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My Day_ Reminiscences of a Long Life

My Day_ Reminiscences of a Long Life
Title: My Day_ Reminiscences of a Long Life
Release Date: 2018-06-11
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 104
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Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

The following variant spellings were found by readers and retained:

  • mits should possibly be mitts
  • Courtland and Cortlandt
  • ante-bellum and antebellum
  • practise and practice
  • McIlwane and McIlwaine
  • gray and grey
  • Bremer and Brémer




MACMILLAN & CO., Limited


Mrs. Roger A. Pryor.





All rights reserved

Copyright, 1909,

Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1909.

Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.

To the Memory of
My Son
Theodorick Bland Pryor

I stood at dawn by a limitless sea

And watched the rose creep over the gray;

Till the heavens were a glowing canopy!

This was my day!

The pale stars stole away, one by one—

Like sensitive souls from the presence of Pride:

The moon hung low, looking back, as the sun

Rose over the tide.

And he, like a King, came up from the Sea!

He opened my rose—unfettered my song—

And quickened a heart to be true to me

All the day long.

The soul that was born of a song and flower

Of tender dawn-flush, and shadowy gray,

Was strengthened by Love for a bitter hour

That chilled my day.

I had dwelt in the garden of the Lord!

I had gathered the sweets of a summer day:

I was called to stand where a flaming sword

Turned every way.

It spared not the weak—nor the strong—nor the dear;

And following fast, like a phantom band,

Famine and Fever and shuddering Fear

Swept o'er the land.

They whispered that Hope, the angel of light,

Would spread her white wings and speed her away;

But she folded me close in my longest night

And darkest day.

As of old, when the fire and tempest had passed,

And an earthquake had riven the rocks, the Word

In a still small voice rose over the blast—

The Voice of the Lord.

And the Voice said: "Take up your lives again!

Quit yourselves manfully! Stand in your lot!

Let the Famine, the Fever, the Peril, the Pain,

Be all forgot!

"Weep no more for the lovely, the brave,

The young head pillowed on a blood-stained sod;

The daisy that grows on the soldier's grave

Looks up to God!

"The soul of the patriot-soldier stands

With a mighty host in eternal calm,

And He who pressed the sword to his hands

Has given the Palm."

And now I stand with my face to the west,

Shading mine eyes, for my glorious sun

Is splendid again as he sinks to his rest—

His day is done.

I have lost my rose, forgotten my song,

But the true heart that loved me is mine alway;

The stars are alight—the way not long—

I had my day!

November 8, 1908.



Mrs. Roger A. Pryor. From a Photograph, 1900Frontispiece
Residence of Dr. S. P. Hargrave43
Mrs. Fanny Bland Randolph71
University of Virginia75
Stephen A. Douglas85
William Walker121
Washington in 1845138
General Robert E. Lee in 1861208
Theodorick Bland Pryor344
William Rice Pryor348
Charlotte Cushman359
Helena Modjeska362
General Hancock371
General Sheridan377
Mrs. Vincenzo Botta403
Judge Roger A. Pryor in 1900447




I am constrained to encourage a possible readerby assuring him that I have no intention whateverof writing strictly an autobiography.Nothing in myself nor in my life would warrant mein so doing.

I might, perhaps, except the story of the CivilWar, and my part in the trials and sorrows of myfellow-women, but this story I have fully and trulytold in my "Reminiscences of Peace and War."

My countrymen were so kind to these first storiesthat I feel I may claim some credentials as a "babblerof Reminiscences." Besides, I have lived inthe last two-thirds of the splendid nineteenth century,and have known some of the men and womenwho made that century notable. And I would fainbelieve with Mr. Trollope that "the small recordsof an unimportant individual life, the memories whichhappen to linger in the brain of the old like bits ofdrift-wood floating round and round in the eddiesof a back-water, can more vividly than anythingelse bring before the young of the present generation2those ways of acting and thinking and talkingin the everyday affairs of life which indicate thedifferences between themselves and their grandfathers."

But I shall have more than this "floating driftwood"to reward the reader who will follow me tothe end of my story!

Writers of Reminiscences are interested—perhapsmore interested than their readers—in recallingtheir earliest sensations, and through themdetermining at what age they had "found themselves";i.e. become conscious of their own personalityand relation to the world they had entered.

Long before this time the child has seen andlearned more perhaps than he ever learned afterwardsin the same length of time. He hasacquired knowledge of a language sufficient forhis needs. His miniature world has been, inmany respects, a foreshadowing of the world hewill know in his maturity. He has learned that heis a citizen of a country with laws,—some of whichit will be prudent to obey,—such as the law againsttaking unpermitted liberties with the cat, or touchingthe flame of the candle; while other laws may beevaded by cleverness and discreet behavior. Hefinds around him many things; pictures on walls,for instance, that may be admired but never touched,—otherlovely things that may be handled and evenkissed, but must be returned to mantels and tables,—andyet others, not near as delightful as these,"poor things but his own," to be caressed or beaten,or even broken at his pleasure. He has learned to3indulge his natural taste for the drama. His nursecovers her head with a paper and becomes the dreadful,groaning villain behind it, while the baby girdshimself for attack, tears the disguise from the villain,and shouts his victory. As he learns thenames and peculiarities of animals, the scope of thedrama widens. He is a spirited horse, snorting andcharging along, or—if his picture-books have beenfavorable—a roaring lion from whom the nurseflees in terror. Of the domestic play there is infinitevariety—nursing in sickness, the doctor, baby-tending,cooking,—and once, alas! I heard a babygirl of eighteen months enact a fearful quarrel betweenman and wife, ending firmly "I leave you!I never come back!"

These natural tendencies of children would seemto prove that the soul or mind of man can be"fetched up from the cradle"—a phrase for whichI am indebted to one of my contemporaries, Mr.Leigh Hunt, who in turn quoted it as a popularphrase in his late (and my early) day. But withthe single exception of the spoken language allthese childish plays have been successfully taughtto our humble brothers; to our poor relation themonkey, the dog, elephant, seal, canary bird—evento fleas. All these are capable of enacting ashort drama. The elephant, longing for his bottle,never rings his bell too soon. The dog remembershis cue, watches for it, and never anticipates it.The seal, more wonderful than all, born as he hasbeen without arms or legs, mounts a horse for aride, and waits for his umbrella to be poised on his4stubby nose. Even the creature whose name is asynonym for vulgar stupidity has been taught toindicate with porcine finger the letters which spellthat name.

With these and other animals we hold in commonour faculty of imitation, our memory, affection, antipathy,revenge, gratitude, passionate adoration ofone special friend, and even the perception of music—theinfant will weep and the poodle howl in responseto the same strain in a minor key—and yet,notwithstanding this common lot, this common inheritance,there is born for us and not for them amoment when some strange unseen power breathesinto us something akin to consciousness of a livingsoul.

Having no past as a standard for the reasonableand natural, nothing surprises children. They aresimply witnesses of a panorama in the moving scenesof which they have no part. When I was threeyears old, I visited my grandfather in CharlotteCounty. The Staunton River wound around hisplantation and I was often taken out rowing withmy aunts. One day the canoe tipped and my prettyAunt Elizabeth fell overboard. Without the slightestemotion I saw her fall, and saw her recovered.For aught I knew to the contrary it was usual andaltogether proper for young ladies to fall in riversand be fished out by their long hair. But anotherevent, quite ordinary, overwhelmed me with themost passionate distress. Having, a short time before,advanced a tentative finger for an experimentaltaste of an apple roasting for me at my grandfather's5fire, I was prepared to be shocked at seeing a colonyof ants rush madly about upon wood a servant waslaying over the coals. My cries of distress arrestedmy grandfather as he passed through the room. Hequickly ordered the sticks to be taken off, and callingme to a seat in front of him, said gravely: "Wewill try these creatures and see if they deserve punishment.Evidently they have invaded our country.The question is, did they come of their own accord,or were they while enjoying their rights of life andliberty, captured by us and brought hither againsttheir will?" My testimony was gravely taken. Iwas quite positive I had seen the sticks, swarmingwith ants, laid upon the fire. "Uncle Peter," whohad brought in the wood, was summoned and sharplycross-questioned. Nothing could shake him. Tothe best of his knowledge and belief, "them antsnuvver come 'thouten they was 'bleeged to," andso, as they were by this time wildly scampering overthe floor, they were gently admonished by a persuasivebroom to leave the premises. Uncle Peterwas positive they would find their way home withoutdifficulty, and I was comforted.

I remember this little incident perfectly; I cansee my dear grandfather, his white hair tied with ablack ribbon en queue, advancing his stick like a staffof office. I claim that then and there—three yearsold—I found myself, "fetched up my soul" fromsomewhere, almost "from the cradle," inasmuch asI had pitied the unfortunate, unselfishly espousedhis cause, and won for him consideration and justice.

Writers of fiction are supposed to present, as in6a mirror, the truth as it is found in nature. Theyare fond of hinting that at some moment in the earlylife of every individual something occurs which foreshadowshis fate, something which if interpreted—likethe dreams of the ancient Hebrews—would tellus without the aid of gypsy, medium, or clairvoyantthe things we so ardently desire to know. In DanielDeronda, Gwendolyn, in her moment of triumph,touches a spring in a panel, which, sliding back, revealsa picture,—the upturned face of a drowningman. In Lewis Rand, Jacqueline, the bride of halfan hour, hears the story of a duel—and the pistol-shotechoes ever after through her brain, filling itwith insistent foreboding.

We might recall illustrations of similar foreshadowingin real life. For instance, Jean Carlyle, sixyears old, beautiful and

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