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- Charlemont - 1/78 -


[Illustration: no caption, but contains the word Charlemont. Two men are riding a horse and a woman stands nearby.]

CHARLEMONT;

OR,

THE PRIDE OF THE VILLAGE

A TALE OF KENTUCKY.

BY W. GILMORE SIMMS,

"Nor will I be secure. In any confidence of mine own strength, For such security is oft the mother Of negligence, and that, the occasion Of unremedy'd ruin."

Microcosmus--THO. NABBES.

TO THE HON. JAMES HALL, OF CINCINNATI:

AS ONE OF THE ABLEST OF OUR LITERARY PIONEEERS A GENUINE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE GREAT WEST;

WHOSE WRITINGS EQUALLY ILLUSTRATE HER HISTORY AND GENIUS:

this story of "CHARLEMONT," and its Sequel "BEAUCHAMPE" are respectfully inscribed by

THEIR AUTHOR

ADVERTISEMENT

The domestic legend which follows, is founded upon actual events of comparatively recent occurrence in the state of Kentucky. However strange the facts may appear in the sequel--however in conflict with what are usually supposed to be the sensibilities and characteristics of woman--they are yet unquestionably true; most of them having been conclusively established, by the best testimony, before a court of justice. Very terrible, indeed, was the tragedy to which they conducted--one that startled the whole country when it took place, and the mournful interest of which will long be remembered. More on this subject need not be mentioned here. The narrative, it is hoped, will satisfy all the curiosity of the reader. It has been very carefully prepared from and according to the evidence; the art of the romancer being held in close subjection to the historical authorities. I have furnished only the necessary details which would fill such blanks in the story as are of domestic character; taking care that these should accord, in all cases, with the despotic facts. In respect to these, I have seldom appealed to invention. It is in the delineation and development of character, only, that I have made free to furnish scenes, such as appeared to me calculated to perfect the portraits, and the better to reconcile the reader to real occurrences, which, in their original nakedness, however unquestionably true, might incur the risk of being thought improbabilities.

The reflections which will be most likely to arise from the perusal of such a history, lead us to a consideration of the social characteristics of the time and region, and to a consideration of the facility with which access to society is afforded by the manners and habits of our forest population. It is in all newly-settled countries, as among the rustic population of most nations, that the absence of the compensative resources of wealth leads to a singular and unreserved freedom among the people. In this way, society endeavors to find equivalents for those means of enjoyment which a wealthy people may procure from travel, from luxury, from the arts, and the thousand comforts of a well-provided homestead. The population of a frontier country, lacking such resources, scattered over a large territory, and meeting infrequently, feel the lack of social intercourse; and this lack tends to break down most of the barriers which a strict convention usually establishes for the protection, not only of sex and caste, but of its own tastes and prejudices. Lacking the resources of superior wealth, population, and civilization, the frontier people are naturally required to throw the doors open as widely as possible, in order to obtain that intercourse with their fellows which is, perhaps, the first great craving of humanity. As a matter of necessity, there is little discrimination exercised in the admission of their guests. A specious outside, agreeable manners, cleverness and good humor, will soon make their way into confidence, without requiring other guaranties for the moral of the stranger. The people are naturally frank and hospitable; for the simple reason that these qualities of character are essential for procuring them that intercourse which they crave. The habits are accessible, the restraints few, the sympathies are genial, active, easily aroused, and very confiding. It follows, naturally, that they are frequently wronged and outraged, and just as naturally that their resentments are keen, eager, and vindictive. The self-esteem, if not watchful, is revengeful; and society sanctions promptly the fierce redress--that wild justice of revenge--which punishes without appeal to law, with its own right hand, the treacherous guest who has abused the unsuspecting confidence which welcomed him to a seat upon the sacred hearth. In this brief portrait of the morale of society, upon our frontiers, you will find the materiel from which this story has been drawn, and its justification, as a correct delineation of border life in one of its more settled phases in the new states. The social description of Charlemont exhibits, perhaps, a THIRD advance in our forest civilization, from the original settlement.

It is not less the characteristic of these regions to exhibit the passions and the talents of the people in equal and wonderful saliency. We are accordingly struck with two classes of social facts, which do not often arrest the attention in old communities. We see, for example, the most singular combination of simplicity and sagacity in the same person; simplicity in conventional respects, and sagacity in all that affects the absolute and real in life, nature and the human sensibilities. The rude man, easily imposed upon, in his faith, fierce as an outlaw in his conflicts with men, will be yet exquisitely alive to the nicest consciousness of woman; will as delicately appreciate her instincts and sensibilities, as if love and poetry had been his only tutors from the first, and had mainly addressed their labors to this one object of the higher heart, education; and in due degree with the tenderness with which he will regard the sex, will be the vindictive ferocity with which--even though no kinsman--he will pursue the offender who has dared to outrage them in the case of any individual. In due degree as his faith is easy will his revenges be extreme. In due degree as he is slow to suspect the wrong-doer, will be the tenacity of his pursuit when the offender requires punishment. He seems to throw wide his heart and habitation, but you must beware how you trespass upon the securities of either.

The other is a mental characteristic which leads to frequent surprises among strangers from the distant cities. It consists in the wonderful inequality between his mental and social development. The same person who will be regarded as a boor in good society, will yet exhibit a rapidity and profundity of thought and intelligence--a depth and soundness of judgment--an acuteness in discrimination--a logical accuracy, and critical analysis, such as mere good society rarely shows, and such as books almost as rarely teach. There will be a deficiency of refinement, taste, art--all that the polished world values so highly--and which it seems to cherish and encourage to the partial repudiation of the more essential properties of intellect. However surprising this characteristic may appear, it may yet be easily accounted for by the very simplicity of a training which results in great directness and force of character--a frank heartiness of aim and object--a truthfulness of object which suffers the thoughts to turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, but to press forward decisively to the one object--a determined will, and a restless instinct--which, conscious of the deficiencies of wealth and position, is yet perpetually seeking to supply them from the resources within its reach. These characteristics will be found illustrated in the present legend, an object which it somewhat contemplates, apart from the mere story with which they are interwoven.

A few words more in respect to our heroine, Margaret Cooper. It is our hope and belief, that she will be found a real character by most of our readers. She is drawn from the life, and with a severe regard to the absolute features of the original. In these days of "strong-minded women," even more certainly than when the portrait was first taken, the identity of the sketch with its original will be sure of recognition. Her character and career will illustrate most of the mistakes which are made by that ambitious class, among the gentler sex, who are now seeking so earnestly to pass out from that province of humiliation to which the sex has been circumscribed from the first moment of recorded history. What she will gain by the motion, if successful, might very well be left to time, were it not that the proposed change in her condition threatens fatally some of her own and the best securities of humanity. We may admit, and cheerfully do so, that she might, with propriety, be allowed some additional legal privileges of a domestic sort. But the great object of attainment, which is the more serious need of the sex--her own more full development as a responsible being--seems mainly to depend upon herself, and upon self-education. The great first duty of woman is in her becoming the mother of men; and this duty implies her proper capacity for the education and training of the young. To fit her properly for this duty, her education should become more elevated, and more severe in degree with its elevation. But the argument is one of too grave, too intricate, and excursive a character, to be attempted here. It belongs to a very different connection. It is enough, in this place, to say that Margaret Cooper possesses just the sort of endowment to make a woman anxious to pass the guardian boundaries which hedge in her sex--her danger corresponds with her desires. Her securities, with such endowments, and such a nature, can only be found in a strict and appropriate education, such as woman seldom receives anywhere, and less, perhaps,


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