Aira Force

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Aira Force
    Miss Elizabeth Smith died over 200 years ago and therefore we cannot question or gain an opinion of her as a credible witness through a personal meeting.  I did find however an account of her death (a few short years after her experience) and a description of her characer in Select Reviews and Spirit of the Foreign Magazines (E Bronson and others, 1810)

    "In the summer of the year 1806, Elizabeth was seized with a cold, which terminated in her death: and I wish the cause was more generally known, as a caution to those whose studious turn of mind may lead them into the same errour. I will give the account as she herself related it, a very short time before she died, to a faithful and affectionate servant who first came into the family when my daughter was only six weeks old.

    "One very hot evening in July, I took a book, and walked about two miles from home, where I seated myself on a stone beside the lake. Being much engaged by a poem I was reading, I did not perceive that the sun was gone down, and was succeeded by a very heavy dew; till in a moment I felt struck on the chest as if with a sharp knife. I returned home, but said nothing of the pain. The next day being also very hot, and every one busy in the hay-field, I thought I would take a rake, and work very hard, to produce perspiration, in the hope that it might remove the pain; but it did not."

    " From that time, a bad cough, with occasional loss of voice, gave me great apprehension of what might be the consequence if the cause were not removed; but no entreaties could prevail on her to take the proper remedies, or to refrain from her usual walks. This she persisted in, being sometimes better and then a little worse, till the beginning of October."
    About this time, Miss Smith accompanied her mother on a visit to Bath; and thence to Sunbury: but finding no amendment in her health, they returned to Coniston, where Miss Smith expired on the 7th of August, 1806, aged 29, and was interred at Hawkshead. The following account of her death is given by Mrs. Smith, in a letter to Mrs. H. Bowdler.

    "I shall have a melancholy pleasure in complying with your request, and will begin where my last letter ended. Turpin slept in a room only separated from my beloved child by a boardedv partition, and so close to her bed that she could hear her breathe. On Wednesday morning Turpin told me she was much the same, though the sweet sufferer herself said she was better. I went to her, as usual, the moment I was out of bed, and was struck with the change in her countenance. On feeling her pulse, I was persuaded sho could not continue long. She told me she was better, and would get up. She did so, and was cheerful when she spoke, though it evidently in. creased her pain, and difficulty of breathing. When she coughed or moved, she seemed to be in agony. She took nourishment as usual, and on my asking what book I should read to her, she mentioned Thomson’s Seasons. I read Winter. She made many observations, and entered entirely into the subject—. About three o’clock Mrs. Dixon called, having come with a party to see the lake. Elizabeth said she should like to see her. Before she went up stairs, I requested she would feel the pulse, which I was persuaded indicated the termination of her sufferings before many hours. She entered into conversation cheer-fully. Mrs. Dixon told me that she thought I was mistaken; that her pulses were not those of a dying person; and she was of opinion that she might last some time. So much were all deceived, all did not watch every turn of her countenance as I did! The apothecary came afterwards. He thought her in great danger, but could not say whether immediate, or not. At nine she went to bed. I resolved to quit her no more, and went to prepare for the night. Turpin came to say that Elizabeth entreated I would not think of staying in her room; and added, 1 she cannot bear you should do it, for she says you are yourself unwell, and rest is necessary for you.’ Think of her sweet attention! I replied, ‘ on that one subject I am resolved; no power on earth shall keep me from her: so go to bed yourself.’ Accordingly I returned to her room, and at ten gave her the usual dose of laudanum. After a little time she fell into a doze, and I thought slept till one. She then took some mint tea. Her breath was very bad, and she was uneasy and restless, but never complained: and on my wiping the cold sweat off her face and bathing it with camphorated vinegar,, which I did very often in the course of the night, she thanked me, smiled and said. ‘ That is the greatest comfort I have.’ She slept again for a short time; and at half past four asked for some chicken-broth, which she took perfectly well. On being told the hour, she said, ‘ How long this night is!’ She continued very uneasy, and in half an hour after, on my inquiring if I could move the pillow, or do any .thing to reliev* her, she replied, ‘there is nothing for it but quiet.’ I said no more, bat thinking that she was dying, I sat on the bed, watching her. At six she said, ‘ I must get up, and have some mint-tea.’ I then called for Turpin, and felt my angel’s pulse. It was fluttering, and I knew I should soon lose her. She took the tea well. Turpin began to put on her clothes, and was proceeding to dress her, when she laid her head on the faithful creature’s shoulder, became convulsed in the face, spoke not, looked not, and in ten minutes expired."

    The character of Miss Smith is thus briefly summed up by Mrs. Bowdler, in a letter to Dr. Mumssen:

    "Her character was so extraordinary, and she was so very dear to me, that I hope you will forgive my dwelling a little longer on my irreparable loss. Her person and manners were extremely pleasing, with a pensive softness of countenance that indicated deep reflection; bat her extreme timidity concealed the most extraordinary talents that ever fell under my observation. With scarcely any assistance, she taught herself the French, Italian, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages. She had no inconsiderable knowledge of Arabick and Persick. She was well acquainted with geometry, algebra, and other branches of the mathematics. She was a very fine musician. She drew landscapes from nature extremely well, and was a mistress of perspective. She showed an early taste for poetry, of which some specimens remain but, I believe, she destroyed most of the effusions of her youthful muse, when an acquaintance with your great poet, and still more when the sublime compositions of the Hebrew bards, gave a different turn to her thoughts. With all these acquirements she was perfectly feminine in her disposition; elegant, modest, gentle, and affectionate. Nothing was neglected, which a woman ought to know? No duty was omitted, which her situation in life required her to perform. But the part of her character on which I dwell with the greatest satisfaction, is that exalted piety, which seemed always to raise her above this world, and taught her, at sixteen years of age, to resign its riches and its pleasures, almost without regret; and to support with dignity a very unexpected change of situation. For some years before her death the Holy Scripture was her principal study, and she translated from the Hebrew the whole book of Job, &c. &c. How far she succeeded in this attempt I am not qualified to judge; but the benefit which she herself derived from these studies must be evident to those who witnessed the patience and resignation with which she supported a long and painful illness; the sweet attention which she always showed to the feelings of her parents and friends, and the heavenly composure with which she looked forward to the awful change which has now removed her to a world, ‘where (as one of her friends observes) her gentle, pure, and enlightened spirit will find itself more at home than in this land of shadows, &c. &c."