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Songs of Home,
HOME, SWEET HOME.
Though in later years John Howard Payne became the " homeless bard of home," the home of his childhood must have been delightful. He was born in New York City, June 9, 1792, and was one of a large group of brothers and sisters.
While he was a little fellow, his father moved to East Hampton, the most easterly town in Long Island, situated upon its jutting southern fork. It was a romantic place, settled by fine New England families, who lived in amicable relations with the red men that lingered long and linger still about this ancient home of the Montauk tribe. Eev. Lyman Beecher was preaching in the church upon the one wide village street, when Mr. Payne went there to become principal of the Clinton Academy, then a flourishing school, one of the earliest upon the island. In this town the little Paynes roamed among pleasures, though not among palaces, and their home, which is still kept intact by the inhabitants of the quaint old place, although " homely," indeed, to modern eyes, must have been quite fine enough in its day. The Payne family held a high position, and the children had the advantage of cultured society abroad as well as at home. The family moved to Boston, where the father became an eminent teacher. John Howard was a leader in sports and lessons too. He raised a little military company, which he once marched to general training, where Major-General Elliot extended a formal invitation to the gallant young captain, who led his troop into the ranks to be reviewed with the veterans of the Eevolutioa
Mr. Payne was a fine elocutionist, and in the " speaking," which formed a prominent part of the school programme, his son, John Howard, soon excelled. Literary tastes cropped out also, and he published boyish poems and sketches in the The Fly, a paper edited by Samuel Woodworth.
When thirteen years old, Payne became clerk in a mercantile house in New York. He secretly edited a little paper called the Thespian Mirror. Dr. Francis, in his " Old New York," says of him at this period: " A more engaging youth could not be imagined; he won all hearts by the beauty of his person, his captivating address, the premature richness of his mind, and his chaste and flowing utterance." A benevolent gentleman, who learned the fact, and saw indications of great promise, sent young Payne to Union College at his own expense. His career there was suddenly closed by the death of his mother and pecuniary losses of his father. He decided to try the stage in hopes of assisting the family, and when seventeen years old he achieved a wonderful success as Young Norval, at the Park Theatre, in New York. He then played in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and was acting in his old home, Boston, when his father died. He soon sailed for England, and appeared in Drury Lane Theatre, when but twenty years of age. In 1826 he edited a London dramatic paper, called The Opera Glass, and for twenty years he experienced more than the ordinary mingling of pleasant and evil fortune. Payne was much praised, but on the whole his life was sorrowful and hard. He wrote several successful dramas, and his tragedy of " Brutus," which was written for Edmund Kean, is still played occasionally.