Page images

Having resigned his trust, and in every department rendered an account approved by his Commonwealth and country, it was especially fitting that those whom he served with such constant, unselfish devotion should thus record their appreciation of a benefactor and friend, and that we all should pause, if but to consider for a moment the briefest review of the life and labors of one of the greatest savants of his age and the nation's greatest educational public servant.


The Journal for Feb. 18, 1886, is just at hand. I have read it with peculiar and deep interest. It has been my good fortune to know Mr. Philbrick, although not intimately. I remember him with marked pleasure for the interest that he always took in me, - a comparative stranger to him. I remember the deep interest that he took in the tenure of position of teachers. His sympathies were always warm and right. He was, perhaps, the highest type of the practical schoolman, and the most enlightened educator that America has yet produced.

But I write for an additional purpose, which is this : You have devoted one issue of the Journal entirely to a memorial of a teacher. This is unprecedented in the history of educational journalism, and it is one of the most thoughtful and praiseworthy acts of these times. The example set by you in this instance will have its influence upon the members of our profession, for it will show to teachers at large that there are many lines of tender memories of teachers which are cherished by the worthy men and women of our fraternity. This memorial will make teachers feel less lonely ; it will strengthen the bonds of brotherhood among them, and help on the era of fraternal sympathy. In honoring the memory of an educator in the manner that you have, you have ennobled the teacher, magnified his profession, and honored educational journalism.


Of the duties binding on men toward their fellows, none is higher or sweeter than that of rendering just praise to those whose forms have forever disappeared from human sight. The tears we shed over the graves of our departed friends are unselfish tributes, pleasing to heaven and wholesome to the soul that weeps. We may thus have the delicious joy of doing a service for which there can be no return; and by this respite from selfish emotions, the soul gains strength for a new start towards the higher life.

Mr. Philbrick was my dearest professional friend, and his death was a shock whose effects are still vividly felt in my heart. My affection for him was the greater because out of his own generous impulses he bestowed on me his good offices while I was still a stranger to him. Soon after he retired from Boston to Asylum Station, he sent me warm words of commendation for the expression of some sentiment which he approved, and a hearty invitation to visit him whenever my duties might call me to the East. Learning of my contemplated visit to Boston in the winter of 1884-5, he repeated his request


for a visit from me, and when I reached my hotel I found a note regretting his inability to meet me in the city, and again urging me to see him at his home. One leading motive for this journey to the East was the pleasure of paying my respects to the friend for whom I had such veneration ; and the moment my immediate duty was done I made my way to Asylum Station. Mr. Philbrick's home was a little way from the station, and his directions had been so minute that I needed no guide to my destination. I was hardly half-way to his house when I was met by a horseman galloping towards the little station. As he came near he seemed to suspect my mission, and in a moment there was mutual recognition. In a few moments more I reached the house, and a hearty welcome by my good hostess was hardly over before Mr. Philbrick returned from his morning gallop to the post-office. I find it impossible to express any adequate notion of my serene enjoyment during the afternoon and evening of that memorable winter's day. I thought then, as I think now, that a more beautiful mode of spending the evening of one's life could hardly be imagined. Otium cum dignitate most nearly expresses my impression of Mr. Philbrick's life in the calm retirement of that charming home. The picture of serene and lovable age that is embalmed in the Cato major, I seemed to see realized in that New England country seat.

As might be anticipated, our conversations went far into the night and ran chiefly on men and books and institutions as they were related to education and schools. As is well known, Mr. Philbrick had had exceptional advantages for educational observation and study. At Vienna, Paris, and Philadelphia he had employed his time as an expert in the study of education in all its phases, and at the time of his death he was doubtless the wisest public school man in this country. He had gathered books and documents from all the countries he had visited, and his memory was teeming with interesting recollections of the most eminent educators of the world. My professional enthusiasm was rekindled and nourished; and as I bade my good friends adieu on that winter morning, I was grateful to Heaven for such examples of wisdom, goodness, and content as I had seen in that charming home.

In the July following I visited Boston again, and on the morning of the fourth I was again Mr. Philbrick's guest. I met the same hearty greeting as before, and there was a renewal of the same delightful conversations. In the afternoon of that day Mr. Philbrick had his carriage brought to the door and asked me to go out with him for a ride. We drove through shaded lanes for a a few miles, and then into the grounds of a beautiful country residence. Mr. Philbrick presented me to the ladies of the house, and soon after there entered the parlor a plainly dressed man of dignified bearing whom I had observed coming up the lane as we approached the house. Philbrick had given nie the unexpected pleasure of an afternoon call on one of his neighbors, Mr. Whittier.

I dare say Mr. Whittier remembers me, for I did not ask him for his autograph ; I have what is better, — a

[ocr errors]

charming mental photograph of the poet, his home, his study, his pet on the porch (a lusty fox squirrel), the conversation on men and books, in which, it seemed to me, that, after all, the man was greater even than the poet; and, finally, the kindly farewell as we took our leave.

Our homeward ride took us through Danvers Meadows, and past the old Salem church; and it was twilight when the thread of our conversation was broken by our arrival home.

A few days after I met Mr. Philbrick again at Newport, at the meeting of the American Institute of Instruction; and still later by a few days, at the meeting of the National Association in Saratoga. Finally, I took my leave of him in the parlors of Congress Hall, and was never to see his face again.

« PreviousContinue »