網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

which afforded a beautiful illustration of the kindness of his temper. An anonymous letter was received by his father, accusing him of a very gross crime. His father, confident of the innocence of his son, sent the letter to Dr. Smith, by whom it was laid before the trustees of the academy. Upon an investigation of the case, the charge was not only proved to be false, but to have originated with one of the scholars, who, in a spirit of anger, selected this method of revenge, and addressed the letter to the father of Bedell. The trustees considered the offence of such magnitude, that they expelled the offender from the academy. Bedell, though so much injured by him, pleaded earnestly that he might be forgiven, and permitted to remain. He desired to have his own character cleared from the charge of guilt, but had no wish that the one who had injured him should be punished. How valuable is the example of such kindness, to others who may succeed him! If, in mature life, they would follow in his path of excellence, let them learn, with him, to be gentle, affectionate, and forbearing in youth.

Bedell remained about two years at Cheshire. Then the means upon which he had depended for support again failed, and he was obliged to return home. On his return, the following letter from Dr. Smith to his father, which we have found accidentally preserved, accompanied him,

[blocks in formation]

CHESHIRE, April 3, 1805. SIR,—

Your son will hand you this. I have thought it advisable to send him home one week before the end of the session, as there is a disorder prevalent here, to which I suspect he is inclinable, from his tendency to have colds and a sore throat. For par. ticulars, I refer you to himself. Townsend has given me entire satisfaction, and I scruple not to say, that he bids fair to be a first rate scholar. Nor is his disposition less interesting to me, than his capacity. I cannot refrain giving merit and good conduct this testimony of approbation, and more especially so, as we have had some students, who have merited our highest censure.

I am, most respectfully,

WILLIAM SMITH.

After his return from Cheshire, all his hopes of obtaining a liberal education seemed, for a time, to be frustrated. But again the Lord opened his path before him in a method before unlooked for. His eldest sister, with whom he had been an object of very great affection, resolved to devote the whole of her little substance, which had been saved amidst her father's misfortunes in business, to the education of this favourite boy. It proved to be a sum just sufficient to meet the expenses of his collegiate education, and she has felt and expressed always, the highest satisfaction in the full recompense which she subsequently received in his character, for the consecration of all she had, to his preparation for ultimate usefulness to mankind.

In 1807 he entered Columbia college, in the city of New-York. Soon after, however, his feeble constitution seemed quite inadequate to the prosecution of his college studies. They became very oppressive to him; and overcome by his own weakness, and despairing of his ability to gain the education which he desired, he begged permission to give up his classical education, and to turn his attention to some other pursuit. His indulgent father was ready to yield to his wish; but his sister, inflexible in her purpose, induced him, by persevering persuasion and argument, to remain at his studies, and to finish his collegiate course. She was thus made the single honoured instrument of keeping him in preparation for the work which was given him to do; and he never failed in after life, when the circumstance was alluded to, to express his sincere gratitude for her determination. During the whole of his college studies, however, his infirm health placed a very serious obstacle in his way. His strength failed amidst sedentary habits, and in continued application to study; but this was over-ruled to lead him to the acquisition, at this period of life, of a very remarkable power of mental abstraction, the exercise of which characterized his habits of study through the whole of his succeeding life. This habit, with the aid of a very retentive memory, and a systematic arrangement in the discharge of all his personal duties, enabled him to accomplish great results, with comparatively little effort. To this habit of study he refers in the following extract from a letter of a later date than our present narrative, in reply to a friend,

a

a

[ocr errors]

who had supposed him not sufficiently attentive and industrious in his studies.

March 10, 1816. * Your first request is, that I would devote more time to my studies. Now the fact is, that I study much more than you may imagine ; not so much in time as in degree. My mind has become, by habit, accustomed to the most intense application while it is employed, and I can study more in one hour, than a person whose mind has not been thus disciplined, can study in three. While in study, I can totally abstract myself from every concern, and upon this abstraction, depends almost entirely the impression that is left on the mind. This is philosophically ex. planatory why no longer portion of my time is devoted to study. Another reason is, that my health will not permit long applica. tion. After studying intensely for one or two hours, my head is sensibly affected, and I am obliged to walk for the purpose of carrying off all unpleasant sensations.

Notwithstanding the infirmities of his health, his rank as a scholar while in college, was highly respectable. His quickness of mind, and liveliness and originality of conception, gave him great advantage in classical and literary studies, though manifestly not of the same advantage in the more severe class of his college pursuits. His talents for original composition was quite unusual for a youth of his age. Some of the productions of his pen during this period of his life, would not be discreditable to writers much his seniors. Many of his college exercises have been preserved, and it is highly interesting to trace through them the same characteristics in style and thought, which distinguished the valu

able productions of his later life. There is the same view of delicate humour and wit, the same exhibition of cheerfulness and liveliness of temper, which have always marked even his graver writings, and which, while they add a peculiar charm to all his compositions, form an attribute so distinguishing, that his works would be easily recognized by one familiar with his style, without the addition of his

name,

In looking over several of his early compositions, many of which were prepared for public literary exhibitions, we have selected the following as a fair and interesting specimen of his powers in this department at this period of his life. The reader will see through the whole of this composition, which was prepared for a public discussion before a literary society, the peculiar style of the author. And it is inserted here, not from any special worth in itself, but as a specimen of his power of composition in youth, and an exhibition of the gradual formation and development of his mind for future efficiency and usefulness.

On the question, Whether it would be expedient to extend the bene

fits of a liberal education to the female sex ?

It has devolved upon me, in the prosecution of this discussion, to present to my auditors a summary of the arguments which have been adduced in support of both sides of the question, and to pronounce that decision which seems most consistent with reason. And here, in the name of myself and copartners, let me be permitted to request, that whatever imperfections are perceived, may

« 上一頁繼續 »