Abbildungen der Seite

he alone can pay, to one of our most recent and most munificent benefactors.

We are not unmindful, in assembling for this purpose, that our old parent Historical Society -- the mother of all in America has been indebted heretofore to more than one most liberal benefactor for the means of carrying forward the cherished objects for which it was instituted. Its library, its cabinet, the halls it is privileged to occupy, - overhanging the ancient sepulchres of so many of the Massachusetts fathers, the four and thirty volumes of its published collections, all bear manifold and abundant testimony to the generous contributions of its founders and friends.

There are those, I rejoice to say, yet among the living, and some of them within the sound of my voice at this moment, for whose pecuniary aid or personal service, in many an hour of need, we can hardly be too grateful. May the day be still distant, which shall unseal our lips by sealing their own, and which shall take off the injunction – which nothing but death can dissolve - against making them the subjects of public eulogy!

But no considerations of delicacy forbid the open acknowledgment of our obligations to those distinguished Governors of Massachusetts and earliest Presidents of our Society, — James Sullivan and Christopher Gore, — who, however widely they may have differed about the politics of the day in which they lived, forgot all other rivalries in the cause in which we are engaged, and emulated each other in generous efforts for its promotion. Nor can any such consideration restrain the expression of our gratitude to the late excellent Samuel Appleton, to whom we owe the establishment of a noble fund for procuring, preserving, and publishing the materials of American history.

And nothing certainly could excuse us for omitting an opportunity like the present to make still more particular and emphatic mention of Dr. Jeremy Belknap, as one pre-eminently entitled to our grateful remembrance and regard. Foremost among the founders of our society, his labors for its advancement and his contributions to its archives ceased only with his life. And now that more than half a century has passed away since that valuable and venerable life was brought to a close, we have again been called to a fresh recognition and a renewed admiration of his unwearied devotion to the objects for which we are associated, by the rich and varied treasures, from his own original collection, which have been so thoughtfully and liberally added to our library and cabinet by his esteemed and respected daughter. Coming to us, within a few months past, , through the hands of our accomplished associate, Mr. Ticknor,

, and carefully collated and arranged, as they already have been, by our untiring coadjutor, Mr. Charles Deane, they will form at once a precious addition to our archives, and a most interesting memorial of Dr. Belknap and his family.

But while we can never forget our indebtedness to these earlier friends and benefactors of our Society, we

are here to-night to acknowledge a gift which must ever stand by itself in our annals. We are here to-night to commemorate a giver, whose remarkable qualities and career would alone have entitled him to no common tribute of respect.

And I know not, my friends, how I can better discharge the duty which now devolves on me, as the organ of this Society, of introducing to you at once the subject and the orator of the occasion, than by holding up before you this ponderous volume, and by telling you at least one of the circumstances under which it originally came into my possession.

It is the first volume of a sumptuous folio edition of Purchas's Pilgrims, printed in London, in the year 1625, which was placed in my hands by Mr. Dowse himself, on the 30th day of July, 1856, and which contains an inscription which will speak for itself:-

CAMBRIDGE, JULY 30, 1856. --- This volume, – 'Purchas His Pilgrims,' — being numbered 812 in the catalogue now in the press of Messrs. John Wilson & Son, is delivered by me, on this thirtieth day of July, 1856, to the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, President of the Massachusetts Historical Society, as an earnest and evidence of my having given the whole of my library to said Massachusetts Historical Society, — the books to be preserved for ever, in a room by themselves, and only to be used in said room.

THOMAS DowSE. In presence of

0. W. Watriss,
George Livermore.

It is not for me, my friends, to attempt any account of the more than five thousand rare and costly volumes of which this was the sample and the earnest. They will be described to you presently by one familiar with them from his youth, and who is far better able to do justice to them than myself. But I may be pardoned for alluding to a single circumstance, which he himself might shrink from recalling.

When admitted into the library of Mr. Dowse, in company with my valued friend, Mr. George Livermore, to receive this magnificent gift in behalf of our Society, my attention could not fail to be attracted to the one portrait which hung conspicuously upon the walls. Though only an unfinished sketch, it bore evident marks of having come from the hand of that admirable artist, whose name is so proudly associated with the far-famed head of WASHINGTON in the gallery of the Boston Athenæum, Gilbert Stuart; and it portrayed the features of a youthful student in all the bloom of his earliest manhood, who, having taken the highest honors of Harvard at an age when others were still preparing to enter there, was already adorning one of the classical chairs of that venerable University ; — lending the highest accomplishments of scholarship and eloquence to elevate the standard of American education, and giving abundant evidence of all those brilliant and surpassing powers, which have since been displayed, in so many varied ways, in the service of his fellow-citizens and for the honor of his country.

This, my friends, was the only portrait which Mr. Dowse had admitted to his library; and a most significant indication it was of the estimation in which he held the original.

You will not be surprised, therefore, that when the Massachusetts Historical Society proposed to pay a tribute to the memory of so munificent a benefactor, - who lived but a few months after the gift was consummated, — they should have eagerly welcomed that hand-writing on the wall, and should have turned at once in the direction which it so clearly marked out for them. And it only remains for me to present to you, as I now have the privilege of doing, in all the maturity of his manhood and his fame, the honored original of a portrait,

portrait, — which you will all, I am sure, have anticipated me in saying, is the only unfinished performance which has ever been associated with the name of EDWARD EVERETT,





GENTLEMEN OF THE MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY, You are already but too well aware of the event which has called us together. Our beautiful rooms are lighted this evening for the first time; but the shadow of an afflicting bereavement rests darkly and deeply upon our walls and upon our hearts. We are here to pay a farewell tribute to him whom we were ever most proud to welcome within our cherished circle of associates, but whose sunny smile is now left to us only as we see it yonder, in the cold though faithful outlines of art. We have come to deplore the loss of one who was endeared to us all by so many of the best gifts and graces which adorn our nature, and whose gentle and genial spirit was the charm of every company in which he mingled. We have come especially to manifest our solemn sense that one of the great Historical Lights of our country and of our age has been withdrawn from us for ever; and to lay upon the closing grave of our departed brother some feeble but grateful acknowledgment of the honor he had reflected upon American literature, and of the renown he had acquired for the name of an American historian.

For indeed, gentlemen, we have come to this commemoration not altogether in tears. We are rather conscious at this moment of an emotion of triumph, -breaking through the sorrow which we cannot so soon shake off, - as we recall the discouragements and infirmities under which he had pressed forward so success

[ 405]

[ocr errors]

And we

fully to so lofty a mark, and as we remember, too, how modestly he wore the wreath which he had so gallantly won. thank God this night, that although he was taken away from us while many more years of happy and useful life might still have been hoped for him, and while unfinished works of the highest interest were still awaiting his daily and devoted labors, he was yet spared until he had completed so many imperishable monuments of his genius, and until he had done enough - enough at once for his own fame and for the glory of his country. “Satis, satis est, quod vixit, vel ad ætatem vel ad gloriam.

Nor will we omit to acknowledge it as a merciful dispensation of Providence, that he was taken at last by no lingering disease, and after no protracted decline, but in the very way which those who knew him best were not unaware that he himself both expected and desired. Inheriting a name which had been associated with the noblest patriotism in one generation, and with the highest judicial wisdom in another; and having imparted a fresh lustre to that name, and secured for it a title to an even wider and more enduring remembrance, — he was permitted to approach the close of his sixty-third year in the enjoyment of as much happiness, as much respect, as much affection, as could well accompany any human career.

“Then, with no fiery, throbbing pain,
No cold gradations of decay,
Death broke at once the vital chain,
And freed his soul the nearest way.

It is not for me, gentlemen, to attempt any delineation of his character, or any description of his writings. There are those among us who have known him longer than myself, and who have established a better title to pass judgment upon his productions. Let me only say, in conclusion, that, immediately on hearing of his sudden death, permission was asked for this Society to pay the last tribute to his remains; but it was decided to be more consonant with his own unostentatious disposition, that all ceremonious obsequies should be omitted. Having followed his hearse yesterday, therefore, only as friends, we have assembled now as a Society, of which for more than twenty

« ZurückWeiter »