Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

1723, was sent to Harvard College, where he was graduated in 1742. He became a schoolmaster, a calling, then, of intellectual prominence, and which he practised so successfully at York that he was invited to Portland in the following - unbusinesslike" but not in hospita

[ocr errors][merged small]

ble way:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

FALMOUTH, November 15, 1744. Sir, We need a schoolmaster. Mr. Plaisted advises of your being at liberty. If you will undertake the service in this place, you may depend upon our being generous and your being satisfied. I wish you 'd come as soon as possible, and doubt not but you 'll find things much to your content. Your humble ser't,

Thos. SMITH.
P. S. I write in the name and with the


of the selectmen of the town. If you can't serve us, pray advise us of it per first opportunity.

Mr. Smith's notion of generosity may be surmised from the circunstance that the town appropriated fifty pounds towards the salary of a grammar teacher, the people of the “ Neck," as Portland was then called, to contribute the rest, thus securing his exclusive services. Mr. Longfellow opened his school April 17, 1745. In the second year there were fifty scholars ; among them children of the first families. The salary was fixed that year at two hundred pounds, each scholar to pay in addition, eighteen shillings eight pence per year, and per quarter eight shillings. In any currency this was not a princely salary. In a currency depreciated seven per cent., it certainly was not exorbitant. Possibly, as in some other professions, the esteem in which the occupation was held made amends for the smallness of the remuneration.

This Stephen married (October 19, 1749) Tabitha Bragdon, daughter of Samuel Bragdon of York. He taught school until 1760, from which time to the beginning of the Revolution, in 1775, he held the office of register of probate and clerk of the Judicial Court. When the town was burned by Captain Mowatt, October 18, 1775, Mr. Longfellow removed to Gorham, where he resided until his death in 1790. “ His handwriting, in beautiful characters, symbolical of the purity and excellence

1 Rev. H. S. Burrage, Portland Advertiser, February 28, 1882.

of his own moral character, is impressed on all the records of the town and county through many successive years." Thus writes William Willis in his book entitled, “The Law, The Courts, and The Lawyers of Maine."

Stephen, the oldest of his three sons, — of whom Samuel, the second, left no children, and William, the youngest, died early,

- was born August 3, 1750. He lived and died in Gorham greatly respected, an important man in fact, a surveyor by profession, honored by several official trusts. For eight years he represented Gorham in the General Court of Massachusetts. For several years he was senator from Cumberland County. From 1797 to 1811 he was judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He was a fine looking man, tall, straight, portly, with a strong face and a dignified bearing, his hair tied behind, after the fashion of the day. " To the close of his life he wore the old-style dress, — knee-breeches, a long waistcoat, and white top boots. He was a man of sterling qualities of mind and heart, and sound common sense.”

He drove into Portland in an old square-top chaise, and was escorted by the sheriff into the court-house. He seems to have been a less jocular person than his father, who, even when accompanying Parson Smith to an ordination, was so lively that he almost transgressed the rules of decorum proper to so solemn an occasion. He died May 28, 1824.

His second child, Stephen, father of the poet, was born in Gorham, March 23, 1776. He entered Harvard College in 1794, the class of Dr. Channing, Judge Story, Sidney Willard, and Dr. Tuckerman, and was graduated with honor. He was popular with his classmates, a good scholar, a youth of strong intellectual proclivities. Several descriptions of him remain. Daniel Appleton White of Salem, Mass., his senior by only two years, said of him: “He was evidently a well-bred gentleman when he left the paternal mansion for the University. He seemed to breathe an atmosphere of purity as his natural element, while his bright intelligence, buoyant spirits, and social warmth diffused a sunshine of joy that made his presence always gladsome.” ?

2 The Law, The Courts, and The Lawyers of Maine, by William Willis.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Humphrey Devereux of Salem, a classmate of Stephen Longfellow, wrote: “On entering college, Longfellow was in advance in years of many of us, and his mind and judgment, of course, were more matured. He had a well-balanced mind, no part so prominent as to overshadow the rest. . . . He did not soar into the regions of fancy and abstraction, but kept on the terra firma of practical common sense. In his temperament he was bright and cheerful, and engaged freely in the social pleasures of friendly meetings and literary associations. His manners then, as in later life, were courteous, polished, and simple, springing from a native politeness, or a generous, manly feeling. He was born a gentleman, and was a general favorite of his class."

Judge White quotes Dr. Channing as praising his great energy of character; and Sidney Willard, in his " Memoirs of Youth and Manhood," pays him a glowing tribute. All accounts run in the same strain of eulogium, and these are from austere rather than partial or indulgent judges. Dr. Channing was an enthusiastic admirer of moral beauty, and as equitable as he was enthusiastic. Judge White was an incorruptible censor, calm as he was clear. Mr. Devereux was a man of singular courtesy himself, a true gentleman of the old school.

On leaving Cambridge, Mr. Longfellow studied law in the office of Salmon Chase, uncle of the late Chief Justice of the United States, and in 1801 was admitted to the bar. The population of Portland was 3,800. There were seven lawyers. His practice, from the start, was large and profitable. In three years he arrived at sufficient distinction to be the chosen orator for the Fourth of July. In 1814 he was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature. The same year found him sitting in the Hartford Convention, at which eminent Federalists of New England uttered their protest against the apparent imbecility of the administration. In 1816 he was named one of the presidential electors. In 1822 he sat as long as he would in the Congress of the United States as a representative of the State of Maine. This was the end of his political career. At the close of the session the “honest lawyer,"

as he was called, withdrew from political life, preferring to devote his energies wholly to his profession. When Lafayette visited Portland in 1825, Mr. Longfellow was deputed to welcome him in behalf of the citizens ; a service which he must have rendered to the satisfaction of the eminent guest, who spoke a hearty word of thanks to “the member of Congress who shared in the flattering invitation which has been to me a source of inexpressible honor and delight." From 1817 to 1836 Mr. Longfellow was a trustee of Bowdoin College, which, in 1828, bestowed on him the degree of LL. D. From 1828 to 1830 he was recording secretary of the Maine Historical Society. From 1834 till 1819, the year of his death, he was its president.

The private life of this man was altogether in unison with his public career; simple, pure, affectionate, truthful, dignified, refined. In 1804, on the 1st of January, he married Zilpah, eldest daughter of General Peleg Wadsworth, whose son Henry, a lieutenant in the United States navy, lost his life in the harbor of Tripoli, through the explosion of a fire-ship, by which he hoped to destroy the enemy's flotilla. This heroic enterprise miscarried in the night of September 4, 1804. The name of the gallant officer was bestowed on their second son, the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

General Peleg Wadsworth, the grandfather on the mother's side, of Henry W. Longfellow, was a remarkable man, the fifth in descent from Christopher Wadsworth, who came from England and settled in Duxbury about 1632. The general was a graduate of Harvard College, in the class of 1769; but in addition to this was a soldier, an engineer, a senator from Massachusetts, a representative in the national Congress from 1792 to 1806, a land surveyor, proprietor, draughtsman, selectman, town treasurer, lumber merchant, farmer, store-keeper, magistrate, and general protector of public interests. He was an active friend of education, a communicant of the Congregational Church, benevolent, kind to the poor, an excellent neighbor, a high-toned citizen. He was a handsome man, with a fine military bearing, a presence which made him look taller than he was, an erect mien, firm step, unexceptionable apparel. His

« AnteriorContinuar »