Strong and the mouse
In the privacy of his diary, George Templeton Strong frequently called for evildoers to be hanged, including factory owners whose buildings collapsed on workers, careless landlords whose tenants died in fires, Southern secessionists, and Northern Copperheads.
But in his personal life Strong could be extremely tender-hearted, especially where animals were concerned.
This diary entry is from June 12, 1856:
I’m full of sorrow and contrition tonight. A poor little mouse had been caught alive and unharmed, which I tended very carefully through the evening, and supplied with food and water. Its little eyes and whiskers were delightful, and I fully intended to set it at large in the street in front of somebody else’s dwelling house after making it the subject of a slight scientific experiment, often heretofore tried on myself and rather pleasurable than otherwise—inebriation by chloroform. So he was “taken up tenderly, lifted with care” by the tail and lodged beneath a spacious bell-glass with a rag wet with a sufficient dose of that beneficent fluid. First he ran about vigorously, then his footing grew uncertain, then he tumbled down and kicked. Then I lifted the bell-glass and took him out, and he kicked more feebly and lay still and did not come to. I became alarmed. I exhausted the remedial agents within my reach, cold water, artificial respiration, and friction of the extremities. Ammonia and galvanism were not at hand. But it was unavailing. “The vital spark had fled.” It makes me unhappy, for though mice are vermin, I hate to kill them.
“Taken up tenderly, lifted with care” was apparently an often-quoted tagline in the 19th century. Does anyone know where it comes from?
“The vital spark had fled” appears in a poem called “The Mermaid” by William Crafts (1787-1826), but I don’t know if that’s the first occurrence of the phrase. “The Vital Spark” was also the title of a poem by a Miss Baker, the author of other poems including “A Mother’s Shade,” “Sweet Voices,” “Black Hawk in Prison,” and “The Music of Nature,” which were collected in The Ladies’ Repository, and Gatherings of the West (1841).