Dr. Leonard Bacon, whose sketch of his father we have so largely drawn upon, was literally a child of the wilderness. His long life of usefulness closed at New Haven, Dec. 24, 1881, in his eightieth year. It had been incessantly devoted to the discussion of questions bearing upon the highest interests of man. He was a strong, independent thinker, and his writings upon vital topics so largely judicial as to carry conviction to the leading minds of the nation. Abraham Lincoln ascribed to a volume of Dr. Bacon on slavery his own clear and comprehensive convictions on that subject. Leonard Bacon did more than any man who has lived in making clear to the popular apprehension, and in perpetuating to the knowledge of the coming generations the simple domestic virtues of the fathers; the religious and political principles which governed them, and gave to the American people their strongest all-conquering element. In his Half-century sermon, preached in New Haven, March 9, 1875, Dr. Bacon gave an eloquent description of his boy-life here in Summit county, when all around was in the wildness of untamed nature:
"I think to-day of what God's providence has been for three and seventy years. I recall the first dawning of memory and the days of my early childhood in the grand old woods of New Connecticut, the saintly and self-sacrificing father, the gentle yet heroic mother, the log-cabin from whose window we sometimes saw the wild deer bounding through the forest-glades, the four dear sisters whom I helped to tend and whom it was my joy to lead in their tottering infancy -yes. God's providence was then ever teaching me.
"Our home life, the snowy winter, the blossoming spring, the earth never ploughed before and yielding the first crop to human labor, the giant trees, the wild birds, the wild flowers, the blithesome squirrels, the wolves which we heard howling through the woods at night but never saw, the red-skin savage sometimes coming to the door -by these things God was making impressions on my soul that must remain forever, and without which I should not have been what I am."
A daughter of David Bacon, Delia, was born at Tallmadge, February 2, 1811, and the next year she was taken with the family to Connecticut. Her early life was a bitter struggle with poverty, but she became a highly-educated and brilliant woman in the realms of ideality; was a teacher and lecturer, and published "Tales of the Puritans: and "The Bride of Fort Edward," a drama.
A published account of her states that her chief delight was to read Shakespeare's plays and his biographies. The idea at length grew upon her that the plays were the work of the brilliant Elizabethan coterie and not of the actor and manager, Shakespeare. In opposition to the wishes of her family, she went to London in 1853 to publish her work on the subject. This she at last accomplished chiefly through the marked kindness of Hawthorne, then Consul at Liverpool, who was willing to listen to her argument, but never accepted it. Hawthorne's letters to her have a beautiful delicacy, though she must have tried his patience frequently, and sometimes repaid his generosity with reproaches. Her book, a large octavo, never sold. The edition is piled up in London to-day. Carlyle took some interest in Miss Bacon, who came to him with a letter from Emerson. Carlyle's account of her to Emerson is as follows:
"As for Miss Bacon, we find her, with her modest, shy dignity, with her solid character and strange enterprise, a real acquisition, and hope we shall see more of her now that she has come nearer to us to lodge. I have not in my life seen anything so tragically quixotic as her Shakespeare enterprise. Alas! alas! there can be nothing but sorrow, toil and utter disappointment in it for her! I do cheerfully what I can, which is far more than she asks of me (for I have not seen a prouder silent soul); but there is not the least possibility of truth in the notion she has taken up, and the hope of ever proving it or finding the least document that countenances it is equal to that of vanquishing the windmills by stroke of lance. I am often truly sorry about the poor lady; but she troubles nobody with her difficulties, with her theories; she must try the matter to the end, and charitable souls must further her so far."
Miss Bacon's account of the visit to her sister contains this:
"My visit to Mr. Carlyle was very rich. I wish you could have heard him laugh. Once or twice I thought he would have taken the roof of the house off. At first they were perfectly stunned -he and the gentleman he had invited to meet me. They turned black in the face at my presumption. 'Do you mean to say so and so,' said Mr. Carlyle, with his strong emphasis, and I said that I did, and they both looked at me with staring eyes, speechless from want of words in which to convey their sense of my audacity. At length Mr. Carlyle came down on me with such a volley. I did not mind it in the least. I told him he did not know what was in the plays if he said that, and no one could know who believed that that booby wrote them. It was then that he began to shriek. You could have heard him a mile."
Miss Bacon's brother advised her to publish her theory as a novel. He was in earnest, but she found it hard to forgive him. Hawthorne saw her personally but once. She wrote to him from London; "I have lived for three years as much alone with God and the dead as if I have been a departed spirit. And I don't wish to return to the world. I shrink with horror from the thought of it. This is an abnormal state, you see, but I am perfectly harmless; and if you will let me know when you are coming, I will put on one of the dresses I used to wear the last time I made my appearance in the world, and try to look as much like a survivor as the circumstances will permit."
Miss Bacon returned to America in 1858. It was found necessary to place her in an asylum, and a few months later she died. She is buried in her brother's lot at New Haven.
A REMINISCENCE. -I remember often seeing Delia Bacon in my youth in my native city, going in and coming from a private residence, wherein, in a private parlor, that of Dr. Joseph Darling, an old Revolutionary character in old Revolutionary attire, she met a select class of young ladies, to whom she delivered her thoughts upon noted historical characters. She was somewhat tall and of a willowy figure; a very spirituelle appearing personage, attired in black, with simplicity and neatness, a strikingly refined and thoughtful expression, that always attracted my youthful gaze as something above the ordinary line of mortality. If indeed it be true that "this world is all a fleeting show for man's illusion given," it is a happy arrangement with some of us ancients, who have come down from a former generation, that we can reproduce from our mental plates, used in boyhood years of innocence, such an interesting variety of the genus woman, of whom to me Delia Bacon was among the celestials.
Delia had a younger brother, who narrowly escaped being Ohio-born, David Francis Bacon, alike brilliant and erratic. He went out to Liberia, to serve as a physician to the colony which, it was though by Henry Clay and other wise men of the day, would solve that early vexed question, "What shall we do with the negro?"
David Francis soon hurried back, his nose on a snivel, thoroughly disgusted with an African Republic, under the statesmanship of exported plantation slaves. He published a book wherein he described his voyage over, and gave a sad account of the loss at sea of a bright youth, closing with a poem of lamentation. He began the poem with a borrowed line, apologizing for so doing by stating his muse was like a pump gone dry. He always had to get a line from some other poet, to first pour in as a starter. Certainly a good thing to do if, when one gets on a flow, he can bring out champagne.
Historical Collections of Ohio By Henry Howe, LL.D