Page images
[blocks in formation]

The author of the Columbiad and the Hasty-Pudding was a man of might in his day, and will not pass out of literature or history."-STEDMAN.

The Bnickerbocker Press


В 25 820




THE great men of the post-Revolutionary age were not, as a rule, versatile. Their development was largely in one direction-statesmanship. Jefferson, it is true, shone both as a statesman and philosopher; so did Franklin: but it would be difficult to carry the parallel farther. There was one, however, among this group of worthies who excelled in at least three great departments of human effort-in statesmanship, letters, and philosophy—and whose practical talents were perhaps greater than those of any of his cotemporaries. That man was Joel Barlow, the subject of these pages. His verse first gave American poetry a standing abroad. His prose writing contributed largely to the triumph of Republicanism in 1800. He was the first American cosmopolite, and twice made use of his position to avert from his country a threatened foreign war. He was the godfather of the steamboat and canal, and sponsor with Jefferson of our present magnificent system of internal improvements, while had he been permitted to carry out his grand idea of a national university it is safe to say that American art, letters, science, and mechanics would now be on a much more advanced and satisfactory footing.

His biography has never been written. This is not strange, for it is only recently that the story of any of the great Republican leaders has been fairly and honestly told. In Barlow's case there were special difficulties in

He was cut off suddenly, in a foreign land, before what he regarded as his crowning work was com


the way.

pleted. He left no children to gather up and preserve his literary remains, and after a short time material for a biography could be collected only after long and tiresome research ; then after it was collected, properly to present so many-sided a career involved grave literary difficulties.

The writer admits that the present work is the fruit of his interest in his subject-an interest arising rather from propinquity than from any particular sympathy with the poet's political or religious views.

Born and reared almost in sight of Barlow's birth-place, the writer early became interested in his history, and with the knowledge of so much that was really noble and useful in his career, came the desire to present it fairly and honestly to his countrymen. After he had been engaged on the work for several years, the death of Prof. Lemuel G. Olmsted, a grandnephew of the poet, placed at his disposal the vast mass of Barlow's literary remains, which that gentleman had accumulated by fifty years of painstaking labor. These letters and papers, after having been carefully sifted, have been freely used, and form the bulk of the volume. In preparing the work the aim of the writer has been to give details rather than generalizations; to present his subject as he lived rather than ideally, and to this end he has told his story, wherever practicable, by the letters and writings of his subject.

The author regrets that he cannot acknowledge all the favors received in the prosecution of his labors. He is especially indebted to the Astor Library; to Professor F. B. Dexter, of Yale College; to Miss Ada J. Todd, of the Bridgeport High-School, for the translation of the French letters, and to S. L. M. Barlow, Esq., of New York, the present owner of the Olmsted collection, by whom it was freely placed at the author's disposal, together with his own private collection of Barlowana.

C. B. T. New York, December, 1885.




In Fairfield County, in south-western Connecticut, near the New York border, lies the quiet rural town of Redding,-a town founded by one of the most distinguished jurists of the Massachusetts Colony-John Read-and settled by the choicest of that “sifted wheat " for which, to the sowing of New England, three kingdoms were winnowed. The place is rich in all that could fashion or stimulate poetic fancy.

It is situated on the lower slope of the beautiful hillcountry of Connecticut. Its salient features are three great parallel ridges running north and south and separated by deep valleys, the channels of watercourses. Westward, the tumbled masses of the Taghkanics, hill beyond hill, rise from the deep valley of the Saugatuck. In summer, all the accessories of the pastoral-green fields, furrowed hills, thick wood, deep glen, and foaming cascades—were to be found here ; nor were historic scenes and points of interest wanting to lend them dignity. On the westernmost of these ridges, barely eight miles from the granite pillar separating New York from Connecticut, in a long-roofed farmhouse, Joel Barlow was born. The Barlows were what is known in Connecticut as good stock," that is, they were respectable landholders, paid their tithes promptly, and gave no one occasion to speak


« PreviousContinue »