« ZurückWeiter »
As c'er was sung in lays
Another woman, however, one of the members of the aweinspiring geometry class named above, had, in the Hiram days, more influence on Garfield's intellectual life than any other per-, son. Miss Almeda A. Booth was a woman of wonderful force of mind and character. She was the daughter of New England parents, who had come to Ohio, where her father traveled over an immense circuit of country as an itinerant Methodist preacher. Almeda very early discovered intellectual tastes, and, at twelve, read such works as Rollin's Ancient Ilistory and Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. She taught her first school at seventeen. An engagement of marriage was broken by the death of her intended husband, and her life was ever afterward devoted to the business of teaching. Thus the quiet current of life was not wrecked, but went sinoothly on, clear and beautiful. She was poor in what people call riches; the office of teacher gave support. She was sad because death had darkened her life; study was a never-failing solace. Her mind gloried in strength, and the opportunity for a career of useful exercise of its powers helped to make her happy. Henceforth she loved knowledge more than ever; and could freely say:
“My mind to me a kingdom is.
Such perfect j'y therein I find,
That God or Nature hath assigned.” About the same time with Garfield, Miss Booth came to Hiram, and soon found her time, like his, divided between teaching in
some classes and reciting in others. Each at once recognized in the other an intellectual peer, and they soon were pursuing many studies together. Our best idea of her comes from an address made by Garfield, on a memorial occasion, in 1876, the year after Miss Booth died. Ile compared her to Margaret Fuller, the only American woman whom he thought her equal in ability, in variety of accomplishments, or in influence over other minds. “It is quite possible,” says Garfield, “that John Stuart Mill has exaggerated the extent to which his own mind and works were influenced by Harriet Mills. I should reject his opinion on that subject as a delusion, did I not know from my own experience, as well as that of hundreds of Hiram students, how great a power Miss Booth exercised over the culture and opinions of her friends."
Again: “In mathematics and the physical sciences I was far behind her; but we were nearly at the same place in Greek and Latin. She had made her home at President Hayden's almost from the first, and I became a member of his family at the beginning of the Winter Term of 1852–3. Thereafter, for nearly two years, she and I studied together in the same classes (frequently without other associates) till we had nearly completed the classical course.” In the summer vacation of 1853, with several others, they hired a professor and studied the classics.
“Miss Booth read thoroughly, and for the first time, the Pastorals of Virgil—that is, the Georgics and Bucolics entire and the first six books of Homer's llial, accompanied by a thorough drill in the Latin or Greek Grammır at each recitation. I am sure that none of those who recited with her would say she was behind the foremost in the thoroughness of her work, or the elegance of her translation.
“During the Fall Term of 1853, she read one hundred pages of le rodotus, and about the same amount of Livy. During that term also, Profs. Dunshee and Hull and Miss Booth and I met, at her room, two evenings of each week, to make a joint translation of the Book of Romans. Prof. Durshee contributed his studies of the German commentators, De Wette and Tholuck; and each of the translators made some special study for each meeting. How nearly we completed the translation, I do not remember; but I do remember that the contributions
and criticisms of Miss Booth were remarkable for suggestiveness and sound judgment. Our work was more thorough than rapid, for I find this entry in my diary for December 15, 1853: • Translation Society sat three hours at Miss Booth's room, and agreed upon the translation of nine verses.'
“During the Winter Term of 1853-'4, she continued to read Livy, and also read the whole of Demosthenes on the Crown. The members of the class in Demosthenes were Miss Booth, A. Hull, C. C. Foot and myself.
“During the Spring Term of 1854, she read the Germania and Agrioola of Tacitus, and a portion of Hesiod.”
These were the occupations, these the friends of James A. Garfield at Hiram, when, in the fall of 1854, he found himself ready for college. He was so far advanced that he would easily be able to graduate in two years. The best institution of advanced learning, in the “Disciples'” church, was that of which Alexander Campbell was president, at Bethany, Virginia. But Garfield, much to the surprise of his Hiram friends, made up
his mind that he would not go there. The reasons he gave are summed up in a letter written by him at that time, and quoted by Whitelaw Reid in his Ohio in the War. This letter shows not only why he did not go to Bethany, but why he did go to Williams. He wrote:
“There are three reasons why I have decided not to go to Bethany: 1st. The course of study is not so extensive or thorough as in Eastern colleges. 20. Bethany leans too heavily toward slavery. 3d. I am the son of Disciple parents, am one myself, and have had but little acquaintance with people of other views; and, having always lived in the West, I think it will make me more liberal, both in my religious and general views and sentiments, to go into a new circle, where I shall be under new influences. These considerations led me to conclude to go to some New England college. I therefore wrote to the presidents of Brown University, Yale and Williams, setting forth the amount of study I had done, and asking how long it would take me to finish their course.
“ Their answers are now before me. All tell me I can graduate in two years. They are all brief, business notes, but President Hopkins concludes with this sentence: “If you come here, we shall be glad to do what we can for you.' Other things being so near equal, this sentence, which seems to be a kind of friendly grasp of the hand, has settled the question for me. I shall start for Williams next week.”
The next week he did go to Williams. Boyhood, with its struggles, had vanished. Garfield was now a man of twenty-three years, with much development yet before him, for his possibilities of growth were very large, and the process never stopped while he lived. What he did at Williams let the following pages reveal.
THE MORNING OF POWER.
TOLLEGE life, as we have it in this country, is a romance.
In the midst of an age in whose thought poetry has found little lodgment; in which love has become a matter of business, and literature a trade, the American college is the home of sentiment, of ideas and of letters. The old institutions of romance have crumbled into ruins. The armed knight, the amorous lady, the wandering minstrel, the mysterious monastery, the mediæval castle, with its ghosts and legends exist only in history. But behind academic walls there are passages-at-arms as fierce, amours as sweet, songs as stirring, legends as wonderful, secrets as well transmitted to posterity as ever existed in the brain of Walter Scott.
It was to such an enchanted life at Williams College, that Garfield betook himself in the month of June, 1851. To go through college is like passing before a great number of photographic cameras of every size and kind, when the sensitive plate is prepared and the focus arranged. A man leaves an indelible picture of himself printed on the mind of each student with whom he comes in contact; so that the college life of a great man is an important part of his biography.
When Garfield entered Williams, he was over six feet high, as awkward as he was muscular, and looking every inch a backwoodsman. He had made great progress, however, in his previous studies, and successfully passed his examination for the junior class. A young fellow, named Wilbur, a cripple, came with him from Ohio, and the couple from the first attracted much attention. A classmate writes: “Garfield's kindness to his lame chum was remarked by every body.”
But many of the college boys were the sons of rich men. The strapping young fellow from Ohio was, in his own language, a