The Learned Blacksmith: The Letters and Journals of Elihu Burritt

The Learned Blacksmith: The Letters and Journals of Elihu Burritt

The Learned Blacksmith: The Letters and Journals of Elihu Burritt

The Learned Blacksmith: The Letters and Journals of Elihu Burritt

Excerpt

ELIHU BURRITT was a poor boy. Like other boys a hundred years ago, he gloried in the idea of self-improvement, and like many of his contemporaries he became a self-made man. But it was not worldly riches that he made. His lifelong ideal was to serve mankind, to promote human brotherhood, and he was never tempted to take another path. Unlike most Americans, he had no ambition to rise above the working class from which he came.

On December 8, 1810 Elihu Burritt was born in the little village of New Britain, Connecticut His father, for whom he was named, had been a common soldier in the Revolution. With great difficulty he eked out a narrow living for his wife, Elizabeth Hinsdale Burritt, and his ten children, by cultivating a few rocky, barren acres of soil and by plying his trade of shoemaking. Neighbors respected this man for his scrupulous honesty and uprightness and for his willingness to share what little he had with those worse off than himself. But in their estimation his active and speculative mind was impractical and led him into many ill-timed adventures, so that much of the brunt of looking out for the family fell on his wife, a pious woman and a model of self-sacririce and devotion. Elihu resembled his parents in many respects.

Burritt's boyhood was one of hardship and deprivation. True, there were a few simple pleasures. He saw . . .

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