The Quiet Radical - The Biography of Samuel Longfellow

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The collegian also begged modestly to differ from the Doctor : To his Mother. April 25, The partial and uncandid manner in which Dr. John- son criticised the poems of Gray, gives great offence to many, and is condemned by all of candid minds. The cause of his severity is generally believed to be the differ- ence of their religious and political opinions.

This is sufficient to make the opinions advanced by the great Lexicographer of little weight. Though he were the greatest man alive, and possessed of the greatest learning, yet this, without he possessed also impartiality, would not constitute him the best critick. Gray's poem commences thus, " Awake, JEolian lyre, awake!

I am in favor of letting each one think for himself, and I am very much pleased with Gray's poems, Dr. Johnson to the contrary notwithstanding. To his Mother. November 9, Since I wrote you last I have read but one volume. This is a very interesting volume, and exhibits in a new and more agreeable light the charac- ter of this reviled and persecuted race. It appears from this account of them and of their customs and I see no reason why he should not be relied upon as correct, since he passed the greater part of a long life amongst the Indians that they are a race possessing magnanimity, generosity, benevolence, and pure religion without hy- pocrisy.

This may seem a paradox, but nevertheless I believe it true. They have been most barbarously mal- treated by the whites, both in word and deed. Their " outrages " what ear has not heard of them a thousand times? This reading of Heckwelder may have had some connection with the fact that for the Junior Exhi- bition which took place in December, Longfellow and his classmate Bradbury had as the subject of their "part" a " Dialogue between a North Ameri- can Indian and a European. He maintained that the continent was given by the Great Spirit to the Indians, and that the English were wrongful intruders.

My reply was. One thing is certain, that he subsequently made a great deal more of Miles Standish than I did on that occasion. December 1, Our returning ride from Portland on the Saturday we left you was vastly disagreeable. Night overtook us long before we reached Codman's at Freeport, and we did not arrive at Brunswick until nearly nine in the evening, heartily sick of the darkness, mud, and misery. I have but little leisure at present, for the Exhibition comes on next Wednesday, and I wish to have my performance per- fectly committed, so as to have no opportunity for embar- rassment, as far as it depends upon myself.

I have too much confidence to feel any solicitude about the thing, and if the contrary were true, I have too much resolution to let it be known. I wish, though, that the appointment was anything in the catalogue but what it is. It is diffi- cult in the extreme to write a good dialogue. I am rather sorry that the Exhibition falls so late in the year. The Chapel will be very cold and uncomfortable, both for the performers and the spectators ; for after snow has fallen the cold is too severe to be detained an hour or two in a building without fire.

We commenced Locke on the Human Understanding more than a week since. I find it thus far neither re- markably hard nor uninteresting.

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I began with the determination to like it at any rate, and so get on very easily. How long a time did you devote to a lesson of 1 Letter to Maine Historical Society : Proceedings in celebration of Mr. Longfellow's seventy-fifth birthday. We had no recitation this after- noon. Instead thereof, a discussion was proposed, to wit i " Whether the soul always thinks. Most of those that said anything upon the sub- ject spoke in the affirmative, controverting Mr.

Locke's opinion. I wish I could be at Washington during the winter, though I suppose it rather vain to wish when it is almost impossible for our wishes to become realities. It would be more pleasant to get a peep at Southern people and draw a breath of Southern air, than to be always freezing in the North ; but I have very resolutely concluded to enjoy myself heartily wherever I am. I find it most profitable to form such plans as are least liable to failure.

I think I am rather fortunate in not obtaining a school for this coming vacation, and begin already to congratu- late myself upon being so free from necessary and regu- lar employment as to have time to devote to reading. Eeally, my leisure at present is so very limited that I can scarcely find time for my necessary exercise, of which I take more than ordinary. And I find it absolutely and indispensably requisite to my health, and consequently to my comfort.

My chief exercise consists in walking.


The small fall of snow we had here a few days since makes this rather uncomfortable; and when the snow becomes deep and drifted I hardly know what I shall do, without I take to cutting wood again, which is rather irksome. To his Father. December 11, The Exhibition took place last evening, and I must confess I am glad it is past. I feel that a great weight is removed from my shoulders, for I could not but feel some solicitude, though I would never confess it.

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I shall now And it will really be a rarity to me, for I have seen very little of it for some weeks past. I think I shall now enjoy myself heartily. Winter has commenced with us pretty violently, which renders the walking very uncomfortable. This I should lament very much, since it deprives me of that exercise, had I not adopted another mode as a substitute, which is this : I have marked out an image upon my closet-door about my own size, and whenever I feel the want of ex- ercise I strip off my coat and, considering this image as in a posture of defence, make my motions as though in actual combat.

This is a very classick amusement, and I have already become quite skilful as a pugilist. My only doubt with regard to its utility is, whether it may not be too violent. I find thus far considerable advantage arising from it, and shall not discontinue it until I expe- rience some inconvenience.

I rather think that my ap- pearance is very appalling, as I constantly, whilst under action, wear the leathern gauntlet, or, more properly, mitten. I take the New York Statesman, edited by Mr. Carter, who, the paper mentions, is now in Washington. He has commenced an account of Congressional proceed- ings in the form of an editorial correspondence, so that I shall have a good opportunity of seeing all that is going on at the metropolis during the session of Congress, which from all accounts will be one of great interest.

However, I must confess I care but little about politicks or anything of the kind, and therefore read and know but very little about them, so that the columns of my paper devoted to political speculations are to me almost as uninteresting as so many columns of the tradesmen's advertisements.

To his Motlier. December 25, If you look for news to the Orient you stand a better chance than anybody in the world to be disap- pointed.

We have nothing here but what is old. We see the newspapers after they are worn out ; we read a novel after it has become obsolete everywhere else. So far from telling you anything new, to attempt such a thing would be like serving up a dish of minced fish to a person on Sunday morning when he had dined upon it in its original state on Saturday. I beg you to observe the delicacy of the comparison.

More from necessity than inclina- tion I have become almost as spare in my diet as Daniel was when he lived in Babylon on pulse. Notwithstand- ing, if I were in England now and I have been wishing myself there all the day long so warmly that, if my wishes could but turn to realities, I should have been there I should become a bacchanalian for a while.

I do not believe any person can read the fifth number of the Sketch-Book without feeling, at least, if not expressing, a wish similar to my own. Irving, the papers say, has already written another novel. I hope we shall have the pleasure of reading this new work of his, and also The Pilot by the author of The Spy. This will afford fine winter amusement for us in the long evenings. It has been a great day with us here to-day.

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I do not refer to the celebration of Christmas. But the Conso- ciation of ministers met at this place to-day. They have exercises of a religious and publick kind both forenoon and afternoon, and I might add morning and evening. I have been so much of a heretick as to be audacious enough to shut my eyes against this clear and shining light and remain all day at home. I cannot find anybody who was present that remembers the text of the sermon. So much for going to meeting out of mere curiosity!

Samuel Longfellow

March 2, I will describe to you as well and as briefly as I can my visit to Boston. As we left Portland in the " accom- modation-stage," the first night was passed at Portsmouth. We arrived tofwmrds evening, and after tea I called upon my classmate Mason, and we walked about the streets a little. But it was too dark to see much of the town, and too wet to be at all comfortable.

So I returned to the inn, with the consoling expectation that the storm which seemed threatening would be a storm of rain, and that the morning would find no snow on the ground.

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Nor were these fears without foundation. When we again set off on our journey, in the morning, there was very little snow left beneath the sleigh-runners. However, we dragged along until we came to Newburyport, when we took wheels, and arrived at the " Literary Emporium " 1 late in the evening. I slept, the first night, the llth of Febru- ary, at the Exchange Coffee House, 2 and could not help thinking how much my situation resembled yours when you were first there. If this were not another building, I should have imagined I occupied the same chamber that you did in former times, for it seemed to be the very highest point of the dwelling, the very apogee, so to speak.

I had a delightful visit. Burned in , it waa rebuilt and occupied as a hotel till The day we fixed upon for seeing this was so severely cold that we relinquished the plan. I was also at Cam- bridge. And I must not forget the splendid ball I at- tended. This was a private ball given by Miss Marshall, one of the most celebrated of the city belles.