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Last commencement it was announced that Harvard College was to receive from General Samuel J. Bridge, an adopted alumnus of the college, a valuable gift of a statue commemorative of the man whose name it bears. This statue is to be of bronze and will be placed in the small delta at the west end of Memorial Hall. As we have no representation of John Harvard nor any description of his personal appearance, a very exacting demand is to be made upon the skill of the artist who is to represent the form and features of the founder of our college. Little assistance can be derived from the history of his life. We have no information in regard to his birthplace, parentage or lineage. All we know of his English life is, that he received a bachelor's degree at Emanuel College, Cambridge, in 1631 and a master's degree in 1635.
The first information that we have of his presence here is from the records of his admission as an inhabitant of Charlestown on the 1st of August, 1637, where he was sometimes "minister of God's Word." He was called the Reverend in New England and was known as a preacher, but as to whether he had been ordained in England or not we are in ignorance. There is no record moreover of his ordination as a dissenter either there or here. In a little less than a year after his arrival in America, he died of consumption, leaving all his library and "half of his estate, being L800," to the college which the court had decided two years previously to establish at "New Town." After his gift however, the name of the town was changed to Cambridge. This is the extent of our knowledge of John Harvard. With these meaner records to guide the artist the statue must be formed.
Dr. Ellis in his remarks retaking to this statue, at the recent meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society, said "Though many of John Harvard's contemporaries, who,-though he had been so short a time in the country, must have known something of his personal history,-speak gratefully of his generous gift, not one of them has left for us the slightest information of facts which we should be glad to know of this youthful, delicate scholar, fading away of consumption early in the second autumn of his exile. While the descendants of large numbers of the earliest New England colonists, whose genealogies have an interest only for their own families, have easily traced their localities and lineage in the mother country, all efforts, and they have been many and earnest, spent upon the subject of my remarks, have wholly failed of rewarding results. Your predecessor in the chair Mr. President, the keen, sagacious and unwearied Mr. Savage, our chief in the labors of research, failed to accomplish in the case of Harvard what he did for so many other of our worthies, We recall the fervor of his utterance here when he spoke, as he has published in print, to effect that he would give a guinea for each word, or a hundred dollars for each of five lines of information about John Harvard in England. There is necessarily much that is unsatisfactory in a wholly idealized representation by art of an historical person of whose form, features and lineaments there are no certifications. It is hardly to be expected that any portrait of Harvard will be recovered, if any such exists. A symbol eminently appropriate for adorning the pedestal of the proposed statue may be found in putting side by side the seal of Emanuel College, and that most felicitously chosen of all like devices, the three open books and the verities of Harvard."
Not so much difficulty exists in regard to the costume for the proposed statue, as we have many representations of the dress worn by Puritan clergymen of the time. If Harvard was a clergyman educated at Cambridge and following the fortune of other clergymen, came to Massachusetts in the early period, he was probably a Puritan of their stamp, that is. not a dissenter. Puritan ministers of that day are represented in pictures as wearing a somewhat closely fitting cloak, covering a cassock, with a broad linen collar and a skull cap. No mistake could be made in regard to the garments covering the lower part of body.
The present discussion "renews the sense of regret, so often realized and expressed in scholarly circles, that a secret and silence as yet unpenetrated or voiced, cover the whole life history in the mother country, of him who planted learning in the New England wilderness."
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