pour le perroqitet Mignonne," the man of the woods probably thought the bird presuming upon his rights in the scale of nature; be this as it may, he certainly showed his supremacy in strength over the denizen of the air, for, walking deliberately and uprightly toward the poor bird, he at once killed it, with unnatural composure. The sensations of my infant heart at this cruel sight were agony to me. I prayed the servant to beat the monkey, but he, who for some reason preferred the monkey to the parrot, refused. I uttered long and piercing cries, my mother rushed into the room, I was tranquillized, the monkey was forever afterward chained, and Mignonne buried with all the pomp of a cherished lost one.
This made, as I have said, a very deep impression on my youthful mind. But now, my dear children, I must tell you somewhat of my father, and of his parentage.
John Audubon, my grandfather, was born and lived at the small village of Sable d'Olhonne, and was by trade a very humble fisherman. He appears to have made up for the want of wealth by the number of his children, twenty-one of whom he actually raised to man and womanhood. All were sons, with one exception; my aunt, one uncle, and my father, who was the twentieth son, being the only members of that extraordinary numerous family who lived to old age. In subsequent years, when I visited Sable d'Olhonne, the old residents assured me that they had seen the whole family, including both parents, at church many times.
When my father had reached the age of twelve years, his father presented him with a shirt, a dress of coarse material, a stick, and his blessing, and urged him to go and seek means for his future support and sustenance.
Some kind whaler or cod-fisherman took him on board as a "Boy." Of his life during his early voyages it would be useless to trouble you; let it suffice for me to say that they were of the usual most uncomfortable nature. How many trips he made I cannot say, but he told me that by the time he was seventeen he had become an able seaman before the mast; when twenty-one he commanded a fishing-smack, and went to the great Newfoundland Banks; at twenty-five he owned several small crafts, all fishermen, and at twenty-eight sailed for Santo Domingo with his little flotilla heavily loaded with the produce of the deep. "Fortune," said he to me one day, "now began to smile upon me. I did well in this enterprise, and after a few more voyages of the same sort gave up the sea, and purchased a small estate on the Isle à Vaches; the prosperity of Santo Domingo was at its zenith, and in the course of ten years I had realized something very considerable. The then Governor gave me an appointment which called me to France, and having received some favors there, I became once more a seafaring man, the government having granted me the command of a small vessel of war."
How long my father remained in the service, it is impossible for me to say. The different changes occurring at the time of the American Revolution, and afterward during that in France, seem to have sent him from one place to another as if a foot-ball; his property in Santo Domingo augmenting, however, the while, and indeed till the liberation of the black slaves there.
During a visit he paid to Pennsylvania when suffering from the effects of a sunstroke, he purchased the beautiful farm of Mill Grove, on the Schuylkill and Perkiomen streams. At this place, and a few days only before the memorable battle (sic) of Valley Forge, General Washington presented him with his portrait, now in my possession; and highly do I value it as a memento of that noble man and the glories of those days. At the conclusion of the war between England and her child of the West, my father returned to France and continued in the employ of the naval department of that country, being at one time sent to Plymouth, England, in a seventy-five-gun ship to exchange prisoners. This was, I think, in the short peace that took place between England and France in 1801. He returned to Rochefort, where he lived for several years, still in the employ of government. He finally sent in his resignation and returned to Nantes and La Gerbétière. He had many severe trials and afflictions before his death, having lost my two older brothers early in the French Revolution; both were officers in the army. His only sister was killed by the Chouans of La Vendée, and the only brother he had was not on good terms with him. This brother resided at Bayonne, and, I believe, had a large family, none of whom I have ever seen or known.
In personal appearance my father and I were of the same height and stature, say about five feet ten inches, erect, and with muscles of steel; his manners were those of a most polished gentleman, for those and his natural understanding had been carefully improved both by observation and by self-education. In temper we much resembled each other also, being warm, irascible, and at times violent; but it was like the blast of a hurricane, dreadful for a time, when calm almost instantly returned. He greatly approved of the change in France during the time of Napoleon, whom he almost idolized. My father died in 1818, regretted most deservedly on account of his simplicity, truth, and perfect sense of honesty. Now I must return to myself.
My stepmother, who was devotedly attached to me, far too much so for my good, was desirous that I should be brought up to live and die "like a gentleman," thinking that fine clothes and filled pockets were the only requisites needful to attain this end. She therefore completely spoiled me, hid my faults, boasted to every one of my youthful merits, and, worse than all, said frequently in my presence that I was the handsomest boy in France. All my wishes and idle notions were at once gratified; she went so far as actually to grant me carte blanche at all the confectionery shops in the town, and also of the village of Couéron, where during the summer we lived, as it were, in the country.
My father was quite of another, and much more valuable description of mind as regarded my future welfare; he believed not in the power of gold coins as efficient means to render a man happy. He spoke of the stores of the mind, and having suffered much himself through the want of education, he ordered that I should be put to school, and have teachers at home. "Revolutions," he was wont to say, "too often take place in the lives of individuals, and they are apt to lose in one day the fortune they before possessed; but talents and knowledge, added to sound mental training, assisted by honest industry, can never fail, nor be taken from any one once the possessor of such valuable means." Therefore, notwithstanding all my mother's entreaties and her tears, off to a school I was sent. Excepting only, perhaps, military schools, none were good in France at this period; the thunders of the Revolution still roared over the land, the Revolutionists covered the earth with the blood of man, woman, and child. But let me forever drop the curtain over the frightful aspect of this dire picture. To think of these dreadful days is too terrible, and would be too horrible and painful for me to relate to you, my dear sons.
The school I went to was none of the best; my private teachers were the only means through which I acquired the least benefit. My father, who had been for so long a seaman, and who was then in the French navy, wished me to follow in his steps, or else to become an engineer. For this reason I studied drawing, geography, mathematics, fencing, etc., as well as music, for which I had considerable talent. I had a good fencing-master, and a first-rate teacher of the violin; mathematics was hard, dull work, I thought; geography pleased me more. For my other studies, as well as for dancing, I was quite enthusiastic; and I well recollect how anxious I was then to become the commander of a corps of dragoons.
My father being mostly absent on duty, my mother suffered me to do much as I pleased; it was therefore not to be wondered at that, instead of applying closely to my studies, I preferred associating with boys of my own age and disposition, who were more fond of going in search of birds' nests, fishing, or shooting, than of better studies. Thus almost every day, instead of going to school when I ought to have gone, I usually made for the fields, where I spent the day; my little basket went with me, filled with good eatables, and when I returned home, during either winter or summer, it was replenished with what I called curiosities, such as birds' nests, birds' eggs, curious lichens, flowers of all sorts, and even pebbles gathered along the shore of some rivulet.
The first time my father returned from sea after this my room exhibited quite a show, and on entering it he was so pleased to see my various collections that he complimented me on my taste for such things: but when he inquired what else I had done, and I, like a culprit, hung my head, he left me without saying another word. Dinner over he asked my sister for some music, and, on her playing for him, he was so pleased with her improvement that he presented her with a beautiful book. I was next asked to play on my violin, but alas! for nearly a month I had not touched it, it was stringless; not a word was said on that subject. "Had I any drawings to show?" Only a few, and those not good. My good father looked at his wife, kissed my sister, and humming a tune left the room. The next morning at dawn of day my father and I were under way in a private carriage; my trunk, etc., were fastened to it, my violin-case was under my feet, the postilion was ordered to proceed, my father took a book from his pocket, and while he silently read I was left entirely to my own thoughts.
After some days' travelling we entered the gates of Rochefort. My father had scarcely spoken to me, yet there was no anger exhibited in his countenance; nay, as we reached the house where we alighted, and approached the door, near which a sentinel stopped his walk and presented arms, I saw him smile as he raised his hat and said a few words to the man, but so low that not a syllable reached my ears.
The house was furnished with servants, and everything seemed to go on as if the owner had not left it. My father bade me sit by his side, and taking one of my hands calmly said to me: "My beloved boy, thou art now safe. I have brought thee here that I may be able to pay constant attention to thy studies; thou shalt have ample time for pleasures, but the remainder must be employed with industry and care. This day is entirely thine own, and as I must attend to my duties, if thou wishest to see the docks, the fine ships-of-war, and walk round the wall, thou may'st accompany me." I accepted, and off together we went; I was presented to every officer we met, and they noticing me more or less, I saw much that day, yet still I perceived that I was like a prisoner-of-war on parole in the city of Rochefort.
My best and most amiable companion was the son of Admiral, or Vice-Admiral (I do not precisely recollect his rank) Vivien, who lived nearly opposite to the house where my father and I then resided; his company I much enjoyed, and with him all my leisure hours were spent. About this time my father was sent to England in a corvette with a view to exchange prisoners, and he sailed on board the man-of-war "L'Institution" for Plymouth. Previous to his sailing he placed me under the charge of his secretary, Gabriel Loyen Dupuy Gaudeau, the son of a fallen nobleman. Now this gentleman was of no pleasing nature to me; he was, in fact, more than too strict and severe in all his prescriptions to me, and well do I recollect that one morning, after having been set to a very arduous task in mathematical problems, I gave him the slip, jumped from the window, and ran off through the gardens attached to the Marine Secrétariat. The unfledged bird may stand for a while on the border of its nest, and perhaps open its winglets and attempt to soar away, but his youthful imprudence may, and indeed often does, prove inimical to his prowess, as some more wary and older bird, that has kept an eye toward him, pounces relentlessly upon the young adventurer and secures him within the grasp of his more powerful talons. This was the case with me in this instance. I had leaped from the door of my cage and thought myself quite safe, while I rambled thoughtlessly beneath the shadow of the trees in the garden and grounds in which I found myself; but the secretary, with a side glance, had watched my escape, and, ere many minutes had elapsed, I saw coming toward me a corporal with whom, in fact, I was well acquainted. On nearing me, and I did not attempt to escape, our past familiarity was, I found, quite evaporated; he bid me, in a severe voice, to follow him, and on my being presented to my father's secretary I was at once ordered on board the pontoon in port. All remonstrances proved fruitless, and on board the pontoon I was conducted, and there left amid such a medley of culprits as I cannot describe, and of whom, indeed, I have but little recollection, save that I felt vile myself in their vile company. My father returned in due course, and released me from these floating and most disagreeable lodgings, but not without a rather severe reprimand.
Shortly after this we returned to Nantes, and later to La Gerbétière. My stay here was short, and I went to Nantes to study mathematics anew, and there spent about one year, the remembrance of which has flown from my memory, with the exception of one incident, of which, when I happen to pass my hand over the left side of my head, I am ever and anon reminded. 'Tis this: one morning, while playing with boys of my own age, a quarrel arose among us, a battle ensued, in the course of which I was knocked down by a round stone, that brought the blood from that part of my skull, and for a time I lay on the ground unconscious, but soon rallying, experienced no lasting effects but the scar.
During all these years there existed within me a tendency to follow Nature in her walks. Perhaps not an hour of leisure was spent elsewhere than in woods and fields, and to examine either the eggs, nest, young, or parents of any species of birds constituted my delight. It was about this period that I commenced a series of drawings of the birds of France, which I continued until I had upward of two hundred drawings, all bad enough, my dear sons, yet they were representations of birds, and I felt pleased with them. Hundreds of anecdotes respecting my life at this time might prove interesting to you, but as they are not in my mind at this moment I will leave them, though you may find some of them in the course of the following pages.
I was within a few months of being seventeen years old, when my stepmother, who was an earnest Catholic, took into her head that I should be confirmed; my father agreed. I was surprised and indifferent, but yet as I loved her as if she had been my own mother, and well did she merit my deepest affection, I took to the catechism, studied it and other matters pertaining to the ceremony, and all was performed to her liking. Not long after this, my father, anxious as he was that I should be enrolled in Napoleon's army as a Frenchman, found it necessary to send me back to my own beloved country, the United States of America, and I came with intense and indescribable pleasure.
On landing at New York I caught the yellow fever by walking to the bank at Greenwich to get the money to which my father's letter of credit entitled me. The kind man who commanded the ship that brought me from France, whose name was a common one, John Smith, took particular charge of me, removed me to Morristown, N. J., and placed me under the care of two Quaker ladies who kept a boarding-house. To their skilful and untiring ministrations I may safely say I owe the prolongation of my life. Letters were forwarded by them to my father's agent, Miers Fisher of Philadelphia, of whom I have more to say hereafter. He came for me in his carriage and removed me to his villa, at a short distance from Philadelphia and on the road toward Trenton. There I would have found myself quite comfortable had not incidents taken place which are so connected with the change in my life as to call immediate attention to them.
Miers Fisher had been my father's trusted agent for about eighteen years, and the old gentlemen entertained great mutual friendship; indeed it would seem that Mr. Fisher was actually desirous that I should become a member of his family, and this was evinced within a few days by the manner in which the good Quaker presented me to a daughter of no mean appearance, but toward whom I happened to take an unconquerable dislike. Then he was opposed to music of all descriptions, as well as to dancing, could not bear me to carry a gun, or fishing-rod, and, indeed, condemned most of my amusements. All these things were difficulties toward accomplishing a plan which, for aught I know to the contrary, had been premeditated between him and my father, and rankled the heart of the kindly, if somewhat strict Quaker. They troubled me much also; at times I wished myself anywhere but under the roof of Mr. Fisher, and at last I reminded him that it was his duty to install me on the estate to which my father had sent me.
One morning, therefore, I was told that the carriage was ready to carry me there, and toward my future home he and I went. You are too well acquainted with the position of Mill Grove for me to allude to that now; suffice it to say that we reached the former abode of my father about sunset. I was presented to our tenant, William Thomas, who also was a Quaker, and tookpossession under certain restrictions, which amounted to my not receiving more than enough money per quarter than was
Old Mill and Miller's Cottage at Mill Grove on the Perkiomen Creek.
From a Photograph from W. H. Wetherill, ESQ.
Miers Fisher left me the next morning, and after him went my blessings, for I thought his departure a true deliverance; yet this was only because our tastes and educations were so different, for he certainly was a good and learned man. Mill Grove was ever to me a blessed spot; in my daily walks I thought I perceived the traces left by my father as I looked on the even fences round the fields, or on the regular manner with which avenues of trees, as well as the orchards, had been planted by his hand. The mill was also a source of joy to me, and in the cave, which you too remember, where the Pewees were wont to build, I never failed to find quietude and delight.
Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment; cares I knew not, and cared naught about them. I purchased excellent and beautiful horses, visited all such neighbors as I found congenial spirits, and was as happy as happy could be. A few months after my arrival at Mill Grove, I was informed one day that an English family had purchased the plantation next to mine, that the name of the owner was Bakewell, and moreover that he had several very handsome and interesting daughters, and beautiful pointer dogs. I listened, but cared not a jot about them at the time. The place was within sight of Mill Grove, and Fatland Ford, as it was called, was merely divided from my estate by a road leading to the Schuylkill River. Mr. William Bakewell, the father of the family, had called on me one day, but, finding I was rambling in the woods in search of birds, left a card and an invitation to go shooting with him. Now this gentleman was an Englishman, and I such a foolish boy that, entertaining the greatest prejudices against all of his nationality, I did not return his visit for many weeks, which was as absurd as it was ungentlemanly and impolite.
Mrs. Thomas, good soul, more than once spoke to me on the subject, as well as her worthy husband, but all to no import; English was English with me, my poor childish mind was settled on that, and as I wished to know none of the race the call remained unacknowledged.
Frosty weather, however, came, and anon was the ground covered with the deep snow. Grouse were abundant along the fir-covered ground near the creek, and as I was in pursuit of game one frosty morning I chanced to meet Mr. Bakewell in the woods. I was struck with the kind politeness of his manner, and found him an expert marksman. Entering into conversation, I admired the beauty of his well-trained dogs, and, apologizing for my discourtesy, finally promised to call upon him and his family.
Well do I recollect the morning, and may it please God that I may never forget it, when for the first time I entered Mr. Bakewell's dwelling. It happened that he was absent from home, and I was shown into a parlor where only one young lady was snugly seated at her work by the fire. She rose on my entrance, offered me a seat, and assured me of the gratification her father would feel on his return, which, she added, would be in a few moments, as she would despatch a servant for him. Other ruddy cheeks and bright eyes made their transient appearance, but, like spirits gay, soon vanished from my sight; and there I sat, my gaze riveted, as it were, on the young girl before me, who, half working, half talking, essayed to make the time pleasant to me. Oh! may God bless her! It was she, my dear sons, who afterward became my beloved wife, and your mother. Mr. Bakewell soon made his appearance, and received me with the manner and hospitality of a true English gentleman. The other members of the family were soon introduced to me, and "Lucy" was told to have luncheon produced. She now arose from her seat a second time, and her form, to which I had previously paid but partial attention, showed both grace and beauty; and my heart followed every one of her steps. The repast over, guns and dogs were made ready.
Lucy, I was pleased to believe, looked upon me with some favor, and I turned more especially to her on leaving. I felt that certain "je ne sais quoi" which intimated that, at least, she was not indifferent to me.
To speak of the many shooting parties that took place with Mr. Bakewell would be quite useless, and I shall merely say that he was a most excellent man, a great shot, and possessed of extraordinary learning aye,—far beyond my comprehension. A few days after this first interview with the family the Perkiomen chanced to be bound with ice, and many a one from the neighborhood was playing pranks on the glassy surface of that lovely stream. Being somewhat of a skater myself, I sent a note to the inhabitants of Fatland Ford, inviting them to come and partake of the simple hospitality of Mill Grove farm, and the invitation was kindly received and accepted. My own landlady bestirred herself to the utmost in the procuring of as many pheasants and partridges as her group of sons could entrap, and now under my own roof was seen the whole of the Bakewell family, seated round the table which has never ceased to be one of simplicity and hospitality.
After dinner we all repaired to the ice on the creek, and there in comfortable sledges, each fair one was propelled by an ardent skater. Tales of love may be extremely stupid to the majority, so that I will not expatiate on these days, but to me, my dear sons, and under such circumstances as then, and, thank God, now exist, every moment was to me one of delight.
But let me interrupt my tale to tell you somewhat of other companions whom I have heretofore neglected to mention. These are two Frenchmen, by name Da Costa and Colmesnil. A lead mine had been discovered by my tenant, William Thomas, to which, besides the raising of fowls, I paid considerable attention; but I knew nothing of mineralogy or mining, and my father, to whom I communicated the discovery of the mine, sent Mr. Da Costa as a partner and partial guardian from France. This fellow was intended to teach me mineralogy and mining engineering, but, in fact, knew nothing of either; besides which he was a covetous wretch, who did all he could to ruin my father, and indeed swindled both of us to a large amount. I had to go to France and expose him to my father to get rid of him, which I fortunately accomplished at first sight of my kind parent. A greater scoundrel than Da Costa never probably existed, but peace be with his soul.
The other, Colmesnil, was a very interesting young Frenchman with whom I became acquainted. He was very poor, and I invited him to come and reside under my roof. This he did, remaining for many months, much to my delight. His appearance was typical of what he was, a perfect gentleman; he was handsome in form, and possessed of talents far above my own. When introduced to your mother's family he was much thought of, and at one time he thought himself welcome to my Lucy; but it was only a dream, and when once undeceived by her whom I too loved, he told me he must part with me. This we did with mutual regret, and he returned to France, where, though I have lost sight of him, I believe he is still living.
During the winter connected with this event your uncle Thomas Bakewell, now residing in Cincinnati, was one morning skating with me on the Perkiomen, when he challenged me to shoot at his hat as he tossed it in the air, which challenge I accepted with great pleasure. I was to pass by at full speed, within about twenty-five feet of where he stood, and to shoot only when he gave the word. Off I went like lightning, up and down, as if anxious to boast of my own prowess while on the glittering surface beneath my feet; coming, however, within the agreed distance the signal was given, the trigger pulled, off went the load, and down on the ice came the hat of my future brother-in-law, as completely perforated as if a sieve. He repented, alas! too late, and was afterward severely reprimanded by Mr. Bakewell.
Another anecdote I must relate to you on paper, which I have probably too often repeated in words, concerning my skating in those early days of happiness; but, as the world knows nothing of it, I shall give it to you at some length. It was arranged one morning between your young uncle, myself, and several other friends of the same age, that we should proceed on a duck-shooting excursion up the creek, and, accordingly, off we went after an early breakfast. The ice was in capital order wherever no air-holes existed, but of these a great number interrupted our course, all of which were, however, avoided as we proceeded upward along the glittering, frozen bosom of the stream. The day was spent in much pleasure, and the game collected was not inconsiderable.
Fatland Ford Mansion Looking toward Valley Forge
From a Photograph from W. H. Wetherill, ESQ.
ill-fitting garments; our line of march was continued, with, however, much more circumspection. Let the reader, whoever he may be, think as he may like on this singular and, in truth, most extraordinary escape from death; it is the truth, and as such I have written it down as a wonderful act of Providence.
Mr. Da Costa, my tutor, took it into his head that my affection for your mother was rash and inconsiderate. He spoke triflingly of her and of her parents, and one day said to me that for a man of my rank and expectations to marry Lucy Bakewell was out of the question. If I laughed at him or not I cannot tell you, but of this I am certain, that my answers to his talks on this subject so exasperated him that he immediately afterward curtailed my usual income, made some arrangements to send me to India, and wrote to my father accordingly. Understanding from many of my friends that his plans were fixed, and finally hearing from Philadelphia, whither Da Costa had gone, that he had taken my passage from Philadelphia to Canton, I walked to Philadelphia, entered his room quite unexpectedly, and asked him for such an amount of money as would enable me at once to sail for France and there see my father.
The cunning wretch, for I cannot call him by any other name, smiled, and said: "Certainly, my dear sir," and afterward gave me a letter of credit on a Mr. Kauman, a half-agent, half-banker, then residing at New York. I returned to Mill Grove, made all preparatory plans for my departure, bid a sad adieu to my Lucy and her family, and walked to New York. But never mind the journey; it was winter, the country lay under a covering of snow, but withal I reached New York on the third day, late in the evening.
Once there, I made for the house of a Mrs. Palmer, a lady of excellent qualities, who received me with the utmost kindness, and later on the same evening I went to the house of your grand-uncle, Benjamin Bakewell, then a rich merchant of New York, managing the concerns of the house of Guelt, bankers, of London. I was the bearer of a letter from Mr. Bakewell, of Fatland Ford, to this brother of his, and there I was again most kindly received and housed.
The next day I called on Mr. Kauman; he read Da Costa's letter, smiled, and after a while told me he had nothing to give me, and in plain terms said that instead of a letter of credit, Da Costa—that rascal!—had written and advised him to have me arrested and shipped to Canton. The blood rose to my temples, and well it was that I had no weapon about me, for I feel even now quite assured that his heart must have received the result of my wrath. I left him half bewildered, half mad, and went to Mrs. Palmer, and spoke to her of my purpose of returning at once to Philadelphia and there certainly murdering Da Costa. Women have great power over me at any time, and perhaps under all circumstances. Mrs. Palmer quieted me, spoke religiously of the cruel sin I thought of committing, and, at last, persuaded me to relinquish the direful plan. I returned to Mr. Bakewell's low-spirited and mournful, but said not a word about all that had passed. The next morning my sad visage showed something was wrong, and I at last gave vent to my outraged feelings.
Benjamin Bakewell was a friend of his brother (may you ever be so toward each other). He comforted me much, went with me to the docks to seek a vessel bound to France, and offered me any sum of money I might require to convey me to my father's house. My passage was taken on board the brig "Hope," of New Bedford, and I sailed in her, leaving Da Costa and Kauman in a most exasperated state of mind. The fact is, these rascals intended to cheat both me and my father. The brig was bound direct for Nantes. We left the Hook under a very fair breeze, and proceeded at a good rate till we reached the latitude of New Bedford, in Massachusetts, when my captain came to me as if in despair, and said he must run into port, as the vessel was so leaky as to force him to have her unloaded and repaired before he proceeded across the Atlantic. Now this was only a trick; my captain was newly married, and was merely anxious to land at New Bedford to spend a few days with his bride, and had actually caused several holes to be bored below watermark, which leaked enough to keep the men at the pumps. We came to anchor close to the town of New Bedford; the captain went on shore, entered a protest, the vessel was unloaded, the apertures bunged up, and after a week, which I spent in being rowed about the beautiful harbor, we sailed for La Belle France. A few days after having lost sight of land we were overtaken by a violent gale, coming fairly on our quarter, and before it we scudded at an extraordinary rate, and during the dark night had the misfortune to lose a fine young sailor overboard. At one part of the sea we passed through an immensity of dead fish floating on the surface of the water, and, after nineteen days from New Bedford, we had entered the Loire, and anchored off Painboeuf, the lower harbor of Nantes.
On sending my name to the principal officer of the customs, he came on board, and afterward sent me to my father's villa, La Gerbétière, in his barge, and with his own men, and late that evening I was in the arms of my beloved parents. Although I had written to them previous to leaving America, the rapidity of my voyage had prevented them hearing of my intentions, and to them my appearance was sudden and unexpected. Most welcome, however, I was; I found my father hale and hearty, and chère maman as fair and good as ever. Adored maman, peace be with thee!
I cannot trouble you with minute accounts of my life in France for the following two years, but will merely tell you that my first object being that of having Da Costa disposed of, this was first effected; the next was my father's consent to my marriage, and this was acceded to as soon as my good father had received answers to letters written to your grandfather, William Bakewell. In the very lap of comfort my time was happily spent; I went out shooting and hunting, drew every bird I procured, as well as many other objects of natural history and zoölogy, though these were not the subjects I had studied under the instruction of the celebrated David.
It was during this visit that my sister Rosa was married to Gabriel Dupuy Gaudeau, and I now also became acquainted with Ferdinand Rozier, whom you well know. Between Rozier and myself my father formed a partnership to stand good for nine years in America.
France was at that time in a great state of convulsion; the republic had, as it were, dwindled into a half monarchical, half democratic era. Bonaparte was at the height of success, overflowing the country as the mountain torrent overflows the plains in its course. Levies, or conscriptions, were the order of the day, and my name being French my father felt uneasy lest I should be forced to take part in the political strife of those days.
I underwent a mockery of an examination, and was received as midshipman in the navy, went to Rochefort, was placed on board a man-of-war, and ran a short cruise. On my return, my father had, in some way, obtained passports for Rozier and me, and we sailed for New York. Never can I forget the day when, at St. Nazaire, an officer came on board to examine the papers of the many passengers. On looking at mine he said: "My dear Mr. Audubon, I wish you joy; would to God that I had such papers; how thankful I should be to leave unhappy France under the same passport."
About a fortnight after leaving France a vessel gave us chase. We were running before the wind under all sail, but the unknown gained on us at a great rate, and after a while stood to the windward of our ship, about half a mile off. She fired a gun, the ball passed within a few yards of our bows; our captain heeded not, but kept on his course, with the United States flag displayed and floating in the breeze. Another and another shot was fired at us; the enemy closed upon us; all the passengers expected to receive her broadside. Our commander hove to: a boat was almost instantaneously lowered and alongside our vessel; two officers leaped on board, with about a dozen mariners; the first asked for the captain's papers, while the latter with his men kept guard over the whole.
The vessel which had pursued us was the "Rattlesnake" and was what I believe is generally called a privateer, which means nothing but a pirate; every one of the papers proved to be in perfect accordance with the laws existing between England and America, therefore we were not touched nor molested, but the English officers who had come on board robbed the ship of almost everything that was nice in the way of provisions, took our pigs and sheep, coffee and wines, and carried off our two best sailors despite all the remonstrances made by one of our members of Congress, I think from Virginia, who was accompanied by a charming young daughter. The "Rattlesnake" kept us under her lee, and almost within pistol-shot, for a whole day and night, ransacking the ship for money, of which we had a good deal in the run beneath a ballast of stone. Although this was partially removed they did not find the treasure. I may here tell you that I placed the gold belonging to Rozier and myself, wrapped in some clothing, under a cable in the bow of the ship, and there it remained snug till the "Rattlesnake" had given us leave to depart, which you may be sure we did without thanks to her commander or crew; we were afterward told the former had his wife with him.
After this rencontre we sailed on till we came to within about thirty miles of the entrance to the bay of New York, when we passed a fishing-boat, from which we were hailed and told that two British frigates lay off the entrance of the Hook, had fired an American ship, shot a man, and impressed so many of our seamen that to attempt reaching New York might prove to be both unsafe and unsuccessful. Our captain, on hearing this, put about immediately, and sailed for the east end of Long Island Sound, which we entered uninterrupted by any other enemy than a dreadful gale, which drove us on a sand-bar in the Sound, but from which we made off unhurt during the height of the tide and finally reached New York.
I at once called on your uncle Benjamin Bakewell, stayed with him a day, and proceeded at as swift a rate as possible to Fatland Ford, accompanied by Ferdinand Rozier. Mr. Da Costa was at once dismissed from his charge. I saw my dear Lucy, and was again my own master.
Perhaps it would be well for me to give you some slight information respecting my mode of life in those days of my youth, and I shall do so without gloves. I was what in plain terms may be called extremely extravagant. I had no vices, it is true, neither had I any high aims. I was ever fond of shooting, fishing, and riding on horseback; the raising of fowls of every sort was one of my hobbies, and to reach the maximum of my desires in those different things filled every one of my thoughts. I was ridiculously fond of dress. To have seen me going shooting in black satin smallclothes, or breeches, with silk stockings, and the finest ruffled shirt Philadelphia could afford, was, as I now realize, an absurd spectacle, but it was one of my many foibles, and I shall not conceal it. I purchased the best horses in the country, and rode well, and felt proud of it; my guns and fishing-tackle were equally good, always expensive and richly ornamented, often with silver. Indeed, though in America, I cut as many foolish pranks as a young dandy in Bond Street or Piccadilly.
I was extremely fond of music, dancing, and drawing; in all I had been well instructed, and not an opportunity was lost to confirm my propensities in those accomplishments. I was, like most young men, filled with the love of amusement, and not a ball, a skating-match, a house or riding party took place without me. Withal, and fortunately for me, I was not addicted to gambling; cards I disliked, and I had no other evil practices. I was, besides, temperate to an intemperate degree. I lived, until the day of my union with your mother, on milk, fruits, and vegetables, with the addition of game and fish at times, but never had I swallowed a single glass of wine or spirits until the day of my wedding. The result has been my uncommon, indeed iron, constitution. This was my constant mode of life ever since my earliest recollection, and while in France it was extremely annoying to all those round me. Indeed, so much did it influence me that I never went to dinners, merely because when so situated my peculiarities in my choice of food occasioned comment, and also because often not a single dish was to my taste or fancy, and I could eat nothing from the sumptuous tables before me. Pies, puddings, eggs, milk, or cream was all I cared for in the way of food, and many a time have I robbed my tenant's wife, Mrs. Thomas, of the cream intended to make butter for the Philadelphia market. All this time I was as fair and as rosy as a girl, though as strong, indeed stronger than most young men, and as active as a buck. And why, have I thought a thousand times, should I not have kept to that delicious mode of living? and why should not mankind in general be more abstemious than mankind is?
Before I sailed for France I had begun a series of drawings of the birds of America, and had also begun a study of their habits. I at first drew my subjects dead, by which I mean to say that, after procuring a specimen, I hung it up either by the head, wing, or foot, and copied it as closely as I possibly could.
In my drawing of birds only did I interest Mr. Da Costa. He always commended my efforts, nay he even went farther, for one morning, while I was drawing a figure of the Ardea herodias he assured me the time might come when I should be a great American naturalist. However curious it may seem to the scientific world that these sayings from the lips of such a man should affect me, I assure you they had great weight with me, and I felt a certain degree of pride in these words even then.
Too young and too useless to be married, your grandfather William Bakewell advised me to study the mercantile business; my father approved, and to insure this training under the best auspices I went to New York, where I entered as a clerk for your great-uncle Benjamin Bakewell, while Rozier went to a French house at Philadelphia.
The mercantile business did not suit me. The very first venture which I undertook was in indigo; it cost me several hundred pounds, the whole of which was lost. Rozier was no more fortunate than I, for he shipped a cargo of hams to the West Indies, and not more than one-fifth of the cost was returned. Yet I suppose we both obtained a smattering of business.
Time passed, and at last, on April 8th, 1808, your mother and I were married by the Rev. Dr. Latimer, of Philadelphia, and the next morning left Fatland Ford and Mill Grove for Louisville, Ky. For some two years previous to this, Rozier and I had visited the country from time to time as merchants, had thought well of it, and liked it exceedingly. Its fertility and abundance, the hospitality and kindness of the people were sufficiently winning things to entice any one to go there with a view to comfort and happiness.
We had marked Louisville as a spot designed by nature to become a place of great importance, and, had we been as wise as we now are, I might never have published the "Birds of America;" for a few hundred dollars laid out at that period, in lands or town lots near Louisville, would, if left to grow over with grass to a date ten years past (this being 1835), have become an immense fortune. But young heads are on young shoulders; it was not to be, and who cares?
On our way to Pittsburg, we met with a sad accident, that nearly cost the life of your mother. The coach upset on the mountains, and she was severely, but fortunately not fatally hurt. We floated down the Ohio in a flatboat, in company with several other young families; we had many goods, and opened a large store at Louisville, which went on prosperously when I attended to it; but birds were birds then as now, and my thoughts were ever and anon turning toward them as the objects of my greatest delight. I shot, I drew, I looked on nature only; my days were happy beyond human conception, and beyond this I really cared not.
Victor was born June 12, 1809, at Gwathway's Hotel of the Indian Queen. We had by this time formed the acquaintance of many persons in and about Louisville; the country was settled by planters and farmers of the most benevolent and hospitable nature; and my young wife, who possessed talents far above par, was regarded as a gem, and received by them all with the greatest pleasure. All the sportsmen and hunters were fond of me, and I became their companion; my fondness for fine horses was well kept up, and I had as good as the country—and the country was Kentucky—could afford. Our most intimate friends were the Tarascons and the Berthouds, at Louisville and Shippingport. The simplicity and whole-heartedness of those days I cannot describe; man was man, and each, one to another, a brother.
I seldom passed a day without drawing a bird, or noting something respecting its habits, Rozier meantime attending the counter. I could relate many curious anecdotes about him, but never mind them; he made out to grow rich, and what more could he wish for?
In 1810 Alexander Wilson the naturalist—not the American naturalist—called upon me. About 1812 your uncle Thomas W. Bakewell sailed from New York or Philadelphia, as a partner of mine, and took with him all the disposable money which I had at that time, and there [New Orleans] opened a mercantile house under the name of " Audubon & Bakewell."
Merchants crowded to Louisville from all our Eastern cities. None of them were, as I was, intent on the study of birds, but all were deeply impressed with the value of dollars. Louisville did not give us up, but we gave up Louisville. I could not bear to give the attention required by my business, and which, indeed, every business calls for, and, therefore, my business abandoned me. Indeed, I never thought of it beyond the ever-engaging journeys which I was in the habit of taking to Philadelphia or New York to purchase goods; these journeys I greatly enjoyed, as they afforded me ample means to study birds and their habits as I travelled through the beautiful, the darling forests of Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
Were I here to tell you that once, when travelling, and driving several horses before me laden with goods and dollars, I lost sight of the pack-saddles, and the cash they bore, to watch the motions of a warbler, I should only repeat occurrences that happened a hundred times and more in those days. To an ordinary reader this may appear very odd, but it is as true, my dear sons, as it is that I am now scratching this poor book of mine with a miserable iron pen. Rozier and myself still had some business together, but we became discouraged at Louisville, and I longed to have a wilder range; this made us remove to Henderson, one hundred and twenty-five miles farther down the fair Ohio. We took there the remainder of our stock on hand, but found the country so very new, and so thinly populated that the commonest goods only were called for. I may say our guns and fishing-lines were the principal means of our support, as regards food.
John Pope, our clerk, who was a Kentuckian, was a good shot and an excellent fisherman, and he and I attended to the procuring of game and fish, while Rozier again stood behind the counter.
Your beloved mother and I were as happy as possible, the people round loved us, and we them in return; our profits were enormous, but our sales small, and my partner, who spoke English but badly, suggested that we remove to St. Geneviève, on the Mississippi River. I acceded to his request to go there, but determined to leave your mother and Victor at Henderson, not being quite sure that our adventure would succeed as we hoped. I therefore placed her and the children under the care of Dr. Rankin and his wife, who had a fine farm about three miles from Henderson, and having arranged our goods on board a large flatboat, my partner and I left Henderson in the month of December, 1810, in a heavy snow-storm. This change in my plans prevented me from going, as I had intended, on a long expedition. In Louisville we had formed the acquaintance of Major Croghan (an old friend of my father's), and of General Jonathan Clark, the brother of General William Clark, the first white man who ever crossed the Rocky Mountains. I had engaged to go with him, but was, as I have said, unfortunately prevented. To return to our journey. When we reached Cash Creek we were bound by ice for a few weeks; we then attempted to ascend the Mississippi, but were again stopped in the great bend called Tawapatee Bottom, where we again planted our camp till a thaw broke the ice. In less than six weeks, however, we reached the village of St. Genevieve. I found at once it was not the place for me; its population was then composed of low French Canadians, uneducated and uncouth, and the ever-longing wish to be with my beloved wife and children drew my thoughts to Henderson, to which I decided to return almost immediately. Scarcely any communication existed between the two places, and I felt cut off from all dearest to me. Rozier, on the contrary, liked it; he found plenty of French with whom to converse. I proposed selling out to him, a bargain was made, he paid me a certain amount in cash, and gave me bills for the residue. This accomplished, I purchased a beauty of a horse, for which I paid dear enough, and bid Rozier farewell. On my return trip to Henderson I was obliged to stop at a humble cabin, where I so nearly ran the chance of losing my life, at the hands of a woman and her two desperate sons, that I have thought fit since to introduce this passage in a sketch called "The Prairie," which is to be found in the first volume of my "Ornithological Biography."
Winter was just bursting into spring when I left the land of lead mines. Nature leaped with joy, as it were, at her own new-born marvels, the prairies began to be dotted with beauteous flowers, abounded with deer, and my own heart was filled with happiness at the sights before me. I must not forget to tell you that I crossed those prairies on foot at another time, for the purpose of collecting the money due to me from Rozier, and that I walked one hundred and sixty-five miles in a little over three days, much of the time nearly ankle deep in mud and water, from which I suffered much afterward by swollen feet. I reached Henderson in early March, and a few weeks later the lower portions of Kentucky and the shores of the Mississippi suffered severely by earthquakes. I felt their effects between Louisville and Henderson, and also at Dr. Rankin's. I have omitted to say that my second son, John Woodhouse, was born under Dr. Rankin's roof on November 30, 1812; he was an extremely delicate boy till about a twelvemonth old, when he suddenly acquired strength and grew to be a lusty child.
Your uncle, Thomas W. Bakewell, had been all this time in New Orleans, and thither I had sent him almost all the money I could raise but notwithstanding this, the firm could not stand, and one day, while I was making a drawing of an otter, he suddenly appeared. He remained at Dr. Rankin's a few days, talked much to me about our misfortunes in trade, and left us for Fatland Ford.
My pecuniary means were now much reduced. I continued to draw birds and quadrupeds, it is true, but only now and then thought of making any money. I bought a wild horse, and on its back travelled over Tennessee and a portion of Georgia, and so round till I finally reached Philadelphia, and then to your grandfather's at Fatland Ford. He had sold my plantation of Mill Grove to Samuel Wetherell, of Philadelphia, for a good round sum, and with this I returned through Kentucky and at last reached Henderson once more. Your mother was well, both of you were lovely darlings of our hearts, and the effects of poverty troubled us not. Your uncle T. W. Bakewell was again in New Orleans and doing rather better, but this was a mere transient clearing of that sky which had been obscured for many a long day.
Determined to do something for myself, I took to horse, rode to Louisville with a few hundred dollars in my pockets, and there purchased, half cash, half credit, a small stock, which I brought to Henderson. Chemin faisant, I came in contact with, and was accompanied by, General Toledo, then on his way as a revolutionist to South America. As our flatboats were floating one clear moonshiny night lashed together, this individual opened his views to me, promising me wonders of wealth should I decide to accompany him, and he went so far as to offer me a colonelcy on what he was pleased to call "his Safe Guard." I listened, it is true, but looked more at the heavens than on his face, and in the former found so much more of peace than of war that I concluded not to accompany him.
When our boats arrived at Henderson, he landed with me, purchased many horses, hired some men, and coaxed others, to accompany him, purchased a young negro from me, presented me with a splendid Spanish dagger and my wife with a ring, and went off overland toward Natchez, with a view of there gathering recruits.
I now purchased a ground lot of four acres, and a meadow of four more at the back of the first. On the latter stood several buildings, an excellent orchard, etc., lately the property of an English doctor, who had died on the premises, and left the whole to a servant woman as a gift, from whom it came to me as a freehold. The pleasures which I have felt at Henderson, and under the roof of that log cabin, can never be effaced from my heart until after death. The little stock of goods brought from Louisville answered perfectly, and in less than twelve months I had again risen in the world. I purchased adjoining land, and was doing extremely well when Thomas Bakewell came once more on the tapis, and joined me in commerce. We prospered at a round rate for a while, but unfortunately for me, he took it into his brain to persuade me to erect a steam-mill at Henderson, and to join to our partnership an Englishman of the name of Thomas Pears, now dead.
Well, up went the steam-mill at an enormous expense, in a country then as unfit for such a thing as it would be now for me to attempt to settle in the moon. Thomas Pears came to Henderson with his wife and family of children, the mill was raised, and worked very badly. Thomas Pears lost his money and we lost ours.
It was now our misfortune to add other partners and petty agents to our concern; suffice it for me to tell you, nay, to assure you, that I was gulled by all these men. The new-born Kentucky banks nearly all broke in quick succession; and again we started with a new set of partners; these were your present uncle N. Berthoud and Benjamin Page of Pittsburg. Matters, however, grew worse every day; the times were what men called "bad," but I am fully persuaded the great fault was ours, and the building of that accursed steam-mill was, of all the follies of man, one of the greatest, and to your uncle and me the worst of all our pecuniary misfortunes. How I labored at that infernal mill! from dawn to dark, nay, at times all night. But it is over now; I am old, and try to forget as fast as possible all the different trials of those sad days. We also took it into our heads to have a steamboat, in partnership with the engineer who had come from Philadelphia to fix the engine of that mill. This also proved an entire failure, and misfortune after misfortune came down upon us like so many avalanches, both fearful and destructive.About this time I went to New Orleans, at the suggestion of your uncle, to arrest T—— B——, who had purchased a steamer from us, but whose bills were worthless, and who owed us for the whole amount. I travelled down to New Orleans in an open skiff, accompanied by two negroes of mine; I reached New Orleans one day too late; Mr. B—— had been compelled to surrender the steamer to a prior claimant. I returned to Henderson, travelling part way on the steamer "Paragon," walked from the mouth of the Ohio to Shawnee, and rode the rest of the distance. On my arrival old Mr. Berthoud told me that Mr. B—— had arrived before me, and had sworn to kill me. My affrighted Lucy forced me to wear a dagger. Mr. B—— walked about the streets and before my house as if watching for me, and the continued reports of our neighbors prepared me for an encounter with this man, whose violent and ungovernable temper was only too well known. As I was walking toward the steam-mill one morning, I heard myself hailed from behind; on turning, I observed Mr. B—— marching toward me with a heavy club in his hand. I stood still, and he soon reached me. He complained of my conduct to him at New Orleans, and suddenly raising his bludgeon laid it about me. Though white with wrath, I spoke nor moved not till he had given me twelve severe blows, then, drawing my dagger with my left hand (unfortunately my right was disabled and in a sling, having been caught and
Audubon’s Mill at Henderson, Kentucky
plank. Thank God, his wound was not mortal, but his friends were all up in arms and as hot-headed as himself. Some walked through my premises armed with guns; my dagger was once more at my side, Mr. Berthoud had his gun, our servants were variously armed, and our carpenter took my gun "Long Tom." Thus protected, I walked into the Judiciary Court, that was then sitting, and was blamed, only,—for not having killed the scoundrel who attacked me.
The "bad establishment," as I called the steam-mill, worked worse and worse every day. Thomas Bakewell, who possessed more brains than I, sold his town lots and removed to Cincinnati, where he has made a large fortune, and glad I am of it.
From this date my pecuniary difficulties daily increased; I had heavy bills to pay which I could not meet or take up. The moment this became known to the world around me, that moment I was assailed with thousands of invectives; the once wealthy man was now nothing. I parted with every particle of property I held to my creditors, keeping only the clothes I wore on that day, my original drawings, and my gun.
Your mother held in her arms your baby sister Rosa, named thus on account of her extreme loveliness, and after my own sister Rosa. She felt the pangs of our misfortunes perhaps more heavily than I, but never for an hour lost her courage; her brave and cheerful spirit accepted all, and no reproaches from her beloved lips ever wounded my heart. With her was I not always rich?
Finally I paid every bill, and at last left Henderson, probably forever, without a dollar in my pocket, walked to Louisville alone, by no means comfortable in mind, there went to Mr. Berthoud's, where I was kindly received; they were indeed good friends.
My plantation in Pennsylvania had been sold, and, in a word, nothing was left to me but my humble talents. Were those talents to remain dormant under such exigencies? Was I to see my beloved Lucy and children suffer and want bread, in the abundant State of Kentucky? Was I to repine because I had acted like an honest man? Was I inclined to cut my throat in foolish despair? No!! I had talents, and to them I instantly resorted.
To be a good draughtsman in those days was to me a blessing; to any other man, be it a thousand years hence, it will be a blessing also. I at once undertook to take portraits of the human "head divine," in black chalk, and, thanks to my master, David, succeeded admirably. I commenced at exceedingly low prices, but raised these prices as I became more known in this capacity. Your mother and yourselves were sent up from Henderson to our friend Isham Talbot, then Senator for Kentucky; this was done without a cent of expense to me, and I can never be grateful enough for his kind generosity.
In the course of a few weeks I had as much work to do as I could possibly wish, so much that I was able to rent a house in a retired part of Louisville. I was sent for four miles in the country, to take likenesses of persons on their death-beds, and so high did my reputation suddenly rise, as the best delineator of heads in that vicinity, that a clergyman residing at Louisville (I would give much now to recall and write down his name) had his dead child disinterred, to procure a fac-simile of his face, which, by the way, I gave to the parents as if still alive, to their intense satisfaction.
My drawings of birds were not neglected meantime; in this particular there seemed to hover round me almost a mania, and I would even give up doing a head, the profits of which would have supplied our wants for a week or more, to represent a little citizen of the feathered tribe. Nay, my dear sons, I thought that I now drew birds far better than I had ever done before misfortune intensified, or at least developed, my abilities. I received an invitation to go to Cincinnati, a flourishing place, and which you now well know to be a thriving town in the State of Ohio. I was presented to the president of the Cincinnati College, Dr. Drake, and immediately formed an engagement to stuff birds for the museum there, in concert with Mr. Robert Best, an Englishman of great talent. My salary was large, and I at once sent for your mother to come to me, and bring you. Your dearly beloved sister Rosa died shortly afterward. I now established a large drawing-school at Cincinnati, to which I attended thrice per week, and at good prices.
So industrious were Mr. Best and I that in about six months we had augmented, arranged, and finished all we could do for the museum. I returned to my portraits, and made a great number of them, without which we must have once more been on the starving list, as Mr. Best and I found, sadly too late, that the members of the College museum were splendid promisers and very bad paymasters.
In October of 1820 I left your mother and yourselves at Cincinnati, and went to New Orleans on board a flat-boat commanded and owned by a Mr. Haromack. From this date my journals are kept with fair regularity, and if you read them you will easily find all that followed afterward.
In glancing over these pages, I see that in my hurried and broken manner of laying before you this very imperfect (but perfectly correct) account of my early life I have omitted to tell you that, before the birth of your sister Rosa, a daughter was born at Henderson, who was called, of course, Lucy. Alas! the poor, dear little one was unkindly born, she was always ill and suffering; two years did your kind and unwearied mother nurse her with all imaginable care, but notwithstanding this loving devotion she died, in the arms which had held her so long, and so tenderly. This infant daughter we buried in our garden at Henderson, but after removed her to the Holly burying-ground in the same place.
Hundreds of anecdotes I could relate to you, my dear sons, about those times, and it may happen that the pages that I am now scribbling over may hereafter, through your own medium, or that of some one else be published. I shall try, should God Almighty grant me life, to return to these less important portions of my history, and delineate them all with the same faithfulness with which I have written the ornithological biographies of the birds of my beloved country.
Only one event, however, which possesses in itself a lesson to mankind, I will here relate. After our dismal removal from Henderson to Louisville, one morning, while all of us were sadly desponding, I took you both, Victor and John, from Shippingport to Louisville. I had purchased a loaf of bread and some apples; before we reached Louisville you were all hungry, and by the river side we sat down and ate our scanty meal. On that day the world was with me as a blank, and my heart was sorely heavy, for scarcely had I enough to keep my dear ones alive; and yet through these dark ways I was being led to the development of the talents I loved, and which have brought so much enjoyment to us all, for it is with deep thankfulness that I record that you, my sons, have passed your lives almost continuously with your dear mother and myself. But I will here stop with one remark.
One of the most extraordinary things among all these adverse circumstances was that I never for a day gave up listening to the songs of our birds, or watching their peculiar habits, or delineating them in the best way that I could; nay, during my deepest troubles I frequently would wrench myself from the persons around me, and retire to some secluded part of our noble forests; and many a time, at the sound of the wood-thrush's melodies have I fallen on my knees, and there prayed earnestly to our God.
This never failed to bring me the most valuable of thoughts and always comfort, and, strange as it may seem to you, it was often necessary for me to exert my will, and compel myself to return to my fellow-beings.
To speak more fully on some of the incidents which Audubon here relates, I turn to one of the two journals which are all that fire has spared of the many volumes which were filled with his fine, rather illegible handwriting previous to 1826. In the earlier of these journals I read: "I went to France not only to escape Da Costa, but even more to obtain my father's consent to my marriage with my Lucy, and this simply because I thought it my moral and religious duty to do so. But although my request was immediately granted, I remained in France nearly two years. As I told you, Mr. Bakewell considered my Lucy too young (she was then but seventeen), and me too unbusiness-like to marry; so my father decided that I should remain some months with him, and on returning to America it was his plan to associate me with some one whose commercial knowledge would be of value to me.
"My father's beautiful country seat, situated within sight of the Loire, about mid-distance between Nantes and the sea, I found quite delightful to my taste, notwithstanding the frightful cruelties I had witnessed in that vicinity, not many years previously. The gardens, greenhouses, and all appertaining to it appeared to me then as if of a superior cast; and my father's physician was above all a young man precisely after my own heart; his name was D'Orbigny, and with his young wife and infant son he lived not far distant. The doctor was a good fisherman, a good hunter, and fond of all objects in nature. Together we searched the woods, the fields, and the banks of the Loire, procuring every bird we could, and I made drawings of every one of them—very bad, to be sure, but still they were of assistance to me. The lessons which I had received from the great David now proved all important to me, but what I wanted, and what I had the good fortune to stumble upon a few years later, was the knowledge of putting up my models, in true and good positions according to the ways and habits of my beautiful feathered subjects. During these happy years I managed to make drawings of about two hundred species of birds, all of which I brought to America and gave to my Lucy.
"At last my father associated me with Ferdinand Rozier, as you already know, and we were fairly smuggled out of France; for he was actually an officer attached to the navy of that country, and though I had a passport stating I was born at New Orleans, my French name would have swept that aside very speedily. Rozier's passport was a Dutch one, though he did not understand a single word in that language. Indeed, our passengers were a medley crowd; two days out two monks appeared among us from the hold, where our captain had concealed them."
This same "medley crowd" appears to have comprised many refugees from the rule of Napoleon, this being about 1806, and the amusements were varied, including both gaming and dancing. To quote again: "Among the passengers was a handsome Virginian girl, young and graceful. She was constantly honored by the attentions of two Frenchmen who belonged to the nobility; both were fine young fellows, travelling, as was not uncommon then, under assumed names. One lovely day the bonnet of the fair lady was struck by a rope and knocked overboard. One of the French chevaliers at once leaped into the ocean, captured the bonnet, and had the good fortune to be picked up himself by the yawl. On reaching the deck he presented the bonnet with a graceful obeisance and perfect sang froid, while the rival looked at him as black as a raven. No more was heard of the matter till dawn, when reports of firearms were heard; the alarm was general, as we feared pirates. On gaining the deck it was found that a challenge had been given and accepted, a duel had positively taken place, ending, alas! in the death of the rescuer of the bonnet. The young lady felt this deeply, and indeed it rendered us all very uncomfortable."
The voyage ended, Audubon returned to Mill Grove, where he remained some little time before his marriage to Lucy Bakewell. It was a home he always loved, and never spoke of without deep feeling. His sensitive nature, romantic if you will, was always more or less affected by environment, and Mill Grove was a most congenial spot to him.
This beautiful estate in Montgomery Co., Pa., lies in a lovely part of the country. The house, on a gentle eminence, almost a natural terrace, overlooks, towards the west, the rapid waters of Perkiomen Creek, which just below empties into the Schuylkill river, across which to the south is the historic ground of Valley Forge. The property has remained in the Wetherill family nearly ever since Audubon sold it to Samuel Wetherill in 1813. The present owner delights to treasure every trace of the bird lover, and not only makes no changes in anything that he can in the least degree associate with him, but has added many photographs and engravings of Audubon which adorn his walls.
The house, of the usual type of those days, with a hall passing through the centre and rooms on either side, was built of rubble-stone by Roland Evans in 1762, and in was sold to Admiral Audubon, who in the year following built an addition, also of rubble-stone. This addition is lower than the main house, which consists of two full stories and an attic with dormer windows, where, it is said, Audubon kept his collections. The same Franklin stove is in the parlor which stood there giving out its warmth and cheer when the young man came in from the hunting and skating expeditions on which he loved to dwell. The dense woods which once covered the ground are largely cut down, but sufficient forest growth remains to give the needed shade and beauty; the hemlocks in particular are noticeable, so large and of such perfect form.
Going down a foot-path to Perkiomen Creek, a few steps lead to the old mill which gave the place its name. Built of stone and shaded by cottonwood trees, the stream rushing past as in days long gone, the mill-wheel still revolves, though little work is done there now.
When I saw Mill Grove the spring flowers were abundant; the soft, pale blossom of the May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum) held its head above the blue of many violets, the ringers of the potentilla with their yellow stars crept in and out among the tangled grass and early undergrowth; the trilliums, both red and white, were in profusion; in the shade the wood anemones, with their shell pink cups grew everywhere, while in damp spots by the brook yet remained a few adder's-tongues, and under the hemlocks in the clefts of the rocks the delicate foliage of the Dutchmen's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) with a few late blossoms; all these and many more which I do not now recall, Audubon has pictured with the birds found in the same regions, as his imperishable tribute to the home he loved — Mill-Grove Farm on the Perkiomen Creek.
Fatland Ford, to the south of Mill Grove, is a far larger and grander mansion than that of the modest Quaker Evans; as one approaches, the white columns of the imposing entrance are seen for some distance before entering the avenue which leads to the front of the mansion. Like Mill Grove it stands on a natural terrace, and has an extensive outlook over the Schuylkill and Valley Forge. This house was built by James Vaux in 1760. He was a member of the Society of Friends and an Englishman, but in sympathy with the colonists. One end of Sullivan's Bridge was not far from the house; the spot where it once stood is now marked by the remains of a red-sandstone monument. Washington spent a night in the mansion house with Mr. Vaux, and left only twelve hours in advance of the arrival of Howe, who lodged there the following night. The old walled garden still remains, and the stable with accommodation for many horses. A little withdrawn from all these and on the edge of a wood are "the graves of a household," not neglected, as is so often the case, but preserved and cared for by those who own Fatland Farm as well as Mill Grove.
Dear as Mill Grove was to Audubon, he left it with his young bride the day following their wedding, which took place at Fatland Ford on April 8, 1808, and departed for Louisville, Ky., where he and Rozier, his partner, had previously done some business. Though they had both lost money they liked the place, which reason seemed quite sufficient to decide them to return and lose more money, as they promptly did. They remained at Louisville till 1810, when they moved to Henderson, where Rozier did what business was done, and Audubon drew, fished, hunted, and rambled in the woods to his heart's content, but his purse's depletion. He describes this life in the episode "Fishing in the Ohio," and in these rushing times such an Arcadian existence seems impossible. Small wonder that his wife's relatives, with their English thrift, lost patience with him, could not believe he was aught but idle, because he did not work their way. I doubt not many would think, as they did, that he wasted his days, when in truth he was laying up stores of knowledge which later in life brought him a rich harvest. Waiting times are always long, longest to those who do not understand the silent inner growth which goes on and on, yet makes no outward sign for months and even years, as in the case of Audubon.
Henderson was then a tiny place, and gains being small if any, Rozier and Audubon, in December, 1810, started for St. Geneviève, spent their winter in camp, and reached their destination when the ice broke up. On April 11, 1811, they dissolved partnership, and wrote each as they felt, Audubon saying: "Rozier cared only for money and liked St. Geneviève;" Rozier writing: "Audubon had no taste for commerce, and was continually in the forest."
Once more, however, he went to St. Geneviève to try to get money Rozier owed him, and returned to Henderson on foot, still unpaid, in February or March of 1812. He had gone with a party of Osage Indians, but his journey back was made alone. He writes in his journal, simply with date of April, 1812:—
"Bidding Rozier good-bye, I whistled to my dog, crossed the Mississippi and went off alone and on foot, bent on reaching Shawanee Town as soon as possible; but little had I foreseen the task before me, for soon as I had left the river lands and reached the prairies, I found them covered with water, like large lakes; still nothing would have made me retrace my steps, and the thoughts of my Lucy and my boy made me care little what my journey might be. Unfortunately I had no shoes, and my moccasins constantly slipping made the wading extremely irksome; notwithstanding, I walked forty-five miles and swam the Muddy River. I only saw two cabins that day, but I had great pleasure in viewing herds of Deer crossing the prairie, like myself ankle deep in water. Their beautiful movements, their, tails spread to the breeze, were perceivable for many miles. A mound covered with trees through which a light shone, gave me an appetite, and I made for it. I was welcomed kindly by the woman of the house, and while the lads inspected my fine double-barrelled gun, the daughters bustled about, ground coffee, fried venison, boiled some eggs, and made me feel at once at home.
"Such hospitality is from the heart, and when the squatter came in, his welcome was not less genuine than that of his family. Night fell; I slept soundly on some bearskins, but long before day was ready to march. My hostess was on the alert; after some breakfast she gave me a small loaf and some venison in a clean rag, and as no money would be received, I gave the lads a flask of gunpowder, a valuable article in those days to a squatter.
"My way lay through woods, and many small crossroads now puzzled me, but I walked on, and must have travelled another forty-five miles. I met a party of Osage Indians encamped, and asked in French to stay with them. They understood me, and before long I had my supper of boiled bear's-fat and pecan-nuts, of which I ate heartily, then lay down with my feet to the fire, and slept so soundly that when I awoke my astonishment was great to find all the Indians had gone hunting, and only left two dogs to keep the camp free from wolves.
"I walked off gayly, my dog full of life, but met no one till four o'clock when I passed the first salt well, and thirty minutes more brought me to Shawanee Town. As I entered the inn I was welcomed by several whom I knew, who had come to purchase salt. I felt no fatigue, ate heartily, slept soundly without being rocked, and having come forty miles had only forty-seven more to walk to reach my home. Early next morning I pursued my way; the ferry boat took me from Illinois to Kentucky, and as night came I found myself with my wife beside me, my child on my knee."
The time from now till 1819 was the most disastrous period of Audubon's life, as regarded his finances. With his brother-in-law, Thomas W. Bakewell, he engaged in various ventures in which, whatever others did, he lost money at every turn. The financial affairs of Kentucky were, it is true, not on a very sound basis, but Audubon frankly acknowledges the fault in many cases was his own. Thomas W. Bakewell was often in New Orleans, where they had a mercantile establishment, and Audubon spent not only days, but weeks and months, at his favorite pursuits. On his journeys to Philadelphia to procure goods he wandered miles in all directions from the main route; when in Henderson he worked, at times, very hard in the mill, for, indeed, he never did anything except intensely; but the cry of the wild geese overhead, the sound of the chattering squirrel, the song of the thrush, the flash of the humming-bird with its jewelled throat, were each and all enough to take him from work he hated as he never hated anything else.
When first in Henderson he bought land, and evidently had some idea of remaining there permanently; for, "on March 16, 1816, he and Mr. Bakewell took a ninety-five years' lease of a part of the river front between First and Second Sts., intending to erect a grist and saw mill, which mill was completed in 1817, and yet stands, though now incorporated in the factory of Mr. David Clark. The weather-boarding whip-sawed out of yellow poplar is still intact on three sides, the joists are of unhewn logs, and the foundation walls of pieces of flat broken rock are four and a half feet thick. For those days it was built on a large scale, and did the sawing for the entire country."
It has been said that the inside walls had many drawings of birds on them, but this, while quite likely, has never been proved; what was proved conclusively is that, from his woodcutters, whose labors were performed on a tract of forest land of about 1200 acres, which Audubon purchased from the government, to those who were his partners, by far the greater number had the advantage of him. The New Orleans venture has a similar record; money left him by his father was lost by the failure of the merchant who held it until Audubon could prove his right to it, and finally he left Henderson absolutely penniless. He writes: "Without a dollar in the world, bereft of all revenues beyond my own personal talents and acquirements, I left my dear log house, my delightful garden and orchards with that heaviest of burdens, a heavy heart, and turned my face toward Louisville. This was the saddest of all my journeys, —the only time in my life when the Wild Turkeys that so often crossed my path, and the thousands of lesser birds that enlivened the woods and the prairies, all looked like enemies, and I turned my eyes from them, as if I could have wished that they had never existed."
From Louisville Audubon went almost at once to Shippingport, where he was kindly received by his friends Nicholas Berthoud, who was also his brother-in-law, and the Tarascon family. Here he was joined by his wife and two sons, Victor Gifford and John Woodhouse, and again I quote from Audubon's own words: "As we were straitened to the very utmost, I undertook to draw portraits at the low price of five dollars per head, in black chalk. I drew a few gratis, and succeeded so well that ere many days had elapsed I had an abundance of work; and being industrious both by nature and habit I produced a great number of those black-chalk sketches." This carried him on for some months, but the curse, or blessing, of the "wandering foot" was his, and as soon as money matters were a little ahead, off he went again to the forests. It was during these years, that is from 1811 to 1819, that many months were passed hunting with the Indians, the Osage tribe being the one whose language Audubon spoke. Late in life he wrote: "Of all the Indian tribes I know, the Osage are by far the superior." With them he delighted to track the birds and quadrupeds as only an Indian or one of like gifts, can; from them he learned much woodcraft; with them he strengthened his already iron constitution; and in fearlessness, endurance, patience, and marvellously keen vision, no Indian surpassed him.
He had a wonderful gift of making and retaining friends, and even in these days of poverty and depression he never seemed too poor to help others; and certainly from others he received much kindness, which he never ceased to remember and acknowledge. Through one of these friends - I believe a member of the Tarascon family - he was offered a position in the Museum at Cincinnati. Without delay, or any written agreement, Audubon and his family were again (1818) in new surroundings, and the work being congenial, he entered heartily into it with Mr. Robert Best. The promised salary was large, but being never paid Audubon began drawing classes to support his modest household. In Cincinnati he first met Mr. Daniel Mallory (whose second daughter afterwards married Victor G. Audubon) and Captain Samuel Cummings. This latter gentleman had many tastes similar to Audubon's, and later went with him to New Orleans.The life at Cincinnati was one of strict economy. Mrs. Audubon was a woman of great ability and many
FROM THE MINIATURE BY F. CRUIKSHANK, PUBLISHED BY ROBERT HAVFELL.
January 12, 1835.
would have fared far worse than he did. To quote again: "Our living here [Cincinnati] is extremely moderate; the markets are well supplied and cheap, beef only two and a half cents a pound, and I am able to provide a good deal myself; Partridges are frequently in the streets, and I can shoot Wild Turkeys within a mile or so; Squirrels and Woodcock are very abundant in the season, and fish always easily caught."
Even with these advantages, Audubon, receiving no money from Dr. Drake, president of the Museum, decided on going to New Orleans. He had now a great number of drawings and the idea of publishing these had suggested itself both to him and his wife. To perfect his collection he planned going through many of the Southern States, then pushing farther west, and thence returning to Cincinnati. On Oct. 12, 1820, he left Cincinnati with Captain Samuel Cummings for New Orleans, but with a long pause at Natchez, did not reach that city before mid-winter, where he remained with varying success until the summer of 1821, when he took a position as tutor in the family of Mrs. Charles Percy of Bayou Sara. Here, in the beloved Louisiana whose praises he never wearied of singing, whose magnolia woods were more to him than palaces, whose swamps were storehouses of treasures, he stayed till autumn, when, all fear of yellow fever being over, he sent for his wife and sons. Many new drawings had been made in this year of separation from them, and these were by far the greater part of the furniture in the little house in Dauphine St., to which he took his family on their arrival in December, 1821.
The former life of drawing portraits, giving lessons, painting birds, and wandering through the country, began again, though there was less of this last, Audubon realizing that he must make money. He had had to use strong persuasions to induce Mrs. Audubon to join him in New Orleans. She had relatives in Cincinnati, as well as many friends, and several pupils brought her a small income. Who, recalling her early married life, can wonder that she hesitated before leaving this home for the vicissitudes of an unknown city? She and her husband were devotedly attached to each other, but she thought more of the uncertainty for her sons than for herself. They were now boys of twelve and nine years old, and their mother, whose own education was far beyond the average, realized how unwise a thing for them the constant change was. Audubon was most anxious also that his "Kentucky lads," as he often called them, should be given every advantage, but he had the rare quality of being able to work equally well in any surroundings, in doors or out, and he failed to understand why others could not, just as he failed to see why his wife should ever doubt the desirability of going anywhere, at any time, under any conditions. He thus writes to her in a letter, dated New Orleans, May 3, 1821: "Thou art not, it seems, as daring as I am about leaving one place to go to another, without the means. I am sorry for that. I never will fear want as long as I am well; and if God will grant me health with the little talents I have received from Nature, I would dare go to England or anywhere, without one cent, one single letter of introduction to any one."
This, as we know, was no empty boast, but the principle on which Audubon proceeded numberless times in his life. His own courage, or persuasions, brought his wife, as has been said, to join him in the Crescent City, and here as elsewhere that noble woman proved her courage and endurance fully equal to his, although perhaps in another line.
Under the date of January 1, 1822, Audubon writes: "Two months and five days have elapsed before I could venture to dispose of one hundred and twenty-five cents to pay for this book, that probably, like all other things in the world, is ashamed to find me so poor." On March 5th of the same year: "During January my time was principally spent in giving lessons in painting and drawing, to supply my family and pay for the schooling of Victor and Johnny at a Mr. Branards', where they received notions of geography, arithmetic, grammar, and writing, for six dollars per month each. Every moment I had to spare I drew birds for my ornithology, in which my Lucy and myself alone have faith. February was spent in drawing birds strenuously, and I thought I had improved much by applying coats of water-color under the pastels, thereby preventing the appearance of the paper, that in some instances marred my best productions. I discovered also many imperfections in my earlier drawings, and formed the resolution to redraw the whole of them; consequently I hired two French hunters, who swept off every dollar that I could raise for specimens. I have few acquaintances; my wife and sons are more congenial to me than all others in the world, and we have no desire to force ourselves into a society where every day I receive fewer bows."
This winter (1821-1822) in New Orleans, proved to Audubon that his wife's judgment was correct; it was not the place for them to make either a permanent income or home. True, they had been able to live with extreme simplicity, and to send the boys to school; they had had their own pleasures, as the worn, brown volume, the journal of 1822-24, with its faded entries, bears witness. There are accounts of walks and of musical evenings when they were joined by one or two friends of like tastes and talents. Both played well, she on the piano, and he on a variety of instruments, principally the violin, flute, and flageolet. For over two months a fifth inmate was added to the home circle in Mr. Matabon, a former friend, whom Audubon found one morning in the market, in a state of great poverty. He at once took him to his house and kept him as a guest, till, like Micawber, "something turned up " for him to do. When this gentleman left, this entry is made: "Mr. Matabon's departure is regretted by us all, and we shall sorely miss his beautiful music on the flute."
Summer approaching, when those who purchased pictures and took drawing-lessons were about to leave the city, Audubon accepted a position as tutor in the household of a Mr. Quaglas near Natchez. Mrs. Audubon, who had for some time been teaching in the family of Mr. Brand, removed to that gentleman's house with her sons; they, however, were almost immediately sent to school at Washington, nine miles from Natchez, Audubon's salary enabling him to do this, and in September he was joined by his wife.
While at Natchez, the long summer days permitted the drawing of birds as well as the teaching, which was conscientiously performed, and the hope of eventually publishing grew stronger. In the autumn of this year (1822), Audubon met a portrait painter named John Steen or Stein, from Washington, Pa., and thus writes, December, 1822: "He gave me the first lesson in painting in oils I ever took in my life; it was a copy of an Otter from one of my water-colors. Together we painted a full length portrait of Père Antonio, which was sent to Havana."
January, 1823, brought fresh changes. Mrs. Audubon, with her son John, went to Mrs. Percy's plantation, Beechwoods, to teach not only Marguerite Percy, but also the daughters of the owners of the neighboring plantations, and Audubon, with Victor and Mr. Steen, started on a tour of the Southern States in a dearborn, intending to paint for their support. The journal says, March, 1823; "I regretted deeply leaving my Natchez friends, especially Charles Carré and Dr. Provan. The many birds I had collected to take to France I made free; some of the doves had become so fond of me that I was obliged to chase them to the woods, fearing the wickedness of the boys, who would, no doubt, have with pleasure destroyed them." So it would seem boys then were much the same as now. Jackson and other places were visited, and finally New Orleans, whence Audubon started for Louisville with Victor, May 1. The whole of this summer (1823) was one of enjoyment in many ways to the naturalist. He felt his wife was in a delightful home (where she remained many years), beloved by those around her; Victor now was nearly fourteen, handsome, strong, and very companionable, old for his years, and as his father was always young for his, they were good comrades, and till both were attacked by yellow fever, the days passed smoothly on. Nursed through this malady by the ever devoted wife and mother, who had come to them at once on hearing they were ill, some time was spent at the Beechwoods to recuperate, and on October 1, 1823, Audubon with Victor departed for Kentucky by boat. The water being low, their progress was greatly delayed; he became impatient and at Trinity left the boat with his son and two gentlemen, and walked to Louisville. This walk, of which we have a full published account began on October 15, and on the 21st they reached Green River, when Victor becoming weary, the remaining distance was performed in a wagon. It was on this journey, which Audubon undertook fearing, so he says, that he should not have enough money to provide for himself and Victor in Louisville beyond a few weeks, that he relates this incident: "The squatter had a Black Wolf, perfectly gentle, and completely under the control of his master; I put my hand in my pocket and took out a hundred-dollar bill, which I offered for it, but it was refused. I respected the man for his attachment to the wolf, for I doubted if he had ever seen a hundred dollars before."
Louisville was speedily quitted for Shippingport, where Audubon engaged a room for Victor and himself, and painted all winter (1823-24) at birds, landscapes, portraits, and even signs.
Shippingport was then a small village with mills, and was largely owned by the Tarascons and Berthouds, the latter living in the mansion of the place, and possessed of a very beautiful garden. Steamers and boats for the river traffic were built here, and it was a stirring place for its size, situated on the Falls of the Ohio, about two miles from Louisville then, but now part of that city. With forests and river to solace his anxieties, another season was passed by the man whose whole energies were now bent on placing his work before the best judges in Europe. This winter too, he lost one of his best and dearest friends, Madame Berthoud; how he felt this parting his own words best tell: "January 20, 1824. I arose this morning by that transparent light which is the effect of the moon before dawn, and saw Dr. Middleton passing at full gallop towards the white house; I followed—alas! my old friend was dead! What a void in the world for me! I was silent; many tears fell from my eyes, accustomed to sorrow. It was impossible for me to work; my heart, restless, moved from point to point all round the compass of my life. Ah, Lucy! what have I felt to-day! how can I bear the loss of our truest friend? This has been a sad day, most truly; I have spent it thinking, thinking, learning, weighing my thoughts, and quite sick of life. I wished I had been as quiet as my venerable friend, as she lay for the last time in her room."
As I turn over the pages of this volume from which only a few extracts have been taken, well do I understand the mental suffering of which it tells so constantly. Poverty for himself, Audubon did not mind, but for those he loved it was a great and bitter trial to him. His keenly sensitive nature was wounded on every hand; no one but his wife, from whom he was now absent, had any faith in him or his genius. He never became indifferent, as most of us do, to the coldness of those who had in earlier days sought him, not for what he was, but for what he had. Chivalrous, generous, and courteous to his heart's core, he could not believe others less so, till painful experiences taught him; then he was grieved, hurt, but never imbittered; and more marvellous yet, with his faith in his fellows as strong as ever, again and again he subjected himself to the same treatment. This was not stupidity, nor dulness of perception; it was that always, even to the end, Audubon kept the freshness of childhood; he was one of those who had "the secret of youth;" he was "old in years only, his heart was young. The earth was fair; plants still bloomed, and birds still sang for him." It has been hard for me to keep from copying much from this journal, but I have felt it too sacred. Some would see in it the very heart of the man who wrote it, but to others—and the greater number—it would be, as I have decided to leave it, a sealed book.
Early in March, 1824, Audubon left Shippingport for Philadelphia, Victor remaining in the counting-house of Mr. Berthoud. He had some money, with which he decided to take lessons in painting either from Rembrandt Peale or Thomas Sully. He much preferred the latter both as artist and friend, and he remained in Philadelphia from April until August of the same year. This visit was marked by his introduction to Charles Lucien Bonaparte and Edward Harris, both of whom became life-long friends, especially Mr. Harris, with whom he corresponded frequently when they were separated, and with whom he made many journeys, the most prolonged and important being that to the Yellowstone in 1843. To copy again: "April 10, 1824. I was introduced to the son of Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, a great ornithologist, I was told. He remained two hours, went out, and returned with two Italian gentlemen, and their comments made me very contented." That evening he was taken to the Philosophical Academy where the drawings were greatly admired, and their author says: "I do not think much of them except when in the very act of drawing them." At this meeting Mr. George Ord met Audubon and objected strongly to the birds and plants being drawn together, "but spoke well of them otherwise." Mr. Ord was one of those (of the very few, I might say) who disliked the naturalist from first to last, who was perhaps, his bitterest enemy. In later years Dr. John Bachman resented his conduct, and wrote a very trenchant reply to one of Mr. Ord's published articles about Audubon; but there is no word of anger anywhere in the letters or journals, only of regret or pain.
Of Mr. Harris we find this: "July 12, 1824. I drew for Mr. Fairman a small grouse to be put on a bank-note belonging to the State of New-Jersey; this procured me the acquaintance of a young man named Edward Harris of Moorestown, an ornithologist, who told me he had seen some English Snipes within a few days, and that they bred in the marshes about him." And also: "July I9th. Young Harris, God bless him, looked at the drawings I had for sale, and said he would take them all, at my prices. I would have kissed him, but that it is not the custom in this icy city."
Other friends were made here, almost as valuable as Mr. Harris, though not as well loved, for these two were truly congenial souls, who never wearied of each other, and between whom there was never a shadow of difference. Thomas Sully, the artist, Dr. Richard Harlan, Reuben Haines, Le Sueur, Dr. Mease, and many another honored name might be given.
In August Philadelphia was quitted, and another period of travel in search of birds was begun. Of this next year, 1825, no record whatever can be found besides the episodes of "Niagara" and "Meadville," and two detached pages of journal. Audubon went to New York, up the Hudson, along the Great Lakes, then to Pittsburg, and finally to Bayou Sara, where, having decided to go to England, he made up his mind to resume at once his classes in drawing, music, and dancing, to make money for the European journey, for which he never ceased to accumulate pictures of his beloved birds. Reaching Bayou Sara in December, 1825, this work at once began by giving lessons in dancing to the young ladies under my grandmother's care; and Judge Randolph, a near neighbor, had his sons take lessons in fencing. In these branches Audubon was so successful that the residents of the village of Woodville, fifteen miles distant, engaged him for Friday and Saturday of each week, and here he had over sixty pupils. From the account of this class I take the following: "I marched to the hall with my violin under my arm, bowed to the company assembled, tuned my violin; played a cotillon, and began my lesson by placing the gentlemen in a line. Oh! patience support me! how I labored before I could promote the first appearance of elegance or ease of motion; in doing this I first broke my bow, and then my violin; I then took the ladies and made them take steps, as I sang in time to accompany their movements."
These lessons continued three months, and were in every sense a success, Audubon realizing about $2000 from his winter's work. With this, and the greater part of the savings of his wife, which she had hoarded to forward this journey, so long the goal of their hopes, another farewell was taken, the many valued drawings packed up, and on April 26, 1826, the vessel with the naturalist and his precious freight left New Orleans for England.
The journals from this date, until May 1, 1829, are kept with the usual regularity, and fortunately have escaped the destruction which has befallen earlier volumes. They tell of one of the most interesting periods of Audubon's life, and are given beyond,—not entire, yet so fully that I pass on at once to the last date they contain, which marks Audubon's return to America, May 5, 1829.
His time abroad had seen the publication of the "Birds of America" successfully begun, had procured him subscribers enough to warrant his continuing the vast undertaking, and had given him many friends. His object now was to make drawings of birds which he had not yet figured for the completion of his work, and then to take his wife, and possibly his sons with him to England. During these years Mrs. Audubon was latterly alone, as John had taken a position with Victor and was in Louisville. Victor, meantime, had worked steadily and faithfully, and had earned for himself a position and a salary far beyond that of most young men of his age. Both parents relied on him to an extent that is proof in itself of his unusual ability; these words in a letter from his father, dated London, Dec. 23, 1828, "Victor's letters to me are highly interesting, full of candor, sentiment, and sound judgment, and I am very proud of him," are certainly testimony worth having. As the years went on both sons assisted their father in every way, and to an extent that the world has never recognized.
Great as was Audubon's wish to proceed without delay to Louisiana, he felt it due to his subscribers to get to work at once, and wrote to his wife under date of New York, May 10, 1829: "I have landed here from on board the packet ship Columbia after an agreeable passage of thirty-five days from Portsmouth. I have come to America to remain as long as consistent with the safety of the continuation of my publication in London without my personal presence. According to future circumstances I shall return to England on the 1st of October next, or, if possible, not until April, 1830. I wish to employ and devote every moment of my sojourn in America to drawing such birds and plants as I think necessary to enable me to give my publication throughout the degree of perfection that I am told exists in that portion already published. I have left my business going on quite well; my engraver has in his hands all the drawings wanted to complete this present year, and those necessary to form the first number of next year. I have finished the two first years of publication, the two most difficult years to be encountered." To Victor he writes from Camden, N. J., July 10, 1829: "I shall this year have issued ten numbers, each containing five plates, making in all fifty. I cannot publish more than five numbers annually, because it would make too heavy an expense to my subscribers, and indeed require more workmen than I could find in London. The work when finished will contain eighty numbers, therefore I have seventy to issue, which will take fourteen years more. It is a long time to look forward to, but it cannot be helped. I think I am doing well; I have now one hundred and forty-four subscribers."
All this summer and early fall, until October l0th, Audubon spent in the neighborhood of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, working as few can work, four hours continuing to be his allowance for sleep. Six weeks in September and October were spent in the Great Pine Swamp, or Forest, as he called it, his permanent lodgings being at Camden, N. J. Here he writes, October 11, 1829: "I am at work and have done much, but I wish I had eight pairs of hands, and another body to shoot the specimens; still I am delighted at what I have accumulated in drawings this season. Forty-two drawings in four months, eleven large, eleven middle size, and twenty-two small, comprising ninety-five birds, from Eagles downwards, with plants, nests, flowers, and sixty different kinds of eggs. I live alone, see scarcely any one, besides those belonging to the house where I lodge. I rise long before day and work till nightfall, when I take a walk, and to bed.
"I returned yesterday from Mauch Chunk; after all, there is nothing perfect but primitiveness, and my efforts at copying nature, like all other things attempted by us poor mortals, fall far short of the originals. Few better than myself can appreciate this with more despondency than I do."
Very shortly after this date Audubon left for Louisiana, crossed the Alleghanies to Pittsburg, down the Ohio by boat to Louisville, where he saw Victor and John. "Dear boys!" he says; "I had not seen Victor for nearly five years, and so much had he changed I hardly knew him, but he recognized me at once. Johnny too had much grown and improved." Remaining with his sons a few days, he again took the boat for Bayou Sara, where he landed in the middle of the night. The journal says: "It was dark, sultry, and I was quite alone. I was aware yellow fever was still raging at St. Francisville, but walked thither to procure a horse. Being only a mile distant, I soon reached it, and entered the open door of a house I knew to be an inn; all was dark and silent. I called and knocked in vain, it was the abode of Death alone! The air was putrid; I went to another house, another, and another; everywhere the same state of things existed; doors and windows were all open, but the living had fled. Finally I reached the home of Mr. Nübling, whom I knew. He welcomed me, and lent me his horse, and I went off at a gallop. It was so dark that I soon lost my way, but I cared not, I was about to rejoin my wife, I was in the woods, the woods of Louisiana, my heart was bursting with joy! The first glimpse of dawn set me on my road, at six o'clock I was at Mr. Johnson's house; a servant took the horse, I went at once to my wife's apartment; her door was ajar, already she was dressed and sitting by her piano, on which a young lady was playing. I pronounced her name gently, she saw me, and the next moment I held her in my arms. Her emotion was so great I feared I had acted rashly, but tears relieved our hearts, once more we were together."
Audubon remained in Louisiana with his wife till January, 1830, when together they went to Louisville, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, whence they sailed for England in April. All his former friends welcomed them on their arrival, and the kindness the naturalist had received on his first visit was continued to his wife as well as himself. Finding many subscribers had not paid, and others had lapsed, he again painted numerous pictures for sale, and journeyed hither and yon for new subscribers as well as to make collections.
Mrs. Audubon, meanwhile, had taken lodgings in London, but that city being no more to her taste than to her husband's, she joined him, and they travelled together till October, when to Audubon's joy he found himself at his old lodgings at 26 George St., Edinburgh, where he felt truly at home with Mrs. Dickie; and here he began the "Ornithological Biography," with many misgivings, as the journal bears witness: "Oct. 16, 1830. I know that I am a poor writer, that I scarcely can manage to scribble a tolerable English letter, and not a much better one in French, though that is easier to me. I know I am not a scholar, but meantime I am aware that no man living knows better than I do the habits of our birds; no man living has studied them as much as I have done, and with the assistance of my old journals and memorandum-books which were written on the spot, I can at least put down plain truths, which may be useful and perhaps interesting, so I shall set to at once. I cannot, however, give scientific descriptions, and here must have assistance."
His choice of an assistant would have been his friend Mr. William Swainson, but this could not be arranged, and Mr. James Wilson recommended Mr. William MacGillivray. Of this gentleman Mr. D. G. Elliot says: "No better or more fortunate choice could have been made. Audubon worked incessantly, MacGillivray keeping abreast of him, and Mrs. Audubon re-wrote the entire manuscript to send to America, and secure the copyright there." The happy result of this association of two great men, so different in most respects as Audubon and MacGillivray, is characterized by Dr. Coues in the following terms ("Key to North American Birds," 2d ed., 1884, p. xxii): "Vivid and ardent was his genius, matchless he was both with pen and pencil in giving life and spirit to the beautiful objects he delineated with passionate love; but there was a strong and patient worker by his side, William MacGillivray, the countryman of Wilson, destined to lend the sturdy Scotch fibre to an Audubonian epoch. The brilliant French-American Naturalist was little of a 'scientist.' Of his work the magical beauties of form and color and movement are all his; his page is redolent of Nature's fragrance; but MacGillivray's are the bone and sinew, the hidden anatomical parts beneath the lovely face, the nomenclature, the classification,—in a word, the technicalities of the science."
From the miniture by F. Cruikshank, 1835.
The first volume of "Ornithological Biography" was finished, but no publisher could be found to take it, so Audubon published it himself in March, 1831. During this winter an agreement had been made with Mr. J. B. Kidd to copy some of the birds, put in backgrounds, sell them, and divide the proceeds. Eight were finished and sold immediately, and the agreement continued till May, 1, 1831, when Audubon was so annoyed by Mr. Kidd's lack of industry that the copying was discontinued. Personally, I have no doubt that many of the paintings which are said to be by Audubon are these copies. They are all on mill-board, a material, however, which grandfather used himself, so that, as he rarely signed an oil painting, the mill-board is no proof of identity one way or the other.
On April 15, 1831, Mr. and Mrs. Audubon left Edinburgh for London, then went on to Paris, where there were fourteen subscribers. They were in France from May until the end of July, when London again received them. On August 2d they sailed for America, and landed on September 4th. They went to Louisville at once, where Mrs. Audubon remained with her sons, and the naturalist went south, his wish being to visit Florida and the adjacent islands. It was on this trip that, stopping at Charleston, S. C, he made the acquaintance of the Rev. John Bachman in October, 1831. The two soon became the closest friends, and this friendship was only severed by death. Never were men more dissimilar in character, but both were enthusiastic and devoted naturalists; and herein was the bond, which later was strengthened by the marriages of Victor and John to Dr. Bachman's two eldest daughters.
The return from Florida in the spring of 1832 was followed by a journey to New Brunswick and Maine, when, for the first time in many years, the whole family travelled together. They journeyed in the most leisurely manner, stopping where there were birds, going on when they found none, everywhere welcomed, everywhere finding those willing to render assistance to the "American backwoodsman" in his researches. Audubon had the simplicity and charm of manner which interested others at once, and his old friend Dr. Bachman understood this when he wrote: "Audubon has given to him what nobody else can buy" On this Maine journey, the friendship between the Lincolns at Dennysville, begun in the wanderer's earlier years, was renewed, and with this hospitable family Mrs. Audubon remained while her husband and sons made their woodland researches.
In October of 1832, Victor sailed for England, to superintend the publishing of the work; his father remained in America drawing and re-drawing, much of the time in Boston, where, as everywhere, many friends were made, and where he had a short, but severe illness an unusual experience with him. In the spring of 1833, the long proposed trip to Labrador was planned and undertaken.
The schooner "Ripley," Captain Emery commanding, was chartered. Audubon was accompanied by five young men, all under twenty-four years of age, namely: Joseph Coolidge, George C. Shattuck, William Ingalls, Thomas Lincoln and John Woodhouse, the naturalist's younger son. On June 6 they sailed for the rocky coasts and storm-beaten islands, which are so fully described in the Labrador Journal, now first published entire in the present work.
Victor was still in England, and to him his father wrote, on May 16, 1833, a long letter filled with careful directions as to the completion of the work now so far accomplished, and which was so dear—as it is to-day—to all the family. The entire letter is too long and too personal to give beyond a few extracts: "Should the Author of all things deprive us of our lives, work for and comfort the dear being who gave you birth. Work for her, my son, as long as it may be the pleasure of God to grant her life; never neglect her a moment; in a word, prove to her that you are truly a son! Continue the publication of our work to the last; you have in my journals all necessary facts, and in yourself sufficient ability to finish the letter-press, with the assistance of our worthy friend John Bachman, as well as MacGillivray. If you should deem it wise to remove the publication of the work to this country, I advise you to settle in Boston; I have faith in the Bostonians. I entreat you to be careful, industrious, and persevering; pay every one most punctually, and never permit your means to be over-reached. May the blessings of those who love you be always with you, supported by those of Almighty God."
During the Labrador voyage, which was both arduous and expensive, many bird-skins (seventy-three) were prepared and brought back, besides the drawings made, a large collection of plants, and other curiosities. Rough as the experience was, it was greatly enjoyed, especially by the young men. Only one of these is now living (1897), and he bears this testimony to the character of the naturalist, with whom he spent three months in the closest companionship. In a letter to me dated Oct. 9, 1896, he says: "You had only to meet him to love him; and when you had conversed with him for a moment, you looked upon him as an old friend, rather than a stranger. … To this day I can see him, a magnificent gray-haired man, childlike in his simplicity, kind-hearted, noble-souled, lover of nature and lover of youth, friend of humanity, and one whose religion was the golden rule."
The Labrador expedition ended with summer, and Mr. and Mrs. Audubon went southward by land, John going by water to meet them at Charleston, S. C.,—Victor meanwhile remaining in London. In the ever hospitable home of the Bachmans part of the winter of 1833-34 was spent, and many a tale is told of hunting parties, of camping in the Southern forests, while the drawings steadily increased in number. Leaving Charleston, the travels were continued through North and South Carolina and northward to New York, when the three sailed for Liverpool April 16, and joined Victor in London, in May,1834.
It has been erroneously stated that Audubon kept no journals during this second visit to England and Scotland, for the reasons that his family—for whom he wrote—was with him, and also that he worked so continuously for the "Ornithological Biography;" but this is a mistake. Many allusions to the diaries of these two years from April, 1834, until August, 1836, are found, and conclusive proof is that Victor writes: "On the 19th of July last, 1845, the copper-plates from which the "Birds of America" had been printed were ruined by fire, though not entirely destroyed, as were many of my father's journals,—most unfortunately those which he had written during his residence in London and Edinburgh while writing and publishing the letter-press."
It was at this time that Victor and John went to the Continent for five months, being with their parents the remainder of the time, both studying painting in their respective branches, Victor working at landscapes, John at portraits and birds.
In July, 1836, Audubon and John returned to America, to find that nearly everything in the way of books, papers, the valuable and curious things collected both at home and abroad, had been destroyed in New York in the fire of 1835, Mr. Berthoud's warehouse being one of those blown up with gunpowder to stay the spread of the fire. Mrs. Audubon and Victor remained in London, in the house where they had lived some time, 4 Wimpole St., Cavendish Square. After a few weeks in New York, father and son went by land to Charleston, pausing at Washington and other cities; and being joined by Mr. Edward Harris in the spring of 1837, they left Dr. Bachman's where they had spent the winter, for the purpose of exploring part of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This expedition they were assisted in making by Col. John Abert, who procured them the Revenue cutter "Campbell." Fire having afterward (in 1845) destroyed the journals of this period, only a few letters remain to tell us of the coasting voyage to Galveston Bay, Texas, though the ornithological results of this journey are all in the "Birds of America." It was during this visit to Charleston that the plans were begun which led to the "Quadrupeds of North America," under the joint authorship of Audubon and Bachman.
In the late summer of 1837, Audubon, with John and his wife,—for he had married Maria, Dr. Bachman's eldest daughter,—returned to England, his last voyage there, and remained abroad until the autumn of 1839, when the family, with the addition of the first grandchild, once more landed in America, and settled, if such wanderers can ever be said to settle, in New York, in the then uptown region of 86 White St.
The great ornithological work had been finished, absolutely completed, in the face of incredible delays and difficulties, and representing an amount of work which in these days of easy travel it is hard to comprehend. The "Synopsis" also was published in this year, and the indefatigable worker began at once the octavo edition of the "Birds," and the drawings of the quadrupeds. For this edition of the "Birds" Victor attended almost wholly to the printing and publishing, and John reduced every drawing to the required size with the aid of the camera lucida, Audubon devoting his time to the coloring and obtaining of subscribers.
Having fully decided to settle in New York City, and advised their friends to that effect, Audubon found he could not live in any city, except, as he writes, "perhaps fair Edinburgh;" so in the spring of 1842, the town house was sold, and the family moved to "Minniesland," now known as Audubon Park, in the present limits of New York City. The name came from the fact that my father and uncle always used the Scotch name "Minnie" for mother. The land when bought was deeded to her, and always spoken of as Minnie's land, and this became the name which the Audubons gave it, by which to day those of us who are left recall the lovely home where their happy childhood was spent; for here were born all but three of the fourteen grandchildren.
No railroad then separated the lawn from the beach where Audubon so often hauled the seine; the dense woods all around resounded to the songs of the birds he so loved; many animals (deer, elk, moose, bears, wolves, foxes, and smaller quadrupeds) were kept in enclosures—never in cages—mostly about a quarter of a mile distant from the river, near the little building known as the "painting house." What joyous memories are those of the rush out of doors, lessons being over, to the little brook, following which one gathered the early blossoms in their season, or in the autumn cleared out leaves, that its waters might flow unimpeded, and in winter found icicles of wondrous shape and beauty; and just beyond its source stood the painting house, where every child was always welcome, where the wild flowers from hot little hands were painted in the pictures of what we called "the animals," to the everlasting pride and glory of their finder.
It was hoped that only shorter trips would now be taken, and a visit to Canada as far as Quebec was made in August and September of 1842.
But even in this home after his own tastes, where hospitality and simplicity ruled, Audubon could not stay, for his heart had always been set on going farther west, and though both family and friends thought him growing too old for such a journey, he started in March, 1843, for St. Louis, and thence up the Missouri on the steamboat "Omega" of the American Fur Company, which left on its annual trip April 25, 1843, taking up supplies of all sorts, and returning with thousands of skins and furs. Here again Audubon speaks for himself, and I shall not now anticipate his account with words of mine, as the Missouri journal follows in full. He was accompanied on this trip by Mr. Edward Harris, his faithful friend of many years, John G. Bell as taxidermist, Isaac Sprague as artist, and Lewis Squires as secretary and general assistant. With the exception of Mr. Harris, all were engaged by Audubon, who felt his time was short, his duties many, while the man of seventy (?) had no longer the strength of youth.
November of 1843 saw him once more at Minniesland, and the long journeys were forever over; but work on the "Quadrupeds" was continued with the usual energy. The next few years were those of great happiness. His valued friend Dr. Thomas M. Brewer, of Boston, visited him in 1846. Writing of him Dr. Brewer says: "The patriarch had greatly changed since I had last seen him. He wore his hair longer, and it now hung down in locks of snowy whiteness on his shoulders. His once piercing gray eyes, though still bright, had already begun to fail him. He could no longer paint with his wonted accuracy, and had at last, most reluctantly, been forced to surrender to his sons the task of completing the illustrations to the "Quadrupeds of North America." Surrounded by his large family, including his devoted wife, his two sons with their wives, and quite a troop of grandchildren, his enjoyments of life seemed to leave him little to desire. … A pleasanter scene, or a more interesting household it has never been the writer's good fortune to witness."
Of this period one of his daughters-in-law speaks in her journal as follows: "Mr. Audubon was of a most kindly nature; he never passed a workman or a stranger of either sex without a salutation, such as, 'Good-day, friend,' 'Well, my good man, how do you do?' If a boy, it was, 'Well, my little man,' or a little girl, 'Good morning, lassie, how are you to-day?' All were noticed, and his pleasant smile was so cordial that all the villagers and work-people far and near, knew and liked him. He painted a little after his return from the Yellowstone River, but as he looked at his son John's animals, he said: 'Ah, Johnny, no need for the old man to paint any more when you can do work like that.' He was most affectionate in his disposition, very fond of his grandchildren, and it was a pleasant sight to see him sit with one on his knee, and others about him, singing French songs in his lively way. It was sweet too, to see him with his wife; he was always her lover, and invariably used the pronouns 'thee' and 'thou' in his speech to her. Often have I heard him say, 'Well, sweetheart! always busy; come sit thee down a few minutes and rest.'"
My mother has told me that when the picture of the Cougars came from Texas, where my father had painted it, my grandfather's delight knew no bounds. He was beside himself with joy that "his boy Johnny" could paint a picture he considered so fine; he looked at it from every point, and could not keep quiet, but walked up and down filled with delight.Of these years much might be said, but much has already been written of them, so I will not repeat. Many characteristics Audubon kept to the last; his enthusiasm, freshness, and keenness of enjoyment and pain were never blunted. His ease and grace of speech and movement were as noticeable in the aged man as they had been in the happy youth of Mill Grove. His courteous manners to all, high and low, were always the same; his chivalry, generosity, and honor were never dimmed, and his great personal beauty never failed to attract attention; always he was handsome. His stepmother writes from Nantes to her husband in Virginia: "He is the handsomest boy in Nantes, but perhaps not the most studious." At Mill
DATE UNKNOWN. FROM A DAGUERREOTYPE OWNED BY M. ELIZA AUDUDON.
Abroad it was the same; Mr. Rathbone speaks of "his beautiful expressive face," as did Christopher North, and so on until the beauty of youth and manhood passed into the "magnificent gray-haired man."
But "the gay young Frenchman who danced with all the girls," was an old man now, not so much as the years go, but in the intensity of his life. He had never done anything by halves; he had played and worked, enjoyed and sorrowed, been depressed and elated, each and all with his highly strung nature at fever heat, and the end was not far. He had seen the accomplishment of his hopes in the "Birds," and the "Quadrupeds" he was content to leave largely to other hands; and surely no man ever had better helpers. From first to last his wife had worked, in more ways than one, to further the aim of his life; Victor had done the weary mechanical business work; John had hunted, and preserved specimens, taken long journeys—notably to Texas and California—and been his father's travelling companion on more than one occasion. Now the time had come when he no longer led; Victor had full charge of the publication of the "Quadrupeds," besides putting in many of the backgrounds, and John painted a large proportion of the animals. But I think that none of them regarded their work as individual,—it was always ours, for father and sons were comrades and friends; and with Dr. Bachman's invaluable aid this last work was finished, but not during Audubon's life. He travelled more or less in the interests of his publications during these years, largely in New England and in the Middle States.
In 1847 the brilliant intellect began to be dimmed; at first it was only the difficulty of finding the right word to express an idea, the gradual lessening of interest, and this increased till in May, 1848, Dr. Bachman tells the pathetic close of the enthusiastic and active life: "Alas, my poor friend Audubon! The outlines of his beautiful face and form are there, but his noble mind is all in ruins. It is indescribably sad."
Through these last years the devotion of the entire household was his. He still loved to wander in the woods, he liked to hear his wife read to him, and music was ever a delight. To the very last his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Victor G. Audubon, sang a little Spanish song to him every evening, rarely permitting anything to interfere with what gave him so much pleasure, and evening by evening he listened to the Buenas Noches, which was so soon to be his in reality.
His grandchildren, also, were a constant source of enjoyment to him, and he to them, for children always found a friend in him; and thus quietly did he pass through that valley which had no shadows for him.
I wish to wholly correct the statement that Audubon became blind. His sight became impaired by old age, as is usually the case; he abhorred spectacles or glasses of any kind, would not wear them except occasionally, and therefore did not get the right focus for objects near by; but his far-sight was hardly impaired. That wonderful vision which surprised even the keen-eyed Indian never failed him.Well do I remember the tall figure with snow-white hair, wandering peacefully along the banks of the beautiful Hudson. Already he was resting in that border land
Audubon Monument in Trinity Church Cemetery, New York.
The reverse of the base bears the inscription—
Erected to the Memory of
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
In the year 1893, by subscriptions raised by the
New York Academy of Science.
In a quiet spot in Trinity Church Cemetery, not far from the home where Audubon spent his last years, the remains of the naturalist were laid with all honor and respect, on the Thursday following his death. Time brought changes which demanded the removal of the first burial-place, and a second one was chosen in the same cemetery, which is now marked by the beautiful monument erected by the New York Academy of Sciences.
Now wife and sons have joined him; together they rest undisturbed by winter storms or summer heat; the river they loved so well flows past their silent home as in days long gone when its beauties won their hearts.
Truly the place where they dwelt shall know them no more, but "while the melody of the mocking-bird is heard in the cypress forests of Louisiana, and the squirrel leaps from its leafy curtain like a thing of beauty, the name of Audubon will live in the hearts of coming generations."
- "My name is John James Laforest Audubon. The name Laforest I never sign except when writing to my wife, and she is the only being, since my father's death, who calls me by it." (Letter of Audubon to Mrs. Rathbone, 1827.) All Mrs. Audubon's letters to her husband address him as Laforest.
- This manuscript was found in an old book which had been in a barn on Staten Island for years.
- Reprinted from Scribner's Magazine, March, 1893, p. 267. A few errors in names and dates are now corrected.
- Isle à Vache, eight miles south of Aux Cayes.
- This vessel was the "Annelle."
- The family still own this portrait, of which Victor G. Audubon writes: "This portrait is probably the first one taken of that great and good man, and although the drawing is hard, the coloring and costume are correct, I have no doubt. It was copied by Greenough, the sculptor, when he was preparing to model his 'Washington' for the Capitol, and he considered it as a valuable addition to the material already obtained. This portrait was painted by an artist named Polk, but who or what he was, I know not."
- There still remain those who recall how Audubon would walk up and down, snapping his fingers, a habit he had when excited, when relating how he had seen his aunt tied to a wagon and dragged through the streets of Nantes in the time of Carrier.
- This brother left three daughters; only one married, and her descendants, if any, cannot be traced.
- "The Polly," Captain Sammis commander.
- May 26, 1806.
- Great Blue Heron.
- This visit passed into history in the published works of each of the great ornithologists, who were never friends. See "Behind the Veil," by Dr. Coues in Bulletin of Nuttall Ornithological Club, Oct., 1880, p. 200.
- Episode "Breaking of the Ice."
- Stephen Harriman Long, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, who was then on his way to explore the region of the upper Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.
- Titian R. Peale, afterward naturalist of the U. S. Exploring Expedition, under Commodore Wilkes. Later in life he was for many years an examiner in the Patent Office at Washington, and died at a very advanced age. He was a member of the eminent Peale family of artists, one of whom established Peale's Museum in Philadelphia.—E. C.
- The distinguished naturalist of that name.—E. C.
- Jacques Louis David (1748-1825), court painter to Louis XVI. and afterwards to Napoleon I.
- In 1836, Audubon wrote to Dr. John Bachman: "Some of my early drawings of European birds are still in our possession, but many have been given away, and the greatest number were destroyed, not by the rats that gnawed my collection of the "Birds of America," but by the great fire in New York, as these drawings were considered my wife's special property and seldom out of her sight. Would that the others had been under her especial care also! Yet, after all, who can say that it was not a material advantage, both to myself and to the world, that the Norway rats destroyed those drawings?"
- Mr. W. H. Wetherill, of Philadelphia.
- April 28, 1893.
- "I have often seen the red-sandstone monument placed to mark the terminal of the Sullivan Bridge on our side of the river, but the curiosity hunters have so marred it that only 'livans' and part of the date remain." (Extract from letter of Mr. W. H. Wetherill, Aug. 12, 1893.)
- This statement is from the " Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography," vol. xiv., No. 2, page 218, July, 1890.
- "Under the will of Col. Jno. Macomb Wetherill, late owner of Fatland Farm, 40 feet square were deeded out of the farm, and placed in trust, and $1000 trusteed to keep the grove and lot in order. A granite curb and heavy iron rail surround this plot; Col. Wetherill was buried there and his remains lie with those of your ancestors." (Extract from letter of W. H. Wetherill, May 10, 1897.)
- From "History of Henderson County, Kentucky," by E. L. Starling, page 794.
- Of these many sketches few can be traced, and none purchased.
- Mrs. Audubon afterwards received four hundred dollars, of the twelve hundred dollars due; the remainder was never paid.
- See Episode: "A Tough Walk for a Youth."
- The before-mentioned journal, 1822-24.
- (With slight alterations) from "Bird Life," by F. M. Chapman, 1897, P. 13.
- Prince of Musignano, and subsequently a distinguished ornithologist. In March, 1824, Bonaparte was just publishing his "Observations on the Nomenclature of Wilson's Ornithology," which ran through the "Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences," of Philadelphia, from April 5, 1824, to Aug. 25, 1825, in five parts. This was preliminary to Bonaparte's "American Ornithology," which appeared in four quarto vols., 1825-33, to his "Synopsis," of 1828, and to his "Comparative List," of 1838.—E. C.
- Probably the Academy of Natural Sciences.
- Ord had edited the posthumous vols. viii. and ix. of "Wilson's Ornithology," which appeared in 1814; and in 1824 was engaged upon that edition of Wilson which was published in 3 vols. 8vo, in 1828-29, with a folio atlas of 76 plates. This is probably enough to account for his attitude toward Audubon.—E. C.
- "Defence of Audubon," by John Bachman. "Bucks Co. Intelligencer," 1835, and other papers.
- Almost the only other enemy Audubon appears to have ever had in public print was Charles Waterton, who vehemently assailed him in "Loudon's Magazine of Natural History," vi. 1833, pp. 215-218, and vii., 1834, pp. 66-74. Audubon was warmly defended by his son Victor in the same magazine, vi. 1833, p. 369, and at greater length by " R. B.," ibid., pp. 369-372. Dr. Coues characterizes Waterton's attack as "flippant and supercilious animadversion," in "Birds of the Colorado Valley," 1878, p. 622. The present is hardly the occasion to bring up the countless reviews and notices of Audubon's published life-work; but a few references I have at hand may be given. One of the earliest, if not the first, appeared in the "Edinburgh Journal of Science," vi. p. 184 (1827). In 1828, Audubon himself published "An Account of the Method of Drawing Birds," etc., in the same Journal, viii., pp. 48-54. The " Report of a Committee appointed by the Lyceum of Natural History of New York to examine the splendid work of Mr. Audubon," etc., appeared in "Silliman's Journal," xvi., 1829, pp. 353, 354. His friend William Swainson published some highly commendatory and justly appreciative articles on the same subject in "Loudon's Magazine," i., 1829, pp. 43-52, and in the "Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal," x., 1831, pp. 317-332, under the pseudonym "Ornithophilus." Another anonymous review, highly laudatory, appeared in the same Journal, xviii., 1834, pp. 131-144. Dr. John Bachman defended the truthfulness of Audubon's drawings in the "Journal of the Boston Society of Natural History," i. 1834, pp. 15-31. One of the most extended notices appeared anonymously in the "North American Review," July, 1835, pp. 194-231; and another signed "B," in "Loudon's Magazine," viii., 1835, pp. 184-190. In Germany, "Isis von Oken" contained others, xxx., 1837, pp. 922-928, xxxv., 1842, pp. 157, 158; and xxxvii., 1844, pp. 713-718. "Silliman's Journal" again reviewed the work in xlii., 1842, pp. 130-136.—E. C.
- That is the species now known as Wilson's Snipe, Gallinago delicata.
- Dr. Richard Harlan is the author of the well-known "Fauna Americana," 8vo, Philadelphia, 1825, and of many scientific papers. Audubon dedicated to him the Black Warrior, Falco harlani, a large, dark hawk of the genus Buteo, shot at St. Francisville, La., Nov. 18, 1829.
- Charles Alexandre Le Sueur, 1778-1846, distinguished French naturalist. Best biography in Youman's "Pioneers of Science in America," 8vo, N. Y., 1896, pp. 128-139, with portrait. The same volume contains a biographical sketch of Audubon, pp. 152-166, with portrait after the oil painting by George P. A. Healy, belonging to the Boston Society of Natural History.—E.C.
- Of the great folios, parts i.-v., containing plates 1-25, were originally published at successive dates (not ascertained) in 1827; parts vi.-x., plates 26-50, appeared in the course of 1828, all in London. The whole work was completed in 1838; it is supposed to have been issued in 87 parts of 5 plates each, making the actual total of 435 plates, giving 1065 figures of birds. On the completion of the series, the plates were to be bound in 4 vols. Vol. i., pll. 1-100, 1827-30; vol. ii., pll. 101-200, 1831-34; vol. iii., pll. 201-300, 1834-35; vol. iv., pll. 301-435, 1835-38 (completed June 30). These folios had no text except the title-leaf of each volume. The original price was two guineas a part; a complete copy is now worth $1,500 to $2,000, according to condition of binding, etc., and is scarce at any price. The text to the plates appeared under the different title of "Ornithological Biography," in 5 large 8vo volumes, Edinburgh, 1831-39; vol. i., 1831 ; vol. ii., 1834; vol. iii., 1835; vol. iv., 1838; vol. v., 1839. In 1840-44, the work reappeared in octavo, text and plates together, under the original title of "Birds of America;" the text somewhat modified by the omission of the " Delineations of American Scenery and Manners," the addition of some new matter acquired after 1839, and change in the names of many species to agree with the nomenclature of Audubon's Synopsis of 1839; the plates reduced by the camera lucida, rearranged and renumbered, making 500 in all. The two original works, thus put together and modified, became the first octavo edition called " Birds of America," issued in 100 parts, to be bound in 7 volumes, 1840-44. There have been various subsequent issues, partial or complete, upon which I cannot here enlarge. For full bibliographical data see Dr. Coues' "Birds of the Colorado Valley," Appendix, 1878, pp. 612, 618, 625, 629, 644, 661, 666, 669 and 686.—E. C.
- Referring to Mr. Robert Havell, of No. 77 Oxford St., London. His name will be recalled in connection with Sterna havellii, the Tern which Audubon shot at New Orleans in 1820, and dedicated to his engraver in "Orn. Biogr." v., 1839, p. 122, "B. Amer.," 8vo, vii., 1844, p. 103, pl. 434. It is the winter plumage of the bird Nuttall called S.forsteri in his "Manual," ii., 1834, p. 274. See Coues, "Proceedings of the Philadelphia Academy of Science," 1862, p. 543.—E. C.
- See previous note on p. 59, where it is said that plates 1-25 appeared in 1827, and plates 26-50 in 1828—in attestation of which the above words to Victor Audubon become important.—E. C.
- It actually ran to 87 numbers, as stated in a previous note.
- See Episodes "Great Egg Harbor" and "Great Pine Swamp."
- Mr. Garrett Johnson, where Mrs. Audubon was then teaching.
- There has been much question as to the spelling of MacGillivray's name, Professor Newton and most others writing it Macgillivray, but in the autograph letters we own the capital "G" is always used.
- Address at the special meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences, April 26, 1893.
- Referring to one of the six "epochs" into which, in the same work, Dr. Coues divided the progress of American Ornithology. His "Audubon epoch" extends from 1824 to 1853, and one of the four periods into which this epoch is divided is the "Audubonian period," 1834-1853.
- Descriptions of the Rapacious Birds of Great Britain. By William MacGillivray, A. M., Edinburgh, 1836, 1 vol. small 8vo. This valuable treatise is dedicated "To John James Audubon, in admiration of his talents as an ornithologist, and in gratitude for many acts of friendship." Mr. MacGillivray also had then in preparation or contemplation his larger "History of British Birds," 3 volumes of which appeared in 1837-40, but the 4th and 5th volumes not till 1852.—E. C.
- The completed volume bears date of MDCCCXXXI. on the titlepage and the publisher's imprint of "Adam Black, 55, North Bridge, Edinburgh." The collation is pp. i-xxiv, 1-512, + 15 pp. of Prospectus, etc. This is the text to plates I.-C. (1-100) of the elephant folios. Other copies are said to bear the imprint of "Philadelphia, E. L. Carey and A. Hart, MDCCCXXXI."—E.G.
Audubon wrote to Dr. Richard Harlan on March 13, 1831, "I have sent a copy of the first volume to you to-day."
- We only possess one oil painting signed "Audubon".
- John Backman, D. Dl, LL, D., Feb. 4, 1790-April 24, 1874. Author of many works, scientific, zoölogical and religious. For sixty years he was pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Charleston, S.C.
- Both these daughter died young,—Maria, the eldest, who married John, before she was twenty-four; Eliza, who married Victor, still younger, during the first year of her wedded life.
- Mr. Joseph Coolidge, formerly of Maine, now of San Francisco, Cal. Two others are known by name to every ornithologist through Audubon's Emberiza shattuckii and Fringilla lincolnii; for these birds see notes beyond.—E. C.
- The offices 34 Liberty St., New York, were burned at this time.
- John James Abert, who was in 1837 brevet lieutenant-colonel of Topographical Engineers, U. S. Army, and afterward chief of his corps. Abert's Squirrel, Sciurus aberti, forms the subject of plate 153, fig. 1, of Audubon and Bachman's "Quadrupeds."
- This important and standard work on American Mammalogy was not, however, finished till many years afterward, nor did Audubon live to see its completion. Publication of the colored plates in oblong folio, without text, began at least as early as 1840, and with few exceptions they first appeared in this form. They were subsequently reduced to large octavo size, and issued in parts with the text, then first published. The whole, text and plates, were then gathered in 3 volumes: vol. i., 1846; vol. ii., 1851; vol. iii., to page 254 and pi. 150, 1853; vol. iii., p. 255 to end, 1854. There are in all 155 plates; 50 in vol. i., 50 in vol. ii., 55 in vol. iii.; about half of them are from Andubon's brush, the rest by John Woodhouse. The exact character of the joint authorship does not appear; but no doubt the technical descriptions are by Dr. Bachman. Publication was made in New York by Victor Audubon; and there was a reissue of some parts of the work at least, as vol. i. is found with copyright of 1849, and date 1851 on the title.—E. C.
- Lucy, now Mrs. Delancey B. Williams.
- Victor Audubon wrote in reply to a question as to how many copies of the "Birds" were in existence: "About 175 copies; of these I should say 80 were in our own country. The length of time over which the work extended brought many changes to original subscribers, and this accounts for the odd volumes which are sometimes offered for sale." In stating that the work had been "absolutely completed" in 1838, I must not omit to add that when the octavo reissue appeared it contained a few additional birds chiefly derived from Audubon's fruitful voyage up the Missouri in 1843, which also yielded much material for the work on the Quadrupeds. The appearance of the "Synopsis" in 1839 marks the interval between the completion of the original undertaking and the beginning of plans for its reduction to octavo.—E. C.
- "These little folk, of all sizes, sit and play in my room and do not touch the specimens." (Letter of Dr. Bachman, May 11, 1848, to his family in Charleston.)
- Harper's Monthly Magazine, October, 1880, p. 665.
- Both sons had married a second time. Victor had married Georgiana R. Mallory of New York, and John, Caroline Hall of England.
- Mrs. V. G. Audubon.
- Reminiscences of Audubon, Scribner's Monthly, July, 1876, p. 333; Turf, Field, and Farm, Nov. 18, 1881.
- Unveiled April 26, 1893, on which occasion eulogies were pronounced by Mr. D. G. Elliot, ex-president of the American Ornithologists' Union, and Prof. Thomas Egleston of Columbia College.