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Chapter 2:

  • Manners and society in Boston at the time of Mr. Ticknor's birth.
  • -- his College life. -- admitted to the bar. -- the law not congenial. -- Determines to abandon it and devote himself to a life of letters. -- Decides to go to Europe and study there. -- visits Washington and Virginia in the winter of 1814-15. -- visit to Jefferson at Monticello. -- sketch of Jeffrey.

Mr. Ticknor's sketch of his early life is so full and graphic that little need be added by his biographer. I have only to describe, very briefly, the state of society and manners in Boston during his childhood and youth, thus suggesting some of the influences which helped to train his mind and character, and exhibit the poverty and limitations of that period in the means of education, compared with present resources, but which yet produced ripe scholars through individual resolution and desire for knowledge.

Boston, at the time of Mr. Ticknor's birth, was a small town, of about eighteen thousand inhabitants, forming a homogeneous community, nearly all of whom were of native birth and English descent. They were a people of primitive habits and a plain way of life, with certain peculiarities of character and manners which the great increase in wealth, population, and luxury during succeeding years has not entirely effaced. Though Dr. Freeman had been settled over King's Chapel in 1787, as a Unitarian clergyman, yet the stern faith of the Puritan settlers of New England held very general sway. Dr. Channing, Mr. Norton, and Mr. Buckminster, the real founders of liberal Christianity in New England, were in their childhood,—Dr. Channing, the oldest of them, having been born in 1780. And with the Puritan faith there lingered something of the Puritan spirit, which threw a shade of gravity and sternness over life and manners. One expression

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