folder 24: Autobiography of Charles A. Hentz, Part I





talent for representation of nature. As to Julia, she is very intelligent and has a charming disposition, but she does not evince great love for the arts or literature. She is mercurial in the highest degree and amuses us with a thousand ways and tricks, all perfectly original and ingenious. I shall have much to do, as the labours of the whole school devolve upon me. I have painted much lately in oil colours, and have so far succeeded that Caroline says she is willing to sit once more -- When you read the beginning of this letter, for aught I know, you supposed I was about to announce to you the publication of a new novel, or a tragedy, now this is neither novel nor tragical, but a very happy event for the result of which I have every reason to be grateful. It is not in my power to write a long letter. I have to inform *Fabius & *Henry and I am uncommonly tired. Give my best love to Solon and our two sisters as well as *Danforth, and believe me as ever

Your affectionate son

*Fabius -- Henry -- Danforth -- Mother's brothers --

Mrs. B. Whiting Care of Solon Whiting Lancaster Massachusetts

[This appears on the back of letter] See Page 10 for reference to the occcasion of Sister Callie's birth, and the writing of this letter -- When our family reached Florence, it consisted of father & mother-; he aged 37, & she 34 -- I was the oldest child, aged a little over 7 years -- Sister Julia-, aged 5 yrs 9 1/2 months -- Thaddie, aged 4 yrs 5 1/2 mos. and Callie aged a little over 7 months. Facsimile Copy --

Last edit almost 4 years ago by Jannyp


& most bitterly tried by his most unreasoning and unhappy jealousy of disposition. She very rarely attended any party, or social gathering, or received the polite attention of any gentle - without undergoing afterwards a stormy ordeal. She was possessed of one of the most lovely, sunny dispositions that ever existed - Was charming in person & conversation, and was always a centre of attraction, wherever she went, and the attention that she drew inevitably, always excited my poor, dear father's jealous temperament to frenzy -- My earliest recollections are associated with scenes of this kind, to which I was often a bewildered & frightened listener. He sometimes, especially in the later years of his life, spoke of his infirmity, and spoke of it as a disease. He attributed it to the fact that he was born during the Reign of Terror; at the time of his birth, his parents were in hiding, under the assumed name of Arnould (Which is my middle name). To the fearful agitation of his mother during the months preceding his birth, he attributed the morbid & unhappy peculiarities of his nervous system. He was also a snuff taker -- always carried in his pocket a box filled with rich, strong, highly flavored snuff; which he took in quantities in his nose, and large red bandanna handkerchiefs in his pockets, on which he blew his nose with sonorous blasts. This habit tended to wreck his nervous system also, and ultimately brought on the hypochondriac disease that terminated his existence.

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He was the only person I ever knew who engaged in ejaculatory prayer in public -- or anywhere; at any time, or any place; he had no regard for surroundings, but whenever a sudden impulse moved him, he would stop, lift his hat from his head -- drop on one knee, press his hand to his forehead, or his head against the wall, or a door, if he was entering one -- & engage in devotion; praying earnestly to himself. He never started anywhere, or entered the door of his study, or got into a vehicle, without going through this act. He so invariably did this on entering his study, that a mark was made by his forehead on the plastering by the side of the door. The school girls used to ridicule his ways, & call this "bumping" -- And yet, during most of his life he was a skeptic -- he had a profound veneration for the Deity -- our all wise Creator, but was always doubting & fearing, and unsettled as to religious creed. In the year 1835, during a Revival when the Holy Spirit descended with tremendous power, under the preaching of the Rev. Daniel Baker, both he and mother connected themselves with the Presbyterian Church. I well remember the wonderful sermons of Dr. Baker, and the great work wrought by them; though I was but 8 years old. Even after uniting with the church, my poor father was harassed by doubt and fears; in his latter days, after years of nervous suffering and prostration, he died peacefully; fully trusting in the Redeemer.

I have no recollections of our North Carolina life -- being only 3 1/2 years old when we left there; only one of my

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baby sayings was preserved to my recollection by my parents. When I was a little fellow, just learning to walk & talk, I wanted some water one day, & asked for it in this way -- "Fonts - fonts - fonts - little piece of old fortaire" --; being interpreted "I want - I want &c" -- old water --

A doleful accident was reported as having happened to me at about the same age. Someone had brought a large, fine duck to my mother; in my eager desire to see it, I had crowded my way close up, and was standing beneath it, gazing upwards with open mouth and wondering eyes, when the ill mannered bird gave vent to a sudden and copious discharge of liquid guan, all over my upturned face and head. My situation must have been truly pitous; it is well that I have no recollection of my emotions at the time.

In the fall of 1830 father became discouraged with the prospects of the University, and impelled by his naturally roving disposition, determined to leave. He accepted an offer made by some wealthy citizens of Covington, Kentucky -- (immediately opposite Cincinnati, O.) to take charge of a select Female Seminary in that place; and he removed there from Chapel Hill. I have no records preserved of that journey; which must have been a very arduous one -- Railroads were yet unknown -- the journey must have been accomplished by Stage most of the way. I remember hearing mother speak of the sublime scenery of the Alleghany mountains; where they often had the clouds beneath them, as the Stage climbed over the steep

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declivities of the mountains -- one little incident was told of my little self on this journey. One evening, at an hotel where we were to spend the night, I was missing; and after some search, I was found, perched on a table, in the office, bedecked with ribbons, reading from a large Bible, to an admiring audience of young men -- though I was so young, I read quite fluently, & they had found it out, & were making an exhibition of me.

My parents taught in Covington for about two years -a family by the name of Scholes were near neighbors of were near neighbors of ours -- a daughter, named Louisa, was one of their pupils, & afterwards followed them to Florence where she taught the junior classes. One of my earliest recollections is of a black hen, belonging to the Scholes', that used to go about with an old shoe tied with a long string to one of its feet, to keep it from straying.

Another recollection of our Covington life was my first lie --; (and almost my only one) -- Father had gone over the River to Cincinnati; and had left me with a pencil & paper & a task in drawing, from a spelling book -; I was to copy a picture of a spaniel -; on his return he found the drawing so accurate, that he suspected me of drawing it over -; that is by laying it over a window pane -; I denied the charge, but on looking into the matter he found I was lying, and punished me accordingly. I was in deep disgrace, & felt remorse for years, at the remembrance of my sin --

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