Those who knew well William Samuel Eliot will not soon forget the lesson of pure and elevated character, of scholarly devotion and perseverance, taught them by the unobtrusive example of his daily life; and certainly there is no member of the class of '74, who can recall without a glow of affectionate admiration the manly endurance and patience, never in one thoughtless moment laid aside, with which he bore the pain of a long and distressing illness. His tastes and habits were those of a scholar, but he had a singular loyalty for and unselfish interest in all that concerned the College and his fellow-students. On the last day of his college life, in May, 1872 (the day which ended for him a long struggle between love of his work and associations here, on the one hand, and constantly increasing suffering on the other), he reluctantly left a match game in progress on Jarvis Field, and went to his home in Boston. Once again he was in Cambridge, when, in spite of the inclement weather and of his weakness, he came to take what part he might in the Class Day of '74, - his own Class Day. On Tuesday last his body was borne past the College Yard, under the shadow of the building in which he spent the two years of his life here, and now lies almost within sound of the College bell.
In the character of nearly every young man who, dying at an early age, gives promise of future excellence, there is an element of imperfection or of extravagance, - something to hide or to excuse. Mr. Eliot's character was wonderfully complete; his life was remarkable for its consistency and harmony. Remembering now what that life was, - that its course was straight, that it was not affected by caprice or by sin, - we feel how out of place any attempt to describe it here or to deepen its influence would be. We can only pay it the simple tribute of our affection and respect.
It is very strange and very sad that the class of '74 should so soon lose two comrades from their ranks, and that within the space of twenty-four hours. On Monday last Nicholas Reed died in Boston, far from his home and from his only living parent, but, as his classmates will be very glad to remember, surrounded by kind friends, and in the presence of one who, in the time of his fatal illness, had acquired the best right to be his chief consoler.
Mr. Reed was to take charge of a school in Cleveland, into which it was his earnest wish to infuse as much as he could of Harvard feeling. His death is but another instance of self-denying and laborious preparation deprived of the expected opportunity to fulfil itself here. Did we not believe that it was to have elsewhere a wider scope, we should only have despair where we now find consolation. On Thursday he was buried (as he had wished to be) from the church in Cambridge-port, - the church to which he had given a large share of his time, whose services he had helped to beautify. In his death, although he was but entering upon his work, we have something of that feeling with which we greet the close of a long and hard-fought life. His labors in College were excessive; besides his regular studies, to which he applied himself faithfully and successfully, he had the self-imposed duties of instructing others, and of doing deeds of charity. The race which he ran was too hard a one; but we may believe that his weariness now finds perfect rest.
The death of Mr. Hastings is peculiarly distressing, not only from the high possibilities that seemed to be before him in life, but from the startling suddenness of his death, and from the aberration of mind that was the cause of it.
Every phase in the character of Mr. Hastings was marked by the strong self-reliance and firmness of purpose 'so essential to a useful life. This characteristic produced in his studies a faithfulness to work that proceeded not so much from ambition to excel, as from an earnest determination to spare no pains in fitting himself to hold an honorable position among his fellow-men. In his social relations he was loved as a friend and respected for his manly qualities. Generous, open-hearted, thoroughly independent, yet always careful to respect the feelings of others, he was incapable of degrading himself to any act of meanness, however trivial. His self-respect and high sense of honor were always with him in all emergencies. His death has not only saddened his friends, but deprived the world of one who would have conscientiously and faithfully fulfilled whatever duties might have fallen to his lot.