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Eulogy for Mary Leland Hume

Remarks of Rev. Dr. W. C. Alexander, pastor Glen Leven Presbyterian Church, Nashville, before the Virginia Society of Tennessee.

 

     I am highly honored on this occasion by being permitted to voice our appreciation of the character and services of our late beloved President, Mrs. William Hume.  If I am less qualified for this duty than others who had the privilege of knowing her more intimately, I can at least speak out of my reverence for her noble and beautiful character, my admiration and my sincere personal regard.
     Mrs. Hume's life is like a romance which began in the olden time and came down to our own commonplace and materialistic age.  She was a product of the Old South.  Let people of the present say what they please, the men and ladies of the old regime in the South were different.  For character is the result of environment, of ideals and of principles, and the Old South  with its seclusion, its leisure, its culture, its chivalry and its reverence produced a type of character as distinct as it was fine and beautiful.  Amid this charming life of these olden days, the child grew into the girl, the girl blossomed into the young woman, and then suddenly all the Southern sunshine was obscured by the dark clouds of "the War."  It was these dark days that love came to her and gave new meaning to her life, for she had given her heart to a gallant young officer who at the very beginning of hostilities, with all his ardor had devoted himself to the defense of the South.  More fortunate than many, he had been preserved amid all the unaccustomed hardships and dangers in the service; and while stationed at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he met and soon thereafter wed Miss Mary Leland of that city.  The details of that wedding have not been preserved for us, but in trying to picture it some of us have thought about the marriage of meh Lady in the matchless story of Thomas Nelson Page, told by the old negro "Uncle Billy."

          "An all on a sudden Hannah fling de do' wide open an' Meh Lady
     walk out !
          "Gord ! ef I didn' think 'twuz a angel.
          "She stan' dyah jes' white as snow fum her head to way back
     down on de flo' behine her, an' her veil done fall roun' her white          
     mist,  an' some roses in her han'.
          "Ef it didn' look like de sun done come th'oo de chahmber do' wid 
     her, an' blaze all over de styars, an' de Cun'l he look like she bline
     him.  An' 'twuz Hannah an' she, while we wuz 'way dat day, done fine
     Mistis' weddin' dress an' veil an' all, down to de fan an' little slippers
     'bout as big as two little white ears o' pop-corn; and de dress had sort
     o' cobwebs all over it, whar Hannah say was lace, an' hit jes' fit Meh
     Lady like Gord put it dyah in de trunk for her."

     I have felt that Mrs. Hume's wedding must have been like this, and like that of Meh Lady, in the good providence of God, Mrs. Hume's life story was not tragic but happy, for her gallant husband survived all the dangers of battle and came safely back to her, and together, with heroic purpose, they set themselves to help rebuild the desolated Southland.  Success crowned their efforts, the voices of merry children made music in their home, and happiness and prosperity was the meed of their labors until that home was shadowed by the husband's departure.
     For Mrs. Hume, home was ever the golden centre of her life, but as her children grew to maturity she had more leisure for civic and social duties.  She threw herself into these with unfailing zest, for she lived not in the past but in the present, and ever faced toward the morning.
     Of all her social activities, I think the Virginia Society gave her the greatest pleasure.  For twenty-three years she was our honored president, presiding with unfailing ability, graciousness and tact.  Here the associations and memories of the sacred past gave her an ispiration for practical duties in the present.  She loved the Old Dominion with its noble traditions and its splendid history, and she was much interested in the preservation of its shrines and landmarks.  In this Society she found congenial companionship.  Here she dispensed her beautiful hospitality, for we were frequently her guests in the city and the Society well recalls one entire radiant day spent in her charming country home.
     As Mrs. Hume was the product of the Old South, so she was the living incarnation of its spirit,--its romance and its chivalry, its poetry and its music.  As she sat at the instument and the inspiring strains of "Dixie" rippled forth under her magic touch, our feet involuntarily kept time, but our hearts were filled with all the tender memories of the past, and while we laughed and appauded our smiles but his our tears.  As we looked at her, we could imagine her Miss Anne or Meh Lady, stepping right out from the pages of "In Ole Virginia."  She was so bright and so brave, so tender and so true, so loving and so loyal, so dainty and so dear.  She was like a piece of priceless Dresden china or a Marechal Niel rose.  Beneath her gaiety and gentleness there was unshaken purpose and quiet strength, reminding us of Bayard Taylor's lines,---
                        
                            "The bravest are the tenderest,
                               The loving are the daring."

     She lived a wonderful life.  To her was granted the gift of years and in her latter days she had everything that should accompany old age, as reverence, love and honor, hosts of friends, and among these friends none were more loyal or more appreciative than those of the Virginia Society.  We have been enriched by her example.  She has gone from us in person but she lives in our hearts.  
 

"Life loved her, though it gave and took away,
She was so true, so kind,
So faithful fond, so innocently gay,
So fair, so pure of mind.

"As cowslips gild the grass, love gilt her days,
Long days and full well spent;
If shadows checkered, still her heart had praise
For every blessing sent.

"Death loved her, if it might not show her ruth,
Like to a shattering rose.
She passed from earth and age to heaven and youth
To joy no mortal knows."

               

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