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Autobiography and Letters of Orville Dewey, D.D. - Edited by his Daughter
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AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND LETTERS OF ORVILLE DEWEY, D.D.

Edited by his Daughter Mary Dewey



INTRODUCTORY.

IT is about twenty-five years since, at my earnest desire, my father began to write some of the memories of his own life, of the friends whom he loved, and of the noteworthy people he had known; and it is by the help of these autobiographical papers, and of selections from his letters, that I am enabled to attempt a memoir of him. I should like to remind the elder generation and inform the younger of some things in the life of a man who was once a foremost figure in the world from which he had been so long withdrawn that his death was hardly felt beyond the circle of his personal friends. It was like the fall of an aged tree in the vast forests of his native hills, when the deep thunder of the crash is heard afar, and a new opening is made towards heaven for those who stand near, but when to the general eye there is no change in the rich woodland that clothes the mountain side.

But forty years ago, when his church in New York was crowded morning and evening, and [8] eager multitudes hung upon his lips for the very bread of life, and when he entered also with spirit and power into the social, philanthropic, and artistic life of that great city; or nearly sixty years ago, when he carried to the beautiful town and exquisite society of New Bedford an influx of spiritual life and a depth of religious thought which worked like new yeast in the well-prepared Quaker mind,—then, had he been taken away, men would have felt that a tower of strength had fallen, and those especially, who in his parish visits had felt the sustaining comfort of his singular tenderness and sympathy in affliction, and of his counsel in distress, would have mourned for him not only as for a brother, but also a chief. Now, almost all of his own generation have passed away. Here and there one remains, to listen with interest to a fresh account of persons and things once familiar; while the story will find its chief audience among those who remember Mr. Dewey [FN My father always preferred this simple title to the more formal "Dr." and in his own family and among his most intimate friends he was Mr. Dewey to the last. He was, of course, gratified by the complimentary intention of Harvard University in bestowing the degree of D.D. upon him in 1839, but he never felt that his acquisitions in learning entitled him to it.] as among the lights of their own youth. Those also who love the study of [9] human nature may follow with pleasure the development of a New England boy, with a character of great strength, simplicity, reverence, and honesty, with scanty opportunities for culture, and heavily handicapped in his earlier running by both poverty and Calvinism, but possessed from the first by the love of truth and knowledge, and by a generous sympathy which made him long to impart whatever treasures he obtained. To trace the growth of such a life to a high point of usefulness and power, to see it unspoiled by honor and admiration, and to watch its retirement, under the pressure of nervous disease, from active service, while never losing its concern for the public good, its quickness of personal sympathy, nor its interest in the solution of the mightiest problems of humanity, cannot be an altogether unprofitable use of time to the reader, while to the writer it is a work of consecration. He who was at once like a son and brother to my father, he who should have crowned a forty-years' friendship by the fulfilment of this pious task, and who would have done it with a stronger and a steadier hand than mine, BELLOWS, was called first from that "fair companionship," while still in the unbroken exercise of the varied and remarkable powers which made his life one of such [10] large use, blessing, and pleasure to the world. None could make his place good to his elder friend, whose approaching death was visibly hastened by grief for the loss of the constant sympathy and devotion which had faithfully cheered his declining years. Many and beautiful tributes were laid upon my father's tomb by those whom he left here. Why should we not hope that that of Bellows was in the form of greeting?

ST. DAVID'S, July, 1883.

[11]I WAS born in Sheffield, Mass., on the 28th of March, 1794. My grandparents, Stephen Dewey and Aaron Root, were among the early settlers of the town, and the houses they built the one of brick, and the other of wood—still stand. They came from Westfield, about forty miles distant from Sheffield, on horseback, through the woods; there were no roads then. We have always had a tradition in our family that the male branch is of Welsh origin. When I visited Wales in 1832, I remember being struck with the resemblance I saw in the girls and young women about me to my sisters, and I mentioned it when writing home. On going up to London, I became acquainted with a gentleman, who, writing a note one day to a friend of mine and speaking of me, said: "I spell the name after the Welsh fashion, Devi; I don't know how he spells it." On inquiring of this gentleman, and he referred me also to biographical dictionaries,—I found that our name had an origin of unsuspected dignity, not to say sanctity, being no other than that of Saint David, the patron saint [12] of Wales, which is shortened and changed in the speech of the common people into Dewi.'

Everyone tries, I suppose, to penetrate as far back as he can into his childhood, back towards his infancy, towards that mysterious and shadowy line behind which lies his unremembered existence. Besides the usual life of a child in the country,—running foot-races with my brother Chandler, building brick ovens to bake apples in the side-hill opposite the house, and the steeds of willow sticks cut there, and beyond the unvarying gentleness of my mother and the peremptory decision and playfulness at the same time of my father,—his slightest word was enough to hush the wildest tumult among us children, and yet he was usually gay and humorous in his family,—besides and beyond this, I remember nothing till the first event in my early childhood, and that was acting in a play. It was performed in the church, as part of a school exhibition. The stage was laid upon the pews, and the audience seated in the gallery. I must have been about five years old then, and I acted the part of a little son. I remember feeling, then and afterwards, very queer and shamefaced about my histrionic papa and mamma. It is striking to observe, not only how early, but how powerfully, imagination [13] is developed in our childhood. For some time after, I regarded those imaginary parents as sustaining a peculiar relation, not only to me, but to one another; I thought they were in love, if not to be married. But they never were married, nor ever thought of it, I suppose. All that drama was wrought out in the bosom of a child. It is worth noticing, too, the freedom with sacred things, of those days, approaching to the old fetes and mysteries in the church. We are apt to think of the Puritan times as all rigor and strictness. And yet here, nearly sixty years ago, was a play acted in the meeting-house: the church turned into a theatre. And I remember my mother's telling me that when she was a girl her father carried her on a pillion to the raising of a church in Pittsfield; and the occasion was celebrated by a ball in the evening. Now, all dancing is proscribed by the church there as a sinful amusement.

[FN This was the reason why Mr. Dewey gave to the country home which he inherited from his father the name of "St. David's," by which it is known to his family and friends.—M. E. D.]

The next thing that I remember, as an event in my childhood, was the funeral of General Ashley, one of our townsmen, who had served as colonel, I think, in the War of the Revolution. I was then in my sixth year. It was a military funeral; and the procession, for a long distance, filled the wide street. The music, the solemn march, the bier borne in the midst, the crowd! It seemed to me as if the whole world was at a funeral. The remains of Bonaparte borne to the Invalides amidst the crowds of Paris could not, [14] I suppose, at a later day, have affected me like that spectacle. I do not certainly know whether I heard the sermon on the occasion by the pastor, the Rev. Ephraim Judson; but at any rate it was so represented to me that it always seems as if I had heard it, especially the apostrophe to the remains that rested beneath that dark pall in the aisle. "General Ashley!" he said, and repeated, "General Ashley!—he hears not."

To the recollections of my childhood this old pastor presents a very distinct, and I may say somewhat portentous, figure, tall, large-limbed, pale, ghostly almost, with slow movement and hollow tone, with eyes dreamy, and kindly, I believe, but spectral to me, coming into the house with a heavy, deliberate, and solemn step, making me feel as if the very chairs and tables were conscious of his presence and did him reverence; and when he stretched out his long, bony arm and said, "Come here, child!" I felt something as if a spiritualized ogre had invited me. Nevertheless, he was a man, I believe, of a very affectionate and tender nature; indeed, I afterwards came to think so; but at that time, and up to the age of twelve, it is a strict truth that I did not regard Mr. Judson as properly a human being,—as a man at all. If he had descended from the planet Jupiter, he could not have been a bit more preternatural and strange to me. Indeed, I well remember the occasion when the idea of his proper humanity first flashed upon [15] my mind. It was when I saw him, one day, beat the old black horse he always rode, apparently in a passion like any other man. The old black horse—large, fat, heavy, lazy—figures in my mind almost as distinctly as its master; and if, as it came down the street, its head were turned aside towards the school-house, as indicating the rider's intent to visit us, I remember that the school was thrown into as much commotion as if an armed spectre were coming down the road. Our awe of him was extreme; yet he loved to be pleasant with us. He would say,—examining the school was always a part of his object, "How much is five times seven?" "Thirty-five," was the ready answer. "Well," replied the old man, "saying so don't make it so"; a very significant challenge, which we were ill able to meet. At the close of his visit he always gave an exact and minute account of the Crucifixion,—I think always, and in the same terms. It was a mere appeal to physical sympathy, awful, but not winning. When he stood before us, and, lifting his hands almost to the ceiling, said, "And so they reared him up!" it seemed as if he described the catastrophe of the world, not its redemption. Indeed, Mr. Judson appeared to think that anything drawn from the Bible was good, whether he made any moral application of it or not. I have heard him preach a whole sermon, giving the most precise and detailed description of the building of the Tabernacle, without one word of comment, [16] inference, or instruction. But he was a good and kindly man; and when, as I was going to college at the age of eighteen, he laid his hand upon my head, and gave me, with solemn form and tender accent, his blessing, I felt awed and impressed, as I imagine the Hebrew youth may have felt under a patriarch's benediction.

With such an example and teacher of religion before me, whose goodness I did not know, and whose strangeness and preternatural character only I felt; and indeed with all the ideas I got of religion, whether from Sunday-keeping or catechising, my early impressions on that subject could not be happy or winning. I remember the time when I really feared that if I went out into the fields to walk on Sunday, bears would come down from the mountain and catch me. At a later day, but still in my childhood, I recollect a book-pedler's coming to our house, and when he opened his pack, that I selected from a pile of story-books, Bunyan's "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners." Religion had a sort of horrible attraction for me, but nothing could exceed its gloominess. I remember looking down from the gallery at church upon the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and pitying the persons engaged in it more than any people in the world,—I thought they were so unhappy. I had heard of "the unpardonable sin," and well do I recollect lying in my bed a mere child—and having thoughts and words injected into my mind, which I [17]imagined were that sin, and shuddering, and trembling, and saying aloud, "No, no, no; I do not,—I will not." It is the grand mystery of Providence that what is divinest and most beautiful should be suffered to be so painfully, and, as it must seem at first view, so injuriously misconstrued. But what is universal, must be a law; and what is law, must be right,—must have good reasons for it. And certainly so it is. Varying as the ages vary, yet the experience of the individual is but a picture of the universal mind,—of the world's mind. The steps are the same, ignorance, fear, superstition, implicit faith; then doubt, questioning, struggling, long and anxious reasoning; then, at the end, light, more or less, as the case may be. Can it, in the nature of things, be otherwise? The fear of death, for instance, which I had, which all children have, can childhood escape it? Far onward and upward must be the victory over that fear. And the fear of God, and, indeed, the whole idea of religion,—must it not, in like manner, necessarily be imperfect? And are imperfection and error peculiar to our religious conceptions? What mistaken ideas has the child of a man, of his parent when correcting him, or of some distinguished stranger! They are scarcely less erroneous than his ideas of God. What mistaken notions of life, of the world, the great, gay, garish world, all full of cloud-castles, ships laden with gold, pleasures endless and entrancing! What mistaken impressions [18]about nature; about the material world upon which childhood has alighted, and of which it must necessarily be ignorant; about clouds and storms and tempests; and of the heavens above, sun and moon and stars! I remember well when the fable of the Happy Valley in Rasselas was a reality to me; when I thought the sun rose and set for us alone, and how I pitied the glorious orb, as it sunk behind the western mountain, to think that it must pass through a sort of Hades, through a dark underworld, to come up in the east again. It is a curious fact, that the Egyptians in the morning of the world had the same ideas. Shall I blame Providence for this? Could it be otherwise? If earthly things are so mistaken, is it strange that heavenly things are? And especially shall I call in question this order of things,—this order, whether of men's or of the world's progress, when I see that it is not only inevitable, the necessary allotment for an experimenting and improving nature, which is human nature, but when I see too that each stage of progress has its own special advantages; that "everything is beautiful in its time;" that fears, superstitions, errors, quicken imagination and restrain passion as truly as doubts, reasonings, strugglings, strengthen the judgment, mature the moral nature, and lead to light?

I am dilating upon all this too much, perhaps. I let my pen run. Sitting down here in the blessed [19]country home, with nothing else in particular just now to do, at the age of sixty-three, I have time and am disposed to look back into my early life and to reason upon it; and although I have nothing uncommon to relate, yet what pertains to me has its own interest and significance, just as if no other being had ever existed, and therefore I set down my experience and my reflections simply as they present themselves to me.

In casting back my eyes upon this earliest period of my life, there are some things which I recall, which may amuse my grandchildren, if they should ever be inclined to look over these pages, and some of which they may find curious, as things of a bygone time.

Children now know nothing of what "'Lection" was in those days, the annual period, that is, when the newly elected State government came in. It was in the last week in May. How eager were we boys to have the corn planted before that time! The playing could not be had till the work was done. The sports and the entertainments were very simple. Running about the village street, hither and thither, without much aim; stands erected for the sale of gingerbread and beer,—home-made beer, concocted of sassafras roots and wintergreen leaves, etc.; games of ball, not base-ball, as now is the fashion, yet with wickets,—this was about all, except that at the end there was always horse-racing.

Having witnessed this exciting sport in my [20] boyhood, without any suspicion of its being wrong, and seen it abroad in later days, in respectable company, I was led, very innocently, when I was a clergyman in New York, into what was thought a great misdemeanor. I was invited by some gentlemen, and went with them, to the races on Long Island. I met on the boat, as we were returning, a parishioner of mine, who expressed great surprise, and even a kind of horror, when I told him what I had been to see. He could not conceal that he thought it very bad that I should have been there; and I suppose it was. But that was not the worst of it. Some person had then recently heard me preach a sermon in which I said, that, in thesis, I had rather undertake to defend Infidelity than Calvinism. In extreme anger thereat, he wrote a letter to some newspaper, in which, after stating what I had said, he added, "And this clergyman was lately seen at the races!" It went far and wide, you may be sure. I saw it in newspapers from all parts of the country; yet some of my friends, while laughing at me, held it to be only a proof of my simplicity.

There were worse things than sports in our public gatherings; even street fights,—pugilistic fights, hand to hand. I have seen men thus engage, and that in bloody encounter, knocking one another down, and the fallen man stamped upon by his adversary. The people gathered round, not to interfere, but to see them fight it out. [21] Such a spectacle has not been witnessed in Sheffield, I think, for half a century. But as to sports and entertainments in general, there were more of them in those days than now. We had more holidays, more games in the street, of ball-playing, of quoits, of running, leaping, and wrestling. The militia musters, now done away with, gave many occasions for them. Every year we had one or two great squirrel-hunts, ended by a supper, paid for by the losing side, that is, by the side shooting the fewest. Almost every season we had a dancing-school. Singing-schools, too, there were every winter. There was also a small band of music in the village, and serenades were not uncommon. We, boys used to give them on the flute to our favorites. But when the band came to serenade us, I shall never forget the commotion it made in the house, and the delight we had in it. We children were immediately up in a wild hurry of pleasure, and my father always went out to welcome the performers, and to bring them into the house and give them such entertainment as he could provide.

The school-days of my childhood I remember with nothing but pleasure. I must have been a dull boy, I suppose, in some respects, for I never got into scrapes, never played truant, and was never, that I can remember, punished for anything. The instruction was simple enough. Special stress was laid upon spelling, and I am inclined to think that every one of my fellow-pupils [22] learned to spell more correctly than some gentlemen and ladies do in our days.

Our teachers were always men in winter and women in summer. I remember some of the men very well, but one of them especially. What pupil of his could ever forget Asa Day,—the most extraordinary figure that ever I saw, a perfect chunk of a man? He could not have been five feet high, but with thews and sinews to make up for the defect in height, and a head big enough for a giant. He might have sat for Scott's "Black Dwarf;" yet he was not ill-looking, rather handsome in the face. And I think I never saw a face that could express such energy, passion, and wrath, as his. Indeed, his whole frame was instinct with energy. I see him now, as he marched by our house in the early morning, with quick, short step, to make the school-room fire; and a roaring one it was, in a large open fireplace; for he did everything about the school. In fact, he took possession of school, schoolhouse, and district too, for that matter, as if it were a military post; with the difference, that he was to fight, not enemies without, but within,—to beat down insubordination and enforce obedience. And his anger, when roused, was the most remarkable thing. It stands before me now, through all my life, as the one picture of a man in a fury. But if he frightened us children, he taught us too, and that thoroughly.

In general our teachers were held in great [23] reverence and affection. I remember especially the pride with which I once went in a chaise, when I was about ten, to New Marlborough, to fetch the schoolma'am. No courtier, waiting upon a princess, could have been prouder or more respectful than I was.

To turn, for a moment, to a different scene, and to much humbler persons, that pass and repass in the camera obscura of my early recollections. The only Irishman that was in Sheffield, I think, in those days, lived in my father's family for several years as a hired man,—Richard; I knew him by no other name then, and recall him by no other now,—the tallest and best-formed "exile of Erin" that I have ever seen; prodigiously strong, yet always gentle in manner and speech to us children; with the full brogue, and every way marked in my view, and set apart from every one around him,—"a stranger in a strange land." The only thing besides, that I distinctly remember of him, was the point he made every Christmas of getting in the "Yule-log," a huge log which he had doubtless been saving out in chopping the wood-pile, big enough for a yoke of oxen to draw, and which he placed with a kind of ceremony and respect in the great kitchen fireplace. With our absurd New England Puritan ways, yet naturally derived from the times of the English Commonwealth, when any observance of Christmas was made penal and punished with [24] imprisonment, I am not sure that we should have known anything of Christmas, but for Richard's Yule-log.

There was another class of persons who were frequently engaged to do day's work on the farm,—that of the colored people. Some of them had been slaves here in Sheffield. They were virtually emancipated by our State Bill of Rights, passed in 1783. The first of them that sought freedom under it, and the first, it is said, that obtained it in New England, was a female slave of General Ashley, and her advocate in the case was Mr. Sedgwick, afterwards Judge Sedgwick, who was then a lawyer in Sheffield.

There were several of the men that stand out as pretty marked individualities in my memory, Peter and Caesar and Will and Darby; merry old fellows they seemed to be,—I see no laborers so cheerful and gay now,—and very faithful and efficient workers. Peter and his wife, Toah (so was she called), had belonged to my maternal grandfather, and were much about us, helping, or being helped, as the case might be. They both lived and died in their own cottage, pleasantly situated on the bank of Skenob Brook. They tilled their own garden, raised their own "sarse," kept their own cow; and I have heard one say that "Toah's garden had the finest damask roses in the world, and her house, and all around it, was the pink of neatness."

In taking leave of my childhood, I must say [25] that, so far as my experience goes, the ordinary poetic representations of the happiness of that period, as compared with after life, are not true, and I must doubt whether they ought to be true. I was as happy, I suppose, as most children. I had good health; I had companions and sports; the school was not a hardship to me,—I was always eager for it; I was never hardly dealt with by anybody; I was never once whipped in my life, that I can remember; but instead of looking back to childhood as the blissful period of my life, I find that I have been growing happier every year, up to this very time. I recollect in my youth times of moodiness and melancholy; but since I entered on the threshold of manly life, of married and parental life, all these have disappeared. I have had inward struggles enough, certainly,—struggles with doubt, with temptation,—sorrows and fears and strifes enough; but I think I have been gradually, though too slowly, gaining the victory over them. Truth, art, religion,—the true, the beautiful, the divine,—have constantly risen clearer and brighter before me; my family bonds have grown stronger, friends dearer, the world and nature fuller of goodness and beauty, and I have every day grown a happier man.

To take up again the thread of my story, I pass from childhood to my youth. My winters, up to the age of about sixteen, were given to [26] school,—the common district-school,—and my summers, to assisting my father on the farm; after that, for a year or two, my whole time was devoted to preparing for college. For this purpose I went first, for one year, to a school taught in Sheffield by Mr. William H. Maynard, afterwards an eminent lawyer and senator in the State of New York. He came among us with the reputation of being a prodigy in knowledge; he was regarded as a kind of walking library; and this reputation, together with his ceaseless assiduity as a teacher, awakened among us boys an extraordinary ambition. What we learned, and how we learned it, and how we lost it, might well be a caution to all other masters and pupils. Besides going through Virgil and Cicero's Orations that year, and frequent composition and declamation, we were prepared, at the end of it, for the most thorough and minute examination in grammar, in Blair's Rhetoric, in the two large octavo volumes of Morse's Geography, every fact committed to memory, every name of country, city, mountain, river, every boundary, population, length, breadth, degree of latitude,—and we could repeat, word for word, the Constitution of the United States. The consequence was, that we dropped all that load of knowledge, or rather burden upon the memory, at the very threshold of the school. Grammar I did study to some purpose that year, though never before. I lost two years of my childhood, I think, upon that study, absurdly [27] regarded as teaching children to speak the English language, instead of being considered as what it properly is, the philosophy of language, a science altogether beyond the reach of childhood.

Of the persons and circumstances that influenced my culture and character in youth, there are some that stand out very prominently in my recollection, and require mention in this account of myself.

My father, first of all, did all that he could for me. He sent me to college when he could ill afford it. But, what was more important as an influence, all along from my childhood it was evidently his highest desire and ambition for me that I should succeed in some professional career, I think that of a lawyer. I was fond of reading,—indeed, spent most of the evenings of my boyhood in that way,—and I soon observed that he was disposed to indulge me in my favorite pursuit. He would often send out my brothers, instead of me, upon errands or chores, "to save me from interruption." What he admired most, was eloquence; and I think he did more than Cicero's De Oratore to inspire me with a similar feeling. I well remember his having been to Albany once, and having heard Hamilton, and the unbounded admiration with which he spoke of him. I was but ten years old when Hamilton was stricken down; yet such was my interest in [28] him, and such my grief, that my schoolmates asked me, "What is the matter?" I said, "General Hamilton is dead." "But what is it? Who is it?" they asked. I replied that he was a great orator; but I believe that it was to them much as if I had said that the elephant in a menagerie had been killed. This early enthusiasm I owed to my father. It influenced all my after thoughts and aims, and was an impulse, though it may have borne but little appropriate fruit.

For books to read, the old Sheffield Library was my main resource. It consisted of about two hundred volumes,—books of the good old fashion, well printed, well bound in calf, and well thumbed too. What a treasure was there for me! I thought the mine could never be exhausted. At least, it contained all that I wanted then, and better reading, I think, than that which generally engages our youth nowadays,—the great English classics in prose and verse, Addison and Johnson and Milton and Shakespeare, histories, travels, and a few novels. The most of these books I read, some of them over and over, often by torchlight, sitting on the floor (for we had a rich bed of old pine-knots on the farm); and to this library I owe more than to anything that helped me in my boyhood. Why is it that all its volumes are scattered now? What is it that is coming over our New England villages, that looks like deterioration and running down? Is our life going out of us to enrich the great West? [29]I remember the time when there were eminent men in Sheffield. Judge Sedgwick commenced the practice of the law here; and there were Esquire Lee, and John W. Hurlbut, and later, Charles Dewey, and a number of professional men besides, and several others who were not professional, but readers, and could quote Johnson and Pope and Shakespeare; my father himself could repeat the "Essay on Man," and whole books of the "Paradise Lost."

My model man was Charles Dewey, ten or twelve years older than myself. What attracted me to him was a singular union of strength and tenderness. Not that the last was readily or easily to be seen. There was not a bit of sunshine in it,—no commonplace amiableness. He wore no smiles upon his face. His complexion, his brow, were dark; his person, tall and spare; his bow had no suppleness in it, it even lacked something of graceful courtesy, rather stiff and stately; his walk was a kind of stride, very lofty, and did not say "By your leave," to the world. I remember that I very absurdly, though unconsciously, tried to imitate it. His character I do not think was a very well disciplined one at that time; he was, I believe, "a good hater," a dangerous opponent, yet withal he had immense self-command. On the whole, he was generally regarded chiefly as a man of penetrative intellect and sarcastic wit; but under all this I discerned a spirit so true, so delicate and tender, so touched [30] with a profound and exquisite, though concealed, sensibility, that he won my admiration, respect, and affection in an equal degree. He removed early in life to practise the law in Indiana. We seldom meet; but though twenty years intervene, we meet as though we had parted but yesterday. He has been a Judge of the Supreme Court, and, I believe, the most eminent law authority in his adopted State; and he would doubtless have been sent to take part in the National Councils, but for an uncompromising sincerity and manliness in the expression of his political opinions, little calculated to win votes.

And now came the time for a distinct step forward,—a step leading into future life.

It was for some time a question in our family whether I should enter Charles Dewey's office in Sheffield as a student at law, or go to college. It was at length decided that I should go; and as Williams College was near us, and my cousin, Chester Dewey, was a professor there, that was the place chosen for me. I entered the Sophomore class in the third term, and graduated in 1814, in my twenty-first year.

Two events in my college life were of great moment to me,—the loss of sight, and the gain, if I may say so, of insight.

In my Junior year, my eyes, after an attack of measles, became so weak that I could not use them more than an hour in a day, and I was [31] obliged to rely mainly upon others for the prosecution of my studies during the remainder of the college course. I hardly know now whether to be glad or sorry for this deprivation. But for this, I might have been a man of learning. I was certainly very fond of my studies, especially of the mathematics and chemistry. I mention it the rather, because the whole course and tendency of my mind has been in other directions. But Euclid's Geometry was the most interesting book to me in the college course; and next, Mrs. B.'s Chemistry: the first, because the intensest thinking is doubtless always the greatest possible intellectual enjoyment; and the second, because it opened to me my first glance into the wonders of nature. I remember the trembling pride with which, one day in the Junior year, I took the head of the class, while all the rest shrunk from it, to demonstrate some proposition in the last book of Euclid. At Commencement, when my class graduated, the highest part was assigned to me. "Pretty well for a blind boy," my father said, when I told him of it; it was all he said, though I knew that nothing in the world could have given him more pleasure. But if it was vanity then, or if it seem such now to mention it, I may be pardoned, perhaps, for it was the end of all vanity, effort, or pretension to be a learned man. I remember when I once told Channing of this, and said that but for the loss of sight I thought I should have devoted myself to the pursuits of learning, his [32] reply was, "You were made for something better." I do not know how that may be; but I think that my deprivation, which lasted for some years, was not altogether without benefit to myself. I was thrown back upon my own mind, upon my own resources, as I should never otherwise have been. I was compelled to think—in such measure as I am able—as I should not otherwise have done. I was astonished to find how dependent I had been upon books, not only for facts, but for the very courses of reasoning. To sit down solitary and silent for hours, and to pursue a subject through all the logical steps for myself,—to mould the matter in my own mind without any foreign aid,—was a new task for me. Ravignan, the celebrated French preacher, has written a little book on the Jesuit discipline and course of studies, in which he says that the one or two years of silence appointed to the pupil absolute seclusion from society and from books too were the most delightful and profitable years of his novitiate. I think I can understand how that might be true in more ways than one. Madame Guyon's direction for prayer to pause upon each petition till it is thoroughly understood and felt had great wisdom in it. We read too much. For the last thirty years I have read as much as I pleased, and probably more than was good for me.

The disease in my eyes was in the optic nerve; there was no external inflammation. Under the [33] best surgical advice I tried different methods of cure,—cupping, leeches, a thimbleful of lunar caustic on the back of the neck, applied by Dr. Warren, of Boston; and I remember spending that very evening at a party, while the caustic was burning. So hopeful was I of a cure, that the very pain was a pleasure. I said, "Bite, and welcome!" But it was all in vain. At length I met with a person whose eyes had been cured of the same disease, and who gave me this advice: "Every evening, immediately before going to bed, dash on water with your hands, from your wash-bowl, upon your closed eyes; let the water be of about the temperature of spring-water; apply it till there is some, but not severe, pain, say for half a minute; then, with a towel at hand, wipe the eyes dry before opening them, and rub the parts around smartly; after that do not read, or use your eyes in any way, or have a light in the room." I faithfully tried it, and in eight months I began to experience relief; in a year and a half I could read all day; in two years, all night. Let any one lose the use of his eyes for five years, to know what that means. Afterwards I neglected the practice, and my eyes grew weaker; resumed it, and they grew stronger.

The other event to which I have referred as occurring in my college life was of a far different character, and compared to which all this is nothing. It is lamentable that it ever should be an event in any human life. The sense of religion [34] should be breathed into our childhood, into our youth, along with all its earliest and freshest inspirations; but it was not so with me. Religion had never been a delight to me before; now it became the highest. Doubtless the change in its form partook of the popular character usually attendant upon such changes at the time, but the form was not material. A new day rose upon me. It was as if another sun had risen into the sky; the heavens were indescribably brighter, and the earth fairer; and that day has gone on brightening to the present hour. I have known the other joys of life, I suppose, as much as most men; I have known art and beauty, music and gladness; I have known friendship and love and family ties; but it is certain that till we see GOD in the world—GOD in the bright and boundless universe we never know the highest joy. It is far more than if one were translated to a world a thousand times fairer than this; for that supreme and central Light of Infinite Love and Wisdom, shining over this world and all worlds, alone can show us how noble and beautiful, how fair and glorious, they are. In saying this, I do not arrogate to myself any unusual virtue, nor forget my defects; these are not the matters now in question. Nor, least of all, do I forget the great Christian ministration of light and wisdom, of hope and help to us. But the one thing that is especially signalized in my experience is this, the Infinite Goodness and Loveliness began to be [35] revealed to me, and this made for me "a new heaven and a new earth."

The sense of religion comes to men under different aspects; that is, where it may be said to come; where it is not imbibed, as it ought to be, in early and unconscious childhood, like knowledge, like social affection, like the common wisdom of life. To some, it comes as the consoler of grief; to others, as the deliverer from terror and wrath To me it came as filling an infinite void, as the supply of a boundless want, and ultimately as the enhancement of all joy. I had been somewhat sad and sombre in the secret moods of my mind, read Kirke White and knew him by heart; communed with Young's "Night Thoughts," and with his prose writings also; and with all their bad taste and false ideas of religion, I think they awaken in the soul the sense of its greatness and its need. I nursed all this, something like a moody secret in my heart, with a kind of pride and sadness; I had indeed the full measure of the New England boy's reserve in my early experience, and did not care whether others understood me or not. And for a time something of all this flowed into my religion. I was among the strictest of my religious companions. I was constant to all our religious exercises, and endeavored to carry a sort of Carthusian silence into my Sundays. I even tried, absurdly enough, to pass that day without a smile upon my countenance. It was on the ascetic side only that I [36] had any Calvinism in my religious views, for in doctrine I immediately took other ground. I maintained, among my companions, that whatever God commanded us to do or to be, that we had power to do and be. And I remember one day rather impertinently saying to a somewhat distinguished Calvinistic Doctor of Divinity: "You hold that sin is an infinite evil?" "Yes." "And that the atonement is infinite?" "Yes." "Suppose, then, that the first sinner comes to have his sins cancelled; will he not require the whole, and nothing will be left?" "Infinites! infinites!" he exclaimed; "we can't reason about infinites!"

In connection with the religious ideas and impressions of which I have been speaking, comes before me one of the most remarkable persons that I knew in my youth, Paul Dewey, Uncle Paul, we always called him. He was my father's cousin, and married my mother's half-sister. His religion was marked by strong dissent from the prevailing views; indeed, he was commonly regarded as an infidel. But I never heard him express any disbelief of Christianity. It was against the Church construction of it, against the Orthodox creed, and the ways and methods of the religious people about him, that he was accustomed to speak, and that in no doubtful language. I was a good deal with him during the year before I went to college, for he taught me the mathematics; and one day he said to me, "Orville, you are going to college, and you will [37] be converted there." I said, "Uncle, how can you speak in that way to me?" "Nay," he replied, "I am perfectly serious; you will be converted, and when you are, write to me about it, for I shall believe what you say." When that happened which he predicted,—when something had taken place in my experience, of which neither he, nor I then, had any definite idea, I wrote to him a long letter, in which I frankly and fully expressed all my feelings, and told him that what he had thus spoken of, whether idly or sincerely, had become to me the most serious reality. I learned from his family afterwards that my letter seemed to make a good deal of impression on him. He was true to what he had said; he did take my testimony into account, and from that time after, spoke with less warmth and bitterness upon such subjects. Doubtless his large sagacity saw an explanation of my experience, different from that which I then put upon it. But he saw that it was at least sincere, and respected it accordingly. Certainly it did not change his views of the religious ministrations of the Church. He declined them when they were offered to him upon his death-bed, saying plainly that he did not wish for them. He was cross with Church people even then, and said to one of them who called, as he thought obtrusively, to talk and pray with him, "Sir, I desire neither your conversation nor your prayers." All this while, it is to be remembered that he was a man, not only of [38] great sense, but of incorruptible integrity, of irreproachable habits, and of great tenderness in his domestic relations. Whatever be the religious judgments formed of such men, mine is one of mingled respect and regret. It reminds me of an anecdote related of old Dr. Bellamy, of Connecticut, the celebrated Hopkinsian divine, who was called into court to testify concerning one of his parishioners, against whom it was sought to be proved that he was a very irascible, violent, and profane man; and as this man was, in regard to religion, what was called in those days "a great opposer," it was expected that the Doctor's testimony would be very convincing and overwhelming. "Well," said Bellamy, "Mr. X is a rough, passionate, swearing man,—I am sorry to say it; but I do believe," he said, hardly repressing the tears that started, "that there is more of the milk of human kindness in his heart than in all my parish put together!"

I may observe, in passing, that I heard, in those days, a great deal of dissent expressed from the popular theology, beside my uncle's. I heard it often from my father and his friends. It was a frequent topic in our house, especially after a sermon on the decrees, or election, or the sinner's total inability to comply with the conditions on which salvation was offered to him. The dislike of these doctrines increased and spread here, till it became a revolt of nearly half the town, I think, against them; and thirty years ago a Liberal [39] society might have been built up in Sheffield, and ought to have been. I very well remember my father's coming home from the General Court [The Massachusetts Legislative Assembly is so called.—M. E. D.], of which he was a member, and expressing the warmest admiration of the preaching of Channing. The feeling, however, of hostility to the Orthodox faith, in his time, was limited to a few; but somebody in New York, who was acquainted with it,—I don't know who,—sent up some infidel books. One of them was lying about in our house, and I remember seeing my mother one day take it and put it into the fire. It was a pretty resolute act for one of the gentlest beings that I ever knew, and decisively showed where she stood. She did not sympathize with my father in his views of religion, but meekly, and I well remember how earnestly, she sought and humbly found the blessed way, such as was open to her mind.

As my whole view of religion was changed from indifference or aversion to a profound interest in it, a change very naturally followed in my plan for future life, that is, in my choice of a profession,—very naturally, at least then; I do not say that it would be so now. I expected to be a lawyer; and I have sometimes been inclined to regret that I was not; for courts of law always have had, and have still, a strange fascination for me, and I see now that a lawyer's or physician's life may be [40] actuated by as lofty principles, and may be as noble and holy, as a clergyman's. But I did not think so then. Then, I felt as if the life of a minister of religion were the only sacred, the only religious life; as, in regard to the special objects with which it is engaged, it is. But what especially moved me to embrace it, I will confess, was a desire to vindicate for religion its rightful claim and place in the world, to roll off the cloud and darkness that lay upon it, and to show it in its true light. It had been dark to me; it had been something strange and repulsive, and even unreal,—something conjured up by fear and superstition. I came to see it as the divinest, the sublimest, and the loveliest reality, and I burned with a desire that others should see it.

This "divine call" I had, whether or not it answers to what is commonly meant by that phrase, and I am glad that I obeyed it.

But now, how was I to prosecute this design? how carry on the preparatory studies, when my eyes did not permit me to read more than half an hour a day? I hesitated and turned aside, first to teach a school in Sheffield for a year, and next, for another year, to try a life of business in New York. At length, however, my desire for my chosen profession became so irrepressible, that I determined to enter the Theological Seminary at Andover, and to pursue my studies as well as I could without my eyes, expecting afterwards to preach without notes. [41] At Andover I passed three years, attending to the course of studies as well as I was able. I gave to Hebrew the half-hour a day that I was able to study; with the Greek Testament I was familiar enough to go on with my room-mate, Cyrus Byington, [FN] who since has spent his life as a missionary among the Choctaws; and for reading I was indebted to his unvarying kindness and that of my classmates and friends. Still, I was left, some hours of every day, to my own meditations. But the being obliged to think for myself upon the theological questions that daily came before [42] the class, instead of reading what others had said about them, seemed to me not without its advantages.

[FN Byington was a young lawyer, here in Sheffield, of good abilities and prospects, but under a strong religious impression he determined to quit the law and study theology. He was a man of ardent temperament, whose thoughts were all feelings as well, which, though less reliable as thought, were strong impulses, always directed, consecrated to good ends. A being more unselfish, more ready to sacrifice himself for others, could not easily be found. This spirit made him a missionary. When our class was about leaving Andover, the question was solemnly propounded to us by our teachers, who of us would go to the heathen—I well remember the pain and distress with which Byington examined it,—for no person could be more fondly attached to his friends and kindred,—his final decision to go, and the perfect joy he had in it after his mind was made up. He went to the Choctaw and Cherokee Indians in Florida, and, on their removal to the Arkansas reservation, accompanied them, and spent his life among them. He left, as the fruit of one part of his work, a Choctaw grammar and dictionary, and a yet better result in the improved condition of those people. Late in life, on a visit here, he told me that the converted Indians in Arkansas owned farms around him, laboring, and living as respectably as white people do. Here was that very civilization said to be impossible to the Indian.]

Andover had its attractions, and not many distractions. I liked it, and I disliked it. I liked it for its opportunities for thorough study,—our teachers were earnest and thorough men,—and for the associates in study that it gave me. I could say, "For my companions' sake, peace be within thy walls." I disliked it for its monastic seclusion. Not that this was any fault of the institution, but for the first time in my life I boarded in commons; the domestic element dropped out of it, and I was persuaded, as I never had been before, of the beneficence of that ordinance that "sets the solitary in families." It was a fine situation in which to get morbid and dispirited and dyspeptic. On the last point I had some experiences that were somewhat notable to me. We were directed, of course, to take a great deal of exercise. We were very zealous about it, and sometimes walked five miles before breakfast, and that in winter mornings. It did not avail me, however; and I got leave to go out and board in a family, half a mile distant. I found that the three miles a day in going back and forth, that regular exercise, was worth more to me than all my previous and more violent efforts in that way. But I imagine that was not all. I had the misfortune to scald my foot, and was obliged for three weeks to sit perfectly still. [43] When I came back, Professor Stuart said to me, "Well, how is it with your dyspepsia?" "All gone," was the reply. "But how have you lived?" for his dietetics were very strict. "Why, I have eaten pies and pickles,—and pot-hooks and trammels I might, for any harm in the matter." Here was a wonder,——no exercise and no regimen, and I was well! The conclusion I came to, was, on the whole, that cheerfulness first, and next regularity, are the best guards against the monster dyspepsia. And another conclusion was, that exercise can no more profitably be condensed than food can.

As to morbid habits of mind, to which isolated seminaries are exposed, I had also some experience. What complaints of our spiritual dulness constantly arose among us! And there was other dulness, too,—physical, moral, social. I remember, at one time, the whole college fell into a strange and unaccountable depression. The occasion was so serious that the professors called us together in the chapel to remonstrate with us; and, after talking it all over, and giving us their advice, one of them said: "The evil is so great, and relief so indispensable, that I will venture to recommend to you a particular plan. Go to your rooms; assemble some dozen or twenty in a room; form a circle, and let the first in it say 'Haw!' and the second 'Haw!' and so let it go round; and if that does n't avail, let the first again say 'Haw! haw!' and so on." We tried it, [44] and the result may be imagined. Very astonishing it must have been to the people without, but the spell was broken.

But more serious matters claim attention in connection with Andover. I was to form some judgment upon questions in theology. I certainly was desirous of finding the Orthodox system true. But the more I studied it, the more I doubted. My doubts sprung, first, from a more critical study of the New Testament. In Professor Stuart's crucible, many a solid text evaporated, and left no residuum of proof. I was startled at the small number of texts, for instance, which his criticism left to support the doctrine of "the personality of the Holy Spirit." I remember saying to him in the class one day, when he had removed another prop,—another proof-text: "But this is one of the two or three passages that are left to establish the doctrine." His answer was: "Is not one declaration of God enough? Is it not as strong as a thousand?" It silenced, but it did not satisfy me. In the next place, I found difficulties in our theology from looking at it in a point of view which I had not before considered, and that was the difference between words and ideas, between the terms we used and the actual conceptions we entertained, or between the abstract thesis and the living sense of the matter. Thus with regard to the latter point, I found that the more I believed in the doctrine of literally eternal punishments, the more [45] I doubted it. As the living sense of it pressed more and more upon my mind, it became too awful to be endured; it darkened the day and the very world around me. At length I could not see a happy company or a gay multitude without falling into a sadness that marred and blighted everything. All joyous life, seen in the light of this doctrine, seemed to me but a horrible mockery. It is evident that John Forster's doubts sprung from the same cause. And then, I had been accustomed to use the terms "Unity" and "Trinity" as in some vague sense compatible; but when I came to consider what my actual conceptions were, I found that the Three were as distinct as any three personalities of which I could conceive. The service which Dr. Channing's celebrated sermon at the ordination of Mr. Sparks in Baltimore did me, was to make that clear to me. With such doubts, demanding further examination, I left the Seminary at Andover.

We parted, we classmates, many of us in this world never to meet again. Some went to the Sandwich Islands, one to Ceylon, one to the Choctaw Indians; most remained at home, some to hold high positions in our churches and colleges, Wheeler, President of the Vermont University, a liberal-minded and accomplished man; Torrey, Professor in the same, a man of rare scholarship and culture; Wayland, President of Brown University, in Rhode Island, well and widely [46] known; and Haddock, Professor in Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, and recently our charge d'affaires in Portugal. Haddock, I thought, had the clearest head among us. Our relations were very friendly, though I was a little afraid of him, and with him I first visited his uncle, Daniel Webster, in Boston. I was struck with what Mr. Webster said of him, many years after, considering that the great statesman was speaking of a comparatively retired and studious man: "Haddock I should like to have always with me; he is full of knowledge, of the knowledge that I want, pure-minded, agreeable, pious," I use his very words, "and if I could afford it, and he would consent, I would take him to myself, to be my constant companion."

I left Andover, then, in the summer of 1819, and in a state of mind that did not permit me to be a candidate for settlement in any of the churches. I therefore accepted an invitation from the American Education Society to preach in behalf of its objects, in the churches generally, through the State, and was thus occupied for about eight months.

Some time in the spring, I think, of 1820, I went down to Gloucester to preach in the old Congregational Church, and was invited to become its pastor. I replied that I was too unsettled in my opinions to be settled anywhere. The congregation then proposed to me to come and preach [47] a year to them, postponing the decision, both on their part and mine, to the end of it. I was very glad to accept this proposition, for a year of retired and quiet study was precisely what I wanted. I spent that year in examining the questions that had arisen in my mind, especially with regard to the Trinity. I read Emlyn's "Humble Inquiry," Yates and Wardlaw, Channing and Worcester, besides other books; but especially I made the most thorough examination I was able, of all the texts in both Testaments that appeared to bear upon the subject. The result was an undoubting rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. The grounds for this, and other modifications of theological opinion, I need not give here; they are sufficiently stated in what I have written and published.

And here let me say that, although I had my anxieties, I had none about my personal hold upon heart-sustaining truth. It was emphatically a year of prayer, if I may without presumption or indelicacy say so. Humbly and earnestly I sought to the God of wisdom and light to guide me; and I never felt for a moment that I was perilling my salvation. I had a foundation of repose, stronger than mere theology can give, deep and sure beneath me. I had indeed my anxieties. I felt as if I were putting in peril all my worldly welfare. All the props which a man builds up around him in his early studies, all the props of church relationship and religious friendship, seemed to be suddenly falling away, and I was [48] about to take my stand on the threshold of life, alone, unsupported, and unfriended.

I soon had practical demonstration of this, not only in the coldness and the withdrawal of friends, all natural enough, I suppose, and conscientious, no doubt, but in the summons of the Presbytery of the city of New York, from which I had taken out my license to preach, to appear before it and answer to the charge of heresy. The summons was made in terms at war, I thought, with Christian liberty, and I refused to obey it. The terms may have been in consonance with the Presbyterian discipline, and perhaps I ought not to have refused. What I felt was, and this, substantially, I believe, was what I said, that, if "the Presbytery propose to examine me simply to ascertain whether my opinions admit of my standing in the Presbyterian Church, I have no objection; I neither expect nor wish to remain with it; but it appears to me to assume a right and authority over my opinions to which I cannot submit."

At the end of the year passed in Gloucester, it appeared that the congregation was about equally divided on the question of retaining me as pastor; at any rate, the circumstances did not permit me to think of it, and I went up to Boston to assist Dr. Channing in his duties as pastor of the Federal Street Church.

But I must not pass over, yet cannot comment upon, the great event of my year at Gloucester, the greatest and happiest of my life, my [49] marriage. [FN 1] It took place in Boston, on the 26th day of December, 1820, the Rev. Dr. Jarvis officiating as clergyman, my wife's family being then in attendance upon his church. As in the annals of nations it is commonly said that, while calamities and disasters crowd the page, the happy seasons are passed over in silence and have no record, so let it be here.

My going up to Boston, to be acquainted with Channing, and to preach in his church, excited in me no small expectation and anxiety. I approached both the church and the man with something of trembling. Of Channing, of his character, of his conversation, and the great impression it made upon me, as upon everybody that approached him, I have already publicly spoken, in a sermon [FN 2] which I delivered on my return from Europe after his death, and in a letter to be inserted in Dr. Sprague's "Annals of the American Pulpit." In entering the pulpit of Dr. Channing, as his assistant for a season, I felt that I was committing myself to an altogether new ordeal, I had been educated in the Orthodox Church; I knew little or nothing about the style and way of preaching in the Unitarian churches; I knew only the pre-eminent place which Dr.

[FN 1: To Louisa Farnham, daughter of William Farnham, of Boston. M. E. D.]

[FN 2: This sermon, a noble, tender, and discriminating tribute to Dr. Channing, was reprinted in 1831, on the occasion of the Channing Centennial Celebration at Newport, R. I.—M. E. D.]

[50] Channing occupied, both as writer and preacher, and I naturally felt some anxiety about my reception. I will only say that it was kind beyond my expectation. After some months Dr. Channing went abroad, and I occupied his pulpit till he returned. In all, I was in his pulpit about two years. On my taking leave of it, the congregation presented me with a thousand dollars to buy a library. It was a most timely and welcome gift.

During my residence in Boston, I made my first appearance, but anonymously, in print, in an essay entitled "Hints to Unitarians." How ready this body of Christians has always been to accept sincere and honest criticism, was evinced by the reception of my adventurous essay. My gratification, it may be believed, was not small on learning that it had been quoted with approbation in the English Unitarian pulpits; and Miss Martineau told me, when she was in this country, then learning that I was the author, that she, with a friend of hers, had caused it to be printed as a tract for circulation. She would say now that it was in her nonage that she did it.

The most remarkable man, next to Channing, that I became acquainted with during this residence of two years in Boston, was Jonathan Phillips. He was a merchant by profession, but inherited a large fortune, and was never, that I know, engaged much in active business. He led, when I knew him, a contemplative life, was an assiduous reader, and a deeper thinker. He had [51] a splendid library, and spent much of his time among his books. If he had had the proper training for it, I always thought he would have made a great metaphysician. His conversation was often profound, and always original, always drawn from the workings of his own mind, and was always occupied with great philosophical and religious themes. It was born of struggle, more, I think, than any man's I ever talked with. For he had a great moral nature, and great difficulties within, arising partly from his religious education, but yet more from the contact with actual life of a very sensitive temperament and much ill health. He had worked his way out independently from the former, and stood on firm ground; and when some of his family friends charged Channing with having drawn him away from Orthodoxy, Channing replied, "No; he has influenced me more than I have influenced him."

In London, in 1833, I met Mr. Phillips with Dr. Tuckerman, well known as the pioneer in the "Ministry to the Poor in Cities," about to take the tour on the Continent. He invited me to join them, and we travelled together on the Rhine and in Switzerland. It was on this journey that I became acquainted with the sad effect produced upon him by great and depressing indisposition. His case was very singular, and explains things in him that surprised his acquaintances very much, and, in fact, did him much wrong with them. It was a scrofulous condition of the stomach, and [52] when developed by taking cold, it was something dreadful to hear him describe. The effect was to make entirely another man of him. He who was affluent in means and disposition became suddenly not only depressed and melancholy, but anxious about expenses, sharp with the courier upon that point, and not at all agreeable as a travelling companion. But when the fit passed off, which seemed for the time to be a kind of insanity, his spirits rose, and his released faculties burst out in actual splendor. He became gay; he enjoyed everything, and especially the scenery around him. I never knew before that his aesthetic nature was so fine. He said so many admirable things while we were going over Switzerland, that I was sorry afterwards that I had not noted them down at the time, and written a sheet or two of Phillipsiana. His countenance changed as much as his conversation, and its expression became actually beautiful. There was a miniature likeness taken of him in London. I went to see it; and when I expressed to the artist my warm approval of it, he said: "I am glad to have you say that; for I wanted to draw out all the sweetness of that man's face." [FN]

One of the most distinguished persons in Dr. Channing's congregation was Josiah Quincy, who, during his life, occupied high positions in the country, and of a very dissimilar character,—

[FN: the point in this is that Mr. Phillips' features were of singular and almost repellent homeliness till irradiated by thought or emotion. M. E. D.]

[53] Member of Congress, Mayor of Boston, and President of Harvard University, all of which posts he filled with credit and ability; always conscientious, energetic, devoted to his office, high-toned, and disinterested. He was a model of pure and unselfish citizenship, and deserves for that a statue in Boston.

When Mr. Quincy was a very old man, I asked him one day how he had come to live so long, and in such health and vigor. He answered: "For forty years I have taken no wine; and every morning, before dressing myself, I have spent a quarter of an hour in gymnastic exercises." I adopted the practice, and have found it of great benefit, both as exercise, and inuring against colds. It is really as much exercise as a mile or two of walking. President Felton said: "After that, I can let the daily exercise take care of itself, without going doggedly about it." I find that a good many studious men are doing the same thing. I asked Bryant how much time he gave, and he said, "Three quarters of an hour." After that, at least in his summer home, he is upon his feet almost as much as a cat, and about as nimbly. With his thin and wiry frame, and simple habits, he is likely to live to a greater age than anybody I know. [Mr. Bryant and my father were about of an age. They had known each other almost from boyhood, and their friendship had matured with time. The sudden death of the poet in 1878, from causes that seemed almost accidental, was a great and unexpected blow to the survivor, then himself in feeble health. M. E. D.]

[54] I shall add a word about the healthfulness of these exercises, since it is partly my design in this sketch to give the fruits of my experience. It is true one cannot argue for everybody from his own case. Nevertheless, I am persuaded that this morning exercise and the inuring would greatly promote the general health. "Catching cold" is a serious item in the lives of many people. One, two, or three months of every year they have a cold. For thirty years I have bathed in cold water and taken the air-bath every morning; and in all that time, I think, I have had but three colds, and I know where and how I got these, and that they might have been avoided.

But I have wandered far from my ground, Boston, and my first residence there. I was Dr. Channing's guest for the first month or two, and then and afterwards knew all his family, consisting of three brothers and two sisters. They were not people of wealth or show, but something much better. Henry lived in retirement in the country, not having an aptitude for business, but a sensible person in other respects. George was an auctioneer, but left business and became a very ardent missionary preacher; and Walter was a respectable physician. William was placed in easy circumstances by his marriage. Their sister Lucy, Mrs. Russel of New York, told me that she was very much amused one day by something that her brother William said to Walter. "Walter," he said, "I think we are a very [55] prosperous family. There is Henry, he is a very excellent man. And George, why, George has come out a great spiritual man. And you, you know how you are getting along. And as for me, I do what I can. I think we are a very prosperous family."

Mrs. Russel was a person of great sense, of strong, quiet thought and feeling; and some of her friends used to say that, with the same advantages and opportunities her brother had, she would have been his equal.

On a day's visit which Henry once made me in New Bedford, I remember we had a long conversation on hunting and fishing, in which he condemned them, and I defended. Pushed by his arguments, at length I said, "for I went a-fishing myself sometimes with a boat on the Acushnet; yes, and barely escaped once being carried out to sea by the ebb tide," I said, "My fishing is not a reckless destruction of life; somebody must take fish, and bring them to us for food, and those I catch come to my table." "Now," said he, "that is as if you said to your butcher, You have to slay a certain number of cattle, calves, and sheep, and turkeys, and fowls for my table; let me have the pleasure of coming and killing them myself."

Of Dr. Channing himself, I should, of course, have much to say here, if, as I have just said, I had not already expressed my thoughts of him in print. His conversation struck me most; more [56] even than any of his writings ever did. He was an invalid, and kept much at home and indoors, and he talked hour after hour, day after day, and sometimes for a week, upon the same subject, without ever letting it grow distasteful or wearisome. Edward Everett said, he had just returned from Europe, where doubtless he had seen eminent persons, "I have never met with anybody to whom it was so interesting to listen, and so hard to talk when my turn came." There was, indeed, a grand and surprising superiority in Channing's talk, both in the topics and the treatment of them. There was no repartee in it, and not much of give and take, in any way. People used to come to him, his clerical brethren, I remember Henry Ware and others speaking of it, they came, listened to him, said nothing themselves, and went away. In fact, Channing talked for his own sake, generally. His topic was often that on which he was preparing to write. It was curious to see him, from time to time, as he talked, dash down a note or two on a bit of paper, and throw it into a pigeon-hole, which eventually became quite full.

It would appear from all this that Channing was not a genial person, and he was not. He was too intent upon the subjects that occupied his mind for that varied and sportive talk, that abandon, that sympathetic adjustment of his thoughts to the moods of people around him, which makes the agreeable person. His thoughts [57] moved in solid battalions, but they carried keen weapons. It would have been better for him if he had had more variety, ease, and joyousness in society, and he felt it himself. He was not genial either in his conversation or letters. I doubt if one gay or sportive letter can be found among them all. His habitual style of address, out of his own family, was "My dear Sir," never "My dear Tom," or "My dear Phillips," scarcely, "My dear Friend." Once he says, "Dear Eliza," to Miss Cabot, who married that noble-minded man, Dr. Follen, and in them both he always felt the strongest interest. Let any one compare Channing's letters with those of Lord Jeffrey, for instance. The ease and freedom of Jeffrey's letters, their mingled sense and playfulness, but especially the hearty grasp of affection and familiarity in them, make one feel as if he were introduced into some new and more charming society. Jeffrey begins one of his letters to Tom Moore thus: "My dear Sir damn Sir My dear Moore." Whether there is not, among us, a certain democratic reserve in this matter, I do not know; but I suspect it. Reserve is the natural defence set up against the claims of universal equality.

In the autumn of 1823, on Dr. Channing's return to his pulpit, I went to New Bedford to preach in the Congregational Church, formerly Dr. (commonly called Pater) West's, was invited to be its pastor, and was ordained to that charge [58] on the 17th of December, Dr. Tuckerman giving the sermon. An incident occurred at the ordination which showed me that I had fallen into a new latitude of religious thought and feeling. After the sermon, and in the silence that followed, suddenly we heard the voice of prayer from the midst of the congregation. At first we were not a little disturbed by the irregularity, and the clergymen who leaned over the pulpit to listen looked as if they would have said, "This must be put a stop to"; but the prayer, which was short, went on, so simple, so sincere, so evidently unostentatious and indeed beautiful, so in hearty sympathy with the occasion, and in desire for a blessing on it, that when it closed, all said, "Amen! Amen!" It was a pretty remarkable conquest over prejudice and usage, achieved by simple and self-forgetting earnestness. Indeed, it seemed to have a certain before unthought-of fitness, as a response from the congregation, which is not given in our usual ordination services. The ten years' happy, and, I hope, not unprofitable ministration on my part that followed, and of fidelity on the part of the people, were perhaps some humble fulfilment and answer to the good petitions that it offered, and to all the brotherly exhortations and supplications of that hour.

The congregation was small when I became its pastor, but it grew; a considerable number of families from the Society of Friends connected [59] themselves with it, and it soon rose, as it continues still, to be one of the wealthiest and most liberal societies in the country.

My duties were very arduous. There was no clergyman with whom I could exchange within thirty miles; [FN] relief from this quarter, therefore, was rare, not more than four or five Sundays in the year. I was most of the time in my own pulpit, sometimes for ten months in succession. In addition to this, I became a constant contributor to the "Christian Examiner," for some years, I think as often as to every other number. It was not wise. The duties of the young clergyman are enough for him. The lawyer, the physician, advances slowly to full practice; the whole weight falls upon the clergyman's young strength at once. Mine sunk under it. I brought on a certain nervous disorder of the brain, from which I have never since been free. Of course it interfered seriously with my mental work. How many days hundreds and hundreds did one hour's study in the morning paralyze and prostrate me as completely as if I had been knocked on the head, and lay me, for hours after, helpless on my sofa! After the Sunday's preaching, the effect of which upon me was perhaps singular, making my back and bones ache, and my sinews as if they had been stretched on the rack, making me [60] feel as if I wanted to lie on the floor or on a hard board, if any one knows what that means, after all this, it would be sometimes the middle of the week, sometimes Thursday or Friday, before I could begin to work again, and prepare for the next Sunday. My professional life was a constant struggle; and yet I look back upon it, not with pain, but with pleasure.

[FN: This distance, which now seems so trifling, then involved the hire of a horse and chaise for three days, and two long days' driving through deep, sandy roads. M. E. D.]

Besides all this, subjects of great religious interest to me constantly pressed themselves upon my attention. I remember Dr. Lamson, of Dedham, a very learned and able man, asking me one day how I "found subjects to write upon;" and my answering, "I don't find subjects; they find me." I may say they pursued me. It may be owing to this that my sermons have possibly a somewhat peculiar character; what, I do not know, but I remember William Ware's saying, when my first volume of Discourses appeared, "that they were written as if nobody ever wrote sermons before," and something so they were written. I do not suppose there is much originality of thought in them, nor any curiosa felicitas of language, I could not attend to it; it was as much as I could do to disburden myself, but original in this they are, that they were wrought out in the bosom of my own meditation and experience. The pen was dipped in my heart, I do know that. With burning brain and bursting tears I wrote. Little fruit, perhaps, for so much struggle; be it so, though it could not be so [61] to me. But so we work, each one in his own way; and altogether something comes of it.

Early in my professional life, too, I met certain questions, which every thinking man meets sooner or later, and which were pressed upon my mind by the new element that came into our religious society. The Friends are trained up to reverence the inward light, and have the less respect for historical Christianity. The revelation in our nature, then, and the revelation in the Scriptures; the proper place of each in any just system of thought and theology; what importance is to be assigned to the primitive intuitions of right and wrong, and what to the supernaturalism, to the miracles of the New Testament, these were the questions, and I discussed them a good deal in the pulpit, as matters very practical to many of the minds with which I was dealing. I admitted the full, nay, the supreme value of the original intuitions, of the inward light, of the teachings of the Infinite Spirit in the human soul; without them we could have no religion; without them we could not understand the New Testament at all, and Christianity would be but as light to the blind; but I maintained that Christ's teaching and living and dying were the most powerful appeal and help and guidance to the inward nature, to the original religion of the soul, that it had ever received. And I believed and maintained that this help, at once most divine and most human, was commended to the world by miraculous [62] attestations. Not that the miracle, or the miracle-sanctioned Christianity, was intended to supersede or disparage the inward light; not that it made clearer the truth that benevolence is right, any more than it could make clearer the proposition that two and two make four; not that it lent a sanction to any intuitive truth, but that it was the seal of a mission, this was what I insisted on. And certainly a being who appeared before me, living a divine life, and assuring me of God's paternal care for me and of my own immortality, would impress me far more, if there were "works done by him" which no other man could do, which bore witness of him. And although it should appear, as in a late work on "The Progress of Religious Ideas" it has been made to appear, that in the old systems there were foreshadowings of that which I receive as the most true and divine; that the light had been shining on brighter and brighter through all ages, that would not make it any the less credible or interesting to me, that Jesus should be the consummation of all, the "true Light" that lighteth the steps of men; and that this Light should have come from God's especial illumination, and should be far above the common and natural light of this world's day. Nay, it would be more grateful to me to believe that all religions have had in them something supernaturally and directly from above, than that none have.

[63] But time went on, and work went on, reason as I might; though time would have lost its light and life, and work all cheer and comfort, if I had not believed. But work grew harder. I was obliged to take longer and longer vacations, one of them five months long at the home in Sheffield. After this I went back to my work, preaching almost exclusively in my own pulpit, seldom going away, unless it was now and then for an occasional sermon.

I went over to Providence in 1832, to preach the sermon at Dr. Hall's installation as pastor of the First Church. Arrived on the evening before, some of us of the council went to a caucus, preparatory to a Presidential election, General Jackson being candidate for the Presidency and Martin Van Buren for Vice-President. Finding the speaking rather dull, after an hour or more we rose to leave, when a gentleman touched my arm and said, "Now, if you will stay, you will hear something worth waiting for." We took our seats, and saw John Whipple rising to speak. I was exceedingly grateful for the interruption of our purpose, for I never heard an address to a popular assembly so powerful; close, compact, cogent, Demosthenic in simplicity and force, not a word misplaced, not a word too many, and fraught with that strange power over the feelings, lent by sadness and despondency, a state of mind, I think, most favorable to real eloquence, in which all verbiage is eschewed, and the burden [64] upon the heart is too heavy to allow the speaker to think of himself.

Mr. Whipple was in the opposition, and his main charge against Van Buren especially, was, that it was he who had introduced into our politics the fatal principle of "the spoils to the victors," a principle which, as the orator maintained, with prophetic sagacity, threatened ruin to the Republic. Still there was no extravagance in his way of bringing the charge. I remember his saying, "Does Mr. Van Buren, then, wish for the ruin of his country? No; Caesar never wished for the glory of Rome more than when he desired her to be laid, as a bound victim, at his feet."

We have learned since more than we knew then of the direful influence of that party cry, "The spoils to the victors." It has made our elections scrambles for office, and our parties "rings." Mr. Whipple portrayed the consequences which we are now feeling, and powerfully urged that his State, small though it was, should do its utmost to ward them off. As he went on, and carried us higher and higher, I began to consider how he was to let us down. But the skilful orator is apt to have some clinching instance or anecdote in reserve, and Mr. Whipple's close was this:

"There sleep now, within the sound of my voice, the bones of a man who once stood up in the revolutionary battles for his country. In one of them, he told me, [65] when the little American army, ill armed, ill clad, and with bleeding feet, was drawn up in front of the disciplined troops of England, General Washington passed along our lines, and when he came before us, he stopped, and said, 'I place great confidence in this Rhode Island regiment.' And when I heard that," said he, "I clasped my musket to my breast, and said, Damn 'em; let 'em come!" "The immortal Chieftain" [said the orator] "is looking down upon us now; and he says, 'I place great confidence in this Rhode Island regiment.'"

And now, on the whole, what shall I say of my life in New Bedford? It was, in the main, very happy. I thought I was doing good there; I certainly was thoroughly interested in what I was doing. I found cultivated and interesting society there. I made friends, who are such to me still. In the pastoral relation, New Bedford was, and long continued to be, the very home of my heart; it was my first love.

In 1827 I was invited to go to New York. I did not wish to go, so I expressly told the church in New York (the Second Church); but I consented, in order to accomplish what they thought a great good, provided my congregation in New Bedford would give their consent. They would not give it; and I remained. I believe that I should have lived and died among them, if my health had not failed.

But it failed to that degree that I could no longer do the work, and I determined to go abroad and recruit, and recover it, if possible. [66] This was in 1833. The Messrs. Grinnell & Co., of New York, offered me a passage back and forth in their ships, one of the thousand kind and generous things that they were always doing, and I sailed from New York in the "George Washington" on the 8th of June. It was like death to me to go. I can compare it to nothing else, going, as I did, alone. In London I consulted Sir James Clarke, who told me that the disease was in the brain, and that I must pass three or four years abroad if I would recover from it. I believe I stared at his proposition, it seemed to me so monstrous, for he said, in fine: "Well, you may go home in a year, and think yourself well; but if you go about your studies, you will probably bring on the same trouble again; and if you do, in all probability you will never get rid of it." Alas! it all proved true. I came home in the spring of 1834, thinking myself well. I had had no consciousness of a brain for three months before I left Europe. I went to work as usual; in one month the whole trouble was upon me again, and it became evident that I must leave New Bedford. I could write no more sermons; I had preached every sermon I had, that was worth preaching, five times over, and I could not face another repetition. I retired with my family to the home in Sheffield, and expected to pass some years at least in the quiet of my native village. [67] I should like to record some New Bedford names here, so precious are they to me. Miss Mary Rotch is one, called by everybody "Aunt Mary," from mingled veneration and affection. It might seem a liberty to call her so; but it was not, in her case. She had so much dignity and strength in her character and bearing that it was impossible for any one to speak of her lightly. On our going to New Bedford, she immediately called upon us, and when she went out I could not help exclaiming, "Wife, were ever hearts taken by storm like that!" Storm, the word would be, according to the usage of the phrase; but it was the very contrary, a perfect simplicity and kindliness. But she was capable, too, of righteous wrath, as I had more than one occasion afterwards to see. Indeed, I was once the object of it myself. It was sometime after I left New Bedford, that, in writing a review of the admirable Life of Blanco White by the Rev. J. H. Thom, of Liverpool, while I spoke with warm appreciation of his character, I commented with regret upon his saying, toward the close of his life, that he did not care whether he should live hereafter; and I happened to use the phrase, "He died and made no sign," without thinking of the miserable Cardinal Beaufort, to whom Shakespeare applies it. Aunt Mary immediately came down upon me with a letter of towering indignation for my intolerance. I replied to her, saying that if ever I should be so [68] happy as to arrive at the blessed world where I believed that she and Blanco White would be, and they were not too far beyond me for me to have any communion with them, she would see that I was guilty of no such exclusiveness as she had ascribed to me. She was pacified, I think, and we went on, as good friends as ever. Her religious opinions were of the most catholic stamp, and in one respect they were peculiar. The Friends' idea of the "inward light" seemed to have become with her coincident with the idea of the Author of all light; and when speaking of the Supreme Being, she would never say "God," but "that Influence." That Influence was constantly with her; and she carried the idea so far as to believe that it prompted her daily action, and decided for her every question of duty.

Miss Eliza Rotch had come from her English home shortly before my going to New Bedford, and had brought, with her English education and sense, more than the ordinary English powers of conversation. She, like all her family, had been bred in the Friends' Society; and she came with many of them to my church. She was a most remarkable hearer. With her bright face, and her full, speaking eye, and interested especially, no doubt, in the new kind of ministration to which she was listening, she gave me her whole attention, often slightly nodding her assent, unconsciously to herself and unobserved by others. She married Professor John Farrar of Harvard, and [69] able mathematician, and one of the most genial and lovable men that ever lived.

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