John Lothrop Motley, A Memoir — Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 193 pages of information about John Lothrop Motley, A Memoir — Complete.
precocious intelligence, and a personal charm which might have made him a universal favorite.  Yet he does not seem to have been generally popular at this period of his life.  He was wilful, impetuous, sometimes supercilious, always fastidious.  He would study as he liked, and not by rule.  His school and college mates believed in his great possibilities through all his forming period, but it may be doubted if those who counted most confidently on his future could have supposed that he would develop the heroic power of concentration, the long-breathed tenacity of purpose, which in after years gave effect to his brilliant mental endowments.  “I did wonder,” says Mr. Wendell Phillips, “at the diligence and painstaking, the drudgery shown in his historical works.  In early life he had no industry, not needing it.  All he cared for in a book he caught quickly,—­the spirit of it, and all his mind needed or would use.  This quickness of apprehension was marvellous.”  I do not find from the recollections of his schoolmates at Northampton that he was reproached for any grave offences, though he may have wandered beyond the prescribed boundaries now and then, and studied according to his inclinations rather than by rule.  While at that school he made one acquisition much less common then than now,—­a knowledge of the German language and some degree of acquaintance with its literature, under the guidance of one of the few thorough German scholars this country then possessed, Mr. George Bancroft.


1827-1831.  AEt. 13-17.  College life.

Such then was the boy who at the immature, we might almost say the tender, age of thirteen entered Harvard College.  Though two years after me in college standing, I remember the boyish reputation which he brought with him, especially that of a wonderful linguist, and the impression which his striking personal beauty produced upon us as he took his seat in the college chapel.  But it was not until long after this period that I became intimately acquainted with him, and I must again have recourse to the classmates and friends who have favored me with their reminiscences of this period of his life.  Mr. Phillips says: 

“During our first year in college, though the youngest in the class, he stood third, I think, or second in college rank, and ours was an especially able class.  Yet to maintain this rank he neither cared nor needed to make any effort.  Too young to feel any responsibilities, and not yet awake to any ambition, he became so negligent that he was ‘rusticated’ [that is, sent away from college for a time].  He came back sobered, and worked rather more, but with no effort for college rank thenceforward.”

I must finish the portrait of the collegian with all its lights and shadows by the help of the same friends from whom I have borrowed the preceding outlines.

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John Lothrop Motley, A Memoir — Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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