Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 4, 1976 · Page 52
Get access to this page with a Free Trial
Click to view larger version

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 52

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 4, 1976
Page 52
Start Free Trial

Page 52 article text (OCR)

Blind Man's Dream House By Doane R. Hoag THE ISLE OF CAPRI, July 4, 1876--Panting from the exertion of having climbed the 700 steps to the top of this beautiful Mediterranean Island, the young Swedish medical student found himself standing in the very spot where Emperior Tiberius Caesar had built his summer palace nearly 2,000 years before. With its marble fountains, its gardens, its bronze doorways, it had been one of the most beautiful palaces in the. world. But nothing was left of it now. At his death in 37 A.D., Tiberius had ordered the palace and all 12 of his island villas torn down and thrown piece by piece into the sea--so that no one else could enjoy them as he had. Standing there amid the ruins the young student, whose name was Axel Munthe, had the strange feeling that he had been here before. Everybody has had that feeling once in a while, but Axel Munthe nad it so strongly that he actually jelieved he had lived here in this Dalace in a past life . . . a past incarnation . . . if there is such a thing. He remembered it so well, so clearly, every detail . . . the most jreathtaking spot he had ever seen. What a tragedy it was, he thought, that the world could not see it as it once had been! And right then and there he swore to himself that someday he would come back here and restore this noble building just as it had been in Tiberius Caesar's day! That was quite an ambition, for the youngster was almost penni- less. But there are men who are beset by those impossible dreams and Axel was one of them. He was determined. He was resolute. Returning to medical school in Mont pellier, France, he earned his degree and set up practice in Rome, He became immensely successful, one of the most famous physicians in Europe. He even became the personal court physician to the Queen of Sweden. He worked frantically, day and night, and he became rich. As soon as he had enough money, he quit. Retired. Gave up his practice and went back to Capri to begin his real life work: restoring the marble halls of Tiberius Caesar to their historic glory. Now that he had returned, his feeling that he had been here in a past life was even stronger. He had an uncanny sense of how things had been in Tiberius' day, and where the fragments of the ruined buildings were. He unerringly directed divers to an underwater cavern where a marble sphinx that had been in Tiberius' garden was found. He even showed the workmen where it had stood, and when they dug down into the earth at the spot he pointed out, they found the base of the statue--and the pieces fit together perfectly! It took years, but finally the work was finished. San Michele. as he called it, was once again the shining palace it had been nearly 2,000 years before. Now, at last, the world could see it as it had actually been. The world could see it. but not Axel Munthe. At the very peak of his triumph, his eyesight--which had never been good--failed completely! Unable to stand the brilliant sunshine of the Mediterranean skies, he had to leave his palace to the enjoyment of others and to go live in a darkened room in the Monastery of Materita. Here, in a cellar room, he began work on a book that would tell others the story of his dream. He couldn't see to write by hand, so he learned the touch system on the typewriter. There, in the dark, he tediously picked out the story he Wanted to tell . .. "The Slory of San Michele. The book sold by the hundreds of thousands. It was translated into 17 languages. But Axel Munthe had no use for the money it brought him. He gave all his royalties to the poor. A tired, lonely old man whose only companions were the birds and the squirrels in the monastery garden, he waited for death to release him from his darkened world. Then, in 1939, the incredible happened. An operation restored the sight of his eyes, and for the first time in years he was able to look out the windows of his cellar room and see the sky. Joyfully now, he went back to his beloved San Michele to see for the first time in its entirely the beauty that he had recreated. Axel Munthe is dead now, but San Michele still lives. Faithfully restored just as it was in Tiberius Caesar's day, it rises on the top of the Isle of Capri and looks out across the blue Mediterranean to the Bay of Naples . . . an imperishable monument to a man whose life ambition had been to recreate for all to see, one of the most beautiful buildings in the ancient world: San Micheles! (Copyright Doane Hoag 1976) Elijah P. Lovejoy: The Half-Mad Fulfillment 2m CHARLESTON. W.VA. By Sid Moody For those living in the 1850's, the quickening pace of doom was not easily apparent. As President Millard Fillmore and then his successor, Franklin Pierce, met the crises of the Fugitive Slave Act, Bleeding Kansas and other eruptions of the slavery question, there always remained room to maneuver, to seek compromise. Pierce, indeed, when asked what he could look forward to on retirement, did not contemplate war. "There is nothing left," he said, "but to get drunk." But, in 1859 came the crisis that made fact the deep silent fear of the South--a direct attack on slavery. This was the half-mad fulfillment of the dream of John Brown. The raid on Harper's Ferry by Brown's ad hoc band was easily quelled. But it was the sort of pivotal event that forces the uncommitted to take sides, that makes fear a reality, that blockades paths to moderation. President James Buchanan would survive Harper's Ferry, butjiow that hands had reached for guns, more would do likewise! Events took a quicker cadence until Buchanan and the Union were engulfed. "To illustrate the scope of the crisis is a task for volumes, but one aspect of it possibly never occurred to James Buchanan or the men who labored feverishly to contain the last upheaval. It had occurred so. long before Nov. 7, 1837 in Alton, m. Elijah Parish Lovejoy had been born in Maine in 1802. He was a graduate of Colby College and Princeton Theological Seminary and became editor of the St. Louis Times. He was driven from the city after attacking the burning to death of a black man, and settled with his wife, infant son and a printing press in Alton. Forty-eight hours after his arrival, his press was thrown into the Mississippi by a gang of waterfront toughs. Its replacement was dumped in the Mississippi the following year after a meeting of citizens of the town, a river port with considerable commerce with the South, protested the Lovejoy's attacks on slavery were ruining Alton's downriver trade. Lovejoy bought a third press. A masked mob smashed it. With the help of funds from the Illinois Anti- Slavery Society, he bought a fourth. Shortly thereafter, he and his wife narrowly escaped when a drunken mob broke into his mother-in-law's home in St. Charles, Mo., while they were visiting. Lovejoy wrote home for two of his brothers to come to Alton. And to bring guns with them. That same fall, a mob attacked Lovejoy's two-story white frame house. The editor returned as the attack was in progress to find his wife mute with fear as she cradled her son beneath her amid the splintered window glass in the attic. That night, Lovejoy wrote an announcement to another paper in Alton that he intended to give up his paper and leave town. A friend retrieved the'announce- ment before it could be printed. Meanwhile, Lovejoy had changed his mind under pressure from the Rev. Edward Beecher, president of nearby Dlinois College, whose sister would write "Uncle Tom's Cabin." If Lovejoy fled, Beecher argued, it would be a surrender to mob rule everywhere. Instead, he should stay in Alton and Beecher would introduce a set of nine resolutions to the citizenry, one of which would guarantee Lovejoy the. right "to print and publish whatever he pleases." The dav the resolutions were to |be acted upon, Nov. 3, 1837, the Alton courtroom was jammed. The committee that had studied the resolutions submitted its judgment: Lovejoy would have to close his paper and leave Alton or face the consequences. Lovejoy, a 'strong- jawed orator of force, rose. "Mr. Chairman," he saio, i uu not admit that it is the business of this assembly to decide whether I shall or shall not publish a newspaper in this city . . . I have the right to do it. I know that I have the right, freely to speak and publish my sentiments, subject only to the laws of the land for the abuse of that right. This right was given to me by my Maker; and it is solemnly guaranteed to me by the Constitution of the United States and of this state . . . It is simply a question whether the law shall be enforced, or whether the mob shall be allowed, as they now do, to continue to trample it under their feet, by violating with impunity the rights of an innocent individual... "Why should I flee from Alton? . . . Should I attempt it, I should feel that the angel of the Lord with his flaming sword was pursuing me wherever I went. No, sir, the contest has commenced here; and here it must be finished. Before God, and you all, I here pledge myself to continue it, if need-be, till death. If I fall, my grave shall be made in Alton." When Lovejoy finished, much of his audience was in tears. Nonetheless, four days later, a mob, many of whom had been present at the Elijah P. Lovejoy courtroom, renewed the attack on his press. Lovejoy, a musket in his hands, was shot and killed. The nation was shocked, Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams and speakers across the land expressed their horror. "There are always men enough ready to die for the silliest punctilio," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "to die like dogs . . . but I sternly rejoice that one was bound to die for humanity and the rights of free speech and opinion." "The gun fired at Lovejoy was like that of Sumter," said abolitionist Wendell Phillips. "It scattered a world of dreams." There were, however, 24 years of increasingly nervous peace to come. Neither Lovejoy's murder nor Harper's Ferry made the Civil War inevitable. But they were bub- blings that connoted the boiling cauldron beneath those years, indices to the entire Union that the final recourse would be to arms. The crisis at Sumter, which neither Buchanan nor Lincoln would avoid, was the ultimate echo of gunshots fired at Alton and then Harper's Ferry. In each case, guns shot away chunks of indecision or hope until none was left. Following Lovejoy's death, thousands who theretofore had been indifferent crowded abolitionist meetings across the United States. One was in Hudson in the old Western Reserve section of Ohio. The congregation in the community's church wept openly as Lovejoy's lonely last days were described. One in the congregation who didn't weep was otherwise effected by the editor's death. Whatever his private thoughts had been, he now rose to speak publicly for the first time about black servitude. "Here before God, in the presence of these witnesses, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery," said John Brown. A train of powder had been lit. ·July 4, 197fi. Sundav Gaiette-Mail

Get full access with a Free Trial

Start Free Trial

What members have found on this page