Cambridge Sketches
by Frank Preston Stearns

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  The silence there was what most haunted me.
  Long, speechless streets, whose stepping-stones invite
  Feet which shall never come; to left and right
  Gay colonnades and courts,—beyond, the glee,
  Heartless, of that forgetful Pagan sea.
  O’er roofless homes and waiting streets, the light
  Lies with a pathos sorrowfuler than night.
  Fancy forbids this doom of Life with Death
  Wedded; and with a wand restores the Life.
  The jostling throngs swarm, animate, beneath
  The open shops, and all the tropic strife
  Of voices, Roman, Greek, Barbarian, mix. The wreath
  Indolent hangs on far Vesuvius’s crest;
  And beyond the glowing town, and guiltless sea, sweet rest.

Tom Appleton was greatly interested in the performances of the spiritualists, trance mediums, and other persons pretending to supernatural powers. How far he believed in this occult science can now only be conjectured, but he was not a man to be easily played upon. He thought at least that there was more in it than was dreamed of by philosophers. When the Longfellow party was at Florence in April, 1869, Prince George of Hanover, recently driven from his kingdom by Bismarck, called to see the poet, and finding that he had gone out, was entertained by Mr. Appleton with some remarkable stories of hypnotic and spiritualistic performances. The prince, who was a most amiable looking young German, was evidently very much interested.

Deafness came upon Mr. Appleton in the last years of his life, though not so as to prevent his enjoying the society of those who had clear voices and who spoke distinctly. When one of his friends suggested that the trouble might be wax in his ears, he shook his head sadly and said: “Oh no: not wax, but wane.”

He was finally taken ill while all alone in New York City, and the Longfellows were telegraphed for. When one of his relatives came to him he spoke of his malady in a stoically humorous manner; and his last words were when he was dying: “How interesting this all is!” A man never left this world with a more perfect faith in immortality!


Preface  •  The Close of the War  •  Francis J. Child  •  Longfellow  •  Lowell  •  Cranch  •  T. G. Appleton  •  The Whip of the Sky  •  Pompeii  •  Doctor Holmes  •  Frank W. Bird, and the Bird Club  •  Sumner  •  Chevalier Howe  •  The War Governor  •  The Colored Regiments  •  Emerson’s Tribute to George L. Stearns  •  Elizur Wright  •  Dr. W. T. G. Morton  •  William T. G. Morton  •  Leaves From a Roman Diary  •  My Last Visit to the Longfellows  •  Centennial Contributions  •  The Emerson Centennial  •  The Hawthorne Centennial  •  Hawthorne and Hamlet

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Cambridge Sketches
By Frank Preston Stearns
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