Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Greene, Whittier, Brownson

I've posted two new biographical tidbits in the Libertarian Labyrinth. The first is from Annie Fields Author's and Friends (1896), a collection of reminiscences. It tells the story of "the Bachiler eyes:"
Old New England people were quick to recognize "the Bachiler eyes," not only in the Whittiers, but in Daniel Webster, Caleb Cushing, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Bachiler Greene, a man less widely known than these distinguished compatriots. Mr. Greene was, however, a man of mark in his own time, a daring thinker, and one who was possessed of much brave originality, whose own deep thoughtfulness was always planting seeds of thought in others, and who can certainly never be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to be his friends.

It also gives an account of the first visit to Boston of the young Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier—at the instigation of Susan Batchelder Greene, William Batchelder Greene's mother.
The connection of the Whittiers of Haverhill with the Greenes was somewhat closer than with other branches of the Bachiler line. One of the poet's most entertaining reminiscences of his boyhood was the story of his first visit to Boston. Mr. William Greene's mother was an interesting woman of strong, independent character and wide interests, wonted to the life of cities, and one of the first, in spite of his boyish shyness, to appreciate her young relative. Her kind eagerness, during one of her occasional visits to the Whittiers, that Greenleaf should come to see her when he came to Boston, fell in with his own dreams, and a high desire to see the sights of
the great town.

The account is short, but worth a look. It is particularly welcome for the light it shines on the character of Susan Greene, about whom very little appears to have been written.

The other piece is a bit from Henry F. Brownson's Brownson's Middle Life, the second of three volumes chronicling the life of Orestes Brownson. Included is the letter William B. Greene sent to Brownson in 1849, along with a set of unbound sheets of his Remarks on the Philosophy of History, together with an A Priori Autobiography. Brownson had by this time thoroughly abandoned much of the radical thought which he had helped Greene discover, and the two men were somewhat distant. Greene questions one of Brownson's present positions, but adds this humorous and revealing explanation/disclaimer:
But my criticism may very possibly come from my want of comprehension. As Webster says of Ingersoll: "He has not, as we would say, a screw loose, but is loose all over;"so I am afraid you would say of me that I am not a mere heretic, but heretical all over—for my conscience suggested to me, when I was reading your description of socialism as the ne plus ultra of heresy, that I belonged to the most abandoned wing of the socialist faction. In fact, I am a regular thoroughgoing heretic, for I accept all the doctrines of the church—as I explain them.

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