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ON A PAINTER.
WHEN Laura appear’d, poor Apelles complain'd, That his sight was bedimm’d, and his optics much pain'd ; So his pallet and pencil the artist resign'd, Lest the blaze of her beauty should make him quite blind. But when fair Anne enter'd the prospect was changed, The paints and the brushes in order were ranged ; The artist resumed his employment again, Forgetful of labor, and blindness, and pain; And the strokes were so lively that all were assured What the brunette had injured the fair one had cured. Let the candid decide which the chaplet should wear, The charms which destroy, or the charms which repair.
Timothy Dwight was born at Northampton, in Massachusetts on the 14th day of May, 1752. His father, Timothy Dwight, was a merchant liberally educated, and the proprietor of a considerable estate ; and is described by the biographers of his illustrious son as “a man of sound understanding, of fervent piety, and of great purity of life.” His motherthe third daughter of Jonathan Edwards, a name celebrated alike in systems of philosophy, and systems of divinity—was in many respects a remarkable woman, and to her early assiduity, doubtless, more than to any other cause, must be ascribed his subsequent celebrity. During the years of childhood, his education was conducted almost exclusively by her, and in her nursery.
In his twelfth year he was placed in the family of the Rev. Enoch Huntington, of Middletown, a gentleman distinguished for his classical attainments in an age when such attainments were probably more valued, and more frequent among the clergy of New England than they now are. He was admitted a member of Yale College, at the age of thirteen years. Owing partly to personal misfortunes, and partly to the inauspicious circumstances of the institution, his studies were for two years in a great measure interrupted. For the two remaining years his application was such as has been seldom surpassed by any person so early in life. He commenced Bachelor of arts in 1769.
After two years spent in the superintendance of the classical school in New Haven, he was chosen tutor in Yale College, and immediately entered on the duties of that office. In this new station he soon exhibited those peculiar talents which eminently qualified him for the high place which he afterwards filled with honor to himself, and with usefulness to his country. His colleagues in office, of whom John TRUMBULL was one, were men of a kindred spirit with himself. These men, by their united efforts, inspired as they were, with the enthusiasm of genius, soon effected a decided change in the literary character of the institution. For many years previous, the study of the classics, and of mathematical and metaphysical sciences had been pursued with great zeal. The period of the tutorship of Dwight, which included the six years from 1771, to 1777—is regarded as an era in the history of Yale College. A better standard of superiority, and a more liberal course of study were adopted. English literature became an object of attention. Rhetoric and oratory were cultivated. And so devoted were the attentions of Dwight to the improvement of his class, that he not only carried them through, and far beyond the usual studies, but was at the pains of addressing to them a series of lectures on style and composition, similar in plan to the lectures of Blair, which had not then come before the public. His instructions generally at that time were of the same character which they afterwards possessed when from the chair of the President he taught, for twentytwo years, as many successive classes of the young citizens of independent and republican America. The first class of his pupils entered on their Bachelor's degree a year before the declaration of independence. Yet at that time he, in common with other men of enlarged and powerful minds, had formed the noble and prophetic conception of what
this country was to be, and of what it will be in the ages yet to come. In teaching then, as well as afterwards, he regarded his pupils as destined to sustain the various duties of citizens, and to bear up the honors of a great republic. The consequence was, that all his instructions had a peculiarly practical cast and bearing. He endeavored to impress on his pupils distinct notions of the scenes in which they were to act, and of the responsibilities which they must sustain. “You should by no means consider yourselves,” said he, “as members of a small neighborhood, town, or colony only, but as being concerned in laying the foundation of American greatness. Your wishes, your designs, your labors are not to be confined by the narrow bounds of the present age, but are to comprehend succeeding generations, and to be pointed to immortality. You are to act, not like inhabitants of a village, nor like beings of an hour, but like citizens of a world, and like candidates for a name that shall survive the conflagration."
During this period of his life, he attempted to join with the severest study a system of abstemiousness which, as he thought, might prevent the necessity of bodily exercise. This system he followed till he had nearly destroyed his life. Another consequence of his close and unremitting application was the impairing of his eyesight-a calamity under which he suffered to the end of his life.
In March, 1777, he married Miss Mary Woolsey, daughter of Benjamin Woolsey, Esq. of Long Island. In September following he relinquished his connexion with the college; and soon after accepted a chaplaincy in the continental army. It is one of the most remarkable circumstances in the history of the revolutionary war, and one which strikingly illustrates the deep and universal enthusiasm of the nation, that not a few of the clergy, eminent alike for piety and talents, went forth from their homes, and from the solitude of sacred study, to animate the army by their exhortations, and by their prayers to call down upon it the blessings of heaven. Mr Dwight on joining the army found himself indeed in circumstances entirely unlike his previous course of life ; but the power and versatility of his genius, and the enthusiasm with which he shared with all around him, proved adequate to the exigency. The soldiers of the brigade with which he was connected, were mostly farmers of Connecticut, who had left only for a season their firesides, and their hereditary acres, and the churches in which they had been wont from infancy to worship.
His reputation in the army was high. Several patriotic songs from his pen acquired a wide popularity, particularly with the soldiers. His “Columbia " is at this day among our best and most popular national songs.
After a single year thus spent, his father's death compelled him to resign his office. For the five succeeding years, he resided at Northampton with his mother, assisting her in the support and education of her numerous family. During this period he directed the cultivation of the paternal estate, (of which he relinquished his share in favor of his mother and her other children,) superintended the education of his young brothers and sisters, and preached on Sundays to vacant congregations in the vicinity. Not forgetting his favorite employment in which he was destined to be more widely and eminently useful than perhaps any other individual who ever lived, he established an Acadamy at Northampton which speedily attained a great share of public favor. Yale College being at this time, as it often had been during his own tutorship, in a dispersed and broken state, owing to the danger of its maritime situation, a part of one of the classes placed themselves under his tuition, and were conducted by him through the course of college study.
During his residence at Northampton, he was twice chosen to represent that town in the legislature of Massachusetts. This was at a time when many questions of great importance, arising from the revolutionary condition of society, were to be settled by legislative authority. In these circumstances he exhibited such political wisdom and integrity, and such parliamentary talents, as gained for him great confidence. He was earnestly solicited by his friends, to devote himself to public life. In particular he was requested to become a condidate for a seat
in Congress. But he could not be persuaded to abandon the work to which he had now devoted himself. He esteemed the sphere which is occupied by a minister of Christianity, as more exalted and more desirable than any other station. In 1783 he was ordained pastor of the church and congregation in Greenfield, a parish of Fairfield, in Connecticut.
For twelve years his life was occupied with the labors of a country pastor. But such a man could not be withdrawn from public attention. His fame as a preacher, as a scholar, and as a man of splendid talents, was continually increasing. Extensively acquainted with distinguished men, himself an object of attraction almost equally to friends and to strangers, and by disposition and habit, hospitable even beyond the wellknown hospitality of New England, his house was a place of almost constant resort.
The annual pittance of a country minister, was inadequate to the expenses of his family, and this circumstance, conspiring with his previous course of life, led him to establish here, as he had done at Northampton, an Academy for the liberal education of youth. He was soon surrounded by pupils from every part of the country; and in the course of the twelve years which were thus spent, he is said to have instructed more than one thousand scholars.
He became President of Yale College in 1795. His labors and his usefulness in this station are well known. He came to the Presidency at a critical moment. The institution was impoverished. The state, at that time, as at almost all other times, refused its patronage. No private munificence was afforded to enlarge its means of usefulness. The prosperity, and indeed the existence of the institution was at stake. Amid all these embarrassments, he succeeded. A system of kind and parental, yet vigorous discipline was immediately introduced, under which the college has been uniformly distinguished for its decorum to this hour. The college became more popular. The Legislature of the state, condescended to bestow upon it some appropriations of uncertain value, from which a considerable amount was ultimately realized.