Sarah’s Journal2021-12-20T02:45:12+00:00



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October 10, 1853

Heber’s Journal of India by Reginald Heber
The Snow Image and Other Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ancient and Modern India by William Cooke Taylor and PJ MacKenna

October 10th

Made but 102 miles today, this is indeed very slow work. I was in hopes of better things.

I asked Mr. Taylor this morning if he knew anything concerning Bishop Heber’s family. He said, “Oh Yes” that Mrs. Heber not a great while after her husband’s death married a Greek Prince and lived with him in Greece; that their daughters had married and one he thought returned to India to live.  

Have been reading Hawthorne’s “The Snow-Image and Other Twice Told Tales”. The “Snow-Image” is a very pretty little tale. It like it the best; indeed do not think much of either of the others. I have made a pretty story of the “Snow-Image” for Willie; he is delighted with it. I have told it to him already some dozen times. How strange Hawthorne with all his power does not attempt something greater than these stories and tales that he so much loves to write. I should not think that he would feel that he was fulfilling the object of his life; that is, his literary life.

This morning commenced another work on India, a book lent me by Mr. Taylor. Its title is “Ancient and Modern India” by Taylor and MacKenna. It is mostly taken up with the various wars of India I believe.

There are some things about Willie that trouble me a little. I cannot make him feel or speak reverently of God. He says his prayers as I ever heard a child say them and then in the morning I cannot half the time get the child to say them. I do not like to force him and make him cry, for I doubt if it will do any good. This morning he would not say them and I told him I should not tell such a little boy any of his pretty stories today, so far he has not asked me but I hope he will for he will feel it a sad punishment and one, I think, that will make an impression. Willie is not a disobedient child, it is only in this that he shows a disinclination to do as I wish.

I like not bringing up a child on board a ship. To be sure, I am near him all the time (so I should be very nearly if I lived on shore) but then everything that happens, everything one does or says very nearly is known by so many. Two or three times lately to have shut Willie up in my room for a little while would have been a reasonable punishment but then there were so many to be annoyed by a burst of tears, so I get along in such cases as well as I can. I feel sometimes as if I would like to have a good long talk with one of my intelligent and experienced mother friends. Each mother I think must decide and act for herself, but we surely may be much benefited by the experience of others. God bless my Willie and grant that whatever else he may be that he shall indeed be a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus.

October 11, 1853

Earthquake At Sea
Bayard Taylor’s Description of the Earthquake

October 11th

Last evening had a pleasant talk with Mr. Contee about New Haven, etc. He was there at college some 22 or 24 years ago. I found that he admired with me any of the beautiful places in the vicinity. I really felt glad to talk of those beautiful places again.

I think Mr. Contee has a decided love for the beautiful in nature. I have noticed many times his heartfelt admiration of a beautiful sunset. We had a very rich one last evening and went to the side of the vessel to enjoy it together. He talked of various sunsets that we had seen, of beautiful clouds.

I spoke of the painter’s art and of his favorlessness to portray such a scene on canvas – that rich and exquisite blending of colors. Those heavy threatening clouds and the light airy fleecy ones. Mr. Contee thought it was as well. “Better to go out and view,” said he, “those beautiful works of nature of every kind, see them themselves, not have them brought in our drawing rooms.”

We spoke of the different effects of sunrise and sunset as seen in a beautiful hilly or mountainous, the first breaking of day, the appearance of the light and shades as the sun appears, then the rich golden light penetrating through the trees; its lighting the mountain tops and then its descent to the valleys, its sparkling on the running streams. Oh, there is indeed a joyous happy feeling in witnessing such a scene. Mr. Contee preferred the sunrise. I hardly know which in the same scene is the most beautiful, However, I give preference to the sunset with all its witching power, its mellow subdued light, its glorious sunset. The rich and brilliant lights, the deep dark shades, its gradual withdrawing light, the subdued perhaps pleasing melancholy feelings that take possession of our hearts; then, the appearance and deepening lights of the stars as they so gently beam out upon us, glorious beautiful Venus, growing more and more beautiful every moment, and anon, the eastern heavens are silvered o’er. Soon the queen of night arises so glorious and beautiful in her silvery light, soon we see the long and sloping moonbeams glancing over hill, meadow and stream and penetrating its light through the dark woods. Oh, I love them both, those sunsets and sunrises, but the sunsets suit me best. The one is followed by the busy hum and stir of men, the other leaves you with nature and nature’s God, in quite deep heartfelt enjoyment. It is the time to commune with our own hearts and be still. Oh, when shall I see and enjoy these scenes again? I long for the country, the real beautiful country.

We spoke of sunsets, preceding sunsets of their peculiar appearance. I spoke of a very singular one that we witnessed the evening of the day we left Valparaiso and of my husband’s saying to me “that sunset betokens an earthquake”. We had left Valparaiso with a good wind but at a few miles distance it had left us and there we were becalmed some day or two. The next morning while dressing I was dreadfully startled and thought our ship was running aground. It went thump, thump, then jarring everything in my room. I threw my dressing gown around me and was hastening from my room when Williams came. “Did you feel the earthquake?” “Certainly, it was an earthquake then? I thought we were aground.” The water had boiled up round the ship and the sails had hung as if they were frightened. Williams said, “I fear our friends have had a sad earthquake. I wish we had been there to have received them on board our ship.” But we knew nothing certain till our arrival at San Francisco when we heard that they had had a severe shake, much more severe than any since the earthquake that nearly destroyed Concepcion. Many houses at Valparaiso had been thrown down.

Last evening at 11 o’clock I was sitting on the settee in our small Cabin all ready for bed. Williams had stepped into a room when suddenly I felt thump as if we were touching the bottom. Williams instantly hastened upstairs and I was left in my alarm. I thought not of an earthquake as we were several hundred miles from land. I fairly knew not what to think; thought of islands rising in the sea; did not know but one might be near the surface here. I went to my room, put on one or two garments and was then hastening upstairs. The thumping continuing as strong as ever. I fairly trembled as I walked. I met the steward coming down. He told me that the Captain said it was an earthquake. I felt relieved indeed. Williams and Mr. Contee then came down. Mr. Contee also hastened from his bed on deck, he said while in his room, he heard a hissing noise that accompanied the shaking. This earthquake is a singular and fearful feeling. I hope I may never feel one on shore. One of our friends at Valparaiso was very anxious that I should feel one and really wished that they might have a pretty good shock for my peculiar benefit but I told him that I had no desire and did not wish to lose my confidence in mother earth. Poor man, I heard that he was terribly frightened by this one we had just escaped. I met two ladies at Valparaiso, mother and daughter, who had already been in the midst of two terrible earthquakes; the one at Concepcion. I forget the other. They said that instead of becoming accustomed to such things, they dreaded them more and more – even every slight shake. And this they said was the feeling of almost everyone and that the natives were dreadfully terrified even at the slightest shake. Mrs. Smith, the daughter, said that she never went to bed at night without seeing each of her children had shoes and gown close to the bed, all ready to put on. How terrible to live with such a constant dread hanging over one.

It is a beautiful day, not very warm with a light breeze. I fear we shall not make more than yesterday – a slow voyage home so far. If our winds do not mend, farewell to Christmas at home. How very, very much I long to see our dear children and dear Mary.

October 12, 1853

Sunsets at Sea
Bayard Taylor’s Description of the Sunset

October 12th

A lovely day, but with scarce any wind, made but 28 miles the last 24 hours. This is not a little trying, as we seemed all so surely to expect a good wind here. However, we all try to bear it as well as possible and our days pass away very quietly, mostly spent in reading, but I must except Williams, he will not even rest in his bed, but merely lies on the settee.

Willie’s little forehead looks sadly – the second boil, if it is indeed one, has not yet come to a head. It does not seem to be at all painful, only disfigures him. The rest of his complexion has cleaned out nicely. All the prickly heat having gone.

Last evening we had a magnificent sunset. I never saw one like it. Mr. Contee and myself were the first to notice its fast growing beauties. Soon we had our whole party joining us and I believe each thought they had never seen anything finer – perhaps not so fine. Would that I could describe it and so, at a future day, vividly bring it back to my remembrance, but I will make an effort, that may perhaps keep it somewhat in my remembrance.

Along the horizon were grouped those peculiar tropical clouds only in this instance they were very dark – as the sunset deepened they became adorned in all sorts of fashions with the richest golden crimson and flame colors and then above there was such a beautiful mingling of gray, pink, and blue ending off on every side with an exquisite purple. But, as we gazed, the pink seemed to condense into narrow sorts of shafts just above the dark clouds of the horizon and in a moment they shot up toward the zenith. They spread wide and high and the color constantly was deepening till we could call it pink no longer. So rare and exquisite was the color; between these two deep, glorious magnificent rays was comparatively a narrow belt of deep perfect blue. The reflection of this on the water was most singular and beautiful. There was the perfect reflection of those two magnificent glowing rays with the deeply blue separating belt. As my eyes wandered from one part of the beautiful scene I soon detected far off to the side another glowing spot sending forth its exquisitely shaded ray, this was long and narrow. The color of the ray next to the narrow one was the most glowing, peculiar and beautiful of them and my beautiful Venus graced the outer edge of it towards the upper part of the next one. Then more directly opposite ourselves was a cloud having the appearance of a beautiful gray dove, every part perfectly formed. Its wings outstretched above and below one wing was seen a delicate cloud having the appearance of a bough fro the tree. It was the dove with the olive branch; the only difference mine held his branch with his claw; Noah’s in its mouth.

As I write I fancy with my mind’s eye the whole scene. Trust I shall be able whenever my eye happens to glance over his page. Sunsets are so apt to serve in like those tormenting dreams that we long and seem to be about to recall but alas they are so vague that they ever elude our grasp.

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