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And be that night, at least, their guest.
Musing awhile the old man stood,
And even as he spake, they heard
Ah, strange caprice of human will !
it was a luckless day
And, drawing back each bolt and bar,
And then upon his hand she laid
Galgano, I am wholly thine!”
THE STUDENT LIFE OF DANIEL WEBSTER.
THE history of the early life of Daniel new cut. He informed me, that he had
Webster is as instructive to the youth labored many a day with Daniel Webster, of our land, as that of his mature life is to in this old mill, and that his companion American statesmen. The events of his stu was ever ready to do his part of the serdent life are imperfectly known. It is the vice. The same boy, Daniel, was accusaim of this article to supply some deficien tomed to drive the team into the woods, cies, and correct some mistakes, in the pub where his elder brother, Ezekiel, cut the lished accounts of this period of his life. logs and assisted in loading them. DanI have visited the place of his nativity, and iel's feeble health convinced his father conversed with the friends of his boyhood; that he could not endure the severe labors I have corresponded with most of his sur of a farmer. He therefore resolved to fit viving classmates and college friends; I him to teach. This fact gave occasion to have examined some hundreds of his let many facetious remarks from his brother ters; and the facts which I now record, Joe, who, as Mr. Webster said, was “a are the result of my investigations. bit of a wag." His fame still lives, in all
Daniel Webster performed the ordinary that region, as a rustic wit, at raisings services of a boy upon his father's farm, and huskings; uttering his jokes in dogtill the age of fourteen. His taste for gerels, which are still said or sung by his agriculture, and his fondness for rural admirers; and some of them are found in life, grew directly out of the associations the literary department of old almanacs. of his childhood.
This same Joe loved to represent Dan as Imagine to yourself a slender, black weak in body and mind, unfit for labor, eyed boy, with serious mien and raven and obliged to study that he might belocks, leading the traveller's horse to come as wise as the rest of the family. water, when he alighted at his father's There was as much truth in the charge of inn; driving the cows to pasture, at early mental imbecility as in that of his habitual dawn, and returning them at the gray of indolence, and no more. Mr. Webster adovening; riding the horse to harrow be mitted that he could never learn to mow. tween the rows of corn, in weeding-time, He was too young to engage in that and following the mowers with a wooden kind of labor when he left the farm spreader, in haying-time; and you have for the school. No reasonable father the true idea of the lad, and of his duties. would expect a slender, sickly boy to In dress, in the means of social and intel swing the scythe with much efficiency or lectual culture, his condition was far be skill before he was fourteen years of age. low that of the sons of farmers and me It has also been reported, that his love of chanics of the present day. Many anec hunting and fishing sometimes made him dotes have been published of his incapacity play truant at school. This is pronounced for manual labor, or of his aversion to it. . false by his surviving schoolmates. Their The testimony of his early companions testimony is, that "he was always present and neighbors contradicts, in general and when the school kept, and that he was alin particular, all stories of his idleness. ways in advance of his associates." He He was an industrious boy. He labored loved books more than sport. He was to the extent of his strength. He was not fond of the ordinary plays of boys of the youngest son, and, perhaps, on that his age, and mingled with them in their account, received some indulgences. Men diversions rather from a desire to please are now living who labored with him, in than to be pleased. He often spent the the field and in the mill—who shared his winter evenings in coasting down the toils and his sports. They affirm that long hill near his father's house. In this " he always worked well, and played exercise, he economized his strength; fair." Boys, in those days, were early " for," says one of his companions," he trained to hard service. I have heard always had a knack of making us draw Mr. Webster say, that he had the charge the sled up the hill.” of his father's saw-mill, and was accus
His fondness for books was very early tomed to tread back the log-carriage, developed. He could not himself remem.. when he was not heavier than a robin." ber the time when he could not read. The An old schoolmate of his told me, that the travellers who stopped at his father's mill was owned, in shares, by several of tavern, used to call on little Dan to read the neighbors, who used it in turn. Boys a psalm, when he was too young to be of were put into the mill to tend it, when any service to his parents; and they lisit required the weight of two of them to tened, with delight, to the elocution of the turn back the “rag-wheel,” and bring the young orator. These psalms he loved to log-carriage to its place, to commence a repeat till the day of his death. He loved
to sing them, to the tune of Old Hundred, debates and orations, to supply the place as he wandered over his farm, and often of an absent member. More than fifty called John Taylor, at Franklin, to spend years ago, he explained to his room-mate an hour in singing Watts's psalms and the secret of his diffidence at Exeter. His hymns with him, before the fire “fair rustic manners and homespun dress called blazing” on the old hearth, after his guests forth the ridicule of some of his classhad retired. He once expressed his mates, who happened to have full purses readiness to attempt to repeat any stanza and empty heads. The sensibilities of of Watts if any one of the company young Daniel were wounded by their unwould repeat the first line. “Wherever kind criticism. He therefore withdrew you find Watts,” said he, “there you find from their plays and shrunk from a public true devotion.” At twelve years of age,
exhibition of himself upon the stage. He he could repeat "Pope's Essay on Man was precisely in the condition of the perfrom memory. Being once asked why he son (supposed to be the poet Virgil) allearned this philosophic poem by heart at luded to by the Roman satirist :that age, he replied, “I had nothing else
“ Your friend is testy and provokes to learn." A book was a "rara avis in
The humors of some waggish folks ; terris;" even a new almanac was a trea
And fops may langh;- for why?
His shoes are loose, his coat awry. sure to him. A dispute once arose be
Yet Maro has a generous soul, tween him and Ezekiel, after going to bed,
No man a better on the whole : about some passage in the new Almanac
With wit how bright and heart how warm,
Beneath a rude un polished form." of the year. They rose and kindled a light to decide the dispute; in their eager His situation was unpleasant to him, and ness to read the record they forgot their he became discontented and resolved to lighted tinder, and thus set the house on leave the school at the close of the first fire. The few books which his father term. His usher noticed his depression of owned, were faithfully conned; still his spirits, and, by a private interview, restored attainments were very limited when he his self-confidence, and taught him to entered the academy at Exeter. His man despise the taunts of young men who ners were unpolished, his dress unfashion cared more for sport than for books. He able, and his whole appearance and de was assured of his ability not only to lead portment betokened rustic simplicity and his class, but to leave those railers so far honesty. His mind was his only treasure; behind him, that they should never see this did not, at first sight, appear to plead in him again." These," said Mr. Webster, his behalf. His new associates had enjoyed “ were the first truly encouraging words superior advantages; they judged of the I ever received with reference to my standing of their classmates by their studies." dress, rather than by their intellect. They, undoubtedly, influenced his whole James H. Bingham, Esq., of Washington, subsequent life. Judicious commendation D. C., in a recent letter to me, thus speaks is always the best reward of successful of Mr. Webster at that period : “Our first study. Daniel Webster remained nine acquaintance was at the academy at Ex months at Exeter, devoting most of his eter, in 1796. I went there in July of time to English branches. Latin was a that year, and found him there. He was subordinate study. He had learned the then about fourteen; was attending to paradigms in the Latin grammar, before English Grammar, Arithmetic, etc.; al entering the academy. This he did, by ways very prompt and correct in his way of occupation, while he sat in the recitations. He had an independent man office of Thomas W. Thompson, Esq., to ner, rather careless in his dress and ap inform his clients where he could be pearance, with an intelligent look; did not found, when absent from his usual place join much in the plays and amusements of of business. The means of Judge Webthe boys of his age, but paid close atten ster were limited, and his expenditures for tion to his studies.” Speaking of his the support of a large family compelled residence at Exeter, Mr. Webster said: him to practise the most rigid economy. “I believe that I made tolerable progress Those who knew him well say that his in most branches that I attended to in this whole estate was never valued above two school; but there was one thing which I thousand dollars. To diminish the excould not do—I could not speak before pense of his son's education, he placed the school.” This fact, unexplained, is a him under the care of Rev. Samuel Wood, perfect enigma in his history. We know of Boscawen, who received one dollar a that, within one year from this time, he week for board and tuition. Here he rewas ready and willing to engage in public mained six months, giving his whole time declamation in college ; that he very soon to the Latin and Greek languages. He manifested a fondness for extemporaneous was exceedingly fond of Virgil, and read speaking, and often volunteered, in society the entire Æneid long before he was called