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several similar attempts, the author shrinks from the undertaking on his own responsibility, and has granted a reluctant consent that his friends should thus come forward on theirs. But, as this consent has at length been obtained, the publishers feel no hesitation in submitting their undertaking, with the motives which induced it, to the consideration of an impartial and liberal public.
To those who enjoy a personal acquaintance with Mr. Woodworth, the publishers need not address themselves. To others they would observe, that delicacy alone prevents their delineating, still more particularly, a character which has long secured him the friendship and respect of a large circle of acquaintance-some of whom are ornaments to their country and human nature. A brief sketch of his life and writings, however, may not be unacceptable to the reader.
SAMUEL WOODWORTH, the author of this volume, was born in the state of Massachusetts, at Scituate, in the county of Plymouth, on the 13th day of January, 1785. He is the youngest of four children, all of whom, we believe, are still living. His father cultivates a small farm (the property of a second wife) which barely produces the necessaries of life, the soil and climate of that county being very unfriendly to agriculture. The old gentleman was a soldier of the revolutionary army; it is, therefore, not surprising that he was unable to give his children an education equal to his wishes, At the age of fourteen, the extent of our author's acquirements was a partial knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic. No school was taught in the village, except during the three winter months; and, as a mistaken idea of economy always governed the selection of a teacher, he was generally as ignorant as his pupils.
During the above period, however, the subject of this short biographical sketch, had produced several
trifling effusions in verse, in which his schoolmaster and the clergyman of the parish thought they discovered traits of genius which deserved encouragement and cultivation. He was, therefore, with the approbation of his parents, placed under the care of this clergyman (the Rev. Nehemiah Thomas) for whom our author always professes the greatest respect, esteem, and gratitude. In the amiable family of this excellent man, master Woodworth remained one winter, during which time he was taught the English and Latin grammers, and made some proficiency in the study of the classics; but the unprofitable employment of writing verses, considerably retarded his more useful pursuits. fle preferred a puff of present praise, to a real future good; and his advancement in life has ever since been opposed by the same unpropitious attachment to an art, which
"Found him poor at first, and keeps him so.”
The reverend preceptor was so highly pleased with his pupil's docility, quickness of apprehension and strength of memory, that he began to contrive ways and means for giving him a liberal education. It is true that his own salary was very limited; yet, after consulting with several of his more wealthy parishioners, he found so much reason to anticipate success, that he imparted the project to the enraptured boy, who could hardly contain his joy at the prospect of his most ardent wish being at length gratified.
But the good clergyman and his unfortunate pupil were both destined to be disappointed. No one came forward to aid in the benevolent design-time rolled on-and his friends began to remind him that it would be necessary to learn some trade by which he might procure a livelihood. His feelings, at this time, could not have been pleasant, if we may be allowed to judge from the following extract from his poem of NEW-HA
VEN, published several years afterward, in which he alludes to the disappointment of his hopes of obtaining a collegiate education. See page 245 of this volume.
And here the muse bewails her hapless bard,
And all its treasures promised ripening age;
He chose the profession of a Printer; and after bidding adieu to his native town, and his weeping friends, travelled to the metropolis of his native state, and bound himself an apprentice to Benjamin Russell, esq. editor and publisher of the Columbian Centinel, with whom he continued until the term of his apprenticeship expired, in 1806. During this period, he still employed his leisure hours in writing poetry for the different periodical publications then issued in Boston, under various signatures, but generally that of SELIM. He has not, however, retained copies of any of these productions.
On the expiration of his apprenticeship, he began to be actuated by a new excitement; which was nothing more or less than a desire of taking an extensive tour through the United States, for the purpose of writing a description of his travels. He found it impracticable, however, to gratify this inclination, and therefore continued in the office of his former employer for more than a year; when, through an easy, yielding disposition, he suffered himself to be drawn into some hazard
ous speculations, the unfortunate result of which rendered a temporary absence from his native state necessary to the preservation of his personal liberty.
He now directed his views to the south, as the course which he had long sighed to pursue; but found himself entirely destitute of the means of conveying himself thither. A friend, however, to whom he acknowledges himself under many essential obligations, and for whom he has ever professed the most ardent esteem, furnished him with sufficient funds to commence his tour; and as he expected to procure employment in the different towns through which he was to pass, he had no doubt of being able to reach New-York without suffering any inconvenience.
This expectation was the source of another severe disappointment; for, after vainly applying at every printing establishment in the various villages on the road, he at length found himself in the city of NewHaven, a stranger, with blistered feet, and an empty purse. Here he was compelled to pause, until he could receive from his generous friend in Boston, a small remittance, (for which he immediately wrote) that would enable him to reach New-York. Fortunately, he was genteelly dressed, and found no difficulty in procuring decent lodgings; and as he had, by this time, acquired a little knowledge of human nature from experience, he was too prudent to expose his poverty, and was, therefore, treated with respect.
In a few days the mail brought him the expected remittance from his friend; which, as the reader may easily suppose, arrived very opportunely, although he had, the day before, procured employment, for an indefinite term, in the office of Mr. Babcock.
Finding himself once more comfortably situated, he again gave a loose rein to his natural disposition, by scribbling verses, falling in love, and forming acquaintances. But though it must be confessed that his taste for
social pleasures too often got the start of prudence, and left economy in the back-ground, still his actions were ever governed by the strictest precepts of morality. This we assert on the testimony of those who have known him intimately, and enjoyed his confidence for more than fifteen years.
In Babcock's office he continued about nine months, contributing, weekly, to the Herald, the productions of his pen; when he imprudently resolved to establish a literary publication of his own; for the printing of which he procured a press and types on his own credit, and commenced the hazardous enterprise with all those sanguine hopes which attend ardent minds untempered by experience. We now behold him the editor, publisher, printer, and (more than once) carrier, of a weekly paper, entitled the Belles-Lettres Repository, dedicated to the ladies, and comprising eight pages, medium quarto subscription price, two dollars per year, payable quarterly in advance.
As might have been expected, the cash received in advance was insufficient to support the expenses of the establishment for two months; when our young editor awoke from his dream of love, fame, and fortune, to a feeling sense of his real unfortunate situation. publication of the Repository was, of course, immediately suspended, the printing materials returned to their original proprietor, and the inconsiderate adventurer found himself burdened with debts which he had no means of discharging. No time was to be lost; and, after compromising with some, submitting to the curses of others, lavishing fair promises on all, and venting his feelings in a poem of more than 600 lines, he left the city. By a few weeks' employment in Hartford, he was enabled to return to Boston, after an absence of about twelve months, and from thence to his paternal home—
"The pale, dejected picture of despair.”