Timothy Dwight, 1752-1817

Timothy Dwight, 1752-1817

Timothy Dwight, 1752-1817

Timothy Dwight, 1752-1817

Excerpt

Dr. Dixon Ryan Fox has a happy way of infecting others with his own enthusiasm for American history. Still, it is hardly fair to hold him responsible for the consequences. In this instance he can be blamed only for suggesting that Timothy Dwight deserved a biography. William B. Sprague's brief sketch, published in 1845, has long been out of date. More recent writers have usually dismissed Dwight quickly in a paragraph or two as an example of perverse and stubborn Puritan reaction. This description fails to explain why he won the general affection and respect of contemporaries during his lifetime. In spite of his national distinction and influence biographers have passed over Dwight, probably because his career lacked the drama of a political or military hero and because material is difficult to find. Dr. Fox, accustomed to pursuing history in other than the obvious places, insisted that enough might be gathered together upon which to base a clearer portrait.

The search, particularly for manuscripts, has been the chief problem and pleasure of making this study. The trail led from public and private libraries to the attics of old houses, and the chase was a long one. Much about Dwight's personal and family life remains obscure, especially for the important years when he presided over Yale. However, during that period his history is that of the college, and the record shows him to have been far from an enemy of progress. The story also reveals glimpses of the social and intellectual life of the time interesting to one who has a liking for such matters.

Unfortunately it is impossible to name here all who aided in the labor of this study. For this assistance, kindly and patiently given, and especially for the interested cooperation of the dwight family, the author is genuinely grateful. His thanks go particularly to Dr.

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