Peabody of Groton: A Portrait

Peabody of Groton: A Portrait

Peabody of Groton: A Portrait

Peabody of Groton: A Portrait

Excerpt

To be writing the life of a schoolmaster at a time when one's ears and mind were filled with the noise of flaming thunder, with the pathetic cries of anguish and despair from all over the earth, has frequently seemed a strange occupation. It was all the stranger when one reflected that the subject of the book was neither a statesman, a soldier, a philosopher, a scientist, nor an artist.

Yet there was never at any time any question but that the thing had to be done. There was a compulsion about it, as though the very fact of a world at war made it necessary to tell of things that are the denial of war, yet survive in spite of war, and, indeed, are the only things that make war bearable or justifiable in any sense.

Endicott Peabody was a man who avoided publicity; who defied the spirit of his age by setting quality ahead of quantity. There is perhaps a lesson for Americans here. We forget in our daily encounter with bulk, in our inevitable preoccupation with size and inexhaustible richness, how many of the supremely important things have been small and simple in their beginnings. Bethlehem was a little town in an obscure corner of an empire. Drake circumnavigated the world in the Golden Hind. The May flower was not to be compared with the Normandie or the Tirpitz. Emerson wrote in Concord, a small place, though larger than Monticello, or even than Jamestown. Bunker Hill is not as lofty as Chimborazo, but they have built a monument there.

Endicott Peabody lived in an age which steadily tended toward the exaltation of the average; the unlimited extension of credit; the recognition of happiness as a goal in itself; in the faith that man can be legislated into goodness and endeavor. All his life, by the manner of it, Peabody denied these things. Profoundly sympathetic with the average man and desirous to help him, Peabody denied that the average can ever be as good as . . .

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