Read CHAPTER VIII of Recollections of a Long Life An Autobiography, free online book, by Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, on


Printers’ ink stained my fingers in my boyhood; for, at the age of fifteen, I ventured into a controversy on the slavery question, in the columns of our county newspaper; and, in the same paper, published a series of letters from Europe, in 1842. During my course of study in the Princeton Theological Seminary, I was a contributor to several papers, to Godey’s Magazine in Philadelphia, and to the “New Englander,” a literary and theological review published at New Haven. I wrote the first article for the first number of the “Nassau Monthly,” a Princeton College publication, which still exists under another name. Up to the year 1847 all my contributions had been to secular periodicals, but in that year I ventured to send from Burlington, N.J., where I was then preaching, a short article to the “New York Observer,” signed by my initials. This was followed by several others which, falling under the eye of my beloved friend, the Rev. Dr. Cortland Van Rensellaer, led him to say to me: “You are on the right track now; work on that as long as you live,” and I have obeyed his injunction. Within a year or two I began to write for the “Presbyterian” at Philadelphia. Its proprietor urged me to accept an editorial position, but I declined his proposal, as I have declined several other requests to assume editorial positions since. I would always rather write when I choose than write when I must, and I have never felt at liberty to hold any other position while I was a pastor of a church. My contributions to the press never hindered my work as a minister, for writing for the press promotes perspicuity in preparing for the pulpit.

In the summer of 1853 I was called from the Third Presbyterian Church of Trenton to the Market Street Reformed Church of New York City. As a loyal Dutchman, I began to write at once for the “Christian Intelligencer,” and have continued in its clean hospitable columns to this day. At the urgent request of Mr. Henry C. Bowen I began to write for his “Independent,” and sent to its columns over six hundred articles; but of all my associate contributors in those days, not a solitary one survives. In May, 1860, My first article appeared in the New York Evangelist, and during these forty-two years I have tested the patience of its readers by imposing on them more than eighteen hundred of my lubrications. As I was preparing one of my earliest articles, I happened to spy the blossoms of the catalpa tree before my window, and for want of a title I headed it “Under the Catalpa.” The tree flourishes still, and bids fair to blossom after the hand that pens these lines has turned to dust. I need not recapitulate the names of all the many journals to which I have sent contributions, many of which have been republished in Great Britain, Australia and other parts of the civilized world. I once gave to my friend, Mr. Arthur B. Cook, the eminent stenographer, some statistics of the number of my articles, and the various journals in which they had appeared in this and other countries. He made an estimate of the extent of their publication, and then said to me: “It would be within bounds to say that your four thousand articles have been printed in at least two hundred millions of copies.” The production of these articles involved no small labor, but has brought its own reward. To enter a multitude of homes week after week; to converse with the inmates about many of the most vital questions in morals and religion; to speak words of guidance to the perplexed; of comfort to the troubled, and of exhortation to the saints and to the sinful all these involved a solemn responsibility. That this life-work with the pen has not been without fruit I gratefully acknowledge. When a group of railway employees, at a station in England, gathered around me to tender their thanks for spiritual help afforded them by my articles, I felt repaid for hours of extra labor spent in preaching through the press.

My first attempt at book-making was during my ministry at Trenton, New Jersey, when I published a small volume entitled “Stray Arrows.” This was followed at different times by several volumes of an experimental and devotional character. In the spring of 1867 one of our beautiful twin boys, at the age of four and a half years, was taken from us by a very brief and violent attack of scarlet fever. We received a large number of tender letters of condolence, which gave us so much comfort that my wife suggested that they should be printed with the hope that they might be equally comforting to other people in affliction. I accordingly selected a number of them, added the simple story of our precious child’s short career, and handed the package to my beloved friend and publisher, the late Mr. Peter Carter, with the request that they be printed for private distribution. He urged, after reading them, that I should allow him to publish them, which he did under the title of “The Empty Crib, a Book of Consolation.” That simple story of a sweet child’s life has travelled widely over the world and made our little “Georgie” known in many a home. Mrs. Gladstone told me that when she and her husband had read it, it recalled their own loss of a child under similar circumstances. Dean Stanley read it aloud to Lady Augusta Stanley in the Deanery of Westminster; and when I took him to our own unrivalled Greenwood Cemetery he asked to be driven to the spot where the dust of our dear boy is slumbering. Many thousands have visited that grave and gazed with tender admiration on the exquisite marble medallion of the childface, by the sculptor, Charles Calverley, which adorns the monument.

Fourteen years afterwards, in the autumn of 1881, “the four corners of my house were smitten” again with a heart-breaking bereavement in the death, by typhoid fever, of our second daughter, Louise Ledyard Cuyler, at the age of twenty-two, who possessed a most inexpressible beauty of person and character. Her playful humor, her fascinating charm of manner, and her many noble qualities drew to her the admiration of a large circle of friends, as well as the pride of our parental hearts. After her departure I wrote, through many tears, a small volume entitled “God’s Light on Dark Clouds," with the hope that it might bring some rays of comfort into those homes that were shadowed in grief. Judging from the numberless letters that have come to me I cannot but believe that, of all the volumes which I have written, this one has been the most honored of God as a message-bearer to that largest of all households the household of the sorrowing. Let me add that I have published a single volume of sermons, entitled “The Eagle’s Nest,” and a volume of foreign travel, “From the Nile to Norway”; but all the remainder of my score of volumes have been of a practical and devotional character. Of the twenty-two volumes that I have written, six have been translated into Swedish, and two into the language of my Dutch ancestors. Thanks be to God for the precious privilege of preaching His glorious Gospel with the types that out-reach ten thousand tongues! And thanks also to a number of friends, whose faces I never saw, but whose kind words have cheered me through more than a half century of happy labors. I cannot conclude this brief chapter without expressing my deep obligations to that noble organization, the “American Tract Society,” which has given a wide circulation to many of my books including “Heart-Life,” “Newly Enlisted; or, Counsels to Young Converts” and “Beulah-Land,” a volume of good cheer to aged pilgrims on their journey heavenward.