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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869,


In the Clerk's Oflace of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New Yorlc


I SHALL make no apology for writing the Life of
Joseph Addison Alexander. If the facts recorded in
these volumes be not a sufficient justification, there could
be no other. Why the duty has been devolved on his
nephew rather than upon some one else, is a question
whicli need not be discussed here. It is enough to say
that the work was undertaken not at his own instance
but in compliance with the wishes of the surviving mem-
bers of the family.

The task, though a grateful, has been an arduous one.
The thing, aimed at has been not so much smy mere lite-
rary excellence as an array of competent and incontro-
vertible testimony. The career of a quiet student affords
small material in the way of biographic incident, but it is
hoped that the remarkable private and domestic character,
and personal traits and idiosyncrasies, of the subject of these
memoirs, have not been lost sight of in the attempt to por-
tray his life as a recluse scholar, as a teacher, as a minister
of the Word, and as an author.

The present biographer is indebted to so many sources,
and especially to so many individual friends, for much of
the substance of his narrative as well as for much that is
valuable and entertaining in the way of criticism, descrip-
tion, and illustrative remark and anecdote, that he finds
himself unable to make particular acknowledgments to
them all, or even to cite every one of his authorities by
name. In most cases he has done so, in the body of the
two volumes w^hich are now respectfully offered to the


candid judgment of liis readers. "Where nothing is said to
the contrary, it will be right to infer that any matter in-
corporated in the words of another was contributed origin-
ally to this work. Sometimes the language is much stronger
than lie should have dared to use himself, but is retained as
showing his uncle's rare gift of inspiring his pupils with
enthusiastic, if extravagant, admiration.

To the rule of making no specific acknowledgments ©f
personal obligation in the Preface, there must, however,
be one signal exception ; and that is in the case of a sur-
viving brother of the deceased, and the editor of several of
his posthumous volumes, the Rev. Samuel D. Alexander,
D. D., of IN'ew York. Indeed so large and important has
been Dr. Alexander's share in these labours, that it is only
because of his earnest protestation, and inflexible purpose
to the contrary, that his name is not associated with that
of the nominal author upon the title-page. The first rough
draught of the narrative was prepared by him, from the
journals of his lamented brother, and his subsequent toils
and efforts bearing in one way or other upon the book as
it is now presented, have been excessive and invaluable.
I may add that the reader will not stray far from the truth,
if he will bear in mind that while we have both worked in
the quarry and upon the block, the work of my relative
and coadjutor has been mainly though by no means exclu-
sively in the quarry, and my own principally upon the
block, though also very extensively in the quarry. Each
of us has exercised the powers of the veto and of elimina-
tion, though the present writer has reserved to himself the
power of decisive choice in the few cases where there has
been a fixed difference of opinion between us. Where the
opinions of the subject of this memoir are given without
comment, it is not to be taken for granted that they are
also those of his biographer.

We have discovered with regret that many errors have


crept into the printing that could not be indicated within
the ordinary limits of a table of errata. Some of these are
trivial or will at once be detected as typographical mis-
takes, but others for which we equally repudiate the
responsibility are more serious, or of such a nature as to
baffle all cnriosity as to their precise extent and origin.
Under these circumstances we throw ourselves upon the
mercy of those of our readers who, having suffered them-
selves in like manner and from the same cause, will, we
trust, regard our frailty and unavoidable misfortune with
indulgence. The writing of this work w^as not commenced
until after the late war ; and though the printing began as
far back as I^ovember 1868, the publication has been de-
layed until the present moment for reasons which we the
editors could neither remove nor modify. Some of these
reasons might also be pleaded in extenuation of the man-
ner in which the volumes are now put before the pub-
lic. It is true the copy as furnished to the printer was in
a state not at all unlike that of the leaves of the Delphic
sibyl. But, to borrow a caveat from the Preface of " Alex-
ander on Isaiah," " instead of resorting to the usual apolo-
gies of distance from the press and inexperience in the
business, or appealing to the fact that the sheets could be
subjected only once " to our revision, we prefer to commit
ourselves to the generosity of those who are willing to be-
lieve that in spite of present appearances we have made
every reasonable effort to secure accuracy. For the foot
notes that are given without signature, I am, except in'
one " instance, myself responsible.

May the Lord make this account of the life of one of
his devoted servants, instrumental to the promotion of his

own o;lory !

^ ■ II. C. A.

* The foot-uote at the bottom of p. 15, should have been under the signa-
ture, " R. B."


Parentage.— The Mother.— The Father.— The Old Pine Stieet Church.— James
Alexander. — Lombard Street. — Old Philadelphians. — Germantown, — James
Ross. — Anecdotes of Addison. — Princeton. — The College. — Nassau Hall. —
Revolutionary Incidents. — Thirst for Knowledge. — Love of Books. — Rapid
Growth. — Beginnings in Latin. — Introduction to Hebrew. — Other Oriental
Languages. — Princeton under Dr. Green. — Passion for Music. — European
and American Choirs. — Influence of this Taste on his Sermons. — Imagina-
tion and Fancy. — Intellectual Amusements. — The Boyish Orator. — Facetious
Turn. — First Efforts at Verse. — Early Poetical Ventures. — Early Attempts
at Rhyming. — Poetical Talents. — Early Teachers. — Jemmy Hamilton. —
Salmon Strong. — Horace S. Pratt. — Classical School. — Robert Baird. —
Talent for "Writing. — Great Industry. — Facsimile of Arabic. — At School. —
Trenton Reminiscences. — Traits of Character. — Personal Appearance. —
Mr. King's Recollections. — Humorous Writing, — "The Medley." — Original
Composition. — Stony Brook. — Mr. Baird. — Edward Irving. — James. — Ap-
pointed Tutor. — Characteristics. — Visits Philadelphia Page 1

Dr. Lindsley. — His Pupils. — Power of Memory. — Princeton of 182-i. — College
Curriculum. — Old Commencement. — Princeton Society and Celebrities. —
Mr. Janvier. — The McCarriers.— Jemmy McCarrier. — Mr. Alexander in
College. — His Speeches. — At College. — Habits and Appearance. — Quickness
of Parts. — Many-sided Character. — Judge Napton. — Early Taste for Litera-
ture. — Moral Habits. — Highly Gifted. — Character of his Mind. — Equality
of his Faculties. — College Club. — G. W. Boiling. — Valedictory. — Clerk of
Common Council. — First Letter. — Letters Received. — Visits Long Branch.
— Letter of Mrs. Graham. — Mr. McCall. — His Scholarship 61

Declines the Tutorship. — Charles Campbell. — Testimony of Professor Hart. —
Philological Society. — Love for English Classics. — The Patriot. — Persian
Poets. — Oriental Scenes. — Persian Legends. — Persian Mind. — Persian My-
thology. — Poet's Paradise. — Literary Caprices. — Imitation of Johnson.—


Arabian Nights. — Articles signed Trochilus. — Commencement, 1827.—
Alumni Association. — Foreign Nev\'S. — " The Sea." — Critique on Shelley. —
Party Politics. — Puzzling Leader of August, 1827. — Writing of Fiction. —
Jewess of Damascus. — The Emporium. — Estimate of Time. — Reading Ho-
mer. — Early Letter, — When Written. — Admiration of Hebrew. — Italian
and Spanish Studies. — Tears of Esau. — Monthly Magazine. — Writing
Verses. — Dr. Snowden. — His Letters. — Monthly Magazine. — Persia and the
East. — Fall of Ispahan. — A Vision of Greece. — English Poets. — Change of
Studies Page 96

Journal. — Daily Studies. — ^English Reading. — Early Criticism. — Studies for the
Month. — Studies for the Week. — Quarterly Retrospect. — Varied Reading. —
Philological Society formed. — Scenery of Princeton. — Devoted to his
Books. — Nucleus of a Library. — Begins Chinese. — Retrospect of the Year.
— Memoranda of Dr. Rice. — Old Black and Peter Arun. — Their Character-
istics. — Johnson, Crow, Lane. — Reading for the Day. — Aristophanes and
Shakespeare. — English Metaphysics. — Brown's Lectures. — Dante and Spen-
ser. — Scott's Napoleon. — Scott's Style. — Persian New Testament. — Greek
Writers. — Letter from his Brother. — Scott's Napoleon. — Estimate of Xeno-
phon. — Hearing Sermons. — Joseph Sandford. — Recollections of Dr. Rice. —
Visit to New York 146


Rezeau Brown. — Visits New Haven. — Seeking the Ministry. — In Philadelphia.
— Failing Health. — His Death. — Traits of Character. — Lines on his Death.
— Their Character. — About the Geography. — Daily Study. — Pope. — Biblical
Repertory. — The Repertory. — Change of Plan. — Its Writers. — The Druses.
— Extracts. — Study of Arabic. — An Old Tradition. — Study of Arabic. — Rob-
ert Walsh. — Opinions of him. — Walsh in Paris. — Recollections of Dr.
Jones. — An Incident. — Contributions. — Letter to Dr. Hall. — Article on
Coffee 182

Becomes a Teacher. — The East. — Early Dreams. — Study of Greek. — Remarka-
ble Letter. — Greek Grammar. — Hellenistic Studies. — Purity of Life. — Con-
version. — Diary of Experience. — Comfort in the Bible. — Light in Darkness.
—Confessions. — Experimental Journal 212


Entrance upon his Professorship. — Progress in Studies. — Subjects of Study. —
Pursuing Hebrew. — Leading Characteristics. — In the Class. — Mr. George


Leybum.— Articles Written.— Parke Godwin, Esq.— Studies of the Year.—
TurkisQ Language. — Burlesque Writing. — Metaphysics. — Grammatical
Studies.— Journal.— Religious Experience.— The Two Brothers.— His Read-
ing.— He Loves the Bible.— Temptation.— Daily Reading.— Letter to Mr.
Hall Page242

Oriental Preferences. — The Koran.— Mohammedanism.— The False Prophet.—
The Perspicuous Book. —The Study of Arabic— Foreign Grammars.— Fa-
miliarity with Current Arabic— Henry Vethakc— College Manners.— Anec
dotes.— Public Prayers.— Modesty and Skill as a Teacher.— The Trenton
Pastor.— Newspaper Scribblings.— Progress in Studies 265

Sails from New York.— Ship Samson.— English Stage Coach.— Portsmouth to
London.— House of Commons.— Edward Irving.— His Church.—" Tongues."
— Coach-ride from Oxford.— Dashing Coachman.— Visits Prof. Lee.— La-
fayette. — A Visit. — Religious Service. — Travelling Companions. — Letter. —
Singing School.— Swiss Songs.— Visits Merle.— Letter Finished.— Verses
Written at Turin. — Poem. — Travelling Companions. — Journey.— On to
Rome.— Via Cassia. — Thoughts of Home.— Leaves Rome.— New Chair in
the College.— Tholuck.— Von Gerlach.— Daily Life in Germany.— Professor
Pott.— Contribution of Professor Sears.— Walk with Tholuck.— Anecdotes.

Tholuck's Estimate of Alexander.— Anecdote of Louis von Gerlach.—

Karl Ritter and Hengstenberg. — Neander and Schleiermacher. — Visits Ne-
ander.— Bopp, Rheinwald and Nitzsch.— Reminiscences by Dr. Samuel Mil-
ler. — Paris and Princeton Habits Contrasted 283

The New Professor. — Severity in the Class-room. — Growth in Gentleness. — Dr.
Lyon's Recollections. — Manners in his Study. — Power of Sarcasm. — Lite-
rary Recreations. — Knowledge of European Politics. — The Literary Asso-
ciation.— Repertory Articles.— Evening Diversions.— Colloquy with Three
Bishops.— Remarks of Dr. Scott.— Dr. Hilyer.— Studies of the Brothers.—
Bearing in his Private Classes.— Testimony of Professor Hart.— Tribute by
Dr. Wilson.— Biblical and Oriental Labours.— Plan of Study.— His New
Chair.— Messianic Interpretation.- English Reviews.— Miscellaneous Read-
ing.- Bible Study 332


Qld apd New School.— Scripture Reading.— Professorship Declined.— Dean
Swift.— Mr. James Alexander.- Dr. Archibald Alexander.— His Preaching.


— Private Classes. — Personal Traits. — Bearing towards his Class. — Sharp
Censure.— Conversation. — Observer of Men. — Dr. Hall. — Correspondence. —
Arabic Letter. — Prayers. — A Specunen. — Resolutions. — Estimate of his
Prayers. — Prayers before Lecture Page 358


Discursive Reading.— Quarterly Review. — Dr. Ramsey. — Abhorrence of Drones.
— Gentleness. — Interest in his Class. — Oral Expositions. — Massive Intellect.
— Impetuous Feelings. — Current Stories. — Offensive Manners. — ^Effects of the
Weather. — Art Napoleon. — Private Pupils. — Rhyming Letter. — Travelling.
— Teaching under Difficulties. —Writing Letters. — Alphabets. — Correspond-
ence. — Seeking Books 380

Personal Appearance. — Social Intercourse. — High Pressure Teaching. — Hard
Study. — Stolid Students. — Assembly of 183Y. — ^A Latin Tense. — Picture of
Princeton. — Contributions to the Papers. — Letters to a Pupil. — True Hap-
piness. — Isaiah begun.— The Doomed Man. — When Written. — Parallel Bi-
ble. — Letters to Dr. Hall. — First Efforts in Pulpit. — Experiments with his
Class. — Questions in the Class. — Methods of Study. — With his Private
Class. — Bible Studies. — A Poem Suggested. — A Sermon. — Princeton Re-
view. — A Letter. — Philosophical Club. — Curious Incident. — Missionary
Herald. — Diary. — A Sermon. — Exegetical Study. — A Candidate. — Beggars.
— Growth in Grace. — Scripture Reading 402

As a Preacher. — Dr. Ramsey's Estimate. — First Sermon. — Diversity of Methods.
— True Eloquence. — Travelling. — Preaching. — Views of the Disruption. — ^In
Boston. — Dr. Hodge's Estimate. — Letters to a Boy. — Day-Book. — Writing
Sermons. — Journal. — An Elocutionist. — Dr. Abel Stevens. — Style of Preach-
ing. — Invitations to Preach. — Installation. — Inaugural. — A Sermon. — Man-
ner of Preaching. — Writing Sermons. — ^Not dependent on Notes. — Scripture
Study.— Cicero.— Talk of the Brothers.— His Ordination 439

Presbyterial Examination. — Joseph John Gurney. — Little George. — Dr. Jacobus.
— Power over the Class. — rirj?t Thoughts of Isaiah. — Isaiah. — Hebrew Text.
— Princeton. — Preaching. — As a Teacher. — His Audience Moved 468




JOSEPH ADDISON ALEXANDER, the subject of this
memoir, was the third son of the late Archibald Alexander,
D. D., of Princeton, and was born in the city of Philadelphia,
on the 24th day of April, 1809, Of his father I need not speak.
His mother was the daughter of the Rev. James Waddel, of
Louisa and of Hanover Presbytery^ who is still spoken of in
Virginia and elsewhere as the " Blind Preacher," and whose
name is preserved in the well-known essay of Mr, Wirt in the
British Spy. The late Governor Barbour was wont to speak
of him as the most eloquent man he ever heard, with the
single exception of Patrick Henry, Mrs. Alexandei' was a
beautiful and lovely girl, and was comely and fascinating
almost to the day of her death. The portrait by Mooney,
which is in the possession of the family, is very like her, She
had dark liquid eyes, and her face wore a look of repose,
benevolence, good sense, and sometimes, when animated in con-
versation, of gentle raillery and humour. Her sensibility
was extreme and tremulous. She had a sweet gayety of spir^
its, shaded at times by a pensive melancholy. She was, in
every acceptation of the word, devotedly pious, Ifer labo-
rious readings to her aged and sightless father had injured
her own vision. She loved her Saviour, and the house,

2 PARENTAGE. [1809.

people, NYorks, and word of her God. She was fond of re-
ligious books. No one could take a more unaffected pleasure
in the writings of Flavel, Bates, and other non-conformists.
It was her study to do good, and to make her home and the
home of her husband and children cheerful and happy ; nor
did any one ever succeed better in such an attempt. Though
naturally diffident and very sensitive, she loved company,
and when she pleased was one of the most entertaining
'persons in the world. Her children were all proudly attached
to her, and her son Addison not only loved but admired her
above all livino^ women.* There was an indescribable charm

* The testimony of one of Addison's teachers on this point is exceedingly
just and valuable. It is contained Jo a letter f?om the Rev. Dr. R. Baird to
the Presbyterian, which he wrote at Yonkers, N. Y., May 12, 1860.

" I may remarlc, in passing, that few men in our country or any other, had
greater advantages for the acquisition of knowledge and the formation of well-
developed characters, than the sons of the late Dr. Archibald Alexander. Their
mother was a daughter of the celebrated Dr. Waddel of Virginia, of whose
eloquence William Wirt has given such a glowing description in his British
Spy, and possessed much of her father's character and strength of mind. She
was a woman of excellent judgment, well-cultivated intellect, most amiable dis-
position, much decision of character, sincere piety, and even in old age retained
much of the beauty of her youth, and of those pleasant and winning manners
which are better than beauty. Well qualified as she was to adorn any circle
of society in which she might have moved, she devoted herself with most unre-
mitting care to the training of her children, rightly believing that this was the
first and great duty which she owed to the Saviour and to them. Her delight-
ful influence greatly contributed to make home the most pleasant place in the
world to them. The company, too, of an accomplished ajid afFeotionate sister,
and often that of most agreeable female relatives from the Old Dominion, as
well as of friends from Philadelphia, where their father had been pastor of a
church during several years, contributed to make the house of their parents all
that could be desired. I have sometimes thought that it was almost too
pleasant ; on any other principle it is hard to account for the fact that so many
of them have remained unmarried.

" The influence of their father was not less happy and effective than that of
their excellent mother on all these sons. Dr. Alexander was a kind father, but
not too indulgent. At all times he lived on terms of great intimacy with them,
and sometimes, especiallv in his younger life, would take part in their youthful

^T.l.] THE MOTHER. 3

about her voice and manner, and she had a fine and cultivated

It is impossible to exaggerate the influence of such a
mother upon the mind and character of her children. In ap-
pearance, and many habits and traits of character and intellect,
Addison was like the Alexanders, and especially like his father;
but in many particulars of mind and disposition he was, to use
the language of another who is not a resident of Staunton and
not related to the family, " his grandfather's son (James Wad-
del)." He was still more his mother's son; though in after
years he grew to be more and more in person, if not in tem-
perament, like his father and one or two of his father's sisters.

The commentator on Isaiah had the most exalted notion of
his mother's rare powers as an interpreter of Scripture. He
preferred her plain, unaided judgments to the opinions of all
the Fathers and Councils. It would be hard to find a more
passionately devoted son. He has been heard to expatiate
with delight on the soft attractions and ingratiating charm of
her society. His eye would sometimes kindle, and his voice
become tender, when he was on this theme. She was equally
wrapt up in her famous son. But if she indulged him it was
in reason, and with a wise consideration of the future. The
truth was, from the very beginning the boy needed little
guidance and little correction. Even his profound, sagacious
father, that thoughtful and patient student of mental and

sports with evident gratification to himself as well as to them. I often had oc-
casion to call upon him in his study at night, and frequently found some of the
smaller boys about him, reading or amusing themselves ; and he told me that
it never interfered with his studies. They had free access to his library, which
was large, and, as they grew up, to the hbraries of the Institutions in Prince-
ton. And as all the sons received a classical education, and graduated at the
College of that place, they had abundant advantages for becoming well-in-
structed men. The daily converse with their parents did much to cieate and
increase the love of knowledge for which they became so much distinguished,
I have been told by the late James "W. Alexander, that he had heard at his
father's table very many of the most important things which he ever learned.
The advantages of growing up under such an influence, and in the midst of so
many incentives to the acquisition of knowledge, cannot be overrated."

4 THE FATHER. [1809.

spiritual phenomena, though ever on the alert as regarded acts
of disobedience, like the father of Pascal left his son pretty
much to his own bent. His discipline was suggestive, rather
than strictly coercive. He saw clearly from the first that Ad-
dison was to be his own master. The fruits of this training
are now evident in the life and fame of the great Biblical
scholar. We cannot but rejoice that his powers were not too
much restrained in infancy and youth, but were allowed to
develop themselves in the natural ways. There are few cases
in Avhich such a course would be wise ; but this was one of

His ancestry was Scotch-Irish, and as much of the manly
and racy vigour of his mind, and bold intrepidity as well as
honest frankness of his temper, are traceable to this sturdy
stock, I think it well to say a word or two about the emigra-
tion to tliis country from the North of Ireland.* Many of
these stout Presbyterians went to the Great Valley, and laid
the foundations of civil and religious liberty in Virginia.
These reputable settlers had been taught to thirst for the best
literature of the age. Their earliest predilections were for the

Online LibraryHenry Carrington AlexanderThe life of Joseph Addison Alexander (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 46)