Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

into collateral vices and undue expenses. On this account, such establishments are certainly liable to much censure. Whether reasonably or not, mankind have always annexed some disrepute to the profession of an actor; and hence no one will give himself to that profession, who cherishes in himself any lively regard for reputation. The odium with which any profession is loaded, even though originally groundless, has an unfortunate tendency to create an excuse for itself in the principles and manners of those who adopt it. To make men vitious, little more is necessary than to treat them as if they were so. '

The example of Mr. Linn, however, may lead us to distinguish between that admiration for the drama, which leads some persons to the theatre, and those dissolute and idle habits, by which the attendance of others is produced, and which evince a taste for the life and manners of the actor, rather than a passion for excellent acting. The moral conduct of this youth was at all times irreproachable; and the impression made upon his fancy, by the great masters of the drama, seems to have contributed to his security from low tastes and vitious pleasures, rather than to have laid him open to their influence.

When his academical career was finished, he was eighteen years of age; and it being necessary to adopt some profession, his choice, and that of his family, fell upon the law. The law leads more directly and effectually to honour, power and profit, in America, than any of what are termed the liberal professions. As we are strangers to all hereditary distinctions, the road to eminence is open to all; and while the practice of the law is extremely lucrative, it tends to bring forth talents and industry into public no. tice, and to recommend men to offices of profit and honour. A young man who, though meanly descended, shows some marks of genius, and has received some degree of education beyond that of mere reading and writing his native tongue, seldom thinks of pure suing any mechanical trade, and if he has some ambition, he is generally educated to the bar. He is thus placed in the direct road of that profit and honour, which waits on political popularity, and may put in his claim, with more success than the followers of any other calling, for a seat in the national councils, and for any official station. The children of persons who are raised above others, by their riches or station, are, of course, whether qualified

[ocr errors]

or not, destined to a liberal profession, and the law is generally preferred, because it affords the best means of building up a name or a fortune. Mr. Linn was probably influenced in his choice o this path, more because it was honourable and lucrative, than because it was particularly suited to gratify any favourite taste. He does not appear, therefore, to have applied with much assiduity or zeal to his new pursuit: his favourite authors continued to engage most of his attention; and his attachment to poetry acquired new force, by the contrast which the splendid visions of Shakspeare and Tasso bore to the naked abstractions and tormenting subtleties of Blackstone and Coke.

He was placed under the direction of Alexander Hamilton, who was a friend of his father, and who took upon himself, with ardour, the care of perfecting the studies and promoting the fortunes of the son. Instead, however, of becoming enamoured of the glory, excellence, or usefulness that environ the names of Murray and of Erskine, Mr. Linn regarded the legal science every day with new indifference or disgust, which, at the end of the first year, induced him to relinquish the profession altogether.

Before this event took place, he had ventured to produce a dramatic composition, called Bourville Castle, on the stage. This performance was one of the many dramatic works he had previously concerted, but the only one which was ever performed on the stage. Its success was such as had been sufficient to have fixed the literary destiny of some minds. But his dramatic career was scarcely commenced, when it was entirely relinquished. His passion for theatrical amusements yielded place to affections of a more serious and beneficial nature; and those religious impressions, by which, from his earliest infancy, his mind had been occasionally visited, about this time assumed a permanent dominion over him. After much deliberation he determined to devote his future life to service in the church.

Such a decision, in a youthful and ardent mind, could only flow from deep convictions of duty. The heavy obligations which every clergyman incurs, the extraordinary claims which are made upon him, not only as a teacher of virtue and religion, but as a living example of their influence, form, to a conscientious mind, the most arduous circumstances of this profession. Considered as a calling, by which a subsistence is to be obtained, and a family reared, its disadvantages are very numerous. He is entirely precluded from any collateral and lucrative application of his time or talents, not only by the constant pressure of his clerical duties, but by the general sense of decorum; while the stipend he receives from the church is in many cases inadequate to decent subsistence, and in no case does it more than answer the current necessities and demands of a family. The clergyman deprives himself of all means of providing for the establishment of his children in trade or in marriage, or even for the period of age or infirmity in himself, by embracing a profession which, in many cases, appears to have a tendency to impair his health, and to shorten the duration of his life.

In Mr. Linn's case, these sacrifices were greater than ordinary. There were many circumstances to inspire his generous mind with unusual and commendable solicitude for the acquisition of fortune, and his new engagements were incompatible with those pursuits, which had hitherto formed his chief passion, and engrossed the greater portion of his time. Such, however, was the strength of his mind, and the force of his religious impressions, that not only the prospects of power and riches, but the more bewitching promises of dramatic popularity, were renounced with little hesitation or reluctance.

New-York was, in some respects, an eligible place for prosecu ting theological as well a legal studies, but Mr. Linn weighed its disadvantages and benefits with too impartial a hand to allow himself to remain there. Along with his former habits and pursuits, he perceived the necessity of relinquishing many of his former companions, and abandoning the scenes to which he had been accustomed to resort. His prudence directed him to withdraw as much as possible from the busy and luxurious world, and to put far away all those objects which were calculated to divert him from the object to which he had deliberately devoted his future life.

With these views he left New-York, and retired to Schenectady. He there put himself under the care of Dr. Romeyn, a professor of theology in the reformed Dutch church. His zeal and resolution appear to have continually increased in favour of his new pursuit. Experience, indeed, gradually unfolded difficulties of which he had not been at first aware. The importance and arduousness of the part which he had assigned himself became daily more apparent, but these discoveries diminished not his zeal, though they somewhat appalled his courage. In a letter to his father, written during his probation, and after a short visit to his family, he says, “ When I was in New-York, I saw more clearly than I had ever yet seen, the road of preferment which I have forsaken. I saw more clearly than ever, that worldly friendship and favour follow the footsteps of pomp and ambition. I hope, however, never to have cause to regret the choice I have made. I hope to see more and more the little worth of earthly things, and the infinite importance of those which are eternal. As I have no treasures on earth, may I lay up treasures in heaven.

“ The disgust which I contracted for the law might perhaps chiefly arise from a sickly and over delicate taste. The pages of Coke and Blackstone contained, to my apprehension, nothing but horrid jargon. The language of the science was discord, and its methods the perfection of confusion to me; and this, whether a fault in me or not, I cannot tell, but certain I am it was past remedy. But my aversion to the bar had something else in it than the mere loathing of taste. I could not bear its tricks and artifices; the enlisting of all one's wit and wisdom in the service of any one that could pay for them.

“ My mind, which has been for a long time restless and uneasy, and continually on the wing, feels already, in this state of comparative solitude, that sober and quiet peace, to which it has been long a stranger. I regret not the gay objects of New York, which I have exchanged for the now dreary scenes of Schenectady. The pleasures of my former life were often the pleasures of an hour, leaving behind them the anxieties of days and of years. A very few excepted, I regret not those friends of my early youth, from whom I have removed. Friendship is in most cases only a weathercock, shifting with the lightest gale, and scarcely stable long enough to be viewed. The applause of men I no longer prize, and self-approbation becomes every day of greater value."

In this retreat he pursued his studies assiduously. How he employed his leisure, what books he read, what society he enjoyed, and what particular advances he made in knowledge or in virtue, in the government of himself or his acquaintance with the world, it is not in the power of the present narrator to communicate. It appears, however, that he indulged himself in some poetical effu

sions, and wrote occasionally some essays in prose, which were published in a newspaper of that place. Though not unworthy of praise from so young a man, their intrinsic merit does not entitle them to preservation.

He obtained a license to preach from the classis of Albany, in the year 1798, having just entered his twenty-second year. Having now an opportunity of displaying his qualifications of taste, knowledge and piety, the world soon became acquainted with his character. His merits in the pulpit were enhanced by his youth; a circumstance, which, while it afforded an apology for some exuberances of style and sentiment, imparted lively expectations of future excellence. He received calls from the presbyterian church at Elizabethtown, New-Jersey, and from the first presbyterian church at Philadelphia, than which there were no religious congregations in America, whose choice could be more honourable to the object of it.

He finally decided, though not without much hesitation and reluctance, in favour of the latter situation. In this he was influenced by many motives besides those, which, in such a case, would naturally operate upon a young mind, eager for distinction. The principal of these originated in diffidence of his own powers, which he justly imagined would be subjected to less arduous trials, as an assistant minister, or co-pastor, than where the sole charge should devolve upon himself. Under the auspices of so illustrious a colleague as the late Dr. Ewing, he hoped to enter on his important office with fewer disadvantages than most young men are subjected to. The errors of youth and inexperience would be less fatal, and would be more easily prevented and cor. rected, than in a different situation. The paternal treatment he always received from Dr. Ewing fulfilled these hopes, and his decision in their favour was fully justified by the veneration and af. fection of his people. He was ordained, and installed in his office, in June, 1799.

He had very early bestowed his affections on Miss Hester Bailey, a young lady of beauty and merit, daughter of Col. John Bailey, a respectable inhabitant of Poughkeepsie, in the state of New-York. On his settlement at Philadelphia, he married this lady. The fruits of this alliance, which was interrupted by death at the end of five years, were three sons, the two youngest of whom survived their father.

. (To be continued.) Vol. I.

« EdellinenJatka »