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Newburgh, on the Hudson, October 7

(1924) [MARC] Author: Fredrika Bremer
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Newburgh, on the Hudson, October 7. How glad I am to be here in the young New World! How thankful I am to Providence, who, in His mercy, through the impulse of mind and of steam, brought me happily hither, although I am at the same time almost as much burdened as elevated by the crowd of impressions and thoughts which, as it were, rush in upon me at once.

Everything of which I have had a foretaste, which I have sought after and longed for, I meet with here, and more than that. I mean light and nourishment for the inquiring and searching spirit within me. I consider myself especially fortunate in coming in contact with Mr. Downing, a noble and acutely discriminating mind, a true American, yet without blind patriotism; an open heart and critically sagacious intellect—one who can assist me in understanding the conditions and problems of this country.

It was really imperative, also, that I should be released bodily from my friends of the Astor House and New York, who otherwise would have
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made an end of me in the very beginning. I was so weary of that first day's labor in social life, which lasted till long after midnight, and was so much in want of rest and sleep, that I did not believe it possible for me to set off from New York at five o'clock the next morning. I told Mr. Downing so, but he very decidedly, though mildly, remarked: "Oh, we must endeavor to do it!" on which I thought to myself, "These Americans believe that everything is possible," while feeling at the same time that the plan was quite impracticable. And yet at half past four the next morning I was up, ready dressed, and hastening down to place myself under the tyranny of Mr. Downing. The carriage was already at the door, and seated in it I found Miss [Anne] Lynch, whom Mr. Downing had invited to pass the Sunday at his house.

"Go ahead! New World!" cried the servant at the door of the hotel to our driver; and we rolled away down Broadway to the harbor, where the big steamboat, the New World, received us on board. This was really a little floating palace, splendid and glittering with white and gold on the outside, brilliant and elegant within; large saloons and magnificent furniture, where ladies and gentlemen reclined comfortably, talking or reading the newspapers. I saw here none of Dickens's
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smoking and spitting gentlemen. We floated proudly and softly on the broad, magnificent Hudson. It was a pity that the day was rainy, because the voyage, excepting for this, was one of the most beautiful which any one can imagine, especially when, after a few hours' time, we reached what are called the Highlands. The shores with their bold, wood-covered heights reminded me continually of the shores of the Dala and 'ngerman rivers, in fact, seemed to me to belong to the same natural conformation, excepting that it was broader and on a larger scale; and the dark clouds which hung like heavy draperies over the river between the hills were in perfect harmony with the gloomily beautiful passes through which we swung, and which presented at every turn new and more magnificent pictures. The river was full of life. Three-decked steamers, gleaming, like our own, with gold and white, passed up and down the river. Other steam-boats were pulling along with them flotillas of from twenty to thirty boats, laden with goods from the country for New York, or vice versa, while hundreds of smaller and larger craft were seen skimming along past the precipitous shores like white doves with red, fluttering neck-ribbons. On the shores glistened white country-houses and small farms. I observed a great variety in the style of building: many of
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the houses were in the Gothic style, others like Grecian temples; and why not? The home ought to be a temple as well as a habitation and a storehouse. I also saw villages, churches, and all varieties of buildings on the shores, the prevailing color being white. Many private houses, however, were of a soft gray or a sepia tint.

After a sail of between three and four hours, we landed at the little town of Newburgh, where Mr. Downing's carriage awaited to convey us up the hills to a beautiful villa of light sepia-colored sandstone, with two small projecting towers. Surrounded by a park, lying high and open, it has an unobstructed view over the beautiful river and its shores. A delicate, pretty little woman met us at the door, embraced Mr. Downing, and cordially welcomed his guests. This was Mrs. Downing.

The Astor House with its splendid rooms and brilliant social life and the New World with all its finery were good specimens of the showy side of America; and Mr. Downing thought it was just as well that I should at once see something of it, that I might be better able to judge the other side of American life — that which belongs to the inward, more refined, and more peculiarly individual development. And I could hardly have a better example of this than in Mr. Downing himself and
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his home. He built his house himself, planted all the trees and flowers around it, giving everything, it seems to me, the stamp of a refined and earnest mind. It stands in the midst of romantic scenery and shadowy pathways, with the prettiest little bits of detail and grand views. All has been done with design, nothing by guess, nothing with formality. Here a soul has felt, thought, arranged. A certain darkness of tone prevails within the house; all the wood-work is brown; even the daylight is sombre, yet clear, or, more properly speaking, pregnant with light—a sort of imprisoned sunshine, something warm and profound, appearing to me like a reflection of the man's own brown eyes. In forms, furniture, and arrangement the finest taste prevails; everything is soft and noble, and as comfortable as it is tasteful. The only brilliant things in the rooms are the pretty flowers in lovely vases and baskets. Besides, there are books, busts, and some pictures. Above small bookcases, in the form of Gothic windows, inserted like niches in the walls of the parlor, stand busts of Linn', Franklin, Newton, and many other heroes of natural science. One sees in this dwelling a decided and thorough individuality of character, which has put its stamp on all that surrounds it, and every one ought to mold himself and his own world in a similar way. One feels here Mr.
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Downing's motto, Il bello ' il buono. A real luxury obtains in food, fruits, and in many small things, but it makes no outward show; it exists, as it were, concealed in the inner richness and exquisite selection of the thing itself. I did not expect to meet this type of home in the young New World.

I thought that here I should be free from visitors for a time at least. But no, alas! Last evening as I sat with my friends in their peaceful parlor, there came, amid the darkness, storm, and rain, the editor of Sartain's Union Magazine in Philadelphia, Professor Hart, who immediately on the announcement of my arrival in the newspapers, had traveled from Philadelphia to New York, and from New York had followed me hither, merely, as he said, to "monopolize" me for his magazine, begging me to write for it, and for no other, during my visit to America. So much for American enterprise in matters of business. For the rest, there was so much gentlemanly refinement in his manner, and a something so benevolently good and agreeable in his pale, delicate countenance, that I could not help taking a fancy to him and giving him my word that if I should write anything for publication in America I would leave it in his hands. But I doubt whether I shall write anything. Here I need to think and learn.


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