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Hebrew at Harvard.


The following extract from a letter written by Prof. Abraham S. Isaacs of the University of New York to the New York Evening Post, may be found of interest to the collage: -

As late as 1817 a Hebrew, oration was annually delivered at Harvard. Prof. Edward J. Young, formerly of Cambridge, has given (in a paper before the Massachusetts Historical Society, June 1880), some amusing illustrations of the difficulty experienced in teaching Hebrew at Harvard in old colonial days. For instance, Michael Wigglesworth, who taught in 1653, writes:

August 29: My pupills all came to me ys day to desire vy might ceas learning Hebrew; I withstood it with all ye reaso I could, yet all will not satisfy ym. Thus am I requited for my love; & thus little fruit of all my prayers bears for yr good.

August 30: God appear'd somewt in inclining ye spt of my pupils to ye study of Hebrew as I had pray'd yt god would do."

Sidney Willard, who was professor at Harvard from 1807 to 1831, in a passage cited by Prof. Young, refers to his small Hebrew classes, and "the general impression" that "the value of such learning does not repay the labor and pains necessary to be undergone in its requirement." Willard is cited as having asked Prof. Stuart whether there were many Hebrew scholars in his classes, and the reply was very few. Still there were able Hebrew and Oriental professors four or five decades ago, and the early professors of Hebrew at the University of the City of New York, Isaac Nordheimer, Edward Robinson and Taylor Lewis, were men whose learning left its impress on their time.

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