was enrolled as a student for two terms, earning the money to pay for his tuition. Meanwhile, he had been acquiring the best kind of education by devouring every book that he could lay his hands on, including the few on the family shelf—mostly the writings of pious Quakers—and
The Bible towering o'er the rest,One evening the district school teacher, Joshua Coffin, brought to the house a volume of Burns, and read from it to the family. This reading was a revelation to the boy of fourteen, who eagerly sought permission to keep the book for a while. The Scotch poet aroused in him the poetical stirrings which were to occupy his mind from that time on, and marked an epoch in the intellectual development of his boyhood. It was Burns, as he confessed many years later, who made him see
Of all other books the best.
through all familiar thingsand so shaped his imaginings that he became, in a more exact sense than is usually connoted by such literary analogies, the Burns of his own New England country. From this time on, Whittier was an industrious scribbler of rhymes. Most of them have been lost, but enough remain to reveal a promise which may perhaps be characterized as similar to that of the Poems by two brothers, or the Poems by Victor and Cazire. The first of his verses to appear in print were sent, unknown to the author, by his sister Mary to The free press, a weekly paper just established by William Lloyd Garrison in Newburyport. The boy's surprise was great when he read his own composition in an issue of the paper that was delivered at the Whittier farm in the summer of 1826. Other pieces followed, and one day shortly afterward, Garrison made a journey to the farm for the purpose of hunting up his promising contributor. He found Whittier at work in the field, urged the poet's father to send him to the academy, and thus began what was to be the life-long friendship of these
The romance underlying;
The joys and griefs that plume the wings
Of Fancy skyward flying,