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nary, and it
remarkable qualities he possessed. endure the jingling homespun style They began to be developed at an of church music then generally early age, and he was able to read prevalent in our country towns, alvery difficult pieces during his first though this was the style to which year in college. His vocal powers he had always been accustomed however were not at all extraordi- from his infancy. Among his pa.
therefore perhaps the pers will doubtless be found a num. more remarkable that he should ber of pieces of his own composihave been so very fond of the sci. tion. Some few of them I heard ence of music, as to have devoted him perform, but do not know whe: all his powers to the investigation ther he bestowed sufficient attention of its principles. It was a favorite upon any piece, to render it a fair recreation with him silently to pe- specimen of his talents for musical ruse the pieces of the greatest mas composition. ters, as Handel and Haydn, carry. of Professor Fisher's great mathing on all parts at a time with a full ematical powers, it would be easy comprehension, and (as he assured for me to recall numerous illustra. me) with a perfect enjoyment of the tions. The following incident may harmony. He passed many a lei- serve as an example. One evening
. sure hour in this mental perform- after tea we set out for a walk, and ance of Handel's grand Hallelujah on our way stopped a moment at a Chorus. This piece in its greatest bookseller's. Happening to take up extent, the Lock Hospital collec- a number of the New York Monthly
, tion, and the Harmonia Sacra, fur Magazine, I observed several mathnished his favorite amusement. As ematical questions which were unyet he had hardly called in the aid derstood to be proposed by Doctor of instruments. He however at Adrain. One of them, as being pe. length procured an organ, and had culiarly difficult, was offered as a it set up in his room. His knowl. prize question, the premium being edge of the principles of musical the current volume of the magazine. harmony was so familiar, that he I pointed it out to Mr. Fisher. He was at once able to perform pieces read it over hastily, and immediately of moderate difficulty in all parts. afterwards we resumed our walk. He did not finally attain to an ex. Reaching that delightful lawn, the cellence in performing which was New Haven Green, we took a few anticipated from so promising a be- turns over it, conversing on some ginning, probably because he would common-place topic, until the time not devote the time to it which is in- for our evening lessons reminded us dispensable to excellence. The love to return to our rooms. Mr. Fisher of simplicity which characterized apologized for a temporary absence his literary taste, was also conspice of mind by saying, “ Excuse me,
I uous both in his selection of pieces, was thinking of that problem,” but and in his performance on the or added shortly after, " I've got it.” gan. He probably never brought I accompanied him to his room, but himself to attempt a single flourish. observing him to be making some I have heard accomplished masters preparation to proceed with the speak with high admiration, both of problem, I retired. Next morning his classical taste in music, and of he showed me the solution comhis profound acquaintance with its pleted, which I think he had perscientific principles. The original. formed in three different ways. ity of his taste is conspicuous in The one which had occurred to him this, that as soon as he fell in with in our walk, was that which pleased the compositions of celebrated Eu. him most, and it was the one which ropean masters, he could no longer he sent to the Monthly Magazine,
with the signature of “X.” It was had frequently paused over matheinserted in the next number of the matical writers of the higher order, Magazine as the solution of “X of in astonishment at the human intel. New Haven,” the latter part being lect. The great distinction to which probably derived from the postmark. Professor Fisher attained as a mathIt was particularly commended for ematician, I am not disposed to asits elegance, and among a number cribe to any peculiarity in the strucof competitors, the prize was award- ture of his intellect, but merely to ed to “ X of New Haven.” Hap- the application of a great mind to a pening to be at the bookstore when great subject, where its powers could the succeeding number announcing have complete scope. In any other the decision arrived, I immediately subject, where strength and penewent to inform Mr. F. of his suc- tration of mind were peculiarly recess, which I did by inquiring “if quisite, his success would have been, he could lend me one of the num. and indeed was, proportionally great. bers of the Monthly Magazine.” I do not rank him so much among He readily understood me, as he men of genius, where some peculiar intimated by a significant smile power is in great excess above the which he labored in vain to con- rest, and where, as is sometimes the ceal; but he blushed deeply for case, an extraordinary talent for having betrayed his consciousness music, or painting, or mechanical of success.
invention, is associated with general Speaking of Doctor Adrain re- mediocrity or even imbecility of minds me of the desire Mr. Fisher intellect; but I place him rather expressed, at an early period of his among the men of gigantic minds, mathematical studies, of becoming where all the parts are great, but acquainted with that gentleman, and all still well balanced, and in harthe great pleasure he derived from monious proportion. These are the a personal interview.
men of sound judgment, of common feelings led him to seek the acquaint- sense, who look at subjects in all ance of Dr. Bowditch ; and the de. their parts and relations; they are light which he experienced in the the Galileos, the Bacons, the Newconversation of that great man, was tons, the Edwardses, the Washingan earnest of the happiness he would tons,—and not the Paracelsuses, the have felt, had he been permitted to Keplers, the Fieldings, the Volenjoy a familiar intercourse with the taires. Genius often suddenly reachmathematicians and philosophers of es its acme ; but powers of mind France and Britain. Although he like those of Professor Fisher, alwas by nature diffident in manners, though probably all developed at the he was at all times fully master of age of twenty eight, would never his intellectual powers, and his mind during his life, had he lived many would run clear when his knees years longer, have ceased to move trembled. He could therefore ap- onward with constantly accelerated proach the greatest minds with com- velocity. He was no less a metaposure, when he contemplated an physician than a mathematician, and entrance into a mixed company with nothing could exceed the terseness dread.
of his translations in the learned lanThe extent to which mathemati- guages, especially of a writer so cians have pushed their inquiries, dense as Tacitus. Though a man and the profoundness of their views, of intellect rather than of imaginamay in some degree be estimated tion, yet he was a most acute critic by the fact, that one who could solve upon the peculiar excellencies and very difficult problems with almost defects of the poets and novelists ; intuitive readiness, declared that he and while an undergraduate, he asVol. I.
tonished his classmates, and elicited wield, with powerful sway, the scep. an unusual compliment from Presi. tre of criticism. Nature evidently dent Dwight, for a disputation which intended him for thinking and wrihe read on the subject of “banks." ting rather than for speaking. His One would ardly expect to find elocution was forcible and distinct
, that the same mind which could de- and his emphasis was laid with exact vise new methods of finding the discrimination, but, invincibly oporbits of comets, would also be crit. posed as he was to the cultivation ical in punctuation, in the planting of the graces of oratory, (because of shrubbery, in the structure of a they did not seem to him to be given court-yard, or even in apparel and him by nature,) he generally, in equipage. But Professor Fisher's public speaking, appeared far below love of symmetry and propriety, in himself. Of this disadvantage he matters of taste, and of correctness was conscious to excess ; and the in the scholar, made him a keen ob- apprehension that the want of rhe. server of life and manners, as well torical powers would be the means as a rare proficient in literary criti- of burying his other talents in obcism. This habit of minute obser- scurity, contributed not a little to vation, I had great opportunities of enhance those gloomy forebodings noticing during our frequent walks in which he was inclined to indulge, about the city of New Haven. His previous to his appointment to the criticisms upon the style of different mathematical chair. Knowing well buildings, (for architecture was his the unfavorable apticipations which favorite among the arts,) upon the he had formed of his success in the arrangement of the streets, trees, world, I hastened, on learning his fences, and gardens, as well as upon appointment, to announce to him a variety of inferior objects, such as the pleasing intelligence. It was on
. are daily met with in a market-town, the occasion of the inauguration of were truly original and instructive; President Day. Mr. Fisher, through and I recur to those seasons, which indisposition, was prevented from seemed only the ramblings of an attending the public exercises in the idle hour, as some of the most agree. morning, and did not expect to come able and profitable of my life. I out in the afternoon. I found him have rarely if ever met with any feverish and dejected, and not to one who could assign so satisfactory surprise him too much, told him the a reason for his opinions on com- news in a manner somewhat am. mon-place subjects, which most peo- biguous. He therefore would not ple take up without supposing them credit the intelligence until after to be worth a reason.
repeated assurances, but believed These attributes of our friend, the me in jest. But the time thus less as well as the greater, fitted him gained to set his guard was well to be an accomplished critic. The employed; he betrayed scarce any various talents which have been emotion, but the effect on his spirits enumerated; his clearness and com- was obvious, for he soon left his prehensiveness; his keenness of ob- bed and joined the procession to servation, extending to the minutest witness the ceremonies of the afterparticulars; his delicate vein of sa
By subsequent conversations tire, (a talent probably known to but I learned that the appointment fulfew ;) the extent of his information, filled his utmost wishes. It came the universality of his taste, and the also at a very favorable time, alsoundness of his judgment;-these though quite unexpected.
His are qualities which, combined as gloomy forebodings of sinking into they were in such ample measure insignificance were at once dissipa. and due proportion, fitted him to ted; and how could the prospect of
a field so well suited to his talents feeling, he adopted the following and his inclination, where he was method. He took his pen and set conscious of being able to sustain down the arguments pro and con in his part with such distinguished ad- numerical order; and finding those vantage, fail to animate his hopes in the affirmative preponderate so and awaken his joy and gratitude ! much, he rose from the table, reIt was shortly after, in a morning sorted to a dentist, and submitted walk, that he disclosed to me his to the operation. Finding it less glad emotions, and expressed his painful than he had apprehended, thankfulness to that kind Providence and being now able to contemplate which had placed him in the only the instruments with pleasure for the sphere in which he supposed him. relief they had afforded, although self moving with any respectability, he had just before thought of them in a sphere indeed consonant to his with great abhorrence, he inferred warmest wishes, and to the evident that the most favorable opportunity designs of nature itself. Guarded for undergoing this operation, is imas he habitually was, lest any one mediately after having a tooth exshould discover his emotions and tracted; and, in the spirit of true impute them to weakness, it is pro- philosophy, he brought his theory to bable that very few of his friends the test of experiment, by having a were aware how much this appoint- second tooth, which was occasionment contributed to raise him from ally troublesome, extracted on the a dejected, desponding state, and to spot. arouse his slumbering energies. I have hinted that Mr. Fisher had
From this moment, he began to much more sensibility than many digest those great plans of personal supposed him to have. Although I improvement and extensive usefuldo not suppose that he possessed ness, which he pursued with such this attribute in a very high degree, steadiness and alacrity during the it may still be affirmed that his remainder of his short but distin- feelings were delicate and acute. guished career. Few men ever sa- I could hardly recollect an instance crificed so much of feeling and in. of any mistake that he made in all clination, in order to do what reason his recitations when a student ; but and duty decided ought to be done. inconsiderable as his inaccuracies So determined was he to keep rea- appeared to others, he told me af. son at the helm, when duty came terwards that he had been occasion. in conflict with inclination, that some ally so mortified by a mistake, that have not given him credit for half it was hardly out of his mind for the sensibility he actually possess- several succeeding days, and he ed. In aiming steadily at the great could not meet his instructor but est possible good, he resisted every with shame and confusion. This temptation which might allure him may look to some like inordinate from the path that led to it. Self- ambition, and perhaps it really im. knowledge, and from that self-disci- plies too much of that feeling ; but pline, were objects of his constant other obvious reasons can be assignand unremitted effort. A singular ed for the emotions which he expeinstance occurs to me of his deter- rienced from causes so trifling. He mination to act according to the dic. had to maintain the character of the tates of reason in opposition to feel. first scholar in his class, a place ing. He had for some time been awarded to him by the suffrages of afflicted with a severe tooth-ache, all, but a place which he thought and, although the tooth was carious, was dishonored by any inaccuracy. he felt the usual reluctance to hav. He felt, therefore, that a mistake ing it extracted. To overcome this degraded him both from the rank
which had been assigned him, and conversation which afforded him pefrom that high standing which he culiar opportunities for display. He contemplated as the only one wor- did not like to converse on mathethy of his aim. The same eleva- matical subjects in mixed company, ted standard was afterwards kept and was mortified when any one continually in view, when an in- seemed to introduce such topics on structor ; and he used to say that his account, because it perhaps imnothing was worthy of the confi- plied either that he would be fond dence of the pupil but the greatest of such an opportunity to exhibit possible accuracy on the part of the himself, or (what he disliked as teacher, and that mistakes on his much) it indicated an opinion that part sullied his character like lapses he was unable to converse on other from virtue. It is probable indeed subjects. In his aversion to open that he was not indifferent to fame; praise, while he was so deeply morbut his ambition was of a higher tified at disgrace and so studious to order than that which would attach acquire solid reputation, he seems any great importance to incidents to have resembled the late Mr. Cav. like the foregoing. That he was endish, a distinguished British phinot eager for popularity, in the sense losopher, who is said to have been in which it usually received in so studious of accuracy, that hardly college, is obvious from the inde- an error was ever detected in all he pendence with which he maintained wrote, and still so averse to flattery his share of the discipline, and the as to have retired in confusion from spirit with which he braved censure a meeting of the Philosophical Soand obloquy whenever they were to ciety, because in an introduction to be met in the faithful discharge of a learned foreigner, his merits were his duty. If like other men of tal- mentioned with more freedom than ents he ever had any propensity to suited his modesty. be vain, no one surely ever subdued The character of Mr. Fisher as a it more completely; no one ever man of honor may be judged of by had a stronger perception of the the following incident. It was acweakness it implies, or guarded him. cidentally known that while a stuself more effectually against be. dent, he had been admitted into traying it. In the unreserved con- very close confidence by his tutor, fidence which subsisted between us who was scarcely able to read a for several years, I do not remem- syllable on account of a chronic ber a single instance, even in the weakness of the eyes. Several most private communications, when years afterwards, one of Mr. Fishthat infirmity was fairly developed. er's companions incidentally alluded So aware was he of the liability of to the privations of that gentleman, distinguished men to exbibit vanity, and intimated to Mr. F. his knowor at least to be suspected of it, that ledge of the fact, that he supplied his feelings were wounded by any the deficiency. He declined any allusion to his superiority, because conversation on the subject, but cour. it seemed to imply that he had the teously drew off his friend to anweakness to be pleased with flattery. Other topic. A subsequent conver.
. On subjects of this kind his delicacy sation enabled me to see the prin. was remarkable, and even, as I ciple by which he was governed, thought, excessive; for it was hard. which was this : In order to keep a ly safe to carry the confidence of secret faithfully, we must not let it friendship so far as to allude to any be known that we possess it. of the honors he had acquired. This Professor Fisher, in accordance was one reason why he avoided with both his nature and habit, was rather than courted those topics of very cautious in forming his reli