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





Father came near losing his eyes during this Covington chapter of his life. He was one day, preparing for some chemical experiments, with acids-, in a pneumatic trough, with retorts &c. An explosion took place, with a loud report, & the acid flew all about & over him-; his spectacles (he was very near sighted, & always wore large glasses) fortunately protected his eyes-; he retained his presence of mind, & ran down stairs, with his eyes tightly closed, calling for olive oil & water, & was fortunately uninjured.

From Covington my parents moved to Cincinnati; and taught a select high school of young ladies there-; the house that we occupied was on the north side of Third Street, not far east of Broadway, immediately opposite a peculiar building, called the Bazaar -- built in Oriental style by an eccentric English lady named Trollope-; mother of the novelist Anthony Trollope-; the pupils of the school took lessons in Callisthenics & dancing in this building -- my little sister Julia & I were pupils in dancing; she danced like a little fairy, but I could not endure the business-; on every occasion I tried to escape the ordeal that was so dreadful to me. On one occasion when the time came for my lesson I was missing, and searched for everywhere-; they were almost despairing of finding me when they at last discovered me hiding in a large stove. I remember being led out, in one of my lessons by the teacher, in a circle around the room, turning out my toes at every step as directed, before a crowd of girls -- overwhelmed with confusion & bashfulness. I was so averse to these exercises,

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that I was mercifully allowed to stop them.

Another incident connected with this Bazaar I vividly remember -; the family of the Janitor of the building occupied the basement story, they kept a large black & white spaniel -- a gentle dog, that was generally lying in a doze on the sidewalk -; it was an object of peculiar terror to me -- I was once sent across the street to the Bazaar with some message, and went over with my heart in my mouth, for the dog was lying in its usual place. I picked up a piece of stove coal, & approached cautiously & timidly, until near the dozing object of my terror, when I threw my piece of coal, and made a dash for the door. The dog, astonished and indignant at my unprovoked attack, sprang at me with a growl, and I rushed back towards home, screaming with fright, and fell head long in the gutter as I ran -; a number of the young ladies were looking on, and they, with father joining them, laughed immoderately at my discomfiture. I remember, most vividly my overwhelming mortification. I went crying into the house, feeling that I was disgraced forever.

I remember so very distinctly as I sat by an open window, and gazed out upon the blue sky, and busy passing world, and felt how bitter it was that it was so unconscious & unconcerned about my desperate shame & trouble. I wished heartily that I was dead. I was desperately in love with a handsome, grown up young lady, named Rosina Benoist, and she was one of the

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foremost in ridiculing me; this was the bitterest drop in my cup of woe. I have now amongst my old relics a book given to me by her, in which, in my unformed hand writing is inscribed on the fly leaf "Represented to Charles A. Hentz by Miss Robina Benoist." I remember one day when the fire bells were ringing, and men running by, one man fell down, very near the house, on the side walk, in an epileptic fit-; I was very much terrified by his horrible contortions.

My sister Julia & I were one day running around a young tree that was planted by the curb stone, chasing each other & holding on to the little trunk as we spun around it-; my grip failed me, and I fell, hitting my left eyebrow violently on the edge of the curb stone. It was so large & gaping a cut that father sent for a doctor, who trimmed my eyebrow, & put on plasters; which filled me with a great sense of importance-; I felt quite like a hero, with my scarred front. There is quite a scar there yet.

My parents were prominent members of a literary coterie which flourished in those days in Cincinnati-; under the fostering care of Dr Danl. Drake, who was a devoted and true and valuable friend of our family. He was then, & for many years afterwards, one of the most eminent medical men of the West -- Weekly meetings were held, (of this society) at the residence of Dr. D., and were called Vine Street Reunions-" Dr. D's residence was near the present site of the Burnet House.

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In the "Memoirs of Daniel Drake," written by Edward Mansfield, & published in 1855, the following mention is made of these meetings, and of mother & father, in connection with it, "Conspicuous both in person & manners was Mrs. Caroline Lee Hentz whom none saw without admiring-; she was what the world calls charming, and though since better known as an authoress was personally quite remarkable-; she and her highly educated husband, a man on some subjects quite learned, but of such retiring habits as as hid him from the public eye, were then keeping a popular Female Seminary in Cincinnati. They were among the most active and interesting members of our Coterie -- &c. That time has gone on the wings of twenty years -- (58 now at this writing -- 1892) and never in so brief period were greater or more rapid changes; not only in this great city six fold its then magnitude, presenting over river, plain and hill, the aspect of some modern Babylon; but they who then met with us in happy converse -- Where are they? In vain do we search the busy streets-; some we must seek in the silent grave-; others in far distant lands, and we recall these scenes only by the light of a memory which again brings the dead and parted together."

Thirty six years have passed since the above lines were written; and all the members of that literary association have doubtless been long sumbering in their graves-; except one -- Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe I believe, still lives, in extreme age (far over 60) and decay of her powers-; she has been an imbecile for a number of years-; has spent much

(This appears on the margin of this page) Written in 1855.

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Appendix No. II -- Picture pasted between pages 28 and 29.

The first birds I ever shot -; I took them home & painted them -; did not complete my work --

[drawing of a bird]

C.A. Hentz. December - 1841


Painted by me at 14 yrs. of age -- the first birds I ever killed --

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