« PredošláPokračovať »
THE POOR SCHOLAR.
Wherever there has existed wise institutions for the seci rity of liberty the progress of knowledge has immediately become visible. There is then a bright inducement in every career which an ardent mind springs forward to attain.'
MADAME DE STAEL.
Not intellectually poor, but few however would be guilty of such a mistake. Most men, and indeed women too, consider poverty merely as the lack of worldly goods, chattels and possessions ; poor therefore would never, by such, be applied to mind.
But I like to define my meaning so clearly that there shall not be the possibility of mistake; and accordingly I feel bound to declare that George Torrey had, from infancy, exhibited an uncommon aptitude for learning, and that kind of inquisitiveness concerning the nature and design of everything he saw, that marks the reasoning child. These qualities always argue a tendency of mind that requires only right cultivation to insure eminence, or at least, scholarship, to their possessor. Knowledge may be acquired by study, but genius is the gift of God, is, I believe, a quotation; and had the writer of the apothegm known George Tore rey, he might have mentioned him as an illustration of his proverb, since it seemed impossible his inclination for study should have been fostered either by example or precept. I shall relate the childish history of my hero minutely, that those who feel interested in the subject may have an opportunity of tracing the operations of his young mind, and then they can better decide on the propriety of styling him, as he often was, the scholar of nature. The father of George died before he was born, and his mother, when he was eighteen months old i and then the boy would have been on the pauper list, but for the benevolence of an aunt, an old maid, but who was nevertheless such a good, kind hearted creature, that it was always a matter of astonishment to the gossips why aunt Jemima was never married.
When aunt Jemima thus voluntarily burdened herself with the charge of an infant, she was rising of forty years of age, very poor, obtaining her livelihood solely by spinning. She was, however, as expert in the business of the distaff, as ever were the ladies of Rome ; but as she never attempted to dignify her employment by any classical allusions, it is probable she had never heard the name of 'Lucretia.' Yet she had pride, and it would be no disparagement to the Roman ladies to say aunt Jemima's was Roman pride ; certainly it was laudable ambition, for it stimulated her to honest exertions for her own support and the maintenance of her little nephew, without appealing to the cold charity of her prosperous neighbours, She kept
or the colder charity of the law. George with her till he was eight, and then a farmer offering to take him and learn him the mystery of agriculture,' she deemed it her duty to place the boy with Mr. White. But the separation cost her many tears, and she often declared that if she had not thought it best for the child to go, she would have worked her hands off before she would have parted with the dear little creature.'
George had never been at school a single day while with his aunt ; she thought she could not provide books for him, and moreover, shę lived two miles from the school-house, and was afraid to trust her darling to go so far alone.
But when she read' in her Bible, which was regularly every morning, little George was permitted to stand close by her chair, and encouraged to find and tell the large letters. When he had thus learned them, his curiosity seemed increased ; and his aunt willingly answered his inquiries, because she really loved him, and dearly loved to talk, and so he learned the small letters, and then it was not long before he could read a verse intelligibly. By the time he was four years of age he had read through the Gospel according to St. John.'
Though aunt Jemima thus fostered the 'young idea,' she was herself as destitute of those acquirements that confer on a woman the character of a bas blue, of our fastidiously fashionable young beaux could desire. The most sensitive of the tribe of dandies might have conversed with aunt Jemima without the least dread of being shocked by a Latin quotation, or bored by a learned phrase, or a reference to books of which he never before heard the titles ; neither would he have run any hazard of being urged to write in an album,' or tell his opinion of the last new novel,' or admire the last charming poem.' Aunt Jemima knew no more of novels or albums, than she did of Greek or Arabic ; indeed it is not probable she had ever read a whole volume of any kind, (the Bible excepted) during her life. Her library, besides the Scriptures,' consisted of but two books, both of which she inherited from her grandmother. One was a sermon, preached somewhere in Connecticut, at the funeral of an Indian who was hanged for murder. This sermon, aunt Jemima said, though she ever had had time to read it all, she thought very edifying.' Indeed she prized it so highly that she did not like to trust it in the grasp of a careless child ; but the other book, labelled (Wonderful accidents and entertaining Stories,' she permitted George to use as he pleased. The volume had once contained some interesting articles, but time, smoke, and the hands of
unwashed artificers' had made its pages nearly as dingy and illegible as a Herculaneum manuscript. The story of Alnaschar the Persian Glassman,' being in the middle of the book, was however tolerably entire, but it was much abridged, ending with the breaking of the glass. The plate representing the overturn of the basket pleased little George, and he soon learned to read the fable ; he read and re-read
it till he could repeat every word, and then he reasoned with aunt Jemima on the subject till he made her quite pettish at answering his inquiries about so silly a story ; and then he considered the matter himself in silence, till he learned to understand the meaning, and the moral more judiciously than would many a grown man. Perhaps that story determined the bias of his mind, for he was, even in early youth, noted for the directness with which he sought and comprehended the effect of any romantic project, always seeming to distrust everything illusory, and to feel that exertions, not idle wishes or visions, were necessary to success.
There was also another circumstance that contributed to fix an impression on the mind of George that perseverance would be rewarded, and that he might, if he took proper
methods, hope to obtain some consequence in the world. Though aunt Jemima paid little attention to the story of ‘Alnascbar,' yet she was proud of the proficiency her favorite made in reading the Scriptures. Whenever the clergyman of the parish called to see her, which duty he usually performed regularly every year, she always dilated on the progress her nephew made in learning, telling how many chapters he would read in the Bible of a Sunday, &c. (she never mentioned the story book) usually concluding with the observation, that for her part it seemed to her that the boy was born to be a minister.'
To please her the good man once requested