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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays, I. A Cambridge boyhood (search)
en Higginson, and a member of the Continental Congress in 1783, --among the leading merchants of Boston, until Jefferson's embargo brought a great change in his fortunes. He had been unsurpassed in those generous philanthropies which have given Boston merchants a permanent reputation; he was, indeed, frequently mentioned --as his cousin, John Lowell, wrote of himas the Howard or the Man of Ross of his day. I still possess a fine oil painting of this last hero of Pope's lay, a picture sent anonst anything by this precocious instruction; and perhaps, in the total development of a child's mind, the actual reading of books plays a much smaller part than we imagine. Probably the thing of most importance, even with books, as an experienced Boston teacher once said, is to have been exposed to them, to have unconsciously received their flavor, as a pan of milk takes the flavor of surrounding viands. To have lain on the hearth-rug and heard one's mother read aloud is a liberal education. W
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays, chapter 4 (search)
, now a merely academic ceremonial, but then a public festival for eastern Massachusetts. It has been so well described by both Lowell and John Holmes that I will not dwell upon it in detail. The streets were filled with people, arriving from far and near; there were booths, fairs, horseraces, encampments of alleged gamblers in outlying groves. Perhaps the most striking single illustrations of the day's importance lay in the fact that the banks in Boston were closed on that day, and that Boston gentlemen, even if not graduates of the college, often came to Cambridge for a day or two, at that time, taking rooms and receiving their friends. My grandfather, Stephen Higginson, used to come over from Brookline, take quarters in this way at Porter's tavern (the Boylston Street Porter), and keep open house, with probable punchbowl. The practice had ceased before the period of my recollection, but my cousin, the Rev. William Henry Channing, has vividly described the way in which my grand
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays, chapter 6 (search)
as a candidate before the First Religious Society at Newburyport, a church two hundred years old, then ostensibly of the Unitarian faith, but bearing no denominational name. Receiving a farther invitation after trial, I went there to begin my professional career, if such it could properly be called. There was something very characteristic of my mother in a little incident which happened in connection with my first visit to Newburyport. I had retained enough affection for the opinion of Boston drawing-rooms to have devised for myself a well-cut overcoat of gray tweed, with a cap of the same material trimmed with fur. My elder sisters naturally admired me in this garb, but implored me not to wear it to Newburyport. So unclerical, they said; it would ruin my prospects. Let him wear it, by all means, said my wiser mother. If they cannot stand that clothing, they can never stand its wearer. Her opinion properly prevailed; and I was perhaps helped as much as hindered by this bit of
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays, V. The fugitive slave epoch (search)
this I take from notes made at the time.) The curious thing was that although there was a state law of 1843 prohibiting every Massachusetts official from taking any part in the restoration of a fugitive slave, yet nearly all these employees were Boston policemen, acting, so the city marshal told me, under orders from the mayor and aldermen. Under these circumstances there was clearly nothing to be done at the trial itself. And yet all sorts of fantastic and desperate projects crossed the mind cushions. Being overtaken a mile or two out of town by Lovell Baker, the city marshal, with a fast team such as Butman had dreaded, the man was transferred to him, and was driven by him, not merely to Grafton, but at Butman's urgent request to Boston and through the most unfrequented streets to his home. I meanwhile returned peacefully to Worcester, pausing only at the now deserted station to hunt up my wife's india-rubber overshoes, which I was carrying to be mended when the dmeute broke ou
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays, chapter 8 (search)
e its appearance in some inconvenient corner instead of in the centre, nor does he think it unpardonable that it did not show itself everywhere at once; the thing of importance is that it has arrived. The new literary impulse was indigenous, and, as far as it felt an exotic influence, that force was at any rate not English; it was French, Italian, and above all German, so far as its external factors went. Nothing could be much further from the truth than the late remark of an essayist that Boston is almost the sole survival upon our soil of a purely English influence. As a matter of fact, the current of thought which between 18 16 and 18 8 took our whole American educational system away from the English tradition, and substituted the German methods, had been transmitted through four young men from New England, who had studied together at Gottingen. These reporters had sent back the daring assertion that while our cisatlantic schools and colleges had nothing to learn from England,--