The Author is placed at a private School: Parental Motives to a College Education: Their design frustrated by family Mis|fortune.
IN my childhood I was sent, as is customary, to a woman's school, in the summer, and to a man's, in the winter season, and made great progress in such learning as my preceptors dealt in. A|bout my twelfth year, our minister, who made it his custom to inspect the schools annually, came to our district. My mas|ter, who looked upon me as his best schol|ar, Page 54 directed me to read a lesson in Dil|worth's spelling book, which I recited as loud as I could speak, without regard to emphasis or stops. This so pleased our minister, who prided himself on the strength of his own lungs, that, a short time after, coming to my father's, to dicker, as they stiled it, about a swop of cattle, and not finding my father sharp at the bargain, he changed the discourse upon me; ob|serving how delighted he was with my performances at school. What a pity it was such a genius was not encouraged. Mr. Underhill, you must put Updike to learning. My father pleaded poverty. When I went to Harvard College, replied the minister, I was poor indeed. I had no father with a good farm to assist me; but, with being butler's freshman, and ringing the bell the first year, waiter the three last, and keeping school in the va|cations, I rubbed through, and am now what I am; and who knows, continued Page 55 he, but when Updike has completed his education, he may make a minister, and possibly, when my usefulness is over, sup|ply our very pulpit.
My mother here interfered. She was a little spare woman. My father was a large bony man; famous, in his youth, for carrying the ring at wrestling; and, in his latter years, for his perseverance at town meetings. But, notwithstanding my father's success in carrying points abroad, my mother, some how or other, contrived always to carry them at home. My father never would acknowledge this; but, when a coarse neighbour would sometimes slily hint the old adage of the gray mare being the better horse, he would say to his particular friends that he always was conqueror in his domestic warfare: but would confess that he loved quiet, and was of late tired of perpetually getting the victory. My mother joined the minis|ter; observing that Updike should have Page 56 learning, though she worked her hands to the bone to procure it. She did not doubt, when he came to preach, he would be as much run after as the great Mr. Whit|field. I always thought, continued she, the child was a genius; and always in|tended he should go to college. The boy loves books. He has read Valentine and Orson, and Robinson Crusoe. I went, the other day, three miles to borrow Pil|grim's Progress for him. He has read it through every bit; ay, and understands it too. Why, he stuck a skewer through Apollyon's eye in the picture, to help Christian beat him. My father could not answer my mother's argument. The dicker about the oxen was renewed; and it was concluded to swop even, though my father's were much the likelier cattle, and that I should go that week and study Latin with the minister, and be fitted for college.
With him I studied four years, la|bouring incessantly at Greek and Latin: Page 57 as to English grammar, my preceptor, knowing nothing of it himself, could com|municate nothing to me. As he was en|thusiastically attached to the Greek, and had delivered an oration in that language, at the commencement at Cambridge, when he took his first degree, by his direction, I committed to memory above four hun|dred of the most sonorous lines in Ho|mer, which I was called to repeat before a number of clergymen, who visited him at an annual convention, in our parish. These gentlemen were ever pleased to express astonishing admiration at my lite|rary acquirements. One of them prognos|ticated that I should be a general, from the fire and force, with which I recited Homer's battles of the Greeks and Tro|jans. Another augered that I should be a member of congress, and equal the Adamses in oratory, from my repeating the speech|es, at the councils of the heathen gods, with such attention to the caesura. A Page 58 third was sure that I should become a Witherspoon in divinity, from the pathos, with which I declaimed Jupiter's speech to all the gods. In fine, these gentle|men considered the classics the source of all valuable knowledge. With them dead languages were more estimable than living; and nothing more necessary to accomplish a young man for all, that is profitable and honourable in life, than a profound knowledge of Homer. One of them gravely observed that he was sure General Washington read Greek; and that he never would have captured the Hessians at Trenton, if he had not taken his plan of operation from that of Ulysses and Diomede seizing the horses of Rhesus, as described in the tenth book of the Iliad.
Thus slattered by the learned, that I was in the high road to fame, I gulped down daily portions of Greek, while my preceptor made quarterly visits to my fa|ther's barn yard, for pay for my instruction.
Page 59 In June, one thousand seven hundred and eighty, my father began seriously to think of sending me to college. He called upon a neighbour, to whom he had sold part of his farm, for some cash. His creditor readily paid, the whole sum due, down in paper money, and my father found, to his surprize, that the value of three acres paid him the principal and in|terest of the whole sum, for which he had sold seventy five acres of land, five years before. This was so severe a stroke of ill fortune, that it entirely frustrated the de|sign of sending me to college.