Chapter XI - Visit to America. 1845-1846
While thus plodding on in his gigantic task of compiling a Burman dictionary, Mr. Judson found it necessary to embark on a voyage to his native land. Thirty-three years had elapsed since the memorable nineteenth of February, 1812, when he and Mrs. Judson had stood on the deck of the brig "Caravan," and watched the rocky shores of New England fade out of their sight. How swiftly had these years taken their flight, -- the one spent in the voyage to Burma, the ten of foundation-laying in Rangoon, the two of suffering in Ava and Oung-pen-la, the two of transition in Amherst, and the eighteen of varied plodding toil in Moulmein. And now the young man of twenty-four had become a veteran of fifty-seven. Again and again he had been invited by the Board to revisit his beloved native land and recruit his wasting forces, but he had steadily declined. More than five years before he had received from the corresponding secretary an urgent invitation to return. Nevertheless the faithful missionary had worked patiently on, refusing to leave his field. At last, however, a return to America became imperative in order to preserve Mrs. Judson's life. After the birth of two children, Charles (died in infancy), born December 18, 1843, and Edward, born December 27, 1844, her health rapidly declined. She had taken several short journeys along the coast without receiving any permanent benefit. On one of these trips she was accompanied by her eldest child, Abby, who was about ten years old, and also by the little invalid Charlie; Mr. Judson with his four boys, Adoniram, Elnathan, Henry, and the infant Edward, remaining behind at Moulmein. But as has already been stated, these short trips along the Tenasserim coast proved quite unavailing, Mrs. Judson's condition was almost desperate, and the only hope of saving this precious life lay in a voyage to America.
On April 26, 1845, Mr. and Mrs. Judson, with the three elder children, Abby, Adoniram, and Elnathan, embarked on the ship "Paragon" bound for London. They were accompanied by two Burman assistants, as it was Mr. Judson's purpose to spend a portion of each day upon the Burman dictionary. The three younger children, Henry, Charles, and Edward were left behind in the tender care of the missionaries at Moulmein. The first part of the voyage was so rough that the vessel sprang a leak, and the captain determined to put in at the Isle of France; and on July 5 the ship, with its precious freight, arrived at Port Louis. Mrs. Judson had so far improved in health that the two missionaries formed the purpose of separating, as it was thought that Mrs. Judson would now be able to continue the voyage to America alone, while Mr. Judson should return to his work in Moulmein. It would be hard to find a parallel for this instance of heroic self-sacrifice. Of these two returning missionaries, one was a poor, shattered invalid, consenting to forego her beloved husband's society and to take the long westward journey in solitude; the other relinquishing the prospect of again seeing his native land after an absence of thirty-three years, and leaving the side of his sick wife the moment his presence seemed no longer indispensable, that he might resume his labors among the perishing Burmans. It was under these circumstances that Mrs. Judson wrote the pathetic lines which shall be recited for a memorial of her wheresoever the gospel shall he preached in the whole world:
We part on this green islet, love,--
Thou for the eastern main,
I for the setting sun, love,
O, when to meet again!
My heart is sad for thee, love,
For lone thy way will be;
And oft thy tears will fall, love,
For thy children and for me.
The music of thy daughter's voice
Thou'lt miss for many a year;
And the merry shout of thine elder boys
Thou'lt list in vain to hear.
When we knelt to see our Henry die,
And heard his last faint moan,
Each wiped the tear from th' other's eye;
Now each must weep alone.
My tears fall fast for thee, love;
How can I say Farewell!
But go; thy God be with thee, love,
Thy heart's deep grief to quell.
Yet my spirit clings to thine, love;
Thy soul remains with me,
And oft we'll hold communion sweet
O'er the dark and distant sea.
And who can paint our mutual joy,
When, all our wanderings o'er,
We both shall clasp our infants three
At home, on Burma's shore!
But higher shall our raptures glow,
On yon celestial plain,
When the loved and parted here below
Meet ne'er to part again.
Then gird thine armor on, love,
Nor faint thou by the way,
Till Buddh shall fall, and Burma's sons
Shall own Messiah's sway.
The two native assistants were therefore sent back to Moulmein, and Mr. Judson expected to follow them as soon as he had seen Mrs. Judson fairly on board ship for America. But she experienced a severe relapse which reduced her strength lower than ever before; and Mr. Judson was soon convinced that it would be impossible for him to leave her, and although he bitterly regretted the loss of his assistants, he felt obliged, after spending three weeks in the Isle of France, to re-embark with Mrs. Judson. They took passage with Captain Codman, of the ship "Sophia Walker," which was bound directly for the United States. On the 25th of July they sailed from Port Louis, and after a time Mrs. Judson appeared to be recovering. But the appearance proved deceptive. There came another relapse which soon terminated in death.
In the cold weather off the Cape of Good Hope she seemed better, but she never really recovered from her last relapse, and though sometimes better, continued on the whole to decline until they neared St. Helena, when all hope of her recovery was given up. She lingered until August 1, when, at three o'clock in the morning, she obtained her release from further suffering, and entered into the joy of her Lord. She was buried in the afternoon of the same day; and in the evening her husband and children were again at sea.
She sleeps sweetly here, on this rock of the ocean,
Away from the home of her youth,
And far from the land where, with heartfelt devotion,
She scattered the bright beams of truth.
The "Sophia Walker," with Mr. Judson and his three children on board, arrived at Boston, October 15, 1845. The missionary who had been so long absent from his native land felt considerable anxiety before going on shore as to where he should secure suitable lodgings in the city. He little dreamed that every home would be thrown open to him, and that soon his progress from city to city would almost assume the proportions of a triumphal march. He was ill prepared for such an enthusiastic greeting. He naturally shrank from observation. He was in exceedingly delicate health. His pulmonary difficulty prevented his speaking much above a husky whisper. He had so long used a foreign tongue that it was hard work for him to form sentences in English. He could address an audience only at second-hand, whispering his words to a speaker at his side, who would convey them to the ears of the hearers. Naturally humble and shy, he found it exceedingly distasteful to be publicly harangued and eulogized. On one occasion, an eye-witness relates that while the returned missionary was listening to words of eloquent praise addressed to him in the presence of a great concourse of people, "his head sank lower and lower until the chin seemed to touch his breast." He wrote to the corresponding Secretary: "My chief object in writing is to beg that I may be excused from attending any more such meetings until I get a little better. I expect to be in Boston to-morrow, and shall want two or three days for some necessary business, and propose to go to Worcester on Friday or Saturday; and if I could spend next Sabbath alone in some chamber, I should feel it a great privilege, both as a refreshment to the soul and a relief to the body."
He had come home to find that his native country was almost a strange land. The railroad system had sprung into existence during his absence. He entered the cars at Worcester one day, and had just taken his seat, when a boy came along with the daily newspapers. He said to Mr. Judson, "Do you want a paper, sir?" "Yes, thank you," the missionary replied, and taking the paper began to read. The newsboy stood waiting for his pay until a lady passenger, occupying the same seat with Mr. Judson, said to him, "The boy expects to be paid for his paper." "Why," replied the missionary, with the utmost surprise, "I have been distributing papers gratuitously in Burma so long that I had no idea the boy was expecting any pay."
He often disappointed public assemblies by declining to relate his own adventures, telling instead the old story of the cross.
His movements in this country were chronicled alike by the secular and religious newspapers. His toils and sufferings had made his name a household word among all Christians, and wherever he went the churches were crowded with people who desired to see and to hear America's pioneer missionary. On the evening of the second day after his arrival a meeting was held in the Bowdoin Square Church, Boston. The following were the closing words of welcome spoken by Dr. Sharp:
"We welcome you to your native land; we welcome you to the scenes of your early and manly youth; we welcome you to our worshiping assemblies; we welcome you to our hearts. As the representative of the ministers and private Christians present, I give to you this hand of cordial welcome, of sympathy, of approbation, and of love. And I believe, could all our denomination be collected in one vast assembly, they would request and empower some one to perform this service for them; or, rather, each one would prefer to give this significant token of love, and respect, and good wishes, for himself. Were it possible, and could your strength hold out, and your hand bear the grasp and the cordial shake of so many, I could wish that every one who loves the Bible and missions might be his own representative, and give to you, as I do, the hand of an honest, unchanging, and cordial good-will."
And at the close Mr. Judson rose to reply, Dr. Hague standing at his side and interpreting to the multitude these whispered utterances:
"Through the mercy of God I am permitted to stand before you here this evening, a pensioner of your bounty. I desire to thank you for all your sympathy and aid, and I pray God's blessing to rest upon you... All that has been done in Burma has been done by the churches, through the feeble and unworthy instrumentality of myself and my brethren... It is one of the severest trials of my life not to be able to lift up my voice, and give free utterance to my feelings before this congregation; but repeated trials have assured me that I cannot safely attempt it. And I am much influenced by the circumstance that it was a request of my wife, in her dying hour, that I would not address public meetings on my arrival... I will only add, that I beg your prayers for the brethren I have left in Burma; for the feeble churches we have planted there; and that the good work of God's grace may go on until the world shall be filled with his glory."
When he had finished, Dr. Hague continued to address the audience in an eloquent strain until the thread of his address was strangely interrupted. A man had pressed his way through the crowded aisles and had ascended the pulpit. He and Mr. Judson embraced each other with tears of joy and affection. It was Samuel Nott, Jr., the only survivor, except Mr. Judson, of that group of seminary students who had conceived the stupendous idea of American foreign missions. He was one of the five who had first gone to India, but had been compelled to return to America on account of ill health, and now, after a separation of thirty-three years, was permitted to meet his former fellow-student under these circumstances of thrilling interest.
In November, Mr. Judson visited Providence, the seat of Brown University, where he had been graduated about forty years before with the highest honors. A public meeting was held in the old First Baptist Church, which was filled to overflowing. Prayer was offered by Dr. Granger, the pastor of the church, and Dr. Wayland made an address. Mr. Judson then said a few words, which were repeated unto the audience by Dr. Caswell.
The missionary organization which had sustained Mr. Judson in Burma for so many years, opened its triennial convention in New York City, on the 19th of November, 1845. The occasion was one never to be forgotten. Services were held in the Baptist Tabernacle, and Mr. Judson was present. Dr. Cone offered some appropriate resolutions of sympathy and welcome, and then, taking Mr. Judson by the hand, he introduced him to Dr. Wayland, the president of the convention, as Jesus Christ's man.
Mr. Judson, who had been warned by his physicians against speaking in public, could only express his thankfulness in a few simple and touching words. Subsequently, in the course of the convention, the proposition was made to abandon the mission in Arracan. This brought him to his feet. "Though forbidden to speak by my medical adviser, I must say a few words. I must protest against the abandonment of the Arracan mission." These opening words were audible to all present. Then his voice sank into a whisper as he stated the reasons why the mission should not be given up. His closing words were: "If the convention thinks my services can be dispensed with in finishing my dictionary, I will go immediately to Arracan; or, if God should spare my life to finish my dictionary, I will go there afterward and labor there and die and be buried there." It would be impossible to describe the thrilling effect upon the audience of these broken words, uttered in a low whisper, and reproduced by Dr. Cone. The Arracan mission was saved.
While Mr. Judson was visiting Bradford, the native town of his beloved Ann, he learned of the death of Charlie, one of the little ones whom he had left behind in Burma.
While on this tour through the country, everywhere kindling missionary enthusiasm, he met, during a visit in Philadelphia, Miss Emily Chubbuck, who, under the nom de plume of Fanny Forester, had achieved a wide literary reputation, with still wider fame apparently awaiting her. This lady, who was to take the place at his side, left successively vacant by Ann Hasseltine and Sarah Boardman, had been disciplined in the hard school of poverty. She was born August 22, 1817, at Eaton, a little town in Central New York, and near a stream which, with its fringe of alders, murmurs here and there in her prose and poetry under the name of Alderbrook. Her parents, Charles Chubbuck and Lavinia Richards, had moved to Eaton from New Hampshire. Her childhood days were spent in a little house on the road from Eaton to West Eaton, perched against a hill so close beneath the road that, as she says, one would feel half disposed "to step from the road where you stood to the top of the chimney." Her parents were very poor, and she thus describes a winter she passed when she was about thirteen years old:
"Father was absent nearly all the time, distributing newspapers; and the severity of the winter so affected his health that he could do but little when he was at home. Mother, Harriet, and I were frequently compelled to go out into the fields, and dig broken wood out of the snow to keep ourselves from freezing. Catherine and I went to the district school as much as we could."
Again she wrote:
"November, 1830. Father's attempt at farming proved, as might have been expected, an entire failure, and for want of a better place he determined to remove to the village. He took a little old house on the outskirts, the poorest shelter we ever had, with only two rooms on the floor and a loft, to which we ascended by means of a ladder. We were not discouraged, however, but managed to make the house a little genteel as well as tidy. Harriet and I used a turn-up bedstead, surrounded by pretty chintz curtains, and we made a parlor and dining room of the room by day. Harriet had a knack at twisting ribbons and fitting dresses, and she took in sewing; Catherine and Wallace went to school; and I got constant employment of a little Scotch weaver and thread-maker at twisting thread. Benjamin returned to his old place and Walker was still in the printing office."
Her little hands very early learned to contribute to the support of the family. When eleven years old she earned a dollar and twenty-five cents a week splicing rolls in a woolen factory. She says of this period: "My principal recollections are of noise and filth, bleeding hands and aching feet, and a very sad heart." Little did the residents of Eaton then dream that this little factory girl was afterward to become such an honor to their humble village. Subsequently, when she first applied for the position of teacher in the district school, a young farmer who was acting trustee, replied: "Why, the scholars will be bigger than their teacher'." But the little schoolmistress made her teaching a success, and before she was twenty years of age had contributed to the village newspaper poems of great literary merit. About this time she attracted the attention of the Misses Sheldon, who were conducting a well-known school at Utica. They offered her gratuitous instruction for a single term, and subsequently proposed to complete her education without present charge. This afforded her an excellent opportunity for self-improvement. Her health, however, had been shattered by the hardships and labors of her earlier years, and it was through great weakness and suffering that she pressed toward higher literary excellence. She was continually spurred on by her desire to secure a home for her aged parents. It was for this purpose that she wrote those charming stories, in which grace and strength of style are combined with the purest moral tone. It was under such circumstances as these that she sent to the press the stories for children, entitled "The Great Secret," "Effie Maurice," "Charles Linn," "Allen Lucas," "John Frink," and also the fascinating tales for older readers, which were afterward gathered together under the name of "Alderbrook." Her biographer relates the following incident:
"As Miss Sheldon was at one time passing near midnight through the halls, a light streaming from Emily's apartment attracted her attention, and softly opening the door, she stole in upon her vigils. Emily sat in her night-dress, her papers lying outspread before her, grasping with both hands her throbbing temples, and pale as a marble statue. Miss S. went to her, whispered words of sympathy, and gently chided her for robbing her system of its needed repose. Emily's heart was already full, and now the fountain of feeling overflowed in uncontrollable weeping. 'Oh, Miss Sheldon,' she exclaimed, 'I must write! I must write! I must do what I can to aid my poor parents.'"
While making a visit in New York during the month of June, 1847, Miss Chubbuck wrote a letter to the "Evening Mirror," which at that time was an exceedingly popular magazine, edited by George P. Morris and N. P. Willis. In a graceful and sportive vein she offered her literary services to this periodical. This letter attracted the attention of Mr. Willis, and drew from him a characteristic reply. Mr. Willis at once introduced her through his columns to the American public, and though they saw each other but once, he became from this time on her life-long literary adviser and friend. And so, after the long struggle with poverty and ill health, this woman, by dint of an imperious will and an unmistakable genius, began to take her place among the foremost literary characters of America.
But besides her intellectual gifts, Miss Chubbuck had an intensely religious nature. She was the child of pious parents and was subject to very early religious impressions. In subsequent life she dated her conversion as occurring when she was eight years old. She used to attend all the religious services in the neighborhood. She writes:
"Indeed, I believe my solemn little face was almost ludicrously familiar to worshipers of every denomination, for I remember a Presbyterian once saying to me, as I was leaving the chapel, after having as usual asked prayers: 'What! this little girl not converted yet? How do you suppose we can waste any more time in praying for you?'" Indeed, she seems from her earliest years to have been haunted by the conviction that she was, some time or other, to be a missionary to the heathen; but she was always striving to rid herself of this irksome thought.
It was by a strange coincidence that this gifted woman, who had been from childhood deeply impressed by the story of Ann Hasseltine, should meet Mr. Judson, in January, 1846. It was at the house of Dr. Gillette in Philadelphia; Mr. Judson had been invited to come from Boston, and Dr. Gillette had gone there to bring him on. The journey was long and cold, and an accident caused a delay of three or four hours. Dr. Gillette saw in the hands of a friend a collection of light sketches called "Trippings," by Fanny Forester. He borrowed it and handed it to Mr. Judson that he might read it and so while away the tedious and uncomfortable hours of delay. Mr. Judson read portions of the book, and recognizing the power with which it was written, expressed a regret that a person of such intellectual gifts should devote them to the writing of light literature. "I should be glad to know her," he remarked. "The lady who writes so well ought to write better. It is a pity that such fine talents should be employed on such subjects."
Dr. Gillette answered that he would soon have the pleasure of meeting her, because she was at that time a guest in his own house. Upon their arrival, Mr. Judson was entertained at the residence of Mr. Robarts, and the next morning called at Dr. Gillette's, where he met Miss Chubbuck.
This meeting began an acquaintance which ripened into an engagement, and Mr. Judson and Emily Chubbuck were married in Hamilton, N.Y., on the second of the following June. The marriage was pleasing neither to the literary nor to the religious world. The one thought that the brilliant Fanny Forester was throwing herself away in marrying "an old missionary"; the other feared that the moral grandeur of the missionary cause was compromised by an alliance between its venerable founder and a writer of fiction. These conflicting opinions made however but a slight impression upon Mr. Judson's mind. He was not dependent for his happiness and well-being upon the opinions of others. He had long before learned to think and to act independently, otherwise he would never have become a missionary, least of all a Baptist.
Less than six weeks intervened between his marriage to Miss Chubbuck and their embarkation for Burma. Many tender farewells had to be spoken. He well knew that the dear ones from whom he was parting would probably never be seen again on earth. Adoniram and Elnathan he left with Dr. and Mrs. Newton at Worcester, and his daughter Abby he committed to the care of his only sister at Plymouth.
At Boston, July 11, 1846, Mr. and Mrs. Judson, in company with the newly appointed missionaries, Miss Lillybridge, the Beechers, and the Harrises, embarked on the "Faneuil Hall," Captain Hallett, bound for Moulmein. Many friends mingled in that farewell scene. He was leaving behind him fragrant memories. In many a household his prayers are cherished as a "precious benediction." He had been entertained in the house of his friend, Gardner Colby, of Boston, and at the family altar he thus prayed for the family of his host: "May they, and their children, and their children's children in every generation to the end of time, follow each other in uninterrupted succession through the gates of glory!" a prayer that has borne fruitage from that time until now. The Colbys came to the ship to bid him good-bye, and the Lincolns, and the Gillettes, and Mrs. Judson's bosom friend, Miss Anna Maria Anable; and among others, but dearer than all the rest, a slender youth of eighteen, the child of her who had been laid to rest at St. Helena, George Dana Boardman.
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