“Sayings, Wise and Otherwise,” by Frederic S. Cozzens; American Book Exchange, New York; 1880; pp. xiii-xxii.
MY paternal ancestors settled, either in the later part of the seventeenth or very early in the last century, in Newport, R. I. Leonard Cozzens, the first of the name, came over from Devizes, in Wiltshire, England. He was admitted a freeman of the Colony of Rhode Island, May 3, 1715. He was a Quaker, I believe; at least my grandfather was one, before he changed his drab coat for a soldier’s uniform in the Revolution. He married a great granddaughter of Richard Hayward, a Moravian, who was a friend of Count Zinzendorf, the founder of Bethlehem, Pa., and used to entertain the missionary brethren at his house; he was the principal founder of that church at Newport, in 1749, and was called then Old Father Hayward, as the chronicles show. His daughter married the son of Governor Taylor, Colonial Governor xiv of Rhode Island, whose daughter in turn married —— Daniels, a sort of New England Robinson Crusoe, who, when a boy, was shipwrecked, and found floating on a raft on Long Island Sound. He was apprenticed to a leather-breeches maker, and was celebrated in after days for making buckskin breeches, both wind and water tight, that all the waves of Long Island Sound could not penetrate. His daughter in turn married Issachar Cozzens, Senior, my Quaker soldiering grandfather, who, after he had doffed his soldier coat, became, like the rest of his wife’s family, a zealous Moravian.
It is said that the Cozzens family has been traced as far back as the time of Henry VIII., and a Catholic Archbishop by the name Cozens, who, overcome by the persuasions of that amiable monarch, became a Protestant, married a lady of the Church of England, clapped another z in his name, and became a reformer, whose zeal was by no means that of the rose-water kind.
Most of the descendants of Leonard Cozzens were seafaring men, and in colonial times, when xv we began to encroach upon the French settlements in America, were selected by the council to take charge of the colony artillery, as they were familiar with this arm of the service, having learned it on shipboard. Three or four of the name were enrolled in this company. Sea-Quakers are adepts in serving this kind of war tackle, as they are cool in an engagement, always put powder enough in the touch-hole, and fire low; hence all marine weapons of any calibre beyond a musket were formerly called Quaker guns!
My grandfather had a touch of this fighting quality; so when the War of the Revolution broke out, he took up arms on the 1st of April, 1775, under Captain Pew of Newport, in the regiment of Colonel Spencer of Seconnet, under Gen. Nathaniel Green, Brigadier of the Rhode Island troops, and marched from Bristol Ferry to Jamaica Plains, in Massachusetts. A picket-guard, of which he was one, was stationed at Dorchester Heights the night before the battle of Breed’s or Bunker’s Hill. On that never-to-be-forgotten morning, by orators, poets, or politicians, the celebrated xvi 17th of June, 1775, his company rejoined the regiment, and marched around the beach to reinforce their friends on the hill, whom they saw engaged with the enemy. Charlestown was on fire. They arrived in the neighborhood of Prospect Hill, about a mile from Bunker Hill, in time to support the retreating patriots after the brave General Warren fell. They then put up breastworks, and kept the ground until the retreat was covered. He afterwards served as one of the lifeguard to General Charles Lee. He was in Sullivan’s expedition, when the French fleet under D’Estaing, the French Admiral, was to coöperate with Generals Sullivan and Lafayette, which unfortunately was frustrated by a premature land attack of the Americans. In this attack many British subjects lost their lives and liberties; and the Americans were obliged to retreat, carrying with them many of the British wounded and prisoners. He afterwards served as a guide for General Washington; was in the reserve force at the capture of General Prescott; finally was discharged from the service, “sick, fatigued, and xvii worn out,” and as he expresses it in a memoir written at the age of eighty, now before me, “never received one copper of pay for my services.”
None of my Quaker or Moravian ancestors ever were known to joke, and were therefore, no doubt, persons of profound wisdom. On the other hand, it is said my maternal grandfather broke a blood-vessel in a violent fit of laughter, and unhappily lost his life in consequence. My maternal grandmother was from Carlisle, — a Cumberland woman with a strong Border dialect, and knew all the legends, songs, and ghost stories of that warlike and romantic region. The little humor I possess must be inherited from this branch of the house. She had a curious story to tell of her husband’s great uncle, Colonel Robert Backhouse, who was very wealthy, having derived his large estates in England from a grant of the crown for his military services, — among others, that of having pursued the Pretender so closely upon one occasion as to snatch the cloak from his back. The Backhouse or Backus family xviii (as many spell it) are from Cumberland, England. Crest: “On a snake embowed, its tail nowed, an eagle displayed,” — a sort of Mexican dollar crest. The motto is the best in the whole range of heraldry, “Confido in Deo,“ — “I trust in God.”
My father Frederick and my uncle Issachar were chemists by profession, naturalists, geologists, and mineralogists. They were members of several scientific societies, and the early friends of Drs. Mitchell, Dekay, Torrey, Hosack, Francis, Audubon, Charles Bonaparte, and other savants of former days. Of all these, Dr. John Torrey, one of the most amiable and highly cultivated professors of natural philosophy the country ever produced, still survives, and long may he continue. My third and youngest uncle used to be well known to the visitors at West Point as the keeper, both of the old hotel on the Point, and afterwards of the one that now bears his name. He was an amiable man, with a lively sense of humor, and a great favorite with all.
In my early life I was greatly given to study and reading of all kinds. I made collections of xix minerals, shells, coins, and Indian curiosities; studied anatomy and chemistry before I was fifteen years old; bored everybody to death with scientific experiments, was wonderfully fond of theatrical performances, hated history, but had a passionate love of poetry. This latter, no doubt, was owing to my maternal grandmother’s teachings, for she used to croon over, day and night, the old Border ballads and legends in verse, of which she had an endless store. I also studied the science of mechanics; gave up three years to the practice of the machine branch of bank-note engraving; worked at the forge, the anvil, and the turning-lathe; became quite a proficient in cutting ovals, circles, borders, and combinations of bank-nopte lathe-work; worked at the transfer machine; touched a little upon the art of printing, and could set up type, “and pull a sheet,” nearly as well as most of the grown men in the printing-office. My nights were constantly spent in reading; indeed, as a boy, I took little pleasure in boyish pursuits, as at a period of riper youth I cared little for the amusements of young xx men; — except the theatre at night, I rarely went to any place of amusement.
At the age of twenty-one I went into the grocery and wine business in Vesey Street, and continued in it until the early part of this year. I was the first one to introduce native wines in New York for sale. They were Longworth wines. During this period my nights were often spent in writing or study. I seized every opportunity to travel, and reading was my delight. People often asked how I managed to find time to write as much as I did? The secret was this: I always put aside business when I went home, and always put aside literature when I went to business. I do not think any one every saw me read a book in my office, except it might be to look at the title or the like.
The first articles I published were a humorous imitation of Spenser in the “Yankee Doodle,” in 1847, and in the same year, in the same, the “Mythological History of the Heavens.” In the same year I published a short religious poem in the “Knickerbocker Magazine,” entitled “Worship.” xxi I continued to write for the “Knickerbocker” for eight years, almost always anonymously. A collection was made of these writings, and published in 1853 by the Appletons. The volume was beautifully illustrated by Elliott, Darley, Kensett, Hicks, and Rossiter. The book was issued under the name of “Prismatics, by Richard Haywarde.” It contained many of my poems. Scarcely any one knew who was the author. The plates, after the first edition was printed, were destroyed by fire, and the book has been for many years out of print. Other fugitive pieces followed. Among them the first chapter of the “Sparrowgrass Papers” (1854), which finally grew into a volume, published by Derby and Jackson in 1856. In 1854 I commenced the “Wine Press,” a monthly paper, devoted to the introduction of native wines principally, and continued it for seven years. The breaking out of the war put a period to this publication. “Acadia: or, a Month with the Blue Noses,” was published by Derby and Jackson in 1859. It is an account of a tour in Nova Scotia. Also, in the same year, a “True History of New xxii Plymouth,” in fifty-two chapters, for the “New York Ledger;” by resolution of the “Century,” a “Memorial of the late Col. Peter A. Porter,” read before the “Century,” and published by the same in 1865; by resolution of the Historical Society, a “Memorial of Fitz Greene Halleck,” January 6, 1868; published by the society. From time to time I also contributed stories, sketches, reviews, etc., to various magazines and weeklies, and to the daily press.
I have thus briefly sketched out a review of my literary recreations after business hours, — I should say fully three quarters of which have never been attributed to me, although copied by the press and widely circulated.
F. S. COZZENS