- Letter to Mr. Webster. -- libraries in Boston. -- letters from West point. -- Colonel Thayer. -- annual examination of the military Academy. -- death of N. A. Haven.- -- Webster's Eulogy on Adams and Jefferson. -- memoir of Mr. Haven. -- visit to Washington.
In 1823 Mr. Ticknor was chosen a Trustee of the Boston Athenaeum, and at one time was its Vice-President, and he became greatly interested in enlarging the scope and extending the usefulness of this excellent institution. An effort was made in 1826 to increase its funds, which was successful, chiefly through the liberality of Colonel Thomas H. Perkins, and of his brother, Mr. James Perkins. With this was combined a project to unite the various subscription and society libraries of the city in one organization with the Athenaeum; and of this plan Mr. Ticknor, with his liberal views of the needs of public culture, was one of the most earnest promoters. Unfortunately the difficulties in carrying out the entire scheme proved insurmountable. During the winter of 1826 Mr. Ticknor, in addition to his other occupations and pursuits, was much engaged in these efforts, in personally seeking subscriptions, and in preparing lists of books to be added to the library. The following letter to Mr. Webster contains some account of the plan:—
Among the friends most valued by Mr. Ticknor was his college classmate, Sylvanus Thayer, who, having entered the army of the United States, and served with distinction, was appointed Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point in 1817, and held that position for sixteen years. By force and dignity of character, energy, good judgment, and professional knowledge and ability, he gave new life to the school under his charge, and raised it to that high position, as an establishment for military education, which it has since maintained. Colonel Thayer had repeatedly urged Mr. Ticknor to serve as a member of the Board of Visitors, at one of the annual examinations of the Academy. In the spring of 1826, Mr. Ticknor having expressed his readiness to attend the examination of that year, he was appointed among the other Visitors, and went to West Point on the 1st of June. The following extracts from his letters, written from there, give an excellent picture of the condition of the school, and of the character and habits of its distinguished Superintendent. West Point, Mr. Ticknor received the sad news of the illness and death of his friend, Mr. N. A. Haven, of Portsmouth. A close sympathy in tastes, and an accordance of judgment in respect to the motives of action, the objects of life, and the foundation of character, had given to their friendship unusual closeness and intimacy. . Mr. Haven died on the 3d of June, and on the 9th Mr. Ticknor wrote:—
Here, surrounded by those who take no interest in my feelings, I cannot help expressing to you my deep sorrow at the loss of Haven. It pursues me wherever I go. I did not think it would have fallen so heavily on my heart; or, rather, I thought I had more prepared myself for it. But there is no preparation for such things; we may feel composed, as we see one who is dear to us gradually sinking away from our cares and affections; but the last step, the change from life to death, is so sudden, so great, that there is no proper preparation for it. I felt as if it were unexpected, when I read your letter this morning. The blood rushed to my head as if I had then  received the first intimation of his danger. God's will be done. I shall have few losses to bear, that will reach so far in their consequences.3 The relatives and friends of Mr. Haven, by whose early death —at the age of thirty-six—many hearts were saddened, and many hopes disappointed, were desirous to have some memorial of one so loved and valued. There was a general wish among them that this should be prepared by Mr. Ticknor, and a volume was accordingly arranged by him, and printed for private circulation, consisting of Mr. Haven's writings,—including two occasional discourses,—with a brief memoir, which is a graceful sketch of a life admirable for moral beauty, and for calm, intellectual strength. The 4th of July, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of the Independence of the United States, was made memorable by the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the two Presidents who succeeded Washington. The coincidence of their deaths on this anniversary was one to touch the imagination and the feelings of the whole nation, and the sentiment thus roused found its best expression in the Eulogy on the two Ex-Presidents, delivered by Mr. Webster, on the 2d of August following, in Faneuil Hall, Boston, in presence of the City Government and the assembled citizens.4  Mr. Ticknor describes it in the following letter:—
A few months later he writes thus of his various occupations, and especially of his sketch of his friend Haven:—
In April, 1828, Mr. Ticknor went with his friend Prescott to Washington, being absent from home about three weeks, during which he very much enjoyed the society of his companion, and that of Mr. Webster, with whom they spent nearly all their time in Washington. He also saw many other friends and interesting  persons, who are mentioned in his letters to Mrs. Ticknor. For instance—
Last evening we went to Mr. Clay's. He looks miserably, and almost, I might say, miserable; care-worn, wrinkled, haggard, and wearing out. He was very pleasant, and asked much after you; talked about general matters as much as he could, but still constantly came back to politics. From Mr. Clay's we went to Mr. Vaughan's, who showed more pleasure at seeing me than I thought he would. . . . . Mr. Webster and he seemed quite familiar, and we all dine with him to-day at five o'clock, without ceremony or company; and on Wednesday, which is the fete of St. George, the titular saint of the King of England, we dine there again in great ceremony, with all the heads of Departments, the foreign ministers, their attaches, etc. April 22.—First this morning I took Sally S. in a coach and went to Georgetown, to the convent, where I. W. lives, to give her a parcel from her father. She is a nice round lively little girl; and the whole air of the convent, and seeing I. through the grating, interested and amused S. so much that I was very glad I took her. On our return I went to the House and Senate, where we passed the forenoon in hearing debates, and witnessing the passage of the tariff, which went by a majority of eleven in the House, and was followed by a short abusive speech from John Randolph. I dined at a mess, called ‘Fort Jackson,’ with Tazewell, Governor Dickerson, Woodbury, Verplanck, Calhoun, Polk, etc . . . . . I was quite happy and gay an hour or two with Mr. Webster, Mr. Gorham, etc., after dinner [at Mr. Sullivan's lodgings], and I was somewhat excited by John Randolph in the House; but in the main I was rather dreary and homesick. April 25.—Yesterday we had quite a pleasant time at Menou's.9 He has bought a small cottage, and after nearly rebuilding it and fitting it altogether in French style, he has made it a pretty little snug place for a bachelor. Mr. Webster dined there, General Van Rensselaer, M. de St. Andre, Prince Lieven, my old classmate Hunt,10 Judge Johnstone, and General Stewart of Baltimore. We had a nice little dinner in the library, and a nice little time altogether. Afterwards William and I spent an hour with General Van Rensselaer, at the Livingstons,11 very gayly.  All Washington looks rather trite to me. The divisions of party have infected social intercourse. . . . . The whole thing is much less gay and amusing than it was when we were here together. I have been very happy in my visit to Mr. Webster, who has been very kind and confidential with me. I am glad to have seen Mr. Vaughan, and to have found him so pleasant. I am glad to have seen Count Menou, the Livingstons, and so on; but I am glad it is over, and that we are going to set our faces towards you and dear Nanny. Sunday Morning.—A little homesick again, when I think of you going to church, and Nanny standing at the window to see the crowds pass, my little class of boys, and Mr. Channing's sermon.