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and a large handkerchief gathered close around been the last, " had not I seen the door of the the neck. Her coiffure, composed of a simple drawing-room suddenly open, and a being which little cap of baptiste with round plaits, and per- resembled a nymph rather than a woman enter mitting only a half inch of hair to be perceived, the apartment. So much beauty, so much simcompleted the virgin attire of Polly Lawton." It plicity, so much elegance, and so much modesty, is easy to fancy the refreshment of this vision were perhaps never combined in the same perof beautiful simplicity to a Prince surfeited with son. It was Polly Leighton (Lawton). Her courtly splendors. Polly Lawton had no mis- gown was white, like herself (de Broglie likens giving about her charms. She said simple and it to milk); while her ample muslin handkerchief, polite things with the freedom and thee-and-thou and the envious cambric of her cap, which scarcely familiarity of a Quaker. The Prince de Broglie allowed me to see her light-colored hair, and the kindles with the remembrance : “ She enchanted modest attire, in short, of a pious virgin, seemed us all; and although evidently a little conscious vainly to endeavor to conceal the most graceful of it, was not at all sorry to please those whom figure and the most beautiful form imaginable. she graciously called her friends.” “I confess," Her eyes appeared to reflect, as in a mirror, the he finally exclaims with ecstasy, “ that this se- meekness and purity of her mind, and the goodductive Lawton appeared to me to be the chef ness of her heart. She received us with an open d'æuvre of Nature; and whenever I recall her ingenuity which delighted me, and the use of the image, I am tempted to write a great book against familiar word thou,' which the rules of her sect the finery, the factitious graces, and the coquetry prescribed, gave to our acquaintance the appearof many ladies whom the world admires.” “There ance of an old friendship." was no time,” he adds, “when Polly was pres- De Segur is charmed with her conversation. ent, to observe a pretty younger sister.” Miss The fair Quakeress reproached him, according to Sprindley (probably Brinley), Miss Sylven, and the strict rule of her faith, for coming to make others, succeeded in convincing the Prince that war, and to obey the king against the command there was more than one rose in Newport. All of God. the belles regretted the departure of the French “What could I reply to that angel?" asks the army. “They confessed that there were no more bewildered Count; " for in truth I was tempted amusements, no balls and fêtes, since the French to believe that she was a celestial being. Cerwent away.” The gallant Prince and his com- tain it is, that if I had not been married and happanions were touched by the tender complaint, py, I should, while coming to defend the liberty and resolved to give a ball to these " amiable de- of the Americans, have lost my own at the feet serted ones." The Count de Segur, de Vauban, of Polly Leighton.” He confesses that she drew and de Broglie found neither refusal nor diffi- his mind from the gay frivolities of society more, culty when they spoke of dancing. “Twenty perhaps, than Madame la Comtesse de Segur, charming women assembled. They were dressed with whom he was so happy, might have apà merveille. They seemed to enjoy themselves. proved; but he entered with great gayety into We drank toasts at supper. All passed off most the project of the ball which de Broglie describes, delightfully."
and calls it one of the prettiest fêtes he ever saw. Newport was a brief and pleasant episode in Yet his heart is true to “ that angel." After de Broglie's tour. The day but one after the praising the ball, he exclaims, “ But Polly Leighlittle ball he left the town; “but not without ton could not be present; and I can not deny kissing the hand of Polly Leighton.”
that this circumstance occasionally cast a gloom His friend and companion, Count de Segur, over my spirits." has left a pendant to his picture. His account. His Countess was probably not at all sorry of Newport in 1782, and of his first sight of the that Rochambeau insisted upon the immediate beautiful Lawton, is almost the same as that of return to their posts of these fascinated gentlede Broglie.
men, who had exceeded by a few days their leave “Other parts of America,” says de Segur, in of absence. commencing his description with his best bow The peerless Polly Lawton lived in the house at and gracious compliment, as if addressing him the corner of Touro Street and the Square. It is reself to the incomparable Lawton—" were only ported that she was afterward persuaded by some beautiful by anticipation ; but the prosperity of less discriminating admirers than the Frenchmen, Rhode Island was already complete. ... New- to exchange her Quaker simplicity of attire for port, well and regularly built, contained a numer- the fashions of the world's people. But the ous population, whose happiness was indicated harmony between the character of her manner by its prosperity. It offered delightful circles, and beauty and the simplicity of the Friends' composed of enlightened men and modest and costume, was too exquisite not to be injured by handsome women, whose talents heightened their brilliant toilets. The teautiful Polly was not personal attractions. All the French officers who the only Quakeress seduced by such splendors. knew them recollect the names and beauty of La Rochefoucault-Liancourt, peaking of society Miss Champlin, the two Misses Hunter, and sev- in Philadelphia in 1797–8, says, quietly: “The eral others." He also saw “the silent, serious Quakers live retired and among themselves , old man” of de Broglie, " who very seldom bared but ribbons please young Quakeresses as well as his thoughts, and never bared his head ;" but others, and are the great enemies of the sect." he confesses that the first interview would have Util the close of the century, the French
trasted with the picture of its prosperity and gayety, which we have been contemplating. “The solitude which reigns here, and which is only interrupted by groups of idlers who stand listlessly at the street corners, the general dilapidation of the houses, the wretched look of the shops, which offer for sale nothing but bunches of matches and baskets of apples, or other articles of little value, the grass growing in the Square opposite the Court-house, the muddy and illpaved streets, the rags at the win
dows, or which cover either hideous OLD FORT, DUMPLING ROCKS.
women (!), Jean children, or pale, travelers are still the best historians of Newport. I wan men, with deep eyes and sinister looks, It was the fate of Brissot de Warville, or J. P. making the observer very uncomfortable, all proBrissot, Citoyen Français, not to visit the town claim misery, the reign of bad faith, and the until 1788. In 1784, the Newporters had organ- influence of a bad government !" ized themselves as a city, but it was useless. It Ichabod ! Ichabod ! sings Brissot de Warville, was a decaying place; and, in 1787, they relapsed Citoyen Français. into the old town form.* The population had He goes to the market. “Great Heaven ! decreased during the war by nearly eight thou- how different from those of Boston or Philadelsand persons, two thirds of the population of phia. A few pieces of poor meat awaited its prime. The glory of Newport was gone : purchasers who did not come !" He asked a trade was paralyzed ; its society was scattered ; citizen, who was well informed in such matters, many of the old families had emigrated to Prov- the reason of this spectacle, and learned that idence at the time of the British occupation, most of the inhabitants lived on fish, which they and had laid the foundation of the prosperity of caught themselves, and upon potatoes and other that flourishing and beautiful city, which a mis- vegetables, which they raised with difficulty in sionary clergyman, the Rev. Jacob Bailey, A.M., their gardens. Paper-money was the pest of remarks in 1754, just a century since, “is a the country, according to Brissot and his inmost beautiful place ... The northeast side is formant, and was the principal cause of this built with two streets of painted houses, above misery. “ Newport," continues the gloomy which lies a most delightful hill, gradually as- Citoyen, “ seemed to me like a tomb where cending to a great distance, all cut into gardens, living corpses dispute about a few roots. It reorchards, pleasant fields, and beautiful inclosures, called to me the picture that Volney paints of which strike the eye with agreeable surprise ... Egypt. I seemed to behold a city in which Providence is a growing and flourishing place, pestilence and fire bad destroyed the inhabitants and the finest in New England,” says the rever- and their houses.” He then invites his friend end chronicler; but proceeds, per contra, “ The to compare it to a city in which general misery inhabitants of the place in general are very im- produces famine, swindling, and impudence, and moral, licentious, and profane, and exceedingly “ you will have an image of Newport.” Two famous for contempt of the Sabbath. Gaming, miles from the town he sees the remains of gunning, horse-racing, and the like, are as com- the magnificent mansion of Colonel Godfrey mon on that day as on any other. Persons of Malbone, destroyed by fire, and observes that all professions countenance such practices.” If what fire had done to that house, paper-money not emigrated to Providence as patriots, nor had done to the country. Brissot confesses flown as refugees to Nova Scotia, nor retired that he had heard the flourishing accounts with the British army at their evacuation, the of earlier travelers, but that he did not find what chief families remained broken in fortune and in they had described. Other causes helped paperspirit. Trinity Church was without a pastor, money to increase the public misery, or rather and the seat of bitter feuds. The Redwood Li- resulted from that misery—“there are no public brary was dispersed and neglected. The beauti- schools, no instruction by newspapers, and scarceful women told tender tales, regretfully, of their ly any public worship ...... How can there be, French campaign, and looked mournfully upon when good faith is universally repudiated ?” And the town, still stunned by its sudden and entire the unblushing Frenchman continues, “If there prostration.
is no morality among the men, what becomes of Citizen Brissot left Providence at eleven the virtue of the women ?” “In Newport, there o'clock in the morning, and sailed the thirty is no restraint, no religion, no morality, no law, miles to Newport by half past six in the evening. no respected magistrates, no troops." FortunHis description of it is sad enough, when con- ately he heard an alarm of fire, and went out to
study the people. The fire was not extinguished * It became a city again in 1853.
according to rule, but the engines arrived promptly,
the men worked zealously, and the flames were | lates upon the reasons of the poverty of the islsubdued. “This spectacle consoled me,” adds and. The ingenious Frenchman attributes it to Brissot, “and I thought that virtue was not en- many causes—the neighborhood of the sea, which tirely extinguished in this people.” This amus tempts the inhabitants to navigation—the want ing and sudden conclusion reveals the character of a market—the want of trees of all kinds—the of his mind, and the value of his impressions. constant elections taking the people from their He immediately begins to find other proofs of re-work—the ignorant style of cultivation. “In maining virtue. We learn that "there are no fine,” he says, “the people of Rhode Island are thefts, nor murders, nor even begging......the the most ignorant of all the Americans." American does not beg nor steal." This is more With this conclusion he arrives in the town of encouraging; and although he complains of the Newport. It was already reduced to four thoucontrary wind which detained him six days at sand inhabitants, although Bishop Berkeley, sixNewport, and he found his companions at the ty years before, had found six thousand. Its tavern very disagreeable, yet he went to hear a commerce had dwindled to some twelve vessels in famous Universalist, Dr. Murray, who preached the European trade, two or three in the Guinea in the Court-house, and there he saw “pretty and Georgia slave-trade, and some fifty or sixty women, with immense bonnets, fashionably made, in the domestic and coast-trade. In 1791, the and well dressed; which surprised me, for until exports amounted to $217,394 ; in 1795, to then I had seen only hideous women and rags.” $317,860. The houses of Newport, the homes
This is a valuable confession. It shows that of the beautiful Redwoods, Champlins, Hunters, Jean Pierre Brissot, Citoyen Français, did not Lawtons, Malbones, and the rest of the old colopenetrate that society to which de Broglie, Lau- nial nobility, the remorseless Frenchman finds zun, Rochambeau, Segur, de Vauban, and the small, shabby, and unpainted. Every where are rest, were welcome guests, and which now held signs of decay. Religion is tolerant. Quakers and itself retired, its days of feasting ended, its great Anabaptists are most numerous ; “but the people mansions ruined, and its fortunes dilapidated, al- are not religious." The residents upon the island, though it was still handsome, and well-dressed, the small Quaker farmers, come to church in New. and wore fashionable bonnets. Brissot's sketch port only four times a year, says Rochefoucault. of the general appearance of the town is perhaps “ It is an obstinate, litigious, and lazy people." too darkly colored, but it is very interesting; and A year or two afterward he passed by Newport there can be little doubt that its ruin was a sad- once more, and says : der spectacle to the ladies in fashionable bonnets who remembered its perished splendors, than to the vivacious and uneasy traveler.
The tone of Brissot's book is supported by La RochefoucaultLiancourt, who came to Newport from “ Newbedfort," in 1795. He had letters to Samuel Elam, whom we have already noticed as the builder of Vaucluse, the sole proprietor upon the island “who did not work with his own hands," “the best of Quakers, and the best of men.” He alone, at the time of Liancourt's visit, maintained the former glory of Newport life. Vaucluse was evidently the model-farm of the island. His fellow-farmers had few barns, and the Frenchman remarks the great number of haystacks dispersed all over the island which at the present time also, are characteristic objects in the landscape. He describes the “I saw again with pleasure, not the sad and island as a succession of meadows and corn-fields. ruined town, but its charming environs. ... Barley is raised also, he says, in great quantities, The health of the place is due, doubtless, to the to supply the breweries of New York and Phila- air ; but it is remarkable how many young girls delphia. He bewails the fine orchards and orna- die of lung complaints. The tombstones commental trees leveled by the British, and the poorly memorate very young or very old people—few cultivated sandy fields. The farms he found to between twenty and seventy." be usually of seventy acres, few so large as two These were the years of stagnation. Newport hundred, and two or three only had four hundred had ceased to be a gay and busy metropolis ; but acres. He speaks with pleasure of the Newport it was full of the evidences of recent ruin, and cheeses, famous throughout America, and specu- had not yet begun to settle into its present quiet
state of quaint and pensive decay. But during the most interesting on earth. I believe it is unithe last days of its prosperity it was the birth-versally acknowledged to be the most beautiful place of its most illustrious child, and one of the place in our whole range of sea-coast. . . . Its greatest men of his country, the influence of surface reminds me more of the gentle, graceful whose pure and noble mind, sweet catholicity of slopes of your country than any scene I have sympathy, and unshrinking heroism of temper, visited in America ; and its climate is more Enupon the intellectual and moral life of America is glish, being quite humid, though affording us often incalculable.
those bright skies of which you see so few in William Ellery Channing was born in New England. ... In natural beauty, my island port on the 7th of April, 1780, in the house at the does not seem to me inferior to the Isle of Wight. corner of Mary and High streets, and about a In cultivation it will bear no comparison." "I year before the visit of General Washington to am still at this paradise," he says to another Count Rochambeau. His father was Attorney- friend. His residence in Newport was upon the General of the State, and was a lawyer of con- island, about five miles from town, and he somesideration. He married, in 1773, the daughter of times, though rarely, preached in the little wooden William Ellery, one of the old names of New church near Durfee's Tea-house. port, and one of the signers, for Rhode Island, of the Declaration of Independence. “I must bless God for the place of my nativity," said Dr. Channing in 1836. Yet it was declining from the time of his birth. The tone of general society had not been improved by the war. The West India trade continued, and the habits of a sea-port encourage a laxity of manners and morals, from which the old sea-captains and heavy retired merchants were not free. Profanity and intemperance were the chief vices of the time. “I can recollect," he says, “a corruption of morals among those of my own age, which made boyhood a critical, perilous season ;" yet “ amidst this glorious nature ... I early received impressions of the great and the beautiful, which I believe have had no small influence in determining my modes of thought and habits of life. I had no professor or teacher to guide me; but I had two noble places of study-one was
CHANNING HOUSE.* yonder beautiful edifice (the Redwood Library), It was at Robert Rogers' school in Newport now so frequented and so useful as a public that Dr. Channing became acquainted with library ; then so deserted, that I spent day after Washington Allston, whose name is thus assoday, and sometimes week after week, amidst its ciated with the island by his early school history. dusty volumes, without interruption from a single His only picture now on the island is the Jerevisitor. The other place was yonder beach, the miah, at Miss Gibbs', in Portsmouth. Allston roar of which has so often mingled with the wor-speaks fondly and with admiration of his future ship of this place, my daily resort, dear to me in brother-in-law, and also of Edward G. Malbone, the sunshine, still more attractive in the storm." the miniature painter, who must have been a boy This was the homage which a great man paid to there with Channing, although the latter does not his birth-place, as he stood, in the fullness of his mention him in any published letter. Allston, fame, among its familiar scenes, and said: “The indeed, only made the acquaintance of Malbone generation which I then knew has almost wholly a little before the latter left his birth-place to seek disappeared." He went to the school of Robert his fortune. Malbone went to another school. Rogers, then the best in the State. There were This eminent artist, quite unsurpassed in his many scholars from the South, and among them department, was born in Newport in 1777. His Washington Allston, who afterward married development began while he was very young, for Channing's sister. But at twelve years of age he the favor of the gods toward those they love is left Newport to go to school in New London. He early visible, and explains why they die young. was destined to the medical profession by his The boy began to visit the theatre, fascinated by father ; but soon after he graduated at Harvard the brilliant mystery of the stage and the scenery, College, the young man selected the ministry as and at length reached the perilous honor of painthis profession, and resided in Boston, as pastor ing a scene. The theatre was in the upper part of the Federal Street Unitarian Church, until his of the present market-house, at the corner of death, at Bennington, Vermont, in October, 1842, Long Wharf and the Parade. He delighted in in his sixty-third year. He constantly returned blowing bubbles ; in taking toys to pieces to ascerto Newport, and always with fresh interest and tain their mechanism, that he might imitate them; pleasure. Writing, in August, 1832, to Joanna and flew kites at night, with trailing splendors of Baillie, he says of it—“A spot, of which I sup
* This is not the house in which Channing was born. pose you have never heard, but which is to me He lived here, however, when a child.
fire-works, exploding and flashing among the be a gallery of many of the most famous and beaustars, to his great glee and that of his companions. tiful women of the society of the early part of His taste for drawing and painting was not en- the century. "No woman ever lost any beauty tirely cherished by his father ; and at seventeen, from his hand,” says Allston, in the same breath the young man threw himself upon his talent, with which he praises the fidelity of the likeness. went to Providence, and began to paint minia." He added a grace of execution all his own.” tures. In 1796, he went to Boston, and cement. His pictures have a breadth which is not injured ed his friendship with Allston, then at Harvard by their size. They are full of a sensitive sweetCollege, and the friends passed the summer of. ness, which is sure to interest the observer, who 1800 in Newport together. In the autumn they may know nothing of the originals. In an unwent to Charleston, and in May, 1801, sailed in finished portrait by him, in the possession of company for England. While in London, Mal- Mrs. M. B. Ives, of Providence, the same characbone painted his most famous picture. “I am teristics are apparent ; indicated not less in the painting one now," he writes at that time, graceful, pensive bit of summer landscape, which “which I shall bring with me. It is the Hours: makes the background of the picture, than in the the past, the present, and the coming.'” Shelly, rare sense of maidenly character, which, as in the most eminent miniature painter of that day in Overbeck's drawings of the Madonna, seems to England, had painted a picture of the same sub- have restrained the artist's hand, lest he should ject and with the same title, from which a print draw the lines too grossly. Among the names has been published. Mr. Fraser says, according whose association with Newport enhances the to Dunlap, that Malbone told him that the idea historical interest of the island, that of Malbone was suggested to him by a picture of Shelly's ; will always be pleasantly remembered. The and Malbone's sister, Mrs. Whitehorne, says, in a fames of Allston, Stuart, and Malbone, each most letter to Dunlap, “I have heard him say that he eminent in his department, among our artists, selected two figures (and don't recollect from all belong to the story of Rhode Island, if the where they were taken), added a third, grouped fact of birth and the influences of early childhood them, and designed · The Hours.'” Whatever constitute a claim. the origin of the picture, its execution is exquis- About the commencement of the century Newite. The fresh, clear, sweet color; the tender, port began to revive a little from the total stag. feminine character of the heads, which have all nation which followed the war. But it revived the peculiar conventional beauty of the time—the only to a quiet and moderate activity. The Fort, same kind of beauty that appears in many of upon the Dumpling Rocks upon Conanicut IslStuart's and Stuart Newton's heads—are as lovely and, one of the most picturesque objects around now as ever. The picture is very small—it is in the town, was erected under the elder Adams, the miniature style, which was his most success- but never used. There is no pleasanter excursion ful manner—and still remains in the possession than an afternoon's sail across the harbor to these of his family, from whom an effort is now mak- solitary rocks and the ruined fort. ing to purchase it, and place it permanently in The distilleries began again as general prosperity the Providence Atheneum. It would surely be returned to the country. “Then was heard from a matter of regret, that the best work of our best Fort Walcott," says an ecstatic and romantic painter, in his kind, should not be retained in his chronicler, “the beat of the reveillé, warbling its native State.
sweetest notes along the shore, by those inimiMalbone returned to America in 1802, and table and graceful performers the Hoopers, Mullipainted with great success in all the sea-board gin," &c. “Sam Place's hack,” too, began to cities. In the summer he was again at Newport, be in demand, and rattled parties over the island, and was constantly employed. He worked with eager to taste " Aunt Hannah Cornell's shovelunremitting devotion. In 1805, he received $50 cakes." Aunt Hannah made her cakes in the a head, which was considered a good price for house which stood upon the present site of Law. the times. But in March, 1806, he began to fail. ton's Tea-house. Shovel - cakes are still to be He remained at the South until the warm weath- had by a hungry later generation, and the “grider, when he returned to Newport, and laid aside dles” of Mrs. Durfee, in the Tea-house at the his pencil altogether, hoping, in riding and sport- " Glen," shall not want a historian, as they have ing, to regain his lost health. But one day, in not wanted troops of lovers. The Glen is one running and stooping for a bird which he had of the favorite drives, and Mrs. Durfee is the shot, he was seized with a violent hemorrhage. goddess of the Glen. It is a romantic dell, windThe end was near, but the young man submitted ing down through woods to the water, upon the gently to every thing that care and skill suggest- eastern shore of the island. Across the channel ed. He sailed for Jamaica in 1806 ; but still the little town of Compton-on-the-hill lies white failing, and longing once more to see his native upon the shore ; but the place is mainly pleasant shores, he turned homeward, but died in Savan- because it has the rarest rural beauty of the island nah in 1807, in his thirtieth year.
-trees. It was formerly called Cundall's Mills, Allston and all his friends loved him. “I look- from the fulling-mill of Joseph Cundall, which ed up to him with admiration," says Allston, of stood upon the site of the present stone factory. their Newport days. His works, which are main- During the commencement of the century ly miniatures, are very generally diffused through Newport was gradually acquiring its present the Atlantic States. A collection of them would character of grave respectability and decayed