Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and much misspent time; and, during all of them, he felt even then, and constantly lamented afterwards, the want of a wiser discipline and a generous and liberal system of studies, which would permit the pupil to choose what would be most appropriate to his future purposes in life. His instructers, however, found no reason to complain of his conduct or character. They were not unaware, that he avoided, as much as possible, some branches of study; but they knew, that, in others, he did more than was required of him; and his relative rank in his class was such, that, if he was compelled afterwards to look back with mortification on this part of his life, the fault must be charged to others rather than to himself. At any rate, having passed through the formal term prescribed, he was, at last, graduated with distinguished honors; and, if his college life left no other valuable traces behind it, he always remembered with gratitude some of the attachments he there formed, among which none was deeper than that subsisting between himself and his classmate Mr. Gallison, whose kindred talents and character early brought them together, and kept them much united until they were separated by death.

A few days before Mr. Haven was to receive the honors of the college, in August, 1807, he was seized with a violent illness, which for some time threatened to prove fatal. His recovery was slow; and, as his friends afterwards thought, his constitution received a shock from this illness, which was never entirely overcome. As soon, however, as his strength was sufficiently restored, he went to Exeter, where he had been elected assistant teacher in the Institution, in which he had already passed three happy and useful years as a pupil. Mr. Haven was well fitted for the situation. he now occupied and the circumstances in which he was placed; and the effects of both on his habits and character

were important and lasting. He went over again the classical studies he had pursued at college with great predilection, and began others in some respects higher and more severe. He found himself in the midst of a society, whose standard and tone were more elevated than any, in which he had before borne a part, and whose spirit he felt to be calling upon him for greater exertions than he had yet made. He was, too, gradually coming nearer to the business of life, and naturally felt its stirring influences, as he approached it. On all accounts, therefore, the year Mr. Haven now passed in Exeter was among the most interesting of his life; on one account, it was among the most fortunate. He had never before mingled freely in society. Its influence, therefore, like its influence on every fresh and ardent mind, was necessarily great; and it was his happiness, that the young friends to whom he now became attached, were persons of uncommon endowments, who were, like himself, eager in the pursuit of improvement, and gave the same impulse to his spirit, which they gladly received from him in return.

Another circumstance rendered this a peculiarly important year in Mr. Haven's life. He was naturally and almost necessarily called upon, in the course of it, to make his final decision as to the profession he would pursue. It was a subject, indeed, on which his thoughts had long been occupied; but its consequences were to decide so much of his future usefulness and happiness, that he now deliberated upon it with new care. His inclinations, for some time, had tended strongly towards divinity. His early education in his father's house had been such as a child receives, who is surrounded with religious influences and guarded by christian affection; but who hears nothing of theological controversy. Very soon, however, he was told by others,

of dogmas and creeds, and listened to public instructions from the pulpit, in the severest forms of Calvinism. These he, for some time, believed to be essential to christianity; and the consequence was, that, in his Junior year at college, he was agitated by painful doubts respecting its divine authority. But it was not for a mind like his, long to continue in such bondage. He read Paley's "Evidences," the little tract of Priestley's-" An Appeal to the Serious and Candid Professors of Christianity," and the "Letters to Wilberforce, by a Layman." By the careful study of these and other books, he gradually returned to happy and settled views of christian faith, but not to the creed of Geneva. Even before he left college, there are found among his papers proofs of the opening of a devout spirit; and, during the year he now passed at Exeter, they are not to be mistaken. The interest he took in the religious character of his pupils, the zeal and fidelity of his instructions, and the purity of his example, are still fresh in the memory of those with whom he was associated in the task he had undertaken; while many prayers, which he composed at this time, and which still remain among his papers, show how solemn he considered the nature of his duties to be, and how entirely he relied upon God for the strength necessary to fulfil them. Indeed, on all accounts, there can be no doubt, that, from this period of his life, religion constituted the foundation of his character, and essentially governed his conduct and life.

It was natural, therefore, that, being called at such a time to make choice of a profession, he should have first thought of theology. But many circumstances opposed what, if his inclination alone had been consulted, might probably have been his final choice. His general health was not strong; his eyesight was doubtful; and, besides, he was the only son in his family, who thus seemed to re

quire him to choose no pursuit, that would necessarily remove him from their immediate neighbourhood. He, therefore, reluctantly gave up the study of divinity, and determining to devote himself to the law, left Exeter in the autumn of 1808, carrying with him the permanent attachment of many, who had been drawn to him by the fine talents and interesting qualities in his character, which had there been so fast unfolded.

In January 1809, he began the study of the law, under the direction of Mr. Mason of Portsmouth, a counsellor of distinguished powers, whose sagacious and penetrating mind always seemed to make itself felt with peculiar effect in personal intercourse with other minds capable of receiving its influences and understanding its character. Mr. Haven was a favorite pupil with him; and the generous excitement, therefore, which had been awakened at Exeter, was not only continued but increased during the three years he now devoted to the preparatory studies in his profession. They were, probably, the three most laborious years of his life; certainly they were the three years in which he read the greatest number of books. Study, indeed, was now his great object, and he devoted himself to it with such earnestness as to give up society, in a degree remarkable for his age, and to avoid all common pleasures and recreations, lest they should unfit his mind for the pursuits in which he was so much interested.

Before he began the profession of the law, he had acquired an intellectual discipline and settled habits of application, very unusual for his years. It seemed already to cost him no labor, to adopt and pursue a regular course of legal studies, and to devote to them a suitable portion of each day. Mr. Mason has said, he never knew a young man, beginning the pursuit of the law, to whom it was apparent

C

ly so easy to observe a proper order and method. By thus adhering diligently to a prescribed course of professional study, his proficiency was much greater than ordinary; while, by a wise economy of time, he had sufficient leisure left for classical reading and critical speculations, which he always loved and never neglected. Even in these pursuits, also, which he considered rather as recreations, he had a fixed course, and, therefore, avoided the waste of time so common to many young students, who read on such subjects only what accident throws into their hands.

But the strict adherence to order and method, which was thus early so prominent in Mr. Haven's character, and which always continued to distinguish it, would not alone have carried him forward so fast and so far in his professional studies, as he advanced during these three years. He was led on mainly, I think, by an elevated idea of the profession itself, and of the responsibilities and duties that would fall upon him, when he should undertake its practice. He had a lofty example before him; and he placed his mark high. Among some memoranda, set down during this period of his life, I find the following striking remarks. "Where is the beau idéal of the profession of law to be found? Not in Coke, nor Saunders, nor Blackstone. Perhaps in the oratorical works of Cicero, or in the writings of the great masters of national jurisprudence. Honorable success can never be attained without an elevated opinion of the profession in which we are engaged. In the practice of the law, this is emphatically true. For who would bear the labors of the preparation, the tedious anxiety of a client, the obstinacy of a witness, the dulness of a jury, for the fee he receives? And yet, this is the only object, with a majority of the profession. But the man of real dignity, who looks to something more than mere wealth for

« AnteriorContinuar »