Abbildungen der Seite

secretary to the commission for negotiating treaties of commerce with foreign powers. He was abroad two years, and on his return made quite a protracted visit at Mount Vernon. That was in 1786; and one evening in August, while reclining on the bank of the river, in the shadows of its wooded slopes, he began the composition of an ode entitled "Mount Vernon," commencing with the following stanza:

"By broad Potowmack's azure tide,

Where Vernon's Mount, in sylvan pride,
Displays its beauties far,

Great WASHINGTON, to peaceful shades,
Where no unhallow'd wish invades,
Retir'd from fields of war."

[ocr errors]

Humphreys brought with him from France, at the special request of the king, a token of his "most Christian majesty's regard for Washington. It was an engraving of a full-length portrait of the king, Louis XVI., in his state robes, enclosed in a superb gilt frame, made expressly for the occasion. At the top, surrounded by appropriate emblems, are the royal arms of France, and, at the bottom,, the arms of the Washington family. In the corners are the monograms of the king and Washington-"L. L. XVI." and "G. W." These-the arms and the emblematic ornaments are in relief. The picture, in its original frame, is at Mount Vernon, dimmed and darkened by age and neglect.

In 1788, Humphreys, as we have just observed, became a resident at Mount Vernon; and there he wrote a Life of General Israel Putnam. Humphreys had been a member of that officer's military family in the war for independence; and

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

just before his departure for Mount Vernon, he visited the veteran at his home in Connecticut, and received from his own lips many of the stirring narratives recorded in that biography.

At Mount Vernon Humphreys translated, from the French of M. Le Mierre, the tragedy of The Widow of Malabar, which was first brought out at the theatre in Philadelphia, by Hallam and Wignel (heads of the old American company of players), in May, 1790. The prologue, written by John Trum

bull, author of M'Fingall, was spoken on that occasion by Mr. Hallam, and the epilogue, written by Humphreys, was spoken by Mrs. Henry.

While Colonel Humphreys was at Mount Vernon in the autumn of 1788, distinguished visitors were entertained there for a few days. These were the Count de Moustier, the French minister, a handsome and polite man; his sister, the Marchioness de Brienne-who was illnaturedly described by General Armstrong as a "little, singular, whimsical, hysterical old woman, whose delight is in playing with a negro child and caressing a monkey”—and her son, M. Dupont. They had made a long journey from New Hampshire, by way of Fort Schuyler (now Utica) on the Mohawk River, where they enjoyed the spectacle of an Indian treaty.

The Marchioness de Brienne was quite an accomplished writer and skilful amateur artist; and in the evening of the day when Washington was inaugurated the first President of the United States, the following year, the front of her brother's house was beautifully decorated with paintings by her own hand, suggestive of the past, the present, and the future in American history. These were illuminated by borderings of lamps upon the doors and windows.

In the autumn of that year the marchioness persuaded President Washington to sit to her for his portrait in miniature. In his diary, on Saturday, the 3d of October, he recorded:

“Walked in the afternoon, and sat about two o'clock for Madam de Brehan [Brienne] to complete a miniature profile of me, which she had begun from memory, and which she had made exceedingly like the original."

The marchioness made several copies of this picture, one of which Washington presented to Mrs. Bingham, of Philadelphia. From another, an engraving was afterward made in Paris, and several impressions were sent to Washington. She


also painted on copper, in medallion form, the profiles of Washington and Lafayette, in miniature, within the same circumference, and presented the picture to Washington. It is now at Arlington House.

Another foreign lady, the wife of Peter J. Von Berckel, of Rotterdam, the first embassador from Holland to the United States, was a great admirer of the character of Washington, and painted an allegorical picture in testimony of her reverence for the Liberator of his country. It was executed upon copper, eighteen by twenty inches in size. The design, intending to be complimentary to Washington, was well conceived. Upon the top of a short, fluted column, was a bust of Washington, crowned


with a military and civic wreath. This stood near the entrance to a cave where the Parcæ or Fates-Clotho the Spinster, Lachesis the Allotter, and Atropos the Unchangeable-were seen, busy with the destinies of the patriot. Clotho was sitting with her distaff, spinning the thread of his life, and Lachesis was receiving it. Atropos was just stepping forward with open shears to cut it, when Immortality, represented as a beautiful youth, seized the precious thread, and gave it to Fame, a winged female, with a trumpet, in the skies, who bore it on to future ages. The latter thought was beautifully expressed

« ZurückWeiter »