But their preceptor, however faithful he may have been in this
branch of his instruction, did not confine himself entirely to tlie
classics. He was an exemplary Christian, an intelligent and zealous
Churchman, and a rigid disciplinarian ; and he took every favorable
opportunity for teaching his pupils the prominent lessons of the
church to which they belonged.
On returning home, the two brothers were placed in a select
school, kept by Mr. Joel Jones, a graduate of Yale College, who,
while pursuing his professional studies, employed himself in teach-
ing. He was a young gentleman of superior scholarsliip and
pleasing manners, and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of his
pupils.* Under his tuition, Sherman and William were well pre-
pared for their college course ; and at the commencement of 1818,
they were both admitted to the freshman class of Yale College —
Sherman being a few months under sixteen, and William as much
short of fourteen. It was by a singular oversight that William
was admitted at this time, as the rules of the college forbade the
admission of any student under the age of fourteen. But his older
brother, being smaller in stature, and being first questioned, having
satisfied his examiners that he was of competent age, no ques-
tion was asked with regard to the younger, and he was admitted
upon the very natural supposition that he was the elder of the
* Of this gentleman, it is gratifying to find the following pleasant reminis-
cence ill one of his pupil's letters, written after a lapse of some twenty years.
In 1836, WiLLL\M, having passed through his collegiate education and his the-
ological course, and having held the rectorsliip of Chiist Chvirch, Boston, for
several years, thus %vrites to his father : " I see, by the English papers, that the
old veteran divine and scholar, Valpy, is dead. I feel as if I had lost a friend.
I have been reviewing, of late, his Greek Grammar. It gave me a sort of home-
sick feeling — it recalled so vi\ddly those golden days of my childhood, when I
was first thoroughly initiated into its mysteries, by a most faithful and excellent
instructor, Joel Jones, Esq. My pleasantest recollections are associated with
those early days. IVIr. Jones has smce risen to great professional distinction in
Pennsylvania ; and when Sherman and I meet again, I intend to talk with him
about sending some token that he stUl lives in our grateful remembrance."
The professional distinction to which Mr. Jones had then risen led to liis fm -
ther elevation. He was advanced to the bench in one of the higher courts,
and, for a time, held the office of mayor of the city of Philadelphia. Subse-
quently, he was elected to the presidency of (jhard College, an office for which
his superior hterary attainments well qualified him.
16 MEMOm OF WILLIAM CROSWELL. [1820,
two. On the same mistaken ground, the name of William has
always preceded that of Sherman on the printed catalogues of the
college. While in college, they had the privilege, in common with
all residents in the city, of boarding and lodging at home. This
afforded them many comforts and advantages, though it often sub-
jected them to serious inconvenience, from the length of the walk
and the frequent inclemency of the weather. The morning prayer
bell, during the shortest days of winter, preceded the dawn of day ;
but they were seldom or never tardy, either at prayers or recitation,
and, in every respect, passed through their college life without
reproach or censure. They sought but few acquaintances; but
they formed some very intimate friendships, and these were warmly
cherished, in every instance, until dissolved by death. In the latter
part of their college life, the family suffered a very severe double
affliction. George, an elder brother, aged nineteen, who had been
residing for several years with his uncle. Dr. Thomas O'Hara
Croswell, at Catskill, was brought home in declining health, and,
after a few months, died of pulmonary consumption ; and his little
sister, Jane, then about six years of age, in three months followed
him to the grave. These heavy bereavements called forth, at a
subsequent period, one of the most touching productions of Wil-
liam's pen, which was first printed in the Episcopal Watchman, in
1827, under the title of
THE TWO GRAVES.
There is a struggle and a strife
Within me, as I bid adieu
To all my household friends in life,
And may not say the same to you,
But leave once more, dear kindred dead !
Your lowly tombs unvisited.
To leave unmarked the heaving waves
Of that still burial ground,
Where four long years, above your graves,
The thickened turf has bound ;
And think that that rank-bladed sod
May ne'er again by me be trod.
But oftener shall my bosom yearn
Toward your calm bed of ease.
And thither tliought and feeling turn
In their sad reveries ;
And never shall that cherished spot
Be in my stricken heart forgot.
1820.] COLLEGIATE LIFE. 17
The chain of grief, tirne-drawn to length,
That binds me there to both,
Alas ! it strengthens with my strength,
It groweth with my growth ;
And, even now, my spirit sinks
To drag its still increasing links.
When thou wast called away, — the first
In burial as in birth, —
I thought thy parents' souls would burst
At thy return to earth.
And prayed to bear the grief alone,
Nor add their anguish to my own.
It was too much to feel my heart
So unprepared, my brother !
With thee in this vain world to part,
Or meet thee in another.
O, may my peace, like thine, be made
Ere my cold corse is near thee laid,
While yet we struggled to sustain
The drear, soul-sinking weight.
The fatal shaft was bent again
At us disconsolate,
And thou wast summoned next — the best,
The youngest, and the loveliest.
The seeds of visible decay
Were in thee from that hour,
And thenceforth thou didst pine away.
And wither like a flower.
O God ! it was a grievous thing
To see thy bitter suffering.
Then came the poignancy of woe,
The acme of distress,
The pang which parents only know
When they are daughterless ;
But still they struggled on, and still
Submitted to their Maker's will. .
Now all that of thy form survives
Is at thy brother's side.
For ye were lovely in your lives,
And death did not divide ;
18 MEMOIR OF ^\^LLIAM CROSWELL. 1820.]
And all that memory brings of thee
Is to my bosom agony.
The relics of thy golden hair,
Thy books and dresses gay,
Which it was joy to see thee wear
Upon a holiday —
These things, alas ! now thou art gone,
It wrings my heart to look upon.
Sometimes thy silvery voice I hear
Where children are at play,
But dare not lift my eye for fear
The spell will melt away ;
Too well I know the grave denies
Thy image to my waking eyes.
Still it has been to me a dear.
Though desperate, delight,
To meet thee in my dreams, and hear
Thee bless my sleeping sight ;
And waking from those visions vain,
I've wept to dream them o'er again.
And yet, so pure, why should I weep
Thy early death, sweet child ?
How might we hope on earth to keep
Thy spirit undefiled ?
What but thy prompt departure hence
Could save thy angel innocence ?
" Yes, when I see, beloved child !
The evil ways of men.
My soul is more than reconciled
To thy departure then ; " *
And blessings flow to Him that died
That sinners might be sanctified.
* These four lines are distinguished by quotation marks, because they are
cited, as will be perceived by the subjoined extract, not verbatim but in sub-
stance, and probably from memory, fi-om a beautiful little poem, by Caroline
Bowles, addressed " To a Dying Infant : " —
" I look around, and see
The evil ways of men ;
And, O beloved child !
I'm more than reconciled
To thy departiu'e then."
1821.] COLLEGIATE LIFE.
Now thou art in the Spirit land,
Witli the lioly and the blest,
Where the wicked cease to trouble, and
The weary are at rest ;
And I am happy since I know
That thou wilt be forever so.
In carrying out the plan, already suggested, of permitting the
subject of this Memoir to tell his own story, and, as far as practi-
cable, in his own language, this may be deemed a suitable time for
the introduction of some of the earlier specimens of his letter writing.
During a short college vacation in May, 1821, he made, with his
brother Sherman, a visit to an uncle and other family relatives in
West Hartford. Their return home is thus noted in their father's
diary, under date of May 14, 1821 : " Sherman and William re-
turned just at evening from West Hartford, having, during their
absence, visited my sister at New Hartford, and formed an acquaint-
ance with their cousins in both places. They w^alked home from
Newington, to which place their cousin had brought them. The
distance is over twenty-seven miles ; and being unaccustomed to so
long a walk, and having pushed on at the regular rate of three
miles an hour, they were excessively fotigued. During the past week,
I had received a joint letter from them, written at West Hartford
on the Sunday evening previous. It gave me a flattering opinion
of their talents for epistolary composition ; and being the first
which they had ever had an opportunity to write, I shall preserve it
on my files."
This letter gives an account of their journey to Hartford by
stage, and their walk, for the want of a better conveyance, to the
residence of their uncle in West Hartford, a distance of five miles.
They were encumbered with cloaks and budgets, and had some
difficulty in finding their way. But, says Sherman, in his branch
of the letter, " After much inquiry and fatigue, we at length arrived
at a place, which from the bridge , the hill, and the elm tree, which
we have so often heard of, we knew to be the land of our fore-
William's branch of the letter is partially devoted to domestic
relations, but not exclusively. He speaks of their going into the
city to attend the ceremonies of the general election, which at that
period were remarkable for their pageantry, and consisted in part
of religious exercises: "I believe," he says, "I never saw so much
bustle, parade, and nonsense, in all my life. The multitude of
people was immense. A Mr. , (Presbyterian,) from , de-
livered the sermon, from I forget where, and I cannot refer to it
very conveniently. His discourse was an hour and three quarters
in length exactly, by the watch ! " From this he turns to personal
•20 MEMOIR OF WILLIAM CROS-^TELL. [1822.
things : " We have made but little progress in horsemanship, as we
have had but little practice. We intend, however, to return expe-
rienced horsemen, as they have two fine, gentle horses. There has
been but little pleasant weather, and some part of the time I have
been quite homesick I really wish I had a camera
obscura here, for there is a most beautiful prospect from the top of
During the ensuing college vacation, in the autumn, the two
brothers undertook another and much longer journey, and almost
wholly on foot. Having sent their trunk forward by a private con-
veyance, they left home on Tuesday morning, and taking Ldtchfield,
Canaan, Sheffield, and other intermediate towns on their route,
arrived at Hudson, N. Y., on Saturday evening. This, for young
pedestrians, was no small effort ; but they seem to have been carried
through, according to William's account of the matter, without
any harm. Thus he writes, from Hudson, IMonday morning, Octo-
ber 8, 1821 : " Dear Parents : I write to inform you that we are
here, and neither sick nor any wise fatigued We
arrived on Saturday evening, about six o'clock, in good spirits, and
conceiving ourselves to be thoroughly experienced in the pedestrian
art. Of course, we have been five days in accomplishing our
journey, and have averaged nearly twenty miles a day. During
the whole route, we have rode but eight miles ; yet our feet were
not sore, neither were our hearts faint."
The young travellers, after visiting their friends in Catskill, pro-
ceeded down the river to New York, and from thence in a packet
to their home in New Haven, where they arrived on the night of
the 20th of October. They were now ready, on the commence-
ment of the college term, to enter upon the last year of their
At this critical period, their father, feeling great solicitude for
their future welfare, addressed to each of them a letter, dated Feb-
ruary 2, 1822, earnestly urging them to an early attention to the
subject of religion. And subsequently, on the 17th of July, after
they had taken their final examination in college, and had been
recommended for the bachelor's degree, he spent an evening with
them in conversation on their future pursuits and prospects. He
did not deem it his duty to exercise his authority in directing them
in the choice of their profession. In his letter, he thus expresses
himself on this subject : " It is true, that nothing would give me
greater pleasure than to see you qualified and disposed to pursue
the study of theology ; and more especially, as it miglit be in my
power to afford you greater facilities in this pursuit than in any
other. But should this ever be your choice, let it be the unbiased
dictate of your own heart and conscience. Either of the liberal
professions will offer you opportunities for deep scientific and liter-
1822.1 CHOICE OF A PROFESSION. 21
ary research, a taste for which, I liop^, you will always sediilously
cultivate. In either of these professions, or in the fine arts, you
may, by assiduity and industry, through the divine blessing, arrive
at a creditable degree of excellence. But be assured that you can
do nothing well, nothing for your own present benefit or satisfac-
tion, or for the promotion of your future welfare, without laying
your foundation on the faith of the gospel, and a love of God and
his holy precepts."
Tliere is no evidence that this letter produced any special influ-
ence on the mind of either of the brothers. Sherman subsequently
chose the profession of the law ; while William, though doubtless
well qualified by his devout and serious turn of thought to enter
upon theological studies, hesitated for a long time in his choice.
His extreme diffidence and distrust of himself led him to shrink
from the high responsibilities of such a profession. There was a
constant struggle between his inclinations and his fears. He felt
an ardent desire to prepare for the sacred office, but his convic-
tions of duty were not sufficiently strong to overcome his natural
want of confidence in his fitness ; and it will be found, as we pro-
ceed in his personal narrative, that it was not until a later period
that he had so far overmastered his scruples, as to present himself
Soon after their graduation, at the commencement of 1822, the
two brothers opened a select school in New Haven, and received a
competent number of pupils from their principal friends in the city.
This, however, was not intended for a permanent occupation.
Sherman entered the law school during the ensuing winter ; and
from this time, the two brothers, whose interests, pursuits, studies,
amusements and diversions had hitherto been so intimately blended,
were compelled, by the allotments of Providence, to part company,
as it were, and pursue their way through life by different paths. It
is true, that their fraternal attachment, which had always been
exceedingly warm and affectionate, suffered no diminution by sepa-
ration or distance. The old fountain of love and sympathy was
stirred up afresh, as ofte^i as they met or exchanged sentiments by
WiLLiAJi devoted much time to reading, always giving the pref-
erence to works of substantial value, such as the English classics
and the standard poets. He seemed averse to tying himself down
to any steady pursuit. This was not the effect of instability or
fickleness, but arose from the fact that his heart refused all sympa-
thy with secular concerns. He spent some time in travelling and
visiting his friends, and occasionally sought some temporary employ
ment ; but wherever he might be, or however occupied, he found
it impossible to divert his mind wholly from the one great object,
22 MEMOm OF WILLIAM CROSWELL. [1823.
which was gradually working its influence upon his heart and
He commenced a journey, with his cousin E. S., to Catskill, on
the 25th of June, 1823, the particulars of which we must gather
from his letters : —
"New York, Friday, June 27, 1823.
" Dear Parents : The day on which we left New Haven was
eventually clear, cool, and comfortable. The passage was as yjleas-
ant as a smooth sea, and good company, could make it. As the
boat passed near the northern shore, there was a constant succes-
sion of picturesque prospects. Highland and lowland, huts and
hedgerows, sandy banks and sunny meads, alternately presented
themselves Some half a dozen persons were taken
on board at Stratford Point, which made the whole number about
thirty, all of whom were polite and accommodating. The boat
proceeded with the noise, as well as the velocity, of the cataract,
and arrived at Byram Cove * about two o'clock. Our thirty pas-
sengers were here distributed into three vehicles. The one in which
I rode was so crammed, that I expected we should all be melted
into one mass before we reached our journey's end. Fortunately,
however, we arrived here, in good health and spirits, about half past
six. I am quite at home in our boarding house. It is a fine, spa-
cious building, fronting the Battery ; its situation commanding all
the beauties of a water prospect, and enjoying all the benefits of
wholesome air. In the evening, I attended the performance of
Macbeth, at the theatre. The house was thin, and the actors,
as I was informed, were not first rate. With me, however, the
performance excited a deep interest, which was probably heightened
by the novelty of the splendid decorations and dresses, and the
beauty of the building."
This was, doubtless, the first theatrical perft)rmance that he ever
witnessed, if we except certain dramatic exhibitions by the successive
classes in Yale College. In these it would seem that he sometimes
figured, both as author and actor. But the. scenery and decorations
of the stage were all new to him. The tragedy alone, however,
was sufficient to satisfy his curiosity, and he left the theatre before
the afterpiece was performed. On the following day, he went with
* Byram Ilivdr, of which the Cove is the mouth, is twenty-eight miles from
the city of New York, and forms the boundary between the states of Connect-
icut and New York. The steamboats owned by independent companies were
compelled to stop and land their i)assengers at this point, in compliance wdth
a law of the state of New York, giv'ing to Robert Fulton, Esq., for a term of
thirty years, the exchisive right of uaA^igating the waters of the state with
steam vessels. This restriction was afterwards removed by the United States
Court, and the navigation left open and fi.ee to aU.
1824.] CHOICE OF A PROFESSION. 23
his cousin to see Pcales Court of Death, and the view of Versailles,
at the Rotunda. They also visited the Museum, whicli, at that day,
made up the sum of siglit seeing in New York. They next pro-
ceeded on their way to Catskill ; and, from his account of the
matter, we learn what a formidable affair it must have been to make
a voyage on the river in the packets, which then afforded the only
comfortable conveyance between New York and the towns below
Albany : —
" Catskill, Monday, Jime 30, 1823.
" Dear Parents : We embarked in the ' Shakspeare ' on Fri-
day evening. The weather was foul, but the wind fair. It only
continued long enough, however, to carry us some twenty or thirty
miles during the night. The next day, with light and heavy
breezes alternately, we reached Newburg, and, on the succeeding
morning, were within twenty-five miles of Catskill ; but a brisk
north-wester prevented our arrival till five o'clock, P. M. The
passage has been pleasant, the packet pretty, the captain civil, the
We now pass on to the ensuing year. Early in 1824, his uncle,
Dr. Thomas O'H. Croswell, one of the principal physicians in
the village of Catskill, N. Y., kindly proposed to receive him into
liis office, and give him every facility for studying his own profes-
sion. Could he have reconciled himself to the idea of preparing
for a profession for which he had no taste or inclination, he might
have considered this as a most advantageous offer. To reject it,
without due reflection, would have been ungracious. He therefore,
without positively decUning, merely stated some reasons for hesi-
tating in his decision. This called forth a more urgent letter from
his uncle, expressing his regret at this hesitation, and a hope that
he might still be able to overcome his aversion. He now felt bound
to decline the offer altogether. He was doubtless unwilling to
devote his time to the study of any other profession than that for
which he was evidently destined ; but he may have had special
grounds of aversion to the medical profession. He was once
induced to attend a lecture at the Medical College in New Haven,
when it so happened that anatomy was the theme, and a subject was
placed on the table for dissection. He was horror-stricken, and,
after a fainting turn, came home pale and trembling. This extreme
nervous sensibility, and delicacy of feeling, were his abiding char-
acteristics to the end of his life.
Having disposed of this offer, he next received an application
from another quarter, and of a very different nature. In the
autumn following, his cousin, Edwin Croswell, Esq., editor of the
Albany Argus, inquired of him what were his engagements, and
what disposition he proposed to make of himself, in case he should
24 MEMOm OF ^TLLIAM CROS^\^LL. [1824.
not engage in professional study. This inquiry was followed by
the proposal, that he should spend the remainder of the fall and
winter in Albany, and, without making any very definite arrange-
ment, should assist his cousin, either in the legislature or in the
editorial arrangements ; while lie miglit, in the mean time, devote
some leisure to the study of law. This was considered as a flat-
tering proposal ; and as it did not bind him to any definite action
for the future, he consented, by the advice of his parents, to accept
it. Accordingly, after some necessary detention, on the evening of
the 8th of November, he took his departure in the steamboat for
New York, from whence he was to proceed to Albany. He took
the earliest opportunity to announce his arrival : —
"Albany, Wednesday Evening^ November 11, 182-4.
" Mt dear Father : The new scenes which have been constantly
presenting themselves, since I left New Haven, have not so com-
pletely dissipated my mind as to render me entirely unable to collect
my thoughts sufficiently to give you some account of them. I feel
indeed that it requires some effi^rt to write ; but it would require a
still greater to be silent. Our passage to New York was as pleasant
as rapid sailing and good company could make it ; the number of
passengers being small and select, so that the arrangements with
respect to berths, &c., were unusually commodious. We left the
wharf about the gray of the evening, and arrived in New York at
two in the morning. As soon as it was light, I had my trunk trans-
ported to the Olive Branch, which sailed at ten o'clock
We passed the Highlands by daylight ; and although it was a dismal,
rainy day, I tliought their appearance was never more imposing.
The passengers were here likewise few, and the accommodations
were indifferently good. We went as rapidly as steam could draw
wood through the water, and reached this place about daybreak
His cousin received him cordially, and had already engaged board
and lodgings for him at a pleasant boarding house, where he had two
law students for his roommates. It was now suggested to him that
he would be expected to report the debates in one of the branches of
the legislature, and assist the editor in arranging the miscellany of
the Argus. It was also proposed that he should enter his name as
a law student in the office of a friend of his cousin. The latter
proposal was not complied with ; and we shall learn, from his next
communication, how soon the whole arrangement was relinquished.
He addressed a letter to his father, on the 20th of November, in
which he speaks of his employment as taking occasional memoranda ^
of the legislative debates ; and this occupied so little of his time,