Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Ticknor, Elisha

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TICKNOR, Elisha, educator, b. in Lebanon, Conn., 25 March, 1757; d. in Hanover, N. H., 22 June, 1821. He was graduated at Dartmouth in 1783, and was connected with various schools, becoming in 1788 head master of Franklin grammar-school, Boston. After filling this post for several years, he resigned on account of his health. He made one of the earliest efforts to improve female education in Massachusetts, and originated the scheme for primary schools in Boston, proposing them at a town-meeting in 1818. He became a successful merchant in Boston, and founded the first insurance company and the first savings-bank in the city. In 1818 he presented a plan to prevent the causes and perfect the cure of pauperism in Boston. —

Appletons' Ticknor Elisha - George.jpg
Appletons' Ticknor Elisha - George signature.jpg

His son, George, author, b. in Boston, Mass., 1 Aug., 1791; d. there, 26 Jan., 1871. From a very early age he showed a passion for reading, which, under the judicious nurture that he received at home, became still stronger as he grew in years. While yet a boy he passed his examination for admission into Dartmouth, where he took his degree in 1807. On returning home he gave three years more to his favorite studies. When he was nineteen years old, Mr. Ticknor entered the office of a lawyer in Boston, and after the usual term of preparation was admitted to the bar in 1813. But he was satisfied that his vocation, or at least his taste, lay in the direction of letters rather than of law. His father's circumstances were, fortunately, such as to enable the young student to consult his taste in the selection of his profession. In 1815 he went to Europe for study. Two years he passed at Göttingen, attending the lectures of the university and devoting himself to philological studies, especially to the ancient classics. Two years longer he remained in Europe, chiefly on the continent, passing most of his time in the capitals, as affording obvious advantages for a critical study of the national literatures. During his absence he was, in 1817, appointed to fill the chair of modern languages and literature in Harvard. In 1819 he returned to the United States, bringing with him a valuable library. This in time grew to be one of the largest private collections in the country, and, for the rarity and importance of the books, was unsurpassed, in some of its departments. This is especially true of the collection of Spanish literature, which rivalled the best private ones in Europe. Mr. Ticknor, during his connection with the university, gave long and elaborate courses of lectures on French and Spanish literature. He also entered into a critical analysis of such writers as Dante, Goethe, Milton, and Shakespeare. The audience of the lectures, instead of being confined to students, was increased by persons without the walls of the college, who were attracted not merely by the interest of the subject, but by the skill of the critic, his luminous and often eloquent diction, and his impressive delivery. After holding his office for fifteen years, Mr. Ticknor resigned it in 1835, preparatory to another visit to Europe, where he proposed to spend several years with his family. His labors had been attended with signal benefit to the university. He was the first professor on the Smith foundation, and the duty devolved on him of giving a complete organization to the department, which includes several teachers. Moreover, during his connection with Harvard, he suggested valuable improvements in the system of discipline, for which he had derived the hints from the German universities. Finally, he had greatly extended the range of intellectual culture among the students at the university, where literary instruction had hitherto been confined to the classics. Mr. Ticknor was a founder of the Boston public library, and president of its board of trustees in 1864-'6, and gave to it his Spanish library. Mr. Ticknor spent three years in his second visit to Europe, and after his return set about the preparation of his great work. At the close of 1849 the “History of Spanish Literature” made its appearance in England and the United States. Humboldt, in a letter dated 19 June, 1850, shortly after its publication, pronounced its panegyric in a single sentence, declaring it “a masterly work.” The judgment of the illustrious German was speedily confirmed both in Europe and in this country. The nature of the subject, it might be thought, would have restricted the demand for the book to a comparatively small number of readers. But the extent of the sales proved the contrary, confirming the remark of the “Edinburgh Review” (October, 1850), that, perhaps of all compositions of the kind, Mr. Ticknor's work has the most successfully combined popularity of style with sound criticism and extensive research within its own department. The edition that was published in England met with the most cordial reception from the scholars of that country, while in Germany and in Spain translations soon appeared, under the auspices of eminent men of letters, who have added to the value of their labors by their own annotations. Although purporting to be simply a history of literature, the work exhibits vividly the social civilization of the peninsula; and, independently of its stores of bibliographical information for the use of the scholar, it will be no less serviceable to the student of history who would acquaint himself with the character and condition of the Spaniard, and see in what manner they have been affected by the peculiar institutions of the country. The first edition of the “History of Spanish Literature” (3 vols., New York and London, 1849) was followed by a second (3 vols., 1854) and by a third American edition, corrected and enlarged (3 vols., Boston, 1863). A fourth edition, containing Mr. Ticknor's last revisions, has appeared since his death. To these are to be added the following translations: “Historia de la Literatura Española, por M. G. Ticknor; traducida al Castellano, con Adiciones y Notas criticas, por Don Pascual de Gayangos y Don Enrique de Vedia” (4 vols., Madrid, 1851-'7); “Geschichte der schönen Literatur in Spanien, von Georg Ticknor; Deutsch mit Zusätzen, herausgegeben von Nicholaus Heinrich Julius” (2 vols., Leipsic, 1852). Mr. Ticknor's great work was preceded by several minor publications, including “Syllabus of a Course of Lectures on the History and Criticism of Spanish Literature” (Cambridge, 1823); “Outline of the Principal Events in the Life of General Lafayette” (Boston, 1825; London, 1826; in French, Paris, 1825); “Remarks on Changes lately proposed or adopted in Harvard University” (Cambridge, 1825); “Report of the Board of Visitors on the United States Military Academy at West Point for 1826”; “The Remains of Nathan Appleton Haven, with a Memoir of his Life” (1827); and other publications. He also published a “Life of William Hickling Prescott” (Boston, 1864). See his “Life, Letters, and Journals” (2 vols., Boston, 1876).