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Comprising a period of three years from the time of his leaving college.
MR. PAYSON was graduated at Harvard University, at the commencement in 1803. Soon after leaving college, he was, on recommendation, particularly of Professors Tappan and Pearson, engaged to take charge of the Academy then recently established in Portland. He continued
in this office for three years, at the close of which he was, by the terms of his contract, at liberty to resign it. Of this liberty his new views of duty, at the time, disposed him to avail himself.
An employment, which requires the daily repetition of nearly the same routine of duties, cannot be very prolific in incident, or very favorable to the developement of those qualities, which attract the public eye. Nor is it an employment in which real worth is likely to be appreciated, except by a very few; though the subject of this memoir is not thought to have had any special cause of complaint, as to the estimation in which his services were held. He acquired and sustained a good reputation as an instructer; but from a man possessing his characteristics, something more would naturally be expected. He was certainly endued with a rare faculty for communicating knowledge, and with a power to awaken, and call into action the mental energies of either youth or manhood. In the existing methods of education, however, there was much to obstruct the exercise of this power. The instructer, who should do much more than follow the order and manner of the text-books then in use, would probably have been regarded as an empiric; besides, the habits of society were then opposed, more than they have been since, to every thing which bore the appearance of innovation. His native dif fidence also would have operated as a powerful restraint against venturing on any bold experiments in a sphere of action and duty, in which, judging from the character and
attainments of many who had filled it, little improvement was to be expected.
At this period he was but a youth; and it is not to be supposed, that he engaged in the business of instruction, and prosecuted it with that all-absorbing interest and determination of purpose, which distinguished his ministerial career. It is, to say the least, extremely doubtful, whether he had felt the influence on human exertion of that principle, which is indispensable to man's highest achievements -doing all to the glory of God. As it was, he is remembered by surviving pupils with gratitude, respect, and even veneration. He has left, as will be seen, sufficient evidence of his deep solicitude for their moral and religious welfare, from the time at which he was comfortably assured of his own 66 acceptance in the Beloved."
It would seem from some allusions in his sermons, as well as from hints derived from other sources, that, during the early part of his residence in Portland, he indulged himself in such amusements, as were fashionable, or were considered reputable, and that too with a gust as exquisite, as their most hearty devotee-how frequently, or to what extent, the writer is ignorant. This practice, if it were more than occasional, would indicate a relish for social pleasures, in the usual sense of the expression, which did not long continue; for after his seriousness became habitual, he was averse to going into company, even to a fault. He dreaded an invitation to a social party, though he had reason to expect nothing there directly offensive to religious feelings. But there were companions, whose society he sought, and whose intercourse was so regulated as to subserve mutual improvement. They were select literary friends, some of them his classmates, whose fellowship was in a high degree intimate and endearing. With these he passed many pleasant and profitable hours, and cemented a friendship, which continued till death, and which has been faithfully reciprocated by the surviving members of the little band, and continues to exhibit itself in unfeigned respect for his precious memory. The exercises of these meetings were not subjected to any very rigid and formal regulations, such as would have cramped the energies of the mind, or restrained even its wilder sallies. Mutual confidence was the bond of union, which no severity of
retort or piquancy of raillery could sunder. Each brought forward the results of his reading or invention, and exercised his powers at discussion or free conversation; and by this "action of mind upon mind," the most brilliant flashes of wit were often struck from one so full charged, and so quick at combination, as Payson's, to the no small entertainment of his companions. In these divum cœnæ, his contributions were the most coveted and exquisite part of the banquet.
But no distance, employment, or friendships, could weaken his attachment to the paternal home, or diminish the strength of his filial love. Some extracts from his letters will now be given, which, while they exhibit the son and the brother in the most amiable light, will serve also to illustrate some of his intellectual qualities. They are addressed to his "Ever Dear and Honored Parents."
Portland, May 20, 1804. "It is not the least among the distressing circumstances attending the late afflicting dispensation of Providence, that I am unable in person to share in your grief, and alleviate, by filial sympathy and affection, the keenness of your sorrow. I would fain attempt to afford you some consolation; but the only sources, whence it can be derived, are already your own. I can only say for myself—it shall ever be my endeavor, that, so far as my exertions can avail, you shall not feel his loss; and that we, who remain will strive to fill, by our increased duty, reverence, and affection, the cruel void thus made in your happiness."
January 14, 1805.
"I congratulate you both on the welcome news, which my sister gave me, of your amended health and spirits. Mine I feel flow with double rapidity, since I received her letter. I witness, in fancy, the happiness of home, and long to participate and increase it; but for the present must be content with rejoicing alone. I cannot possibly plead guilty to the charge of "not thinking of home, so often as home does of me." On the contrary, I believe home has very little due on that score, if we consider the frequency, and not the value, of the thoughts But, my dear Parents, if a few of those thoughts could be embodied
on paper, and sent me, how much more good they would do, and how much more pleasure they would communicate, than if they were to remain in their native place.
I am still without an assistant, and, as the number of students has been increased, my task is very laborious. However I shall soon be supplied.-Just now I was interrupted. It was my assistant. He is young and raw; but so much the better. He will not render me small by comparison.
I had a pleasant vacation. All of my classmates, who are in the district, five in number, met at the house of one of them. The recollection of past scenes was, as Ossian says, 'pleasant and mournful to the soul.' There is, however, very little satisfaction in recalling past pleasures to mind; that is, what is generally called pleasure."
September 8, 1805.
"The distress I felt at parting with you, was soon banished by the garrulity of my companion, whose chattering tongue for once afforded me pleasure; and, besides, freed me from the necessity of talking, for which I felt not very well qualified. I once thought it was impossible for my filial affection to be increased; but the kindness which first gave birth to it, increases every visit I make, and that must increase with it. Were others blest with
friends like mine, how much greater would be the sum of virtue and happiness on earth, than we have reason to fear it is at present. Why cannot other parents learn your art of mixing the friend with the parent? of joining friendship to filial affection, and of conciliating love, without losing respect?-an art, of more importance to society, and more difficult to learn,—at least, if we may judge by the rareness with which it is found-than any other; and an art, which you, my dear parents, certainly have in perfection.
"We had a tolerably pleasant journey, and were received with kindness by Mrs. -, and with politeness, After the others were past eleven, explain
at least, by the rest of the family. retired, Col. - kept me up till
ing, as well as I could, the difference between the various sects of religion, especially between Arminians and Cal vinists.
"We had a long passage, but met with no accident, except that I carried away my hat—to use a sea-phrase—that is, the wind carried it away, and there being no one on board that would fit me, I was two days on the water exposed to a burning sun, without shelter; in consequence, my face was scorched pretty severely.”
September 20, 1805.
"I sadly suspect that this plan of numbering my epistles will prove your deficiency, and my attention, in a manner very honorable to myself, and not very much so to my good friends at home. This is my fourth, and not one have I received, nor do I expect one this long time. However, I say not this by way of complaint. Your kindness, when I was at home, proved your affection beyond a doubt; and if I should not receive one letter this year, I should have no right to complain. Yet though not of right, I may of favor, entreat for a few occasional tokens of remembrance. I have as yet scarcely recovered from the inflation and pride your goodness occasioned. The attention I received, led me to suppose myself a person of no small consequence; however, a month's dieting on cold civility and formal politeness, will, I hope, reduce me to my former size. In the mean time, I am convinced that my situation here is not so much worse than any other, as I imagined."
The following letter describes a scene in a stage-coach. Those, who have witnessed the writer's unequalled command of language, and power to accumulate facts and imagery to give it effect, will most readily conceive of the overwhelming torrent of satire, which he must have poured forth on the occasion described. Travellers have often
brought themselves into a highly mortifying dilemma, by allowing free license to their tongues among strangers. It was happy for the hero in this adventure, that he expended his forces upon a legitimate subject of raillery.
"MY DEAREST Father,
Portland, Oct. 8, 1805.
"In hopes of rescuing you one moment, from the crowd of cares and occupations which surround you, I will give