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INTRODUCTION TO VOL. III.
A SUPPLEMENTARY BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
OF THE AUTHOR.
BY THE EDITOR.
No full and connected biography of Dr. Lindsley has been attempted in these volumes. The life of a student and man of letters is, for the most part, an uneventful one- —at least uneventful as to single outward acts of public and general interest. In the present instance it has been thought that the best memoir, as well as the most lasting monument of the author, is to be found in his writings—not in what others may say of him, now that he is gone, but in what his own living pen had left on record. The words of such a man are his deeds, and when these are fully laid before the reader, but little remains to the biographer. Under this impression, all that has been aimed at in these introductory notices has been to present a fair estimate of his labours and influence in those fields to which his energies were devoted, and to furnish only so much, in the way of fact and incident, as might be needful to a right appreciation both of his writings and his character.
There is indeed no lack of materials for a full and even minute account of his life and labours. He seems, from a very early period, to have studied with pen in hand, and to the close of life to have kept a record of all his most important movements. Though there are frequent indications in his private journals that he had, from time to time, destroyed many manuscripts, still enough remains to furnish the amplest materials for a full and circumstantial biography, even aside from the accumulated and carefully preserved letters of his correspondents, during a period of forty-five years. But as it has been our
purpose, in connection with his Educational Discourses, to give some account of his work as an educator, and also some estimate of bis character as a preacher, in connection with his Religious Discourses, so now, answering to the miscellaneous nature of this third volume, we shall aim simply to bring forward some other points in his history, which seem necessary to complete the picture, and to give the reader as distinct a view as possible of his whole life, labour, and influence. Even here, however, the story will be told, as far as possible, in his own words, derived from records which, while penned with much care and deliberation, were evidently never intended for the eye of the public, but simply for the satisfaction and instruction of his children. The life and character of every good man, especially of every eminently useful man, ought to be regarded, not as a private, but a public heritage. So far as the public may be interested in it and benefited by it, it may be properly made known, even where the individual had no such intention himself. It is with this view that the present supplementary memoir of Dr. Lindsley is now offered to the readers of his works.
I. HIS EARLY STUDIES.
It is always interesting to trace back to their earliest beginnings the influences which have resulted in a life of eminent usefulness. It affords a pleasure akin to that which a traveller feels in standing at the well-spring, high up in the mountains, of some beautiful and mighty river, whose banks he had been long and slowly ascending across half a continent. We have already given, in another place, a brief running narrative of the prominent events of Dr. Lindsley's life from its opening to its close. And the reader of these volumes, like the traveller, will perhaps readily respond to the feeling just suggested, on finding here, under his own hand, a record of the recollections and associations of that beginning. It is in the following words:
“I was born at the home of my maternal grandmother, about three and a half miles southwest of Morristown, New Jersey. My parents removed to their new dwelling while I was an infant. Of course all my childish recollections and associations are of, and with, the house and scenery of this my happy home. Oh! how I loved my grandfather, my father, my two grandmothers, and my ever-blessed mother! The only misery that I ever knew, during my younger years, was caused by separation from my loved mother, when at boarding school. To see her—to sit by her—to listen to her voice—to share her smiles and caresses—was all that my heart coveted. With her I was as happy as I could be. When absent, I used to count the weary days and nights to be endured before I could see her. Time then seemed to have no wings. Why do mothers ever suffer their fond, delicate little ones to go from home, to be entrusted to strangers, mercenary, perhaps heartless and repulsive? After all, my mother was incomparably my ablest teacher. In consequence of there being no good school in my father's neighbourhood, I was sent away, when a little child, just beginning to spell the first lessons in Dilworth, to board among strangers, and to rough it among rude boys. I had a hard time of it. It pains me to think of it even now.
“After three months' absence, I returned to my happy home. I was again sent to a boarding-school for a few months—though I used to come home on Saturdays, and remain until Monday morning. This was not so severe a trial as the first.
With the above exceptions, I lived at home, and went to school at New Vernon, about a mile from my father's residence, until I began, in my thirteenth year, to attend the classical academy of the Rev. Robert Finley, at Baskingridge.
“The country about my father's residence was singularly beautiful, variegated, and picturesque. The most lovely and striking scenery was ever in view; and I greatly enjoyed it. I have seldom since been equally impressed with the natural localities of any portion of our country with which I am acquainted. I was, like most lads, fond of hunting, fishing, skating and other rural sports—though these never interfered with my studies. I always loved books and intelligent people. I eagerly read history, biography, voyages, travels—everything which I could get hold of. I read the Bible (the gift of my mother) through, long before I went to Mr. Finley's school. I soon
learned by heart the catechism, and various hymns, etc. These I repeated to my mother, again and again. She taught me to pray
. before I could read. And I dared not go to sleep without repeating 'Our Father,' and 'Now I lay me down to sleep,' etc.
“At school I generally got the premium or prize, for being at the head of my class, (a little book or penknife,) and the pleasure it seemed to afford my mother was my chief reward. While at home, I read, among other books, the whole of Rollin's Ancient History. This I procured, by riding on horseback ten miles, of an uncle, who loaned me one volume at a time, and who questioned me about the contents, and closely inspected each returned volume, to see that I had not injured or soiled it. Thus, in due time, I got through the ten volumes. My delight in reading it was unbounded--and yet, I then knew nothing of geography.
“It was in the autumn of 1799 that I began to go to school to Mr. Finley. He commenced teaching soon after his marriage. I was one of his first six pupils, and was present on the first day. He taught a year in his own house. I boarded with him. He was one of the best teachers I have ever known. His school obtained great celebrity. Here, on the first day of my entering the school, I began the study of Latin. I continued at Mr. Finley's Academy, as it was called, three years, with the exception of three months (one winter) at Morristown, under the tuition of Mr. James Stevenson, also a distinguished teacher. After the first year, Mr. Finley employed an usher, or assistant, built a school-house, etc. He devoted several hours daily to the school, during the whole period of its continuance; that is, until he resigned his pastoral charge in 1817—having been appointed President of the University of Georgia. Thither he went, and there he died October third of the same year. The degree of D.D. had been conferred on him by the College of New Jersey in April of that year. I was then a Professor in the College, and Secretary of the Board of Trustees."
The fullest account we find of his early classical studies and his first attempts at teaching is in a letter (copied into one of his manuscript volumes) addressed to Rev. P. E. Stevenson, of Wyoming, Pennsylvania, son of the gentleman mentioned in the preceding extract. It is under date of New Albany, Indiana, June 23d, 1853, and is in answer to a letter from Mr. Stevenson, who had requested him to furnish some reminiscences of his father. The whole letter is one of great interest, alike honourable to the character of the preceptor and the heart of the pupil. We give here some extracts bearing on the matter of his studies, and incipient labours as an educator. Speaking of Mr. Finley's Academy, he says :
“I used to walk to school from home (a distance of three miles) during the summer, or rather during all the year except the real winter season. I was connected with said school three years, excepting one winter, that of 1801-2, which I passed at your father's Academy in Morristown. While there, (at your father's Academy,) among other things, I read several books of Homer's Iliad. In the spring I returned to Baskingridge. At the close of three years, we, that is myself and classmates, (Samuel L. Southard, Theodore Frelinghuysen, and Jacob Kirkpatrick, now D.D.,) entered the Junior Class at Princeton, namely, in November, 1802.
"Immediately after graduation in 1804, Mr. Stevenson came to my father's to engage me to assist him in the English department of his school—then kept in his own house on Bridge Street. His Academy had been burnt down some time before. I was not eighteen years old by some three months, and had an awful dread of the magisterial dignity thus pressed upon me. He offered me board in his family, and to teach me French, as compensation. I was perfectly satisfied with the terms, and only feared lest I should fail to meet his expectations. Thus in October or November, 1804, I began to work. At the close of the quarter or session, (about the middle or end of March, I think,) Mr. Stevenson very kindly expressed his obligations, with his regrets that he could not do for me more than our contract impliedand at the same time handed me a ten-dollar bank-bill! This last was wholly unexpected, and, as I felt, undeserved. It was my first earning: and did more (with his gracious words and manner) to encourage me to go ahead and to rely on myself, than all other influences and considerations combined.