Sunday, April 3, 2022

I whipped the first boy

‘In the afternoon I whipped the first boy I have had occasion to. It was a bad business, perfectly disgusting to me, but I found it was absolutely necessary.’ This is from the youthful diary of Edward Everett Hale, a celebrated American writer and minister, born two centuries ago today. Although Hale’s diaries have not been published, his son published a ‘life and letters’ biography which includes some extracts from them. 

Hale was born on 3 April 1822 in Boston, Massachusetts, son of the proprietor and editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser. He was also a nephew of Edward Everett, the orator and statesman, and grand-nephew of Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War hero. Hale was considered a child prodigy, studying at Boston Latin School, and entering Harvard College aged 13, where he excelled, before moving on to Harvard Divinity School. 

Having become licensed as a Unitarian minister, Hale became, in 1846, pastor of the Church of the Unity in Worcester. The following year, he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society, and he would remain involved with the society for the rest of his life. In 1852 he married Emily Baldwin Perkins, the niece of Connecticut Governor and U.S. Senator Roger Sherman Baldwin. They had nine children. From 1856 until 1899, he was pastor of Boston’s South Congregational Church.

Having long written for his father’s publication, it was not until 1859 that his literary work attracted wider attention, this was thanks to a short story - My Double and How He Undid Me - in the Atlantic Monthly. Many other stories followed - often marked by a style dubbed realistic fantasy - for a variety of other publications. His best known work, however, was The Man Without a Country, published in the Atlantic in 1863, which rallied support for the Union cause in the North. Another of his stories - Hands Off in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (1881) - is considered to have been influential in the emerging genre of science fiction.

Hale was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1865 and of the American Philosophical Society in 1870. He helped found two social reform magazines - the Christian Examiner, Old and New (1870-1875) and Lend a Hand (1886-1897), and he was generally regarded an important leader of the Social Gospel movement being a forceful advocate of emigrant aid, African American education, worker's housing, and world peace. In 1903 he became chaplain of the U.S. Senate in Washington and did not return to Boston until shortly before his death there in 1909. Further information is readily available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography, and Harvard Square Library.

Hale kept diaries through much of his life, and wrote many letters. When he was still alive, he had it mind to publish some of the letters with the help of a friend, but this project felt through. However, one of Hale’s sons, Edward E. Hale, Jr., decided to edit and publish his fathers letters and diaries. The amount of material placed in his hand, he says in a preface to the published work, ‘was very great’. ‘There were thousands of letters, many diaries and day-books covering almost the whole of my father’s life.’ Two volumes of The Life and Letters of Edward Everett Hale - including a significant number of diary extracts - were published by Little, Brown, and Company in 1917 - they are both freely available online through Internet Archive. Here are several sample extracts from his diaries - though it’s hard to tell he was only 15-17 years old! 

9 January 1837
‘Met Meyer at Farwell’s, and he agreed to join the German section, which Sam. Guild and I were attempting to raise. Spoke to Longfellow at dinner about the German, and he said that he thought perhaps his brother, who had just returned from Europe, would take it, so he agreed to say nothing to Bokum till that was settled. After French wrote Latin exercise. In the evening went into Williams’ rooms and got the Oedipus. This lesson finished Oedipus Tyrannus. Came home, finished exercise, got Horace and went to bed.’

10 January 1837
‘Longfellow told me this morning that he had not seen his brother, but the President had told him that his election for the Prof’ship must be confirmed by the Senate as a part of the board of overseers. They will meet on Thursday and I suppose will settle it then. If Longfellow will take the section, we had rather recite to him than to Bokum.’

16 January 1837
‘After reciting to Channing today walked down to the bridge with Donaldson, talking about the I. O. H., the interests of which he has a good deal at heart. Came home and read some in Rev. Mr. Emerson’s ‘Nature.’ It is an odd sort of book, but I like it better than most everyone else seems to, though to be sure there is a good deal in it that I can’t understand. In the evening Nathan undertook to Animal Magnetize me. I got horribly sleepy but I believe it was the natural effect of sitting still five minutes without speaking, and feeling his hands stroking me down so.’

23 February 1837
‘All day Nathan was making experiments in sound, which I inspected and assisted in. In the afternoon finished woodcut, upon which I put so much time that I did not get the lesson in Mechanics in time to recite, and so had to say ‘not prepared’ which vexed me horribly, particularly as it was my own fault. In the evening went to Dawes’ room to meet the rest of the Library committee [of the I. O. H.]. We decided on buying Pope’s Homer, Ion, Clarence, Cooper’s Sketches of Switzerland 2 Part, Abercrombie’s Intellectual faculties, &c. &c.’

3 March 1837
‘Slept over prayers this morning and did not get up till nearly breakfast time. First time I have missed for a long time. Found at breakfast that we had a miss in Greek, so that my absence did not hurt me or anybody else, in respect to that. The cause of the miss seems to be that Felton went in to the theatre last night with Profs. Pierce and Longfellow, so that he could not get up in time to give the 1st section an exercise, and we had none in consequence.’

20 November 1838
‘After (evening) prayers I went to Morison’s room where the astronomical forces were to collect, previously to an attack on Mr. Lovering. We did not get ready for a start till 5 o’clock. Mr. Lovering explained to us his fancy, as he modestly called it very intelligibly. In the evening went to a lecture at the Warren St. Chapel by Uncle Edward on the Northmen. It was a short abstract of the history of their discovery of this country with a good deal about Dighton rock which Uncle supposed to have been sculptured by the natives, for various reasons, the principal of which was the fact, which Mr. Catlin told him, that he had seen thousands of such inscriptions in the Indian countries, in tribes which had not, as well as those which had, the use of instruments of steel.’

25 November 1838
‘The President requested “the members of the seminary” to remain after prayers and he then announced that two of the commons waiters had been found insensible, having imprudently slept last night with charcoal in the room. At breakfast some one came from the kitchen to get some of the Davy Club to go down stairs and see the doctors about making oxygen for these men. I went down and they said they wished to try the effect of oxygen. With two or three others I came into the Davy Club room and went to work. I was there most all day, we made as much oxygen as we could, getting the furnace going and using an iron retort. The men were insensible all day.’

20 October 1839
‘I staid to the Sunday School and took a class; not that I have any more faith than ever as to my qualifications as a teacher, or in the beneficial effects of a Sunday School in such a parish as ours, but because in the introduction of the new system there is a dearth of men teachers and as I think it ought to be tried I was willing to give my hand.’

24 October 1839
‘In the afternoon I whipped the first boy I have had occasion to. It was a bad business, perfectly disgusting to me, but I found it was absolutely necessary. The boy was decidedly the worst boy in the room, and utterly regardless of the ordinary machinery of marks, etc. and having run up to ten marks in the first three days in the week, I told him that for the next offence he should be ‘punished’ as the phrase is. And so he was.’

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