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MISS ALICE HOLMES,
AN AMERICAN AUTHORESS.
“Oh! who would cherish life,
Love this rude world of strife,
ALICE HOLMES was born in the county of Norfolk, England, February, 1821. Her father, an enterprising mechanic, maintained himself and family by the fruits of his industry, in his own country, until, drawn into the broad current of emigration that has wafted Europe's millions to our shores, he embarked with his effects and family to seek a home and fortune in the New World. Bound for New York, the vessel set sail in April, 1830, and landed off quarantine in the harbor of its destination, on the 19th of June following. On their passage, to the terrors of a long voyage, tempestuous winds, rolling billows, and those inconveniences usually realized in crowded ships, were added the horrors of disease. That most loathsome of all maladies, small-pox, made its appearance among
passengers, and among its subjects was the little Alice, having just then entered upon her ninth summer.
When the passengers disembarked.
the fell disease was still upon her; but she was permitted to behold the beauties of the New World, a scene, whose anticipation had filled their hearts with raptures of delight, raised their drooping spirits on the boisterous ocean, and influenced them to leave dear friends and country, with no hope of ever communing with them again. But, alas ! it was the little sufferer's last view of the green earth, land of promise, clear blue sky, and glorious sunlight, which painted upon her memory an abiding image of beauty. She was taken to the city hospital, and when medical skill had broken the fetters of disease, it was found that her sight was irrecoverably lost. Her parents, immediately subsequent to landing, took up their residence in Jersey City. Though her young and gentle spirit had not yet advanced far enough on life's rugged journey, fully to realize the greatness of her loss, yet sad and lonely must have been her condition at this time. For she was a stranger in a strange land, and having not yet learned to substitute other senses for that she had lost, in communicating with the physical world, and thus beguile her misfortune, the long monotonous hours and days passed heavily away. Oft did her thoughts mount on pinions of fancy, and wing their way over the star-lit Atlantic to her native cot, and hold sweet converse with her little schoolmates, and the scenes of her childhood, now more bright and loving than ever.
To these prospects, she adverts in the following simple, yet graphic lines :
"Farewell to the cottage, the garden and flowers,
In January, 1837, through the generosity of a friend of whom she speaks in the most glowing terms of gratitude, Alice became a pupil of the New York Institution for the Blind. And by virtue of an act passed by the New Jersey legislature, in the ensuing year, providing for the sightless youths in that state who chose to enter the New York Institute, she was enabled to prosecute her studies there five years longer. By this public munificence, she received a thorough knowledge of all the scientific branches, included in an English education. While at this, one of the noblest monuments of human benevolence, daily acquiring additional rays of intellectual light, that dispel the heavy gloom of ignorance, and open to the soul pure and inexhaustible fountains of happiness, and associating with those young hearts whom a like affliction rendered tenderly sympathetic and kind, her years glided pleasantly away, leaving no room for despondency. There is, perhaps, no period in life, of which we retain such pleasant recollections, or around whose scenes cluster more hallowed associations, than that of our school-days. Free from the sordid cares and perplexities of life, the ambitious student views, in his future field of triumph, rich gar- : lands of fame awarded him by applauding multitudes, and beholds, in imagination, his name high on the scroll of fame, as a hero and benefactor of his race. Thongh these hopes often vanish in maturer years, like dew-drops before the morning sun, they form an oasis on life's dreary desert, around which our thoughts love to linger in darker hours.
Miss Holmes left the Institute at the expiration of her term, in 1844, and returned to her friends in Jersey City, where she has since resided. Her emotions, at this time, she has expressed in the following lines, written on the occasion :
"Adieu, adieu, my long-loved home,
Where genial spirits dwell,
This day a sad farewell.
But not, alas! for me;
Far, far away from thee!
“Adieu, adieu, companions dear,
My sisters, brothers, friends;
This day our union ends.
To hear the death-like knell,
From those I love so well |
“Adieu, adieu to morning walks,
Along the Hudson's side,
The music of the tide :
And wanderings at twilight hour,
Through grove, by hill and stream,
But dearer now they seem.”
By her needle and other handiwork, she has since earned for herself a respectable livelihood, and has only turned her attention to poetry in her leisure hours, to avert the dark shadows of gloom that might otherwise have mantled her spirit. After repeated solicitations of friends, she consented to publish a small col-. lection of her poems, which made its appearance in 1849. For this work, she claims neither literary nor poetic merit; but modestly expresses the hope that a good intention may atone for many faults. The lowly rank which she claims for her verses, is, no doubt, their proper one in the scale of refined literature; we could, however, mention a catalogue of rhymers, in full possession of sight, who have found less favor with the muses than this modest authoress; and yet they flourish their rusty pens, and rack their conceited brains over subjects of the greatest magnitude, with an air of importance, as if by the ancient Britons' theory of transmigration, they possessed the soul of Byron, Shakspeare, or Milton. Such presumption makes faults intolerable ; but true modesty in an author, like juvenile inexperience, moves us rather to apologize than censure. We will, however, allow our
, readers to judge for themselves, respecting the poetic merits of Miss Holmes, from the few following extracts :