Helen Hunt Jackson 1-1-29 transcription
Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 1, Ms 0020, Box 1, Folder 29, Letter from Edward A. Park to Dr. Humphrey, 1847
Transcribed by Gloria Helmuth, June 1996
[Andover, Tuesday, November 2, 1847]
Rev. Dr. Humphrey,
I feel of course altogether incompetent to communicate any new information with regard to Prof. Fiske, to one who knows so much of him as you do; still I will venture to say a word or two in regard to my intercourse with him. That he possessed an acute and discriminating mind, well stored with philological and metaphysical learning; that he had great accuracy of judgment, and uncommon perseverance in examining the more recondite portions of a subject and prying into the most minute distinctions, all will admit. But it is less common to speak of him as a faithful friend, than as an indefatigable and a various scholar. I was, however, more favorably impressed by the rare fidelity of his friendship, than by the marked acumen and penetration of his mind. I never knew him to hesitate or waver in the defence of one whom he esteemed, whatever odium he might view in making such a defence. He did not sacrifice his friends to his own popularity, but aided them at the expense of his own ease in the time of their necessities. He was not kind to them in their prosperity, and cold in their adversity; but manifested his regard for them first and chiefly when they needed such a manifestation.
There are many little incidents which I can recall of his faitful faithfulness and constancy in friendship, which present his character in a very amiable point of view. I remember that when a certain College Officer became unpopular with the students, and they formed a habit of defacing the lecture-room of that officer by night, so that he might become the object of new and fresh ridicule at the morning recitation, Prof. Fiske went every morning before prayers to that lecture room, and removed the offensive objects articles which the students had heaped upon the officer's desk or chair, effaced the insulting inscriptions which they had written on the walls, and thus prevented the merriment which they had anticipated for themselves, and the mortification which they had desired and devised for their obnoxious teacher. They never knew that his vigilance had failed their stratagems, and the officer for whom he thus labored every way, never suspected that Prof. Fiske was thoughtful and self-denying for the go peace and the reputation of his friend. So secret was he and unostentatious in his beneficence. He was too faithful to be otherwise than modest.
This fidelity in friendship characterised Prof. Fiske in his whole official and religious character. What he loved, he loved earnestly. He was indeed a man of quick and sprightly sentiment; but he was emphatically earnest in his devotion to the public good. He suffered when the welfare of the community was endangered. His philanthropy did not hang loosely upon him. He made Amherst College for instance a part of himself. He felt all its depressions, and was never so little disposed to leave it as when it demands of him the greatest self denial. In every such Institution there must be some man who will be willing "take the responsibility," some officer who will not be constantly looking after his own quiet and his own popularity, but will step forward when the cause of good order demands energetic and decided action. No one could be further than Prof. Fiske from a timid and self-seeking policy in the government of a College, and he often exposed himself to obloquy for the cause of good morals, when there was nothing which required his exposure of himself more than that of every other moral man connected with the Institution. But he was too conscientious and constant in his attachment to the College and to good principles, to refrain from an honest avowal of his opinions and a decisive action in support of them, whenever the welfare of his pupils and of the church required.
The same faithfulness was exemplified in his preaching, and this made him at times eloquent. He loved the truth, and was tenacious of it and earnest for its reception into the hearts of his heavens, and his countenance turns, yes - turns, and whole manner bespoke his purpose to cling to the truth, and to hold it up and hold it forth, and press it, and urge it forward, for the good of his audience, even although their good must be secured by some degree of present discomfort. I well remember man some of his searching, pointed, close, pungent discourses, and never think of him in the pulpit, as other than an able, but by all means a faithful preacher. His preaching was characterised by intellectual eloquence, although the preach populace would not regard him as, in their sense, an eloquent man. He was too precise, too argumentative, too noiseless to attract the gase of superficial hearers.
I have now, Dear Sir, very hastily said what I suppose that others might be too apt to omit in their estimate of Prof. Fiske; excellences as a scholar and a Christian. At the same time I feel ashamed to send you such a letter, as you must be perfectly familiar with all which I have intimated. Still, as you requested me to write, I venture to send this crude sheet.
With the highest regard, Dear Sir,
Andover Nov. 2. 1847. I am yours, E.A. Park
Helen Hunt Jackson
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