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- STORY OF WELLESLEY - 3/33 -


more pleasing, although possibly not more discriminating. When the early graduates of Wellesley and the early teachers write of Mr. Durant, they dip their pens in honey and sunshine. The result is radiant, fiery even, but unconvincingly archangelic. We see him, "a slight, well-knit figure of medium height in a suit of gray, with a gray felt hat, the brim slightly turned down; beneath one could see the beautiful gray hair slightly curling at the ends; the fine, clear-cut features, the piercing dark eyes, the mouth that could smile or be stern as occasion might demand. He seemed to have the working power of half a dozen ordinary persons and everything received his attention. He took the greatest pride and delight in making things as beautiful as possible." Or he is described as "A slight man--with eyes keen as a lawyer's should be, but gentle and wise as a good man's are, and with a halo of wavy silver hair. His step was alert, his whole form illuminate with life." He is sketched for us addressing the college, in chapel, one September morning of 1876, on the supremacy of Greek literature, "urging in conclusion all who would venture upon Hadley's Grammar as the first thorny stretch toward that celestial mountain peak, to rise." It is Professor Katharine Lee Bates, writing in 1892, who gives us the picture: "My next neighbor, a valorous little mortal, now a member of the Smith faculty, was the first upon her feet, pulling me after her by a tug at my sleeve, coupled with a moral tug more efficacious still. Perhaps a dozen of us freshmen, all told, filed into Professor Horton's recitation room that morning." And again, "His prompt and vigorous method of introducing a fresh subject to college notice was the making it a required study for the senior class of the year. '79 grappled with biology, '80 had a senior diet of geology and astronomy." To these young women, as to his juries in earlier days, he could use words "that burned and cut like the lash of a scourge," and it is evident that they feared "the somber lightnings of his eyes."

But he won their affection by his sympathy and humor perhaps, quite as much as by his personal beauty, and his ideals of scholarship, and despite his imperious desire to bring their souls to Christ. They remember lovingly his little jokes. They tell of how he came into College Hall one evening, and said that a mother and daughter had just arrived, and he was perplexed to know where to put them, but he thought they might stay under the staircase leading up from the center. And students and teachers, puzzled by this inhospitality but suspecting a joke somewhere, came out into the center to find the great cast of Niobe and her daughter under the stairway at the left, where it stayed through all the years that followed, until College Hall burned down.

They tell also of the moral he pointed at the unveiling of "The Reading Girl", by John Adams Jackson, which stood for many years in the Browning Room. She was reading no light reading, said Mr. Durant, as the twelve men who brought her in could testify. "She is reading Greek, and observe--she doesn't wear bangs." They saw him ardent in friendship as in all else. His devoted friend, and Wellesley's, Professor Eben N. Horsford, has given us a picture of him which it would be a pity to miss. The two men are standing on the oak-crowned hill, overlooking the lake. "We wandered on," says Professor Horsford, "over the hill and future site of Norumbega, till we came where now stands the monument to the munificence of Valeria Stone. There in the shadow of the evergreens we lay down on the carpet of pine foliage and talked,--I remember it well,--talked long of the problems of life, of things worth living for; of the hidden ways of Providence as well as of the subtle ways of men; of the few who rule and are not always recognized; of the many who are led and are not always conscious of it; of the survival of the fittest in the battle of life, and of the constant presence of the Infinite Pity; of the difficulties, the resolution, the struggle, the conquest that make up the history of every worthy achievement. I arose with the feeling that I had been taken into the confidence of one of the most gifted of all the men it had been my privilege to know. We had not talked of friendship; we had been unconsciously sowing its seed. He loved to illustrate its strength and its steadfastness to me; l have lived to appreciate and reverence the grandeur of the work which he accomplished here."

III.

If we set them over against each other, the hearsay that besmirches and the reminiscence that canonizes, we evoke a very human, living personality: a man of keen intellect, of ardent and emotional temperament, autocratic, fanatical, fastidious, and beauty-loving; a loyal friend; an unpleasant enemy. "He saw black black and white white, for him there was no gray." He was impatient of mediocrity. "He could not suffer fools gladly."

No archangel this, but unquestionably a man of genius, consecrated to the fulfillment of a great vision. It is no wonder that the early graduates living in the very presence of his high purpose, his pure intention, his spendthrift selflessness, remember these things best when they recall old days. After all, these are the things most worth remembering.

The best and most carefully balanced study of him which we have is by Miss Charlotte Howard Conant of the class of '84, in an address delivered by her in the College Chapel, February 18, 1906, to commemorate Mr. Durant's birthday. Miss Conant's use of the biographical material available, and her careful and restrained estimate of Mr. Durant's character cannot be bettered, and it is a temptation to incorporate her entire pamphlet in this chapter, but we shall have to content ourselves with cogent extracts.

Henry Fowle Durant, or Henry Welles Smith as he was called in his boyhood, was born February 20, 1822, in Hanover, New Hampshire. His father, William Smith, "was a lawyer of limited means, but versatile mind and genial disposition." His mother, Harriet Fowle Smith of Watertown, Massachusetts, was one of five sisters renowned for their beauty and amiability; she was, we are told, intelligent as well as beautiful, "a great reader, and a devoted Christian all her long life."

Young Henry went to school in Hanover, and in Peacham, Vermont, but in his early boyhood the family moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, and from there he was sent to the private school of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Ripley in Waltham, to complete his preparation for Harvard. Miss Conant writes: "Mr. Ripley was pastor of the Unitarian Church there (in Waltham) from 1809 to 1846, and during most of that time supplemented the small salary of a country minister by receiving twelve or fourteen boys into his family to fit for college. From time to time youths rusticated from Harvard were also sent there to keep up college work."

"Mrs. Ripley was one of the most remarkable women of her generation. Born in 1793, she very early began to show unusual intellectual ability, and before she was seventeen she had become a fine Latin scholar and had read also all the Odyssey in the original." Her life-long friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, writes in praise of her: "The rare accomplishments and singular loveliness of her character endeared her to all. . . . She became one of the best Greek scholars in the country, and continued in her latest years the habit of reading Homer, the tragedians, and Plato. But her studies took a wide range in mathematics, natural philosophy, psychology, theology, and ancient and modern literature. Her keen ear was open to whatever new facts astronomy, chemistry, or the theories of light and heat had to furnish. Absolutely without pedantry, she had no desire to shine. She was faithful to all the duties of wife and mother in a well-ordered and eminently hospitable household wherein she was dearly loved. She was without appetite for luxury or display or praise or influence, with entire indifference to triffles. . . . As she advanced in life her personal beauty, not remarked in youth, drew the notice of all."

There could have been no nobler, saner influence for an intellectual boy than the companionship of this unusual woman, and if we are to begin at the beginning of Wellesley's story, we must begin with Mrs. Ripley, for Mr. Durant often said that she had great influence in inclining his mind in later life to the higher education of women.

From Waltham the young man went in 1837 to Harvard, where we hear of him as "not specially studious, and possessing refined and luxurious tastes which interfered somewhat with his pursuit of the regular studies of the college." But evidently he was no ordinary idler, for he haunted the Harvard Library, and we know that all his life he was a lover of books. In 1841 he was graduated from Harvard, and went home to Lowell to read law in his father's office, where Benjamin F. Butler was at that time a partner. The dilettante attitude which characterized his college years is now no longer in evidence. He writes to a friend, "I shall study law for the present to oblige father; he is in some trouble, and I wish to make him as happy as possible. The future course of my life is undetermined, except that all shall yield to holy poetry. Indeed it is a sacred duty. I have begun studying law; don't be afraid, however, that I intend to give up poetry. I shall always be a worshiper of that divinity, and l hope in a few years to be able to give up everything and be a priest in her temple." After a year he writes, "I have not written any poetry this whole summer. Old Mrs. Themis says that I shall not visit any more at the Miss Muses. I'll see the old catamaran hanged, though, but what I will, and I'll write a sonnet to my old shoe directly, out of mere desperation. Pity and sympathize with me." And on March 28, 1843, we find him writing to a college friend:

"I have been attending courts of all kinds and assisting as junior counsel in trying cases and all the drudgery of a lawyer's life. One end of my labor has been happily attained, for about three weeks ago I arrived at the age of twenty-one, and last week I mustered courage to stand an examination of my qualifications for an attorney, and the result (unlike that of some examinations during my college life) was fortunate, with compliments from the judge. I feel a certain vanity (not unmixed, by the way, with self-contempt) at my success, for I well remember l and a dear friend of mine used to mourn over the impossibility of our ever becoming business men, and lo, I am a lawyer.-- I have a right to bestow my tediousness on any court of the Commonwealth, and they are bound to hear me."

From 1843 to 1847 he practiced at the Middlesex Bar, and from 1847, when he went to live in Boston, until 1863, he was a member of the Suffolk Bar. On November 25, 1851, he had his name changed by act of the Legislature. There were eleven other lawyers by the name of Smith, practicing in Boston, and two of them were Henry Smiths. To avoid the inevitable confusion, Henry Welles Smith became Henry Fowle Durant, both Fowle and Durant being family names.

In 1852 Mr. Durant was a member of the Boston City Council, but did not again hold political office. On May 28, 1854, he married his cousin, Pauline Adeline Fowle, of Virginia, daughter of the late Lieutenant-colonel John Fowle of the United States Army and Paulina Cazenove. On March 2, 1855, the little boy, Henry Fowle Durant, Jr., was born, and on October 10, 1857, a little girl,


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