The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Louisa C. Tuthill

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LOUISA C. TUTHILL.


Americans have excelled in the preparation of books for the young One of the most successful writers in this line, and a writer of more than ordinary success in other departments of prose composition, is Mrs. Louisa C. Tuthill.

Mrs. Tuthill is descended, on both sides, from the early colonists of New Haven, Connecticut, one of her ancestors, on the father’s side, being Theophilus Eaton, the first Governor of the colony. Her maiden name was Louisa Caroline Huggins. She was born, near the close of the last century, at New Haven, and educated partly at New Haven and partly at Litchfield. The schools for young ladies in both of those towns at that time were celebrated for their excellence, and that in New Haven particularly comprehended a course of study equal in range, with the exception of Greek and the higher Mathematics, to the course pursued at the same time in Yale College. Being the youngest child of a wealthy and retired merchant, she enjoyed to the fullest extent the opportunities of education which these seminaries afforded, as well as that more general, but not less important element of education, the constant intercourse with people of refined taste and cultivated minds.

In 1817, she was married to Cornelius Tuthill, Esq., a lawyer, of Newburgh, New York, who, after his marriage, settled in New Haven. Mr. Tuthill himself, as well as his wife, being of a literary turn, their hospitable mansion became the resort for quite an extensive literary circle, some of whom have since become known to fame. Mr. Tuthill, with two of his friends, the lamented Henry E. Dwight, youngest son of President Dwight of Yale College, and Nathaniel Chauncey, Esq., now of Philadelphia, projected a literary paper, for local distribution, called “The Microscope.” It was published at New Haven, and edited by Mr. Tuthill, with the aid of the two friends just named. Through the pages of the Microscope, the poet Percival first became known to the public. Among the contributors were J. C. Brainerd,[1] Professors Fisher and Fowler, Mrs. Sigourney, and others.

Mrs. Tuthill wrote rhymes from childhood, and as far back as she can remember was devoted to books. One of her amusements during girlhood was to write, stealthily, essays, plays, tales, and verses, all of which, however, with the exception of two or three school compositions, were committed to the flames previous to her marriage. She had imbibed a strong prejudice against literary women, and firmly resolved never to become one. Mr. Tuthill took a different view of the matter, and urged her to a further pursuit of liberal studies and the continued exercise of her pen. At his solicitation, she wrote regularly for the “Microscope” during its continuance, which, however, was only for a couple of years.

Mr. Tuthill died in 1825, at the age of twenty-nine, leaving a widow and four children, one son and three daughters. As a solace under affliction, Mrs. Tuthill employed her pen in contributing frequently to literary periodicals, but always anonymously, and with so little regard to fame of authorship as to keep neither record nor copy of her pieces, though some of them now occasionally float by as waifs on the tide of current literature. Several little books, too, were written by her between 1827 and 1839, for the pleasure of mental occupation, and published anonymously. Some of these still hold their place in Sunday school libraries.

Mrs. Tuthill’s name first came before the public in 1839. It was on the title-page of a reading book for young ladies, prepared on a new plan. The plan was to make the selections a series of illustrations of the rules of rhetoric, the examples selected being taken from the best English and American authors. The “Young Ladies’ Reader,” the title of this collection, has been popular, and has gone through many editions.

The ice being once broken, she began to publish more freely, and during the same year gave to the world the work entitled “The Young Lady’s Home.” It is an octavo volume of tales and essays, having in view the completion of a young lady’s education after her leaving school. It shows at once a fertile imagination and varied reading, sound judgment, and a familiar acquaintance with social life. It has been frequently reprinted.

Her next publication was an admirable series of small volumes for boys and girls, which have been, of all her writings, the most widely and the most favourably known. They are 16mo.’s, of about 150 pages each. “I will be a Gentleman,” 1844, twenty editions; “I will be a Lady,” 1844, twenty editions; “Onward, right Onward,” 1845, ten editions; “Boarding School Girl,” 1845, six editions; “Anything for Sport,” 1846, eight editions; “A Strike for Freedom, or, Law and Order,” 1850, three editions in the first year.

Had Mrs. Tuthill written nothing but these attractive and useful volumes, she would have entitled herself to an honourable place in any work which professed to treat of the prose literature of the country. They have the graces of style and thought which would commend them to the favourable consideration of the general reader, with superadded charms that make them the delight of children. During the composition of these juvenile works, she continued her occupation of catering for “children of a larger growth,” and gave to the world, in 1846, a work of fiction, entitled “My Wife,” a tale of fashionable life of the present day, conveying, under the garb of an agreeable story, wholesome counsels for the young of both sexes on the all-engrossing subject of marriage.

A love for the fine arts has been with Mrs. Tuthill one of the ruling passions of her life. At different times, ample means have been within her reach for the cultivation of this class of studies. Partly for her own amusement, and partly for the instruction of her children, she paid special attention to the study of Architecture in its aesthetical character, enjoying, while thus engaged, the free use of the princely library of Ithiel Town, the architect. The result of these studies was the publication, in 1848, of a splendid octavo volume on the “History of Architecture,” from which an extract is given. She edited, during the same year, a very elegant octavo annual, “The Mirror of Life,” in which several of the contributions were by herself.

“The Nursery Book” appeared in 1849. It is not a collection of nursery rhymes for children, as the title has led many to suppose, but a collection of counsels for young mothers respecting the duties of the nursery. These counsels are conveyed under the fiction of an imaginary correspondence between a young mother, just beginning to dress her first baby, and an experienced aunt. There are few topics in the whole history of the management and the mismanagement of a child, during the first and most important stages of its existence, that are not discussed, with alternate reason and ridicule, in this clever volume.

Mrs. Tuthill is at present engaged upon a series of works, of an unambitious but very useful character, grouped together under the general title of “Success in Life.” They are six volumes, 18mo.’s, of about 200 pages each, and each illustrating the method of success in some particular walk in life, by numerous biographical examples. The titles of the several volumes are: “The Merchant,” 1849; “The Lawyer,” 1850; “The Mechanic,” 1850; “The Artist,” “The Farmer,” and “The Physician,” not yet published.

Mrs. Tuthill removed to Hartford in 1839, to be with her son, then studying law with Governor Ellsworth; in 1843, to Roxbury, near Boston, Massachusetts; in 1847, to Philadelphia; and at present, 1851, is established at Princeton, New Jersey.

DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE IN THE UNITED STATES.

Domestic architecture in this country must be adapted to the circumstances and condition of the people. As it is an art originating from necessity, the progress of society must change the architecture of every country, from age to age. As wealth and refinement increase, taste and elegance must be consulted, without destroying convenience and appropriateness. We can no more adopt the style of architecture than the dress of a foreign people. We acknowledge the flowing robes of the Persian to be graceful and becoming; they suit the habits and climate of the country. The fur-clad Russian of the north has conformed his dress to his climate, and made it rich and elegant; yet, as he approaches his neighbours of Turkey, his dress becomes somewhat assimilated to theirs. France is said to give the law of fashion in dress to the civilized world; and the absurdities that have resulted from following her dictates, have produced ridiculous anomalies in other countries.

In adopting the domestic architecture of foreign countries, we may be equally ridiculous. England, our fatherland, from some resemblance in habits and institutions, might furnish more suitable models for imitation than any other country; yet they would not be perfectly in accordance with our wants. Our architecture must, therefore, be partly indigenous.

Our associations of convenience, home-comfort, and respectability are connected with a certain style of building, which has been evolved by the wants, manners, and customs of the people. Any great deviations from a style that has been thus fixed, cannot be perfectly agreeable. We must improve upon this style, so that domestic architecture may in time be perfectly American.

Man in his hours of relaxation, when he is engaged in the pursuit of mere pleasure, is less national than he is under the influence of any of the more violent feelings that agitate every-day life.

Hence it is that in our country there is danger that our villas will be anything rather than national. The retired professional man, the wealthy merchant and mechanic, wish to build in the country. Instead of consulting home-comfort and pleasurable

  1. See Whittier’s Life of J. C. Brainerd.