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intimate and tender nature. To
this sad catalogue of death, presented the names of much esteemed friends and intimate acquaintances; to some, of beloved relatives ; and alas ! to one or more,
the first intelligence of their misfortune, was conveyed by the distressing sight of the endeared name of a sister! It is not surprising, therefore, that you feel sensibly on this occasion : Nature constrains you to weep, and Religion approves it. Tears are becoming, even in the manly countenance, when distresses like these pass in review before our eyes, and approach so near to our bosoms.
But if this disastrous occurrence, by the mere recital, has produced such poignant anguish here, what must have been the feelings of those on the spot, who were both witnesses and partakers of the calamity! Our conceptions, as well as our words, are here altogether inadequate ; and we are, therefore, incapable of fully symphathizing with their sufferings. But if we could, the scene is such as to revolt all our feelings. The idea of such distress is, to the mind of sensibility, intolerable. Here then let us pause, and not attempt to enter more minutely into the melancholy detail of the events of that dreadful night.
“ Boast not thyself, O man! of to-morrow !" See what a day-an hour, may bring forth ! Behold a flourishing city, from the height of exultation and prosperity, cast down into the deepest abyss of grief and misery! The voice of mirth and joy are exchanged for the voice of wailing, lamentation, and wo, in all her dwellings ! Lately, she appeared arrayed in the robes of gaiety and splendor, but now she sitteth disconsolate, in the sable garments of sorrow! Her face, recently animated with hope, and brightened with joy, is now distorted with anguish, and defiled with weeping! As a widow she sitteth solitary, and those who should comfort her, are removed from her sight.
“ Have pity upon her, O ye her friends! Have pity upon her, for the hand of God hath touhed her !"
Continuation of Dr. Alexander's Sermon on burning the
Theatre at Richmond.
IN order to form a just estimate of the extent and magnitude of this calamity, not only to the city of Richmond, but to the state at large, (and may I not say to the United States ?) we must take a cursory view of the names inscribed on this catalogue of death.* The king of terrors, when personified, is commonly represented as going forth with his destructive weapon, cutting down old and young, male and female, rich and poor, the honourable and obscure, with a promiscuous sweep; but in the present instance, the ruthless tyrant, seems to have made a discrimination, in the selection of his prey. Wealth, talents, youth, and beauty, were, in this instance, the objects of his fatal shafts.
The first on the list, is the respected governor and chief magistrate of the state, who had only a few days before this melancholy event, been raised to that high station, by the voice of the representatives of the people ; and who, it is intimated, like some others, perished in the generous attempt to rescue some beloved friend from the Aames. By a premature death, his country is deprived of his services for ever, and a wife and five weeping orphans left to deplore their irreparable loss !
That view of this mournful catalogue, however, which more especially interests our tender feelings, and awakens all the exquisite sensibilities of our nature, is the large number of respectable females, which it contains. Was there ever before an unfortunate city which had equal cause of greaf and lamentation, on this account! O Richmond ! how art thou fallen! Who will not drop a tear over thy misfortunes! Thy glory, thy pride, and thy beauty, are brought down to the dust, and the dark cloud of sorrow has overshadowed thee, and turned thy day into night!
But that which should excite our sensibility to the utmost, and wind up all our sympathetic feelings to the highest pitch, is, that the greater part were young ladies, in the very prime and bloom of life! about one half the names in the whole catalogue are of persons of this description. O! who can think, without exquisite anguish, of so many gay and blooming virgins, decorated with the charms of beauty, and accomplished by the refinements of art ; delicate and tender to excess, and accustomed only to caresses and endearments, perishing by a death so cruel, and by torments so excruciating! who can describe the chasm which has been made in numerous respectable families; and the agony which has been, and is still endured! Tell us, ye bereaved mothers, (if words can express it,) the pangs which have rent your breaking hearts, since you beheld the scorched, bruised, and disfigured bodies of your once beautiful daughters.
* The list of the unfortunate sufferers.
“ In Rama,” of old, “ a voice of lamentation and weeping and great mourning, was heard : Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted because they are not :" And now of late, a cry of angush equally as bitter, has proceeded from Richmond ! O how many inconsolable Rachels are there this day, who weep for their children, and refuse to be comforted! The hoary head of the indulgent father too, must now come down with sorrow to the grave! Perhaps, the last prop and so. lace of his declining years, as well as the darling of his heart, is for ever gone from his sight!
The helpless widow, and the orphaned children also, lift up their deploring hands, and their streaming eyes to Heaven, expressing thereby, feelings of grief and agony, to which all words are inadequate.
And, why need I attempt to describe the poignant pangs of the disapponted lover, (the day of whose nuptials might perhaps have been fixed, when he beholds the beauty which he so much indolized, transformed into a frightful and deformed skeleton !
But the shock of this awful stroke is not only felt in the city of Richmond, and its immediate vicinity, but in distant and remote parts of the state.
Several of the young ladies, who unfortunately perished in the flames, resided at a distance, where they had numerous respectable, and affectionate connexions, through all the ramifications of which, this occurrence will diffuse the most heart-felt sorrow!
With some, perhaps, it was the first visit of any length which they ever made from their father's house. 0! fatal visit! Methinks, I see the fond mother taking the last leave of her beloved daughter, little suspecting that it was the last! Or, shall I fancy, that some unaccount: able foreboding seizes her mind, and oppresses her heart, as the object of her fond hopes and anxious fears is carried from her sight!
But, who shall attempt to imagine what her situation and feelings are, when the day arrives which should bring a letter from her affectionate child? A letter comes 'tis true; but what horror chills the blood, when it is seen not to be inscribed in the well known hand of the dear girl; and is addressed to the father instead of the inother. Methinks I see his veteran hand tremble, whilst he breaks the ominous seal! And the countenance which had remained unmoved, whilst death was braved at the cannon's mouth, now turns pale as ashes, whilst he reads the few incoherent sentences, by which he is made to realize more than ever the gloomliest hour had painted on his imagination !
Distressed family! What on earth can give you comfort ? This world can never afford another taste of joy to you. All its most flattering scenes and fascinating appearances must henceforth be considered as deceitful and illusive! But one resource remains.-Religion is the only cure for griefs like these : But even piety itself may, for awhile swell the torrent of distress.
the pious mother, “why did I ever consent to let her go out of my sight; what sin and folly have I been guilty of, to commit her to the gaieties and dissipation of the metropolis ! My poor girl is for ever gone; but I am to blame for her premature and awful death! O could she have been permitted to die a natural death at home; or any kind of death, whilst engaged in serious and pious exercises, I would have been contented! But O! to be burnt alive!_To die in the theatre! To be snatched in a moment from time to eternity! To be hurried instantly from thoughtless gaiety to the bar of God! The idea is too dreadful! What soul can endure it! Gracious Heaven ! send relief to a heart bursting with grief !”
This may be said, to be in part, a fancied case. But O! the reality, in this calamity, goes far beyond the powers of imagination.
These last remarks were suggested by the recollection of a modest and amiable young lady, whom I happened to see, when on a visit to Virginia last summer, in company with a pious mother, at a solemn religious meeting, where she appeared to be deeply interested and to enter very devotionally into the exercises of the day : but alas ! in looking over this melancholy list (if I mistake not) I find her name enrolled. She perished in the flames, on the fatal twenty-sixth of December!
Continuation of Dr. Alexander's Sermon, on burning the
Theatre at Richmond. HOW vain and precarious are all earthly possessions and enjoyments !-How uncertain is life itself !-How near are we often to death when unconscious of any danger!-How soon may the most flourishing families be desolated and almost extinguished !-Of how little real value are those things, for the acquisition of which, mankind toil with such indefatigable industry !-How soon is the most princely fortune dissipated, or the owner snatched away from its possession, before the period allotted for its enjoyment, has arrived! Whilst infatuated mortals are flattering themselves with the prospect of long and uninterrupted pleasure, and like the rich man mentioned in the Gospel, saying, “Soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry, for thou hast much goods laid up for many years;" God, in his holy providence, says, “Thou fool! this night thy soul is required of thee. And then whose shall these things be, which thou hast provided ?"
What empty bubbles, also, are the honours of office, the dignity of power, the eclat of talents, the fame of conquest, and the applause of the world! What a fading flower is beauty, with its attendant graces and accomplishments! And how strikingly is this exemplified in the melancholy scene which we have been this day con