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Life of George Ticknor.

Chapter 1:

  • Birth and Parentage.
  • -- Autobiographical sketch.


George Ticknor, son of Elisha and Elizabeth (Billings) Ticknor, was born in Boston, on the first day of August, 1791.

The circumstances of his birth were all favorable for happiness, and for moral and intellectual growth. His parents were of the true New England character,—firm in principle, amiable and affectionate, well instructed, and with a thorough value for all culture. In external condition they were neither rich nor poor, and his early life, therefore, was not pampered by luxury nor chilled by poverty. They lived in a free and active community, surrounded by intelligent friends, whose position and tastes were like their own, and with whom social intercourse was a benefit as well as a pleasure.

To have been born of such a father as his was especially a cause of daily and life-long gratitude. Elisha Ticknor was a man of great purity of character, considerable cultivation, an affectionate nature, and amiable manners, who through life enjoyed in a high degree the confidence and respect of the community in which he lived. Never were the duties of a father more faithfully and tenderly discharged than by him, and never was a father's memory cherished with more reverence, affection, and gratitude than was his by his son. Born at Lebanon, Conn., March 25, 1757, he was educated at Dartmouth College, where he took his degree in 1783. For the next two years he was the head of Moore's Charity School, so called, a preparatory academy [2] connected with Dartmouth College. He then taught a school for about a year in Pittsfield, Mass.; and afterwards, in Boston, became principal of the Franklin public school. But his health declining under his labors, in 1795 he went into business as a grocer in Boston, in which he continued till 1812, when, not liking the occupation, and having acquired a property sufficient for his moderate wants and simple tastes, he retired from business, and lived a happy, useful, and active life, much occupied in measures of public good, until his death, which took place June 26, 1821, at Hanover, N. H., where he was on a visit to some friends.

While he was master of the Franklin School, he made a modest contribution to the literature of his time in the shape of a small grammar of the English tongue, called ‘English Exercises,’ which went through several editions, and was much used in the schools of Boston and other places, till superseded by the work of Lindley Murray.

During his life of active business, Mr. Elisha Ticknor had much to do with the establishment of the Massachusetts Mutual Fire Insurance Company. He was one of the originators of the excellent system of primary schools in Boston, by which the blessings of education were extended to children of tender years, so that they could be prepared, without charge to their parents, for the grammar schools.1

He was, in conjunction with his friend, James Savage, a principal founder of the earliest Savings-bank in Boston,—the first [3] in New England, and the parent of numerous similar institutions, which have done more than any other single agency to teach habits of economy and thrift, and thus lessen the burden of poverty.

Mr. Elisha Ticknor's appearance was striking and attractive. Tall and slim, his movements were dignified and easy. His features were strong and his expression grave, but a gentle blue eye and a bright smile prevented any shade of sternness. High principles carried into every movement of his life, thorough cultivation within moderate limits, strong practical sense, with energy to apply it for the benefit of others,—these admirable qualities were brightened and enriched by warm affections which never failed those who had the claims of kindred or had earned his regard by worth.2

Mr. Ticknor's mother was born in Sharon, Mass., and belonged to a family, composed mostly of farmers, which was scattered over the county of Norfolk, in considerable numbers, in the seventeenth century. At the age of sixteen she was employed as a teacher in one of the town schools of Sharon, and afterwards found similar occupation in the adjoining town of Wrentham. Being attractive in person, and more cultivated than most of her contemporaries, she early won the heart of Mr. Benjamin Curtis, of Roxbury, nephew of the Rev. Philip Curtis, long the clergyman of Sharon, who died in 1797. Young Curtis was graduated at Harvard College in 1771, when he was nineteen years old. They were married, when quite young, by the bridegroom's [4] uncle. Meanwhile, Mr. Curtis pursued his education in medicine, and served as a surgeon in the Revolutionary army.3

At the end of the war he established himself as a physician in the south part of Boston, and with fair promise of success; but in 1784, when thirty-two years old, he died of an acute fever, leaving his widow with four children, the oldest of whom was only six years old, and without property, except a very good house in Essex, then Auchmuty, Street.

Mrs. Curtis, resuming her former occupation, opened in her own house a school for girls, which she found no difficulty in filling. She went on with her work for several years, having among her pupils the daughters of some of the best families in town. She always said that she liked the occupation, and certainly continued it, when it was no longer necessary, after her marriage with Mr. Ticknor, which took place May 1, 1790.

The children by her first marriage were Eliza, who married William H. Woodward, a respectable lawyer in Hanover, N. H., and the defendant in the memorable case of Dartmouth College vs. Woodward; Benjamin, a captain of a merchant ship lost at sea, who was the father of the two eminent members of the bar, Benjamin Robbins Curtis and George Ticknor Curtis; Harriet, who died at the age of twenty-two; and Augustus, who was lost at sea, on a northern voyage, at the age of eighteen.

Mr. Ticknor was the only child of the second marriage.

William Ticknor, father of Elisha, was a farmer, residing in Lebanon, N. H. He lived to a great age, dying in 1822, the year after his son.

We give here some recollections of him, and of his own early life, dictated by Mr. Ticknor in the leisure of his last peaceful years. [5]

My grandfather's farm was at Lebanon, on Connecticut River. Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N. H., where my father was educated, was only a few miles off, and he liked to visit both. My mother went with him, and so did I, beginning in 1802. But it was a very different thing to travel then, and in the interior of New England, from what it is now. The distance was hardly one hundred and twenty miles, but it was a hard week's work, with a carriage and a pair of horses,—the carriage being what used to be called a coachee. One day, I recollect, we made with difficulty thirteen miles, and the road was so rough and dangerous that my mother was put on horseback, and two men were hired to go on foot, with ropes to steady the carriage over the most difficult places. But we got through at last, and I enjoyed it very much, for it was all new, and full of strange adventure. I was eleven when I took this, my first journey.

At Dartmouth College (or rather Hanover), we stayed at President Wheelock's. His wife was a daughter of a Dutch gentleman, governor of the island of St. Thomas, and connected with the Boudinot family, of New Jersey. Some of the furniture of her house, which I suppose she brought with her, made a curious contrast with the life about her. I remember that the sheets on my bed were of delicate linen, and that the pillow-cases were trimmed with lace. There were no carpets on the floors, and the cookery was detestable. I remember how I hated to sit down to dinner.

Dr. Wheelock was stiff and stately. He read constantly, sat up late, and got up early. He talked very gravely and slow, with a falsetto voice. Mr. Webster could imitate him perfectly. He had been in England, he had had a finger in politics, and had been a lieutenant-colonel in the army of the Revolution; but there was not the least trace of either of these portions of his life, in his manners or conversation, at this time. He was one of the most formal men I ever knew. I saw a great deal of him, from 1802 to 1816, in his own house and my father's, but never felt the smallest degree of familiarity with him, nor do I believe that any of the students or young men did. They were generally very awkward, unused to the ways of the world. Many of them, when they went to the President on their little affairs, did not know when the time had come for them to get up and leave him: he, on the other hand, was very covetous of his time, and when the business was settled, and he had waited a little while, he would say, ‘Will you sit longer, sir, or will you go now?’ It was a recognized formula, and no young man—that I ever heard of—ever sat longer after hearing it. [6]

There was a political quarrel about the affairs of the college which changed its constitution in 1819. President Wheelock died in 1817.

My father took little interest in the college after this. He still, however, continued to go every summer to see his father at Lebanon.

It was at Hanover, at the house of an old and valued friend, that he died of sudden paralysis, in the summer of 1821. My grandfather died the next year, very soon after I had visited him. The old gentleman was a good farmer, gentle and winning in his ways, and much liked by his neighbors. He had enough to live upon, but nothing more. In my boyhood, I took great delight in all the farming operations, in which I was allowed to take such share as was suited to my age and strength. I remember I was very fond of a frock of checked stuff my mother made for me to work in, which I very soon spoiled. But I never knew anything of farming. There was one farm of a hundred acres, and another of forty. The house was of moderate size, with two large barns; but there was nothing pretty or attractive in the appearance of the place. We often stayed there a month, sometimes longer.

One summer, when I was about thirteen, before I went to college, my grandfather, my father, and I went to Bath and Littleton, to see some relatives,—my father and I in a chaise, my grandfather on a famous mare that he was very proud of. Sometimes he exchanged with my father. I went to my grandfather's occasionally while I was in college, but not to stay. He came to the Commencement, when I took my degree, in 1807, and was then quite an old man.

My father, who was a good scholar for his time, fitted me for college. I never went to a regular school. He was much connected with Dartmouth College, where he was educated, and where, after he was graduated, he was the head of Moore's Charity School, then, and still, connected with that institution. In consequence of this circumstance, President Wheelock, Professor Woodward, and other persons connected with it, in later years, made my father's house their home when they came to Boston, in the long winter vacations. They took much notice of me, and, at the suggestion of President Wheelock, he examined me for college, and gave me a certificate of admission, before I was ten years old. I only remember that he examined me in Cicero's Orations and the Greek Testament.

Of course, I knew very little, and the whole thing was a form, perhaps a farce. There was no thought of my going to college then, and I did not go till I was fourteen; but I was twice examined at the college (where I went with my father and mother every summer) [7] for advanced standing, and was finally admitted as a Junior, and went to reside there from Commencement, August, 1805. Meantime, I continued to study with my father at home. In 1803 I was put to learn French with Mr. Francis Sales, with whom I made very good progress, though his pronunciation was bad, as he came from the South of France, and both he and I had to correct it later. I also learnt a little Spanish with him,—but very little; though he knew it tolerably well, having lived some time in Spain with an uncle, who, like himself, was a refugee in the time of the Revolution.

About the same time, Mr. Ezekiel Webster, an elder brother of Daniel, a graduate of Dartmouth College, kept a school in Short Street, near my father's house, which was in Essex Street; and my father, thinking Mr. Webster might know more Greek than he did, sent me to him at private hours, to read Homer's Iliad. It was a mistake. I very soon found out that Mr. Webster knew less Greek than my father, and could teach me nothing. But I did not tell of this. I read about half the Iliad with him, much amused by the original, and more with Pope, of which I read the whole.

At Hanover, from 1805 to 1807, I was in Dartmouth College. One main reason for my going there was that my half-sister, Miss Curtis, was married to an extremely respectable lawyer of that place, Mr. William Woodward, and I lived in her family. I had a good room, and led a very pleasant life, with good and respectable people, all more or less connected with the college; but I learnt very little. The instructors generally were not as good teachers as my father had been, and I knew it; so I took no great interest in study. I remember liking to read Horace, and I enjoyed calculating the great eclipse of 1806, and making a projection of it, which turned out nearly right. This, however, with a tolerably good knowledge of the higher algebra, was all I ever acquired in mathematics, and it was soon forgotten.

I was idle in college, and learnt little; but I led a happy life, and ran into no wildness or excesses. Indeed, in that village life, there was small opportunity for such things, and those with whom I lived and associated, both in college and in the society of the place, were excellent people.

Of my classmates, Joseph Bell afterwards became an eminent lawyer; Hunt, the father of the artist and the architect, was a member of Congress; Newcombe distinguished himself in the navy. But the two whom I knew the most were Holbrook—a gentle, careful, but not very successful scholar, who died at the South, where he was a schoolmaster—and Thayer, Sylvanus Thayer, who was the first [8] scholar in the class, and with whom my intimacy, for sixty years, has never been at any time impaired. He made West Point what it has been to the military character of the country, and is still alive (1869) at a great age,—a man of very great ability, of the highest distinction in his profession, and of the purest and truest honor and virtue.4

Soon after I left college,—in 1807,—my father, who had a great regard for classical learning, and knew that I had acquired very little of it, proposed to me to study with the Rev. John Sylvester John Gardiner, Rector of Trinity Church, who was in the habit of preparing a few pupils for Harvard College, and instructing others who had left college. Dr. Gardiner was a very good scholar, bred in England under Dr. Parr, and his teaching was undoubtedly better of the sort than any to be had elsewhere in New England. He received his pupils in his library, in his slippers and dressing-gown. I went to him after the other scholars had left him, from twelve to one o'clock, but sometimes a little earlier, in order to hear some of the recitations. He was a strict and accurate teacher, stern and severe to the inattentive and stupid, but kindly and helpful to willing workers.

I prepared at home what he prescribed, and the rest of the time occupied myself according to my tastes. I read with him parts of Livy, the Annals of Tacitus, the whole of Juvenal and Persius, the Satires of Horace, and portions of other Latin Classics which I do not remember. I wrote Latin prose and verse. In Greek, I read some books of the Odyssey, I don't remember how many; the Alcestis, and two or three other plays of Euripides; the Prometheus Vinctus of Aeschylus; portions of Herodotus, and parts of Thucydides,—of which last I only remember how I was tormented by the account of the Plague at Athens. This was the work of between two and three years.

Dr. Gardiner's manners were kind and conciliating to me, and he always received me good-naturedly. He was fond of having a small circle at supper, and often invited me,—an attention which he showed to no other of his pupils, most of them being too young. I was then seventeen. I met, at these pleasant suppers, Mr. William S. Shaw, the founder of the Athenaeum; Mr. William Wells, a pretty good classical scholar, bred in England, from 1798 to 1800 a tutor in Harvard College; the Rev. Joseph Buckminster, the most brilliant and cultivated preacher of the time; James Ogilvie, a Scotchman, who gave very striking lectures in Boston, on various subjects, and [9] made very effective recitations from Scott, Campbell, and Moore, some of which he sometimes repeated to us after supper; and Mr. James Savage, already one of my friends, and my father's.

Other persons were there, and sometimes ladies, amongst whom was Miss Lucy Buckminster, sister of the clergyman, one of the most charming persons in society.

These little symposia were always agreeable, perfectly simple and easy, full of fun and wit, and always rich in literary culture. It was my first introduction to such society.

I attended Dr. Gardiner for nearly three years, and acquired a love for ancient learning which I have never lost. At the end of that time, that is, in the autumn of 1810, I entered the law-office of William Sullivan, Esq., son of Governor James Sullivan, and one of the most popular lawyers in Massachusetts. I read law with some diligence, but not with interest enough to attach me to the profession. I continued to read Greek and Latin, and preferred my old studies to any other. The only law-books which I remember reading with much interest were Plowden's Reports, Blackstone's Commentaries, Saunders's Reports, in Williams's edition, and Coke in black letter, which I think I never mastered.

In 1813 I was admitted to the bar, at the same time with my friend, Edward T. Channing; who knew, I think, just about as much law as I did, and who afterwards deserted it for letters, and became a professor, as I did, in Harvard College.

Mr. Buckminster, whose acquaintance I had made at Dr. Gardiner's, I met also at the houses of other friends. I often went to hear him preach, and, a little later (1810), began to visit him on Sunday evenings, when he liked to receive a few friends in his library, and to continue brilliant conversation, over a simple supper below stairs, at nine o'clock, with his sisters, if they were staying with him.5 There I found, generally, Mr. Samuel Dexter, the eminent lawyer, and Chief Justice Parker, both of them Mr. Buckminster's parishioners. The conversation was mostly theological and political. Mr. Buckminster was very brilliant and charming, but sometimes uncertain and abrupt. He was very fond of music, and played on a small organ which stood in his study. I grew gradually more familiar with him, and during the last year of his life was with him frequently. I was then a member of the Anthology Club, as he was also.

I was at his church the last time he ever preached. He had for many years been liable to slight attacks of epilepsy, and once or twice [10] they had occurred in the pulpit, but never so seriously as to disturb the service or the congregation. In the afternoon service of this last Sunday he stopped in the midst of his discourse, rolled up his sermon, and stepped down; then instantly came to the desk again, opened his papers, and went on as if nothing had disturbed him No one moved. I sat with Dr. John C. Warren, Senior, and he whispered to me, ‘I don't know but I had better go to him: it has never been so bad before in the pulpit’ But it was not necessary. I did not go to his house that evening.

The next day, or the next but one, he was prostrated by a violent attack of epilepsy. Some one—I forget who—came to tell me of it, and I went immediately to his home. Dr. Oliver Keating, a connection of the family, was there, and Dr. John Warren. Dr. Keating, after consulting with Miss Lucy Buckminster, asked me if I could stay there, adding that he should be in the house as much as he could. Though formerly a physician, he was then an active merchant.

I was much gratified at being asked, and gladly consented. I left the house very little while he lived, attending to whatever I could do, and occasionally going to the room where lay my unconscious friend. Mrs. Theodore Lyman, also a connection, was much in the house, supporting the sorrowing sisters; and, with energy and good judgment, moved about like a presiding spirit, with a perfectly sustained and quiet manner.

At the time of his death no one was present but the two Dr. Warrens—father and son—and myself. I had my arm under his head when he passed away, without suffering.6

It was 1813 when I was admitted to the bar, and I immediately [11] opened an office in Court Square, near where Niles's Block stands now, having for a neighbor in the same building Mr. Alexander H. Everett, who had also studied with me, under Mr. Sullivan's auspices. We neither of us were earnest in the study of our profession, but I did rather more law business than he did, and, at the end of a year, paid the expenses of the office, such as rent, boy, etc.

But I tired of the life, and my father understood it; for I was very frank with him, and told him—what he knew very well—that I was more occupied with Greek and Latin than with law-books, of which he had given me a very good collection.7

In consultation with him, it was settled, that, after he had advised with Dr. Gardiner, Chief Justice Parker, and other friends, I should go to Europe, and study for two or three years. I therefore gave up my office, and turned all my attention and effort to learning what I could of the German language, and German universities, to which my thoughts and wishes had been already turned as the best places for education.

The first intimation I ever had on the subject was from Mme. de Stael's work on Germany, then just published. My next came from a pamphlet, published by Villers,—to defend the University of Gottingen from the ill intentions of Jerome Bonaparte, the King of Westphalia,—in which he gave a sketch of the University, and its courses of study. My astonishment at these revelations was increased by an account of its library, given, by an Englishman who had been at Gottingen, to my friend, the Rev. Samuel C. Thacher. I was sure that I should like to study at such a university, but it was in vain that I endeavored to get farther knowledge upon the subject. I would gladly have prepared for it by learning the language I should have to use there, but there was no one in Boston who could teach me.

At Jamaica Plains there was a Dr. Brosius, a native of Strasburg, who gave instruction in mathematics. He was willing to do what he could for me in German, but he warned me that his pronunciation was very bad, as was that of all Alsace, which had become a part of France. Nor was it possible to get books. I borrowed a Meidinger's Grammar, French and German, from my friend, Mr. Everett, and sent to New Hampshire, where I knew there was a German Dictionary, [12] and procured it. I also obtained a copy of Goethe's ‘Werther’ in German (through Mr. William S. Shaw's connivance) from amongst Mr. J. Q. Adams's books, deposited by him, on going to Europe, in the Athenaeum, under Mr. Shaw's care, but without giving him permission to lend them. I got so far as to write a translation of ‘Werther,’ but no farther.

I was thus occupied through the summer and autumn of 1814. It was all very agreeable. I enjoyed my pursuits and mode of life very much. I had been much in whatever was most agreeable and intellectual in the society of Boston for four years, and was really familiar with it. A few agreeable young men came every Saturday evening to my study in my father's house, and we occupied ourselves entirely with reading and writing Latin, and repeating passages we had committed to memory, ending the evening with a little supper, which was often a hasty-pudding frolic. When I say that Alexander and Edward Everett, Edward T. Channing, Nathan Hale, William Powell Mason, and Jacob Bigelow constituted this symposium, it is plain that it must have been pleasant and brilliant. The first nucleus of it, for two years, was Hale, Bigelow, Channing, and myself. We kept our records in Latin poetry and prose, but we so abused one another that I afterwards destroyed them.

At this period I very much frequented the families of Mr. Stephen Higginson, Mr. S. G. Perkins, Mr. Richard Sullivan, Mr. William Sullivan, Dr. John C. Warren, Senior, and Mr. William Prescott.

But my first real sight and knowledge of the world was in the winter of 1814-15, when I made a journey to Virginia,—then a serious undertaking,—and for three months was thrown much on my own resources, in the Atlantic cities, as far south as Richmond. I was provided with excellent letters to each city. Among the rest, the elder President Adams gave me several, that introduced me to persons very interesting and important in public affairs.

When I visited him in Quincy, to receive these letters, I had a remarkable interview with him, which at the time disturbed me not a little. I was then twenty-three years old, and, though I had seen him occasionally, there was no real acquaintance between us. It was a time of great general anxiety. The war of 1812 was then going on, and New England was suffering from it severely. The Hartford Convention, about which I had known a good deal, from Mr. William Sullivan and Mr. Harrison G. Otis, was then in session. Mr. Adams was bitterly opposed to it. Mr. George Cabot, who was my acquaintance, and in some degree my friend, was its President. [13]

Soon after I was seated in Mr. Adams's parlor,—where was no one but himself and Mrs. Adams, who was knitting,—he began to talk of the condition of the country, with great earnestness. I said not a word; Mrs. Adams was equally silent; but Mr. Adams, who was a man of strong and prompt passions, went on more and more vehemently. He was dressed in a single-breasted, dark-green coat, buttoned tightly, by very large, white, metal buttons, over his somewhat rotund person. As he grew more and more excited in his discourse, he impatiently endeavored to thrust his hand into the breast of his coat. The buttons did not yield readily: at last he forced his hand in, saying, as he did so, in a very loud voice and most excited manner, ‘Thank God, thank God! George Cabot's close-buttoned ambition has broke out at last: he wants to be President of New England, sir!’

I felt so uncomfortably, that I made my acknowledgments for his kindness in giving me the letters, and escaped as soon as I could.

A few days afterwards (22d Dec., 1814) I set out on my journey, having the advantage of Mr. Samuel G. Perkins's company as far as Washington. He was one of the prominent merchants in Boston,— a man of no small intellectual culture, and of a very generous and noble nature. He had been a great deal about the world, and understood its ways. His manners were frank, open-hearted, and decisive, and, to some persons, brusque. All men respected, many loved him.

Mrs. Perkins was the daughter of Mr. Stephen Higginson, Senior, —an important person at one time in the political affairs of the town of Boston, and the head of the commercial house of which Mr. Perkins was a member. Mrs. Perkins was at one time very beautiful. Talleyrand, when I was in Paris in 1818, spoke to me of her as the most beautiful young person he had ever known, he having seen her when in exile in this country. She was always striking in her person, and very brilliant in conversation. Her house was a most agreeable one, and I had become intimate and familiar there, dining with them generally every week.

The journey to Hartford occupied two days then; and one of those days, there being no one in the coach with us, Mr. Perkins filled wholly with an account of the Revolution in St. Domingo, where he then lived, and from which he barely escaped with his life. I have seldom been so much interested and entertained. We arrived at Hartford on Saturday afternoon. The Convention, as I have said, was in session. The members from MassachusettsMr. George Cabot, Mr. William Prescott, Mr. H. G. Otis, Mr. Timothy Bigelow, [14] Mr. Stephen Longfellow, Mr. Wilde, and Mr. Waldo—had taken a house, and lived by themselves. We called on them immediately. Mr. Otis alone was at home, detained, by a committee, from the morning session where the other gentlemen were.

Mr. Otis was an intimate friend of Mr. Perkins, and he invited us both to take two rooms in their house that were unoccupied, an offer that we accepted at once. It was a most agreeable opportunity for seeing some of the most distinguished statesmen of New England.

The next day, Sunday, was Christmas, but in Connecticut they then paid little attention to that day. We went to church in the morning, but gave the rest of the day and evening to solid conversation, for which there were such rich materials in the circle. In the evening a considerable number of the members of the Convention came to pay their respects to Mr. Cabot (the President), and made a few hours very agreeable and interesting. Among them I recollect the modest and wise Mr. West, of New Hampshire, and the vigorous, decisive Mr. Hillhouse, of Connecticut.

I, of course, learnt nothing of the proceedings of the Convention, which sat with closed doors; but it was impossible to pass two days with such men, and hear their free conversation on public affairs, without feeling an entire confidence in their integrity and faithfulness to duty.

On Monday forenoon we drove to New Haven, where I saw Prof. Kingsley and Prof. Day, but more of Prof. Silliman than of any one else. Prof. Nathan Smith, the eminent anatomist and surgeon, whom I had known at Dartmouth College, Hanover, took Mr. Perkins and myself to one of Prof. Silliman's Chemical Lectures. He had a large audience,—about one hundred and eighty; and many of them took notes in a way I had never seen done before. He lectured with great spirit, extemporaneously, and with an earnestness I had not witnessed before in such teaching.

We also went about three miles from the town, to see a manufactory of muskets, made by very ingenious machinery, invented by the Whitney who made the fortune of the South, if not his own, through the invention of the cotton-gin,—which, more than any other single circumstance in the history of the South, gave the Slave States their resources for rebellion. I remember still with great interest the conversation we had with Mr. Whitney, and the explanations of his remarkable inventions, which he gave us with great earnestness. He was a man of clear and powerful mind, and a well-made, vigorous frame. [15]

We arrived in New York the 28th. It was a larger city than I had ever seen; it seemed to me very large, though it then contained only a fifth of its present population. We stayed there till after the 1st of January, and witnessed and shared that high holiday of Dutch origin, but at that time of almost universal observance.

The house I most frequented was that of Mr. Robert Lenox, a rich Scotch merchant, intelligent, hearty, and hospitable, with a very agreeable family.

We went to Philadelphia the 2d, and there Mr. John Vaughan, the Secretary of the Philosophical Society, took charge of me, and made me acquainted with every one whom I could desire to know. I was a great deal at the house of Mr. William Meredith, a lawyer held in much respect; but his wife (of the Morris family in New York) was so uncommon for talent, knowledge, and brilliant conversation, that he was rather overshadowed at home. She educated her large family herself, entirely fitting her sons for college. She was a lady of warm feelings, strong prejudices, and great energy, and much attached to Philadelphia. Her oldest son, Mr. William Meredith, is a leading lawyer in Philadelphia, and at one time was Secretary of the Treasury, under General Taylor.

I dined with a large party at Mr. Daniel Parish's, and, for the first time in my life, saw a full service of silver plate, for twenty persons, with all the accompaniments of elegance and luxury to correspond, and a well-trained body of servants in full livery.

But—what was of more interest to me—John Randolph was one of the guests. The instant I entered the room my eye fell on his lean and sallow physiognomy. He was sitting; and his head, with long hair, straight like an Indian's, seemed hardly larger than that of a well-grown boy. When I was presented to him, he rose to receive me, and seemed to tower at once a foot and a half above my own height. This arose from the peculiar conformation of his person: the upper part was small, and, until one was near enough to him to see the wrinkles in his face, it seemed boyish; but his extremities were unnaturally protracted, and his hands and feet long and large. He talked but little at table.

I was a good deal at Mr. Hopkinson's, who was distinguished for the union of wit, sense, culture, and attractive manner. He was the son of Francis Hopkinson, of the Revolution, who wrote the Battle of the Kegs, and whose works have been published. Mr. Hopkinson was a prominent lawyer, and, later, was Judge of the United States District Court, for Pennsylvania. His house was one of the most agreeable [16] in Philadelphia, for Mrs. Hopkinson was a lady of much cultivation and knowledge of the world.

At their table I met one day a brilliant party of eleven or twelve gentlemen. Amongst them were Mr. Randolph, the Abbe Correa, Dr. Chapman, and Mr. Parish. It was an elegant dinner, and the conversation was no doubt worthy of such guests; but one incident has overshadowed the rest of the scene. The Abbe Correa——who was one of the most remarkable men of the time, for various learning, acuteness, and wit, and for elegant suave manners8—had just returned from a visit to Mr. Jefferson, whom he much liked, and, in giving some account of his journey, which on the whole had been agreeable, he mentioned that he had been surprised at not finding more gentlemen living on their plantations in elegant luxury, as he had expected. It was quietly said, but Randolph could never endure the slightest disparagement of Virginia, if ever so just, and immediately said, with some sharpness, ‘Perhaps, Mr. Correa, your acquaintance was not so much with that class of persons.’ Correa, who was as amiable as he was polite, answered very quietly,—‘Perhaps not; the next time I will go down upon the Roanoke, and I will visit Mr. Randolph and his friends.’ Mr. Randolph, who was one of the bitterest of men, was not appeased by this intended compliment, and said, in the sharpest tones of his high-pitched, disagreeable voice, ‘In my part of the country, gentlemen commonly wait to be invited before they make visits.’ Correa's equanimity was a little disturbed; his face flushed. He looked slowly round the table till every eye was upon him, and then replied, in a quiet, level tone of voice,—‘Said I not well of the gentlemen of Virginia?’ There was a pause, for every one felt embarrassed; and then a new subject was started. Many years afterwards Mr. Walsh told me that Randolph never forgot or forgave the retort.

Correa and Mr. Walsh were very intimate. Walsh lived for some years in Washington, and Correa, who was a single man, lived with him. One day Mr. Randolph called on Mr. Walsh. Mr. Walsh was not at home, but Mr. Randolph's penetrating voice was heard in the parlor by Mrs. Walsh. ‘Mind,’ said he to the servant, ‘that card is for Mr. Walsh,—I do not call on Ministers who board out.’ This was told me by Mr. Walsh.

1 By the city regulations, no children could be admitted to the grammar schools under seven years, and those only could be admitted who could read. This excluded all who were too poor to pay for instruction, or whose parents were too ignorant to teach,—precisely the class to whom free schools are most important. In 1805, Mr. Ticknor, feeling deep interest in these neglected children, made efforts to draw attention to the subject; but it was not till 1818 that the selectmen could be induced to appropriate sufficient funds for these elementary schools. In that year four thousand dollars were voted for the experiment. There are at present (1873) three hundred and twenty-seven primary schools in Boston.

In the Connecticut ‘Common School Journal’ for 1841, the establishment of these primary schools in 1818 is spoken of as ‘the most important step in the improvement of the public-school system in Boston.’

2 A small trait illustrative of his character is worthy of being preserved. When in failing health, he was advised by his physician to take brandy once a day. He had never used it, and so strong was his dread of its power, and so thorough his resolution to resist it, that he every day walked from his store near the Old South Church to his house in Essex Street at the hour prescribed, drank the stimulant there, and returned to the store, fearing that a dangerous habit might be formed if he permitted himself to take the brandy at the latter place, where it was always at hand.

He was one of the first importers of Merino sheep into this country, and a large flock kept near Hanover, N. H., received his constant care, and at one time became valuable and remunerative. His frequent fatiguing journeys to Hanover were chiefly for this business. The flock was not sold till several years after his death.

3 We have heard Mr. Ticknor mention a somewhat romantic incident connected with the first marriage of his mother. The ceremony took place privately, when young Curtis was about to join the army, and for some time, while the secret was kept, his letters to her bore the appearance of a lover's letters, but between the lines, in sympathetic ink, were written the husband's words for her eye only.

4 General Thayer died September 7, 1872.

5 Their home was in Portsmouth, N. H.

6 This was in June, 1812, when Mr. Ticknor was just twenty-one years old. He had the care of Mr. Buckminster's papers, after his death. Mr. Samuel Dexter, the distinguished lawyer, Judge Parker, of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts,—members of Mr. Buckminster's congregation,—and Mr. Ticknor, met early every morning, at Mr. Buckminster's house, and read together, for an hour or more, the sermons, to make a selection for publication. When they left the house, it became their habit, in fine weather, to walk together in the Tremont-Street Mall (the only one at that time), when the talk was animated and interesting. This was a period of excitement about the war with England; town meetings were frequent, and feeling ran high. At one of these meetings Mr. Dexter made a speech of a very different character from his usual tone and from what was expected from him, and it created a great sensation. The following morning the gentlemen met as before; but the work was done more silently than usual, no allusion was made to public affairs, and, when they left the house, Mr. Dexter and Mr. Parker bowed, and turned in opposite directions. Mr. Ticknor locked the door,—and the pleasant walks were given up.

7 This collection, with many well-chosen volumes of classical and general literature, was stored in a house in Roxbury, when Boston was supposed to be in danger from the English in 1812. There were between three and four thousand books, most of which were sold when Mr. Ticknor went to Europe.

8 The Abbe Correa de Serra, Portuguese Minister to the United States, was member of three classes of the French Institute and founder of the Royal Academy of Lisbon.

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