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Perhaps among the loud acclaiming throng,
Born 1706.-Died 1790.
SOME wit of old-such wits of old there were Whose hints show'd meaning, whose allusions care, By one brave stroke to mark all human kind, Callid clear blank paper every infant mind; Where still, as opening sense her dictates wrote, Fair virtue put a seal, or vice a blot.
The thought was happy, pertinent, and true;
Various the papers various wants produce,
Pray note the fop—half powder and half lace Nice as a band-box were his dwelling-place:
He's the gilt paper, which apart you store,
Mechanics, servants, farmers, and so forth,
The wretch, whom avarice bids to pinch and spare,
Take next the miser's contrast, who destroys
The retail politician's anxious thought
The hasty gentleman, whose blood runs high,
What are our poets, take them as they fall,
Observe the maiden, innocently sweet,
One instance more, and only one I'll bring;
JOHN TRUMBULL, the author of M'Fingal, was born on the 24th day of April, 1750, in the parish of Westbury, then a part of the town of Waterbury, in New Haven county, Connecticut. The place is now called Watertown, and is included in the county of Litchfield. His father was the first minister of the congregational church in that town, a man of good classical attainments and for many years one of the trustees of Yale College. The subject of this memoir was an only son, and of a very delicate and sickly constitution. He received the strictest care from his mother, who was a woman of superior education for those of her day. Young Trumbull gave early manifestations of his poetical turn by studying and committing to memory all the verses contained in the Spectator and Watts's Lyric Poems, which comprised the department of English literature in his father's library. This slight initiation into the rudiments of polite letters enabled him to exert his propensity to verse by making rhymes of his own, an exercise in which he was encouraged by his parents. His father, in conformity to a practice common at that time, had taken under his tuition a youth of seventeen years of age for the purpose of directing his studies previous to his entering college. Trumbull took notice of the student's method of learning Latin, and unaided and unperceived by any one except his mother, set about the study of the language himself. His father after some time discovered it, and finding he made a more rapid progress than his fellow student, encouraged him to proceed. He was examined and admitted at the college in 1757, but owing to his extreme youth and ill health, was not sent to reside there till 1763. He employed this interval of time in the study of the
and Latin classics, and ich English writers as were to be procured in his native village, consisting of few beside Milton, Dryden, Pope and Thomson. Upon entering college he found little attention paid to polite literature, except in the department of the ancient languages, and as his proficiency in
this branch of learning was such that the ordinary duties of his class required but a trifling portion of his time, he turned his attention to Algebra, Geometry, and Astronomy, sciences newly introduced to the notice of the students. After receiving his degree, he continued three years longer at college, occupied in a general course of literary study.
At this time he began his acquaintance with Dr Dwight, who was also pursuing his studies at the college. This young poet, who had already attracted notice by some elegant translations from Horace, became an intimate associate of Trumbull, and the two friends exerted their talents and industry in conjunction, to promote the taste for elegant letters among the inmates of the college. These pursuits were then looked upon as idle and worthless : nothing was held in high repute but the learned languages, mathematics, logic, and scholastic theology. The wit of Trumbull, who summoned the aid of his muse to root out this remnant of puritanical barbarism, seconded by the efforts of others who joined his party, effected in the end a material change in the taste and pursuits of the students. He attracted further notice by engaging with the assistance of his friends, in the publication of a series of essays in the manner of the Spectator ; these were printed in a newspaper, first at Boston, and afterwards at New Haven. In 1771, Trumbull and his friend Dwight were chosen tutors at the college. In 1772, appeared the first part of his poem, The Progress of Dulness, which he wrote with a view to help the cause of education by exposing the absurdities then prevalent in the system; the work was completed the following year. Dwight was at this time busy upon his great poem, the Conquest of Canaan, in the composition of which he was assisted with the criticism and advice of Trumbull.*
During the exercise of his college duties, Trumbull found leisure to devote himself to the study of the law, and in 1773,
* We have heard an anecdote which illustrates Trumbull's turn for wit, as well As for just criticism. Dwight had crowded into his poem several descriptions of thunder storms. Trumbull having read a part of it, sent him word that when he forwarded the remainder, he wished him also to send a lightning rod.
he was admitted to the bar in Connecticut, where however, he did not pursue the profession, but removed his residence to Boston, and continued his studies in the office of John Adams, afterwards President. The revolutionary struggle was then just commencing, and Trumbull entered with great warmth and enthusiasm into the political controversies which then monopolized the public attention, and displayed himself as a strenuous partizan of the cause of liberty. Many of his political essays were published in the gazettes. He returned to Connecticut, and began practice at the bar in New Haven in 1774. In 1775, he wrote the first part of his M’Fingal, which was immediately published at Philadelphia, where Congress was then sitting.
In 1776 he married, and in 1781 removed to Hartford, where he fixed his residence. His friends at this time requested him to finish M'Fingal, and set on foot a subscription for the work. With this prospect he applied himself to the revision of the first part, and the composition of another canto. The poem was completed and published at Hartford, in 1782. No legal provision existed at that period to secure to an author his own literary property, and in consequence, this work, which had an immense popularity, became the prey of hawkers and pedlars, without bringing any profit to the writer beyond the first edition. More than thirty editions of the poem were published.
Upon the return of peace, the country remained in an unsettled condition, without any bond of union among the several states, except the articles of confederation. This loose and insecure system of government was attended by a copious train of evils. No harmony of plan or policy existed among the different state governments. The country was impoverished; great dissatisfaction and clamor arose at the extra pay granted to the revolutionary army, and at the formation of the society of the Cincinnati, while the national debt pressed heavily upon the people. The insurrection of Shays burst forth in Massachusetts, mobs were raised in Connecticut, and violent efforts were made to stir up the people in op