"Dear Mrs. Brown...I am sad, oh, so sad and tearful, to-night, Frances! None, however see my tears. There may be something of pride in this; but I long ago resolved that no shadow upon my face should ever filch the sunshine from others. Why sad, do you ask? Aye, last week's mail brought the tidings of the severe sickness and departure to the better land of our darling Louis,--a precious bud, transplanted to bloom in the garden of God. Oh, how I pity my poor wife! Lonely must she be without the echoes of his dancing feet, and the lyric cadence of his voice. He was a promising, a beautiful child of hardly ten summers, and the very idol of our hearts.
"This deep affliction will weigh heavily upon my wife. I shall hasten home on her account. Home! how many sweet associations cluster around the endearing word! Put me in my library room, and I'm happy; and yet, dearly as I love books, family, home, and home comforts, a divine voice is ever saying to me, "Go forth,--go among all nations; preaching the ministry of spirits, and the principles of the Spiritual Philosophy.
"Though gifted in intellect, Frances, you are equally sympathetic, and will readily understand the sorrow that will come over me like a cloud upon crossing my threshold in Battle Creek,--my wife glad to welcome me, gratified with my improved health, but mourning for Louis. It is all well. He has gone to join and become a companion of our own three dear little ones, who left the mortal ere earth's ills had tinged the gossamer of their spirit-garments with a single stain. Angels are their teachers; progress their eternal destiny. Oh, how blessed is Spiritualism in all the trying scenes of life! Would I had a thousand tongues to tell its glories and sing its praises! To its promulgation under the inspiration of a circling band of spirits, I have consecrated my powers, dedicated my life. So have you, and many, many other noble souls.
"Deeply do I sympathize with reform workers, lecturers, and media, negative and sensitized from the heavens. Oftentimes their sorrows are many, their joys few. Beautiful are the crowns that await them in the glorious hereafter.
"Were it not for the impaired health of my wife, and sudden departure of Louis, I should remain here at least a year, and do earnest missionary work in behalf of Spiritualism. I am stopping in an excellent family, Victor B. Post's; the spirits have named them "Peace and Harmony." These, with many other dear friends, entreat me to remain another year; but duty calls me home.
"I must tell you, by the way, that I have formed the acquaintance of Mrs. Eliza W. Farnham; met her in the lunatic asylum, Stockton, Cal. She is the matron; and her brilliant, solid intellect, boundless benevolence, and deep comprehension of principles, charmed me. During several evenings, she read from unpublished volumes she is preparing,--read me select passages from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," and several European poets. She told me she delivered the first lecture upon Spiritualism ever given in California. She spoke highly of you, Mary F. Davis, and others of her sex laboring for woman and the great interest of reform. And, only think,--little, anxious, jealous souls, hardly worthy to unloose her shoe-latches, have tried to traduce this great, noble woman. Blessings upon her! I'm proud I ever clasped her hand, a prelude to abiding friendship."
Several months later Dr. Peebles wrote to a male friend who had given him a message from his departed son and had promised there would be more to come.
"Accept my thanks for the love message sent me from Louie through you. Oh, the dear pet child, how I want to press him to my bosom upon my return home! You know, Charlie, that I am enthusiastic in my love nature; loving not only children, but music, flowers, and friends, almost to distraction. The news of Louie's leaving the earth life almost overcame me at first. I was not prepared for it…."
In To Dance With Angels, Don and I quoted from his biography, Spiritual Pilgrim, a description of Dr. Peebles written by Mrs. H. F. M. Brown at some point prior to 1871.
"Mr. Peebles's leading characteristic is, perhaps, individuality. He is independent in though and speech, condemns cowardice and jealousies without stint: he commands where he can, never looking to see which way the tide is setting, or waits public approval. But he is quite willing that others should live their lives, if principles are not compromised. He is orderly, generous, social, mirthful, and a great lover of the beautiful. In personal appearance, he is tall, straight, of slender form, brown hair, blue eyes, his face is of Roman mold: his teeth faultless. He dresses with great care, avoiding alike the dandy and the sloven. He is tall and slim as a May-pole; as fair and frail as a delicate woman. Consumption looks him in the face occasionally; but, by sailing the world half round, he has eluded the unwelcome phantom. But, after all, the mistake might have been in putting the right soul into the wrong body. Spiritwise, Mr. Peebles is a mountaineer. He is calm in a storm, laughs at the lightning, and listens to the thunder as friend to friend. His thoughts, like mountain streams, gush forth with freshness, music, and originality. If he is a thought-borrower, his benefactions are the ferns, the dewy mosses, the wild-flowers, the cloud-crowned hills, and green valleys of his native state. I said to my soul, while listening to him, Emerson had this very man in his mind when he said, 'In your heart are birds and sunshine: in your thoughts the brooklets flow.'"
A beautiful tribute to a friend.
Edited from excerpts Spiritual Pilgrim by O.J. Barrett, 1871
Dr. Peebles' Letter to a Friend, © Copyright 2001 by Linda Pendleton
"Sacramento, Cal., March 1861"
"The angels have need of these youthful buds
In their gardens so fair;
They graft them on immortal stems,
To bloom forever there."
Mrs. H. F. M. Brown was a fellow Spiritualist and very active in the Spiritualist movement. In 1860 or so, she was living in Cleveland, Ohio, but according to later Spiritualist registers she lived in California. The Spiritual registers list her as a traveling lecturer, as they did Dr. Peebles. It is obvious by Dr. Peebles letter to her that they had a close relationship.
This letter was written in 1861 shortly after the death of Dr. Peebles adopted ten-year-old son, Louis. He was devastated by his son's death. Shortly before writing this letter to his friend Frances Brown, in deep mourning, he had a discourse with his "band of angels."
"Oh, I loved Louie!" said he.
"So do we," was the reply of the angel.
"But he was necessary to my happiness."
"So he was to others."
"I had superior claim."
"You think so, brother? Where is your philosophy in the superiority of the spiritual over the material?"
"I could have made him spiritual here."
"Suppose it be proved that Louie's departure is a mutual and eternal blessing?"
"But I loved him from my soul's depths."
"No doubt you did: the angels, however, loving him better, transplanted him into their heavenly gardens."
Dr. James Martin Peebles' Letter to a Friend
He said, "Well, I go mourning over the world, now that Louie is gone."
"Go mourning, O philosopher! to render him and you more unhappy? So many beautiful buds, flowering out on the immortal shore to prepare a paradise for you! So unhappy over it, child?" It is said this spiritual interchange apparently calmed him to a silence, sweet as the night's rest. Not long after he wrote this letter, accepting that the "angel rules the human at the saddest of losses."