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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Jean Ingelow

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With great fondness for, and pride in, her own country, she has the most kindly feelings toward America and her people. She says in the preface of her novel, Fated to be Free, concerning this work and Off the Skelligs, "I am told that they are peculiar; and I feel that they must be so, for most stories of human life are, or at least aim at being, works of art--selections of interesting portions of life, and fitting incidents put together and presented as a picture is; and I have not aimed at producing a work of art at all, but a piece of nature." And then she goes on to explain her position to "her American friends," for, she says, "I am sure you more than deserve of me some efforts to please you. I seldom have an opportunity of saying how truly I think so."

Jean Ingelow's life has been a quiet but busy and earnest one. She was born in the quaint old city of Boston, England, in 1830. Her father was a well-to-do banker; her mother a cultivated woman of Scotch descent, from Aberdeenshire. Jean grew to womanhood in the midst of eleven brothers and sisters, without the fate of struggle and poverty, so common among the great.

She writes to a friend concerning her childhood:--

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"As a child, I was very happy at times, and generally wondering at something.... I was uncommonly like other children.... I remember seeing a star, and that my mother told me of God who lived up there and made the star. This was on a summer evening. It was my first hearing of God, and made a great impression on my mind. I remember better than anything that certain ecstatic sensations of joy used to get hold of me, and that I used to creep into corners to think out my thoughts by myself. I was, however, extremely timid, and easily overawed by fear. We had a lofty nursery with a bow-window that overlooked the river. My brother and I were constantly wondering at this river. The coming up of the tides, and the ships, and the jolly gangs of towers ragging them on with a monotonous song made a daily delight for us. The washing of the water, the sunshine upon it, and the reflections of the waves on our nursery ceiling supplied hours of talk to us, and days of pleasure. At this time, being three years old, ... I learned my letters.... I used to think a good deal, especially about the origin of things. People said often that they had been in this world, that house, that nursery, before I came. I thought everything must have begun when I did.... No doubt other children have such thoughts, but few remember them. Indeed, nothing is more remarkable among intelligent people than the recollections they retain of their early childhood. A few, as I do, remember it all. Many remember nothing whatever which occurred before they were five years old.... I have suffered much from a feeling of shyness and reserve, and I have not been able to do things by trying to do them. What comes to me comes of its own accord, and almost in spite of me; and I have hardly any power when verses are once written to make them any better.... There were no hardships in my youth, but care was bestowed on me and my brothers and sisters by a father and mother who were both cultivated people."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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